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Islamic World News ( 18 Apr 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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In Letter to Delhi Cops, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, Chief of Tablighi Jamaat, Says ‘Willing To Cooperate’

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 Apr 2020

Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad Kandhalvi was under self-quarantine till April 8.


• In Letter to Delhi Cops, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, Chief of Tablighi Jamaat, Says ‘Willing To Cooperate’

• Pray at Home, Feed Iftar to Labourers Affected by Lockdown, Islamic Groups Say Ahead of Ramadan

• Ramadan Evening, Eid Prayers to Be Done at Home Amid Coronavirus: Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, The Highest Religious Authority of Saudi Arabia

• Muslim Groups Donate Thousands and Volunteer in Communities Across Yorkshire

• Oral History Project Preserves Stories of Black Muslim Seniors Amid Pandemic

• Sudan Censures Mosques for Conducting Friday Prayers Despite Coronavirus Ban

• Pakistan Limits Worshippers at Mosques. Many Worshippers Are Defiant

• Iranian Photog Takes Tour of Asia To Cover Islamic Sites on Silk Road

• Indonesia Dissuades Ramadan Gathering as Virus Cases Accelerate

• Islamic State Terror in the Maldives as COVID-19 Arrives



• In Letter to Delhi Cops, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, Chief of Tablighi Jamaat, Says ‘Willing To Cooperate’

• Pray at Home, Feed Iftar to Labourers Affected by Lockdown, Islamic Groups Say Ahead of Ramadan

• Shobhaa De: Should Muslims vanish? Shun hate amidst crisis

• Singling out the Muslims: Elders fume over attempts to malign community

• Gujarat: Muslims perform Hindu rituals to help cremate Bhavnagar woman

• 9-Month-Old Tests Positive For COVID-19 In Uttarakhand, Father Attended Delhi Mosque Event


Arab world

• Ramadan Evening, Eid Prayers to Be Done at Home Amid Coronavirus: Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, The Highest Religious Authority of Saudi Arabia

• WHO Director-General Thanks Custodian of Two Holy Mosques for Kingdom's Contribution of • $500M to Support International Efforts to Combat COVID-19

Coronavirus measures take a toll on Cairo’s traditional Ramadan lantern market

• ADIB: First Islamic Bank to use Blockchain Technology for Trade Distribution

• MoCI releases list of 500 discounted products for Ramadan

• Iraq Decides To Partially Lift The Curfew In Ramadan, According To Conditions

• More than 500 consumer goods discounted for Ramadan

• Coronavirus in UAE: Muslims can perform Ramadan Taraweeh at home



• Muslim Groups Donate Thousands and Volunteer in Communities Across Yorkshire

• British Imam Urges Country to Unite in Fight Against Coronavirus

• Spiritual Directorate of Muslims determines size of sadaqah al-fitr

• Georgian Muslims’ leader summoned to State Security Service of Georgia

• Dutch Pm Hammers 5G-Related Arsons; Urges Muslims To Stay Home For Ramadan

• Ramadan to be observed in homes due to coronavirus

• 7,500 feared to have died with coronavirus in care homes


North America

• Oral History Project Preserves Stories of Black Muslim Seniors Amid Pandemic

• Muslims should avoid public gatherings and pray at home during Ramadan: Authorities

• Store Security Guard Used Stun Gun on Muslim Health Care Worker, Advocates Say



• Sudan Censures Mosques for Conducting Friday Prayers Despite Coronavirus Ban

• Kaduna: JIBWIS Sacks Imam For Complying With Ban On Mass Congregation

• Boko Haram's Shekau Labels Anti-COVID-19 Measures an Attack on Islam in Nigeria

• Boko Haram: First NAF A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft completes inaugural flight

• Boko Haram: Buhari reacts as fire kills 14 in Borno IDP camp



• Pakistan Limits Worshippers at Mosques. Many Worshippers Are Defiant

• Sindh High Court rejects plea challenging ban on congregational prayers in mosques

• LHC moved against dismissal of factory workers in Punjab during lockdown

• Fearing more Covid-19 cases, CM Murad orders setting up of field hospitals in every district

• SC urged to order govt to declare financial emergency



• Iranian Photog Takes Tour of Asia To Cover Islamic Sites on Silk Road

• Iran identifies COVID-19 genome sequencing data for first time

• Turkey to bring home 25,000 stranded expats for Ramadan

• US seeks to tighten grip over Syrian oil as Damascus is busy battling COVID-19: Analyst

• Iranians brought home from India on 8th evacuation flight

• Iran on brink of containing virus in most provinces: Health Minister


Southeast Asia

• Indonesia Dissuades Ramadan Gathering as Virus Cases Accelerate

• 11 Philippine troops killed in clash with Muslim militants

• Healthcare workers and their families to get free meals for breaking of fast during Ramadan

• Muslims Prepare For Ramadan During Coronavirus Pandemic

• Huge crowds ignore social distancing during Friday prayers in Indonesia's Aceh province as nation surpasses Philippines as country with most coronavirus infections in SE Asia

• Indonesia: Muslim body for using zakat to fight slump


South Asia

• Islamic State Terror in the Maldives as COVID-19 Arrives

• For Sri Lanka's Muslims, the Easter bombing anniversary marks a year of scapegoating and persecution

• MHA asks states to trace Rohingya Muslims who attended Tablighi Jamaat event

• Afghanistan records 27 new cases of COVID19 disease in the past 24 hours

• Afghan forces kill 6 Taliban militants, wound 2 others in Zurmat district

• Details of the Indian terrorist who was arrested after 25 years in Afghanistan

• Mortar attack by Taliban kills 2 women, 1 child in Paktiya

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



In Letter to Delhi Cops, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, Chief of Tablighi Jamaat, Says ‘Willing To Cooperate’

April 18, 2020

by Mukesh Singh Sengar

New Delhi: Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, the chief of the Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat that organised a religious congregation in Delhi last month setting off India's largest cluster of coronavirus cases, has said in a letter to the city police that he has already joined the investigation against him, adding that he is "willing to cooperate".

"I have already joined the investigation by replying two notices U/s 91 Cr.Pc dated 01.04.2020 & 02.04 both issued by your good office," 56-year-old Tablighi Jamaat head wrote to the Crime Branch. "It is reiterated that I am always ready & willing to cooperate with the investigation being conducted by you," the letter dated April 16 (Thursday) reads.

On Thursday, the Delhi Police had brought charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the chief of the Islamic Missionary for holding the gathering last month at its "Markaz" or headquarters in Nizamuddin, the 100-year-old building in the crowded south Delhi locality where the Tablighi Jamaat is based.

"Delhi police had filed a first information report earlier against the Tablighi chief, now section 304 has been added," an officer said, referring to culpable homicide in the penal code, which carries a maximum punishment of a 10-year prison term.

The Tablighi is one of the world's biggest Sunni Muslim organisations with followers in more than 80 countries. At least 9,000 people participated in the Nizamuddin event. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.

More than 1,000 coronavirus cases reported across the country are estimated to be linked to the gathering, the government had said earlier this month. Over 25,500 Tablighi members and their contacts have been quarantined in the country after the centre and the state governments conducted a massive operation to trace them.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a Muslim organisation, had approached the Supreme Court seeking to stop sections of the media from allegedly giving a communal colour to reportage on COVID-19 cases linked to the event held by Tablighi Jamaat. The court, however, said on Monday that it will not pass any order that would lead to a "gag" on the media.

"If it's a question of killing or dying, your remedy is somewhere else. But if it's a question of larger reporting then the Press Council of India has to be made a party... I think you add the Press Council as a party to your case," Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told the petitioner. "We will not gag the press," said the Supreme Court bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and MM Shantanagoudar


Pray at Home, Feed Iftar to Labourers Affected by Lockdown, Islamic Groups Say Ahead of Ramadan

April 18, 2020

The Muslim organisations across the world have issued guidelines for observing fast during the month of Ramadan, which is set to begin on April 23, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The organisations have advised the Muslims to follow the directions issued by the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation, follow social distancing norms and not violate the lockdown rules.

The religious leaders said they expect the followers to feed the needy and hungry rather than holding “iftar parties.” The moon sighting for the holy month is expected on April 22.

Issuing guidelines, Maulana Khalid Rasheed, chairman of Islamic Centre of India Firangi Mahal in Lucknow, asked Muslims to obey the lockdown and maintain social distancing. “The Ramadan days will be marked with fasting and the evenings will se taraweeh prayers but the followers should not come in congregation,” Rasheed said in a statement.

The followers have been asked to have their suhur (meal before sunrise) and iftar (evening meal to end fast) at home and also offer taraweeh (evening prayer) from within their houses only. As fasting is a must in Islam, the changes in observing the month can be made as per the situation and circumstances demand. Hence, Rasheed asked people to not hold iftar inside mosques. “People should not congregate for iftar in masjid. Iftar should be made available only for those residing in mosques,” he said.

Firangi Mahal and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind have asked the followers of Islam to feed the poor and labourers during the holy month. “As we are practicing social distancing, people should not hold iftar parties. Instead, that money can be used to buy food for the hungry or poor and one should try to ensure that no one goes hungry in this month of Ramadan,” said Rasheed.

Mahmood Madani, General Secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, issued a similar advisory asking Muslims to “not pray in congregation” and offer prayers at home. “Don’t move out of the house without any reason. During Ramadan sehri and iftar should be made available to feed the poor and labourers,” Madani said. The Jamiat will issue a detailed guideline soon on ensuring observation of Ramadan during nationwide lockdown.

An advisory issued by Abul QasimNomani, Vice-Chancellor of DarulUloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, says, “Covid-19 is aggravating, which is an issue of grave concern for all; therefore, the lockdown was extended till May 3. In these times, the guidelines set up by health department should be followed strictly and gatherings should be avoided in any case.”

In Saudi Arabia, too, the grand mufti has urged people to stay at home during Ramadan and offers even the Eid prayers from home due to the coronavirus crisis. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, who is the highest religious authority in the country, said that prayers held during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr feast should take place at home in case the coronavirus outbreak continues.

“Ramadan’s Taraweeh (evening) prayer can be performed at home if it cannot be performed at mosques due to the preventive measures taken to fight the spread of coronavirus,” he was quoted as saying by local papers of the country.


Ramadan Evening, Eid Prayers to Be Done at Home Amid Coronavirus: Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, The Highest Religious Authority of Saudi Arabia

April 17, 2020 16:46

Gulf News Report

Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, said that prayers during Ramadan and for Eid al Fitr should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues, Saudi's Okaz newspaper reported on Friday.

"Ramadan's Taraweeh (evening) prayer can be performed at home if it cannot be performed at mosques due to the preventive measures taken to fight the spread of coronavirus," he said in response to a question, adding that the same applies for Eid prayers, according to the paper.

The fasting month of Ramadan begins next week.

Earlier, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance announced that Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan will only be performed at home as the suspension of prayers at mosques would not be lifted until the end of coronavirus.

Al Riyadh newspaper quoted Dr. Abdul Latif Al Sheikh, Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, as saying: “The suspension of performing the five daily prayers at mosques is more important than the suspension of Taraweeh prayers. We ask Allah the Almighty to accept Taraweeh prayers whether held at mosques, or homes, which we think is better for people’s health. We ask Allah the Almighty to accept prayers from all of us and protect humanity from this epidemic that hit the entire world,” Al Sheikh clarified.

In line with the instructions and precautions issued by the Ministry of Health and relevant authorities, five to six people from the deceased’s family are to perform funeral prayers for the dead, Al Sheikh said. “This is a precaution in line with the prohibition of gatherings, so that funeral prayers take place at cemeteries should not exceed five to six of the deceased’s relatives, and the rest pray at their homes, he emphasised.

Al Sheikh confirmed that funeral prayers are not greater than obligatory prayers, so it is possible to pray individually, as more important is that there should not be a large number of people gathering in the same place, where it would be possible to transmit the infection.


Muslim groups donate thousands and volunteer in communities across Yorkshire

By Robyn Vinter

18th April 2020

Muslim charitable organisations and mosques are helping ensure people in their towns and cities get food and vital supplies, no matter what their race, religion or background.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA), which works across West and South Yorkshire, has at least 50 volunteers currently deployed and working to help vulnerable people in the region.

They are also involved in more ad-hoc tasks where needed, like shopping for the elderly, walking the dog of someone who is self-isolating or tidying someone’s garden.

Nadeem Ahmed, regional youth leader for Yorkshire at the charity, said: “The whole purpose is to practice our faith. Our religion says to do good in society and to help people, no matter what colour or religion.

This comes after a mosque in Huddersfield, the Masjid Ghausia, delivered a massive order of food to staff at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary this week.

Similarly, Salahadin Mosque in Bradford donated £3,000 of food and essential items, including more than 2,000 face masks, to Bradford Royal Infirmary.

After the mosque emailed to ask what could be done, the hospital sent over a list which included coffee, cleaning products, masks and shampoo.

The Kurdish community in and around Bradford came together to donate the money and a local businessman donated the face masks.

For many Muslims, this will be the first Ramadan not spent at the mosque and across Yorkshire, imams are leading prayer through video.

QariAsim, imam at Leeds Makkah Mosque, has been holding a live sermon every Friday.


Oral history project preserves stories of black Muslim seniors amid pandemic

April 17, 2020

(RNS) — As the coronavirus outbreak takes a disproportionately deadly toll on seniors and African Americans, a new oral history initiative aims to train black Muslim youth to document their elderly community members’ stories.

The Wisdom of the Elders Project is a “long-overdue” effort to capture black Muslim seniors’ “past, present and uncertain future” before it is too late, coordinator Asha Noor said.

“Our mission is to disrupt the narratives which say our elders are disposable or a burden, rather than what they are, which is carriers of our truth and protectors of our legacy,” Noor said.

Under the auspices of the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition, organizers will train black Muslim youth to conduct interviews with elders in their communities about “how they have had to be resilient in the past, how they overcame certain challenges, and what we can learn from them in this moment,” Noor said.

The coalition, led by Kameelah Rashad of the Muslim Wellness Foundation and Margari Hill of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, was formed in late March to bring together black Muslim activists, healthcare and social service providers, faith leaders, scholars and creatives to support vulnerable communities during the pandemic.

“In our communities, in black Muslim communities in particular, our elders are a treasure that we will not give up, not this way,” said Rashad. “With Allah's help, we will do everything in (our) power to preserve their life and their safety ... We want to talk about the strength and wisdom of our elders, and how we can harness, preserve and protect it.”

