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Islamic World News ( 3 Dec 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Europe’s Increasing Intolerance to Islam Should Be a Genuine Concern for Muslims

New Age Islam News Bureau

3 Dec 2019

Europe’s first eco-mosque in Cambridge is set to open doors to neighbors and visitors on Saturday, December 7, offering them a unique opportunity to know more about Islam.


• Europe’s Increasing Intolerance to Islam Should Be a Genuine Concern for Muslims

• Cambridge Eco-Mosque Opens Doors to Visitors Offering A Unique Opportunity To Know More About Islam

• Matawalle Promises Hard Time for Those Desecrating the Qur’an

• Muslim World League Chief: Dialogue Key to Tackling Islamophobia

• Ma'ruf Amin: Mosque Police will not be Govt's Surveillance Tool

• Ayodhya Case: Arguments Favoured Muslims, Yet Verdict Went To Hindus, Says Justice AK Ganguly

• Tehran Conference to Explore Women’s Role In Iranian-Islamic Civilization

• Mob besieges Dawn offices in Islamabad

• ISIS Is Losing Afghan Territory. That Means Little for Its Victims.

• American Muslims to Democrats: 'Palestine is a foreign policy priority'

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




• Bolton West election: London Muslim group targets Tory Chris

• Brexit Party Founder Calls For Muslim Ban

• Cambridge eco-mosque opens doors to visitors

• Corbyn’s ties with Islamists cannot be ignored

• Analysis: Islamic State claims attack in London by al Qaeda-inspired terrorist

• Frank Wuco, an anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ pundit, is now a senior State Department adviser

• Thousands gather in Paris to mourn 13 French soldiers killed fighting Islamists in Mali as



• Zambia Gay Rights Row: US Ambassador 'Threatened' Over Jailing Of Couple

• Inmates electrocuted in Nigerian prison accident


Arab World

• Intellectual Battle Needed To Support Palestinian Cause, Says Makkah Governor

• Egypt says Qatar supported Muslim Brotherhood

• Saudi court hands down death sentences to five Shia activists from Qatif

• Saudi movie industry looking bright but still needs push from government

• Saudi Press: KSA is First Arab and Islamic Country Assumes G20 Presidency

• Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs Concludes its Participation in Kuwait International Book Fair

• Advisor to Saudi Royal Court Leads KSA's Delegation to 5th National Islamic Conference in Guinea


Southeast Asia

• Suspected grenade blast near Indonesia’s presidential palace hurts two

• Typhoon Kammuri pounds Philippines, closes Manila airport

• Bank Islam to increase allocation for Vendor Financing in 2020

• Hundreds of Indonesian Muslims attend Jakarta 212 rally

• Sharing Meals with Jakarta Mosques: Feed the Poor, Save the Earth and (Maybe) Get A Blessing

• NCRPO to deploy Muslim cops for SEA Games to address cultural sensitivity issues



• SC To Hear Pleas against Polygamy, Nikah Halala among Muslims after Winter Break

• Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan who appeared for Muslim parties ‘sacked’ from Ayodhya case

• Muslim litigants stopped from Ramjanmbhoomi site visit, send plaint

• Review Plea against Ayodhya Verdict before December 9: Muslim Board

• SC to hear pleas against Muslims polygamy winter break

• Muslim group calls for US boycott of Beijing winter Olympics



• Iran's Top Security Official: US Not Reliable Partner for Persian Gulf Coalition

• Official: Iranian Knowledge-Based Companies Export Oxygen Concentrators to 25 Countries

• Iran ‘rioters’ shot and killed amid protests: state TV

• Envoy: Austria Displeased with US Sanctions against Iran

• Iranian Security Forces Arrest 79 Rioters in Khuzestan

• IRGC Spokesman: Most Advanced Tools Used by Rioters in Iran

• Iranian Scientists Produce Nanostructures to Store Hydrogen in Oil Industry

• Official: US Sanctions Targeting Iranian Patients

• Rising crime in Lebanon blamed on economic slump amid livelihood crisis

• Top rebel leader says more time needed for Sudan peace deal

• Don’t forget the Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands



• Ex-Pak President Musharraf admitted to Dubai hospital

• New FIA chief meets PM as ‘sidelined’ predecessor resigns

• NAB files reference against former premier Abbasi, 9 others in LNG case

• Zardari agrees to file bail plea ‘at family’s insistence’

• Army chief for inter-services coordination

• Judiciary’s charge-sheet against NAB grows and grows

• Australia to end bilateral aid to Pakistan

• Primary education to be imparted in Urdu: CM Usman Buzdar


South Asia

• China May Ban US Officials from Region with Muslim Detainment Camps

• None will be allowed to lead lavish life with illegal money: PM

• German defence minister calls for extension of NATO mission in Afghanistan


North America

• NATO summit toasts 70 years. But is it waving or drowning?

• Donald Trump renews tariff threat against France over tech taxes

• Belgian Town Sheds UNESCO Status over Anti-Semitism Row


New Zealand

• Image By Christchurch Photographer Among World's Best Photos Of Year


Europe’s increasing intolerance to Islam should be a genuine concern for Muslims

The increasing number of Islamophobic laws being introduced across Europe is a frightening indication of how supposedly “liberal” and “tolerant” governments actually perceive its Muslim minorities, writes Tamim Mobayed.

Much attention has recently been given to China’s brutal ideological crackdown on its Uyghur and Turkic minority Muslims. South of China, Myanmar’s oppression against the Rohingya Muslims have led to cries of ethnic cleansing and genocide, while India’s recent endeavours in occupied Kashmir, as well as its removal of citizenship for 1.9 million (mostly Muslim) residents of Assam, have ratcheted up a global climate of Islamophobia.

Turning westward to Europe, have its lofty Enlightenment values rendered it immune from this wave of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hate? Much of the protection of religious rights in Europe, and conversely, the recent infringements on them, stem from Article 9 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion, while limiting these only “for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights…of others”. Reflecting on this lucid clause, the potential issues swiftly become apparent; what are the parameters for protecting public order, morals or the rights of others?

A range of laws have been enacted over the course of the last two decades that bring into question the level of tolerance Europe holds for its Muslims. In several areas of daily life, it is becoming markedly harder for Muslims (and to some degree Jews) to abide by their religious beliefs. Often framed as moving to correct dated practices among the faithful, the words of Iddo Porat should be considered; “When the majority in a society suddenly gets an overwhelming paternalistic urge to protect its minorities from their own practices, one should be suspicious”.

Perhaps the most pressing question for Muslims residing in Europe is whether these new measures are the fruits of a maturing and increasingly muscular secularism, or is this the legislative embodiment of institutional Islamophobia.

Circumcision, halal slaughter, swimming and shaking hands

Both Muslims and Jews have seen restrictions placed upon their right to slaughter animals without stunning for it to qualify as halal or kosher. Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland have all banned non-stun ritual slaughter, while France, Spain, Greece, Poland, Germany, Finland and Slovakia have highly regulated ritual slaughter. Pertinent to the discussion at hand, Germany relegalised ritual slaughter in 2002, seven years after outlawing it in 1995. While a strong case has been made regarding lightening the suffering of animals (CITE), experts (STRONGER) such as Temple Grandin challenge simple treatments of this topic.

With regards to male circumcision, another shared ritual under normative Islamic and Jewish law, Iceland and Denmark are both toying with bans to end the legality of this practice, while a German court ruled the practice as bodily harm, paving the way for a possible ban in future. Despite legislative protection for parents seeking to circumcise boys, two Norwegian hospitals ceased assisting in this procedure in 2018.

More controversially, as of January 1st 2019, all new citizens of Denmark would be compelled to shake hands at their naturalisation ceremony, a move that evidently targets Muslims, as many hold a position that non-relative members of the opposite sex should not be touched. In the same vein as this law, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) backed a Swiss court’s ruling that primary school girls could not be withdrawn from mixed swimming lessons, and parents who resist this move could face a fine of 1,400 francs (£1,100).

Garb and ghettos

Perhaps most infamously, France’s 2004 ban on religious symbols has prevented hijab wearing Muslim women and girls, and yarmulke wearing Jews, from entering a range of public jobs and schools. This ban found another francophone home in the French-Canadian state of Quebec this year.

While an overwhelming majority of Muslims do not ascribe to a belief in wearing the face veil, the pointed nature of these bans, enacted in the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium and France, drive home the suspicions of a Europe growing markedly more hostile to anything perceived as Islamic.

A raft of other European countries might follow suit, including Germany, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Norway. Much of the suspicions regarding the spirit behind the face veil ban lie in the fact so few Muslim women wear them, and yet they are deemed worthy of precious parliamentary time and energy.

Going further still, Denmark’s government passed a series of laws in 2018 targeting “non-Western” migrants living in “ghettos”. One enacted law allowed police to confiscate money and jewellery from asylum seekers, while another controversial proposal worked to double the punishment of certain crimes within designated ghettoised areas; this law was applied in April this year. While these laws are not explicitly anti-Islamic, certain Danish voices see them as evidence of growing institutional Islamophobia.

Another law requires that children from these communities be separated from their families for 25 hours per week, wherein they would be taught “Danish values”, including celebrating Christmas and Easter. Such moves fly in the face of claims of religious tolerance and secularism. Perhaps more disconcerting is the situation of these laws, straddling the intersection of Islamophobia and classism, with only poor non-Western migrant families being targeted by them.


The laws that have been enacted mostly target more than one religious community, challenging the idea they are inherently anti-Muslim or Islamophobic. However, a strong case can be made that Muslims are seen as a unique threat, with Islam being especially worthy of targeting. Indeed, that is precisely what is said by voices who seek to legislate against Islam and Muslims.

The liberal anti-hate monitoring group ‘Hope Not Hate’ (which has faced its own accusations of Islamophobia) reported that while attitudes towards multiculturalism were softening in Britain, they were hardening against Islam.

Job candidates from the Middle East and North Africa were less likely to be called for an interview, and individuals with Muslim names were also less likely to get a positive response when seeking flat-sharing. Rather than leading to increased empathy, anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked after terrorist incidents committed by Muslims.

Alarms on the normalisation of Islamophobia have been sounded by many, most famously, by the former Conservative party chairman, Baroness Syeeda Warsi. Occurring within this context, it becomes more difficult to see new legislation that makes it more difficult to be a practising Muslim, as being the fruits of a religiously neutral European, rather than a strengthening Islamophobic Europe.

A crucial question comes by way of asking, how will the Muslims of Europe respond to this intensifying environment? Looking to the example of Catholics in Northern Ireland, we are already seeing third generation Muslims immersing themselves in the fields of law, politics and advocacy, determined to change the system from within. Catholics were largely denied paths to employment leading to Northern Ireland’s traditional industries, and so instead looked towards alternate avenues, including education.

There is an added irony in that what might give European Muslims further drive in the fight to protect their religious rights, are the European values they were socialised with, such as the right to self-determination and personal religious freedoms. Where first and second generation Muslims might have looked at themselves as guests in Europe, their children and their grandchildren are increasingly beset with a sense of ownership and responsibility.

In other domains, European Muslims might opt to go around sticky issues, such as opting for vegetarianism in a country that does not allow halal slaughter. This might coincide with growing movements from within the Islamic tradition arguing for more ethical and sustainable meat-eating practices. This is not quite as straightforward when it comes to practices such as Male circumcision.

A more rebellious approach may result in the development of backstreet practices, as Muslims determined to practice their rituals develop ways to do that illegally. Of relevance here is the legacy of the Moriscos, Muslims who were forced to convert to Catholicism after the fall of Muslim Spain, yet who resolved to practice their religion in secret.

Moriscos were Muslims who were forcibly converted to Catholicism in Spain

There will also be many Muslims who abandon any outlawed rituals. This would occur regardless of religious edicts, but contrary to popular imaginations of the Shariah, Islamic law and lawmakers can prove to be resiliently pragmatic. The very notion of a fatwa reflects the reality that certain contexts and actors require specific applications of the law. For example, while interest (usury) is explicitly forbidden within Islam, some scholars have deemed it permissible to purchase a house by way of an interest-bearing mortgage. Similarly, women who fear for their safety due to their identifiability as Muslims while wearing the hijab or niqab have been issued rulings allowing them to remove it.

Proponents of the position that Islam needs reform in accordance with secular liberalism, especially those spurred on by a sense of European superiority coupled with progressivism, are likely to argue that Europe will do Muslims a great service by helping them through the neuroses that inflicts their religion, much like it has done with Christianity, and to a lesser extent, Judaism.

A Freudian reflection on Europe’s anti-Islamic laws might suggest an Islamophobia sublimated by a cerebral Europe; rather than physically purging itself from its Muslim citizens, Europe is instead making it increasingly difficult for them to practice. A greater concern for Europe as a whole might come by way of the question, to be asked once Islam has been rendered palatable to new European notions of secularity; whose turn comes next?



Cambridge Eco-Mosque Opens Doors To Visitors Offering A Unique Opportunity To Know More About Islam

December 2, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Europe’s first eco-mosque in Cambridge is set to open doors to neighbors and visitors on Saturday, December 7, offering them a unique opportunity to know more about Islam.

“Join us at Cambridge Central Mosque’s Community Open Day! Program includes: Guided Tours, Arts & Crafts, Islamic Science Exhibition, Bazaars, Children’s Activities,” the mosque wrote in a tweet.

The tour will include a walk through trees, flower beds and a fountain, reminiscent of the great Islamic gardens. Also a tour of the portico, atrium, teaching room, cafeteria and the special facilities for mothers and children.

Visitors will be offered a guided explanation of the ablution areas, prayer hall and the daily rituals performed.

Moreover, a bazaar and children’s activities will be offered on site.

The UK’s first green mosque opened for the first time to worshippers last April.

The mosque is designed to be naturally lit throughout the day and naturally ventilated, even at peak occupancy, while using a combination of green technologies, including rainwater harvesting, air-source heat pumps, and photovoltaics to minimize its carbon footprint.

Late last month, the mosque won a national award for its design and contribution to the community

Estimates in 2009 put the population of Muslims in the UK at around 2.4 million. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of Muslims in Britain could now be around 3 million.

Muslims across the world usually open mosque doors to guests to enable them to have a glimpse of the Islamic faith.

For example, Visit My Mosque Day is held annually in a number of countries including Australia, the United Kingdom, Norway, and France.

About 250 mosques participated in this year’s event held in February, seeing growth from 200 mosques in 2018, and 150 mosques in 2017.



Matawalle promises hard time for those desecrating the Qur’an

December 2, 2019

Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara has called on the people of the state, especially Muslims, to pray to Allah to bring his wrath on those abusing the Holy Qur’an.

