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‘Islamophobia’ Bill, To Address ‘Anti-Muslim Bias’ Worldwide, Passed In US House of Representatives

New Age Islam News Bureau

16 December 2021



U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) attends a news conference addressing the anti-Muslim comments made by Representative Lauren Boebert towards Omar, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz


• Hamid Karzai Had Invited Taliban into Kabul to Discuss a Negotiated Power-Sharing Agreement

• Starting From Zero in 1987, Hamas Can Now Hit All Israeli-Occupied Territories, Says Senior Leader

• Muslim Outfits Oppose Kerala’s Gender-Neutral Uniforms in Schools

• Engaging with the Taliban is the Ultimate Solution to Move Forward: Pakistan


North America

• Romin Iqbal, Executive Director of CAIR Fired For Allegedly Spying For "Islamophobia Network" In the US

• US dismisses Taliban’s call to release $10bn frozen assets of Afghanistan

• US Navy tests high energy laser weapon system in Gulf of Aden amid Iran tensions

• 'Surveillance mercenaries': US lawmakers call for sanctions on Israel's NSO Group


South Asia

• Taliban Intelligence Chief, Mullah Sardar, Assassinated In Herat by Unknown Gunmen

• Kandahar Officials Meet With Mawlawi Akhundzada

• Two months’ salaries of government employees to be paid soon: Taliban

• Afghan flights delayed as snow blankets Kabul’s airport



• Iran Allows IAEA to Install New Cameras at Karaj Facility to Obviate Misunderstandings

• Envoy: Iran to Continue Development of Ballistic Missiles, Space Launch Vehicles

• IAEA and Iran strike deal on new cameras for sabotaged workshop

• Turkey ‘neutralizes’ 14 PKK terrorists

• Yemeni forces take control of key positions on border with Saudi Arabia

• Hamas armed wing launches military drill in Gaza



• Gurugram Namaz Issue: Faith and Public Spaces, Through the Eyes of Indian Courts

• Muslim man arrested for using fake ID to get entry into Bhasma Aarti of Mahakal Temple

• Two unidentified militants killed in encounter in J&K's Kulgam

• J&K's new intel agency raids 16 places in terror, land-grab probe

• Decide fate of 10 Rohingya, HC tells Assam govt

• Top Hizb commander killed in overnight Pulwama encounter



• Minorities Alliance Pakistan Calls To Devise Policies for Protection of Religious Minorities

• Pakistan Prepares Over Rs11bn Package for Afghan Students

• 177,000 Pakistani children die before fifth birthday from malnutrition: minister

• US forensics firm confirms it inspected audiotape sent by Pakistani TV channel



• But For Buhari Terrorists Would Have Declared Islamic State of Nigeria— Minister

• Tunisia navy rescues 78 migrants, one dead: Defence ministry

• Libya’s election faces uncertainty amid immense political challenges


Southeast Asia

• Jakim Won’t Raise Legal Marriage Age for Muslims As Most States Against It, Minister Tells Parliament

• NRC chairman: Leverage market opportunities to accelerate growth in Muslim world

• Blame not ‘chopsticks’ for failure of Malaysians to integrate


Arab World

• Muslims Can Now Experience the Black Stone (Sang E Aswad) In Mecca Virtually Through New Initiative

• Egyptian Shia Activist and Journalist Banned From Travelling To Russia

• Two drones aimed at US military base in Syria intercepted

• Syrian soldier killed in Israeli missile attack on southern area

• Lebanon orders deportation of Shia Bahraini opposition group members

• UNESCO adds Bahrain musical performance to heritage list



• New Zealand Honours Heroes of 2019 Mosque Attack

• Italian, Libyan foreign ministers discuss strategic relations in Rome

• EU committed to maintaining frank dialogue with Turkey

• Tatarstan celebrates 1,100 years of Islam

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



‘Islamophobia’ Bill, To Address ‘Anti-Muslim Bias’ Worldwide, Passed In US House of Representatives



U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) attends a news conference addressing the anti-Muslim comments made by Representative Lauren Boebert towards Omar, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz


Dec 15, 2021

NEW DELHI: The US House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to approve a Democratic proposal for a US State Department office to address ‘anti-Muslim bias’ worldwide.

A group of over 30 American lawmakers led by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had introduced a bill in the House of Representatives in October this year.

The bill aims to create a special envoy for monitoring and combating ‘Islamophobia’ and alleged state-sponsored anti-Muslim violence in the department's annual human rights reports.

The creation of the Special Envoy will help policymakers better understand the interconnected, global problem of ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’, the group of over 30 lawmakers said.

Republicans, on the other hand, denounced the bill, calling it rushed and partisan, and voted against it.

Republican Rep. Scott Perry, of Pennsylvania, referred to Omar as anti-Semitic and implied that she has ties to terrorist organizations.

Much like the US House, not everyone on social media was convinced with the need to introduce and pass such a bill.

While a section of Twitter agreed that there were indeed sporadic incidents of ‘anti-Muslim bias’ in the west, there were others who argued that people of all religions in the world are subjected to such prejudice globally.

Meanwhile, Indian netizens too gave their two cents

Source: Times of India

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Hamid Karzai Had Invited Taliban Into Kabul to Discuss a Negotiated Power-Sharing Agreement



File photo of Former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. Photograph:( ANI )


ANI / Dec 15, 2021

KABUL: In a surprising shift in the popular narrative, former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has said that the Taliban was invited to Kabul before the takeover of the country's capital city on August 15.

Karzai revealed that he had invited the Taliban, who had agreed to wait outside of Kabul, to discuss a negotiated power-sharing agreement, contrary to popular belief that the group had taken over the capital.

In the buildup to Kabul's takeover, Afghanistan witnessed a swift fall of US-backed Afghan forces, following months of heavy assault by the outfit in key provincial cities.

"It was a request to come in and protect the population, so that the country, the city doesn't fall into chaos. and the unwanted elements who would probably loot the country, loot shops...," he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

The negotiations with the Taliban to peacefully take over Kabul were to protect the population so that the country, the city don't fall into chaos and the unwanted elements who would probably loot the country, Karzai told the international news agency in an interview, that was carried by The Hill.

The day the Taliban came into power they told Karzai that government officials should stay in their place and they would not invade. "I and others spoke to various officials and assurances were given to us that, yes, that was the case, that the Americans and the government forces were holding firm to the places [and] that Kabul would not fall," Karzai said.

As negotiations were happening, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other government officials left the country, in a move that hindered a peaceful transition agreement, said Karzai, as reported by the Washington-based publication.

The former Afghanistan President, who has been at the helm of humanitarian affairs in Afghanistan, has been holding talks with UN officials and other stakeholders in the country.

Karzai said that the Taliban government must now do all that is necessary within the country to safeguard the interests of all Afghans.

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is threatening basic rights, with women, girls, and civil society among those most affected.

On Tuesday, a senior UN rights official said that respect for fundamental rights and freedoms by authorities in Afghanistan is critical to ensuring stability in the country.

"How the de facto authorities - indeed, and the international community - address the drastic economic and humanitarian crises in the country will determine Afghans' enjoyment of human rights, now and into the future," said Nada Al-Nashif, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, during a press briefing.

Source: Times of India

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Starting From Zero In 1987, Hamas Can Now Hit All Israeli-Occupied Territories, Says Senior Leader


Palestinian resistance fighters display rockets during a military parade in Gaza. (File photo)


16 December 2021

A co-founder of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has said all Israeli-occupied territories can be hit by Hamas, as the resistance group has become much stronger since it was formed in 1987.

“Hamas started from scratch and confronted the enemy with stones, and today, it possesses capabilities that threaten all the occupied territories,” Mahmoud al-Zahar told Yemen’s al-Masirah television network on Wednesday.

Al-Zahar described the ongoing war with the Israeli regime as open-ended, saying the latest military exercise by Hamas’s armed wing confirms the resistance movement’s readiness to confront the Zionist entity and proves its steadfastness in defending occupied al-Quds and the al-Aqsa mosque.

Marking the 34th anniversary of Hamas’s foundation, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the resistance movement’s military wing, launched a military exercise in the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

The exercise, according to Hamas, was intended to send a message to Israel that the resistance is fully prepared “in case they think of doing something foolish” in the besieged Gaza strip.

Elsewhere in his remarks, al-Zahar said the new Israeli cabinet wanted to convey the impression that it was tougher on Palestinians in order to gain the support of the Israeli settlers.

He added that the Arab countries standing with Palestine had been similarly harmed by the Israeli regime, while some other Arab countries had been completely drawn into the normalization project.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and signed US-brokered normalization agreements with Israel in an event in Washington in September 2020. Sudan and Morocco followed suit later that year.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met the UAE’s de facto ruler in Abu Dhabi, becoming the first leader of the Israeli regime to visit the Persian Gulf state. The normalization attempts have been strongly denounced by Palestinians as an act of betrayal.

‘Hamas’s legitimacy lies in democratic polls’

Earlier, the former leader of Hamas said the resistance movement gained its legitimacy through its democratic elections as well as its commitment to the Palestinian struggle.

Hamas maintains its organizational cohesion through institutionalization and democracy, Khaled Meshaal said in a seminar in Istanbul on Monday, according to Hamas’s official website.

He further explained that Hamas sought to achieve reconciliation, unify the Palestinian position, and form a unified Palestinian leadership.

“To manage the conflict with the occupation, Hamas drew up a strategy based on what’s available inside Palestine, in the absence of strategic allies,” Meshaal said.

Meshaal underlined Hamas’s growing power as well, saying when strict restrictions were imposed on the group in a bid to prevent it from importing weapons, its fighters developed and manufactured weapons to “cover all the borders of the occupied entity.”

“The Israeli occupation aggression has become useless. Any aggression launched by the occupation affects the depths of its fragile entity,” he added.

“Our conviction of the imminent defeat of the occupier increases over time,” Meshaal asserted. “Whenever the enemy feels it is close to eliminating and obliterating the Palestinian cause, the Palestinian people and their resistance constantly bring the occupation back to square one.”

Source: Press TV

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Muslim Outfits Oppose Kerala’s Gender-Neutral Uniforms In Schools


Students of the Balussery Higher Secondary school wear the new gender-neutral uniform in an assembly. (Image: ANI)


Dec 16, 2021

A section of the Muslim community in Kozhikode district took out a protest rally on Wednesday against gender-neutral uniforms in schools, accusing the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Kerala government of “forcing modern dress concept on school children”.

A protest rally was held under the aegis of the Muslim Co-ordination Committee in Balussery in Kozhikode after a government higher secondary school in the area began unisex uniform system (pants and shirts). The new uniform pattern was introduced in higher classes, class 10 onwards, and state higher education minister R Bindu inaugurated the event.

