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

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California Bans 'Singing and Chanting' in Churches, Mosques, Synagogues

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Jul 2020

• California Bans 'Singing and Chanting' in Churches, Mosques, Synagogues

• Communist China Removes 500 Crosses; 1M Uighur Muslims And Christians In Xinjiang Imprisoned

• Selling Muslim Prayer Mats As 'Greek Carpets', Chinese Retailer SheinApologises

• Thousands Protest Against UK Role in Saudi War on Yemen

• Volatility from Virus Crisis Highlights Need for Shariah-Compliant Hedging Tools

• Mozambique Is Emerging as The Next Islamic Extremist Hotspot

• Will Life Mean Life When the Christchurch Mosque Killer Is Sentenced?

• Malaysia: Five New Cases of Covid-19, No New Deaths for Over 3 Weeks


North America

• California Bans 'Singing and Chanting' in Churches, Mosques, Synagogues

• New Rules: International Students Must Leave U.S. If Classes Go Online

• Islamic Militants May Have Committed War Crimes in DRC, UN Says

• CAIR-Georgia Decries Judge’s Release of Suspected Murderer of Georgia Muslim Man in Augusta, Demands Justice for Ahmad Popal

• Pass on The Mic: Is Here to Set The Record Straight Regarding Muslims


South Asia

• Communist China Removes 500 Crosses; 1M Uighur Muslims And Christians In Xinjiang Imprisoned

• Muslim Volunteers Bury Christians Who Died from The Coronavirus in Bangladesh

• 22 Taliban militants killed, wounded on Kabul-Jalalabad highway

• Ghani appoints new governors for five provinces of Afghanistan

• ‘Gunfight’ between PCJSS factions in Bandarban leaves 6 killed

• Bangladesh backs UN Secretary-General’s call for global ceasefire



• Selling Muslim Prayer Mats As 'Greek Carpets', Chinese Retailer SheinApologises

• An Aid Worker,Silvia Romano, Says Islam Comforted Her During Captivity of Somali Islamist Militants

• The Muslim bereaved cruelly deprived of closure by coronavirus

• Manchester University Press criticised for publishing book linked to Islamist advocacy group

• Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say UK should 'right' past 'wrongs'



• Thousands Protest Against UK Role in Saudi War on Yemen

• Reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque may be a vote-winner for Erdogan

• Shia Cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani Symbol Of Iraqi National Unity: Senior Cleric

• Gaza-Based Jaysh Al-Islam Threatens Israel With Jihad If Sovereignty Proceeds

• Turkey will not dare turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, says Greek archbishop

• Islamic Jihad sets conditions for Palestinian reconciliation

• Israel Orders Demolition Of 30 Palestinian Facilities in Al-Quds Village

• Iran urges UN to pursue fate of its diplomats abducted in Lebanon

• US government must compensate losses it has inflicted on Iran: Zarif

• Iran’s progress, capabilities causes of concern for US, Israel: FM Zarif


Arab world

• Volatility from Virus Crisis Highlights Need for Shariah-Compliant Hedging Tools

• Egypt To Reopen Al-Hussein Mosque, Isolate Its Shrine

• Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank Raises Foreign Ownership Limit To 40%

• Road Blocked in Front Of Abdel Nasser Mosque In Corniche Mazraa

• Iraqi expert on Islamic State group shot dead in Baghdad

• Emirates Islamic named ‘Islamic Bank of the Year – UAE 2020’



• Mozambique Is Emerging as The Next Islamic Extremist Hotspot

• Islamic Development Bank Earmarks $2.3 Billion To Fight COVID-19

• Islamic Group Wants Muslims, Christians To Install, Bury Traditional Rulers In Yoruba Land

• Muslim leaders read mischief in the new CRA formula

• Africa’s Biggest Investment Takes Shape Amid Islamist Threat


New Zealand

• Will Life Mean Life When the Christchurch Mosque Killer Is Sentenced?

• 'Asleep on The Job': Police Warned of Another Mosque Threat Before Massacre

• Christchurch Shooting: Agencies Accused Of Ignoring Years Of Warnings The Muslim Community Was In Danger

• Far Right Teen Pleads Guilty, Fined For Failing To Assist Police Investigating Christchurch Mosque Threat


Southeast Asia

• Malaysia: Five New Cases of Covid-19, No New Deaths for Over 3 Weeks

• Indonesia’s Forex Reserves Rise To Near Record-High In June

• Police Begin Investigation Into Al Jazeera Report on Illegal Immigrants in Malaysia

• Migrant Workers: Malaysia offers them new hope amid pandemic

• Landslide at Burmese Jade Mine Kills Over 170 People



• Minimising School Dropouts Due to Covid Distress Biggest Challenge for Indian Muslim Community

• India Bans Kashmir Muslim Religious Gatherings Due To Coronavirus But Hindu Pilgrimages Continue

• Tamil Nadu Lockdown Diary: 'People talk as if COVID-19 came from Melapalayam, not China'; • Muslims struggle with health systems steeped in prejudice



• $60m Islamic Development Bank Aid for Polio Eradication Approved

• Anti-Covid Drug, Remdesivir, To Be Available in Three Weeks

• DIG Operations Reviews Security OfMosques, Imambargahs

• Minister Reiterates for Making Balochistan Hub for Organic Agriculture

• E-7 seminary in Islamabad becomes site of unexpected conflict

• Chief Election Commissioner denies holding secret meetings with president

• Shahbaz files plea for exemption from appearance

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



California Bans 'Singing and Chanting' in Churches, Mosques, Synagogues

JUL 06, 2020


Church congregation singing hymns in church. (Getty Images)


Last Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health banned “singing and chanting” in houses of worship, including churches, mosques, and synagogues. While the department had previously advised against singing in houses of worship, it made the ban mandatory last week.

“Even with adherence to physical distancing, convening in a congregational setting of multiple different households to practice a personal faith carries a relatively higher risk for widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations. In particular, activities such as singing and chanting negate the risk- reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing,” the order states.

“Places of worship must therefore discontinue singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower,” the health department adds.

Specifically, the order demands that churches “discontinue singing (in rehearsals, services, etc.), chanting, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets. Consider practicing these activities through alternative methods (such as internet streaming) that ensure individual congregation members perform these activities separately in their own homes.”

The state allowed churches and other houses of worship to reopen at the end of May, but urged them to “strongly consider discontinuing singing.”

R. James King, a Minnesota pastor, took to The Resurgent to condemn the ban. “The critical issue is this: the state of California is trying to dictate what kind of worship may or may not take place within a religious assembly. This is a flagrant and appalling transgression of essential American rights,” he wrote.

King noted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-Calif.) support for the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the horrific police killing of George Floyd. Last Monday — two days before the singing ban — Newsom addressed the protesters. “For those of you out there protesting, I want you to know that you matter,” the governor said. “To those who want to express themselves… God bless you. Keep doing it. Your rage is real.”

“Peaceful protests are, like worship, protected by the First Amendment. Like worship, they include large gatherings of people. Like worship, they include periods of singing and chanting. However, unlike worship, they remain untroubled by intrusive state interference,” the pastor wrote. “Governor Gavin Newsom supported the protests, and there is no doubt that, were they to erupt again, he would continue to excuse activities that are now banned by his administration in church buildings. So they dictate how people worship, and they target only religious worship.”

Yet the singing ban is not without precedent. In April, Mendocino County, Calif., banned singing and playing wind instruments even for livestream events involving four or more people.

Before Newsom allowed churches to finally meet in person, 1,200 California clergy wrote a powerful letter declaring in-person worship essential. “Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Christian church and other faiths have been relegated to ‘nonessential’ status by governing agencies throughout the United States. But we, the signers of this declaration, believe and contend that gathering together in fellowship and worship is ‘essential.’”

The lockdown took a psychological toll on Californians and the churches noted studies showing that “religious service attendance is associated with a lower risk of death from despair among registered nurses and health care professionals. These results may be important in understanding trends in deaths from despair in the general population.”

The clergy sent a legal demand letter, warning Newsom that if he were to crack down on their religious freedom, they would take the issue to court. This new ban on signing may face legal challenges, especially if churches find videos of Black Lives Matter chanting or singing at protests Newsom has approved.


Communist China Removes 500 Crosses; 1M Uighur Muslims And Christians In Xinjiang Imprisoned

July 06, 2020

By: Lito B. Zulueta

Numerous churches in Anhui, China, had their crosses removed between January and April. —BITTERWINTER.ORG


The state of religious freedom in China has further worsened over the past year, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) embarked on a five-year plan to “Sinicize” houses of worship by toppling churches and replacing crosses with portraits of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, according to the 2019 International Religious Freedom Report of the US State Department released in June.

The release of the report followed the campaign of the CCP starting April to remove crosses and demolish unauthorized churches. According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (Ucan;, some 500 crosses were removed.

Quoting Protestant pastor Paul Lee, Ucan reported that the crosses were removed in a 500-kilometer stretch from Zhejiang to Anhui.

Some of the crosses removed belonged to churches with more than a century of history, according to a July 2 report by Bitter Winter, “a magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China” ( that is cited in the US State Department report.

Bitter Winter reported “that local officials claimed that the cross-removal campaign was being implemented in line with a national policy, which requires to eliminate all Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and other religious symbols.”

“We support the state and comply with its regulations,” a Protestant congregation member was quoted by Bitter Winter. “We can have a dialogue with the government if it thinks that we have done something wrong, but they can’t persecute us this way. Officials did not show any documents, fearing that people would implicate them with anything in writing. They only conveyed verbal orders and forced us to obey them.”

The recent Ucan and Bitter Winter reports dovetail with the US State Department report. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a press conference summed up the situation in China: “China continues its decadeslong war on faith,” he declared. “The mass detentions of Uighurs in Xinjiang [continue]. So does the repression of Tibetans and Buddhists and Falun Gong and Christians.”

In 2019, according to the report, the Chinese government “tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, subjected to forced indoctrination in CCP ideology, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices,” said the report.

“Authorities in many provinces targeted religious groups with overseas ties, particularly Christian groups,” the report added. “The government offered financial incentives to law enforcement to arrest religious practitioners and to citizens who reported ‘illegal religious activity.’”

“The government continued a campaign of religious Sinicization to bring all religious doctrine and practice in line with CCP doctrine, adopting a formal five-year plan on Jan. 7. Officials across the country shut down religious venues, including some that were affiliated with the authorized patriotic religious associations, and placed surveillance cameras in houses of worship as a condition of allowing these venues to continue operating. There were numerous reports that authorities closed or destroyed Islamic, Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Jewish, and other houses of worship and destroyed public displays of religious symbols throughout the country.”

The “war on faith” is justified by the CCP as a campaign against “the ‘three evils’ of ‘ethnic separatism, religious extremism and violent terrorism,’” the report said.

The report said the communist government since 2017 had “arbitrarily detained more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Hui and members of other Muslim groups, as well as Uighur Christians, in specially built or converted internment camps in Xinjiang and subjected them to forced disappearance, political indoctrination, torture, physical and psychological abuse, including forced sterilization and sexual abuse, forced labor and prolonged detention without trial because of their religion and ethnicity.”

US-based Australian Sinologist Ross Terrill has noted that because of the absence of a major “transcendental religion” in its history, “the religion of China is China.” The observation has been reinforced now that China is ruled by atheistic communism. This explains the replacement of religious symbols with portraits of Xi Jin-ping; this is typical of Stalinism and communist “idol worship” across modern history.

Also singled out in the US State Department report were Muslim states Iran and Saudi Arabia. The report noted that minority religionists were imprisoned by Iran, which had also executed members of the minorities on charges of “enmity against God.” Saudi Arabia on the other hand continues to be the only country in the world without a Christian church.

Bright spots were the United Arab Emirates, which hosted in February 2019 the first papal visit to the Arabian Pensinsula. UAE also became the first Middle East nation to permit the opening of a church of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The State Department also praised Gambia in West Africa, for bringing a case to the International Court of Justice concerning alleged crimes against the Muslim Rohingya in Burma and Uzbekistan in central Asia, which the department said carried out no police raids on “unregistered” religious gatherings in 2019, after having conducted more than 350 before.”


Selling Muslim Prayer Mats As 'Greek Carpets', Chinese Retailer Shein Apologises

6 July 2020

Online retailer Shein came under massive scrutiny past weekend after a post about them selling Muslim prayer mats as decorative rugs went viral.


The mats sold were labelled as "frilled Greek carpets" and had pictures of the Kabaa on them.

The Kabaa is a building in the centre of Mecca, considered the most sacred place by Muslims around the world.

Shein was also accused of cultural appropriation for using white models to sell sleepwear that imitated cultural clothing.

The retailer has now apologised via a statement to its more than 11m Instagram followers, and removed the items from its site.

"As a global brand, we vow to do a much better job in educating ourselves on different cultures, religions and traditions to ensure our diverse community is respected and honoured," it said.

Reviews on the products showed that customers were using the mats for purposes other than prayer - one review showed a buyer using the mat for their pet cat.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened - cultural appropriation in fashion has been a prevalent conversation in recent years.

Last year, PrettyLittleThing was criticised for designing an "oriental" collection based around a traditional Chinese dress.

And in 2018, H&M apologised after an advertising campaign showed a black child wearing a hoodie that said "coolest monkey in the jungle".

High fashion brands like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and CommesDes Garçons have also had to apologise - but Financial Times fashion editor Lauren Indvik told Radio 1 Newsbeat earlier this year that the industry has "woken up" to the issue of diversity in fashion.

"There's been a real effort at being educated and appointing diversity councils.

"I think there's now a focus on recruiting for diversity that probably wasn't there three or four years ago."


Thousands protest against UK role in Saudi war on Yemen

July 7, 2020

Thousands of protesters demanded an end to Britain's role of facilitating the war on Yemen


Protesters demanded an end to Britain's role of facilitating the war on Yemen that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Today protests have taken place around the Britain to highlight and condemn the atrocities of the Yemen war, which has now been raging for five years. Hundreds of young people marched through central London in solidarity with the millions of Yemenis suffering the evils of war, in addition to cholera, famine and Covid-19.

Starting outside the BBC on Portland Place, speakers made calls for the BBC to fairly report on the horrific war: the indubitable bias of the BBC towards the government was highlighted, and demonstrators demanded that the mainstream media report on Britain’s heavy involvement in the battle between the Saudi-backed government and Yemenis.

As the demonstrators marched on, chants of ‘Free Yemen’ and ‘Stop the War’ were repeated down Oxford Circus and on to the Saudi Embassy. Here protesters stopped again for more speeches, along with a brief pause to allow for a few minutes of quiet reflection and prayer – despite the obvious peaceful nature of the protest, a heavy police presence was felt along the whole route.

This presence amped up as the protesters marched down Whitehall, and stopped across the road from Downing Street. Plenty of passing cars, buses and mopeds beeped their horns in solidarity with the protesters. Here, organisers spoke to emphasise the horrific violence of the Yemen war, and how these are affecting normal Yemenis. A minute’s silence was held to remember the many victims and many on the march prayed for those who have lost their lives. Chants then continued in both English and Arabic, but included the now very popular ‘Boris is a wasteman’, and ‘Boris Johnson’s a racist’.

From here, the plan was to march to Westminster bridge, though after some deliberation, organisers decided to wait in Parliament Square for a group of Black Lives Matter protesters who had set off from Hyde Park earlier on.