The hadith — or sayings of Muhammad, painstakingly recorded by Islamic scholars in a chain of narrators going back to the time of the prophet and his companions — contain many strong injunctions to honor and prioritize one's elders.

Black American Muslim history as well as African Muslim traditions are also replete with examples of preserving cultural memory, from the storytelling West African griot to the survival kits created by the Nation of Islam's elders, filled with guidance on purifying water and canning foods.

In part, the intergenerational project is a response to a controversial statement by Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who suggested that seniors should “take a chance on (their) survival” in order to save the U.S. economy.

“I mean, what in the Hunger Games?” Rashad said. “We are not sacrificing our elders. They are treasures for us. We want to think about the ways that we are told our elders are disposable, while we know that they are not.”

The pandemic’s immensely disproportionate impact on black Americans has added a new sense of urgency to the existing need to document stories of elderly black Muslims.

“This is something many of us have thought about and wanted to do for our communities, and the pandemic was definitely a catalyst for it,” Noor said. “Our community’s voices are really important, and they're critically important during moments of crisis and conflict like this.”

Many of the cities hit hardest by the virus are ones that include large black Muslim populations, including New York City, Boston, Detroit and Chicago.

In Chicago, which is 32% black, black residents represent about 70% of the city’s coronavirus cases and over half of the state’s deaths. In New York City, black residents make up 22% of the population and 28% of deaths. In Michigan, which is about 12% black, black residents comprise 40% of deaths.

“It’s very much an epidemic within a pandemic, looking at the ways that black Americans have been affected by this crisis,” Rashad said.

Black Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to be uninsured. They are more likely to live in medically underserved areas, hold low-income jobs and be employed in essential services, be unable to work from home and require public transit to go to work or grocery stores. They’re more likely to suffer from health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, asthma and cancer. And the virus has also torn through overcrowded prisons, which disproportionately incarcerate people of color, across the country.

But the lack of racial breakdowns in data has hindered researchers' ability to understand the depth of the crisis. To combat that, the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition is also running a survey to gather information about deaths in U.S. Muslim communities related to the coronavirus.

But isolation, loneliness, anxiety and fear — all of which have become heightened during the quarantine — can also take a serious toll on seniors’ mental, spiritual and physical health, Rashad pointed out.

A Pew survey conducted last month found that 46% of black American adults see the outbreak as a threat to their personal health, compared with 21% of white adults. Among Americans aged 65 and older, 86% see it as a threat; 33% say it’s a major threat.

In this April 7, 2020, photo, a subway rider wears a mask and a bandana to protect himself against COVID-19 in New York. As the coronavirus has tightened its grip across the country, it is cutting a particularly devastating swath through an already vulnerable population, black Americans. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Zaheer Ali, a senior historian with the Muslim grant-making organization Pillars Fund, said the project is critical to avoid yet another interruption to the transmission of critical culture and knowledge between generations, he said.

“Every time we are faced with a crisis and rupture, we run the risk of losing our continuity to the past,” Ali said, citing an African proverb: "When an elder dies, it is as though an entire library has burned down."

Ali pointed to the HIV/AIDs crisis and the War on Drugs, which he said had similarly cut off generations of black Americans in the '80s and '90s from their history. That rope to the past had already been disrupted countless times through forced migration, genocide, slavery, Jim Crow laws, anti-black riots, war and immigration, he said, forcing communities to let go of physical possessions as well as elements of their identity.

But seniors who have survived such disruptions to community life, Ali noted, may be able to offer guidance to the younger generations on how to weather this current crisis.

A former oral historian for the Brooklyn Historical Society, Ali will help train young volunteers to conduct oral history interviews. Interviewers will mostly be members of the Muslim Wellness Foundation’s fellowship for emerging black Muslim leaders, as well as volunteers from the public.

“If we don’t record our stories, what we’ll be left with years from now is statistics,” Ali said. “X number of people were infected, X number of people died. We're creating an archive that adds texture, that adds qualitative nuance to the reductive ways that people look at data and certainly to the blind spots that we see in the media's account of the experiences people are having now.”


Sudan censures mosques for conducting Friday prayers despite coronavirus ban

18 APRIL 2020

April 18, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese government deplored that several mosques in Khartoum state ignored the risk of coronavirus and held Friday prayer in spite of a ministerial decision banning it.

Sudan has reported 32 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including five patients have died. The all the cases are in Khartoum state except one in the Nile River state.

In line with the government efforts to contain the respiratory disease, the minister of religious affairs Wednesday imposed a ban and called on worshippers to avoid mosques on Friday.

Speaking at a daily media briefing on the health situation in the country, Faisal Mohamed Saleh Information Minister pointed out that Friday prayers were held in some mosques that did not comply with the ministerial ban.

"We do not have any battle with anyone. Our battle is with the coronavirus. All the measures we take, including a complete lockdown, and calls to not to pray in mosques, have one purpose which is to preserve their lives and their safety".

"The prayer rugs in the mosques are a good vector for coronavirus transmission. During prayer, worshipers put their face and nose on the rugs and their hands also. So, one infected person in the mosque will transmit it to a large number of people," he further said.

Various Islamist groups including the banned National Congress Party of Omer al-Bashir jointly organized protests denouncing the government’s failure to resolve the economic crisis.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok dismissed the governor of Khartoum state for refusing to enforce a government’s decision to suspend Friday prayers in the mosques.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and many other Islamic states suspended worshipers from conducting their five daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer in the mosques to limit the spread of coronavirus.


Pakistan Limits Worshippers At Mosques. Many Worshippers Are Defiant

April 17, 2020


Dozens of worshippers milled outside the ornate Haidari Mosque in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, in violation of lockdown orders on a recent Friday in April. The muezzin called to prayer, but they couldn't enter.

"As you can see the administration has closed down the mosque," said Mohammad Zubair, a 28-year-old government servant.

In late March, authorities across Pakistan ordered mosque administrators to limit Friday congregations to just five people as part of a broader ban on public gathering and lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Pakistan has more than 7,000 confirmed cases and more than 135 people have died.

But on April 10, Zubair thought the limitations on worshippers wouldn't be enforced. After all, it was sneakily flouted the week before. On April 3, worshippers locked the front door to make it appear that there was nobody inside, but they all sneaked in through an unlocked door on a side street,

This time, stranded outside, Zubair and other worshippers crammed shoulder-to-shoulder on the sidewalk and prayed. Military police in an open-backed jeep slowly drove by – but didn't stop.

The order to curb congregations has only been spottily enforced, and it points to a particular issue in Pakistan: limiting group gatherings for worship is not easy to do in this deeply religious country.

Worshippers question why authorities have ordered mosques to effectively close, while other parts of the shutdown are loosened or only loosely enforced. "People crowd vegetable markets. Government offices," Zubair complained. "So — there's only corona in mosques?"

Sometimes, the resistance has been violent. On April 10, worshippers in the port city of Karachi assaulted a policewoman trying to block them from entering a mosque. A video of the event shows the officer shouting, "They attacked me! They tried to murder me! They broke my glasses!"

Many of Pakistan's clerics have also defied authorities, largely by allowing prayers to continue unhindered, particularly in out-of-the-way mosques, despite the order to limit congregations.

Sometimes, the defiance is pointed. For three weeks in a row, at one of the country's most hard-line mosques, cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz proudly ordered hundreds of men to cram together for communal Friday prayers. Police initially tried to stop Aziz but backed off, fearing conflict with worshippers, local media reported.

Part of the defiance stems from the fact that clerics see mosques as power bases for projecting their influence, said Madiha Afzal, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Pakistan Under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State. "The clerics see people not going into the mosques physically as a manifestation of weakened power," she said. Their defiance of government orders was saying "look, our domain of control is the mosque and you cannot take this domain of control away from us."

Those calls for defiance will likely get louder as the holy Muslim month of Ramadan approaches. It's expected to start on the evening of April 24. And traditionally, believers flock to mosques to read the Quran through the day and pray through the night.

The Prime Minister Imran Khan acknowledged that the government would have to rethink its current order to limit congregation to five people as the holy month begins. Khan said he'd consult clerics about a new policy, "and inshallah, before Ramadan, we will let you know how we can strike a balance between the two," he said in a televised address – that is, between prayer and the pandemic.

The clerics however, did not wait. Right after Khan spoke, some of Pakistan's most prominent clerics held a press conference to say they'd no longer respect the order to limit congregations. One of those clerics, Mufti TaqiUsmani, said worshippers would soon fill the mosques for Ramadan.

"Muslims must be in the mosques in Ramadan and pray in congregation during this time of trial," insisted the cleric. Perhaps there, he said, "worshippers may pray to God to end the outbreak that was sent by Him."

His call was echoed by prayer-goers in another Islamabad mosque on Friday, April 17, including Omar Ayyad, a 55-year-old electrician. Interviewed outside the building, Ayyad said he plans to pray in congregation in the mosque during Ramadan. "I think the government will take a decision," he said, to ban prayers, "but the people's reaction will be different," he said. And then he walked into the crowded mosque.


Iranian photog takes tour of Asia to cover Islamic sites on Silk Road

Manijeh Rezapoor

TEHRAN – Iranian photographer Hamid Soltanabadian embarked on a cycling adventure in 2011 covering 11 Asian countries on the Silk Road to prepare a collection that represents the influence of Iranian and Islamic architecture on the monuments built along the ancient route.

Soltanabadian began his tour from New Delhi, visiting Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Tajikistan, Kirghizia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and arrived in Iran the next year.

“I took a series of photos highlighting Iranian and Islamic architecture, part of which was displayed in an exhibition in Mashhad after I returned back home,” Soltanabadian told the Tehran Times in an interview on Friday.

“The topic of Chinese Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan was other highlight of the collection, which I later displayed in Mashhad during Ramadan, while my other collection taken of people was displayed in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in an exhibition titled ‘Color and Peace’,” he said.

Soltanabadian, who is also a photography instructor and is interested in making documentaries, said that the idea was a strong wish that he and two of his friends had for a while. After the Khorasan Razavi branch of the Art Bureau and Mashhad Municipality agreed to pay part of the cost of the journey, he and friends began the year-long cycling.

“This had been my wish when I was younger. Photography was a reason to begin the tour, which was full of ups and downs and a wish that finally came true,” he added.

“I personally experienced the meaning of kindness and hospitality in the relations I had with people in different cities along the journey,” he said.

He said that he believes the real meaning of life is to move and watch the world and keep in contact with people far from the borders.

“The variety of cultures was so exciting for me. Nothing can give one more energy and motivation than these types of journeys. My attitudes used to change every day or even every hour, and my world became as large as the sky, helping me ponder on this wide world,” he explained.

“The road was a companion, which accompanied me in thinking all in patience and silence, and my bicycle was a vehicle, which pushed me forward. And I cannot say enough about people who were the most wonderful creatures in the world for me in this journey,” he said.

“Smile was the joint language between me and the people of other lands. It worked like a miracle and had its wonderful influence in beginning a friendly relation every time,” he said.

“I was looking to record the relations between people and the places. Colors have always excited me and I have never missed a moment to record them. I cycled among a great number of original colors and had exciting moments, and I can say that I should have recorded every moment,” he noted.

“I did not have a bad feeling in any of the countries, and each of the countries gave me good and everlasting moments, however, I had a very strange feeling in Samarkand and Bukhara in Uzbekistan. These two cities took me back to the depth of my own country and culture. Speaking with the people was an unforgettable experience for me,” he stated.

“Of course, I should say that I also had a very strange feeling in India, as if I had entered another planet. I would like to make still another trip to India,” he added.

“I should say the trip was a unique and exciting one, which one will never forget. I believe this one-year journey was the highlight of my life and I always thank God who helped me experience it,” he concluded.

The book has been published by Sureh-Mehr Publications and the publisher gives a discount of 10 percent to online buyers of the book.

Photo: Hamid Soltanabadian (L) and his friends pose in front of Zahir Mosque in Alor Star, the state capital of Kedah, Malaysia.


Indonesia Dissuades Ramadan Gathering as Virus Cases Accelerate


Indonesians have been asked to cancel various gatherings that have been a common tradition during the Ramadan festive season as the number of daily coronavirus cases spiked by the most since the country reported its first case.

The world’s fourth most populous nation reported 407 new infections on Friday, taking the total confirmed case count close to 6,000, according to AchmadYurianto, spokesman for the government task force. The number of deaths rose to 520, the most in Asia after China.

The Religious Affairs Ministry has asked people to conduct the additional prayer during the holy month in the evening at home rather than gathering at mosques, and to skip the breaking-the-fast gathering, which was common in workplaces or among friends and extended families.

“We understand how great it is to pray at mosque, but at this time it is important for us to pray at home,” said Kamaruddin Amin, director general for Muslim community guidance at the Religious Affairs Ministry. “We advised that people not holding fast-breaking together at private offices, government offices, families, nor conducting night praying at mosque.”

The government has continuously expanded a partial lockdown to more cities outside the capital Jakarta, the epicenter of the outbreak, to contain the spread of the deadly disease. The virus is expected to infect 95,000 people at its peak in May and to rise to 106,000 in July, according to the government estimates.

Officials also have discouraged people from traveling to their hometown during the holiday as they try to avoid the spread of the virus into rural areas, where medical facilities are less likely to be as well-equipped as those in the urban centers.


Islamic State Terror in the Maldives as COVID-19 Arrives

By Azim Zahir

April 18, 2020

On Wednesday morning, just before sunrise, five speedboats and two dinghies at the harbor of Mahibadhoo island in the central Maldives were set ablaze. No one was onboard at the time. In its weekly, al-Naba, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack. This is the first time ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack in the Maldives. 

However, the attack appears to have a more local dimension. It fits into a recent pattern of revenge attacks following an increase in government crackdowns on radical groups in the Maldives since late 2019.

The attack also coincided with the first cases of community spread of COVID-19 in the Maldives. The spread of COVID-19 in the Maldives will immensely shrink the government capacity to stem violent extremism. There has already been a renewed effort by ISIS supporters in the Maldives to spread their ideology by exploiting the pandemic. With ISIS now officially recognizing them, local ISIS supporters will be more encouraged to take advantage of the situation.

