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Christ, Mary, And the Significance of Palm Tree In Islam

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Dec 2018

People offer namaz at a public space in Gurugram. (Express Photo by Manoj Kumar)



 Christ, Mary, And the Significance of Palm Tree In Islam

 No less a Muslim in Giving Festive Greetings to Christians: DAP Adviser Lim Kit Siang

 Will Hold Firms Liable If Staff Offer Namaz in Public: Noida Police

 Christians Await Christmas in the Birthplace of Pakistan Taliban Founder, South Waziristan

 Leading Terrorist Group Warns Gazans: Celebrating Christmas Is Evil

 Middlesex Church Welcomes Its Special Muslim Visitors from a Nearby Mosque on Christmas Eve

 Myanmar’s Buddhists Block Rohingya Muslims from Blood Supplies, Report Says


Arab World

 Christ, Mary, And the Significance of Palm Tree In Islam

 Damascus Lights Up Its Biggest Christmas Tree

 Saddam Hussein’s daughter sends message to Iraqi people on his death anniversary

 Lebanese celebrate Christmas with mixed feelings

 Thousands of Civilians Fleeing Eastern Syrian

 Kurdistan Regional Government hands over 1,400 ISIS detainees to Iraqi govt

 Two Kurdish Syrian Democratic Council delegations reach Moscow

 Bahrain summons Iraqi diplomat over statements by ex-PM Maliki


Southeast Asia

 No less a Muslim in Giving Festive Greetings to Christians: DAP Adviser Lim Kit Siang

 Giant Christmas Trees Light Up Malaysian Malls, Children Line Up To Meet Santa Claus

 Johor Permaisuri: Christmas joy doesn’t make me forget Islam

 Malaysian leaders urge national unity on Christmas eve



 Will Hold Firms Liable If Staff Offer Namaz in Public: Noida Police

 Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Meets AIMLB Members, Assures Support on Triple Talaq

 Muslims are completely secure in India: Maulana Kalbe Jawwad

 India mulling to cap flow of pilgrims via Kartarpur corridor

 SC To Hear Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid Title Dispute on January 4

 Zakir Musa’s outfit hasn’t “killed any of our men: Hizb

 Militant killings in Jammu and Kashmir this year rose 70%; a steady network of informers allowed spike



 Christians Await Christmas in the Birthplace of Pakistan Taliban Founder, South Waziristan

 Fawad Warns Afghan Interior Minister against Belittling ISIS Threat

 Sindh Revenue Dept Told To Retrieve Grabbed Properties Of Minorities

 Sattar reiterates resolve to revive MQM of 1986

 Punjab CM orders foolproof security on Christmas

 Quaid-i-Azam's 142nd birthday commemorated with ceremony at mausoleum

 BNP-M leaders seek meeting with COAS over missing persons

 President, PM extend Christmas greetings



 Leading Terrorist Group Warns Gazans: Celebrating Christmas Is Evil

 Palestinians mark Christmas amid Israeli restrictions

 Israel dissolves parliament, to hold snap elections in April

 Yemeni army seizes Houthi arms warehouse in Saada, advances in Lahij

 Coalition: Houthis continue to breach Sweden agreement on Hodeidah

 Israeli forces injure dozens of Palestinians in Gaza naval march

 Turkey reinforces border with Syria as US troops poised to leave



 Middlesex Church Welcomes Its Special Muslim Visitors from a Nearby Mosque on Christmas Eve

 Muslim and Sikh Volunteers Help Spread Christmas Cheer To Some Of Britain's Most Vulnerable People

 US continues to violate UN resolutions on Syria, says Russian FM

 No one should be excluded, Russia says after report Gaddafi’s son sought its help in Libya election


South Asia

 Myanmar’s Buddhists Block Rohingya Muslims from Blood Supplies, Report Says

 Militancy-Linked Jamaat Back to Electoral Race In Bangladesh

 Islami Andolan: AL men threatening polling agents

 Taliban commander among 7 killed in Farah airstrikes

 ISIS-K group member joins peace process in Achin district of Nangarhar

 Afghan Special Forces release dramatic airstrikes video against militant leaders

 Bangladesh to seal off Rohingya camps during election



 Libyan Authorities Recover 34 Bodies of Christians from ISIS Mass Grave

 Gunmen Kill 17 in North Nigeria Village Attack

 Ugandan Christians Live In Fear of Minority Muslims on Quest for Conversions

 Sudan: President al-Bashir vows to carry out broad economic reforms

 Libyan authorities say they recover 34 bodies from Daesh mass grave

 Al Shabab bomber executed in Somalia


North America

 New York Muslims Have a New Security Patrol Group

 Trump: Saudi Arabia to pay for rebuilding Syria

 We curse them as traitors: Syrian Kurds slam US withdrawal, look for new allies

 Saudi government helped accused killer flee the US: Report

 Saudi Arabia gets armoured vehicles despite Canada's pledge to halt deal

 Trump open to meeting with Erdogan: White House

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Christ, Mary, And The Significance Of Palm Tree In Islam

24 December 2018

Anyone who visits Bani Umayya al-Kabir Mosque, or the “Umayyad Mosque” in Damascus, as it is known, can also visit the tomb of St. John the Baptist inside the mosque.

The premises contain two monuments of the church, which suggest that the mosque was built on its remnants. These two monuments are the Baptism premises – once used to baptize the babies – and a Greek engraving on the wall praising the Christ.

The prominent presence of the tomb of St. John the Baptist in one of the oldest mosques in the Islamic world indicates the position he has for Muslims and Christians alike.

Christ is a prophet in Islam and a saint for Christians. It is believed that, the Messenger of Islam, as last of all the prophets, was preceded spiritually by the other prophets.

Who were the Christian kings who fought Muslims, then became friends of Islam?

During his era, Christ established a path for the Muslims’ relationship with the sanctity of the prophets of the Jewish and Christian faiths. This was confirmed and documented by the Prophets’ lives as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and Hadeeth or the words, deeds and silent approvals of the Prophet.

Story of Christ’s birth

Surah No. 19 in the Holy Quran – named Surah Maryam – tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the only Surah named after a woman, which shows Mary’s place in Islam. This incident is repeated in a number of verses in the Qur’an.

Besides praising and honoring Maryam, it becomes most evident in Verse 42 where angels address Mary and tell her about her status for Allah.

Although Islam considers Christ a prophet, while Christians consider him the Son of God, what combines Islam and Christianity about him are the three miracles – the story of Virgin Mary, the miracle of his birth, and the miracle that he spoke in the cradle.

Verses 16-40 in Surah Maryam mentions him. It begins by mentioning the worship of Mary, her ascension and her retirement to worship under the guardianship of Zakaria, until God sent her a “spirit” in the form of man, reassuring her and preparing her that she will have a “good” son. Thus, it is believed, that with God’s miracle Maryam became pregnant.

Palm tree

Palm trees also hold a scared meaning in Islamic teachings and it is narrated that Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus under a date palm.

On the eve of Christmas, we recall mentions of the miraculous Birth of Jesus in the Holy Quran, where the narrative of Virgin Mary’s childbirth appears on several occasions.

Virgin Mary is repeatedly mentioned in the Quran, more than she was mentioned in The New Testament. The Quran narrates that Virgin Mary was experiencing childbirth pains and then saw a palm tree nearby and held on to it.

While she was holding on to the tree, Mary heard a voice telling her: “Shake the trunk of the palm-tree toward thyself and It will drop its fresh ripe dates upon thee.”

The references gives the palm tree a sacred connotation as an “ammunition” associated with Christianity and Mary in particular in Islamic culture.

Locating the tree

Renowned medieval geographer, Abu Ishaq al-Istakhri is said to have located the palm tree in Beit Lehem under which Mary gave birth to Jesus.

While Andalusian Muslim scholar Ibn Arabi, who lived during the Golden Age of Islam, says that when he visited Jerusalem he found that there was no trace of the palm tree from which Mary ate.

He recalls that pilgrims to the holy lands would seek its location to take a part of it and to be blessed by Mary. This suggests that the palm tree, Virgin Mary and the Childbirth of Jesus, all find mention in Islamic culture.

Excavations at the site in Beit Lehem during the time of the Umayyads revealed a mosaic-made floor of a church depicting three palm trees, which are believed to be references to the story of Mary.



No Less A Muslim In Giving Festive Greetings To Christians: DAP Adviser Lim Kit Siang

25 December 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 25 — DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang today said discouraging Muslims from wishing Christmas greetings went against the teachings of Islam.

While calling upon Malaysians to turn the country into one of the world's foremost nations for interfaith dialogue, understanding and tolerance, he criticised the view of PAS Youth leader Mohamad Khalil Abdul Hadi who yesterday warned Muslims not to celebrate Christmas.

“It is a primitive view which is alien to the Constitution, the Rukunegara and all the precepts to unite multiracial, multilingual, multi religious and multicultural Malaysia,” Lim said in a statement.

Lim said when notable figures such as Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PKR President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim extended their Christmas greetings to the rakyat, it did not make them become less of a Muslim as a result of such greetings to Christians.

“It is clear Mohamad Khalil has a long way to go to become a fully acceptable political leader,” he said.

Lim even cited Turkish President Recep Erdoğan's Christmas message posted on Sunday, which stressed Turkey's cultural diversity.

“Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, took part in Christmas celebrations with Christians in Amman.

“Have Erdogan, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas become less of a Muslim because of such Christmas greetings and celebrations?” he asked.

Yesterday Sinar Harian reported Muhammad Khalil as reminding Muslims not to be part of the Christmas celebration because it was an acknowledgement of the Christian religion.

“Christmas has an element of syirik (idoltary) which is against Islam’s teaching. They claim that God had a child, which is against our beliefs as Muslims.

“They celebrate Christmas with such elements and claim that Prophet Isa (Jesus) is the son of God,” he reportedly said during a lecture in Kuala Terrengganu on Sunday night.

Khalil reportedly said any non-Muslim celebration should not be celebrated by Muslims as it involves the belief of a wrong religion.

However, he said if it involves culture of a certain religion it was fine for Muslims to be part of the celebration.



Will hold firms liable if staff offer namaz in public: Noida police

December 25, 2018

In a move that has triggered concern in Noida’s industrial hub, the Uttar Pradesh Police has ordered offices and establishments to direct their Muslim employees to stop offering Friday prayers in open areas such as parks.

According to a notice issued last week by police stations in Noida, including at the Sector 58 industrial hub, companies will be held liable if their employees are found violating the directive.

It is learnt that companies in the area have sought a meeting with senior Noida police officers for clarification on the matter, particularly on the clause that threatens to hold them liable for violations of the order by employees.

Executives of some of the companies who have been served the notices said there is widespread concern among units in sectors other than where the notices have already been served. It has also sparked worries that the ambit of the directive could be widened to include other areas in the National Capital Region township. Sector 58 is predominantly an IT and services hub.

The Noida Police has defended the move citing concerns that communal harmony could be disturbed, especially in the run-up to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

“Yes, we have sent notices to many companies in our area after several complaints regarding a large number of people offering Namaz in the afternoon especially on Fridays. Since most people offering prayers are employees in companies nearby, we have sent notices to those companies to ask their employees to either offer Namaz in a Masjid, Eidgah or within the office compound on the roof etc,” said Pankaj Rai, SHO of the Sector 58 police station, from where the initial round of notices were issued.

Noida SSP, Ajay Pal Sharma, did not respond to text messages. The police notice states: “We want to inform you that there is no permission from the administration to conduct any kind of religious activity including Namaz offered on Friday in the Authority park in Sector 58. It has been often seen that the Muslim workers of your company assemble in the park to offer Namaz and I, the SHO, have told the group to not hold prayers in the park. Also, their plea to the city magistrate has not received any permission to do so.”

“Thus, it is expected from you that you at your level inform your Muslim employees to not come to the park to offer Namaz. If employees of your company come to the park, it will be assumed that you have not informed your employees and your company will be held liable.”

According to Rai, an increasing number of people offering payers had triggered the notices. “Earlier only around 10-15 people assembled in the parks to offer Friday prayers and there were no complaints regarding that. However, over the last few weeks, the numbers have risen significantly. Over the last couple of weeks, around 500-600 people assembled in the afternoon to offer Namaz and we got several complaints regarding such assembly of people in the public park,” he said.

“When we spoke to some of the attendees, we found that many of them were not even working in the companies in the area. So, what is happening is that seeing people assembling for Namaz, others are also assembling,” he said.

“The elections are approaching and there is some concern on that front too, as it may lead to some disharmony,” he said, adding that companies need not worry about the notices. “While companies can’t do anything about private matters, we expect the companies to inform their employees that the company has received a notice regarding the issue and they need to offer Namaz either in Masjids, Eidgahs or within their office premises,” he said.

Spread over 20,316 hectares, Noida has about 15,280 hectares notified for urban use. Of this, around 1,270 hectares have been developed for commercial and industrial activities. The companies that have offices in Noida include HCL Technologies, Alstom Systems, Xansa, Interra, Polaris, R Systems, RMSI, Cadence, Adobe international, TCS, ST Microelectronics, Samsung and Minda Huf.



Christians Await Christmas in the Birthplace of Pakistan Taliban Founder, South Waziristan

By Nazar Ul Islam

24 December 2018

It was December 2009, when Baitullah Mehsud revolted against the state of Pakistan and formed a notorious movement, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan [TTP], in the tribal district of South Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan and hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants rushed to Pakistan’s tribal areas for refuge. Being an old companion, Mehsud welcomed them in his constituency, which led to disturbance in the region.

Mehsud was warned several times by the government but he did not dissociate his group from the al-Qaeda and foreign militants, which prompted the military to launch operation Raah-e-Nijaat (Path to Salvation) in June 2009.