“In higher classes, there are around 200 girls and 60 boy students. Some of the girls are forced to wear pants and shirts. There was no discussion before introducing such a system. It is part of imposing liberal ideologies on students,” a spokesperson of the Muslim coordination committee said. Many others outfits, including the Muslim Students Federation, the youth wing of the Muslim League, took part in the protest rally. No women took part in the protest. The spokesperson also said his organization would extend the protest to other parts of the state if the government insisted on continuing the new system.

Protestors said the new rule infringes upon girl students’ right to wear what they wish. They also insisted that the move was anti-democratic and encroached on women’s right to wear anything they like.

However, Muslim students said the orthodox sections of the community were varied that the new system will hinder the Arab dress culture of burqua (veil), prevalent in schools across many Muslim-dominated areas in the state. “They are pushing us to veil, and they fear their hold will vanish. This is a decent dress, and girls can cover their head also,” said a Muslim student who didn’t wish to be named.

“It is a welcome initiative and will help boost the confidence of girl children. Orthodox sections have no right to dictate,” said women rights activist Viji Palothodi, who fought for the right to sit for sales girls while on duty.

The government, on its party, has pledged all support to the initiative. Many women outfits have also lauded the move, saying it will help bridge the gender gap.

“It is a welcome move. At a time when the world is heralding an age of gender justice and equality, such steps will give the right direction to bridge the gender gap,” said the higher education minister Bindu, lauding students who welcomed the new initiative with open arms.

She said people who love children would not oppose such a progressive step. “When we start a new move opposition is natural. But the government will whole-heartedly support such initiatives,” she added.

School principal R Indu said a decision was taken after consulting parents and other stakeholders. She said the students who want to wear a shawl or muffler due to religious reasons are allowed, and there is no compulsion on the part of the school and asked all to support the new initiative and dump narrow concern.

A school in Ernakulam district, Valayanchirangara government school, started the unisex uniform system in the state in 2017. It introduced three-fourths for all children.People often call it the ‘three-fourth revolution’.

Source: Hindustan Times

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Engaging with the Taliban is the Ultimate Solution to Move Forward: Pakistan


Pakistan Ambassador Ahmad Mansoor Khan in Kabul, December 14, 2021 – Photo: Khaama Press/Firoz Sidiqy


16 Dec 2021

The Khaama Press News Agency conducted an inclusive interview with Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan Ambassador to Kabul on Tuesday, December 14, 2021, at the Pakistan Embassy.The main purpose of this interview was to gain the insight of Ambassador Ahmad Khan on the current political situation in Afghanistan, the massive challenges Afghan people are facing in different aspects including economy, security, unemployment, poverty, hunger, and more. The active engagement of Pakistan with the interim government of Afghanistan and ways to engage with the international community were discussed respectively.

In his remarks, Mansoo Ahmad Khan reiterated Pakistan’s active engagement and economic initiatives for Afghanistan in the coming years. “Pakistan remains a friendly and supportive neighbor having immense interest to help Afghanistan in boosting trade and regional connectivity, providing humanitarian assistance, offering scholarships, facilitating transportation of goods and the movement of civilians between the two countries,” said Mr. Khan.

He added, “Pakistan and Afghanistan transit relations and trade agreement are conducted based on Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Agreement (APTA), signed in 2010 between the countries. Although APTA has expired, Pakistan government allows Afghan exports to reach global markets as a good gesture and help Afghan traders sustain during these difficult times”.

He also pointed out that forming an inclusive government that represents all ethnic groups, minorities, women, and the youth is of paramount importance for the Afghan people and the future of Afghanistan. The inclusivity that has been emphasized by the regional countries, the international community, and the UN is a priority for Pakistan as well. Considering the fact that Afghanistan has been suffering from prolonged war and political conflict, dialogue and negotiations are the only viable option to lead the war-torn country towards economic prosperity and lasting peace.

Although Pakistan has not yet recognized the interim government of Afghanistan, it has been lobbying with the regional and international community to engage with the Taliban’s leadership and gradually recognize the new so-called caretaker government of Kabul.

Initiating economic programs which are significantly important for both countries was a major topic discussed in detail. Mr. Khan stated, that the resumption of TAPI mega project needs joint effort and balance cooperation from all member countries which is for the greater good of everyone. The project is vitally important for the future energy fulfillment of Pakistan and India and for establishing further trade agreements with the central Asian countries.

“Working for the peace process through political dialogue and negotiations is the most appropriate strategy considering the political change in Afghanistan. Achieving internal political agreement, engaging with the neighbors, and then having a regional and international community on board is the next priority. Pakistan is committed to working with major global powers including, Russia, China, U.S., and the European Union to bring a lasting peace in Afghanistan, which will benefit everyone, Pakistan in particular”, stated Mr. Khan.

Source: Khaama Press

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North America


Romin Iqbal, Executive Director of CAIR Fired For Allegedly Spying For "Islamophobia Network" In the US

15 December 2021

A state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Muslim rights group, has fired its executive director, accusing him of leaking confidential information to an anti-Muslim group.

CAIR-Ohio announced that its legal and executive director, Romin Iqbal, who had been leading the chapter since 2006, recorded meetings and shared information around its advocacy work with the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT)  - a group identified as a part of an "Islamophobia network" in the US.

"For years, Mr Iqbal was secretly sharing confidential information about our civil rights work—including surreptitiously recorded conversations, strategic plans and private emails—with anti-Muslim extremists," Nihad Awad, CAIR-National's executive director and co-founder, said in a statement late on Tuesday.

"He did this in violation of his ethical duties to the organization and his moral duty to protect the Ohio Muslim community."

The announcement came out of a third-party investigation conducted by a forensic expert retained by CAIR-National. The group said in a press release that Iqbal admitted to the allegations and that investigators concluded no other employee was aiding him.

Middle East Eye reached out to Iqbal but did not immediately receive a response.

The rights group also announced that amid the termination of Iqbal, one of its offices in Columbus, Ohio discovered that a credit card administered by the former director was used to make purchases from gun retailers. It said it also found a package mailed to its office containing parts for an AR-15 rifle.

"We recognize the difficulty of receiving this information and the unease it brings. We all feel betrayed by a once-trusted leader and advocate whom we relied upon," CAIR-Ohio's board of directors said in a statement on Tuesday.

"However, our mission to protect the civil rights of Ohio Muslims transcends any one individual. We want to assure the community that CAIR-Ohio’s local assets, operations, and infrastructure are safe and secure."

Decades of surveillance

The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), founded by Steven Emerson, describes itself as a non-profit research group that reports on "radical Islamic terrorist groups". However, according to Georgetown University's Bridge Initiative, Emerson has had a "history of promoting falsified information and conspiracy theories about Islam and Muslims".

In its press release, CAIR added that the IPT was communicating with the office of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and provided assistance to Israeli intelligence.

"The Israeli government was collaborating with an anti-Muslim hate group," the organisation said.

The IPT told MEE in a statement that it "has never and will never monitor the wider American Muslim community" but added that it will not hesitate to report on groups like CAIR, which it accused of conducting "radical Islamist activity".

MEE reached out to the Israeli embassy in Washington for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

"The fact that there is an obsession with CAIR and its leaders and work in the right-wing, in anti-Muslim circles, and even among corrupt government actors, tells me we are doing something right. Our work to protect and empower the community frightens them and they think they can undermine it," Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR's San Francisco Bay Area chapter, said in a Facebook post.

After firing Iqbal, CAIR-Ohio appointed Amina Barhumi as the chapter's acting executive director and Lina Abbaoui as acting legal director.

“Civil rights organizations andmovementsfor justice havebeen spied upon from withinfor decades,” Abbaoui told The Columbus Dispatch.“In particular, Muslim organizationshavebeen the target ofmalicious surveillanceattemptsdue to a continuous rise in Islamophobiaover the past two decades.”

Muslims in the US have spent decades dealing with informants within their communities, being placed on government no-fly lists, and facing discriminatory policies.

The announcement from CAIR comes more than a year after another prominent Muslim organisation, Emgage, was found to have had links to pro-Israel groups including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has in the past worked with US law enforcement to spy on and target Arab-American groups.

Source: Middle East Eye

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US dismisses Taliban’s call to release $10bn frozen assets of Afghanistan

15 December 2021

Washington has seized some ten billion dollars in assets belonging to the Afghan Central Bank since the sanctioned Taliban took power in August. Since then, the Taliban has been pressing the US to release the frozen assets, saying Afghans are harming amid worsening poverty.

On Monday, the White House once again dismissed calls to release the money.

In an interview with Press TV, deputy spokesman of the Taliban dismissed as illogical reasons provided by the White House.

Cash shortage in Afghanistan has led to a financial crisis in the country. People are complaining that they are finding it impossible to make ends meet.

According to UN estimates, poverty in Afghanistan is on the rise, while the majority of people, particularly children, are at serious risk of starvation, malnourishment, and lack access to health care and medicines.

Source: Press TV

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US Navy tests high energy laser weapon system in Gulf of Aden amid Iran tensions

16 December ,2021

The US Navy conducted a high-energy laser weapon system demonstration in the Gulf of Aden, the US Fifth Fleet said on Wednesday.

“During the demonstration, the Solid State Laser… aboard [the amphibious transport dock ship USS] Portland successfully engaged a static surface training target,” the statement read.

The Navy previously tested the weapon aboard the Portland in May 2020 when it successfully disabled a small unmanned aerial system while operating in the Pacific Ocean.

Arch enemies Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations over responsibility for attacks targeting maritime vessels linked to each country in the waters of the Gulf since February.

Western countries said Iran was behind the drone attack on Israeli-linked MT Mercer Street tanker off Oman’s coast which killed two people on board. Tehran denies the allegations.

The US Fifth Fleet’s area of operations encompasses approximately 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.

The Fifth Fleet is based Bahrain.

The laser weapon test comes at a time when tensions are high over whether or not the Vienna talks to revive the abandoned 2015 Iran nuclear deal would succeed.

Source: Al Arabiya

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'Surveillance mercenaries': US lawmakers call for sanctions on Israel's NSO Group

15 December 2021

Some Democratic lawmakers have called on the Joe Biden administration to impose financial sanctions on controversial Israeli spyware firm NSO Group and other surveillance companies from the UAE and Europe, saying they aided authoritarian regimes in committing human rights abuses.

In a letter on Tuesday, 18 US Senate and House of Representatives members asked the Treasury Department and State Department to sanction NSO, along with the United Arab Emirates’ cybersecurity company DarkMatter and European online bulk surveillance companies Nexa Technologies and Trovicor.

Among others, the letter was signed by Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden and House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, Reuters said in a report on Wednesday.

The letter contends that the companies facilitated the “disappearance, torture and murder of human rights activists and journalists” and asks for the application of “Global Magnitsky” sanctions, which would lead to freeze of bank accounts of company executives and travel ban to the US.

“To meaningfully punish them and send a clear signal to the surveillance technology industry, the US government should deploy financial sanctions,” reads the letter.

