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Islamic World News ( 21 Feb 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Dutch Former Anti-Muslim Islamophobic Politician Geert Wilders Recounts His Journey To Islam

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 February 2023

• Darul Uloom Deoband:  Fatwa Warning College Students Towards ShavingAndTrimming Of Beard

• Extortion Money Being Used For Terror Financing: Pakistan Security Official

• Media Freedom In Bangladesh:Government Shuts Main Opposition Newspaper, The DainikDinkal

• Malaysia Recognised As Best Example For Promoting Culture Of Peaceful Living - Foreign Minister

 

Europe

• Muslim Minister, Humza Yousaf, Is A Front-Runner To Become Scotland’s First Minister After Sturgeon’s Resignation

• EU imposes sanctions on 32 Iranian individuals, two entities over alleged rights violation

• UK broadcaster Stephen Fry faces Islamophobia allegation

• EU expansion crucial to ‘maintaining peace’ in Bosnia, across the globe

• EU to hold donor conference on March 16 to help quake-hit Türkiye, Syria

• Russian senator donates $1.3M to quake victims in Türkiye

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India

• Why Divorce Criminal For Muslims? Kerala Chief Minister On Triple Talaq Ban

• Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Views Discussions With Sangh Parivar, On Key Issues Faced By Indian Muslims, As Part Of Its Fight

• Muslim Genocide Inevitable For Hindu Rashtra: Bajrang Muni, A Hindutva Leader

• In principle, Centre supports PILs for uniform personal laws

• Bhiwani: India anger over charred bodies linked to cow vigilantes

• BJP To Kick-start Muslim Outreach Programme Across India Next Month

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Pakistan

• Not just economy: How Pakistan is also floundering on terror

• ‘Kabul’s inaction on TTP due to mixed signals by Pakistan’

• Army generals proposed to bring TTP back to Pakistan: Minister

• IMF To Pakistan: Function Like A Country, Make The Rich Pay Taxes & Poor Get Subsidies

• Imran Khan appears in court for first time after assassination bid on him

• Imran’s indictment in Toshakhana reference deferred yet again

• Guard injured as Pakistan, Afghan forces trade fire at Torkham

• Pakistan no longer can get a free terror pass for China in Afghanistan

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South Asia

• Taliban Detains Social Media Influencer, Ex Security Force Member: Report

• 'Concerns Will be Addressed in a Better way': Taliban Urges Countries to Recognise Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

• Iran, China Representatives discuss ways to improve Afghanistan’s stability

• Saudi Arabia remains top destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers

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Southeast Asia

• Sarawak Shares Its Wealth Among All Religions So Everyone Can Pray In Comfort, Premier Says

• Indonesia's Haj fee up 70 per cent, Malaysian pilgrims be prepared

• DAP MP accuses PAS MP of misleading Dewan Rakyat on Menu Rahmah claims, seeks disciplinary action

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Arab World

• Israeli Strikes On Syrian Civilians Amount To Crime Against Humanity: Top Hezbollah Official

• Expert At Saudi Media Forum Highlights Popularity Of Korean Content In Middle East And Beyond

• Saudi Arabia signs $48.8 mln worth of projects for quake-struck Syria and Turkey

• Dubai government redeems $750 mln Islamic bond

• Dubai’s DIFC has about 60 hedge fund firms waiting to be licensed: Governor

• Lebanon heading to oblivion: Head of economic, social advisory body

• Researcher warns Saudi Media Forum of potential dangers of artificial intelligence

• First graduates from Saudia In-Flight Chef program celebrate in Jeddah

• Qatar sends 3 additional planes of earthquake relief to Türkiye

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Mideast

• Palestinian Imam, Sheikh Yousef Al-Baz, Who Condemned Al-Aqsa Storming Hands Himself In For Israel Jail Sentence

• IAEA Finds Iran’s Uranium Enriched To Near ‘Bomb-Grade’, Say Diplomats

• Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu advances judicial changes despite uproar

• Statement by UN Security Council keeps Israel isolated, says Palestinian envoy to UN

• In rare admission, Yemen’s Houthis confirm they released Al-Qaeda terrorists

• Palestinian president under fire for ‘backing down’ over contentious UN Security Council resolution

• Iran Blames MSC's Organizers for Inviting Deposed Dictator's Son

• Netanyahu blasts UN settlements censure as denying Jews’ ‘historic’ rights, slams US

• UNSC dismayed by Israel settlement plan, stresses upholding al-Aqsa status quo

• Israel tells US it won’t authorize new settlements in coming months

• Israel parliament gives initial approval to judicial reform bill

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Africa

• At Least 51 Soldiers Killed In North Burkina Faso

• African Union organizing Libyan national reconciliation conference: AU chief

• Hamas resistance movement hails African Union's decision to suspend Israel's observer status

• APC Muslim-Muslim Ticket Doesn’t Matter, Tinubu God’s Willl – Umahi

• Tunisia’s Ennahdha leader faces new police probe

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North America

• Blinken Reaffirms US Pledge To Deliver F-16 Fighters To Turkiye

• US State Secretary Blinken Urges Speedy Nordics Accession To NATO

• US says it will continue to extend its 'full support' after 2 more quakes hit Türkiye

• Türkiye urges US to lift sanctions in defence industry field

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/muslim-islamophobic-politician-journey-islam/d/129164

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Dutch Former Anti-Muslim Islamophobic Politician Geert Wilders Recounts His Journey To Islam

Gulcin Kazan Doger

20.02.2023

A former Dutch far-right MP and right-hand man to Islamophobic politician Geert Wilders recounted his somewhat unlikely journey to converting to the Islamic faith.

Speaking to Anadolu, Joram Van Klaveren said that he was born in 1979 in Amsterdam to a devout Calvinist family and has been interested in different belief systems since his youth.

“As a youngster, I had some doubts about the Christian theology, for example about the Trinity, because sometimes I was kind of confused. If you were praying, are we praying to Jesus Christ? Are we praying to God the father? Are we praying to the Holy Spirit? I didn't know in a way,” Klaveren said.

Noting that he started university while seeking answers to his questions about Christianity, Klaveren said it was then that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks happened.

“So that confirmed my ideas and later on (2004) Theo Van Gogh, the famous filmmaker here, he was killed by a guy who called himself a jihadi. So I thought, okay, all these people are crazy, I have to do something and that's why I joined the (Wilders’ Islamophobic) Freedom Party.”

He decided to write a book in 2014 to “warn people” about Muslims, he explained.

“So I wanted to explain to the people who voted for us but also other people, why we as the Freedom Party or me as a person. I thought that Islam was the biggest danger in the Netherlands and also in Europe and actually the whole wide world.”

But then he left the party, Klaveren said, due to arguments about Moroccan people in the Netherlands. “Well, I did, I think everything I could to fight Islam. But in 2014 I left the party because there was this argument about Moroccan people.”

“He (Wilders) said during a rally that he wanted less Moroccan people in the Netherlands. And he asked the crowds, do you want more or less? And everybody starts screaming less, less, less, less.”

He and Wilder argued about that and he left the party, he said, because “I was very anti-Islam back then still but I wasn't per se anti-Belgium or anti-Congo or anti-Moroccan.”

The ‘real deal’ Islam

After leaving the party, while writing his anti-Islam book in 2014, some questions about Christianity popped up again.

“I thought, well, I have to reread the things that I thought I knew about Christianity as well, because I made a comparison between the concept of God in Christianity and in Islam. And in the end I thought, well, it's a little bit more logical what Muslims believe than what Christians believe on this concept of God.”

While doing research on Islam, he asked for help from English academic Abdal Hakim Murad, who was formerly known as Timothy John but changed his name after converting to Islam.

Underlining that previously he only read Western writers on Islam, Klaveren said that on the contrary Murad advised him to only read Islamic sources, and there was a large contrast.

“Then in the end I got like almost 2 Islams. Of course there’s just one Islam, but I got the Islam from the Orientalists, the Westerners, the people who were not Muslim, and (then later) the ‘real deal’ Islam as it (really) is.”

Klaveren also said he realized after a while that Islam was not a "lie" but he still had difficulty accepting it.

People around him did not respond well to his conversion to Islam.

“They were really shocked. They said ‘I can't believe it. It's unbelievable what happened.’ And some people thought I was sick and some people really thought I became crazy,” he said.

On rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe in recent years, Klaveren said one of the things that fuels Islamophobia is mass culture, mentioning how Arabs and Muslims are constantly shown as terrorists, especially in Hollywood movies.

“I think that's the biggest problem nowadays, you have media. And the media portrays (this) because negative news sells.”

“So the negative things like terrorist attacks and stuff like that, that's constantly repeating, repeating and that's of course shapes the mind of a lot of people who are already biased.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/dutch-former-anti-muslim-politician-recounts-his-journey-to-islam/2826063

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Darul Uloom Deoband:  Fatwa Warning College Students Towards Shaving And Trimming Of Beard

21 February, 2023

On Monday, Darul Uloom Deoband, the most important Islamic seminary in India issued a fatwa warning the scholars towards trimming their beards. The seminary acknowledged that any scholar who would trim or shave his beard can be ostracized from the establishment.

According to the stories, the discover was issued by Maulana Hussain Ahmad Haridwari, who oversees Darul Uloom’s schooling division. He talked about within the discover that shaving or trimming of beard is a incorrect observe as per Islam and that the scholars on the school shall by no means get their beards shaved.

The letter made it fairly clear that any present scholar who shaves can be dismissed from the college. It added that any scholar trying to enter the college for the subsequent semester by shaving off his beard wouldn’t be admitted to the premises.

Reiterating that the scholars who shave beards can be ostracized, the discover acknowledged that the college wouldn’t tolerate scholar disobedience. The fatwa additional recalled that on February 6, 4 of the Darul Uloom Deoband college students had been dismissed for trimming their beards. Reports point out that the scholars had issued a letter of apology to the seminary, however the latter didn’t heed.

The fatwa issued by the seminary has been welcomed by the Ulema of Deoband, Maulana Mufti Asad Qasmi. Maulana Mufti Asad Qasmi of Madrasa Jamia Sheikhul Hind, who can be a former scholar of Darul Uloom stated that every part that Hazrat Mohammad Sahib has adopted is Sunnat. “Every Muslim should spend his life by following Sunnat and Shariah principles. It is Sunnah to keep a handful of beards in Islam. If the beard growing more than this is cut, then there is no harm in it. But it should be maintained,” he stated.

Earlier, the Ulema had issued a fatwa towards Mulsim girls and had barred them from taking “unnecessary photographs” and importing them on social media. Also, Darul Uloom Deoband had issued a fatwa towards the Mulsim girls from shaping eyebrows or donning a haircut. The seminary had stated that any lady who shapes eyebrows or will get a haircut is indulging in un-Islamic behaviour.

Source: ReportWire

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.reportwire.in/darul-uloom-deoband-issues-fatwa-warning-students-against-shaving-says-students-without-beards-wont-be-allowed-on-the-premises/

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Extortion Money Being Used For Terror Financing: Pakistan Security Official

Umer Farooq

February 21, 2023

PESHAWAR: A senior security official in the provincial capital has revealed that the militants are spending the money extorted from the people to carry out their activities in the country.

He told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the extortion demands totalled around Rs1.06 billion as indicated by the complaints lodged by the police.

The official said that the amount was much higher than reported because many people didn’t lodge complaints with the police fearing militant attacks and “silently” paid the extortion amount.

He revealed that the weapons, which had fallen into the militants’ hands after the August 2021 withdrawal of the US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan, were enough to fight a war for 15 years.

“Things worsened following the fall of Kabul, especially due to the heaps of modern weapons left behind by foreign troops. They’re enough for a 15-year-long insurgency,” he said.

The official said those weapons, which included sniper guns, thermal weapon sights, and other modern gadgets, were being used in attacks against law-enforcement agencies in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, official sources told Dawn that the militant attacks against law-enforcement agencies intensified after Oct 2022.

Says complaints lodged with police reveal Rs1.06bn extortion demands

They said that in Jan 2023 alone, a total of 80 attacks were carried out by militants with 62 targeting law-enforcement agencies and killing over 100 personnel.

The sources said that the militants had changed their strategy as they, unlike the past when they attacked civilians, were targeting LEAs compelling the police to be on the defensive mode, which would reduce street patrolling and ultimately increase the rate of street crimes.

On Friday, newly-appointed Inspector General of Police, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Akhtar Hayat Gandapur on Friday said he would ensure the reorganisation of the counter-terrorism department, the use of technology and the enhancement of the police’s capability to fight terrorism.

“There is no point in being penny-wise but pound-foolish. We are willing to pay Rs10 million to the heirs of the martyred police but don’t spend enough to save lives,” the police chief told reporters in a meeting at the Central Police Office here.

The IGP said the reorganisation of the CTD and Special Branch would be his topmost priority through resource utilisation and induction of more officers adding he had set up the police’s two new divisions and a sub-division to improve supervision and efficiency.

“If we take the average monthly figure and multiply it by 12, we are probably reaching the level of terrorism when it was at its peak in 2008. The law and order situation has deteriorated,” he said adding the semblance of peace and normalcy probably resulted in complacency.

The police chief said he was reaching out to the city district government to get resources for the Safe City Project and was thinking about ways to connect private and commercial CCTVs to the central monitoring system.

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1738252/extortion-money-being-used-for-terror-financing-security-official

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Media Freedom In Bangladesh: Government Shuts Main Opposition Newspaper, The DainikDinkal

February 21, 2023

Journalists of Dainik Dinkal publication hold a rally to protest against the government’s order to halt its production in Dhaka on February 20, 2023. — AFP

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DHAKA: The only newspaper of Bangladesh’s main opposition party halted printing on Monday after a government suspension order was upheld, stoking fears about media freedom in the South Asian nation.

Campaigners and foreign governments, including the United States, have long expressed worries about efforts by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to silence criticism and what they see as creeping authoritarianism.

The DainikDinkal, a broadsheet Bengali-lang­uage newspaper, has been a vital voice of the Bang­ladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for more than three decades. It employs hundreds of journalists and press workers.

It covers news stories that the mainstream newspapers, most of which are controlled by pro-government businessmen, rarely do.

This includes the frequent arrests of BNP activists and what the party says are thousands of fake cases against its supporters.

The newspaper said the Dhaka district authorities ordered the shutdown on December 26, but it continued to publish after making an appeal at the Press Council headed by a top high court judge.

“The council rejected our appeal yesterday (Sunday), upholding the district magistrate’s order to stop our publication,” Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas, managing editor of the newspaper, said.

The order, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, said the printing permit of the newspaper was cancelled after it the newspaper violated the country’s printing and publication laws.

The council said the paper’s publisher, Tarique Rahman — the acting chief of BNP — was a convicted criminal and was living abroad without handing over his job to another person.

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1738305/bangladesh-shuts-main-opposition-newspaper

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Malaysia Recognised As Best Example For Promoting Culture Of Peaceful Living - Foreign Minister

February 21, 2023

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir said Malaysia is recognised as the best example in the world in promoting the culture of peaceful living among people of various races and religions. - NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is recognised as the best example in the world in promoting the culture of peaceful living among people of various races and religions, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir.

Zambry, who is currently on an official visit to Saudi Arabia until Feb 23, said this was shared with him by the Secretary General of the Muslim World League (Rabitah al-Alam al-Islami), Sheikh Dr Mohammed Al-Issa in a meeting held on the first day of his visit to the country, yesterday (Feb 19).

In the meeting, the two leaders exchanged views on current issues involving Muslims in all corners of the world, especially regarding the rise of anti-Islamic sentiments in some places lately, said Zambry.

"He (Dr Issa) also considers Malaysia to be an exemplary country in creating understanding between civilisations.