Refuge of the Church

There was fear and panic all over the region. Thousands of people fled the area, but interestingly the community of Christians preferred to stay back and prayed inside the church for safety.

Pervez Masih lives in South Waziristan’s security forces headquarters in the Wana region. He is a tailor by profession and these days with Christmas around the corner, it’s difficult for him to manage the orders.

“Everybody wants new clothes for the special occasion. We are excited for the upcoming Eve,” says Masih. He was raised and born here and says, “We feel no difference living among Muslims. In fact, we take part in the happiness and sorrows of each other,” says Masih. He adds that our Muslim friends even exchange gifts with us.

The 26-year-old says it’s not only the local people who are nice to them but the Pakistan military also takes care of them. The church and community have been fenced inside the military base where they can do their businesses and roam about freely.

Masih’s father works as a janitor in a government department. He has six brothers and sisters. All could not get education, as Masih’s father couldn’t afford their schooling.

Special occasion

“Christmas is always a special occasion for us. We have white-washed our homes and streets, lit up the Christmas tree and are buying food items to prepare it on the Eve,” say Masih. It’s not only Christians, but even Muslims like his work. He says, he makes approximately Rs20, 000 [$ 150] a month.

Haji Muhammad Din has been running a restaurant in Wana since 1972. He says the Christian community enjoys free life here. “They (Christians) are part of us. We live in peace, love and tolerance,” says Muhammad Din.

He added that they are part of every kind of gathering and there is hardly any event without their presence in the area. He says, it was the Mehsud tribe that revolted against the state and not them. For this reason, they didn’t fear anything in the region. Muhammad Din belongs to the Wazir tribe of South Waziristan.

“The US drones were a matter of concern for everyone here. It has created a lot of issues like fear, anxiety and tensions. But most of the time they take down their targets accurately,” says Muhammad Din.

Though the Christian community hasn’t faced any trouble in the area, Muhammad Din lost his only son in 2015 clashes. “I don’t know who killed him but that incident ruined my entire life,” he says.

Blacklisted over blasphemy laws

Earlier this month the US added Pakistan to its list of countries, which it says violates religious freedom. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he has designated Pakistan among countries of particular concern, in a congressionally mandated annual report.

A cleric, Zeeshan Alam, partially agrees with the US move to put Islamabad among blacklisted countries. Alam is a pastor at the South Waziristan Church who succeeded his father, Nazir Alam, in 2013.

“The government of Pakistan is always taking care of its minorities. But there are some people in the Punjab province who always exploit the law and order situation for personal gains,” he said, referring to the case of a Christian woman (Aisa Bibi) who was accused of blasphemy.

Aisa Bibi was released by the Supreme Court of Pakistan after having overturned her conviction in November. Huge protests erupted following her release across the country and the hardliners even called for the death of the judges. Although understandable, Alam still termed the US assessment of the problem in Pakistan ‘a bit exaggerated’.

“Government has ensured complete security of churches and the worship places of minorities in the country. The state can’t be held responsible for the acts of some individuals,” added Alam.

The Church has been in the region, since before the partition. It was reconstructed in 2001 by security forces for the Christian population. It has a big hall where people come for worship on Sundays and other religious events.

“The Church is inside a camp. People are safe here. They conduct their businesses without any hindrance,” says Pastor Alam. He said, there are around 500 Christians living in the area and have no issues, living along side Muslims. “It’s one of the finest examples of inter-faith harmony,” he said.

Meanwhile, it’s the Christmas season and the bazaar of Wana is packed with people belonging to the Christian community. They are busy buying various goods for the upcoming event. Guests are visiting them from other parts of the country to witness Christmas and New Year eve in the beautiful weather of Waziristan.



Leading terrorist group warns Gazans: Celebrating Christmas is Evil

December 24, 2018

The ethnic cleansing of Christians in areas of the Middle East controlled by Islamists continues.

The Gaza strip, under the control of Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad, has seen its Christian population dwindle under relentless discrimination. We wrote about the plight of Gaza Christians in August 2014, Gaza ethnic cleansing of Christians:

The ethnic cleansing of Christians in Gaza by Hamas and other Islamists is a story rarely told in Western media.

It doesn’t fit the dishonest media narrative of Hamas and its supporters being victims.

This report by Israeli channel i24 …  is from January 2014:

We covered the topic again in 2015, Falsely blaming Israel for Christianity’s collapse in Gaza and West Bank:

It’s a peculiar tradition.  As Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas, the media churns out articles blaming Israel for Christian struggles in the Holy Land….

The reality is Christian populations are cratering across the Arab and Muslim world because they are being persecuted by a slew of recognized Islamist terror organizations, not because of Israel.

The anti-Israel propaganda machine, including from Qatari-owned propaganda outlet AJ+, also complains that Gaza Christians are unable to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. But never will they admit or cover the persecution of Christians throughout not only Gaza but also the areas under control of the Palestinian authority.

This year is no exception. Other than a report (below) in the Jerusalem Post, you will find no major media coverage of threats by Islamic terrorist groups in Gaza against Christians.


A flyer featuring a burning Christmas tree and threats in Arabic forbidding the celebration of Christmas was published by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, also known as the Specialty Brigade, in Gaza ahead of the Christian holiday.

A verse from the Quran, quoted on the left side of the flyer, warns Muslims “not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people.” The brigades added that it is “absolutely forbidden” to celebrate the holidays in any capacity.

According to a government source, the flyer was aimed not only at Muslims, but also Arab Christians living in the Strip. The non-governmental organization Freedom House has regularly reported that the political rights and civil liberties of Gaza residents are severely constrained by multiple layers of interference.

The Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades is the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of armed Palestinian groups considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, and believed to be the third largest faction in Gaza after Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. The PRC is responsible for a number of terrorist attacks against Israel and has a close relationship with Hezbollah.

The flyer is in contrast to Israel’s efforts to ensure that Christians in Gaza are able to celebrate the holiday.

In a meeting with Christian leaders on December 19, Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, head of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), outlined measures the unit will be taking to allow freedom of worship, according to its website. Measures include allowing entrance into Gaza for those wishing to visit their families and permitting more flexible travel, as well as flights abroad via Ben-Gurion Airport. The measures have been in effect since the week prior to Christmas.

There are approximately 1,000 Christians living in the Gaza Strip. Some 600 individuals received special permits for the holidays, a source told The Jerusalem Post.



Middlesex Church Welcomes Its Special Muslim Visitors from a Nearby Mosque on Christmas Eve

24 Dec 2018

On Christmas Eve, churches all over the country will welcome into their midnight mass services people who rarely take part in acts of Christian worship but find candlelit carols irresistible.

In the pews of St Alban’s in North Harrow there will be a special group of visitors: about three dozen Muslims from a nearby mosque.

For the past 10 years, worshippers at the Shia Ithna’ashari Community of Middlesex have been attending midnight mass at St Alban’s as a way of meeting their neighbours and taking part in Christmas festivities.

“For us, attending midnight mass is a great chance to participate in an important part of Christmas celebrations and meet people from our local church, many of whom have become our friends,” said Miqdaad Versi, an executive committee member of SICM.

“Ten years ago, this was one of the first times we met, and now it has flourished into a much stronger and long-lasting relationship as we meet regularly, work together and organise joint events.”

The Christmas visits were initiated by young members of the mosque. The executive committee checked with the church that they would be welcome, and every year since up to 50 Muslims have attended the midnight service.

Versi said that most Muslims enjoyed Christmas celebrations and the focus on family. “There are differences in belief, of course, but in the Islamic faith Jesus is revered as a major prophet.”

Each year, the group from the mosque includes some people who have never been inside a church before. “We prepare them before the service, so they know what to expect. It’s up to individuals whether they want to sing carols or go up to the altar to be blessed. Some do, some don’t.”

The mosque also provides volunteers to local churches that provide shelter for homeless people on a rota basis over the festive period.

“We work with churches throughout the year,” said Versi. “They come to us during Ramadan for iftar [the meal that breaks the daily fast], and church leaders have spoken at the mosque.”

Kate Tuckett, the vicar of St Alban’s, said the attendance at midnight mass by members of the mosque was a “really positive sign of friendship”.

She added: “We’re delighted to welcome them. They come in a spirit of respect and their presence reinforces the strong links that have developed between our faith communities. Given the world we live in, anything we can do to foster dialogue and understanding will always be a good thing.”



Myanmar’s Buddhists block Rohingya Muslims from blood supplies, report says

By Timothy McLaughlin and

Shibani Mahtani

Dec 24, 2018

YANGON, Myanmar — One day earlier this month, a businessman turned social worker was going about a familiar and urgent task: looking for blood donors in camps crowded with Rohingya Muslims driven from their homes.

This time, Nu Maung needed three pints — one of O-positive, two of B-positive. Among those in need was a woman who had suffered complications during childbirth.

The military-led purges and abuses carried out against Myanmar’s Muslim minority Rohingya over the past year continue to yield new hardships. The blood hunt, as described by aid groups and others, offers another look at the extreme segregation Rohingya Muslims face in their country.

Rohingya are effectively blocked from accessing the blood bank in the main medical facility in the western Rakhine state, where most Rohingya live in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, according to two internal reports by a consortium of six major international aid groups.

Buddhists insist that their blood go only to other Buddhists, and the hospitals oblige, the groups say.

So men such as 48-year-old Nu Maung have to persuade fellow Muslims in these squalid camps to offer their own blood for about $10 per donation. He said he has been a donor 44 times so far.

Myanmar Navy personnel escort a group of Rohingya Muslims back to their camp in Rakhine state in November after they were caught trying to flee aboard a boat. (AFP/Getty Images)

“After making their [blood] donation, sometimes they can’t work for the next few days,” Nu Maung told The Washington Post by telephone from Sittwe, the Rakhine state capital. “So we need to support them [financially].”

Since the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya in August 2017 in a crackdown led by the Myanmar military — labeled as genocidal by some U.S. lawmakers and a U.N. fact-finding mission — the Myanmar government has been under relentless international pressure to improve conditions for the Rohingya who remain.

But one of the two reports prepared by the aid group consortium operating in Rakhine concluded that little has been done by the Myanmar government despite its claims of “significant progress” on improving conditions. A copy of the 171-page document was seen by The Post. The six aid organizations allowed access to the report on the condition that the names of the agencies not be made public.

The report, prepared in late September, even questions whether international relief groups are indirectly complicit in “continued rights violations” by maintaining their work with authorities in Rakhine and with Myanmar’s leaders, including now-tarnished Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

These groups must “consider whether they should continue working with the government in Rakhine and ... how to reduce the harm they themselves cause by remaining,” the report said.

“The dilemma is real,” said Charles Petrie, the top U.N. diplomat in Myanmar, also known as Burma, from 2003 to 2007, who is now a U.N. adviser on peace efforts. “However, it is too easy to walk away and hold the moral high ground. ... There would be no one around to provide services for these extremely vulnerable people.”

Soe Aung, Myanmar’s deputy minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, said he met with the U.N. and international aid groups recently to discuss improving conditions for the Rohingya.

“We didn’t receive any complaints [from the groups] about restrictions or segregations in the meeting,” he said. Rohingya Muslims, he said, are able to travel outside Myanmar for medical treatment and education “according to the law” and if they get necessary documentation.

He declined to comment on the issue of blood donations and said there was no specific government order to restrict them to those in the same ethnic group.

Since the August crackdown — which Myanmar authorities claim was a response to attacks by Rohingya militants — increased restrictions have been imposed on the estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Myanmar. This has complicated the minority’s already limited access to basic health care, education and their ability to continue their former livelihoods.

The aid group assessment notes that the government also has refused to address the matter of citizenship for Rohingya, who consider themselves native to the country but are seen by most in Myanmar as illegal interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.

Aid groups say they have been left without a “comprehensive understanding” of the humanitarian needs, the assessment said, and find themselves working within a system that many Rohingya are resisting.

This conundrum is clear in Sittwe General Hospital, the main medical complex in Rakhine.

The Rohingya are treated in segregated wards, are denied access to their phones and often have to bribe hospital guards and doctors for better treatment, according to a separate report on health care by the six-group consortium. The report was first published in August 2017 and updated in April. The report was not made public but was viewed by The Post.

Last month, a Rohingya man who was outside the camp perimeters after dark was hacked in the face by a police officer after an altercation, a Rohingya witness in the camp told The Post. He had a bad gash near his eye, according to a camp resident, but refused to be transferred to Sittwe General Hospital. He sought care from a pharmacist in the camp, but his wound became infected.

“The doctors and nurses [at Sittwe General Hospital] are not only unkind to the patients, they neglect the patients,” said one Rohingya man in a phone interview from his camp, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of his safety. “We are scared to go there.”

The report, as well as aid workers, also detailed the heavy financial costs for Muslim patients treated at the hospital: payments to guards and drivers to safely transport them and additional bribes to nurses and doctors for better care. A Muslim patient, the report estimated, would pay 61 percent more than a Buddhist person admitted to the hospital for five days for the same condition.

The situation is “not ideal,” said Andrew Kirkwood, director of the U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Myanmar. The government, he said, agreed to provide equal care to all patients as a condition for a U.N.-directed project to upgrade and expand the Sittwe medical facility.

He said the United Nations would “continuously assess the government’s commitment.” But he added: “We may be forced to stop our support if it benefits only one community.”

In northern Rakhine state, where destruction is widespread, access by aid groups remains severely limited. The U.N. Development Program, the U.N. refu­gee agency and the government signed a pact in early June to help improve conditions there to allow those who fled to return.

Early statements from the United Nations touted the year-long agreement, which has not been made public, as granting the agencies “effective access.”

