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Islamic World News ( 26 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A Drastic and Holistic Review of Existing Shariah Criminal Laws Required, says The Malaysia Syariah Lawyers Association

New Age Islam News Bureau

26 February 2021


The Federal Court has ruled that states have no powers to enact shariah laws against crimes that are already listed in the federal Penal Code.


• India’s sudden peace push with nuclear rivals China, Pakistan shows Biden impact

• New interreligious aide to Imran Khan says minorities in Pakistan “not second class citizens”

• Iran Raps Netanyahu for Resorting to Bigoted Lies to Promote Iranophobia

• Indian coast guard rescue 81 Rohingya refugees adrift at sea, 8 dead

• US urges India, Pakistan to hold direct talks on Kashmir; welcomes joint statement on LoC ceasefire

• Report: US bombs Iraq’s anti-terror fighters on Biden’s order

• COVID-19 pandemic inequalities favor ‘terrorism’: Jordan’s King Abdullah

• Germany bans IS-glorifying Salafist Muslim group


Southeast Asia

• Review shariah laws to stop any new challenges, say Muslim lawyers

• Malaysia consulted world’s leading Muslim ulamas on Covid-19 vaccination, says Islamic affairs minister

• SIS hails ‘important’ court decision for LGBTQ community

• Non-Muslim wedding ceremonies allowed in non-EMCO areas

• Non-Muslims will pay heavier price for sodomy, says Federal Court

• After landmark ruling on Selangor ‘unnatural sex’ offence, lawyers say now clear Parliament has primacy for criminal law



• India’s sudden peace push with nuclear rivals China, Pakistan shows Biden impact

• Jharkhand: Married Muslim man held for ‘trying to lure’ Hindu woman

• Love jihad law in upcoming House session: Rupani at Godhra rally

• UP court reserves order on plea for status quo in Shahi Idgah mosque premises

• Kashmir: Mainstream parties, Hurriyat welcome Indo-Pak ceasefire

• Would be compelled to take pre-emptive strike when confronted by imminent terror attack: India at UN

• Mamata govt forms 8-member board for Rajbanshi Muslims

• AMU student goes missing, cops trace location to Delhi

• Riots, markaz wounds still raw, Chauhan Banger gets ready to vote in civic bypolls



• New interreligious aide to Imran Khan says minorities in Pakistan “not second class citizens”

• FATF grey-listing cost Pakistan $38 billion: Report

• Pakistani lawmaker lambasted for Hindu goddess tweet

• Fazl promises ‘big’ opposition surprise

• PM Imran welcomes Sri Lankan govt's decision allowing Muslims to bury Covid-19 victims



• Iran Raps Netanyahu for Resorting to Bigoted Lies to Promote Iranophobia

• Iran: US Assassination of General Soleimani Violation of Int'l Law

• UN calls on Israel to immediately stop demolishing Palestinian homes, buildings in West Bank

• Turkey ‘strongly condemns attempted coup’ in Armenia

• Iran says it’s investigating deadly incident on Pakistan border

• Houthis target Marib residential area with ballistic missile

• Hamas urges Palestinian Authority to release members jailed in West Bank

• Netanyahu asked Biden to keep Trump's sanctions on ICC: Report


South Asia

• Indian coast guard rescue 81 Rohingya refugees adrift at sea, 8 dead

• Expect Productive Peace Talks With Afghan Govt In Doha, Say Taliban

• Germany extends its mission in Afghanistan

• McKenzie placed a ‘large measure of the blame’ on the Taliban for extreme violence

• Top Democrat expects some ‘extension’ of troops in Afghanistan

• Taliban attack on Afghan district repulsed, 12 killed


North America

• US urges India, Pakistan to hold direct talks on Kashmir; welcomes joint statement on LoC ceasefire

• Biden says he has read US intel on Khashoggi killing

• Biden orders US strikes on Iran-backed militia in Syria: Pentagon

• Don’t make same Iran mistakes as Obama, US members of Congress tell Biden

• US military strike on resistance fighters draws strong condemnation

• Biden pressed to clarify policy on Saudi aggression against Yemen


Arab World

• Report: US bombs Iraq’s anti-terror fighters on Biden’s order

• US strikes 'Iranian-backed militant' site in Syria: Pentagon

• Russia says its closely monitoring situation in Syria following US airstrikes

• Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security

• Iran’s Zarif talks to Syrian FM after US strikes on Iran-backed militia in Syria

• Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Israeli PM say countries must be involved in Iran talks

• Arab Coalition stops second Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia hours after failed attempt

• Saudi Foreign Minister discusses regional challenges with US counterpart



• COVID-19 pandemic inequalities favor ‘terrorism’: Jordan’s King Abdullah

• Erdogan named 2020 Global Muslim Personality

• Libyan PM-designate Dbeibeh to propose unified cabinet under UN aegis

• Several schoolchildren kidnapped in northwest Nigeria: State governor spokesperson



• Germany bans IS-glorifying Salafist Muslim group

• UK Supreme Court rejects Daesh bride Shamima Begum’s legal bid to return

• Palestinians hire UK-based law firm to prosecute Britain over 1917 Balfour Declaration

• UK’s largest Muslim charity cleared of institutional anti-Semitism

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Review shariah laws to stop any new challenges, say Muslim lawyers

February 25, 2021


The Federal Court has ruled that states have no powers to enact shariah laws against crimes that are already listed in the federal Penal Code.


PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Syariah Lawyers Association is calling for a drastic and holistic review of existing shariah criminal laws so that no other law will be challenged and undermined by anyone, following a Federal Court ruling that states cannot enact laws on offences against the precepts of Islam for Muslims if it is already on the Federal List.

The association’s president Musa Awang said in a statement today that the ruling would have great implications on the country’s shariah legislation, especially for criminal offences under the states’ shariah criminal enactments.

“This means the state legislative bodies do not have the power to enact laws regarding shariah criminal offences if there are similar laws under the Federal law passed by Parliament, even though the offences carried out by an individual professing Islam were against the ‘precepts of Islam’, as stated in List 2 – State List of the Federal Constitution.”

He said the ruling meant it would be difficult for the state legislature to draft laws on shariah offences, as long as the offences were covered under federal law.

Musa added that the court ruling will also open up avenues for parties to challenge other laws in the states’ shariah criminal enactments.

The Federal Court ruling also seems to be “closing the door” on earlier proposals to carry out hudud and qisas laws in the country.

“This is because hudud offences such as theft (sariqah), robbery (hirabah), and qisas offences such as murder (al-qatl) are listed in the Penal Code.”

Earlier today, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat had allowed a declaration by a 35-year-old man that the Selangor state legislature was incompetent to pass a shariah law that makes it an offence to engage in unnatural sex.

The man, whose identity is being withheld on the request of his lawyers, sought to challenge the competency of the Selangor state legislature to enact Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment.


India’s sudden peace push with nuclear rivals China, Pakistan shows Biden impact

Feb 26, 2021


(L-R) Pakistan PM Imran Khan, PM Narendra Modi, US Persident Joe Biden and Chinese Persidenr Xi Jinping


After a year of some of the worst fighting on India’s frontiers with Pakistan and China, all three countries are suddenly talking peace as they wait to see how President Joe Biden will shift policy in the region.

India and China’s foreign ministers on Thursday discussed plans to disengage troops from their Himalayan border, which last year saw the deadliest clashes since the 1970s.

The phone call between S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, which stretched for more than an hour, came shortly after India and Pakistan released a rare joint statement by senior army officials announcing a halt in operations along their border.

The moves reduce tensions in one of Asia’s top flashpoints, where three nuclear-armed countries regularly challenge each other’s territorial claims. While India and Pakistan have fought three wars since Independence and barely have any trade, tensions between New Delhi and Beijing escalated last year to the point where Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government banned hundreds of Chinese apps and slowed investment approvals.

The detente in South Asia shows all three countries responding to initiatives from the Biden administration, which is formulating policy toward the region following the unpredictable years of President Donald Trump. Pakistan wants to show the US its not too close to China, Beijing wants to lower the temperature as Biden courts New Delhi and India is hedging its bets as it prepares to host BRICS leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping later this year.

“On the one hand India hopes that the US-China peer rivalry means India remains important and Pakistan — as an ally of China — will face more pressure,” said Aparna Pande, director of the Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at Washington-based Hudson Institute. “But Delhi is not sure how strong Washington will be vis-a-vis Beijing, so a temporary ceasefire with Pakistan and slow disengagement with China may buy some time and relieve immediate pressure on India.”

India’s borders with Pakistan and China stretch nearly 7,000 kilometers (4,300 miles). Though India and Chinese troops have started pulling back their troops from some parts of the contested border in the remote Himalayan region, there are still areas where soldiers are facing off.

India’s foreign ministry said Jaishankar stressed to Wang the need to improve bilateral relations and ensure peace on the contested border between the two nations. Wang, meanwhile, called on China and India to firmly follow the right path of mutual trust and cooperation and “promote pragmatic cooperation,” Chinese state media reported.

New Delhi and Islamabad in 2003 signed a cease-fire agreement along their 742-kilometer (460-mile) Himalayan frontier, known as the Line of Control, but that truce has been violated repeatedly. Tensions worsened after August 2019 when PM Modi revoked the special status of Jammu & Kashmir.

‘No one should question’

“In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders,” top military officials from both nations “agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns,” they said in the statement.

The agreement “will save innocent lives so no one should question the intent,” Moeed W Yusuf, special assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, said on Twitter. “Nor should wrong inferences be drawn. There is nothing more than meets the eye here.”

The Biden administration welcomed the announcement on reimplementing the 2003 ceasefire agreement, which it had advocated. “When it comes to the US role, we continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Previous moves toward peace between India and Pakistan, including a statement in May 2018 after an escalation of cross-border shelling, have dissipated quickly. Whether they can actually build on this and move toward a more permanent peace remains an open question, but at least for the moment the shifting geopolitical winds are providing a seemingly rare opportunity to talk instead of fight.

“It eases the pressure,” Najmuddin Shaikh, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary and ambassador to nations including the US, said by phone when asked about the ceasefire. “Essentially what needs to come ahead is what has been proposed — that there be a resumption of dialogue.”


New interreligious aide to Imran Khan says minorities in Pakistan “not second class citizens”

23 February 2021


Prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, and his new aide, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, at a meeting in June 2020 [Image credit:]


After an announcement in December 2020, the Pakistani government has renewed a commitment to protect minorities and promote religious tolerance with the appointment of a special aide to advise Prime Minister Imran Khan on interreligious matters.

Acknowledging a need to restrain the abuse of “blasphemy” laws and protect all victims of false accusation, as well as Christians and other religious minorities from forced marriage to Muslims and forced conversions, the government has appointed Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East.

Ashrafi is a respected Muslim scholar and Chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC). Ulema (or Alim, singular) refers to those considered the most authoritative scholars and religious teachers in Islam including theologians, Islamic law interpreters and officials (mufti), Islamic judges (qadis), and professors.

Within the country, Ashrafi encouraged new and open dialogue on issues including terrorism, extremism, corruption and electoral reforms. A national meeting of leaders representing all religions groups within Pakistan is to take place in early March, inviting discussion and ideas that will contribute to improving government policies for minorities.

Significant stance taken against second-class status of Christians

In a significant statement, Ashrafi affirmed that minorities living in Pakistan are “not second-class citizens” and guaranteed that they will be protected under the rights and privileges enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan.

Christians are often despised by the majority-Muslim population in Pakistan and referred to as “sweepers” or Chuhra as a term of derision. This is partly because most of the Christian population in Pakistan today are descended from “untouchable” people who formed the lowest level of Punjab society and were seen as inferior and “unclean”. Most Christians today in Pakistan are confined to low-paid menial jobs such as street sweeping and latrine cleaning.

Another factor is that Christians and Jews living as minorities under Islam are also deemed to have second-class status in accordance with classical Islamic concept of dhimmi. Dhimmi are considered inferior to Muslims, but are allowed to live and practise their faith so long as they submit themselves to the Islamic authorities and follow a number of demeaning and humiliating regulations including paying jizya, the traditional tax imposed on subjugated Jews and Christians by an Islamic state. This aspect of sharia is not enforced in Pakistan, but the general mindset of Christians being inferior to Muslims is very prevalent.

Grievance helpline set up to report false accusations of “blasphemy”

Ashrafi has already set up a grievance helpline to resolve complaints of false “blasphemy” accusations or any threats made on religious grounds. The grievance helpline is open to all citizens and Ashrafi especially urged non-Muslim minorities to register complaints about any threats they face that arise from freely practising their religion.

Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” laws are often used to make false accusations in order to settle personal grudges. Christians are especially vulnerable, as merely stating certain Christian beliefs can be construed as “blasphemy” against Islam or insulting to Muhammad, and the lower courts usually favour the testimony of Muslims, in accordance with sharia (Islamic law).

Among Ashrafi’s first tasks was the appointment of a network of Religious Harmony Council Conveners across the country who will work at a local level to promote tolerance between all religious groups. A central coordination centre has also been set up to address the misuse of “blasphemy” laws and any propaganda considered damaging to interreligious tolerance in Pakistan.

“No space” for forced marriages and forced conversions in Islam says aide

According to Ashrafi, there is "no space for forceful conversions and underage forceful marriages in Islam". At a youth conference in Peshawar, Ashrafi stated that complaints of forced marriages and conversions will be “probed case by case”. “Daughters of minorities are as respected and honoured as other daughters of the nation,” said the aide.

Non-Muslim girls and young women in Pakistan are frequently kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam before marrying a Muslim, but the authorities rarely intervene. It has been estimated that every year several hundred Christian girls, as well as a smaller number of Hindu girls, suffer such abuse.


Iran Raps Netanyahu for Resorting to Bigoted Lies to Promote Iranophobia



TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian foreign ministry lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for raising allegations against Iran, saying he has now resorted to "bigoted lies" to conjure Iranophobia.


“Angry at losing his dupe in the White House, Netanyahu resorts to bigoted lies to conjure racist Iranophobia,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh wrote on his twitter page on Wednesday. 

He said that irked by the failure of his plots against Iran, which has opposed the regime’s occupation and oppressive policies, Netanyahu is now seeking in vain to demonize Iran.  

“It must really hurt that his anti-Iran plots have come to naught yet again,” Khatibzadeh said, adding, “From saving Jews to opposing occupation, Iran has always fought oppressors. History doesn't lie.” 

The remarks came a day after Netanyahu, a major influence on former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran accord in 2018, said Israel will not rely on efforts to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

“With or without an agreement, we will do everything so [Iran isn’t] armed with nuclear weapons,” he added. 

Israel's allegations against Iran comes as the Tel Aviv regime is widely believed to be the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Israel maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity over its nuclear work and has defied calls to put its atomic activities under the surveillance of the UN nuclear watchdog. 

Trump, who described himself as the most Israeli friendly US president ever, withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in may 2018, in a move criticized by the international community but embraced by Israel. 