"We agree that the issue of Islamophobia should be tackled together by using a dialogical approach, good communication and the principle of co-existence.

"Wiser and more prudent measures will be carried out via conferences and dialogues continuously," he said in a statement.

Zambry said a moderate Islamic approach, mutual respect and ta'ayush (co-existence) will be worked on to deal with the Islamophobic movement.

Malaysia and Rabitah will work together to correct the notion of extremism and terrorism, that damage the image and destroy Muslim countries, via joint efforts to promote a moderate, tolerant and peaceful Islam, he said.

Meanwhile, Zambry also held a meeting with the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), HisseinBrahim Taha. Both of them were of the view that member countries should strive to help rebuild and reconstruct Muslim countries that have faced wars such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

"America and Europe as well as other major powers need to work together with the OIC for the reconstruction of the countries involved through humanitarian aid without using the sanctions policy.

"But in the context of Afghanistan, Malaysia insists that the policy of discrimination against women's education must be immediately eliminated," said Zambry.

Zambry and Taha also discussed the position of the Rohingya refugees with both sides emphasising the importance of this issue being resolved in cooperation between ASEAN, the United Nations and relevant countries.

"We also agree on the Palestinian issue to continue fighting for. Collectively, we condemn Israel's apartheid policy that continues to oppress the Palestinian people," he said.

In the meeting, Taha welcomed the appointment of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia which he said would help strengthen the OIC's role among member countries.

In the meantime, Zambry said Malaysia also suggested that the socio-economic reconstruction approach of poor and post-war countries through the Islamic economy and financial system could be implemented, including using zakat and waqaf institutions to help rebuild the countries involved.

"Malaysia's experience in the Islamic financial system and microcredit can contribute to efforts for social mobilisation in addition to enhancing their economic capabilities in the post-war period.

"The OIC agreed for Malaysia to lead these efforts," said Zambry.

The OIC also suggested that a policy paper be presented by Malaysia to be highlighted in a meeting with the OIC Foreign Ministers in the future.

Zambry emphasised that the support of the OIC was very important to find a holistic and sustainable solution for the universal prosperity of Muslim countries. – Bernama

Source: NST

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2023/02/881968/malaysia-recognised-best-example-promoting-culture-peaceful-living-zambry

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Europe

 

Muslim Minister, Humza Yousaf, Is A Front-Runner To Become Scotland’s First Minister After Sturgeon’s Resignation

February 21, 2023

LONDON: Scotland’s Health Minister Humza Yousaf has emerged as a front-runner in the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the Scottish National Party and the country’s first minister.

Sturgeon, 52, shocked many in British politics last week when she announced she was resigning. She said she had become too divisive a figure and, after more than eight years of leading the SNP and the Scottish Parliament, was too tired to carry on.

Yousaf, the most prominent Muslim politician in Scotland, was the first candidate to announce his intention to stand in the leadership contest. He shares similar views with Sturgeon on many policies, and his chances of becoming leader received a boost on Monday morning when Angus Robertson, 53, the culture secretary, announced he would not be running.

John Swinney, 58, the deputy first minister and a former leader of the SNP in the early 2000s, ruled himself out on Thursday, saying his decision not to challenge for the leadership was intended to create space for a “fresh perspective” on the aims of the governing party, including its policy on pursuing Scotland’s independence from the UK.

As a result of those two announcements, the leadership contest is shaping up to be a two-candidate race between 37-year-old Yousaf and Kate Forbes, 32, the party’s more socially conservative finance secretary, who confirmed in a message posted on Twitter that she wants to succeed Sturgeon.

Yousaf launched his campaign on Monday in Clydebank, a town about eight miles west of Glasgow that was once renowned for its shipbuilding history, because his grandfather, Mohammed Yousaf, got his first job after emigrating to Scotland in 1962 at the massive Singer sewing machine factory that was once a major employer for the town.

He praised Scotland’s inclusive, diverse ethos, saying his candidacy was clear proof of this. He added that his grandfather “couldn’t have imagined, not in his wildest dreams, that his grandson would be running to be first minister of Scotland.”

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2255031/world

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EU imposes sanctions on 32 Iranian individuals, two entities over alleged rights violation

20 February 2023

In a hostile move, Council of the European Union has imposed sanctions on a number of Iranian individuals and entities over alleged human rights violations.

In a press release issued on Monday, the EU Council said it has decided to impose restrictive measures on additional 32 Iranian individuals and two entities in a fifth round of sanctions over what the bloc claimed to be Tehran's crackdown on the recent riots.

Foreign-backed riots broke out in Iran in mid-September after the death of the 22-year-old Iranian woman, MahsaAmini, in police custody. She fainted at a police station in Tehran and was pronounced dead three days later at the hospital. An official report by Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization concluded that Amini’s death was caused by illness rather than alleged blows to the head or other vital body organs.

Iran’s intelligence community has said several countries, including the United States and the UK, have used their spy and propaganda apparatuses to provoke violent riots in the country.

Rioters went on a rampage, brutally attacking security officers and causing massive damage to public property. Dozens of people and security personnel were killed in the riots.

According to the EU press release, Iran's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Mehdi Esmaeili, Minister of Education Yousef Nouri, the deputy commander and spokesperson of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), a number of MPs, members of the police and judiciary in various parts of the country, as well as prison wardens are among the individuals listed.

The 27-nation bloc also imposed sanctions on the co-founders of EU-listed Ravin Academy, an Iran-based cyber security company.

The designations also targeted the Law Enforcement Forces Cooperative Foundation and the Police Science and Social Studies Institute.

The EU restrictive measures now apply to a total of 196 individuals and 33 entities, consisting of an asset freeze, a travel ban to the EU and a prohibition to make funds or economic resources available to those listed.

A ban on exports to Iran of equipment which might be used for monitoring telecommunications is also in place.

In a telephone conversation with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian said the bloc is sticking to former US president Donald Trump’s “ineffectual” policy of sanctions against Tehran.

Amir-Abdollahian slammed Brussels’ “overused and obsolete” policy regarding Iran.

“The behavior of the European Union in recent months is the continuation of Trump's ineffective Iran policy. It further proves the continuation of dual and unrealistic standards combined with the exploitation of human rights concepts,” Amir-Abdollahian said.

UK adds 8 new designations to its list of sanctions against Iran

Also on Monday, Britain added eight new designations to its sanctions list relating to Iran for what it claimed were human rights violations.

Source: Press TV

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

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/02/20/698573/Iran-EU-sanctions-IRGC-human-rights-crackdown-protests-culture-education-Ravin-Academy-Mohammad-Mehdi-Esmaili-Yousef-Nouri

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UK broadcaster Stephen Fry faces Islamophobia allegation

February 20, 2023

LONDON: UK actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry has been accused of making an Islamophobic remark at an event at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, The Times reported on Monday.

The 65-year-old, who is president of ground owners Marylebone Cricket Club, was said to have linked Muslims with terrorism in a joke at a cricketing dinner.

One member, Chris Waterman, described the comment as “egregious” and deserving of disciplinary action.

He said in opening remarks, Fry referred to the Allahakbarries cricket club, founded in 1890 by author J. M. Barrie.

The name of the amateur team, which was active until 1913, was based on the mistaken interpretation that “Allahu akbar” meant “Heaven help us” in Arabic.

Fry reportedly said: “The term ‘Allahu akbar,’ when used today, is usually followed by a loud bang.”

However, other members said they had not heard the comment, with MCC CEO Guy Lavender describing Waterman’s account as “factually incorrect.”

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254666/world

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EU expansion crucial to ‘maintaining peace’ in Bosnia, across the globe

Leila Nezirevic

20.02.2023

Bosnia and Herzegovina gained European Union candidacy status last December, nearly two decades after the country stated its desire to join the bloc, but the question of eventual EU membership remains.

Candidate status means the country joined other countries that are also candidates – Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Moldova, Ukraine and Türkiye.

Stjepan Mesic, a former president of Croatia and the last serving president of Yugoslavia, told Anadolu that Bosnia and Herzegovina must join the EU, as this would ensure that there will no longer be “a motive for war.”

Allowing all the countries of the former Yugoslavia to join the EU would enable the union to develop further, which in turn would “enrich Europe,” said Mesic.

Despite promises of enlargement to the Western Balkans bloc, the EU’s expansion was halted, with Croatia being the only country to join the union in 2013.

In Mesic's opinion, Europe lacks leadership, as “real leaders” would insist on quick inclusion and help those countries with less potential.

He argued that further EU expansion is crucial to maintaining peace across the globe.

For instance, “I have always been in favor of speeding up Türkiye’s entry into the European Union, because it is partly a European country, it is a big country, it is a strong country, and it should only be welcomed by Europe and the world precisely because it is a link between continents, a link between peoples, and these links can help peace in the world,” he added.

New pro-EU government

Last month, Bosnia and Herzegovina appointed a new pro-EU government which promised to return the country to the path towards EU membership.

Normally it takes over a year for political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach an agreement and compile a Cabinet, but this time around, the appointment of the government came a lot sooner than expected, around four months after the Oct. 2 general election.

Some 23 out of 42 lawmakers backed the new government in the House of the Representatives, which is the country's state parliament.

Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two autonomous entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska – with each entity having its own parliament, government and president. There are also state-level institutions and the neutral Brcko District.

The political divisions were created by the Dayton Agreement, which ended the war in Bosnia in 1995.

In this complex structure, Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoyed peace ever since.

However, Mesic argues that in recent years, the EU and US have failed to press for reform in the country, which in turn led ultranationalist political leaders to capture the state.

“On one side, you have those who fight for a civil state, for a European state, and those who want on their own to profit from nationalism. Some even want to separate parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina to join other countries. That’s the problem,” he said.

The Dayton Agreement was initially believed to be a temporary solution, but the agreement continues almost after a quarter of a century, with many critics arguing that too many layers of government are preventing the country from moving forward in its ambitions to join the EU institution.

The critics also say that the agreement focuses on the rights of entities and not on the rights of individuals, where a small nation of only 3.5 million people is expected to finance multi-governments and parliaments, many presidents, and a large number of ministries.

All these factors contributed to many young people leaving, which is an issue the country is currently grappling with.

According to Mesic, EU membership could potentially end the departure of young people if the union changes its current political environment and invests in the country.

War in Ukraine

Mesic warned that the war in Ukraine could have negative consequences for the Balkans and elsewhere in Europe and that any expansion of the bloc is not possible until peace is reached.

He pointed out that Russia made “a big mistake” when it started military conflict in Ukraine, because it violated international law.

Moscow instead needed to resolve the issue of danger to its borders through international forums and “get the international community on their side,” Mesic advised.

“One can think that the problem can be solved in the same way in another part of Europe,” he said.

This, he said, was evident when Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic threatened to go in with the army and attack Kosovo.

But in the Kosovo conflict that started in 1998, “they (Serbs) were there with the army and lost the war. So that's not the solution,” said Mesic.

Now you have Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik in Bosnia and Herzegovina, “who thinks that he can break up Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he added.

Serbian and Croatian interference

Mesic also stressed that the Western Balkan country will be unable to take a step in a positive direction since Serbia and Croatia are interfering in its affairs and as long as Europe and the world “puts up with it.”

The real problem is not “either in Mostar, in Sarajevo, or in Banja Luka. The problem is in Zagreb and Belgrade,” he said.

This meddling in the country’s politics prevents Bosnia from moving closer to becoming an EU member, Mesic said.

According to Mesic, politicians in Republika Srpska and beyond must give up separatist unrealistic ideas and realize that “Bosnia and Herzegovina is a fact, and that it is unchangeable. No Dodik and no Ursula von der Leyen (the president of the European Commission) can change that.”

“Bosnia existed throughout history. Bosnia is today, and Bosnia will be in the future,” he added.

Mesic pointed out that the European and American decision-makers must give up on the belief that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina can’t get along and that the only way to solve the country’s problems is through endless conflict mediation or more ethnic autonomy.

“In Bosnia and Herzegovina, people lived in that country hundreds of years ago, and they always knew how to solve their problems, and they solved them well,” he added.

Despite “divisive politics” and reckless governance, the country has shown an outstanding societal resilience evident in great achievements in arts, sports and entrepreneurship for instance.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eu-expansion-crucial-to-maintaining-peace-in-bosnia-across-the-globe/2825409

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EU to hold donor conference on March 16 to help quake-hit Türkiye, Syria

Agnes Szucs

20.02.2023

BRUSSELS

The EU donor conference to help earthquake victims in Türkiye and Syria will take place on March 16, the Swedish foreign minister announced on Monday.

Speaking to reporters before the meeting of EU foreign ministers, Tobias Billstrom said the donor conference “is going to be held here in Brussels on March 16.”

The event is organized by the European Commission and the Swedish government that assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on Jan. 1.

“Our aim is to raise additional support for the people in Türkiye and Syria and try to do as much as possible to alleviate the terrible consequences of this earthquake,” Billstrom asserted.

He said they expect a “high-level turnout” at the donor conference.

At their meeting, the EU foreign ministers will discuss the latest developments of the war in Ukraine and the bloc’s support for the country, the situation in Afghanistan, including humanitarian aid, and energy and climate diplomacy.

For his part, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell confirmed that the ministers will assess the details of the 10th sanctions package against Russia but said it was not certain that they “will have a final agreement today.”

In a similar tone, Billstrom stressed that he was “very optimistic” that the new restrictive measures would be adopted soon but declined “to bind” himself if they can enter into force by Friday, the war’s first anniversary, as the European Commission originally planned.

Borrell revealed that the ministers will discuss how to “answer to the decision of the Taliban to ban women from participating in the work of NGOs” because it challenges the bloc’s principles of cooperation with Afghanistan.

He explained that the EU does not want to cut humanitarian aid and cause more “pain for Afghan people” who depend on EU support, especially on healthcare and education, but they want to “send a message” to the Taliban regime.

Borrell also said the EU ministers will approve a new sanctions package against Iranian individuals under the bloc’s Human Rights Sanctions Regime for “what happened in past weeks, the crackdown on protesters and the use of capital penalty.”

Asked about the possibility of Chinese military support to Russia, he said it would be a “a red line in our relationships.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

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

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eu-to-hold-donor-conference-on-march-16-to-help-quake-hit-turkiye-syria/2825382

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Russian senator donates $1.3M to quake victims in Türkiye

Emre GurkanAbay

20.02.2023

MOSCOW

A Russian senator, Suleiman Kerimov, donated 100 million Russian rubles ($1.3 million) to earthquake victims in Türkiye, where two powerful tremors jolted the southern Turkish regions on Feb. 6.

A written statement by the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation said that humanitarian aid was provided for earthquake victims in Türkiye from many parts of the country.

The statement noted Senator Kerimov donated 100 million Russian rubles ($1.3 million) to the victims of the quakes in Türkiye, adding that the same amount was also sent to victims in Syria.

It also added that Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry has worked in the earthquake zones.

At least 41,020 people have been killed by two strong earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye on Feb. 6, the country’s disaster management agency said Sunday.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 quakes were centered in Kahramanmaras and struck 10 other provinces – Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Hatay, Gaziantep, Malatya, Kilis, Osmaniye, Elazig and Sanliurfa. More than 13 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes.
Source: Anadolu Agency

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https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russian-senator-donates-13m-to-quake-victims-in-turkiye/2825243

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India

 

Why Divorce Criminal For Muslims? Kerala Chief Minister On Triple Talaq Ban

Shibimol KG

Feb 20, 2023

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asked why triple talaq was criminalised when divorce happens in all religions.”The triple talaq was criminalised. Divorce happens in all religions. Why is it a criminal offence for the Muslims alone?" he asked.