But after six months, they have been allowed to carry out assessments in only 50 villages, according to Haoliang Xu, director of the regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific at the U.N. Development Program. Approximately 392 towns and villages out of a total of 993 in northern Rakhine were destroyed or damaged, according to U.N. estimates. Xu defended the deal as an important “confidence-building” measure that could open more opportunities to expand the work of aid groups.

The United Nations will soon begin 35 “quick impact projects” such as building roads and repairing dikes used for agricultural irrigation, Xu said in an interview.

Petrie, the U.N. official, led an internal review in 2012 into the global body’s failings in Sri Lanka, where U.N. agencies were found to be reluctant “to stand up for the rights of the people they were mandated to assist.”

He said he sees the possibility of the United Nations making similar mistakes in Myanmar.

“The U.N. is not working as a whole,” Petrie said. “If what the U.N. is doing now is all it is, then they should be severely condemned.”

Mahtani reported from Hong Kong. Cape Diamond in Yangon, Myanmar, contributed to this report.



Arab World


Damascus lights up its biggest Christmas tree

December 25, 2018

DAMASCUS: Damascus on Saturday night lit up its tallest Christmas tree in Abbasid Square amid joyous celebrations.

A Christmas scout band paraded through a number of the capital’s neighborhoods, ending in the square, which was repeatedly shelled by Daesh before the Syrian Army seized the terrorist group’s last stronghold in southern Damascus.

The band played Christmas music, and the accompanying parade gave presents to children and passersby.

Thousands of people from across Damascus gathered in Abbasid Square to watch the 30-meter-tall Christmas tree being lit up.

“My daughter was born in 2010 and has never seen Christmas in Damascus before,” Rita Shalhoub, who came with her family from the Jaramana district to witness the event, told Arab News.

“We continued to celebrate the occasion at home during the past seven years, but our celebrations were overshadowed by the pain of war and the fear of death, in addition to long, depressing power outages,” she added.

“Daesh made sure they shelled Damascus during holidays, and joy was often stolen by the horror and deaths of civilians. The streets would be empty by the end of December as most of us feared leaving our homes during the holidays.”

In early December, streets, squares, shops and homes in the cities of Homs, Aleppo, Damascus, Latakia, Tartus and Hama were decorated with Christmas lights and ornaments in preparation for Syria’s first safe holiday season since 2011.

Both Christians and Muslims look forward to celebrating the occasion, and many Muslim families decorated trees in their homes, prompting jokes on social media about Christians taking photos next to Muslims’ Christmas trees.

“Our Muslim neighbors set up better decorations than we did,” said Meray, a Christian school teacher who lives in Al-Muhajirin district in Damascus.

Electricity supply has improved so unlike previous years, people can now enjoy Christmas lights, she added.

Abu Ahmed, an electrical engineer whose son was killed three years ago in a mortar attack on Abbasid Square, said he did not think he would ever see open-air Christmas celebrations in any part of Damascus, let alone in this square, which was once one of the most dangerous parts of the city.

Reem Youssef, a Damascus-based architect, said: “What makes this year special is the safety we’re enjoying in Damascus, especially in the neighborhoods known for their Christmas celebrations and decorations before the war. This year’s celebrations remind me of Christmas before the war.”

She added: “Like Christians, Muslims in Syria anticipate this occasion and its atmosphere, and head to markets in December to shop in preparation to attend Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties in restaurants across the city.”

She said: “I believe this atmosphere reflects the safety and security that has begun to gradually return to Syria. We hope the country will soon return to its state before the war.”



Saddam Hussein’s daughter sends message to Iraqi people on his death anniversary

24 December 2018

Raghad Saddam Hussein, the eldest daughter of the former Iraqi president, recorded a voice message on the 12- year anniversary of her father’s execution last Saturday, directed to the Iraqi people.

“I wish you Iraqis that our vision for Iraq to be more secure and stable than what it is now,” she said.

“All humanitarian and moral values have been lost, and strange ideas have disseminated here and there. Extremism has reached the extent of exploiting religion as a cover to achieve sick objectives for many parties,” she added.

Raghad also condemned terrorist organizations, stating that they have carried out “inhumane and non-religious practices” in Iraq, and “undermined the Iraqi identity, destroyed civilization and tarnished a whole phase.”

Full report at:



Lebanese celebrate Christmas with mixed feelings

December 24, 2018

BEIRUT: As Lebanese prepare to celebrate Christmas, this year’s festivities are mixed with disappointment and fear that 2018 will pass without the formation of a government.

The Maronite Patriarchate’s media spokesman Walid Ghayyad told Arab News that Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi has urged Lebanese politicians in his sermons to avoid further delays to the formation of a government.

Housewife Nawal told Arab News: “We usually dedicate a big budget to buy presents during the festive season, but this year we agreed to buy gifts only for the children. The economic and political situation makes us reluctant to spend money, and we’ve decided to save our money for a rainy day.”

Toni Eid, chairman of the Beirut Traders Association, told Arab News: “The political crisis in Lebanon has had a negative impact on the economic situation. Crises aren’t new to Lebanon, but this is the first time that Lebanese feel this much distress.”

He said: “There’s a general feeling that this is a serious crisis. People are waiting for solutions, and no decisions are being made for the future. People’s spending has decreased.”

He added: “One of the indicators of economic decline is offering sales in excess of 50 percent. This doesn’t usually happen during the festive season.”

Eid said: “The middle class has declined, while the rich have maintained their place and the poor have become poorer.”

Economic reporter Danielle Daher said she noticed during her tours of markets a decline in consumer spending.

“Designer shops that sell expensive brands are almost empty,” she told Arab News, adding that families are buying “clothes instead of toys for children because the latter are expensive.”

Al-Rahi said in his Sunday sermon: “Human dignity requires the existence of social conditions that enable people to secure a dignified life. Unfortunately, political officials fail to realize this duty. They’ve been stalling the formation of the government for seven months, creating new problems every time a solution is found. In doing so, they inflict great damage on the state, causing serious financial losses and violating the dignity of the people by condemning them to more poverty, deprivation and anxiety. Do they realize that they’re committing a great crime against the state and the people? Aren’t they ashamed?”

Full report at:



Thousands of Civilians Fleeing Eastern Syrian

Dec 24, 2018

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that tens of vehicles have started relocating the fleeing people from Eastern Deir Ezzur that is under the US-backed militias' control.

It further said that this is the largest mass relocation of civilians from regions that are near ISIL's positions on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

SOHR went on to say that the vehicles have thus far transferred almost 4,000 civilians.

In the meantime, people in the border town of Qamishli in Northern Hasaka poured into the streets and demanded the Syrian Army to enter their town, local sources disclosed.

Also, sources in Deir Ezzur reported that the Damascus forces are preparing to kick off major operation against ISIL.  

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the operation in Northern Syria would continue until the last of the terrorists cleared, adding that US President Donald Trump had given a positive response to Ankara's operation East of the Euphrates.

Turkey would launch a military operation East of the Euphrates River "any moment now", Erdogan stated at the mass opening ceremony at Mevlana Square in central Konya province on Monday, Middle East News reported.

Erdogan said the army completed preparations for the planned operation, adding that Turkey will do "what is necessary" regarding terror corridors East of the Euphrates River.

"We talked to [US President Donald] Trump. These terrorists have to leave areas East of the Euphrates. If they do not leave, we will dispatch them. Because they are disturbing us," he stressed.

Erdogan announced that Trump gave a positive response to Turkey's operation.

Earlier, US intelligence and diplomatic officials have urged the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SMDK) not to support the planned Turkish military operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) East of the Euphrates River.

Two days ago Erdogan and Trump discussed over the phone the future military operation in the East of Syria and agreed to coordinate military actions on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Washington was considering pulling its troops out of Syria. Washington is yet to comment on the statement.

Full report at:



Kurdistan Regional Government hands over 1,400 ISIS detainees to Iraqi govt

24 December 2018

After forming a joint judicial committee, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) handed over about 1,400 detainees belonging to ISIS to the federal government in preparation for the extradition of more.

Dindar Zebari, the KRG coordinator for international advocacy said in a press release that Erbil has begun handing over detainees to Baghdad, adding that they were mostly from the governorates of Anbar, Saladin, Diyala and al-Hawija.

Zebari stated that the joint committee was formed with the federal government to tackle this issue, adding that all the detained individuals were investigated, but no court ruling was carried out against them by the KRG’s judiciary.

Zebari said that the KRG’s processes with the arrests are clear, indicating that the investigations are based on evidence, in addition to confessions by the accused, unlike what the Human Rights Watch reported, which is that the arrests are based on forced confessions, not hard evidence.

In a report published on Sunday, the Human Rights Watch said that Arab detainees serving their sentences in the Kurdistan region for their connection to ISIS face the risk of re-arrest after their release if they try to reunite with their families in areas controlled by Baghdad.

In response to the report that stated that the problem stems from a lack of coordination between the separate judicial systems of the KRG and the Iraqi government, Zebari said: “A joint committee of the highest judicial authorities has been formed, headed by the heads of three appeals courts in order to exchange information.”

Full report at:



Two Kurdish Syrian Democratic Council delegations reach Moscow

24 December 2018

Two delegations from the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) arrived in the Russian capital and are expected to meet with Russian officials on Monday, official sources in Moscow told Al Arabiya English.

“There are two Kurdish delegations that arrived in Moscow, one of them is scheduled to meet with officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday afternoon,” one of the sources said.

While Kamal Akef, the spokesman of the Diplomatic Relations Center of the Democratic Society Movement, did not provide any details about the visit, he confirmed to Al Arabiya that there is an SDC delegation in Moscow, adding that “both parties did not reach an agreement yet.”

High-level sources from the joint presidency of the SDC pointed out that the delegation, which arrived in Moscow “days ago” is headed by Dr. Abdul Karim Omar, the co-chair of the Foreign Relations Commission in north Syria.

Moscow is the second capital after Paris, which served as a meeting point for SDC representatives since the White House last week announced the withdrawal of its military forces from Syria in a period of 60 to 100 days.

Meanwhile, sources said that another SDC delegation is headed to the Russian Khmeimim airbase.

A source from Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had also confirmed that “a meeting between SDC forces and Russian authorities will happen in the coming hours in Moscow.”

“The core of these meetings is to discuss the future of the area east of the Euphrates River which poses a threat to Ankara,” he added.

According to the observatory, Russia made an offer to the SDC that guarantees the spread of border guards loyal to the Assad regime along the border with Turkey in areas under its control.

The SDC has not yet agreed to this offer.

According to sources, the SDC rejects posting more regime forces, and wants official border guards under Russian auspices.

Full report at:



Bahrain summons Iraqi diplomat over statements by ex-PM Maliki

24 December 2018

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry summoned the deputy charge d’affaires of the embassy of Iraq on Monday to denounce footage of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s making statements that Bahrain said are a clear and rejected interference in the country’s internal affairs.

Maliki who now heads an Iraqi coalition called “the State of Law”, attended a meeting last week organized by the February 14 movement, a Bahraini activist group which Manama designated a terrorist group in 2014.

Bahrain described Maliki’s statements as “blatant and unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain”, state news agency (BNA) reported.

“(A Bahraini official) described Maliki’s attitude as a clear solidarity with those who seek to spread chaos, violence and terrorism and exhibit hatred,” BNA said.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment but it was expected to issue a statement.

Bahraini Undersecretary of Regional & GCC Affairs, Waheed Mubarak Sayyar expressed to the Iraqi diplomat Bahrain’s strong dismissal and disapproval of the statements issued by Maliki.

Sayyar told the Iraqi diplomat that such irresponsible statements represent a clear violation of the international conventions and principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, BNA reported.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Giant Christmas Trees Light Up Malaysian Malls, Children Line Up To Meet Santa Claus

December 25, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Giant Christmas trees light up Malaysian malls, children line up to meet Santa Claus in his snowy grotto and marvel at the snowmen and reindeer.

Originally a way of brightening the dreary, dark and freezing north European winter and driving the gloom away, mid-winter festivals have cheered people for centuries.

Tropical Malaysia, not known for its snowy winters, enjoys Christmas as much as the shivering northern tribes and the rest of the world do. Not as a religious festival but as a time to celebrate the promise of better weather with friends and family. And some time off work never goes amiss. Religion is really just an optional extra nowadays.

In fact the passing of midwinter, marked by the shortest day (December 22, this year), was a cause for celebration long before Christianity usurped it for its own festival.

The festival, sometimes called Yuletide, marks the German feast of the winter solstice, the coldest, darkest time of the year.

Trees that remained green at this time were very significant to pre-Christian people. The Christmas tree remains a focal point for modern family celebrations.

Christmas is an increasingly secular holiday around the world enjoyed by billions, with the emphasis being on delighting children at family get-togethers. For some it remains a Christian religious festival.

Jesus is of course a prophet of Islam, so celebrating his notional birth date ought not to be frowned upon by the faithful.

Despite its Christian origins, many adherents of other religions including these Muslim converts believe that a change of religion shouldn’t stop people from celebrating the joyous occasion with their family.

Marketing executive Melinda Wong, 30, who converted to Islam in January 2017, believes that Christmas is about bonding with family members normally separated across the world due to work and other commitments.

Experiencing Islam for eight years before marrying her husband, Wong told FMT that Christmas should be celebrated by all races and religions in Malaysia, not from a religious perspective but as a festival of harmony.

“Christmas may be celebrated by Christians worldwide, but it is also about family and friends gathering and spending time together. Muslims celebrate Hari Raya, or Eid, and invite people of all religions to celebrate together, so why would Christmas be any different?” she said.

Wong said her family’s tradition at Christmas has always been simple. They gather together and enjoy good food before exchanging presents as a sign of appreciation for one another.

“My parents live in Perak and my younger sister works in Singapore so we don’t see each other much. Christmas is one of the holidays when we’re able to get together as a whole family,” she said.

