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Islamic World News ( 7 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Boys and Girls 'Unlawfully Segregated' At Islamic School In Birmingham - Head Says It's What Parents Of Faith Want

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Jan 2020

Redstone Educational Academy (Image: Birmingham Live)


• Boys and Girls 'Unlawfully Segregated' At Islamic School In Birmingham - Head Says It's What Parents Of Faith Want

• U.S. Indian Groups Call for Sanctions on Home Minister of India Over New Anti-Muslim Citizenship Law, Human Rights Abuses

• Fatwa Bans Muslims from Taking One-Way 'Suicide' Trip to Mars

• Iraqi Forces Trying to Keep Pressure on Islamic State

• Group Supports Call For Appointment Of More Judges On Islamic Law

• Muslims Should Unite After Iran Commander's Killing: Malaysian PM

• High Convening Commission for Celebration of Kabul as Capital of Islamic Culture in 2024 Holds Meeting

• Pakistan Bar Council Opposes Move to Extend Army Chief Bajwa's Tenure

• Quietly Defiant, Kanpur’s Muslims Persist In The Face Of Police Brutality and State Apathy

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau





• British Islamic Charity Is Investigated After Praising Assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani as a Martyr

• Muslim population of England passes three million for first time

• Russian Muslims protest against US over assassination of General Soleimani

• Mosque vandalized amid wave of anti-Muslim violence in Czech Republic

• LGBT Muslim charity condemns spike in hate crimes after Birmingham school protests



North America

• Iran crisis: US denies it will remove troops from Iraq in fight against Islamic State

• NATO Declares Its Stance On Iran Tensions, Stands With The US

• Letter on US pullout from Iraq a 'mistake'

• Fox News’ Pete Hegseth: ‘I Don’t Care About Iranian Cultural Sites,’ They Would Destroy Ours And Build Mosques

• Despite What He Claims Now, Joe Biden Was Against the Bin Laden Raid

• World reacts to Trump’s threat to raid Iranian culture targets as ‘a war crime’

• Iranian-Americans Are Being Detained At The Border, Muslim Advocacy Group Alleges

• US denies Iran foreign minister Zarif a visa to attend UN

• Pentagon rejects Trump threat to hit Iranian cultural sites

• US praises Imran for efforts to defuse tensions with Iran



Arab World

• Adjaye Associates Is Building a Mosque, a Church, and a Synagogue in Abu Dhabi

• HBKU College of Islamic Studies hosts Madrasa winter school

• Yemen's Houthis say Soleimani's killing is 'clear attack on all Muslims'

• Arab, African coastal states vow to boost cooperation

• Young Saudis take the reins in Kingdom’s camel racing culture

• Deal signed to boost environmental research in Saudi Arabia




• Iran designates US forces 'terrorists' for killing general

• Body of Qassem Soleimani arrives in Iran’s Kerman for burial

• Palestinians face mounting barriers to peaceful protest

• Palestinian factions argue over role of Soleimani

• Surge in Lebanese crossing into Syria for supplies, New Year celebrations

• Soleimani strike threatens UK ‘lives and interests’

• Prince Charles to meet Palestinian president Abbas in Bethlehem




• Soleimani killing: NSCIA warns Muslim youth against protest

• Soleimani killing: Islamic Movement protests in Abuja, burns US flag

• Official vehicle of Kano Sharia police’s boss impounded, aides molested

• Russia receives new strategic bombers; Jihad in Libya; Americans killed in Kenya



Southeast Asia

• Foreign banks invited to open Islamic branches in the Philippines

• Muslim NGOs Send Protest Note to US Embassy over Assassination Of Iranian General

• China slams Trump threat on Iran cultural sites

• Local Shia leader hits out at Saudi diplomat over anti-Shia remarks



South Asia

• Dozens Arrested In Muslim Brotherhood Sweep in Tajikistan

• President Ghani Receives Reformation Package for MoFA

• Dr. Abullah Stresses on Time Counter Disaster Management

• Kabul’s Increasing Criminal Activities Not Acceptable: VP Danesh

• 33 Armed Oppositions Killed Across The Country: MoD

• Dozens Fleeing War Families Received Aids

• India Shares Governance Story with Afghanistan

• ‘Kabul is not safe’, a security advocacy campaign for crime combat in the Kabul streets

• UAE to issue 5-year ‘tourism’ visa to all country nationals including Afghanistan

• Afghanistan NDS targets Jihadi commander in a night raid: Sources




• Main Accused In Nankana Sahib Vandalism Held In Pakistan

• UN, Muslim countries must help avert US-Iran war: Sarwar

• Pakistan minister Fawad Chaudhry admits to have slapped TV host

• National Assembly approves services chiefs' tenure bills

• NA passes crucial bill to meet FATF requirement




• BJP MP Arvind Dharmapuri Calls Owaisi A Clown And Broker Of Muslim Votes

• BJP's CAA Outreach In Kerala Off To Unpleasant Start As 'Muslim' Issue Surfaces



Boys And Girls 'Unlawfully Segregated' At Islamic School In Birmingham - Head Says It's What Parents Of Faith Want

ByJane Haynes

6 JAN 2020

A Birmingham school is unlawfully segregating boys and girls - with boys given privileges and treated more favourably than girls, according to a critical Ofsted report.

Inspectors who visited the fee-paying Redstone Educational Academy last month found the Islamic-faith school teaches boys and girls in separate classes, despite being told over a year ago that doing so defied equality legislation.

The school, in Balsall Heath, was also openly favouring boys by giving them first choice of work experience options and by barring girls from some sports, claims the report.

Boys and girls take separate school trips, with the girls having to wear school uniform on those trips while the boys did not.

"University is not for females"

One group of pupils told inspectors a member of staff, who has since left, had told them: "University is not for females."

The report concluded: "Leaders are aware that segregating pupils by gender is unlawful and that they are in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

"They recently applied to open a separate girls’ school on the same premises but were unsuccessful."

The school's head Saadat Rasool disputed Ofsted's findings and defended the segregation practices, which he said were in line with the Muslim faith of parents.

He said the school has formally applied for permission to operate separate girls' and boys' schools on the site but its application was still under review by the Department for Education.

"We have operated for 12 years without issues, and we hope our application will be successful. But if it is not we will of course comply with the law.

"We provide equal and fair education for boys and girls."

He added: "We have gathered together a team to turn the school around so that it can reach its full potential and successfully serve its pupils and meet the expectations of the parents.

"We have already started work on an action plan to make huge improvements in the education we provide."

A nearby Muslim primary school also led by Mr Rasool, Greenfields Primary , in Small Heath, is set to ending segregation for upper year pupils from tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan 7)) after being criticised by Ofsted on the same grounds in 2018.

"We have no intention of breaking the law," added Mr Rasool.

"Boys enjoy school more than girls..."

In the damning opening to its report, Ofsted inspectors ruled: "Pupils say that they feel safe in school, but they are not. Procedures are disorganised. Leaders do not ensure pupils get the help they need.

"Boys and girls are unlawfully segregated by sex for all school activities, except for weekly assemblies.

"Boys enjoy school more than girls. This is because they are treated favourably and have more privileges. Boys have more opportunities to play sport. They get to choose the places to go to for work experience first. Some of the girls told us that they do not like this. They said that this was not fair and they feel disadvantaged."

The school is also accused of barring children from sitting GCSEs if they are not guaranteed high grades in a move designed to boost their academic profile, with Ofsted reporting:

"To make sure this happens, only those pupils who are likely to gain a strong pass can complete their GCSEs in subjects such as English literature, history and Arabic. Pupils told us that they were unhappy about this because it limits their options for college."

The criticism keeps coming, with the school blamed for "providing an inadequate quality of education."

The curriculum is narrow, lesson plans disorganised, and pupils are not challenged or helped sufficiently. From Year 9 there are no artistic opportunities in the school day, and all pupils study the same subjects to GCSE.

The report adds: "At the beginning of Year 11, pupils take tests in some subjects. If they do not pass the test, they are removed from the course. The removal of pupils from examination courses suggests that leaders are trying to make the GCSE examination results look better, without considering what is in pupils’ best interests."

School leaders could not identify if any of the pupils had special educational needs (SEND) and there are no SEND policies or plans in place.

The report continues: "There is a heavy emphasis on passing examinations. Teachers give pupils tips on how to score marks in their exams, for example by using specific words rather than checking that the pupils know what the words mean."

And while all pupils study Islamic studies, they learn little about other faiths, including about festivals celebrated by other religions common in the local area.

In its report, the inspectors also reported an exchange with a group of pupils: "A member of staff had told them that ‘university is not for females’. This member of staff has since left the school."

Careers advice is confused and children are not prepared for their futures, the report adds.

The school is also, damningly, found to be ineffective in safeguarding pupils.

"They are not keeping pupils safe and are not actively promoting their wellbeing. Leaders’ work is disorganised and sloppy."

Specific criticisms include:

* Some pupils are taught in a classroom on the second floor, and there is no means of escape in case of a fire. Leaders have been aware of this risk for some time but have not done anything about it.

* Some pupils with serious allergies do not have care plans or the medicine they need to keep them safe.

* Some pupils with serious medical issues do not have access to the medicine they would need in an emergency.

* Medical logs do not record the action taken following accidents, and the medical room is unlocked and unsupervised.

* Leaders do not make sure that there are appropriate risk assessments in place, or that the school’s policies are updated as regularly as they should be.

The school was previously inspected in May 2017, when it was judged inadequate but was praised for the quality of its teaching, with a follow up inspection in May 2018.

Redstone Academy's response in full:

"Firstly, let me say that it is truly unfortunate that Ofsted found the education that Redstone Academy has to offer to be inadequate. 

"Since the Ofsted visit, we have gathered together a team to turn the school around so that it can reach its full potential and successfully serve its pupils and meet the expectations of the parents.

"We have already started work on an action plan to make huge improvements in the education we have provide.

"Redstone Academy has applied for registration as two schools: Redstone Academy for Boys and Redstone Academy for Girls through the process of de-amalgamation which is reflected on our website.

"Application for the separate schools was made in September 2018.

"We were still waiting for formal approval of deamalgamation as we had met the necessary standards from Department for Education when Ofsted arrived for its inspection on 14th November 2019.

"So, since we had not yet received formal approval, Ofsted considered the Boys' School and the Girls’ School as one entity.

"For that reason, they stated that “the school unlawfully segregates boys and girls.”

"We believe the idea that boys are "given favourable treatment and more opportunities than girls” is just not accurate, as all the previous Ofsted reports have noted that provision for boys and girls has been equal and fair — and nothing contrary to that has ever been highlighted previously.

"We work very diligently to offer the best to both boys and girls at our school — and both are given equal opportunities to be successful in whatever they choose.

"I think it is hard for Ofsted inspectors to truly appreciate the efforts private faith schools in inner-cities expend in educating young people on a very limited budget and resources.

"It is also inaccurate to state we have been “unsuccessful” in our application to register a Girls’ School since we have not received any communication to that effect from the DfE.

"However, if it turns out that our application for a separate Girls’ School is formally refused, then we have absolutely no intention to “defy the law” in any way."

Who runs Redstone Academy and Greenfields Primary?

The academy is led by head teacher Saadat Rasool and its listed proprietors are Redstone Educational Services Ltd, whose directors are listed as Ozak Cicek and Shabeer Majid.

The academy is also linked with and has overlapping personnel connected to Greenfields Primary School, a Muslim day school for boys and girls, which is registered for 159 pupils aged five to 11.

The primary school opened as Salafi Independent School in September 2002 before changing its name in May 2017. Mr Rasool is currently acting head teacher at the school, whose proprietors are listed as Nigel Francis, Abdul Ahad Choudhury and Mr Rasool.

At its last inspection, in January 2018, Ofsted found that Greenfields pupils were taught in mixed-sex classes in Years 1 to 4 - but boys and girls were taught in separate classses for academic lessons in years 5 and 6.

About the author: Jane Haynes

Politics and People Editor Jane Haynes seeks to show how political decisions made in the council chamber or Parliament affect people and communities across Birmingham and the West Midlands.

Got a story you want me to investigate, or want to tell me how the proposals or decisions of politicians are affecting you? Let me know, in complete confidence, by emailing, send me a Tweet @janerockhouse or text me on 07471 025568 and I'll call you back.

Twitter: @janerockhouse



Read more by Jane Haynes HERE

In that report, Ofsted said the following:

"In 2017, the Court of Appeal affirmed that segregation by sex in direct sex discrimination, contrary to section 13 of the Equality Act 2010. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State for Education has been clear that schools which engage in unlawfully discriminatory sex segregation should be given time to make their practice lawful.

"...(Greenfields) breach of the Equality Act 2010 in respect of segregation has not been taken into account when determining the inspection judgements...but Ofsted intends to write to the Secretary of State and to suggest that he commissions a further inspection of the school in or after September 2018. From September 2018, Ofsted will take any ongoing breach of the Equality Act 2010 arising from sex segregation into account in relation to key inspection judgements made."

No further inspection has been carried out but Mr Rasool said the school was now fully integrated, with joint classes from tomorrow (Tuesday) following building work and reorganisation.

BirminghamLive has contacted the Department for Education for a comment.



U.S. Indian Groups Call for Sanctions on Home Minister of India Over New Anti-Muslim Citizenship Law, Human Rights Abuses

JANUARY 06, 2020

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/6/20) – A coalition of Indian-American and American civil society, civil and human rights organizations today held a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., calling for U.S. sanctions on Home Minister of India in response to that country adopting the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – a law that discriminates against India’s religious minorities and could categorize India’s 200 million Muslims and others as non-citizens.


Organizations participating in the news conference included:

International Society for Peace and Justice

Islamic Circle of North America Council for Social Justice

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Council on Minority Rights in India


Justice For All

Baltimore County Muslim Council

During the news conference, coalition members urged President Trump, the Department of State and members of Congress to reject the human rights violations and the discriminatory laws being passed in India and take the following actions:

Formally request the Indian government to revoke the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as it violates India’s international obligations to prevent deprivation of citizenship based on race, religion, color, descent, national or ethnic origin as found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other human rights treaties.

Sanction India's Home Minister Amit Shah and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) Yogi Adityanath, in light of their blatant violations of human rights, as per the recommendations of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. The commission previously stated should the CAA pass, the US government “should consider sanctions against the home minister and other principal leadership.”

Summon the Indian Ambassador and Foreign Minister of India to meet with President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo to address the human rights violations taking place in India and remind them of their nation’s international obligations.

Carry out a U.S. State Department inquiry and report into accounts of law enforcement-led violence against anti-CAA protesters and the more than 20 confirmed deaths of protesters. The U.S. should demand that India comply with the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

The coalition also called on India to:

Release all student protesters arrested for opposing CAA in UP, Delhi and other states. 

Release protesters who were not involved in any unlawful acts

Arrest and remove from duty and prosecute police officers guilty of human rights violations against anti-CAA protesters

Remove Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from office for his direct involvement in the police brutalities directed against the protesters.


On December 10, the government of India passed the CAA, which legalized the granting of citizenship based on religion and specifically excluded Muslims from obtaining citizenship. India also is planning to implement a pan-India citizen verification process known as the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The combination of CAA and NRC would give the Indian Government legal grounds to declare Indian Muslims as non-citizens.

Since enactment of CCA, more than 20 Indian Muslims have been killed by police firing into crowds of unarmed anti-CAA protestors.

In Uttar Pradesh, state police under the administration of Modi’s extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party have violently attacked students at the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University.

The Indian government has also banned protests and cut internet in parts of the nation’s capital Delhi and throughout the states of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.




Fatwa bans Muslims from taking one-way 'suicide' trip to Mars

By Laurel Kornfeld

Feb 22, 2014

A fatwa committee under the United Arab Emirates' General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) has issued a fatwa, an Islamic religious ruling, banning Muslims from taking part in a one-way trip to the Red Planet, according to the Khaleej Times.

The committee says a one-way trip to the Red Planet "poses real risk to life."

And that, “Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful."

But all great adventures carry with them some risk, do they not? That is the argument presented by Mars One, a company with the ambitious goal of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars, in a response to the GAIAE.

In order to convince the fatwa committee to relax its ruling on Muslims taking part in one-way trips to the Red Planet, Mars One notes that several cargo missions will arrive well before the first humans do. Robotic unmanned vehicles, not humans, will prepare the first human settlement on the Martian surface, preparing a breathable atmosphere for the astronauts among other tasks. According to Mars One, no humans will step foot on the Red Planet until a safe structure has been built for them to live in.

And, just in a case you were wondering, hundreds of Muslims were reportedly part of the initial 200,000 that applied to be part of Mars One's first human mission to the Red Planet.

What do you think of this ruling? Will the fatwa committee reverse its decision? Share your thoughts in the comments section.



Iraqi Forces Trying to Keep Pressure on Islamic State

By Jeff Seldin

January 06, 2020

Iraqi forces are pushing ahead with their crackdown on Islamic State's ongoing insurgency, despite the pause in assistance from the United States and coalition partners.

The Iraqi military's Security Media Cell published photos Monday of a raid in Salahuddin province claiming to have destroyed three IS hideouts while recovering explosives, bomb-making materials and key documents.

"The Iraqis are actively conducting D-ISIS operations," coalition spokesman Col. Myles Caggins confirmed to VOA, using an acronym for the terror group.

The Iraqi operation is one of the first since the U.S.-led coalition announced Sunday it was putting efforts to assist and train Iraqi forces in the fight against IS on hold in order to focus on protecting forces from attacks by Iranian-backed groups.

"This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations," the coalition said. "We have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review."

The pause, sparked by what U.S. officials describe as a monthslong, intensifying campaign by Iranian-backed militias to target U.S. personnel, and concerns about Iranian threats to retaliate for the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad, comes at a precarious time.

IS in Iraq 'alive and kicking'

For months, top U.S. counterterrorism officials have been warning the collapse of IS's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria has done little to deter the estimated 14,000 fighters who still roam free.

"The insurgency is alive and kicking in northwest Iraq for sure," Russell Travers, acting director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, warned in early November. "There are already no-go areas at night. We see ISIS flags, and we see small areas where Sharia is being implemented."

Top U.S. and coalition military officials have also raised concerns about the ability of Iraqi forces to operate without substantial help.

A recent inspector general report found the Iraq military was "unable to retain control of territory cleared of ISIS in Salah ad Din province, and has limited access to ISIS support zones in both Salah ad Din and Diyala provinces."

"CJTF-OIR said that most commands within the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) will not conduct operations to clear ISIS insurgents in mountainous and desert terrain without Coalition air cover, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and coordination," November's report said, adding it appeared little progress had been made in the previous nine months.

"Bottom line is Iraq loses the anti-ISIS fight without U.S. support," according to Jennifer Cafarella, research director at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW). "The question is merely how badly and how fast."

US officials: IS threat overstated

Still, some officials have pushed back, arguing that to some extent, the threat from a resurgent IS has been overstated.

