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Islamic World News ( 18 Jan 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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66 Muslim Girls Were Converted To Hinduism And Married To Hindus In 9 Years, Claims Pandit KK Shankhdhar, The Priest Of August Mani Ashram Located In Murinath, Bareilly, U.P.

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 January 2023


Representational image.


• Pakistan Ulema Support Christian Woman of Civil Aviation Authority against ‘Blasphemy Threats’

• Twitter Discards Verified Blue Checks Reportedly Purchased By Taliban Leaders

• Islamophobia Levels In Europe a Concern despite Acquittal, Muslim Academic Warns

• Cleric Who Claimed Israel Was Using Covid Vaccines to Spy on the World’s Population Convicted in Bangladesh


• Hindu Right-Wings Groups Seek Permission to Hoist the Tricolour at Idgah Maidan in Bangalore on Republic Day

• Reach Out To Muslims without Expecting Votes In Return: PM Modi to BJP Workers

• 'Refrain from Unnecessary Remarks' On Films, PM Modi's Advice to BJP

• Govt to SC: Can’t Allow Outfits That Seek Islamic Rule in India

• The Marang Buru to Adivasis Is What Ayodhya Is To Hindus, Mecca To Muslims, Golden Temple To Sikhs: Salkhan Murmu

• 2 LeT ultras killed in Budgam encounter

• Pakistan decides to cut down Kartarpur Corridor expenses by half

• After UN puts terror tag on Pakistan's prized terrorist, broke and isolated Islamabad pulls out olive branch



• Pakistan National Assembly Passes Bills To Enhance Punishment for Disrespecting Ummahatul Momineen, Ahle-Bait, and Sahaba

• Pakistan's Election Commission suspends 271 lawmakers for not submitting financial statements

• Bill Introduced To Terminate Pakistan's Designation as Major Non-Nato Ally

• Pakistan PMO: No Talks Unless India Revokes 'Art 370 Move'

• 4 terrorists killed during intelligence-based operation in Balochistan’s Hoshab: ISPR

• Islamabad’s I-10 suicide bomber got training in Afghanistan, investigation reveals

• Army aware of external enemies’ ‘nefarious designs’ to disturb peace in Balochistan: COAS Munir


North America

• First Illinois Muslim American Lawmakers Begin Work in Diverse Legislature

• US encourages EU, UK terror designation of IRGC: State Department

• Blinken says US ‘appalled’ by execution of British-Iranian national

• Türkiye 'Important Partner, Not Only In Region but Around World': Pentagon

• Iran on Black teacher killing: People of colour still facing severe human rights violations in US



• About 150 Terrorist Entities, Individuals Based or Linked With Pakistan Blacklisted By UN

• Dutch authorities arrest suspected Islamic State security chief

• Far-Right Terrorism Rise in UK 'Masks Threat of Islamist Extremism'

• Virgin Mary, Sufism and flamenco: Lost Muslim influences in Spain

• EU’s Von der Leyen backs listing Iran’s Guards as terrorist group

• Greece expresses ‘deep concern’ over Israeli bulldozing activity on Jerusalem patriarchates property

• Greece’s Turkish minority sends letter to UN over its problems


South Asia

• Forming New Parties outside Afghanistan Not a Solution: Islamic Emirate

• Rohingya fleeing Myanmar or Bangladesh by sea surged fivefold in 2022- UN

• Taliban (IEA) Authorities Flog Nine People in Kandahar

• Taliban Publicly Cut Off Hands of 4 Men over Alleged Theft Charges

• UN's Top Woman in Afghanistan for Talks on Taliban Crackdown

• Davos 2023: Qatar says engagement with Taliban needed despite ‘disappointing’ actions


Southeast Asia

• Keep Politics Out Of Mosques And Surau in Johor, Says Crown Prince Tunku Ismail

• Ex-PAS man to join Umno’s Ulama council

• Malaysian opposition chief Muhyiddin to take legal action in controversy over Sabah MPs

• Widodo Defends Right to Worship for Indonesian Minorities



• Iran's ‘Death Committee’ President Unyielding In Defence of Clerical Rule

• Israeli Extremists Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound After 'Forces Harass Muslims At Site'

• Over 90 Nations Express 'Deep Concern' at Israeli Punitive Measure

• Ra'am: Setting Conditions For Visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque Is Illegal

• Iran Strongly Condemns S. Korean President's Meddlesome, Undiplomatic Remarks

• Iran Blasts British Royal Family for Massacring Afghan Civilians

• Iran filmmakers call for release of dissident director Jafar Panahi

• Israeli prime minister confirms citizen captured by Hamas in Gaza is alive

• Iran arrested at least 96 Kurds in first half of 2023, rights group says



• Mali: Displacement Crisis Deepens As Al-Qaida and Islamic State Groups Drive Insecurity - UN

• Jordan summons Israeli ambassador after envoy blocked from Al-Aqsa Mosque

• Tunisia president’s former top aide jailed in absentia: Reports

• Jordanian, Egyptian and Palestinian leaders hold trilateral summit to discuss Palestinian cause

• At least 10 soldiers killed in al-Shabaab attack on Somali military base

• Libya’s parliament speaker says elections to be held before November 2023


Arab World

• Saudi FM Discusses Kingdom’s Economy, Oil, Iran And US Ties In Davos

• CENTCOM chief pays tribute to US-UAE military ties, condemns Iran-backed groups

• South Korean President visits Dubai’s Museum of the Future

• Saudi Arabia asks UN to designate Houthis terrorist group as Yemen peace talks stall

• Biden reaffirms US support for UAE against terrorism, one year since Houthi attacks

• Saudi Arabia’s crown prince launches Events Investment Fund set to be worth billions

• Kuwait reiterates support for ceasefire efforts in Ukraine

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



66 Muslim Girls Were Converted To Hinduism And Married To Hindus In 9 Years, Claims Pandit KK Shankhdhar, The Priest Of August Mani Ashram Located In Murinath, Bareilly, U.P.


Representational image.


Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam News Bureau

Bareilly (Rakhshanda Azim)

Legislation is being enacted in various states of the country against the alleged 'Love Jihad'. It is claimed that Muslim boys systematically commit Hindu girls and marry them.

Contrary to this another kind of case has come out in the Bareilly district of western UP. Here, between 2013 and 2022, not only 66 Muslim girls were married to Hindu boys, but their religions were also changed.

Even more surprising is that it was done in the same temple and by the same priest. This is the case of August Mani Ashram located in Murinath, Bareilly, where the priest Pandit KK Shankhdhar has married 66 Muslim girls to non-Muslims (Hindu religion) in 9 years.

Now Pandit KK Shankhdhar has submitted an application to the SSP in which he has demanded security citing the threat to his life. Today, the Urdu daily 'Inquilab' newspaper representative spoke to the district administration and senior lawyers of Rae Bareilly in this regard.

Senior Advocate Zubair Ahmed said that when it comes to conversion or conversion for marriage, an application has to be submitted to the District Magistrate 6 months in advance and it is assumed that both the boy and the girl have a religious identity. People from both sides do not object to this marriage, this matter is examined and then they are given the right to marry with Muslim or non-Muslim rituals.

In this regard, the 'Inquilab' representative also spoke to Pandit's Shankhdhar. He claimed that since 2013, he has managed to get 66 Muslim girls married to non-Muslim boys. When the reporter questioned him about the implementation of pre-marital legal proceedings, he said that his ashram has a 'Vadhak Prakostha', which follows the law and conducts marriages and information is also given to the District Magistrate in this regard. He further said that we get the girl married after doing Shudhikaran with Ganga Jal, while according to the law even in the Hindu religion, marriage cannot take place until the girl becomes a Hindu.

However, to change the religion, not only Shudhikaran but also the permission of the District Magistrate is required. District Magistrate Shivkant Dwivedi clearly said that he does not know anything about it.

He said, recently a girl had applied here, but he has no information about the other 65 girls. At the same time, he said that there is no such law for this. If someone wants to marry by changing his /her religion and is an adult, then he can do it. On the other hand, SSP Akhilesh Kumar Chaurasia said that the Saints of August Mini Ashram came to him and demanded security.

In the matter of conversion and marriage of Muslim girls, he also said that if someone changes religion voluntarily, there is no problem with it. Yes, if there is a dispute, the police must look into it.

Now legal experts are raising the question that if a Hindu girl marries a Muslim boy, all the Hindu organizations create a commotion in the name of 'Love Jihad' and pressurize the administration and officers and reconvert her to their religion, somehow or the other. And when 66 Muslim girls are married to non-Muslim boys, then what 'Jihad' should it be called?

While from the administration to the priest of the temple, they are not ready to give any reasonable answer in this matter. And it is evident that the game being played to get Muslim girls to one-sidedly abandon Islam and adopt Hinduism is known from top to bottom by all, but by accepting it without any fuss. The law is being openly violated.


Pakistan Ulema Support Christian Woman of Civil Aviation Authority against ‘Blasphemy Threats’




Naeem Sahoutara

January 18, 2023

KARACHI: In a rare move, religious scholars have announced that they would stand by a female Christian official of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who had been threatened by a Muslim colleague of implicating her in a false blasphemy case to settle a “personal dispute” in the metropolis recently.

Religious leaders from both Muslims and Christians said that the move aimed at showing solidarity with the victim that she was not alone.

A viral video showed a CAA official, identified as Salim, threatening a female colleague to accuse her of allegedly committing blasphemy for disallowing entry of a vehicle without number plate in the cargo area at Karachi airport. Later, a CAA spokesperson said the male official had been suspended.

In the latest move, a delegation of ulema from different sects led by Allama Ziaullah Sialvi, the chairman of the Ulema Amn Council Pakistan, met with the woman.

“We met our sister and assured her that we stand by her both on the religious as well as legal grounds,” Allama Sialvi told Dawn.

“If she wants to take a legal action and lodge an FIR of the incident against the CAA official, we will fully support her during the investigation and in court as well,” he declared.

He said that no one would be allowed to misuse religion against ‘our non-Muslim brethren’ since it not only defamed the country, but also set wrong examples to victimise anyone for personal benefit.

Bishop Khadim Bhutto, who is leading an interfaith initiative with Allama Sialvi, told Dawn that on his request the ulema had also visited the CAA office and submitted a joint application with the director general, requesting him to take disciplinary action against the official involved.

Source: Dawn

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Twitter Discards Verified Blue Checks Reportedly Purchased By Taliban Leaders


Photo: NDTV News feed/ @ndtvfeed


January 18, 2023

The microblogging social media platform Twitter has removed account verification for Taliban leaders who were using a paid-for verification feature to get the verified blue tick. Hedayatullah Hedayat and Abdul Haq Hammad, two senior Taliban figures, both had blue ticks as of Monday, according to the Guardian.

Hedayatullah Hedayat is the head of the Taliban's department for "access to information," and Abdul Haq Hammad, head of the media watchdog at the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture.

According to the news outlet, only "active, prominent, and authentic accounts of public interest" were previously given the blue "verified" check mark by Twitter. However, users can now purchase them through the Twitter Blue service for a price since Elon Musk acquired the site last year.

When the BBC reported that Afghanistan's hardline Islamist rulers had begun using Twitter's paid-for verification service, it sparked criticism from a number of social media users throughout the world.

According to the news outlet, the presence of hard-line Islamists on Twitter has been a topic of controversy for some time. In October 2021, former US President Donald Trump, who was suspended from the platform after his supporters ransacked the US Capitol, said: "We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American President has been silenced."

"The Twitter Blue service was introduced in December. It costs $8 per month, and an increased fee of $11 is paid by those using the Twitter app on Apple devices."

Twitter Blue subscribers gain "priority ranking in search, mentions, and responses" to help fight spam and bots, according to the site.

The Taiban leaders have been communicating with the rest of the world and disseminating their decisions for a very long time using Twitter.

Source: ND TV

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Islamophobia Levels In Europe a Concern despite Acquittal, Muslim Academic Warns


Hafez's apartment was one of around 60 homes of Muslim activists and academics raided in November 2020, in what Austria's interior minister called "Operation Luxor" (facebook)


17 January 2023

Austrian intelligence services still view political Islam as a threat to the country, Austrian academic Farid Hafez warned in a new column on Tuesday, days after he was acquitted of "terrorism" charges for his work on Islamophobia.

Last Wednesday, the Higher Regional Court of Graz, Austria's second-largest city, dropped the charges against Hafez and ruled that no evidence was provided in the allegations.

In an article for Middle East Eye, Hafez said he felt relieved but remained concerned about the mounting levels of Islamophobia in Europe and in Austria.

"There is a lot of work to be done on behalf of the Austrian intelligence service," Hafez wrote, warning that they were "primed by alarmist experts spreading conspiracy theories to draw a picture of an immediate Muslim threat".

Hafez, who was a professor at the University of Salzburg, was among around 60 families of Muslim activists and academics who were raided in November 2020 in what Austria's interior minister called "Operation Luxor".

Hafez wrote that "special forces of the Austrian police stormed my house in Vienna at 5am, they handed me a search warrant that claimed that I could be a terrorist wanting to topple the Egyptian government and create a worldwide caliphate. I was astounded, to say the least."

He added that the raid "left my whole family, especially my young children, traumatised. I felt constantly insecure due to the tapping of my phone and other surveillance measures. My bank account and assets were frozen for two years."

The professor said that Austrian security services treated his academic work on Islamophobia with suspicion.

"The intelligence agency’s regular reports outlining why I was seen as a security threat delved deep into my academic work on Islamophobia, relating it to conspiracy theories," he wrote.

After threats to his academic career and false claims, including that his Catholic director at Georgetown University in Washington, DC was a "staunch Islamist", Hafez migrated to the United States.

Hafez, who is now a professor at Williams College in the US, is best known for issuing an annual report on European Islamophobia and as one of the founders of the Austrian Muslim Youth Association.

Source: Middle East Eye

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Cleric Who Claimed Israel Was Using Covid Vaccines to Spy on the World’s Population Convicted in Bangladesh


Ibrahim was arrested for religious incitement in late 2021 under Bangladesh's Digital Security Act. (Facebook/Mufti Kazi Ibrahim Fans)


January 18, 2023

DHAKA: A popular Islamic preacher who claimed Israel was using Covid vaccines to spy on the world’s population has been convicted in Bangladesh over his controversial sermons.

Kazi Ibrahim, 62, is the chief cleric of a mosque in downtown Dhaka and used his platform to make multiple spurious claims about coronavirus.

Several of his sermons went viral at the peak of the pandemic, including one in which he claimed to have found a mathematical formula that could be used to make a homemade vaccine.

Ibrahim was arrested for religious incitement in late 2021 under Bangladesh’s Digital Security Act, though police did not publicly disclose the specific sermon for which he was charged.

He pleaded guilty to the charge and a court on Monday sentenced him to time served, prosecutor Nazrul Islam said.

Ibrahim made a number of public comments suggesting a sinister side to Covid vaccinations.

He amplified suggestions by Brazil’s then-president Jair Bolsonaro that inoculation could lead to women growing beards and men speaking with effeminate voices.

Ibrahim also said Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates had teamed up with the Israeli government to implant microchips in vaccinated Bangladeshis as a tool of social control.

Source: Dawn

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 Hindu Right-Wings Groups Seek Permission to Hoist the Tricolour at Idgah Maidan in Bangalore on Republic Day

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore  


Several Hindu Right-wing groups have sought the Karnataka government’s permission to hoist the Tricolour at the Idgah Maidan in the Bangalore locality of Chamrajpet on Republic Day.

