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Islamic World News ( 25 March 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Covid-19 Spread Makes Indian Imams Change Their Stand on Collective Prayers

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 March 2020

Religious affairs ministry, CII to hold discussions with ulema on Thursday to decide if prayers can be offered at home.


 Covid-19 Spread Makes Indian Imams Change Their Stand On Collective Prayers

 Pakistan Govt In Limbo Over Banning Congregation Prayers In Mosques Amidst Virus Lockdown

 Turkey Uses Hagia Sophia as Mosque for Islamic Prayer Again

 Islamic State Asks Allah to ‘Increase Coronavirus Torment’ of Infidels

I slamic Religious Council of Singapore: All Mosques to Remain Closed Until ‘Situation Improves’

 Only Main Gates of The Grand Mosque to Remain Open

 Coronavirus: NHS Bosses Praise Preston Community's Heart-Warming £1m. Mission to Help Tackle Covid-19 Crisis

 Kaduna Imams Suspend Five Daily Prayers Indefinitely

 Taliban Announces Stance as Suicide Bombers Attack Sikh Temple In Kabul City



 Covid-19 Spread Makes Indian Imams Change Their Stand On Collective Prayers

 Police Detain 11 Maulvis From Foreign Countries Staying At Ranchi Mosque

 Pray at home, help fight virus: MLA to Muslims

 Coronavirus: All of India under lockdown for 3 weeks

 Should you worry about hantavirus? Explaining its spread



 Pakistan Govt In Limbo Over Banning Congregation Prayers In Mosques Amidst Virus Lockdown

 Chlorination of Mosques in Pakistan, Ordered

 Pakistani FM warns European FMs over US sanctions on Iran

 Another case reported in Hyderabad; govt yet to confirm

 Haj organisers request PM Imran to grant tax exemptions for a year

 First death from local virus transmission in Pakistan

 Pakistan Covid-19 positive cases rise to 1000, but PM Imran won’t impose lockdown



 Turkey Uses Hagia Sophia as Mosque for Islamic Prayer Again

 LGBT+ acceptance in Turkey, where a majority of the population is Muslim, is at an all-time high

 Yemeni army announces control of strategic locations in battles with “Ansar Allah”

 Hamas closes Gaza mosques in attempt to stop spread of coronavirus

 Mullahs’ regime orders Médecins Sans Frontières out of Iran

 Israel halts settler incursions at Al-Aqsa Mosque due to pandemic

 'Islamic Doctor' In Iran To Be Arrested For Unauthorized Treatment Of Coronavirus Patients

 Iran's economy in free fall as corrupt mullahs deny people virus protection


North America

 Islamic State Asks Allah to ‘Increase Coronavirus Torment’ of Infidels

 New York Times Promotes Face-Veiling Indonesian Muslim 'Niqab Squad’ As Totally-Not-Extremist Answer to Western Feminism

 The Islamic Republic is preparing for a second Trump term

 US sanctions have caused suffering of Iranian people: China UN envoy


Southeast Asia

 Islamic Religious Council of Singapore: All Mosques to Remain Closed Until ‘Situation Improves’

 Minister clarifies Covid-19 fund for everyone in need, not just Muslims

 Myanmar Muslims offer mosques to help fight coronavirus


Arab world

 Only Main Gates of The Grand Mosque to Remain Open

 A New Mosque and Multi-Purpose Hall in Diyar Al Muharraq Sponsored by Fawzi Kanoo

 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Congratulates President of Bangladesh on Independence Day

 Ramadan: The Holy month of fasting in the Islamic calendar will start from April 24, 2020

 Arab League demands of Palestinian inmates amidst coronavirus outbreak



 Coronavirus: NHS Bosses Praise Preston Community's Heart-Warming £1m. Mission to Help Tackle Covid-19 Crisis

 Seremban, Lavender Heights, Mosque Gives Out Essential Groceries to The Needy Amid Covid-19 Shutdown

 Alfitrah Mosque Must Participate In The Investigation By The House Of Representatives

 Lewisham Islamic Centre thanks MPs after backtrack on new coronavirus cremation rules

 Ethnic Bosniak Leaders Condemn Desecration of Zagreb Mosque



 Kaduna Imams Suspend Five Daily Prayers Indefinitely

 Coronavirus: Muslim leaders endorse closure of worship centres in Nigeria

 Coronavirus: SA Muslim body donates R1m to assist govt's Solidarity Fund

 Coronavirus: FCTA shuts markets, churches, mosques, gives sit-at-home order

 Observe national day of fasting and prayers - Chief Imam instructs Muslims


South Asia

 Taliban Announces Stance as Suicide Bombers Attack Sikh Temple In Kabul City

 25 Taliban militants killed, 33 wounded in Balkh clashes

 ‘Wolfpack leader’ of Ansar Al Islam arrested by CTTC

 11 killed in terror attack on Sikh place of worship in Kabul

 Harsh weather kills 3 Taliban militants including an IED maker in Paktia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Covid-19 Spread Makes Indian Imams Change Their Stand On Collective Prayers

Special Correspondent New Age Islam

As Covid-19 cases in India go past 500 mark with 10 deaths, the country has now realised the enormity of the pandemic and the devastation it can wreak if not contained early. The Centre has clamped nationwide Lockdown while the state governments had already imposed restrictions. Gauging the seriousness of the situation, the imams of the mosques of the country have also issued advisory to the Muslims to offer the prayers at home. Earlier, Muslims had reacted and criticised the decision of the Saudi government to suspend five time collective prayers and Friday prayers saying collective prayers cannot be suspended in mosques. The Gulf countries had also replaced the sentence "Hayya alassala" (come for namaz) in the Azan with the sentence "Assalato Fi buyutikum" (prayers at your homes). But some prominent religious scholars of Muslims had said that the collective prayers could not be suspended in mosques. Mufti Mohammad Mokarram had earlier said, " I cannot tell Muslims not to come to the mosque for namaz. Muslims should do what the doctors advise them to." Imam Ahmad Bukhari of the historical Jama Masjid of Delhi had also said that the collective prayers in mosques could not be suspended. However, as the disease spread to more areas and the government implemented lockdown instructing people to stay indoors, even announcing provisions for punishments to the violators of lockdown, the Imams had to reconsider their stand. Earlier, in South, some temple and mosque authorities had been penalised for hosting assembly of people in their premises. Therefore, assembly in mosques during lockdown had become a law and order issue. Keeping in view the challenge, the imams and muftis of India unanimously decided to follow the law of the country and advised Muslims to stay at home as a precautionary measure and offer prayers at home. But to avoid a religious controversy, they also decided to follow the middle path. They said that five time prayers will be held in mosques and only the imam, the muezzin and other staff of the mosque would take part in it. General Muslims should offer prayers at home. Imam Ahmad Bukhari, Mufti Mohammad Mokarram and Maulana Arshad Madani made the announcement on 24th March thus ending the dilemma of the Muslims on the issue.

Asked about the justification of the decision of the imams from the Quran and Sunnah, Maulana Imdadullah Rashidi of Asansol said that the Quran asks Muslims to obey Allah and the Prophet pbuh and the people in authority (Oolil Amr). He further said that during the life of the Prophet pbuh, severe desert storms would sometimes make visiting mosques for collective prayers almost impossible for Muslims. On such occasions, the holy Prophet pbuh would advise Muslims to stay at home and offer prayers at home. "Assalato Fi buyutikum" has been qouted from the same context.

Since Indian Muslims cohabit with the followers of other religions in India and India is a multicultural society, following a rigid line of thought when the government has implemented laws to contain the spread of the epidemic will create a wrong image of Islam and Muslims. As Hindus have suspended worship in temples and the Ram Navami processions scheduled in the first week of April in West Bengal have been cancelled this year, Muslims have rightly decided to restrict the number of people in collective prayers in mosques. The Quran also says that Muslims should take care of their lives (Al Maidah:105) and so taking precautionary measures to avoid threat to their life is justified by the Quran and Hadith and also goes along well with the law of the land.


Pakistan Govt In Limbo Over Banning Congregation Prayers In Mosques Amidst Virus Lockdown

25 March 2020

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) are set to begin consultations with ulema from Thursday to decide whether prayers can be offered at home as opposed to congregations in mosques as the country goes into lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

While almost all Muslim countries combating the virus have banned prayer congregations in mosques without exception, authorities in Pakistan are yet to come up with a clear direction on the matter, even as they push for social distancing amidst unprecedented measures to curb the spread which threatens the country's healthcare system and economy.

Speaking to DawnNewsTV, Chairperson of the CII, Dr Qibla Ayaz said consultations on the issue will be held via video link a day after tomorrow.

"The problem isn't the closure of mosques but about offering prayers at home," Ayaz said, adding that ulema will be consulted on this matter. The CII chief did note, however, that immediate consensus would be difficult, fearing a "long consultation process".

He said both the council and the religious affairs ministry agreed on taking the country's ulema on board before a final decision on this was made.

Below, gives an overview of the on-ground situation with respect to closure of mosques and mass prayers across Pakistan.

Sindh government, which was the first to order a complete lockdown in its province through a detailed notification, has not announced concrete instructions regarding prayers in congregations. It did, however, say gatherings were to be avoided.

On Monday, the first day of the lockdown in Sindh, reached out to various reporters and citizens from Karachi to see if the mosques in their respective areas were still holding congregations for the five daily prayers. All reports from the city suggested that no establishment had taken the decision to suspend prayer services.

When asked about this, Spokesperson for the chief minister of Sindh, Rasheed Cheema said: "People should understand these matters themselves, not everything needs to be an express instruction. People have been told that they need to be careful while visiting mosques."

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where schools and government offices have been shut down and inter-city travel has been banned, a notification was issued saying that carpets and mats should all be removed from mosques in order to ensure cleanliness. A separate notification had earlier been issued saying Friday prayers should be conducted in two different shifts, in order to ensure less people-to-people contact within the community.

When contacted, Peshawar Assistant Commissioner Sara Rehman said: "Tableeghi marakiz and madarassahs have been shut. However, mosques are open in the city."

Adviser to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister on Information Ajmal Wazir said the provincial government was not considering closing mosques at the moment.

"I personally held a meeting with religious leaders from all sects and was assured they will follow the instructions [regarding removal of carpets and holding Friday prayers in two shifts]," Wazir said.

A correspondent from Peshawar, on the other hand, said even though mats and carpets had been removed from mosques in some areas of the city, large congregations were still gathering at the time of each daily prayer.

"Mosques are more packed now than before, more people are now home because of the partial lockdown in the city and in such testing times, their instincts tell them to go to mosques for prayers and to ask God for help," a member of the team in Peshawar observed.

Similar reports were received from Shangla district, where Assistant Commissioner Bisham Khuram said: "Here mosques remained open. However, tableeghi marakiz are shut."

"Work has been stopped at Swat Tablighi iIjtimah, and all major tableeghi marakiz have been shut. However, mosques are open but people have been advised to pray at home," said Deputy Commissioner Swat Saqib Raza.

From Azad Jammu and Kashmir, an observer told that all mosques are running operations as usual. "However, many faithfuls are choosing to pray at home."

This observer further said mats and carpets had also been removed from various mosques in the areas he visited.

Meanwhile mosques in Punjab are also functioning as per routine, even though it has now been confirmed that at least three foreign nationals were infected with the coronavirus while attending the Raiwand Ijtama. Two of these cases were the first two cases of coronavirus to be detected in the Gaza strip.

