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Jakarta’s governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has denied he intended to insult the Quran at the start of his blasphemy trial, marked by rival rallies outside the court.

A Christian of Chinese descent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, cried as he denied allegations he insulted Islam.

Ahok is the first non-Muslim governor of Indonesia’s capital in 50 years.

Image source YouTube

Image source YouTube

The case is being seen as a test of religious tolerance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

The prosecution said Ahok insulted Islam by misusing a Quranic verse which suggests Muslims should not be ruled by non-Muslims, to boost public support ahead of February’s governorship election.

Ahok insisted his comments were aimed at politicians “incorrectly” using a Quranic verse against him, not at the verse itself.

If convicted, Ahok faces a maximum five-year jail sentence. After the short hearing, the trial was adjourned until December 20.


Controversial Malaysian rapper Namewee has been arrested after complaints that his most recent music video “insulted Islam”.

Namewee, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, was detained on August 21. He is known for his profanity-laced music.

The offending video, for his song Oh My God, was first released in July and features him rapping in front of places of worship around Malaysia.

Namewee, 33, insists that his song was intended to promote religious harmony.

Photo Facebook

Photo Facebook

On August 22, Malaysian police remanded Namewee in custody for four days to investigate him for “defiling a place of worship with intention to insult religion”. The charge carries a jail term of up to two years.

About two thirds of Malaysians are Muslim, though the country also has significant Buddhist, Christian and Hindu populations. But there have been a number of instances in recent years of blogs and certain representations of Islam stoking controversy in Malaysia.

Namewee makes several religious references, using terms such as “Allah” and “Hallelujah”.

The singer and three others also appear to sing and dance in front of Buddhist and Taoist temples, inside a church and outside a mosque.

The latest version of the video uploaded to YouTube on 20 August, however, does not appear to include a sequence in front of a mosque.

Representatives from 20 local NGOs lodged some 10 reports against the singer.

Namewee was arrested on August 21 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport after returning from an overseas trip.

On August 22, Namewee posted a statement on his Facebook page where he says the intention of the Oh My God video was only to promote religious harmony.

The singer responded to people asking why he had returned to Malaysia when he could have evaded arrest by staying abroad by saying that he had done nothing wrong.

“If I’ve not done any wrong, why should I run and hide? [Malaysia] is my home, my land.”

Singing in Mandarin Chinese, Namewee is also hugely popular in Taiwan and China. But this is not his first brush with controversy.

In one of his previous videos Namewee questions Malaysia’s national energy provider over a blackout and another video featured a parody of the national anthem, which almost landed him in jail.


Malala Yousafzai’s book has been banned from private schools across Pakistan, education officials said on Sunday.

The Pakistani officials claim the teenage activist’s book doesn’t show enough respect for Islam and called her a tool of the West.

Malala Yousafzai attracted global attention last year when the Taliban shot her in the head in northwest Pakistan for criticizing the group’s interpretation of Islam, which limits girls’ access to education.

Her profile has risen steadily since then, and she released a memoir in October, I Am Malala, that was co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb.

While Malala Yousafzai has become a hero to many across the world for opposing the Taliban and standing up for girls’ education, conspiracy theories have flourished in Pakistan that her shooting was staged to create a hero for the West to embrace.

Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, said his group banned Malala Yousafzai’s book from the libraries of its 40,000 affiliated schools and called on the government to bar it from school curriculums.

“Everything about Malala is now becoming clear,” Adeeb Javedani said.

Malala Yousafzai's book has been banned from private schools across Pakistan

Malala Yousafzai’s book has been banned from private schools across Pakistan

“To me, she is representing the West, not us.”

Kashif Mirza, the chairman of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, said his group also has banned Malala Yousafzai’s book in its affiliated schools.

Malala Yousafzai “was a role model for children, but this book has made her controversial,” Kashif Mirza said.

“Through this book, she became a tool in the hands of the Western powers.”

He said the book did not show enough respect for Islam because it mentioned Prophet Muhammad’s name without using the abbreviation PUH – “peace be upon him” – as is customary in many parts of the Muslim world. He also said it spoke favorably of author Salman Rushdie, who angered many Muslims with his book The Satanic Verses, and Ahmadis, members of a minority sect that have been declared non-Muslims under Pakistani law.

In her reference to Salman Rushdie, Malala Yousfzai said in the book that her father saw The Satanic Verses as “offensive to Islam but believes strongly in the freedom of speech.”

