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Muslim Council Of Elders, Headed By The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Denounces 'Campaign Against Prophet Muhammad' Under The Slogan Of Freedom Of Expression

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 October 2020


The grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb chaired Monday's meeting of the Muslim Council of Elders (photo courtesy of Egypt Al-Azhar official Facebook page)


• Controversial Statements By French Officials On Islam: Muslim Rights Group 'No Longer Feels Safe In France'

• Insulting Prophet Muhammad Is Not Free Speech: Hezbollah

• The G20 Interfaith Forum: Building A Better World For Everyone, Says H.E. Cardinal John Onaiyekan

• Pakistan Summons French Envoy Over Macron's Islamist Remarks And To Complain About A - • Systematic Islamophobic Campaign - In The European Nation

• Myanmar Will Take Back Rohingya From Bangladesh: China

• India Wants Pakistan To Prosecute David Headley For 26/11

• Muslim World League To Launch Museums Of The Prophet’s Life In Jakarta


Arab world

• Muslim Council Of Elders, Headed By The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Denounces 'Campaign Against Prophet Muhammad' Under The Slogan Of Freedom Of Expression

• Head Of Muslim League On Prophet Cartoon: We Are Not Against Freedoms, Only Hatred

• Iraqis protest Macron comments on Prophet cartoon outside French embassy in Baghdad

• Russian airstrikes kill 78 Turkish-backed militants in Syria’s Idlib: SOHR

• Oman next in line to normalize ties with Israel: Report



• Controversial Statements By French Officials On Islam: Muslim Rights Group 'No Longer Feels Safe In France'

• French Opposition Rejects Supporting Macron’s Anti-Islam Row With Turkey

• French goods feel brunt of Macron’s remarks ‘attacking Islam’



• Insulting Prophet Muhammad Is Not Free Speech: Hezbollah

• Tensions Between EU And Turkey Escalate Over Erdogan’s Insults To Macron

• Iranian Parliament Condemns Macron’s Support for Sacrilege Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)

• Iranian Jewish MP Deplores French Gov’t for Supporting Sacrilegious Acts against Muslims’ Sanctities

• Palestinian scholars protest Macron's anti-Islamic remarks

• Erdogan says it’s time a realistic proposal for two-state solution in Cyprus



• The G20 Interfaith Forum: Building A Better World For Everyone, Says H.E. Cardinal John Onaiyekan

• Libya's GNA Demands French President's Apology For Islamophobic Remarks

• Head Of Sudan’s Ruling Council Defends Israel Deal: We Were Not Blackmailed

• Libyans hold UN-backed talks after ceasefire deal between warring sides

• Militants from Mozambique staged deadly attack in Tanzania, police say



• Pakistan Summons French Envoy Over Macron's Islamist Remarks And To Complain About A - • Systematic Islamophobic Campaign - In The European Nation

• At Least 7 Killed, 70 Injured In Blast At Madrasa In Peshawar's Dir Colony

• Over The Publication Of Images Of The Prophet Muhammad, Pakistan Parliament  Asks Govt • To Withdraw Envoy From Paris

• Are You Working On BJP's Agenda, Balochistan Chief Minister Asks PDM

• PM seeks acquittal in Parliament House attack case

• PM vows to build knowledge city for quality education


South Asia

• Myanmar Will Take Back Rohingya From Bangladesh: China

• Bangladeshi Hackers Claim Responsibility For Attacking French Commercial Websites

• U.S. Defies Taliban Claim of Violating February Accord

• Car Bombing in Khost Claims 2, Hurts Dozen

• 2 ‘Terrorists’ Killed, 1 Nabbed in Paktiya Operation

• 4 Negotiators Return Home Empty Handed, Freezing Peace Talks in Doha

• Pak-Afghan Trade, Investment Forum Launched

• US says it killed five Taliban fighters with airstrike in central Afghanistan



• India Wants Pakistan To Prosecute David Headley For 26/11

• India To Get 5 Military Theatre Commands, One Each For China And Pak

• Terrorist killed, another surrenders during encounter in Jammu and Kashmir

• Kerala gold smuggling case: Key UAE-based conspirator brought back to India, arrested by NIA


Southeast Asia

• Muslim World League To Launch Museums Of The Prophet’s Life In Jakarta

• US Secretary Of State Pompeo Set To Boost Indonesian Religious Reform Efforts

• Hadi making peace between Umno and Bersatu, says PAS spiritual leader

• Muslim teachers’ suit over vernacular schools annulled

• Malaysian PM faces uncertain future after king’s ‘unprecedented’ decision

• Indonesian Muslim leader meets pope to discuss humanity award

• Calls for Malaysian PM to step down after king rejects emergency bid


North America

• US Reiterates Potential Serious Consequences For Turkey After Erdogan Mocks Sanctions

• US sanctions Iran’s state oil sector, petroleum minister

• US embassy in Turkey warns of potential terror attack threat in Istanbul

• White teen pleads guilty to plot to attack Black churchgoers in Georgia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




 Muslim Council Of Elders, Headed By The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Denounces 'Campaign Against Prophet Muhammad' Under The Slogan Of Freedom Of Expression

26 Oct 2020


The grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb chaired Monday's meeting of the Muslim Council of Elders (photo courtesy of Egypt Al-Azhar official Facebook page)


The Muslim Council of Elders denounced during a meeting on Monday what it described as "a systematic campaign" against the Prophet Muhammad and the sanctities of Islam under the slogan of freedom of expression.

The council also denounced the recent killing of a French teacher as well as the stabbing and attempted murder of two Muslim women near the Eiffel Tower.

“All these incidents are abhorrent terrorism, no matter who committed them or what their motives were,” the council said.

Monday's meeting, which was held via video conference and headed by the grand imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb, comes amid heightened tension over recent remarks made by French officials, including President Emmanuel Macron, about Islam.

The council said that freedom of expression comes with the social responsibility of respecting the rights of others and does not allow for exploiting religions for political purposes or for electoral campaigns.

The council called on Muslims in the West to adhere to the principles of coexistence and peace, as well as to enhance their contribution towards development in their countries.

Earlier this month, Macron gave a controversial speech where he announced that France has put in place a strategy to fight what he called “Islamic separatism” within the country, and said he would send a bill to France's parliament early next year to that effect.


Controversial Statements By French Officials On Islam: Muslim Rights Group 'No Longer Feels Safe In France'

Büşra Nur Bilgiç Çakmak 



A French Muslim human rights group on Monday announced plans to expand its activities outside the country amid concerns for its safety and recent controversial statements by officials on Islam.

"As an organization, we no longer feel we can conduct our work in a safe environment, as our lives are threatened and the government designates us as an enemy,” said the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) in a statement.

The group said they had been targeted by hate messages, death threats and insults over the past week after the French government announced it wanted to dissolve the organization.

"Using fake news from the far right, some political figures in the entourage of president Macron have even tried to pin last Friday's attack on organizations who denounce Islamophobia, as if it was conceptually impossible to address both terrorism and contemporary forms of racism, including Islamophobia," said the statement.

"For these reasons, whatever the outcome of the government's attempt to dissolve CCIF, we have decided to extend our activities internationally, to ensure continuity of our operations and protect our teams."

French authorities recently launched a massive wave of investigations on Muslim organizations in the country following the killing of a Paris teacher.

Samuel Paty, 47, who taught history and geography at Bois-d'Aulne College in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, was brutally murdered by Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old of Chechen origin. The suspect was gunned down by police.

The teacher, during one of his classes on freedom of expression, had shown the controversial cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, according to reports.

Muslim leaders across France have condemned the murder, stressing that extremists abuse religion for their own goals and their actions could not be justified through Islam.

Community leaders also expressed their concern that the recent attack would again stigmatize French Muslims and inflame Islamophobic sentiments.

The government has announced last week that it was probing 51 French Muslim associations, including the Collective Against Islamophobia in France.

Interior Minister Darmanin claimed that elements of the organization had caused officials to consider it "an enemy of the republic."

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron described Islam as a religion "in crisis" and announced plans for tougher laws to tackle what he called "Islamist separatism" in France.

"The problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the republic," he said.

Some civil society groups and organizations that "act against the law and values of the country" might be closed or face tight financial audits, according to Macron's plan.


Insulting Prophet Muhammad Is Not Free Speech: Hezbollah

25 October 2020


Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah has denounced the publication of derogatory cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad (Blessings of God upon him and his progeny), stating that an affront to Muslim sensibilities and Islam’s most revered figure cannot be justified as a right to free speech and opinion.


Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah has denounced the publication of derogatory cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad, stating that an affront to Muslim sensibilities and Islam’s most revered figure cannot be justified as a right to free speech and opinion.

In a statement published on Sunday, Hezbollah expressed regret over disparaging tropes about Islam and the Prophet as well as the issue of Islamophobia in France.

“What was published in France hurt the feelings of more than two billion Muslims, including the Muslim and Arab communities that have lived in Europe and France for decades.”

Hezbollah stressed that “all false claims of freedom of opinion and expression cannot justify insulting Prophet Muhammad and disparaging divine religions and beliefs.”

The Lebanese resistance movement then called upon the French authorities to prevent the publication of materials that would provoke tension at the international level.

Also on Sunday, Kuwait's non-governmental Union of Consumer Cooperative Societies boycotted French-made products over the display of defamatory cartoons in a French school class on freedom of expression, whose teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded outside the school in a Paris suburb on October 16.

“All French products have been removed from all Consumer Cooperative Societies,” union head Fahd al-Kishti told Reuters, adding that the move was in response to “repeated insults” against the Prophet and had been taken independently of Kuwait's government.

Kuwait's Foreign Minister Shiekh Ahmad Nasser al-Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah also met French Ambassador Marie Masdupuy on Sunday.

The top Kuwaiti diplomat condemned Paty’s killing as a horrendous crime, but stressed the need to avoid insulting religion in official and political remarks that “inflame hatred, enmity and racism,” the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry wrote in a post published on its official Twitter page.

On Friday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation decried the French teacher’s murder by an 18-year-old assailant but also criticized the “justification for blasphemy-based harassment of any religion in the name of freedom of expression.”


The G20 Interfaith Forum: Building A Better World For Everyone, Says H.E. Cardinal John Onaiyekan

27 October 2020

In 2005, Cardinal Onaiyekan’s commitment to peace and de-escalation was put to the test. He had just received word that a Danish newspaper had printed a series of satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, sending shockwaves through Nigeria and resulting in hundreds of casualties in a violent uprising between the country’s Christian and Muslim communities.

Following visits from the Israeli ambassador and a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Cardinal Onaiyekan reached out to the Sultan of Sokoto, the leader of Nigeria’s Muslim community. Together two of Nigeria’s most influential religious leaders issued a joint statement declaring that the incident was not a Muslim-Christian issue and urging both sides to settle disputes peacefully.

In the years since, His Eminence Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, has earned his reputation as the person to call in Nigeria when there is conflict, especially those of an interreligious nature.

Following his education and early work with the Church, Cardinal Onaiyekan was appointed the Auxiliary Bishop of Ilorin at the age of 38. Now retired from official church duties, Cardinal Onaiyekan continues to advocate religious peacebuilding and justice in sub-Saharan Africa and around the world.

In 2012, he was named Pax Christi International’s 2012 Peace Laureate, an annual prize awarded to exemplary individuals who stand up for peace, justice, and nonviolence across the globe.

“I am involved at the international level for the same reasons I’ve been at the frontlines of Christian-Muslim dialogue in my country — to work for justice and peace,” he said. 

Due to his sterling record of interreligious engagement in Nigeria, and his persistent promotion of peace in other capacities throughout his career, he has served as honorary president of Religions for Peace (RfP), as President of the Christian Association of Nigeria and as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.

He has also been invited to be a part of the upcoming G20 Interfaith Forum which will be held October 13-17 – a role that Cardinal Onaiyekan sees as an opportunity to bring the importance of faith in conflict resolution and sustainable development to the forefront.

“In the past, the G20 group has not been known to take religion very seriously, but through the Interfaith Forum we now have a channel to bring issues of relevance to religious communities to the attention of this body,” he said.

The Cardinal highlighted how the issues discussed at the forum — from global poverty to protecting the planet — are interconnected. “It’s all the same, it’s all linked together. The solution of one leads to the solution of the other,” he added.

Just as important for Cardinal Onaiyekan is the interconnectivity of nations. “The issues of conflict all over the world are connected with the issues of the world economy and the way it is organized — or disorganized, if you like,” he said. “In other words, if the G20 represents the most important countries in today’s world, they must accept their responsibility for deciding how much peace we will have in this world.”