In the capital territory, Islamabad administration had to partially seal a Union Council when two cases of coronavirus were detected at a mosque in Bhara Kahu. While it wasn't immediately clear if the two men who tested positive in Islamabad had attended the Raiwind Ijtima, six others who attended the congregation or came into contact with those who attended it, also tested positive.

Saudi Arabia has banned congregations for five daily prayers, as well as Friday prayers all over the country except inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah.

Turkey's top religious authority has also suspended all congregational prayers in mosques, including traditional Friday prayers, but said mosques will remain open for those who want to pray individually.

Mosques in Kuwait, where prayer congregations are banned, went so far as to transform the Azaan or the call to prayer slightly — instead of the usual call that includes Hayya Ala Al salah (come to prayer), muezzins in the country are announcing Al Salatu Fi Buyutikum (pray in your homes) from mosques five times a day.

The transformed call to prayer is rooted in the Sahih Bukhari, which has a narration from Abdullah bin Al-Harith on the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) allowing for the exact same changes to the Azaan on rainy or muddy days.

Iran and other centres of Muslim faith have also suspended activities at shrines and holy mosques in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In Pakistan, for the past two weeks, President Arif Alvi has been suggesting that people should pray in their homes if they feel unwell while, Darul Afta Pakistan, Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) and leadership of Wafaq-ul-Masajid, Madaris-e-Pakistan have unanimously asked the public to take precautions against coronavirus as per government’s directions as these are in accordance with the teachings of Shariah.


Turkey Uses Hagia Sophia as Mosque for Islamic Prayer Again

By Philip Chrysopoulos

Mar 24, 2020

The Islamic call to prayer was heard in what was once the center of Orthodoxy, Hagia Sophia, on Monday, as a video calling the former Byzantine cathedral “Hagia Sophia Mosque” on Youtube shows.

Some analysts argue that it is no coincidence the act took place only two days before the anniversary of the declaration of the Greek War of Independence on March 25, 1821 and Greece’s liberation from Ottoman rule.

This is the third year in a row that similar acts challenging the supposed status of Hagia Sophia as a secular museum have taken place in March.

In the meantime, Turkey is assisting thousands of migrants to attack Greek forces at the Turkish-Greek border in Evros. The orchestrated migrant attack began on March 1st.

Hagia Sophia was built in 537 and served for nearly a thousand years as the cathedral of the Byzantine Empire, later to become the Greek Orthodox Christian Patriarchal Cathedral. It was converted to an Ottoman mosque on May 29, 1453, just after the fall of Constantinople, and it remained a mosque until 1931.

Four years later, the iconic Byzantine basilica, once the very symbol of Greek Orthodoxy, began operating as a museum, after a decision by the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

However, in 2006 the Turkish government allowed the allocation of a small room in the museum complex to be used as a prayer room for Christian and Muslim museum staff, and since 2013 the muezzin sings the call to prayer twice per day, in the afternoon from the minarets of the museum.

The use of Hagia Sophia as a place of worship has been a thorny issue for years, with some Turkish politicians insisting that it should be turned into a mosque again. On July 1st, 2016 Muslim prayers were held again in Hagia Sophia for the first time in 85 years, an event that sparked strong reactions from the Greek Orthodox Church.

In May of 2017 the Anatolia Youth Association (AGD) organized a gathering in front of Hagia Sophia for morning prayers and called for the re-conversion of the museum into a mosque.

In June of the same year, Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) organized a special program which included the recitation of the Quran and prayers in Hagia Sofia, to mark the Laylat al-Qadr. The program was broadcast live by state-run television TRT.

On March 31, 2018 Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited the first verse of the Quran in Hagia Sophia, dedicating the prayer to the “souls of all who left us this work as inheritance, especially Istanbul’s conqueror,” reiterating his position to make Hagia Sophia a mosque once again.

In March 2019 Erdogan said that he will change the status of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque, adding that it was a “very big mistake” to turn the mosque into a museum. However, as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this change would require approval from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.


Islamic State Asks Allah to ‘Increase Coronavirus Torment’ of Infidels


24 Mar 2020

Proving that nothing is so awful that the Islamic State cannot make it even worse, ISIS on Sunday reportedly published an article in one of its newsletters asking Allah to “increase the torment” of infidels from the coronavirus while sparing faithful Muslims.

The Al-Naba newsletter, as translated by the typically pro-Bashar al-Assad Al Masdar news service, celebrated the coronavirus as an act of divine judgment for idolatry. According to ISIS, Allah has “imposed something of His painful torment on the nations of His creation” by conjuring the epidemic.

“We ask Allah to increase their torment and save the believers from all that. Indeed He is harsh of punishment against the one who rebels against Him, and merciful to the one who obeys Him and stands with Him,” the jihadists wrote.

The terrorists also praised what they saw as a military retreat by “crusader nations” because their soldiers were supposedly needed to maintain order within their own nations during the coronavirus epidemic. ISIS looked forward to “a great economic catastrophe” befalling the West due to the virus.

The UK Daily Mail noted on Tuesday that ISIS previously advised its jihadis to avoid nations suffering from coronavirus outbreaks and recommended common protective measures such as thorough hand-washing, but also assured the faithful that “illnesses do not strike by themselves, but by the command and decree of Allah.”

The Islamic State might have noticed that Iranian mullahs made similar promises of religious immunity to the coronavirus, which they also portrayed as Allah’s wrath against the infidels, but Iran wound up with the deadliest outbreak in the world, and some of the most incandescent of its many fiery clerics have been felled by the disease.

Presumably, ISIS theologians would dismiss the Iranian experience as irrelevant because they are signaling to Allah on the wrong frequency. Last week the Jerusalem Post puckishly suggested jihadis of all denominations might be among the groups hardest hit by the epidemic, in part because their leaders seem eager to demonstrate they are immune to the disease, while the coronavirus seems completely unmoved by appeals to religious authority.

Deutsche Welle reported that the coronavirus is having an effect on military operations against ISIS and other terrorist threats, but it’s also ravaging the terrorists:

In Iraq, NATO announced earlier this month it would suspend training for 60 days due to the pandemic. As a result, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said he would scale back the UK’s troop deployment since “the tempo of training has significantly declined.”

In addition to the moratorium on training activities, coalition members in Iraq and Syria are having to take precautions to prevent an outbreak among troops. Although US officials suggested the measures wouldn’t have an impact on operational continuity, the outbreak is undermining efforts to shore up local capacity to deal with IS.

“Inevitably the coronavirus pandemic will shift attention and resources away from the fight against the ‘Islamic State,'” said Colin P. Clarke, a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center. “The overall focus and attention required to continue fighting against the group will be understandably distracted.”

“But [IS] fighters will be vulnerable as well. The militants themselves are clearly not immune from the virus, and if they are relying on faulty medical or health information, which is possible, then they could easily lose fighters to the virus too.”

The coronavirus may also cause disruptions in the prison camps where ISIS fighters are held, giving them a chance to escape, a danger exacerbated by ISIS telling its recruits they can secure better divine coronavirus protection by conducting acts of jihad.


Islamic Religious Council of Singapore: All Mosques To Remain Closed Until ‘Situation Improves’

March 24,2020

Syahindah Ishak

These new measures were announced by the Islamic Religious Council (MUIS) at a press conference on Tuesday (Mar. 24).

Singapore’s Mufti, Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, stated that the decisions were made unanimously by the Fatwa Committee, a group of senior religious leaders.

“When the early decision to close the mosques (was made), there were only about less than 200 cases. And based on the earlier 14-day closure, the mosques were supposed to be opened this Friday (Mar. 26). But the cases are now at 509, with two deaths. Obviously, for the Fatwa committee, it is not right for us to open the mosques.”

But earlier today (Mar. 24), Muis announced that all mosques in Singapore will remain closed until the situation improves.

As the mosques continue to remain closed, Muis, however, has opened up small spaces in 19 mosques across Singapore for individual prayers to be done.

This move is mainly targeted to working Muslims, such as taxi and private hire drivers, who may not be able to find an appropriate space to conduct their prayers.

Muis added that these spaces also allow the mosques to build up their precautionary capabilities in preparation for eventual reopening.

It also encourages the community to practice the new norms of safe distancing, reduced duration, bringing their own prayer items and not shaking hands.

On the issue of congregational prayers, including Friday prayers, the Fatwa Committee observed that Muslim law recognises both illness and fear for one’s safety as valid reasons not to hold or attend such prayers.

There is also no issue of missing three consecutive Friday prayers, as it is not obligatory under these circumstances.

The Committee also noted that under these circumstances, with the risk of infection still on the rise, it is the “responsibility of every Muslim to help keep everyone safe”.

While mosques remain closed, MUIS said that essential services will still be provided to Singapore’s Muslim community via alternative means.

The weekly a LIVE classes will continue to be suspended and mosques will shift to online and home-based learning mode for the duration of the mosque closure.

As mosques play an important role in supporting low-income house, who are recipients of zakat assistance, mosques will continue to support these families during the closure period.

Social development officers and the network of mosque befrienders will continue to reach out to families on long-term zakat financial assistance.

Necessary measures are also put in place to protect the health and safety of both clients and staff of the mosques.


Only main gates of the Grand Mosque to remain open

March 24, 2020

MAKKAH — Except the main gates, all other gates of the Grand Mosque in the holy city will remain closed, Saudi Press Agency reported citing a directive from Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, chief of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.

The move is part of the precautionary and preventive measures being taken by the General Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and ensure the safety of the worshipers and visitors to the Grand Mosque.

These anti-coronavirus measures are being taken in cooperation with the health and security authorities at the Grand Mosque.

On Sunday, prayer rugs spread in the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah were removed from the respective premises as a precautionary measure at the directive of Sheikh Al-Sudais.

Meanwhile, the entry and prayer in the piazzas (outer courtyards) of the Two Holy Mosques which was suspended earlier on Friday remains in force.


Coronavirus: NHS bosses praise Preston community's heart-warming £1m. mission to help tackle Covid-19 crisis

By Laura Longworth

24th March 2020

Businessman Yousuf Bhaliok pledged £200,000 to help provide food and essential equipment to NHS staff during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak on Saturday morning.

NHS chiefs say the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity has been overwhelmed by donations and offers of support so far.

Karen Partington, the chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are so grateful to Mr Bhailok and the wider Muslim community in Preston for their generosity and support in setting up this funding drive.

"These donations and offers of help will go a very long way in ensuring our staff are able to continue providing outstanding care during this challenging time.

"We are overwhelmed by the target, the ambition and the kindness shown by everyone involved, and their help is truly invaluable.”

Yousuf pledged £100,000, in addition to another private donation of £100,000, in a video he posted on Facebook over the weekend.

He added that he would also make his BHS store in Fishergate available for storing, collecting and distributing food and equipment.

In a second video posted on Facebook yesterday, Yousuf said: "What I saw in the media was the tremendous effort worldwide made by the doctors, nurses and front line staff.

"Our government is doing everything it can to provide them with resources but locally we must do what we can and give them the discretion to get whatever they need.

"It is sad to see that throughout the world, this disease has spread and now the epicentre is Italy, Spain, France and the UK, and these people will be putting their lives at risk for us.

He adds that he hopes every town will do the same to help provide their own local NHS workers with essential protective equipment.


