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INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Muslim leaders challenged to stand against terror; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–An Indian man involved in the failed June 30 terror attack on Glasgow airport had links to the Al Qaeda network, and a well-known writer in India has called for Islamic leaders to guide Muslims in resisting radicalism.

Inflammatory speeches by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, messages to Al Qaeda operatives and anti-U.S. and anti-Britain propaganda were found on CDs and a computer at the home of Kafeel Ahmed in Bangalore, India, the Times of India reported July 10.

The Glasgow attack was shocking, considering the backgrounds of the suspects, said Banu Mushtaq, a popular writer in India’s Karnataka state whose novel “Hasina” is the subject of a new movie by filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli.

“Everything is a question before me, and I know no answers,” Mushtaq told The Hindu newspaper. “Where is the Muslim leadership that should be guiding the community at this moment of crisis, confusion and helplessness? Who are the people drawing young and intelligent minds into acts like this?”

Ahmed, an aeronautical engineer who was studying for his doctorate in Britain, is not expected to survive the severe burns caused when he drove a Jeep Cherokee into the Glasgow airport terminal. His brother Sabeel and a third Indian suspect, Mohammed Haneef, both doctors, also were detained for suspected links to the plot.

CHRISTIAN TIANANMEN PROTESTER DETAINED AGAIN — A Christian activist who was jailed and freed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy uprising in Beijing has been detained again, according to a human rights watchdog group.

Zhang Zhiyong served 18 months in prison after the protest, in which hundreds, if not thousands, of democracy activists were killed by government soldiers and tanks on April 22, 1989. He was re-arrested on July 6, according to the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, based in Hong Kong.

Zhang’s family was not informed of the reasons for his detention, the group said, but observers believed it may have been related to his involvement in an underground Christian church in Beijing, according to The Washington Post.

Another Tiananmen protestor, Sun Hong, was released from jail July 7, also without explanation. At the time, Sun was sentenced to death for his involvement in the uprising, but that was later suspended.

PAKISTAN CYCLONE AFFECTS 1.5 MILLION — An estimated 700 people were dead or missing and as many as 250,000 people were left homeless after a tropical cyclone lashed the coast of Pakistan June 26. As many as 1.5 million people in 18 districts were affected by 80-mph winds and heavy rains that caused widespread damage and flooding.

The situation could be complicated even more by the approaching monsoon season, said Dana Palade of the Christian relief organization World Vision. The group has joined other relief organizations, at the government’s request, in a nine-month effort to provide food, medicine and other basic supplies, she told Mission Network News.

Although World Vision is a Christian organization, they still are very open about their identity while working in the predominantly Muslim nation, Palade said. “In my experience with local communities, our faith in God and our values are a bridge of communication,” she said. “We build trust when people understand why we came here to serve, and to be honest with you, it’s the first point of working better together.”

Pakistan still hasn’t fully recovered from a 2005 earthquake that killed thousands of people, Palade added.

PEACE DEAL MOVES FORWARD IN UGANDA — The government of Uganda and leaders of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army have signed a third element of a five-part peace deal the sides hope will end two decades of fighting in the northern part of the east African country.

An agreement on reconciliation and accountability was signed June 29, according to Martin Ojul, who led the LRA delegation at peace talks being held in southern Sudan. Conflict between the government and the pseudo-Christian cult led by Joseph Kony has killed tens of thousands and forced nearly 2 million people into squalid refugee camps, the Reuters news agency reported.

Peace talks began this past July and a truce was signed in August, but progress has been slow because LRA delegates have walked out of different negotiation sessions.

MALAYSIANS FEAR ADVANCE OF HARD-LINE ISLAM — Recent demolitions of non-Muslim worship centers has raised fears that hard-line Islam is gaining control in Malaysia, despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

“Why did the government tear down our church when they say we are free to choose our religion?” asked Sazali Pengsang, a pastor in northeastern Kelantan state, after his congregation’s brick building was leveled by local authorities. “This incident will not stop me from practicing my faith,” he told the Reuters news service.

Officials in Kampung Jias said the building was constructed without proper approval, but church members said Malaysian law requires no approval to build on land they own. Kelantan province is controlled by a hard-line political party, Parti Islam se-Malaysia, which wants to establish an Islamic state governed by Sharia law.

Malaysian Christian leaders are concerned that Islam is being granted more liberties and religious minorities are experiencing greater restriction. Huge mosques reportedly are being built in areas with few Muslim residents and state television routinely broadcasts Islamic programs but forbids other religious programming.

“If the authorities do not intervene it would indirectly encourage extreme Islamists to show their muscle and their aggression towards other religious practices,” Wong Kim Kong, spokesman for the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, told Reuters. “That would threaten the religious harmony, national unity and national integration of the nation.”

Muslims make up approximately 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people.

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  • Mark Kelly