The Qur’an Says that Other Religions are Cursed by Allah

Buddhists in Thailand, Jews in Israel, Christians in Indonesia, Hindus in India... Why is Islam at war with every major world religion, when none of these religions are at war with each other? Part of the reason is that the Qur’an is specific about the inferiority of other faiths and the hatred that Allah harbors for their people.

Although it is common for Muslims to become upset about anyone “insulting” their religion, here is what the Qur’an says about Jews and Christians:

The Jews call Ezra a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (9:30) (See also Bukhari 8:427), one of the last things Muhammad ever said on his deathbed was "May Allah curse the Jews and Christians.”)

The Qur’an specifically addresses Christians, Jews, Polytheists (Hindus) and atheists:

Christians are blasphemers (5:17, 5:73) who have invented a lie about Allah (10:68-69). Inventing a lie about Allah is the worst of sins (7:37, 29:68) and for this reason Christians are condemned to Hell (10:70). Although one (early Medinan) verse seems to say that righteous Christians will go to heaven, this is abrogated by later verses that make it very clear that Christians must cease being Christian (ie. reject the Trinity) or suffer eternal torment for their beliefs (5:72-73).

Jews are also cursed by Allah (5:13), in one of his final pronouncements. The Qur’an goes on to assure Muslims that Jews are wicked (4:160-162) – so wicked, in fact, that they have somehow managed to do the impossible (18:27) and alter the word of Allah (2:75). Jews are “fond of lies” and “devour the forbidden” (5:42).

The Qur’an assures believers that Jews and Christians have “diseased hearts” (5:52). Allah even takes credit for the enmity between them (5:14). Only Jews and Christians who submit to Islamic subjugation and pay the Jizya are protected in this world (9:29 & Ibn Ishaq 956).

Hindus are polytheists. Although Muhammad didn’t know any Hindus (and neither did Allah, apparently) the Qur’an still manages to lay the groundwork for the 1000 year ethnic cleansing campaign against the Hindu people that is estimated to have taken tens of millions of innocent lives. In Islam, polytheists are worse than all other religion. Those who join idols (14:30) or false gods (11:14) to Allah also invent a lie about Him (29:17) and will burn in Hell. Even believing in other divine entities along with Allah is an unforgivable crime (4:48, 40:12).

Atheists believe in no god, which is even worse than believing in the wrong one (Muhammad and his successors had atheists put to death - Bukhari 84:57). Merely questioning the existence of Allah is a testament to one’s impiety (25:21), even as Muslim arrogance is encouraged in the Qur’an. Muhammad always answered probing questions merely by telling the inquiring party that they would go to Hell if they didn’t believe in him (36:49-64).

Anyone who gives up his religion is a “perverted transgressor” (3:82). Perverted as well is anyone who denies Allah (40:63). Freedom of conscience does not exist in Islam. Muhammad clearly prescribed the death penalty for apostates (Bukhari 52:260).

While contemporary Muslim apologists often speak of “dialogue” (meaning a unilateral arrangement in which they tell you about Islam while you listen) the Qur’an speaks of Jihad instead:

Listen not to the unbelievers, but strive (Jihad) against them with the utmost strenuousness. (25:52)

What would be the point in hearing anything a non-Muslim has to say... or even talking with them for that matter? Allah has already sealed their hearts and condemned them to Hell:

As for the Disbelievers, Whether thou warn them or thou warn them not it is all one for them; they believe not. Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom (2:6)

For those wondering why Allah would even make infidels if their ultimate destination is Hell, Muhammad said that the purpose of some (Jews and Christians, at least) was to take the place of Muslims, so that they would not suffer there (Sahih Muslim 6666).

The Qur’an Says that People of Other Religions are to be Violently Punished in This World

Allah himself fights against the unbelievers (9:30), so why should Muslims not fight in his cause rather than in the cause of evil (4:76)?

Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of Allah and your enemies and others besides, whom ye may not know (8:60)

Strive hard (Jihad) against the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell,- an evil refuge indeed. (66:9, See also 9:73)

Muslims are to expect a reward in this life as well as the next (4:134), so it makes sense that unbelievers should be punished in this life as well:

…He whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no guide. For them is a penalty in the life of this world, but harder, truly, is the penalty of the Hereafter… (13:33:34)

All beings on heaven and earth will be forced to bow down to Allah, either willingly or by force:

And unto Allah falleth prostrate whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly (13:15)

Those who resist Islam will be humiliated:

Those who resist Allah and His Messenger will be among those most humiliated. (58:20 - The context for this verse is the eviction of the Jewish tribes of Medina and the confiscation of their wealth, land, and children by Muhammad).

Non-Muslims are to be fought until religion is only for Allah:

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah… (8:39 – “Persecution” in this context means resistance to Islam – defined in the prior verse as an unwillingness to believe (see verse 38). This passage was “revealed” following a battle that Muhammad deliberately provoked. Verse 2:193 essentially says the same thing and was also “revealed” at a time when the Muslims were not under physical attack).

Non-Muslims are to be encroached on and pressured by the Muslims:

See they not that We gradually reduce the land (in their control) from its outlying borders? (13:41 - See also 21:44)

And He made you heirs to their land and their dwellings and their property, and (to) a land which you have not yet trodden, and Allah has power over all things. (33:27, See also Bukhari 53:392)

Allah will grant Muslims authority and power over all other people:

Allah has promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance (of power), as He granted it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their religion... (24:55)

(Muhammad's companions continued to self-fulfill this prophecy with an aggressive and senseless military expansion that left a trail of bodies from Spain to India).

Allah provides instructions to Muslims for dealing with unbelievers who are unwilling to accept Islamic rule:

Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them." This because they contended against Allah and His Messenger: If any contend against Allah and His Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment. (8:12-13)

Other verses of violence may be found here.


The pattern of violence and aggressive disregard for human suffering that is persistent in Muslim history and contemporary attitude toward non-believers reflects the message of the Qur'an, which is one of personal superiority and arrogance.

In our modern world, Muslim dominance is characterized by the oppression and discrimination of non-Muslims, while Muslim minorities within larger societies are distinguished by varying degrees of petulant demand, discord and armed rebellion. Few Muslims are uncomfortable with this blatant double standard, in which Islam either plays the victim or unapologetically victimizes others, depending on its position - and the reason is obvious.

Islam is a supremacist ideology in which the role of non-believers is subordinate to the position of Muslims. Those who resist Islamic rule are to be fought until they are fully humiliated and forced to acknowledge their inferior status either by converting to Islam or by paying a poll-tax and otherwise accepting the subjugation of their own beliefs.

There is simply no other religion on earth that draws such sharp distinction between its own members and others, or spends as much time condemning and dehumanizing those who merely choose not to follow its dogma.

So much about Islamic terrorism and the general indifference of the broader Muslim community toward the violence makes sense only against this dual nature of Islam. Yes, the apologists are correct in saying that Islam teaches love and kindness, but they fail to add that this applies only to the treatment of those within the Muslim community. Loyalty to one's own identity group is valued above all else and empathy for those outside the faith is optional at best and even discouraged.

The Qur’an meets every criterion by which we define hate speech. Not only does the message inspire loathing and disregard for others, but the Qur'an mandates the superiority of Islam, even if the means of establishment are by force.

If this is a "misunderstanding" of Islam by modern-day "radicals," then it is an error that the founder of Islam made as well. In his later years, Muhammad directed military campaigns to subjugate other tribes and religions, "inviting" them to Islam at the point of a sword and forcing them to pay tribute nonetheless. He set in motion the aggressive military campaigns that made war against all five major world religions in just the first few decades following his death.

Islam incorporates the ultimate devaluation of non-Muslims by teaching that while a Muslim may be punished with death for murdering a fellow Muslim (Bukhari 83:17), no Muslim can be put to death for killing a non-Muslim (Bukhari 83:50). The Qur’an’s "Law of Equality," which assigns human value and rights based on gender, religion and status, is the polar opposite of equality in the sense intended by Western liberal tradition, which ideally respects no such distinction.

One can always find apologists willing to dismiss the harsh rhetoric of the Qur'an with creative interpretation, tortuous explanation or outright denial, but their words and deeds almost always belie a concern for Islam's image that does not extend to Islam's victims - at least not with the same sense of urgency - thus proving the point.

Of course, there are also exceptional Muslims who do not agree with Islamic supremacy and sincerely champion secularism and respect for all people. Some even find verses or fragments of such to support their independent beliefs. But, for these people, the Qur’an as a whole will always be a constant challenge, since it explicitly teaches the distinct and inferior status of non-Muslims.