Iran fully remained committed to the JCPOA for a year even after the US withdrawal, its reimposition of sanctions and its threats against others that they should follow US suit or face punitive measures. 

In response to the US measures, Iran took a series of steps in May 2019 to gradually suspend some of its commitments based on the legal mechanism stipulated in Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.

In its latest move, Iran announced on Tuesday that it had suspended implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, which allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out short-notice inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities, after the US failed to lift the sanctions by a deadline of February 23 set by Tehran. 

Despite a halt to the implementation of the Additional Protocol, Iran has pointed out that it will keep implementing its commitments under the NPT Safeguards Agreements and will continue cooperation with the IAEA.


Indian coast guard rescue 81 Rohingya refugees adrift at sea, 8 dead

FEB 26, 2021

India's coast guard found 81 survivors and eight dead on a boat crammed with Muslim Rohingya refugees adrift in the Andaman Sea, and were repairing the vessel so that it can return safely to Bangladesh, Indian officials said on Friday.

The Indian government was in discussions with Bangladesh to agree for the safe return of the vessel, which was found drifting in international waters, having left southern Bangladesh about two weeks ago with hopes of reaching Malaysia.

Many of the survivors, according to Indian officials, were sick and suffering from extreme dehydration, having run out of food and water after the boat's engine failed four days after leaving Cox's Bazar, where refugee camps house hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled neighbouring Myanmar.

"The engine of the boat broke down earlier this week and we received a SOS from some Rohingyas, " said an Indian coast guard official overseeing the search and rescue effort from New Delhi.

"It's a humanitarian crisis and we are doing the best we can to save their lives," he said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

"The foreign ministry is working towards sending them back to Bangladesh and India will repair or replace the boat's engine to ensure they can travel back safely," he said.

The survivors were being provided with food supplies and medicine, and women and children have been given fresh clothes. It was unclear what arrangements were being made for the funeral rites of the people who perished, he added.

Giving news that the boat had been found, India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday two Indian coast guard ships were dispatched to search for the boat following urgent calls for help.

The United Nations refugee agency had raised the alarm earlier this week over the missing boat, which had left Cox's Bazar on Feb. 11.

Of the 90 people that had set out on the voyage, eight were found dead, and one was missing, Srivasta said. Talks were underway with Bangladesh for the safe return of the 81 survivors, he added.

"Bangladesh is respectful of its international obligations under the UNCLOS (The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)," Bangladesh's foreign ministry said in a statement.

On earlier occasions when other littoral countries of the region repeatedly denied access to Rohingya adrift at sea, it was the Bangladesh that came to the rescue, the ministry added.

More than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are living in crowded camps in Bangladesh, including tens of thousands who fled after Myanmar's military conducted a deadly crackdown in 2017.

Human traffickers often lure Rohingya refugees, promising them work in Southeast Asian nations.

The Bangladesh statement said the boat had been traced approximately 1,700 km (1,056 miles) away from Bangladesh and 147 km (91 miles) from India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

"Other states, particularly those on whose territorial water the vessel has been found, bear the primary responsibility and they should fulfil their obligation under international law and burden-sharing principle," the ministry said.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out refugee rights and state responsibilities to protect them. Nor does it have a domestic law protecting refugees, though it currently hosts more than 200,000, including some Rohingya.

While India diplomats sought ways to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the Andaman Sea, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind was set to visit islands there during coming days.


US urges India, Pakistan to hold direct talks on Kashmir; welcomes joint statement on LoC ceasefire

Anwar Iqbal

February 26, 2021

In its first statement on occupied Kashmir, the Biden administration has urged India and Pakistan to hold direct talks on the issue, and welcomed an agreement between the two neighbours to de-escalate tensions along the Line of Control (LoC).

Both India and Pakistan announced on Thursday that their senior military commanders have agreed to strictly observe all agreements, understandings and ceasefire along the LoC and other sectors, with effect from midnight on Wednesday.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price mentioned this agreement in his opening statement at the Thursday afternoon news briefing.

“We welcome the joint statement between India and Pakistan that the two countries have agreed to maintain strict observance of a ceasefire along the LoC starting immediately," he said.

“We encourage continued efforts to improve communication between the two sides and to reduce tensions and violence along the LoC,” he added.

His statement prompted journalists to ask: “To what extent, if any, did the United States play a role in helping broker this new ceasefire agreement?”

Media representatives also recalled that when US President Joe Biden was the vice president in the Obama administration, he had a very warm relationship with Pakistan and saw Islamabad as a vital partner in the war in Afghanistan.

The journalists wanted to know how Biden’s previous closeness to Pakistan would impact his policy towards the country now when he was the president.

They also wanted to know how this would interplay with his relationship with India.

“When it comes to the US role, we continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern,” said the State Department spokesman while responding to these queries.

“And […] we certainly welcome the arrangement that was announced” in the region, he added.

Price said that he and other officials of the Biden administration have been urging the two neighboring countries to reduce their tensions since Jan 20, when Biden took oath as the new US president.

“You’ve heard me say from this podium and others from this administration say that we had called on the parties to reduce tensions along the LoC by returning to that 2003 ceasefire agreement,” he said.

“We have been very clear that we condemn the terrorists who seek to infiltrate across the LoC.”

Asked how this effort to “stay neutral” between India and Pakistan would affect the Biden administration’s policies towards Islamabad, Price said: “Pakistan is an important partner with whom we share many interests. We, as I said, have been clear in terms of this issue.”

The US official also referred to Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace talks, as Washington expects Islamabad to stay engaged with the Taliban for restoring peace to the war-ravaged country.

“So clearly, we will be paying close attention, and we urge the Pakistanis to play a constructive role in all of these areas of mutual interest, including in Afghanistan, including with Kashmir, including with our other shared interests,” he said.

Pakistan played a key role in arranging a peace deal between the Taliban and the Trump administration, signed in Doha in February last year.

The Biden administration has said that it respects the deal but needs more time to study its features.

This has been interpreted as indicating that Biden may not fulfill the Trump administration’s pledge to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by May 1.

This could further complicate Pakistan’s role as a mediator because the Taliban want all foreign troops to leave as agreed. Any delay in the withdrawal could further harden their attitude towards the Kabul government.

Last week, the United Nations and the United States both condemned the Taliban for increasing their attacks on Afghan government targets, making it clear that this level of violence was unacceptable to the international community.

After a virtual meeting, the US-led Nato alliance also sent a similar message to Taliban leaders who continue to demand a complete withdrawal by May 1.

Underling Pakistan’s role in this complex process, the State Department spokesman said: “Obviously, Pakistan has an important role to play when it comes to Afghanistan and what takes place across its other border.”

UN Charter outlaws use of force, Pakistan reminds UNSC

Meanwhile, a statement Pakistan made at an informal UN forum indicated that Islamabad had concerns about a major Indian aggression along the LoC before their military commanders reached an understanding to reduce tensions.

The statement caused political observers in Washington to speculate that the US and other major players were aware of and might have played a role in reducing tensions between South Asia’s two nuclear-armed neighbors.

Pakistan used the Arria Formula, an informal arrangement, to convey the alarming message hours before senior military commanders from both countries agreed to strictly observe all agreements and understandings.

The Arria formula, named after a former Venezuelan ambassador to the UN, was used in March 1992 to draw the world’s attention to the situation in Bosnia.

Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram began his briefing with a reminder to the UNSC members that the purpose of the UN Charter was to outlaw the resort to war.

“Unfortunately, today the resort to unauthorised and unilateral use of force is most visible in [...] foreign occupation and intervention; in denial of the right of self-determination; in the coercion of smaller and weaker States,” Ambassador Akram said.

“Pakistan faces cross border attacks by terrorist groups from the territory of the neighboring state supported by a third state.”

“Pakistan,” the envoy said, “has respected the territorial sovereignty of its neighboring states but we have the right to self-defence against the state which is sponsoring these terrorist attacks against Pakistan.”

Ambassador Akram also underlined a disturbing trend of exploiting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States to justify aggression against others.

“It is regrettable that after 9/11 the fight against international terrorism has been utilised to justify the unilateral use of force and foreign intervention,” he said.

“The use of force in self-defence is limited to repelling an armed attack. It does not cover ‘future’ or ‘anticipated’ attacks. The concept of ‘preventive’ or ‘anticipatory’ use of force is contrary to the UN Charter and illegal," he said.

How was the agreement reached?

The outcome of the conversation between the directors general military operations of the two countries, held after a long time, was significant, but people were curious about knowing how the two sides reached this point.

With no convincing explanation coming either from Islamabad or Delhi, diplomatic observers believed that it was a result of some backchannel talks that may have been at work. But who were involved in it?

Sources say it had been taking place between the intelligence agencies of the two countries with the blessings of the respective military leaderships. Almost everyone agrees that not many people were in the loop on both sides.

In India it was rumoured that Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was involved in the backchannel dialogue from his side. Some Indian media organisations speculated that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Moeed Yusuf was the person on the Pakistani side.

Yusuf, however, through a tweet denied that he was part of any backchannel talks. He tweeted: “No such talks have taken place between me and Doval.”

In another tweet, he said the agreement resulted through DGMOs dialogue was “done privately and professionally through the direct channel.”

In an audio clip that earlier in the day made rounds on social media, Yusuf could be heard saying: “These things happen behind the scenes. A lot of effort goes into it. Do you think this happened without effort and without pressure.”

Yusuf had in an interview with Karan Thapar in October 2020, which was the first by a Pakistani official with any Indian media since annexation of occupied Kashmir by India in August 2019, said India had sent message expressing desire for talks.

It should also be recalled that Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had in two statements earlier this month made gesture for resolving tensions. Speaking at the PAF Academy, he said: “It is time to extend hand of peace in all directions.”

Another significance of the agreement is that the Pakistan government engaged with India despite setting the conditions that it would not do so until and unless India cancelled the annexation of occupied Kashmir and ended the human rights violations there.


Report: US bombs Iraq’s anti-terror fighters on Biden’s order

26 February 2021

The US says President Joe Biden ordered military airstrikes against facilities belonging to anti-terror resistance groups on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby told reporters that Biden authorized the strikes on Thursday, allegedly destroying multiple facilities at a border control point used by Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters, including members of Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada groups.

Kirby claimed that the strikes were in response to recent attacks against American and allied personnel in Iraq.

A rocket attack on Feb. 15 on the airport in Erbil, in northern Iraq, allegedly killed a Filipino contractor with the US military and wounded six others.

Another salvo hit a base hosting US forces north of Baghdad days later. At least one contractor was hurt as a result. American officials said Thursday’s strikes were relatively small and carefully calibrated.

In the US attack, however, seven 500-pound bombs were reportedly dropped on a cluster of buildings at the Syria-Iraq border.

A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, claimed the United States did not want to escalate the situation into a bigger conflict.

The official said Biden was presented with a range of options and one of the most limited responses was allegedly chosen.

Over the week, numerous reports had emerged about unusual movements by US troops near the border between Iraq and Syria.

A report on Monday said swarms of helicopter gunships and drones were flying over al-Anbar. Iraq's al-Maloumah news agency cited an unnamed security source as saying that the unusual overflights above al-Qa’im District extended as far as the border with Syria.

US troops are based across the border in al-Tanf in Syria, where militants fighting the Syrian government are reportedly trained and armed and used for operations in Iraq and elsewhere.

Over the years, there have been numerous reports about the infiltration of Daesh elements from Syria into Iraq under the protection and logistical assistance of US troops.

Hashd al-Sha'abi and its affiliates, which have been integrated into Iraq's regular forces, are deployed on the Syrian border and helping the army to stem the movement of terrorists between the two countries.

Suspicious attacks, supposedly against US targets but often with little impact, have escalated over the past year, especially since the Iraqi parliament passed a law that mandated a full withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country.

Experts say the rise in terrorist activities is apparently aimed at creating a sense of insecurity in Iraq and providing a pretext for the US to keep its troops in the country.

Since late 2019, the United States has carried out strikes against anti-terror Kata'ib Hezbollah resistance group in Iraq and Syria.

On January 3 last year, Iran's legendary commander General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were targeted along with their companions in a terror drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport.

On January 8, 2020, Iran targeted the US-run Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq’s western province of Anbar with a volley of missiles. Iran has described the missile attack on Ain al-Assad air base as a “first slap.”

‘US transferring Daesh terrorists to al-Tanf base’

Syria’s official news agency SANA on Thursday reported that US military forces plan to transport a new batch of imprisoned Daesh terrorists from the northeastern Syrian province of Hasakah to the al-Tanf military base near the border with Jordan.

Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said US military vehicles entered a prison at the southern flank of Hasakah, and left shortly with 10 jailed Daesh terrorists, among them commanders, on board.

The sources said military helicopters flew overhead as the vehicles headed to the US base in al-Shaddadi town.

The sources went on to say that the Daesh prisoners would undergo medical checkups at the base, before being sent to al-Tanf base and trained to carry out attacks against Syrian army positions, roads as well as critical infrastructures.

In a meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad earlier this month, Iranian Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeisi said the United States was relocating Daesh terrorists from their former bastions in Syria and Iraq under the guise of fighting terror.

“While Iraq, Syria, Iran and regional countries are working together to eliminate the remnants of Daesh, the Americans do nothing but relocate the Daesh terrorists in the region,” Raeisi added.

The Syrian army has the backing of Iran, Russia and Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement in its battle against a host of foreign-backed militant groups, which have been wreaking havoc on the country since 2011.

Syrian government troops and their allies have managed to retake roughly 80 percent of the war-ravaged Arab country’s territory from the Takfiri terrorists.

The Syrian army is fighting to drive out the remaining terrorists, but the presence of US and European forces and Turkish troops has slowed down its advances.  

Inhuman US-led sanctions

Separately, Syria’s new Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Bassam Sabbagh, said the Damascus government is providing humanitarian services to people despite the daunting challenges of combat against terrorism, Western sanctions as well as Israeli occupation and acts of aggression.

Sabbagh stressed that the politicization of the Syria humanitarian crisis has increased the sufferings of people in the war-ravaged country, and that reports presented to the Security Council have helped some states deviate the world public opinion from addressing the root causes of the degrading humanitarian situation in Syria.

“Any report or briefing submitted to the Security Council will be erroneous and misleading as long as it turns a blind eye to the crimes being perpetrated by terror groups in Syria,” Sabbagh said at the Council’s virtual session on Thursday.

The diplomat underlined that Western sanctions against his country have prevented Syrians from acquiring their basic commodities.

“These illegal measures represent a flagrant violation of the international law and constitute a collective punishment of Syrians as recognized by the UN itself,” Sabbagh highlighted.

He condemned what he termed as Ankara’s Turkification process in northern Syria regions, and protection of Takfiri terrorist groups to desecrate properties, and loot crude oil fields in addition to agricultural crops.

Sabbagh added that the United States and its allied militants exploit Syria’s natural resources, smuggle them abroad and obstruct humanitarian access to al-Rukban refugee camp near the border with Jordan.

He called on Western countries to take back their nationals, who have joined the Daesh terrorist group, and assume their legal obligations and responsibilities.