The chief minister reiterated that the Citizenship Amendment Act will not be implemented in Kerala at any cost. He also criticised the country’s Vice-President and law minister for attacking the Supreme Court's Collegium system.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asked why triple talaq was criminalised when divorce happens in all religions.”The triple talaq was criminalised. Divorce happens in all religions. Why is it a criminal offence for the Muslims alone?" he asked.

The chief minister reiterated that the Citizenship Amendment Act will not be implemented in Kerala at any cost. He also criticised the country’s Vice-President and law minister for attacking the Supreme Court's Collegium system.

“The triple talaq was criminalised. Divorce happens in all religions. All others are seen as civil cases. Why is it a criminal offence for Muslims alone? So, in the case of a divorce, if it's a Muslim, then he can be jailed. We are all Indians. Can we say that we got our citizenship because we were born in a particular religion? Has religion ever been the basis for citizenship?” he further asked.

The Centre used religion to decide citizenship through the Citizenship Amendment Act, he alleged, adding, “We have already cleared our stand on it. We won't implement it here at any cost.”

ON COLLEGIUM SYSTEM

“Our parliament cannot decide on the basic principles of our Constitution,” Vijayan said.

Source: IndiaToday

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https://www.indiatoday.in/india/kerala/story/why-divorce-criminal-for-muslims-pinarayi-vijayan-on-triple-talaq-ban-2337359-2023-02-20

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Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Views Discussions With Sangh Parivar, On Key Issues Faced By Indian Muslims, As Part Of Its Fight

Feb 21, 2023

KOZHIKODE: Jamaat-e-Islami blamed CPM for the campaign that the organization had held direct talks with RSS. Addressing the media on Monday, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) state Assistant Amir P Mujeeb Rahman said JIH had not held direct talks with RSS and had clarified that it was only a part of various Muslim organizations that had discussions with RSS at the latter's behest.

He said the decision to participate in the talks were unanimously taken by Muslim organizations and added that JIH viewed discussions with Sangh Parivar, on key issues faced by Indian Muslims, as part of its fight. However, he maintained that the only point is that no selfish interests should creep into such talks and added that no one raised any such interests during talks.

Rahman added that CPM made a concerted effort to portray the talks as direct parleys between Jamaat-e-Islami and RSS. He reminded that CM shouldn't forget history and said Pinarayi Vijayan and late CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had held talks with RSS in 2015-16 with Sri M as the mediator.

Referring to the remarks made by Vijayan that the logic of Jamaat-e-Islami that RSS can be reformed through dialogues is equal to the belief that the spots of a leopard can be changed by giving it a bath, Rahman asked whether CPM was able to change it (leopard's spots) after the party held talks with the organization. "CPM is trying to create Islamophobia" he alleged. Rahman said that the criticisms raised by Muslim organizations in the state against these talks were understandable as it was part of their vigil against the RSS.

Source: Times Of India

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/kerala-cm-pinarayi-vijayan-shouldnt-forget-history-jamaat-e-islami-hind/articleshow/98112524.cms?from=mdr

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Muslim Genocide Inevitable For Hindu Rashtra: Bajrang Muni, A Hindutva Leader

20th February 2023

Bajrang Muni, a Hindutva leader, who has given many hate speeches in the past has come out with another one, this time calling for a full genocide of the Muslim community.

In a video posted on Twitter, Muni alleges that India was a peaceful Hindu Rashtra before the invasion of the Mughals and others.

“If we want to become a Hindu Rashtra again, we should use the same technique as what the Muslim leaders in the past did – murder all Muslims in the country. As long as they survive, India can never attain total Hindu Rashtra status,” he says in the video.

He further says, “In the past, Hindus were living peacefully. But then we were attacked by ‘Muslim terrorists’. Hence, to bring back our Hindus Rastra era, the genocide of Muslims is inevitable.”

This is not the first time Bajrang Muni has spit venom against him. Last year on April 13 he urged people to kill and rape Muslim women. He was seen supported by the Uttar Pradesh police officials. The video went viral instantly gaining condemnation from Twitteratis and Opposition parties.

Though Muni was booked for his rape remarks, he was soon granted bail within ten days. While speaking to reporters, Muni said he had no guilt.

Soon after Muni was criticised for his offensive remarks against Muslim women, the seer went a step further by flashing his private parts on camera.

In the video, one can see Muni speaking to a person and suddenly flashing his private parts into the camera adding, “I (will) give it in the mouth. I don’t feel ashamed.”

Source: Siasat Daily

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https://www.siasat.com/muslim-genocide-inevitable-for-hindu-rashtra-bajrang-muni-2530800/

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In principle, Centre supports PILs for uniform personal laws

Feb 21, 2023

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday lent its in-principle support to a bunch of PILs in the Supreme Court in favour of gender-and religion-neutral uniform personal laws even as the Muslim sides opposed a judicial adjudication of the pleas, saying only the Centre and Parliament have the jurisdiction to deal with them.

Appearing for Muslim organisations and individuals, Kapil Sibal told a bench of CJI Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala he had preliminary objections to the maintainability of these PILs led by one filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay. "The issues squarely fall within the domain of the government, Parliament or state legislature. How can the SC deal with it? It has no jurisdiction to legislate. The SC shouldn't be seen passing any order in these issues," Sibal said.

BJP committed to bring Uniform Civil Code once democratic discussions are over: Home minister Amit Shah

SG Tushar Mehta said, "In principle, there cannot be any objection to gender- and religion-neutral personal laws. It is for the government to initiate the process for legislation and Parliament to decide. But, the SC can examine what all it can do in these issues."

Interestingly, for decades, the SC has been mocking the political class's frozen feet on the 'Uniform Civil Code', which was to be envisaged by the government under Article 44 of the Constitution. And when some states made attempts to frame the UCC, their moves were challenged in the SC.

Appearing for Upadhyay, senior advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan told the SC that the petitioners included women from the Muslim community who want uniform marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption, guardianship and succession laws as the personal laws for Christians, Muslims and Parsis are not yet codified like those for Hindus. One of the petitioners, through senior advocate Mahalaxmi Pavani, told the SC that it had been passing judgment after judgment underlining the need for the UCC since 1985 (Shah Bano case) and has ruled on the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Caught between contrasting arguments, the SC bailed itself out by asking the petitioners to give a short synopsis of each petition and the reliefs sought.

On December 16, 2020, the SC had entertained with trepidation two PILs seeking uniform divorce laws and uniformity in grant of maintenance and alimony to women. On January 29, 2021, the SC entertained another PIL seeking uniform adoption, succession, and guardianship laws.

Three decades after codification of Hindu personal laws, the SC in the Shah Bano Begum judgment in 1985 had ruled that under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a divorced Muslim woman would have to be paid maintenance by her husband after iddat period till she remarries.

The Muslim clergy prevailed upon the then Rajiv Gandhi government to enact Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, rendering the SC verdict a paper decree. Undeterred, the SC continued to rule - in Danial Latifi (2001), Iqbal Bano case (2007) and in Shabana Bano (2009) - that Muslim women could not be deprived of the benefit of Section 125.

In Shah Bano case, the SC in 1985 had said, "A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to law which have conflicting ideologies."

Source: Times Of India

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/in-principle-centre-supports-pils-for-uniform-personal-laws/articleshow/98106632.cms?from=mdr

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Bhiwani: India anger over charred bodies linked to cow vigilantes

The discovery of two charred bodies in a burnt vehicle in India's Haryana state has led to anger and questions over police handling of the case.

Police say the bodies belonged to two Muslim men from neighbouring Rajasthan state who had been reported missing.

Their relatives say they were killed by right-wing Hindus who reports say accused them of cow-smuggling.

Leaders of the Bajrang Dal group have denied the claims as have police, who say they're investigating the killings.

What happened?

Police in Haryana said last week they began investigating after locals found the vehicle and its two bodies in the village of Barwas in the state's Bhiwani district.

Initially, police didn't confirm the identity of the victims, but said that the burnt vehicle was a Mahindra Bolero, the SUV in which the two men - later named as Junaid and Nasir - had been travelling before they were reported missing in Rajasthan.

A senior Rajasthan police official then confirmed the bodies were of Junaid and Nasir. Their relatives also identified them.

Why the two men were travelling remains unclear. A family member told police they left their houses early on Wednesday morning in the vehicle for some "personal work".

"At around 9am, some people at a shop said that two men were badly beaten up by 8-10 people. They were then taken away in a car," the relative's complaint to police says, adding that the attackers had been identified as members of the Bajrang Dal.

The Indian Express reported a senior Rajasthan police official as saying that after they received the complaint, they tried tracking the victims' phones, which were switched off.

After they learnt that a burnt Bolero car had been found in Haryana, a Rajasthan police team accompanied the men's relatives to the spot.

The official said that the family members had named some "suspects [who] are from Haryana".

He also added that the motive behind the alleged murder wasn't clear yet. "Nasir doesn't have any criminal record. Junaid has five previous cases of cow smuggling registered against him," he said.

Slaughtering cows - venerated by Hindus - is illegal in a number of Indian states, including Rajasthan and Haryana. While buffaloes are exempt from the rule, buffalo meat sellers and cattle traders - many of them Muslim - have often been assaulted in recent years by Hindu vigilante groups who have accused them of transporting beef.

After the two bodies were found in the Bolero, several media reports said the men may have been attacked by cow vigilantes on suspicion of transporting beef.

Ram Naresh, the investigating officer in the case, told BBC Hindi that the police complaint does not mention cow smuggling.

"No cattle have been found with the deceased... We are probing the case from every angle," he said.

Has anyone been arrested?

Yes, one man called Rinku Saini, who was named in the complaint, is in custody under arrest. Police have said that Mr Saini, a taxi driver from Haryana, belongs to cow vigilante groups. His family told BBC Hindi he was just a driver, and had no involvement with this case.

Police have also said that they are searching for the four other men named in the complaint, including Monu Manesar, a Bajrang Dal member who was part of a local cow protection task force.

Mr Manesar has more than 200,000 followers on YouTube, where he often posts videos of himself and others confronting alleged cow smugglers and rescuing cows.

After the recent case sparked outrage, Mr Manesar posted a video denying any involvement and saying he was not at the scene.

He has also received support from leaders of the Bajrang Dal and another right-wing organisation called the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who held a press conference claiming that cow vigilantes were being "falsely framed".

But family members of the victims have been protesting, demanding that he and the other accused be arrested.

"Our protest will continue until Monu Manesar is arrested," one of the relatives told The Hindustan Times newspaper.

What are the claims against police?

Police in Haryana have set up a committee to look into allegations made by Mr Saini, the only person to be arrested so far.

According to media reports, Mr Saini has alleged that he and the other accused tried to hand over the two victims to police in Haryana's Nuh district.

They had been beaten badly, reports say, but were still alive.

Quoting Rajasthan police sources, a report by NDTV suggested the Haryana police could have intervened, but did not.

A relative of the victims also alleged that Haryana police were "working in co-ordination" with Bajrang Dal members.

"The allegations against us aren't true. We have no involvement in the deaths," said Varun Singla, police superintendent of Nuh district, adding that the committee had been set up since the allegations were "serious in nature".

Source: BBC

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

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-64701344

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BJP To Kick-start Muslim Outreach Programme Across India Next Month

20th February 2023

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Minority Morcha is going to start a Muslim outreach programme across the country from March 10.

As part of the programme, 14 states have been identified in the first phase in which there are 64 districts. These states include Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Ladakh, Maharashtra, Kerala and Bihar.

In the party’s National Executive meeting held last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for reaching out to the minority community and especially Pasmanda Muslims.

For this programme, BJP already constituted a national team and national in-charges. Now state-wise teams are being formed. These teams will work following the advice given by the Prime Minister for reaching out to the Muslim community.

Sources said the party has identified those places where the Muslim population are considerably high. The party identified 60 such Lok Sabha constituencies where the Muslim population is over 30 per cent.

As many as 5,000 people are being identified in each of these Lok Sabha constituencies. These people do not belong to BJP but are affected by the welfare policies of the Modi government. For example, these are people who become doctors, an engineer, social workers, journalists, or businessmen. In other words, these are the people who are important in society and can be influencers. So efforts are being made to identify such people who can communicate with the people around their lives and the society at large, said BJP sources.

Sources further said BJP Muslim Morcha will reach out to these people who could be a vendor, labourers, doctors or an engineer who may not be associated with politics but play influential roles and can work for the betterment of the community and society.

The party is in identifying such people in the Muslim community who can be the best influences in society communicating messages of the government.

At the BJP National Executive meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month called upon party leaders to reach out to the minorities, including Muslims, without expecting votes.

PM Modi spoke about areas where the party needs to be strengthened ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

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

Source:Siasat Daily

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https://www.siasat.com/bjp-to-kickstart-muslim-outreach-programme-across-india-next-month-2530930/

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Pakistan

 

Not just economy: How Pakistan is also floundering on terror

Feb 20, 2023

NEW DELHI: As the Taliban stormed to power in Afghanistan in the fall of 2021, cheers went up in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Pakistan believed it has pulled off a huge strategic coup, and Afghanistan's new rulers can be manipulated to protect its interests.

However, more than a year later, the scripts hasn't quite gone the way Pakistan had hoped.

The Kabul regime has turned a deaf ear to Pakistan's requests to act against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

The result- Pakistan's internal security is in a turmoil, with a resurgent TTP carrying out attacks with impunity.

Less than two months into 2023, terror-related incidents have already claimed 227 lives.

Pakistan's obfuscated approach in dealing with TTP

Pakistani forces were able to effectively dismantle the TTP and kill most of its top leadership in a string of military operations from 2014 onwards in the tribal areas, driving most of the fighters into Afghanistan, where they regrouped.

They have been buoyed by the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan over the US-backed government after Western forces exited the country in 2021.

A Pakistani minister on Sunday said that the former ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed wanted to bring the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members back to the country, but his plan “backfired.”

Human rights minister Riaz Pirzada claimed that an in-camera briefing was held in which Army generals proposed to “resettle” TTP members in Pakistan.

A minister in the now-deposed Imran Khan government too claimed that they had tried to work on a consensus to initiate dialogue with the TTP, but that did not materialise.

A ceasefire, and its unravelling

In June last year, the Pakistan government reached a broad ceasefire agreement with the TTP.

By November though, it had gone up in smoke. As TTP renewed its attacks, many targeted at government officials and security forces, there were talks of recalibrating the approach.

With the Kabul regime unwilling to act against their brethren, Pakistan has tried opening a channel with the Taliban supreme leader.

The volatile political atmosphere, the economic crisis, strained relations with neighbouring countries and a scary internal security scenario - the Shehbaz Sharif government has too much to deal with for now.

Source: Times Of India

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/not-just-economy-how-pakistan-is-also-floundering-on-terror/articleshow/98099267.cms

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‘Kabul’s inaction on TTP due to mixed signals by Pakistan’

February 21, 2023

FOREIGN Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that mixed signals from the Pakistan side were responsible for the Afghan Taliban’s inaction against the outlawed TTP.

In an interview with German broadcaster DW Urdu, the foreign minister said the previous government was asking the interim Afghan government to facilitate reconciliation with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and had plans to resettle the militants in Pakistan. But every Pakistani was demanding that terrorists who were involved in heinous attacks such as the Army Public School massacre could never be “our friends”, he added.

Earlier in an interview with CNBC, the foreign minister blamed the PTI government for negotiating with terrorists without any precondition. Calling it a “policy of appeasement,” the foreign minister said it blew up in Pakistan’s face.

“Unfortunately, following the fall of Kabul, the government that preceded ours started negotiating with these very same terrorist groups and without preconditions such as disarming,” the foreign minister told CNBC on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Bilawal says Imran’s ‘policy of appeasing’ terrorists ended by PDM-led govt

However, he added that the new government and the military leadership have “put a full stop to the policy of appeasement”.