While waiting, speakers began to highlight why it is crucial to support Black Lives Matter, and why solidarity is key in any struggle for liberty. This was met with enthusiastic applause from the demonstration. Links were made between the Yemen war and the racist, Islamophobic murder of Shukri Abdi a year ago. The energy was defiant as the Black Lives Matter protesters caught up with the rest of the protest.


Volatility from Virus Crisis Highlights Need for Shariah-Compliant Hedging Tools

July 07 2020

The disruption of financial markets caused by the coronavirus crisis in recent months and the subsequent volatility in the industry has revived the long discussion about the need for Shariah-compliant hedging tools, namely derivatives, in the Islamic finance sector. The up and down of oil prices and volatilities in profit rates, exchange rates and commodity prices in general has exacerbated the situation, so that many players have resumed to look for adequate risk management techniques for their Shariah-compliant banking and finance portfolios.

Basically, hedging tools in finance are technologies and methods to minimise the impact of fluctuations in financial markets. They can be used in a number of sectors, for example for hedging of volatilities in stock prices, commodities and agricultural products, energy and fuel prices, consumer prices, precious metals, exchange rates and for other forms of more sophisticated financial risk management techniques. Basically, they can be engineered from a wide range of financial instruments, including forward contracts, swaps, options, futures contracts and other form of derivative products, as well as insurance contracts and obligations, among others. They are widely used in conventional finance and reach from asset-based financial contracts to highly complex synthetic financial products. Particularly the latter include high-risk technologies such as mortgage-backed securities and collateralised debt obligations which played a sad role in the 2007-08 financial crisis.

In Islamic finance, however, the requirement of Shariah-compliance of derivatives is a major limitation for their development. Many conventional financial risk management technologies are not Shariah-compliant due to their imminent characteristics of being speculative and incompatible to the risk-sharing prerequisite in Islamic finance. This leaves the halal financial industry with far fewer hedging instruments compared with their conventional peers.

What comes closest to Islamic finance requirements are such derivatives that derive their value from the performance of an underlying entity which itself has intrinsic value. Such Islamic derivaties are called tahawwut, describing a hedging process that is used or offered by Islamic banks and financial institutions to help mitigate risks, or khatar (market or price uncertainty). However, Islamic scholars and Islamic financial practitioners are far from being in agreement over how to define halal hedging tools that bear a similar functionality by replicating conventional derivative structures in a Shariah-compatible way.

Essential processes so far developed include Islamic contracts such as salam, which resembles a conventional forward contract, ijarah, an adjusted futures contracts, as well as back-to-back loans as a replacement for swaps. Other concepts there are arbun and khiyar (used to replicate option-type structures) and wa’ad (used for obligations).

That said, Islamic banks and financial institutions remain constraint to this small number of hedging options not only due to the relatively small number of Shariah-compliant technologies, but also due to the lack of standardisation and harmonisation of available hedging instruments across jurisdictions.

“All this is constraining the expansion of the Islamic derivatives market at a time when there is an increased need for the usage of derivatives for risk-management purposes for Islamic financial institutions, as well as sukuk issuers and investors and Shariah-compliant non-financial corporates,” said Bashar al-Natoor, global head of Islamic finance at Fitch Ratings, who urged Islamic finance jurisdictions to develop the market by establishing more over-the counter markets for Islamic derivatives, adopt legislation to improve the development and enforceability of Islamic derivative contracts and generally impose clear guidelines and standards for Islamic derivatives.

“Derivatives play a vital role in hedging and mitigating risks that come from volatilities in profit rates, exchange rates and commodity prices,” al-Natoor said, adding that they are not only essential for banks in limiting their risk exposure and increasing their earnings generation capabilities by creating and offering derivative products to clients, but also could have a positive effect on liquidity and solvency on banks, financial institution and takaful companies and as such in the Islamic finance market as a whole.


Mozambique Is Emerging As The Next Islamic Extremist Hotspot

JULY 6, 2020

An Islamist terror group in Mozambique is staging increasingly sophisticated and destructive attacks on oil facilities and government targets this year. Its connections with Islamic State may be growing tighter, according to a report published Monday by data analytics company Babel Street.

The attacks are part of a three-year uprising in the country that has turned markedly more violent this year. Already, 447 people have died in attacks in 2020, a faster pace than last year, which saw 660 deaths in 309 attacks, the Babel Street report said, citing the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project.

Tactics recently used by the terror group, called Al Sunnah waJama’ah, suggest a growing relationship with the Islamic State and other terror groups. These include launching small drones for position scouting, displaying Islamic State flags during attacks, beheading victims, and kidnapping girls in the model of Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Babel Street report said.

As well, Islamic State representatives have taken credit for some attacks in the country, as on April 10, when the private security company Dyck Advisor Group lost a helicopter.

In May, Al Sunnah waJama’ah captured a Yanjing armored vehicle from Mozambican security forces. On June 27, ISIS took credit for the attack through their Amaq News Agency via Telegram, said Babel Street. “We also saw that the insurgents used some high-powered weapons — 73mm recoilless rifle and 82mm mortars — for the first time, further signs of increasing intensity and expertise within the group,” said Eric Swanfeldt, an International Senior Solutions Specialist at Babel Street.

Babel Street draws on a variety of sources, including local media vetted by the IntelCenter database of terrorist activity, message boards, blogs, social media, Telegram channels.

Relatively little is known about Al Sunnah waJama’ah, which does not appear to produce, say, video recruiting ads. The group began to claim affiliation with ISIS not long after their 2017 emergence. More recently, Al Qaeda has been taking credit for the group’s work — but it’s not clear whether they deserve it.

A member of the U.S. Air Force stands near a Patriot missile battery at the Prince Sultan air base in al-Kharj, central Saudi Arabia, Thursday, February 20, 2020.Lessons from Yemen’s Missile War

U.S. Marine Cpl. Joseph Josleyn talks with troops of Indonesia's Korps Marinir during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014.Look at Great Power Competition Through a SOF Lens

Mark R. Quantock, a retired Army major general who is Babel Street’s executive vice president for strategic accounts, said that the terror group’s growing prowess could transform Mozambique into a new haven for extremists. “We certainly have, from a global perspective, equities and interests in making sure that the cancer that is Islamic extremism, that is ISIS, doesn’t grip any particular place…that would not be helpful to the U.S. or our allies or that portion of Africa,” he said.

The United States. currently has no large military presence in Mozambique. But it did deploy nearly 100 U.S. troops from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa to help the government with relief efforts after Cyclone Idai last year.

“The situation in Mozambique is one that is being monitored,” said Col. Christopher Karns, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command.

“Africa continues to be a place where groups such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda seek to regenerate and look for opportunity to demonstrate resiliency,” Karns said. “The Islamic State-affiliated activity in Mozambique is more visible with increased claims of attacks. The situation and techniques employed are certainly not unique to Mozambique.”

Islamic State affiliates often target youth in local communities, particularly those that are impoverished, where the group can offer access to resources. “The signs of the Islamic State seeking to build local legitimacy while undermining government is present as they seek to intimidate and provide alternate options to the government,” Karns said.

Russia, too, is present in the region, deploying state-sponsored private military contractors in at least 16 African nations. “Russia is a country that certainly seeks access to Mozambique’s natural resources to include oil, natural, gas and coal, as well,” Karns said. Russia may be stepping into position to provide more security assistance to countries like Mozambique in exchange for contractual access to raw materials, ”which can undermine our partners’ capacity for economic development.”

He said the Wagner mercenary group has also been active in Mozambique. “Wherever Wagner is employed, Russia seems to want to mask their direct role. Russia’s exploitative military and economic partnerships in Africa, often pursued through unofficial actors, remain a concern.”


will life mean life when the Christchurch mosque killer is sentenced?

July 6, 2020

On the very day New Zealand entered COVID-19 lockdown (March 26), the man arrested for the Christchurch mosque terror attacks admitted he was a murderer and a terrorist.

Despite the lockdown, Justice Mander arranged for media and community representatives to be present when the accused confessed guilt via an audio-visual link from prison. Adjourning the case for sentencing, the judge expressed the hope that those who wished to attend in person would be able to do so.

This crime was exceptional in its brutality. While the courts have treated it largely as any other case, there have been accommodations. Before the guilty pleas were entered, the trial date had been moved due to Ramadan. And extra steps have been taken to allow more victims to participate in the sentencing.

Under the Victims’ Rights Act 2002, the families of those killed and injured are directly involved in a sentencing hearing. With lockdown lifted, New Zealand’s courts are running again, but many of those who will want to make a victim impact statement are abroad. Those with citizenship or permanent residence will have to be quarantined if they return.

Those not automatically entitled to enter will have to seek an exemption. The judge acknowledged the sentencing date was a compromise. Some who want to attend in person won’t be able to but, at the same time, finality is important. Video links will be arranged for those who can’t attend.

The scale of offending in this case means the hearing will take several days, not least to allow meaningful participation by victims. Before the hearing, the lawyers will file submissions about the appropriate sentence based on the facts, aggravating factors and any mitigation that can be presented. Advice is given by probation officers, and medical reports often feature for serious offending.

A hearing typically opens with the defendant being asked if he or she has anything to say before sentence is passed. This is a cue for the lawyers to make their statements to the court.

Several issues may arise here. Will the defendant wish to speak directly? If so, will it be permitted? Will he be in court or appear via video link?

If he does want to be present for sentencing, the judge may still prevent this by finding it “not contrary to the interests of justice” if the defendant appears only by video link.

If facts alleged by the prosecution are disputed by the defendant, and if those disputed facts may make a difference to the sentence, a mini-trial might be required to resolve them.

Who can present victim impact statements could also be disputed. The terrorism in question was aimed at the Muslim community, making it arguably a “person against whom” the offence was committed and so within the definition of a victim.

The maximum sentence for a terrorist act is life imprisonment, as it is for murder. The defendant has admitted 51 murders. For attempted murder, the maximum sentence is 10 years, and he has admitted 40 such offences.

Unlike some jurisdictions, New Zealand doesn’t allow sentences of several hundred years for multiple offending. The focus therefore will be on the life sentence.

The Sentencing Act requires a life sentence for murder unless that would be manifestly unjust. No one can suggest that exception applies here. The main issue will be the minimum non-parole period the judge should apply.

Parliament requires a minimum term of 17 years for a terrorist murder or one involving more than one victim. But the legislation allows the judge to set no minimum non-parole period – in other words, a life sentence is literally for the defendant’s remaining life.

The defence lawyers’ job is to argue against it. It’s also likely that whatever the judge decides will be appealed – by the prosecution if he does not impose a whole life sentence, and by the defence if he does.

Whether or not there is a whole life sentence, the defendant will be imprisoned for the foreseeable future, inevitably in a high security facility.

Given he is Australian, might he be transferred to Australia? We have no standing arrangements to transfer serving prisoners, so deportation usually follows release. However, the government is able to negotiate special arrangements if the Australian government is willing.

The August hearing and any appeal will determine the responsibility of the gunman. The focus can then turn to the wider questions of whether the horror could have been prevented and how to guard against it happening again.


Malaysia: Five New Cases of Covid-19, No New Deaths for Over 3 Weeks

06 Jul 2020


PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia recorded five new cases on Monday (July 6), of which three are imported cases.

Cumulatively, the country has a total of 8,668 infections, said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah at the ministry’s Covid-19 press conference here.

One of the two local transmission cases was detected from a community screening conducted by a district health office in Kuala Lumpur.

The other local case was a Malaysian, who is a family member of Patient 8649, detected following a screening on the latter’s close contacts.

Dr Noor Hisham also said 11 more cases have been discharged, which means 8,476 patients have recovered from Covid-19 in Malaysia since the outbreak began.

Dr Noor Hisham announced no new deaths, which means the death toll remains at 121 cases for the 22nd day in a row.


North America


New rules: International students must leave U.S. if classes go online

JUL 7, 2020

International students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall, under new guidelines issued Monday by federal immigration authorities.

The guidelines, issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, provide additional pressure for universities to reopen even amid growing concerns about the recent spread of COVID-19 among young adults. Colleges received the guidance the same day that some institutions, including Harvard University, announced that all instruction will be offered remotely.

President Donald Trump has insisted that schools and colleges return to in-person instruction as soon as possible. Soon after the guidance was released, Trump repeated on Twitter that schools must reopen this fall, adding that Democrats want to keep schools closed “for political reasons, not for health reasons.”

Under the updated rules, international students must take at least some of their classes in person. New visas will not be issued to students at schools or programs that are entirely online. And even at colleges offering a mix of in-person and online courses this fall, international students will be barred from taking all their classes online.

It creates an urgent dilemma for thousands of international students who became stranded in the U.S. last spring after the coronavirus forced their schools to move online. Those attending schools that are staying online must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction,” according to the guidance.

The American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, said the guidelines are “horrifying” and will result in confusion as schools look for ways to reopen safely.

Of particular concern is a stipulation saying students won’t be exempt from the rules even if an outbreak forces their schools online during the fall term. It’s unclear what would happen if a student ended up in that scenario but faced travel restrictions from their home country, said Terry Hartle, the council’s senior vice president.

“It’s going to cause enormous confusion and uncertainty,” Hartle said. “ICE is clearly creating an incentive for institutions to reopen, regardless of whether or not the circumstances of the pandemic warrant it.”

The international education group NAFSA blasted the rules and said schools should be given the authority to make decisions that are right for their own campuses. It said the guidance “is harmful to international students and puts their health and well-being and that of the entire higher education community at risk.”

Nearly 400,000 foreigners received student visas in the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, down more than 40 percent from four years earlier. School administrations partly blame visa processing delay.

Colleges across the U.S. were already expecting sharp decreases in international enrollment this fall, but losing all international students could be disastrous for some. Many depend on tuition revenue from international students, who typically pay higher tuition rates. Last year, universities in the U.S. attracted nearly 1.1 million students from abroad.

Trump’s critics were quick to attack the new guidelines. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, said the “cruelty of this White House knows no bounds.”

“Foreign students are being threatened with a choice: risk your life going to class in-person or get deported,” Sanders said in a tweet. “We must stand up to Trump’s bigotry. We must keep all our students safe.”

Dozens of colleges have said they plan to offer at least some classes in person this fall, but some say it’s too risky. The University of Southern California last week reversed course on a plan to bring students to campus, saying classes will be hosted primarily or exclusively online. Harvard on Monday said it will invite first-year students to live on campus, but classes will stay online.

Immigration authorities suspended certain requirements for international students early in the pandemic, but colleges were awaiting guidance on what would happen this fall. ICE notified schools of the changes Monday and said a formal rule would be forthcoming.

The announcement was the Trump administration’s latest pandemic-related strike against legal immigration. Last month, authorities extended a ban on new green cards to many people outside the United States and expanded the freeze to include many on temporary work permits, including at high-tech companies, multinational corporations and seasonal employers.


Islamic Militants May Have Committed War Crimes in DRC, UN Says

By Ken Schwartz

July 06, 2020

A series of brutal attacks against Congolese civilians by Islamic militants are possible war crimes, United Nations monitors said Monday.

Eighteen months of attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have killed more than 1,000 civilians, the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office says in a new report. 

“In the majority of cases, the means and the modus operandi of the attacks indicate a clear intention to leave no survivors. Entire families have been hacked to death,” it said, adding that attacks “may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

According to the report, ADF extremists used assault rifles, mortars, machetes and knives against villagers. The fighters have burned down schools and health centers and kidnapped women and children, looking to recruit them.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi deployed about 22,000 troops to the border with Uganda late last year to root out the ADF and destroy their bases.

