New Age Islam
Wed Dec 02 2020, 11:27 PM

Islamic World News ( 18 March 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Cairo Looks to Sufi Sheikhs to Counter Extremism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"We have organised 'hawan' rituals on the auspicious New Year of the Hindu calendar and resolved to make this country a Hindu Rashtra," said Hindu Mahasabha national secretary Pooja Shakun Pandey

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Cairo Looks to Sufi Sheikhs to Counter Extremism

Hindu Mahasabha's Calendar Refers To Mecca as Macceshwar Mahadev Temple, Taj as Tejo Mahalaya

Pakistan Province Cracks down on Hafiz Saeed’s JuD and FIF

Muslim Clerics in Rwanda Vow to Appeal Loudspeaker Ban

Burma Considers Law That Could Restrict Work of UN, Non-Governmental Groups

Wife of Missing Perlis Activist Grilled Over ‘Shia Pictures’

 

Arab World

Cairo Looks to Sufi Sheikhs to Counter Extremism

Saudi Crown Prince: We Will Eradicate Muslim Brotherhood Elements in Our Schools

Scores of Terrorists Surrender to Syrian Army in Eastern Ghouta

Ankara-Backed Militants Killed by Unknown Attackers in Northern Syria

Turkish Troops, Affiliated Militants Occupy Town of Afrin in Northern Syria

Turkish Army Occupies 14 More Kurdish-Held Regions in Northern Syria

Large militant outfit in Syria’s Ghouta in talks with UN about ceasefire: Statement

YPG forces to shift from direct confrontation to guerrilla tactics: Afrin official

Syrian army gives Takfiri militants in Harasta ultimatum to withdraw by mid-afternoon

Iraqi forces capture senior Daesh leader near Mosul

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India

Hindu Mahasabha's Calendar Refers To Mecca as Macceshwar Mahadev Temple, Taj as Tejo Mahalaya

Second Sharia Court in Mumbai Metropolitan Region Comes Up At Mira Road

Murshidabad imams campaign against cheating in examinations

Mehbooba Asks Religious Scholars to Lead Society

5 civilians killed in Pakistan shelling in J&K's Poonch

Harassment of diplomats in Pakistan: India lodges one more complaint

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Pakistan

Pakistan Province Cracks down on Hafiz Saeed’s JuD and FIF

Punjab Likely To Declare Public Holidays On Religious Festivals

ISI spills beans on Khadim Rizvi in its report on Faizabad sit-in: reports

No terror sanctuaries exist in Pakistan: ISPR DG

Imran, Zardari called each other thieves, then unite: Fazl

JI Demands Installing Dr AQ Khan as Interim PM

Five terrorists arrested, six others surrender in Balochistan: ISPR

Haqqani network, other terrorist havens destroyed: DG ISPR

Janjua, Abdullah support Afghan peace process, urge Taliban to join talks

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Africa

Muslim Clerics In Rwanda Vow To Appeal Loudspeaker Ban

15 Years after Iraq Invasion, Saddam Regime in Disarray

Somali forces kill 32 Al-Shabaab fighters in central Somalia

Boko Haram: 91,000 Nigerian refugees to return from Cameroon – International agency

Boko Haram kills 5 fishermen in Nigeria

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South Asia

Burma Considers Law That Could Restrict Work Of UN, Non-Governmental Groups

US Airstrike Kills 13 Taliban Militants In Afghanistan

Islamabad seeks rehabilitation of Taliban in Kabul’s political setup

4 Taliban killed, 3 others including 1 disguised as a woman arrested

Let’s think of ending Afghan war, not winning it: Ghani

Bid to prosecute Aung San Suu Kyi in Australia rejected

Taliban IED engineers among 13 killed in US airstrike in Kandahar

Grenade attack injures 5 students in Shia district of Afghan capital

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Southeast Asia

Wife of Missing Perlis Activist Grilled Over ‘Shia Pictures’

For GE14, PAS Promises Harsher Shariah Penalties to Curb Vice Industry

Women MPs want female speaker in Parliament

Yusuf Estes calls on indonesians to have dialogue

Islamist groups to rally against Anies for 'turning his back' on Rizieq

Issuance of Halal Certificates Only Restricted To Jakim, State Islamic Religious Dept, Minister Says

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North America

Living in Fear: One In Three Muslim Students Attacked On Campus as Islamophobic Hate Crime Surges

US Tells Pakistan: Do More to Wipe out Terrorism

US 'Crusaders' militia on trial for anti-Muslim plot

Pakistan 'must do more' against Taliban: US Vice President Pence

Republican senator expects Trump to pull out of Iran deal

Trump rhetoric encourages violence against Muslims in US: Analyst

Canada struggles as it opens its arms to Yazidis victims of Daesh brutality

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Mideast

Palestinians Mark 100th Day since Trump 'Nakba' Move

Arab Coalition to Show New Evidence of Iran Arming Yemen’s Houthis

Iran risks losing clout in Iraq by arresting Shiite cleric Shirazi

Houthi militias kill hospitalized civilians to mask gas crisis

Israeli forces kill Palestinian man over alleged stabbing attack

Yemeni army liberates new positions from Iran-backed Houthis

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Europe

Merkel Faces Critical Test with German Integration Policies For Muslim Refugees

German minister criticised for saying Islam is 'not part of Germany'

UK claims Russia has stockpiles of nerve gas for terror

Turkish embassy in Denmark attacked with petrol bombs

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/cairo-looks-to-sufi-sheikhs-to-counter-extremism/d/114645

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Cairo looks to Sufi sheikhs to counter extremism

Walaa Hussein

March 18, 2018

CAIRO — Al-Shadhiliya Al-Uliya is a new Sufi order in Egypt that will be launched officially during the holy month of Ramadan (May-June), according to a source belonging to this new order, who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.

The Supreme Council of Sufi Orders in Egypt and the Ministry of Awqaf approved Feb. 21 the official registration of the new order and for it to be added to the 77 other Sufi orders that are officially recognized in Egypt. Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the former grand mufti of Egypt, is the originator of the new mystic order.

According to the regulations of Sufi orders, issued as per Law No. 118 (1976), the Supreme Council of Sufi Orders, which was founded in 1903, receives and approves applications for a new order, which also must be approved by the Ministry of Awqaf, Al-Azhar and the Ministry of Interior. The decision is then published in the Official Gazette. The new order should not be similar in practices or name to previous ones.

The council had also approved two orders on May 24, 2017: Radwaniya al-Khalutia and the Kurdish Naqshbandi. The Ministry of Awqaf has been relying on Sufism, which is often described as Islamic mysticism, to renew the religious discourse and to counter violence and extremism in Egypt. This is happening through the organization of joint seminars with Sufis and the Ministry of Awqaf during festivals celebrating the birthdays of "walis," or Sufi saints.

The state has also been sponsoring Sufi celebrations, processions in the streets as well other occasions, namely the celebration of Ashura (which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) in Al-Hussein Mosque. Ashura is a fiery occasion, as it stirs up the issue of Shiites in Egypt. On Ashura, the Egyptian security apparatuses allow Sufis to perform their rituals, which often involve dance and music, in Al-Hussein Mosque, while Shiites are not allowed to perform their own rituals on the same day. (Sufis include both Shiites and Sunnis.)

Ahmad Ban, a former Brotherhood member and independent researcher into Islamic groups, told Al-Monitor, “Some people — whether in the decision-making circles or among politicians —believe that making way for Sufism might be at the basis of countering extremism and restricting Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Mohammed Kamel, an independent analyst of Islamist movements, told Al-Monitor, “Sufis in Egypt number 15 million. They are known for antagonizing political Islam groups, namely Salafists.”

Egypt has a population of nearly 100 million, with the predominant majority being Muslim. Meanwhile, estimates for the number of Copts range from roughly 5 million to15 million, with reliable numbers hard to come by.

Sufism is an Islamic discipline that emerged early in the history of Islam and began to be codified around the 11th century. It is based on devotion, self-discipline and nonindulgence so as to become closer to God and as far away as possible from politics. However, Sufi imams in Egypt are often accused of supporting the ruling authorities. The most prominent Sufi figures in Egypt hold high-ranking positions, such as the presidency of Al-Azhar Sheikhdom or the Ministry of Awqaf.

The recognition of the new Sufi order has angered Salafists. On March 2, Salafist preacher Sameh Abdel Hamid issued a statement demanding the government to dissolve all Sufi orders on the grounds that this ideology is in direct conflict with Sharia.

Secretary-General of the Union of Sufis Abdullah al-Nasser told Al-Monitor, “The dissemination of Sufi ideology is of paramount importance to counter extremism plaguing Egypt.” Nasser believes that the new order is not enough to face the wave of extremism sweeping Egypt.

Mohamed Abdel Maguid al-Sharnouby, the sheikh of the Sharnouby order, believes that Gomaa does not need to establish a new order. He told Al-Monitor, “He has books and programs on satellite TV channels to disseminate the Sufi ideology. Gomaa established this order with the support of the state so as to become the main religious influencer during the four years of the new presidential term [expected to be] headed by [President Abdel Fattah al-] Sisi.”

Meanwhile, Ban pointed out that relying on Sufism to counter Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood members is based on misleading grounds. “The number of Sufis is calculated by monitoring the number of participants in the celebrations of the birthdays of walis,” he said. “Not everyone attending these celebrations is necessarily a Sufi,” he added, explaining that many Egyptians go to these celebrations seeking entertainment.

Conversely, Kamel said that Gomaa has a long history in Sufism. He served as the mufti of the republic and did not engage in politics, but his views and fatwas, which were often politicized, were behind a failed assassination attempt on Aug. 5, 2016. He was shot at by masked gunmen on his way to a mosque for the Friday khutbah (public preaching) in Cairo. One of his bodyguards was wounded.

The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Harakat Sawa'id Misr claimed responsibility for the incident in a video. Afterward, the police investigations resulted in the arrest of eight people, all of whom were affiliated with the Brotherhood.

He noted, “By announcing a new Sufi order, Gomaa must also disassociate himself from politics because Sufism is based on asceticism, piety and distance from political action as a direct cause in worldly conflicts.”

Kamel added that the main battle of Sufism is not against the Muslim Brotherhood but against Salafism. In their rhetoric, Salafists often say that Sufis are guilty of idol worship and embracing heretical doctrine.

In fact, “Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a member of the Hasafiyya Brothers, a Sufi order. The formation of the Brotherhood is similar to that of the Sufi orders. … It is sufficient to know that Mohammed al-Hafez al-Tijani, the [late] sheikh of the Tijani order, was one of the greatest supporters of Hassan al-Banna. Also, Brotherhood leaders such as Essam al-Arian, Jamal Heshmat and Subhi Saleh used to attend the celebrations of the birthday of Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi [a Sufi saint] in Alexandria,” Kamel said.

The Sufi voting bloc is a force to be reckoned with. This is why many Egyptian leaders and rulers boast about their Sufi origins and roots, such as Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Anan and Sisi, who say they come from Sufi families.

The Sufis’ unwavering support for Sisi for a second term in office is a replay of previous scenarios, as former presidents such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat showed full support to Sufi orders in return for their political support and to curtail the role of political Islam groups, namely the Muslim Brotherhood.

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/03/egypt-adopts-new-sufi-order-fight-terrorism-shadhili-alliya.html

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Hindu Mahasabha's Calendar Refers To Mecca as Macceshwar Mahadev Temple, Taj as Tejo Mahalaya

Anuja Jaiswal

Mar 18, 2018

AGRA: The Hindu Mahasabha, Aligarh, on Sunday released a controversial Hindu New Year calendar in which seven mosques and monuments from the Mughal era, including the Taj Mahal, and the holy Muslim site of Mecca, have been referred to as "Hindu temples".

While Taj Mahal has been referred to as "Tejo Mahalaya temple", Mecca has been called the "Macceshwar Mahadev temple". Similarly, Madhya Pradesh's Kamal Maula Mosque has been referred to as "bhojshala" and Kashi's Gyanvyapi mosque has been called the “Vishwanath temple", Qutab Minar "Vishnu Stambh", Jaunpur's Atala mosque "Atla devi temple" and the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodhya as "Ram Janam Bhoomi".

"We have organised 'hawan' rituals on the auspicious New Year of the Hindu calendar and resolved to make this country a Hindu Rashtra," said Hindu Mahasabha national secretary Pooja Shakun Pandey.

She said that she hoped that the government will accept their demand and declare India a Hindu nation.

She said that Muslims had plundered Hindu religious heritage sites and had turned them to mosques by changing their names accordingly.

"They should now have to give these back to Hindus and we will restore their original names, as mentioned in the new calendar," she added.

She said that all names mentioned in the calendar have been verified by historian BP Saxena, a retired professor from the history department of Varshney College, Aligarh.

Saxena claimed that facts can prove beyond doubt that these seven religious heritage sites belong to Hindus.

He said that if there is any controversy, excavations should be conducted, just like in the Ram temple case, and evidence will be there for all to see.

However, the move has not gone down well with Muslims.

Imam-e-Eidgah Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahli, who is also an executive committee member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), said that these claims are baseless. He said that dubbing the holy site of Mecca a Hindu temple is meant to hurt the sentiments of Muslims and is against the spirit of secularism.

"These people are unnecessary spoiling the communal atmosphere by making such claims and action should be taken against them for spreading hatred," he said.

Former MLA from Aligarh, Zamirullaha Khan said, "There is no difference between Pakistan’s Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and these people who just want to harm the country." He said that this was an attempt to create fissure between the two communities.

He alleged that this was being done on the direction of the government, as it believes in the policy of divide and rule.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/agra/hindu-mahasabha-releases-calendar-referring-mecca-as-macceshwar-mahadev-temple-taj-as-tejo-mahalaya/articleshow/63356997.cms

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Pakistan province cracks down on Hafiz Saeed’s JuD and FIF

Omer Farooq Khan

Mar 19, 2018

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Saturday launched a crackdown against Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its humanitarian wing, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, by seizing control of their offices and financial assets.

The crackdown by the district administration of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was carried out following directions from the central government. The action came despite Friday’s order by the Lahore high court directing the federal home ministry to explain by March 29 the reasons why it had seized the offices and assets of JuD and FIF.

“We have sealed the offices of the foundation, seized three religious schools and two mosques and handed over the seized properties to the Evacuee Trust Property Board to look after its operational matters,” said senior police officer Wasim Riaz said. Last week, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and local police had closed hospitals and confiscated ambulances of JuD and FIF in northern Balakot town.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-province-cracks-down-on-hafiz-saeeds-jud-and-fif/articleshow/63358802.cms

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Muslim clerics in Rwanda vow to appeal loudspeaker ban

March 19, 2018

Rwanda’s Muslim leaders have said they will appeal the government’s decision to ban the use of loudspeakers for the call to prayer (Adhan), arguing that the ban infringes on their rights of worship.

Sheikh Suleiman Mbarushimana, an adviser to Mufti of Rwanda told regional newspaper, The EastAfrican, the ban violates Islamic liturgical practices.

“Stopping Adhan is inappropriate, instead we would seek to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone like agreeing on sound levels not to exceed,” he said.

The Muslim clerics believe they should have been consulted before such drastic action could be taken by the authorities.

“The government needs to carefully approach this as it could affect its image in terms of granting freedom of worship. Of course we are not saying we should be allowed to infringe on others’ rights in the name of religious freedom,” said Sheikh Said Mukhtaar Mbabajende.

