New Age Islam
Sun Jun 23 2024, 03:22 AM

Islamic World News ( 16 May 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Abu Dhabi Covid-19 Field Hospital Set Up in Record 9 Days to Last 10 Years

New Age Islam News Bureau

16 May 2020

Khaleej Times got an exclusive tour of the 205-bed facility before it began welcoming patients.


• Abu Dhabi Covid-19 Field Hospital Set Up in Record 9 Days to Last 10 Years

• BJP MP, Parvesh Verma, Irks Delhi Police By Tweeting Two-Month Old Video Of Muslims Offering Namaz

• Azaan May Be Integral to Islam, Not Use of Loudspeakers: Allahabad HC

• Eid al-FitrCongregational Prayers to Be Held Nationwide at End of Ramadan: Iran

• Oxford's Grand Iftar Goes Remote with Home Deliveries For 2020

• Bangladesh: Zakat for Life, A Mission to Save Lives of Children with Thalassemia

• Malaysia: Standard Operating Procedures for Houses of Worship of Non-Muslims Will Be Finalised by Monday

• Muslim Organizations Launch Ramadan Fundraisers for Low-Income and Homeless in Southern California

• Despite Hike In COVID-19 Cases, Six Northern Govs Open Mosques, Churches

• Markets, Mosques Across Islamabad Getting Heavily Crowded


Arab world

• Abu Dhabi Covid-19 Field Hospital Set Up in Record 9 Days to Last 10 Years

• Saudi Envoy To UN: Suspending Prayers During Ramadan ‘Painful’ Decision

• Radical Members Humiliate Muezzin Of Mosque, Accusing Him Of “Heresy”, West Of Idlib

• UAE Ramadan initiative gives life to story-telling through augmented reality

• Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Iftar Program Distributes 4000 Food Baskets in Ethiopia

• For 2nd consecutive week, mosques open their doors for Friday Prayer

• Coronavirus: How UAE residents are balancing work and faith during Ramadan



• BJP MP, Parvesh Verma, Irks Delhi Police By Tweeting Two-Month Old Video Of Muslims Offering Namaz

• AzaanMay Be Integral to Islam, Not Use of Loudspeakers: Allahabad HC

• In Kashmir village, Muslims come together for last rites of worker from Punjab



• Eid al-FitrCongregational Prayers to Be Held Nationwide at End of Ramadan: Iran

• Dozens injured as Israeli troops attack Palestinians marking Nakba Day

• Jordan warns of clash with Israel if West Bank annexation goes ahead

• US-Israel alliance promotes insecurity instead of peace: Iran Foreign Ministry

• Yemeni army, Houthis retake strategic positions from pro-Hadi militiamen

• Iranian fuel en route to Venezuela despite US sanctions on two allies: Report

• Trump, Pompeo, Hook represent US’ dangerous ruling class: Iran's Shamkhani



• Oxford's Grand Iftar Goes Remote with Home Deliveries For 2020

• German Far-Right Exploit Covid-19 To Rally Anti-Muslim Fervour

• Leicester Ramadan during lockdown: How families are adjusting to social distancing and more

• ‘Jihad Jane’ review: lies, deceit and murder in a tale of terrorist seduction


South Asia

• Bangladesh: Zakat for Life, A Mission to Save Lives of Children with Thalassemia

• Taliban abduct 12 people from mosques in Paktia: official

• Al-Muslim Turns Factory Into Quarantine Centre For Workers

• 242 Bangladeshis stranded in US on their way home

• German Ambassador reacts to Taliban’s latest statement regarding Kabul, Nangarhar attacks

• Atmar’s Special Assistant targeted in Kabul city

• Afghanistan records 414 new cases of novel coronavirus in past 24 hours


Southeast Asia

• Malaysia: Standard Operating Procedures for Houses of Worship of Non-Muslims Will Be Finalised by Monday

• Malaysia, China boost cooperation in fighting Covid-19

• More opportunities for collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore due to close ties, says Dr Wee

• Malaysia and Japan to enhance bilateral ties

• Coronavirus vaccine search: How we're preparing to make enough for the whole world


North America

• Muslim Organizations Launch Ramadan Fundraisers for Low-Income and Homeless in Southern California

• ‘It’s Really Comforting’: Islamic Call to Prayer Heard For 1st Time InCanada Amid Coronavirus

• Ramadan this year a different experience for Katy Muslims

• For Philadelphia-area Muslims, breaking their daily fast brings a mix of emotions



• Despite Hike In COVID-19 Cases, Six Northern Govs Open Mosques, Churches

• COVID-19: Govt grants CAN request, reveals time Churches, Mosques can hold services

• Guinness, Muslim News distribute free drinks for Iftar

• Kaduna discharges 35 infected Almajirai after treatment



• Markets, Mosques Across Islamabad Getting Heavily Crowded

• ‘Hazrat Ali (RA) a great role model for all Muslims’

• NA debate on virus remains inconclusive

• Punjab, KP decide to conditionally lift ban on public transport

• Javed Jabbar’s nomination as Balochistan representative to NFC criticised

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Abu Dhabi Covid-19 field hospital set up in record 9 days to last 10 years

Ashwani Kumar

May 16, 2020

The 46,500-sqft Covid-19 Al Razeen Field Hospital in Al Wathba, 60km from Abu Dhabi City, was completed in just nine days and can easily be operated for up to 10 years, said top officials who manage the facility.

Khaleej Times got an exclusive tour of the 205-bed facility before it began welcoming patients. More than 50 doctors and 150 nurses of over 25 nationalities will serve patients from industrial areas of Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi Emergency Crisis and Disasters Committee for Covid-19 pandemic set up this facility as part of an initiative by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Dr Partha Banerjee, CEO of Al Mazroui Medical Centre who heads the management of patients at the field hospital, noted 317 experts, including engineers and supervisors, were engaged to finish the project in just nine days.

"Asymptomatic patients may turn severe suddenly. In some serious conditions, blood may come out from the eyes. Things may go out of control in an hour's time. This virus is very serious. The UAE has realised this and spending so much of money for the welfare of all people, mostly expats. This is a proper hospital conceptualised to completion in nine days. This is a world-class facility, which can run from five to 10 years. This facility is an example of the UAE's vision."

Bidhan Chowdhury, CEO of MediQ Healthcare Group who manages the training of the medical team, said there will be three shifts a day with 15 to 20 doctors serving in each of them. "The authorities want to ensure a safe 'second home' for all expats in this country. We have to create a bonding with all people - we want to have a united effort."

Dr Banerjee and Chowdhury are also looking after the management of quarantine facilities in industrial and nearby areas.

The 205-bed facility is divided into categories on basis of colour - 48 'green' zone ICU beds for critical cases, 52 'blue' zones with oxygen lines and 105 'yellow' zone beds for treatment of patients with mild symptoms.

Each patient has a private space with a bed, AC, internet connection, TV with wireless headphone, single-seater sofa, table, a night lamp and space to pray thereby offering a homely feel. It also has used subtle colour and inspiring messages on walls to keep patients motivated.


BJP MP, Parvesh Verma, Irks Delhi Police By Tweeting Two-Month Old Video Of Muslims Offering Namaz


New Delhi: West Delhi BJP MP Parvesh Verma Thursday posted a two-month old video of Muslims offering namaz in large numbers in the national capital to claim they’re violating lockdown and social distancing rules, but was called out by Delhi Police that asked him to “verify before posting and spreading rumours”.

The BJP MP, in his tweet in Hindi, wrote: “Does any religion permit this kind of behaviour in the wake of coronavirus? Lockdown and social distancing norms have been torn to shreds…”

Delhi Police, however, Friday responded to Verma’s tweet, saying the video is old and “is being used with a malicious intent to spread rumour”.

“This is totally false. An old video is being used with a malicious intent to spread rumour. Please verify before posting and spreading rumours,” read the tweet by DCP East Delhi.

Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh shared the Delhi Police’s tweet and said it was shameful of the BJP that even under a crisis its leaders were busy spreading hate and rumours.

According to fact-checking website Alt News, the video was posted on Twitter on 20 March, five days before the nationwide lockdown came into effect.

Delhi BJP’s IT cell head Abhishek Dubey had shared the same video on 20 March and wrote people in Deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s constituency have no fear of coronavirus.


Azaan may be integral to Islam, not use of loudspeakers: Allahabad HC

by Asad Rehman

May 16, 2020

Holding that azaan (call to prayer) “may be an essential and integral part of Islam”, the Allahabad High Court Friday said its recitation “through loudspeakers or other sound amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion, warranting protection of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, which is even otherwise subject to public order, morality or health and to other provisions” of Part III of the Constitution.

Ruling on pleas by Ghazipur MP Afzal Ansari, Congress leader Salman Khurshid and senior advocate S Wasim A Qadri, who challenged orders of the Ghazipur, Farrukhabad and Hathras administrations directing mosques to stop recitation of azaan through loudspeakers in view of the Covid-19 guidelines, a division bench of Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar said azaan can be recited by the muezzin from the mosque minarets “by human voice without using any amplifying device and the administration is directed not to cause hindrance… unless such guidelines are being violated”.

But the bench made it clear that “under no circumstances sound amplifying devices can be permitted to be used between 10.00 pm to 6.00 am by the district administrations. the petitioners have failed to bring on record or even plead that they sought any such permission for the use of sound amplifying devices, for recital of Azan from their respective mosques and, therefore, their use without such permission would be illegal and cannot be accorded approval by this Court. However, in case any such application is filed before the concerned authorities, that may be dealt with in accordance with law including Noise Pollution Rules”.

In his petition, Ansari had prayed that fundamental right to religion of the people at Ghazipur may be protected and the state administration be directed to permit recitation of the azaan by only one person from respective mosques of Ghazipur since it does not violate any of the directives issued for controlling the threat of the pandemic spread. Khurshid had stated that recitation of azaan is an integral part of Islam and in no way undermines the society’s collective response to the pandemic.

In response, the Uttar Pradesh government had filed a counter-affidavit contending that azaan is a call for congregation to offer prayers at the mosque and, therefore, in violation of the guidelines for containing the pandemic.

The bench directed the Registrar General to forward a copy of the judgment to the UP Chief Secretary for onward circulation to all DMs.

Contacted by The Indian Express, Additional Advocate General Manish Goel, who represented the state, said a decision on challenging the order will be taken by the state Law Department. “I will not be able to comment on this at the moment,” he said.

The petitioners’ counsel, Syed Safdar Ali Kazmi, said the judgment was in their favour and they were content with it. “We wanted permission for azaan, which the honourable court has granted,” Kazmi said.


Eid al-Fitr Congregational Prayers to Be Held Nationwide at End of Ramadan: Iran

May 16, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the Eid al-Fitr congregational prayers will be held nationwide on the last day of the holy month of Ramadan. (The story will be updated ..)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the Eid al-Fitr congregational prayers will be held nationwide on the last day of the holy month of Ramadan.


Oxford's Grand Iftar goes remote with home deliveries for 2020

By David Lynch

15th May,2020

A COMMUNAL feast which brings together different communities in Oxford is being held online this year.

But because of the coronavirus lockdown, the usual city-wide meeting organised by the Oxford Homeless Project cannot take place this year.

Instead, 1,500 meals have been delivered across the city by volunteers from Oxford Homeless Project, Oxford City Council, Oxford Mutual Aid, Oxford Community Action and local businesses.