But the U.N. report also accuses Congolese security forces of serious human rights violations in their campaign against the ADF.

“We call on the state authorities to step up efforts to complete pending judicial cases into all allegations of human rights violations and abuses; to bring all alleged perpetrators to justice; and to ensure the right to truth, justice and reparations for the victims and their families,” said Leila Zerrougui, head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in DRC.

Observers say the Ugandan-based ADF has been active in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the early 1990s, one of several militia groups looking to control DRC territory.


CAIR-Georgia Decries Judge’s Release of Suspected Murderer of Georgia Muslim Man in Augusta, Demands Justice for Ahmad Popal

Ibrahim Hooper

July 6, 2020

(AUGUSTA, GA, 7/06/2020) – Today, the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Georgia) will co-host a news conference with CSRA Street Justice, National Action Network, and community advocates and members in Augusta, Ga., to condemn Judge Daniel Craig’s release of Terrence Cumber, despite the District Attorney’s Office’s recommendation that bond be denied. Cumber was charged with the murder of Ahmad Popal and possession of a firearm during a felony.

What: News Conference Condemning Judge Daniel Craig’s Release of Terrence Cumber

When: Monday, July 6th, 12 P.M. ET

Where: 735 James Brown Boulevard, Augusta, GA 30901

In a statement, CAIR-Georgia Legal and Policy Director Murtaza Khwaja said:

“While CAIR-Georgia remains committed to restorative justice and the eradication of the cash bail system due to its criminalizing of poverty,** we stand firmly with the Augusta community to advocate for our criminal justice system to treat all criminal defendants equally. “

Cash bail perpetuates inequities in the justice system that are disproportionately felt by communities of color and those experiencing poverty.

In the early hours of June 21, 2020, a 23-year-old Georgia Muslim man, Ahmad Popal, was shot and killed in the 1200 block of Broad Street in Augusta, Georgia outside The Scene nightclub.

Ahmad had been in an altercation earlier with the suspect before he was shot by Terrence Cumber, 24, who was promptly arrested.

On Thursday, July 2nd, 2020, Cumber was released from the custody of Richmond County Sheriff’s Office at Charles Webster Detention Center following his bond hearing. Superior Court Judge Daniel Craig set a $4,000 bond on the murder charge despite the District Attorney’s Office’s recommendation that bond be denied. A $7,900 bond had already been set on the weapon charge.

See: Judge Sets suspected club shooter’s bond at $4,000

CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Abdullah Jaber added:

“A $4,000 bond for an alleged murder charge is unacceptable, particularly given the brazen and public nature of this murder. Our communities cannot be safe when we have a system that time and again disproportionately discriminates against black and brown people. Justice must be impartial and objective for all. We are not safe when suspected killers walk free while their victims lay dead in the ground and their families are left without answers. Terrence Cumber needs to be held accountable for his alleged actions. The community will not settle for less than justice.”

CAIR-Georgia Legal and Policy Director Murtaza Khwaja said:

“There is no justice when criminal defendants are routinely set bail for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, for far lesser offenses while Mr. Cumber is set bail for $4,000 for the alleged murder of a Muslim American. Muslim Americans and indeed, people of color as a whole, Muslim or not, deserve the same protections that are afforded to all Americans. The American criminal justice system continues to overly police, incarcerate and prosecute individuals of color, particularly Black Americans, at disproportionate rates while exercising brash leniency towards criminal defendants in cases where people of color are themselves the victims.

“Judge Craig’s inexplicable decision to set bail for a charge of murder at $4,000 is an affront to all principles of justice and to the memory of Ahmad Popal, especially when the bail set for the possession of firearm charge was almost double that set for murder. All lives have value and rather than Judge Craig upholding this principle in his courtroom, he exercised extraordinary and reckless discretion in releasing Mr. Cumber against the recommendation of the District Attorney.

“Judge Craig made clear that Muslims and people of color will not be protected when the perpetrators are white. This arbitrary decision harkens back to the Jim Crow South and has as little place in Judge Craig’s courtroom now and as it did in America then.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertadesciviles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanesen los Estados Unidos.


Pass On The Mic: Muslim.Co Is Here To Set The Record Straight Regarding Muslims


By Sarah Trad

"Relieving, scary and chaotic," is how it feels to run a Muslim publication in the era of Donald Trump, the current U.S. president infamously known for his bigotry. 

"The death threats surely don't help but it's a reminder that what we're doing is needed, especially when Muslims are being ostracized and not able to take part in the conversations and narratives we see in the media," explained Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh, the 21-year-old Founder and Editor-in-Chief of

Muslim is a "fresh, vibrant and relevant" publication and magazine that targets Gen-Z and millennial Muslims anywhere they may be. From Hollywood stories to sectarian discrimination, going through the website's homepage is a colorful journey of emotions.

"I came into university wanting to be a journalist and cover entertainments, but during my freshman year Trump was elected. Instead of writing about Zendaya's latest outfits on the red carpet or The Weeknd's latest album, I found myself having to write about my Muslim community in all my classes," Al-Khatahtbeh said.

It is then that he realized he needed to center his work on this misrepresented group in hopes of passing on the microphone - one with a cutting edge - to those unheard. Come 2019, the platform had already built its social media presence along with a periodically sent newsletter. A year or so later, Muslim took full form with the addition of two letters and a preceding dot.

For their first magazine cover, acclaimed actor Ramy Youssef flashed a wide smile and spoke to Lead Editor Ameena Qobrtay about Muslim representation in the media and the second season of his eponymous Hulu series.

"I believe Ramy Youssef was the best first impression we could have had when launching our publication. He's in a weird predicament where his Muslim identity is very important to him, but he faces so much criticism for everything he does," Al-Khatahtbeh said.

"His show on Hulu ignites so much conversation that is needed within the Muslim community and it always leaves a mixed reaction with the crowd. Muslim is like that, too. Our articles can tackle some subjects that make the Muslim community uncomfortable, but it doesn't hurt to speak them," he continued.

The New York-based publication is all about novice perspectives and under-the-table topics. Just like Youssef, Muslim offers seriousness unaccompanied by a black and white homepage, instead it pivots around youthful looks and their blue and yellow signature tags.

"I think we need to shake the table in this ideology that Muslims have to present themselves in a certain way – our platform is meant to be refreshing. Seeing sheikhs with long beards and kufis are intimidating to Muslims and non-Muslim readers, a lot of people shared their gratitude that we are very fresh in our approach," Al-Khatahtbeh explained.

According to him, creating an approachable identity can instill willingness in people to connect with the publication. "[O]nce they connect they see that we do cover serious topics and have amazing reach."

The team: Shayma Al-Shiri (top left, Graphics Lead), Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh (top right, Founder and Editor-in-Chief), and Ameena Qobrtay (center, Lead Editor).

"[T]here is not one way of being 'Muslim' in a world of vast cultures and experiences, and of course centuries of history and development," a main aspect to focus on according to Al-Khatahtbeh. Those with any level of religiosity and miscellaneous personal beliefs can find themselves mirrored through the publication.

Believers of the Islamic faith have been misrepresented countless of times in Western media and productions, which has continuously led to Islamophobic attacks based on a fragment of the entire image.

In one instant, "Muslim" characters in movies or series are portrayed so uniquely that only a handful of Muslims can relate. In another, flushing an airplane toilet twice in a row before take off has led to the cancelation of the flight.

"We're always the subject of conversations, but Muslims are never at the table or given a chance to speak," Al-Khatahtbeh said, explaining how his publication is for Muslims and those unfamiliar with the faith, but is driven and written by Muslims.

"[E]very viewer will have to hear from us for a change and not from someone speaking on our behalf. We have a voice, and we have been speaking for a while now. It's time to listen," he continued.


South Asia


Muslim Volunteers Bury Christians Who Died from The Coronavirus in Bangladesh


by SumonCorraya

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Groups of Muslim volunteers are burying Christians who have died from the coronavirus. This is seen as a great example of interfaith harmony, and videos of their work have gone viral in Bangladesh.

According to World Health Organisation data, almost 160,000 cases have been reported in Bangladesh with about 2,000 deaths, including a dozen Christians. Fearing contagion, very few people in the country are willing to touch the bodies of infected people, living or dead.

Muslim volunteers, who live isolated from their families, have been trained to bury those who die from the respiratory disease.

As part of the burial process, they first spray a disinfectant (a mixture of water and alcohol) onto the body of the dead, then bathe it with a solution of soap and water, and rub it with a cloth. Finally, the body is wrapped in a shroud and placed inside a special plastic bag.

Sahidul Islam, head of Al-Manahil Foundation, a charity based in Chittagong, notes that the burial of Christians is a new experience for his group.

"We received a call from the health authorities and responded immediately, regardless of the faith of the deceased. We have seen many difficult situations, even cases where children refuse to touch their father's body."

The Al-Manahil Foundation is funded by private donations and does not ask money for its work. “We carried Mary Stela Roy, a Christian woman, from the hospital to the cemetery. Her family has been very grateful to us, "Sahidul told AsiaNews.

Another volunteer organisation, Man for Man Force, deals with burials in Dhaka. Recently, it buried Rony Gomes, a Catholic from the parish of Dharenda.

Mohammad Rajib, one of the volunteers, said that the pandemic is a global challenge; for this reason, all religions should unite to fight it.

Catholics are also trying to get together to ensure a worthy burial for COVID-19 dead. Father Albert Rozario, parish priest in Dharenda, notes however that Catholics have not yet acquired the proper knowledge to bury infected bodies. Hence, he is grateful to Man for Man Force volunteers for their help.


22 Taliban militants killed, wounded on Kabul-Jalalabad highway

07 Jul 2020

The security forces killed or wounded at least 22 Taliban militants during a clash on Kabul-Jalalabad highway, the Afghan military said.

The 201st Silab Corps in a statement said the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces conducted a joint operation based on a tip off in Sarkund Baba area Laghman province which is located on Kabul-Jalalabad highway.

The statement further added that the security forces killed 16 Taliban militants and wounded at least 6 others during the clash.

The security forces also confiscated some weapons and munitions following the clash, the 201st Silab Corps added in its statement.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the incident so far.


Ghani appoints new governors for five provinces of Afghanistan

07 Jul 2020

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has appointed new governors for five provinces of Afghanistan, the Independent Directorate of the Local Governance (IDLG) said.

According to IDLG, President Ghani issued a decree appointing governors for Khost, Laghman, Nuristan, Baghlan and Samangan provinces.

Based on President Ghani’s decree, Mohammad Sadiq Patman has been appointed as governor of Khost, Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai as governor of Nuristan, RahmatullahYarmal as governor of Laghman, Taj Mohammad Jahid as governor of Baghlan and Mohammad Dawood Kalakani as governor of Samangan.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that President Ghani has appointed Mohmmad Omar Daudzai as his special envoy for Pakistan.

The new appointments take place as the government has not introduced the members of the cabinet so far.


‘Gunfight’ between PCJSS factions in Bandarban leaves 6 killed

July 07, 2020

At least six people were killed and three others injured in a "gunfight" between two factions of Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) in BandarbanSadarupazila this morning, police said.

Bandarban's Additional Superintendent of Police (Sadar) Mobasser Hossain told The Daily Star that the gunfight took place between the members of PCJSS and PCJSS (reform) groups.

Six persons including the president of PCJSS (reform) were killed in the gunfight, he said. However, his name and other details could not be known immediately.

Earlier, the district's Superintendent of Police Jerin Akhter said, "The gunfight took place at Baghmara area under Sadarupazila around 7:00 am."

"We are investigating the incident and police are on the spot," she told our Chattogram correspondent.


Bangladesh backs UN Secretary-General’s call for global ceasefire

July 07, 2020

Bangladesh and nine other countries handed over a joint statement supporting UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres' appeal for global ceasefire.

The statement, which received the overwhelming endorsement by 172 UN member states, non-member observer states and observers, was the strongest yet political support that the appeal has received so far.

"It sends a strong and clear message of solidarity and compassion with those impacted by the hostilities amid the Covid-19 pandemic," said a press statement of the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York.

Bangladesh, Ecuador, Egypt, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Oman, Senegal, Slovenia, and Sweden of the Joint Statement of Support to the Secretary-General's Appeal for Global Ceasefire virtually met António on Monday to officially hand over the statement.

In her conversation with the UN Secretary-General, Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Rabab Fatima praised him for his leadership role in guiding the global efforts to address the pandemic especially in conflict situations.

"Your appeal has had important salutary effect on many conflict situations, yet, many are not paying heed and some are applying it selectively," she said.

In his response, the SG termed the joint statement as 'one of the best and most important endorsements to his appeal in the UN' and thanked all the co-initiators for this.

While referring to some significant and successful impacts of the appeal, he also admitted that much more remains to be done and implementation remains the key. He stressed the importance of continued global solidarity and its expansion to other areas.

The appeal has been the high point of the secretary-general's efforts in garnering political support for pandemic response. Bangladesh was also among the first rank of countries to have endorsed the appeal once earlier through another platform when it was made on 23 March.




An Aid Worker, Silvia Romano, Says Islam Comforted Her During Captivity of Somali Islamist Militants

06 July 2020

(ANSA) - ROME, JUL 6 - Silvia Romano, an aid worker who converted to Islam during an 18-month detention by Somali Islamist militants, said Monday her new faith had comforted her during her ordeal.

Speaking to online daily La Luce two months after being freed, Romano said "after accepting the Islamic faith, I began to look on my destiny with serenity in my soul".

Romano was crticised by rightwingers after converting, and a nationalist opposition League MP called her a "neo-terrorist" in parliament.

Prosecutors have opened a probe into a campaign of Web-based hate against 25-year-old Milan native Romano, and police cars are patrolling the street where she lives.

Romano was freed at the weekend after 18 months in captivity by the Somali Al-Shabaab group, to whom she was handed over by a kidnapping gang who snatched her in Kenya in November 2018.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has denied an Al-Shabaab spokesman's statement that the militants had received a four-million-euro ransom for Romano.

Hatred on social media has been directed against Romano's conversion to Islam, the fact that has did not overtly criticise Al-Shabaab, her alleged naivety in travelling to a hotspot without proper protection, and the fact that her case has allegedly ended up funding terrorism.

A former League councillor in Veneto said she should be hanged, and League MP Alessandro Pagano spurred a row with his "neo-terrorist" remark.

Di Maio, former leader of the ruling anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), said "spine-chilling things have been said about Silvia, they have gone beyond any acceptable limit." Romano has responded to the criticism by saying she adopted Islam freely and intends to remain in the faith. (ANSA).


The Muslim bereaved cruelly deprived of closure by coronavirus

7 Jul 2020

Jusna Begum wakes up to her phone ringing at 1am. When she answers, it’s an inconsolable woman who has just lost her father to coronavirus.

This has become the new normal for Begum, despite her being neither a grief counsellor nor a medic or chaplain. Rather, she is the person who would usually have washed the bodies of the deceased – a fundamental Muslim ritual in death.

But with the Covid-19 outbreak, this sacrosanct religious process has been denied to thousands of families. Begum, 45, has been inundated with distressed phone calls, and she warns that the impact is worsening the mental health toll on a community already disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

“Not only did these families lose someone, they felt they couldn’t get closure as they were unable to go through the correct Islamic processes before burial,” she told the Guardian.

“We couldn’t wash the bodies at all so the deceased were being buried in the clothes that they went into hospital in. They came to us in a black body bag and left in that same bag without it ever being opened. Hundreds of bodies were buried like this.”

