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Islamic World News ( 6 Jun 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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After Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story, ‘Ajmer-92’ Comes Under Cloud Even Before Its Release

New Age Islam News Bureau

06 June 2023

  

[Photo: File]/ ‘Ajmer-92’

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India

• New Conversion 'Game Plan'? 4 Kids Influenced to Adopt Islam while playing Fortnite, Says Ghaziabad Police

• Posters Asking Muslim Traders to Shut Shops by June 15 in Uttarkashi Town of Uttarakhand

• Maharashtra: Congress renews pitch for Muslim reservation

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Pakistan

• PTI Chief to Be Made ‘An Example’: Maryam

• Pakistan pours cold water on TTP’s talks offer

• Soldier martyred in South Waziristan clash: ISPR

• PDM unlikely to contest elections from single platform, says Fazl

• Haq Do Tehreek chief threatens to launch protest movement, again

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Southeast Asia

Indonesia Tops Halal Tourism in Global Muslim Travel Index 2023

Indonesia, Germany Agree to Improve Defense Collaboration

Malaysian King, Queen See off Haj Pilgrims, Wish Them Safe Journey

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Africa

• Mayor Allah Jabu intensifies push to ‘paint Juba green’

• 2023 Hajj: Emir of Ilorin urges Muslim pilgrims to pray for Nigeria

• Close Ranks Behind Tinubu, Warri Cleric Urges Christians, Muslim Leaders

• CAN Appreciates Muslim Community for the Release of 16 Abducted Worshippers

• Muslim, Christian Organisations urge NLC, TUC to shelve planned strike action

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Arab World

• Saudi Green Initiative celebrates World Environment Day

• Saudi aid centre chiefs meet Sudanese, UN officials in Riyadh

• Saudi crown prince, Venezuela president discuss relations in Jeddah

• Saudi culture minister meets German counterpart in Berlin

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South Asia

• Exiled Afghan Prosecutors in Pakistan Urge Intl Community to Help Them Resettle

• Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s ‘hot zone for climate threats’

• Rohingyas should not be forced to return: UN

• Islamic Emirate Leader Meets With Provincial Education Leaders

• China Reiterates Support for Stability in Afghanistan

• Islamic banks’ loan surges 9 times their deposits in a year

• Afghan Allies to Receive 20,000 More Visas under SIV

• 2 Killed, 6 Injured in Suicide Bomb in Northern Afghanistan: Official Says

• Afghan Refugees Still Lack Safe Pathways in the EU: Report

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Mideast

• At United Hatzalah, Jews, Muslims Work Together To Save Lives In Israel

• Jihad calls for avenge of blood of martyrs

• Saudi Arabia Executes 3 People in Shia-Populated Eastern Region

• Belgian expert: Imam Khomeini presented Islamic thought as modern alternative to Western liberalism

• Cairo Talks: Hamas, Jihad Open to 'Technocrat Cabinet'

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Europe

• Boston Councillor Mike Gilbert Accused of 'Islamophobia' Accepts Mosque Invite to Discuss His Views

• Macron opposes NATO plans in Asia – FT

• Nikki Haley insists on WW3 if Ukraine loses

• Instagram un-bans US presidential candidate

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North America

• Muslim Youth, Community Members Call on Philadelphia City Leaders to Address Gun Violence

• In Congo’s forests, Islamic State money makes an insurgency more lethal

• The Prison System Can’t Stop Discriminating Against Muslims

• Islamic Republic’s Cyber Army: Cheerleaders, Zombies and Trolls

• White House: US consistent on need for free, fair election in Bangladesh

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Australia

• Islamic State-linked Australians held in Syria launch repatriation bid

• Australia's Most Decorated War Veteran 'Responsible for Murder' in Afghanistan: Federal Court Judge

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/kashmir-files-kerala-story-ajmer-92/d/129935

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 After Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story, ‘Ajmer-92’ Comes Under Cloud Even Before Its Release

 

[Photo: File]/ ‘Ajmer-92’

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June 5, 2023

After the controversies over Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story, ‘Ajmer-92’ has come under cloud even before its release with Muslim organizations demanding a ban on the Bollywood movie.

All India Muslim Jamaat President Maulana Mufti Shahabuddin Razvi Barelvi has termed the film ‘Ajmer-92’ a conspiracy to spread hatred in the country. He said a particular religion is being targeted through films and social media.

Reacting to the film on Monday, Maulana Shahabuddin Razvi said that the film was going to confuse the people of the country and create division in the society.

The Maulana said according to information, the film Ajmer 92 has misrepresented the Dargah. “The education given there is said to be wrong as the film depicts. We strongly oppose this,” he stressed.

He said the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmeri was a fine example of Hindu-Muslim unity, which has been ruling the hearts of the people for centuries. The message of peace is always given from Dargah Ajmer Sharif.

He noted that lately films and social media are being used to create divisions in the society and spread hatred. No film director can be allowed to desecrate Khwaja Sahib’s dargah. Films are being used to target the followers of a particular religion. Hence, the Maulana has requested the government to ban the film.

The film directed by Pushpendra Singh claims to showcase true events of the gang rape and blackmail of over one hundred school and college girls in Ajmer.

The film is likely to be released on July 14.

Source: thestatesman.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/muslim-organisations-demand-ban-on-film-ajmer-92-1503187639.html

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Pakistan to Hang Christian, Nouman Asghar, For ‘Blasphemous’ WhatsApp Images Sent By Bilal Ahmad, a Muslim

 

(Photo courtesy of The Voice)

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June 6, 2023

A court in Pakistan has sentenced a Christian to death after he received cartoons of Mohammad, the founder of Islam, in a WhatsApp chat message to his phone.

Nouman Asghar, 24, of Bahawalpur in Punjab, was convicted of blasphemy under 295-c of the country’s Penal Code, which carries the death penalty.

According to Fides news agency, he and his family argued that the drawings of Mohammad were sent to him by Bilal Ahmad, a young Muslim whom the police did not arrest.

The same drawings were also sent via WhatsApp, a social media platform, to Sunny Mushtaq, the Christian cousin of Ashghar, who is awaiting sentencing for blasphemy from the same Bahawalpur Magistrates Court.

Trainee Sub-Inspector Fraz Ahmed of the Faqirwali Police Station in Bahawalnagar said the pair were arrested in July 2019 after he received “secret information” that Mushtaq had printed the sketches and was showing them to other people.

neeqa Maria Anthony, a lawyer from The Voice legal group which is supporting the pair, said he was disappointed by the sentencing of Asghar.

He said: “The magistrate ignored all the procedures and dismissed all the evidence in favour of the accused.

“He only wanted to complete his ‘sacred duty’ to punish an alleged blasphemer,” he told Fides news agency.

“We expect the same fate for Sunny Mushtaq. They were arrested for a teenage game. Their families are suffering greatly.

“Our legal team at The Voice is doing everything necessary to grant them justice, helping their families and standing by their side in these dark and difficult times.”

Mr Anthony described the prosecution of the two men as “another example of the misuse of blasphemy laws” under which scores of Christians have been prosecuted, often following fabricated allegations.

Among the most notorious cases is that of Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother who spent nearly a decade on death row after she was sentenced to hang for allegedly insulting Muhammad following a dispute with Muslim co-workers whom, she maintains, objected to her sharing their water supply because she was a Christian.  She has always denied the blasphemy allegation.

Islamic extremists were so vocal in demanding her execution that for her own safety she was held in solitary confinement from November 2010 until her release on appeal in 2019.

Lazar Allah Rakha, a member of Asghar’s legal team, said that his client was also the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

“I’m extremely disappointed by the conviction because there was absolutely no case,” Rakha told Morning Star News.

“There was no proof against Nouman, and none of the witnesses produced by police could corroborate the blasphemy allegation against him.”

He said that because there were “so many contradictions in the case” he was “at a loss to understand why Bahawalpur Additional Sessions Judge Muhammad Hafeez Ur Rehman sentenced Nouman instead of acquitting him”.

“This is murder of justice,” he said, adding that he his client would appeal against conviction to the Lahore High Court soon after the magistrates had explained their ruling in writing.

Asghar Masih, Nouman’s father said his family, who are Anglicans, were “standing firm in our faith and looking to God for Noman’s freedom”.

“The allegations in both First Information Reports are baseless,” said Asghar Masi, a sanitation worker.

“Nouman was sleeping in the house when he was arrested, but the police have alleged that he was in a park showing blasphemous images to 9 to10 people at 3.30am.”

“Nouman’s mother and I yearn for him every day. Our hearts broke today when our counsel informed us about the death verdict. But our faith in Christ has not waivered, and we trust God that He will rescue us from this suffering.”

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 list of the world’s most dangerous places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

(Photo courtesy of The Voice)

Source: catholicherald.co.uk

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https://catholicherald.co.uk/pakistani-christian-sentenced-to-hang-for-blasphemous-whatsapp-sketches-on-phone/

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Selangor Sultan Wants Religious Polemics to Be Resolved Immediately Using Wise, Orderly Approach

 

The Selangor ruler also shared the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s sentiment in reminding the people in the country not to turn religious issues into political polemics and disputes. — Bernama pic

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Tuesday, 06 Jun 2023

SHAH ALAM: Selangor's Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah wants all parties to take a wise and orderly approach with a high spirit of tolerance in dealing with sensitive religious issues.

"For the sake of unity and the future of the country, any religious polemics should be resolved immediately,” he said in a statement posted on Selangor Royal Office’s Facebook page on Tuesday (June 6).

In this context, the Sultan also called for the spirit of unity among the people to continue to be instilled and nurtured at all levels along with the noble values of community life, in order to maintain harmony.

Sultan Sharafuddin also shared the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s sentiment in reminding the people in the country not to turn religious issues into political polemics and disputes.

Yesterday, Sultan Abdullah in his speech during the investiture of federal awards and honours in conjunction with his official birthday celebration at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur, expressed deep concerns over the issue of the use of the word "Allah” which he feared would become a prolonged polemic and could affect national unity and the well-being of the country if not resolved immediately.

According to the statement, Sultan Sharafuddin is of the opinion that the content of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s speech was very good and impressive and should be taken seriously by the people.

Just like the King, the Selangor Sultan also expressed concerns regarding the issue of the use of the word ‘Allah’ which is feared to become a protracted polemic that may affect national unity and the wellbeing of the country, the statement read.

 "The Sultan wants all parties to respect the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation as stated in Article 3 of the Federal Constitution, where all citizens must also respect the position of the Malay Rulers as the head of the religion of Islam,” it said.

In order to build a successful, credible and dignified country, the Sultan said all citizens and politicians should discard any rhetorical agenda that could lead to factionalism.

"Without factionalism, Malaysia has great potential to grow into a fully developed and respectable nation,” he added. – Bernama

Source: thestar.com.my

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2023/06/06/selangor-sultan-wants-religious-polemics-to-be-resolved-immediately-using-wise-orderly-approach

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Muslims Pay Money, Buy Motorcycles To Free Abducted 16Christian Worshippersin Kaduna State

 

Photo by Muhammad-taha Ibrahim

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June 6, 2023

The 16 abducted church worshippers, who remained in captivity in Kaduna State, were released by their abductors on Sunday after the Muslim community paid money and bought a motorcycle for the bandits.

It will be recalled that 40 worshippers were abducted by bandits at Bege Baptist Church, Madala near Buruku in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State during a Sunday service on May 7, 2023.

Some had managed to escape and returned home, leaving the remaining 16 in the hands of the bandits.

Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in Kaduna State, Rev John Hayab, told journalists in Kaduna, yesterday, that they were full of gratitude to the Muslim community in the area, who had assisted before the captives regained freedom.

He said: “The Muslim community where the worshippers were abducted contributed money and bought a motorcycle as part of the ransom required for the release of their Christian brothers and sisters in captivity.

“This goes to show good, caring and sincere neighbours that practically showed concern to the plight of their brothers and sisters that were abducted and their sincere wish that they return home to live together with them in peace and harmony.

“The exemplary life shown by the Muslim community in Madala should be emulated by all in other parts of the state for a united and peaceful coexistence that is needed for the overall development of the state.

“The Muslim community has shown that one does not need to be educated before doing the needful. Nigerians from all walks of life should be their brother’s keepers in order to eliminate all forms of insecurity in every part of the country.”

The 16 freed worshippers have reunited with their families while those with injuries are in hospital receiving treatment.

Source: vanguardngr.com

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https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/06/muslims-pay-money-buy-motorcycles-to-free-abducted-christian-worshippers/

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Saudis Review Options for Studying Abroad As US Gun Violence Spirals

 

A group of Saudi students from the University of East Anglia recently explored Cromer, Norfolk; new experiences and exploring the world is one of the benefits of studying abroad. (Instagram/ intouea)

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June 05, 2023

DUBAI: Seeing their children receive the best possible education is every parent’s dream, and having a high number of international students is a goal for every world-renowned tertiary institution. However, in today’s changing world, various factors complicate the decision-making process for students and parents.

Parents have to take many issues into account, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the wave of shootings on school campuses in the US. As the education landscape shifts, some Western institutions have opened branches in foreign countries, including the Gulf region, appealing to students who do not wish to, or cannot afford study abroad.

These days a growing number of Arab parents, including Saudis, deliberate thoroughly before sending their children to pursue their higher studies in the US — home to some of the most prestigious education institutions and research centers in the world. Analysts and experts say that the rose-colored dream of studying in the US has started to change slightly owing to a confluence of academic, social, economic and security factors.

“If you look at it (number of students from Saudi and the rest of the Gulf region) in the span of the last … for example, 10 years, yes it has changed. If you look at it since COVID, yes it has changed. There isn’t a (hugely) significant decrease in the numbers, but there is a decrease,” Dala Kakos, an education strategy specialist, told Arab News.

Kakos, who has worked with the World Bank and the Executive Council in Abu Dhabi, and Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai, says that while a sense of safety and security is not the most important factor for students and parents, it is among the highest priorities.

Saudi columnist Tariq Al-Maeena also believes the number of Saudi students in the US has decreased. “The impression of the numbers had been gleaned by what I had been following over the recent years as well as discussions with a wide group of friends and acquaintances,” he told Arab News.

“Already some Saudi students (unfortunately) met a tragic end in the US at the hands of criminals.”

In January this year, 25-year-old computer science student Al-Waleed Al-Gheraibi was stabbed to death in his accommodation in Philadelphia. This was only the latest incident in which a Saudi student was murdered in the US. In 2018, 23-year-old architecture student Yasser Abualfaraj was found murdered in his apartment in Florida.

And two years prior, 24-year-old business administration student Hussain Saeed Alnahdi was beaten to death in Wisconsin. Other murders of Saudi students in the past decade were reported in Australia, Canada, the UK and Malaysia, according to a press report by Al Arabiya.

The increasing number of violent incidents in the US is a worry for prospective students and parents. From 1966 to 2022, 12 mass shootings took place on US college campuses. During the same period, there were 300 shooting incidents on college campuses, resulting in 94 deaths and 215 injuries, according to American press reports.

Some Europe-based websites are currently posting short videos advising European students abroad on what to do during a shooting.

Al-Maeena believes this is good advice for all students. “We live in a relatively safe society; we are not conditioned to be wary and alert, and sometimes we fall prey to those wishing us harm,” he told Arab News.

“That is why it is imperative that any student going overseas must attend some kind of awareness seminar to alert them (to) all possible scams that may do them harm,” he said.

The exact number of Saudis currently pursuing their higher education in the US is unknown, but it is estimated in the tens of thousands. There has been an increase in the past, with the number of Saudis studying in the US rising from 10,000 in 2007 to 120,000 in 2015, with 600 taking up medicine.

Saudi Arabia is one of the top countries from the Middle East and North Africa region in terms of number of students studying in the US, while China and India lead on the global level. But even this is changing.

According to the Institute of International Education, the number of international students at US colleges grew by just 0.5 percent in the 2018-2019 academic year, “bringing an end to a decade of expansion.”

The results, posted on the website of Foreign Policy, were due to a “slowdown” in the number of Chinese students, who accounted for nearly one-third of all non-American students in the country. Other countries, including South Korea, Japan, Iran, the UK and Saudi Arabia, also “sent fewer students to the US” that year compared to the previous one.

The number of Saudi students in the US has gone down after the Saudi government decided in 2016 to “reevaluate” its scholarship program that covers many countries in the world, including the US. New guidelines were introduced limiting participants to top-100 universities, or top-50-rated programs in their fields.