“Those people who don’t accept Pakistan and don’t accept the Constitution, I don’t think negotiating with them is in the interest of Pakistan or its people,” he told DW Urdu.

The PPP chairman added that the withdrawal of western forces has given space to various terrorist groups in Afghanistan which have caused immense challenges for Pakistan.

“We have a very porous border [with Afghanistan] that the new government doesn’t have the capacity to man,” he told CNBC.

“We are confident that we’ll be able to take on the terrorist groups that are functioning within Pakistan.”

He added that till the terrorist threats emanating out of Afghanistan are add­ressed, Pakistan will be in a high-risk security phase.

Pakistan still hopes some action would be taken against the outlawed groups and Afghanistan has been told that this issue can affect bilateral relations between the two countries, he told DW Urdu.

Imran’s political future

When asked about the political future of former prime minister Imran Khan, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he “never says never in politics”.

In his interview with CNBC, the foreign minister said if Mr Khan strives to pursue a democratic path and commits to play a constitutional role, he can have a future.

The foreign minister added that Mr Khan’s ouster through a vote of no-confidence motion was the first time parliament removed a prime minister in a democratic way.

However, since his ouster, Mr Khan has been asking the army for help in getting back to power, the foreign minister said.

He added that the former army chief had said in a speech that the military used to intervene in politics and now they want to step away. “If the military says it wants to change its controversial conduct constitutionally, it should be welcomed.”

The PPP chairman told CNBC that “our opposition thinks that the military should play its role in politics. They want the military to help them bring them back to power.”

Economy

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said widespread devastation of standing crops due to flood, combined with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine had impacted Pakistan’s economy.

On Pakistan’s ability to honour its debt repayments, the foreign minister said there should be no doubt about Pakistan’s ability to live up to its economic commitments even though recent events have thrown the economy off track.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari told DW Urdu that Pakistan was taking a number of steps to solve the economic crisis.

Source: Dawn

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

https://www.dawn.com/news/1738306

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Army generals proposed to bring TTP back to Pakistan: Minister

21 February, 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], February 21 (ANI): Pakistan Human Rights Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada on Sunday countered PTI leader Shireen Mazari’s claim that ex-army chief retired Gen Qamar JavedBajwa wanted to “resettle” the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members in the country, saying ex-army generals were in favour of bringing TTP back to country, Pakistan based Dawn newspaper reported.

Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader and Minister Pirzada said that the former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general retired Lt Gen Faiz Hameed wanted to bring TTP members back to the country.

According to Dawn, the minister’s statement came a day after PTI leader Shireen Mazari claimed that ex-army chief retired Gen Qamar JavedBajwa wanted to “resettle” the TTP members in the country.

Pirzada while talking to Nadir Guramani on Dawn NewsTV, claimed that an in-camera briefing was held in which army generals had proposed to bring TTP back to Pakistan. “However, (Foreign Minister) Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and (Prime Minister) Shehbaz Sharif talked on it … they said that a number of popular leaders were killed by TTP, including Benazir Bhutto sahiba,” he said.

The minister, in response to a question on who made this proposition, said that: “At that time, General Faiz had suggested that they [TTP] should be brought into the mainstream but it backfired.”

Pirzada’s predecessor, PTI leader Mazari had on Saturday rejected the perception that the resettlement was the idea of former prime minister Imran Khan, according to Dawn.

PTI chief Imran Khan recently blamed the negligence of Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies for the rising incidents of terrorism in the country, Pakistan-based Dawn newspaper reported.

Khan, in an interview with Voice of America (VOA), spoke about the criticism received by the PTI for its decision to negotiate with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) before the party was ousted.

To a question from VOA correspondent Sarah Zaman asked on whether he stands by his decision to greenlight the dialogue with the TTP, Khan was quoted in the Dawn report as saying,

“Well, firstly, what were the choices [the] Pakistani government faced once the Taliban took over and they decided the TTP, and we’re talking about 30, [30,000] to 40,000 people, you know, the families included, once they decided to send them back to Pakistan? Should we have just lined them up and shot them, or should we have tried to work with them to resettle them.”

Khan said his government had a meeting at that time and the idea behind it was resettlement with the “concurrence of politicians all along the border”.

“But that never happened because our government left and once our government was removed, the new government took its eye off the ball,” he said.

“But then where were the Pakistani security forces? Where were the intelligence agencies? Could they not see them regrouping?” the former PM asked.

Source: ThePrint

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https://theprint.in/world/army-generals-proposed-to-bring-ttp-back-to-pakistan-minister/1387211/

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IMF to Pakistan: Function like a country, make the rich pay taxes & poor get subsidies

Feb 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD:: Cash-strapped Pakistan must take steps to ensure that its high earners pay taxes and only the poor get the subsidies if it wants to function as a country, the IMF has said, amid looming fears of a default.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle on Friday, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said Pakistan needs to take strong measures to avoid getting into a "dangerous place" where its debt needs to be restructured. She said IMF was clear it wanted the poor people of Pakistan to be protected, Dawn reported, "It shouldn't be that the wealthy benefit from subsidies. It should be the poor (who) benefit from them."

Source: Times Of India

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

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/imf-to-pakistan-function-like-a-country-make-the-rich-pay-taxes-poor-get-subsidies/articleshow/98107744.cms

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Imran Khan appears in court for first time after assassination bid on him

OMER FAROOQ KHAN

Feb 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Amid high drama, former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan on Monday appeared before the Lahore high court in two cases against him related to violent protests outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) last year in the wake of his disqualification by the electoral watchdog in the Toshakhana (state gift storehouse) case. While one bench granted him protective bail, another bench disposed of the second case.

A large number of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers and supporters had gathered outside the court to welcome Imran after he arrived at the court amid tight security.

Footage aired on television showed Imran’s convoy being showered with rose petals as it made its way inside the high court premises with a large number of PTI supporters chanting slogans in support of the former prime minister.A two-member bench led by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi granted protective bail to the PTI chief in the first case.

Taking the rostrum, Imran -- who was injured in November last year after being fired at during a rally -- said that his leg had recovered to an extent but the doctors had still advised him to rest for two weeks. He said his medical checkup was scheduled for February 28. He further said that he had waited outside the courtroom for an hour, adding that he ‘fully respects the courts’. “My party’s name is Tehreek-e-Insaf (movement for justice) and I expect the same from courts,” he added.

The court, subsequently, granted Imran protective bail till March 3 and directed him to approach the relevant court by then.

Earlier, Khan’s counsel had requested the court to verify his client’s presence through the court staff as the PTI chief was facing difficulty in entering the court due to security reasons and presence of a large number of PTI workers.

However, the court rejected the request and ordered the court’s security in charge to present Imran before the bench, prompting him to walk to the courtroom.

The PTI chief has been recuperating at his residence in Lahore ever since he was wounded in the assassination attempt in Wazirabad city in Punjab province on November 3. This was the first time Imran appeared before a court of law after the attack.

A terrorism case was filed against him in October 2022 after PTI workers took to the streets and held demonstrations outside ECP offices across the country after it disqualified the former PM in the Toshakhana case. The electoral body had disqualified Imran for “deliberately concealing his assets” relating to the Toshakhana gifts retained by him, including Rolex watches, a ring and a pair of cufflinks, which were given to him by foreign dignitaries. Imran had failed to mention these in his declaration of assets submitted to the commission.

Source: Times Of India

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

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/imran-khan-appears-in-court-for-first-time-after-assassination-bid-on-him/articleshow/98103769.cms

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Imran’s indictment in Toshakhana reference deferred yet again

Umer Burney

February 21, 2023

An Islamabad district and sessions court deferred — for a second time — on Tuesday PTI chairman Imran Khan’s indictment in the Toshakhana reference on medical grounds as the judge remarked that if this delay continued, his trial would continue indefinitely.

Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zafar Iqbal has instructed Imran to appear before the court in person on Feb 28.

On Jan 31, the court had announced that charges against the PTI chief — who is recuperating after sustaining a gunshot wound following an assassination attempt during a rally on Nov 3 — would take place in the reference on Feb 7.

However, in the previous hearing, Imran’s lawyers filed an exemption plea for a personal appearance in court, after which the ex-premier’s indictment was delayed to today.

The reference, which alleges that Imran failed to share details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana (during his time as the prime minister) and proceeds from their reported sales, was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year. On October 21, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had concluded that the former premier had made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.

The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries. According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.

The watchdog’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.

Subsequently, the ECP had approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the reference, seeking criminal proceedings against Imran for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.

Imran has engaged a team of senior lawyers comprising Khawaja Haris Ahmed, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan and Advocate Ali Bukhari to contest the ECP complaint in the case.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing today, the PTI chief’s lawyer filed another exemption request in court. “An x-ray of Imran Khan will be conducted on Feb 28,” Advocate Gohar said.

Here, the court pointed out that if this (Imran’s absence) continued, the trial would never end.

The ECP lawyer also objected to the exemption request, saying that a medical certificate was not attached to the plea.

“An order should be passed to [form] a medical board for Imran,” he requested, adding that a medical examination of the PTI chief should be conducted.

At that, the court asked Imran’s lawyer to produce a medico-legal certificate of his client so it could learn about the extent of his injuries.

At one point in the hearing, copies of the case records were distributed.

“According to the law, copies of the case are given to the accused in his presence [in court]. Imran Khan was summoned today for the same reason,” ADSJ Iqbal said.

He also asked how the court could determine Imran’s heath without a medico-legal certificate. “Why not conduct a medical [examination] of Imran at the Pims hospital,” the judge added.

Source: Dawn

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1738339/imrans-indictment-in-toshakhana-reference-deferred-yet-again

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Guard injured as Pakistan, Afghan forces trade fire at Torkham

Ibrahim Shinwari

February 21, 2023

KHYBER: Pakistan and Afghanistan exchanged fire on the Torkham border on Monday, leaving a border guard injured.

The Afghan Taliban on Sunday shut the border crossing, accusing Pakis­tan of reneging on its commitments.

Irshad Momand, a distr­ict administration official in LandiKotal told Dawn that Pakistan responded to “unprovoked” firing from the Afghan side.

People living near the border crossing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa confirmed that a heavy exchange of fire continued for over an hour.

Mr Momand said the injured Pakistani soldier was being treated at a hospital and his condition was stable.

On Sunday, Afghan authorities accused Islamabad of reneging on its commitments, without giving any further details.

The Afghan Taliban co­mmissioner for Tor­kham said the border has been closed down for travel and transit trade. “Pakistan has not abi­ded by its commitments and so the gateway has been shut down on the directions of (our) leadership,” Maulavi Moham­mad Siddique said in a tweet.

According to unconfir­m­ed media reports, the int­erim Afghan governm­ent was irked by an unannounced ban on the travel of Afghan patients seeking treatment in Pakistan.

However, Mr Momand added that the issue was being discussed at the diplomatic level between Islamabad and Kabul.

He said Pakistan was awaiting a “positive” response from Afghan officials to reopen the border crossing as it was closed from their side.

Distress for locals

Due to the precarious situation, the population around the border area has been shifted to LandiKotal, Jamrud and Peshawar.

As the border crossing remained shut, locals complained of a shortage of essential goods even though markets remained open.

Jamshed Khan, a local custom clearing agent, told Dawn that trading activities have stopped, leaving at least 300 trucks stranded.

The trucks are loaded with perishable food items which were at risk of being destroyed if the closure persisted, he added.

The daily wagers and porters whose livelihood was linked with the trade held a protest in LandiKotal on Monday and demanded immediate reopening of the border.

Farman Shinwari, who led the protest, said border closure has hit daily wage workers.

In Dec 2022, Afghan Taliban forces fired mortar shells across the Chaman border into Pakistan, killing one Pakistani civilian and injuring at least 16 other citizens. This incident followed a similar cross-border attack from the Afghan side on Dec 11 which claimed the lives of six Pakistani civilians and left 17 others injured, according to the Pakistani military.

Source: Dawn

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

https://www.dawn.com/news/1738310/guard-injured-as-pakistan-afghan-forces-trade-fire-at-torkham

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Pakistan no longer can get a free terror pass for China in Afghanistan

Feb 21, 2023

By Shishir Gupta

On December 12, 2022 there was a terror attack on Longan Hotel, also known as Chinese Hotel, in central Kabul that left three terrorists dead and two foreigners injured. The attack was within days of the terrorist attacking the Pakistani embassy in Kabul on December 2 with the target apparently being the head of mission. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed credit for both the attacks.

The two incidents with common terror groups are fraught with serious security ramifications both for Chinese interests in Af-Pak region and for Pakistan as it shows that Rawalipindi GHQ and its chief promoter China no longer get a free terror pass in Afghanistan.

The Longan Hotel attack is significant as there are Uighur elements within the ISKP group who are totally opposed to Communist Party of China (CPC) for oppression of Sunni Muslims in restive Sinkiang (Xinjiang) province. The terror attack is ominous as this reveals that the hold of Pakistani deep state on the ISKP group in pre-Taliban takeover days has weakened and the Uighur elements within the Islamist group have gained control.

Add to this the April 26, 2022 suicide bombing at Chinese propaganda Confucius Institute that left three Chinese dead by the proscribed Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) and the big picture becomes more deadly for Beijing’s interests in Af-Pak region. Simply put, the linkage between the proscribed East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Baluchistan insurgent groups cannot be ignored by Beijing or by Pakistan.

As a biggest debtor of China, Islamabad in the past has ensured that the entire Muslim world including Iran and Turkiye look the other way towards oppression of Uighur Muslims in Sinkiang province while totally ignoring the repression by CPC in Buddhist Tibet. The recent developments, which run parallel to the present total political and economic chaos in Pakistan, indicate a clear and present Uighur terror threat to Chinese Belt Road Initiative in Af-Pak region and to the restive Sinkiang through the Wakhan Corridor.

After targeting the world with terror since the 1990s with home bred Islamist groups, Pakistan’s equally culpable military and civilian leadership have got their comeuppance. Today, home bred TTP is targeting the Pakistan Army and security police with spectacular attacks in Peshawar and Karachi, the Baluch and Sindh insurgent groups are hyper-active with Chinese BRI as a principal target and now compounded by the Pak deep state bred ISKP’s attack both the “milk and honey” allies in Taliban ruled Afghanistan. The Pakistani nightmare has become never ending as its once protégé Taliban is at loggerheads with Rawalpindi over the Durand Line and Kabul refuses to be “naukar (servant)” of the ISI despite the latter’s clout over supreme leader Mullah HibatullahAkundzada.

Fact is that the only force that can take on the ISKP in Afghanistan and prevent attacks against third country in Kabul be it China, Pakistan, Russia, US or even India is the Taliban as they have the capacity and capability to engage the hyper conservative Sunni Islamist force in so-called Khorasan province on ground. It is the Taliban which has managed to neutralize top terror leaders of ISKP in Afghanistan in the past and is the only force that can currently stabilize the war wrecked Afghanistan. In fact, if the Taliban leadership gives political and economic space to women, girls and other minorities, then the world could have a re-look at the Islamic Emirate under the Sunni Pashtun force.

Source: Hindustan Times

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

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/pakistan-no-longer-can-get-a-free-terror-pass-for-china-in-afghanistan-101676953453320.html

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South Asia

 

Taliban Detains Social Media Influencer, Ex Security Force Member: Report

February 20, 2023

Taliban detained a social media influencer and former member of security forces in the previous government in Kabul, Afghanistan's vernacular media Reporterly reported.

The victim has been identified as Abdul Rahim and originally is from the Dare Abdullah Khel area of Panjshir province. He was detained on Thursday.