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Allah Himself Prevents Non-Muslims from Understanding

It would make no sense if Allah gave the people that he hates an opportunity to avoid his wrath. The Qur'an says that Allah deliberately puts obstacles in the way of unbelievers to keep them from accepting the truth:

If Allah wished, he could provide guidance to every soul:

If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance (32:13)

But, instead he sets a veil over the hearts and coverings over their ears:

Verily We have set veils over their hearts lest they should understand this, and over their ears, deafness, if thou callest them to guidance, even then will they never accept guidance. (18:57) – See also 17:46 & 45:23

Allah even uses chains and barriers to prevent unbelievers from believing:

Certainly the word has proved true of most of them, so they do not believe. Surely We have placed chains on their necks, and these reach up to their chins, so they have their heads raised aloft. And We have made before them a barrier and a barrier behind them, then We have covered them over so that they do not see. And it is alike to them whether you warn them or warn them not: they do not believe. (36:7-10)

For the same purpose, Allah also fills the hearts of unbelievers with doubt:

No soul can believe, except by the will of Allah, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand (10:100)

Allah Actually Causes Non-Muslims to Sin

Not content with merely preventing unbelievers from knowing the truth (which is enough to condemn them to Hell) the Qur'an says that a hateful Allah also causes unbelievers to commit the very sin that he will later punish them for:

And if Allah please He would certainly make you a single nation, but He causes to err whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases; and most certainly you will be questioned as to what you did (16:93)

Although Satan tempts Muslims, it is Allah himself who causes unbelievers to err.

…and whomsoever Allah causes to err, you shall not find a way for him. (4:143)

Allah intentionally sends the people that he hates astray:

…and Allah sendeth him astray purposely, and sealeth up his hearing and his heart, and setteth on his sight a covering? Then who will lead him after Allah (hath condemned him)? Will ye not then heed? (45:23)

Allah even sends demons to inspire unbelievers to commit further bad deeds (that he can later hold against them):

See thou not that We have set the Evil Ones on against the unbelievers, to incite them with fury? (19:83)

Allah tricks unbelievers into thinking that they are doing good deeds, when, in fact, they are merely deepening their own eternal punishment with bad deeds:

As to those who do not believe in the hereafter, We have surely made their deeds fair-seeming to them, but they blindly wander on. (27:4) See also 39:23, 6:39, 35:8, 13:27 & 14:4)

Allah recruits Satan to join Him into fooling unbelievers into thinking that they are doing good:

On the contrary their hearts became hardened, and Satan made their (sinful) acts seem alluring to them. (6:43)

The joke is on non-Muslims, of course, who will protest on Judgment Day that they did everything they thought was right – but are sent to Hell anyway:

Then would they offer submission (with the pretence), "We did no evil (knowingly)." (The angels will reply), "Nay, but verily Allah knows all that ye did; "So enter the gates of Hell, to dwell therein. (16:28-29)

The Qur’an Says that Non-Muslims Should Not be Taken as Friends

Given that Allah hates non-Muslims to the extent that he would prevent them from knowing the truth, cause them to err and then condemn them to eternal torture for their unbelief and misdeeds, it would make little sense if he intended Muslims to treat unbelievers by the same standards that they treat each other here on earth.

The Qur’an says that no true Muslim would ever love anyone who resists Islam, even if it is a family member:

Thou wilt not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. (58:22)

There are at least nine places in the Qur’an where believers are warned not to befriend non-Muslims:

O ye who believe! Take not for friends unbelievers rather than believers: Do ye wish to offer Allah an open proof against yourselves? (4:144)

In fact, anyone who does take a non-Muslim as a friend could be accused of being an unbeliever as well:

O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. (5:51)

Muhammad said that unbelievers have it out for Muslims. They may appear harmless or friendly, but, in reality, they harbor corruption and evil intentions:

O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: Rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: What their hearts conceal is far worse (3:118)

For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies (4:101)

Those outside of Islam are really helpers of evil against Allah:

The Misbeliever is a helper (of Evil), against his own Lord! (25:55)

Instead of befriending non-Muslims, Muslims are ordered to fight them:

O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty. (9:123)

The Qur’an tells Muslims that they will spend eternity mocking the suffering of non-Muslims as they are tortured in Hell:

And the dwellers of the garden will call out to the inmates of the fire: Surely we have found what our Lord promised us to be true; have you too found what your Lord promised to be true? They will say: Yes. Then a crier will cry out among them that the curse of Allah is on the unjust. (7:44) – Muhammad got an early start on this by personally mocking his dead enemies following the Battle of Badr (Ibn Ishaq 454)

One does not befriend those over whose suffering they will later rejoice, nor does it make any sense that Muslims would befriend those whom the Qur'an labels "enemies of Allah" by virtue of their unbelief.

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The Qur’an Dehumanizes Non-Muslims and Says that They are Vile Animals

The Qur’an dehumanizes non-Muslims, describing them as “animals” and beasts:

Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures. (98:6)

Surely the vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe. (8:55)

Verse 5:60 even says that Allah transformed Jews of the past into apes and pigs. Verse 2:65 continues the theme.

Verse 7:176 compares unbelievers to "panting dogs" with regard to their idiocy and worthlessness.

A hadith says that Muhammad believed rats to be "mutated Jews" (Bukhari 54:524, also confirmed by Sahih Muslim 7135 and 7136).

Verses 46:29-35 even say that unbelieving men are worse than demons who believe in Muhammad.

The Qur’an Says that Allah does NOT Love Unbelievers

Christianity teaches that God loves all men, but hates sin. The Qur’an never says this. Instead it explicitly declares that Allah does not love those who do not believe in him:

For He loves not those who reject Faith (30:45)

Allah only loves those who obey Muhammad (at least according to Muhammad):

Say: "Obey Allah and His Messenger": But if they turn back, Allah loveth not those who reject Faith. (3:32)

Whereas Christianity teaches that God loves the sinner, but hates sin, the wrath of Islam's god is placed squarely on the person:

Surely Allah does not love any one who is unfaithful, ungrateful. (22:38)

Verses 11:118-199 say that Allah does not bestow mercy on everyone. For this reason, he chooses not to guide some people:

And Allah's is the direction of the way, and some (roads) go not straight. And had He willed He would have led you all aright. (16:9)

For those whom Allah does not love, there will be the most terrible of eternal torments:

Those who reject our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (4:56)

As we shall see, Allah hates unbelievers so much that he even leads them into sinning and actively prevents them from believing in him, thus ensuring their fate.

The Qur’an Says that Non-Muslims are Destined for Eternal Torture in Hell

Although nowhere does the Qur’an say that Allah loves those who don’t believe Muhammad, there are over 400 verses that describe the torment that he has prepared for people of other religions (or no religion):

And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers (3:85)

The relative worth of non-Muslims is that they are but fuel for the fire of Hell:

(As for) those who disbelieve, surely neither their wealth nor their children shall avail them in the least against Allah, and these it is who are the fuel of the fire (3:10)

As they are fueling the fire, unbelievers will be tormented by Allah’s angels on his command:

“O ye who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire whereof the fuel is men and stones, over which are set angels strong, severe, who resist not Allah in that which He commandeth them, but do that which they are commanded.” (66:6)

It doesn’t matter how many good deeds an unbeliever does, because they count for nothing with Allah:

The parable of those who reject their Lord is that their works are as ashes, on which the wind blows furiously on a tempestuous day: No power have they over aught that they have earned (14:18)

Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works? They are those who deny the Signs of their Lord and the fact of their having to meet Him (in the Hereafter): vain will be their works, nor shall We, on the Day of Judgment, give them any weight. That is their reward, Hell, because they rejected Faith, and took My Signs and My Messengers by way of jest. (18:103-106)

Muhammad told his people that anyone who rejects his claim to be a prophet will go to Hell:

Surely those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and (those who) desire to make a distinction between Allah and His messengers and say: ‘We believe in some and disbelieve in others’, and desire to take a course between (this and) that. These it is that are truly unbelievers, and We have prepared for the unbelievers a disgraceful chastisement. And those who believe in Allah and His messengers and do not make a distinction between any of them-- Allah will grant them their rewards (4:150-152)

In Christianity, punishment in the hereafter is directly tied to sin and ‘wickedness.’ There is relatively little said about Hell, but the emphasis is on personal suffering for selfish or cruel deeds. In Islam, Hell is a punishment for merely not believing Muhammad’s personal claims about himself. In contrast to the Bible, every 12th verse of the Qur’an speaks of Hell and vividly describes Allah’s wrath on unbelievers:

But as for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads, Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; And for them are hooked rods of iron Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning. (22:19-22)

No one could torture a person in this way without hating them intensely. Neither can Allah’s intense loathing for unbelievers help but affect the Muslim attitude toward those outside the faith.

