Muslim Hate of Teachers
By Sabrina Tavernise in
September 28, 2005
Armed men dressed as police officers burst into a primary school south of Baghdad, rounded up five Shiite teachers and their driver, marched them to an empty classroom and killed them.
Classes had just finished on Monday at the Jazeera primary school in Muwelha, a Sunni Arab suburb of Iskandariya, when gunmen entered the building forced the six men into the room and shot them dead, a police spokesman, Captain Abu al-Hars, said, adding that some children were still at the school.
Teachers have rarely been singled out in the past and this attack raises fears that Iraqi schools could become targets. But Captain Hars said sectarian hatred was the most likely motivation for the killings.
Meanwhile, the French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, told French television that about a dozen French youths are in Iraq preparing to become suicide bombers.
According to French intelligence services, seven French nationals have died in Iraq, in combat or in suicide attacks, while three are prisoners of the coalition forces.
A string of attacks in and around Baghdad on Monday left at least 16 people dead, including the six men at the school and three US soldiers.
On Monday night attackers struck again in Iskandariya, detonating a suicide bomb that only partly exploded, wounding six people.
The violence continued yesterday when a suicide bomber exploded in a crowd of hundreds of police recruits in Baquba, about 65 kilometres north of Baghdad. Initial reports put the death toll at at least 10.
US military officials have said they expect violence between the Shiites and Sunnis to increase before next month's referendum on the new constitution largely opposed by Sunni Arabs.
Sunni radicals have carried out most the the recent attacks. Some of the worst have taken place around Muwelha, an area south of Baghdad known as the Triangle of Death, where many Sunni Arabs had received favours from Saddam Hussein.
The area has been relentlessly attacked. In July a suicide bombing killed 71 people.
Three of the dead teachers lived in Muhawil, a Shiite town in the triangle, an Interior Ministry official said. They had apparently tried to take precautions, travelling to work together in a mini-van that ferried them to and from jobs in the Sunni district.
In a strike against the insurgency, US special forces killed a key lieutenant to the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the top al-Qaeda operative in Iraq, US officials said yesterday.
Abu Azzam was believed responsible for financing and arranging the movement of foreign fighters into western Iraq from Syria.
The officials said US-led forces were tipped off about Azzam's whereabouts, raided a house near Baghdad and killed him after he opened fire.
In a goodwill gesture to Sunni Arabs, the American military announced on Monday it had released 500 prisoners from Abu Ghraib, and would release another 500 this week.
The military said it had processed the prisoners speedily at the request of the Iraqi Government before the start next week of the holy month of Ramadan.
The New York Times, The Washington Post, Knight Ridder
Scared teachers seek to leave Thai Muslim south
25 Jan 2006
By Nopporn Wong-Anan
LAHAN, Thailand, Jan 25 (Reuters) - A month after the siege at Lahan school in Thailand's restive Muslim south, Buddhist teachers say they are scared and want transfers out of the region where 1,100 people have died in separatist violence.
The government school re-opened on Monday a month after nine teachers were held by 50 students and parents in protest against the police detention of two men from the village in the province of Narathiwat.
"We just couldn't believe those people were the same pupils whom we taught and cooked lunch for every day," said a Buddhist teacher who thought he would be killed by the angry crowd.
Pupils, aged 6-14, and parents had blocked the school's main gate after the local mosque announced on its loudspeakers that two Muslim men had been arrested by the police.
"When I looked into their eyes, they just looked so indifferent to what they were doing," said the teacher, who declined to be identified.
Teachers and state-run schools have been frequent targets as symbols of the government of overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand in faraway Bangkok.
After the siege, the Baan Lahan School was closed for a month because teachers said they were too afraid to teach their students turned hostage-takers.
"We were too demoralised to come to teach those pupils on the following day. The provincial education ministry office told us to rest to restore our morale," said the teacher.
Lahan is one of several villages in the area believed by security officials to be a hot spot in the violence-plagued region, where deadly attacks have killed security personnel and civilians, Buddhists and Muslims alike, including teachers.
After classes were suspended, the school became a security post with 50 soldiers and police camped in the classrooms and parking their patrol vehicles in the compound.
The villagers eventually asked the teachers to resume classes, promising that they would not be harmed.
The teachers now travel to and from the school in a motorcade of heavily-armed troops and police on motorcycles and in a Humvee military truck.