While the administration is yet to respond, Muslim organisations have emphasised that the Supreme Court had last August ordered status quo on the Idgah, a playground where Id prayers have been the only public events held for about 200 years.

The development comes at a time Sangh parivar outfits have been accused of trying to polarise voters along religious lines ahead of next summer’s Assembly elections. Karnataka has already witnessed a controversy over Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations last August at the Idgah Maidan in Hubli, 400km from here.

The Chamrajpet Naagarikara Okkootta (Chamrajpet Residents’ Association) and at least a half-dozen other organisations have jointly written to the state government seeking permission to hoist the national flag on January 26 at the Idgah Maidan here.

The same groups had last August sought and obtained permission from the state government to conduct puja on Ganesh Chaturthi at the Idgah Maidan here. The matter went to Karnataka High Court, which ruled in favour of the puja, but the Supreme Court subsequently ordered status quo at a special hearing.

The state government deployed riot police to prevent unpleasantness during Ganesh Chaturthi.

The apex court is now dealing with a dispute over the ownership of the Idgah. Muslim organisations believe it to be waqf property but the state government had claimed, while giving permission for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations there, that it belonged to the Bangalore civic body.

Hussain Sharief of the Central Muslim Association of Karnataka, which is fighting the legal battle, cited the court case when asked if the organisation had any objection to the Tricolour being hoisted on the Idgah.

“The Supreme Court has already ordered status quo in the matter, which means that only the two Id prayers annually are allowed there, apart from using the space as a playground,” he told The Telegraph.

“We have always known it as a property belonging to the Karnataka State Waqf Board. Let us wait for the court to decide its ownership.” Mohan Gowda, spokesperson for the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, said his organisation supported the demand to unfurl the Tricolour on Republic Day and urged  the government to accept it.

“Otherwise we shall be forced to launch an agitation with like-minded groups,” he said in a video message. Chamrajpet, a densely populated area in the middle of old Bangalore and a short distance from the railway station and bus station, has historically been a trading hub.

The largely commercial area is dotted with alleys flanked by houses where people of all faiths live. Hindu Right-wing groups had first sought to hold the Ganesh Chaturthi, Dasara and Deepavali festivals at the 2.1-acre Idgah here back in 2002 but a cautious government had refused permission.

Source: Telegraph India

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Reach out to Muslims without expecting votes in return: PM Modi to BJP workers

Jan 17, 2023

NEW DELHI: At the National Executive meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called upon party leaders to reach out to the minorities, including Muslims, without expecting votes.

In his valedictory address at the two-day National Executive meeting of the BJP in the national capital on Tuesday, PM Modi spoke about areas where the party needs to be strengthened ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

According to a source, Prime Minister Modi emphasised on reaching out to people of all religions. He told members to visit universities and churches.

"PM called upon BJP workers to meet Pasmanda Muslims, Bohra community, Muslim professionals and educated Muslims without expecting votes in return," sources said.

PM Modi also instructed BJP leaders to refrain from unsolicited remarks against any community, sources added.

During the customary valedictory adderess, PM Modi said this is the best time for India and efforts should be doubled to contribute to the country's development. He also said the 'Amrit Kaal' should be transformed into 'Kartavya Kaal' as only then can the country progress rapidly.

PM Modi said under the resolution of 'Ek Bharat Shresth Bharat', all states should cooperate with each other and be accommodative of each others' language and culture.

Prime Minister Modi exhorted all BJP fronts to connect more with the villages in the border areas. He said BJP workers should play their part in the development of aspirational districts.

PM Modi also gave the mantra for environmental protection and saving the planet.

Source: Times Of India

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'Refrain from Unnecessary Remarks' On Films, PM Modi's Advice to BJP

JANUARY 18, 2023

Amid raging controversy over Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone-starter film ‘Pathaan’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reportedly advised the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders to refrain from making any “unnecessary remarks" on films.

The advice was given during BJP national executive meeting held on January 16 and 17 in New Delhi. A few media reports stated that their sources quoted PM Modi as saying that “some people give statements on some film" which plays on TV and in media all day. The prime minister asked the party workers to avoid making such remarks.

Modi’s statement comes at a time when Shah Rukh Khan‘s ‘Pathaan’, which landed in a soup over saffron costumes, is set for release on January 25. The controversy was triggered after Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra objected to the song ‘Besharam Rang’, claiming that it hurt religious sentiments of the Hindu community. Mishra said that “the way saffron and green coulours have been used" in the costumes used in the song is objectionable.


Another BJP leader in Bihar, Hari Bhushan Thakur Bachaul, threatened to stall the release of the film. “It was a dirty effort by the makers of the film to weaken the ‘Sanatan’ culture of the country. The saffron colour is a symbol of ‘Sanatan’ culture," Bachaul said.

“The sun is of saffron colour and the colour of fire is also saffron. It is a symbol of sacrifice. The film’s makers have described saffron as a ‘Besharam’ (shameless) colour, which is extremely unfortunate and objectionable. The short dress of the heroine is a show of vulgarity. This is the reason why majority of the countrymen are demanding to boycott the film," he added.

Reacting to the objections, JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha said that no political party has the copyright of any particular colour, and the BJP is unnecessarily creating controversy.


Maharashtra BJP leader Ram Kadam also said the filmmakers should clarify their position on the raging debate. He added that the state will not screen any film or serial that insults Hindutva.

He also questioned the filmmakers if the movie was a ploy to gain “cheap publicity" or whether there was a conspiracy behind their decision. The BJP leader said, “Several Hindu organisations and even on social media voices have offered criticism. Isn’t it the moral responsibility of the makers to clear their stand rather than keep quiet on the issue? Is this a move to gather cheap publicity and is there a conspiracy?"

Ram Kadam added that since the state of Maharashtra has a BJP government which follows the Hindutva ideals, the government will not allow any film or serial to run which insults Hindutva emotions.


The BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh demanded that the Yogi Adityanath government ban ‘Pathaan’ in the state and initiate stringent action against the makers. “Vulgarity with saffron colour was being committed in a song in the movie and it is an insult to the Hindu community and Sanatan culture. Hence, we have expressed our concern," BJP leader Rajesh Kesarwani said.


A right-wing organisation based in Chandigarh had in December urged the local administration to ban the screening of ‘Pathaan’, and sought criminal action against its makers over the song ‘Besharam Rang’.

“We have filed a complaint with the deputy commissioner (DC), Chandigarh, seeking a complete ban on the upcoming movie Pathaan in Chandigarh. The release of this movie will hurt the religious sentiments, feelings of a particular community,” Vijay Singh Bhardwaj, president of the Anterrashtriya Hindu Parishad, was quoted by Indian Express.

“In the released song of this film, makers of this movie insulted the saffron colour, which is holy for the Hindu community. We opted to submit our complaint to the DC as maintenance of law and order falls under him. We have planned to hold protests against the film and the song,” Bhardwaj said. He maintained that similar complaints are being lodged in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.


Directed by Siddharth Anand, ‘Pathaan‘ has received a UA certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). According to trade analyst Taran Adarsh, the film received its certificate on January 2, 2023. The film’s runtime is 146.16 minutes- which is 2 hours and 26 minutes.

Reports on several entertainment portals stated that CBFC also demanded over 10 cuts in ‘Pathaan’. The demanded cuts also include Deepika Padukone‘s saffron bikini, which stirred several controversies. Other than that, the board reportedly demanded the word RAW to be removed from the film. According to reports, CBFC also directed ‘Pathaan’ makers to change a few dialogues in the film.


At the national executive meeting, PM Modi also asked BJP members to reach out to every section of society, including minorities such as Bohras, Pasmandas and Sikhs, and work for them without electoral considerations.

News agency PTI quoted its sources as saying that in this backdrop, Modi suggested party workers refrain from making unnecessary remarks on irrelevant issues such as movies as they put the party’s development agenda on the back-burner.

Various party members who were part of the audience said the prime minister spoke highly of ‘sufism’ and also asked them to meet professionals from different walks of life and visit places like universities and churches to connect with them.

Source: News18

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Govt to SC: Can’t Allow Outfits That Seek Islamic Rule in India

Jan 17, 2023

By Utkarsh Anand

Any organisation that has the objective of establishing Islamic rule in India cannot be permitted to exist, the Union government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday as it justified the eighth successive ban on the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

“SIMI is against Indian nationalism, and works to replace it with an international Islamic order...Their stated objectives are contrary to the laws of our country. Especially, their object of establishing Islamic rule in India can, under no circumstances, be permitted to subsist,” said the affidavit filed by the Centre in the court.

Stressing that SIMI continues to exist despite the continuous proscription since 2001, the government pointed out that the latest order of five-year ban in 2019 was necessitated in view of the group carrying on its unlawful activities through more than three dozen front organisations, which had regrouped across several states under different names.

“There are over three dozen other front organizations through which SIMI is being continued. These front organizations help SIMI in various activities including collection of funds, circulation of literature, regrouping of cadres, etc. SIMI continues to indulge in unlawful activities causing a serious threat to the internal security of the country,” stated the affidavit filed through the ministry of home affairs (MHA).

“SIMI is against Indian nationalism, and works to replace it with an international Islamic order...Their stated objectives are contrary to the laws of our country. Especially, their object of establishing Islamic rule in India can, under no circumstances, be permitted to subsist,” said the affidavit filed by the Centre in the court.

Stressing that SIMI continues to exist despite the continuous proscription since 2001, the government pointed out that the latest order of five-year ban in 2019 was necessitated in view of the group carrying on its unlawful activities through more than three dozen front organisations, which had regrouped across several states under different names.

“There are over three dozen other front organizations through which SIMI is being continued. These front organizations help SIMI in various activities including collection of funds, circulation of literature, regrouping of cadres, etc. SIMI continues to indulge in unlawful activities causing a serious threat to the internal security of the country,” stated the affidavit filed through the ministry of home affairs (MHA).

It emphasised that SIMI had been banned not only because its members were carrying out unlawful activities, but because the objects of SIMI itself were illegal and challenged the sovereignty and integrity of India.

The MHA further asserted its power to issue repeated orders banning an organisation under the UAPA, arguing a ban can be renewed if the grounds continue to exist.

“This time period after which a ban automatically ceases to exist is not a restriction on the central government’s power to ban the organisation again. However, if the central government is said not to have this power, then organisations with the most anti-national purposes would thrive with impunity after the expiry of the first ban,” it said.

Supporting its notification in January 2019 banning the organisation, the Centre maintained that the existence of SIMI is proved on account of the current and unlawful activities undertaken by its members in furtherance of the unlawful objectives of SIMI.

Source: Hindustan Times

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The Marang Buru To Adivasis Is What Ayodhya Is To Hindus, Mecca To Muslims, Golden Temple To Sikhs: Salkhan Murmu

17 JAN 2023

Tribal outfit, Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan (ASA) on Tuesday launched 'Marang Buru Bachao Bharat Yatra' (Save Parasnath Hill) to free it from the alleged "clutches" of the Jain community. Tribals and locals in the Giridih district situated village have alleged that the Jain hegemony over the tribal lands and Marang Buru hills (Parasnath) has deprived them of their own rights and customs.

The month-long march by Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan (ASA) seeks to garner support from across the country to "free" Parasnath Hill or 'Marang Buru'. ASA president Salkhan Murmu in Jamshedpur said that its members staged demonstrations in front of 50 tribal-dominated district collectorates in Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, and Jharkhand simultaneously to press for its demand.

The ASA activists waved placards and staged dharnas during the day at Kokrajhar, Chirang, and Baksa in Assam,  Malda, Purulia and Bankura in West Bengal, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Balasore in Odisha, Kishanganj, Katihar, and Purnia in Bihar and Jamshedpur, Bokaro and Dumka in Jharkhand, he said. The tribals consider Parasnath Hill as the holiest 'Jeherthan' (place of worship) by the tribals.

Murmu, a former MP who led the dharna in Jharkhand's Jamshedpur during the day, said that meetings will be organized in other tribal pockets of the country by ASA to mobilize support for its demand. The Association will also submit a memorandum to President Droupadi Murmu through district magistrates of all 50 districts in the five states in support of its demand before the Yatra ends in the last week of February. Salkan had earlier written to the president and appealed to her to restore the sanctity of the Marang Buru and hand it over to the tribals.

He also accused the JMM-led Jharkhand government for handing over Marang Buru to the Jain community. "The government has betrayed the Adivasi community. Marang Buru is an identity of the tribals who believe that it protects them," Murmu said. The Jain community is protesting against the Jharkhand government's decision to turn the hill, which it considers among its holiest places, into a tourist destination.

Shortly after the Union government accepted the demands of the Jain community protesting against a 2019 government notification to make the Jain pilgrim site of Parasnath an eco-tourist hub, the Jharkhand's tribals have also become vocal for their rights and access to the tribal land which they have been worshipping for centuries.

At a distance of about 160 km from Jharkhand's capital Ranchi, Giridih's Marang Buru or Parasnath hill rises up to 4,500 feet above sea level. There are about 30 temples there dedicated to Jain Tirthankars and monks who attained moksha on this mountain. Many temples are said to be more than 2,000 years old.

Murmu said that the Marang Buru is as significant for the devout tribals as is Ayodhya Ram Mandir for Hindus, Mecca and Medina for Muslims, Vatican city for Christians, and the Golden Temple for Sikhs. ASA, he said, will also raise the issue of the inclusion of 'Sarna' religion in the census and its opposition to the government's move to include the Kurmi caste in the category of scheduled tribes.

Source: Outlook India

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2 LeT ultras killed in Budgam encounter

Jan 18, 2023

Two Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists, who had managed to give security forces the slip during a combat operation on Saturday, were killed after a brief firefight in central Kashmir's Budgam district on Tuesday.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan decides to cut down Kartapur Corridor expenses by half

Jan 17, 2023

AMRITSAR: Owing to a negligible number of devotees going to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur Sahib, Pakistan on a day-long pilgrimage from India, the Pakistan government has decided to cut down its expense by fifty per cent.

“Kartarpur's monthly expenses has be reduced by fifty percent” informed Aamir Hashmi, spokesperson, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a Pakistan government department that looks after the religious places of Sikhs and Hindus and the properties attached to them. These Gurdwara's and temples were left behind in Pakistan after the 1947 Indo-Pak partition .

The decision to curtail expenses was taken in a high level meeting held at Lahore under the Chairmanship of ETPB Chairman Habib ur Rehman Geelani and was attended by ETPB Secretary Muhammad Nasir Akram, recently appointed ISI officer Abu Bakar Aftab Quresh as Chief Executive Officer of Project Management Unit (PMU), that manage the affairs of Kartapur Corridor, additional secretary Rana Shahid Saleem, Sanaullah Khan etc.

“We have decided to save every single penny spent extra on different heads such as petrol and electricity," said Hashmi.

When asked why they had decided to cut short expenses, he replied, the number of devotees visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartaprur Sahib was less than one hundred a day and there were loans to pay which were taken for the construction of Kartarpur Corridor. "Sometimes 80 pilgrims are arriving or other day they are around 100" he said.

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib is situated about 4.5 kilometres inside Pakistan from the international border at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of Indian Punjab . The Kartarpur Corridor was inaugurated on November 9, 2019 with an expectation of a minimum of 5000 pilgrims crossing the border every day to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib but the footfall has now gone around 100 only which is believed to be the reason behind Pakistan to take frugal measures.