Reflecting on his role as a Christian leader in Nigeria  — which is not a member of the G20 nations — he said that his people can only hope to latch on to some of the “positive fallout” of the discussions that will be taking place at the summit.

That means G20 nations bear a particular responsibility to think of those not in the room as they meet and discuss the global economy and the state of world affairs.

“I hope that as they gather they have in mind the interests of world peace and justice and the wisdom to realise that is in their own enlightened self-interest to build a better world for everyone,” Cardinal Onaiyekan said.

He also plans to bring his recent experiences with the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) and the KAICIID-supported Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP), of which he is a member of the Board of Trustees, to the G20 table.

These partnerships have further exposed him to the issues of interreligious dialogue across the globe.

“What we learn from discussions and meetings at the global level helps us to deal with issues at our own local level, where direct action is called for,” he said.

“There are many people working in this area of bringing people together and rescuing religion from those who have given it a bad name,” he said, “but KAICIID plays an important role due to its convening power and semi-official (intergovernmental) status.” The Centre’s “work is obviously very important in our days.”

“And so we welcome KAICIID to help us in Nigeria” he continued. They bring critical assistance to the work we are doing on the ground.”

In the meantime, Cardinal Onaiyekan hopes to bring back valuable lessons from his high-level, multilateral, interreligious collaborations, such as those at the G20 Interfaith Forum, back home to Nigeria.

Reflecting Pope Francis’ call in his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, focused on themes of fraternity and social friendship as means to build a better, more just, and peaceful world, he added, “It’s like coronavirus has taught us, until everyone is safe, everyone else remains unsafe.

“Until every nation, including the small ones, are living in peace and harmony with a minimum of well-being, there can be no peace in the world. No amount of nuclear weapons can enforce that kind of peace,” he said, “let us hope that the Interfaith Forum brings this message to the G20 most forcefully,” Cardinal Onaiyekan said.


Pakistan Summons French Envoy Over Macron's Islamist Remarks And To Complain About A -Systematic Islamophobic Campaign - In The European Nation

Oct 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan summoned France's ambassador Monday to complain about a "systematic Islamophobic campaign" in the European nation after French President Emmanuel Macron criticised Islamists and defended the publication of religious cartoons.

The move came as small, scattered protests were held in cities across Pakistan and a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of "attacking Islam".

Foreign affairs ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told AFP the French ambassador had been summoned "to convey Pakistan's concerns over (the) systematic Islamophobic campaign under the garb of freedom of expression".

The French embassy in Islamabad did not immediately comment.

Macron spoke out last week after a Chechen extremist beheaded a French teacher near Paris after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a class he was leading on free speech.

Macron said the teacher "was killed because Islamists want our future".

That comment compounded earlier controversy after the French premier this month said "Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world".

The teacher became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material -- the same images that sparked a bloody assault by Islamist gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the original publisher, in January 2015.

Caricatures of Mohammed are forbidden by Islam and blasphemy is an explosive issue in ultra-conservative Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures can face the death penalty.

A few dozen people rallied in Pakistani cities Monday including in Quetta and Peshawar, where protesters demanded a boycott of French goods and religious leaders called for larger demonstrations on Friday.

In the eastern city of Lahore, protesters set France's tricolour flag ablaze.

Last month, a Pakistan-born man admitted stabbing two people outside Charlie Hebdo's former Paris offices. According to investigators, he had wanted to avenge the magazine's republication of the cartoons.

Khan, a populist leader who has been known to play to Pakistan's hardline religious base, wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday asking the social media giant to take down Islamophobic content.

A Facebook representative said in a statement the company was against "all forms of hate including hate targeting the Muslim community".


Myanmar will take back Rohingya from Bangladesh: China

Md. Kamruzzaman 


DHAKA, Bangladesh

Myanmar has told China it is willing to take back Rohingya refugees currently living in Bangladesh, according to the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry.

In a statement, the ministry said China’s top diplomat Wang Yi conveyed this information to his Bangladeshi counterpart AK Abdul Momen in a phone call on Thursday night.

“Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi said that recently Myanmar had once again assured that the displaced Rohingya would be returned to Myanmar,” said the statement issued on Friday.

Myanmar informed China that it will soon hold talks with Bangladesh on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, it added.

Wang said Beijing has remained in touch with Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis, assuring Momen that envoy-level talks between Dhaka and Naypyitaw will be held after Myanmar’s elections in November, the statement said.

That will be followed by a tripartite minister-level meeting between China, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, the statement quoted Wang as saying.

The Chinese and Bangladeshi diplomats also discussed other issues, including coronavirus vaccine efforts and post-pandemic economic recovery.

Rohingya: ‘World’s most persecuted people’

Bangladesh is currently host to over 1.2 million Rohingya, who have been described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

The Rohingya have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were thrown into fires, over 114,000 more beaten, and as many as 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar's army and police, said the OIDA report, titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.

Over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and some 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

In it its World Report 2020, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said a UN-mandated Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) found “sufficient evidence to call for the investigation of senior military officials for crimes against humanity and genocide against ethnic Rohingya Muslims.”

Some 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Rakhine State were still the target of a government campaign to eradicate their identity and living under “threat of genocide,” according to the FFM’s report last September as quoted by HRW.


India wants Pakistan to prosecute David Headley for 26/11

Oct 27, 2020

NEW DELHI: India wants Pakistan to prosecute Pakistan-American David Coleman Headley, and seek his testimony as a witness, in the 2008 Mumbai attacks case, TOI has learnt.

The government conveyed this to Islamabad last week, while reiterating that India is open to hosting a Pakistan judicial commission for examining witnesses in Mumbai or to questioning them through a teleconference.

The 26/11 plotter who pleaded guilty is serving a 35-year sentence in the US for planning terror attacks in Denmark and India. India believes though his deposition before Pakistan authorities, exposing Pakistan's ISI links with the perpetrators, will set to rest any doubt whatsoever about the role of Pakistan state actors in the attacks that left 166, including 6 Americans, dead.

Headley has confessed before both US and Indian agencies that he acted at the behest of ISI and that the terror group responsible for the attack, LeT, was acting under the same spy agency's umbrella.

That he turned approver and pleaded guilty, while leading to his conviction by a US court, also meant that under the US laws he can no longer be extradited to India, or to Pakistan in the unlikely event of Islamabad acting on India's advice and seeking his prosecution.

Not being extradited to India, Pakistan or Denmark was one of the conditions on which the rogue US intelligence agent had turned approver.

In his plea bargain, Headley had agreed though that, when directed by the US attorney’s office, he would "fully and truthfully" testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, videoconferencing or letters rogatory. This opens the door for Pakistan to implead Headley.

At a time it remains worried about the fate of the inordinately delayed trial in Pakistan of the other 26/11 accused, including LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, India is keen that the links of ISI and other military officers with the attacks are foregrounded again in he form of a virtual Headley testimony. The need for Pakistan to bring the Mumbai attacks accused to justice is again likely to figure in the 2+2 ministerial dialogue with the US Tuesday. India has also continued to emphasise that Pakistan hasn't yet stopped promoting cross-border terrorism.

After he was made an accused in the Mumbai attacks, Headley testified virtually before a Mumbai special court and named one Major Ali and another Major Iqbal, both from ISI, as his handlers in Pakistan.

Headley had revealed that his reconnaissance missions to India were ordered by Major Iqbal and that, before his September 2006 visit to India, he had received $ 25,000 from Iqbal. He had also said that he got 40,000 in Pakistani currency from LeT operative Sajid Mir between April and June 2008.

Admitting that he worked for ISI and LeT, Headley had identified ISI official Brigadier Riyaz as Lakhvi, the Mumbai attacks mastermind. He also named 3 other ISI officials - Colonel Shah, Lt Colonel Hamza and Major Samir Ali - who, he said, were working with LeT and Al Qaeda.

India had in August this year again offered to host a judicial commission from Pakistan after Islamabad sent a list of 27 witnesses the anti-terror court hearing the case wants to examine. The government though has rejected the demand that the witnesses visit Pakistan, saying that Pakistan could also consider examining them through a video conference.

The Mumbai trial was initiated after Pakistan in 2009 arrested seven men directly involved in the terror attack. Apart from Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum are facing charges of abetment to murder, attempted murder, planning and executing the 2008 attacks. India has remained sceptical about the outcome though, not least because of Pakistan's refusal to act against JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, who is also accused of masterminding the Mumbai attacks.


Muslim World League to launch museums of the Prophet’s life in Jakarta

October 25, 2020

JAKARTA: The Muslim World League (MWL) and the Museum of the History of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Indonesia signed an agreement to launch museums and exhibitions about the Prophet’s life and the Islamic world in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Sunday.

The signing ceremony was attended by MWL Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and former Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

The project will begin on land with an area exceeding 100,000 square meters (with all facilities) in Jakarta, reflecting Indonesia’s appreciation for this historic Islamic project. The agreement was signed earlier using initials, followed by the foundation stone laying ceremony.

The exhibits will include all the prominent scenes from the life of the Prophet, presented using the latest technology. The agreement also includes the distribution of over 200 encyclopedias and books on the Prophet’s life prepared by the MWL during the last three years.



Arab world


Head of Muslim League on Prophet cartoon: We are not against freedoms, only hatred

Tuqa Khalid

27 October 2020

Muslims do not stand against constitutional freedoms of individuals, only attempts to distort those freedoms and using them to spread hatred, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Mohammed al-Issa told Al Arabiya on Monday.

“We are not against legitimate freedoms, but we are against employing those freedoms for material gain, undermining their value. We are also against the consequential spread of hatred and racism,” he said.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Al-Issa’s statement comes amid controversy over the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a French school class on freedom of expression whose teacher was then murdered by someone French President Emmanuel Macron labeled an “Islamist.”

Macron defended the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

This came after a French teacher was beheaded last week near Paris after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet during a class about free speech. Macron had said the slain teacher was a “victim of an Islamist terrorist attack.”

The French president also said: “We will not give up cartoons,” in a ceremony to honor the teacher last week. He added: “He was killed because Islamists want our future,” while vowing “they will never have it.”

The incident has ignited debate about respecting religions and spurred many leaders in the Islamic world to condemn the crime but stress the importance of respecting prophets.

Al-Issa condemned in the strongest terms the cartoons and said they were offensive to Muslim. However, he stressed that the stature of the Prophet was much too great to be slighted by mere cartoons.

He encouraged Muslims to avoid “any negative overreaction,” and act only based on the teachings of the Islamic faith.

“Inconsequential newspaper with barely any sales or subscriptions, unimportant and obscure illustrators gained international fame effortlessly and free of charge. This is due to the negative reactions which helped them become famous,” he said.

Al-Issa added: “The European Court of Human Rights ruled that insulting our Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, does not fall within the scope of freedom of expression.”

“In short, the principle of freedoms cannot be an excuse to spread hatred.”


Iraqis protest Macron comments on Prophet cartoon outside French embassy in Baghdad

26 October 2020

Dozens protested Monday outside the French embassy in Baghdad after a pro-Iran faction called on Iraqis to slam French President Emmanuel Macron's defense of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

A cleric at the rally, Aqil al-Kadhemi, demanded an "apology to all Muslims because the Prophet is a symbol of Islam and Muslims" and visual depictions of him are strictly forbidden in Islam.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

"We are demonstrating to denounce and strongly disapprove" of Macron's comments, Kadhemi told AFP at the protest that was heavily guarded by police.

"We're surprised that a country such as France, supposedly the bastion of culture and respect for others, continually disrespects more than 1.5 billion Muslims."

Macron has drawn anger in parts of the Muslim world with his robust defense of the right to mock religion following the murder of a French schoolteacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Rabaa Allah, a pro-Iran faction formed in recent months which urged Iraqis to show up at the embassy, said "we are ready anywhere and anytime to answer back to those who tarnish our beliefs".

Earlier this month, supporters of Hashed al-Shaabi -- an Iraqi paramilitary network dominated by Iran-backed factions -- burned down the main Kurdish party's headquarters in Baghdad after criticism from a Kurdish ex-minister.

Some of the men in the small demonstration Monday burned a French flag and posters of Macron.

Several families and children held up placards with red crosses plastered on Macron's face and others of him bearing a pig's face.

"We denounce Macron who had the audacity to dishonor our blessed Prophet," said Aliaa al-Khafaji, a 40-year-old woman.

