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Islamic World News ( 20 Apr 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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AMU Alumnus, Nadeem Rahman, Develops COVID-19 Testing Kit, Approved By ICMR

New Age Islam News Bureau

20 Apr 2020

COVID-19 Testing Kit launched in just a span of 2 weeks have been approved by the ICMR claimed Mr Rahman.


• AMU Alumnus, Nadeem Rahman, Develops COVID-19 Testing Kit, Approved By ICMR

• Lucknow: Islamic Seminary Nadwa Issues Social Distancing Advisory for Ramzan

• Islamophobes To Be Fined, Expelled From UAE: Emirati Royals Hit Hard Against Hindu Extremists In GCC

• Coronavirus Spread Likely in Absence of Safety Measures at Mosques

• “Eco-Pesantren” Movement Takes Islamic Perspective on Nature Conservation

• Kenya: Govt Rules Out Reviewing Curfew to Accommodate Muslims Ahead of Ramadan

• Turkey Blocks Official Saudi, UAE News Websites in Retaliation

• Ramadan 2020: Istiqlal Mosque Scraps Mass Tarawih Prayers

• Combating Coronavirus: Bagerhat Volunteers Restoring Faith in Humanity

• UK To Trial Use Of COVID-19 Survivors' Blood Plasma For Treatment



• AMU Alumnus, Nadeem Rahman, Develops COVID-19 Testing Kit, Approved By ICMR

• Lucknow: Islamic Seminary Nadwa Issues Social Distancing Advisory for Ramzan

• Will admit Muslims only if they are coronavirus-free, says hospital; faces FIR

• Hyderabad: Five Muslim Men Organise Last Rites ofHindu Man Shunned by Neighbours

• People Should Offer Namaz At Homes During Ramadan: Maharashtra Minister

• Strict Action Against Islamic Sect Members Who Violated Visa Rules: Minister

• Baseless, bizarre: India slams Pakistan over Imran Khan’s claim of discrimination against Muslims


Arab world

• Islamophobes To Be Fined, Expelled From UAE: Emirati Royals Hit Hard Against Hindu Extremists In GCC

• Islamophobia Is Rising in India, Says Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

• UAE tells Muslims to pray at home during Ramadan

• Ramadan 2020: UAE medics and patients exempted from fasting amid Covid-19 outbreak

• Coronavirus: Iftar tents in Sharjah suspended for Ramadan

• Sunni Iraqi faction claims it has secured two to three ministries in Kathemi cabinet



• Coronavirus Spread Likely in Absence of Safety Measures at Mosques

• Chaudhry Sarwar for following SOPs at mosques

• Shah Allah Ditta caves in Margalla Hills offer 2,400-year-old relics

• Pakistan TV to air Turkish drama series in Ramadan


North America

• “Eco-Pesantren” Movement Takes Islamic Perspective on Nature Conservation

• Islamic radicals accuse the US of violating the terms of the Doha peace agreement

• Trump Accused Of Stoking Division After Questioning Whether Social Distancing Will Be Enforced At Mosques

• Al Qaeda, Islamic State strike across the Sahel

• ‘Devastating’: Worst mass shooting in Canada in 30 years as 17 people confirmed dead



• Kenya: Govt Rules Out Reviewing Curfew to Accommodate Muslims Ahead of Ramadan

• Muslims Warned Against Communal Prayers During Ramadan

• With Ramadan Beginning This Week, Fiji Muslim League Reminds Muslims On Rules



• Turkey Blocks Official Saudi, UAE News Websites in Retaliation

• Posters represent Gulistan’s appeal for Imam Khomeini

• Three Yemeni civilians killed in Saudi-led shelling despite 'ceasefire'

• Palestine reports seven new coronavirus cases, first death in East Jerusalem al-Quds

• Israel intensifies aggression against Palestinian prisoners, lawmaker warns

• Houthi spokesman: Short-term solutions cannot bring peace to Yemen

• Iran's top banker urges IMF to resist US pressure as loan request lingers

• Iran's Army unveils new advanced, long-range strategic radars


Southeast Asia

• Ramadan 2020: Istiqlal Mosque Scraps Mass Tarawih Prayers

• Police Nab Salesman, College Student in Ipoh For Insulting Islam

• MCO: MAIPs introduces online zakat payment

• Halal donations start for Muslim medical front-liners


South Asia

• Combating Coronavirus: Bagerhat Volunteers Restoring Faith in Humanity

• Precision airstrikes kill 10 Taliban militants, wound 16 others in Logar

• Afghanistan surpasses 1,000 cases of coronavirus as authorities record 30 new cases

• Taliban militants kill 1 civilian, wound 3 others in Kapisa province

• 40 staff of Afghan presidential palace infected with coronavirus: Report

• 6 Taliban militants killed, 4 wounded in Warak operations: Thunder Corps

• 23 doctors, 19 health workers of Mitford Hospital Covid-19 positive



• UK To Trial Use Of COVID-19 Survivors' Blood Plasma For Treatment

• Ex-Downing Street adviser skewers Boris Johnson over missed coronavirus meetings

• Coronavirus: Is it possible to extend the Brexit transition period?

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



AMU Alumnus, Nadeem Rahman, Develops COVID-19 Testing Kit, Approved By ICMR

New Delhi: An alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has developed an indigenous coronavirus testing kit in response to World Health Organisation (WHO)'s call to all countries to ramp up COVID-19 testing.

AMU alumnus from the Department of Biochemistry, Nadeem Rahman, Director, NuLife Consultants and Distributors Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi, has developed an Antibody based testing kit which takes less than 15 minutes to yield accurate result, according to a statement from the central university.

The new kit, which costs Rs 500, will provide the general population in India with adequate access to cost-effective testing, the statement said.

According to the varsity, Mr Rahman was permitted by the government authorities during the nation-wide lockdown to reopen the NuLife Consultants and Distributors Pvt. Ltd lab, where he developed the kit to do finger-prick tests, which only takes nearly fifteen minutes to yield accurate results.

The testing kits launched in just a span of two weeks have been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and soon the regular production will start, claimed Mr Rahman.

"We are confident of churning out one lakh kits a day to bring a faster and suitable solution for large-scale screenings," he added.

Thanking the Government of Uttar Pradesh and ICMR for putting the trust in his team, Mr Rahman pointed out that a set of the testing kit will cost around 500-600 Rupees and the price is likely to further go down.

"The best part of this rapid and lesser time-taking kit is that it is economical to produce unlike the expensive RT-PCR testing kits," he said.

Mr Rahman added that the anti-body based kit will ease the pressure on the pathology services struggling with COVID-19 detection in the Country.

"We are proud that an AMU alumnus has developed the much needed affordable testing kit when we see the surge in the number of coronavirus cases despite stringent measures are being implemented in the country. It is a major cause of worry," said AMU Vice Chancellor, Professor Tariq Mansoor, while praising Mr Rahman for his invaluable contribution to India's fight to curb COVID-19.


Lucknow: Islamic seminary Nadwa issues social distancing advisory for Ramzan

Apr 19, 2020

LUCKNOW: With only a few days left for Ramzan--the month when Muslims observe Dawn to dusk fasts--to begin, DarulUloomNadwatul Ulama issued an advisory to maintain social distancing during the month.

The advisory through the Islamic seminary's principal Maulana Saeed-ur-Rahman asks Muslims to not hold congregational iftars (meal at sunset to break the fast) at mosques but to stay at their homes for the same.

The 10 point advisory also asks Muslims to not offer "taraweeh"--an elaborate namaz offered by Sunni Muslims during Ramzan--at the mosque, but to offer taraweeh alone at their homes.

Muslims have been asked to maintain social distance at mosques too with not more than five people to be present at a mosque at any time, the advisory said.

In addition, people have been asked to not hold Iftar parties but to give the money for it in charity. Special prayers are to be made for the end of coronavirus pandemic both during 'sehri' (meal at dawn before the fast begins) and Iftar by all Muslims.

Public relations officer of DarulUloomNadwatul Ulama FaizanNagrami also said that since those studying at madrasas have not been able to go home because of the lockdown, help should be initiated towards them through online or cheque transactions.

For Ramzan is the month of worship and charity, devotees have been exhorted to give in as much as they can in charity and as zakat (a charity observed during Ramzan) and pray for the world.

A similar advisory was issued earlier by the Islamic Centre of India which had also asked people to stay indoors and maintain social distancing at all costs during Ramzan.

Since the Islamic month is based on the lunar calendar, it will begin from either April 24 or April 25 depending on the visibility of the crescent.


Islamophobes to be fined, expelled from UAE: Emirati royals hit hard against Hindu extremists in GCC

2 days ago

(RAHNUMA) An Emirati businesswoman and philanthropist has called out an expat over his Islamophobic tweets. SheikhaHend Al Qassimi shared screenshots of tweets from a now-deactivated account and warned: “Anyone that is openly racist and discriminatory in the UAE will be fined and made to leave.”

The screenshots of tweets shared by SheikhaHend show someone by the name of Saurabh Upadhyay targeting Muslims over a congregation of Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi that reportedly led to an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in India.

Tweeting from a verified handle, @LadyVelvet_HFQ, the Emirati – who bears Sharjah’s royal family Al Qassimi surname – said “the ridicule won’t go unnoticed”.

Responding to another tweet from the user (which cannot be seen as the account has been deactivated), Sheikha Hind said: “The ruling family is friends with Indians, but as a royal your rudeness is not welcome. All employees are paid to work, no one comes for free. You make your bread and butter from this land which you scorn.”

In the screenshots shared by Sheikha Hind, Saurabh seems to claim that the Tablighis spat on people. “What’s with peaceful people and spitting? New form of jiiihad custom made for 2020? (sic)”

People of over 200 nationalities live and work harmoniously in the UAE. Religious intolerance and hatred are criminal offences in the UAE, which celebrated 2019 as the Year of Tolerance.

A federal law passed in 2015 criminalises any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion or caste. It also criminalises any act that incites religious hatred or insults religion, either verbally or in print or online. Any person who calls others ‘infidels’ or unbelievers can be punished under the law.


Coronavirus spread likely in absence of safety measures at mosques

April 20, 2020

LAHORE- Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, on Sunday, has said that thousands of people will be infected by coronavirus in the absence of precautionary and safety measures at mosques. “And God forbid, if it happens so, the history will not pardon anyone,” the governor said.

He said that Ulema and respective mosque administration had the responsibility to cooperate with police and all other government departments in implementing protective measures including social distancing.

He said that Ulema and the whole nation had to understand that corona pandemic was not vanishing and it would rather heighten in the days to come for which we had to prepare right now.

The governor was speaking to Badshahi Mosque Khateeb Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad, Pir Nazim Hussain Shah and others in a meeting at Governor House Lahore.

Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar said that federal and provincial governments were taking effective protective measures against corona pandemic and also taking difficult decision, because it was our responsibility to save 220 million Pakistanis from corona.