COVID-19 pandemic inequalities favor ‘terrorism’: Jordan’s King Abdullah

26 February ,2021

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Thursday inequalities and the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic created fertile ground for the flourishing of “terrorism.”

“Directing our attention and resources to counter the pandemic has taken away from our focus on fighting terrorism and extremism... although the battle may be won, the war is not yet over,” Abdullah said in a speech for an online conference held by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think-tank.

“Rising inequalities and emerging crises caused by the pandemic will fuel the recruitment efforts” of jihadist groups, he added.

He cited examples including al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The conference brought together leaders and experts to discuss priorities for the new US administration of President Joe Biden in the Middle East and North Africa.

Abdullah also spoke of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which abuts Jordan, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Occupation and peace simply cannot coexist,” he said.

“There is no alternative to the two-state solution,” which would see a viable Palestinian state created alongside Israel, he added.

“Continued unilateral steps will only kill the prospects of peace.”


Germany bans IS-glorifying Salafist Muslim group

February 25, 2021

BERLIN: German authorities carried out raids in several locations in Berlin and Brandenburg today after banning a Berlin Salafist Muslim group, police said.

Berlin’s senate department for interior affairs today said it had banned a “jihad-salafist” association Jama’atu Berlin, also known as Tauhid Berlin, and that police had undertaken the raids, without giving further details.

German newspaper Tagesspiegel said the group glorified “Islamic State” fighting on the internet and called for the killing of Jews, adding that criminal proceedings were pending against some of its members.

The newspaper added that the group had contact with Anis Amri, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker with Islamist links, who hijacked a truck and drove it into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people in 2016.

Salafists – strict Sunni Muslims – include peaceful private people, activists seeking the implementation of Sharia law and militants advocating violence to establish states they might regard as representing true Islam.

The number of Salafists had risen in Germany to an all-time high of 12,150 in 2019, Germany’s domestic intelligence said in its annual report last year, listing them among “Islamist extremists”.

It said the number of Salafists had more than tripled since 2011 and that the Salafist scene in Germany was going through a consolidation stage, adding that followers were keeping a low profile in public.



Southeast Asia


Malaysia consulted world’s leading Muslim ulamas on Covid-19 vaccination, says Islamic affairs minister

Friday, 26 Feb 2021

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — Malaysia has obtained the views and explanations of the world's leading Muslim scholars or ulama on the fatwa of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) Senator Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said he had sent letters to several scholars over the matter, including the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Egypt Mufti Shawki Allam and Chairman of the Fatwa Council of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah Ben Bayyah.

"On average, they issued a fatwa of referring to the experts (in health) to ensure that this vaccine (Covid-19 vaccine) is safe and halal to use.

"One of the conditions of the fatwa is also to refer to experts (in their specialised fields)," he said when appearing on an Islamic affairs forum broadcast live on TV 1 yesterday.

The forum featured nine panelists comprising muftis, university lecturers, preachers and physicians.

Meanwhile, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) senior lecturer Assoc Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Izhar Ariff Mohd Kashim said there were three important aspects to determine whether something was halal (permissible) or haram (illegal), and this included referring to experts in the related fields if there was no clear evidence in the Quran and hadith.

"Besides that, it should also be studied on whether the vaccine contains sources from animals that are not slaughtered, or some other substances that can cause harm.

"In this regard, studies and experts in the field of health, namely the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MoH) have denied that it (vaccine) contains any of them," he said.

Meanwhile, Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said the Prophet Muhammad during his time also referred some of his companions to physicians for treatment.

"Prophet Muhammad would refer (the companions) to the physician Al-Harith ibn Kaladah, even though he was not a Muslim," he said. — Bernama


SIS hails ‘important’ court decision for LGBTQ community

February 26, 2021

PETALING JAYA: A women’s group has hailed the Federal Court’s ruling that a shariah law on unnatural sex was unconstitutional, calling it “important and significant” for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

Sisters In Islam (SIS) said this was because the community was still not accepted by the public at large and often victimised by authorities, including those from religious departments.

“The persecution by religious enforcers under shariah laws has led to discrimination, violence and injustice during raids at homes and at hotels,” it said in a statement, citing the case of two women who were publicly flogged in Terengganu for attempting lesbian sex.

SIS said the community found it difficult to obtain the services of lawyers as offences under which they were arrested for were religious in nature.

Because of this, it said, they would choose to plead guilty to avoid shame if they were tried under Islamic laws in court.

“The LGBTQ community is also receiving negative comments from enforcers which sometimes make them more susceptible to violence. This leads to stigmatisation and discrimination,” it said.

Yesterday, the Federal Court ruled that the Selangor state legislature was incompetent to pass a shariah law that makes it an offence to engage in unnatural sex because the offence was already on the Federal List.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who chaired a nine-member bench, said the primary power to enact criminal laws lies with Parliament.

She said Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995, which allows for punishment for unnatural sex, was unconstitutional.

SIS went on to say that this decision was not an affront to Islam or to the royal institution.

It said Islamic laws enacted by any government were not divine in nature. This was because it was based on the interpretation and understanding of the Quran by men.

“Therefore, any amendment or review of Islamic laws does not equate to demeaning the religion,” it said.


Non-Muslim wedding ceremonies allowed in non-EMCO areas

February 26, 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: Marriage ceremonies for non-Muslims can be held at the National Registration Department (JPN), places of worship and non-Muslim religious association premises in areas under the movement control order (MCO), conditional MCO (CMCO) and recovery MCO (RMCO) from today.

However, marriage ceremonies in areas placed under enhanced MCO (EMCO) are still not allowed.

JPN said the decision was made to enable non-Muslim marriage ceremonies put off during the MCO 2.0 period to be conducted.

In a statement, it said the decision was made at a Minister of Defence Technical Committee meeting chaired by Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

It said the standard operating procedures for marriage registrations at JPN include a maximum of 10 people, including the registrar.

For marriage ceremonies at places of worship and religious associations, the number of guests must not exceed 10 in MCO areas, 20 people in CMCO areas and 30 in RMCO areas.

“However, the SOPs are subject to the size of the premises,” it said.

JPN also said no social events are allowed during marriage registrations and gatherings are subject to the instructions of the National Security Council (MKN).

Details on the SOPs may be found on MKN’s website at or JPN’s website at


Non-Muslims will pay heavier price for sodomy, says Federal Court

V Anbalagan

February 25, 2021

PUTRAJAYA: Non-Muslims will be discriminated against and are likely to get stiff penalties for sodomy under the Penal Code while Muslims will get a lighter punishment, the Federal Court said in explaining its decision today to rule as unconsitutional a shariah enactment by Selangor.

Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed said the discrimination would be wrong as every person must enjoy equal protection of the law under Article 8 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

Further, he said, that Article also provided that there should be no discrimination against citizens on religious grounds.

Azahar said this militated the arguments against the co-existence of Section 28 of Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 and Section 377 of the Penal Code for sodomy, each with distinct punishments.

Azahar said this in his concurrent judgment after the bench earlier allowed a 35-year-old Muslim man’s declaration that Section 28 is unconstitutional as the Selangor state legislature is incompetent to pass the law that makes it an offence to engage in unnatural sex.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who chaired a nine-member bench, had said the primary power to enact criminal laws lies with Parliament.

On Aug 21, 2019, the chief sharie prosecutor filed a charge under the provision against the man in the Selangor shariah high court.

The man is said to have attempted to commit sexual intercourse against the order of nature with other male persons at a house in Selangor on Nov 9, 2018.

The man claimed trial and the proceedings were stayed pending the outcome of his constitutional challenge in the Federal Court.

Azahar said from the facts of the case, the petitioner was a Muslim man and attempted to commit sexual intercourse against the order of nature with certain other male persons, who included three non-Muslims.

“If the shariah court were to decide that the petitioner is guilty as charged, the maximum sentence that can be imposed is imprisonment not exceeding three years, a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or whipping not exceeding six strokes, or any combination thereof,” he said.

He said Section 28 is also not applicable to the non-Muslims and the shariah court has no jurisdiction over them and they can only be prosecuted in the civil court.

He said Section 377 of the Penal Code, which is applicable to them, carries a jail term of up to 20 years and also a fine or whipping.

Males aged below 50 can be caned up to 24 times.

Azahar said it was hard to deny that a non-Muslim would be discriminated against and a Muslim would benefit from a lesser sentence for a substantially similar offence under the provision.

Others on the bench were Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Federal Court judges Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Nallini Pathmanathan, Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Hasnah Mohammed Hashim.


After landmark ruling on Selangor ‘unnatural sex’ offence, lawyers say now clear Parliament has primacy for criminal law

25 Feb 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — The Federal Court has today made it clear that Parliament has primacy when it comes to making laws on criminal offences in Malaysia, lawyers representing a Malaysian Muslim man in the case said.

In a joint statement by lawyers Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Surendra Ananth, they noted that the Federal Court’s nine-judge panel chaired by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat had unanimously ruled in favour of their client by declaring Section 28 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 as void for being unconstitutional.

Section 28 makes it a Shariah offence for “any person” performing “sexual intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”, with the punishment being a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a maximum three-year jail term or a maximum whipping of six strokes or any combination.

The order sought by the man and granted by the Federal Court today is for a declaration that Section 28 is invalid on the grounds that it makes provision with respect to a matter which the Selangor state legislature has no power to make laws on and is therefore null and void.

In this case, a key issue was whether Section 28 was invalid as the Selangor state legislature has no powers to make laws on a matter that falls under the federal government’s powers via Parliament to make laws on instead.

Both Imtiaz and Surendra noted that the Federal Court’s decision today was that the power of state legislatures to make laws on offences against the precepts of Islam is limited to matters that do not fall under Parliament’s powers, and that this was even if Parliament had yet to make such laws.

“The court concluded that under the Constitution, it is Parliament that has primacy over criminal law.

“Though the State Legislative Assemblies can enact offences against the precepts of Islam, that legislative power does not extend to matters that Parliament can make criminal law over under the Federal List.

“This serves to limit the power of the State Legislative Assembly to enact offences against the precepts of Islam. To be clear, that preclusion applies as long as Parliament can make criminal law on the subject and is not confined to where Parliament has made law,” the lawyers explained.

The lawyers were referring to the Federal Constitution’s Ninth Schedule’s List I and List II or the Federal List and State List, which separately list what the federal government via Parliament and state governments via state legislative assemblies can make laws on.

The State List states that state legislative assemblies can make laws on Islamic law, including the “creation and punishment of offences by persons professing the religion of Islam against precepts of that religion, except in regard to matters included in the Federal List”.

The phrase “except in regard to matters included in the Federal List” in the Federal Constitution has been described as a “preclusion clause” in this court case, which in other words acts to exclude state legislatures from making state laws on matters that fall under Parliament’s jurisdiction in the Federal List.

“In this way, the court has clarified that the State Legislative Assembly can only enact purely religious offences. Such offences fall within the jurisdiction of the Shariah courts.

“In this way, the court has addressed the misconception that there are, in effect, two parallel systems of criminal law of equal standing.

“The court has clarified that there is one system of general criminal law, applicable to all persons, and another system of purely religious law in which offences can only relate to matters of religion. This will ensure that the law is applied without discrimination,” the two lawyers further said when explaining the separate grounds of judgment by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun and Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed.

Among other things, it was noted by the Federal Court that Parliament had already made laws on the same offence of unnatural sex in Section 28, via provisions such as Sections 377 and Section 377A of the Penal Code which is a federal law.

Among other things, Justice Azahar did not agree that federal and state laws on unnatural sex could co-exist, noting that this was because of the Federal Constitution’s Article 8 which provides for equal protection of the law and non-discrimination against Malaysians.

Justice Azahar had pointed out that Section 28 of the Selangor state law which only applies to Muslims is punishable by a maximum sentence of jail up to three years, fine up to RM5,000, or whipping up to six strokes or any combination, while the Penal Code’s Section 377A is punishable with a maximum jail term of up to 20 years and also fine or whipping.

With Article 8 of the Federal Constitution providing for all persons to be equal before the law and no discrimination against citizens only on grounds such as religion, the judge had said it would be hard to deny that a non-Muslim would be discriminated in such a situation as a Muslim would have the benefit of a lesser sentence for a substantially similar offence.

Justice Azahar said this was among the reasons why he concluded that Section 28 is invalid as it was ultra vires or went beyond the Federal Constitution, noting that the state legislature had no power to make law via Section 28 on the unnatural sex offence and that only Parliament could enact such a law.

A simplified version of what the Federal Court decided today and why it arrived at such a decision can be read here. Both the grounds of judgment by Justice Tengku Maimun and Justice Azahar were fully agreed to by all the other judges on the Federal Court’s nine-member panel.

Other lawyers who represented the Muslim man were Honey Tan Lay Ean and Tay Kit Hoo. The name of the Muslim man is being withheld on the request of his lawyers, who had previously highlighted the risks and danger posed if he was to be named publicly.

Later when asked by Malay Mail on what would happen to the Shariah trial against the Muslim man following the Federal Court’s decision today, Surendra said that the Shariah charge under Section 28 should be dropped by the prosecution.

“Prosecution should now withdraw the charge. As for the judicial review in High Court, we will wait on the status of the charge in the Shariah court,” he said.

In August 2019, the Malaysian Muslim man was charged in the Selangor Shariah High Court under Section 28 of the 1995 Selangor state law read together with Section 52 for attempted offences, where he was alleged to have in November 2018 in a house in Bandar Baru Bangi attempted to commit sexual intercourse against the order of nature with other men. Justice Azahar today noted that the charge sheet had said the other men included three non-Muslims.

Surendra confirmed today that both the Shariah trial and judicial review proceedings have been put on hold while waiting for the Federal Court decision today.

Surendra confirmed that the Shariah trial had yet to start and with only the Shariah charge read out with a plea of not guilty recorded so far.

After the Muslim man was charged with and pleaded not guilty and claimed trial in August 2019 in the Shariah court on the offence of unnatural sex under Section 28, he had filed two separate constitutional challenges in the civil courts to challenge the validity of the Section 28 provision that was used to charge him.

The first challenge filed on November 20, 2019 at the High Court was for leave for judicial review against the Selangor chief Shariah prosecutor and the Selangor government, with several court orders sought including declarations that Section 28 is invalid for going against the Federal Constitution.

As part of the judicial review application, the man had also sought a court order to prohibit the continuing of Shariah proceedings against him; and court orders to quash the decision to charge him in the Shariah court and to quash the Shariah trial against him.

The High Court had in January 2020 granted leave or permission for the judicial review proceeding to be heard, but the High Court has not heard the actual judicial review application yet due to the need to wait for the Federal Court decision.

As for the second challenge which was filed on November 28, 2019 by the Muslim man, he had applied directly to the Federal Court to refer the issue of Section 28’s constitutional validity for the country’s highest court to decide.

