News July 2008

UK- Britain's first sharia-compliant insurance company, Salaam Halal, launched
offering motoring policies in line with the Islamic legal code. In 2004, UK authorised a 100% Islamic bank, the Islamic Bank of Britain. The traditional bank Lloyds TSB last year launched Islamic finance products and offered sharia-compliant bank accounts. (AFP, Jul 27)

THAILAND - Copies of Grand Theft Auto IV have been pulled in Thailand after a teenager confessed to murdering a taxi driver in trying to copy a scene from the game. (BBC, Aug 4)

PALESTINE - Last major airlift of Ethiopian Jews or Falash Mura, ending a 30-year illegal immigration scheme that saw 100,000 move there. Israel’s Law of Return guarantees a place in the country for every Jew but not for Palestinians who were kicked out. (BBC, Aug 5)

MAURITANIA - Troops overthrew Pres Sidi Abdallahi. (BBC, Aug 6)

PAKISTAN - A lady Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, 36 accused by USA of links to al-Qaeda was charged with attempting to kill US soldiers sent to ‘arrest’ her in Afghanistan in Jul. But Rights groups say she has actually spent the last five years in secret US jails. She was tortured until one day US authorities announced they found her in Afghanistan (BBC, Aug 5)

KYRGYZSTAN - 9 medical workers convicted for infecting 24 children with HIV, the virus that causes Aids. More than 70 children infected with HIV since last year, with 4 deaths. Last year, 21 medical workers in Kazakhstan were jailed for infecting 150 children with HIV. (BBC, Aug 4)

IRAQ - There is inadequate health care in the biggest US military detention centre in Iraq, Camp Bucca according to US army sources. There are under-qualified staff, an inadequate records system and a culture of turning a blind eye to detainees' long-term medical problems. Camp Bucca has 18,000 Iraqi detainees. Average length of stay is 330 days and 80 detainees have been held since 2003. (BBC, Aug 5)

LIBYA - 20,000 people named Muhammad from across Libya and beyond turned up to set the new world record for the largest gathering of Muhammads as well as the largest same-name gathering. The previous world record for the largest gathering of people named Muhammad was 1096 people in Dubai in 2005. Prior to Dubai, the record for a same-name gathering was 375 Marias in Spain in 2003. Muhammad is the most popular male name in the world. (World Records Academy, Aug 2)

UAE - Organizers of the Fourth Liwa Festival created a 10.06m x 2.03m steel-made dish, heaped with 2,000kg of dates, setting the world record for the largest plate of dates containing about one million fruit. (World Records Academy, Aug 1)

IRAN - Iran has the world's tenth largest auto making industry, according to UN Industrial Development Organization. Another Muslim country, Indonesia, ranked 15th. (Press TV, Aug 6)

PHILIPPINES - Christians demonstrated across Mindanao against a government peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that would have expanded the existing Muslim region and given its future government wide political and economic powers. The Supreme Court temporarily halted a signing ceremony for the agreement and will decide whether the deal is unconstitutional. Muslims in the south have been seeking independence for decades in a conflict that has killed 120,000 people. Elections are due in the six-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Aug 11. (Reuters, Aug 6)

USA - The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents workers at a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Tennessee, has negotiated a contract that substitutes the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr for Labor Day as one of the eight paid holidays at the plant. This has delighted the plant’s Somali workers, who account for 400 of its 1,200 employees. This was the first union to negotiate a paid day off for a Muslim holiday in USA. (NYTimes, Aug 5)

SAUDI ARABIA - Villagers in the Baha region smashed up their satellite dishes after an Imam warned against watching Turkish soap operas. The Imam of the Imam Malik Musjid in Jeddah said he too would devote a Friday sermon to the issue. The Saudi Grand Mufti said Turkish soap operas are evil while Ulama across the country hit out at TV programmes for destroying Islamic values. (ArabianBusiness, Aug 5)

CHINA - Two Uighurs, the Turkic Muslim group that populates the Chinese-occupied western region of Xinjiang (East Turkistan), attacked a group of paramilitary police officers, killing 16 and wounding 16 in Kashgar. Officials said the men belonged to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which the Chinese govt and USA list as a terrorist group. The Chinese say the group is trying to disrupt the Beijing Olympic Games, which begin Aug 8. East Turkistan is rich in oil and natural gas. (NYTimes, Aug 5)

SAUDI ARABIA - Members of the Shura Council called for the simultaneous translation of Friday sermons at the Ka’bah in Makkah for non-Arabic speaking worshippers via interpretation receivers. They also urged the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques to introduce a system to prevent the use of mobile phones by pilgrims while performing tawaf (circumambulation). (Arab News, Jul 28)

PALESTINE - The towns of Asira and Burin in Nablus were the most affected when illegal Jewish settlers burned Palestinian farmers’ fields and hundreds of trees. Israeli soldiers looked on and prevented fire-fighters from reaching the scene. (Muslim News, Jun 21)

USA - Unemployment rate climbed to 5.7% in July, its highest in 4 years with the economy losing 51,000 non-farm jobs. (BBC, Aug 1)

USA - The next US president is expected to face a record federal budget deficit of almost half a trillion dollars. The White House deficit forecast for 2009 is $482bn (£242bn). This excludes $80bn in war costs. (BBC, Jul 28)

PALESTINE - Jewish security agents are putting pressure on Palestinian medical patients from Gaza to become informants, according to Physicians for Human Rights. 30 people were denied treatment for not providing information. Israel has prevented all but emergency humanitarian aid reaching the Gaza Strip since Hamas was elected to power there in 2007. Most people cannot leave the territory. (BBC, Aug 4)