Pakistanis in U.S. Fear for Homeland

By Verena Dobnik NEW YORK — Pakistanis across the U.S., regardless of whether they supported Benazir Bhutto, mourned her on Thursday and worried that her assassination could destabilize their homeland and threaten the safety of family members living there. “I imagine this is how the people of this country felt after Kennedy’s assassination,” said Syed Hassan, a Houston resident who moved from Pakistan 20 years ago. “When these kind of things happen, it just shatters you.”

First mosques officially recognized in Flanders region of Belgium

Six mosques have been officially recognized in northern Belgium; the mosques will receive state subsidies and get their wages from state funds. In Belgium imams only qualify if they can show that they are integrated and can speak Dutch fluently, and are familiar with Flemish society. Starting in 2008, authorities in Flanders will pay 30% of the mosques’ building costs.

Judge Orders Louis Farrakhan to Appear

HAMMOND, Ind. — A federal judge has ordered Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan to appear in court to explain why payments to his son are not considered income. A Gary couple are seeking to collect $350,000 from Farrakhan’s 48-year-old son, who lost a lawsuit after crashing his father’s Hummer into their car in 2003 and leaving the scene. Nasir Farrakhan has yet to pay any of the punitive damages awarded to Charles and Gladys Peterson, though they received $464,000 for their medical expenses from his insurance company.

The U.N. Insignia Emerges as a Global Target for Al-Qaeda Attacks

By Colum Lynch UNITED NATIONS — The suicide bombings that ripped apart the U.N. headquarters building in Algiers on Dec. 11 and killed at least 37 people, including 17 U.N. employees, provided a bloody demonstration of the United Nations’ emergence as a key target in al-Qaeda’s global war against the West. This year, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have threatened or targeted U.N. officials and peacekeepers in conflict zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and southern Lebanon, where six U.N. peacekeepers were killed in a bombing in June. Even before the Algiers attack, the United Nations was already investing millions of dollars in fortifying its facilities and convoys in response to threats in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Britain, A Respected, If Rowdy, Holiday Ritual: Office Parties Known For Booze, Brawls

By Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan The British office party has become legendary for massive alcohol consumption that leads fistfights, firings and indiscretions. The two weeks leading up to December 25 have become so predictably raucous and turbulent that the ambulance service has a special medical vehicle to patrol the streets, known as the booze bus or Vomit Comit. While many Brits defend the tradition with patriotic zeal, others who do not consume alcohol, such as practicing Muslims, are on the margins. Some have brought lawsuits.

Quebec’s Panel on Immigrant Relations Adds to Din of Discord

By Ian Austen MONTREAL – Viewed separately, the incidents seemed relatively insignificant. Members of a Hasidic synagogue here wanted a neighboring Y.M.C.A. to block or tint the windows of an exercise room used by women. A Muslim girl was barred from playing soccer for wearing a hijab on the field. And, in Quebec, some Muslims and Orthodox Jews refused to deal with police officers and physicians of the opposite sex. Then came the decision in late January by H_rouxville, Quebec – a town of French-speaking Catholics – to create a code of conduct for immigrants that prohibited, among other things, the covering of women’s faces except for on Halloween and the use of public stoning as a form of punishment. This despite the fact that there are no Muslims in the town and no modern history of stonings.

Is It War? The presidential candidates on terrorism

FOR SIX years President Bush has told Americans they face a “long war” against a global Islamic terrorist movement that, like the Cold War, will challenge a generation. A crucial if so far understated issue of the presidential campaign is whether that sweeping vision of U.S. national security will survive past January 2009. For the most part, the Republican candidates agree with Mr. Bush about the dimensions and centrality of the Islamic extremist threat. Most of the Democrats do not. From that ideological difference flow contrasting practical approaches to Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, as well as differences in the weight the next president may give to other foreign policy challenges.

Italy: Muslim prayer area risks closure at northern tennis club

Muslims in the north-eastern city of Treviso are at risk of losing a prayer area rented to them by the owner of a tennis club. Bepi Zambon, a former tennis champion and owner of the Tennis Club Zambon, allocated two cours for local Muslims to hold prayers – one court for men and women, respectively; it is currently the only area in Treviso where Muslims have room to pray together. However, during the Eid al-Adha celebration in December, the anti-immigrant Northern League sent traffic wardens to monitor the comings and goings of worshipers. Giancarlo Gentillini, the deputy mayor of Treviso said I am studying the traffic wardens’ reports, and if any offense has been committed, I will close the whole thing down. Three years ago, Gentillini invoked a 1975 public order law that ordered police to arrest women wearing the burka in Treviso.

Brussels arrests 14 in plan to free bomb plotter

The Belgian interior ministry tightened security around the country over the risk of a possible terror attack. The security alert in mid-December came after police arrested 14 suspected Islamists who allegedly planned to free a Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian al-Qaeda sympathizer from jail using weapons and explosives. According to reports, Trabelsi was arrested on September 13th, 2001, in an apartment in Brussels; Trabelsi had been in possession of a cache of chemicals which could have been used to make powerful explosives. The interior ministry said that security had been tightened at busy public places such as the capital’s underground and train stations, markets, shopping districts, as well as airports. The security measures remained in place until January 2nd, 2007.

Al-Qaeda linked cell arrested in France

French authories held five men suspected of providing logistical support to al-Qaeda to the group Islamic North Africa, were rounded up near the Normandy city of Rouen. Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility for twin truck bombings of the U.N offices on December 11t that killed at least 37 people. Police seized computers and searched the men’s homes, and police report that the men had been under surveillance. There was nothing to suggest that the five men had any connection to the recent suicide bombings in Algeria. Three other men who were detained were later released, and police added that the remaining detained men were not suspected of planning attacks in France. The men however, are accused of providing computer and telecommunication material to Al-Qaeda branch members in North Africa.