In particular, they point to the terror group's unwillingness or inability to take advantage of the recent U.S. tensions with Iran.

"It's surprising that they haven't found a way," a senior U.S. defense official told VOA. "It says something about what the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] and the Iraqis have done."

Doalition officials also contend that Iraqi forces have not gotten the credit they deserve.

"Daesh has lost the capability to launch large-scale attacks in Iraq," British Maj. Gen. Gerald Strickland, the coalition's deputy commander, said in a statement Sunday, using an Arabic acronym for the terror group. "This speaks volumes to the dedication of the Iraq Security Forces and their desire to bring stability back to their country."

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said the pause in assistance to Iraqi forces does not mean U.S. forces will hesitate to respond to IS threats.

"When and where ISIS presents a threat to our troops, we will conduct operations with our partners to eliminate the threat," Caggins said.



Group supports call for appointment of more judges on Islamic law

By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo

07 January 2020

A group known as Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), has expressed support for the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Tanko, on his recent call for the appointment of additional Court of Appeal judges grounded on Islamic laws.

The group in a statement jointly signed by its National President, Professor F.A, Adeleke and the National Secretary, Island Alaska, stated that there was nothing wrong with increasing the number of justices of the Court of Appeal who are well-grounded in Islamic laws.

MULAN noted that since 1978, there has been a substantial increase in the number of the Court of Appeal divisions as well as justices without a commensurate increase in the number of justices that specialized in Islamic laws.

“This is unfair to Muslims as many appeals on Shari’ah matters are left unattended to in the various divisions of the Court of Appeal.

The group also reacted sharply to the position of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) over the statement made by CJN on the need to increase justices for Shari’ah courts.

“The fundamental rule of Shari’ah is that it does not apply to non-Muslims. In the various states where limited aspects of it are practiced, Christians and other non-Muslims are not subjected to its application.

“Muslims are not members of CAN and they are agitating for Shari’ah to govern their affairs. They have a constitutional right under Section 38 of the Nigerian Constitution to manifest the practice and observance of Islamic religion and its teaching unencumbered. What is CAN’s business in how they run their affairs?”

It said: “Without prejudice to the foregoing, MULAN finds nothing wrong with the statement ascribed to the CJN. The statement was made in good faith and called for justice to Nigerian Muslims, who still today, get the short end of the stick in the country.

“We find nothing unsavory in advocating for an increase in the number of Justices of the Court of Appeal who are well-grounded in Islamic Law given the fact that the number of Justices in that court was increased by an additional twenty.

“There is wisdom in asking that those who want to specialize in Islamic laws in the university should be taught in Arabic language in which the primary source of the law is written.

“This will enhance a proper grasp of the law on their part and make them better practitioners unlike the present situation where a tertiary language – English, is used with its attendant deficiency”, the group says.

It further appealed to CAN to “rise beyond pettiness and leave politicians to play their game of intrigues.

“The leadership of CAN should be more concerned with uniting the different segments of our country and deploy its huge resources in the pursuit of justice for all Nigerians.

“In this regard, there will be no need to denigrate any other Nigerian or public officer as was done to the person of the CJN by CAN and its proxies in this instance.

“We commend to CAN and to us all, Section 24(1) of the Nigerian Constitution which provides that it shall be the duty of every citizen to respect the dignity of other citizens and the rights and the legitimate interest of others and live in unity and harmony.”



Muslims should unite after Iran commander's killing: Malaysian PM

JANUARY 7, 2020

Joseph Sipalan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Muslim countries should unite to protect themselves against external threats, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday after describing the U.S. killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani as immoral.

The world’s oldest premier, who has in recent months stoked diplomatic tensions by speaking out on issues concerning the Muslim world, also said the U.S. drone attack on Soleimani was against international laws.

Soleimani’s killing in Baghdad last Friday has sparked fears of a broader conflict in the Middle East. Mahathir, 94, said it could also lead to an escalation in “what is called terrorism”.

“The time is right for Muslim countries to come together,” Mahathir told reporters.

“We are no longer safe now. If anybody insults or says something that somebody doesn’t like, it is all right for that person from another country to send a drone and perhaps have a shot at me.”

About 50 people including burqa-wearing women gathered outside the Iranian embassy in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to shout “Down, Down USA”.

Mahathir has tried to maintain good relations with Iran despite U.S. sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. An estimated 10,000 Iranians live in Malaysia.

Last month, Mahathir hosted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a conference of Muslim leaders in Malaysia where they discussed boosting business, trading in each other’s currencies and keeping up with non-Muslim countries.

Mahathir’s recent comments on the treatment of Muslims in India and his criticism of the Saudi Arabia-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation have soured Malaysia’s relations with both New Delhi and Riyadh.

“I speak the truth,” Mahathir said. “You do something that is not right, I think I have the right to speak out.”



High Convening Commission For Celebration of Kabul as Capital of Islamic Culture in 2024 Holds Meeting

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Kabul (BNA) Chaired by acting minister of information and culture Hasina Safi, the first meeting of High Commission on Preparation of Kabul as Capital of Islamic Culture (2024) was held yesterday.

In the meeting attended by a number of high-ranking government officials, deputy ministers, directors and authorized representatives of relevant ministries and institutions, acting minister of information and culture stressed on better preparation and holding the celebration program of Kabul as Capital of Islamic Culture 2024.

Safi said that for the first time, in a meeting of culture ministers of Islamic countries held from 13-29 Dec 2001 in Doha, capital city of Qatar, it was decided that historic cities of the Islamic countries were to be named as Capital of Islamic Culture by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).

Acting minister of information and culture considered that naming of the historic cities of the Islamic countries as the Capital of Islamic Culture was aimed to consolidate relations between Islamic countries, attraction of cooperation and exchange of experiences, saying that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was in core attention of the developed Islamic countries.

Afterwards, Presidential decree issued by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in connection with creation of a High Convening Commission of Kabul as the Capital of Islamic Culture was read out by advisor to President on cultural affairs Mohammaad Zarin Inzor.

“Based on decision of 9th meeting of culture ministers of Islamic countries held in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, in 2007, the beautiful city of Kabul was selected as Capital of Islamic Culture for 2024, therefore, for better preparation and introduction of Kabul, a high commission of Kabul, a high commission has been appointed under the leadership of acting minister of information and culture,” the decree said.

Meanwhile, a number of representatives of relevant ministries and institutions have been appointed as members of the respective commission.

In the meeting, deputy minister of art and culture for information and culture Prof. Mohammad Rasoul Bawary also briefed related to working plan of the ministry for preparation of celebration of Kabul as the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2024.



Pakistan bar council opposes move to extend Army chief Bajwa's tenure

Jan 7, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Hours after Pakistan national assembly standing committee on defence approved an amendment bill seeking to validate the three-year extension to Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Monday expressed concern over the manner in which extension in the tenure of services chiefs is being given through Parliament without addressing the basic issues regarding the necessity and desirability of the extension.

A statement issued by PBC vice-chairman Amjad Ali Shah noted that giving extensions to incumbents in any institution "creates the perception of indispensability and weakens institutions."

"Personality-specific legislative and policy measures go against the spirit of representative democracy. Transitions are important for institution building and creating viable institutions," the statement read, as cited by Dawn.

"Our history is replete with examples of the damage done by extending terms of powerful office-holders. In the third term of a democratic cycle, the mistakes of the past should not be repeated," it added.

The statement comes after the national assembly standing committee on defence approved the Army Act Amendment Bill on Monday.

Last month, Pakistan's apex court, in a detailed verdict, had issued direction to the government to remove all ambiguities and frame a law to pave the way for giving extension to Army chief.

Following which the cabinet had decided to introduce the Amendment Bill in the parliament after building a consensus with the opposition on the matter.

In its statement, the PBC said that it believes the doctrine of necessity used to justify and legitimise extraordinary measures should have no place in a democratic dispensation. It called on all democratic organisations in the country to endorse its stance in the greater national interest.



Quietly defiant, Kanpur’s Muslims persist in the face of police brutality and state apathy

07 January 2020

Aftab Alam, a 23-year-old mason, was a resident of Munshi Purwa, a Muslim-majority locality of Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh. On 20 December, sometime between 2 pm and 4 pm, the Kanpur Police shot Alam as he crossed a demonstration against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. Alam had just left the Badi Masjid, which is located inside the Eidgah Maidan—a historic park in the city which houses a mosque, a cemetery and expansive grounds. He had come to offer the Friday prayers and then intended to head to Babu Purwa, a locality between the maidan and his house. He was a college graduate, but after the death of his father five years ago, Alam had started working alongside his education to support a household of six. That day, after the namaz, he was on his way to collect the previous day’s wages from a construction site in Babu Purwa. The police bullet hit him in the chest, in the lane outside the maidan, and according to his family, he died later that evening.

Raees Khan, a 30-year-old papad seller, was a resident of Begum Purwa, another Muslim-majority locality, adjacent to Babu Purwa and bordering the maidan. That day, he, too, was at the Eidgah Maidan—he had taken up a job as a waiter for a wedding to be held in the maidan that evening. He was inside a tent set up for the wedding when he first heard a ruckus outside the maidan. That Friday, all the shops in the Muslim neighbourhoods in the area had been closed in protest against the CAA. Since the morning, police personnel had been deployed around the Eidgah as well as the exit of every locality in the neighbourhood. After the afternoon namaz, an informal gathering of sorts had coalesced in and around the maidan, in protest against the CAA. While there is no consensus on what transpired next, every local I spoke to said that the police opened fire on the gathering without any provocation. In the ensuing chaos, Khan ran for home, but was hit by a bullet in his stomach a short distance from the maidan. According to his family, Khan, the sole earner of a family of six, died the next evening.

Muhammad Saif, a 25-year-old labourer, was a resident of Babu Purwa. He worked in a tannery in Begum Purwa with his elder brother, Muhammad Jaki. Despite the visible police presence, it was a normal Friday for him. For the residents of these areas, heavy police deployment was not new. They were used to seeing the police watch over them at every festival. Saif had gone home from work to pick up lunch for Jaki, and stopped at the mosque on his way back, for the afternoon prayer. He left the mosque to head to the tannery and had barely crossed the road when the bullet hit him, Jaki told me. He died later that evening, according to Jaki. All the three men who were hit by bullets had been taken to the government-run Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital, popularly known as Hallet Hospital, by their respective friends or locals who happened to be around when the men were shot. Despite being almost seven kilometres away, the state-sponsored hospital was the only affordable facility in the vicinity.

Within the next hour or so, all three families had reached Hallet Hospital. All the families told me that the men had died long before the hospital administration officially informed them. Mohammad Saif, Alam’s brother, said that he was with his brother during his last moments. “The doctors had kept him on a bed in the intensive care unit but nobody was attending to him,” he said. “He was not being operated on either.” He told me that Alam had stopped responding on the evening of 20 December itself, and his body had gone absolutely cold. “He had also stopped breathing. I told the doctors that he was dead but they asked me to go outside and wait.” Instead, the doctors told him that Alam was being treated and that they were carrying out investigations. The family was informed about Alam’s death the next day.

Jaki told me that they found out about his brother’s death from the local newspapers the next day, even as the doctors were still telling them that his brother was being treated. Raees’ father, Shareef Khan, also said something similar. “Doctors ne kuch nahi kiya. Bas rui laga di aur tape laga diya tha lekin koi ilaj nahi kiya.”—Doctors did not do anything. They just put some cotton and tape and no other treatment. Raees’ brother, Sayeed Khan, told me that Raees had stopped responding on Saturday evening itself, but the doctors refused to tell the family till almost twenty four hours later.

None of the families were given any documentation regarding their relatives’ admission, discharge or even death certificates. Two weeks later, none of them have received any post-mortem reports or any help from the government in terms of compensation.  All the families believe that the hospital administration deliberately withheld the news of their relatives’ deaths on orders from the police. The medical superintendent of the hospital, CS Singh, denied the families’ allegations, and told me that “a standard protocol was followed.”

As per my reporting, on 20 December, the police shot at least 12 men in and around Eidgah Maidan. Apart from the three who died, eight others are undergoing treatment at the Hallet Hospital. The locals told me that one more man was dead, but his family took away the dead body from the spot to their native village for fear of the police. They did not want to identify the family. On 20 December, at least 16 people died in police action against anti-CAA protestors across Uttar Pradesh. The next day, OP Singh, the state police chief said that “not a single bullet was fired at protesters” and that the “protesters died in firing among themselves.” I did not find a shred of evidence to support this during my reporting either in Bijnor or Kanpur. According to their families, none of the deceased had carried any weapons, participated in any of the protests or had any criminal antecedents.

The families and the residents in Kanpur recounted the same pattern of persecution by the police and the state administration as has been reported by The Caravan from Bijnor, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar. The residents told me the police fired at the demonstrators without any provocation, stormed into people’s houses, assaulted the women, and arrested the men. They said the police were constantly hurling communal abuses such as “Jinnah ki auladon”—Jinnah’s offspring—and “Pakistani Katuon salon”— a derogatory term for Muslims, literally meaning “circumcised.” The police also picked up several teenagers from the area, brutally beat them up in the police stations, and released them on Saturday morning, according to the residents. Like everywhere else in the state, the Kanpur Police too were accompanied by non-uniformed men who assaulted the residents, fired at them and beat up the women of the area. Like in the other cities, Muslim shopkeepers told me that the police and the militiamen selectively vandalised and looted their shops in Begum Purwa.

Most of the residents of the area are Dalit Muslims, and primarily employed as weavers, butchers, daily wagers and in the several small-scale household industries in the localities. The site of the firing, the Eidgah Tiraha—intersection of three roads near the Eidgah Maidan—has small shops for leatherworks, puncture fixing, weaving, and the dyeing of cotton. As I walked around the neighbourhood on 28 December, I saw that even a week after the incident, every square was still being guarded by policemen in riot gear. The walls were plastered with posters which had passport-sized photographs of protestors. Almost every picture in these posters had men wearing skull caps or scarves around their shoulders, and sporting beards—the implication was that the protestors had gathered there with their Muslim identities on ample display. However, residents told me that many of the men whose pictures were up there did not even live in Kanpur, and had been working outside the city for years. According to them, the police were conducting an exercise in religious profiling, with the help of local informers.

Ever since the police firing on 20 December, there is a palpable sense of distrust and alienation towards the government and the police among the area’s Muslim residents. The elders feel persecuted by the government and abandoned by the political parties in the state; the youth are angry and disillusioned with the Bharatiya Janata Party, but there was no talk of violence or “revenge.” Kanpur’s Lok Sabha representative is from the BJP. The Kanpur Lok Sabha constituency is further divided into five assembly constituencies—Kanpur Cantonment, Sisamau, Arya Nagar, Govind Nagar and Kidwai Nagar. Babu Purwa and its surrounding areas come under the Kanpur Cantonment assembly constituency and it is currently represented by the Indian National Congress. The rest are equally divided between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party. Kanpur Cantonment constitutes 61 percent Hindus and 36 percent Muslims.

The distrust is so far reaching that none of the bereaved families have approached the local police stations to lodge complaints for the murder of their kin. The fact that the only police investigation into the incident will be conducted by a special investigation team comprised of the very officers who supervised the crackdown on the protest, has eroded whatever little credibility the system had in the eyes of the residents. The community has stopped looking to the government for any help and the neighbourhoods have been sharing food, fuel, money, medicine, water with whoever is in need.

Najma Bano, Aftab Alam’s mother, told me no government or police official had come to visit them or take their statements. She had no hope from the government and was too scared of the police to register a complaint against her son’s murder. She told me that Alam had studied at the Success School in Babu Purwa and completed his bachelor’s degree in arts from the Muslim Inter College in the city. He had been working as a labourer at a construction site next to the Success School. The school is near the Eidgah Maidan and on 20 December, Alam had thought if he was going to offer namaz, he could also collect his money on the way home and join the family for lunch. When she saw her son in the hospital that evening, he was soaked in blood. She asked him, “Beta, kisne maris hai tumko?”—Son, who shot you? Bano said that Alam told her, “Ammi, police wale marin hain. Ab unse hamari kaun si dushmani hai? Goli chala rahen hain.”—Mother, the policemen shot me. What enmity do they have with us that they are shooting us?? After Alam’s death, Bano said she was concerned for her younger son. She felt he would stay safe as long as her family kept their distance from the police.

The police’s actions have also left Raees’ father, Mohammad Shareef, shocked beyond disbelief. As I spoke to him, the 65-year-old Shareef would go catatonic while narrating his son’s last moments. “Police ne goli maar di… Hamara bacha papad bechta tha.”—The police shot him … Our child used to sell papads. Somebody would periodically grab his arms to bring him back to his senses. Shareef has severe asthma and Raees bore the expenses of his father’s medicine, as well as the rent of the tiny one-room hut they live in.

Raees’ younger brother, Sayeed, works as daily wager but said he did not get work every day and Raees was the one who took care of the family. Sayeed told me that Raees would pick papad from the market for up to Rs 700, sell it during the day and in the evening pay a part of his earnings to his creditor and the rest would be used for the family. On that day, and on other such occasions when marriages would be held at the maidan, Raees would take up a waiters job since it paid almost the same money as he earned by selling papad the whole day. When I asked Shareef if they would approach the administration, he said, “Police ne hi goli mari toh insaaf kissey mange? Hamare darwaze bhi koi nahi aaya ab tak.”—Police only shot him, so who do we ask for justice? No one has come to our door till now.

Muhammad Saif’s elder brother, Muhammad Jaki, also said that Saif told him at the hospital that the police had fired at him. Jaki has not recorded a statement with the police either, fearing that the police might arrest him or harass his family if he did so. Jaki told me he did not expect any help from the government because he believed the government itself was responsible for his brother’s death.

Not just the families of the deceased, every local I spoke to felt that the government was deliberately targeting Muslims, and the protest merely gave it an excuse to persecute them. I met half a dozen elders at a tea stall in Begum Purwa. Shakeel Abba, who runs a social organisation in Babu Purwa and is a popular figure in the community, was the only one willing to be identified. As they spoke, Abba brought up the chief minister, Ajay Singh Bisht’s statement where he said the state will take “revenge” from demonstrators by confiscating their properties. Abba said, “Kis cheez ka badla le rahen hain, bataiye?”—What are they taking revenge for, tell me? Abba continued, “BJP ki har haan mein haan toh mila raha hai Musalaman. Unohne kaha gosht khana chor do, humne kaha chalo nahi khayenge Bhainsa.”—Muslims are agreeing to everything that the BJP wants. They said, stop eating beef, so we said, alright, we will not eat beef. Abba took a pause and continued, “Musalmano ne kaha hum Supreme Court ka faisla manege. Unohone faisla galat diya, magar musalmano ne kuch nahi bola. Toh fir kis baat ka badla le rahen hain humse ab?”—Muslims said we will abide by the Supreme Court’s decision [on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi dispute]. They gave the wrong decision, but the Muslims did not say anything. So, what are they exacting revenge from us for now?

