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Islamic World News ( 28 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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American Muslim citizen 33-year-old Mohamed Fathy Suliman Needs Medication to Avoid Turning Into ‘Jihadist Muslim’, Charged in Attempt to Join ISIS

New Age Islam News Bureau

28 February 2021

 Felony Case Records rapper Conejo has been extradited back to Los Angeles from Mexico to face murder charges! Reuters


• American Muslim citizen 33-year-old Mohamed Fathy Suliman Needs Medication to Avoid Turning Into ‘Jihadist Muslim’, Charged in Attempt to Join ISIS

• Delhi Muslims fear they will never see justice for religious riot atrocities

• Ask your doctor, not the Islamic scholar on safe fasting: Mufti TaqiUsmani

• Iran To Support Syria In Fight Against Terrorism

• Afghan security forces kill 46 Taliban terrorists in Kandahar

• Fifteen attackers from Thailand attempt to sneak into Malaysia, says IGP

• Saudi regime arrests brother of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr

• Thousands rally in Tunisia to support moderate Islamist party’s push for govt reshuffle

• Four killed, chief imam, 25 others kidnapped in fresh attack on Kagara


North America

• Man Needs Medication To Avoid Turning Into ‘Jihadist Muslim,’ Charged In Attempt To Join ISIS

• US Intelligence Report : Murder of Khashoggi approved by MBS

• Chef Anissa Helou Shares Foodways and Fine Art in the World of Islam

• Rep. Lauren Boebert had this response to MSNBC host comparing her gun display to Usama bin Laden's

• In Iraq, pope to visit Mosul churches desecrated by Islamic State

• Can Islamic Shrines’ Connection to Armenians Transform Azerbaijani Politics of Erasure?

• "FBI, New York police behind killing of US Muslim leader 'Malcolm X'" - says family

• Yang walks back tough anti-BDS stance during Muslim Democratic Club forum



• Delhi Muslims fear they will never see justice for religious riot atrocities

• Law against 'Love jihad' not anti-Muslim, it's for all: Yogi Adityanath

• It’s not easy being a Muslim in India

• Kerala minister alleges racial profiling by probe agency

• Kerala polls: Will bring law to prevent 'love jihad' if voted to power, says BJP

• Our community music group is much more than just a musical band: Soul’s Diet brings Sufism to stage

• Assam Assembly election 2021, Jania profile: Congress' Abdul Khaleque wiped out AIUDF's Rafiqul Islam in 2016



• Ask your doctor, not the Islamic scholar on safe fasting: Mufti TaqiUsmani

• TLP’s rally in Pindi puts traffic out of gear

• Long march may not be needed: Maryam

• Pakistan among 92 countries where UK strain detected

• Senate poll keeps PDM committee distracted

• Mega uplift package for Sindh by April: minister

• Rules being framed to put special courts under IHC control



• Iran To Support Syria In Fight Against Terrorism

• Iran warns US claim of using ‘right to self-defense’ in assassination of Gen. Soleimani

• Israel blocks Palestine worshippers from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque

• PA condemns Israel violations against Islamic holy sites

• The massacre of Ibrahimi Mosque

• Extremist settlers storm Islamic shrines in Salfit, Ramallah under protection of Israeli enemy forces

• AKP, opposition leaders come together to commemorate late Islamist leader Erbakan

• Internet disruption reported in southeast Iran amid unrest


South Asia

• Afghan security forces kill 46 Taliban terrorists in Kandahar

• SL informs OIC about its decision to allow burial of Muslim Covid-19 victims

• ‘A huge relief to Muslim community’

• Parliament delegation visits Tajikistan for the second time

• IED explosions rock Kabul, Nangarhar provinces

• 90% of anti-terrorism operations ‘conducted’ by ANDSF: Ashraf Ghani

• State cannot avoid responsibility

• All credit goes to people: PM

• Border Killings: Use non-lethal weapons

• ‘I Wake Up and Scream’: Secret Taliban Prisons Terrorize Thousands


Southeast Asia

• Fifteen attackers from Thailand attempt to sneak into Malaysia, says IGP

• Assigning 122 Islamic enforcers for Nur Sajatwitchhunt overzealous, says transgender rights group

• Jakim committee to review, strengthen Shariah criminal laws after landmark ruling on ‘unnatural sex’

• Driver of crashed bus carrying Covid-19 patients also tests positive for virus

• DAP seeks to defend Malaysians from ‘financial ruin’ after govt raises Covid-19 penalties

• IGP says RM10,000 penalty for Covid-19 super spreaders, repeat SOP violators


Arab world

• Saudi regime arrests brother of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr

• Egypt lifts ban on Ramadan's Taraweeh prayers in some mosques amid strict coronavirus measures

• Arab, Islamic states rejection of Congress report growing

• Dubai extends Covid curbs till start of Ramadan

• Sharjah opens new mosque with a capacity of 515 worshippers in Al Dhaid

• Islamic financing growth to outpace conventional lending in GCC, core Islamic markets in 2021



• Thousands rally in Tunisia to support moderate Islamist party’s push for govt reshuffle

• Russian air strikes ‘kill 21 Islamic State fighters’ in Syrian desert

• Fears for religious freedom and parental rights if Equality Act becomes law

• The battle for the soul of the Jewish community

• Family fundraise for Twickenham COVID-19 victim

• Staffordshire mosque to be used as a Covid vaccination centre

• Dozens Injured During Protests Marking 27th Anniversary of Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre

• Anas Sarwar: UK’s first Muslim to lead a party follows in family footsteps

• Over 60s in England to be invited for Covid-19 jab from Monday



• Four killed, chief imam, 25 others kidnapped in fresh attack on Kagara

• Ex-DSS director: Some bandits are former Boko Haram members

• SeyiMakinde donates 18-seater bus to Lanase Central Mosque

• Nation of Islam economic programme (1934-1975)

• Morocco Joins Islamic Organization for Food Security

• How Buratai escaped Boko Haram ambush thrice –Major Banjo

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



American Muslim citizen 33-year-old Mohamed Fathy Suliman Needs Medication to Avoid Turning Into ‘Jihadist Muslim’, Charged in Attempt to Join ISIS

Brian Yalung

Feb 26 2021


Felony Case Records rapper Conejo has been extradited back to Los Angeles from Mexico to face murder charges! Reuters


When it comes to terrorism, the United States does not take anything lightly.  The case of 33-year-old Mohamed Fathy Suliman is a bit creepy, alleging he turns into a “Jihadist Muslim” if he does not take his medication. But it appears it goes beyond that.

Suliman was charged on Tuesday after allegedly attempting to join ISIS. The federal grand jury in Gainesville formally booked the US citizen for attempting to provide material support for a designated foreign terrorist organization per court records. The 33-year-old, if convicted, is facing up to 20 years in prison, AP News reported.

"Protecting national security is a top priority of this office," Lawrence Keefe, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, said in a statement. "We are absolutely committed to deterring, disrupting and dismantling the plans of anyone who seeks to support a designated foreign terrorist organization."

It was in June 2014 when Suliman took a one-way flight from Orlando to Alexandria, Egypt. Along the way, he had stops in Chicago and Istanbul. Instead of proceeding to Egypt, he paid cash for a one-way airline ticket to the Turkish-Syrian border town of Gaziantep, Turkey according to officials.

This led to his arrest by Turkish authorities with the 33-year-old being accused of illegally crossing Syrian borders. He was deported back to the United States.

Through the course of the investigation, it was found in Suliman’s emails that he had attachments that contained various audio files that consisted of messages calling for jihad.

An investigator testified that Suliman allegedly gets depressed and manic if he does not receive medication. This was the part where he allegedly turns from a moderate Muslim into a “Jihadist Muslim.”

Regardless, the 33-year-old will now have to wait for his arraignment hearing to see what lies ahead. This is set for next Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. EST. As mentioned earlier, he faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted and faces a fine of $250,000.


Delhi Muslims fear they will never see justice for religious riot atrocities

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

28 Feb 2021


Muslims offer Friday prayers at a mosque in Mustafabad, Delhi, two days after last year’s riots. Photograph: Xavier Galiana/AFP via Getty


For a year, Irfan has remained almost entirely in his house, too terrified to leave. A Muslim living in north-east Delhi, he says that his powerful Hindu neighbours, many belonging to the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), are keeping a close watch on him. Jobless and afraid, he spoke in whispers of his fear of being “eliminated” at any time.

“I take a safe route to occasionally leave my house to see my lawyer,” said Irfan, who requested a pseudonym for protection. “I know that BJP leaders and their followers are after me so I move around very carefully. I have to stay alive at least to see those who attacked me are brought to justice.”

It was one year ago last week that Irfan’s life as a simple Muslim shopkeeper was ripped apart: 23 February 2020, now known as the first night of the Delhi riots.

For three days, communal violence ripped through the north-east of India’s capital, the worst religious conflict in the city in four decades. Though both Hindus and Muslims were involved in the violence, it was predominantly Muslims who fell victim to violent Hindu rightwing mobs roaming the neighbourhoods. Many of those involved had travelled from outside Delhi and carried guns, rods and explosives. Muslims were beaten, shot and lynched in the streets, thousands of their shops and homes were attacked and at least four mosques were left in charred ruins. Of the 53 who died in the violence, 40 were Muslim.

Irfan is among those still fighting for justice. He was sheltering in his shop when a mob of around 150 people, including many of his Hindu neighbours, descended, throwing stones and armed with guns and rods. Irfan alleges they were led by a local BJP leader, who put a pistol to his head. He says the rioters shouted Hindu nationalist slogans and Muslim slurs as they looted his shop and then set it on fire with a petrol bomb.

Irfan had been a member of the BJP for almost a decade but, as a Muslim living in a Hindu-majority area, it was not enough to protect him. Two days later, on 25 February, as neighbourhoods across north-east Delhi burned, the mob struck again, targeting his house, this time allegedly led in part by Mohan Singh Bisht, a local BJP politician who, Irfan says, threw a petrol bomb at his house and led the mob with the cry: “Kill all katwa [kill all the circumcised Muslims].” Several of Irfan’s neighbours confirmed this account to the Observer.

Bisht called the allegations lies. “There is no such case against me in any court in the country,” he said. “I was not present in Delhi during the riots. How could there be a case involving me in the violence?”

Yet in the year that has passed, the police – who, Irfan alleges, were complicit in the attacks – have repeatedly refused to register his case naming Bisht, other local BJP leaders and some of his Hindu neighbours as the perpetrators.

More than 25 Muslims in his neighbourhood were also allegedly denied the right to file a case by police, despite claiming to know the identity of their attackers.

They took their cases to a lawyer, Mehmood Pracha, but Irfan is one of the few who has kept up the fight after local BJP figures and police allegedly threatened them with reprisals if they persisted in taking the matter to court. “I told them on no condition would I withdraw,” said Irfan.

Irfan’s case is not an isolated one. Hundreds of Muslim victims who have attempted to file cases against their alleged Hindu attackers – who have often been affiliated with the BJP – have spoken of being harassed and threatened by Delhi police who have refused to register their cases. In some instances, when victims went to police stations to identity and file their cases against rioters, the police instead charged them or their family members with rioting.

Delhi police, a predominantly Hindu force, is under the remit of the government’s ministry of home affairs, led by Amit Shah, one of the most hardline Hindu nationalist ministers in the BJP government.

Of the nearly 1,750 people arrested in connection with the riots, more than half are Muslim, even though disproportionate damage was done to their community. In charge sheets filed by Delhi police, almost 70% name Muslims as the perpetrators of attacks, even in cases when only Muslims were the victims. Delhi police did not respond to requests for comment.

Syed Zulfiqar, 34, a light-maker from Mohanpuri, was shot in the head on the 24 February when a local Hindu leader, whom he knew personally, fired at him during the violence. “He pointed a gun at me and I heard him cry, ‘you are a Muslim, we will kill you’, and then he fired the gun at me from a distance of about 20 metres,” said Zulfiqar. “I almost died. But when I went to the police station to register a case against this man, the police told me they would only accept the report if I named my shooter as unidentified.” He alleges police then filed riot charges against his brother.

Mohammad Nasir Khan, 35, a government employee, who was shot in the eye and blinded when a mob of influential local Hindu men he knew fired at him, has still not been able to file his case. “I have tried so many times but it has been one year and the police still refuse,” said Khan, wiping the gently weeping wound where his eye once was.

Instead, police filed their own report on Khan’s case in June, naming several Muslims as the perpetrators of the attack and not mentioning the four local Hindus Khan alleged shot him.

Pracha is the lawyer representing many of these victims, yet he has also found himself a target and, in December, his office was raided by dozens of members of Delhi police special cell on allegations of forgery.

“Due to the police’s proactive role in threatening, assaulting and intimidating the riot victims, very few dare to open their mouths,” said Pracha. “The police took some complaints from Muslim victims but only on the condition that they would not name any police officer or any BJP member,” said Pracha.

In several bail hearings against accused Muslims, the police have failed to produce any evidence. At a hearing last week, a judge granted bail to three Muslims accused of shooting another Muslim, 25-year-old Shahid Alam, during the riots on the basis it was “hard to believe” that Muslims would kill other Muslims in a communal riot.

Delhi police have also been accused of protecting their own officers from being charged. Hundreds of eyewitnesses – in allegations verified by CCTV footage – accused police of both taking part in the attacks on Muslims, allowing the Hindu mobs to target Muslims unimpeded and ignoring thousands of distress calls. Last year, Amnesty International released a detailed report on the Delhi police’s role in the riots. But not a single officer has yet been arrested or charged.

Instead, those who have felt the strong arm of the law since the riots are those who say they had nothing to do with the violence at all.

After Shah, the home minister, told parliament that the riots were a “deep conspiracy”, Delhi police began a crackdown on anyone who had been involved in peaceful anti-government protests in the months before the riots.

Activists, academics, feminist collectives, students and civilians – who had been described as “terrorists”, “traitors” and “jihadis” by government figures in the weeks before the riots – have been charged with conspiring to stir up communal riots in order to tarnish India’s reputation, some under draconian terrorism laws.

Many have described this as a turning point in the BJP government’s crushing of democratic dissent. “The Delhi riots have been used by the police to go after all activists and anti-government protesters in Delhi in the name of a false conspiracy that has no basis in evidence,” said Nadeem Khan, co-founder of the activist group United Against Hate, which has had multiple members arrested. “The whole of Delhi civil society is living in a state of fear.”

Notably absent from the Delhi police’s charge sheet are the names of many Hindu rioters and BJP leaders, in particular Kapil Mishra, the local BJP leader whose speech in north-east Delhi on 23 February, calling for his followers to clear the Muslim protesters and “teach them a lesson”, is widely seen as sparking the riots.

Mohammad Jalaluddin: after being beaten almost to death last year, the imam is too afraid to live in Delhi now. Photograph: Shaikh Azizur Rahman

Mishra said the police had thoroughly investigated and cleared him. Echoing the Delhi police, he said the riots were a result of a “well-planned anti-national conspiracy by protesters to hijack the democracy of this country and create the collapse of law and order”.

He denied knowledge of the higher Muslim death toll in the violence, but added: “Hitler died in world war two but do we call him a victim? Just because that person has died doesn’t mean they were a victim. In any war or riot, more people can die from one side because more were participating in the violence.”

Mishra said he was working for communal harmony in north-east Delhi but added: “My worry is that very deep-rooted hatred is being planted in the minds and hearts of the Muslim community through false propaganda.”

In the neighbourhoods affected by the riots, the scars are still deep and visible. Dozens of houses sit vacant or locked up, spectral monuments to families who fled back to their villages outside the capital, while neighbourhoods have become divided down communal lines.

Sitting in the recently rebuilt al-Faruqi mosque in the suburb of Mustafabad, Imam Mohammad Jalaluddin carries a haunted look. He was beaten almost to death by rioters who broke into the mosque and set it on fire on 25 February. His jaw, smashed into three parts, is now constructed of steel plates and his face – ripped completely in half – has been sewn back together. His fingers, built back together with steel pins, no longer bend properly.

No charges have been brought against Jalaluddin’s attackers. He and the mosque president, Mohammad Fakhruddin, allege it was police officers who led the violence, including firing tear gas into the mosque and beating the imams. It was also allegedly police officers who returned the next morning to destroy the CCTV evidence.

“I find it very hard being in this mosque and sometimes I get flashbacks to what happened to me and I start shaking and break into tears,” Jalaluddin said softly.

“Next week, I will go back to my village in Bihar and live there,” he added. “I studied in a madrasa here since I was 10 and later became an imam. I loved this city. But after the violence that left me almost dead –and I have survived by the grace of Allah – I am too afraid to live here any longer.”

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Ask your doctor, not the Islamic scholar on safe fasting: Mufti Taqi Usmani

Mohammad Bilal Tahir

27 Feb 2021

 Over 91% Muslims around the globe observed fasting in last holy month of Ramdan despite COVID-19 pandemic and despite suffering from various chronic illnesses, vast majority of Muslims would observe fast in the upcoming holy month, experts and Islamic scholars said but called for more scientific evidence and research in the area of diabetes and Ramadan to help people fast safely.

Despite COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Muslims around the globe kept fast last year and this year too, an overwhelmingly large number of people wish to observe fasting in the upcoming holy month of Ramadan but those suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease should consult their doctors and physicians for safe fasting and to reap the physical and spiritual benefits of fasting, Islamic scholars and health experts told an international health conference on Saturday.

“There are some extreme views that fasting is very harmful for the diabetes’ patients in all circumstances, and there are some who say fasting should be practiced (even) in worst (health) conditions but I think medical practitioners will be in a better position to explain to the patients as to how they should fast safely”, renowned Islamic scholar Mufti TaqiUsmani said while addressing the inaugural ceremony off 7th International Diabetes and Ramadan Conference 2021.

The two-day online conference, organized by the Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (BIDE) Karachi in collaboration with International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Ramadan and Hajj Study Group and Diabetes and Ramadan (DAR) International Alliance.

Top health experts including diabetologists, endocrinologists, consultant dietitians and researchers from different countries of Africa, Europe, Middle East, South Asia and United States took part in the conference.

Mufti TaqiUsmai maintained that millions of Muslims in the world suffer from different chronic illnesses especially diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other health issues but they also want to observe fasting in the holy month of Ramadan and want to know the medical facts and expert opinion whether they can fast or not. “It is very welcoming that top health experts from different countries of the world would discuss the issues like safe fasting for people with different health conditions, especially in the COVID-19 era”, he added.

President of International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Prof. Andrew Boulton said Ramadan is one of the five fundamental principles of Islam and people with diabetes really need to know how to look after their diabetes and glycemic control in the holy month of Ramadan.

“Ramadan this is year is more important as there is COVID-19 Pandemic and I hope this meeting will discuss this issue too and answer all the questions in the minds of people with diabetes about their diet, exercise and management of their medicines whether they are taking oral medicines or injectables”, Prof. Boulton said adding that international experts from different countries of the world would be presenting their research on the issue of making fasting safer for the Muslims.

Another eminent diabetologist from Norway and President-elect of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Prof. Akhter Hussain said studies show that over 80 percent of people with diabetes like to fast in the holy month of Ramadan while a study conducted in 2010 revealed that around 95 percent of people with type 2 diabetes fasted for 15 days while 65 percent diabetics fasted for the whole month.

“Unfortunately, one in three people with diabetes don’t get proper education as how they can fast safely in the holy month. I’m glad that research in the area of diabetes and Ramdan has increased significantly during last five years but there are still several areas where further research is required to answer questions about different populations and where food habits are different”, he added.

One of the key questions that comes into the mind of people is whether fasting is beneficial or harmful for the people with diabetes, he said adding that people also want to know the best diet they should take at the time of Sahoor and Iftaar that prevents them from hypo and hyperglycemia.

Prof. YakoobAhmedani said the people with diabetes and other comorbidities should visit their physician at least 6 to 8 weeks before the start of Ramadan while there is also a need to educate doctors and entire healthcare teams so that they could help people in fasting safely.

Director BIDE and renowned diabetologist Prof. Abdul Basit said in 2013, issues related to diabetes and Ramadan were discussed in Manchester, UK and since then it has been a long journey where a lot of research, guidelines and recommendations have been presented for the safe fasting.

He maintained that experts associated with their institutes have so far generated over 27 publications of international standard while efforts are underway to conduct more research and present scientific evidence on safe fasting for people with diabetes and adding thanked IDF and allied bodies for their cooperation in the conference.


Iran To Support Syria In Fight Against Terrorism


Feb 27, 2021

 Iran To Support Syria In Fight Against Terrorism


Tehran: Iran will keep supporting the Syrian government in fighting against terrorism, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a telephonic conversation with the Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

Zarif reaffirmed that the Islamic Republic will continue its support for Syria in various fields and in its efforts to ensure security and stability across Syria, according to Tasnim news agency.

The Iranian Foreign Minister also stressed the need for a solution that preserves the interests, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Arab country, Xinhua reported.

Mekdad thanked Iran for supporting the Syrian people in the economic arena with the purpose of mitigating the effects of unilateral economic sanctions.

The conversation between the two senior officials of the regional allies followed US air strikes that killed at least 22 pro-Iran fighters in eastern Syria on Friday morning.


Afghan security forces kill 46 Taliban terrorists in Kandahar

Source :Mehr News

February 27, 2021

The Afghan Ministry of Defense announced that 33 members of the Taliban terrorists were killed and 13 others were wounded in clashes with Afghan security forces in Kandahar province.

Afghan Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Friday that 33 Taliban terrorists were killed and 13 others were wounded in clashes with the security forces in the cities of Arghandab, Maiwand and Arghistan in Kandahar province, Anadolu reported.

According to the statement, Taliban terrorists attacked Afghan security forces checkpoints and suffered heavy casualties and fled after the clash. On the other hand, large quantities of weapons and ammunition belonging to this group have also been seized.

Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan is one of the most insecure provinces in the country and the Taliban are active in some parts of it.


Fifteen attackers from Thailand attempt to sneak into Malaysia, says IGP

27 Feb 2021

JELI, Feb 27 — The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) has not ruled out the possibilities that the 15 individuals who are being tracked down by the Thai police following a deadly attack in southern Thai last Thursday would attempt to enter this country.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador said, therefore, PDRM and the Malaysian Armed Forces have enhanced security control at all Malaysia-Thailand borders so as to prepare for any situation.

“Both PDRM and Armed Forces are constantly reminded to strengthen the border control...with what happened in Thailand, we do not rule out the possibilities that they might attempt to sneak in.

He said this in a news conference after visiting the new Jeli District Police Headquarters construction site here, today, with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Kelantan Police Chief Datuk ShafienMamat also present.

Abdul Hamid was commenting on the bomb explosion and shooting incident at a village in Ra-ngae, Narathiwat last Thursday which killed two rangers while another was hurt.

Ra-ngae police chief PiyapakThongpanlertkun said initial investigations found that the attackers consist of at least 15 individuals.