ISIS claimed that the “soldiers of the caliphate” in the Maldives carried out an attack by setting fire to several boats anchored at the harbor of Mahibadhoo island, some of which belonged to the “apostate government” of the Maldives. The vessels included a sea ambulance, a police boat, and another that belonged to the atoll council.  

Several terrorism related incidents have taken place in the Maldives since ISIS declared a caliphate in 2014. In February this year, three foreign nationals – one Australian and two Chinese men – were stabbed in Hulhumale (which is part of the capital Male linked by a bridge). Even though a local outfit, “al-Mustaqim Media,” claimed responsibility for the stabbings and branded themselves as soldiers of ISIS in the Maldives, ISIS outlets did not claim responsibility for the assaults.

The February stabbings were revenge attacks against the government following its crackdown on violent extremism in the country since late 2019. The crackdown intensified after the U.S. Treasury Department designated a Maldivian national, Mohamed Ameen, as a terrorist in its sanctions list in September 2019, and after a presidential commission investigating the murders of two bloggers and a religious scholar linked the murders to religious extremists.

Ameen has been in custody since October 2019. A key leadership figure behind recruitment for ISIS in the Maldives, he had been radicalizing young people for a long time. Several years ago, he lived in Maduvvari island, where we now know an ISIS cell, possibly numbering 30, has been operating. The authorities carried out raids on the island and arrested several this past December and January. The detained have been charged with terrorism related offences.

In the wake of the police crackdowns, in social media outlets violent extremists made threats of revenge against the government. They established a Telegram channel by the name “TouristWatchMv” in January, suggesting a possible targeting of tourists in the country. It is now believed that individuals linked to the Maduvvari cell carried out the earlier attacks.

A statement published through TouristWatchMV claimed “Soldiers of the Khilafah [Islamic State] in the Maldives” carried the attacks and warned of more attacks if their members and their relatives continued to be “oppressed” by the government. In a video branded under “al-Mustaqim Media,” three masked men claimed responsibility for the stabbings, and called on their supporters to carry out more attacks against government interests.

Wednesday’s attack appears to be the latest of these revenge attacks against the government and its interests in this year. On March 22, there was a similar arson attack on a police boat in Gan island in Laamu atoll. Some other suspicious incidents such as a fire on a water villa in the luxury island resort, Cheval Blanc, on March 21, have also occurred. 

Get first-read access to major articles yet to be released, as well as links to thought-provoking commentaries and in-depth articles from our Asia-Pacific correspondents.

While these attacks may be revenge attacks, they also show violent extremism has been a growing problem in the Maldives. The first serious terrorist attack in the country took place in 2007. An improvised explosive device (IED) was exploded at Sultan Park in the capital Male, injuring 12 foreign tourists. At least four murders likely linked to violent extremism have taken place: Ibrahim Shaheem, an official of the Island Office Himandhoo was murdered in December 2006; Afrasheem Ali, a religious scholar, in 2013; Ahmed Rilwan, a journalist, in 2014; and Yameen Rasheed, a blogger, in 2017. In 2012, another journalist, Khilath Rasheed, was stabbed, with his injuries nearly fatal.

Perhaps the foreign fighter phenomenon has been the most significant manifestation of growing violent extremism in the Maldives. At least 12 Maldivian fighters died in Pakistan in terrorism related incidents in 2008 and 2009. According to some estimates, the Maldives could be one of the top per capita contributors of foreign fighters in Syria. At least, there have been 173 confirmed cases of foreign fighters from the Maldives. Significantly, 26 percent of them include adult women. Currently there are more than 50 Maldivians stranded in Syria’s al-Hawl camp.

A local group, known as “Dot,” has largely been behind the spread of violent extremism in the Maldives. They have ideological and training roots in Pakistan and transnational jihadi groups as well as ideological roots to a local Salafi religious figure, going back to the late 1980s and 1990s.

This small group of people, mostly young men, found greater space for spreading their ideology in the wake of the devastation caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and in the upheavals due to political transformations and deepening fragmentations in the larger religious landscape since 2003.

Political and religious upheavals caused crises of identity in the Maldives, a nation that has long asserted an exclusive national identity based on belonging to Islam. The upheavals also caused social disruptions and dislocations in island communities. These contexts, in turn, provided fertile grounds for not just militant Salafi-Jihadism but also broader Salafi Islam to take root, slowly displacing the long-standing more modernist form of Islam. As the country underwent rapid political liberalization, adopted a new constitution, and held its first multiparty democratic elections in 2008, these religious actors advocated for an “Islamic state” instead of an “apostate” democracy.

In the post 9/11 context, violent extremists further organized their activities in the country by establishing small cells after meeting senior figures of al-Qaeda in 2007. Besides recruitment in the islands such as Himandhoo, early on they started to use Internet platforms. There was also a greater focus on jihad abroad. A dedicated magazine for this cause, Kuriboashi (The Summit), was established.

Since especially 2012, they also started to “Islamize” a new group: radical gangs in the Maldives. There may be 20 to 30 gangs in the capital Male. The recruitment of young people from criminal backgrounds explains why about 50 percent of the men who became foreign fighters from the Maldives come from known criminal backgrounds.

However, after ISIS declared a caliphate in 2014, the “Dot” group split. One group kept their allegiance to al-Qaeda and related groups in Syria, and the other followed ISIS.

Although their recruitment activities declined after setbacks to terrorist groups in Syria and following interventions by the authorities, the “Dot” group’s biggest legacy has been creation of a vast amount of Salafi-Jihadist literature, entire books of prominent transnational jihadist figures, infographics, pithy sayings, poetry, songs, and videos, in the local language. They have also been successful in establishing small cells in island communities.

Consequently, there has been an “individualization” of the cause of violent extremism in the Maldives. Individuals and small cells, networked by social media and other communications technologies, with excess to Salafi-jihadi ideology, have now taken up the cause of spreading violent extremism using various platforms like Facebook and Telegram.

The crises and chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic will create further space for extremists to get organized and spread their agenda. The Maldives had been lucky with no community spread of COVID-19 until the first cases were confirmed Wednesday. However, the pandemic has already wreaked havoc on the country’s critical tourism industry, which directly or indirectly accounts for two-thirds of GDP.

Maldivian supporters of ISIS and other jihadi groups have been quick to exploit the pandemic for propaganda purposes. There is a renewed activism to translate and spread ISIS propaganda. They have focused on framing COVID-19 as a mini-soldier of jihad, a divine intervention that has exposed the weakness of the West. Anti-Western messages have increased. They have also framed the pandemic as a divine punishment for people’s sins and for an “un-Islamic” tourism industry. They have started to spread messages for religious purification and a return to “pure” Islam.

As the community spread of COVID-19 intensifies in the Maldives, the capacity of the authorities to focus on stemming violent extremism will be immensely limited. The police and the military have been used on the frontline of the state response to COVID-19. The pandemic will therefore provide yet another conducive environment for the spread of violent extremist ideology and activities in the Maldives.

Wednesday’s fire may have been a more locally motivated attack. But with ISIS officially recognizing local actors, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, they will be more encouraged to get further organised as part of a broader ISIS strategy.



Shobhaa De: Should Muslims vanish? Shun hate amidst crisis

Apr 18, 2020

I watched the video posted by my friend Saba Naqvi and sighed! It was a deep and anguished sigh. The kind that signals despair and a rapidly declining sense of hope for our future in these extreme times. Yes, we are dealing with an unprecedented emergency. Each new day throws up challenges we could never have thought about in our worst nightmares even a few, short months ago. Amid the death and destruction all around us, the last thing we need is a war that has no victors -- a war that can cause more long-term damage than any virus, no matter how deadly the Microbe. Hats off to Saba for nailing it through her impassioned message to all the haters out there. She looks viewers straight in the eye and asks bluntly: “Should we all go?” “We’’ in this case refers to all Muslims living in India -- around 200 million of them. Her question is addressed to those awful people out there who prevented Muslim vegetable vendors from going about their business. And to the others, who recommended separate Covid-19 wards in hospitals for Muslims who have tested positive. There have been vehement “official” denials of these charges. But the ground reality is different. Isn’t it always?

It is a shame that a seasoned and senior journalist and political commentator like Saba Naqvi had to remind those haters about all the worthy Indians who are India’s pride and glory. Her roster includes personalities like Azim Premji, Yusuf Hamied, Shah Rukh Khan, A.R. Rahman and Javed Akhtar. She lists out their impressive contributions and wonders aloud about the anti-Muslim acts that she feels are growing across the country. Her video comes straight from a pained heart. It is not carefully structured and cosmetically enhanced. It is as raw as the emotions she expresses. And one can only hope it has the required impact. When she throws these questions -- “Should the Taj Mahal evaporate?” or “Do you want Muslims to disappear from India?” -- it makes one cringe. Or should. When I shared the video with a few close friends, their response was so cynical, I hoped they’d be proved wrong. It was one particular stinging comment that sent a chill down my spine -- “Every Covid death in India will be blamed on the Tablighi.”

We cannot and must not let anything of the sort take root. And the time to safeguard against such a possibility is right now. When Saba points out that Shah Rukh Khan has donated more than 50,000 masks, or that Cipla’s YukuHamied has always been in the forefront of pharmaceutical battles that have saved India and the world, she is just stating the obvious. The tragedy is that she has been forced to state any of this in the first place. Has it reached a point where India’s Muslims will have to keep at it -- proving their worth, underlining their achievements and reminding their countrymen of their “legitimacy”. Pity, I couldn’t come up with any other word. Legitimacy comes with far too many connotations. Bollywood is full of melodramatic stories featuring illegitimate offspring, doomed to plead for love, respect and acceptance. The vicious attempts of certain corrosive elements in India, to further discriminate against our own, must be halted immediately. Why should Saba or anybody else have to trot out names of “good” Muslims who have richly contributed to make India great?  Her desperation to appeal to the haters made me feel exceedingly sad.

The authorities are busy strenuously denying that any of this is happening. The world is looking closely at the politics of the Covid dynamics in India. Reports of this kind will further damage our international reputation as a secular nation. While it is factually accurate that no political party or government agency has “instructed” anybody to sift out Muslim patients or create separate testing facilities for them -- it is happening regardless. Not everything we experience is as transparent and overt as we would like it to be. There is always the unspoken code widely practised by the majority. It is these surreptitious signals that are far more dangerous because they are insidious. Prejudice creeps in stealthily when nobody is looking. This is exactly what is taking place while the battle against Covid-19 is being waged aggressively.

Saba’s unfiltered words should shame us – but will they? I doubt it. At the moment, those in the media who are seen as being “soft on Muslims” (uggggh to that) are being closely watched, their phone lines tapped and God knows what other kind of surveillance is underway. We are at our most vulnerable at the moment. It is precisely at such times that self-appointed, self-declared “saviours” arrive on the scene to grab unlimited power and hang on to it, much after the crisis has blown over. A nationwide lockdown offers just such an opportunity. Manipulating emotions and seizing control of 1.3 billion citizens is indeed a very tempting, even irresistible, opportunity. The quickest and easiest way to achieve such an objective is by dividing people and alienating the minorities. And it is not Muslims alone who are feeling insecure in “Covid India”. Ask your neighbours and friends -- the Parsis and the Christians for example. Do they believe they will get the exact same treatment at testing centers in case they need to check their Covid status? The answer may stun you.

So… thank you, Saba. You said what you felt. Respect. Know that there are millions of co-citizens who feel exactly the same way. And no, not all of them are Muslims.


Singling out the Muslims: Elders fume over attempts to malign community

Apr 18, 2020

Hyderabad: Health minister EtalaRajendar naming and dragging Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) returnees again in the context of Covid-19 is a “continuous and systematic attack against the Muslim community,” community elders said.

The minister's appeal on Thursday to 600 people who returned from the Tablighi Jamaat congregation or their contacts is being seen as an attempt to malign and typecast the people of the community as spreaders of the disease.

Mushtaq Malilk, president of the Tahreek Muslim Shabban, said, “It is a systematic attack on the community in the name of the disease.

The government has not brought to light more than 200 Jamaat people who tested negative. They were kept in the Nature Cure Hospital and discharged. It is this behaviour of the government and administration which is leading to problems as they are being discriminatory. In the time of a pandemic, we have a government repeatedly attacking a group of people and they expect them to show confidence in them.”

The manner in which the people from the community have been treated by police and the hospital administrations has been creating fear in them. Many of them are not willing to go to hospitals. Many of them complained of dirty, unhygienic conditions with no proper food being given to them.

Despite the World Health Organisation stating clearly that people, communities and localities must not be stigmatised, Muslims are being continuously maligned by the local administration right up to senior levels of government, said a community elder.

In the present case of tracking and tracing, health officials have complained of anger within the community which was not the case earlier.

A senior health official explained, “Before politicising the issue, there was complete co-operation from every citizen. But after the Nizamuddin Markaz incident not only Muslims but even others are scared. There is anger and health workers are facing the brunt of people. Politicians and bureaucrats do not think about ground level workers while making these kind of statements.”

Other senior members of community stated that they do not understand why only the case of Tablighi Jamaat returnees are being highlighted by the government. Prof. Abdul Majeed, a senior member of the community, said, “There were many congregations in March but not a single community has been targeted in the manner in which Muslims have been. Again, the government is working on the same lines. They must seek the help of people which they have not done. Is there any dialogue that they have initiated? Why? What is stopping them?”

Of the 750+ cases in the state only those with travel history abroad and the Markaz returnees have been documented while for the rest the list only says 'details awaited'. Health officials state that government does not want to record data of ‘other transmission’ as they are still in denial of ‘community transmission’. For this reason, health workers have been strictly told that it will be ‘other reasons’ or ‘unknown reasons’.

A senior health official said, “Instead of following the right method of not stigmatising people and society, the government has succeeded in making Covid-19 a stigma. It only shows the mishandling of this government.”


Gujarat: Muslims perform Hindu rituals to help cremate Bhavnagar woman

Apr 18, 2020

By: DilipJiruka

AMRELI: Amid stringent lockdown, Gariyadhar, a town in Bhavnagar district famed for small-scale diamond cutting and polishing industry, set a glittering example of communal brotherhood on Friday when Muslims went all out to help in cremation of a 70-year-old Hindu woman.

Ranjan Bhadreshwara, who lived with her two sons Bharat and Rasik in Ghanchiwad area on Palitana Road, died a natural death on Friday morning. As most of their relatives who live in Ahmedabad could not make it for the cremation due to the lockdown, the Muslim neighbours immediately took up the responsibility to help this family do the final rites as per Brahmin rituals.

