New Age Islam
Thu Dec 03 2020, 05:55 AM

Islamic World News ( 22 Feb 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

'My Story Happened As America Was an Inclusive Society': Frank Islam



















Policemen gather outside the tomb of Sufi saint Syed Usman Marwandi, also known as the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine, after a suicide blast in Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan's southern Sindh province. (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)

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'My Story Happened As America Was an Inclusive Society': Frank Islam

9 Killed In Explosion in Lahore's Defence Area

Hollande: France Insists On Two-State Mideast Peace Deal

Syrian Gov't Grants Amnesty to Hundreds of Militants in Damascus Province

 

India

'My Story Happened As America Was an Inclusive Society': Frank Islam

Four Killed As Indian Kashmir Militants Ambush Army Convoy

Stone-pelters make security forces call off 2 anti-terror operations in Kulgam

ED summons Zakir Naik’s sister in money laundering case

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Pakistan

9 Killed In Explosion in Lahore's Defence Area

Pakistan Army Launches Nationwide Anti-terror Operation

NA body approves teaching of Quran in capital schools

King Salman has clear ideas on overcoming crisis in Islam, says Pakistan cleric

Pakistan Army launches 'Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad' across the country

Hindu pilgrims arrive for Shivratri celebrations

US vows to assist Pakistan in dismantling terrorist networks

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Europe

Hollande: France Insists On Two-State Mideast Peace Deal

Ruling Class Rejects Trump Rapprochement with Russia

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Arab World

Syrian Gov't Grants Amnesty to Hundreds of Militants in Damascus Province

Eyewitnesses: US Military Planes Helping ISIL Terrorists in Tal Afar Region

American Emir of ISIL Terrorists Killed by Unidentified Raiders in Northeastern Syria

UN aid convoy looted in Syria as supplies remain blocked

Saudi Arabia donates billions to aid Yemen’s reconstruction

Israel blocks EU lawmakers’ entry into besieged Gaza Strip

US-Led Coalition's Airstrikes Leave More Civilians Dead, Wounded in Syria's Raqqa

Syria: More Civilians Killed in US-Led Coalition Airstrike in Eastern Deir Ezzur

Deir Ezzur: People Join Syrian Army in War on ISIL

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Africa

Soldiers Deploy To Central Africa to Support the Fight against Boko Haram

Turkey Restoring Tomb of Ethiopian King Najashi, Who Sheltered Muslim Emigrants

Over 700 migrants rescued off Libya: Italy coast guard

Tunisia parliament adopts anti-corruption law

Houthi missile kills senior Yemeni general in Mokha

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South Asia

Myanmar Probing Police 'Cover-Up' Of Deaths of Two Rohingya Muslims

Deadly Suicide Attack Foiled As Truck Bomb Destroyed In Ghazni Airstrike

Pope meets families of victims from deadly Bangladesh attack

Germany deports 18 more rejected Afghan asylum seekers

4-year security plan discussed during Ghani’s meeting with top NATO officials

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Southeast Asia

Turkish Police Nab Indonesian Family Trying to Follow Islamic State-Inspired Husband to Syria

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Mideast

Turkey Lifts Ban on Army Officers Wearing Islamic Headscarf

Yemeni Fighters Reach Outskirts of Mocha, In Serious Blow to Riyadh

Khamenei threatens Palestinians: ‘Continue the resistance’

Regional rivals Iran, Turkey trade barbs over Syria

Iran sends delegation to KSA for Haj talks

Russia asks Syria to halt bombing during UN peace talks

Senior Yemeni general killed in Houthi missile attack: military source

Quebec mosque hires own lawyers for accused gunman's trial

UN, EU urge Israel to stop fresh demolitions in West Bank village

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North America

US Ban on Muslim Brotherhood Could Bring Sweeping Civil Rights Violations

Donald Trump's New 'Muslim Ban' Will Have 'Same Outcome' As Old One, Says Senior White House Adviser

Police investigate anti-Muslim rally outside Toronto mosque and alleged hate speech inside

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/-my-story-happened-as-america-was-an-inclusive-society---frank-islam/d/110181

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'My Story Happened As America Was an Inclusive Society': Frank Islam

Mohammed Wajihuddin

Feb 23, 2017

If Donald Trump were President of the United States around five decades ago, perhaps the story of Frank Islam would not have been worth telling. For, had there been an entry barrier keeping out the middle-class Muslim boy from the backwaters of Azamgarh, his American dream would have remained just that--a dream.

Islam is a shining example of what America stands for, or at least stood for, before Trump tried to crush those values under the walls of exclusivism. An Indian-American, Islam is justifiably proud of America's famed inclusivism and tolerance. Islam was in the city on Tuesday to address the US-India Startup Forum at a Juhu Hotel.

"This is the city of the Tatas and the Ambanis who touched countless lives. Write your own legacy," Islam, 64, told a group of around 100 entrepreneurs, giving glimpses of his own extraordinary career path and describing what it takes to become an entrepreneur. "The entrepreneur sees opportunities where others see problems," he said.

"I also don't agree with the old adage that leaders are born, not made, and entrepreneurs are made, not born.I am the living proof of this," Islam added.

Two years ago, Islam hit the headlines pledging $2 million (over Rs 13 crore) to his alma-mater Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to fund the construction of the massive Frank and Debbie (his wife) Islam Management Complex. It was the biggest endowment to AMU by an individual in the varsity's over century-old history.

After inauguration of the complex earlier this month, Islam flew into Mumbai on Tuesday where, besides attending other functions, he also met his close relatives.

He spoke to TOI on varied subjects, ranging from Trump's policies to Indian Muslims. "Trump is not a polished politician. He will do wrong things right and right things poorly," he commented.

"My story could not have happened had America not been an inclusive, open society which embraced everyone," emphasised Islam.

After completing his MSc in Mathematics at AMU, Islam went to the University of Colorado Boulder to study computer science. Once in the US, he realized people there had problems pronouncing his name, which was Shah Fakhrul Islam. So he shortened it to simply `Frank Islam'.Years later, Islam grew to gain such prominence in the US that he was part of the business delegation accompanying the then US President Barack Obama as India's guest at the Republic Day celebrations in 2015.

After creating immense wealth as a successful entrepreneur--he built IT company QSS Group from one employee--himself--to over 2,000 employees, he sold it to establish a private investment holding company in 2007.

Today, Islam is mo re of a philanthropist and thought leader than an entrepreneur. "I don't believe in handing out money to the poor. I believe in giving a helping hand to them," he said.

Islam said Muslims had a great responsibility to defeat terrorist outfits like ISIS. "ISIS or ISIL has hijacked our faith which believes in equality, dignity, compassion and respect for other faiths," he said. "We have to reclaim our faith from those dangerous forces."

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/my-story-happened-as-america-was-an-inclusive-society/articleshow/57303052.cms

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9 killed in explosion in Lahore's Defence area

23 February 2017

A powerful explosion in an under-construction building in Lahore's busy Defence Y block area left nine people dead and more than 20 injured on Thursday.

There were conflicting reports regarding the nature of the blast. Punjab government authorities initially claimed that the blast was the result of a "generator explosion", but multiple sources, including Nayab Haider, a spokesman for Punjab police, later said the explosion was caused by a bomb.

A spokesperson for the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) corroborated the claim, saying that the blast "seems to have been made [sic] by some explosives".

"It will become clear later whether it was IED timer [a timed improvised explosive device] or [a] remote-controlled device [and] whether the restaurant itself was [the] target or the explosive went off in transit," the spokesperson said.

"Since building has collapsed, true picture will emerge later on," the spokesperson added. "Info will be shared with media as early as possible."

What we know so far

At least 9 people killed, more than 20 injured

Explosion occurred in a busy commercial area

Blast attributed by CTD officials to the triggering of an explosive device

The area where the first blast occurred is a busy locality with several commercial offices and eateries. Footage shows nearby offices including HBL, Toni and Guy, Gloria Jeans, Bombay Chowpatty, Jalalsons among others.

Extent of damage

TV footage showed windows of several offices and eateries in the commercial area shattered by shockwaves and shrapnel.

Footage also showed rubble from the damaged building strewn across the road. Windscreens of cars parked over 100 feet away from the building were shattered and there was considerable damage to the cars' bodies.

Residents and nearby shoppers panicked when the explosion was heard, and eyewitnesses described people evacuating buildings and running from the scene of the incident.

Broken crockery and furniture was strewn on the road in the area and the road appeared to be carpeted by shattered glass.

'People were crushed'

A Rescue 1122 official initially said as many as 35 people were moved to local hospitals, some with critical injuries. "The injuries are severe... the magnitude of the blast — the impact — is very high. One storey collapsed and people were crushed underneath."

A witness who works at a bank in the market told Reuters that his workplace was shaken by a “frightening” explosion.

“We left the building and saw that the motor-bikes parked outside were on fire and all the windows in the surrounding buildings were shattered,” the witness, Mohammad Khurram, said.

Full report at:

Source; http://www.dawn.com/news/1316527/9-killed-in-explosion-in-lahores-defence-area

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Hollande: France insists on two-state Mideast peace deal

23 February 2017

France is committed to a two-state solution for the Middle East conflict, President Francois Hollande said Wednesday, a week after Donald Trump broke with international consensus by stepping back from the goal.

The French leader, addressing an event hosted by the CRIF umbrella grouping of Jewish organizations, said a two-state solution was the only guarantee for Israel to remain a “pluralist and democratic society”.

His comments follow the US president’s shift away from an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. The two-state solution has long been the cornerstone of US and international policy and Trump’s row-back met with hostility from other world powers when he made his remarks last week.

Hollande said there was only one way to have peace in the Middle East and that was to have Israel and Palestine side by side. He said it was up to the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement on each issue, especially on the status of Jerusalem.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/23/France-insists-on-two-state-Mideast-peace-deal.html

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Syrian Gov't Grants Amnesty to Hundreds of Militants in Damascus Province

Feb 22, 2017

700 militants that had laid down their arms and joined the nationwide peace agreement in the town of Sarqaya were granted government amnesty.

Earlier this month, Syrian President Bashar Assad extended a decree on amnesty for militants who surrender and hand over their weapons until the end of June.

The decree 15/2016 dated July 28, 2016 was extended by President Assad until June 30, 2017, according to a state news agency report.

The above-mentioned order was initially issued for the period of three months and on October 27, 2016 was prolonged for the same period. The amnesty also covers kidnappers who agree to release their hostages.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204001253

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India

 

'My story happened as America was an inclusive society'

Mohammed Wajihuddin

Feb 23, 2017

If Donald Trump were President of the United States around five decades ago, perhaps the story of Frank Islam would not have been worth telling. For, had there been an entry barrier keeping out the middle-class Muslim boy from the backwaters of Azamgarh, his American dream would have remained just that--a dream.

Islam is a shining example of what America stands for, or at least stood for, before Trump tried to crush those values under the walls of exclusivism. An Indian-American, Islam is justifiably proud of America's famed inclusivism and tolerance. Islam was in the city on Tuesday to address the US-India Startup Forum at a Juhu Hotel.

"This is the city of the Tatas and the Ambanis who touched countless lives. Write your own legacy," Islam, 64, told a group of around 100 entrepreneurs, giving glimpses of his own extraordinary career path and describing what it takes to become an entrepreneur. "The entrepreneur sees opportunities where others see problems," he said.

"I also don't agree with the old adage that leaders are born, not made, and entrepreneurs are made, not born.I am the living proof of this," Islam added.

Two years ago, Islam hit the headlines pledging $2 million (over Rs 13 crore) to his alma-mater Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to fund the construction of the massive Frank and Debbie (his wife) Islam Management Complex. It was the biggest endowment to AMU by an individual in the varsity's over century-old history.

After inauguration of the complex earlier this month, Islam flew into Mumbai on Tuesday where, besides attending other functions, he also met his close relatives.

He spoke to TOI on varied subjects, ranging from Trump's policies to Indian Muslims. "Trump is not a polished politician. He will do wrong things right and right things poorly," he commented.

"My story could not have happened had America not been an inclusive, open society which embraced everyone," emphasised Islam.

After completing his MSc in Mathematics at AMU, Islam went to the University of Colorado Boulder to study computer science. Once in the US, he realized people there had problems pronouncing his name, which was Shah Fakhrul Islam. So he shortened it to simply `Frank Islam'.Years later, Islam grew to gain such prominence in the US that he was part of the business delegation accompanying the then US President Barack Obama as India's guest at the Republic Day celebrations in 2015.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/my-story-happened-as-america-was-an-inclusive-society/articleshow/57303052.cms

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Four killed as Indian Kashmir militants ambush army convoy

23 February 2017

A woman and three soldiers were killed Thursday when militants ambushed an army convoy in Indian Kashmir, police said. The soldiers were returning from a search operation when the militants attacked their convoy, injuring six, three of whom later died. The civilian woman was also hit by a stray bullet and died, police said.

“Three army soldiers succumbed to their injuries at the army hospital in Srinagar,” said a police spokesman who asked not to be named, referring to the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir. Area superintendent of police Tahir Saleem told AFP the woman, who lived near where the ambush occurred in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, was hit by crossfire.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2017/02/23/Four-killed-as-Indian-Kashmir-militants-ambush-army-convoy-.html

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Stone-pelters make security forces call off 2 anti-terror operations in Kulgam

Feb 23, 2017

SRINAGAR: Security forces had to call off anti-terror operations against terrorists holed up in residential houses at two places in Kulgam district of south Kashmir on Wednesday when sympathisers of the terrorists threw stones at their personnel to prevent them from taking on the terrorists, reports said.

However, state police officials said operations were called off only when the forces learnt there were no militants present there. Intelligence reports had confirmed the presence of terrorists in the two houses. An intelligence officer said the forces were instructed by the state administration to call off the operation following intense stone-pelting by sympathisers.