However, he claimed the pilgrim's facilities at Kartarpur Corridor were not being compromised.

"Twenty-four hours medical facilities will be provided in the Kartarpur Corridor. The number of scholarships for Hindu and Sikh students named after Baba Guru Nanak has been increased from 50 to 100 which will be increased further so that students can continue their academic activities” he said.

Source: Times Of India

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After UN puts terror tag on Pakistan's prized terrorist, broke and isolated Islamabad pulls out olive branch

Jan 17, 2023

WASHINGTON: The UN Security Council on Monday designated Pakistani national Abdul Rehman Makki as a global terrorist after China lifted its technical hold on the process amid a political and economic meltdown in Islamabad.

Makki, who is the brother-in-law of the like-wise designated Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief and 26/11 perpetrator Hafiz Saeed, was put on the global terror list by the Security Council's ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating" terrorist acts or activities by Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Specifically, the sanctions committee said Makki and other LET/JUD operatives "have been involved in raising funds, recruiting and radicalizing youth to violence and planning attacks in India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)." It held Makki and LET responsible for or having involvement in prominent terror strikes, including the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, attacks on CRPF personnel in Rampur (2008) and Srinagar(2018), and on the Red Fort on December 2000.

Makki, born in Bahawalpur in Punjab Province of Pakistan, is already on the US Department of the Treasury's "Specially Designated International Terrorist" list. Like Hafiz Saeed, he has been convicted Makki for terror financing and is currently in prison -- only on account of international pressure on Islamabad and the dire economic straits Pakistan is in for its nurturing of terrorists and terror groups.

Beijing's turnaround came amid growing terror attacks on its nationals in Pakistan and a change of Chinese ambassadors in both Washington and Islamabad. China's ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong returns to Beijing this week, days after its envoy to Washington, Qin Gang, also returned to become the country's new foreign minister.

For years, Pakistan tried to avert a terrorist designation for itself and the terror groups and operatives it coddled, mainly with Chinese help. But evidently even Beijing ran out of patience, acknowledging, "Terrorism is the common enemy of humanity."

Pakistan parlous economy and its perilous existence is now talk of the diplomatic circuit after its Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif lamented that a nuclear power like Pakistan had to go around and beg the world for assistance. In an interview with an Arabic news channel, he called for talks with India after acknowledging that three wasteful wars -- all of which Pakistan initiated -- and its military-driven approach had proved devastating to the country.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan National Assembly Passes Bills To Enhance Punishment for Disrespecting Ummahatul Momineen, Ahle-Bait, and Sahaba

January 17, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday passed two private member bills including the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill, 2021 as reported by the standing committees.

The bills were piloted by Moulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali and Dr Nafisa Shah in the House respectively.

The statement of objects and reasons of the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 says that a few people are involved in blasphemy on the internet and social media etc, and they upload such pages and messages covertly.

However, due to Capital Punishment in section 298c, the ratio of people involved in blasphemy of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is very low. The fact may be observed that disrespecting the Companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and other sacred personalities not only promotes terrorism and disruption in the country but also hurts people from all walks of life.

In section 298-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, the punishment against the person who disrespects the wives, family and Companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), is imprisonment for a minimum of three years period along with a nominal penalty while this is a bailable crime.

Due to this simple punishment, the criminals, despite, the punishment, commit the same crime again. Hence, due to such simple punishment, the people try on their own to punish the criminal which increases the violence.

It is the responsibility of Parliament to review all factors by which terrorist activities promote and prosper within Pakistan by comprehending this matter with sensitivity and seriousness.

Moreover, some crimes mentioned in the list of crimes are very lesser in nature than disrespect of Ummahatul Momineen, Ahle-Bait, Khulfa-e-Rashideen and Sahaba-e-Kiram but their punishments are more than that mentioned in section 295-A of Pakistan Panel Code.

The Punishment under section 381 of PPC is imprisonment for ten years and a minor punishment has been provided for those who defame Ummahat-ul-Momineen, Ahle-Bait, Khulfa-e-Rashideen and Sahaba-e-Kiram as compared to that provided in section 298-A of PPC.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Pakistan's Election Commission suspends 271 lawmakers for not submitting financial statements


Pakistan's top election body has suspended the membership of 271 lawmakers across the country for not submitting their statements of assets and liabilities.

The statements have to be filed by December 31 every year, and the lawmakers were directed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to submit their financial statements up to June 30, 2022, by January 16, 2023. It also warned that failing to submit the financial statements would result in the suspension of their respective memberships.

The ECP said on Monday that those targeted include 136 Members of the National Assembly, 21 senators, and 114 Members of Provincial Assemblies.

As opposed to the 35 Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and three senators who had failed to submit their statement of assets to the ECP by last year's deadline of January 16 the number was significantly higher this year due to resignation by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers from the National Assembly, the Dawn newspaper reported on Tuesday.

According to the list issued by the ECP, there is no suspended Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) from Punjab, given that the provincial assembly has already been dissolved.

Apart from the MNAs and senators, the memberships of 48 MPAs from Sindh, 54 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 12 from Balochistan have been suspended.

The suspended MNAs include senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders and cabinet members Ahsan Iqbal and Khawaja Asif. The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Noor Alam Khan, was among those whose membership was suspended.

Other federal ministers on the list were Sajid Turi, Mufti Abdul Shakoor, Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema, and Mohammad Israr Tareen.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui was also on the list.

The 21 suspended Senators include former finance minister and PTI senator Shaukat Tarin.

Source: Telegraph India

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Bill introduced to terminate Pakistan's designation as major non-Nato ally

Jan 18, 2023

WASHINGTON: A US lawmaker has introduced a legislation in the US House of Representatives that seeks to terminate Pakistan's designation as a major non-Nato ally, and require annual certification from the president with certain conditions for Islamabad to be given such a designation.

The bill (HR 80) was introduced by Congressman Andy Biggs, who represents the fifth Congressional district of Arizona.

It needs to be passed by the house and the senate before it can be signed into law by the US President, and has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for necessary actions.

Normally, such bills do not fructify, but the present bill reflects the sentiments of the lawmakers against Pakistan, which is known for harbouring terrorism and using it as a matter of State policy.

For any further continuation of Pakistan's designation as a major non-Nato ally, the bill asks the US president to issue a certification that the country has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani Network senior leaders and mid-level operatives and has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistani territory as a safe haven.

Both conditions are seen to be a tall order for Pakistan given that many in the US believe the Haqqani network to be a veritable arm of the ISI.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan PMO: No talks unless India revokes 'Art 370 move'

Jan 18, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif's office Tuesday amended his seemingly unconditional offer of “serious and sincere talks” with counterpart Narendra Modi “to resolve our burning issues like Kashmir”, saying a dialogue with India would be possible only if the latter reversed its “illegal action of August 5, 2019” on J&K.

The condition of rolling back the decision to revoke the erstwhile state of J&K’s special status popped up a day after Sharif was quoted as saying in an interview to news channel Al Arabiya that his message “to the Indian leadership and PM Modi” was to “let us sit across the table” for talks.

Sharif said the UAE could play an important role in bringing the two countries to the table, adding he would hold talks with “sincerity of purpose”. The Pakistan PM said his country and India being neighbours, there was no choice but to live with each other.

Pak PMO: No talks unless India revokes'Art 370 move'

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif, in an interview to news channel Al Arabiya, said India and Pakistan being neighbours had no choice but to live with each other. "It is up to us to live peacefully and make progress or quarrel with each other, and waste time and resources. We have had three wars with India and it only brought more misery, poverty and unemployment to the people. We have learned our lesson and we want to live in peace, provided we are able to resolve our genuine problems," he said.

Sharif said that the Pakistan Muslim League (N) government wanted "to alleviate poverty, achieve prosperity, provide education, health facilities and employment to our people, and not waste our resources on bombs and ammunition".

"This is the message I want to give to PM Modi," he said.

Sharif said it was no secret that the neighbours were nuclear powers and armed to the teeth. "God forbid, a war breaks out, who will live to tell what happened?"

Referring to the interview, a spokesperson for the PM's office said Sharif had consistently maintained that Pakistan and India must resolve their bilateral issues through dialogue. "However, the PM has repeatedly stated on record that without India's revocation of its step on Kashmir, negotiations are not possible," he tweeted.

Source: Times Of India

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4 terrorists killed during intelligence-based operation in Balochistan’s Hoshab: ISPR

Naveed Siddiqui

January 18, 2023

Security forces gunned down at least four terrorists during an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in Balochistan’s Hoshab, the military’s public affairs wing said on Wednesday.

According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), an IBO was initiated “to clear a hideout linked with firing incidents on security forces along M-8, in general area Talsar, Hoshab” on a tip-off about the presence of terrorists.

“As a result of continuous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) of the area, a location of terrorists was identified and security forces were heli inserted [to nab the terrorists].”

The statement said that while the forces were establishing positions to cut off escape routes, four terrorists opened fire on the troops.

During the heavy exchange of fire, all four terrorists were killed, while a cache of arms and ammunition including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) was also recovered from their possession, the ISPR added.

A day earlier, Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir visited Balochistan’s Khuzdar and Basima areas where he was briefed on the prevailing security situation and the formation’s operational preparedness, along with measures being taken to ensure a “peaceful and secure environment”.

In a statement, the military’s media wing quoted the COAS as saying that the Pakistan Army was aware of the “nefarious designs of external enemies of Pakistan” to disturb the peace in Balochistan.

Over the past few months, the law and order situation in the country has worsened, with terrorist groups executing attacks with near impunity across the country.

Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Source: Dawn

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Islamabad’s I-10 suicide bomber got training in Afghanistan, investigation reveals

Munawer Azeem

January 18, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The suicide bomber, who blew himself up in the capital last month got trained in Afghanistan before conducting the attack, Dawn has learnt.

Sources close to the investigation of the bomb blast in the capital’s sector I-10/4 on Dec 23 said that the bomber received his militancy training in Afghanistan in 2022. After the training, he returned from Afghanistan in late 2022 and stayed in Parachinar in Kurram Agency, they added.

Before reaching the capital on Dec 23, the suicide bomber moved different localities, including Hangu where he stayed with a facilitator who brought him to the capital in the morning at Pirwadhai Bus Terminal, they added.

The facilitator watched the bomber board a taxi and later he left from the spot, the sources said.

The investigation revealed that he was wearing a bag pack, carrying the explosives, the sources said, adding it is yet to be established whether the bag was given to him or whether he travelled with it.

After arriving at the terminal, the suicide bomber spoke with someone (considered another facilitator) on a mobile phone.

The whereabouts of this other person were traced close to the vicinity of the Pirwadhai Bus Terminal and he had been there since the past few days.

The explosive used in the suicide blast was Trinitrotoluene (TNT), weighing 12kgs to 14kgs, the sources said, adding that in the past C4 (Composition 4, including RDX) was used to carry out similar attacks by local militants and terrorists.

The suicide bomber detonated the explosive by removing a pin attached with it, they said, adding that the investigators found the pin at the spot.

The bomber was 22-years-old, a native of Khyber District, they said, adding that he was educated at a seminary.

So far the target of the suicide bomber was yet to be identified, they said.

Source: Dawn

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Army aware of external enemies’ ‘nefarious designs’ to disturb peace in Balochistan: COAS Munir

Naveed Siddiqui

January 17, 2023

Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir said on Tuesday that the Pakistan Army was aware of the “nefarious designs of external enemies of Pakistan” to disturb the peace in Balochistan.

According to a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the army chief made the remarks while visiting the province’s Khuzdar and Basima areas.

He was received by Quetta Corps Commander Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor.

The ISPR statement said Gen Munir was briefed on the prevailing security situation and the formation’s operational preparedness, along with measures being taken to ensure a “peaceful and secure environment”.

“While interacting with troops, COAS emphasised on maintaining optimum operational readiness to thwart attempts by foreign sponsored and supported hostile elements to destabilise Balochistan,” the statement said.

“We are aware of the nefarious designs of external enemies of Pakistan to disturb the hard-earned peaceful environment in Balochistan,” the ISPR statement quoted the army chief as saying.

He also said that the army’s deployment and operations were being “focused” in Balochistan to provide an “enabling environment for benevolent people-centric socioeconomic development”.

Over the past few months, the law and order situation in the country has worsened, with terrorist groups executing attacks with near impunity across the country.

Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Source: Dawn

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North America


First Illinois Muslim American Lawmakers Begin Work in Diverse Legislature

January 17, 2023

Kane Farabaugh


Walking through the center of the city in the shadow of the looming domes of two state Capitol buildings — the old one and the new — it’s hard to miss the signs of history marked throughout Springfield, Illinois, the launching pad of the political careers of U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.

“It is surreal to know that Abraham Lincoln was in the same position as me at one point,” said Nabeela Syed while standing in front of a statue of the “Great Emancipator” at the entrance to the current Illinois state Capitol.

While Lincoln made a name for himself at the old Capitol building a few blocks away, history is very much on the mind of Syed as she walks amid the rows of well-polished wooden desks and leather chairs lined up on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives.

“Our tour guide said he actually took a picture of Barack Obama in the same exact place that me and my family were posing,” Syed told Voice of America. “So, to think about the history that exists here in Springfield and the history that we’re contributing, it’s an incredible feeling.”

Making history

Syed and her colleague Abdelnasser Rashid are about to make their own history as the 103rd Legislative session in Illinois gets underway. They are the first Muslim American lawmakers ever elected to the Statehouse.

“I think considering that Illinois has the highest per capita population of Muslims, I do wish it happened sooner, because I know the importance of representation,” Syed said.

In November, Syed defeated an incumbent Republican to win her suburban Chicago district.

“Not only am I Democrat, but I am a hijab-wearing Muslim, Indian American woman,” said Syed. “Our values, the way that we communicate our message, the way we engage our community, went beyond those things that people consider obstacles, and we flipped our district.”

At 23, Syed is also among the youngest women ever elected in Illinois and begins her term among other notable firsts in the Illinois House of Representatives, led by the first Black speaker, with the first female Republican House leader, and the largest Asian American caucus in the General Assembly.

“As the first Palestinian elected to the legislature and as one of two Muslims, I also carry the voices of so many people who have been marginalized and have been yearning for representation. And I take that responsibility very seriously,” said Rashid, who now represents a suburban Chicago district with a large Latino population.

“It is not just about adding the number of colored faces, it is more about perspectives and strategies and position. That’s why I think they got the support from the broader community, not only the Muslim population alone,” said Kikue Hamayotsu, a political science professor at Northern Illinois University.

She credits Rashid and Syed’s successful election campaigns to their focus and messaging on the issues concerning voters and not necessarily their identity.

“The things and policies they talked about are more about imminent important issues such as reproductive health, abortion law. Also gender issues, religious freedom at a time when religious conservatism is rising to influence politics,” Hamayotsu said.

“I think the lesson of my election and Nabeela’s election and so many more — it’s not just Muslims,” said Rashid. “It’s folks like Hoan Huynh, a Vietnamese refugee who was elected. People like Sharon Chung, a Korean-American who was elected. The number of people who are in the Illinois legislature is reflective of the diversity of our state. This is something that we should take pride in, and something that we should embrace so that our government continues to reflect the wishes of its people. I think where we have a strong healthy vibrant democracy, we’ll have better outcomes for all of us.”