In fact, the Bhadreshwaras have been the only Hindu family in Ghanchiwad area where there are nearly 50 Muslim households, for the past nearly 25 years.

On hearing about her death, nearly 10 women from the Muslim families first helped in giving her body the ritualistic bath with water and embalming it with ghee. They then decorated her with bangles, sari and the tika to prepare the body for funeral.

Later, 10 Muslim men shouldered the woman's bier up along with her sons and reached the local crematorium after a brief funeral procession. One Muslim man was also seeing carrying the 'doni' (earthen pot filled with water), usually carried by the person leading the funeral.

There were emotional scenes when the men lifted the bier and left the house as all women cried inconsolably having lost their neighbour with whom they had lived in times of sorrow and joy. Home guard jawans present there had to request the women to go inside the house and not gather for a long time.

“I have no regrets at all that my relatives could not be beside us in this hour of grief. These Muslim brothers have been our neighbours for years now. In every religion, it is said that the neighbour is your first kin,” RasikBhadreshwara told TOI over phone.

Rafeeq Solanki, a neighbour said, “We have been living as brothers for years now and always considered them as one among us though Bhadreshwaras are the sole Hindu family in our locality. We even got few shops opened to get the necessary material for the funeral and rituals."


9-Month-Old Tests Positive For COVID-19 In Uttarakhand, Father Attended Delhi Mosque Event

April 18, 2020

A nine-month-old infant who is among the latest coronavirus cases detected in Uttarakhand contracted the infection from his father after he returned from a Tablighi Jamaat congregation, officials said on Saturday.

The infant is one of the three new coronavirus cases detected in Uttarakhand on Friday. The number of cases in the state after these fresh infections has risen to 40, a health department spokesperson said.

According to the spokesperson, the infant''s father is one of the 10 Tablighi Jamaat members under treatment for COVID-19 in Dehradun. He is admitted to the isolation ward at the Doon Hospital.

The other two persons who tested positive on Friday were a woman officer posted at a military hospital here and a Tablighi Jamaat member from Nainital district, the spokesperson said.

The woman officer had recently returned from training in Lucknow. Contact tracing of the officer is underway, he said.

The Tablighi Jamaat member is undergoing treatment at Sushila Tiwari Hospital, Haldwani, he said.


Arab world 

WHO Director-General Thanks Custodian of Two Holy Mosques for Kingdom's Contribution of $500M to Support International Efforts to Combat COVID-19


Riyadh, April 17, 2020, SPA -- Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the current president of the G20 for the Year 2020, contribution of $500 million to support international efforts to combat the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Dr. Adhanom said: "I express my great gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and to the Saudi people for their great generosity by donating $500 million, in response to plan to combat the Coronavirus, hoping the rest of the G20 members to follow King Salman step."


Coronavirus measures take a toll on Cairo’s traditional Ramadan lantern market

Zeinab El-Gundy

17 Apr 2020

Yousra, who is in her late sixties, was sitting on a plastic chair on a street corner in central Cairo, in front of an array of traditional Ramadan lanterns of different sizes.

For years, if not decades, El-Saad Street, located behind the historic Sayeda Zeinab Mosque, has hosted the city’s biggest annual market for Ramadan lanterns and Ramadan food supplies.

This year is different. Public gatherings are banned, mosques have been shuttered, traditional Ramadan events like charity banquets have been forbidden, and a nighttime curfew has been implemented, in an attempt to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

In mid-March, the government gave a hint of what was to come when it cancelled the Sayeda Zeinab moulid, which also took place in El-Sadd Street. It also closed the mosque and shrine, surrounding the building with security barricades.

Moving along the street, Ahram Online found Mohamed, who, like Yousra, is a regular at the Sayeda Zeinab Ramadan market, and has also been forced to make adjustments.

“There are no customers because there is no market, as the district refused to give us the permit to have the market, as you can see, because they do not want any kind of assembly,” he told Ahram Online while trying to spread his merchandise quickly on the pavement with the help of a young boy, who brought him boxes full of lanterns and decorations from a nearby warehouse in a crumbling building.

Mr.Mohamed getting his goods from Ramadan Lanterns and decorations out of a box in Sadd street to start selling them (Photo: Zeinab El-Gundy)

“It is the toughest year without a doubt. The lantern workshops have been closed for a week now because of the curfew,” he told Ahram Online, before heading over to a customer who had stopped in her car to buy the traditional Ramadan khayamiya-patterned decorations.

The walk down the street continued and led Ahram Online to a major warehouse of a lantern-seller and trader who sells to other shops.

The owner of the warehouse did not speak much as he was supervising the transfer of some large lanterns onto trucks. The only thing he said when approached by Ahram Online was that it was tough time, both for local lantern-makers and for the importers of Chinese plastic lanterns.

Although Egypt issued a decision banning the import of Chinese-made plastic lanterns a couple of years ago, to preserve the traditional lantern-making industry and protect it from extinction, the import of the plastic lanterns seems to have continued.

Egyptian shops will this year depend on last year’s stock due to a lack of supply from Chinese factories, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

The warehouse owner’s assistant, who was organising another a makeshift stall of lanterns, told Ahram Online that he feared that his hard work would be futile and that municipality workers would come to remove the stall.

“Nevertheless, we as lantern-sellers agreed to organise a small market in the upcoming two weeks in a side street, away from the main street, so it will not be dispersed,” he told Ahram Online.

Ramadan lanterns, or “fanous” in Arabic, first appeared in the tenth century, when Egyptians welcomed Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz Li-Din Allah at night during Ramadan. They subsequently became a traditional holiday toy for children.

Currently, the handmade Ramadan lantern industry is located in Sayeda Zeinab district, in an ancient street called “Taht Al-Raba,” where the lantern-makers inherit the profession and their workshops from their father and grandfathers.

Ahram Online headed to one the big Ramadan lantern retailers located in Port Said Street near Taht Al-Raba to find out more about the current situation.

Khaled, who is in his mid-sixties, is the owner of one the biggest shops in the street, selling both to customers and to other shops in Cairo.

“Already you see my shop and how I showcase all my stock; I have to close by 4pm at the latest so we can return to our homes,” he told Ahram Online, adding, however, that there are still some customers who want to buy lanterns.


ADIB: First Islamic Bank to use Blockchain Technology for Trade Distribution

Julia Bahr


UAE-based Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), a leading Islamic financial institution, has  become the first Islamic bank to successfully execute trade finance distribution transactions using blockchain technology, according to market sources.

The cross-border transactions were enabled by ADIB’s partnership with TradeAssets, a trade finance e-marketplace powered by Blockchain technology to help digitize the traditional processes of origination and distribution of trade assets

ADIB successfully completed a trade finance distribution transaction in partnership with TradeAssets, a blockchain-based trade finance emarket.

ADIB and TradeAssets have been collaborating for more than a year and enabled the bank to automate trade finance transactions and conclude transactions with banking counterparts in emerging markets.

“The completion of the first trade distribution transaction using Blockchain by an Islamic bank shows that ADIB is at the cutting-edge of global transaction banking. As the only Islamic bank providing end-to-end Sharia’a-compliant trade financing through digital channels, ADIB is committed to expanding its digital footprint in trade financing and distribution, enhancing the efficiency and productivity of businesses across the region and globally,” Haytham Elmaayergi, Global Head of Transaction Banking at ADIB, said.

ADIB launched ADIB Direct eFX , a platform that allows its clients to secure online foreign exchange rates for international transfers and payment, in March this year.

The bank said in a statement that the platform improves companies’ ability to manage their finances locally and internationally. These features include customisable dashboards, cashflow forecasting and online trade issuance and financing which are accessible across all devices including a mobile app.


MoCI releases list of 500 discounted products for Ramadan

18 Apr 2020

Doha: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) has announced the launch of its discounted consumer goods initiative, which covers more than 500 products during Ramadan.

The initiative, which was launched in cooperation with major shopping malls, comes into effect today and will remain applicable until the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The initiative comes within the framework of the Ministry’s efforts over the past years to meet citizens and residents’ needs for consumer goods at reduced prices during the holy month, when spending on food commodities traditionally increases.

The initiative covers basic commodities consumed during Ramadan, such as flour, sugar, rice, pasta, chicken, oil, milk, and other food and non-food items of relative importance to consumers, and whose consumption increases during the holy month.

The Ministry has engaged and coordinated with suppliers to identify and secure the various types of in-demand goods at appropriate and affordable prices.

The list of discounted consumer goods has been circulated to all major shopping malls across the country, and is accessible to consumers through the Ministry’s website and social network pages.

The Ministry has stressed that it will not tolerate any violations of the Consumer Protection Law and its regulations, and will intensify its inspection campaigns to crack down on violations. The Ministry said it will refer those who violate laws and ministerial decisions to competent authorities, who will in turn take appropriate action against perpetrators to protect consumer rights.

According to list, QFM Flour No1 (5kg) will be sold at QR16; QFM whole wheat flour (10kg) at QR22.25, Yara pure sunflower oil (1.8litre) at QR11.75, Yara pure corn oil (1.8litre) at QR16, Baladna fresh yogurt full fat (2kg) at QR10, Rawa orange juice (1litre) at QR5.5, Lurpark butter (400gram) at QR14.25, Dandy orange juice (1.5litre) at QR8.25. (The MEC Price list is published here.)

Under discounted prices for Ramadan, Baladna 1.5litre juices will be sold at QR8, Punjab garden rice basmati (5kg) at QR32, Al Kabeer chicken samosa (240gram) at QR6.25, Sadia frozen chicken (900gram) at QR11.25, Al Saffa frozen chicken (1200gram) at QR15, Brook Band red label tea (900gram) at QR26.75, Lipton Yellow Label tea (900gram) at QR35, Al Naseem Khalas Dates (1kg) at QR12.5.


Iraq decides to partially lift the curfew in Ramadan, according to conditions


Shafaq News / The government crisis cell intends to partially lift the curfew during Ramadan from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The semi-official newspaper, Al-Sabah, quoted in its issue on Saturday, the Director of Rusafa Health, a member of the crisis cell, Abdul-Ghani Al-Saadi, that “the government and the crisis cell will work to lift the curfew from 6 a.m. to 6p.m. as a partial curfew and social distancing."

Rusafa Health Director noted that "the partial curfew will begin to be applied in the blessed month of Ramadan, but according to conditions, including not opening malls, cafes, and restaurants, as well as specifying the number of taxi passengers, and other conditions that ensure the virus does not transmit, and if there is an increase in cases , complete curfew will be repeated again.


More than 500 consumer goods discounted for Ramadan

April 17 2020

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has announced a list of more than 500 discounted consumer goods for Ramadan 2020. The list, which comes into effect Saturday (April 18, 25 Shaban, 1441 Hijri), will remain applicable until the end of the holy month (See the list here on the MoCI website).

The initiative was launched in co-operation with major shopping malls within the framework of the ministry’s efforts over the past years to meet citizens and residents’ needs for consumer goods at reduced prices during the holy month, when spending on food commodities traditionally increases.

The initiative covers basic commodities consumed during Ramadan, such as flour, sugar, rice, pasta, chicken, oil, milk, and other food and non-food items of relative importance to consumers, and whose consumption increases during the holy month.

The ministry has engaged and co-ordinated with suppliers to identify and secure the various types of in-demand goods at appropriate and affordable prices.

The list of discounted consumer goods has been circulated to all major shopping malls across the country, and is accessible to consumers through the ministry’s website and social network pages.

The ministry stressed that it will not tolerate any violations of the Consumer Protection Law and its regulations, and will intensify its inspection campaigns to crack down on violations. It will refer those who violate laws and ministerial decisions to competent authorities, who will in turn take appropriate action against perpetrators to protect consumer rights.

The ministry urged the public to report any violations of the decision’s provisions. The Ministry processes complaints and suggestions through the following channels: Call Center: 16001; e-mail:; Twitter @MOCIQATAR; Instagram @MOCIQATAR; mobile app for Android and iPhone: MOCIQATAR.


Coronavirus in UAE: Muslims can perform Ramadan Taraweeh at home

April 18, 2020

Muslims can offer Taraweeh prayers at home during the holy month of Ramadan, like the five daily obligatory prayers, the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) of the Dubai Government announced on Friday.

The department, in a statement, said that prayers should be done at homes as mosques are closed as part of the county's efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taraweeh prayers - the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during Ramadan - can be performed at homes and the heavenly rewards will remain the same as while praying at mosques, clarified the IACAD.

Muslims who pray Taraweeh to finish reading the Holy Quran can hold on to the book in their hands and recite while praying, added the department.



British Imam urges country to unite in fight against coronavirus

17 April 2020

A senior British imam has urged the country to unite and help their communities through the coronavirus pandemic.

Imam Qaria Sim, who is based in Leeds, said the Covid-19 outbreak is "very challenging emotionally" ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, which starts next week.

Ramadan sees Muslims across the world fast during daylight hours, which means abstaining from food and drink, as part of a period of self-reflection and devotion for their religion.

It is typically a time where Muslims come together and pray, but the virus means mosques in the UK are closed in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.

Imam Sim told ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham he has been reaching out to people within the community in order to help them feel a sense of normality through such a difficult period.

He said: "The lockdown has been extremely challenging because we as human beings, like social interaction and particular, I used to meet hundreds of people in my mosque on a weekly basis."

He added: "The physical presence isn't there. So we like other faith communities have had to come up with innovative and dynamic ways of connecting with people.

"So on a weekly basis, I'm video calling people, ringing people, and ensuring that the spiritual and religious guidance that is required by the community is being provided, although in a very different way.

"So lockdown, in essence, has enabled us to reconfigure the concept of the community. It is no longer in a place of worship, rather it is a virtual community that has emerged due to coronavirus lockdown."

Imam Sim, who also works as an adviser to the government on Islamophobia, dispelled false rumours spread online about some mosques being open throughout the lockdown period.

He believes certain people within the community were using spreading the allegations to spread division and fear among Britons.

He said: "It's really sad to see that even during such times of crisis, there are some people who are spreading malicious rumours and fake news on social media to say that actually some mosques are still open.

"I think those people intend to divide our communities, and our message is clear: that anti-Muslim hatred, or hatred of any community should not divide us and this should be a time of people coming together, to fight one single cause, that is to defeat Covid 19."