Meanwhile, on PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who was called to give statements to the police yesterday, Abdul Hamid said it was a normal procedure in any investigations.

Police have recorded statements from Anwar on Friday evening over the joint statement issued by the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council in January, which among others rejected the government’s decision to enforce a nationwide emergency.


Saudi regime arrests brother of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr

Source : Pars Today

February 27, 2021

Saudi regime forces have arrested Mohammad Baqir al-Nimr, the brother of executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and the father of Ali al-Nimr, who is serving a jail sentence for allegedly taking part in anti-regime protests when he was 17.

ALQST for Human Rights, an independent NGO, reported on Thursday that Mohammad Baqir al-Nimr had been arrested during a raid on his house in the town of al-Awamiyah in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

He is the brother of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Saudi cleric who called for reforms and was executed by the Riyadh regime in January 2016.

The arrest of Mohammad comes only a few weeks after the government of Saudi Arabia commuted to 10 years a death penalty given to his son, Ali.

Ali al-Nimr was sentenced to death over his alleged role in anti-regime protests in the Eastern Province in February 2012, when he was 17 years old.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the Riyadh regime. Security forces have increased measures across the province.


Thousands rally in Tunisia to support moderate Islamist party’s push for govt reshuffle



The Islamist-inspired Ennahdha and liberal QalbTounes parties pushed for a reshuffling of the government by Prime Minister HichemMechichi in mid-January, introducing 11 new ministers.

Saied has strongly criticised the reshuffle -- which was confirmed by parliament -- saying he had not been consulted and charged that some ministers were suspected of corruption and conflicts of interest.

He also refused to confirm the new ministers, including interior, justice and health, leaving the government paralysed, in a country already reeling from economic hardship and the coronavirus pandemic.

Saturday's protest in the capital Tunis was called for by Ennahdha, and several protesters said they rallied in support of the moderate Islamist party as well as for unity and democracy.

"We have a parliamentary system and it is not up to the president to decide who will govern," said protester Mohamed Khlif, who travelled from the coastal city of Sfax to take part in the rally.

Saied, an independent academic and constitutional law expert, has also castigated the procedure for naming the new ministers, saying it was unconstitutional.

"I won't back down from my principles. I swore before God by putting my hand on the Koran to respect the constitution," Saied was quoted as saying earlier this month.

But in the absence of a constitutional court in Tunisia, the political crisis has dragged on for six weeks with no solution in sight to ease tensions between the president, parliament and the government.

A report published Friday by the International Monetary Fund said the "Covid-19 crisis is exacerbating Tunisia's socio-economic fragilities" and "led to an unprecedented economic downturn”.

The IMF called for urgent reforms to reduce the fiscal deficit, which it said was estimated to have reached 11.5 percent of GDP in 2020.

It also made a series of recommendations, including for limits on energy subsidies and lowering the wage bill.


Four killed, chief imam, 25 others kidnapped in fresh attack on Kagara

By Alfred Olufemi

February 27, 2021

Bandits have resumed operations in Kagara, Niger State on the same day that 42 students and other persons they kidnapped from a school in the town regained fredom.

No fewer than four persons were on Saturday reportedly killed and scores kidnapped in fresh attacks on the town and adjoining villages in Rafi Local Government Area of the state.

According to Musa Kwabe, a community leader in Kagara, eight persons were kidnapped in Kundu and 11 others in nearby Gunna district.

He said the four people killed were from Karako, a neighbouring village where seven persons are still missing.

He also told PREMIUM TIMES the bandits rustled many cows in the affected villages.

Muhammed Hussein, a chief in Kagara and a former local council chairman, named one of those kidnapped as Ibrahim Ruvo, who is a chief imam at Madaka village.

“One chief Imam, Ibrahim Ruvo, was kidnapped around Madaka axis. He is yet to be found.”

Mr Hussein begged the state government to deploy more security operatives to the affected communities to prevent further attacks.

The spokesperson of the police in Niger, Abiodun Wasiu, told PREMIUM TIMES that he would confirm the incident and send a feedback when contacted on Saturday afternoon.

This newspaper had reported how Kagara and its adjoining villages have been under the siege of bandits for more than two years.

However, it was the kidnapping of the schoolboys that brought the ordeals and sorrow of the community to national attention.

In that incident at the public secondary school on the outskirts of Kagara town, bandits abducted 42 persons, including 27 students, three staff and 12 members of their families.

The bandits raided two of the five hostels in the school, Barde and Lafene halls, to ferret out the students, in the process killing one of them, Benjamin Habilah.

This newspaper learnt that the schoolboys were released on Saturday morning after more than nine days in captivity.

As of the time of filing this report, the state government is yet to brief the public on how it secured the release of the students and whether or not payment of ransom was involved.



North America

US Intelligence Report : Murder of Khashoggi approved by MBS

Source :Tasnim News

February 27, 2021

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation to capture or kill Jamal Khashoggi, the US intelligence report on the murder of the Saudi journalist said.

"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the report's executive summary states.

"We base this assessment on the Crown Prince's control of decision-making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Mohammed bin Salman's protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince's support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi," the report says.

The Biden administration provided the long-awaited declassified intelligence report to Congress ahead of its public release on Friday.

The congressionally mandated release of the report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence followed a phone call US President Joe Biden had with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on Thursday. The four-page document, titled "Assessing the Saudi Government's Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi" is dated February 11 and marked as declassified by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on February 25.

Shortly after the report's release, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new "Khashoggi Ban" that allows the US to restrict visas for individuals acting on behalf of a foreign government who are directly engaged in "serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work."

Blinken said in a statement that the ban, which can cover family members as well, would immediately be applied to 76 Saudi individuals "believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing."

The Treasury Department followed with sanctions against a former Saudi intelligence official, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, as well as the crown prince's personal protective detail, the Rapid Intervention Force, also known as the 'Tiger Squad.' These officials were designated under an executive order that "builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world," the department said in a statement.

Asked why the US had failed to punish the crown prince personally, Blinken told reporters at the State Department Friday that "what we've done by the actions that we've taken is really not to rupture the relationship, but to recalibrate it, to be more in line with our interests and our values. And I think that we have to understand as well that this is bigger than any one person."

In an interview with NPR, Haines conceded the report could complicate US-Saudi relations. "I am sure it is not going to make things easier," she said. "But I think it's also fair to say that it is not unexpected."

The Saudi Foreign Ministry released a statement saying the country "completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom's leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions." It added that Khashoggi's killing was an "abhorrent crime and a flagrant violation of the kingdom's laws and values.

"Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom's security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince's authorization," the report says.

It says that the 15-person Saudi team that arrived in Istanbul in October 2018 when Khashoggi was killed included members associated with the Saudi Center for Studies and Media Affairs (CSMARC) at the Royal Court, led by a close adviser of bin Salman, as well as "seven members of Mohammed bin Salman's elite personal protective detail, known as the Rapid Intervention Force."

The report notes that bin Salman viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom "and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary, to silence him."

The intelligence report says that they still do not have visibility on when the Saudis decided to harm the father of five. "Although Saudi officials had pre-planned an unspecified operation against Khashoggi we do not know how far in advance Saudi officials decided to harm him," it said.

The report also noted that at the time of Khashoggi's murder, "the crown prince fostered an environment in which aides were afraid that failure to complete assigned tasks might result in him firing or arresting them."

The lead Republican on the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, said in a statement he "strongly" supports the Khashoggi ban announcement and called on Saudi Arabia to "permanently end intimidation, harassment and violence against journalists and dissidents in order to restore the trust of the United States and the world."

US Democratic lawmakers who pushed for years for former president Donald Trump to take a tougher stand on the Khashoggi case offered praise for the report's release.

"His courageous journalism cost Jamal his life. Yet, for years, the last administration shielded the Saudi regime from any kind of responsibility or scrutiny," Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a statement. "Today, thanks to President Biden and DNI Haines, America is sending the message that this lawlessness won't stand."

Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said that "the highest levels of the Saudi government, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are culpable in the murder of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi, and there is no escaping that stark truth laid bare." Schiff also said in a statement that the report "underscores why Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's repeated claims that he was either unknowing or uninvolved in this heinous crime are in no way credible."

Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that "for too long, the United States failed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the brutal murder of journalist, dissident, and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi."

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, went further, saying Biden had demonstrated his commitment to transparency and compliance with law "by ending Donald Trump's cover up of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

Shortly after Khashoggi's October 2018 death, the CIA assessed with high confidence that the crown prince had personally ordered the killing.

But during the Trump administration, US intelligence officials never spoke publicly or presented evidence about the murder at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, and at the time, Trump staunchly defended the country's young, de facto ruler, who is often referred to as MBS.

Trump told biographer Bob Woodward of the crown prince, "I saved his ass." Woodward wrote in his book "Rage" that in January 2020, Trump also boasted that "I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop."

"This was a heinous crime," he said in an interview with CBS in 2019. "But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government."

In June 2019, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, found that it was "inconceivable" the royal heir wasn't aware of the operation. In September 2020, a Saudi court sentenced eight suspects to prison, a sentence Callamard called a "parody of justice."

On Friday, Callamard called on the US to fully declassify its findings on Khashoggi's "brutal extrajudicial execution," called on Saudi Arabia to disclose how and where Khashoggi's remains were destroyed and said that since his remains have yet to be located, the international crime of enforced disappearance continues. "His loved ones continue to be subjected to further suffering until Saudi Arabia discloses what was done with his remains," she said.

Khashoggi's fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an emotional live interview by phone, "I am (more) devastated than ever before. Now I believe he will never come back." She called on world leaders to take action "for justice for Jamal."

Cengiz was waiting for Khashoggi outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which he entered to get paperwork necessary for their upcoming marriage. He was never seen again.


Chef Anissa Helou Shares Foodways and Fine Art in the World of Islam

by Zimra Chickering


Anissa Helou, author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook “Feast: Food of the Islamic World,” manages to exude glamour and intrigue not only through her beautiful recipes and writings but also through Zoom. Her white button-down shirt, rolled-up sleeves, popped collar and red cat-glasses, combined with her open-air Sicilian kitchen and captivating anecdotes from a lifetime of cooking all made me want to sit down with her for hours over a cup of coffee.

While I may never be able to do that, the Feb. 20 lecture hosted by the Michael C. Carlos Museum alongside the “Wondrous Worlds: Art & Islam Through Time & Place” exhibition allowed me to learn about Helou’s perspectives on food and the stunning diversity of Islamic culture.

This discussion centered around Helou’s comprehensive cookbook featuring common foods, like bread, that unite disparate regions and showcase variety in Islamic cuisine. Elizabeth Hornor, the moderator of the discussion and senior director of education at the Carlos Museum, drew parallels between Helou’s food and “Wondrous Worlds” as the art in that collection, much like the food, is both heterogeneous yet interconnected across time and space.

The commonality that Helou highlighted is ritual — the importance of food during celebrations is both secular and religious. Food is a central tenant to understanding forms of art. As Hornor pointed out, there is a critical focus on hospitality in the Islamic world, so much so that there is an entire section devoted to hospitality in the “Wondrous Worlds” exhibition.

Helou celebrates hospitality through food as well, stating it is a tenant of Islam in the Quran to assure every person is welcomed with food or drink when entering a new home or shop. Whether a stranger, family member or new friend, you are welcomed — Islam utilizes food as a medium of kindness and hospitality, and this warmth also translates to one of the four pillars of Islam, “zakat,” or charity.

The second part of the lecture featured a cooking lesson by Henou as she explained the process of making tachin, a baked crispy rice cake with lamb, which she believes is the ultimate Persian party food.

It became clear that rice is central to Islamic cuisine, which contributed to Helou’s choice to prepare tachin in the first place — it’s a standout rice-based dish. Helou thoroughly discussed the diversity of rice dishes in Levantine countries, recalling that in one kitchen she worked in, the only test for new chefs was simply to cook rice. If they could cook rice properly, they were hired.

Helou also spoke about wanting to see the “threads” of saffron in her rice, but I came away feeling that her belief extends to the Islamic world as a whole. In looking for the threads between food and culture that connect Islamic countries, both Helou and the “Wondrous Worlds” exhibition created unity out of diversity.

This lecture celebrated the relationship between the arts of the table and the arts of the gallery by highlighting both their vast diversity and their shared sophistication, beauty and ritual. Helou actually stated that there is no “real Middle Eastern cuisine.” Every country and culture is different and unique, while still being connected by common staples. Similarly, the “Wondrous Worlds” exhibition shows that while there is not necessarily one definition of Islamic art, it is tied together by certain motifs and themes. Both food and art carry this power to embody and celebrate an array of cultures, ideas and practices, and it is a feast for the eyes and stomach to behold.


Rep. Lauren Boebert had this response to MSNBC host comparing her gun display to Usama bin Laden's

By Joseph A. Wulfsohn


ORLANDO, Florida – Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., was quick to dismiss remarks made by MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who compared her on-camera gun display to Usama bin Laden's.

Boebert rejected the "All In" host's comments, telling Fox News on Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) she "heard" about them but that she herself didn't catch what he said because "I don't watch garbage."

Among other GOPers, Hayes took aim at the freshman congresswoman on Tuesday for building her "political identity" around guns and called her out for displaying a collection of guns on a bookshelf behind her during a Zoom meeting on the House Natural Resources Committee.

"Lots of people immediately noted that the use of guns in that way as props and the implicit threat that comes with them has a, you know, long, not necessarily great history among various movements around the globe," Hayes told his viewers. "Usama bin Laden, for one, liked to pose in front of a bookshelf with a gun prominently displayed. The Irish Republican Army would display guns in its propaganda posters and its murals and the Cuban Revolutionaries -- they posed with guns all the time, too."

The congresswoman, a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, explained Saturday that it was her "first committee hearing" and that her Democratic colleagues were "trying to ban guns" in the committee hearing room.

"The Democrats wanted committee hearings done by Zoom. What do they care if I have a gun in there? It's going to be all Republicans in there anyway and they certainly don't care," Boebert said.

"I'm not bowing down to this cancel mob," Boebert told Fox News. "I'm here to represent the American people. I'm here to represent the people of Colorado's 3rd District, and I promised them that I'd be their defender between these radicals and the heavy hand of government and these overreaching policies. So I'll take whatever hits are coming as long as I'm protecting the people that I swore to stand in front of and guard."

When asked if she had a message for Hayes, Boebert replied: "Well, I'd have to know who he is first."


In Iraq, pope to visit Mosul churches desecrated by Islamic State

By Charlotte Bruneau


MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - In Mosul, adjacent to the Biblical city of Nineveh, four churches representing different denominations occupy a small square surrounded by low-rise houses, testament to the role Iraq’s once flourishing Christian community played.

Today, all four churches are either damaged or destroyed after Islamic State militants occupied the city from 2014-2017, desecrated many of the buildings and used them to run its administration, including as a jail and a court.

Air strikes as Iraqi forces tried to dislodge the extremist group in fierce fighting did the rest. Those walls still standing are scarred with bullet and shrapnel holes.

“It used to be a bit like the Jerusalem of the Nineveh plains,” said Mosul and Akra’s Chaldean Archbishop Najeeb Michaeel of “Church Square”, the name given to the site that Pope Francis will visit on March 7 during his historic trip to Iraq.

Michaeel fondly recalled how, before the U.S. invasion in 2003, Iraqi Christians from different denominations would attend each other’s services on religious festivals.

Those days are gone. Today just one of Mosul’s surviving churches offers a weekly Sunday service to a Christian population that has dwindled to just a few dozen families from about 50,000 people.

Tolerated by former President Saddam Hussein but persecuted by al Qaeda and then Islamic State, Iraq’s Christians number around 300,000, one fifth of the total before 2003.

Some are trickling back after Islamic State’s defeat, but others still see little prospect in staying in Iraq and are looking to settle overseas.

A Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Chaldean Catholic church are situated cheek-by-jowl in and around the dusty square. Now the area lies in ruins, as do other parts of the city.

The pope is due to hold prayers for the victims of war at Hosh al-Bieaa, known as Church Square in English, as part of a four-day trip starting on March 5, a visit Archbishop Michaeel described as highly symbolic and a message of hope.

Funded by the United Arab Emirates, the restoration of the Syriac Catholic church of Al-Tahera is being carried out by UNESCO in collaboration with local partners and began in 2020.

Holding pictures of the church before its destruction, assistant site coordinator for UNESCO in Iraq, Anas Zeyad, pointed to delicate Syriac carvings on pieces of greyish alabaster stone referred to locally as “Mosul marble”.

Damaged by Islamic State before its roof was shredded by air strikes, the church was used as a tribunal by the jihadist movement’s religious police, Zeyad said.

“It has not been de-mined yet,” Zeyad explained, pointing to the sealed door leading to the church that Islamic State commandeered as a prison.

Standing next to a damaged piece of sculpted alabaster representing the Virgin Mary, Ali Salem, from Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, said his team was reviewing many such artefacts to determine which could be repaired and used again.

“As a Muslim I am proud to help rebuild these churches,” Zeyad said, adding that he hoped “we see Christians come back to these places, so that we live together again as we have for centuries.”


Can Islamic Shrines’ Connection to Armenians Transform Azerbaijani Politics of Erasure?

by Simon Maghakyan

Last fall’s war in the South Caucasus, during which Azerbaijan violently procured most of its Soviet-era territories, has left many wondering whether the continued erasure of the region’s Indigenous Armenian cultural monuments can be prevented. While the haughty Azerbaijani government’s rhetoric and record could hardly be less encouraging, a little-known group of regional monuments — medieval Islamic mausoleums built by local, Christian Armenian craftsmen — may offer a glimpse of hope for cultural preservation in and around the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).

In late November, in accordance with a controversial peace agreement, the defeated Artsakh Republic ceded the Agdam district to Azerbaijan. The region encompasses a vast array of cultural heritage sites, including the archeological site of Tigranakert, a Hellenistic Armenian city. Until the excavations launched in 2006, Vankasar church was the only visible part of the major sacred Armenian site. Nearby, a later Islamic monument sacred to Azerbaijanis memorializes one of the region’s 14th-century Muslim lords. That monument also passed into Azerbaijan’s possession.

Situated in the village of Khachen-Dorbatli (Azerbaijani spelling Xaçındərbətli), the 14th-century mausoleum has long reminded researchers of Armenian architecture. “It represents a polygon with a sharp dome, built of processed yellowish limestone,” wrote the late Armenian researcher Samvel Karapetyan in 2001. “The style, execution technique, and artistic features of the heraldic scenes cut in low relief around the niches of interior walls (bulls, tigers, other animals) are similar to the reliefs of the western façade of SurbAstvatzatzin (the Holy Virgin) church in Yeghvard.”

Researchers before and after Karapetyan have also noted the similarities of the two structures. A Russian-language book titled The Art of Azerbaijan, published in Moscow in 1976 by well-known Soviet art historians Leonid Bretanitski and Boris Vejmarn, writes of the mausoleum:

The unique architecture and ornamentation of the mausoleum […] significantly expand ideas of the interconnections between the art of the “Muslim” and “Christian” regions of the Near East, Transcaucasia and Asia Minor […] It is framed by a thread of hefty, finely-outlined and skillfully-executed rosettes, reminiscent of the décor of the entrances of the Melik Ajar mausoleum and the temple-burial vault in Yeghvard.

[…] The mihrab and the contents of the inscription confirm that the “customer” was a Muslim. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of elements in the architecture of the mausoleum that speak of connections with the architecture of neighboring Christian regions: the décor of the entrance, the solutions of the columns, the character of stalactites. We especially note the images of living creatures, which are rarely found in the ornamentation of Azerbaijan’s monuments […]

The poignancy of the ­­­­­confident lines, the fleetness of the movements, the sudden angles … speak of the remarkable craftsmanship of the artist. With their motifs and manners of execution, they somewhat resemble the same “graffiti” of [the churches of] Geghard and Saghmosavank in Armenia.

The 1994 book, The Caucasian Knot, also notes the similarities between the Christian and Islamic structures. “The [Muslim] mausoleum at Khachen-Dorbatly (1314 [Mongol period]), not far from Aghdam, reveals a great similarity in sculpted décor to an Armenian funerary church of the same period, the chapel at Yeghvard,” write LevonChorbajian, Patrick Donabédian, and Claude Mutafian. Built within several years of each other, the striking similarities of the Yeghvard chapel — situated just north of modern Armenia’s capital Yerevan — and the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum go beyond such obvious commonalities as their nearly identical depiction of wildlife or entry décor.

Left, the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum, and, right, The SurbAstvatzatzin (the Holy Virgin) church in Yeghvard (photographs courtesy Research on Armenian Architecture)

According to Donabédian, the two structures exhibit mutual influences of Christian and Islamic art. “The chapel of Yeghvard was built in a small local principality, which was one of the rare areas in Armenia where artistic activity was able to continue during the tough period of Mongol domination,” he explained to Hyperallergic. “This chapel distinguishes itself by its elegance, the abundance and quality of its sculpted decoration, widely open to contacts with the Muslim world, and by the presence, under its cupola, of a row of Persian tiles dating from the end of the 13th century to early 14th centuries.”

In addition to their visual similarities, the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum and the Yeghvard chapel both have inscriptions identifying the architect. Naming an architect on a medieval structure is not a common feature of local architecture, Armenia-based researcher Raffi Kortoshian told Hyperallergic, and must be a result of the architect’s popularity. The Yeghvard chapel’s Armenian inscription identifies the architect as “VD SHAHIK,” with “VD” standing for “vardpet” or master in the Armenian language.

Common architectural features of the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum (left) and the Yeghvard chapel, both built by architect Shahik, as presented in Raffi Kortoshian, “The Arabic inscription of the Khachen-Dorbatli Mausoleum,” Vardzk (in Armenian), Issue 14 (Fall 2020) (images courtesy Research on Armenian Architecture NGO)

The Khachen-Dor­­­batli mausoleum’s Arabic inscription also names the architect, but as Kortoshian points out, Soviet researchers misinterpreted it, without even publishing the inscription’s photograph or sketch, as either “Shahbenzer” or “Shakhenzi.” In 2017, writing in French, Donabédian and his co-author Yves Porter published the mausoleum’s Arabic inscription in full: “Hadha al-‘imârat al-marhumQutluKhwâdjah ibn Musâ al-muhtâjalârahmat-allah li-‘âlâ Fi târikh rabi’ al-âkhirsanaarba’ ‘asharsab’amia ‘amalustâdshâhik (This is the building of the late QutluKhwâdjah [ibn Musâ] needing the mercy of God the Most High. On the date [of the month] Rabi’ al-âkhir of the year seven hundred and fourteen /15 July-13 August 1314. Work of master Shâhik).”