He said that with all sincerity and having complete agreement with Ulema, the government had formulated policy regarding Ramadan-ul-Mobarak, and God forbid, mosque administration and people did not follow this policy, it would have dire consequences as thousands of people might be affected from this pandemic.  He said that for this reason we could not afford to show laxity in this regard even for a moment.

He said that he had opposed Iran and Afghanistan war because anybody, who got involved in a wrong decision, was equally responsible for loss of human lives.

He said that Ulema should ensure 100 per cent implementation on government policy that had been evolved with their consultation and save the people from this dreadful pandemic.

He said that the entire nation must take corona-led situation seriously so as to protect themselves and others from coronavirus.


“Eco-Pesantren” Movement Takes Islamic Perspective on Nature Conservation

April 20, 2020

By KrithikaVaragur

When FachruddinMangunjaya was researching his master’s dissertation in 2006 on attitudes toward wildlife conservation in Indonesia’s Islamic boarding schools, or pesantren, he got a lot of blank stares from his friends.

“They said, ‘Why religion? Why are you connecting this with religion?… How do you make the connection between pesantren and the environment?’” he recounted, at his spacious office in Jakarta’s National University (UNAS).

His reception today is rather different. Over the last decade and a half, Mr. Fachruddin pioneering work in Islamic environmentalism has gone from fringe to mainstream. He has trained more than 1,000 Indonesian clerics in using theology to promote conservation, equipped teachers at over a dozen schools to become “eco-pesantren,” and helped shape the international Islamic Declaration for Climate Change in Istanbul in 2015.

As the writer or editor of 22 books and dozens of journal articles, he has done more than any other single person to shape both the theory and practice of Islamic environmentalism in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Fachruddin’s first love was leeches. He grew up in Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, in a town on the edge of a rubber forest. His family members were pious Muslims, and his grandfather was a qadi, or Islamic law expert, though Mr. Fachruddin himself was sent to state schools and not a pesantren. A youthful encounter with the renowned Canadian anthropologist BirutėGaldikas, who was researching orangutans in Borneo, set him down the path of biology.

He spent school holidays working as a guide in TanjungPuting National Park, and Galdikascounseled him to focus on something other than primates, which was becoming a crowded field. So he picked leeches, familiar to him from forest treks, and started sending in samples to research institutions from Borneo while still a teenager. He went on to study them further as a promising young biology undergraduate at UNAS.

“Our education was completely secular,” he said. He would go to Islamic study groups with his friends, pray five times a day, and go regularly to the campus mosque. But as soon as he entered the classroom, he felt he had to leave that part of his life outside. He found this strange, because what he was studying independently as part of his “religious” life was deeply linked to his coursework, such as through authors like Iranian-born intellectual Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a foundational thinker on Islam and environmentalism.

Mr. Fachruddin left what he calls “hard science” behind after graduation and worked at nonprofits like the World Wildlife Foundation and Conservation International. In 2005, he published his first book, Nature Conservation in Islam, which made enough of a splash that Conservation International encouraged him to institutionalize his ideas and start training other religious leaders in person.

“One of my favorite Quran verses is this,” said Mr. Fachruddin: “And there is no creature on the Earth or bird that flies with its wings except that they are umma [the community of believers] like you (6:38).” To him it’s a clarion call to conservation.

In his body of work, he has scrupulously collected Quran and hadith (sayings of the prophet) verses as well as excerpts from other texts like the Malay Islamic book SabilalMuhtadin, contextualizing them alongside modern conservation goals like fighting deforestation and decreasing waste.

His earliest outreach work was with clerics at schools near GedePangrango and HalimunSalak national parks in Java, where students were trained in conservation – both parks are home to numerous endemic bird species, for instance – using Quran and Hadith verses for support. Eventually his philosophy of environmental pedagogy combined with theology led to the creation of “eco-pesantren,” Islamic boarding schools that prioritize environmentalism. There are over a dozen such schools in Indonesia today, and among the most prominent are DarulUlum in Sukabami and the Junior Daarut Tauhid school in Bandung, West Java.

At DarulUlum, a seven-hectare riverside area was decreed harim, a forbidden zone for development – the word is related to the Arabic word haram, “forbidden”– and 700 trees, including mango, avocado and durian, were planted on-site. School administrators say the scheme, which was inspired by the Prophet Muhammad’s own actions to protect resources in the Arabian peninsula, has significantly improved their land and air quality. Every student at the school is required to plant a tree before they graduate.

At another eco-pesantren, the Al-Haramain eco-pesantren in West Lombok, a social forestry project involving students and families has reforested 31 hectares of land, where local families can plant and harvest trees according to a community-made business plan.

Last week I went to Riau and met with 84 clerics from three provinces,” said Mr. Fachruddin. “The clerics didn’t only come from pesantren, but also from the kampung,” or villages. He trained them about the dangers of haze and burning crops and trees and prepared a Friday sermon pamphlet that they could use to educate congregants about how to combat forest fires on a grassroots level.

As his movement has grown, Mr. Fachruddin has consulted for bodies like the United Nations. In 2015, he worked with Muslim leaders from countries as far as Morocco and the U.K. to draft an Islamic declaration on climate change.

Mr. Fachruddin’s academic and experimental work runs against a backdrop of a larger cultural shift in both his country and the world at large. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put religion front and center in its 2030 Agenda, noting that about 80 percent of the world’s population follows some kind of faith and that religious communities everywhere can “leverage the considerable financial, moral and ethical influence at their disposal” in the service of conservation and environmentalism. Their report noted that nearly all faiths argue, in their own way, that “there are legitimate and illegitimate uses of nature” and that “greed and destructiveness are [condemnable].” Pope Francis also issued an encyclical in 2015 entitled “Laudatosi’,” criticizing unchecked consumerism and development and calling for “swift and unified global action” on climate change.

Inside Indonesia, the national council of Muslim clerics issued a fatwa on climate change in 2010. And the country’s largest Muslim organization, the civil society group Nahdlatul Ulama, has also taken a green turn in recent years.

“We’ve been interested in the environment for quite some time now,” said Ali Yusuf, who leads Nahdlatul Ulama’s Disaster Management and Climate Change Institute. “In 2007 we created a ‘national front’ for the environment, in 2010 we had a climate change conference, then we created a NU Green Movement, then branched out into water conservation, energy conservation, planting trees, and so on.”

“The Indonesian religious tradition is quite easy to intervene in,” opined Mr. Fachruddin, “because of the democratic situation. And also because we’re a moderate country, and easy to adapt.”

This article was produced with the support of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton Religion Trust. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.


Kenya: Govt Rules Out Reviewing Curfew to Accommodate Muslims Ahead of Ramadan

By Davis Ayega

19 APRIL 2020

Nairobi — Health Cabinet Secretary MutahiKagwe has ruled out the possibility of the government reviewing the curfew hours to accommodate a request from the Muslim faithful who are preparing for the holy month of Ramadan.

Kagwe said the Muslim faithful should have to contend with the situation and celebrate Ramadan under the stipulated guidelines issued by the government, including the strict adherence of the 7pm to 5am.

"As much as we are all religious and we would want to adhere to the rules, I think this one time we simply cannot afford to relax any rules whatsoever. If anything, we should be pushing the opposite direction and not backward," he said on Saturday during a virtual meeting with the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on coronavirus.

He stressed that the outbreak of the virus in the country that has so far infected 262 people continues to present unique challenges and asked the Muslim faithful to be tolerant and continue observing them just like other Kenyans.

"We all join up in celebrating and being with them (Muslims) during this period but the celebrations must be done in a manner that reflects the time and period that we are living in," he said.

Muslim clerics and a section of leaders in the coast had asked the government to consider extending the curfew period from 7pm to 9pm to allow Iftar celebrations.

Christian faithful in an unprecedented reality were forced to mark the Easter festivities in small gatherings with millions of Catholics globally forced to follow the celebrations online.

The dusk-to-dawn curfew was ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta as part of measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus in the country.

The order was later reinforced by the cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties which have the highest cases.


Turkey blocks official Saudi, UAE news websites in retaliation

20 April 2020

Turkey has blocked public access to the websites belonging to the official news agencies of Saudi Arabia and its regional ally the United Arab Emirates amid simmering tensions between Ankara and Riyadh over the 2018 murder of a prominent Saudi journalist in Istanbul.

The ban was enforced on Sunday against the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and the UAE’s Emirates News Agency (WAM) as well as more than a dozen other websites.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia blocked several Turkish media websites, including those of state broadcaster TRT and Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency. The UAE, however, is yet to take any action against any Turkish website.

Saudi Arabia blocks access to the online platforms of two Turkish state media outlets, as tensions continue to simmer between Riyadh and Ankara more than two years after the Saudi state-sponsored murder of a journalist in Turkey.

The action by Riyadh came after a move by a Turkish court on April 12 to accept an indictment brought against 20 Saudis, including two former associates of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for the brutal murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who had become a critic of bin Salman, was killed and his body dismembered by a Saudi hit squad after being lured into the consulate.

A Turkish court accepts an indictment brought against 20 Saudis for brutal murder of prominent dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.

The indictment identified the associates as former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad Asiri and former royal aide Saud al-Qahtani.

According to The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist, the CIA has concluded that bin Salman personally ordered his killing. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has also said the killing was ordered at the "highest levels" of the Saudi government.

"We believe the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey reflected on us," said NevzatCicek, editor of the Turkish website of the UK-based Independent newspaper, which is operated by a Saudi company and was one of the websites to be blocked by Turkey.

Riyadh, though, has spurned all the allegations linking the killing to bin Salman and instead claimed that the murder was committed by a “rogue” group.


Ramadan 2020: Istiqlal Mosque Scraps Mass Tarawih Prayers

20 April 2020

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque dropped its fifteen Ramadan programs due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in the capital area. The mosque's management spokesman, Abu Hurairah, said the annual program that would remain was the distribution of donations for orphans and Zakat al-Fitr, an obligatory alm paid before Eid Al-Fitr by all Muslims.

“[The donations and alm payment] must be done online and distributed door-to-door,” said Abu via text message to Tempo on Sunday, April 19.

He outlined that the suspended fifteen programs included mass Ramadan evening prayers or Tarawih, mass iftar or breaking the fast together, religious lectures, dawn or fajr lectures, interactive dialogues, and also Eid Al-Fitr prayers.

According to Abu, the donations will be distributed in the same way as that of qurban meat during Eid al-Adha. As for zakat, the Istiqlal Mosque management will collaborate with the National Alms Agency Baznas.

“People can pay their obligatory zakat online, and it will be distributed door-to-door to mustahiq or recipients' houses,” Abu explained.

The Jakarta provincial administration has ordered the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) policy to suppress the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. As noted in Article 13 of the Health Ministerial Regulation No. 9/2020 on the guidelines for PSBB, mass religious activities are prohibited, and that places of worship are closed.


Combating coronavirus: Bagerhat volunteers restoring faith in humanity

April 20, 2020

Rafiul Islam

While some refuse to help their own family members out of fear of the coronavirus, others step up to take care of complete strangers.