Mohd Farid Abdullah who embraced Islam 44 years ago, said he still looks forward to spending Christmas every year with his family and his non-Muslim siblings.

“Every Christmas Day, I take my family to my sister’s house in Damansara to celebrate with them. This has been our annual routine ever since I got married and had kids. Even now, my grandchildren are part of the tradition too.

“I love seeing my grandchildren happy, especially when they help their aunt decorate the tree and put the presents underneath. This is not religious, just a wonderful family tradition,” he told FMT.

Looking back, the 79-year old retiree said that there was never any hostility or resistance from his Christian family when he converted. He admitted however that there were a few awkward moments during the process, especially concerning meals.

“It got better year by year especially when we had our kids. My advice to new converts is to always stay positive. It might not be easy at first, but the love and understanding of your family will always carry you through in the end,” he said.

Clement Loh, 31, said his decision to embrace Islam didn’t encounter much resistance from his family.

The Sabahan, who converted in 2017, nine months before he married his Muslim wife, said that he faced more challenges from the wider society than his family.

Loh, the second child of four siblings, was the second to convert to Islam, following his younger sister. This year he will be flying off to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, with his wife to spend his second Christmas as a Muslim with the entire family.

He said he always looks forward to the reunion. Following a feast of fresh Sabahan seafood, the family usually shares coffee in the garden.

“Some Malaysians tend to be judgmental, especially if it involves the colour of your skin. Some even ask if I am a Malay now that I’ve converted. They are always curious and tend to ask me why I have never changed my name since embracing Islam.

“I treasure my name as it was the first gift from my parents, who nurtured and raised me to be who I am today. We may change our religion but it does not change our roots,” he said.

“In most places, a name is treated simply as cultural lineage and has nothing to do with a person’s religion. We should understand that race does not dictate religion.”

These converts all agree that Christmas is about forgiveness, giving and love for all humanity. All Muslims, whether born or converted, should be able to relate to that.

As even the most irreligious of us joyfully sing at this time of year: Goodwill to all mankind.



Johor Permaisuri: Christmas joy doesn’t make me forget Islam

24 December 2018

By Ben Tan

JOHOR BARU, Dec 24 — In a unique Christmas message, the Permaisuri of Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah reminded Malaysians today that everyone has a right to celebrate their own festive holidays.

“Instead of seeing shadows when there are none, I feel — as do my husband and our family — that everyone has a right to celebrate their festive holidays,” she said, referring to Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar.

The queen consort’s Christmas message, posted on the Johor royal family’s official website yesterday, was based on her current view and also fondly recalled her years spent in a boarding school in England.

She shared her experience as a teenage student where she celebrated Christmas along with her Christian schoolmates while not neglecting her faith as a Muslim.

“The memories have little to do with the Christian religion but more with friendships forged with English girls who welcomed me without questioning my race or faith.

“I also remember being in charge of decorating the Christmas tree in our boarding house not because our housemistress wanted me to stray away from my Muslim faith but because she considered me as one of the more artistic and creative girls under her care. “She knew about the tasbih I kept under my pillow, and the Quran I had brought with me. Both were constant reminders of home and my faith,” she narrated.

The 59-year-old, who now visits the United Kingdom as a tourist, said that people of different faiths can respect the celebration of another faith’s festive holiday without losing their own.

“Have I forgotten about Allah and being a Muslim because I am in London during the days before Christmas? The answer is a simple ‘no’.

“As I walk along the streets of London thronged with shoppers buying Christmas gifts for their families, or tourists like me who are enjoying the cold weather and looking at London landmarks, I think how wonderful it is for everyone to share in looking at beautiful lights and hearing melodious Christmas songs being sung by choirs almost at every corner we turn.

“I compare myself here with tourists in Malaysia before Hari Raya when shopping malls are filled with Muslims busy buying Raya clothes. It is really not that different,” she added.

Towards the end of her message, Raja Zarith Sofiah said the Sultan of Johor, her family and herself would like to wish everyone celebrating Christmas a happy and memorable time with their families and friends.

In 2016, Raja Zarith Sofiah had expressed her views that such a simple Christmas greeting — one which she grew up with and had never regarded as something that would compromise or devalue her own faith — is now regarded as something so religiously incorrect for Malaysian-Muslims.

Full report at:



Malaysian leaders urge national unity on Christmas eve

24 Dec 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian leaders have called for national unity and religious tolerance on Christmas eve.

This comes after racial divisions were laid bare following the recent riots at a Hindu temple in Selangor, as well as an anti-International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur.


Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday (Dec 24) that "Malaysia is a peaceful country where people from all races and religions come together to celebrate each other’s holiday festivities".

"I hope this mutual regard will continue, and passed on to the younger generation. This is what made Malaysia unique, united and strong," Mahathir said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that Malaysians should continue to cherish the respect, understanding and love among the different groups in society.

“United we stand, divided we fall. Instead of focusing on the negative, let us all look at all the positive that far outweigh the former,” she said.

She noted that in Islam, it is compulsory to be tolerant towards one another.

Verses eight and nine in the Surah al-Mumtahanah (the 60th chapter of the Quran) encourage Muslims to be just and kind to non-Muslims who are not the enemies of Muslims, she added.

“Consider this my personal Christmas card to every single one of you celebrating Christmas this year. May you have a wonderful and joyous celebration. Happy holidays,’ she said.


In the same vein, finance minister Lim Guan Eng said that the country’s economy can only be strong if Malaysians unite and reject extremism.

“The new Pakatan Harapan federal government under the leadership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is committed towards representing all Malaysians regardless of demography or geography,” he was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail.

He also accused the opposition of “abandoning the political centre and adopting a racist line or extremist position based on religion”.

“Not only do non-Muslims and non-Malays not be given the right to serve as ministers, but their rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution will be further undermined and diminished to the extent that Christmas celebrations is unacceptable,” the minister claimed.


Fears of racial and religious tension have grown after riots at a Hindu temple in Subang Jaya last month.

The temple administration committee and the developer, One City Development, are in dispute over the piece of the land on which the temple stands.

A firefighter suffered serious injuries while he was part of a team responding to a fire in front of the temple. Rioters allegedly pulled him out of his vehicle and attacked him. He died last week.

There have been growing calls for Minister of National Unity and Social Well-being Waytha Moorthy to be sacked, as he was among a group of ministers who publicly blamed the police for failing to keep order, just before the attack on the firefighter.

More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition calling for his removal.

Non-governmental organisations, however, submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office on Monday, in support of Mr Moorthy.

On Dec 8, the opposition organised a huge rally in Kuala Lumpur against ICERD, a United Nations Convention that condemns discrimination and calls upon states to pursue a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms.

In September, Mahathir told the United Nations General Assembly that Malaysia would ratify the convention. However, Putrajaya backpedaled on its decision in November, as ratifying ICERD would require a two-thirds majority in parliament to amend the Federal Constitution.

Meanwhile, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia’s (PAS) youth chief was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian daily that Christmas has elements of “syirik” (idolatry).

Therefore, Muslims are forbidden from celebrating it, including extending Christmas greetings on social media, said Mr Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi.

This drew a stern rebuke from Democratic Action Party veteran Lim Kit Siang.

In a statement on Monday, he said this is not the first time PAS has propagated “toxic politics of lies, hate, fear, race and religion”.

Full report at:





Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Meets AIMLB Members, Assures Support on Triple Talaq

Dec 25, 2018

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Monday met a delegation of All India Muslim Law Board (AIMLB) members and assured them all support in their fight against the proposed Muslim Women Bill (Triple Talaq) 2018 in the Parliament.

The Muslim delegation complained that the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to get political mileage by changing the Muslim marriage system which has been in practice for the past 1400 years.

The delegation members claimed that a majority of political parties are opposing the proposed Muslim Women Bill 2018. They said that the proposed Bill, which paves the way for punishing Muslim husbands in case of triple talaq, is a violation of human rights and is also against the principles of the Constitution.

The delegation comprised of Moulana Khalid Saifullah, Jaffer Jilani, Umrain Mahepuj, women’s wing chief organiser Dr Asma Jahera, Moulana Abdul Basit, Moulana Asif Nadvi, Muft Md Farooqi Khasmi and Saida Ayesha. They urged Naidu to protect the interests of Indian Muslims by opposing the proposed Muslim Women Bill 2018 coming before Parliament on December 27.



Muslims are completely secure in India: Maulana Kalbe Jawwad

by Rasia Hashmi

Dec 24, 2018

Jaunpur: Muslims are completely secure in India. The remarks made by film actor Naseeruddin Shah and other Muslim actors are irresponsible. Though some incidents have occurred but compared to the situation across the globe, Muslims are completely secure in India. These views were expressed by Maulana Kalbe Jawwad on Sunday.

Speaking to journalists, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad said Muslims are living a far better life in India than Islamic countries, like Syria, Palestine, Pakistan and other countries where Muslims are killed.

Full report at:



India mulling to cap flow of pilgrims via Kartarpur corridor


December 24, 2018

NEW DELHI: Indian news reports say that New Delhi is not only planning to cap the number of visitors per day but also fix a time limit in which pilgrims must finish the pilgrimage.

Last month, Pakistan and India opened the Kartarpur corridor — a border corridor that connects the Sikh shrine of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib, located on the Indian side of Punjab province, with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartar on the Pakistani side of the border.

The major part of the over 4-km-long border is in Pakistan where both Islamabad and New Delhi are building the visa-free corridor on their respective sides. The corridor will facilitate the easy movement of Sikh pilgrims from India to the resting place of Guru Nanak in Kartarpur.

An attempt to reach out to the Indian Foreign Ministry and the Home Ministry was unsuccessful.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, says that India must be “doubly cautious that such places of religious significance are not used by vested interests to launch their own propaganda that seeks to foment trouble in India.”

“We have already seen that those championing Khalistan separatist movement in Punjab find favor in the Pakistani establishment,” said Sudesh Verma, the national spokesperson of the BJP.

“India has to protect its legitimate self-interest,” Verma said to justify the proposed restriction on pilgrims going to the other side of the border.

Talking to Arab News, Verma said: “Vested interests have often tried to use religion to justify militancy and terrorism. India knows this since it suffered due to terrorist activities in Punjab in the 1980s.”

“But Sikhs in India have rejected terrorism and decided to march ahead in peace and harmony with other communities,” added Verma.

However, Shiromani  Akali Dal (SAD), a Punjab-based regional party and one of the oldest BJP allies, said: “Too many restrictions should not be put on pilgrims.”

“Security concerns need to be appreciated no doubt, but efforts should also be made so that too many restrictions are not imposed on the pilgrims and they are able to visit comfortably,” said Dr. Daljit Cheema, spokesperson of the SAD.

The Congress Party, which rules Punjab, said that “too many restrictions will discourage tourists and pilgrims.”

“I feel that if you put a cap on the number of visitors per day, people will be discouraged. Their sentiments would be hurt,” said Sukhjinder Randhawa, a senior leader of the Congress Party.

“The government should not limit the pilgrim flow. If Pakistan does not have any problem, then we should also not have any problem. There would be a corridor from one side and a return way from the other side,” Randhawa told Arab News.

“Khalistan is just a mirage. People in Punjab don’t support Khalistan separatism. There might be some people supported by agencies who talk about Khalistan but they don’t enjoy popular support. Those who are sitting in a foreign land can say anything but no Sikh in Punjab wants Khalistan,” added the Congress leader.

Professor of political analysis Ronki Ram of Punjab University underlines that Pakistan understands the implications of instigating Khalistan separatism. "It knows such acts will further undermine its status in the international community. I don’t think Islamabad will  indulge openly in divisive politics,” he said.

“At this moment the issue of regulating the movement through the corridor is a part of the larger political calculations borne out of mistrust that afflicts both India and Pakistan. In that situation, it would not be easy to allow people's free movement," Ram added.

Punjab-based senior journalist Ravinder Singh Robin said: “Both the countries are now riding on a tiger so far as the Kartarpur corridor is concerned."

Full report at:



SC to hear Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid title dispute on January 4

DECEMBER 24, 2018

Appeals are listed before a Bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.K. Kaul

The volatile Ayodhya dispute appeals have been listed before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India on January 4, 2019.

The Supreme Court’s main cause list for January 4 shows that an application for early hearing and the appeals are listed before a Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.K. Kaul. On October 29, a three-judge Bench led by Justice Gogoi had ordered the appeals to be listed in January 2019 before an appropriate Bench to fix a date for hearing.

The October order had come when the parties had sought an early hearing. At the time, Justice Gogoi had orally told them that the decision when to start hearing the appeals would be in the realm of discretion of the “appropriate Bench” before which the matter would come up in January.

“We have our own priorities... whether hearing would take place in January, March or April would be decided by an appropriate Bench,” the Chief Justice had remarked.

Majority opinion

On September 27, the apex court, in a majority opinion, had declined the plea made by Islamic bodies and individuals to refer the question as to whether prayer in a mosque is an essential part of Islam to a seven-judge Constitution Bench.

The majority verdict, in its last paragraph, had further directed the Supreme Court to start hearing the pending cases from October 29. This direction had triggered questions whether the court intended to deliver a judgment in the appeals before the May 2019 elections.

In 2017, when the court had started to hear the appeals after a hiatus of over seven years, senior advocate Kapil Sibal had suggested it to adjourn the hearings to after the general elections in May 2019.

HC verdict

Full report at:



Zakir Musa’s outfit hasn’t “killed any of our men: Hizb

December 25, 2018

SRINAGAR: Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Riyaz Naikoo, has released an audio where he can be heard saying that Hizb is not against Zakir Musa’s Ansar Gazwatul Hind (AGH).

Audio is viral on social media, Naikoo can be heard saying that Musa hasn’t “killed any of our men, as militants are not aware of the location of other militants.”