The personal superiority of Muslims is confirmed by the contrasting picture painted in so many places in the Qur'an in which they are rewarded with the greatest of earthly comforts in heaven, while the unbelievers concurrently suffer horrible torment (see Sura 56 for just one example).

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Why the Islamic Violence? Why the Indifference?

When Islamic terrorists massacred 186 children and 148 other non-Muslims on the morning of September 3rd, 2004 at a schoolhouse in Beslan, Russia, very few Muslims celebrated the high-profile event and some even took the time to denounce it. But, in a community renowned for its peevishness, there was very little passion over the routine slaughter of innocents in the name of Islam.

While rumors of a Qur’an desecration or a Muhammad cartoon bring out deadly protests, riots, arson and effigy-burnings, the mass murder of non-Muslims generally evokes yawns. In the six years following 9/11 more than 10,000 acts of deadly Islamic terrorism were perpetrated, yet all of them together fail to provoke the sort of outrage on the part of most Muslims that the mere mention of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo inspires.

This critical absence of moral perspective puzzles many Westerners, particularly those trying to reconcile this reality with the politically-correct assumption that Islam is like other religion. The Judeo-Christian tradition preaches universal love and unselfishness, so it is expected that the more devout Muslims would be the most peaceful and least dangerous... provided that Islam is based on the same principles.

But beneath the rosy assurances from Muslim apologists that Islam is about peace and tolerance lies a much darker reality that better explains the violence and deeply-rooted indifference. Quite simply, the Qur'an teaches hate.

Consider the elements that define hate speech:

* Drawing a distinction between one’s own identity group and those outside it

* Moral comparison based on this distinction

* Devaluation or dehumanization of other groups and the insistence of personal superiority

* The advocating of different standards of treatment based on identity group membership

* A call to violence against members of other groups

Sadly, the Qur’an qualifies as hate speech on each count (despite the best intentions of many Muslims).

The holiest book of Islam (61% of which is about non-Muslims) draws the sharpest of distinctions between Muslims and non-believers, lavishing praise on the former while condemning the latter. Far from teaching universal love, the Qur'an incessantly preaches the inferiority of non-Muslims, even comparing them to vile animals and gloating over Allah's hatred of them and his dark plans for their eternal torture. Naturally, the harsh treatment of non-believers by Muslims is encouraged as well.

So, what does the Qur'an, believed by Muslims to be the literal and eternal word of Allah, really say about non-Muslims?

The Qur’an Distinguishes Muslims from Non-Muslims and Establishes a Hierarchy of Relative Worth

The Qur’an makes it clear that Islam is not about universal brotherhood, but about the brotherhood of believers:

The Believers are but a single Brotherhood (49:10)

Not all men are equal under Islam. Slaves and the handicapped are not equal to healthy free men, for example (16:75-76). The Qur’an introduces the “Law of Equality,” which establishes different levels of human value when considering certain matters, such as restitution for murder (2:178).

With regard to Islam, the Qur’an tells Muslims that they are a favored race, while those of other religions are “perverted transgressors”:

Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors. (3:110)

As we shall see later, Allah condemns non-Muslims to Hell based merely on their unbelief, while believers are rewarded with the finest earthly comforts in the hereafter, including never-ending food, wine and sex (56:12-40). In fact, much of the Qur’an is devoted to distinguishing Muslims from non-Muslims and impugning the latter.

The first sura of the Qur'an is an example of this. It is a short prayer that is repeated by devout Muslims each day and ends with these words:

Keep us on the right path. The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray. (1:6-7)

Muhammad was once asked if these words pertained to Jews and Christians. His response was, "Whom else?" (Bukhari 56:662).

Since Allah makes such a strong distinction between Muslims and those outside the faith, it is only natural that Muslims should incorporate disparate standards of treatment into their daily lives. The Qur’an tells Muslims to be compassionate with one another but ruthless to the infidel:

Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves… (48:29)

Allah intends for Muslims to triumph over believers:

And never will Allah grant to the unbelievers a way to triumph over believers [Pickthall – “any way of success”] (4:141)

The only acceptable position of non-Muslims to Muslims is subjugation under Islamic rule:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (9:29 Jizya is the money that non-Muslims must pay to their Muslim overlords in a pure Islamic state.)

A common criticism of many Muslims is that they often behave arrogantly toward others. Now you know why.

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Angry Monks brawl at Church of Holy Sepulcher

The first time I heard of a feud among the monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it was about a serious distrust among them. It was so bad that they could not trust each other with the key to the Church that they had to give it to a Muslim. However, that was years ago as they are back in the news.

Israeli police have had to restore order at one of Christianity's holiest sites after a brawl broke out between monks in Jerusalem's Old City.

Fighting erupted between Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Christ's crucifixion.

Two monks from each side were detained as dozens of worshippers traded kicks and punches at the shrine, said police.

Trouble flared as Armenians prepared to mark the annual Feast of the Cross.

Tapestries toppled

Shocked pilgrims looked on as decorations and tapestries were toppled during Sunday's clash.

Dressed in the vestments of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian denominations, rival monks threw punches and anything they could lay their hands on.

The Greeks blamed the Armenians for not recognising their rights inside the holy site, while the Armenians said the Greeks had violated one of their traditional ceremonies.

Israeli policemen scuffle with an Armenian altar boy during a fight at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 9 November2008
Clashes between Christian sects in the ancient church are not uncommon

An Armenian clergyman said the Greek clergy had tried to place one of their monks inside the Edicule, an ancient structure which encases the tomb of Jesus.

"What is happening here is a violation of status quo. The Greeks have tried so many times to put their monk inside the tomb but they don't have the right to when the Armenians are celebrating the feast," he told Reuters TV.

The Armenians had been preparing to commemorate the 4th Century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus.

A Greek clergyman said: "We protested peacefully, we stood here in the middle and we claimed that we shall not leave the procession finished unless they leave our guardian be inside. This didn't happen and in that moment the police interfered."

Six Christian sects share control of the ancient church and the BBC's Wyre Davies in Jerusalem says confrontations between them are not uncommon, but rarely descend into violence.

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How to Identify a Sex Addict

Sex addiction can involve many different sexual antics; it may be a strong desire to have sex, masturbate, watch porn or flirt. A person is defined as a sex addict when his behavior gets out of control and starts to have a negative impact on his life. These feelings and behaviors cause a great deal of shame, hopelessness and confusion for the sex addict. These feelings are also normally accompanied by denial, despite it being an unmanageable problem in the sex addict's life.

Sexual addiction takes up a great deal of energy, and you know you’re in trouble when your behavior causes relationship breakdowns, job problems, legal issues, and a loss of interest in anything non-sexual. If you suspect you have a problem, read on for some signs that you might be a sex addict.

Note: Understand that there is a big difference between a creep and a bona fide sex addict, so being a general pervert or filth monger doesn’t qualify you as a sex addict. Being a sex addict means your sexual desires are significantly impinging on your life in a negative way -- which does not include being unable to pick up, by the way.

You’re leading a double life
Do you have an extra girlfriend or mistress? Do you regularly cheat on your partner? Do you keep your sex life a secret from those around you? Leading a double life for sexual gain can be a sign you’re a sex addict. It is true that many people (men and women alike) cheat on their partners, but a compulsion to do so is abnormal. Keeping your sex life a secret may also point to a problem: Why don’t you want to reveal your activities? When you know that what you are doing is wrong but you can’t seem to help yourself, you have a problem.

You frequently seek out sexual material
A preoccupation with all things sex can lead to a very narrow existence. When you constantly and consistently only seek out media that is sex-related, this might be a sign you’re a sex addict. We are not referring to the average guy who enjoys watching the occasional porn, looking at photographs or reading sex articles; it refers to the guy who is always seeking out sexually related material to the exclusion of most other things. It could also include a preoccupation with things like adult dating sites; perhaps you are not being very productive at work because you are desperately seeking Susan/Sarah/Savannah.

You’re compromising your personal relationships
This sign you’re a sex addict refers to compromising your relationship with your girlfriend or wife, but it can easily extend to social and work circles as well. You may cheat, be deceptive or be untrue to yourself and your partner in a variety of ways. Being unfaithful doesn’t just mean having sexual contact with another person; it can be demonstrated in other ways like regularly visiting strip clubs or X-rated movie theaters without your partner's knowledge.

You seek out explicit sexual adventures
If you can’t get excitement out of sex with the same person, you might desire or attempt to seek out more exciting encounters. This could lead you down a dangerous trail of constantly needing different stimuli to gain satisfaction and relief. If you’re never satisfied with a standard lovemaking session with your partner every now and again, your sexuality is suffering. Frequently seeking out sexual variety is often indicative of an out-of-control sexual problem.