The application was made via Article 4(4) of the Federal Constitution, where constitutional challenges against the validity of any laws — on the basis that such laws were made by Parliament or by state legislatures when they had no power to do so or when it does not fall under their respective jurisdictions — can be brought directly to the Federal Court and requires a Federal Court judge’s leave to be heard.

The Federal Court granted leave on May 14, 2020 for the constitutional challenge to be heard, and on December 14, 2020 heard the case, which resulted in today’s decision.





Jharkhand: Married Muslim man held for ‘trying to lure’ Hindu woman

Feb 26, 2021

DUMKA: Police have arrested a married Muslim man here for allegedly trying to marry a 19-year-old Hindu girl. Following the incident, the local wing of RSS said it was a case of "love jihad" and demanded that the government frames a law against it.

The accused is identified as Tipu Sultan (30) of Dhawan Rampur villager under Palajori police station of Deoghar district. He was married and has two children. Sultan, however, faked his identity as one Satish Rai from Dhanbad and began wooing the girl from Patsimla village under Masanjor police station of Dumka district six months ago after meeting her at a local mall.

Masanjor police station officer-in-charge Vijay Kumar Singh said, “The accused was arrested on Wednesday night. He not only faked his identity but also claimed that he owns a petrol pump and the dealership of a popular milk brand to woo the girl, who is from a poor background. They exchanged mobile numbers on the first day of their meeting and developed a relationship.”

Singh further said Sultan had a physical relationship with the girl three months ago and came to her village on Wednesday to marry her.

He added, “A few alert villagers doubted his credentials and demanded to see his Aadhaar card, which he cannot produce. The villagers then alerted us leading to Sultan’s arrest. We have lodged a case under Section 417 (cheating) and Section 376 (rape) of the IPC.”

Meanwhile, Vikram Pandey, a senior functionary of the RSS said, “The arrest of Tipu Sultan is testimony to the urgency to implement a stringent law against the practice of attempts to convert Hindu girls to Islam through love jihad.”


Love jihad law in upcoming House session: Rupani at Godhra rally

February 26, 2021

The Gujarat government will bring in a law on “love jihad” in the forthcoming Assembly session, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said Thursday at a rally in Godhra. “It will not be tolerated now that a Hindu girl is being abducted by anybody. By the law on love jihad, the activity of religious conversion of girls by luring them will be checked,” Rupani said while listing his government’s initiatives for maintenance of law and order.

The remarks come after Rupani’s deputy Nitin Patel made similar comments at another rally in Ahmedabad.

At the Godhra rally, Rupani also targeted the Congress, saying that the stands exposed as even the Muslims have voted against it—referring to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections where the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen won seven seats.

“Muslims too have understood Congress. And in these elections, eight seats (sic) have been won by (Asaduddin) Owaisi’s party in Ahmedabad. Even Muslims now want to get free from Congress because (of its) vote bank politics. (It) saw people as votes and not as human beings,” the Chief Minister said.

Accusing the Congress of not serving the people during the pandemic, Rupani said a fate similar to the civic poll defeat awaited the party in the elections to the panchayats and nagarpalikas later this month.


UP court reserves order on plea for status quo in Shahi Idgah mosque premises

25th February 2021

MATHURA: A Mathura court has reserved its order on a plea that accuses the Shahi Idgah Masjid authorities of trying to remove the mosque's stone slabs and other structural material bearing Hindu religious inscriptions.

Senior Civil Judge Neha Banaudia reserved her order on the application seeking the court's directive for a status quo in the mosque premises before its examination by the court commissioner, said Mathura district government counsel Sanjai Ajai Gaur on Thursday.

The application was filed on Wednesday by advocate Mahendra Pratap Singh and four others and had accused the mosque management committee and Sunni Waqf Board authorities of trying to remove stone slabs and other structural materials of the mosque on Tuesday.

They had earlier moved the court seeking the appointment of a court commissioner to examine the mosque premises for the alleged presence of Hindu religion inscriptions on slabs and other structural material used to build the mosque close to the Katra Keshav Dev temple in Mathura.

The application for the appointment of a court commissioner is slated for hearing on March 9.

Advocate Singh along with his co-applicants had earlier moved the court for shifting the 17th-century mosque located near the temple which devotees believe to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna.


Kashmir: Mainstream parties, Hurriyat welcome Indo-Pak ceasefire

by Bashaarat Masood

February 26, 2021

Mainstream leaders in Kashmir have welcomed the joint statement by India and Pakistan announcing a ceasefire on the Line of Control.

“It is a welcome development that can end the death and destruction at the borders,” PDP chief and former CM Mehbooba Mufti told The Indian Express.

Mufti has been advocating dialogue between India and Pakistan for resolution of the Kashmir issue. “Ultimately, dialogue and reconciliation is the only way forward for peaceful resolution of issues between the two neighbours.”

National Conference president, MP and former CM Farooq Abdullah, too, welcomed the development, saying it will “go a long way towards sustainable peace”.

“I hope the agreement is followed in letter and spirit. The development, I sincerely believe, will allow people living alongside LoC and International Border to go about their normal lives with minimal disruption and risk,” he said. “The agreement, I believe, if followed by the book, will help advance the collaboration between the two neighbouring countries.”

Abdullah said he expects some forward movement in the dialogue process that would help the two countries resolve all issues. “I hope the development doesn’t go down as short-lived flutter but increases the possibility of some forward advancement towards the resolution of all impending issues lingering between the two neighbouring nations.”

Responding to the development, Peoples Conference president Sajad Lone tweeted that he was not being “negative”, adding, “They can play friend and enemies whenever they want. Wish we Kashmiris learn our lessons. And we won’t learn.”

Hurriyat Conference too has welcomed the announcement and called it a “move in the right direction”. “Just as the joint statement correctly points out that in the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGsMO agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have propensity to disturb the peace and lead to violence, likewise, in the interest of mutually beneficial and sustainable peace in the entire region, Governments of India and Pakistan need to address the core concern of J&K in keeping with the aspirations of its people , which is the cause of conflict and violence in the region,” the Hurriyat, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said in a statement. “The talks are the best means to address this concern and we have always advocated it.”


Would be compelled to take pre-emptive strike when confronted by imminent terror attack: India at UN

FEB 25, 2021

India told a UN meeting that a country would be compelled to undertake a “pre-emptive strike” when confronted by an "imminent armed attack” from a non-state actor operating in a third state, as it highlighted several proxy cross-border terror attacks, including one in Pulwama, perpetrated against it from its neighbourhood, a clear reference to Pakistan.

India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador K Nagaraj Naidu said at an Arria Formula meeting organised by Mexico that non-state actors such as terrorist groups often attack states from remote locations within other host states, using the sovereignty of that host state as a “smokescreen”.

On this, a growing number of states believe that the use of force in self-defence against a non-state actor operating in the territory of another host state can be undertaken if the “non-state actor has repeatedly undertaken armed attacks against the State; the host state is unwilling to address the threat posed by the non-state actor; the host state is actively supporting and sponsoring the attack by the non-state actor,” he said.

“In other words, a state would be compelled to undertake a pre-emptive strike when it is confronted by an imminent armed attack from a non-state actor operating in a third state," he said on Wednesday.

"This state of affairs exonerates the affected state from the duty to respect, vis-a-vis the aggressor, the general obligation to refrain from the use of force,” Naidu said at the Arria Formula meeting.

The Arria Formula meetings are informal meetings of the Security Council, on ‘Upholding the collective security system of the UN Charter: the use of force in international law, non-state actors and legitimate self-defence’.

He noted that Security Council resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001) have formally endorsed the view that self-defence is available to avert terrorist attacks such as in the case of the 9/11 attacks.

On February 26, 2019, less than two weeks after 40 police personnel were killed in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir in a terror attack perpetrated by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed on February 14, India had conducted a pinpoint and swift airstrike in a pre-dawn operation, described as "non-military" and "preemptive", against the terror group’s biggest training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.

Then Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had said at the time that “credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary.”

Naidu told the informal meeting that India has been subject to cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by non-state actors with the active complicity of “another host state”, a clear reference to Pakistan.

He stressed that exercising self-defence is a nation’s primary right when a situation demands “immediate and proportionate action” and applies also to attacks by non-state actors.

“Some states are resorting to proxy war by supporting non-state actors such as terrorist groups to evade international censure. Such support to non-state actors has ranged from providing and equipping the terrorist groups with training, financing, intelligence and weapons to logistics and recruitment facilitation,” he said.

India for decades has been subject to such proxy cross-border and relentless state-supported terrorist attacks from its neighbourhood, he said.

"Whether it is was the 1993 Mumbai bombings, or the random and indiscriminate firings of 26/11 which witnessed the launch of the phenomenon of lone-wolves or more recently, the cowardly attacks in Pathankot and Pulwama, the world has been witness to the fact that India has repeatedly been targeted by such non-state actors with the active complicity of another host State,” Naidu said.

Naidu told the meeting that exercising self-defence is a primary right of States to be exercised when the situation is imminent and “demands necessary, immediate, and proportionate action” and that customary international law has long recognised the principles governing the use of force in self-defence.

He noted that Article 51 of the UN Charter is not confined to “self-defence” in response to attacks by states only.

"The right of self-defence applies also to attacks by non-state actors. In fact, the source of the attack, whether a state or a non-state actor, is irrelevant to the existence of the right of self-defence.”

Naidu stressed that India believes that instances where states have exercised the right of self-defense to attack non-state actors located in other states must be consistent with Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

But “preemptive actions taken to fight the menace of terrorism, even without the consent of the state hosting the non-state actors, meets this criterion because such actions are not of reprisal since their prime motive is for protecting the affected states’ national integrity and sovereignty,” he said.

Article 2(4) of the UN Charter states that “all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Noting that Article 2(4) of the UN Charter requires that states refrain from the use of force, he said the drafting history of Article 51 of the UN Charter and the relevant San Francisco Conference Report of June 1945 that considered Article 2(4) of the UN Charter mentions that “the use of arms in legitimate self-defence remains admitted and unimpaired.”

He added that Article 51 also explicitly acknowledges the pre-existing customary right of self-defence, as recognised by the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council by stating that “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence.”


Mamata govt forms 8-member board for Rajbanshi Muslims

Avijit Sinha, Main Uddin Chisti 


The Mamata Banerjee government has constituted a development board for Nasya Sheikhs or Rajbanshi Muslims with eight members.

The state backward classes’ welfare department constituted the West Bengal Nasya Sheikh Development Board with its headquarters in Cooch Behar through a notification on February 22.

The notification says the district magistrate of Cooch Behar will be the chairman of the board that has prominent faces of the community from different districts of north Bengal as the members. “It is a major development for us. We had been raising the demand for years and it is good that the state government has finally created the board that will carry out works for socio-economic development of the community,” said Bazlay Rehman, the chairman of Kamtapuri Bhasa Academy and a member of the board.

In the past few months, Nasya Sheikhs had vehemently raised the demand for the board.

“In fact, a section of them had made it clear that if the board was not announced ahead of the Assembly elections, they would rethink about supporting the Trinamul Congress. The new board can help Trinamul keep political forces like the AIMIM and Indian Secular Front at bay,” said an observer.

Around 35 lakh Nasya Sheikhs reside in the north Bengal districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, Malda, Alipurduar and Darjeeling.

“As a whole, the support of Rajbanshis determines the fate of candidates in almost half of the 54 Assembly seats in the region,” the observer said.


AMU student goes missing, cops trace location to Delhi

FEB 26, 2021

A final year Bachelor of Arts (BA) student from the department of foreign languages at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) went missing on Tuesday afternoon, said university officials. A missing case was registered at Civil Lines police station following which, a police team was sent to Delhi to look for the missing student.

“Ashraf Ali, 22, is from a village in Araria district of Bihar and is a final year student of Bachelor of Arts (BA) course. He was residing here in SS Hall South at Aligarh Muslim University,” said Prof Mohd Waseem Ali, proctor, AMU.

“He went missing since Tuesday around 3pm and was last seen by his colleagues and friends in Aligarh’s Shamshad Market but did not return to his room. His mobile was switched off since then. It was put on for merely 50 seconds on Tuesday and Wednesday night,” said the proctor.

“Family members of the student have been informed. It has been a matter of concern and with every passing day, the matter is becoming complicated,” said the proctor.

“It has come to our knowledge that the missing student was moved by road to Delhi,” said Kuldeep Singh Gunawat, superintendent of police (SP), Aligarh.

“We are in contact with the family members and have interacted with his friends in Aligarh. A police team has gone to Delhi to trace the student,” he added.


Riots, markaz wounds still raw, Chauhan Banger gets ready to vote in civic bypolls

By Risha Chitlangia

FEB 26, 2021

Two-hundred metres away from the Jafrabad Metro station, where stone pelting between the pro- and anti-CAA later snowballed into riots in northeast Delhi, campaigning for the municipal bypoll in the Chauhan Banger (ward no. 41E) is on in full swing.

While the candidates of three main political parties are focusing on local issues such as mending broken roads, building a new library, addressing parking problem, improving sanitation service, riots and the crackdown on the members of the Tablighi Jamaat for attending a congregation at the Nizamuddin Markaz in violation of the rules imposed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic also find frequent mention in the conversations.

Chauhan Banger with 40,000 voters is one of the five municipal wards where bypolls are scheduled on February 28. The bypoll was necessitated in the ward, as the sitting AAP councillor, Abdul Rehman, won the assembly election from Seelampur last year. Most of the people here are Muslims employed in household industries and run small mechanical workshops.

Although no violence was reported during the February riots from Chauhan Banger, locals recall the horror and fear which had gripped the area for days. Imamuddin Khan. 41, a resident of the ward, said, “We all were scared and didn’t step out for two days. I have been living here for nearly three decades, but I never saw such tension among people in the area.”

Some residents feel that the riots may have a bearing on the election outcome. Maulana Mohd. Daud Amini (58), rector of Madrasa Babul Uloom in Jafrabad, vividly remembers the events preceding the violence. Amini said, “There was an anti-CAA protest near this [Jafrabad] Metro station. Though no violence was reported, but there was an atmosphere of fear as police took a few young men for questioning.”

He alleged that Muslims also had to bear of the government’s action against the congregation at the Nizamuddin Markaz. Over 2,300 people were evacuated from the Markaz and taken to quarantine centres. Amini said, “The way the Markaz issue was handled, the community felt targeted. It is the poor people who bore the brunt of the incident. The fruits and vegetable vendors from the community found it difficult to earn their livelihood during the lockdown. The community is hurt as it was vilified. Though it has been a year, the two incidents are still fresh in minds of people.”

AAP candidate Mohd Ishraq Khan, a former MLA from Seelampur, said, “There is anger in the community. People talk about it when we meet them.”

Khan is pitted against Zubair Ahmad, son of Congress veteran and five-time MLA from Seelampur, Mateen Ahmed, and BJP’s Mohd Nazir Ansari, a local party worker who has been actively working with the minority wing of the party for over two decades.