“Whosoever is circulating videos claiming that Musa-led Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH) is responsible for killing of Hizb’s militants is ‘an Indian agent’,” he can be heard saying.

“We are not against Zakir Musa, He has not got any of our men killed, as none of the Militants are aware of the location of other Militants. The video being circulated against Zakir Musa and claiming that he is responsible for getting the Hizb ul Mujahideen men killed has no association with us, whosoever is spreading the messages against Musa is an Indian agent,” Naikoo is heard saying in this fresh audio.

He is heard saying that someone had issued an audio few months back saying that, “We are from the Musa group and we will ensure every other group is eliminated,” Naikoo ridiculed the audios and videos and said it is a plan of Indian agencies to divide Militants.

In the released audio, the commander of Hizb also adds that militants cannot be divided by these tactics. “We might have issues with some militants, but that does not mean we are at loggerheads with each other,” he says.

Full report at:



Militant killings in Jammu and Kashmir this year rose 70%; a steady network of informers allowed spike

Sameer Yasir

Dec 24, 2018

In the three decades of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, never has the unrest been so personal and so dangerously fought as it is today. In the bouts of violence that erupt every now and then in the Valley, only a blurry distinction remains between militants, government forces and protesters. This year, militants were slaughtered like sheep, one after another, and at regular intervals, taking the toll to the highest in a decade.

Most of the militants died in lopsided gunbattles. In 95 percent of the encounters, they failed to inflict any casualty on the security forces. Since June, hardly a week has gone by without a militant casualty. Till 23 December, at least 247 militants were killed — a 70 percent jump from the figure at this time last year — most of them from Kashmir and nearly all of them too poorly trained to understand the intricacies of guerrilla warfare.

Clashes between security forces and protesters also worsened in recent months, pushing the region into a vortex of violence. Sympathisers try hard to give the trapped militants a chance at survival by pelting stones at security forces. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir had said in Parliament that as many as 759 incidents of stone-pelting were reported over the year. These clashes have proved deadly as this year alone, 59 civilians were killed in firing by security forces near encounter sites.

While the civilian casualties has angered people, the killing of militants has become easier over time. For instance, in one case in Shopian, a counterinsurgency police officer climbed up a wooden staircase without any protective gear, pushed his AK-47 through the window of the house and moved his gun around with his finger on the trigger. He continued to fire till the three armed militants inside were killed. Most of these one-sided firefights don't last even an hour.

But it would be a mistake to believe that a militancy-free Kashmir would be possible in 2019. In fact, there are fears that the situation may go from bad to worse. As repression grows and a political solution evades this raging conflict, positions have hardened, and more boys are adopting the path of violence. According to officials, 176 Kashmiri youngsters crossed over to insurgency this year.

As against the claims of officials, Kashmiri youngsters continue to be recruited into militant ranks, which is a cause for worry for the security establishment. In the absence of a political outreach, the sense of alienation among people in Kashmir has only increased. The killings, as a top officer of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, told this reporter, are "not the answer".

"Militants are showing their presence whether by getting killed in encounters or attacking security forces," he said. "The answer is in somehow getting these boys out of the woods and making them understand that violence is not the answer... A proper rehabilitation policy accompanied by political engagement can help in the long run."

As was seen in the early 1990s, a unique phenomenon took place last year, wherein all militant groups — including the Hizbul Mujahideen — designated a commander for nearly every district in Kashmir. Security forces have killed nearly all but three of these commanders: Reyaz Naikoo, the operational chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Zeenat ul Islam, another top Hizbul commander, and Zakir Musa, the head of the Al-Qaeda linked Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind.

"This is a major achievement for security forces, which became possible because of a strong network of human intelligence. Despite informers being killed, the inflow of intelligence has not stopped at all," the police officer said.

On Saturday, six militants were killed in an orchard in Pulwama's Tral area. The police said this would have been impossible without the facilitation of local informers. "Make no mistake, while there is overwhelming support for militancy, there are also those who are ready to put their neck out and provide intelligence about militants in South Kashmir," the officer emphasised.

A policeman, an army soldier or a paramilitary trooper can only kill a militant if the intelligence provided is reliable, accurate and comes at a suitable time. The staggeringly high number of militants killed would have been impossible if local informers had not provided the information that led to these encounters.

In one case, an army officer based in South Kashmir said a teenage boy who works as an informer had called to say he had seen a stranger in a lane going to his house. When the forces arrived 15 minutes later, they had killed two boys in a graveyard. Militants killed the teenage informer a few days later.

The fight has become so close that an informer knows an overground worker and vice versa. On the streets of South Kashmir, people know who was responsible for whose killing. They also know who is likely to become a militant and why. But the continuing killings have not become a deterrent. Instead, there is a debate on whether militants are killed for the sake of rewards.

As former state finance minister Dr Haseeb Drabu, who has a close perspective on the conflict economy, wrote in a stinging article for The Indian Express, militant killing has become "key axiom on which the state paradigm of tackling militants is built".

Full report at:





Fawad warns Afghan interior minister against belittling ISIS threat

DECEMBER 25, 2018

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Monday warned the newly appointed interior minister of Afghanistan against trivialising the threat from the Daesh militant group, saying the minister needed a reality check.

In a Twitter post, Chaudhry said it was time for the minister to “get real” and decide whether he wanted Pakistan as a partner or as a scapegoat for Afghan government’s failures.

“Trivializing the threat of ISIS is to live in [cuckooland], the new Afghan interior minister needs a reality check. Decide if you want Pakistan as a partner or as a scapegoat for your own govt’s failures. Mr. Minister! Time to get real and give up phantom thoughts from a paranoid mind,” the info minister wrote.

Amrullah Saleh, who served as National Directorate for Security (NDS) chief until 2008, was appointed acting interior minister of Afghanistan on Sunday, in a step that could affect both next year’s presidential election and moves toward peace with the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also named Asadullah Khalid, who suffered horrific injuries in a Taliban suicide attack shortly after taking over the NDS in 2012, as acting defense minister.

Both men, veterans of decades of conflict in Afghanistan, have been uncompromising opponents of the Taliban and of Pakistan.

The appointments come at a critical time, with elections due in April and talks between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives over a possible peace deal expected to continue in January following three meetings this year.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met Ghani during a visit to Kabul. His visit is part of the first leg of a four-nation tour as part of the government’s policy of outreach in the neighbourhood.

Qureshi also held delegation-level talks with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani.



Sindh revenue dept told to retrieve grabbed properties of minorities

December 25, 2018

LAHORE: Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on Monday ordered the Sindh revenue department to immediately retrieve encroached properties belonging to Hindu or any other minority community.

The chief justice was hearing a suo motu matter at the Lahore registry relating to encroachment of properties owned by the Hindu community.

Representing the community, MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar appeared before a two-judge bench and submitted a report about encroached land in different areas of Sindh including Mithi, Larkana, Kashmore and Sukkur.

A law officer of Sindh told the bench that there were cases pending before different civil courts regarding the ownership of the properties in question.

At this, the CJP directed the tehsildars concerned to take possession of the properties with undisputed titles and directed the civil courts to decide the pending cases within six months.

Full report at:



Sattar reiterates resolve to revive MQM of 1986

December 25, 2018

HYDERABAD: Estran­ged Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Dr Farooq Sattar has said that he would soon start contacting political and non-political figures for the establishment of a new entity — Muttahida Qaumi Council/Forum — to restore the MQM of 1986 which comprised Afaq Ahmed Khan, Anis Qaimkhani and Mustafa Kamal.

“The move is aimed at resolving issues of urban Sindh with the same unity that was MQM’s hallmark,” he added.

Dr Sattar was speaking to the media after condoling the recent death of noted academician Prof Idris Khan, in Latifabad on Monday.

Prof Khan, who studied in Govt College Kali Mori and was appointed as a lecturer in 1970, died on Thursday. Considered by the local teaching community as ‘teacher of teachers’, he had also served as director of colleges, Hyderabad, and retired in 2001.

Dr Farooq Sattar spoke to the media at length about the issues relating to the MQM-P and on political situation in the country.

He reiterated his determination to reunite the MQM-P and “make it corruption-free” ensuring that its leaders submit their assets in the ‘court of workers’.

He said that current performance of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf proved that it was no longer the ‘third option’ for people as was being projected by the party. He believed that like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), PTI would also carry a similar baggage of allegations being carried by the two major parties.

He observed that PTI’s way of governance was not much different from its predecessors. He called for across the board accountability in which justice should be seen to have been done.

Dr Sattar said that plunder could be eradicated from Pakistan if dynastic politics and politics of electables was put to an end. Unfortunately, he said, PTI was not doing this as electables, and feudal lords were still being inducted in governance.

He said that the ORC (organisation restoration committee) he had founded after his expulsion from the party wanted intra party election. He stressed that until and unless parties introduced a check and balance, corruption could not be eliminated.

He labelled MQM-P leaders as ‘usurpers’, and said that in collusion with the coordination committee members, they sabotaged his attempt to ensure such accountability. He said everyone must face accountability be it he himself, Amir Khan or Kanwar Naveed. “They will have to disclose their assets before workers,” he added.

Dr Sattar said he would move court against termination of his basic membership as well as against judgement on his party position but nobody could stop him from voting for the MQM or raising its slogan. “MQM’s soul is with me and the body is [with] Bahadurabad,” he said.

He said the way PTI lost LG by-poll on Sunday in an area falling within the NA-245 constituency, showed that its win in the July 25 elections was facilitated.

He observed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) kept sleeping for eight years and become active only in the last two years. He asked why didn’t the PML-N and PPP make NAB autonomous and independent and its law law effective.

Full report at:



Punjab CM orders foolproof security on Christmas

December 25, 2018

LAHORE: Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has directed to ensure foolproof security arrangements for the celebrations planned on birth anniversary of Founder of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Christmas.

In a statement issued here on Monday, he said that full opportunities will be provided to the Christian community so that they could celebrate their Christmas festival in a peaceful and conducive manner. Every possible step should be taken for the protection of life and property of the people and complete implementation of the plan devised for the security of 25th December should be ensured, he added. Nothing is more important than the protection of life and property of the people. Special attention should be paid on the security of churches, bazaars and public parks and additional force should be deployed wherever needed.

Full report at:



Quaid-i-Azam's 142nd birthday commemorated with ceremony at mausoleum

December 25, 2018

A change of guard ceremony was held on Tuesday at the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi to commemorate his 142nd birthday.

Pakistan Military Academy Kakul cadets took over guard duties from the Pakistan Air Force, Radio Pakistan reported.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Shah and Governor Imran Ismail will also visit the mausoleum to pay homage to the nation's founder, the report added.

Special ceremonies will be held by government departments, social organisations and academic institutions to commemorate the occasion. It is a public holiday today and the national flag will be hoisted atop all public and private buildings.

The nation is also observing Jinnah's birthday with zeal and enthusiasm.

President, prime minister pay tribute to the Quaid

Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi also issued special messages to the nation on the occasion.

The president, in his statement, paid tribute to Jinnah's efforts to create a separate homeland for Muslims "where they could spend their lives in accordance with their own custom and their traditions".

He urged the nation to "work tirelessly — individually as well as collectively — in the service of our great country, in line with the Quaid’s vision".

"[Jinnah] steered the Muslims of the sub-continent during the most tumultuous times and enabled them to withstand heavy odds and to achieve independence through a democratic struggle," President Alvi said in his statement.

"Quaid-i-Azam’s vision and thoughts are as relevant today as they were seven decades ago... By the grace of Allah Almighty our country has embarked upon the path to progress and development as envisioned by Father of the Nation. Today, we are not only paying homage to the memory of our great leader but also reaffirm our faith in his teachings."

He also asked the nation to vow that the "mistakes of past shall never be repeated".

"We all will work as one nation to transform vision of the Quaid into reality and take the country to its rightful place among the comity of nations."

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his statement congratulated the nation on the occasion. He said that the nation should "reflect as to how far we have succeeded in adhering to the path outlined by our leader" and "rededicate" itself to live up to his vision.

He paid tribute to the founder of the nation and said that he was "one of the great leaders of 20th century who altered the course of history by his vision and relentless struggle for the rights of the Muslims".

"Our Quaid had envisioned a state where we could live and breathe as free men, where we could enjoy freedom from fear and want; where we could fashion their lives according to our religious and cultural values, and where the principles of the state of Madina could be followed to create a just and prosperous society," Prime Minister Khan said.

"The Quaid had wanted a society where every citizen enjoys the privileges of equal rights; where rule of law reigns supreme and establishment of a state which provides its umbrella to marginalised and vulnerable and also facilitates growth of every individual to his or her full capabilities," the premier added.

Full report at:



BNP-M leaders seek meeting with COAS over missing persons

Syed Irfan Raza

December 25, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Leaders of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) on Monday called on Prime Minister Imran Khan, asking him to fix their meeting with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on the issue of missing persons.

“We have asked the prime minister to fix our meeting with the army chief so that we could present our concerns to him on missing persons,” Nawab Akhtar Mengal told Dawn when contacted after the meeting.

He said Prime Minister Khan had assured him in a previous meeting that he [PM] would arrange a meeting of the BNP leaders with the army chief. “Today, we asked the prime minister to fulfil his commitment,” he added.

The Baloch leader said that in the meeting Mr Khan reassured that he would talk to the army chief soon and would communicate the date and time of the meeting to Mr Mengal.

On Nov 29, Mr Mengal in a press conference had sought a political solution to the issue of missing persons and said that the problems of the province would not be resolved by building dams or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

He had criticised the government for not addressing the issue of missing persons, regretting that nothing was being done for their recovery.

Responding to a question, Mr Mengal said that the issue of development of Balochistan also came under discussion during the meeting with the prime minister. The premier ordered the ministries concerned to update him about the efforts being made to mitigate problems of the people and development of the province.