East Oxford Community Centre, owned by the city council has been used as the distribution centre, where meals were assembled and sent out, and the council also supplied PPE for the operation.

Marie Tidball, the city council’s cabinet member for supporting local communities, said: “I’ve been impressed by the way so many people in Oxford, and so many different communities, have responded to help each other during this crisis.

“We really are seeing the best in people, going out of their way to help neighbours and strangers, and I know that we will continue to need this spirit to get us through the months ahead.”

Ahead of the deliveries, Shabnam Sabir from Oxford Homeless Project said: “Every year we organise a Grand Iftar, but this year it feels more important than ever to share what we have.

“We’ve had a fantastic response from our online appeal, we look forward to breaking fast together and bringing some joy to the people of Oxford even though we are apart.”


Bangladesh: Zakat for Life, A Mission to Save Lives Of Children With Thalassemia

May 16, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has abruptly stalled city life. There is no public transport on the roads and people only travel for emergencies. But during the pandemic, many parents with children suffering from thalassemia are spending stressful days. They will have to survive the pandemic, collect blood for their sick child, and will have to go to the hospital for blood transfusion.

The Thalassemia Foundation Hospital in Shantinagar, Dhaka is seeing a steady stream of patients amidst the lockdown. Patients are coming from Dhaka and adjoining districts for blood transfusion. Hamida Begum, a mother of two, came to the hospital from Mirpur after changing her mode of transport several times. Both her children are thalassemia patients. Without monthly blood transfusion, they get ill.

Five-year-old Ferdous, Hamida's youngest son, is always busy with mischief- playing, running, and jumping. The eldest son Billal is in sixth grade. He also requires blood transfusion every month.

Their father works as a day laborer. Due to the pandemic, he has been unable to find work for about two months. Hamida has to bring her two children to the hospital for blood transfusion. She said, "I had a lot of problems getting blood this time because of the lockdown. Billal's haemoglobin level has dropped to 5 points. The doctor advised to give him two bags of blood this month. I can barely feed the kids. The treatment expense is beyond my capacity," says Hamida.

Then there is Sumaiya, who sits tight in a chair next to the nurse's station while the little one's cry because they cannot stand the stab of the needle. After a while, she will be called. Nine-year-old SumaiyaAkter lost her father last year and now the full responsibility of the family has fallen on her elder brother Sujan.

No one had to worry about Sumaiya's treatment as long as her father was alive. There would always be a way. But in his absence, it has become difficult to even run the family. Meanwhile, the medical cost is about Tk five to ten thousand per month. When the bereaved mother informed the Thalassemia Foundation Hospital authorities about the family's condition, they arranged her treatment with the Zakat Fund.

The Thalassemia Foundation Hospital has 3,205 registered patients, most of whom are extremely poor. It is almost impossible for these families to afford medical treatment for thalassemia. The foundation authorities have therefore urged affluent members of the society to stand by them by donating Zakat to these patients.

The foundation collected zakat of taka one crore and eighty-seven lakh in 2019 with which 428 patients were treated around the year. Professor Dr Manzoor Morshed, President of the Zakat Committee of the Foundation said, "We receive a lot of requests from patients seeking help. Our committee verifies the applications according to Islamic Sharia and recommends free treatment to the patients from the Zakat Fund. We are not able to help many deserving patients due to insufficient funds. The number of people seeking help is likely to increase this year due to the coronavirus pandemic."

The hospital is seeking help for thalassemia patients like Ferdous, Billal, and Sumaiya by giving zakat to Bangladesh Thalassemia Foundation Zakat Fund.


Malaysia: Standard Operating Procedures for Houses of Worship of Non-Muslims Will Be Finalised by Monday


PUTRAJAYA, May 16 -- The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) related to the opening of houses of worship of non-Muslims while the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) is in force will be finalised by Monday (May 18), said the Ministry of NationaI Unity (KPN).

In a statement here, KPN said its minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique together with representatives of religious bodies had an online meeting yesterday to discuss in general the SOPs proposed by KPN and the Health Ministry (KKM).

The ministry said the representatives of various religions like Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism and Sikhism who joined the meeting provided feedback and listed selected houses of worship in COVID-19 green zones that may be reopened.

Among the religious bodies that participated in the meeting were the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Malaysia Gurdwara Council, Malaysian Buddhist Association, Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia and Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia.

Also the Christian Youth Association of Malaysia, FoGuang Shan Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia; National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia, Malaysia Hindu Sangam, Buddhist Missionaries Malaysia Society and Council of Churches of Malaysia.

KPN added that a follow-up meeting will be held on Monday to finalise the SOPs and thereafter Halimah will submit a list of houses of worship in the green zones that will be allowed to reopen and the related SOPs to the National Security Council (MKN) on Tuesday (May 19).

The King is the head of Islam for the Federal Territories, Sabah, Sarawak, Penang and Melaka while the Malay rulers are the heads of Islam of their respective states.


Muslim Organizations Launch Ramadan Fundraisers for Low-Income and Homeless in Southern California

May 15, 2020

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Two Muslim Non-Profit Organizations, Sahaba Initiative and the ILM Foundation, are teaming up to raise $20,000 to provide urgently-needed face masks to two of Southern California’s most vulnerable groups, low income families and the homeless community on Skid Row.

Muslim Organizations Launch Ramadan Fundraisers for Low-Income and Homeless in Southern California; Sahaba Initiative & ILM Foundation team up to Raise $20K @sahabaInitiativ @gallingerlaw @ilovemercy

“Every year a focus of Ramadan is charity and giving, transforming these to a spiritual practice,” Arbazz Mohamed, President of Sahaba Initiative, said. “In this midst of the COVID-19 pandemic living our Islamic tradition and supporting those around us will allow us to answer our highest calling as Muslims, saving and preserving human lives.”

"The collaborative nature of this project is very important," said Todd Gallinger, a local attorney and board member of The Nonprofit Partnership, who helped coordinate the effort. "The absolute failure of the Federal government to coordinate an effective response to COVID-19 means those on the ground need to work together to provide for community needs."

Sahaba Initiative and ILM Foundation have teamed with Fashion Masques, a new Long Beach based collective, to supply high quality reusable masks for the initiative. Fashion Masques has organized local sewists to produce the masks, providing much needed economic opportunity during a time of record unemployment.

The Sahaba Initiative, based in San Bernardino, has a goal to empower and sustain families in the American diaspora with programs that address mental health issues, poverty, hunger while also focusing on creating a narrative and culture of service. They provide an array of services geared toward low-income families and were awarded 2018 State of California Non-Profit of the Year.

The ILM Foundation has served the homeless population of Skid Row for decades and established the widely recognized “Humanitarian Day” - an annual day of service during Ramadan when a large network of volunteers provide direct services to the homeless of Southern California. Recently, they partnered with the city of Los Angeles to install and staff sanitation stations on Skid Row, which will serve as distribution points for the masks.


Despite Hike In COVID-19 Cases, Six Northern Govs Open Mosques, Churches

May 16, 2020

By Muhammad Sabiu

AMIDST daily spike in COVID-19 cases in Northern states, governors in six states in the region on Friday allowed Juma’at service to hold across towns and villages.

In Gombe, Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Jigawa and Zamfara states, the governors have also given churches the go-ahead to hold Sunday service tomorrow.

Statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) covering a one-week period indicates spikes in the number of recorded cases in these states.

According to the statistics, between Friday, 8 May and Friday, 15 May, COVID-19 cases in Borno jumped from 142 to 191; Gombe, from 110 to 124; Adamawa, from 15 to 21; Jigawa, 83 to 176; Yobe, 13 to 32 and Zamfara, 65 to 73.

The decision of the governors to reopen the worship centres, has however, elicited sharp criticisms from a cross section of opinion leaders, including Muslim scholars and clerics.

The Chief Imam of Sultan Bello Mosque, Kaduna, Dr Suleiman Adam, described the decision as one taken in haste, just as another cleric, Dr Tukur Adams, advised the governors of the concerned states to rescind the decision and allow health experts to guide them.

In Gombe State, the government said its decision followed persistent calls for the reopening of worship centres for congregational prayers.

It said it held consultative meetings with religious leaders and heads of security agencies to review the restriction order on religious activities and social gatherings as a measure to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the state. .

In a statewide broadcast on Friday, Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya stated that “while majority supported the call, some cautiously approved of it. It is against this backdrop that government has resolved to gradually ease the restrictions in our dear state by reopening places of worship” but with “strict compliance” with safety guidelines.

He said: “While relaxing the restriction order takes immediate effect, there must be strict observance of social distancing, compulsory wearing of face masks, regular hand washing with soap and water and limiting the number of persons in each congregation to not more than 20-50 persons, depending on the size of the worship centre.

“We are also adjusting the curfew time to be from 8.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. daily with effect from today. Also, civil servants on Grade level 9 and above are hereby directed to resume work with effect from Monday, 25th May, 2020 while strictly observing the new guidelines in their places of work.

“However, all other existing measures to curb the spread of the virus, especially the ban of commercial motorcycles, interstate travels, closure of all schools and borders shall remain in effect.”

Governor Inuwa Yahaya called on the people of the state to adhere to the new guidelines and take responsibility for containing the spread of the coronavirus in the state, as individuals or as groups.

“While we will continue to monitor and ensure that there is no community transmission, we would, however, not hesitate to revert to the previous order or to take more drastic measures should the need arise,” he added.

Governors of the other affected states have equally maintained that they arrived at the decision after meeting with religious stakeholders, emphasising, however, that adherence to all safety guidelines prescribed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) would be monitored.

The Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, in ordering the reopening of mosques and other religious centres, said the enforcement of compliance with social distancing and other measures against the spread of the virus would be ensured.

The governor, while addressing newsmen on Friday in Dutse, said: “Following our meeting with Ulama, other religious leaders and traditional rulers, as well as health experts, Friday congregational prayer will now continue in all parts of the state in accordance with the NCDC guidelines.

“Our collective effort in the fight against the pandemic is yielding positive result. So far, seven of our patients have recovered and discharged, including a six years old girl.”

However, some Islamic clerics have criticised the decision of the governors, saying it is not in the best interest of the people as COVID-19 remains a major challenge in the country.

“The disease is very much around us and we do not even have concrete measures; all that is happening is a cosmetic attempt to address the situation.

“You can see that at the level of treatment. People that have survived the virus would come out to say different things about how they were treated,” Dr Adam said.

Another cleric, Dr Tukur Adams, advised the governors of the concerned states to rescind the decision and allow “our health experts to guide us as religious leaders cannot be health experts.”

In a similar move, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State has lifted the ban on religious worship across the state with effect from Friday as part of efforts to relax the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Seventh-Day Adventists and Muslim faithful are to observe their services on Saturdays and Fridays, respectively and also from 9.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m.

“No religious centre shall permit more than 50 people and worshippers must observe a minimum of two meters social distancing from one another,” he said.

Orji said wearing of face masks, washing of hands with running water and use of sanitiser must be strictly observed in all religious centres.

“No religious service is allowed to hold any other day than the days specified herein and which must be in strict observance of all COVID-19 laws and regulations.

“The government requests all religious bodies in the state to use this window to create awareness among members on the protocols, policies, laws and regulations regarding COVID-19 as well as pray for the state and Nigeria,” he said.

Orji also urged religious leaders to use the opportunity to advise members on the need for aggressive participation in agriculture and other lawful means of livelihood.