According to official sources, security personnel — Army, CRPF and police — cordoned off Tarigam village in Kulgam district on Wednesday morning on receiving inputs about the presence of militants in a residential house.

"As searches started, the locals, including women, came out of their houses and held protests. The locals hurled stones at forces involved in counter-insurgency operations and tried to break the cordon to give a safe passage to militants who were supposedly trapped there," the official sources said.

The sympathisers continuously threw stones though police used teargas shells and fired in the air to disperse protesters, official sources said, adding that clashes between the two sides continued for several hours and a few persons were reported to be injured.

Following continued clashes, the forces were instructed to call off the operation in Tarigam village to avoid civilian casualties, official sources said.

Similar clashes erupted on Wednesday in the Qaimoh area of Kulgam after forces launched a cordon-and-search operation to neutralise militants suspected to be present in Makhdoom Mohalla, in south Kashmir's Kulgam.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/stone-pelters-make-security-forces-call-off-2-anti-terror-operations-in-kulgam/articleshow/57302436.cms

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ED summons Zakir Naik’s sister in money laundering case

February 23, 2017

CONTROVERSIAL TELEVANGELIST Zakir Naik’s sister Nailah Noorani has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate to appear before it. On Wednesday, her counsel responded to the summons stating that she would appear before the agency next week. The central agency is probing an alleged money laundering case against Naik and his now outlawed outfit, the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).

Controversial Islamic Preacher Zakir Naik Likely To Be Quizzed By NIA

According to sources, Naik had allegedly transferred around Rs 20 crore in the accounts held by his parents between 2012 and 2016. They had then collectively transferred over Rs 25 crore in two accounts held by Nailah. The sources said money was then transferred to the accounts of four companies — Longlast Constructions Pvt Ltd, Harmony Media Pvt Ltd, Majestic Perfumes Pvt Ltd and Alpha Lubricants Pvt Ltd. Nailah was the director with Longlast Constructions, which saw a surge in borrowing in the last couple of years but had not conducted any business, said the sources.

“While Harmony Media is a video and software production company that was incorporated in 2005 and saw a steady growth in revenue, the other three companies were not doing any business. We would like to probe Nailah on the funds received by her company and purpose for floating it,” explained an official.

The sources added that Aamir Abdul Mannan Gazdar, also a director with the same firm who was arrested by the ED last week, did not cooperate during interrogation. “Gazdar was quizzed on the same but has refused to come out clean on the investments. We suspect that he handled cash and real estate transaction to the tune of Rs 200 crore,” added the official.

While the ED has pegged Naik’s worth at over Rs 3,000 crore, they are currently concentrating on Rs 200 crore that was allegedly laundered by Naik through his relatives and close confidants.

On Wednesday, Naik’s alleged close confidant Aamir Gazdar was produced before the special PMLA court. The ED claimed that during his custody, two of his statements were recorded.

“In his statements, he gave the details of the amount of cash transactions handled by him at the instructions of Dr Zakir Naik…he gave details of his income which he has filed in his Income Tax returns. However, perusing the same reveals that there was wide variation in the disclosed income with the actual as the same was not supported with any documentation. It was also observed that he was filing IT returns in the name of his wife and children. However, he admitted that they didn’t have any source of income, which raise a suspicion that he was trying to layer the proceeds of crime into the system,” the ED submitted before court.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ed-summons-zakir-naiks-sister-in-money-laundering-case-4538885/

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Pakistan

 

 

At least 9 killed in blast in Lahore's DHA area

February 23, 2017

At least nine were killed and over 35 injured in a blast in Defence area of Lahore, reported Waqt News.

According to details incident explosion took place at Z-block market in DHA.

The nature of the blast is still unknown but Punjab government official sources claimed it was a "generator blast."

Nayab Haider, a Punjab Police spokesman, has since confirmed that it was a bomb blast.

According to reports 10kg worth of explosives was used in the bomb.

There were reports of a second blast striking the city’s Gulberg area, where a bomb was said to have been exploded in front of a multinational fast food restaurant on Main Boulevard. The Police have since claimed that the attack was a rumour. Meanwhile, Hafeez Centre has been evacuated by the authorities.

According to reports, the Z-block blast has damaged the nearby buildings and cars. Reports further add that some injured are still under the rubble of the destroyed building. According to rescue authorities the condition of many injured is critical.

Punjab Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique has reached General Hospital and ensured that all the injured will be treated on emergency bases. “Doctors are trying their best to save as many as lives,” he said while talking to media.

A large numbers of people have reached at hospital and blast site but police has cordoned off both areas. The security of the hospital has also been bolstered and emergency has been declared.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/23-Feb-2017/at-least-4-killed-scores-injured-in-lahore-s-defence-area

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Pakistan Army Launches Nationwide Anti-terror Operation

February 22, 2017

ISLAMABAD —

Pakistan has launched its first ever nationwide military operation “to eradicate the threat of terrorism,” in response to a recent surge in suicide bombings and militant attacks that killed scores of people in the country.

Army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor said the offensive will also cover the most populous province, Punjab, which is seen as a recruiting ground for extremist groups fighting the state and helping insurgents in Afghanistan as well as in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region.

“(The) operation aims at indiscriminately eliminating residual latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring security of the borders,” a military statement quoted Ghafoor as explaining.

Punjab a powerful province

Punjab is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's native province and political stronghold where some of the country's major Islamic parties are also headquartered. These religious groups have long opposed calls from secular and liberal parties, for undertaking security operations in the province.

Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N party has long relied on support from Islamic parties in wining national elections and fears of losing the crucial base are also cited among factors that have hampered army operations in Punjab.

Although major Islamic parties are not linked to extremist violence in Pakistan, critics and even officials have at times admitted there are institutions among tens of thousands of seminaries the religious groups are running in the province, which are promoting sectarian hatred and producing students with militant mindsets.

Locating weapons a priority

These young men, observers believe, often end up joining ranks of violent groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, commonly known as Pakistani Taliban, waging a bloody insurgency against the state.

TTP has killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis in its decade long insurgency. But one of its offshoots, Jamaat-Ul-Ahrar, has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist attacks Pakistan has experienced within the past two weeks.

General Ghafoor said that “countrywide de-weaponization and explosive control are additional goals of the operation the military launched Wednesday.

Pakistani troops have also been engaged since June 2014, in major ground and air offensives against TTP bases in volatile semi-autonomous tribal areas near the Afghan border.

Full report at:

http://www.voanews.com/a/pakistan-army-launches-nationwide-anti-terror-operation/3735560.html

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NA body approves teaching of Quran in capital schools

KASHIF ABBASI

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Wednesday passed a bill for making teaching of the Quran compulsory in grade one through to grade 12 in all federal educational institutions.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training, which met under the chairmanship of MNA Dr Amirullah Marwat, unanimously passed the ‘Compulsory Teaching of the Holy Quran Bill, 2017’.

After it is approved by the upper house and its committee, the bill will be applicable in Islamabad, Fata and all the institutes owned and controlled by the federal government, wherever they may be.

The bill was presented before the committee by State Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Engineer Balighur Rehman and was passed after a brief discussion.

A simple translation of Holy Quran agreed on by all religious sects will be included in the curriculum, says minister

“The bill is one of the good steps and will benefit students,” the committee chairman said.

If approved by Senate, the bill will make the teaching of the Quran compulsory for all Muslim students in all public and private educational institutes in the areas which are controlled by the federal government.

The Naazrah Quran will be taught in grades one through to five and the Holy Quran will be taught in grades six through to grade 12 with a simple translation and according to a schedule.

Five percent of the Quran will be taught in class six, 9pc in class seven, 12pc in class eight, 17pc in class nine, 25pc in class 10 while 15pc and 17pc of the Quran will be taught in first and second year. The surahs taught in first and second year will be those revealed in Madina.

“This bill was moved because it was the people’s demand and because it was the need of the hour,” the education minister said.

Speaking to Dawn after the meeting, the minister said the bill was supported by all religious schools of thought and that there will be no issue of implementation as it was moved through the Council of Islamic Ideology. He added that teaching the Quran will promote harmony.

The minister said there will be no problems in regards to the teaching of the translation of the Quran as it will be a simple translation, one agreed upon by scholars of all sects.

The bill reads: “It will make the divine message understood; ensure the repose of society; peace and tranquillity; Promote the supreme human values of truth, honesty, integrity, character building, tolerance, understanding others’ point of view and way of life. It will lead towards spreading goodness and auspiciousness and towards ending chaos and uncertainty,” read the bill.

According to the bill, it will also help the state discharge its constitutional responsibility. The bill also says there will be no additional expenses for books and teachers as translations will be donated to all federal government schools and all the educational institutions already have teachers who can easily teach the Quran and its translation.

Briefing the committee on the curriculum being taught at schools, the minister said that at present, Islamabad schools are teaching the 2002 curriculum for computer science.

He said that schools in one of the provinces is teaching the 80s curriculum.

“The good thing is that the federal ministry and the provinces are working on developing a new curriculum,” he said.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1316443/na-body-approves-teaching-of-quran-in-capital-schools

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King Salman has clear ideas on overcoming crisis in Islam, says Pakistan cleric

22 February 2017

To be the leader of the Pakistani Muslim scholars’ council amid religious turbulences is never an easy task. At a time when terrorist groups are prospering in the name of Islam, and in a country neighboring both Afghanistan and Iran, Sheikh Hafiz Mohammed Tahir Al-Ashrafi is working hard to stand against all sorts of extremism both in Pakistan and across the Muslim world.

AlArabiya.net sat down with Sheikh Al-Ashrafi to seek his opinions and impressions on some of the most volatile issues in the Middle East.

Can you tell us what is the reason for your most recent visit to Saudi Arabia?

I was invited to the Kingdom by Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Minister of the Saudi National Guard and member of the Saudi Council for Political and Security Affairs, to attend the Janadriyah Festival.

Thankfully, while in the Kingdom, I got the opportunity to meet with and talk with both King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I also attended numerous conferences, seminars and lectures where matters concerning the Muslim nations were discussed.

We talked about how we can improve the current conditions of Muslims worldwide and bring Muslims out of the current predicaments they are facing. During my meeting with King Salman, his message was quite clear; Islam is for everyone and the Kingdom offers its services and support to all the efforts against terrorism, extremism, corruption and ruin.

King Salman, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and the Deputy Crown prince have one clear idea and one aim, which is how the Muslim world can pass these critical times on all fronts, especially the enemies of the Islamic nation, who are the terrorist and extremist organizations. That was the general message I got from all the Saudi officials, who were present at the activities of the festival this week.

Do you think that the ongoing conflicts in the Arab world (Syria and Yemen) can affect Pakistan? Moreover, how would that be?

The enemies of Islam want what is happening now in Syria, Yemen and Iraq to be happening in every other Muslim country including Pakistan. Pakistan has been in a state of war for 35 years and you see terrorist bombings there from time to time, but thankfully, we have our army and security officials, who with the help of other Muslim nations, will stand in the way of repeating a Syrian, Iraqi or a Yemeni scenario in Pakistan.

It is utterly important for Muslim nations and Arab Muslim nations in particular to stop the foreign mingling in their affairs. Groups like ISIS claim that they are Sunnis, and the question is; did ISIS every do anything for the benefit of Sunni Islam? On the contrary, it is because of ISIS that Aleppo has fallen. Other terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and the Houthis and the Pakistani Taliban, they are all defaming the name of Islam by relating it to terrorism.

These groups’ main aim is to create ruin in Muslim lands but they will not win. The Houthi rockets targeting Makkah and the suicide attacker attempting to assault Madinah, these incidents have awakened the Muslim nations and made them form the military Muslim coalition, which can help retain the unity of the Muslim worlds against its enemies.

We are now in a state of war, and the military Muslim coalition, which comprises of 45 Muslim nations led by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, should be followed by a Muslim ideological coalition, which can bring together the Muslim nations’ clerics and unite them against the extremist thinking of terrorist groups.

Has the war on terror led to a transformation in Pakistani religious schools?

Religious schools in Pakistan have no ties whatsoever to terrorism. The Council of Pakistani Scholars and other religious institutions in Pakistan are keen on deploying both theological and worldly education.

We have more than 25,000 religious schools in Pakistan, no more than 10 of them tend to preach extremist thoughts and once we spot them out, we as scholars, work with the government and the army on ending these schools’ influence and presence. Pakistan’s scholars are working hand in hand with our army and our government against extremists in the country.

Usually your relations with the United States is a good one, did that change with Donald Trump taking over the US presidency?

I know that the Muslim world understands when Trump is coming out against and after terrorist groups that call themselves Muslims. However, Trump is wrong when he says that Islam and terror go side by side. Islam is innocent of these crimes and those [terrorist] criminals.

We have seen the US recently giving Crown Prince Muhammed bin Naif a medal for his counterterrorism efforts, which shows the efforts Muslims do to fight extremism. Other countries like France and Germany have also talked about the prince’s efforts in combating terror. How come after such recognition, Trump says that Islam and terrorism are one thing and go side by side?

Trump needs to change his words and needs to change his perspective too. A terrorist has no religion. Can I come out and say that the attacker who killed Muslims praying in Quebec is a Christian terrorist? No, I cannot, because he is just a terrorist.

We do not say the same when a Jew carries out an attack. What is clear is that terror has no religion. Therefore, like what the Pope himself said, we hope that Trump would work on maintaining world security rather than target Islam and Muslims.

How would you describe your relation with both the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban?

We regard the Pakistani Taliban as terrorists who kill innocent people. As for the Afghan Taliban, we see that the Afghan government does not do anything about their Taliban’s terrorist acts. So many efforts were made by the Pakistani government to mediate between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government but there are people in Afghanistan who do not want such dialogue to happen.

The Afghan intelligence does not want such a dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The Pakistani government does not want to interfere in Afghan matters unless the Afghan government asks for help. It is up to the Afghan government to stop the Afghan Taliban terror. If there is security in Afghanistan, there will be security in Pakistan.