While Kortoshian, who has studied the inscription closely, agrees that the Arabic text translates as “master Shahik,” he told Hyperallergic that Donabédian-Porter “have erred in reading” the architect’s title as “ustad.” Instead, he insists, the architect’s name and title is spelled in the Arabic inscription as “Shahikvd,” in which “vd” stands not for “ustad” but for its Armenian equivalent, “vardpet.” Kortoshian acknowledged, nevertheless, that further epigraphic studies of this and similar inscriptions are needed due to some non-standard punctuations “to better understand the use of Arabic in 14th-century Armenia under Mongol-Turkic dominations.”

The Arabic inscription of the KhachenDorbatli mausoleum. (photograph by Ch. and J.-Cl. Hotellier, originally published in Donabédian P., Porter Y., « Eghvard (Arménie, début XIVe siècle), La chapelle de l’alliance », Hortus ArtiumMedievalium, 23/2, p. 837-8)

Additional confirmation that the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum and the Yeghvard chapel share an architect in ShahikVardpet arrives via a more recent discovery. In 2001, a 14th-century Islamic mausoleum was found in the basement of a disco club in downtown Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Kortoshian says that the Arabic inscription of the Yerevan mausoleum names a possible relative, perhaps the father, of the man buried at Khachen-Dorbatli. The inscription also indicates it was built six years before the mausoleum at Khachen-Dorbatli. Kortoshian says the Yerevan mausoleum bears visual similarities to the structures in both Khachen-Dorbatli and Yeghvard. Furthermore, it features bilingual inscriptions, in Armenian and Arabic — a rare occurrence among Islamic tombs built by Armenian craftsmen. While the Arabic version omits the name of the architect, Kortoshian notes that the Armenian inscription acknowledges him as “SHAH[I]K VD.” Incidentally, all of these three structures built by ShahikVardpet not only name their architect but also identify the year of the construction’s completion: the early 1300s.

An interior view of the Yeghvard chapel (photograph by Hrair Hawk Khatcherian, originally published in Donabédian P., Porter Y., « Eghvard (Arménie, début XIVe siècle), La chapelle de l’alliance », Hortus ArtiumMedievalium, 23/2, p. 837-8)

The toponym KhachenDorbatli itself memorializes the village’s hybrid history, points out Ankara-based Azerbaijani researcher and linguist Cavid Aga. He told Hyperallergic that the place name incorporates the wider region’s medieval Armenian name, “Khachen,” with either the Islamic term “türbə” (mausoleum) or the Mongols’ Dörbet tribe. Aga finds the latter connection more probable because “The Yuan Empire’s representative to the Mongolian Ilkhanate, BoladChingsang, was from the Dörbet tribe and had an estate in Karabakh, where he died in 1313,” and also because “Dorbatli” has been incorporated into other place names of the region. According to Aga, many toponyms across this part of the world often memorialize demographic changes, “like Baghanis-Ayrum, in which Baghanis is the original Armenian name while Ayrum is the Turkic tribe that settled there.”

It’s worth noting that in 2006, when Armenia brought up the issue of the erasure of the Armenian Djulfa cemetery in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, the Azerbaijan authorities responded with what is known as mirror propaganda, baselessly alleging the “total destruction” of various monuments including the “Gutlu Musa oglu tomb,” which is how Azerbaijani authorities often refer to the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum.

The Khachen-Dorbatli is not the only Islamic monument connected with Armenian architecture in the wider region of Artsakh or Karabakh, according to a 2010 publication of the nonprofit organization Research on Armenian Architecture. The Islamic Monuments of the Armenian Architecture of Artsakh states that “during the foreign domination of Armenia, outstanding Armenian masons were often forced into carrying out different tasks within the construction activity of this or that ruler.” The vast architectural knowledge acquired in constructing Armenian churches was often used by foreign conquerors in the building of new secular and religious sites. “All of these structures reveal the influence of Armenian architecture,” notes the publication, “and bear […] the apparent imprint of its traditional features.” According to the same text:

[…] special mention should be made of the mausoleums (14th to 15th centuries) that were erected in the Eastern regions of Historical Armenia, and particularly in Artsakh, in the times of the Turkmen Kara Koyunlu nomadic tribes. These mausoleums, which were built over the graves of the chieftains of these tribes and are reminiscent of church domes, were designed by Armenian architects and built by Armenian masters.

Armenian-built Islamic mausoleums are no surprise to researchers like Stephennie Mulder, author of the book The Shrines of the Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is and the Architecture of Coexistence. Armenian influences upon Islamic architecture are not limited to monuments constructed in historical Armenia. “There is a tremendous amount of influence from Armenian stonemasonry on Islamic architecture from about the 11th to14th centuries all throughout Islamic lands,” she notes. “The walls of Cairo, for example, were built by an Armenian army general, Badr al-Jamali, who became vizier to the Fatimid Caliph.”

The Armenian influence is so pronounced that Mulder even begins her class at the University of Texas, Austin on circa 12th-century Islamic architecture with a discussion on Armenian Church architecture. “It was perfectly usual for Christians to work for Muslim patrons, and the Mongols took that up even one more notch,” explains Mulder, in part because “antagonizing the enormous variety of religious communities over which Muslim rulers found themselves presiding was often antithetical to the goal of imperial stability.” Instead, she states, medieval Islamic rulers frequently preferred a strategy of “pragmatic accommodation” over conflict that stimulated shared architectural traditions.

Azerbaijani scholar Elchin Aliyev, who has advocated for historical preservation, told Hyperallergic that Armenian-Azerbaijani cultural commonalities in architecture and beyond, including in cuisine and music, can help to pursue the “renewal of good-neighborly relations.” He plans to visit the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum this summer for the first time and acknowledges, by invoking Leonid Bretanitski’s research, “the influence of Armenian architecture and antiquity in the architecture of the mausoleum.” He also hopes to visit Yerevan one day to study the Soviet-revitalized city’s “Stalinist” architecture, despite accusing the Armenian government of “denying the existence of a vast cultural heritage of Azerbaijanis in Armenia.” Aliyev is hopeful that “the existence of Armenian architectural heritage in Azerbaijan” can become “one of the bridges for cultural communication” in the region.

Despite overwhelming scholarly evidence to the contrary, the government of Azerbaijan may struggle with acknowledging the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum’s Armenian architect. Government-linked Azerbaijani scholars officially argue that Armenians did not even appear in the territory of modern Azerbaijan until the 19th century, despite the presence of thousands of sacred Christian and pagan Armenian sites. Azerbaijani politicians have relabeled the latter, which consist of mostly churches and cross-stones, as “Caucasian Albanian,” in reference to a now extinct nation that is known predominantly through Armenian history texts.

Starting in the 1950s, after the death of Stalin and the onset of the Cold War thaw under Nikita Khrushchev, then-Soviet Azerbaijan’s nationalist historiography claimed association with the long gone Caucasian Albanians. The aim was to compete with Armenian and Georgian cultural rebirth and pride in antiquity, a trend that, in the Armenian context, commenced with Anastas Mikoyan’s March 1954 speech in Yerevan, calling for a more liberal line toward national expression. Unfortunately, such pseudo-scientific approaches to regional history became even more pronounced after the Soviet dissolution in 1991 and continue to persist to this day.

What may be seen by outsiders as inconsequential nationalistic historiography turned into a violent campaign of cultural erasure in 1997. During that same year, Azerbaijan embarked on a decade-long campaign to eradicate every trace of Armenian history on the territory of a formerly disputed region, Nakhichevan (known in Azerbaijani as Naxçıvan). My exposé, co-authored with Yale historian Sarah Pickman, revealed that between 1997 and 2006, the government of Azerbaijan covertly eradicated every trace of Nakhichevan’s Armenian past. The victims of this brazen campaign of complete cultural erasure included 89 medieval churches, 5,840 ornate cross-stones or khachkars and over 22,000 historical tombstones. It is noteworthy that, even though the vast Christian heritage of Nakhichevan had also been relabeled as “Caucasian Albanian,” Azerbaijan’s historical revisionism still failed to secure their preservation. In a potentially ominous foreshadowing, on February 26, 2021, in a nationalistic speech rich with anti-Armenian demagoguery, Azerbaijan’s authoritarian president repeated the lie that Armenians “moved to [Nagorno-Karabakh] in the 19th-century.”

Nor is Azerbaijan’s “Albanization” campaign limited to Armenian monuments. The Georgian monastery complex of Davit Gareja, which has been subject to a heated border dispute between Azerbaijanis and Georgians, has also been classified by Azerbaijani scholars as “Albanian,” despite its Georgian inscriptions. Meanwhile, as Azerbaijani officials continue to engage in “Albanizing” the region’s past, they may have unknowingly acknowledged Armenian influence over at least some Islamic mausoleums built in what is now Azerbaijan — by at least not censoring relevant scholarship on the matter. For instance, the 1976 Bretanitski-Vejmarn work referenced earlier is considered so important in Azerbaijan that it is actually available through Azerbaijan’s virtual presidential library, which features regime-approved books for free, including polemic and xenophobic titles like “Armenian Terror” and “Armenian Mythomania.”

Having won the recent war over Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan may either choose to repeat the genocidal erasure in Nakhichevan or use cultural diplomacy to pursue peace. Prospects for the latter are not looking great: While Azerbaijan complains about Armenian desecration of some Islamic monuments, it is itself engaged in the ongoing and large-scale destruction of Armenian memorials that have come under its control. Kortoshian, nevertheless, hopes that the Azerbaijani authorities will not erase the name of Shahik from the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum’s Arabic inscription, though the fear remains.

A 2006 Azerbaijani stamp featuring the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum, which was under the control of the Republic of Artsakh at the time. (image courtesy RAA)

It is at once both unconscionable and plausible to imagine that Azerbaijan, which in 2006 issued a stamp to celebrate the Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum, would desecrate and revise the history of the exact Islamic monuments that it considers sacred in order to continue its writing-out of Armenian history. Destruction and preservation are political choices. In ShahikVardpet’s interfaith architectural appeals for coexistence, Azerbaijan has a unique opportunity to transform its politics of erasure into an embrace of cultural diversity.


"FBI, New York police behind killing of US Muslim leader 'Malcolm X'" - says family

Source : Hausa TV

February 28, 2021

The family of Malcolm X have revealed a letter written by a deceased police officer stating that the FBI and New York Police Department (NYPD) were behind the 1965 killing of the and prominent civil right activist.

Malcolm X was a powerful speaker who rose to prominence as the national spokesman of the Nation of Islam, an African-American Muslim group.

He spent more than a decade with the group before becoming disillusioned and publicly breaking with it in 1964. He moderated some of his earlier views on the benefits of racial separation.

Raymond Wood's cousin, Reggie Wood, joined some of Malcolm X’s daughters at the news conference at the site where the Audubon Ballroom once stood to make the letter public.

Raymond Wood’s letter stated that he had been pressured by his NYPD supervisors to lure two members of Malcolm X’s security detail into committing crimes that resulted in their arrest just days before the fatal shooting.

Those arrests kept the two men from managing door security at the ballroom and was part of conspiracy between the NYPD and FBI to have Malcolm killed, according to the letter.

Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz said she had always lived with uncertainty around the circumstances of her father’s death.

“Any evidence that provides greater insight into the truth behind that terrible tragedy should be thoroughly investigated,” she told the news conference.

Some historians and scholars have stated that the wrong men were convicted. Manhattan’s District Attorney last year said it would review the convictions in the case.


Yang walks back tough anti-BDS stance during Muslim Democratic Club forum

February 26, 2021


Andrew Yang, the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, walked back his firm stance against the BDS movement and promised to meet with Palestinian American leaders on the issue.

“My view on BDS is that because of its failure to disavow certain organizations that have expressed violent intentions toward Israel that I disagree with it, but I have complete respect for people who have a very different point of view,” he said at a mayoral forum hosted by the Muslim Democratic Club of New York on Wednesday, reported Politico.

Yang said he has an issue with organizations that don’t disavow “very, very violent tactics” towards Israel, though he doesn’t have an issue with individuals or activists “making a case for what they think is right.”

In it, he strongly denounced the BDS movement, saying “a Yang administration will push back against the BDS movement, which singles out Israel for unfair economic punishment.”

He also said that BDS is “rooted in anti-Semitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses.”

However, the mayoral candidate and one-time U.S. presidential candidate has been challenged by pro-Palestinian activists upset over his comparison between the BDS movement and Nazism. Earlier this week, Yang was accosted by pro-Palestinian activists on the issue while touring businesses in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Linda Sarsour, a pro-Palestinian BDS activist, who questioned Yang at the mayoral forum, said she believes that his stance does not come from a place of “bad intentions,” but that it was a “stretch” to say BDS is similar to Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses, according to Politico.

Yang said he would “be happy to sit with Palestinian leaders, activists, folks who are engaged” in the issue. “I am very eager to learn, I’m very open-minded, and I would appreciate the opportunity.”




Law against 'Love jihad' not anti-Muslim, it's for all: Yogi Adityanath

India Today Web Desk

February 27, 2021

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday said the law brought in by his government against the alleged practice of "love jihad" is not anti-Muslim and it is applicable to people from all religions.

"The law would be applicable even on Hindus if a Hindu does the same crime. It is not anti-Muslims. Whoever commits a wrong, he will be punished as per the law," Yogi Adityanath said.

Speaking about the Uttar Pradesh assembly election that are due next year, Yogi Adityanath said he is confident that the BJP would win 350 seats with its allies and form a majority government.

"The people of Uttar Pradesh have already decided it (BJP's victory). We have been working in the interest of the people of the state," he said.

On his relations with the Opposition, Yogi Adityanath said he regularly interacts with opposition leaders. "They are not our enemies. I enquire about Mulayam Singh Yadav's health. I also speak with Akhilesh Yadav."

Yogi Adityanath will be one of the star campaigners of the BJP in the upcoming West Bengal assembly elections. He said during his campaign for the party in Bengal, he will speak about the model of governance in UP and the relationship between the UP government and the Centre.

"West Bengal is on the path of change. I am confident that the development that took place in Uttar Pradesh, the development that one can see in BJP-ruled states, the same development should also happen in West Bengal. The people of Bengal should also reap the benefits of development. Bengal has been the land of cultural nationalism in India," Yogi Adityanath said.

Asked about the political controversies over the slogan of 'Jai Shri Ram' in Bengal's politics, Yogi Adityanath said, "Why would we not raise slogan? 'Jai Shri Ram' is a symbol of our daily greetings. Whenever people meet, be it in UP or Bihar, people greet each other with 'Ram Ram'. Mamata Banerjee's 'Jai Siya Ram' is no different from this."

Election in West Bengal will be held in eight phases this time. Voting for the first phase will be held on March 27 and the last phase on April 29.


It’s not easy being a Muslim in India

By Karan Thapar

FEB 27, 2021

I am not easily impressed. I have eclectic tastes, which frequently change, leaving me unsure of what I like. So it’s not often I find a book compelling. Ghazala Wahab’s Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India is definitely one such. At times autobiographical, often anecdotal, frequently analytical, and full of convincing research and illuminating history, it tells you what it’s like to be an Indian Muslim.

“When I started to write,” Wahab explains, “I wanted to address fellow Muslims and tell them they needed to look beyond the mullahs and embrace modernity.” But as she became aware “of just how vulnerable Muslims in India are” and how “extremely fearful”, her focus altered. “How does one tell people just struggling to stay alive they need to change their thinking, their manner of living, their approach to religion?” That, you could say, is the predicament facing our Muslim brothers.

Wahab’s journey began when she realised people “perceive two distinct identities” in her — Muslim and Indian. It led her to ask: “What does it mean to be a Muslim in India?” But also a more inward-looking question: “Is it not possible to be Muslim and forward-looking?” This book is an honest but also distressing answer to both.

Over the past year, the federal structure has come under strain. A BJP win in Bengal and presence in government in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the Centre’s hand — while a TMC win in Bengal and a DMK win in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the voice of states (SANTOSH KUMAR/HTPHOTO)

Disha Ravi has now been granted bail. However, in his judgment granting bail, Judge Dhamender Rana said, “The offence of sedition cannot be involved to minister to the wounded vanity of governments.” The government must heed this warning. (REUTERS)

Censorship and State monopoly on parliamentary telecast violate the democratic ideals of accountability, transparency, and keeping the electorate informed. (Mohd Zakir/HT Archive)

The emotional turmoil of unrequited love is real, but we can put it behind us fairly quickly if we try. Take cues from the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer. (FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES)

Wahab believes there are external and internal forces that hold “Muslims in a pincer grip”. The external is “the sociopolitical discrimination they face at the hands of both lawmaking and law-enforcing authorities”. It often amounts to physical and mental violence. It denies them equal opportunity, even justice. “This forces Muslims to seek security in their own numbers, and they withdraw into ghettoes on the periphery of the mainstream, thereby limiting their choices in terms of accommodation, education and profession”. The internal force is “the vicious cycle perpetuated by illiteracy, poverty and the disproportionate influence of mullahs”. This keeps “a large number undereducated and, therefore, unemployable”. It’s also “prevented the emergence of a progressive, secular Muslim leadership”.

How many of us, who view Muslims from the outside, understand this? Very few. Of our rulers, even less. This is why Muslims “carry a double burden of being labelled as ‘anti-national’ and as being ‘appeased’ at the same time”.

The world Wahab reveals, the other side of a door we never walk through, is a nightmare. Ponder on what Wahab writes of young Muslims, every one of them born Indian with exactly the same rights as you and I. “Young Muslim men are frequently picked up and held without charges indefinitely under some anti-terrorist law or another.” Research shows “Muslim boys now have considerably worse upward mobility than both scheduled castes and scheduled tribes”. So is it surprising many mothers want their sons to go abroad? “A Muslim boy in India will either be a wastrel or viewed as a rioter and be killed by the police”.

Some too poor to escape — yes, that’s the right word — pretend to be Hindu. They change their names to give themselves another identity. “If I have a Hindu name, no one will bother that I work with cattle skin,” Wahab was told. They’re even prepared to convert. “Magar dilmeinkyahai yeh kisi ko kyapata (but how can anyone tell what is in our hearts)?” I don’t know if this is true of a few or many, but does that matter? Even if it’s one, it’s a tragedy that shames us. Yet till I read Wahab’s book, I wasn’t aware of this.

There’s also another dimension — you could call it the flipside — and Wahab is equally forthright in writing of it. Moderate Muslims are not just caught between two worlds but torn apart. “On the one hand, conservative or devout Muslims disparage them; on the other hand, Hindus suspect them”. So what choice do they have but to “keep their heads down and hope they won’t be called upon to take a stand?” Yet these are the people many criticise for their silence. The truth is it’s not easy to be a Muslim in India. Both the world outside and your own community torment you. If you want to understand and, perhaps, see Muslims through their own eyes, this is a book you should read.


Kerala minister alleges racial profiling by probe agency

Our Correspondent 


A Kerala minister has alleged that officials of a central investigating agency had racially profiled a man while interrogating him over a case linked to the distribution of food kits sponsored by the UAE consulate general during Ramzan last year.

State minister of higher education and minority welfare K.T. Jaleel on Saturday said the officials had questioned the Muslim youth from Malappuram who supplied cloth bags to pack the Ramzan kits on why he was so close to the family of his Hindu friend.

Two central agencies had investigated the minister for alleged violation of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) for accepting the Ramzan food kits and copies of Quran sponsored by the Consulate General of UAE in Thiruvananthapuram in 2020.

The minister had all along maintained that he had not directly received anything and had only helped the UAE consul-general organise and distribute the material to the needy during the month of Ramzan.

“I had asked my gunman (a Hindu) to see if anyone could supply cloth bags to pack the Ramzan kits. He contacted his younger brother’s friend (a Muslim) who agreed to supply them,” Jaleel told The Telegraph.

Jaleel had helped the consulate source the dry rations for the Ramzan kits from state-run Kerala State Co-operative Consumers Federation Ltd (Consumerfed) that supplies affordable consumer essentials to the people. But the bags had to be outsourced as the consulate, which engages in such charity in many countries, wanted the Ramzan kits to be packed in cloth bags with the UAE insignia.

“One evening, around three months ago, the officers of one agency that I won’t name went to his house as if they were going to nab some big criminal. They then took him away and started asking all kinds of questions. But what hurt him the most was when they asked him why he was so closely connected to the Hindu family (of the gunman),” Jaleel said, adding the officers were Malayalis and not from any other state.

“They kept asking him why were the two families (one Hindu and the other Muslim) visiting each other’s homes,” said the minister, who is an Independent lawmaker backed by the Left Democratic Front.

“This young man who is hardly 25 years old came to me and wept and said for the first time someone made him aware of his religion for all the wrong reasons. It came as a shock to me since people in Kerala, especially in Malappuram, are known for our syncretic culture that respects one another,” the minister said. “I then informed the chief minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) about this and he too was really shocked.”

The alleged FCRA violation, still under investigation, was raised by the Opposition soon after one of the biggest gold-smuggling attempts was busted at the Thiruvananthapuram airport in July last year.

Customs officials had found 30kg of gold ingots valued at Rs 14.82 crore when they opened a diplomatic parcel from Dubai addressed to the attache of the UAE consulate in the Kerala capital.

A furore followed with the Opposition accusing the LDF government of colluding with the smugglers. It was then that the issue of Ramzan kit emerged and was probed by the customs department and Enforcement Directorate.

Jaleel attributed the racial profiling of the man to the saffronisation of investigating agencies. “They (the Centre) had posted officials with clear Sangh parivar leanings to handle this case. Otherwise the religion of any man wouldn’t have been raised, that too in Kerala,” Jaleel said.

He noted how the customs had transferred its Kerala joint commissioner Aneesh B. Rajan to Nagpur. One of the officers who started investigating the gold smuggling case, Rajan was accused of being a Left sympathiser for telling the media no one had called the airport customs to get the diplomatic baggage released.


Kerala polls: Will bring law to prevent 'love jihad' if voted to power, says BJP

27th February 2021


PALAKKAD: The NDA in Kerala would bring in a law to prevent prevent 'love jihad" in the state, if voted to power in the April 6 assembly elections, as such cases are 'more prevalent' here than in Uttar Pradesh, BJP state chief K Surendran said here on Saturday 'Love Jihad' is a term used by right wing activists to refer to an alleged campaign of Muslims forcing Hindu girls to convert in the guise of love.

Surendran said the Christian community was now more worried about the practice as they were reportedly being targetted, and had sought stringent action against it.

"Love Jihad is more prevalent in Kerala than in Uttar Pradesh and a law is required to prevent it. The christian community in the state is worried and have sought stringent action against love jihad. This is of serious concern for them," Surendran told reporters here.

BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh had earlier brought in religious freedom laws to stop conversions through marriage or by any other fraudulent means.

Asked about senior BJP leader Shobha Surendran's recent statement that IUML was welcome to the NDA if they leave behind their 'communal agenda' and accept the leadership and policies of the Narendra Modi led government, the state chief said the party would join hands only with those who leave their affiliation with the IUML, Congress and CPI(M).