Matawalle made the call on Monday in Gusau at the opening of the state chapter of the 2019 Qur’anic recitation competition, Musabaka.

“This prayer is necessary because the perpetrators are committing a high level of immorality and their provocation and sin can cause a lot of problem to us as citizens; so we should pray so that Allah’s punishment will not affect the innocent.

“At our level as a government, I have set up an investigative committee and anyone found to have had a hand in it — however highly placed in the society — will be punished as prescribed by the Islamic law,” he said.

The governor warned that his administration would not condone any form of unwholesome act in the state and directed security agents to be more vigilant in order to bring people behind such acts to book.

Speaking on the Qur’anic recitation competition, Matawalle said the state government had set up a credible organising committee and had given the members adequate logistics for a smooth and successful outing.

He urged members of the committee to be fair in the discharge of the responsibility.

Earlier in his address, the Chairman of the Organising Committee, Aminu Nahuche, represented by one of the committee members, Alhaji Muhammad Dodo, said the committee would do its best through the panel of judges to see that the best reciters that could also represent the country emerge.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that the event which started throughout the 14 local government areas in October, brought out winners who are participating at the state level and who will also represent the state at the national level in the 2020 edition of the competition.



Muslim World League chief: Dialogue key to tackling Islamophobia


December 03, 2019

RIYADH: On the first day of the Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League on Monday stressed the importance of dialogue in tackling Islamophobia.

“There are many different far rights. Many of them have it implanted that they just hate Muslims without a reason. It may be difficult, but discussion is key and has fruitful outcomes,” said Sheikh Mohammed Al-Issa.

“As Muslims and Islamic organizations, we must clarify the true picture of Islam and Muslims.”

He said negative campaigns against Islam are being led by the far right. “We had sessions with people who hated Islam, but now we call them good friends after our transparency and discussions with them. Therefore, discussion is pertinent,” Al-Issa said.

Some far-right people are against Islam “because of what they’ve heard or seen,” he added. “These people are much easier to have a discussion with (than those who do not have a reason for their prejudice). They’re found in a lot of European countries.”

Other far-right people “respect Muslims and live with them, but worry about the outcomes” of immigration and demographic changes, Al-Issa said.

One issue that has led to difficulties in terms of coexistence is that some Islamic laws are not applicable in non-Muslim countries, he added.

“We urge everyone who lives in a country to respect its laws, culture and constitution,” said Al-Issa, adding that “the media plays an important role” in promoting Islamophobia, as do movies. He said the answer is to raise awareness.



Ma'ruf Amin: Mosque Police will Not be Govt's Surveillance Tool

3 December 2019

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Vice President Ma'ruf Amin asserted that the presence of police personnel in mosques will not be the government’s surveillance tool but rather an attempt to prevent religious houses used as a vehicle to spread hate.

“It’s to prevent mosques being used to create narratives of hatred,” said Ma'ruf Amin in opening the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) coordination meeting in the Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel, Jakarta on Monday.

The MUI chairman then explained that the police personnel will only be tasked to provide the necessary understandings and guide people to prevent the emergence of sermons that may entice hatred among society.

“It is not to conduct surveillance,” said Ma'ruf Amin.

In a separate occasion, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) senior researcher Siti Zuhro asked Ma'ruf Amin to not just stand still and try to actively correct the government’s policies that are considered too intrusive, especially if it affects a person’s private matter.

Siti argued that the mosque police concept could potentially offend the muslim community and spark distrust among members of the public.



Ayodhya Case: Arguments Favoured Muslims, Yet Verdict Went To Hindus, Says Justice AK Ganguly

03rd December 2019

NEW DELHI: While the arguments in the Ayodhya dispute case were in favour of the Muslim community, the order was to allow the building of the temple for Hindus, argued Justice AK Ganguly during a discussion on the case organised here on Monday.

Advocate Sanjay Hegde and political expert Neera Chandhoke also participated in the discussion, held at the India International Centre.

Reading parts of the judgment, Ganguly said that it was absurd on part of the SC to say that “a mosque is not an essential tenet of Islam and Namaz can be offered in the open”. “The belief and faith of a worshipper cannot be challenged. The Supreme Court hasn’t accepted the minority view,” in announcing its verdict on Ayodhya, he said.

He noted the judgment that said that the Babri Masjid was not built after demolishing a temple. “The structure to which Hindus claimed their rights, has always been a mosque...Muslims never abandoned the mosque...Hindus have always encroached upon it illegally,” he read.“The judgment is loaded (with arguments) in the favour of Muslims,” he stressed.

Neera further argued that the government was under the impression that all questions have been answered and that l the issues have been resolved, but that was not the case. “We don’t just sign a social contract with the government but also with our fellows...when the Hindu community began to say that this is the place where Lord Ram was born, I don’t understand it. As far as I know, Benaras and Mathura come before Ayodhya.”

There has been “rush” on part of the government to set up a committee which will oversee the making of the temple, she said. She further questioned if Babar demolished a temple to build a mosque, “Are we going to do the same thing? It is time that we live with fellow citizens. We must learn to stop this jostling of for space of the place of worship. There could have been a space where everybody could have worshipped.”

Advocate Hegde took the discussion further to say that India needed a court that would do judgements without favour or biases and labelled the SC order as a “Thanedar verdict”. “A Thanedar is only interested in keeping his jurisdiction silent,” he said.



Tehran conference to explore women’s role in Iranian-Islamic civilization

December 2, 2019

TEHRAN – A conference titled “Women’s Place in Iranian-Islamic Civilization” will be held in Tehran on February 24 and 25, 2020, aiming to discuss women’s duties throughout the Iranian history.

Co-organized by Iranology Foundation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) office in Tehran, the event plans to explore woman’s role in various fields such as creative economy, entrepreneurship and social responsibility, family relationships, restoration and promotion of intangible cultural heritage, as well as fertility, creation and progress in prehistoric, ancient and Islamic-era epochs.

Amongst other themes for the conference are: Women in other societies, women’s role in preserving sustainable peace and progress based on Iranian and Islamic philosophies, women’s self-care and self-confidence, women in media and the internet: opportunities and threats, women’s role in future studies of science and technology both in Muslim-majority communities and other countries.

Scholars and researchers willing to take part in the conference may send their abstract papers to the secretariat by January 5, and full papers by February 4, IQNA reported.



Mob besieges Dawn offices in Islamabad

December 03, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A few dozen unidentified people on Monday staged a protest outside Dawn offices over publication of a news report regarding the ethnicity of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week.

The charged mob, carrying banners and chanting slogans against the newspaper, remained outside the office building for nearly three hours, besieging the premises and making the staffers hostage.

They prevented the employees from entering or leaving the building and demanded a written apology. Some of the protesters also misbehaved with the newspaper as well as Dawn TV employees when they arrived at the office.

Security guards at the media house had to lock the gates to prevent the protesters from entering the premises before police and officers of the capital administration arrived.

After lengthy negotiations with the newspaper management in the presence of an assistant commissioner, the protesters finally agreed to disperse after hurling warnings.

Meanwhile, the incident was widely condemned by leaders of various political parties, parliamentarians and journalist bodies.

Chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Kokhar has also taken notice of the besieging of Dawn offices by the unidentified persons and directed the inspector general of police Islamabad to submit a report on the issue to the committee by December 6. He had also sought details of the action taken by the police against those who had besieged the media house.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement condemned the incident, saying that “no one should be allowed to attack media outlets in the name of protest”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari demanded “action against the crowd which attacked the newspaper office and vowed to side with the journalist fraternity”.

PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb called for a high-level investigation into the incident to identify and punish the perpetrators.

In a statement, Ms Aurangzeb said it was imperative to set a precedent by awarding strict punishment to those who attacked the newspaper office so that it should act as a deterrent in future.

“Such actions are unacceptable in any civilised society,” she said, pledging that the people, politicians and media will join hands in the fight against such elements.

National Party (NP) Punjab president Ayub Malik termed it as an “attack on media freedom”. He also called for strict action against the “unidentified persons” for holding the newspaper employees hostage. He asked the government to identify the people with the help of video footages available on social media.

Meanwhile, office-bearers of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC) also condemned the incident.

Newly-elected president of the PFUJ-Afzal Butt Group Shehzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi demanded an inquiry.

The incident, they said, was an eye opener for the government and must not be ignored.

NPC President Shakil Qarar, in a statement, said working journalists would not allow curbs on press freedom, and asked the government to take steps for the protection of media persons.



ISIS Is Losing Afghan Territory. That Means Little for Its Victims.

Dec. 2, 2019

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Mujib Mashal

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Islamic State’s main stronghold in eastern Afghanistan collapsed in recent weeks, according to American and Afghan officials, following years of concerted military offensives from American and Afghan forces and, more recently, the Taliban.

President Ashraf Ghani recently claimed that the Islamic State, often known as ISIS, had been “obliterated” in Nangarhar Province, the group’s haven in the east. And in an interview in Kabul on Sunday, Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of all American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the group’s loss of the terrain it stubbornly held for few years would severely restrict their recruitment and planning.

But General Miller also warned that ISIS could remain a threat in Afghanistan even if it does not hold territory, with attention required to track militants on the move and the group’s remaining urban cells.

“It was instructive in Iraq and Syria — when you take away big terrain from them, they move into smaller cells and they pop up in strange places,” General Miller said.

General Miller’s reluctance to affirm any type of major victory over the offshoot is indicative of the broader inroads Islamic State cells have made in Afghanistan — and of a long history of militant groups in Afghanistan bouncing back after seemingly unsustainable losses.

Western and Afghan officials see a combination of factors that led to the Islamic State’s losses in the east, forcing many of the fighters to either move or surrender. One Western official estimated that the group’s strength was now reduced to around 300 fighters in Afghanistan, from an estimated 3,000 earlier this year.

The Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan has been cited by military officials and lawmakers as one of the reasons to keep American troops in Afghanistan following any peace settlement with the Taliban. Those officials have long argued that the Taliban would not be able to defeat the group, and that the insurgents still had not done much to distance themselves from Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

What particularly worried officials was the Islamic State’s continued ability to plan attacks and recruit within Kabul, the Afghan capital city, despite intensified campaigns against the group there. Some of the recruits involved in the planning or execution of deadly bombings there came from the city’s top schools, officials say.

But for Karimullah, a resident of Jawdara, a small village in eastern in Afghanistan where a suicide bombing attributed to the Islamic State killed more than 70 people in October, battlefield victories, political posturing or even the recent death of the Islamic State’s supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, means little.

“If he’s dead or not, what does it matter?” said Karimullah, who uses just one name and lost his uncle in the blast. “We were destroyed.”

His ambivalence is not uncommon here. To many Afghans, the group’s name or differences from the Taliban are barely noteworthy. But there is no doubt that extreme violence by the Islamic State has become an enduring facet of the war, deepening the already egregious suffering across the country.

The Islamic State has managed to penetrate parts of Afghan society that had been mostly untouched by the broader war for years. And the group’s resilience, even in light of its recent defeats, raises the grim prospect of an unending war even if the Taliban negotiate a peace.

Far from the central ISIS branch in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State in Afghanistan started as a collection of disenfranchised Pakistani Taliban fighters who pledged allegiance to Mr. al-Baghdadi in early 2015. It has since slowly turned into a formidable threat in Afghanistan’s mountainous east, with a reach that extends across the country, including in Kabul, the capital.

Though the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria sent money to its Afghan affiliate to support its initial growth, the connection between the two groups is minimal, said Arian Sharifi, who was the director of threat assessment of the Afghan National Security Council until late last year.

One of the group’s goals, officials say, is to hold territory in Afghanistan and elsewhere in south and Central Asia, trying to establish a caliphate much like the group’s earlier iteration in the Middle East.

Mr. Sharifi thinks that the Islamic State in Afghanistan will try to become the group’s global hub in the coming years, after losing territory in Iraq and Syria following concerted Western-backed offensives and airstrikes.

The Afghan government noted that more foreign fighters were slowly arriving in Afghanistan to fight for the group there as the central branch lost territory in Iraq and Syria, an assessment supported by American intelligence officials.

But, Mr. Sharifi cautioned, “The Islamic State in Afghanistan is much less ideological than its Middle Eastern counterparts,” he said in a recent interview. “It is very much influenced by regional politics as well.”

American officials have been divided over how much global threat the Islamic State in Afghanistan poses. While military officials emphasize the group’s ambitions, some intelligence officials believe the group remains more of a threat within the immediate region.

One thing the Afghan branch shares with the central body is a hatred of Shiite Muslims, and a tendency to single them out for attacks. Still, the militants are not exclusive with their violence, as was the case in Jawdara, a mostly Sunni village.

There, Karimullah and some other residents think it was more personal: The village had stood up to the Islamic State in a dispute over the town’s water supply, and they believe the mosque bombing was meant to break their spirit.

In its early days, the Islamic State in Afghanistan distinguished itself from other terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan, including Al Qaeda, by taking another cue from counterparts in Iraq and Syria: Its media arm distributed gruesome videos of beheadings and fighters forcing victims to sit on explosives before detonating them.

But when the Islamic State detonated a suicide bomb in a wedding hall in Kabul over the summer, killing 63 people, there was little mention of ideology or local aims.

“I think ISIS is just a name in Afghanistan,” said Hajji Hussain, the owner of the wedding hall. “We don’t know who they are, and we can’t trust anyone.”

He added, “They just enjoy killing people.”

And that is what makes the Islamic State stand out in Afghanistan’s unending war. The Taliban often try to justify or disown attacks that killed civilians, Mr. Sharifi said.

The Islamic State, he added, does not bother.

While the number of Islamic State attacks declined in recent months, according to United Nations data, American officials attributed more than 20 high-profile attacks in Kabul alone last year.

For years, American and Afghan Special Operations forces, on the back of a relentless airstrike campaign, had kept the pressure to try to contain the group. The Taliban, also, increased their operations against the group in Nangarhar, according to Western and Afghan officials. Some reports claimed that the insurgents had sent some of their elite units to the province to strike at the Islamic State.

The timing of the Taliban intensifying its offensives against ISIS was particularly interesting, as the insurgents tried to persuade the Americans in peace negotiations that they would act against international terrorist groups.

But following any peace agreement, the number of hard-line insurgents defecting to the Islamic State to keep fighting has been a concern among Afghan and western officials.

But still, with the group constricting, its damage to Afghanistan, by way of cruel bombings in the capital and rampant death among innocents, has reshaped Afghans’ understanding of violence, a trauma that will linger for years to come.