Other protesters called for a boycott of French products, like those already underway in supermarkets in Qatar and Kuwait and demanded by some in Jordan and Turkey.

Several dozen protesters also rallied in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza for a second day in a row.

A banner outside the French cultural institute there was torn down and replaced by images of Macron's crossed-out face and a poster stating, "Our Prophet will be victorious".


Russian airstrikes kill 78 Turkish-backed militants in Syria’s Idlib: SOHR

26 October 2020

Dozens of Turkish-backed Takfiri militants have been killed in Syria’s troubled northwestern province of Idlib when Turkish fighter jets carried out a string of airstrikes against the positions of terror groups operating in the area.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 78 members of Faylaq al-Sham (Sham Legion) terrorist group were killed on Monday as Russian warplanes targeted their training camp in the Jabal Duwayli area of the province.

The war monitor added that more than 90 others were wounded in the airstrikes, noting that the death toll is expected to rise as some of the injured are reported to be in critical condition and many militants are apparently buried under the rubble.

Turkish forces, allied militants shell village in northern Syria

Also on Monday, Turkish military forces and allied militants launched barrages of mortar shells at residential neighborhoods in Syria’s northern province of Raqqa.

Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Syria’s official news agency SANA that Turkish troops and their proxies targeted buildings in Qaz’ali village, which lies west of Tal Abyad town, causing material damage.

The development came only a day after Turkish forces and their allies shelled the villages of al-Nuwaihat and Qabir Khadrawi in the Abu Rasin district of the northeastern Syrian province of Hasakah. No reports about possible casualties or the extent of damage were quickly available.

Ankara has been providing support to militants operating to topple the Damascus government since early 2011.

Last year, Turkey seized control of the border town of Ra’s al-Ayn after it launched a cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria with the help of its allied armed groups to push Kurdish militants affiliated with the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas.

Ankara views YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).


Oman next in line to normalize ties with Israel: Report

26 October 2020

Israeli officials say Oman is likely the next Arab country to normalize ties with Israel after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan reached normalization deals with the Tel Aviv regime.

Israel’s Channel 12 cited sources in the Israeli regime as saying that the Israel-Oman normalization deal was even potentially possible before the US presidential election on November 3.

However, they stressed that the agreement could take more time, as Muscat would likely wait to see where political winds were blowing in the US before making any major decisions.

Israel and the Persian Gulf Arab regimes have increased their contacts in recent years.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 visited Oman, where he met Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said at the Bait al-Barakah Royal Palace in the coastal city of Seeb near the capital Muscat.

Sultan Qaboos died in January and was replaced by his cousin Haitham bin Tariq Al Said.

Oman hailed the accords between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain last month.

The UAE and Bahrain signed the controversial agreements to normalize ties with Israel at the White House on September 15, amid outrage across Palestine and the Muslim world.

Israeli regime okays Bahrain deal

Israel on Sunday unanimously approved the normalization deal with Bahrain, minister of settlement affairs Tzachi Hanegbi told Army Radio. The deal now awaits parliamentary ratification. A date for that vote has yet to be set.

Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi ratified their bilateral deal earlier this month.

Riyadh to follow suit

According to the Times of Israel, Yossi Cohen, the director of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, said he believes Saudi Arabia will normalize relations with Israel, but will do so after the US election, to capitalize fully on such a move with the next president.

Jordan and Egypt were the only two Arab states that have diplomatic ties with Israel, before the recent accords.

On Friday, Sudan’s junta regime agreed to normalize ties with the regime in Israel after the US removed the African state from its terrorism blacklist and offered it financial aid in exchange.

US President Donald Trump sealed the normalization deal in a phone call on Friday with Netanyahu and Sudanese prime minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Sudan, Israel to discuss cooperation next weeks

The Sudanese foreign ministry said on Sunday that Khartoum and Tel Aviv will discuss deals for agriculture, aviation, trade and migration in the next weeks, signaling steps to implement the pact, despite being rejected by prominent political factions in Sudan.

Netanyahu’s office said in a tweet on Sunday that Israel will send wheat worth $5 million to “our new friends of Sudan”.

Sudan’s transitional government revealed on Sunday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conditioned - during his visit to Khartoum - Sudan’s removal from the list of countries it calls state sponsors of terrorism in exchange for its normalization of relations with Israel.





French opposition rejects supporting Macron’s anti-Islam row with Turkey

OCT 26, 2020

AFrench opposition leader and former presidential candidate said on Monday that he does not support Emmanuel Macron in his row with Turkey over his Muslim crackdown, adding that the French President has "totally lost control of the situation."

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the France Unbowed movement and MP for a Mediterranean region with a large Muslim population, said he supported Macron several times but that he will not support Macron now in his row with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

"The best I can to do is to be silent," he told French Radio Inter.

"Last night, the president, for reasons that none of us can understand, spread out over a series of tweets, totally lost control of the situation," said Melenchon.

He added that Macron "would do well to think about what his strategy will be: France is being demeaned, humiliated, and ridiculed, what does he intend to do, apart from tweets?"

He said Macron had branded his movement "left Islamists" or "Islamo-leftists."

Earlier this month, Macron described Islam as a religion "in crisis" and announced plans for tougher laws to tackle what he called "Islamist separatism" in France.

He condemned the murder of a French teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in class, but said France would "not give up our cartoons."

Several Arab countries, as well as Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, have condemned Macron's attitude toward Muslims and Islam, with Erdoğan saying on Sunday that the French leader needs "mental treatment."

After Erdogan's remarks, France recalled its ambassador to Turkey.


French goods feel brunt of Macron’s remarks ‘attacking Islam’

October 26, 2020

PARIS: France’s largest employers’ federation on Monday urged companies to “resist the blackmail” over a product boycott by Arab countries as a backlash widens over Paris’ hardened stance against radical Islam.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to take the fight to Islamic radicals after the Oct 16 beheading of a history teacher who had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to pupils in a class discussion on free speech.

But his comments triggered protests in Muslim-majority countries at the weekend, with people burning pictures of Macron in Syria and setting fire to French flags in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Boycotts of French goods are under way in supermarkets in Qatar and Kuwait, with further calls to spurn French products in Jordan and other states.

On Monday, the head of France’s Medef employers’ federation said the boycott, which he described as “foolishness”, was clearly bad news for companies already hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“But there is no question of giving in to blackmail,” Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux told broadcaster RMC.

“It is a question of sticking to our republican values.

“There is a time to put principles above business.”

He said Medef supported the government’s stance and urged companies “to resist this blackmail and, unfortunately, to endure this boycott”, which he said remained “fairly localised” for now.

Islamists want ‘our future’

After teacher Samuel Paty’s gruesome murder by a Chechen extremist in the name of avenging the Prophet Muhammad, Macron vowed that France would never give up cartoons such as those which in 2015 triggered a deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and which Paty showed to his class.

Macron hailed Paty as a “hero” for representing the secular, free-thinking values of the French republic, which include a long-cherished right to mock religion.

“He was killed because Islamists want to take our future,” Macron said at a memorial for Paty.

“They will never have it.”

Several suspected Islamic radicals have been arrested in dozens of raids since the murder, and about 50 organisations with alleged links to such individuals have been earmarked for closure by the government.

Earlier this month, Macron unveiled a plan to defend France’s secular values against a trend of “Islamist separatism”, and described Islam as a religion “in crisis”.

France has in recent years been forced to take a hard look at its core values, perceived by many to be threatened by Islam following a string of militant attacks that have killed over 240 people since 2015.

But Macron’s stance has fuelled tension between France and the Muslim world, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan telling his counterpart to undergo “mental checks” for treating “millions of members from different faith groups this way”.

The comments prompted Paris to recall its envoy to Ankara.

‘Attacking Islam’

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused Macron of “attacking Islam”.

Maher al-Huli, a leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, condemned the comments by Macron “and whoever offends the Prophet Muhammad, whether through words, actions, gestures or drawings”.

The Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and Morocco have also spoken out against France.

On Monday, the Taliban in Afghanistan added its voice to the outcry, saying Macron’s comments amounted to “a stand against nations”.

The Taliban said “it would be better if he carefully studied Islam instead of making ignorant Islamophobic remarks”.

The head of the Amman chamber of commerce, Khalil Haj Tawfeeq, in a letter to the French ambassador to Jordan, called on Macron to apologise to the Islamic world.

France’s Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot insisted Monday on BFMTV that there was “no fight against French Muslims, there is simply a fight against Islamism and terrorism”.

Fresh protests are planned Monday in the Gaza Strip and Tuesday in Amman.





Tensions between EU and Turkey escalate over Erdogan’s insults to Macron

26 October 2020

Tensions between the European Union and Turkey have risen further after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned the mental state of his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.

Several EU officials harshly criticized Erdogan's comments over the weekend and the bloc's executive arm, the European Commission, said on Monday that the Turkish leader should change his approach if he does not want to derail the bloc's attempts at renewed dialogue with his country.

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Erdogan said Saturday that Macron needed his head examined. He made the comments during a local party congress, apparently in response to statements Macron made this month about problems created by radical Muslims in France who practice what the French leader termed “Islamist separatism.” Erdogan also railed against France for condoning caricatures of the prophet of Islam.

In an unusual move, France announced Saturday it was recalling its ambassador for consultations. The French presidential office noted as well that Turkey had called for a boycott of French products. The move, if taken to heart, could add a layer of economic ramifications to the deepening diplomatic tussle.

Erdogan, who said the French leader has “lost his way,” continued on the same offensive tone Monday as he called on Muslim nations to come to the assistance of Muslims in France. In a speech at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the birth of the prophet, the Turkish leader accused European leaders of conducting anti-Islam policies.

“You are fascists in the true meaning of the world. You are veritably the link in the Nazi chain,” he said in reference to European leaders.

The spat comes as tensions between France and Turkey have intensified in recent months over issues that include the fighting in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, a region within Azerbaijan that is controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists.

In a message posted on Twitter Sunday, the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, slammed Erdogan comments as “unacceptable” and urged Turkey to “stop this dangerous spiral of confrontation.”

European Council President Charles Michel blamed Turkey for resorting to “provocations, unilateral actions in the Mediterranean and now “insults."

At a summit earlier this month, EU member states agreed to review Turkey’s behavior in December and threatened to impose sanctions if Erdogan's “provocations" do not stop, a council statement said.

EU spokesman Peter Stano said Monday he did not exclude an urgent meeting of EU ministers at an earlier date following Erdogan’s latest comments.

“We clearly expect a change in action and declarations from the Turkish side,” Stano said at a news conference. He said there would be many discussions “to see whether we are going to continue to wait or take action earlier.”

Several EU member states leaders rallied around France in Macron's spat with Erdogan. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country stood with France “for the freedom of speech and against extremism and radicalism." Stressing Germany’s solidarity with France in the fight against Islamic extremists, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described Erdogan’s insults of Macron as “a new low point."

In Greece, president Katerina Sakellaropoulou said Erdogan's rhetoric “fuels religious fanaticism and intolerance in the name of a clash of civilizations, (and) cannot be tolerated."

Still, Stano insisted that Turkey remains a “very important partner” for the 27-nation bloc and that “no one will profit from more confrontation."

The increase in tensions has not helped Turkey’s negotiations on joining the EU, the world’s biggest trade bloc, which began in 2005 but have stood at a standstill in recent years. Turkey is the EU's fifth largest trading partner and the bloc relies on Ankara to stop migrants from entering the bloc through its borders with Greece and Bulgaria.


Iranian Parliament Condemns Macron’s Support for Sacrilege Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)

Oct 26, 2020

“In recent days, the entire world witnessed how the French government proved its demonic nature by supporting the inhumane move of one of the country's magazines that blatantly insulted the holy great Prophet Mohammad Mostafa (PBUH),” the statement said.

“No doubt that such behaviors shown under the pretext of freedom of expression are the biggest cruelty towards the freedom of expression,” it added.

The statement warned that Macron is obviously not concerned about the freedom of expression, "but this insolence is a part of a bigger plot to slow down the growing trend of the French people’s conversion to Islam".

The Iranian legislators underlined that the world Muslims will stand united against the global infidelity stream.

In recent weeks and after a French teacher was beheaded by an ISIL member after he displayed cartoons of the prophet of Islam, French President Emmanuel Macron attacked Islam and the Muslim community, accusing Muslims of "separatism", and he said previously that "Islam is a religion in crisis all over the world".

The incident in Paris coincided with a provocative move by Charlie Hebdo, a left-wing French magazine infamous for publishing anti-Islamic content, which has drawn widespread anger and outrage across the Muslim world.