'Our democracy is composed of us'

As he reflects on a long, memorable day that included his swearing-in ceremony, Rashid was hopeful about the signal his and Syed’s elections send to others with similar backgrounds who may be debating their own political careers.

“My election gives confidence to people who may have been hesitant to run but now realize that they can. I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘I didn’t think that you could win, and now my eyes are open,” he said.

Syed hopes others who also wear the hijab might see her as an example of what is possible instead of what is not.

“Our democracy is composed of us,” she told VOA. “And we are contributing to making America amazing.”

Source: VOA News

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US encourages EU, UK terror designation of IRGC: State Department

17 January ,2023

The US supports the recent consideration of the European Union and the United Kingdom to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization amid ramped-up pressure to further isolate the Iranian regime.

While the IRGC is designated as a foreign terrorist organization and a specially designated global terrorist by the US, European countries have been hesitant to follow suit.

But in recent months, as Tehran cracked down on protestors and stalled talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, attitudes appear to be changing in European capitals.

Iran has also detained several European citizens and even executed a dual Iranian-British citizen, who Tehran accused of being a foreign spy.

On Tuesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen voiced her support for designating the IRGC as a terror group. Doing so would make it illegal to belong to the group or hoist its flag in public.

British media reports have suggested that London is seriously considering the move.

The State Department said it is encouraging its allies to consider the designation.

“Certainly, we encourage our allies and partners to consider any applicable sanctions authorities, including whether the IRGC should be designated as a terrorist organization under their laws,” a State Department official told Al Arabiya English. “As you know, the IRGC remains designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).”

The Biden administration reportedly considered dropping the IRGC from its blacklist last year as it became adamant about reaching a nuclear deal with Iran. However, bipartisan opposition to the agreement within the US Congress and reported Pentagon frustration put this on hold.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Blinken says US ‘appalled’ by execution of British-Iranian national

January 18, 2023

WASHINGTON: The United States is appalled by Iran’s execution of Alireza Akbari, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, vowing that Tehran’s abuses in its crackdown of widespread demonstrations will not go unpunished.

“We were appalled by the execution of Mr. Akbari just as we’ve been appalled by everything we’ve been seeing on the streets of Iran over the last months since these protests began: mass arrests, sham trials, the executions, the use of sexual violence as a tool for protests’ suppression,” Blinken said at a news conference.

“These abuses will not go without consequence. Together with many other countries, we’ve been moving forward with a variety of unilateral actions, multilateral measures, using UN mechanisms, to try to hold Iran to account,” he added.

Akbari, 61, a British-Iranian national who once served as Tehran’s deputy defense minister, was handed a death sentence on charges of spying for Britain.

London has said the charges against him were politically motivated. It repeatedly called for his release. Following the execution, it imposed sanctions on Iran’s Prosecutor General

The execution drew widespread condemnation and looks set to further worsen Iran’s long-strained relations with the West, which have deteriorated since talks to revive its 2015 nuclear deal hit deadlock and after Tehran unleashed a deadly crackdown on protesters last year.

Source: Arab News

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Türkiye 'Important Partner, Not Only In Region but Around World': Pentagon

Servet Günerigök 



Türkiye has an important partnership with the US on the global stage, a spokesman for the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder responded to a question on the Pentagon's possible message to Congress on the conclusion of a deal to sell F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye.

Ryder said it is a Congressional decision to make, adding "the United States and Turkey share an alliance and they're an important partner, not only in the region but around the world.”

Asked by Anadolu how important this potential sale is for military relations, which have been strained over the years due to several issues, he stressed that the US views Türkiye as "an important ally."

"Certainly when it comes to the bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkey, we've always said that Turkey is an important partner and important ally.

"And so we'll continue to work closely with Turkey's leaders on how we can bolster that relationship and insure that our mutual defense needs are considered," he added.

The US State Department sent Congress its decision on the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye for a tiered review last week, sources told Anadolu on Friday.

The notification on the sale has been conveyed to the chairs and ranking members of relevant committees in the House of Representatives and Senate, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Iran on Black teacher killing: People of color still facing severe human rights violations in US

18 January 2023

Iran says the American police's recent grisly murder of an unarmed Black teacher bespeaks the dire human rights conditions that people of color face across the United States.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan'ani made the remarks in a tweet on Tuesday, commenting on the death of the victim, Keenan Anderson, after he was repeatedly tasered by police officers in Los Angeles, a development that has sparked a massive outcry throughout the United States.

Anderson, 31, cousin of Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, died at a hospital in Santa Monica, California, after suffering a cardiac arrest following the incident on the afternoon of January 3 in Los Angeles’ Venice neighborhood.

Kan'ani described Anderson's death as "tragic." He reminded that the murder had coincided with the day that marks the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., the legendary American civil rights leader, who dedicated his life to the realization of equal treatment for the United States' African-American community.

The murder, the spokesman said, indicated that "despite the passage of five decades following Luther King's murder, his dreams of the Black Americans' equal entitlement to civil rights...has not been realized."

"The people of color," he added, "are still subject to severe violation of basic human rights and racist treatment."

According to reports, the school teacher was repeatedly tasered by Los Angeles police officers and heavy-handedly restrained following a traffic accident. In a 13-minute body-cam footage released by the Los Angeles Police Department, Anderson was seen begging for help as multiple officers held him to the ground and one officer pressed his elbow along with his body weight onto his neck.

Source: Press TV

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About 150 terrorist entities, individuals based or linked with Pakistan blacklisted by UN

Jan 17, 2023

NEW YORK: About 150 terrorist entities and individuals, either based or with links to Pakistan have been blacklisted by the UN, with the latest addition being of Abdul Rehman Makki, the Lashkar-e-Taiba deputy chief designated by the Security Council's Al Qaeda sanctions committee.

The UN Security Council's 1267 ISIL (Da'esh) and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee added 68-year-old Makki to its list of designated terrorists on Monday, subjecting him to assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.

As per the Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee list, nearly 150 terror entities and individuals blacklisted by the UN are either based in Pakistan, have links in the country or operate from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas.

Among those who have been blacklisted are Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader and Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, a top commander of the LeT and key conspirator of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, founder of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group Masood Azhar and Fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who has addresses in Pakistan.

Last year, India said during an open briefing of the Counter-Terrorism Committee that Pakistan, the "epicentre of terrorism nurtures terrorist entities with links to more than 150 UN-designated entities and individuals."

"The world had witnessed the horrors of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, the 2016 Pathankot terror attack, and the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack. We all know from where the perpetrators of these attacks came from," Counsellor in India's Permanent Mission to the UN Rajesh Parihar said as he delivered India's national statement at the open briefing on the work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) with the Member States of South and South-East Asia.

In a reference to Pakistan, he had said it was "regretful" that victims of these dastardly attacks are yet to get justice, and the perpetrators, facilitators and financiers of these attacks continue to walk free and "still enjoying State support and hospitality". Makki's listing comes seven months after China put a hold on a joint proposal by India and the US to designate the head of the political affairs wing of JuD/LeT and the brother-in-law of LeT chief Saeed.

Decisions to list individuals and entities under the 1267 sanctions committee are made through consensus.

Source: Times Of India

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Dutch authorities arrest suspected Islamic State security chief

January 17, 2023

Dutch authorities arrested a Syrian man on Tuesday who is suspected of having been a security chief for the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra extremist groups during Syria's grinding civil war, prosecutors said.

"It is suspected that from his position at IS he also contributed to the war crimes that the organization committed in Syria," the National Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

The 37-year-old man, whose name wasn't released, was detained in the small village of Arkel, about 30 miles east of the port city of Rotterdam, prosecutors said in a statement.

The man is suspected of holding "a managerial position in the security service of IS" from 2015-2018, prosecutors said. For two years prior to that, he allegedly carried out the same work for Jabhat al-Nusra. Prosecutors say he held both functions "in and around the Yarmouk refugee camp" south of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The suspect applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 2019 and later settled in Arkel, prosecutors said. He was scheduled to appear before an examining magistrate in The Hague on Feb. 20.

Source: Fox News

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Far-Right Terrorism Rise in UK 'Masks Threat of Islamist Extremism'

Laura O'Callaghan

Jan 17, 2023

Britain cannot afford to underestimate the threat Islamist terrorism continues to pose to its security, an expert has warned, amid growing emphasis on the rise of far-right ideology among prisoners.

Dr Paul Stott, head of security and extremism at Policy Exchange, said officials were shining a light on the threat of far-right terrorism while playing down that of Islamist extremism, which he argued was greater.

Dr Stott also warned of a possible resurgence of ISIS and what he considered a lack of focus by the UK on the Middle East.

In the year to September, 239 people were in custody for terrorism-related offences in Britain, Home Office figures showed. The number of extreme right-wing prisoners hit its highest level on record while the proportion classified as Islamist extremists fell to its lowest.

In an interview with The National, Dr Stott cautioned against using the data to misjudge the make-up of the UK’s terrorism landscape.

He highlighted the same set of statistics, which showed 155 (65 per cent) were Islamist extremists while 66 (28 per cent) were far-right extremists.

“It’s a great paradox,” Dr Stott said. “In my view, the British far-right is weaker than it has been at any point in my lifetime.

“I think it’s important that we see it in context.

“I don’t think it’s that difficult; it should be perfectly simple. There are two significant threats in terms of terrorism and one is bigger than the other.”

The Prevent strategy, the government's counter-terrorism programme, has in the past failed to acknowledge the severity of the threat posed by Islamist extremism, Dr Stott said. Instead, he said the government channelled more energy towards highlighting far-right risks or unclassified cases which are linked to mental health concerns.

The publication of a review of the strategy — which exists to prevent radicalisation and thwart terrorist attacks — has reportedly been delayed due to a row among ministers.

The policy came under renewed scrutiny after it was revealed that the home-grown terrorist who murdered Sir David Amess, a Conservative MP, had continued to plot his attack in secret after being referred to the programme.

There are high hopes that the review, led by William Shawcross, will lead to closed loopholes in the Prevent strategy.

Mr Shawcross, an experienced writer and commentator, was appointed to conduct the review in 2021. He was previously responsible for regulating aid groups across England and Wales in his role as chairman of the Charity Commission.

A shake-up of the policy is well overdue, Dr Stott said, adding that clarification on non-ideological terrorism is urgently needed.

Only 18 terrorist inmates (8 per cent) as of September were classified as having no specific ideology. Yet huge amounts of resources are being used by Prevent officials in trying to deal with cases in this bracket.

“I think what we’re looking for is a greater degree of focus,” Dr Stott said. “An enormous amount of Prevent referrals are being made for those showing mixed, unclear or unstable ideologies.

“It’s a catch-all category. I hope the Shawcross review will give some clarity to that because it does not appear to have the same logic or the same basis as Islamist or far-right extremism.

“It’s just not clear what these individuals are suffering from.

“The suspicion is that it is mental health support that is needed and it will be fast-tracked.”

Age a factor in radicalisation

The former researcher at the Henry Jackson Society and tutor at SOAS University of London said his years of experience in counter-terrorism suggested there were huge differences between how people came to be radicalised by different ideologies.

Dr Stott said it was common for groups of young men to be drawn to Islamist ideology, a trend the West saw in the huge numbers who moved to Syria to join ISIS, while the far-right is attractive to loners.

“If you look at the age profiles of far-right terrorists it often involves significantly older people,” he said, citing the killer of Labour MP Jo Cox and a Dover migrant centre fire-bomber as examples.

“They are people who are sometimes quite isolated and seek what will give them a degree of comfort.

“Lockdown may have influenced radicalisation. It would not be surprising because we’ve been through an extraordinary period.”

A government representative said. “The terrorist threat in the UK is complex and constantly evolving, which is why the government takes all forms of terrorism seriously — including the extreme right-wing. We are committed to tackling all those who spread views that promote violence and hatred against individuals and communities, and that radicalise others.

“Prevent remains a vital tool against radicalisation and has already changed and saved the lives of individuals from all walks of life, with over 3,000 people offered early interventions through the Channel programme."

Lack of focus on Middle East is 'dangerous'

Security experts recently warned Britain and its allies should be braced for a possible resurgence of ISIS in Syria as early as this year.

They said the terrorists might try to liberate 10,000 of its fighters from Syrian prisons and detention camps as a way to rebuild its caliphate.

At the height of its rule, ISIS held a third of Syrian territory and 40 per cent of Iraq.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are responsible for running prisons and camps housing ISIS fighters, and their wives and children.

Dr Stott said the possible return of ISIS should sound alarm bells in Britain and jolt the government into taking preventive action. He suggested the SDF needed more support to contain the threat before it is too late.

“There's very little focus in the UK on the Middle East at the moment,” he said. “That's potentially quite dangerous.

“It's the Kurds who are holding the line against ISIS. They were badly led down by [former US president Donald] Trump but support for the Kurds is important.

“What may well [happen] is they are not going to be able to do this indefinitely. If we don't have a resolution to this [ISIS fighters] may break out from prisons.

“There's also the issue that some of the young people who are coming of age in these camps are of fighting age and are ideal recruits for ISIS.”

In late 2019, Mr Trump astonished foreign policy experts and politicians in his own party by pulling support from the Kurds.

Source: The National News

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Virgin Mary, Sufism and flamenco: Lost Muslim influences in Spain

By Steffani Garcia

17 January 2023

The Virgin Mary has a uniquely exalted place within Islam - an overlooked and sometimes simplified commonality between Islam and Christianity, particularly Catholicism.

Both Abrahamic faiths designate Mary or Maryam as the mother of Jesus and both revere her as one of the greatest women in their respective traditions.

It is no surprise then that in lands historically shared by Christians and Muslims there is a tradition of devotional practices common to both faiths, particularly in the land of "la convivencia" (coexistence), or Al Andalus.

The name "Al Andalus" refers to the collective of Muslim-ruled taifas, or mini-Islamic kingdoms, in the Iberian Peninsula between 711 and 1492 CE, whose boundaries constantly changed as the Christian conquest of the region, or Reconquista, progressed.

Christian control over Spain was followed by the vicious and merciless Inquisition, which started in 1478 and only disbanded in 1834.

Those in charge of the Inquisition sought to expunge Spain of anything that was deemed not Spanish or Christian. Many of the victims of these attacks and investigations were native Iberian Jews and Muslims.

The persecution of these groups was formative in the creation of Spanish identity, as one rooted firmly in Christianity.

Ultimately, it did not matter where you were born, if you did not abide by the Inquisition’s stringent brand of Catholicism, you were not Spanish.

It was the Inquisition that forced many Muslims and Jews underground, as crypto-Muslims and Jews - people who outwardly practiced Catholicism but held to their original religions in secret.

Notably, it was during this period of forced occultation that many of the customs, traditions and art styles associated with Spain manifested. 

They include the mudejar architecture, which dominates Spanish towns and cities. The word "mudejar" comes from the Arabic mudajjan, meaning subjugated or domesticated, and refers to the group of Muslims who remained in Iberia after the Inquisition.

There is also flamenco, which many anthropologists say is etymologically derived from the Arabic term "falah mengu" meaning "wandering peasant" in Arabic.

Flamenco as we know it today arose in the early 18th century at the height of the Inquisition, in towns in Baja Andalusia, as an amalgamation of the musical traditions of oppressed Arabs, Sephardic Jews and gitanos (gypsies).