The 5-kilometre (3 miles) route to the school passes by lush rubber plantations where two policemen and one Buddhist civilian have been killed in bomb and gun attacks that have marred the Malay-speaking region in the past two years.
Although no teacher from the Lahan School has been killed in the violence, half of its original 20 teachers have left the area and others are seeking to get out.
"We are all stressed out here," said another Buddhist teacher. "I have requested to be transferred out of the school for a year after 11 years of teaching in this region. The pupils just don't feel connected to their teachers here."
villagers beat Buddhist teachers
Two women teachers held hostage because they were Buddhist by about 100 villagers demanding the release of two local residents, were badly beat before they were freed after a tense stand-off with security forces in Narathiwat province, reports said.
Meanwhile, senior Thai and Malaysian officers conferred in Bangkok on security issues on their shared border. Supreme Commander Gen Ruengroj Mahasaranond said Thai and Malaysian forces have cooperated well in tackling problems along the common border, including the unrest in Thailand's deep South.
He said the Thai military had given its counterpart information about blacklisted persons suspected of involvement in the insurgency in Thailand's southern border provinces adjoining Malaysia.
Acting Prime Minister and Justice Minister Chidchai Wannasathit said the government was still lagging behind insurgents in the area of intelligence, but insisted the situation was improving in general. "Government intelligence is always one step behind militants. I have instructed intelligence officials to improve their work," said Pol Gen Chidchai, also deputy prime minister, who visited the South on Thursday.
Narathiwat Province Education Director Pairat Saengthong told Malaysia's Bernama news agency that teacher Sirinart Thavornsuk and Julin Pongkanmul were beaten with sticks and seriously injured in the head and chest respectively in the incident, and now are at Narathiwat Hospital.
They sustained severe head injuries and were in critical condition, police said.
He said the violence started at about 1 p.m. when about 100 villagers including women entered the Kuching Lepas School in Ragae District, and demanded to know who were the Buddhists among the eight teachers.
"They (the villagers) took them into a room and locked them inside. Later a group of men assaulted the teachers. The village head brought them out at about 3 p.m. after negotiation with the villagers," Mr Pairat said.
The villagers demanded the government release two suspected militants who were arrested earlier in the day in connection with a shooting at Thai marines at a railway station on April 12. The village lies in a Narathiwat Red Zone.
The school, which just reopened after spring break, would be closed indefinitely. Other schools may also be closed.
Security officials warned insurgents would target schools, teachers and students as soon as schools reopened. They were right. They said they had a plan to prevent the violence. They were wrong.
The incident was the second involving teachers this year and highlighted the growing risk being taken by educators serving in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat since extremists began the current round of violence in January, 2004.
Since then, 49 teachers have died while 55 others were injured, mostly due to gunshots or victims of bomb blasts carried out by self-proclaimed separatists.
Last week, two female teachers, one of them pregnant, died in a bomb blast along with a soldier at a Pattani market tea shop, just 200 metres from a private school. Last February, teachers at 250 primary schools in Yala refused to go to work for one week because of fears for their safety after five colleagues were shot dead in a single day.
Early this year, about 300 villagers held 32 teachers hostage in a school until the authorities released the local imam who was detained for questioning over a bucket of petrol and some trekking equipment found in his residence during a military sweep of his village in Narathiwat's Joh I Rong district, another designated red zone.
According to official figures, there are 11,267 teachers leading more than 291,300 students in 861 schools in the three provinces.
Although teachers were escorted to and from schools by security forces in many parts of the border provinces, they had been targeted by Muslim separatists, and many had been gunned down while travelling alone as dozens of Buddhist teachers became the main target.
“It is hard,” he said, “and I never thought that teaching would be dangerous like this. But we must do our duty.”
French critic of Islam in hiding
France's anti-terrorism authorities have launched an enquiry into death threats against a philosophy teacher who wrote an article criticising Islam.
September 29, 2006
Robert Redeker has been forced into hiding after making controversial remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.
Writing in France's Le Figaro, Mr Redeker described the religion's founder as "a merciless war leader".
Since publishing the article, he has been under police protection and forced to move between safe houses.
On Friday, the Paris prosecutor's office said it had opened a preliminary investigation into the threats to see if they were linked to terrorist activity.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin described the threats as "intolerable".
"We are in a democracy, everyone has the right to express his views freely - of course while respecting others," he said.
Mr Redeker says that his personal details and home address are now available on Islamist websites.
His article was entitled "In the face of Islamist intimidation, what is the world to do?" and was written in reaction to Muslim protests following remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Pope has since apologised several times and said the views quoted were not his own.