Meanwhile, according to local sources, Taliban members also detained Imran Ahmadzai a social media influencer from his home in Kabul.

Reporterly citing local sources reported that Ahmadzai was detained on February 12 for spreading anti-Taliban propaganda.

On Facebook, Ahmadzai has 23,327 followers and his last video was about people running on Kabul Street with a caption of 'go towards turkey' on February 8, according to Reporterly.

On February 8, hundreds of Afghan citizens rushed to the Kabul airport, after there were rumours that the Taliban were sending Afghans to Turkey. Taliban members had violently engaged with the people and scattered them with aerial shots.

Meanwhile, on February 16, Abdul HaqHemad, director of media oversight at the Taliban's ministry of information and culture confirmed that the Taliban has arrested people who have been suspected of spreading rumours about the transfer of Afghans to Turkiye.

While Hemad didn't provide details about the arrested people, it seems that Ahmadzai might have been one of these people arrested by the Taliban on charges of spreading rumours about Turkiye, reported Reporterly.

Taliban continue to arrest Afghan citizens who have been active on social media, and those who happen to have worked in the previous Afghan government. These arrests particularly from the security forces have been mainly focused on Tajiks and Hazara ethnic groups.

After the fall of the republic order on August 15, 2021, hundreds of former soldiers who have been unable to leave the country have been arrested, tortured, and even killed by the Taliban.

Source:NDTV

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

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/taliban-detains-social-media-influencer-ex-security-force-member-report-3796902

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'Concerns Will be Addressed in a Better way': Taliban Urges Countries to Recognise Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

Feb 21, 2023

Kabul: Taliban has called on the international community to recognise the "Islamic Emirate" of Afghanistan, claiming that if recognised, the concerns and complaints of the world community will be addressed in a better way, Afghanistan-based Tolo News reported. "The Islamic Emirate will be paying more attention to its responsibilities and the complaints we have among ourselves or from other countries will be addressed in a good way. Because one side will feel itself responsible regarding the laws and regulation," Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, as quoted by Tolo News. According to Mujahid, if some powerful world countries prevent Afghanistan`s recognition, the rest of the world countries should not follow them.

This comes as the Taliban led Ministry of Economy said that the lack of recognition of the "Islamic Emirate" by the international community since last August has caused challenges in the country. "If the Islamic Emirate is recognized, the engagement of Afghanistan with the international community will increase and this will cause stabilization in the region," said Abdul Latif Nazari, Afghan deputy Minister of Economy under the caretaker Taliban regime.

According to analysts, forming an inclusive government, countering terrorism, not allowing the use of Afghan soil against other countries, and ensuring human rights, especially the rights of women and girls, will pave the ground for recognition of the Islamic Emirate."To earn recognition, the Taliban should refer to the people first. They should observe law, politics and governance. They should recognize the rights of the people," said Sayed Jawad Sijadi, a political analyst, according to Tolo News.

"They (Islamic Emirate) should reach an agreement with the international community and solve their problems via diplomatic ways," said TorialaiZazai, another political analyst.  As Afghanistan continues to face a humanitarian crisis and grapples with the worst political turmoil, the European Union (EU) special envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson, recently, said that they are not in favour of isolating Afghanistan but recognising the Taliban regime is also not an option, Khaama Press reported.

Source:ZeeNews

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

https://zeenews.india.com/world/concerns-will-be-addressed-in-a-better-way-taliban-urges-countries-to-recognise-islamic-emirate-of-afghanistan-2575617.html

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Iran, China Representatives discuss ways to improve Afghanistan’s stability

By Fidel Rahmati

February 20, 2023

On Sunday, the special representative of Iran to Kabul met with his Chinese counterpart to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Iran’s special envoy and ambassador to Afghanistan, Hassan KazemiQomi, met with Yue Xiaoyong in Kabul and discussed how Beijing and Tehran could work together to bring peace and stability.

Qomi tweeted that he had a “cordial and constructive” discussion with the Chinese representative to implement recent decisions made by the Iranian and Chinese presidents.

He also added that Iran and China had held the talks to foster collaboration to ensure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Last week China and Iran called on Afghanistan to lift its women’s education and work restrictions. The request was made in a joint statement released last week at the close of the visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Beijing.

Since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, the de facto authorities have issued several decrees restricting Afghan women and girls from attending education and work and putting them in complete isolation.

In addition, China and Iran also called on the Taliban to form an inclusive government including all ethnic groups, political parties, gender and other religions and minorities in the country.

Source: Khaama Press

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

https://www.khaama.com/iran-china-representatives-discuss-ways-to-improve-afghanistans-stability/

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Saudi Arabia remains top destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers

SHEHAB SUMON

February 20, 2023

DHAKA: Saudi Arabia continues to be the favorite destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers, a central bank report has shown, as the South Asian nation prepares to send more skilled workers to the Kingdom.

Nearly 100,000 Bangladeshis migrated to Saudi Arabia in the last quarter of 2022 alone, according to a report published on Saturday by the Bangladesh Bank. Saudi employers hired more than half of Bangladesh migrant workers last year.

Saudi Arabia was the second-biggest source of remittances to Bangladesh in the fourth quarter last year, just behind the US, as workers brought in about $910 million from the Kingdom during the period, the central bank report showed.

“The Bangladeshi migrants nurture a special feeling in their heart for this country, which encourages many of them to find jobs in the Kingdom,” Gazi Mohammed Shahed Anowar, deputy secretary at the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, told Arab News.

“For many years, Saudi Arabia has been considered the first choice for Bangladeshi migrants,” he said. “Many of our migrants are already working in the Kingdom. So, the existing migrants in the Kingdom facilitate new jobs for their relatives in Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh has begun preparations to send skilled workers to Saudi Arabia for the first time under the newly launched Skill Verification Program, which aims to improve the professional competence of employees in the Saudi labor market.

With the Kingdom set to recruit skilled workers from the South Asian country, this too would help boost remittances.

“We are working on preparing the skilled workers for this labor market. I think our remittance flow from the Kingdom will increase more in the coming days if we can successfully meet the demands of skilled workers in the Kingdom,” Anowar said.

Bangladesh is also reaping benefits from strong diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, said Shariful Hasan, head of the migration program at the country’s largest development organization, BRAC.

“The country is in growing need of migrant workers also, as they have undertaken some mega projects,” Hasan told Arab News.

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254836/world

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Southeast Asia

 

Sarawak shares its wealth among all religions so everyone can pray in comfort, premier says

By Sulok Tawie

20 Feb 2023

KUCHING, Feb 20 — Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg today said the state government does not hesitate to assist non-Muslim faiths with funds so their followers can pray in peace and comfort.

He said the assistance is a form of compassion of the state government to share the state’s wealth with the non-Muslim faiths.

“Those, particularly in the government, must share. The GabunganParti Sarawak (GPS) state government is doing that,” he said at the Malaysian Interfaith Harmony Forum 2023 organised by the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) in the Premier’s Department here.

He said that is why the state government has formed Unifor to help the non-Muslims, mission schools and build houses of worship.

“How are you going to pray in peace when drops of water fall from the leaking roofs? You cannot concentrate,” he said, adding that he believes in the personal relationship between mankind and God.

He urged every follower of faith to pray for Sarawak’s well-being and prosperity so he could share the wealth with all.

Abang Johari added the state government has shared RM100 million with Unifor from the revenue of RM11.9 billion that was generated last year, and much of the funds will be channelled towards helping mission and Chinese schools in rural areas of the state.

“We can’t wait for funds to come from the federal government. We have to help these schools financially, such as for repair works and other facilities,” he added.

He called on the people to pray harder so more revenue will be generated for Sarawak.

The forum, with the theme “Love of God, Love of the neighbour, Love of the Good, and love of the neighbour”, featured seven panellists sharing messages of goodwill, acceptance of religions and cultural diversity.

The seven panellists are from Jabatan Agama Islam Sarawak, Association of Churches in Sarawak, Malaysia Buddhist Association Sarawak Branch, Malaysia Hindu Sangam Sarawak Branch, the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i of Sarawak, the Federation of Chinese Association Sarawak and Sarawak Sikh Temple Association.

Source: MalayMail

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

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/02/20/sarawak-shares-its-wealth-among-all-religions-so-everyone-can-pray-in-comfort-premier-says/55836

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Indonesia's Haj fee up 70 per cent, Malaysian pilgrims be prepared

February 21, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: The cost of performing the haj - one of the five pillars of Islam – is set to increase this year, and prospective pilgrims in Malaysia are advised to be prepared.

Indonesia has recently announced a 70 per cent increase in Haj fee for prospective Muslim pilgrims performing the annual pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah this year.

The rise is unavoidable, said Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH), an Islamic institution responsible for managing and preparing haj services for Malaysian pilgrims.

TH Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Datuk Seri AmrinAwaluddin said in a statement earlier, the cost of the haj pilgrimage is expected to increase this year to around RM31,000 compared to RM28,000 last year.

However, Amrin said despite the likely increase, the agency will continue to provide targeted Haj Financial Assistance funded by its investment income to all prospective Muassasah pilgrims.

Besides Malaysia and Indonesia, prospective pilgrims in Brunei and Thailand are also affected by the rising cost of performing the haj.

TH has also said that the factors contributing to the higher haj cost are beyond the agency's control.

Significant hike after pandemic

Sharing his thoughts, senior lecturer of the Faculty of Major Language Studies, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) Associate Professor Dr Azlan Shaiful Baharum said the issue is not new.

Based on his experience as a mutawif (haj guide) with various private agencies since 2016, he said a significant rise in the cost of performing the haj was seen after the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The impact has not only been felt by Muslims in the country but prospective pilgrims from other nations as well.

"Perhaps the difference for Muslims in other countries such as Indonesia is that the people are willing to pay more for the haj pilgrimage as it is the only time for them to be in the holy land while for Muslims in other nations, the fee hike will not be a problem given the higher value of the foreign exchange rate.

Sharing similar sentiments, the Head of the Department, of Language and General Studies, Faculty of Business and Communication, Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP), Associate Professor Dr Shuhairimi Abdullah said Indonesian Muslims are being burdened by the higher fees compared to the previous years.

However, he said there is a difference in the haj fees between Malaysia and Indonesia based on the considerations and requirements that have to be borne by haj pilgrims.

"The facilities provided by TH for haj pilgrims in Malaysia are different than those given by Indonesia's haj management agency, as TH offers free medical treatment services and various other services such as books and haj handbooks that are given free.

"There is also a difference in logistic costs as well as other facilities including accommodation provided by TH for pilgrims is located nearer to Masjidil Haram (less than 1,000 metres)," he said.

Citing a news report from April last year, the Indonesian government was expected to cut the haj subsidy for its people.

According to Suara.com, the government had to resort to slashing the subsidy given the high cost incurred and it will be implemented gradually.

Head of the Hajj Fund Management Agency (BPKH) AnggitoAbimanyu was reported to support the move, noting that haj is for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.

The real cost of performing the haj in that country for an individual is about 70 million rupiahs (RM20,000).

However, Indonesian pilgrims need only pay half of the total, which is about 35 million rupiahs (RM10,000).

Indonesia's Religious Affairs Ministry's Haj and Umrah Management director-general Hilman Latif said there is coordination in haj travel cost (Bipih) paid by Muslims performing their haj this year.

In 2022, the Bipih for Haj pilgrimage amounted to 39.8 million rupiahs (RM12,958) per person out of total added.

He said one of the basic prerequisites for performing the haj pilgrimage is that the individual must be financially capable or istito'ah, and as such, haj pilgrims must be realistic and be open to accepting the higher cost.

Shuhairimi also called on TH to review the Haj turn selection by giving priority to senior citizens to perform the haj.

He said if TH continues to maintain the concept of a 'first-come, first-served basis' which was introduced in 1995, the elderly citizens will not be able to perform the haj.

Source:NST

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

https://www.nst.com.my/world/world/2023/02/882020/indonesias-haj-fee-70-cent-malaysian-pilgrims-be-prepared

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DAP MP accuses PAS MP of misleading Dewan Rakyat on Menu Rahmah claims, seeks disciplinary action

By Zarrah Morden

21 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii wants Parliament’s Committee of Privileges to take action against Kapar MP Dr Halimah Ali for allegedly misleading the lower House with her remarks on the government’s Menu Rahmah initiative.

The DAP lawmaker claimed his PAS counterpart’s remarks linking the affordable meals under the scheme to cancer were untrue, irresponsible and create a stigma against the autistic and disabled communities.

“I strongly believe she not only needs to retract and clarify that statement, but make a clear and sincere apology to the different communities that are affected and also the public,” he said in a statement today.

He said he has written to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani to table a motion under Standing Order 36(12), which states that any member who represents statements to mislead the House is deemed to be in contempt of the House and may be referred to the Committee of Privileges for the offence.

The controversy first erupted last week when Dr Halimah was debating the royal address.

“Do not let it come to the point that the B40 are given food supplies of low quality that may expose them to cancer, autoimmune disease and autism,” she said in the Dewan Rakyat on February 14.

B40 refers to the country’s bottom 40 per cent income group.

Since then, Dr Halimah has claimed that her remarks were misinterpreted but the storm has not yet abated, triggering another row in the lower House between her and Hulu Langat MP MohdSanyHamzan from Amanah yesterday.

Dr Yii also insisted that the Hansard and a video recording of the House sitting that day clearly show Dr Halimah had made the statement, adding that copies have been sent to the Speaker as evidence.

“Therefore, to ensure that each parliamentary is held to the highest standard of accountability in our speech and deed, I urge the Speaker to approve the motion that was submitted in the House to refer the Member of Parliament Kapar to the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges in accordance with Parliamentary Standing Order 36(12),” he said.

Menu Rahmah was launched on January 31 by the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub.

Source:MalayMail

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

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/02/21/dap-mp-accuses-pas-mp-of-misleading-dewan-rakyat-on-menu-rahmah-claims-seeks-disciplinary-action/56009

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Arab World

 

Israeli strikes on Syrian civilians amount to crime against humanity: Top Hezbollah official

21 February 2023

The Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has censured the latest Israel's deadly air strikes on earthquake-stricken Syria, stating that the raids against civilian-populated neighborhoods in the capital Damascus amount to a crime against humanity.

“The Israeli aggression against Syria and its civilians is a crime against humanity; and deserves condemnation of the international injustice and the American and European bias in favor of the Zionist regime by covering up its crimes,” Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh NaimQassem wrote in a post published on his Twitter page.

The Israeli attack was launched from the occupied Golan Heights early on Sunday days after a 7.8-magnitude deadly earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, targeting several sites in Damascus, including the southwestern residential neighborhood of KafarSousah.

At least five people, including a soldier, were killed and 15 others wounded in the Israeli airstrikes. Many of the wounded are in critical condition, and many residential homes in Damascus and its countryside were damaged.

Syrian air defense units intercepted most missiles before reaching the targets.

Meanwhile, Syria has urged the United Nations to take necessary measures to deter Israel's attacks and hold it accountable for the latest deadly missile attack on Damascus.

“When Syria was trying to heal its wounds, bury its martyrs, and receive condolences, sympathy, and international humanitarian support in the face of the devastating earthquake, the Israelis launched an air aggression targeting civilian-populated neighborhoods,” the Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Israel frequently carries out missile attacks on targets in Syria, mostly using the airspace of Lebanon or the occupied territories.

The regime frequently violates Syrian sovereignty by targeting military positions inside the country, especially those of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement, which has played a key role in helping the Syrian army in its fight against foreign-backed terrorists.

Israel mostly keeps quiet about its attacks on the Syrian territories, which many view as a knee-jerk reaction to the Syrian government’s increasing success in confronting terrorism.