The high cost of tuition is another factor that could stop parents from sending their children abroad, according to Kakos.

According to her, other factors include tuition, location, proximity of relatives living abroad, having alumni parents, and prestige.

“Prestige is a very heavy factor when someone is an international student and they want to go abroad. This is a big thing because you are making a big effort to leave, you will be representing your country when you are there, and you also will be representing the university when you come back home,” Kakos said.

Owing to its many renowned universities, the UK is always an option for parents. By offering English-language degrees, the US and UK are ideal destinations for those seeking to study abroad.

“Interestingly, there is an upward trend of European universities offering English-speaking degrees,” Kakos said. “Already, many of them are constantly increasing their postgraduate and master’s and doctoral programs. But now, they (have) started to pay attention to undergraduate programs. For example, Greece just announced that their national universities have put forth at least 12 new majors in English.”

At the same time, the UK has made attracting foreign students part of its national strategy. The country recently organized official academic visits to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE to draw in more students and increase their “market share,” Kakos said.

“They know the true value that they could bring, which is financial, but also need more presentation in their international students. They are focusing much more on gaining more international students, specifically from Saudi Arabia. They voiced that and they are pursuing that currently.”

Other options include Germany, Australia, and even Japan, despite the language barrier.

Al-Maeena said “options are unlimited” when it comes to education. Usually, the decisions “will be influenced by the student’s family and past historical experiences. I know of one parent who graduated from Japan some decades ago, and now has influenced his children to obtain their higher studies there.”

The UK, which is the second-most popular study destination after the US and home to the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge universities, is receiving an increasing number of Saudi students, said Abigail Davenport, head of Strathclyde Business School’s branch in the UAE.

“Over the years, leaders of GCC countries have strived for knowledge-based economies, and have made great strides in developing social, economic and education infrastructures … Strathclyde has excellent relations with Saudi Arabia, in particular across public and private sectors, as well as a long history of welcoming Saudi students to the main campus in Glasgow,” she said.

“The UK is incredibly diverse, and international students will get the chance to experience a multicultural environment whilst still maintaining strong ties to their own culture,” she told Arab News in a statement.

According to recent available figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, during the 2020-2021 academic year, there were 3,310 new Saudi students studying in the UK, of which 1,045 were undergraduates, 1,620 postgraduates, and 645 doctoral students.

In total, the number of Saudi students studying at UK institutions almost doubled from the 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 academic years, according to British Council figures. Of the 14,070 current Saudi students connected with UK higher education, 11,850 are studying at institutions, 2,000 are enrolled in distance, flexible or distributed learning, and a minority are studying at overseas branch campuses.

The opening of overseas branch campuses is “definitely needed” and “a good strategy,” Kakos said, as it caters to students who cannot or do not want to travel abroad. She added that a “blended learning” experience, where studies are divided between physical classes and online learning, is also becoming a huge trend.

Studying abroad, according to Kakos, has many benefits, including new experiences, research potential, and access to extracurricular activities that may not be available in one’s home country.

The students “stand to gain a lot but, at the same time, branch campuses coming into the country would also be able to give a lot more value to the overall educational landscape and the options available to students in Saudi Arabia and the GCC in general.”

Source: arabnews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2316421/saudi-arabia

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India

 New Conversion 'Game Plan'? 4 Kids Influenced to Adopt Islam while playing Fortnite, Says Ghaziabad Police

JUNE 06, 2023

Ghaziabad police says it has uncovered a new modus operandi with which young, impressionable children were influenced and then converted to Islam. The racket was exposed when the father of a juvenile filed a complaint in Ghaziabad’s police station alleging that his kid is offering namaz five times a day, and when he confronted the child, he got angry and said that he would leave the house and stay with the Maulvi he was in touch with.

The accused whose digital name is Baddo used to spot young, impressionable kids while playing Fortnite, said officials. He would then allegedly tell the kids to recite verses of namaz to win the game, and as planned they would win. This made the children believe in the powers of the Quran and impressed them, they added.

Then these kids would be asked to join the online streaming-cum-chatting platform Discord, which allows its users to create servers and share content with each other. On Discord, these children would then allegedly watch videos of Zakir Khan, and when impressed, they were shown videos of Jaleel Imam.

Officials say till now four kids have been identified who were influenced and converted through this modus operandi.

The complainant alleges that his child used to leave the house five times a day without telling family members and wouldn’t answer his parents even upon asking. The father got suspicious when the kid began speaking extensively about Islam. The father then decided to follow him and saw him entering the mosque. When confronted, he allegedly got angry and told his father how Islam is the best religion. He was so influenced that he told his father he would leave the house and start staying with the maulvi and it was then that the father decided to file a complaint, say officials.

Two people have been arrested in the case so far. The first is the maulvi of Jama Masjid in sector 23 of Ghaziabad. His call records show that he was in touch with two kids and used to tell them about the timings of namaz, say officials. The other person is a man named Nanni (aka Abdur Rehman) who has also been taken into custody. He was allegedly the point person who used to speak to these kids. The main accused, who was operating from Mumbra near Mumbai, is still at large. A team of Ghaziabad police reached his residence but neither he nor any of his family members were found, and a manhunt has been launched.

Ghaziabad police suspect a larger conspiracy in the case and names of a few people operating from some European countries have also come up in the initial investigation. Officials are verifying more facts. Sources say the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s office has taken cognisance of the incident and is monitoring the probe.

Source: news18.com

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https://www.news18.com/india/new-conversion-game-plan-4-kids-influenced-to-adopt-islam-via-fortnite-and-discord-says-ghaziabad-police-8008585.html

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Posters Asking Muslim Traders to Shut Shops by June 15 in Uttarkashi Town of Uttarakhand

Jun 06, 2023

According to people aware of the matter, the Purola main market roughly consists of 650-700 shops and of these, around 30-40 are run by the Muslims.

Posters threatening Muslim traders to shut shops by June 15 surfaced in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi town on Monday, amid ongoing tensions over an alleged abduction attempt on a 14-year-old girl by two men, including one from the minority community, last month, police said.

Both the men – Ubed Khan (24), a local shopkeeper, and Jitender Saini (23), a motorcycle mechanic – were arrested on May 27 for the alleged abduction attempt. Local residents alleged it was a case of ‘love jihad’ – a term used by right-wing groups to describe an alleged conspiracy by Muslim men to woo and seduce Hindu women, although courts and the Union government do not officially recognise it.

The posters, in Uttarkashi’s Purola main market, asked Muslim traders to vacate their shops before a mahapanchayat on June 15.

“Love jihadiyon ko suchit kia jata hai ki dinak June 15, 2023 ko hone wali mahapanchayat hone se purv apni dukanein khali kar de. Yadi tumhae dwara aisa nahi kia jata, toh wakt par nirbhar karega (Love jihadists are informed that they should vacate the shops prior to a mahapanchayat on June 15. If they don’t, it (consequences) will depend on time),” the poster, which calls for ‘Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan’ (campaign for protection of land) said.

The posters surfaced two days after members of right wing outfits held protests in Barkot and reportedly attacked shops and houses belonging to Muslims. Police said efforts are on to identify those behind the violence.

Police also said the posters were removed on Monday itself and a probe is underway to identify the people who pasted them. “We have removed these posters andare identifying the anti-social elements who pasted them,” Uttarkashi superintendent of police (SP) Arpan Yaduvanshi said.

According to people aware of the matter, the Purola main market roughly consists of 650-700 shops and of these, around 30-40 are run by the Muslims.

A local Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader said the posters were pasted by local residents.

“These posters were put up by local residents who want people from a particular community to leave the town to ensure peace and communal harmony. They came here on the pretext of doing business but are targeting girls and women from our community,” VHP leader Virender Rana said.

The ongoing tension has prompted Muslims to keep their shops shut and, in some cases, even flee the district.

“We are living in constant fear and cannot return to Purola in such an atmosphere. If they want us to leave the hills, authorities should compensate us for the property owned by us,” Saleem (35), who runs a garment shop in Purola and has fled to his brother’s house in Dehradun in the wake of the tension, said.

Another 40-year-old Muslim shopkeeper in the market, who did not wish to be identified, said: “We condemn the abduction bid and demand strict action against the culprits. We don’t support people who indulge in criminal and illegal activities.”

On Monday, a few Muslim families handed over a memorandum to Purolo sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), highlighting the financial crisis they are facing and seeking security to reopen businesses. The memorandum, seen by HT, also said the administration will be held responsible if anything untoward happens to the Muslims.

“The law and order situation is under control. We are keeping an eye on developments to ensure peace and harmony in the town,” SDM Devanand Sharma said.

Tension gripped Uttarkashi on May 26 when the two men allegedly attempted to abduct the minor. Police said the accused had fled after their abduction bid failed and were arrested the next day from Hudoli village.

On May 29, a protest march in Purola turned violent after some of the agitators attacked shops and establishments belonging to the Muslims. A similar protest was held on Saturday, under the banner of Yamuna Ghati Hindu Jagriti Sangathan. Nearly 900 people took part in the stir.

The protesters also handed over a memorandum to the SDM, seeking verification of people coming from outside for doing business in the town. “In the garb of doing businesses in the town, some people from a particular community have been indulging in immoral activities… thereby, polluting the atmosphere,” the memorandum in Hindi, seen by HT, said. Several shops run by the Muslims have remained shut since May 29.

“A verification drive of all Muslim traders and shopkeepers should be conducted. Those who are delinquent types shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the town. Others can operate freely,” Brij Mohan Chauhan, president, Purola vyapar mandal, said.

Durgeshwar Lal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Purola, said he will discuss the matter with chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

Source: hindustantimes.com

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https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/posters-asking-muslim-traders-to-leave-surface-in-uttarakhand-101685991761377.html

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Maharashtra: Congress renews pitch for Muslim reservation

JUN 05 2023

In the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls, the Congress in Maharashtra raised the pitch for restoration of 5 per cent quota for Muslims in educational institutions and government services.

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee’s working president and former minister Naseem Khan has raised the issue.

“For the upliftment of the Muslim community, the reservation in education and government service is a must,” said Khan addressing a gathering in which Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind felicitated three students who had cleared the UPSC examinations.

These three students are  Sayyed Mohammed Hussain, Aayesha  Qazi, Shabina Ansari.

“All of them come from humble backgrounds and they have made it to the top with their relentless efforts,” he said.

A four-time former MLA from Mumbai, Khan, in the past had served as ministers in several departments including home and minority affairs.

Khan, who has been credited with unveiling the plan to modernise madrasas, said that students need to be helped out and reservation would go a long way in bringing the people to the mainstream. “The aim is to bring the students to the mainstream, so ...

He said that when the Congress-NCP Democratic Front government was in power from 1999-2014, it made efforts and finally ensured that the Muslims and Maratha community get reservation.

The Congress-NCP government in 2014 had issued an ordinance whereby they gave a five per cent quota to the Muslim community, and 16 per cent to the Marathas. However, the BJP-Shiv Sena government that came to power in the state in the successive poll...

When the Maha Vikas Aghadi government comprising Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress came to power, Khan corresponded with the government seeking restoration of quota to the Muslims.

“I demand the present Eknath Shinde-government  to ensure that the Muslims are given reservations on the basis of economic backwardness, as it would go a long way,” said Khan.

Recently he had also called up the new Governor Ramesh Bais to direct the state government to restore Muslim quota.

Khan said that the spirit of the Sachar Committee report must be maintained.

At this felicitation programmel  Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind's Secretary (Legal Cell) Gulzar Azmi, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind's State working president Hafiz Masood, General secretary Maulana Haleem Ullah Qasmi, treasurer Mufti Yusuf along with  office bearers from...

Source: deccanherald.com

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https://www.deccanherald.com/national/west/maharashtra-congress-renews-pitch-for-muslim-reservation-1225085.html

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Pakistan

 

PTI chief to be made ‘an example’: Maryam

June 05, 2023

BAGH:

Holding PTI Chairman Imran Khan responsible for the May 9 mayhem, PML-N Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz on Monday lashed out at the former premier, saying the person who once boasted about invincibility and vowed to “bring tears to other people's eyes” was “now isolated and had been weeping alone”.

"Anyone who disrespects the martyrs, sets their memorials on fire, or sets ablaze the fighter jets that destroy enemy jets cannot be one of us. They cannot be Pakistani either,” she said.

The PML-N senior vice president was addressing a rally in Bagh district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) during her mass contact campaign in the constituency of party candidate Mushtaq Minhas.

On the PTI leaders quitting the party, she asked the crowd where the former ruling party was, adding that it “went back to where it came from”.

“They dreamed of disintegrating the PML-N, but today, the PTI itself has fallen into disarray. Those who used to claim they were invincible and vowed to make others cry are now sitting alone and weeping.”

Referring to Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, Maryam said, “Even their [PTI] own prime minister of AJK is testifying against them”.

Ilyas had recently announced to “move forward together” with Jahangir Tareen, a sugar baron as well as a former close aide of PTI chief before they developed differences and was now planning to form a new party.

Without naming Imran, she said, “the person had been hiding in a bunker” – a reference to PTI chief’s Zaman Park Lahore residence – and maintained that he “will be made an example”.

Maryam said the PTI chairman had also struck a deal on Kashmir with former US president Donald Trump.

“Whoever acted in such a manner towards the martyrs and their memorials on May 9, listen carefully, the Pakistani nation and the people of Kashmir will never forgive you. We will make an example of you," she said.

“Who do you remember when you come across the politics of vanadalism and hate,” she asked. When someone had nothing progressive to show, she said, he committed such acts [of May 9].

Citing developments during former premier Nawaz Sharif's tenure, the PML-N leader said if nine years of his father’ tenure were excluded from 75 years of the country, nothing would be found.

Maryam said the PML-N supremo faced troubles, adding that he never allowed anyone to harm the country.

She urged the people to vote for PML-N candidate Minhas and noted that there was no allegation of corruption against him.

“I ask you to vote for Mushtaq Minhas, and for the party that initiated development projects,” she added.

The government launched a massive crackdown against PTI which landed in trouble following the rioting on May 9, a day the country’s military and PDM government termed as “black day”.

In an unprecedented show of vandalism, protestors allegedly belonging to the former ruling party vandalised public and private properties and even attacked the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, and Lahore corps commander’s residence, also known as the Jinnah House.

The attack took place hours after paramilitary Rangers personnel arrested party chairman in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case, later retitled as the £190 million National Crime Agency scandal, on the orders of the National Accountability Bureau, from the Islamabad High Court premises.

Following the clampdown, several senior PTI leaders were arrested, and many dissociated themselves from the party.

So far, many senior-most PTI leaders, including Fawad Chaudhry, Shireen Mazari, Imran Ismail, Ali Zaidi, Amir Kiyani, Saifullah Nyazee, Fayyazul Hassan Chauhan, Musarrat Jamshed Cheema, have parted their ways with Imran.

Besides a number of candidates, who were awarded PTI tickets for Punjab Assembly elections, quit the party, condemning the May 9 violence and attacks on military installations.

Simultaneously, several politicians also became active to benefit from this realigning of the new political dynamics. The foremost among them is Tareen.

It has been reported that Tareen was forming his own political party amid speculations that those quitting the PTI would join him. It was said that more than 60 lawmakers and top PTI leaders had contacted him.

Source: tribune.com.pk

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https://tribune.com.pk/story/2420340/pti-chief-to-be-made-an-example-maryam

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Pakistan pours cold water on TTP’s talks offer

June 06, 2023

PESHAWAR:

Pakistani authorities have declined an offer from the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to resume talks, citing their previous negative experience with dialogue.

The TTP, through various sources and individual contacts, expressed their willingness to re-engage in talks in recent days. However, the government rejected the offer and instead urged the militants to surrender, according to sources.

The government engaged in talks with the proscribed TTP last year at the insistence of the Afghan Taliban government in Kabul. For that purpose, a ceasefire was also announced.

However, the TTP unilaterally terminated the truce in November last year, a few days before the appointment of Gen Asim Munir as the new army chief of Pakistan.

Subsequent to the ceasefire's termination, a wave of attacks on police, security personnel, and government installations ensued, with particular emphasis on the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. These targeted attacks were attributed to the TTP.

A senior government official revealed that during the previous rounds of talks, Afghanistan's acting interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, acted as a mediator. However, it is important to note that he did not hold the role of guarantor in those discussions.