Arguably, the imprint of Islam, Arabs and the Inquisition has not only marked Spain’s place names and buildings, but the very religious disposition that it ironically sought to instil and preserve, the way even modern-day Spaniards practice their faith.

Anyone who is familiar with the Spanish brand of Catholicism knows too well the multiple devotions of the Virgin Mary that are held sacred in this part of the Mediterranean.

Golden flower-strewn effigies are regally paraded through the streets, from "la Virgen del Carmen" to "la Virgen de las Angustias" during their feast days.

Moreover, the reverence of sainthood is also culturally pervasive; every town and city in Spain has a patron saint, and a typical Spanish family will celebrate their saint’s day with as equal significance as their birthday.

Sufi influences

One of the arguments for this unique religious character is its roots in "tasawuf" or Sufism, a tradition within Islam that prevails to this day in certain communities in North Africa.

Sufism is characterised by ritualism and esotericism; sacred areas or institutions are known as zawiyas, and are periodically visited by groups of devotees or brotherhoods known as tariqas. Zawiyas often form around the tombs of past Sufi teachers or saints.

A prime example of this is the visitation of the tomb of Sidi Boumediene (Abu Madyan) in Tlemcen, Algeria. Incidentally, Sidi Boumediene was a key founder of Sufism in the Maghreb region, and born in Ishbiliya, modern-day Sevilla, in Andalusia.

In the historic region of Al Andalus, you could find these zawiyas throughout its territory and find its parallel in the devotion many Andalusians have towards various depictions or devotions of the Virgin Mary.

One such devotion to the Virgin Mary, called "la Romeria de la Virgen de Fuente Clara", is based on a legend in which Mary appears to the soldiers of Rey Santo during the conquest of Seville in around 1248.

Some scholars of Al Andalus claim that before being taken over by Catholics, the site of the pilgrimage allegedly belonged to the tomb of a Sufi saint.

Similar to the Sufi tradition of visiting tombs, the romeria is a pilgrimage, where devotees make their way by foot and horse, accompanied by illustrious caravans, to a particular holy site, often covering long distances.

These devotions are usually organised by cofradias, which are voluntary groups of laymen dedicated to the preservation of religious sites, and hermandades (brotherhoods).

That style of organisation also offers compelling similarity to the way Sufi tariqas and zawiyas were organised in the region, something academic Francisco Botella Maldonado alludes to in his book Las llaves escondidas de Al Andalus (The Hidden Keys of Al Andalus). 

Another inextricable link between the Sufism of Al Andalus and its illustrations in latter-day Catholic Spain is the story of San Juan de la Cruz (St John of the Cross), a prolific Spanish priest and mystic.

Luce Lopez-Baralt, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, proposes that the poetry and teachings of St John were directly influenced by Muslim mystics such as the Andalusian scholar Ibn Arabi.

St John's esoteric poem, Ascenso al Carmelo (Climbing Mount Carmel) and Ibn Arabi’s Futuhat al Makkiyya (The Meccan Illumination) both evoke the idea of ridding oneself of the idea of truth in our earthly lives and instead understanding that only God is the ultimate truth.

St John’s writings come centuries after Ibn Arabi, and highlight a key tenet of Sufi Islam, "fana" (to cease to exist), which alludes to extinguishing one’s ego to seek closeness to God.

It is a near certainty that St John picked up most of his Sufi lore from the moriscos (Muslim converts to Christianity), or even his own mother, Catalina Alvarez, who was a morisca herself.

Convergence of cultures

A final anecdote to present is the story of "La Ermita de Nuestra Senora de las Angustias"(Hermitage of Our Lady of Sorrows), founded in 1720 in the coastal town of Nerja, Malaga, and commissioned by the fascinating Bernarda Maria Alferez Velasco, who married into the wealthy Lopez de Alcantara family.

What is unique and ironic about Alferez Velasco is that she was a crypto-Muslim, and as a result was unscrupulously investigated by the courts of the Inquisition in a scandal that spanned over two years.

Her land and possessions were seized and she was forced to wear a sambenito (a penitential garment used to signal heretics during the Inquisition). She was ultimately spared execution because of her noble stature.

We can infer that the arguable Muslim influence on La Virgen de la Fuente Clara or St John of the Cross’s writings is a result of the convergence of different cultures and how they symbiotically influence one another.

But, it begs the question, why would a Muslim woman build a chapel devoted to the Virgin Mary? Some argue that she simply followed the instructions and influence of her husband, Lopez Enrique, a powerful and ageing Christian. However, he died in 1713, years before the consecration of the hermitage.

Bernarda may have found it both comforting and a form of disguise to manifest this explicit and very outward display of devotion to the Virgin Mary, which she could reconcile with her own Islamic faith.

Considering the sanctification of Jesus as the son of God contravenes tawhid, or the oneness of God, in Islam, the veneration of Mary may not have had the same sense of sacrilege for a Muslim.

Moreover, these sincere adorations of the Virgin Mary were not uncommon amongst the morisco population at the time of the Inquisition, possibly as a way of disguising their faith.

Fundamentally, amongst these anecdotes and anthropological theories, one thing is clear: the veneration of the Virgin Mary is a shared one amongst Christians and Muslims.

Source: Middle East Eye

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EU’s Von der Leyen backs listing Iran’s Guards as terrorist group

January 17, 2023

DAVOS, Switzerland: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday she backed listing Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization to respond to the “trampling” of “fundamental human rights” in the country.

Ties between the EU member states and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks have stalled. Tehran has detained several European nationals and the bloc has become increasingly critical of a continuing violent crackdown on protesters, including executions.

“The reaction of Iran regime is atrocious and horrible and they are trampling over fundamental human rights,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

The European Union is discussing a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran over the crackdown and Iran’s supply of weapons to Russia. Diplomatic sources have said members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will be added to the sanctions list next week.

But some member states have called for the bloc to go further and classify the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Britain is expected to make the decision in the coming weeks.

“We are looking indeed at a new round of sanctions and I would support also listing the Revolutionary Guards. I have heard several ministers asking for that and I think they are right,” Von der Leyen said.

Widespread anti-government demonstrations erupted in Iran in September after the death of young Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by morality police for allegedly flouting the strict dress code imposed on women.

Iranian leaders vowed tough action against protesters they have described as rioters, accusing enemies including the United States of fomenting the unrest.

Designating the IRGC as a terrorist group would mean that it would become a criminal offense to belong to the group, attend its meetings, and carry its logo in public.

Set up after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shi’ite clerical ruling system, the Guards have great sway in Iran, controlling swathes of the economy and armed forces and put in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the “appalling” capital punishment, stalling of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) and supply of drones and weapons from Iran to Russia needed a firm reaction.

“All these components: human rights, delivering arms to Russia and blocking the final agreement on JCPOA have been negative factors and I think the EU is more and more reacting. It’s important we react strongly,” he said, adding that there was still debate among EU members on sanctions and the listing of the IRGC.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, cautioned that the IRGC was already listed on the tougher human rights sanctions regime, but that the debate was open among EU states.

Source: Arab News

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Greece expresses ‘deep concern’ over Israeli bulldozing activity on Jerusalem patriarchates property


Greece expressed “deep concern” Tuesday over the bulldozing of a plot of land by Israeli forces which belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church.

“We reiterate in the strongest terms our continued support for the protection of the property rights and privileges of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Palestinian sources said Sunday that Israeli forces began bulldozing a 5,000-square-meter (1.23-acre) plot of land owned by the patriarchate in Eastern Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood, which is home to over 60,000 Palestinians.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Greece’s Turkish minority sends letter to UN over its problems

Ayhan Mehmet  



Greece’s Turkish minority sent a letter Tuesday to the UN’s special rapporteur on minority issues about problems it is facing.

The letter was sent by the Friendship and Equality Party (DEB) and was supported by numerous minority religious, educational, and civil associations. It highlighted problems with minority education, including Greece’s intervention in the minority’s autonomous educational system.

While more than 100 minority schools were closed in the last two decades, authorities did not permit the opening of bilingual kindergartens whose curricula would be taught in Turkish and Greek, said the letter.

It underscored that authorities also act in violation of international obligations regarding the Turkish minority’s rights by not legally allowing them to elect their religious leaders.

The letter said Turkish institutions are closed under the pretext that Greece does not have an internationally recognized Turkish minority and hence associations’ names cannot include “Turkish.”

It is noteworthy that Greece does not act in accordance with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that favored the minority concerning the status of the associations, it added.

The Western Thrace region, near the northeastern border with Türkiye, is home to a substantial, long-established Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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South Asia


Forming New Parties Outside Afghanistan Not a Solution: Islamic Emirate

By Imran Danish

In reaction to the formation of a new political party by former intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil, the Islamic Emirate said that the appearance of parties outside the country is not a solution for the problems faced by Afghanistan, adding that the country needs unity among the people.

Islamic Emirate Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that those who form such parties have already been tested by the nations and are a failed experience of Afghanistan.

“The announcement of parties and movements is not a solution to the problems. Even if it changes its color and covers for hundreds of times, Afghans know them,” he said.

Nabil announced the formation of a new party on Monday evening, He called on the international community, neighboring countries and political figures to take steps for the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue in Afghanistan.

“To pass through the crisis and ensure peace in the country, the contribution of elders in the formation of a major summit and presence of the people and other sides is important," he said.

After the fall republican government, several parties were established outside Afghanistan.

Analysts said that the announcement of parties overseas doesn’t impact the situation in Afghanistan.

“The parties that are founded outside the country are formed by those who are known for our people," said Torialai Zazai, a political analyst.

Source: Tolo News

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Rohingya fleeing Myanmar or Bangladesh by sea surged fivefold in 2022- UN

17 January, 2023

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -The number of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar or Bangladesh by sea surged fivefold to more than 3,500 in 2022 from a year earlier, the U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday, in the deadliest year for the ethnic minority group at since 2014.

At least 348 Rohingya died or went missing as they attempted to cross the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal last year, with the figure reaching alarming levels after the sinking of a boat in December, with all 180 Rohingya Muslims on board presumed dead, the UNHCR said in a statement.

“They undertake dangerous sea journeys seeking protection, security, family reunification, and livelihoods in other countries. Growing desperation in Myanmar and Bangladesh appears to have driven the increasing numbers undertaking sea journeys in 2022,” the agency said.

The Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority group that has lived in Myanmar for centuries but has been denied citizenship in the Buddhist-majority nation since 1982, are seen as illegal immigrants from South Asia.

Nearly 1 million Rohingya from Myanmar are additionally living in crowded facilities in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, including tens of thousands who fled Myanmar after its military conducted a deadly crackdown in 2017.

Most boats carrying the Rohingya departed from Myanmar and Bangladesh, the UNHCR said, and those on board disembarked primarily in Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

In 2014, more than 700 people were estimated to have lost their lives or were missing with nearly 60,000 taking the risky sea journeys, an UNHCR spokesperson told Reuters.

The number of women and children undertaking the dangerous sea journeys rose by 7% last year from 2021, and comprised nearly 45% of those disembarking.

Source: The Print

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Taliban (IEA) Authorities Flog Nine People in Kandahar

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 17, 2023

The Islamic Emirate court in southern Kandahar has announced that nine people allegedly accused of committing “adultery and theft” have been flogged in public in this province.

Kandahar province’s court of appeals announced in a press release on Monday that nine individuals allegedly accused of committing adultery and theft have been lashed in public. The Taliban authorities have not provided further clarifications in this regard.

Meanwhile, according to official sources, the Islamic Emirate authorities have lashed a man and woman in front of a huge crowd in Badakhshan province, accused of having extramarital affairs.

Public punishment which includes flogging, stoning, and public execution has been widely exercised by the Taliban authorities across the country in the recent past, drawing massive criticism from the international community.

Taliban Supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada issued a series of decrees in the recent past, legitimizing some strict practices which are not in line with the contemporary lifestyle of the people. Barring Afghan girls from getting secondary education and university lessons is a clear example, which sparked serious demonstrations in some parts of Afghanistan.

Additionally, the latest announcement by the Taliban which restricted women employees from working with non-governmental aid organizations was another clear example of their gender-based apartheid policies.

Although a considerable number of international aid organizations and foreign governments called on Afghanistan’s de facto authorities to reverse their decision – respect human rights, particularly that of women and girls, nothing has changed for better so far.

Afghan women and girls have been left deprived of their inherent rights to participate in education, work, sports and more – with no hope, no future, and no prospects under the country’s ruling regime.

Source: Khaama Press

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Taliban Publicly Cut Off Hands Of 4 Men Over Alleged Theft Charges

January 18, 2023

Kandahar: The Taliban on Tuesday publicly flogged nine convicted of robbery and "sodomy" in Ahmad Shahi Stadium in Kandahar.

"The Supreme Court said in a statement that nine people were punished in Ahmad Shahi Stadium in Kandahar on Tuesday on charges of robbery and 'sodomy'", tweeted Tolo News.

Local authorities and Kandahar residents were in attendance during the lashing. The spokesman for the provincial governor, Haji Zaid, said the convicts were lashed 35-39 times.

Meanwhile, former Policy Advisor to Minister for Afghan Resettlement & Minister for Refugees in the UK, Shabnam Nasimi said that the Taliban have reportedly cut off the hands of four people in a football stadium in Kandahar.

"The Taliban have reportedly cut off the hands of 4 people in a football stadium in Kandahar today, accused of theft, in front of spectators. People are being lashed, amputated & executed in Afghanistan, without fair trial and due process. This is a human rights violation," she tweeted.

Despite international condemnation, the Taliban has resumed the flogging and the public execution of criminals following a decree by the hard-liners' supreme leader.

UN experts are deeply aggrieved about a public execution and that flogging has resumed in Afghanistan and call on the de facto authorities to halt immediately all forms of severe, cruel and degrading forms of punishments.

They said in a statement, "Since November 18, 2022, the de facto authorities have reportedly carried out floggings of over 100 individuals, both women and men, in several provinces including Takhar, Logar, Laghman, Parwan and Kabul. Each was given between 20 and 100 lashes for alleged crimes including theft, 'illegitimate' relationships or violating social behaviour codes. While the criminalisation of relationships outside of wedlock seems gender-neutral, in practice, punishment is overwhelmingly directed against women and girls. The flogging has been carried out in stadiums in the presence of officials and members of the public."

On December 7, 2022, the Taliban publicly executed a man in Farah city, Farah province, in what appears to be the first public execution since seizing power in August 2021.

"Senior de facto officials, including the Deputy Prime Minister and Chief Justice, were in attendance. The application of these punishments began after the Supreme Leader on November 13, 2022 ordered the judiciary to implement Hudood (crimes against God) and Qisas (retribution in kind) punishments across the country," added the statement.

Public floggings and executions violate universal principles prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Afghanistan is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which prohibits torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. The public spectacle of these punishments makes them especially distasteful and undignified.

"We are additionally raising doubts about the fairness of the trials preceding these punishments, which appear not to satisfy basic fair trial guarantees. International human rights law prohibits the implementation of such cruel sentences, especially the death penalty, following trials that apparently do not offer the required fair trial guarantees," added the statement.

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Source: ND TV

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UN's Top Woman In Afghanistan For Talks On Taliban Crackdown

18 JAN 2023

The highest-ranking woman in the United Nations arrived in Kabul on Tuesday at the head of a delegation promoting the rights of women and girls, a response to the recent crackdown by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, a former Nigerian Cabinet minister and a Muslim, was joined by Sima Bahous, executive director of UN Women, the UN agency promoting gender equality and women's rights, and Assistant Secretary General for political affairs Khaled Khiari, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Haq said he could not disclose their schedule or specific meetings in Kabul for security reasons.