He was speaking to reporters at a press meet at the end of the Palakkad leg of the 15 day state wide 'Vijay yatra', which got underway at Kasaragod on February 21, which was seen as the official launch of the BJP's poll campaign.

Various union ministers and the saffron party's popular leaders and star campaigners at the national level are expected to join the yatra in the coming days Union Minister Amit Shah is expected to inaugurate the finale of the yatra at the state capital on March 7, party sources said.


Our community music group is much more than just a musical band: Soul’s Diet brings Sufism to stage

by Nagina Bains

February 27, 2021

“Aaorab ji tussitaan aa sakde ho, vichudeekan la keassitaantyaarbaithehaan, lang najaiyokithevichgali de bai kepehredarbaithehaan”. .. these are the lyrics rendered by the lead vocalist of a band aptly titled Soul’s Diet.

“Safar” an event in the befitting environs of the Yogamoreshala at Kansal gave the group an open space not only in its physical context but also openness to acknowledge, encourage the community folk singers who have taken upon themselves to carry the legacy of the old folk tales and songs to our doorstep.

Soul’s diet is the brainchild of Vikram, a young artist who after having worked in the commercial space, felt the thirst for satiating the need for soul enrichment and encouraging other lesser-known artistes to initiate the youth and remind the others of Sufism which lies more in thought, lyrics and letting go.

Vikram says: “Our community music group is much more than just a musical band. It is a thought, an effort of like-minded people on the path of self-realisation to instil within us all a moment of silence that has always been there. Music has always been a medium to take us deep within. And so, we too have come up with different flavours of music like kirtan, Sufi, which you may choose from, as a nourishment for your soul.”

Vikram accompanied by five other young artistes with Gurdeep on the rabab and mandolin, an instrument lesser heard in the city, and others on dholak, flute, keyboard and synthesizer.

Of course, the vocalist who puts in melody through his vocal chords was a reminder of the Sufi style of rendition with his eyes in sync with his inner magic and his fingers on the harmonium, Sat Singh Nagar reminded one of the Ajmer sharif and HazratNizammuddin dargah where many an evening the Sufi within swirls to such magic.

The Yogamoreshala , which is a yoga studio run by Hugo (Hartaj) has to its credit a space willingly open to music, art, theatre as Hugo believes yoga is within.

“YogAmoreShala is a space which came into being to bring in people together and offer them tools to connect within to the person who resides within and to simplify life. We offer and host different modalities and embodiment practices to assist an individual. To the core the teachings and sharing’s are in YOGA. It blends in through different traditions and lineages taking into account the practices that best work for the modern man living in the 22nd century, ” he says.

Besides Yoga, Shamanic Breathwork Journey, Ecstatic Dance, Sound Healing, Drum Circle, Expression through Music and Fitness Programs are offered.

“Hum to aatmakikhurak de raheinhain,” Vikram says. “In the times of organic food and immunity booster doses and vaccine, the soul maybe ready and we have the nourishment here in soul’s diet and Yogamoreshala.”


Assam Assembly election 2021, Jania profile: Congress' Abdul Khaleque wiped out AIUDF's Rafiqul Islam in 2016

February 27, 2021

FP Research

Jania constituency is located in Assam's Barpeta district.

It falls under the Barpeta Lok Sabha constituency.

In the 2016 Assembly election, the constituency had a total of 173,385 registered voters.

Voter turnout in previous election

The voter turnout in  Jania in the previous Assembly election was 88.72 percent.

Past election results and winners

In the 2016 Assembly election, the INC's Abdul Khaleque, with 86,930 votes, wiped out AIUDF's Rafiqul Islam, who got just 57,194 votes.

In the 2011 Assembly election, the AIUDF's Rafiqul Islam, with 59,978 votes, comfortably beat INC's Abdul Khaleque, who netted 42,464 votes.

Assam has a total of 126 Assembly seats, elections for which are being held in three phases between 27 March and 6 April.

The first phase of the Assembly election will take place on 27 March in 47 constituencies, whereas polling in the second phase will see 39 constituencies going to vote on 1 April.

The Jania constituency will go to polls in the third and final phase of the Assam Assembly election along with 39 other Assembly seats on 6 April.

The date of making nominations for the first, second and third phase are 9 March, 12 March and 19 March, respectively, while scrutiny of nominations will take place on 10 March, 16 March and 20 March, respectively. The last date for withdrawal of candidatures are: 12 March, 17 March and 22 March, respectively.




TLP’s rally in Pindi puts traffic out of gear

Staff Reporter

February 28, 2021

RAWALPINDI: A worst traffic jam was witnessed on main arteries of the garrison city on Saturday due to a rally held by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to mark the death anniversary of Mumtaz Qadri.

The participants gathered on Murree Road at Liaquat Bagh and blocked the main road and then moved to BharaKahu in Islamabad, creating a gridlock. Though traffic police made a diversion plan, people suffered a lot. Traffic on Saddar-Murree Road was diverted towards Kutchery Chowk from Marrir Chowk. Raja Bazaar-Murree Road traffic was diverted from DAV College Chowk and Akbar International Hotel and vehicles coming from Committee Chowk (underpass and main junction) were diverted towards DhokeKhabba.

The rally led by TLP chief Maulana Saad Hussain Rizvi was attended by central patron Pir Qazi Mahmood Ahmad Qadri, AllamaPir Syed Zaheerul Hassan Shah, AllamaPir Syed InayatulHaqShah Sultanpuri, Mufti Ghulam Abbas Faizi and others. The TLP chief said France had insulted 56 Islamic countries by passing an anti-Islamic bill.

“It has challenged the honour of more than one and a half billion Muslims. Now all Muslim rulers are united in their honour and faith,” he said.

Other leaders of the party delivered speeches at Faizabad and said TLP would continue its struggle for the imposition of Islamic laws in the country and would complete the mission of TLP founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

They said the PTI government had failed to deliver and was wrongly using the name of the state of Madina. They said every Muslim was ready to sacrifice their lives for the dignity of the holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Without the implementation of the Islamic system, corruption will not be eradicated from the country. They said people were fed up with the slogans of the government.

They said inflation had reached the highest level in the history of the country making life miserable for the poor while the rich were living in palatial houses.


Long march may not be needed: Maryam

Zulqernain Tahir

February 28, 2021

LAHORE: PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz on Saturday hinted at the chance that the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) long march, planned for the next month to supposedly oust the Imran Khan government, may not be held after all.

“There is a possibility that the long march may not be needed,” said the PML-N leader in reply to a question whether the PDM’s long march would end before moving beyond the PML-N’s bastion of Gujranwala.

She was talking to reporters here on Saturday before receiving her cousin Hamza Shehbaz, who was released from the Kot Lakhpat Jail on bail after spending 20 months in prison in a money laundering case instituted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Earlier, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the president of the opposition alliance PDM, had announced that the long march on Islamabad would be held from March 26 to overthrow the government.

Answering a question about the PML-N joining hands with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) over the Senate polls in Punjab from where all 11 candidates have been elected unopposed, she said: “It is better if you do not ask me about this.”

A source close to her said that Ms Nawaz was not happy over her party’s decision to go for an unopposed Senate election in Punjab. Ms Nawaz wanted the election in Punjab on March 3 to expose the fissures within the PTI. She is of the view that through the unopposed election, the opposition had provided relief to Imran Khan, the source said.

The PTI has credited PML-Q senior leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi with evolving a consensus among the ruling party and the opposition — PML-N and PPP — to have their senators elected as per their numbers in the Punjab Assembly.

“There was no rigging, no quarrel, and no bickering. The Senate polls were held successfully in Punjab. Another successful inning of the Pakistan Muslim League for strengthening democracy,” PML-Q MNA Moonis Elahi had tweeted.

Critical of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Maryam Nawaz said only one constituency (NA-75) had exposed the “theft” by Imran Khan. “He used to talk about free and fair elections and umpires. In this by-poll, the umpire was kidnapped and even then he [Imran Khan] failed to win this election.”

Ms Nawaz hoped that the disgruntled PTI members would vote for the PDM candidate, Yousuf Raza Gilani, for an Islamabad Senate seat against Hafeez Sheikh. “Imran Khan got selected last time through rigging, but in the future he stands no chance and his party’s lawmakers know this. Therefore, some of them will not vote for the PTI candidate,” she claimed.

When asked about her cousin Hamza Shehbaz’s role in the PML-N, Ms Nawaz said: “Hamza has worked for the party relentlessly. We both are helping each other. Whatever duty the party assigns us we will do it.”

A good number of PML-N workers had gathered outside the Kot Lakhpat jail to receive the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly. Upon his release, Mr Hamza and Ms Nawaz led a rally of party workers towards the Sharifs’ Model Town residence. At a couple of points, he also addressed the charged party workers.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Hamza said: “No corruption has been established against me, Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Ahsan Iqbal. This government has not launched a single development project in about three years.”

He said the opposition could not sit with “vote, sugar and flour thieves”, adding that the government had made the life of the common man miserable.

PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the opposition leader had braved 20 months of illegal imprisonment and responded to Imran Khan’s political victimisation with courage and resilience. She said Mr Hamza had become a symbol of defiance against persecution by the “NAB-Niazi unholy alliance”.

The former information minister said: “The PTI could not prove a single penny of corruption by Hamza even after exhaustive abuse of power, illegal detention, mental torture, smear campaign and unconstitutional treatment. The role of the NAB-Niazi alliance will always be quoted as one of the darkest chapters in history.”

The Lahore High Court on Wednesday granted bail to Hamza Shehbaz in a money laundering reference. Mr Hamza had sought bail primarily on the ground of inordinate delay in conclusion of the trial proceedings after the Supreme Court denied him the relief with a directive to approach the high court with fresh grounds.


PA condemns Israel violations against Islamic holy sites

February 27, 2021


The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Friday condemned Israeli violations against Islamic holy sites in the occupied cities of Jerusalem and Hebron, Anadolu Agency reported.

In a statement issued by its Foreign Ministry, the PA announced: "Israel imposes measures and arbitrary restrictions to block worshippers from reaching worship houses, and it is working hard to extend its domination of them and Judaise them."

The statement disclosed that such measures "mount to flagrant violations of freedom of worship," citing that Israeli occupation forces were blocking Palestinian worshippers from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform the Friday prayer.

The Israeli occupation authorities prevented Adhan (call to prayer) from occurring at Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron during the Jewish holy days.

It is worth noting that 55 per cent of the area of Al-Ibrahimi Mosque was occupied in 1994, following a massacre carried out by an Israeli settler during the dawn prayer, killing 29 worshippers.

Al-Ibrahimi Mosque is located in the Old City of Hebron, which falls under Israeli occupation control. Around 400 Israeli Jewish settlers live in the occupied Palestinian area protected by 1,500 Israeli occupation soldiers.


Pakistan among 92 countries where UK strain detected

Ikram Junaidi

February 28, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has claimed that Pakistan is among 92 countries in the world where the UK strain of Covid-19 has been detected, urging people to follow health guidelines and go for vaccination.

On the other hand, following the emergence of 1,315 more patients and 33 deaths in a single day, the overall number of cases since the first patient was reported in the country last year has reached 578,797, with the positivity rate of 6.49 per cent. Besides, 12,837 people have succumbed to the deadly virus till now.

“The new strain is being seen across the world and continues to be detected in samples in Pakistan. While this strain does not cause more severe disease, there is evidence that its transmission is faster,” a statement issued by the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) stated.

“This highlights the need to continue following prescribed standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines issued by the government and to get vaccinated when your turn comes. The ministry is continuously monitoring the situation through a robust surveillance system,” the statement added.

An official of the NHS ministry, requesting not to be named, said the UK strain cases were mostly being found among people returning from abroad.

The NHS ministry spokesperson, Sajid Shah, told Dawn that people should pay no heed to rumours and get themselves vaccinated as it would help achieve the target of herd immunity.

“Registration of healthcare workers and citizens over 60 years of age is continuing. Pakistan will also get the vaccine under Covax in the first week of March and then vaccination will start within days,” he said.

According to data of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), 8,912,918 tests have been conducted since the first case was detected in the country on Feb 26, 2020, out of which 578,797 have contracted the virus, showing a positivity rate of 6.49pc.

According to the breakdown, 257,730 people got infected in Sindh, 170,817 in Punjab, 72,003 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 44,106 in Islamabad, 19,038 in Balochistan, 10,147 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 4,956 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

As many as 12,837 deaths were recorded across the country out of which 5,337 occurred in Punjab, 4,335 in Sindh, 2,070 in KP, 496 in Islamabad, 200 in Balochistan, 297 in AJK and 102 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Replying to a question regarding the confusion prevailing about whether people over 60 years should get vaccinated, spokesperson Sajid Shah said citizens should pay no heed to false information.

“The confusion was created because the government decided not to administer the Chinese vaccine to people over 60 years. The decision was made because Sinopharm did not include sufficient number of people over the age of 60 in its clinical trial. However, there is no such issue with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is going to reach Pakistan in the first week of March,” Mr Shah said.

“A few days ago we issued a statement that Covid-19 vaccines were being administered in over 60 countries, out of which 32, including the UK, were using Oxford-AstraZeneca,” he said.

It is worth mentioning that the confusion arose following a statement issued by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan in which he said Sinopharm should not be administered to people aged over 60.

However, the very next day he clarified that he did not mean to say that the vaccine was hazardous for senior citizens. “Since clinical data did not show that the vaccine was given to people over 60 years, it was decided to administer it only to those who were a maximum of 60 years of age,” he said.

The special assistant had said that other vaccines, including Oxford-AstraZeneca, had no such issue, and in future even Sinopharm might be administered to people of all age groups under a new research.

Sinopharm vaccine, meanwhile, is being given to people over 60 in the United Arab Emirates as well as other countries.


Senate poll keeps PDM committee distracted

Amir Wasim

February 28, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) that has set March 26 as the date for starting its anti-government long march is yet to finalise the modalities of the protest, including its duration, as its member parties remain preoccupied with the preparations for the upcoming Senate elections.

The PDM steering committee that had been assigned the task to finalise a strategy for the long march met thrice in Islamabad last week, but the participants consumed most of the time in discussing the plan for the March 3 polls, according to sources.

The sources said the PDM member parties had already agreed to hold a sit-in after reaching the capital, but their differences over the modalities and duration of the sit-in were yet to be resolved, as one of the two major opposition parties was not convinced to convert the long march into an ‘indefinite’ sit-in.

Talking to Dawn here on Saturday, the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) secretary general Farhatullah Khan Babar, who is also a member of the PDM steering committee, confirmed that all their previous meetings remained focused on the Senate elections since the PDM’s parties had announced that they would jointly contest the polls.

“The discussion on the long march issue will now be held after the Senate election,” declared Mr Babar while taking credit for the PPP in convincing other opposition parties to take part in the Senate election instead of boycotting it.

“Our [PPP’s] narrative proved true. Had we left the field open for them [the government], then Imran Khan would have taken the advantage by telling the people that look the thieves have run away,” the PPP stalwart said, claiming that the PDM’s announcement to jointly contest the Senate election had already caused much “political damage” to Mr Khan.

Mr Babar even hinted that they might change the date of the long march. He said they had announced that the long march would start on March 26, but the final date and its modalities were yet to be decided.

In response to a question, the PPP leader disclosed that in the last meeting of the PDM heads earlier this month, they had decided that the opposition parties would stage a sit-in “which will continue for more than a day” but it had not been decided as to how long it would continue.

He said not only the PDM, but all the component parties were to finalise their respective strategies for the long march and sit-in.

“In how many days, we will reach Islamabad after starting long march from different parts of the country? From where the main leaders will start the march? Where will they culminate in Islamabad? How long they will stage the sit-in? We are yet to find replies to all these questions,” he admitted.

Mr Babar said if PPP workers from Larkana, Sukkur and other parts of Sindh arrived in Islamabad, then arrangements would have to be made for them and the party leadership would also be required to be present with their workers.

When contacted, information secretary of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Marriyum Aurangzeb said the steering committee might form some sub-committees to finalise the long march plan, which would be presented before the PDM leadership after its approval by the steering committee.

On February 4, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief and PDM convener Maulana Fazlur Rehman after presiding over a meeting of the heads of the member parties in Islamabad had announced that they would jointly contest the Senate election and “start” their anti-government long march to Islamabad on March 26.

Briefing reporters after more than six-hour-long meeting of the PDM party heads, the Maulana had stated that the decision to hold a march on Islamabad had been taken. “Caravans from all over the country will leave for Islamabad on March 26,” said the PDM convener while refusing to divulge details of the plan.

The sources said the JUI-F and the PML-N were of the opinion that the opposition lawmakers should submit their resignations during the long march. The two parties, they said, had suggested to the PPP that they could even consider the option of resigning only from the National Assembly if the PPP was not ready to sacrifice its provincial government in Sindh.

During the meeting, the sources said, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif suggested that before launching the long march, they should also consider the option of giving a call for shutter-down and wheel-jam strike in the country.


Senate poll keeps PDM committee distracted

Amir Wasim

February 28, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) that has set March 26 as the date for starting its anti-government long march is yet to finalise the modalities of the protest, including its duration, as its member parties remain preoccupied with the preparations for the upcoming Senate elections.

The PDM steering committee that had been assigned the task to finalise a strategy for the long march met thrice in Islamabad last week, but the participants consumed most of the time in discussing the plan for the March 3 polls, according to sources.

The sources said the PDM member parties had already agreed to hold a sit-in after reaching the capital, but their differences over the modalities and duration of the sit-in were yet to be resolved, as one of the two major opposition parties was not convinced to convert the long march into an ‘indefinite’ sit-in.

Talking to Dawn here on Saturday, the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) secretary general Farhatullah Khan Babar, who is also a member of the PDM steering committee, confirmed that all their previous meetings remained focused on the Senate elections since the PDM’s parties had announced that they would jointly contest the polls.

“The discussion on the long march issue will now be held after the Senate election,” declared Mr Babar while taking credit for the PPP in convincing other opposition parties to take part in the Senate election instead of boycotting it.

“Our [PPP’s] narrative proved true. Had we left the field open for them [the government], then Imran Khan would have taken the advantage by telling the people that look the thieves have run away,” the PPP stalwart said, claiming that the PDM’s announcement to jointly contest the Senate election had already caused much “political damage” to Mr Khan.

Mr Babar even hinted that they might change the date of the long march. He said they had announced that the long march would start on March 26, but the final date and its modalities were yet to be decided.

In response to a question, the PPP leader disclosed that in the last meeting of the PDM heads earlier this month, they had decided that the opposition parties would stage a sit-in “which will continue for more than a day” but it had not been decided as to how long it would continue.

He said not only the PDM, but all the component parties were to finalise their respective strategies for the long march and sit-in.

“In how many days, we will reach Islamabad after starting long march from different parts of the country? From where the main leaders will start the march? Where will they culminate in Islamabad? How long they will stage the sit-in? We are yet to find replies to all these questions,” he admitted.

Mr Babar said if PPP workers from Larkana, Sukkur and other parts of Sindh arrived in Islamabad, then arrangements would have to be made for them and the party leadership would also be required to be present with their workers.

When contacted, information secretary of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Marriyum Aurangzeb said the steering committee might form some sub-committees to finalise the long march plan, which would be presented before the PDM leadership after its approval by the steering committee.

On February 4, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief and PDM convener Maulana Fazlur Rehman after presiding over a meeting of the heads of the member parties in Islamabad had announced that they would jointly contest the Senate election and “start” their anti-government long march to Islamabad on March 26.

Briefing reporters after more than six-hour-long meeting of the PDM party heads, the Maulana had stated that the decision to hold a march on Islamabad had been taken. “Caravans from all over the country will leave for Islamabad on March 26,” said the PDM convener while refusing to divulge details of the plan.

The sources said the JUI-F and the PML-N were of the opinion that the opposition lawmakers should submit their resignations during the long march. The two parties, they said, had suggested to the PPP that they could even consider the option of resigning only from the National Assembly if the PPP was not ready to sacrifice its provincial government in Sindh.

During the meeting, the sources said, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif suggested that before launching the long march, they should also consider the option of giving a call for shutter-down and wheel-jam strike in the country.


Mega uplift package for Sindh by April: minister

Mohammad Hussain Khan

February 28, 2021

HYDERABAD: Federal Minis­ter for Planning, Deve­lopment and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said on Saturday that the prime minister would announce a massive development package for other parts of Sindh, like Karachi, once it was finalised by the end of April.

He said despite the 18th Amendment and a little increase in provincial revenues, the provinces were still almost totally dependent on federal funds.

He was talking to journalists in Wapda Colony after chairing a meeting of officers of different federal government departments. MuttahidaQaumi Movement-Pakistan parliamentarians Salahuddin, Sabir Kaimkhani, Rashid Khilji, Nasir Qureshi and Nadeem Siddiqui and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’sFirduous Shamim Naqvi were present on the occasion.

He said if the people of Sindh didn’t accept Sindh barrage conceived by Wapda why would the federal government spend billions on it.

He said the federal government would consult the Sindh government over the development package through the Execu­tive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec), which was a relevant forum to discuss such projects.

He said a meeting of the Cou­ncil of Common Interests (CCI) had to be postponed in view of increasing political temperatures because of Senate polls.

He said he saw no threat to the PTI-led coalition government, adding that since 2019 he was tired of hearing that the PTI was in trouble

Mr Umar said circumstances showed how ugly Senate elections had become as “conscience is being sold by many”. He said the PTI was a democratic party in which people expressed dissenting views on award of party tickets for Senate seats but they were loyal with the party and stood by its decisions.

He said Liaquat Jatoi, a PTI leader from Sindh who has raised questions over award of party ticket to Saifullah Abro, had been asked to explain his point of view.

He said the seats the PTI lost, including one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in recent by-elections were discussed in media. But no one discussed the seat which the PTI had lost in 2018 and won in recent by-polls. Wazirabad seat was won by PML-N with a margin of over 30,000 votes in 2018 which, the party alleged, were massively rigged. However, this time, the PML-N won it with 5,000 lead with no rigging allegations. He said the by-polls showed that the ratio of the PTI’s vote had increased while PML-N’s declined.

He said leader of opposition in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh was being subjected to vindictive actions for raising voice against the Sindh government, Murad Ali Shah and Asif Ali Zardari. He said PPP’s vote bank driven by love for the Bhuttos had reduced and largely became a ‘vote of fear’.

The minister said the federal government was planning large-scale investment in Hyderabad Electric Supply Company and Sukkur Electric Supply Company to improve their service delivery under the proposed development package for Sindh.

Under an Asian Development Bank-funded programme, smart meter project was going to be introduced so that only those consumers faced action who did not pay bills instead of their entire area suffering power cut.

He said an identical project of smart meters is part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor to be approved in coming meeting of Pakistan-China Joint Cooperation Committee.