“We need solid guarantees,” the senior official told The Express Tribune. “Negotiations will be meaningless without a solid guarantor. So when this offer was made it was rejected outright,” he added.

The Pakistani authorities have made it explicitly clear to the TTP that individuals willing to surrender are welcome to do so, the officials said, adding that Pakistan sustained losses whenever it engaged in talks with them. “That is why we are now asking for concrete guarantees.”

The current coalition government, since assuming power, has attributed the ongoing wave of terrorism in the country to the talks held between the then-ruling PTI government and the TTP. In response to parliamentary directives, a committee was formed on this matter, headed by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif. However, no meetings of the committee have taken place thus far.

The Pakistani government has been urging the Afghan Taliban to take action against the TTP. As part of this effort, the Kabul government has detained or deported several TTP leaders.

Recent visits by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar to Kabul were also linked to this issue. During the Afghan foreign minister's visit to Pakistan, the matter was raised as well.

The senior official emphasized that the Afghan Taliban would not employ force against the TTP, and Pakistan had no intention of entering Afghanistan to dismantle TTP bases, given the friendly nature of the neighbouring country.

The Express Tribune reported on Monday that Pakistan had told the interim Afghan government that it could only consider talking to the TTP if the terrorist outfit surrendered and laid down arms.

Official sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune on Sunday that Pakistan was no longer seeking talks with the TTP under the present circumstances.

However, despite Pakistan’s refusal to enter into peace talks with the militant group, the Afghan Taliban were still keen on the process of dialogue to kick-start.

The Pakistani government has been urging the Afghan Taliban to take action against the TTP. As part of this effort, the Kabul government has detained or deported several TTP leaders.

Source: tribune.com.pk

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https://tribune.com.pk/story/2420442/pakistan-pours-cold-water-on-ttps-talks-offer

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Soldier martyred in South Waziristan clash: ISPR

June 05, 2023

A Pakistan Army soldier embraced martyrdom in a fire exchange between security forces and terrorists in general area Ladha of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s South Waziristan district on Monday, the military said.

The Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that the army troops effectively engaged the terrorists’ location. However, during an intense exchange of fire, Lance Naik Muhammad Sabir, a 30-year-old resident of Mansehra district, having fought gallantly, embraced shahadat, it added.

Sanitisation of the area is being carried out to eliminate any other terrorists found in the area.

“Armed forces of Pakistan are determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism and such sacrifices of our brave soldiers further strengthen our resolve,” the military’s media wing furthered.

A day earlier, two soldiers embraced martyrdom while two terrorists were killed and another two injured in an exchange of fire between Pakistan Army troops and terrorists in the North Waziristan district.

"Own troops effectively engaged the terrorists' location and two terrorists were sent to hell, while injuring another two," read a statement issued by the ISPR.

According to the statement, weapons and ammunition were also recovered from the killed terrorists.

Source: tribune.com.pk

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https://tribune.com.pk/story/2420354/soldier-martyred-in-south-waziristan-clash-ispr

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PDM unlikely to contest elections from single platform, says Fazl

June 6, 2023

LAHORE: In opposition to Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s proposal, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has expressed doubt about the likelihood of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties contesting the next elections from a single platform, as PDM is not an election alliance.

“The PDM is not an election alliance and it is unlikely that it contests the next polls on one platform. Every party has its own manifesto. However, the parties in the PDM may go for seat-adjustment at local levels,” the PDM president said in a talk with journalists at the residence of PML-N stalwart Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Monday.

Khawaja Asif of PML-N recently said the PDM parties should contest upcoming elections together.

The PDM is a nine-party alliance with PML-N leading it. The PPP is not part of this alliance, however, it has hinted at making seat-adjustment with the PML-N, especially in Punjab.

The ruling coalition parties have stepped up efforts to take full advantage of the crumbling of Imran Khan’s PTI following the events of May 9. The PML-N, PPP, JUI-F, PML-Q, and the Jahangir Khan Tareen group have all launched campaigns in anticipation of October, 2023 general elections and wooing the support of electables and the PTI deserters.

Like many coalition leaders, Maulana Fazl also did not categorically say that the elections would be held this October.

“We are political people who are in favour of elections but the decision regarding (October) polls will be taken in consultation with the coalition parties, just as the PDM made decisions in consultation with the allied parties in the past,” Maulana Fazl said.

PPP senior leader and former governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood also hinted at what is being considered by the federal coalition. “The caretaker setup after the completion of the tenure of the incumbent federal government may prolong for six months if it performs well economically,” Mr Mahmood said.

The federal government’s tenure is ending in August.

Ban on PTI to be welcomed

The JUI-F head said: “If the court bans the PTI we will welcome it.” He also supported the trial of May 9 suspects under the Army Act saying this never happened in the country that a political party activists were involved in the attacks on the military installations.

He made it clear that there would be no talks with Khan’s PTI as it had only to face law for May 9 violence.

Meanwhile, Maulana Fazl also called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at his Model Town residence in Lahore and discussed the current political situation.

Source: dawn.com

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1758235/pdm-unlikely-to-contest-elections-from-single-platform-says-fazl

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Haq Do Tehreek chief threatens to launch protest movement, again

June 5, 2023

QUETTA: Haq Do Tehreek (HDT) chief Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman has said the provincial government has backed out of the agreement had it signed with HDT leaders accepting its demands, which led to end of the month-long protest sit-in by the people of Gwadar last year.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday along with Gwadar Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Naveed Kalmati as well as other HDT leaders, he said the HDT would launch another protest movement if government would not implement the agreement, as “we will not step back and compromise on the rights of the people of Makran guaranteed by the Constitution of the country”.

Maulana Rehman said the government was not serious in solving the problems being faced by people of the province.

He blamed a nationalist party without naming it for sabotaging the negotiations and impeding the agreement’s implementation. “Not a single demand of the agreement has been fulfilled by the government,” he lamented, adding that illegal trawler mafia was still active and it was operating with impunity in Balochistan’s waters. He said the drug mafia was free to do illegal business, spoiling the youth of Makran.

Maulana Hidayat says govt backed out of pact it signed with group

He said Gwadar was being touted by the government as the future economic hub of Pakistan, but the ground reality was that people were still deprived of their basic rights and amenities. He said not a single anti-snake vaccine was available in hospitals.

He said that 16 cases had been registered by the government against him and 250 workers of HDT. Maulana Rehman said that HDT leaders did not expect justice.

Source: dawn.com

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1758038/haq-do-tehreek-chief-threatens-to-launch-protest-movement-again

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Southeast Asia

 

Indonesia Tops Halal Tourism in Global Muslim Travel Index 2023

6 June 2023

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesia managed to grab the Top Muslim Friendly Destination of The Year 2023 in the Mastercard Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023 in Singapore, which is an improvement from last year’s second place.

“We got an unexpected result that saw Indonesia placing first in the Global Muslim Travel Index,” said Sandiaga Uno, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister on Saturday, June 3.

He expressed his pleasant surprise by stating that the first spot was aimed to be achieved in 2025, “But in 2023, this team that prepared it managed to execute our finest programs which made us place first. This is an achievement.”

Sandiaga Uno asserted that this achievement is the result of a collaboration of related parties, especially the Indonesian Halal Tourism Association (PPHI), Halal In Travel, Mastercard Crescent, and other unmentioned collaborators.

Through this collaboration, PPHI was able to win two awards at once, namely Stakeholder Awareness Campaign of the Year from the Mastercard Crescent Rating GMTI Awards and Stakeholder Awareness Campaign of the Year from the Halal In Travel Awards 2023.

“We are aiming for 8.5 million tourists will be accommodated by halal tourism,” said the Minister.

The tourism ministry’s website states five halal destinations in Indonesia filed under the Indonesia Muslim Travel Index that are spread across Aceh, Lombok, West Sumatra, Riau Islands, and Jakarta.

Source: en.tempo.co

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https://en.tempo.co/read/1734117/indonesia-tops-halal-tourism-in-global-muslim-travel-index-2023

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Indonesia, Germany Agree to Improve Defense Collaboration

6 June 2023

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesia and Germany have agreed to improve their defense collaboration, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto informed after receiving a visit from German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and his delegates at the ministry's office on Monday.

"Bilateral relation of Indonesia and Germany, including in the defense aspect, is really good; it has been going on for decades. We want to consistently improve this relation, such was the main topic during the meeting," Subianto informed at a joint press conference with Minister Pistorius.

He said that he and Pistorius will take active measures to improve defense collaboration.

Pistorius said he held an intensive discussion with Subianto, including during the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue 2023 in Singapore the previous week.

"For example, about the Indo-Pacific area issue from Germany and Europe's point of views," the German minister said.

The two also discussed Germany's bilateral stance in the ASEAN and Indo-Pacific regions, he disclosed.

"Particularly with Indonesia, who have been our great partner for decades," Pistorius added.

Prabowo Subianto said that he is planning to officially return the German Minister's visit.

The efforts conducted by the two nations in the defense aspect have included the provision of education to 670 personnel from the Defense Ministry and military in Germany in 2022–2023.

Source: en.tempo.co

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https://en.tempo.co/read/1733954/indonesia-germany-agree-to-improve-defense-collaboration

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MalaysianKing, Queen See off Haj Pilgrims, Wish Them Safe Journey

Tuesday, 06 Jun 2023

SEPANG, June 6 — Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah today bid goodbye to Malaysian pilgrims who were leaving for the Holy Land for the 1444H/2023 Haj season.

His Majesty told the Malaysian pilgrims at the Sepang Haji Complex, Movenpick here that to be guests of God in the largest gathering of Muslims in the Holy Land will teach the pilgrims to be patient, tolerant and respectful of one another.

“Differences in skin colour, language, race and rank no longer matter between Muslims who gather in the Holy Land,” he added.

“The Haj gathering teaches us to work together to achieve the desired goal. It also teaches us the noble values of life in order to unite the ummah.

In his address, Al-Sultan Abdullah also called on the pilgrims to learn from the unity of the ummah through the largest gathering of people in the Holy Land to serve as an example and guide in forging the spirit of unity and brotherhood in Malaysia.

Al-Sultan Abdullah also advised the pilgrims to always protect the country’s good name, obey all health rules and guidelines and observe the diet recommended by Tabung Haji (TH).

“Take this opportunity to be God’s guests to worship and give charity with all your heart,” His Majesty said while thanking the government and TH for always taking care of the welfare and comfort of Malaysian pilgrims.

At the same time, he also called on TH to continue to take proactive steps in improving the provision of infrastructure services and facilities to the country’s pilgrims.

His Majesty also expressed his appreciation to the government of Saudi Arabia for all the cooperation and assistance rendered in the management of the Malaysian pilgrims and hoped that the close ties that have been long established between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia would continue for the benefit of the pilgrims.

Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah also mingled with the pilgrims while wishing them a safe journey.

A total of 355 Malaysian pilgrims will depart for the Holy Land on a Saudia Airlines flight to Jeddah at 5.35pm today from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and are expected to arrive at about 11.10pm (Saudi Arabia time).

Altogether, 31,600 Malaysian pilgrims will perform the fifth pillar of Islam during this year’s Haj season, with the help of 670 TH personnel.

Flights for this year’s haj season include 98 special charter flights involving Malaysia Airlines and Saudia Airlines compared to 48 flights last year.

The first flight departed on May 21 and the last flight is on June 21, while the pilgrims will gradually return home starting from July 6 and the last return flight is on August 2, 2023.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Mohd Na’im Mokhtar, TH group managing director and chief executive officer Syed Hamadah Syed Othman, TH chairman Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar and Saudi Arabia ambassador to Malaysia Mesaad Ibrahim Abdullah Al Sulaim were also present. — Bernama

Source: malaymail.com

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https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/06/06/king-queen-see-off-haj-pilgrims-wish-them-safe-journey/72840

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Africa

 

Mayor Allah Jabu intensifies push to ‘paint Juba green’

June 6, 2023

The Mayor of Juba City Michael Allah-Jabu launched the second phase of tree planting in Juba City with a message of fighting the negative impacts of climate change.

Speaking to the media after planting the trees on Monday, Allah Jabu said the city council had embarked on the tree planting to keep Juba clean and green.

“We have started planting trees in order to eradicate climate change and improve the planting of trees in the city of Juba. We will continue to plant the trees in order for the city to be clean and green,” Allah-Jabu said.

“It is the responsibility of the area chief of Jebel to look into it and protect it from the wrongdoers.”

The Mayor planted 44 trees starting from Jebel Market up to Giada along the roadside. He said the exercise is a collective responsibility of the government and the citizens.

Allah-Jabu said the next tree planting will be in Munuki, Gudele, and the Newsite along the main streets.

Meanwhile, the chief of the block of the Jebel Residential area, David Albino Tombe, said there is a need to nurture the trees so that they can mature as some of the previously planted vegetation and had dried up.

“We need to open our eyes and protect the trees, not only along the roads but at home. So this time we will make sure that we take good care of these trees,” David said.    

“Those ones who are near the side of the road will be blamed if anything happens to the trees which were planted by the City council,” David said.

In attendance was the second runners up of Miss Little Africa Ritah Samantha who implored the citizens and the government to plant trees and reduce pollution of the environment.

“So far I have planted 188 trees in different parts of South Sudan in the past month, we need to exercise the recycling of plastic and plant trees in order to reduce environmental risk,” Ritah said.

Two years ago the Minister of Environment and Forestry Josephine Napwon launched a project of planting 100 million trees in South Sudan.

 The first phase of tree planting launched was last month in Hai Thoura where the Juba City Council authorities planted more than 165 trees. The exercise came in the wake of the commemoration of the World Environmental Day which focused on dealing with the menace of plastic materials.

Source: cityreviewss.com

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https://cityreviewss.com/mayor-allah-jabu-intensifies-push-to-paint-juba-green/

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2023 Hajj: Emir of Ilorin urges Muslim pilgrims to pray for Nigeria

JUNE 5, 2023

The Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, has urged the 2023 pilgrims from the state to offer special prayers for the nation’s peace, unity and prosperity.

This is contained in a goodwill message issued by the emir’s spokesman, Malam Abdulazeez Arowona, in Ilorin on Monday.

Mr Sulu-Gambari enjoined them to see the opportunity of their visit to the holy cities of Madinah and Makkah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a great opportunity to move closer to Allah.

The emir, who is also the chairman, Kwara Council of Chiefs, Mai-Martaba, thanked Almighty Allah for his numerous blessings on the people of Ilorin Emirate, the people of Kwara and Nigerians at large.

He stressed that the pilgrims were expected to pray for global peace and harmony while in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“I use this moment to thank Almighty Allah and urge our pilgrims to pray for peace and unity of Nigeria, most importantly, for the newly inaugurated leaders at the federal and state levels.

“I also enjoin pilgrims from Ilorin Emirate and beyond to be good ambassadors of our dear country, by conducting themselves in the most peaceful manner throughout their stay.”

The emir thanked sons and daughters of Ilorin Emirate, government and people of the state for their continuous prayers and support.

He prayed Almighty Allah to grant all the pilgrims successful Hajj rites and journey mercies.

Source: gazettengr.com

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https://gazettengr.com/2023-hajj-emir-of-ilorin-urges-muslim-pilgrims-to-pray-for-nigeria/

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Close Ranks Behind Tinubu, Warri Cleric Urges Christians, Muslim Leaders

Jun 5, 2023

Popular Warri pastor and Founder/Senior minister of God’s Judicious International Assembly, Arch Apostle Quest Timothy Omajuwa, has urged Christians and Muslim leaders in Nigeria to live the truth not just say the truth for Nigeria to move forward, stressing that the time for religious leaders of all persuasions to close ranks behind the new president has come in the best interest of Nigeria.

In his message to the nation on the theme: ‘Time is ticking: Christianity and Islam should live the truth and not just say the truth’, to herald the new administration at the Church headquarters in Otughievwen, headquarters of Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, Arch Apostle Omajuwa charges Muslims and Christian leaders who are wealthy to invest in their people and communities so as to stimulate economic prosperity for the masses instead of relying on government alone.

The cleric noted that criticizing the leaders without appreciating the huge responsibility on their shoulders was grave disservice to the nation, stressing that real leadership was pressure rather than pleasure. He therefore urged Mr President to make the people understand his roadmap to economic recovery as he takes Nigeria through the difficult valley of pains for true freedom.