An investigation by 17 media organizations published in July revealed that the Israeli firm’s spyware was used for surveillance of more than 1,000 journalists, government officials and human rights activists in at least 50 countries.

The targeted individuals included several heads of state and prime ministers, Arab royal family members, business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists, and more than 600 politicians and government officials.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, also figured on the list.

The Israeli firm has since come under intense global scrutiny for its Pegasus software, considered one of the most powerful cyber-surveillance tools available on the market.

“These surveillance mercenaries sold their services to authoritarian regimes with long records of human rights abuses, giving vast spying powers to tyrants,” Reuters quoted Wyden as saying.

He accused those countries of using “surveillance tools to lock up, torture and murder reporters and human rights advocates”, adding that the Biden administration has the “chance to turn off the spigot of American dollars and help put them out of business for good.”

Source: Press TV

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South Asia


Taliban Intelligence Chief, Mullah Sardar, Assassinated In Herat by Unknown Gunmen

December 15, 2021

On December 14, Mullah Sardar, head of Taliban intelligence in Herat province was killed by unknown gunmen in Herat city of Afghanistan.

According to local sources in Herat, Mullah Sardar, the Taliban intelligence chief in Herat province, was assassinated by unknown gunmen on the morning of December 14 on the city’s telecommunications road.

Mullah Sardar is the second Taliban official to be assassinated in the past two weeks. Last week, the director of mines in Yaftal district of Badakhshan province was assassinated by his bodyguard.

Source: ABNA24

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Kandahar Officials Meet With Mawlawi Akhundzada

December 16, 2021

Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader, met with Kandahar’s local officials, including the governor, in a meeting held on Tuesday, the department of culture and information in Kandahar said.

The supreme leader addressed important issues while meeting officials at the governor's office of Kandahar, officials said.

Taliban’s supreme leader has not made an official public appearance since the Islamic Emirate took control of Afghanistan in August, but Islamic Emirate officials announced late October that he appeared at a religious seminary in Kandahar province and talked with residents.

The head of the Culture and Information Department, Hafez Noor Ahmad Saeed, said that the supreme leader ordered that qualified people be posted to government offices and for officials to maintain good coordination. He also said to treat the people well.

“Shaikh saib (Taliban’s supreme leader) on Tuesday came to the Kandahar’s governor office and talked with officials about various issues, he gave some advice,” said Hafez Noor Ahmad Saeed.

Source: Tolo News

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Two months’ salaries of government employees to be paid soon: Taliban

15 Dec 2021

Afghanistan’s state TV (RTA) has cited officials in the Ministry of Finance that the Taliban’s interim government will soon pay two-month salaries of government employees.

Spokesperson of the ministry Ahmad Wali Haqmal said RTA that the salaries are most likely to be paid in two days.

It comes as Afghan government employees have not been paid for three months.

The Taliban have reportedly paid salaries of 35 administrations so far but the security sectors are yet to be paid.

In the meantime, Deputy Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Abdul Salaam Hanafi said they have enough amount of money in banks that will address needs and pay salaries of employees.

Source: Khaama Press

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Afghan flights delayed as snow blankets Kabul’s airport

16 December ,2021

Flights to and from the Afghan capital were delayed or cancelled Thursday after the city was blanketed by overnight snow.

Kabul’s streets were also largely empty as shop owners, government employees and workers stayed indoors to seek shelter from the freezing weather.

The cold snap has added to Afghanistan’s woes, with the United Nations and other organizations warning millions will need food and shelter from the country’s harsh winter.

On Thursday, dozens of workers cleared snow from the single runway at Kabul’s airport, which has slowly resumed business after being trashed in August when tens of thousands of people scrambled to evacuate as the Taliban returned to power.

“Flights have been delayed as there is snow on the runway but soon we will clear it,” said Imamuddin Ahmadi, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport and Aviation.

Kabul has missed regular snowfall in recent years, as thick clouds of smog from coal and wood fires keep temperatures high in the immediate vicinity.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran Allows IAEA to Install New Cameras at Karaj Facility to Obviate Misunderstandings


Iran voluntarily allowed the IAEA replace the damaged CCTV cameras at Karaj's site with new cameras after reaching an agreement with the UN nuclear watchdog, Nournews, affiliated to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), reported on Wednesday.

The report came after Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Wednesday that Tehran had reached a good agreement with the IAEA last night.

It added that Iran’s voluntary move was a bid to prevent the possible misunderstandings about the activities at the TESA Karaj brought up during IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi's visits to Tehran in September and December.

Previously, in response to the IAEA's request to replace the CCTV cameras damaged in the sabotage act of terrorism at the TESA Karaj, Iran had explicitly stated that it would not allow the cameras to be fixed or replaced before the technical and security inspections at the site by the relevant Iranian authorities are over.

Now, given the IAEA's action in condemning the act of sabotage at the TESA complex and after the international agency agreed that the technical and security inspection of the cameras by the Iranian experts to be finished before fixing or reinstalling the CCTV cameras at the site, the Iranian side has allowed the IAEA to reinstall the cameras according to the agreement last night.

Nournews reported that the agreement is not in contradiction with the law approved by the Iranian lawmakers at the parliament in early December last year entitled “Strategic Action Plan to Lift Sanctions and Protect Iranian Nation’s Interests” because after IAEA installs new CCTV cameras at the TESA facility in Karaj, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) will keep the recordings of the cameras and will not hand them over to the Agency.

Amir Abdollahian said on Wednesday that his country and the IAEA have reached a good agreement last night.

"Last night we reached a good agreement with the IAEA that could address some of the alleged concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear program,” the foreign minister said, addressing the Iranian ambassadors to the neighboring states in Tehran.

He added that the agreement will increase mutual cooperation between Iran and the IAEA.

AEOI Head Mohammad Eslami had said on Tuesday that based on the nuclear agreement, TESA Karaj Complex is no subject to the safeguards agreement between Iran and the IAEA.

Karaj facility is an unresolved issue between Tehran and the IAEA and based on the text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the TESA Karaj Complex is not subject to safeguards rules, Eslami told reporters.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Envoy: Iran to Continue Development of Ballistic Missiles, Space Launch Vehicles


“Concerning paragraph 3 of annex B to resolution 2231, we once again reject attempts to make arbitrary and distorted interpretation of that paragraph to deceptively establish a link between that paragraph with the launches by Iran of ballistic missiles and Space Launch Vehicles,” Takht Ravanchi said, addressing a UN Security Council’s session on Tuesday on ‘Non-Proliferation: implementation of Security Council resolution 2231’.

“According to detailed technical and legal reasoning that we have made in our numerous letters to the Council’s President, the launches of ballistic missiles and Space Launch Vehicles by Iran are completely outside of the purview of resolution 2231. Developing a conventional missile program is an inherent right under international law and is neither prohibited nor limited by resolution 2231. We will continue our activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, both of which are necessary for ensuring our security and socioeconomic interests,” he underlined.

Takht Ravanchi also said that Tehran is determined to make every effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as it is but it demands verifiable guarantees that the other parties will not again violate their obligations.

“Iran is determined to make every effort to restore the JCPOA as it is. To that end, our proposals put forward in Vienna are in full conformity with the JCPOA and Resolution 2231. We have demonstrated our genuine political will, seriousness and constructive engagement with our interlocutors to arrive at a good agreement as soon as possible. Now, it is time for the other sides to prove that they are genuinely willing to accept and implement, effectively and in good faith, all their JCPOA commitments,” he said.

“Therefore, provision of verifiable and objective guarantees that, the delicate balance of commitments will not be torpedoed anymore, the obligations will not be violated again, sanctions will not be re-imposed under other pretexts or designations — as took place during the previous administration of the US — and the JCPOA mechanisms will not be abused, is absolutely necessary,” Takht Ravanchi added.

Iran’s UN envoy underlined that the US sanctions are in contravention of legal obligations, the UN Charter and international law as they deter economic trade with Tehran.

The US has committed multiple cases of “significant non-performance under the JCPOA and still is in continuous systematic material breach of its legal obligations under resolution 2231, the UN Charter and international law. It is also in defiance of the unanimous order of the International Court of Justice of 3 October 2018, requiring the US to remove impediments to humanitarian trade with Iran”, Takht Ravanchi said.

“As a result of such gross violations of international law, the scope and extent of the damage to the Iranian people and economy is severe, resulting in the loss of many lives as well as a vast serious disruption in our economy,” he added.

Stressing that Washington’s bans against Tehran amount to “economic terrorism”, Takht Ravanchi said Iran continues its remedial measures under the JCPOA which are in “full conformity” with the Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, and that Iran has paid a heavy price to preserve the 2015 landmark deal.

“More importantly, our steps are completely reversible. We are continuing our remedial measures concurrent with the Vienna talks because the non-performance of obligations by other parties still continues, sanctions are still in full force, maximum pressure policy is still being pursued, and the sufferings of our people still persist. Nevertheless, as soon as other parties implement all their obligations in a full, effective and verifiable manner, Iran will immediately reverse its measures in full,” Iran’s UN envoy said.

“Conversely, the sufferings of our people due to the non-performance of other parties with their obligations particularly those resulting from the re-imposition of the US illegal sanctions are almost absolutely irreversible,” he underlined.

“How can one reverse the precious lives lost because of the US inhumane sanctions? How can one bring back to life those lives lost due to the weaponization of humanitarian goods? How can one revive the lives of innocent children being perished because the United States has opted to prevent them from access to the most essential medicines?”

Takht Ravanchi concluded that participation in Vienna talks on the removal of anti-Iran sanctions with “genuine political will and in good faith” would be the key to the success of negotiations in the Austrian capital.

“The current Vienna talks can succeed, not by engaging in blame games, not by setting artificial deadlines, not by introducing threats and intimidations, not by raising unfounded accusations or disinformation campaigns, and not by committing sabotage, disruptive or terrorist activities in Iran,” he said.

“But only by engaging in negotiations with genuine political will and in good faith, and sticking to one principle: the full, effective and verifiable implementation by all sides of all commitments under the JCPOA; nothing more and nothing less. This is the most pragmatic and easily achievable solution at the earliest time. There is no magic solution.”

Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Baqeri Kani lashed out at the US for imposing new sanctions against Tehran amid the Vienna talks, saying that Washington should clarify reasons behind such contradictory behavior.

“We believe this is a contradictory and double-sided behavior by the US government. We believe that [President Joe] Biden administration should explain about such contradictions,” Baqeri Kani said on Tuesday, in reaction to the latest round of US sanctions against Iran.

Last week, the US Treasury and State Department announced sanctions against a dozen Iranian government officials and organizations over accusations of human rights abuses.

The process of “serious and meaningful negotiations” on the removal of anti-Iran sanctions has not yet started, Baqeri Kani said.