In another lane in the area, I met a group of five to six young men who showed me several videos taken that day which show police firing at the demonstrators directly. They had all witnessed the police action, and all said that there had been no firing from the protestors’ camp. I compared time stamps, visited the locations shown, the landmarks, the bullet marks on walls and storefronts; the videos were all authentic. One of the young men, on the condition of anonymity, told me he did not have any faith in the government and the police. “Aap dekhiye har din kuch na kuch aa jata hai. Us ghatna k baad bhi, Kanpur se video viral huye hain jisme mein dukaano aur logon ki gaadiyan tod rahen hain police. Humne dekha tha wo humpe direct goli chala de rahe the.”—You see, everyday some new information comes out. Ever after that incident, several videos from Kanpur have gone viral which show police breaking cars and shops. I saw, they were firing directly at us.

Mohammad Anees, one of the shopkeepers in the lane whose shop too had a bullet mark, told me that the government wanted to economically weaken the Muslims and he felt it was being done in an “organised manner”. He said, “Police wale galiyon mein ghus ghus kar, ladkon ki gaadiyan check kar rahen hain, unka chalan bana rahen hain. Aur toh aur zabt bhi kar rahen hain. Aur ye sirf Muslim muhallon mein ho raha hai.”—The police is coming inside alleys and checking the cars and bikes of the youth, they are levying fines. In fact they are even confiscating them. And this is happening only in Muslim localities.

Ansar Ahmad, the imam of Masjid Mahmoodiya at Ajitganj, a neighbourhood of Babu Purwa, told me that the police had no reason to use live weapons at a gathering that was less than a thousand in strength, and which had come primarily to offer namaz. He said that the gathering on 20 December had been fairly spontaneous, and none of the mosques had given a call for a protest. “Humne toh uske pichle Jumme ko call di thi, 13 tarikh ko, jo call Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind ka tha pure mulk mein. Usme humne memorandum diya tha aur wo shanti purn khatam ho gaya tha. Magar 20 ko toh aisi koi call bhi nahi they, log bus namaz padh k nikle they. Un par goliyan chalane ki jarurat nahi thi.”—We sent out a call on the Friday before that, on 13 December, the all-India call sent out by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind [an organisation of Islamic scholars]. There we gave a memorandum and it all got over peacefully. But there was no call for 20 December, people had just come out after offering namaz. There was no need to fire at them. Ahmad also said that the same day, bigger demonstrations had been held in other Muslim areas of Kanpur, like Yateem Khana, but nothing untoward happened there. He, too, reiterated the community’s loss of faith in the police and the government.

At Babu Purwa, I met a 17-year-old teenager who was picked up by the police from near the Badi Masjid on 20 December, brutally beaten up on the road and later again inside the police lock-up. The teenager was detained for a night at the Barra police station along with two of his friends, who were also minors. When I met him at his home, he was lying in bed and could sit only with support. His feet were swollen and he had bruises all over his back. His jaw had been dislocated and he could barely form words as he spoke in a low whisper. The teenager told me he had gone to the mosque to offer namaz and was doing his ablutions just outside the mosque, when the police walked towards him. He said he closed the door but the police asked him and his friends to run away from the mosque. As soon as he left the mosque though, he said, he was caught by the policemen and beaten up brutally. He told me, “bahut mara. Har jagah mara. Teen-char log the, sab ek sath mar rahe the. Main khada bhi nahi ho pa raha tha. Fir thane le gaye, wahan bhi mara, raat bhar hawalat mein band rakhe.”—[They] beat me a lot. They hit me everywhere. Three-four of them, they were beating me at the same time. I could not even stand. Then they took me to the police station and beat me there also, kept me in the lock up for the night.

The teenager told me the police personnel at the station made him chant, “Jai Shri Ram.” He told me, “Jai Shri Ram k naarey lagwaye. Bolen bolo toh humne bol diya tha. Kyunki jaise hamara Allah waise wo bhi hain bhagwan hain. Humne laga diya. Naarey lagwa rahe they, maarey ja rahe they.”—The made me chant Jai Shri Ram. They asked me to chant, so I did. The way we have Allah, he is also a god. So I chanted. They kept making me chant and they kept beating me. The teenager’s mother told me that when she went to the police station to look for her son, the police personnel abused her and said, “tumlog 50-50 bacche paida karti ho, patthar fekne ke liye. Aao tumhari garmi nikalte hain”—You people produce 50 children each to pelt stones. Come, we will satisfy your lust.  The teenager was released the next morning only after his mother proved that he was minor by showing his Aadhar card.

I met three other families at Begum Purwa whose sons—between the age group of 17 and 20—had been picked up from their homes. Abil Hussain, a labourer, told me that his son, Mohammad Adil, a 20-year-old, was arrested from their home. He said, “Yahin ghar pe tha, darwaza tod ke le gaye. Itna maara, itna maara, uske hath paiir sab bekar.”—He was here at home; they broke the door and took him away. They beat him so bad his hands and feet are gone. Hussain told me that after the beating, Adil had sustained a head injury too. Adil finished his intermediate exams last year and was still studying. Adil is still in jail as the police remanded him to judicial custody. But, Hussain had not been informed what had Adil been charged with.

Mohammad Mushtaq, a 19-year-old, was arrested in a similar manner, his uncle Mohammad Abaid told me. He said that his niece had gotten married the previous night and the family had been resting during the day when the police broke into the house and arrested Mushtaq. Abaid too did not know about the charges his nephew faced as the police had not given him any information or even a copy of the first information report. I met the brother of another teenager, a minor, who was detained from home but was later released. The teenager’s brother told me the cops had beaten him so brutally that he had to be admitted in a hospital for almost a week. According to Ahmad, the imam, a total of 39 people were detained on 20 December, of whom 35 were released the next morning and four have been arrested under various charges.

The locals said the police did not spare even the women during their rampage. The police personnel verbally and physically assaulted the women. The women, though, did not want to speak of their humiliation. They were also scared that the police may turn vindictive if they spoke out and would punish family members already in detention. They also reiterated that non-uniformed men who they had never seen in the area accompanied the police.

All the eyewitnesses and locals I spoke to told me that on 20 December, non-uniformed men who were wearing “blue jeans and jackets” had accompanied the police.  The residents said that none of these men were locals and had never been seen before in the neighbourhood. The accounts of such militia groups along with the police have been reported from almost all the districts where the police has cracked down on demonstrators and residents. For instance in Bijnor, the superintendent of police acknowledged that civilians had accompanied the police, but stated that their presence was not illegal and they were recruited legally under a policy called “Police Mitr”—Friends of Police.

The Kanpur administration is yet to officially admit to the presence of such mitrs with the police. Shakeel Abba explained that the police mitrs are all locals and the community recognises them even though they did not like them. But, on that day, “Woh sirf police mitr nahi the. Wo toh kshetriye hi hotey hain. Unko toh humlog pehchante hain. Unke alawa us din kai log they jo local nahi they. Wo kaun they hum nahi jantey, magar wo police mitr nahi the.”—They were not just police mitrs. The mitrs are always locals, we know them. There were many people that day apart from them, who were not locals. We don’t know who they were, but they were not our police mitrs. The locals believed apart from police mitr, the other militiamen were from Bajrang Dal and Hindu Yuva Vahini.

In Begum Purwa, I also met half a dozen shopkeepers whose properties the police vandalised on 20 December. None of them have lodged any complaint and many did not want to speak on record for fear of reprisals from the government. The threat of confiscation of their properties was omnipresent. I saw two sweet shops, an electric shop, a tea stall and a small restaurant among others that were vandalised by the police. Shakeel Ahmad, one of the sweet shop owners, told me that the police broke the glass of his counter “by pelting a big stone at it.” Ahmad said his shop was closed but the cops vandalised it after they started seizing the demonstrators from all corners and entering into the houses of the residents. The other shopkeepers also showed me their ransacked stores. The city’s senior superintendent of police Anant Deo has not responded to multiple attempts to meet or talk with him.

Later in the evening, I also visited Yateem Khana—located near the Parade Chauraha, it is one of the biggest Muslim residential areas of Kanpur. On 20 December, Yateem Khana had also been the site of a protest, one much bigger in scale than Eidgah Maidan, although there was no firing in the area. The residents told me the crowd was disciplined, carried the tricolour and did not raise any religious slogans. They also told me that the area of Yateem Khana is huge and the police do not bother them as long as the Muslims of the area stayed in their neighbourhood and did not cross what they said is the “border” of the colony marked by the shops of non-Muslims. They still could not understand why the police had targeted Babu Purwa. Moreover, on 21 December, the police did not spare Yateem Khana either. While no one was shot, the residents told me Yateem Khana looked like a war zone in terms of police deployment. They told me the cops broke their cars, bikes, doors and whatever they could from outside.

Mohsin Nawaz, one of the residents of Yateem Khana, told me, “The demonstration was not just against CAA. It was long due and I feel the community was finally able to express themselves.” Nawaz explained that Muslims remained quiet while under the BJP government Muslims were lynched in a systematic manner with involvement of several of its leaders. “Then they humiliated us with Love Jihad. Then the Babri verdict happened, then 370.” Nawaz told me the community was affected by this but was not able to speak out because they had a burden to convince the majority-Hindu community that their protest was not for any religion. “Humne apne jasbaat maar diye, magar aise mudde par nahi uthey jehan laga baat majhab ki ho jayegi”—We killed our sentiments, but did not stand [in protest] if we thought the issue would become communal, Nawaz said.

He continued, “Finally CAA hua. Aur ab hum keh saktey they ki ye ladai dharm ki nahin hai, samvidhan ki hai. Ab kisi ki nazar mein ye na ho ki hum dharm ke liye uth rahen hain”—Finally, CAA happened. Now, we could say that this is not a religious fight, but a fight for the Constitution. Now, no one can say that we are standing for our religion.





British Islamic charity is investigated after praising assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani as a martyr

7 January 2020


A British charity is being investigated after it praised assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani as a martyr.

The Islamic Centre of England, a charity with assets of more than £4 million, organised a vigil in London on Saturday to commemorate the warlord.

The event was attended by more than 2,000 people, including Iran’s ambassador to London, The Times reported.

Seyed Moosavi, 51, the charity’s director and the UK representative of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei praised Soleimani as a ‘dedicated soldier of Islam’ who had died at the hands of ‘the most wicked members of the human race’.

The Charity Commission said: ‘We are aware of a vigil... and publications on its website. We will be contacting the charity to seek further information.’

A large group of men, with some young boys, was seen gathering at the Islamic Centre in Maida Vale, London, on Saturday afternoon following the assassination.

The memorial service was held 25 minutes after a man was arrested outside the centre to prevent the breach of peace and for obstructing officers.

The Islamic Centre's director has reportedly referred to Soleimani as an 'honourable Islamic commander' in a message of condolence.   

As the service took place demonstrators took to the streets of New York, Washington DC and London to denounce the violence and call on Trump to de-escalate the conflict.

Outside Downing Street protesters chanted against the war while British-Iranians arrived holding placards that read 'Down with Khamenei' and others raised the pre-Islamic flag of Iran.

Palestinians also burned American flags in Gaza City, while an angry mob set fire to US flags in Pakistan, and around 150 pro-Iranian demonstrators held Iraqi militia flags and condemned the US as an aggressor.

However, the assassination was also met with celebrations by some groups in Iraq and in Canada, where people were pictured dancing in the street.

Three missiles from an MQ-9 Reaper drone hit the convoy Soleimani was travelling in outside Baghdad International Airport, killing the architect of the country's regional security strategy and five others.

Tehran has reacted angrily to the attack, saying the US's move is tantamount to a 'declaration of war' and promising a 'severe revenge'.



Muslim population of England passes three million for first time

The Muslim population of England has passed the three million mark for the first time, according to new figures by the Office for National Statistics.

The new figures suggest that in 2016 there were 3,138,000 Muslims in England and Wales, up by more than 400,000 from 2.7 million over the five years. This was an increase of roughly 16 per cent.

In England alone, the ONS estimates said, there were 3,092,000 Muslims in 2016.

As a share of the population of England, the assessment indicated that Muslims made up 5.6 per cent in 2016 against 4.7 per cent in 2011.

While the ONS said the new estimates could not be used to assess local populations, the 2011 census report said that Muslims tended to be concentrated in particular areas of England.

“In over half of local authorities the proportion of the population who were Muslim was under one per cent. In over three-quarters of areas it was under six per cent. The areas with the highest proportion of Muslims were in London with the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham having 34.5 per cent and 32.0 per cent respectively.

“There were several areas outside London with proportions higher than 20 per cent including Blackburn with Darwen in the North West (27.0 per cent ), Bradford in Yorkshire and the Humber, Luton in East of England, Slough in South East, and Birmingham in the West Midlands.”

According to the ONS assessment, Christians comprise the largest number of Britons but continue to decline in number. The 2011 census recorded 33.2 million people in England and Wales who had declared themselves as Christian, but according to the new estimates this had fallen to 32,731,000 by 2016.

Among other faith groups, the share of Hindus in the population has climbed slightly to 1.7%, while the proportion of Sikhs has fallen by a similar small amount to 0.7%.

The scale of the Jewish and Buddhist shares of the population have remained stable (0.5%), the report said.

Meanwhile, the share of people who say they have no religion at all or who will not discuss their faith has risen to almost a third of the English population.



Russian Muslims protest against US over assassination of General Soleimani

Jan 6, 2020

Moscow, Jan 6, IRNA- A group of Russian Muslims in a symbolic move in their cars as they cross the front of the US Embassy in Moscow protest US terrorist act to assassinate Martyr General Qasem Soleimani and display their outrage at White House officials.

The protesters mounted pictures of General Soleimani on their cars, according to an IRNA correspondent in Moscow on Monday.

Others had posted pictures of Trump in protest on their cars.

After arriving outside the US Embassy, the protesters repeatedly horn in their cars.

Lieutenant General Soleimani and the acting commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) - known as the Hashd al-Shaabi - Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, who were separately leaving Baghdad airport in two cars were targeted and assassinated. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei commented on the martyrdom of the great commander of the IRGC's Quds Forces and said harsh and severe revenge is awaiting the criminals.

Iraqi media said the US helicopters targeted both cars.



Mosque vandalized amid wave of anti-Muslim violence in Czech Republic


By Mariam Nabbout

The past few months have seen Muslim communities across Europe face an unprecedented rise in hate crimes committed against them and their places of worship.

The latest wave of violence was reported in the Czech Republic over the weekend after a mosque was vandalized in the city of Brno. Local police said the place of worship - which is reportedly the first to ever open in the country - had graffiti threatening to kill Muslims inscribed on it.

"Don't spread Islam in the Czech Republic! Otherwise we'll kill you," reads the phrase sprayed across the mosque's walls.

Authorities said they've been investigating the vile incident since Friday but not under hate crime charges. Interrogations being conducted fall within "damage to property" regulations for the time being, police spokesman Bohumil Malasek told AFP. A person convicted under such a charge can face up to a year in prison.

The head of the Czech Muslim Communities Centre, Muneeb Hassan Alrawi, strongly condemned the latest hate crime.

The Muslim community in Czechia is tiny compared to neighboring countries. The same goes for refugees and migrants who don't usually pick it out as a place to settle. This is probably because the nation is considered as one of the most hostile towards Muslims and refugees/asylum seekers who adhere to the Islamic faith.

In 2011, statistics tallied the number of Muslims residing in the EU member as 3,358. However, unofficial estimates report that between 10,000 to 20,000 Muslims are Czech Republic residents, according to France 24.

Muslims in the country have long been subjected to hate crimes as local politicians keep pushing forth the bigoted, racist, and flat-out false rhetoric equating people of the faith with terrorism.

Built in 1998, the mosque has been open for over 20 years and is a symbol of community for the country's Muslims. But unfortunately, disrespecting what the place of worship means for Muslims has become the norm over the years.

In 2013, a piece of pork was hung on the mosque's front door and pig bones were scattered outside its entrance by a vandal who ignorantly thought that because Islam prohibits the consumption of pork products, Muslims must be scared of them. Just two years after the aforementioned incident, another thug smashed the windows of the mosque. This attack was followed by the spaying of the building's entrance wall with engine oil three months later. 

As if all the hateful crimes weren't enough, a local far-right party known as the Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) has staged several protests outside the mosque in recent years. During the riots, they attacked the mosque's property and verbally abused worshippers.

In one of the DSSS events held outside the house of worship, its members hosted a lingerie fashion show in a bid to display "western values to muslims." This so-called protest saw attendees eat pork products as they burned pages of the holy Quran.



LGBT Muslim charity condemns spike in hate crimes after Birmingham school protests


JANUARY 6, 2020

A leading Muslim LGBT+  charity has spoken out against the rising level of hate crimes in the city after the protests against LGBT-inclusive education outside schools last year.

The LGBT+ education row centred on two Birmingham primary schools and was led mainly by Muslim parents. The disruptive protests began in March 2019 and continued for months until they were finally banned by a High Court order.

Figures released by police show a significant spike in LGBT+ hate crimes during the time of the protests, with a total of 453 homophobic hate incidents reported from February to July – nearly double the rate of the previous six months.

There was also a rise in attacks on Birmingham’s Muslim community around the same time, although on a smaller scale (22 complaints in March compared to the monthly average of 10).

Speaking to BirminghamLive, the LGBT+ Muslim support charity Imaan LGBTQ urged for greater understanding between the two communities.

“We are well aware of the intersection that we as LGBT Muslims are in and do our best to support those who are LGBT and of faith,” a spokesperson named Faizan said.

“We walked the Pride parade in Birmingham this year and we have contacts on the ground who have been keeping us informed on everything going on with No Outsiders.

More from PinkNews

“These spikes in hate crimes show what happens when there is a lack of understanding and LGBT Muslims have been forced into the middle. It is ridiculous that this is what happens.”

He continued: “We stand firmly against all LGBT and Islamophobic hate crimes. People need to realise that when they are being Islamophobic, they are still impacting us.

“We are as Muslim as we are LGBT. We have a unique perspective when it comes to this as we are the only ones who can say we are directly impacted by both.”

A year-long probe by the Commission for Countering Extremism found evidence that the school protests were stoked by Hizb ut-Tahir and other pro-Islamist organisations in order to foster division.

A High Court judge ruled that the protestors “grossly misinterpreted” the true nature of the educational programme, which teaches tolerance of diverse groups and families through age-appropriate picture books.

LGBT-inclusive education will be compulsory in all UK schools from September 2020.



North America


Iran crisis: US denies it will remove troops from Iraq in fight against Islamic State

By Jane Clinton

Monday, 6th January 2020

The US has denied it is pulling out the US-led task force fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper issued the denial after reports of an official letter in which the US had announced it was withdrawing its task force.

In the letter the US said that the repositioning of forces would take place “under cover of darkness” and would happen over the “coming days and weeks.”

It added that the move would “prepare for onward movement” and said: “We respect your [Iraq’’s] sovereign decision to order our departure.”