“First, let’s read the book and then why not respond with our own book,” the book quoted her father as saying.

Malala Yousafzai mentioned in the book that Pakistan’s population of 180 million people includes more than 2 million Ahmadis, “who say they are Muslim though our government says they are not”.

“Sadly those minority communities are often attacked,” the book said, referring also to Pakistan’s 2 million Christians.

The conspiracy theories around Malala Yousafzai reflect the level of influence that right-wing Islamists sympathetic to the Taliban have in Pakistan. They also reflect the poor state of education in Pakistan, where fewer than half the country’s children ever complete a basic, primary education.

Millions of children attend private school throughout the country because of the poor state of the public system.

The Taliban blew up scores of schools and discouraged girls from getting an education when they took over the Swat Valley, where Malala Yousafzai lived, several years ago. The army staged a large ground offensive in Swat in 2009 that pushed many militants out of the valley, but periodic attacks still occur.

The mastermind of the attack on Malala Yousafzai, Mullah Fazlullah, recently was appointed the new head of the Pakistani Taliban after the former chief was killed in a US drone strike.

Pakistan Taliban commander Latif Mehsud has been captured by US forces in a military operation, the state department has confirmed.

Spokeswoman Marie Harf described Latif Mehsud as a “terrorist leader” and a “senior commander” in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Marie Harf gave no details of the operation.

She said he was a close confidante of the group’s leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who this week gave a rare interview to the BBC about possible peace talks.

Marie Harf said the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) were held responsible for the attempted bombing of Times Square in 2010, as well as attacks on US diplomats in Pakistan and many Pakistani civilians.

The group “had also vowed to attack the US homeland again,” Marie Harf said.

Pakistan Taliban commander Latif Mehsud has been captured by US forces in a military operation,

Pakistan Taliban commander Latif Mehsud has been captured by US forces in a military operation,

An Afghan provincial official earlier told Associated Press news agency that Latif Mehsud was arrested as he was driving on a highway in Afghanistan’s eastern Logar province.

The arrest took place about a week ago, the official said.

Latif Mehsud was reportedly returning from a meeting to discuss swapping prisoners.

The Washington Post said that US forces had taken him from Afghan intelligence agents who were trying to recruit him as a go-between for peace talks.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, Aimal Faizi, told the Post: “The Americans forcibly removed him and took him to Bagram.”

Aimal Faizi said Latif Mehsud had only agreed to meet Afghan operatives after months of negotiations.

Some reports say Hamid Karzai, who is currently holding talks with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry, was furious about the US operation.

Latif Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud are not thought to be related.

In a rare interview, Hakimullah Mehsud denied carrying out recent deadly attacks in public places but said he would continue to target “America and its friends”.

The chief loosely controls more than 30 militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

After being elected PM in May, Nawaz Sharif announced he would open unconditional talks with the Taliban.

The group has killed thousands of people in its war against the Pakistani state in recent years.

They control areas in the north-west and have been blamed for a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks.

Along with Pakistan, the Afghan government has also made overtures for peace with the Taliban. A number of Taliban prisoners have been freed to smooth the process.

US attempts in June to talk to the Taliban, including the opening of a now-shut Taliban office in Qatar, infuriated Hamid Karzai.

IKEA has said it regrets that images of women are missing from the Saudi version of its catalogue.

Women are clearly present in corresponding images in the firm’s English-language catalogue.

The Swedish furniture company said “excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the IKEA Group values”.

It attributed the gaffe to the fact its Saudi operation is run by a franchisee.

IKEA Saudi catalogue removes women from its pages

IKEA Saudi catalogue removes women from its pages

Several images in the catalogue, published on IKEA’s Saudi website, show women completely absent in a number of promotional scenes.

The same images in other versions of the catalogue include women.

IKEA said it was reviewing its “routines” in response to the issue.

“We support the fundamental human rights of all people and we do not accept any kind of discrimination,” the company said in a statement.

Islamic Sharia law is applied strictly in Saudi Arabia, where the ruling Al Saud family espouses a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism.

Women live under various restrictions, including no right to drive, and must be covered whenever they are outside the home.

Saudi leader King Abdullah is seen as trying to cautiously introduce reforms, some aimed at loosening restrictions on women’s right to vote.

IKEA, which posted net profits of almost 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) last year, operates three branches in Saudi Arabia.