“The CAN leadership and anti-COVID-19 committee on religious centres are requested to mount strict monitoring of all religious centres in the state and ensure strict compliance and discipline,” he said.


Markets, mosques across Islamabad getting heavily crowded


May 16, 2020

ISLAMABAD-The markets and mosques across Islamabad are getting heavily crowded with no precautionary measures as the government decided to ease lockdown despite a rise in the rate of coronavirus infections.

The increasing number of masses in markets and mosques in the capital not following SOPs has become a headache for the Islamabad administration as majority of people are paying no heed towards the SOPs fixed by the government.

There were some mosques in the city side which to some extent were following the SOPs, but majority of mosques in the outskirts of capital did not follow the precautionary measures. While talking to The Nation, a religious cleric from ChakShahzad said that they have been asking the masses to adopt all the precautionary measures while visiting the mosques but in vain.

He further argued that apparently things are slipping out of the hands of government as it has failed to force to masses to follow the SOPs.

Meanwhile, a man going for offering prayer told The Nation that the local committees in mosques formed by the government had failed to convince the masses to adopt the precautionary measures while visiting the mosques. He stated that both the government and the religious segment of the country had failed to deliver in time of crisis.

Besides mosques, the Islamabad administration is also facing problems in implementing the SOPs in markets as hundreds of people have been witnessed visiting the markets with less or no precautionary measures.

Many big markets including G-7 Markaz, G-8 Markaz, and particularly G-9 Markaz witnessed a huge number of influx on Friday without any visible precautionary measures.

While talking to The Nation, a shopkeeper in G-9 Markaz named Muhammad Bilal said that the government has fixed the SOPs but implementation was yet to happen.

He stated that the administration was asking the shopkeepers to adopt the precautionary measures but paying no heed towards the masses as very huge ratio of them were not following the SOPs.

Islamabad administration has already warned the masses of worst consequences incase of ignoring the SOPs while visiting to mosques and markets.

The move of the federal government to ease the lockdown amid the surge in COVID-19 cases was hailed by the business community of the country, but the opposition parties greatly criticised the move of the government and termed it as a failure of the federal government.


Arab world 

Saudi envoy to UN: Suspending prayers during Ramadan ‘painful’ decision

May 16, 2020

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN told a high-level meeting on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, that the Kingdom’s decision to suspend prayers in the Two Holy Mosques during Ramadan had been “painful.”

Speaking at the virtual gathering organized by the permanent delegation of Morocco to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said that the Kingdom’s decision confirmed that Islam bolstered life and put human health above all other considerations.


Radical Members Humiliate Muezzin Of Mosque, Accusing Him Of “Heresy”, West Of Idlib

On May 15, 2020

SOHR sources have reported today that a group of members of the radical factions beat and humiliated a muezzin of a mosque (the person who makes the call to prayer) in Jisr al-Shughour area, west of Idlib, humiliating him in front of his family and children and stepped on his head in a scene similar to those practices committed by the Syrian regime’s security forces.

According to Observatory sources, the radical groups are prohibiting and punishing the “heresy”. The muezzin was accused of “adding suspense” before dawn prayer in Ramadan.

On May 11, reliable sources told the Syrian Observatory that HTS reactivated the committee of “Arms of Charity” in areas under its control in Idlib, but this time under the name of “The Center of Salvation” for “the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice”, two years after”Arms of Charity” being suspended after considerable popular pressure, following the many restrictions it imposed during its existence as well as arbitrary arrests and clamping down on people.

The Syrian Observatory has obtained a copy of a list containing some of the prohibitions that the “committee for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice” will impose, which says:

Preventing cases of harassment, accosting and standing outside educational institutions and offices.

Prevent reprehensible acts and pictures or posters placed in shops and others places.


UAE Ramadan initiative gives life to story-telling through augmented reality

May 16, 2020

The Ministry of Education is launching a new learning initiative which relies on augmented reality (AR) to present a new style of storytelling.

The Special Ramadan Edition of "UAE Storytime" will start on Monday. Live streaming of the session will be open for children not only in the country but for kids across the globe.

With an aim to bring "reading to life", tools like visualisation, annotation and storytelling will enable young readers understand moral messages through interactive learning.

The initiative aims to convey positive messages of friendship, confidence, hard work and happiness for children aged 4 to 11 years. But anyone of any age is free to join it.

Scheduled on May 18, 19, 20, and 30, at 9pm on weekdays and 2pm on Saturday, these story telling sessions will be held in English.

Meanwhile, the ministry has also posted a video on its website to enable potential users to see how augmented reality works.

The simple instruction explains that users need to have a device like a laptop, computer or tablet in order to get started. They would require an additional mobile phone to scan the QR code following which it would automatically lead the users to the UAE Storytime website.

For centuries, the Middle East region has been the source of legends, fables and tales of the adventures of kings and warriors. Hakawati was one of the most riveting leisure activities for people and their neighbourhoods in a bygone era when cinema or television did not exist.

But in the new age, breathing life into these tales, using artificial intelligence (AI) this initiative once again encourages children to "stay home and read together".


Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Iftar Program Distributes 4000 Food Baskets in Ethiopia


Riyadh, May 15, 2020, SPA -- Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance inaugurated the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Iftar (Breaking-Fast) Program for 1441 AH in Ethiopia in the Saudi embassy in the capital Addis Ababa and several regions.

The program targets the distribution of 4000 food basket benefiting 40,000 people during Ramadan in six regions in Ethiopia.


For 2nd consecutive week, mosques open their doors for Friday Prayer

15 May، 2020

Damascus, SANA_For the second consecutive week, the mosques in Syria opened their doors on Friday for performing the Friday Prayer.

Last week, Syria’s Ministry of Religious Affairs announced the reopening of mosques only for Friday Prayer, starting from May 8, 2020.

The prayer rituals, according to Ministry statement, will be performed in accordance with health regulations such as wearing of masks by the faithful, maintaining proper distance between people and putting sterilizers at the entrances of the mosques.


Coronavirus: How UAE residents are balancing work and faith during Ramadan

May 15, 2020

Angel Tesorero

Dubai: The past few weeks have been challenging for Muslim healthcare professionals and other essential workers. Despite working longer hours and putting themselves at risk of getting exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19), they’re still managing to fulfill their duties and religiously observe fasting during Ramadan.

Speaking to Gulf News, Jordanian expat Hiba Sabobeh, an urgent care nurse at NMC Specialty Hospital-Al Ain, said: “We are in the frontline encountering numerous critical cases related to COVID-19. During Ramadan, I work 10 to 12 hours a day depending on the situation.”

“There can be immense stress at work in terms of patient health and safety as well as our personal safety. It has always been a challenge donning a complete PPE (personal protective equipment) suit for over 10 hours while fasting,” Sabobeh added.

“Sometimes, I hardly find time to fulfill my prayer duties on time during my period of work,” said Saboheh, adding: “But I remember Allah always in my thoughts.”

“At the end of the day, it is satisfying to fulfill my job responsibilities as a frontliner and a Muslim by balancing my work and faith,” she proudly underlined.

A colleague of Saboheh, Dr Ashraff Al Othman, consultant orthopedic at NMC Specialty Hospital-Al Ain, for his part, said: “The usual mosque prayers during Ramadan are missed so much because of the precautionary measures against COVID-19. But like my colleagues, I also manage to pray at home after my eight to 10 hours of work.”

“Most of our time is now spent with patients and we cannot make them wait for long, considering the safety of other patients and staff. Hence, we go the extra mile to ensure that we complete our work at a faster pace,” Al Othman pointed out.

“This Ramadan has been different in many aspects. Unlike previously, where we would dedicate maximum time to our prayers, we have spent the majority of our time in the protection of our patients and staff now,” he added.

“Iftars with friends and family have also been curtailed in order to keep them safe. I generally try to keep myself away from them,” he continued.

For Muslims, breaking the fast together is a very important religious observance. And this is what Pakistani taxi driver Hashim, 26, misses most this Ramadan.

“During previous years, my friends and I would go to mosques to sit together and share iftar meals. We also used those times to strengthen our bonds and share personal stories of how our day had passed. But now we avoid big gatherings and eat iftar meals separately,” he said.

Hashim, however, said he has never failed to fast during Ramadan. “Fasting while working is my form of prayer. I also listen to radio broadcasting the Holy Quran while I’m on duty so I can meditate on the holy verses,” he added.

His friends are also fasting and they support each other by encouraging everyone to continue fasting for the whole month despite the challenges.

Ghulam Mutraza, a chef at at an Ajman hotel, told Gulf News: “I am working for shorter hours during this period but on split shifts – from 1pm-4pm and from 12am-2am. I usually have suhour between 2.30am to 4.15 am, then say my morning prayers. Afterwards, I go to sleep at 5am to gain energy for my day’s work.”

“I break my fast and eat iftar with my colleagues at our staff cafeteria, followed by the prayers. During Ramadan, I pray five times a day and make it a point to connect with my family and loved ones back home in Pakistan by calling or chatting with them,” he narrated.

Mutraza added work is more this Ramadan because of the pandemic. He said: “We have stringent hygiene and sanitation measures in the hotel because of COVID-19. We have stepped up our food preparation and cleaning procedures, including wearing of face masks and checking of temperature before going to work.”



In Kashmir village, Muslims come together for last rites of worker from Punjab

May 16, 2020

by Adil Akhzer

As mobile and internet services, barring BSNL, were snapped in the Valley on May 6, villagers of Wakura, in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal, came together in a show of communal amity to conduct the last rites of a migrant worker from Punjab.

“We had contacted his family in Punjab so that the body could be taken to his village. But soon phones and internet were shut across the Valley and we lost contact with the family. Locals and his relatives here decided that we will conduct his last rites here,” Waseem Ahmad, a local resident, told The Indian Express.

Villagers, Waseem said, had no idea about how to go about performing the last rites. “We asked his colleagues and his cousins here what needs to be done. Villagers arranged everything and rites were conducted as per their religious customs,” he said.

Residents said as they learnt about Singh’s death, some locals youths volunteered and collected money from villagers. “Some of the money collected was transferred to the family’s account,” a villager said. “From cutting woods to making other arrangements for his cremation, everyone from the village came forward to help — everyone was present until the cremation.



Dozens injured as Israeli troops attack Palestinians marking Nakba Day

15 May 2020

Israeli forces attack Palestinian demonstrators in the north of the occupied West Bank, who were marking 72 years since the regime claimed existence after a Western-backed war that forced hundreds of thousands from their homes across the Palestinian territories.

The attack took place on Friday, while the Palestinians were holding Friday prayers to commemorate the Nakba (Catastrophe) Day in the town of al-Sawiya, located south of the city of Nablus, Lebanese television network al-Manar reported.

Hamas says Palestinians have the inalienable right to defend themselves, even through the armed resistance, against the Israeli occupation.

In January, Trump outlined the main points of a self-styled plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which he has touted as “the deal of the century.” The scheme proposed Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley and about 30 percent of the West Bank, including the settlements that the regime has set up there since occupying the territory during another war in 1967.

Large numbers of Israeli military vehicles showed up in al-Sawiya as the Palestinians were staging the peaceful protest, the Jordanian International Truth News Agency reported.

They fired teargas canisters at the prayers, “causing dozens of cases of suffocation in addition to beating injuries,” it said, noting that the Israeli soldiers also used "vehicles to spray wastewater towards the participants.”