The BNP delegation comprised MNAs Muhammad Akhtar Mengal, Agha Hassan Baloch, Muhammad Hashim, Prof Shahnaz Baloch and MPAs Mir Hamal and Sanaullah Baloch.

Meanwhile, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi also met Prime Minister Khan at PM Office.

Full report at:



President, PM extend Christmas greetings

Dec 25, 2018

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi said that the government of Pakistan held sacrosanct the principle of equal rights and freedom for all citizens irrespective of belief, creed or religion.

“We are committed to building a society that respects difference and finds strength in diversity; a nation that is tolerant and cohesive; and a state that provides equal rights and opportunities to all citizens,” the president said in his message to the nation on Christmas festival.

He said the government’s commitment to the fundamental principles was firmly based on the teachings of Islam, vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and inviolable guarantees of our constitution.

The president extended his greetings to the Christian brethren all over the world particularly Pakistan on the joyous occasion of Christmas.

He said Jesus Christ brought and preached the message of peace, brotherhood and love for the whole humanity. He (Jesus Christ) guided people towards virtuous living and urged them to seek divine mercy. As a divine messenger, Jesus Christ was venerable to adherents of all religions especially Islam.

The president also commended the sincere efforts of the Christian community of Pakistan for the socio-economic development of their country. He also paid rich tribute to the sacrifices made by the Christians in Pakistan’s fight against terrorism.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also extended his greetings to the Christians. “Wishing all our Christian citizens a happy and peaceful Christmas,” he said.

He has also directed to lift all scheduled load management across Pakistan on the eve of Christmas to enable the Christian community to celebrate its religious festival with comfort.

NA Speaker Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri have extended their warm felicitations to the Christian Members of the Parliament and the Christian community on the auspicious occasion of Christmas.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari Monday on PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also greeted the Christian community on the eve of Christmas falling on December 25.

In his message on the auspicious day of Xmas, Bilawal said the occasion spreads the message of love, forgiveness and brotherhood, adding, “We need to imbibe these teachings to make our tomorrow better than our today.”

Moreover, governors of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) also congratulated the Christian community on eve of Christmas celebrations.

Full report at:





Palestinians mark Christmas amid Israeli restrictions

December 25, 2018

BETHLEHEM: Palestinian Christians celebrated Christmas despite Israeli restrictions. The city of Bethlehem adorned a Christmas tree in Manger Square, where the Church of the Nativity is located.

The square hosted a number of activities, including the establishment of Santa’s Village and celebrations for children and families.

The city’s markets are usually bustling over Christmas, with thousands of foreign tourists attending religious celebrations and midnight mass, but this year traders complained that business was down.

In the last fortnight, the Israeli military imposed roadblocks in the West Bank and stormed several Palestinian towns and villages in search of Palestinians who opened fire on its forces.

Marwan Salibi, a salesman at an antiques shop in Bethlehem, told Arab News: “We rely on the holiday period mainly, but this year we’re witnessing weak business activity. Insecurity is one of the important reasons.”

At this time of year, the city is visited by Christians from elsewhere in Palestine. “We visit Bethlehem every year, once or twice,” Sally Awwad, from the village of Zababdeh near the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank, told Arab News.

“I used to visit with my family, but now I’m with my friends from different cities. We buy souvenirs and pray in the Church of the Nativity,” she said.

“I always hope that Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born, becomes a free place to be visited by Christians from all over Palestine and the world. This doesn’t happen because we live under occupation.”

In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, the YMCA on Saturday lit up a Christmas tree for the first time in years at a ceremony attended by Christians and Muslims.

“After years of not lighting the Christmas tree in Gaza, we decided this year to celebrate with the Palestinians in Gaza in a small ceremony,” said Hani Farah, director of the YMCA.

Every year, Israel issues permits for some Christians in Gaza to travel to Bethlehem, but hundreds are prevented from attending midnight mass in the city. There are an estimated 1,000 Christians living in Gaza.

In early December, the city of Ramallah lit up a Christmas tree in a joyous atmosphere in Yasser Arafat Square.

“How wonderful to meet all of our great Palestinian people, to celebrate one of our national holidays in which we shine the glorious Christmas tree, to affirm our love for each other and that we’re people of peace in Palestine and Jerusalem, which includes Christian and Islamic holy sites,” said Archimandrite Elias Awad, patron of the Greek Orthodox Church in Ramallah.

“We want to send a message to the world that we’re a people who want peace, we have our rights, we look forward to the independence of our state, we salute our national and religious days without barriers and occupation.”

The YMCA lit up a Christmas tree in Jerusalem in early December, marking the start of celebrations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a message to the world on the occasion of Christmas: “We want (Jerusalem) to be an open city for worship for all believers and followers of all religions… and for our people to exercise their right to freedom of worship in their Christian and Islamic holy places.”



Israel dissolves parliament, to hold snap elections in April

24 December 2018

Israel will hold an early general election in April, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, after members of his governing coalition met to discuss differences over legislation.

“The leaders of the coalition decided unanimously to dissolve parliament and go to a new election in early April,” the spokesman wrote on Twitter, quoting from a statement issued by Netanyahu’s political partners.

A coalition crisis over a military conscription bill affecting exemptions from compulsory service for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men led to the decision.

Netanyahu, now in his fourth term as prime minister, has been governing with a razor-thin majority of 61 seats in the 120-member parliament. He heads the right-wing Likud party.

Under Israeli law, a national election had to be held by November 2019. Netanyahu’s government would remain in place until a new one is sworn in, after the April poll.

A series of corruption probes against Netanyahu and pending decisions by Israel’s attorney general on whether to follow police recommendations to indict him had raised speculation he would opt to seek a public show of confidence at the ballot box.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in the cases and has given no indication he will step down if charged.

The 69-year-old Israeli leader made no immediate comment after his meeting with the coalition leaders. Recent opinion polls have shown his popularity remains strong among Israelis.

The likelihood of an early election increased in November after Netanyahu’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, quit the government, leaving the ruling coalition with its one-seat majority.

No one in Netanyahu’s Likud has made a public challenge against him, and the party is expected to close ranks around him in the coming election.

Outside Likud, Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid opposition party, is seen as the strongest candidate to succeed Netanyahu in any upset. Lapid’s party is second to Likud in opinion polls.

Israel’s former army chief, Benny Gantz, is seen as a dovish potential candidate who could tip the balance in favor of a center-left bloc, but has not yet thrown his hat in the ring.

On the right, Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, could both seek to lead a right-wing bloc if Likud emerges in a weaker position in an election.

Full report at:



Yemeni army seizes Houthi arms warehouse in Saada, advances in Lahij

25 December 2018

The legitimate Yemeni government revealed that a warehouse used to store Houthi weapons was found on Monday, which the militias left behind after being defeated in one of their positions in their major stronghold Saada north of Yemen.

Military sources said the warehouse is located in Wadi Al Bou Jabara which was recently liberated and which is close to Kitaf wa Al Boqe’e District northeast of Saada. It contains medium and heavy weapons and advanced guided missiles.

According to the sources, the national army forces continue to advance towards the district of Kitaf, and are close to fully liberating it.

Meanwhile, the Arab Coalition’s air force destroyed missile-launching platforms, which the Houthis used in Saada to target the army, and civilian houses and towns.

It had earlier shelled the Houthi militias’ posts in other areas in Majz and Sahar districts.

Also on Monday, the Yemeni army forces liberated other posts where the Houthis had been stationed in Al Qabbaytah District north of the Lahij Governorate.

The Yemeni armed forces’ media center quoted a military source as saying that a number of locations in the eastern front of Al Qabbaytah were liberated adding that the army continues to advance towards Diyyash.

Full report at:



Coalition: Houthis continue to breach Sweden agreement on Hodeidah

24 December 2018

The spokesperson for the Arab Coalition supporting legitimacy in Yemen confirmed that the Houthis have continued until Sunday to breach the Sweden agreement on a ceasefire in Hodeidah a total of 138 times.

Col. Turki al-Maliki said on Monday that Houthis used a number of weapons in clashes against the Yemeni army and the Popular Resistance fighters.

The spokesman affirmed the coalition’s continued granting of permits through land, sea and air ports for the transport of passengers, foodstuffs, oil derivatives, medicines and others into Yemen. He said that the number of vessels still waiting to dock on Yemeni ports have reached 22 vessels.

During a press conference on Monday, the coalition spokesperson also referred to the efforts of distributing books to students in the humanitarian relief programs for the Yemeni people.

Full report at:



Israeli forces injure dozens of Palestinians in Gaza naval march

Dec 24, 2018

Israeli forces have wounded at least 27 Palestinian protesters who were staging a rally along the northern coast of the besieged Gaza Strip against the nearly 12-year-long Israeli-imposed blockade on the impoverished sliver.

According to the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency on Monday, at least 14 protesters were struck with live bullets, while 13 others suffered wounds after being hit with rubber-coated steel.

Israeli navy forces fired live rounds and teargas canisters at both marchers and boats in an attempt to disperse them.

Dozens of demonstrators suffered teargas inhalation as well, and were transferred to hospitals for treatment.

The demonstration on Monday was the 21st weekly naval march setting off from the Gaza seaport, with the participation of dozens of Gazans’ fishing boats, against the crippling blockade of the sliver.

The fishing zone is supposed to extend to 20 nautical miles under the Oslo Accords. The Oslo Accords were signed between the Israeli regime and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the early-mid 1990s to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel imposed a limit of three nautical miles on fishing in the waters off the Gaza shore until August 2014, when Palestinian fishermen were allowed to go out six miles under a ceasefire agreement reached between the Israelis and Palestinians following a deadly 50-day Israeli war in the same month.

In May 2017, Israeli authorities increased the fishing area for Gazan fishermen to nine nautical miles.

Over the past few years, Israeli forces have carried out more than a hundred attacks on Palestinian boats, arresting dozens of fishermen and confiscating several boats.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Tensions have been running high near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30.

On December 21, at least three Palestinians, including a teenage, were shot dead by Israeli fire and over 100 others sustained injuries during anti-occupation protests along the border between the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied territories.

More than 240 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Over 23,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Full report at:



Turkey reinforces border with Syria as US troops poised to leave

Dec 24, 2018

The Turkish military has sent new reinforcements to frontline areas with US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, in what appears to be preparations for an anticipated campaign against the Kurdish militants after Washington announced a plan to withdraw its troops from the Arab country.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that a Turkish military convoy with howitzers and artillery batteries as well as different units of armed forces has been deployed to the border district of Elbeyli in the south-central Turkish province of Kilis on Monday.

The private Ihlas News Agency reported that the military reinforcements would take place “gradually,” and that parts of the convoy had already entered Syria.

Turkish-language Hurriyet daily newspaper said the deployment commenced over the weekend with around 100 vehicles, and the troops had crossed into the al-Bab region of Syria’s northern province of Aleppo.

They then headed towards Jarabulus and Manbij districts, which are controlled by YPG militants.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Military reinforcements have also been sent to Akcakale town and Ceylanpinar border district, which are both located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa.

The Turkish buildup comes in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to withdraw American troops from Syria.

Some commanders in the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has YPG as its backbone, have described the Washington’s move as “a stab in the back.”

Syrian town of Manbij, which lies in mainly Arab territory west of the Euphrates, has been a major bone of contention between Ankara and Washington.

Turkey has complained over the slow implementation of a deal reached with the United States in June, which would see the YPG ousted from the town and moved back to the eastern bank of the river.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that he had a “long and productive” call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which they discussed “the slow & highly coordinated” pullout of US troops from the area.

The Turkish presidency said in a statement that the two leaders had agreed to coordinate militarily and diplomatically to ensure the US pullout from Syria would not lead to an “authority vacuum.”

Full report at:





Muslim and Sikh volunteers help spread Christmas cheer to some of Britain's most vulnerable people

Dec 25, 2018

As Christmas Day approaches, many people across the country will find themselves in a difficult situation and unable to celebrate with friends or family.

Several non-Christian faith-based charities from across the country will be spending their Christmas doing what they can to help those who are most vulnerable during the festive period.

Members from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) UK will be spending Christmas Day at several residential homes across the country offering free taxi services, serving Christmas dinners and presenting festive gifts.

Nadeem Ahmed, regional youth leader for Yorkshire, explained: “It was such an honour to extend a helping hand and to bring a smile to the faces of so many people.

“We felt like a family with the people we helped and that is how they felt too. People may wonder why we take time out to help when we don’t celebrate Christmas, but we enjoy doing the voluntary work we do because it is our religious obligation.

“Islam encourages us to help alleviate hardships and respect and honour our elders.”

The Almanaar Muslim cultural heritage centre in Kensington will be opening their doors at 9am on Christmas Day and will be offering breakfast, lunch and dinner to anyone who attends.

They have said there will be a "bakery and cereals selection" and "vegetarian and meat" options, to ensure everyone is catered for.

Randeep Singh, the global operations director from Nishkam Sikh welfare and awareness team (SWAT), a charity based in West London, will be handing out food and clothing on Christmas day.

“It will be business as usual serving humanity as we do all year round, providing a hot meal, along with non-perishables such as crisps, biscuits, chocolates, nuts and fruit,” Mr Singh said.

“We will also be giving out warm clothing, sleeping bags, gloves, hats, socks, blankets and thermals. We will also be giving out specially made hampers which have been specially made and consist of essential items you made need if you have been forced to live on the street.”

The group also held a Christmas street party for those who are homeless in London.

Clothes and food was handed out while an LED screen, a DJ, lighting, a smoke machine, a choir and a steel band entertained the guests.