‘’As we step into another phase in the life of this country, let us appreciate the fact that this is not the time to always criticize your leaders, for leadership is a huge responsibility if one has to face and live the reality.

‘’If you assume any position of leadership with the attitude of stealing you will think that leadership is gain and gainful, but when you start fulfilling the real task of development and making things happen to the advantage of those who elected you to the position of leadership, then you will know that real leadership is not pleasure but pressure.

‘’To our Muslim brethren, I have this for you. Do not forget that Islam isn’t the end of this world but the end of one’s life if truly you are in the faith. This presupposes selflessness. This same message also goes to those who are very rich among Christians particularly the rich pastors and general overseers. Your faith should be the instruments of lifting and blessings and not a weapon of confusion and pulling down those who have good intentions to make things happen in the midst of the people.

‘’Take a survey of the people in your village and see for yourself how great you have impacted them positively from the wealth God almighty has entrusted into your hands. When you are through with this then you can start to encourage your government to do better. The more we try to fight against the government in the performance deficit, the more we cause the government to fight back by doing things that will make them get away with their atrocity. Government will only respect and fear you if you live by example and throw your support for it, but fighting against the government when your own faults are visible doesn’t make the government fear or respect you.

‘’I therefore use this medium to call on our religious leaders to close ranks behind the new leadership and encourage the government to succeed knowing that it’s a collective responsibility to do so and a huge loss if we fail to do the needful.

‘’To President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR, I have this to say. Taking Nigeria out of bondage is good, but making Nigerians understand the process is better. Every slave cries for freedom not knowing that freedom isn’t cheap. For One to stop crying, it also takes a cry because the process of freedom is painful and not comfortable. When a slave doesn’t understand this they can as well expose the leader to more danger than you can ever expect. Jesus did try to free the world but the church, His own, killed him. Those whom he healed and free physically are inclusive of the act of negative action against Christ. There’s so much to learn than to teach when it comes to leadership’’, Arch Apostle Quest Omajuwa added.

In a veiled reference to the removal of subsidy on petroleum products, Apostle Omajuwa noted that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has very clear and good intentions for Nigeria ‘’but he must understand that the current battle is between the rich and the poor.

Now that you are ready to stand up for the poor, make them understand the process clearly so the same people you are working to set free will not be used to set you ablaze. My prayer is that Nature and spirits perform the role of a Coach so that you can understand hidden wisdom’’ the cleric said.

Source: independent.ng

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https://independent.ng/close-ranks-behind-tinubu-warri-cleric-urges-christians-muslim-leaders/

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CAN Appreciates Muslim Community for the Release of 16 Abducted Worshippers

June 5, 2023

Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has expressed gratitude to the Muslim community in Kaduna State over the release of 16 Abducted Baptist Worshippers.

Recall that about 40 worshippers were abducted by bandits during a Sunday service on May 7, 2023, but miraculously many of the kidnapped worshippers escaped leaving behind the 16 that just regained their freedom.

The remaining 16 worshippers abducted by bandits at Bege Baptist Church, Madala, near Buruku in Chikun local government area of Kaduna state, have finally regained their freedom.

Speaking to journalists about their release on Monday, Kaduna State Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman, Rev. John Joseph Hayab expressed gratitude to the Muslim community in the area.

He said: “The Muslim community where the worshippers were abducted contributed money and bought a motorcycle as part of the ransom required to release their Christian brothers and sisters in captivity.

“This goes to show good, caring and sincere neighbours that practically showed concern to the plight of their brothers and sisters that were abducted and their sincere wish that they return home to live together with them in peace and harmony.”

According to Rev. Hayab, the exemplary life shown by the Muslim community in Madala should be emulated by all in other parts of the state for a united and peaceful coexistence needed for the overall development of the state.

He stressed that the Muslim community has shown that one does not need to be educated before doing the needful, pointing out that Nigerians from all walks of life should be their brothers’ keepers to eliminate all forms of insecurity in every part of the country.

Rev. Hayab further explained that the 16 remaining abducted worshippers were released on Sunday, June 4.

According to him, many of them already reunited with their families, while those with injuries are presently receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital.

Source: politicsnigeria.com

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https://politicsnigeria.com/can-appreciates-muslim-community-for-the-release-of-16-abducted-worshippers/

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Muslim, Christian Organisations urge NLC, TUC to shelve planned strike action

June 5, 2023

A Group under the umbrella of Muslim League of Nigeria (TML) has called on Nigeria Labour Congress ,Trade Union Congress  and other labour unions to shelve the planned nationwide strike scheduled to commence on Wednesday in protest of the pronouncement made by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit otherwise known as petrol.

The group also urged Nigerians, especially the workers across the 36 states of the country to consider the long term merit  of removing the fuel subsidy above the demerits.

According to the Muslim group, the payment of over 12 Trillion Naira on Subsidy to few cabals under guise of subsidy over the  past 4 years  was not only ridiculous, but insensitive to economic realities.

“As a group of  religious leaders, it is our duty and responsibility to ensure we always pray for progress and development of our country as well as  messages of  peace and unity to  our adherents.”The group stated .

In a statement signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Muslim League of Nigeria (TML), Sheikh Musa El Yakoob

and Mallam Mustapha Harris, the group said,”We can’t fold our arm and pretend all is well, when we see impending tension and crisis brewing  that are capable of destroying the existing peace.

“We are not unaware that Nigerians  continue to writhe in agony over sudden  hike in the pump price of petrol and soaring  cost of  good and services due to the removal of fuel subsidy.”

Similarly, Forum of Nigerian Christian Leaders(FNCL) also called on labour unions to consider the economic implications of embarking on nationwide protest on Wednesday.

In the statement jointly signed by the Chairman, Pastor James Adeleke; Vice Chairman ,Pastor Moses Onuoha

Secretary ,Pastor Eziekel Kanyip and Asst. Secretary ,Pastor Garba Dickson,the Christian group urged President Tinubu  to convey an enlarged stakeholders meeting with markers; entrepreneurs, labour unions and other pressure groups  to discuss and reach  amicable resolutions on the matter.”

“We reliably gathered that the NLC insisted on the announced plans to down tools from Wednesday, if the pump price is not reversed, but are appealing to  the unions to consider exhausting all tools of lobbying and negotiation to avoid subsequent hardship the strike action will cost the country.

“While we appeal to President Tinubu to remain focused and committed to his campaign promises ,we are calling on him to see the labour unions more as partners than enemies”.

Source: vanguardngr.com

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https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/06/muslim-christian-organisations-urge-nlc-tuc-to-shelve-planned-strike-action/

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Arab World

 

Saudi Green Initiative celebrates World Environment Day

June 05, 2023

RIYADH: The Saudi Green Initiative is celebrating World Environment Day on June 5 through the launch of programs to reduce plastic waste and clean the oceans.

Designated by the UN, the theme of World Environment Day 2023, “#BeatPlasticPollution,” will focus on ways to combat the pollution generated by plastic waste.

Approximately 400 million tons of plastic waste are produced annually, while only 9 percent of it is recycled worldwide.

In efforts to improve waste management, the Saudi Basic Industries Corp. has joined the Coalition to Eliminate Plastic Waste with the aim of cleaning plastic from the oceans.

SGI is collaborating with the National Center for Waste Management to develop a comprehensive national plan for waste management in the Kingdom to strengthen its leadership in circular economy practices. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

Also in cooperation with the National Center for Waste Management, the Saudi Investment Recycling Co. is leading a waste management initiative in the city of Riyadh that will divert 94 percent of the city’s waste from landfills and convert over 1.3 million tons of biodegradable waste into agricultural fertilizers.

The ultimate goal is to remove 4.1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and build an effective waste management model to be implemented across the Kingdom by 2035.

Since the launch of SGI in 2021, 77 individual programs representing an investment of more than $186 billion in the green economy are already in progress. The programs have three tangible objectives: to reduce emissions, increase vegetation, and protect local biodiversity and landscapes.

During June, SGI will implement an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about environmental conservation efforts in the Kingdom.

For more information about the ongoing programs under the SGI umbrella to protect land and marine areas and enhance biodiversity in Saudi Arabia, please visit: https://www.greeninitiatives.gov.sa/ar-sa/sgi-initiatives

Source: arabnews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2316346/saudi-arabia

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Saudi aid center chiefs meet Sudanese, UN officials in Riyadh

June 05, 2023

RIYADH: General supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, on Monday met the charge d’affairs of the South Sudan Embassy in Saudi Arabia, ambassador Khamis Hagar.

During their meeting in Riyadh, they discussed cooperation and coordination on humanitarian and relief issues.

In separate talks, KSrelief assistant general supervisor for operations and programs, Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz, met the UN resident coordinator in the Kingdom, Dr. Rita Columbia, at the center’s headquarters in Riyadh.

They reviewed ongoing aid projects and ways to support vulnerable groups around the world.

Columbia thanked the Saudi government for the important role it played in providing the necessary assistance and facilities required for UN humanitarian organizations to carry out their work. She also praised KSrelief for its project work around the world.

Since its establishment in May 2015, the center has implemented 2,374 projects worth more than $6.2 billion in 91 countries in cooperation with 175 local, regional, and international partners.

According to a recent KSrelief report, the main beneficiaries from its projects have been Yemen ($4.2 billion), Palestine ($370 million), Syria ($367 million), and Somalia ($232 million).

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2316356/saudi-arabia

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Saudi FM receives Venezuelan counterpart in Jeddah

June 05, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received his Venezuelan counterpart Yvan Eduardo Gil Pinto in Jeddah on Monday.

During the meeting, they reviewed aspects of cooperation between their countries and ways to enhance and develop them in various fields.

The ministers also discussed increasing coordination on many regional and international issues of mutual concern.

They also discussed efforts in laying the foundations for international peace and security, and contributing to the achievement of global sustainable development goals.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2316341/saudi-arabia

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Saudi culture minister meets German counterpart in Berlin

June 05, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan met with his German counterpart Claudia Roth during a visit to Berlin on Monday.

Prince Badr and Roth, the German minister of state for culture and the media, discussed opportunities for cooperation between their countries in the field of culture.

They also discussed strengthening their bilateral partnership through the exchange of specialized delegations, the implementation of special cultural projects, and the exchange of experiences with regard to museums.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2316391/saudi-arabia

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South Asia

 

Exiled Afghan Prosecutors in Pakistan Urge Intl Community to Help Them Resettle

June 6, 2023

On May 5, these exiled prosecutors, lawmakers and civil society activists peacefully protested in Afghanistan Hotel in the capital city of Islamabad and called on UNHCR, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the international community to reconsider the dire situation and overwhelming uncertainty Afghan prosecutors are going through.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Pakistan has not yet initiated a common position regarding the legal status of the exiled Afghan prosecutor and lawmakers. Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and Margaret Steroid in their reports have clearly highlighted that employees of the judicial sector of the previous government including judges, prosecutors and lawyers as “a group at serious risk” under the Taliban-run administration.

It is also stated that not only prosecutors but also their family members are at grave risk of abduction, persecution and death threats by the ruling regime. This situation has been confirmed by Amnesty International and human rights organizations at the national and international levels, however, no decisive actions have been taken to help exiled the lawmakers to resettle in third countries.

However, the UNHCR has ignored these reports and dozens of other undeniable documents, all of which prove the overwhelming danger to the life and property of the prosecutors. “They deserve the international support more than any other group,” said a participating lawyer at the peaceful gathering.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR’s passive role in the legal status of Afghan refugees, civil society activists, in particular, is highly disappointing according to them. Currently, the UNHCR does not issue refugee certificates or cards to Afghan migrants for unknown reasons, complicating their situation as neither the European diplomatic missions nor Canadian or Australian Embassies accept humanitarian visa applications directly.

The UNHCR has prolonged assessing the exiled prosecutors’ asylum applications to the extent as no single civil society activist (prosecutor, lawyer, journalist) has been referred to any foreign embassy over the past year and a half, according to participants.

Therefore, the Association of Afghan Prosecutors in Pakistan once more urged the UN agencies (UNHCR, IOM) and the international community to protect the exiled civil society activists and resettle them in countries where they could live peacefully along with their family members.

Since the return of the Taliban to power in August 2021, thousands of layers, prosecutors and journalists fearing death threats from the Taliban, fled Afghanistan to the neighboring countries including Pakistan and Iran. With nearly two years since the late regime change, these exiled civil society activists are grappling with an unlimited number of issues including their legal status in the host countries.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/exiled-afghan-prosecutors-in-pakistan-urge-intl-community-to-help-them-resettle/

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Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s ‘hot zone for climate threats’

5 Jun 2023

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Climate experts in Bangladesh have expressed concern about massive refugee camps here – some of the largest in the world – being located in an extreme-weather hot zone.

Cox’s Bazar, a coastal region in southeastern Bangladesh, is prone to cyclones, wildfires, and landslides. Without prompt climate mitigation action and investment, Bangladesh’s coastal population and the estimated one million Rohingya refugees it accommodates are under severe threat, analysts say.

Although it narrowly escaped Cyclone Mocha’s worst impacts, the area remains at great risk, scientists warn.

Saleemul Huq, a climate scientist and director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said landslides pose the biggest problem in the Rohingya camps. Predicting heavy rainfall patterns and cyclones is a challenging task, and this was evident during the recent encounter with Cyclone Mocha.

“While Bangladesh as a whole may be well-prepared, Cox’s Bazar remains a hot zone for climate threats,” Huq told Al Jazeera.

“The timing of cyclones is unpredictable as we saw with the recent threat towards Cox’s Bazar. Although the camps are aware of the problems, the lack of cyclone shelters poses a major issue. Unlike other coastal areas in Bangladesh, the camps lack proper shelters.”

If a cyclone were to directly hit Cox’s Bazar, the situation would be devastating, he said.

“Bangladesh has been making progress in addressing climate change, but we must acknowledge the lack of cyclone centres in the camps, putting Rohingyas in great danger.”

The climate scientist said action must be taken to ready the camps for the weather-related disasters to come.

“As the impacts of human-induced climate change become more and more apparent and visible and lead to significant losses and damages, it is necessary for all actors, including governments as well as others, to work together in a whole-of-society approach going forward,” Huq said.

Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable nations in the world and tens of millions of people may be forced to flee the low-lying coastline as sea levels rise in the coming years.

‘Could have been killed’

In the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha, which hit neighbouring Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine the hardest, Cox’s Bazaar district was impacted with more than 450,000 people affected, including more than 21,000 Rohingya refugees.

Nur Ayesha, a 25-year-old Rohingya, shared her harrowing experience and the challenges her family faces after the storm.

“On the day of the cyclone, my children went to school while I stayed at home with my youngest daughter,” Nur Ayesha recalled.

“Suddenly, a tree fell inside the house on me while I was cutting fish to prepare our meal. It was fortunate the tree wasn’t too big, as both my daughter and I could have been killed. Trees fell from all sides of my house, leaving my house broken, and the solar panel was blown away. My husband is repairing the solar panel now.”

Nur Ayesha expressed disappointment at the lack of support received from aid organisations for the clean-up. “Nobody provided me with bamboo or any materials to fix my house. In the area where I used to do farming, I managed to gather some bamboo on my own. I want to strengthen my household, but it’s difficult to obtain the necessary materials.”

‘Burn in the flames’

Laila Begum, a 50-year-old woman from the camps, pressed for better preparation from the fallout of extreme weather, describing her experience with Cyclone Mocha.

“The wind blew off the thatch, ruining our clothes and belongings inside. With no men in the household, only me and my daughters, we were terrified and drenched by the heavy rain. The downpour caused water to seep into the house. We need a stronger foundation to prevent such incidents in the future,” Begum told Al Jazeera.

The camps are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The materials used for constructing shelters are highly prone to fires, a reality that contributes to a pervasive sense of uncertainty and helplessness among the residents.

Mohammad Hasan, 60, a Rohingya refugee, expressed concern about the close proximity of homes in the camps and the risks from scorching temperatures.

“Each house is close to another and if a fire were to break out, we would have no choice but to burn in the flames,” he said.

Nur Islam, a 42-year-old refugee shopkeeper in the camps, rushed home as Cyclone Mocha’s winds picked up. “My nephew and I secured the thatch on our house and shop, anchoring the solar panels with ropes to protect them from the cyclone.

