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Islamic World News ( 9 Dec 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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CAB Will Extend Dignity to Non-Muslims from Pak, B'desh, Afghanistan: Home Minister







• CAB Will Extend Dignity to Non-Muslims from Pak, B'desh, Afghanistan: Home Minister

• Protests Erupt As India Looks To Block Citizenship for Muslims

• In Mauritania, Imams Take To Radio Waves to Say Child Marriage Is Against Islam

• The Afghanistan Papers a Secret History of the War

• US Commission Seeks Sanctions against Indian Home Minister over Controversial Citizenship Bill

• Turkish Armenians Worried About Government Meddling In Spirituality

• Saudi Arabia Wins Praise for Showcasing Ancient Cultural Heritage

• Muslim Council of Britain Accuses BBC of “Failing to Sufficiently Report” On Conservative Islamophobia

• How Do We Link Halal Industries with Green Logistics to Drive the Islamic Economy Responsibly And Sustainably?

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/cab-will-extend-dignity-to-non-muslims-from-pak,-b-desh,-afghanistan--home-minister/d/120488

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India

• Muslim Bodies Appeal to Government, MPs to Junk Citizenship Amendment Bill

• BHU Sanskrit Professor Attacked For Supporting Muslim Colleague Feroz Khan

• An uneasy silence among Indian Muslims marks the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill

• Rohingya Muslims will never be accepted as Indian citizens: Amit Shah clarifies in LS

• ‘Citizenship Amendment Bill against Muslims,’ says Asaduddin Owaisi, tears bill in LS

• ‘Shiv Sena, Muslim League as partners’: Amit Shah on Congress being secular

• Ayodhya verdict: Shia Board files review plea, seeks 5-acre land for charitable hospital

• Maldives keen to disentangle from China's debt trap, Nasheed conveys to VP Naidu

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Africa

• Nigeria faces backlash over the arrest of a US-based activist and journalist

• Kenya building collapse toll hits 10 but 2 survivors found

• Mortal remains of 14 Indians killed in Sudan's tanker blast to arrive in India today

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South Asia

• Rohingya Muslims in Europe Hopeful for Justice

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North America

• Sa'ar: The world is suffering from lack of moral clarity on Islamic extremism

• The New York Non-Profit Artists Space Reopens With an 8,000-Square-Foot Home in the New Gallery Mecca of Tribeca

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Mideast

• Gov't Spokesman: US Involvement in Recent Riots in Iran "War Crime"

• FM: Iran Ready for Comprehensive Prisoner Swap with US

• Minister: Iran to Continue Power Supplies to Iraq

• Turkey deports 11 French suspected Islamic State members

• 2 Turkish soldiers killed, 7 wounded while defusing bomb

• Iranian Surgeons Remove Brain Tumor through Awake Craniotomy

• Iran: No Talks Held with US on Prisoner Swap

• Spokesman: Iran to Give Crushing Response to Any Israeli Military Threats

• AEOI Spokesman: Iran Capable of Producing Stable Isotopes without Russia's Help

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Arab World

• Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi Reforms Positive for 1.8 Billion Muslims

• Saudi minister of foreign affairs receives US envoy to Riyadh

• Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims

• Saudi, GCC artists explore relationship between man and architecture

• GCC foreign ministers meet in Saudi Arabia ahead of Gulf summit

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Europe

• Russian Forces Enter Former Islamic State Stronghold of Raqqa after U.S. Pullback

• The mosque in Dudley North that may cost Labour the seat

• British Muslims struggle to find decent candidates

• General election 2019: Conservative candidate shares Islamophobic tweet which claimed Muslims have a 'nasty culture'

• Brexit Party expels councillor caught making racist comments about Muslims

• Oliver North Blames Pensacola Shooting on 'Radical Islamic Terrorism'

• Garda denies attacking RTE cameraman during clash between anti-Islam and anti-racism groups

• Southwest flight attendant accused of mistreating Muslim woman on flight from Houston to D.C.

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Southeast Asia

• China Says Uighur Muslims Have 'Graduated' From Camps

• Malaysia’s crisis of credibility, cronyism and the climate

• Cops summon Yusoff Rawther again

• Rafizi quits politics to focus on start-up

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Pakistan

• Islamabad High Court Summons Safe City DIG In Missing Person Case

• Commander Navy Islamic Republic of Iran visits naval headquarters, Islamabad

• SC says its observations will not influence high court proceedings in judge video scandal

• References on BRT, Malam Jabba projects ready: NAB

• Senate panel wants cases against Zardari shifted to Karachi

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Australia and New Zealand

• Christchurch Mosque Shooting: Police Officers Who Apprehended Alleged Gunman Named

• Accused Christchurch mosque attacker excused from court today

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CAB Will Extend Dignity to Non-Muslims from Pak, B'desh, Afghanistan: Home Minister

December 10, 2019

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will extend persecuted non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan dignity and an opportunity to rebuild their lives, after the proposed legislation was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday night.

In a series of tweets, Shah also expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making the Bill a reality.

"I extend my gratitude to PM @narendramodi for making the historic Citizenship Amendment Bill a reality that will allow India to open its doors to minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who are facing religious persecution. I thank everyone who supported this bill.

"It is well known that those minorities who chose to make Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan their home had to constantly live in the fear of extinction. This amended legislation by Modi govt will allow India to extend them dignity and an opportunity to rebuild their lives," he said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Modi complimented Shah for "lucidly explaining" all aspects of the measure. "He also gave elaborate answers to the various points raised by respective MPs during the discussion in Lok Sabha," Modi said.

The Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan after facing religious persecution there, a little past midnight on Monday after a heated debate that lasted over seven hours.

The Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha with 311 members favouring it and 80 voting against it, will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha for its nod.

https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/citizenship-bill-will-extend-persecuted-non-muslims-from-pak-b-desh-and-afghanistan-dignity-shah-119121000044_1.html

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Protests erupt as India looks to block citizenship for Muslims

By Zarir Hussain and Abhirup Roy

December 10, 2019

Guwahati: Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government offered a controversial bill in Parliament that would give citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from three neighbouring countries.

Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the lower house amid raucous debate on Monday. Opposition parties stood against the proposed law that would, for the first time, create a legal pathway to grant Indian nationality on the basis of religion.

The bill was originally introduced in 2016 during the Modi government's first term but lapsed after protests and an alliance partner's withdrawal. It proposes to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who came to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before 2015.

Oppositions politicians inside Parliament, and protesters in several Indian cities, said the bill discriminated against Muslims and violated India's secular constitution.

Shah and Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which had included the CAB as part of its manifesto in the last general election, insist that it is necessary.

"In these three countries, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians, followers of these six religions have been tormented," Shah said, before the bill was tabled after a vote.

But protesters returned to the streets in Assam - one of India's remote north-eastern states that had previously opposed the bill - and blocked roads, burnt tyres and painted walls with slogans against the new proposal.

Student groups called for dawn-to-dusk shutdown in four districts of the state. Shops, businesses, educational and financial institutions remained shut and public transport stayed off the roads.

"We will fight and oppose the bill till the last drop of our blood," All Assam Students' Union adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said, underlining the region's resistance against migrants amid fears that tens of thousands of settlers from neighbouring Bangladesh would gain citizenship.

In Modi's home state of Gujarat and the eastern city of Kolkata, hundreds of people staged protests and marched against the proposed law.

In a statement, a group of more than 1000 Indian scientists and scholars also called for the immediate withdrawal of the bill.

"We fear, in particular, that the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country," the statement said.

After going through the lower house, where the BJP has a majority, the bill has to be approved by the upper house, where the ruling party does not have enough votes for passage. Any bill needs to be ratified by both houses of Parliament to become law.

"Please save this country from this law and save the home minister," Asaduddin Owaisi, an opposition MP from the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party, told Parliament.

https://www.watoday.com.au/world/asia/protests-erupt-as-india-looks-to-block-citizenship-for-muslims-20191210-p53im1.html

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In Mauritania, imams take to radio waves to say child marriage is against Islam

9 December 2019

SELIBABI, Mauritania – "I refused to marry off my daughter for a simple, good reason: I want my daughter to be empowered,” said Lemeima mint El Hadrami, 49. "I don't want her to go through the same difficulties I did when I was young."

Ms. El Hadrami was married when she was only 13.

As is often the case for child brides, she became pregnant in adolescence and was forced to drop out of school. She had two daughters, both following difficult pregnancies. Then her husband left them.

"Back then, people didn't know that child marriage was harmful to a girl's health. It was a common practice for us," she recalled. Ms. El Hadrami is from Selibabi in southeastern Mauritania, a country where 37 per cent of girls are married off by age 18.

Ending child marriage in Mauritania and other countries in the Sahel, where the median age women and girls marry is 16.6, calls for a change in society’s unwritten rules governing the practice. This means getting buy-in from religious and community leaders on a whole host of related issues, including gender discrimination and ending gender-based violence.

“An immature girl cannot bear a child”

UNFPA is working with partners to help raise awareness of the cascading harms caused by child marriage – from school discontinuation to higher maternal health risks and poorer long-term outcomes for girls and their families.

“An immature girl cannot bear a child because she herself is still a child whose body is not ready to carry a baby,” said Telmidy, the imam of the Kuba Mosque in Selibabi, Stressing that many adolescent girls in his communities have died for that reason alone.

Telmidy is one of 200 religious and community leaders mobilized across Mauritania by the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project, a collaboration between UNFPA and others, to that show that child marriage is in fact haram, or forbidden by Islam.

“Early marriage is a complex issue and we have addressed it in a manner that respects Islam,” he said. “Islam protects the dignity of men and women.”

Telmidy and his fellow imams want to be agents of change. “We discuss and share our knowledge of Islam and our experience by going door to door or during Friday prayers and people are starting to understand and respond.”

“I was really moved by the messages on the radio”

The SWEDD project is financed by the World Bank and implemented by the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, with technical support from UNFPA.

In addition to working with religious leaders, the project shares messages on girls’ empowerment through a popular radio programme.

“I was really moved by the messages on the radio,” Ms. El Hadrami said. “I do not want my daughter to experience the same difficulties that I did. I would like her to go as far as possible in her studies, to have a good job – a job that will allow her to enjoy a decent standard of living. She could become a minister, a doctor or a midwife.”

The radio messages work in concert with the faith-based outreach efforts.

“The recommendations and guidelines broadcast on the radio are very important, especially because they are supported by religious beliefs,” said Telmidy. “People must listen to the radio to be informed.”

“Some people are wedded to traditional customs”

The imams have reached around 370,000 people in rural Mauritania with training sessions on the dangers of child marriage. UNFPA is also helping the national network of Islamic scholars to learn about sexual and reproductive health issues, including not only related child marriage concerns, but also the benefits of birth spacing, and the importance of ending gender-based violence and female genital mutilation.

“Islam is a religion that honours human beings. Any action that harms an individual's physical or mental health is therefore forbidden,” said Hademine Saleck Ely, an imam from the Central Mosque of Nouakchott. “But some people are wedded to traditional practices and do not understand the danger of these customs.”

Telmidy pointed out that acquiring knowledge is compulsory for all Muslims: “The Qur'an shows that a father has a responsibility to educate his daughters and protect them, and that he must delay their marriage until they turn 18... He must also allow them to earn a living, that is their right."

“We must assume our responsibilities and fulfill our mission to share our knowledge with the community,” he added.

https://www.unfpa.org/news/mauritania-imams-take-radio-waves-say-child-marriage-against-islam#

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The Afghanistan Papers A Secret History Of The War

AT WAR WITH THE TRUTH

By Craig Whitlock

Dec. 9, 2019

Aconfidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.

Key insiders speak bluntly about the failures of the longest conflict in U.S. history

Hear candid interviews with former ambassador Ryan Crocker and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn

It took three years and two federal lawsuits for The Post to pry loose 2,000 pages of interview records

PART 1

At war with the truth

U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it.

PART 2

Stranded without a strategy

Bush and Obama had polar-opposite plans to win the war. Both were destined to fail.

PART 3

Built to fail

Despite vows the U.S. wouldn’t get mired in “nation-building,” it has wasted billions doing just that

PART 4

Consumed by corruption

The U.S. flooded the country with money — then turned a blind eye to the graft it fueled

PART 5

Unguarded nation

Afghan security forces, despite years of training, were dogged by incompetence and corruption

PART 6

Overwhelmed by opium

The U.S. war on drugs in Afghanistan has imploded at nearly every turn

MORE STORIES A visual timeline of the war  Interviewees respond  Share your story about the war

In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.

Click any underlined text in the story to see the statement in the original document

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction ... 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.

The interviews, through an extensive array of voices, bring into sharp relief the core failings of the war that persist to this day. They underscore how three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders have been unable to deliver on their promises to prevail in Afghanistan.

THE AFGHANISTAN PAPERS

See the documents More than 2,000 pages of interviews and memos reveal a secret history of the war.

Part 2: Stranded without a strategy Conflicting objectives dogged the war from the start.

Responses to The Post from people named in The Afghanistan Papers

With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation.

The interviews also highlight the U.S. government’s botched attempts to curtail runaway corruption, build a competent Afghan army and police force, and put a dent in Afghanistan’s thriving opium trade.

The U.S. government has not carried out a comprehensive accounting of how much it has spent on the war in Afghanistan, but the costs are staggering.

Since 2001, the Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

Those figures do not include money spent by other agencies such as the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is responsible for medical care for wounded veterans.

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

The documents also contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.

(Video by Joyce Lee/The Washington Post)

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.

UZBEK.

TURKMEN.

TAJIK.

Kabul

AFGHANISTAN

Kandahar

HELMAND

PROV.

PAKISTAN

IRAN

INDIA

100 MILES

“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to.”

The interviews are the byproduct of a project led by Sopko’s agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Known as SIGAR, the agency was created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone.

In 2014, at Sopko’s direction, SIGAR departed from its usual mission of performing audits and launched a side venture. Titled “Lessons Learned,” the $11 million project was meant to diagnose policy failures in Afghanistan so the United States would not repeat the mistakes the next time it invaded a country or tried to rebuild a shattered one.

The Lessons Learned staff interviewed more than 600 people with firsthand experience in the war. Most were Americans, but SIGAR analysts also traveled to London, Brussels and Berlin to interview NATO allies. In addition, they interviewed about 20 Afghan officials, discussing reconstruction and development programs.

Drawing partly on the interviews, as well as other government records and statistics, SIGAR has published seven Lessons Learned reports since 2016 that highlight problems in Afghanistan and recommend changes to stabilize the country.

But the reports, written in dense bureaucratic prose and focused on an alphabet soup of government initiatives, left out the harshest and most frank criticisms from the interviews.

“We found the stabilization strategy and the programs used to achieve it were not properly tailored to the Afghan context, and successes in stabilizing Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of coalition troops and civilians,” read the introduction to one report released in May 2018.

The reports also omitted the names of more than 90 percent of the people who were interviewed for the project. While a few officials agreed to speak on the record to SIGAR, the agency said it promised anonymity to everyone else it interviewed to avoid controversy over politically sensitive matters.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Post began seeking Lessons Learned interview records in August 2016. SIGAR refused, arguing that the documents were privileged and that the public had no right to see them.

The Post had to sue SIGAR in federal court — twice — to compel it to release the documents.

“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich. We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”

— James Dobbins, former U.S. diplomat Listen

The agency eventually disclosed more than 2,000 pages of unpublished notes and transcripts from 428 of the interviews, as well as several audio recordings.

The documents identify 62 of the people who were interviewed, but SIGAR blacked out the names of 366 others. In legal briefs, the agency contended that those individuals should be seen as whistleblowers and informants who might face humiliation, harassment, retaliation or physical harm if their names became public.

By cross-referencing dates and other details from the documents, The Post independently identified 33 other people who were interviewed, including several former ambassadors, generals and White House officials.

The Post has asked a federal judge to force SIGAR to disclose the names of everyone else interviewed, arguing that the public has a right to know which officials criticized the war and asserted that the government had misled the American people. The Post also argued the officials were not whistleblowers or informants, because they were not interviewed as part of an investigation.

A decision by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington has been pending since late September.

The Post is publishing the documents now, instead of waiting for a final ruling, to inform the public while the Trump administration is negotiating with the Taliban and considering whether to withdraw the 13,000 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan.

The Post attempted to contact for comment everyone whom it was able to identify as having given an interview to SIGAR. Their responses are compiled in a separate article.

Sopko, the inspector general, told The Post that he did not suppress the blistering criticisms and doubts about the war that officials raised in the Lessons Learned interviews. He said it took his office three years to release the records because he has a small staff and because other federal agencies had to review the documents to prevent government secrets from being disclosed.

“We didn’t sit on it,” he said. “We’re firm believers in openness and transparency, but we’ve got to follow the law. ... I think of any inspector general, I’ve probably been the most forthcoming on information.”

The interview records are raw and unedited, and SIGAR’s Lessons Learned staff did not stitch them into a unified narrative. But they are packed with tough judgments from people who shaped or carried out U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich,” James Dobbins, a former senior U.S. diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. “We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”

From left, Gen. David H. Petraeus, Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., in 2009 as President Barack Obama publicly outlined his plans for a troop surge in Afghanistan. (Christopher Morris/VII/Redux)

To augment the Lessons Learned interviews, The Post obtained hundreds of pages of previously classified memos about the Afghan war that were dictated by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld between 2001 and 2006.

Dubbed “snowflakes” by Rumsfeld and his staff, the memos are brief instructions or comments that the Pentagon boss dictated to his underlings, often several times a day.

Rumsfeld made a select number of his snowflakes public in 2011, posting them online in conjunction with his memoir, “Known and Unknown.” But most of his snowflake collection — an estimated 59,000 pages — remained secret.

In 2017, in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research institute based at George Washington University, the Defense Department began reviewing and releasing the remainder of Rumsfeld’s snowflakes on a rolling basis. The Archive shared them with The Post.

Together, the SIGAR interviews and the Rumsfeld memos pertaining to Afghanistan constitute a secret history of the war and an unsparing appraisal of 18 years of conflict.

Worded in Rumsfeld’s brusque style, many of the snowflakes foreshadow problems that continue to haunt the U.S. military more than a decade later.

“I may be impatient. In fact I know I’m a bit impatient,” Rumsfeld wrote in one memo to several generals and senior aides. “We are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave.”

“Help!” he wrote.

The memo was dated April 17, 2002 — six months after the war started.

“The history of military conflict in Afghanistan [has] been one of initial success, followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure. We’re not going to repeat that mistake.”

— President George W. Bush, in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute

With their forthright descriptions of how the United States became stuck in a faraway war, as well as the government's determination to conceal them from the public, the cache of Lessons Learned interviews broadly resembles the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department's top-secret history of the Vietnam War.

When they were leaked in 1971, the Pentagon Papers caused a sensation by revealing the government had long misled the public about how the United States came to be embroiled in Vietnam.

Bound into 47 volumes, the 7,000-page study was based entirely on internal government documents — diplomatic cables, decision-making memos, intelligence reports. To preserve secrecy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara issued an order prohibiting the authors from interviewing anyone.

SIGAR’s Lessons Learned project faced no such restrictions. Staffers carried out the interviews between 2014 and 2018, mostly with officials who served during the Bush and Obama years.

About 30 of the interview records are transcribed, word-for-word accounts. The rest are typed summaries of conversations: pages of notes and quotes from people with different vantage points in the conflict, from provincial outposts to the highest circles of power.

Some of the interviews are inexplicably short. The interview record with John Allen, the Marine general who commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013, consists of five paragraphs.

In contrast, records of interviews with other influential figures are much more extensive. Former U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker sat for two interviews that yielded 95 transcribed pages.

Unlike the Pentagon Papers, none of the Lessons Learned documents were originally classified as a government secret. Once The Post pushed to make them public, however, other federal agencies intervened and classified some material after the fact.