The Tel Aviv regime has been a main supporter of terrorist groups that have battled the government of President Bashar al-Assad since foreign-backed militancy erupted in Syria in early 2011.

Source: Press TV

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

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/02/21/698600/Israeli-strikes-on-Syrian-civilians-amount-to-crime-against-humanity--Top-Hezbollah-official

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Expert at Saudi Media Forum highlights popularity of Korean content in Middle East and beyond

February 21, 2023

RIYADH: South Korean media expert Si Hyang Lee highlighted the global popularity of Korean content when he appeared at the Saudi Media Forum on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Speaking during the opening day of the two-day event, Lee, who is part of a policy-planning team for South Korean media channels, said the industry in his country includes about 1,000 companies that produce hundreds of films and TV series each year. While planning and making movies and shows, Korean producers are thinking about how best to promote them around the world, he added.

He also emphasized Korea’s successes in media technology, noting for example that the country produces 60 percent of the world’s video games.

“As we look at the future and Korean content, we focus on the global market, particularly the Middle Eastern countries, where we are widely popular,” Lee said.

“We also have a large market in the Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, with whom we share very similar cultures.”

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2255021/saudi-arabia
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Saudi Arabia signs $48.8 mln worth of projects for quake-struck Syria and Turkey

20 February ,2023

Saudi Arabia has agreed on more than 183 million riyals ($48.8 million) worth of projects to help Syria and Turkey after this month’s devastating earthquakes, Saudi state TV reported on Monday.

Source: Al Arabiya

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https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/20/Saudi-Arabia-signs-48-8-mln-worth-of-projects-for-quake-struck-Syria-and-Turkey

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Dubai government redeems $750 mln Islamic bond

20 February ,2023

The emirate of Dubai’s Public Debt Management Office has redeemed $750 million worth of Islamic bonds, or sukuk, issued on Jan. 30, 2013, Dubai media office wrote on Twitter on Monday.

The government has also paid back early an additional $300 million of sukuk due to mature in November 2026, the media office said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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https://english.alarabiya.net/business/2023/02/20/Dubai-government-redeems-750-mln-Islamic-bond

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Dubai’s DIFC has about 60 hedge fund firms waiting to be licensed: Governor

20 February ,2023

The Dubai International Financial center (DIFC) has about 60 hedge fund firms, with north of a trillion dollars in assets under management, waiting to be licensed, the governor of the emirate’s financial freezone said on Monday.

The hedge fund industry is capitalizing on new rules and regulations that have been developed to support the sector, which is one of the sources of DIFC’s growth, Essa Kazim told reporters in a news conference. “A few have already been licensed,” he added.

Millennium Management, ExodusPoint Capital Management and BlueCrest established a presence in Dubai last year, just three of the many funds attracted by lower licensing fees and capital requirements for the industry.

The DIFC registered record breaking growth last year, with the number of active companies in the Gulf’s financial hub up by a fifth year on year to 4377, driven by fintech and innovation firms, Kazim said.
Source: Al Arabiya

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https://english.alarabiya.net/business/2023/02/20/Dubai-s-DIFC-has-about-60-hedge-fund-firms-waiting-to-be-licensed-Governor

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Lebanon heading to oblivion: Head of economic, social advisory body

NAJIA HOUSSARI

February 20, 2023

BEIRUT: Lebanon could be headed to oblivion, the head of the country’s independent advisory body warned on Monday.

Charles Arbid, president of the Economic and Social Council, told an emergency meeting at the headquarters of the General Labor Union that with no savior on the horizon, the nation risked spiralling out of control.

He said: “We fear that Lebanon as we know it is changing under the leaders who could not care less about its fate.

“Many countries have been forgotten and left to their fate. Poverty and violence prevailed after the world lost interest in them.”

The council, a product of the Taif Agreement, is tasked with conveying the opinion of sectors involved in the formulation of economic and social policies in Lebanon.

The meeting, titled “Save the homeland,” came as a strike by Lebanese banks over judicial prosecutions against them and the non-approval of the Capital Control Bill entered its third week.

Also, on Monday, the Lebanese pound dropped to 81,000 to the dollar. Central bank financial operations fell to $10 million per day as the platform lost its influence on the currency market, specifically the black market.

A source in the Lebanese prime minister’s office told Arab News: “Measures to resolve this impasse must be taken by the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Judicial Council. The prime minister cannot intervene, even though he wishes he could since the issue is affecting Lebanon’s stability.”

The Association of Banks in Lebanon said it would only end its strike when judicial prosecutions carried out by Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun stopped. And it urged the Supreme Judicial Council to suspend prosecutions by some judges and block lawsuits against banks by depositors.

The association has refused to be held fully responsible for the country’s financial crisis.

Central bank governor, Riad Salameh, told Al-Qahera News: “The black market in Lebanon is outside the control of the central bank, which has become unable to solve crises because solutions require a concrete national project.”

Meanwhile, The People Want to Reform the System — an association to fight corruption — announced that judge Aoun had decided on Monday to prosecute SocieteGenerale and its chairman, AntounSehnaoui, on charges of money laundering, while freezing the bank’s funds. The judge was acting based on a complaint submitted by the association.

The group said Aoun had referred the case to Nicolas Mansour, the first investigative judge in the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal, requesting an inquiry and the issuance of necessary arrest warrants.

On Monday, the Parliamentary Bureau failed to set a date for a legislative session to discuss and approve the Capital Control Bill.

Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab said: “We recognize the parliament’s right to legislate, as happened previously, but the capital control draft, according to what was issued by the joint committees, must be accompanied by a comprehensive plan.”

Dozens of MPs have refused to hold a legislative session until a new president is elected.

MPs Melhem Khalaf and Najat Saliba have been staging a parliament sit-in for more than a month in protest over the presidential election stalemate.

Addressing their fellow MPs over Zoom, they urged them to, “face those who are squabbling over the presidential election and delaying it, in search for a president that serves their personal criteria.”

They said the situation violated the provisions of the constitution and added: “It is a mass suicide; rather a deliberate killing and extermination of an entire people.”

Tensions between the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah have intensified after FPM head GebranBassil on Sunday criticized Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah for his party’s support of Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency.

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254976/middle-east

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Researcher warns Saudi Media Forum of potential dangers of artificial intelligence

February 20, 2023

RIYADH: One of the greatest dangers posed by the development and growing use of artificial intelligence in society is that it diminishes the role of humans, according to Abdulrahman Al-Thabiti, a researcher in public administration. To illustrate his point, he talked about the detrimental effect AI could have on the job market.

His warning came at the Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh on Monday, during a session titled “Media and the Ethical and Practical Implications of Artificial Intelligence.” The discussion centered on the ways in which AI might affect the ability of people to create and communicate.

Al-Thabiti, who is studying for a doctorate and is an op-ed writer for the Jeddah-based Okaz newspaper, contrasted AI-generated content with the creative and supervisory value that is provided by human capabilities, arguing that AI systems lack transparency and accountability in this regard.

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2255006/saudi-arabia

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First graduates from Saudia In-Flight Chef program celebrate in Jeddah

NADA HAMEED

February 20, 2023

JEDDAH: Saudia and the University of Prince Mugrin celebrated the graduation of the first batch of students from the In-Flight Chef program at the Saudia club hall in Jeddah.

The ceremony was attended by Bandar Hajjar, president of Prince Mugrin University; Ibrahim Al-Omar, Saudia Group director general; as well as elite Saudi chefs including Dareen Shaker, KhuloodOlaqi and Sama Jaad. Media members, families and friends of the graduates were also present.

During the graduation ceremony, 35 qualified Saudi in-flight chefs walked proudly toward the stage to cherish the momentum of their achievement after succeeding in the one-year culinary journey.

Throughout the program, graduates were exposed to international cuisines as they were instructed by a group of Saudi and global professional chefs. Since they represent Saudi Airlines, they will have the privilege to introduce Saudi passengers to many traditional dishes with a twist.

The one-year program included six months of theoretical training at UPM and two months of practical training at world luxury hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and Hilton. The program concluded with safety and security sessions at Prince Sultan Aviation Academy.

The 35 chefs officially graduated last December and were immediately employed by Saudia as full-time in-flight chefs.

Prof. AbdulkareemAlalwani, vice president of UPM Business Development, said in opening remarks: “This partnership aims to follow the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, as the UPM aspires to achieve excellence in qualitative applied education and innovative research as a contribution to the advancement of society, and to meet the needs of the labor market and to provide sustainable development.”

He added: “The university has provided this training program that ends with employment in cooperation with Saudia Airlines and the Human Resources Development Fund, which qualifies chefs who are passionate learners.”

Ahmed Babtain, vice president of human resources at Saudia, said: “The program is qualitatively designed, as it includes on-board service methods, awareness of safety standards and protocols, and culinary and hospitality industry skills.”

Babtain added that the aviation industry is witnessing intense competition, and providing quality service on-board while maintaining the highest standards has become a key point of difference between airlines.

“The program provides a competitive edge by delivering an exceptional guest experience,” he added.

Saudi Flight Chef Supervisor Ihsan Khalawi told Arab News that the first batch of graduates were carefully selected, and that they “are a lot more than chefs.”

He added: “They are all very passionate about what they do. It is what led them to this big step. Every one of them resamples a talent as they have merged cooking with presenting, photography and social media content creating.”

Chef Rawa Hanafi, one of four female graduates, said: “I am speechless. I am so grateful to Saudia because they have given us a chance to experience the true kitchen journey in the best and most professional hotels.”

Becoming a chef requires patience, and tolerating and accepting criticism is key, said graduate Turkey Badawi, 28, who holds a bachelor’s degree in human resources management.

Badawi added: “It is my dream job to fly and cook. This job combines what I love and wish for — my dream indeed came true.”

The graduates showed their support to family members for supporting them during the program. Among the family members was Ayman Najjar, a retired flight attendant who served in many positions with Saudia. He said that it was time for his daughter to continue the path.

“It is an indescribable happiness to witness this day where my daughter Mai had the chance to become a great chef and to work with the same company I did.”

Mai said that the program helped her to become “very creative” in culinary arts, adding that she was “very grateful” for her father and husband for providing her with support.

Saudia employs more than 180 in-flight chefs. It has also increased the percentage of Saudi employees from three to 22 percent.

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254876/saudi-arabia

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Qatar sends 3 additional planes of earthquake relief to Türkiye

Hacer Baser 

20.02.2023

Qatar has sent three additional aid planes to Türkiye to help the victims of the twin powerful earthquakes two weeks ago, officials said on Monday.

“To alleviate the sufferings of earthquake victims, Qatar’s Emiri Air Force allocated additional 3 C-17 aircrafts to transfer 90 toilets and 25 generators,” the Turkish Embassy in Doha said on Twitter.

“We will never forget the solidarity of Qatar in this challenging times,” it added.

In addition, humanitarian aid including emergency supplies such as sleeping bags and winter tents, donated by Qatar Charity, was also sent to Türkiye to be delivered to the earthquake victims, the embassy also said.

Qatar has sent relief aid to Türkiye and Syria through the air corridor created by Türkiye since the earthquakes hit the both countries on Feb. 6.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said on Friday that Qatar's donations collected for Türkiye and Syria have reached around 253 million Qatari riyals ($70 million).

Qatar also sent a search and rescue team to Türkiye and delivered aid from other countries.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 quakes were centered in southern Türkiye's Kahramanmaras province on Feb. 6 and struck 10 other provinces – Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Hatay, Gaziantep, Malatya, Kilis, Osmaniye, Elazig, and Sanliurfa. More than 13 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/qatar-sends-3-additional-planes-of-earthquake-relief-to-turkiye/2825604

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Mideast

 

Palestinian Imam, Sheikh Yousef Al-Baz, Who Condemned Al-Aqsa Storming Hands Himself In For Israel Jail Sentence

20 February, 2023

A Palestinian imam convicted of attacking an Israeli man in 2018 turned himself in Monday to serve a 16-month prison sentence at an Israeli jail.

Sheikh Yousef Al-Baz, from Lod, a town within Israel's 1948 boundaries that has a significant Palestinian population, was convicted of attacking an Israeli who blocked the entrance to his neighbourhood five years ago.

Al-Baz and the Israeli filed police complaints against each other; the Palestinian imam insists he was attacked first.

The town had seen violence between the town's Jewish and Palestinian populations during a brutal Israeli assault on Gaza and occupied Jerusalem in 2021.

The 64-year-old, who is the imam of the Al-Omari Grand Mosque in Lod, spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site on his way to a prison in the Negev (Naqab).

"This file is a continuation of the political pursuit that was years before that file, the political prosecutions pursued by Israel against any Palestinian activist who speaks about the Palestinian cause," he told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Al-Baz was arrested in April 2022 for inciting "disturbance of order" after he condemned the Israeli settler stormings of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

He was placed under house arrest a few months later, in September.

In December 2022, an Israeli court reduced his sentence from 20 to 16 months and delayed the start of his jail sentence to 20 February.

Baz was a member of the Islamic Movement, part of which was banned by Israel in 2015.

Source: The New Arab

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https://www.newarab.com/news/palestinian-imam-hands-himself-16-month-sentence

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IAEA finds Iran’s uranium enriched to near ‘bomb-grade’, say diplomats

February 21, 2023

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog has found uranium enriched to 84 per cent in Iran — very close to weapons grade — diplomats said on Monday, while the watchdog said that it was in talks with Tehran about recent findings there.

Iran has denied reports that it has enriched uranium to 84pc purity. “So far, we have not made any attempt to enrich above 60pc. The presence of particles above 60pc enrichment does not mean production with an enrichment above 60pc,” the spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organi­sation, Behrouz Kama­lvandi, said, according to the official IRNA News agency.

Bloomberg News reported on Sunday that UN nuclear watchdog monitors had last week detected uranium enriched at 84pc.

Kamalvandi called the report “slanderous” and said it distorted facts.

Tehran terms claim ‘slanderous, distortion of facts’

Iran has been enriching uranium to up to 60pc purity since April 2021. Three months ago, it started enriching to 60pc at a second site, Fordow, which is dug into a mountain. Weapons grade is around 90pc.

Two diplomats told Reuters that the Inter­national Atomic Energy Agency, which inspects Iran’s nuclear facilities, had detected uranium enriched to 84pc, confirming an initial report late on Sunday by Bloomberg News.

“The issue is whether it was a blip in the reconfigured cascades or deliberate. The agency has asked Iran for an explanation,” one of the diplomats said.

Earlier this month, the IAEA criticised Iran for failing to inform it of a “substantial” change to the interconnections between the two cascades, or clusters, of centrifuges enriching uranium to up to 60pc at Fordow. Several diplomats said the change meant Iran could quickly switch to a higher enrichment level.

Those rearranged cascades are the ones the first diplomat was referring to.

The United States in 2018 pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that had lifted sanctions against Teh­ran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.

Iran responded to the re-imposition of US sanctions by breaching those restrictions and going well beyond them, to the point that IAEA chief Rafael Grossi has said the deal is now an “empty shell”.

Source: Dawn

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1738302/iaea-finds-irans-uranium-enriched-to-near-bomb-grade-say-diplomats

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Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu advances judicial changes despite uproar

February 20, 2023

TEL AVIV, Israel: Israel’s government on Monday was pressing ahead with a contentious plan to overhaul the country’s legal system, despite an unprecedented uproar that has included mass protests, warnings from military and business leaders and calls for restraint by the United States.

Thousands of demonstrators were expected to gather outside the parliament, or Knesset, for a second straight week to rally against the plan as lawmakers prepared to hold an initial vote.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, a collection of ultra-religious and ultranationalist lawmakers, say the plan is meant to fix a system that has given the courts and government legal advisers too much say in how legislation is crafted and decisions are made. Critics say it will upend the country’s system of checks and balances and concentrate power in the hands of the prime minister. They also say that Netanyahu, who is on trial for a series of corruption charges, has a conflict of interest.