The caricatures were first published in 2006 by a Danish newspaper Jylllands Posten, sparking a wave of protests.

On Saturday, the Iranian foreign ministry strongly deplored the “stubborn” continuation of blasphemous acts and remarks against the Great Prophet of Islam (PBUH) in France.

“Undoubtedly, the unacceptable and violent actions of a few extremists, which are originated from an extremist and deviant ideology in the Islamic world, and, ironically, is also owned by political partners close to the West and the US, no way can be a justification to insult and disrespect a heavenly figure respected by 1.8bln Muslims in the world,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

“No doubt the unjustifiable position of the French officials is not an appropriate and prudent response to the extremism and violence that is condemned in its place, and it causes hatred more than ever as we are witnessing some suspicious and disgusting acts of insult to the holy Quran by a few extremist and anti-Islam streams in a number of European states which are strongly condemned,” he added.

Khatibzaden underscored Iran’s support for the Islamic countries’ position to deplore such acts, describing sacrilege of Islamic values and beliefs of Muslims as unacceptable and denounced.

The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) last Friday condemned continued attacks and incitement against Muslim sentiments and insults of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

A statement by the OIC criticized the "discourse from certain French politicians, which it deems to be harmful to the Muslim-French relations, hate-mongering and only serving partisan political interests".

It said it "will always condemn practices of blasphemy and of insulting Prophets of Islam, Christianity and Judaism" as it condemned any crime committed in the name of religion.

It also denounced the killing of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was decapitated earlier this month in a Paris suburb. The statement rejected the incitement against Islam, its symbols and linking Islam and Muslims with terrorism.


Iranian Jewish MP Deplores French Gov’t for Supporting Sacrilegious Acts against Muslims’ Sanctities

Oct 26, 2020

“What has happened in France today, insulting the Islam Prophet (PBUH), is a blasphemous act which is unfortunately supported by the French government,” Sameh Yah told FNA on Monday.

He dismissed the claim that the sacrilegious acts in France are instance of freedom of expression, and said the extensiveness of such insulting acts in France is due to the French government’s support for them.

“They are after anti-Islam acts and Islamophobia across the world,” Sameh Yah warned.

The Iranian foreign ministry on Saturday strongly deplored the “stubborn” continuation of blasphemous acts and remarks against the Great Prophet of Islam (PBUH) in France.

“Undoubtedly, the unacceptable and violent actions of a few extremists, which are originated from an extremist and deviant ideology in the Islamic world, and, ironically, is also owned by political partners close to the West and the US, no way can be a justification to insult and disrespect a heavenly figure respected by 1.8bln Muslims in the world,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

“No doubt the unjustifiable position of the French officials is not an appropriate and prudent response to the extremism and violence that is condemned in its place, and it causes hatred more than ever as we are witnessing some suspicious and disgusting acts of insult to the holy Quran by a few extremist and anti-Islam streams in a number of European states which are strongly condemned,” he added.

Khatibzaden underscored Iran’s support for the Islamic countries’ position to deplore such acts, describing sacrilege of Islamic values and beliefs of Muslims as unacceptable and denounced.

The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) last Friday condemned continued attacks and incitement against Muslim sentiments and insults of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

A statement by the OIC criticized the "discourse from certain French politicians, which it deems to be harmful to the Muslim-French relations, hate-mongering and only serving partisan political interests".

It said it "will always condemn practices of blasphemy and of insulting Prophets of Islam, Christianity and Judaism" as it condemned any crime committed in the name of religion.

It also denounced the killing of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was decapitated last Friday in a Paris suburb.

The statement rejected the incitement against Islam, its symbols and linking Islam and Muslims with terrorism.

In recent weeks, French President Emmanuel Macron attacked Islam and the Muslim community, accusing Muslims of "separatism", and he said previously that "Islam is a religion in crisis all over the world".

The incident in Paris coincided with a provocative move by Charlie Hebdo, a left-wing French magazine infamous for publishing anti-Islamic content, which has drawn widespread anger and outrage across the Muslim world.

The caricatures were first published in 2006 by a Danish newspaper Jylllands Posten, sparking a wave of protests.


Palestinian scholars protest Macron's anti-Islamic remarks

26 October 2020

Along with worldwide condemnations of the insults of Prophet Mohammed, Palestinian scholars in the Gaza strip held a rally to denounce the cartoons as well as Emanuel Macron's anti-Islam remarks.

Palestinians also called the whole Muslim world to boycott French products in protest to the anti-Islamic campaigns in the country. They said the campaigns have nothing to do with the freedom of speech.

Macron supported a French teacher’s displaying of cartoons insulting the Prophet of Islam in his class. He declared “France will never renounce caricatures," defending the teacher for “promoting freedom.

Palestinians here say they won’t accept any insult or offensive cartoons of the prophet Mohammed under the pretext of freedom of expression, vowing they will defend the prophet by all means.'s-anti-Islamic-remarks


Erdogan says it’s time a realistic proposal for two-state solution in Cyprus

26 October 2020

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday it was time for a realistic proposal about a two-state solution on the divided island of Cyprus to be discussed, and added that the parameters of the current talks were not sustainable.

Cyprus was split after a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The European Union admitted the island into the bloc in 2004, represented by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government in the south.

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Its north is a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state only recognized by Ankara.

The latest attempt at reunification between the two Cypriot sides collapsed in disarray in mid-2017. Both sides blamed each other for the collapse, and Ankara accuses the EU of violating laws by only admitting Greek Cypriots.

Speaking at a news conference with Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar in Ankara, Erdogan said the approach of Greek Cypriots had blocked previous attempts to find a solution.

“It must be understood that no result can be achieved under the current parameters following a negotiation process that has lasted more than half a century,” Erdogan said.

“At this stage, we believe starting talks on the basis of a federation will be a loss of time. Therefore, we believe a two-state solution must now be brought to the table with a realistic proposal.”

Turkey has said before a two-state mechanism is needed to solve the Cyprus issue, but has accused the Greek Cypriot government of not engaging in talks.

Tatar said a Turkish proposal to hold an informal meeting between Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Greek Cypriots, Greece and the United Nations was “the last chance” for an agreement.

Earlier this month, Northern Cyprus partially reopened the beach town of Varosha, a fenced-off resort area abandoned in no-man’s land since 1974, a move criticized by the United States, Greece and Greek Cypriots.

Erdogan, who said he would visit Northern Cyprus on Nov. 15, said he wanted to have a picnic in Varosha.

“I believe it would be beneficial to have a picnic there all together,” he said. “We are watching from our screens here, but we want to experience it in person. God willing, we will do that too.”





Libya's GNA Demands French President's Apology For Islamophobic Remarks

26 October 2020

Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has denounced President Emmanuel Macron’s recent remarks in denunciation of Islam, calling on the French president to apologize to Muslims.   

In a statement on Monday, the GNA foreign ministry in Tripoli “firmly condemned” Macron's comments, saying they "harm relations between France and the Muslim world and feed feelings of hatred for political gain.”

It further called on the French president "to take back his provocative words" by way of "issuing apologies to the world's nearly 1.3 billion Muslims, including those of French nationality."

On Wednesday, Macron supported a French teacher’s displaying of cartoons insulting the Prophet of Islam in his class. “France will never renounce caricatures,” Macron declared, defending the teacher for “promoting freedom.”

The teacher Samuel Paty was murdered by an 18-year-old Chechen assailant. Commenting on the attack, Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide, trying to suggest that the assailant had been motivated to kill the teacher by the faith rather than radicalism.

Macron insisted on his position again on Sunday by tweeting, “We will not give in, ever.”

The comments have raised controversy and provoked a wave of criticism from the Muslim world.

Protests were, meanwhile, reported in the Gaza Strip, Syria, and Libya as well as elsewhere throughout the Muslim world.

Iraqis protest Macron comments outside French embassy

Separately on Monday, dozens protested outside the French embassy in the capital, Baghdad, to slam Macron's defense of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). 

Aqil al-Kadhemi, a cleric at the rally demanded an "apology to all Muslims because the Prophet is a symbol of Islam and Muslims" and visual depictions of him are strictly forbidden in Islam.

"We are demonstrating to denounce and strongly disapprove" of Macron's comments, Kadhemi told AFP at the protest that was heavily guarded by police.

"We're surprised that a country such as France, supposedly the bastion of culture and respect for others, continually disrespects more than 1.5 billion Muslims.”

Anti-Muslim sentiments have been on the rise across Europe in recent years in the wake of terrorist attacks in the continent. The attacks were carried out by the Daesh sympathizers or the terror group’s members who had returned home following their defeat in Iraq and Syria.

Muslim leaders in Europe and around the world have reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist attacks.

Moreover, the rise of far-right ideology and the propagation of anti-immigration policies have exacerbated the status of religious minorities in Europe.


Head of Sudan’s ruling council defends Israel deal: We were not blackmailed

27 October 2020

The military leader of Sudan's ruling council sought to defend on Monday a US-backed agreement to establish relations with Israel, saying the deal was yet to be concluded and could benefit Sudan as it struggles with a profound economic crisis.

In his first public comments on the deal, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said he had consulted the prime minister and most political forces before the agreement was announced on Friday in a call with US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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The move is controversial in Sudan, once a staunch enemy of Israel, and has stirred opposition from some prominent political factions.

"I always prefer to call it reconciliation instead of normalization," Burhan said in a televised interview. "So far, we have not concluded an agreement. We will sign with the other two parties, America and Israel, on the aspects of cooperation."

Burhan leads a military-civilian sovereign council that took charge after the ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir last year following popular protests.

A government of technocrats has been grappling with an economic crisis that includes rapid inflation, a weakening currency, and shortages of essential goods.

Sudan won the prospect of some relief last week when the United States confirmed it would lift Khartoum from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation that had blocked international funding and debt relief.

Many Sudanese saw the move as unduly delayed and deployed to pressure Sudan into accepting the deal on Israel.

"We were not subjected to blackmail," said Burhan. "We lay down our interests and we found benefits, and it could be that we gain more than the other parties."

Burhan said tense relations with the civilian component of the sovereign council had improved recently, and that he had agreed with civilian political leaders that the deal on Israel should be approved by a yet-to-be formed legislative council.


Libyans hold UN-backed talks after ceasefire deal between warring sides

26 October 2020

Dozens of Libyan delegates Monday opened a political dialogue via video conference as a step towards holding elections after a landmark ceasefire agreement between warring factions in the North African country.

The UN mission in Libya said the political talks, which it is brokering, would pave the way for a “direct, in person meeting” of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) on November 9 in the Tunisian capital.

The goal of the LPDF would be to “generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to holding national elections,” it said.

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On Friday, Libya’s rival administrations signed a “complete and permanent ceasefire agreement with immediate effect” after five days of talks in Geneva.

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

It has since been dominated by armed groups and divided between two bitterly-opposed administrations: a Tripoli-based Government of National Accord based in and another in the east backed by military general Khalifa Haftar.

The UN mission said Monday’s videoconference comes “at time of an overwhelming sense of hope emerged in Libya” after the signing of the permanent ceasefire deal.

It said 75 Libyan personalities were taking part, including representatives of its rival parliaments and civil society activists, several of them women.

High-ranking officials were not involved.

Participants were “drawn from different constituencies, based on the principles of inclusivity, fair geographic, ethnic, political, tribal, and social representation,” it said.

“During the online consultation meeting on Monday participants... will be briefed on the intra-Libyan economic and military tracks facilitated by UNSMIL,” the United Nations mission.

“They will also hear the recommendations emerged from the consultative meetings with mayors, and representatives of women and youth groups,” it added.

UNSMIL urged participants to “shoulder their responsibility before the Libyan people and engage constructively and in good faith in the talks and to uphold the interests of Libya.”


Militants from Mozambique staged deadly attack in Tanzania, police say

By George Obulutsa

OCTOBER 23, 2020

NAIROBI (Reuters) - About 300 militants from Mozambique attacked a village in southern Tanzania and killed an unknown number of people last week, Tanzania’s top police officer said, describing an attack claimed earlier by the Islamic State.

Inspector General of Police Simon Sirro said militants attacked the village of Kitaya in Tanzania’s rural Mtwara region bordering Mozambique.

“Terrorists numbering 300, coming from Mozambique, attacked our station and the village of Kitaya, and committed crimes and they killed,” Sirro said in an interview with Azam TV, a private Tanzanian chain, broadcast late Thursday.

He did not specify the number of people killed, nor give a date for the attack.