United under the banner of 'Health Service Volunteers', around 100 people took an oath recently to give services to people infected with Covid-19, in Bagerhat Sadar and Kachuaupazilas.

"The volunteers are committed to serving whatever situation comes ahead. They are dedicated to it," said Dr Mosharraf Hossain, the key organiser of the noble move in the district.

Mosharraf, the general secretary of Bangladesh Medical Association in Bagerhat, said the Covid-19 situation in the district is still not as bad as other parts of the country, but they pre-emptively made the move to organise those willing to serve people amid the crisis.

He started with a call to action on his Facebook page for volunteers. Initially, the 100 people -- including medical college students, businessmen, political activists, and other general people from the district -- responded to his call.

For example, the volunteers will manage vehicles so that Covid-19 patients in isolation can go to hospitals. They will cook food or arrange supplies whenever some or all members of a family are infected and need the support.

The volunteers will help people in buying medicine and other necessities if their buildings are placed under lockdown. Patients will bear the cost, but the volunteers will make all arrangements, the organiser said. 

The move in the district praised by many, especially after the case of a 50-year old mother who was left in a forest in Gazipur by her sons on April 13, as they suspected her to be a Covid-19 patient.

Some Covid-19 patients are reportedly being driven out from their residence and some were asked to leave by their landlords and neighbours.

Dr Mosharraf Hossain (center), key organiser of the volunteering effort and general secretary of Bangladesh Medical Association in Bagerhat, briefs the volunteers. Photo: Courtesy

"I am saddened by the news of mistreatment of Covid-19 patients by their family members, neighbours, and house owners. So I decided to be a volunteer when I saw Dr Mosharraf's call on Facebook," said SK NafizBillahMoin, an engineer.

An employee of an electronics and industrial company in Barishal, Nafiz returned to his village home in SadarUpazila after the government declared a countrywide closure in late March.

"The volunteers have already started their work but we are preparing for the worst situation," Mosharraf said adding they had several meetings in this regard.

"If the number of patients increases like other countries, it will not be possible to treat them at hospitals. Of course, all patients do not need treatment as inpatients -- we will collect data of the positive patients from the local administration and the volunteers will go to their doors," he added.

With the assistance of local administration and public representatives including lawmakers, the volunteers will be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe.

Firoz Sheikh, a final year student of Gazi Medical College in Khulna, was among the 100 volunteers. He arrived in his village after the college was declared shut.

"I am a medical student but remain free now. When there is a shortage of health care service providers amid the crisis, I cannot sit idle. I can help doctors and nurses in different capacities. So I joined the movement," he said.


UK to trial use of COVID-19 survivors' blood plasma for treatment

APRIL 20, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Kingdom is preparing to collect the blood from COVID-19 survivors to investigate if convalescent plasma transfusions could improve an infected patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival.

“NHS Blood and Transplant is preparing to collect COVID-19 convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from this illness,” a spokeswoman said. “We envisage that this will be initially used in trials as a possible treatment for COVID-19.”

“If fully approved, the trials will investigate whether convalescent plasma transfusions could improve a COVID-19 patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival,” the blood service said.

“We are working closely with the government and all relevant bodies to move through the approvals process as quickly as possible.”

People who have recovered from COVID-19 can register with the NHS if they are interested in donating plasma but they should not just turn up at blood donation centres.



Will admit Muslims only if they are coronavirus-free, says hospital; faces FIR

Apr 19, 2020

MEERUT: Police have booked the management of a cancer hospital here after it put out an advertisement saying it would treat Muslims only when they produce a report showing they have tested negative for coronavirus.

The newspaper advertisement released by the Valentis Cancer Hospital on Friday also said most Hindus and Jains are “misers”, and asked them to contribute to the prime minister's fund to help fight coronavirus.

The original advertisement blamed the Tablighi Jamaat -- whose congregation in Delhi last month was seen as a coronavirus hotspot -- for spreading the disease in the country and then set conditions for admitting Muslim patients.

Asked to comment on the controversial advertisement, Meerut's Chief Medical Officer Raj Kumar said, “This is certainly wrong and we are sending a notice to the administration of the concerned hospital.”

In the second advertisement issued Sunday, the hospital said it apologizes if anyone's sentiments are even slightly hurt.

Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, the hospital said it wanted people of all religions to fight the emergency together.

“We never had the intention to hurt anyone's feelings. If anyone from the Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh or Christian community has been hurt, we extend our heartfelt regrets.


Hyderabad: Five Muslim men organise last rites of Hindu man shunned by neighbours

Apr 20, 2020

HYDERABAD: Five Muslim friends carried out the last rites of an auto driver, a Hindu, who had died of tuberculosis but neighbours ostracised the family fearing it to be a Covid-19 death.

VenuMudiraj, 50, from Khairatabad died at OGH on April 16 and trouble started after his family brought home the body the next day for his funeral. His two teenaged children and uncle G Vinod faced the heat from neighbours for bringing the body home, as they alleged Mudiraj had died of coronavirus and refused all help.

“He was suffering from tuberculosis and during the lockdown period his condition deteriorated. But after his death, there was absolutely no one to take care of the children as their mom had died a few years ago,” said Mudiraj’s brother Vinod who lives a few kilometres away in Ramnagar.

The children did not have money for the funeral and the neighbours kept away. Just when the crestfallen family was giving up hope, help came from an unexpected quarter.

“A friend who lives in the same locality reached out to us claiming that nobody was coming forward to make arrangements for the funeral due to Covid-19 fear. That’s when I and my four friends decided to go there and help the family,” said Sadeq bin Salam, a social worker in the area.

Salam along with Mohammad Majid, Abdul Muqtadir, Mohammad Ahmed and Shaik Khasim sought permission from cops and planned the final rites. They arranged food for the family members and a few relatives who joined the funeral.

“At a time when our community is being targeted for the spread of novel coronavirus after the Tablighi Jamaat meet, we wanted to set an example of how we all stand united, despite the attempts to create divisions and hatred,” said Salam.

Wearing masks, as citizens have been asked to while stepping out in public places, the men carried the bier on their shoulders from Khairatabad to a crematorium on Road No 13 in Banjara Hills. Only 10 persons were allowed to attend the funeral because of the lockdown imposed in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

“On humanitarian grounds, the five men not only stayed back till the end of the funeral but also spent some time to alleviate fear by spreading awareness among people in the locality,” Vinod said.

According to the group , their action would set an example of communal harmony. They carried the bier to the crematorium and also stayed back till the end of the funeral


Strict Action Against Islamic Sect Members Who Violated Visa Rules: Minister

April 20, 2020

Aurangabad: Members of the Tablighi Jamaat who violated visa norms will be dealt with strictly and action will be taken after several of them complete their quarantine period in connection with the coronavirus outbreak, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on Sunday.

The outfit is being seen as one of the main causes for the spread of the virus as several people who took part in its gathering in Nizamuddin in Delhi last month, who later tested positive, fanned out nationwide for missionary works.

"It has been observed some Tablighis have violated visa rules and strict action will be taken. Inquiry will take place after their quarantine period is over. We have taken action against 156 Tablighi Jamaat members so far for visa offences," Mr Deshmukh told reporters.

Queried on migrant labourers stuck in the state due to the lockdown, Mr Deshmukh claimed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had raised this issue in the video-conference meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, "but CMs of other states refused to open borders".

He also said six jails in the state, where crowding has been observed, will be under lockdown from Sunday and staff working there will stay inside so that virus doesn't infect inmates.


Baseless, bizarre: India slams Pakistan over Imran Khan’s claim of discrimination against Muslims

April 20, 2020

India has rejected Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s allegations of discrimination against Muslims in the country in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following Imran Khan accusing the Indian government of deliberately targeting the Muslim community as the world battles coronavirus, External Affairs Ministry (EAM) said the "bizarre comments" was an attempt to shift focus from the "abysmal handling" of their internal affairs.

"The bizarre comments by the Pakistani leadership are an attempt to shift focus from the abysmal handling of their internal affairs," MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said on Monday, and added, "Instead of concentrating on fighting Covid-19, they are making baseless allegations against their neighbours."

"On the subject of minorities, they (Pakistani leadership) would be well advised to address the concerns of their own dwindling minority communities, which have been truly discriminated against," Srivastava said as he responded to media queries on Imran Khan's remarks.

India’s response came after Pakistan PM Imran Khan accused the Indian government of deliberately targeting the Muslim community against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis.


Arab world 

Islamophobia is rising in India, says Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

APRIL 19, 2020

Calling on the Indian government to take steps to protect Muslim minorities who are being “negatively profiled,” facing “discrimination and violence” amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has criticised what it called “growing Islamophobia” in India.

“[We] urge the Indian Govt to take urgent steps to stop the growing tide of Islamophobia in India and protect the rights of its persecuted Muslim minority as per its obligations under international Human Rights law,” said a tweet issued by OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (OIC-IPHRC) on Sunday.

The statement came on the same day Prime Minister Narendra Modi had clearly said that “unity and brotherhood” must be the response to the coronavirus, which does not see “race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders before striking.”

The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the statement. Last week it had reacted sharply to two similar statements on religious “stigmatisation” of minorities in India by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

In one statement, the U.S. Commission criticised India, Pakistan and Cambodia for “failure to protect vulnerable religious communities” and “increased stigmatisation”.

In another specific statement, the USCIRF reacted to reports, which the government denied, that COVID-19 patients were religiously segregated at a hospital in Ahmedabad.

On Saturday, it also held an expert hearing on “Religious Freedom on South Asia”, organised by the “Hindus for Human Rights”, “Indian-American Muslim Council” and “International Christian Concern,” ahead of its annual USCIRF report release on April 28, where India has been categorised as a “tier 2 country of particular concern.”

“As if its peremptory commentary on religious freedom in India is not enough, the USCIRF is now spreading misguided reports on the professional medical protocols followed to deal with spread of COVID-19 in India,” the MEA spokesperson had said.

Meanwhile, on March 30, the United Nations’ Office of The Commissioner for Human Rights had issued a more general statement against the “exploitation” of coronavirus-related fears by groups and politicians to “scapegoat minorities” in various countries.


UAE tells Muslims to pray at home during Ramadan

APRIL 20, 2020

DUBAI (Reuters) - Religious authorities in the United Arab Emirates said medical workers treating COVID-19 patients are exempt from fasting during Ramadan and urged Muslims not to congregate for prayers during the holy month expected to start this week.

The Emirates Fatwa Council said in a statement carried on state media late on Sunday that all healthy people are obliged to fast but medical workers on the frontline of the novel coronavirus pandemic need not do so “if they fear that fasting could lead to weakening their immunity or to losing their patients”.

It said Muslims should comply with physical distancing while praying during Ramadan and the Eid Al Fitr holiday that marks its end. The UAE has suspended prayer in all houses of worship including mosques as part of containment measures.

The UAE, the region’s business hub, has recorded 6,781 infections with 41 deaths, the second highest count after Saudi Arabia in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council where the number of cases has steadily risen to surpass 26,600 with more than 160 deaths as countries ramp up testing.