Mr Umar said a CCI meeting would be held after Senate polls. “We felt perhaps time is not ripe now for discussing constructive matters in the CCI.”

He said the Sindh government had no objection to execution of K-IV project by the federal government and had given its consent for it. Now Wapda would be its implementation agency and it would spend whatever amount of fund was needed on its completion.

Mr Umar said the idea behind devolving powers to the provinces under 18th Amendment was that they would increase revenue generation and would not rely on Centre. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened. The provinces have increased their revenues but only a little. Still, they completely rely on Centre for receipt of funds.” He said the Federal Board of Revenue had exceeded its revenue collection target this year.

Wind energy projects, he said, would be approved through auction and the federal government had designed three categories for them, irrespective of their provincial location.

He said earlier wind power projects were approved through a flawed policy and now the projects in category I and II were given go ahead while those in category-III were dropped regardless of their location.

Earlier, Asad Umar held meetings with PTI MQM-Pakistan and Grand Democratic Alliance leaders and discussed political situation in Sindh and development-related matters with them, adds APP.


Rules being framed to put special courts under IHC control

Malik Asad

February 28, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The law secretary on Saturday informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the government was making rules to bring Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) under the administrative control of the IHC.

This was stated in a report submitted by Secretary Law Raja Naeem Akbar to the IHC in response to a petition filed against the ‘disorder’ in the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC).

At present, IHC lacks administrative jurisdiction over the FJC, which houses 13 special courts, including anti-terrorism courts, accountability courts courts and FIA courts. The staff of these courts is controlled by the law ministry.

Secretary law Raja Naeem Akbar also informed the court that the district courts complex would be constructed in Sector G-11/4 whereas the site for the lawyers complex is in Sector G-10.

The accountability courts would continue functioning in the FJC whereas the tribunals situated in the judicial complex would be relocated to the alternative place.




Iran warns US claim of using ‘right to self-defense’ in assassination of Gen. Soleimani

February 27, 2021

Source : Iran Press

Iran’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations has warned of a growing tendency among some countries to resort to threats or use of force under the pretext of exercising their right to self-defense, referring to the assassination by the US of Iran’s Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani as a case in point.

“If unchecked, the right to self-defense will not only be abused more frequently by such states, but also they will institute further exceptions to the principle of the prohibition of the threat or use of force,” IRAN quoted Majid Takht-Ravanchi as saying in an address to the UN Security Council Open Arria Formula Meeting on right to self-defense in New York on Wednesday.

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

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

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

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

The US military murdered Lt. General Soleimani along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Deputy Head of Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi, and their companions by targeting their vehicle outside the Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.

The cowardly act of terror was carried out under the direction of former US President Donald Trump, with the Pentagon taking responsibility for the strike.

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

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


Israel blocks Palestine worshippers from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque

February 27, 2021


Israeli occupation forces on Friday placed military barricades at the entrances of the Old City, obstructing Palestinian worshippers from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque, Safa Press Agency reported.

According to a Safa Press Agency reporter, the Israeli forces prevented Palestinians from Israel and the occupied West Bank from entering the Old City.

The Israeli occupation forces stopped the Palestinian worshippers and inspected their ID cards, allowing very few to enter into the Old City and reach Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Recently, Israeli occupation settlers, protected by the Israeli occupation forces, have started to enter into Al-Aqsa Mosque from all of its gates, unlike previously when they entered mainly through Al-Magharbeh Gate.


PA condemns Israel violations against Islamic holy sites

February 27, 2021


The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Friday condemned Israeli violations against Islamic holy sites in the occupied cities of Jerusalem and Hebron, Anadolu Agency reported.

In a statement issued by its Foreign Ministry, the PA announced: "Israel imposes measures and arbitrary restrictions to block worshippers from reaching worship houses, and it is working hard to extend its domination of them and Judaise them."

The statement disclosed that such measures "mount to flagrant violations of freedom of worship," citing that Israeli occupation forces were blocking Palestinian worshippers from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform the Friday prayer.

The Israeli occupation authorities prevented Adhan (call to prayer) from occurring at Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron during the Jewish holy days.

It is worth noting that 55 per cent of the area of Al-Ibrahimi Mosque was occupied in 1994, following a massacre carried out by an Israeli settler during the dawn prayer, killing 29 worshippers.

Al-Ibrahimi Mosque is located in the Old City of Hebron, which falls under Israeli occupation control. Around 400 Israeli Jewish settlers live in the occupied Palestinian area protected by 1,500 Israeli occupation soldiers.


The massacre of Ibrahimi Mosque

February 27, 2021

Dr Belal Yasin

Twenty-seven years ago, on 25 February, 1994, an Israeli settler named Baruch Goldstein shot at hundreds of Palestinians gathering for Al-Fajr prayer at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied city of Hebron.

Goldstein took advantage of the gathering of the worshippers in the prostration position and the closure of the mosque's doors by the occupation soldiers, to kill 29 Palestinians and wound more than 150 others.

The massacre did not end until the Israeli forces shot at the attendees of the victims' funeral, raising the death toll of the massacre to 60.

Despite the atrocity of the massacre, it was widely supported by the Israeli occupation and settlers. When asked if he felt sorry for those killed by Goldstein, Jewish Rabbi Moshe Levinger remarked: "The death of an Arab makes me feel sorry as much as I pity the death of a fly."

Goldstein is considered a saint by Israeli authorities, who transformed his grave into a shrine and assigned a number of honour guards to perform the military salute every day before his grave.

The Arab and Muslim countries were outraged and condemned the criminal attack via peaceful demonstrations, demanding an end to the Israeli settlements and the prosecution of the occupation for its repeated crimes. However, the Israeli authorities argued that Goldstein was insane and was receiving treatment, making it legally impossible to hold him responsible for his actions. This is how the occupation managed to escape the legal responsibility for this crime.

Despite the attempts of Israeli media to mislead the public about what really happened during the massacre, the United Nations (UN) Security Council approved, on 18 March, 1994, a resolution condemning the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, and called on the Israeli authorities to take measures to protect the Palestinians, including the disarming of settlers.

This decision resulted in the formation of an international mission in the city of Hebron, with the aim of monitoring the practices of the occupation. Because of a report issued by the international mission, which between 1994 and 2019 monitored more than 42,000 violations committed by the Israeli authorities against the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused in January 2019 to extend the stay of the international observers.

The media office of Netanyahu quoted him stating: "We will not allow an international force that works against us to stay any longer," considering that the mission of the observers, which consisted of documenting violations of his soldiers against the Palestinians, is an anti-Israel act.

The Ibrahimi Mosque massacre was not just a passing event, but rather an act planned to impose a new reality through which the occupation could achieve its goals, seeking to expel the Palestinians from the Old City and control the Ibrahimi Mosque – exactly what Hebron is witnessing now.

Since the massacre, the city of Hebron has been subjected to a series of measures that changed its historical features and strengthened Israeli settlement, including:

According to the aforementioned, it is clear that the Israeli authorities are encouraging settlers to commit more massacres against the Palestinians by iconising the perpetrator of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, and refusing to commit to the UN Security Council resolution, recommending the protection of Palestinians and disarming the settlers.

On the other hand, the occupation state restricted the movement of Palestinians and gave the green light to settlers to expand their settlements and kill Palestinians, destroying their property and attacking their religious sanctities. This prompted many residents of the Old City to leave for fear of being harmed by Zionist gangs. Therefore, the international institutions must work harder to end the Israeli occupation and implement UN Resolution 242 to ensure that such massacres do not happen again, and to end the daily violations against Palestinians in the city of Hebron.


Extremist settlers storm Islamic shrines in Salfit, Ramallah under protection of Israeli enemy forces

Source : Palestine Info

February 27, 2021

Dozens of fanatic Jewish settlers stormed at dawn Friday the Islamic shrines in KiflHaris town, north of Salfit, under protection of the Israeli occupation forces (IOF).

Local sources reported that the settlers performed Talmudic prayers in Islamic shrines until the morning hours. The IOF soldiers set up a military checkpoint at one of the town's entrances and closed the iron gate at its main entrance.

Meanwhile, a group of settlers raided on Thursday evening the outskirts of Al-Tira neighborhood in Ramallah to perform Talmudic rituals under the IOF protection.

Eyewitness stated that IOF set up a military checkpoint on the road linking Al-Tira neighborhood and Ain Qinya town to protect settlers who arrived in the area in several vehicles.


AKP, opposition leaders come together to commemorate late Islamist leader Erbakan


Feb 27 2021

Top officials from Turkey’s ruling party and opposition leaders came together on Saturday for a ceremony commemorating the country’s late Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan,GerçekGündem news site reported.

The ceremony organised by the Islamist Felicity Party marking the 10th anniversary of Erbakan’s death in Ankara, saw attendance from the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu, Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) leader Ali Baban and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co chairman Mithat Sancar, the news site said.

Erbakan, acknowledged as the the most influential figure of Islamism in Turkey, rose to prominence in the 1970s at the head of the Milli Görüş (National View) Islamist movement he founded and served as prime minister between 1996-1997. Prominent members of Milli Görüş, including now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, went on to found the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that has run Turkey since 2002.

Ankara’s CHP mayor Mansur Yavaş was also in attendance in attendance in Saturday’s event, GerçekGündem said.

Erdoğan was not present for the commemoration ceremony of his mentor Erbakan and AKP was represented by the deputy chairman MahirÜnal, it said.


Internet disruption reported in southeast Iran amid unrest


FEB 27, 2021

Iran’s impoverished southeast experienced wide disruptions of internet service over the past week, internet experts said Saturday, as unrest gripped the remote province after a string of fatal border shootings.

Several rights groups reported in a joint statement that authorities shut down the mobile data network in the restive provinces of Sistan and Baluchistan, calling the disruptions an apparent “tool to conceal” the government’s harsh crackdown on protests convulsing the area.

The reports of internet interference come as Iranian authorities and semi-official news agencies increasingly acknowledge the turmoil challenging local authorities in the southeast — a highly sensitive matter in a country that seeks to repress all hints of political dissent.

For three days starting Wednesday, the government shut down the mobile data network across Sistan and Baluchistan, where 96 percent of the population accesses the internet only through their phones, rights groups said, crippling the key communication tool. Residents reported a restoration of internet access early Saturday.



South Asia

SL informs OIC about its decision to allow burial of Muslim Covid-19 victims

27 February 2021

Kelum Bandara

Sri Lanka was to inform in writing to the General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) yesterday about its decision to allow the burial of Muslim Covid-19 victims, Daily Mirror learns.

The Government decided to reverse its mandatory cremation policy based on recommendations by the technical committee of experts appointed to look into it. The gazette notification giving effect to this decision was issued on Wednesday night under the signature of Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

The burial of bodies of Covid-19 victims are allowed in accordance with directions by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) at a cemetery or a place authorised by him.

The OIC raised concerns about the mandatory cremation policy earlier. OIC Secretary General Yousef Al Othaimeen said at the meeting of the High level Segment of the UNHRC that the OIC is concerned with the situation of Muslims in Sri Lanka since they are denied the right to be buried.

He called for the Government to allow Muslims to bury their people dying of Covid-19 in accordance with their religious rites.there are 13 OIC countries which are members of the UNHRC this time. Their support is crucial for Sri Lanka to defeat the resolution to be moved by the core group of countries led by the United Kingdom.the zero draft of the resolution also refers to the burial issue. Some of the Islamic countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran have already spoken in favour of Sri Lanka at the UNHRC. Sri Lanka has already rejected the resolution.


‘A huge relief to Muslim community’


Camelia Nathaniel

Speaking to the Daily News, former MP M.M. Zuhair PC said that the Government’s decision to permit burials of COVID-19 victims was a huge relief to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka. He said that the Government’s decision to only permit the cremation of COVID-19 victims was understandable as it was a new virus and no one knew how to deal with it. “Understandably, the medical experts were not very clear at that time. But, subsequent investigations and reports, including by the WHO said very clearly that burials will not necessarily lead to the spread of COVID-19. While all citizens wish to have a dignified burial, for Muslims in particular, this is a tremendous relief to them.

They were under tremendous psychological pressure of getting infected with COVID-19 as they were worried of the consequences. I am sure many would have avoided normal treatment if they were suspected cases due to the fear that they may be cremated in case they fall victims to COVID. Now the restoration of the burials will facilitate the burial of Muslims and others who wish to be buried and will take away the people’s fear to seek treatment if they are suspected of having contracted the virus.”

He said that they were worried that this issue should not become a cause for radicalization in the community. “That was causing us much worry far beyond other factors.”

Therefore, he said that the restoration of the burial facilities for COVID-19 victims is a most welcome move by the Health Minister after having recovered from COVID-19 herself.

He also pointed out that the Quarantine Act clearly allows for both options of burial and cremation and said that clearly that provision should not have been removed by the Gazette. “Our view is that that is a violation of the law as well. Hence, we need not have dragged this matter this far and it should have been resolved much earlier. But, its better late than never and we are very grateful and relieved.”

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi informed party leaders about the decision to permit the burial of coronavirus victims on Thursday (25).

“In the case of burial, the corpse of such person shall be buried in accordance with the directions issued by the Director General of Health Services at a cemetery or place approved by the proper authority under the supervision of such authority,” the Gazette notice states.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem had also tweeted saying he and his colleagues from several political parties had a pleasant and fruitful discussion with the Pakistani Prime Minister.

“He expressed confidence in the capacity of our Leaders to improve harmony among all Sri Lankans and address their citizens’ grievances with view to foster goodwill among nations,” Hakeem tweeted.

Also commenting on the issue, SJB-MP Mujibur Rahuman said that the lifting of the ban on burials was the result of much agitation by the Muslim community. He said that this issue need not have been allowed to drag on to a point where it reached the UNHRC. “If the Government had listened to the experts earlier and allowed the burials, this matter would not have caused so much resentment and division. In fact, many Muslims voted for the present Government, but with this issue, they are now disgruntled. We also feel that the Pakistani Prime Minister’s visit also had some influence on the Government’s decision to finally allow burials of Covid victims. Anyhow, I am sure all Muslims in this country are relieved that the Government has finally approved burials of COVID deceased,” he said.


Parliament delegation visits Tajikistan for the second time

By Khaama Press

28 Feb 2021

A parliamentary delegation was led by Mir Rahman Ramani the Afghan Wolesi Jirga speaker to Tajikistan on Saturday, during their visit they will meet senior Tajikistan officials to discuss the peace process.

The number of lawmakers accompanying Rahmani is nearly 20 people, this will mark parliament’s second trip to Tajikistan.

Lawmakers hinted that Tajikistan plays a very important role in the Afghan peace process and stability, countries under Russian influence can “ play an important role in the Afghan peace process” a lawmaker told media.

Previously, many government officials and Afghan politicians visited different neighboring countries and beyond to discuss the Afghan peace process.


IED explosions rock Kabul, Nangarhar provinces

By Khaama Press

27 Feb 2021

At least two people died and three were wounded in explosions in Kabul and Nangarhar provinces on Saturday.

FerdawsFaramarz, a spokesman for the Kabul Police HQ said that a corolla-type vehicle was targeted by magnetic IED at around 9:00 am this morning in the outskirts of Kabul city.

According to police one person was killed and two others were injured when their vehicle was hit by a magnetic bomb in Bagrami district of Kabul city.

On the other hand, Abdul Qahar Qadir, a member of the provincial council of Nangarhar was wounded when an IED blast hit his vehicle in the city of Jalalabad on Saturday afternoon, local officials reported.

An innocent civilian was killed during the explosion.

This comes to Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum’s arrival after 20 months in Kabul amid escalated violence despite the peace process.

Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, President’s Advisor for Security and Political Affairs Mohammad Mohaqiq,  welcomed Dostum at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Dostum during his speech said, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are targeting innocent people and that both will be “terminated” for their atrocities.

He also called on Ashraf Ghani to find a political consensus for the Afghan peace process, adding that Afghanistan is at a “critical stage in the history,” the Afghan elected leader must “bring politicians together”

Dostum indicated that minor negligence could turn the history “against us”, Dostum said.

He said that the opportunity for bringing prolonged peace in the country should be seized.


90% of anti-terrorism operations ‘conducted’ by ANDSF: Ashraf Ghani

By Khaama Press

27 Feb 2021

President Ashraf Ghani on the day of Armed Forces Day reiterated that Afghanistan is in need of a dignified and permanent peace and that the international community kept Afghan away from the fundamental right of peace for many years.

According to the Afghan president, 90% of the counterterrorism operations are conducted by the Afghan National Army and Defense Forces.

“Today’s Afghanistan is not the one it was in the past, the one that was protected by others. Today, you are safeguarding it. We are very close to self-reliance”, Ghani added.

During the ceremony, President Ghani said that security forces have played an important role in fighting international terrorism, and they can protect the values of and gains of the country.

Referring to his recent speech at UN Security Council, President Ghani said: “My main sentence was that for the last 40 years, the international community has kept a massive nation away from their fundamental right which is peace and this is unacceptable.” 

“We want peace and we want dignified peace and a peace that is ensured by the power of our security and defense forces and with the will of the people. This peace will come,”

Ghani said the violence must end and that there should be no more bloodshed and no one should remain deprived of education anymore.

President Ghani stressed that the violence and bloodshed must end and no one is deprived of education.

He said the next government and president will be decided by the Afghan people themselves.

“The people of Afghanistan have elected their government and president and they will elect the next president of Afghanistan,” Ghani added, “It is the right of the nation and the security and defense forces will prove that change will be legal and based on the nation’s will; otherwise, the tenure of the Republic is clear”.

The Afghan National Defense and Security member’s day was celebrated nationwide, with strong feelings and emotions still intact for a peaceful future of Afghanistan.

Deputy Defense Minister, Shah Mahmood Miakhil during the ceremony said the Afghan forces made a huge sacrifice by releasing Taliban prisoners for the purpose of prolonged peace.

State cannot avoid responsibility

February 28, 2021

Staff Correspondent

Hours after protesting writer Mushtaq Ahmed's detention under the Digital Security Act and subsequent death in custody, Ruhul Amin himself was sued under the controversial law.

"If such writings sent Mushtaq to jail and then to death, depriving him of bail six times, then arrest me too," read a Facebook post that Ruhul, a coordinator of left-leaning Shramik-Krishak-Chhatra-Janata Oikya Parishad, wrote on Friday.

He shared a digital poster of a protest march from Shahbagh to the JatiyaSangsad, called for yesterday, and also some screenshots of Mushtaq's Facebook posts.

Around 10:00pm, Detective Branch officials picked him up along with Niyaz Murshid Dolon, convening committee member of his organisation, from their mess in Goakhali area of Khulna city.

BM Nurujjaman, deputy commissioner, Detective Branch at KMP, said Ruhul was sued under the Digital Security Act for trying to destabilise the state, creating social unrest and over other reasons.

While the demand for scrapping this law gets louder, especially after the death of writer Mushtaq, Ruhul is just another name added to the long list of people detained under DSA. 

Last year, as many as 457 people of different professions were prosecuted and arrested in 198 cases filed under the Digital Security Act, noted UK-based Article 19 in its annual report.

Of this figure, 75 were journalists, while others included teachers, students, folk musicians and cultural artists. Nearly half of the journalists prosecuted, 32, were arrested.

In a statement yesterday, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) said the "repressive" Digital Security Act, under which Mushtaq was arrested, should be abolished.

The graft watchdog observed that by formulating the DSA, a "fatal weapon" has been handed to the so-called influentials to suppress voices of dissent.

Mushtaq's death proves that the government and state machineries do not have what it takes to tolerate criticism, it further stated.

TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said there were questions as to why Mushtaq was denied bail six times while the other accused in the case was not.

"It will not be an exaggeration to say the Digital Security Act has been misused to gag the voices of dissent and critics," he added.

In a separate statement, the National Human Rights Commission said the state cannot avoid the responsibility of writer Mushtaq's death.

In another development, the US State Department has called on Bangladesh to conduct a transparent investigation into the death of Mushtaq Ahmed and uphold the right of freedom of expression.

"We are concerned by Bangladeshi writer Mushtaq Ahmed's death in custody while detained under the Digital Security Act," US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price tweeted yesterday, a day after 13 heads of foreign missions in Dhaka issued a joint statement on the issue.

"We call on the Government of Bangladesh to conduct a transparent investigation and for all countries to uphold the right of freedom of expression."

On May 6 last year, the Rapid Action Battalion arrested Mushtaq, 53, at his Dhaka home for "spreading rumours and carrying out anti-government activities".

On Thursday evening, he fainted and then was taken to Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College and Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

Mushtaq used to write under the pen name Michael Kumir Thakur. His book "KumirChasher Diary" was published in November 2018, and he was working on another book.

Protesters took to the streets in the capital and elsewhere for the second consecutive day yesterday to press home their demands -- justice for the death of Mushtaq, scrapping of DSA and immediate release of all those imprisoned under the controversial law, including cartoonist Ahmed Kishore.

In Dhaka, police sued seven detained protesters along with 150 unnamed others with 10 charges, including attempted murder, following a clash between policemen in Shahbagh during a torch procession on Friday.

The seven are Md Tamjid Haider, 22, Nozir Amir Chowdhury Joy, 27, ASM Tanjimur Rahman, 22, Md Akib Ahmed, 22, Md Arafat Saad, 24, Nazifa Jannat, 24, and Joyoti Chakravarty, 23.

A sub-inspector of Shahbagh Police Station filed the case yesterday, confirmed SM Shamim, senior assistant commissioner (Ramna zone) of DMP.

Amid the protests yesterday, several hundred policemen were seen deployed in three places of the capital -- Shahbagh, Press Club, and ShaheenMinar areas.

At a rally in front of Press Club in the morning, NagarikOikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said the government is trying to suppress dissenting voices with controversial laws like DSA.

Former diplomat Sakib Ali, also a NagarikOikya member, said Mushtaq was an ex-cadet and he feels ashamed of the silence of this community over the death.

"I am an ex-cadet and was a student of 22th batch of Faujdarhat Cadet College. Mushtaq was a student of the 27th batch…. We knew him as the first crocodile farmer of Bangladesh. He was not a man of traditional thinking. He had been working out of the box with all of his creative mind."

Activists of left-leaning student bodies brought out a procession from the TSC area of Dhaka University around 12:30pm. They called for nationwide protests and besieging the home ministry on March 1 and a procession towards the Prime Minister's Office on March 3.

Speaking at a rally, Al Kaderi Joy, convener of Progressive Students' Alliance, demanded justice for the police action on the demonstrators on Friday and immediate release of the detained fellow activists.

Golam Mostafa, central president of Bangladesh Students Federation, said the government is gagging the voices of the people for expressing their views.

"We did not want this Bangladesh. Corruption has spread all over the country… There are constant lies from different levels of the state. Democracy cannot be established on lies. Liars must be resisted."