Funerals in Islam follow specific rites, janazah in Arabic, and the burial is preceded by a simple ritual involving bathing and shrouding the body, followed by prayer. Unless the circumstances of the death are unusual, the bathing of the body is nearly always carried out by family members of the deceased, with a mosque volunteer like Begum present to assist.

Begum, who is also the director of a domestic violence charity in east London, helped to wash the bodies of some of the Muslim victims of the Grenfell Tower fire three years ago, and said the ritual was an essential part of the grieving process.

“When I help people wash a body, they talk about their loved ones and tell little stories about them, they reminisce and have those moments to remember them again. I feel like I get to know them too – the person that has died – because you are surrounded by those that loved them.

“This time has reminded me of Grenfell – all that horror that the community suffered. There are many similarities even though they are two very different events. There is so much sadness with what has happened with those that died during Covid.”

Begum describes how the body is washed in a similar way to that of a newborn baby. The hair is shampooed, the nails are cleaned and the body is fully cleansed before being wrapped in a shroud: five pieces of white cotton cloth for a woman and three for a man.

“It is a way of the family putting them to rest and it gives them those last moments with them, but coronavirus denied many families this. They never got to say goodbye properly,” she said.

An analysis by the Office for National Statistics of coronavirus-related deaths across England and Wales by ethnicity has shown people from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background are at a greater risk of their death involving the virus.

Meanwhile, a report published by Public Health England last month found that people of Bangladeshi heritage are dying at twice the rate of their white counterparts. Other BAME groups had between 10% and 50% higher risk of death.

Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, says the inability to carry out the correct burial rituals due to Covid-19 eventually resulted in community elders beginning to take the pandemic seriously.

“There was a definite delay with people in this community realising the severity of what was going on but once word started to get round that the janazah wasn’t being carried out properly, the elders started to panic and really began to understand what was happening. It was a definite wake-up call for many,” she said.

In Bangladeshi communities, inequality within clinical commissioning – where the health needs of smaller population groups have consistently and historically not been met – has been cited as a factor in the higher death toll. Other contributing factors include the high number of BAME key workers, language barriers and the fact many members of these communities live in multigenerational households.

Begum, whose mother-in-law recently died of coronavirus, added: “There will be lasting trauma. People have talked to me about having anxiety attacks because their relatives weren’t buried properly – there is so much guilt associated with it.

“Even though [there is] absolutely nothing they could have done, this disease has made people feel totally helpless and that will have a lasting effect.”


Manchester University Press criticised for publishing book linked to Islamist advocacy group

6th July 2020

By David Toube

David Toube, policy director of the extremism think tank Quilliam, said Cage has a “long and disturbing track record of rallying support for dangerous terrorists”, adding it was a “slap in the face” for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing that Manchester University’s publishing house is publishing the book.”

Haras Rafiq, also of Quilliam and a former Government advisor on tackling extremism, said as someone born in Greater Manchester, he was particularly insulted as one contributor, Fahad Ansari, had written for Cage criticising the “unfairness” of the extradition from the UK to the US of Abid Naseer, who was subsequently jailed for plotting to blow up the Manchester Arndale Centre, a conviction he described as “weak”.

He said the book gave Cage a “veneer of academic respectability”.


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say UK should 'right' past 'wrongs'

By Jaskiran Kaur

July 7, 2020

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry joined young leaders from the Queen's Commonwealth Trust for a joint virtual engagement to discuss matters related to justice and equal rights. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made the call from their new Los Angeles home where they have been residing with their son Archie.

The video chat took place last week as a part of online weekly sessions with Queen's Commonwealth Trusts that are conducted every Wednesday. For their virtual appearance, the couple were joined on the video chat with Chrisann Jarrett, co-founder of We Belong, Alicia Wallace, director of Equality Bahamas, Mike Omoniyi, founder of The Common Sense Network and Abdullahi Alim, the leader of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers.

We Belong is a UK-based organisation that works with young people who have migrated to the UK from other parts of the World. As for Equality Bahamas, it is a community organisation working to promote women's rights as human rights.

Talking to the young leaders, Prince Harry talked about "acknowledging the past" of the Commonwealth and correcting the wrong. He went on to say that this could be an "uncomfortable" task but it needs to be done for the larger good.

"When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past. So many people have done such an incredible job of acknowledging the past and trying to right those wrongs, but I think we all acknowledge there is so much more still to do. It's not going to be easy and in some cases, it's not going to be comfortable, but it needs to be done, because, guess what, everybody benefits," said Harry, whose grandmother is the Queen of Commonwealth.

He went on to talk about the issues of "unconscious bias" and said only when we overcome that will we be able to right the wrong and make the change in the society. "This change is needed and it's coming," he said.

"We're going to have to be a little uncomfortable right now because it's only in pushing through that discomfort that we get to the other side of this and find the place where a high tide raises all ships. Equality does not put anyone on the back foot, it puts us all on the same footing - which is a fundamental human right," Meghan said during the call.

Meanwhile, Daily Mail notes that Harry's statement "appears to be a swipe at the British Empire" which has been ruled by his family for years. He was also criticised for his comments by Tory MP Andrew Rosindell stating: "That is not the appropriate thing to do. I'm not sure his grandmother would be too pleased either."




Reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque may be a vote-winner for Erdogan


July 06, 2020

A debate is again open in Turkey on the question of reconverting the Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.

Built nearly 1,500 years ago on the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, this cathedral is one of the oldest standing shrines in the world, but it has a tumultuous history.

Fourth Crusader armies in 1204 captured Istanbul (then named Constantinople) and ruthlessly sacked, looted, vandalized and destroyed it. The whole city was plundered. Relics, golden objects, challises, plates and furniture were scattered all around Europe. Today, some churches in Germany and Italy are full of Byzantine belongings stolen from the Hagia Sophia and elsewhere in the city.

Grand Duke Loukas Notaras, the last commander-in-chief of the Byzantine navy, was so fed up with the unwelcome attitude of the remaining Catholics in Istanbul (it had been recaptured by the Byzantines in 1261) that, in 1451, he is quoted as saying: “I would rather see a Turkish turban in the midst of the city than the Latin miter.”

Two years later, Notaras’ wish materialized. The Ottoman state seized Istanbul in 1453 and put an end to the Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and it served as such for 480 years.

In 1934, the founder of republican Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, thought that, as the Blue Mosque (aka the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) was only a few hundred meters away from the Hagia Sophia, there was no shortage of praying grounds for the Muslim worshippers in that neighborhood. And, as the Hagia Sophia was of such cultural and historical importance, he decided to convert it into a museum.

However, a religious order in Turkey recently applied to Turkey’s top administrative court, claiming that Ataturk’s signature on the decree that ordered the conversion of the Hagia Sophia was a fake. The Council of State court met last week to debate the case. According to reports, the public prosecutor said during the hearing that there was no evidence the signature was a fake, but that the government could use its sovereign right to convert the museum into a mosque.

It would be a contradiction for the Turkish government to change the status of a monument on the UNESCO World Heritage List in its territory, while on the other hand it is making strenuous efforts to get other monuments on to this list.

In May, a Qur’an recitation session was organized in the Hagia Sophia to celebrate the 567th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul. The sura “Al-Fath” was recited during this session. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) commissioned a poll to find out the response of the public to holding such a session. It was reported that almost 75 percent of those polled supported the event. The AKP thus ascertained that there was strong support for reconverting the building to a mosque.

Unrelated to the conquest of Istanbul, this particular chapter of the Qur’an has a symbolic significance because it is about the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which was signed in the sixth year of Hijri (A.D. 628) between Prophet Muhammad and the Pagan notables of Makkah. According to the provisions of this treaty, the Prophet desisted from his intention to perform Umrah that year and postponed it to the following year. Thanks to this pacifying tactic, Prophet Muhammad conquered Makkah the following year without any fighting.

In March last year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Turkey. It was an omnibus resolution, in which the members of parliament usually compete to insert paragraphs to stain Turkey’s image. This was no different, and one adopted clause opposed the reconversion of the Hagia Sophia.

There is a strong lobby in certain European countries — and especially in Greece — against the reconversion. However, hundreds of mosques that were built during the 460 years of Ottoman rule in the territories that make up Greece today have been converted into churches, military prisons, cinemas or storage units, or were abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin. Arab News reported in 2003 that Athens was the only EU capital city without an official mosque. Meanwhile, there are nine Greek Orthodox churches in active use in Istanbul. Turkey wishes that the members of the European Parliament would remember this when they vote on such resolutions.

Four countries have so far made official statements opposing Turkey’s intention to convert the museum: The US, France, Greece and Russia. Turkey has slammed three of them but stayed quiet on Russia because Ankara is on opposite sides of conflicts with Moscow in both Syria and Libya, and it does not want to add a new area of confrontation.

It is difficult to guess what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will eventually do. As a pious believer, he may follow the Prophet Muhammad’s Hudaybiyyah example and convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque by letting the opposing public opinion digest it slowly. He may also do so for the sake of meeting the expectations of his own conservative electorate. This would boost his votes.


Shia Cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani Symbol Of Iraqi National Unity: Senior Cleric

July 7, 2020

Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Ali Alavi-Gorgani said on Monday that Iraq's most prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is a symbol of Iraqi national unity.

Ayatollah Alavi-Gorgani issued a message condemning Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat's insulting cartoon of Ayatollah Sistani, and emphasized that there is no doubt that the Shiite authority has always played an incomparable and unparalleled role in the fight against the global arrogance.

He added that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani influences people by his words and has become a symbol of Iraqi national unity and resistance against the plans of arrogant enemies by his spiritual power.

Saudi Arabia's Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper insulted Ayatollah Sistani in a cartoon that sparked a wave of anger and reactions against Saudi Arabia and its media among Iraqis.


Gaza-based Jaysh Al-Islam threatens Israel with jihad if sovereignty proceeds

July 6, 2020

The Gaza-based jihadi group Jaysh Al-Islam has released a video threatening Israel with a violent response if it declares sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, according to a report shared exclusively with JNS on Monday by the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor.

According to the MEMRI JTTM report, the July 1 video titled “Evil Is the Morning of Those Who Were Warned” features a speaker identified as Abu Maslamah, who reads a message warning Israelis that they will face a violent response should they proceed with the annexation and urges Muslims to take action to prevent it.

Abu Maslamah is filmed against a background of images and footage of Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

His message begins with praise of Al-Aqsa in the Islamic tradition: “Allah tied the mention of Al-Aqsa Mosque to the Holy Mosque [in Mecca], to teach people that it is one of Islam’s most important ritual [sites], which it is forbidden to abandon, to give up or surrender.”

Abu Maslamah accuses the “unbelievers” of having brought the Jews to Palestine in order to persecute Muslims, and allied openly and secretly against them while the Muslims sit silently and do nothing.

He continues: “Today, we see that the enemies plan to annex the Jordan Valley, not knowing that by this they are toppling themselves into the blazing fire.”

He also mentions the kidnapping of Israel Defense Forces’ soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, in which Jaysh Al-Islam cooperated with Hamas, warning Israelis: “We bring them tidings of a day that is approaching, a day in which they won’t be benefited by repentance or admonishment. A day when the sound of rifles and weapons will rise, so come to jihad, come to the struggle. … We will turn every piece of land they have robbed into their graves.”

During the final minutes of the video, the screen behind the speaker features footage of a military exercise conducted several months ago by Jaysh Al-Islam just outside of Beit Lahia’s waste-water treatment plant, approximately two kilometers from the border with Israel.

A unit of militants can be seen storming a model IDF outpost and blowing up a model Israeli tank. The final moments of the video show the practice-firing of an ATGM.


Turkey will not dare turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, says Greek archbishop

Jul 06 2020

Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece, primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece, said on Sunday that Turkey would not “dare” turn the centuries-old monument Hagia Sophia into a mosque, Kathimerini newspaper reported.

During a televised interview, the archbishop said Turkey was “playing whatever games are in hand,” and that the monument, currently serving as a museum after its conversion into a mosque upon Istanbul’s Ottoman conquest, would not be returned to its status as a mosque.

Following a Quran recital inside the 6th century monument in late May on the anniversary of the conquest, the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stepped up moves to open it to worship as a regular mosque. Turkey’s top administrative court, the Council of State, said last week that it will make a ruling on the matter within 15 days.

Greece and the Greek Orthodox Church have strongly spoken out against the possibility of conversion for one of the most significant cathedrals for the Orthodox faith, urging Turkey to maintain the UNESCO World Heritage Site as it stands, and warning against inter-religious tensions.

Last week, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said a conversion would “disappoint millions of Christians around the world”.

The Russian Orthodox Church also joined the conversation on Saturday, with a senior official telling Russian news agency Interfax that turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque would be “unacceptable”.


Islamic Jihad sets conditions for Palestinian reconciliation


Sa’idNakhala, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, said on Sunday that a removal of all the punitive measures taken by the Palestinian Authority against the Gaza Strip is a precondition for reconciliation in the Palestinian Arab arena.

In an interview with the Hamas-affiliated website Al-Risala, Nakhala said that the starting of a new chapter in relations between the Fatah movement and the Islamic organizations requires the PA to change its policy towards the Gaza Strip.

He mentioned in this context the closure of the bank accounts of terrorist prisoners who had received a monthly allowance from the Palestinian Authority in accordance with the prison sentences they are serving, a cut in public sector workers' wages and a budget cut for the Gaza Strip.

Nakhala noted that it is precisely now that the Gaza Strip needs to be strengthened and that equal distribution of resources between Judea, Samaria and Gaza must be ensured.

The punitive measures on Gaza were imposed by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas as part of the ongoing feud between his Fatah faction and Hamas. The two have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza in a bloody coup.

The two groups signed a reconciliation agreement in October of 2017, as part of which Hamas was to transfer power in Gaza back to Fatah two months later. That deadline was initially put back by 10 days and then appeared to have been cancelled altogether after it reportedly hit “obstacles”.

Last week, however, the two rival groups held a rare joint press conference in which they pledged a united campaign against Israel's prospective plans to apply sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria.


Israel orders demolition of 30 Palestinian facilities in al-Quds village

06 July 2020

The ‘Israeli Civil Administration’ on Monday distributed evacuation and demolition notices to that end, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

Last month, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported a 250-percent increase in the number of structures targeted across the occupied territories. The UN, which recognizes Jerusalem al-Quds as an occupied territory, has urged Israel to halt the demolitions.

The UN says Israeli demolition of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank increased by 250 percent within the first half of the current year.

International organizations and rights groups say Israeli demolitions are an attempt to uproot Palestinians from their native territory and confiscate more land for the expansion of illegal settlements.

On June 30, Israeli authorities confiscated private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank to build new roads for settlements.

The Israeli military started bulldozing vast tracts of land in the town of Huwara near the southern Palestinian city of Nablus.

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

They are currently facing even greater repression as President Donald Trump of the United States has already given Israel the green light for land grab in his self-proclaimed ‘deal of the century,’ which was unveiled in January with the aim of re-drawing the Middle East map.


Iran urges UN to pursue fate of its diplomats abducted in Lebanon

07 July 2020

Iran has called on the United Nations to help set up a fact-finding committee to shed light on the fate of four Iranian diplomats kidnapped in Lebanon about 40 years ago.