The State Department, for instance, asserted that releasing portions of certain interviews could jeopardize negotiations with the Taliban to end the war. The Defense Department and Drug Enforcement Administration also classified some interview excerpts.

The Lessons Learned interviews contain few revelations about military operations. But running throughout are torrents of criticism that refute the official narrative of the war, from its earliest days through the start of the Trump administration.

At the outset, for instance, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had a clear, stated objective — to retaliate against al-Qaeda and prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

A joint artillery training session at a combat outpost in Jaghatu, in Wardak province, in 2012. (Lorenzo Tugnoli for The Washington Post)

Yet the interviews show that as the war dragged on, the goals and mission kept changing and a lack of faith in the U.S. strategy took root inside the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department.

Fundamental disagreements went unresolved. Some U.S. officials wanted to use the war to turn Afghanistan into a democracy. Others wanted to transform Afghan culture and elevate women’s rights. Still others wanted to reshape the regional balance of power among Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia.

“With the AfPak strategy there was a present under the Christmas tree for everyone,” an unidentified U.S. official told government interviewers in 2015. “By the time you were finished you had so many priorities and aspirations it was like no strategy at all.”

The Lessons Learned interviews also reveal how U.S. military commanders struggled to articulate who they were fighting, let alone why.

Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll? According to the documents, the U.S. government never settled on an answer.

As a result, in the field, U.S. troops often couldn’t tell friend from foe.

“They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live,” an unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team told government interviewers in 2017. “It took several conversations for them to understand that I did not have that information in my hands. At first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?’

The view wasn’t any clearer from the Pentagon.

“I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” Rumsfeld complained in a Sept. 8, 2003, snowflake. “We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.”

WHAT THEY SAID IN PUBLIC

Dec. 1, 2009

“The days of providing a blank check are over. ... It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”

— President Barack Obama, in a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

As commanders in chief, Bush, Obama and Trump all promised the public the same thing. They would avoid falling into the trap of "nation-building" in Afghanistan.

On that score, the presidents failed miserably. The United States has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II.

The Lessons Learned interviews show the grandiose nation-building project was marred from the start.

U.S. officials tried to create — from scratch — a democratic government in Kabul modeled after their own in Washington. It was a foreign concept to the Afghans, who were accustomed to tribalism, monarchism, communism and Islamic law.

“Our policy was to create a strong central government which was idiotic because Afghanistan does not have a history of a strong central government,” an unidentified former State Department official told government interviewers in 2015. “The timeframe for creating a strong central government is 100 years, which we didn’t have.”

Meanwhile, the United States flooded the fragile country with far more aid than it could possibly absorb.

During the peak of the fighting, from 2009 to 2012, U.S. lawmakers and military commanders believed the more they spent on schools, bridges, canals and other civil-works projects, the faster security would improve. Aid workers told government interviewers it was a colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive.

U.S. soldiers wounded by an IED are transported by medevac in Kandahar province in 2010. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

One unnamed executive with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), guessed that 90 percent of what they spent was overkill: “We lost objectivity. We were given money, told to spend it and we did, without reason.”

Many aid workers blamed Congress for what they saw as a mindless rush to spend.

One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’

The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.

In public, U.S. officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But in the Lessons Learned interviews, they admitted the U.S. government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers — allies of Washington — plundered with impunity.

Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three U.S. generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 — and that U.S. officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.

“I like to use a cancer analogy,” Kolenda told government interviewers. “Petty corruption is like skin cancer; there are ways to deal with it and you’ll probably be just fine. Corruption within the ministries, higher level, is like colon cancer; it’s worse, but if you catch it in time, you’re probably ok. Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”

A banner depicting President Hamid Karzai in Kabul shortly after the country’s 2004 election. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

By allowing corruption to fester, U.S. officials told interviewers, they helped destroy the popular legitimacy of the wobbly Afghan government they were fighting to prop up. With judges and police chiefs and bureaucrats extorting bribes, many Afghans soured on democracy and turned to the Taliban to enforce order.

“Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption,” Crocker, who served as the top U.S. diplomat in Kabul in 2002 and again from 2011 to 2012, told government interviewers. He added, “Once it gets to the level I saw, when I was out there, it’s somewhere between unbelievably hard and outright impossible to fix it.”

WHAT THEY SAID IN PUBLIC

Sept. 4, 2013

“This army and this police force have been very, very effective in combat against the insurgents every single day. And I think that’s an important story to be told across the board.”

— Then-Army Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, praising the Afghan security forces during a press briefing from Kabul. Milley is now a four-star general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Year after year, U.S. generals have said in public they are making steady progress on the central plank of their strategy: to train a robust Afghan army and national police force that can defend the country without foreign help.

In the Lessons Learned interviews, however, U.S. military trainers described the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated and rife with deserters. They also accused Afghan commanders of pocketing salaries — paid by U.S. taxpayers — for tens of thousands of “ghost soldiers.”

None expressed confidence that the Afghan army and police could ever fend off, much less defeat, the Taliban on their own. More than 60,000 members of Afghan security forces have been killed, a casualty rate that U.S. commanders have called unsustainable.

One unidentified U.S. soldier said Special Forces teams “hated” the Afghan police whom they trained and worked with, calling them “awful — the bottom of the barrel in the country that is already at the bottom of the barrel.”

A U.S. military officer estimated that one-third of police recruits were “drug addicts or Taliban.” Yet another called them “stealing fools” who looted so much fuel from U.S. bases that they perpetually smelled of gasoline.

“Thinking we could build the military that fast and that well was insane,” an unnamed senior USAID official told government interviewers.

Meanwhile, as U.S. hopes for the Afghan security forces failed to materialize, Afghanistan became the world’s leading source of a growing scourge: opium.

The United States has spent about $9 billion to fight the problem over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

In the Lessons Learned interviews, former officials said almost everything they did to constrain opium farming backfired.

“We stated that our goal is to establish a ‘flourishing market economy,’” said Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013. “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade — this is the only part of the market that’s working.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to U.S. troops in 2013 at Camp Bastion, in Helmand province. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

From the beginning, Washington never really figured out how to incorporate a war on drugs into its war against al-Qaeda. By 2006, U.S. officials feared that narco-traffickers had become stronger than the Afghan government and that money from the drug trade was powering the insurgency.

No single agency or country was in charge of the Afghan drug strategy for the entirety of the war, so the State Department, the DEA, the U.S. military, NATO allies and the Afghan government butted heads constantly.

“It was a dog’s breakfast with no chance of working,” an unnamed former senior British official told government interviewers.

The agencies and allies made things worse by embracing a dysfunctional muddle of programs, according to the interviews.

At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British to destroy their crops — which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the U.S. government eradicated poppy fields without compensation — which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.

“It was sad to see so many people behave so stupidly,” one U.S. official told government interviewers.

WHAT THEY SAID IN PUBLIC

Sept. 8, 2008

“Are we losing this war? Absolutely no way. Can the enemy win it? Absolutely no way.”

— Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, in a news briefing from Afghanistan

The specter of Vietnam has hovered over Afghanistan from the start.

On Oct. 11, 2001, a few days after the United States started bombing the Taliban, a reporter asked Bush: “Can you avoid being drawn into a Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan?”

“We learned some very important lessons in Vietnam,” Bush replied confidently. “People often ask me, ‘How long will this last?’ This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaeda to justice. It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two. But we will prevail.”

In those early days, other U.S. leaders mocked the notion that the nightmare of Vietnam might repeat itself in Afghanistan.

“All together now — quagmire!” Rumsfeld joked at a news conference on Nov. 27, 2001.

But throughout the Afghan war, documents show that U.S. military officials have resorted to an old tactic from Vietnam — manipulating public opinion.

In news conferences and other public appearances, those in charge of the war have followed the same talking points for 18 years. No matter how the war is going — and especially when it is going badly — they emphasize how they are making progress.

For example, some snowflakes that Rumsfeld released with his memoir show he had received a string of unusually dire warnings from the war zone in 2006.

After returning from a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general, reported the Taliban had made an impressive comeback and predicted that “we will encounter some very unpleasant surprises in the coming 24 months.”

“The Afghan national leadership are collectively terrified that we will tip-toe out of Afghanistan in the coming few years — leaving NATO holding the bag — and the whole thing will collapse again into mayhem,” McCaffrey wrote in June 2006.

Two months later, Marin Strmecki, a civilian adviser to Rumsfeld, gave the Pentagon chief a classified, 40-page report loaded with more bad news. It said “enormous popular discontent is building” against the Afghan government because of its corruption and incompetence. It also said that the Taliban was growing stronger, thanks to support from Pakistan, a U.S. ally.

Yet with Rumsfeld’s personal blessing, the Pentagon buried the bleak warnings and told the public a very different story.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, left, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in March 2002. (Robert A. Reeder/The Washington Post)

In October 2006, Rumsfeld’s speechwriters delivered a paper titled “Afghanistan: Five Years Later.” Brimming with optimism, it highlighted more than 50 promising facts and figures, from the number of Afghan women trained in “improved poultry management” (more than 19,000) to the “average speed on most roads” (up 300 percent).

“Five years on, there is a multitude of good news,” it read. “While it has become fashionable in some circles to call Afghanistan a forgotten war, or to say the United States has lost its focus, the facts belie the myths.”

Rumsfeld thought it was brilliant.

“This paper,” he wrote in a memo, “is an excellent piece. How do we use it? Should it be an article? An Op-ed piece? A handout? A press briefing? All of the above? I think it ought to get it to a lot of people.”

His staffers made sure it did. They circulated a version to reporters and posted it on Pentagon websites.

Since then, U.S. generals have almost always preached that the war is progressing well, no matter the reality on the battlefield.

“We’re making some steady progress,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, told reporters in September 2008, even as he and other U.S. commanders in Kabul were urgently requesting reinforcements to cope with a rising tide of Taliban fighters.

Two years later, as the casualty rate among U.S. and NATO troops climbed to another high, Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez held a news conference in Kabul.

“First, we are steadily making deliberate progress,” he said.

“And this includes the State Department, ambassadors, you know, down at the local level. Everybody did a great job. We’re all doing a great job. Really? So if we’re doing such a great job, why does it feel like we’re losing?”

— Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general Listen

In March 2011, during congressional hearings, skeptical lawmakers pelted Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, with doubts that the U.S. strategy was working.

“The past eight months have seen important but hard-fought progress,” Petraeus responded.

One year later, during a visit to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stuck to the same script — even though he had just personally dodged a suicide attack.

“The campaign, as I’ve pointed out before, I think has made significant progress,” Panetta told reporters.

In July 2016, after a surge in Taliban attacks on major cities, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the time, repeated the refrain.

“We are seeing some progress,” he told reporters.

WHAT THEY SAID IN PUBLIC

March 27, 2009

“Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable.”

— Obama, in remarks from the White House

During Vietnam, U.S. military commanders relied on dubious measurements to persuade Americans that they were winning.

Most notoriously, the Pentagon highlighted “body counts,” or the number of enemy fighters killed, and inflated the figures as a measurement of success.

In Afghanistan, with occasional exceptions, the U.S. military has generally avoided publicizing body counts. But the Lessons Learned interviews contain numerous admissions that the government routinely touted statistics that officials knew were distorted, spurious or downright false.

THE TOLL OF WAR

Since 2001, an estimated 157,000 people have been killed in the war in Afghanistan.

Note: U.S. military number is current through November 2019. The other figures and estimates are current

as of October 2019.

Sources: Defense Department; Costs of War Project, Brown University; U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan; Committee to Protect Journalists

A person identified only as a senior National Security Council official said there was constant pressure from the Obama White House and Pentagon to produce figures to show the troop surge of 2009 to 2011 was working, despite hard evidence to the contrary.

“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” the senior NSC official told government interviewers in 2016. “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”

Even when casualty counts and other figures looked bad, the senior NSC official said, the White House and Pentagon would spin them to the point of absurdity. Suicide bombings in Kabul were portrayed as a sign of the Taliban’s desperation, that the insurgents were too weak to engage in direct combat. Meanwhile, a rise in U.S. troop deaths was cited as proof that American forces were taking the fight to the enemy.

The remains of Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, 55, arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware in August 2014. Greene was the first U.S. general killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

“It was their explanations,” the senior NSC official said. “For example, attacks are getting worse? ‘That’s because there are more targets for them to fire at, so more attacks are a false indicator of instability.’ Then, three months later, attacks are still getting worse? ‘It’s because the Taliban are getting desperate, so it’s actually an indicator that we’re winning.’

“And this went on and on for two reasons,” the senior NSC official said, “to make everyone involved look good, and to make it look like the troops and resources were having the kind of effect where removing them would cause the country to deteriorate.”

In other field reports sent up the chain of command, military officers and diplomats took the same line. Regardless of conditions on the ground, they claimed they were making progress.

“From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, told government interviewers in 2015. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”

Upon arrival in Afghanistan, U.S. Army brigade and battalion commanders were given the same basic mission: to protect the population and defeat the enemy, according to Flynn, who served multiple tours in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer.

“So they all went in for whatever their rotation was, nine months or six months, and were given that mission, accepted that mission and executed that mission,” said Flynn, who later briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser, lost his job in a scandal and was convicted of lying to the FBI. “Then they all said, when they left, they accomplished that mission. Every single commander. Not one commander is going to leave Afghanistan ... and say, ‘You know what, we didn’t accomplish our mission.’

He added: “So the next guy that shows up finds it [their area] screwed up ... and then they come back and go, ‘Man this is really bad.’

Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez arrives at Forward Operating Base Pasab in Kandahar province for a transfer-of-authority ceremony in 2011. (Mikhail Galustov for The Washington Post)

Bob Crowley, the retired Army colonel who served as a counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers that “truth was rarely welcome” at military headquarters in Kabul.

“Bad news was often stifled,” he said. “There was more freedom to share bad news if it was small — we’re running over kids with our MRAPs [armored vehicles] — because those things could be changed with policy directives. But when we tried to air larger strategic concerns about the willingness, capacity or corruption of the Afghan government, it was clear it wasn’t welcome.”

John Garofano, a Naval War College strategist who advised Marines in Helmand province in 2011, said military officials in the field devoted an inordinate amount of resources to churning out color-coded charts that heralded positive results.

“They had a really expensive machine that would print the really large pieces of paper like in a print shop,” he told government interviewers. “There would be a caveat that these are not actually scientific figures, or this is not a scientific process behind this.”

But Garofano said nobody dared to question whether the charts and numbers were credible or meaningful.

“There was not a willingness to answer questions such as, what is the meaning of this number of schools that you have built? How has that progressed you towards your goal?” he said. “How do you show this as evidence of success and not just evidence of effort or evidence of just doing a good thing?”

Other senior officials said they placed great importance on one statistic in particular, albeit one the U.S. government rarely likes to discuss in public.

“I do think the key benchmark is the one I’ve suggested, which is how many Afghans are getting killed,” James Dobbins, the former U.S. diplomat, told a Senate panel in 2009. “If the number’s going up, you’re losing. If the number’s going down, you’re winning. It’s as simple as that.”

Last year, 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war, according to the United Nations.

That is the most in one year since the United Nations began tracking casualties a decade ago.

If you have information to share about The Afghanistan Papers, contact The Post at afghanpapers@washpost.com.

Were you or one of your family members involved in the Afghanistan war? Tell us about your experiences.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/

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US commission seeks sanctions against Indian home minister over controversial citizenship bill

December 10, 2019

The United States Commission on International Religion Freedom (USCIRF) has sought sanctions against Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership if the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill is passed by the parliament, reported Scroll.in on Tuesday.

Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill in India's lower house on Monday amid raucous debate. Opposition parties stood against the proposed law that would, for the first time, create a legal pathway to grant Indian nationality on the basis of religion.

The bill was originally introduced in 2016 during the Modi government's first term but lapsed after protests and an alliance partner's withdrawal.

If the bill is passed by the upper house, citizenship will be granted to select groups — including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs — who moved from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before 2015 and who have lived in India for at least six years.

Since news of the bill has broken, hundreds have taken to the streets in India in protest.

Former president of the Indian Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, called the bill an attack on the Indian constitution. "Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation," said Gandhi on Tuesday.

In a statement issued, the USCIRF stated that it was "deeply troubled" by the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha. It called the bill "a dangerous turn in the wrong direction", reported Scroll.in.

"It runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” the statement added.

The statement maintained that implementing a register documenting India's citizens would "strip citizenship from millions of Muslims".

However, the Indian home minister refuted claims that the bill is anti-Muslim. “We will have to differentiate between intruders and refugees,” he was quoted as saying by Scroll.in.

'Regret inaccurate and unwarranted comments'

Responding to the USCIRF's statement, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said: "We regret the inaccurate and unwarranted comments made by USCIRF on #CAB. They have chosen to be guided by their prejudices and biases on a matter on which they have little knowledge and no locus standi."

In a tweet, Kumar attached a statement by the ministry which said USCIRF's statement was "neither accurate nor warranted".

"The Bill provides expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities already in India from certain contiguous countries. It seeks to address their current difficulties and meet their basic human rights.

"Such an initiative should be welcomed, not criticised by who are genuinely committed to religious freedom," the statement read.

It added that the CAB does not affect the "existing avenues available to all communities interested in seeking citizenship from doing so".

The statement, attributed to Kumar, claimed the "recent record of granting such citizenship would bear out the Government of India's objectivity in that regard".

"Neither the CAB nor the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process seeks to strip citizenship from any Indian citizen of any faith. Suggestions to that effect are motivated and unjustified."

He said every nation, including the US, has the right to "enumerate and validate its citizenry" and to "exercise this prerogative through various policies".

Kumar added that USCIRF's position was "not surprising given its past record".

"It is, however, regrettable that the body has chosen to be guided only by its prejudices and biases on a matter on which it clearly has little knowledge and no locus standi."

Pakistan condemns bill

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the legislation "violates all norms of international human rights law and bilateral agreements with Pakistan".

Meanwhile, in a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Pakistan condemned the move and said it was in "complete violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international covenants on elimination of all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief".

"The latest legislation is another major step towards the realisation of the concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, idealised and relentlessly pursued by the right-wing Hindu leaders for several decades. It is driven by a toxic mix of an extremist ‘Hindutva’ ideology and hegemonic ambitions in the region.

"It is also a clear manifestation of interference in the internal matters of neighboring countries based on religion, which we reject completely," added the statement.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521489/us-commission-seeks-sanctions-against-indian-home-minister-over-controversial-citizenship-bill

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Turkish Armenians worried about government meddling in spirituality

December 10, 2019

ANKARA: Ahead of the election of the 85th patriarch of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey on Dec. 11, the Turkish Ministry of Interior set the condition that candidates must be based in Turkey, sparking criticisms by many, seeing it as an interference in the spiritual functioning of the patriarchate.

The legal condition decreased the number of candidates from 12 to just two who meet the requirement. The election will therefore be between two Istanbul-based Armenian clergymen, Aram Atesyan and Sahak Mashalyan.

Historically the legitimate condition of eligibility applied in previous patriarchal elections was being born into an Armenian family from Turkey.

The country’s Armenian community has about 70,000 members. About 1,000 voters out of 15,000 eligible voters boycotted the first round of elections, held between Dec. 7-8, calling into question the legitimacy of the process.

The second round of the elections will be held on Dec. 11 when the elected delegates will choose the next patriarch. Mashalyan is considered the favorite.

“This restriction may lead to the end of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate, because we may find no candidate in the next elections,” Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said. Paylan considered the attempt an intervention into the Armenian community’s own religious freedoms.

“It is totally unjust. Religion requires conscience and justice,” he said. During previous patriarch elections in Turkey, many Armenian clerics from around the world could have attended.

Sebuh Çulciyan, who was a close friend of assassinated Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and now lives in Armenia, was also a candidate for the election. But, due to the new regulations, he couldn’t run.