But it’s not just faith-based charities doing their bit, Shasi and Pallu Patel, a devout Hindu couple who own Meet and Deep Newsagents in Twickenham, will be dressing up in festive outfits and handing out free mince pies and sweets to anyone who drops by on Christmas day.

They’ve been being opening their doors during the Christmas period for 30 years and have also promised to give anyone who wants one, a festive hug.

“If you are alone, pop in for a hug and a mince pie! You don’t have to buy anything, we are family,” they said.



US continues to violate UN resolutions on Syria, says Russian FM

Dec 24, 2018

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denounced as “illegitimate” the military presence of American troops in Syria, stressing that the US continues to violate the main resolutions of the UN Security Council on the war-torn Arab country despite a troop withdrawal announcement.

Lavrov made the remark in an interview with Russia's Sputnik news agency on Monday as he was commenting on a recent announcement by US President Donald Trump on the future of American armed forces in Syria.

“The solution to the illegitimate and armed presence of the US in Syria might be difficult,” Russian foreign minister said.

“Washington continually puts new conditions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria despite of [the fact] that these principles are mentioned by the main resolutions of the Security Council,” Lavrov said, adding, “Let’s see what the result of leaving Syria, which was announced by US President Donald Trump will be."

Last week, Trump declared victory against Daesh in Syria and announced to pull out American troops from the country, saying that US troops cannot stay in Syria "forever.”

The decision sparked bipartisan backlash in Washington, with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announcing that he would step down at the end of February.

Trump's announcement also raised concerns among Washington's European and regional allies, which have long been supporting a myriad of anti-Damascus militants.

Analysts have described US forces' withdrawal from Syria as a victory for Damascus and its allies, which was made possible through resistance of the Syrian nation and government during the foreign-sponsored militancy in the Arab country.

France, a leading member of the US-led coalition, purportedly fighting Daesh in Syria, has said that it will keep troops in Syria. Turkey, which has opposed American support for the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), viewed by Ankara as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has also stressed that it will take over the fight against Daesh in the Arab country.

The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The strikes have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

Full report at:



No one should be excluded, Russia says after report Gaddafi’s son sought its help in Libya election

24 Dec, 2018

Saif al-Islam, the son of slain Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, should have a chance to run for the country’s top office, a senior Russian diplomat said. Earlier Bloomberg reported he had asked Russia to support his candidacy.

The report on Saif al-Islam’s contacts with the Kremlin is part of a larger story about Russia’s role in the war-torn country, which was disintegrated after the NATO-backed uprising toppled Gaddafi in 2011. The long-time leader was summarily executed while his son Saif al-Islam spent years as a prisoner of militias in the western Libyan city of Zintan. The younger Gaddafi has long declared his intention to run for Libyan presidency.

“Our position is that no one should be isolated and excluded from a constructive political role,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told RIA Novosti on Monday, in response to the report. “Saif al-Islam has the backing of specific tribes in Libya and all this should be part of the overall political process.”

According to Bloomberg, Russian diplomats spoke to Saif al-Islam via a video link shortly after his release by the militias in 2017. His representative also spoke to Bogdanov in early December, explaining Gaddafi’s vision for the future of Libya and asking for support, the agency added. Russian officials would not comment on the claims.

Bogdanov said that Moscow keeps contact with various groups in the country as part of the peace settlement process.

Libya remains in turmoil almost a decade after the Western intervention . Its UN-recognized government in Tripoli controls only a small portion of the country and has to keep local militias satisfied to keep them on their side. Another center of power in the east is in control of Libyan oil fields, but has to negotiate terms of crude exports with the government to conduct the business legally. There are also numerous tribal factions deeper in the south, arms smugglers, human traffickers, jihadist fighters and other forces.

The plan to hold a presidential election this year was postponed due to continued struggling between Libya’s two rival governments and is now scheduled for next year.

Full report at:



South Asia


Militancy-linked Jamaat back to electoral race in Bangladesh

Dec 25, 2018

It seems like Bangladesh has lost a battle in the hands of militancy-linked and pro-Pakistan party Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB). Election Commission (EC) on December 23, has declared the nomination of 25 JIB candidates valid. Meaning, these anti-liberation forces will contest in the December 30 general elections and may even win. Such a huge numbers of JIB men, if elected, may even emerge as a decisive factor in either forming of the next general government or the main opposition. The EC decision has tremendously shocked the pro-liberation forces in Bangladesh. Pro-Awami League bloc are even seeing this decision as a coup of the EC against the spirit of liberation war, Bengalis and freedom fighters. Others are seeing this decision as a “sign of relief” thinking this has proved, the EC is not biased towards the ruling party nor is bowing-down to any pressure.

The Election Commission on December 23rd said there is no scope now for scrapping the candidacy of 25 Jamaat-e-Islami leaders who are contesting the parliamentary election despite cancellation of the party’s registration.

Of them, 22 are in the race with BNP’s electoral symbol “sheaf of paddy” and three as independent candidates.

After a meeting of the commission, EC Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said they have examined the related law and “there is no scope for rejecting the Jamaat leaders’ candidacy at this moment”.

Helaluddin said returning officers accepted and finalized the Jamaat leaders’ nomination papers. But no objections were filed with the election tribunal against the ROs’ decisions.

The EC scrapped Jamaat’s registration following an HC verdict in 2013. On Tuesday, the HC directed the EC to dispose of in three working days the application filed for cancellation of the Jamaat men’s candidacy.

The court also issued a rule asking the government to explain in four weeks why the EC’s decision to allow JIB men to contest the election despite the cancellation of their party’s registration should not be declared illegal.

In the rule, the court asked the EC to show cause as to why the commission should not be directed to cancel their candidacy.

In another development, the EC on December 23rd turned down the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s plea for permission to field the party’s alternative candidates or rescheduling of the polls in the constituencies where the HC rejected candidacies of five party candidates.

In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda, BNP on Thursday urged the EC to allow them to field alternative candidates from among those who have already submitted nomination papers.

“There is a provision for rescheduling election if a contestant dies … A candidate being disqualified by the court is a sort of death,” BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan told reporters after handing over the letter to the CEC.

“The EC should reschedule the election in those constituencies,” he said.

Five BNP leaders lost their candidacy yesterday following an HC order on Thursday. The court disqualified them as the government did not accept their resignation as upazila chairmen.

According to the Representation of the People Order (RPO), anyone holding “an office of profit” like that of an upazila chairman cannot run for MP.  With the five, the BNP now has no contenders in 15 of the 300 seats.

Election Commission’s decision of allowing the JIB candidates to run in the upcoming general election is a matter of grave concern, as because now the anti-Awami League bloc has managed to save these 25 seats being already gone in favour of the ruling party candidates.



Islami Andolan: AL men threatening polling agents

December 25th, 2018

A delegation from the party led by Senior Joint Secretary General ATM Hemayet Uddin submitted a complaint in this regard with the Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda at the secretariat in the capital

Islami Andolon Bangladesh on Monday alleged that the ruling Awami League activists are threatening polling agents and attacking election campaigns ahead of the 11th parliamentary election.

A delegation from the party led by Senior Joint Secretary General ATM Hemayet Uddin submitted a complaint in this regard with the Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda at the secretariat in the capital.

Briefing the press after the meeting with the CEC, Hemayet Uddin said Awami League activists and its alliance partners are threatening polling agents and attacking election campaigns while the police are also harassing their activists.

He said that police are still filing "ghost" cases against their activists.

"Police are categorizing our leaders as Jamaat-Shibir men and are arresting them at different parts of the country," he said.

He said the commission has failed to ensure a level playing field and there are no signs of them doing so anytime soon when the elections are right around the corner.

The party is fielding candidates in 299 constituencies in the December 30 polls.

Full report at:



Taliban commander among 7 killed in Farah airstrikes

Dec 24 2018

At least seven Taliban militants have been killed in separate airstrikes conducted in western Farah province of Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) in a statement said the security forces carried out an airstrike in Karizbedal Village in Posht Rod district, leaving at least six militants dead.

The statement further added that one of the local commanders of the group identified as Mullah Bakhtiar was among those killed.

The Air Forces also carried out an airtrike targeting the vehicle of another local Taliban commander in Bakwa district of Farah, MoI said, adding that the Taliban commander was killed and the vehicle was destroyed in the airstrike.

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

Full report at:



ISIS-K group member joins peace process in Achin district of Nangarhar

Dec 24 2018

A group of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan (ISIS-K) renounced violence and joined peace process in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the ISIS-K group member joined peace process in Achin district.

The statement further added that the reconciled militant has shown remorse regarding the destructive activities he has committed in ISIS Khurasan ranks.

He has also added that he was conducting destructive activities based on the instructions of the strangers.

The former ISIS Khurasan group member also handed over a Ak-47 assault rifle to the security forces, the provincial government added.

Full report at:



Afghan Special Forces release dramatic airstrikes video against militant leaders

Dec 24 2018

The Afghan Special Operations Forces (SOF) released a dramatic video purportedly showing a combination of series of airstrikes against the Taliban militants in various parts of the country.

The video starts with an airstrike against a Taliban group member identified as Hazrat who is being targeted on a roadside and subsequently purports to show the airstrike which eliminated the executioner of Taliban Mohib Jan alias Haroon.

The video also purports to show an airstrike against Mullah Abdul Jabar, Taliban’s chief of suicide operations in Helmand province.

In other parts of the video an airstrike purportedly shows the elimination of Mullah Ahmad, Taliban’s shadow intelligence chief in Helmand while another airstrike purports to show a raid against Shafi, ISIS Khurasan explosives facilitator.

It is yet not clear if the airstrikes were exclusively carried out by the Afghan Air Forces as both the Afghan and U.S. forces conduct regular airstrikes against the anti-government armed militants.

Full report at:



Bangladesh to seal off Rohingya camps during election

December 24, 2018

COX’s BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh will seal off refugee camps housing about one million Rohingya Muslims for three days around the country’s tense general election this week, officials said Monday.

Rohingya living in the southeastern border district of Cox’s Bazar will not be allowed out of their settlements from Saturday.

The election is Sunday with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who earned international praise for accepting the refugees who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar, seeking a record fourth term.

The Election Commission ordered authorities in Cox’s Bazar to prevent refugees being exploited during election campaigning, Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said.

“This is a security measure. The embargo also applies to NGO workers. They cannot go inside the camps unless it is an emergency,” he told AFP.

Police said extra roadblocks would be set up around the camps.

Over 720,000 Rohingya Muslims fled what the UN called ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s Rakhine state after August 2017. There were already nearly 300,000 refugees in the overcrowded camps.

More than 450 police will be deployed in the camps alongside border guards and community police, a spokesman said.

Thousands of troops were also put on law and order duties across the country Monday amid escalating poll violence, said a military statement.

Media reports said some 30,000 soldiers were joining more than 20,000 paramilitary forces already deployed.

At least six people have been killed in the election violence while the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) says at least 152 of its candidates have been attacked.

The BNP meanwhile criticized Bangladesh star cricketer Mashrafe Mortaza for being a candidate for the ruling Awami League.

One-day international captain Mashrafe is now campaigning after leading Bangladesh to a series win over West Indies this month. The BNP said though that Mashrafte could not be a candidate when he earns public money as a cricketer.

“We welcome youngsters like him joining politics. But the law cannot be different for a superstar and a layman,” opposition spokesman Rizvi Ahmed told AFP.

“Mashrafe is a paid cricketer of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), a government body. So we protest him taking part in an election when we see our people are getting dropped for lame excuses,” he said.

Full report at:





Libyan authorities recover 34 bodies of Christians from ISIS mass grave

25 December 2018

The bodies of 34 Ethiopian Christians executed in Libya by ISIS in 2015 have been exhumed from a mass grave, Libyan authorities said on Monday.

The grave was unearthed on Sunday, after information was obtained during investigations of arrested ISIS members, the interior ministry’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said on its Facebook page.

A video posted on social media in April 2015 appeared to show ISIS militants shooting and beheading the Christians, who were wearing orange jumpsuits, on a beach.

The CID displayed drone images of the mass grave, which appeared to be on a farm near the coastal city of Sirte.

The bodies will be repatriated to Ethiopia once “domestic and international legal procedures are completed”, it said. Hundreds of thousands of people have migrated from sub-Saharan Africa to Libya in recent years, many hoping to eventually reach Europe.

ISIS took control of Sirte, the hometown of Libya’s former leader Muammar Qaddafi, in 2015 and lost the city late in 2016 to local forces backed by US air strikes.



Gunmen kill 17 in north Nigeria village attack

Dec 24, 2018

Gunmen at the weekend killed 17 people in the latest attack on villages in northern Nigeria's Zamfara state, witnesses and police say.

The assault came just days after 25 people were killed in similar raids on two villages in the region.

Gunmen on motorcycles stormed Magami village in the Maradun district area of the state on Saturday, shooting indiscriminately as residents fled.

"After the attack, we collected 17 dead bodies which we buried," Magami resident Kasimu Bello told AFP.

"The gunmen entered the village on several motorcycles, shooting people as they tried to flee," he said.

Another resident Umaru Bawa confirmed the attack, saying "the bandits pursued people like chickens and shot them dead as they ran into the bush."

Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said his operatives would arrest and "bring to justice the perpetrators of this dastardly act."

He also vowed to end the rampant armed attacks in the state.

On Wednesday, 25 people were killed when gunmen raided two villages in Birnin Magaji district of the state.

Farming and herding communities in Zamfara have for years been wracked by cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom, prompting villagers to form vigilante gangs as a protection force.

However, the villagers too are accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspected bandits, leading to tit-for-tat violence.

In April, troops were deployed to Zamfara to fight the gangs and police banned the civilian militia in an attempt to curb the cycle of reprisals.

Last month, police claimed to have killed 104 bandits in Birnin Magaji district during a clash in which 16 policemen were killed.