Kaduna Imams Suspend Five Daily Prayers Indefinitely

Kabir Adejumo 

March 24, 2020

Following the directive of Kaduna State government that all public gatherings should be banned, the Council of Imams in the state has suspended five daily prayers and the congregation Friday service due to COVID-19.

The suspension was announced in a statement signed by the council secretary, Yusuf Arrigasiyyu, on Tuesday.

“We advice all Juma’at Mosque and all five daily prayers whose population exceeds 20 to suspend congregational prayers until further notice.”

“The Council insisted that this directive is in accordance with the teaching of Prophet Muhammad, may peace and mercy of Allah be upon him”, part of the statement read.

The council also encourage residents to adhere to public health advices.

“We also urge the people of Kaduna state to ensure strict adherence to public health advices at all times to avoid contracting and spreading of the coronavirus.”

He further appealed to “Muslims to intensify prayers for Allah’s intervention to stop the spread of the virus and cure those already infected”


Taliban announces stance as suicide bombers attack Sikh temple in Kabul city

25 Mar 2020

The Taliban group announced that the Islamic Emirate is not involved in today’s attack on Sikh temple in Kabul city.

Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement said the Islamic Emirate has no link with the attack in Shor Bazar area of Kabul.

Tariq Arian, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior confirmed that a group of suicide bombers intruded into a Sikh temple in Shor Bazar area at around 7:45 am local time.

Arian further added that the security forces rescued the majority of people who were trapped inside the temple.

He also added that the attack has the attack has inflicted casualties but did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, the security sources are saying that the attack left at least 11 people dead and as many others wounded.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.



Police detain 11 maulvis from foreign countries staying at Ranchi mosque

March 24, 2020

Eleven maulvis (Islamic scholars) from different countries were staying at a mosque near Rargaon village in Ranchi district's Tamar, Jharkhand.

Bundu DSP on Tuesday recieved information that 11 maulvis from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries were staying at the mosque.

Bundu DSP, with his team, raided the mosque and the 11 maulvis have been sent for quarantine at Musabani Police Training Centre.

Their passports have been seized and now, the police are investigating into the matter.


Pray at home, help fight virus: MLA to Muslims

Mar 25, 2020

MUMBAI: Mumbadevi MLA Amin Patel made an appeal against congregations in mosques. "Pray at home and cooperate with the government agencies in fighting the coronavirus. The Quran says even Allah doesn't help those who don't help themselves," said Patel in a video message gone viral.

Notices requesting people to pray at home have been pasted on the gates of mosques.


Coronavirus: All of India under lockdown for 3 weeks

Mar 25, 2020

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday ramped up the fight against coronavirus by announcing that the entire country was being placed under lockdown — he called it as good as curfew — for 21 days starting midnight in order to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission and save India from a massive outbreak that could overwhelm the healthcare system.

Saying there was no other way to save the country from coronavirus, the PM said nations were facing a growing challenge and even the health care systems of developed countries like the US and Italy were struggling to respond to the unprecedented situation resulting from the rapid global spread of Covid-19.



Chlorination Of Mosques In Pakistan, Ordered

March 25, 2020

PESHAWAR: Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Local Government Kamran Bangash on Tuesday directed the department staff to chlorinate all mosques.

He directed the village council secretaries to ensure removal of carpets from mosques. Kamran Bangash directed the officials to ensure spray in all mosques.

The special assistant directed the officials to arrange announcements from mosques loudspeakers to create awareness among the masses about the coronavirus threat.


Pakistani FM warns European FMs over US sanctions on Iran

March 24, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Pakistani Foreign minister in telephonic conversation with his French and Spanish counterparts said economic sanctions on Iran should be immediately lifted so that the country could utilize its resources to fight corona pandemic.

According to foreign ministry statement on Tuesday Shah Mahmood Qureshi while talking to his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian had detailed discussions on the COVID-19 pandemic as well as ways for collective cooperation to combat the spread of the disease.

He said that in view of the situation in Iran, Foreign Minister Qureshi underscored the need for immediate lifting of sanctions and extending humanitarian assistance enabling Iranian Government to save precious human lives.

He said that COVID-19 has spread to almost all countries of the world, and the situation demanded a coordinated approach by the international community to combat its spread.

The Foreign Minister said the developing countries have been facing economic difficulties due to coronavirus outbreak, and Prime Minister Imran Khan demanded for relaxation in payment of debts by developing countries.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian agreed with the Foreign Minister’s assessment of the situation in Iran and the need to provide debt relief to developing countries, and expressed his intention to raise the lifting of sanctions on Iran with the IMF, as well as providing debt relief to developing countries at the G-20.

Both the Foreign Ministers agreed to continue consultative process to deal with the pandemic and promote bilateral cooperation.

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Qureshi held a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister of Spain Arancha Gonzalez Laya on the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Foreign ministry statement said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi conveyed deep condolences over the loss of precious lives in Spain.

The Foreign Minister also underscored the need for immediate lifting of sanctions against Iran and extending humanitarian assistance to enable Iranian authorities to save precious human lives.

“Foreign Minister Qureshi further highlighted the Prime Minister’s call for debt relief for the developing countries to enable them to devote resources to combat the pandemic, and mitigate its serious economic fallout,” said the statement.

Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya informed that the situation in Iran was discussed at the EU Foreign Ministers meeting held on 23 March and also mentioned that the issue of debt relief to developing countries could be taken up at appropriate forums.

“I would insist the international community to lift sanctions from Iran as it has created more problems in their fight against coronavirus,” he said.

Meanwhile Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday had a telephonic conversation with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Another case reported in Hyderabad; govt yet to confirm


A patient at Liaquat University Hospital (LUH) in Hyderabad has tested positive for coronavirus, according to LUH focal person Dr Naeem Memon.

According to Memon, the patient, who is a resident of Latifabad, had recently travelled to the United Kingdom.


Haj organisers request PM Imran to grant tax exemptions for a year


Haj Organisers Association of Pakistan (HOAP) has urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide a bailout package and tax exemption for on year.

In a letter to the premier, HOAP chairperson Shahid Rafiq said that the travel and tour sector have been hit hard from the coronavirus crisis, which has resulted in strict travel restrictions. Many tour operators do not even have enough funds to pay their employees and are shutting down their businesses, He requested the prime minister to exempt the tour and travel sector from taxes for a year.


First death from local virus transmission in Pakistan

March 25, 2020

Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD: With the first death caused by local transmission of novel coronavirus in Pakistan on Tuesday, countrywide tally of fatalities has risen to seven and the Balochistan government has imposed a lockdown across the province for 15 days.

The federal government has decided to accept donations and designated the National Disaster Mana¬gement Authority (NDMA) to use donated funds to combat the disease.

With the first death of a coronavirus victim in Lahore, Punjab witnessed a slight decline in confirmed cases across the province on Tuesday.

According to official figures, only 19 more patients tested positive for the virus all over the province, including seven in Lahore alone, on Tuesday.

On Monday, 24 new confirmed cases were reported in Punjab, including 18 in Lahore, showing a decline as compared to the cases reported on Sunday.

A resident of Sheikhupura, the first patient who died of Covid-19 in Punjab, had no international travel history which means he had been infected locally, making it the first death from local transmission of the virus in Pakistan.

Punjab Health Minister Prof Dr Yasmin Rashid and the spokesperson for the health department confirmed that the 57-year-old patient died at Mayo Hospital in Lahore early on Tuesday morning.

“The patient had visited Azad Kashmir following the death of his relative and most probably he was infected when he attended funeral prayers there,” Chief Executive of the Mayo Hospital Prof Dr Asad Aslam Khan said.

Talking to Dawn, he said the patient was brought to the emergency ward of the Mayo Hospital late on Monday in a serious condition. “The doctors on duty immediately sent his samples to the lab for confirmation of the virus. As his condition deteriorated, he was immediately shifted to the high dependency unit and put on a ventilator. Despite all efforts, he died suddenly, just like sudden deaths of the Covid-19 patients occurring in Spain and Italy.”

Prof Asad said the virus caused rapid spread of infection in the patient’s body and then led to sudden cardiac arrest. The reports obtained on Tuesday morning showed the deceased had been infected with the virus, he said.

The Balochistan government after getting help of Pakistan Army on Tuesday imposed a lockdown across the province for 15 days to restrict the movement of the people.

The provincial home and tribal affairs department issued a notification about the decision the government had taken on Monday night after observing that people were not confining themselves to their houses in Quetta though a lockdown had been imposed in the city four days ago.

“Complete lockdown started at noon on March 24 and will continue till April 7 in entire Balochistan,” the notification said.

Police and other law enforcement agencies deployed in the provincial capital started taking action against the people and businessmen who were found violating lockdown.

Local administration along with police raided different areas and sealed 150 shops, which were found open despite lockdown.

Police also arrested 50 people from different areas of Quetta who were found outside of their homes without any justification. “Local administration has sealed over 300 shops, show rooms and hotels in the last two days,” a senior official of the district administration said.

Most of the Quetta city wore a deserted look as all shopping centres, markets, shops, restaurants and other business establishments remained closed.

However, medical stores, departmental stores, utility stores, bakeries and bread shops remained open as they have been allowed to continue their business.

However, in some areas private vehicles and rickshaws were seen moving on the roads. Law enforcement agencies continued patrolling in and around Quetta to enforce lockdown.

The provincial capital remained cut off with the three provinces and the federal capital through air as PIA and private airlines have suspended their flights for Quetta from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan has once again appealed to the people to cooperate with the government in fighting the deadly virus and asked them to stay in their homes.

The data of the Ministry of National Health Services shows that 78 per cent patients infected with the deadly virus have travelled to Iran. Gender-based data shows that 63pc of the patients are male and 37pc female.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza told a news conference that 918 cases had been confirmed in Pakistan with seven deaths.

“As many as 407 cases have been reported from Sindh, 267 from Punjab, 110 from Balochistan, 80 from Gilgit Baltistan, 38 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 15 from Islamabad and one case has been reported from Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

The SAPM said that a number of individuals, from within the country and abroad, had contacted him and offered donations and personal protective equipment.

“We have decided to designate one focal person and e-mail address to collect donations. That amount will be received by the NDMA and used wherever it will be required,” he said.

Dr Mirza said in a Tweet: “In #COVID19 emergency. A whole-of-the-Govt approach is being employed. Any one want to donate to help GoP with the response please contact: Maj Sajjad Kiani +92 334 5888555 or + 92 3432851914 or +92 51 9201056”

While sharing international numbers, he said the virus had reached all 195 countries recognised by the United Nations, around 400,000 people had been infected and over 17,000 deaths reported around the world.

“Another 10 patients of #COVID19 in #Sindh have recovered and their tests have come negative. Total number of patients who have recovered in Sindh are now 14. Alhamdolillah,” tweeted Barrister Murtaza Wahab, advisor to the Sindh chief minister.

“Though the lockdown has still not been 100% successful, one can see that less number of people have tested positive despite an increase in total tests. Imagine the result if all us pledge to stay home & keep our near & dear ones home.”

China is going to donate medical supplies to the Gilgit Baltistan government to help it contain coronavirus outbreak in the region.

The Chinese embassy has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to temporarily open Pakistan-China border at Khunjerab pass on March 27 to enable China to provide medical supplies to the GB government.

According a letter issued by Chinese embassy in Pakistan, responding to the letter from GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman to the governor of Xinjiang province of China, Xinjiang would donate a batch of medical material to the GB government, including 200, 000 ordinary face masks, 2,000 N-95 face masks, five ventilators, 2,000 testing kits and as many protective gears.