American Muslims to Democrats: 'Palestine is a foreign policy priority'

By Azad Essa in Chicago

2 December 2019

Activists and academics gathered in Chicago over the weekend for the 12th annual American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) convention, calling on American Muslims and the Democratic Party to prioritise Palestine as a foreign policy issue.

Those present at the convention overwhelmingly expressed the view that if a Democrat is elected president in 2020, the momentum built in the last few years over issues impacting Palestinian self-determination needed to be carried into the White House.

The conference, organised by AMP, a national, grassroots organisation focused on educating the public on political and cultural issues related to Palestine, featured speakers like academic and television personality Marc Lamont Hill, activist Linda Sarsour, lawyer Zahra Billoo, and Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

Over 3,500 people from across the US registered for the three-day convention, organisers said.

Though the importance of American Muslim civic participation ahead and after the 2020 election dominated discussions at the convention, other key issues raised included Israel’s recent spate of bombings in Gaza and the US government's decision to no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank illegal.

The conference made special reference to the shifting sentiment towards Palestine, especially among the Democratic Party’s younger base, who increasingly see the forced separations of children from their parents at the US-Mexio border and treatment of African Americans as synonymous with the brutality meted out to Palestinians.

'Interconnected oppression'

"Do you know what I saw at the [US-Mexico] border? I saw Gaza," Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, said during her keynote address on Saturday.

"When you think about the border, you have to got to understand how interconnected the oppression in Palestine is with the oppression taking place at the border," Tlaib said to applause from the packed crowd.

Organisers and delegates said Tlaib's presence at the convention signified the tremendous shift in the way in which Palestine is being discussed in the US today. The rise and rise of Tlaib and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and their willingness to speak openly about Palestine, shows that the issue is no longer as peripheral as it once was.

“To see Democratic nominees Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro speak at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference [in September] illustrates the shift in the Palestine discourse in America,” Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, says.

The election of Omar and Tlaib into Congress and their mainstreaming of Palestine has helped mobilise and motivate a new generation of youth to enter politics and encouraged Muslim Americans to run for political office. But others noted that it was still significant that none of the Democratic nominees for president had shown their support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, nor have they expressed their support for Palestinian right of return.

“There is still a lot of room to educate and there is scope to do it in the Democratic Party,” Josh Ruebner, national advocacy director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a Washington DC-based coalition of several hundred anti-Israel groups from across the United States, said.

"Her [Tlaib] coming here and endorsing this cause despite all the attacks she has faced also shows that Palestine is no longer a liability and rather an asset,” Bazian said.

Conference organisers from AMP said that this 12th incarnation marked quite a shift from its early days as a small, modest affair featuring community leaders. This weekend's event was big, featuring speakers from across the US and multiple organisations, and including training programmes for young activists and activities for children as well.

Deanna Othman, media coordinator for AMP, told MEE that conference organisers deliberately put together a programme that spoke to the different needs of the community.

“The activities here are essential for our growth,” Aya Ali, a 21-year-old student at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, who attended the events geared for students, said.

Ali told MEE that the convention was "one of the biggest resources for equipping student activists to educate and change the narrative about Palestine on our campuses.”

Rifqah Falaneh, a student from DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the US, agreed.

“It is not only about learning, but it is also about connecting with other young people because there are so many different universities from across the country. It is cool to see what other students and leadership bodies are doing on these topics", the 21-year-old said.

Activists cautioned the community from expecting too much from the Democratic leadership with regards to Palestine, as they had done previously with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. They also expressed concern that even if Trump were to be voted out of office, it was highly unlikely a new administration would reverse the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem or its stance on settlements.

But Ruebner, the activist and analyst from Washington, says the only way forward is to continue insisting that Palestine remains a central foreign policy issue with all Democratic Party nominees.

“So if we have a Democratic Party candidate entering the White House, then he or she would have to carry the Palestinian mandate,” Ruebner said.





Bolton West election: London Muslim group targets Tory Chris

By Bill Jacobs

A LONDON-based Islamic group has targeted Bolton West candidate Chris Green as part of a social media campaign to oust 14 former Tory MPs in marginal seats.

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK) claims they are 'Islamophobic' and supporters of Israel but provides no evidence for the assertion.

It is part of is 'Operation Muslim Vote' which is encouraging Muslims to vote for the Labour Party in the December 12 General Election..

In 2005 MPACUK launched a high-profile but unsuccessful campaign to oust then Blackburn MP and Labour Cabinet minister Jack Straw over the Iraq War.

This year's campaign uses social media including Twitter and WhatsApp to vote Labour and campaign to defeat the 14 former Tory MPs, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who are defending small majorities.

It's Twitter feed says: "MPACUK is campaigning against 14 Islamophobic MPs, incl 6 ministers & Boris.

"In 3 elections, we kicked out 8 MPs & Ministers. This election, help us kick out 14."

It's website says there are enough Muslim voters in each of the 14 seats to defeat the Conservative candidate

Mr Green had a majority of 936 in the 2017 General Election.

Also on the list is foreign Office minister Andrew Stephenson who had a majority of 1,279 in his Pendle seat in East Lancashire.

Mr Green said: "The key message is that there is no evidence for the assertions that are being made.

"I'm not surprised that the allies of Jeremy Corbyn are using every trick in the book during this election but I don't believe that people in Bolton will be duped."

His Labour opponent Julie Hilling said: “I don't know what's in Chris Green’s heart but if he will try and police what Muslim women wear and if he will attack charities which help desperate human beings fleeing conflict, then he shouldn't really be surprised when British people from religious and other minorities feel he's not the best representative for them.

"On December 12 I believe the good and kind people of Bolton West will prove him wrong."

Liberal Democrat candidate Rebecca Forrest said: "Islamophobia, anti-semitism or any other form of religious discrimination has no place in modern Britain. Voters should be able to have confidence in their representatives and, where they do not, they are entitled to campaign against them or for another candidate by any legitimate means. Chris Green should make clear he is not Islamophobic."

Green Party candidate Paris Hayes declined to comment.

An MPAC spokesman said: ""All of our statements concerning candidates we are campaigning against are evidenced by their public record via Hansard and Public Whip. As parliamentary candidates, they have a record of supporting Islamophobic policies that have included the expansion of the Prevent duty and Schedule 7 powers. Both have been highly discriminatory against Muslims already.

"In addition, the stripping of citizenship during the Windrush scandal has shown that innocent British citizens, who helped build this country, are vulnerable to the government deporting them at any time.

"As with all forms of prejudice, Islamophobia & Xenophobia has been used as a scapegoat for the crushing consequences of years of austerity, as well as eroding everyone's privacy, civil liberties and freedoms, which this government has done mercilessly over the last 10 years.

"Andrew Stephenson and Chris Green has enabled this socially corrosive program as MPs and must be kicked out of power."



Brexit Party founder calls for Muslim ban

December 3, 2019

By Sam Bright

The founder of the Brexit Party has called for a Muslim ban, in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack.

Proving yet again that she is one of the most bigoted people in politics, Catherine Blaiklock says that we should ban immigration from all “Islamic” countries, to combat terrorism.

Posting on Twitter yesterday, Blaiklock proposed a 7-point plan for addressing terrorism. As well as an outright Muslim ban, she proposed that we should “consider capital punishment” for terrorism offences. Her final policy just says “deport”. We have no idea who she wants to deport, or where she wants to deport them.

Blaiklock is the architect of the Brexit Party. She bought the name of the company, “well before Nigel [Farage] left UKIP,” and claims to have “controlled everything from shares to bank accounts.”

However Blaiklock’s tenure at the Brexit Party was short lived. She left the party just a few weeks after its formation, owing to the fact that a series of anti-Islam posts were exposed on her social media accounts.

And, as her anti-terror manifestos shows, these tweets were nothing out of the ordinary for Blaiklock. In the months following her departure from the Brexit Party, Farage’s co-conspirator has been embroiled in a number of race rows. In September, we revealed that Blaiklock had blamed immigration for Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, just a week after claiming that Africans are rapists.

Granted, Blaiklock has now renounced the Brexit Party for not being tough enough on Islam, but it’s still clear that several of the party’s figures harbour strong views about the religion.

We have revealed that numerous Brexit Party politicians have shared Islamophobia online, one of whom said that America was “cutting its own throat” by “not fighting back” against the spread of Islam. Only a couple of these candidates have been dropped by the party after their views were exposed. The majority have remained in place.

This election presents a clear choice between anti-immigrant xenophobia and the acceptance of others. Stand with us by supporting tolerance over hate.



Cambridge eco-mosque opens doors to visitors

December 2, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Europe’s first eco-mosque in Cambridge is set to open doors to neighbors and visitors on Saturday, December 7, offering them a unique opportunity to know more about Islam.

“Join us at Cambridge Central Mosque’s Community Open Day! Program includes: Guided Tours, Arts & Crafts, Islamic Science Exhibition, Bazaars, Children’s Activities,” the mosque wrote in a tweet.

The tour will include a walk through trees, flower beds and a fountain, reminiscent of the great Islamic gardens. Also a tour of the portico, atrium, teaching room, cafeteria and the special facilities for mothers and children.

Visitors will be offered a guided explanation of the ablution areas, prayer hall and the daily rituals performed.

Moreover, a bazaar and children’s activities will be offered on site.

The UK’s first green mosque opened for the first time to worshippers last April.

The mosque is designed to be naturally lit throughout the day and naturally ventilated, even at peak occupancy, while using a combination of green technologies, including rainwater harvesting, air-source heat pumps, and photovoltaics to minimize its carbon footprint.

Late last month, the mosque won a national award for its design and contribution to the community

Estimates in 2009 put the population of Muslims in the UK at around 2.4 million. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of Muslims in Britain could now be around 3 million.

Muslims across the world usually open mosque doors to guests to enable them to have a glimpse of the Islamic faith.

For example, Visit My Mosque Day is held annually in a number of countries including Australia, the United Kingdom, Norway, and France.

About 250 mosques participated in this year’s event held in February, seeing growth from 200 mosques in 2018, and 150 mosques in 2017.



Corbyn’s ties with Islamists cannot be ignored

The launch of Labour’s ‘Race and Faith’ initiative last week has given us some indication of what the future might look like under a Labour government. By Wednesday evening, political interventions had been made by the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Hindu Council UK and the Sikh Federation UK. The last three interventions came from organisations presenting their community as more oppressed and suffering greater discrimination than anyone else.

For a country that famously ‘doesn’t do God’, and whose established church appears in terminal decline, these were rather unusual developments. To understand how Mr Corbyn helped get us to this point, it is important to go back nearly 20 years, to an organisation he once chaired – the Stop the War Coalition (STWC).

Following 9/11, the STWC sought to develop an opposition to the war on terror that avoided criticising al-Qaeda and likeminded groups in the Muslim-majority world. At its launch, an amendment proposing a condemnation of the terrorists was ruled out of order – such was the desire to declare the world’s problems as always rooted in the West.

While this anti-Western stance isolated the anti-war movement from broader working-class communities wary of Islamic extremism, and whose young men were often in the armed forces, such views did it no harm on the far left. As the STWC gathered momentum, it entered into a political marriage of convenience with the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), an organisation established by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Kamel el-Helbawy. Exiled Muslim Brothers had also formed the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park back in 1970, and from 2005 the MAB has run Finsbury Park Mosque. The constituency MP, Jeremy Corbyn, is a fixture at both.

These relationships are responsible for some of the baggage that has dogged the Corbyn era. At Finsbury Park Mosque, Mohammed Sawalha was a trustee of the institution from 2010. Sawalha resigned from that role after reports emerged that he was a member of Hamas’s politburo, representing it in overseas delegations. To traditional Labour voters, it appears odd that Corbyn receives praise from Hamas, or describes the Islamic Resistance Movement and Hezbollah as his ‘friends’. Political positions that can be sold at STWC meetings are harder to justify outside that narrow strip of land where the left and Islamists overlap. They also alarm Britain’s Jews, who see in Islamist groups a threat to their own security.

Corbyn’s recent actions have done little to address such fears. Last week he declared that he would open the doors of Downing Street to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the MAB. In doing so, he is embracing organisations which, in practice, represent only a distinct sub-section of Britain’s three million Muslims. While the MAB’s lineage is in the Muslim Brotherhood, the MCB’s is in Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest clerical party. Corbyn forgets that Labour once enjoyed close relations with the MCB. When it came, the end of the affair was messy. The then Labour government walked away after the MCB’s deputy director-general, Daud Abdullah, was accused of advocating attacks on British forces in the Middle East.

Labour’s Race and Faith manifesto has sinister connotations for those of a certain age who remember the years when the British National Party ran with the slogan ‘race and nation’. The leftist version of identity politics is, however, almost deliberately bland.

Across 20 pages there is little meat but there are a few policies likely to cause problems for Labour. First, Labour promises to establish a race-equality unit in the Treasury to review the effect of spending commitments on BAME communities. That will be hard to sell to old Labour voters in deprived coastal or ex-mining towns with few BAME citizens but plenty of poverty. Secondly, it proposes a review of the national curriculum to examine how historical injustice, colonialism and the British Empire are taught. This takes a bad idea from university campuses – the ‘decolonising the curriculum’ initiative – and applies it to our children’s schools. Perhaps as a reminder of the ideological roots of the Race and Faith manifesto, the document closes with a reference to Bernie Grant, one of Britain’s first black MPs, and what looks to be a 1980s photograph of Diane Abbott from the era when the Labour left was promoting separate ‘Black Sections’ of the party.

Rather than setting a new agenda for a progressive future, Labour seems obsessed with picking through bad examples and ideas from its past and from the anti-war movement. In power, Labour would turn No10 into a revolving door for every interest group imaginable, each declaring their own oppression greater than the last. If Labour can’t do better than this, it deserves to be soundly rejected on 12 December.



Analysis: Islamic State claims attack in London by al Qaeda-inspired terrorist

December 2, 2019

On Nov. 29, Usman Khan slashed and stabbed at pedestrians on London Bridge, killing two people. The Islamic State has claimed credit for the murders, describing Khan as its “fighter” and attributing his actions to the group’s calls for violence in countries belonging to the anti-caliphate coalition. Pro-Islamic State social media channels have also promoted Khan with imagery portraying him as a soldier of the terror group.

However, Khan was first drawn to jihadism years before the rise of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. He was well-known to counterterrorism officials because of his pro-al-Qaeda leanings and attraction to the teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ideologue who both inspired and directly oversaw a string of plots in the West. Indeed, Khan is the latest terrorist to be influenced by al-Qaeda, only to have the Islamic State claim him as its own.