“The government and NGOs provided assistance to those with total losses, but families with less damage didn’t receive any help. I had some materials that I used to reinforce my house, but I need stronger materials.”

Hope for tomorrow?

Sanjeev Kafley, from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), highlighted the profound climate threats faced by the Rohingya refugees, as well as their hosts along Bangladesh’s coast.

“It is essential to acknowledge that these challenges extend beyond the confines of the camps, affecting the broader local community. Cyclones do not discriminate; they impact both the camps and the host community,” said Kafley.

“This crisis remains unpredictable with an uncertain duration and an unknown future. The need for ongoing humanitarian assistance is undeniable, making it crucial for us to explore strategies to ensure our actions are both sustainable and climate conscious.”

Kafley linked the challenges of climate threats in the refugee camps with the state of despair among the Rohingya population.

“When you don’t have hope it is painful, we are all actually surviving with hope. These risk factors around climate change in the camps persist because of the absence of a durable solution. The hope isn’t there,” he said.

“We must examine how the global community perceives this agenda and join forces to support climate-friendly humanitarian actions in Cox’s Bazar.”

Source: aljazeera.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/6/5/rohingya-refugees-in-bangladeshs-hot-zone-for-climate-threats

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Rohingyas should not be forced to return: UN

Tue Jun 6, 2023

The Rohingyas wishing to return to Myanmar should have access to clear, factual information to be able to make free and informed decisions, and under no condition should be forced to return, said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly T Clements.

"We continue to advocate for creating conducive conditions in Myanmar so that refugees can go back safely and in dignity, and voluntary returns can be sustainable," she said wrapping up a four-day visit to Bangladesh yesterday.

She visited the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar, government officials, donors and humanitarian actors during her trip here.

In a statement, Clements said the Bangladesh government has assured her that it would not force any Rohingyas to return to Myanmar.

This comes when Bangladesh and Myanmar, under mediation by China, are discussing a pilot project for Rohingya repatriation six years after the biggest Rohingya influx in 2017.

Currently, more than a million Rohingya live in Bangladesh.

Clements also emphasized that the UN Refugee Agency must be able to assess the voluntariness of refugees' choices.

She also called for livelihood and self-reliance initiatives to be scaled up in Cox's Bazar to prevent the humanitarian situation in the refugee camps from deteriorating as funding for them is declining.

On June 1, the World Food Programme was forced to cut food aid for the second time in three months due to a lack of funding, which will result in higher malnutrition rates, school dropouts, increased child marriage, child labour and gender-based violence, she said.

Clements also advocated for policies to allow more durable materials, which are fire and weather resistant, to be used for shelters.

Humanitarian agencies have appealed for more than $876 million this year to support almost 1.5 million people, including 920,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char, and 495,000 Bangladeshis in neighbouring communities.

As of June 2023, the Joint Response Plan was only 24 percent funded. Predictable and sustained funding is needed to avert a wider humanitarian disaster.

Source: thedailystar.net

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https://www.thedailystar.net/rohingya-influx/news/bangladesh-germany-sustainable-rohingya-repatriation-3338516

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Islamic Emirate Leader Meets With Provincial Education Leaders

06-06-23

According to Mujahid, Mawlawi Akhundzada stressed the need for the extension of education to remote areas as well as the improvement of educational quality.

“In the meeting, (the Islamic Emirate leader) had some instructions for all heads of the provincial education departments aimed at promoting better teaching, and for education be extended to areas where there is no access to education yet,” he said.

The head of education in Parwan, who was one of the participants at the meeting, said that he stressed the need to finalize curriculum for primary schools.

“The curriculum of the school and seminary should be the same, so that the distance between the schools and seminaries is eliminated,” said Mohammad Hassan Haqqani, head of the Parwan education department.

Mujahid said that the reopening of schools for girls in grade 7-12 was not discussed in this meeting.

“This issue is, I think, not related to the directors. That issue belongs to the religious clerics, to make decisions about it,” he said.

Female students beyond grade six have been deprived of school since the Islamic Emirate came to power.

“I cannot study anymore but I should be allowed to,” said Bahara, a student.

The closing of schools for female students above grade 6 has faced widespread reactions at the national and international level.

Source: tolonews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan-183659

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China Reiterates Support for Stability in Afghanistan

05-06-23

The Chinese defense minister made the remarks at the 20th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue.

He also said that China has provided more than $49 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

Shangfu said that China has hosted international initiatives and participated in meetings relevant to the situation in Afghanistan.

The Islamic Emirate meanwhile called on China to take practical steps toward the improvement of the situation in Afghanistan.

“We want this policy to continue for the stability and security that we have in Afghanistan. This is important for the region. The regional countries and close countries should understand it and support the Islamic Emirate,” said Zabiullah Mujuahid, the Islamic Emirate’s spokesman.

Political analysts said that China wants the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

“China wants an inclusive and modern government in Afghanistan. Through that, China considers stability in Afghanistan,” said Torek Farhadi, a political analyst.

“China has economic and political aims in Afghanistan, but China will never do anything that does not benefit Beijing,” said Torialai Zazai, a political analyst.

Earlier, in remarks at the China-Central Asia Summit, the Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to help the people of Afghanistan to maintain stability and realize peace.

Source: tolonews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan-183662

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Islamic banks’ loan surges 9 times their deposits in a year

Tue Jun 6, 2023

Investments made by full-fledged Islamic banks in Bangladesh surged nearly nine times their deposits in a span of a year, raising questions as private sector credit growth has slowed in the entire banking sector, official figures showed. 

The banks registered an increase in investments, or loans, by Tk 46,011 crore in January-March of 2023 compared to the identical quarter of 2022. Deposits rose by Tk 5,169 crore during the same period, data from the Bangladesh Bank showed.

On top of that, the full-fledged Islamic banks, now numbered 10, were the biggest sufferers of fund withdrawals after the banking sector was hit with fresh loan irregularities: they lost deposits amounting to Tk 427 crore in the first quarter of this year in comparison to the last quarter of 2022.

They collectively held deposits to the tune of Tk 379,524 crore in March, down 0.11 per cent from Tk 379,951 crore in December. It was up 1.38 per cent from March last year, however.

Investments at the banks stood at Tk 412,397 crore as of March, an increase of 1.18 per cent from three months ago and 13.44 per cent a year earlier.

"The abnormal investment growth against a feeble deposit growth is a matter of concern," said Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh.

"The indicators highlight the weak financial health of the banks. The central bank should investigate why the banks have given out an excessive volume of loans. The asset quality of the banks should also be verified."

Some Shariah-based banks have also faced a wide range of scams in recent times, denting the confidence of depositors.

Under such a situation, some banks, including Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd (IBBL), the largest private bank in terms of deposits and investments, suffered from liquidity dearth resulting from fund withdrawals.

The liquidity crunch prompted the central bank in December to pump funds into a number of Islamic banks, including IBBL, to enable them to meet emergency financing needs and comply with regulatory requirements.

Zahid Hussain, a former lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office, says that the economy has been sluggish in recent periods owing to the uncertainty at home and abroad. Still, Islamic banks have posted remarkable investment growth.

"The economy is facing an energy crisis, which hurt the production of industries. But the banks have disbursed a large amount of funds. This is interesting."

Private sector credit growth in Bangladesh dropped to a 14-month low of 11.23 per cent in April owing to weak credit demand amid the current business slowdown.

Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, says that the large volume of investments at a time of crisis is not an indication of prudential banking.

The Shariah-compliant banks, which have recently faced loan irregularities, were considered well-reputed lenders, but their image has been tarnished, she said.

"Some Islamic banks even failed to ensure the required cash reserve ratio."

The overall availability of excess liquidity at the Shariah-based banks and the Islamic banking windows of traditional lenders slipped to Tk 7,708 crore in March this year, from Tk 12,871 crore in December. Their collective surplus liquidity stood at Tk 29,999 crore in March last year.

Both Hossain and Fahmida also urged the central bank to look into higher lending by the banks.

Source: thedailystar.net

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.thedailystar.net/business/economy/banks/news/islamic-banks-loan-surges-9-times-their-deposits-year-3338941

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Afghan Allies to Receive 20,000 More Visas Under SIV

June 6, 2023

US Senators introduced a new bill seeking to bring stability to the visa program for Afghan allies, by doubling the number of visas available and extending the program for five years.

The bill was introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., aimed at reducing the backlog of visa applications with several provisions to streamline the process.

“Afghanistan may not be on the front pages anymore, however, the United States cannot forget the promise we made to our Afghan allies who helped the US troop during the 20-year-long war mission in the war-torn country,” Shaheen said in a statement last week.

Shaheen and Wicker are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Wicker serves as the top Republican on the panel.

The program, known as the Special Immigration Vis or SIV has faced delayed processing and backlog for years, particularly with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Those Afghans who worked with the American troops and left in Afghanistan are extremely worried about being hunted down by the Taliban group. While the US military evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans during the withdrawal, just a fraction were SIV applicants or visa holders.

There are still thousands of SIV applicants and their family members desperately waiting to hear about their applications, who have already faced delayed processing. 

As of the end of 2022, It is estimated that nearly 63,000 Afghan applicants were waiting for what’s known as chief of mission approval, which paved the way for extending the program for another year.

Meanwhile, another 77,000 applicants have already started the application process according to the State Department’s most recent quarterly report.

Besides, the SIV program faced opposition from some Republicans who are migration hard-liners, with the fear of ending the program – it eventually found a home in the government spending bill passed in December.

The currently authorized program until 2024 will be extended through 2029, aimed at issuing 20,000 more visas, bringing a total of visas approved to 54,500.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/afghan-allies-to-receive-20000-more-visas-under-siv/

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2 Killed, 6 Injured in Suicide Bomb in Northern Afghanistan: Official Says

June 6, 2023

According to Mahazudeen Ahmadi, the head of the Information and Culture office, the blast occurred around 8:15 am local time on Tuesday, adding that the blast targeted a vehicle carrying Taliban deputy governor Mawlawi Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi.

He said two people were killed, and six others were injured in the blast. However, he did not provide further details on whether he had survived.

Meanwhile, the injured have been transferred to the provincial hospital for medical treatment.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast so far. Further details are awaiting.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/2-killed-6-injured-in-suicide-bomb-in-northern-afghanistan-official-says/

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Afghan Refugees Still Lack Safe Pathways in the EU: Report

June 5, 2023

Since the regime change in Afghanistan in 2021, the need for protection and humanitarian assistance has increased. Million people have been compelled to flee their homes, often using dangerous routes.

According to the IRC report, Afghans comprise the third-largest refugee group worldwide. Afghan refugees’ resettlement needs in the region have sharply risen, almost tripling yearly, from 96,000 in 2022 to over 273,000 in 2023.

Since August 2021, European Union member states have made public commitments to assist Afghans at risk access pathways to Europe to increase humanitarian admissions, family reunification, and other protection means.

However, only a small number of these plans have materialized. Several challenges, including narrow eligibility criteria, strict evidentiary requirements, and low processing capacity, limit EU efforts’ scale, pace, and progress to bring Afghans to safety.

Meanwhile, Afghan refugees fled to neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. These neighbouring countries struggle with political, economic, and environmental issues, affecting refugees, including Afghans.

The report revealed that Afghan refugees in Turkey had restricted access to healthcare, education, legal assistance and welfare and enforced their repatriation. At the same time, some neighbouring countries have stepped up security at their borders to prevent Afghans from entering.

Apart from the lack of safe pathways reaching to EU, asylum seekers and refugees often face the threat of pushbacks or forcible returns once they reach European countries.

Refugees from Afghanistan are particularly likely to report these violent acts, obstacles to fair and thorough asylum procedures, and lengthy stays in inhumane detention-like facilities after arrival. These containment measures have terrible consequences: In the year leading up to March 2023, 92% of Afghans assisted by the IRC’s mental health teams in Greece displayed signs of anxiety, and 86% of them displayed signs of depression.

The report stress that the EU institutions and states should urgently reaffirm their commitment to protecting Afghans at risk and draw the lessons from this response.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/afghan-refugees-still-lack-safe-pathways-in-the-eu-report/

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Mideast

 

At United Hatzalah, Jews, Muslims Work Together To Save Lives In Israel

JUNE 5, 2023

When Eli Beer set out to establish United Hatzalah of Israel in 2006, his goal was getting to every medical emergency within 90 seconds.

“If we had remained within our communities, we would have never been able to get everywhere in 90 seconds,” Beer, who today serves as the founder and president of the organization recalled, speaking at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference, which took place in New York on Monday. “In order to achieve our goal, we needed to reached out to our neighbors and to people we didn't have a relationship with, starting with the Arab community”

Some 17 years later, United Hatzalah responds to almost 2,000 emergency calls every day, with hundreds of volunteers from every sector of Israeli society, Jews, Muslims and Christians, secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox, men and women.

United Hatzalah: Saving lives with limited resources

“For me and my family, it has been important to support Hatzalah because it saves lives with very limited resources,” said Erica Gerson, a Board Member of the EMS organization and a reform rabbi.

“In addition, it means so much to see the humanity of Israel at its best within our organization,” she added. “It is more than pluralism, it is really about humanity.”

Echoing the same sentiments were also two Hatzalah volunteers, Batya Widawsky, a religious Jewish woman and a resident of the West Bank, and Nazir Aweida, a Muslim man and a resident of East Jerusalem.

“When we are at an emergency scene, religion doesn’t matter, we work all together, people of all faiths, to save people of all faiths,” said Widawsky.

“My family is very proud of what I’m doing and people in my neighborhood are happy to have an EMS first respondent,” Aweida highlighted. “As a Muslim, the Koran teaches me to help everyone in need because saving a live is the highest value.”

“This is a message that I also want to teach my children, to volunteer and to give more and more under the umbrella of Hatzalah for the people of our country,” he concluded.

Source: jpost.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.jpost.com/conferences/article-745311

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Jihad calls for avenge of blood of martyrs

[05/June/2023]

GAZA June 05. 2023 (Saba) - The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine on Monday called for the escalation of resistance to respond to the Zionist aggression and to avenge the blood of the martyrs until freedom.

According to the Palestine Today agency, Jihad confirmed in a press statement that the crime of targeting children and innocent people among the Palestinian people is evidence of the extent of the criminality of the fascist enemy, which continues its organized terrorism.

The movement mourned the masses of the people of the martyr of Palestine, the child Mohammad al-Tamimi, three years, who succumbed to his wounds in the village of Nabi Saleh in Ramallah last Thursday.

The family explained that the body of the child martyr will be handed over to his family Monday night at Rantis Checkpoint, west of Ramallah, to be transferred to the Palestine Medical Complex, and then he will be buried tomorrow in the village cemetery.

Source: saba.ye

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https://www.saba.ye/en/news3244605.htm

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Saudi Arabia Executes 3 People in Shia-Populated Eastern Region

2023-June-5

TEHRAN (FNA)- Saudi Arabia announced the execution of three people in the Shia-populated Eastern Region over trumped-up charges leveled against the religious minority members.

The announcement was made in a statement by the Interior Ministry on Sunday. The death penalties were carried out against Hussein bin Ali bin Muhammad Al-Mohishi, Fazel bin Zaki bin Hossein Ansif and Zakaria bin Hassan bin Muhammad Al-Mohishi, presstv reported.

The Interior Ministry claimed in the statement the three had been convicted of “joining a terrorist cell, possessing weapons and armed assault on security centers and security men” in the Eastern Region, also known as the Eastern Province.

The executions came less than two weeks after authorities implemented death sentences against three young men from the Shia-populated Qatif region over charges of involvement in sabotage activities.

Riyadh claimed the Saudi nationals “had joined a foreign-based network in order to carry out acts of terror against the kingdom".

They were found guilty of having received training in the use of firearms and making bombs, smuggling men wanted on security charges out of the country, bringing in ammunition and storing them for the purpose of disturbing internal security.

Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich and predominantly Shia Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011.

Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.

Ever since Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has ramped up arrests of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

As a result, Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.

Source: farsnews.ir

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https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/14020315000059/Sadi-Arabia-Execes-3-Peple-in-Shia-Pplaed-Easern-Regin

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Belgian expert: Imam Khomeini presented Islamic thought as modern alternative to Western liberalism

June 5, 2023

TEHRAN – Bresht Yunkerz, a Belgian researcher and an interpreter for RT and Press Tv, says Imam Khomeini’s philosophy of “neither East nor West, but the Islamic Republic” made him one of the pioneers of the multipolar world order.