The materials were ready to be delivered to GB through Khunjerab pass, it said. Therefore it is requested to temporarily open Khunjerab pass on March 27.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote a letter to the interior ministry and the GB home secretary to consider the request of the Chinese embassy for temporarily opening Khunjerab pass on March 27 for receiving the donated equipment.


Pakistan Covid-19 positive cases rise to 1000, but PM Imran won’t impose lockdown

Mar 25, 2020

Pakistan announced halting of domestic flight operations after number of cases infected with coronavirus disease Covid-19 rose to 1000 in the country. The government said that seven people have died of the disease.

The domestic flight ban will begin on Thursday, civil aviation spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar said on Wednesday. Islamabad had previously cut train service and international flights.

Initially, most of those infected were Pakistani pilgrims returning from neighboring hard-hit Iran, which has seen the Middle East’s worst outbreak of the virus. Now, the virus is being reported in people with no travel history, officials say.

More than 400 of the infected people are in the southern province of Sindh. The eastern province of Punjab has the second highest number of cases (296), the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has 78 cases, Balochistan has 110, while capital Islamabad has 15, as per media reports.

The Sindh provincial government has imposed a lockdown to contain the spread of the virus, but Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he will not impose a country-wide lockdown and urged people to go in self-quarantine to fight the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

“Twenty-five percent of the population of our country lives under the poverty line. Putting the country under lockdown would mean that my daily-wage workers, street vendors, small shop-owners would be locked inside their homes. How would they earn then?” he said in his address to the nation.

The country had reported its seventh death on Tuesday, involving a 57-year-old patient who was undergoing treatment at Mayo Hospital in Lahore.

Six civil servants were, meanwhile, suspended on Tuesday after they posed for a selfie with a coronavirus patient in a quarantine centre, an official said.

The selfie - widely shared on social media - pictured a group of men around the apparent patient, several of them smiling broadly and none wearing face masks.



LGBT+ acceptance in Turkey, where a majority of the population is Muslim, is at an all-time high

MARCH 24, 2020

Almost half of people in Turkey think that LGBT+ people should have equal rights, nine percent more than last year, according to a survey.

The purpose is to be able to compare people’s views over time and create a database for gender studies in the country, where around 60 per cent of the population is Muslim.

In the survey, which is called ‘Perceptions of Gender Equality’, people in Turkey are asked questions about equality between men and women, marriage and LGBT+ people.

This is up from 36 per cent in 2019, 44 per cent in 2018, 38 per cent in 2017 and 33 per cent in 2016, the first year the survey was carried out.

However, 77 per cent of the people who took part also agreed with the statement: “Same-sex relationships are against our social norms.” This is up 15 per cent from last year.

A separate survey by Kadir Has University in 2019 found that 46.5 per cent of Turkish people wouldn’t want a “homosexual” neighbour. This was slightly down from 55.3 percent of those asked the same question in 2018.

Despite homosexuality not being illegal in Turkey, there have been a number of large-scale LGBT+ events that have been banned in the country in recent years.

In November 2017, the Turkish government in Ankara banned LGBT+ Pride events citing “public morality”.

According to Euronews, instead of placing an absolute ban over such demonstrations taking place, an increased level of security “must be ensured”.

Back in July 2018, officials who had forbidden Istanbul Pride from taking place were challenged by thousands of defiant marchers – many of whom were waving rainbow flags in protest – who gathered near the city’s famous Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square.

Around the time, it was reported that police were threatening to arrest anyone that “looks gay, wears rainbows or bright feminine colours, or has on too short of shorts”.

The activists were met with hostility by local officials who used high-pressure water canons and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse the crowd.


Yemeni army announces control of strategic locations in battles with “Ansar Allah”

March 24, 2020

The Yemeni army, which is affiliated with the legal government, announced today, Tuesday, that its forces had made field progress in battles with the “Ansar Allah” group (Houthis), in the Hajjah governorate, northwest of Yemen.

Cairo – Sputnik. The Yemeni news agency “Saba”, which broadcasts from Riyadh, quoted the commander of the first brigade, Special Forces, Brigadier General Obaid al-Jar, that “groups of Houthis tried to infiltrate sites in the Haradh front (northwest of Hajjah), but the army failed the attempt and launched a counter attack that managed During it progress will be about 3 kilometers. ”

Brigadier Al-Jar assured that “liberating a number of strategic sites, most notably the black tab.” He noted, “The army was able to shoot down a Houthi pilot plane at the Haradh Front.”

On the other hand, the Yemeni news agency Saba, which is run by the Houthis in Sanaa, said that coalition fighters launched 6 raids on the Haradh district, northwest of Hajjah.


Hamas closes Gaza mosques in attempt to stop spread of coronavirus


24 March 2020

Gaza’s Health Ministry said 1367 Palestinians in the Strip were in home quarantine, while 1430 were isolated in special facilities around the territory.

Of those in the facilities, 29 came close to the pair infected with the virus, Ashraf al-Qidra, the ministry’s spokesman, said on Sunday.

In early March, Abdelnaser Soboh, the head of the World Health Organization’s sub-office in Gaza, said the territory’s health infrastructure would not be able to handle hundreds or thousands of cases of the virus.

“The health system in Gaza is already shaky and barely functioning. It cannot take on the burden of a large number of cases,” he told The Times of Israel, warning that such a scenario could contribute to its collapse.

Hospitals in Gaza frequently lack sufficient medications and medical equipment and often rely on backup generators to maintain a consistent flow of power.

Israel’s blockade on Gaza, which has been aided by Egypt, has significantly undermined the territory’s health sector.

Israeli officials maintain that the blockade, a series of restrictions on the movement of goods and people, is in place to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from importing weapons, or the means to make them, into Gaza.

Soboh said that the health institutions in Gaza carry a total of 2,500 beds and some 50-60 ventilators for adults


Mullahs’ regime orders Médecins Sans Frontières out of Iran


Iran, March 24, 2020—The mullahs’ regime has called on the Médecins Sans Frontières, who entered Isfahan with physicians, medicine and equipment, to leave Iran. Alireza Vahabzadeh, deputy Health Minister in Iran, tweeted on Monday, March 23: “There is no need for foreigners to establish hospital beds and their presence is cancelled.”

According to Arash Najmi, spokesperson of the Isfahan Medical Sciences University, the Médecins Sans Frontières team was launching a 48-bed field hospital adjacent to Isfahan’s Amin Hospital. This field hospital was transferred from France and arrangements were made for nine MSF physicians and specialists to begin their work confronting coronavirus.

In an interview covered by the Fars news agency on Monday, March 23, Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief of Kayhan daily, known as the mouthpiece of Iranian regime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, described the regime’s reason behind the expulsion of MSF team from Iran as the mullahs’ mistrust in this organization despite the COVID-19 epidemic in Iran.

“Dispatching the MSF delegation to our country may be viewed in negative fashion. However, if this negative perspective comes from a necessity of being careful, not is it quite called for but also considered very logical,” Shariatmadari said in his remarks to Fars news agency, an outlet known to be affiliated directly to the regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Shariatmadari explained his reasoning of mistrust, saying France is the “main base” for the Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). He went on to question and threaten those officials who are allowing the PMOI/MEK to continue their presence in France.

The measure goes against the regime’s claims that it is shorthanded in its efforts to contain the spread of the virus due to U.S. sanctions. On Sunday and Monday, Khamenei and regime president Hassan Rouhani rejected humanitarian aid from the U.S., blaming the U.S. for manufacturing the virus and using it as a biological weapon against Iran. Rouhani also said that the only way the U.S. can help Iran is by lifting sanctions.

The regime’s hysterical opposition to the presence of international aid workers on Iranian soil further strengthens the argument that Iranian officials are hiding the real scale of the coronavirus outbreak and are concealing the real figures of death toll and infections across the country.

On the other hand, the regime is holding the people of Iran hostage and rejecting any aid to force the U.S. to life sanctions and the EU to provide it with cash, money that will undoubtedly be spent on fueling terrorism and fundamentalism across the Middle East.

More than 10,900 people have died to coronavirus in 219 cities across all of Iran’s 31 provinces as of Tuesday afternoon local time, March 24, according to the Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The number of victims in various provinces include: at least 1,050 in Gilan; over 900 in Khorasan Razavi; 820 in Mazandaran; 570 in Golestan; 152 in Yazd; and 28 in North Khorasan, among others.

“The number of COVID-19 deaths and cases are beyond our previous estimates. We need to rewrite our scenario on this matter,” said Alireza Zali, head of the Counter Coronavirus Department in Tehran, on Monday, March 23.

Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, a member of the regime’s Majlis (parliament), wrote in a letter to the speaker: “Iran is only a few steps away from historic and humanitarian catastrophe. Majlis members like myself are tired of begging for quarantine or other necessary measures, and we have lost hope in firm and effective measures… We need to adopt an emergency plan aimed at shutting down the entire country for a month before it’s too late and protect the lives of our compatriots against the deadly coronavirus.”

Iranian opposition President Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), condemned these measures. “The expulsion of Médecines sans Frontières is yet another indication that the main problem in Iran is the existence of a corrupt dictatorship that only thinks of preserving its rule. Human lives are not of any value to them. The regime seeks only the aids which could be placed at the disposal of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the regime’s leaders without any supervision.”

The expulsion of Médecines sans Frontières is yet another indication that the main problem in #Iran is the existence of a corrupt dictatorship that only thinks of preserving its rule. Human lives are not of any value to them #COVID19

There has been a 13-percent increase in coronavirus cases in the Iranian capital of Tehran, according to Kianush Jahanpur, spokesperson for the regime’s Health Ministry. An individual dies of COVID-19 every 12 minutes in Iran, he added.

Deputy Dean of Ardabil Medical Sciences University says the coronavirus epidemic is spreading like clusters in this province located in northwest Iran, meaning when one individual is infected, all members of his/her family are considered to be involved.

Despite the speedy spread of COVID-19 and especially in the city of Tehran, Mohammad Imami Amin, deputy of economic affairs in the Tehran governorate said instructions were issued to have all administrative offices and banks open on Tuesday.

A senior official in Tehran Province indicated that the Combat Coronavirus Department are calling on Tehran International Exhibition authorities to provide the space in this center to launch a rehabilitation center for COVID-19 patients. This further indicates the scope of this crisis in Iran despite regime officials constantly downplaying the entire issue.

In Tabriz, head of the local Medical Science University says at least 63 hospital staff members in East Azerbaijan Province have contracted coronavirus. If this virus continues to spread, the medical staff and equipment/supplies in this province will not be able to respond to the locals’ demands.

In other news, Mohsen Sharifi, a COVID-19 patient seen in a video shared extensively on social media where a mullah claims to be treating him using “Islamic medical practices,” has unfortunately died on Monday, March 23. There is a high volume of criticism circulating and describing this as second-degree murder by the mullah who rubbed a lotion on Sharifi’s face under his nose.

A Health Ministry deputy in Iran says the speed of coronavirus spreading in various provinces of Iran, such as Qom and Gilan, is decreasing. In other provinces, however, such as Isfahan, Khorasan, Mazandaran, and East Azerbaijan, the velocity of its expansion is higher than the country’s average speed.