On July 4, 1982, the year Israel invaded Lebanon, Iranian diplomts Ahmad Motevasselian, Seyyed Mohsen Mousavi, TaqiRastegarMoqaddam and Kazem Akhavan were kidnapped by a group of Israel-backed gunmen at an inspection post in northern Lebanon.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday, Iran’s envoy to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi said the Islamic Republic believes the four diplomats were handed over to Israeli forces immediately after the abduction in a region controlled by Tel Aviv at the time.

He wrote that the UN chief is expected to support Tehran’s call for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the fate of the missing Iranian nationals.

Takht-Ravanchi referred to the abduction of diplomats as a move against the international law, especially rules of human rights, and highlighted the UN’s role in dealing with the issue and holding the Israeli regime accountable for kidnapping the four nationals.

Earlier on Friday, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again hailed cooperation and measures taken by the Lebanese government to determine the fate of the four diplomats and said the UN, the ICRC and other international bodies as well as Lebanese officials should fulfil their legal and humanitarian duty and make their utmost efforts to shed light on

Iran calls on the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to seriously pursue the case of four Iranian diplomats kidnapped in Lebanon.

The Islamic Republic places "legal and political responsibility of the abduction and this act of terror" on the Tel Aviv regime and its supporters given the occupation of Lebanon at that time by the Israeli regime, which was carried out with the full support of the United States, the statement added.

"Despite the elapse of many years of this criminal and terrorist act, the international community and so-called advocates of human rights have unfortunately carried out no serious action vis-à-vis this crime," the ministry said.

"The Zionist regime, which still continues to commit crimes and violate international law with the support of the US, is evading responsibility in this respect," it added.


US government must compensate losses it has inflicted on Iran: Zarif

06 July 2020

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says regardless of who wins the forthcoming presidential election in the United States, the next American government must make up for the losses that its predecessor has inflicted on the Iranian nation.

Zarif made the remarks in a virtual address to the annual Mediterranean Dialogues 2020 conference, which was hosted by Italy, on Monday.

Iran’s top diplomat stressed that it doesn’t make any difference to Iran who becomes the next US president, because the new government must take steps for the compensation of losses incurred by Iran as a result of unilateral measures taken by the US administration.

"It is not important for us who will win the upcoming election in the US, but it is important for us to see Washington rectify its approach towards Tehran," he noted.

Pointing to the US' economic terrorism against the Iranian nation, Zarif said those who claim that they have not imposed any medical sanctions on the Islamic Republic should know that it has not been impossible for Tehran to obtain medicines due to the banking restrictions imposed on the country.

Late in June, Iran’s Foreign Ministry censured the White House for its desperate efforts to lead an international campaign to use ‘economic, medical terrors against Iranian human rights.’

The Ministry pointed to the “horrible and deadly” violation of human rights by the regime in the United States and said, “From depriving Iran of its own financial resources for making ends meet, to banning delivery of the COVID19-related supplies for saving Iranians' lives, the US regime is desperately leading the world campaign to use economic, medical terrors against Iranian #HumanRights.”

Elsewhere in his address, Zarif said the massive sale of US weapons and military equipment to different countries has been among factors behind the intensification of instability in the world.

The weapons the United States sells only to Saudi Arabia each year is three times the total Iranian military and defense budget, Iran's foreign minister said.

US President Donald Trump in 2017 closed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately.

"This package of defense equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the [Persian] Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats, while also bolstering the Kingdom's ability to contribute to counter terrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on the US military to conduct those operations," the White House said in a statement at the time.

The top Iranian diplomat further stressed the importance of diplomacy as the most effective means to solve all international issues, saying that the landmark nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and major world powers in 2015, was a great diplomatic achievement, which was clinched following serious and long-term negotiations and hard work.

Zarif reiterated that the Islamic Republic has complied with its commitments under the JCPOA in full, saying that Tehran signed the JCPOA with open eyes and, therefore, triggered the deal’s dispute resolution mechanism (DRM) at the right time.

Iran's foreign minister argued that five years since the conclusion of the JCPOA, Iran has not yet reaped the economic benefits of the deal due to the acts of sabotage by certain sides and Europeans' lack of commitment to their obligations.

Trump unilaterally abandoned the JCPOA, signed between Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, in May 2018 and reinstated the anti-Iran sanctions, which had been lifted by the accord.

Under Washington’s pressure, the three European signatories to the JCPOA have so far failed to live up to their contractual obligations to protect Tehran’s business interests against the sanctions.


Iran’s progress, capabilities causes of concern for US, Israel: FM Zarif

06 July 2020

Iran’s foreign minister says the pressures exerted by the United States and Israel on the Islamic Republic prove that both regimes are concerned about the new grounds Tehran has broken in recent years and its continued progress.

Speaking in a meeting of senior officials of Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Monday, Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “Perhaps, no other country has been under such mounting pressure from certain [world] powers, especially the United States, and the Zionist regime.”

He added that the Iranian Foreign Ministry has been constantly dealing with countries and groups outside Iran, which use all their power to mount pressure on the Iranian people.

Zarif noted that pressures put on Iran by Washington and Tel Aviv stem from the fact that both regimes “are concerned about Iran’s growth and capabilities, which has prompted them to take action to confront it.”

Zarif’s remarks came just a day after the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy, Brigadier General Alireza Tangsiri, announced that the country has developed underground cities along the country’s entire southern shores, including the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, which can accommodate both naval vessels and missiles.

“We [in the Iranian Armed Forces] have underground cities, which house both vessels and missiles,” the commander said, adding, “Our entire shoreline [in southern Iran] is equipped with [various types of] arms.”

“Another thing I am going to say [to enemies] with certainty is that we are present everywhere in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman and ... in places you cannot even imagine. We are your nightmare,” Tangsiri added.

Addressing the same meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi said the United States should not be allowed to once again portray Iran as a "security threat."

"Every move that would introduce Iran as a security threat on the international scene would be playing in the US court," Araqchi said.

He added that US President Donald Trump is facing a difficult situation after the recent developments in the country and "therefore, we should not give a pretext to the US to use Iran as a bargaining chip in the [upcoming] US [presidential] election campaign."

He said Washington has increased its so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran to its highest level over the past six months after it failed to achieve its objectives.

The senior Iranian diplomat warned that the US is currently pursuing its "main objective" that is "to once again send [the case of] Iran to the [United Nations] Security Council and has mobilized all its power to this effect," adding that such "a dangerous game" may cause strategic damage for Iran if the Iranian side played into the US' hands.

Pointing to the outcomes of the international nuclear agreement -- known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- signed between Iran and major world powers in 2015, Araqchi said, "Foiling a security agreement that was made between the US and Israelis after many years was one of the JCPOA's achievements. We intended to prevent the reformation of this consensus over the past months."

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

Rouhani made the remarks in a press conference with domestic and international media in Tehran in February, saying, “All [economic] indexes show that we have weathered [the worst phase of] the US' maximum pressure [policy]. Americans have reached the conclusion that the path they have chosen [for dealing with Iran] has been based on a wrong strategy.”


Arab world


Egypt to reopen Al-Hussein Mosque, isolate its shrine

6 Jul 2020

Egypt has decided to partially reopen Cairo’s iconic Al-Hussein Mosque as of 7 July following a few days of closure over worshippers' non-compliance with the new coronavirus precautions.

Egypt allowed religious venues, closed for a few months due to the pandemic, to reopen starting from 27 June with mandatory regulations, including opening mosques only for 30 minutes for prayer services and closing doors leading to shrines, existing in some places, in a bid to reduce the risk of infection.

Some worshippers at Al-Hussein Mosque, however, had violated the rules last week and stood around the outside walls of the shrine located inside the well-known mosque, according to a statement by the religious endowments ministry on Monday.

The ministry, which runs Islamic places of worship nationwide, has decided to close the mosque, sack its administrative director, and fine two imams and other staffers.

On Monday, however, the ministry announced the partial reopening of the mosque, completely isolating the place of prayer from the shrine in order to prevent possible crowding.

"The decision was taken given the place of the mosque in Egyptians' hearts and those who love Ahl El-Bayt ("the family of the Prophet Mohamed")," the ministry added.

The Old Cairo mosque houses a religiously significant shrine believed to be the burial place of Al-Hussein, the grandson of the prophet.


Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank raises foreign ownership limit to 40%

July 07, 2020

Dubai: Foreign investors can pick up to 40 per cent in Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank from today. The earlier limit was set at 25 per cent.

Banking stocks in the UAE have been leading the way in raising foreign ownership limits. “In terms of trading volumes, the ADIB move will generate higher activity,” said one trader. “But in terms of prices, we are not expecting much movement, at least initially.”

As of now, foreign owners have a 3.78 per cent ownership in ADIB, while GCC nationals own a further 1.78 per cent. Another 3.78 per cent is with other Arab nationals.

On Tuesday, ADIB’s share price will start at Dh3.78. Its market capitalization is at Dh13.72 billion.



06 Jul 2020

NNA - The road in front of Abdel Nasser mosque in Corniche Mazraa has been blocked by protesters with blazing trash containers, NNA field reporter said on Monday, adding that that road leading to UNESCO remains opened to traffic.

The protesters chanted slogans deploring the country's ailing living conditions and the incessant power cuts, NNA reporter added.


Iraqi expert on Islamic State group shot dead in Baghdad

7 July 2020

A leading Iraqi expert on the Islamic State (IS) and other armed groups was shot dead in Baghdad on Monday after receiving threats from Iran-backed militias, security and interior officials said.

Hisham al-Hashemi, 47, was shot near his home in the Zeyouneh area of Baghdad and pronounced dead at a hospital, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

"Yes, he passed away and his body is now in the hospital freezer," said Saad Maan, head of the interior ministry's media relations department.

A medical source at the hospital confirmed to AFP news agency that Hashemi had suffered "a hail of bullet wounds in several body parts".

The investigator assigned to the killing told AFP that Hashemi, 47, walked out of his home and was getting into his car when three gunmen on two motorcycles fired at him from metres away.

Hashemi was wounded and ducked behind his car, but the gunmen approached and shot him four times in the head at close range, the investigator said.

However weeks before his death, Hashemi told confidantes he feared Iran-backed militia groups were targeting him. Friends had advised him to flee to the northern city of Irbil, in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

His death comes as the government grapples with a spate of rocket attacks targeting US interests in the country believed to be orchestrated by Iran-backed militia groups. A raid last week detained 14 members of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah group. All but one were released.

Al-Hashemi was a strong supporter of the popular protests that swept across Baghdad and Iraq's Shia-majority south in October - protests that had slammed the government as corrupt, inefficient and beholden to neighbouring Iran.

More than 500 people lost their lives in protest-related violence, including several prominent activists who were shot in Baghdad, Basra in the south and other cities.

"Cowards killed my friend and one of the brightest researchers in Iraq, Hisham al-Hashemi. I am shocked," wrote Harith Hasan, who was an academic researcher before becoming an adviser to Iraq's current premier.


Emirates Islamic named ‘Islamic Bank of the Year – UAE 2020’

7 July 2020

Emirates Islamic, one of the leading Islamic financial institutions in the UAE, has announced that it has been awarded the prestigious ‘Islamic Bank of the Year – UAE 2020’ award by the globally renowned Financial Times’ monthly publication, The Banker.

The global award recognises Emirates Islamic’s leading position among the world’s best Islamic financial institutions. In awarding the title to Emirates Islamic, The Banker stated that “Emirates Islamic has been named Islamic Bank of the Year in the UAE for the first time, thanks to its impressive financial performance, improving customer services, and expanded product portfolio.”

Salah Amin, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Islamic said: “At Emirates Islamic, we are extremely pleased to be named ‘Islamic Bank of the Year – UAE 2020’ by Financial Times’ The Banker publication. The award by The Banker recognises not only our financial success over the years but also is testimony to our product and service innovations which have been paramount to become a leader in the Islamic banking sector in the UAE.”

Salah Amin added: “Islamic banking has grown consistently over the years, and Emirates Islamic has played a pioneering role to drive the growth in this sector and support the Government’s goal of making Dubai the global capital of the Islamic economy. As part of our customer-centric strategy, we have invested heavily in technology and digital banking solutions to provide our customers with a superior customer experience.

"We have always embraced innovation as one of our core strategic pillars - we were the first Islamic bank to launch a Mobile Banking app in the UAE, first Islamic bank to launch Apple Pay in the UAE and the first Islamic bank in the world to launch Chat Banking through WhatsApp. Going forward, we will continue to make further strides towards our goal of creating a superior banking experience for our customers and maintaining our position as the nation’s preferred Islamic Bank.”

Emirates Islamic delivered a strong set of results in 2019 with net profit of AED1.06 billion, surpassing the one billion dirham mark for the first time.

The recognition from The Banker follows a series of local and international accolades received by Emirates Islamic in recent months, in recognition of its strong record of performance and innovation in banking. The Bank was named ‘Best Islamic Financial Institution in UAE’ 2020 in New York-based Global Finance magazine’s list of the ‘World’s Best Islamic Financial Institutions.’

Emirates Islamic was also recognised as 2019’s ‘Best Islamic Bank’ and the ‘Most Innovative Islamic Bank’ by the World Finance Magazine’s global Islamic Finance Awards. The Bank was also awarded the ‘Most Innovative Islamic Bank’ by Islamic Finance News, a leading global Islamic finance news provider.




Islamic Development Bank earmarks $2.3 billion to fight COVID-19

6th July 2020

The global fight against COVID-19 received a boost on Monday with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group earmarking $2.3 billion to tackle the rampaging scourge.

The assistance also comes with some robust initiatives to be implemented in partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Economy and Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

The bank in a statement said the prime goal behind the initiative was to promote and provide a robust platform for the investment and prosperous trade opportunities in member countries.

A crowd of over 1000 engaged participants comprising of exceptional entities, seasonal practitioners, Government officials, individual investors, business associations, entrepreneurs, Multilateral and financial institutions, Chairmen, Presidents & CEOs of local/international companies, Chambers of Commerce & Industry and Investment promotion agencies, came together to celebrate in the IsDB Group.

Private Sector Action Response to COVID-19 webinar and launching new online initiatives was inaugurated by Dr Bandar Hajjar, President of Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB Group), Mrs Nevin Gamea, Minister of Trade and Industry of Egypt, and Mr Abdullah Ahmed Saleh, Undersecretary of UAE Ministry of Economy.

The main objective of the webinar, the bank added, was to discuss the challenges facing the Private Sector and Global Economy during the COVID-19 outbreak. The IsDB Group Private Sector entities also presented immediate joint action response and the future outlook to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst incorporating the new reality. The webinar highlighted the IsDB Group’s US$2.3 billion strategic preparedness and response programme for COVID-19 under its 3Rs approach “Respond, Restore and Restart”.

A prime goal behind the initiative is to promote and provide a robust platform for the investment and prosperous trade opportunities in member countries. Estimated numbers of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) attractions in member countries show the annual FDI inflows and outflows in 2019 that help to assess imminent prospects and growth opportunities.

During the webinar, three online initiatives were launched by IsDB Group Private Sector Entities in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy and AIM. The motive behind these unique initiatives was to help the OIC Member Countries’ economy and support the private sector, trade, exports and FDI in member countries.


Islamic group wants Muslims, Christians to install, bury traditional rulers in Yoruba land

July 7, 2020

By John Owen Nwachukwu

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has declared that it was wrong for only traditional religion to be installing and burying kings and other traditional rulers in Yoruba land.

The Muslim group said this while backing a bill that will allow traditional rulers to be installed or buried after death according to their faiths that has gone through the second reading in the Ogun State House of Assembly.