The ban was issued on Wednesday this week, directing mosques in Nyarugenge sector in the capital to stop using loudspeakers and find alternative ways for the call to prayers.

The ban comes a few weeks after the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), which regulates faith-based organisations, closed more than 700 churches and one mosque over building safety and hygiene and noise pollution.

http://www.africanews.com/2018/03/17/muslim-clerics-in-rwanda-vow-to-appeal-loudspeaker-ban/

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Burma considers law that could restrict work of UN, non-governmental groups

March 18, 2018

By TIMOTHY MCLAUGHLIN

YANGON, BURMA—Burma’s government, struggling to handle accusations of ethnic cleansing over its treatment of Rohingya Muslims, is contemplating new legislation that would seek greater oversight of the work of international non-governmental organizations, including the United Nations, prompting concerns of a crackdown on their activities.

The Draft Law on International Non-Governmental Organizations contains a vague definition of the groups it would regulate, proposes monitoring of aid groups’ work by Myanmar staff and provides the affected organizations with few safeguards against the government suspending their work. This has led some groups to fear it could be used to restrict their work in Burma.

The proposed law comes at a time of a wider crackdown on democratic freedoms under Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her government, as they struggle to deal with the fallout of military operations that have sent nearly 700,000 Rohingya fleeing over the border to Bangladesh since August.

“The stated purpose of the law allows government to suppress activities they do not favour and undermines the efforts in advancing democracy and human rights,” according to a February presentation reviewed by The Post from the INGO Forum, a coalition of dozens of aid groups operating in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

Representatives from international aid groups and diplomats are lobbying members of the parliamentary committee reviewing the draft to change the wording or to have it withdrawn. It was unclear whether the law would move past the commission or what provisions the final version would include.

It was also unclear who wrote the draft or if it was done at direction of the president or state counselor’s office. Zaw Htay, a spokesperson for the government, directed questions on the draft law to the Ministry of Planning and Finance. A deputy minister from the ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Tin Maung Oo, a member of the commission that is working on the legislation, said the group was consulting with ministries, representatives from non-governmental groups and experts.

He said that international aid groups were doing important work and that the government would like them to “flourish” but that a law was needed to oversee their work.

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2018/03/18/burma-considers-law-that-could-restrict-work-of-un-non-governmental-groups.html

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Wife of missing Perlis activist grilled over ‘Shia pictures’

Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar

March 19, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The wife of missing Perlis activist Amri Che Mat was today asked about her religious leanings, based on pictures of her house taken by state religious authorities during a raid in 2015, about a year before his mysterious disapperance.

Norhayati Ariffin, who was questioned at the inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today, was shown photographs taken from her house, showing picture frames in Arabic.

Asked by police observer R Munusamy on the meaning of the images, Norhayati said they were related to Imam Mahdi, a character some Muslims believe will at the end of time come to redeem humanity.

When pressed by Munusamy to state whether it was a Shia teaching, Norhayati replied: “All Muslims believe in Imam Mahdi.”

Munusamy then showed another image with Arabic text, to which Norhayati said it was a reference to Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet who is one of the central figures in Shia Islam.

When asked whether Hussein was a figure for Shia Muslims, Norhayati said she was not aware of this.

The references to Shia Islam in today’s inquiry were due to suspicions that Che Amri’s disappearance could be related to his alleged Shia belief.

In January, Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who joined the 2015 raid on Che Amri’s home, had attacked him for practising Shia Islam, the second largest sect in the Muslim world which Malaysian Islamic authorities label as “deviant”.

Asri said Amri, who co-founded welfare body Perlis Hope, practised mut’ah, a form of contract marriage not recognised in Malaysia, which can be summarily ended with the consent of both sides.

The Suhakam inquiry is also investigating the disappearance of Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth. The couple was last seen on Nov 30, 2016.

The inquiry had also included the case of Pastor Raymond Koh, who has been missing since February last year after he was abducted by some 10 men in Petaling Jaya.

But the inquiry could not continue with Koh’s case after a suspect was charged with kidnapping the pastor.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/03/19/wife-of-missing-perlis-activist-grilled-over-shia-pictures/

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Arab World

 

Saudi Crown Prince: We will eradicate Muslim Brotherhood elements in our schools

Joyce Karam

March 19, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered a strong defence of his economic and social reforms in the Kingdom in his first interview with a US television outlet, vowing to continue a transformative agenda that “only death” can barricade.

Prince Mohammed, 32, in a wide-ranging interview with CBS’ 60 minutes aired on Sunday night, offered a new vision for Saudi Arabia that turns the page on the harsh interpretation of Islam practice in the Kingdom since 1979. He called citizens of his generation, “victims” that “suffered from this a great deal.”

The Saudi Crown Prince was particularly critical of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, of extremism and the schism with the West created by Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden through orchestrating the 9/11 terror attacks.

Asked by journalist Norah O’Donnell about education reforms in the country toward espousing a more moderate form and curriculum about Islam, the Saudi Crown prince said: “Saudi schools have been invaded by many elements from the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, surely to a great extent.”

“Even now, there are some elements left. It will be a short while until they are all eradicated completely.”

He added that “no country in the world would accept that its educational system be invaded by any radical group.”

The counter-extremism push was vivid in how he approached the subject of women’s rights. The Crown Prince who ended his country’s ban on women driving, reopened film theatres and allowed families and women to attend sports stadiums, spoke in sentimental terms about Saudi Arabia pre-1979.

“We were living a very normal life like the rest of the Gulf countries. Women were driving cars," he explained. "There were movie theatres in Saudi Arabia. Women worked everywhere. We were just normal people developing like any other country in the world until the events of 1979.”

1979 was a seminal year for the region, with the Islamic revolution in Iran, and the siege of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Both events triggered a hard turn to the religious right in the Kingdom.

“We have extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a work place” the Saudi leader told CBS. “Many of those ideas contradict the way of life during the time of the Prophet and the Caliphs.”

Prince Mohammed embraced the Saudi woman’s right to wear “what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”

He said: “The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men. This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover.”

Ritz Carlton

The Saudi Crown Prince defended the Ritz Carlton hotel arrests of Princes, high ranking ministers, and businessmen that were made between November and February in anti-corruption campaign “What we did in Saudi Arabia was extremely necessary. All actions taken were in accordance with existing and published laws.”

He said the money that the government restored, exceeded $100 billion. “But the real objective was not this amount or any other amount...but to punish the corrupt and send a clear signal that whoever engages in corrupt deals will face the law.”

Asked about his personal fortune, he said “as far as my private expenses, I’m a rich person and not a poor person. I’m not Gandhi or Mandela.” “I’m a member of the ruling family...we own very large lots of land, and my personal life is the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. But what I do as a person is to spend part of my personal income on charity.” He also said that he spends 51% of his fortune on people and 49 per cent on himself.

Foreign policy

The foreign policy part of the interview was mostly focused on Yemen, where Saudi led coalition is engaged in a war against the Houthi militias, and the country has seen atrocious civil war since 2015. Asked about the humanitarian toll, Prince Mohammed said “it is truly very painful, and I hope that this militia [Houthis] ceases using the humanitarian situation to their advantage in order to draw sympathy from the international community. They block humanitarian aid in order to create famine and a humanitarian crisis.”

He said that the “Iranian ideology penetrated some parts of Yemen” and justified Saudi’s military involvement in the war. “I can’t imagine that the United States will accept one day to have a militia in Mexico launching missiles on Washington DC, New York and LA while Americans are watching these missiles and doing nothing” he said.

Prince Mohammed accused Iran of playing a destructive role in Yemen. “The Iranian regime is based on pure ideology. Many of the Al Qaeda operatives are protected in Iran and it refuses to surrender them to justice, and continues to refuse to extradite them to the United States” he said accusing Iran of harbouring the son of Osama bin Laden. “He lives in Iran and works out of Iran. He is supported by Iran.”

In comments aired before the interview, the Saudi Crown Prince stood by his comparison of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Adolf Hitler.

He said: “Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world. The Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy.”

On a more personal side on what he learned from his father King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Prince Mohammed said the love of history. “The King always says “If you read the history of a thousand years, you have the experience of a thousand years.””

Asked if he would run the country for 50 years or if anything can stop him, Saudi’s Crown Prince answered in two words: “only death”.

Prince Mohammed is due to arrive in the United States on an official visit on Monday. He will meet Donald Trump on Tuesday, and convene with senior cabinet members of the administration as well as Congressional leaders in Washington. Later in the week he will head to Boston, then New York then the West Coast (Washington State and California), where he will meet the major heads of tech and film industries. The Saudi Crown Prince is expected to end his two and half week long trip in Houston, Texas.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/saudi-crown-prince-we-will-eradicate-muslim-brotherhood-elements-in-our-schools-1.714241

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Scores of Terrorists Surrender to Syrian Army in Eastern Ghouta

Mar 18, 2018

At least 20 terrorists of Faylaq al-Rahman surrendered to the army men amid government forces' liberation operation in Kafr Batna, the sources said.

The sources went on to say that terrorists suffered heavy casualties in Kafr Batna and a large number of them fled toward Hazeh settlement, adding that 20 gunmen of Faylaq al-Rahman came under siege of the army men and were forced to surrender.

In a relevant development on Saturday the army men, deployed in the newly-freed town of Jesrin, stormed terrorists' strongholds in Kafr Batna settlement and managed to capture several points in the settlement after hours of a daily truce in the region ended.

Also, the army's artillery and missile units pounded terrorists' positions inside Kafr Batna, killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000810

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Ankara-Backed Militants Killed by Unknown Attackers in Northern Syria

Mar 18, 2018

The sources said that several unknown attackers staged an assault on a command post of Ankara-backed militants in the village of Qa'ar Kalbin North of the town of al-Bab.

The sources said that the assailants entered the command post and opened fire at the militants, killing a number of them.

In a relevant development but in Northwestern Aleppo, the Turkish Army forwarded more soldiers and military equipment to Aleppo on Saturday.

Field sources said that the Turkish army was planning to set up a new monitoring point in the region.

The sources said that a long convoy of the Turkish army, including a hundred armored, military and personnel carrier vehicles, arrived in Syrian territory via Kafr Lusin passageway and then moved towards Jabal Andan region in Northern Aleppo.

The sources further said that the newly-arrived forces started to build moats and bunkers.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000856

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Turkish Troops, Affiliated Militants Occupy Town of Afrin in Northern Syria

Mar 18, 2018

The sources said that the Turkish troops and allied militants captured al-Ashrafiyeh, al-Jamiliyeh and Old Garage neighborhoods after they managed to enter the town of Afrin from three flanks.

They added that the forces of Operation Olive Branch further advanced and occupied the town. 

In the meantime, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Sunday that Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) took complete control of Northwestern Syria's Afrin,

Turkey’s Operation ‘Olive Branch’ kicked off on January 20 from air and ground around the area of Afrin in Syria's Aleppo to oust the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stressed that Turkish offensive in Afrin is part of Ankara's strategy based on supporting terrorists.

The Syrian government has condemned the “brutal Turkish aggression” against the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.

Field sources said on Saturday that the Turkish army's artillery and missile units continued targeting the Kurdish-held town of Afrin and its outskirts, causing a large number of civilians to leave their residential areas.

In the meantime, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that over 150,000 civilians left Afrin region for the towns of Nubl and al-Zahra in Northern Aleppo under heavy attacks of the Turkish troops since Wednesday.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000770

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Turkish Army Occupies 14 More Kurdish-Held Regions in Northern Syria

Mar 18, 2018

The sources said that the Turkish troops and their allied militants occupied the villages and settlements of Ein al-Hajar al-Kabir, Ein al-Hajar al-Saqir, Omo and Afrin Central prison, that is considered as a main base of the Kurds.

They further said that the Turkish forces captured the industrial zone West of Afrin and cut off the main road connecting Ma'abatlabi settlement to the town of Afrin.

The Ankara forces further seized control over the villages of al-Amiriyeh, Tatra, Serkan Joqli Jom, Kaletan Qarbi in Sheikh Hadid, Jatal Qabo and Sheikh Obasi in Rajou region and the village of Ashkan Est of al-Nashmah military base in Jandaris, the sources said.

They went on to say that the Ankara forces have tightened noose on the Kurds in the town of Afrin, adding that the only road still open is between the village of Kafr Ram and Ein al-Hajar Northwest of Afrin and its capture will pave the way for laying siege on the town from three directions.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey-backed troops had surrounded Afrin city center in Northwestern Syria and were ready to enter at any moment.

"We are about to enter Afrin, and we may announce the good news at any time," Erdogan said at his Justice and Development (AK) Party's 6th Annual Congress in Southeastern province of Mardin.

He added that a total of 3,569 terrorists have been "neutralized" in Afrin since the start of Operation Olive Branch.

Ankara on January 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK and ISIL terrorists from Afrin.

Since the launch of the operation, the Turkish military and FSA have liberated 268 locations, including five town centers, 224 villages, 44 strategic mountains and hills, and one YPG/PKK base.

The forces reached Afrin city's border last week and encircled it.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000405

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Large militant outfit in Syria’s Ghouta in talks with UN about ceasefire: Statement

Mar 18, 2018

One of the main militant groups active in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta says it is negotiating with the United Nations about a ceasefire, as the government troops constantly shrink the militant-held areas of the flashpoint region.

“We are engaged in arranging serious negotiations … The most important points under negotiation are a ceasefire, ensuring aid for civilians and the exit of medical cases and injured people needing treatment outside Ghouta,” Reuters quoted Wael Alwan, the Istanbul-based spokesman for Failaq al-Rahman militant outfit, as saying in a voice recording on Sunday.

The militant group, which bears ties with the so-called Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army militant group, added that the subject of “exit and evacuation” was “not on the table.”

The development came on the same day that Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that thousands of civilians had managed to leave Eastern Ghouta as militants have been raining rockets on the capital Damascus from the suburb area, while using civilians there as human shields, preventing their exit through safe passages set up by Russia and blocking their access to humanitarian aid.

The evacuees were reportedly provided with basic commodities upon arrival at Syrian army posts before being transported to temporary accommodation centers.

During the past few weeks, Syria and Russia have cornered foreign-backed militants in the enclave as part of their campaign to liberate civilians holed up there and end militant attacks from the suburb on the capital.

During their advances in the area, Syrian forces have uncovered workshops used to make chemical weapons. The Syrian military has also intercepted several arms and ammunition cargoes heading to Eastern Ghouta, a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus which is home to some 400,000 people.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/18/555897/Syria-Eastern-Ghouta-UN-ceasefire

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YPG forces to shift from direct confrontation to guerrilla tactics: Afrin official

Mar 18, 2018

The administration of Syria's Kurdish-populated northwestern Afrin region has indicated that members of the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) militants will shift from direct confrontation to guerrilla tactics in their battles against Turkish military forces and allied militants from the so-called Free Syrian Army.

“Our forces are present all over Afrin's geography. These forces will strike the positions of the Turkish enemy and its mercenaries at every opportunity,” Othman Sheikh Issa, co-chair of the Afrin executive council, said in a televised statement on Sunday.

He added, “Our forces all over Afrin will become a constant nightmare for them.”

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkish army troopers and their allies had wrested full control over Afrin town.

“Afrin town center was completely under control at 8.30 a.m. local time (0530 GMT),” Erdogan said during his address at the ceremony of 103rd anniversary of Gallipoli Campaign in the northwestern city of Çanakkale.

