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Religious Groups Under Scrutiny in Britain
Posted on 2001/9/3 23:46:02 ( 637 reads )


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LONDON, ENGLAND, August 27, 2001: Campaigners against religious "cults" across western Europe are trying to persuade the British government to follow the French and legislate against movements such as Sai Baba and the Moonies. There is growing British press interest in the man they describe as "Indian mystic and miracle worker" to the rich, famous and titled such as the Duchess of York and an architect known to be close to Prince Charles. Commentators say this is largely because Sai Baba has a substantial European fan following, alongside a growing number of hostile and vocal former devotees who accuse him of physical, mental and monetary abuse. A new area of concern has arisen, according to The Times, which says Sai Baba has infiltrated the British school system in a dangerous "catch 'em young" policy. The newspaper says more than 500 British schools are being taught according to "Sai Baba-influenced educational programs." Anti-cult campaigners say that their cause has been strengthened because UNESCO pulled out of an educational conference at Puttaparthi last year. They say that if the French legislation is followed by other European countries, it could eventually become European Union law and would severely limit the activities of movements such as that of Sai Baba.




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Kashmiri Hindus Fearful Of Escalating Violence
Posted on 2001/8/30 23:49:02 ( 635 reads )


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JAMMU, INDIA, August 29, 2001: A wave of killings of Hindus by militants over the past six weeks has terrorized the minority community in Kashmir. The latest victims were two Hindu monks who were dragged from a temple by militants and beheaded, police said. The slayings on Monday brought the Hindu death toll to at least 34 since last month's India-Pakistan peace summit focused on the Kashmir issue collapsed. "Villagers are scared to death," said Purushottam Lal, a resident of the Jammu region, home to over two million Hindus in the state. "We're struggling to organize ourselves to prevent attacks," Lal reported from Poonch where a curfew remains in force following the monks' deaths. Authorities say the militants are trying to drive a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims in the region and force the Hindus out of the state through violence. Hindus, they say, are being targeted as they are seen as being in favor of Kashmir remaining within India. During the last decade, thousands of Hindus have fled the Srinagar region since the revolt against Indian rule erupted in 1989. Until recently, the Jammu region, with its large Hindu population was relatively free of violence.




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UK "Looting" Teachers From Poor Nations
Posted on 2001/8/30 23:48:02 ( 647 reads )


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UNITED KINGDOM, August 30, 2001: UK schools which recruit teachers from overseas in a desperate bid to fill vacancies are "sucking vital resources" from the world's poorest children, a charity has claimed. The Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) believes at least 1,000 teachers have come to the UK from developing countries, including India, in the last 12 months. "The morality of looting teachers from developing countries is being lost in the fervor to fill our own classrooms," states VSO head Mark Goldring. The UK shortage pales in comparison with those in countries such as India, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa, where children are often in classes of 100 with just one teacher. In these countries, UK teacher recruitment agencies are able to recruit aggressively, unchecked and unbounded by guidelines or regulations. Many teachers from India are wanting to go to the UK. VSO is calling on the Department for Education to issue a code of practice for schools and recruitment agencies. Overseas teachers who have come to UK schools make important contributions to and are well qualified, a spokesperson added.




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Muslims Plan Suit Against AOL Over Chat Room Slurs
Posted on 2001/8/30 23:47:02 ( 792 reads )


Source: Religion News Service





VIRGINIA, USA, August 30, 2001: A Muslim man said today he is filing a lawsuit against America Online, charging the Virginia-based company has failed to protect Muslim members from anti-Muslim harassment in chat rooms. "For years Muslim members of AOL have been subjected to religious harassment in Muslim AOL chat rooms," said Kamran Memon, one of the attorneys who represents plaintiff Saad Noah. "Muslims have complained to AOL, they have asked AOL to enforce its terms of service which prohibit hate speech in chat rooms, but AOL has not done enough because the harassment continues and harassers keep coming back." The lawsuit claims that AOL has violated federal civil rights statutes that prohibit discrimination in a place of public accommodation, Memon said. "In light of the growing significance of chat rooms, and the fact that so many Americans use chat rooms to conduct business or entertainment, it makes sense that those people should be protected from discrimination in the same way that people are protected from discrimination elsewhere," said Memon, noting that courts have considered places of entertainment to be places of public accommodation. "Other laws apply both online and offline -- for example criminal laws, intellectual property laws. There's no reason why civil rights laws should be any different." Noah's lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and "an injunction ordering AOL to protect its Muslim members from harassment," Memon said. "For example, if AOL knows that a certain person using a certain screen name has been complained about several times for anti-Muslim bigotry, then AOL should terminate that person's account, and not let that person become a member of AOL again," Memon said. AOL should also include Muslims on its panel that responds to harassment complaints, Memon said.