Yunkerz says Imam Khomeini’s record in establishing the Islamic Republic “goes beyond the borders of the Iranian nation.”

In an interview with the Tehran Times on the 34th anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s demise, the Belgian scholar says, “It seems likely that Imam Khomeini would play a leading role in ensuring Iran’s place as a geopolitical pole in its own right, firmly defending its place in the world, and more importantly its Islamic identity.”

Here is the full text of the interview:

How do you evaluate the impact of Imam Khomeini's movement on the great revolutions in the world? Is Imam Khomeini's philosophy still effective in fighting colonialism?

Imam Khomeini’s legacy on international politics and the revolutionary movement worldwide, lies first and foremost in the fact that he has proven once and for all that a modern alternative to Western liberalism can be found within Islam.

Finding inspiration directly within the revelations of our religion, the Imam challenged the largest imperialist superpower in the world, and won. He inspired a nation to find courage and fight on even in its darkest days, even when Saddam Hussein’s armies rampaged through Iran and US-sponsored terrorism killed countless of innocents, to fight back and sacrifice for justice.

Prior to Imam Khomeini, to many it seemed infeasible, even impossible, that Islam or any other religion for that matter, could be an inspiration for a revolutionary movement in the contemporary era, let alone the basis for a modern and developed society. While Islamic philosophers and writers such as Jalal al-e Ahmad and Ali Shariati argued for exactly this sort of political approach, it was Imam Khomeini who perfected it and put it into practice.

In your opinion, if Imam Khomeini was alive today, what would have been his biggest concern in regard to global developments?

As Imam Khomeini used to express his geopolitical philosophy with the terms “neither East nor West, but the Islamic Republic”, he can be seen as one of the earliest proponents of what is nowadays known as the multipolar world order.

As the rise of Iran as a regional power is joined by the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia on the world scale, and as alternative power blocs are being formed that challenge Western hegemony in the shape of BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Belt and Road Initiative, we are seeing the arrival of a world system that is no longer dominated by a power cabal in Washington or London.

It seems likely that Imam Khomeini would play a leading role in ensuring Iran’s place as a geopolitical pole in its own right, firmly defending its place in the world, and more importantly its Islamic identity.

Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the former Soviet Union, believed that Imam Khomeini's movement was able to leave a great impact on the world. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

While Mikhail Gorbachev as a politician and statesman brought utter ruin to his country, resulting in the collapse of the Soviet Union, years of economic and social degradation and the geopolitical victory of the US-dominated unipolar world order, his assessment of Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution in this regard was absolutely correct.

Iran has come a long way even more forward since this statement by Gorbachev was made. While in the past, the West’s attempt to isolate Iran were at least somewhat successful, the rise of the Axis of Resistance and the close relations between Tehran and friendly states such as Russia and China have fully broken the stranglehold of the West. Iran has now fully taken its place as a regional powerhouse.

What is your opinion of Imam Khomeini's statement that Western countries are not trustworthy and should not be considered friends?

The so-called “nuclear deal” of the JCPOA and the quasi-immediate US withdrawal from it, prove how right the Imam was in making this assessment. The Western powers, the United States in particular, speak with a forked tongue when it calls for peace, coexistence and negotiations. At the end of the day, what the West wants, is for the world to live only according to the rules that have been set out by the West itself. No other alternative viewpoints are permissible in the unipolar liberal-capitalist mindset.

We have seen time and again how countries who either collaborate with the West, such as Iraq under Saddam Hussein, or even merely try to find common ground and peaceful coexistence with the West, such as Libya did, always end up paying a price in blood when they inadvertently let their guard down.

Sure, the West as a geopolitical pole can and must be approached with a bona fide diplomatic attitude, just like every other legitimate country and political bloc on the world must be. But this does not mean trusting them outright. Opening one’s country to the value systems of the West, to the NGOs pushing this agenda, or to any form of economic, social or military domination by the West, is a sure path to ruin.

In your opinion, can Imam Khomeini be considered a global leader for popular revolutions?

Most definitely. The legacy of Imam Khomeini is an inspiration for the Axis of Resistance, crucial for the Islamic Resistance in countries such as Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and even as far as Nigeria.

However, the Islamic Revolution has also inspired countries, movements and political leaders across the globe, many of whom are not even Muslim themselves. From the Bolivarian revolutionaries in Venezuela, to the resurgent Russian anti-imperialists. Russian political philosopher Aleksandr Dugin also openly draws inspiration from Iran, and has repeatedly praised the Islamic Republic for its consistent ideological alternative to Western unipolarity.

What is the greatest achievement of Imam Khomeini's movement for the free people of the world?

The obvious answer is the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a contemporary and developed democratic republic that is based entirely within the fold of the Islamic religion. But the achievement itself goes beyond the borders of the Iranian nation, as it has united countless millions of people across the Islamic world and the Global South in general to find inspiration and solace in their fundamental religious values, and to stand up proudly against imperialism, hegemony and domination.

Source: tehrantimes.com

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https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/485419/Belgian-expert-Imam-Khomeini-presented-Islamic-thought-as-modern

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Cairo Talks: Hamas, Jihad Open to 'Technocrat Cabinet'

6 June 2023

Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements continued their talks in Cairo with Egyptian security officials to discuss several issues focusing on establishing "long-term calm" in Gaza and improving the humanitarian and economic situation in the Strip.

Hamas announced an expanded meeting began in Cairo between the head of the politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, and the Secretary-General of the Jihad movement, Ziad al-Nakhala.

They discussed ways to strengthen their strategic relationship "to serve issues of the resistance and the Palestinian people." They also highlighted the attacks on the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, al-Aqsa Mosque, and the West Bank.

A Palestinian source familiar with the consultations said the meeting between the coalitions took place separately from the discussions that the leaders of each faction held separately with Egyptian security officials.

The leaders also met with a delegation representing the Democratic Reform Bloc, led by Palestinian leader Mohammed Dahlan.

The source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, explained that the consultations between the factions and the Egyptian side focused on "seeking a long-term calm in Gaza" and "improving the humanitarian and economic situation in the Strip."

He pointed out that the officials lauded Egypt's role in maintaining calm in the sector and renewed the affirmation of their response to these efforts to spare the enclave from any Israeli escalation.

The source referred to a proposal to form a Palestinian "technocratic government" that would supervise, within a year, the parliamentary and presidential elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Jihad initially approved the proposal, but they expressed to the Egyptian side their fear that the Palestinian Authority (PA) might obstruct the move.

The source pointed out that the Hamas movement feared President Mahmoud Abbas might hinder the proposal, citing his decision to appoint a new constitutional court.

Hamas does not recognize the legitimacy of the constitutional court and considers it a mere tool to circumvent the Palestinian President's decision to dissolve the elected parliament, confirming that Abbas does not intend to move forward with holding the elections.

On Thursday, four judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court took the oath before the President in Ramallah after Abbas issued a decision in May appointing new judges, following his previous decision to retire seven.

In 2018, the President dissolved the Palestinian Legislative Council, controlled by Hamas. The movement rejected the decision saying it "has no constitutional or legal value."

The last elections for the Legislative Council were held in 2006.

- Commodity entry

The source pointed out that the talks also addressed ways to facilitate the entry of goods and merchandise into the Gaza Strip in coordination with Egypt.

He indicated that the PA required supervision of the crossings to collect customs, which Hamas also rejected.

Egypt had invited the Hamas and Jihad leaders to a new round of consultations, which began last Saturday, after the arrival of the members of the delegations of the two movements, whether from the Gaza Strip or abroad.

The consultations mainly aim to maintain calm in the Gaza Strip and ensure that the security situation does not lead to another confrontation with Israel.

Source: english.aawsat.com

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https://english.aawsat.com/arab-world/4366991-blinken-reveals-us-strategy-face-gravest-danger-middle-east

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Europe

 

Boston Councillor Mike Gilbert Accused of 'Islamophobia' Accepts Mosque Invite to Discuss His Views

5th Jun 2023

Councillor Mike Gilbert was refused the role at a meeting of Boston Borough Council on May 22 due to the posts he made during the Qatar World Cup.

Coun Gilbert denied the posts were racist and said he was highlighting aspects of Islamic doctrine.

During the discussion, Coun Dorrian, who served as mayor at the time and chaired the meeting, entered the debate by expressing her concern about the increasing prevalence of hate speech.

 The National Secular Society later came to Coun Gilbert’s defence, and wrote to councillors stressing that critical views on Islam or any ideology “should not be automatically considered hateful”, and alleging Coun Gilbert had been “unfairly smeared”.

The Standard has since spoken to the Boston Imam – director of Boston Mosque and Islamic Centre, Abdul Hamid Qureshi, who gave his take on Coun Gilbert’s Facebook comments.

“My immediate understanding of the views expressed are that they are speculative and assumptive rather than factual,” he said. “Secondly they are out of context and selective.

“I would love to sit with the person and ask where these realities exist. How did he reach to these conclusions?

“I can’t comment on the political decision which the council has made but I could say that the views expressed are assumptions and selective with the most negative spin one could have.

He added: “I would love to invite the person to visit the mosque and discuss the views expressed based on knowledge.”

We asked Coun Gilbert, of the Blue Revolution party, if he would take the Imam up on his invitation. He told us: “I’ll take him up on the offer, I’m very happy to do so.

“It will be good to chat to him about ways to bring together what on the face of it seem like totally contradictory value systems – namely secular western society and Islam.

“I’m surprised my comments were described as ‘selective and out of context'. I’m looking forward to meeting the director to establish exactly what that means.”

Source: lincolnshireworld.com

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https://www.lincolnshireworld.com/news/people/boston-councillor-accused-of-islamophobia-accepts-mosque-invite-to-discuss-his-views-4169906

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Macron opposes NATO plans in Asia – FT

6 Jun, 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to approve a scheme to open a NATO liaison office in Japan, arguing the bloc should not extend itself beyond the North Atlantic, the Financial Times reported.

Macron’s opposition to the new facility planned for Tokyo, which would be NATO’s first such office in Asia, has resulted in a monthslong deadlock within the bloc, eight sources familiar with the talks told the FT on Monday.

Opening a liaison center in Japan would require unanimous consent from NATO’s North Atlantic Council, meaning Paris has the ability to scuttle the proposal. According to one of the sources reached by the FT, Macron believes the body’s charter imposes geographic limitations which bar NATO from expanding into Asia.

At a conference last week, the president reportedly warned that pushing NATO to enlarge its “spectrum and the geography” would be “a big mistake.”

Another unnamed source told the outlet that Paris is unwilling to support any policy that “contributes to NATO-China tension,” as Beijing has already made its misgivings known about the proposed liaison office.

Last month, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said NATO should remain within its own sphere of influence and not seek to grow its presence in Asia, arguing the region “does not welcome bloc confrontation or military blocs.”

The scheme has been discussed intermittently since 2007, when Japan’s then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe first visited NATO’s headquarters, and was raised again in recent months. Tokyo has steadily increased its cooperation with the bloc over the years, opening its first NATO branch office in Brussels in 2018. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese leader to attend a NATO summit last year.

The US-led military collective maintains more than a dozen liaison centers around the globe, most serving as basic contact points with officials from non-member states. Though NATO has not presented its plans for Tokyo in detail, the office would reportedly serve a similar function, and would have only a small staff.

Though Japan has said it is still in discussions to open the office, Kishida recently noted that no final decision had been made, also claiming that Tokyo has no interest in joining NATO despite the stepped-up interaction over the last several years.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/news/577547-france-nato-japan-office/

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Nikki Haley insists on WW3 if Ukraine loses

5 Jun, 2023

Allowing Ukraine to lose to Russia on the battlefield will unleash world war, according to US Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. The former South Carolina governor told a town hall audience in Iowa on Sunday that arming Kiev was all about “preventing war” by “sending a message” to America's rivals.

“When Ukraine wins, that sends a message to China with Taiwan, it sends a message to Iran that wants to build a bomb, it sends a message to North Korea testing ballistic missiles, it sends a message to Russia that it’s over.”

“It is in the best interests of America, it is in the best interests of our national security for Ukraine to win. We have to see this through, we have to finish it,” Haley declared.

Regarding how the war might finish, Haley was less forthcoming. “It would end in a day if Russia would pull out," she suggested. “If Ukraine pulls out, then we’re all looking at world war.” To prevent that, she explained, Kiev needed weapons – lots of them.

“A win for Ukraine is a win for all of us, because tyrants tell us exactly what they’re gonna do,” Haley continued, claiming “Russia said Poland and the Baltics are next,” should Ukraine fall. “If that happens, we’re looking at a world war,” she repeated.

While much has been written about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Poland or the Baltic states, even most US experts admit these are unlikely. Invading any of those countries would trigger Article 5, NATO’s mutual-defense clause, turning a conflict many have described as a proxy war between Moscow and Brussels into a direct war between nuclear powers.

Haley has been quick to set herself apart on foreign policy matters from Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who quipped earlier this year that it was the US, not Russia, that needed regime change, and from challenger Ron DeSantis, who downplayed the conflict in Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.”

During the town hall, she again scoffed at the notion of remaining neutral in the conflict, insisting “This is a war about freedom and it’s one we have to win.”

While Haley served as US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, she made no secret of her interventionist leanings, even announcing an unexpected round of sanctions against Russia that the White House then had to retract. She has urged the Biden administration to give in to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s demands for F-16 fighter jets for months and impose even more sanctions, insisting Washington is too soft on Moscow.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/news/577539-nikki-haley-ukraine-ww3-cheerleading/

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Instagram un-bans US presidential candidate

5 Jun, 2023

Robert F. Kenedy Jr.’s personal Instagram account was reinstated over the weekend, after the Democrat seeking to challenge President Joe Biden in the party primaries complained that the platform wouldn’t allow him to open a campaign profile.

“As he is now an active candidate for president of the United States, we have restored access to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Instagram account,” Meta spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement.

On Thursday, Kennedy tweeted that Meta – which also owns Facebook and WhatsApp – blocked his campaign from registering an account, responding with an automated message that this violated “Community Guidelines on account integrity and authentic identity.” He noted that his personal profile, “banned years ago,” had not yet been reinstated.

“To silence a major political candidate is profoundly undemocratic. Social media is the modern equivalent of the town square. How can democracy function if only some candidates have access to it?” he added.

The 69-year-old nephew of US president John F. Kennedy entered the primaries in April and is currently polling around 20% among Democrats. Before going into politics, he was an environmental lawyer and activist, notably on the issue of childhood vaccinations.

Facebook suspended his Instagram account in February 2021, shortly after Biden took office, for allegedly “repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines.” Stone, the spokesman for the since-renamed Meta, told CNN on Sunday that the decision was “a mistake” and that the company had “resolved” the issue.

Both Facebook and Instagram banned the accounts of RFK’s activist organization Children’s Health Defense in August 2022. They remained inactive as of Monday.

Getting Silicon Valley platforms to censor “misinformation” and head off any claims critical of official narratives was an important tactic of the “well-funded cabal of powerful people” who acted to “fortify” the 2020 US presidential election, according to Time magazine.

The extent of these activities became widely known in March, when a group of independent journalists cited internal Twitter documents to reveal the existence of what they dubbed the “censorship-industrial complex.” The documentation came to light after Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk bought Twitter last year.

In response to RFK Jr’s complaints about Meta, Musk offered to host a discussion for Kennedy on the Spaces live audio platform, which drew some 60,000 users on Monday afternoon. Musk has also hosted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement that he would run for the Republican nomination against former president Donald Trump.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/news/577538-instagram-unbans-rfk-meta/

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North America

 

Muslim youth, community members call on Philadelphia city leaders to address gun violence

June 5, 2023

Members of Philadelphia’s Muslim community gathered at City Hall Monday, calling for more action in the fight against gun violence and other issues impacting the community.

Emgage Pennsylvania and CAIR Philadelphia organized the Muslim Day event, which connected city leaders and Muslim students who shared their perspectives on growing up in Philadelphia.

“Most of the victims and perpetrators of these crimes look like me. And some even have seemingly Muslim names,” Christopher Coleman, a seventh-grader at New Medina Learning Institute, said during a news conference Monday. “This tells me that no one is immune when chaos disrupts the city and criminal activity goes up — so our city has an obligation to stop this chaos, to stop the violence.”