Have you been affected by the international crackdown on Islamist groups?

The presence of many militant and terrorist groups that function in the name of Islam has made many countries and governments suspicious of Muslims around the world.

That is why I say that countries and people around the world need to differentiate between peaceful, moderate Muslims and those who use their own extreme version of the religion to gather recruits and serve a certain agenda that has nothing to do with the essence of Islam.

Why do you not publicly condemn terrorist acts that occur in the Middle East?

On the contrary, in every single event or conference that I attend or when asked of my opinion after any of the terrorist attacks that happen inside or outside Pakistan, I am always voicing my strong condemnation to these assaults and talking about the importance of moderate Islamic scholarship in the face of extremism.

What is your stance towards Iran’s policies and activities in the region?

Iran is a neighbor to 15 countries and none of them is safe from the Iranian threat. We want Iran to take the path of security, but instead they are supporting and aiding those who are killing our children in the Levant, Iraq, Yemen and in Bahrain.

I pose this question to everyone; has terrorism appeared after the appearance of Mohammed bin Abdelwahab’s teachings in the Arabian Peninsula almost 200 years ago or it appeared following Khomeini’s coup in Iran? The answer is that it appeared to the world because of and after Khomeini’s coup. We hope for a [new] generation in Iran that would abandon the guardianship of the jurist [wilayat al faqih] and that would to stop interfering in the matters of Arab and Muslim countries.

After the fall of Aleppo, some Iranian officials started eyeing interfering in Kuwait and Bahrain and other countries. They aid Houthis in Yemen and the whole world knows that Houthis could not have secured heavy armament like missiles if it was not from Iran. I tell the Iranians not to send fire to other countries because this will end up burning them, as well as others.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2017/02/22/A-Q-A-with-head-of-the-Ulemas-Council-of-Pakistan.html

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Pakistan Army launches 'Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad' across the country

February 23, 2017

Pakistan Army on Wednesday launched 'Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad' across the country, Inter-Services Public Relations, the army's media wing, said in a statement.

Radd-ul-Fasaad — which translates roughly to 'elimination of discord' — will aim at indiscriminately eliminating the "residual/latent threat of terrorism", consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring the security of Pakistan's borders, read the statement.

Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces (CAF) and other security and law enforcing agencies (LEAs) will actively participate in and 'intimately support' the armed forces' efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country, the statement added.

"The effort entails conduct of Broad Spectrum Security / Counter-Terrorism (CT) operations by Rangers in Punjab, continuation of ongoing operations across the country, and focus on more effective border security management," the ISPR said.

"Countrywide de-weaponisation and explosive control are additional cardinals of the effort. Pursuance of National Action Plan will be the hallmark of this operation," it added.

The announcement followed a meeting in Lahore between Chief of Armed Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, the corps commanders of Punjab, the director general of Pakistan Rangers Punjab, and the heads of intelligence agencies.

Earlier in the day, the federal government had approved a request forwarded by the Government of Punjab for the deployment of Rangers personnel in the province.

Punjab had requested the federal government to deploy over 2,000 Rangers personnel in the province, who would be given policing powers to conduct intelligence-based operations (IBOs) against militants, wherever required and with full authority.

Read more: Govt approves Punjab's request for Rangers deployment

Additionally, at the start of the week, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had informed Senate that the army had been empowered to act against terrorists across the border if it had concrete evidence that Afghan soil had been used to launch recent attacks in the country.

He had said it had been established beyond doubt that foreign soil had been used to orchestrate the attacks in Lahore and Hayatabad.

Recalling Pakistan’s commitment to not allow its soil to be used for terrorist acts in any country, Dar had said the time had come to ensure that no other country’s soil was used against Pakistan either.

Renewed focus on NAP?

Operation Radd-ul-Fasad has been announced as a continuation of the National Action Plan (NAP), the ISPR said in its Wednesday notification.

Widely criticised for its apparently half-hearted implementation, NAP had been formulated after the devastating attack on Army Public School Peshawar in December 2014.

Is part of the plan, military courts were established to fast-track terrorism cases. Intelligence-based operations across the country were initiated to disrupt and destroy terror networks in urban and rural areas. The plan had also laid an emphasis on curtailing terror financing.

NAP had also promised to take action against seminaries involved in militancy, but the government had dithered on bringing them under control, apparently for fear of backlash from religious parties as well as militants.

The plan further envisaged countering hate speech and extremist material through the powers vested in the provincial police and other authorities. Pemra and other regulatory authorities were tasked with checking and banning glorification of terrorism and militant groups through print and electronic media. The drafting of the Electronic Media Code of Conduct was also a positive step.

The provinces were further instructed under NAP to raise a counter-terrorism force under a dedicated command structure.

Resurgence in terror attacks

Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was announced in the aftermath of a fresh resurgence in terror attacks in Pakistan.

On Feb 21, security forces killed three suicide attackers who attempted to wreak havoc at a local court in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda district. The attack had killed five civilians and was claimed by the proscribed Jamaat-ul-Ahraar (JuA).

On Feb 16, the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan was struck by a suicide bomber affiliated with the militant Islamic State. The worst in the recent flurry of militant activity in Pakistan, it saw at least 88 killed and more than 300 injured after a suicide bomber targeted devotees during the evening dhamaal.

Earlier the same day, an explosive device had targeted an Army convoy in the Awaran area of Balochistan, killing three soldiers.

On Feb 15, a suicide bomber had struck in Mohmand, killing three personnel of the Khasadar force and five civilians. This attack was also claimed by the JuA.

The same day, a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a vehicle carrying judges in Peshawar's Hayatabad Phase 5 area, killing the driver and injuring its four other occupants. This attack was claimed by the TTP.

On Feb 13, a suicide bomber had struck a protest on Lahore's Charing Cross interchange, killing 13 and injuring 85. The attack had happened right outside the gates of Punjab's Provincial Assembly.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1316332/pakistan-army-launches-operation-radd-ul-fasaad-across-the-country

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King Salman has clear ideas on overcoming crisis in Islam, says Pakistan cleric

22 February 2017

To be the leader of the Pakistani Muslim scholars’ council amid religious turbulences is never an easy task. At a time when terrorist groups are prospering in the name of Islam, and in a country neighboring both Afghanistan and Iran, Sheikh Hafiz Mohammed Tahir Al-Ashrafi is working hard to stand against all sorts of extremism both in Pakistan and across the Muslim world.

AlArabiya.net sat down with Sheikh Al-Ashrafi to seek his opinions and impressions on some of the most volatile issues in the Middle East.

Can you tell us what is the reason for your most recent visit to Saudi Arabia?

I was invited to the Kingdom by Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Minister of the Saudi National Guard and member of the Saudi Council for Political and Security Affairs, to attend the Janadriyah Festival.

Thankfully, while in the Kingdom, I got the opportunity to meet with and talk with both King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I also attended numerous conferences, seminars and lectures where matters concerning the Muslim nations were discussed.

We talked about how we can improve the current conditions of Muslims worldwide and bring Muslims out of the current predicaments they are facing. During my meeting with King Salman, his message was quite clear; Islam is for everyone and the Kingdom offers its services and support to all the efforts against terrorism, extremism, corruption and ruin.

King Salman, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and the Deputy Crown prince have one clear idea and one aim, which is how the Muslim world can pass these critical times on all fronts, especially the enemies of the Islamic nation, who are the terrorist and extremist organizations. That was the general message I got from all the Saudi officials, who were present at the activities of the festival this week.

Do you think that the ongoing conflicts in the Arab world (Syria and Yemen) can affect Pakistan? Moreover, how would that be?

The enemies of Islam want what is happening now in Syria, Yemen and Iraq to be happening in every other Muslim country including Pakistan. Pakistan has been in a state of war for 35 years and you see terrorist bombings there from time to time, but thankfully, we have our army and security officials, who with the help of other Muslim nations, will stand in the way of repeating a Syrian, Iraqi or a Yemeni scenario in Pakistan.

It is utterly important for Muslim nations and Arab Muslim nations in particular to stop the foreign mingling in their affairs. Groups like ISIS claim that they are Sunnis, and the question is; did ISIS every do anything for the benefit of Sunni Islam? On the contrary, it is because of ISIS that Aleppo has fallen. Other terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and the Houthis and the Pakistani Taliban, they are all defaming the name of Islam by relating it to terrorism.

These groups’ main aim is to create ruin in Muslim lands but they will not win. The Houthi rockets targeting Makkah and the suicide attacker attempting to assault Madinah, these incidents have awakened the Muslim nations and made them form the military Muslim coalition, which can help retain the unity of the Muslim worlds against its enemies.

We are now in a state of war, and the military Muslim coalition, which comprises of 45 Muslim nations led by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, should be followed by a Muslim ideological coalition, which can bring together the Muslim nations’ clerics and unite them against the extremist thinking of terrorist groups.

Has the war on terror led to a transformation in Pakistani religious schools?

Religious schools in Pakistan have no ties whatsoever to terrorism. The Council of Pakistani Scholars and other religious institutions in Pakistan are keen on deploying both theological and worldly education.

We have more than 25,000 religious schools in Pakistan, no more than 10 of them tend to preach extremist thoughts and once we spot them out, we as scholars, work with the government and the army on ending these schools’ influence and presence. Pakistan’s scholars are working hand in hand with our army and our government against extremists in the country.

Usually your relations with the United States is a good one, did that change with Donald Trump taking over the US presidency?

I know that the Muslim world understands when Trump is coming out against and after terrorist groups that call themselves Muslims. However, Trump is wrong when he says that Islam and terror go side by side. Islam is innocent of these crimes and those [terrorist] criminals.

We have seen the US recently giving Crown Prince Muhammed bin Naif a medal for his counterterrorism efforts, which shows the efforts Muslims do to fight extremism. Other countries like France and Germany have also talked about the prince’s efforts in combating terror. How come after such recognition, Trump says that Islam and terrorism are one thing and go side by side?

Trump needs to change his words and needs to change his perspective too. A terrorist has no religion. Can I come out and say that the attacker who killed Muslims praying in Quebec is a Christian terrorist? No, I cannot, because he is just a terrorist.

We do not say the same when a Jew carries out an attack. What is clear is that terror has no religion. Therefore, like what the Pope himself said, we hope that Trump would work on maintaining world security rather than target Islam and Muslims.

How would you describe your relation with both the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban?

We regard the Pakistani Taliban as terrorists who kill innocent people. As for the Afghan Taliban, we see that the Afghan government does not do anything about their Taliban’s terrorist acts. So many efforts were made by the Pakistani government to mediate between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government but there are people in Afghanistan who do not want such dialogue to happen.

The Afghan intelligence does not want such a dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The Pakistani government does not want to interfere in Afghan matters unless the Afghan government asks for help. It is up to the Afghan government to stop the Afghan Taliban terror. If there is security in Afghanistan, there will be security in Pakistan.

Have you been affected by the international crackdown on Islamist groups?

The presence of many militant and terrorist groups that function in the name of Islam has made many countries and governments suspicious of Muslims around the world.

That is why I say that countries and people around the world need to differentiate between peaceful, moderate Muslims and those who use their own extreme version of the religion to gather recruits and serve a certain agenda that has nothing to do with the essence of Islam.

Why do you not publicly condemn terrorist acts that occur in the Middle East?

On the contrary, in every single event or conference that I attend or when asked of my opinion after any of the terrorist attacks that happen inside or outside Pakistan, I am always voicing my strong condemnation to these assaults and talking about the importance of moderate Islamic scholarship in the face of extremism.

What is your stance towards Iran’s policies and activities in the region?

Iran is a neighbor to 15 countries and none of them is safe from the Iranian threat. We want Iran to take the path of security, but instead they are supporting and aiding those who are killing our children in the Levant, Iraq, Yemen and in Bahrain.

I pose this question to everyone; has terrorism appeared after the appearance of Mohammed bin Abdelwahab’s teachings in the Arabian Peninsula almost 200 years ago or it appeared following Khomeini’s coup in Iran? The answer is that it appeared to the world because of and after Khomeini’s coup. We hope for a [new] generation in Iran that would abandon the guardianship of the jurist [wilayat al faqih] and that would to stop interfering in the matters of Arab and Muslim countries.

After the fall of Aleppo, some Iranian officials started eyeing interfering in Kuwait and Bahrain and other countries. They aid Houthis in Yemen and the whole world knows that Houthis could not have secured heavy armament like missiles if it was not from Iran. I tell the Iranians not to send fire to other countries because this will end up burning them, as well as others.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2017/02/22/A-Q-A-with-head-of-the-Ulemas-Council-of-Pakistan.html

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‘Elimination of evils’: Army launches ‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’ across Pakistan to root out terrorism

February 22, 2017

RAWALPINDI – Pakistan Army has launched ‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’ across the country to root out terrorism without any discrimination, the Inter-Services Public Relations said on Wednesday.

“The operation aims at indiscriminately eliminating residual or latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring the security of Pakistan’s borders,” the ISPR statement added.

Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces (CAF) and other security and law enforcing agencies (LEAs) will continue to actively participate and intimately support the efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country.

The effort entails conduct of Broad Spectrum Security and Counter-Terrorism (CT) operations by Rangers in Punjab, continuation of ongoing operations across the country and focus on more effective border security management.

“Country wide de-weaponisation and explosive control are additional cardinals of the effort. Pursuance of National Action Plan will be the hallmark of this operation,” the military’s media wing said.

The announcement followed a meeting between Chief of Armed Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, Punjab corps commanders, Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) DG, and the heads of intelligence agencies.

‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’

The countrywide military operation – ‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’, or ‘Elimination of evils’ – has been launched days after a series of deadly militant attacks killed more than 115 people across Pakistan in just over a week, including civilians, policemen and soldiers.