He added, “We will have to take necessary steps to rebuild Afrin, raise infrastructure and wipe out traces of terrorists. Turkish, Free Syrian Army’s flags are hoisted in Afrin town center.”

“We are not there to occupy but to wipe out terror groups and to achieve peace in Afrin,” Erdogan noted.

Also on Sunday, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement that 3,603 terrorists were “neutralized” in Afrin while 46 soldiers were killed and another 225 injured.

Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.

This is while US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the group.

The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on January 14 when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the military coalition led by the United States in Syria was planning to set up a large border force of up to 30,000 personnel with the aid of its militia allies.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/18/555873/YPG-forces-to-shift-from-direct-confrontation-to-guerrilla-tactics-Afrin-official

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Syrian army gives Takfiri militants in Harasta ultimatum to withdraw by mid-afternoon

Mar 18, 2018

The Syrian army has given foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists operating inside Harasta town of the militant-held Eastern Ghouta enclave to withdraw till 3 p.m. local time (1300 GMT) on Sunday.

The report came shortly after Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that thousands of civilians, whom extremists were using as human shields to slow down the progress of government forces and their allied fighters from popular defense groups, have managed to leave Eastern Ghouta.

The report noted that more than 5,000 civilians, mostly children and women, depart the area through humanitarian corridors set up by the army troopers.

The evacuees were reportedly provided with basic commodities upon arrival at Syrian army posts before being transported to temporary accommodation centers.

This is while Major General Vladimir Zolotukhin of the Russian peace and reconciliation center in Syria said more than 25,000 people have fled besieged Eastern Ghouta region in single day.

Zolotukhin said they left on Sunday through the town of Hamouria, located about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) east of Damascus city center.

Separately, Syrian army soldiers have started an operation to comb Saqba town, located 7 kilometers east of central Damascus, of hidden explosive devices planted by Takfiri militants in the area.

Syrian government forces are now pursuing the remnants of terrorist organizations in the towns of Kafr Batna and Saqba in the southern outskirts of Eastern Ghouta.

The Syrian army says it has captured 80 percent of Eastern Ghouta, after splitting the area into sections to facilitate the battle against various militant groups there.

Eastern Ghouta, a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus which is home to some 400,000 people, has witnessed deadly violence over the past few days, with foreign-sponsored terrorists launching mortar attacks on the Syrian capital in the face of an imminent humiliating defeat.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/18/555860/Syrian-army-gives-Takfiri-militants-in-Harasta-ultiamatum-to-withdraw-by-midafternoon

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Iraqi forces capture senior Daesh leader near Mosul

Mar 18, 2018

Iraqi forces have captured a fugitive Daesh ringleader, who used to hold a “prominent” post within the Takfiri terror group.

Reporting on Saturday, Iraqi News website said the terror kingpin was captured in the al-Shaiqara village, north of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Province.

The terrorist leader used to function as the Takfiri group’s “police chief” for Nineveh, collecting the revenues of its members.

Mosul, once Daesh’s so-called headquarters, was liberated last July, upon which the ringleader went into hiding in the Badush mountains in the province’s town of Tal Kaif.

Daesh unleashed a campaign of bloodshed and terror in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning advances in the northern and western parts of the country. Iraqi Army soldiers and allied fighters then launched operations to eliminate Daesh and retake lost territory.

Daesh’s territorial rule in Iraq came to an end in December 2017, when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced an ultimate victory against the Takfiris.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/18/555825/Iraq-arrest-Daesh-leader-Nineveh

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India

 

Second Sharia Court in Mumbai Metropolitan Region Comes Up At Mira Road

Mar 18, 2018

A Darul Qaza or Sharia court was inaugurated in Mira Road on Saturday. The court, set up by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), is the second one in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

The first one was set up in 2013 and functions at Anjuman-i-Islam, near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.

A Sharia court settles civil and marital disputes in the Muslim community, where qazis (judges) appointed by AIMPLB hear disputes. Similar courts exist in Malegaon, Hyderabad and Patna.

“While we had one court in town, we realised that a large section of the population in the western area found it difficult to access it. So we decided to have a branch in Mira Road,” said Dr Azimuddin, president, Darul Qaza Foundation, Mira-Bhayandar.

He added the court will help people resolve disputes within the community rather than approaching the court of law.

“The judiciary is overburdened with various issues. When an individual moves court with a personal matter, which usually includes marriage, divorce and inheritance, they have to wait for years before an order is passed. In such situations, a Sharia court can help resolve the issue amicably. In case, the person doesn’t abide by the order given by the qazi, he/she can approach the judiciary where the Sharia court order can used to take the case further,” Azimuddin said.

When a person approaches Sharia court with a dispute, both the parties are required to present their sides in the court. But, if one of them decides to move civil court, the case needs to be withdrawn for the Sharia court.

Sujoy Kantawala, senior lawyer at Bombay High Court, said Sharia courts act as internal customary courts (courts that formerly exercise jurisdiction over the transfer, surrender and admittance) for personal issues, but hold no legal standing.

“Sharia courts are not illegal, but their judgement is not accepted by the judiciary. Moreover, the facts presented by these courts can be produced in a civil or matrimonial court. If a person wants to resolve personal dispute, they can approach such courts. But, to get divorced, one has to go abide by the law,” said Kantawala.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/second-sharia-court-in-mumbai-metropolitan-region-come-sup-at-mira-road/story-JkKp7UxCM9ajfvi42Z7jrJ.html

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Murshidabad imams campaign against cheating in examinations

Mar 18, 2018

In a unique initiative, imams in Murshidabad district of West Bengal have launched a campaign to create awareness against cheating in examinations.

The initiative, describing cheating in examinations as Haram (act forbidden by Allah), was started on Friday after prayers and comes amidst the ongoing Board examinations.

Ahasan Hasib, an imam of Rusulpur mosque in Domkal of Murshidabad, close to Bangladesh border, said the initiative was taken following request from parents of students appearing for the exams this year.

He said that cheating is a kind of theft, and is ‘Haram’ in Islam.

“We have plans to launch similar post-Namaz campaigns before the forthcoming Uchha Madhyamik (higher secondary) examinations,” he said.

The district’s Imam-Moajjem Association has also decided to approach counterparts in other districts of Bengal to start similar awareness campaigns.

Mojaffar Khan, president of the association and imam of Domkal-Bilashpur mosque, said since Islam prohibits cheating, the initiative has been mooted.

“Anyone getting a degree through cheating and later a government job will not able to deliver proper services to the citizens,” Khan said, adding that cheating will also deprive the person of the necessary knowledge.

“From a bigger perspective, examination cheating is tantamount to cheating the society and family, and it is our duty to create awareness against it and stop this evil practice,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/murshidabad-imams-campaign-against-cheating-in-examinations/story-n5V7M7nbBQTF7X0UR9nahM.html

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Mehbooba asks religious scholars to lead society

March 19, 2018

SRINAGAR: Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday appealed to religious scholars, Imams and custodians of shrines to lead the society in getting it out of the difficult issues by showing the right path as they have been ordained.

Addressing a gathering of Imams, religious scholars and executives of J&K Muslim Wakf Board here after lunching the plantation drive, the Chief Minister said Islam is a religion of peace which laid down guidelines not for Muslims alone but for entire humanity and even for flora and fauna. She said Islam has laid ample emphasis on seeking knowledge and the ulema should spread this message so that Muslim community is able to get itself out of the difficulties it has been in for quite a time.

Quoting several verses from the Holy Quran, Mehbooba Mufti appealed the Imams and ulema to come forward and help the younger generation by showing them the right path as enshrined in the Holy Book and the teachings of the Prophet of Mercy (SAW). She said unfortunately Muslim ummah around the world has been caught in a web of violence and it is utmost responsibility of the religious scholars to help the society from getting drifted on a wrong track. She appealed them to teach and guide people on the issues plaguing the society like dowry deaths, harassment of women and other issues of Haquq ul Ibaad.

Terming Wakf Board as a community institution rather than an affiliate of any political party or group, the Chief Minister said she intends to develop the Board on most modern lines with the use of technology. She said many projects of massive community help are under consideration of Wakf Board which she hoped would be of great help to humanity.

The Chief Minister sought support from people in retrieving the Wakf properties from encroachments and putting them to proper community use. She said if the assets of the Muslim Wakf Board are properly maintained it can generate enough resources to fund many big community welfare initiatives. She reminded the audience that it was the then Government in 2005 which carved out two universities and a nursing college out of the Wakf resources which have now prospered as leading institutions in the State.

Mehbooba Mufti said that having herself been raised in the family of preachers and ulema, she is well aware of the respect and command they ought to have in the society. She said the loss of respect for the religious scholars in the society has led to societal decay and erosion of social values in the system.

The Chief Minister assured the Imams and employees of the Muslim Wakf Board that she is aware of their problems pertaining to honorarium, salary and other benefits and she would shortly be addressing the same.

Vice Chairperson, Muslim Wakf Board, Nizamudin Bhat in his address outlined the measures his organization has taken for streamlining its activities particularly retrieving the assets and their proper upkeep.

Earlier, several leading Islamic scholars including Prof Muhammad Tayyab Kamili and other ulema highlighted the role, importance and responsibility of Imams in bringing about a positive change in the society and getting people away from the prevailing evil deeds like dowry, drug abuse and other ills.

Full report at:

https://kashmirreader.com/2018/03/19/mehbooba-asks-religious-scholars-to-lead-society/

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5 civilians killed in Pakistan shelling in J&K's Poonch

Mar 18, 2018

SRINAGAR/ JAMMU: Pakistani forces violated ceasefire on Sunday morning and resorted to indiscriminate shelling, killing five members of a family and injuring two others at Mendhar area along the Line of Control in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir. Two people who sustained injuries were airlifted to Jammu for treatment.

The ceasefire violation came amid a heightened diplomatic tension between the two countries over alleged harassment of diplomats.

“Pakistan began heavy unprovoked firing around 7.45am which lasted for nearly four hours. Pakistan forces fired automatics, small arms and mortars and targeted civilian localities much deep inside Indian territory — at least three-four km from the LoC. There is no Army deployment or any installation in the area,” a defence spokesperson said in Jammu.

The deceased were identified by cops as Mohammad Ramzan, his wife and their three sons. The two injured daughters of the couple were airlifted to a Jammu hospital where their condition was stated to be critical.

“Pakistan continues in its cowardly design of targeting innocent civilians, their homes and livestock in villages close to the LoC. The deliberate provocation has resulted in the loss of five precious and innocent civilian lives,” the Army spokesperson said.

DGP SP Vaid confirmed the death of five civilians and said the police began an operation to evacuate people from forward areas. “Five civilian deaths have been reported in the Pakistani firing. The district administration has airlifted two critically injured minor girls after preliminary treatment at a Rajouri hospital to Jammu,” he told TOI.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/5-civilians-killed-in-pakistan-shelling-in-jks-poonch/articleshow/63357077.cms

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Harassment of diplomats in Pakistan: India lodges one more complaint

March 19, 2018

INDIA ON Sunday lodged a protest once again with Pakistan following incidents of harassment of its diplomatic staff stationed in Islamabad. This was the 13th instance of India highlighting the intimidation of its staff in Islamabad. On Saturday, the “second secretary at the High Commission was aggressively followed by unidentified people in a car in close proximity in an intimidating manner”, sources said.

On Sunday, “four High Commission of India officials travelling in an official vehicle was aggressively followed by two unknown persons on motorbikes in an intimidating manner”, the sources said.

“The website of the High Commission continues to be intermittently blocked, causing inconvenience,” a source said, adding that the High Commission has asked the Pakistan government to “investigate these incidents and ensure that such incidents do not recur”.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/harassment-of-diplomats-in-pakistan-india-lodges-one-more-complaint/

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Pakistan

 

Punjab likely to declare public holidays on religious festivals

BY MUHSEN ALI

March 19, 2018

LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Khalil Tahir Sandhu on Sunday announced that the provincial government will announce soon public holiday on the occasion of Easter, Holi, Diwali and other festival days of different religion and faiths.

“Our government of the Pakistan Muslim League-N is interested to announce holidays on the occasion of the religious festivals of different religious communities living here in this province,” he said while addressing a special ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Iqbal regarding the celebration of the Holi festival.

Besides a large number of Hindu community members from different parts of the Punjab province, MPA Kanji Ram, MPA Shakeel Awen, MPA Fowzia Ayub Qureshi, Dr Majeed Abel, Hindu Sudhar Sabha President Amarnath Randhawa, senior government officials and students from Nepal also joined the event, organised by the Human Rights Department.

Addressing the audience, Khalil Sandhu said that the government always tried its level best to take every possible step to ensure protection and safety of the minorities. “Pakistan has become the first country in the world to introduce legislation for the registration of the Sikh marriages,” he told the audience.

“We have to realise that all religions bring the message of peace, harmony and tranquility,” he said, adding that people of different faiths were an equal citizen of Pakistan and the Holy festival gives the society the message of spreading peace and unity among all. “Holi is a festival of harmony and togetherness,” he said.

On the occasion, MPA Kanji Ram said that the Holi was a day to set ablaze all evils, as this was a festival of harmony and togetherness, to enjoy together and ignoring all differences. “Our every citizen is free to celebrate and perform his or her religious ceremonies and festivals in a secure environment,” he said. He extended heartiest greetings to Hindu community on the eve of the Holi festival.

Talking to the journalists, the ruling party lawmaker said that the Hindu Marriage Act would also be passed by the National Assembly before the general elections. He pointed out that the Hindu Marriage Act was the first legislation which was passed by the majority. As per its traditions, the PML-N would continue best services to all citizens without any discrimination, he said.

Sharing the message of the Holi, Amarnath Randhawa said that the festival of colours creates the passions of brotherhood and goodwill among the people and this festival was also a symbol of happiness and passions. On the occasion, some Hindu representatives had some complaints to the organisers as there was only one Hindu leader was on stage. At least, they (Hindus) should not be ignored at least in their religious or cultural events, they said.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/03/18/punjab-likely-to-declare-public-holidays-on-religious-festivals/

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ISI spills beans on Khadim Rizvi in its report on Faizabad sit-in: reports

March 19, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The premier intelligence agency has spilled the beans on Khadim Hussain Rizvi and Faizabad dharna in its investigation report, a local English newspaper reported.

In its detailed report, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has told the Supreme Court that Rizvi, whose sit-in last November brought the capital to a standstill, is “reportedly financially corrupt.”

A two-member bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa, of the apex court resumed hearing of suo moto case regarding last year’s Faizabad sit-in.

The comprehensive report stated that ISI had recommended the federal government avoid the use of force and resolve the issue amicably through negotiations with Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLYR).

“Despite the recommendations of ISI to resolve the issue politically, the government launched an operation on November 25, 2017, which was an utter failure and caused countrywide protests,” the report said.

The agency has also submitted complete profiles of Dharna leadership including Rizvi, Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, and Ashraf Asif Jalali.

The report has called Rizvi “reportedly corrupt” in financial matters but also mentioned that he appears to be living within his means. “He is known as “arrogant” with his superiors, “harsh” with his followers and “committed” to his cause,” the report said.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/03/19/isi-spills-beans-on-khadim-rizvi-in-its-report-on-faizabad-sit-in-reports/

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No terror sanctuaries exist in Pakistan: ISPR DG

March 19, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistan has eliminated sanctuaries of all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani network, from its soil through a well-thought-out military campaign.