He said police had arrested and were interrogating some of the militants while others were believed to have returned to Mozambique.

It was the first time authorities in Tanzania have acknowledged that an escalating Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique with links to Islamic State is also active in Tanzania.

IS claimed the attack in a message on one of its Telegram channels on Oct. 15, which said its fighters had attacked an army barracks in the village a day earlier, killing a number of personnel and capturing weapons and ammunition.

Attacks in Tanzania have been far more sporadic and less deadly than those in Mozambique, where the militants have killed hundreds of people since their first attack in 2017.

Analysts say the group has transformed since then into a formidable force that can seize and hold significant locations.

The group pledged allegiance to IS in 2019 and Islamic State has claimed a spate of recent attacks in the impoverished Cabo Delgado province, boasting one of the biggest gas finds in a decade just off its coast.

Multinational companies including Exxon Mobil and Total are developing the gas in projects worth some $60 billion.





At least 7 killed, 70 injured in blast at Madrasa in Peshawar's Dir Colony

Ali Akbar | Sirajuddin

27 Oct 2020

At least seven people were killed and more than 70 injured in an explosion on Tuesday morning at the Jamia Zuberia Madrasa in Peshawar's Dir Colony.

According to Lady Reading Hospital spokesperson Mohammad Asim, four of the deceased were students between the ages of 20 to 25.

"The blast took place in the Madrasa during a Quran class. Someone took a bag inside the seminary," Waqar Azim, a senior police official, told AFP.

Mohammad Ali Gandapur, another senior police official, confirmed the details. He said two teachers were among the wounded.

Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Mansoor Aman confirmed the explosion, saying that initial reports suggest an improvised explosive device (IED) was used in the explosion. "Five kgs of explosives were used in the blast."

The area has been cordoned off and police teams are collecting evidence, he added.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The LRH spokesperson said that seven dead bodies and 70 injured have been brought to the facility.

He stated that the injured were being provided with immediate medical attention and the hospital's director was present at the emergency ward. He added that an emergency had also been declared at the medical facility.

According to reports, the injured have also been taken to Khyber Teaching Hospital, Hayatabad Medical Complex and Naseerullah Khan Babar Hospital.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra visited the site of the blast. Speaking to reporters, he said that the focus was on providing the injured the best possible treatment to increase their chances of recovery.

'Heart-rending, condemnable'

Prime Minister Imran Khan "strongly condemned" the blast, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office. He expressed sadness over the lives lost in the explosion and prayed for the quick recovery of the injured.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz strongly condemned the blast, saying those who attack students gaining knowledge have no connection with humanity. "We will defeat the objectives of those attacking the stability of the country," he added.

Communications Minister Murad Saeed said whether it was the attack in APS or the blast at the Madrasa in Peshawar, it was the "nation's grief".

"Enemies have once again attacked the peace that we sacrificed thousands of lives for," he added.

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif also condemned the blast, saying that those who targeted the Madrasa "could not be Muslims".

He said the incident reminded him of the 2014 Army Public School massacre in which 132 students and 17 school staff lost their lives and called for those responsible to be caught and punished.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz termed it a "heart-rending" incident. "The damage inflicted to students is extremely saddening. There is no compensation for the mothers who have lost their children," she said.

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said he was "very sorry" to hear of the incident. "Terrorists, who had been defeated, are again hitting us because Imran Khan has pitched security apparatus against the opposition instead of terrorists. National Action Plan has been forgotten," he tweeted.

Last week, Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Ali Shahwani said that National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) had issued a security alert for the public rallies of opposition parties in Quetta and Peshawar, saying there was “credible information” about possibility of subversive activities.

Last month, five people were killed and two others injured in a blast in the Akbarpura area of Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

District Police Officer (DPO) Najamal Hassan said that the explosion occurred in a market situated along the Kabul River. "Some people were collecting scrap material from the stones alongside the river. Some of the scrap included explosive material which detonated when they were weighing it."


Over The Publication Of Images Of The Prophet Muhammad, Pakistan Parliament  Asks Govt To Withdraw Envoy From Paris

Oct 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s parliament on Monday passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris over the publication of images of the Prophet Muhammad in France, accusing President Macron of “hate-mongering” against Muslims.

The National Assembly resolution, which is non-binding, came hours after the French ambassador in Islamabad was summoned to the foreign office for Pakistan to register its protest. A foreign office statement said the French ambassador was summoned and told that “Pakistan strongly condemned equating Islam with terrorism, for narrow electoral and political gains”.


Are you working on BJP's agenda, Balochistan chief minister asks PDM

Oct 26, 2020

QUETTA: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the anti-government alliance of at least 11 political parties from the opposition benches, staged its third big public gathering in Balochistan's provincial capital Quetta on Sunday. While the gathering was aimed at pressurizing the Imran Khan-led government, one particular statement has provoked an angry outburst from the government, who is questioning the agenda behind the PDM campaign.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani has expressed serious concern over the demand made by Owais Noorani, leader of Jamiat-Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), during his speech at the PDM Quetta gathering where he talked about making Balochistan a separate state.

In a tweet, Jam Kamal asked the PDM leadership about the narrative they were promoting at their rally.

"It was a public meeting of the PDM or BJP," he asked.

The tweet reads, "PDM is speaking in Quetta to make Balochistan a separate state...Awais Noorani... whose narrative PDM is doing it BJP jhalsa or PDM?"

Kamal slammed the PDM leaders for using the narrative of the enemy (India), who he said has been working towards destabilizing Balochistan province.

"The thinking of PDM leadership shows that they consider Balochistan a small province. Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan," said Kamal.

Kamal's statement comes in reaction to the Sunday public meeting of the PDM in Quetta, where its leaders highlighted the longstanding issues of the province including enforced disappearances.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) reiterated her party slogan of "vote ko izzat do" which means respect the vote, insisting that the reason why the people of Balochistan have been deprived of their basic rights is because the people's vote was not respected.

"The rulers in the province were not accountable to its people but those who were pulling their strings," she said.

Maryam Nawaz vowed to end enforced disappearances in the province.

"Husbands and brothers will no longer go missing," she said.

Former Prime minister Nawaz Sharif spoke to the audience through video link.

"Nobody will be able to trample over the sanctity of vote," he said.

Nawaz Sharif again accused the country's military establishment of violating the constitution and "rigging the 2018 elections and interfering in politics".

"Time has come to change the country's destiny. I am standing up to the unconstitutional powers that were responsible for the country's state of affairs. God helps those who help themselves," he said.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) who also addressed the rally through video link from Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan for trying to turn the "country's intelligence agencies and Pakistan Rangers into his Tiger Force".

"Those who are dreaming of breaking the opposition alliance will never succeed... we are not among those who back down from their stance," Bilawal said.

However, the statement of Owair Noorani of the JUP has sparked anger among the government ranks, who are now accusing the PDM alliance of working on India's and Narendra Modi's anti-Pakistan agenda.


PM seeks acquittal in Parliament House attack case

Malik Asad

27 Oct 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged an anti-terrorism court (ATC) to acquit him in the Parliament House attack case as the prosecution is no more interested in pursuing it.

Through his lawyer, Abdullah Babar Awan, the son of Adviser to the PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, Mr Khan informed the court that the “prosecution stands in favour of [his] acquittal”.

Prosecution lawyers are appointed by and take ins­t­ructions from the sitting government. The then prosecution team under the PML-N government had fou­ght the Parliament House attack case but with a new team under the PTI government, the situation has changed.

The anti-terrorism court is likely to announce a decision on the application seeking acquittal of Prime Minister Khan on Oct 29.

The application stated that “the prosecution is not interested to prosecute the applicant [Imran Khan]. The learned prosecutor appearing for the other side is heard and the learned prosecutor candidly conceded that in this false case the charge against the petitioner is groundless and there is no probability of the conviction and therefore, the learned prosecutor agreed that this is a fit case for acquittal.”

It further stated: “The applicant is maliciously implicated and dragged in this false case. Further proceedings shall cause harassment and political victimisation. Particularly, after the prosecution stands in favour of the acquittal of the applicant.”

According to the counsel, not a single witness of the prosecution had linked Imran Khan with the offence, adding that there was no direct or indirect evidence available on record against the prime minister.

Mr Awan said the case in hand was politically motivated with no evidence therefore there was no probability of the conviction of Mr Khan.

The case is related to violence that took place during the sit-in jointly organised by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek in 2014.

Police on Aug 31, 2014 had invoked sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act against Imran Khan and other leaders including the incumbent president Dr Arif Alvi, federal ministers Asad Umar, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Shafqat Mahmood for inciting violence during the sit-in.

As per the earlier stance of the prosecution, three people were killed and 26 injured while 60 were arrested. The prosecution had submitted 65 photos, sticks and cutters to the court to establish its case.


PM vows to build knowledge city for quality education

27 Oct 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said his dream was to build the country’s first Knowledge City which would offer top quality education to students.

The prime minister shared on Twitter a video of the master plan of the project the ground-breaking of which was performed by him in Mianwali on Saturday.

Renowned architect Tony Ashai, who will carry out the project of Namal Knowledge City, thanked the prime minister for providing him the opportunity to be part of the project.

“Thank you PM Imran Khan for giving me the opportunity to be part your dream. A proud moment for Pakistanis and InshAllah will be an institution that will produce future leaders of Pakistan,” Ashai said in a tweet.

The Namal Knowledge City was envisioned by Mr Khan as a centre of academic excellence for the marginalised people residing in remote areas.

After completion of the first phase, more than 10,000 students from deprived areas will benefit from the project. The project will be environment-friendly with state-of-the-art green structure.

The master plan sets a new precedent in urban planning and environmental stewardship and provides innovative ways of fusing nature with city planning.

It will also support efforts for enhancing social equity by using locally sourced materials and human input.

During his visit to Namal University to launch the first phase of the Knowledge City project on Saturday, Mr Khan said the institution would also house facilities like schools and research centres to enhance agriculture yield and develop new seed technologies.

“Nations can only excel through education. They do not progress or become rich by just selling cotton or textile products. The richness comes when you invest in the people and provide them higher education,” he had said.



South Asia


Bangladeshi hackers claim responsibility for attacking French commercial websites

Fahim Reza Shovon

October 25th, 2020

‘A dangerous apocalypse is ahead for France Cyberspace and we will continue the assault until you beg for forgiveness,’ Cyber 71 posted on Facebook

A Bangladeshi hacker group, Cyber 71, claimed responsibility for carrying out a series of cyber attacks on several French commercial websites on Sunday.

From their Facebook page, “Cyber 71 -We Work to Protect Bangladesh,” the hacker group updated a list of 10 French websites which they claimed have hacked since early Sunday.

On October 16, a history teacher was beheaded for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed in a free speech lesson in a gruesome attack that has shocked the country and prompted a government crackdown on radical Islam.

Visiting the websites upto 6pm, the hacked interface (cover page) by Cyber 71 was found in six sites. Four among them were showing the regular homepage.

The Facebook post stated that eight more French websites have come under attack by a team of Algeria named, achraf Dz.

“Operation launched by Muslim Hackers against France for insulting Prophet Muhammad (SM) and abusing Islam publicly. A dangerous apocalypse is ahead for France Cyberspace and we will continue the assault until you beg for forgiveness. Get Ready! -- Greetz # Cyber 71, All Hackers of #OPFRANCH, #BoycottFrenceProducts,” the claimed hacked website homepage stated.

An instrumental audio was heard playing in the background while visiting the reportedly hacked websites, and a photograph of Emmanuel Macron – with eyes closed – were displayed.

Cyber 71 also stated from their Facebook page: “In the country where our Prophet (pbuh) has been mocked, music is now playing on the websites of that country in respect of him (Prophet).”

They said they would continue the attack until the French authorities “begged for forgiveness” publicly, the hacker group claimed.

A member from the hacking group also claimed to the media that they have hacked 40-50 important commercial websites of France but all the names were not published. They have allegedly targeted more websites to carry out cyber attacks.

Cyber 71, in a latest post around 5:40pm on Sunday, urged people to hack French websites following training from another Facebook group (OpFR by Bangladesh) by sharing their link.


When contacted over an email regarding the confirmation of the cyber attacks, the French Embassy in Dhaka was yet to respond.

AFM Al Kibria, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s cyber crime investigation department, told Dhaka Tribune: “Hacking is a criminal offence, we always discourage it.”

“The hacking of French websites by Cyber 71 is not under our concern so far. If we get any complaint regarding this, we will take necessary measures afterwards,” the law enforcement official added.