Early this month, an influential traditional ruler in the state called for civilian militia members to be given assault rifles to defend themselves.

The continued raids by cattle thieves in Zamfara and the resource conflict between farmers and herders in central Nigeria have added to Nigeria's security challenges as the military battles Boko Haram militants in the northeast.

Troops have repelled attacks on bases in northeast Nigerian Borno state where Boko Haram has in recent months targeted posts.

Late Friday, troops fought off an attempt to over-run a base in the town of Damasak on the border with Niger after an hours-long fight in which one civilian was killed.

On Saturday, the troops also foiled militant attempts to take over two bases in Logomani near the border with Cameroon and the town of Gajiram.

Full report at:



Ugandan Christians live in fear of minority Muslims on quest for conversions

December 24, 2018

MBALE, Uganda — Sleeping on a hospital bed at Budaka Health Center in eastern Uganda, 12-year-old Emmanuel Nyaiti writhed in pain as he explained how Muslim extremists attacked him for refusing to convert to Islam.

“‘Islam is a good religion,’ they said. ‘Please convert. We’ll not kill you, and you will go to paradise,” the boy recalled.

Emmanuel is one among millions of Christians in this East African nation who face unprecedented levels of persecution from Islamist extremists.

Christians in eastern Uganda are among those in their faith who face the most serious dangers in the world, according to World Watch Monitor, a group that tracks persecutions of Christians. The charity counted at least two incidents of Muslims killing Christians as well as vandalism of at least two churches.

Emmanuel was walking home from his grandmother’s house when four men ambushed him and spirited him to a cassava plantation, where they tortured him and attempted to strangle him. One was named Ali and another was Abdul, he said. They wound up leaving him for dead.

“Ali convinced me to convert and become a Muslim, but I declined. They started pushing me on the ground threatening to kill me if I don’t accept Islam,” he said. “One of the attackers hit me with a sharp object on my neck, and I became unconscious. I remember them saying they have killed me.”

MBALE, Uganda — Sleeping on a hospital bed at Budaka Health Center in eastern Uganda, 12-year-old Emmanuel Nyaiti writhed in pain as he explained how Muslim extremists attacked him for refusing to convert to Islam.

“‘Islam is a good religion,’ they said. ‘Please convert. We’ll not kill you, and you will go to paradise,” the boy recalled.

Emmanuel is one among millions of Christians in this East African nation who face unprecedented levels of persecution from Islamist extremists.

Christians in eastern Uganda are among those in their faith who face the most serious dangers in the world, according to World Watch Monitor, a group that tracks persecutions of Christians. The charity counted at least two incidents of Muslims killing Christians as well as vandalism of at least two churches.

Emmanuel was walking home from his grandmother’s house when four men ambushed him and spirited him to a cassava plantation, where they tortured him and attempted to strangle him. One was named Ali and another was Abdul, he said. They wound up leaving him for dead.

Full report at:



Sudan: President al-Bashir vows to carry out broad economic reforms

24 December 2018

Sudan has said that its President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to carry out broad economic reforms amid days of protests that have gripped the country.

According to a statement released on Monday, al-Bashir “promises real measures to restore confidence in the banking sector”.

The statement comes a day after Sudanese police fired tear gas after hundreds of protesters spilling out of a football match marched down a major road leading towards the center of the capital, Khartoum, late on Sunday, demonstrating against al-Bashir's rule, a Reuters witness said.

The official Sudan News Agency said Bashir had met security aides, and quoted him as saying the state was “continuing with economic reforms that provide citizens with a decent life”.



Libyan authorities say they recover 34 bodies from Daesh mass grave

December 24, 2018

TRIPOLI: The bodies of 34 Ethiopian Christians executed in Libya by Daesh in 2015 have been exhumed from a mass grave, Libyan authorities said on Monday.

The grave was unearthed on Sunday, after information was obtained during investigations of arrested Daesh members, the interior ministry’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said on its Facebook page.

A video posted on social media in April 2015 appeared to show Daesh militants shooting and beheading the Christians, who were wearing orange jumpsuits, on a beach.

The CID displayed drone images of the mass grave, which appeared to be on a farm near the coastal city of Sirte.

The bodies will be repatriated to Ethiopia once “domestic and interntional legal procedures are completed”, it said. Hundreds of thousands of people have migrated from sub-Saharan Africa to Libya in recent years, many hoping to eventually reach Europe.

Full report at:



Al Shabab bomber executed in Somalia

December 24, 2018

The mastermind of militant car bombs that killed 26 people and injured nearly 40 others in Mogadishu in 2017 was executed in Somalia on Monday, the prosecutor of the military court said.

Abdulle Bule said Al Shabab member Abdikadir Abukar was convicted of being behind a hotel bombing that killed 10, one near the ministry of sport that killed nine, and a car bomb near an Italian restaurant in the capital that killed seven.

Al Shabab wants to overthrow the weak, UN-backed Somali government and impose strict Islamic law.

It has steadily been losing territory since African Union peacekeepers arrived a decade ago, but still carries out frequent bombings in the capital.

Full report at:



North America


New York Muslims have a new security patrol group

By Tina Moore and Stephanie Pagones

December 24, 2018

New York’s Muslim community has a new security group watching over it.

A car from the new Muslim Community Patrol has been spotted around the city, joining the Jewish enclave’s Shomrim and the Brooklyn Asian Safety Patrol among New York’s culture-specific security groups.

The white Ford Taurus bears insignia nearly identical to those of an NYPD patrol car — with blue horizontal stripes down the sides, a shield on the front driver’s side door and the words “Muslim Community Patrol” descending on the rear door, where a department vehicle would say “Courtesy Professionalism Respect.”

The vehicle was recently spotted cruising along Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge, home to a burgeoning Muslim population.

Calls to the Staten Island-based group — which, according to state records, was incorporated last month — went unanswered Sunday.



Trump: Saudi Arabia to pay for rebuilding Syria


By Servet Gunerigok


U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said Saudi Arabia will spend money to help reconstruct Syria.

"Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States," Trump tweeted. "See? Isn’t it nice when immensely wealthy countries help rebuild their neighbors rather than a Great Country, the U.S., that is 5000 miles away. Thanks to Saudi A!" Trump wrote.

Trump made the surprise announcement last week the U.S. would withdraw troops from Syria, following a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the war-torn country.

Reports suggest U.S. forces will leave within 60 to 100 days.

Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria was followed by resignations from his defense chief James Mattis and special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat Daesh, Brett McGurk.

The withdrawal comes on the eve of a possible Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria against the YPG/PKK terrorist group.

Full report at:



We curse them as traitors: Syrian Kurds slam US withdrawal, look for new allies

Dec 25, 2018

Many Syrian Kurds have expressed frustration over the United States' planned troop withdrawal from Syria, describing it as a 'stab in the back' and considering new allies, according to the US-based National Public Radio (NPR).

Syrian Kurdish forces in northern Syria are considering contingency plans and partnering with new alliances in the face of an anticipated Turkish incursion in the region, the NPR said on Monday.

"At this point, we are open to all options and partnerships," said Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Mustafa Bali.

The report further revealed that the Syrian Kurdish officials are even considering "on-the-ground protection deals with Iranian forces in Syria," in addition to Syrian government protection.

"The Syrian regime should be protecting Syria's sovereign borders," says Bali, adding that "on principle, we would not be against it (Syrian government presence)."

Speaking to Kurds living near US bases in northern Syria, many expressed their resentment for what they described as US "betrayal" of the Kurds.

"If they will leave, we will curse them as traitors," said Hatem Hassan, a money exchange shop owner in the Syrian town of Qamishli.

"I don't understand it. People are afraid that they will just sell the country to someone," said another Kurdish local named Haji Haidar.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised a Turkish-led operation against the Kurdish-controlled regions in "the next few days."

The president, however, announced the operation’s delay last week just a few days after US President Donald Trump called for a withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

Many American forces are currently deployed in the Kurdish-controlled regions of Syria.

Turkey saw the US-led military presence as an obstacle in dealing with Kurdish forces in northern Syria it views as threat to its security.

Ankara has postponed its incursion into northern Syria until US troops leave the region.

Turmoil in Washington

Trump's decision has sparked turmoil within his administration, prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the so-called anti-Daesh coalition.

Trump later named Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as the acting Pentagon chief, saying he will replace Mattis starting January 1, earlier than previously scheduled.

The withdrawal plan has also sparked much controversy among other American politicians, with many Republican and Democrat figures openly criticizing Trump for the matter.

“I think when you leave an area where it's very troublesome in terms of our national security overall, you leave a void and bad people fill it and then you have a much bigger problem,” said Republican Senator Pat Roberts speaking to reporters.

Democrat Senator Christopher Coons also criticized Trump's decision for weakening US influence in the region.

"For us to withdraw right now and abandon our Kurdish allies, paves a highway for control of Syria for either Iran and Russia or Turkey."

Full report at:



Saudi government helped accused killer flee the US: Report

Dec 25, 2018

A report has revealed that the United States Department of Homeland Security and Marshals Service have evidence that Saudi Arabia assisted a Saudi national, accused of murder, to flee the US.

Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, who faces at least 10 years in jail for first-degree murder, was bailed out of jail, given a fake passport and flown to Saudi Arabia using Saudi consular assistance, according to an investigative report published by The Oregonian on Sunday.

Noorah, who killed 15-year-old Fallon Smart in a hit-and-run incident due to reckless driving, was set to face trial on June 2017.

The Saudi consulate, however, paid $100,000 of his $1 million dollar bail, which was enough to get him released with a GPS monitoring bracelet.

Facing trial in two weeks, the 21-year-old Portland Community College student fled the country after being picked up by a black SUV and cutting the monitor from his ankle, according to authorities.

This past July, 13 months after Noorah's disappearance, the Saudi government notified Homeland Security of the man's arrival in Saudi Arabia on June 17, 2017. Noorah had disposed his monitoring bracelet seven days earlier.

Federal investigators believe Noorah couldn't have escaped without being given an illicit passport by Saudi authorities. Given that American investigations have found no trace of the suspect using commercial flights, Noorah is suspected of using a private carrier to escape.

Saudi authorities have declined to comment on how Noorah, who received a monthly $1,850 stipend from the Saudi government for a college scholarship in the US, has returned to the Saudi Kingdom.

The case of Noorah is, nonetheless, not the first case where the Saudis are suspected to have helped Saudi convicts attempt to flee the US.

The Saudi mission similarly bailed out accused rapists Ali Hussain Alhamoud in 2012 and Monsour Alshammari in 2015. Alshammari was arrested at the US-Mexico border. Alhamoud, however, successfully returned to Saudi Arabia.

“It begs the question: Why isn’t the Saudi government respecting our justice system?” says Chris Larsen, a lawyer for Smart’s mother Fawn Lengvenis. “It’s reprehensible.”

The case of Noorah comes as US-Saudi ties have come under mounting scrutiny following the kingdom's role in the brutal murder of dissident journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey last October.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia gets armoured vehicles despite Canada's pledge to halt deal

Dec 24, 2018

A consignment of armored vehicles has left Canada for Saudi Arabia despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's declaration that Ottawa was ready to halt a $13 billion arms deal with Riyadh. 

Military manufacturer General Dynamic Land Systems Canada has been contracted to deliver 742 armored vehicles to the kingdom whose war on Yemen has recently come under increased scrutiny.

Canada has been exporting arms to Saudi Arabia based on the 2014 contract won by the Canadian unit of US weapons maker General Dynamics Corp.

On Sunday, a cargo ship loaded with armored vehicles left the port of Saint John for Saudi Arabia, a day after protesters gathered in the rain and fog to condemn the shipment, Canada's leading daily the Globe and Mail reported.  

The protesters held signs and passed out pamphlets detailing concerns about the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the paper said.

The cargo was apparently delayed for a day after longshoremen refused to cross the protest line, forfeiting their day’s wages, it added.

The longshoremen, the paper said, could face repercussions from their employer for their decision not to cross the protest, even though the combat vehicles were eventually transported.

The shipment came even though Trudeau said in October that Canada was ready to halt the arms deal with Saudi Arabia if it concluded the weapons had been misused.

"We strongly demand and expect that Canadian exports are used in a way that fully respects human rights," Trudeau said in the parliament.

"We have frozen export permits before when we had concerns about their potential misuse and we will not hesitate to do so again," he added.

His remarks, however, drew a warning from General Dynamics Corp which warned Canada against stopping the sales.

"Were Canada to unilaterally terminate the contract, Canada would incur billions of dollars of liability to General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada," it said.

David Perry, defense analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, called the warning “unusual” at the time.

He said General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada would normally keep a very low profile. "I can't imagine they are anything other than extremely worried," he said.

Trudeau, himself, had previously acknowledged that there would be “huge penalties” if Ottawa turned its back on the deal.

The Canadian premier, known for trying to portray himself as a human rights advocate, has been under pressure to scrap the deal inked by the previous government.

Full report at:



Trump open to meeting with Erdogan: White House


By Servet Gunerigok


U.S. President Donald Trump is "open to a potential meeting in the future" with his Turkish counterpart, the White House said Monday.

Earlier in the day, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Trump had accepted an invitation from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit Turkey in 2019 during a phone call Sunday.

"Now we will work on the date," Kalin said at a press conference in Ankara.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley noted in the statement "nothing definite is being planned".

Sunday's "long and productive" phone conversation between the two leaders tackled the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

"We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area. After many years, they are coming home," Trump said on Twitter, using an alternate name for Daesh.

Trump announced plans last Wednesday to withdraw roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria following a phone call with Erdogan on Dec. 14 in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination on the war-torn country.

The withdrawal comes on the eve of a possible Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria against the YPG/PKK terrorist group. Since 2016, Ankara has carried out two similar military operations in northern Syria.

Full report at:




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