“But all this has come at a huge price. Besides costing the lives of 75,000 Pakistanis, there has been a loss of more than $123 billion to the national exchequer,” he said in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

On the possibility of peace between Pakistan and India, he said that he believed there was a need to resolve all issues between the two nuclear-armed countries, including the core issue of Kashmir, to normalise bilateral relations.

The ISPR DG also discussed Pakistan’s relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which would link Pakistan’s Gwadar Port with China.

Responding to a question about the measures taken to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan, he said the country had fought a successful war against terrorism which entered Pakistan through the 2,611-kilometre scantily manned Pak-Afghan border when the US-led coalition forces started military operations in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda forces.

Ghafoor declared that organised terrorist sanctuaries did not exist Pakistan anymore, adding that for the elimination of the remaining low-profile militants, Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, a large intelligence-based operation, was in progress.

He said that the operation had visibly reduced violence in Pakistan but some militants took advantage of the 2.7 million Afghan refugees inside Pakistan by integrating themselves into peaceful refugee caravans. There was a need to repatriate the remaining Afghans to their country, he added.

DG Ghafoor also said that there were over 200,000 Pakistani troops deployed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Pak-Afghan border.

“This deployment is to continue despite successes inside Pakistan as the threat continues to reside inside Afghanistan, not due to lack of will, but due to lack of capacity of the Afghan forces,” he added.

Moreover, he said that Pakistan had started to fence the entire Pak-Afghan border and initiated work on the construction of new forts and posts along the border to prevent cross-border movement of terrorists.

He further said that besides kinetic operations, Pakistan had undertaken major socio-economic development projects in those areas which were cleansed from militants.

Responding to another question, he said that Pakistan’s contingent to Saudi Arabia was part of the ongoing Pak-Saudi bilateral security cooperation since 1982.

“It is neither part of the Islamic force nor shall it be deployed outside Saudi borders. The role of Pakistani troops is only limited to training and advice. Pakistan has similar bilateral security arrangements with other GCC and regional countries,” he said.

Talking about the suspension of US aid to Pakistan, he said that the main concern of the US was the alleged inaction against Haqqani network, while Pakistan had operated against terrorists of all hue and colour, including the Haqqanis.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/03/19/no-terror-sanctuaries-exist-in-pakistan-ispr-dg/

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Imran, Zardari called each other thieves, then unite: Fazl

March 19, 2018

KOT ADDU: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said Sunday that those calling each other thieves during the senate elections later united, report TV channels.

While addressing Nizam-e-Mustafa Conference in Kot Addu, Fazlur Rehman, he said one is called the flag-bearer of accountability and the other is called father of corruption. They danced like a monkey and then united, Fazlur Rehman said, adding that Zardari says he trapped Imran who in turn makes a similar claim.

He asked which were those hidden forces that question “our rights to govern”?

He said former president Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf pushed the country into the ravine of terrorism. He said a war in the name of fight against terrorism was waged to destroy Islam. This war weakened the country, he added. The country suffered the consequences of Musharraf’s unwise decisions.

He said the country needed learn from a lesson from the ongoing warlike situation in the world.

He said Pakistan would have been the hub of world’s economy but the country was reduced to the level of a beggar.

Fazlur Rehman said that they (JUI-F) were doing the politics of parliament and the constitution. He said it was alleged that they (JUI-F) wanted to impose their faith on nation, asking how 12 people could do that. He declared that feudal lords and bigwigs would not be able to harm masses in presence of the JUI-F. He said that Western culture was being imposed on Pakistan. There were “fully baked” agents He said the NGOs wanted to amend blasphemy laws. The JUI-F leader said that US wanted to smash the Islamic world. He said Pakistan is on the hit-list of US. He said the JUI-F was not part of efforts to divide the nation and Ummah.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/294253-imran-zardari-called-each-other-thieves-then-unite-fazl

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JI Demands Installing Dr AQ Khan as Interim PM

March 19, 2018

KARAK - Jamaat-e-Islami chief and Senator Sirajul Haq demanded appointing Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan as interim prime minister to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country and said that his party was struggling for the establishment of caliphate in the country.

He was addressing a public gathering in Shuhada Park in Takht-e-Nusrati area on Sunday. He added that when the courts would be deciding cases according to Quran and Sunnah, only then one would be able to believe that there was a true system of Islam in the country.

He said that several ministers in the incumbent government were unaware about the basic teachings of Islam, adding that how could people expect from them implementation of Islamic teachings in the country. The JI chief alleged that their rulers were unaware about the teachings of Islam; therefore, they had become stooges of the USA.

Siraj congratulated Chinese president on his re-election for the second term. He said that Jamaat-e-Islami parliamentarians had not been sold out in the recent Senate elections, adding that his party always discouraged the culture of horse trading in the country. He claimed that the country needed such leadership to put the country on the path of development in true sense, adding that only the JI was able to provide such leadership as, he said, implementation of true Islamic system in Pakistan was the mission of the JI .

He claimed that politics was a holy practice but it had been made a business in the country and the people would be able to get the fruits of the politics only when it was practiced on true Islamic lines. While unveiling the JI election manifesto, Siraj claimed that they would give special allowance to the elder citizens and the major diseases like cancer would be treated free of cost in the hospitals.

The JI chief claimed that free of cost provision of edibles including ghee, sugar and other food stuffs would be provided to the poor segment of the society. He claimed that district Karak was producing mineral resources like oil and gas and uranium and said that with exploration of uranium, cancer was on the rise in the district, therefore; a cancer hospital should be established in the district, he said.

He also demanded provision of gas facility to the people of Karak on priority basis to resolve their basic demand.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/19-Mar-2018/ji-demands-installing-dr-aq-khan-as-interim-pm

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Five terrorists arrested, six others surrender in Balochistan: ISPR

March 19, 2018

RAWALPINDI: Five terrorists were arrested while six surrendered to security forces on Sunday, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement.

Security personnel recovered arms and ammunition from the nabbed terrorists, including mines, improvised explosive devices, detonators, submachine guns, and communication equipment during intelligence-based operations (IBOs) in various districts of Balochistan.

The ISPR said that the security forces conducted IBOs in Quetta, Uch, Dera Bugti, Loralai, Pishin, and Sibbi areas of Balochistan.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/03/18/five-terrorists-arrested-six-others-surrender-in-balochistan-ispr/

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Haqqani network, other terrorist havens destroyed: DG ISPR

MARCH 18, 2018

RAWALPINDI: Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor has on Sunday said that Pakistan Army has destroyed all terrorist havens including those of the Haqqani network.

“Pakistan has gained tremendous success in its war against terrorism. We have successfully destroyed all terrorist havens from the country including those of the Haqqani network,” DG ISPR said speaking to Gulf News.

He added that the country has sacrificed a lot fighting extremism. The DG also lauded Pakistan’s armed forces for executing the perfect strategy and operations to eliminate terrorism from the country.

“We have suffered a loss of 75,000 individuals and 123 billion dollars in the war against terrorism,” Maj Gen Ghafoor told the foreign news agency.

With reference to Pakistan-India relations, DG ISPR said that for the creation of a peaceful environment between the two countries, resolution of the fundamental issues should be ensured.

“Both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers, and to ensure peace between the two countries, peaceful resolutions of fundamental issues for example Kashmir is mandatory,” he said.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/216548/haqqani-network-other-terrorist-havens-destroyed-dg-ispr/

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Janjua, Abdullah support Afghan peace process, urge Taliban to join talks

MARCH 18, 2018

KABUL: Pakistan Nation Security Advisor (NSA) Lt Gen (r) Nasser Janjua on Sunday met Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah during his visit to Afghanistan.

According to Abdullah Abdullah, the two agreed on supporting the Afghan peace process and also believed that the Taliban should utilise the ‘timely & new peace offer’.

Abdullah Abdullah shared the details of the meeting on his Twitter:

Earlier, Janjua had also seen Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday where the latter extended an invitation through him to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi regarding a comprehensive dialogue between the two states.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/216533/janjua-abdullah-support-afghan-peace-process-urge-taliban-to-join-talks/

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Africa

 

15 years after Iraq invasion, Saddam regime in disarray

19 March 2018

On March 19, 2003, U.S.-led forces invaded oil-rich Iraq to topple the Saddam Hussein regime on claims of links to al-Qaeda terrorist group and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Washington based its rationale for the invasion, which was a response to the 9/11 attacks, that it wanted to prevent Saddam from producing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

One month after the invasion, the U.S. drew up a list of most-wanted Iraqis, consisting of the 55 members of the deposed Iraqi regime whom they most wanted to capture.

The Coalition Provincial Authority also disbanded Saddam’s Ba’ath Party, banning all members of the top four tiers of the party from government posts, causing thousands to lose their jobs.

Most top regime officials were either captured or killed following the invasion, including Saddam, his two sons, Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan and presidential adviser Ali Hassan al-Majid (“Chemical Ali”).

Others died in prison as Vice-President Taha Muhie-eldin Marouf, Prime Minister Mohammed Hamza Al Zubeidi, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Deputy Premier Hikmat Mizbah al-Azzawi.

Some other former regime officials are still languishing in prison, including former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Tai and former deputy chief of tribal affairs and husband of Saddam’s daughter Jamal Mustafa al-Tikriti.

Other former officials were released by U.S. forces, including party members and biologist Huda Saleh Mahdi, presidential scientific adviser Amir Hamudi al-Saadi and Minister of Higher Education Humam Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Ghafur.

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/200004/15-years-after-iraq-invasion-saddam-regime-in-disarray

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Somali forces kill 32 Al-Shabaab fighters in central Somalia

2018-03-17

MOGADISHU, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Thirty-two Al-Shabaab militants were killed in a fierce fighting with the Somali National Army (SNA) in the past 24 hours, Somali officials said on Saturday.

Ahmed Mohamed Teredisho, Somali Army Commander in Hiiraan region, told reporters that the fighting took place in Hiiraan region after armed Al-Shabaab members tried to impose taxes on villagers around Mahas town.

"We have killed 32 Al-Shabaab militants at an area about 28 km to Mahas town in Hiiraan region after heavy fighting with Al-Shabaab fighters. SNA soldiers were reinforced by locals to help fight the enemy in the region in the past 24 hours," Teredisho said.

He did not disclose the number of soldiers or civilians injured in the latest fighting in central Somalia.

The locals said the government soldiers backed with villagers engaged in more than six hours of battle with the insurgents.

Al-Shabaab militants have not commented on the military victory claimed by the Somali government officials in the region.

A resident told Xinhua by phone that confrontation was first staged between locals and Al-Shabaab fighters and then Somali Army later joined to defeat the militants.

Meanwhile, Somali security officials said a roadside bomb has targeted a pickup vehicle carrying members of the security forces in the outskirts of Mogadishu.

The officials said on Saturday that a remote-controlled landmine struck the vehicle along the road between Mogadishu and Afgoye, injuring two security forces and a civilian.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/17/c_137046273.htm

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Boko Haram: 91,000 Nigerian refugees to return from Cameroon – International agency

March 18, 2018

Iro Dan Fulani

Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, said to number about 91,000, will return home this month, following a tripartite agreement reached for their voluntary repatriation, an official has said.

The National Commission For Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) disclosed this on Sunday.

The agreement involving Nigeria, Cameroon and the UNHCR was reached to ensure the the return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon in line with international best practice.

The tripartite agreement was drafted by Nigeria, Cameroon and the UNHCR along with other stakeholders in June 2016 and signed on March 2, 2017 in Yaounde for the voluntary repatriation.

While fielding questions from journalists in Yola on the preparedness of Nigeria for the returnees, Lawal Hamidu, the Director, Refugees and Migrants Affairs of the commission, said measures were being taken to ensure the safe, dignified return and sustainable reintegration of the 91,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon.

“The Commission has since directed the Technical Working Group to conclude concrete operational modalities and support measures, including setting timetable and procedures to ensure the safe, dignified, voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon.

‘’We are expecting them this month, 4,000 are indigines of Adamawa ,while Borno state has the largest numbers of 87,000, so we are expecting the return of 91,000 Nigerians from Cameroon,’’ he said.

Mr. Hamidu said the affected states of Adamawa and Borno had been directed to develop a phased-approach for organised return of the refugees based on the security situation in the North-east.

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/nnorth-east/262217-boko-haram-91000-nigerian-refugees-to-return-from-cameroon-international-agency.html

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Boko Haram kills 5 fishermen in Nigeria

March 19, 2018

Suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed five fishermen on a remote island in northeastern Nigeria for aiding the search for dozens of schoolgirls kidnapped last month by the jihadists, a local official said Saturday. "Five men who went fishing near the border with Chad were shot dead," said president of the fisheries union in Borno state.

http://www.thedailystar.net/world/africa/boko-haram-kills-5-fishermen-nigeria-1550305

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South Asia

 

US airstrike kills 13 Taliban militants in Afghanistan

March 19, 2018

At least 13 militants belonging to the Taliban insurgent group have been killed in an airstrike carried out by the United States in Southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan.

Khaama Press quoted local security officials as saying that two engineers expert in the making of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were among those killed in the airstrike conducted on Saturday night in the vicinity of Khakriz district.

According to the Police Chief General Abdul Raziq, the militants were making IEDs when they came under the air raid.

Taliban has not commented on the incident so far.

Last month, Afghanistan's Minister of Defence (MoD) claimed that at least 35 insurgents were killed in an airstrike conducted in the province.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/us-airstrike-kills-13-taliban-militants-in-afghanistan-118031900062_1.html

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Islamabad seeks rehabilitation of Taliban in Kabul’s political setup

Mar 19 2018

Amid ongoing efforts to end the violence through reconciliation by reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban, reports indicate that Islamabad is seeking the rehabilitation of the Taliban into the future political setup of Afghanistan.

In his speech at Women’s Foreign Policy Group in Washington, the Pakistani Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has said a political arrangement similar to the one considered for Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar could be considered for the Taliban as well in a bid to help achieve peace.

“There’s a precedence for this in the rehabilitation of Gulbadin Hekmatyar,” Chaudhry was quoted as sayig by Dawn News

He said the former rebel leader (Hekmatyar)        was not only accommodated in the political setup in Kabul but his name was also expunged from a UN list of recognised terrorists to create space for him. “A similar arrangement can also be made with the Taliban.”

“We know a lot is going on right now … this offer … is being considered [by the Taliban]. We haven’t seen a public response [to the dialogue offer] which is interesting,” he added.

Chaudhry further added that he was aware of the efforts being made in Washington, Islamabad and Kabul to nurture these initial steps towards Taliban-Kabul reconciliation. “Chances for peace are brighter now than before. There are positive signs from all sides,” he said. “We welcome these efforts.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/islamabad-seeks-rehabilitation-of-taliban-in-kabuls-political-setup-04678/

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4 Taliban killed, 3 others including 1 disguised as a woman arrested

Mar 18 2018

At least four Taliban insurgents were killed during a clash with the Afghan security forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan while three including one who had disguised himself as a woman were arrested.

The commander of the 4th Brigade of the 201 Silab Corps in the East Gen. Mohammad Nasim Sangin said the militants were killed in Ghani Khel district where at least three others were arrested during the same operation.

He said the militants were looking to carry out attacks on security posts on Jalalabad-Torkham highway in the vicinity of Ghani Khel district.

Gen. Sangin denounced the militants move to use the women’s dress in a bid to achieve their target and satisfy their masters.