UN officials have held a series of high-level consultations across the Gulf, Asia and Europe “to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in an effort to promote and protect women's and girls' rights, peaceful coexistence and sustainable development,” the spokesman said.

Members of the delegation met with leaders of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Islamic Development Bank, groups of Afghan women in Ankara, Turkey, and Islamabad, and a group of ambassadors and special envoys to Afghanistan based in Doha, the capital of Qatar, he said.

“Throughout the visits,” Haq said, “countries and partners recognised the critical role of the UN in finding a pathway to a lasting solution as well as the need to continue to deliver lifesaving support” and asked that efforts be intensified “to reflect the urgency of the situation.”

A December 24 order from the Taliban barring aid groups from employing women is paralysing deliveries that help keep millions of Afghans alive, and threatening humanitarian services countrywide.

As another result of the ban, thousands of women who work for such organisations across the war-battered country are facing the loss of income they desperately need to feed their own families. The Taliban previously banned girls from attending secondary schools and women from attending universities and issued restrictions on foreign travel and their movements within the country.

The Taliban took power again in August 2021 following the chaotic withdrawal of US and NATO forces after 20 years in Afghanistan. As it did when it first ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, the militant group has gradually reimposed Islamic law, or Sharia, driving women out of schools, jobs and aid work, and increasingly into their homes.

The officials of other nations with whom the UN leaders met said it was important for the international community to unite and speak with one voice, Haq noted.

“The need for a revitalised and realistic political pathway was consistently highlighted and all remained firm on the fundamental principles, including women's and girls' rights to education, work and public life in Afghanistan,” he said.

Source: Outlook India

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Davos 2023: Qatar says engagement with Taliban needed despite ‘disappointing’ actions

17 January, 2023

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – Qatar’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that recent measures taken by Afghanistan’s Taliban-led administration were “very disappointing” but that Doha would continue engaging as the only way forward to achieve change on the ground.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Doha was also consulting with other Muslim countries to establish a dialogue with Taliban officials in Kandahar, and while it would “not be an easy job” it was important to keep trying.

Source: The Print

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Southeast Asia


Keep politics out of mosques and surau in Johor, says crown prince Tunku Ismail

18 Jan 2023

JOHOR BAHRU: All mosques and surau (small prayer halls) in Johor are banned from conducting any talks or discussions on political affairs, according to an order by Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim who is also chairman of the state’s Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ).

Malaysian media reported the Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid announcing the crown prince’s order after MAINJ’s special meeting on Tuesday (Jan 17).

Mr Mohd Fared said that the order is in accordance with Section 96 of the Islamic Religious Administration Enactment (State of Johor) 2003.

“I would like to stress that any holding of political programmes in the mosque will not be allowed at all,” said Mr Mohd Fared as quoted by Sinar Harian.

“Action will be taken against anyone who compromises the order by allowing political programmes in nature to take place,” he added.

Besides the ban on political talks, all activities involving religious discourse as well as the speakers involved must first be approved by the relevant religious bodies.

“Any activities in the form of religious talks, usrah (small group discussions), sharing of religious knowledge or others, must obtain authorisation and approval from JAINJ (Johor Religious Affairs Department).”

“All speakers who deliver lectures and share religious knowledge must also be accredited and officially recognised by MAINJ,” said Mr Mohd Fared as quoted by Sinar Harian.

Mr Mohd Fared said that guidelines on the prohibition will be placed in 850 mosques and 2,000 surau throughout Johor as soon as possible.

JAINJ will also meet with all mosque and surau chairmen, state assemblymen, and leaders of all political parties in the state to explain the ban.

“(Mosques are) a gathering place for Muslims to hold religious ceremonies, meetings and activities related to the unity of the community,” said Mr Mohd Fared.

However, he also noted how some parties hide behind religious programmes to spread certain political beliefs.

“Mosques and suraus are now being misused by some insensitive parties when religious programmes are mixed with political elements, causing misunderstanding and division among Muslims,” said Mr Mohd Fared who is Barisan Nasional’s Semerah assemblyman.

He added that the prohibition was not unprecedented as Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar had previously ordered that the religious sanctity and dignity of mosques and surau in the state be maintained.

According to the Malay Mail, in 2019, Sultan Ibrahim ordered JAINJ to act against mosque officials who allowed politicians to conduct activities in mosques, despite several reminders not to allow them.

The Johor ruler made clear that mosques in the state are meant to be free of political ideology.

In other states, religious speakers have also been banned from or given stern warnings against preaching political messages in mosques.

According to Free Malaysia Today, the Kelantan Islamic and Malay Customs Council (MAIK) reminded mosque officials not to be involved in any political activities during the 15th General Elections (GE15) late last year.

In Selangor, the state Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) in 2021 revoked the Islamic teaching certificate of political activists for fear that their certificate would be misused to benefit political parties.

Source: Channel News Asia

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Ex-PAS man to join Umno’s ulama council

January 17, 2023

PETALING JAYA: Former PAS leader Khairuddin Aman Razali will be made a member of the council of ulama (religious scholars) that is to be set up by Umno, says its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

In a Facebook post, Zahid said Khairuddin will be assisting Dusuki Ahmad in the council.

He added that the former plantation industries and commodities minister had previously served as the secretary of the Islamic party’s Syura Council.

Khairuddin was a two-term Kuala Nerus MP before the dissolution of Parliament last October.

Last year, he was sacked as secretary of the PAS Syura Council on Feb 11. A month earlier he was expelled from the party’s central committee.

On March 14 last year, Khairuddin announced that he was resigning from PAS and will be an independent MP. He was also reported to have said that he would not be joining Umno nor setting up a new party.

However, in the recent 15th general election (GE15), Khairuddin tried to defend his seat on a Barisan Nasional ticket but lost to Alias Razak, the candidate from PAS.

Zahid said Dusuki is an Umno veteran and has vast experience and connections among ulama and Islamic scholars in and outside the country.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Malaysian opposition chief Muhyiddin to take legal action in controversy over Sabah MPs

JAN 17, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s opposition leader Muhyiddin Yassin said on Tuesday that his party will take legal action over a decision by Parliament’s Speaker to allow four Sabah MPs to keep their seats instead of holding a fresh by-election to replace them, after their recent defections.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin is president of opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, whose four MPs in eastern Sabah state claimed they had defected to an umbrella organisation, Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), before Malaysia’s Nov 19 General Election in 2022.

Under Malaysia’s new anti-hopping law, MPs who defected from one party to another after the general election last year would automatically lose their seats, and a fresh by-election must be called.

They can retain their seats only if they defected before the polls, as claimed by the four lawmakers, or if the whole party decided to switch sides as a bloc to support another coalition.

The controversy arose after GRS, of which Bersatu is a member, switched sides after the general election to support the so-called unity government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Bersatu remains an opposition party in the federal Parliament.

Speaker Johari Abdul, a member of Datuk Seri Anwar’s party, ruled this week that the four Sabah lawmakers can keep their seats as they had jumped to GRS prior to the polls.

PM Anwar has control of two-thirds of the 222-strong Parliament, meaning his government will not be affected even if a fresh by-election is held for the four seats.

But holding this special vote could reveal that Bersatu and its partner Parti Islam SeMalaysia remain on a winning path, called the “green wave”, that could weaken perceptions of the Anwar administration.

Mr Muhyiddin disagreed with the Speaker’s decision, saying the act by the MP quartet of moving to another faction – even before the general election – triggered a clause in Bersatu’s Constitution that terminated their membership, Malaysiakini news site reported.

He also said that GRS is not a political party but an umbrella organisation of which Bersatu is a founding member.

“Therefore, GRS cannot be defined as another political party, based on the spirit of Clause 10.2.3 of the Bersatu Constitution,” he said in a statement.

Further, Mr Muhyiddin added, there was also evidence that the four MPs were in Bersatu when they won the Nov 19 General Election.

Two days before nominations for the election, on Nov 3, 2022, Mr Muhyiddin said, Sabah Bersatu secretary Mohamed Razali Mohamed Razi had written to party headquarters with a list of GRS candidates attached.

On the list, the former premier said, the four men were listed as Bersatu members. He said he had submitted the said correspondence to the Speaker as evidence.

The four Sabah MPs who now support Mr Anwar are Mr Armizan Mohd Ali, Mr Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan, Mr Jonathan Yasin and Mr Matbali Musah.

Source: Straits Times

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Widodo Defends Right to Worship for Indonesian Minorities

January 18, 2023

Amid concerns over cases of obstruction of worship for religious minorities including Christians by Muslims in Indonesia, President Jokowi Widodo has told heads of provinces and districts to guarantee equal religious freedom to all.

During a coordination meeting with heads of provinces and districts in Sentul, West Java province on Jan. 17, Widodo said local officials should be “careful” to ensure every believer enjoys the same right to worship.

"Those who are Christians, Catholics, Hindus, and Confucians ... have the same rights in terms of freedom of religion and worship," he said, alluding to the four religions recognized by the state in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

He said the constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all, therefore every regional head must pay attention to this matter.

Widodo also highlighted the role of the Forum for Religious Harmony [FKUB] in each region, which often makes agreements contrary to the constitution, such as “agreed not to allow the building of places of worship."

"Don't let the name of the constitution be defeated by an agreement. The constitution must not lose to an agreement," he said.

The FKUB, which was formed by the local government and consists of representatives of all religions, is often criticized by human rights groups who accuse it of making decisions or policies that appease Muslims.

Widodo also asked military leaders, police, and prosecutors to pay attention to freedom of worship and urged regional heads not to issue regulations that contradict the constitution.

He said he brought it up because "I see it's still happening."

“Sometimes I think, how difficult is it for people to worship. It's sad to hear that," he said.

The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, the research and advocacy institute for religious freedom, reported that Catholics and Protestants have frequently faced harassment and abuses over places of worship since 2017. Churches faced resistance to construction, theft, destruction, and attacks including bombings.

In recent years, the number of cases has continued to fluctuate, from 16 in 2017, 13 in 2018, 20 in 2019, and 7 in 2020 to 24 in 2021.

During Christmas last year, the residents and officials banned the Bethlehem Batak Protestant Church in Batu Gede, Bogor district, West Java province from holding Christmas services in their homes.

In a video circulated on social media, residents forbade the congregation to worship at home because they considered it not a place of worship.

The Lebak district head in Banten province also prohibited Christians from celebrating Christmas in the area, which does not have a church, by using shophouses and asking them to worship in churches far away.

Reverend Palti Panjaitan, chairman of a solidarity group for victims of religious persecution told UCA News that the president's statement was "certainly welcome because so far the president has been silent" on repeated violations.

"However, it needs to be followed up by revoking the 2006 Joint Ministerial Decree which has been a tool to perpetuate violations of the rights of minority groups," he said.

He said the joint regulation, which requires the approval of other religious groups before building a house of worship "violated the constitution."

"The establishment permit should not come from the community, but from the state," said the pastor of the Batak Society Christian Church Philadelphia in Bekasi district, West Java. The church has been unable to obtain a permit for a building since 2007 due to resistance from hardline groups and the local government.

He said the president should also ask for strict law enforcement against those who obstruct freedom of religion.

"Every time there is a violation by state or non-state actors, action must be taken,” he said.

Catholic priest, Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, known for his activism for interfaith dialogue and communal harmony, also welcomed the president’s move.

“Regional heads must carry out the constitutional mandate to guarantee freedom of religion as emphasized by the president. They must also provide guidance and understanding to their communities so that mutual respect for fellow believers is created,” the former executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops’ commission on Interreligious Relations and Beliefs, told UCA News.

In dealing with the problem of refusing to build houses of worship or allowing the carrying out of worship activities, the regional head must also play a role in initiating deliberations with all religious adherents, the priest said.

Source: UCA News

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Iran's ‘Death Committee’ President Unyielding In Defence of Clerical Rule

17 January ,2023

As a young prosecutor in Tehran, Ebrahim Raisi sat on a “death committee” overseeing the execution of hundreds of political prisoners in the Iranian capital, rights groups say.

Now president three decades later, and seen by many as Iran's potential next Supreme Leader, Raisi is presiding over an uncompromising response to domestic and international challenges which have seen Iranian courts pass dozens of death sentences.

Four people have been hanged after being convicted on charges related to popular unrest that erupted in September over the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman. On Saturday, Iranian media said former Defense Ministry aide Alireza Akbari was executed for spying.

The executions triggered condemnation from Europe and the US, but Raisi has insisted that “identification, trial and punishment” of all those who authorities believe were involved in violence will continue.

“The executions are aimed at creating a republic of fear in which the people don't dare to protest and the officials don't dare to defect,” said Ali Vaez, the International Crisis Group think-tank's Iran Project Director.

Akbari, who had acquired British nationality and was living abroad, was “lured back” and arrested three years ago, Britain's foreign minister James Cleverly said this week.

Raisi is overseeing an unyielding crackdown on the unrest, in which campaigners say more than 500 protesters and dozens of security force personnel have been killed, echoes his role in a purge of political prisoners in 1988.

Then, in a few weeks following the July ceasefire which ended eight years of war with Iraq, Iranian authorities conducted secret mass executions of thousands of imprisoned dissidents and opponents of the Islamic Republic.

Inquisitions, known as “death committees”, were set up across Iran comprising religious judges, prosecutors and intelligence ministry officials to decide the fate of thousands of detainees in arbitrary trials which lasted just a few minutes, according to a report by Amnesty International.

While the number of people killed across the country was never confirmed, Amnesty said minimum estimates put it at 5,000.

Raisi, then deputy prosecutor general for Tehran, was a member of the capital's death committee, according to Amnesty.

Human Rights Watch, in a report published last year, quoted a prisoner saying he saw Raisi at a prison outside Tehran and that Raisi would go to the execution site to ensure the process was carried out correctly.

Asked in 2021 about allegations he was involved in the killings, Raisi said: “If a judge, a prosecutor has defended the security of the people, he should be praised ... I am proud to have defended human rights in every position I have held.”

The presidential office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this article.

Iranian officials acknowledged the executions but played down the scale. In February 1989, President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that “less than 1,000 were executed”. In 2016, another member of the Tehran “death committee” said, “We are proud to have carried out God's order,” state media reported.

“Raisi has been brought up as president for a few reasons, including his brutality, loyalty, and lack of conscience. He showed these characteristics in 1988,” said Saeid Golgar of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“He is entirely on board with political repression.”

Sanctioned by US

Raisi was born in 1960 to a religious family in Iran's northeastern Shi'ite Muslim city of Mashhad. He lost his father at the age of five, but followed his footsteps to become a cleric.

As a young student at a religious seminary in the central holy city of Qom, he joined protests against the Western-backed Shah in the 1979 revolution. Later his contacts with religious leaders in Qom made him a trusted figure in the judiciary.

Raisi served as deputy head of the judiciary for 10 years, before being appointed prosecutor-general in 2014. Five years later, the US imposed sanctions on him for human rights violations, including the 1980s executions.

Seeking the presidency, Raisi lost to pragmatic incumbent Hassan Rouhani in a 2017 election. His failure was widely attributed to a then 28-year-old audio tape that surfaced in 2016 and purportedly highlighted his role in the executions.

In the recording, the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, then deputy supreme leader, spoke of the killings. Montazeri’s son was arrested and jailed for releasing the tape.