Imam Sim praised the efforts of NHS staff for their efforts during the pandemic and said it was "extremely sad" that people from within the BAME community appeared to be among the hardest hit.

"Now we need to dig deeper into factors which have led to more deaths happening in the Muslim community," he said.

"Some of those reasons would include inter-generational households, cultural aspects, socio-economic factors as well as the close-knit communities. And also on the NHS that we see that they have the first five doctors who lost their lives were from the Muslim community.

"It also goes to show that they are lots of Muslims working in the NHS and in the emergency sector and as a result we are seeing more and more Muslims lives being lost. And we really appreciate it the contribution that is being made by all communities to ensure that we are all in it together."


Spiritual Directorate of Muslims determines size of sadaqah al-fitr

18 April 2020

Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (SDMK) has determined the size of sadaqah al-fitr. Press service of the muftiyat says.

This year, sadaqah al-fitr is 1.6 kilograms of wheat, flour, raisins, or 3.2 kilograms of barley, dates.

As it is known, sadaqah al-fitr can be donated in form of sum of money equivalent to the cost of these products.

«The price of wheat is 21.8-35 soms, raisins — 240-384 soms, flour from 37.5 to 60 soms, barley — 17-54 soms, dates 160-512 soms. Cost of the products is unstable, therefore, it is necessary to focus on their weight,» the SDMK says.


Georgian Muslims’ leader summoned to State Security Service of Georgia

16 Apr 2020

Sheikh MirtagAsadov, the chairman of the Supreme Religious Administration of Georgia's All Muslims and three other founders of the religious organisation have been summoned to the State Security Service of Georgia, reports the Human Rights and Monitoring Center (EMC).

The State Security Service of Georgia has not defined the reason for the summons…[later it was said] Asadov was summoned for an investigation launched into ‘sabotage’” said TamtaMikeladze, a representative of the EMC.

Mikeladze said that the case might be related to Asadov’s statement yesterday to the Mtavari TV channel, when he answered the question of a journalist about his opinion on the government’s decision not to close churches during the holiday, saying “then we will open our mosques on Ramadan and let’s see how the Prime Minister will treat us."

Georgia is not a theocratic country, it is a secular state and the division of "us-others" is not right,” said Asadov yesterday.

Mikeladze said that there is also the second opinion that they might be summoned because of the protests in Marneuli municipality, eastern Georgia started on April 14 after 9 p.m. where locals were protesting the current lockdown in Marneuli with car horns.

The reason is that locals in Marneuli used to trade with agricultural products but as of now due to the lockdown they have run into trade problems.

Mikeladze said that those summoned to the State Security Service of Georgia say that they are not organisators of these protests.



April 17, 2020

By Byron Mühlberg

The spate of arsons connected to telecommunications transmission masts in the Netherlands "is literally life-threatening," said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at his regular weekly press conference on Friday. Some 15 different incidents in recent weeks involve masts being set on fire, which were said to be linked to conspiracy theories about 5G.

Rutte would not address the theories directly. "But this can lead to emergency calls and 112 notifications not getting through properly. Emergency services are compromised," he said. "It is about life and death. It is literally life-threatening."

Among the conspiracy theories floating around the internet is one that suggests that 5G weakens the body's pulmonary system, making victims more susceptible to a coronavirus infection.

Rutte did not give a substantive response to a report by broadcaster NOS that the mayors of major cities in the Netherlands want a ban on all summer events at least through August, and possibly September. For the time being, large events are banned through June 1.

Speculation about the extension of restrictions, and the possibility of new restrictions has made it difficult for some organizations, like event promoter Mojo Concerts and football association KNVB, have called for more clarity so they can decide what events must be cancelled.

Rutte said no new measures, including any measures taken to ban events during the summer, would be announced prior to a public announcement expected on Tuesday. That date, April 21, is exactly one week before some social distancing measures in the Netherlands are set to expire.

This comes as several majors have urged the cabinet to cancel the summer's entire events program, a ban that would be in effect until either Sep. 1 or Oct.1, sources told NOS. These most notably include the Pride Amsterdam event, all summertime festivals, as well as all professional football fixtures.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called on Dutch Muslims to make sure that they observe social distancing measures during the month of Ramadan.

Ramadan, which commences on Thursday next week, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a period of fasting. Each day of fasting ends with an iftar meal, shortly after sunset.

"I ask all Muslims of the Netherlands to spend this moment at home with the family," Rutte said at a press conference on Friday, encouraging iftar to be taken at home and for religious congregations to be halted. The Prime Minster said that while he understands that mosques and other community organizations are busy during this period, he asks for cooperation. "We must do this together," he added.

Rutte also affirmed to the public that the medical capacity in the Netherlands is under control, and says that it is "really crucial" that people speak with a doctor if they have medical difficulties.

Although one of the the problems with the pandemic is that it places a "tremendous pressure it puts on hospitals," Rutte urges that people seek medical attention anyway, if necessary.

"Go to the doctor, who will send you to hospital if necessary," Rutte said. "There is space in the hospitals, there is a place in the ICUs, for acute care, for example [for people] with serious heart complications and other serious conditions."


Ramadan to be observed in homes due to coronavirus


As the coronavirus crisis continues, so do government’s social distancing advisories, and the situation will significantly change how followers of Islam observe the period of Ramadan and its culmination in the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Imam Anas Hajjar of the Islamic Society of Finland said Ramadan will be observed very differently due to the crisis. The society has about 2,000 members and describes itself as the second-oldest Muslim community in Finland.

According to Hajjar, the Muslim community leadership is preparing guidelines on how to celebrate Ramadan in the coronavirus age. The guidelines are similar to ones issued by the Finnish state, which include limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. Unless it is extended, that particular rule remains in effect until 13 May.

Ramadan, a month of fasting, abstinence, prayer and reflection, begins next Thursday evening, 23 April and continues until Saturday evening 23 May. Each day during that period, practitioners of Islam fast from dawn to dusk, eating before the sun rises and breaking the fast after the sun sets.

A three-day celebration and feast, known as Eid al-Fitr, follows the month of daily fasting. Normally, people gather in large groups at the end of the holiday.

"This is a very big change because we’re used to holding prayers together. Night prayers during Ramadan will now be done at home rather than going to the mosque," Hajjar said.

"This year family-centred Ramadan celebrations are being emphasised," he explained, adding that the coronavirus crisis is being taken seriously in the Muslim communtiy and that the temporary rules are being followed.

"This is an opportunity to do things a little differently. People shouldn’t give in to feelings of fear, but one should be hopeful about the future, because at some point this epidemic will end," Hajjar said, noting that the community is prepared to change their guidelines if authorities adjust the policies and restrictions.

For example, Helsinki Deputy Mayor NasimaRazmyar has appealed to the Muslim community to take the coronavirus guidelines into account during Ramadan, and also said that the holiday would be observed differently this year. Meanwhile the country’ ministry of social affairs and health have not issued special guidelines regarding Ramadan, the ministry confirmed.

The Resalat community, which has about 1,000 Shia Islam followers, is also preparing for a different Ramadan this year. According to the community’s Imam Abbas Bahmanpour the ongoing epidemic will greatly affect how Ramadan is celebrated but noted that the members of Resalat community understand the seriousness of the situation. He said the organisation is preparing guidelines for the month-long period.

"If [the crisis] arrived in the middle of Ramadan, the instructions would likely have been harder to change. Now it looks like the situation will continue for a long time to come," Bahmanpour said.

The community’s mosque has also been closed and Ramadan will not be observed on-site, but rather online this year. The community has also recommended against gatherings or group celebrations during the period.


7,500 feared to have died with coronavirus in care homes

By Caitlin Doherty

17,apr 2020

As many as 7,500 people are feared to have died after contracting coronavirus in care homes, according to a leading industry body.

Care England, which represents independent care firms, said it had collected data which suggested fatalities are far higher than those released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – who recorded 217 care home deaths from the virus up until April 3.

Chief executive Prof Martin Green told the Telegraph: “If we look at some of the death rates since April 1 and compare them with previous years’ rates, we estimate a figure of about 7,500 people may have died as a result of Covid-19.”

We are currently working with the Care Quality Commission and other organisations to understand how to best to provide up to date information about deaths in care homes and elsewhere

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised data on residents who die with the illness will be available “very shortly”.

The pledge comes after experts called for care home deaths to be included in the daily tally amid fears they are going “under the radar”.

They currently are not listed every day and there have been lags in reported figures for several weeks because the process relies on death certificates, which must be registered and processed.

Earlier this week, the head of Public Health England, Professor Yvonne Doyle, said agencies were working towards producing “much more rapid data, preferably on a daily basis”.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) began collecting data on deaths linked to Covid-19 which occurred in both hospitals and care homes on Thursday, Mr Hancock said.

He told the Health and Social Care Committee on Friday: “I’m concerned about this as well; I asked CQC to make sure that we record the data in care homes specifically, of those who are residents of care homes, whether they die in hospital or in the care home, and they started collecting that data yesterday and it will be published very shortly.”

A Government spokesman said “every death from this virus is a tragedy”, and said people were “working around the clock to give the social care sector the equipment and support they need”.

“We are currently working with CQC and other organisations to understand how to best to provide up to date information about deaths in care homes and elsewhere.”


North America 

Muslims should avoid public gatherings and pray at home during Ramadan: Authorities

by Zachary Halaschak

April 17, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, some of Islam’s holiest sites will be shuttered during Ramadan as authorities urge Muslims to pray at home.

The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced Friday that the country’s highest religious authority is urging adherents to stay in their residences during their Taraweeh evening prayers and Eid prayers.

Islam’s third-holiest location, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, will remain closed during the month of Ramadan, which begins next week and goes until May 23. Egypt and Jordan have also decided to shutter mosques for prayers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes after Saudi Arabia, the country with the most international pilgrims, announced in February that travel was suspended to holy cities such as Mecca and Medina. The move affected scores of Muslims who had planned to make an annual pilgrimage to the country.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat or drink during the daylight hours. The month is typically punctuated by increased prayer and gatherings at mosques and holy sites.


Store Security Guard Used Stun Gun On Muslim Health Care Worker, Advocates Say


BALTIMORE (AP) — Officials with a Muslim civil rights advocacy group are urging Maryland police to investigate allegations a security guard used a stun gun on a health care worker who refused to remove a face covering inside a grocery store.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called for the Howard County Police Department to investigate and called the incident an example of discriminatory behavior against people of color wearing protective face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement released Wednesday.

The council said the alleged victim, a Muslim man of Tunisian heritage, entered an LA Mart grocery store in Columbia this month on his way home from his job, which includes serving patients with COVID-19.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on police to investigate a Muslim health care worker's claims that he wa

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on police to investigate a Muslim health care worker’s claims that he was mistreated at a Maryland grocery store.

The security guard ordered the man to remove the protective face covering he was wearing or he would not be allowed to shop, the council said in its account.

“The shopper removed the face covering briefly to show the guard who he was — a regular customer and familiar face at the establishment — then replaced the face mask and requested the guard to move back to abide by social distancing guidelines,” the statement said.

The group alleged that when the shopper later walked toward the checkout counter to pay, the guard approached him “in a confrontational way,” used a stun gun on him and restrained him on the ground.

Howard County police confirmed officers were called to the Columbia grocery store location April 4 on a “report of a disorderly subject, The Baltimore Sun quoted spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn as saying. An investigation is ongoing, Llewellyn added.



Kaduna: JIBWIS sacks Imam for complying with ban on mass congregation

April 17, 2020

By Wale Odunsi

The Zaria branch of Jama’atuIzalatilBid’aWa’iqamatis Sunnah (JIBWIS), has sacked an Imam for complying with Kaduna State Government ban on congregational prayers.

The Imam, Malam Abubakar Sarki-Aminu, has been leading prayers at Sheik Abubakar Mahmood Gumi Juma’at Mosque, KofarGayan Low-cost, Zaria for almost 40 years.

NAN reports that Sheik Sani Yakubu, the JIBWIS Chairman, confirmed the issue on Friday in Zaria, but declined further comment.

The mosque’s Chairman, Alhaji Shehu Dan-Maikuli, who spoke on his behalf, explained that prior to the removal of the Imam, there were some issues.

“After the resolution, it was agreed that the Imam should be organizing monthly committee meetings to discuss problems and prospects of the Mosque, but after that resolution, we spent over four years without a single meeting.

“When this issue of coronavirus came, one day, the Imam stood up after leading Zuhur prayer and announced that from that day he had suspended congregational prayers until the issue was over.

“When I came for Asr prayer, I was told that the Imam ordered for closure of the Mosque. I called him on the phone to enquire and he said yes he had ordered that the Mosque be closed,” he said.

Dan-Maikuli added that the Imam neither consulted him being the chairman, nor other members of the committee before taking the decision.

He said that they reported the case to the Chairman, JIBWIS, Zaria Local Government, who came on Wednesday and led Isha (night) prayer and thereafter announced the sack of the Imam and replaced him with Malam Ahmad Tijjani.

“The State Government declared that henceforth Juma’at prayer is banned and any gathering above 50 people should be suspended.

“Our Mosque usually witnesses a very large crowd of worshippers, as such, we have to comply with the directives given by Gov. Nasiru el-Rufa’i to avoid the spread of the disease.

“I stood up after leading a congregational prayer to tell the people that in view of the order by the state government, I have suspended congregational prayers in the mosque until the ban is lifted,” he said.

Sarki-Aminu said; “My deputy Imam called me on the phone that Sheik Sani Yakuba ordered that we should continue with the congregational prayers, that I should come out for Subhi (dawn) prayer.

“I replied to him that, if the chairman wants me to continue with the congregational prayers, let him formally write to me so that I will be convinced that his order supersedes that of the government.

“I waited without anything to that effect, later I learned that the chairman came and led a congregational Isha’i prayer and announced my removal and replacement.”

On the allegation that he did not consult the Mosque committee before the closure, Sarki-Aminu observed that whenever the government gives directives “then who else will give a counter-directive?

“In an ideal situation, Imam is the leader of the Mosque, the committee did not enquire from me but they decided to go straight to Sheik Sani Yakubu and he used his power and reopened the Mosque and subsequently announced my removal.”


Boko Haram's Shekau Labels Anti-COVID-19 Measures an Attack on Islam in Nigeria

by John Campbell

April 17, 2020

Abubakar Shekau, a Boko Haram faction leader, kidnapper-in-chief of the Chibok school girls, notorious for his grisly videos and brutal implementation of punishments of seventh century, Middle Eastern origin, this week issued an audio recording on the coronavirus after a long period of radio silence.