What transpired in France?

The teacher, Samuel Paty, 47, was targeted for having shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the same images at the origin of the massacre on the magazine’s premises in 2015, reports the New York Times.

The killer, 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, was shot dead by police shortly after the attack.

On Wednesday, prosecutors said Anzorov had paid two teenage students around €300 ($355) to identify Paty.

The killer told the students he wanted to "film the teacher [and] make him apologise for the cartoon of the Prophet [Muhammad]", anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said at a press conference.

Police have raided some 40 homes following the attack, and the government also ordered a mosque to close for six months.

On Tuesday, President Macron said the Sheikh Yassin Collective - an Islamist group named after the founder of the Palestinian militant group Hamas - would be outlawed for being "directly involved" in the killing.

"Islamists want to take our future," Macron said, reports AFP. "They will never have it."

He said the ban was a way of protecting France's Muslim community from the influence of radicalism.


U.S. Defies Taliban Claim of Violating February Accord

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

26 Oct 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan – Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for United States Forces in Afghanistan, once again denied the Taliban claim of violating February accord, after the group blamed US over airstrike in Nerkh, Wardak and killing innocent Afghans.

It is the second time the Taliban accused US for violating the agreement, but the American officials repeatedly denied violation.

“USFOR-A conducted a targeted strike in Nerkh, Wardak last night- in defense of the ANDSF and in accordance with the U.S.-TB Agreement- killing 5 Taliban fighters,” said Leggett in a tweet. “We reject the allegations of violating the agreement and of killing innocent Afghans.”

Remark came at a time the Taliban hold US responsible for killing innocent Afghans and repeatedly violating the agreement signed between the two in February in Doha. 

“In recurrent violation of the Doha agreement, American invaders carried out a drone strike in Durrani area of Nerkh district #Wardak dusk time Sun. resulting in 3 innocent children martyred,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet.

Last week, the Taliban has accused the United States troops still in Afghanistan of repeatedly violating the peace deal signed between the two sides in Doha in February, warning Washington must shoulder the blame for subsequent violence.

“In recent days, the United States forces conducted day-and-night airstrikes in Nahri Saraj, Khoshkawa, Babaji of Helmand province, including areas in Gereshk, Sangin, Nawa and Nad Ali districts,” said the Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousof Ahmadi, in a statement. “Also [airstrikes] in Farah and other provinces, which is a clear violation of the Doha agreement.”


Car Bombing in Khost Claims 2, Hurts Dozen

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

27 Oct 2020

KHOST, Afghanistan – A special unit of police department in Khost province has been targeted early Tuesday morning, detonating a vehicle fully loaded with explosive at the area, the Ministry of Interior Affairs confirmed to Khaama Press.

Initial report counted at least two killed and further 27 wounded.

Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the terrorists around 5:50 a.m. has initially detonated explosives embedded in a vehicle, near the police special unit in the province.

According to Arian, the insurgents launched gunfire against security forces and faced heavy retaliation, which prevented their attempt to entering the unit premises.

This is a developing story, please refresh the page for updates.


2 ‘Terrorists’ Killed, 1 Nabbed in Paktiya Operation

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

26 Oct 2020

PAKTIYA, Afghanistan – At least two “terrorists” killed and further one arrested during an operation by the Afghan National Police in Gardiz city of Paktiya, the Ministry of Interior Affairs said Monday.

Officials did not provide further details on the identities of the suspects, but said the three were involved in terrorist activities in the province.

“Two terrorists killed and another was arrested in an encounter with ANP in Gardiz City of Paktiya province,” said MoIA in a tweet. “The three were involved in many targeted killings in Paktiya.”

Security officials seized at least “two pistols, one AkK-47 rifle, and a vehicle” during the operation.

Taliban or Daesh terrorist groups did not immediately comment on the incident.


4 Negotiators Return Home Empty Handed, Freezing Peace Talks in Doha

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

27 Oct 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan – Four members of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Saadat Mansoor Naderi, Fawzia Koofi, Matin Beg and Kalimullah Naqibi, have returned home for personal matters, according to sources, freezing the peace talks back in Doha.

Since September 12, the negotiating teams failed to agree on ground rules that will lead to the main negotiation over peace and stability in Afghanistan; disagreeing on two points the Taliban insist upon: the religious basis for negotiations and authority of the US-Taliban accord signed in February.

While key members of the team have returned home for personal reasons, critique skeptic about the future of the ongoing talks in Doha, which have yet to set procedural rules.

It was expected that the talks would be prolonged and would be complicated. It has happened now,” said Tahir Khan, an analyst based in Islamabad, as TOLOnews quoted.

This came at a time Afghanistan, including international allies, blame the Taliban for intensifying war throughout the country amid peace efforts, with recent Taliban offensives in several provinces, including Maidan Wardar, Helmand and Takhar.


Pak-Afghan Trade, Investment Forum Launched

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

26 Oct 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday has welcomed the formation of the Pak-Afghan Trade and Investment Forum and hoped neighboring nations will work together.

“Whatever type of government Afghan people want, whoever they choose, it will be their own decision, Pakistan will work with that government,” Pakistani Prime Minister Said.

Khan added that peace in Afghanistan is important for the promotion of trade and economic activities in the region which will bring prosperity and provide job opportunities to the people.

Reports quoted the Prime Minister saying, “I would like to assure you that our government, our army, our intelligence agency is making their best efforts for reduction of violence, ceasefire, and peace in Afghanistan.”

“our government has decided to strengthen relations with Afghanistan, no matter who is in power”, Khan said during the inauguration of the trade forum.

According to Radio Pakistan, Khan is concerned that India could use Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan.

Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said the two-day meeting would focus on bilateral cooperation and trade facilitation between the two countries.

Afghanistan is represented by Speaker of the parliament, Mir Rahman Rahmani, Minister of Commerce, and more than five high Afghan governmental officials.

This comes as the global watchdog on terror financing and money laundering FATF ruled against taking Pakistan off the grey list.

The decision was taken on Friday during the virtual plenary meeting of the FATF.

Despite many efforts, Pakistan has not been able to get out of the grey list, according to FATF. Pakistan had not met the conditions for removing the country from the gray list and was once again on the list.

FATF said in a statement that Pakistan had complied with 21 of its 28 conditions.


US says it killed five Taliban fighters with airstrike in central Afghanistan

26 October 2020

The US carried out an airstrike against the insurgent Taliban in central Afghanistan on Sunday evening in order to defend Afghan security forces, the US Forces spokesman said.

The airstrike in central Wardak province killed five Taliban fighters, Col. Sonny Leggett said in a Tweet on Monday, adding that the strike was in line with its February withdrawal deal with the Taliban.

The Taliban earlier this month accused the US of violating the agreement – which the US denies – when conducting airstrikes in southern Helmand province as the insurgents launched a major operation in a bid to take the provincial capital.





India to get 5 military theatre commands, one each for China and Pak

Shishir Gupta

Oct 27, 2020

The Indian military is expected to be reorganised under five theatre commands by 2022 with defined areas of operation and a seamless command structure for synchronised operations.

With the department of military affairs soon to have additional and joint secretaries after Cabinet clearance, the task of reorganisation of the three services under theatre commands has begun with a China specific Northern Command and Pakistan specific Western command under serious consideration. India’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat has been given the mandate by the Narendra Modi government to create theatre commands much like the ones China and the US currently have.

According to military and national security planners, the northern command’s remit will begin from the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh and continue up to the last outpost Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh , with the military mandate of guarding the 3,488 kilometre of Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. The HQ of this command could be Lucknow.

The western command’s remit will be from Indira Col on Saltoro Ridge in the Siachen Glacier region to the tip of Gujarat with its HQ likely in Jaipur.

The third theatre command will be the Peninsular Command; the fourth, a full-fledged air defence command; and the fifth, a maritime command. The likely HQ of the Peninsular command could be Thiruvananthapuram. The air defence command will not only spearhead the country’s aerial attack but also be responsible for defending Indian airspace through multi-role fighters with all anti aircraft missiles under its control.

Currently, the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy all defend Indian airspace on separate communication frequencies and without synergy. This is despite the fact that all Indian Army Corps Headquarters are located next to an air base as a result of which there is duplication of effort and wasteful expenditure.

The planners said there is option of extending this to an aerospace command as per future requirements.

India will have only one maritime command with a possibility that the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Islands Command being merged with this . The task of the maritime command will be to protect the Indian Ocean and India’s Island territories as well as keep the sea lanes free and open from any outside pressure.

Although in a nascent stage, the Indian Navy’s maritime assets will be placed in Karwar on the western seaboard, Vishakhapatnam on the eastern seaboard and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. With China emerging as a threat, the possible headquarters of the Maritime Command could be Andhra Pradesh’s new capital with Port Blair emerging as another major base for naval operations.

Theaterisation refers to placing units of the army, air force, and navy under a single Theatre Commander. The operational command of such combinations will be under one officer drawn from one of the three services.

“Theaterisation of commands is imperative to integrate resources of the three services for maximising impact in any war. The geographical expanse of theatres in India demands unified commands for strategic decisions and critical outcomes that will be possible in concentrated employment of resources,” said former amry vice chief Lt Gen AS Lamba (retd).

According to senior officials familiar with the matter, all five commands will be headed by Lt General or equivalent rank commanders, who will be the first among equals with the heads of the present commands reporting to them. The task of the Chief of Staff of Army, Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Naval Staff will not be operational but involve mobilising resources to the theatre commanders as it is in the US military.

If the Andamans and Nicobar Command goes under the maritime command as is being visualised, then the CDS will have the Armed Forces Special Operation Division, Cyber Command and the Defence Intelligence Agency under him with manpower drawn from all the three services.


Terrorist killed, another surrenders during encounter in Jammu and Kashmir

Posted by Arpan Rai

Oct 26, 2020

An unidentified terrorist was killed, while another surrendered during an encounter with security forces in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, a defence spokesperson said.

A joint operation was launched by the security forces at Noorpora in the district’s Awantipora area on the basis of inputs provided by police, the Army said.

While one terrorist was eliminated during the gunbattle, another ultra responded to appeal for surrender.

“The terrorist, a resident of Gulshanpora area, was apprehended,” he said.

The apprehended terrorist had been missing since September 25 this year, he added.

One AK rifle and other incriminating material were recovered from the scene of the encounter, the spokesperson said.


Kerala gold smuggling case: Key UAE-based conspirator brought back to India, arrested by NIA

Oct 26, 2020

In a key development in Kerala gold smuggling case, key conspirator, Rabins K Hameed, who was running the whole operation from Dubai, was brought to India on Monday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and taken into custody at Kochi airport in Kerala, people familiar with the development said.

HT was first to report on September 2 that Hameed, 42, a native Ernakulam district, Kerala, was the mastermind who used to send the gold consignments to India using different modes including the diplomatic baggage.

The NIA, during a trip to Dubai in August, had questioned him there and had confirmed his involvement.

Over the past few months, irrefutable evidence was provided to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities through proper channels to convince them for his deportation which was approved a few days back, people cited above said.

As part of the deportation process, an NIA team travelled to Dubai last week and brought him at the Kochi International Airport on Monday morning after which he was arrested.

The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kilograms of gold worth Rs 14.82 crores on July 5 at Air Cargo of Trivandrum International Airport by Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Cochin, from the diplomatic baggage. Over two dozen people have already been arrested in the case.

Also read: Kerala gold smuggling - NIAprobeshows Rabins Hameed ran racket in UAE

The NIA, earlier this month, also claimed before a Kerala court that two accused in the high profile case – identified as KT Ramees and M Sharafuddin - have links with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. Ramees and Sharafuddin even visited Tanzania several times to meet a contact of Dawood known as Feroze ‘Oasis’ and had discussed ways to smuggle firearms to India, the NIA claimed.

Agency spokesperson, Sonia Narang, said on Monday that “Rabins Hameed, while being in the UAE and India, had conspired with the arrested accused Ramees KT and Jalal AM, among others, besides arranging funds and purchasing gold in Dubai for smuggling to India through diplomatic baggage.”

Ramees KT is the key India link in the whole scandal and is currently in judicial custody.

Narang said that a special court at Ernakulam had issued a non-bailable warrant against fugitive Rabins Hameed.

“He is also learnt to have arranged for the concealment of gold in electronics or electrical equipment and household items in the UAE for smuggling the contraband to Thiruvananthapuram through diplomatic baggage,” she added.