At least 15 people were killed and 85 others wounded when a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar bomber hit a protest of chemists and pharmaceuticals manufacturers on Lahore’s Mall Road last Monday, February 13. At least six police officials were killed in the blast.

On February 15, at least one person was killed and 18, including two women and civil judges, were injured after a bomb blast exploded targeting a van of judges near Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar.

On February 16, a massive blast hit Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan Sharif killing over 90 people and injuring more than 300 others.

On February 21, at least eight people were killed while 20 others were left injured as law enforcement personnel foiled a massive terror bid in Charsadda city.

This is the worst spell of violence since 2014, when Pakistan Army launched the operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ to eliminate militant sanctuaries in its north-western tribal region.

‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’

Since the inception on June 15th, 2014, the full-scale military offensive resulted in 40-45% decline in terror-related incidents in Pakistan, as per precise security reports.

The operation is named as Zarb-e Azab.‘Azb’ refers to one of the seven swords of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that was he carried along in the Ghazwaz of Uhad and Badr to strike hard infidels.

Many global and domestic security portals saw operation Zarb-e-Azb as an instrument of peace in country. There is long list of various military, civil leaders and forums across the globe that generously acknowledged and praised the success of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

The Global terrorism index (GTI) 2015, complied by the international research group the Institute for Economics and Peace, analyses impact of terrorism on global community. The report conceded success of Zarb-e-Azb and stated “Pakistan was the only country in the ten most impacted countries that saw a decline in deaths and accordingly it dropped from third to fourth.”

Thanks to Zarb-e-Azb, the number of civilian fatalities in terrorist violence shrank from horrible four digit figure to triple digit within launch of one year. In 2013, before Zarb-e-Azb , 3001 civilians killed in terrorist violence. In 2015, the causalities decreased to 532 to 308 in 2016.

Full report at:

https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/headline/army-launches-operation-radd-ul-fasaad-across-pakistan-to-eliminate-terrorism/

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Hindu pilgrims arrive for Shivratri celebrations

February 23, 2017

LAHORE: As many as 217 Hindu pilgrims arrived here on Wednesday through Wagah border on a seven-day tour to participate in Shivratri (night of Shiva) celebrations at the Katasraj temple in Pothohar area of Punjab.

The pilgrims, led by Shiv Partap Bajaj, were received by Evacuee Trust property Board Chairman Saddiqul Farooq.

Welcoming the delegation, the chairman said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered foolproof security and arrangements for the visiting guests.

“The prime minister has extended the hand of friendship to India and repeatedly urged cooperation between both neighbours in order to solve all outstanding issues,” the chairman said. Cooperation and friendship was the only way forward for both countries so that they could prosper and help the entire region develop, he said.

Reciprocating the comments, Indian team leader Shiv Partap, who was born in Multan and is on his 10th visit to Pakistan, said both countries should resolve their issues and let people enjoy the fruits of peace.

“It has always been a pleasure to return to one’s roots. My family belonged to Pind Dadan Khan, I was born in Multan and the first memory I have is of Lahore. All those who left this side of the border have always been eager to return to see their ancestral villages and homes and avail first opportunity to do so. In order to do so, we need peaceful borders and increased people-to-people contact.”

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1316513/hindu-pilgrims-arrive-for-shivratri-celebrations

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US vows to assist Pakistan in dismantling terrorist networks

February 23, 2017

The United States will continue to work in partnership with Pakistan to dismantle terrorist networks, said US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale while talking to Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry in Islamabad on Wednesday.

David Hale condemned the recent horrific terrorist attacks across Pakistan and offered condolences to the families of the victims, read a statement issued by Radio Pakistan.

He emphasised that US forces in Afghanistan have worked closely with their Afghan counterparts to strike the very groups who have claimed responsibility for the attacks in Pakistan.

Also read: US lawmakers move bill to declare Pakistan 'state sponsor of terrorism'

The United States would like to maintain close ties with Pakistan and to use those ties to persuade Islamabad to change its policies towards Afghanistan, US lawmakers and a top American general indicated at the latest Congressional hearing on the situation in Afghanistan, earlier this month.

Although the hearing focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan was mentioned 73 times in this hours-long meeting on Wednesday while there were also dozens of indirect references to the country’s role in the Afghan conflict.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1316330/us-vows-to-assist-pakistan-in-dismantling-terrorist-networks

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Europe

 

Hollande: France Insists On Two-State Mideast Peace Deal

2017-02-23

Paris - France is committed to a two-state solution for the Middle East conflict, President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday, a week after Donald Trump broke with international consensus by stepping back from the goal.

The French leader, addressing an event hosted by the CRIF umbrella grouping of Jewish organisations, said a two-state solution was the only guarantee for Israel to remain a "pluralist and democratic society".

His comments follow the US president's shift away from an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The two-state solution has long been the cornerstone of US and international policy and Trump's row-back met with hostility from other world powers when he made his remarks last week.

Hollande said there was only one way to have peace in the Middle East and that was to have Israel and Palestine side by side.

He said it was up to the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement on each issue, especially on the status of Jerusalem.

France would continue to monitor freedom of access and worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims in the holy city, he told the audience.

"This is the French position and I'm sure it won't change," he added, weeks before he is due to leave office.

http://www.news24.com/World/News/france-insists-on-two-state-mideast-peace-deal-hollande-20170223

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Ruling class rejects Trump rapprochement with Russia

February 22, 2017

The workers, oppressed and progressive forces of this country must follow the Leninist  dictum that “the enemy is at home.” We must be against our own ruling class trying to subordinate Russia to U.S. imperialism.

Feb. 19 — What is behind the ouster of Donald Trump’s national security adviser, retired Army General Michael Flynn, and the surge in attempts to generate panic over Trump’s “ties to Russia”? And what concerns do the working class and the oppressed have in this matter?

A major struggle is going on over the diplomatic/military orientation of U.S. imperialism. It is between the Trump White House, on the one hand, which has been seeking a rapprochement with Russia, and, on the other hand, the mainstream capitalist class, large sections of the military, both Democrat and Republican political establishment, and the media, all of which have a firmly anti-Russia orientation.

Struggle over two imperialist war policies

This struggle is basically over two different policies for imperialist aggression. The Trump grouping, which includes Steve Bannon, his strategy advisor, and Michael Flynn (now fired), wants to use a realignment with Russia against China and is for an expanded war in the Middle East, allegedly against Islam.

The working class, the oppressed and the progressive movement should oppose both camps and seek an independent policy in opposition to Washington’s aggressive stance toward Russia while at the same time not being lured into Trump’s so-called “peace” camp. For the working class and progressives to get a clear view of the matter, it is best to set aside all speculation about what Flynn and others might have said to Russian officials, who may have hacked into whose emails or affected the election. It is not necessary to know any of that to understand this struggle.

But, for clarity, we will cite Time magazine of Feb. 27-March 6. In an article titled “What’s Wrong with Russia?” Time gave its version of the conflict with Russia and then continued:

“Perhaps the most important front in this new conflict has been unfolding in the West Wing. Over the course of the past three months, according to senior Trump administration officials and others who have participated, quiet but consequential talks have taken place there over whether the U.S. should resist Putin in his new campaign or cede to Russia a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe [and,] in return for an alliance against ISIS, work to reduce nuclear-weapons stockpiles and help constrain China.

“Donald Trump has publicly enunciated parts of such a grand bargain, as have top advisers Steve Bannon and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The White House officials who have advocated such a deal … see nationalism as the basis for all-important fights against Islamic extremism and China’s rise.

“Opposing a Russia deal are such Cabinet secretaries as Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson … backed by virtually the entire foreign policy establishment.

“Flynn’s ouster makes it politically more difficult for those who would like to advance a pro-Moscow strategy.”

Trump called for realignment during entire campaign

Whether or not the Time article is correct in its details or its formulations, it is not difficult to understand the axis of the struggle. Trump has been saying it out loud since his campaign began.

He has constantly pleaded from the platform, in between his racist, misogynist and anti-immigrant diatribes and his wild attacks on the media: “Wouldn’t it be a good thing if we got along with Russia. We could join together and fight ISIS … and terrorism.”

He’s been saying for over a year, “We could reduce nuclear weapons,” etc. And each time he says it, it sets off alarm bells in the Pentagon, in the spy agencies, in the anti-Russian mainstream media, in the political establishment and in the board rooms of military corporations.

Bannon, the ideologue behind Trump

Trump’s attempted political maneuver with Putin, which may already have failed, is promoted by his political guru, right-wing ideologue Steve Bannon. Bannon has an apocalyptic worldview that calls for war against Islam and China.

The South China Morning Post reported on Feb. 17 about Bannon’s outlook: “The United States and China will fight a war within the next ten years over islands in the South China Sea, and ‘there’s no doubt about that.’ At the same time, the U.S. will be in another ‘major’ war in the Middle East.”

This attempt to reorient Washington’s foreign policy, however, is a completely naive move by Trump. His overblown ego leads him to believe that it is possible to tear up all the Pentagon, State Department and CIA plans to subdue Russia.

That is why the biggest hawks in the Senate, pro-Pentagon Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have led the charge to investigate Flynn and the White House. Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence were in Europe defending NATO, warning Russia that there would be no military collaboration and pledging support to Ukraine.

Military high command wants Bannon out

It is significant that retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward twice turned down the Trump administration’s request that he take Flynn’s place as national security advisor. Harward was a Navy SEAL, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, the representative of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the National Counterterrorism Center, and the director of strategy and policy on the National Security Council staff.

For such a former high-ranking officer to turn down the president is almost unprecedented. Harward explained his objections: Trump and Bannon refused to let him have his own staff. Beyond that, Harward told the White House that “he wanted a clear chain of command reporting directly to the president, and most importantly, to restore the NSC structure of prior administrations … so that political advisors like Steve Bannon would not have a seat on the Principals Committee.” (“All In with Chris Hayes,” MSNBC, Feb. 17)

The military high command are opposed to Bannon telling them where and when to make war. Additionally, returning to the previous NSC structure would mean returning the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to a standing position on the NSC Principals Committee, a steering committee of sorts that meets frequently and is the most powerful organ in the foreign and military policy structure.

Trump forces reorganized the NSC to put Bannon on the Principals Committee and at the same time removed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the head of National Intelligence, reducing them to members who would be invited at “appropriate times.”

It is clear why the Joint Chiefs and the head of National Intelligence were removed. They would be opposed to a rapprochement with Russia.

The entire Pentagon, Wall Street and the political establishment have been geared up to threaten Russia ever since Washington failed to completely take over Ukraine. The fascist coup in 2014 was engineered by the Clinton State Department and the CIA and begun by the European Union. Its progress was halted by the resistance in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

Washington and the Pentagon were furious when the Putin government moved with lightning speed to take Crimea back for Russia. (Crimea, which has a majority Russian population, was originally part of the Soviet Union separate from Ukraine.) Russia then effectively supported the insurgency in the east against the pro-Western imperialist government in Kiev, backed by fascist storm troopers.

Russia was seeking to prevent NATO from advancing further east to its borders. The taking of Crimea can be understood as a strategic move to block the Pentagon and CIA from seizing Russia’s only Black Sea port at Sebastopol.

The seizure of Ukraine by Washington had been preceded in 1999 by the incorporation of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO, in violation of Washington’s pledges not to do so.

For workers and oppressed ‘the enemy is at home’

In the struggle between Russia and Washington, the workers, oppressed and progressive forces of this country must follow the Leninist dictum that “the enemy is at home.” We must be against our own ruling class trying to subordinate Russia to U.S. imperialism.

The Democratic Party leadership is vigorously promoting the anti-Russia line to explain their loss in the presidential election, thereby adding their weight to Washington’s aggressive, warlike policy toward Russia. The masses of activists who are mobilizing to resist the racist, anti-immigrant and reactionary Trump agenda should not fall into the Democrats’ trap.

By the same token, the workers, small farmers and oppressed peoples in Russia, while defending their country against U.S. imperialism, must fight Putin and their own oligarchic ruling class.

Who is Putin?

Putin represents the oligarchs who engineered the destruction of the Soviet Union, divided up socialist property to enrich themselves, and turned the country into a capitalist nightmare.

Putin wants to expand Russia’s control into the “near abroad,” meaning the former Soviet republics that have also gone capitalist. Putin is supporting the right wing in Europe, most of which is racist, nationalist and anti-gay. The right is opposed to the European Union and some also oppose NATO, but on reactionary, nationalist grounds.

Moscow funded Marine Le Pen’s racist National Front with bank loans in 2014. (Politico, Jan. 4) Le Pen just called the masses who rebelled against police brutality in Paris “scum.” The Russian government in December signed a long-term agreement of cooperation with the right-wing Freedom Party in Austria. And conferences of the European right wing have been held in Moscow.

Putin espouses Christian “morality,” Russian nationalism and anti-gay laws against public display of affection between members of the same sex on the grounds of protecting children.

Most important, since Putin came to power after pro-U.S. Boris Yeltsin was ousted, Russian billionaire oligarchs have consolidated Russia’s finance and industrial corporations; their overseas direct investments have expanded from $40 billion in 2000 to $406 billion in 2013. They have holdings all over the world, from Latvia to Africa to Europe. There are over 100 billionaires in Russia.

Trump and the press

Trump has been attacking the press ever since his campaign began. Trump and Bannon have called the press the “opposition party.” And recently Trump called the press “the enemy of the American people.” This is an ominous pronouncement from an authoritarian figure.

Full report at:

http://www.workers.org/2017/02/22/ruling-class-rejects-trump-rapprochement-with-russia/#.WK6hHoF96zc

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Arab World

 

Eyewitnesses: US Military Planes Helping ISIL Terrorists in Tal Afar Region

Feb 22, 2017

"We saw several packages dropped out of a US army aircraft in the surrounding areas of the city of Tal Afar in Western Nineveh province and six people also came out of a US plane in the ISIL-controlled areas," the Arabic-language media quoted a number of eyewitnesses as saying on Wednesday.

