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Catching Our Eye

Tony Blair calls for focus on radical Islam

Former UK Prime Minister and now Middle East envoy Tony Blair has encouraged Western leaders to focus on the threat of Islamic extremism and to put aside their differences with Russia over Ukraine.

In his speech at Bloomberg’s London office Mr Blair called on Western leaders to "elevate the issue of religious extremism to the top of the agenda".

And they must co-operate with other countries - "in particular, Russia and China" - regardless of "other differences".

He argued the threat posed by a radical view which "distorts and warps Islam's true message" was "spreading across the world".

"It is destabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation. "This struggle between what we may call the open-minded and the closed-minded is at the heart of whether the 21st Century turns in the direction of peaceful co-existence or conflict between people of different cultures."

Source: BBC

Islamic Sharia law postponed in Brunei

Brunei’s all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has postponed the introduction of tough Islamic criminal punishments that were due to begin on April 22.

Brunei said in October that it would introduce Islamic Sharia law punishments including flogging, death by stoning and the severing of limbs for theft.

No new date was given but an official told local media that the law would begin "in the very near future".

The United Nations has expressed "deep concern" about the planned change. "Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited," spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville told a news conference in early April.

He told reporters these offences include rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery, murder, defamation of the Prophet Muhammad, insulting any verses of the Koran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, he said.

"Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law," he added.

Brunei has not carried out any executions since 1957, but Colville said that rather than adding new capital crimes to its books, the sultanate should be working to abolish the death penalty outright.

Sources: The Times of India; BBC

Seleka releases Bossangoa Catholics

The Archbishop of Bossangoa and three priests were released within 24 hours of being kidnapped by Seleka rebels in the Northern town of the Central African Republic.

"I spoke to him and he told me he is well", said the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga, adding that they are now near the city of Batangafo, on the border with Chad. The Archbishop explained that the Bishop of Bossangoa, Monsignor Nestor Désiré Nongo Aziagbia, told him that they were stopped at a checkpoint by Seleka rebels and taken to a rebel base where they met with some leaders of the movement.

The group is being escorted by soldiers of the African MISCA mission to Bossangoa, the town in the violent northwest, where nearly 40,000 people – most of them Christians – have sought refuge since September.

Sources: World Watch Monitor; MISNA

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