Former Patriarch Mesrop Mutafyan, who was allegedly elected in 2008 against the wishes of the Turkish government and became weakened under much pressure, had been suffering from dementia, pushing the government to replace him with Ateshian in 2010 as General Vicar of the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey.

Armenian Apostolic Church tradition requires that a patriarch must either die or resign from his position before his successor is elected.

Ateshian has been criticized by many people in the Armenian community as being too open to Turkish government propaganda.

In 2017, Karekin Bekchiyan, another Armenian cleric, was elected governor of the patriarchate. While the Ministry of Interior did not respond to a petition for the elections coming from the Armenian community that were sent in August 2017, the local authorities of Istanbul, where the patriarchate is based, denounced the legal proceedings regarding the election of Bekchiyan and declared his decisions invalid.

Rober Koptas, an Armenian publisher in Istanbul, told Arab News that the feeling of victimhood among the Armenian community in Turkey was causing alienation from the church.

The inability to elect a patriarch for almost a decade, and the dependency on political will, had, he said, seriously harmed Turkey’s Armenian community.

Turkey’s historical relations with Armenia have been generally hostile, while the US House of Representatives recently took a landmark decision to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, angering decision-makers in Ankara.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596606/middle-east

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Saudi Arabia wins praise for showcasing ancient cultural heritage

December 10, 2019

RIYADH: Alessandra Capodiferro, director of the National Roman Museum, on Monday, expressed pride that her museum was hosting the exhibition “Roads of Arabia: Masterpieces of Antiquities in Saudi Arabia Across the Ages.”

The exhibition, which was inaugurated by Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah on Nov. 26, has already been hosted by a number of prominent international museums.

Capodiferro praised the international reputation achieved by the exhibition, which features many important artifacts, including hunting gear, weapons, jewelry, utensils made from precious metals, glass, alabaster, ceramics, sculptures and wall paintings — all of which are an expression of local production, trade exchange and cultural contact.

She said that the most important achievements of the research conducted in the Kingdom over the decades by Saudi specialists and archeological missions, including those headed by Italian teams, revealed the rich history of the Arabian Peninsula mentioned in ancient literature. Excavations conducted on these missions have led to the discovery of a significant number of artifacts dating back to several epochs — prehistoric, ancient, Roman Imperial and late antiquity.

The exhibition highlights the successive civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula, and provides examples of cultural interaction between Arab and Roman civilizations. It will continue for three months in Rome, its 17th station. Hosted in the most prominent international museums in European, American and Asian cities, it has introduced Saudi and Arab heritage to more than 5 million international visitors.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596646/saudi-arabia

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MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAIN ACCUSES BBC OF “FAILING TO SUFFICIENTLY REPORT” ON CONSERVATIVE ISLAMOPHOBIA

10 December 2019

General Election 2019: Muslim Council of Britain accuses BBC of “failing to sufficiently report” on Conservative Islamophobia

Today the Muslim Council of Britain, the country’s leading British Muslim representative body has written to BBC Director General Tony Hall to raise its concerns about the lack of proportionate coverage of the Conservative Party’s “institutional Islamophobia”.

Reminding Mr Hall of the BBC’s responsibility as a public broadcaster to be impartial and consistent, the MCB has requested that “racism against Muslims be given equal importance to racism against others.”

The MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring has been keeping a watch of the number, tone and prominence of BBC stories on the issue, which has received precious little attention by the broadcaster, despite statements by both the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly acknowledging and apologising for the issue.

MCB Secretary General, Harun Khan, said:

“The Conservative Party has an institutional, widespread problem with Islamophobia, which has been clearly documented both by the Muslim Council of Britain and other individuals, organisations and media outlets.

“Not only has the BBC not covered the full extent of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party that many in society feel should be being discussed this election, it has given platform to individuals who have used far-right Islamophobic hate. Melanie Phillips made an accusation that deception is a mainstream Muslim belief in The Times on 2nd December and was then a guest on Politics Live on 5th December.

“License payers, who include millions of British Muslims, are essentially paying to facilitate the incitement of hatred against themselves.”

https://mcb.org.uk/press-releases/muslim-council-of-britain-launches-pledges-to-build-a-better-britain-2/

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How do we link halal industries with green logistics to drive the Islamic economy responsibly and sustainably?

BY LINA ANGGRAINI S.SI AND DR. SUTAN EMIR HIDAYAT

09 DEC 2019

This article is contributed by Lina Anggraini S.Si and Dr. Sutan Emir Hidayat. Lina is Ocean Carrier Management (OCM) Manager at Kuehne +Nagel and an MBA candidate at the School of Business and Management, Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), and Dr. Sutan is Director of Education and Research, National Committee of Islamic Finance (KNKS), Indonesia.

We can be proud of Indonesia's recent achievement on the Global Islamic Economy Indicator (GIEI) from tenth to fifth in the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2019/20 report. It is contributed by many factors, such as government support in financing the halal industry.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Industry has set a target of $25 billion for the trade value of the country’s halal sectors in 2019, 20% higher than what was achieved in the previous year. This trade value consists of fashion products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, food, halal laboratories, and halal centers. Boosting the development of the halal industry is a good opportunity for Indonesia to increase its GDP, and will also open up many job opportunities. More of those opportunities will arise as there are also four halal industrial zones to be developed: Batamindo Industrial Estate, Bintan Industrial Park, Jakarta Industrial Estate Pulogadung, and Modern Cikande Industrial Estate.

However, as we move forward with planning and implementing plans to develop Indonesia’s halal economy, we must factor in their environmental costs and considerations. As Muslims, it is part of our belief to take care of the environment that will be inherited by our grandchildren. As part of this responsibility, it is unfortunate that logistics is one sector that is often under-addressed in the halal economy, yet the manufacturing and transportation sectors contribute 19% and 23%, respectively, to carbon emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

How many of us, though, are familiar with green supply chain logistics that maximizes the utilization of raw materials and their delivery processes while striving for minimum waste?

Green logistics is meant to mitigate the harmful effects of social and environmental problems such as climate change, global warming, carbon emissions, and poisoning the atmosphere. Its practice is significantly under-explored in Indonesia, even as Jakarta was named the most polluted city in Southeast Asia in 2018 in a report from Swiss company IQAir AirVisual and non-profit organization Greenpeace. The report also said that Jakarta risks becoming more polluted than Beijing as the Chinese city’s air quality improves. This is a serious issue that directly and indirectly impacts the life and death of the world’s citizens: the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that seven million people worldwide every year are killed by exposure to fine particles in polluted air that lead to diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

Tackling our responsibilities to improving the quality of the air we breathe can be done while driving the economic development of the halal industry.

Logistics operations, particularly the efficiency of custom clearance processes, quality of logistics services, and trade transport infrastructure, have been shown to positively correlate with per capita income, according to one study published in January by Prof. Syed Abdul Rehman Khan of Beijing’s Tsinghua University. This means that if we focus on the development of green logistics we could increase our GDP.

The question now is how to link the halal industry with green logistics so that the Islamic sectors can play an important role in our economic development, with minimum environmental impact.

GOOD PRACTICES

In our opinion, there are several things that can be done to support the halal industry towards green logistics.

First, the halal industry could start to implement efficient production processes to minimize waste.

Second, government support on the regulation for the growth of the halal industry can focus on the use of renewable energy and minimizing waste.

Third, reverse logistics, by which end consumers return or reuse materials to the product company, could be implemented.

There are already examples the halal industry can look to with regards minimizing waste in logistics.

One is by reviewing transportation routing. We can maximize fuel use by selecting the closest or the least congested traffic routes.

Another example is by using battery equipment (forklifts and reach trucks) within warehouse inventory management instead of fuel-based equipment.

Government support can be in the form of regulations. The government can regulate the price of plastics, plastic utilization, and waste management. For example, increasing the price of plastics may reduce their use and move more businesses and consumers to biodegradable packaging. This would be a welcome move for Indonesia, which was identified in a 2017 global study as a “major contributor on the Asian continent” of waste mismanagement and plastic pollution in rivers.

In line with waste reduction, Starbucks is a good example of a company that has successfully encouraged a shift in consumer practice. The company awards those who bring their own tumblers or mugs with discounts, resulting in a saving of more than 42 million disposable cups as 1.3% of customers in the U.S., Canada and EMEA use their own, according to Starbucks Global Social Impact Report 2018.

Another example is the Coca Cola company which has started to produce bottles from ocean plastic waste.

These practices can be extended to the halal food and beverages industry.

REVERSE LOGISTICS FOR HALAL INDUSTRY

In our opinion, reverse logistics is a very attractive solution for the halal industry. The example of successful companies that implement reverse logistics are Hawlett-Packard and Xerox, both of which collect used cartridges and other consumables. Reverse logistics could reduce cost of the company by increasing product life cycle, production speed, and reduce transport cost.

The Body Shop has also successfully implemented reverse logistics. The company encourages its customers to return empty bottles or plastic cups to be recycled, rewarding them with points that can be used towards purchases.

Rewarding responsible practices the way The Body Shop and Starbucks do is a great way to engage customers, especially in this day and age when consumers look not only for good products but also consider their environmental impact.

In our opinion, we can start to use reverse logistics in halal cosmetics as well, a sector that has huge economic potential. Muslims spent $64 billion in 2018 on cosmetics and this is forecast to reach $95 billion by 2024, according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2019/20 report.

Implementing green logistics solutions will yield many benefits for halal industry players.

The Tsinghua University study in 2019 indicates that logistics operations improves economic growth in terms of per capita income, trade openness and industry value added activities, while logistics operations are negatively correlated with environmental sustainability due to carbon emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel and nitrogen emissions.

More efficient and green logistics practices can help the halal industry contribute more to the Indonesian GDP not only in terms of profitability but also towards environmental sustainability.

https://www.salaamgateway.com/story/how-do-we-link-halal-industries-with-green-logistics-to-drive-the-islamic-economy-responsibly-and-su

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India

 

Muslim bodies appeal to government, MPs to junk Citizenship Amendment Bill

10th December 2019

By Sana ShakilExpress News Service

NEW DELHI: Several Muslim organisations on Monday urged the government and parliamentarians to dismiss the Citizenship Amendment Bill, terming it “discriminatory”, “divisive” and “anti-constitution”.

Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind (JuH), Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), All India Muslim Majlis e Mushawarat (AIMIM) and Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), were among the organisations that asserted that the Bill, if passed, would destroy the secular fabric of the country and validate the two-nation theory.

JuH chief Maulana Arshad Madani warned that the “dangerous Bill will set the secular fabric of the country on fire”. He said, “The Bill is anti-Muslim and dangerous for the secular fabric of the country. It cannot be seen in isolation. It has to be seen in tandem with NRC which the government wants to conduct in the entire country. We all saw what happened in Assam NRC. Even genuine people could not prove their citizenship. So, when these two are implemented countrywide, all will be able to escape NRC through this Bill except Muslims. It will make Muslims miserable and destroy the country’s secular fabric.”

JIH vice-president Salim Engineer echoed similar concerns and called the Bill the biggest tool of discrimination. He also said that the Muslim body has been meeting politicians across party lines to convince them to not support the “divisive” Bill. “This validates the two-nation theory that had led to Partition. If the Bill is passed, it will be a turning point in India’s history. It is a big step towards becoming a Hindu Rasthra. We’re urging MPs to reject the Bill which is dangerous and disastrous for the secular principles of our country.”

BMMA, that was at the forefront of the legal battle for a law against triple talaq, too demanded withdrawal of the Bill, saying it would divide citizens on religious grounds.Meanwhile, the All-India Shia Personal Law Board and the UP Shia Waqf Board requested the Centre to increase the ambit of  Bill to include Shias in the list of communities for grant of citizenship on account of their religious persecution in neighbouring Islamic countries.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/dec/10/muslim-bodies-appeal-to-govt-mps-to-junk-bill-2073863.html

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BHU Sanskrit professor attacked for supporting Muslim colleague Feroz Khan

10th December 2019

VARANASI: A Sanskrit professor at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) here has been allegedly attacked by students for supporting his Muslim colleague, Feroz Khan, whose appointment to the department as assistant professor had sent students on protests since the past one month.

The Dalit professor is a senior faculty member in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan (SVDV) department where Khan has been appointed.

"I was sitting in a classroom when some students barged in and started abusing me in foul language. They asked me to stop supporting a Muslim's appointment to the faculty. I felt unsafe and came out. Some of the students then hurled stones at me and later caught up with me and shoved and pushed me. I could escape because a stranger gave me a lift on his scooter," Professor Shanti Lal Salvi told reporters here, following the Monday's incident.

Salvi alleged a colleague had instigated the students but would not name him before the media.

"I have complained to Vice-Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar against a professor of the department and some students," he said.

A student, who was a part of the group that had accosted Salvi, said they had only asked the professor to stop supporting Khan and never attacked him.

Some students of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Sankay department have been protesting Khan's appointment on the ground that a Muslim cannot teach Hindu religious texts, which the department's syllabus includes.

There has been speculation that Khan may be shifted to the department of Samhita and Sanskrit, part of the university's faculty of Ayurveda, or the Sanskrit department of the arts faculty as a compromise.

He has appeared in interviews held by the two departments, on November 29 and on December 4.

Meanwhile, no classes have been held in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan department since November 8, the day after Khan's appointment.

Chief proctor O.P. Rai met the student protesters on Monday and said Khan's appointment would soon be discussed at the executive council of the university.

The semester examinations have also been postponed due to protests. "The next date of the semester examination in the department will be announced soon," the proctor told reporters.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/dec/10/bhu-sanskrit-professor-attacked-for-supporting-muslim-colleague-feroz-khan-2074064.html

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An uneasy silence among Indian Muslims marks the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill

On Monday, Lok Sabha passed the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill which explicitly excludes Muslims from three neighbouring countries from applying for Indian citizenship. By introducing a religious test for Indian citizenship, the proposed law violates the principles of equality and secularism enshrined in the Indian constitution. The bill will now be taken up in the Rajya Sabha.

Despite the profound impact that its passage would have on India’s secular fabric, there have been barely any street protests against it, barring in the North East and West Bengal.

What explains the silence over the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the rest of India?

Could this be a function of geography? The bill is restricted to facilitating citizenship for undocumented migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, countries that share borders with India in the North. Does that explain the lack of interest in the Indian peninsula?

Muslim political leaders and activists from South India and Maharashtra claim this is not the case. They say they have been closely tracking the bill but have chosen to respond cautiously given their past experience with street protests. Often, street protests have fanned social polarisation, helping the Bharatiya Janata Party. Besides, they argue street protests should be the last resort in a democracy after all political and legal avenues have been exhausted.

In Parliament, one of the strongest voices against the bill was that of Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, a political party with legislators from Telangana and Maharashtra. Owaisi tore up a copy of the Citizenship Bill, calling it ‘worse than Hitler’s laws’.

‘Second-class citizens’

MH Jawahirullah, former legislator in Tamil Nadu and head of the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, a Muslim political party, said the Citizenship Amendment Bill is a frontal attack on the secular nature of the Indian state. It violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law, and has been tailored to convert Muslims into second-class citizens, he said.

“This is like the demonetisation of the Muslim community,” he said. In the same way as high-value currency notes were made illegal overnight, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre is trying to invalidate the fundamental right of Muslims to be treated equally before the law, he claimed. “This is the larger Hindutva project of the Sangh Parivar,” he said.

Jawahirullah cautioned that the community in the rest of India should not see this as a problem of North India. “This is a challenge to every Muslim citizen in the country.”

He said the reason for the lack of street protests could be that the law is still to take effect.

‘Streets protests should be the last resort’

Khader Mohideen, senior leader of the Indian Union Muslim League, which has a sizable presence in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu, said the Constitution is being bulldozed by the BJP, which has taken its majority in the Parliament as a signal to change the very nature of the country as a secular state. He said that the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens is an attack on all marginalised people.

Questioning the intent of the law, he said the claim that it will help the religiously persecuted people in India’s neighbourhood was only a ploy to treat Muslims differently. “If helping those persecuted is the aim, why keep Sri Lankan refugees and Myanmar’s Rohingyas out?”

He added that since those left out of the NRC in Assam included a large number of Hindus, the BJP was trying to wriggle out of a political quagmire by amending the Citizenship Act so that those Hindus could be given citizenship. “This shows that the idea is only to keep Muslims away,” he said.

Mohideen also said street mobilisation should be the final strategy in a parliamentary democracy as there was no stepping back once the matter is taken to the streets. “It is a last resort after all other measures are exhausted,” he added.

‘Prelude to an all-India NRC’

Javed Anand, a Mumbai-based civil rights activist who is the convenor of an organisation called Muslims for Secular Democracy, said there was lot of outrage among Muslim communities across India as they see the proposed law as an instrument to corner them. “This is a prelude to an all-India NRC to target Indian Muslims,” he said.

Anand said the experience of the past, as in the case of the aftermath of the Shah Bano case in the 1980s when Muslims took to the streets in large numbers, and in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, has taught the lesson that street politics is counter-productive. “It leads to further polarisation.”

He said this scenario will change as the BJP is readying the ground for a nationwide NRC. “The trauma that Muslims and large sections of Hindus faced during the NRC in Assam has not gone unnoticed,” he said. In the coming days, a larger front of Indian Muslims and other marginalised groups will emerge against such attacks by a majoritarian government, he added.

https://scroll.in/article/946317/an-uneasy-silence-among-indian-muslims-marks-the-passage-of-the-citizenship-bill

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Rohingya Muslims will never be accepted as Indian citizens: Amit Shah clarifies in LS

December 10, 2019

During a debate over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah made it clear that Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar will never be accepted as citizens of India.

“Rohingyas will never be accepted as citizens of India. They infiltrated India through Bangladesh. The came from Myanmar,” Shah said.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan after facing religious persecution there.

The Home Minister said the Citizenship Bill will give relief and constitutional respect to those who have been living a painful life after facing persecution in neighbouring countries.

He dismissed the suggestions that the Bill is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality for everyone, as it aims to give citizenship to persecuted people only.

“This Bill is not unconstitutional and not in violation of Article 14 and has nothing to do with Muslims in India,” he said but made it clear that Rohingya Muslims, coming from Myanmar, will not be given Indian citizenship.

India has deported eight Rohingyas to Myanmar in two batches since the beginning of 2019.

The UN Human Rights Council had “urged the authorities to stop such forced deportations which are prohibited under international law”.

Human rights experts also voiced concerns over “the Indian legal and administrative processes for refugee status determination”.

New Delhi has, however, dismissed the concerns stating repatriation of illegal immigrants to the country of their origin was in accordance with the Indian law.

Meanwhile, Amit Shah in Lok Sabha further assured that the Centre will never touch Article 371.

“There is a difference between Article 370 and Article 371. Article 371 does not give flag to anyone. We will never touch Article 371. I am assuring this to the whole northeast region,” Amit Shah said.

After the Government abrogated Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Article 371, which has special provisions for other states, primarily from the northeast region, has gained attention.

Following a fiery debate that lasted over seven hours, the Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill a little past midnight on Tuesday.

According to the proposed legislation, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/rohingya-muslims-never-accepted-indian-citizens-amit-shah-ls-1502831850.html

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‘Citizenship Amendment Bill against Muslims,’ says Asaduddin Owaisi, tears bill in LS

December 10, 2019

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief came down heavily on the Citizenship Amendment Bill saying, “Another partition is going to happen. This Bill is against the Constitution and disrespect to our freedom fighters. I tear the Bill; it is trying to divide our country.” Owaisi tore a copy of the draft legislation in the Lok Sabha on Monday calling it “arbitrary in nature” and “against the Muslim community”.

The Hyderabad MP expressed objections over the CAB’s nature while participating in the debate, saying “secularism is the basic structure of the Constitution and the Bill was arbitrary in nature and was in violation of fundamental rights.”