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Racism Conference Could Look at Caste
Posted on 2001/8/29 23:49:02 ( 610 reads )


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DELHI, INDIA, Aug. 28, 2001: The Indian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said the forthcoming United Nations conference on racism would be an opportunity to discuss human rights issues, including the issue of caste. The Indian Government has said that the caste system cannot be compared to racism or apartheid. Speaking to the BBC, NHRC spokeswoman Maushumi Chakraborty said the World Conference against Racism, which begins in the South African city of Durban on Friday, August 31, provided an opportunity for the international community to deal with existing issues of inequality. The United States is refusing to send a high-level delegation because of calls by attending Arab states to condemn Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.




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Accident in State of Assam Colors Ganesha Festival
Posted on 2001/8/29 23:48:02 ( 683 reads )


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CHENNAI, INDIA, August 26, 2001: After ten days of elaborate and devoted pujas to celebrate Lord Ganesha's birthday, hundreds of murthis were ceremoniously immerged into the sea at the southern port city of Chennai. Politicians offered prayers to the Lord for success and the removal of obstacles. Meanwhile in the state of Assam, Lord Ganesha's festival was interrupted by a tragic accident. According to the article, "Two elephants were being herded across a bridge over the river Brahmaputra in Guwahati, the state capital, in the early hours of the morning when a speeding bus ran into them." Both pachyderms and the bus driver were killed. After being thrown into the river, the two mahouts, the keepers of the elephants, were safe.




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Tea and Four no More?
Posted on 2001/8/29 23:47:02 ( 701 reads )


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UNITED KINGDOM, August 27, 2001: The once huge domestic market for tea in India is shrinking. Indian tea producers have warned that they are heading for a crisis. With prices of tea at their lowest point for three years --one kilo costs just US$1.37 -- and soft drinks replacing tea as the domestic drink of choice, they say their profits are shrinking. Cheap imports from Indonesia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China are also threatening domestic production. The president of the Tea Association of India told the BBC that the real trouble stems from increased advertising spending by Coke and Pepsi. Also, it is difficult for India to compete with countries such as Kenya and Sri Lanka, where labor costs are lower. The two soft drink giants are reportedly planning to join forces with the Tea Board and the Commerce Ministry to promote tea.




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Christian Web Site Reports Violence Against Christians in India
Posted on 2001/8/29 23:46:02 ( 666 reads )


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USA, August 30, 2001: The evangelical web site, Persecution and Prayer Alert issued the following report. HPI has not received independent confirmation of the incidents mentioned here, but the site usually has a reliable source for its information. "Late Sunday night, as Christians were celebrating a festival, Hindu militants ransacked a church building in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This is the fourth such incident in the state in the last month. In early August, a Pentecostal chapel was demolished in the Gopalpura village. In Indore, a group of Hindu students stormed the St. Paul's School, chanting slogans against the school management and threatening students."




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Tribals Unite Against Conversions In Tripura
Posted on 2001/8/29 23:45:02 ( 699 reads )


Source: Rediff on the Net





TRIPURA, INDIA, Aug, 29, 2001: Tribal Hindus in Tripura have formed vigilante groups to thwart attempts by separatist militants to convert people to Christianity at gunpoint, community leaders said. "It is a very serious threat to Hinduism with armed militants of the outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura forcibly converting tribal villagers to Christianity," said Rampada Jamatia, a leader of the Jamatia tribe. "We believe up to 5,000 tribal villagers were converted to Christianity by the NLFT in the past two years," Jamatia said. Tribals constitute about 30 per cent of Tripura's population of 3.19 million. Christians form a meager 10 per cent of the total, while the majority are Hindus. Community chiefs and religious heads of 19 tribes have now formed the Tribal Culture Protection Committee to counter the threat posed by the NLFT. "The forum would discuss ways and means to tackle the threat to our religion and culture," Bikram Bahadu Jamatia, a tribal chieftain said.




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Two Hindu Monks Killed in Kashmir
Posted on 2001/8/27 23:49:02 ( 670 reads )


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JAMMU, KASHMIR, August 28, 2001: A curfew has been declared in the town of Poonch in Indian-administered Kashmir following the murder of two Hindu priests by suspected militants late on Monday, according to this BBC report. Police say a group of militants entered a temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali near Surankot in the mountainous district of Poonch. After waking the two priests from sleep, the militants allegedly beheaded them. Commentators say that while the number of Hindus murdered in Jammu has increased in recent months, this is the first incident in which Hindu priests have been murdered. The news of the killing of the priests sparked an angry reaction from Hindus living in the town of Poonch, who demonstrated on the streets in protest against the killings. Additional forces have been deployed in the town. Sources in nearby Rajouri say angry demonstrations have been held there too.




