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Malaysia Permits Text Message Divorce

Posted on 2003/7/30 9:45:02 ( 1003 reads )


KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, July 27, 2003: Getting a quick divorce has taken on a whole new meaning in Malaysia after it was decided that a man can divorce his wife with a text message. The government's adviser on religious affairs, the man who counsels Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said as long as the message was clear and unambiguous it was valid under Islamic Sharia law. "SMS is just another form of writing," Dr. Abdul Hamid Othman was quoted by the New Straits Times daily newspaper as saying. The decision follows a Malaysian court's ruling on Thursday in favor of a man who served divorce on his wife via a text message. Sharia judge Mohamad Fauzi Ismail declared that the divorce declaration was valid and that, as such, the marriage between the plaintiff Azida Fazlina Abdul Latif and defendant Shamsudin Latif was annulled, the Utusan Malaysia newspaper reported. Mr Shamsudin was said to have sent Ms. Azida a text message saying: "If you do not leave your parents' house, you'll be divorced." Although such a notification of divorce may seem astonishingly brief to some, under Islamic law men are allowed to divorce their wives simply be saying the word 'talaq' - I divorce you - three times.

Security Upgrade for Vaishnodevi Pilgrimage

Posted on 2003/7/27 9:49:02 ( 928 reads )


JAMMU, KASHMIR, INDIA, JULY 27, 2003: Authorities on Saturday decided to upgrade the security cover for the pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Mata Vaishnodevi, set atop 3,500-feet-high Trikuta Hills, in the wake of the July 21 terrorist strike at Banganga that left six pilgrims killed and 48 injured. A high-level meeting, which reviewed the security for the pilgrimage, decided to strengthen the security set-up in the entire route from the base camp at Katra to the shrine, official sources said. The meeting, chaired by Jammu Divisional Commander L. D. Jah, decided to erect more security pickets in Trikutha hills, besides deploying additional forces to plug the gaps in the security cover of the 13-km route from Katra to the shrine, they said. In view of militants carrying out suicide attacks in combat dresses and uniforms, the meeting decided not to allow people in uniforms to have darshan at the Shrine, they said. Round-the-clock surveillance and patrolling of all high-altitude places in Katra town as well as those en route to the shrine would be intensified and multiple check points would be set up, the sources said.

India Issues Guidelines for Pesticide Residue in Bottle Water

Posted on 2003/7/27 9:48:02 ( 952 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 25, 2003: Following the hue and cry over presence of pesticides in bottled water, the Centre has finally come out with a changed rule set on packaged water, which the manufacturers have to follow from January 2004. As per the new prevention of food adulteration (PFA) guideline issued on July 18, the individual pesticide residue should not exceed 0.0001 mg per liter and the total pesticide residue should not be more than 0.0005 mg per liter. This will be applicable only to bottled drinking water. Also the post-marketing analysis on water samples, to be conducted by authorities like Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), have to be done following internationally accepted test methods. In fact, soon after the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment had revealed the presence of high amount of pesticides in bottled water, including all the popular Indian brands, Health Minister Sushma Swaraj had admitted in the Parliament that BIS testing methods were outdated.

Dutch Action Group Gets Apology for Smoking, Drinking Ganesha

Posted on 2003/7/26 9:49:02 ( 1073 reads )


THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS, July 24, 2003: MTV Networks Belgium apologized and has removed from circulation a piece entitled "Festival Report," which included a six-armed Ganesha. In His hands are a guitar, bag of french fries, microphone, cigarette and beer cup, with the sixth hand in the traditional position of blessing. The Dutch watchdog group, AGNI, objected to the producers and received this apology (translated from Dutch) from Michel Dupont, head of operations for MTV Networks Belgium: "As confirmed during out phone call this morning all TV commercials or promo's including Lord Ganesha with beer and cigarettes are removed from screen. I have personally contacted my colleagues in Holland and London to be absolutely sure this will be respected. Unfortunately, some print material was already delivered to the media, and could not be changed any more. But here also I can assure you that all future print material has been adapted. Again, on behalf of MTV Networks, I would like to sincerely apologize for offending anyone concerned, and promise that we will be very careful in the future." The use of a multi-armed Hindu Deity is common in advertising, allowing as it does the artist to include a number of elements in the various hands. Generally Hindus haven't protested the practice, unless one or more of the elements are considered objectionable in association with the sacred image. This incident highlights the favorable response that is common when an organization or company is approached in a cool-headed manner and the issue for Hindus carefully explained to them.