Leaders of the Narayanganj Cultural Alliance demanded justice for the death of Mushtaq at a protest programme in front of Narayanganj Press Club at Chashara yesterday noon.

Rafiur Rabbi, advisor to the alliance, said, "This government has taken away the right to vote in Bangladesh. This government has deprived the people of Bangladesh of their right to express. This government has taken away the right to speak, the right to justice. This government has enacted the Digital Security Act only so that people can't speak against the irregularities and corruption."

Meanwhile, the home ministry yesterday formed a five-member committee led by its Additional Secretary TarunKantiSikder to investigate Mushtaq's death and submit a report within four working days.

The Gazipur district administration also formed a two-member committee over the death of writer Mushtaq. The committee has been asked to submit its report within two working days.


All credit goes to people: PM

February 28, 2021

Unb, Dhaka

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said Bangladesh's graduation from the group of the least developed countries (LDCs) to a developing one stemmed from her government's relentless efforts, planning and hard work over the last 12 years.

"The people of the country did all these things. Staying in government, we just gave policy support to create the scope. It's a historic moment and a moment of pride for the nation," she said.

The premier was speaking at a virtual press conference marking the UN's final recommendation for Bangladesh's graduation from the LDC group.

Hasina strongly hoped Bangladesh would get its place as a dignified country at the world stage following its graduation to a developing nation.

"Father of the Nation Bangabandhu had turned Bangladesh into a least developed country lifting up the war ravaged country in just three and a half years' time. And Bangladesh Awami League -- a party founded at the hands of the great leader -- established the country as a developing nation in this Golden Jubilee year of its independence," she said.

In her written speech, the premier gave credit to the people of the country for this saying the coordinated efforts of all made the milestone achievement possible.

The PM said being the daughter of the Father of the Nation, she felt proud of this achievement as she herself remained engaged in the process of development strides.

"UN Committee for Development Policy reviews the issue of a country's graduation from LDC based on income per capita, human assets, and economic and environmental vulnerability," Hasina said.

In continuation of Bangladesh's fulfillment of these criteria in the first triennial review meeting of the CDP in 2018, Bangladesh also met all the three criteria this year for graduation from LDC to a developing country, she added.

Highlighting various economic indices, the PM said Bangladesh's GDP now rose to $330.2 billion, and export income to $40.54 billion, while foreign reserves already reached $44.03 billion.

Besides, Bangladesh has already been self-reliant in food, fish, egg, meat, and vegetable production, while it is the third country in the world in terms of paddy production, she said.

The premier said today's Bangladesh is not what it was 12 years ago. Ninety-nine percent people have been brought under electricity coverage, digital services have been expanded up to the marginalised people in villages, and a revolutionary change has taken place in the ICT sector through Bangabandhu Satellite, she said.

Talking about the novel coronavirus pandemic, Hasina said the year 2020 was a critical year not only for Bangladesh but also for the entire world due to pandemic.

She, however, mentioned that the government has been able to keep the national economy moving by taking various steps like giving financial assistance and stimulus packages to affected groups.

The PM said the vaccination drive has already begun across the country with a total of 28,50,940 people getting vaccinated as of Thursday.

Responding to queries from journalists, Hasina said the government was carrying out the vaccination campaign so that everyone can take shots as per the WHO guidelines.

"I've already instructed [the authorities] to bring home another three crore doses of vaccines. We are taking steps so that the second doses are available with the completionof the first-dose vaccination."

"I will surely take the vaccine, but I want the people of the country to take it first. If one life can be saved with my vaccine, that's the big achievement. Isn't it?"

Hasina said she wants to see first how many people can be brought under the vaccination coverage. "We have a target. We will provide vaccine up to that level. If any vaccine dose is left after that, I will take my one."

The premier also said if any country is unable to produce the vaccine, then Bangladesh will do that. "I have already asked the pharmaceutical companies, which are capable of producing vaccines, to get ready. We're looking for bringing the vaccine seed."

She said she has asked the teachers and others involved with educational institutions to take vaccine as the government is trying to resume academic activities very soon.

Asked about the "magic" behind keeping economic activities vibrant alongside keeping people safe during the pandemic, Hasina said it was not a magic at all. "It is the sincerity and our responsibility to the country and its people."

The premier expressed her firm optimism that Bangladesh would soon be established as a developed, prosperous and dignified country at the world stage if the pace of development continued.


Border Killings: Use non-lethal weapons

February 28, 2021

Staff Correspondent

Bangladesh has once again asked its counterpart India for using "non-lethal" weapons in the Indo-Bangla border to bring down the border killing to zero.

Mostafa Kamal Uddin, Senior Secretary of Public Security Division of the home ministry, led the Bangladesh delegation while Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Union Home Secretary, led the Indian delegation.

After the virtual meeting held at a city hotel, Senior Secretary Mostofa Kamal Uddin told reporters that "we have discussed bringing down the border killing to zero. There has a principle to use the non-lethal weapon to avoid causality."

He further said that they have discussed in the meeting to improve the relationship in the future between two countries and India assured to exchange cooperation and support.

It should need to be mentioned that India has assured to bring down the border killing into zero in different level meetings with Bangladesh several times earlier.

According to a database of Ain O Salish Kendra, at least 49 Bangladeshi citizens have been killed along the India-Bangladesh border by Indian Border Security Force in 2020.

In the meeting, both Secretaries reiterated their commitment to further expand and strengthen cooperation in the security and border-related issues, according to sources.

An official, who attended the meeting, told The Daily Star that they have informed India that yaba pills are now entering from their country to Bangladesh.

In response to it, India said that they did not produce Yaba. Myanmar produced the pills and they may use India for transit. "But India assured that they will be remain alert," said the official.

India further asked Bangladesh to install a thermal scanner in every flight that goes to the country so that it can be checked very carefully about carrying any lethal weapons, according to sources.

In response to it, Bangladesh said that they have a flight connection with many other countries and thus it is not possible to install the scanner with the flight.

It was the 19th home secretary-level talk between Bangladesh and India. The meeting was scheduled to held on last year but it postponed for Covid-19.

The Indian delegation was supposed to visit Bangladesh but it finally held virtually for the pandemic, according to ministry officials.

Jahangir Alam, additional secretary (political and ICT) of the home ministry, told The Daily Star that India discussed for early completion of fencing along the Indo-Bangla border.

A high official of the ministry, present in the meeting, said that they also raised the smuggling of Phensedyl into Bangladesh and India responds that they use it as their cough syrup and what can they do if anyone uses it for addiction.

Both sides reaffirmed not to allow the territory of either country to be used for any activity inimical to each other's interests. Both sides appreciated the cooperation between the two countries and the action taken to address the menace of terrorism and extremism effectively.

The effective functioning of the Coordinated Border Management Plan to control the illegal cross-border activities was appreciated by both sides.

Both sides agreed to further enhance the level of cooperation to prevent the smuggling of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) and contraband, reads the Indian ministry release.

Bangladesh appreciated the assistance provided by India in the field of training and capacity building for various security agencies, the release added.


‘I Wake Up and Scream’: Secret Taliban Prisons Terrorize Thousands

By Adam Nossiter

Feb. 27, 2021

FAIZABAD, Afghanistan — The Taliban prison is a ruined house, a cave, a filthy basement in an abandoned dwelling, or a village mosque. Beatings or worse are a certainty, and the sentence is indefinite. Food, if there is any, is stale bread and cold beans. A bed is the floor or a dirty carpet. The threat of death — screamed, shouted, sometimes inflicted — is ever-present.

Malik Mohammadi, a calm 60-year-old farmer, watched the Taliban put to death his 32-year-old son Nasrullah, an army officer, in one such prison. Over a period of nine days last year, Nasrullah, an epileptic, was refused medicine by his captors. He was denied food. His father saw blood coming from his mouth, and bruises from beatings. On the 10th day, he died.

Such repression is part of the Taliban’s strategy of control in the territories under their rule. While the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators in Qatar fitfully talk about meeting for talks, even as the idea of real peace recedes, the reality is that the insurgents already hold much of the country. An approaching U.S. withdrawal, coupled with a weak Afghan security force scarcely able to defend itself, means the group is likely to maintain this authority and its brutal ways of invoking submission.

ImageFaizabad, a town in Afghanistan’s far north and the capital of Badakhshan Province, is inhabited by numerous ex-prisoners of the Taliban, as the insurgents control many of the roads from here to the capital, Kabul. Making that journey means exposure to Taliban checkpoints, and capture.

Faizabad, a town in Afghanistan’s far north and the capital of Badakhshan Province, is inhabited by numerous ex-prisoners of the Taliban, as the insurgents control many of the roads from here to the capital, Kabul. Making that journey means exposure to Taliban checkpoints, and capture.

One of the Taliban’s most fearsome tools for doing so is a loose network of prisons, an improvised archipelago of mistreatment and suffering, in which the insurgents inflict harsh summary judgment on their fellow Afghans, arbitrarily stopping them on the highway. Mostly, they are looking for soldiers and government workers. The government too has been accused of mistreatment in its prisons, with the United Nations recently finding that nearly a third of the Afghan army’s prisoners have been tortured.

In the Taliban’s case, the detained are locked up in hidden makeshift prisons, a universe of incarceration in which the hapless charges are often moved, day after day, from ruined house to isolated mosque, and back again — without any sense of how long their detention will last. The approach is anything but discriminating.

“It keeps coming back to me in my sleep,” said Sayed Hiatullah, a 42-year-old shopkeeper in Faizabad. Last year, Mr. Hiatullah was falsely accused at a Taliban checkpoint of working for state security. He was imprisoned for 25 days.

“I relive my memories 100 percent, every second, every minute,” said AtiqullahHassanzada, 31, an ex-soldier captured last year on his way to a military hospital in Kabul, speaking on the floor of his home. “I was beaten on the backs of my thighs and on the shoulder,” he said.

Faizabad, a town in Afghanistan’s far north and the capital of Badakhshan Province, is inhabited by numerous ex-prisoners of the Taliban, as the insurgents control many of the roads from here to the capital, Kabul. Making that journey means exposure to Taliban checkpoints, and capture.

The effect of these arbitrary imprisonments is one of terror. “I begged them, crying, to release me,” said Mr. Hiatullah. “They would beat me even more.”

“The Taliban stopped the vehicle and arrested me,” said Naqibullah Momand, traveling to his home in Kunduz Province last year. “They put their hand on my heart to check my heartbeat,” said the 26-year-old television presenter.

For the Taliban, a rapid beat would have indicated guilt; Mr. Momand forced himself to remain calm, but he still ended up spending 29 days locked in a two-room house with 20 others, sleeping on a dirty carpet on the floor, a single light bulb illuminated all night, before his captors conceded he wasn’t a member of the Afghan military.

“The low-level Taliban members’ behavior is very bad,” said Fazul-Ahmad Aamaj, an elderly, semiofficial mediator in Faizabad, the best-known of about 15 in Badakhshan. People whose relatives have been captured often turn to Mr. Aamaj for help. He has secured the release of dozens of the group’s captives, through negotiations involving family, tribal elders and money.

For local commanders, the mosque makes an ideal jail. “It’s the one central place in the village; in a lot of the villages, the mosque is synonymous with the Taliban,” said Ashley Jackson, co-director of the Centre for the Study of Armed Groups, who has studied Taliban justice extensively. “It’s the way they enforce behavior.”

The Taliban also operate a parallel network of civil courts in which religious scholars judge land disputes and family quarrels. These courts, with their swift judgments, have gained a reputation of sorts for efficiency and are welcomed by many Afghans, particularly compared to the government’s corrupted justice system. Taliban courts also judge murders and perceived moral and religious infractions. Here the emphasis is on “punishment”; the system “relies on beatings and other forms of torture,” Human Rights Watch said in a report last year.

Crimes perceived as political, like working for the Afghan government, or fighting for it, inhabit a different universe. There are no courts for such crimes. Local Taliban commanders have absolute authority “to arrest anyone they deem suspicious,” Human Rights Watch said.

Mohammed Aman, 31, a government engineer, said he was pulled over on the highway from Ghazni to Kabul one afternoon last November, handcuffed and taken to a mosque. “There were 10 or 11 others, handcuffed to a chain, inside the mosque,” he said. “We were praying, early in the morning. They came, and they beat us,” said Mr. Danishjo, who was held in another mosque.

“One of the Taliban flogged us in the courtyard of the mosque,” said Abdel Qadir Sharifi, 25, who was captured when his military base was overrun. “I believed they were going to kill me.”

Death is the ever-present threat, sometimes inflicted but more often used as a fearsome bargaining chip to gain what the Taliban want: money, a prisoner exchange, or a painfully extracted pledge to renounce government service. The deliberate, often slow, putting to death of captives also occurs.

Summoned along with village elders to negotiate his son’s release in exchange for Taliban prisoners, Mr. Mohammadi was able to see his son three times during Nasrullah’s brief captivity.

“They tried to sit him up. But he kept falling down,” Mr. Mohammadi recalled. The Taliban shouted at him: “‘Do you see what is happening to your son?’’’

The next day the Taliban moved Nasrullah to a ruined house. By the ninth day, he had lost consciousness. He was filthy, covered in urine and excrement.

His captors allowed Mr. Mohammadi to wash him in cold water. But it was too late. “He was dying,” his father said. “The last time I saw him, it was in the yard of the destroyed house,” he said.

After the death of his son, the Taliban tormented him. “Why don’t you cry?” they asked. “I told them, I don’t want to cry in front of the trees and the stones,” said Mr. Mohammadi.

His other son, Rohullah Hamid, 35, a lawyer in Kabul, who took part in the failed effort to get his brother released, said: “Every day, dozens of Afghans die because of the Taliban. The Taliban are the enemy of humanity.”



Southeast Asia

Assigning 122 Islamic enforcers for Nur Sajatwitchhunt overzealous, says transgender rights group


27 Feb 2021

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 ― Justice for Sisters (JFS) has labelled the Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s (Jais) attempt to detain cosmetics entrepreneur Nur Sajat as extreme, and called for the state Islamic authority to end all prosecution against her immediately.           

In a statement, the transgender rights group expressed its extreme concern about the persecution against Nur Sajat and charges of allegedly “insulting Islam” for merely being herself.

“We are astonished by the financial and human resources that are being allocated for this search and arrest operation against Sajat.

“All these actions by JAIS are extreme and demonstrate their overzealousness in arresting and detaining Sajat at all costs for merely expressing herself and her gender identity,” the group said.

JFS went on to questions the charges against Sajat ― which are allegedly connected to a religious event that she organised in 2018 where she appeared in a baju kurung.

“Her wearing a baju kurung is deemed as an insult to Islam. Further, as a result of the series of doxing efforts by both state and non-state actors, the recorded identity on her birth certificate as well as her identity card was disclosed to the public, setting the stage for her prosecution,” it said.

JFS added that while detractors may accuse Nur Sajat of bringing this action onto herself for not attending court, there are deeper structural issues that need to be addressed first.

It added that it is also important to understand and empathise with the mental health burden and stress experienced by those prosecuted for their gender identities as the Shariah courts deny the queer communities their dignity and adds barriers for them to seek redress and remedies.

The advocacy group added that the continuous prosecution against Nur Sajat based on her gender identity is a violation of Article 8, which safeguards persons from gender-based discrimination.

“While the state attempts to view gender through a binary lens, gender is a multilayered and umbrella term which includes gender identity, gender expression and gender stereotypes,” it said.

Underlying the state persecution against Nur Sajat is the criminalisation and non-recognition of trans, intersex and non-binary persons, said the group, with this raising serious questions regarding Muslim trans, intersex and non-binary persons’ freedom of religion in Malaysia.

“It appears as if the state only allows LGBTQ persons to exist if they fall into the state’s definition of a Muslim person, and requires non-gender conforming individuals to ‘change’, ‘supress’ or ‘rehabilitate’ themselves, all of which have been rejected by international medical and human rights bodies due to its harmful effects on the well-being of LGBTQ people,” it said.

Earlier this week, Jais said it had deployed about 122 personnel and enforcement officers to find and arrest Nur Sajat, following her failure to attend a Shariah High Court proceeding last Tuesday in relation to a case three years ago.

The charge against Nur Sajat was made in accordance with Section 10 (a) of the Shariah Crimes (State of Selangor) Enactment 1995 which provides for a sentence not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both, if convicted.

Section 10 refers to the Shariah offence of insulting Islam or causing Islam to be insulted either by mocking or blaspheming the faith and its associated practices and rituals either in a written, pictorial or photographic form.


Jakim committee to review, strengthen Shariah criminal laws after landmark ruling on ‘unnatural sex’

27 Feb 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — Syarak and Civil Law Technical Committee under the Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) will hold discussions with relevant parties in its efforts to improve syariah laws, especially those related to syariah criminal offences in the country.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said this was following the Federal Court’s decision that declared as unconstitutional a provision in the Selangor syariah law which makes it an offence to engage in unnatural sex, last Thursday.

“The committee will hold a consultation session with states and stakeholders in an effort to strengthen and streamline syariah laws in Malaysia,” he said in a statement today.

In this regard, he called on all Muslims in the country to respect the court’s decision and urged them to refrain from making any speculation on the matter.

A nine-member bench led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat held that Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 relates to matters that fall under the Federal Constitution’s Ninth Schedule Federal list, under Parliament’s power to enact laws.

The court granted a declaration sought by a 35-year-old man that Section 28 is invalid on grounds that it made provision with respect to a matter that the Selangor state legislature was not empowered to make laws and was therefore null and void.

Section 28 of the enactment makes it in an offence for any person who performs sexual intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or a maximum three-year jail term or whipping not exceeding six strokes or any combination, on conviction.

On Aug 21, 2019, the man, whose identity is being withheld on the request of his lawyers, was charged with attempting to commit sexual intercourse against the order of nature with certain other male persons in a house in Selangor on Nov 9, 2018.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge and his trial at the Syariah High Court has been stayed pending the outcome of his legal challenge. —


Driver of crashed bus carrying Covid-19 patients also tests positive for virus

27 Feb 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — The driver of a bus ferrying 40 Covid-19 patients involved in an accident at the UPM Toll Plaza in Serdang this afternoon, has also been confirmed positive for the disease.

Selangor Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department chief Supt Azman Shari’at said the 41-year-old driver who suffered a leg injury in the incident was sent to the Serdang Hospital for treatment where a Covid-19 screening was carried out on him.

A urine drug test also came back negative, he said, adding that investigations were still ongoing.

“In the incident at about 2 pm, the bus carrying 40 passengers went out of control before skidding into the Touch ‘n Go lane and crashing into the toll booth.

“The crash is believed to be due to the failure of the bus’ braking system, based on a statement from the bus driver,” he told Bernama.

The bus was among a convoy of 11 buses ferrying 431 Covid-19 patients from the Changkat Jong Cluster from TelukIntan, Perak to the Covid-19 Quarantine and Low-Risk Treatment Centre (PKRC) MAEPS 2.0 in Serdang, Selangor.

All the passengers, including eight who were injured, were taken to PKRC MAEPS 2.0 for treatment.

The case is being investigated under Section 43 of the Road Transport Act 1987.


DAP seeks to defend Malaysians from ‘financial ruin’ after govt raises Covid-19 penalties


27 Feb 2021

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said today his party is examining the law to see how it can help Malaysians once the new penalties for Covid-19 regulation violations kick in next month.

The Opposition lawmaker reiterated his party’s objection to the latest revisions to the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) Ordinance 2021 that sharply raises the compound fines from the present RM1,000 to RM10,000 for individuals and RM50,000 for companies found in breach of the government’s anti-virus standard operating procedures (SOPs) from March 11.

“The current levels of compound fines would be sufficient to drive home the message to strictly comply with the SOPs. There is no need to force them to financial ruin when such penalties should be set based not on the wealthy but on the poor’s ability to pay,” Lim said in a statement.

He said he has tasked his party’s legal bureau chief Ramkarpal Singh who is also Bukit Gelugor, and Beruas MP Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham to look into the amended laws “to see how we can save Malaysians from financial ruin”.

He said that instead of resorting to such harsh and exorbitant preventive measures, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government should undertake a rehabilitative approach first.

“The PN government is essentially blaming the people for the recent escalation in Covid-19 cases that has made Malaysia the worst nation in Asean, when it is the PN’s ministers incompetency, lack of leadership and mismanagement that is the real cause,” Lim said.

He emphasised that equal enforcement of the law for government elites as well as ordinary citizens would be far more effective in curbing the spread of Covid-19, together with the 3Ts of testing, tracing of all close contacts of infected people.

The matter is stipulated in the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 through a Federal Government gazette uploaded on the official portal of the Attorney-General’s Chambers. It also states that companies or corporations that violate the SOPs can be fined up to RM50,000.

However, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador clarified earlier today that the new penalties will only be imposed on repeat SOP violators and those who cause mass Covid-19 infections.

“We admit that many people misunderstand (the move) and worry about the compound amount of up to RM10,000. It is not for all offences, including failing to wear face masks.

“It is for certain offences, namely, for those who are stubborn by committing the offences repeatedly as well as those who violate the SOP, including interstate travel, causing the spread of Covid-19,” he was quoted in Jeli, Kelantan as saying by national news agency Bernama.


IGP says RM10,000 penalty for Covid-19 super spreaders, repeat SOP violators

27 Feb 2021


JELI, Feb 27 — The enforcement of RM10,000 compounds, effective March 11, will only be imposed on individuals who breach the Movement Control Order (MCO) repeatedly, as well as those who can trigger the spread of Covid-19, said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador.

He explained that the government’s decision to increase the compound from RM1,000 to RM10,000 was not for all offences related to violations of the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“We admit that many people misunderstand (the move) and worry about the compound amount of up to RM10,000. It is not for all offences, including failing to wear face masks.

“It is for certain offences, namely, for those who are stubborn by committing the offences repeatedly as well as those who violate the SOP, including interstate travel, causing the spread of Covid-19,” he said when met by reporters after visiting the construction site of the new Jeli district police headquarters (IPD) here, today.

On Feb 25, it was reported that individuals who violated the rules or SOPs set for the prevention and control of the Covid-19 pandemic will face a maximum fine of RM10,000, starting on March 11.

The matter is stipulated in the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 through a Federal Government gazette uploaded on the official portal of the Attorney-General’s Chambers. It also states that companies or corporations that violate the SOPs can be fined up to RM50,000.

Abdul Hamid said that the individual issued with a RM10,000 compound, however, could appeal for reduction to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

“Probably, from a compound of RM10,000, they will only need to pay RM200 after the appeal, depending on the reasons given,” he said, adding that the police would only be involved in enforcing SOPs compliance by issuing a compound and do not accept compound payments.

Abdul Hamid said that the police would recommend to the MOH to impose the RM10,000 compound on entertainment premises that operate without a licence.