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest rally against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, in the town of al-Sawiya, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on May 15, 2020. (Via Twitter)

Nevertheless, people flew Palestinian and black flags atop their houses across the Palestinian territories in commemoration of the tragedy, London-based the New Arab website reported.

Palestinians also used the cyberspace to mark the occasion and promote their right to return to their homeland by visiting the "National Campaign to Commemorate the Nakba" Internet page, it added.

The website cited Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) umbrella group as reminding that United Nations Resolution 194 has guaranteed the Palestinians’ right to return and compensation for their suffering.

The official warned, though, that the US “will not succeed because all the purported conspiracies have been shattered in the face of our struggle and resistance."

Separately, hundreds held a protest in the village of Ar’ara in the north of the occupied territories on Thursday against Israeli forces’ killing of a man, identified as Mustafa Younis, a day earlier, AFP reported.

The regime claims Younis had stabbed an Israeli guard during an altercation outside Tel Hashomer hospital in the Tel Aviv district.

Israeli forces clashed with the protesters, who were holding up posters of the 27-year-old, detaining a number of them.


Jordan warns of clash with Israel if West Bank annexation goes ahead

15 May 2020

Jordan’s King Abdullah II warns Israel that the regime should wait for a major clash with the kingdom if it goes ahead with plans to annex the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Abdullah said in comments published by the German magazine Der Spiegel on Friday that Amman was considering all options to respond to Israel’s plans to begin the illegal annexation process in early July.

However, the king fell short of threatening Israel with a freeze of Jordan’s controversial peace treaty with the Tel Aviv regime.

“I do not want to jump to statements and threats, and I will not prepare the ground for confrontation, but we are studying all the options and formulating understandings with many European countries and the international community,” he said.

The comments come after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the approval of his newly-installed coalition government to put his annexation plan for a vote in the Israeli cabinet or parliament as soon as July 1.

The plan, which enjoys the full support of the US government, has faced growing international criticism as the Israelis intend to annex lands that were occupied after the 1967 war with the Arabs and have been illegally used for settlement over the past decades.

The international community views the entire West Bank and the eastern part of the occupied city of Jerusalem al-Quds as lands that could become home to an independent Palestinian state in future.

King Abduallah II said that pressing for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would mean a collapse of the Palestinian Authority, the administration which is based in the West Bank and represents the interests of the Palestinians around the world.

That could have serious consequences and would lead to “deterioration and chaos and radicalization in the region,” he said.


US-Israel alliance promotes insecurity instead of peace: Iran Foreign Ministry

15 May 2020

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has hit back at Washington’s claim of “building a more peaceful, more prosperous future together” with Israel, saying the American-Israeli alliance is only boosting insecurity.

“Accurately speaking, the US is committed to an apartheid regime whose existence depends on racism, occupation, terror & aggression, to name a few,” the Ministry said in a post on its Twitter account on Friday.

Accurately speaking, the US is committed to an apartheid regime whose existence depends on racism, occupation, terror & aggression, to name a few. The partnership America is cherishing has built on destruction, bloodshed in #Palestine & beyond. The alliance does make 🌍 insecure.

It added that Washington is cherishing a partnership with Israel which has been built based on “destruction and bloodshed” in Palestine and other parts of the region and the world.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed to the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds at President Donald Trump's direction and said the move was a magnificent tribute to the deep and historic friendship between Washington and Tel Aviv.

“The US is committed to Israel. We’re committed to our alliance, and we are committed to building a more peaceful, more prosperous future together,” he wrote.

The US embassy relocation took place on May 14, 2018 on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe). On this day back in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly evicted from their homeland and Israel proclaimed existence.

The relocation came months after Donald Trump announced that Washington was recognizing the occupied city as the “capital” of Israel.

Israel lays claim to Jerusalem al-Quds in its entirety, but the international community views the city’s eastern sector as occupied territory and Palestinians consider it as the capital of their future state.

In a statement released on Thursday, on the eve of Nakba Day, the Iranian Foreign Ministry reiterated full support for Palestinians against the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities, calling on Muslim nations and the entire world community to take immediate and practical steps towards putting an end to decades of Israeli occupation.

As Palestine prepares to mark Nakba Day, Iran has calls on the international community to take practical steps towards ending decades-long Israeli occupation.

It said, “72 years ago, on this day, the Zionist immigrants massacred people of the land of Palestine — including men, women, the youth, the elderly and innocent children — and forced them out of their homes while using deviant and racist ideas and thoughts as a pretext. [That is how] the Palestinian land and the entire West Asia were afflicted with Zionist Nakba.”


Yemeni army, Houthis retake strategic positions from pro-Hadi militiamen

15 May 2020

Yemeni forces have wrested control over a number of strategic areas in the central province of al-Bayda from Saudi-backed mercenaries fighting to reinstate exiled former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The media bureau of Yemen’s Operations Command Center, in a series of posts published on its official Twitter page, announced that the Yemeni troops and fighters from the Houthi Ansarullah movement launched their attack in Souq al-Qaniyeh area, which lies in the eastern countryside of the province, and succeeded after several hours of heavy combat.

The Yemeni army troopers and Popular Committees fighters also recovered assault rifles as well as munitions from the pro-Hadi militiamen, destroyed a number of their vehicles and set fire to several military fortifications.

The Saudi-led coalition continues to bombard various areas across Yemen even though the war-ravaged county is struggling to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

Moreover, Saudi-led military aircraft carried out three airstrikes against a customs office in the Harad district, and another two on an area in the Midi district of Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah early on Friday.

Saudi artillery units also shelled residential neighborhoods in the border Razih district of the Yemen’s Sa’ada province, with no reports of casualties immediately available.

Elsewhere in the al-Hazm district of the northern Yemeni province of al-Jawf, Saudi warplanes launched four air raids against al-Khasaf region.

Separately, Saudi fighter jets pounded areas in the Majzar and Medghal districts of Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib. There was no immediate word on the extent of damage and possible casualties.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring Hadi back to power and crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The UN Development Program says a Saudi-led military campaign underway against Yemen has pushed back the country’s development 21 years.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.

More than half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or closed during the war by the Saudi-led coalition, which is supported militarily by the UK, US and other Western nations.

At least 80 percent of the 28 million-strong population is also reliant on aid to survive in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.,-allies-retake-strategic-positions-from-pro-Hadi-militiamen


Iranian fuel en route to Venezuela despite US sanctions on two allies: Report

15 May 2020

Reports of a shipment of Iranian fuel to Venezuela in the face of US sanctions against the two allies have infuriated the United States, with one official threatening to take “measures" against the “unwelcome” development.

The vessel tracking data from analyst Refinitiv Eikon suggests the tanker loaded fuel at Bandar Abbas port in Iran at the end of March, and sailed through the Suez Canal and entered the Atlantic on Wednesday.

A senior official in US President Donald Trump’s administration told Reuters on Thursday that the United States was considering measures against Iran in response to the fuel shipment. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said Washington has a “high degree of certainty” that the Venezuelan government is paying Iran in gold for the fuel.

“It is not only unwelcome by the United States but it’s unwelcome by the region, and we’re looking at measures that can be taken,” the official said.

Ever since withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, Washington has launched a so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, seeking to pressure it with a growing list of widespread sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has responded to the sanctions and the failure of JCPOA signatories – specifically Britain, France and Germany – to protect the deal by gradually suspending its own commitments to the nuclear accord.

Iran has, however, repeatedly announced its readiness to resume fulfilling its commitments if sanctions are removed. Washington has, however, pressed ahead with the campaign.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has said that the US policy for exerting “maximum pressure” on Iran has already failed and all economic indexes show that the country has weathered the worst phase of the American policy.

The United States has also over the past few years imposed harsh economic sanctions on Venezuela to pressure the country's President Nicolas Maduro to step down, forcing millions of Venezuelans to abandon their homeland due to a lack of basic food and necessities.

According to UN statistics, at least 3.3 million people have left the country of 30 million since the end of 2015.


Trump, Pompeo, Hook represent US’ dangerous ruling class: Iran's Shamkhani

16 May 2020

The Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) has lambasted US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook for their “mindless and dangerous” behavior.

“The Trump-Pompeo-Hook triangle has created an image of the American ruling class which is considered unreliable by its allies, a threat by its rivals and incompetent by its citizens,” Ali Shamkhani said in a tweet.

Under the Trump administration, many observers have said Washington has gained notoriety among friends and foes alike for its dubious behavior, commonly discarding international norms and even forfeiting its own allies for short-term gains.

Washington’s withdrawal from the multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, along with its subsequent obsession with denying Tehran of any economic respite, is regarded as one of the main defining pillars of Trump’s unruly foreign policy.

Pompeo and Hook have largely designed the Trump administration’s aggressive approach towards Iran, along with the hawkish former National Security Adviser John Bolton who was fired by Trump due to alleged policy disagreements last year.

The two officials have also been leading the US’ latest push to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran that will expire in October under UN Security Council resolution 2231, which endorsed the landmark Iran nuclear deal in 2015.

On Wednesday, Hook threatened that the US may seek to trigger a snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran if its attempts to extend the arms embargo fail.

The United States threatens to trigger a return of all United Nations sanctions on Iran if the UN Security Council does not extend an arms embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October.

Iran, along with other signatories to the deal such as China and Russia, have lambasted the purposed measure, arguing that Washington now holds no authority over the matter after violating the nuclear deal and, subsequently, UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

Many politicians and figures in the US have also criticized the disorderly nature of Trump’s foreign policy, specifically its approach towards Iran.

“Haphazard US policymaking has led to a weakening of America’s most important alliances, an increase in Iranian nuclear activity, and the consolidation of Iranian anti-American sentiment,” wrote US Senator Dianne Feinstein in an opinion piece on Thursday.

The senator hit out at Washington’s provocative policy towards Iran, adding that it lacked “any clear policy or overarching strategy” and that it could inadvertently lead to war.

Feinstein’s warnings about war come as the Trump administration has coupled economic sanctions with military provocations against Tehran, deploying thousands of troops to the region in order to “deter” Iran over the past year.

Washington came close to a full-scale confrontation with Tehran after it assassinated the country’s top anti-terrorism figure, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, while on an official trip in Iraq’s capital city Baghdad in January.

Iran responded to the assassination by firing volleys of ballistic missiles at two US-occupied bases in Iraq, causing extensive damage and casualties.

The Trump administration did not respond to the Iranian retaliatory strikes despite vowing in earlier statements a “disproportionate” response the Islamic Republic attacked its forces.



German far-right exploit Covid-19 to rally anti-Muslim fervour

Paul Peachey

May 15, 2020

Before the Covid-19 lockdown, far-right leader Lutz Bachmann shuttled between his Spanish home and Germany to rally a dwindling number of followers for his poisonous campaign against Muslim migrants.

During its heyday, the Friday night ritual of marches through the historic eastern city of Dresden, organised by Mr Bachmann’s grass-roots anti-migrant group, attracted more than 20,000 marchers.

By the time that large gatherings were banned because of Covid-19, the numbers were down to about 1,500 at bi-weekly events as Pegida - Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the Occident – struggled to maintain relevance in a crowded far-right scene.

The portly former thief now fronts “virtual marches” from his Tenerife bolthole during weekly YouTube broadcast when he rails against government restrictions and accuses migrants of lockdown infractions that put loyal white Germans at risk.

His diatribes are mingled with footage of police arrests at anti-lockdown protests, archive of the Dresden marches and supportive interventions from fellow European far-right leaders. His last two videos have been viewed more than 12,000 times.