Several Gulf Arab states have suspended passenger flights, imposed curfews and closed most public venues, but have seen a rise in transmissions among low-income migrant workers, many of whom live in cramped quarters. Some Gulf governments are trying to arrange repatriation flights for expatriates who have lost jobs or been put on leave.

UAE Vice-President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also ruler of Dubai emirate, announced the launch of a humanitarian campaign on Sunday to provide 10 million meals or food parcels to communities hit by the outbreak in the country.

“Providing food for everyone, with the approach of the Holy Month of Ramadan, is a social priority in our battle against the pandemic,” he said in an English-language Twitter post. “In the UAE, no one sleeps hungry or in need. No one is left.”

Millions of foreign workers, many from Asia, form the backbone of Gulf economies and work in sectors that have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The pandemic is also likely to disrupt the significant remittances those workers send back to their home countries.


Ramadan 2020: UAE medics and patients exempted from fasting amid Covid-19 outbreak

Gillian Duncan

April 20, 2020

Frontline medical workers and patients are exempted from fasting during Ramadan, according to an order issued by the UAE Fatwa Council.

The first is that fasting is obligatory for healthy people. But anyone suffering from Covid-19 does not have to fast when they are experiencing symptoms of the virus, if doctors say it will worsen their condition.

Medical staff fighting the outbreak are also exempted from fasting if they fear doing so would weaken their immune systems or compromise their ability to treat patients.

People may perform Eid Al Fitr prayer individually at their homes or in group with their respective family members without a sermon

The second fatwa says tarawih, an extra extended prayer typically held in mosques after the evening prayers during Ramadan, can be performed at home under the current circumstances. But the council said that, if possible, a family should be led in tarawih prayers by the “man of the house”, who should read from the Quran or recite verses from it he has memorised.

The council said that for Eid Al Fitr prayers, which are held at fajr – or sunrise – could be performed individually in homes without a sermon, should the situation not ease by then. Families who live in the same house can pray together but the council said congregating to perform the prayer could endanger lives, which is strictly forbidden in Islam, so should be avoided.

The fourth fatwa said performing Friday prayers is not permissible. Instead, Muslims should perform dhuhr – of afternoon – prayers because Friday prayer has its own congregational requirements which, if not met, invalidates the prayer.

The body reminded people it is obligatory to follow the authorities’ instructions against gatherings to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The fifth fatwa instructs Muslims to pay Zakat – a sustained, annual charity that is paid by Muslims calculated using a percentage of their income – earlier this year, “given the current circumstances”. Typically, Muslims pay Zakat one a year on a specific date of their choosing but the council said it would be “even better to pay it as quickly as possible” this year to help people suffering from the effects of the coronavirus.

Abdullah bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, joins a virtual meeting of the UAE’s Fatwa Council. Wam

The council cited an example when the “Prophet Mohammed allowed his uncle Al Abbas to pay his Zakat earlier than the due time to help the beneficiaries meet their needs”.

It said all types of Zakat are better spent within the country to help the beneficiaries meet their needs, state news agency Wam reported.

Zakat Al Fitr – a charitable contribution typically paid a few days before the end of Ramadan – can also be paid earlier at the beginning of the holy month, scholars said.

The council said all types of Zakat are better spent within the country and they could be paid to authorities or charitable organisations.

If there is money left over, the funds could be sent to other Muslims through the Emirates Red Crescent and other licensed charities.

Last month, the council issued a fatwa that prohibited congregational worship and called for all Muslims in the country to comply with government rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

It also banned Muslims who feel unwell from going to public places or attending any prayers, including those typically held on Friday, Eid and Ramadan.

The holy month is expected to begin on Friday, a member of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences said. The exact date will be confirmed by the UAE’s moon-sighting committee – a group of astronomers, court officials and advisors from the country’s Islamic authority.

This year, mosques will be closed for the duration of the holy month, which will be one of the biggest changes to Ramadan brought on by the coronavirus.


Coronavirus: Iftar tents in Sharjah suspended for Ramadan

April 20, 2020

Mariam M. Al Serkal

Sharjah City Municipality said it has suspended the issuance of permits for Ramadan tents this year as part of the authority’s precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

Permits for tents are usually in high demand during the month of Ramadan as organisations and companies offer free iftar meals to the needy.

The municipality, in coordination with Sharjah Islamic Affairs, said that permits for all iftar tents have been suspended, including tents that are usually set up near mosques. Inspection campaigns will also be intensified, “to ensure that no tents are set up illegally, and will take the necessary action against any person setting up a tent illegally, as well as the immediate removal of the tent.”

Some organisations have already started distributing food parcels to those in need amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, such as the Dar Al Ber Society.

Dr Hisham Al Zahrani, deputy director, social sector, Dar Al Ber Society said providing food to the needy is one of the main focus of their humanitarian activities. He said those wanting to be part of the initiative could contact them at or contribute directly to Dar Al Ber Society’s Dubai Islamic Bank account 003520443195201 (IBAN: AE800240003520443195201).

Residents can also contact other UAE-based charities if they want to donate food and other essentials to people, including the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment, Beit Al Khair Society, and the Emirates Red Crescent.


Sunni Iraqi faction claims it has secured two to three ministries in Kathemi cabinet


Shafaq News / Huda al-Jabouri, an Iraqi lawmaker part of the newly-formed Al-Modon Al-Moharrara (Liberated Cities) alliance, claimed on Sunday that her faction had secured between two to three ministries within the cabinet of Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al-Kathemi.

The Al-Modon Al-Moharrara is a new Sunni faction within the Iraqi legislature, spearheaded by business mogul and veteran politician Khamis Al-Khanjar. According to statements from members of the alliance, it is made up of 25 lawmakers.

Speaking to Shafaq News on Sunday, Jabouri, who is the deputy chief of Al-Modon Al-Moharrara said her alliance would hold negotiations with Kathemi to implement their agenda of “keeping arms in the hands of the state, stabilizing liberated cities, and [facilitating] the return of displaced persons to their homes.”

“The alliance has its representatives in parliament and will have a ministerial representation” in Kathemi’s government, Jabouri stated. She pointed out that “the entitlement of the Liberated Cities Alliance in the next government will be confined between two to three ministries.”

Jabouri noted that Al-Modon Al-Moharrara would present the premier hopeful with a list of their candidates for the ministries they would be allotted. Kathemi would in turn “choose the most appropriate” nominee for each role, she claimed.

On Sunday, the Al-Qwa Al-Iraqiya (Iraqi Forces) alliance led by Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Al-Halbousi played down Khanjar’s new faction, claiming that the new player in the Iraqi legislature “does not affect his political weight.”

With 40 seats out of 329 in the Iraqi parliament, Halbousi’s Al-Qwa Al-Iraqiya was the largest Sunni bloc in the legislature before Khanjar recently splintered off to create his own coalition.

Khanjar is a wealthy businessman, and the US Treasury imposed sanctions on his activities last year, accusing him of corrupt practices and committing graft at the expense of the Iraqi people.

This development comes a day after a parliamentary source spoke to Shafaq News about growing differences between leading Sunni forces in the legislature over their share within the next government, leading to cracks in a tentative alliance between them.

According to Shafaq News sources, Kathemi’s cabinet is expected to be divided between different factions in the following manner: 11 ministries would go to Shiite groups, 6 for the Sunni factions, 4 for Kurds, and one ministry for minorities (Christians or Turkmen).

On April 9, Iraqi President Barham Salih tasked Kadhimi with forming a new government, after two other candidates did not succeed in obtaining the support of a majority of parliament to be able to take over the premiership.

He has 30 days from his nomination to face a parliamentary vote of confidence and is poised to gain multi-lateral support from most of the components within the legislature, including leading Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish parties.

The outgoing Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, resigned in late November, as top Shia authority in Iraq Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani withdrew his support following days of extreme violence that members of the security forces carried out against anti-government protesters.



Chaudhry Sarwar for following SOPs at mosques

April 20, 2020

Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has said that thousands of people will be infected by coronavirus in the absence of precautionary and safety measures at mosques.

And God forbid if it happens so the history will not pardon anyone. Ulema and respective mosque administration have the responsibility to cooperate with police and all other government departments in implementing protective measures, including social distancing.

Ulema and the whole nation have to understand that corona pandemic is not vanishing and it will rather heighten in days to come for which we have to get prepared right now.

He was speaking to Badshahi Mosque Khateeb Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad, Pir Nazim Hussain Shah and others in a meeting here at Governor House. Punjab Governor said that federal and provincial governments were taking effective protective measures against corona pandemic and also taking difficult decision because it was our responsibility to save 220 million Pakistanis from corona.

With all sincerity and having complete consensus with Ulema we have formulated policy regarding Ramazan and God forbid mosque administration and people do not follow this policy it will have dire consequences as thousands of people may get infected; that is why, we do not have to show laxity in this regard even for a moment.

I had opposed Iran and Afghanistan war because anybody who involved in wrong decision is equally responsible for loss of human lives. Now Ulema should ensure 100 per cent implementation of government policy and save the people from this dreadful pandemic.


Shah Allah Ditta caves in Margalla Hills offer 2,400-year-old relics

April 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD-The scenic Margalla Hills hidethe gem of archeological master piece of Shah Allah Ditta caves preserving around 2400 years old Bhuddist era murals.

The ancient caves depict one of the nestling places of Buddhism in the region that are located in sector E-11 of the federal capital.

Shah Allah Ditta caves have various engravings of Buddha on its wall that are extremely pleasing and appealing,an official told APP.

After a meticulous observation of the site, it could be seen as the archaeological evidence indicates that the caves and the platform-like formations surrounding the area were first used for meditation by Buddhist monks and later by Hindu sadhus before Muslim ascetics took over during the Mughal period,he said.

He informed that Shah Allah Ditta caves have remained the center of attraction in different epochs of rising religions in the sub-continent.

These caves also have religious significance for local people because the devotees visit this place quite often. There were omens of burning “diyas” on walls of the cave and many amulets or “taveez” were also tied around the roots of Banyan trees. .

The village is believed to be more than seven hundred years old and was used as route from Kabul to the Gandharan city of Taxila by Alexander The Great and Sher Shah Suri while Mughal rulers and other emperors often passed through while traveling from Afghanistan to the Hindustan.


Pakistan TV to air Turkish drama series in Ramadan

Islamuddin Sajid


State-run Pakistan Television announced late Sunday that it will air the action-packed Turkish drama series Resurrection: Ertugrul during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

"The acclaimed Turkish television series @DirilisDizisi is being aired on PTV on the instructions of Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI," Pakistan Television announced on its official Twitter account.

Senator Faisal Javed Khan, a close aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan and chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and Heritage, praised the production team of TRT World and said Ertugrul will air with Urdu dubbing.

"Ertugrul Ghazi - Such a great exhibition of culture & Islamic faith - an amazing journey through the phenomenal Turkish history," tweeted the senator, sharing PTV’s announcement.

In September last year, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia agreed to jointly fight the rising global trend of Islamophobia, mainly in the West. The three countries also decided to launch a TV channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and to produce films on Muslim heroes.