However, Mr Esper said: “There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq. I don’t know what that letter is... We’re trying to find out where that’s coming from, what that is. But there’s been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period.”

Growing crisis

The letter appeared to have been sent by Brig Gen William H Seely, head of the US military's task force in Iraq, to Abdul Amir, the deputy director of Combined Joint Operations.

Meanwhile former Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, writing for The Telegraph asked “just how committed is [Mr Trump] to the Western alliance.

He added that during his time in post he “sensed growing contempt in the United States for the way European countries conduct themselves”.

President Trump’s killing of Iran’s top general, he said, had opened the “biggest ever cracks” in the Western alliance and “exposed deep rifts” between Britain and America’s approach to Iran.

His comments come as his successor Dominic Raab prepares to fly to Washington for talks on the growing crisis.

Allies move away from US assassination

On Monday allies of the US distanced themselves from Trump’s decision to assassinate Qassem Suleimani. Both Israel and Nato stressed they were not involved in the airstrike.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told a meeting of his security cabinet on Monday: “The assassination of Suleimani isn’t an Israeli event but an American event. We were not involved and should not be dragged into it.”

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, spoke to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to say say that the region’s “cauldron of tensions is leading more and more countries to take unpredictable decisions with unpredictable consequences and a profound risk of miscalculation”.

Leaders of Britain’s Armed Forces meet on Tuesday to discuss emergency plans for keeping British soldiers in Iraq even as the US withdraws its 5,000-strong force there.



NATO declares its stance on Iran tensions, stands with the US

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2020

The National Atlantic Treaty Organizations (NATO) declared its stance supporting the United States following the assassination of Qassim Soleimani, a top Iranian military Major-General.

Jens Stoltenberg, General Secretary for NATO announced on Monday that all members of the organization stand behind the United States after they were briefed about the US drone strike on Baghdad’s airport.

Speaking after a rare NATO meeting on Iran and Iraq in which the United States briefed its allies about last Friday’s drone attack, Stoltenberg also called for a de-escalation of tensions, echoing the statements of some European leaders, Aljazeera reported.

Despite anger last year among European NATO allies over US strategy in the Middle East under President Donald Trump, two diplomats present confirmed that the two-hour meeting at NATO headquarters went smoothly.

They said that no envoy challenged the US State Department and Department of Defense officials, who briefed via video conference, over the merits of Friday’s drone raid.

There was also no discussion or criticism of Trump’s list of targets, which include cultural sites, if Iran were to retaliate with attacks on Americans or US assets, the diplomats said.

The meeting, which took place on a day of a huge outpouring of national grief for Soleimani in Iran, centered mainly on NATO’s decision to suspend its training mission in Iraq, after an Iraqi parliamentary resolution called on foreign troops to leave.

While there was concern that the killing of Iran’s second-most powerful man could trigger a conflagration in the Middle East, France, Germany, and others said they wanted the Iraq mission to continue.

“It would send the wrong signal if we withdraw,” one NATO diplomat said.

The NATO Iraq mission, made up of several hundred trainers, advisers and support staff from both countries of the 29-member alliance and non-NATO partner countries, includes military and civilian personnel.

Established in Baghdad in October 2018 after three years of war against ISIL (ISIS) fighters, the mission is a non-combat “train-and-advise” mission to help Iraqi security structures and institutions fend off future insurgencies. Its personnel do not deploy with Iraqi forces during operations.

“It’s still not clear what will happen with NATO’s mission in Iraq,” said Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Brussels.

“NATO forces … suspended training operations for security reasons on Saturday. Iraqi lawmakers have requested foreign troops to leave the country.”



Letter on US pullout from Iraq a 'mistake'

Jan 7, 2020

BAGHDAD: The US military on Monday told the Iraqi government American troops were preparing to pull out of the country but a top US general in Washington said the message was sent by "mistake".

It came after a deadly American drone strike on Baghdad on Friday that killed senior Iranian and Iraqi military commanders, sparking fury in both countries with Tehran vowing "revenge".

The head of the US military's Task Force Iraq, Brigadier General William Seely, informed his Iraqi counterparts in a letter dated Sunday that troops were preparing to leave.

"We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure," said the letter, whose authenticity was confirmed to AFP by both Iraqi and US defence officials.

Seely said the US-led coalition would "be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks".

"In order to conduct this task, Coalition Forces are required to take certain measures to ensure that the movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner," said the letter.

It said helicopters would be travelling in and around Baghdad's Green Zone where the US embassy is located as part of the preparations. AFP could hear helicopters flying low over Baghdad throughout the night on Monday.

But Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said on Monday the letter was a mere "draft" and "should not have been sent".

"This was a mistake," Milley told reporters. "It was a mistake, an honest mistake, a draft unsigned letter, because we are moving forces around," he said.

"It shouldn't have been sent," Milley said.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the letter was "inconsistent" with Washington's position, denying there has been a decision to leave Iraq.

The latest developments came as a sea of black-clad mourners paid homage Monday in Tehran to Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force killed Friday in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

Following his death along with Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Iraqi lawmakers on Sunday urged the government to oust all foreign troops from Iraqi soil.

Some 5,200 US soldiers are stationed across Iraqi bases to support local troops preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

They make up the bulk of a broader coalition, invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help combat the jihadists.

On Monday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei fought back tears as mourners flooded the streets around Tehran University to honour Soleimani.

The targeted killing of the 62-year-old Soleimani ordered by US President Donald Trump saw Iran vow "severe revenge" and step back even further from the already tattered 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

In an escalating war of words that has heightened international concern and rattled financial markets, Trump threatened yet more "major retaliation" if Tehran hits back, including strikes on Iranian cultural sites.

Writing in all-caps on Monday, Trump tweeted: "IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!"

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Iran must avoid "further violence and provocations" after the alliance held emergency talks in Brussels on the crisis.

"At our meeting today, allies called for restraint and de-escalation. A new conflict would be in no-one's interest," he said.

The European Union, whose foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the crisis Friday, said it was in both Iran and Iraq's interests to "take the path of sobriety and not the path of escalation".

Saudi Arabia -- an oil-rich US ally seen as vulnerable to Iranian counter strikes -- also appealed for calm after a "very dangerous" escalation.

The EU's diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said he "deeply regrets" Iran's latest step back from the nuclear deal.

The agreement had offered Tehran relief from sanctions in return for curbs to prevent it acquiring nuclear weapons -- but Trump's withdrawal from it in 2018 dramatically weakened the agreement.

Despite its latest step, Iran insisted it will continue to fully cooperate with the UN agency overseeing its atomic programme.

The raw emotions sparked by the killing of Soleimani were on full display in Tehran, where mourners formed a sea of black, dotted with red Shiite flags and white signs, in what state television said was a "several million-strong" turnout.

"The last time I remember such a crowd was at Ayatollah Khomeini's funeral 30 years ago," said Iranian journalist Maziar Khosravi.

As they marched down a main artery of Tehran, the mourners chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel".

Soleimani was one of Iran's most popular public figures, seen as a hero of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

He will be laid to rest in his hometown Kerman on Tuesday next to a war veteran he used to fight alongside with.

Khamenei was flanked by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other top political and military figures as well as the slain general's replacement as Quds commander, Esmail Qaani.

rump on Saturday issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic.

Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655 Never threaten the Iranian nation," Rouhani tweeted, referring to 290 lives lost in July 1988 when a US warship shot down an Iran Air plane in the Gulf.

Trump said his figure of 52 targets represented the number of Americans held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran for more than a year starting in late 1979.



Fox News’ Pete Hegseth: ‘I Don’t Care About Iranian Cultural Sites,’ They Would Destroy Ours And Build Mosques

January 06, 2020

Fox News host Pete Hegseth said on air Monday that he doesn’t care about Iran’s cultural sites, saying that country would destroy all of America’s cultural sites if they had the chance.

“I don’t care about Iranian cultural sites, and I’ll tell you why,” Hegseth said. “If they could, if Iran could, if you understand the Islamic Republic of Iran, of Islamist…if they could, if they had the power, they would, they would destroy every single one of our cultural sites and build a mosque on top of it.”

“If you don’t understand the nature of our enemy, you’re foolish about who you’re pointing out and whether or not you are happy that Soleimani is dead,” he continued. “This guy exported terrorism for that regime for 40 years, and the fact Democrats in this country can’t take a pause to say, ‘This is a good thing, now let’s figure out how to prevent an Iranian bomb,’ they just go straight to politics, and it’s shameful.”

After ordering the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, President Donald Trump threatened to strike up to 52 targets in Iran if they attack any Americans or “American assets” on Twitter Saturday. (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Trump Predicted Obama Would Attack Iran To Get Reelected)



Despite What He Claims Now, Joe Biden Was Against the Bin Laden Raid

Jan 06, 2020

Katie Pavlic

When news broke Iranian terrorist leader Qassem Suleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, 2020 Democrat hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden immediately jumped to condemn President Trump's decision to take him off the battlefield.

"President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond," Biden released in a statement.

But Biden's record on terrorism is an abysmal one. He was complicit in President Obama allowing ISIS to march across the Middle East, committing genocide along the way. He also urged Obama not to go forward with the raid on Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

He's also changed his tune on the issue, seemingly because President Trump is the one who made the call.



World reacts to Trump’s threat to raid Iranian culture targets as ‘a war crime’

January 6, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Donald Trump’s new threat to attack 52 important targets in Iran, including cultural sites, has provoked a strong backlash worldwide, with many calling it a “war crime.”

On Saturday, the US president said on Twitter that his military would strike “very important” targets related to Iran if the Iranians attempted to take retaliatory action against the US for the assassination of a senior military commander in the Iraqi capital Baghdad early on Friday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in reaction to the threat, said such a move would be filed as a war crime and another breach of international law.

“Having committed grave breaches of international law in Friday's cowardly assassinations, @realdonaldtrump threatens to commit again new breaches of JUS COGENS,” Zarif wrote in a tweet on Sunday.

“Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME; whether kicking or screaming, end of US malign presence in West Asia has begun,” Zarif added.

Trump’s rhetoric came in response to an Iranian threat to strike 35 US targets in the region in retaliation for the American drone strike that assassinated Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Press TV reported.

“Let this serves as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have.........targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD,” Trump said. “The USA wants no more threats!”

This is while the Geneva Convention Protocol 1 bans “any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples.”

Many social media users were quick to say that deliberately attacking cultural sites would be a war crime.

Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel at the US Department of Defense also emphasized that targeting “the clearly-recognized historic monuments, works of art or places of worship” was a war crime.

Colin Kahl, former deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and national security adviser to ex-vice president Joe Biden said that “the Pentagon would not provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites.”

John G Hertzler, an actor, and an author reacted by saying that the American people “are not” behind Trump in response to a Twitterer, who said he backed the president.

Eugene Gu, a politically active user on social media, said, “the President of the United States should never threaten on Twitter or anywhere else to target another country’s non-military cultural sites.”

Oscar-winning American actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman also lashed out at Trump for threatening to target Iranian cultural sites, stressing that Trump was not his president.

“Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME and makes you no better than the terror you claim to be fighting,” Freeman wrote in a tweet.

“Donald Trump is a TERRORIST Donald Trump is a CHILD ABUSER Donald Trump is a RACIST Donald Trump is a SCAM ARTIST Donald Trump is a SEXIST Donald Trump is a COWARD Donald Trump is a LIAR Donald Trump is a CROOK Donald Trump is a CRIMINAL Donald Trump is NOT MY PRESIDENT,” Freeman wrote in another tweet, Mehr reported.

“The *imminent threat* was to Trump’s presidency. So he started a war,” the Oscar-winning American actor added.

Meanwhile, clusters of protesters pour out onto the streets in Washington and other US cities on Saturday to condemn the airstrike in Iraq ordered by Trump that killed General Soleimani and Trump’s decision to send about 3,000 more troops to the Middle East.

“No justice, no peace. The US out of the Middle East,” hundreds of demonstrators chanted outside the White House before marching to the Trump International Hotel a few blocks away, Reuters reported.

Similar protests were held in New York, Chicago, and other cities. Organizers at Code Pink, a women-led anti-war group, said protests were scheduled on Saturday in numerous US cities and towns. Protesters in Washington held signs that read “No war or sanctions on Iran!” and “US troops out of Iraq!”

Public opinion polls show Americans, in general, have been opposed to US military interventions overseas, Reuters reported. A survey last year by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found 27% of Americans believe military interventions make the United States safer, and nearly half said they make the country less safe.

Iran embraces hundreds of historical sites such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 22 being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, the country aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.



Iranian-Americans Are Being Detained At The Border, Muslim Advocacy Group Alleges

By Cristina Cabrera

January 6, 2020

The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) alleged on Sunday that Customs and Border Protection officials have been detaining Iranians and Iranian-Americans amid President Donald Trump’s push for war against Iran.

CAIR-WA said in a press release that it was assisting more than 60 people of Iranian descent, including American citizens, who had been detained and questioned “at length” near the U.S.-Canada border in Blaine, Washington.

According to the advocacy group, CBP officials confiscated the detainees’ passports and asked them about their political beliefs. A 24-year-old U.S. citizen named Crystal, whose last name was withheld by CAIR-WA, said that she and her family were held for more than 10 hours.

“We kept asking why we were being detained and asked questions that had nothing to do with our reason for traveling and was told ‘I’m sorry this is just the wrong time for you guys,'” she said.

An unnamed source at CBP told CAIR-WA that the agency had been ordered nationwide by the Department of Homeland Security to detain those of Iranian descent who were suspected of being “adversarial.”

“These reports are extremely troubling and potentially constitute illegal detentions of United States citizens,” said CAIR-WA executive director Masih Fouladi. “We are working to verify reports of a broad nationwide directive to detain Iranian-Americans at ports of entry so that we can provide community members with accurate travel guidance.”

CBP spokesperson Michael Friel denied the allegations.

“Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false,” Friel told TPM in an emailed statement. “Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false.”

Hoda Katebi, an Iranian-American activist who had issued the press release with CAIR-WA, tweeted that CBP was “literally lying [through] their teeth.”

“CBP on some shit,” she wrote. “I personally spoke to Iranian Americans detained at the Peace Arch border for 11hrs in a room with 40+ other Iranian families being interrogated specifically about their Iranian heritage.”

A CBP spokesperson said the agency is operating with “an enhanced posture” at the ports of entry “based on the current threat environment.” The spokesperson did not elaborate on the specifics of the “threat environment.”

“Processing times are the result of the current circumstances, including staffing levels, volume of traffic, and threat posture,” the spokesperson said. “At the Blaine [point of entry], wait times increased to an average of two hours on Saturday evening, although some travelers experienced wait times of up to four hours due to increased volume and reduced staff during the holiday season.”

The allegations emerged amid the fallout from President Donald Trump order to assassinate the Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani last week, which the Trump administration claimed to be a protective measure against unexplained “imminent” danger from Iran.

Trump has since ramped up his violent rhetoric toward the Middle Eastern country, saying the U.S. will “fully strike back” at Iran “perhaps in a more disproportionate manner” if it attacks an American entity.



US denies Iran foreign minister Zarif a visa to attend UN

Jan 7, 2020

WASHINGTON: The United States has denied a visa to Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that would have allowed him to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York on Thursday, a US official said.

Monday's comments by the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, came as tensions escalate between the two countries after the United States killed Iran's most prominent military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad on Friday.

Under the 1947 UN "headquarters agreement," the United States is generally required to allow access to the United Nations for foreign diplomats. But Washington says it can deny visas for "security, terrorism and foreign policy" reasons.

The US State Department declined immediate comment. Iran's mission to the United Nations said: "We have seen the media reports, but we have not received any official communication from either the US or the UN regarding Foreign Minister Zarif's visa."

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to comment on the US denial of a visa for Zarif.

Zarif wanted to attend a meeting of the Security Council on Thursday on the topic of upholding the UN Charter. The meeting and Zarif's travel had been planned before the latest flare-up in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

The Security Council meeting would have given Zarif a global spotlight to publicly criticize the United States for killing Soleimani.

Iran's UN envoy, Majid Takht Ravanchi, has described the killing of Soleimani as "an obvious example of State terrorism and, as a criminal act, constitutes a gross violation of the fundamental principles of international law, including, in particular ... the Charter of the United Nations."

Zarif last traveled to New York in September for the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations - after the United States sanctioned him for implementing "the reckless agenda of Iran's Supreme Leader."

The sanctions block any property or interests Zarif has in the United States, but he said he had none.

Zarif also attended UN meetings in April and July. During his July visit, Washington imposed tight travel restrictions on Zarif and diplomats at Iran's mission to the United Nations, confining them to a small section of New York City.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier on Monday. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement the pair discussed events in the Middle East and that Pompeo "expressed his appreciation" for Guterres' diplomatic efforts.



Pentagon rejects Trump threat to hit Iranian cultural sites

January 07, 2020

The Pentagon on Monday distanced itself from US President Donald Trump's assertions that he would bomb Iranian cultural sites despite international prohibitions on such attacks.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the US will follow the laws of armed conflict. When asked if that ruled out targeting cultural sites, Esper said pointedly, "That's the laws of armed conflict".

The split between the president and his Pentagon chief came amid heightened tensions with Tehran following a US drone strike that killed Gen Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force.

Trump had twice warned that he would hit Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates against the US.

Esper's public comments reflected the private concerns of other defence and military officials, who cited legal prohibitions on attacks on civilian, cultural and religious sites, except under certain, threatening circumstances.

Trump first raised the prospect of targeting cultural sites in a tweet on Saturday and reiterated that view to reporters the next day.

"We have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level and important to Iran and Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD,” he tweeted.

His Twitter message caught administration officials off guard and prompted an immediate outcry from legal scholars, national security experts and Democratic lawmakers. But the president stood by his threat the following day.

"They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people," he told reporters traveling with him on Air Force One. "And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way."

By international law, however, it does.

Specifically, the 1954 Hague Convention says nations must take all possible steps to protect cultural property and shall refrain from any act of hostility, directed against such property.

It also says nations must not use cultural sites for any threatening purposes that would make such locations a military target.

The Pentagon has long had a list of potential targets both inside Iran as well as those associated with Iran throughout the Middle East. Those targets and war plans are routinely updated, including during the recent uptick in hostilities.

Officials wont discuss the list, but it is certain to include an array of Iranian military sites and capabilities, including missile, air defence and command and control locations.

Any targets would go through a lengthy vetting process within the military and the Pentagon to determine that they are legal, appropriate and proportionate to any Iranian action. Only after that process is complete would a list of potential sites go before the president for approval.

Outside the Pentagon, Trump's threats were met with condemnation.

"It shows that he is somewhat deranged about this,” said US Senator Tim Kaine. "The pledge to attack cultural sites, likely, is a violation of international law."

Kaine said that all Trump is doing is escalating tensions, adding that "he seems to believe, 'I can strike you, but you can't strike me.' That's not the way the world works."