Despite the cancellation of the marches, the lockdown imposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel are proving to be a valuable rallying point for Mr Bachmann.

He now positions himself as the “chief protector of the German constitution and its freedoms of speech and association,” said Sabine Volk, a research fellow at Jagiellonian University, Poland, who is working on an EU-funded project on populism in central and eastern Europe.

He has sought to latch on to the popularity of protests that have brought out thousands of people – a mixture of anti-vaccination activists, conspiracy theorists and the far-right –across Germany to demand an end to restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Counter-radicalisation experts say the extremists in Germany are in a prime position to exploit fear and uncertainty for the benefit of their cause.

History suggests that pandemics are good for the far-right. The Black Death of the 1340s resulted in a rise in anti-Semitism while immigrants were attacked in the 1890s when they were blamed for bringing cholera to New York.

Most controversially, a report by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York suggested that Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933 was boosted by voters from poor areas that had been worst affected by the influenza pandemic of 1918.

“There’s lots of evidence that professionalised haters have used Covid-19 as an opportunity to spread their creed,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digitial Hate, which tracks online extremist activity.

“The far right have a prime recruitment opportunity. They will use every opportunity to sell their narrative that in some way foreigners are to blame. Mrs Merkel has been particularly strict in seeking not to place blame on foreigners.”

He said he had alerted the authorities to one woman who went from writing about Harry Potter online to hosting a chatroom where bomb making and the disposal of bodies was being discussed within three months.

Researchers have identified up to 50,000 German speakers with far-right beliefs using nearly 400 online platforms including Telegram and Russian social network VK, said the UK-based thinktank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue which tracks hate speech online.

Analysis of those online groups has suggested that extremists have discussed spreading the virus by encouraging those with symptoms to cough on Muslims and Jews, said Professor Arie Kruglanski, of the University of Maryland and an expert on radicalisation.

One post on a Telegram channel called ‘Only White People Go to Heaven’ recommended that anyone infected with the virus “travel to more ethnic parts of town, including mosques and synagogues, etc”.

“What they have to offer corresponds to the needs of what people seek, of some kind of empowerment at a time when there’s a sense of fragility and weakness,” said Prof Kruglanski.

“It’s all very fertile ground. It’s a petri dish in which they can operate with greater fervour. In addition, there are these new opportunities with society weakened and they can carry out attacks with relative impunity, or so they think.”

The pandemic followed a surge in far-right activity in Germany. Dr Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute on Radicalization and De-Radicalization Studies, told a webinar that there were 25,000 organised neo-Nazis in Germany, with half of them violent.

Figures obtained this week by Irene Mihalic, an MP and spokesman for Germany’s Green Party, showed an increase in politically-motivated crimes with more than 22,000 attributed to right-wing extremists.

A pro-migrant regional politician, Walter Lubcke, was murdered in June last year with a far-right extremist in custody accused of the killing.

In February, Tobias Rathjen, 43, killed nine immigrants and ethnic minority Germans in a rampage at Hanau near Frankfurt before killing himself. The attack happened shortly after a group of men were arrested for planning attacks on mosques in the hope of sparking civil war.

The figures obtained by Ms Mihalic also showed that weapons permits held by far-right extremists had doubled since 2018 to reach 892.

“Several far-right groups …. are preparing for a day X with a breakdown of the democratic system and the social order,” said Ms Mihalic. “Therefore, more and more people of the far-right are acquiring gun licences and guns.”

She said that rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has taken support away from groups like Pegida and holds nearly 100 seats in the national parliament, has made radical right-wing ideas more socially acceptable. “The AfD has become a melting pot and catalyst for right-wing ideas,” she said.

But Mrs Merkel’s widely praised handling of the Covid-19 crisis has seen support for the AfD drop – and left some of its supporters seeking a radical alternative to the political party.

German media has reported prominent right-wing figures have taken leading roles in trying to run the demonstrations amid concerns that they are being hijacked by the extremists.

In Germany, people — who wouldn't have much in common were it not for COVID-19 — are forming an unlikely alliance to protest against restrictions. …

Vaccination opponents, conspiracy theorists and activists with drastically different political views have been protesting Germany's pandemic measures. Outside Germany this show of unity is rare —...

Photographs showed one speaker wearing a t-shirt with a Jewish star saying “not vaccinated” in an echo of the labelling of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Some embraced the lockdown and others dismissed the pandemic as a “conspiracy” against white Europeans with philanthropists Bill Gates and George Soros acting as the puppet masters, said Kira Ayyadi, of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation which monitors extremist activity.

The lockdown had forced the cancellation of several far-right rock concerts that have proved valuable money-raising operations for right-wing groups.

It included a ‘Skinheads Back to the Roots’ festival cancelled in April featuring veteran extremist band Radikahl. Its members have previously claimed to be fighting for the “White Race in Europe”.

“It seems likely that the pandemic will have dire consequences on the funding of extremist groups,” said Ms Mihalic, the MP. “Nevertheless, I assume that the tight-knit network of far right groups with contacts to several foreign groups will make up the missing sum”.

Ms Ayyadi said that right-wing groups had discussed making facemasks to raise money to support their cause. One Pegida broadcast showed a supporter wearing a mask with the logo “Stasi 2.0” - an unflattering reference linking Ms Merkel’s policies with the feared East German secret police of the Communist years.

“They’re getting back on to the streets now that restrictions of loosened and they’re attending lots of demonstrations to influence a new audience,” she said. “The pandemic and the demonstrations are good for the far-right movement. They have new people on the streets they can talk to.”

From his home in Tenerife, Mr Bachmann has sought to channel the disaffection of the anti-lockdown protests for his weekly broadcasts.

The fifth edition of his broadcast had sought to stream footage live from one of the protests but technical problems forced it to be scrapped.

Instead, he appeared two days later for a new broadcast from his home in Tenerife wearing a t-shirt that referenced a glib brush-off he made to a journalist when he was asked to condemn the killing of Mr Lubcke.

“There’s a lot of praising of Pegida and a lot of hate speech against the German political establishment,” said Ms Volk. “He tries to connect Covid-19 with an anti-immigration stance – but he’s careful not to be too inflammatory.”


Leicester Ramadan during lockdown: How families are adjusting to social distancing and more

ByAsha Patel

15 MAY 2020

Now, in the last two weeks of Ramadan, considered some of the holiest days of the month, LeicestershireLive spoke to families about how Ramadan during lockdown has been.

Want a free daily bulletin - plus breaking news alerts direct to your inbox? Then sign up to our email newsletter service!

All you need to do is type your email address into the 'sign up to free daily alerts' box. It's at the top of this article.

It's also on any stories on the website - simply click 'subscribe' and you can expect your first newsletter at the next release.

Ahmed Yusuf has been working from home during the coronavirus pandemic and adjusting to the changes with his wife and three children.

Despite the “disappointing” absence of congregational prayer, the father-of-three said there has been “pros and cons” to the circumstances.

Although the children, aged twelve, ten and five, are not of obligatory fasting age, their dad said this has been an opportunity for them to learn about Ramadan.

One of the traditional customs she has missed is visiting family and friends with food platters - something she said “most Muslims do more of during Ramadan”.

She and her family, like others across the city and county, have been getting used to having a constantly full house.

“We finally have a Ramadan where we can focus on ourselves, family and of course Ramadan itself properly,” she said.


‘Jihad Jane’ review: lies, deceit and murder in a tale of terrorist seduction

By Lou Thomas

15th May 2020

Director Ciarán Cassidy’s fascinating documentary Jihad Jane investigates how a vulnerable American woman ended up sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder.

Following a row with her boyfriend Kurt on holiday in Amsterdam, Colleen LaRose hooked up with a Muslim man staying in the same hotel. Her interest in Islam was piqued by this brief encounter, and once home in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, LaRose signed up to a Muslim dating site. From there, she began spending hours each week delving into videos depicting Western attacks on Muslims and started posting comments on YouTube as ‘JihadJane’ in June 2008.

By the time of her arrest in October 2009, LaRose, along with five other conspirators, was planning to murder Swedish artist Lars Vilks after a fatwa had been placed on him for drawing the Islamic prophet Muhammad with a dog’s head. Cassidy’s film shows a clip of an Al Qaida video offering $150,000 for Vilks’ life. Among LaRose’s accomplices was Pakistani immigrant Mohammad Hassan Khalid, who at 15 became the youngest person ever to be prosecuted for terrorism offences in the US, and Jamie Paulin Ramirez – so-called Jihad Jamie – another American woman from a troubled background.

Over a tight 94 minutes, we hear from key players in the conspiracy, with LaRose herself first heard by phone from Tallahassee prison in Florida – and later seen upon her release in November 2018. Relatives of the conspirators, attorneys and FBI agents involved in the case fill in details – and we hear horrific accounts of LaRose’s upbringing, including that she was repeatedly raped by her father as a young child. It is no surprise that every subsequent romantic relationship LaRose enters into seems destined for disaster. There is also a heartbreaking scene in which LaRose phones her son Christian, only for him to be uninterested with her attempts to rekindle a maternal connection.

It’s not a perfect doc and there are avenues of inquiry that could have been explored which aren’t. It remains a mystery who Eagle Eye, a conspirator seemingly named after a Shia LaBeouf action film about terrorism, actually was. That aside, it would be interesting to know exactly what LaRose did in mainland Europe after she left Paulin Ramirez in Ireland and immediately before she returned to the US and her arrest.

Regardless of such holes, Cassidy’s film is a harrowing one that avoids sensationalism. LaRose and her co-conspirators aren’t excused for their murderous intent but neither are they demonised. Interviews with protagonists are fair and sensitive, while archive news reports of the case are used sparingly. By the conclusion of Jihad Jane, we’re left in no doubt of the long-term and far-reaching emotional consequences of embracing extremism. We can also begin to understand why hideous life experiences might push people to pursue actions most of us consider unthinkable.


South Asia 

Taliban abduct 12 people from mosques in Paktia: official


Taliban abducted 12 people while they were offering prayers in mosques in eastern Paktia province last night, an official told 1TV on Saturday.

They were taken away from mosques in Mandokheil village of Samkani district, said Abdul Rahman Zurmati, the governor of the district.

Separately, Taliban killed eight Afghan forces and wounded nine others in overnight attacks on security checkpoints around Machalghu dam in Paktia, a security source told 1TV on Saturday.

Afghan forces killed nine Taliban militants and wounded five others in the same area later in the morning, according to the army's Thunder Corps.


Al-Muslim turns factory into quarantine centre for workers

May 16, 2020

Aklakur Rahman Akash

Al-Muslim Group, a leading garment exporter, is constructing quarantine centres at Savar to treat its workers who show Covid-19 symptoms.

The group will inaugurate a centre, which will be able to house 60 patients, at the factory premises very soon. All treatment costs will be borne by them.

"We are preparing another centre in the same building with 60 beds. but construction might take a while," said Imteaz Ahmed Matin, general manager (admin) of Al- Muslim Group.

Matin said so far, nine out of its more than 16,000 workers have been infected with coronavirus. "So, we are turning our 12,000 square-feet accessories factory building into a quarantine centre."

If any worker shows Covid-19 symptoms, they will be sent to the centre immediately. The group will appoint two doctors, six nurses and some technicians in a day or two, he said.

The doctors and technicians will collect test samples from workers and those will be sent to the nearby hospitals or government testing labs. Workers will have to stay at the centre until reports come back.

