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INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Christian woman may hold key to Brazil’s presidency; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–An evangelical Christian woman may hold the key to Brazil’s presidency after neither of the two leading candidates for the office claimed a majority in first-round elections Oct. 4.

Green Party candidate Marina Silva attracted 19.3 percent of the vote and now is being courted by Ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff and opposition candidate Jose Serra. Rousseff took 46.9 percent of the votes in the first ballot and Serra received 32.6 percent.

Rousseff, who is the hand-picked successor of popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, fell in pre-election polls after the spread of Internet videos in which she appeared to favor decriminalizing abortion. Those comments apparently alienated many voters opposed to abortion, especially evangelical Christians, many of whom voted for fellow evangelical Silva.

The Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported Oct. 4 that Rousseff has met with church leaders to reaffirm her support for existing abortion laws, but she also is dealing with questions about a recent corruption scandal involving a former top aide. She nevertheless is favored to win the Oct. 31 runoff election.

LAWYER, FAMILY KILLED FOR DEFENDING CHRISTIAN — Muslim extremists killed a Christian lawyer, his wife and their five children in northwestern Pakistan Sept. 28 for mounting a legal challenge against a Muslim who was charging exorbitant interest to a Christian.

Edwin Paul, his wife Ruby and five children ages 6 to 17, were found at their home in Haripur, a small town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after neighbors heard gunshots, the Compass Direct news service reported Sept. 30. A neighbor said a group of armed men had threatened the lawyer the previous day.

Paul had moved with his family to the area in February and he had taken the case of a Christian taxi driver who had received a loan of 150,000 rupees (US$1,725) to buy a taxi. Originally the Muslim who made the loan agreed that Mehboob would pay back 224,000 rupees (US$2,580) after one year, Compass Direct reported. The interest rate later was raised to 500 percent because Mehboob was a Christian — and the loan total became 1.12 million rupees [US$12,893]. Mehboob’s property and taxi were taken in lieu of payment.

After filing a complaint at the police station, Mehboob and Paul were threatened by three carloads of men, Compass reported. The men reportedly said, “How dare you Christians go to the police, don’t you know we own the law here?” and assaulted the two men, threatening to kill them if they pursued the case.

BIN LADEN PITCHES PAKISTAN AID — Al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden released an audio recording Oct. 2 that scolded Arab Muslim leaders for failing to help millions of Pakistani flood victims and praised United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for coming to the flood zone himself to see the catastrophe.

The 13-minute message, titled “Help your Pakistani Brothers,” urged Muslims to engage in humanitarian action and took a softer-than-usual tone toward secular Western leaders, AOL News reported. “The [U.N.’s] secretary-general came to witness the catastrophe for himself, and yet no Arab leaders came to witness the disaster despite the short distances and claims of brotherhood,” bin Laden reportedly said. “The response did not match the level of the disaster. … There should have been a bigger scale movement [to help victims in] this crisis from the start, especially from able nations like Turkey, the Gulf states and Malaysia.”

In another recording released the previous day, bin Laden bemoaned the impact of climate change in places like Pakistan: “The number of victims caused by climate change is very big … bigger than the victims of wars,” he reportedly said.

BANGLADESH COURT UPHOLDS MODERATE ISLAM — The supreme court of Bangladesh in August ruled that women and men cannot be required to wear veils or skullcaps in workplaces or schools — dealing a blow to Muslim radicals trying to impose Islamic law on the predominantly Muslim country.

In sharp contrast to nearby Pakistan, Bangladesh’s political leaders are adopting a vigorous policy of legal action to curb radical Islam, according to Irfan al-Alawi, executive director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, in an op-ed column published in The Weekly Standard.

The ruling came in response to an attempt to force all females to wear the traditional Muslim veil at a state college, al-Alawi wrote. The court ruled that “wearing religious attire should be the personal choice of the students or the employees.”

The Aug. 22 decision followed an April ruling that barred schools from requiring women teachers and administrators to wear face veils or headscarves, al-Alawi wrote. In July, Bangladesh banned books by Abu’l-Ala Maududi, an Indian-born Muslim scholar whose books are the most influential among radical Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Maududi’s followers also reportedly control a leading national Muslim group in the United States, the Islamic Circle of North America.

Since the end of June, Bangladeshi authorities have detained 65 Maududi followers on grounds that their activities are seditious and harmful to Islam, al-Alawi wrote.

“Bangladesh has a woman at the head of its government, who also bears the religious title ‘sheikh’ — Hasina Wajed of the secular Awami League, daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-75), the architect of the country’s independence,” al-Alawi wrote. “It has a parliamentary system and an energetic, critical media. Its political elite is guiding the country toward reinforcement of democracy and away from Islamic rule. Bangladesh and Bangladeshis of all opinions deserve more attention and encouragement from the rest of the world, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.”
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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