In it, he characterizes international measures to address the coronavirus pandemic as part of the war on Islam by evil forces. He denounces especially social distancing, the suspension of pilgrimages to Mecca, and the likely modification of certain Ramadan observances. “Just look at it, they stopped you from Umrah and Hajj, even the fasting they are telling you that corona season needs a lot of drinking water.” He asserts that “Muslims,” by whom he means exclusively the followers of his extreme brand of Salafi Islam, are protected from the virus.

“We pray five times a day, we pray Jummu’a, we sleep with our families, we hug, we shake hands, we are fine, fine fine,” he said on the recording. “We have anti-virus while you are infected with the coronavirus, we have anti-coronavirus; it is the Allah we worship. We pray, we slash fornicators, we cut hands.” (“Cut hands,” according to the translator of the recording, means amputating the hands of thieves.)

As he has many times before, he is contemptuous of secular leaders: “In the times of infidels like Trump, Idris Derby [sic] with the goat eye, Buhari, Muhammad Issoufu, the dog of the hands of France. Children of pigs and monkeys. If you don’t repent you will be finished.” Idris Deby is the president of Chad, Muhammed Issoufu is the president of Niger, and Muhammadu Buhari is the president of Nigeria. All three are allied against Boko Haram. Deby and Issoufu lead former French colonies, and have close ties with France; all three are Muslim but hold secular office, which Boko Haram regards as evil.

The public health measures force a major change in how Muslims normally practice their religion. At mosque, those praying are shoulder-to-shoulder, contrary to social distancing; during the Ramadan fast, many northern Nigerian Muslims drink no water sunrise to sundown; and the Hajj, subject to the travel ban, is regarded as a sacred obligation. While mainstream Islamic figures have endorsed the government’s public health measures, their credibility among many of the marginalized in the north is low. Shekau’s attacks may resonate specifically with these marginalized people.

The audio does not, apparently call for accelerated attacks on government targets. So far, at least, Shekau's last audio has not attracted the same level of attention that he enjoyed in the past, even as Boko Haram continues to be highly active. Part of the explanation may be the greater awareness that Boko Haram is a bundle of factions rather than a unified movement under Shekau, which was the perception of some years ago. He is also one of many in a long list of terror groups around the world issuing their “response” to the coronavirus pandemic.


Boko Haram: First NAF A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft completes inaugural flight

18th April 2020

The full fleet of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft for the NAF are currently in production by SNC and Embraer at the Jacksonville facility with delivery to the NAF expected on schedule in 2021.

The NAF A-29 aircraft will now begin mission modification and final testing in Centennial, Colorado. Following final testing, before delivery, NAF pilots will train in the aircraft.

“This is an exciting milestone in the production of these A-29s for the Nigerian Air Force. The Jacksonville production line is active, and Embraer and SNC look forward to seeing these aircraft continue to roll off the line in the coming months,” says Jackson Schneider, president & CEO, Embraer Defense& Security.

“The aircraft met or exceeded all the requirements and we are very pleased with the successful flight,” stated Ed Topps, vice president of Tactical Aircraft Systems and programs for SNC’s IAS business area. SNC and our partner, Embraer, are certain the Nigerian Air Force will be pleased with these aircraft.”

The combat-proven A-29 Super Tucano is the gold standard of light attack combat and reconnaissance aircraft around the world and is designed and built for the mission in Nigeria. In December 2018, SNC and Embraer Defense& Security were awarded the contract to deliver 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force. It is expected that the fighter jets when delivered will enhance Nigeria’s capability to eliminate terrorists activities especially Boko Haram insurgency and banditry in the Northeast and other parts of the country.


Boko Haram: Buhari reacts as fire kills 14 in Borno IDP camp

April 17, 2020

By John Owen Nwachukwu

President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday evening, described as “extremely horrifying,” the news of the death of 14 persons and injury to many from a fire incident at an IDP camp in Ngala, Borno State.

At least 14 people were burnt to death and dozens injured when a fire broke out Thursday at the IDPs camp.

In 2015, more than 30,000 civilians fled their homes in the wake of attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group and have been taking refuge at the camp.

Reacting to the sad incident, the President directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to investigate and report the circumstances leading to the incident, and advise on how a future occurrence will be averted.

Buhari’s reaction to the ugly incident was contained in a statement signed by Garba Shehu and made available to DAILY POST on Thursday.

He further directed that urgent assistance be immediately given to the victims, and prayed to Allah to repose the souls of those whose lives were lost, and the quick recovery of the injured persons



Sindh High Court rejects plea challenging ban on congregational prayers in mosques

April 17, 2020

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court rejected on Friday a plea challenging the restriction on praying in mosques, declaring that it was not maintainable.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed, while announcing the verdict, observed that the government had taken the step to ensure public safety and the court could not intervene in its policy on the matter.

“President Dr ArifAlvi will hold a meeting with ulema to discuss the matter and most religious scholars had already consented to limiting religious activities at mosques due to the pandemic,” the court stated.

The deputy attorney-general had earlier informed the court that the president’s meeting with ulema was scheduled to take place on April 18, following which a policy would be devised on praying in mosques.

Moreover, the additional advocate-general had maintained before the court that mosques were not closed and only the number of worshippers allowed to pray inside mosques at a given time had been limited.

“Azan [the call for prayers] is made regularly five times a day,” he had said, adding that the lockdown orders were in public interest and aimed at safeguarding people against the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the lockdown, too, had been eased, he had maintained.

The plea had challenged the restriction on praying in mosques, stating that it was against the fundamental rights of citizens and the government could not bar them from praying at mosques.

The same bench also issued notices to the federal and provincial government, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and other relevant authorities, seeking their replies on a plea pertaining to the absence of coronavirus safety arrangements at courts.

During the hearing, Advocate Amir Nawaz Warraich maintained before the court that virtually no measures were taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in court buildings. Additionally, lawyers have been in a financial crisis due to the lockdown, he said.

He moved the court to order the installation of walkthrough gates and sanitiser containers as well as the provision of protective kits and N95 masks, besides financial aid, to lawyers.

The court issued notices to the federal and provincial government, NDMA and other relevant authorities, directing them to submit their replies on the plea by April 24.


LHC moved against dismissal of factory workers in Punjab during lockdown

Rana Bilal

April 18, 2020

A petition was filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday challenging the dismissal of hundreds of thousands of factory workers and private employees during the lockdown — enforced to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus — in Punjab .

Government of Punjab, Punjab's Department of Industries and Commerce, and Department of Labour have been named as respondents in the petition, a copy of which is available with, filed by Advocate Ishtiaq A Chaudhry.

While it notes that a nationwide lockdown has been imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, the petition points out that trade organisations and factory owners have laid off workers during the lockdown in Punjab.

It further notes that the governments of Sindh and Balochistan have undertaken steps to protect the jobs of wokers in their provinces but in Punjab, it claims, hundreds of thousands of workers in are now facing financial ruin after losing their jobs.

The petition requests the court to instruct the Punjab government to reinstate all workers fired after imposition of the lockdown in addition to financial compensation for them.


Fearing more Covid-19 cases, CM Murad orders setting up of field hospitals in every district

Tahir Siddiqui

April 18, 2020

KARACHI: Fearing a sudden surge in coronavirus cases in the coming days, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Friday ordered establishment of 10,000-bedded field hospitals across the province.

“The provincial government must prepare to establish field hospitals in every district,” he said, adding that the number of Covid-19 infected patients was swelling as more tests were being conducted.

The meeting was attended by Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, Health Secretary Zahid Abbasi, CM’s focal person on coronavirus Najam Shah and additional health secretary Fayaz Abbasi.

The CM also directed the health minister to identify vacant or newly constructed government buildings and grounds where isolation centres could be set up.

The chief minister directed the education department to hand over the newly constructed building in Tando Mohammad Khan for setting up a field hospital when he was informed that it had the capacity to house at least 50 patients. He approved to establish a 50-bedded hospital within a week.

The chief minister directed the health minister to arrange medical and paramedical staff and medicines for the field hospitals being established at the district level.

The health minister told the CM that 185 critical-care units equipped with ventilators were established in different hospitals. They include 10 in Dow University’s Ojha campus, 11 in Indus Hospital, 10 in Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), 12 in Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital, 12 in Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, three in Lyari General Hospital, 14 in Trauma Centre Karachi, 20 in Liaquat University Hospital Hyderabad, eight in Liaquat University Hospital Jamshoro, 14 in Peoples Medical University Shaheed Benazirabad, 10 in Khairpur Medical College, six in Sukkur, 14 in Chandka Medical College Larkana, 20 in GIMS Gambat, four in Syed Abdullah Shah Institute Sehwan, five in District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) Kotri, five in Indus Hospital Badin, three in DHQ Thatta, two in DHQ Sujawal and two in Jacobabad.

He said that there must be a proper cleanliness system so that other diseases could be prevented from appearing while containing the coronavirus.

In his message to the people of the province and overseas Pakistanis, the chief minister said on Friday that 209 new cases of coronavirus had emerged during the last 24 hours and 132 of them belonged to the Tableeghi Jamaat (TJ).

“The number of deaths so far has reached to 47, which is 2.1 per cent,” he said, adding that 1,589 patients were still under treatment including 872 in home isolation, 469 at isolation centres and 248 in hospitals.

The chief minister said that five patients had recovered completely and were sent back to their homes with a certificate of recovery. “As many as 581 patients have recovered so far which is 26 per cent of the total patients.”

About the members of the Tableeghi Jamaat, he said that 4,653, out of total 4,692, had been tested across the province and total 429 of them were diagnosed as positive while 91 results were awaited.

Giving district-wise details of Karachi’s 77 cases, the chief minister said in South district 30 cases had been detected from Lyari, Kharadar, Lea Market, Burnes Road, Kalapul, Shoe Market, Saddar and Garden.

In East, as many as 16 cases were detected in parts of Gulbahar, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Sharif Colony, Khalil Colony and KECHS. In Korangi, six cases detected from Nasir Colony, Faisal Colony and PIA Society. In Malir, six cases were located in Landhi and Gulshan-i-Hadeed.

Total eight cases were detected in district West’s Afghan Basti and its nearby shantytown, Northern Bypass and Baldia Town and most of the 11 cases in district Central were detected in slums and, therefore, more precautionary measures should be taken by residents of the area.

The chief minister said that under a new strategy the hotspots, where more cases were being detected, would be closed completely.

“I am quite upset with the spread, as without observing complete social distancing and isolation of the people we would not be able to contain the virus,” he said.

Addressing overseas Pakistanis, the chief minister said that data available with him showed that the Pakistanis living abroad had been affected by Covid-19 more than the Pakistanis living in the country.

He told them that the loss of lives they suffered were more than in Pakistan. “We are with you at this testing time,” he said and added the federal government was trying to bring them back him.

Mr Shah said that a flight was due to land in Karachi on Friday bringing back Pakistanis living abroad. “We, as a provincial government, are working with the federal government to test the arriving overseas Pakistanis at Jinnah terminal and have made arrangement for necessary quarantine,” he said.

The chief minister said that the overseas Pakistanis had always been a great source of foreign exchange adding, “You are our asset and we will always be with you.”


SC urged to order govt to declare financial emergency

April 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was requested on Friday to order the federal government to declare a financial emergency under Article 235 of the constitution in view of the financial crisis due to the continuous lockdown triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Filed by Maulvi Iqbal Haider, the petition requested the top court to order the federal government to formulate a national policy under “One Flag and One Nation”.

Such a policy, the petitioner contended, should be made after consultation with the representatives of provincial governments, opposition parties, economic experts, medical specialists, technocrats, professionals of different fields and traders with an aim to take a unanimous decision to defeat the Covid-19 disease.

The petition also requested the court to order the federal and provincial governments to save the lives of people and bear medical expenses for treatment of all patients suffering from the Covid-19 disease and admitted to government or private hospitals.

The petition urged the Supreme Court to order the federal and provincial governments to convert all educational institutions and marriage halls of the country into quarantine centres with provision of all necessary medical equipment and other necessary items such as sanitisers, masks, gloves for medical staff posted and patients kept there.

The governments should also conduct fumigation of all cities through local governments’ staff by providing them relevant chemical sprays under the supervision of district deputy commissioners, the petition said.

The governments should also install walkthrough gates equipped with fumigation facilities outside all public offices, mosques and other religious places, the petition pleaded, adding that the governments should also not directly or indirectly pay financial assistance to any needy person except through banks after verification of their CNICs from Nadra under the supervision of the Auditor General of Pakistan.

Likewise, the governments should also submit a list and break-up of the needy people who had received the financial aid and the amount of funds reserved by the governments to face the crisis, the petition said.

The Supreme Court should also order the governments to give subsidy on food items to unemployed people and daily-wage workers to help them weather the calamity, the petition suggested.

The petition said that the priority at this point should be to save the lives of people, which required the federal and provincial governments to make a joint strategy to fight the pandemic as well as its socioeconomic impact.

Regrettably, the federal and provincial governments were engaged in bickering and blame-game which must be stopped, the petition said, adding that wasting of time and energy on petty politics and point-scoring would only put the lives of more people at risk.

The economic hardship, especially of the poor, was of as much concern as the spread of infections, and both sides would need to compromise on it, the petition added.

It said there was an alarming situation with regard to the financial crisis — a situation about which the Constitution provided a way out by imposing financial emergency under Article 235 of the Constitution.

Under the emergency, salaries and allowances of all people serving in government or semi-government offices or holding/serving posts in constitutional offices or employees of corporations/banks/public or private limited companies should be required to be deducted to maintain the economic life and financial stability of the country, the petition suggested.



Iran identifies COVID-19 genome sequencing data for first time

17 April 2020

The head of Iran’s Biotechnology Society says Iranian researchers have managed to identify the COVID-19 genome sequencing for the first time in the country.

“Iranian researchers managed for the first time in the country to determine the coronavirus genome sequencing, i.e. they determined its genetic code,” SirousZeinali told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on Friday.

He added that the sequencing showed that the novel coronavirus has had “a very limited genetic mutation” in Iran, noting that the virus shared properties in regions such as Iran, the United States and China’s Wuhan, where the global outbreak first occurred in December.