In his address to the Lok Sabha while participating in the debate yesterday, he referred to Mahatma Gandhi’s act in foreign land that Owaisi said made him Gandhi; he accused the government of moving the Bill against the Muslim community. “Mahatma” after he tore the discriminatory citizenship card in South Africa, and there was no reason why he should not do the same with the Citizenship Amendment Bill,” said Owaisi.

Stating that Home Minister Amit Shah should be prevented from carrying out this enactment, he said, “If you don’t do it, you will be compared with David Ben Gurion, founder of the Jewist state of Israel, and Hitler.”

The AIMIM leader said secularism was the base of the Constitution and that Muslims were also the part of the country.

Earlier, during the introduction of the Bill, he had urged the Speaker to “save the country from Home Minister”.

Shah moved the Bill in the Lower House, saying it sought to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

In his introductry remarks, Home Minister said the draft legislation was for those minorities that faced religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

He clarified as the Muslim community was not persecuted in the three Islamic countries, the Bill specifically mentioned to provide citizenship to six religious persecuted minorities.

Shah also said the Bill was not against Muslims and that if any Muslim sought Indian citizenship based on rules it would be entertained as per the Bill.

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/citizenship-amendment-bill-against-muslims-says-asaduddin-owaisi-tears-bill-in-ls-1502831807.html

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‘Shiv Sena, Muslim League as partners’: Amit Shah on Congress being secular

Dec 10, 2019

Union Home Minister Amit Shah countered the Congress party’s claim that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is communal in nature with the retort that the Congress is such a secular party that it has Muslim League as a coalition partner in Kerala and the Shiv Sena as an ally in Maharashtra, ANI quoted Shah as saying in Parliament.

Shah was speaking in the Lok Sabha on Monday during the debate on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha with 311 votes in favour and 80 against it, at a few minutes past midnight. The debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill went on for almost eight hours.

“The Congress is such a secular party. It partners with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and ties up with the Muslim League in Kerala,” Shah said.

After the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet, “Delighted that Lok Sabha has passed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after a rich & extensive debate. I thank the various MPs and parties that supported the Bill. This Bill is in line with India’s centuries old ethos of assimilation and belief in humanitarian values.”

The prime minister also praised the Home Minister for patiently explaining the various facets of the bill.

According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31 2014, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but will be made Indian citizens.

The bill will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha for approval during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament.

The bill has drawn sharp criticism from a number of opposition parties and their leaders with Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Saugata Roy, N K Premchandran, Gaurav Gogoi, Shashi Tharoor and Asaduddin Owaisi all vehemently opposing the introduction of the bill, saying it violated several provisions of the Constitution, including a move to grant citizenship on the basis of religion.

The bill also led to protests in Assam, Manipur and Tripura. In Assam, a 12-hour general strike was called by several indigenous organizations affecting normal life in parts of the state. Guwahati, however, remained largely peaceful.

States in the northeast like Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, which have inner line permit (ILP) regime and Sixth Schedule areas in Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya have been kept outside the ambit of CAB.

The entire northeastern region will witness a shutdown on Tuesday due to an 11-hour general strike called by the North East Students Organisation (NESO), which comprises of student bodies of seven states in the region.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/shiv-sena-muslim-league-as-partners-amit-shah-on-congress-being-secular/story-LJ3d4wnB3IRAtuATLJmeRI.html

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Ayodhya verdict: Shia Board files review plea, seeks 5-acre land for charitable hospital

Dec 09, 2019

Oliver Fredrick

The Shia Central Board of Waqf (SCBW) on Monday filed a review petition on the Supreme Court direction to allot a five-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque in Ayodhya.

The SCBW sought the five-acre land for itself so that it could build a charitable hospital.

A five-judge bench, headed by the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had in a unanimous verdict on November 9 decreed the entire 2.77 acre disputed land in favour of the deity ‘Ram Lalla’ and also directed the Centre to allot a five-acre plot to Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque in Ayodhya.

Prior to the Ayodhya verdict, the court had also dismissed the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by Shia Waqf Board challenging a Faizabad court order of 1946. The Faizabad court had dismissed the plea of the Shia Waqf Board claiming ownership of the Babri Masjid.

“The petitioner is aggrieved of the order whereby this court has ordered for allotting 5- acres land to Sunni Waqf Board for the demolished mosque, which was a Shia property since it was found to have been built by Mir Baqi, a Shia, wherefore the said mosque was a Shia waqf and not Sunni waqf,” the review petition of SCBW stated.

Syed Waseem Rizvi, chairman SCBW, UP, said, the mosque belonged to the Shia waqf as it was found to be constructed by Mir Baqi, who was a Shia himself.

“Hence, the five-acre land should be allotted to us (Shia Waqf Board) and not to Sunni Waqf Board. This was the main issue that we raised in the review petition,” Rizvi told HT.

The SCBW chairman said the board had also raised the point that the five-acre land, if being awarded to Sunni Waqf Board, should be given outside Ayodhya limits.

The board also mentioned, “…the Shia Waqf Board deserves allotment of land which instead of constructing mosque is determined to construct a charitable hospital in view of the upcoming Ram Mandir to cater to the medical needs and assistance to the population dropping in.”

The board’s review petition was filed on the last day of the 30-day period from the date of the judgment.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/lucknow/ayodhya-verdict-shia-board-files-review-plea-seeks-5-acre-land-for-charitable-hospital/story-wDvrRRdZQVs0Bz9A5WodmI.html

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Maldives keen to disentangle from China's debt trap, Nasheed conveys to VP Naidu

Dec 9, 2019

NEW DELHI: Maldives' Parliament speaker Mohamed Nasheed on Monday met Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and conveyed that his country is keen to disentangle from China's debt trap, sources said.

The former president of Maldives said his country, amidst claims of huge investment by Beijing, is undertaking an assessment of assets created through debt funding from China.

Nasheed, who is leading a parliamentary delegation to India, held detailed talks with Naidu, also the Rajya Sabha chairman, on bilateral ties and the situation in Maldives.

He said China's funding is costly and Maldives is keen to know the extent of actual investment flows from China into his country, the sources said.

Nasheed also said that the previous government of his country, unfortunately, did not get along well with India and New Delhi could help the people of his country, who are hungry for constitutional democracy.

"People of Maldives and India read the same books, eat same food and watch same films that form the strong basis for bilateral relations.

"I am happy that both the countries have similar views on the serious issue of climate change," Nasheed told Naidu, according to the sources.

Naidu appreciated the role of Nasheed, who was elected president of Maldives in 2008 and was removed in a coup in 2012, in strengthening democracy in his country and Maldives' ties with India.

The vice president also recalled his first private visit to Maldives a few years ago.

Referring to India's 'Neighbourhood First' policy, he said there is substantial scope for further consolidation of ties and cooperation between the two countries, the sources said.

Nasheed also met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

During the meeting, Birla emphasised that the two countries should increase their cooperation not only in the economic fields and employment but also in the social sectors, the Lok Sabha Secretariat said in a statement.

Emphasising that the bilateral trade needs an impetus, Nasheed said he hopes that India would play a purposive role in "rectifying anomalies emerging out of his country's economic engagements with other countries", the statement said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/maldives-keen-to-disentangle-from-chinas-debt-trap-nasheed-conveys-to-vp-naidu/articleshow/72445135.cms

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Africa

 

Nigeria faces backlash over the arrest of a US-based activist and journalist

December 9, 2019

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)The Nigerian government is facing immense criticism over the re-arrest and detention of investigative journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore on treason charges.

Sowore and activist Olawale Bakare were arrested by the Department of State Security Services(DSS) in August for organizing a nationwide protest against President Muhammadu Buhari's government.

The journalist, who has been charged with treasonable felony, was released a day before his court hearing last week. However, DSS officials stormed the court premises and re-arrested him, sparking nationwide outrage and international criticism against the government.

US Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, where Sowore's family is based, said he was outraged by the "blatant harassment" of the journalist and authorities' disregard for court orders granting his release on bail.

"A Nigerian court has twice ordered his release on bail, and the state's security agencies openly defied the court order each time, leading me to conclude that either Nigeria no longer respects the rule of law or President Buhari is woefully out of touch with what his agents are doing in his name," the lawmaker said.

'No ordinary citizen'

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement Sunday that the DSS does not need approval from the presidency to carry out its duties, which he said is backed by the country's laws.

Shehu said Sowore had publicly called for a "revolution" to overthrow Buhari's government and also founded an organization to cause unrest in the country.

"It should not surprise anyone who has followed his actions and words that Sowore is a person of interest to the DSS. No government will allow anybody to openly call for destabilization in the country and do nothing," Shehu said.

"Mr. Sowore is no ordinary citizen expressing his views freely on social media and the internet," he added.

New Jersey lawmaker and Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Cory Booker also described Sowore's re-arrest as a "shocking affront" on Nigeria's rule of law.

"It's appalling that NJ journalist Omoyele Sowore was re-arrested in Nigeria hours after his release. This is a shocking affront to the country's rule of law, and Nigeria must cease its dangerous attacks on freedom of expression," Booker tweeted.

Nigeria's intelligence agency denied its operatives attempted to arrest the journalist inside the courtroom. According to DSS spokesman Peter Afunanya, chaos broke out after Sowore and his supporters saw the agency's officers waiting to take him into custody after his court hearing.

"Nigerians and the International Community should not be gullible or even vulnerable to the machinations of groups desirous of misleading them," Afunanya said in a statement.

On Monday, a group of human rights and democracy organizations issued a two-week deadline to the government to release the journalist on bail, investigate the court incident and free those alleged to have been detained by the agency illegally.

They are also asking Buhari to reassure citizens of his commitment to human rights and the rule of law in a public address.

"If these five demands are not honored within 14 days -- we call on patriots to join us as we occupy the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) offices across the country, as it is legally mandated to protect rights and it reports to the Presidency," the group said in a statement.

CNN has reached out to a presidential spokesman for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Sowore, an activist turned politician, ran against Buhari in the February elections and has often criticized government policies in the West Africa nation.

His case has been adjourned until February 11, according to his lawyer.

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/09/africa/nigeria-sowore-arrest-backlash/index.html

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Kenya building collapse toll hits 10 but 2 survivors found

December 8, 2019

By TOM ODULA

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan rescuers digging through the rubble of a six-story building found two survivors alive Sunday, two days after it collapsed in Nairobi, as the death toll rose to 10.

When the survivors of Friday’s building collapse were found Sunday morning, a crowd of onlookers burst into cheers and claps.

A military member at the scene told The Associated Press they had been communicating with people believed to have been trapped in pockets of debris. He said some were screaming for help but the sounds of their voices had died down as time wore on. He insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

Nairobi Police Chief Philip Ndolo said four bodies were recovered from the scene Sunday including that of a child, while a fifth person died in a hospital. According to authorities, that brings the overall toll to 10 dead, 30 injured and 20 missing.

Ndolo said the rescue of a man and a woman had invigorated emergency workers with hopes of finding other survivors. He said the two were in stable condition in a hospital.

“Given we have rescued two people two days after the incident, we hope to find more survivors. Remember there is more than 20 people missing,” he said.

He said the heavy rains that Kenya was experiencing, more than 300% above normal, were slowing the rescue operation. It was not immediately clear what caused the building, which the Red Cross said housed 22 families, to collapse.

But building collapses are common in Nairobi, where housing is in high demand and unscrupulous developers often bypass regulations.

On Saturday, one person died and others were injured when the balcony of single-story building in Chuka in central Kenya collapsed.

In September, a school collapsed in Nairobi, killing at least seven primary students.

After eight buildings collapsed and killed 15 people in Kenya in 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered an audit of all the country’s buildings to see if they were up to code. The National Construction Authority found that 58% of the buildings in Nairobi were unfit for habitation.

https://apnews.com/139097fba4ad2cde94c30b63b8ec151c

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Mortal remains of 14 Indians killed in Sudan's tanker blast to arrive in India today

December 10, 2019

Identification and medical formalities of 14 Indian nationals killed in last week's tragic LPG tanker blast at a ceramic factory in Sudan, have been completed and the mortal remains will be sent back to the country tomorrow onwards, the Indian Embassy said on Monday.

"In regard to the Indian casualties in the ceramics factory fire in Khartoum, the Embassy has expedited the identification and completion of medico-legal formalities for the 14 identified bodies. The mortal remains will be sent to India from tomorrow onwards," the Indian Embassy announced on Twitter.

The Indian mission issued a detailed list of the Indians who were killed in the ghastly incident.

Earlier, according to the Indian Embassy, 18 Indians were among the 23 people killed in the LPG blast at the factory in the Sudanese capital Khartoum although the numbers were not officially confirmed.

"It was an unfortunate incident. 58 Indian workers were working at the factory in Sudan. Six Indian workers were killed in the incident. Eight Indians are in hospital and 11 people are unidentified or missing. Thirty-three Indians are safe," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had told reporters in a weekly briefing.

The explosion occurred while a gas tanker was unloading its cargo at the factory, as per a statement by Sudan's Council of Ministers, as cited by Xinhua news agency. 130 others were also injured in the incident.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed his anguish over the tragedy while External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the Indian embassy in Sudan has set up a 24-hour emergency hotline.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/mortal-remains-14-indians-killed-sudan-tanker-blast-arrive-india-today-1626875-2019-12-10

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South Asia

 

Rohingya Muslims in Europe hopeful for justice

Abdullah Asiran

10.12.2019

Rohingya Muslims in Europe hopeful for justiceHla Kyaw, chairman of the European Rohingya Council

Rohingya Muslims in Europe are hopeful for the outcome of a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) filed against Myanmar by West African country Gambia for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in the country over the past few years.

"December 10 will be historic day for Rohingya. This is the beginning of justice and accountability for decades-long genocidal sufferings of Rohingya," Hla Kyaw, chairman of the European Rohingya Council, told Anadolu Agency.

"We have been waiting for justice for too long," he added, expressing hope that the "ICJ process goes quick and brings justice to Rohingya people as quickly as possible."

He also called for international community to create a "safe-zone" for Rohingya Muslims until the Myanmar government gave Rohingya Muslims their rights.

"Rohingya are still facing restrictions on freedom of movements; restrictions on rights to educations; restrictions on freedom of worship; restrictions on rights to seeking emergency medical care such as life-threatening situations; and many more restrictions. The situation has been ever deteriorating," he added.

"The international community must come together to pressure Myanmar both economically and politically. I do believe that it's everyone's moral responsibility to give justice to the Rohingya people," said Khairul Boshor, chairman of the Myanmar Muslim Association Netherlands.

Underlining that there was factual evidence showing Myanmar committed genocide against Rohingya, he said: "We have heard Myanmar government is forcing and misusing our Rohingya inside the Arakan to give false witnesses against our people at ICJ."

"Justice to Rohingya people is long overdue and our people have been desperately waiting for this day to come. I do believe that Gambia will definitely win the case," he also said.

"The ICJ will make decision based on authentic evidences. So that I believe we will get justice. But we will have to wait some time," also said Mohamed Eleyas, deputy of the Burmese Rohingya Community Netherlands.

- International lawsuit

Myanmar faces a lawsuit at the ICJ filed by West African country Gambia, with the support of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in the country over the past few years.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, said in a statement last month that she, as foreign minister, attended the first hearing of the lawsuit on Dec. 10, to defend "the interests of the country".

The latest massive military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar in 2017 forced more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, to flee the country and cross into Bangladesh.

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

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

Suu Kyi is widely criticized for her silence against the mass killings and war against humanity as she now attempts to defend against alleged military atrocities -- which the UN human rights chief described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" -- at the international court.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/rohingya-muslims-in-europe-hopeful-for-justice/1668927

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North America

 

Sa'ar: The world is suffering from lack of moral clarity on Islamic extremism

By GIL HOFFMAN 

DECEMBER 10, 2019

Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar said that "the world is suffering from lack of moral clarity on Islamic extremism and on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. They make excuses for Islamic terror instead of fighting against it," while addressing a delegation from the Israel Allies Foundation on Tuesday.

"The lack of moral clarity is dangerous," he added."Labeling the products from Judea and Samaria is a clear attempt to remove Israel's legitimacy from the area."

The Likud MK also stated that,  "polls show I bring support from the other side. I'm sure I will lead Likud to a big victory and a government led by Likud in which all the Zionist parties will be invited to negotiate.

"If we continue the same path we are on now," Sa'ar continued, "we should not expect different results."

The Likud MK also stated that,  "polls show I bring support from the other side. I'm sure I will lead Likud to a big victory and a government led by Likud in which all the Zionist parties will be invited to negotiate.

"If we continue the same path we are on now," Sa'ar contiued, "we should not expect different results."

Sa'ar also took time to comment on the upcoming British general election on Thursday, saying that Labour's candidate for prime minister, Jeremy Corbyn, "makes clear his anti-Israel positions. I truly hope he won't win the election."

https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Saar-The-world-is-suffering-from-lack-of-moral-clarity-on-Islamic-extremism-610448

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The New York Non-Profit Artists Space Reopens With an 8,000-Square-Foot Home in the New Gallery Mecca of Tribeca

Taylor Dafoe,

December 9, 2019

The non-profit gallery Artists Space has served as a polestar for the downtown New York art scene since its founding in 1972, but its livelihood was threatened recently when the owners of the building that housed it made plans to convert the space into a luxury penthouse.

For some businesses, this news would have been a death knell. For Artists Space, it was just the latest hurdle in a decades-long game of real-estate chess that it has so far managed to win, allowing the gallery to remain downtown while countless others have been priced out.

The organization just opened its new two-story, 8,000-square-foot home at 11 Cortlandt Alley—still within the same seven-block radius where it has operated five previous locations. It inaugurated the space last Friday with an exhibition of new work by Danica Barboza, Jason Hirata, Yuki Kimura, and Duane Linklater. With intermixed art, no proper title or curatorial conceit, the show is a nod to the organization’s early model of exhibiting three or four artists in a format that’s “somewhere between a series of overlaid solo shows and a group show,” according to Artists Space executive director Jay Sanders.

“That’s something I’ve always loved about Artists Space: the primacy of artists controlling the conditions of their own presentation,” says Sanders, who signed on as director just before the organization closed its previous space on Greene Street. “It feels like artists really come and occupy and make their most articulated vision with the least amount of institutional framing and branding.”

The building on Cortlandt Alley, a cozy, three-block byway, has graffiti-adorned freight doors and fire escapes that harken back to the neighborhood’s grittier past. It was built in 1867 by a carpet dealer and purchased in the 1950s by its current owner, the construction tool manufacturing company General Tools.

General Tools approached Artists Space with the keys to its ground-level space in 2017 and Sanders said the two parties negotiated a 20-year lease with “very good terms.”

But there was still a lot of work to be done. The space was virtually raw; there was no elevator or staircase, no lighting or heating or bathroom. The non-profit was tasked with the full renovation, an undertaking that cost “several million dollars,” which it quietly raised through private donors, including Barbara Gladstone, Friedrich Petzel, David Zwirner, Jeff Koons, Trisha Donnelly, Richard Serra, and Allan Schwartzman.

Today, it’s hard to tell that the interior is new. The gallery looks and feels like Artists Space’s previous homes, with wood floors, off-white walls, exposed brick and ribbed pillars. Nearly every artist on the museum’s board—a list that includes Rachel Harrison, Joan Jonas, and Seth Price, among others—weighed in on the renovation, Sanders says.

Nodding to the organization’s own history was a central theme of their conversations, as was creating a hybridized space that would allow for the two sides of Artists Space’s protean identity—exhibitions and live programming—to coexist.

“The thought was to re-fuse those strands into one whole and see how that would play out in different parts of the building,” Sanders says. “I hope that in the first year we can experiment with all the different ways that static art, performance, and discursive and social events can occupy different temporal and architectural frames in the building.”

Indeed, the location—where industrial guts give way to sections of white cube—feels primed to be reimagined for future projects, performances, and who knows what else.