Tal Afar city has been under the siege of the Iraqi volunteer forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) for about two months now and the efforts by the ISIL terrorists to help their comrades besieged in Tal Afar have failed so far.

The news comes as the Iraqi army had reported that the US air force has been helping the ISIL terrorists in areas controlled by the terrorist group.

The Iraqi army says that the US army is trying to transfer the ISIL commanders trapped in areas besieged by the Iraqi army to safe regions.

In relevant remarks in late January, a senior commander of the Iraqi popular forces in Hamreen region disclosed that the US helicopters have helped the ISIL terrorists in Hamreen mountains in several nighttime operations during the past several weeks.

"It seems that the US troops are looking for a new scenario to disrupt the military operations in the city of Mosul through conflicts in Hamreen strategic mountains," the commander said.

The strategic Hamreen mountain stretches from Salahuddin to Diyala and from there to Kirkuk province. Hamreen mountain is of paramount strategic importance as it fully oversees the region.

Also in late January, the Iraqi volunteer forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) blocked the US soldiers' path to Mak'hul mountain in Northern Salahuddin and expelled them from the region once again.

The Arabic-language media reported that al-Nujaba Movement forces prevented the US army men from climbing Mak'hul mountain that is under the full control of Hashd al-Sha'abi and Iraqi security forces.

The al-Nujaba Movement noted that that the US soldiers and their armored vehicles intended to climb Mak'hul mountain but al-Nujaba forces pushed them back them from the region.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204000432

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American Emir of ISIL Terrorists Killed by Unidentified Raiders in Northeastern Syria

Feb 22, 2017

The sources said that ISIL found the body of Abu Fariq al-Ameriki, a US-national senior commander of the group, in a bazaar in the town of Merkedeh.

The sources pointed out that a number of ISIL members and commanders have been recently killed by unknown attackers or by the terrorist group itself on charges of escaping the battlefields in Merkedeh.

ISIL has kept its forces on red alert in the region after it found the body of al-Ameriki. 

On Sunday, the ISIL terrorist group executed one of its own senior commanders as he was trying to flee with a large amount of cash from areas under the terrorist group's control in the countryside of Hasaka in Northern Syria.

Full report at:

The ISIL executed Abu Mohammad after accusing him of spying for the coalition forces.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204001039

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UN aid convoy looted in Syria as supplies remain blocked

 23 February 2017

A convoy bringing aid to a besieged area in Syria was seized by gunmen who looted the supplies and roughed up the drivers just days before peace talks, a top UN official said Wednesday.

Only three convoys have reached rebel-held towns over the past two months in what UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien described as “a zero or near-zero” rate of assistance to Syrians living under siege in the nearly six-year war.

This week, two convoys were scheduled to reach opposition-held Waer near the central city of Homs, but one was forced to turn back due to sniper fire en route on Sunday.

Also read: UN mediator expects ‘no breakthrough’ in Syria talks

The following day, shelling and gunfire prevented trucks from reaching the town, but on the way back to a warehouse, gunmen diverted the convoy to a “government-controlled area,” O’Brien told the Security Council.

“The drivers and trucks were temporarily detained, and some drivers were reportedly roughed up, but have since been released, without humanitarian supplies, and everyone is safe and accounted for,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien condemned the incident as a “blatant disregard for the protection of humanitarian workers” and said efforts would continue to try to reach Waer, where 50,000 civilians have not received any assistance in nearly four months.

In the besieged towns of Madaya and Kefraya, five people have died in recent days, among them a mother who died giving birth, O’Brien said.

Opposition seeks ‘direct negotiations’

Syria’s main opposition group said Wednesday it wanted face-to-face discussions with government representatives, a day before the start of a new round of peace talks in Geneva.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/23/UN-aid-convoy-looted-in-Syria-supplies-remain-blocked.html

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Saudi Arabia donates billions to aid Yemen’s reconstruction

22 February 2017

Houthi militia leader Hammoud Latf al-Washli and his bodyguard were killed in coalition-led airstrikes on the south of the Midi district in the Hajjah governorate, of Yemen.

The military source said the clashes extended to the outskirts of Jbal an-Nar area to the east of Mocha.

The Government forces are carrying out heavy raids on the militias in Jabal an-Nar, in conjunction with those targeting their sites in Hamli and Khaled camp in Mawza.

The government forces have also pushed towards Yakhtal in the North of Mocha.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/02/22/Houthi-leader-killed-in-an-airstrike-on-Midi.html

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Israel blocks EU lawmakers’ entry into besieged Gaza Strip

Feb 22, 2017

The Tel Aviv regime has prevented five European parliamentarians from entering the Gaza Strip as the Palestinian enclave remains under an inhumane Israeli siege.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Neoklis Sylikiotis, a Cypriot Member of the European Parliament (MEP), denounced the Israeli obstruction of the lawmakers’ access to the Palestinian coastal sliver.

“The refusal of access to Gaza by the Israeli authorities to the European Parliament on arbitrary grounds is unacceptable," the statement read.

Cypriot MEP Neoklis Sylikiotis

However, Israel claimed that the MEPs were not among those allowed to enter the Gaza Strip.

Similar European delegations have been barred from Gaza since 2011 though a team led by the head of the European Parliament's budget committee was allowed to visit once, the statement added.

"What is there to hide from us?" it further asked, condemning Israel’s "systematic" entry bans to Gaza.

It also called on the international community to pressure the Tel Aviv regime to lift the Gaza blockade that has been in place Since June 2007 and affected almost all the two million inhabitants of the enclave.

The World Bank and the United Nations say the Gaza siege has killed all exports and damaged the Palestinian territory's economy.

Tel Aviv has waged three wars on Gaza since 2008, including the 2014 offensive that left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead.

Israel's demolition plan 'unacceptable'

Separately on Wednesday, Robert Piper, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, visited the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank and voiced alarm over an Israeli plan to demolish structures there.

Robert Piper, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, gestures during a visit to a Palestinian Bedouin village near the West Bank city of Ariha (Jericho) on February 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

On Sunday, Israeli forces distributed demolition orders to 40 structures, including tents, huts and a school in the village.

According to Palestinian media outlets, Khan al-Ahmar residents were given until Thursday to vacate the village.

"Khan al-Ahmar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move," Piper said in a statement. "This is unacceptable and it must stop."

International bodies and rights groups say Israel’s sustained demolitions of Palestinian homes are aimed at uprooting Palestinians from their native territories, and expropriating more land for the expansion of settlements.

Tel Aviv is has accelerated its land grab and settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian lands after pro-Israel US President Donald Trump took office.

Full report at:

http://presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/22/511705/Palestine-Israel-Gaza

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US-Led Coalition's Airstrikes Leave More Civilians Dead, Wounded in Syria's Raqqa

Feb 22, 2017

US-led warplanes continued to bomb different regions in Raqqa's countryside, killing at least 27 civilians and wounding many others since Tuesday afternoon, the sources said.

They added that some of the injured are in critical condition.

Local sources pointed out that women and children have been among the killed and wounded civilians.

In relevant developments on Tuesday, at least 11 civilians, including children, were killed in the Turkish air and artillery attacks in Eastern Aleppo, while five Syrians were killed in the US-led coalition's air raids in Raqqa.

Turkish warplanes and artillery units of the Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield targeted again the ISIL-held town of al-Bab, killing 11 civilians including three children.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204001322

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Syria: More Civilians Killed in US-Led Coalition Airstrike in Eastern Deir Ezzur

Feb 22, 2017

ARA news reported that US-led coalition warplanes targeted a bazaar in al-Mayadeen town in al-Sowar region, killing over 20 civilians, including women and children, and wounding many more.

In relevant developments on Tuesday, at least 11 civilians, including children, were killed in the Turkish air and artillery attacks in Eastern Aleppo, while five Syrians were killed in the US-led coalition's air raids in Raqqa.

Turkish warplanes and artillery units of the Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield targeted again the ISIL-held town of al-Bab, killing 11 civilians including three children.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204000819

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Deir Ezzur: People Join Syrian Army in War on ISIL

Feb 22, 2017

The sources said that a number of residents of al-Janineh region in the Northern countryside of Deir Ezzur stormed a checkpoint of ISIL and managed to kill the entire terrorists in the checkpoint, including their commander Abu Aisha Tunisi.

Also, military sources in Eastern Syrian said that Syrian Air Force has intensified attacks on ISIL's gatherings and movements near al-Thardah mountain, Deir Ezzur's cemetery (al-Maqaber), cement-block workshops, Jonayd division and al-Orfi neighborhood.

The sources added that the army units targeted a gathering of ISIL in the terrorist-held part of al-Maqaber, killing several snipers.

In the meantime, the army soldiers hit ISIL's movements in al-Huweiqa passage near Nadi (club) al-Mohandesin North of the suspended bridge, killing a number of militants and destroying eight vehicles.

On Sunday, the army troops, backed by the air force, targeted ISIL's moves and gathering centers in Deir Ezzur, tightening the noose on terrorists who besieged the Deir Ezzur airbase.

The Syrian fighter jets and missile and artillery units launched heavy strikes against ISIL positions near al-Maqaber region in the Southern outskirts of the city, inflicting losses on the militants.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204000597

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Africa

 

Soldiers deploy to Central Africa to support the fight against Boko Haram

February 22, 2017

While Special Forces soldiers train local militaries to push back against extremist groups in Central Africa, there are four small teams of civil affairs soldiers focused on winning the people's hearts and minds.

Teams from the 82nd Civil Affairs Battalion, based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, are several months into rotations in both Niger and Cameroon, spending time with locals to figure out what they need to improve their quality of life — and, ultimately, what will keep them from falling under the spell of Boko Haram.

That benefits both the people of those countries as well as the U.S., according to officials, as the group — which refers to itself as the Islamic State West Africa Province — colludes more and more with the Islamic State to the north.

"Boko Haram is a locally generated violent extremist group that in recent times has become affiliated with ISIL," Col. Michael Zinno, U.S. Army Africa's civil military operations director, told Army Times in a Feb. 2 phone interview. "And now, not only is it affiliated, we’re starting to see outright cooperation in that arena."

The Lake Chad Basin region, which shares borders with Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon, is also deeply divided ideologically, into Christians versus Muslims, Zinno said.

"In recent years, that Muslim divide has turned into fertile ground for development of an extremist message in the region," he said. "What started out as kind of a local nuisance for Nigeria has turned into a regional problem."

To tamp down on it, the Army has deployed Green Berets to train local troops on how to combat Boko Haram. The Army has also based unmanned aerial vehicles in the region to help troops collect intelligence.

"Our Nigerien and Cameroonian partners operate various types of aircraft out of their bases in Agadez and Garoua," said Lt. Col. Armando Hernandez, a spokesman for U.S. Army Africa. "The U.S is supporting their counter-Boko Haram operations with unarmed aircraft that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support."

The other part of the equation is supporting the U.S. State Department by engaging with locals, finding out what they need to improve their social and economic situations, and figuring out a way to help them.

Full report at:

But there has been some anti-American messaging spread on social media, he added.

https://www.armytimes.com/articles/soldiers-deploy-to-central-africa-to-support-the-fight-against-boko-haram

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Turkey restoring tomb of Ethiopian King Najashi, who sheltered Muslim emigrants

Feb. 23, 2017

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is finishing up a restoration project on the tomb of King Najashi, the former leader of modern day Ethiopia's Kingdom of Aksum.

TIKA coordinator in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Fazıl Akın Erdoğan, told reporters that the restoration project on a mosque and tomb located 800 kilometers from the capital would wrap up this year.

In addition to the restorations, Erdoğan explained that additional buildings were being constructed in the area, "We made a full-fledged food court to serve the needs of the guests and visitors. Besides the kitchen, we built a multi-purpose hall that can fit 500 people," he said.

The restoration team also met the water needs of the tomb area by building 160 ton water depots in two different places.

Noting that the project had been ongoing for three years, Erdoğan said that Ottoman architectural examples were evident in the marble, door, and window details of the mosque and tomb.

Erdoğan emphasized that Turkey had made various negotiations with Ethiopia's Religious Services Consultancy and that they would like King Najashi's tomb to be added to the route of pilgrimage and umrah organizations in Turkey. If this happens, he said, the tomb would be a huge contribution to the tourism industry in Ethiopia.

Imam Mohammad Ibrahim of the Najashi Mosque explained that, before the renovation works, the mosque was not in a good condition, but that everything had changed with the restoration effort.

Full report at:

https://www.dailysabah.com/africa/2017/02/22/turkey-restoring-tomb-of-ethiopian-king-najashi-who-sheltered-muslim-emigrants

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Over 700 migrants rescued off Libya: Italy coast guard

23 February 2017

About 730 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast on Wednesday after seven rescue operations mounted by the Italian coast guard and the SOS Mediterranee aid group.

The migrants were mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, said the coast guard, which is coordinating rescue operations in the central Mediterranean.

SOS Mediterranee, which operates in the region. said its ship Aquarius had recovered 394 people, including a group of 75 Bangladeshis.

Also read: Indian doctor abducted by ISIS in Libya rescued

In the absence of an army or a regular police force in Libya, several militias act as coast guards but are often accused themselves of complicity or even involvement in the people-smuggling business.

The number of attempted crossings to Italy has surged this year, with most departures taking place from the west of Libya, from where Italy is just 300 kilometres (190 miles) away.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/23/Over-700-migrants-rescued-off-Libya-Italy-coast-guard-.html

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Tunisia parliament adopts anti-corruption law

23 February 2017

Tunisia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a law to fight widespread corruption that has plagued the North African country’s economy since the 2011 revolution.