As of June 4, 177 homicides have been reported in Philadelphia so far this year, according to Philadelphia Police.

“You have never heard somebody cry until you heard the cries of a mother who just lost her child to gun violence,” Muslim rapper Tone Trump said while praising the young people in attendance for keeping Philadelphia leaders “accountable.”

“That’s not just the councilman and the mayor. We need to speak to our imams, our teachers, and hold them accountable and say something’s not right. These streets are not safe,” he said.

George Lane, a sophomore at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School, said he wants his peers to understand, “being Muslim doesn’t mean being a threat or a target, but rather being a valuable member of society with a unique perspective to offer.”

“My call to action is for Muslim students to step up and not be afraid, because when we show up and speak out, we not only create a more inclusive and understanding environment for ourselves, but we also educate others and promote tolerance and acceptance,” Lane said.

Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr., a practicing Muslim, was present for the event and thanked those in attendance for their engagement.

“As I look at these young people, I have greater faith in the future of Philadelphia,” Jones said. “When asked by people when I first came here, ‘What do Muslims want?’ We want freedom, justice, equality just like everybody else.”

Emgage Pennsylvania Executive Director Salima Suswell said the impacts of Philadelphia’s Muslim community have the potential to be felt not just statewide, but nationally.

“Just the fact of us being here today in these halls of power is a sign that we are being taken seriously,” Suswell said. “And while all of this is enormously exciting, we must not forget that there was a time where an event like this would not be possible. So I want to remind everyone here today to take advantage of this moment, take some time to reflect on what it meant to be a member of our community with all of its challenges that we have worked so hard to overcome.”

Other issues discussed among students and city leaders included providing halal meals and prayer accommodations in schools, as well as improving school buildings throughout the city.

Source: whyy.org

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https://whyy.org/articles/muslim-day-community-members-gun-violence/

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In Congo’s forests, Islamic State money makes an insurgency more lethal

June 5, 2023

KAMPALA, Uganda — An insurgent group founded in Uganda but now based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has grown increasingly deadly after receiving money from the Islamic State, according to defectors and researchers tracking the group.

Last year, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on four individuals in South Africa for transferring money on behalf of the Islamic State, including to armed groups in Congo and Mozambique. In January, U.S. troops killed Bilal al-Sudani, head of a major regional Islamic State office, in a raid in northern Somalia.

Sudani’s office was most notorious for funneling cash to the Islamic State in Afghanistan, which bombed U.S. troops at Kabul airport in 2021. It also sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Congo, according to a report released Monday by the Texas-based Bridgeway Foundation, which works to end conflicts.

In the past year, the ADF has blown up churchgoers, directed deadly suicide bombings, organized a jailbreak that freed hundreds, and beheaded and burned villagers alive. In March alone, the group killed 150 people, said the Kivu Security Tracker, a research group partly funded by Bridgeway that tracks violence in eastern Congo. Former members of the ADF told The Washington Post they had witnessed the execution of senior leaders who opposed the Islamic State alliance; they also described increasing violence, especially against local villagers.

The report on the group’s finances, published by Bridgeway and George Washington University, and provided exclusively to The Post before its public release, sheds light on the evolution of Islamic State regional affiliates since the group lost its territory in Iraq and Syria. Local affiliates such as the ADF operate independently but can receive money and ideological guidance from the Islamic State’s regional branches.

“The money means innocent people are dying horrific deaths,” said Tara Candland, one of the report’s authors.

The ADF was founded in 1995 in Uganda as an armed Islamist group, but a crackdown in the early 2000s forced the fighters to flee across the border into the mountainous forests of eastern Congo. In 2021, the ADF was accused of orchestrating deadly bombings in the Ugandan capital of Kampala that killed six people. Uganda sent troops into eastern Congo, where they remain battling the insurgent group.

Bridgeway’s access to the defectors, whose accounts informed the report on the ADF’s financing, is the result of the foundation’s long history of working with the Ugandan military and Congolese authorities. Bridgeway’s coordination with them attracted attention because security forces from both countries are accused of rights abuses that include torture and murder. A decade ago, the foundation funded private military trainers to work with Ugandan soldiers hunting Joseph Kony, the commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group infamous for kidnapping children and killing civilians.

Bridgeway said it does not fund the security forces, but promotes defections from rebel groups and helps deradicalize and reintegrate low-level members, including women and children, who escape or are captured.

Killing of top ISIS militant casts spotlight on group’s broad reach in Africa

The Post confirmed several details of the Bridgeway report with a senior Somali intelligence official who had knowledge of the 2021 conviction of a Somali financier who funneled $400,0000 to the Islamic State. A U.S. official working on counterterrorism financing told The Post, “We know funds were going [from Somalia] to South Africa, the DRC, Uganda.”

“It’s early days in Mozambique and the DRC,” he said, using the initials for the Democratic Republic of Congo. The groups were trying to establish themselves, he said. The funding “was a lifeline for them, buying time to establish localized funding mechanisms.”

Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

It’s unclear exactly when the ADF formalized its alliance with the Islamic State. The ADF received its first documented financial transfers from the Islamic State in late 2017, after months when it launched very few attacks, the report said. Its attacks have grown more deadly and more frequent since then.

Four recent defectors, interviewed separately in meetings arranged by Bridgeway, said the Islamic State alliance was formed after the ADF founder was arrested in 2015 and the new leader, Musa Baluku, sought to cement his position. Baluku cracked down on dissent. One 16-year-old girl, who said ADF fighters kidnapped her six years ago, said she saw fighters behead three senior leaders who rejected the Islamic State alliance, including the founder’s son. Three other defectors confirmed her account. All spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“They used to say Islamic State was supporting us and our cause and show us films from them,” she said. “Once they brought us big veils and said they were a gift from Islamic State.”

Two pivotal young leaders — Tanzanian Ahmed Muhamood, or “Abu Waqas,” and Ugandan Meddie Nkalubo, nicknamed “the Punisher” — appeared soon after, defectors said. Muhamood presented himself as an Islamic State emissary, displaying the flag and showing propaganda videos.

In 2017, the same year Islamic State financier Waleed Zein in Kenya, who would come under U.S. sanction, sent the first documented cash transfer to the ADF, Muhamood appeared in a video calling for recruits to the Islamic State. Nkalubo set up a propaganda machine and financial networks. The 16-year-old girl said Nkalubo also brought a drone to accompany fighters.

“The Punisher was good with the computer,” she said.

In 2019, Islamic State central claimed its first attack on behalf of the group, and Baluku appeared in a video reaffirming the previously unpublicized alliance. In October 2020, the Islamic State’s central Amaq News Agency asserted responsibility for an attack by ADF fighters on an army barracks and the Kangbayi prison in the eastern city of Beni. The fighters freed 1,300 inmates.

A year later, Baluku declared the ADF name dead in favor of Islamic State-Central Africa Province, a designation it initially shared with rebels in Mozambique, where Islamist insurgents have killed thousands and halted a multibillion-dollar gas project.

In March, the United States put a $5 million bounty on Baluku’s head under the Rewards for Justice program.

The ADF has trained fighters now active in Mozambique, according to a report by researcher Dino Mahtani, which circulated privately among U.N. Security Council members. Last year Mozambique’s insurgents launched at least 415 attacks, the highest number ever, the report said.

Source: washingtonpost.com

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/06/05/congo-islamic-state-adf-financing/

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The Prison System Can’t Stop Discriminating Against Muslims

BY KHAWLA NAKUA

JUNE 05, 2023

For years at Lovelock Correctional Institution in Nevada, Jummah prayers were provided to Muslims every Friday. They weren’t always on time, but they were provided. Fridays are a very special day for Muslims, and are often referred to as mini Eids. And with that comes a special prayer, Jummah, which features a sermon followed by a short prayer in the middle of the day.

But in the summer of 2018, Said Elmajzoub, a Muslim who is incarcerated at Lovelock, noticed something different. Jummah services weren’t being provided for Muslims anymore. “The chaplain said that the only time they would be able to give us was 8:00 in the morning on Friday, but he knew that would be wrong,” Elmajzoub told me. “So, I filed the necessary paperwork and said please just give us any room. We just need an hour on Friday afternoon.”

Filing grievances didn’t help, so he filed a lawsuit. A year later, the Council on American–Islamic Relations got involved in his case.

“There was a strong hint that Muslims lost their rights to Jummah prayer because of a belief by the chaplain at Lovelock facilities that he thinks Islam to be a racist, Black-supremacy organization,” said Justin Sadowsky, a trial attorney at the CAIR Legal Defense Fund. This belief was memorialized in writing. After an interfaith meeting in 2018, Lovelock chaplain Scott Davis wrote notes that were later presented in court as evidence suggesting that he had offered an excuse to the group for why Jummah prayers were ending and felt unable to tell them the real reason. “I couldn’t say in front of all them that it is because they teach racism, hate, black supremacy,” he wrote. “There would have been a riot.” (I reached out to Davis and other prison officials at Lovelock, but they didn’t respond for comment.)

This note was the smoking gun Elmajzoub’s case needed. “CAIR said to me it’s probably the strongest case they have ever seen because the prison was [so] stubborn and anti-Islamic in their views, that they allowed other religions to gather and pray, they just wouldn’t let Muslims do it,” said Elmajzoub.

What proceeded was a cat-and-mouse period during which the Lovelock officials would alternate between saying that they had fixed the problem and continuing to deny prayer space and blaming things like a shortage of staff or prison lockdowns. Even after an eventual court order forced the prison to offer Jummah services—and after the prison reached a $90,000 settlement with Elmajzoub—the problems for Lovelock’s Muslims continued.

Ever since Lovelock was required to start offering Jummah services, Elmajzoub says routine prayer services have become accompanied by heightened security measures. “It’s humiliating, because they originally only started doing this to Muslims,” he said. “They take extreme joy out of harassment.”

Ultimately, the discrimination against incarcerated Muslims is not confined to one institution in Nevada. Muslims across the country are experiencing repeated roadblocks when deciding to congregate and pray. Records that I obtained from the Arizona and Oklahoma departments of corrections show how lockdowns have been used to curb Jummah prayers among Muslims.

“Jumah prayer has been canceled for two Fridays in a row with no good explanation why,” reads one complaint from Arizona that was dated April 6, 2020. “Other religious services has been … both weeks with no delay.”

In Georgia prisons, lockdowns are repeatedly being used to curb any form of congregational or Jummah prayer among Muslims, incarcerated Muslims report. This is a problem “in a few different state facilities,” said Javeria Jamil, an attorney from CAIR Georgia. “Jummah will be removed because the prison had gone to lockdown because there was a security issue, and when we dig further into it, it says one person misbehaved and the entire Muslim population is being punished for it.”

In Prince George’s County Jail in Maryland, prison officials have also used lockdowns and staff shortages to prevent Muslims from congregating. The institution made a rule that if more than four people were gathered they would classify that group as a gang, essentially blocking Muslim prayer gatherings. This past December, CAIR Maryland and the Maryland Muslim Prison Project did a joint press conference outside the jail to demand religious accommodations for incarcerated Muslims. This followed an incident in which a SWAT team was called to break up a Jummah service. As Zainab Chaudry, CAIR Maryland’s director, said, “No one should ever have the SWAT team called on them for exercising their constitutionally protected right to peacefully assemble for prayer.”

This isn’t the only documented instance of attempts to pray resulting in violence against incarcerated Muslims. Two years ago in Missouri, a prison guard ordered nine Muslims to stop in the middle of Jummah prayers. Some stopped, while others rushed to finish, and that’s when the prison guard began pepper-spraying them and beating them, according to a court document submitted by CAIR Missouri. “This one particular night, an officer came in, told them to stop, and within two minutes a response team was in with pepper spray and attacking them,” said Kimberly Noe-Lehenbauer, a civil rights attorney at CAIR. The officers were not disciplined. (I reached out to the Missouri Department of Corrections, but they declined to comment, since this case is going into litigation.)

Many lawyers I spoke with for this article indicated that part of the reason why congregational and Jummah prayers are repeatedly stopped in prison is because these institutions treat Muslims as a de facto security threat.

“There’s a default equation of Islam and security risk. That doesn’t apply to other faiths,” said Christina Jump, the civil litigation department head at the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America. “When it comes to Muslims having access to prayer materials and the concept of more than one inmate gathering at a time, [it] scares some facilities.”

Muslims in prisons and jails across the country are often seen as being part of a gang instead of a religious group. “So, if one incarcerated Muslim does something that is a violation of prison rules,” says Jamil from CAIR Georgia, “then the Muslim population gets punished. And the way it manifests itself is denying congregational Jummah to all Muslims.”

Even in a progressive state like California, Muslims still have a hard time congregating and praying. An investigation last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center showed a video that was produced by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training in 2009 that portrayed incarcerated Muslims as a gang. A year later the video was sent to police departments, community colleges, and law enforcement training facilities across the state. This video was only removed after the center’s investigation. “Being Muslim literally classifies you in another category—as gangs,” said Khirad Zahra Siddiqui, a Ph.D. candidate in criminology, law, and society at the University of California. “There literally is this idea that Islam doesn’t merit religious protection the way that other religions do.”

It’s important to note that there’s a long history of prison officials disregarding the rights of Muslims to practice their faith by citing “security” concerns. During the height of the popularity of the Nation of Islam between the 1940s and 1960s, Muslims in prison were repeatedly spied upon, and weren’t allowed to congregate or obtain religious material.

Things started to improve in 1964, when the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Cooper v. Pate that Muslim prisoners had the right to obtain a Quran.

For decades after Cooper v. Pate, Muslims, for the most part, had their religious rights protected and could practice their faith freely, including by congregating and having Jummah prayers. But that changed after 9/11. Muslims in prison, just like those outside of prison, were being surveilled and discriminated against. Shortly after 9/11, the purported threat of Islamic radicalization in prison garnered national attention. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, for example, told a Senate hearing in 2006 that prisons were “fertile ground for extremists.” In 2011, Rep. Peter King went so far as to hold a hearing in the House Committee on Homeland Security titled “The Threat of Muslim-American radicalization in U.S. prisons.” During a Fox News interview, King called Muslims “the only group in prison which is tied to overseas terrorists, which is part of an existential threat to the United States.”

All of this has helped lead us to this moment, in which Muslims are still treated as a security threat and denied basic religious rights in prisons across the country.

Today at Lovelock facilities, Jummah prayers are happening. However, before Muslims enter the prayer room, they must go through a federal metal detector and get patted down. Once inside, there are always three or four guards listening and watching as they pray, according to Elmajzoub. “They could have 150 people come to the chapel and there’ll be no guards inside, they won’t get patted out, they won’t go through metal detectors,” Elmajzoub says of how other faiths are allowed to pray. “We go, 15 to 20 of us, there will be four guards patting us down, searching with metal detectors and asking stupid, belittling questions.”

Unfortunately, this is what constitutes progress for Muslims trying to practice their faith in American prisons.

Source: slate.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2023/06/being-a-muslim-in-prison-discrimination.html

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Islamic Republic’s Cyber Army: Cheerleaders, Zombies and Trolls

05-06-23

Psychological warfare, known by a number of names including psychological operations and “psy ops," is one of the oldest tactics employed in wars. Such tactics are aimed at undermining the enemy’s morale and its will to fight or resist and, sometimes, at persuading the enemy to change its position. Another kind of psy-ops is propaganda aimed at strengthening the morale and the resolve of allies or one’s own forces. Efforts to manipulate the minds of prisoners of war and political prisoners are also part of psychological warfare.

In this two-part report, we examine how the Islamic Republic wages psychological warfare against its opponents, which tools it uses and whether it observes any red lines in its psychological operations.

The first part is available here. This second part introduces you to the Islamic Republic’s cyber-army or, as the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei characterizes it, “the officers of the soft war.”

***

The protests in Iran in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election, called the world’s first “Twitter revolution,” was the opening chapter in a new era of people’s venture into politics and protest organization. Using social media to organize and to report on the protests was the biggest domestic challenge that the Islamic Republic regime had faced since its establishment. Social media enabled the people to organize big rallies within a few hours, something that previously required months.

Furthermore, social media made possible the live coverage of protests and the wide coverage of human rights violations, including the savage treatment of protesters by security forces. The videos and first-hand reports by eyewitnesses brought the crimes committed against peaceful protests to the attention of the world.