Another Health ministry official says there is no longer a need to announce the country’s COVID-19 death toll with each province separated. This was necessary only when some provinces were not certain of having the coronavirus spreading in their areas. Currently, COVID-19 has expanded across the country, the official continued.

More than 10,500 people have died of coronavirus in 212 cities across all of Iran’s 31 provinces as of Monday afternoon local time, March 23, according to the MEK network inside Iran. Over 600 people have died of COVID-19 in the city of Isfahan and more than 500 in Kashan, adding to more than 1,262 victims in Isfahan Province. The death toll in various provinces includes: 872 in Khorasan Razavi; 536 in Golestan; 369 in Khuzestan; 160 in Ardabil; 83 in Zanjan; 41 in Kohgiluyeh & Buyer Ahmed and 40 in Semnan. This is in addition to the atrocious death toll in other provinces.

Physicians in Gilan Province, northern Iran, are reporting that many of the individuals released from hospitals have died in their homes in a matter of just one week. However, they have not been accounted for in the official coronavirus death toll.

Dr. Zali, head of the Tehran Counter Coronavirus Department says there has been a five percent increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in medical centers and a 12 percent increase in chronic cases in need of being hospitalized. The sound of ambulance sirens is heard constantly in various parts of Tehran and other cities.

All the while, the mullahs’ regime is going the distance to keep a lid on the number of COVID-19 victims and has launched a wave of arrests in various cities under the pretext of confronting people who are spreading rumors and publishing fake news about coronavirus.

On March 22, Nasser Khodayari, representative of the Ministry of Guidance, in a meeting of the Counter Coronavirus Department in West Azerbaijan Province, said that nine individuals involved in spreading rumors have been arrested.

Hossein Shahriar, head of state police in Maku, northwest Iran, said individuals who insult state officials on the internet will be arrested. Any offense against officials and publishing what the regime considers "fake news" (about COVID-19) will be considered a crime and FATA (Iran’s internet police) will be taking legal action against those involved. A number of people have been arrested in Isfahan, central Iran, under these bogus pretexts.

Houshang Hosseini, head of state police in in Ardabil Province, northwest Iran, said 11 individuals have been arrested for spreading rumors and fake news on the internet about COVID-19.

Furthermore, the classic army in Iran has received orders from the regime’s Armed Forces Headquarters to carry out biologic military drills. These orders, obviously coming directly from Khamenei, come just one day after he accused the United States of producing and exporting coronavirus. It is now obvious that those remarks were aimed at preparing the grounds for a new wave of domestic crackdown.

In other news, Majlis (parliament) speaker Ali Larijani said “a large number” of MPs have tested positive for COVID-19. This further indicates that regime officials and authorities have lost control and cannot contain the virus.

“… My sister showed signs of coronavirus and she was transferred to the civil hospital, known previously as Sheer-o Khorsheed Hospital. One of the hospital staff who apparently knew us told my brother-in-law to take her back home. There are many sick people here and our supplies and equipment are very low. Take her home, keep her in quarantine and carry out the doctor’s orders given to you by telephone.”

Reports from Gilan Province, northern Iran, indicate the governor’s staff are holding sessions for two days now to decide where to bury COVID-19 victims because they have no place to bury them. There are measures being taken to transfer them to other cities. They are discussing the cities of Qazvin and Karaj as options. Of course, they will be spreading the illness to other cities.

A report from Qom, one of the main coronavirus hotspots in Iran, indicates 40 physicians and 130 nurses have been infected with COVID-19. Fifteen of the infected physicians were hospitalized and one is being held in an ICU section. Furthermore, three of the 130 nurses are hospitalized.

A citizen from Karaj said, “People in the U.S., Spain or France may be receiving portions of their normal income…. That’s not the case in Iran. Ordinary workers, employees and those selling goods on the streets, they don’t receive any such paychecks… And by the way, those countries don’t demand monthly water, electricity and telephone bills. If we don’t pay these bills here, these services will be cut off… We’re out of money. Is there any work. Is there a government?... Will the government provide us with any money? ...”

One citizen from Ardabil, northwest Iran, said on Sunday, March 23, that the situation in this city is very dire due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Locals in various villages have taken matters into their own hands and closed their entrances. There are no COVID-19 test kits in Ardabil or its local villages. All the samples are sent to Tabriz, another city in northwest Iran. There have been cases that the tested patients have died before their results have returned.

A citizen from Najafabad, central Iran, said on Sunday, March 22, “My son checked around ten drug stores, and none had masks. Its interesting that all the make-up and hygiene stores have masks and have no other shortages… Locals are truly abiding by hygiene protocols. From 11 am to 3 pm I toured the entire city and I saw less than 50 people in the streets… All these reports that the people are not abiding by hygiene protocols are lies.”

Another citizen from the city of Mashhad, northeast Iran, said on Sunday, March 22, that due to coronavirus all the stores and main tourist sites are closed. This will continue until around April 21. The Imam Reza Shrine is also closed. “This is a strange year. I believe we will be witnessing many developments that will change the fate of the Iranian nation. We should prepare for a very defining year,” one individual said.

A report from the city of Amol in northern Iran, indicates that six physicians by the names of Seyed Mozzaffar Rabie, Dr. Samadi, Dr. Nirouie, Dr. Ibrahim-nezhad, Dr. Tusan and Dr. Babazadeh, along with four staff members of the Amol Medical Sciences University, have all lost their lives to COVID-19. The virus expanded to Amol due to tourists form the city of Qom.


Israel halts settler incursions at Al-Aqsa Mosque due to pandemic

March 24, 2020

Israel’s occupation authorities have banned Jewish settlers’ incursions at Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, citing coronavirus fears, reported on Monday. Foreign tourists have also been banned from entering the Islamic holy site for the same reason. Any Palestinians who violate the order face fines of up to 5,000 new Israeli shekels (NIS), insisted the authorities.

Employees of the Awqaf (Religious Endowment) Department in the mosque are being allowed to carry out their security duties. Meanwhile, congregational prayers at the mosque have been suspended on the advice of specialist medical and religious officials, although the call to prayer will still be made five times a day.

The Awqaf Department called upon the Palestinians to understand the religious and health reasons for the decision to suspend prayers anywhere within the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa. For the past week, prayers have been held in the mosque courtyard, while the buildings have been kept closed.


'Islamic Doctor' In Iran To Be Arrested For Unauthorized Treatment Of Coronavirus Patients

March 24, 2020

A prosecutor in Iran's northern city of Anzali on Monday said an arrest warrant has been issued for an "Islamic doctor" who put the lives of several coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) patients and the public in danger. The self-confessed doctor administered a "miracle cure" which he called the "Perfume of the Prophet" to the patients one of who, a young man, died three days later.

Morteza Kohansal, a low-level cleric, posted a video of himself on social media showing him asking for patients' permission to administer the cure to them. The video shows him removing their protective masks and rubbing the perfume under their noses with unprotected, unsanitized fingers. He claimed that the "Perfume of the Prophet" would make them sneeze and heal from the virus.

According to the Prosecutor of Anzali, a port city in the coronavirus-stricken Gilan Province, the arrest warrant was issued "in coordination with the Prosecutor of the Special Clerical Court". Clerics in Iran can only be tried by the Special Clerical Court which is independent of the country's Judiciary and generally holds its trials behind closed doors.

The self-confessed advocates and practitioners of "Islamic medicine" many of who are clerics use ancient formulas, supposedly used by the Prophet and his successors, as well special prayers to heal their patients.

Iran's Supreme Leader is an advocate of a traditional school of medicine which is now often referred to as "Islamic-Iranian medicine". Those who advocate and practice this school enjoy state-funded propaganda and the protection of the hardliner-dominated Judiciary despite many protests by the country's medical community.

One of the leading figures of the "Islamic Medicine" practitioners who has come to be known as "The Father of the Islamic Medicine in Iran" last week claimed that dropping bitter gourd oil in ears in the morning will prevent infection with coronavirus while another notorious "Islamic doctor" who had caused quite a social uproar by burning a standard medical textbook in January prescribed blocking the anus with a cotton ball dipped in violet oil to ward off the virus when the epidemic spread in the country.


Iran's economy in free fall as corrupt mullahs deny people virus protection

ByStruan Stevenson

MARCH 24, 2020

March 24 (UPI) -- The Iranian economy is plummeting. Spiraling inflation and a collapsing currency have combined with the coronavirus crisis to bring the country to a virtual standstill.

The active Iranian workforce is 26 million, of whom at least 10 million were jobless even before COVID-19 struck. Youth unemployment was at a staggering 40 percent. At least 33 percent of the population were already living under the absolute poverty line unable to meet their essential daily needs. Now the country is in virtual lockdown, but the theocratic regime is doing nothing to help.

Even before the coronavirus struck and before the Trump administration reimposed tough sanctions, Iran's descent into economic chaos could be traced directly to the ruling clerical regime and its tyrannical supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei. Their policy of aggressive military expansionism across the Middle East has seen them consistently pour men and resources into backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his murderous civil war, while they simultaneously drove the genocidal campaign against the Sunni population of neighboring Iraq through their outright support for the brutal al-Hashd al-Shaabi, the so-called Shi'ia popular mobilization forces. They have openly financed and supplied the Houthi rebels in Yemen and continue to provide vast funding for the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Combined with the mullahs' own predilection for corruptly lining their own pockets, Iran has become an international pariah, its religious fascist regime condemned for human rights abuse and the export of terror, while its 80 million beleaguered citizens, over half of whom are under 30, struggle to feed their families as the COVID-19 virus rages across the nation.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps -- the regime's Gestapo -- controls over 80 percent of the economy, corruptly funneling money stolen from the people into private banks and using the rest to finance their burgeoning nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It is reckoned that Khamenei controls a financial empire worth an estimated $200 billion, resources which could readily be made available to alleviate the suffering of the Iranian people. But Khamenei has instead tried to blame Iran's enemies for what he calls "a biological attack."

When the virus first appeared in the holy city of Qom, Khamenei declared that there was no danger and that news of COVID-19 was a plot to deter people from voting in Iran's parliamentary elections. Now the lies, stupidity and incompetence of the mullahs have allowed the virus to spread to 199 cities in all of Iran's 31 provinces. It is known that the real death toll from the virus has exceeded 11,000, although the mullahs pretend that just 1,800 have died. Dr Rick Brennan, the World Health Organization's director of emergency operations, following a visit to Iran last week, said coronavirus cases in the country were five times greater than what was being reported.

The only reliable information is being provided by resistance units of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the democratic opposition to the theocratic regime. Now, as their own ineptitude has become exposed, and the real death toll has been widely shared on social media, the mullahs are beginning to panic. A month ago, President Hassan Rouhani said the coronavirus would fade away in a matter of weeks. But this weekend, he acknowledged in a TV interview that 70 percent of the Iranian population would be infected by the virus, stating that he hoped they would be infected gradually, because the healthcare system could not cope with a sudden escalation in the infection rate.

Rouhani, for once, was telling the truth. He and his fellow mullahs, with their IRGC cohorts, have diverted almost all of the available face masks, sanitizers, protective clothing and other key medical supplies for their own personal use in their own exclusive private hospitals, leaving Iran's beleaguered doctors and nurses with little or nothing to protect themselves or to treat the public. This is why the coronavirus death toll in Iran is accelerating ahead of China and Europe.