Before the NIA’s visit to Dubai in August, it was believed that another suspect there – Fazil Fareed – was the main conspirator.

However, it turned out that Rabins Hameed had contacted Fareed for the last consignment of 30 kilograms of gold which was intercepted in diplomatic baggage on July 5.

Hameed’s residence in Ernakulam was also raided the same month wherein several hard disks and incriminating material was recovered.

“Hameed coordinated the smuggling from the UAE while another arrested accused Ramees KT, who is from Kerala’s Perinthalmanna, allegedly ran the racket in Kerala,” an officer who didn’t want to be named said.

People cited above said deportation of Fazil and two more people - Sidhiqul Akbar and Ahammed Kutty - is also being pursued with the UAE authorities.

Recently, the NIA also took over two more gold smuggling cases - pertaining to seizure of 18.5 kilograms of gold in Jaipur by Rajasthan police on July 3 and transportation of gold bars weighing over 83 kilograms by the Directorate of Revenue and Intelligence (DRI) on August 28 - to investigate foreign terror link. Both the cases aren’t linked to the Kerala case.



Southeast Asia


US Secretary of State Pompeo set to boost Indonesian religious reform efforts

Oct 25, 2020

By: James M Dorsey

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to boost efforts by the world’s largest Muslim movement to recontextualize Islam during a forthcoming visit to Indonesia as part of a three-nation Asian tour. The tour is likely to be the secretary’s last official trip prior to next month’s US presidential election.

Mr. Pompeo’s engagement with Nahdlatul Ulama, a powerful Islamic grouping in Indonesia, with an estimated following of 50 million people, takes on added significance against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s push for a definition of human rights that redefines notions of freedom of religion at the expense of other basic rights in advance of a hard fought election that Donald J. Trump could lose.

It also comes as French President Emmanuel Macron kicked into high gear his self-declared mission of reforming what he has termed an Islam that “is a religion that is in crisis all over the world” in the wake of the gruesome murder of Samuel Paty, a 47-year old teacher.

Mr. Paty was killed by an 18-year old youth of Chechen descent after he used cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a class about freedom of expression.

The Indonesia-leg at the end of Mr. Pompeo’s tour, which is first taking him to India and Sri Lanka, similarly comes as Nahdlatul Ulama, an independent civil society movement, competes globally with Saudi, United Arab Emirates, and Turkish state-backed efforts to garner religious soft power and shape the definition of what constitutes moderate Islam.

Also Read | Trump is seeking second term to help himself and his wealthy friends, says Ex-US President Barack Obama

Nahdlatul Ulama was founded almost a century ago in opposition to Wahhabism, the austere interpretation of Islam, that has largely guided Saudi Arabia since its founding in 1932.

Mr. Pompeo and his top aides are scheduled to participate in two days of events in the Indonesian capital organized by Nahdlatul Ulama to nurture “the shared civilizational aspirations” of Indonesia, the United States and Islam, defined by the group with the Qur’anic phrase that the faith is “a source of universal love and compassion.”

By giving Nahdlatul Ulama the State Department’s seal of approval, Mr. Pompeo is implicitly acknowledging the fact that the group unlike its rivals in the quest for religious soft power has started to put its money where its mouth is.

Unlike its soft power rivals, Nahdlatul Ulama has spelt out its definition of moderate Islam with its adoption in 2015 of the concept of Nusantara (Archipelago) or humanitarian Islam that calls for a full embrace of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNHDR).

Countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE project themselves as models of undefined forms of moderate Islam manifested by engagement in inter-faith dialogue and varying degrees of religious tolerance.

They have, however, stopped short of addressing theologically problematic concepts like that of kafirs or infidels, the Muslim reference to non-Muslims, slavery, dhimmis, people of the book that Islam recognizes but accords a lesser status than Muslims, apostasy, and blasphemy.

They have also manoeuvred in inter-faith gatherings to evade unrestricted support of the UN human rights declaration.

By contrast, Nahdlatul Ulama has taken initial steps in that direction even if it still has a ways to go. Thousands of the group’s religious scholars issued a fatwa or religious opinion that eliminated the notion of infidels, effectively removing one pillar of Muslim perceptions of religious supremacy.

Based on statements by Nahdlatul Ulama leaders, the group’s scholars are likely to next do away with the legal concept of slavery.

The group’s litmus test will be if and when it takes on apostasy and blasphemy, concepts that are certain to be far more emotive and controversial. Nahdlatul Ulama officials say the group has long accepted in practice conversion away from Islam.

Mr. Pompeo’s acknowledgement of Nahdlatul Ulama further suggests that the State Department recognizes that religious reform is more likely to successfully be enacted by independent civil society actors with proper religious credentials and a significant following rather than states.

It is a recognition that by implication highlights the limitations of efforts by states, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey, to define the essence of Islam as well as Mr. Macron’s ambition to solve the faith’s problems for it.

Mr. Pompeo lands in Jakarta shortly after signing the Geneva Consensus Declaration alongside a host of countries that propagate conservative values and rank low on Georgetown University’s Women, Peace and Security Index.

The declaration seeks to promote women’s rights and health and strengthen the family but emphasizes that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”

It stipulates that there is “no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion.”

The declaration’s signatories include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Egypt, Belarus, Hungary, and Indonesia.

Many of the signatories are members of the Group of Friends, a block of 25 nations in the United Nations that seeks to pre-empt any expansion of rights for girls, women, and LGBT people and weaken international support for the Beijing Declaration, a landmark 1995 agreement that stands as an internationally recognized progressive blueprint for women’s rights.

Much of the group’s positions are coordinated by the Center for Family and Human Rights, or C-Fam, a small but influential far-right group that focuses on abortion, sexual orientation and gender identity. C-Fam has worked closely with the State Department dating back to the administration of US President George W. Bush.

Accompanied by among others Mary Ann Glendon, the head of the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, Mr. Pompeo’s arrival in Jakarta also comes after the centre-right Centrist Democrat International (IDC-CDI), the world’s largest alliance of political parties, acknowledged the Commission’s report as “a re-affirmation of the spirit and substance of fundamental human rights.”

Indonesia’s National Awakening Party (PKB), which has five seats in President Joko Widodo’s cabinet and is an influential member of IDC-CDI, is closely associated with Nahdlatul Ulama.

Critics have charged that the Commission’s report fuels assertions that there are too many human rights and prioritizes religious liberty and property rights at the expense of protections against discrimination particularly on the basis of gender.

As a result, Mr. Pompeo’s endorsement of Nahdlatul Ulama could prove to be a double-edged sword. It strengthens the group’s proposition, yet also identifies it with one faction in a global battle that not only seeks to define the soul of Islam but also fundamentally shape what constitutes a human right.


Hadi making peace between Umno and Bersatu, says PAS spiritual leader

26 Oct 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 26 — PAS under the leadership of president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has played the role of peacemaker between Umno and Bersatu, according to Datuk Hashim Jasin.

In an interview with Utusan Malaysia, Hashim, who is the PAS spiritual leader, claimed that the party role as mediator was what influenced Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to propose a political ceasefire.

“All this while, I was made to understand that PAS, especially president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, has played a role to ease tensions if there were any clashes between Umno and Bersatu.

“In fact, Ahmad Zahid’s statement (of political ceasefire), in a way, has to do with PAS’s role. Problems can’t be avoided but we are confident that it can be resolved together.

‘The three parties have the same objective, which is to exalt Islam and to protect the constitution, which was ‘tarnished before this. If the objectives were not the same, then that is a problem,’’ he said.

On October 21, Zahid Hamidi issued a statement calling for a “political ceasefire” and ordered his party members in Cabinet to focus on helping the public face the economic woes wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A day before, both Umno and PAS decided to officially register as a political coalition with the Registrar of Societies (RoS) under the name Muafakat Nasional (MN).

In his interview with Utusan Malaysia, Hashim explained that Bersatu was not left out of MN, but that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s party has promised to join later.

“By this agreement, (Bersatu) will be with MN and, to me, Bersatu’s participation will strengthen MN. The struggle of Malay Muslims will be more coordinated with the combination of these three parties.

“If these three parties are in MN, we will become a formidable political force,’’ he said, referring to PAS, Umno and Bersatu.

In the same interview, Hashim also said he disagreed with a Cabinet reshuffle.

“I don’t see the need to do a Cabinet reshuffle at the moment. Maintain what we have.

“The current ministers we have now, I don’t see any flaws. At the moment, the country is facing economic challenges due to Covid-19, it is not suitable for a Cabinet reshuffling to be done,’’ he said.

On Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar’s claim to have enough support from MPs to form the next government, Hashim said this should be decided by Malaysians.

“I have known Anwar for quite a long time, since the 1970s, when he was in ABIM. His statement can be heard but whether it can be trusted, that is not certain.

“Before this Anwar had stated he has enough majority to form the government and to be the prime minister but that did not materialise.

“Should we believe a person who has lied before? I believed the rakyat can judge who is most suitable to be prime minister or otherwise,’’ he said.


Muslim teachers’ suit over vernacular schools annulled

V Anbalagan

October 26, 2020

KOTA BHARU: The High Court here has struck out a suit filed by a Muslim teachers group, Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia, who questioned the existence of vernacular schools in Malaysia.

Lawyer T Gunaseelan, who represented three language-based interest groups to intervene in the action, said judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh made the decision as no lawyers were present to appear for the teachers group.

“There is no cause of action to begin with now in court, as a result of the striking out,” he told FMT.

Parties were scheduled to appear and update the judge on several preliminary matters.

The plaintiff last month opposed an application by the Chinese Language Council, Tamil Language Association and Confederation of Former Tamil School Pupils and the government to have the action filed in the High Court here to be transferred to Kuala Lumpur.

The plaintiff also opposed the three groups’ attempt to be made parties on grounds there were already two others who have intervened.

The parties that have intervened are MCA and the United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong).

Wan Ahmad then ordered parties to file affidavits and counter-affidavits on both matters.

In August, the three interest groups filed the intervener application on grounds they had a direct interest in the case and would be aggrieved parties should the plaintiff succeed in their action.

Chinese Language Council chairman Heng Hong Chai, Tamil Language Association chairman R Permalu and Confederation of Former Tamil School Pupils chairman M Kumaran have also affirmed an affidavit in support of their application.

The plaintiff, Mohd Azizee Hasan, who is Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia president, filed the suit on behalf of his organisation in February. He is challenging the constitutionality of Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act.

The education minister and the government were named as defendants.

Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung and Majlis Pembangunan Pendidikan Islam Malaysia filed similar suits in Kuala Lumpur in February.

Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) also filed a similar cause of action in Kuala Lumpur in March.

Isma president Aminuddin Yahaya is seeking an order that the two provisions in the Education Act, which allow the use of Chinese and Tamil languages as the medium of instruction in vernacular schools, are against Article 152 of the Federal Constitution.

Article 152 states that Bahasa Melayu is the national language of Malaysia.


Malaysian PM faces uncertain future after king’s ‘unprecedented’ decision

October 27, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: A day after Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected a proposal by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to declare a state of emergency, political analysts and senior politicians told Arab News that the premier’s future looks bleak.

“The Council (of Rulers) did not support the idea of a state of emergency,” said Charles Santiago, a senior member of the Democratic Action Party. “It is clear that they do not trust Muhyiddin’s decision and he has lost his legitimacy as the prime minister.”

He added that the decision by the monarch and the Council of Rulers was “unprecedented.”

Muhyiddin’s proposal, which he said would help battle a new wave of COVID-19 infections, sparked national outrage. Critics accused him of using it as an attempt to cling to power, just weeks after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he had support from a majority of lawmakers for an attempt to topple Muhyiddin’s government — a move that also failed to earn the king’s approval.

Muhyiddin, the leader of the Malaysian United Indigenous Party, also faces tough challenges from within the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the single biggest party in Malaysia’s ruling coalition. This could leave him vulnerable as he only has a majority of two in the 222-seat parliament.

“The problem does not lie with the opposition now, it is the government itself,” said Santiago. “Muhyiddin’s cabinet won with a two-seat majority and their main worry is UMNO, as any pullout from any members may lead to Muhyiddin losing his majority.”

Senior UMNO politician Puad Zarkashi said that Muhyiddin has only two choices: resign or dissolve the parliament. If the PM clings to power, he added, the state will find itself “in chaos” amid ongoing instability.

“This (government) is too fragile to govern and this seems to be a never-ending story, so he (Muhyiddin) should not jeopardize the people,” Puad said. The prime minister needs to accept the fact that “his time is over” and there had been “too much politicking,” he added.