Noting that the genome sequencing taken from Iranian patients had been carried out in collaboration with Iran’s Pasteur Institute, he said, “By determining the coronavirus genome sequencing, it was known that in case of the production of any vaccine or treatment for this disease, it can be usable all across the world without any distinction.”

Zeinali said nearly 4,000 COVID-19 genome sequencing have been recorded so far across the world, mainly in the US, emphasizing that Iranian researchers have managed to make such an achievement despite sanctions against the country.

The sanctions, imposed on the country after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, targeted much-needed humanitarian aid and blocked financial transactions.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) unveils a new technology that can detect and diagnose the new coronavirus within a 100-meter (0.06-mile) radius in only seconds.

The bans come despite an International Court of Justice ruling banning Washington’s aid-related sanctions in 2018.

Numerous world leaders and figures, many within the US, have called on Washington to stop its unilateral sanctions against Iran in these circumstances.

In a written statement published on Friday, Iran's Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the Islamic Republic was on the brink of containing the COVID-19 outbreak in most of the country’s provinces.

Namaki said Iran has been able to curb the outbreak using its own “successful model” despite lacking the financial and material support enjoyed by other countries.

The Iranian health minister also said on Tuesday that the number of fatalities from the pandemic has dropped to double digits for the first time in one month.

Iran’s Health Minister Namaki says the number of novel coronavirus fatalities drop to double figures for the first time in one month.

Speaking to the Iranian people on Instagram Live, Namaki hailed the country’s “proper” fight against COVID-19, adding, “We are implementing smart distancing and have announced protocols for it. We want to say that we are currently at a more appropriate situation.”


Turkey to bring home 25,000 stranded expats for Ramadan

Ahmet SertanUsul


Turkey will bring back 25,000 stranded expats from 59 countries so that they can spend the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with their families.

National flag-carrier Turkish Airlines will bring them home latest by April 27 as part of an operation initiated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Earlier on Friday, Vice President FuatOktay announced the expat evacuation operation on Twitter.

Turkey has always stood by its people regardless of their whereabouts amid the pandemic, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives across the globe, Oktay added.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) will transfer people to their residence at the end of the quarantine period.

A total of 1,559 people will be brought home from the U.K., 1,469 from Kuwait, 1,200 from Algeria, 863 from Ukraine, 861 from Iraq, 696 from France, 662 from Azerbaijan, 649 from the Netherlands, 543 from Canada, 540 from Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, 538 from United Arab Emirates, 488 from Poland, 455 from Spain, 380 from Russia, 394 from Northern Macedonia, 352 from Kyrgyzstan, and 341 from Switzerland.

Some other countries that will be covered by the evacuation operation are: Belgium, Malta, Egypt, Ireland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Czechia, Kosovo, Albania, Bahrain, Serbia, Italy, Sweden, Jordan, Oman, Iran, Sudan, Austria, Slovakia, Morocco, Thailand, Montenegro, Denmark, Ghana, Senegal, Benin, Qatar, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mauritania, Niger, Kenya, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Bosnia.

So far, the novel coronavirus has claimed 1,643 lives in Turkey, with registered cases topping 74,000. The country has already repatriated tens of thousands of Turkish nationals living abroad.

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has spread to at least 185 countries and regions across the world, with its epicenter shifting to Europe and the United States.

The pandemic has killed over 147,000 people and infected some 2.18 million, while nearly 555,000 have recovered from the disease, according to figures compiled by the U.S.’ Johns Hopkins University.


US seeks to tighten grip over Syrian oil as Damascus is busy battling COVID-19: Analyst

18 April 2020

Prominent Arab journalist Abdul Bari Atwan has said that the US seeks to consolidate its control over Syria’s northeastern oil fields as Damascus is preoccupied with tackling the COVID-19 outbreak in the war-torn country.

In an opinion piece published by the Arab Rai al-Youm website on Friday, Atwan said that the US and its regional allies were seeking to facilitate the looting of Syria’s oil using local mercenaries.

“Reports received from al-Hasaka in northeastern Syria indicate that the CIA has set up a recruitment and training center enlisting members of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” Atwan said of Kurdish militants.

The journalist added that the enlisted forces are given a monthly salary of $350 in order to guard the Syrian oil fields under US control.

The operations take place to allow “oil smuggling operations towards neighboring states, including Kurdish-administered Iraq and certain contractors including representatives of Israeli companies,” he said.

The US military reportedly dispatches 35 truckloads of military and logistical equipment to its positions in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah.

Atwan further noted that US President Donald Trump has on numerous occasions said that he intends to collect money from Syrian oil wells as “war spoils” and also grant a sum of it to “his Kurdish allies, specifically the SDF”.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Syria stands at nearly 35, according to the figures released by the health ministry, which also reported five cases of recovery and two deaths.

The war-ravaged Arab country has since 1979 been under arrays of unilateral economic US sanctions, which coupled with years-long foreign-backed terrorism has seriously damaged the healthcare sector in Syria.

Citing the ultimate disbanding of the Iraqi “Sahwah” units sponsored by US forces following the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Atwan said that the Kurdish forces will probably face a similar “lonely fate”.

“It is unfortunate that certain Kurdish groups which have counted on US support have turned into mercenaries guarding stolen Syrian oil,” he said.

“They do not learn from the past and continue the same mistakes, turning into cannon fodder for American plans,” he added.

“The east of the Euphrates river will surely come back under Syrian control and the US will flee the region just as it fled its military bases in Kirkuk and al-Taji in northern Baghdad,” the journalist noted.

Referring to an incident where over two dozen fighters affiliated to the US-supported Maghawir al-Thawra terrorist group joined the Syrian government forces from al-Tanf earlier this week, Atwan said similar incidents are expected in the future.

He added that similar events of a “larger scale” may also take place once Iraq starts implementing the parliament’s decision to abolish US military presence in the country.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said that resistance forces across the world will act to avenge Major General Qassem Soleimani.

in January, the Iraqi parliament voted unanimously in favor of a bill demanding the expulsion of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

The vote came days after the US assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi trenchmate, Hashd al-Shaabi (PMU) commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.


Iranians brought home from India on 8th evacuation flight

17 April 2020

Iranian authorities say 190 more nationals have been brought home from India on eight evacuation flight from the country amid the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic.

A senior official at Iran Civil Aviation Organization said the flight carried out earlier on Friday brought home nationals from the Indian city of Mumbai.

MortezaDehqan said that the Iranian nationals who had been in India for tourism, education and trade purposes had been stranded in Mumbai and other cities amid tight travel restrictions imposed by the Indian government to curb COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Dehqan said the government-chartered evacuation flights, the eight since the start of the pandemic in Iran in February, was carried out despite “excessive problems and difficulties” currently existing in India for processing such flights.

He said Iran’s flag carrier IranAir, which has currently no flights to India because of the pandemic, carried out the evacuation flight. 

Facing the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading to its large population, India has extended the world's biggest lockdown over the disease until at least May 3, saying tight measures are needed to save lives.

The lockdown has faced criticism and protests by foreigners in Mumbai, the city from which Iran evacuated its nationals on Friday.

Indian authorities announced earlier this week that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country had exceeded 10,000, while nearly 340 people have died from the virus.


Iran on brink of containing virus in most provinces: Health Minister

17 April 2020

In a written statement published on Friday, Namaki said that Iran has been able to curb the outbreak using its own “successful model” despite lacking the financial and material support enjoyed by other countries.

“Despite circumstances arising of sanctions and economic warfare, no patient was left abandoned behind hospital doors and no patient lacked needed drugs and medical care during the peak of the virus across cities,” he added.

The health minister added that Iran’s virus response was developed on scientific models and years of past experience “eradicating infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, polio, measles, mumps and tetanus”.

Namaki added that the country was seeking to gradually reopen businesses as part of “smart distancing” program to reduce the economic impacts of US sanctions, and restrictive measures adopted to slow the virus spread.

He note that if the ministry concludes that the reopening of businesses is resulting in “any negative impact on managing the disease, we will swiftly demand a re-imposition of restrictions“.

Speaking about the gradual reopening of businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic earlier this month, Iranian Deputy Health Minister IrajHarirchi said that the measures were necessary as Iran is “fighting both the coronavirus and sanctions”.

The sanctions, imposed on the country after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, targeted much-need humanitarian aid and needed finances from reaching the country.

Numerous world leaders and figures, many within the US, have called on Washington to stop its unilateral sanctions against Iran as the country grapples with the virus.

In a tweet on Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hailed China’s support for Iran and announced a joint condemnation against US sanctions against the country.

Before facing its own outbreak, Tehran had sent numerous aid shipments to China as it faced its peak in coronavirus cases.

Speaking on Friday, Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman KianoushJahanpour reported 1,499 new infections and 89 more deaths from the virus over the 24 hours to Friday.

In total, 79,494 Iranians have contracted the disease and 4,958 have died, he pointed out, saying 54,064 patients have recovered so far.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has blamed Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic and has called on Washington to impose sanctions similar to those imposed on Iran, the Washington Examiner cited him as saying on Thursday.

“What did we do to Iran who is the bad actor? We sanctioned Iran. What should we do to the largest state sponsor of pandemics on the globe? We should sanction China to get them to change their behavior," he said.

Graham’s remarks blaming China for the pandemic, however, come a few days after the US military claimed that US intelligence points that the virus may have occurred naturally.

The US military says that the coronavirus may have occurred naturally, casting doubt on claims that it originated in China.

Graham’s calls for sanctions against China also come as Washington has introduced new sanctions against Iran as it grapples against COVID-19, further defying international calls to roll back bans impeding humanitarian aid from reaching the country.


Southeast Asia 

11 Philippine troops killed in clash with Muslim militants

17 April 2020

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Philippine troops clashed with dozens of Abu Sayyaf militants allied with the Islamic State group in the country´s south Friday, leaving 11 soldiers dead and 14 others wounded, military officials said.

Regional military commander Lt. Gen. CirilitoSobejana said the army scout rangers were maneuvering for an assault when they engaged about 40 Abu Sayyaf fighters in the forested mountains off Danag village in Patikul town in Sulu province. The gunbattle raged for an hour before the militants withdrew.

A military report said the militants were believed to be led by Abu Sayyaf commanders RadulanSahiron and HatibHajanSawadjaan, who have been blamed for kidnappings for ransom and beheadings.

Troops fired mortar rounds toward the retreating militants, and other army troops moved to block the gunmen, the military said.

The military has been staging on-and-off offensives against the Abu Sayyaf, which is listed by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization, for years. The small but violent group is an offshoot of the decades-long separatist unrest in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation.

The violence has eased since the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a peace deal with the government that replaced a Muslim autonomous area with a more powerful and better-funded region.


Healthcare workers and their families to get free meals for breaking of fast during Ramadan

18 Apr 2020

SINGAPORE: Healthcare professionals and their families will get free meals to break fast this Ramadan, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) announced on Saturday (Apr 18).

MUIS said zakat beneficiaries and other needy families will also get the free meals "during this challenging time".

"This initiative aims to express our gratitude and solidarity with those on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 and to support those who are significantly affected by the outbreak," it added.

Agencies and community organisations will work together to distribute 15,000 meals a day throughout the month of Ramadan. Meals will be delivered to hospitals, community centres or clubs and homes of zakat beneficiaries.

This initiative is a joint collaboration between MUIS, mosques, the Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation (RLAF), Peoples’ Association, Roses of Peace and Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Roses of Peace, a youth-driven initiative promoting interfaith harmony, founder Mohamed Irshad said feeding people in need is a cornerstone of all religions, especially Islam.

"With the COVID-19 pandemic and circuit breaker measures in place, we are facing a real threat of people in need going hungry during this month," said Mr Irshad, who is also a Nominated Member of Parliament.

“Over the years, Buka Puasa (breaking fast) has become a massive community bonding affair bringing together the Muslim community and people of other faith traditions in Singapore."

Individuals can register for the daily meals at this website from Apr 18. Meals can be collection at 20 community centres or clubs across Singapore each day from Apr 24 to May 23 between 5.15pm and 6.15pm.

Zakat beneficiaries will have their meals delivered to their homes, while healthcare professionals on duty will get them at their respective hospitals.

MUIS aims to raise S$2.5 million for this initiative and will initially provide S$1 million. RLAF will also start fundraising through Giving.SG for public donations to raise another S$1.5 million.

"MUIS and our mosques are happy and committed to be part of this meaningful initiative to reignite our community spirit and show solidarity with our healthcare workers, and those affected in the ongoing crisis," its chief executive Esa Masood said.


Muslims Prepare For Ramadan During Coronavirus Pandemic


WINTER PARK, Fla. (AP) — Seattle resident Maggie Mohamed was looking forward to spending the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in her native Egypt.

Now, with the spread of the new coronavirus, flying is off the table. So is having friends and relatives over for a potluck iftar, the breaking of the fast. Mohamed is older than 65 and says she cannot risk it.

Ramadan, which starts later this month, unites Muslims the world over in fasting and worship. This year, it follows a string of religious holidays that have also unified the faithful from different religions in grappling with how to observe familiar rituals and celebrations in a time of unfamiliarity.

Mohamed is contemplating workarounds. She always looks forward to the special Ramadan prayers, known as “taraweeh,” at the mosque. She will now pray at home with her daughter. But what about the dua, or supplication? The imam moves her to tears. As he prays for dead loved ones or those suffering in faraway lands in his “miraculous” voice, sobs rise from the faithful and intermingle with chants of “Amen” recited in unison.

“That would help us a lot,” she said, even as she noted it wouldn’t be the same. At her mosque, female worshippers hug and chat after the prayers as children scurry around and dates and chocolate are passed from hand to hand.

The Azazie Mosque in Varna, Bulgaria livestreams on Facebook to connect with their mosque members at home, on April 07, 2020.

During Ramadan, the faithful abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset as they strive for self-purification and empathy. It’s a time for prayers, introspection and charity. Normally, it’s also a time for family, friends and festive feasting.

Many Muslims have been praying for the coronavirus cloud, which has already disrupted Islamic worship the world over, to lift before Ramadan. Mosque closures and modified calls for prayers urging the devout to pray at home have left many feeling emotional. They are relying on worship at home and online religious classes. This year, some are planning virtual interfaith iftars.

“How do we build ourselves to where we are more connected to Him?” asked Suleiman, who has been streaming virtual sermons and nightly reflections to more than 1.4 million Facebook followers.

“Now we have a chance to develop empathy with those that have not had access to their religious spaces due to oppressive circumstances.”