“We’re living in a moment where people are asking a lot of questions about art making and how art lives in the culture,” says Sanders. “I think we’re really going to learn more about our future as we live through this first chapter of projects. Then we’ll see what the next steps may be, responding to what emerging artists need, to what New York needs, and hopefully be very porous and thoughtful and sensitive in the process.”

“Danica Barboza, Jason Hirata, Yuki Kimura, Duane Linklater” is on view through February 9, 2020 at Artists Space.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/artists-space-reopens-tribeca-1726539

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Mideast

 

Gov't Spokesman: US Involvement in Recent Riots in Iran "War Crime"

Mon Dec 09, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee blasted the US officials' lies about the number of people killed in the recent riots in Iran, and warned that Washington's confession to its engagement in the recent unrests in Iran substantiates a case of war crime.

"The clear remarks uttered by the US officials these days about Iran and attributing them (the recent riots in Iran) to their efforts, is a war crime and international crime," Rabiyee told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

He further strongly rejected the US claims that thousands have been killed in the recent riots in Iran, saying that the allegations of the American officials are all lies.

The spokesman also said the Iranian officials will announce the precise numbers in each province later, reminding that the number of the Law Enforcement policemen wounded in the recent riots was larger than the ordinary citizens injures.

Trump administration on Thursday accused Iranian security forces of killing more than 1,000 people in the recent unrests.

The estimated death toll is significantly higher than previously estimates from human rights groups and others, and the administration did not present documentary evidence to back up the claim.

On November 15, the government raised Iran’s extremely cheap gas price in order to moderate the national consumption rate, which stands at 110 million liters per day, 40 million liters above the maximum domestic requirement.

The government also announced a number of aid and subsidiary programs to protect vulnerable households from the adverse effects of the measure.

The price reform, required by Iranian legislature and essential as US-imposed sanctions seek to deplete Iran's budgetary resources, had been long delayed due to concerns regarding the move's probable backlash.

The measure's adoption prompted initially peaceful protests, but riotous elements, abusing the situation, quickly entered the scene, destroying public property, setting ablaze banks and gas stations among other facilities, and opening fire on people and security forces.

Intelligence reports and eye-witness accounts showed that the rioters who had taken advantage of public protests against gasoline price hikes to stir chaos in the country were armed with different weapons.

In relevant remarks last Tuesday, Iran's Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli announced that armed rioters and outlaws wounded and killed a number of people and policemen during the recent unrests after the protest rallies against the gasoline rationing.

"It is confirmed that a considerable number of people have been killed by the outlaws and many officers who were trying to establish order have also been wounded by the weapons of these outlaws too," Esmayeeli told reporters in a press conference in Tehran.

He said arson attacks and plundering the banks and stores and killing of innocent people and police officers were all carried out by the hooligans who were affiliated to the anti-revolutionary and dissident groups and were supported by the foreign spy agencies.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000651

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FM: Iran Ready for Comprehensive Prisoner Swap with US

Mon Dec 09, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced on Monday that his country is fully prepared for a full-scale prisoner swap with the US, a few days after two Iranian and American inmates were exchanged.

"After getting our hostage back this week, [we are] fully ready for comprehensive prisoner exchange. The ball is in the US’ court," Zarif wrote on his twitter page.

Elsewhere, the Iranian top diplomat said that he was participating in the Ministerial Heart of Asia meeting in Istanbul aimed at establishment of peace and development in Afghanistan, and added, "Today, (we are) back to regional diplomacy in Istanbul."

His remarks came hours after Iran rejected holding negotiations with the US administration on swapping prisoners, saying that the Iranian and American citizens were released recently for humanitarian reasons.

"The proposal to swap the prisoners was raised one and a half years ago (by Iran to the US) on the sidelines of the (UN General) Assembly, but was rejected by the US," Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee told reporters in Tehran today.

He expressed pleasure that the US made the right decision and released the Iranian professor Massoud Soleimani, and said, "For humanitarian reasons, we accepted a proposal sent by a former US official to swap prisoners for the freedom of Dr. Soleimani and we were even after freedom of all in exchange of all."

Rabiyee also appreciated the Swiss government for its efforts in this regard, and said, "This swap was not carried out based on negotiations."

He, meantime, said that the US can start participation in negotiations within the framework of the Group 5+1 even today but only after removing all sanctions against Iran.

Professor Soleimani arrived at Tehran Mehrabad airport on Saturday evening after he was released by the US in a prisoner swap. He was welcomed by his family members and Iranian officials upon his arrival.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accompanied the released scientist from Zurich where the swap took place.

The Iranian foreign minister said in a tweet earlier in the day that the top scholar, along with Xiyue Wang — a Chinese-born US citizen who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage in Iran in 2017 — had been delivered to the Swiss officials and would “be joining their families shortly”.

Soleimani arrived in the US on October, 22, 2018 with a visa issued upon an invitation by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to lead a research program on the treatment of stroke patients.

He was, however, arrested by the FBI upon arrival at the Chicago airport. His visa was canceled and he was transferred to a jail in Atlanta, Georgia.

His family had several times voiced worries about Soleimani’s “poor” mental and physical condition in jail, saying he is suffering from chronic irritable bowel syndrome, has lost 15 kilograms and suffers from severe vision loss.

Soleimani’s family condemned the US government's hostile act.

BJay Pak, the US attorney in Atlanta, secured Soleimani’s indictment on June 12, 2018, just a month after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, and Soleimani had been fully unaware of such an indictment when he flew to the US.

Franco and Page Pate, another Atlanta lawyer, said that they had been puzzled by the federal government’s decision to prosecute a renowned Iranian professor and two of his former students - Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri - for purported trade sanction violations over eight vials of human growth hormone.

Franco said that Soleimani’s treatment by federal authorities, the revocation of his visa and the decision to detain him without bond doesn’t square with Soleimani’s international reputation as a scholar, professor, and doctor widely known in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Soleimani has no criminal history anywhere in the world, he added.

The hormone, which is a form of synthetic protein, was seized from Jazayeri in 2016 by customs authorities in Atlanta when she was heading to Iran to give it to professor Soleimani for research purposes. Jazayeri had received the hormone from Ghaedi.

The seizure occurred at a time when Washington was still a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and anti-Iran sanctions had not been re-imposed yet.

The growth hormone is not banned in the US or Iran and was being used “exclusively for medical research”, which is still considered largely exempt from US sanctions, Franco said.

However, Ghaedi and Jazayeri faced similar federal charges for attempting to supply Soleimani with the growth hormone.

Ghaedi is a permanent American resident and an assistant professor at Yale University's School of Medicine. She is free on a $250,000 bond. Jazayeri is a naturalized US citizen and Kentucky resident and has conducted medical research at the University of Louisville. She is currently free on a $200,000 bond.

“I truly don’t understand it,” Franco said of the government’s decision to prosecute, adding that it appeared to be “some type of policy argument”. Pate, who represents Jazayeri, said his client was “completely confused by all this.”

Motions to dismiss the charges are pending in federal court in Atlanta in front of US District Judge Eleanor Ross. However, Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have not yet responded to the motions.

Hearing this case had been adjourned for at least three times since October and his family and Tarbiat Modares University had paid over $70,000 to his lawyers to prove his innocence, but all to no avail, said TMU’s Vice-chancellor for Research Affairs Yaghoub Fathollahi.

Fathollahi added that Soleimani is a distinguished professor who has been ranked among the top 1% scientists in the world.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000932

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Minister: Iran to Continue Power Supplies to Iraq

Mon Dec 09, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian announced that his country will continue exports of electricity to Iraq by renewing earlier contract.

"Iran has signed a 3-year-long cooperation agreement with Iraq to help the country's power industry in different aspects. The documents states at its end that we will export electricity to Iraq as far as they need," Ardakanian told FNA on Monday.

The contract to "export Iran's electricity" to Iraq will be extended, he added.

Ardakanian also said that Iran and Iraq's power grids have become synchronized since a month ago.

In 2004 Iran started selling electricity to Iraq. Iran electricity exports to the western neighbor are at its highest level of 1,361 megawatts per day now.

The new Amarah-Karkheh 400-KV transmission line stretching over 73 kilometers, is now synchronized to provide electricity to both countries. It also paves the way for increasing export to power-hungry Iraq in the near future.

With synchronization of the two grids, the quality of electricity in Iraq will improve.

According to official data, 82% of Iraq's electricity is generated by thermal power plants that use gas as feedstock. This is expected to reach 84% by 2027.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000400

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Turkey deports 11 French suspected Islamic State members

9 December 2019

ANKARA, TURKEY — Turkey has deported 11 French nationals who are suspected of being members of the Islamic State group, the Interior Ministry said Monday.

A brief ministry statement said 11 “foreign terrorist fighters” were returned to their home country.

It didn’t provide details or identify the suspects. The French Foreign Ministry declined to offer details on the returning citizens, which it described in a statement titled “terrorist fighters,” including how many were children.

Last month, Turkey stepped up the return of suspected foreign IS members — either held in Turkish prisons or in Syria — back to their countries of origin, saying Turkey was “not a hotel” for foreign fighters.

While Turkey has quietly deported suspected jihadis for years, it raised the issue more forcefully after Western nations refused to back its invasion of northeastern Syria and its offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara considers terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents fighting inside Turkey. Many countries have voiced concerns that the Turkish incursion would lead to a resurgence of IS.

Monday’s deportations raised the number of such foreign fighters expelled from Turkey since November 11 to 71, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported, including citizens of the United States, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. At least 18 suspects were returned to Germany, the agency reported.

The Interior Ministry said Sunday that an Australian national accused of being a foreign terrorist fighter was also deported.

Turkey has been accused of enabling the influx of thousands of foreign IS sympathizers into Syria over the years. At the height of the extremist group’s power, the Turkish border crossings were the main route for those hoping to join IS in Syria.

Turkey has denied the accusations and later stepped up security at its borders, including by profiling possible IS fighters at airports and building a wall along parts of its porous border.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/turkey-deports-11-french-suspected-islamic-state-members/

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2 Turkish soldiers killed, 7 wounded while defusing bomb

December 09, 2019

ANKARA: At least two Turkish soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded on Monday while attempting to defuse an improvised explosive device, officials said.

The device exploded in a village near the town of Idil, in the mainly-Kurdish populated Sirnak province, according to a statement from the regional governor’s office. It said the explosive device was planted by militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The statement didn’t provide further details but said Turkey’s operations to combat the PKK were continuing with “determination.”

There was no word on the wounded soldiers’ conditions.

The PKK, which is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.

In October, Turkey invaded areas of northeast Syria in a bid to drive Syrian Kurdish fighters away from its border. Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish fighters are linked to the PKK and has been infuriated by Western nations’ support to the militia.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596401/middle-east

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Iranian Surgeons Remove Brain Tumor through Awake Craniotomy

Mon Dec 09, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian physicians in the Eastern province of South Khorassan performed awake brain surgery on a 19-year-old patient diagnosed with tumor.

"Given the fact that the patient could not be anesthetized, therefore, the surgery was conducted while he was awake and through local anesthesia method," Kazzem Qa'emi, one of the surgeons, told reporters on Monday.

He added that the operation was aimed at removing a tumor from the brain of a 19-year-old man, noting, "During the operation, we were speaking with him and wanted him to move his body."

Qa'emi further explained that awake brain surgery is performed on elderly patients and those with cardiovascular diseases.

Awake brain surgery, also called awake craniotomy, is a type of procedure performed on the brain while you are awake and alert.

Awake brain surgery is used to treat some brain (neurological) conditions, including some brain tumors or epileptic seizures.

A particular use for awake craniotomy is mapping the cortex to avoid causing language or movement deficits with the surgery. It is more effective than surgeries performed under general anesthesia in avoiding complications.

Awake craniotomy can be used in a variety of brain tumors, including glioblastomas, gliomas, and brain metastases.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000794

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Iran: No Talks Held with US on Prisoner Swap

Mon Dec 09, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran on Monday rejected holding negotiations with the US administration on swapping prisoners, saying that the Iranian and American citizens were released recently for humanitarian reasons.

"The proposal to swap the prisoners was raised one and a half years ago (by Iran to the US) on the sidelines of the (UN General) Assembly, but was rejected by the US," Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee told reporters in Tehran today.

He expressed pleasure that the US made the right decision and released the Iranian professor Massoud Soleimani, and said, "For humanitarian reasons, we accepted a proposal sent by a former US official to swap prisoners for the freedom of Dr. Soleimani and we were even after freedom of all in exchange of all."

Rabiyee also appreciated the Swiss government for its efforts in this regard, and said, "This swap was not carried out based on negotiations."

He, meantime, said that the US can start participation in negotiations within the framework of the Group 5+1 even today but only after removing all sanctions against Iran.

Professor Soleimani arrived at Tehran Mehrabad airport on Saturday evening after he was released by the US in a prisoner swap. He was welcomed by his family members and Iranian officials upon his arrival.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accompanied the released scientist from Zurich where the swap took place.

The Iranian foreign minister said in a tweet earlier in the day that the top scholar, along with Xiyue Wang — a Chinese-born US citizen who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage in Iran in 2017 — had been delivered to the Swiss officials and would “be joining their families shortly”.

Soleimani arrived in the US on October, 22, 2018 with a visa issued upon an invitation by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to lead a research program on the treatment of stroke patients.

He was, however, arrested by the FBI upon arrival at the Chicago airport. His visa was canceled and he was transferred to a jail in Atlanta, Georgia.

His family had several times voiced worries about Soleimani’s “poor” mental and physical condition in jail, saying he is suffering from chronic irritable bowel syndrome, has lost 15 kilograms and suffers from severe vision loss.

Soleimani’s family condemned the US government's hostile act.

BJay Pak, the US attorney in Atlanta, secured Soleimani’s indictment on June 12, 2018, just a month after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, and Soleimani had been fully unaware of such an indictment when he flew to the US.

Franco and Page Pate, another Atlanta lawyer, said that they had been puzzled by the federal government’s decision to prosecute a renowned Iranian professor and two of his former students - Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri - for purported trade sanction violations over eight vials of human growth hormone.

Franco said that Soleimani’s treatment by federal authorities, the revocation of his visa and the decision to detain him without bond doesn’t square with Soleimani’s international reputation as a scholar, professor, and doctor widely known in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Soleimani has no criminal history anywhere in the world, he added.

The hormone, which is a form of synthetic protein, was seized from Jazayeri in 2016 by customs authorities in Atlanta when she was heading to Iran to give it to professor Soleimani for research purposes. Jazayeri had received the hormone from Ghaedi.

The seizure occurred at a time when Washington was still a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and anti-Iran sanctions had not been re-imposed yet.

The growth hormone is not banned in the US or Iran and was being used “exclusively for medical research”, which is still considered largely exempt from US sanctions, Franco said.

However, Ghaedi and Jazayeri faced similar federal charges for attempting to supply Soleimani with the growth hormone.

Ghaedi is a permanent American resident and an assistant professor at Yale University's School of Medicine. She is free on a $250,000 bond. Jazayeri is a naturalized US citizen and Kentucky resident and has conducted medical research at the University of Louisville. She is currently free on a $200,000 bond.

“I truly don’t understand it,” Franco said of the government’s decision to prosecute, adding that it appeared to be “some type of policy argument”. Pate, who represents Jazayeri, said his client was “completely confused by all this.”

Motions to dismiss the charges are pending in federal court in Atlanta in front of US District Judge Eleanor Ross. However, Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have not yet responded to the motions.

Hearing this case had been adjourned for at least three times since October and his family and Tarbiat Modares University had paid over $70,000 to his lawyers to prove his innocence, but all to no avail, said TMU’s Vice-chancellor for Research Affairs Yaghoub Fathollahi.

Fathollahi added that Soleimani is a distinguished professor who has been ranked among the top 1% scientists in the world.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000738

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Spokesman: Iran to Give Crushing Response to Any Israeli Military Threats

Mon Dec 09, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi rapped Israeli officials' recent military threats against Iran, and warned of a crushing response to any "stupid" move.

"Threats by the Quds Occupying Regime indicate its weakness and incapability and are aimed at capping the crises and internal problems faced by its leaders," Mousavi said on Monday.

He added that the Israeli regime which has a record of 70 years of occupation has been established on threats and aggression.

Mousavi underlined that Iran will not hesitate even a moment to defend its national security and "will give a crushing response to any aggression or stupid act" to make the enemies regret their deeds.

His remarks came after Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz told an Italian daily over the weekend that the regime was prepared to attack Iran militarily if sanctions don’t force it to curtail its nuclear program Asked by the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera on Friday if a military strike on Iran were a possibility, Katz affirmed “it’s an option. We will not allow Iran to produce or obtain nuclear weapons. If the only option left to us is the military option, we’ll act militarily.”

Iran continues to be behind a longstanding proposal at the United Nations for a regional nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

On April 17, 2010, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa declaring that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are all haram (religiously banned).

"Iran is not after a nuclear bomb. Why would Iran want a nuclear bomb? Moreover, when an atomic bomb is detonated, it does not just kill enemies. Rather, it kills innocent people as well, and this goes against Islamic beliefs and the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran. An atomic bomb does not discriminate between good and bad people, and it is not something that the Islamic Republic would use. The Islamic Republic is relying on something that is not affected by bombs, foreign invasions and other such things. Such things only strengthen what the Islamic republic is relying on. The Islamic republic is relying on the people," a part of the fatwa said.

Also, in October, Ayatollah Khamenei underlined his firm and serious opposition to Iran's acquisition, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons, describing it as haram.

"Nuclear science is beneficial but since it’s not been coupled with love for humanity, it led to nuclear disasters. Despite having the ability to develop nukes, we firmly and bravely avoided it, for building and keeping nukes, like using them, is haram," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing a group of academic elites and top scientific talents in Tehran.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000513

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AEOI Spokesman: Iran Capable of Producing Stable Isotopes without Russia's Help

Mon Dec 09, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Spokesman and Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Behrouz Kamalavandi said his country's experts enjoy the necessary know-how and capabilities to produce stable isotopes without any assistance by the Russians.

"I should say that technically, we can continue production of stable isotopes even without the Russians and of course, it will certainly be better politically if they stand beside us," Kamalvandi said in an interview with the state TV on Monday.

He underlined that there is nothing that cannot be achieved by Iran's nuclear industry thanks to the high technological know-how the Iranian specialists enjoy.

"We are building a center at Fordow site which will be constructed a few months later to produce stable isotopes without using centrifuges," Kamalvandi said.

His comments came after Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanayee and Deputy Head of Russia’s Rosatom Company Nikolai Spassky in a meeting in Vienna reviewed the latest condition of cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities.

During the meeting in the Austrian capital on Friday, Spassky stressed Russia’s all-out support for cooperation with Iran in the field of peaceful nuclear energy.

Sanayee and Spassky met on the sidelines of the 14th JCPOA joint commission meeting in Vienna.

The senior Russian nuclear official, meantime, noted that the pause in cooperation over Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant is temporary and it is because of technical reasons.

Both sides also discussed construction of 2nd plant in Bushehr, cooperation in technical fields and Iran-Russia joint project in Fordow.

Earlier, the Russian nuclear fuel Cycle Company ‘TVEL’ in a statement had announced that it stopped the plan for changing the application of Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.

“Uranium enrichment and the production of stable isotopes cannot be carried out in the same room,” the statement reads.

“To resume this work, we must stop and dismantle the cascades, where uranium enrichment takes place, and thoroughly clean the premises and equipment,” it added.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000256

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Arab World

 

Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims

JUMANA KHAMIS

December 10, 2019

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia came in for high praise at the Arab Strategy Forum, an annual event in Dubai attended by prominent scholars, diplomats, strategists and media professionals with the aim to forecast the events and trends for the next 10 years.