“Of course, several drafts have been exchanged between the two sides. But what is clear and what is significant is that, from our point of view, the sanctions, which are in contradiction and inconsistent with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), need to be removed immediately. These sanctions have been imposed either during the Obama, Trump, or Biden administrations. All of them need to be removed,” he added.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Baqeri Kani said the Israeli regime is frantically trying to poison the atmosphere of the ongoing Vienna talks and is pursuing negative, non-constructive, and destructive measures both at the venue of the negotiations and outside.

He said that Iran is doing nothing covert when it comes to its nuclear activities and the Islamic Republic’s atomic program is operating fully within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as well as the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA).

Iran has no problem reversing the remedial measures that it has taken once the Americans remove the sanctions against Iran, the Iranian diplomat said.

“All the nuclear activities of Iran are being undertaken within the framework of the NPT and the Safeguards Agreement. The activities are comprehensively being inspected by IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) authorities. Iran does not have any secret nuclear activities,” he said.

“Iran’s nuclear activities are exactly compatible with the JCPOA as paragraphs 26 and 36 of the deal entitle Iran, either wholly or partially, to suspend its activities if another party fails to fulfill its commitments. We have announced earlier and reiterated that our reactions are remedial.

Source: Fars News Agency

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IAEA and Iran strike deal on new cameras for sabotaged workshop

15 December ,2021

The UN nuclear watchdog reached agreement with Iran on Wednesday on replacing surveillance cameras at a centrifuge-parts workshop that had been removed after an apparent attack, removing one potential obstacle to wider nuclear talks.

Those wider, indirect talks between Iran and the US on salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are deadlocked, and Washington had threatened to confront Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors if it did not relent on the workshop this month.

Speaking after the Iran-IAEA agreement was announced, a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington did not see a need for a special meeting of the IAEA's board if Tehran did as promised.

A confrontation at the IAEA board could have caused the wider talks to collapse, diplomats said.

In a statement, the IAEA said the agreement “will enable us to resume necessary continuity of knowledge at this facility”, and that the new cameras would be installed “in coming days”.

One of the IAEA's four cameras at the workshop in the TESA Karaj complex was destroyed in June in apparent sabotage that Iran blamed on Israel. Iran then removed the cameras and did not let the IAEA return to replace them, angering the United States and its allies.

Iran has shown the IAEA the cameras and the storage media containing their footage, except that from the destroyed camera. The IAEA and Western powers have asked Iran to explain where it is, but Wednesday's agreement did not address that issue.

The bigger the gap in knowledge of what happened at Karaj, the greater will be the concern among Western states that Iran has hidden away key parts for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Turkey ‘neutralizes’ 14 PKK terrorists

Ahmet Gencturk  



Fourteen PKK terrorists were neutralized in Turkish security operations in Turkey and northern Iraq on Wednesday.

Two terrorists were neutralized when Turkish T-129 ATAK helicopters targeted a hideout in the Operation Pence Simsek region, the National Defense Ministry on Twitter.

Six more terrorists were targeted in a joint operation by Turkish forces and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in Iraq’s Gara region, said a security source, requesting anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Another six PKK terrorists were neutralized in the Bagok region of Turkey’s southeastern Mardin province as part of the ongoing Eren Winter-8 anti-terror operation, the Turkish Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Turkish authorities use the word “neutralize” to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.

PKK terrorists often hide out in northern Iraq, across Turkey’s southern border, to plan terrorist attacks in Turkey.

The Pence operations are a series of offensives Turkey has carried out since 2019 against terror groups in northern Iraq, particularly the PKK.

Operations Pence-Kaplan and Pence-Kartal were initiated in June last year, while Pence-Simsek and Pence-Yildirim were launched this April in Iraq’s Metina and Avasin-Basyan regions.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Yemeni forces take control of key positions on border with Saudi Arabia

15 December 2021

Yemeni army and allied fighters from Popular Committees have made fresh gains, taking control of key positions in the northeastern province of Jawf on the border with Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television network reported on Wednesday that the Yemeni forces took control of a number of positions in the strategic Qash’an mountains and Salbah Valley in Jawf’s Khabb wa ash Sha'af district on the border with Saudi Arabia’s Najran region.

The Qash’an mountain range is strategically important as it overlooks the area of Alyutamah, the administrative center of Khabb wa ash Sha'af district, and al-Ajasher desert which extends between Yemen’s Jawf and Saudi Arabia’s Najran.

The fresh military success scored by Yemeni forces took place despite intensified Saudi airstrikes.

Separately, fierce fighting between the Yemeni forces and militants loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and militants from al-Qaeda-linked Islah party, is underway in the area in Wadi Abidah district, southeastern of Ma’rib City. According to al-Mayadeen, the Saudi warplanes conducted 18 air raids in support of the pro-Hadi militants and militants from Islah party in an attempt to hinder the advance of the Yemeni forces on the battlefront.

Last week, field sources told al-Mayadeen that the Yemeni fighters took control of al-Balq al-Sharqiyah mountain range, which is located near Ma’rib City.

Ma’rib, which is located right in the middle of a whole host of other Yemeni provinces, has turned into a focus of the Yemeni army’s liberation operations since last year.

The province’s recapture, towards which many advancements have been made so far, is expected to pave the way for further military victories for Yemen’s armed forces.

Meanwhile, al-Masirah said Saudi fighter jets carried out an airstrike on Maqbanah district in Ta’izz Province on Wednesday.

According to preliminary reports, the aerial attack left two Yemenis, including a child, dead, and three other civilians wounded.

Saudi Arabia, backed by the US and regional allies, launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Yemen’s former president Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

Source: Press TV

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Hamas armed wing launches military drill in Gaza

15 December 2021

The armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has launched a military exercise in the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip.

According to an announcement by the Brigades, the drill, dubbed "Shield of al-Quds," began on Wednesday morning to "raise combat readiness and simulate different scenarios."

The maneuver, it added, is part of a series of continuous military exercises simulating various forms of combat operations.

The al-Qassam Brigades further advised that explosions and shooting may be heard in some Gaza areas during the drill.

On Tuesday, Hamas leader Muhammad Abu Askar said the military exercise, which takes place in northern and southern Gaza, marks the 34th anniversary of Hamas’ foundation.

The drill will “send a message to the enemy that the resistance is ready in case they think of doing something foolish in the Gaza strip,” he emphasized.

Gaza has been under an Israeli land, air and sea blockade since June 2007, which has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Israel maintains a heavy naval presence off the coast of the impoverished Palestinian enclave, severely affecting the livelihood of fishermen.

Source: Press TV

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Gurugram namaz issue: Faith and public spaces, through the eyes of Indian courts

Dec 16, 2021

By Utkarsh Anand

A controversy has been brewing in Gurugram over Friday namaz in public spaces. The last few weeks have seen aggressive protests by Hindu groups nearly every Friday; an administration that has been slow to respond; and a weekly law and order issue. The state government and district administration initially granted approval for namaz at certain designated sites, only to withdraw it later amid protests.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said last week that offering namaz in public places could not be “tolerated”. To be sure, this is not the first time Khattar has spoken in this vein. In 2018, the Haryana CM said that namaz should be offered at mosques, idgahs or other designated places, rather than public spaces.

The Gurgaon Muslim Council on Monday responded that they are readying a petition to be filed in the Supreme Court later this week against the alleged vigilantism and the prohibition against namaz in public spaces. Before Gurugram, Noida in Uttar Pradesh, another state ruled by the BJP, prevented Muslims in December 2018 from offering namaz at public parks without prior permission.

These developments make it pertinent to understand the legal intricacies involved in the debate and the approach of the constitutional courts.

What is a public road and public space?

In Saghir Ahmad vs State of Uttar Pradesh, 1955, the Supreme Court defined the characteristics of a public road: “The true position then is, that all public streets and roads vest in the State, but that the State holds them as trustees on behalf of the public. Members of the public are entitled as beneficiaries to use them as a matter of right and this right is limited only by the similar rights possessed by every other citizen to use the pathways. The State as trustees on behalf of the public is entitled to impose all such limitations on the character and extent of the user, as may be requisite for protecting the rights of the public generally.”

In Sodan Singh Vs New Delhi Municipal Committee, 1989, the Supreme Court said the primary object of building roads is undoubtedly to facilitate people to travel from one point to another. Quoting Byron K Elliott and William F Elliott, the top court noted that a way over land set apart for public travel in a town or city is a street, no matter by what name it may be called. If a way is free to all people, it is a highway.

Various state-specific legislations and municipal laws also define “public street”, “public road” and “public space” for the purposes of administration.

One interesting example would be the liquor prohibition law in Bihar that includes a vehicle within the remit of a “public place”. Therefore, a person can be prosecuted for consuming alcohol inside a vehicle or even being found drunk in a car.

The Supreme Court, in Satvinder Singh Saluja & Ors vs State of Bihar, 2019, affirmed the Bihar government’s excise law as it declined to quash charges against four Rotarians from Jharkhand, who while travelling from Giridih to Patna in 2016 in a vehicle were subjected to a breath analyser test and were found to have consumed alcohol.

“When a private vehicle is passing through a public road it cannot be accepted that the public have no access. It is true that the public may not have access to private vehicles as a matter of right but definitely the public have the opportunity to approach the private vehicle while it is on the public road,” held the top court.

In April this year, the Delhi high court took a cue from this SC judgment when it ruled that a vehicle is a “public place” and hence, the wearing of a mask is mandatory even while driving alone in a car.

Constitutional rights

Article 19 (1)(a) lays down that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression while subclause (b) gives the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. Article 19(1)(c) affirms the citizens’ right to form associations or unions.

The Supreme Court in Babulal Parate vs State of Maharashtra, 1969, said that the right of citizens to take out processions or to hold public meetings flows from the right in Article 19(1) (b) and the right to move anywhere in the territory of India.

In 1972, a Constitution bench, in Himat Lal K Shah vs Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, ruled that the right that flows from Article 19(1) is not a right to hold a meeting at any place, at any time.

In this verdict, the five-judge bench held, “We may make it clear that there is nothing wrong in requiring previous permission to be obtained before holding a public meeting on a public street, for the right which flows from Article 19 (1) (b) is not a right to hold a meeting at any place and time. It is a right which can be regulated in the interest of all so that all can enjoy the right.” The top court concluded in this ruling that “in India a citizen had, before the Constitution, a right to hold meetings on public streets subject to the control of the appropriate authority regarding the time and place of the meeting and subject to considerations of public order.”

Article 25 of the Constitution maintains that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health. Apart from the caveats mentioned above, the provision adds that the State shall still be entitled to regulate or restrict any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.

Similarly, Article 26 entitles every religious denomination to manage its own affairs in matters of religion but this right is also subject to public order, morality and health.

Courts and use of public spaces

A series of rulings starting from the Privy Council’s decisions may come handy to refer to the development of the law in India.

In 1882, in Parthasaradiayyangar vs Chinnakrishna Ayyangar, it was held that people are “entitled to conduct religious processions through public streets so that they do not interfere with the ordinary use of such streets by the public and subject to such directions as the magistrate may lawfully give to prevent obstruction of the thoroughfare or breaches of the public peace”.

