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Reports and breaking news

Council to Celebrate Persian New Year

The Los Angeles City Council this week will hold a special celebration for the Persian new year. On Friday, March 16 at 9:30 a.m., hundreds of people will gather in Council chambers to mark Norooz, a 3,500-year-old holiday. "It has no religious connotation whatsoever," said Hamid Behdad, the city's former adaptive reuse czar, who now heads the firm Central City Development Group. Instead, Behdad said, the holiday unites Persian people of different religions, and those who are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Baha'i, Zoroastrian and other faiths will all celebrate Norooz, which is tied to the first day of spring.

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Different venue, but same wide world of diversity


Clogging together are Garrett Oglesby, 10, and Sydney Bright, 5.
Amber Arnold / News-Leader

The MultiCultural Festival changed locations for its 10th year, but its goal to connect Springfield's diverse population with diverse community resources remains the same.

Samuel Knox, president of Unite, which organized Saturday's festival, said the venue was changed from Juanita K. Hammons Hall of the Performing Arts to Deliverance Temple, 2101 W. Chestnut Expressway, so exhibitors and entertainers could be in the same room.

"It's a closer atmosphere," said Nora England, who has exhibited at the festival each year.

. . .

At the Baha'i booth, members of that faith passed out brochures and balloons bearing the message "We R 1 Family".

Dawn Ward said the Baha'i faith teaches racial unity and service to humanity.

"It's all based on love," she said.

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Kelly death not suicide, says MP

An MP investigating the death of Dr David Kelly says he is convinced the weapons scientist did not kill himself.

Norman Baker tells BBC Two's The Conspiracy Files he has reached the conclusion Dr Kelly's life was "deliberately taken by others".

Mr Baker has also obtained letters suggesting the coroner had doubts about the 2003 Hutton inquiry's ability to establish the cause of death.

Hutton reached a verdict of suicide but a public inquest was never completed.

Dr Kelly, whose body was found in July 2003, had been under intense pressure after being named as the suspected source of a BBC report claiming the government "sexed up" a dossier on the threat posed by Iraq.

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Malaysia at a Crossroads


A HOUSE DIVIDED: The battle over the true spiritual beliefs of Kaliammal's late husband reflects Malaysia?s widening religious fault lines.
- Tara Sosrowardoyo for Time

Like Indonesia, Malaysia is struggling to determine how Muslim to be. Unlike Indonesia, which is governed by a secular constitution, Malaysia already counts Islam as its official faith—although the constitution also guarantees freedom of religion. Each state has a fatwa committee that makes religious decrees applicable to Malaysian Muslims, most of whom are Sunni. In Kelantan state, Muslim women must wear headscarves in public, while several states have made forsaking Islam a crime that can result in prison time. "We should not limit Islam to a few rituals," says Sulaiman Abdullah, former president of the Malaysian Bar Council. "Malaysia would be better served if it were under Shari'a law."

{josquote}The Islamic Development Department, which governs Muslim practices on a federal level, deems Shia and Baha'i interpretations of Islam deviant faiths worthy of forced "rehabilitation."{/josquote}

But what happens when the state's definition of Islam differs from its citizens'? The Islamic Development Department, which governs Muslim practices on a federal level, deems Shia and Baha'i interpretations of Islam deviant faiths worthy of forced "rehabilitation." Controversy also surrounds Malays who wish to convert to another religion, thus defying the constitutional clause specifying that all Malays must be Muslims. That issue is being tested by the case of Lina Joy, a Malay who has been barred from converting to Christianity by Shari'a courts. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a lawyer who has received death threats for representing Joy, hopes the case will be heard by the Supreme Court in the next few months. "How can we say there is freedom of religion in Malaysia," says Malik, "if a person who has practiced Christianity for years is not allowed by the state to make that personal choice?"

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Carmelite Monastery to follow Bahai Temple

Garden will span an area of three hectares and will feature numerous statues, religious artifacts and a large amphitheatre overlooking a spectacular view

The order of the Carmelite Monastery in Haifa, Israel, a 19th-century monastery located on the slopes of Mount Carmel, became envious of the beautiful Bahai Temple gardens in Haifa and decided to follow suit by creating its own.

{josquote}The order of the Carmelite Monastery in Haifa, Israel, a 19th-century monastery located on the slopes of Mount Carmel, became envious of the beautiful Bahai Temple gardens in Haifa and decided to follow suit by creating its own.{/josquote}

The Carmelite gardens will be built on the mountainside of the Stella Maris neighborhood, where a military army base was located until recently. The garden will span an area of three hectares and will feature numerous statues, religious artifacts and a large amphitheatre overlooking a spectacular view.

As in the Bahai gardens, the Carmelite garden will also have a visitors' center that will be open to the public. An American landscape architect was hired to design the garden.

The cost for building the garden is estimated $200 million, while the initial investment totals $50 million.

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