One hundred and forty-five lawmakers out of 217 voted to pass the 36-article law, which criminalizes any retribution against whistleblowers including any disciplinary measures against civil servants. “Strong legislation like this helps fight corruption,” said Civil Service Minister Abid Briki, who attended the session. The parliament’s deputy speaker Abelfattah Mourouj said the law was “a gain from the revolution”.

Experts say petty graft has hampered Tunisia’s economy since anti-corruption protests six years ago sparked the fall of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. At least 450 million dinars (200 million euros/$230 million) in bribes were slipped to state employees in 2013 alone, says the Tunisian Association for Public Auditors.

Also read: Did you know that a Tunisian pope created Valentine’s Day?

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s government has made corruption a priority since taking office last year, when the head of the national anti-graft body Chawki Tabib warned graft had reached “epidemic” proportions. Corruption was widespread under Ben Ali, whose close circle – especially his wife’s family – had an iron grip on the economy.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2017/02/23/Tunisia-parliament-adopts-anti-corruption-law-.html

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Houthi missile kills senior Yemeni general in Mokha

22 February 2017

A ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi militia on Wednesday killed the deputy chief of staff of the country’s military, officials said.

The SABA news agency, which is controlled by the Houthi militia, said their forces struck the vehicle of Brig. Gen. Ahmed Seif al-Yafie in the Red Sea port of Mokha.

Yemeni military officials said the missile hit a gathering point for the military commanders. A total of seven officers were killed, including al-Yafie, and 25 were wounded, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/02/22/Houthi-missile-kills-senior-Yemeni-general-in-Mokha.html

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US-Led Coalition's Airstrikes Leave More Civilians Dead, Wounded in Syria's Raqqa

Feb 22, 2017

US-led warplanes continued to bomb different regions in Raqqa's countryside, killing at least 27 civilians and wounding many others since Tuesday afternoon, the sources said.

They added that some of the injured are in critical condition.

Local sources pointed out that women and children have been among the killed and wounded civilians.

In relevant developments on Tuesday, at least 11 civilians, including children, were killed in the Turkish air and artillery attacks in Eastern Aleppo, while five Syrians were killed in the US-led coalition's air raids in Raqqa.

Turkish warplanes and artillery units of the Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield targeted again the ISIL-held town of al-Bab, killing 11 civilians including three children.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204001322

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Syria: More Civilians Killed in US-Led Coalition Airstrike in Eastern Deir Ezzur

Feb 22, 2017

ARA news reported that US-led coalition warplanes targeted a bazaar in al-Mayadeen town in al-Sowar region, killing over 20 civilians, including women and children, and wounding many more.

In relevant developments on Tuesday, at least 11 civilians, including children, were killed in the Turkish air and artillery attacks in Eastern Aleppo, while five Syrians were killed in the US-led coalition's air raids in Raqqa.

Turkish warplanes and artillery units of the Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield targeted again the ISIL-held town of al-Bab, killing 11 civilians including three children.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204000819

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Deir Ezzur: People Join Syrian Army in War on ISIL

23-02-17

TEHRAN (FNA)- People in the Northern countryside of Deir Ezzur city engaged in clashes with ISIL, killing the entire member of an ISIL expedition team in the region, including their commander, local sources reported on Wednesday.

The sources said that a number of residents of al-Janineh region in the Northern countryside of Deir Ezzur stormed a checkpoint of ISIL and managed to kill the entire terrorists in the checkpoint, including their commander Abu Aisha Tunisi.

Also, military sources in Eastern Syrian said that Syrian Air Force has intensified attacks on ISIL's gatherings and movements near al-Thardah mountain, Deir Ezzur's cemetery (al-Maqaber), cement-block workshops, Jonayd division and al-Orfi neighborhood.

The sources added that the army units targeted a gathering of ISIL in the terrorist-held part of al-Maqaber, killing several snipers.

In the meantime, the army soldiers hit ISIL's movements in al-Huweiqa passage near Nadi (club) al-Mohandesin North of the suspended bridge, killing a number of militants and destroying eight vehicles.

On Sunday, the army troops, backed by the air force, targeted ISIL's moves and gathering centers in Deir Ezzur, tightening the noose on terrorists who besieged the Deir Ezzur airbase.

Full report at:

https://defence.pk/threads/deir-ezzur-people-join-syrian-army-in-war-on-isil.479760/

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Africa

 

Soldiers deploy to Central Africa to support the fight against Boko Haram

February 22, 2017

While Special Forces soldiers train local militaries to push back against extremist groups in Central Africa, there are four small teams of civil affairs soldiers focused on winning the people's hearts and minds.

Teams from the 82nd Civil Affairs Battalion, based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, are several months into rotations in both Niger and Cameroon, spending time with locals to figure out what they need to improve their quality of life — and, ultimately, what will keep them from falling under the spell of Boko Haram.

That benefits both the people of those countries as well as the U.S., according to officials, as the group — which refers to itself as the Islamic State West Africa Province — colludes more and more with the Islamic State to the north.

"Boko Haram is a locally generated violent extremist group that in recent times has become affiliated with ISIL," Col. Michael Zinno, U.S. Army Africa's civil military operations director, told Army Times in a Feb. 2 phone interview. "And now, not only is it affiliated, we’re starting to see outright cooperation in that arena."

The Lake Chad Basin region, which shares borders with Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon, is also deeply divided ideologically, into Christians versus Muslims, Zinno said.

"In recent years, that Muslim divide has turned into fertile ground for development of an extremist message in the region," he said. "What started out as kind of a local nuisance for Nigeria has turned into a regional problem."

Army Times

3rd Special Forces Group returns its focus to Africa

To tamp down on it, the Army has deployed Green Berets to train local troops on how to combat Boko Haram. The Army has also based unmanned aerial vehicles in the region to help troops collect intelligence.

"Our Nigerien and Cameroonian partners operate various types of aircraft out of their bases in Agadez and Garoua," said Lt. Col. Armando Hernandez, a spokesman for U.S. Army Africa. "The U.S is supporting their counter-Boko Haram operations with unarmed aircraft that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support."

The other part of the equation is supporting the U.S. State Department by engaging with locals, finding out what they need to improve their social and economic situations, and figuring out a way to help them.

'Really welcoming'

"The people in Niger, they’re really welcoming," Capt. Deandre McDonald, head of Civil Affairs Team 8241, told Army Times. "It was really a transition from the mindset of Iraq and Afghanistan with the local populace."

McDonald and his team touched down in Niger back in September, picking up where another team in the same battalion left off.

"West Africans are really excited to work with Americans, work alongside us, meet us, talk to us, and just sit down and spend some time with us," he said.

The teams are also on their own as far as security, McDonald added. 

"There is a threat, but we have not been directly targeted by [violent extremist organization] groups," he said.

But there has been some anti-American messaging spread on social media, he added.

Teams are meant to spend between four and six months on the assignment, Zinno said, but can go up to nine.

McDonald's four-person team includes a sergeant first class, staff sergeant and a specialist medic, who work with the local government on their projects.

One of their first was a vaccination drive soon after they arrived, during Niger's Cure Salée festival, a yearly gathering of the Tuareg and Wodaabe nomadic peoples.

McDonald's team and their partners were able to vaccinate 20,000 head of cattle for diseases that otherwise might wipe out the groups' livestock.

"We wanted to take the message that we’re here not only for security, but actually to help them out with their livelihood," McDonald said.

The team has also been able to help out in local schools.

"It’s not the lack of education, it’s more the lack of materials," he said.

On site visits, the team noticed that in classrooms of 100 or more students, half would be sitting on the floor, completely distracted because they didn't have their own work spaces.

So the team rounded up desks and benches donated by American service members deployed to the area to equip the schools, McDonald said.

"The reason why we really are targeting that young population is because they could become susceptible to [violent extremist organization] messaging over time," he added.

Fifty percent of Niger's population is under 18, he said, and 75 percent are under 25.

"When you think about lack of employment, lack of infrastructure, lack of governance — when you invest in education, you’re actually investing in the Agadez region, in Niger, in the long term, to help them counter that type of messaging," he said.

Looking ahead 

Officials didn't have a timeline for the civil affairs mission, but emphasized that the ultimate plan is up to the State Department.

"The U.S. isn’t the solution, but we’re just a partner to help them identify the solution as they move forward, in the long term," McDonald said.

There are 2.3 million displaced people in the Lake Chad Basin, Zinno added, and changes in climate as well as ongoing war have created food insecurity.

"We are working with Africans as they are rising themselves. There’s still development here in Niger," he said. "There’s potential here in Agadez, not just with the people themselves but with the infrastructure as well. Securing their stability secures our stability worldwide."

https://www.armytimes.com/articles/soldiers-deploy-to-central-africa-to-support-the-fight-against-boko-haram

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Turkey restoring tomb of Ethiopian King Najashi, who sheltered Muslim emigrants

February 22, 2017

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is finishing up a restoration project on the tomb of King Najashi, the former leader of modern day Ethiopia's Kingdom of Aksum.

TIKA coordinator in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Fazıl Akın Erdoğan, told reporters that the restoration project on a mosque and tomb located 800 kilometers from the capital would wrap up this year.

In addition to the restorations, Erdoğan explained that additional buildings were being constructed in the area, "We made a full-fledged food court to serve the needs of the guests and visitors. Besides the kitchen, we built a multi-purpose hall that can fit 500 people," he said.

The restoration team also met the water needs of the tomb area by building 160 ton water depots in two different places.

Noting that the project had been ongoing for three years, Erdoğan said that Ottoman architectural examples were evident in the marble, door, and window details of the mosque and tomb.

Erdoğan emphasized that Turkey had made various negotiations with Ethiopia's Religious Services Consultancy and that they would like King Najashi's tomb to be added to the route of pilgrimage and umrah organizations in Turkey. If this happens, he said, the tomb would be a huge contribution to the tourism industry in Ethiopia.

Imam Mohammad Ibrahim of the Najashi Mosque explained that, before the renovation works, the mosque was not in a good condition, but that everything had changed with the restoration effort.

Full report at:

https://www.dailysabah.com/africa/2017/02/22/turkey-restoring-tomb-of-ethiopian-king-najashi-who-sheltered-muslim-emigrants

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Senior Yemeni general killed in Houthi missile attack: military source

February 23, 2017

Yemen's deputy chief of staff was killed on Wednesday when the armed Houthi movement battling government forces fired a ballistic missile at an army camp on the Red Sea coast, according to a military source.

The attack killing Major General Ahmed Saif al-Yafei was a blow to Yemeni government forces and hit outside the strategic coastal city of al-Mokha, which they captured from the Iran-allied Houthis last month.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen's civil war nearly two years ago to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was ousted from the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces.

"Major General Ahmed Saif al-Yafei was killed along with several others when the missile hit the camp near al-Mokha city early this morning," the military source, who is also a member of the general's family, told Reuters.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/senior-yemeni-general-killed-in-houthi-missile-attack-military-source

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Quebec mosque hires own lawyers for accused gunman's trial

February 23, 2017

A Quebec City mosque attacked in January by a gunman who killed six worshippers, is hiring its own lawyers to observe the trial of the accused shooter, a member of the congregation said on Tuesday.

The lawyers will attend the trial of accused mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette to ensure the "rights of the victims" are respected, mosque vice president Mohamed Labidi told reporters at a Quebec courthouse, while stressing his confidence in the Canadian justice system.

The lawyers will take on an oversight role on behalf of the mosque's congregation and are separate from the prosecutor.

Earlier in the day, Bissonnette, 27, who is accused of six counts of premeditated murder and five charges of attempted murder, appeared briefly in court wearing a red T-shirt that said, "Physiotherapy integration" in French on the front and "Volunteer" on the back.

Quebec Court Judge Jean-Louis Lemay agreed to the defense's request to a publication ban which would make the evidence against Bissonnette not immediately publishable.

Evidence at the trial would be public.

The January shooting at the Quebec mosque, condemned by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a terrorist attack, is considered by police to be a lone wolf attack.

Incidents of Islamophobia in Quebec have made headlines in recent years, with multiple mosques being vandalized, including one in Montreal that had its glass door broken early Tuesday morning, police said.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/quebec-mosque-hires-own-lawyers-for-accused-gunman-s-trial

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UN, EU urge Israel to stop fresh demolitions in West Bank village

Feb 23, 2017

The United Nations and the European Union have called on the Israeli regime to stop its plans to tear down an internationally-funded makeshift hospital and tens of Palestinian residential buildings in the central part of the occupied West Bank.

The Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and UN Development Activities for the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, and the Director of UN Relief and Works Agency Scott Anderson made the call on Wednesday during a visit to the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar.

The visit came days after Tel Aviv began bureaucratic proceedings to demolish the entire village. There are some 35 families living in temporary shacks and sheds in al-Khan al-Ahmar. There are some 140 structures there, according to the world body.

“Khan al-Ahmar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move to a planned relocation site. This is unacceptable and it must stop,” Piper said.

He added, “Thousands of families live in fear of demolitions at any moment, and entire communities exist in chronic instability. When schools are demolished, the right to education of Palestinian children is also threatened. This creates a coercive environment that forces certain Palestinian communities to move elsewhere.”

The UN official further urged the international community to help protect the vulnerable Palestinian communities and make sure “international law is respected.”

For his part, Anderson warned that the Israeli regime is attempting to relocate Palestinian families currently residing in the Bedouin community, stressing that such a measure would amount to forcible transfer and eviction.

“The entire existence of this community, the homes, animal sheds and school that we visited today, is under threat. I am gravely concerned about Israel’s continued pressure to force these Beduin from their homes, destroying their livelihoods and their distinct culture,” the UN official said.

A man from the Arab Jahalin Bedouin community removes furniture from his damaged home in the West Bank Bedouin village of al-Khan al-Ahmar after Israeli authorities demolished four houses there, April 7, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

“Many of these Palestine-refugee families have already had their homes demolished several times within the last couple of years. I urge the Israeli authorities to halt all plans and practices that will directly or indirectly lead refugees to be displaced once again,” Anderson pointed out.