Rouhani even told his cabinet on Saturday that the virus was a conspiracy by Iran's enemies aimed at destroying the economy. He claimed that American sanctions were preventing aid from entering the country, although U.S. sanctions specifically do not affect medical or humanitarian aid. Rouhani then farcically said, "The process of production must go on as usual, in order to confront the conspiracy."

Khamenei compounded the farce by stating in his Nowruz (New Year) message that the coming year will be a year of "surge in production in Iran." His fatuous comment led one courageous young Iranian to post an observation on social media saying, "This is nonsense; which surge? What production are you talking about? This is the year you will all be brought to trial."

The 80 million Iranian citizens are fed up with their corrupt, fundamentalist rulers. They are fed up with living in poverty and deprivation as the mullahs siphon off the country's wealth to fill their coffers and to finance conflict and terror throughout the Middle East. They demand the release of Khamenei's stolen billions to pay for proper healthcare and for financial support for workers who have been forced to stay at home.

The Central Bank of Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund for $5 billion in emergency loans to help contain the virus and mitigate its effects on the struggling economy. But Iranians are demanding that any such loans be carefully monitored to ensure they go to helping the population and not into funding terror or into the mullahs' pockets. Most of all, the people of Iran are asking the U.N. Security Council to investigate the regime for its ongoing crimes against humanity.


North America 

New York Times promotes face-veiling Indonesian Muslim 'Niqab Squad’ as totally-not-extremist answer to Western feminism

Helen Buyniski

24 Mar, 2020

The New York Times is singing the praises of Indonesia’s born-again Muslim sects, profiling a group who mix Islamic doctrine with girl-power platitudes beneath their niqabs and hailing the garments as the answer to harassment.

The woker-than-thou outlet wants readers to know that these Indonesian ladies, who – unlike the vast majority of their countrywomen – sport the full-face veil known as the niqab, are anything but oppressed. They’re photographed hitting bullseyes with bow and arrow from horseback, a feat made all the more impressive by the billowing folds of fabric that envelop their bodies, hiding all but their eyes.

The women profiled in the piece, many of whom are members of various traditionalist ‘born again’ Islamic sects, are depicted as eager to distance themselves from the extremism the veil tends to connote, even in majority-Muslim Indonesia, and the misogyny considered part and parcel of hardline Islamic regimes. But Indonesia is a secular country, and the Times sings the praises of the “thousands of mainly urban, middle-class women” who “have made [the choice to wear the niqab] for themselves,” renouncing modern dress and “practicing sports that the Prophet Muhammad is thought to have enjoyed” at events around the country.

The Times is hardly able to rein in its enthusiasm for the “Niqab Squad,” the picture-perfect group of arrow-shooting, horseback-riding women founded by a clothing designer in 2016 “to promote wearing the veil.” They aren't the first Western outlet eager to celebrate any morsel of progressivism in Islam that has been seduced by the photogenic females, and they describe the “peaceful, born-again” traditional Hijrah movement many of the Squad members follow in glowing terms. Nor is the Times subtle in its praise of similar (but unaffiliated) “Islamic purist” movement Tablighi Jama’at, which is banned in Russia as an extremist group and has been described as a “gateway to terrorism” by other countries’ analysts in the past. The movement’s leaders insist it is apolitical, focused merely on returning to a traditional Islamic lifestyle, though some critics have suggested this (lack of) stance is merely to avoid setting off alarm bells within host countries.

And if those who enjoy horseback-riding in traditional dress like to talk about how living the seventh-century lifestyle (the usually militantly-pro-vaccine Times doesn’t seem to mind that one community “disdains” the shots) “improves [their] chances of going to heaven”? Well, don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it, reporter Richard Paddock implies with his enthusiastic profile.

But not every niqab-clad woman gets to make that choice. While the piece glowingly describes the traditionalist town of Temboro, “Indonesia’s Medina,” as a religious haven that “shuts down five times a day at prayer time,” it only mentions in passing that girls who attend the eight-campus Al Fatah school that dominates the town have no choice but to wear the veil starting at age 5. Those who aspire to more than studying the Koran (and teaching others to study the Koran) would seem to have little to look forward to within its walls, even as the lifestyle is (according to the Times, at least) attracting worldly-wise “urban, middle class” women in droves with the help of social media proselytizing.

And while the Times clearly wants the reader to see empowered, independent feminists in these women clad in head-to-toe black fabric, the Temboro residents’ own view toward sexual harassment echoes the “traditional” outlook, indicating that even the born-again Muslim women drawn to the town leave their modern sexual mores behind. One 25-year-old woman said she feared even showing her hands or eyes in public was risking “unwanted male attention,” and the outlet itself acknowledges that “unwanted sexual advances” are common.

The pious rhetoric of the Niqab Squad suggests these women are plunging into conservative Islam for more than fashion statements and equestrianism – “we really want to go to heaven, and so we sacrifice,” founder Indadari Mindrayanti said, explaining that “part of our sacrifice is not showing our beauty and covering our body in an Islamic way” – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a healthy respect for tradition. But depicting these fundamentalist Islamic communities as a haven for empowered women – to a Western audience, no less – is irresponsible at best, and wildly disingenuous at worst.


The Islamic Republic is preparing for a second Trump term

MAR 24, 2020

by Maysam Behravesh

Iran’s eleventh parliamentary elections, on February 21, were held in quite extraordinary circumstances, not least in terms of public trust in state institutions, government credibility, and state-society relations more broadly.

Against a backdrop of US “maximum pressure,” which commenced in May 2018 after the Trump administration scrapped the Iran nuclear deal—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—and reimposed blanket sanctions on the Iranian economy, Tehran witnessed the first major wave of nationwide unrest instigated in part by sanctions, albeit indirectly. The November 2019 protests erupted, and were successfully crushed, following a government decision to compensate for its depleting coffers by sharply raising gasoline prices and cutting fuel subsidies. The ensuing brutal crackdown left an unprecedented 631 people dead—with the Trump administration citing as high as 1,500—and thousands more injured. (The death toll has yet to be officially announced.)

Less than two months later, on January 3, the US assassination of Iran’s top military official Qasem Soleimani and Tehran’s retaliatory missile strikes against Iraqi bases housing American forces brought the two adversaries to the brink of war. On the heels of what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had dubbed Iran’s “harsh revenge” for the Soleimani killing, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane departing from Tehran, killing all 176 people onboard. Worse yet, the government tried to cover up the real cause of the fatal crash for three days—blaming it on “technical flaws”—before mounting international and domestic pressure compelled it to come clean.

The parliamentary elections were overshadowed by “maximum pressure” and with a strategic view to its continuation for another four years—given the potential likelihood of US President Donald Trump’s reelection in 2020 unless the coronavirus pandemic upsets the odds—as well as the approaching challenge of leadership succession.  

Notably, most state officials including Khamenei himself—who were rightly concerned about a remarkably low turnout—appealed to the disenchanted constituents’ sense of patriotism and passion for their country to urge “maximum participation” in the vote.

“Everyone who is interested in Iran and its security should take part in the elections,” the Supreme Leader said in a speech on February 5. “Someone might not like me, but if they like Iran, they should come to the ballot box [and vote].”

Yet, the same centers of power, relying on the Guardian Council—a hardline constitutional vetting body—did not hesitate to disqualify around 7,000 out of some 14,000 hopefuls, including a record 90 incumbent lawmakers who aspired to run for reelection. In fact, despite its desire for a show of legitimacy and popularity in the face of growing external threats, the Iranian leadership took an unmistakable step towards cultivating a more homogeneous political system to be dominated by hardliners.

On the campaign trail, even some top IRGC commanders appeared in promotional videos rooting for prominent hardline candidates, indicating the die was already cast and the odds were stacked in their favor in a premeditated fashion. In a stark instance, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s aerospace division, praised Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf profusely and in particular highlighted his “unrivaled role” as the former head of the IRGC air force (1997 – 2000) in the “quantitative expansion” of Iran’s missile industry.

“The presence of transformationist brothers, jihadi and revolutionary managers of Qalibaf’s ilk must solve the country’s economic problems,” Hajizadeh asserted.

Unsurprisingly, the result was a 42.5 percent turnout, the lowest in the legislative history of the Islamic Republic, and, as predicted, conservatives won by a large margin, gaining 221 seats in the 290-seat parliament. A second round of voting, originally scheduled for April, has now been postponed to September 11, as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus.   

The capital city Tehran, which registered one of the lowest turnouts across the country at just over 25 percent, produced the most significant victory for hardliners who won all its 30 seats, with Qalibaf at the top of the “principlist” list.

A former mayor of Tehran and presidential candidate, Qalibaf is widely notorious for a long track record of corruption and mismanagement, and yet has been groomed for the critical post of parliament speaker. In that role, if successfully secured, he is expected to advance several key strategic policies in conjunction with the Revolutionary Guards and the executive, which seems to have ideally been reserved for another principlist loyal to the Supreme Leader.

For all intents and purposes, the Iranian leadership is bracing itself for a second Trump victory in the US presidential elections, in which case his administration’s “maximum pressure” policy against the Islamic Republic will probably continue in one way or another for the foreseeable future. This means if Iran persists with its asymmetrical resistance and retaliation and if diplomatic efforts fail to achieve deescalation and sanctions relief, two scenarios will become likely: either a military confrontation between Tehran and Washington at some point or recurring waves of unrest and ensuing state suppression.

Even if war is averted, thanks potentially to regional mediation and fear of consequences, continuation of crippling sanctions for a few more years will only result in further death and destruction in Iran. As the violent suppression of gasoline protests in November 2019 clearly demonstrated, the Islamic Republic will not hesitate to kill its way out of popular revolt while trying to use the public as a buffer against increasing threats to its survival. The state-sanctioned fuel price spike was arguably an instance of how the government is transferring the external pressure on to society in critical circumstances when its grip on power is undermined.

Operationalizing such a ruthless survivalist strategy requires a relatively homogeneous system of decisionmaking and governance that would ensure maximum cooperation and synergism among otherwise competing political and security branches of the state. The synergism is also deemed necessary for a smooth and successful transition of power if Khamenei, 80-years-old at the moment, passes away at any moment over the next four years.

This is where a hardline-dominated parliament, to be possibly headed by Qalibaf, will come in handy. In concert with the IRGC, he will do his best to prepare the ground for the election of a like-minded president who at least does not hamper the implementation of the aforementioned strategy.

Now with the addition of the coronavirus pandemic to Iran’s threat basket, and as experts have already pointed out, the authoritarian tendencies of the Islamic Republic are likely to strengthen over the coming years, unless external pressure eases up, creating much-needed breathing room for the Iranian polity, society and economy alike.


US sanctions have caused suffering of Iranian people: China UN envoy

March 24, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): China’s UN Envoy Zhang Jun said that US sanctions imposed against Iran has caused suffering of Iranian nation.

In a twitter message on Tue., Chinese envoy to UN pointed to the Iranian people who are fighting against coronavirus and wrote, “Iranian people are suffering severely from the pandemic. The unilateral sanctions made the situation even worse.”

Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang in a reaction to the US medical sanctions against Iranian people added, “US sanctions has restricted Iran’s ability to combat coronavirus global pandemic.”

In his daily press briefing in Beijing, he described US sanctions imposed against Iranian people as ‘inhuman and unilateral’ and added, “Iranian people and government are fighting against outbreak of coronavirus and these sanctions hamper Iran’s ability to address the fatal disease seriously.”

He went on to say that US sanctions will leave negative impact on sending humanitarian aids by the UN and other international organizations.