Faced with this great challenge, the Iranian government immediately got to work and, besides cutting off the internet, expanding filtering and trying to completely cut access to the world-wide web, it started to organize various units of its cyber-army to overcome the loud voices of the people on social media.

In the spring of 2018, the quarterly Journal of Security Knowledge published an article titled “A study on the role of the tactics of psychological operations in controlling the 2009 unrest.” In this article, Majid Shamani, a teacher at Imam Hossein University which trains officers and personnel for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), analyzed the role of psy ops in the suppression of the protests. The article examined the different types of peaceful protests, the performance of the forces of suppression, the coverage of protests by government-affiliated media outlets and an opinion poll of members of six battalions of Tehran's security brigade Al-e Mohammad.

In this study, Shamani concluded that psychological operations, along with intelligence gathering, is one of the most effective ways in suppressing protests. He then suggested the following actions:

Understanding the opportunities and unavoidable challenges of social media, and using these opportunities for defense against attacks by antagonists

Informing and mobilizing public opinion on social media aimed at attacking hostile networks

Pathology and analysis of actions taken to control unrest

Creating psychological operations think-tanks and training the commanders in psy op tactics

Devising tactics that can be used on social media to control unrest

Launching and producing programs for the IRGC through the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and broadcasting them on various networks.

In the autumn of 2020, the quarterly Police Science published an article titled “The role of intelligence grandees in controlling unrest by riot police,” which emphasized the special role of psychological operations next to intelligence operations. Quoting from a book by Habibollah Jan-Nesari, deputy director of riot police training at the time, about the suppression of 2009 protests, the article said that “no effort must be spared in identifying the enemy before the unrest” starts.

The article then emphasized the importance of “the role of infiltrators in the ranks of the opposition and of conducting psychological operations among the rioters in order to downgrade the rioters’ demands and reactions, and sometimes to mislead the rioters and identify the core leaders of the unrest.”

This is exactly what the government started doing at least a few months after the start of the 2009 protests, and these operations have become more extensive and more complex.

These operations are conducted by various groups, each with its own duties and functions. We classify the most important of these groups into three categories: “cheerleaders,” “zombies” and “trolls.”

The Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders are the same traditional propagandists that publicly publish and promote the government’s version of events. They seek to win verbal disputes and want to push public discourse in a direction that the Islamic Republic favors. Their cyber accounts usually display specific symbols that make them easy to identify – for example, the Islamic Republic’s flag in the “bio” section of the page or a picture of General Ghasem Soleiman, the assassinated commander of the IRGC’s expeditionary Quds Force. The cheerleaders’ most important duty is to launch, promote and spread a line of discourse that is usually selected by security agencies and is then trumpeted on social media.

The cheerleaders are either selected from among well-known faces like actors, TV figures, athletes and celebrities or “long-term investments” who show promise of growth on social media.

Social media are built on an algorithm that can be called the “attention economy.” They do not exclusively show you posts by those you follow. These posts are chosen based on their level of attention and on the amount of attention you have paid to similar posts.

Aside from how much a post might be to your taste, it will be seen by others depending on the responses, positive or negative, it gets from you and others before you. In other words, social media treats the content that they publish like merchandise.

A merchandise that receives more initial responses, positive or negative, is treated by the social networks’ algorithms as a popular merchandise and is shown to more people. It makes no difference whether you responded to it with disgust or with love. The only thing that is important for social media is to increase the interaction of users with their platform because it makes selling ads possible.

Moreover, one of the dominant behavioral patterns on social media originates from the herd instinct. This means following the “herd” without interference by one’s power of reasoning and analysis.

Therefore, the chances of responding or even endorsing a post that thousands have endorsed or responded to is several times higher than the chances of a post with the same content but with a low number of responses and endorsements. But what if we could artificially create such mass responses? Wouldn’t it help us to dominate the conversation and divert the discourse toward where we want it to go?

The Zombies

This is where the second group, the “zombies,” are brought in.

The duty of zombies is to create this first response. Their task is to endorse and republish the posts that the cheerleaders produce so that both the cheerleaders and their posts would be viewed more and more. An army of fake accounts, including zombie accounts, promote these posts and, as a result, they are seen by the public more and more.

More importantly, the high volume of responses to these posts create the illusion that many social media users agree with their content or that the number of users who think along the same lines is very high.

A large number of zombie accounts are internet bots, software applications that run automated tasks on the internet, which are guided by Islamic Republic agencies responsible for cyber operations. Another part of these accounts are guided by human operators.

Usually, each operator is responsible for 20 to 50 fake accounts, and they endorse and republish content created by the cheerleaders. The volume of original posts produced by these accounts is usually close to zero and that is why some social media analysts call them “sock puppets,” referring to the hidden hand whose owner talks through these fake accounts.

Zombie accounts can be identified by a few characteristics:

The number of their “following” is always greater than their “followers.”

Their “handles” (usernames or nicknames) do not resemble real names or even aliases. They mostly resemble the serial number or a meaningless word such as “hs20ljf028$” or “kaywhyeleenq.”

Their level of activity is either extremely high or extremely low. In the past six months, they have either tweeted thousands of times or none at all.

They joined social media or became active at the same time that political unrest started. For example, the account “Tanha” was active from January 2018 to April 2018 and from November 2019 to May 2010 and became active again in September 2022.

Of course, these are their general characteristics and they do not mean that all such accounts belong to the government, but if they show some of these features then they are definitely suspect. 

Zombies play the role of foot soldiers in online battles. They provide the ammunition for the battle of narratives on social media, i.e. attention and endorsement, in order to spread the discourse favored by the cheerleaders and allow attacks by trolls on undesirable narratives.

Besides an army of zombie bots that it has deployed to support its psychological operations, the Islamic Republic has recruited thousands of real people as well for this purpose. In January 2017, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, deputy to Iran’s attorney-general at the time and a current member of the Supreme Court, reported that 18,000 volunteers had been recruited to survey “counter-revolutionary” content in cyberspace. And in November 2020, Mohammad Reza Yazdi, commander of Tehran’s Mohammad Rasoulollah Corps, the biggest military unit in Iran responsible for crushing protests, reported the formation of 144 cyber battalions to counter the “enemies’ distortions.”

These cyber battalions play the same role in cyberspace as the role played by forces of suppression in the streets. By using zombie accounts, they promote the content produced by the cheerleaders and allow the trolls to conduct their activities.

The Trolls

An internet troll is usually defined as a person who engages in verbal harassment by posting inflammatory messages online intended to provoke others into displaying emotional responses, or to manipulate others' perceptions. But government trolls, who are the most important forces in the psychological operations conducted by states like Russia, China and the Islamic Republic are a little different. They play different roles in different arenas. Sometimes, like Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, former head of the Culture Ministry’s Digital Media Center and the current secretary of cyberspace activities of the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces political party, spread disinformation by creating numerous fake accounts under the names of famous figures, and, sometimes, launch campaigns of fake news under the guise of opposition figures. But the most important job of the trolls is to create confusion and mayhem.

Unlike cheerleaders, they are not seeking to promote specific narratives even if the content they publish might seem otherwise. The most important task for trolls is to create suspicion and destroy trust. If people are suspicious of everything, either nobody would believe anything or anybody would believe something.

Jenna Matthews, a social media specialist, says that the troll’s most important goal is to make people believe there is no truth. They only want to create confrontation and sow divisions, and it does not matter whose side they take.

The Islamic Republic has created one of the biggest troll armies in the world. In October 2018, Twitter reported that it has taken action against states that try to conduct campaigns of fake news and misinformation on Twitter. In the same year, Twitter took down 4,779 accounts belonging to agents of the Islamic Republic while blocking only four similar Russian accounts.

Twitter classified these accounts based on their mission: 1,666 of the accounts had tweeted around 2 million times, presenting the world news as narrated by media outlets and Twitter accounts affiliated with the regime, which is the mission of the zombies; 248 accounts exclusively tweeted propaganda against Israel; the other 2,865 accounts held counterfeit IDs. By faking the IDs of actual journalists or by claiming that they worked for reputable international media outlets, they tried to distort and confuse the discussions on political issues in Iran.

Government trolls, especially those focusing on psychological warfare against protesters, follow a specific formula which can be recognized by those who have a chance to closely examine their work.

Degrading Discourse to a Game: They downgrade social and political developments to a game, to something like a sports competition that leaves you no choice but to support one team or the other. This is how they polarize the situation and control the most extreme parts of both sides. In a situation where rational dialogue is needed to find solutions, everything turns into a childish competition between one side and the other.

Verbal Radicalism: They usually protest against the government more than anyone else. They say things against the government that can lead to heavy punishment. In this way, they gain the trust of the target group. They also appear more extremist than anyone else in supporting the group they claim to support. And they know very well which groups are ready to accept them as like-minded or at least allies and which ideas have the potential to be radicalized to the point of reaching a nightmarish idea or a bad joke.

Attacking Effective and Practical Actions: Verbally, trolls are the brave generals on the battlefield. But if an effective and pragmatic idea is presented, they will attack it without exception because, on the one hand, their job is to drain the energy of protesters through verbal extremes and empty but radical slogans, and, on the other hand, they aim to prevent effective organization, gathering of forces, and planning for action. Government trolls always agree with the general ideas but do not agree with any detailed program or planning. For example, government trolls forcefully encourage attacking the government, dismantling the oppression machinery and taking revenge on the mercenaries, but, at the same time, warn against practical steps for seeking justice, organizing protests in front of the parliaments of Western countries, building networks for financial support of strikes, creating political organizations or fundraising groups for the families of the prisoners.

Focusing on Promoting Distrust and Despair: The trolls’ most important task is the same as the main goal of psychological operations, i.e., weakening the enemy's morale and breaking the resistance, unity and order of the opposing forces.

Inciting verbal quarrels and hate-mongering against different groups in a comprehensive and daily manner ultimately leaves the public with a chaotic and disappointing scene which suggests that resistance forces have disintegrated, whereas what we see is merely a puppet show by cyber forces in which an army of zombies and groups of inexperienced and ignorant social media users play the role of foot soldiers.

Source: iranwire.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://iranwire.com/en/technology/117218-islamic-republics-cyber-army-cheerleaders-zombies-and-trolls/

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White House: US consistent on need for free, fair election in Bangladesh

June 6, 2023

The United States has reiterated its call for holding a free and fair election in Bangladesh.

“We've been consistent on the need for Bangladesh to hold free and fair elections,” said National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby at a media briefing at the White House.

Kirby made the remarks when his attention was drawn to the much-discussed letter from six congressmen to US President Joe Biden, seeking measures for a free and fair election in Bangladesh.

“Look, we've been consistent, and I'm aware of the communication,” Kirby said.

To demonstrate that commitment, he said, the State Department recently announced a “3C” visa policy that would restrict visas to individuals who “undermine” Bangladesh's elections.

On Monday, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam said there are many “exaggerations, lack of information and inconsistency” in the letter from the six US congressmen to President Biden.

“But constructively, we will reach out to all these members,” he told reporters while responding to a question, noting that such activities might increase in the coming days as the election nears.

Talking to reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Shahriar Alam said they saw such letters in the past, too.

“Over the last seven days, I tried my best to explain where the relationship between Bangladesh and the United States stands today,” he said, adding that propaganda and misinformation against the government was also there earlier.

Source: dhakatribune.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.dhakatribune.com/foreign-affairs/2023/06/04/hasan-ties-with-us-warm-and-flourishing

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Australia

 

Islamic State-linked Australians held in Syria launch repatriation bid

5 June 2023

SYDNEY, Australia — Groups of Australian women and children stranded in detention camps in Syria launched a joint legal bid on Monday to be repatriated.

The 17 children and nine women have spent years languishing in the Al-Hol and Roj camps in Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria, following the 2019 collapse of the Islamic State group.

In many cases, the Australian citizens are the wives, sons and daughters of IS fighters, who forced their families to live in the jihadist group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

Aid group Save the Children Australia filed the case on behalf of the women and children, saying the government was “morally and legally” obliged to repatriate them.

“After spending four years living in hard conditions, this legal case was not the first choice of action by these Australian citizens in Syria,” STCA chief executive Matt Tinkler said.

“Every day these Australian children are left in Syria is another day their safety and wellbeing are at risk.”

In October last year, the Australian government repatriated four women and 13 children from the camps.

Tinkler said there were initially hopes more rescue missions would follow, but these had slowly faded in the face of government “inaction.”

“Australia’s unwillingness to bring the remaining children home is a source of international shame,” he said.

The Australia-based families of those still stuck in Syria said they had spent four years anxiously waiting to be reunited.

“The repatriations last October raised their hopes and ours,” they said in a joint statement. “It showed that the government could repatriate our family members, who are all Australian citizens, and we still hope that work will continue.”

“They are our loved ones. They are Australians. They are sick. They are in danger. We must bring them to safety now.”

The issue of repatriations has been a politically contentious one in Australia, where the conservative opposition party has repeatedly cited national security concerns when arguing against the returns.

Source: timesofisrael.com

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https://www.timesofisrael.com/islamic-state-linked-australians-held-in-syria-launch-repatriation-bid/

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Australia's Most Decorated War Veteran 'Responsible for Murder' in Afghanistan: Federal Court Judge

05-06-23

Ben Roberts-Smith, holder of the Victoria Cross and other top military honours, was also "not an honest and reliable witness in ... many areas" and a bully toward other Australian soldiers, Federal Court Judge Anthony Besanko said in his full judgement released on Monday.

Besanko on Thursday threw out Roberts-Smith's defamation case against three Australian newspapers which had accused him of unlawful killings in Afghanistan. Besanko said the media outlets had proven substantial truth in their reporting, ending a case which lifted the veil of secrecy over the elite SAS.

Australian civil courts require a lower threshold to prove accusations than criminal courts do. Roberts-Smith has not been charged with any offences and has not commented since the ruling. His lawyer was not immediately available for comment. Roberts-Smith has since quit his job as a television executive.

Besanko delayed releasing reasons for his judgement until Monday to allow the Australian government time to ensure it did not inadvertently divulge national security secrets.

"I have found that the applicant (Roberts-Smith) was complicit in and responsible for the murder of EKIA56 ... in 2009 and the murder of Ali Jan at Darwan on 11 September 2012 and the murder of the Afghan male at Chinartu on 12 October 2012," Besanko said in his 736-page civil court judgment.

Roberts-Smith was accused by the newspapers of ordering a lower-ranking soldier to shoot dead an "older Afghan male", identified in the case as EKIA56, to "blood the rookie", he said.

In addition, Besanko said: "I find that in a compound in Chinartu ... the applicant, through an interpreter ordered (an un-named person) to shoot an Afghan male who was under detention".

A soldier who was there "shot the Afghan male in circumstances amounting to murder. The applicant (Roberts-Smith) was complicit in and responsible for murder," the judgment said.

Besanko found Roberts-Smith engaged in a "campaign of bullying" against another Australian soldier, including what he called a "death threat" when Roberts-Smith said: "if your performance doesn't improve on our next patrol, you're going to get a bullet in the back of the head."

He also said Roberts-Smith was not a reliable witness in one of the country's longest-running defamation cases and had reasons to lie.

"The applicant has motives to lie, being a financial motive to support his claim for damages in these proceedings, a motive to restore his reputation which he contends has been destroyed by the publication of the articles and significantly, a motive to resist findings against him which may affect whether further action is taken against him," Besanko said wrote.

"I find that the applicant was not an honest and reliable witness in ... many areas," he added.

Roberts-Smith, 44, was seen as a national hero, with his portrait hanging in the Australian War Memorial, for his actions during six tours of Afghanistan from 2006 to 2012 and military citations. A 2020 report found credible evidence that members of Australia's Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) killed dozens of unarmed prisoners in the lengthy Afghan war. Only one soldier has been charged.

The Australian government is looking for “a way forward” to compensate families of victims of alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, the defense minister told legal advocates, the Guardian reported. 

Officials continue to warn about the complexity of the compensation issue, one of the key outstanding recommendations from the Brereton inquiry into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces soldiers, according to the Guardian.

TOLOnews reached out to some family members of the victims in Uruzgan provinces, where the Australian soldiers were settled under the command of ISAF/Resolute Support forces. 

The residents claim that hundreds of people were either killed or wounded in night raids being conducted by Australian forces in Uruzgan. 

Source: tolonews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://tolonews.com/index.php/afghanistan-183663

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