The bill, known as HB No 36/OG/2020 – is a Bill for a law to provide for the Preservation, Protection and Exercise by the traditional rulers of their fundamental rights to be installed and buried according to their religions or beliefs and for other related matters.

MURIC position was contained in a statement on Tuesday signed by its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, where it described the bill as long overdue, consistent with the spirit of democracy and a sine qua non for freedom of religion.

“We hail Hon. Akeem Balogun for sponsoring the bill that will allow traditional rulers to be installed or buried after death according to their faith. We equally commend those lawmakers who supported it. This bill is long overdue, consistent with the spirit of democracy and a sine qua non for freedom of religion,” it said.

“The imposition of only one religion (i.e. traditional religion) during installation and burial on all Yoruba Obas is an infringement of their Allah-given fundamental human rights. It is like life imprisonment for them. Yoruba kings have the right to choose the manner of their installation and no one has the right to cut a king off his brethren in faith.

“Besides, the world is changing and Yorubaland cannot afford to maintain an archaic and anachronistic system particularly when such erodes the liberty to enter into covenant with one’s Lord regarding how he will rule his people and how he will meet his Lord in the Hereafter. These are fundamental issues which no homo sapien should be deprived of.

“In this regard, we commend traditional rulers who have expressed their opposition to the outdated system. For instance, the Awujale of Ijebu-Ode, Oba SikiruAdetona, has rejected the old system and declared his desire to be buried according to his religion (Islam) whenever he dies. Oba AdedapoTejuosho, the Osile of Oke-Ona Egba, has also been installing the Oluwo and other chiefs with anointing oil as a born again Christian.

“The proposed bill will emancipate such rulers from the Yoruba traditional system which is replete with monopoly and intolerance. It should be noted that many qualified candidates to the throne have avoided contesting for it because of their fear that it would make them do certain things which are inconsistent with their faith.

“We posit that if all the citizens in a city are subjects of the Oba; if the citizens belong to different faiths; if the Oba is to rule over all his subjects; then traditionalists have no right to impose their own faith alone on every Oba. These qualities of intolerance and imposition are self-evident in the way traditionalists declare curfews and forcefully recruit adherents to their faith.

“Whereas Chapter 4, Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) says inter alia, ‘Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom’, traditionalists are in the habit of ignoring this constitutional provision and imposing curfew arbitrarily.

“In law, only the state government on the advice of the state commissioner of police can impose curfew on a town. Even then, such imposition must be based on adverse security report. But traditionalists will not listen. They force everyone to stay indoor and disorganize social and economic activities at will. The lives of women in labour during such unlawful curfews are endangered while students who have examinations stand the risk of failure. The forceful conversion of children of their deceased members to the traditional faith is another ugly dimension which reveals their dictatorial propensity.

“MURIC, therefore, welcomes the new bill with open arms. It will clip the wings of traditionalists particularly their gymnastic religiosity. However, we charge law enforcement agents to ensure that the bill operates successfully when it becomes law. It is one thing to enact a law but it is another thing to ensure that it is obeyed. Experience has shown that security agents have not summoned the courage to challenge traditionalists when the latter take the law into their hands. This is where the state government needs to watch. We also call on other states in the region to emulate the bold step taken by Ogun State.

“As we draw the curtain, we reiterate our positive position on the proposed bill to allow traditional rulers to be installed or buried according to their faiths. It is a major milestone in the democratization of rulership in Yoruba communities. Henceforth, law enforcement agents must deal with traditionalists who impose illegal curfews. State assemblies in Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti should also introduce the same bill and pass it into law. Apart from being anachronistic, traditional system is characterized with tyranny, intolerance and dictatorship. It is time to liberate the kings and the citizenry in Yorubaland.”


Muslim leaders read mischief in the new CRA formula


July 6th 2020

Muslim leaders read mischief in the new CRA formula which reduced allocation to 8 counties by Sh11.3billion, want formula deferred.

The move has seen a reduction of about Sh2 billion in most cases in Northern Kenya and over a billion shillings in other ASALs and Coast counties.

Leaders from the Arid and Semi-Arid areas (ASAL) counties have cried foul in the recent reduction of county allocations to the region in what they see as a sinister motive to deny them the ability to deliver quality services and projects that will improve lives of residents.

“If this is allowed devolution would be gravely impacted negatively and most of the current ongoing projects will stall,” read the statement by the leaders of Northern Kenya.

“The revised Revenue Sharing formula has unfairly targeted to reduce the funds of the ASAL counties by interfering with the parameters that would have favoured these ASALs such as landmass and increasing considerations for population-based on the disputed Census figures of 2019 which we are contesting in court,” read the statement.

Some of the counties affected included Wajir which has had a reduction of Sh1.947 billion, Mandera Sh1.873 billion, Marsabit Sh1.870 billion, Tana River Sh1.558 billion, Garissa Sh 1.287billion, Mombasa Sh1.025 billion, Kwale Sh 0.995billion and, Kilifi Sh0.878 billion.

According to the ASAL leader, the changes are a hard blow for the counties which suffered a devastating drought last year, recent floods in May and April and landslides and a locust invasion which is still a plague in the region and the new challenge of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Malice was also hinted by the leaders who claim that the data of the number of people seeking medical services is fabricated even as the new formulae increase the parameters of people who have been visiting health facilities.

“The ASALs have the lowest number of health facilities in the country because of the government’s deliberate neglect of the region for the first fifty years after independence through what was commonly referred to as marginalization,” read the statement.

The leaders also stated that the equitable allocation of resources between counties is “not a favour but a right as Kenyans of equal status.”

“If this discriminatory formula is implemented, leaders from these 18 counties will find it difficult to convince the public to support important government agendas such as BBI and the referendum,” read the statement.

Prior to devolution, the region was deeply marginalized with little services from the former central government trickling to the dry and arid areas of Northern Kenya.


Africa’s Biggest Investment Takes Shape Amid Islamist Threat

July 5, 2020

By Borges Nhamire

Dozens of soldiers clutching AK-47s and grenade launchers watch over roaring bulldozers on the white sand beach that meets a tropical turquoise sea. They’re guarding Africa’s biggest investment: a $23 billion project to export Mozambique’s natural gas from an area increasingly besieged by an Islamist insurgency.

Companies led by Total SA will pump the gas from wells about 40 kilometers (25 miles) offshore, cool it to temperatures below minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit so that it turns to liquid, then ship it to electricity plants from France to China. The consortium is about to finalize almost $16 billion in project financing -- another record for the continent.

“The work is immense,” said Ronan Bescond, the 44-year-old French chemical engineer who Total chose to lead the project after a career of nearly two decades at the company. “The first cargo of LNG must be in 2024. And we are on the right track,” he said to a handful of reporters in a prefabricated room at the site 32 kilometers south of the Rovuma River that marks the border with Tanzania.

To achieve the target of first production for an undertaking worth billions of dollars more than Mozambique’s entire economy, developers need to move thousands of tons of equipment through territory thick with Islamic State-aligned insurgents. At one stage, a Covid-19 outbreak saw the Total site accounting for three in four of the country’s confirmed infections. All this as natural-gas prices plunged to near 25-year lows.

Last week, they raided Mocimboa da Praia for a third time, and occupied the town for as long as three days. It’s a crucial supply hub just 60 kilometers south of the project site and the closest port.

At least eight workers for Total subcontractors Fenix Construction Services Lda died when their vehicle was ambushed in the attack, the company said in a statement. Three workers are still missing, it said.

Before the gas discoveries and insurgency, the remote coastline was more famous for luxury tropical island resorts. Last month, one of the nearby hotels offered a discount price of $19,820 a night to hire out an island as a refuge from the coronavirus.

The private military company that Mozambique hired in April to provide air support to government troops in the form of helicopters fitted with machine guns has struggled to quell the violence. Lionel Dyck, the founder of Dyck Advisory Group, the firm the government employed, declined to comment when contacted by mobile phone.

“The insurgency is a challenge but we’re happy that our defense and security forces have been playing their role,” Max Tonela, Mozambique’s energy and natural resources minister, told reporters during the June 19 site visit. “We all as Mozambicans must fight against this evil that comes from external attacks.”

About 1,300 people have died in the violence, with a further 220,000 displaced since the first attack three years ago, which also took place at Mocimboa da Praia.

For the second time, IS referred directly to the projects in a weekly newsletter this month. The group said that it would be “delusional” to think that the government could protect the investments, and warned other countries against getting involved.

The marginalization of young men in a region that’s predominantly Muslim and 1,900 kilometers away from the capital, Maputo, has helped lead to radicalization that’s fueled the insurgency, according to researchers including SaideHabibe at the Maputo-based Institute of Social and Economic Studies who have studied the origins of the fighters.

Total’s project will hire 14,000 people at peak construction, of which at least 5,000 will be Mozambican and many from the region, Bescond said at the briefing, wearing a surgical mask, as all visitors to the site must do to prevent another outbreak of the coronavirus.

The financial rewards are worth the cost to the government of the soldiers patrolling the vast compound and snipers on its perimeter fence -- Total’s estimate is $50 billion in direct and indirect revenue over 25 years for the $15 billion economy.


New Zealand


'Asleep on the job': Police warned of another mosque threat before massacre

By Praveen Menon

July 7, 2020

Wellington: New Zealand police and security services were warned of a threat against another mosque for the same day that a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch in 2019, an Islamic women's group told an inquiry into the shooting massacre.

The Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand said it warned police and security services repeatedly about threats from white supremacists, including when they received a Facebook message threatening to burn the Koran outside a mosque in Hamilton on March 15, the same day as the Christchurch attack.

Although the threat was not directly connected to the mass shooting, extra security measures could have been taken at all mosques, said the submission to the closed-door inquiry which was made public on Tuesday.

"If there had been such a strategy, then the message would have alerted every mosque in the country to a threat to one mosque on Friday 15 March 2019 and for all mosques to take extra security measures. Whether or not the threat was connected to the Christchurch killer is irrelevant."

Armed with semi-automatic weapons, Australian Brenton Tarrant, a suspected white supremacist, attacked two mosques in Christchurch that day, broadcasting the country's worst mass shooting live on Facebook.

The council's submission said police, security services and government representatives were focused only on combating terrorism by Muslim extremists, leaving the community vulnerable to the rising alt-right movement.

"Evidence indicates that public sector employees were, at best, asleep on the job and, at worst, intentionally ignoring our pleas and actively undermining our work," Aliya Danzeisen, who leads the group's government engagement, said in a statement.

Police said no comment would be made until the Royal Commission had concluded. However, on the specific threat in the report it said the person was identified and formally warned.

Threats to the Muslim community have continued since the attack, with a threatening social media post appearing earlier this year.

New Zealand, unlike the United States or Britain, has never recorded specific hate crime offences, raising questions about what signs security agencies may have missed.

The council estimates every Muslim woman who wears the headscarf in New Zealand has been abused in public at some time.


Christchurch shooting: Agencies accused of ignoring years of warnings the Muslim community was in danger

July 7, 2020

Public service agencies are being accused of ignoring years of warnings that the Muslim community was in danger before the horrific terror attacks in Christchurch.

Fifty-one people died in the March 15 shootings last year, when Australian Brenton Tarrant opened fire at Christchurch's Al Noor and Linwood mosques.

In its submission, the council says the shooting may not have happened if it wasn't for major failings by a forewarned public service.

Islamic Women's Council representative Frances Joychild QC says she looked over thousands of documents relating to their grave concerns.

"I just felt absolutely sickened because they were faced again and again with a public service that was inept and ineffective and, at best, disinterested."

"It's likely that but for all those failures - and particularly of the security service and the police - the events of March 15 might not have happened."

In its submission, the council has called for gun licence applicants to be screened for hate crimes and membership of supremacist groups.

It makes a raft of recommendations, including that gun licences also be reviewed every two years against hate speech and hate crime records.

"There was a lack of support on the preventative side," the submission says. "The Government had failed and was failing the Muslim community.

"It is certain that but for the failures of the other public sector agencies there would have been greater support and protection of the Muslim community before 2019 as the pressure on them grew and after, when the trauma and shock had to be dealt with."

A police spokesperson told Newshub given the Royal Commission has not concluded, it would be inappropriate to comment on submissions.

Tarrant is due to be sentenced in the Christchurch High Court next month. He initially pleaded not guilty to all charges but changed his pleas to guilty in March this year.


Far right teen pleads guilty, fined for failing to assist police investigating Christchurch mosque threat

July 7, 2020

A Christchurch teen has been fined $500 for refusing to give police the password to his iPhone as they searched his house in relation to an alleged threat before the Christchurch terrorist attack anniversary.

Nineteen-year-old Sam Brittenden's Christchurch home was searched in early March following reports of a threat on an encrypted messaging app, accompanied by a photo of a masked man sitting in a car outside a Christchurch mosque.

The Christchurch District Court today heard how the police searched his home and found a cellphone on his brother's bed.

He initially denied it was his, but gave police his phone number and when they rung that number, the cellphone rung.

He then provided several incorrect passwords, telling police he had "forgotten" his passcode.

Brittenden's lawyer, James Rapley QC, told the court his client was pleading guilty to the one charge of failing to assist with a search warrant.

He said the student had made a "mistake and was foolish". He eventually gave police the correct code and spent a night in the police cells "for his troubles".

In convicting and fining the teenager, the judge told the court he "can't understand what was on the phone that you didn't want police to see"


Southeast Asia


Indonesia’s forex reserves rise to near record-high in June

Adrian Wail Akhlas

July 7, 2020

Indonesia’s foreign exchange (forex) reserves increased to US$131.7 billion in June following the government’s move to issue global sukuk (sharia compliant bonds) in the month, Bank Indonesia (BI) announced Tuesday.

The current reserves level, an increase of $1.2 billion from May’s level and the highest reserves level since January before the coronavirus pandemic upended the country’s economy, is estimated to be sufficient to support 8.1 months of imports and payment for the government’s short-term debts.

“BI is of the view that the foreign exchange reserves are adequate, supported by stability and a positive outlook for the economy,” the central bank said in a statement, adding that the rise in forex reserves was due to the government’s global sukuk issuance last month.

Indonesia has raised US$2.5 billion from a three-tranche global sukuk (sharia-compliant bond) offering on June 17, the issuance of which aims to help the government fund the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

The sukuk were offered on the Singapore stock exchange and NASDAQ Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The 10-year maturity sukuk brought in $1 billion while the five-year and 30-year maturities raised $750 million each.

The government is facing a daunting task to raise Rp 900.4 trillion worth of sovereign debt papers in the second half of the year to cover for budget deficit of 6.34 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and repay its debts, after raising Rp 630.5 trillion worth of debt papers in the first half.

The government had just raised 100 billion yen ($930 million) from the issuance of five-tranche samurai bonds on Thursday as part of broader efforts to raise money amid the pandemic.

It had also unveiled a bond sale program totaling Rp 574.5 trillion with the central bank as part of the “burden sharing” scheme aimed to ease the government’s debt burden.


Police begin investigation into Al Jazeera report on illegal immigrants in Malaysia

06 Jul 2020

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): The police have begun an investigation into reports on an alleged attempt by international news agency Al Jazeera to tarnish Malaysia’s image through a documentary on how the country treats illegal immigrants in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Bukit Aman CID deputy director (Investigation/Legal) DCP MiorFaridalathrash Wahid said the department was conducting an investigation following the report made by the Immigration Department of Malaysia at the Precinct 7 Police Station in Putrajaya.