The standoff has plunged Israel into one of its greatest domestic crises, sharpening a divide between Israelis over the character of their state and the values they believe should guide it.

Monday’s vote on part of the legislation is just the first of three readings required for parliamentary approval. While that process is expected to take months, the vote is a sign of the coalition’s determination to barrel ahead and seen by many as an act of bad faith.

Israel’s figurehead president has urged the government to freeze the legislation and seek a compromise with the opposition. Leaders in the booming tech sector have warned that weakening the judiciary could drive away investors. Tens of thousands of Israelis have been protesting in Tel Aviv and other cities each week.

Last week, some 100,000 people demonstrated outside the Knesset as a committee granted initial approval to the plan. It was the largest protest in the city in years.

The overhaul has prompted otherwise stoic former security chiefs to speak out, and even warn of civil war. In a sign of the rising emotions, a group of army veterans in their 60s and 70s stole a decommissioned tank from a war memorial site and draped it with Israel’s declaration of independence before being stopped by police.

The plan has even sparked rare warnings from the US, Israel’s chief international ally.

US Ambassador Tom Nides told a podcast over the weekend that Israel should “pump the brakes” on the legislation and seek a consensus on reform that would protect Israel’s democratic institutions.

His comments drew angry responses from Netanyahu allies, telling Nides to stay out of Israel’s internal affairs.

Speaking to his Cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu dismissed suggestions that Israel’s democracy was under threat. “Israel was and will remain a strong and vibrant democracy,” he said.

While Israel has long boasted of its democratic credentials, critics say that claim is tainted by the country’s West Bank occupation and the treatment of its own Palestinian minority.

Israel’s Palestinian citizens — a minority that has the most to lose by the legal overhaul — have largely sat out the protests, in part because of discrimination they suffer at home and because of Israel’s 55-year military occupation over their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank. Jewish settlers in the West Bank can vote in Israeli elections and are generally protected by Israeli laws, while Palestinians in the same territory are subject to military rule and cannot vote.

Monday’s parliamentary votes seek to grant the government more power over who becomes a judge. Today, a selection committee is made up of politicians, judges and lawyers — a system that proponents say promotes consensus.

The new system would give coalition lawmakers control over the appointments. Critics fear that judges will be appointed based on their loyalty to the government or prime minister.

“This is dramatic,” said Yaniv Roznai, co-director of the Rubinstein Center for Constitutional Challenges at Reichman University north of Tel Aviv. “If you take control of the court, then it’s all over. You can make any change you want.”

A second change would bar the Supreme Court from overturning what are known as “basic laws,” pieces of legislation that stand in for a constitution, which Israel does not have. Critics say that legislators will be able to dub any law a basic law, removing judicial oversight over controversial legislation.

Also planned are proposals that would give parliament the power to overturn Supreme Court rulings and control the appointment of government legal advisers. The advisers currently are professional civil servants, and critics say the new system would politicize government ministries.

Critics also fear the overhaul will grant Netanyahu an escape route from his legal woes. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a biased judicial system on a witch hunt against him.

Israel’s attorney general has barred Netanyahu from any involvement in the overhaul, saying his legal troubles create a conflict of interest. Instead, his justice minister, a close confidant, is leading the charge. On Sunday, Netanyahu called the restrictions on him “patently ridiculous.”

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254416/middle-east

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Statement by UN Security Council keeps Israel isolated, says Palestinian envoy to UN

DAOUD KUTTAB

February 20, 2023

AMMAN: The permanent representative of the state of Palestine at the UN, Riyad Mansour, told Arab News on Monday that his team has been working for some time with members of the UN Security Council, and that the council’s latest statement about the actions of Israeli authorities had been made from a position of responsibility.

His comments came as the council issued a formal statement denouncing Israeli plans to expand settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. It is the first time in six years that the US, a permanent member of the Security Council with the power of veto, has allowed the body to adopt such a clear stance against Israel.

The UAE, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, worked closely with the Palestinian delegation in drafting the text of a resolution and the presidential statement.

“We agreed that a strong presidential statement that has the approval of the US delegation to the Security Council, that will have the same text as a resolution, will keep the international community, including Americans, on our side and will help us to keep Israel in isolation,” said Mansour.

As a result of its diplomatic efforts, the Palestinian delegation has received assurances from the US that Israel has suspended its settlement activities, along with demolitions and incursions into major Palestinian cities, and will transfer funds to the Palestinian government from the taxes Israel collects on its behalf.

The agreement to a statement avoided the prospect of the US vetoing a strong resolution, submitted by the UAE, that was formulated in cooperation with the Palestinian delegation.

In 2016, under the Obama/Biden administration, the US refrained from vetoing Resolution 1344, which opposed Israeli settlement activities but without any provisions for a mechanism that would allow punitive sanctions to be imposed.

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254971/middle-east

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In rare admission, Yemen’s Houthis confirm they released Al-Qaeda terrorists

SAEED AL-BATATI

February 20, 2023

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen have admitted trading Al-Qaeda prisoners for their own captured fighters. It was a rare admission by the group, which has long denied freeing militants.

It came a day after Rashad Al-Alimi, the chairman of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, accused the Houthis of releasing Al-Qaeda militants, arming them and sending them to attack Yemeni government troops.

Abdulkader Al-Murtada, head of the Houthis’ prisoner exchange committee, said on Sunday that they traded two Al-Qaeda terrorists, purportedly captured on the battlefields of Al-Bayda province, for three of the militia’s fighters.

The previous day, Al-Qaeda said it had exchanged two Houthis for two of its militants, identified by their jihadist names Al-Qaqa Al-Bayhani and Muwahid Al-Baydani, according to SITE Intelligence Group, an American organization that monitors Al-Qaeda statements.

Observers of the conflict in Yemen believe that the Houthis, who usually keep their prisoner exchanges with Al-Qaeda secret, were compelled to acknowledge this one after a third party revealed the details.

Ali Al-Fakih, the editor of Al-Masdar Online, told Arab News that the Houthis attempted to legitimize the exchange by claiming that Al-Qaeda is a belligerent party supporting the Yemeni government.

“This is one of the most secret Houthi files,” said Al-Fakih.

Similar deals have happened previously, he added, but it seems a middleman disclosed information about this latest one. The Houthis therefore reluctantly confirmed the prisoner swap but attempted to make it seem like it was with with a recognized entity that supports “aggression,” he said.

President Al-Alimi, speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, said the Houthis have not only released Al-Qaeda and Daesh prisoners held by Yemeni security agencies on terrorism charges but have armed them and sent them to attack military and security targets in government-controlled areas. He added that the Yemeni government has informed security forces in neighboring countries, and the wider international community, about the Houthi collusion with Al-Qaeda.

“There is known collaboration between Houthi terrorists, Al-Qaeda and Daesh,” Al-Alimi said. “They freed all Daesh and Al-Qaeda inmates and convicts, provided them with weapons and equipment, and sent them to regions controlled by the legitimate government to carry out terrorist operations.”

The Houthi acknowledgment of the prisoner exchange came days after Al-Qaeda in Yemen confirmed the deaths of Hussein Hadboul, also known as Hassan Al-Hadrami, and his brother Muhed in a US drone attack in Yemen’s central Marib province.

The group seemed to be referring to a US drone attack on a vehicle on Jan. 30 that killed three Al-Qaeda terrorists.

Yemeni security officials and terrorist experts identified Hadboul as an Al-Qaeda bomb-maker, responsible for the manufacture of improvised explosive devices that had killed a number of Yemeni security and military personnel.

A local security officer in the southeastern Hadramout region told Arab News Hadboul came to their attention some years ago when a woman was caught while attempting to plant an explosive device at a security facility in the southern port city of Sheher.

After questioning the woman and tracking the explosives used in the bomb, authorities determined that Hadboul assembled devices in Marib and smuggled them into Hadramout using women, who are not searched at security checkpoints.

“This is a key Al-Qaeda bomb-maker who manufactured several explosive devices and smuggled them to Hadramout, using women, for use in terrorist strikes,” said the security official, who asked not to be named.

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254936/middle-east

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Palestinian president under fire for ‘backing down’ over contentious UN Security Council resolution

MOHAMMED NAJIB

February 20, 2023

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Authority has been criticized after the US managed to forestall a contentious UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israel for settlement expansion and demanded a halt to future activity.

Palestinian political opposition parties accused the authority and President Mahmoud Abbas of wasting an opportunity to embarrass the Israelis for their occupation on the world stage.

Ahmed Guneim, a prominent Fatah leader from Jerusalem,  told Arab News: “Unfortunately, we did not learn from our previous mistakes, and we still believe the American promises.”

Palestinians have been pushing for a vote on a resolution condemning the settlements after Israel announced the legalization of nine outposts in the West Bank and approved the planning and construction of 10,000 new housing units in existing areas.

There is anger and frustration among Palestinians as they believe the authority has bowed to US pressure and backed away from its request for a vote in the Security Council against the settlements.

Some commentators accuse Abbas of being the victim of American “political tricks in exchange for fake promises.”

They believe the Palestinian president has wasted an opportunity to inflict global embarrassment on Israel.

Israeli and US officials said the Palestinian Authority had agreed to suspend its efforts to press for a Security Council vote on settlements in the occupied West Bank following US pressure and mediation.

Nasser Al-Kidwa, former representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization at the UN, told Arab News: “This step will weaken Palestinian foreign diplomacy.

“Next time we will not find a country that votes on our side because of the lack of clarity in our political strategy and the state of confusion that governs individual Palestinian diplomatic work.”

Israel has said it will rein in the approval of new West Bank settlement outposts, but Al-Kidwa said thousands of units that had received prior approval were likely to be built.

Diplomats and observers said the US was concerned that any confrontation at the UN — even if it ended in a veto — would have led to further escalation in issues between Israelis and Palestinians ahead of the sensitive Passover and Ramadan periods.

However, Palestinian officials said that the US would support a presidential statement by the Security Council which condemned Israeli settlements.

Palestinian political activist Amer Hamdan told Arab News: “What the Palestinian Authority has done is a kind of bargaining over Palestinian political interests in exchange for economic interests, bearing in mind that Israel always promises the Palestinian people a lot and gives nothing.”

He questioned whether the authority had the right to decide the matter on behalf of the Palestinians, without consulting them first.

He added: “Has the Palestinian cause become a subject of bargaining in exchange for economic facilities?”

Guneim claimed that the US “sells illusion to the Palestinian Authority and gives Israel a cover for its aggressive policies toward the Palestinians.”

BassimNaiem, a Hamas political department spokesperson in Gaza, said in a statement that the Palestinian Authority’s leadership was once again playing the same frivolous game of “selling the illusion” by yielding to US pressure.

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254926/middle-east

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Iran Blames MSC's Organizers for Inviting Deposed Dictator's Son

2023-February-20

"This is a big scandal for a conference that claims to support international order and security. Inviting such people is interfering in the internal affairs of a country that has played an important role in the security of the region and Europe," Kan'ani told reporters in his weekly news briefing on Monday.

The diplomat noted that Tehran sees the MSC's action in inviting notorious and discredited figures as an insult to the Iranian people, underlining that the decision has also caused the event to lose its international prestige.

"The Munich Security Conference was held in the name of security but for warmongering. The security conference should, as a rule, give an equal opportunity to all members of the international community to express their assessments regarding security issues," he underscored.

"The fact that Iran and Russia were not invited means that the opportunity to propose different and multilateral views on international order and security is lost and the platform is given to one side that seeks to consolidate unilateralism," the spokesman highlighted.

He criticized the organizers for making a grave mistake that prevented others from expressing views that differed from the US government.

"This year, the German government gave the opportunity to warmongers and the US government as well as American hardliners to express their opinions at the conference," the spokeperson said, expressing hope that Berlin will make up for this mistake next year and restore the lost prestige of the summit.

The reamrks came after Iran deplored French President Emmanuel Macron for meeting an anti-Tehran individual at the SCO. Tehran has decried the organizers of the MSC for ignoring the Iranian nation’s support for the Islamic Revolution and inviting a number of anti-Iranian "clowns" who have no identity to the summit.

Source: Fars News Agency

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https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/14011201000500/Iran-Blames-MSC's-Organizers-fr-Inviing-Depsed-Dicar's-Sn

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Netanyahu blasts UN settlements censure as denying Jews’ ‘historic’ rights, slams US

21 February ,2023

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried on Monday the UN Security Council statement which strongly opposed Israel’s continued expansion of settlement activities, considering it equivalent to denying Jews’ “historic” rights, and faulting the US for supporting it.

The UNSC presidential statement, agreed by consensus of all 15 member countries, strongly opposed all of Israel’s construction and expansion of settlements on occupied Palestinian territories.

It also opposed “confiscation of Palestinians’ land, and the ‘legalization’ of settlement outposts, demolition of Palestinians’ homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians.”

Netanyahu’s office issued a severe statement saying that the UNSC statement was “one-sided” and that it “denies the rights of Jews to live in our historic homeland.”

He went on to say the UNSC “fails to mention the Palestinian terror attacks in Jerusalem in which 10 Israeli civilians were murdered, ignores the Palestinian Authority’s grotesque pay-for-slay policy, which subsidizes the murder of Jews, and belittles the evil of antisemitism, which has resulted in the slaughter of millions.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/21/Netanyahu-blasts-UN-settlements-censure-as-denying-Jews-historic-rights-slams-US

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UNSC dismayed by Israel settlement plan, stresses upholding al-Aqsa status quo

20 February ,2023

The United Nations Security Council expressed on Monday “deep concern and dismay” with Israel’s last week announcement of further construction and expansion of settlements on occupied Palestinian territories.

“The Security Council reiterates that continuing Israeli settlements activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines,” said the UNSC presidential statement agreed by consensus of all 15 members.

It added that the UNSC “strongly opposes all unilateral measures that impede peace, including, inter alia, Israeli construction and expansion of settlements, confiscation of Palestinians’ land, and the ‘legalization’ of settlement outposts, demolition of Palestinians’ homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians.”

This comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government recently authorized Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and a week prior to that announced plans to construct new homes in already established settlements. The settlement activities included evictions and demolitions of Palestinians’ homes.

Holy site in Jerusalem

The UNSC also called for “upholding unchanged the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem in word and in practice,” and emphasized the special role of Jordan in this regard.

This is in light of last month’s controversial visit of Israeli national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam and the most sacred site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

The visit enraged Palestinians and caused an uproar amongst Arab leaders who condemned the incursion and demanded Netanyahu’s government respect the status quo of al-Aqasa Mosque and respect Jordan’s role as the custodian of Muslin holy sites in Jerusalem.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/20/UNSC-dismayed-by-Israel-settlement-plan-stresses-upholding-al-Aqsa-status-quo

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Israel tells US it won’t authorize new settlements in coming months

20 February ,2023

Israel will not authorize new settlements in the occupied West Bank in the coming months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Monday, after behind-the-scenes talks to head off a planned UN Security Council vote on the contested issue.

Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition on Feb. 12 granted retroactive authorization to nine settler outposts that had been erected without government approval, angering the Palestinians, who want the West Bank for a future state.

The move also drew condemnation from Western powers and Israel’s Arab partners, who deem all the settlements illegal.

But the United Arab Emirates told the UN Security Council it would not call a vote on Monday on a draft resolution against the settlements. Citing “positive talks between the partners,” UAE said the council would instead issue a unanimous statement.

A Security Council vote might have tested Washington’s willingness to cast a veto on behalf of Israel after publicly warning its Middle East ally not to authorize new settlements.