China wants US and other countries to lift sanctions imposed on Iran as soon as possible, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman emphasized.

He called on the international community to strengthen cooperation with Iran to contain the coronavirus global pandemic and protect the regional and international security jointly.


Southeast Asia 

Minister clarifies Covid-19 fund for everyone in need, not just Muslims

24 Mar 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — Minister in charge of religious affairs Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad has clarified today that funds collected by the Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) is not exclusively for Muslims.

He said the money was for all the frontliners, adding that thus far, his ministry has donated more than RM20 million to the cause.

“I never said the Tabung #MUSAADAHCovid19 was specifically for Muslims. I’ve said it many times that the funds are for the the undertakers, frontliners, Jakim and others,” he said in a post of Facebook.

“Besides that my department has donated more than RM20 million to students, religious teachers children, those struggling for money in the Federal Territories and outside of it regardless of race and religion.”

Earlier today, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department launched the fund and said the government will channel the collections to Muslims in need.

Zulkifli said contributions may be made via the Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad account number 16027010001528 opened for “Tabung Saadah Jakim Covid-19”.

However critics online insisted that any relief fund must not be channelled only to Muslims as Jakim is a federal agency funded by taxpayers.


Myanmar Muslims offer mosques to help fight coronavirus

Kyaw Ye Lynn 


The Muslim community in Myanmar on Wednesday called for a unity in fighting the coronavirus as the country reported three positive cases of COVID-19, so far.

Tin Maung Than, secretary of Islamic Religious Affairs Council Myanmar, said thousands of mosques across the country could be used in fighting the coronavirus.

“There are more than 1,000 mosques in Myanmar as well as several Muslim religious schools. There are also hotels, apartments and buildings owned by Muslim businessmen. These places can be used temporarily in fighting virus,” he told Anadolu Agency by phone.

He added that the council informed the national and regional governments, and Ministry of Health and Sports that religious buildings could be turned into temporary hospitals and quarantine sites, if necessary.

Authorities imposed self-quarantine for Myanmar nationals who returned from neighboring countries such as Thailand, China and Laos through border passes.

“The council also requested local Muslim community to help those returnees in self-quarantine in their respective places,” he said.

The Ministry of Health and Sports said a 26-year-old Myanmar man, who recently travelled to U.K and arrived backed in the country on March 21, was tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized.

The country confirmed first two cases of the coronavirus on Monday in its nationals, who have travel history to the U.S. and the U.K.

Health authorities have been on high alert since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a pandemic earlier this month.

Authorities in Myanmar have been preparing makeshift quarantine facilities across the country as tens of thousands of returnees, mostly migrant workers from neighboring Thailand and China, continue to arrive through the country's border gates.

Beside public hospitals, apartments, hotels and religious buildings have also been prepared as possible quarantine facilities as of growing number of suspected patients.

The Health Ministry said more than 500 people have been isolated in hospitals and temporary quarantine sites in the country as of March 24.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 170 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 423,000 while the death toll is nearly 19,000 and nearly 109,000 have recovered, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

Despite the rising number of cases, most who contract the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery.


Arab world 

A New Mosque and Multi-Purpose Hall in Diyar Al Muharraq Sponsored by Fawzi Kanoo

March 24th, 2020

As part of his ongoing commitment to philanthropic projects, the Deputy Chairman of Yusuf bin Ahmed Kanoo Group and Chairman of Bahrain Philanthropic Society, Fawzi Ahmed Kanoo, will be sponsoring the construction of a mosque and a multipurpose hall in Diyar Al Muharraq, north of Bahrain. Fawzi Kanoo and Eng. Ahmed Alammadi, CEO of Diyar Al Muharraq, signed the construction agreement in Kanoo Tower located in the Diplomatic Area.

Commenting on his new philanthropic initiative, Fawzi Kanoo said: “I come from a family that takes philanthropy seriously. My father, the late Ahmed Kanoo, as well as my grandfathers, have all been at the forefront of philanthropy in Bahrain and the region, and through them I’ve learnt the necessity and importance of giving back to society.”

Eng. Ahmed Alammadi expressed his gratitude by saying: “I would like to thank Mr. Fawzi Kanoo for his generous and benevolent initiative. The good work carried out by the Kanoo Family has been ongoing over the years and has reflected positively on various communities in the Kingdom, as well as other parts of the GCC.” The CEO of Diyar Al Muharraq added: “Building the mosque and multipurpose hall comes in line with our vision of creating close-knit communities, adding significant value to Diyar Al Muharraq, one of the largest and most visionary modern urban developments in the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

The mosque will carry Mr. Kanoo’s spouse name, Khulood Mohamed Abdulla Juma, while the multipurpose hall will carry the sponsor’s full name, Fawzi Ahmed Ali Kanoo. Construction of the mosque and hall will begin in two months’ time.


Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Congratulates President of Bangladesh on Independence Day


Riyadh, March 25, 2020, SPA -- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has sent a cable of congratulations to President Muhammad Abdul Hamid of the People's Republic of Bangladesh on the anniversary of his country's Independence Day.

In his name and on behalf of the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the King wished the President constant good health and happiness and his Government and people steady progress and prosperity.


Ramadan:The Holy month of fasting in the Islamic calendar will start from April 24, 2020

March 25, 2020

Ashfaq Ahmed

Dubai: Holy month of Ramadan will start from Friday, April 24 this year depending on the moon sighting.

According to the Hijri calendar and moon sighting, Thursday March 26 is the first day of Shaban which is a month immediately preceding the month of Ramadan. The lunar calendar relies on the observation of the new crescent moon to determine important events such as Ramadan and the proper time for Hajj.

During Shaban, Muslims around the world start preparations for the fasting month of Ramadan. Some Muslims also fast a few days in Shaban following the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is an Arabic word that comes from the Arabic word ‘Al Ramad’, which means intense heat and the dryness that follows. The word reflects the hardship felt by those fasting, as well as the burning off, as it were, of sins.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory for all Muslims. Ramadan is one of the “five pillars” of Islam. Adults who are able to fast are required to avoid all food and drink from dawn to sunset for the month. Muslims who are sick or travelling are exempted from observing the fast. They do, however, have to make up the days they missed, which can be done any time before the next Ramadan begins.

This cycle will repeat for the next 29 or 30 days, depending on when the next crescent moon is sighted, which will mean the end of Ramadan.

But Ramadan is not just about fasting, it’s about discipline that comes with the act of foregoing food for a specified time period.

It is the discipline for adapting to change — a change in behaviour and in daily life that involves a different physical, mental, emotional and spiritual outlook.


Arab League demands of Palestinian inmates amidst coronavirus outbreak

24 March 2020

The Arab League has called on international human rights organizations and other relevant bodies to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli detention centers in the wake of rising cases of infection with a new coronavirus in the occupied territories.

Assistant Secretary-General of the 22-member regional organization, Said Abu Ali, highlighted in a press statement that protection of prisoners is an imperative, especially in times of pandemics such as the current coronavirus crisis across the globe.

He also called on the international community to pressure Israeli authorities for the release of around 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds of elderly inmates with health issues, 180 juveniles and 43 women before the number of coronavirus infections in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands spirals out of control.

Abu Ali also called for the effective protection and proper safety measures for thousands of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails.

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention centers have threatened to go on an open-ended hunger strike in protest at a ban on meeting attorneys, lack of protective measures by guards during searches in their cells, and denial of medical protection gear in the wake of soaring cases of infection with the vitus called COVID-19.

An unnamed source close to Palestinian prisoners told the Israeli English-language Haaretz newspaper that prisoners affiliated with the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, returned their breakfast and lunch servings on Thursday, while those affiliated with Fatah returned some meals during the weekend. They plan to launch a full hunger strike at the beginning of next month.

Palestinian prisoners are threatening to go on hunger strike to protest Israeli officials’ failure to enforce measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Palestinian prisoners have not been tested for the coronavirus, as Israeli Health Ministry regulations in place call for a test only in cases where there exist both exposure to a confirmed patient and symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking member of Hamas said Israeli authorities were denying Palestinian prisoners medical protection gear.

Wasfi Kabha said the Israel Prison Service has ordered the inmates to use their socks in place of masks in a blatant disregard for their safety and lives.

“Given the overcrowding in Israeli detention centers and the absence of cleaning products at the prison canteens, Palestinian detainees are now more vulnerable in light of the coronavirus outbreak,” he commented.

Israel has intensified its abuse of Palestinian prisoners, asking them to use their socks as masks to avoid the coronavirus disease.

Kabha, a former Palestinian Minister of Prisoners' Affairs, further noted that most of the diseases afflicting Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails usually result from the lack of healthcare and hygiene supplies.

The former Palestinian minister said there are 1,000 prisoners in Israeli jails with health problems, including 28 suffering from chronic diseases. This means they are at a higher contraction risk.

Kabha called on concerned local and international human rights organizations to pressure Israeli authorities to take all the necessary preventive measures that would ensure the safety of the Palestinian prisoners in the time of the pandemic.

Separately, Israeli police forces have abandoned a Palestinian man suspected to have contracted the novel coronavirus at a checkpoint in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency posted pictures of a Palestinian worker lying on the ground near a junction close to Kifl Haris village in the northern West Bank, located six kilometers west of Salfit and 18 kilometers south of Nablus, on Tuesday.

A Palestinian worker suspected to have contracted the coronavirus is seen lying on the ground near a junction and close to Kifl Haris village in the northern occupied West Bank on March 24, 2020. (Photo by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency)

The development took place only a day after a Palestinian man displaying symptoms of the coronavirus was abandoned by Israeli police forces.

Witnesses said the man, identified as Malek, went through the Maccabim checkpoint before collapsing onto the ground on Monday.

Malek told the Israeli Haaretz newspaper he was working in the Israeli-occupied territories, and that his employer took him to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv after he felt unwell and developed flu-like symptoms.

Palestinian officials at the checkpoint called him an ambulance, which arrived about half an hour after he had crossed through the checkpoint and collapsed on the ground.

Ma’an news agency posted a video showing Malek lying on the ground, while the Palestinian ambulance arrives to collect him.



Seremban, Lavender Heights, Mosque Gives Out Essential Groceries To The Needy Amid Covid-19 Shutdown

25 Mar 2020


SEREMBAN— A mosque in Lavender Heights, Senawang is giving out essential groceries to those who are affected by the Movement Control Order (MCO) brought on by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Gerobok Rezeki programme has distributed groceries in packs that includes rice, flour, sugar, cooking oil, soy sauce, condensed milk and tea.

According to the Ibnu Khaldun Mosque chairman Mohd Asna Amin, the programme was started a week ago and the response from the public was low in the beginning.

“The reception from the public has been amazing. In a day, there were almost 100 people who came to collect the grocery packs.”

“As long as there’s contributions from the community, this ‘Gerobok Rezeki’ programme will continue to help those in need,” said Asna.

Besides that, Asna said they received donations via online transfer to the mosque’s bank account (mostly came from the local congregation) after the short video was circulated.

The programme covers seven to 10 housing areas near the mosque with most of them being single mothers and day labourers who are affected by the MCO.

With the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, the mosque committees are firm in following the necessary precautionary steps when distributing the packs to the public.


AlFitrah mosque must participate in the investigation by the House of Representatives

March 25, 2020

The alFitrah mosque in Utrecht must cooperate in the Lower House’s investigation into unwanted foreign financing. That has been determined by the court in The Hague. The appeal was brought by the mosque foundation.