"We have opened investigation papers under Section 500 of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998," he said when contacted by Bernama.

According to him, the complainant made a report after watching the documentary video on the YouTube site, and her statement had been taken.

Al Jazeera, prior to this, released a 25-minute 50-second documentary entitled 'Locked Up in Malaysia's Lockdown' that denounced treatments of illegal immigrants when Malaysia took steps to tackle Covid-19.

Bernama today reported that the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador said the report released by the news agency alleging that Malaysia discriminated against illegal immigrants was inaccurate and further investigations were underway by the PDRM.

Earlier, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob wanted the international news agency to apologise to Malaysians for posting false and misleading information. - Bernama


Migrant Workers: Malaysia offers them new hope amid pandemic

July 07, 2020

Porimol Palma

At a time when Bangladeshi migrant workers all over the world are having tough times amid Covid-19 fallout, Malaysia gives good news.

The Southeast Asian country has announced that foreign workers can now switch companies in the same sector as some firms ceased operation or sacked workers while some others need foreign workers.

Besides, many Bangladeshis, who had been without work for around three months, have started rejoining work as Malaysia moves to fully reopen its economy following a drop in Covid-19 cases, say officials.

Talks between Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur are going on for regularising undocumented workers, a Bangladesh High Commission official in the Malaysian capital told The Daily Star on Sunday.

"As recruitment of foreign workers has been suspended from July 1 till the end of this year, there is a strong possibility that Malaysia will announce an amnesty for the undocumented migrants," mentioned the official.

The developments come after Malaysia partially reopened its economy on June 10 with Covid-19 cases falling below 10 a day. Between July 1 and 5, the number of daily cases was between 1 and 10. A total of 8,663 people got infected with the virus till yesterday, and of them, 121 died.

Malaysia has also allowed reopening of childcare centres and kindergartens, cinemas and spas since July 1, attaching to it conditions that include social distancing and good personal hygiene practices.

Talking to this newspaper, AbuHayat, an independent Bangladeshi researcher based in Kuala Lumpur, said, "There was a fear that job opportunities will be largely lost. But now many of the Bangladeshi migrants are rejoining work after the reopening. This gives a lot of relief."

Executive Director of Malaysian Employers' Federation Shamsuddin Bardan said a lot of foreign workers in manufacturing and services sectors were affected by the Covid-19 fallout.

"There is a shortage of 65,000 workers in plantations… It caused an estimated loss of 13 billion Malaysian Ringgit [more than $3 billion] last year," he told this correspondent over the phone from Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

"We are urging the Malaysian government to allow transfer of foreign workers to plantations from other sectors as recruitment of foreign workers has been suspended till the end of this year," he added.

On its Facebook page, Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on June 22 said Malaysia allowed transfer of foreign workers from one company to another of the same sector, not to a different sector.

But if such transfer is allowed, it will be a very welcome decision, Jahirul Islam, labour counsellor of Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia, told The Daily Star.

Switching companies requires permission from the current and future employers and also the authorisation of Malaysia's home ministry and the labour department, he mentioned.

The Bangladeshi workers, who want to change companies, should communicate directly with the high commission, instead of doing it on their own, he said.


Landslide at Burmese Jade Mine Kills Over 170 People

JUL 06, 2020

Rescue operations continued in Burma over the weekend, following a deadly landslide at a jade mine that killed over 170 people. The tragic incident is shining a spotlight on the secretive, often illegal practices of the jade industry, which human rights group Global Witness says fuels armed conflict between government troops and rebel fighters seeking self-rule in northern Burma.




Minimising school dropouts due to Covid distress biggest challenge for Indian Muslim community

06 Jul 2020

By Salim Alware

Representing the Central government in the Supreme Court of India last week, Solicitor General told the court that 97 lakh migrant workers had been repatriated. The number of labourers returning from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka is 11 lakh, 21 lakh and 3 lakh respectively. Of course their children have also migrated with them from small and big cities to villages wherein their numbers are not known. This can be calculated only after the schools reopen in the month of August or thereafter.

Since these workers have reached their villages, after a short stay they will try to find a livelihood at the local level and in case they fail to do so, they will have no choice but to return to the same cities they left earlier. We never know how much time this process will take. Due to this, the schooling of their children will be in a state of uncertainty. Only time will tell what steps the governments of UP, Bihar and West Bengal will take in this regard as it has not been discussed yet.

Many NGOs in Maharashtra and Gujarat also provide basic education to the children of labourers near their places of residence or worksites which is called informal schooling. Now these children who have migrated to villages may not have the opportunity to continue even their informal education. This will depend on parental concerns as well as on state government policies.

As far as Muslims are concerned, we do not have separate statistics on the basis of which we can say how many Muslim workers have returned home with their families, and how many children will lose their academic year due to the migrant exodus.

The three-month lockdown has hit hard the working class, artisans, day-labourers, security guards, car cleaners, drivers, housewives and women working in small factories. It can be difficult for their children to continue their education and many of the parents are looking for an excuse to discontinue their children's schooling so that their kid becomes an additional source of income for their families. A big chunk of Muslims fall under this category and it is of utmost importance that their children continue their education.

It is the responsibility of Muslim educational institutions, teachers, educationists, philanthropists and NGOs to ensure that these children attend schools and colleges as soon as the new academic year starts. Work on a war footing is needed to prevent possible dropout of these children and make an immediate effort to work out a strategy in this regard.


Minimising school dropouts due to Covid distress biggest challenge for Indian Muslim community

06 Jul 2020

By Salim Alware

Representing the Central government in the Supreme Court of India last week, Solicitor General told the court that 97 lakh migrant workers had been repatriated. The number of labourers returning from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka is 11 lakh, 21 lakh and 3 lakh respectively. Of course their children have also migrated with them from small and big cities to villages wherein their numbers are not known. This can be calculated only after the schools reopen in the month of August or thereafter.

Since these workers have reached their villages, after a short stay they will try to find a livelihood at the local level and in case they fail to do so, they will have no choice but to return to the same cities they left earlier. We never know how much time this process will take. Due to this, the schooling of their children will be in a state of uncertainty. Only time will tell what steps the governments of UP, Bihar and West Bengal will take in this regard as it has not been discussed yet.

Many NGOs in Maharashtra and Gujarat also provide basic education to the children of labourers near their places of residence or worksites which is called informal schooling. Now these children who have migrated to villages may not have the opportunity to continue even their informal education. This will depend on parental concerns as well as on state government policies.

As far as Muslims are concerned, we do not have separate statistics on the basis of which we can say how many Muslim workers have returned home with their families, and how many children will lose their academic year due to the migrant exodus.

The three-month lockdown has hit hard the working class, artisans, day-labourers, security guards, car cleaners, drivers, housewives and women working in small factories. It can be difficult for their children to continue their education and many of the parents are looking for an excuse to discontinue their children's schooling so that their kid becomes an additional source of income for their families. A big chunk of Muslims fall under this category and it is of utmost importance that their children continue their education.

It is the responsibility of Muslim educational institutions, teachers, educationists, philanthropists and NGOs to ensure that these children attend schools and colleges as soon as the new academic year starts. Work on a war footing is needed to prevent possible dropout of these children and make an immediate effort to work out a strategy in this regard.


India bans Kashmir Muslim religious gatherings due to coronavirus but Hindu pilgrimages continue

6 July, 2020

India has banned all religious gatherings in Kashmir, including Muslim ones, but allowed a Hindu pilgrimage to take place despite rising coronavirus deaths and active lockdown measures.

A government order in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir meant the regional administration prohibited all social and religious gatherings, but a Hindu pilgrimage was reportedly exempt from the ruling.

Authorities said the pilgrimage will be done in a "restricted manner" beginning at the end of the month, and they added 500 Hindu pilgrims will be allowed per day.

The region's Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam addressed a meeting in the Indian Supreme Court and insisted Covid-19 restriction measures will be adhered to.

The period of time for the pilgrimage has been reduced from 42 days to 15, but critics have warned people coming from other Indian states with more coronavirus infections will carry the the virus into the region.

"Already we have more than 8,000 cases here, and from the last three days, more than 20 deaths have taken place," a resident doctor dealing with Covid-19 cases told Anadolu Agency.

The decision to allow a Hindu pilgrimage only in the Muslim-majority state could cause problems in the region, which has been offset by violence.

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, violence has escalated in Kashmir in recent months as India steps up its counterinsurgency operations.

At least 143 rebels, 54 government troops and 32 civilians have been killed in more than 100 military operations across Kashmir since January, the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent local rights group, said in a recent report.

India and Pakistan both claim the territory in its entirety. Kashmiris support the rebels' goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the anti-India rebels. Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.


Tamil Nadu Lockdown Diary: 'People talk as if COVID-19 came from Melapalayam, not China'; Muslims struggle with health systems steeped in prejudice

July 06, 2020

Shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak began in India, news channels across the country started caricaturing Muslims from the Tablighi Jamaat as wilful defaulters who were traveling across the country to spread the disease. In Tamil Nadu, such propaganda meant that the principle of 'Noiyoddanporadungal, noiyyalioddanalla’ (fight the disease, not the patient) was thrown to the winds.

The above principle, incidentally, is the opening line one hears on making a phone call in the state. However, on the ground, the experiences of many Muslims in accessing healthcare revealed a system that was steeped in prejudice. This was in direct contradiction to the exhortations made by international organisations such as the World Health Organisation to use strategies which do not further alienate society from those who are victims of the virus.

Muslims in Tamil Nadu have a very different perception of Tablighi Jamaat from the one that has been largely splashed across TV channels. A college student said in a lighter vein, “When I realise that a Tablighi Jamaat person is approaching me, I try to escape.” This is because, he explained, Tablighi Jamaat leaders usually try to point out how Muslims are erring in what is expected from them. “It is like a school teacher giving you a lecture. At times, we are okay with the lecture but at times, we also run from the lecture,” he said as his friend laughed along.

Elaborating further, he added, “Among us, we know there are certain Muslims who will be very aggressive in taking on people who wrong us. Like Muslims in Popular Front of India (PFI) or the Tamil Nadu Muslim MunnetraKazhagam. You can say they are very politically vocal. But there are others who do not interfere with anything that is to do with the administration, state or politics. People from the Tablighi Jamaat are like that. They lead a simple lifestyle, and mind their own business, which is to talk to us Muslims about Islam and how we should stick to the various tenets of Islam. They are paavam (harmless) people."

When SM Mansoor and SK Abdul Khader received a call from the local police on 29 March, it was the first time that they were told that they could have COVID-19. They were part of a group of 16 who had travelled back from Delhi to Melapalalyam, a Muslim neighbourhood in Tirunelveli. They were asked to report for a test to the Melapalayam general hospital. All of them did so within an hour, only to be told that they are being shifted to another facility. "They didn’t inform us that we were being taken away or that we’ll be isolated. We would’ve carried our things and would have been prepared,” says Abdul Khader. Melapalayam, meanwhile, was completely shut down on the orders of the District Collector Shilpa Prakash Satish. The DC also ordered a stop to all vehicular movement to and from Melapalayam. The locality was completely barricaded.

Tamil Nadu Lockdown Diary People talk as if COVID19 came from Melapalayam not China Muslims struggle with health systems steeped in prejudice

In the days to follow, 103 people were traced as contacts whom the 16 from Melapalayam had been in touch with. They were quarantined and tested. Out of these, sixteen tested positive. Mansoor said, “All of us were asymptomatic. We wanted to see some test results which said that we were positive but we weren’t provided with any. In any case, a total of 32 tested positive. Why was an entire locality with more than 3 lakh people shut down for that?”

This is what is baffling. The house of Abdul Khader, which is where this reporter interviewed him, is an independent building. So is the case with all other houses in Mansoor’s street. There are no common toilets. The 15 others were also living in similar settings, in other streets of Melapalayam. Particular streets where the 16 lived could have been turned into containment zones. But why was an entire area declared as being out of bounds? A female relative of the 16, who was also tested, questions how the media can repeatedly refer to an area as a ‘corona hub’, when only 32 in a population of more than 3 lakhs tested positive.

The repercussions of this kind of profiling were immediate. For instance, private hospitals turned away nine Muslim women from Melapalayam who had deliveries lined up in April. The women had been visiting these hospitals till March. This reporter accessed audio recordings where relatives of some of these women plead with the doctors from these hospitals to be allowed admission, only to be told they have been explicitly instructed by the district administration not to accept any patients from Melapalayam. The district administration denies having given any such orders. Even though some of the patients' relatives say that they knew nobody from the people who travelled back from Delhi, and they could be tested for COVID 19 before being admitted, the doctors refused to engage with them. At least two were downright rude, and indirectly Islamophobic.

The ordeals that these nine women faced were similar. They travelled first to the hospital where they were getting their routine check up and had been assigned a date for delivery. When they were turned away from there, they tried a few more private hospitals. Some had no option left but to finally go to Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital (TMCH), a government facility at Highground.

Rizwana, 21, from North Thaika Street in Melapalayam was reluctant to get herself admitted at TMCH Highground as she previously had bad experiences at this hospital. “Nobody cares about you there. The place is also not very well kept and this was my first pregnancy,” she explained. But with no options left, she admitted herself at TMCH Highground on 31 March. “As soon as I told them I am from Melapalayam, I could sense everybody just freeze. I stood outside the Labour Ward as much as I could, as I didn’t want to antagonise anybody,” says Rizwana. After this, she had a caesarian section done. “When I regained consciousness, I realised I was outside the operation theatre and not in a ward, or a room. None of them wanted to approach me. It took them three hours to even move me from there,” says Rizwana.

Rizwana was put in a room temporarily after which she was moved to the old GH building, where the COVID-19 positive patients were also housed. Women from Melapalayam, who had just finished their delivery, were allotted a separate room in the same GH building. “There was nobody to attend to us. Even when they had to, they didn’t even touch us or check on the stitches, as they are supposed to. They would stand at a distance and yell”, said Rizwana. On the fifth day after her delivery, Rizwana was instructed to remove her urine bag by herself. “The nurse stood at the entrance and threw a syringe at me, telling me to pierce the drip with it. The syringe fell on the floor. I hadn’t gotten off the bed till then. With my stitches, without knowing what I was doing, I used my feet to pick up the syringe and pierced it into the urine bag. And then yanked the drip out,” Rizwana says. It didn’t stop there. The nurses also instructed her to remove the bandage around her stitches. Rizwana tried doing that but when it hurt, she refused. After this, Rizwana’s family spoke to a few leaders and asked them to intervene at the hospital. Only after this did a doctor attend to Rizwana.

Witness to all of this was Nasreen Fathima, who had also recently delivered a baby and was in the same room as Rizwana. She was denied admission at AnnaiVelankanni Hospital after which she was admitted at Highground GH. “I saw Rizwana struggle with her urine drip by herself. Some nurses were good but most of them weren’t. They spoke to all of us very harshly and kept yelling at us,” says Nasreen. “The room was dirty, there were constant long power cuts, the fans weren’t working and the bathroom didn’t even have a light. And there was nobody to attend to us,” says Nasreen.

Jevariya, 24, also was turned away from CSI Annapackiyam Mission Hospital on 11 April, her due date. This is when a few leaders, including Nasreen’s father Sheikh Mohammad, a meat trader and a local leader, came together and spoke to the authorities of Crescent Hospital, situated in Melapalayam itself. After this, most expecting women from Melapalayam were accommodated at Crescent Hospital. Sabita Begum, 26, who was turned away from Madhubala Hospital and Karuniya Health Centre, questions how the administration can completely ignore the medical needs of such a big population. “Why did we have to fend for ourselves? With all that pain, I went from hospital to hospital for eight hours. Who is to be held accountable for this?”, she asked.