In early 1950s, the Privy Council held in Manzur Hasan vs Muhammed Zaman: “In India, there is a right to conduct a religious procession with its appropriate observances through a public street so that it does not interfere with the ordinary use of the street by the public, and subject to lawful directions by the magistrates.”

Later, in the Saghir Ahmad judgment of 1955, the Supreme Court maintained that people are entitled as beneficiaries to use public roads and streets as a matter of right but this right is limited by the similar rights possessed by every other citizen to use them. The top court added that the State is empowered to impose all reasonable limitations for protecting the rights of the public generally.

In Railway Board vs Niranjan Singh, 1969, the Supreme Court described the fetters on the right to hold meetings or any other gathering in government premises. “The fact that the citizens of this country have freedom of speech, freedom to assemble peaceably and freedom to form associations or unions does not mean that they can exercise those freedoms in whatever place they please,” it asserted.

In Himat Lal K Shah, the five-judge bench reiterated that the right that flows from Article 19(1) is not a right to hold a meeting at any place, at any time. The top court concluded in this ruling that “in India a citizen had, before the Constitution, a right to hold meetings on public streets subject to the control of the appropriate authority regarding the time and place of the meeting and subject to considerations of public order”.

Similarly, the Supreme Court in Olga Tellis and Ors Vs Bombay Municipal Corporation, 1986, held, “Footpaths or pavements are public properties which are intended to serve the convenience of the general public. They are not laid for private use and indeed their use for a private purpose frustrates the very object for which they are carved out from portions of public streets.”

On balancing the rights of those who wish to use a public space for a particular purpose against another group that complain of violation of their right to use it, the apex court said in the Sodan Singh case that the liberty of one individual comes to an end where the liberty of another begins. “What is required of him is that he should not create an unreasonable obstruction which may inconvenience other persons having similar right to pass and he should not make excessive use of the road to the prejudice of the others.”

In M Ismail Faruqui Vs Union of India and Others, 1995, the apex court held that a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in the open, as it ruled that the power of acquisition is available to the State for a mosque like any other place of worship of any religion. At the same time, the court said that the right to worship, guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, does not extend to the right of worship at “any and every place”. “The right to worship is not at any and every place, so long as it can be practised effectively, unless the right to worship at a particular place is itself an integral part of that right,” it said.

In 2009, the Supreme Court in Union of India vs State of Gujarat, cracked the whip on unauthorised religious structures. “No unauthorised construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of temple, church, mosque or gurudwara etc on public streets, public parks or other public places etc,” it ordered.

More recently, the Bombay High Court, in Mahesh Vijay Bedekar Vs State of Maharashtra, 2015, held that public streets are essentially provided for people to walk and ply vehicles and they have a right to use them. Circumscribing the powers of municipal bodies, the high court held that local authorities cannot grant permission for temporary erection of a booth and any other such structure on any street on occasions of ceremonies and festivals if it is likely to affect free movement of vehicular traffic or obstruct free movement of the pedestrians. Additionally, the high court said that municipal bodies of commissioners/district magistrates can give such permissions only after the police agree to such temporary structures after taking into account the law and order situation. The high court further directed the municipal corporations to frame a policy for dealing with grants of such permissions.

Source: Hindustan Times

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Muslim man arrested for using fake ID to get entry into Bhasma Aarti of Mahakal Temple

15th December 2021

BHOPAL: A 32-year-old Muslim man Mahammad Yunus Mulla from Bengaluru, who allegedly attempted to enter into the world famous Mahakal Temple in Ujjain, by impersonating as Abhishek Dubey was arrested in the wee hours on Wednesday.

While the young man, Mahammad Yunus Mulla, has been arrested and booked for impersonation and cheating under IPC Sections 419 and 420, his friend Khushboo is being questioned by Ujjain police.

Primary police probe suggests that it was Khushboo, who had possibly helped Yunus with the Aadhar Card of Abhishek Dubey for getting the entry pass to the early morning treasured Bhasmarti into the world famous temple.

The 30-year-old man, Abhishek Dubey, whose Aadhar ID Card was used by Yunus to get entry pass for early morning Aarti in the temple is possibly related to Khushboo only.

Confirming the development, the circle SP (CSP) Pallavi Shukla told The New Indian Express that Yunus was stopped at the entry point after the temple staff felt suspicious about his identity/entry pass and cross checked the Aadhar Card of Abhishek Dubey being carried by him with his actual identity, following which the alleged impersonation and cheating came to the fore.

Subsequent frisking of the young man led to his original Aadhar ID Card made in Mahammad Yunus Mulla's name.

"The temple staff immediately informed the police, after which Yunus was taken in custody," Shukla said.

Source: New Indian Express

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Two unidentified militants killed in encounter in J&K's Kulgam

Dec 16, 2021

SRINAGAR: Two unidentified militants were killed in an encounter with security forces in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, police said.

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Redwani area of Kulgam district late on Wednesday night, a police spokesman said.

He said the search operation turned into an encounter after militants fired upon the forces, who retaliated

Source: Times of India

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J&K's new intel agency raids 16 places in terror, land-grab probe

M Saleem Pandit

Dec 16, 2021

SRINAGAR: In its first major operation, the newly constituted State Intelligence Agency (SIA) carried out raids on Wednesday at 16 locations in different parts of the Kashmir Valley as part of an investigation of alleged land-grabbing by "Jamiat-us-Sualihaat" in Marhama area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag, Pulwama and Srinagar districts.

"The houses of the suspects/other locations were searched in compliance with the search warrant obtained from the hon’ble court of the special judge in Srinagar designated under the NIA Act," SIA officials disclosed.

They said the main premises of the seminary was also searched.

"The searches started at first light and were completed only in the late afternoon," they said, adding that "incriminating material" such as documents, records and electronic gadgets were seized in the presence of executive magistrates and other independent witnesses.

According to officials, police station (counter-intelligence, Kashmir) Srinagar has registered a case on receipt of information through reliable sources that the suspects have allegedly made illegal and fraudulent entries in the revenue records for transferring "gashcharie (grazing)" land to Jamiat-us-Saulihat Marhama illegally and fraudulently.

Officials claimed that the searches were conducted on allegations of a criminal conspiracy involving revenue department officials and some Jamaat-e-Islami members who, using direct and indirect influence, managed to deceitfully manipulate and forge revenue records so that a patch of common community gashcharie land measuring 35 kanals (4.37 acres) in Marhama tehsil in Bijbehara, Anantnag district, was illegally and fraudulently transferred to Jamaiat-us-Saulihat in Marhama with the dishonest intention of bestowing proprietary rights on the institution. They said this was in complete violation of the law on the subject, which expressly prohibits transfer of ownership of any community land to a private entity.

Source: Times of India

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Decide fate of 10 Rohingya, HC tells Assam govt

Mukut Das

Dec 16, 2021

GUWAHATI: The Gauhati high court has directed the Assam government to take an early decision regarding a plea filed by 10 members of the Rohingya community, seeking either refugee status in India or deportation to Myanmar.

A bench of justices N Kotiswar Singh and Malasri Nandi issued the direction while recently hearing the petition filed by Saidur Rahman and others. The court also observed that the petitioners have been "languishing in jail" for the last seven years since the authorities concerned have not been able to arrive at a decision in this regard.

The court stated: "The plea of the petitioners is that either they be allowed to remain in India by granting refugee status or be deported to their country of origin, i.e. Myanmar. However, the authorities are not taking any decision in this regard and the petitioners are languishing in jail."

Source: Times of India

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Top Hizb commander killed in overnight Pulwama encounter

M Saleem Pandit

Dec 16, 2021

SRINAGAR: A top Hizbul Mujahideen commander was killed in an overnight encounter in Usgam Pathri of Rajpora hamlet, in Pulwama district, officials said on Wednesday. A police officer said the slain terrorist was identified as Feroz Ahmad Dar.

Feroz was a Hizb district commander who had joined the outfit in 2017 and was the lone surviving terrorist in Shopian's Zainapora hamlet, known as a hotbed of militancy.

Late Tuesday night an official had said a joint team comprising personnel from the police and the Army had launched a cordon-and-search operation on specific information about the presence of militants in the area. He said the security forces were fired upon as they approached the site where they suspected the terrorists were hiding, setting off an encounter.

A police spokesman said the police and security forces neutralised an "A+" category Hizb terrorist involved in several crimes, including a 2018 attack at Zainapora, Shopian, in which four police personnel were killed. "...he was given repeated opportunities to surrender; however, he fired indiscriminately," he said.

Source: Times of India

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Minorities Alliance Pakistan Calls To Devise Policies for Protection of Religious Minorities

Kalbe Ali

December 16, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Minorities Alliance Pakistan (MAP) on Wednesday slammed forced conversions of underage girls through criminal means and demanded that the federal and provincial governments should devise uniform policies for protection of religious minorities.

Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club, MAP Chairman Akmal Bhatti said minorities would not tolerate any violation of the rights of minor girls.

The families of three rape victims were present at the press conference who highlighted their ordeal and hardships at the hands of various government departments and institutions while pursuing their cases.

Mr Bhatti said the government should set up special courts for such cases to provide speedy justice to victims, adding that every year in Pakistan around 1,000 minor girls were abducted, raped, forcibly converted and forced into marriages. He said it was not a religious issue but criminal-minded people, kidnappers and adulterers resort to religion only to escape punishment and the grip of law.

“Religious minorities are under stress and we protest these growing incidents,” Mr Bhatti said, adding that the voice of these girls cannot be silenced and the struggle to provide justice to them will continue. The families of the victims - Aina, Mehak and Arzoo Raja - called on authorities to award exemplary punishments to the culprits.

The MAP chairman also called on the president, prime minister and chief justice of Pakistan to punish perpetrators of abduction and rape of minors.

Speakers said the government should introduce legislation that would ban forced conversions and marriages.

The MAP leaders also regretted that the Ministry of Religious Affairs had stopped the proposed bill, the Prohibition of Forced Conversion Act 2021.

“It is unfortunate that the draft of the Prohibition of Forced Conversion Act 2021 prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights has been rejected by the parliamentary committee without any justification,” said Shamaun Alfred Gill, spokesman for the alliance.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan prepares over Rs11bn package for Afghan students

December 16, 2021

ISLAMABAD: As part of the assistance package to the nascent Afghan government, Pakistan has decided in principle to offer thousands of scholarships to Afghan students, besides opening a campus of Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) in Kabul.

In this regard, the Ministry of Education and Professional Training has finalised a Rs11.2 billion package to improve the education sector and skill development in the war-torn country.

According to sources in the ministry, the amount will be spent for offering scholarships to 3,000 Afghan students in Pakistani universities, free training with stipend to 5,000 Afghan nationals for skills development in Islamabad, free training to 150 Afghan teachers, 100 nursing diploma scholarships and establishment of regional campus of AIOU in Kabul.