If the report of a worker comes back positive, they will be sent to hospitals or other centres for further treatment. If it comes back negative, they will be released from the centre, said Matin.

Al-Muslim Group reopened its factories April 25 at Savar'sUlail. The group has taken such an initiative to mainly stop community transmission, as workers' residences are not properly maintaining health-safety measures, he further said.

It is not only Al-Muslim Group, other organisations are also taking initiatives to set up such centres, said a senior executive of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Furthermore, BGMEA is going to set up four coronavirus testing labs in the next 15 days in four industrial belts -- Savar, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram -- with the help of local administrations and health offices, the executive added.


242 Bangladeshis stranded in US on their way home

May 16, 2020

A special flight carrying 242 Bangladesh citizens who were stranded in the US amid the coronavirus pandemic departed for Bangladesh from Washington Dulles International Airport on May 15.

The flight is scheduled to land at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 4:00am (Bangladesh local time) tomorrow, according to the Bangladesh embassy in the US and airport officials here.

Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Mohammad Ziauddin saw off the passengers and wished them a safe flight, the embassy said in a release.

The travelling passengers mostly include Bangladeshi students studying in different colleges and universities in the US, Bangladeshi citizens who came to America as tourists and on business and some government and non-government officials.

The passengers also include 49 school and college students who came to the US under an Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) programme.


German Ambassador reacts to Taliban’s latest statement regarding Kabul, Nangarhar attacks

16 May 2020

The German Ambassador to Afghanistan Peter Prugel reacted to Taliban’s latest statement regarding the deadly recent deadly attacks, calling on Taliban to live up to their comment to abandon violence and fight terrorism in Afghanistan.

“Can only repeat what I said 2 days ago: Denial & condemnation of these heinous #attacks are welcome, but WORDS are NOT ENOUGH! Deeds must follow! #Taliban must recall the Spirits of Evil they unleashed & live up to their commitment to abandon and fight terrorism in #Afghanistan,” Ambassador Prugel said in a Twitter post.

He also added “The spiral of violence must be interrupted! #Taliban must make proof of their will for peace, agree to a #HumanitarianCeasefire& start intra-Afghan negotiations without delay – in order to lay the foundations for a peaceful #Afghanistan and jointly combat the evil of #terrorism.”

The Taliban group on Friday issued a statement demandig a transparent and impartial investigations into the deadly attacks in Kabul and Nangarhar provinces.

The group condemned the two attacks in strong words and blamed the ‘criminal and malicious elements affiliated with the Afghan government’ for being involved in the two attacks.

“The Islamic Emirate strongly condemned both attacks and clarified that these attacks were the work of criminal and malicious elements who are seeking to attain their malicious objectives by killing defenseless human beings,” the group said in a statement.

The statement further added “The Islamic Emirate once again clarifies that it had no hand in the DashtiBarchi incident, considers it a vile, inhumane and an un-Islamic act and shares the grief of the families of martyrs and wounded of this tragedy.”

This comes as the Afghan government ordered the Afghan forces to resume offensive operations against the militants, blaming the Taliban and ISIS groups for targeting the civilians, women and infants.

Dozens of people including many security personnel, women and newborn children were killed after the militants carried out a series of attacks in Kabul, Nangarhar and Laghman provinces during the course of the week.


Atmar’s Special Assistant targeted in Kabul city

16 May 2020

The Special Assistant of Mohammad Haneef Atmar, the acting foreign minister of Afghanistan, escaped an assassination attempt as unknown gunmen opened fire on him in Kabul city late on Thursday night.

“MutiullahAbdulrahimzai, a Special Assistant to Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar, was attacked by terrorists around 10:30 PM on May 14, 2020 near his residence in the 8th District of Kabul. Doctors assure that his health condition is under control,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The statement further added “Mr. Atmar strongly condemns this cowardly act, and wishes a speedy recovery for Mr. Abdulrahimzai.”

“Minister Atmar emphasized that such terrorist acts will not hinder his efforts in pursuit of national interest and peace in Afghanistan, and will further strengthen and renew his commitment to achieving this national objective,” the foreign ministry said, adding that the security and law enforcement services are working to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.


Afghanistan records 414 new cases of novel coronavirus in past 24 hours

15 May 2020

The public health authorities recorded 414 new positive cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the past 24 hours, increasing the total number of COVID-19 positive cases to over 6,000 since the outbreak of the virus.

Deputy Public Health Minister Wahid Majroh said the public health authorities tested 1,221 people across the country in the past 24 hours.

According to Majroh, the results of 414 people returned as positive which increased the total number of COVID-19 positive cases to 6,053 people since the outbreak of the virus.

He also added that 17 others who had contracted the disease lost their lives during the same period which increase the total number of the deaths to 153.


Southeast Asia 

Malaysia, China boost cooperation in fighting Covid-19

15 May 2020


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and China renewed their commitments to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob expressed this commitment to China Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe during a phone call between the two leaders.

During the call, Ismail Sabri who is also Defence Minister, and his counterpart updated each other on the prevention and control measures undertaken by both countries to fight the disease.

According to a statement from the Defence Ministry, both leaders agreed that it was critical for countries to continue working together to contain the spread of the virus.

"In this regard, the Defence Minister of Malaysia extended his sincere appreciation to the Ministry of National Defence of the People’s Republic of China for the contribution of medical supplies consisting of 13 medical items and equipment.

"The contribution from China is invaluable and would support the frontliners from the Malaysian Armed Forces," the statement said.

Ismail Sabri received the call from General Wei at 4pm on Friday (May 15).

During the call, General Wei took the opportunity to congratulate Ismail Sabri on his appointment and the two leaders also touched on regional and international security challenges of mutual interest and common concern, including the South China Sea.


More opportunities for collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore due to close ties, says Dr Wee

15 May 2020

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia and Singapore's close friendship will continue to allow new opportunities for collaboration, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

“I gave my assurance that Malaysia is committed to ensuring our joint projects progress well, including the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, ” he said in a Facebook post on Friday (May 15).

Dr Wee said he was also thankful to receive Singapore's acknowledgement that Malaysia has been committed to reducing congestion at ports and keeping the supply chain environment moving since the start of the movement control order (MCO) so that all essential goods can reach the regional neighbours unhindered.


Malaysia and Japan to enhance bilateral ties

16 May 202

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia and Japan will continue their close bilateral ties through more government-to-government cooperation, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

“Japanese investments and technical contributions have helped put Malaysia on the road to industrialisation with some 1,400 Japanese firms operating here, half of them in the manufacturing sector, ” he said in an Instagram post after receiving a call from Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Hiroshi Oka at his office in Putrajaya on Thursday.

Dr Wee said Oka had informed him that the Japanese government would include allocations in its upcoming economic revival supplementary budget to expand government-to-government cooperation.

He said this was important as it was at a time when regional cooperation was crucial for economic recovery due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Wee said he discussed co-operation in the transport sector with the envoy, adding that Malaysia was committed to ensuring that joint projects such as the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System were realised.

Dr Wee also said he had received Singapore’s acknowledgment that Malaysia had been committed to reducing port congestion and keeping the supply chain environment moving since the start of the movement control order.


Coronavirus vaccine search: How we're preparing to make enough for the whole world


May 16, 2020

There are 102 candidate vaccines being explored as a means of ending the COVID-19 pandemic, as of April 30. Eight of these have already made it to clinical trials in humans, and another 94 are in the pre-clinical evaluation stage.

These candidates also fall into eight different categories of vaccine development strategy that are being explored. While it still doesn’t guarantee success, this is in effect the biological equivalent of hedging our bets in the hope that one of the strategies will pay off.

But if and when a successful vaccine is found, we still have to manufacture enough of it to immunize huge numbers of people all around the world. And how long this will take, and what is involved, will depend on which strategy is found to work, because different vaccines are made in different ways.

Despite arguments about lack of preparedness concerning PPE and testing, the UK has been on the front foot when it comes to identifying suitable candidate vaccines. It is leading the charge to ramp up production, having invested more than any other country in doing so, according to the health secretary, Matt Hancock.

The UK’s two leading candidate vaccines, being developed by the University of Oxford and Imperial College London respectively, both use very different approaches that were already under investigation in the lab for other diseases.

Oxford’s candidate, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, uses a genetically modified chimpanzee adenovirus as a “vector” to carry the genetic sequence of a protein from the COVID-19 coronavirus to the human body. The body can then learn to recognize the coronavirus and start producing antibodies to fight it. This is the same technique the team previously developed for the closely related Mers coronavirus, which showed promise in animal and early-stage human testing.

The Imperial candidate, in contrast, is what’s known as a self-amplifying RNA vaccine. It is designed to induce muscle cells to produce the coronavirus protein, which then stimulates the immune system to produce the antibodies.

Usually vaccine development takes years, but human clinical trials for the Oxford vaccine candidate are underway, just three months after the genetic sequence of the coronavirus was released for study. This is thanks to a specialist adenovirus manufacturing platform adapted as part of work by the EPSRC UCL-Oxford Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (Vax Hub), as well as next-generation gene sequencing methods that have enabled the team to proceed at breakneck speed.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has announced it will develop, manufacture and distribute the vaccine (if it’s successful) around the world. But to do this, it will need to find a way to scale up production without critically affecting the supply of other vital vaccines.

Global manufacturing facilities are adept at producing millions of vaccine doses against influenza, measles and polio. They have strategies in place to step up production at times of increased demand, such as for the annual winter flu season. But we are in unprecedented times, and the global demand for a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine will be on a scale never before seen, likely resulting in key production and distribution bottlenecks.

Vaccine production requires complex manufacturing processes involving the production of living organisms that, in turn, generate the genetically-modified virus on which the vaccine is based. And we must get the manufacturing right. These vaccines will be administered to healthy people to generate immunity to the virus. Any faults would risk their safety and a long-term loss of public confidence.

But there is cause for cautious optimism. As we await the clinical trial outcomes for the Oxford vaccine, behind the scenes there has been a flurry of activity to adapt existing manufacturing technologies and processes to make the adenovirus vector it relies on.

Alongside AstraZeneca, established UK-based viral vector production companies such as Oxford Biomedica and Cobra Biologics have adapted their manufacturing sites. The UK government has launched a vaccine taskforce to coordinate scale-up efforts, funded a £14 million industry-led vaccine manufacturing group and fast-tracked a £65 million Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC).

The manufacturing process for the Oxford vaccine will begin by encoding the coronavirus surface protein into the adenovirus vector. “Producer cells”, usually human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells, will then be used as mini-factories to produce the vector particles. The producer cells will be grown at scale in a bioreactor, a vessel that tightly controls the environmental conditions to optimize cell growth.

The cells will then be put through a series of steps to purify and concentrate the final adenovirus vector, including filtration and centrifugation (spinning it very fast in order to separate different particles). Finally, the solution will be formulated into a usable product and kept stable by storing it between 2°C and 8°C.

However, the final concentration of the solution can vary significantly, and it is the lack of an effective manufacturing process to resolve this problem that limits current production on a mass scale. This will be the significant challenge AstraZeneca will face in translating the lab-based Oxford process to something akin to industrial manufacturing.

Importantly, the groundwork for this has already been established by UK engineers and scientists. Sustained, flexible research funding for vaccine manufacture will be critical to mitigate the impact of this coronavirus and prepare for future outbreaks.