A woman walks through an AlAzhar district street market where people usually buy spices and herbs to prepare for R

A woman walks through an Al Azhar district street market where people usually buy spices and herbs to prepare for Ramadan, in Cairo, Egypt, 12 April 2020.

Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore have banned popular Ramadan bazaars where hawkers sell food and drinks in congested open-air markets or roadside stalls. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, vendors are now planning to bring their businesses online through mobile apps or digital platforms provided by local authorities during the fasting month.

Mohamad Fadhil, a trader in Malaysia’s southern Johor state, said he was resigned to not being able to do business at the Ramadan bazaar or perform the taraweeh prayers at the mosque. “We just have to be patient and follow orders,” he said.

In Iran, which is suffering one of the world’s worst outbreaks, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that mass gatherings may be barred through the holy month. “Remember to heed your prayers and devotions in your lonesomeness,” he said.

A Palestinian vendor wears a face mask while preparing for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Gaza City, on April 15, 2020.

The Islamic Waqf, which administers the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third-holiest site, announced today that the mosque will continue to be closed to worshippers for Ramadan.

It’s difficult, Sheikh Azzam Khateeb, the director general of the Waqf, said before the latest announcement, but “the health of the worshippers comes before anything else.”

ZuherDubie, a 71-year-old mosque preacher in the West Bank city of Nablus, has been observing Ramadan and praying in mosques since he was 10. For the first time since, Dubie said, he wouldn’t be able to practice some of the month’s rituals.

In Egypt, the Ministry of Religious Endowments decided to suspend communal Ramadan activities, including mass charity iftars around mosques. Mosques have already closed for prayers there and the country is under a night-time curfew.

Ordinarily, worshippers fill mosques and shoppers swarm markets. Loved ones gather over scrumptious iftars. Strangers break bread together in street banquets that feed the needy. Cafes teem with patrons chatting over a cacophony of gurgling water pipes and blaring music. And Ramadan lanterns cast a colorful glow over bustling streets.

In some areas, a “mesaharati,” bangs on a drum as he wakes up residents for “suhoor,” the pre-dawn meal that will sustain them through another day of fasting.

Before, she would slip early to bed as many binge watch television shows produced for Ramadan entertainment. At around 3:00 a.m., she would wake up to have “suhoor” and cook up a storm. Using groceries that she and co-workers had pitched in to buy, she would prepare dozens of meals before she left for work. Before iftar, Selim and other volunteers would go outside to distribute boxes neatly packed with salad, rice, chicken or meatballs.

Now, she likely won’t be able to hand out meals on the street but she’s determined to send iftars to the homes of those she knows need them.


Huge crowds ignore social distancing during Friday prayers in Indonesia's Aceh province as nation surpasses Philippines as country with most coronavirus infections in SE Asia

17 April 2020

Huge crowds ignored social distancing by packing close together to attend Friday prayers in Indonesia, as the country surpassed the Philippines for the most coronavirus infections in South-East Asia.

The worshippers were pictured at the Islamic Center mosque in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province, the northernmost part of the island of Sumatra.

The Acehnese Muslims - who are native to Aceh- were seen close together as they stood alongside each other before kneeling down to pray. Very few were wearing masks, despite the infection fears.

On Friday, officials in the country reported 407 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number to 5,923. A total of 420 people have died in the country, with the country's health ministry saying 42,000 people have been tested.


Indonesia: Muslim body for using zakat to fight slump

PizaroGozaliIdrus   |


Indonesia’s top religious authority on Friday recommended using the institution of zakat-- obligatory charity and one of the five pillars of Islam – to combat an imminent economic slowdown staring the world in the wake of lockdown enforced by the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.

The religious authority asked people to use zakat and infaq – a nonobligatory type of charity given without any expectation of reward – to help poor neighbors, facing economic hardships.

Secretary-General of Indonesian Ulema Council Anwar Abbas said neighbors should be a priority while disbursing either zakat or infaq funds.

"Although we may have performed Umrah pilgrimage 10 times, if we let our neighbors starve, we cannot be said to have a good faith [in God]. It is all about how to love others as we love ourselves," Abbas told Anadolu Agency.

He said neighbors are the closest components of the society. “This can help low-income most vulnerable households to face the imminent economic slowdown, “he said.

The religious scholar added that besides saving a neighbor from starving, the move will also strengthen social relations in the community.

In addition to disbursing charity directly to neighbors, Abbas suggested that each neighborhood association start an early collection of zakat and infaq. Muslims largely disburse zakat in the fasting month of Ramazan.

He also suggested raising groups locally at microlevels, who will take care of the collection and disbursing of zakat and other forms of charity to the needy in the locality.

Abbas said that with this method, many people affected by the economic slowdown could get faster and reliable help.

He said it will be easier for neighborhood associations to find needy households. He, however, called for taking such steps immediately before the effects of economic slowdown rear its head.


For Sri Lanka's Muslims, the Easter bombing anniversary marks a year of scapegoating and persecution

17 April, 2020

On 21 April, 2019, as Sri Lanka's 1.5 million Christians celebrated Easter Sunday, bombs ripped through churches and hotels in Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa, killing at least 350 and injuring hundreds.

When the little known National Towheed Jamaat claimed responsibility for the attacks, Sri Lanka had a choice to make. The government could investigate perpetrators and bring them to justice while ensuring the protection of minority rights, or it could hold the country's 2 million Muslims responsible for a crime they did not commit.

The government chose the latter, co-opting its Christian community's pain for a Sinhalese-Buddhist backlash. In the days and weeks after, Sri Lanka enforced internet blackouts and intermittent curfews, arbitrarily arresting Muslims, detaining hundreds without cause, and instituting a ban on burqas.

According to Human Rights Watch, the vast majority of arrests were made under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a long-abused law that the government had pledged to the United Nations Human Rights Council to repeal.

Reports from human rights watchdogs allege that Muslims had often been arrested without any credible evidence of terrorist involvement, for reasons including possessing Qurans, having an expired passport, and in one particularly disconcerting instance, for the pattern on a dress. The pattern, police argued, belonged to Buddhists, not Muslims.

In June, Sri GnanarathanaThero - Sri Lanka's most prominent Buddhist monk - called for a boycott of Muslim businesses before issuing a chilling ultimatum: "These traitors must not be allowed to live in freedom." A few weeks later, another monk, GnanasaraThero called for the stoning of Muslims, claiming they were sterilising Buddhist women.

Far from being isolated incidents, these attacks illustrate the normalisation of Islamophobia as statecraft in Sri Lanka. According to a report from the International Crisis Group (ICG), in the months following Easter, Buddhist hardliners attacked more than 200 Muslim houses, businesses, mosques, and Quranic schools. For the most part, these attacks went unpunished.

No group epitomises the resurgence of Buddhist ultranationalism in Sri Lanka more than the BoduBalaSena or "Buddhist Power Force." The BalaSena has long enjoyed the support of Sri Lanka's political elite; support it has leveraged to stoke anti-Muslim hatred with impunity.

Its founder, GnanasaraThero has been consistently linked to hate crimes, and is on record threatening Muslims with violence - "if any Muslim lays a hand on us, that will be the end of them." Convicted in 2018 for contempt of court, the firebrand monk was granted a presidential pardon a week after last year's attacks. Days after, he set a deadline to the government to fire Muslim provincial governors, causing all of Sri Lanka's Muslim ministers to resign in protest.

Last November, Gotabaya Rajapaksa's election win marked a return to majoritarian politics for Sri Lanka. Nicknamed 'The Terminator' by his own family, Gotabaya has been accused of authorising "death squads" during Sri Lanka's civil war and overseeing the indiscriminate bombing of places of worship by government forces.

As Sri Lanka teetered after the attacks, Gotabaya campaigned on the promise of protecting Sri Lanka from the "Muslim threat" - a stance he reiterated in his inaugural address: "I made a special request to Tamil and Muslim people to be partners in this victory. But their response was not to my expectation." Shortly after, the newly elected President appointed an all-male cabinet with no Tamil or Muslim representatives.

For Sri Lankan Muslims, the early signs of the Gotabaya era are ominous. This past January, the government rolled back promises made to the UN to investigate allegations of war crimes in the country; and in March, Gotabaya dissolved Sri Lanka's Parliament six months before its term ended. Experts warn the premier's strongman leadership will continue to embolden hardliners at the expense of minorities.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world, the government's indifference toward religious freedom for Muslims has surfaced with renewed force.

A new directive from the island's Ministry of Health mandates all victims be cremated, despite the World Health Organization (WHO) maintaining that bodies of victims "can be buried." This month, Sri Lanka cremated three Muslim coronavirus victims, in spite of protests from their families.

Misinformation, too, is on the rise. Last week, claims circulated in Sri Lankan media that Muslims were ignoring a curfew to congregate in mosques. In reality, locals had been asked to come to the mosque to be tested for Covid-19.

Dr John L. Esposito, founder of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, tells me Easter is a time for joy and reflection, an occasion to forge collective strength from pain. The holy day signifies change - emphasising both the significance of Christ's sacrifice and embodying hope for resurrection for all Christians.

At this year's Easter Mass in Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith underscored the need for reconciliation in the aftermath of terror - "We did not hate them, or return the violence. Resurrection is the complete rejection of selfishness."

As state sponsored terror bifurcates communities, the cardinal's words are a reminder that Sri Lanka's Muslims and Christians need each other now more than ever. For the island, peace is possible only if solidarity is allowed to blossom.


MHA asks states to trace Rohingya Muslims who attended Tablighi Jamaat event

Apr 18, 2020

Neeraj Chauhan

With close to 26,000 members of the Tablighi Jamaat and their contacts already under Covid-19 quarantine, the ministry of home affairs has found that Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar spread across regions of India, too, attended activities of the Islamic group in March and several of them were missing.

The ministry has asked all the state governments and police chiefs to trace the Rohingyas and their contacts on a “priority” basis.

In a letter sent to all state chief secretaries, directors generals of police and the Delhi police commissioner, a copy which was reviewed by HT, the MHA wrote:“It has been reported that Rohingya Muslis have attended ‘ijtemas’ (largest annual Islamic congregation organized by Tablighi Jamaat – March 13 to 15) and other religious congregations of Tablighi Jamaat and there is a possibility of their contracting Covid-19.”

“Rohingyas residing in camps in Hyderabad, Telangana had attended Tablighi Jamaat ijtema at Mewat, Haryana and had visited Nizamuddin Markaz at New Delhi. Similarly, Rohingyas living in ShramVihar, Shaheen Bagh, Delhi who had gone for TJ activities, have not returned to their camps”.

Following the Tablighi Jamaat’s mid-March congregation at its Markaz headquarters in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Basti, the area emerged as the country’s biggest hotspot of the coronavirus disease.

The MHA’s letter said the presence of Rohingya Muslims who attended the Tabligh Jamaat events has been reported from Derabassi, Punjab and the Jammu area.

“Rohingya Muslims and their contacts need to be screened for Covid-19. Accordingly, necessary measures may be taken in this regard on priority,” the MHA letter said.

According to an estimate by the government, there are around 40,000 Rohingyas living in camps across several states in India; 17,500 of them are registered as refugees with the United Nations.

A senior official who didn’t wish to be named noted the spurt in Covid-19 cases following the event in the Markaz,, and said: “... if Rohingyas ,who attended it ,living in camps across states ,are also affected, then it will be a bigger problem.”


Afghanistan records 27 new cases of COVID19 disease in the past 24 hours

18 Apr 2020

Afghanistan recorded 27 new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of positive cases to 933 across the country, since the outbreak of the virus.

The Ministry of Public Health announced Saturday that the authorities tested 308 people across the country in the past 24 hours.

According to Public Health Ministry officials, the authorities recorded 27 new positive of COVID-19, including 12 in capital Kabul.

The officials further added that the authorities recorded 7 other cases in Paktiya, 4 in Herat, 2 in Herat, 1 in Bamiyan and 1 in Daikundi province.

Meanwhile, the officials say 13 patients recovered in the past 24 hours, including 7 in Kabul, 2 in Herat, 2 in Bamiyan and 2 in Samangan province.


Afghan forces kill 6 Taliban militants, wound 2 others in Zurmat district

18 Apr 2020

The Afghan forces killed six Taliban militants and wounded two others during a clash in Zurmat district of South-eastern Paktiya province.

The 203rd Thunder Corps in a statement said the Afghan forces effectively responded to a Taliban attack in Sahak area of Zurmat district, killing at least six militants.

The statement further added that the security forces also wounded 2 other militants and confiscated a a vehicle belonging to militants.

Paktiya is among the relatively volatile provinces in South-east of Afghanistan where Taliban militants have active presence in some of its remote districts.

The anti-government armed militants often attempt to carry out attacks against the security personnel and governmental institutions in this province.


Details of the Indian terrorist who was arrested after 25 years in Afghanistan

18 Apr 2020

The Indian media outlets released the details of one of the most wanted Indian terrorist who was arrested by the Afghan security forces during an operation recently.

Remaining in the Wanted List of the Indian forces for almost two decades, Aijaz Ahmad Ahangar, originally hailing from NawaKadal of downtown Srinagar in Jammu and Kashir, was recently arrested by the Afghan intelligence operatives during a raid which also led to the arrest of ISIS Khurasan leader, Aslam Farooqi.

Ahangar had been a wanted man in Jammu and Kashmir for more than two decades who was arrested once for terror links and released, sometimes in 1990s, according to Hindustan Times.

He identified himself as Ali Mohammad, claiming that he was a resident of Islamabad, while being interrogated by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the intelligence agency of Afghanistan.

Counter terrorism operatives in Delhi and Kabul told the Hindustan Timesthat it was much later they discovered that the April 4 raid had also netted Aijaz Ahangar, the 55-year-old chief recruiter of the Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir. It was a surprise, said an Afghan watcher.

Ahangar joined the ISIS Khurasan, the offshoot of the Islamic State terror group in Afghanistan, after a brief association with the Al Qaeda terrorist network.


Mortar attack by Taliban kills 2 women, 1 child in Paktiya

18 Apr 2020

A mortar attack by Taliban militants killed three civilians in South-eastern Paktiya province of Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.

According to a statement released by MoD, the Taliban militants carried out mortar attack on Gardez city, the provincial capital of Paktiya province.

The statement further added that the mortar rounds landed on civilian houses in Gardez city which killed two women and child.




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