Alvi vows to help Kabul in higher education sector

The sources said a summary had already been sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan for approval of the package. The ministry has finalised the package on the directive of Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood after a last week meeting between the Pakistani officials and a Afghan delegation headed by Minister for Higher Education Maulana Abdul Baqi Haqqani. The eight-member delegation is currently visiting Pakistan and has already visited various subordinate organisations of the education ministry, including the HEC.

Last month, Prime Minister Khan approved Rs5 billion humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, besides allowing transportation of Indian food assistance for the country through Pakistan.

Pakistan is also hosting an extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s foreign ministers in Islamabad to highlight the plight of the Afghan people who have been facing a tough and testing time.

Meanwhile, during a meeting with the Afghan delegation on Wednesday, President Dr Arif Alvi said Pakistan would assist Afghanistan in digital transformation of its varsities and provide online education to its students.

The president said that AIOU and Virtual University (VU) of Pakistan had been directed to help the university students in Afghanistan. Besides, the president said, the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission would arrange vocational training programmes for the Afghan people in various fields.

President Alvi said Pakistan would continue to provide all possible assistance to Afghanistan for development of its education sector and capacity-building of its educational institutions.

The president said Afghanistan was passing through a very difficult phase and urged the international community to provide economic and humanitarian aid to save the country from a possible human catastrophe.

During the meeting, the two sides agreed to increase collaboration between higher education institutions of the two countries.

Source: Dawn

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177,000 Pakistani children die before fifth birthday from malnutrition: minister

December 16, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Micro-nutrient deficiencies are widespread in Pakistan and have profound effects on immunity, growth and mental development of children. Every year, more than 177,000 Pakistani children die before their fifth birthday due to malnutrition.

This was highlighted by Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam while addressing participants of a workshop titled ‘Addressing Zinc Deficiency through Biofortification of Zinc Wheat’ on Wednesday.

The workshop was jointly organised by HarvestPlus, Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah) and National Fortification Alliance at the Ministry of National Health Services. It was attended by representatives from various government departments, civil society organisations and UN agencies.

Says three biofortified wheat varieties that are high in zinc released for general cultivation

Mr Imam said more than 50 million people in Pakistan had inadequate zinc intake which was an important micronutrient for our health.

“In Pakistan, with the collaborative support of HarvestPlus, three biofortified wheat varieties which are high in zinc have been released for general cultivation in the country,” he said, adding that “with our joint efforts, biofortified zinc wheat varieties have been cultivated on 360,000 hectares this year”.

The minister said over 1.6 million metric tonnes of biofortified wheat grain production were expected with the current crop at the time of harvest.

“Biofortification is progressing well in Pakistan and has great potential to help reduce zinc deficiency and stunting in the children of our country,” he said.

Sanaullah Ghumman, general secretary of Panah, said malnutrition and dietary factors contribute towards increased morbidity and mortality.

Munawar Hussain, consultant/adviser at HarvestPlus, said the role of media was important in raising awareness among population about issues like zinc deficiency. He requested the media to play its due role towards raising awareness among farmers and other value chain actors about significance of biofortification of wheat.

Dr Imtiaz Hussain, director of Crop Science Institute, National Agricultural Research Centre, said wheat constituted 60pc of the diet of the common population and biofortification of wheat was the most suitable and sustainable strategy to address the zinc deficiency.

Dr Mohammad Imtiaz, wheat value chain specialist at HarvestPlus said a team under Commercialisation of Biofortified Crops (CBC) programme worked with a wide variety of stakeholders from the public and private sectors in Pakistan to popularise nutrient-rich biofortified zinc wheat varieties.

“We have created biofortified wheat production hubs in five districts including Faisalabad, Khanewal, Multan, Bahawalpur and Rahimyar Khan,” he said, adding that technological support will be provided through these hubs to selected farmers and also help in aggregation of biofortified grain after harvest.

Dr Khawaja Masood Ahmed, national coordinator (nutrition) at the health ministry said provincial governments may be encouraged to prioritise procurement of biofortified wheat.

Source: Dawn

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US forensics firm confirms it inspected audiotape sent by Pakistani TV channel

December 16, 2021

WASHINGTON: Primeau Forensics, a US forensic audit company, confirmed on Wednesday it had inspected an audiotape forwarded by a Pakistani television channel, but said it could not share details of its report with the media.

“It was a specific thing that we did for our client and we are not discussing it with anyone,” a company representative told Dawn. “We have no press release.”

He said the client, ARY News, had the report and “only they can share the details with others”.

A report released in Islamabad claimed that ARY News had asked Primeau Forensics to do a forensic analysis of an audio leak of the former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.

In this audio, two persons can be heard discussing cases against PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz. Reports in the Pakistani media claimed that one of the persons was Mr Nisar, the former chief justice.

Refuses to divulge details of its report

According to ARY News, the audit of this 45-second file showed two “reverberences” in the voice as the person spoke from two different locations. The voice was clearer during the last 20 seconds as it came from a closer range.

ARY News claimed that when it asked Primeau Forensics if the recording was of the original conversation or came from an edited tape, the company said the two parts of 20 and 25 seconds each were recorded in a different environment.

The company told ARY News that it believed “the unknown Fact Focus clip was generated from at least two different sources”.

They observed “two different reverberences, indicating that the first portion of the audio was likely recorded in a different environment than the second portion”.

Primeau Forensics is based in Rochester Hills, Michigan. A post on its website says that its experts have processed over 5,000 audio, video and image forensic investigations and provided expert testimony in over 500 cases in local, state and federal courts.

Source: Dawn

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But For Buhari Terrorists Would Have Declared Islamic State of Nigeria— Minister

Dec 16, 2021

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, said terrorists could have achieved their aim of declaring an Islamic State in Nigeria if President Mu­hammadu Buhari had not acted decisively.

The minister stated this at a press conference on Wednesday while responding to people who believed President Buhari has nothing more to offer in terms of securing Nigeria.

Mohammed admitted that the current securi­ty situation, which has in addition banditry and kidnapping, poses a great challenge.

But he is of the opin­ion that it could have been worst if not for the actions of President Buhari.

“The polity has recently been awash with height­ened commentary on the security situation in the country. The commentary has been triggered by gen­uine concerns in some cir­cles, and crass politicking or sheer absurdity in oth­ers.

“Since assuming office in 2015, President Muham­madu Buhari has contin­ued to make the issue of security a major plank of his administration’s policy. This is not a surprise, con­sidering the fact that the fight against insecurity is one of the three priority ar­eas of the APC-led Federal Government.

“Yes, the security sit­uation has continued to pose a great challenge, but amidst the cacophony of voices – some genuinely concerned about the situa­tion and others ready to ex­ploit it for selfish ends – it is easy to forget where we are coming from. Today, we only look at the current sit­uation, without wondering what would have been had this president not taken the bull by the horns, as far as security is concerned”, the minister said.

Continuing, he said, “With the way the insur­gents were going before this administration came into office, with their control of a vast swath of land the size of Belgium, with their free­wheeling attacks in almost a dozen states, including the Federal Capital Terri­tory which was hit at least five times, perhaps they could have achieved their aim of declaring an Islam­ic State in Nigeria if Pres­ident Buhari had not acted decisively. After all, in 2014, Boko Haram declared a Ca­liphate in Gwoza after cap­turing Bama and Gamboru as well as other towns and villages in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. They installed their own Emirs, collected taxes and flew their flag be­fore the military dislodged them.

“Yes, banditry and kid­napping have added to the state of insecurity. Presi­dent Buhari has also con­tinued to provide quality leadership in order to en­sure that our security agen­cies decisively tackle the cankerworm of insecurity of any hue. No adminis­tration in Nigeria’s recent history has provided the security agencies with the hardware needed to tackle insecurity as that of Presi­dent Buhari, in addition to raising the morale of our security men and women. Only last week, Mr. Presi­dent commissioned an ar­mada of naval boats and ships in the latest effort to enhance our nation’s mar­itime security.

“The army, the air force and the police, among oth­ers, have also been receiv­ing modern hardware to strengthen their arsenal.

Source: Independent Nigeria

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Tunisia navy rescues 78 migrants, one dead: Defence ministry

15 December ,2021

Tunisia’s navy rescued 78 migrants on Wednesday and retrieved the body of another after their boat sank off the country’s coast during a bid to reach Europe, the defense ministry said.

The migrants, mostly Bangladeshis and Egyptians aged from 12-45, had set off the previous night from Abu Kammash just across the border in neighboring Libya near Zawara, it said.

A decade of lawlessness in Libya has turned it into a major launchpad for migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea.

The latest rescue follows a string of similar Tunisian operations to thwart sea crossings or to save migrants in unseaworthy boats.

They had “intended to slip across the maritime border in the direction of Europe,” but their boat ran into trouble 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast south of Tunisia’s second city of Sfax, the ministry said.

It said the migrants had been taken to the port of El-Ketef and handed to the national guard.

The body of the dead migrant, an Egyptian, was handed to municipal authorities, it said.

The Tunisian Red Crescent told AFP another migrant was missing.

Tunisia is also a key departure point, just 140 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

According to the FTDES rights group, the Tunisian coast guard intercepted about 19,500 people attempting to cross the Mediterranean in the first nine months of this year.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Libya’s election faces uncertainty amid immense political challenges

15 December ,2021

Libya’s presidential election, meant to help unify the nation after a decade of civil war, is supposed to take place in just over a week, but calls are mounting for a delay.

Either scenario — holding the vote on time or postponing it — could turn into a destabilizing setback.

The vote, scheduled for Dec. 24, is to choose Libya’s first president since the ouster and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi more than a decade ago.

For nearly a year, the election has been the lynchpin of international efforts to bring peace to the oil-rich North African nation, and supporters fear a dangerous void if it is not held on schedule.

But critics warn that going ahead with the vote now could throw the country into new violence. They say Libya remains too bitterly divided among armed factions that are likely to reject any victory by rivals in the election.

The presence of some of Libya’s most polarizing figures in the race — including one of Gaddafi’s sons — only makes it more explosive.

Nearly 100 people have announced their candidacies, but the election commission has still not announced a final list of candidates because of legal disputes. It should have announced the list earlier this month. The rules governing the election are also in dispute, with western Libya politicians accusing the east-based parliament of adopting them without consultations.

Libya plunged into chaos after Gaddafi’s death during a 2011 uprising backed by a US-led NATO military campaign. Control splintered among a myriad of armed militias. For years, the country was split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by militias and foreign governments.

The current political process emerged last year after the latest round of brutal fighting.

After a UN-brokered cease-fire in October 2020, a grouping of Libyan factions called the Political Forum drew up a road map that led to the creation of an interim government to run the country until the Dec. 24 election.

Those calling for a delay in the election say the mistrust between east and west remains too deep and volatile.