You get into trouble with the law
You may be engaging in many activities that are illegal in most places, such as sex with prostitutes, sex with minors or exhibitionism. Some activities might not be criminal offenses, but they are offensive nonetheless: voyeurism, indecent phone calls, etc. If your sex life is getting you into trouble, this might be a sign you’re a sex addict. Sex should not get you into trouble, especially legal trouble; this could lead not only to a breakdown of a relationship, but embarrassment as your face and name are spread all over the local media.

You have negative feelings about your behavior
If you have intense negative feelings about yourself because of your behavior, it’s time to get help. Everyone has a say in their lives, but sometimes we lose it and fall into a pit of despair. Feeling suicidal, guilty, remorseful or shameful can devastate your sense of self and lead to denial. Sex addiction is like other addictions; it is characterized by one’s life becoming unmanageable as a direct result of the addictive behavior. When we do things because we are compelled to do them, and then hate ourselves for giving in to the urge, we create a nasty pattern of behavior that destroys our lives.

x-rated addiction
Sex addiction sounds like it could be fun, but it isn't. Sex addicts are in a cycle of destructive behavior that won’t stop without help. Many people are classified as sex addicts, but it’s not a title to give to just anyone who is obsessed with sex. It is a type of behavior that can be changed with self-knowledge, self-love and a good therapist.

If you think you may have a problem with sex addiction, help is available. Online forums and sites are good starting points. Remember: The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

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The Challenges in Curbing Porn Addiction

Before the internet was ubiquitous in every aspect of our lives, porn addiction was for the creepy lifelong bachelor or the lonely guy with mommy issues. However, now that we depend on the World Wide Web for much of our information and entertainment, the condition is seeping into parts of the population previously unaffected. Seemingly normal men from all walks of life, including actor David Duchovny and an Australian preacher who faked having cancer to cover up a 16-year porn addiction, are claiming that pornography has taken over their lives.

Identifying an addict
While porn addiction is not yet listed in the DSM-IV as an official mental disorder like drug or gambling addictions, therapists are starting to take the condition seriously. The criteria for determining whether or not a patient is addicted to porn are much the same as the ones used to identify other addictions, revolving mainly around the dependence on pornography at the expense of other aspects of life. If viewing, reading, watching or thinking about pornography is interfering with your work, your relationship, your family life or your social interactions, it is a problem. Some porn addicts cannot perform sexually without the stimulation of pornography. Porn addiction may be a part of a more extensive sex addiction.

Availability and early starts
It is now easier to get your hands on porn than ever before. A man doesn’t even have to work up the nerve to walk into an adult video store anymore, but can instead in the privacy of his own home simply download to his heart’s content a dizzying array of pornographic content. The internet is definitely the main culprit behind the explosion of porn addiction. A study published in the journal Pediatrics stated that 42% of internet users aged 10 to 17 have been exposed to pornography. By the time these children reach adulthood, pornography can be a pervasive part of their lives and, for some, this can lead to serious problems, such as porn addiction.

Tolerance build-up
Like an alcoholic needs increasingly larger amounts of alcohol as his tolerance builds up, so will a porn addict need more extreme, unusual or deviant forms of pornography as his addiction develops. Some experts believe that viewing this material can lead to enacting unhealthy fantasies in real life. It is possible that deviant sexual behavior could be inspired by pornographic content. However, in the majority of cases, porn addiction remains an intensely private condition that does not extend to sexual interaction with others. It will, however, likely interfere with healthy sexual experiences of any kind.

The group dynamic
Support groups and 12-step programs for recovering pornography addicts are popping up all over the internet. As illogical as it might seem to turn to the net for help with a problem that most likely started there, many addicts have found comfort and healing through sharing their stories and talking to others with the same condition.

Not unsurprisingly, the majority of groups created to help porn addicts in recovery are religious in nature. Most organized religions take a general disapproving stance on any sexual activity not related to making babies between two married, consenting adults, so it’s not hard to see why the church would have an interest in healing those addicted to pornography. For a religious person, this approach may work, but for someone who is confused and struggling with his sexuality, the guilt piled on by religious support groups may not be helpful at all when dealing with porn addiction.

The best way to deal with any kind of addiction is to seek the help of a qualified therapist. Neither sex addiction nor porn addiction is considered an official mental disorder, but they are compulsions that can have serious effects on one’s sexuality and can be detrimental to social functioning. Any decent therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist will recognize this and be able to provide you with tools to reduce your dependency on pornography.

Filtering temptation
There is a variety of software available that can filter out certain content from the internet before it gets to your computer. These filters are usually used to prevent explicit content, including pornography, from reaching the innocent eyes of children, but they can have applications for the porn addict too. Of course, it’s easy to disable your own filters, but simply having them in place may provide enough of a deterrent when you’re craving a porn fix. There is also keylogger software that will track every move you make on the internet and even accountability software that will not only track your internet activity, but will also send a weekly report to your “accountability partner” to keep them up to speed on the sites you’re visiting.

put away the porn
For most of us, viewing pornography is an occasional guilty pleasure. But for those who are driven to use porn constantly, it can represent a genuine mental, emotional and physical trap. With a combination of therapy, internet filters, affirmations, accountability, and research, it can be overcome.

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Roman Catholic Bishop Suspended For Adopting a 26-year-old woman

The Vatican has suspended a Roman Catholic bishop in southern India after he adopted a 26-year-old woman, a senior church official said Saturday.

Bishop John Thattungal, 58, will be barred from performing any religious or administrative duties until a formal inquiry into his conduct is completed, said the Rev. Stephen Alathara, a spokesman for the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council, in a telephone interview from the southern Indian city of Kochi.

Alathara said the bishop's adoption of the woman earlier this year had upset other priests in the Kochi diocese.

"The majority of the priests were unhappy and asked for his resignation," he said, adding that the Vatican ordered the suspension on Thursday.

He said there are questions surrounding the legality of the adoption because the woman is not a minor.

Thattungal could not be reached for comment, but news reports in Kerala have quoted him as saying, "I have only fatherly love toward the woman who has spiritual powers. This relation is giving me spiritual refreshment."

A three-member committee of bishops will investigate Thattungal's conduct and submit a report to Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil, the president of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council, who will then forward it to the Vatican, Alathara said.

The investigating committee does not have a set deadline, but the Vatican has asked for a report "as early as possible," he said.

Christians make up 2.5 percent of India's 1.1 billion people, the majority of whom are Hindus.

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IVORY COAST, Where Rape is a Sex Thing and NOT A CRIME

Rapes of women and girls are common in western Côte d’Ivoire and generally go unpunished, said residents of the region.

“These days nearly every time we hear of armed robberies in homes, on the roads or on plantations, we hear of rape,” said a resident of the western town of Duékoué some 500km from the commercial capital Abidjan, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“We hear of two, three, four rapes every day.”

With the proliferation of arms since conflict broke in 2002, unprecedented violent crime continues to plague many areas of Côte d’Ivoire where a March 2007 peace deal marked a formal end to fighting.

In some parts of the north, attacks by Kalashnikov-wielding men – nearly unheard of before the conflict – are frequent, residents say.

Monika Bakayoko-Topolska, gender-based violence coordinator with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Côte d’Ivoire, said: “We certainly are seeing increased reports of rape over the past year and a half or so.” She called rape “one of the biggest problems in the west,” adding that sexual violence is a problem throughout the country.

Bakayoko-Topolska said it is not clear whether rape cases have risen sharply in the west or whether more people are reporting the crime after an expansion of education campaigns in the region.

She and some residents of western Côte d’Ivoire said that perpetrators of rape are rarely prosecuted.


“Rapes are encouraged,” the woman in Duékoué said. “Because there is no punishment.” Residents of Duékoué and the nearby city of Man said that in some cases authorities harassed or ignored women who reported rape, and that even if pursued, alleged attackers are generally released after a brief detention.

Bakayoko-Topolska said pressure from families of both the victim and perpetrator to settle a case outside the formal justice system is one of many factors commonly discouraging women from filing legal complaints.

“It’s still very rare here that someone gets put in jail for rape,” she said. “Community leaders should accept that because rape and physical violence are prohibited by national law, these crimes should be reported to the police rather than informally dealt with in the village.”

The Duékoué woman told IRIN many women are afraid to go after their attackers because they do not feel supported by law enforcement authorities. “It is not safe here [in Duékoué],” she said. “People are constantly victims of violent crime and assailants operate with utter impunity.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his latest report on Côte d’Ivoire, dated 13 October, expressed concern about authorities’ failure to go after criminals. “The low level of prosecution [for violent crimes] has heightened the pervading sense of impunity in the country.”