Israel has sponsored some 140 settlements in the West Bank, which it sees as a historical birthright and a security bulwark, while dismantling or turning a blind eye to dozens of outposts.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/20/Israel-tells-US-it-won-t-authorize-new-settlements-in-coming-months

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Israel parliament gives initial approval to judicial reform bill

February 21, 2023

JERUSALEM: The Israeli parliament backed a key part of a controversial judicial overhaul at first reading Tuesday despite protests across the country against a bill critics see as a threat to democracy.

Lawmakers vote 63 to 47 to give more weight to the government in the committee that selects judges, and to deny courts the right to rule on legislation they deem in conflict with so-called Basic Laws, Israel’s quasi constitution.

Tens of thousands had protested on the streets of Jerusalem Monday against the anticipated vote. Inside parliament, opposition lawmakers disrupted the debate with shouts of “shame,” and were temporarily removed.

The bill will now return to the law committee for more debate, ahead of its second and third readings in the plenum before it becomes law.

“From now on, the court will belong to everyone,” Justice Minister Yariv Levin said after the bill passed its first reading, calling on members of the opposition to “come and talk.”

“We can reach understandings,” Levin said.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid accused the coalition of pushing Israel toward civil war, saying if “you care about Israel and its people” then “you’ll halt legislation today.”

President Isaac Herzog has been trying to bring the sides together for talks on the reform with no success.

The sweeping judicial reform is a cornerstone of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration, an alliance with ultra-Orthodox and extreme-right parties which took office in late December.

Another element of it would give parliament the power to overrule Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes in the 120-member parliament.

The premier presents the overhaul as key to restoring balance between the branches of government, arguing judges currently have too much power over elected officials.

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2255046/middle-east

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Africa

 

At least 51 soldiers killed in north Burkina Faso

Aurore Bonny  

21.02.2023

DOUALA, Cameroon

The bodies of at least 51 soldiers who were killed when their unit was ambushed last week in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso were found Monday during combing operations, said the army. 

"At the end of the day on Monday 20 February, 43 bodies were found, bringing the provisional toll to 51 fallen soldiers," the army's communication and public relations department said in a statement.

It was the second "provisional" death toll announced during the same day by the security authorities of the West African country and follows an ambush that targeted a military unit between Deou and Oursi in Oudalan province in the Sahel region Friday.

The previous assessment of the sweep operations published in the morning reported that eight soldiers were found dead, three wounded, several missing and about 60 terrorists killed.

Subsequently, "an intensification of air actions allowed the neutralization of a hundred terrorists," the source reported.

He said the military mobilization has led to "important victories in recent weeks" against the terrorism that has plagued the country since 2015.

Terrorist attacks that result in the deaths of dozens of military personnel are not unheard of.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/at-least-51-soldiers-killed-in-north-burkina-faso/2826301

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African Union organizing Libyan national reconciliation conference: AU chief

James Tasamba

20.02.2023

The African Union is organizing a national reconciliation conference on Libya, the AU Commission chairperson said Sunday, in the latest effort to break the political stalemate and restore stability in the country.

Speaking after the closure of the two-day AU summit in Ethiopia, Moussa Faki Mahamat said a preparatory meeting for the reconciliation conference was recently held in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

“We have met the different parties and we are working with them on the date and place of the national conference, which will be held under the chairmanship of the high-level committee of the African Union chaired by the Republic of Congo head of state Denis Sassou Nguesso,” Mahamat told reporters.

Mahamat’s announcement followed a meeting of the African Union High-Level Committee on Libya.

President Nguesso, who heads the committee, presented his report to AU leaders, who adopted the idea of organizing an inclusive national reconciliation conference. Nguesso said he is “optimistic about the peace process.”

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

The situation has worsened since last year when the Libyan parliament appointed a new government led by former Interior Minister FathiBashagha. But the head of the Tripoli-based government, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, said he will cede authority only to a government that comes through an "elected parliament," raising fears that Libya could slip back into a civil war.

Presidential and parliamentary elections initially scheduled for December 2021 were postponed indefinitely due to disagreements on candidates and the rules to be followed.

On Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the absence of elections worsens economic insecurity, heightens political instability, risks renewed conflict, and raises the specter of partition in Libya.

The UN has “no agenda and no goal but one: to secure the right of the Libyan people to live in peace, to vote in free and fair elections, and to share in the prosperity of their country,” he told the African Union High-Level Committee on Libya in Ethiopia.

“There is no alternative to elections. They remain the only credible pathway to legitimate, unified governance.”

Guterres called for the complete withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries that intervened in Libya following the outbreak of violence over power.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/african-union-organizing-libyan-national-reconciliation-conference-au-chief/2825016

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Hamas resistance movement hails African Union's decision to suspend Israel's observer status

20 February 2023

The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement has praised a decision by the African Union to suspend Israel's observer status at the 55-nation bloc after the regime delegation was expelled from the opening ceremony of the organization's summit in Ethiopia.

Hamas, in a statement released on Monday, highly appreciated the AU member states’ stances, especially those of Algeria and South Africa, calling for concerted efforts in order to push the occupying Tel Aviv regime away from the continent.

“We urge the international community and the United Nations to criminalize the Israeli crimes and recurrent violations against Palestinian people, their territories and sacred places. We call on them to support Palestinians’ freedom struggle until they enjoy their legitimate rights and establish a fully sovereign Palestinian state with al-Quds as its capital,” the statement also read.

The news about suspension of Israel’s observer status at the AU came after Israeli ambassador Sharon Bar-li was removed from the African Union’s annual summit in addisababa on Saturday as she attempted to attend using a non-transferable invitation issued only to Israel’s ambassador to the African Union, AleliAdmasu. Israel was therefore not invited to the AU's weekend summit.

Video circulating on social media showed guards escorting Bar-li out of the AU assembly hall in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa.

Back in early February last year, the African Union suspended a debate on whether to grant Israel an observer status at the continental body, avoiding a vote that risked creating an unprecedented rift in the regional bloc.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh at the time urged African leaders to withdraw the accreditation, saying Israel should “never be rewarded for its violation and for the apartheid regime it does impose on Palestinian people.”

The AU’s chairman, MackySall, told reporters at the end of the two-day summit back then that there was an agreement to postpone the vote.

Israel was granted observer status in the African Union in July 2021. The accreditation drew a sharp rebuke from powerful members of the AU, including South Africa and Algeria, which argued that it contradicted AU statements supporting the occupied Palestinian territories.

Source: Press TV

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

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/02/20/698575/Hamas-hails-decision-by-African-Union-to-suspend-Israel-s-observer-status-

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APC Muslim-Muslim ticket doesn’t matter, Tinubu God’s willl – Umahi

February 20, 2023

By Wale Odunsi

Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi has faulted opponents of the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu and Senator KashimShettima, the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the ruling APC practice Islam.

Umahi advised Nigerians not to be deceived by the Muslim/Muslim ticket because God is for Christians and Muslims.

“I don’t know what God wants to do with him but he is set to answer the prayers of his people,” he noted.

The governor spoke to reporters on Monday while inspecting the ongoing work at the Ebonyi International Airport, Onueke.

Umahi said there is a Christian/Christian ticket in Ebonyi and in other states where there are Muslim/Christian, or Christian/Muslim tickets.

On issues within the party, the Ebonyi helmsman described them as normal, adding that the APC will win overwhelmingly in the elections.

Source: DailyPost Nigeria

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

https://dailypost.ng/2023/02/20/apc-muslim-muslim-ticket-doesnt-matter-tinubu-gods-willl-umahi/

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Tunisia’s Ennahdha leader faces new police probe

February 20, 2023

TUNIS: The head of Tunisia’s dissolved parliament is facing a new police inquiry, his Ennahdha party said on Monday, days after a string of arrests mainly targeting opposition political figures.

Rached Ghannouchi, President Kais Saied’s 81-year-old rival, was ordered to appear at a police station in the capital on Tuesday, Ennahdha spokesman ImedKhemiri told journalists, calling it “a new attack on political leaders.”

Khemiri said the party “does not know the reasons for this summons, but it is part of an enquiry after a complaint was lodged by an unknown person.”

A party official said the complaint came from a member of Tunisia’s powerful police unions, who “claimed to have a recording of a telephone call” involving Ghannouchi.

The latest in a string of legal woes facing Ghannouchi comes a year and a half after Saied launched dramatic measures, freezing and later scrapping the legislature Ghannouchi headed.

Several prominent critics have since faced trial in military courts.

Many of the enquiries have targeted Ennahdha, which has been a major political force in Tunisia’s parliament and most governments since the 2011 revolution.

Ghannouchi was questioned by an anti-terror judge in November over alleged involvement in helping Tunisians traveling to fight for terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.

Prior to that he was interrogated over alleged money laundering in relation to foreign donations for an Ennahdha-linked charity.

Zeineb Brahmi, the party’s legal chief, quipped that “we don’t know whether the investigation this time will be over plotting against state security, financial corruption or terrorism.”

Khemiri accused authorities of “harassing” Saied’s rivals saying it had become “very easy” for authorities to prosecute politicians.

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2254956/middle-east

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North America

 

Blinken reaffirms US pledge to deliver F-16 fighters to Turkiye

February 21, 2023

ANKARA: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday underlined Washington’s commitment to delivering F-16 jets to Turkiye as he wrapped up a visit during which he pledged solidarity with the earthquake-hit country.

It was Blinken’s first visit to Turkiye as secretary of state in a trip that was planned before a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on February 6, which has now killed nearly 45,000 people in Turkiye and Syria.

Relations between the United States and Turkiye have been strained in recent years, but Washington has found Ankara helpful for its mediatory role between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion last year.

On Monday, Blinken held talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which they discussed Ukraine and “the need to work more closely” on issues including defence, energy and collective security, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

One of the main issues on the agenda of the visit has been Turkiye’s desire to buy modernised versions of F-16 fighter jets for its ageing air force.

The US Congress is blocking the sale due to concerns over Turkiye’s human rights record and threats to Greece.

“The Biden administration strongly supports the package to both upgrade the existing F-16s and to provide new ones,” Blinken told a press conference in Ankara. But he added that he could not provide a “formal timeline” for approval and delivery.

Nato applications

The other main issue discussed during Blinken’s visit is Turkiye’s refusal to ratify Sweden and Finland’s Nato membership applications.

Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and applied to join the US-led defence alliance last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ankara has criticised Sweden’s refusal to extradite dozens of suspects that Turkiye links to outlawed Kurdish militants and a failed 2016 coup.

On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said no conditions should be applied to the F-16 jets approval.

“It would not be right to make Sweden and Finland’s Nato membership a condition for the F-16s. They are two different issues,” he said. “Our hands should not be tied.” Turkiye has signalled it is ready to accept Finland into Nato, but Cavusoglu said Kurdish militants continued “all kinds of activities including recruitment, terrorist propaganda” in Sweden.

But the Turkish minister said suspended talks on their membership would resume in Brussels “in the near future”, in comments welcomed by Stockholm.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told journalists in Brussels that Sweden was ready for talks, adding “this is a welcome and good announcement from Turkiye”.

Blinken said the United States “strongly” supported Finland and Sweden’s admission into Nato “as quickly as possible”. “Finland and Sweden have already taken concrete steps” to address Turkiye’s concerns, he said.

Source: Dawn

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

https://www.dawn.com/news/1738303/blinken-reaffirms-us-pledge-to-deliver-f-16-fighters-to-turkiye

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US State Secretary Blinken urges speedy Nordics accession to NATO

20 February ,2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday Washington strongly supports Sweden and Finland’s quick NATO accession given steps they have already taken, even as his Turkish counterpart stressed the need for more concrete action.

The Nordic countries’ NATO bids have been stalled because Turkey has refused to ratify them, saying Stockholm in particular has harbored what it calls members of terrorist groups. Ankara recently indicated it would approve only Finland.

“Finland and Sweden have already taken concrete steps to fulfil the commitments that they met under the trilateral memorandum of agreement that they signed," Blinken said, adding that the United States strongly supported their accession into the alliance "as quickly as possible."

He reiterated that NATO’s Nordic expansion issue is not a bilateral one with Turkey.

But Cavusoglu, alongside Blinken, said all parties in the alliance must convince Sweden in particular to take more action to address Ankara’s concerns and win its support for the bid.

When asked if Ankara would approve their accession by a NATO summit set to take place in Lithuania in July, a gathering by which the Western countries are hoping the expansion can be completed, Cavusoglu said Stockholm needed to do more.

“Sweden made a law change, but we see that every kind of activity, including terrorism financing, recruitment and propaganda, is continuing in Sweden,” he said.

“If they take steps that convince our parliament and people, there could be a development in this direction,” he added.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the trans-Atlantic defense pact after Russia invaded Ukraine but faced unexpected objections from Turkey.

Ankara wants Helsinki and Stockholm in particular to take a tougher line against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies, and another group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/20/US-State-Secretary-Blinken-urges-speedy-Nordics-accession-to-NATO

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US says it will continue to extend its 'full support' after 2 more quakes hit Türkiye

Rabia İclalTuran

21.02.2023

WASHINGTON

The US is “deeply concerned” after two more earthquakes jolted Türkiye’s southernmost province of Hatay, the White House said Monday, promising that it would continue to offer its full support.

“We are deeply concerned by the news of earthquakes impacting areas already devastated in Türkiye and Syria,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan wrote on Twitter.

“The U.S. will continue to extend our full support,” he added.

Two earthquakes jolted Hatay province Monday, just two weeks after major quakes hit the region, the country’s disaster management agency said.

According to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), one of the quakes took place around 8.04 p.m. local time (1704GMT) in Defne district with a magnitude of 6.4, while the other one, with a magnitude of 5.8, took place three minutes later, with the epicenter in Samandag district.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-says-it-will-continue-to-extend-its-full-support-after-2-more-quakes-hit-turkiye/2826289

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Türkiye urges US to lift sanctions in defence industry field

MerveAydogan

20.02.2023

The bilateral trade volume between Türkiye and the US is increasingly continuing, the Turkish foreign minister said on Monday, urging to lift sanctions against Ankara in the defense industry field.

In a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Mevlut Cavusoglu said finalizing the F-16 fighter jet sale deal is beneficial for both sides.

He noted that the fight against terrorism is a priority item on the mutual agenda, and further urged to have more effective cooperation and collaboration in the field of security.

Asked about Türkiye's position on the US support to YPG/PKK terrorist organization in Syria, Cavusoglu said Türkiye believes that cooperating with terror groups against another one is a "deadly mistake" and that the PKK/YPG terror group is not fighting the Daesh/ISIS terror group.

Cavusoglu called on his US counterpart to fight against any kind of terrorism and terror group together.

Citing the October 2019 deal signed between Ankara and Washington, Cavusoglu said the US must fulfill its responsibilities arising from the deal.

Ankara and Washington reached a deal in October 2019 to pause Türkiye's Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria for 120 hours to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from a planned safe zone, but Türkiye said the US did not fulfill its promises.

Asked about bilateral ties, Cavusoglu said the two countries should not wait for another disaster to improve ties and urged to take concrete and sincere steps to improve the Türkiye-US relations.

For his part, Blinken expressed his country's commitment to providing support to earthquake-hit Türkiye.

"We stand side by side in confronting common security challenges," Blinken said as he hailed Türkiye's role in supporting Ukraine.

On the F-16 deal, Blinken said it is the "national interest and security interest" for the Biden administration to both upgrade existing F-16s and provide new ones to Türkiye.

Blinken also responded to the question on the US support to the terrorist YPG/PKK in Syria and said his country "very much recognizes" Türkiye's legitimate security concerns on its southern border.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/turkiye-urges-us-to-lift-sanctions-in-defense-industry-field/2825320

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