Raisi's 2021 presidential campaign ended in a victory which brought all branches of power in the country under the control of hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the first time in years.

His election win appeared to burnish Raisi's chances of one day succeeding the 83-year-old Khamenei, but some analysts and insiders believe that his failure to boost an ailing economy and his foreign policy difficulties have damaged his prospects.

Khamenei, not the president, has the final say on all major policy under Iran's dual political system split between the Shi'ite clerical establishment and the government.

Raisi “is not driving the repression. He's an instrument of it,” ICG's Vaez said.

But his hardline stance, closely aligned with Khamenei, helped guide policy abroad as well as at home.

Since his election, Iran has played hardball in negotiations to salvage its tattered nuclear deal with world powers, betting it has the leverage to win wide sanctions relief in return for curbs on its increasingly advanced uranium enrichment technology.

Khamenei threw his weight behind the original 2015 deal negotiated by the government of pragmatist Rouhani, winning a temporary lifting of Iran's economic and political isolation.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israeli extremists storm Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after 'forces harass Muslims at site'

17 January, 2023

Dozens of extremist Israelis stormed occupied East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday, escorted by Israeli forces, pan-Arab news website Arabi 21 reported.

The radicals worshipped at the site in breach of the longstanding status quo governing it, according to Palestinian sources.

Israeli forces reportedly began harassing Muslim worshippers at the site from early Tuesday to clear the way for the incursion.

Under the agreement, Muslims alone are permitted to pray at Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest place in Islam and the most-sacred Muslim site in Palestine. Non-Muslims are, however, able to visit.

Israeli extremists routinely raid Al-Aqsa, hoping to see the site divided – in terms of physical space and time available for use – between Jews and Muslims.

Many radicals want a Jewish temple to be built at the compound.

Tuesday's raid comes after far-right Israeli national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stormed the compound earlier this month, drawing widespread international criticism.

The Palestinian foreign ministry called Ben-Gvir's attendance at the site a "serious threat", while Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh cast it as a bid to turn Al-Aqsa Mosque "into a Jewish temple".

The Qatari foreign ministry said Doha "condemns in the strongest terms" Ben-Gvir's "storming of the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli occupation authorities".

At the time, Jordan's foreign ministry spokesperson Sinan Majali said Amman summoned the Israeli ambassador to "convey a protest message about the recklessness of the Israeli national security minister in storming the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque".

Jordan has a special role in Jerusalem as custodian of the Christian and Muslim holy places there.

The US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, said Washington "has made it clear to the Israeli government it opposes any steps that could harm the status quo in the holy sites".

Also on Tuesday, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man, bringing the toll of Palestinians killed so far this year in the West Bank to 15, according to an AFP tally.

Source: The New Arab

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Over 90 Nations Express 'Deep Concern' at Israeli Punitive Measure


In a statement released Monday by the Palestinians, the signatories called for a reversal of the Israeli measures, saying regardless of their position on the General Assembly’s resolution, “we reject punitive measures in response to a request for an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice", The AP reported.

The 193-member General Assembly voted 87-26 with 53 abstentions on December 30 in favor of the resolution which was promoted by the Palestinians and opposed vehemently by Israel. Even though rulings by the International Court of Justice are not legally binding, they can be influential on world opinion.

Israel’s new hard-line government responded on January 6, approving steps to penalize the Palestinians in retaliation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of his Cabinet two days later that the measures against the Palestinians were aimed at what he called “an extreme anti-Israel” step at the United Nations.

The government’s Security Cabinet decided to withhold $39 million from the Palestinian Authority and transferring the funds instead to a compensation program for the families of Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks.

It also decided to deduct the amount of revenue Israel typically transfers to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority by a sum equal to the amount paid last year to families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict. The Palestinian leadership describes the payments as necessary social welfare, while Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund incentivizes violence.

The Security Cabinet also targeted Palestinian officials directly, noting it would deny benefits to “VIPs who are leading the political and legal war against Israel". The first Palestinian affected was Foreign Minister Riad Malki who said in a statement on January 8 that he was returning from the Brazilian president’s inauguration when he was informed that Israel rescinded his VIP travel permit, which allows top Palestinian officials to travel more easily in and out of the occupied West Bank than ordinary Palestinians.

The statement released Monday was signed by representatives of Arab nations and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and 37 other countries — 27 of them from Europe, including Germany, France and Italy, as well as Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour welcomed the statement of support, telling The Associated Press, “we exercised our democratic rights to go to the General Assembly in a peaceful way, a legal way, and put a question to the ICJ to seek an advisory opinion.”

“What is amazing about that statement,” he stated, is that it was signed by some countries that abstained or voted against the resolution referring the question to the court.

“But to punish people for going to the General Assembly in an adoption of a resolution is something else,” Mansour continued, adding, “That’s why they stood with us and opposed this policy of the Israeli government, and they are demanding a reversal of this decision.”

Source: Fars News Agency

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Ra'am: Setting conditions for visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque is illegal

Dalit Halevi

Jan 18, 2023

The Ra’am Party, which represents the southern faction of the Islamic Movement in the Knesset, on Tuesday condemned the Israeli treatment of the Jordanian Ambassador who came to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

A statement published on behalf of the party said that its chairman, Mansour Abbas, contacted the Jordanian Ambassador, Ghassan Majali, "after he was prevented from entering the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque today", adding that Abbas "rejects and condemns this illegal move".

Abbas stressed the "rooted right of Arabs and Muslims to enter the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and pray there at any time" and expressed opposition to the attempts of the new government in Israel and the Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, to enforce a new policy preventing or allowing Arab ambassadors to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque, similar to the policy enacted towards the Arab members of the Knesset.

The statement further said that Ra’am condemns the Israeli effort to establish facts on the ground, perpetuate the occupation and exercise sovereignty over the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and calls on the Israeli government to respect the Hashemite guardianship of the holy site and the Islamic right to it, and not to infringe on the right of Muslims to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and visit it at any time.

The statement followed Tuesday’s diplomatic incident at the Temple Mount. Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Jordan, claiming Ambassador Majali was temporarily delayed from ascending the Temple Mount before leaving the site.

The Jerusalem Police rejected the claims that the Jordanian Ambassador was prevented from entering the Temple Mount, and pointed out that the director of the Jordanian Waqf arrived together with the Ambassador without any prior coordination with the police, and he was the one who decided at a certain point to leave the place on his own initiative.

Source: Israel National News

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Iran Strongly Condemns S. Korean President's Meddlesome, Undiplomatic Remarks


Kana'ani said on Monday that Tehran is following up on Yoon's "interventionist" remarks concerning the quality of Iran's relations with the UAE.

Addressing the UAE-based Korean forces during a recent trip to the Persian Gulf Arab state, Yoon drew a parallel between the alleged threat posed to his country by North Korea and what he called the "threat" facing Abu Dhabi from Iran. He then described Iran as the "most-threatening nation" to the UAE.

Reacting to his remarks, the Iranian diplomat stated, "The quoted remarks of this [South] Korean official reveal his complete unawareness of the historical and cordial relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Persian Gulf littoral countries, including the UAE, as well as [his lack of knowledge about] high-speed and positive developments [that are unraveling] in this regard.”

"The foreign ministry is diligently pursuing the recent positions of this country, especially the remarks made by its president, on the relations between Iran and the UAE, which totally lack diplomatic validity," the spokesperson continued.

He added that Iran is awaiting the South Korean Foreign Ministry's explanation in this regard.

The comments came at a time that in addition to its unfriendly positions on Iran, South Korea has been holding billions of dollars in Iranian funds. The frozen asset issue started in 2018 when former US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal and reinstated economic sanctions against Iran.

Iranian officials stated the South Korean government is obliged to unfreeze the country's frozen funds, stressing that unilateral US sanctions cannot justify Seoul’s inaction in repaying debts to Tehran.

The two sides had previously agreed to use the funds for purchase of humanitarian items by Iran, something that has again been prevented as a result of South Korea’s commitment to honor the sanctions.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran Blasts British Royal Family for Massacring Afghan Civilians


Kana'ani on Monday denounced the UK and some European countries over their reaction to Iran’s execution of dual British-Iranian citizen Alireza Akbari who had been sentenced to death over spying for the British Secret Intelligence Service.

“The UK move against Iran’s national security received Iran’s firm intelligence and judicial response," Kana'ani wrote on Twitter, adding that the UK's hype and support of the London government by certain European countries, which claim to be defending human rights, show that they are escaping and breaking law.

“The British regime, whose royal family member has admitted to have killed 25 innocent people and viewed them as chess pieces he was removing from the board without being ashamed, as well as those who have turned a blind eye to this war crime are not capable of advising others on human rights,” the spokesperson wrote in another tweet.

He was referring to Prince Harry, the duke of Sussex, who has confirmed in a memoir that he killed 25 people while on deployment in Afghanistan with the British Army. Harry stated he was neither proud nor ashamed of doing so. He also described eliminating the targets as like removing “chess pieces” from a board.

The comments by Kana'ani came days after Iran executed Akbari who was sentenced to death over long-running espionage for Britain’s spy apparatus MI6. The convict, who had been sentenced to death on charges of “corruption on earth” and “extensive activities against the country's internal and external security” through espionage for the British government’s spy agency, was hanged on Saturday.

Akbari, who was arrested in 2019, had received 1,805,000 euros, 265,000 pounds, and $50,000 for espionage activities for the United Kingdom.

He was spotted by Iran’s intelligence forces when he met with a number of British intelligence officers in the UK embassy in Tehran.

Among other crimes, Akbari is said to have played a role in the assassination by Israel of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top nuclear scientist, in 2020.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran filmmakers call for release of dissident director Jafar Panahi

17 January ,2023

Iran’s main filmmakers’ union on Tuesday called on authorities to release renowned dissident director Jafar Panahi, who has been imprisoned for six months.

Panahi, 62, one of Iran’s most awarded filmmakers, was arrested on July 11 and is serving a six-year sentence handed down in 2010.

The House of Cinema, which brings together professional filmmakers in Iran, called for his release “as soon as possible,” in a statement posted on its website.

It appealed for Iran’s judiciary to take into account the “physical condition and illness” of the filmmaker, without elaborating.

Panahi has won the top prizes in Venice for “The Circle” and Berlin for “Taxi”, as well as best screenplay at Cannes for “Three Faces.”

On top of his six-year sentence, he was handed a 20-year ban from making or writing films, travelling or even speaking in the media, but he continued to work in Iran.

He was convicted of “propaganda against the system” after supporting 2009 protests over the disputed re-election of then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In July, Panahi was arrested at the Tehran court where he had gone to follow the case of another award-winning director, Mohammad Rasoulof, who had been detained a few days before.

On Wednesday, Rasoulof’s lawyer told AFP that his client had been released on January 7 for two weeks on health grounds.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israeli prime minister confirms citizen captured by Hamas in Gaza is alive

17 January ,2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Tuesday that an Israeli citizen held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip was alive, a day after the Palestinian militant group released a video showing the man appealing for help.

On Monday Hamas released footage showing Avera Mengistu, an Israeli said by his family to be suffering from mental health problems and who has been held by Hamas since he crossed into Gaza in 2014.

“Yesterday we received confirmation of what we knew this whole time, that Avera is alive,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday. “This is a young man, not in good health and the responsibility of his fate lies entirely on Hamas.”

The video, showing Mengistu seated in front of a blank wall and appealing to Israel for help, was the first image shown of him since his capture but there was no immediate official confirmation from Israel that the footage was genuine.

However his brother Ilan said the family believed it was.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran arrested at least 96 Kurds in first half of 2023, rights group says

17 January ,2023

Iran has arrested at least 96 Kurdish citizens since the start of 2023 as part of its crackdown on months-long protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a human rights group said on Tuesday.

Rights group Hengaw, which reports on human rights abuses in Iran’s Kurdish regions, said at least 96 Kurds – including 13 minors and five women – were detained by authorities in the first half of 2023.

Iran has launched a deadly crackdown in response to protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Amini, who died on September 16 following her arrest by the morality police in Tehran.

The protests, which began in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan, quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Mali: Displacement crisis deepens as Al-Qaida and Islamic State groups drive insecurity - UN

The security situation in Mali is worsening. The United Nations Secretary-General highlighted key findings of a new report on the Sahelian country that was circulated Monday (Jan.16).

Al-Qaida and Islamic State extremist groups are driving insecurity in central Mali and continue to clash near populated areas in the northern Gao and Menaka regions, the U.N. chief said in a new report.

Antonio Guterres said "the level and frequency of incidents of violence remain exceptionally high," with attacks by "violent extremist groups" against civilians accounting for the majority of documented human rights abuses.

"The attacks carried out against civilians by terrorist groups, the battle for influence among them and the violent activities conducted by community militias remain a chilling daily reality, as do the attacks against the Malian Defense and Security Forces and against MINUSMA," the U.N. peacekeeping force, he said.

Guterres said in the report to the U.N. Security Council that "going forward, military operations to combat the extremist groups will continue to be a crucial component for the restoration of security."

In central Mali, he said, the extremists are capitalizing on intercommunal conflicts to expand their influence and secure new recruits.

In the northern Gao and Menaka regions (eastern Mali), Guterres said fighters from the al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin known as JNIM and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara also continue to clash, causing civilian casualties and thousands to flee the violence.

He said the number of people displaced in Mali increased from 397,000 to 442,620 as of October, with some 1,950 schools closed affecting over 587,000 children. Humanitarian assistance is reaching only 2.5 million people of the 5.3 million in need, he said.

The secretary-general stressed that the ultimate success against the extremist groups will hinge of whether the operations are accompanied by efforts "to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, foster social cohesion, address structural fragility and deliver basic services."

A decade-long Islamic insurgency

Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks on the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks on civilians and U.N. peacekeepers.

In August 2020, Mali’s president was overthrown in a coup that included Assimi Goita, then an army colonel. In June 2021, Goita was sworn in as president of a transitional government after carrying out his second coup in nine months. France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, pulled out the last of thousands of French forces in August 2022 amid acrimonious exchanges with the transitional government.

In late 2021, Goita allegedly allowed the deployment of Russian private military contractor known as Wagner group.

The report does not name Wagner. It says MINUSMA "documented violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed during military operations conducted by the Malian armed forces, accompanied by foreign security personnel and dozos," who are traditional hunters.

It says the U.N. force also documented "some instances in which foreign security personnel appear to have committed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law while conducting both air and ground military operations in the center of the country."

Political dialog essential to Mali's stabilization

On the political front, Mali’s presidential election which had been scheduled for February 2022 is now slated to take place in February 2024.

Guterres pointed to progress in putting a single electoral management body into operation and the submission of a preliminary draft constitution. He urged authorities to expedite implementation of the electoral timetable published in July 2022.

Equally important to Mali’s lasting stabilization, he said, is implementation of the 2015 peace agreement signed by three parties — the government, a coalition of groups called the Coordination of Movements of Azawad that includes ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs who seek autonomy in northern Mali, and a pro-government militia known as the Platform.

"However," Guterres said, "the recent decision by the movements to suspend their participation in the implementation process is cause for serious concern."

Source: Africa News

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Jordan summons Israeli ambassador after envoy blocked from Al-Aqsa Mosque

Laith Al-Jnaidi, Abdelraouf Arnaout 


AMMAN, Jordan

ordan summoned the Israeli ambassador on Tuesday to protest police obstruction of the kingdom’s envoy during his visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.