Just as at Tirupati, Vatican Has a Dress Code

Posted on 2003/7/26 9:48:02 ( 1063 reads )


VATICAN CITY, July 17, 2003: The famed temple of Tirupati in India, and others around the world, have instituted dress codes for devotees, and encountered protests in the process. This news report in the Detroit Times shows other religions, too, face the same problem of casually dressed people in their sacred places and have imposed strict dress codes as a solution. Excerpts from the report: "With temperatures soaring, tempers are flaring as the Vatican's dress police turn back tourists in shorts and bare shoulders trying to get into St. Peter's Basilica. Vendors are doing a brisk business selling paper pants and shirts -- turning St. Peter's Square into an open-air changing room. Enforcement of the Vatican dress code turns into a battle each summer, but the verbal skirmishes have been heightened this July because Rome is in the grips of a relentless heat wave. At the Vatican, authorities have erected signs showing no one can enter the basilica with bare legs and bare shoulders. Guards -- neatly dressed in shirts and ties -- patrol the entrances. Not only the Vatican, but the diocese of Rome and its hundreds of churches require what authorities consider appropriate dress. Some tourists do come prepared, pulling out pants and shirts from their backpacks and changing in St. Peter's Square."

Seven Million Expected for Nasik Kumbha Mela

Posted on 2003/7/25 9:49:02 ( 986 reads )


NASHIK, INDIA, July 20, 2003: Over the coming months, seven million pilgrims will re-live the ancient ritual of traveling to the Maharashtra town of Nashik for the Kumbh Mela. At exactly 11.51 AM on July 30, 2003, as the Sun and Jupiter enter the constellation of Leo, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will plunge into the Godavari, just as their spiritual forefathers have done for centuries to celebrate Kumbh Parva.

Nashik has never experienced anything on the scale of this year's preparations. The last Kumbh (1991-92), saw an investment of about US$4.5 million. This time, the figure is closer to US$97 million and provides for upgraded roads and new water/sewage systems. Trimbakeshwar, located 30 km away from Nashik and the source of Godavari, has similarly benefitted from the funding and has included a 25-acre Sadhu Gram for the expected holy men. In Nashik, 103 acres have been utilized as accommodations for the expected 250,000 sadhus.

The Kumbh period extends from 11:51 am on July 30, 2003, to 11:49 pm on August 27, 2004. The flag hoisting ceremony will be held on July 30; the Shahi Snans will be held at Nashik on August 17, August 27 and September 1, and at Trimbakeshwar on August 12, August 27 and September 7. The concluding ceremony will be held on August 27, 2004

Kerala Elephants to Retire at 65

Posted on 2003/7/25 9:48:02 ( 1031 reads )


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA, July 24, 2003: Taking a serious note of growing cruelty towards captive elephants and their violent reaction to human captors, the Kerala Government has issued norms for their upkeep which, among other things, insists that the tamed elephants should be retired from working at the age of 65.

The set of rules issued recently had clear-cut norms for their menu, healthcare, working conditions and qualifications for mahouts, according to a reply furnished in the Assembly by Forest Minister K. Sudharakaran. With quite a few cases of harassed tuskers running berserk and goring mahouts to death being reported, the owners had been asked to appoint mahouts with a minimum of three years experience, with an assistant to help. There should be periodical check-up of elephants by vets, and the mahouts should carry the fitness certificates while the elephants were being taken out. No elephant should be marched for more that 30 km a day, and during the night reflectors should be kept on them to avoid being knocked down by vehicles. They should not be made to work at times of masth and bathed at least once every day. Use of nylon leash or barbed iron chains is banned.