Prime Minister Khan praised the Turkish historical series and ordered that all five seasons be dubbed in Urdu to make it easy for the general public to watch and understand.

Ali Sahin, a Turkish lawmaker and head of the Turkey-Pakistan Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group, welcomed PTV’s announcement and thanked the prime minister for this move.

"I also would like to watch @DirilisDizisi on @PTVHomeOfficial in Urdu language...That will be very joyful for me," Sahin said in a tweet.

Responding to Sahin, Faisal Javed Khan also thanked him and said it is an honor for Pakistan to broadcast such a great masterpiece.

"And it's coming from your home [in Turkey] to your home [in Pakistan], where you studied & lived for many years," Khan added.

After gaining sweeping popularity in the Middle East, South Africa and surprisingly in South America, Resurrection: Ertugrul has taken over Pakistan as well.

Often described as a Turkish Game of Thrones, the serial is woven around 13th century Anatolia and tells the story prior to the establishment of the Ottoman Empire. It illustrates the struggle of Ertugrul Gazi, father of the empire's first leader.


North America 

Islamic radicals accuse the US of violating the terms of the Doha peace agreement

By Boyko Nikolov

Apr 20, 2020

A list of 50 attacks by the Afghan and American security forces against the radicals after the signing of the Doha peace agreement was distributed by the Taliban on April 19, learned

According to a three-page document, from March 9 to April 10, Taliban were attacked by 33 drones and airstrikes in 19 provinces of Afghanistan. In addition, nine attacks using missiles and mortar shells, as well as eight night raids, appear on the list.

According to the radicals, over this period they lost 35 militants in 17 incidents out of those cited in the document. In addition, representatives of the movement accuse foreign forces of killing 65 civilians in 33 incidents.

According to the document, 12 attacks occurred in the province of Zabul, five in Maidan-Wardak, four in Kunduz, four in Kandahar, three in Helmand, Kapis, Lagman, Badakhshan and two in Uruzgan and Farah. In addition, one attack occurred in the provinces of Paktika, Paktia, Ghazni, Logar, Badghis, Javzyan, Baghlan, Tahar and Nangarhar.

General Scott Miller, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said in response to the allegations that “all parties, but especially the Taliban, must reduce violence so that the political process takes hold.”

Miller’s spokesman, Colonel Sonny Leggett, in turn, said the United States remains committed to the terms of the Taliban agreement. At the same time, according to him, “US-Afghanistan forces, in accordance with the written terms of the agreement, continue to support and protect the security forces of Afghanistan.”

According to the Minister of Defense of Afghanistan, Asadullah Khalid, the security forces of the country over the past few weeks adhere to the tactics of “active defense”, “to give a chance to the peace process.” “We still hope for a transition to a complete ceasefire as soon as possible, but at the same time, Afghan forces are fully prepared to defend themselves and the people,” the newspaper quoted the minister as saying.

Note that according to the agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29 of this year in Doha, both parties should not attack each other’s military facilities located in Afghanistan. In addition, according to the agreement, the Taliban should not allow other militant groups to operate in areas under their influence.

According to the publication, from the moment of signing the agreement to the past week, the radicals carried out 2162 attacks. During the same period, Afghan security forces and NATO forces conducted 425 military operations against the Taliban.


Trump accused of stoking division after questioning whether social distancing will be enforced at mosques

16 hours ago

President Donald Trump has warned there "could be a difference" in how social distancing rules are enforced for Ramadan versus Easter during his daily press briefing.

The president was asked about the differing holidays on Saturday after he retweeted conservative author and political commentator Paul Sperry.

"Let's see if authorities enforce the social-distancing orders for mosques during Ramadan (April 23-May 23) like they did churches during Easter," the tweet read.

Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, called the retweet "insulting and frustrating on the eve of Ramadan ... our president chooses to use his energy and platform to amplify the hateful words" of the original tweet," according to CNN.

"As is often the case, the president is yet again stoking anti-Muslim hate and sowing division at a time when he is failing to do his job," Mr Khera said.

During the press briefing, the president said he spoke with different religious leaders amid the coronavirus pandemic but ""politicians treat different faiths differently."

"Politicians treat different faiths differently," he claimed. "I don't know what happened with our country. But the Christian faith is treated much differently than it was, and I think it's treated unfairly."

"You know I just spoke with leaders and people that love mosques," Trump replied. "They love mosques! And I'm all in favour of that. But I would say that there could be a difference. And we'll have to see what will happen. Because I have seen a great disparity in this country. I've seen a great disparity."

The "great disparity" the president could be mentioning is the political correctness surrounding religion, but there was no clarification behind the reasoning of the retweet.

Mr Trump did say during the briefing that he thought imams, worship leaders for mosques, would uphold social distancing guidelines if they were still in place.

But what the president and the conservative author failed to mention was that social distancing measures were in place during Easter, which happened on 12 April. In comparison, Ramadan will go into the month of May.

The federal government has encouraged states to start their reopening processes as early as 1 May and lift some social distancing measures depending on how the coronavirus has spread in that area.

Mr Trump has been accused of Islamophobia previously after he made an executive order against travel from seven Muslim countries.


Al Qaeda, Islamic State strike across the Sahel

April 19, 2020

Continuing their assault across the Sahel, both al Qaeda and the Islamic State have claimed several attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger since the beginning of the month.

Starting with al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), the militants claimed responsibility for killing at least 25 Malian soldiers in the northern town of Bamba on April 6.

The AFP, who spoke to local residents, reported that “armed men had been riding motorbikes around nearby villages” before actually beginning the raid.

According to JNIM’s version of events, the jihadists first entered the town from two flanks after shelling the city with mortars. In addition to alleging to have captured copious amounts of weapons and ammunition, the group also exaggerated the death toll by saying it killed 30 soldiers.

In the same statement, JNIM also called the current coronavirus pandemic “a soldier of God” and implored both France and Mali to repent and withdraw forces from the region.

JNIM also took credit for the assault on a Burkinabe military base in Sollé in Burkina Faso’s northern Loroum Province on April 9. According to local reports, at least 5 soldiers were killed and 4 were left missing.

A day later, at least 14 people were killed in another strike in Sollé, though local outlets have reported that the majority were civilians. JNIM’s statement also makes clear it is only referring to the event on April 9.

It is possible that the group also conducted the second attack, but has not claimed it as it does not want to show its hand due to the civilian deaths. JNIM has attempted to portray itself as a community defender in order to build public support.

These claims come a month after JNIM took responsibility for an assault on a Malian military base in Tarkint that killed at least 29 soldiers.

Turning to the Islamic State, the group said its men were responsible for two recent raids in Niger close to the borders with Mali.

In the most recent issue of its weekly Al Naba newsletter, the jihadist group said its men were behind the attacks in Abala and Bani Bangou in Niger’s Tillabéri region.

The Abala strike, which occurred on April 2, left four Nigerien soldiers dead and 19 others injured. Niger has also stated that its forces killed 63 Islamic State fighters, though this is unconfirmed. Three days later, two other Nigerien soldiers were killed in Bani Bangou.

Additionally, the Islamic State released footage of an earlier attack inside Burkina Faso that took place in February. The short video, which was released via Amaq News, shows a raid on a police station in the northeastern town of Sebba on Feb. 29.

At least 10 Burkinabe police officers were killed in that attack. The video details this, as well as the capture of at least one armored vehicle.

These assaults come as tensions between the two jihadist heavyweights have increased in the region. According to local media, the two sides have clashed recently in both southern Mali and in northern Burkina Faso.

Malian media also reported alleged skirmishes in January within JNIM’s KatibatMacina over members trying to join the Islamic State’s fold.

Other former JNIM militants have also recently defected to the Islamic State. In a video released last month, jihadists in the Nampala area of Mali, which sits close to the borders with Mauritania, a group of fighters announced their loyalty to the new Islamic State emir.

JNIM was forced to address these issues in two pamphlets released earlier this year. The two booklets addressed complaints regarding JNIM’s implementation of Sharia law and called for unity among the jihadists of the Sahel.

As the Islamic State continues to grow in the Sahel, it is possible that it will be able to attract more fighters from al Qaeda’s camp. This will not come without consequences, however, as future battles between the two are likely to occur.


‘Devastating’: Worst mass shooting in Canada in 30 years as 17 people confirmed dead

Apr 20, 2020

In the worst act of mass murder in Canada’s history, a man disguised as a police officer has gone on a rampage in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia, killing 16 people in their homes and setting fires.

During a 12-hour killing spree on Sunday local time, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police identified the shooter as Gabriel Wortman, 51, who had also disguised his car to look like a police cruiser.

Police first announced that they had arrested Wortman at a service station in Enfield, outside Halifax, but later said he had died. It was not clear how, and they did not explain further.

Several bodies were found inside and outside one home in the small, rural town of Portapique, about 100 kilometres north of Halifax.

Overnight, police began advising residents of the town to lock their doors and stay in their basements. Several homes in the area were set on fire as well.

The massacre looked to be the worst of its kind since a gunman killed 15 women in Montreal in December 1989. A man driving a van deliberately ran over and killed 10 people in Toronto in April 2018.

“As a country, in moments like these, we come together to support one another. Together we will mourn with the families of the victims, and help them get through this difficult time,” he said.

Superintendent Leather said they would investigate whether the attack had anything to do with the coronavirus pandemic but no link has been found thus far.

According to the websites of the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia and the province’s Better Business Bureau, Wortman operated a denture clinic in Dartmouth, close to Halifax.

Portapique residents said the first sign of trouble occurred on Saturday night when police urged everyone to stay indoors. One man said he saw at least three separate fires.

“There was one officer we could see on scene and then all of a sudden, he went running toward one of the burning vehicles,” Darcy Sack told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.



Muslims warned against communal prayers during Ramadan

April 20, 2020

by ZurahNakabugo

This year’s holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on April 23 or 24 after the sighting the moon but Moslems have been warned against holding communal evening prayers (Taraweeh) due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Taraweeh is an evening prayer performed after Isha prayers every night during the fasting month of Ramadan. Supreme mufti sheikh KasuleNdirangwa said Moslems should adhere to the coronavirus lockdown measures that ban public gatherings and ordered the closure of places of worship including mosques.

“Don’t even go to the neighbourhood to have communal prayers, because you don’t know who is infected and you might end up infecting each other since government banned all gatherings and also introduced curfew,” Ndirangwa said.

Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar and it’s a long period of worship and devotion to Allah. It commemorates the Qur'an being first revealed to the prophet Muhammad. The coronavirus pandemic even forced suspension or cancellation of all traditional, pilgrimages and religion mass gatherings.

Ndirangwa said even large gatherings to share meals for iftar during the breaking of the fast, will not be allowed since Moslems need to observe social distancing.

Ndirangwa advised Muslims to pray hard and repent during Ramadan and above all, help neighbours especially the poor and the widows by giving them food to break their fast.