He added that Trump needs to confer with Congress.

The threats also drew reaction from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

"The targeting of sites of global cultural heritage is abhorrent to the collective values of our society," museum leaders said in a statement.

“At this challenging time, we must remind ourselves of the global importance of protecting cultural sites the objects and places by which individuals, communities, and nations connect to their history and heritage."

Ahead of Esper's comments, other administration officials made similar efforts to distance themselves from Trump without directly contradicting him.

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that any US military strikes inside Iran would be legal.

"We'll behave inside the system," Pompeo said. "We always have and we always will."



US praises Imran for efforts to defuse tensions with Iran

Anwar Iqbal

January 07, 2020

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan was one of the world leaders who had engaged in an “off-ramp” diplomacy to defuse recent tensions between Iran and the United States, an official of the US State Department said on Monday.

“The off-ramp has been there for three years. The Iranians keep projecting it. And it’s not just us,” said the official during a briefing earlier this week on the current Iran-US conflict.

“French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Khan in Pakistan and Sultan of Oman — all these countries from all parts of the world have reached out to the regime” in Iran, the official added.

After the assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday, Pakistan urged both the United States and Iran to avoid further escalation.

On Sunday, Pakistan reaffirmed its resolve not to become a part of any conflict in the region and renewed its offer for mediating in the Middle East crisis.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had visited the Iranian capital in October as part of an initiative to defuse tensions in the Gulf and mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He also visited Saudi Arabia for further talks on the matter.

In Washington, the State Department official claimed that world leaders had “failed to get the supreme leader (of Iran) to make better decisions”, forcing Washington to take actions like bringing economic sanctions and assassinating Gen Soleimani.

Instead of focusing on diplomacy to resolve his disputes with the United States, the Iranian leader was busy “managing economic collapse and a political crisis, and the death of his Qods Force leader”, the US official alleged.

Iran has rejected such claims as incorrect, pointing out that it was President Donald Trump who walked out of a peace treaty negotiated by the previous US administration.

Iranian leaders say that they had participated in all international efforts to find a negotiated settlement, but the Trump administration has always been more interested in sanctions and military actions than talks.

Iran announced on Sunday it would no longer abide by the limits placed on its nuclear programme under a deal it signed with the United States and other world powers in 2015. Besides the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain signed this treaty.

President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in May 2018 and justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed. The agreement offered Tehran relief from stinging sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear weapons programme.

“Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired,” observed The New York Times while commenting on Tehran’s announcement and Washington’s decision to eliminate Gen Soleimani.

But Germany, France and Britain have urged Tehran to drop measures that go against the agreement.

“We call on Iran to withdraw all measures that are not in line with the nuclear agreement,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a joint statement.

The European leaders reminded the US and Iran that “it is crucial now to de-escalate” and urged “all players involved to show utmost restraint and responsibility”.

They also warned against jeopardising the gains made against the militant Islamic State group, alluding to the adoption of a resolution by Iraq’s parliament calling upon Washington to withdraw its troops from the country at the earliest.



Arab World


Adjaye Associates Is Building a Mosque, a Church, and a Synagogue in Abu Dhabi

Hakim Bishara

January 6, 2020

Amid rising sectarian tensions and religious animosities in the region, Abu Dhabi has unveiled plans for an expansive interfaith complex that bundles together a mosque, a church, and a synagogue. The complex is designed by Adjaye Associates, which was established by renowned architect Sir David Adjaye OBE.

The Abrahamic Family House, as the project was named, will be located on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates’ capital city, not far from the new Louvre Abu Dhabi. Saadiyat Island has been the site of numerous labor disputes that raise questions about the role of Western architectural firms that benefit from the autocratic government of UAE and their kafala system, which is a exploitative system used to monitor migrant laborers.

According to the biblical account, Abraham is the father of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism; Christianity; and Islam.

The decision to build the complex was set in motion by a meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar (the top-ranking religious official in Sunni Islam), Ahmed el-Tayeb, during the pontiff’s historic visit to the Abu Dhabi in February of 2019. The two religious leaders signed a “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” which urged politicians and decision-makers “to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace,” and “to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing.”

According to the Emirates news agency WAM, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, responded to the historic meeting with an order to construct a complex would promote interfaith dialogue.

In September of 2019, leading international architecture firms competed to design the complex at an event at the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan. The winner was the British firm Adjaye Associates, led by world-renowned architect David Adjaye. According to the plans, the center will include a museum and an education center in addition to the three temples, which will be connected by a garden.

“There has never been a building that has the three faiths in one form,” Adjaye told the Emirates-based publication the National.

Adjaye, who also designed the National Museum of African American History in DC and the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, said that the design “is very contemporary but it is rooted in the histories of all three faiths.”

In Adjaye’s design, the mosque will be orientated toward Mecca, the church’s altar will point east towards the sun, and the synagogue’s podium and Torah will face Jerusalem.

The three temples share a similar silhouette (to symbolize unity) but vary in their facades and interiors (colonnades for the church; screens for the synagogue; and vaults for the mosque).

“We were led towards these powerful plutonic forms with a clear geometry,” Adjaye told designboom. “Three cubes sitting on a plinth — though not aligned, they each have different orientations.”

The garden fulfils an important symbolic function in Adjaye’s design. “I saw the garden as a powerful metaphor, this safe space where community, connection and civility combine — this space exists between the three chambers, the three faiths,” he said.

Construction for compound has already begun and it is expected to be completed in 2022.



HBKU College of Islamic Studies hosts Madrasa winter school

January 07 2020

The College of Islamic Studies (CIS), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), hosted a Winter Intensive School as part of the Madrasa Discourses Project in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, US. The Winter Intensive School, open to Madrasa graduates from India and Pakistan, took place from December 25-30.

The Madrasa Discourses Project aims to equip future religious leaders with the tools to confidently debate and contribute to Islamic thought within the contemporary global context. The collaborative has a direct impact on how Islam is taught in the Indian subcontinent.

A total of 44 students took part in the school, which is one of two yearly meetings of the group. Throughout the rest of the year, students also attend intensive training through videoconferencing.

The full programme extends over a three-year period and provides students an opportunity to engage in guided readings and open debate on contemporary societal and global issues.

This year’s theme was ‘An Encounter of Western and Muslim Humanities: Science, Hermeneutics, Tolerance’.

Over the five-day workshop, faculty members for the programme, Dr Ebrahim Moosa, University of Notre Dame, US; Dr SherAli Tareen, Franklin and Marshall College, US; Dr Waris Mazhari, Jamia Hamdard, India; Dr Ammar Khan Nasir, Al Shairia Academy, Pakistan; and Dr Josh Lupo, University of Notre Dame and guest lecturers Dr Sohaira Siddiqui, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar; Dr Rana Dajani, Hashemite University, Jordan; and Dr Idrees Azad, International Islamic University, Pakistan presented and discussed topics such as the history of science, tolerance, epistemology, evolution, and more. Participants had the chance to engage in discussions following lectures, posing critical questions about the past and future of Islam in South Asia.

In addition, students had the opportunity to visit the National Library of Qatar, the Slavery Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art.

On the impact of the programme, Dr Moosa said, “We have witnessed a vast transformation in the two previous cohorts of Madrasa Discourses. This means that after two years, the participants ask deeper and more complex questions. Many find the return to tradition both exhilarating and challenging since it also involves engaging with contemporary knowledge in Muslim religious thought. This is part of some of the most gratifying work I am doing in my career. On the ground in both India and Pakistan, participants are confidently posing new questions to solve difficult matters such as blasphemy, along with other issues.”



Yemen's Houthis say Soleimani's killing is 'clear attack on all Muslims'

January 07, 2020

Yemen's Houthis on Monday protested the killings of a top Iranian general and a senior commander of Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi forces by a U.S. drone strike, according to local media.

A crowd of people gathered in the capital Sanaa to protest the killing of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Forces, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, vice president of the Hashd al-Shaabi group, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Protestors hung photos of Soleimani while chanting anti-U.S. slogans, according to the Beirut-based Yemeni Al Masirah TV channel, aligned with Houthi rebels in the country.

The Iranian-backed Houthi movement described in a statement the killings of Soleimani and al-Muhandis as "a clear attack on all Muslims".

It also said that revenge for both leaders would be taken from the U.S.

Soleimani and Muhandis were killed in a U.S. drone airstrike outside Baghdad airport on Friday.

Soleimani's death marked a dramatic escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have often been at a fever pitch since President Donald Trump chose in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw Washington from a 2015 nuclear pact world powers struck with Tehran.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who gave Soleimani the country's highest honor last year, vowed "severe retaliation" in response to his killing.

Soleimani was the long-time commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, which is designated a terror group by the U.S. The group is estimated to have 20,000 members.

Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014 when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse the Houthis of being a proxy to Iran.

Since then, tens of thousands of Yemenis, including numerous civilians, are believed to have been killed and injured in the conflict, while another 14 million are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.

* Writing by Gozde Bayar



Arab, African coastal states vow to boost cooperation

January 07, 2020

RIYADH: The foreign ministers of Arab and African coastal states on Monday signed a charter for the establishment of the Council of Arab and African countries bordering the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The meeting, chaired by Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan, was held at the InterContinental Hotel in Riyadh.

Prince Faisal congratulated King Salman and leaders of member countries on the occasion of signing the charter.

At the inaugural speech, the foreign minister affirmed the importance of the meeting and the charter to establish the council.

Prince Faisal said: “The importance of our meeting today comes at this sensitive stage in which we need to accelerate the pace of our countries’ cooperation and enhance our capabilities so that we can face any risks or challenges facing our region and work to protect the security of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.”

He also stressed the Kingdom’s keenness to coordinate and cooperate with the council’s member states in order to face these challenges and risks.

Prince Faisal added: “Our meeting reflects an aspect of the commitment and interest shown by our leaders who are making every effort to achieve integration and close cooperation between our countries in all fields, to ensure sustainable development for our countries and prosperity of our peoples, and to enhance our security as well as our region’s safety and stability.”



Young Saudis take the reins in Kingdom’s camel racing culture


January 07, 2020

JEDDAH: Abdul Shakour Qader started horseback riding at a young age, spurred on by his father. But camel racing was never something he considered as a pastime, let alone a profession, despite the sport being a part of Saudi Arabia’s culture and identity. 

“In Jeddah, not many get into camel racing, mostly because it’s thought to be hereditary to certain families and tribes,” the 23-year-old told Arab News.

“It’s uncommon to invest or get into camel racing where I’m from, but my friend pushed me toward it when he saw how passionate I was about horses.”

He shared his childhood hobby as a teen with friends through a stable at the Equestrian Club, establishing an inner circle of equestrians-in-the-making.

He later moved to the US to study industrial engineering, meeting two Emirati students who introduced him to the world of camel racing. And, while he listened to their discussions as they watched races, he grew ever more intrigued about the traditional sport.

Qader and his friend invested in a camel called Tawari, and he felt his enthusiasm blossom after she notched up multiple victories. He was unashamedly proud by her third win. “She’s mine and she’s scoring consecutive wins — it was indescribable,” he beamed. But his road to success has not been easy and he has learned about the trade through trial and error.

“I was extremely nervous to get into camel racing because I had zero experience. It isn’t something my family was into or something I was surrounded by, but it’s been such an exciting journey.”

Qader said his most memorable wins have also been the major ones where his camel, Tashreef, secured first place. “The first one was in the UAE, the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Race, where we won the first lap and scored the best timing, and that was only four months after I’d gotten into it.”

His second major race was the Sheikh Sultan Al-Qasimi Camel Race, Sharjah. He and his team won a cup and car. The victory motivated him to keep going and set up a stable, Camels United.

“These races are very attractive in the camel racing community because of the enticing rewards and how significant they are.”

Smaller races take place during the summer months, but Qader rests his camels for three months in preparation for bigger and more exciting races.

Saudi Arabia in recent years has witnessed huge changes in entertainment, tourism and sports.

But such development has yet to reach camel racing, something the Kingdom and the region as a whole is known for. In 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman set up a championship with rewards and incentives to invigorate the sport.

“Races like Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed are completely different and strenuous. Preparations for them begin three to four months in advance because they require a set diet and more intense training,” Qader said.

He has made friends from different regions, friends he would not have made without camel racing, adding that the sport had taught him a lot about life including how to be patient, how to plan ahead and how to be a good team leader.

He said he wanted to preserve the sport and encourage others to take part in it because it was essential to the Kingdom’s culture and heritage, as well establish a camel reserve for certain breeds.

“My dream is to participate in the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival. Winning that would be a double honor — winning the cup and then being able to greet King Salman in person.”



Deal signed to boost environmental research in Saudi Arabia

January 07, 2020

RIYADH: The minister of environment, water and agriculture, and the minister of industry and mineral resources, signed a scientific and technical cooperation agreement between the former’s ministry and the Saudi Geological Survey.

The agreement comes within the framework of cooperation to serve common interests and goals in fields related to environmental, water and agricultural research, as well as the preservation and protection of natural resources.

Working groups will be formed to carry out follow-up tasks to implement joint projects, studies and research, involving detailed technical studies related to protecting natural resources, and mitigating damage from environmental or humanitarian disasters.

The agreement seeks the mutual exchange of consultations and experience, and implementation of training programs and specialized workshops in the field of water to raise the scientific level of technicians on both sides.

It also seeks to exchange studies on rehabilitating the desert environment, and on changes occurring to vegetation cover and its relationship to climate change and rain.





Iran designates US forces 'terrorists' for killing general

Jan 7, 2020

TEHRAN: Iran's parliament passed a bill on Tuesday designating all US forces "terrorists" over the killing of a top Iranian military commander in a US strike last week.

Qasem Soleimani, the popular head of the Revolutionary Guards' foreign operations arm, was killed in a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on Friday, ratcheting up tensions between the arch-foes.



Body of Qassem Soleimani arrives in Iran’s Kerman for burial

January 07, 2020

DUBAI: The body of the senior Iranian military commander killed in a US drone strike in Iraq last week has arrived in the southeastern city of Kerman, the official IRNA news agency said on Tuesday.State TV broadcast live images of thousands of people in the streets of Kerman, many dressed in black, to mourn the death of Qassem Soleimani, the slain commander.

The massive number of mourners appeared to match the huge turnout seen in the cities of Tehran, Qom, Mashhad and Ahvaz.



Palestinians face mounting barriers to peaceful protest

January 07, 2020

RAMALLAH: Abdullah Abu Rahma has been arrested by Israeli soldiers eight times in the last 15 years, spending weeks or months in prison and paying tens of thousands of dollars in fines for organizing protests.

He’s among a growing number of Palestinians who have embraced non-violent means of protesting Israel’s military rule and expanding settlements, and who are increasingly finding those avenues of dissent blocked.

More than 50 years after occupying the West Bank, Israel is still systematically denying Palestinians civil rights, including the right to gather, Human Rights Watch said in a report released last month.

Israel has also stepped up its campaign against the Palestinian-led international boycott movement, and the US and other countries have adopted legislation to suppress it.

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, said Israel has “all but declared Palestinian opposition to the systematic discrimination they face illegitimate.”

Shakir himself was deported from Israel in November over his alleged support for the boycott movement.

If it succeeds in banning forms of peaceful advocacy, he says, Israel will have “effectively left Palestinians no choice but submission to a regime of systematic repression, or violence.”

For decades, the Palestinians were branded terrorists because of their armed struggle against Israel. At the height of the Second Intifada, the violent uprising in the early 2000s, and for years afterward, observers wondered why there was no “Palestinian Gandhi.”

One candidate for such a title might be Abu Rahma, who for several years organized weekly protests in the  West Bank village of Bilin.

Abu Rahma said he never threw stones and told others not to do so, partly out of concern they would hurt other protesters.

That didn’t keep him from being arrested.

Over the years he was charged with entering a closed military zone — referring to land outside the village — and hindering the work of soldiers, who were overseeing the construction of the fence.

“I don’t go to them, they come to us,” he said.

In 2009 he was charged with stockpiling weapons after he collected spent tear gas canisters fired by Israeli soldiers and put them on display. He later served a 16-month prison term after a military court convicted him of incitement and participation in illegal protests.

“There have been various, multiple charges of this kind, but not once have they accused me of striking a soldier or throwing a stone,” he said. In 2009, he was acquitted on the weapons possession charge and a charge of throwing stones.

Issa Amro, another prominent activist who has organized protests against Israeli settlements in the West Bank city of Hebron, faces 16 charges, including calling for disobedience and disrupting Israeli life — the lives of settlers.

He says he has been detained on 10 occasions this year alone, usually after being beaten by settlers.

“The soldiers never did anything to stop the attackers, but they arrested me every time a settler said I attacked him,” he said. As a Palestinian, he is governed by Israeli military law, while the Jewish settlers in Hebron enjoy full rights as Israeli citizens.

“Israeli authorities ban any political expression in the Palestinian territories,” Amro said.

“They want us basically to accept the occupation, the discrimination, the land grab, the restrictions, and not to speak up against it.”

Human Rights Watch said Israel relies on sweeping military orders, many of which date back to the 1967 Mideast war, when it seized the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, territories the Palestinians want for their future state.

Civilians can be jailed for up to 10 years for attending political gatherings of more than 10 people or for displaying flags or political symbols without army approval, Human Rights Watch said. Military orders ban 411 organizations, including every major political movement, it added.

“After 52 years, Israel’s sweeping restrictions of the basic rights of Palestinians can no longer be justified by the exigencies of military occupation,” Shakir said.

“Palestinians are entitled at minimum to the same rights Israel provides its own citizens.”

In response to questions about the Human Rights Watch report and the restrictions on protests, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the Palestinian leadership of seeking to “attack Israel in the international arena” rather than trying to end the conflict through negotiations.

Peace talks broke down after Netanyahu was elected in 2009. In September, he vowed to annex large parts of the West Bank, a move that would almost certainly extinguish any remaining hope of creating a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, have also cracked down on dissent in recent years. The PA has detained hundreds of people, including Amro, who was jailed for a week in 2017 over a Facebook post. Hamas violently dispersed protests last March, arresting dozens of people.

In addition to protesting, many Palestinians have also rallied behind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, a nonviolent campaign that claims to be modeled on the struggle against South African Apartheid.

The campaign has sparked a major backlash by Israeli authorities, who say its true aim is to delegitimize the state and eventually wipe it off the map.

BDS endorses the Palestinian claim of a right of return for the descendants of refugees who fled or were driven out of Israel in the 1948 war that attended its creation. If fully realized, that would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Critics have also seized on statements from prominent BDS supporters to brand it as anti-Semitic, something organizers vehemently deny.

A 2017 law bars entry to foreigners who have called for economic boycotts of Israel or its settlements. Israel invoked the law when it deported Shakir and when it refused entry to US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib earlier this year.

In May, German lawmakers passed a resolution that denounced the boycott movement and described its methods as anti-Semitic. The US House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing the boycott movement in July.