Of course, all these efforts will only come into play if the Oxford vaccine (or potentially another in the same category) is found to work. Other vaccine candidates, such as that being developed by Imperial, will require a substantially different manufacturing process. In these unprecedented times, the world’s vaccine experts will have to work with unprecedented speed and innovation to deliver a way to save potentially millions of lives and start returning society to normal.


North America 

‘It’s really comforting’: Islamic call to prayer heard for 1st time in Canada amid coronavirus

May 15, 2020


OTTAWA — The Al Rashid Mosque has stood in Edmonton since 1938, but no one there today can remember ever hearing the daily call to prayer ring out through the loudspeakers.

The Al Rashid, Canada’s oldest mosque, livestreams the call online every evening for thousands of people who cannot be there in person.

Some parents have been bringing their children to stand outside the mosque at sundown to hear the call and share the experience they never expected to pass on in Canada.

Some who worship there grew up in countries where Islam is the dominant religion. For them, the sound transports them back to their own childhood, where the adhan was heard ringing through local neighbourhoods five times each day.

“Being able to break their fast on the sound of the prayer, it was a big moment they will not forget, I’m sure,” said Noor Al-Henedy, who works for the mosque.

Ramadan is a month-long period dedicated to prayer, reflection and charity, underscored by the practice of abstaining from food and water during the day.

While Muslim Canadians have endured the same hardships as the rest of the country during the COVID-19 crisis, including job losses and isolation, the pandemic has provided an even greater opportunity to reflect on life’s priorities and put others first.

“To really be able to reflect well on yourself while fasting, to look around you and appreciate the blessings that you have, to understand the struggle that many people are going through … is really important.”

“It’s really comforting,” said Sahar Zimmo, who has heard the adhan before while travelling in other countries, but has now heard it in her hometown of London, Ont., for the first time.

“To actually hear the call to prayer, it gave me a sense of hope, a sense of relief at a time when things are up in the air and not normal,” she said.

Allowing the call to prayer in Canadian cities hasn’t been totally without backlash, but Zimmo said neighbours in London have been supportive.

At a time when everyone is isolated from one another, being able to share a part of her community and faith with the rest of her city is heartening.

“It just gives us hope that better times are coming, it gives us a sense of togetherness and a sense of unity that we’re all kind of in this struggle together,” she said.

In Ottawa, the call to prayer was sung from the minaret of the Ottawa Mosque for the first time in its history on May 2, and has continued every night since.

On Thursday evening, a handful of Muslim families in cars lined up down the street to listen. Mothers wearing hijabs stood outside holding babies and toddlers. But neighbours and passersby on bicycles also paused to listen.

“It’s emotional,” said Judy Hamwi, 23, whose Lebanese family travelled from Orleans, in the eastern area of Ottawa, to hear the call for the first time in their Canadian home.

Imam Muhammad Sulaiman, the mosque’s spiritual leader, stepped out of the building at the end of the adhan with a cup of water in his hand to greet the onlookers and signal it was time to break the fast. Families started digging into the elaborate suppers they packed in their cars.

On any other evening during Ramadan, he would have welcomed them into the mosque to enjoy their meals together. But this year, when people can share in little else together, at least they can share this experience.


Ramadan this year a different experience for Katy Muslims

May 15, 2020

By Tracy Maness

For roughly 115 member households and more than 3,000 Muslims that call the Katy Aqsa Islamic Center their primary mosque, the Ramadan holy days have looked very different this year.

With mosques closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, the community of Masjid Aqsa, which is part of the larger Islamic Society of Greater Houston, has been praying and breaking fast each evening at home with their families instead of at the mosque with everyone.

Three members shared about their experiences during the 30-day observance, which occurs yearly during the ninth month of the lunar calendar and represents the Muslim prophet’s first receiving the faith’s holy book, the Quran. Ramadan runs this year from April 23 to May 23.

“So Ramadan, whether you’re a man or a woman, it is the official second pillar of the religion. And it is incumbent that you do this one month out of the whole lunar calendar year: you fast from sunrise to sunset, and then you refrain and stop yourself from doing things that you would normally do, all for the sake of God.” said Azeema Rehman, who helps lead the women of the mosque.

Other behaviors she said Muslims abstain from include cheating, lying and any actions that harm others and should not be done at all.

She explained that abstaining from food or drink frees up time to get to the mosque to pray. Because they would traditionally pray with their faces on the floor of the mosque five times a day, sanitizing and cleaning to prevent the spread of the virus would be impossible. As mosques are closed, Rehman said Muslim communities have been affected similarly to Christian or Jewish communities celebrating Easter or Passover from their homes.

“Pretty much, it’s a social event, especially that night after you open your fast, you know, everybody congregates in the mosque, and you see each other. And it’s a big social party. You pray together, you talk, and you see each other daily for about 30 days,” Rehman said.

For the elderly, the stay-at-home moms and people otherwise homebound, Ramadan is usually a highly anticipated way to get out of the house, which of course, did not happen this year. However, families, she said, have gotten to pray and talk about their faith together more and were forced to slow down for this year’s observances.

At 18, Fawazz Akhtar is a zonal councilman and youth coordinator at Masjid Aqsa. He works with boys from around 7 years to men 21 years or more. His 82-year-old grandfather tells him he has never seen a Ramadan where all the mosques were closed. Akhtar agreed this is a unique season.

“Not having the mosque open during the most holiest month, it really puts into perspective the seriousness and perplexity of the times in which we are in,” said Akhtar.

He has found ways to help the youth of the mosque observe Ramadan. They have kept in touch through Zoom, found different ways to play games and coordinated with young boys and men at other Houston-area mosques for online lectures and events.

“It’s been a learning experience at times, trying to make sure everyone’s connected, nobody’s missing, etc. Yet at the same time these have been invaluable lessons,” he said. “I now can proudly say we have strengthened our brotherhood.”

He added this year’s Ramadan is teaching him to praise God for everything, even the ability to stay connected through technology during the pandemic when people in other places are living in isolation right now.

AyishaShajahan just finished her senior year at the Houston Quran Academy and is planning to study at the University of Houston in the fall. She moved to Katy from Alabama around 10 years ago and says she has always loved living in smaller Muslim communities where people know each other. The mosque, she says, has shaped her into the person she has become.

Each year, Shajahan looks forward to Ramadan to get to see her friends that she may not see other times of the year — to eat, socialize and pray with them. This year though, the mosque remained shut down as Ramadan started. Shajahan compared it to not being able to go to church.

“So then when you’re at home, it’s good to pray. But then it’s just it doesn’t feel that special, like, connection. It feels better to do it at the mosque, and like this year, we’ve really had to make amends with that and kind of work harder, you know, to connect,” said Shajahan.

Shajahan said this Ramadan has helped her reevaluate its real meaning, her connection with God and to “rethink our memories and then just kind of work harder being better Muslims because this is our only time during the year. And all of us just look forward to as like a spiritual recharge, and it really helps to put in all of our, like, best effort during this month.”

Each year during Ramadan, there are some that are struggling financially that come to the mosque to get a meal for the day without having to turn to a charity. Shajahan thinks about them this year and how she has her meal waiting for her at home. While many of the Houston-area mosques are giving out meals, Shajahan said getting charity is not really the same as being able to eat together as a group.

“You just get to go with your community and get your dinner, and it’s just, it’s a different feeling. And I feel really blessed for being in a situation where I do have a next meal to break my fast with,” Shajahan said.


For Philadelphia-area Muslims, breaking their daily fast brings a mix of emotions

May 15, 2020

by Heather Khalifa

Another evening had come, and like every evening this Ramadan, the volunteers at the Philadelphia Masjid were working to distribute dinners around the region. The program, done through a collaborative of local mosques and organizations, delivers the bulk of the 200 dinners nightly. They were close to running out Tuesday, so Dr. Tahir Wyatt, executive director of the United Muslim Masjid, sent for more food.

Wyatt said that their large-scale halal dinner delivery, as far as they know, is the first of its kind for their community in the area. This is not a Ramadan like the Ramadans he’s observed in Saudi Arabia, where the country changes their work-life routines, to welcome the holy month. And it hasn’t been a Ramadan that his native Philadelphia is used to, where large community iftars may draw hundreds of people, where some families plan out impressive menus with “a competitive edge” to share after sunset.

“I can't really sum that up in one sentence, but if I was to give it a shot, I would say that this Ramadan is a lot more personal,” Wyatt said. “It makes every Muslim deeply reflect about their relationship and their bond with their Creator and for that reason this Ramadan is special. And I don't mean that it's the best Ramadan I've ever had. It's very different.”

There’s been a mix of emotions for many area Muslims. Some say, even through the pandemic’s limitations, it is still a time to reflect and give back, even if that means going without a community feast.

Here are glimpses of what this Ramadan has been like for Muslim families in the Philadelphia area.



COVID-19: Govt grants CAN request, reveals time Churches, Mosques can hold services

May 15, 2020

By FikayoOlowolagba

Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, on Friday lifted the ban on religious gatherings across the State with immediate effect from May 15.

Mr Uchenna Orji, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, disclosed this in a statement issued in Abakaliki on Friday as part of measures to ease COVID-19 lockdown in the State.

“Seventh Day Adventists and Muslim faithful are to observe their services on Saturdays and Fridays, respectively and also from to

“No religious centre shall permit more than 50 people and worshippers must observe a minimum of two metres social distancing from one another,” he said.

Orji said that wearing of face masks, washing of hands with running water and use of sanitisers must be strictly observed in all religious centres.

“No religious service is allowed to hold any other day than the days specified herein and which must be in strict observance of all COVID-19 laws and regulations,” he added.

He urged CAN to close down any religious gathering and arrest the principal of the worship centre, which violates this order, NAN reports.

Orji told religious leaders to use the medium to advise members on the need to ensure strict compliance and discipline.


Guinness, Muslim News distribute free drinks for Iftar

May 16, 2020

By Tajudeen Adebanjo

Guinness Nigeria Plc in partnership with Muslim News, an Islamic newspaper has begun distribution of Malta Guinness to Muslims in different locations in Lagos.

The collaboration was aimed at cushioning the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown which has impacted on economic and religious activities in Ramadan.

The distribution exercise led by the Muslim News Publisher, Rasheed Abubakar saw hundreds of fasting Muslims and non-Muslims thronged the main distribution centre at Pent House, Surulere.

Abubakar and his team moved to other local government areas including Coker/Aguda, Orile, Mushin, Awoyokun, Onipanu, Somolu, Ojuelegba, Bariga and Offin Ile, in Ikorodu to put smiles in the faces of fasting Muslims.

They also distributed to different mosques including Alhaji Kilani Mosque, Ojuelegba; Alhaji Alebiosu Central Mosque, Palmgroove, Alhaji Ayolo Central Mosque, Ijesha, among others.

“First, we must stay stronger together as Nigerians irrespective of religious persuasions and stand collectively by following all the health and precautionary guidelines to bring an end to this pandemic.

Then, there is the need to provide palliatives for indigent persons, particularly fasting Muslims, more importantly, as Ramadan itself is a period of giving.

“Any time we publish activities of Islamic groups giving out money, food or other relief packages, we receive countless requests for support from indigent persons – Muslims and non-Muslims. So, most times we refer them to these foundations since we are not an NGO.

“Luckily for us, the Guinness Nigeria Plc Team reached out to us. They decided to give us 1000 cases of Malta Guinness for distribution to fasting Muslims.

