Muslim prayer hall set on fire in France

HEIGHT OF HATE: Police officers inspect a damaged Muslim prayer room set on fire early in the morning, in Ajaccio, French Mediterranean island of Corsica, on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 30 April 2016
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Muslim prayer hall set on fire in France

AJACCIO: A Muslim prayer hall was ravaged by fire overnight in the capital of the French island of Corsica, local authorities said, four months after a separate Muslim prayer hall there was ransacked.

Prosecutors said was probably a criminal attack. The blaze occurred just months after the island, popular with tourists for its turquoise waters and picturesque mountains, was rocked by anti-Arab riots over Christmas.
No one was injured in the fire in Ajaccio, which police are investigating as criminal after finding two separate sources of fire inside the hall.
“This is unacceptable,” Ajaccio Mayor Laurent Marcangeli told iTELE news channel. “Those sites are not sufficiently protected.”
In late December, the island was rocked by days of racial tension after firemen in Ajaccio were attacked on a housing estate with a large immigrant population and a Muslim prayer hall was attacked in anti-immigrant protests that followed.
The building, one of the largest prayer halls in the capital Ajaccio, suffered major damage in the fire, said Abdallah Zekri, the head of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia. He called on the authorities “to do everything to shed light on this incident in order to avoid an escalation of violence.”
“It has been calm since the end of the year, but unfortunately certain ill-intentioned people want to inflame the situation,” he told AFP.
Protests erupted on the Mediterranean island over Christmas after firefighters and police called to a low-income immigrant neighborhood were ambushed and attacked.
Demonstrators shouting slogans such as “This is our home!” and “Arabs get out,” vandalized a prayer hall and set fire to books including copies of the Qur’an.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve issued a statement on Saturday expressing “solidarity with the Muslims of Corsica.”
He also voiced the “commitment of the government to protect all places of worship, and to ensure freedom of worship throughout the territory.”
Nationalists won regional elections in Corsica for the first time in December.
The island has the second largest proportion of foreigners in France, at between eight and 10 percent of the total population, after the Paris region.


Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

Updated 24 April 2019
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Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

  • An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996
  • The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time

TOKYO: Japan’s government apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law and promised to pay compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims.
His apology comes just after the parliament enactment earlier Wednesday of legislation to provide redress measures, including $28,600 (¥3.2 million) compensation for each victim.
An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law was designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants” and allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.
The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time.
The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends for the victims.
The plaintiffs are seeking about ¥30 million each ($268,000) in growing legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government’s implementation of the law violated the victims’ right to self-determination, reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are too small for their suffering.
In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses, according to Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to them for its forced isolation policy.