“Don’t wait for your neighbours to die and then give them (Sadaq) food. This is the time to repent and get rewards from Allah by helping the needy and the poor. Also pray to Allah to help us find the cure for COVID-19, and we get back our normal life,” he says.

Hajji NserekoMutumba, public relations officer at Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, advised women to avoid demanding things which their husbands can’t provide during this lockdown period because this might cause domestic violence which will affect the rewards of the Ramadan.

“At this time, just focus on purifying your Ramadan and pray to Allah to normalize the situation better. Eat anything that is available and avoid unnecessary demands. Men should not also hide under COVID-19 and fail to provide food to their families while waiting for government’s food. What if it doesn’t reach you? ” said Mutumba.

Ahmad Sentamu, the head communications Hear Uganda, an organization that always donates food to people in different parts of the country during Ramadan warned that this time due to the lockdown, they might not give out food to people.

“We are stuck; we don’t know, how to help people this time since we are in quarantine and can’t move anywhere. We can’t even send food because our bosses need accountability and also to see the people we have given,” said Sentamu.

Sheikh Yasir Kulumba advised Muslims to use the 27th day of Ramadan, which is the night of Al-Qadr, and pray the whole night asking God for rewards, the forgiveness of their sins and also ask him to help scientists find a cure for COVID-19.

“On the day of Al-Qadr, let’s all of us play and ask Allah to save the entire globe from the consequences of COVID-19, such as financial crisis, loss of jobs and marriages plus others,” he says.

“Let’s pray for ourselves and the deceased during Ramadan since Allah opens the gates of paradise and closes the gates of hell, and also chains up the devils,” he says.

This year’s 30-day fasting period will end with Eid al Fitr on or about May 22 or 23, depending on the sighting of the moon.


With Ramadan Beginning This Week, Fiji Muslim League Reminds Muslims On Rules

By LusianaTuimaisala

20 Apr 2020

In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Fiji Muslim League has advised Muslims to celebrate Ramadan at home.

lims across the world have been forced to rethink traditions and find new approaches to one of Islam’s most important religious rituals.

Fiji Muslim League President Hafiz Khan said depending on the sighting of the moon on Thursday night, April 23, then they would start fasting by Friday, April 24, from dawn to dusk for 30 days ending on Saturday, May 23.

For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of extended communal prayer and a month of fasting from dawn and ends at sunset. They are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam.

Previously Ramadan was celebrated by going to the mosque, praying, sharing things, visiting families, inviting friends and neighbours, he said.

Mr Khan said fasting is important during Ramadan as it allows Muslims to devote themselves to their faith.



Posters represent Gulistan’s appeal for Imam Khomeini

April 19, 2020

TEHRAN – An online exhibition, which will open on Monday to mark Sadi Day, is scheduled to display posters representing the interest of Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, in the Gulistan, the masterpiece of the Persian poet Sheikh Muslih od-Din Sadi Shirazi.

The exhibition entitled “The Gulistan of Imam” has been inspired by “A Government Based on Morals”, the memoirs of HojjatoleslamAbdolkarimBiazar Shirazi, a pupil of Imam Khomeini, the Imam Khomeini Cultural Center in Tehran, which is the organizer of the showcase, announced on Sunday.

“Perhaps, it seems really surprising for many people that a revolutionary leader and politician like Imam Khomeini was interested in literature and poetry,” the center wrote in a statement for the exhibition.

“However, they would show no surprise if they learned that Persian poetry and literature are not merely a rhythmic language, but it is a common culture and civilization linking people in Central Asia, Caucasia, the Indian Peninsula and Iran,” it added.

“Months before Imam Khomeini’s death, I remember that one day in the morning I received a telephone call from HojjatoleslamRasuliMahallati, the director of Imam Khomeini’s office, who asked me to prepare a three-volume divan of Sadi for Imam Khomeini,” Biazar Shirazi wrote in his memoirs.

“‘Why not a one-volume?’ I asked. He answered that Imam wants to take the book with himself in his daily walking so he needs a book with a lower weight,” he added.

“This story was very inspiring and interesting for me from several points of view: Imam’s attention to reading and Sadi’s work at that age and with all his preoccupation with the country were more interesting,” he wrote.


Three Yemeni civilians killed in Saudi-led shelling despite 'ceasefire'

19 April 2020

At least three civilians have been killed and another sustained injuries when militiamen loyal to the country’s former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, shelled a residential neighborhood in Yemen’s southern province of Ta’izz despite a two-week ceasefire declared by the Saudi-led coalition.

Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the Saudi mercenaries fired projectiles at Wadi Hanash village in the At Ta'iziyah district of the province Sunday afternoon.

The sources added that two women and a child were killed whilst a man was injured when their house was struck in the shelling.

Separately, Saudi units launched artillery rounds and mortar shells at residential areas in the Razih district of Yemen’s northwestern province of Sa’ada.

Saudi-led warplanes also carried out eight airstrikes against the Khabb-wa ash-Sha'af district in the northern Yemeni province of Jawf. No reports of casualties and damage were quickly available.

Elsewhere in the Sirwah district of the central province of Ma’rib, Saudi-led warplanes pounded several areas on three occasions. There were no casualties and damage immediately reported though.

Saudi warplanes keep pounding a number of areas across Yemen despite a ceasefire the Saudi-led coalition has announced itself.

Last week, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, roundly rejected as fraudulent the Saudi-led coalition’s ceasefire, saying the declaration deceitfully targets the world public opinion.

He said Yemen has seen an escalation in fighting and airstrikes carried out by the coalition at the same time that the siege of Yemen continues.

“The declared ceasefire is deceitful and meant to mislead the world public opinion. If there were a serious intention and absolute willpower towards peace, the UN Security Council should have passed a formal resolution to stop the absurd war on Yemen and lift the unjust siege; rather it sufficed to a worthless statement in order to appease the [Saudi-led] alliance,” Abdul-Salam added.

UAE-backed separatists in southern Yemen have warned of an "imminent war" with Saudi-sponsored militants as divisions between the two sides continue to deepen.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that more than 100,000 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015.

The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are now in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.


Palestine reports seven new coronavirus cases, first death in East Jerusalem al-Quds

19 April 2020

Palestinian authorities have confirmed the death of an elderly woman from the novel coronavirus in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, and reported seven new cases, raising the total number of infected people to 431.

Palestinian Minister of Health May al-Kayla said in a statement on Sunday that seven Palestinians were tested positive for COVID-19 in Ramallah, Tulkarem and Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinian officials had earlier confirmed that an elderly Palestinian woman had become the first victim of the fatal coronavirus in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesperson Ibrahim Milhem said in a statement that Nawal Abu Hummus, 78, died of the disease on Saturday. The victim, from Issawiyahneighborhood, had reportedly pre-existing chronic illnesses.

With the new seven cases, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Palestine has risen to 431, including 13 in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Palestinian officials have said since the onset of the health crisis that the Arab population of East Jerusalem has been overlooked by Israel to curb the spread of the virus.

Israeli police recently shuttered a COVID-19 screening facility in the East Jerusalem al-Quds neighborhood of Silwan because it was only overseen by the PA, and not Israel.

Earlier this month, Fadi al-Hadami, the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem al-Quds affairs, and Adnan Ghaith, the Palestinian Authority's governor of Jerusalem al-Quds, were arrested by Israeli authorities amid their on-the-ground response to the coronavirus crisis.

On April 14, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said Palestine requested cooperation from the Israeli regime to combat the current COVID-19 epidemic but instead received incursions, killings, and demolitions from the occupying regime.

PLO’s secretary general says Palestine requested cooperation from Israel to fight the new coronavirus but instead received incursions, killings, and demolitions.

The chief of the executive committee of the PLO made the remarks in a statement he delivered on Palestine television, stressing that Palestine only tried to cooperate with the regime in the fight against the new coronavirus, Palestine’s official Wafa news agency reported.

This comes as due to economic hardship and years of blockade that have brought Gaza near to breaking point, the World Health Organization has warned that the coastal sliver’s healthcare system would not be able to deal with an outbreak of the deadly disease.

The Gaza Strip, under a tight Israeli-imposed land, air, and sea blockade since 2007, faces an alarming health situation. Its central medical laboratory announced earlier this month that it had run out of necessary supplies to administer COVID-19 tests.

The situation will definitely delay the necessary procedures for ending the isolation of hundreds of quarantined people who have already given samples for testing.

Various rights groups and organizations have so far pleaded the global community and different international organizations to pressure Tel Aviv to lift the siege and allow international donors to provide Gazans with necessary medical supplies.

The majority of the population in Gaza live in densely-populated refugee camps where social distancing is not feasible, and the contagious disease can rampage the besieged sliver if necessary safety measures are not taken immediately. Nearly two million Palestinians live in Gaza.

Since 2008, Israel has also waged three wars against Gaza and thousands of Gazans have been killed in these wars.


Israel intensifies aggression against Palestinian prisoners, lawmaker warns

19 April 2020

A Palestinian legislator says Israeli authorities have recently intensified their acts of aggression and suppression against Palestinian prisoners in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Ahmad Attoun, a member of the Change and Reform Bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council, described in press remarks the arbitrary decisions against Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails and detention centers as “blatant violation of the international law and tantamount to war crimes.”

“The issue of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is not an issue of numbers. They are people with feelings and hearts, and have families and loved ones; but their tragedy is ongoing.”

Whilst the United States calls upon countries such as Iran, to release more prisoners from its jails during the Covid-19 Pandemic, Israel, the US’s self described closest ally is yet to release a single Palestinian political prisoner.

He also denounced discrimination against Palestinian prisoners on the basis of their geographical origins or political affiliations, urging financial support for the detainees and their families.

On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded the protection of Palestinian prisoners in the time of the pandemic.

The UN chief also asked his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, to remain in contact with Israeli officials to ensure that due attention is paid.

The Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, has already warned about the dire consequences of keeping Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, denouncing the Tel Aviv regime’s utter disregard for local and international calls to release them amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 7, Shaker Amara, a Hamas leader, said the Israeli regime sought to increase the sufferings of the Palestinian nation through more acts of aggression, arbitrary arrests and fearmongering in the time of coronavirus.

Palestinian campaigners call on Israel to provide adequate health care services to the Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Palestinian prisoners being held inside Israeli jails live in a tragic situation and are gripped by the fear of coronavirus spread inside prisons. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) ignores previous warnings and relevant instructions to prevent the new coronavirus spread, whilst the prisoners need exceptional measures to confront the virus.”


Houthi spokesman: Short-term solutions cannot bring peace to Yemen

19 April 2020

Mohammed al-Attab

The UN Security Council on Friday endorsed the secretary-general’s call for warring parties in Yemen to immediately stop fighting and focus on reaching a peace agreement and countering the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

The council statement followed a briefing Thursday by UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths who said the threat of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, has galvanized peace efforts.

Griffith said talks with the warring sides “are making very good progress” and that he expects them to adopt proposals for a nationwide ceasefire and peace talks “in the immediate future.”

But Mohammed Abdulsalam, a spokesman for Ansarullah, said Thursday the current UN proposal neglects a key demand — to lift Saudi Arabia’s air and sea blockade, which fuels the country’s humanitarian crisis. He also refused short-term solutions, saying the blockade must be removed before any serious talks.

