Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 5 News List

World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

■INDIA

Hirsi Ali slams ‘appeasers’

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born former Dutch lawmaker threatened with death for her outspoken criticism of Islam, yesterday accused the world’s liberal democracies of appeasing radical Muslims. Hirsi Ali, who since 2004 has lived under constant guard against death threats from Islamic extremists, made her accusation during an appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival. Hirsi Ali said fear of offending Muslims and the wider Islamic world meant Islam had been largely exempted in Europe and the US from the critical scrutiny applied to other religions. “In the West, people are frigidly stuck in an attitude of self-doubt,” fearful of Muslim radicals but also worried of being seen as anti-Muslim and thus betraying their own liberal traditions, Hirsi Ali said. “This appeasement has made the public space in these countries a lot less safe.” Genuine debate about Islam, Ali said, was all too often “shut down by those who have a stake in keeping any criticism of Islam away. It’s extraordinary to see the energy we spend on protecting individual Muslims from questioning their moral framework. We should make Islam go through the same enlightenment process other religions have gone through by using that questioning process.”

■BANGLADESH

Millions gather for prayer

At least 4 million Muslims attended prayers yesterday near Dhaka at the climax of the largest annual Islamic event after the hajj, police said. The Bishwa Ijtema, or World Muslim Congregation, concluded after an imam led final prayers with devotees filling every open space, rooftops and kilometers of roads leading to the congregation site. The gathering, at which Muslims pray and listen to religious scholars, was first held in the 1960s on the banks of the Turag river and was launched by Tablig Jamaat, a non-political group that urges people to follow Islam in their daily lives. Police inspector Mamun Hasan said at least four million people attended the event. Dhaka was deserted yesterday as many residents left their jobs — Sunday is a working day in Bangladesh — and headed to the venue, 40km north of the city.

■CHINA

Beijing pushes bikes

Beijing’s city government wants to reverse the declining trend of people using bicycles to help ease pollution and growing traffic chaos, state media said yesterday. Twenty years ago, more than 80 percent of residents in China’s capital cycled, but that proportion has shrunk to a little under a fifth, news agency Xinhua said. The government wants to ensure that around a quarter of the population uses bicycles by 2015. They hope to achieve this by restoring bike lanes which had been taken over for vehicle use and by building more parking places, said Liu Xiaoming, head of the Municipal Communications Commission. Beijing is home to around four million cars, out of a total human population of 17 million, Xinhua said.

■PHILIPPINES

Arroyo pleads for maid’s life

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is pleading with Kuwait to spare the life of a Filipino housemaid who was sentenced to death after a murder conviction. The Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that Arroyo has asked Vice President Noli de Castro to travel to Kuwait to intercede on behalf of Jakatia Pawa, who was convicted of stabbing to death her employer’s daughter in 2007. The department says De Castro will deliver a letter of appeal from Arroyo to Kuwait’s emir.

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