Residents of Duékoué and Man said one response has been the creation of neighbourhood vigilante groups. But one resident said a recent rape was perpetrated by a youth who belonged to a self-defence group.


Many western towns hit by violent crime are in the former buffer zone between the government security forces in the south and rebels in the north, which has been vacated by international forces over the past year after the 2007 peace deal.

UN Secretary-General Ban said in the 13 October report: “The insecurity in the western and northern parts of the country, as well as in parts of the former [buffer] zone of confidence, remains of great concern and has impacted negatively on the full enjoyment of human rights.”

He added: “Increasing indiscriminate attacks by unidentified highway robbers, coupled with violence and rape of women, pose a daily threat to the right to life, to physical integrity and to the safety and security of persons and goods.”

The report said the situation is most serious along the 35-km Duékoué-Bangolo road in the west.

"A sex thing"

The Duékoué woman said that the closest court women there can turn to in rape cases is about 100km away in Daloa and this puts many families off. She said local social workers have told the UN and international NGOs the town needs a local tribunal.

IRC has recommended the Ivorian government establish family support units within national police forces similar to those in Sierra Leone, which is emerging from an 11-year civil war. The units comprise police officers and social workers trained to handle sexual violence cases.

“What is needed most in Côte d’Ivoire is a change in attitudes and practices related to all types of violence against women and girls,” Said Bakayoko-Topolska, “men and women alike can begin this by condemning violence and by showing solidarity with survivors in demanding justice.”

The Duékoué resident said ramping up the legal means to go after perpetrators might deter some people, but rape will continue. “I think many people here do not see rape as a crime; they see it just as a sex thing.”

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Evangelist Tony Alamo Alleged To Have a 9-year-old Bride

Alamo charged with transporting minors across state lines to engage in sex

A federal magistrate called Tony Alamo a flight risk Wednesday as he ordered the evangelist held without bail until his trial on charges that he took a minor across state lines for sex.

The ruling came after Alamo's former followers testified at a hearing that they were often beaten at his instructions and one said Alamo practiced polygamy with several females, including a 9-year-old girl.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant noted that Alamo is charged with a violent crime. He said he also considered that Alamo fled a California child-abuse charge in 1989 and was arrested two years later in Tampa, Florida, living under an assumed name.

Alamo has access to various vehicles, he added.

Witnesses said Alamo controls businesses and ministry locations in several states. They said none of the properties are Alamo's name, which Bryant also considered as a point against letting Alamo free.

"There is serious risk (Alamo) will flee or fail to appear," Bryant said.

Alamo, 74, said nothing after the ruling. His trial is scheduled for November 19.

He was arrested in Flagstaff, Arizona, five days after a September 20 police raid on the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in the southwest Arkansas town of Fouke. Six girls were taken into state custody for their protection.

During Wednesday's hearing, Arkansas state troopers searched the compound anew, State Police spokesman Bill Sadler confirmed, not elaborating. Fouke Mayor Terry Purvis said residents told him the investigators did not stay long.

One witness called to the stand by prosecutors Wednesday, Jael Sprinkle, 32, testified that she was taken as Alamo's wife at age 17 and was considered his wife for two years. She said that Alamo had five other wives at the time and that she knew of him taking a 9-year-old girl as one.

Alamo is an advocate of allowing girls to marry when they reach puberty but has denied such unions took place within his organization.

Sprinkle said she, her parents and others were beaten. She said a 12-year-old boy was paddled to the point of bleeding through his clothes and could walk only with assistance.

Sprinkle also described Alamo's control over people in his organization, saying he even had to approve inconsequential expenses such as toilet paper and toothpaste.

Spencer Ondirsek, 18, testified that he left the compound last year after spending seven years there.

Ondirsek said he was beaten by a man working under Alamo's direction. He said he was hit about 15 times on the face and smacked about 30 times with a three-foot paddle in three separate instances while being disciplined for minor misbehavior, such as playing with a spray bottle.

The first beating happened when he was 12 or 13, Ondirsek testified.

Defense lawyers called Ronald and Joan Decker, a couple that has belonged to Alamo's church. They said they would move from Fort Smith to Texarkana to watch over Alamo if he was granted release.

Ronald Decker said he drives a truck for Advantage Food, which he described as a partnership, but he couldn't come up with a figure when federal prosecutor Kyra Jenner asked him how much he earned. He later said Alamo paid for all the couple's living expenses.

"Pastor Alamo controls the church," Ronald Decker said.

Ronald Decker initially denied seeing any beatings. But when asked by Jenner whether he was aware Alamo orders paddlings, Decker paused before saying yes.

The federal charging document accuses Alamo of taking a 13-year-old girl across state lines for sex in 2004 and of aiding and abetting her transport across state lines for sex in 2005.

Alamo, who is listed in court documents by his real name of Bernie Lazar Hoffman, has pleaded not guilty to the two charges, each of which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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Hate Crime? - Violent Attacks against Homeless People

Alison Stateman

The chapel at Immanuel Presbyterian Church was filled to capacity last Saturday afternoon, with mourners moving up to the balcony. Much to the surprise of his family, hundreds — from infants to senior citizens — came to honor John Robert McGraham, a homeless man who was brutally murdered on Oct. 9. McGraham, 55, was doused with gasoline and set ablaze. Despite efforts of residents and shopkeepers to extinguish the flames, he died at the scene, on a sidewalk in front of a boarded up dental office on the corner of West 3rd and Berendo Street in the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. "They targeted him in my mind and that's the worst kind of person," says his sister Susanne McGraham-Paisley of the suspects, who remain at large. "I hope they give them the full scope of the law because that person went to a gas station, filled up the gas can, drove to the site, poured gasoline on him and then set him on fire. That person had so many opportunities to change [his] mind and ... didn't."

California has the dubious distinction of ranking second, just behind Florida, in the number of lethal and non-lethal attacks against homeless people last year. It recorded 22 but, says Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the actual number of attacks is likely even higher because many are never reported. After a huge increase in 2006 — 65% some of which is attributed to the video Bumfights where people who live on the street are pitted against each other — last year still saw an increase of 13%. Street people, says Foscarinis, live "outside so they can be attacked by anyone for any reason. There are a couple of more subtle factors that are leading to this as well and one of them is that there are increasingly punitive actions taken by cities against homeless people. So that also sends a message that these people are less than human and that attacking them is ok."

The attacks on homeless street people are particularly vicious. "They are the most vulnerable people in the country," says Tony Taylor, a research associate at the National Coalition for the Homeless. "Over one in 4 attacks that are reported against the homeless end in murder. That's huge compared to one-tenth of a percent of other protected classes," he said, referring to categories of individuals currently protected under federal Hate Crime legislation. These typically include bias-motivated violence and intimidation against individuals based on their sexual orientation, race or religion. Being homeless on the street is not one of the existing categories. In 2006, the last year that FBI figures are available for hate crime fatalities, three individuals in the protected classes were killed versus 20 homeless individuals.

Hence, there is a movement to get them covered by existing hate crime legislation. The Coalition and Law Center are lobbying members of Congress to pass two bills, sponsored by Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, which would amend two Hate Crime acts. The first bill, H.R. 2216, introduced in Congress on May 8, 2007 seeks to amend the Hate Crime Statistics Act to include crimes against the homeless. This would require the FBI to collect data on crimes against the homeless — data sorely needed by homeless advocates — in order to determine if they are hate-motivated attacks. The second bill, H.R. 2217, introduced on the same date, seeks to include the homeless in the list of classes protected under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Both bills have been referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Foscarinis says the legislation proposed seeks to increase the punishment for hate crimes against the homeless by three offense levels. "At the same time we are lobbying for real solutions, which are housing and social services for homeless people, we have to make sure their lives and dignity are respected," says Foscarinis. "The point of hate crime legislation to act as a deterrent. It becomes a more serious crime when it's considered a hate crime and there is a harsher sentence that's imposed. We want to send a message that homeless people's lives are just as valuable as anyone else's life."
That has certainly been the unintended consequence of McGraham's murder. It has stirred outrage in the wider Los Angeles community. The Los Angeles City Council is offering a $75,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for the crime. But it is the people who actually saw him on the streets through 20 years who have been most affected by his violent end. Poignant notes have been left at a shrine erected at the site of his murder. "You didn't know me but I saw you on my frequent drives... you touched me so deeply...I am so sorry such cruelty took your life," read one letter. Another simply stated, "The neighborhood will not be the same without you." His sister Susanne was touched. "So many times when my family would go to see John, our hearts would be filled with so much sadness. My children would feel sad that we were leaving him all alone. I'm very grateful to hear that he was not alone, that his life had an effect on so many people in the neighborhood."