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Ganesha Chathurthi Celebrated
Posted on 2001/8/27 23:48:02 ( 704 reads )


Source: India Times





CHENNAI, INDIA, August 22, 2001: Vinayaka Chathurthi was celebrated with religious fervor and gaiety in the city today, with special pujas and functions being conducted at various temples on the occasion. Songs and hymns praising the elephant-headed Lord rent the air from the early hours of the morning. In colonies and apartment complexes, residents performed puja. Hundreds of idols of Lord Vinayaka were put up in various parts of the city. Among them is one in T Nagar, which is made up of 10,008 coconuts, 450 tender coconuts and 150 copra. The city police have banned taking out these idols in a procession for the usual immersion in the sea, citing the outbreak of violence during one such procession in 1992, when the procession passed through a street where a mosque was located. Elsewhere in the state also, the festival was celebrated with traditional fervor.




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Peta Campaign Impacts India's Leather Workers
Posted on 2001/8/27 23:47:02 ( 716 reads )


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MUMBAI, INDIA, August, 23, 2001: Indian leather exporters have suffered a major setback after four big US retail chains, Casual Corner, LL Bean, Timberland and Eddie Bauer, decided not to buy its goods in protest against the ill-treatment of animals following a sustained campaign by the Indian arm of the US-based animal rights group, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). But Peta itself has been criticized by the head of an Indian animal welfare lobby for paying little regard to the impact its campaign is having on the welfare of humans. It is another blow for India's leather exporters after other global chains as Gap, Liz Claiborne, J.Crew and Marks & Spencer also recently decided against buying Indian leather goods. The ban will continue until the Indian government takes steps to change the way in which animals are slaughtered and transported, said Jason Baker, India's Peta representative.




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Actors Provide Emotional Outlets for Jaffna
Posted on 2001/8/27 23:46:02 ( 686 reads )


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JAFFNA, SRI LANKA, Aug, 23, 2001: Two decades of civil war in northern Sri Lanka have caused widespread psychological trauma to an estimated 40% of Tamil civilians of Jaffna by years of bombardment, displacement, disappearances and terror at the hands of both Tamil militants and the Sri Lankan army. In a conservative society where people traditionally don't show their emotions, drama can be a trigger for pent-up rage. Young professionals are being trained to use role-playing as a tool for therapy. They stand in a large circle imitating the sounds of a tropical rainstorm by clapping their hands and stamping their feet in a sort of group therapy, among other methods. One actor so successfully imitated a politician making empty promises that he was attacked by the crowd. The people of Jaffna are suffering from cumulative trauma, according to Professor of Psychiatry at Jaffna University, Daya Somasonderam. "Apart from the effects on individuals now we are realizing that the conflict has a very long-term devastating effect on society."




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India-U.S. Fight On Basmati Rice Is Mostly Settled
Posted on 2001/8/27 23:45:02 ( 652 reads )


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TEXAS, USA, Aug. 25, 2001: A Texas company's attempt to patent a type of basmati rice became a touchstone for anti-globalization protest in the 1990's. But the long-simmering issue was largely settled this week, when the United States granted a narrower patent to the company, Ricetec of Alvin, Texas. The United States originally granted the patent in 1997, touching a nerve in India, leading to a challenge by the Indian government. After this week's decision, the Indian government said it saw no reason for further dispute. The new patent is limited to a few variants of the rice and will not hamper export of its own basmati product, the government concluded.




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Ganesha's Birthday Brings Prosperity for Modaka and Murthi Makers
Posted on 2001/8/27 23:44:02 ( 831 reads )


Source: Afternoon Dispatch





MUMBAI, INDIA, August 23, 2001: Celebrating Ganesha's birthday with pomp and gaiety has always meant prosperity for merchants in the city. While this still holds true for those shopkeepers selling puja accessories such as flowers, incense sticks, coconuts, fruits, Ganesha murthis, and the ever popular modaka (a round sweet made from rice, coconut, and sugar), other merchants are suffering. Traditionally, Ganesha's auspicious days marked a time when families also purchased gold jewelry, saris and new clothes for the children. However in the last eight years, these sales have declined. The owner of J.D. Jewelers is quoted as saying, "For some years now people have stopped buying anything more than a small ring for Ganapati."




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