Full report at:

http://presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/23/511733/UN-EU-Israel-demolitions-Bedouin-community-Khan-alAhmar

--------

 

North America

 

US ban on Muslim Brotherhood could bring sweeping civil rights violations

22 February 2017

US President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Meanwhile, US Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart have proposed legislation that could accomplish the same thing.

The proposal has garnered opposition from Muslim groups that could be targeted in the case of a ban, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as well as civil and human rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.

Even the CIA and figures in the State Department are objecting.

At the end of January, an internal memo circulated within the CIA was leaked to media. It warns that banning the Muslim Brotherhood “may fuel extremism,” stating the group has “rejected violence as a matter of official policy and opposed al-Qaida and ISIS.”

Analyses in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have also warned that the proposal would be detrimental, and would put a large number of US Muslims at risk.

“If the US government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist group,” Human Rights Watch said earlier this month, “then not only its members, but anyone either in the United States or abroad suspected of providing support or resources to the group would be at risk of removal from the US if they are non-citizens and having their assets frozen. They would also risk unfairly being targeted for prosecution under various laws.”

Past prosecutions targeting organizations and individuals alleged to have provided material support to foreign terrorist organizations indicate the injustices that could be in store.

Several high-profile cases over alleged material support to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are already designated by the US State Department as foreign terrorist organizations, resulted in acquittals or gross miscarriages of justice in which individuals were sentenced to decades in prison for raising money for charities, including groups which were also recipients of US government aid.

Even in the cases of acquittals, these trials put the accused, their families and communities through years-long ordeals.

Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would put charities, civil rights groups and individuals at risk, Human Rights Watch warns.

Some believe this is the intention.

“The US Islamophobia network and its political allies are pushing this designation to create a new era of religious McCarthyism where being an American Muslim or an advocacy organization pushing back against anti-Muslim rhetoric is enough to disqualify you from civic participation,” Robert McCaw, government affairs director at CAIR, told Politico.

There is broad opposition to banning the Muslim Brotherhood. So who is pushing for it?

Emboldening the fringe

Lobbying efforts to ban the group stretch back at least five years, but their failure to gain traction until now reflects how much leverage a fringe group of Islamophobia operatives has gained with Trump’s ascendancy.

In 2011 and 2012, a series of congressional hearings was held to discuss the supposed threat of “radical” Islam in the US. The members of Congress and some of the speakers who participated focused on the Muslim Brotherhood, even suggesting that the organization had infiltrated federal agencies under President Barack Obama.

In the summer of 2012, former congresswoman Michele Bachmann requested an investigation into US agencies she suspected had been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Bachmann has also called for the US to designate the group as a terrorist organization.

Two major developments in the Middle East were easily exploited in order to stoke fears about political Islam. In Egypt, following the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the heavily repressed Muslim Brotherhood emerged as the leading opposition party; and in Syria, armed Islamist groups gained power in the movement against President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking at a congressional hearing in November 2012, after the Muslim Brotherhood had won Egypt’s first democratic presidential election, Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank affiliated with the Israel lobby group AIPAC, warned that a “Muslim Brotherhood-led” opposition against al-Assad could potentially create a situation where Israel was surrounded by two Islamist governments.

“The Muslim Brotherhood was seen as threatening because it offered a different vision for the region,” said Abdullah Al-Arian, a professor of history at Georgetown University in Qatar, referring to the group’s early success after the 2011 uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, in which popular movements overthrew dictatorships.

“That resulted in it being considered a terrorist organization in some states, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, its assets seized and eradicated from society,” he added.

Al-Arian, whose father was the target of a 12-year terrorism prosecution that resulted in the government dropping all charges, described the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in some Arab states as a reactionary anti-democratic wave, not simply an anti-Muslim push.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s short-lived ascendance in Egypt proved it posed no threat to Israeli or US interests, according to Joel Beinin, Middle East historian at Stanford University.

Columbia University professor Joseph Massad has noted the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Muhammad Morsi also maintained Egypt’s ties with Israel and continued pro-Israel policies, including the closure of the border with Gaza.

Despite right-wing pressure on the US to renounce the Muslim Brotherhood, more sober voices in government maintained that the group posed no threat to the US.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper testified to Congress in February 2012 that the Muslim Brotherhood offered the most viable competition to al-Qaida.

All this did not placate those on the far right.

Behind the politicians trying to claim that the Muslim Brotherhood was seeking to replace the US Constitution with Islamic law were career Islamophobes, including Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, who began influencing Trump while the latter was still campaigning for president.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Gaffney as “one of America’s most influential and notorious anti-Muslim figures.”

Gaffney’s center worked closely with Bachmann, a member of Congress until 2015, while she was pushing for an inquiry into alleged infiltration of the US government by the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaffney also served as Ted Cruz’s adviser when the senator authored his first proposal to blacklist the Brotherhood.

Last November, The New York Times reported that Gaffney was advising Trump on building his national security team, though Gaffney later denied this.

After Trump’s inauguration, one of Gaffney’s key allies, Sebastian Gorka, was appointed as a deputy national security assistant.

Walid Phares, the former political leader of the far-right sectarian Lebanese Forces militia who advised Trump during his campaign, has argued that Muslim civil rights groups are fronts for a “jihadist” agenda.

And Zuhdi Jasser – a medical doctor and talking head who has no formal appointment in the Trump administration but defended the president’s executive order to ban entry to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries – has testified at the congressional hearings against the threat of what he calls “Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups,” such as CAIR and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Almost every discussion related to banning the Muslim Brotherhood includes an invocation of a 1991 memo touted as being written by a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is frequently claimed that the memo lays out a secret plan to take over the US.

The claims were debunked by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative for tracking Islamophobia. The document was written by Mohamed Akram Adlouni, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was hoping to influence the group’s priorities, though he ultimately failed to do so, according to the Bridge Initiative.

The memo has been pushed by Gaffney since it was first introduced into evidence against the Holy Land Foundation, the target of one of the most aggressively prosecuted federal terrorism cases that saw five charity workers convicted of material support for terrorism.

Though only five men were indicted in the Holy Land Foundation case, prosecutors took the unusual step of publishing a list of “unindicted co-conspirators” that included more than 300 groups, associating them with terrorism but not giving them a mechanism to refute the accusation. Many of the same groups that are now in the crosshairs of a Muslim Brotherhood ban were first targeted in that case.

“That trial unraveled a lot of this,” Georgetown professor Al-Arian said, noting that CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America, two mainstream American Muslim groups, were named as co-conspirators.

“For both of those organizations to be drawn into a terrorism financing trial was an attempt to draw the entire community with this brush of extremism,” Al-Arian said.

Targeting wide range of Muslim groups in US

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928, and soon established branches in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and throughout much of the Arab world, the Stanford historian Beinin told The Electronic Intifada.

Today, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups exist in Middle Eastern and North African countries ranging from Tunisia to Turkey. The Brotherhood’s status varies from country to country: it has been outlawed in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Syria and Russia, but it enjoys popular success elsewhere, including Morocco and Jordan.

The Muslim Brotherhood has no real presence in the US, but those who are now pushing for the group to be listed as a foreign terrorist organization allege numerous mainstream Muslim American groups are fronts for it.

“I think banning the Muslim Brotherhood would lend itself to the Trump campaign’s narrative of being tougher on terrorism,” Al-Arian told The Electronic Intifada.

“It in many ways would represent the logical escalation of a conflict that has already taken on every manifestation of militancy in the Middle East, by incorporating movements that have vocally expressed their opposition to US foreign policy,” Al-Arian added, noting that the Obama administration pursued the “war on terror” started by the George W. Bush administration by expanding its field of drone warfare.

Groups that have been accused of being Muslim Brotherhood affiliates by right-wing proponents of the ban include CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America, as well as the Muslim Student Association, chapters of which exist on college campuses across the US.

The same right-wing voices also allege al-Qaida, ISIS and all militant Sunni Islamic groups operating in the Middle East are descendants of the Muslim Brotherhood.

They contend that a wide range of groups sprang from the same ideological seed as the Muslim Brotherhood. This notion forms the basis of so-called radicalization theory, which justifies profiling people with a particular set of beliefs because they allegedly pose a high risk of becoming national threats. According to this logic, a student activist in the Muslim Student Association might one day fight for al-Qaida.

During a 2016 hearing organized by Senator Ted Cruz to examine how US agencies were allegedly de-emphasizing radical Islam in combating terrorism, then Senator Jeff Sessions, now the US attorney general, made his views known. Sessions asserted the validity of using ideology – in this case religion – as potential grounds to preemptively prosecute people who might, according to this logic, commit a terrorist attack in the future.

“Not a terrorist group”

“The Muslim Brotherhood provides a convenient catch-all label,” Georgetown’s Al-Arian explained. “It’s similar to the way you can look at the Red Scare: you didn’t have to be a member of the official Communist Party to be accused of being a sympathizer with communism. This operates the same way.”

“The spectrum – this idea that somehow all militant movements in the Middle East are graduates of the Muslim Brotherhood – is, factually, a very inaccurate narrative,” Al-Arian said.

Career officials seem to agree. Speaking to Politico, a former State Department official who coordinated counterterrorism under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the ban “an incredibly stupid thing to do,” because, simply, the Muslim Brotherhood “[is] not a terrorist group.”

Stanford’s Beinin said “the Muslim Brotherhood have a lot of enemies, but that’s not evidence that they’ve actually done anything.”

Will McCants, another former State Department adviser on countering extremism, told Politico the idea of banning the Brotherhood is a “fringe idea that I guess has now made its way into the mainstream.”

It may be a fringe idea, but those who have pushed for it are now part of the Trump White House inner circle.

https://electronicintifada.net/content/us-ban-muslim-brotherhood-could-bring-sweeping-civil-rights-violations/19651

--------

 

Donald Trump's new 'Muslim ban' will have 'same outcome' as old one, says senior White House adviser

Feb. 23, 2017

Donald Trump’s revised travel ban would “have the same basic policy outcome” as the initial version, according to a senior White House adviser.

Stephen Miller said the new order would be “responsive to the judicial ruling” that blocked the original order, adding that it would contain “minor technical differences” to the original directive.

“Fundamentally you’re going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” he told Fox News.

His comments appear to indicate that the new order would once again bar travel to the US for citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya.

The original order prompted widespread confusion and sparked mass protests and confusion at airports.

Mr Miller – who played a key role in the initial drafting of it – also insisted that US court rulings which halted the original order were “flawed” and “erroneous” and that Mr Trump's action was “clearly legal and constitutional.”

The Court of Appeal suggested the order be redrafted so it did not risk violating the US constitution, which forbids discrimination on the grounds of religion.

Mr Miller has previously said the President would not back down to the courts on his “extreme vetting” policy.

Full report at:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-new-muslim-ban-same-outcome-stephen-miller-immigration-refugees-departation-senior-a7592866.html

--------

 

UN, EU urge Israel to stop fresh demolitions in West Bank village

Feb 23, 2017

The United Nations and the European Union have called on the Israeli regime to stop its plans to tear down an internationally-funded makeshift hospital and dozens of Palestinian residential buildings in the central part of the occupied West Bank.

The Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and UN Development Activities for the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, and the Director of UN Relief and Works Agency Scott Anderson made the call on Wednesday during a visit to the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar.

The visit came days after Tel Aviv began bureaucratic proceedings to demolish the entire village. There are some 35 families living in temporary shacks and sheds in al-Khan al-Ahmar. There are some 140 structures there, according to the world body.

“Khan al-Ahmar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move to a planned relocation site. This is unacceptable and it must stop,” Piper said.

He added, “Thousands of families live in fear of demolitions at any moment, and entire communities exist in chronic instability. When schools are demolished, the right to education of Palestinian children is also threatened. This creates a coercive environment that forces certain Palestinian communities to move elsewhere.”

The UN official further urged the international community to help protect the vulnerable Palestinian communities and make sure “international law is respected.”

For his part, Anderson warned that the Israeli regime is attempting to relocate Palestinian families currently residing in the Bedouin community, stressing that such a measure would amount to forcible transfer and eviction.

“The entire existence of this community, the homes, animal sheds and school that we visited today, is under threat. I am gravely concerned about Israel’s continued pressure to force these Bedouin from their homes, destroying their livelihoods and their distinct culture,” the UN official said.

“Many of these Palestine-refugee families have already had their homes demolished several times within the last couple of years. I urge the Israeli authorities to halt all plans and practices that will directly or indirectly lead refugees to be displaced once again,” Anderson pointed out.

Meanwhile, the EU’s mission in Jerusalem al-Quds and Ramallah has denounced Israel’s pending plans to demolish Palestinian structures in Khan al-Ahmar.

It said the Israeli military has razed 135 Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank so far this year, displacing 218 Palestinians.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/23/511733/UN-EU-Israel-demolitions-Bedouin-community-Khan-alAhmar

--------

 

North America

 

US ban on Muslim Brotherhood could bring sweeping civil rights violations

22 February 2017

US President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Meanwhile, US Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart have proposed legislation that could accomplish the same thing.

The proposal has garnered opposition from Muslim groups that could be targeted in the case of a ban, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as well as civil and human rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.

Even the CIA and figures in the State Department are objecting.

At the end of January, an internal memo circulated within the CIA was leaked to media. It warns that banning the Muslim Brotherhood “may fuel extremism,” stating the group has “rejected violence as a matter of official policy and opposed al-Qaida and ISIS.”

Analyses in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have also warned that the proposal would be detrimental, and would put a large number of US Muslims at risk.

“If the US government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist group,” Human Rights Watch said earlier this month, “then not only its members, but anyone either in the United States or abroad suspected of providing support or resources to the group would be at risk of removal from the US if they are non-citizens and having their assets frozen. They would also risk unfairly being targeted for prosecution under various laws.”