While the Muslim community of Melapalayam was able to figure out a temporary solution for expecting mothers, those with serious medical problems were left in the lurch. Like Peer Muhammad, a liver cancer patient and a resident of Melapalayam.

Tamil Nadu Lockdown Diary People talk as if COVID19 came from Melapalayam not China Muslims struggle with health systems steeped in prejudice

Muhammad used to travel to Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), Thiruvananthapuram for treatment since he was diagnosed with the condition. After the nationwide lockdown came into place on 25 March, RCC sent him a mail, directing him to the nearest government facility for chemotherapy. Muhammad first attempted to access the facility on 30 March, a day after Melapalayam was shut down. His son Muhammad Ibrahim says that they were made to wait in the sun, and were not allowed inside. After a half a day of waiting, Ibrahim took him back home. When Muhammad’s condition further deteriorated, his family attempted to access chemo again on 22 April, without luck. A video of Peer Muhammad shot on the same day shows him in an extremely precarious condition. Five days later, he died.

Tamil Nadu Lockdown Diary People talk as if COVID19 came from Melapalayam not China Muslims struggle with health systems steeped in prejudice

Naseer, a health worker from Melapalayam Medical Society working with COVID 19 patients and patients with non-communicable diseases says that the state of affairs at TMCH Highground have marginally improved in the past few weeks. “There were some administrative changes within the institution, after which the response has been better. Private hospitals are also starting to behave, after we amped up pressure on them,” he says.

Arabi Gnaniyar, an ambulance driver who saw patients from Melapayalam struggling with accessing medical care, said, “Everybody thinks Melapalayam is where coronavirus is spreading from. I’ve travelled across Tirunelveli and the adjoining villages. People are speaking as if COVID-19 originated from Melapalayam, not China.”

He further recalled, “As soon as Melapalayam was cordoned off, patients who were already admitted at hospitals were also asked to leave. An elderly Muslim woman was discharged from an ICU, even though it had been three days since she had been there. Both her sons are in Dubai and pleaded with me to try and get her admitted at any hospital. But I couldn’t. She died two days later.”

What SM Mansoor fails to understand is why a convoluted plot was derived from something as simple as a yearly religious exercise. “The plans for travel in March were made many many months in advance. Why then have we been treated like this? As soon as we were told to report for a test, we did so in less than an hour. Our families complied with what was asked for. Yet, the local media and the administration branded us as ‘coronavirus carriers’. People from this entire neighbourhood were treated inhumanely. Why?” questions Mansoor. Small-time businesses from Melapalayam, like those doing AC repairs and household work, told this reporter that people are turning them away from work if they disclose that they are residents of Melapalayam.

Khader also pointed to how he didn’t have to face stigma from neighbours as he stays in a Muslim locality. “But my cousin, on the other hand, lives in an area where the majority is non-Muslim. When he was taken for a test, immediately, the media carried videos of him being taken in an ambulance. The area was turned into a containment zone. Such measures were taken by the government across Tamil Nadu. But in how many such cases were the individuals told that they, as Muslims, are the cause for the spread and if they leave the area, the area will no longer be affected?”




$60m Islamic Development Bank aid for polio eradication approved

July 06, 2020

Amin Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has approved a $60 million supplementary fund to Pakistan as a further contribution to the polio eradication programme.

This includes a $39m Islamic Development Bank Murabaha and a $21m grant from the IsDB-managed Lives and Livelihoods Fund (LLF). The new financing has been approved by the IsDB Board of Executive Directors at the virtual meeting held in Jeddah chaired by IsDB President Dr Bandar Hajjar early this week.

As the Islamic bank had previously contributed $100m to the same project the new supplementary funding takes its total contribution up to the $160m mark.

In the meantime, the 25th meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations on the international spread of poliovirus held in Geneva has observed that there is still much more work to do to end transmission in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The polio infrastructure that has been developed in Pakistan and Afghanistan has been used to assist with the tracking and tracing as part of the Covid-19 pandemic response.

A statement issued by the IHR Emergency Committee says in Pakistan transmission continues to be widespread as indicated by both acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance and environmental sampling. WPV1 transmission continues to be widespread, with southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa becoming a new WPV1 reservoir, and some areas such as Karachi and the Quetta block having uninterrupted transmission. There has also been expansion of WPV1 to previously polio-free areas in Sindh and Punjab.


Anti-Covid Drug, Remdesivir, To Be Available In Three Weeks

July 07, 2020

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) said on Monday that Remdesivir, a drug which has proved effective against coronavirus, will be available in the country within three weeks.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Asim Rauf told Dawn that Drap, after registration of the medicine, had allowed two pharmaceutical companies to import this critical drug. The regulator has given licences to 14 manufacturers for producing the medicine at home.

The drug has been approved for use in the United States, Japan, South Korea and the European Union after its clinical trials turned out to be encouraging.

This is the same medicine which federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had mentioned at a press conference after he recovered from Covid-19.

Describing coronavirus as a horrible disease, Sheikh Rashid had regretted that the injection necessary for treatment of critical patients was not available even for Rs500,000 to a minister who had held 14 ministries in his political career.

“I thank the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority for arranging this injection,” the minister had stated. “I pray that no one, not even my enemy, suffers from this disease.”

The Drap chairman conceded that the medicine was not easily available a week ago, but the situation had now improved and after three weeks sufficient stocks would land in the market.

However, he clarified, Remdesivir would not be sold over the counter at pharmacies. “Instead, it will be provided to critical patients by hospitals concerned or directly by selected pharmaceutical companies.”

He said Pakistan was the sixth country in the world which had pounced upon the opportunity to make this medicine accessible to patients.

Remdesivir was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 1. A shortage then confronted the FDA, but with the passage of time the situation improved.

At a hearing on June 25, a five-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, was informed that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had sought approval from Drap for the import of 7,000 vials of Remdesivir injection, which was then unregistered.

The regulator, through its letter of June 9, had given an NOC to the NDMA with the condition that the latter must submit details of patients, including their CNIC numbers and prescriptions.

The regulator had also stated that it would not be responsible for the quality, safety and efficacy of the drug as the medicine was not registered with the authority.

The approval was issued under Rule 13 of Drugs Import and Export Rules of 1976, which required prior approval for the import of a medicine.

The Supreme Court ordered Drap to fast-track registration of the drugs which had already been registered in the West and were being used for the treatment of Covid-19. The court said the import of those drugs should be facilitated which were not manufactured in the country and later local production under licence be encouraged.

The apex court had also taken note of unscrupulous elements out to hoard the anti-virus chemicals, life-saving drugs and equipment used to detect, monitor and treat patients affected by Covid-19.

The court had regretted that basic instruments like dosimeters and oxygen cylinders had disappeared from the market and were being sold at exorbitant prices.

The court had ordered the regulatory authorities, law enforcement agencies and health ministries of the federal as well as provincial governments to take action against hoarders of these essential commodities.


DIG Operations reviews security of Mosques, Imambargahs

July 06, 2020

LAHORE -Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations Ashfaq Khan on Sunday visited different areas in the city and reviewed the security arrangements of Mosques and Imambargahs. According to official sources, SP Model Town Ejaz Rashid and SP Iqbal Town briefed the DIG about the security of the Mosques and Imambargahs of their respective areas. The DIG Operations also met the organizers of the Mosques and Imambargahs. Organizers expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements made by the police.  Ashfaq Khan issued special directions to the police officers and jawans deputed on the security of worship places. He further said that police personnel should stay vigilant whereas snipers should keep an eye on all movements in the surroundings of the worship places. The DIG Operations said that Police Response Teams and Dolphin Squads should increase their patrolling in surroundings of Mosques and Imambargahs.


Minister Reiterates for Making Balochistan Hub for Organic Agriculture

July 6, 2020

ISLAMABAD, Jul 06 (APP): Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam on Monday reiterated the government resolve for making Balochistan as hub of organic agriculture, particularly to produce cotton in order to bring economic stability in the country and social prosperity of the province.

While chairing the meeting on working of Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department (FSC&RD) here, he said that Balochistan was the future of organic cotton production due to its unique ecological characteristics, adding that it would help to enhance farm income particularly small scale growers to manifold.

Imam said that vibrant, pure and certified seed system was vital element for the growth and development of agriculture.

He appreciated the working of FSC&RD and said that this department will be the key to best seed system in the world.

He stressed the need for utilizing Rahim Yar Kan area for seed production as it was could fulfill about 70 % domestic need of seed.

He also called for initiating labeling and branding of Pakistani products and register them IPO.

While briefing the meeting DG FSC&RD Iftikhar Haider said that Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department is an attached department of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research.

It had 27 field offices and laboratories tacross the country and FSC&RD is a third party department with the mandate to regulate quality of seeds of various crops under the legal provisions of the Seed Act 1976, Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and the related rules and regulations .

FSC&RD also acts as executive arm of the National Seed Council and achieved international accre status for central seed testing lab in July 2019 from ISTA,Switzerland.


E-7 seminary in Islamabad becomes site of unexpected conflict

July 07, 2020

Munawer Azeem

ISLAMABAD: The administration office of Jamia Fareedia, a seminary in E-7, was occupied by Maulana Abdul Aziz in the middle of the night on Monday.

Mr Aziz and his wife UmmeHasaan occupied the seminary office, after which he led morning prayers and announced that the seminary’s principal, Maulana Abdul Ghaffar, had been removed.

Maulana Yaqoob Ghazi, a close aide of Mr Aziz, claimed that Mr Ghaffar did not want to leave because he knew he was “on the wrong side”.

The incident was followed by a protest at noon, leading police to block the road towards the seminary. Police and capital administration officials have ruled out the possibility of violence.

An administration official, on condition of anonymity, said there were only a handful of seminary students and staff at Jamia Fareedia or any other seminary because of the closure of educational institutions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The situation has placed the city’s administration in a fix, as Mr Aziz’ move may have violated an agreement he signed with the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration in June.Mr Ghazi said: “Maulana Abdul Aziz elevated Maulana Abdul Ghaffar to the post of deputy chief from administrator a few years ago. He removed Maulana Ghaffar as deputy chief around two months ago but he got too close to the authorities and tried to take Jamia Fareedia over.”

The matter of whether Mr Aziz has violated his agreement with the ICT administration is also uncertain. Since the text of the agreement was not made public, both sides have made opposing claims; administration officials say that under the agreement, Mr Aziz cannot participate in any such activity for two months while Mr Aziz’ son-in-law Haroon Rasheed said the agreement says he cannot interfere with or enter Lal Masjid for two months.

Senior police and administration officials told Dawn that well-equipped police personnel, including the Counter Terrorism Force, Anti-Terrorism Squad and Anti-Riot Unit, were deployed around the seminary shortly after Mr Aziz moved there from Jamia Hafsa.

Mr Aziz, his family and more than 50 students from Jamia Hafsa, left G-7 on board wagons and headed to Jamia Fareedia at Fajr, officials said. Almost an hour later, an assistant inspector general from the Special Branch brought the matter to the notice of concerned officials.

The officers said two parties -the seminary’s nazim Mr Ghaffar and Mr Aziz - are now inside the seminary, and both claim ownership of it.Haroon Rasheed told Dawn that Jamia Fareedia was built by his grandfather in the 1970s and Mr Aziz was its rightful owner. He said Mr Ghaffar and the government were trying to remove Mr Aziz and take possession of the seminary.

“The government, including the administration and police, are helping Maulana Ghaffar and at the time we reached the seminary, officials from the police and administration also came there and cordoned off the area,” he said.


Chief Election Commissioner denies holding secret meetings with president

July 07, 2020

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja has rejected as baseless the accusation of holding secret meetings at night with President Dr ArifAlvi.

Talking to Dawn on Monday, he challenged a prominent anchor, who made the claim, to substantiate it and declared that he would resign if it was proven.

The anchor in a tweet alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan had tasked President Dr ArifAlvi with managing the CEC and the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

He claimed that the CEC was often seen at the Presidency where he held secret meetings with the president. “It appears the new CEC will break the records of Sardar Muhammad Raza,” he tweeted.

Mr Raja, while rejecting the allegation as totally baseless, said he had neither ever met PM Khan nor received any message from him.

Likewise, he said, he had never received any message or advice from President Alvi. “I am not in the habit of taking such advice,” he remarked.

“I don’t have any contact either through messaging or through any indirect channel or through personal contact with the president. I met the president only once in my life and that was a formal call for a few minutes.”

The most prominent case before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) foreign funding pending since November 2014.

If the verdict in the case goes against the PTI, Dr Alvi will be held accountable as the party’s former secretary general along with chairman Imran Khan.

The petitioner in the foreign funding case against the PTI, Akbar S. Babar, while talking to Dawn, said that if it was true the news of alleged secret meetings between President Alvi and the CEC was alarming and disturbing.

He said the PTI had tried every trick in the book and beyond to delay the case which was a documented fact to the extent that the ECP in its order dated Oct 10, 2019 declared the PTI guilty of historic abuse of the process of law to delay the case.

“It is time for investigations to conclude in earnest for the ECP to announce a verdict without further delay in the supreme national interest,” he said.

On more than 30 occasions, the PTI sought written or oral adjournment on various pretexts, including unavailability of counsel or the pendency of the case before courts.

Six applications on similar grounds objecting to the maintainability and jurisdiction of the ECP to scrutinise the accounts of the PTI have been filed. There are at least 21 orders of the ECP directing the PTI to file pertinent documents/record and documenting the failure and non-compliance by the PTI.

While a scrutiny committee continues to deliberate without any end in sight, serious questions have come to the surface about the PTI’s pressure to remove a credible auditor from the scrutiny committee and replace him with a pliant one to make it toothless.

Since the induction of the new CEC, only two ECP hearings have been conducted. The last hearing was conducted on June 2 during which the ECP director general law and the scrutiny committee’s head — who were appointed in March 2018 to conduct an audit of the PTI foreign funding — were directed to submit a progress or status report within a week and an interim findings report by June 30.

However, the ECP postponed the next hearing scheduled for June 30 indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Shahbaz files plea for exemption from appearance

July 07, 2020

LAHORE: Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Monday filed a civil miscellaneous application before the Lahore High Court seeking exemption from personal appearance in hearing of his pre-arrest bail in assets beyond means investigation by the NAB.

Mr Shahbaz also urged a division bench, which will resume hearing on the bail petition on Tuesday (today), to extend his bail.

On previous hearing, the bench had asked Shahbaz to get his fresh Covid-19 test conducted from Punjab Institute of Public Health Sciences.

In the fresh application filed through counsel Amjad Pervez, Mr Shahbaz said the court had directed the head of the institute to conduct his test. However, he said, unfortunately no one from the institute contacted him for the test but to establish his bonafide he got his test conducted from a private laboratory, which turned negative.

The PML-N president said although he recovered from the Covid-19, he was still undergoing fatigue as he was an old man. He said he had been living in self-isolation at home under the supervision of doctors of Ittefaq Hospital who advised him to undergo multiple tests of corona antibodies.

Mr Shahbaz pleaded that under such circumstances it will be highly risky for him to expose to public place. Therefore, he asked the court to allow him exemption from personal appearance and extend his pre-arrest bail for three weeks.



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