Zubair said the Muslim community was angry over the way riots and the Markaz incident were handled. “While we are focusing only on development issues in our campaign, these issues do come up. The area needs sanitation services. The situation of essential services in the area has gone from bad to worse,” said Zubair, whose main promises include setting up a library and improving sanitation services in the area.

Ishraq Khan dismissed the allegations of the government “mishandling the riots and Markaz” issues. “Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the riot-affected areas and the government made all efforts to provide immediate relief to the victims. The Congress has no relevant issue to talk about.”

Hitting out at Zubair, Khan said, “His father represented the Seelampur constituency for over two decades, but he didn’t do anything. It is only after the AAP came to power that new schools and medical facilities were constructed here.”

The AAP is going all out to retain the ward, which it won in 2017. Environment minister Gopal Rai, who is also AAP’s Delhi unit convener, recently campaigned in the area. The new state Congress team has been working hard to revive the party and hoping for a favourable outcome. The BJP, which has never won any municipal election from this ward, is banking on the central government schemes such as PM-UDAY for giving ownership rights to residents of unauthorised colonies to garner support. Mohd Nazir Ansari said, “Our focus is just on development. The area has been ruled by Congress and AAP in the past but look at the conditions here. The Centre has announced several schemes for housing, better employment, ease of doing business, etc. We are telling people about it.”





FATF grey-listing cost Pakistan $38 billion: Report

Feb 26, 2021

NEW DELHI: Cash-strapped Pakistan has suffered a massive loss of $38 billion due to its grey-listing by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a research paper has found.

The findings of the paper ‘Bearing the cost of global politics - the impact of FATF grey-listing on Pakistan’s economy’ comes amid FATF's recent decision to keep Pakistan on its grey list following a review of its action plan items to curb terror financing.

The global body against terror financing on Thursday said that Pakistan will continue to remain on increased monitoring list as there are "serious deficiencies" in checking terror financing and the country lacks an effective system to deal with it.

The research paper, published by Islamabad-based think-tank Tabadlab, said that Pakistan's frequent grey-listing by FATF from 2008 to 2019 may have resulted in a cumulative GDP loss of $38 billion.

"A large proportion of this decline in GDP can be attributed to the reduction in household and government consumption expenditures, with real consumption in actual Pakistan $22 billion lower, relative to its counterfactual counterpart," the paper said.

It added that the greylisting has also led to lower levels of both exports and inward FDI.

The paper said that FATF sanctioning between 2012 and 2015 cost Pakistan approximately $13.43 billion.

It said that even though Pakistan saw itself out of the FATF’s crosshair in June 2015, it took a while for GDP to recover with an estimated loss of $1.54 billion in 2016.

"This implies that FATF sanctioning has short to medium run implications for the economy," it said.

The study further pointed out how Pakistan's removal from the grey list even led to the revival of its economy, which was evident from an increase in the level of GDP in 2017 and 2018.

It said that the removal from grey list in 2015 may have led to GDP gains in both 2017 and 2018. The paper observed that Pakistan saw its GDP rise marginally at $150 million in 2018, with the re-entry into the grey list wiping off most of the gains from the first half of the year.

The declining trend then continued in 2019, with the country losing a staggering $10.31 billion in 2019, the paper showed.

"The overall findings suggest that real GDP in Pakistan witnessed a cumulative decline of about $38 billion relative to synthetic Pakistan over 12 years (2008-2019) as a result of FATF’s grey-listing," the paper said.

Pakistan and FATF

Pakistan was placed on the "grey list" by the FATF in June, 2018 and was given a plan of action to be completed by October, 2019. Since then the country continues to be on that list due to its failure to comply with the FATF mandates.

Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put in the FATF grey list. This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money-laundering, terror-financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

It currently has 39 members, including two regional organisations — the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

India is a member of the FATF consultations and its Asia Pacific Group.


Pakistani lawmaker lambasted for Hindu goddess tweet

Feb 26, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s televangelist-turned-politician Aamir Liquat Hussain has been forced to apologise for his controversial act of using the image of Hindu deity to mock Maryam Nawaz, the vice-president of opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

Hussain has been a member of the national assembly of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from Karachi. On Tuesday, he had shared a screenshot of a news channel that quoted Maryam Nawaz, ex-PM Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, as saying, “They (government) will now see a second version of me.”

Husain posted the quote on Twitter with the image of a Hindu deity, likening it to Maryam’s “dusra roop (second version)”.

The move drew ire from a large number of politicians and netizens, condemning Hussain’s post, which he deleted on Wednesday evening. Later on that night, he also tendered an apology, saying the “sentiments of the Hindu community were hurt”. Hussain said he had not intended the tweet as a disrespect and had deleted the same. “I respect all faiths, this is what my religion has taught me,” he added.

Condemning Husain’s tweet, PTI’s Hindu MNA from Tharparkar in Sindh province, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also the chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, called it a “shameful act”.

“Strongly condemn this shameful act by someone who claims to be a religious scholar also but doesn’t know how to respect other religions. Delete this tweet immediately otherwise we reserve the right to demand strict action under the Blasphemy Act and protest across the country,” Vankwani posted on Twitter. He said Hussain’s post had not only hurt the sentiments of Hindus across the country but also created resentment among supporters of PTI.

Another PTI MNA from Umerkot in Sindh, Lal Chand Malhi, tweeted: “Strongly condemn the blasphemous act of Aamir Liaquat and appeal PM Imran Khan to take notice of this immoral act. No religion including Islam permits him to do such illogical acts.” He added that the tweet, in fact, exposed Husain’s “second version”.

Surendar Valasi, a provincial lawmaker of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from Tharparkar, issued a statement, alleging that PTI lawmakers like Husain had “lost their mental balance” and were using insulting language against their political rivals and the “weaker” communities of the country. He warned of a protest if an unconditional apology was not tendered by the “political clowns”.

Rights activist Kapil Dev requested Prime Minister Imran to take strong notice of the act by a lawmaker from his party. He said Husain had used a Hindu deity for political point-scoring. “Hindus are abused and their religious sentiments are hurt even by those sitting in the parliaments,” he said.


Fazl promises ‘big’ opposition surprise

February 26, 2021

PESHAWAR: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has claimed that the opposition parties will give the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf a big surprise in the upcoming Senate elections and secure the maximum seats.

“The opposition will give a big surprise and the PDM candidates will succeed in the Senate polls,” he told reporters here on Thursday.

Mr Fazl said the PDM’s steering committee met to develop consensus on the distribution of tickets and support each other’s candidates in the Senate elections.

He said the PDM would field joint candidates in the Senate polls.

The JUI-F chief, who is also the chairman of the 10-party alliance, said there was a possibility of converting the PDM into an electoral alliance for the next general elections.

He said the opposition parties, including JUI-F, didn’t accept the results of the by-elections in NA-45 (Kurram-I) and NA-75 (Daska) and demanded the Election Commission of Pakistan hold re-polling in both constituencies.

Mr Fazl said the by-poll results had been manipulated in Kurram and Daska areas and the Election Commission should take a realistic stand on it.

The JUI-F chief said members of the ECP staff were either too helpless to stop election rigging in those two constituencies or involved in it and therefore, the JUI-F didn’t accept the results.

He said the ECP had unearthed fraud and found 600 bogus applications for postal ballots in NA-45 but despite that, it allowed the ruling PTI’s candidate to contest the election.

Mr Fazl said the PTI nominee was declared winner in the by-election and the JUI-F had already approached the commission against him.

PTI candidate Fakhar Zaman won by-polls in Kurram, while JUI-F nominee Malik Jamil Chamkani was declared the runner-up.

The ECP has received around 600 applications for postal ballots from the police department for the NA-45 by-election. The inquiry found them all to be bogus with two applicants being dead, five abroad, several terminated and retired officials, and some, who quit voluntarily.

During the random checking of these applications, it was found that all applications had been forwarded by the deputy superintendent of police having a single return address of superintendent of police (investigation), Sadda.

Replying to question about the Supreme Court hearing into the presidential reference, Mr Fazl argued that parliament’s role began only if the Constitution was silent on any matter.

He said the judiciary could only interpret an article of the Constitution, so the apex court shouldn’t become party to the presidential reference.

When asked about the statement of PDM candidate Yusuf Raza Gilani about the neutrality of security establishment in the Senate elections, the JUI-F chief cautiously said: “If a candidate (Yusuf Raza Gilani) says that he has no evidence of the interference of the establishment, then we should not criticise any institution for no reason.”


PM Imran welcomes Sri Lankan govt's decision allowing Muslims to bury Covid-19 victims

February 26, 2021

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday welcomed the Sri Lankan government's decision to allow the burial of Covid-19 victims, days after the premier's visit to Colombo.

On February 10, Prime Minister Imran had lauded his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa's announcement that burials would be allowed. A day later, however, Rajapaksa backtracked and said there would be no change in the cremation-only policy.

The ban had sparked protests by Muslims who bury their dead in accordance with Islamic customs. The Muslim community in Sri Lanka had held a protest prior to Prime Minister Imran's visit, where they carried a mock janazah or coffin.

“Respect Prime Minister's statement and allow burials,” one banner at the protest read.

On February 25, a day after Prime Minister Imran concluded his two-day official visit to Colombo, the Sri Lankan government issued a notification saying that the order has been amended to allow both burial and cremation of people who died due to Covid.

"I thank the Sri Lankan leadership & welcome the Sri Lankan govt's official notification allowing the burial option for those dying of Covid 19," PM Imran said in a tweet posted today.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi too said that Pakistan was "grateful" to the leadership of Sri Lanka for allowing the burial of Covid-19 victims.

"Indeed it is these very principles of mutual understanding, respect and humanity that bring relationships to thrive and prosper," he tweeted.

Prime minister's aide Zulfi Bukhari shared pictures of a copy of the gazette notification issued by the Sri Lankan government and said: "Appreciate Sri Lankan govt’s official gazette notification allowing burial of #COVID19 deceased in #SriLanka within few hours of PM @ImranKhanPTI's visit. It is every Muslim’s final right to be buried as was requested by #PMIK."

Ban on burials

The Sri Lankan government had imposed a ban on burials in April amid concerns — which experts say are baseless — by influential Buddhist monks that burying bodies could contaminate groundwater and spread the virus.

The World Health Organisation has said there is no such risk, recommending both burial and cremation of virus victims.

Traditionally, Muslims bury their dead facing Makkah. Sri Lanka's majority Buddhists, who are strong backers of the current government, are typically cremated, as are Hindus.

In December, the Sri Lankan authorities ordered the forced cremation of at least 19 Muslim Covid-19 victims, including a baby, after their families refused to claim their bodies from a hospital morgue.

This stoked dismay and anger among the Muslim community, moderates and abroad, with the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation repeatedly expressing concern.





Iran: US Assassination of General Soleimani Violation of Int'l Law


Takht Ravanchi made the remarks, addressing the UN Security Council Open Arria Formula Meeting on right to self-defense in New York on Wednesday.

He also warned of a growing tendency among some countries to resort to threats or use of force under the pretext of exercising their right to self-defense, referring to the case of the assassination by the US of General Soleimani as a case in point.

“If unchecked, the right to self-defense will not only be abused more frequently by such states, but also they will institute further exceptions to the principle of the prohibition of the threat or use of force,” Takht Ravanchi said.

He pointed to the US’s brutal assassination of General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, in Iraq early in 2020 in a gross violation of the basic norms and principles of international law.

Takht Ravanchi said the US administration, through its communication to the Security Council president, desperately attempted to “justify such an obvious act of terrorism through a series of fabrications and an extremely arbitrary interpretation of the Charter’s Article 51.”

To justify the crime, Trump baselessly claimed the Iranian general was targeted because he was planning “imminent and sinister” attacks on US diplomats and military personnel.

However, he added, “Many international law scholars and practitioners have categorically rejected such an interpretation of the right to self-defense.”

Elsewhere in his address, Takht Ravanchi commended as “one of the greatest accomplishments” of the Security Council the prohibition of the threat or use of force, save the two exceptional cases authorized by the UN Charter, and said the preservation and full observance of the cardinal principle of international law are a “collective responsibility that must be fulfilled responsibly.”

The Iranian diplomat highlighted the importance of an obligation by all countries to protect their citizens and territories and enjoy an inherent right to self-defense.

He said, “the term ‘inherent’, clearly and adequately reflects the natural foundations and essential importance of this right, which of course, must be exercised only ‘if an armed attack occurs’” while heeding the criteria of necessity, proportionality and immediacy.

He further added that all countries should “immediately” brief the Security Council of the main elements of their self-defense measures which might be different from one case to another.

“It is obvious that Article 51 has not obligated states to observe specific requirements, other than immediacy, in their reporting, and therefore, has left the decision to the discretion of reporting states,” the Iranian envoy pointed out.

He stressed the importance of avoiding any reinterpretation or arbitrary interpretation of Articles 2 (4) and 51 of the UN Charter in order to “prevent the progressive erosion of the principle of prohibition of the threat or use of force.”

Lieutenant General Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike on Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on January 3, 2020.

The airstrike also martyred Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The two were martyred in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Five Iranian and five Iraqi military men were martyred by the missiles fired by the US drone at Baghdad International Airport.

On January 8, 2020 and after the funeral ceremony of General Soleimani, the IRGC Aerospace Force started heavy ballistic missile attacks on US Ein Al-Assad airbase in Southwestern Iraq near the border with Syria and a US operated airbase in Erbil in retaliation for the US assassination of General Soleimani.

Ein Al-Assad is an airbase with a 4km runway at 188m altitude from sea levels, which is the main and the largest US airbase in Iraq. Early reports said the radar systems and missile defense shields in Ein Al-Assad failed to operate and intercept the Iranian missiles. Unofficial reports said the US army's central radar systems at Ein Al-Assad had been jammed by electronic warfare.

The second IRGC reprisal attack targeted a US military base near Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the second leg of "Martyr Soleimani" reprisal operation.

Iraq said the attacks had not taken any toll from its army men stationed at these two bases. The US army had blocked entrance into Ein Al-Assad to everyone, including the Iraqi army.

The IRGC officials said none of the missiles had been intercepted.

Meantime, Iran announced in late June that it had issued arrest warrants for 36 officials of the US and other countries who have been involved in the assassination of the martyred General Soleimani.

"36 individuals who have been involved or ordered the assassination of Hajj Qassem, including the political and military officials of the US and other governments, have been identified and arrest warrants have been issued for them by the judiciary officials and red alerts have also been issued for them via the Interpol," Alqasi Mehr said at the time.

He said that the prosecuted individuals are accused of murder and terrorist action, adding that US President Donald Trump stands at the top of the list and will be prosecuted as soon as he stands down presidency after his term ends.'l-Law


UN calls on Israel to immediately stop demolishing Palestinian homes, buildings in West Bank

25 February 2021

The United Nations has called on the Israeli regime to immediately halt its razing of Palestinian homes and structures in the occupied West Bank, saying such actions are contrary to international law and undermine humanitarian efforts across the occupied territories. 

United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Lynn Hastings said in a statement that the recent Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes and evacuation of local residents and confiscation of their lands contravened international law, and were all in flagrant violation of human rights law.