In the article, published on 19 September, the French teacher describes the Koran as a "book of extraordinary violence" and Islam as a religion which "exalts violence and hate".
Mr Redeker says that he fears he will not be able to come out of hiding for the immediate future.
"The Islamists have succeeded in punishing me on French territory as if I were guilty of a speech crime," he said.
Paris-based press watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said the choice not to publish Mr Redeker's article would have represented "a defeat for freedom of thought".
France has one of Europe's largest Muslim communities with an estimated total of six million people, or ten percent of the population.
November 26, 2006
Hundreds of schools in Thailand's restive south will shut their doors in response to increasingly vicious attacks by suspected Muslim insurgents against teachers and schools, an official said on Saturday.
The closure, which begins Monday, affects all 336 primary and secondary schools in the province of Pattani, where two teachers were fatally shot by suspected insurgents in the past two days.
In one of the killings, attackers shot a school principal on Friday, then set his body on fire.
The principal became the 59th teacher or school official killed in three years of violence, said Bunsom Thongsriprai, president of the Teachers' Association in Pattani.
"Teachers can't bear what has happened," Bunsom said. "They are paranoid, worried and afraid." He said the province's schools, which teach about 100,000 students, will reopen when teachers feel safe.
More than 1800 people have died from violence in Thailand's three southernmost, Muslim-majority provinces - Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat - since an Islamic insurgency flared in January 2004.
Teachers have always been occasional targets, seen by insurgents as representatives of the government and easy targets. But recently, teachers and schools have been attacked on an almost daily basis.
Thailand's new military-installed government has pledged to make peace in the south a priority, and reverse the hardline policies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September 19 coup.
Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtat said on Friday that insurgents had stepped up violence to keep residents from accepting new peace overtures from the authorities.
Nigerian State Orders Probe Into Teacher's Killing
23 March 2007
The governor of Nigeria's northeastern state of Gombe has ordered an investigation into the killing Wednesday of a teacher by Muslim students at a secondary school in the state. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports that the killing underlines long-standing Muslim-Christian tension in parts of northern Nigeria.
At least 15,000 people have died in religious and political violence in Nigeria since 1999, when Africa's most populous country returned to civil democracy, after three decades of military rule.
Police and witnesses say Oluwatoyin Olusase, a Christian, was supervising an Islamic Religious Knowledge exam at the school in Gombe, when she was killed.
An angry mob of Muslim students attacked her for allegedly desecrating the Koran. Her car and part of the school building were also reportedly set ablaze.
The police have arrested at least 12 people in connection with the killing.
A government spokesman, Mohammed Ahmed, says the authorities acted swiftly following the killing to avert further violence.
"The state governor directed the commissioner of education to close down all schools within Gombe metropolis," said Ahmed. "All secondary schools were closed down, at least to make sure the situation did not escalate. Security men were drafted to the school premises and the situation was contained within no time."
The five-man panel investigating the incident has been given up to two weeks to submit its findings. Ahmed is hopeful the report would assist the authorities in averting religion-inspired violence in the future.
"It is part of their terms of reference, to advise the government on the best way to avert future occurrence of crisis such as this," he said. "It is up to members of the committee to decide. The government has a lot of confidence in members of the committee."
Nigeria, a country split along Christian-Muslim lines, has a history of religious violence, and sectarian tensions are on the rise in the run-up to presidential elections next month.
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A British teacher arrested for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad will probably be cleared and released soon, a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London said Tuesday.
Gillian Gibbons was arrested Sunday and faced possible charges of insulting religion — a crime punishable by up to 40 lashes. She was questioned by Sudanese authorities on Tuesday.
"The police is bound to investigate," embassy spokesman Khalid al Mubarak told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I am pretty certain that this minute incident will be clarified very quickly and this teacher who has been helping us with the teaching of children will be safe and will be cleared."
Asked about the potential punishments — six months imprisonment or 40 lashes — he said: "My impression is that the whole thing could probably be settled amicably long before we reach stages like these ... Our relationship with Britain is so good that we wouldn't like such a minute event to be overblown."
Gibbons was arrested after one of her pupils' parents complained, accusing her of naming the bear after Islam's prophet and founder. Muhammad is a common name among Muslim men, but giving the prophet's name to an animal would be seen as insulting by many Muslims.
WORD FAITH INDEX
CATHOLIC CHURCH INDEX