At least 25 US states have enacted laws aimed at suppressing the BDS movement, including Texas, which passed a law forcing state contractors to sign a pledge that they do not support the campaign. A federal judge blocked enforcement of the law in April, saying boycotts are a form of protected free speech.

Gerald Steinberg, who heads a pro-Israel group called NGO Monitor that campaigns against BDS, said its “demonization paints Israelis as blood-thirsty war criminals, land-thieves and child killers.”

“These accusations contribute to or are used to justify attacks against students and speakers on university campuses, harassment in other venues and in some cases, violent terror,” he said.

Abu Rahma and other activists reject such characterizations, saying their struggle is not against Israelis but against the occupation.

“I see how the occupation is an obstacle to everything,” he said. “The path that I am on, I have to continue. I have to struggle. It’s not easy.”



Palestinian factions argue over role of Soleimani


January 07, 2020

GAZA CITY: Palestinian factions backed by Iran sparked controversy yesterday as they not only issued statements of condolence for the death of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad last week, but even opened a funeral tent for him in the Gaza Strip.Soleimani, according to Palestinian sources, had direct contact with Palestinian factions in Gaza and provided them with Iranian aid and expertise, which has raised questions about the impact his death will have on Palestinian forces.

But his role in the deaths of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq made him a controversial figure for several inside Palestinian organizations, even those that accepted Iranian assistance.

Hossam Al-Dajni, a professor of political science at the Ummah University affiliated with Hamas in Gaza, said that statements made by Hamas and other forces in Gaza regarding expressing dismay at Soleimani’s demise were unacceptable to some members, and that internal debates about Soleimani had intensified following his death.

“There is a peculiarity to the Palestinian situation, given the presence of the Israeli occupation, and the need for the resistance forces to support and develop their capabilities in facing the occupation,” Al-Dajani told Arab News.

Hamas’ opposition to the Iranian-backed Houthi militia group in Yemen, as well as its position on the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, often put it at odds with authorities in Tehran. That said, the Iranian regime still viewed groups in Gaza as important proxies to oppose their mutual enemy, Israel.

Al-Dajani said that Soleimani’s personal relations with the leaders of Palestinian resistance groups had been positive, but that Iranian support was a state policy, not an individual position, and that even with his death, it was likely to continue.

Hassan Abdou, a political analyst close to the group Islamic Jihad, agreed that Iranian support for Palestinian factions was an official strategy, saying: “Soleimani was implementing state policy, and he had great experiences and strong relations with the resistance forces. Soleimani’s successor, through the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, would maintain operational supply lines for the resistance forces in Gaza.”

Under Soleimani, Iranian support for the Palestinian factions expanded to include left-wing forces as well as Islamic forces, Abdou said. “Soleimani was an international leader who was not ruled by a doctrine or religion in his confrontation of American imperialism or the Israeli occupation,” he added.

Islamic Jihad is known to be the most stable Palestinian faction in its historical relationship with Iran, a relationship not affected by the developments in the region in the past few years.

Abdou believes the group relies on what he described as “constructive ambiguity” regarding its position on actual engagement with Iran in the event of a broad military confrontation with the US.

Regarding the controversy over the opening of a funeral tent for the Iranian general in Gaza, Abdou said those who rejected it were “extremists” with a “sectarian stance,” who hated Soleimani for his role in the defeat of Daesh and other extremists in Iraq and Syria.

Military analyst Wasif Erekat claimed the killing of Soleimani would have “a direct impact” on Palestinian forces, but one that would not last long.

He told Arab News that the assassination was: “A great loss for the Palestinian factions because of his experience, capabilities and personal characteristics.

“Iran’s support for Palestine and the resistance factions aims to legitimize its own regional presence. The resistance factions in Gaza are not for Iran, but (served as) functional groups in Iran’s major regional strategy.

“What we are seeing now (the internal disagreement) exceeds all of this, and its price may be high in terms of people’s solidarity and standing with us.”



Surge in Lebanese crossing into Syria for supplies, new year celebrations


January 07, 2020

BEIRUT: Officials in Syria on Monday reported a surge in the number of Lebanese citizens crossing into the war-torn country for supplies, and new year celebrations.

Of the 26,500 people who passed through border controls on Dec. 30 and 31, at least 11,000 of them were Lebanese, Al-Watan newspaper quoted a Syrian source as saying.

Since the start of the conflict in Syria, Lebanese visitor numbers to the country have dropped significantly, with the majority of those entering being Syrian workers, merchants, foreign relief workers and diplomats.

However, a customs official at the Al-Masnaa border post with Syria told Arab News: “The movement of Lebanese entering Syrian territories on Dec. 30 and 31 was very active … Talking about 11,000 Lebanese is very reasonable and perhaps the number is greater than that.

“We have not seen such a movement (of Lebanese citizens) since the beginning of the war in Syria. (The movement was) mostly confined to the Syrians.”

Cheaper prices for food and domestic products coupled with lower health care costs have been cited as the main reasons for the sudden influx of Lebanese into Syria.

Due to the economic crisis in Lebanon, hard-pressed citizens have been returning to Syrian markets to stock up on home supplies.

Khaled Al-Husseini, who owns a communications store in Chtoura near to Al-Masnaa crossing, said that $100 was equivalent to 85,000 Syrian pounds, which could buy a month’s supply of food items such as sugar, rice, pasta, grains and other consumables, including cleaning materials, in Syria.

Meat was also cheaper in Syria than Lebanon, he added, with the price of a kilogram of lamb in Syria being 19,000 Lebanese pounds ($12.58) compared to 30,000 Lebanese pounds in Lebanon. This was “after its price increased due to the liquidity crisis and the high dollar exchange rate in Lebanon,” said Al-Husseini.

He noted that there were many reasons for Lebanese crossing the border into Syria.

“It may be for a visit to a religious place and to buy home supplies, clothes and shoes at the same time because these things are cheaper in Syria than Lebanon, especially sports shoes. Some visitors go to Syria for medical care because the costs there are cheaper than Lebanon.”

A money changer at an exchange located on a road leading to the border at Al-Masnaa, said business was brisk.

“There are some Lebanese people who enter the free market at the Lebanese-Syrian border point to buy cigarettes and tobacco because it is cheaper than Lebanon, and they pay in hard (foreign) currency.

“And there are those who take dollars with them to Syria, and most of them are families of members of Hezbollah who get paid in dollars.”

One resident of a town near the Syrian border, said: “There were people, especially the younger generation, who spent New Year’s Eve in Syria, and they told me that the evening was very enjoyable and cheaper than in Lebanon.”

It takes less than one-and-a-half hours to drive between the capital cities of Beirut and Damascus with travel times even less from central Bekaa to Damascus where many Lebanese saw in 2020.

The customs official pointed out that restrictions applied to Lebanese citizens on the quantity of food and other items they could take out of Syria. This was limited to an estimate of personal needs and larger quantities meant for trade were not allowed.

A treaty signed between Lebanon and Syria allows Lebanese to reside in Syria for up to six months, while Syrians can stay in Lebanon for 15 days provided that they have hotel reservations. However, Syrians with a Lebanese sponsor have the right to stop in Lebanon for one year.

Lebanon hosts about 1 million Syrian refugees on its territory.

Their return to Syria is conditional on obtaining approval from the Syrian authorities.



Soleimani strike threatens UK ‘lives and interests’


January 07, 2020

LONDON: When the sun rose on Jan. 3, the world woke to unprecedented contemporary tensions between the US and Iran.

As an American drone fired missiles at the convoy of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad at around 1 a.m., most of Washington’s allies were in the dark.

British sources said the government was not informed ahead of the strike, despite the heavy UK presence in the region and Iraq.

Washington’s failure to forewarn London amid heightened regional tensions has caused confusion and concern among commentators and politicians.

“I’ve long believed that the purpose of having allies is that we can surprise our enemies and not each other,” said Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP and chair of the foreign affairs committee in the previous UK Parliament.

The failure to share information has become “a pattern,” and it is “a bit of a shame that the US administration of late has not shared with us, and that is a matter of concern,” he added.

A source close to Downing Street told Arab News that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who is currently holidaying on the private Caribbean island of Mustique — was unaware that the strike was due to take place.

As global leaders weighed in on the incident, Johnson remained silent until Jan. 5, when he was careful not to deliver a statement that was overly supportive of US President Donald Trump’s orders.

Johnson said Britain “will not lament” the loss of Iran’s top general, but fell short of supporting the attack.

A surprisingly short statement from Britain’s Foreign Office did not contain a line of support for Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani.

In a statement, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain had “always recognized the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force,” but he called for de-escalation, adding: “Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

Lucy Fisher, defense editor at The Times, said Iran was “convinced of its status as a world superpower,” and the chance of it launching attacks on British interests was “very possible given the UK is inextricably linked with the US in the eyes of Iran.”

A senior commander in the Quds Force — Iran’s international military force, responsible for supporting proxy militias — told The Times on Jan. 6: “Our forces will retaliate and target US troops in (the) Middle East without any concern about killing its allies, including UK troops, as this has turned into a fully fledged war with much collateral damage expected.”

The commander added: “We request (the) UK, the key US ally, and other Western allies … to not stand with this Trump regime.”

His inflammatory comments come as Iraqi police confirmed that two rockets had injured six people in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the US Embassy is based.

Iraq’s Parliament has backed a resolution supported by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to expel foreign forces — including British troops — from the country.

Raab responded by urging Baghdad to abandon the resolution. He told Iraq’s government that an ejection of NATO forces would allow Daesh to “exploit the vacuum” left behind.

Arab News understands that Britain’s Defense Ministry is preparing new plans to secure UK interests and personnel after the resolution.

The 400 British armed forces personnel based in Iraq have shifted their mission from training local forces to fight Daesh, to defending NATO bases and high-value individuals.

The Royal Navy now plans to resume its escort of merchant vessels through the Strait of Hormuz following the heightened tensions.

HMS Montrose and HMS Defender, a frigate and a destroyer respectively, had ended their escorting duties in 2019, but will now return to their duties.

But despite the widely perceived threat to British interests, and the predictable trouble this has brought to London, the US failed to consult or even brief

the UK ahead of the attack.

The diplomatic silence over an assassination that has huge ramifications for British security has led to some questioning the value of the “special relationship” between the two nations.

“We pride ourselves on the so-called ‘special relationship,’ yet there’s often little evidence that the US has a special relationship with anyone other than itself,” said Charlie Herbert, a former British Army major general.

Kyle Orton, an independent terrorism researcher, told Arab News: “British interests are at risk, arguably more than American interests if Iran is looking for a calibrated response that doesn’t provoke worse from Washington.”

But he added: “The need for speed and secrecy makes it imperative to keep the circle of people aware small.”

According to reports from the Los Angeles Times, that circle was small but included Israel. Barak Ravid, a journalist with sources in Israel’s government, said on Jan. 4 that the “US informed Israel about this operation in Iraq apparently a few days ago.”

A well-informed Israeli army officer told the Los Angeles Times that the attack “did not come as a surprise.”

After decades of fighting alongside American troops, and with thousands of British military and governmental personnel deployed in the Middle East to work alongside US forces, many Britons will be wondering what more they must do to enjoy the kind of advance notice afforded to Israel.



Prince Charles to meet Palestinian president Abbas in Bethlehem

January 07, 2020

LONDON: Prince Charles will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem during his visit this month.

The heir to the British throne will also commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz 75 years ago when he visits Jerusalem, his office said on Monday.

He will be the most senior British royal to pay an official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Charles will attend the World Holocaust Forum at the Holocaust remembrance centre Yad Vashem on Jan. 24 to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in southern Poland, the largest Nazi death camp in World War Two.

He will also meet British Holocaust survivors who will be travelling to Israel for the event.

"The prince is honoured to be among the small number of international leaders who have been invited to address the event," Scott Furssedonn-Wood, the prince's Deputy Private Secretary, said.

Full details of the trip were still being finalised but he hoped to visit his grandmother's grave in Jerusalem and might visit other holy sites, his office said.

In 2018, Charles's son Prince William became the first British royal to visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories in an official capacity in 2018.





Soleimani killing: NSCIA warns Muslim youth against protest

January 7, 2020

The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) on Monday appealed to Muslim youths in the country for exercise restraint over the death of top Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in Iraq.

In a statement issued in Abuja by Head of Media of the council, Ibrahim Aselemi, the body appealed to the youth not to allow their emotions becloud their judgment to ensure peace at all times.

NSCIA said the issue between the U.S. and Iran can only be resolved through diplomatic dialogue.

“The attention of NSCIA has been drawn to a planned peaceful protest by some Muslim youths in the country to vent their anger over the killing of Iranian top military commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Iraq.

“Although protests are an integral part of civil democracy all over the world, NSCIA believes that the timing is wrong,” the council said.

Mr Soleimani was killed last Friday by a US Military airstrike in Baghdad.

The development has generated tensions between Washington and Tehran and in other parts of the world.




Soleimani killing: Islamic Movement protests in Abuja, burns US flag

By John Owen Nwachukwu

January 6, 2020

Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) otherwise known as Shi’tes have began a protest in Abuja, the Nigeria’s capital, over the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iranian military.

Suleimani was killed by an American airstrike on Friday, a situation that has heightened tensions in the Middle East region.

Shiites led a procession through Banex, Wuse Area to Berger roundabout in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Monday.

They also demanded that the President Muhammadu Buhari government release their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat unconditional.

El-Zakzaky and his wife are currently detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) in Kaduna State.

While burning a flag of the United States, the angry protesters, chanted hate songs and slogan criticising the American government.

Their placads condemned the killing of the top Iranian general.



Official vehicle of Kano Sharia police’s boss impounded, aides molested

By Murtala Adewale

06 January 2020

Aviation security at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano Monday detained the official vehicle of Director General, Kano Hisbah Board Mohammad Harun Ibn-Sina after beating up two officials of the Sharia police.

The incident occurred after a heated argument between the security organ of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Ibn-Sina’s personal aides over the wrong parking of the DG’s official vehicle.

The Guardian gathered that two personal security aides to the Hisbah boss were overpowered by the aviation security and molested in their official uniforms. They were later dragged into the airport detention.

An eyewitness said Ibn-Sina’s aides were being instructed by the FAAN officials to relocate their vehicle to a commercial location where vehicle park attract charges which they refused.

The source disclosed that the unresolved argument and outright refusal of the Hisbah men to relocate their vehicle led to physical combat between men of both agencies.

The Guardian learnt that the Hisbah officials were awaiting the arrival of the DG whose flight is scheduled to land 2:00 pm.

Efforts by our correspondent to speak to the authorities of the aviation security were declined.

Spokesperson of Hisbah board Lawan Ibrahim, who confirmed the incident, promised to provide more information on the matter.



Russia receives new strategic bombers; Jihad in Libya; Americans killed in Kenya

Jan 6, 2020

PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – Your briefly report on January 6 in last six hours from

The Russian army will receive six modernized Tu-95MS in 2020

Six modernized strategic missile carriers Tu-95MS with new electronic warfare systems and avionics will enter the Russian troops in 2020. This was announced on Sunday, January 5, in the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

“In 2020, long-range aviation will be replenished with six modernized strategic missile carriers Tu-95MS,” TASS quoted the agency as saying.

It is noted that in 2019, the troops received five modernized Tu-95MS.

“During modernization, modern avionics, an on-board electronic complex and other equipment are installed,” said Lieutenant General Sergey Kobylash, long-range aviation commander.

He noted that modern systems installed on the aircraft during modernization, several times improve the accuracy characteristics of target destruction by bombs, guided and cruise missiles.

On November 27, the Ministry of Defense published a video of the flight of two Russian strategic missile carriers Tu-95MS.

War with Turkey: Haftar declared jihad in Libya

Khalifa Haftar, army commander, announced a general mobilization for “the expulsion of foreign forces sent to Libya.”

Marshall personally accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of a campaign to revive the Ottoman heritage in Libya and the entire region. In this regard, Haftar urged the Libyans to unite and take up arms against “this colonization.” He criticized Ankara’s intention to send troops to Tripoli.

“We will forget our differences, declare jihad and mass mobilization. Men and women, military and civilian, will take up arms. We prepare with all the strength and faith that God has laid in our hearts to protect our land and our honor. Therefore, we challenged this dreamer about custody of us,” the military man turned to his people.

Two days ago, President of the United States Donald Trump phoned his Turkish counterpart Type Erdogan amid permission from the Turkish parliament to send troops to Libya. It is reported by Reuters with reference to the White House. In a telephone conversation, the parties discussed the situation in the Syrian province of Idlib and Libya.

Three Americans killed in al Shabaab militant attack on base in Kenya

Three Americans – one U.S. military servicemember and two contractors – were killed by Somalia’s al Shabaab militant group during an attack on Sunday on a military base in Kenya used by both U.S. and Kenyan forces, the U.S. military said.

The military’s Africa Command confirmed the deaths and said two other Americans who work for the U.S. Department of Defense were also wounded in the attack on the Manda Bay Airfield in Lamu county, close to the Somali border.

“The wounded Americans are currently in stable condition and being evacuated,” Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

The attack presents another crisis for Washington just as the Pentagon grapples with a rapidly escalating standoff with Iran following a Friday U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.



Southeast Asia


Foreign banks invited to open Islamic branches in the Philippines

January 06 2020

With the approval of a new Islamic banking law in the Philippines by the country’s central bank last December, doors are now open for both domestic and foreign banks to open a Islamic banking window or to establish a subsidiary Islamic bank in the country with millions of under- or unbanked Muslims, especially in the southern region of Mindanao.

“The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas aims to create an enabling environment that will allow Islamic banks to operate alongside conventional banks under the same regulatory and supervisory approach, taking into consideration the unique features of the Islamic banking operations,” the central bank said in a statement.

Economists and lawmakers praised the decision, saying that the law will lead to a “finance and banking surge” in undersupplied Mindanao this 2020 and “unlock the full potential of Islamic financing in fostering inclusive economic growth.”

The entry of a new bank with Islamic banking services, however, remains subject to the approval of the central bank’s monetary board. In the absence of a central regulatory entity on Shariah-compliance in the Philippines, the law further states that it is the responsibility of an Islamic bank, or window, to ensure its compliance with Shariah principles. Like in other Muslim nations without a central regulatory Shariah board, Islamic banks in the Philippines will have to constitute their own Shariah advisory council comprising persons “who are qualified and have knowledge or experience in Shariah and in banking, finance, law or other related disciplines.”

The new Islamic banking law in the Philippines, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 22, 2019, ends a decade-long hiatus of Islamic banking and finance in the Philippines, an industry which had not many chances to develop due to the absence of clear regulatory and legal conditions and the absence of particular financial literacy.

In fact, the Philippines was an early adopter of Islamic banking with the launch of Philippine Amanah Bank, established by then-president Ferdinand Marcos in 1973 in Zamboanga City in Mindanao as one of the world’s first Islamic banks. However, the bank never made a breakthrough and today, under the name of Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines and as a subsidiary of state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines, it operates just nine branches in the Muslim south with a limited scope of banking and investment products and services.