Arab world

Egypt lifts ban on Ramadan's Taraweeh prayers in some mosques amid strict coronavirus measures

Menna Alaa El-Din

27 Feb 2021

Mass night prayers during Ramadan (Taraweeh) will be permitted in some mosques with the adoption of preventive measures against the coronavirus, the state-run MENA agency quoted NouhEssawy, the endowments under-secretary for mosque affairs, as saying on Saturday.

The mosques allowed to hold Taraweeh prayers are those the state permitted to open for Friday noon prayers due to their strict adoption of preventive measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.

With Ramadan beginning in April, Essawy said a ban has not been lifted on the organisation of the holy month's charity Iftar banquets nor on solitary retreat in mosques, known as itikaf.

Taraweeh prayers, considered the most spiritual prayers held during Ramadan, were banned last year as Egypt had stopped in March all congregational religious activities nationwide to curb the spread of the virus in the overpopulated country.

Taraweeh prayers in Ramadan 2020 were performed by a mosque imam and two mosque workers, and broadcast on Al-Quran Al-Kareem radio station.

Egypt saw an unprecedented Ramadan in 2020 as restrictions to contain the pandemic, including an extended overnight curfew in place since March, took a toll on the cherished rituals of Islam’s holiest month.

The temporary shutdown of the practices were lifted over the summer, allowing major mosques to reopen for daily prayers later in late June, with weekly Friday prayers resumed in late August.


Arab, Islamic states rejection of Congress report growing

February 27, 2021

CAIRO/RIYADH — The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States and the Arab Parliament led a growing number of Arab and Islamic states in rejecting the report submitted to the US Congress about killing of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi while supporting the statement issued by the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry regarding the report.

In Cairo, the Arab Parliament affirmed its support for the statement issued by the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry regarding the report that was submitted to the US Congress about killing of Khashoggi, expressing its categorical rejection to prejudice the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia and everything that would prejudice its leadership and independence of its judiciary.

The Arab Parliament stressed the pivotal role that Saudi Arabia plays, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the Crown Prince, in consolidating security and stability in the Arab region and at the regional level.

It also stressed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's policy in support of maintaining international peace and security, and its main role in combating terrorism, violence and extremist ideology, as well as consolidating and spreading the values of moderation and tolerance at all levels.

In Riyadh, GCC Secretary General Dr. Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf expressed his support for the statement issued by the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the report that was submitted to the US Congress about the murder of Khashoggi.

The GCC Secretary General affirmed his appreciation of the great and pivotal role played by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in enhancing the regional and international security and peace, its great role in combating terrorism, and supporting international community efforts exerted to fight it and drying up its sources.

He also pointed out that the report was no more than an opinion unsupported by any decisive proofs, stressing that what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is doing, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince, in supporting regional and international security and peace as well as combating terrorism, is a well-established and appreciative historical role.

He also expressed his support for all measures that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes in order to maintain its rights, enhancing its gains and supporting its role in enhancing the culture of moderation and mediocrity.

In Aden, the Republic of Yemen expressed its absolute solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's leadership and people, and its full support for the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's statement, regarding the report that was submitted to the US Congress about the murder of Khashoggi.

In a statement carried by the Yemeni News Agency (SABA), the Yemeni Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates affirmed the pioneering role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince, and their strong keenness on the security and stability of the region and world peace.

It also expressed its categorical rejection of everything that would prejudice the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its figures and independence of its judiciary.

In Abu Dhabi, The United Arab Emirates (UAE) expressed its support for the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry’s statement regarding Khashoggi.

In a statement on Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed its confidence in and support for the Saudi judiciary, as well as Saudi Arabia's commitment to enforcing the law with transparency and integrity, and holding those responsible to account.

The Ministry affirmed the UAE's solidarity with Saudi Arabia in its efforts to maintain stability and security in the region and its key role in the axis of Arab moderation and security.

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs too expressed support to the Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry statement, regarding the report that was provided to the US Congress about the crime of killing Saudi citizen Khashoggi.

In a statement, Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs, affirmed the importance of the role which played by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, regionally and internationally, in supporting the policy of moderation, the rejection of violence and extremism, and its constant endeavor to support security and stability, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the Crown Prince.

Earlier, Bahrain expressed its support for the statement of the Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, regarding the report that was provided to the US Congress on the crime of killing Khashoggi.

In a statement, Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed the importance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's fundamental role, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, its policy of moderation on the regional, Arab and international levels, and the efforts it exerts in strengthening regional security and stability as well as the Global economic growth.

The Republic of Djibouti too expressed its support for the statement of Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, regarding the report that was provided to the US Congress about the killing of Khashoggi.

Djibouti stressed its rejection of everything that would undermine the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or represent interference in its internal affairs, stressing at the same time the centrality of the role that the Kingdom plays, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman and the Crown Prince, in establishing security and stability at the regional and international levels, combating terrorism, rejecting violence and extremism, and consolidating the values of tolerance, moderation.

Meanwhile, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, special aide to Pakistan Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East, chairman Pakistan Ulema Council, said Saudi Arabia's leadership is respected by Pakistan and the entire Islamic world.

“Peace, security and stability of Saudi Arabia is dear to entire Muslim Ummah and Pakistan,” he said, adding, Pakistan supports Saudi Arabia on the Khashoggi issue.

“Jamal Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia and all the respective circles and sections including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, have expressed satisfaction on steps taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the issue of Khashoggi.”

Ashrafi also underlined that any action against the security, stability and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia will not be accepted and tolerated. “A negative propaganda campaign is being made against the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. The Crown Prince has reinforced the policies of to strengthen and stabilize the Islamic Arab countries. —SG/SPA


Dubai extends Covid curbs till start of Ramadan

DUBAI, 1 days ago

Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, headed by Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced that the Covid-19 precautionary measures introduced in the beginning of February will be extended until the start of Ramadan in mid-April.

The decision is based on an evaluation of the evolving Covid-19 situation, data showing the effectiveness of intensified safety measures and the recommendations of frontline authorities, said a Wam news agency report.

The Supreme Committee said the country’s response to the pandemic is part of an integrated plan to combat COVID-19. Commending the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) and the Ministry of Health and Prevention for their success in coordinating counter-pandemic measures, the Committee said it will continue to monitor local and international developments to ensure the optimal response.

The committee praised the pace of the Covid-19 vaccination drive in Dubai and the UAE. As of February 25, more than 5.8 million vaccine doses and over 30 million tests were administered in the UAE. The country has one of the highest vaccination and testing rates globally. These figures demonstrate the strength and preparedness of the UAE’s healthcare system, the committee said.

The committee urged the public to continue observing precautionary measures, stressing that their commitment is critical to counter the pandemic. Observing preventive protocols and safety guidelines remain the most effective ways of combating the virus, the committee added.


Sharjah opens new mosque with a capacity of 515 worshippers in Al Dhaid


Staff Reporter

The Department of Islamic Affairs in Sharjah inaugurated the Shifa mosque located in the Al-Ateen area in Sharjah.

The place of worship can accommodate around 515 worshippers, including 65 women. It is located along Al Dhaid Road.

The mosque is built on a total land area of 4,601 square metres, and was built according to the Islamic architectural style mixed with modern character, topped by five circular domes and a lighthouse with a height of 21 metres, with the presence of service facilities from toilets, ablution, housing for the imam, and a number of car parks.

The Department of Islamic Affairs in Sharjah said the new mosque is in line with the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The Sharjah Ruler aims to create and "nurture an atmosphere of faith for the residents of the Emirate", the authority added.


Islamic financing growth to outpace conventional lending in GCC, core Islamic markets in 2021

Babu Das Augustine

February 27, 2021

Dubai: Despite difficult operating conditions in most countries amid pandemic-driven economic downturns, demand for Islamic financing assets (lending) across the core Islamic markets will grow in 2021, according to rating Moody’s.

The rating agency said while the Islamic financing remained resilient in 2020 and it expects growth to continue into 2021. In the GCC mergers between Islamic and conventional banks, where surviving entities are Islamic banks, will drive further one-off increases in assets, as they did in 2019 and 2020.

Growth in Islamic financing assets remained steady in 2020, despite a marked slowdown in economic activity across core Islamic banking markets (which include the GCC, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey), and continued to outpace conventional asset growth. As a result, the market share of Islamic financing assets in core Islamic markets increased to 32.8 per cent of total financial assets (including conventional bank loans) in September 2020, from 31.4 per cent in December 2019 and 30.4 per cent in

Islamic finance penetration in the GCC accelerated in the past decade to reach 45.7 per cent in September 2020 from 32 per cent in 2009. Saudi Arabia was the main contributor to this growth, although similar trends prevailed in the other GCC countries as well. Similarly, the industry has flourished over the years in Malaysia, making its Islamic finance industry the second largest globally.

“Overall, the core Islamic finance markets benefited from increased demand from consumers, which powered strong financing growth of around 8.1 per cent in compound annual terms in the last three years, compared with a 6.2 per cent increase in conventional bank financing,” said Ashraf Madani, VP-Senior Analyst at Moody’s.

In addition to customer demand, Moody’s said, proactive government legislation and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) have driven growth in Islamic banking assets. In the GCC, there has been a flurry of acquisitions and consolidations in the past few years and the trend accelerated in 2020 amid lower oil prices and deteriorating economic conditions.

In several cases, Islamic banks are acquiring conventional banks and emerging as the surviving entity, substantially adding to their asset bases. All M&A transactions in the GCC in 2020 involved at least one Shariah-compliant bank.

In Saudi Arabia, the merger between National Commercial Bank and Samba announced inOctober 2020 will reinforce National Commercial Bank's position as the largest bank in the country with an estimated market share of 31 per cent of assets and 30 per cent of deposits (as of Q2 2020). It will also create the world's largest Shariah-compliant bank along with AlRajhi and Kuwait Finance House.

In Qatar, the announced merger between Al Khalij Commercial Bank PQSC and Masraf Al Rayan QPSC (A1 stable, baa2) will make the resulting entity the fourth largest Islamic finance institution in the region. In Kuwait, the merger between Kuwait Finance House and Bahrain-based Ahli United Bank, once completed, is likely to create the world's second largest Islamic bank.

Other mergers in 2020 include: the acquisition of Noor Bank by Dubai Islamic Bank in January 2020 with $75 billion in combined assets, the stake increase of Bahrain's National Bank of Bahrain in Bahrain Islamic Bank in January 2020 with $11.7 billion in combined assets, and an $8.2 billion merger between Oman Arab Bank and Alizz Islamic Bank finalised in July 2020.

Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and the UAE remain the largest markets for Islamic finance globally. Overall, Saudi Arabia remains the largest market for Islamic finance globally, with financing assets rising to $361 billion as of September 2020 from $323 billion in December 2019.

Despite the pandemic-induced economic recession and drop in oil prices, Islamic financing continues to expand in Saudi Arabia, propelled by growing demand from corporate and retail clients for Shariah-compliant products and a supportive regulatory environment with coordination between the Ministry of Finance, Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Capital Market Authority.

“We expect Islamic assets in Saudi Arabia to account for 80 per cent of systemwide loans (including both conventional and Islamic financing assets) over the next 12-18 months, from 78 per cent in 2019,” said Madani.




Russian air strikes ‘kill 21 Islamic State fighters’ in Syrian desert

Feb 27, 2021

Russia launched at least 130 air strikes in Syria over the past 24 hours, killing at least 21 Islamic State (IS) fighters, according to a UK-based activist group on Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Russian onslaught followed a series of IS attacks on Friday that killed at least eight members of a militia fighting to support the Syrian government.

The air strikes focused on a vast desert area stretching from the central province of Homs to the border with Iraq that has recently become the focal point of increasingly frequent fighting between IS and Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air power.

Despite having lost the large areas of territory it had controlled since 2014, IS has continued to launch attacks in the Badia desert area.

More than 1,300 government troops have been killed in such clashes since late March 2019, as well as 145 pro-Iran militia members and more than 750 IS fighters, according to the Observatory.

Russian raids in the desert region generally “target small groupings of IS militants as well as their vehicles,” said Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Observatory.

“It is a difficult operation for the Russians because there are no fixed positions for IS fighters who are always on the move,” he told AFP.

Since Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011, more than 387,000 people have been killed and millions forced from their homes.


Fears for religious freedom and parental rights if Equality Act becomes law


27 February 2021

Legal and medical experts and concerned parents have warned that the Equality Act, which passed in the House Thursday, will have lasting implications for children, parental rights, and religious freedom if it becomes law.

The 500-plus page bill, which passed by a vote of 224-206 adds sex, gender identity and sexual orientation to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The measure was reintroduced in the House where it was first passed in 2019 before it stalled in the Senate. It adds sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories in nondiscrimination law. The measure also strips away key religious liberty provisions and conscience protections in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Its effects would be far-reaching because it redefines "public accommodation" to include "any establishment" that provides a service, including churches, shelters operated by religious groups, faith-based adoption agencies, and educational institutions associated with religious denominations and associations.

The three Republicans who joined Democrats in voting for the measure included Reps. Tom Reed and John Katko, both of New York, and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

During a virtual event hosted by the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Rep. Vicki Hartzler, R-Mo., and Autumn Leva of the Family Policy Alliance, detailed various concerns they have about the Equality Act and its implications for Americans if it's passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Other speakers at the Heritage event were Maria Keffler of Partners for Ethical Care, Dr. Michelle Cretella of the American College of Pediatricians, and Greg Baylor of Alliance Defending Freedom.

Hartzler, a former teacher and track coach, explained that the bill, if enacted, would erase all the gains that women have made in athletics by allowing trans-identified males to compete in girls' sports. Thus far, 20 states have introduced legislation intended to keep sports sex-segregated.

Parental rights are also in serious jeopardy with this potential law, she continued. If the Act passes in the Senate it will filter down to what is taught in public school classrooms and parents won't be able to object to content because it will be seen as a discrimination issue.

Similarly, parents' rights to make healthcare decisions for their children would erode with the Act, according to Hartzler, referencing a 2018 case where a judge removed custody from the parents because they objected to their 17-year-old child being prescribed experimental cross-sex hormones.

Hartzler is supporting the Heritage Foundation's Promise To America's Children, a national movement the think-tank has put forward to oppose the Equality Act and, more broadly, the imposition of gender ideology on children in the public sphere.

The Promise, as Heritage states, aims to "create and support laws that will protect children's health, safety, and families — especially their relationships with their parents, who have the primary responsibility to love, protect, and educate them."

During the 90-minute House debate over the bill on Thursday, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., claimed the Equality Act posed no threat to religious freedom and that such concerns being raised by Republicans were "ridiculous."

Maloney then accused the bill's opponents of using religious freedom as a ruse to conceal their "pro-discrimination against gay people."

In response to Maloney's accusations, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, declared: "Here it is, on page 25. It says specifically, 'The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 shall not provide a legal basis for a claim' [against a religious discrimination charge].

"The founders said in the first right, in the First Amendment to the Constitution, you can practice your religion as you see fit. But right here in their bill today, the Democrats say 'No you can't,'" Jordan asserted.

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., also derided Republicans' religious freedom arguments as nothing more than "transphobia," "homophobia," and "hate," The Epoch Times reported.

During the Heritage Foundation's panel Tuesday, Cretella of the American College of Pediatricians noted how the issue of gender dysphoria in children has become politicized. It's this politicization that she says has corrupted the entire profession of medicine.

The vast majority of medical professionals, therapists, and counselors believe that the best course of treatment for the condition is to first take a very thorough psychological assessment of the child in pursuit of underlying factors, she explained.

"Those in authority over the medical education system and directives to practicing physicians now recommend that all children, regardless of their age, be affirmed in their gender confusion. We are essentially gaslighting children into the lie that they could be born in the wrong body," Cretella said in her remarks.

This, then, will put them on a medical pathway in which their normal puberty will be chemically arrested and will be followed up by opposite-sex hormones, she added. The combination of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones yields potentially lifelong sterility.

"We already have physically healthy girls as young as 13 being referred for double mastectomies. This is institutionalized child abuse," she asserted. "We are taking emotionally troubled youth, psychologically abusing them by reinforcing their gender-sexual confusion, and then experimenting on them with toxic drugs and mutilating surgeries."

Cretella has been contacted by doctors both domestically and internationally who say that it is now "career-ending" for them to suggest to a family or to their colleagues in a professional setting that these dysphoric children need a psychological assessment.

Asked what she thinks could happen in 10 years should the Equality Act become law, Cretella said medical professionals who object to gender-transitioning of children and believe in the principle of "first do no harm" will be eliminated from practice. The ones you'll be left with are the ones who believe in "experiment first, ask questions later."

Maria Keffler noted that among the most concerning aspects of radical gender ideology that is all the rage in culture is how young schoolchildren are being instructed by teachers using curricula that is not factual or rooted in science.

"And we're teaching this to our children en masse. It's shocking when you see what's being done in the schools ... and where it's coming from. ... It's about making money. It's about furthering an agenda.

"Children are being taught from kindergarten upward that some boys have a vagina, some girls have a penis, and that kids can be any gender they want to be, she continued.

Keffler recounted that she has heard stories of elementary school children being asked to stand up in class to tell everyone about their "gender identity."

She added that she can no longer, in good conscience, say that public schools are safe places for children. Many people still don't realize how dire the situation has become, she asserted, especially as some school officials advise teachers to deceive parents by allowing students to lead double lives by portraying an opposite-gender identity while at school.

The Equality Act will exacerbate this highly politicized approach within medicine, psychology, education, and other professional fields, according to Greg Baylor of Alliance Defending Freedom.

Because of the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in nondiscrimination provisions, any entity that receives federal taxpayer dollars is subject to such policies. Among the largest recipients of taxpayer funds are public schools.

When asked whether religious freedom protections outlined in federal law would be preserved if the Equality Act becomes law, the ADF attorney noted the lack of religious exemptions in the bill. At the state and local level where similar statutes have been adopted, such carve-outs are present.

"But with the Equality Act you have none of that, there is no exemption for religious employers, there is no exemption for religious foster care providers, there is no exemption for religious schools."

It is debated whether existing legal provisions can protect certain religious entities from discrimination claims, such as Title VII in the Civil Rights Act, the section pertaining to employment and section in the Fair Housing Act, the provisions of which would likely apply to religious colleges that have sex-segregated dormitories.

But the most destructive feature is how the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is impacted, he said, a law that was passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis and signed into law by former President Bill Clinton. The Equality Act expressly forbids invoking RFRA from the portions of the civil rights laws that it amends.

This previous approach to religious liberty is "gone, I'm afraid," he said, "and it's even to the point of essentially repealing large chunks of RFRA."

When a federal law conflicts with state law, federal law wins, he said. Thus, if a state statute establishes that males who identify as female cannot participate in girls' scholastic sports, the Equality Act's revisions to Title XI would trump the state law.


The battle for the soul of the Jewish community

Jack Shamash

28 February 2021,

There are two groups in the Jewish community – mainstream Jews who, while still religious, do their best to assimilate into the wider community and the Chareidi, ultra-orthodox Jews who tend to shun British society. Those two groups are now locked in a struggle for the future of the Jewish community.

For over 100 years, the Chareidi – with their distinctive costume, based on the fashions of 18th century Poland – have had a sort of symbiotic relationship with the mainstream. If mainstream Jews needed kosher slaughterers, rabbinical judgements, circumcisions and even rabbis for the smaller pulpits, they relied on the Chareidi. They were the ones with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Jewish law. But tensions which have been simmering away in recent years are now becoming more pronounced.

The Chareidi community is doubling in size roughly every 15 years, because of its high birth-rate. Families with ten children are common. There are currently at least 40,000 ultra-orthodox Jews. This is in contrast to the mainstream Jewish community which is in sharp decline. According to the Institute of Jewish Policy research, by 2050 the majority of Jews in Britain are likely to be strictly orthodox. Because of this demographic shift, the failings of the Chareidi are increasingly coming under the spotlight.

Eve Sacks – daughter-in-law of the former chief Rabbi, Lords Sacks – is one of their most vociferous critics. ‘The Chareidi community is like a cult. Members have no means of getting away. My main concern is about human rights,’ she says. She has befriended members of the community and offers support to those who are struggling.

She introduced me to Izzy Jacobs, now 23, who was brought up in the centre of the community in London’s Stamford Hill. Izzy has severed his links with the community. ‘I was brought up as a member of the Czernobyl sect. I wasn’t taught English and I learnt to read from the signs on shops.’ At the age of 19 he was pushed into marriage. ‘I couldn’t stand the discipline. The final straw came when I had a row with in-laws because they wanted me to wear white socks. It was stupid.’

One young man, who is desperately trying to break away, pointed out that it’s not just codes of dress which are regulated, but every aspect of life. Another young man told me: ‘Anything that distracts from religion is frowned on. Hobbies or interests are seen as a waste of time.’ Within the community, secular newspapers and books are frowned on, the internet is strictly forbidden – except for work – and television is denounced as a ‘sewer running through the living room’. At most schools, ball games are forbidden.

Women’s lives are closely controlled. One woman, who was also a friend of Eve Sacks, told me. ‘If people saw me driving, I’d get a phone call from the headmaster of my children’s schools. I was told that I’d be turned into an outcast. My husband works for a firm in the community. We were worried that my husband could lose his job.’ There is also strict segregation of sexes. Six years ago, local rabbis put up notices insisting women should walk on one side of the road and men on the other. They were made to back down after the police intervened.

The community has been criticised for ignoring Covid-19 laws. This is not simply because they don’t understand the rules, but because the community feels wearing masks and limiting the size of weddings would be a surrender to secular values. Instead of warning against travel or communal events, community leaders have simply sent out letters highlighting loopholes that allow families to avoid the regulations. Many schools have continued to operate normally, claiming – often with dubious evidence – that pupils are mainly from the families of key-workers.

Until now, Chief Rabbis have been reluctant to attack the Chareidi community, but after it was revealed that the community had been holding large wedding ceremonies, in defiance of Covid-19 regulations, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis let them have it full blast, distancing the ultra-orthodox from the rest of the community. He described their behaviour as ‘a shameful desecration of all that we hold dear… such illegal behaviour is abhorred by the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community.’

Schooling is a major issue. There is a large network of orthodox schools, but the standards are often shockingly poor. A recent Ofsted report for one school – Talmud Torah Bobov Primary – found the school inadequate in almost every respect. Final year students, aged 13, were not taught English at all. Eve Sacks explained the problem with orthodox education. ‘Children are lucky if they get one or two GCSEs. I get a couple of calls a week from women who want their kids to get qualifications. I tell them to take their kids out of Chareidi schools and find a mainstream Jewish school.’

A particularly contentious issue is what critics describe as ‘forced marriage’. Marriages are strictly arranged, so that partners will usually only meet once – for about half an hour – before they get married. Pressure to go through with the marriage is enormous. Sex education is forbidden. For men and women, marriage can be traumatic because they have to lose their virginity to someone they have known for less than an hour.