According to Gen. Sangin, at least one Afghan soldier also sustained injuries during the clash but the local residents and other civilians did not suffer any casualty.

He said the Afghan security forces have also confiscated four weapons including a PKM machine gun and rocket launcher as well as hand grenades, a motorcycle, and large amount of drugs and opium.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/4-taliban-killed-3-others-including-1-disguised-as-a-woman-arrested-04676/

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Let’s think of ending Afghan war, not winning it: Ghani

March 19, 2018

ISLAMABAD: In his talks with National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua in Kabul on Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called for a clean break from the past and said the parties involved should think of ending the war in Afghanistan, instead of winning it, said a statement issued by the adviser’s office on Sunday.

The Afghan president said he had pinned great hopes on Pakistan. “We have made a sincere and serious offer of peace [to the Taliban] and together we have to make the best of it by moving beyond the past.

“Let’s not remain prisoners of the past and let’s secure our future with the aim not to win the war, but to end it, for which Pakistan should help [Afghanistan],” the statement quoted Mr Ghani as saying.

According to the statement, he also expressed strong support for connectivity with the Central Asian Republics to reap the benefits of ideal geostrategic location of Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Without each other, we are not complete,” he remarked.

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The Afghan president called for a roadmap to be prepared for a comprehensive engagement with Pakistan in order to carry the relationship forward. He also invited Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to Kabul for talks.

According to the statement, Gen Janjua thanked Mr Ghani for extending an invitation to Prime Minister Abbasi to Afghanistan and praised the peace offer made by him.

He described the peace offer as “light at the end of the long and dark tunnel of war”.

Seeking the end of the conflict, and not necessarily a victory in it, was the right approach, he said.

The security adviser expressed sympathy with the people of Afghanistan who had seen nothing but war over the past 40 years.

Gen Janjua reiterated the government’s policy of supporting peace efforts in Afghanistan, but said that Pakistan’s image had been tarnished badly by countries that held it responsible for all kinds of terrorist acts in Afghanistan.

According to the statement, Gen Janjua’s Afghan counterpart Haneef Atmar said it was time to build bridges between the two countries. “We have a shared history and a shared future. That is what our ancestors left for us and we have to leave for our children,” the statement quoted Mr Atmar as saying during the talks.

“We should work for our shared interests in all fields, including political, economic and security areas. We must protect our relationship and advance it further.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1396193/lets-think-of-ending-afghan-war-not-winning-it-ghani

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Bid to prosecute Aung San Suu Kyi in Australia rejected

March 18, 2018

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has immunity from prosecution, Australia's attorney general said Sunday after a legal bid was launched to hold her responsible for "crimes against humanity".

A group of five Australian lawyers have filed a private application in the Melbourne Magistrates Court seeking to prosecute her over the treatment of the Muslim-minority Rohingya.

It coincides with the Nobel laureate attending a special summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Sydney.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state for Bangladesh since authorities launched a brutal crackdown six months ago that the UN has called "ethnic cleansing".

Myanmar has vehemently denied the allegations, insisting it was responding to attacks by Rohingya militants in late August.

Attorney General Christian Porter said Suu Kyi cannot be prosecuted in Australia, nor arrested or detained.

"Aung San Suu Kyi has complete immunity," he said in a statement.

"This includes from being served with court documents because under customary international law, heads of state, heads of government and ministers of foreign affairs are immune from foreign criminal proceedings and are inviolable."

Suu Kyi has come under intense global criticism for her public silence on the atrocities in Myanmar, which include claims of rape, murder and arson.

The private prosecution alleges she committed crimes against humanity by the deportation and forcible transfer of the Rohingya people.

One of the lawyers involved, Alison Battison, told the Sydney Morning Herald that Porter's decision was appealable.

"The Attorney General is yet to respond to us, but when he does, we'll address that then," she said.

"We wouldn't have done it if we didn't think we had a chance ... it's a textbook example of crimes against humanity."

Suu Kyi has not commented publicly since arriving in Australia on Saturday for the regional summit, but is scheduled to take questions at a media event on Tuesday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak ramped up pressure on her Saturday when he said the Rohingya issue could threaten regional security.

Speaking in Sydney with Suu Kyi sitting just metres away, he warned that many desperate people could fall prey to extremist groups like Islamic State.

"Because of the suffering of Rohingya people and that of displacement around the region, the situation in Rakhine state and Myanmar can no longer be considered to be a purely domestic matter," he said.

"In addition, the problem should not be looked at through the humanitarian prism only because it has the potential of developing into a serious security threat to the region."

He added that Malaysia was ready to assist in finding "a just and durable solution", but did not spell out what that might involve.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/18-Mar-2018/bid-to-prosecute-aung-san-suu-kyi-in-australia-rejected

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Taliban IED engineers among 13 killed in US airstrike in Kandahar

Mar 18 2018

At least thirteen Taliban insurgents including two engineers expert in the making of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were killed in the US airstrike in southern Kandahar province. (US Military Photo – 455 Air Expeditionary Wing – Bagram Airfield)

According to the local security officials, the militants were killed during the airstrike late on Saturday in the vicinity of Khakriz district.

Provincial Police Chief General Abdul Raziq confirmed the airstrike and said initial intelligence information reveals that two engineers of the group were also among those killed.

He said the Taliban insurgents had gathered in a house in Khakriz and were busy manufacturing IEDs when they came under the air raid.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as the 209th Shaheen Corps in the North said a IED expert of the Taliban group identified as Qari Saleh was wounded critically in an operation of the Afghan Special Forces.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-ied-engineers-among-13-killed-in-us-airstrike-in-kandahar-04674/

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Grenade attack injures 5 students in Shia district of Afghan capital

Mar 18, 2018

An attacker has set off a grenade among a group of university students in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, killing himself and wounding five students.

On Sunday, the assailant, dressed in a school uniform, struck a neighborhood dominated by ethnic Hazaras, a Shia Muslim minority frequently targeted by extremist groups.

Nasir Nadery, the district police chief, said the attacker, who slipped past two guards, was wearing an explosives vest that failed to explode.

The attack was carried out as students were inside a private compound where they were taking classes to prepare for university exams.

No individual or group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which resembled previous assaults carried out by the Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

The Hazara community, the poorest of the country’s ethnic groups, accounts for about 22 percent of Afghanistan’s population.

Its members have been targeted in several large-scale kidnappings and killings across Afghanistan in the past, prompting demonstrations and sit-ins in Kabul and elsewhere.

Last December, dozens of people were killed in an attack on a Shia cultural center claimed by Daesh, which has been growing in size and expanding its operations in the country over the past two years.

Daesh terrorists and Taliban militants also massacred dozens of civilians, mostly Hazaras, in an attack on a village in the northern province of Sar-e Pul last August.

Taliban kill five policemen northwest of Kabul

Separately, at least five policemen were killed on Sunday after Taliban militants attacked security positions northwest of Kabul. According to Mohammed Zaman, the police chief for Ghazni province, the deadly assault also set off a two-hour gun battle.

In the western province of Ghor, a roadside bomb killed a young shepherd and wounded five other people. Police spokesman Iqbal Nizami said Taliban had planted the bomb in order to target security forces.

Also in the eastern province of Khost, police spokesman Basir Bina said a roadside bomb killed two children and wounded another nine. Both bombs went off on Saturday.

Taliban militants were removed from power following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, but they have stepped up activities in recent months, attempting to overrun several regions. During the past 16 years, the militants have been conducting terrorist attacks across the country, killing and displacing civilians.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/18/555890/Kabul-Afghanistan-Hazara

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Southeast Asia

 

For GE14, PAS promises harsher Shariah penalties to curb vice industry

BY IDA LIM

March 18, 2018

CYBERJAYA, March 18 — PAS today promised to bring into place legal changes to empower Shariah courts to impose heftier penalties if it wins the 14th general election (GE14).

The Islamist party believes that this move will help combat vice in Malaysia.

In its 25-page GE14 manifesto launched today with its allies in Gagasan Sejahtera, PAS said it would approve an amendment to Act 355 or the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to “uphold Shariah and upgrade the Shariah courts, that is believed to be able to curb the vice industry”.

This promise comes under the sixth core of the nine-core manifesto, namely to harmonise the country’s legal system and administration with the requirements of Shariah law.

PAS has been trying to push for heavier Shariah punishments through PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s parliamentary motion, where he is proposing a private member’s Bill to increase the Shariah courts’ sentencing limits to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes.

The current maximum penalties under the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 are three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine and six lashes.

In the manifesto, PAS is offering 20 main promises, including strengthening the provisions of Islam as the federation’s religion as “al-Din” or the religion as a system that completes every aspect of life.

When asked about non-Muslim support for the manifesto’s bid to push for an Islamic country, Abdul Hadi said Islam which encompasses religion and ideologies can be used in governing a diverse society.

“Not only there is no compulsion in religion, not only does Islam forbids us to have compulsion in religion, at the same time, it is compulsory for us to be just to all citizens,” he told reporters at the launch, before citing his previous proposal of a Cabinet formed of both Muslims and non-Muslims.

“In Islam, we cannot forbid what is permissible in other religions such as alcohol, pork; whatever that is allowed in other religions, we can’t forbid, for the sake of taking care of the sensitivities between races,” he said, adding that tax proceeds permissible under Islam would be spent for the wellbeing of non-Muslims as well.

When asked if the PAS vision of an Islamic country includes hudud or the Islamic penal code, Abdul Hadi first said that it was a law in Islam meant to educate and not to punish.

“In laws related to Muslims, we cannot force non-Muslims to accept religious laws. As with no compulsion in religion, so religious laws cannot be imposed. If they have laws of their own choice, they can choose.

He then said there were laws shared by all such as traffic and trade laws, while some laws were applied separately such as for Islamic family law and said all these would be taken into account.

In the manifesto, PAS also plans for a corruption-free Malaysia with a governance and legal system aligned with Shariah demands; to amend laws that go against the concept of Islamic justice and denies citizens’ rights such as the Official Secrets Act, Prevention of Crime Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, and the Universities and University Colleges Act.

It also promises to eradicate illegal money-lending syndicates in line with Islam’s requirement to combat those who practice riba or the imposing of exorbitant interest; and to work towards making Malaysia free of drug abuse by combating drug distribution networks through the approach of “amar maaruf nahi munkar”, or enjoining to do what is right and forbidding what is reprehensible.

It also said it will protect the rights of victims of crime by introducing a compensation system using the Islamic concept of Diyat laws.

At the same launch event, PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man had addressed fears regarding Malaysia’s status if the party took over.

“Some think that Malaysia will become a theocracy if Gagasan Sejahtera is in power. Even more unfortunate, there are those who think Malaysia will be a Taliban country. Non-Muslims are intimidated with such accusations,” he said.

The manifesto by the PAS-led Gagasan Sejahtera pact with the theme “Malaysia Sejahtera” or for Malaysia’s wellbeing is launched 10 days after federal opposition Pakatan Harapan launched its manifesto.

The manifesto launch was attended by the PAS-led pact Gagasan Sejahtera’s leaders, including component parties Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan) vice-president Datuk Seri Mohamad Badri Abd Rahman and secretary-general Tengku Mudzaffar Tengku Zaid; Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa) president Abdul Kadir Mamat and deputy president Datuk Hashim Karim.

The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition’s GE14 manifesto is expected to be launched on April 7, local daily New Straits Times had reported.

GE14 must be held by this August, but may be called earlier.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/for-ge14-pas-promises-harsher-shariah-penalties-to-curb-vice-industry#w7hlIOjyIh4yfmhx.97

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Women MPs want female speaker in Parliament

Ho Kit Yen

March 19, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Some women MPs are calling for a female speaker in the Dewan Rakyat after what they say has been years of tolerating sexist remarks in the country’s most august house.

Urging an end to the situation, they added that the Dewan Rakyat speaker and his deputies often took complaints on the matter lightly.

Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin said most of the time, they would let the culprits off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist despite the Dewan Rakyat’s rules that no representative should hurl sexist comments during a debate.

“The Dewan’s Standing Orders were amended to bar representatives from using words that are derogatory in the house.

“But the speaker and his deputies see sexist comments as something trivial because they do not understand how this can hurt the women’s feelings,” she said.

Women MPs, especially from the opposition, have frequently been subjected to sexist comments during debates in the Dewan Rakyat.

The infamous “bocor” (leaking) remark, made more than 10 years ago by Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin against DAP MP Fong Po Kuan, became a highly publicised headline.

The four-term MP from Umno said Fong, who was then Batu Gajah MP, “leaked every month”, referring to the women’s menstrual cycle while debating the leaking roof issue in Parliament.

He later apologised to women for his remark but did not address the apology specifically to Fong.

Bung also made several remarks against other opposition MPs, including Zuraida.

During a debate in 2015, Bung told Zuraida that he pitied her husband for having a fierce wife like her.

“I complained to the speaker (Pandikar Amin Mulia) and asked for action to be taken on the day itself, but he said we should wait for the Hansard to confirm what was said.

“When we obtained the Hansard, the speaker changed his tune and said we did not raise the issue on the same day. So which one is supposed to be right?” Zuraida asked.

She said Bung was a “repeat offender” and action should be taken against him for making sexist remarks.

“As long as there is a speaker who is insensitive, women MPs will not see our rights upheld,” Zuraida said, adding that it was time to have a woman as either the speaker or deputy.

“I think if there is a woman in the Dewan, the men will show more respect in the house and be careful before saying something.”

Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff agreed that it was time to appoint a woman to preside over the Dewan Rakyat as women were more sensitive in handling issues.

“Why not? The government always wanted to increase women’s participation to 30% in the decision-making field,” she said.

Meanwhile, Wanita MCA chief Heng Seai Kee said women could perform the duties of a Dewan Rakyat speaker as well as any man.

“Of course, we should appoint a woman to be the speaker, not just a deputy. Women are equally qualified as men for the job.

“A woman speaker or deputy should not be there just because they are sensitive in handling or stopping sexist remarks. Sensitivity should be applied across gender,” she said.

The Dewan Rakyat has not had a female speaker or deputy speaker since 1959.

However, Sarawakian Doris Sophia Brodie was appointed as a deputy speaker in the Dewan Negara for two terms in 2012.

At the state level, Selangor and Perak have female speakers in their assemblies.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/03/19/women-mps-want-female-speaker-in-parliament/

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Yusuf Estes calls on indonesians to have dialogue

March 19, 2018

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A Muslim cleric from Texas, the United States, Sheikh Yusuf Estes, has invited Indonesians from all religious backgrounds to have dialogue in search of truth that will change their lives better.

"Currently, Islam is the most growing religion. But on the other side there are Muslims and other believers, Hindus, Jewish, Buddhists who become atheists, and they are in the darkness," Estes told Antara here on Saturday.

Therefore, Sheikh Yusuf invited all people from different faiths to have open dialogue in order to seek the truth by understanding that all human beings basically have similarities in some respects.

Sheikh Yusuf Estes will be in Indonesia from March 17 to 21, 2018, for sermons in several cities in Indonesia, namely, Jakarta, Surabaya (East Java) and Balikpapan (East Kalimantan). In certain locations the preaching by Yusuf Estes is open to public, including for non-Muslims.

"One important thing is to find similarities, that is, we understand that there is God who creates the universe in six periods, and we have common enemies, that is, devil," Sheikh Yusuf, who is dubbed "funny sheikh", noted.

He further explained that nowadays everyone is facing the same problems, such as television programs and games on internet and computer that take children out from their parents.