Gujarat Police Arrest Christian Priest for Throwing Ganesha Icon

Posted on 2003/7/25 9:47:02 ( 1057 reads )


AHMEDABAD, GUJARAT, July 21, 2003: Gujarat police arrested a Christian priest from Junagadh on charges of "offending another's religion," officials said here. A complaint was registered against Reverend Suresh Thaker who runs the Grace Ministry of India, an orphanage at Talala in Gir region of the district, alleging he threw a statue of a Deity belonging to a former employee, Veraval circle police inspector S. V. Rathore said. Offending another's religion is a serious offence, and a case has been registered against the priest under various sections of the IPC, Rathore said. Talala police said the complainant Gopal Patel, former driver of the orphanage, had alleged the priest had flung a Ganesh icon.

Grenade Blasts Kill Seven at Vaishno Devi Temple

Posted on 2003/7/24 9:49:02 ( 1113 reads )

Associated Press

JAMMU, INDIA, July 21, 2003: Two grenade blasts by suspected Islamic guerrillas killed seven pilgrims and wounded 25 others on their way to one of the most revered Hindu shrines in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said. The explosions occurred at a community kitchen as thousands of people were making the steep climb to the mountaintop shrine of Vaishno Devi. "This is the work of militants," Inspector-General P.L.Gupta, the head of police forces in the Jammu region, told The Associated Press. Attacks on the Hindu pilgrims in Jammu-Kashmir by Muslim terrorists in the past three years have left 59 people dead. Millions of Hindu devotees from across the world come to the town of Katra each month to make the 7.5-mile climb through narrow winding roads to worship the Goddess in the Vaishno Devi cave shrine.

Karan Singh Calls for Inter-Faith Activities

Posted on 2003/7/24 9:48:02 ( 955 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 18, 2003: Member of Parliament Dr. Karan Singh has written to all Chief Ministers and Vice Chancellors of around 100 universities in the country urging them to initiate inter-faith activities and to observe 2004 as "Interfaith Harmony Year." In his letter, Dr. Singh said, "We are witness to events and trends around the world, as well as in India, that are distressing and alarming, as they have the potential to tear apart social fabrics and alienate communities from each other. To overcome these divisive tendencies, the world needs to move towards an inclusive culture of understanding that appreciates convergence in faiths, accepts the diversity of religious traditions and seeks to harmonize them."

Dalits in Uttar Pradesh are Still Suffering

Posted on 2003/7/24 9:47:02 ( 1046 reads )

News Reports

UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA, July 12, 2003: Discrimination against Dalits ("Untouchables") continues to escalate in the state by as much as 30% a year. In actual numbers, this means that the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Commission receives about 1,200-1,400 complaints annually about atrocities and discrimination against Dalits. The Dalits themselves hoped to receive an improvement of their condition when Mayawati, a Dalit, became Chief Minister. Her party, the BSP, depends on votes from Dalits. However, even last year, when Dalits refused to work in fields owned by upper castes, men and women were beaten and one person was killed. Many are now homeless as they fear returning to their homes.

Temple Consecrated Near Washington, D.C.

Posted on 2003/7/24 9:46:02 ( 935 reads )


LANHAM, MARYLAND, July 7, 2003: After twenty-five years of planning and fund-raising, tens of thousands of Hindus in the Washington area now have a completed Sri Siva Vishnu temple to worship in. The Kumbhabhisheham (dedication) ceremony brought devotees from near and far. Many pilgrims travelled from afar, like Sri Nivasan, a 28-year-old software publisher from San Antonio, Texas, who said "to see the temple is to see the Gods." V.S. Raghavan, chairman of the board of trustees of the Siva Vishnu temple says, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for most Hindus." Many called the temple "the fulfillment of a dream." The whole community has a strong sense of pride about the completed multimillion dollar temple.