On Friday, there was uncertainty among Malaysians as rumors of the proposed state of emergency began to circulate. On Sunday, the king rejected the proposal, saying that the government’s efforts to contain a third wave of COVID-19 were “impeccable.” He also called on politicians to “cease politicking,” which he warned could destabilize the nation.

Some experts disagreed with the king’s assessment, saying that while “the confidence of the people may not be in question,” the public is more concerned about economic stability and recovering from the pandemic.

The king has the power to declare a state of emergency that would allow the country to be governed through laws that cannot be challenged in court. However, professor James Chin of the University of Tasmania said that the ruler’s decision to reject the PM’s proposal “does not amount to anything” because, under the National Security Council Act 2016, Muhyiddin does not require the king’s consent to declare a state of emergency and has other options.

“He can draw his powers from the Police Act and other emergency provisions, especially when it comes to a health crisis,” he added.

“He has additional powers with these various acts — although to the public, he looks like he’s lost big with the king.”

Others warned of the economic disruption that could result from a state of emergency.

“If a state of emergency is called under a political consideration, it will be unfair for the people as it will tank the economy,” said professor Firdausi Suffian, a political analyst at MARA University of Technology.

He added that the king’s decision to decline Muhyiddin’s request did not mean that the public is losing confidence in the administration.

“The king … lauded the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and decided that declaring a state of emergency was unnecessary for now,” he said.

It is time for political leaders to put their differences aside, Firdausi said, and work together to approve the budget, which will be presented to parliament on Nov. 6 and represents a key test for Muhyiddin.

If he is unable to gain enough support to pass the bill, pressure will mount on him to resign or hold an election. A state of emergency, in such a situation, would delay that vote and give him more time to gather support.

“There should be a working committee, consisting of politicians from all parties and experts, to sit down and handle the COVID-19 crisis,” Firdausi said. “The last thing Malaysians need now is a snap election and a new prime minister.”

Authorities in Malaysia have reported 27,805 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 236 deaths. The last time a state of emergency was declared in the country was on May 13, 1969 during race riots in which more than 180 people were killed.


Indonesian Muslim leader meets pope to discuss humanity award

Oct 27, 2020

By Konradus Epa

Former Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla has met Pope Francis at the Vatican to get some insights from the pontiff about the criteria for the nominations for the Zayad Award for Human Fraternity.Kalla, also chairman of the Indonesian Mosque Council, was among award judges who met Pope Francis for 70 minutes on Oct. 23 at the papal private library.The award was initiated by The Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, an organization whose members are world leaders in the fields of religion, education and culture inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad At-Tayyeb, in February 2019 in Abu Dhabi.Other judges include Catherine Samba Panza, former president of the Central African Republic, Adama Dieng, former vice general secretary of the United Nations, Cardinal Dominique Mamberti. prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and Michelle Jean, former governor general of Canada.The Indonesian embassy at the Vatican said in a statement that Pope Francis expressed his support for this award, which can spur the spirit of humanitarian fighters around the world in spreading the values of universal tolerance and harmony of humanity regardless of religion, ethnicity and class.

The pope also assured Kalla of his wish to visit Indonesia when the situation is conducive.Kalla said he appreciated the pope’s good relationship with the grand imam and their cooperation to raise the global agenda on human fraternity."I conveyed the greetings of the Indonesian people and hope he will visit Indonesia," Kalla said.Divine Word Father Markus Solo Kewuta, director of the Vatican Interfaith Dialogue for Asia and Pacific of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said what Kalla and his team are doing is an important effort to make the Abu Dhabi Document have an impact globally.“The document as a guideline has a new dynamic to foster interreligious peace and a harmonious coexistence around the world,” Father Solo, a Divine Word missionary from Flores, Indonesia, said.Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of the presidential unit promoting communal tolerance, said the award is important in realizing long-lasting peace.“The award wants to continue the document and the pope’s thoughts on fraternity, peace and the role of religions in advancing universal values,” said Father Susetyo.He said Kalla’s involvement is important for Muslim-majority Indonesia to promote fraternity, peace and respect for pluralism.––


Calls for Malaysian PM to step down after king rejects emergency bid

26 October 2020

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is facing calls to resign in a new power struggle following King Abdullah's rejection of his call for an emergency status to contain the coronavirus crisis.

Malaysia's monarch turned down PM Muhyiddin's request to declare a state of emergency on Sunday and asked the country's politicians to end any politicking that could destabilize the government, whose performance in handling the pandemic he appraised as satisfactory.

The palace said in a statement that the king believed the government was capable of managing the coronavirus crisis despite the pressures mounting on the economy.

“His Majesty is confident in the ability of the government under the leadership of the prime minister to continue to implement policies and enforcement efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the statement.

Muhyiddin had requested emergency rule amid a fresh spike in coronavirus infections in Malaysia.

However, leaders of other political parties in Muhyiddin's coalition as well as the opposition took advantage of the royal rejection to demand that the prime minister step down.

Critics accused Muhyiddin of seeking to use the pandemic as a pretext to suspend the parliament and avoid a test of his two-seat parliamentary majority.

“Thankfully, His Majesty the King was not influenced by the political game that could drag the country into more critical territory,” said Ahmad Puad Zarkashi, from the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) - the largest party in the ruling coalition.

“The people’s wellbeing is more important. By right, Muhyiddin should step down,” he added.

Also opposition lawmaker Wong Chen hailed the rightful decision by the monarch to turn down  Muhyiddin’s “malicious” request for a state of emergency, and demanded that the premier quit.

Emergency rule would include suspending the parliament. Critics see the move as an attempt by the prime minister to stay in power amid a leadership challenge.

Muhyiddin has been facing an unsteady grip on power since March when he came to office with a two-seat majority.

Last month, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed that he had majority support in the parliament to form a new government.



North America


US reiterates potential serious consequences for Turkey after Erdogan mocks sanctions

Emily Judd

27 October 2020

Washington warned of “potential serious consequences” for the US-Turkey relationship on Monday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made light of any potential US sanctions against his country.

On Sunday, Erdogan challenged the United States to impose sanctions on Turkey over its involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and testing of Russian-made S-400 defense systems.

“Whatever your sanctions are, don’t be late,” Erdogan said during a televised speech in the eastern city of Malatya.

State Department Spokesman Morgan Ortagus told Al Arabiya English that the US “has been clear on our expectation that the S-400 system should not be operationalized.”

“We have also been clear on the potential serious consequences for our security relationship if Turkey activates the system,” said Ortagus.

Turkey confirmed last week the testing of the Russian defense systems it purchased in 2019, arguing that the move did not conflict with its NATO commitments.

“We are not going to ask America for permission,” said Erdogan.

Ortagus said the US condemns “in the strongest terms the S-400 test missile launch as incompatible with Turkey’s responsibilities as a NATO Ally and strategic partner of the United States.”

NATO ally?

Turkey and the US are both part of the 29-member international military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was founded to create a counterweight to the Soviet Union's military capabilities at the time of the organization's establishment.

Last July, the US government removed Turkey from the American F-35 fighter jet program over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 defense system.

“We stepped in for the F-35, you threatened us,” Erdogan said on Sunday. “You said, ‘Send the S-400s back to Russia.’ We are not a tribal state. We are Turkey.”

Ortagus said that the United States has “expressed to the Government of Turkey, at the most senior levels, that the acquisition of Russian military systems such as the S-400 is unacceptable.”


US sanctions Iran’s state oil sector, petroleum minister

26 October 2020

The administration of US President Donald Trump has imposed a fresh round of sanctions on a number of Iranian individuals and entities affiliated with the Islamic Republic’s oil sector, including Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh.

The US Treasury Department made the announcement in a statement on Monday, saying the sanctions targeted eight officials and entities as well as the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC).

The British-based companies of Madanipour, Mobin Holding Limited and Oman Fuel Trading Ltd were also blacklisted.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington was slapping sanctions on “key actors” in Iran’s oil sector for what he claimed was supporting the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which has already been blacklisted.

The Treasury also said that four of the individuals were accused of being involved in the recent sale of Iranian gasoline to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Under the imposed sanctions, as the statement said, all the property and interests in possession of these persons would be blocked, and US citizens would be prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Zanganeh: Sanctions sign of failure of Washington's policy

In a tweet later on Monday, Iran's oil minister reacted to new US sanctions, saying that imposition of new bans "is a passive reaction to the failure of Washington's policy of reducing [Iran's] crude oil exports to zero."

Zanganeh said he has "no assets outside of Iran to be subject to the sanctions," emphasizing that "Iran's oil industry will not be hamstrung" by US sanctions.

The US, under Trump, unleashed a so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran in 2018, when it unilaterally left the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Following its withdrawal, Washington targeted the Iranian nation with the “toughest ever” economic sanctions in order to bring it to its knees, but the country’s economy keeps humming and is getting back on its feet.

The new sanctions is an escalation of Washington’s futile bid to force Iran into new negotiations over its nuclear program, with US reports saying the new sanctions are aimed at closing the few remaining financial loopholes allowing Iran to earn revenue, and stymie Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s promise to return to the nuclear deal if he wins the presidency in November.

The Trump administration has also recently accused Iran of interference in US elections.


US embassy in Turkey warns of potential terror attack threat in Istanbul

By Jennifer Hansler

October 23, 2020

(CNN)The US Mission in Turkey issued a warning to American citizens Friday of a potential terror attack threat in Istanbul and elsewhere in the country.

The US Mission "has received credible reports of potential terrorist attacks and kidnappings against US citizens and foreign nationals in Istanbul, including against the US Consulate General, as well as potentially other locations in Turkey," according to a security alert issued Friday.

The alert urged US citizens "to exercise heightened caution in locations where Americans or foreigners may gather, including large office buildings or shopping malls."

A State Department spokesperson declined to provide further details on the specific threat, noting that "the statement speaks for itself."

"The U.S. Mission to Turkey issued this notice as a result of ongoing assessment of security conditions," the spokesperson said. "We are grateful for the support of the Turkish government in ensuring the safety of U.S. citizens living in Turkey as well as Turkish citizens who visit our Embassy and Consulates."

They said that "the information used to formulate Alerts is collected from a range of sources, such as crime statistics and other publicly-available information, information gathered from U.S. government sources, as well as assessments by our embassies and consulates."

"Alerts also take into account decisions made to protect the security of U.S. government personnel overseas and ensure that U.S. citizens receive appropriate security information," the spokesperson said, adding that they "represent our commitment to protect U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad by providing them important safety and security information."


White teen pleads guilty to plot to attack Black churchgoers in Georgia

Oct. 23, 2020

A 17-year-old white girl in Georgia pleaded guilty Thursday to planning a knife attack on Black churchgoers.

Under a negotiated sentence, the unidentified teenager was sentenced to remain in juvenile detention until her 21st birthday, the maximum possible sentence. She will then begin 10 years probation during which she will be prohibited from coming close to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Gainesville, which she had planned to attack, according to NBC Affiliate WXIA.

The girl's plot against the church in Gainesville, about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, came to light after a high school classmate heard about the plan and reported it to authorities last November, authorities said.

According to WXIA, prosecutors said that the teenager had written out the plans in her notebook and that a search of her bag revealed two knives and T-shirts, one of which said “free Dylann Storm Roof” with swastikas drawn onto the arms. Roof was the gunman who massacred nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

The shirts also included several writings on their backs, including “I’m not crazy I had to do this,” and, “I do consider myself a white supremacist," prosecutors said.

While the teen was in her school principal's office after the book bag was searched, the school resource officer told her he did not think it would become a criminal matter as her writings and T-shirts would be considered free speech, prosecutors said, according to WXIA.

"It's not freedom of speech because I intended to do it," the girl allegedly responded.

A Gainesville Police Department press release last year said the girl was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder. The police chief called the plot a "potentially horrific incident" that was motivated by the race of the church members.

Bethel AME Church's pastor, the Rev. Michel Rizer-Pool, said in court that services in her congregation have changed since the planned attack was discovered. "There is more focusing on the sounds outside made during worship service than the songs of Zion being sung by the choir," WXIA reported.

The judge, in accepting the negotiated plea, commended the teen for her behavior while in custody since last year, according to the Atlanta station.

"I appreciate how much you have worked on yourself," Judge Allison Toller said. "From all accounts it appears that you have welcomed the assistance that you're getting, that you have taken the opportunity to get your GED and to further yourself and that you have been pleasant and working well with the staff. Through your detention you have made the best of a very bad circumstance."




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