"Dialogues will open our way from darkness to light," Estes asserted, quoting a verse from the Noble Qur`an which means "Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from the darkness into the light."

According to him, the verse is in accordance with the topic that he will be delivered in his sermons in Indonesia, namely, "Going into the light of Islam".

To be able to attend Yusuf Estes sermons, people are expected to register themselves first through https://sahabatdakwah.org/yes.

Sheikh Yusuf Estes was born and raised from a very devout Christian family. Before becoming an Islamic preacher, he was an evangelist.

In 1994-2000, Yusuf Estes became a member of the US Delegation for Religious and Scholar Leaders to the United Nations Peace Conference.

Full report at:

https://en.antaranews.com/news/115012/yusuf-estes-calls-on-indonesians-to-have-dialogue

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Islamist groups to rally against Anies for 'turning his back' on Rizieq

March 19, 2018

An Islamist group calling itself the Revolutionary Islamic Community Forum (FUIR) plans to stage a rally on Monday against Governor Anies Baswedan, who it accuses of turning his back on the ummah (Muslim community) after his election.

The rally, which will take place at the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD) in Central Jakarta, will involve around 200 people from several Islamic organizations in the city, said rally coordinator M. Al Fatih.

“We feel that Anies and [Deputy Governor] Sandiaga Uno have forgotten about and distanced themselves from the ummah that supported them tirelessly [during the gubernatorial election],” he said. 

Anies is widely seen to have ridden the Islamist wave to win last year's gubernatorial election while his main rival, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, became the target of sectarian rhetoric in a series of rallies organized by Islamist groups in the months leading up to election day.

Fatih claimed that Anies had done nothing to defend Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), who fled to Saudi Arabia after being implicated in a pornography case.

Rizieq was a key figure behind the rallies against Ahok, and Fatih believed that the pornography case against the firebrand cleric was politically motivated.

During his campaign, Anies visited the FPI’s headquarters and met with Rizieq, sparking criticism from among his detractors as well as his more progressive supporters. Anies, however, said he was only trying to give all elements of society the chance for a dialogue with their gubernatorial candidate.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/19/islamist-groups-to-rally-against-anies-for-turning-his-back-on-rizieq.html

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Issuance of halal certificates only restricted to Jakim, State Islamic Religious Dept, minister says

March 19, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 ― The enforcement of the Trade Descriptions Act 2011 has managed to curb the issuance of fake halal certificates to zero, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said the Act which replaced the Trade Descriptions Act 1972 restricted authority in the issuance of halal certificates to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) and the State Islamic Religious Department.

"Previously through the Trade Descriptions Act 1972, anyone could issue the certificate. Any private organisation and company could also issue certificates when they registered halal-related companies,” he said in response to an additional question from Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang).

He also said the government had no intention of setting up a special entity to take over the duties of Jakim and the Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) in overseeing the issuance of halal certificates.

Both agencies he said, were already managing well, with Jakim handling the issuance of halal certificates and HDC focusing on management, monitoring and coordination of industry players.

Jamil Khir said the two agencies also served as a joint secretariat in the Malaysian Halal Council together with the Department of Standards Malaysia (DSM).

He said DSM was established to coordinate the agencies involved either at the federal or state level to ensure that Malaysia continued to lead in global halal and become a world reference centre.

“At the same time, the development of the national halal industry can be synchronised to become more strategic, effective and comprehensive through development of a number of important components to produce a holistic halal ecosystem,” he said.  

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/issuance-of-halal-certificates-only-restricted-to-jakim-state-islamic-relig#SEegIMpKLdy6pbTk.97

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North America

 

Living in fear: One in three Muslim students attacked on campus as Islamophobic hate crime surges

March 19, 2018

One in three Muslim students are living in fear of Islamophobic attacks or abuse on campus – and women who wear traditional garments are most concerned for their safety, a report has found.

More than half of Muslim students have been subjected to harassment or abuse online. A third say they’ve been victims of crime or abuse at their further education college or university.

The National Union of Students (NUS) survey, shared with The Independent, reveals that most students (79 per cent) who suffered abuse felt they had been targeted because of being Muslim.

Hate words or symbols, and the incident coinciding with a terrorist incident, were cited by Muslim as indications that the perpetrator’s actions were motivated by religious prejudice.

And women who wear a traditional Islamic garments, such as a hijab, niqab or jilbab, were significantly more likely to worry about abuse or attacks, the report found.

Fatima Diriye, a history and politics student at Soas University of London, told The Independent that she felt unsafe when two students took photos and drew a sexualised image of her in a jilbab.

“They drew a picture of me because I wear a jilbab – the head to toe piece – so they drew that, and then explicitly exaggerated my figure and wrote: ‘I like penis.’

“I didn’t feel safe. I was really upset, I was in tears,” she said.

In another incident, Fatima was called out for expressing views during a student union activity. “He said ‘You are a Muslim woman. Why are you even speaking? Aren’t you normally oppressed?’”

The 22-year-old added that she has consciously changed her actions and behaviour following terrorist attacks, to reduce the chance of Islamophobia.

“I think ‘will I have to be a lot friendlier today on campus to make sure people feel safe?’ I also do not know what people’s reactions are going to be on the way to university,” she said.

“I usually think it is safest to get taxis for the next few days, because I don’t know what is going to happen. Because I am wearing the jilbab, there is not a way for me to hide that I am a Muslim.”

The new findings follow a rise of hate crimes facing the Muslim community across the country. Hate crimes targeting mosques across the UK more than doubled between 2016 and 2017, figures revealed last year.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, which works to increase community cohesion, called the new NUS report “concerning” and added the reports of Islamophobia were “unsurprising”.

He said: “There is more anti-Muslim rhetoric, insults and abuse in the real world than there ever was in 2012. The level of fear in Muslim communities of young people has risen. They don’t feel that secure anymore because they have suffered these incidents.”

The study, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, reveals that 43 per cent of Muslim students do not feel comfortable discussing terrorism in class, and a third do not believe that there is a safe space or forum on campus to discuss the issues that affect them.

And the Government’s Prevent duty, which requires education institutions to report students “vulnerable to radicalisation”, has made Muslim students more reluctant to speak up, the NUS says.

A third of respondents felt negatively affected by the Prevent duty – and of those Muslim students affected, 43 per cent felt they were unable to express their views or be themselves because of it.

Muslim students reported feeling less comfortable in engaging in political debate, or for running for roles in their students’ union – while some experienced barriers to organising events.

One male student, who was surveyed, said: “When I was getting a certain speaker for an event, Prevent were involved and had to be present for the talk, in addition to police as well, shockingly.”

Mr Mughal said students often kept “themselves to themselves” because of a perception that Prevent – which became a legal duty for universities in July 2015 – clamps down on all free speech.

He said: “It comes down to one simple fact that our universities are not properly making clear to students that universities are places where debate and discussion like this has to happen.

“I think universities are failing miserably in their ability to communicate to students effectively on these issues. Universities have a lot more to do, and student unions need to do more.”

The NUS has previously come under fire for reports of anti-Jewish sentiment – and their new report suggests that many Muslim students feel disillusioned and disengaged from the students’ union.

Two-thirds of respondents said they thought the NUS would not respond appropriately to allegations of Islamophobia. Eight out of 10 had never attended any NUS events of any kind.

One female student surveyed said: “NUS Muslim representatives have faced disproportionate abuse over recent years and the NUS has not dealt with it adequately.”

On the report, Hareem Ghani, NUS women’s officer, said: “We are deeply concerned about islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment within the education sector and society as a whole.

“Action must be taken immediately by institutions and students’ unions to safeguard Muslim students – especially women – against racism in or around campus.”

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, told The Independent: “The details revealed in the NUS report about the experiences of Muslim students are shocking. No student should ever feel like they are not safe because of their ethnicity, gender or religion.

“Our universities are places of learning and debate, and should also act as a safe space for all students from fear of persecution, harm and bigotry. Universities have a duty of care towards the physical and mental wellbeing of their students, first and foremost.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There is no place in higher education for hatred or any form of discrimination or prejudice, and we expect providers to act swiftly to address hate crime, reported to them, including anti-Muslim incidents.

“The Prevent duty builds on universities’ safeguarding responsibilities and aims to stop people being drawn into terrorism. Prevent deals with all forms of extremism; it is not about shutting down free speech or spying on students and should not be used to discriminate against any particular group.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/muslim-students-universities-islamophobic-national-union-students-nus-prevent-duty-a8260176.html

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US tells Pakistan: Do more to wipe out terrorism

19 March 2018

ISLAMABAD: US Vice President Mike Pence wants Pakistan to work more closely with Washington to defeat terrorism on its soil.

A White House statement said Pence reiterated President Donald Trump’s “request that the Government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country.”

But the statement did not share any details about the nature of talks and meetings.

PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is on a private visit to the US, met Pence on Saturday. But his office has not shared anything, so far, with the media about his visit or the meeting.

On Thursday Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said that active negotiations are in progress between Pakistan and the US. “It is a difficult balancing act and both sides have conveyed their reservations and differences on the new US strategy to each other.”We are actively seeking to find common ground, as is manifested in continued engagement at all levels between Pakistan and the US.”

Former Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir believes that this particular White House statement reflects a partial view.

“Pakistan and US interests converge on both peace in Afghanistan and countering terror. Both sides need to talk more and cooperate more. There have been positive developments in this regard,” he told Arab News.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, professor of politics and international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, believes this reflects the significance of Pakistan’s role in the US strategy for culmination of the war in Afghanistan. “Mike Pence asked Prime Minister Abbasi to do more. Doing more means more cooperation.”

Qamar Cheema, a political analyst, told Arab News that the mistrust between Pakistan and the US is over the alleged presence of the Haqqani Network.

“The US has been asking Pakistan to do more on the Haqqani Network, whereas it also accepts that Pakistan has taken certain measures which are appreciable. If the trust deficit between both countries will be bridged, that will be a win-win situation for both,” Cheema said.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua visited Washington on March 7-8, where she met senior US officials including US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan at the State Department and Deputy National Security Adviser Dr. Nadia Schadlow, at the White House.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Janjua had in-depth discussions with South Asia experts at the US Institute of Peace.

“She reaffirmed Pakistan’s constructive approach to work together with the US for regional peace and stability,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement after Janjua’s visit.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1269086/world

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US 'Crusaders' militia on trial for anti-Muslim plot

March 19, 2018

Months before the 2016 US general election, members of a Kansas militia group that has come to be known as the "the Crusaders" met in an office to pick the targets of bombings that they hoped would inspire a wave of attacks on Muslims throughout the US.

In a business in the southwestern city of Liberal that sold mobile homes, the four men took precautions to avoid getting caught, putting their mobile phones in a separate room and locking the door to prevent anyone from walking in on them. Three of them did not know that the fourth was wearing a wire as part of a federal investigation that would thwart their plot.

Bombing plan

Authorities say that on the day after Election Day, the "the Crusaders" planned to detonate four car bombs as part of an attack on a mosque and an apartment complex that was home to Somali refugees who had settled in the meatpacking town of Garden City, which is about 60 miles (95 kilometres) south of Liberal, along the Oklahoma border.

Jury selection begins Tuesday in the trial of Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright, and Curtis Allen on charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Stein, who prosecutors say was the militia's leader, also faces an additional weapons-related charge, and Wright faces a charge of lying to the FBI. They have pleaded not guilty. If convicted of the weapon of mass destruction charge, each could be sentenced to up to life in prison.

Prosecutors have said that a militia member tipped off federal authorities after becoming alarmed by the escalating talk of violence and later agreed to wear a wire as a paid informant. The government's case features months of profanity-laced recordings in which militia members discussed plans and referred to the Somalis as "cockroaches".

Making bombs

According to prosecutors, Stein was recorded discussing the type of fuel and fertilizer bomb that Timothy McVeigh used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people. Stein was arrested when he delivered 300 pounds (135 kilograms) of fertilizer to undercover FBI agents to make explosives.

Prosecutors also said that Wright and Allen made an explosive in the kitchen of Wright's business and used it to successfully test a blasting cap, with the goal of using the cap to cause a much larger explosion at the apartment complex.

Agents also found aerial photographs in one vehicle depicting what appear to be apartment complexes marked with large x's, as well as an aerial photo of a church and a mosque used by a Muslim community from Myanmar, authorities say. The group also discussed killing the apartment complex's white owner to send a message to other landlords about renting to immigrants.

Trial strategy

Defence lawyers either declined to discuss the case or did not respond to calls seeking comment. But they may have given a glimpse at a possible trial strategy when they sought to expand the prospective jury pool to include people from more rural western counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

In that motion, they argued the case is "uniquely political" because much of the expected evidence is in reaction to the election. They contended the case will require jurors to weigh evidence regarding whether the alleged conduct amounts to criminal behaviour or whether it is constitutionally protected speech.

Prosecutors - anticipating the defence will attempt to argue the men were entrapped by the informant and an undercover agent - recently asked the judge to bar the defence from presenting such arguments to jurors before first justifying it to the court. US District Judge Eric Melgren has not ruled on that request.

Reactions

The arrests shocked Garden City's immigrant community, which includes many Muslims and people who work at a local Tyson Foods cattle slaughterhouse. Prosecutors are expected to call some of them to testify about the effect that the alleged plot had on them.

Ifrah Ahmed, a Somali interpreter at the plant, said her community wants the defendants to face justice, noting that if their alleged plot had succeeded, it would have been devastating. She also said the arrests had a galvanising effect.

"We have become stronger as a community. And it showed us that we can overcome everything," she said.

Matt Allen, Garden City's city manager, echoed that sentiment.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/militia-trial-anti-muslim-plot-180318104709942.html

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Pakistan 'must do more' against Taliban: US Vice President Pence

March 18, 2018

WASHINGTON DC: US Vice President Mike Pence told Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that his country “must do more” against the Taliban and other militants, the White House said on Saturday.

“Vice President Pence reiterated President (Donald) Trump’s request that the Government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban , Haqqani Network, and other terrorist groups operating in the country,” the White House said in a statement on the Friday call.

“Pakistan could and should work closer with the United States,” Pence said.

According to Washington, there is little sign that Islamabad has made a decision to end its support for the Taliban , which the country’s powerful security services see as allegedly safeguarding its interests and as a bulwark against Indian influence in Kabul.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month proposed peace talks with the Taliban , which could eventually be recognised as a political party if it observes a ceasefire and officially recognises the Afghan government and constitution.

The Taliban has stopped short of rejecting the proposal, but its response has been muted.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday met Congressman Ted Yoho.

The prime minister is in the United States on a private visit. In a tweet, the Pakistani embassy in Washington shared that House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia & Pacific Chairman Yoho and Ranking Member Brad Sherman had called on Abbasi.

Separately, Sherman also tweeted about having had a “good discussion” with the prime minister on US-Pakistan relations.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/18-Mar-2018/pakistan-must-do-more-against-taliban-us-vice-president-pence

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Republican senator expects Trump to pull out of Iran deal

18 March 2018

Republican US Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Sunday he expected President Donald Trump to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement in May.

“The Iran deal will be another issue that’s coming up in May, and right now it doesn’t feel like it’s gonna be extended,” Corker said on the CBS “Face the Nation” program.

