- - Sunday, August 22, 2010

AUSTRIA

Islamic leaders, rightists spar over mosques

VIENNA | A call for more mosques with minarets in Austria gave rise Sunday to heated criticism from right-wing politicians, some going as far as demanding a ban on all immigrants from Muslim countries.

In an interview with the Austria Press Agency published Sunday, the head of the country’s Islamic community, Anas Shakfeh, said he wished to see a mosque with a minaret in each of Austria’s nine provincial capitals.

“That’s my hope for the future,” he said. “In the long term, one cannot prevent people from exercising their true religious freedom, which is protected by the constitution.”

Austria’s two right-wing parties immediately reacted, with the main Freedom Party describing mosques as “hotbeds for radical Islam” and calling for an “immigration ban on people from Islamic countries.”

The smaller Alliance for the Future of Austria urged a ban on mosques and minarets in all Austrian provinces, arguing that they were “cells of resistance for a parallel society that is inhuman and hostile to democracy.”

According to the latest estimate by the Austrian Integration Fund, just over half a million Muslims live in Austria, out of a total population of about 8.3 million.

RUSSIA

Russian police detain leaders

MOSCOW | Police prevented about 100 opposition activists from marching through Moscow on Sunday with a giant Russian flag and detained three of their leaders, including prominent politician Boris Nemtsov.

The opposition activists were celebrating Flag Day, a holiday honoring the tricolor flag adopted by a newly democratic Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Mr. Nemtsov said the decision to stop a march honoring the Russian flag showed the mentality of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s government. “The flag is a symbol of freedom and democracy, only not for Putin,” Mr. Nemtsov said by telephone from a city police precinct.

The date for the holiday was chosen to celebrate the defeat of a hard-line communist coup on Aug. 22, 1991. Boris Yeltsin, who famously climbed onto a tank to lead the resistance against the coup plotters, turned the flag into a symbol of an independent Russia. When the Soviet Union ceased to exist on Dec. 25 of that year, the white, blue and red flag was raised over the Kremlin.

Moscow police said Mr. Nemtsov and Mikhail Shneider were detained for trying to lead an unsanctioned march. They had permission to hold a rally but not to march through central Moscow.

Lev Ponomaryov, another prominent opposition leader, was detained later, police said.

BRITAIN

UK official decries Taliban video game

LONDON | A video game that allows players to adopt the role of the Taliban is a “tasteless product,” Britain’s defense secretary said on Sunday, calling on retailers to show their support for troops by not selling it.

Liam Fox said he was “disgusted and angry” by “Medal of Honor,” produced by Electronic Arts Inc.

“At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers, and wives have lost husbands. It’s shocking that someone would think it acceptable to re-create the acts of the Taliban against British soldiers,” he said in a statement. “It’s hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game. I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product.”

IRELAND

MP warns of N. Irish dissident threat

LONDON | A British member of Parliament said on Sunday he thinks nationalist militants in Northern Ireland hoped to stage attacks on the British mainland, possibly against high-profile conferences of political parties.

Patrick Mercer, a former army officer who served in Northern Ireland and now a Conservative MP known for his expertise on security issues, raised the alarm about the threat from splinter groups seeking to end British control of Northern Ireland.

“I have no doubt there is an aspiration, a hope, a desire to bomb the mainland [Britain] and probably the Tory [Conservative] or indeed any of the party political conferences,” Mr. Mercer told Sky News.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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