Taking part in a panel discussion on Monday with the theme “Future of Islamism in the Next Decade,” Ed Husain, a co-founder of UK’s counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, drew attention to the ongoing reforms in the Kingdom.

Describing the changes as positive yet “unanticipated,” he praised the Kingdom’s efforts.

“These reforms are not just about Saudi Arabia, they affect the whole region: 1.8 billion Muslims look in that direction several times a day,” he said.

“We are looking to the future of Saudi Arabia as it affects all Muslims around the world,” he said, adding that with these changes, “Muslims and the rest of the world are better for it.”

Since the announcement of the Vision 2030 reform plans in 2016, Saudi Arabia has witnessed steady progress in women’s empowerment.

The most prominent examples are the lifting of the driving ban on women and the removal of a guardianship system that now enables Saudi women to travel or obtain a passport without male consent.

Other advances include the enactment of an anti-harassment law and changes to laws regarding custody and alimony. Women have been allowed to enter new fields such as aviation, state security, economy, entrepreneurship, tourism and entertainment.

Besides praising Saudi Arabia, Husain described the UAE as a country with “an almost ideal model,” where people are “privately pious and realise it is the state and not the mosque that is responsible for solving your social and economic issues.”

In his comments on “mosque and state,” Omar Saif Ghobash, assistant minister for cultural affairs at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said there is a need to redefine what it means to be a Muslim Arab today.

Ghobash, who served as UAE’s ambassador to France and Russia and is the author of “Letters to a Young Muslim,” said the definition is needed because it is no longer exceptional in the region to be creative, progressive and economically driven.

If one looks at history, the religious class carried a great deal of authority in how cities operated, he  said. But with advances in knowledge and the creation of various specializations, “the clerical class” can no longer claim to have the ability to answer all questions that may fall under topics such as transport policies, logistics and demographic challenges.

According to Ghobash, “the new generation fortunately does not have a deep understanding of their own history, and maybe that’s a way for them to be more positive of the future — unburdened by their forefather’s baggage.”

The findings of a poll developed by Arab News as part of an ongoing collaboration with the ASF, “Mosque and state: How Arabs see the next 10 years,” were revealed during the panel discussion.

Moderating the session, Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, cited YouGov poll data suggesting that the Arab world remains religious despite reforms and changes in different fields.

The survey suggests that 51 percent of Arabs are in favor of places of worship for other religions but fear a secular state model.

Husain ascribed the stigma connected with secularism in the region to the absence of a native, authentic and relevant definition that Arabs could identity with.

Under the circumstance, “the failure to articulate a strong Arab identity will create a vacuum for extreme Islamism,” said Husain, whose 2007 book “The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left” has been described as “as much a memoir of personal struggle and inner growth as it is a report on a new type of extremism.”

Criticizing political parties and organizations with an extremist agenda, he asked: “What has Hamas done for Gaza? What has Hezbollah done for Lebanon? What has the Muslim Brotherhood done for the Egyptians? The uprisings led to instability.”

He suggested “progress” as the best model for Arab states to adopt, pointing out that a desire to overthrow the government — as seen in the Arab Spring revolts since 2011— does not result in a “utopian” system.

“We are still suffering from the revolutions since 2011 but what we have seen is a strong response to them ... and that the overthrowing of a governments didn’t work, doesn’t work and will not work.”

Echoing Husain’s views, Ghobash said the sheer scale of social and economic problems across the Arab world is a result of power being used to drive an extremist agenda.

In his view, Arab states would be better off it they correctly identified and separated economic problems from religious ones.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596641/saudi-arabia

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Saudi minister of foreign affairs receives US envoy to Riyadh

10 December 2019

RIYADH: US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid called on Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir on Monday. During the meeting, they reviewed bilateral relations between the two friendly countries and discussed issues of mutual interest.

Al-Jubeir also held a separate meeting with a delegation of the US EastWest Institute, which was led by John Hurley. During the meeting, which was attended by a number of officials, they reviewed historical Saudi-US ties and the Kingdom’s stances on different regional and international issues.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596666/saudi-arabia

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Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims

JUMANA KHAMIS

December 10, 2019

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia came in for high praise at the Arab Strategy Forum, an annual event in Dubai attended by prominent scholars, diplomats, strategists and media professionals with the aim to forecast the events and trends for the next 10 years.

Taking part in a panel discussion on Monday with the theme “Future of Islamism in the Next Decade,” Ed Husain, a co-founder of UK’s counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, drew attention to the ongoing reforms in the Kingdom.

Describing the changes as positive yet “unanticipated,” he praised the Kingdom’s efforts.

“These reforms are not just about Saudi Arabia, they affect the whole region: 1.8 billion Muslims look in that direction several times a day,” he said.

“We are looking to the future of Saudi Arabia as it affects all Muslims around the world,” he said, adding that with these changes, “Muslims and the rest of the world are better for it.”

Since the announcement of the Vision 2030 reform plans in 2016, Saudi Arabia has witnessed steady progress in women’s empowerment.

The most prominent examples are the lifting of the driving ban on women and the removal of a guardianship system that now enables Saudi women to travel or obtain a passport without male consent.

Other advances include the enactment of an anti-harassment law and changes to laws regarding custody and alimony. Women have been allowed to enter new fields such as aviation, state security, economy, entrepreneurship, tourism and entertainment.

Besides praising Saudi Arabia, Husain described the UAE as a country with “an almost ideal model,” where people are “privately pious and realise it is the state and not the mosque that is responsible for solving your social and economic issues.”

In his comments on “mosque and state,” Omar Saif Ghobash, assistant minister for cultural affairs at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said there is a need to redefine what it means to be a Muslim Arab today.

Ghobash, who served as UAE’s ambassador to France and Russia and is the author of “Letters to a Young Muslim,” said the definition is needed because it is no longer exceptional in the region to be creative, progressive and economically driven.

If one looks at history, the religious class carried a great deal of authority in how cities operated, he  said. But with advances in knowledge and the creation of various specializations, “the clerical class” can no longer claim to have the ability to answer all questions that may fall under topics such as transport policies, logistics and demographic challenges.

According to Ghobash, “the new generation fortunately does not have a deep understanding of their own history, and maybe that’s a way for them to be more positive of the future — unburdened by their forefather’s baggage.”

The findings of a poll developed by Arab News as part of an ongoing collaboration with the ASF, “Mosque and state: How Arabs see the next 10 years,” were revealed during the panel discussion.

Moderating the session, Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, cited YouGov poll data suggesting that the Arab world remains religious despite reforms and changes in different fields.

The survey suggests that 51 percent of Arabs are in favor of places of worship for other religions but fear a secular state model.

Husain ascribed the stigma connected with secularism in the region to the absence of a native, authentic and relevant definition that Arabs could identity with.

Under the circumstance, “the failure to articulate a strong Arab identity will create a vacuum for extreme Islamism,” said Husain, whose 2007 book “The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left” has been described as “as much a memoir of personal struggle and inner growth as it is a report on a new type of extremism.”

Criticizing political parties and organizations with an extremist agenda, he asked: “What has Hamas done for Gaza? What has Hezbollah done for Lebanon? What has the Muslim Brotherhood done for the Egyptians? The uprisings led to instability.”

He suggested “progress” as the best model for Arab states to adopt, pointing out that a desire to overthrow the government — as seen in the Arab Spring revolts since 2011— does not result in a “utopian” system.

“We are still suffering from the revolutions since 2011 but what we have seen is a strong response to them ... and that the overthrowing of a governments didn’t work, doesn’t work and will not work.”

Echoing Husain’s views, Ghobash said the sheer scale of social and economic problems across the Arab world is a result of power being used to drive an extremist agenda.

In his view, Arab states would be better off it they correctly identified and separated economic problems from religious ones.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596641/saudi-arabia

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Saudi, GCC artists explore relationship between man and architecture

December 10, 2019

RIYADH: Deputy Minister of Culture Hamid bin Mohammed Fayez inaugurated an art exhibition titled “From Within” on Sunday evening, at the Diriyah Industrial Zone.

A large number of art and culture enthusiasts attended the opening ceremony. The exhibition will run until Dec. 26, and includes artworks by 27 artists from the Kingdom and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

The artworks in the exhibition deal with the relationship between man and architecture, and how one can affect the other. They also explore human experiences over time, and the nature of society reflecting on patterns of architecture.

“From Within” includes a variety of artworks in many mediums: Paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations that raise questions about the relationship between architecture and human behavior, and how human experiences and the nature of society reflect on the substance of civilization development.

It is a part of the “Quality of Life” initiatives — programs that are designed to achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 scheme. It is also part of a comprehensive plan developed by the Ministry of Culture to transform Diriyah into a contemporary arts area exhibiting art from the Kingdom and across the globe.

The exhibition emphasizes the role of the ministry in supporting high-level artistic and cultural activities. The exhibition also highlights the ministry’s pursuit to open doors for artists to showcase their talent and creativity to local and international audiences.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596636/saudi-arabia

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GCC foreign ministers meet in Saudi Arabia ahead of Gulf summit

December 09, 2019

RIYADH: Foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar discussed political and security issues in Riyadh Monday ahead of the GCC summit.

The 40th Supreme Council meeting takes place in the capital on Tuesday, chaired by King Salman.

Earlier Monday, Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Muhammad Al-Khalifa, Yusef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, responsible for Oman’s foreign affairs, and Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi arrived at the Royal Terminal of King Khalid International Airport.

They were welcomed to the Kingdom by Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani and the GCC’s ambassadors to Saudi Arabia.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, Al-Zayani said that Gulf leaders will discuss a number of important issues to enhance the process of cooperation and integration among member states in various political, defense, security, economic and social fields.

They will also review regional and international political developments, security conditions in the region, and their implications for the security and stability of the GCC countries.

Among the topics on the agenda is the war in Yemen and Iran’s interference in regional affairs.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596516/saudi-arabia

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Europe

 

Russian Forces Enter Former Islamic State Stronghold of Raqqa After U.S. Pullback

Russian forces have entered Raqqa, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State caliphate, in one of the starkest examples yet of how Moscow has filled the vacuum created by President Donald Trump's decision to pull U.S. forces from northern Syria.

Russian troops were shown in footage on the defense ministry's Zvezda TV channel shaking hands with Syrian children and unloading humanitarian aid bundles with the slogan "Russia is with you" from the back of trucks.

Raqqa was captured two years ago by U.S. troops and their Kurdish-led Syrian allies in the biggest victory of Washington's campaign against Islamic State in Syria. But since Trump abruptly ordered a pull-out in October, Moscow has swiftly advanced into territory where U.S. troops had operated.

Russia is a close battlefield ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, which was invited by the Kurds into territory they controlled after Trump pulled his forces out of the way of a Turkish assault against Kurdish-held areas.

Russian troops in Raqqa were handing out humanitarian aid and its military doctors were offering residents medical attention, Vladimir Varnavsky, a defense ministry officer, was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

"Work in the city to get rid of the rubble and clear the area (of bombs or mines) is not yet complete and there is a shortage of clean water, medicine and food," he said.

Russia last month set up a helicopter base an airport in a northeastern Syrian city and also landed forces at a sprawling air base in the region that had been vacated by U.S. forces.

Russia and Turkey are carrying out joint patrols along Syria's northern border with Turkey as part of a deal struck between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan.

After saying all U.S. troops would leave northern Syria, Washington has left some behind for now at some bases but rolled back most of their operations.

Islamic State is a terrorist organization banned in Russia.

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/12/09/russian-forces-enter-former-islamic-state-stronghold-of-raqqa-after-us-pullback-a68521

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The mosque in Dudley North that may cost Labour the seat

Nazia Parveen

Tue 10 Dec 2019

udley central mosque doesn’t look like a building with the potential to help shape an election. Sitting in the shadow of the impressive Dudley castle, it is a crumbling former school with inadequate parking: depressing and dilapidated, the only hint to its true purpose are the two white domes stuck on its facade.

The Muslim population in here have historically been staunch Labour supporters: the party has seven Muslim councillors on the local authority. But after the community lost a 15-year battle to open a new mosque all that is up for grabs.

In 2003, the Dudley Muslim Association (DMA) announced plans for the mosque, as well as a community centre. The idea was to regenerate a rubbish-strewn, derelict piece of land, with hopes of creating a space for 800 worshippers, as well as providing sport and leisure facilities for the whole community.

But what followed could never have been predicted – and to this day the wounds have not healed. Racist tensions had previously existed in the town – Enoch Powell was Tory MP of neighbouring Wolverhampton South when he made his infamous Rivers of Blood speech – but they had been buried deep. The community lived together in something like harmony.

However, the mosque issue became a tinderbox. Far-right groups, including the EDL, hijacked the campaign to stir up racial hatred and began to descend on the town in their hundreds taking part in mass rallies.

There followed a high court battle. The land was originally given to the DMA under a lease agreement. However, the deadline for developing the site lapsed and in November 2015 following a two week-long court of appeal hearing the DMA was ordered to hand the land back to the Labour council – sounding the death knell for the mosque.

For many of Dudley’s Muslims, the episode is still viewed as a painful one – and one where the far right was able to succeed and cause deep divisions in a place it called home.

Sitting in the mosque’s cold and draughty community centre, DMA chairman Mohammed Aurangzeb looks back at that time with much regret.

As he talks, two policemen come in carrying a letter. Bus drivers are complaining that parents dropping children off at mosque for Quran-reciting lessons are causing an obstruction.

“Do you see what we are up against?” says Aurangzeb. “I was 10 years old when I came to this country, I grew up here and I love this town but we don’t have a proper place to rest our head in prayer. This was our dream – we were building something not just for the future of our children but the whole community but it was never allowed to happen. The politicians bowed down to the extremists.”

For Mohammed and his son-in-law, Shaz Saleem, the current secretary of the mosque and head of the local taxi association, which has more than 150 mainly Muslim members, the blame lies firmly at the door of the Labour party. Both are planning to vote Conservative.

Saleem, previously a lifelong Labour supporter, stood as a Labour council candidate three times but failed to get selected. He has now changed his loyalty and is hoping to become a Conservative councillor.

He said: “We were made false promises by the Labour party and they left us feeling humiliated. All we wanted was a mosque to pray in but what happened was an absolute shambles. We were told one thing to our face and then they stabbed us in the back. We have been left so disillusioned.”

Both parties are aware of the importance of the BAME vote in the West Midlands town and have courted the congregation at the mosque.

According to the 2011 census, the whole of Dudley has a population of 312,925 people and of those 4.1% describe themselves as Muslim. This number is higher now: according to the organisation Operation Black Vote (OBV) there are 9,545 BAME voters just in the Dudley North constituency. They could be enough to decide the outcome here.

Simon Woolley, OBV’s chairman, says Dudley North is one of the crucial seats where the outcome will help decide who has the keys to Downing Street. “And in this, like many other marginal seats, around 100, the black, Asian and minority ethnic vote will play a decisive role,” he said. “Never before in British politics has the BAME vote been so powerful.”

And the candidates know it. On 17 November the Tory hopeful, Marco Longhi, was pictured walking arm in arm with mosque elders during the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. Saleem says Labour candidate Melanie Dudley was invited to the procession but did not attend. However, Dudley did contact the mosque on Friday to deliver leaflets. Her request was refused.

It would seem like a win-win situation for the Conservatives – but there are some who say Labour still have a chance of victory.

Khurshid Ahmed, the former chair of the DMA, who was at the forefront of the mosque battle, says despite the hurt and betrayal felt by the Muslim community they would not abandon the Labour party.

He said: “For a long time the community did become bewildered and disillusioned because they were solidly let down and were devastated. This was a disadvantaged community that was lacking the capacity to articulate its own needs and aspirations and local politicians became scared and succumbed to the far right.

“But those politicians were from both Labour and the Conservatives, and were equally hostile to the mosque idea and to blame for it never being built. The community has an appetite for change but that doesn’t mean bringing in a Tory MP – most will still vote Labour – and there is hope that everyone will learn lessons and things may improve.”

Over the years the town’s political landscape has been fairly unpredictable. The council was Labour but with a majority of just one and changed hands once again after the local elections in May. The political balance stood at 36 Labour and 36 Conservative. The mayor of Dudley, Conservative councillor David Stanley, had the casting vote and put his party in prime position.

During the EU referendum the constituency, in which the average age is 50, voted by 71.4% to leave, one of the highest margins in the country. In 2014 eight Ukip councillors were elected and the National Front and BNP, already a minor presence on the town’s streets, had started to become more visible. Some say that was a precursor to the referendum result.

This makes Dudley North one of the most marginal constituencies in the UK; its incumbent Labour MP Ian Austin, who backed Theresa May’s EU withdrawal deal despite voting remain, scraped to victory with just 22 votes in 2017.

But there have already been some shocks. In February this year Austin, MP for 14 years, abruptly announced he was standing down, telling the BBC that Jeremy Corbyn was “completely unfit” to be prime minister and that Labour voters should back Boris Johnson in next month’s election.

Then, with only minutes before nominations closed, Brexit party candidate Rupert Lowe announced he would no longer be running. He urged voters to support Longhi to not split the pro-leave vote.

Historically, Dudley was a prosperous place with thousands employed in its steel industry. But all that has gone and homelessness and poverty are top of the agenda. Figures released earlier this year show that almost half of children in the area are growing up in poverty. The End Child Poverty coalition, which released the figures, said more than a third (34%) of Dudley children were enduring impoverishment, ranking the borough among the 10 worst in the West Midlands.

But there is hope. Time and again when the people of Dudley were asked what was positive about their town, after what became a fairly uncomfortable long pause, they would point towards Gather – an unassuming cafe in a rather drab shopping precinct.

Once inside it becomes immediately obvious why this place is winning the hearts of locals. It is a social enterprise and vital lifeline doubling up as a food bank, craft centre and general go-to hub for those on the margins of society.

Five years ago its owners Stuart Homer and Lorraine Stockton were contacted by a family in crisis two days before Christmas. The father was a student, the mother had chronic depression and they had been sanctioned for not going to a benefits appointment. With not enough food to last them over the holiday period and their electricity meter about to run out they could not afford to buy their three children any gifts.

As part of their charity work helping unpaid carers Homer and Stockton galvanised a local supermarket to donate food and others donated presents and the incident became a stark reminder that there were many others who would fall through the cracks that winter. Those that they would not be able to reach.

“It was a light bulb moment,” says Homer. “We went past the point of the sticking plaster strategy and decided that we needed to provide a space in Dudley that was open to all.”

Now both work in the cafe with volunteers and run a number of schemes to help the impoverished. A blackboard in the shop is full of names. Stockton tells me she has pages and pages yet to go up. This board – Pay it Forward – is a scheme where locals can pay for someone else to eat.

“Nobody takes the mickey out of the system, it’s people who are genuinely in need and we have got busier as the years have gone on,” says Stockton.

Both Stockton and Homer are aware that they are propping up a failing system, one that does not provide for those increasing numbers in the area who are in desperate need. Neither will reveal their political affiliations but both are open about the fact that there is an urgent need for change.

“There has been real movement on a grassroots level and people want things to improve because there has been so much negativity about the town over the past 20 years. We wanted to show people you can achieve a lot with some creativity. There is still so much in Dudley to be proud of but people need to be reminded of that,” adds Homer.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/10/the-mosque-in-dudley-north-that-may-cost-labour-the-seat

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British Muslims struggle to find decent candidates

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Disgruntled Muslims in the English city of Birmingham claim to have found a political candidate worthy of receiving their support. The former-Labour turned independent candidate, Roger Godsiff, is fighting to win back his constituency, only this time, targeting the Muslim vote.

The 73 year old non-Muslim politician was dropped by Labour in November 2019, after publicly backing local Muslim parents protesting against forced LGBT teaching in primary schools.

However, things aren’t as straightforward as one might think. Mr Godsiff has an interventionist political record; voting to support British troops sent to invade Iraq and speaking in support of an anti-Iran terrorist group, promoting regime-change. But now, Mr Godsiff appears to have performed a U-turn, focusing on support for Palestine and Kashmir.