Asked if he believed Trump would pull out on May 12, the deadline for the president to issue a new waiver to suspend Iran sanctions as part of the deal, Corker responded, “I do. I do.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/03/18/Republican-senator-expects-Trump-to-pull-out-of-Iran-deal-.html

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Trump rhetoric encourages violence against Muslims in US: Analyst

Mar 17, 2018

The rhetoric adopted by US President Donald Trump against minorities, especially Muslims, has encouraged violence against followers of that religion, says a human rights activist and researcher in Washington.

“Speaking with violence, acting with violence against minorities is okay” in America, because Trump has made it acceptable,” said Ilhan Cagri, a research fellow with the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

Two Muslim-American women have sued the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for forcing them to remove their religious headscarves (hijab) in public and pose for post-arrest photographs.

The women, Arwa Aziz and Jamilla Clark, filed the lawsuit on Friday. The two women were arrested separately in unrelated incidents last year.

Turning Point for Women and Families, a non-profit organization based in New York that supports Muslim women and girls who have been victims of domestic violence, joined the lawsuit.

The suit seeks unspecified financial damages and for the NYPD to discontinue its practice.

A 2015 NYPD policy requires that booking photos have an unobstructed view of the subject’s head, face and ears, requiring the removal of any headwear.

“Those police officers did what they did because they felt that there would be no backlash, there would be no consequence,” Cagri told Press TV on Saturday.

“The larger picture is that with Trump in power and with the Republican Party supporting him, the fact that he says so many things, and he sets the tone in this country that being prejudice, acting in a bigoted way, acting with violence or having the rhetoric of violence, speaking with violence and acting with violence towards minorities is okay, will be accepted if not encouraged,” she added.

The number of Islamophobic incidents in the United States has spiked following the election of President Donald Trump, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading Muslim advocacy group.

Critics say that Trump’s rhetoric and policies against Muslims before and after his election has emboldened far-right groups and promoted anti-Muslim hate crimes across the country.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/17/555802/USMuslimhijabTrumprhetoricviolence

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Canada struggles as it opens its arms to Yazidis victims of Daesh brutality

March 18, 2018

CALGARY—As leader of one of Canada’s largest refugee agencies, Fariborz Birjandian, a refugee himself, has years of experience welcoming the world’s most vulnerable — Kosovar Albanians fleeing ethnic cleansing, Burmese Karens evicted from Thai refugee camps, and Syrians escaping the civil war.

Nothing prepared him for the Yazidis.

Recently, he entered an English-language classroom in his agency’s building near downtown Calgary, just after a 28-year-old woman had finished describing the screams of a young girl being raped by a Daesh soldier. Suddenly, the woman fell unconscious.

Her eyes rolled into the back of their sockets, her back arched on the floor and she began to hyperventilate, her voice a rising octave until it emerged as a yelp. She grabbed fistfuls of her hair and snapped her teeth at her forearms.

“Don’t let her bite herself,” said Kheriya Khidir, an interpreter, settling down to hold one of the woman’s arms and stroke her face lovingly. Birjandian raced off to call an ambulance. Then, he slipped into a stairwell to collect his shaken emotions.

The woman, Jihan, is one of almost 1,200, mostly women and children, victims of Daesh who have been brought to Canada as part of a special refugee program set up particularly for Yazidis, members of a tiny religious minority from northern Iraq that the militants set out to decimate in August 2014.

Canada’s immigration minister — who is also a former refugee — assured Canadians the program would address the “unimaginable trauma, both physical and emotional” that most of the victims carried with them.

But a little over a year later, the Yazidis have proved a steep challenge to the country’s celebrated refugee settlement system, and to those who work in it like Birjandian.

While safety and a new routine helped most other refugees recover, the Yazidis need more and different treatments; workers say they are the most traumatized group yet to be admitted. Counsellors, doctors and other workers are hearing such upsetting stories that they themselves need treatment.

“It’s never been this extreme,” said Dr. Annalee Coakley, lead physician of Calgary’s Mosaic Refugee Health Clinic, explaining that many Yazidis in her clinic showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — flashbacks, night terrors, anxiety, surges of anger.

In some places, efforts to help the refugees seem to be working. In others, they are stumbling.

“The services have been disparate and not co-ordinated,” said Michelle Rempel, the Conservative MP (Calgary Nosehill) who has championed the Yazidi cause. “I don’t understand why the government has not put more emphasis on it.”

Government officials say the program is the most elaborate in the country’s history, and that any hiccups stem from the levels of trauma, not poor planning.

“It’s not perfect, but we are fairly good at this,” said David Manicom, the immigration department’s assistant deputy minister for settlement and integration.

As documented by United Nations investigators, when militants of Daesh, also known as ISIS, descended onto Yazidi villages across arid Sinjar Mountain, they rounded up the men, either forcing them to convert to Islam or be killed. The Yazidis’ ancient faith made them apostates in the eyes of the militants.

Women and girls — some as young as 9 — were catalogued and sold into a codified system of sex slavery.

Jihan was sold so many times, she lost count. Like others interviewed for this article, she asked to have only her first name used to protect family members still held by Daesh.

She and a few other women in Calgary have had seizure-like attacks in which they drop to the ground and seem to relive their rapes.

The Canadian government oversees the country’s refugee resettlement program from a distance, funding specialized non-governmental agencies to do the hands-on work.

Traditionally, counsellors help arriving refugees set up the practicalities of their new life — finding housing, enrolling in school and language classes, setting up a bank account. For the minority whose mental health symptoms don’t go away, the family doctor is supposed to step in.

Even before they came, it was clear the Yazidis would need more. However, the government left it up to agencies to draft their own specialized programs. In some places, that has happened. In others, it did not.

“Where is the Canadian government?” said Melkaya, 27, who arrived to the suburbs of Toronto last July with her young son, and spends most of her days in their basement apartment, reliving moments from her 28 months in captivity.

“They told us they would help us with psychologist,” she said. “We haven’t see anything from them. Aren’t we human?”

The head of the settlement agency in Toronto, Mario Calla, said that it had been relying on family doctors to find psychological help for their refugee patients, and that the organization was introducing a support group now.

In Calgary, refugee workers put extra money toward rent so that they could find Yazidis apartments close to one another, for community. In one case, 45 live on one snow-swept street in the city’s southwest quadrant. The workers put on Yazidi-only English classes for the refugees’ comfort.

Still, none of this was enough. So, in August a mental health therapist began a “wellness” program, tailor-made for the Yazidis. The women are taught basic coping strategies, like smelling essential oils and cross-body exercises, said to connect the two sides of the brain.

In November, the organization hired a third crisis counsellor to offer one-on-one therapy. Few, however, have taken her up on it — not even Jihan.

“We all have mental issues,” said Jihan, over dinner with five Yazidi neighbours. The names of seven loved ones — all taken by the Islamic State — are crudely tattooed across her chest, arms and hands.

A lack of interpreters who speak Kurmanji, the Yazidi dialect of Kurdish, has proved a hindrance, too. A year ago, before the arrival of Daesh victims, there were only 1,000 to 1,500 Yazidis in Canada, according to government estimates. Sixteen Kurmanji-speaking interpreters have been hired, but that’s not enough.

Many Yazidis refuse to speak Arabic or use translation services offered by Muslim Kurds who speak Badini, a similar dialect of Kurdish.

“My heart won’t let me tell a Muslim person what happened to me,” said Kamo, another Yazidi refugee, who survived more than slavery.

Her husband and four of her seven children were pried from her and she doesn’t know their fate. The memory of the last time she saw her eldest daughter, Suzan, brings her to tears. The 14-year-old girl was screaming as Islamic State soldiers surrounded her and stripped off her clothing, she said.

“I escaped from these people two years ago but I still feel captured,” said Kamo, 38. “My heart is not with me. It is with my kids.”

Stories like this are why the Mosaic clinic introduced workshops on something called vicarious trauma for its own staff who work with Yazidi refugees.

“I’ve never heard such depravity,” said Coaklee of the clinic. “Trying to reconcile your world view with what you are hearing, you have to change your world view. There is no justice and life isn’t fair.”

Birjandian, the chief executive officer of the Calgary immigration society, is among a crescendo of refugee workers calling on the government to expand the Yazidi resettlement program by bringing over not only spouses and dependent children of refugees but extended family members.

“Our fear is the government will be scared of this population and won’t want to touch them,” he said. “But really, this is the population we should help — if we call what we are doing a humanitarian effort.”

“They are the most traumatized,” he added, “and the most resilient.”

In Toronto, a small group of Yazidi women and teenagers gathered on a Saturday in January for their group therapy session run by One Free World International, a non-profit human rights organization that stepped in when it saw the local settlement agency wasn’t offering trauma counselling.

“I am always in pain,” said Adiba, a Yazidi who was captured by the Islamic State and sold six times before escaping. “I’m never comfortable.” She is often in tears. She contemplates suicide.

“Wherever I go, my life will be hard,” said Adiba, 28. “What I saw, it wasn’t something small or simple.”

Since she escaped, she has suffered seizure-like attacks. Normally, her family surrounds her, massaging her hands and holding her body until she calms. “We all start crying until we feel better, all together,” said her sister, Shirin.

But last September, a family friend rushed her to the nearby Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital where she was treated as a suicidal patient and restrained — her ankles and wrists bound to the hospital gurney.

“It was the lack of understanding of how to deal with sex slaves and victims of ISIS,” said Majed El Shafie, One Free World’s founder.

Full report at:

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2018/03/17/canada-struggles-as-it-opens-its-arms-to-yazidis-victims-of-daesh-brutality.html

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Mideast

 

Palestinians mark 100th day since Trump 'Nakba' move

Mar 19, 2018

Thousands of Palestinian refugees hold a protest rally in southern Lebanon to mark the hundredth day since the US president recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the "capital" of Israel.

The rally was held Sunday in the city of Sidon which hosts Ain al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, Lebanese paper The Daily Star reported.

US President Donald Trump recognized Israel’s claim to the city last December, and set in motion a decades-long frozen plan to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied holy city.

The announcement triggered an international storm and later that month, more than 120 countries voted at the United Nations General Assembly in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to drop the recognition.

Trump's announcement came as Palestinians prepared to observe the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day, or the "day of catastrophe" on which Israel was created.

"They deliberately chose a tragic day in Palestinian history, the Nakba, as an act of gratuitous cruelty adding insult to injury," senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi tweeted then.

Addressing the Sunday rally, Hamas political leader in Lebanon Ahmad Abd al-Hadi said Trump's decision had become a “weak point” of the US foreign policy.

“We believe that Lebanon’s position is to support the right of return” for Palestinian refugees, he said.

He also slammed recent remarks by Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil who proposed some Palestinian refugees lose their refugee status.

Under the plan, the Palestinians who stay outside the Lebanese territory for long or obtain foreign citizenship should be stripped of the status in order to "ease the financial burden" on UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

On January 16, the US State Department announced that Washington would hold back $65 million it had earmarked for UNRWA -- more than half its planned contribution this year -- and demanded that the agency make unspecified reforms.

In an earlier tweet, Trump said Washington had given the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but got “no appreciation or respect.”

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/19/555915/Lebanon-Palestinians-Trump-Jerusalem-Sidon

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Arab coalition to show new evidence of Iran arming Yemen’s Houthis

19 March 2018

The Arab Coalition spokesperson, Colonel Turki al-Maliki, said the coalition will hold a press conference on Monday to reveal new evidence that exposes Iran’s involvement in smuggling ballistic missiles and weapons to the Houthis.

The press conference, which will be held at 16:10 KSA time, will show the ballistic missiles which Iran smuggled to militias in Yemen and detail how Iran threatens regional and international security and spreads chaos.

The coalition has several times confirmed that Iran was arming the Houthis and that it threatens international and regional navigation. Iran, however, has repeatedly denied arming the Houthis as for instance in February it accused US Ambassador Nikki Haley of presenting “fabricated” evidence that a November 4 missile fired at Riyadh airport was Iranian-made.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/03/19/Arab-coalition-to-show-new-evidence-of-Iran-s-armament-of-Houthis.html

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Iran risks losing clout in Iraq by arresting Shiite cleric Shirazi

Ali Mamouri

March 18, 2018

The repercussions of Iran's controversial arrest of the Shiite cleric Hussein Shirazi could include a weakening of Iranian influence over Shiites in Iraq. On March 6, Iranian authorities arrested Shirazi, who was beaten and insulted in front of his father, Grand Ayatollah Sayed Sadeq Shirazi, while the Shirazis were on their way home in the city of Qom. Hussein's detention stems from a recent lecture he gave to Qom seminary students on jurisprudence in which he compared the practices of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, to those of oppressive Egyptian pharaohs who couldn't be criticized or held accountable for their actions.

Hussein Shirazi and his father hold dual citizenship in Iran as well as in Iraq, where their influence is especially strong. Their family, whose roots date back 150 years in Iraq, founded the Shirazi political movement, which has followers across the Middle East. The Shirazi movement has traditionally held that a council of Islamic jurists should be in a position of authority in a country, rather than just one supreme leader, such as has been the case with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini or Khamenei.

Iraqi demonstrations against Hussein Shirazi's arrest broke out in front of the Iranian Consulate in Karbala, the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad and near the border with Iran in Basra. The protesters shouted slogans against the Iranian regime's ongoing repression of their religious leaders in Iran, and demanded Shirazi's immediate release. They also called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his government to intervene and pressure Iran to release Shirazi.

In London, members of the Iraqi community protested in front of the Iranian Embassy. Four people were arrested after they climbed onto the porch and lowered the Iranian flag and then raised the Shirazi flag. British police intervened to restore calm.

Protests also took place in Kuwait and other Arab countries. During a demonstration in front of the Iranian Embassy in Kuwait City, Sheikh Yussef Mulla Hadi, a leader in the Shirazi movement in the country, described the Iranian regime as a dictatorship masquerading under the banner of velayet-e faqih (clerical rule) and demanded that Shiites around the world renounce it.

Sadeq Shirazi's older brother, Mohammad, was among the founders of the principle of velayet-e faqih, but the family believes Khamenei and Islamic Republic founder Khomeini have corrupted the concept. Mohammad Shirazi, who died in 2001, had called for establishing a velayet-e faqih, or council of jurists, but Khomeini advocated that ultimate authority be held by an individual.

Differences in interpretations appear to be leading to a Shirazi rejection of the concept of velayet-e faqih altogether. Hussein Shirazi now says velayet-e faqih, as implemented by Iran, enslaves the citizenry and contradicts the principles of freedom, equality and democracy

Mohammad Shirazi, who led the Shirazi movement, established his religious authority in Karbala during the 1960s and 1970s, until moving to Iran and settling in Qom in 1979. In the early 1970s, he founded the Islamic Action Organization, which supported liberation movements in the Islamic world, including that of the Palestinians. There also was a third brother, Hassan Shirazi, who was assassinated in Lebanon in 1980 because of his activities on behalf of the Shirazi movement.

Hussein Shirazi has made scathing comments against Khamenei over the years. In his most recent speech, he also criticized the brutal eight-year war (1980-88) between Iran and Iraq, which he described as a Khomeini political venture to expand Iran's Islamic Revolution. Shirazi has even gone so far as to compare Khomeini and Khamenei to the men who killed the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein, revered by Shiite Muslims as the third imam.