The interim government has not been able to unify Libya’s institutions, particularly the military, dismantle militias or ensure the exit of foreign mercenaries and fighters, said one UN official.

“These issues should have been settled before going to elections. They need more time and effort to be resolved,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Tarek Mitri, a former UN envoy for Libya, warned that “without unified military forces, the election poses a threat to peace.”

“How can you win the argument in a democratic election when guns are loaded to the hilt on both sides?” he said.

In a last-minute effort to save the elections, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres named American diplomat Stephanie Williams, who led the talks resulting in the October 2020 cease-fire deal, as his special adviser on Libya.

Williams met with Libyan officials in Tripoli on Sunday. She called for all sides to respect the “overwhelming demand of the Libyan people to elect their representatives through a free, fair and credible election.” She did not mention the Dec. 24 dateline in her public comments.

The United States and some others in the international community want the vote to go ahead. As he stepped down on Dec. 8, outgoing UN envoy Jan Kubis said the election must take place on schedule, calling it “a critically important step that opens doors to future solutions.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Southeast Asia


Jakim won’t raise legal marriage age for Muslims as most states against it, minister tells Parliament

16 Dec 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — The Federal Islamic Affairs Agency (Jakim) will not raise the legal marrying age for Muslims to 18 after most states rejected the proposition, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Idris Ahmad told Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Pato during Question Time that the decision was reached in September this year after several rounds of dialogues held with state religious authorities.

“The federal government had studied the proposal to raise the legal marrying age for Muslim women from 16 to 18 and among the studies were the tabling the proposal at various forums that involved the states...considering the power to decide on marriage laws of Muslims is the purview of the state,” he said.

“Based on the response, most states in principle agreed to retain the current legal marrying age as provided under the Islamic Family Law in each respective state,” the minister added.

“As such... the government has taken the position that there is no necessity to raise the legal marrying age for Muslim women.”

The previous administration, led by Pakatan Harapan, had pledged to scrutinise proposals of legal amendments that will see the minimum age for marriage increased from 16 to 18 years’ old.

The attorney general at the time, Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, said the AG’s Chambers (AGC) was evaluating its options into the proposed amendments, as the government’s legislative branch looks at their best efforts to safeguard the welfare and interest of children.

The proposal met with resistance from religious conservatives on the grounds that some religions conditionally allowed child marriage.

Source: Malay Mail

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NRC chairman: Leverage market opportunities to accelerate growth in Muslim world

15 Dec 2021

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — A paradigm shift must be made by leveraging market opportunities with new innovations, reforming business models and disruptive technologies as potential game changer to accelerate growth of all sectors in the Muslim world, said National Recovery Council (MPN) chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said the need to move beyond traditional frameworks and conventional wisdom amid challenges, exploring innovative approaches and cultivating new ideas would foster positive change in the Muslim world and beyond.

“We must embrace disruptive change as a catalyst of growth to be ‘future-proof’ in response to the ever-changing business and economic landscapes,” he said during the special address at the virtual World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Roundtable 2021 “Revitalisation and Reform: Catalysing Growth” today.

Muhyiddin noted that the strength of human capital must be optimised by prioritising skills enhancement in the workforce, particularly in areas of high value growth such as technology, financial services, and energy.

“We must empower the young to pioneer this exciting new frontier as Muslims and Malaysians enter the ‘Metaverse’,” he said.

In addition, the former prime minister said bottom-up initiatives through community empowerment such as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should constantly be afforded with opportunities to adapt and grow to set their businesses apart.

“Empowering the role of government-linked companies as forefront in regional integration, meanwhile, will enhance the focus and mandate to drive economic growth and development,” he said.

Furthermore, Muhyiddin said the Islamic economy is an economic frontier that would enable the people to move rapidly forward together, particularly in the new post-Covid landscape.

“An abundance of opportunities exist for the Muslim world, our Muslim member states must work to establish competitive advantages and maximise these opportunities,” he pointed out.

Malaysia, for instance, he said, has remained a key player under the Global Islamic Economy Indicator (GIEI) since the past decade, driven by a strong Islamic finance ecosystem and creative initiatives.

“Besides being a pioneer in the halal industry, Malaysia continues to lead as one of the largest sukuk issuers in the world, accounting for 32 per cent of the global sukuk issuances in 2020,” he said.

In moving with the digital age, the participation of Malaysian Bumiputera entrepreneurs and MSMEs in the field of digital economy would lead to more breakthroughs as well as penetration of the halal markets locally, abroad and online, Muhyiddin said.

Source: Malay Mail

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Blame not ‘chopsticks’ for failure of Malaysians to integrate

December 16, 2021

With due respect to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, blame not “chopsticks” for the failure of Malaysians to integrate.

Politicians chanting the catchphrase “racial unity” or “racial integration” has become cliche. It does not carry any weight when elements of disparity in the treatment of people of diverse ethnic backgrounds are still prevalent after more than six decades of the country’s independence.

If truth be told, the current education policies cannot win the hearts of Malaysians of various races to put them under one roof in schools. This has thwarted efforts to bring the races together.

By design or default, the moment Malaysian children enter school they come to realise that they are classed as “Bumiputera” and “non-Bumiputera” – ticking boxes that identify themselves by race, and not as Malaysians.

These tags go on until the university level and beyond that. And for political appeasement, opportunities in the fields of education, economy and jobs associated with the government are limited for the non-Bumiputeras.

This has become a blot faced by the non-Bumiputeras. Obviously, it triggers identity differences among the different races and paves the way for “non-Bumiputera” citizens to find different educational, economic and social pathways for survival. It will further make them buttress their identities as different from others.

Political expediency

Sociological studies have shown that any group of human beings who are set aside from the norms of the majority society will strive to find their own identity. This is an unfortunate status quo that exists in Malaysian society today. It also reflects the failure of the state to tackle the issue of national integration, what more the existing political parties are mostly race-based. Race and religion are used by politicians to woo votes to keep them in power.

For their political expediency, they do not mind having any system where the people are divided by their ethnic status, race or religion. Ethnic relations can be a course offered in higher education institutions but this is more academic in nature. On the ground, racial relations have not lived up to the theories propounded by academicians.

What is observed on the ground is that Malaysians of Chinese ethnicity seek their identity through Chinese schools, Indian ethnicity with Tamil schools, and there are Malays who try to strengthen their Muslim identity through religious schools.

The elite and the well-heeled choose private and international schools and some even choose to study abroad. In other words, with many options available, national schools are losing appeal. Many parents seem to have relegated national schools to second or third choice for their children’s education.

Different options of this nature were in the early days held in a nation down south after the country’s exit from Malaysia in 1965 to become an independent and sovereign state. This system failed to get the support of its people of different races when, at the same time, English medium schools were established. Vernacular schools became unpopular and parents chose the English medium schools – the national schools – for their children’s education.

This brought almost all their ethnic groups under one roof all through the country’s education system. Mother tongue languages are taught in these schools. These are the secrets of their educational success and they have not wavered since, resulting in the quality of education that is considered among the best in the world.

In the Malaysian context, the Malay language is the medium of instruction in national schools. There is no real issue on this. To bring back English medium schools in the present may not be politically viable, as this will not appease the Malay nationalists. But if only the teaching of English can be reinforced, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education is brought to a new level and given the option to be taught in English, and the mother tongue languages are taught in national schools, this will certainly attract more children from various ethnic backgrounds to study under one roof.

Unfortunately, to this day, the level of teaching and achievement of English in national schools is not encouraging. Mother tongue languages are also not given emphasis. Some schools are not even offering STEM subjects in English. But there are residential schools for a selected few who are allowed to use English and sit for foreign-based examinations such as the IB Diploma Programme and the GCE A-Levels. Not many non-Bumiputera students are given the privilege to study in these schools.

Fairer opportunities for all

Seeing the lopsided system in the national education system, a large number of ethnic minorities have chosen various paths to pursue their education. They cannot be blamed as they feel that they are not being given fair opportunities to further their education in premier schools that mainly accommodate Bumiputera students. They further feel that they are discriminated against when choosing courses of their liking when applying for places in public universities. What more when applying for jobs in the government sector.

Looking at the employment sector, the government sector is filled with Bumiputeras and most of the private sector is successfully supported by non-Bumiputeras. There is indeed a different culture of life between these two sectors.

In terms of higher education, the private education sector consists more of non-Bumiputeras. Non-Bumiputera parents who have the means send their children to study abroad or at local private institutions for a brighter future. They are at large exposed to various ethnic groups and are willing to compete among them to succeed in education.

On the contrary, most Bumiputeras are more likely to further their studies at public universities (IPTA) and UiTM. They do compete with each other but among the same race.

There are huge differences and gaps between Bumiputeras and non-Bumiputeras in terms of foreign language proficiency, especially in English, and competitiveness. With all these divergences in the social fabric of society, each race lives with its own aspirations and work culture.

This separation of attitudes and culture of life has further dichotomised the workforce. Employers are more inclined and comfortable to accept and use employees who are of the same race and in line with their work culture to deal with one another and also with clients.

Still lagging behind

In reality, Malaysians are still lagging behind in shaping a nation that the people can be proud of. Even what community leaders aspire to shape a united nation may remain as only a dream slogan.

The national education system, as in all countries, plays an important role in uniting the various ethnic groups. As for Malaysia, national schools have to be enhanced in terms of quality and competitiveness and be the core schools to foster a true spirit of unity. Mother tongue languages have to be offered in all national schools to attract more students of different ethnic groups. The teaching of English has to be strengthened. And do not turn national schools into “religious schools”, as this will shoo away ethnic groups of different faiths.

National schools have to be neutral when it comes to race and religion and also provide equal treatment to all Malaysians to study regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. It is no longer appropriate to hold a school, college or university for a single race.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Arab World


Muslims Can Now Experience The Black Stone (Sang E Aswad) In Mecca Virtually Through New Initiative

15 December,2021

Saudi Arabia has launched a new initiative that will allow Muslims all around the world to touch the Black Stone at the Kaaba in Mecca virtually through Virtual Reality (VR) technology.

The initiative was launched by Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Sudais, the General President for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque.

The “Virtual Black Stone Initiative” will be part of the Kingdom’s Agency for Exhibitions and Museums Affairs represented by the General Administration of Digital Exhibitions, in cooperation with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research at the University of Umm al-Qura. The initiative aims to use virtual reality (VR) and digital experiences that simulate the real reality.

In May, Saudi Arabian authorities released new pictures that offer a never-before-seen close up view of the Black Stone in the Kaaba in Mecca. The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques captured the details on the Black Stone – known as Hajar Aswad in Arabic – with a new technique that uses stacked panoramic focus.

Muslims believe the famous Black Stone descended directly from heaven and was given to the Prophet Abraham by the angel Gabriel.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Egyptian Shia activist and journalist banned from travelling to Russia

15 December, 2021

CAIRO – Egyptian Shia Muslim activist Haidar Kanil was banned from travelling to the Russian capital Moscow earlier last week, in the latest crackdown on Egyptian religious minorities.