Khan was 19 years-old when British authorities arrested him and others in Dec. 2010. According to Reuters, Khan’s comrades had discussed the possibility of placing a bomb inside a toilet in the London Stock Exchange. Alternatively, Khan and others considered establishing a training camp in Kashmir. After training, they contemplated carrying out attacks in Kashmir, or back in the UK.

“It was envisaged by them all that ultimately they, and the other recruits, may return to the UK as trained and experienced terrorists available to perform terrorist attacks in this country,” Alan Wilkie, a British judge, surmised, according to Reuters.

The tentacles of Khan’s organization, in which he was a leading member, stretched across London, Cardiff and Stoke. British authorities found that the contingent based in Stoke, including Khan, were the most “serious” potential threats.

In December 2010, according to a summary prepared by a British court, Khan’s conversations with other would-be offenders were recorded. In one such conversation, in which he attempted to “radicalize another male,” Khan explained it was his intention to leave for a madrassa in Kashmir that would be used for training for jihad. “The Stoke group were to fund the camp and recruit men for it,” with Khan expecting “only victory, martyrdom or imprisonment,” according to the court summary.

Khan and another conspirator were to attend the camp in the near future at the time of their arrest, and they contemplated “terrorist operations in the UK to be perpetrated by some graduates of the training camp at some future date.”

On Dec. 15, 2010, Khan was overheard discussing AQAP’s Inspire magazine and, specifically, the “pipe bomb recipe” in its first issue. The British court noted that Khan “appeared to have memorized” the pipe bomb recipe and discussed the “possibility of using the device to attack the English Defence League,” a far-right organization in the UK. Khan also “explained how Inspire could be obtained from the internet.”

The British court further explained that while Khan and his compatriots did not belong “directly to Al Qaeda (AQ),” they were radicalized “through the internet, inspired by the ideology and methodology of Anwar Al Awlaki…and the AQ magazine ‘Inspire’ which he wrote, copies of which were found on computer equipment seized from the homes associated with many of the defendants.”

Al-Qaeda and AQAP weren’t Khan’s only sources of inspiration. The Guardian reports that Khan “was a student and close friend of” Anjem Choudary, who led al-Muhajiroun, an extremist organization that has been linked to a number of jihadis. While the precise details of these ties remain to be filled in, it is clear from the British court record that Khan was influenced by Awlaki and AQAP’s Inspire long before the Islamic State claimed him as its man.

And Khan isn’t alone in this regard. In a number of cases, jihadists were first drawn to al-Qaeda, only to be fascinated with the Islamic State after its initial rise.

As FDD’s Long War Journal has reported in the past, several terrorist attacks in the U.S. were conducted by aspiring jihadists who first studied Awlaki’s teachings, but the Islamic State later claimed were its fighters.

In Dec. 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Farook and his friend had studied Awlaki’s teachings years beforehand and also utilized the pipe bomb designs offered in Inspire.

Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. in June 2015, also reportedly listened to Awlaki’s lectures. Both the San Bernardino shooters and Mateen pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the Islamic State claimed that they acted on its behalf.

Another example arose in Sept. 2016, when Ahmad Khan Rahami placed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at locations in New York and New Jersey. Rahami referenced Awlaki, Osama bin Laden and Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani as ideological guides in his notebook.

In Dec. 2018, the FBI arrested Daniel Joseph, a 21-year-old who was allegedly planning to open fire at a synagogue in Toledo. Joseph had picked two synagogues as potential targets. Joseph was also influenced by both Awlaki and the Islamic State. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Ohio man allegedly inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, Islamic State.]

Khan’s stabbing spree also isn’t the first attack on London Bridge that was claimed by the Islamic State. In June 2017, the group issued a statement saying that a “unit” of its “fighters” carried out a joint vehicular-knife assault on pedestrians on London Bridge and at the nearby Borough Market. Like Khan, at least one of those three terrorists, Khuram Shazad Butt, was well-known to authorities beforehand. Butt was also associated with Al-Muhajiroun.



Frank Wuco, an anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ pundit, is now a senior State Department adviser



When he was a right-wing pundit, senior State Department adviser Frank Wuco claimed that Muslims “by-and-large” will “subjugate and humiliate non-Muslim members of their societies” and that their core faith purportedly instructs them that they can’t “coexist peacefully with other religions.” He also pushed conspiracy theories about the Obama administration and said that “societies and nations for millennia have suffered greatly” for LGBTQ acceptance.

The Washington Post reported on November 27 that Wuco is now a senior adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. The publication added that during a 2016 radio appearance, Wuco had “suggested dropping nuclear bombs on Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.”

Wuco, a retired naval intelligence officer, previously worked as a conservative pundit and radio host before joining the Department of Homeland Security in January 2017. As a DHS senior adviser, he helped implement Trump’s orders to the agency, including his ban on travelers from some Muslim-majority countries.

Media Matters reported on Wuco in March 2017 and noted that he had a history of making anti-Muslim remarks, including stating on Fox News in 2014 that banning visas from “Muslim nations” is “one of these sort of great ideas that can never happen.”

CNN’s KFile unit also examined Wuco’s history, finding that he pushed “claims that former President Barack Obama's memoir was ghostwritten by former anti-Vietnam War radical Bill Ayers, that former CIA director John Brennan had converted to Islam and that Attorney General Eric Holder had been a member of the Black Panthers.”

The following are some of Wuco’s anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ remarks as a right-wing pundit. (A summary of Wuco’s anti-Muslim remarks previously appeared in a January 2018 Media Matters piece.) 

Wuco praised the surveillance of mosques as key to finding “out what's going on” in the Muslim community. During a November 2015 Fox News appearance, Wuco said that a “mosque surveillance” program is key to finding “out what's going on behind the walls” of “mosques and Islamic reading centers.”  He added that after the cancellation of a mosque surveillance program in New York City, he “can only hope that some of these programs continue with other agencies.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 11/14/15, via Media Matters]

Wuco: Muslims “by-and-large” will “subjugate and humiliate non-Muslim members of their societies” and enact Sharia law. Wuco warned on his now-defunct radio show website that “Muslim populations by-and-large will become enclave societies that, first, resist assimilation and then, will make every effort to establish independent rule for their enclaves under Shari’ah law.”

Wuco: “If you're a Muslim, you believe” that “violence and warfare against unbelievers” is “prescribed by God.” Following the June 2016 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, Wuco told of shooter Omar Mateen: “There's nothing radical about him at all. He is a Muslim who is following the strictures of Islam and its guidance and prescriptions for violence and warfare against unbelievers. … If you're a Muslim, you believe it's being prescribed by God and it’s being ordained by the wisdom of Muhammad.” [Politico, 2/7/17; YouTube, 6/13/16, via Media Matters]

Wuco: “Right-thinking" Muslims “engage in jihad” because of their religion. Wuco said of Islam during an interview on an internet radio program: “If you’re a right-thinking Muslim, the inspiration, the motivation, to engage in jihad doesn’t come from Al Qaeda, or doesn’t come from Inspire magazine. It comes from God himself.” [The Liberty NewsCast with Willie Lawson, 4/30/13, via Media Matters]

Wuco: “The assertiveness of Muslim communities in western nations is becoming so pronounced. … You don’t even need ISIS in Sweden.” While speaking on a radio program, Wuco warned that Muslims are infiltrating communities in Western nations: “The assertiveness of Muslim communities in Western nations is becoming so pronounced. … You don’t even need ISIS in Sweden, you’ve got every day run-of-the-mill Muslims in massive communities protesting and becoming violent with the Swedish government, saying that they’re going to take over the country. This isn’t even ISIS. These are just peace-loving Muslims who have been allowed to immigrate into these countries.” [The Dougherty Report, 1/18/16, via Media Matters]

Wuco in 2014: Halting visas from “Muslim nations” is one of “these sort of great ideas that can never happen.” During an August 2014 Fox News program, Wuco responded to comments from Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) about a ban on visas from the Middle East, saying that the proposed policy is “one of these sort of great ideas that can never happen. ... You're just not going to stop the visa application process into this country from Muslim nations in a blanket type of policy.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/28/14, via Media Matters]

Wuco frequently delivered presentations “as a fictional character he created named Fuad Wasul,” who had a “heavy Arabic accent.” HuffPost’s Christopher Mathias wrote in March 2017:

Wuco claimed that “societies and nations for millennia have suffered greatly” for LGBTQ acceptance. While speaking with Wuco on his program in May 2016, radio host Charles Butler linked then-President Barack Obama’s decision to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military -- which Trump has attempted to rescind -- to “paganism, hedonism, bestiality, Sodom and Gomorrah.” Wuco replied by claiming that the “patterns are clear. Societies and nations for millennia have suffered greatly ... not from just from a biblical, spiritual standpoint, but just from a human engineering standpoint in their ability to sustain a order and a society with no cultural center and no moral center. So this is a pattern that will repeat itself.” [The Reality Check, 5/10/16, via Media Matters]

Wuco on transgender people: “I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes inside their heads … [it’s a] horrible existence.” Wuco said on a radio program in May 2016: “How often do you hear or see or encounter somebody who suffers from this malady -- and I have deep sympathy for people like this. I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes inside their heads, it’s got [unintelligible] horrible existence. How many of them made this transformation and all of a sudden they’re happy?”  [The Reality Check, 5/10/16, via Media Matters]

While discussing transgender people, Wuco remarked that it would be “great” to pretend to be transgender to “go into the women’s shower” at the gym. Wuco stated of transgender people and bathrooms: “What a great thing this can be if transgender can just be, rename it just whimsical transgender and one day on a whimsy, you’re at the Y, or you’re at the gym, and you just, ‘I feel like, I feel like being a woman today, I’m going to go into the women’s shower.’” [The Reality Check, 2/1/16, via Media Matters]

Wuco appeared on a radio show where the host twice used an anti-gay slur; he did not respond to the use of the slur. Wuco repeatedly appeared on Butler’s show. During one of Wuco’s appearances, Butler twice called two people whom he allegedly encountered at a hotel “faggots.” Wuco did not directly respond to the slurs. After Butler said that Wuco had to go, Wuco stated before signing off: “Charles, you take it easy, my man.” He appeared again on the show after Trump’s election in November, which was shortly before he got his senior job at DHS. [The Reality Check, 5/10/16, via Media Matters]

CNN: Wuco “mocked the LGBT community.” CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott reviewed “more than 40 hours” of Wuco’s conservative talk radio show and other media appearances and found that Wuco had “mocked the LGBT community,” “criticized gay-straight alliances in high schools,” and said “that gay people hijacked the word ‘gay’ from happy people and that he was going to reclaim the word.” [CNN, 12/14/17]



Thousands gather in Paris to mourn 13 French soldiers killed fighting Islamists in Mali as Emmanuel Macron bestows them with France's highest honour

2 December 2019

Thousands of people including Emmanuel Macron, Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy gathered in Paris on Monday to honour 13 French soldiers killed while fighting jihadist insurgents in Mali.

A motorcade containing the soldiers' remains crossed the Alexandre III bridge to the Invalides military hospital and museum, before the coffins were draped with French flags and displayed outside the building.

Macron inspected the coffins before bestowing each soldier with the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour.

The soldiers died when two helicopters collided last Monday while pursuing jihadists in northern Mali where militant violence has soared in recent months.

It was the biggest single-day loss for the French military in nearly four decades and raised fresh questions about the effectiveness of France's 4,500-member Barkhane operation in Mali and four other countries in the Sahel.

Margot Louvet, 23, came from Gap in southeast France for the procession, wearing a T-shirt with the official portrait of one of the soldiers killed, her friend Antoine Serre, 22.

'He was a pearl, the kindest and most generous,' she told AFP. 'Being here is a way to mourn him, and realise that he won't be coming back.'

President Emmanuel Macron lead the commemoration on Monday afternoon, bestowing the Legion d'Honneur on the fallen soldiers.

Some 2,500 people were expected to attend, with the ceremony broadcast on a big screen outside the Invalides.

'It's an honour to be here,' Emmanuelle Pujol, 54, said on the Alexandre III bridge. 'It's important that people be here to support their comrades and the families.'

The French forces in Mali are tasked with training local security forces to take on the jihadists, but so far these remain woefully unprepared despite years of pledges of more international funding and equipment.

Forty-one French soldiers have now died in the Sahel over the past six years.

The intervention began in 2013, when insurgents swept into Mali's north and rapidly advanced before being pushed back.

But despite France's presence the jihadists have regrouped to carry out deadly attacks and violence has spread to neighbouring countries.

Macron said the government would begin a thorough review of Barkhane in the wake of the helicopter accident, vowing that 'all options are on the table'.

He also reiterated his call for EU allies to step up their participation in the West Africa operation after years of failing to secure significant support.

Only Britain has contributed helicopters and security personnel, while the US provides intelligence on jihadist movements across an area the size of Western Europe.

So far, only the far-left France Unbowed party has openly called for the Barkhane troops to be brought home.

An Ifop poll for the Lettre de l'Expansion newsletter, published Monday, showed that 58 percent of respondents approve the Sahel operation, a level hardly changed from a previous poll in March 2013.

Controversy flared over the weekend after the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo published a series of cartoons online associating the 13 soldiers' deaths with the army's recent recruitment campaign.

In one drawing, Macron stands before a coffin in front of the slogan: 'I joined the ranks to stand out from the crowd.'

The French army's chief of staff, General Thierry Burkhard, expressed his 'indignation' at the cartoons, saying in an open letter they sullied the period of mourning for the bereaved families.

The magazine's editor Laurent 'Riss' Sourisseau defended on Sunday the magazine's 'satirical spirit', while acknowledging the importance of the work of the French army and the soldiers' sacrifice.

'We know that their mission is difficult and that they are dealing with merciless enemies,' he wrote in a response to Burkhard, seen by AFP.

Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will also attend the ceremony, as he tries to defuse growing hostility at home to French and other foreign forces helping to fight Islamic militants.

Two Malian gendarmes were shot dead Sunday in the eastern town of Menaka, a local official said.

Keita on Saturday urged Malians not to 'bite the hands of those who give us theirs today'.

Since January, more than 1,500 civilians have been killed in jihadist violence in Mali and Burkina Faso, and more than one million people have been internally displaced across the five countries, the UN said this month.





Zambia gay rights row: US ambassador 'threatened' over jailing of couple

2 December 2019

The US ambassador to Zambia has said he has been threatened over his comments on the sentencing of a gay couple, deepening a diplomatic row.

Daniel Foote said he was "horrified" by the jailing of Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba.

A judge quashed an appeal against their conviction last week, sentencing them both to 15 years in prison.

Same-sex relationships are outlawed in Zambia, where British colonial-era laws on homosexuality still apply.