Croatia Education Ministry Cancels Yoga

Posted on 2003/7/24 9:45:02 ( 1055 reads )


ZAGREB, CROATIA, July 17, 2003: Croatia's education ministry has withdrawn its recommendation that teachers take yoga classes because the Roman Catholic Church accused it of trying to sneak Hinduism into schools. Deputy education minister Ivan Vavra said that instead, yoga classes will be organized strictly in teachers' spare time and focused on exercises only, with no students to receive instruction.

On Monday, the Croatian Council of Bishops protested that the yoga tuition was an underhand attempt to introduce "Hinduist religious practices dressed up as exercises into Croatian schools." They said it was "unacceptable to introduce into the schools topics that are in contradiction with the generally accepted system of values and the European cultural tradition." The bishops stressed that they did not object to yoga outside the state school system. Vavra acknowledged that the move was triggered by the strong reaction of the church in this country of 4.5 million people, 80 per cent of whom consider themselves Catholics.

The Croatia-based group Yoga in Daily Life had qualified along with dozens of other non-governmental groups for state funds for its programme for teachers. It is to receive 50,000 kuna ($8,000) for six weekend trainings starting in September. The idea was to help teachers improve their physical condition and relax, said Vedrana Josipovic, the group's leader.

Burning The Dead Poses Environmental Crisis

Posted on 2003/7/24 9:44:02 ( 1208 reads )

Associated Press

NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 15, 2003: Bachchan Singh Bahadur poured cups of melted butter on the wood fire of his father's funeral pyre on the outskirts of New Delhi. He was in keeping with a centuries-old Hindu funeral tradition, but it's also the stuff of ecological nightmares for the Indian government. Bahadur could have used an electricity-powered crematorium less than half a mile away for just one-tenth of the price, but for him nothing would do except a wood-burning crematorium by the Yamuna River where the ashes would be tossed. Nearly 20,000 Hindus die each day in this nation of 1 billion people. Each cremation requires an average of 650 pounds of wood. In the 1980's the government turned to electric furnaces, building scores of them in cities and towns along the Ganges River. But few Hindus have made the changes, and many of the electric crematoriums have fallen into disrepair. One problem is frequent power outages. Some officials say wood traders collude with operators of the electric crematoriums to ensure that the furnaces malfunction or run short of diesel for their generators, forcing people to buy wood at exorbitant prices, or leaving the bodies unburned until repairs are made. Swami Agnivesh, a Hindu theologian and social activist, says the religion is flexible enough to accept technology. "Many Hindus would welcome the change, especially if they were made aware of the environmental consequences of wood cremation," he said. HPI adds: Hindus who die in America or Europe are generally cremated in gas crematoriums, a practice accepted by the community and not questioned on theological grounds.

Pada Yatra Pilgrims Approach Kataragama

Posted on 2003/7/23 9:49:02 ( 1070 reads )


POTTUVIL,SRI LANKA, July 19, 2003: Wildlife Department officials have been bracing for the largest-ever flow of foot pilgrims following the traditional Pada Yatra ("foot pilgrimage") route through Yala National Park. The Park, which normally echoes with the songs of peacocks and jungle fowl, resounded with the songs of Pada Yatra pilgrims vowing to reach Kataragama, one of the most ancient and revered temples of Lord Murugan in the world, for the July 28 flag-hoisting ceremony.

Even before reaching Pottuvil, from as far as Jaffna, some Pada Yatra parties had already had in excess of 400 pilgrims, a sight that has not been witnessed in Sri Lanka for at least two decades. More villagers than ever, fairly confident that the peace process will hold, have been joining the traditional swamis this year for the pilgrimage. Abundant rains have rendered favorable walking conditions and villagers have plenty of surplus grain which they are grateful to offer as dana (gift) to God Kataragama and His devotees.

For more articles and photos of Kataragama Pada Yatra, visit the "source" above and http://padayatra.org

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