At the end of January, an influential group called Nahamu, which is run by a group of Jewish women, presented a paper on forced marriage to the Home Office. It wants the Government Forced Marriage Unit to give guidelines to the orthodox community. It also wants children to be taught that they have the right to refuse. And it is asking the Government to engage with Chareidiorganisations to help establish clear guidelines for acceptable practice. The critics have found a favourable response from the Prime Minister. Boris Johnson, commenting on the report, said that forced marriage was ‘despicable, inhuman and an uncivilised practice.’

The media has also taken a stronger line against the Chareidi. The popular Netflix series Unorthodox portrays the community as manipulative and corrupt. But even the mainstream Jewish press has taken a harsh line. The two major Jewish papers – the Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle – have started running blogs by critics such as Eve Sacks, Yehudis Fletcher (founder of Nahamu) and YehudisGoldsobel, the chief executive of Migdal Emunah which supports Jewish sex abuse victims. They have made it clear that corruption, sexual abuse and coercion are all-too-often part of Chareidi life. For people wanting to break away from the derech (traditional Jewish pathway), there are support groups such as Gesher EU and a large Facebook Group ‘OTD’ (off the derech) which has 3,000 members. 'Until recently the leadership of the community has tried to ignore the issue – simply telling people not to read the Jewish press

The mainstream Jewish community is having to face the fact that its numbers are dwindling. Communities such as those in Glasgow are facing the closure of synagogues and merging of communities, while the Chareidi are growing.

The Chareidi are now organising to fight back against the critics. Chaya Spitz, who runs an organisation called Interlink, speaks on radio and gives newspaper interviews, has said that forced marriages are an ‘alien concept in Judaism’ and suggested that the high incidence of Covid-19 in the community is due to poverty and overcrowding. A related organisation, Chinuch UK, representing Chareidi schools, was established two years ago. It claims that Ofsted's complaints are simply crass attempts at ‘social engineering’ and are motivated by a liberal contempt for traditional values and a desire to impose sex education on an unwilling community.

For the future, the Chareidi community will certainly have the weight of numbers. But whether it can withstand the tide of criticism remains to be seen.


Family fundraise for Twickenham COVID-19 victim

By Frankie Adkins

26th February 2021

A family from Twickenham are fundraising to build a mosque in honour of their 58-year-old relative who passed away from COVID-19.

Rena Kamaly died sadly on February 13, 2021.

She left behind a big family – the eldest sister of six siblings, a mother of six children and a grandmother of 16.

Now, her relatives are coming together to raise money for a mosque in Jogonathpur, Bangladesh in Rena’s name.

Her niece, Tasnya Chowdhury, said: “She had a heart of gold and would always put others first especially when it came to her family.

“Those who know her would agree she was well known for her hospitality and the delicious food she would cook.

“With your donations and duas (prayers) we can ensure there is always a memory of her in the village as well as providing a mosque for everyone to pray in and food for the poor and needy.”

The family are already halfway to their target but need more help reaching £5000.

Tasnya added: “We’re asking for any small amount you are able to give. If 1000 people give £5 we will reach our target.

“Please reach into your hearts and help us to do so.”


Staffordshire mosque to be used as a Covid vaccination centre

ByAdnan Rashid

27 FEB 2021

A Staffordshire mosque is to be used as a Covid vaccination centre in a bid to encourage more people to get the jab.

The Central Jamia Mosque Rizvia, in Uxbridge Street, Burton, will be hosting the event from the Pakistani Community Centre next door to the mosque on Friday, March 5, between 2pm and 4pm.

The service will be available to those who have pre-booked a vaccination and meet the criteria for the priority list between groups one and six, reports StafordshireLive.

Phonelines will be open on Monday and Tuesday, March 1 and March 2 only. The cut off for bookings will be 5pm on Tuesday, March 2. No walk ins will be allowed.

Previously the mosque was used a testing station venue in a bid to encourage the community in Burton to get tested for Covid-19 after an outbreak of the virus in the town. The testing station was deemed to be successful and again the mosque is hoping for as many people as possible to take advantage of this service.

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Tariq Hussain, spokesman for the mosque said: "I am pleased to say that following discussions between our mosque's senior executive team and the chairs of the clinical commissioning group they have been able to bring the vaccination programme to our door step.

"The priority is groups 1-4, which means getting the over 65's vaccinated. We are also working on getting those vaccined who are over 18, but have health conditions and once that is confirmed we will inform the public.

"Please get yourselves vaccinated. It is safe and will give you protection from serious illness and prevent the virus from spreading.

"It has been very difficult to get this vaccination centre arranged and therefore we must take advantage of it.

"The uptake of this facility will help in future with bringing other health services into our community."


Dozens Injured During Protests Marking 27th Anniversary of Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre

27 February, 2021

Asharq Al-Awsat

Two Palestinian children were injured and dozens of civilians suffocated in Hebron and various occupied Palestinian cities on Friday as the Israeli army attempted to oppress peaceful protests marking the anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre.

In Hebron, Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades and tear gas at citizens who marched the streets from Ali al-Bakka Mosque in the city center to commemorate the massacre’s 27th anniversary and condemn the occupation forces’ measures and attacks on the Mosque.

Demonstrators raised the Palestinian flag and pictures of the mosque and the martyrs while chanting slogans denouncing the settlers and the army’s crimes against Palestinians.

On Feb. 25, 1994, during dawn prayer, hundreds of Palestinians were attacked by mass shootings and bombings at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. The attack killed 29 worshippers and injured 150 others.

Israeli soldiers who were present back then closed the doors of the mosque to prevent worshipers from leaving and did not allow the entrance of people who tried to save the wounded.

Palestinians launched their weekly peaceful rallies after Friday prayers to protest this massacre and the continuation of repression, Judaization, occupation, and settlement policies.

In the weekly anti-settlement protest in KafrQaddum to demand the reopening of the village street, which has been closed for more than 17 years, a 10-year-old child was wounded with a sponge-tipped bullet in the chest.

Dozens suffocated and five others were arrested after the Israeli army dispersed marches condemning settlement in the occupied West Bank.

On Friday at dawn, dozens of settlers, under the protection of the Israeli army forces, stormed the Islamic shrines in KafelHaris town, north of Salfit city.

Friday prayers were performed on the ruins of the Alayan family demolished building by the occupation municipality in Deir Jarir village.


Anas Sarwar: UK’s first Muslim to lead a party follows in family footsteps

PA Media

Sat 27 Feb 2021

Anas Sarwar has continued a family tradition in political precedent setting by becoming the UK’s first Muslim to lead a party.

Sarwar’s father, Mohammed, was the first Muslim MP, elected to Glasgow Central in 1997, before going on to be governor of the Punjab region in his native Pakistan.

The Glasgow MSP recalled opening a hand-delivered envelope at his childhood home in 1997 to see a mocked-up picture of his mother with a gun to her head, saying: “Bang, bang, that’s all it takes.”

Despite racist threats and abuse,Sarwar left his job as a dentist in 2010 to enter the world of politics, winning the same Westminster seat as his father in an election in which the Labour party lost power after 13 years to a Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition.

His time as an MP also brought with it leadership responsibilities, with Sarwar elected to be deputy leader of Scottish Labour from 2011 to 2014, as well as the job of coordinating the party’s campaign during the independence referendum.

In 2015, he lost his seat to the Scottish National party’s Alison Thewliss as the party swept Scotland, winning all but one of the constituencies north of the border.

The following year, he was elected to Holyrood on the Glasgow regional list, and just more than 12 months later would be fighting his first leadership election, taking on the eventual winner, Richard Leonard, who polled 56.7% of the vote.

Since his loss, Sarwar has been the party’s health spokesperson – before an acrimonious sacking by Leonard which he claimed to have heard about through social media – and most recently as constitution spokesperson, as well as campaigning for an inquiry into issues at the Queen Elizabeth university hospital in Glasgow.


Over 60s in England to be invited for Covid-19 jab from Monday

28 February 2021

By Maddie Goodfellow

NHS England said that the letters will start landing on doormats from Monday, explaining how people can make an appointment to get jabbed through the national booking service.

It comes as leaders from 60 of the UK's black majority churches joined forces on Sunday to show their support for the Covid-19 vaccine to their congregations.

They will say they support the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine programme, and urge their congregations to seek out the facts about the vaccine from trusted sources.

The alliance of Christian leaders, which includes Bishop of Dover the Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, said they felt compelled to act after data suggested black people are among those most likely to be hesitant about receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.

This initiative has been organised by Christian umbrella organisations Churches Together in England, Evangelical Alliance and YourNeighbour.

A total of 17,254,844 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and February 26, according to provisional NHS England data, including 16,679,881 first doses.

NHS England said the latest batch of invites arriving this week will mean everyone in the first seven priority groups will have been offered a jab, with people aged between 50 and 60 set to be invited shortly.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "Since around four fifths of 65-69 year olds have now been vaccinated, we're rapidly working our way down the generations, with people ages 60 plus now able to come forward.

The push to get as many of the most at-risk people protected means nine in 10 people in the top four priority groups have received a jab, NHS England said.




Ex-DSS director: Some bandits are former Boko Haram members

by Jesupemi Are

February 27,2021

Speaking when he featured on an Arise TV programme on Saturday, Amachree said he learnt this from the confession of some bandits.

He added that unlike the Niger Delta militants protesting pollution of their areas, bandits do not deserve amnesty as they are “faceless criminals”.

“Some of them have confessed to having fought with Boko Haram. And now, you have these people infiltrating, collecting money for ransoms, raping women and sending them back to Boko Haram.

“Anybody who is comparing them to militants in the Niger Delta, I want to ask the person to tell me what their objectives are. You cannot as a country be dealing with faceless criminals, who are harassing your populace, and let them go free.

“What happened in the Niger Delta is totally different from what we are experiencing now. In the Niger Delta, people were protesting for the pollution of their environment. And because of that, they said ‘if you are taking the oil and we are not going to benefit from it’, then they started blowing up oil installations.”

Amachree added that while leaders of militants are known, some of the bandits are foreigners who want to live on their own terms in Nigeria.

“For these bandits, we are talking of criminals, some of whom we have discovered are not from Nigeria. So, they are coming into this country, occupying our ungoverned spaces and trying to live there under their own conditions. So, these bandits are thieves,” he added.


SeyiMakinde donates 18-seater bus to Lanase Central Mosque

February 27, 2021

Nigeria News

Oyo State Governor, Engineer SeyiMakinde has approved the donation of an 18-seater bus to the Lanase Central Mosque, Aremo, Ibadan.

The governor, who was represented by his Special Assistant on Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Abdrasheed Abdul-Azeez said that the bus will greatly help the propagation of Islam in the state.

While presenting the bus, Abdul-Azeez said that the governor was highly appreciative of the support and prayers of the Islamic community to the success and stability of his administration thus far.

He also urged the Imam to continue to work for peaceful coexistence among all religions in the state.

The Governor’s aide said that the league of Imams and Alfa’s in the state has a duty to always preach peace and religious harmony, adding that by emphasising such in their sermons, the society will be better for all while the unity and oneness of the country will be enhanced.

According to him, economic growth of the state can only be guaranteed in an atmosphere where there is tolerance and love, adding that people should support the success of the governor SeyiMakinde- led administration to enable a peaceful environment.

While appreciating the governor for the donation, the chief Imam of Lanase Central Mosque, Imam MuritadhaOlanase, commended the administration for enabling growth in the state.

He prayed for the success of the present administration, saying that religious harmony is of the essence in an environment in search of growth.


Nation of Islam economic programme (1934-1975)

Black History Month

Feb 27, 2021

The Honourable Elijah Muhammad led the Nation of Islam from 1934 until his death in 1975. The NOI is an Islamic religious organisation founded in Detroit, Michigan, in 1930. Its followers are mostly Black people who are often referred to as the Black Muslims. Under Elijah Muhammad’s leadership, the NOI brought a message of self-reliance, independence, and respect to Blacks who were often confined to poor inner-city neighbourhoods because of racial discrimination under systemic White supremacy.

From very early in the movement, Elijah Muhammad was the spiritual and organisational leader of the Nation of Islam. However, Muhammad actually credited the founding of the NOI to Wallace Fard Muhammad, who in 1930 began teaching Blacks an unorthodox form of Islam in the poverty-stricken areas of Detroit. His ideas and beliefs appealed to the approximately 8,000 Detroit Blacks, who quickly joined his movement between 1930 and 1934. Among these converts was Georgia-born Elijah Poole who later became the Honourable Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the NOI when Fard Muhammad mysteriously disappeared in 1934. Elijah Muhammad preached that Wallace Fard Muhammad was Allah (God) and that he was Fard’s messenger.

Elijah Muhammad led the expansion of the NOI beyond Detroit to other cities, often recruiting from among the most impoverished urban Blacks. He gave them a Black nationalist philosophy centred on the fight against the systemic oppression of White America. Muhammad’s message enhanced the psychological self-image of Blacks but it also focused on helping individual Blacks and the Black community develop economic success. While the NOI advocated economic self-reliance since its inception, Muhammad in 1964 introduced the Three-Year Economic Plan — also known as the National Savings Plan — specifically to help Blacks achieve financial independence. Under this plan, he urged Black people to sacrifice for three years, purchasing no more than what they needed and in line with their incomes to save money. While he urged this programme for NOI members, he hoped that all Black Americans would follow these ideas as well.

For members of the NOI, however, a large portion of the savings would be sent to the NOI headquarters in Chicago, where the organisation’s leaders would allocate it towards collective economic development, including the purchase of arable land where vegetables could be grown and cattle could be raised. The plan also encouraged NOI members to purchase commercial real estate and timberland. The timber could be used to build homes for poor Blacks. Lands with clay could be used to manufacture bricks, which could be used to build brick homes that would then be sold at affordable prices to indigent people in Black communities.

The Three-Year Economic Plan required NOI members who could afford to do so to pledge one tenth to one third of their income to economic development. Members were also required to patronise NOI-owned businesses or to open their own economic enterprises, which would be advertised in Muhammad Speaks, the NOI’s official newspaper.

With a peak membership of 70,000 by the early 1960s, the NOI’s Three-Year Economic Plan used the collective savings of the members to expand and concentrate Black capital to develop both organisation-owned and individual member-owned businesses. These businesses in turn promoted the NOI’s goal of an independent, self-contained, and Black-controlled economy. In Chicago alone, the NOI organised 15 different businesses, including Your Supermarket, Shabazz Grocery, Chicago Lamb Packers, Shabazz Bakery, Good Foods, Shabazz Restaurant and Salaam Restaurant, Shabazz Barber Shop, and a clothing factory. Across the US, NOI businesses by 1970 included grocery stores, dress shops, dry cleaners, bakeries, and restaurants that provided food, cooked meals and clothing to both Muslims and non-Muslims at affordable prices.

In the mid-1960s, the NOI purchased and developed farms in Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia that provided fresh meat and vegetables for its growing number of urban supermarkets. Despite opposition from local Whites in the South — including Ku Klux Klan members who poisoned or shot cattle and attempted to sabotage crops — these NOI farms provided meat and produce delivered by a fleet of NOI trucks, and at one point an airplane, to NOI stores. As such, the NOI had created the first Black-owned national food production and distribution network, a longstanding dream of Black nationalist organisations.

NOI businesses also offered a wide variety of employment opportunities for inner-city residents, including serving as managers, clerks, secretaries, bakers, cooks, butchers, waiters, accountants, mathematicians, technicians, plumbers and carpenters. Muslims and non-Muslims were employed in NOI-owned businesses. In 1958, for example, the NOI operated a dry-cleaning plant located at 608 East 63rd Street in Chicago. The plant was managed by Herbert Muhammad, one of Elijah Muhammad’s sons, and directly employed five NOI members full time. Although the plant had two NOI delivery trucks, non-NOI members also were employed, often using their own vehicles to assist in the pick-up and delivery of dry cleaning in exchange for a 35 per cent commission on merchandise collected from and distributed to customers.

While Muhammad Speaks was officially the newspaper of the NOI from 1960 to 1975, it was also one of the organisation’s most profitable enterprises. The newspaper grew rapidly because of the national network of male NOI members who distributed it. By 1969, the NOI produced the paper with an all-Black printing crew in one of its buildings on a printing press capable of turning out 50,000 copies per hour. By the end of 1969, 400,000 copies of Muhammad Speaks were printed per week. Those numbers grew to a record 950,000 in one week in 1974, making the paper one of the largest Black-owned publications in the nation.

Although the NOI urged women to prioritise working in the domestic sphere as wives and mothers, many women contributed to the Economic Development Plan serving in leadership roles as captains, lieutenants and secretaries. They also worked as teachers, directors and principals within the NOI’s parochial schools, the University of Islam. Moreover, women wrote for and edited the Muhammad Speaks newspaper and some became managers and shopkeepers of the movement’s businesses. Sister Ethel Sharieff, a daughter of Muhammad, was also involved in these economic activities. Sharieff managed the NOI clothing shop for women in Chicago, which employed three full-time Muslim women and at times hired non-Muslims. Many non-Muslims also patronised the clothing store.

Some Muslim employees indicated that they made more economic progress and were more economically secure than other Blacks from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. They attributed their economic security to their adherence to Muhammad’s Three-Year Economic Plan, which helped them to save money by eliminating the desire to purchase liquor, tobacco, expensive clothes and cars. They also saved money by restricting their diet to one meal per day, when possible, in accordance with NOI guidelines, which in turn reduced food expenditure.

The NOI’s economic development programme peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With an estimated 250,000 active members worldwide in 1975, the Nation had a formidable base of customers and employees to ensure the prosperity of many of their enterprises. With this additional capital, the NOI began acquiring large existing businesses. In 1968, the NOI purchased a four-storey, 60,000 sq ft building in Chicago’s South Side for $1 million. The building was used to accommodate the Muhammad Speaks newspaper operations. That same year, the NOI purchased a combined restaurant and supermarket — Salaam Restaurant and Your Supermarket — in Chicago for another $1 million, along with a lamb slaughterhouse for $100,000, which provided meat for the restaurant-supermarket.

In January 1973, the NOI gained a controlling interest in the Guaranty Bank and Trust Company. This South Side Chicago bank expanded under NOI management to hold more than $10 million in assets and employ more than 500 people by 1975. This “bank for the Black man,” as Elijah Muhammad called it, reflected now decades-old capital accumulation practices by the NOI and indicated that the Nation was one of the wealthiest Black organisations in the United States.

By 1974, NOI enterprises had taken on an international dimension with its agreement with a Peruvian fishing distributor to provide one million pounds of whiting fish from that South American nation. NOI members sold the fish door-to-door in Black neighbourhoods to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, promoting it as three times cheaper than land-produced meat, easier to digest — and, unlike catfish, whiting was not a “bottom feeder”. In 1974, minister Abdul Rahman Muhammad, from Atlanta, estimated that 200,000 pounds of fish were sold in the month of September alone.

By 1975, the Nation of Islam operated hundreds of businesses throughout the US, which collectively employed more than 11,000 people. The estimated annual revenue from these businesses was approximately $30 million per year. At the time of the death of the Honourable Elijah Muhammad on February 25, 1975, the net worth of the NOI totalled $80 million. That wealth was used to enhance the economic security of its members and to support the expansion of the NOI’s religious mission and the establishment of more than 75 temples across the US in 1975.

The NOI’s economic programme declined after Elijah Muhammad’s death. Wallace D. Muhammad, Muhammad’s son, began to dissolve the NOI’s business enterprises owing to mismanagement. Wallace also de-emphasised the NOI’s Black nationalist agenda and moved the organisation towards Sunni Islam. In 1977, minister Louis Farrakhan, who served as the NOI’s national spokesman from 1967 to 1975, reinstituted the NOI that Elijah Muhammad established, and has since repurchased many of the farms and businesses that were lost during the post-1975 shift. The NOI or its individual members continue to own and operate several businesses in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Originally starting from a base of 8,000 impoverished Detroit residents in 1934, the Honourable Elijah Muhammad had transformed the Nation of Islam into an economic powerhouse with an enormous impact on the national Black community, which included both Muslims and non-Muslims.


Morocco Joins Islamic Organization for Food Security

By Abdelmalek El Morabit

Feb 26, 2021

Rabat – Morocco signed a statute to officially join the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS) on Thursday, February 25 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Mustapha Mansouri, the Moroccan ambassador in Saudi Arabia and permanent representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, the OIC secretary general, signed the document. The two held a meeting to discuss areas of Morocco-OIC cooperation and ways to further improve them, according to Morocco’s state media.

Al-Othaimeen welcomed Morocco’s “central role” at the organization and its importance to joint Islamic action, the organization said in a statement.

Working with the IOFS will allow Morocco to expand in many areas, particularly in agriculture, such as in financing projects and research and in introducing new technologies and practices.

By joining the organization, Morocco has more chances to explore other international markets, especially in central Asia and Africa as they comprise the majority of the organization’s member states.

The membership also offers the opportunity to improve bilateral diplomatic and economic relations with Kazakhstan as it hosts the organization.

Morocco is positioned to play a major role in global food security.  Its strategic location on the African continent particularly allows opportunities to support food security in Africa. Morocco is the world’s largest exporter of phosphate, with phosphorus being a key ingredient in fertilizers.

Established in 2013, IOFS is an OIC agency whose mission is to ensure food security for member countries and provide expertise and support for projects in the areas of agriculture, rural development, and food security.

Morocco has been a member of the Jeddah-headquartered OIC since its establishment in 1969.


How Buratai escaped Boko Haram ambush thrice –Major Banjo

February 28, 2021


Major Daniel Banjo, (retd.), a former course mate of ex-Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.), on Saturday, said Buratai was ambushed three times while battling Boko Haram insurgents.

The ex-army boss spoke at an interfaith prayer organised for him by the Olowu of Kuta, Oba Adekunle Oyelude, in the monarch’s Kuta, Osun State palace. The event was attended by dignitaries from within and outside Osun State.

Buratai, who was represented by Banjo and Wing Commander Mamman Yusuf (retd.), said efforts to contain insurgents by the army under his command was not appreciated by Nigerians.

In his remarks, Banjo said, “I remember, about three times, he (Buratai) called me in the middle of the night. He was at the warfront. He would call and say things are happening here and Nigerians are not appreciative of what we are doing.

“He wouldn’t sleep for weeks. He was ambushed three times and he jumped into the bush with his men, with Kalashnikov (AK-47 rifles) and they would be able to kill some and arrest some.”

Oba Oyelude said the people of the community would remain grateful to Buratai for the assistance he rendered towards the completion of a bridge linking the community to Ede.

The Olowu said, “For decades, several prominent political office-holders have tried to help us construct the Ede/Kuta Bridge, but they could not. However, on bringing the request before Lt.-Gen. Buratai, he granted it and ensured it was built.

“This is enough of an achievement for me as a monarch. The bridge is almost 100 years old, and now, the communities in this area have been linked and the villagers are now liberated.”



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