After 27 years in office, Mr Godsiff has now become controversial, even in Birmingham itself. Dividing Muslim opinion on his sincerity.

Historically, turnout among Muslims voters has been low but their community does have power. Research shows the Muslim vote could swing 31 marginal seats.

However, Mr Godsiffs’ so-called pro-Muslim campaign proves just how difficult it is for British Muslims to find decent political representation.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/12/10/613266/British-Muslims-struggle-to-find-decent-candidates

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General election 2019: Conservative candidate shares Islamophobic tweet which claimed Muslims have a 'nasty culture'

By Jane Clinton

Monday, 9th December 2019

A former BBC journalist and Conservative Party candidate retweeted messages on social media that claimed Muslims have a “nasty culture”.

Linden Kemkaran, who is standing for the Conservatives in Labour-held Bradford East, last week retweeted a Twitter user who described Islamophobia as “a crock”.

The original tweet, which did not originate with Ms Kemkaran, also claimed that “Muslims always the victims, play the race card”.

It continued: “No integration, what makes you think we will accept 3rd world ways and why should we?”

The tweets were sent to Naz Shah, who is standing for Labour in the neighbouring constituency of Bradford West.

Ms Kemkaran and the Conservative Party press office were contacted for a comment.

It is the latest incident regarding Islamophobia that has hit the party.

On Sunday, Conservative party chairman, James Cleverly apologised after allegations of Islamophobia and racism had been made against some party candidates.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics, Mr Cleverly said an investigation into prejudice in his party would begin before the end of the year.

The Muslim Council of Britain has accused the Tory party of having a "blind spot for this type of racism" and of not doing enough to tackle it.

Just last month it emerged that the Conservative had suspended a number of members over claims of Islamophobic social media posts.

At the time The Guardian newspaper said it had seen details of racist content, posted, shared, or endorsed by 25 sitting and ex-Tory councillors. It said it had handed over a dossier concerning the allegations to the Conservatives. A Conservative spokesperson said the individuals named in the dossier had been "suspended immediately, pending investigation".

The Conservatives have said they take "swift action... on not just anti-Muslim discrimination, but discrimination of any kind".

https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/general-election-2019-islamophobic-tweet-nasty-culture-conservatives-1336890

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Brexit Party expels councillor caught making racist comments about Muslims

Monday 09 December 2019

GAVIN CORDON

The Brexit Party has expelled a local councillor and dismissed a part-time official after they were filmed by undercover reporters making racist comments.

The two activists were filmed by Channel 4 News during campaigning in Hartlepool where party chairman Richard Tice is standing in the general election.

Councillor David Mincher complained Muslims were "outbreeding us" and "live like animals", and boasted he once tried to bury a pig's head under a mosque that was being built in the town.

He was also shown making a series of derogatory remarks about Pakistanis, Somalis and Turks.

Mr Mincher later told the programme he made up the story about burying a pig's head "as a stupid act of showing off to your reporter".

Gordon Parkin, who was said to be the party's assistant manager for the North East region, was also shown complaining Muslims were "outbreeding us".

Asked why there were comparatively few immigrants in the town, he replied, he said it was because people "won't have them" and that they "persecute the bastards".

In a statement Mr Tice said the party took immediate action when they became aware of the "appalling" comments, withdrawing the whip from Mr Mincher and dismissing Mr Parkin.

"Both I and the Brexit Party totally condemn the hideous remarks in question in the strongest possible terms," he said.

"I would take the gravest exception to any attempt by Channel 4 to suggest that I or the Brexit Party in any way share, condone or was aware of these views and matters."

He said the undercover reporters may have breached electoral law and accused Channel 4 of being prepared to go to the "most extreme lengths" to discredit Brexit and Brexiteers.

A Channel 4 News spokeswoman said: "We stand by our journalism."

https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-party-expels-councillor-caught-making-racist-comments-about-muslims-1-5059762

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Oliver North Blames Pensacola Shooting on 'Radical Islamic Terrorism'

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Monday, 09 December 2019

Oliver North Monday referred to the deadly shooting last week at the Pensacola, Fla., naval station as "radical Islamic terrorism," but insisted that nobody is saying that because of political correctness.

"No one is saying that because we're so politically correct today we can't describe it as that," the retired U.S. Marine Corp. lieutenant colonel told Fox News' "Fox and Friends."

"That's what it is. Number two, the firearm was purchased legally because he is given special privileges as an official from a foreign country. That needs to change, the vetting needs to change."

He pointed out that there are students from all over the world in flight school in Pensacola, as it is "one of the biggest flight training programs in the world for foreign nationals," meaning that the vetting program has to include detailed background checks for them.

The shooter in the Pensacola case, a lieutenant from Saudi Arabia, was able to purchase a gun through a loophole in Florida law that allowed him a weapon because he had a hunting license.

North said foreign students must also be told, upfront, that they will be watched the whole time they are in the United States.

"There is no reason to give these guys carte blanche," said North. "This guy was clearly up on social media of some kind. It's not because is he going to church on Sundays."

North said Congress must get involved, and positive change must happen, but it is "tied up with this whole thing about the president."

North is the author of a new novel, "The Rifleman," a fact-based story of how Daniel Morgan and his riflemen played an important role in George Washington’s victory during the American Revolution and drew comparisons Monday between 1776 and now.

"The solution isn't just the rhetoric and words of our leaders and founders," said North.

https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/north-pensacola-terrorism-shooting/2019/12/09/id/945158/

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Garda denies attacking RTE cameraman during clash between anti-Islam and anti-racism groups

ByDeclan Brennan

9 DEC 2019

A garda denied attacking an RTE cameraman during a clash between anti-Islam and anti-racism groups.

Sean Lucey is accused of assault causing harm to Colm Hand at Cathedral Street, Dublin city centre, on February 6, 2016.

Mr Lucey, with an address in south Dublin, also pleaded not guilty to damaging a camera on the same date.

Opening the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Monday, Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, told the jury of seven women and five men that on the day in question gardaí were on notice of a rally by an organisation called Pegida.

The jury heard the Pegida is an organisation which “promotes and supports the protection of the national identities” and is against what it “perceives as the excessive Islamisation” of European countries.

Ms McGowan said that gardaí were also on notice of a counter rally organised by the “anti-racism network in Ireland and other like minded groups”.

She said that gardaí intended on the day to prevent or deal with any confrontations between the two groups of opposing ideas.

The complainant, Mr Hand, was working alongside a reporter and they were reporting on incidents between the opposing groups.

Garda Sergeant Derek Fleming told the court that if the two factions got together there was a significant risk of violence.

He said that Gda Lucey was detailed to a public order unit with six other members and that he was the sergeant in charge of the unit.

Each public order unit were detailed to a public order van and the vans were positioned in a holding area behind O’Connell Street.

He said they were deployed to deal with an incident between members of the opposing groups at a “two euro” shop on North Earl Street.

Later he said he received reports of a number of “left wing protesters” gathering on Cathedral Street, with some of them putting on balaclavas and face masks. He said that some Pegida supporters had entered a pub on the street.

Mr James Dwyer SC, defending, put it to the witness that the protesters did not intend to “have a clear headed debate about immigration policy”.

Gda Sgt Fleming replied “we were under no illusions, it was going to be violent”.

He said his unit and two other public order units went to the area. The members in these units were wearing “soft caps” and did not have helmets or shields.

He said the gardaí made a complete line across the street to stop the protesters reaching the pub. He said the crowd had swelled and became “extremely aggressive”.

He said he directed the gardaí in his unit to draw batons. He said around 15 men who had their faces covered by scarves and hoodies began to actively resist gardaí.

“They were trying to push down the street,” he said and agreed that he saw some protesters trying to hit gardaí with closed fists and trying to take batons from them.

He agreed that it was a tense and volatile situation.

He said that some protesters were struck with batons as they were a direct threat to safety and that anyone who was attacking gardaí had their faces covered.

The court heard that three more public order units, these “fully kitted out in riot helmets and shields” were deployed behind the “soft cap” units.

The garda sergeant said that the separation line was never breached and after about 30 minutes the protesters dispersed.

He said that during this time the garda members were verbally abused and were being filmed by the protesters.

He told Ms McGowan that the protocol for the use of force was that gardaí should use non-violent means to control or disperse the crowd and that force should only be used “as a last resort”

He said batons could be used by a garda member if the garda was in fear of being attacked or overpowered.

The trial, which is expected to last five days, continues before Judge Melanie Greally.

https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/garda-denies-attacking-rte-cameraman-21061639

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Southwest flight attendant accused of mistreating Muslim woman on flight from Houston to D.C.

By Danny Hermosillo

Monday, December 9, 2019

A British journalist angrily tweeted about how his family's Thanksgiving holiday was ruined by alleged racist behavior by a flight attendant aboard their Southwest flight from Houston to Washington, D.C. on December 2.

Mehdi Hasan, whose family is Muslim, claimed that his wife was humiliated and in tears when the flight attendant reportedly said her headscarf made other people feel uncomfortable after she asked to be seated next to her family.

According to his Twitter page, Hasan is a British journalist who is a columnist with The Intercept based in Washington.

In a Twitter thread, Hasan posted, "The flight attendant called ground staff onto the plane, complained about the Muslim woman - my wife! - to them, & escalated rather than de-escalated the situation - simply because my wife politely asked a guy if he'd give up his seat for our family (which he was fine with!)."

Hasan also posted that even the ground crew couldn't understand why the flight attendant was making a fuss, and other passengers reportedly told his wife that the flight attendant "treated you like a venomous snake."

In a statement from Southwest Airlines, representative Brandi King stated that this issue was about the family members who had already boarded trying to save seats for other members.

Hasan also posted that even the ground crew couldn't understand why the flight attendant was making a fuss, and other passengers reportedly told his wife that the flight attendant "treated you like a venomous snake."

In a statement from Southwest Airlines, representative Brandi King stated that this issue was about the family members who had already boarded trying to save seats for other members.

https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Southwest-Airlines-crew-accused-of-mistreating-14893779.php

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Southeast Asia

 

China says Uighur Muslims have 'graduated' from camps

ByElizabeth Shim

DEC. 9, 2019

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- China claimed ethnic Uighurs once held in detention centers in the western region of Xinjiang have all been released, while criticizing the United States for "attacks and smears."

Xinjiang's regional government chairman Shohrat Zakir told reporters on Monday detainees have all been released or "graduated," the Global Times and other state media reported.

Xinjiang is home to 11 million Uighur Muslims. The region was the target of a state-led crackdown starting in 2017, when Beijing began to detain up to a million Uighurs in mass concentration camps.

Zakir's press conference on Monday comes after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week pushing back on the "arbitrary detention, torture and harassment" of the Uighurs.

Zakir said the United States has not helped with China's stand against "terrorism."

"When the lives of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang were seriously threatened by terrorism, the United States turned a deaf ear," he said, according to the BBC.

"Now that Xinjiang society is steadily developing and people of all ethnicities are living and working in peace, the United States feels uneasy, and attacks and smears Xinjiang."

Zakir said Monday detainees who "graduated" learned Chinese language in the camps, trained to resist religious extremism and learned the law.

"With support from the government, they will be able to find stable jobs, improve their living standards and live happily," the official said.

During the briefing, Zakir said Xinjiang has benefited from state economic policies. Since the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, Xinjiang has experienced economic growth of about 8.5 percent annually. The poverty rate has declined by more than 22 percent, the official claimed.

Zakir added there have been no incidents of "terrorism" in Xinjiang in the last three years, and that the "training centers" will accept fewer people.

"A day will come when society no longer needs them," he said.

Former detainees have called the camps "hell" and claimed authorities attempted to brainwash subjects.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/12/09/China-says-Uighur-Muslims-have-graduated-from-camps/8691575913246/?sl=3&ur3=1

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Malaysia’s crisis of credibility, cronyism and the climate

December 10, 2019

This is the first full year report card on the PH government’s human rights record. Unfortunately, like the previous BN government, detention without trial, enforced disappearances, killings and tardy police action remain the top civil and political rights concerns. There is a serious credibility crisis of police efficacy and the home minister’s lack of accountability. As for economic, social and cultural rights, the issues related to creeping cronyism in mega contracts and the climate crisis are also our main concerns today.

The buck stops at the home ministry

The home minister is responsible for law enforcement, public security and public order, among other functions. The police are answerable to him. The buck stops at his ministry.

He is answerable for all detentions without trial (DWT). While the government may try to justify the use of Sosma and other DWT laws by pointing to the threat of international terrorists, the use of these laws continues to be abused – the latest being the alleged LTTE terrorists.

While apologists for the PH government have tried in vain to blame these actions by the regime on the so-called “deep state”, the home minister remains responsible for these police actions. These lame apologists should be reminded that the so-called “deep state” is a conspiracy theory involving collusion and cronyism at the very top of the elected government and not feet dragging or acts of sabotage by civil servants.

But while the police would have us believe they are more than capable of dealing with international terrorists, they appear to be clueless about the whereabouts of Pastor Raymond Koh and the other cases of enforced disappearances.

And more than 10 years after the death of Teoh Beng Hock, there are still no criminal investigations into the culpable homicide surrounding his death.

The police have also failed to apprehend the killers of Bill Kayong, the land rights defender, and to ascertain who are the two persons in the video released by an associate of the economic affairs minister who claimed that the minister had a sexual relationship with him in a hotel in Sandakan during the by-election there not too long ago.

Meanwhile, Zakir Naik and Jho Low, “refugees” from justice in India and Malaysia, are proving to be more elusive than international terrorists. The latest example of the home minister’s warped priorities is his order to the police to investigate all who attended the 30th anniversary forum of the Hatyai Peace Accord even though these included leaders in the PH government.

These cases point to a credibility crisis surrounding the professionalism of the Malaysian police, for whom the home minister must be responsible.

Now that the dust from the BN’s “kleptocracy scandal” has settled somewhat, we are beginning to see the return of the crony capitalism that we were so familiar with in the eighties and nineties.

Syed Husin Ali has called this “kleptocratic cronyism” but it is basically the same privatisation of national assets to cronies of the ruling elite. In August 2018, the entire Khazanah Nasional Bhd board resigned after Dr Mahathir Mohamad allegedly refused to grant a meeting with Khazanah’s CEO Azman Mokhtar, giving Mahathir carte blanche to select a new board and CEO.

Doublespeak is alive and well in “New Malaysia” when the ruling elite can – with a straight face – justify the Bumiputera Agenda in the national “Shared Prosperity Vision”. Good governance seems to have gone out the window after the post-GE14 cosmetic “institutional reforms”. We saw how recently, after Anwar Ibrahim warned Mahathir that there are ministers giving out projects, Mahathir replied, “Yes, ministers can give out projects in their portfolios. Why not?”

Cronyism goes hand in hand with political patronage. Edmund Terence Gomez has pointed out that political appointments to government-linked entities continue to be practised under Mahathir’s administration despite PH’s promises of reforms.

“Through this system, because they get a stipend, they get access to this government money which is then channelled into the financing of politics… Bersatu (PPBM) is doing exactly what Umno did, using the same system, playing the same patronage games. They are using this to reach down to the grassroots and they are giving directorships to people who lost (the election) to keep them loyal to the party,” he said.

Under Mahathir, the rural and regional development ministry now controls five state development statutory bodies, Mara and a long list of other GLCs. These have gone against Harapan’s manifesto promise to end such political appointments. There has also been a slew of changes at Felda, FGV, Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera and Tabung Haji, with extensive shifts and moves at the top, replaced by those considered sympathetic and aligned to Mahathir.

Today, the prime minister controls Malaysia’s leading investment arm and sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional, while Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali controls numerous GLCs that were once controlled by the finance ministry.

Harapan had pledged in their GE14 manifesto that politicians would not be appointed as directors of government enterprises. Furthermore, at the Sept 1, 2018 congress on the “Future of Bumiputeras and the Nation”, Mahathir stressed the need to reinstitute the practice of “selective patronage”, targeting Bumiputeras.

Since Mahathir has taken charge, Khazanah has divested its 16% stake in IHH Healthcare to Mitsui & Co for RM8.42 billion in November last year, among other sales, showing that the “Look East” Policy is not just about emulating touchy-feely Japanese attitudes but also about Japanese yen for Malaysian investments.

Mahathir defended the sales, saying they were needed to raise funds in a bid to clear debts incurred by the previous government, a very convenient way to justify the privatisation sales. The ongoing negotiations to sell PLUS, the highway toll concessionaire owned by Malaysian taxpayers (Khazanah 51% and EPF 49%) are being carried out in a non-transparent manner. Why indeed should such a public-owned cash cow be privatised in the first place?

Mahathir’s close allies are doing rather well in the latest sales of assets and acquisitions. Umno has sold its 11.09% stake in Media Prima Bhd, the country’s largest media group, to tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, who already owns equity interest in Utusan Melayu Bhd and The Malaysian Reserve. Syed Mokhtar is now the third largest shareholder in Media Prima. Interestingly, the single largest shareholder is Japanese Mitsubishi UFJ, holding 12.84% or 42.29 million shares. Media Prima publishes three newspapers and operates six free-to-air television channels, as well as four radio stations. It is also a leading player in outdoor advertising and owns some prime land.

Declare a climate emergency now!

The most aware and proactive countries in the world have declared climate emergencies in their own countries to commit to implementing immediate measures to survive the climate crisis that is enveloping our planet. Time is fast running out. There is growing consensus among climate scientists that we have no more than 18 months to ensure that global emissions of carbon dioxide peak by 2020 to keep global temperatures within the safe limit.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5ºC this century, carbon emissions will have to be cut by 45% by 2030.

Countries all over the world are experiencing the tragic consequences of climate change, more recently the fires in California and Australia, and the floods in Venice. In Malaysia, floods and landslides will be more severe and we have been warned that many coastal areas will be deluged in just a few years’ time. Even before this climate crisis, at least since the Eighties, we have been warning the government against the folly of deforestation, degradation of the environment, especially our rivers, the emphasis on cars and highways to the neglect of public transport, and the unsustainability of our farming methods.

There are reported to be at least 25,000 sites that are prone to landslides throughout the country and, according to the 2017 Malaysian Environmental Quality Report, in terms of biological oxygen demand (BOD), none of the monitored rivers has been categorised as clean in 2017. In December 2018, Deputy Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, told Parliament that the country has 51 ailing rivers.

The year 2019 has seen fatal landslides at Tanjung Bungah, with migrants being the usual victims because developers have failed to provide proper housing for them.

The people at Pasir Gudang in Johor have suffered through toxic air pollution which resulted in schools closing. Twelve Orang Asli died in the jungles of Kuala Koh, Gua Musang, in an area where the water source is suspected to be contaminated by mining activities. Meanwhile, the water supply in Selangor continues to be periodically disrupted through leakage of pollutants into the river sources by illegal factories in the vicinity of the rivers. In Sabah, the indigenous people have demonstrated against the building of the Papar dam which threatens to displace them from their ancestral land.

Politicians in this country appear to be in the pockets of the developers. We are told that RM8.3 billion worth of high-rise units remain unsold and the government has lowered the foreign-ownership threshold further. So, why isn’t there any regulation of the building of luxury units? The Pakatan government has promised one million affordable houses within two terms, housing loans for the youth, and increasing developer quotas for affordable houses while developers regularly advertise more luxury houses.

And while the country is supposed to be suffering from a trillion-ringgit debt crisis, the Penang government seems intent on going ahead with the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP). With the impending climate crisis, the fragility of Penang’s coastal environment and the livelihood of fishermen there, the wisdom of the RM70 billion land reclamation project is highly questionable.

The PTMP includes LRT, Monorail, BRT (bus rapid transit), highways as well as an undersea tunnel linking the island with the mainland, plus land reclamation for three man-made islands. Meanwhile, the PTMP website is short on timelines, costs, feasibility reports or environmental impact assessments (EIA). All this information on the multi-billion projects must be made public and debated before the projects can go ahead.