The statement came a day after Hastings visited the community of Humsa al-Baqai'a, in the northern Jordan Valley, where the homes and belongings of families living there were either demolished or seized by Israel in an effort to drive them out of their lands.

"I visited the community of Humsa al-Baqai'a, which is situated some hundreds of meters into a firing zone in the northern West Bank… The homes and belongings of the families living there were demolished or confiscated five times by the Israeli authorities since the beginning of February," the UN official said.

"Tents, food, water tanks and fodder for their livestock have all been confiscated despite repeated calls by the international community for these actions to stop in accordance with international law," she added.

"As we have noted previously, situations where communities are put under pressure to move raises a real risk of forcible transfer." 

Hastings also demanded Israel to allow humanitarian agencies to provide shelter, food and water to the vulnerable Palestinian communities living in Area C, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, and forms a significant part of a future Palestine state under the so-called two-state solution.

Israeli authorities usually demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, claiming that the structures have been built without permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain.

They also sometimes order Palestinian owners to demolish their own homes or pay the demolition costs to the municipality if they do not.

The latest demolition has drawn widespread condemnation against the Israeli regime for exploiting the coronavirus crisis to press ahead with its campaign of razing Palestinian homes.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a plan for grabbing a huge swathe of the West Bank, namely the areas upon which the regime has built its illegal settlements since occupying the territory in 1967, as well as the strategic Jordan Valley. He made the announcement after former US President Donald Trump unveiled the “deal of the century,” a hugely pro-Tel Aviv scheme.

Following the signing of normalization agreements with Israel by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, there has been a rapid increase in Tel Aviv's demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem al-Quds.

The rise is coupled with an increase in deportation of Palestinians from Jerusalem al-Quds, their expulsion from al-Aqsa Mosque and daily storming of the compound by extremist settlers.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.


Turkey ‘strongly condemns attempted coup’ in Armenia

25 February ,2021

Turkey on Thursday “strongly condemned” what it described as an attempted coup in neighboring Armenia, where Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was facing calls by the military’s top brass to resign.

Pashinyan has faced political pressure since Armenia ceded swathes of territory in its war with Azerbaijan last year over the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey backed Azerbaijan in the six-week conflict, which ended with a November truce brokered by Russia.

But although Turkey and Armenia have a complex history of troubled relations, Ankara said it stood by Pashinyan’s democratically-elected government.

“We strongly condemn the attempted coup in Armenia,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Budapest.

“We are absolutely against coups and coup attempts anywhere in the world.”

Pashinyan urged his supporters to take to the street and dismissed the head of Armenia’s general staff on Thursday, as the country teetered on the brink of chaos.

Cavusoglu said coup attempts threatened to destabilize the entire Caucasus region.

“Therefore, we are against it,” he said.

“In democracies, people could criticize the government and demand its resignation. This is natural. But the army’s call on government to resign, let alone stage a coup, is unacceptable,” Cavusoglu said.


Iran says it’s investigating deadly incident on Pakistan border

26 February ,2021

Iran is investigating an incident in which at least two Iranians were shot dead this week at the border with Pakistan, and Islamabad has handed over the body of one of the victims, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Friday.

Monday’s shooting of at least two people carrying fuel across the border led to protests that spread from the city of Saravan to other areas in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, including the capital, Zahedan.

A provincial security official has said calm has returned to the province with the help of religious leaders. Media quoted prominent Baluch Sunni Muslim religious leader Molavi Abdulhamid as urging calm and calling for an independent investigation.

“The body of at least one person was delivered by Pakistan’s border guards. We are reviewing the incident,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

Protesters stormed a governor’s office in southeastern Iran on Tuesday and set fire to a police car, according to videos posted on social media. Security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the footage.

Sistan-Baluchistan’s population is predominantly Sunni Muslim, while most Iranians are Shi’ite. Iran has some of the lowest fuel prices in the world and has been fighting smuggling to neighboring countries.


Houthis target Marib residential area with ballistic missile

Ismaeel Naar

26 February ,2021

The Iran-backed Houthi militia group has targeted the hotspot city of Marib with a ballistic missile, according to Yemeni reports.

The reports suggested that the ballistic missile launched on Thursday had landed in a residential area of Marib, the city currently a hotspot of infighting between the government and the Houthis.

The missile strike comes as the Houthis press further ground attacks on the frontlines south of Marib.

The attack by Iran-aligned Houthi forces on government-held Marib city comes amid renewed diplomacy to end the six-year war, and as the United States said it would end support for the Arab Coalition backing the internationally recognised Yemeni government.

The United Nations has urged the Houthis to return to negotiations, and said the offensive threatened mass displacement.

Hundreds of fighters from both sides have been killed in clashes in the gas-rich Marib region, the sources said. They were not authorised to speak publicly about operational matters.


Hamas urges Palestinian Authority to release members jailed in West Bank

25 February 2021

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has urged Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) to prepare a fair atmosphere for free elections and halt all forms of persecution against its members in the West Bank.

In a statement released on Thursday, Hamas called on the Ramallah-based authority to release all political prisoners held at West Bank jails and guarantee media freedom.

“It is high time to turn the page of the past once and for all and move forward towards a true Palestinian partnership capable of rebuilding the Palestinian political system on sound foundations,” the statement read.

Hamas also hailed the Gaza Interior Ministry for releasing nearly four dozen detainees accused or convicted of committing serious violations that directly harmed the Palestinian resistance.

It said the step reflected “the keenness of the movement and the government apparatuses in Gaza on creating more positive climates in light of the preparations for the elections.”

In January, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the 2021 elections would include the legislative vote scheduled for May 22, the presidential vote to be held on July 31 and the Palestinian National Council elections slated for August 31.

The announcement came after Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, wrote a letter to the Palestinian president, calling for an end to divisions.

Rival Palestinian factions united after former US President Donald Trump unveiled the “deal of the century,” a hugely pro-Tel Aviv scheme.

The Palestinian leadership has been divided between Fatah and Hamas since 2006, when the latter scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Hamas has ever since been running the densely-populated coastal enclave, while Fatah has been based in the autonomous parts of the occupied West Bank.

Relations between the Palestinian Authority and the United States soured after Trump recognized the whole Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

Trump had also cut aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and proposed the much-condemned plan that allowed Israel to seize large parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

The key Palestinian factions recently held talks in Egypt to tackle issues that could jeopardize long-awaited elections. A range of thorny issues such as judicial and security arrangements for the vote and the fate of Palestinian voters in East Jerusalem al-Quds were discussed during the reconciliation talks.

After long years of divisions, Palestinians hope to witness a real internal reconciliation on the ground; they say the most important thing is to translate the statements from both Fatah and Hamas groups to immediate actions. Palestinians believe rebuilding the political system on sound democratic bases is not impossible without free and transparent elections.

Hamas has for years defended the besieged Gaza Strip from frequent Israeli incursions, notably during three wars the regime imposed on the impoverished enclave.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, and the East Jerusalem al-Quds in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state.


Netanyahu asked Biden to keep Trump's sanctions on ICC: Report

25 February 2021

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly asked US President Joe Biden to maintain his predecessor’s sanctions on the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has over the past years been investigating the Tel Aviv regime’s war crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Citing Israeli officials, the Virginia-based Axios news website reported on Wednesday that Netanyahu had made the request during his first phone call with Biden last week.

The report said Israeli officials had argued that Washington should maintain the sanctions imposed by the administration of former US President Donald Trump as leverage against investigations in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip as well as Afghanistan, where the US itself is accused of having committed war crimes.

The sanctions were also discussed in a phone call between Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to the report by Axios.

In a major decision earlier this month, a pre-trial chamber of the ICC determined that The Hague-based tribunal had jurisdiction to investigate the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip since 1967.

Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, hailed the decision and said the ruling “opens the door” for justice in Palestine.

The US is also currently being investigated by the ICC for war crimes in Afghanistan, and when Trump was in office, he imposed sanctions on the ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, as well as Phakiso Mochochoko, the ICC director of jurisdiction, in order to block them from carrying out their investigation or being able to travel to the United States.

The Biden administration has signaled a less confrontational line but has not said whether it will drop the sanctions against Bensouda, who has called the measures “unacceptable.”

Israel occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — during the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967. It later had to withdraw from Gaza.

About 700,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds since then. The international community views the settlements as illegal under international law but has done little to pressure the Israeli regime to freeze or reverse its policies.



South Asia


Expect Productive Peace Talks With Afghan Govt In Doha, Say Taliban

25 February, 2021

Doha [Qatar], February 25 (ANI/Sputnik): The Taliban are counting on productive peace talks with the Afghan government in Qatar though the sides are still discussing the exact topics of negotiations, the official spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha, Mohammad Naim, told Sputnik on Thursday.

"Before we reached an agreement with the United States, the negotiations had been ongoing for about one year and a half, so we now also expect to reach an agreement in peace talks with Kabul," Naim said.

He also noted that the negotiating sides have so far not reached an agreement that would allow them to discuss a prospective ceasefire.

"We are currently discussing topics to put on the agenda; which issues we should talk about. Agreeing on an agenda is already part of the progress," he said.

The intra-Afghan peace negotiations were launched in Qatar's Doha back in September. Both sides have announced that they agreed on the framework of the talks, allowing for discussions on substantive issues to kick off. At the same time, clashes between the government forces and the Taliban opposition movement, as well as bomb explosions, continue to ravage the country. (ANI/Sputnik)


Germany extends its mission in Afghanistan

25 Feb 2021

The German government on Wednesday agreed to extend its military mandate in Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

Officials in Germany agreed to extend the military mandate in Afghan Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

The new draft mandate still requires the approval of Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, Deutsche Welle reported.

The current mandate is expected to expire by end of this March, the new draft agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet will allow German troops to stay in the country beyond until 31, 2022, DW said in their report.

Germany “takes account appropriately of the complex situation in Afghanistan and also makes possible the flexibility necessary to be able to react if the volatile security and threat situation there changes”, German government’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

With over 1,100 troops, Germany has the second-largest contingent after the United States in the NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

NATO’s second-biggest troop contributor in Afghanistan is Germany with over 1,100 troops, and the maximum limit of 1,300 troops will remain intact, Siebert added.

This comes in a bid that violence in the country remained high, a recent report in the media indicated that at least six public uprising force members were killed and four others were injured in an explosion in western Herat province on Wednesday.

An explosive-laden vehicle exploded close to a security outpost in Qudus Abad village in Kohsan district of the province, which later was followed by a battle between the Taliban and government forces, Sayed Waheed Qatali Herat’s governor told media.

The battle reportedly continued for several hours.

Escalation of targeted attacks, IED explosions, car bombs, suicides, and battles in various parts of the county including Kabul sparked outrage and fear among the public.


McKenzie placed a ‘large measure of the blame’ on the Taliban for extreme violence

25 Feb 2021

General Kenneth F. McKenzie said the US and NATO’s withdrawal decision depends on the situation and negotiated settlements between the Taliban and the Afghan government are highly supported.

He said currently the US finds level of the violence in Afghanistan to an extreme level.

While speaking at a virtual Beirut Institute Summit McKenzie said “I place a large measure of the blame on the Taliban who have continued to mount offensive operations and targeted killings of Afghan officials but the excessive violence has led the government to launch their own defensive operations to protect themselves – the violence while too high on both sides,”.

He indicated that there is no sign that Taliban cut ties with Al-Qaeda.

“In my clear judgment rests largely on the Taliban; we also continue to … look for signs of a Taliban break with al-Qaeda and I have not at this point seen any definitive signs that would lead to believe they’re prepared to or able to honor their obligations,” McKenzie added.

This comes as Pakistani Foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi met with Mohammad Omar Daudzai, the Afghan President’s special representative on Thursday.

Qureshi stressed his concerns over the increased level of violence in Afghanistan and added that Pakistan seeks a political solution to the Afghan war.

He added that peace talks are a shared responsibility and Pakistan will continue playing its conciliatory role.


Top Democrat expects some ‘extension’ of troops in Afghanistan

25 Feb 2021

Senator Jack Reed said he favored seeking an extension of the May 1 deadline for withdrawing troops that President Donald Trump and the Taliban negotiated last year, The New York Times reported.

American Senator Jack Reed has favored US troops’ withdrawal beyond the May deadline.

According to the New York Times, Jack said the US should look for an extension to give diplomats to negotiate an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“To pull out within several months now is a very challenging and destabilizing effort,” Jack said in a video conference organized by George Washington University.

He added his voice to a growing number of national security specialists, including those on a bipartisan, congressionally appointed panel, who argue, in essence, for abandoning the May 1 timetable.

“I would expect some extension,” Reed said, even if that ultimately meant more time for the United States to withdraw the 2,500 troops in the country now.

He also underscored that a top American national security priority should be to prevent terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda and Daesh, from using Afghanistan as a safe haven from which to carry out strikes.

He said that America’s top national security priority should include prevention of Afghanistan from being used as safe heaven by groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh.

“We’ve got to be able to assure the world and the American public that Afghanistan will not be a source of planning, plotting to project terrorist attacks around the globe,” he added, “that’s the minimum. I’m not sure we can do that without some presence there.”

Early this week, Michael McCaul, a top US Republican, has said in an interview with CNN that President Biden needs to keep US troops in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from taking over. 

Michael McCaul, a Republican US representative was quoted by CNN saying “I think Afghanistan can be very important. I hope that the Biden administration I can work with them on this and talk to Secretary Blinken and the national security adviser about leaving a residual force there to protect the homeland and not allow the Taliban to take over their country,”.

This comes as a senior Pakistani military official on Thursday said that his country will never support the Taliban and that the Pakistan government’s main goals are for a prolonged peace in Afghanistan.

The director-general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar said as quoted by International The News that “Afghanistan now is not what it was in the 90s and the state infrastructure cannot be trounced easily, and Pakistan also has changed,”.

Iftikhar added, “It’s impossible for the Taliban to recapture Kabul and that Pakistan would support them. It isn’t going to happen”.

“Even Afghan leaders are admitting that Pakistan has done utmost for peace in Afghanistan,” the ISPR director-general said.

He explained that Afghans and their government should determine the future of Afghanistan, the developments of peace talks, and who they back to take it on, he added “We only aim for a long-lasting peace in Afghanistan,”.

The policy of the Pakistan government to offer support in peace to its neighbors was clear, ISPR general indicated.


Taliban attack on Afghan district repulsed, 12 killed


FAIZABAD, Afghanistan, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- At least 12 militants have been confirmed dead and the Taliban attempts to gain ground in Nasai district of the northern Badakhshan province were repulsed, said an army statement released on Friday.

A total of 12 Taliban militants including some foreign nationals have been killed in Nasai district over the past 24 hours, the statement said.

Taliban key commander Qari Hafiz is also among those killed in the clash, the statement said.

Without identifying the nationalities of the alleged foreign fighters, the statement noted that the security forces would continue to chase the insurgents to ensure lasting peace in the area.