Interestingly, the company has embarked on this distribution of her non-alcoholic drink to support the palliative measures being undertaken by some states. We’re very grateful to them for this kind gesture.”


Kaduna discharges 35 infected Almajirai after treatment

May 16, 2020

Not less than 35 of the Almajirai infected by Covid-19 in Kaduna State have been discharged.

Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufa’i who disclosed this on his Twitter handle said, Kaduna State now has 47 active Covid-19 cases following the treatment and discharge of the 35 almajirai.

According to El-Rufai, “35 more patients, all of them almajirai have been discharged having tested negative to the virus.

“The State now has 47 active Covid-19 cases, having discharged 63 persons and recorded four fatalities.” He said.

The state had recently discharged 210 other Almajirai after testing negative teice, from the quarantine centre where they were kept for two week after they were repatriated to the state from Kano and other states.



‘Hazrat Ali (RA) a great role model for all Muslims’

May 16, 2020

The central procession of Yaum-e-Ali on the 21st day of Ramazan to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (RA) culminated peacefully under tightened security measures on Friday.

The procession started from Nishtar Park and ended at the ImambargahHussainian Iranian in Kharadar. Strict security measures had been taken to maintain law and order ahead of the procession.

On the 21st of Ramazan, which fell on May 15 this year, the procession started from Nishtar Park and passed through its traditional route that included Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto Road, Father Jamnis Road, Mahfil-e-Shah Khurasan Road, New MA Jinnah Road Corridor-III, Saddar Dawakhana, Preedy Street, MA Jinnah Road, Boulton Market, Bombay Bazaar, Kharadar and Nawab MohabbatKhanjee Road, and finally ended at the lmambargahHussainian Iranian.

Before the central procession started marching towards the Hussainian Iranian in Kharadar, renowned scholar Allama Syed Shahenshah Hussain Naqvi highlighted the life and sacrifices of Hazrat Ali (RA). He said Hazrat Ali's life was a great model for all Muslims to follow. Allama Naqvi in his sermon shed light on the life of Hazrat Ali (RA) and also on the advice the fourth caliph gave to his children before breathing his last. In his address, Allama Naqvi highlighted various aspects of the life of Hazrat Ali (RA), and why he was considered a source of knowledge and symbol of tolerance, bravery, generosity and eloquence even today.

Mourners said that initially, the authorities issued passes to 313 mourners, but later they cancelled the passes. They said the mourners had started gathering at Nishter Park late on Thursday night to join the procession.

They said the mourners started marching towards the traditional route while removing containers and barricades. They claimed that this was the first time when the procession was conducted without security. They also claimed that a number of mourners were also arrested by police and several cases were also registered against them.

On the other hand, some media channels quoted a top police officer of Karachi as stating that the police had registered some 38 cases and arrested 150 people, including the organisers and mourners of the procession, over the violation of Section 144 imposed by the government banning all religious gatherings and processions.

Later, the Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM) and other Shia groups claimed that the police had arrested more than 200 participants of the Yaum-e-Ali procession while they were returning to their homes.

MWM Sindh secretary general AllamaBaqir Abbas Zaidi said that though the participants were following the SOPs for the occasion, the Sindh government had created unnecessary hurdles in organising the Yaum-e-Ali procession in Karachi.

He said more than 200 participants of the procession had been arrested in different parts of the city while they were returning home. He said a number of participants of the Yaum-e-Ali procession were also arrested in the Shikapur district.

“We condemn their arrests and demand of the provincial government to release them immediately,” he said, adding that the government could not ban Azadari programmes because it was their legal and constitutional right. Zaidi threatened that if the arrested people were not released, the group would announce a sit-in outside the Chief Minister's House.


NA debate on virus remains inconclusive

May 16, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The three-day session of the National Assembly, which had been requisitioned to debate and review the coronavirus situation in Pakistan, concluded on Friday without any constructive outcome as the treasury and opposition kept trading barbs during the sitting.

The treasury benches accused the opposition of not supporting the government in the fight against coronavirus, while the opposition criticised the government for failing to have a clear “strategy” to effectively deal with the situation.

In an unusual happening, a lawmaker from Kurram district, Munir Khan Orakzai, fell to the floor and was immediately taken out of the house.

Briefing the house on the government measures to deal with the situation, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiative Asad Umar said the sagacious ‘smart lockdown strategy’ of Prime Minister Imran Khan was being followed by many other countries. He said the number of Covid-19 cases would continue to surge.

The minister, however, rejected the opposition’s claim that the government had lifted the lockdown when the cases of Covid-19 were going up. “Most of the speeches were not more political gimmickry during the session,” he said, adding that some opposition members said the disease could prolong for even six months and that the people should not live a fearful life. “We know that the pandemic will rise in the days to come and unfortunately more deaths will take place, but simultaneously we have to provide earning facilities to the poor and working class,” he added.

He said: “Data and modelling have not shown any evidence that the disease will spread so rapidly that the health system will collapse. Things are still under control.”

Endorsing the PM’s strategy to ease lockdown restrictions, Mr Umar said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan had foreseen the impact of a lockdown in the country on poor people two months ago while many countries are coming to the same realisation now.”

The former finance minister explained that Russia, India and other countries, which were reaching the peak of the virus spread, were easing lockdowns because of the economic implications. Lockdown was not a permanent solution to the Covid-19 issue because reverse attack of the pandemic had been witnessed in some countries like in [Wuhan, the epicentre of the viral disease in China], North Korea and Singapore. “If a lockdown could have ended the virus, it would have been proven by at least one country,” he said.

Pakistan had pandemic experts, artificial intelligence specialists and data scientists on board and the government made decisions after consulting them, he said, adding that the government had identified more than 500 areas in the country as virus hotspots and action had been taken to put them under quarantine.

The minister said the country’s testing capacity had also been increased. “Initially, we had only two coronavirus testing labs in the country in the month of March but now we have 70 labs,” he said, adding that during the past 24 hours, more than 13,000 tests had been conducted.

Mr Umar’s views were supported by Dr Fehmida Mirza, who said the lockdown was imposed as a “breather” to improve the country’s health structure, social safety nets and economic indicators. “Now we are in a better position to combat Covid-19 with better health and social welfare facilities and economic strategies,” she added.

Ms Mirza highlighted the need for what she called cooperative federalism in which both the opposition and government could work together to face national disasters.

Earlier, former planning minister and lawmaker of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Ahsan Iqbal criticised the government and the prime minister for presenting no “strategy” to combat Covid-19 and called the prime minister “incapable” to run the government. “If he is inexperienced, it is not a bad thing because inexperienced people can learn, but incapable people don’t,” he said.

“What is the strategy of this government and no policy has been presented before parliament even three months after the first case emerged in the country,” he said, criticising the government for not working with federating units.

Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Shazia Marri criticised the government for sending “mixed messages” about coronavirus and urged it to “build a clear narrative” so that people could take the virus seriously.


Punjab, KP decide to conditionally lift ban on public transport

May 16, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Following a televised appeal by Prime Minister Imran Khan to the provinces to lift a ban on public transport vehicles, governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday decided in principle to conditionally allow the plying of such vehicles in their areas but Sindh declined the request, citing a spike in Covid-19 cases in the province.

While issuing the appeal, the prime minister acknowledged that there was no consensus on the matter among the provinces. But he said that lifting the ban would benefit the people.

He said that public transport vehicles were used mainly by the common and poor people, including labourers. Even in countries like the United States and England, where tens of thousands of people died of Covid-19, no ban had been imposed on public transport vehicles, he added.

Despite the appeal from the prime minister, the Sindh government made it clear that it was not going to lift the ban on public transport vehicles soon, as it believed that doing so could “turn Karachi and other cities in the province into Italy and Wuhan city in China” where tens of thousands contracted the new coronavirus and thousands died.

Sindh Transport Minister Syed Awais Shah categorically ruled out any possibility of lifting of the ban at a time when cases of new coronavirus were witnessing a spike in the province.

For its part, the Punjab government announced that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had decided to conditionally lift the ban in the light of the premier’s appeal.

Consequently, provincial Law Minister Basharat Raja held a meeting with the transporters at the Transport House and informed them of the chief minister’s decision to allow public vehicles to ply in the province, provided they followed the standard operation procedures (SOPs) concerned.

Mr Raja told the transporters that a committee headed by the transport secretary had been constituted by the chief minister to review and reduce fares in consultation with the transporters. The fares needed to be reviewed because the fuel prices had recently been cut drastically.

As per the laid down SOPs, the law minister told reporters, the transporters were required to ensure that passengers would be seated on alternate seats, and not on every seat, as there should be a distance of at least three feet between them. The air-conditioning systems on the vehicles would remain shut and all the windows open.

The law minister said the transporters would be responsible for ensuring disinfection of each vehicle after each trip and availability of senitiser at each terminal. The passengers would embark on the vehicle from the front door and get off from the back door. Passengers with fever or cough would not be allowed to get on the vehicles.

Mr Raja, however, said the committee would present its recommendations on the matter to the chief minister, who would take the final decision in this regard, especially about when the ban on public transportation would be lifted.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government declared that the ban on public transport vehicles would be lifted in the province from Monday, subject to implementation of the SOPs to be formulated for the purpose.

Adviser to the Chief Minister on Information Ajmal Khan Wazir said the decision was taken during a meeting of the task force on Covid-19, which was chaired by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.

He said that divisional commissioners and functionaries of the regional transport authority would frame the SOPs required, in collaboration with the transporters. The commissioners would take the final decision on reopening of the bus and van routes in accordance with the situation in their areas.

Mr Wazir said that decisions regarding reopening of the routes that pass through different divisions would be taken by the provincial authorities. He said that petrol/fuel stations would remain open round the clock.

The adviser also said that barber shops would remain open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from the morning until 4pm.


Javed Jabbar’s nomination as Balochistan representative to NFC criticised

May 16, 2020

QUETTA: Independent member of the National Assembly from Gwadar-Lasbela Mohammad Aslam Bhootani has criticised nomination of former senator Javed Jabbar as a member of the National Finance Commission (NFC) representing the Balochistan government in the commission and said he would challenge the appointment in a court of law.

Talking to reporters here on Thursday, he expressed surprise over the appointment of Mr Jabbar by Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani to represent the province. He said Mr Jabbar was not an expert on financial affairs.

“The chief minister did not find a single qualified person in 10.3 million population of Balochistan to plead Balochistan’s case in the NFC and protect interests of the province,” said Mr Bhootani, an ally of the PTI in the federal government.

He termed the appointment of Mr Jabbar an insult to the people of Balochistan and said that the former senator was an intellectual and good documentary maker, but he had no experience of dealing with financial matters to be discussed in the NFC for distribution of federal resources among the provinces.

“Mr Jabbar is not aware of Balochistan’s financial issues and ground realities and because of this how could he be expected to plead the case of Balochistan in the NFC meeting?” asked Mr Bhootani.

He said that in the last NFC award meeting, a former secretary of finance of the province represented Balochistan as its member in the NFC and pleaded the case of the province very well.

Mr Bhootani said that his counsel Amanullah Kanrani, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, would file a petition in the court against the nomination of Mr Jabbar as a member of Balochistan in the NFC.




New Age IslamIslam OnlineIslamic WebsiteAfrican Muslim NewsArab World NewsSouth Asia NewsIndian Muslim NewsWorld Muslim NewsWomen in IslamIslamic FeminismArab WomenWomen In ArabIslamophobia in AmericaMuslim Women in WestIslam Women and Feminism