Kandil told The New Arab that he has been monitored by police on a weekly basis in his hometown, northern Tanta city, following his release on bail by the state security prosecution.

He was accused of allegedly spreading Shia Islam and ideas against the state, as well as founding an illegal organisation, accusations he fervently denies.  

"I was stopped by a police officer at Bog El-Arab airport [on the outskirts of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria] as I was getting ready to travel to Russia to look for a job. My passport was confiscated, although I had not been on the travel ban list and I had a valid visa to Russia. But the officer told me I should go claim my passport from the state security that ordered the ban," he said.

Earlier in December 2019, Kandil was subjected to enforced disappearance after being taken from his home in Tanta. His whereabouts remained unknown for almost three months until he appeared at the state security prosecution office for interrogation.  

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Kandil was questioned by state security officers about being a follower of the Shia doctrine, his beliefs, and how he practiced his religious rituals.

Kandil was further asked about reasons for earlier trips he had made to Shia-majority Iran and Iraq. He claimed he was tied up and blindfolded throughout his detention in the state security building.

"I travelled to these two countries to visit Shia holy sites. I have no affiliations to Iran as some would claim. Neither have I ever received funding from any entity or country," Kandil said.

 "The problem is Egypt's government has always linked Egyptian Shias to Iran, accusing us of being affiliated to it, which is not true. We are only interested in the holy sites there."

After being confronted with the accusations by the prosecution, Kadil was referred to emergency state security court. 

"Upon my release, I got back to my job as a reporter and a photojournalist at El-Dostour newspaper. But shortly afterwards, I was asked to leave and informed that I was no longer allowed to practice journalism as per the orders of the authorities," Kandil recalled.

Historically, the differences between Sunnis and Shias originated in who should lead the Muslim world, following the death of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Followers of the Prophet's cousin, Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib - a key figure in Shia Islam - believed the leadership was rightfully his. Since then, both sides have been having an ongoing dispute over religious and political matters.

Source: The New Arab

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Two drones aimed at US military base in Syria intercepted

16 December ,2021

Two drones heading towards the US al-Tanf military base in Syria were intercepted, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.

No injuries were reported.

Multiple explosions were heard inside the base on December 5, Syrian state TV reported.

At least five explosive-laden drones attacked the base in October, targeting US forces and opposition fighters, US officials said.

There were no reported injuries or deaths reported as a result of the attack in October.

US and coalition troops are based at al-Tanf to train Syrian forces on patrols to counter ISIS militants. The base is also located on a road serving as a vital link for Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon and Israel.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Syrian soldier killed in Israeli missile attack on southern area

16 December ,2021

Syria’s military said Israeli rockets hit army posts in the country’s south early Thursday, killing one soldier and causing material damage.

State media quoted an unidentified military official as saying that rockets fired from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights activated Syrian air defenses and that most of the incoming missiles were intercepted. But one Syrian soldier was killed and there was damage to the area, the official added, without specifying where the missiles hit in southern Syria.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled Syria in recent years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.

Israel has acknowledged, however, that it targets the bases of Iran-allied militias, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah group that has fighters deployed in Syria. It says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for the militias.

Hezbollah is fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country's decade-old civil war.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Lebanon orders deportation of Shia Bahraini opposition group members

15 December ,2021

Lebanon’s Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi ordered the country’s General Security to deport members of Bahrain’s Shia Wefaq opposition party after they held a conference that sparked the ire of Manama, state-run media reported Wednesday.

The order was sent in a letter from Mawlawi to General Security to deport the non-Lebanese members of the party, Lebanon’s National News Agency said.

Mawlawi’s move came as a result of the press conference held in Beirut on Dec. 12, 2021, which “harms relations between Lebanon and the Kingdom of Bahrain and [negatively] impacts Lebanon’s national interests.”

Last week, Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry denounced Lebanon for hosting a press conference for individuals it described as “hostile personnel” on terror lists with the purpose of “broadcasting and promoting abusive and malicious allegations against the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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UNESCO adds Bahrain musical performance to heritage list

15 December ,2021

The United Nations cultural agency on Wednesday added Bahrain’s Fjiri musical performance, which commemorates the history of pearl diving, to its list of “intangible” heritage.

The Gulf country, with a population of about 1.5 million, presented its nomination to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which announced the listing on Twitter.

Bahrain’s nomination was among 48 from around the world considered for inscription on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list at an annual UNESCO-led meeting.

“Dating back to the late 19th century, it was traditionally performed by pearl divers and pearling crews to express the hardships faced at sea,” UNESCO said on its website.

“The performers sit in a circle, singing and playing different types of drums, finger chimes and a jahl, a clay pot used as an instrument,” it added.

“The center of the circle is occupied by the dancers and the lead singer, who is in charge of conducting the performance.”

Bahrain was also among 16 Muslim-majority countries that presented the nomination of Arabic calligraphy, a tradition in the Arab and Islamic worlds, which was also added to the heritage list during this week’s meeting.

Fjiri, which originated on Bahrain’s island of Muharraq, is performed in festivals throughout the country.

Source: Al Arabiya

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New Zealand Honours Heroes of 2019 Mosque Attack

December 15, 2021


A man from Afghanistan who chased away a gunman who murdered 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019 has been given the country’s highest bravery award, the New Zealand Cross.

Abdul Aziz is among 10 people recognized for their courage during the March 2019 attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

The former refugee from Afghanistan threw a credit card machine at the gunman after he had opened fire at the Linwood Islamic Center. He ignored the bodies of murdered worshippers and ran toward the attacker, chasing him with a rifle the gunman had discarded.

Aziz has been awarded the New Zealand Cross for his courage.

He told Radio New Zealand that he simply wanted to protect his fellow worshippers.

“If I did not do that, we would lose a lot of our brothers and sisters, including myself as well,” he said. “On that time, I will be honest with you, I did not even think about any danger or anything.”

Another worshipper, Naeem Rashid, who died in the shootings after confronting the gunman at the Al Noor mosque, has been posthumously honored with the New Zealand Cross. Officials said his bravery, too, had saved lives. In a statement, his widow, Ambreen Naeem, said the “award is not only for him but for every peace-loving person who stands against hate.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the recipients of the bravery awards, including the two police officers who arrested the gunman, were “selfless and extraordinary.”

Source: VOA News

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Italian, Libyan foreign ministers discuss strategic relations in Rome

Dilan Pamuk  


Italy’s foreign minister and his Libyan counterpart discussed relations between their countries at a meeting in Rome, the Italian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Luigi Di Maio and Najla Al-Mangoush confirmed the strategic nature of the bilateral ties and indicated their willingness to continue strengthening the partnership.

They also reviewed the main areas of bilateral collaboration, including cooperation on migration.

Di Maio reiterated Italy's commitment to a lasting stabilization in Libya and highlighted the importance of the conclusion of the electoral process as well as the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from the country.

He advised all parties in Libya to ensure constructive cooperation with Stephanie Williams, the new deputy chief of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Libya is preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24 under a UN-sponsored agreement reached by Libyan political rivals during meetings in Tunisia last year.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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EU committed to maintaining frank dialogue with Turkey

Dilara Hamit  


The European Union on Tuesday emphasized its commitment to maintaining an open and frank dialogue with Turkey, including addressing common challenges and cooperating in essential areas of joint interest such as migration, public health, climate, counter-terrorism and regional issues.

EU affairs ministers of EU member states met in Brussels for the last General Affairs Council meeting of the year. They made preparations for the EU Leaders' Summit to be held on Dec. 16, discussed the EU's 2022 agenda items and evaluated the latest situation regarding the union's enlargement.

"The Council takes note of the recent resumption of High Level Dialogues between the EU and Turkey on several of these issues, as well as the ratification by Turkey of the Paris Agreement on climate change," a statement said after the meeting.

The statement also highlighted that it commends Turkey's continued significant efforts in hosting and addressing the needs of almost 4 million refugees.

On the other hand, it noted concerns in the areas of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, including freedom of expression as well as the "systemic lack of independence of the judiciary."

"A number of restrictive measures taken during the state of emergency have been integrated into law and have a profound negative impact on people in Turkey. Civil society and its organizations operate under continuous pressure in an increasingly challenging environment. The systemic lack of independence and undue pressure on the judiciary cannot be condoned, nor can the on- going restrictions, detentions, imprisonments, and other measures targeting journalists, academics, members of political parties, including parliamentarians, lawyers, human rights defenders, social media users, and others exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms," the statement said.

The statement also said that Turkey’s foreign policy has been colliding with the EU’s priorities under the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including regarding Libya and Operation IRINI. It added that the Council expects Turkey and all actors to contribute positively to the resolution of regional crises.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Tatarstan celebrates 1,100 years of Islam

by Vladimir Rozanskij


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The deputy premier of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, Marat Khusnullin, has approved plans for the celebration of 1,100 years since the conversion to Islam of the Volga Bulgarians, an ancient population of the Ural region at the time of Kievan Rus'.

In 2022, 71 events are planned. The most important is the construction in Kazan - capital of the Tatar republic - of a huge complex called the "Sobornaja" Mosque or "Cathedral" (see model photo): the sacred building will include a museum, a library and several exhibition and reading rooms (madrassas). There will also be major initiatives in the nearby regions of Ulyanovsk and Nizhny Novgorod, and in Moscow.

A scientific center for the study and dissemination of manuscripts of Islamic sources will be opened in Kazan. It will be made accessible to researchers and the people, enhancing all the documents preserved by the various libraries and scientific institutions.

A series of conferences on "Russia and the Islamic World" are also scheduled, with the participation of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the KazanSummit center for economic studies and UNESCO, which will hold the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee in Kazan.

The Volga Bulgarians were the original population of the eastern part of present-day European Russia. In 988, at the time of the Christian baptism of Rus', the prince of Kiev Vladimir had asked them, uncertain about which religion to adopt. According to the ancient Chronicle of Nestor, their poor hygiene in prayer meetings and rejection of alcoholic beverages made the Russians lean toward Byzantine Christianity, which captivated the Kievan envoys with the splendor of the rites of St. Sophia in Constantinople.

The invasion of Kievan Rus' by the Tatar-Mongolian hordes in the early thirteenth century, just after the death of Genghis Khan, was preceded by the annihilation of the Eastern Bulgarians, who thus disappeared from history. The Tatars did not have an official religion and admitted local cults, thus assimilating themselves to the Islam of Kazan, while the Khanates of Asia and the Middle East converted to the Muslim religion only at the end of the 1300s.

Later conquered by the Russians under the leadership of the first Tsar Ivan the Terrible in the mid-1500s, Kazan became integrated into the Moscow court. Because of these historical dynamics, the Islam of the Russian Tatars has always lived in harmony with Orthodox Christianity as the second traditional religion of the Russian state.

Source: Asia News

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