Taliban militants who are active in parts of Badakhshan province with Faizabad as its capital 315 km northeast of Kabul have yet to make comments. Enditem



North America


Biden says he has read US intel on Khashoggi killing

Michael Gabriel Hernandez 



US President Joe Biden said Wednesday he has read the intelligence community's assessment on the culpability for the death of slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is expected to be released in an unclassified form as early as Thursday with the expectation that it will conclude that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom's de facto ruler, was directly responsible for Khashoggi's murder.

Former President Donald Trump had consistently sought to shield bin Salman from being blamed for the grisly murder and had bucked US law mandating the report's release to lawmakers.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines committed during her confirmation hearing to following the law by providing Congress with the report.

Biden said he would soon speak with Saudi King Salman but did not specify a date after reports indicated the call could happen Wednesday.

Khashoggi was brutally killed and likely dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018, and while Saudi officials initially denied any role in his death, they later sought to pin blame on what they said was a botched rendition operation.

That explanation has been widely rejected by both the UN and a wide group of US lawmakers. The CIA reportedly concluded the month after Khashoggi was murdered that bin Salman directly ordered his killing in a report that remains classified to this day.

CNN reported earlier Wednesday that documents filed as part of an unrelated lawsuit in Canada allege that the two private jets used by the Saudi kill team were owned by a company seized by bin Salman.

The Top Secret documents reportedly state that bin Salman ordered Sky Prime Aviation folded into Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund in 2017, the year before Khashoggi was killed.

Bin Salman controls the fund, formally known as the Public Investment Fund, as its chairman.


Biden orders US strikes on Iran-backed militia in Syria: Pentagon

Ismaeel Naar

26 February ,2021

US President Joe Biden has ordered an airstrike against Iran-backed militia in Syria following rocket attacks against US forces in Iraq.

“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria. These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” read a statement from the Pentagon.

“Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS),” the statement added.

On Monday, at least three rockets targeted the US embassy in the high-security Green Zone of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, in an attack the US blamed on Iran. The attack was the third in a week to target Western diplomatic, military or commercial installations in Iraq after months of relative calm.

In October, the US threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad if the attacks did not stop, so hardline groups agreed to an indefinite truce.

“This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with Coalition partners. The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” the Pentagon added in its statement.


Don’t make same Iran mistakes as Obama, US members of Congress tell Biden

Joseph Haboush

24 February ,2021

A group of more than 40 US senators and members of Congress Thursday took a step toward trying to prevent President Joe Biden from lifting sanctions on Iran.

Biden and members of the administration have made no secret about their intentions of rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed when Biden was vice president under Barack Obama in 2015.

During former President Donald Trump’s four-year term, he withdrew the US from the deal and imposed crushing economic sanctions on Tehran.

Biden has withdrawn the US claim that “snapback” sanctions were put into effect as a result of Iran’s violations of the JCPOA. He has also lifted travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats at the UN and revoked the terrorist designation of Iran-backed militias and these non-state actors' leaders.

However, critics of Biden’s softer approach are urging him to use the sanctions that have choked the Iranian regime as leverage.

The now-defunct JCPOA failed to engage any of Washington’s regional allies during negotiations, and it did not address Iran’s proxies around the world as well as its ballistic missile program.

On Thursday, US Senator Tom Cotton and Congressman Mike Gallagher introduced the resolution, which had the signature of 44 other members on Capitol Hill.

“The United States must maintain sanctions on the Iranian regime until it abandons its nuclear ambitions and ends its support for violence and terror around the region,” a statement released by the signees said.

“Iran took advantage of weak policies during the Obama Administration, and President Biden must not repeat those same mistakes,” the statement read.

Last week, the US expressed its willingness to sit down with Iran to discuss the nuclear deal after the European Union extended the invite to Tehran.

Iran has so far given Biden and his administration the cold shoulder. But on Wednesday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said the US was waiting, “but our patience is not unlimited.”


US military strike on resistance fighters draws strong condemnation

26 February 2021

A US military strike on facilities belonging to resistance fighters on the Syrian-Iraqi border, the first authorized by President Joe Biden since taking office, has sparked strong condemnation and outrage.

Russia termed the airstrike that came in the wee hours of Friday morning as “illegal” and “extremely dangerous”, which it said could “lead to escalation of situation” and “outbreak of a major conflict”.

In a statement, Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, said Syria possesses “modern weapons including S-300 installations”, warning the US to be “extremely careful with such action”.

Earlier, the Pentagon said the attack was carried out on Biden’s order, terming it a “defensive precision strike” in retaliation to recent rocket attacks on the US and coalition troops in Iraq.

However, that narrative appears to have few takers in cyberspace, as social media users strongly denounced the provocative act, suggesting that “the war machine is back”.

Actually, yes they do. I think you do not know how government works.

— Carmine Sabia (@CarmineSabia) February 26, 2021

Journalist and podcast host Ben Norton slammed the Biden administration for what he termed the “US dirty war on Syria”, started by Biden’s former boss Obama and continued by the Republican Trump.

Biden is again bombing Syria, continuing the US dirty on Syria, a decade after Obama started it, and after Trump prolonged it as well.

3 US presidents over 10 years have waged war on Syria.

(Also note the vague phrase "Iranian-backed" could mean a variety of different forces)

— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) February 25, 2021

Pakistani novelist and commentator Fatima Bhutto, drawing parallels between Biden and Trump and their dangerous Middle East policy, said the “American power” is the kind of power “that bombs Syria in the middle of a pandemic”.

American power is American power. Trump or Biden, it's the absolute same thing: the kind of power that bombs Syria in the middle of a pandemic, that has money for war but not healthcare

— fatima bhutto (@fbhutto) February 26, 2021

Richard Medhurst, a British-Syrian journalist, said the US claim on the strike is the “same old lame excuse the Israelis use to bomb Syria on a weekly basis,” adding that the Iran-Syria cooperation should be “none of the US' business.”

"US carries out airstrike on Iranian-backed militia target": this is the same old lame excuse the Israelis use to bomb Syria on a weekly basis. They must be happy.

Syria and Iran are allies and cooperate on many issues incl. the military. That's frankly none of the US' business.

— Richard Medhurst 🇸🇾🇵🇸 (@richimedhurst) February 26, 2021

US journalist and filmmaker Dan Cohen, said it is time for the US “to get out of Syria and Iraq”, since the Iraq parliament has already voted to expel the US military a year ago.

Biden’s Syria bombing is framed as retaliation for an attack on US troops by an Iraqi militia backed by Iran. Corporate media doesn’t mention that Iraq voted to expel the US military a year ago, which Biden and Trump refused to do. Time for the US to get out of Syria and Iraq.

— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) February 26, 2021

Max Blumenthal, journalist and author, describing the US national security “in a nutshell” said the new US administration and its NATO allies are “protecting the remnants of Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate in Idlib while bombing the forces that arrived in Syria to counter them”.

US "national security" in a nutshell: The Biden administration and its NATO allies are protecting the remnants of Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate in Idlib while bombing the forces that arrived in Syria to counter them

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) February 26, 2021

The strike also drew sharp reactions in Iran, with many observers, activists and academics denouncing it as a fool-hardy provocation.

Senior academic and political commentator Mohammad Marandi said the US-affiliated media says “Iranian-backed” because they “don’t want to admit they are murdering Iraqi troops fighting ISIS”.

US regime affiliated media says "Iranian backed," because they don't want to admit they are murdering Iraqi troops fighting ISIS

Significantly, ISIS is also using US occupied territory in Syria to attack Syrian soldiers

By murdering young Iraqis, Biden wants to look masculine

— Seyed Mohammad Marandi (@s_m_marandi) February 26, 2021

Poet and writer Masoud Mortazavi said it is “ridiculous to blame Iran” for not restraining people in the neighborhood “who resist US invasion and occupation of their countries”.

Honest accounting of the truth in the field is the first step to a sane foreign policy.

The US media cannot even bring themselves to say, honestly, that

***"The people in the region are resisting our invasion and occupation forces."***

Newspeak is the name of their game.

— masood mortazavi (@mortazavi) February 26, 2021

According to local sources, at least 17 resistance fighters have been killed in the attack.


Biden pressed to clarify policy on Saudi aggression against Yemen

26 February 2021

Dozens of Democratic Congress members press US President Joe Biden to further clarify his position on Saudi Arabia’s now-six-year-old war of aggression against Yemen.

Forty-one lawmakers made the demand from Biden in a letter released on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Biden said he would end the US’s support for the war. He, however, left much room for question after he added that Washington would still "continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity."

Under the same pretext of helping out Saudi Arabia -- Washington’s most treasured regional ally after the Israeli regime -- Biden's predecessor Donald Trump used to pour out advanced and precision arms and munition into the kingdom that Riyadh would, in turn, rain down on Yemen without any qualms.

The support included a $110-million arms deal with Riyadh, to which Trump travelled in his maiden foreign trip at the height of the war. Washington would also lend ample logistical support, including bombing coordinates, and political patronage for the kingdom and its allies’ bloodshed against the impoverished country.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have died and entire Yemen turned into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in the course of the war. The kingdom and its allies launched the military campaign in 2015 to return power to Yemen’s former pro-Riyadh officials.

Congress members asked Biden in the letter, "You have said that the United States will 'continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity…. What activities does this policy entail, and under what legal authority is the Administration authorized to engage in such activities?"

Last month, the Biden administration issued a temporary freeze on some Trump-era weapons sales to Saudi Arabia as it started a review of arms deals with Riyadh.

The prospect of further breakaway from the former administration’s no-holds-barred support for Saudi Arabia comes as the US was also to publicize a damning report on the 2018 murder of a Saudi dissident journalist that could likewise endanger the premium quality of the two sides’ relations.

The declassified intelligence summary, which is based largely on work by the US Central Intelligence Agency, would come out later in the day, with the US media saying it is to implicate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the foul play that targeted Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was slain and dismembered in October that year after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Shortly after Khashoggi's murder, the CIA assessed with high confidence that bin Salman had personally ordered the murder.

Trump, though, would keep protecting the kingdom against any accountability as seen by his bragging in 2019 that he prevented bin Salman from congressional scrutiny.

"I saved his ass," Trump said in recorded interviews with journalist Bob Woodward. "I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop," the former chief executive said.

CNN, though, cited Dennis Ross, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as saying that the release of the report was “the administration's way of saying to Saudi Arabia, 'We're not going to shield you from the consequences of bad behavior, and so it's best to avoid those behaviors.'"

"I think the Biden administration wants to demonstrate clearly that it is a new day after the Trump administration ... also just to send a message to the Saudis that the relationship is going to be re-calibrated," Ross added.

The pending publication of the summary was made possible after Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on the phone.

During the call -- the first conversation between Biden as US president and the Saudi king -- Biden "affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law," a White House readout of the call claimed.

Biden and King Salman also "discussed regional security, including the renewed diplomatic efforts led by the United Nations and the United States to end the war in Yemen," the White House statement said.



Arab World


US strikes 'Iranian-backed militant' site in Syria: Pentagon

February 26, 2021

The United States military struck facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed armed groups on Thursday, saying President Joe Biden's new administration was sending Tehran a message after recent rocket attacks on US troop locations in Iraq.

In its first military action against Iran-backed groups since Biden became president five weeks ago, the US Defence Department said it had carried out airstrikes at a Syria-Iraq border control point used by those groups, destroying "multiple facilities".

“At President Biden's direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilised by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” said spokesman John Kirby in a statement.

“These strikes were authorised in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” he said.

17 reported killed

Kirby did not say whether there were any casualties in Thursday's attack.

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 17 people were killed after the strike hit three trucks loaded with munitions coming from Iraq near the Syrian city of Bukamal.

The group said all the dead were from Iraq's state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi force, the umbrella group over many small militias that allegedly have ties to Iran.

Kirby said the location was used by Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada, two armed Iraqi militants groups under Hashed al-Shaabi.

Reprisal for rocket attacks

The US action followed three rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq used by United States and coalition forces fighting the militant Islamic State group.

One of those strikes, on a military complex in the Kurdish region's capital Arbil on February 15, killed a civilian and a foreign contractor working with coalition forces, and injured several US contractors and a soldier.

The attacks in Iraq laid down a challenge to the new Biden administration just as it opened a door to resumed negotiations with Tehran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme.

Last week, the administration offered talks with Iran led by European allies as it sought to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, left on the brink of collapse after the previous government of President Donald Trump withdrew from it.

But the administration has also made clear it would not brook “malign activities” in the region by Iran.

Iran is believed to be searching for an opportunity to avenge the US assassination of top general Qasem Soleimani one year ago.

Soleimani, a senior officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was Tehran's key liaison to allied groups and figures in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region.

He was killed in a US drone strike just as he arrived in Baghdad for meetings with top Iraqi officials.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday the US would “hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies that attack Americans” but would not “lash out” and risk destabilising Iraq.

Kirby called Thursday's strikes “proportionate” and said it “was conducted together with diplomatic measures”, including consultation with US partners in the anti-IS coalition.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel,” he said.

“At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” he added.


Russia says its closely monitoring situation in Syria following US airstrikes

26 February ,2021

The Kremlin said on Friday it was closely monitoring the situation in Syria following US air strikes there and that it was in constant contact with the Syrian authorities.

President Joe Biden on Thursday directed US military air strikes in eastern Syria against facilities belonging to what the Pentagon said were Iran-backed militia, in a calibrated response to rocket attacks against US targets in Iraq.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that he could not say whether the United States had notified Russia of its plans in advance, adding that operational contacts were made through the military.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security

February 26, 2021

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Joe Biden discussed regional and global stability during a phone call on Thursday.

The two leaders stressed the importance of strengthening the partnership between the two countries and the depth of their historical relations, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

During the call, King Salman congratulated Biden on taking office last month.

The talks dealt with the most important issues in the region and reviewed developments of common interest, the report said.

The two sides discussed Iran’s behavior in the region, its destabilizing activities and its support for terrorist groups.

“King Salman thanked the US president for Washington’s commitment to defend the Kingdom against any threats and his assurance that Iran would not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons,” SPA said.

Biden commended the Kingdom’s support for UN efforts to reach a truce and a cease-fire in Yemen.

King Salman said the Kingdom was keen to reach a comprehensive political solution in Yemen and to achieve security and development for the Yemeni people.

A statement from the White House said the US president told King Salman he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible.


Iran’s Zarif talks to Syrian FM after US strikes on Iran-backed militia in Syria

26 February ,2021

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to his Syrian counterpart on Friday, hours after US air strikes on Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria.

“The two sides stressed the need of the West to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions regarding Syria,” Iranian government website said.

There was no official comment yet from Syria on the air strikes conducted by the US against facilities belonging to what the Pentagon said were Iran-backed.

The strikes, which were first reported by Reuters, appeared to be limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.

Biden’s decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq, at least for now, also gives the Iraqi government some breathing room as it carries out its own investigation of a Feb. 15 attack that wounded Americans.