McGraham's death will be prosecuted as first-degree murder, a capital offense, according to Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Charlie Beck. Even as she mourned, Susanne McGraham-Paisley said, "the people who did this to him did the cause of understanding homelessness a great service. Because the way in which they killed him and the way in which he died and the community's response has clearly shown that people do have an interest in someone like our brother."

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Did Pope Benedict XVI Fall Prey to The Fear of the Italian Mob?

Jeff Israely
John Paul II set a powerful precedent for how a Roman Pontiff can take on the Italian Mob. In May 1993, after a high-profile spate of Mafia killings, the Pope denounced the Mob's "culture of death" in an emotionally charged sermon in Agrigento, Sicily, the home turf of Cosa Nostra. "I say to those responsible: Convert!" he intoned, shaking his clenched fist and index finger. "One day, the judgment of God will arrive!" Two months after the dramatic papal appeal, the Mafia bombed two historic churches in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI was certainly aware of that confrontation as he prepared this past weekend to visit Pompeii. The southern Italian city, near the ruins of an ancient site buried by a Mount Vesuvius volcanic eruption, lies in the heart of the region controlled by the Camorra. The Naples-based organized crime syndicate has lately tightened its grip on the impoverished region, with more killing sprees and a high-profile death threat against a young writer. But unlike John Paul, Benedict said nothing at all about the Mob in his Sunday homily. Did the Pope back down in the face of one of Italy's most entrenched and destructive evils?

Many were counting on another papal mention about the Mob as violence in the region reaches new heights. Last month, a Camorra death squad unleashed a fury of submachine-gun fire, killing seven immigrants in a single attack. A week ago, reports surfaced of a pointed death threat against Naples writer Roberto Saviano, 28, whose best-selling book Gomorrah, and the movie based on it, reveal the extent of the Camorra's influence and dirty dealings. While the Pope remained silent, more than 100,000 people signed a petition this week in support of Saviano, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass, Jose Saramago and Jonathan Franzen. "It is intolerable that all this can happen in Europe, and in 2008," reads the petition. "The state must make every effort possible to protect (Saviano) and defeat the Camorra." The movie version of Saviano's book, directed by Matteo Garrone, won second prize at the Cannes film festival this year and is Italy's entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

When reporters asked why the Pope had said nothing on such a burning topic in Pompeii, Vatican spokesman Reverand Ciro Benedettini said Benedict had intentionally avoided referring to the Camorra as a "show of respect for decent people" of the region, who "are the vast majority." The Pope, the spokesman added, had also talked about organized crime in a visit last year to Naples, though admittedly not with the same confrontational tone as John Paul did in Sicily.

Benedict's silence has generated a small rumbling of dissent from both inside and outside the church. "It could seem that there is fear now to confront the Mob, and call it by its name," Don Vitaliano Della Sala, a leftist priest from nearby Avellino, said in a Monday radio interview. He drew a parallel between Benedict's decision not to speak out Sunday and the controversy stirring over Pope Pius XII's alleged silence about the Holocaust during World War II.

That analogy seems a stretch: the Italian authorities' decades-long battle to uproot the Mob bears little comparison to the Nazis' state-run policy of genocide. But the comparison between Benedict and his immediate predecessor is illuminating. John Paul not only possessed a pastoral charisma that made him beloved among his flock, but also he could call on a reserve of public passion in order to confront a problem facing his church or the world at large. That kind of fire is simply not in this Pontiff's arsenal.

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Fake Tattoos Can Serve As Well

Run-of-the-mill tattoo designs are easy to fake and therefore easy to doubt. But forging a believably atrocious design with some inkjet tattoo paper could definitely turn some heads. Just be sure add some ointment and optional bandage for that authentic 'fresh' look.

You could always use it to get a sneak-preview before taking the plunge on a real one. Or perhaps you'd prefer to demo some 'sleeves' as shown above.

In a related development by, Imran Khan's tattoo at the back of his neck in the trailer of Kidnap has caught much female attention. The promo gives a clear view of the new Khan's tattoo, as he turns around and menacingly informs Sanjay Dutt that he had kidnapped his daughter.

There was news that Imran had had the tattoo done especially for Kidnap in keeping with his tough and rugged look in the film. But it turns out, that isn't true after all!

Not many know that the tattoo is a permanent one, which he had got done from a man in Mumbai's Colaba area many years back when so many tattoo parlours weren't around.

Laughs Imran, "It's one of those things I had done when I was 17. It's permanent. We had to hide it in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, as it wasn't in keeping with my character. But my director (Sanjay Gadhvi) felt it went well with the tone of Kabir in Kidnap and decided to show it!"

The clarification should put the mystery behind Imran's tattoo to rest.

Kidnap, the big Id attraction, will be out in cinemas on Wednesday, October 1, 2008. It is an Indian Films-Studio 18 worldwide release.

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Journey To Churque (Church-Mosque) Begins In Rome?

A joint document at the end of the meeting affirmed that the believers of the two religions "should go beyond tolerance" and keep working together.

Faith and reason are both gifts of God, do not contradict each other and are by nature nonviolent, even if sometimes they have been used to justify violence.

This appears to the central conclusion of the meeting held at the Vatican between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Iranian Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation.

Participants at the three-day colloquium centred on the relationship between faith and reason were received in audience today by Benedict XVI, and issued a joint statement in which they agree that "faith and reason are both gifts of God to mankind", and that "faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith might in some cases be above reason, but never against it".

Faith and reason, the document continues, "are intrinsically non-violent. Neither reason nor faith should be used for violence; unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetrate violence".

The two sides also say that they agree in the desire to cooperate further "in order to promote genuine religiosity, in particular spirituality, to encourage respect for symbols considered to be sacred and to promote moral values". Christians and Muslims "should go beyond tolerance, accepting differences, while remaining aware of commonalities and thanking God for them.

They are called to mutual respect, thereby condemning derision of religious beliefs". "Generalization should be avoided when speaking of religions. Differences of confessions within Christianity and Islam, diversity of historical contexts are important factors to be considered".

"Religious traditions cannot be judged on the basis of a single verse or a passage present in their respective holy Books. A holistic vision as well as an adequate hermeneutical method is necessary for a fair understanding of them".

"The participants expressed their satisfaction with the level of the presentations and the debates as well as the open and friendly atmosphere during the colloquium. The participants were honoured and pleased to be received at the end of the colloquium by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who was particularly satisfied with the choice of the theme and the venue of the meeting".

The next encounter will be held in Tehran within two years.

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Are The Eastern Catholics and Orthodox Church Heading For Unification?

Has the Patriarch of Constantinople proposed a path toward communion between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox brethren? Could it be a breakthrough?

Reports are circulating, in circles which are intensely attuned to the continued warming of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, of a statement and proposal allegedly made by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

If they are confirmed, it may signal a major move toward communion between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox Brethren.It may also open the path to dialogue on communion between the Churches even wider.

The Religious Information Service of the Ukraine, associated with the Ukranian Catholic University, was cited as one source for the articles. Another was a German Ecumenical Journal named after the great Bishops Cyril and Methodius.

Both of these sources allege that the Orthodox Patriarch made an unusual gesture toward Eastern Catholic Churches which are in union with Rome, proposing that the members of those Churches somehow “return to Orthodoxy without breaking unity with Rome”.

Eastern Catholics actually believe, in some respects, that they have already done just what the Patriarch suggests. They are in full communion with Rome, and therefore with the Chair of Peter, while still remaining faithful to Orthodoxy, in their profession of faith, liturgical worship and practices.Some actually refer to themselves as "Orthodox in Union with Rome". Of course, the Orthodox have not seen it that way at all.Fortunatley, old animosity has often been replaced by a growing desire for restored communion.

Further, it is reported that the Patriarch spoke positively of a similar proposal for a form of “dual unity” made by the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Lubomyr Husar.Does that also suggest a warming in dialogue concerning concepts for a way toward communion?

These same sources indicate that the Patriarch may be proposing an approach to communion which would allow for some sort of “dual communion”, the details of which are not clear. Further, that he has suggested that the discussions between the two sister Churches look to the first millennium model of the relationship between Rome and Constantinople for pursuing this model of communion.

The Servant of God John Paul II, wrote regularly of the two Churches, Orthodox and Catholic, as being the “two lungs” of Christianity which must breathe together again in the Third Millennium. He dedicated much of his Pontificate to promoting communion between them.

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI has also dedicated his Pontificate to promoting this communion between East and Western Christianity in the Third Millennium. He has made regular overtures toward the Orthodox Church which have received warm and hopeful responses.