However, political experts believe the party which must end the war is Yemen because their country is destroyed by the enemies.

This comes as Saudi Arabia and its allies are accused of violating the ceasefire despite Riyadh's unilateral declaration of truce of two weeks.

Yemen's armed forces spokesman Yahya Sare'e says Riyadh has carried out scores of air raids since it announced ceasefire. He warned that more painful attacks would be carried out in response to such escalation.

Analysts say the Saudi-led coalition has never been complied with the agreements despite efforts by Ansarullah to save the peace accord.

Many rounds of talks have failed to bring peace to the war-torn country. The Sweden peace talks had been described as the first breakthrough by the UN, yet such diplomatic efforts have failed to bring an end to Saudi aggression against Yemen that has killed and injured thousands of civilians.

The outbreak of the coronavirus in Yemen, which reported its first case earlier this month, threatens deeper and more widespread suffering in the Arab world’s poorest country. Many stress the vital importance of access to humanitarian and economic aid for Yemenis in need, which is especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Iran's top banker urges IMF to resist US pressure as loan request lingers

20 April 2020

Iran’s Central Bank Governor AbdolnaserHemmati says the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should approve Tehran's request for a loan without delay and to resist US pressure amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Last month, the Islamic Republic asked the IMF for $5 billion in loans to help finance its efforts to combat the disease. IMF officials have said the fund is  proceeding with Iran’s request, but the US has pledged to block the application.

Hemmati touched on the loss of lives to the coronavirus in Iran, appealing directly to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to approach the request.   

“We have lost so many lives, as the Americans and Europeans have lost, and my thoughts and prayers go with them,” Hemmati said in an interview with Bloomberg. “The time to act is now,” he added.

Earlier this month, Iran’s Vice President for economic affairs Mohammad Nahavandian said the US has no right to block the loan after US media reports said Washington planned to veto the Islamic Republic’s request.

President Hassan Rouhani has warned the IMF to consider Iran’s request for $5 billion without “discrimination” after reports said the US was seeking to block the loan.

There is a perception that the US dominates the IMF, that the fund is in effect an instrument of the US Treasury Department, and thereby Washington undermines the legitimacy of the organization.

The US has the largest number of shares within the IMF, giving it 16.5% of the body’s total votes. Technically, other IMF member countries could amass a majority of votes to approve Iran's loan even with US opposition. The Europeans and many other countries have reportedly come out in favor of the loan.

“The last time I checked, it’s not the United States running the IMF, but its management and the board of governors who oversee the work and ensure that the IMF delivers on its mandate,” Hemmati said.

The US bid to block Iran's application is in sync with its "maximum pressure" campaign which has intensified against Iran in the wake coronavirus pandemic.

That flies in the face of assertions by US rulers, including President Donald Trump, that the United States is ready to help Iran with the coronavirus.

Trump repeated the claim on Sunday, saying he would be willing to provide aid to Iran to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic if Tehran requested it.

Trump backed out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and immediately issued sanctions against the nation. Iran has refused to negotiate with the US until the sanctions are lifted.

But Trump said Iran might be waiting to see if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden will become president in the 2020 election because “they’d own America”

On Sunday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif chided Trump over his alleged willingness to send ventilators to Iran to help treat coronavirus patients.

“Iran will be EXPORTING ventilators in a few months, @realdonaldtrump,” Zarif tweeted. “All you need to do is stop interfering in the affairs of other nations; mine especially. And believe me, we do not take advice from ANY American politician,” he added.

While Trump has dangled his purported offer of help, he has made it a point that the Islamic Republic should directly ask for it. Iran has said the unconventional demand shows the US seeks “nothing short of surrender”.

In his interview with Bloomberg, Hemmati touched on Washington's hostile measures which have complicated Tehran's international trade.

US sanctions and its decision to put the Iranian Central Bank on its list of “specially designated nationals and blocked persons” last September prevent Iran from accessing its own money, which would be “more than enough” to cover its needs, he said.

“Central Bank reserves are under US sanctions overseas, which is illegal and unilateral, and I want to be clear about this. What we are saying is that the sanctions should be lifted altogether, however, sadly, there are actors in the US government that have little regards for international law and order,” Hemmati added.

He said he has told the IMF that a loan could be channeled directly into the EU’s INSTEX trade vehicle and the SHTA, a Swiss financial channel that aims to allow food and pharmaceutical companies based in Switzerland to export goods to Iran.

“These are specifically designed to help us import food and medicine,” Hemmati said. “These channels have proper safeguarding mechanisms in place to address all concerns, if any.”


Iran's Army unveils new advanced, long-range strategic radars

19 April 2020

Iran’s Army has unveiled two new homegrown strategic radar systems in another move to further enhance its air defense capability.

The radars, named Khalij-e Fars (Persian Gulf) and Moraqeb (Watchful), were unveiled in a ceremony on Sunday in the presence of Chief Commander of Iran's Army Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi.

Khalij-e Fars is a long-range and strategic radar system with an operational range of over 800 kilometers. It is a phased-array three-dimensional radar system with modern technology that can detect all conventional and radar-evading targets as well as ballistic missiles.

Moraqeb is also a three-dimensional advanced phased-array radar with high precision and a range of 400 kilometers. It can spot airborne targets with high accuracy and detect different types of small targets at low and medium altitudes as well as radar-evading and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The system has been designed and manufactured by the Army’s Air Defense experts in cooperation with Iranian knowledge-based companies.

As Iran marks National Defense Industry Day, the Armed Forces unveil an advanced domestically-manufactured missile defense system.

The surface-to-air missile system, dubbed Bavar-373, is a mobile missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy incoming hostile targets. The system employs missiles that have a maximum range of 300 kilometers.

Iran has taken great strides seeking to attain self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and defense systems in the face of decades-long sanctions and arms embargoes on the country.

The country consequently produces a wide variety of advanced weapons systems and equipment based on its own technological capabilities


Southeast Asia 

Police nab salesman, college student in Ipoh for insulting Islam

19 Apr 2020

IPOH, April 19 — The police have detained a salesman and female college student for allegedly mocking Islam in a video which went viral on social media recently.

District Police chief ACP A. Asmadi Abdul Aziz said the 20-year-old first suspect was picked up at Taman Kledang, Menglembu near here at 11.15pm last night while the woman, who is also 20, was detained soon after that at Taman Silibin Ria.

“The man has admitted to being the person who was seen ‘praying’ in the video, while his friend has admitted to recording the video using her mobile phone at a homestay in Taman LapanganTerbang before posting it on her Instagram account.

“The video recording was actually made on October 28, last year at 1.27am,” he said when contacted by Bernama here today.

A. Asmadi said initial investigations revealed that the woman had deleted the video, out of fear, after it became viral.

He said two mobile phones were seized and duo were being remanded for four days until April 22 to facilitate investigations under Section 4 (1) of the Sedition Act 1948; Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955; Section 298 of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988.

In the 28-second video, the man is seen making fun of Muslim prayers while his friends can be heard laughing.


MCO: MAIPs introduces online zakat payment

April 20th, 2020

THE Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs) has set up various online platforms to facilitate Muslims in the state pay tithes during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

The Raja Muda of Perlis Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail said through the SnapNPay application, tithes on self or zakat fitrah, personal income, savings and gold could be paid by just scanning the QR code or just clicking the browser button.

In a statement today, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin who is also MAIPs president said besides that payment could also be made via bank transfer to MAIPs account: Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad – 090 100 100 552 90; or using Maybank2u and CimbClicks.

Payment could also be made via MAIPs’ website once the financial process exchange (FPX) system is implemented.

In addition, payment could also be made at the drive-thru counters set up at three locations, he said adding that MAIPs is still maintaining the payment via the 102 amil or tithe collectors appointed statewide.


Halal donations start for Muslim medical front-liners

By: Jhesset O. Enano

April 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Since late February, Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo, Manila, has been the new home for Dr. Princess HannifaSabdullah, who has spent nearly all her waking hours on the front lines battling the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The public health crisis is not the young doctor’s first brush with a deadly viral outbreak. In 2014, while working as an emergency room physician in Saudi Arabia, she took care of patients afflicted with the Middle East respiratory syndrome, an illness caused by a different strain of the coronavirus.

But back here in the country, while enduring a similarly trying time, Sabdullah, 36, faces a more personal challenge: finding halal food, which adheres to standards prescribed in the Quran.

“There were days when I was just eating potato chips and biscuits because there was no food that was allowed for me,” Sabdullah said. “But being doctors, despite not being able to feed ourselves properly, we have a Hippocratic oath to fulfill at all times.”

While food donations flooded hospitals over the past few weeks, Muslim medical workers found themselves in an awkward position. The packed food often contained pork or its derivatives, or had not been prepared according to Islamic rules.

This is the gap that Alzaky Foods is trying to fill as it steps in—providing free halal food to Sabdullah and other Muslim medical workers risking their lives to stop the outbreak, backed by the generosity of both Muslim and non-Muslim sponsors.

Based in San Juan City, Alzaky is the only company that provides halal-certified chicken meat in the country. In the time of COVID-19, it has turned into an important lifeline for Muslim health workers in Metro Manila, which has the highest number of confirmed cases in the country.

Many of these essential workers felt uneasy disclosing their personal food needs amid the pandemic, said SittieNorhanie Lao, who volunteers to provide halal meals for Muslim health-care workers.

“They did not want to complain because it is a difficult time [for everybody] and they did not want to give the impression that they were demanding,” she said. “But it was heartbreaking to know that some of them were living off on crackers and water to sustain themselves.”

The project started after her aunt, Jalilah Lao, the company’s general manager, decided to cook for her former colleagues who now were working full-time on the front lines. Her 40-year-old aunt was a doctor but had stopped practicing to focus on the food business.

After learning about Alzaky’s efforts, hundreds of Muslim health workers, including those outside the health sector, began to reach out to them. Their messages came with personal stories of hardships on the front lines, and their food predicaments.

Since that delivery to Ospital ng Maynila, Alzaky has provided more than 2,400 halal meals to over 60 government and private hospitals across Metro Manila, including Philippine General Hospital, Makati Medical Center, Asian Hospital and Medical Center and East Avenue Medical Center.

Each meal features either chicken adobo, roast chicken or “pyaparan” (a Maranao chicken dish), paired with “kyuning,” or rice cooked in turmeric. The packed food can be kept for three days, if immediately frozen, and can be reheated in a microwave.

“Making sure our front-liners are fed well is just as important as providing personal protective equipment,” Lao said. “They would not function well if they keep on eating fast food every day.”

Alzaky shoulders part of the cost and has also received cash donations to support its work from both Muslim and non-Muslim individuals and groups.

One of their main challenges in helping their fellow Muslims, Lao said, was that they didn’t know how many Muslim health workers were there in Metro Manila and where they could be found.

She hopes that both government and private organizations can help them gather the real number of Muslim health workers, not just in Metro Manila but in the whole country, so they can extend their help to more of their brothers and sisters. 