Mr Foote implored the Zambian government to review the case and its homosexuality laws, but has since faced a backlash for doing so.

On Monday Zambian President Edgar Lungu rebuked the ambassador, saying his government will complain to the Trump administration.

The president's outrage was echoed by Zambian Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji, who said Mr Foote's remarks were "tantamount to questioning the Zambian constitution".

Mr Foote, US ambassador to the southern African country since December 2017, responded to the furore in a press statement on Monday.

The career diplomat said he had cancelled scheduled appearances at World Aids Day events on Tuesday "because of threats made against me" on social media.

"I was shocked at the venom and hate directed at me and my country, largely in the name of 'Christian' values, by a small minority of Zambians," Mr Foote said.

He denied accusations that his comments amounted to interference in Zambia's judiciary and constitutional affairs.

"It is up to Zambian citizens and the courts to decide if your laws correspond to your constitution, but your constitution itself provides every person the right to freedom and expression of conscience and belief," he said.

"I expressed my belief about a law and a harsh sentencing I don't agree with. I didn't interfere in internal affairs."

In turn, Mr Foote accused President Lungu of interfering in judicial affairs through statements "rejecting homosexual rights".

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Lungu mounted a combative defence of Zambia's homosexuality laws.

"Even animals don't do it, so why should we be forced to do it?... because we want to be seen to be smart, civilised and advanced and so on," he said.



Inmates electrocuted in Nigerian prison accident

09 2 Dec

At least five inmates of a prison in Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos, are believed to have been killed in an electrical incident on Monday morning.

A member of staff told the BBC that the accident was caused by a power surge in Ikoyi prison.

According to the source, after the surge, an electrical wire broke and fell on a bunk where inmates were sleeping.

Five inmates are believed to have been killed and a number of others are being treated in the hospital clinic.

The authorities are still investigating the incident.

Zimbabwe's late President Robert Mugabe left behind $10m (£7.7m) in the bank and several properties in the capital, Harare, the state-owned Herald newspaper has reported.

Mugabe, who died in September at the age of 95, had failed to leave a will, prompting legal authorities to call a meeting this week to appoint an executor, it added.

The ex-president's daughter, Bona Chikowore, wrote to the Master of High Court in October, listing her father's estate as including $10m in a local bank, four houses in Harare in addition to his rural home, an orchard and a farm, the Herald reported.

He also owned 10 cars, the newspaper reported.

Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 as prime minister and president, before being forced out of power in 2017.

He is survived by his second wife, Grace Mugabe, and four children. Under Zimbabwean law, they will inherit his wealth



Arab World


Intellectual battle needed to support Palestinian cause, says Makkah governor

December 03, 2019

DAMMAM: The Arab Thought Foundation on Monday launched its 11th Arab Report on Cultural Development, “Palestine in Mirrors of Thought, Culture and Creativity,” at the Kempinski Al-Othman Hotel Alkhobar.

The report was launched at a ceremony in the presence of Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, who is also the president of the foundation, Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the board of directors, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, the board of trustees and directors, the authors of the report and cultural and academic figures.

The ceremony began with a screening of a video based on the report and interviews with writers who talked about culture, literature, art and creativity in Palestine.

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal said: “This report expresses the pulse of every Arab person and represents the cultural resistance of the Palestinian cause,” he said.

“If I want to talk about the position of Saudi Arabia, it is enough for me to repeat the words of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz on this subject when he said ‘Palestine is our first cause.’ I ask God Almighty that this feeling moves to every Arab, and that (Palestine remains) the Arabs’ first cause. We do not need a lot of speeches and words; we need a lot of thinking, action and achievement to win this battle.”

“The battle is not only the military and political one but also the intellectual, cultural and scientific battle, which we must arm ourselves with in order to return Palestine to its people,” he said.

Director-General of the Arab Thought Foundation Prof. Henry Al-Oweit dedicated the report to Palestine.

Al-Oweit said that the foundation had issued the report on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (“catastrophe”) of Palestine (1948-2018) to show its support for Palestine, its cause and the rights of its people.



Egypt says Qatar supported Muslim Brotherhood

December 3, 2019

Egypt has cut ties with Qatar as a result of the Gulf state’s “support to terror groups [Muslim Brotherhood],” Egyptian representative at the International Court of Justice said yesterday.

“Qatar has been holding a hostile stance against Egypt by supporting terror operation in the Sinai Peninsula,” Amgad Abdel Ghaffar pointed out, adding that Doha was “promoting the doctrine of Al-Qaeda and Daesh.”

Responding to what he described as “Doha’s interference in Egypt’s internal affairs,” Abdel Ghaffar stressed that his country had repeatedly rejected the Qatari move.

“Qatar has left Egypt no choice but to cut ties,” he reiterated, pointing out that its interference was “threatening Egypt’s national security.”

“All the region’s countries were affected by the Qatari interference in their internal affairs,” the Egyptian official noted, explaining that, in 2013, Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV channel was promoting what he described as “hatred and violence across Egyptians.”

Since 5 June 2017, Egypt, along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, has been imposing a blockade on Qatar accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the allegations saying the boycotting countries are actually working to force a change in government in Qatar.



Saudi court hands down death sentences to five Shia activists from Qatif

December 2, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal Court has sentenced five anti-regime dissidents from the kingdom’s oil-rich and Shia-populated Eastern Province to death, as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals continues in the country.

The London-based and Arabic-language Nabaa television news network, citing social media activists, reported that the Riyadh-based tribunal passed the verdicts against Mahmoud Issa al-Qallaf, a resident of Ash Shweikah neighborhood in Qatif region, and four others from the town of al-Awamiyah, who were identified as Mohammed Ali al-Aqili, Ahmed Mohammed Abu Abdullah and his brother Amir, and Musa Jaafar al-Samkhan.

The quintet can appeal the court decision.

On September 12, the rights group Prisoners of Conscience, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that the Specialized Criminal Court had sentenced Shia cleric and human rights activist Sheikh Mohammed al-Habib to 12 years in prison and imposed a travel ban on him.

Sheikh Habib had been recently released after three years of arbitrary detention.

On July 29, the same Saudi court sentenced an anti-regime activist from Eastern Province to death.

Nabaa television news network reported at the time that the Riyadh-based tribunal found Ali Al Rabie guilty in a “sham hearing” that fell short of international fair trial standards.

Saudi authorities had also executed two of Ali’s brothers, Ahmad and Hossein, on April 23 over their political activism.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

Saudi officials have also intensified crackdown in the country's Eastern Province.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

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

Back in mid-July, informed sources, requesting anonymity, said that a young Saudi man had died more than a week after being injured by regime forces when they raided a district in the province.

Majid Abdullah al-Adam died ten days after regime forces, armed with heavy weapons and artillery launchers, stormed into the al-Jash district of Qatif onboard armored vehicles.

Over the past years, Riyadh has redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.



Saudi movie industry looking bright but still needs push from government

December 03, 2019


RIYADH: World-renowned, Oscar-winning producer Andres Gomez spoke at the Saudi Media Forum over the weekend, where he spoke about his latest film, “Born a King,” and his upcoming movie “Champions,” which will start shooting in Jeddah in early 2020.

“One of the exciting things about working here is that we are not just making movies — we are creating an industry,” he said, adding there was no lack of enthusiasm for filmmaking in the Kingdom, but a lack of a strong infrastructure to facilitate it.“Saudi Arabia has great potential to have its own content production industry — and it is in the hands of the government to help it,” he told the forum.

“The government needs to give a framework — there must be legislation, tax rebates, subsidies. There must be regulations in terms of what foreign films can come in and what foreign films cannot.

“Saudi culture must be promoted and protected, and foreign films and their themes should be limited. I’m very interested in helping and developing an industry here.”

Gomez said he was optimistic about the country producing its own content. “Saudi Arabia is a strong country that can create its own content and film industry.

“Saudi Arabia has the financial means; however, it needs to produce more movies and TV content. The moment you produce 50-60 movies a year you will be in the market and (international film) festivals.

“This is why I made a call to the Saudi government to help young people to create this industry. It does depend totally on the government.”

As for the talents he worked with, he said: “We have collaborated with 100 Saudis on ‘Born a King.” I know there is interest from many in becoming directors, producers, and actors.”

His upcoming film, “Champions,” is a remake of a Spanish film, and shooting will begin in Jeddah by January, with an all-Saudi crew and cast.

“We hope to open the film by September next year,” Gomez added.




Saudi Press: KSA is First Arab and Islamic Country Assumes G20 Presidency


Riyadh, December 03, 2019, SPA -- Saudi newspapers highlighted in their editorials today a number of issues at local, regional and international arenas.

Al-Riyadh newspaper said in its editorial that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the first Arab and Islamic country assumed G20 Presidency, which includes the leaders of the world's largest economic countries. The paper affirmed that such unprecedented steps would make the Kingdom keen to exert more efforts and coordination from now until the summit comes with the positive results, which contribute to pushing the global economy forward and facing its challenges and obstacles.

Okaz newspaper said in its editorial that Saudi Broadcasting Authority (SBA) is moving towards a major development and a remarkable qualitative step in the audio-visual media in the light of the enormous development in social media and smart devices. The Saudi Minister of media Turki Al-Shabana announced, during the sessions of the Saudi Media Forum, launching of a digital news platform (online) in the first quarter of next year in both Arabic and English, which will be effective and modern.



Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs Concludes its Participation in Kuwait International Book Fair


Kuwait, December 02, 2019, SPA -- Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance has concluded its participation in the 44th Kuwait International Book Fair, within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's pavilion, where the Ministry was keen to participate in international book fairs as a continuation of its efforts in serving Islam and Muslims.

The Ministry's corner received more than 30,000 visitors from different nationalities and age groups. The Ministry also distributed 10,000 scholarly and religious publications in Arabic, and a number of international languages, including 4000 copies of the Holy Quran in various sizes from King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran in Madinah.



Advisor to Saudi Royal Court Leads KSA's Delegation to 5th National Islamic Conference in Guinea


Conakry, December 2, 2019, SPA -- Advisor to Saudi Royal Court and Council of Senior Scholars Member Dr. Saad bin Nasser Al-Shathri started today an official visit to the Republic of Guinea, where he will head the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's delegation to 5th National Islamic Conference.

The Conference will be held with support of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance in cooperation with Guinean Secretariat of Religious Affairs in Conakry during 2-4 December 2019.

Upon arrival, Dr. Al-Shathri conveyed the greetings of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and HRH Crown Prince. He also expressed his wishes that this Conference would have a great impact, useful results and great recommendations, thanking the President of Guinea for patronizing this conference.

The Conference comes to promote the values of moderation and tolerance and reject extremism.



Southeast Asia


Suspected grenade blast near Indonesia’s presidential palace hurts two

December 3, 2019

A suspected smoke grenade explosion on Tuesday at Indonesia’s National Monument park, near the presidential palace in central Jakarta, injured at least two military officials, the capital’s top police official said.

President Joko Widodo was not at the palace at the time of the blast, a presidential spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear if the blast resulted from a sectarian attack, but Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has suffered a resurgence in homegrown militancy in recent years.

The park explosion was suspected to have been caused by a smoke grenade, and two injured military officials had been taken to hospital, Jakarta’s police chief, Gatot Eddy Pramono, told a televised news conference.

The two injured officers were doing exercises in the park at the time, Jakarta military chief Eko Margiyono added.

Asked if the blast was the result of an attack, Pramono responded, “We haven’t concluded so, because we’re still investigating.”

Earlier, Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told Kompas TV “There was a blast, but we’re still checking what the source was.” He added, “Injured victims have been taken to hospital,” but did not elaborate.

Last month, six people were wounded after a 24-year-old university student blew himself up outside police headquarters in the Indonesian city of Medan.

The attack was linked to the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), responsible for a series of attacks across the country.

In October, a suspected Islamist stabbed and wounded former security minister Wiranto at a function to open a university building. Wiranto, who uses just one name, like many Indonesians, had to have surgery, but has since left hospital.



Typhoon Kammuri pounds Philippines, closes Manila airport

Dec 3, 2019

MANILA: Typhoon Kammuri on Tuesday lashed the Philippines with fierce winds and heavy rain, as hundreds of thousands took refuge in shelters and the capital Manila shut down its international airport over safety concerns.

The powerful storm, which blew in windows and sheared off roofs, roared ashore late Monday and was due to pass south of Manila -- home to some 13 million people -- and thousands of athletes at the regional Southeast Asian Games.

Forecasters said Kammuri had weakened but remained strong, with sustained winds of up to 150 kilometres (93 miles) per hour, and maximum gusts of 205 kph as it tracked northwest.

"We're still assessing the damage but it looks like it's severe," said Luisito Mendoza, a disaster official in the town where the storm made landfall.

"There is one place where water levels reached the roof... our own personnel got hit by shattered glass," he added, saying many trees and power poles were felled by wind.

Due to the high winds, Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport was "closed for operations", airport authority general manager Ed Monreal told AFP.

It was not clear when flights would resume, but authorities gave an estimate of 11:00 pm (1500 GMT) Tuesday and noted their decision would depend on the weather.

Nearly 500 flights were cancelled, and officials warned passengers not to come to the airport.

One the terminals AFP visited, which would normally be bustling with morning departures, was occupied by a handful of staff and stranded passengers.

One traveller, 23-year-old Canadian Constance Benoit, was hit with a nearly day-long delay to her flight back home.

She had arrived in Manila on a typhoon-buffeted flight Monday morning from the central island of Cebu.

"It was the most turbulent flight I ever took in my life," she told AFP. "I just discovered what airsickness is."

About 340,000 people had been evacuated from their homes in the central Bicol region, disaster officials said.

People living in low-lying slum districts of Manila were told to leave their makeshift homes as a precaution, but it was not clear how many people were impacted.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year, killing hundreds and putting people in disaster-prone areas in a state of constant poverty.

The country's deadliest cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

Kammuri had already snarled some plans for the SEA Games, which opened Saturday and are set to run through December 11 in and around Manila.

The windsurfing competition was halted as a precaution and triathlon events were held earlier than scheduled.

Ramon Suzara, the chief operating officer of the organising committee, said Monday organisers wanted the competitions to go on.

"Like (for) volleyball, it will continue as long as there is power supply and teams and technical officials are safe, we will continue but without spectators," he added.

The storm is another difficulty for the Games, which suffered from a string logistical glitches and a rush of last-minute construction in the run-up to Saturday's opening.

The competition, which is spread across three main sites that are hours' drive apart, include a Games-records 56 sports and dozens of venues.