Past prosecutions targeting organizations and individuals alleged to have provided material support to foreign terrorist organizations indicate the injustices that could be in store.

Several high-profile cases over alleged material support to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are already designated by the US State Department as foreign terrorist organizations, resulted in acquittals or gross miscarriages of justice in which individuals were sentenced to decades in prison for raising money for charities, including groups which were also recipients of US government aid.

Even in the cases of acquittals, these trials put the accused, their families and communities through years-long ordeals.

Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would put charities, civil rights groups and individuals at risk, Human Rights Watch warns.

Some believe this is the intention.

“The US Islamophobia network and its political allies are pushing this designation to create a new era of religious McCarthyism where being an American Muslim or an advocacy organization pushing back against anti-Muslim rhetoric is enough to disqualify you from civic participation,” Robert McCaw, government affairs director at CAIR, told Politico.

There is broad opposition to banning the Muslim Brotherhood. So who is pushing for it?

Emboldening the fringe

Lobbying efforts to ban the group stretch back at least five years, but their failure to gain traction until now reflects how much leverage a fringe group of Islamophobia operatives has gained with Trump’s ascendancy.

In 2011 and 2012, a series of congressional hearings was held to discuss the supposed threat of “radical” Islam in the US. The members of Congress and some of the speakers who participated focused on the Muslim Brotherhood, even suggesting that the organization had infiltrated federal agencies under President Barack Obama.

In the summer of 2012, former congresswoman Michele Bachmann requested an investigation into US agencies she suspected had been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Bachmann has also called for the US to designate the group as a terrorist organization.

Two major developments in the Middle East were easily exploited in order to stoke fears about political Islam. In Egypt, following the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the heavily repressed Muslim Brotherhood emerged as the leading opposition party; and in Syria, armed Islamist groups gained power in the movement against President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking at a congressional hearing in November 2012, after the Muslim Brotherhood had won Egypt’s first democratic presidential election, Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank affiliated with the Israel lobby group AIPAC, warned that a “Muslim Brotherhood-led” opposition against al-Assad could potentially create a situation where Israel was surrounded by two Islamist governments.

“The Muslim Brotherhood was seen as threatening because it offered a different vision for the region,” said Abdullah Al-Arian, a professor of history at Georgetown University in Qatar, referring to the group’s early success after the 2011 uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, in which popular movements overthrew dictatorships.

“That resulted in it being considered a terrorist organization in some states, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, its assets seized and eradicated from society,” he added.

Al-Arian, whose father was the target of a 12-year terrorism prosecution that resulted in the government dropping all charges, described the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in some Arab states as a reactionary anti-democratic wave, not simply an anti-Muslim push.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s short-lived ascendance in Egypt proved it posed no threat to Israeli or US interests, according to Joel Beinin, Middle East historian at Stanford University.

Columbia University professor Joseph Massad has noted the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Muhammad Morsi also maintained Egypt’s ties with Israel and continued pro-Israel policies, including the closure of the border with Gaza.

Despite right-wing pressure on the US to renounce the Muslim Brotherhood, more sober voices in government maintained that the group posed no threat to the US.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper testified to Congress in February 2012 that the Muslim Brotherhood offered the most viable competition to al-Qaida.

All this did not placate those on the far right.

Behind the politicians trying to claim that the Muslim Brotherhood was seeking to replace the US Constitution with Islamic law were career Islamophobes, including Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, who began influencing Trump while the latter was still campaigning for president.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Gaffney as “one of America’s most influential and notorious anti-Muslim figures.”

Gaffney’s center worked closely with Bachmann, a member of Congress until 2015, while she was pushing for an inquiry into alleged infiltration of the US government by the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaffney also served as Ted Cruz’s adviser when the senator authored his first proposal to blacklist the Brotherhood.

Last November, The New York Times reported that Gaffney was advising Trump on building his national security team, though Gaffney later denied this.

After Trump’s inauguration, one of Gaffney’s key allies, Sebastian Gorka, was appointed as a deputy national security assistant.

Walid Phares, the former political leader of the far-right sectarian Lebanese Forces militia who advised Trump during his campaign, has argued that Muslim civil rights groups are fronts for a “jihadist” agenda.

And Zuhdi Jasser – a medical doctor and talking head who has no formal appointment in the Trump administration but defended the president’s executive order to ban entry to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries – has testified at the congressional hearings against the threat of what he calls “Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups,” such as CAIR and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Almost every discussion related to banning the Muslim Brotherhood includes an invocation of a 1991 memo touted as being written by a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is frequently claimed that the memo lays out a secret plan to take over the US.

The claims were debunked by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative for tracking Islamophobia. The document was written by Mohamed Akram Adlouni, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was hoping to influence the group’s priorities, though he ultimately failed to do so, according to the Bridge Initiative.

The memo has been pushed by Gaffney since it was first introduced into evidence against the Holy Land Foundation, the target of one of the most aggressively prosecuted federal terrorism cases that saw five charity workers convicted of material support for terrorism.

Though only five men were indicted in the Holy Land Foundation case, prosecutors took the unusual step of publishing a list of “unindicted co-conspirators” that included more than 300 groups, associating them with terrorism but not giving them a mechanism to refute the accusation. Many of the same groups that are now in the crosshairs of a Muslim Brotherhood ban were first targeted in that case.

“That trial unraveled a lot of this,” Georgetown professor Al-Arian said, noting that CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America, two mainstream American Muslim groups, were named as co-conspirators.

“For both of those organizations to be drawn into a terrorism financing trial was an attempt to draw the entire community with this brush of extremism,” Al-Arian said.

Targeting wide range of Muslim groups in US

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928, and soon established branches in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and throughout much of the Arab world, the Stanford historian Beinin told The Electronic Intifada.

Today, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups exist in Middle Eastern and North African countries ranging from Tunisia to Turkey. The Brotherhood’s status varies from country to country: it has been outlawed in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Syria and Russia, but it enjoys popular success elsewhere, including Morocco and Jordan.

The Muslim Brotherhood has no real presence in the US, but those who are now pushing for the group to be listed as a foreign terrorist organization allege numerous mainstream Muslim American groups are fronts for it.

“I think banning the Muslim Brotherhood would lend itself to the Trump campaign’s narrative of being tougher on terrorism,” Al-Arian told The Electronic Intifada.

“It in many ways would represent the logical escalation of a conflict that has already taken on every manifestation of militancy in the Middle East, by incorporating movements that have vocally expressed their opposition to US foreign policy,” Al-Arian added, noting that the Obama administration pursued the “war on terror” started by the George W. Bush administration by expanding its field of drone warfare.

Groups that have been accused of being Muslim Brotherhood affiliates by right-wing proponents of the ban include CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America, as well as the Muslim Student Association, chapters of which exist on college campuses across the US.

The same right-wing voices also allege al-Qaida, ISIS and all militant Sunni Islamic groups operating in the Middle East are descendants of the Muslim Brotherhood.

They contend that a wide range of groups sprang from the same ideological seed as the Muslim Brotherhood. This notion forms the basis of so-called radicalization theory, which justifies profiling people with a particular set of beliefs because they allegedly pose a high risk of becoming national threats. According to this logic, a student activist in the Muslim Student Association might one day fight for al-Qaida.

During a 2016 hearing organized by Senator Ted Cruz to examine how US agencies were allegedly de-emphasizing radical Islam in combating terrorism, then Senator Jeff Sessions, now the US attorney general, made his views known. Sessions asserted the validity of using ideology – in this case religion – as potential grounds to preemptively prosecute people who might, according to this logic, commit a terrorist attack in the future.

“Not a terrorist group”

“The Muslim Brotherhood provides a convenient catch-all label,” Georgetown’s Al-Arian explained. “It’s similar to the way you can look at the Red Scare: you didn’t have to be a member of the official Communist Party to be accused of being a sympathizer with communism. This operates the same way.”

“The spectrum – this idea that somehow all militant movements in the Middle East are graduates of the Muslim Brotherhood – is, factually, a very inaccurate narrative,” Al-Arian said.

Career officials seem to agree. Speaking to Politico, a former State Department official who coordinated counterterrorism under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the ban “an incredibly stupid thing to do,” because, simply, the Muslim Brotherhood “[is] not a terrorist group.”

Stanford’s Beinin said “the Muslim Brotherhood have a lot of enemies, but that’s not evidence that they’ve actually done anything.”

Will McCants, another former State Department adviser on countering extremism, told Politico the idea of banning the Brotherhood is a “fringe idea that I guess has now made its way into the mainstream.”

It may be a fringe idea, but those who have pushed for it are now part of the Trump White House inner circle.

https://electronicintifada.net/content/us-ban-muslim-brotherhood-could-bring-sweeping-civil-rights-violations/19651

--------

 

Donald Trump's New 'Muslim Ban' Will Have 'Same Outcome' As Old One, Says Senior White House Adviser

Donald Trump’s revised travel ban would “have the same basic policy outcome” as the initial version, according to a senior White House adviser.

Stephen Miller said the new order would be “responsive to the judicial ruling” that blocked the original order, adding that it would contain “minor technical differences” to the original directive.

“Fundamentally you’re going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” he told Fox News.

His comments appear to indicate that the new order would once again bar travel to the US for citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya.

The original order prompted widespread confusion and sparked mass protests and confusion at airports.

Mr Miller – who played a key role in the initial drafting of it – also insisted that US court rulings which halted the original order were “flawed” and “erroneous” and that Mr Trump's action was “clearly legal and constitutional.”

The Court of Appeal suggested the order be redrafted so it did not risk violating the US constitution, which forbids discrimination on the grounds of religion.

Mr Miller has previously said the President would not back down to the courts on his “extreme vetting” policy.

Full report at:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-new-muslim-ban-same-outcome-stephen-miller-immigration-refugees-departation-senior-a7592866.html

--------

 

Police investigate anti-Muslim rally outside Toronto mosque and alleged hate speech inside

Feb. 23, 2017

Toronto police say they are investigating not only an anti-Muslim rally that took place on the doorstep of a downtown mosque nearly a week ago, but allegations of hate speech inside the mosque as well.

More than a dozen people converged on Masjid Toronto last Friday, calling for a ban on Islam as Muslims prayed inside. Police said that prompted multiple complaints over the weekend from people in attendance that day, as well as others who were not present.

After a formal complaint was filed Tuesday, the rally is under investigation by the hate crime unit, corporate communications director Mark Pugash confirmed to CBC Toronto.

But less than 24 hours later, police received another complaint — this time for alleged hate speech inside the mosque.

Pugash would not confirm that the allegations had to do with anti-Semitic speech, but Masjid Toronto issued a statement earlier this week apologizing for "an inappropriate supplication that was offensive to those of the Jewish faith."

Supplications 'added without authorization'

"Masjid Toronto condemns all forms of hate and racism towards any faith group or others and is committed to offering a safe spiritual space for all congregants," a statement on the mosque's website says.

Muslim Association of Canada spokeswoman Memona Hossain told CBC Toronto the apology referred to prayers made by a junior employee in 2016.

Masjid Toronto

"The incident occurred when inappropriate supplications, in Arabic, were added without authorization, and in contravention to MAC's code of conduct," the organization said in a statement.

"We know who made the comments and we have suspended the employee," said Hossain, adding that the mosque has launched an internal investigation.

She said the organization has also extended an apology for the incident to leaders of the Jewish community, including the Toronto Board of Rabbis.

Police said both incidents are now being reviewed by its hate crime unit.

'An aggravating factor'

Under the Criminal Code, a hate crime refers to a crime motivated by hate, which can be either violent or non-violent in nature and carried out to intimidate, harm or terrify not only a person, but an entire group of people to which the victim belongs.

In Canada, there are four offences listed as hate propaganda or hate crimes under the Criminal Code. These include advocating genocide, publicly inciting hatred, wilfully promoting hatred, and mischief in relation to religious property, motivated by hate. Police launch hate crime probe after anti-Semitic notes found at North York condo

'No Jews': Anti-Semitic notes left on doors at North York condominium

"We have to demonstrate that a crime has taken place and if we can show that the motivation was hate, that's an aggravating factor that a judge can use in sentencing," Pugash said.

But at what point does an act change from free speech to hate?

"That's a conversation we've been having all day," Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook told CBC Toronto over the weekend, calling it "a fine line."

"If the hate crimes unit discovers evidence of hate, then the way the law works, depending on how that's manifested, it can either be an aggravating factor in sentencing, it can form the basis of a charge," Pugash said. "But it depends on the way in which it's manifested."

On Friday, some on their way to the mosque told CBC Toronto the rally blocked them from going inside for congregational prayer. Muslims hold Friday to be the holiest day of the week.

'Celebrate Islamophobia'

Many in support of Friday's protest outside the mosque have described it as peaceful and an expression of free speech.

A Facebook event for the rally, entitled "Defy M103 — Celebrate Islamophobia," appears to characterize the rally as a show of support for Eric Brazau, a man convicted in 2014 of wilful promotion of hatred and criminal harassment.

Celebrate Islamophobia

A Facebook event for the rally, entitled 'Defy M103 — Celebrate Islamophobia,' appears to characterize the rally as a show of support for Eric Brazau, a man convicted in 2014 of wilful promotion of hatred and criminal harassment. (Facebook)

Last March, Brazau lost an appeal for further charges of mischief, disturbance and breach of probation relating to a separate 2014 incident aboard a Toronto subway in which he denounced Islam and Muslims as part of what he termed "a social experiment."

It's those kinds of incidents that spurred Suraia Sahar to file a formal complaint about the rally, she said.

Full report at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/police-investigate-anti-muslim-rally-outside-toronto-mosque-and-alleged-hate-speech-inside-1.3995132

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/-my-story-happened-as-america-was-an-inclusive-society---frank-islam/d/110181

 

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