“Our front-liners come from different cultural and religious backgrounds,” Lao said. “We believe it should not hinder them from performing their duties effectively. Neither do we believe that they have to sacrifice their religious beliefs to deliver on their duties.”

“No doubt that their initiative is 101 percent essential for me,” she said. “It gives me the energy to continue being a front-liner.”


South Asia 

Precision airstrikes kill 10 Taliban militants, wound 16 others in Logar

19 Apr 2020

The Ministry of Defense released a video of precision airstrikes which the Afghan forces conducted in Logar province, killing at least 10 Taliban militants and wounding at least 16 others.

According to a statement released by MoD, the Afghan Air Force conducted the preemptive airstrikes in Charkh district as the Taliban militants were looking to carry out attacks against the security forces.

The defense ministry also added that the same militants had carried out attacks against the security posts in Charkh district a day ago.


Afghanistan surpasses 1,000 cases of coronavirus as authorities record 30 new cases

20 Apr 2020

The Ministry of Public Health announced Monday that the ministry recorded 30 new positive cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country in the past 24 hours.

WaheedullahMayar, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, said the public health authorities recorded 30 new positive cases in the past 24 hours.

Mayar further added that the new cases increase the total number of COVID-19 to 1026 since its outbreak in the country.

Meanwhile, Mayar said four COVID-19 patients recovered in the past 24 hours while the disease claimed the lives of at least 3 people during the same period.

He also added that the three patients lost their lives in Kabul, Kandahar and Balkh provinces, increasing the total number of fatalities to 36.


Taliban militants kill 1 civilian, wound 3 others in Kapisa province

20 Apr 2020

The Taliban militants fired mortars in North-eastern Kapisa province which killed a civilian and wounded 3 others, the Afghan military said.

The 201st Silab Corps in a statement said the Taliban militants fired mortar rounds in Tagab district on Saturday which landed on civilian homes.

The statement further added that the attack killed a civilian and wounded 3 others.


40 staff of Afghan presidential palace infected with coronavirus: Report

20 Apr 2020

ARG Palace File Photo – President Ghani wearing mask and gloves as part of precautions to prevent COVID-19 outbreak

At least 40 staff of ARG Presidential Palace have contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as the disease is sharply spreading the capital, it has been reported.

The ARG Palace published a post on Twitter on Thursday which shows President Ghani is chairing a cabinet meeting via video link.

The ARG Presidential Palace has not commented regarding the report so far but an official in the Afghan government had earlier told AFP “Twenty-odd people are infected with COVID-19 in the presidential palace. However, it is [being] kept under wraps to ensure no panic is caused.”

This comes as the Ministry of Public Health spokesperson WaheedullahMayar said Sunday that the health authorities recorded 63 new positive cases after testing 286 people in the past 24 across the country.

Mayar further added that 31 of the new cases were recorded in Kabul, 16 in Kabul, 6 in Kunar, 4 in Herat, 3 in Baghlan, 1 in Faryab, 1 in Laghman and 1 in Jawzjan province.

According to Mayar, the new cases increase the total number of the COVID-19 positive cases to 993 since the outbreak of the disease in Afghanistan.


6 Taliban militants killed, 4 wounded in Warak operations: Thunder Corps

20 Apr 2020

The Afghan forces killed six Taliban militants during an operation in central Wardak province of Afghanistan, the Afghan military said.

According to a statement released by 203rd Thunder Corps, the Taliban militants launched an attack on security posts in Nerkh district of Wardak province on Saturday.

The statement further added that the security forces effectively responded to the attack, killing at least 6 militants and wounding 4 others.

Wardak is among the relatively volatile provinces in the center of Afghanistan where Taliban militants have active presence in some of its remote districts and often attempt to carry out terrorist related activities.


23 doctors, 19 health workers of Mitford Hospital Covid-19 positive

April 20, 2020

As many as 42 health workers, including 23 doctors of Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital have tested positive with Covid-19.

"Among them, 23 are doctors, 10 are nurses and nine are health staff," the hospital's Director Brig Gen KaziMd Rashid UnNabi, told The Daily Star.

The authorities believe the doctors, nurses and other health staff contracted the virus from a patient who hid information about his own coronavirus test result and the symptoms.

The hospital conducted tests on 69 health workers on Saturday after 22 tested positive last Thursday and Friday, the hospital's Director said.

All the health workers who were involved in the surgery of a patient last week tested positive for the virus, Rashid said adding that the patient hid information, leading to infection of the doctors.

The director said the infected medics were kept in isolation ward while their close contacts have been quarantined.

"The doctors don't have any symptoms at present but they tested positive. We don't know how many more have been infected. We are on the lookout," he said.



Ex-Downing Street adviser skewers Boris Johnson over missed coronavirus meetings

April 20, 2020

By Sam Bright

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been facing intense criticism after the Sunday Times revealed he skipped five crucial coronavirus planning meetings in January and February.

Not least, due to a series of personal engagements, Johnson failed to attend COBRA (the government’s emergency planning body) until 2nd March – when coronavirus had already taken hold in the UK.

Johnson officials tried to downplay the PM’s lack of attendance by saying it’s entirely normal for a Prime Minister to miss COBRA meetings. “Experts attend and the PM receives a report,” Johnson’s lackeys told BuzzFeed political editor Alex Wickham.

Tweeting yesterday, McBride pointed out the difference in Johnson’s attitude towards coronavirus and Brown’s response to the foot and mouth disease in 2007.

“There were no ‘experts’ telling him when to tune in. If that’s what we got from a PM for a disease that didn’t even threaten human life, was it too much to ask for Coronavirus?”

Downing Street also tried to defend Johnson’s inaction through a 3000-word response to the Times article (Classic Dom). One line of the response says: “The virus has hit countries across the world. It is ridiculous to suggest that coronavirus only reached the UK because the Health Secretary and not the PM chaired a COBR meeting.”

Yet, as law and policy commentator David Allen Green has pointed out, this is a self-defeating argument. By acknowledging that a deadly disease had spread across the world, the author strengthens the argument for why Johnson should have attended these meetings.


Coronavirus: Is it possible to extend the Brexit transition period?

April 20, 2020

The coronavirus has had an impact on the negotiations between the UK Government and the EU. This has led some to consider the desirability of an extension to the Brexit transition period. The Government has repeatedly stated that it does not intend to request any extension.

This Insight sets out the legal and procedural hurdles – both in the Withdrawal Agreement and in UK domestic law – to any extension of the UK’s post-Brexit transition period with the EU.

The UK is currently in a transition period, having left the EU at the end of January 2020 with a Withdrawal Agreement (WA). During this period, the UK continues to follow nearly all EU law (with a few exceptions) despite not being a Member State. This period is currently set to expire at the end of December 2020.

A one-off extension to the transition period is possible. Such an extension can be for no more than two years. It would need to be agreed by a decision of the UK-EU Joint Committee before 1 July 2020. The UK and EU would need to agree both the length of an extension and other terms, such as the UK’s financial contribution to the EU budget for the extended period.

The time available for the future relationship negotiations is already relatively short, but these pressures have been exacerbated by the global situation with the coronavirus. The UK Government has so far been opposed to any extension of the transition period. In January 2020 it legislated to ban Ministers from agreeing to any extension proposal. However, the Institute for Government and others have argued this issue ought and / or is likely, to be revisited.

Article 126 of the WA stated that there would be a transition period, starting when the UK leaves the EU and expiring on 31 December 2020.

Article 132 of the WA allows the EU-UK Joint Committee to “adopt a single decision extending the transition period,” for no more than two years. However, any such decision must be taken before 1 July 2020.

The Joint Committee (JC) is a body created by the Withdrawal Agreement. Article 166 of the WA requires decisions of the JC to be taken by “mutual consent” of the UK and EU. It first met – by teleconference rather than in person because of the Coronavirus outbreak – on Monday 30 March 2020. This is allowed by agreement of the co-chairs under Rule 4.2 of Annex VIII of the WA.

Section 15A of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 prohibits UK Ministers from agreeing to an extension of the transition period in the JC. This provision was added to that Act by section 33 of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

This means that, if the Government wanted to agree to an extension in the JC, it would first need to make sure that section 15A was repealed in domestic law. This would mean first having to pass a further Act of Parliament.

Section 15A does not prevent a UK Government Minister from discussing or proposing an extension of the transition period. It is only the formal decision to extend that is prohibited.

Decisions of the JC can be taken two different ways under Rule 9 of Annex VIII of the WA. Either they can be taken at a formal JC meeting, or they can be taken in-between meetings using “written procedure” if both parties agree.

Major policy decisions are normally taken by EU-related bodies in formal meetings, but sometimes written procedure is used where there is time pressure and/or it is not practical to meet. For example, the European Council’s decision of 28 October 2019 – to extend Article 50 by a further three months – was taken under written procedure. The previous two extensions had been decided upon at European Council summits.

Section 15C of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 prohibits UK Ministers from agreeing to use written procedure in the JC. The provision was added to the 2018 Act by section 35 of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. The UK Government’s Explanatory Notes from December 2019 said this provision would “ensure [] that decisions made by the Joint Committee are made by a Minister in person” and that this would “ensure there is full ministerial accountability, including to Parliament, for all decisions made in the Joint Committee”.

Although section 15C prevents written procedure from being used, it does not follow that JC decisions cannot legally be taken except “in person”. The JC has only met by teleconference since being set-up, because of Coronavirus. Nothing in the WA or in domestic law seems to prevent a Minister from agreeing to take a JC decision via teleconference.

The Government has planned a range of changes in domestic law for the end of the transition period. The current Brexit legislation provides that these changes will come into force on “IP [implementation period] completion day.” This term is defined in section 39 of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 as 31 December 2020 at 11pm Greenwich Mean Time.

This definition can be amended by regulations, but only for one narrow purpose. It can only be changed if the EU changes its laws about daylight saving time before the end of 2020. The change could then only be made to re-align the WA (which uses Central European Time) and the UK legislation (which uses Greenwich Mean Time).

Section 39 of the 2020 Act does not allow the Government to change IP completion day because of transition being extended. Therefore, Parliament would need to pass a further Act to facilitate those changes, if an extension were agreed.

To pass an Act of Parliament, each House (Commons and Lords) must sit to debate and approve a Bill at various stages. Acts can (and in recent years, frequently have been) passed by Parliament under greatly accelerated timetables. This included legislation about extending Article 50, about Northern Ireland, for an early general election, and in response to the coronavirus.

One additional challenge Parliament may face is debating and approving legislation during the current pandemic. As things stand, MPs will return from the Easter recess on Tuesday 21 April.

On Thursday 16 April the House of Commons announced plans for a “hybrid” chamber. Although the physical chamber would be limited to 50 or so socially-distanced MPs, a further 120 MPs would be able to participate “virtually” to question Ministers.

These arrangements would not (as things stand) allow MPs to vote remotely on a motion or on legislation. Only those physically present (or who have a proxy) could therefore register a vote.




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