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Islamophobia Sweeps Thru Australia

There is a new face of Islamophobia in Sydney.

Gone are the images of angry young men draped in Australian flags and brandishing beer bottles as they rampage through Cronulla terrorising anyone who looks Middle Eastern.

In their place is middle-aged, earnest-looking Kate McCulloch, wearing a large Akubra hat plastered with Australian flag stickers. She tells the TV cameras that she is not racist, but Muslims take our welfare, do not live by our rules and are not welcome in Camden.

They are different faces, but their message is the same. They do not want Muslims on their beaches, in their streets, in their suburbs.

"You heard the news and saw the people," says the treasurer of the Qur'anic Society, Ahmed Chami, whose application to build an Islamic school in Camden was knocked back last week. "They said, 'Go back home. We don't want you here'. "

When Camden Council unanimously rejected the application for a 1200-student school last week, it insisted the decision was purely about planning control. But protests before the decision, which culminated in pigs' heads being left on the proposed school site, have left the impression that it has everything to do with religion.

Whatever the truth, experts say the Camden affair is the latest sign of worsening Islamophobia in Sydney, and will only add to intolerance.

Ms McCulloch, who runs a local business, says: "The school is just the thin edge of the wedge. You only have to look at those countries that have accepted Arabs and other Islamic people to see how they've come in and waged violent campaigns to try and displace locals."

University of Western Sydney human geography professor Kevin Dunn calls the steadily worsening intolerance to Muslims cumulative Islamophobia.

Professor Dunn, who as part of a PhD studied applications to build mosques in Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s, says almost every mosque is opposed by local councils and communities. But in many cases, this is overturned in the courts, he says.

The Qur'anic Society has already said it plans to appeal against the Camden decision.

"In those places where there was opposition to mosque development and where councils catered towards that intolerance, there's no doubt community relations worsened," Professor Dunn said.

He says Camden is no more Islamophobic than many other places in Sydney. In a 2001 survey under the geographies of racism project that Professor Dunn leads, 52.9% of people in Camden and its surrounding suburbs said they would be concerned if a close relative married a Muslim. Sydney-wide, the figure was only slightly lower at 52.8%.

Last year, NSW Police established a new position to look at the force's response to hate crimes. Inspector Chris Keane, of the community contact unit, said he had not seen any increase in reports about attacks on Muslims in particular but said that after 9/11 the whole community felt under pressure.

NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian says he firmly believes Camden Council knocked back the school on planning grounds.

"But we've got people using that opportunity to express jubilance, and to present it as if it was the success of an anti-Islamic campaign," he said.

He agrees anti-Muslim feeling has been increasing in recent years and the situation in Camden will make it worse. There has been a trend since 9/11 "but more importantly since Bali and then Cronulla" where particular groups take advantage of situations to promote anti-Islamic messages.

"It would be fairly disheartening for the Islamic community to see the kind of images that were on TV and to hear the anti-Islamic comments by residents. It sows the seeds of doubt in their mind about the reasons for the school's rejection."

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'I Am A Prophet', Lands Indonesian Man In Jail

The leader of an Indonesian sect who had controversially claimed he was a prophet has been jailed for four years for contempt against Islam.

Ahmad Mushaddeq alias Abu Salam, 63, leader of the Al Qiyadah Al Islamiyah sect, was "guilty of showing contempt in public against a religion recognised by the state," Judge Zahrul Rabaid told a packed courtroom today.

The verdict was greeted by religious chanting by hundreds of followers who had crammed South Jakarta district court since early in the morning.

A police officer said 2000 people were at the venue.

Mushaddeq's claim violated a central Islamic tenet that the Prophet Muhammad is the last prophet and will not be followed by any other messengers from God.

His group was proscribed as "deviant" by the country's top clerics last year, echoing the same charge levelled against the Ahmadiya sect this year.

Mushaddeq, who told the court he will appeal, was whisked into a police detention car that left immediately for the state prison.

Mushaddeq handed himself in to police along with six other followers in October, and has since publicly retracted his claim to being a prophet.

About 90 per cent of Indonesia's population are Muslim. Most practice a tolerant form of the religion.

Anger over Ahmadiya drew protesters on to the streets last week and the group has filed for police protection after receiving death threats.

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Failure In Religion: 44% Of Americans Cant Be Wrong

Religion to some should be a check on the society producing a morally upbuilding effect on its adherents. To others it should satisfy their inborn desire for a spiritual life. For yet it is business as usual - tell the people what they want to here, to make them stick and donate more money to the church.

In view of the forgoing it is not suprising that the Washington Post Reports that "Forty-four percent of Americans have either switched their religious affiliation since childhood or dropped out of any formal religious group, according to the largest recent survey on American religious identification.

The survey, released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that Americans' faith identity fluctuates during their lives, with vast numbers moving away from the faith tradition of their childhood to embrace other religious traditions -- or no faith at all. The survey interviewed 35,000 people.
Among other findings, the survey indicated that members of Protestant denominations now make up only a slight majority -- 51.3 percent -- of the adult population.
The 44 percent figure includes people who switch affiliations within one of the major faith traditions, such as a Protestant who goes from Baptist to Methodist. Counting only people who switch traditions altogether -- say, from Catholic to Orthodox, or Protestant to Muslim -- the number drops to 28 percent.
"Constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents," the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey said.
The survey also concluded that 16 percent of American adults are not affiliated with any faith today. About 4 percent describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. Young adults ages 18 to 29 are much more likely than people 70 and older to say they are unaffiliated with any particular religion, Pew found".

Has religion not failed?

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The Sexually Active But Sexually Ignorant Youths Of Indian Cities

While love was on top of the minds of many a young Mumbaikar on Valentine's Day on Thursday, a recent study showed that young people in urban Maharashtra are groping in the dark when it comes to issues relating to sex and reproductive health. City doctors and researchers added that they worry about the risky sexual practices by this age group.

Their concerns are borne out by the study, which showed disturbing trends of ignorance - only 35.3% of single girls in cities knew that they could get pregnant in their first sexual encounter. A mere 35.1% of unmarried boys consistently used condoms with pre-marital partners.

"When it comes to sexual behaviour, we found that youngsters had very superficial knowledge, which makes them indulge in risky sexual behaviour," said Usha Ram of the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), an autonomous institute under the Union ministry of health and family welfare. IIPS interviewed 8,500 married and unmarried youths. The married ones were aged 15 to 29 and unmarried ones 15 to 24. The study was completed late last year. While 87.8% of single girls had heard of HIV/AIDS, only 40.4% could identify two ways of preventing it and knew healthy-looking persons could transmit it.

Not surprisingly, youngsters knocking at the doors of city sexual health clinics are full of misconceptions. "It isn't unusual to see teens walking in and asking for a spray or medicated cigarettes to improve their sexual performance," said Dr Sanjay Chauhan of the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, which runs two centres, called Jagruti, in Parel for adolescents below 24. The ignorance is worrying given that this is the most sexually active group. At the Jagruti centres, nearly 1% of 1,300 youngsters over the past two years asked for pregnancy confirmation.

Myths - such as masturbation can lead to problems like impotence or tuberculosis - are reinforced as teens often turn to 'ignorant' friends for sexual advice, pointed out professor of sexual medicine Prakash Kothari, who runs a clinic at Opera House. "We find that parents and even teachers are often hesitant about discussing sex and sexuality openly," said Kothari. This was corroborated in the IIPS study, which found that only 0.2% of unmarried boys in the state had ever discussed sexual and reproductive matters with their parents.

"We are able to cater to barely 30% of youngsters in Parel. One of the challenges we face is that youngsters who come in for condoms often run away after getting them. They aren't interested in the counselling or education," said Chauhan. "The only way to bust this darkness is to have sex education," said Kothari, who feels addressing behavioural changes would help promote love and its expression.

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Investigating Televangelist Finances For Violating Non-Profit Tax Laws?

Kent Garber
Rolls-Royces, Dresden vases, vacation homes, jewelry, private jets, a $11,219 clock—the inventory is either admirable or suspicious, depending on your point of view. To adherents of the so-called Prosperity Gospel, the trappings of their ministers are evidence of God's blessings for a life well lived. But to Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, they may be signs of excess—the kind of unreasonable compensation that he says could violate federal tax law.

Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has investigated many scandals, including excessive spending by officials at the Smithsonian Institution. Now, he is taking on the matter of church-state boundaries with his probe of six well-known televangelists who preach that God wants his followers to be rich both spiritually and materially. The philosophy applies not only to the worshipers but to the preachers as well.