In a statement, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said the Israeli envoy was handed “a strongly-worded letter of protest to be delivered immediately to his government.”

The letter included a reminder that the Jordan-run Jerusalem Waqf Department is the exclusive authority supervising holy sites in Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa Mosque, the statement said.

“Israel, as an occupying power, must adhere to its obligations under international law and the international humanitarian law towards the occupied city of Jerusalem and its sanctities, especially the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque,” ministry spokesman Sinan Majali said.

Israel must “put a stop to attempts to change the historic status quo” in occupied Jerusalem, he added.

According to eyewitnesses, the Jordanian ambassador was stopped by Israeli police at the Lion's Gate (Bab al-Asbat), at the northern side of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and prevented from entering the site on claims of lack of coordination.

Israeli police, for its part, said the Jordanian diplomat was not denied entry but briefly delayed from entering the site, according to public broadcaster KAN.

Jordan has been the official custodian of Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem since 1924, and was publicly acclaimed as the custodian of Jerusalem's holy sites.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third-holiest site. Jews, for their part, call the area the Temple Mount, saying it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Tunisia president’s former top aide jailed in absentia: Reports

17 January ,2023

Tunisian President Kais Saied’s former chief of staff was sentenced in absentia on Tuesday to prison over audio recordings critical of him, local media reported.

Nadia Akacha had been a key aide to Saied until she quit in January last year, citing “fundamental differences of opinion” over the national interest.

Some three months later, 11 audio recordings appeared online featuring a woman, purportedly Akacha, relating details from private meetings since the president’s July 2021 power grab.

In some, the woman criticized the president and staff members or shared gossip about his in-laws.

Akacha has denied being the woman in the recordings, describing them as fakes aiming to undermine her former boss.

On Tuesday, a Tunis court sentenced Akacha in absentia to 14 months in jail, local media reported, adding that the sentence was in relation to a suit filed by the president’s sister-in-law.

Prosecutors had opened an investigation in May to determine the recordings’ authenticity.

Akacha left the country after her resignation. Tunisian media have reported she has since been living in France.

A constitutional lawyer like the president, she was appointed as Saied’s legal adviser in late 2019 before becoming his chief of staff in January 2020, traveling widely with him domestically and abroad.

Her departure was a blow to Saied six months after he suspended parliament and sacked the government in a shock move against the political system that had emerged from the country’s 2011 revolt.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Jordanian, Egyptian and Palestinian leaders hold trilateral summit to discuss Palestinian cause

January 17, 2023

CAIRO: King Abdullah of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments related to the Palestinian cause.

During the trilateral summit, the leaders emphasized the need to end all illegal, unilateral Israeli actions that are undermining the pursuit of a two-state solution and the prospects for achieving a just and comprehensive peace, the Jordan News Agency reported.

El-Sisi and Abbas reaffirmed the Hashemite custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, as well as Egypt’s critical role in safeguarding the sites and their inherent Arab Muslim and Christian identities.

King Abdullah and Abbas thanked Egypt for its efforts to maintain stability in Gaza while also providing assistance in rebuilding the strip. The three leaders also emphasized the importance of maintaining international support for the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which provides critical humanitarian aid.

At the conclusion of the summit they issued a statement, reaffirming the need to preserve the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and continue efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution.

Source: Arab News

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At least 10 soldiers killed in al-Shabaab attack on Somali military base



At least 10 soldiers were killed and several wounded in an al-Shabaab attack on a military base in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region on Tuesday morning.

The deadly assault on a base in Hawadley, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, began with a suicide car bombing, according to Ahmed Ibrahim, a security official in the area.

“There was heavy fighting between the army and the terrorists. The death toll could rise,” he told Anadolu.

Local clan militias who are supporting the Somali military’s anti-terrorism efforts are also housed at the base, he said.

Among the 10 confirmed fatalities so far is Col. Abshir Mahmud Mohamed, a battalion commander of the Somali army, according to Ibrahim.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, which came a day after the al-Qaeda affiliate lost control of the strategic towns of Haradhere and Galcad in the central Galmudug state.

The terror group claimed to have killed 63 soldiers, including a senior military commander, in the assault.

The Somali army, backed by local militias, has been engaged in a sweeping offensive against al-Shabaab since last year after President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared “all-out war” on the terrorist group.

Somalia has been plagued by insecurity for years, with al-Shabaab and Daesh/ISIS being among the main threats.

The UN has warned of growing instability in the country, issuing periodic reports last year that detailed attacks by al-Shabaab and pro-Daesh/ISIS terror groups.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Libya’s parliament speaker says elections to be held before November 2023

Ibrahim al-Khazen 


Libya’s Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said the country’s stalled elections will be held before November after an agreement between the rival legislative chambers.

On Jan. 5, Saleh met in Egypt with Khaled al-Mishri, chairman of the Tripoli-based High Council of State (HCS), which acts as a senate, where they agreed to announce a roadmap for holding the polls.

Speaking to Al-Qahera News late Monday, Saleh said he was looking forward to holding the Libyan elections.

“Laws regulating the electoral process are currently being agreed upon,” he added. "The Libyans need an executive authority, and the interests of the Libyans must be placed above all else.”

Saleh added that the Libyan elections will be held before November after an agreement between the parliament and HCS.

Oil-rich Libya has remained in turmoil since 2011 when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted after four decades in power.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Arab World


Saudi FM discusses Kingdom’s economy, oil, Iran and US ties in Davos

17 January ,2023

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Tuesday at Davos 2023 that the current oil price stability in the market showed that Saudi Arabia was right to take its stance during last year’s disagreement with the US over the OPEC+ decision to reduce oil output targets.

He spoke of energy security: “Energy security is absolutely key. And here what we feel in the kingdom is that stability is absolutely the key to that energy security. So one of what we believe the successes of, for instance, OPEC+ has been it has been able to deliver a relatively stable oil price, one that is predictable by both consumers and producers.”

While renewable resources were becoming more established in the world, the Prince said: “In that interim period, we need to maintain a stable supply of traditional energies and one that is priced in a way that ensures that stability and that I think we have been able to do.”

He also highlighted the economic model of the Kingdom, highlighting that it is going to be this year’s fastest growing economy in the world.

The prince continued to list the Kingdom’s achievements such as the success of Vision 2030 in transitioning the economy in a significant way away from a dependance on hydrocarbons, on oil as a source of revenue for the government and as a proportion of the GDP.

He added: “That process continues to go on. We are activating all kinds of areas of the economy. Unemployment is significantly down, labor force participation up, especially for women.”


Prince Faisal touched upon the tensions with Iran. “When it comes to Iran, you know, we have reached out. We are trying to find a path to dialog with our neighbors in Iran because we believe very strongly that dialog is the best pathway to resolving differences.”

He continued: “And we feel quite strongly that what we are doing in the Kingdom and what others in the region, especially the GCC countries, are doing in addressing the challenges of their economy and investing in their countries in focusing on development rather than geopolitics, is a strong signal to Iran and others in the region that there is a pathway beyond the traditional arguments and the traditional disputes towards joint prosperity. And I think the more we can build a sense of cooperation in the region, the more we can work together, the more we can deliver not just prosperity for our people, but also for our immediate region and beyond.”

Saudi-US ties

Prince Faisal addressed the question about “speculations that there were some challenges in the relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the US.

“We have a strong partnership with the US and we continue to work through that partnership. That doesn't mean we don't always we that we it doesn't mean that we always agree. We sometimes disagree.”

He added: “We certainly disagreed on the issue of the oil market. In the end, we believe that I think our position was the correct one and it showed through what we see now. The oil price continues to be stable in and we have a responsibility to the broader oil market, to the broader economies of the world to make sure that we continue to provide that stability.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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CENTCOM chief pays tribute to US-UAE military ties, condemns Iran-backed groups

17 January ,2023

US Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. Erik Kurilla reiterated the importance of the “strategic partnership” between the United States military and the UAE during a phone call with the Chief of Staff of the UAE’s Armed Forces on Tuesday.

The top US military general for the Middle East called Staff Lt. Gen. Engineer Issa Saif Mohammed AL Mazrouei on the first anniversary of the drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi, which was carried out by the Iran-backed Houthis last year.

“Last year’s attack by Houthi forces on private citizens, civilians, and public facilities on Emirati soil is a stark reminder of the risk to the region posed by Iranian-backed groups,” Kurilla said in a readout of the call.

The Houthis, who control Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa, carried out hundreds of drone and ballistic missile attacks on civilian targets inside Saudi Arabia and the UAE last year as the fighting continues between the Iran-backed fighters and the internationally recognized government of Yemen.

Last year’s attack killed three civilians and injured six others after targeting a fuel tanker in Abu Dhabi.

On Tuesday, Kurilla said the UAE had always been a “strong” and “reliable” partner.

He added: “I recognize the sacrifice that UAE has made over the past twenty years in multiple operations and campaigns alongside CENTCOM forces. CENTCOM is committed to the security and stability of the region.”

In a similar statement earlier in the day, US President Joe Biden said Washington remained steadfast in its pursuit of diplomacy to bring a peaceful end to the Yemen war. He also said the US would continue to support the security of the UAE and “our other partners in the Middle East, including providing needed military assistance.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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South Korean President visits Dubai’s Museum of the Future

18 January ,2023

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol visited Dubai’s iconic Museum of the Future during his first official state visit to the United Arab Emirates, the official Emirates News Agency WAM reported on Tuesday.

President Yoon was greeted by Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Emirates airline group Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, among other senior officials.

During his tour of the Museum, which showcases various aspects of humanity’s future including technologies that are shaping our collective future, Yoon was briefed on the Museum’s initiatives and objectives. These include providing a global platform for future-driven institutions and serving as an international think tank in partnership with specialized research institutions to study current and future challenges.

“The Museum of the Future inspires the world to build a better future for humanity and presents a new vision for the future,” Yoon said.

He also emphasized the importance of international efforts and partnerships in finding solutions for global challenges through science and technology, and noted that the strategic partnership between the Republic of Korea and the UAE is set to grow in the future.

Yoon also participated in a panel discussion on the role of science and innovation in shaping humanity’s future, which explored new opportunities for collaboration between the UAE and the Republic of Korea. The panel included government officials and leaders from the local technology and education sectors.

The president’s visit to the UAE reflects the shared vision of the two countries to promote the values of tolerance, peace and cooperation, and their belief in the importance of imagining and designing the future in order to proactively prepare for it.

The two nations have strengthened their strategic partnership in recent years with increased cooperation in various governmental, economic, scientific and technological sectors, and particularly in the space sector, such as the successful launch of DubaiSat 1 project jointly developed by scientists and engineers from the UAE and the Republic of Korea in 2009.

Yoon’s official state visit to the UAE kicked off on Sunday when he arrived in Abu Dhabi and was welcomed at the Qasr Al Watan where he was welcomed by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the UAE’s President.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia asks UN to designate Houthis terrorist group as Yemen peace talks stall

17 January ,2023

Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Abdulaziz al-Wasil on Monday called on the Security Council to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization as the Iran-backed group continues “to stall and reject peaceful solutions.”

The Security Council must “take more stringent measures” against the Houthis, adding that their designation as a terrorist group has become an urgent matter.

Saudi Arabia has not seen any real desire from the Houthis to end the conflict in Yemen and reach a comprehensive political solution, he said during the meeting that was held to discuss the latest developments in the war-torn country.

The Kingdom will continue to support all international efforts to bring peace to Yemen in accordance with international and regional initiatives, al-Wasil said.

Speaking at the Security Council meeting on Monday, UN envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg thanked Saudi Arabia and Oman for their diplomacy and said discussions in the past month have developed “options for mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding issues.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Biden reaffirms US support for UAE against terrorism, one year since Houthi attacks

17 January ,2023

President Joe Biden reaffirmed the US’ commitment to the safety and security of the UAE as the Gulf nation marks one year since the deadly Iran-backed Houthi attack on the country.

“Working in close cooperation with my friend President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the United States will continue to support the UAE as it defends itself against threats – whether from Yemen or anywhere else,” Biden was quoted as saying in a statement released by the White House.

“We remain steadfast in our pursuit of diplomacy to bring a peaceful end to the war in Yemen, and the United States will continue to support the security of the UAE and our other partners in the Middle East, including providing needed military assistance,” it added.

“Therefore, as we commemorate the tragic events of one year ago, we stand resolute to ensure it cannot happen again.”

Three people were killed and six injured when a drone and missile attack caused a fuel tank to explode.

At the time, the Yemen-based militia claimed responsibility for the attack saying it conducted an operation “deep in the UAE,” with the group’s spokesman saying they fired five ballistic missiles and “a large number” of explosive-laden drones at “sensitive sites” in the UAE.

The act was met with global condemnation and threats of sanctions. The US, UK and France also agreed to bolster the UAE’s defenses.

Adviser to the UAE President Dr. Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter on the eve of the terrorist attack:

“…The nation is more powerful and invincible and more determined to continue its development path. They [Iran-backed Houthis] wanted to shake confidence in our country, but it is stronger than any terrorist threat, proud of the determination of its leadership and people and its capabilities to protect its gains and achievements and our national cohesion.”

He continued, “A year has passed, and terrorism has only increased us in strength and honor.”

In 2020, Biden’s administration revoked a terrorist designation of the Houthis introduced by former President Donald Trump. Biden also announced ending US support for the operations of the Arab Coalition, which intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the internationally recognized government.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis are still in control of the capital city of Sanaa. A UN-brokered truce deal agreed in April which rolled over twice delivered the longest stretch of relative calm that has largely held since its expiry on October 2.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince launches Events Investment Fund set to be worth billions

January 17, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced the launch of the Events Investment Fund (EIF), a fund that aims to develop a sustainable infrastructure for the culture, tourism, entertainment, and sports sectors across the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The EIF aims to create strategic partnerships to boost the local industry and increase foreign investment. It will conceptualize, finance, and oversee the development of more than 35 venues by 2030, the state news agency reported.

The fund will focus on developing and increasing direct foreign investment opportunities for a contribution of SR28 billion ($7.45 billion) to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2045.

The creation of EIF aims at positioning the Kingdom as the global hub of cultural, tourism, entertainment, and sports activities. It seeks to develop a world-class sustainable infrastructure including indoor arenas, art galleries, theaters, conference centers, horse-racing tracks, auto racing tracks, and other facilities across the Kingdom. The SPA reported that the fund aims to deliver its first asset by 2023.

Source: Arab News

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Kuwait reiterates support for ceasefire efforts in Ukraine

January 18, 2023

KUWAIT: Kuwait has reiterated its support for international ceasefire efforts in Ukraine and emphasized the need to respect the sovereignty of states amid the recent war escalation.

The official statement was issued after a meeting between Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Ukrainian Ambassador to Kuwait Oleksandr Balanutsa where the two discussed the latest developments of the war.

During the meeting, the foreign minister reaffirmed Kuwait’s stance towards the war, calling for an adherence to the principles of international law, the United Nations Charter and territorial sanctity with internationally recognized borders, reported the Kuwait News Agency.

He reiterated his country’s support for international efforts to achieve ceasefire in Ukraine, deescalate the violence, promote dialogue and reach a peaceful solution.

Balanutsa praised Kuwait’s humanitarian support for Ukraine and its supportive stance to efforts that aim to end the suffering of civilians impacted by the war and achieve peace. 

Source: Arab News

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