This clearly highlights the opportunities for aspiring new players in Islamic banking and finance in the Philippines, a country with a customer potential of close to 11mn Muslims in the south, many of which are excluded from or undersupplied by the financial system.

“Foreign and local investors eyeing new investments in Islamic banking and finance now have the go-signal to move forward with their plans for the Philippines, especially Mindanao and cities where there are concentrations of Filipino Muslims and Muslim expatriates,” Mindanao lawmaker Lawrence Fortun said, praising the central bank as being “swift and wise” to eventually have approved the new Islamic banking legislation.

Under the law, Islamic banks in the Philippines can offer current accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts and foreign currency deposits, among other financial products. They can also issue Shariah-compliant funding instruments, including sukuk, upon approval by the central bank’s monetary board.

According to Philippine central bank deputy governor of the financial supervision sector, Chuchi Fonacier, several domestic banks are now considering setting up their own Islamic banking windows, while one foreign bank has already signalised interest in applying for an Islamic banking license, but she did not specify on the latter. Insiders are betting on a larger Malaysian Islamic bank, while expansive Middle Eastern Islamic banks may follow at a later point of time.



Muslim NGOs send protest note to US Embassy over assassination of Iranian general

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — A coalition of Islamic NGOs formally submitted a memorandum to the United States’ embassy here to protest its assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani with a drone strike in Iraq last Friday.

Around 12 members of the Malaysia Muslim Watch (MMW) gathered just outside the embassy along Jalan Tun Razak from 10am onwards, before MMW spokesman Datuk Mahmud Abdullah and several others were permitted to approach the embassy’s main entrance.

Under the careful observation of 15 police officers posted outside the embassy, Mahmud met a representative of the US Department of State who received the memorandum.

Several of them, including Mahmud, later made their way to the Iranian Embassy along Lorong U-Thant 1, to offer their condolences over Qasem’s death.

Speaking to Malay Mail, Mahmud said Muslims must set aside their differences to condemn the Iranian general’s killing.

“If the Shiites are attacked, it is only a matter of time before the Sunnis are as well. Therefore, the whole ummah is at risk,” he said outside the embassy’s compound.

Malaysia only recognises the Sunni school of Islamic jurisprudence and considers others to be deviant.

Mahmud said his proposal to submit the protest memorandum had not been popular with local Muslim groups.

“They said it would be better for a Shi’ite to die, to which I responded that Qasem was still human. Even a non-Muslim or a dog should be shown compassion, otherwise where is the humanity?” he said.

At the Iranian embassy’s immediate entrance outside its compound, a black-clothed table was set up with a picture of the late general, accompanied by a candelabra and a plate of dates. Public well-wishers laid bouquets of flowers in tribute to Qasem, with some stopping to offer short prayers.

One was 45-year old self-employed man, Zul A. Talib, who said Qasem had been a leading figure in stopping the United States and Zionists in further trying to control and destabilise the Middle East.

“They created Daesh, Jabat Nusra, and other outfits to achieve that goal. General Qasem in particular was important in halting Daesh’s advance. He is a hero to both Iranians and others for his role in resisting Anglo-Zionist hegemony.

“That he was a Shi’ite is irrelevant to me, as his opposition to the Americans and Zionists transcends madhabs and sectarian boundaries,” he said.

Meanwhile a cluster of black-robed women and children were also present, occasionally calling out “Israel Murdabad (Urdu for Death to Israel)” and “Down, Down, USA”. By 11.30am, more public well-wishers began arriving to offer their condolences.

As at the US embassy, 20 policemen were on hand to ensure things remained peaceful. When the crowd swelled to 60 or so people, an impromptu prayer was held in memory of Qasem.

The prayer was led by small business owner Zaini Zainal, 55, who said the killing of the general is a humanitarian issue not tied to differences in sects or madhabs.

“When the aggressor kills, they make no difference between Sunni or Shia. They kill everyone. Although peace lovers of all faiths are small, we must do our best.

“This incident is extraordinary, for when we saw the Wahhabi militants mercilessly killing Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians, with Syria and Iraq losing so much land to these fanatics, General Qasem appeared to free those lands,” he said.

Zainal echoed Zul’s view that Qasem’s assassination was due to his successes against Islamic State, an American invention aimed at destroying the Muslim nations.

He is also worried about the state of things in Malaysia, adding that certain parties or foreign powers have it in their interests to see the country mired in chaos.

“We must promote peace over war, both here and there, rejecting lies and discord. Prioritising peace and harmony is a must, lest we end up like the Middle East.

“Therefore I would like to ask the Home Ministry to take harsher action against anyone or anything that creates friction between the different races and religions in our country, both Muslim or non-Muslim. Our peace is simply too precious to lose,” Zainal said.

An embassy spokesman later informed Malay Mail that for tomorrow and Thursday from 11am to 5pm, its compound will be opened for dignitaries and VIPs who wish to come in and sign the book of condolences for Qasem.

The general was one of 10 individuals killed as he departed from his plane at the Baghdad International Airport, where he had just arrived from either Lebanon or Syria. Largely considered a national hero in his homeland, Qasem was alternately held by the US government to be a terrorist who assisted Iran’s allies in their attacks on American troops based in the Middle East.



China slams Trump threat on Iran cultural sites

January 6, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): China’s envoy to Iran has slammed threats by US President Donald Trump to launch attacks on Iran’s cultural sites amid an escalation of tensions between Tehran and Washington, saying the Iranian heritage belongs to the entire global community.

“World cultural heritage belongs to all humanity ,” said Chang Hua in a tweet posted on Sunday which was decorated with pictures of notable historic monuments in Iran.

The tweet came a day after Trump said he would hit 52 Iranian targets, including very important cultural sites, if Iran decides to retaliate an assassination ordered by the US president of a senior Iranian military commander last week.

Trump’s threats on Iranian cultural sites sparked widespread criticism inside the United States and even caused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to claim on Sunday that the president would not make such a move in case of an escalation with Iran.

However, Trump himself defended the threats when asked about the issue on Sunday and said he had meant them.

This comes as Trump’s administration has endorsed a United Nations Security Council resolution in 2017 which bans any use of military force to target cultural sites. Such actions are also strongly prohibited under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.

The threats came in response to statements by Iran that the country would take a harsh revenge against the United States for the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of Iran’s elite Quds military force, an incident that took place last week in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Iranian authorities also summoned Swiss ambassador to Tehran on Sunday to relay the country’s note of protest to Washington, which is not directly represented in Iran, over Trump’s threats on Iran’s cultural sites.



Local Shia leader hits out at Saudi diplomat over anti-Shia remarks

Adam Abu Bakar

January 7, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: A local Shia Muslim community leader today has challenged a preacher attached to the Saudi Arabian embassy in Kuala Lumpur for labeling Shia Muslims as a threat and danger to the Muslim world.

Mohd Kamilzuhairi Abd Aziz said Sheikh Abdurrahman Ibrahim Al-Rubai’in, a religious attache at the Saudi embassy, must back his claim with evidences.

Kamilzuhairi questioned how Shia Muslims could be considered a threat when they were only organising religious programmes and events to mourn the family members of the Prophet.

Are these a threat to national security?” he asked after attending a gathering at the Iranian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, to express condolences over the death of decorated war general Qasem Soleimani.

Soleimani was killed in Baghdad last week, in a drone attack ordered by President Donald Trump.

On Sunday, Abdurrahman told a convention organised by a pro-Saudi group that Shia teachings posed the greatest challenge to Muslims.

He said it was futile to bring Sunnis and Shias together because Shias were deviant.

Malaysian Islamic authorities have over the years been enforcing a fatwa declaring Shia teachings as “deviant”, with raiding parties mostly targetting local Shias during the annual mourning ceremonies for Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet who is a central figure in Shia Islam.

Shia Islam is the second largest branch of Islam which is predominantly followed in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and several parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.

Kamilzuhairi meanwhile rejected the claim that Shia Muslims followed a different version of the Muslim holy book.

If there are some who claim of a Shi’ite Quran, it is not true. How come the religious attache at the Saudi embassy knows more about this?” he said.



South Asia


Dozens arrested in Muslim Brotherhood sweep in Tajikistan

JANUARY 7, 2020

AKIPRESS.COM - Authorities in Tajikistan have reportedly detained dozens of suspected members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, EurasiaNet reports.

RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, on January 6 reported that those taken into custody include university teachers and heads of local government. At least 27 have been detained in the sweep, which has taken place over the past week, Ozodi reported.

The Muslim Brotherhood, a politically engaged and conservative Islamic group founded in Egypt in the 1920s, was banned in Tajikistan in 2006.

According to the relatives of one suspect who spoke to Ozodi, security personnel confiscated religious literature during a search of their home.

Payom, a website with links to the exiled opposition, offered an even higher estimate for the number of people detained – somewhere between 100 and 250. It said around 20 of those people were university lecturers.

A government source confirmed to Eurasianet that there were teachers among those detained, but declined to provide more than a few specifics.

Among the detainees is a 60-year-old citizen of Egypt, Ali Mansur Bayumi, and his family, Eurasianet’s source said. Bayumi taught at the Middle Eastern studies department at the Tajik National University in Dushanbe.

The case is sent the General Prosecutor’s Office and has been classified as confidential.



President Ghani Receives Reformation Package for MoFA

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Kabul (BNA) President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in a meeting with leadership of Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the ministry’s reform package, a presidential statement said yesterday.

The president pledged to thoroughly review the package and provide his feedback for its enrichment and implementation, the statement added.

The president underscored the need to provide a level playing field in the ministry’s recruitment process to enable merit=based hiring and selection.

Edris Zaman, acting minister of Foreign Affairs presented the package, which has been developed in consultation with relevant offices as well as the International Relations Commission of the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament.  The package mainly concentrate on structural matters, economic oriented foreign policy, rules and procedures and providing services to Afghan nationals abroad, the statement added.



Dr. Abullah Stresses on Time Counter Disaster Management

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Kabul (BNA) Addressing Council of Ministers meeting here at the Sapidar Palace yesterday morning, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said criminal activities in the capital city in recent days were a matter of serious concerns, asking security officials to do more to curb crime in Kabul.

Meanwhile in his opening address, Dr. Abdullah welcomed the recent snowfalls in a number of provinces, including Kabul, asking the line ministries to be prepared for extending the necessary assistance to those people that are in serious need of aid as well as take preventive measures for timely countering of any possible disasters.

The Chief Executive went on saying that the counter-disaster committee had earlier held meeting, but according to him some shortages and lack of commitments from certain ministries and organs were seen, asking the ministry of finance to help the ministries of transport and rural rehabilitation and development to keep open the country’s highways and ease people’s movement.

The meeting continued with security report of the organs concerned, report of the Ministry of Finance on revenue and expenses of the fiscal year 1398 and reports of the ministry of commerce and industry and ministry of land and urban development on distribution of land to private sector in Kabul industrial park.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Information and Culture presented a report on Afghan Tour Enterprise revenues, saying that had collected 161 million Afghanis in recent five years.

Emphasizing on tourism growth in the country, Dr. Abdullah said that tourism could provide employment opportunities as well as would help improve the country’s economy, asking ministry of information and culture to hold a joint meeting with ministries of interior, foreign affairs and economy and address issue before the industry in the country.



Kabul’s Increasing Criminal Activities Not Acceptable: VP Danesh

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Kabul (BNA) Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh expressed concern over increasing criminal activities in the capital city, in particular in west part of Kabul, asking Police and National Directorate for Security to review their preventive measures and anti-crime programs.

During a meeting with deputy of the NDS Ali Ahmad Asgheri and Kabul Police Chief Said Mohammad Rorshandal, VP Danesh discussed armed robbery and increasing graph of criminal activities in the city, saying providing security to the residents was the main priority of the police and inattention to their working affairs were not acceptable, the statement from the VP office told The Kabul Times daily.

The second VP said heads of police districts needed to be appointed based on their capabilities and the police local zones should be equipped enough to tackle the crime in the city. He also said that his office was ready to ease cooperation between police and the people.

Meanwhile deputy of NDS and Kabul Police Chief briefed the VP on their works and arresting of criminals, saying Police has arrested many dangerous criminals and robbers and the process would be continued.

The Police chief assured the VP that would follow up his instructions in close coordination with other security organs to help reduce the alarming criminal activities in the capital city, the statement added.



33 Armed Oppositions Killed Across The Country: MoD

Tuesday, January 6, 2020

Kabul (BNA) The national defense ministry reported from killing of 33 armed oppositions during clearing operations of defense and security forces in 7 provinces of the country.

National defense ministry press office told BNA, the defense and security forces with collaboration of air forces in the last 24 hours conducting clearing operations in Herat, Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz, Kandahar, Paktia and Laghman provinces killed 33 armed oppositions and injured 7 others.

Likewise, four insurgents were also arrested and numerous of heavy and light weapons, war equipment of the insurgents have been demolished in the operations.

T. Yarzada



Dozens Fleeing War Families Received Aids

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Ferozkoh (BNA) Foodstuffs distributed for hundreds of fleeing war families in Ghor province yesterday.

These families have sought refugees from Ghor districts to Ferozkoh center of that province as a result of terror groups in their neighborhood and they need humanitarian assistance.

In charge of Ghor refuges and returnees office told BNA, the aids include, flour, ghee and pea, distributed by WFP tor 420 families.



India Shares Governance Story with Afghanistan

Friday January 3, 2020

Kabul (BNA) A special capacity building program for Afghanistan Central Civil Registration Authority (ACCRA) was organized by the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The program was conducted from December 23-30, 2019 in New Delhi followed by a field visit to Chandigarh. Afghan officials also visited UIDAI’s premises to study India’s AADHAAR initiative in detail.

2. The program elements included study of system of registration of citizen’s births and deaths, vital statistics and indicators system and AADHAAR. The participants were also given hands on experience with a live demonstration of the software and the processes of registration of birth and deaths; and explained methodology of census enumeration.

3. Afghan participants thanked India for the arranging the course that would contribute to their efforts for better implementation plans for creating a framework of population register.

4. Earlier, from November 13-17, 2019, a capacity building program was organized for officials from National Statistics and Information Authority, Afghanistan by FRRO New Delhi to help streamline their immigration procedures.

5. India remains of the most popular development and capacity building partner in Afghanistan and has a wide array of training and scholarship program for Afghans including under its ITEC. More than 3500 Afghans nationals benefit from the same.




‘Kabul is not safe’, a security advocacy campaign for crime combat in the Kabul streets

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2020

The residences of capital Kabul city have recently launched a security advocacy campaign against increasing crimes through social media tools.

The campaign named ‘Kabul is not safe/peaceful’ started following the assassination of a 22-year old Afghan student who was killed by armed street robbers in one of the streets during evening time.

Ali Sina Zafari, a third-year student at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), was snubbed to death by armed men while showing resistance to hand over his personal computer and laptop on Saturday night, in the 13th district of Kabul City.

Zafari’s death sparked anger and concerns among other residences of Kabul, many of whom criticize the government and accuse the police of negligence.

Kabul police say they have registered 70 crime cases in the last two weeks, which includes armed conflicts, robbery and assassination cases.

The residences in Kabul cannot travel within the city with ‘peace of mind’ after the evening times, there are more chances of victimizing.

Fawzia Wahdat, a news anchor for Ariana Television Network expressing concerns wrote on her Facebook wall:

Aziz Ahmad Ahmady, a civilian official who lives in district 6 of Kabul city told Khaama Press that we notice several armed robberies in our area. Dozens of civilians are killed or injured by armed robbers on the streets of Kabul and the government does not care about it:

Hamid Haidari, news manager for Afghanistan’s 1 TV channel called on the Kabul residences to join the ‘Kabul is not safe/peaceful’ advocacy campaign.

“Happenings in the last 24hrs in Kabul city; armed robbers injured a Kabul University lecturer with gunshots and seized his laptop and mobile forcefully. In another separate incident, a young student of the American University of Afghanistan was shot dead by armed robbers in district 13 of Kabul city.”, Haidari posted on his Facebook wall on January 5, 2020.

The security authorities have not yet responded to this campaign.



UAE to issue 5-year ‘tourism’ visa to all country nationals including Afghanistan

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2020

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they will issue five years ‘tourism’ visa for all nationalities including Afghans.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday announced that tourist visas in the UAE will now be issued for five years.

” We change the system of issuing tourist visas in the country, to make the duration of the tourist visa for five-years, multiple uses, for all nationalities.”, Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

We received more than 21 million tourists annually, and we want to establish the UAE as an international tourist destination, he added.

The move comes in a bid to support the UAE’s tourism economy, and affirm the country’s position as a global tourist destination.

Sheikh Mohammed said during a cabinet meeting that the move aimed to establish the UAE as a major global tourism destination and was part of wider plans to prepare the country for the next 50 years of development. At present, he said the UAE welcomes about 21 million visitors each year, Khaleej Times reported.

The year 2020 will be different because it is the year of preparation for the next 50, the year in which we design the future of the Emirates, he said on Twitter.

The move is expected to provide a boost to the tourism industry and make it easier for residents to bring relatives to the country for visits.

Dubai is a luxury and attractive tourism and business city in the UAUE, where many of Afghanistan’s business people love to live and work there.

The UAE visa was usually issued for 1 month and 3 months for Afghan applicants.



Afghanistan NDS targets Jihadi commander in a night raid: Sources

Monday, 06 Jan 2020

Afghanistan National Defense Security (NDS) special forces killed a Jihadi commander and 4 others in a night raid, eyewitnesses said.

Amer Sattar Ghorbandi, a former Jihadi commander and member of Jamiat Party of Afghanistan has been killed during a night operation in by the NDS special forces on Sunday night in Khair Khana, a crowded residential area of district 11 in the capital Kabul.

Reports suggest that together with Amer Sattar, four other members of his family have been killed.

Atta Mohammad Noor, a senior member of Jamiat Party condemns the NDS ambush on a residential house killing 5 members of a family member including a former Jihadi commander.

“I condemn this shocking incident and demand from President Ghani to personally follow up this suspicious and mysterious incident.”, Atta Mohammad Noor said in a statement.

Armullah Saleh, the former NDS chief and a member of President Ghani’s electoral team, in a statement published on his Facebook wall has said that he will personally follow up and pursue the murder of Amer Sattar Ghorbandi, who was his close ally.

“A delegation that will include four members of the National House, two members of the victim’s family, two experts from the Northern Alliance together with the government’s technical experts, will be formed to investigate the issue.”, Saleh said.

Afghanistan government authorities have not yet commented on this particular incident.

Despite approaching NDS, Khaama Press could not obtain the comments of the Security Directorate which is the convicting authority for this murder.





Main accused in Nankana Sahib vandalism held in Pakistan

Jan 6, 2020

LAHORE: The main accused in the recent incident of vandalism at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan has been arrested and charged with anti-terrorism act, a top official said on Monday.

Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, also known as Gurdwara Janam Asthan, is a site near Lahore where the first Guru of Sikhs, Guru Nanak, was born.

According to media reports, a violent mob had attacked the Gurdwara and pelted it with stones on Friday. A team of police had to intervene briskly to control the situation.

The accused, identified as Imran, was arrested on Sunday for his role in the incident, Geo News reported.

Azhar Mashwani, the Focal Person (Digital Media) to Punjab Chief Minister, took to Twitter to announce the arrest.

"The main culprit in #NankanaSahib incident Imran has been arrested. FIR # 6/2020 u/s 295A/290/291/341/506/148/ 149, 6 sound system /7ATA has been registered at Nanakan Police Station," he said in the tweet which also carries the picture of the accused behind bars.

He further said that the "7 ATA is a non bailable section under the Anti Terrorism Act.

Breaking his silence on the incident, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday condemned the recent incident of vandalism at the Nankana Sahib, saying it goes against his "vision" and the government will show "zero tolerance" against those involved in it.

India has strongly condemned the incident of vandalism at the revered Gurdwara and called upon the Pakistan government to take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of the Sikh community there.

On Saturday, Indian leaders cutting across party lines and various outfits condemned the mob attack on the historic Gurdwara, terming it as "cowardly" and "shameful".

Hundreds of protesters thronged the streets near the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi demanding that Islamabad provide adequate security to Sikh shrines and community members there.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex body which manages Sikh shrines in India, said it will send a four-member delegation to Pakistan to take stock of the situation and urged the Pakistan government to take stringent action against the culprits who attacked the gurdwara - one of the holiest sites in Sikhism.



UN, Muslim countries must help avert US-Iran war: Sarwar

January 07, 2020

LAHORE - Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar has said the UN and the Muslim World must apply mind to avert the US-Iran war, as it will be more destructive than Iraq war.

“The hysteria of war must be given an end and whatever a country is powerful, all should respect each other’s integrity,” he said while addressing the International Conference on Punjab History and Culture at University of Lahore (UoL) and later talking to media here on Monday. UoL Vice Chancellor Kamran Mujahid and others were also present.

Ch Sarwar said that war had never been a solution to problems rather it intensifies terrorism and extremism which claim innocent lives. “I am proud that as a member of British Parliament, I had been opposing and raising voice against wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the British Parliament. I think if war breaks out between US and Iran, it will have dangerous consequences and peace will become a dream in the world, therefore, international community must play its effective role to resolve this issue and Pakistan will also do its best to ease the tension between America and Iran”, he observed.

Sarwar also said that today, tourism is the biggest industry in the world and first time in Pakistan, a Committee on Religious Tourism and Culture under his chairmanship is actively working to promote religious tourism. Pakistan gave a peace message to the world through Kartarpur Corridor Project that is also promoting the tourism. After renovation of Sikh worship places, the focus will be laid on Buddhism and people from across the world will be attracted towards Pakistan through religious tourism.

He cited that by focusing on Maryam Abad, Christians from other countries will come to Pakistan and steps are also being taken in this regard. He said that hatred speech by an individual at Nankana Sahib hurt him, however, Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken strict notice of the incident and sent Federal Interior Minister Brig. (Retd.) Ijaz Ahmed Shah to Nankana Sahib, while Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Umsan Buzdar sent Senior Provincial Minister Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed there to look into the matter. The person, who delivered hatred speech, has been arrested and will be taken to task as per provisions of law of the land. No one will be allowed to take the law into hand and there is no doubt in it that it is government’s responsibility to protect lives and properties of minority communities living in Pakistan.

“Today, minorities are safer in Pakistan than rest of the world but it is very unfortunate to say that India is resorting to destitute space on minorities by targeting them through controversial Citizenship Act. Narendra Modi is planning genocide of minorities through RSS and in addition to Kashmiris, the minorities living in India were also being deprived of their rights. The world community must take notice of the inhuman acts by India in occupied Kashmir and its laws based on racism and ethnicity,” Sarwar added.



Pakistan minister Fawad Chaudhry admits to have slapped TV host

Jan 7, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has admitted that he had slapped a TV anchor at a wedding for linking him with TikTok sensation Hareem Shah.

Defending his move, the minister while speaking to a private TV channel on Sunday night said he was a human first before anything else, The Express Tribune reported.

"Ministries come and go. I will not tolerate personal attacks … we are all human beings and will react when someone makes such false allegations," he was quoted as saying.

Earlier, the minister slammed the TV anchor Mubasher Lucman, calling him a "sham journalist" in a tweet after reports of the slapping incident went viral on social media.

Chaudhry retweeted a news article on the altercation with the caption, "People like Mubashir Lucman have nothing to do with journalism … and it's everyone's duty to expose him".

Speaking on Lucman's show, a fellow anchor Rai Saqib Kharal had claimed that there were several 'indecent videos' of Chaudhry in possession of TikTok star Hareem Shah and he had personally seen them.

This is not the first time that the minister has settled a score with a TV anchor in such a manner.

In June last year, Chaudhry had slapped TV host Sami Ibrahim also at a wedding.



National Assembly approves services chiefs' tenure bills

Javed Hussain | Fahad ChaudhryUpdated

January 07, 2020

The National Assembly on Tuesday approved three bills regarding the tenure of the services chiefs — chief of army staff, chief of air staff and chief of naval staff — and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee.

The three bills are: the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020.

Prime Minister Imran Khan attends the National Assembly session on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV

Ahead of the session, Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived at the NA.

As the session began, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Amjad Ali Khan presented the report of the National Assembly's standing committee on defence regarding the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020.

Later, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak requested the PPP to take back their recommendations regarding amendments to the bills "in light of the regional situation".

"This will create unity in the house and will create a better situation," he said.

Subsequently, taking the floor, PPP MNA Naveed Qamar took back his party's recommendations regarding all three bills.

"Keeping in mind the situation in the country and the new situation in the region and after consulting with the rest of the opposition, [...] in order to send a unified message, we (PPP) have decided not to press these amendments," he said.

Speaker Asad Qaiser conducted a clause by clause reading of each bill, one after the other, putting them up for a voice vote.

Despite religious party members, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami and representatives from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), walking out of the NA declaring the lower house to be "fake", all three bills were approved.

In a tweet, independent MNA Mohsin Dawar said prior to walking out of the National Assembly, they had voted against the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020.

"This parliament acted like a rubber stamp. Speaker didn't even allow the few dissenting voices to make their case. This is one of the darkest days in Pakistan's parliamentary history. It will take a long time to recover from this," he said.

The session was adjourned till 4pm on Wednesday.

A meeting of the PML-N parliamentary group was also held before the session. Meanwhile, a government delegation met with PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in his chamber, DawnNewsTV reported.

A day earlier, the National Assembly's standing committee on defence unanimously approved the bills during an in-camera session, which indicates that the bills are likely to smoothly sail through the lower house.

"The amendments were passed unanimously by the body. I congratulate the entire country and the opposition parties," Khattak had said, adding that the bills would be put up for voting in the NA on Tuesday.

According to the expedited timeline agreed between the opposition and the government, the amendment bills will also be introduced in the Senate later today before being referred to the upper houses' defence committee, which is also expected to endorse the bills. The Senate is likely to vote on the bills on Wednesday after which they will finally go for presidential assent.

The Supreme Court had while deciding on the legal challenge to the second tenure for Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa asked the government to define the tenure, terms and conditions of service of the army chief and to get their approval from the parliament within six months.

In an unusual haste, the federal cabinet had approved the proposed amendments at an emergency session last Wednesday.

Controversy over govt haste to pass bills

The lower houses' standing committee on defence had deliberated upon the bills for a second time on Monday after their approval in less than an hour at a joint meeting of the Senate and National Assembly committee members on Friday had sparked controversy.

When the opposition had protested over the "undue haste" being shown by the ruling coalition, the government had to postpone the sessions of the two houses convened for Saturday. The government then agreed to a new timeline on the demand of the opposition parties.

Responding to a journalist's question, Khattak had on Monday said all political parties are on the same page regarding the matter.

"No one has backtracked, we should avoid rumour mongering. All political parties are on the same page and are standing alongside the armed forces," he had said.

Expected amendments

As per the amendments approved by the NA committee, the appointment of the services chiefs and chairman of the joint chief of staff committee would be the prerogative of the prime minister and his decision to appoint, reappoint or extend the tenures of chiefs and the chairman cannot be challenged in any court of law.

The upper age limit for a four-star appointment has been fixed at 64 years in the case of reappointment and extension, otherwise, the officer will retire at the age of 60 years.

Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem had briefed members of the NA standing committee on various aspects of the three bills.

The main opposition parties — PML-N and PPP — had intended to introduce some amendments to the bills but the law minister told them at the meeting that the proposed changes would require a constitutional amendment. According to a committee member, the opposition parties did not later press for the amendments and the bills were approved with consensus.

Through one of their proposed amendments, the opposition parties had sought "a role for the parliamentary committee on national security" for the reappointment of the services chiefs and chairman. The amendment required the prime minister to appear before the parliamentary committee on national security to record reasons for giving an extension to or for reappointment of the services chiefs and chairman, joint chiefs of the staff committee.

While talking to the media outside Parliament House on Monday, Bilawal said his party had presented three amendment proposals before the NA committee as well as in the National Assembly Secretariat.

The extension conundrum

Prime Minister Imran Khan had previously extended Gen Bajwa's tenure through a notification in August 2019, but the top court suspended it on Nov 26, 2019, due to irregularities in the manner of extension.

After three days of heightened uncertainty, the apex court, through a short order on Nov 28, 2019, had announced that Gen Bajwa would remain the COAS for another six months during which the parliament would legislate on the army chief’s extension/reappointment.

In its detailed verdict released on Dec 16, 2019, the top court had emphasised that it was up to the parliament to carry out legislation that would provide "certainty and predictability" to the post of the COAS for all times to come.

"We would like to emphasise that this crucial matter of the tenure of COAS and its extension, which has a somewhat chequered history, is before the Parliament, to fix for all times to come," wrote Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, a member of the three-judge bench which heard the case, in the court's 43-page judgment.

"It is now for the people of Pakistan and their chosen representatives in the Parliament to come up with a law that will provide certainty and predictability to the post of COAS, remembering that in strengthening institutions, nations prosper."

Both Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa agreed with Justice Shah's judgment, with Justice Khosa saying in his additional note that it had been a "shocking revelation" to the bench that the terms and conditions of service of the COAS, the tenure of his office, extension in the tenure of his office or his reappointment to that office "have remained unregulated by any law so far".

In the wake of the apex court’s order, the government had introduced the three bills regarding the services chiefs' tenures in the National Assembly on Friday.

Additional reporting by Amir Wasim and Nadir Guramani



NA passes crucial bill to meet FATF requirement

Amir Wasim

January 07, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday passed a crucial bill — for exchange of information and criminals with countries — to meet a requirement of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) after the treasury overcame the opposition’s customary resistance in the house.

The opposition parties initially tried to block the passage of the bill by challenging Speaker Asad Qaiser’s ruling on a voice vote allowing Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan to move the bill, but after a 87-83 vote defeat it participated in the process and moved four minor amendments — two of them were even incorporated in the bill.

As soon as the minister took the floor to present the Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matter) Bill 2019, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Syed Naveed Qamar termed the bill against the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, claiming that after passage of the bill, the government would be able to seek information from foreign countries and extradite its own citizens on the demand of the other countries even without signing a treaty.

Mr Qamar said presently the countries did not entertain any request from the Pakistan government to hand over any wanted person to it because of the perception that cases were filed on a political basis in Pakistan. He said the bill had given “unfettered powers” to the federal interior secretary to seek information about foreign bank accounts and transactions made by any citizen.

Opposition terms bill against fundamental rights of citizens of Pakistan

In the past, he said, such information was shared only with those countries with which they had such agreements or arrangements. He said that while fulfilling the FATF requirements, the government must protect the rights of its citizens.

The parliamentary leader of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was of the view that by approving the bill, they would be “surrendering” the country’s sovereignty. He alleged that efforts were being made by international financial institutions to colonise countries like Pakistan which were financially dependent on them. “Please do not rush the bill to meet someone’s deadline. Let us debate the matter,” he went on saying while opposing the bill.

PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel claimed that there was a clause in the bill which allowed the government to hand over individuals to countries even without demand.

Another vocal PPP MNA Shazia Marri pointed out some drastic spelling mistakes in the draft, saying this showed that the bill was being passed in haste.

Besides the parliamentary affairs minister, newly appointed Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar and Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry defended the bill and criticised the opposition for creating unnecessary hurdles in the way of the passage of such an important legislation.

Ali Muhammad Khan said no Pakistani would like to see the country being blacklisted by the FATF. He explained that the main purpose of the bill was to nominate the interior ministry as the focal point as previously a number of ministries and institutions like the foreign ministry and the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) were dealing with such matters on their own. Now, he said, no department or institution could make a direct contact with any country without the approval of the interior ministry.

Fawad Chaudhry in his usual style lashed out at the opposition for opposing the bill, alleging that it was the previous two governments which were responsible for putting Pakistan into the FATF trap. He said all the countries shared information on criminal matters under FATF.

Mr Umar said the title of the bill itself suggested that the exchange would take place under mutual understanding. “What fear do you have?” he asked the opposition, adding that it seemed that the opposition wanted that the government should not be able to seek information about the hidden wealth stashed in foreign banks. “Our sovereignty compromises due to money laundering,” he said, adding that even the UK and the UAE had changed their laws and they were going towards transparency.

Responding to Mr Patel’s objections, Mr Umar said that in the past they used to hand over terrorists to other countries after receiving calls from their capitals. He was of the view that they would be able to extradite any wanted person to a country even if that country was not aware of his presence in Pakistan.

“This Act shall regulate the procedure for rendering and soliciting mutual legal assistance in criminal matters by Islamic Republic of Pakistan subject to the provisions of this Act, the mutual legal assistance may be provided by Islamic Republic of Pakistan to a country on the basis of an agreement or reciprocal arrangement,” says the draft of the bill, which is yet to be passed by the opposition-dominated Senate.

Clause 3 of the bill says: “Where the federal government considers it expedient to provide mutual legal assistance in a criminal matter to a country which has not entered into an agreement or reciprocal arrangement with Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it may, by notification in the official Gazette, direct that the provisions of this Act shall, subject to such modifications and conditions as may be specified therein, have effect to that country.”

Clause 5 of the bill reads: “Where the central authority considers it expedient, it may initiate transmitting of any information relating to criminal matters confidentially to the appropriate authority in a country concerned with such criminal matters, without prior request by that country.”

Under the law, the government would be able to make mutual legal assistance request to a country to “inquire about the location and identification of witnesses, suspects, perpetrators and offenders; have evidence taken or documents or other articles produced; obtain search warrants or other lawful instruments authorising a search for evidence relevant to investigations or proceedings in Islamic Republic of Pakistan, located or as permissible under the domestic law of that country believed to be located in that country and if found, to seize them as permissible under the domestic law of that country; freeze or seize properties that may be the subject of investigations or proceedings through relevant legal process in that county; and transfer in custody to Islamic Republic of Pakistan a person in foreign country who consented to assist Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the relevant investigation or proceedings”.





BJP MP Arvind Dharmapuri calls Owaisi a clown and broker of Muslim votes

January 7, 2020

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Nizamabad, Arvind Dharmapuri called AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi a 'clown' and also said that he is a "broker of Muslim votes".

Dharmapuri had earlier said that he will hang Owaisi by crane and shave his beard and send it to Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao.

When asked about the same, he told ANI, "You (Asaduddin Owaisi) look like a clown so you will be hung upside down. Clowns do this in circuses. You are a broker of Muslim votes. Earlier Congress used to pay you more for your brokerage, now TRS pays more."

Earlier, the BJP MP had said, "Asaduddin Owaisi, I warn you that I will hang you upside down by a crane and shave your beard. I will give promotion to your beard by sticking it to the Chief Minister KCR."

"Asaduddin should remember that Nizamabad belongs to BJP. Nine years ago his brother Akbaruddin was stabbed several times and shot by a well-known person known to them. Your brother is still availing treatment for those injuries even after nine years," said Kumar.



BJP's CAA outreach in Kerala off to unpleasant start as 'Muslim' issue surfaces

Jan 6, 2020

The BJP's door-to-door campaign launched by Union Minister Kiren Rijiju in Kerala on Sunday to dispel 'misinformation' on the CAA saw the members of the Muslim and Christian communities here expressing their concerns on the law which has witnessed widespread protests across the country.

The minister, who began his visit to houses of some prominent personalities, including the head of the Latin catholic church Archbishop Soosa Pakiam, expressed hope people of the state with a high literacy rate will not be 'misguided' by those working to 'destroy' the country's social fabric.

 Expressing his concern on the amendment, the Archbishop, who is the head of the influential Latin catholics in the state, said the Muslim community was being "targeted and sidelined".

"You may not agree with us but we feel that Muslims are being targeted and sidelined. This might be a good step that you are visiting us to address our concerns," the bishop told the Minister.

Prominent businessman E M Najeeb, who is also the President of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Muslim Association, also informed the minister about his community's apprehensions and sought an inclusive policy.

"It's been triggered to this level because of things which happened in the past, including the Kashmir issue. Unfortunately the Babri Masjid order also came and the land was not given to the community. Probably all these made the Muslim community worry about the act," Najeeb said.

 He also told the minister that in Kerala, "we live together and work together".

 "If I need any help, I ask them (BJP leaders). Likewise, If they need any help, they will call me...,"he said.

The association also handed over a memorandum, to Rijiju, seeking withdrawal of the controversial act.

On his first stop at Malayalam writer and Kerala Sahitya Akademi award winner George Onakkoor's house here, the writer informed him it was unfair to have excluded members of one religion from the act's purview.

Rijiju explained to him the stand of BJP and the Centre on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, over which protests are being held in various parts of the country.

The minister explained that the act was not against any particular religion and pointed out that earlier the NDA government had given citizenship to "good Muslims", like singer Adnan Sami.

"By good Muslims, we mean those who are not criminals," he explained.

Onakoor, who had participated in BJP programmes, including a recent protest by former Mizoram governor Kummanam Rajasherkaran, later told mediapersons that strict laws were needed to provide citizenship for the country's security.

"But we cannot do that by listing out six religions and leaving out any particular religion from the act. This creates a sense of feeling of bing alienated in the society," he said.

When asked about the views expressed by the writer, Rijiju said that in a democracy everyone has the right to have a different opinion.

"I wanted to meet some prominent personalities...The literacy rate in Kerala is very high. The awareness level is very high. So I am sure and have full confidence that Kerala people, especially the youth, will not be misguided by the anti-social elements who are working day and night to destroy the social fabric of India," the Minister said.

Rijiju, scheduled to visit at least 10 houses in the city this morning, cancelled his programme citing lack of time.

As part of its outreach programme on CAA, the BJP has announced a 10-day door-to-door awareness campaign till January 15 to dispel 'misinformation' on the issue.




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