Indian officials’ comments about Islam ignite diplomatic firestorm
Plus China’s national security law, protests in France, and more …
INDIA: The ruling Hindu nationalist party is facing a fallout with some Islamic countries after two party officials made critical comments about Islam’s prophet Muhammad and his wife, Aisha. Under the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Muslim citizens in India have reported increased violent attacks. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the International Union of Muslim Scholars denounced the comments. Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries have also lodged complaints. The Indian government suspended the officials and said their remarks do not reflect the government’s stance.
CHINA: Chinese citizens who report national security violations can receive up to $15,000, according to new measures introduced this week. The Ministry of State Security said people can also receive “spiritual rewards” in the form of certificates. State security agents would first verify the reports before settling on the reward. China said the latest incentives aim to encourage more people to report misbehavior amid intensifying “threats” from foreign spies.
FRANCE: Workers turned up outside the Health Ministry in Paris and other cities on Tuesday to demand more hiring and better pay. Nine unions and collectives organized the day of protest. Years of gradual budget cuts left the country’s once-reputable public health system understaffed and unprepared for the pandemic. The protests come ahead of legislative elections beginning Sunday.
SOMALIA: Malnutrition treatment centers in Somalia have recorded at least 448 deaths this year alone, according to a report by aid groups and local authorities this week. Aid groups are warning of the repercussions of one of the worst droughts in the Horn of Africa in at least four decades. Ethiopia and Kenya also report spikes in cases of severe malnutrition. The United Nations’ children’s agency on Tuesday warned “an explosion of child deaths” is imminent in the region if the world doesn’t broaden its concern beyond the Ukraine war.
AMAZON: A British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous expert are missing after traveling in a remote region of the Amazon rainforest. Journalist Dom Phillips, 57, went with researcher Bruno Pereira, 41, to the Javari region of Amazonas state to do research for a book on the environment. Search efforts began hours after the pair was expected back from the Lago do Jaburu region. Some indigenous activist groups said the men had “received threats in the field” last week. Phillips has traveled extensively across the Amazon region to report on the crisis facing the environment and its indigenous communities.
ITALY: On a lighter note, an Italian centenarian has renewed her driver’s license after passing an eye test at a driving school in Vicenza province. Candida Uderzo, 100, said she still reads the newspaper without glasses. She welcomed the renewal as an opportunity to remain independent and not burden her son. Uderzo credits her strength to her long walks and love for life.
I was getting out of church in Abuja last Sunday when I heard about the attack on other Christians who had gathered for worship that morning, just like we had. The massacre in a relatively peaceful state southwest of here drew widespread international attention. But for us in Nigeria, it’s the latest in spreading incidents of violence. A day before the church attack, gunmen kidnapped a Catholic priest in Kogi state. I reported recently on the killing of a Christian student accused of blasphemy. At least 32 people died this week in a series of attacks on villages in northern Kaduna state.
Many expect the tensions to increase further ahead of national elections next year. Advocacy groups are pushing for more international action, such as adding Nigeria to the U.S. list of religious freedom violators. Locally, Christians and others are speaking out against voter apathy in hopes of electing a more proactive government.