Mohsen Kadivar, a prominent Iranian reformist cleric and visiting professor of religious studies at Duke University, has called velayet-e faqih a religious dictatorship. He believes the unprecedented, open criticism of clerical rule by Shiite clerics could create major problems for the Iranian regime. This is especially the case because such criticism is coming from the Shirazi movement, which is so strongly associated with political Shiite Islam and so deeply tied to the establishment of Iran's velayet-e faqih. Kadivar has called on the Shirazi movement's religious jurists to produce a doctrinal theory rejecting velayet-e faqih.

Full report at:

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/03/shirazi-shiite-iran-iraq-vilayate-faqih.html

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Houthi militias kill hospitalized civilians to mask gas crisis

18 March 2018

Houthi militias killed three people and injured several others in the Yemeni province of Ibb on Saturday night.

The incident occurred after a quarrel at a gas station, which was the result of a gas crisis brewing for three weeks.

Injured civilians were transferred to a local hospital, but were stalked, kidnapped and killed by the militias.

Observers say that militias had earlier arrested dozens of people standing in long queues at gas stations in Sanaa in order to mask the gas crisis.

Citizens claim the militias’ monopolization of supplies has led to hiked gas prices. It has reached more than 9,000 Yemeni Riyals for one gas cylinder compared to only 1,100 Riyals in unoccupied area.

Statistics from a monitoring unit in the Yemeni capital suggest that 993 gas stations are under Houthi control.

As a result, people have taken to the streets, burning tyres and blocking roads in several provinces. They are condemning the Iran-backed Houthi militia for the scarce supply of cooking gas in the country.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/03/18/Houthi-militias-kill-hospitalized-civilians-to-mask-gas-crisis.html

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Israeli forces kill Palestinian man over alleged stabbing attack

Mar 18, 2018

Israeli military forces have shot and killed a young Palestinian man in the central part of the West Bank as tensions continue in the occupied Palestinian territories in the wake of US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of Israel.

Israel's internal spy agency, Shin Bet, announced in a statement that 28-year-old Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel, a resident of the northern West Bank town of Aqraba – located eighteen kilometers southeast of Nablus, stabbed and seriously injured an Israeli man along Hagai Street in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds on Sunday evening.

Israel's emergency medical service official, Magen David Adom, later said the wounded man, who is said to be approximately 30 years old, was brought to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem al-Quds in “very serious” condition.

He had sustained multiple stab wounds to the upper part of body.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the Palestinian man was quickly shot dead at the scene by an Israeli officer.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed a new wave of tension ever since Trump announced his decision on December 6 last year to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

The dramatic shift in Washington’s policy vis-à-vis the city triggered demonstrations in the occupied territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

On December 21 last year, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli “capital.”

In an attempt to avert the resolution, Trump warned that “we’re watching,” threatening reprisals against countries that backed the measure, which had earlier faced a US veto at the UN Security Council.

Israel, however, rejected the world body’s resolution while thanking Trump for his decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

On January 18, the US reneged on a December pledge to contribute $45 million in food aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which supports more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees and their descendants. The announcement came only two days after the US State Department said it would withhold another $65 million in funding to UNRWA.

The announcement to cut aid to Palestinian refugees came after the US president made a threat to cut off aid to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

In a series of tweets on January 2, Trump said that the US had paid “the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year” and yet got “no appreciation or respect.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/18/555884/Israeli-forces-kill-Palestinian-man-over-alleged-stabbing-attack

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Yemeni army liberates new positions from Iran-backed Houthis

19 March 2018

DUBAI: The Yemeni army has taken control of new positions from the Iran-backed Houthi militia, north of Al-Jawf governorate in northeastern Yemen, Saudi state-news channel Al-Ekhbariya reported.

A military source said that the army liberated a number of sites in the mountains of Dahra, Jabal Al-Mahwar, and Al-Khor and Sih, in the Directorate of Bart Al-Anan.

The source added, in a statement posted by the Yemeni Ministry of Defense’s website “September 26”, that the Arab Coalition’s Apache helicopters actively participated in the support of the army in the clashes and aided in bombing militia positions.

The source said that the Yemeni army forces are currently carrying out a siege on the militia in the “Tibat Al-Ism” camp.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1269126/middle-east

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Europe

 

Merkel faces critical test with German integration policies for Muslim refugees

March 18, 2018

BERLIN — Popular anger at her refugee policies cost German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s long-dominant conservative bloc dearly in September’s elections.

Now that Ms. Merkel has formed a government after nearly six months of rocky negotiations, it faces the monumental task of dealing with her handiwork: integrating the more than 1 million mostly Muslim refugees who have entered Germany since the chancellor opened the country’s borders in 2015.

Many say it will be a first — and possibly decisive — test for Berlin’s latest “grand coalition” government, combining Ms. Merkel’s weakened Christian Democrats with the similarly weakened center-left Social Democrats while poll numbers rise for the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party.

With President Trump and a number of anti-immigration voices within the European Union sharply critical of Ms. Merkel’s 2015 decision, how she deals with the challenge of assimilating the immigrants will likely be felt far beyond Germany’s borders.

“There might be a huge cost if [the immigrants] stay a long time and don’t integrate,” said Thomas Bauer, head of Germany’s Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, which advises the government. “If they stay several years, have access to the labor market and speak the German language, among other things, the costs are driven down.”

But a preferential asylum system, high barriers of entry to the German labor market and politicians wary of a public backlash are proving to be daunting hurdles to integration.

“There are many of us who came here with little to no education” seeking a better future, said Layla, 38, an Afghan refugee who has been in Germany for about a year. She only just started German-language classes at Yaar, an education and community center for Afghan refugees in Berlin. “I’m constantly under pressure, and that makes it harder to become a part of society.”

Ms. Merkel’s government got off to a rocky start on the immigration issue last week when Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a member of the Christian Social Union, the chancellor’s more conservative, Bavaria-based partner, told the Bild newspaper that Islam does not belong in Germany and that he was devising tougher immigration policies that include quicker deportations and designating more countries as “safe” to take back would-be asylum-seekers.

It was a direct challenge to Ms. Merkel, who has tried to straddle the line between dealing with the huge influx of Muslim refugees and the popular unease and divisions within her government on what line to take.

“There are now 4 million Muslims living in Germany, and they practice their religion here,” the chancellor told reporters Friday. “These Muslims belong to Germany, as does their religion — Islam.”

Mr. Seehofer, whose CSU party faces a tough state election this fall, said his point was only that Germany must hold on to its Christian-based traditions and customs, but Alternative for Germany officials are already claiming victory.

“Horst Seehofer has taken this message from our manifesto word for word,” Andre Poggenburg, the party’s leader in the eastern state of Saxony, told the Reuters news agency.

Uneasy welcome

Government officials processed hundreds of thousands of the asylum applications that piled up over the past three years, after millions fled to Germany from the Syrian civil war, Afghanistan and other crises. The flood declined to a trickle last year when even Ms. Merkel acknowledged political and social flaws from her open-door approach.

Even so, only some of the refugees are being welcomed permanently. Only refugees and asylum-seekers with long-term prospects of staying in Germany from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea are eligible for spots in state-run integration and language courses the day after their arrival.

Refugees from Afghanistan — the country with the second-highest number of asylum-seekers after Syria — can’t take courses until they are granted permission to stay. Germany classifies Afghanistan as a “safe country of origin” and has sent back more than 800 Afghans since 2016, according to parliamentary figures.

It can take years for some asylum-seekers to receive permission, given the backlog and appeals.

“Asylum camps all over Germany are filled with Afghan people who are still going through the process,” said Kava Spartak, director of Yaar. “Some find themselves in a situation where they’ve lived in Germany for three years without being allowed to visit a German class.”

Mr. Spartak said all newcomers should be eligible for state-funded language and integration courses on the day after they arrive. But some lawmakers dismiss that proposal as wasteful. Officials have rejected about a third of all asylum applications to the country, according to Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

But Mr. Spartak argued that leaving these applicants in limbo for so long increases the likelihood of integration failing. “In the long run, there are only disadvantages,” he said.

For those who do receive protected status and complete language and integration courses, the path isn’t any easier.

Getting one’s German up to par for even the lowliest positions takes at least six months, according to federal labor office. For professional positions and others that require high skills, it takes at least two years. State-run language classes don’t cover the level of German needed for those jobs.

Also, course plans often differ from state to state, and many instructors aren’t trained to teach German to foreigners with little to no education, said Mr. Bauer.

Figures from the Office for Migration and Refugees indicate that almost one-quarter of newcomers possess at most a primary school education. Around 80 percent of those can’t pass the minimum language test needed to get an apprenticeship or a job in Germany.

Easing the backlog

Representatives from Germany’s Federal Labor Office say the number of new arrivals has decreased to pre-2015 levels, and government institutions, civil society and businesses are beginning to accommodate newcomers more quickly and effectively.

“There was some skepticism among employers,” said Matthias Langbein of the Federal Labor Office in Berlin, who helps young refugees find jobs or apprenticeships. “But we’ve found that those companies that employ refugees have had really positive experiences and are open to more opportunities.”

Ms. Merkel’s government has pledged to ease the process for new arrivals. Her government plans to invest almost $10 billion by 2021 to support regional efforts to educate and integrate refugees and other projects.

Her government will combine those steps, however, with stricter rules for refugees seeking to bring their families to Germany from abroad and more deportations — policies that appeal to Germany’s burgeoning conservative moment.

After September’s federal elections, the Alternative for Germany became the nation’s largest opposition party. Over 1 million voters from Ms. Merkel’s conservative Christian bloc jumped ship for the AfD.

Germans who have come down from the euphoria of welcoming refugees with open arms at the start of the refugee crisis are now faced with the question of whether they should welcome all of the newcomers or just select groups, said Mr. Bauer.

“With all types of investments, there’s a risk that comes with it,” he said. “The question is: Do we want to take the risk or not?”

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/mar/18/angela-merkels-muslim-refugee-integration-tested/

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German minister criticised for saying Islam is 'not part of Germany'

March 19, 2018

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL’S hardline new interior minister declared that Islam is “not part of Germany” in an interview published on Friday, setting off a political storm two days into her fourth term.

When asked by the top-selling Bild daily whether the influx of Muslim migrants and asylum seekers to Europe’s top economy meant that Islam now belonged to the fabric of the nation, Horst Seehofer replied “no.”

“Islam is not part of Germany. Christianity has shaped Germany including Sunday as a day of rest, church holidays, and rituals such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas,” he said.

“The Muslims who live among us are naturally part of Germany. But that of course does not mean that we, out of a false sense of deference, should sacrifice our traditions and customs.”

Germany’s Muslim community is estimated to count about 4.5 million members, around 1.8 million of whom are German citizens.

Most are descendants of Turkish so-called “guest workers” invited to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s.

The community grew again with the arrival since 2015 of more than one million asylum seekers from war-torn Muslim-majority countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

‘Completely superfluous controversy’

Seehofer’s provocative comments come just 48 hours after Merkel was sworn in for a fourth term with a new right-left “grand coalition” government.

The outspoken Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, is new to the cabinet.

His expanded interior super-ministry also covers “Heimat” or homeland affairs, intended to recapture claims to patriotism and national identity from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which won nearly 13 percent of the vote in September’s general election.

Powerful conservative Wolfgang Schaeuble said in 2006 that Islam was part of Germany and Europe as interior minister in Merkel’s first cabinet, drawing little reaction.

Christian Wulff, then president of the country, revived the phrase in 2010, this time touching off a heated national debate, with right-wing conservatives accusing him of denying Germany’s Judeo-Christian roots.

Merkel has come down firmly on the side of inclusion, repeatedly stating that Islamand Muslims belonged in Germany, and vocally defending the stance at the height of the refugee influx.

Her spokesman Steffen Seibert reiterated Merkel’s stance on Friday, stressing the German constitution’s protections for religious freedom and saying the government would “expand” a dialogue with the Muslim community started by Schaeuble in 2006.

Seehofer’s comments are likely to prove divisive in the fledgling coalition, which only came together when the reluctant Social Democrats (SPD) got on board after months of political paralysis.

The premier of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil of the SPD, dismissed Seehofer’s claim and accused him of sparking “a completely superfluous controversy” for Merkel.

‘Quoted from our platform’

The head of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, said a minister who started work with such a “lack of solidarity” with minorities in Germany had “immediately disqualified” himself and acted “extremely irresponsibly”.

Juergen Trittin of the opposition Greens also sharply criticised Seehofer, saying exclusion would be “catastrophic” for integration efforts and only benefit the anti-immigration, anti-Islam AfD.

The AfD for its part welcomed the remarks, with its Saxony state leader Andre Poggenburg claiming that Seehofer had “quoted word-for-word from our platform”.

Bavaria is holding a state election in October, when the CSU is expected to face a strong challenge from the far-right.

Seehofer, the harshest critic of Merkel’s border policy within her conservative bloc, fought for and won an agreement to set a maximum target in the government coalition pact of around 200,000 new arrivals to Germany per year.

Most of those who came across the Balkans route in 2015 passed through Seehofer’s southern state of Bavaria, at times more than 10,000 a day, sparking a strong backlash in the region.

Full report at:

http://www.thejournal.ie/german-minister-criticized-for-saying-islam-is-not-part-of-germany-3908247-Mar2018/

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UK claims Russia has stockpiles of nerve gas for terror

Mar 18, 2018

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has accused Russia of stockpiling nerve agents “within the last 10 years,” to allegedly use it for assassination.

Johnson made the comments during an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marr regarding the recent poisoning case of a former Russian double agent in the English city of Salisbury.

“We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purpose of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok,” he said.

Novichok was the type of nerve agent used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the Salisbury terror case.

In response to the Russian ambassador to the EU who said, in an earlier episode of the show, that a British research laboratory could be the source of the nerve agent, Johnson described the claim as “satirical.”

Johnson said Friday that it is “overwhelmingly likely” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a nerve agent attack in southern England.

Meanwhile, experts from Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are heading to Britain on Monday to investigate samples of the toxin used to attack the Russian spy and his daughter. The incident has severely soured relations between London and Moscow.

Russia demands samples

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a televised press conference that Russia was not responsible for the poisoning and demanded that Britain seek to mediate the case under the chemical weapons convention.

“We have already made our statement on this case,” he said. “Russia is ready to cooperate in accordance with the convention to ban chemical weapons if the United Kingdom will deign to fulfill its obligations according to the same convention.”

In his remarks, Lavrov said that under the convention, Russia would have 10 days to reply to an official accusation by the UK over the use of a banned substance within its borders.

Other Russian officials have acquired a more dismissive tone.

“We have an enormous government here in Russia, it’s a global country, we have a mass of problems both internal and external,” Andrei Klimov, the deputy head of the Russian federation council’s foreign affairs committee, told The Guardian by telephone

“This entire story about your internal score-settlings and scandals doesn’t interest me.”

Meanwhile, Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, said on Sunday that Russia would not cut off energy supplies to the UK as relations deteriorate, but he warned that Moscow would retaliate further if Britain keeps ratcheting up its rhetoric. Yakovenko told the Mail that “in case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/03/18/555906/boris-johnson-andrew-Marr-Novichok-Sergei-Skripal

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Turkish embassy in Denmark attacked with petrol bombs

19 March 2018

COPENHAGEN: At least two people attacked Turkey’s embassy in Copenhagen with petrol bombs early on Monday causing some minor damage to the exterior of the building but no injuries, police in the Danish capital said.

The building was empty at the time.

Police were at the scene investigating and no one had been arrested, a police official told Reuters.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1269181/world

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/cairo-looks-to-sufi-sheikhs-to-counter-extremism/d/114645

 

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