Around 8,750 athletes and team officials are expected at this year's 30th edition -- the biggest ever -- along with another 12,000 volunteers.



Bank Islam to increase allocation for Vendor Financing in 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 -- Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd aims to increase its banking facilities for its Vendor Financing Programme to between RM1.2 billion and RM1.3 billion next year and expand the programme to other sectors, namely healthcare and communications, said chief executive officer (CEO) Mohd Muazzam Mohamed.

He said currently, the financing facilities are for the oil and gas and energy sectors and among the clients included vendors under Petroliam Nasional Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Sarawak Energy Bhd.

"As of November 2019, Bank Islam has approved about RM1 billion for these two sectors," he said after witnessing a signing ceremony for a facility amounting to RM98.35 million between the bank and Setegap Ventures Petroleum Sdn Bhd (SVP), a registered Petronas vendor that specialises in upstream well intervention activities.

This is a continuation of Bank Islam's Vendor Financing Programme to promote and further catalyse the growth of the country’s oil and gas industry.

The facility, Mohd Muazzam noted, was intended to finance SVP’s capital expenditures and working capital requirements to complete its contract with Petronas.

He said out of the RM1 billion financing allocated for this year, the bank had approved RM332 million in banking facilities to 82 vendors under the Petronas Vendor Development Programme (VDP), a specially created initiative for small and medium enterprises (SME) vendors who have secured contracts with the national oil and gas company.

“The programme's main objective is to lessen the financial burden of oil and gas services and equipment vendors in fulfilling their obligations with Petronas.”

Mohd Muazzam added that the bank was committed to supporting SMEs in the country and aimed to extend its SME portfolio while at the same time looked at more collaborations with government-linked companies and other large corporations via their VDPs.

Meanwhile, SVP CEO Mohd Shahrin Saad said the company was planning to expand its business to Thailand and Indonesia.

Incorporated in 2003 as a wholly-owned Bumiputera entity, SVP has evolved over the years to become a one-stop centre for the oil and gas sector.



Hundreds of Indonesian Muslims attend Jakarta 212 rally

Monday, 02 December 2019

Hundreds of Indonesian Muslims rallied at National Monument Park for the "212" reunion on Monday.

Rally-goers carried banners and later stood in prayers in areas surrounding the park. Ishaq Mustaqim, a self-proclaimed International Youth Mentor and Islam convert, was among the notable figures who attended this year’s rally.

"This event has nothing to do with radicalism. We are good Muslims… Islam is about peace and Islam is about worshiping our God, Allah. This is the only thing we want to do. We want to go to paradise," he said.

The 212 reunion has been held annually since 2017 when it was called on to condemn former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, for blasphemy against Islam.



Sharing meals with Jakarta mosques: Feed the poor, save the earth and (maybe) get a blessing

Tue, December 3, 2019

For 50-year-old Sunarto, Friday is the day of the week he looks forward to most. As a devout Muslim, he not only visits Burj Al Bakrie Mosque in South Jakarta every week for Friday prayers but to also receive the one decent meal he will have for the week.  For much of the past four months, the meals have consisted of ether rice with rendang (beef curry) or  chicken in soy sauce.

The man, who makes ends meet by taking on odd jobs, says his everyday meals usually consist of just rice and tempeh. “That’s the only thing you can buy with Rp 7,000 (50 US cents),” he said.

“Chicken is a real treat, and it’s free. I’m happy, finally I get variation in what I eat.”

The mosque, adjacent to the Bakrie Tower and Epicentrum shopping area in Kuningan, distributes meals under its Beramal program, which is short for berbagi makanan lebih (sharing surplus food) collected the night before from restaurants in the area.

This is part of a growing nationwide movement called Jumat Barokah (Blessed Friday) whereby mosques give out food to the needy in their neighborhood after Friday prayers. The difference is that while the majority of mosques rely on the generosity of donors to finance their programs, Beramal encourages mosques to collect surplus food from nearby restaurants.

With big restaurants and hotels have a strict policy of not storing food they are unable sell at the end of each business day, the amount of food waste is staggering. Rather than throwing it out, they can give it to the poor, if someone is willing to collect the food.  Enter Beramal.

Jakarta, with its population of 10.5 million doubling during the day when people commuting into town for work, , produces about 4,000 tons of food waste every day, according to the Jakarta Environmental Agency. This includes surplus and leftover food from homes, restaurants and hotels. With Jakarta struggling to find landfills large enough to accommodate so much daily trash, the city is trying to cut down on waste, including food waste. 

Several initiatives have begun that pertain to food surplus.

In 2017, the non-profit Food Cycle launched a program in collaboration with wedding vendor directory Bridestory to collect uneaten food from wedding parties to distribute to the poor, giving a literal meaning to the term “beggars’ banquet”.

In 2015, the Foodbank of Indonesia began collecting surplus food from companies, restaurants, food manufacturers and retail grocers, which it sorts and reprocesses before distributing to poor families.

If these earlier programs feed the poor while simultaneously saving the earth, the mosques say food donors, including the participating restaurant owners, could consider this as part of their alms.

The Indonesian Ulema Council has launched the Eco-Mosque movement and Beramal is one of its initiatives that began in August.

Mosques provide the most practical access to the poor, the intended target of Beramal. Typically, a mosque has access to the poor living within a 2-kilometer radius.

“They have the data of mustahiq (alms receivers) so they are the perfect institution to channel alms,” Beramal program head Aditya Agung told The Jakarta Post.

“With Beramal, the alms not only benefits people in need but also the environment,”

In the four months since its August launch, Beramal has saved more than 145 kg of food from being trashed.

The Burj Al Bakrie Mosque serves its share of poor people living in the crowded Menteng Atas kampung hidden behind tall buildings. The mosque relies on volunteers to go around to restaurants to collect food and distribute it to the poor.

The mosque ran Beramal’s pilot project because of the many restaurants in the nearby Plaza Festival and Epicentrum Walk. However, only one restaurant from the two malls have joined the program. Other donors so far come from small and medium enterprises at the B2 Bakrie Tower canteen and Nyi Ageng Serang food court.

Menteng Atas volunteer Murtiwi wishes big name outlets would join.

“Wouldn’t it better for McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) donate their surplus food than to throw it away?” said Murtiwi.

KFC Plaza Festival supervisor Budi Sulistyo, however, felt it was unethical to give away leftovers.

“If we have leftover fried chicken, we use it to make dishes like chicken soup. If we wanted to donate food, why the leftovers?” he said.

KFC Indonesia, however, has signed up, along with 90 other food outlets, with the Jakarta Less Waste Initiative ran by the Jakarta Environment Agency. The initiative provides counseling on waste management, including food waste management.

“We’ve made progress since we began in July, “ Rahmawati, the Jakarta Environment Agency’s head of solid waste management, said. “Some restaurants recycle food, some turn food waste into compost and some donate the food surplus food to NGOs,” she said. (aly)



NCRPO to deploy Muslim cops for SEA Games to address cultural sensitivity issues

December 03, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Muslim police officers will be deployed for the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in an effort to address cultural sensitivity issues as several of the delegates and athletes come from Islamic countries.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) acting director Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said on Tuesday that the initiative was due to the fact that Muslim groups in the Philippines said they tend to feel more comfortable addressing queries to a fellow Muslim officer whenever they are abroad.

“They [groups] requested us na: ‘Sir, pwedeng maglagay kayo ng mga pulis na Muslim, naka-hijab ang babae at saka lalake naka-taqiyah?’ Sa ibang bansa pala ganito, ‘yong mga Muslim visitors natin, kapag nakakita sila ng kapwa Muslim nila, they prefer discussing kung ano bang problema,” Sinas explained in a press briefing.

(The groups requested us that: ‘Sir, can you send out Muslim police officers, with women wearing the hijab and men sporting the taqiyah cap?’ In other countries they do that, Muslim Filipinos who visit other countries prefer discussing problems with fellow Muslims.)

“Sa ngayon we will readjust our deployment.  This is the result of our continuous dialogue with our Muslim communities, one of their observations is that wala tayong Muslim officers […] when in fact may mga countries tayo na Muslim like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam,” he added.

(For now we will readjust our deployment.  This is the result of our continuous dialogue with our Muslim communities, and one of their observations is that we do not have Muslim officers when in fact we are hosting delegates from Islamic countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam.)

Under the scheme, a two-buddy system composed of one male and one female  Muslim officer would be sent to billeting areas and sporting venues, kicking off 12-hour duties from 6:00 a.m.  They will then be replaced at 6:00 p.m. by two-men Muslim cops.

Cultural issues pertaining to religion have been raised before the SEA Games officially started, with some Muslim communities saying that there is a shortage of Halal-certified food.  In Islam, consuming pork products is taboo and therefore prohibited.

The Singaporean delegation aired their sentiments in a letter to SEA Games organizers, saying that the variety of Halal food are limited.  Meanwhile, officers of the Philippine Southeast Asian Organizing Committee said full halal meals will be served throughout the biennial tilt.

Sinas said this is a great learning experience for the Metro Manila’s police force, as it will serve as a guide for future events that the country may host.

“At least in the future activities natin, ‘pag may involved na mga Muslim countries, ito pala ‘yong kailangan natin in order to practice the cultural sensitivity,” he noted.

(At least in our future activities, if people from Islamic countries are coming, then we know what to do in order to practice cultural sensitivity.)





SC to hear pleas against polygamy, nikah halala among Muslims after winter break

Dec 2, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday said it will hear after the winter break the pleas challenging practices of polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims.

The issue was mentioned before a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant which said the matter cannot be heard immediately and will be listed on reopening of the apex court after winter break in January 2019.

The plea was mentioned by advocate and BJP politician Ashwini Upadhyay, who has sought a direction to declare polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims as unconstitutional and illegal.

The apex court in July 2018 had considered the plea and it referred the matter to a Constitution bench that has been already asked to hear a batch of similar petitions.

The apex court had issued notice to the Centre on the petition filed by one Farjana and tagged Upadhyay's plea along with a batch of petitions to be heard by the constitution bench.

"Petitioner is filing this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus to declare polygamy and nikah halala, practised in Muslim community, illegal and unconstitutional for being violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution," the plea said.

The petition by the lawyer further sought a declaration that extra-judicial talaq is a cruelty under Section 498A of the IPC, nikah halala is an offence under Section 375 of the IPC, and polygamy is an offence under Section 494 of the IPC, 1860.

The apex court, which on August 22, 2017, had banned the age-old practice of instant 'triple talaq' among Sunni Muslims, had on March 26, 2018 decided to refer to a larger bench a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims.

While polygamy allows a Muslim man to have four wives, 'nikah halala' is a process in which a Muslim woman, who wants to re-marry her husband after divorce, has to first marry another person and get a divorce from the second person after consummating the marriage.

The pleas were referred to a larger bench by the Supreme Court after an earlier five-judge constitution bench, in its 2017 verdict, had kept open the issue of polygamy and 'nikah halala', while quashing the practice of 'triple talaq'.

It had also issued notices to the Law and Justice Ministry, the Minority Affairs Ministry and the National Commission of Women (NCW) at that time.

Some petitions have also challenged the practices of 'Nikah Mutah' and 'Nikah Misyar' -- two types of temporary marriages where duration of the relationship is specified and agreed upon in advance.

In one of the petitions, one Sameena Begum has said that by virtue of Muslim Personal Law and Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife) was rendered inapplicable to Muslims and no married woman from the community has the avenue of filing a complaint against her husband for the offence of bigamy.

Another plea was filed by one Rani alias Sabnam who alleged that she and her three minor kids have been thrown out of the matrimonial home after her husband re-married. She has sought that the practices of polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims be declared unconstitutional.

A similar plea was filed by Delhi-based Nafisa Khan seeking almost same reliefs.

She has sought to declare the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, as unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution in so far as it fails to secure for Indian Muslim women the protection from bigamy which has been statutorily secured for women in India belonging to other religions.

The top court had also allowed Muslim Women Resistance Committee, Kolkata to file an application for impleadment as a party in the hearing.



Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan who appeared for Muslim parties ‘sacked’ from Ayodhya case

December 3, 2019

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who was representing the Muslim parties in the Ayodhya title dispute case, on Tuesday, claimed he has been sacked from the case. Refuting claims that he was removed from the case because he was unwell, Dhavan added he is no longer involved with the review pleas.

Making the announcement on Facebook, Dhavan wrote, “Just been sacked from the Babri case by AOR [advocate on record] Ejaz Maqbool who was representing the Jamiat. Have sent a formal letter accepting the ‘sacking’ without demur. No longer involved in the review or the case.” “I have been informed that Mr Madani has indicated that I was removed from the case because I was unwell. This is total nonsense. He has a right to instruct his lawyer AOR Ejaz Maqbool to sack me which he did on instructions. But the reason being floated is malicious and untrue,” he said in another post.

On Monday, the first review petition was filed against the Supreme Court’s verdict that gave the entire disputed land to the Hindu side and allotted 5-acres land to the Sunni Board.

However, advocate Ejaz Maqbool said Dhavan’s name was not given in the review petition filed on Monday because he was not available. “It is wrong to say that Mr Rajeev Dhawan was removed from case (Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind review petition in Ayodhya case) because of his illness. The issue is that my client (Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind) wanted to file the review petition yesterday itself. It was to be settled by Mr Rajeev Dhawan. I could not give his name in the petition because he was not available. It is not a big issue,” he told news agency ANI.

The plea, filed through advocate Maqbool, said that by way of the order, the court “has virtually granted a mandamus to destroy the Babri Masjid and to construct a temple of Lord Ram in the said place”…”because had the Babri Masjid not been illegally demolished on December 6, 1992, the execution of the present order would have required the destruction of an existing mosque to make space for a proposed temple”. Maulana Syed Ashhad Rashidi, legal heir of original litigant M Siddiq and the president of the Uttar Pradesh Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, who filed the plea said the November 9 judgment amounted to “rewarding” the “crimes” committed by “Hindu parties”.

The AIMPLB also said it would file a review petition before December 9, saying the judgment in the Ayodhya land dispute case did not do any justice.

However, the Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) faction led by Maulana Mahmood Madani has decided against filing a review petition in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case.



Muslim litigants stopped from Ramjanmabhoomi site visit, send plaint

Dec 3, 2019

Ayodhya: The Muslim litigants in Ayodhya case, who were mandated by court to visit and inspect Ramjanmbhoomi site every fortnight to ensure status quo, alleged they are not being allowed to enter since the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict and have dispatched complaints to court-appointed observers and Ayodhya commissioner.

The Muslim litigants went to the site on November 17 and December 1, but were granted access only till Manas Bhawan, the administrative building of the site, and were denied entry in the area of makeshift temple.

After Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had completed excavation at disputed site in 2003, the Allahabad high court had ordered fortnightly inspections of site and items found in excavation by litigants from both sides, the divisional commissioner, who is the receiver, district and ASI officers under the supervision of two judges as observers to ensure status quo is being maintained.

Later, the Supreme Court had also ordered continuation of same arrangement.

Muslim litigants Mufti Hasbullah and Iqbal Ansari visited the site on November 17, and claimed they were denied entry beyond Manas Bhawan, adding they had access to entire area before verdict.

Mufti Hasbullah and another litigant Mohammad Umar visited the site on December 1, but were denied entry.

Mufti Hasbullah told TOI he has sent a complaint to Supreme Court-appointed observer and commissioner informing they were being denied entry in acquired area without any court sanction to this effect.

Ayodhya additional district magistrate P D Gupta, told TOI, "The Supreme Court has already delivered its verdict in the title suit. Now, the site would be handed over to the trust, so what is the need for inspection for ensuring status quo."

When TOI contacted Ayodhya commissioner M P Agrawal seeking his reaction, he said, "I have just joined as commissioner, so I have no idea about it."

Hindu litigants have, however, not visited the site for inspection after the verdict.



Review Plea Against Ayodhya Verdict Before December 9: Muslim Board

December 02, 2019

New Delhi: All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) will file the petition seeking review of the Supreme Court's order on Ayodhya land title dispute case before December 9, said its secretary Zafaryab Jilani on Monday.

"We have prepared the review petition and we can do it any day before December 9," said Mr Jilani while speaking to ANI.

Mr Jilani said that the AIMPLB is going to request the top court to conduct an open court hearing in the case.

"If the Sabarimala matter can be given an open court hearing, then why not our's," he asked.

On November 9 last month, the top court had awarded the disputed land to the deity Ram Lalla and asked the Centre and the state government to give the Sunni Waqf Board a five-acre plot in Ayodhya to build a mosque.

Earlier today, another Muslim organisation -- Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind -- had also filed a petition seeking review of top court's order and asserted that there can be "no peace without justice."

The petition sought a stay on the operation of the court's judgment and also on the order passed by the Allahabad High Court in 2010 in this regard. It also requested the court to restrain the Central government from taking any steps.

Last month, the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board had said that it would not file a review petition against the top court's verdict but was yet to take a call on whether to accept a five-acre alternative plot for a mosque or not.



SC to hear pleas against Muslims polygamy winter break

DEC 02 2019

The Supreme Court on Monday said it will hear after the winter break the pleas challenging practices of polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims.

The issue was mentioned before a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant which said the matter cannot be heard immediately and will be listed on reopening of the apex court after winter break in January 2020.

The plea was mentioned by advocate and BJP politician Ashwini Upadhyay, who has sought a direction to declare polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims as unconstitutional and illegal.

The apex court in July 2018 had considered the plea and it referred the matter to a Constitution bench that has been already asked to hear a batch of similar petitions. Read more at:

The apex court had issued notice to the Centre on the petition filed by one Farjana and tagged Upadhyay's plea along with a batch of petitions to be heard by the constitution bench. Read more at:

"Petitioner is filing this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus to declare polygamy and nikah halala, practised in Muslim community, illegal and unconstitutional for being violativ...

The petition by the lawyer further sought a declaration that extra-judicial talaq is a cruelty under Section 498A of the IPC, nikah halala is an offence under Section 375 of the IPC, and polygamy is an offence under Section 494 of the IPC, 1860.

The apex court, which on August 22, 2017, had banned the age-old practice of instant 'triple talaq' among Sunni Muslims, had on March 26, 2018 decided to refer to a larger bench a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of polygamy and...

While polygamy allows a Muslim man to have four wives, 'nikah halala' is a process in which a Muslim woman, who wants to re-marry her husband after divorce, has to first marry another person and get a divorce from the second person after consummating...

The pleas were referred to a larger bench by the Supreme Court after an earlier five-judge constitution bench, in its 2017 verdict, had kept open the issue of polygamy and 'nikah halala', while quashing the practice of 'triple talaq'.

It had also issued notices to the Law and Justice Ministry, the Minority Affairs Ministry and the National Commission of Women (NCW) at that time.

Some petitions have also challenged the practices of 'Nikah Mutah' and 'Nikah Misyar' -- two types of temporary marriages where duration of the relationship is specified and agreed upon in advance.

In one of the petitions, one Sameena Begum has said that by virtue of Muslim Personal Law and Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife) was rendered inapplicable to Muslims and no married woman from the ...

Another plea was filed by one Rani alias Sabnam who alleged that she and her three minor kids have been thrown out of the matrimonial home after her husband re-married. She has sought that the practices of polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims be...

A similar plea was filed by Delhi-based Nafisa Khan seeking almost same reliefs.

She has sought to declare the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, as unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution in so far a...

The top court had also allowed Muslim Women Resistance Committee, Kolkata to file an application for impleading as a party in the hearing.



Muslim group calls for US boycott of Beijing winter Olympics

December 02, 2019

By Tenzin Dharpo

DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 2: A top Muslim group in the United States has urged the U.S. Olympic National Committee to boycott the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing over the Chinese government’s mass detention and repression of Uyghur Muslims.

Emgage, a group that promotes Muslim-American voices in the mainstream politics, has said that the ongoing persecution of the minority is a “campaign of ethnic genocide”. Emgage CEO Wa’el Alzayat said, “The Olympic Games are a showcase of what is best of humanity and a celebration of our differences. The mass incarceration of Muslim minorities in China and the intentional attempt to erase their identity are anathema to the Olympic spirit.

“We cannot as Americans participate in good conscience in these Games as long as these concentration camps are operational,” Alzayat added.

Similar appeals have also been made to the International Olympic Committee to revoke China as the host of the 2022 winter game, but observers say that the apex Olympic body is unlikely to entertain such requests as the IOC has been known to side with regimes in the past.

Michael Mazza, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior non-resident fellow at the Global Taiwan Institute, wrote in the LA Times, “A cancellation, relocation or boycott of the Games would mark a significant international and domestic embarrassment for Xi. News of the reasons behind such a development would certainly make its way past China’s Great Firewall. Using the Olympics as leverage could be quite effective because doing so would challenge Xi’s leadership.”

Following the recent leak of over 4000 internal Chinese government documents which showed systematic Chinese government assault on the Uyghur people, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Xinjiang Papers showed China’s intent to “effectively erase” the people of the minority group.

The leaked papers revealed that China is operating nearly 500 prisons and camps in the western China region known as Xinjiang, or East Turkestan where former detainees have described experiencing torture, medical experiments, rape, forced abortions, among other horrendous acts.





Iran's Top Security Official: US Not Reliable Partner for Persian Gulf Coalition

Mon Dec 02, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani in a meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi in Tehran on Monday warned that the US cannot be a reliable partner for the formation of a coalition to protect security in the Persian Gulf.

"The only coalition which is practical in the region and can bring stable security is the one acting without foreigners’ interference," Shamkhani said.

"The country (the US), that has not fulfilled any of its commitments, neither in its interactions with Iran nor with other countries, is not reliable," he added.

 "Those countries with the most significant role in sowing tensions, spreading terrorism, and igniting wars in the region, have never sought peace in the Persian Gulf and are only looking for their own interests," Shamkhani said.

Elsewhere, he referred to the ongoing war in Yemen, and said, "Continuation of this genocide is only in favor of the enemies of the region, including the US and the Israeli regime, and Saudi Arabia should surrender to the demand of the Yemeni nation and not to put the regional peace at further risk."

Bin Alawi, for his part, expressed content about mutual negotiations with Iran about regional and international issues, stressing that none of the Persian Gulf States would benefit from regional tensions.

He added that regarding the warm relations between Tehran and Muscat, the two sides’ tradespersons have the chance to remarkably improve mutual ties.

Bin Alawi also stressed his country’s readiness for alleviating the regional unrest via setting proper grounds for holding talks among the regional countries.

In relevant remarks last month, Iran had warned that the US-led naval coalition which officially launched operations in Bahrain would further exacerbate the security conditions in the region, calling on neighbors to rely on their own power.

"History shows that the US-led coalitions have always been nothing but unfit names that have not contributed to security so far and further fomented more insecurity and instability in different parts of the world," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said.

He said the US misuses other countries' name to legitimize its unilateral presence, and noted that the US leadership of a naval coalition in the Persian Gulf indicates Washington's weakness and lack of international legitimacy.

Mousavi called on the regional states to rely on their own and their neighbors' capacities to establish sustainable and all-out security in the region.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran as a country with lengthiest coastline in the Persian Gulf will continue safeguarding its economic and security interests, including the security and safety of shipping, with maximum power," he added.

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami had also in August warned that the military coalition that the US was attempting to form in the Persian Gulf would undermine regional security.

"The military coalition that the US is after under the pretext of protecting security of shipping will increase insecurity in the region," General Hatami said in separate phone talks with his Qatari, Omani and Kuwaiti counterparts.

During the phone conversations, he discussed the latest developments in the region, specially the US provocative moves regarding the Persian Gulf security.

General Hatami also highlighted Iran’s continued efforts to maintain peace and security all over the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.

He stressed that the region’s security should be provided by the regional states, calling for a constructive dialogue among the neighboring countries to boost their cooperation regarding the matter.

Noting that the trans-regional powers have been busy for decades with creating rifts among the neighboring countries, General Hatami reiterated that the US so-called coalition, just like its other measures, would bear no result but increasing the tensions in the region.



Official: Iranian Knowledge-Based Companies Export Oxygen Concentrators to 25 Countries

Mon Dec 02, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- President of Iran's Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences Alireza Jalali announced on Monday that his country's knowledge-based firms produce and export oxygen concentrators to 25 world states.

"The University has established 18 knowledge-based companies in the past few years and 8 of them produced good products, including vaccine, oxygen concentrator and virus detection kit," Jalali told FNA.

"Some of our products enjoy high quality and they can be exported and the medical oxygen concentrator system produced by researchers of these companies are exported to 25 world states," he added.

Jalali expressed the hope that 100 other knowledge-based companies would be set up in Baqiyatallah University's science and technology park by the end of the next year.

Iran has taken long strides in producing different types of drugs and medical equipment and exported them to many foreign states.

A senior official at the Food and Drug Administration of Iran said in September that the country had exported hundreds of different types of medical equipment to over 50 world states in the first six months of the current Iranian year (started on March 21) despite the US tough sanctions.

"Fortunately, 30 of our production companies have managed to receive international quality certificates, including SE, and could export their goods to some European and South American countries," Director-General of the Food and Drug Administration of Iran for Equipment and Necessities Affairs Seyed Hossein Safavi told FNA.

"We have managed to export 363 products to 55 countries in the first 6 months of the current year," he added, saying that Iran had exported 261 types of different products to 45 states in the same period last year.



Iran ‘rioters’ shot and killed amid protests: state TV

December 03, 2019

DUBAI: Iranian state television on Tuesday acknowledged security forces shot and killed what it described as “rioters” in multiple cities amid recent protests over the spike in government-set gasoline prices — the first time that authorities have offered any sort of accounting for the violence they used to put down the demonstrations.

The acknowledgment came in a television package that criticized international Farsi-language channels for their reporting on the crisis, which began on Nov. 15.

Amnesty International said Monday it believes at least 208 people were killed in the protests and the crackdown that followed. Iran’s mission to the United Nations disputed Amnesty’s findings early Tuesday, though it offered no evidence to support its claim.

Iran has yet to release any nationwide statistics over the unrest that gripped the Islamic Republic with minimum prices for government-subsidized gasoline rising by 50 percent.

Iran shut down Internet access amid the unrest, blocking those inside the country from sharing their videos and information, as well as limiting the outside world from knowing the scale of the protests and violence. The restoration of the Internet in recent days across much of the country has seen other videos surface.

“We’ve seen over 200 people killed in a very swift time, in under a week,” said Mansoureh Mills, an Iran researcher at Amnesty. “It’s something pretty unprecedented event in the history of the human rights violations in the Islamic Republic.”

While not drawing as many Iranians into the streets as those protesting the disputed 2009 presidential election, the gasoline price demonstrations rapidly turned violent faster than any previous rallies. That shows the widespread economic discontent gripping the country since May 2018, when President Donald Trump imposed crushing sanctions after unilaterally withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The state TV report sought to describe killings in four categories, alleging some of those killed were “rioters who have attacked sensitive or military centers with firearms or knives, or have taken hostages in some areas.” The report described others killed as passers-by, security forces and peaceful protesters, without assigning blame for their deaths.

In one case, the report said security forces confronted a separatist group in the city of Mahshahr armed with “semi-heavy weapons.”

“For hours, armed rioters had waged an armed struggle,” the report alleged. “In such circumstances, security forces took action to save the lives of Mahshahr’s people.”

Mahshahr in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan province was believed to be hard-hit in the crackdown. The surrounding oil-rich province’s Arab population long has complained of discrimination by Iran’s central government and insurgent groups have attacked area oil pipelines in the past there. Online videos purportedly from the area showed peaceful protests, as well as clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

State TV separately acknowledged confronting “rioters” in Tehran, as well as in the cities of Shiraz and Sirjan. It also mentioned Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran where Amnesty on Monday said there had been “dozens of deaths.” It described the suburb as likely one of the areas with the highest toll of those killed in the unrest. Shahriar has seen heavy protests.

Amnesty offered no breakdown for the deaths elsewhere in the country, though it said “the real figure is likely to be higher.” Mills said there was a “general environment of fear inside of Iran at the moment.”

“The authorities have been threatening families, some have been forced to sign undertakings that they won’t speak to the media,” she said. “Families have been forced to bury their loved ones at night under heavy security presence.”

Authorities also have been visiting hospitals, looking for patients with gunshot wounds or other injuries from the unrest, Mills said. She alleged that authorities then immediately detain those with the suspicious wounds.

Iran’s UN mission in New York called Amnesty’s findings “unsubstantiated,” without elaborating.

“A number of exile groups (and media networks) have either taken credit for instigating both ordinary people to protest and riots, or have encouraged lawlessness and vandalism, or both,” said Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman at the mission.

The demonstrations began after authorities raised minimum gasoline prices by 50% to 15,000 Iranian rials per liter. That’s 12 cents a liter, or about 50 cents a gallon. After a monthly 60-liter quota, it costs 30,000 rials a liter. That’s nearly 24 cents a liter or 90 cents a gallon. An average gallon of regular gas in the US costs $2.58 by comparison, according to AAA.