Most important of all, we have called for the protection of the Native Customary Rights of our indigenous peoples, especially their traditional land.

We, therefore, call on the government to declare a climate emergency and to implement these measures immediately:

Ban single-use plastics and the import of plastic waste immediately.

Make manufacturers commit to waste reduction targets and replace fossil fuels with clean renewable energy.

Increase the total electricity output from renewable sources to at least 25% by 2025 as in other countries in the region.

Improve and expand public transport systems in the country.

No more highway projects through environmentally-sensitive areas.

Clean up all rivers, especially water catchment areas in the country and clear all illegal factories from the buffer zone of all rivers and water catchments.

Stop the building of mega dams such as Papar dam in Sabah which destroy the environment and the traditional land of our indigenous peoples.

Gazette all our forests and stop all logging of our rainforests for buildings, plantations and other infrastructure projects which are vital water catchment areas.

Re-gazette all forests that have been degazetted.

Regulate the use of pesticides and herbicides by all farmers and especially their seepage into the river systems in the country.

Educate farmers regarding the unsustainability of livestock and poultry farming if we are to solve the climate crisis.

Suaram calls on the government to address these critical crises facing the nation if it is serious about a “Shared Prosperity Vision”.

Text of a speech by Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong at the launch of Suaram’s Human Rights Overview Report for 2019 today.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/12/10/malaysias-crisis-of-credibility-cronyism-and-the-climate/

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Cops summon Yusoff Rawther again

December 10, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have once again summoned Muhammed Yusoff Rawther, the man who issued a statutory declaration accusing Anwar Ibrahim of trying to outrage his modesty, following a lengthy session with the Classified Criminal Investigation Unit yesterday.

It is understood that the police are looking to record further statements from Yusoff.

Yesterday, he spent some eight hours at the Bukit Aman police headquarters accompanied by lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla.

Police are investigating Yusoff’s allegations under Section 354 of the Penal Code, a provision on the use of criminal force to outrage a person’s modesty.

Yusoff, 26, was a research assistant at Anwar’s office in Petaling Jaya until earlier this year, when he claimed he was assaulted by the Port Dickson MP’s political secretary, Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak. He has since slapped a civil suit against Farhash, although Farhash denies the accusations.

At a press conference streamed on Facebook Live on Dec 4, Yusoff claimed that a senior politician had committed a crime against him which he described as “un-Islamic, vile, insidious and morally repugnant”.

Anwar strongly denied the claim, calling it baseless and politically motivated. He also instructed his lawyer Ramkarpal Singh to take legal action.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/12/10/cops-summon-yusoff-rawther-again/

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Rafizi quits politics to focus on start-up

December 10, 2019

PETALING JAYA: PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli has announced an exit from politics to concentrate on his start-up, saying he is at a stage in life where he “needs to learn”.

Taking to social media yesterday, the former Pandan MP posted a series of quotes which he attributed to former US president Theodore Roosevelt.

“‘The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’

“It’s obvious I tweeted because I am making it clear I am not coming back to politics.

“It’s the stage of my life when I need to learn. Only through learning we can be better & contribute better,” he said on Twitter.

Rafizi was acquitted and discharged by the Shah Alam High Court on Nov 15 of revealing bank accounts related to the National Feedlot Corp and its chairman, Salleh Ismail.

His conviction and jail sentence had meant that he was unable to contest in the 14th general election last year.

His lawyer Nik Zarith Nik Moustpha later said he had been notified by the Attorney-General’s Chambers that it would be filing an appeal against the acquittal.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas subsequently said he was shocked that the appeal had been filed against the acquittal as he had earlier instructed his officers not to do so.

He also promised to rescind the order.

Rafizi, who lost a bitter race for the PKR deputy president’s post to Mohamed Azmin Ali last year, said he was excited to turn his focus to artificial intelligence or AI.

“Excited to focus on AI, machine learning & IoT,” he said, referring to the internet of things.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/12/10/rafizi-quits-politics-to-focus-on-start-up/

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Pakistan

 

Islamabad High Court summons Safe City DIG in missing person case

Malik Asad

December 10, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday summoned the deputy inspector general (DIG) of the Safe City Project in a missing person case.

Hearing a petition filed by father of the missing person, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani observed that the billions of rupees Safe City Project had apparently failed to deliver.

Professor Mohammad Sharif filed the petition for the recovery of his 27-year-old son, electrical engineer Suleman Farooq who went missing from Phase III of Bahria Town Rawalpindi on Oct 4.

The petitioner approached the Loi Bher police station and lodged FIR against the disappearance of his son.

According to the petition, Farooq has been running from pillar to post to trace the whereabouts of his son.

He said a complaint had also been filed with the commission of inquiry chairman on enforced disappearances but to no avail.

During the hearing of the petition, IHC Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani questioned the utility of Rs7.5 billion Safe City Project as it could not trace without number plate cars especially those that are used for the abduction of citizen.

Justice Kayani passed these remarks after the police informed the court that the vehicle which was used in the abduction of Farooq was without a number plate.

Justice Kayani expressed concerns that the police despite the support of a number of cameras installed under the Safe City Project, numerous checkposts and resources could not stop enforced disappearances.

Subsequently, the judge directed the DIG Safe City Project to appear on Jan 10.

The interior secretary has been asked to nominate an officer not less than the rank of joint secretary for court’s assistance.

The defence secretary has also been asked to depute director-level officer and to submit a reply to the petition by next date of hearing.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521370/islamabad-high-court-summons-safe-city-dig-in-missing-person-case

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Commander Navy Islamic Republic of Iran visits naval headquarters, Islamabad

DECEMBER 10, 2019

Commander Navy Islamic Republic of Iran, Rear Admiral Dr Hossein Khanzadi visited Naval Headquarters, Islamabad and called on Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi in his office.

Upon arrival at Naval Headquarters, the visiting dignitary was received by Chief of the Naval Staff. A smartly turned out contingent of Pakistan Navy presented the Guard of Honour. The dignitary laid floral wreath at the Shuhada’s Monument and was introduced to the Principal Staff Officers at Naval Headquarters.

Later, Rear Admiral Dr Hossein Khanzadi called on Chief of the Naval Staff in his office. During the meeting, various matters of regional maritime security & stability and mutual interest including bilateral naval collaboration were discussed. Chief of the Naval Staff highlighted Pakistan’s commitment and performance in fight against terrorism and Pakistan Navy’s contributions for ensuring maritime security and peace in the region.

Image result for Commander Navy Islamic Republic of Iran Visits Naval Headquarters, Islamabad"

Naval Chief thanked the visiting dignitary for participation of Islamic Republic of Iran Navy in AMAN-19, a Multinational Maritime Exercise hosted by Pakistan. Rear Admiral Dr Hossein Khanzadi appreciated the role and contributions of Pakistan Navy in maintaining peace and stability in the region and successful conduct of Exercise AMAN-19. Both the dignitaries agreed on further enhancing mutual interactions in diversified naval domains.

A brief was also given to the visiting dignitary on Pakistan Navy’s perspective on security situation in Indian Ocean Region and Pakistan Navy’s contributions towards peace and stability in the region. The dignitary was briefed about the plight of Kashmiri people in the backdrop of abrogation of Article 370 & 35-A and Pakistan’s continued support to the just & rightful struggle of Kashmiris. The dignitary is also scheduled to visit Karachi to have interaction with Field Commanders of Pakistan Navy and visit Pakistan Navy training institutes.

It is expected that the visit of Commander Navy Islamic Republic of Iran shall further promote the existing bilateral cooperation between both the countries in general and navies in particular.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/517246/commander-navy-islamic-republic-of-iran-visits-naval-headquarters-islamabad/

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SC says its observations will not influence high court proceedings in judge video scandal

Haseeb Bhatti

December 10, 2019

The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it clear that its earlier observations — in which it held that the video clip concerning former accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik will only benefit Nawaz Sharif if its genuineness is established — will not influence high court proceedings.

The court made this statement while hearing the former prime minister's review petition against the observations made by the apex court in its August 23 verdict.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Syed Mansoor Shah, wrapped up the review petition filed by senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed on behalf of Nawaz.

The review petition pleaded that the verdict of the apex court was per incuriam (through lack of care) since it was passed without jurisdiction and therefore merited to be reviewed.

During the proceedings of the review petition today, the court said its observations will not influence proceedings in the high court. Chief Justice Khosa said the high court was independent in making its decisions, adding that they had written this before and would do so again.

On August 23, the apex wrapped up a set of petitions on a video leak scandal involving judge Malik. The top court had held that the video clip of Arshad Malik would only benefit the former premier if it was properly produced before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a pending appeal against his conviction.

The video clip along with its transcripts, which was shown by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz in her media interaction in Lahore, had never been duly proved in accordance with the law, the order had said.

On July 6, Maryam opened a Pandora’s box with a startling claim that judge Malik "confessed" he had been "pressurised and blackmailed" to convict her father in the Al-Azizia reference. A video containing the judge's alleged confession during his conversation with a 'sympathiser' of the PML-N, Nasir Butt, was screened during a hurriedly called presser at the party’s provincial headquarters in Model Town.

The next day, in a press release, the judge had denied being under any pressure, but admitted that Nasir Butt was an acquaintance. In July, the IHC removed judge Malik from his post.

A miscellaneous petition will be heard in the IHC on December 18 seeking a forensic test of the audio/video in the scandal. The same day Nawaz's appeal against his conviction in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference and National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) appeal against the acquittal of Nawaz in the Flagship Investment reference will be heard.

In Dec 2018, judge Malik had handed the ousted premier seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia reference but acquitted him in the Flagship Investment reference.

After a series of cabinet meetings and court hearings as well as an exchange of statements between the PML-N and the ruling PTI, Nawaz flew to London for medical treatment on November 19. Nawaz was granted bail by the IHC on humanitarian grounds. He also obtained bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case, in which he is a suspect, from the Lahore High Court.

Nawaz's review petition

In his review petition, filed in October, Nawaz had contended that the audio or video recording was admissible under Article 164 of the Qanun-i-Shahadat Order (QSO), 1984. Additionally, the law did not impose any conditions that only evidence obtained through modern devices would be admissible which were recorded by persons whose part of routine duties was to record audio or video.

Moreover, such observations reflect that as if the court was saying that the process of trial and evidence recorded during the trial were not affected by the conduct of the trial court judge.

The petition contended that there was no precedent or support of the law to micro-manage jurisdictional functions of the appellate court (IHC) that too in a prospective or anticipated list of cases.

The petition asked what the possible motive for the retention of judge Malik in Islamabad for almost six weeks after his release/removal from duties as judge of the accountability court despite the clear intention expressed in the IHC registrar's July 11 letter for relieving him of his duties so that he could be repatriated to his parent department, the Lahore High Court

Can it be assumed, the petition contended, that judge Malik was being retained in Islamabad only to use him to submit an application for registration of an FIR as a counterblast to off-set the impact of the video and audio recording played at the press briefing held on July 6 in Lahore.

The petition wondered whether the district and sessions judge, after being relieved from duties, could lodge a First Information Report (FIR) without permission or approval of the IHC chief justice, which was his parent department.

The petition highlighted that the appeal against the conviction of Nawaz under the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, was pending before the IHC. Therefore, it added, the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction under any provision of the NAO or even otherwise to pre-empt the decision with respect to any manner that fell within the jurisdiction of the high court concerned in its appellate jurisdiction.

Following the release of the video that sparked the controversy, judge Malik had denied being under any pressure.

Acting IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had summoned the accountability judge twice and then directed him to submit an affidavit to explain his position.

Judge Malik in his affidavit had said that he had been blackmailed by PML-N supporters because of an “immoral video” and admitted that he had met Nawaz at his Jati Umra residence and Hussain Nawaz in Saudi Arabia.

Justice Farooq decided to relieve Malik without conducting an inquiry since he was an official of the subordinate judiciary of the LHC. He directed the registrar office to write a letter to the law ministry regarding relieving judge Malik of his post and repatriating him to the parent department, the LHC.

Shortly after this decision was announced, Maryam called for the verdict in the Al Azizia reference against her father to be declared void.

Meanwhile, judge Malik lodged a complaint with the Federal Investigation Agency which arrested an accused namely Mian Tariq Mehmood on a charge of recording an “immoral video” of the judge.

As the video controversy continued to make news with Maryam releasing two more video clips "in support" of the first one, the IHC removed judge Malik from his post in July. On August, the IHC repatriated him to his parent department, the LHC, so that disciplinary proceedings could be initiated against him.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521486/sc-says-its-observations-will-not-influence-high-court-proceedings-in-judge-video-scandal

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References on BRT, Malam Jabba projects ready: NAB

December 10, 2019

ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Javed Iqbal on Monday revealed that references had been made against those involved in alleged corruption in the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) and Malam Jabba resort projects.

“People often ask as to what the NAB is doing on Peshawar BRT and Malam Jabba cases. For them, I want to say that references have been prepared but they could not be filed due to stay orders obtained in both cases,” the NAB chief said while addressing a ceremony held to mark International Anti-Corruption Day.

President Dr Arif Alvi, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and several ministers were among those who were in attendance.

Both the Peshawar BRT and Malam Jabba projects were launched by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some top leaders of the party have been accused of committing corruption in the these projects.

Both projects were launched by ruling PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

“People ask me when they [rulers] will be held accountable for their deeds; I want to tell them that their [rulers’] turn will come,” he said, adding that NAB had no affiliation with any party.

KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and provincial minister Atif Khan are said to be involved in the Malam Jabba case. NAB claims that the former PTI-led KP government had illegally leased 275 acres of land in Malam Jabba, a tourist resort in Swat district, which belonged to the forest department.

According to NAB, protected forests cannot be used for any other purpose under the KP Forest Ordinance, 2002. NAB claimed that initially the government had to lease out 17 acres for the construction of a hotel and a chairlift project for 15 years but later, it allegedly leased out 275 acres to a private company for 33 years.

As regards the Peshawar BRT project, the anti-graft watchdog has over the past one year come under severe criticism not only from opposition parties — the PML-N and PPP — but also from the ruling PTI for its “selected accountability” and ‘‘harassment of investors and bureaucracy’’.

The project has been delayed by over one year and its cost has reportedly been increased from Rs17 billion to Rs90bn.

KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousufzai, in response to the NAB chairman’s remarks, said that NAB should avoid taking any action against the BRT project before its completion in February 2020.

“NAB can take any action, but any such action while the project in progress can cause further delay. Once the project is completed NAB can take any action against anyone,” he added.

Earlier, the NAB chairman urged the ministers to avoid making predictions and giving statements on ongoing investigations and cases.

“They [ministers] give such statements to increase their vote bank. But they should avoid making predictions. There is nothing “intelligent” about predicting someone’s arrest before it actually happens,” he added.

He said NAB is always accused of looking in one direction [at one group of people]. “The direction of the winds is changing. You will feel this in the coming weeks. However, there should be some distinction between those [parties] which ruled for 30-35 years and for those who have been in power for 12-14 months,” he added.

NAB over the past two years has picked up several senior politicians, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former president Asif Ali Zardari and government officials, for allegedly being involved in corrupt practices. Many politicians from PPP as well as PML-N have called the accountability process “selective”.

The NAB chairman urged Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser to make legislation for elimination of corruption said: “If there is no legislation, there will be no rule of law. The parliament has to play its due role.”

However, he clarified that he had no intention of criticising the parliament or any institution.

Referring indirectly to the arrest of Nawaz Sharif and his departure to UK, he said: “Certain individuals who were previously untouchable by government institutions are now being held accountable for their crimes. This is the first time this has happened and the credit for this goes to NAB. Those people [...] are seeking bail in courts or [...] have fled [the country].

He said that since the accountability bureau was formed, Rs382bn had been deposited in the exchequer.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521397/references-on-brt-malam-jabba-projects-ready-nab

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Senate panel wants cases against Zardari shifted to Karachi

Iftikhar A. Khan

December 10, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Monday called for shifting the cases against former president Asif Ali Zardari from Islamabad to Karachi.

A demand to this effect was made by Senator Kulsoom Parveen during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior. The demand was converted into a resolution by committee chairman Senator Rehman Malik that was passed by a majority vote.

Mr Malik said that the Senate committee on interior had taken a suo motu notice about the health of the former president and had urged the government to allow him to get medical treatment from his personal doctor.

He said on Nov 30, the committee was informed that his personal physician has been included in the medical board.

He said that all family members of Mr Zardari were residing in Karachi and there was no legal justification for his trial in any other city.

Senator Parveen said that Mr Zardari was not being treated like other people. She sought immediate transfer of his cases to Karachi.

The meeting chaired by Senator Rehman Malik was attended among others by Interior Secretary Yuosuf Nasim Khokhar, Nadra chairman Usman Yuosuf Mobeen and officials from the Bureau of Emigration (BoE), FIA, Nacta and CDA.

Stranded Pakistanis

While discussing actions taken so far with reference to 70 Pakistanis stranded in Iraq who went there through fake agents, Mr Malik said that he had taken notice of the issue and had directed FIA and the BoE to take action against fake overseas employment agents and those officers of the BoE who are involved in such criminal activities.

The committee also discussed stranded Pakistanis in Turkey which serves as a gateway for Europe.

The Committee was told that 3,700 Pakistanis were verified in Turkey after the issue was raised by the Senate Standing Committee on Interior.

The BoE informed the committee that 65 stranded Pakistanis in Iraq had been brought back to Pakistan in two batches after a video went viral on social media showing their plight. They were not provided employment and were kept in a room.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521430/senate-panel-wants-cases-against-zardari-shifted-to-karachi

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Australia and New Zealand

 

Christchurch mosque shooting: Police officers who apprehended alleged gunman named

Senior Constable Jim Manning and Senior Constable Scott Carmody have had name suppression until today, but the order was lifted in the High Court in Christchurch this morning.

In a statement, both men said the shooting was an extraordinary event and they wanted to acknowledge the victims of the tragedy.

In the weeks following 15 March, the men were presented with the Commissioner's Gold Merit Award.

They said while the honours were very humbling, the award was for all the police officers who put themselves in harm's way every day.

"From our perspective we were doing our job and I know our colleagues would have done the same thing in that situation," the senior constables said in a statement.

"Our actions are reflective of who we are as police officers and as Kiwis. Every day when we go to work the safety of the community is our priority and that was our focus when we made that arrest on 15 March."

Commissioner Mike Bush said the pair's actions on 15 March spoke volumes about who they were as people.

"The events of 15 March were truly tragic and something we as a country have never seen before and I would hope never see again," he said.

"I am proud to have been able to acknowledge the actions of Senior Constable Manning and Senior Constable Carmody with the presenting of the Commissioner's Gold Merit Award."

Senior Constable Manning joined the police in 1987, while Senior Constable Carmody joined in 1993.

Both have worked in the Canterbury Police District for the past 26 years.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/405189/christchurch-mosque-shooting-police-officers-who-apprehended-alleged-gunman-named

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Accused Christchurch mosque attacker excused from court today

Brenton Tarrant was excused from appearing in person at the court in Christchurch this morning.

He has previously appeared via audio visual link from Auckland prison.

The public gallery was packed with more than 30 members of the Muslim community, including some of the victims' families, and there is a strong police presence outside the court.

The Australian man pleaded not guilty in June to 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge of terrorism relating to the 15 March attacks on two Christchurch mosques.

The trial is due to start on 2 June next year.

It was initially set down for May, but was put back at the request of the families, as that date fell in the middle of Islam's holy month Ramadan.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/405186/accused-christchurch-mosque-attacker-excused-from-court-today

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/cab-will-extend-dignity-to-non-muslims-from-pak,-b-desh,-afghanistan--home-minister/d/120488

 

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