AlFitrah now has to provide overviews of bank accounts, donations and people who came to preach or teach from countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The foundation is given two weeks to do this. If the foundation does not follow the decision, the penalty will be one thousand euros per week, per affiliated foundation, for every information item that is not given.

The judge agrees with alFitrah on one point. The parliamentary committee’s research question, “unwanted influence from unfree countries” is too broad. The foundations do not have to provide information about persons or financial transactions that only come from free countries, such as the Netherlands.

Imam Salam of the alFitrah mosque is against the parliamentary inquiry, but did appear when he was questioned by the committee. This ended in an arguing situation that yielded little information. Salam called the interrogation a sham and a puppet show.


Lewisham Islamic Centre thanks MPs after backtrack on new coronavirus cremation rules

By Grainne Cuffe

A mosque in Lewisham has thanked MPs after an amendment to the Coronavirus Bill was agreed that would protect faith groups from forced cremations. 

The emergency Coronavirus Bill, as it stood before the amendment on Monday (March 23), would allow local authorities to disregard section 46(3) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which prevents them from cremating a body against the wishes of the dead or their families.  

But cremation is “strictly forbidden” in Islam and Judaism, prompting Lewisham Islamic Centre to write to Lewisham and Deptford MP Vicky Foxcroft expressing “fear and anguish” over the possible changes to the law.  

They asked her to back an amendment to the Bill which would “reflect the continued right for all communities to be able to bury their dead according to their wishes and with dignity”.   

The amendment, tabled by the shadow minister for women and equalities Bradford West MP Naz Shah, was formally withdrawn because the Government agreed to put forward its own amendment to respect the wishes of faith communities.  

“A big thank you from us and the Muslim community for supporting the changes to the Bill regarding burials, we really appreciate it. Keep safe,” they said.  

A Government spokesperson said it had “worked closely with faith groups, MPs and local authorities to reassure them that we are fully committed to respecting religious practices”.  

“We recognise the huge importance of this and will do everything we can to maintain the right for a person or their loved one to have their preferences respected and the wishes of the bereaved upheld.


Ethnic Bosniak Leaders Condemn Desecration of Zagreb Mosque

24 March 2020


ZAGREB, March 24, 2020 - The Bosniak National Council in Croatia on Tuesday condemned the insulting messages which appeared on the Zagreb mosque on Tuesday morning, saying that this act of desecration was an expression of serious chauvinism and xenophobia.

"At a time when we are being shaken by the greatest crisis in recent history, when human solidarity is needed more than ever, conduct like this is impermissible. We demand that the relevant institutions, even though they are justifiably involved in managing the crisis caused by the coronavirus and earthquake, should find the perpetrators," the president of the Council, Armin Hodžić said in a press release.

We warn that this type of desecration to a Muslim place of worship is an expression of serious chauvinism and xenophobia and it requires urgent action in order to prevent a chain reaction of dehumanising processes toward minority groups in Croatia, added Hodžić.

Croatian society has to be aware that insulting messages like the one that appeared on a Muslim place of worship could tomorrow already lead to a new wave of desecration of religious premises of other religious minorities and of the serious deterioration of the rights of national minorities, the press release said.

"At a time of general crisis, we once again call for solidarity, togetherness and tolerance and express hope that the majority Croatian population in Croatia will adhere to the principle of 'love thy neighbour as thyself'," Hodžić appealed in the press release.



Coronavirus: Muslim leaders endorse closure of worship centres in Nigeria

March 25, 2020

By Wale Odunsi

The Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria has backed the directives for the closure of all worship centres to stop the spread of coronavirus.

This was made known in a statement on Tuesday in Kaduna by its Secretary-General, Nafiu Baba Ahmed.

It urged all Muslims to support federal and state governments’ efforts to curb the global pandemic which has affected 200 countries.

“After due consultation, the Council is hereby calling on all Muslim faithful to abide by the instruction, until counter-notice is issued by the government,” the council said.

“While praying Allah to relieve the country of this pandemic and others yet known, we call on all Muslims to be law-abiding and adhere to all precautionary measures against the pandemic.”


Coronavirus: SA Muslim body donates R1m to assist govt's Solidarity Fund


Azarrah Karrim

The Muslim Community of South Africa has donated R1 million to assist government's Solidarity Fund achieve its goals to help the poor and vulnerable during the 21-day nationwide lockdown.

The body has also pledged support in the form of their own human resources and civil society organisations.

"We have immediately expended R1m in aid spending and in-kind resources to assist with the immediate priorities as announced by the president," the organisation - which is made up of numerous social welfare, emergency relief and civil society organisations - said in a statement on Tuesday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the creation of the fund in his address to the nation on Monday. It forms part of strict measures taken to combat Covid-19 in South Africa.


Coronavirus: FCTA shuts markets, churches, mosques, gives sit-at-home order

March 25, 2020

Kamarudeen Ogundele

The Federal Capital Territory Administration has ordered workers at Grade level 1 to 12 to stay at home as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

It also ordered the immediate closure of shops in the markets and neighbourhood centres, except those selling food items and other essential commodities.

The Minister of FCT, Muhammad Bello, who announced the measure at a press conference on Tuesday in Abuja, also ordered the immediate closure of churches and mosques.

Bello said, “Shops in the markets and neighbourhood centres in the FCT are to be shut to traders except those who sell essential commodities and medicines. However, pharmacies and supermarkets selling essential products and bakeries are to remain open but abide strictly by laid down measures.”

While noting that the FCTA had raised an emergency response team to tackle the spread, the minister explained that containing the virus depended largely on personal choices.

In order to better manage cases of infection, the minister said the FCTA would work closely with the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital to expand the capacity of the current isolation and treatment centre to accommodate more patients by providing the essential facilities.

He added that the Zuba General Hospital would also be converted into an isolation and treatment centre to accommodate more patients should the need arise.

The FCT Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma, who was at the event, promised that security agencies would enforce the order restricting gathering to not more than 50 persons in churches and mosques.

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Observe national day of fasting and prayers - Chief Imam instructs Muslims


Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, the National Chief Imam has called on all Muslims in the country to observe the national day of fasting and prayers planned for tomorrow.

The Islamic leader said all Ghanaians have to come together to seek Allah's face during this coronavirus pandemic.

The call is in line with a declaration made by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Sunday that Wednesday, March 24 should be observed as a national day of fasting and prayers.

The National Chief Imam Sheikh Dr.Usmau Sharubutu wishes to draw the attention of all followers of the Islamic faith in Ghana that the President of the Republic of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has declared Wednesday March 25th 2020 as National day of fasting and prayer.

Additionally, the National Chief Imam would like to entreat Muslims of all denominations to fast on Thursday 26th March 2020, in line with the sunna of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W)

It is important to note that the fasting to be embarked upon on those two days is intended to enhance our collective spiritual struggle to win the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu, spokesman for the Chief Imam. On behalf of the National Chief Imam of Ghana, Sheikh Dr Usmanu Nuhu Sharubutu.


South Asia 

25 Taliban militants killed, 33 wounded in Balkh clashes

24 Mar 2020

The Afghan security forces responded to coordinated Taliban attacks in three districts of Balkh province, killing at least 25 Taliban militants and wounding 33 others.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in a statement said the Afghan security forces responded to Taliban attacks in Balkh, Dawlatabad and Chemtal districts of Balkh province with the support of the Special Forces and Air Forces.

The statement further added that the security forces killed 25 Taliban militants including Mullah Hafiz, one of the commanders of the group and wounded 33 others including Mullah Raihan and Qari Jannat, two other commanders of the group.

The security forces also cleared 12 villages during the clearance operations, the 209th Shaheen Corps added.


‘Wolfpack leader’ of Ansar Al Islam arrested by CTTC

March 25, 2020

The Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of police yesterday claimed to have arrested the leader of the "wolfpack" of militant outfit Ansar Al Islam, that plotted to kill filmmaker Khijir Hayat Khan.

The arrestee was identified as Nazmul Hasan alias Osman Gani. A team of CTTC unit arrested Nazmul in front of a hotel in the capital's Paltan on Monday night, Saiful Islam, deputy commissioner of CTTC unit, told The Daily Star yesterday.

Nazmul was later placed in front of a Dhaka court yesterday with a 10-day remand, and court granted two days' remand after hearing.

Nazmul created a group on messaging app Telegram in 2018 for the wolfpack members, and communicated with each other to plan the murder, as they believed the film "Mr Bangladesh" -- written jointly by Khijir Hayat Khan and Hasnat Piash, and starring Khijir -- goes against their ideology and "jihad" in Islam, according to CTTC officials.

CTTC officials, however, managed to foil their murder plot and arrested two members of the group in 2018. Later, police beefed up the security for Khijir Hayat and launched a drive to arrest another member of the group, they said.

Nazmul was in Kuwait at the time of creating the group, but recently  came back to Bangladesh and was planning subversive activities again,  said police.

"We have managed to arrest nine members of the wolfpack over the last two years. It takes times, as some of them were found staying in France, Kuwait and Dubai," said DC Saiful.

Saiful said that they have gleaned some more names of the group from Nazmul, and were trying to arrest them by tracing their location.

"Nazmul used to collect funds through cryptocurrency for jihad. We have also got some social media accounts details of top bosses of the outfit from Nazmul and their mode of operation," said DC Saiful.


11 killed in terror attack on Sikh place of worship in Kabul

Mar 25, 2020

At least 11 people were killed and others injured when suspected suicide attackers stormed a Sikh place of worship in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, triggering a gun battle with security forces, according to media reports.

The attackers targeted a ‘dharamshala’ in Shor Bazar area of Kabul, which has a sizeable population of the Hindu and Sikh minorities. Some reports said the attack began at 7.45 am Afghan time.

Leading Afghan news channel Tolo News cited a security source as saying that at least 11 people were killed and 11 others injured in the attack. Three attackers were still fighting with security forces and one had been shot, the channel reported.

Photos posted on social media by Afghan journalists showed security forces and local residents evacuating the injured in ambulances.

Earlier, interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian told the media suicide bombers had entered the dharamshala in Shor Bazar and were fighting with security forces. “More forces are arriving at the area,” he said.

The Afghan security forces had cleared the first floor of the Sikh place of worship and rescued a “number of people” who were trapped inside the building, Arian said.

Media reports said dozens of people were still trapped in the building and there were fears the attackers had taken hostages.

Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri “strongly condemned” the attack. “These killings are a grim reminder of atrocities that continue to be inflicted upon religious minorities in some countries & the urgency with which their lives & religious freedom have to be safeguarded,” he tweeted.

The Shor Bazar area of Kabul was once home to several gurdwaras but they were destroyed during the fighting in the 1980s. Many Hindus and Sikhs living in the area also migrated to other countries. Kabul is still home to several thousand Hindus and Sikhs.


Harsh weather kills 3 Taliban militants including an IED maker in Paktia

25 Mar 2020

The local authorities in South-eastern Paktia province discovered the dead bodies of three Taliban militants who had frozen to death in a mountain in Zazai Aryoub district.

The provincial government in a statement said the dead bodies of the three Taliban militants, Ehsanullah son of Fazal Manan, Barakatullah son of Mohammad Akbar and Shamimullah son of Sultan, were discovered from Shin Kond mountain.

The statement further added that Shamimullah was also involved in producing Improvised Explosive Devices.




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