So what happens when the preacher earns rock-star status and a paycheck to match? Federal tax law prohibits religious leaders, as the heads of tax-exempt nonprofit institutions, from earning "unreasonable compensation." It also prohibits tax-exempt organizations from providing "substantial benefit" to individuals.

Airplanes. With these provisions in mind, Grassley sent requests to six televangelists last fall seeking information about such things as credit card spending, offshore accounts, and airplane and car purchases. To date, only one ministry has responded to Grassley's satisfaction. So he is redoubling his efforts. Last week, the senator was planning to send a second request for information, along with further justification for his probe. "It is the same thing I have been trying to accomplish with all of my investigations," said Grassley, "and that is to make sure that tax laws are complied with." He said he wanted to make sure that churchgoers were not being "played for suckers."

Grassley's interest in the televangelists stems from several published reports of loose spending by church leaders. In 2003, for instance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch exposed the opulent lifestyle of Joyce Meyer, a St. Louis-based televangelist whose church, Joyce Meyer Ministries, made an estimated $95 million that year. In his letter to Meyer and her husband, David, he noted reports of the couple accepting "personal monetary gifts and jewelry" from donors. To the Revs. Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., Grassley cited reports that they had received two Rolls-Royces from the church. In both cases, he asked the ministers to show whether they had declared the gifts to the IRS.

The Meyers, who have said they are committed to "transparency," did provide much of the information that was requested, according to one of Grassley's aides. But Creflo Dollar, along with Georgia preacher Eddie Long, has declined to provide Grassley with documents. The other ministries—Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; Without Walls International Church of Tampa; and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas—have provided answers Grassley found insufficient. A Copeland spokesperson said the ministry supplied Grassley with 291 pages of exhibits but cited privacy concerns about releasing more documents. The Dollars and Joyce Meyer declined to comment; representatives of the other ministries did not return phone calls.

Discrimination? The objection from the churches is twofold: that the IRS, not Congress, is the proper body to investigate tax matters related to religious groups, and that the focus on members of the Prosperity movement is discriminatory and threatens their First Amendment rights. In a recent editorial, Creflo Dollar's attorney, Marcus Owens, said Grassley had singled out the churches because of his "often-expressed distaste for, or disagreement with, these churches' theology."

Grassley dismisses both arguments, "This has nothing to do with church doctrine," he said in a statement. "This has everything to do with [whether] the tax exemption of an organization is being used according to the law; and is the money that's donated...being used for legitimate, nonprofit purposes?" Grassley also noted that only Congress can change laws.

Still, the idea of the government investigating churches is a sensitive one. The last substantial federal probe of church finances dates to the 1980s, when an IRS investigation led to the indictment of Jim Bakker, the former host of the PTL Club, on fraud charges. The House later considered reforming the tax laws but made no changes and did not investigate the churches themselves. "The IRS has really not gotten involved too much in this, much less Congress," says Gary Snyder, managing director of Nonprofit Imperative. Government oversight of church finances is lax, and penalties for tax violations are rarely dispensed.

One change Grassley could seek, says Pablo Eisenberg, a nonprofit expert at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, would be to impose limits on how much leaders of nonprofit organizations can earn. Congress could also try to demand stricter boundaries between preachers and boards of trustees.

Owens has challenged Grassley to subpoena the desired information. So far Grassley has resisted taking that route, but he says he has no plans to back down. "I think there is some gamble for people who are stonewalling," he said. "Every organization I have requested information from, I have gotten voluntarily."

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Japanese Authority's Clean up Hits Sexual Cabaret Club

Ryann Connell
One of the most daring adult clubs in Osaka's Minami entertainment district has been shut down in what many say is the first strike in a campaign to clean up the area, according to Shukan Jitsuwa.

Six of the hostesses and a male customer of the "sexual cabaret club" Impulse were arrested last month for indecent exposure after the workers allegedly labored while entirely nude and the patron exposed his genitals.

Those alleged acts aren't the only indecency that appears to have gone on at Impulse.

"As soon as you enter the club, a hostess will give you a hot towel that she has already used to swipe her private parts. You can start fondling the hostesses' breasts as soon as you sit down, but that's nothing. You immediately get a drink, but it's a hostess's urine served on the rocks. They also serve tidbits sprinkled with cuttings of the workers' pubic hair," the employee of an adult entertainment introduction service tells Shukan Jitsuwa. "They also had a service where the ice served in drinks is first inserted into the hostess's private parts. They just kept on getting wilder and wilder and I think they went too far in the end."

Impulse strictly forbid the media from covering it, but word of the club's existence spread quickly and it was among the most popular establishments in Minami. Some say the arrests at Impulse signal the start of a clean-up of the entertainment district.

"That place was warned plenty of times in the past for going too far," a writer on the sex industry says. "I knew there'd eventually be arrests there some day."

Others defend Impulse, though.

"Sure, it stretched the limits, but it never really went beyond them. It didn't provide any sexual services that resulted in ejaculation and if there was any nudity going on, it was never anything more than a quick flash," the operator of a call girl service says. "Even its most raunchy stuff wasn't that serious. I think the arrests have been made to send a message to others."

Reporters covering the Osaka Prefectural Police beat certainly think so.

"Some people are saying the tough line cops are taking on adult businesses in Minami will only go on until the end of this year. But I think they're wrong. I think this crackdown is going to keep on going for ages," a hack covering the Osaka police beat tells Shukan Jitsuwa. "And the reason why I feel that is the cops working on Minami now are the same ones who carried out the massive clean-up a couple of years ago of the Kabukicho district in Tokyo."

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Chinese Authorities Shut Down 44,000 Porn Sites In 2007

China shut down 44,000 Web sites and homepages and arrested 868 people last year in a campaign against Internet porn which will continue until the end of this year's Beijing Olympics.

China launched a crackdown on online pornography and "unhealthy" Web content after Chinese President Hu Jintao said the country's sprawling Internet posed a threat to social stability.

Rights groups have said the campaign has been used as a thinly veiled pretext to crack down on dissent and round up online dissidents ahead of the Olympics.

Authorities had also investigated 524 criminal cases involving online porn and "penalized" another 1,911 people.

Some 440,000 "pornographic messages" had also been deleted, the agency said.

China has attempted to stifle online criticism of the ruling Communist Party and discussion related to sensitive topics such as Tibet and Taiwan by ordering Web sites to register with authorities.

Authorities registered 199,000 Web sites last year, but refused 14,000 for failing to get official registration or to apply for official approval.

China employs tens of thousands of human Internet censors and a vast network of filters to control online information.

The anti-pornography campaign would continue until September, "after the Beijing Olympic Games end".

China last month said it would crack down on video-sharing Web sites, and allow only state-controlled sites to post video content online in new restrictions effective from January 31.

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Japan's Raunchiest Entertainment Industry Staggering?

Japan's biggest, brashest, raunchiest entertainment district -- suffered a slow, boring entrance to 2008, with one notable exception: love hotels, Shukan Shincho says.

"It's really sad," a Kabukicho restaurant employee tells Shukan Shincho. "There wasn't a soul around on New Year's Day. About the only places in Kabukicho that attracted anyone over the New Year holidays were game centers and pachinko parlors."

Rumors have recently sprung up that Japan's once-spurting "ejaculation industry" is well and truly on the wane.

"Ever since (Shintaro) Ishihara became governor of Tokyo, policing of Kabukicho has become really tight. The number of storefront sex business there has dropped dramatically and now there are only loads of stores selling adult DVDs or booths offering advice on sex services in their place," the restaurant worker says. "The whole atmosphere of the district has changed and virtually no-one comes here for sex anymore."

Once a Kabukicho staple, soapland brothels in particular are feeling washed up.

"A whole series of famous ramen noodle restaurants have opened up in one alley near all the soaplands," a Kabukicho insider tells the weekly. "People line up to get into the restaurants, which makes it a bit too embarrassing for guys to have to walk past them all to go into the brothels."

Still, not every business in Kabukicho is hurting. In fact, while not as many people may be paying for Kabukicho's carnal pleasures, that doesn't mean they're not getting them in the district.

"(Love hotels) have gone from being just places where you'd go for sex into becoming havens of pleasure. Competition among the hotels is absolutely fierce and consumers get the benefit. That's not just in things like reasonable rates and longer sessions, but services like room service menus with over 100 items and orders accepted 24 hours a day, surround-sound audio systems in the rooms, online karaoke sets and then free provision of toiletries and other items for stays like pajamas. There are even some love hotels with meals prepared by famous chefs," the Kabukicho insider tells Shukan Shincho.

"Some Kabukicho love hotels have started putting up sandwich boards in front of their establishments to advertise the services they're providing. Some couples even spent the entire New Year period in Kabukicho love hotels."

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