“At President (Joe) Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

“President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” Kirby said.

He added that the strikes destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS).


Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Israeli PM say countries must be involved in Iran talks

25 February ,2021

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain’s Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa on Thursday discussed Iran and the possible involvement of the Gulf state in establishing a vaccine plant in Israel, the two countries said.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates formalized ties with Israel on Sept. 15 in part over shared concerns about Iran, in a deal forged by former US President Donald Trump.

Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, a move praised by Israel which has objected to the accord. His successor, President Joe Biden, wants to rejoin the deal.

But in the week since Washington offered to talk with Tehran about reviving the nuclear deal, Iran has curbed UN monitoring and threatened to boost its uranium enrichment. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons.

An Israeli official said on Tuesday that Israel hopes to prevent personal tension between Netanyahu, who is seeking re-election on March 23, and Biden over their differences on Iran policy by delegating talks on the topic to their senior staff.

Netanyahu and Khalifa both released statements about their telephone call on Thursday but only the Bahraini announcement mentioned Iran.

Their conversation stressed the importance for the “countries of the region to take part in any talks about Iran’s nuclear file,” the kingdom’s state media office said on Twitter.

Netanyahu’s office said he spoke with Khalifa about visiting Bahrain once coronavirus restrictions would allow it.

“The Bahraini regent also stated that he was interested in examining the possibility of Bahrain joining an investment in a vaccine manufacturing plant that is planned to be established in Israel together with other countries,” the statement said.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates formalized ties with Israel on Sept. 15, in a US-sponsored deal forged in part over shared concerns about Iran.

Israel expects trade with Bahrain to be around $220 million in 2021, not including possible defense and tourism deals.


Arab Coalition stops second Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia hours after failed attempt

Tamara Abueish

26 February ,2021

The Arab Coalition thwarted a second attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Saudi Arabia just hours after it had destroyed a drone that was launched by the group towards the Kingdom’s Khamis Mushait.

The Arab Coalition intercepted and destroyed a drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia towards Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait, the coalition’s spokesperson General Turki al-Maliki said on Friday.

“Joint Coalition Forces have intercepted and destroyed this morning (Friday) a bomb-laden UAV launched systematically and deliberately by the terrorist Houthi militia to target civilians and civilian objects in (Khamis Mushait),” al-Maliki said, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“These acts of aggression to deliberately and systematically target civilians and civilian objects by the terrorist, Iran-backed Houthi militia amount to war crimes.”

The Arab Coalition said it would continue to take the necessary measures to protect civilians in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The terrorist group has been ramping up its efforts to strike Saudi Arabia and several areas in Yemen outside its control.

Iran has been backing the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war against the internationally-recognized government.

Currently, the Houthis have control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, while the government is based in the city of Aden.


Saudi Foreign Minister discusses regional challenges with US counterpart

Ismaeel Naar

25 February ,2021

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan spoke on the phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.

“The two sides discussed during the call bilateral relations and the strategic partnership between the two countries, and reviewed aspects of cooperation on regional and international challenges,” according to SPA.

Last week, United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to assisting the Kingdom in defending its borders, according to the Pentagon.

Austin condemned the recent cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis and thanked the Crown Prince for the Kingdom’s commitment to a political settlement for Yemen’s six-year conflict, which the United Nations says has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.





Erdogan named 2020 Global Muslim Personality

Felix Tih  


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been named the Global Muslim Personality by a Nigerian Islamic newspaper for the third year in a row.

Erdogan was declared winner of the 2020 Global Muslim Personality Award, tagged #MNAwards2020, by Rasheed Abubakar, the publisher of Muslim News Nigeria.

The maiden edition of the award was held in 2018 to celebrate Muslim achievers across professions including governance and administration.

In a statement, Abubakar said though the year 2020 was very challenging for the world due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic which has affected all facets of human endeavor, Erdogan remained committed to a just cause, and his achievements surpassed that of the previous years.

The statement noted that the emergence of the Turkish president as a visionary and pragmatic leader has been a blessing not only to Turkey but to the extended global Muslim community, which has “fallen prey to the belligerence of predator nations.”

“From cultivating and consolidating the national capabilities of the Turkish state and its local economy, President Erdogan embarked on showing the world what it is missing in the absence of Islamic standards in matters of human rights, politics, and fairness, and equity in economic affairs,” it added.

The statement said some of his achievements included the reopening of Hagia Sophia mosque, liberation of Upper Karabakh region, provision of relief packages to countries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, humanitarian assistance to marginalized Muslim communities, unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause and raising the voice against Islamophobia.


Libyan PM-designate Dbeibeh to propose unified cabinet under UN aegis

25 February ,2021

Libya’s designated prime minister, chosen via a UN-facilitated process last month, will on Thursday propose a unified government to the country’s divided parliament as part of a peace plan.

The new government is intended to replace Libya’s two rival administrations and oversee the run-up to national elections planned for December in a roadmap to end years of chronic chaos and violence.

However, designated premier Abdulhamid Dbeibeh is not expected to announce the names of ministers after a process of intense negotiations over recent weeks to form a government that could win acceptance across front lines.

Libya, a major North African oil and gas producer, has enjoyed little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, and the sprawling country has been split since 2014 between rival factions.

One is the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli in Libya’s west, while the east is controlled by an administration backed by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

Dbeibeh’s new interim government is intended to replace both existing administrations.

Last month, participants in a UN dialogue in Geneva selected Dbeibeh as prime minister along with a three-member presidency council to act as head of state. All four men have pledged not to stand for office in December’s election.

Dbeibeh’s proposed cabinet will be put for approval to the House of Representatives, a body that has been divided for years after some of its members broke off to form a rival assembly.

House of Representative members have been negotiating in recent days for a meeting to discuss the proposed government that could take place in the frontline city of Sirte.

Located in the eastern city of Tobruk, the eastern-based House of Representatives is headed by Aguila Saleh, one of the losing candidates in last month’s Geneva selection process.

He, along with other prominent losers in that vote such as GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and GNA Defence Minister Saleh Namroush, have promised to abide by the process.

Both Dbeibeh and the new presidency council head Mohammed al-Menfi have travelled inside Libya and met representatives from major foreign powers outside the country.


Several schoolchildren kidnapped in northwest Nigeria: State governor spokesperson

26 February ,2021

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a number of schoolgirls from the town of Jangebe in northwest Nigeria early on Friday, a state spokesman said, the second such kidnapping in little over a week.

It was not immediately clear how many children had been seized, Sulaiman Tanau Anka, information commissioner for Zamfara state, told Reuters.

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The kidnapping took place about midnight, he said.

“Unknown gunmen came shooting sporadically and took the girls away,” Anka said. “Information available to me said they came with vehicles and moved the students, they also moved some on foot,” Anka said.

Security forces were hunting through the area, he added.

A surge in armed militancy in the northwest has led to a breakdown of security in the north of Africa’s most populous country.

Last week, unidentified gunmen killed a student in an overnight attack on a boarding school in the north-central state of Niger and kidnapped 42 people, including 27 students. The hostages are yet to be released.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the north by criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings. The country is also struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast and communal violence over grazing rights in central states.

In the most notorious kidnapping in Nigeria in recent years, Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state in April 2014. They were eventually rescued by security forces or escaped.

President Muhammadu Buhari replaced his long-standing military chiefs earlier this month amid worsening violence, with the armed forces fighting to reclaim northeastern towns overrun by insurgents.





UK Supreme Court rejects Daesh bride Shamima Begum’s legal bid to return

February 26, 2021

LONDON: Britain’s highest court on Friday rejected a bid by a woman who was stripped of her UK citizenship for joining the Daesh group to return to challenge the decision.

Five judges at the Supreme Court gave a unanimous decision in the case of Shamima Begum, whose legal battles have come to be seen as a test of how countries treat nationals who joined the extremists.

“Ms Begum’s appeal against the leave to enter decision is dismissed,” the head of the Supreme Court, judge Robert Reed, said in a written judgment.

The judges said the right to a fair hearing did not override other considerations such as the safety of the public.

“The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation appeal to be stayed until Ms Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised,” they added.

“That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.”

Now 21, Begum left her home in east London at the age of 15 to travel to Syria with two school friends, and married a Daesh fighter.

In 2019 she told The Times newspaper that she did not regret traveling to Syria and had not been “fazed” by seeing a severed head dumped in a bin.

Britain revoked her citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds amid an outcry led by right-wing newspapers.

Begum is being held in a camp in poor conditions, while her husband is reportedly in jail in Syria, and her three children have died.

She appealed to be allowed back into the UK so that she can legally challenge her loss of citizenship.

She argued that the decision was unlawful as it has made her stateless and exposed her to the risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.

Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage but the country’s foreign minister has said he will not consider granting her citizenship.

The Court of Appeal ruled in July last year that Begum needed to come back to mount a fair and effective appeal.

But the interior ministry in turn appealed against this decision, insisting she remained “aligned” with the proscribed terrorist organization.

A government lawyer told the Supreme Court in November her return would create “an increased risk of terrorism.”

Her legal team argued that this did not override the need for a fair hearing.

Rights groups have argued human rights principles are at stake and Begum should answer for any crimes in her home country.

The tabloid newspaper The Sun has called her a “vile fanatic” who has “no place on our soil.”

Begum claims she married a Dutch convert soon after arriving in Daesh-held territory. She was discovered, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Her newborn baby died soon after she gave birth. Her two other children also died in infancy under Daesh rule.


Palestinians hire UK-based law firm to prosecute Britain over 1917 Balfour Declaration

25 February 2021

The head of the Palestinian National Independent Assembly says a London-based law firm has been hired to prosecute the British government over the 1917 Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the creation of Israel. 

Munib al-Masri said in a Thursday statement that the Sunday decision by the Court of First Instance in the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus to declare the document invalid is the first step to suing the British government in the UK for violations committed during its mandate over Palestine.

The Palestinian court also held Britain legally responsible for the consequences of the Balfour Declaration, demanding an apology to the Palestinians.

The lawsuit was filed by Palestinian lawyers in October last year on behalf of the National Assembly of Independents, the International Foundation for the Follow-up of the Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, against the British government.

“Britain and its then foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, from whom the 'Balfour Declaration' was issued at the time, neither owned Palestine nor did they have the right to determine the fate of its people,” the court ruled.

Britain's acts violate “the rules of international law, local laws, international norms and the decisions of the United Nations League and the United Nations during the period of its occupation of the Palestinian territories throughout the period of the British Mandate, including its implementation of the Balfour Declaration,” it said.

The ruling said the declaration deprived “the Palestinian people of their legal, human and political rights, and ... their right to self-determination on their Palestinian lands.”

Masri noted that there are plans to prosecute the British government to force it to apologize to the Palestinian people for the calamities that have befallen them as a result of the Balfour Declaration.

He pointed out that the British government had previously apologized to India, Cambodia, and Mau Mau people in Kenya and the State of Cyprus for the massacres it had committed against them.

Masri highlighted that Palestinian people are not inferior to the rest of the world, and have the right to prosecute Britain or whoever causes harm to them and deprives them of their right to self-determination.

The Balfour Declaration came in the form of a letter from Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community. It was published on November 2, 1917.

The declaration was made during World War I (1914-1918), and was included in the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

It is widely seen as the precursor to the 1948 Palestinian Nakba, when Zionist armed paramilitary groups, who were trained and created to fight side by side with the British in World War II, forcibly expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland, captured huge swathes of the Arab land, and proclaimed existence of Israel.


UK’s largest Muslim charity cleared of institutional anti-Semitism

26th Feb 2021

Nadine Osman

The UK’s largest Muslim charity has been acquitted of institutional anti-Semitism in an independent report after its reputation was badly damaged and government funding suspended over the social media posts of two trustees and a senior member of staff.

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a global NGO with an annual income of about £130 million, was a “highly effective charity” performing “crucial humanitarian work around the world,” said Chair of the Commission Dominic Grieve QC.

Importantly, while the inquiry found concerns with the composition of the charity’s board of directors and its organisational structure — which Islamic Relief has signalled plans to address — Grieve did not find any evidence that the offensive views articulated by the former senior director and two former trustees in any way compromised the impartiality or integrity of the organization’s humanitarian programmes.

“We found absolutely no evidence that the reputational issues that have arisen over the conduct of a few individuals has had any link to the way IRW carries out this charitable work,” he said.

The former Conservative Attorney General said there was no evidence of antisemitism in the NGO. “On the contrary, the charity has made a lot of effort to ensure there isn’t antisemitism, and I saw no evidence of it among staff whatsoever,” he said. The charity had been “horrified” when it discovered that Tayeb Abdoun, network and resource development director, had been tweeting antisemitic material under an alias, and had acted swiftly to deal with the individual, the commission concluded.

Abdoun was forced to resign. A few months earlier, it was revealed that two trustees had posted antisemitic comments on social media before they were appointed. A new board of trustees was appointed soon afterwards.

Along with the German and US governments, the UK Foreign Office suspended funding of the charity. IRW, which was the only Muslim charity on the Disasters Emergency Committee, withdrew from the body while the Charity Commission investigated.

Earlier this month, the Charity Commission said it was “satisfied that [IRW] took swift action, including to condemn the comments and ensure all three individuals left their roles.”

It added there had been “significant improvements to the recruitment and oversight of trustees and senior staff at the charity.”

Grieve’s report makes 19 recommendations to improve the charity’s governance, including more non-Muslim and independent trustees, a better gender balance in the organisation, updating its code of conduct and developing a new personal social media policy.

IRW said it was committed to fully implementing the report’s recommendations. Dr Ihab Saad, Chair of IRW Board of Trustees, said, “We thank Mr Grieve and Sir Clive for their report, the findings of which we accept in full. They have made a number of valuable recommendations to ensure Islamic Relief Worldwide’s trustees and other senior leaders uphold the highest standards and the values that we expect. We believe the Commission’s advice will help us become an even more effective humanitarian organisation going forward.”

Grieve said he was confident that “IRW will emerge with governance that is suitable for its purposes, puts it at the heart of the charities sector in the UK and enables it to sustain its crucial humanitarian work around the world”.

Grieve told The Muslim News “All charities must endeavour to ensure that the public views expressed by trustees and staff are not incompatible with the charitable purposes and thus at risk of causing the charity reputational damage. This needs a clear social media policy linked to a code of conduct and where necessary, a vetting process for social media. There is plenty of good practice available.”

Asked by The Muslim News why no stronger vetting procedure was already in place, a spokesman said, “Some of the offensive social media posts were made many years ago or under an alias, which makes it difficult to identify, and these recommendations will help our existing processes be more stringent.”

IRW say they “have been in regular dialogue with the Foreign Office throughout the past few months and we look forward to continuing our close relationship going forward… Now that the Charity Commission has closed its case and welcomed the steps we have taken, and given that we have committed to following all the recommendations made by the Independent Commission, we are hopeful that the FCDO will soon resume funding.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said, “We are closely assessing the findings from the independent commission and will make decisions with regard to our relationship with this charity in due course.”



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