Cheap gasoline is practically considered a birthright in Iran, home to the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves despite decades of economic woes since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Gasoline there remains among the cheapest in the world, in part to help keep costs low for its underemployed, who often drive taxis to make ends meet.

Iran’s per capita gross domestic product, often used as a rough sense of a nation’s standard of living, is just over $6,000, compared with over $62,000 in the US, according to the World Bank. That disparity, especially given Iran’s oil wealth, fueled the anger felt by demonstrators.

Already, Iranians have seen their savings chewed away by the rial’s collapse from 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord to 126,000 to $1 today. Daily staples also have risen in price.

The scale of the demonstrations also remains unclear. One Iranian lawmaker said he thought that over 7,000 people had been arrested, although Iran’s top prosecutor disputed the figure without offering his own.

Meanwhile, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a long-detained opposition leader in Iran, compared the recent crackdown by security forces on protesters to soldiers who in the time of Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi gunned down demonstrators in an event that led to the Islamic Revolution. His comparison raised the rhetorical stakes surrounding the latest unrest.



Envoy: Austria Displeased with US Sanctions against Iran

Mon Dec 02, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Austrian Ambassador to Iran Stefan Scholz underlined his country's displeasure with the US sanctions against Tehran, and hoped for the further expansion of economic ties between Vienna and Tehran.

"We are very sad about the conditions and sanctions against Iran, but our goal is to take the opportunity and time ahead to remove the sanctions as soon as possible," Scholz said during a visit to Payam Free Economic Zone in Alborz province on Monday.

He expressed the hope that effective relations will be established for the presence of new Austrian companies and economic businesses in Iran.

Scholz underscored that the relations between Vienna and Tehran have been built based on mutual confidence.

In relevant remarks in July, Scholz had underlined the necessity for protecting the nuclear deal, saying that Tehran should be able to benefit from its economic advantages.

"Iran enjoys this legal right to use the economic benefits of the nuclear deal and there is no doubt about this fact," Scholz told FNA in the Northern city of Semnan.

He stressed his efforts to pave the ground for the Iranian and Austrian companies' cooperation through his visits to different provinces of Iran.

"We hope that friendship between the two countries' people will deepen and lead to the development of relations," Scholz said.



Iranian Security Forces Arrest 79 Rioters in Khuzestan

Mon Dec 02, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian intelligence ministry announced on Monday that the country's security forces have arrested 79 individuals involved in the recent riots in the Southern province of Khuzestan.

"79 main culprits behind the attacks against public and private centers, military and Law Enforcement Police's bases and people have been identified thanks to efforts by the intelligence forces in Khuzestan province and arrested during or after riots," an official at the intelligence ministry said.

He added that 13 firearms, including Kalashnikovs and guns, military uniforms and fake car license plates have been discovered from those arrested, noting that the ministry has also disbanded three teams of terrorists who have received trainings with the support of one of the Persian Gulf Arab states, played a major role in attacking the government centers and fired at the police forces.

The official said that a citizen of the aforesaid Persian Gulf Arab country was also among the arrested suspects.

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

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

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

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

Last month, IRGC Lieutenant Commander Brigadier General Ali Fadavi said that the US was disappointed that its perpetrated violent riots in Iran did not last more than 48 hours, adding that reports from all four corners of the country indicate that peace and calm has been restored much to Washington’s chagrin.

"Based on information we have received, the Americans have gone mad that the riots were over within 48 hours and are disappointed that there is no more disorder in Iran," Fadavi added.

However, Fadavi said that in numerous calls with other IRGC officials in the country no further riot attempts had been reported.

"Attacking homes, shops, hospitals, banks and gas stations is a malicious act which is not an act of protest nor rioting, but an act of thievery," Fadavi said.

"This is the difference between protest and disorder," he said.

The IRGC deputy commander added that peaceful protests were "natural" given the recent price hike and that the government has to adopt additional measures to reduce pressure on the general population.

Fadavi added, however, "The fact that the malicious actors of the world are targeting Iran in issues that are by no means related to them is a matter to note."

Deputy Head of Iran's Basij volunteer forces Brigadier General Salar Abnoosh said in November "a full-fledged war" had been meant to be waged against the country, only to be quelled early on.

Abnoosh added that interrogations of arrested rioters had revealed that a "coalition of evil" made up of "Zionists, America and Saudi Arabia" had joined forces to organize destructive riots from abroad.

Addressing worshipers during a weekly Friday prayers in Tehran last month, senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said certain foreign countries had spent "three years" preparing for an opportunity to wreak havoc in Iran, training specific elements to that end.

"But their schemes were neutralized," he said, adding that the riots ceased to continue despite the fact that countries such as Saudi Arabia had spent many resources and had provided much media coverage in order to instigate disorder.

Following the Friday prayers, numerous rallies were also held across Iran to condemn the recent riots.

The protesters condemned the US, Israel and seditionist elements for fueling the unrest and chanted slogans in support of the Islamic establishment.

Addressing recent riots during a speech, Iran's Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Rayeesi said those "who have abused the concerns and troubles of the people in order to create disorder and insecurity" will face severe consequences.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is known as the safest country in the region due to the sacrifices of our martyrs and our wounded," he said.

"We will never allow the smallest breach in the security of our people," he added.

Riots by a small number who had taken advantage of legitimate public protests against the government's gas price hike plan in Iran were directed at sowing chaos through targeted attacks on public and private properties, forcing law enforcement to step in to stop saboteurs.

Early estimates of an intelligence body showed that a sum of nearly 87,000 protesters and rioters had taken part in protest rallies and gatherings since Friday night, mostly (over 93%) men. A large number of protesters had only been present in the gathering centers and avoided joining the rioters in sabotage attacks on public and private properties.

"The identical methods of the main core of violent rioters discloses that they are fully trained individuals who have been prepared and looking forward for the situation to rise, unlike most people who have been taken off guard by the sudden hike in gas price," the report said.

The report showed that gatherings have been comprised of 50 to 1,500 people held in 100 regions of the country out of a number of 1,080 major towns and cities. The report says violent raids and damage inflicted on properties has been larger than what happened in February 2018 unrests.

Most cases of damage to properties had happened in Khuzestan, Tehran, Fars and Kerman provinces. The report says most casualties have resulted from armed outlaws' attacks on oil storage and military centers, adding that a number of police and popular forces have been martyred in these attacks.

Nearly 1,000 people were arrested across the country while over 100 banks and 57 big stores were set on fire or plundered in just one province.

The Iranian intelligence ministry announced in a statement on November 17 that it had identified several rioters who misused the recent protest rallies against the gasoline price hikes to destroy public and private properties.

"The main culprits behind the riots in the past two days have been identified and proper measures are being adopted and the honorable nation will be informed about its result later," the statement said.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the capital city of Tehran poured to the streets early this week to show allegiance to Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic and support for the country's security and might.

The rallies started at 14:30 local time (1100 GMT) with demonstrators moving towards Enqelab (Revolution) Square in Central Tehran.

The demonstrators shouted 'death to the US', 'death to Israel', 'death to Britain', 'death to the plotters' and 'death to the rioters' slogans.

They also carried the Iranian flags and placards with Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei's images and remarks.

The ralliers also voiced their opposition to the hike in gasoline prices and other goods in Iran, but meantime, voiced hatred for the rioters who misused the recent protests to set ablaze the public and private properties and loot the big stores.

In similar rallies last week, tens of thousands of people in Northern, Western and Southern Iran demonstrated to show allegiance to the Islamic Republic and Supreme Leader after the recent riots.

Demonstrators in the towns of Pardis and Baharesten in Tehran province, Nour, Savadkouh, Behshahr, Neka, Qa'em Shahr and Sari in Mazandaran province, Ahrom in Bushehr, Imam Khomeini port city in Khuzestan province and Sahneh, Sarpol Zahab, Gilan Qarb, Qasr-e Shirin, Kermanshah and Javanroud in Kermanshah province held massive rallies to condemn the rioters who misused the popular protests to destroy and set fire at public properties last week.

They shouted slogans, including 'death to the US' and 'death to Israel' to deplore their officials' interfering remarks against Iran as well as 'death to the rioters' and 'death to plotters' to condemn their acts of sabotage during the recent unrests.

The protestors also carried placards which called on the government to show more attention to people's welfare and living conditions and urged the judiciary to sue and seriously punish those who distorted security and tranquility of people in the recent riots.

Similar demonstrations have been underway throughout the country in the past few days.



IRGC Spokesman: Most Advanced Tools Used by Rioters in Iran

Mon Dec 02, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Public Relations Department and IRGC Spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said rioters that destroyed public and private properties in the recent unrests in Iran were utilizing complex tools and instruments.

"The outlaws used the most equipped tools and most professional methods in the recent sedition," General Sharif said, addressing a forum in the Central city of Arak on Monday.

He noted that the riots were fomented in Iran after the country succeeded in defeating the ISIL terrorist group, the resistance front gained great victories and the IRGC shot down an intruder US spy plane over the Iranian territories on June 20.

"The enemies are seeking to make up [for their failure] after every success Iran earns," General Sharif said.

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

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

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

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

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

The protest rallies of Iranian people against the gasoline rationing turned violent since the first hours of the gatherings after the rioters used weapons.

In Sirjan city in the Southern province of Kerman, for instance, armed hooligans were about to detonate gasoline tanks, and almost made it if it hadn't been for the immediate presence of the police troops on the scene.

Security and police reports said the large number of weapons in the hands of the outlaws and rioters which had turned the scene of protests into a battlefield was one of the main features of the unrests.

Investigations showed that most people shot in riots were targeted from behind or the sides from a short range and from among protestors.

Also, reports by the security bodies and witnesses indicated that many of the bullets were fired from inside the protesting crowd and with weapons not registered at official bodies.

Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee announced last Monday that rioters used cold weapons and firearms during unrests in some cities and towns, killing and wounding a number of police forces.

"Based on reports, the rioters have repeatedly used cold weapons and firearms in some cities," Rabiyee told reporters in a press conference in Tehran.

Also, Commander of the Law Enforcement Police in Kurdistan province Brigadier General Ali Azadi announced that his forces had arrested 25 ringleaders of the recent riots, and seized 3 rifles from them.

"25 ringleaders and main culprits behind the riots in the two cities of Marivan and Sanandaj have been detained in coordination with the judicial officials and 3 firearms and some cold weapons have been discovered and seized from them," General Azadi said on Sunday.

Late last month, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani said that Tehran had successfully thwarted an attempt by a small group of foreign-backed rioters to set oil facilities on fire in the iconic Persian Gulf port city of Assaluyeh, adding that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Yemenis’ bombardment of the Saudi oil sites in September.

He added that during the recent unrests in the country, which came after the government’s decision to substantially increase the gas price, some rioters tried to attack the iconic Persian Gulf port city of Assaluyeh in the South of Iran.

“The attack on Assaluyeh had been planned by the enemy,” according to Shamkhani.

The top Iranian security official added, “the enemy appeared to be seeking to avenge what Yemen Ansarullah did in attacking Saudi facilities, but it failed”.



Iranian Scientists Produce Nanostructures to Store Hydrogen in Oil Industry

Mon Dec 02, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian researchers at Kashan University used a green method to produce new nanostructures to store hydrogen gas which has applications in oil industry.

In this experimental study, a new green and simple approach was utilized to prepare nanostructured Dy2Sn2O7 as a remarkable material, Masoud Salavati, one of the researchers, told FNA on Monday.

He added that it was the first time that pure Dy2Sn2O7 nanostructures were produced with utilizing banana juice as natural reagent as well as Dy3+ and Sn4+ sources, noting that the effects of pressing the reactants within a pellet (in the solid form) and the use of banana in two different forms, in the form of solid powder or juice, as well as the applied amount of banana have been studied to achieve the condition for producing the sample with optimal morphology, purity and size.

Salavati underlined that various micro/nanostructures could be produced via changing the experimental condition, adding that based on the findings in this research, utilization of banana juice had remarkable role in Dy2Sn2O7 shape and size. Further, several analyses have been carried out to investigate the purity, porosity, composition and shape of the made samples.

In this research, for first time, the electrochemical hydrogen storage efficiency of Dy2Sn2O7 produced utilizing banana juice has been studied with chronopotentiometry method. The maximum discharge capacity of Dy2Sn2O7 that produced utilizing banana juice has been 4023mAh/g after 20 cycles and this mesoporous sample demonstrated very good performance at room temperature, he said.

On the basis of the findings, the great discharge efficiency related to the green synthesized Dy2Sn2O7 nanostructures with utilization of banana juice can make them as competitive and desirable materials for hydrogen storage technology that they can bring about the diminution in the environmental contamination, Salavati said, adding that the results of the research can be used in oil industries and refining gas.

Nanotechnology has penetrated into more than 15 industrial sectors, including pharmaceutical, construction, textile, automotive, oil, gas, petrochemical and home appliances industries.

In relevant remarks in October, Head of Iran’s Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC) Saeed Sarkar underlined the country's huge progress in manufacturing and exporting nanotechnology products.

"Fortunately, we are witnessing that nanotechnology products are being exported to over 45 countries of the world and we are witnessing the growing flourishing of this arena," Sarkar told FNA on the sidelines of the 12th International Nanotechnology Festival and Exhibition in Tehran.

He added that last year, Iran had planned to lead the nanotechnology exhibition towards industrialization, and said this goal has been attained by the 50% increase in the number of companies participating in the exhibit.



Official: US Sanctions Targeting Iranian Patients

Mon Dec 02, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Head of Iran's Food and Drug Administration (IFDA) and Deputy Health Minister Mohammadreza Shanehsaz said that Washington's sanctions and the recent warning issued by the US Treasury Department was meant to be a coup against the Iranian patients, particularly those with special needs.

"They have declared in the letter that they will provide a special line to supply drugs and medical equipment but they use policing methods to threaten the pharmaceutical companies that in case of providing Iran with medicine and medical equipment, they will not be allowed to export to the EU and the US," Shanehsaz told FNA on Monday.

He added that the US measures have created problems for Iran in supplying drugs to the special patients.

Shanehsaz, meantime, said that the Iranian research centers and knowledge-based companies are producing 97% of needed drugs indigenously.

Iran has taken long strides in producing different types of drugs and medical equipment and exported them to many foreign states.

A recent report by the scientific and technological department of Iran's presidential office said that the country is able to produce 97% of its needs to drugs indigenously.

in July, Iranian Vice-President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari unveiled 8 new drugs during his visit to knowledge-based companies in Alborz province near Tehran.

The newly-developed drugs included Micro-Peltamparazole, Tamsulosin hydrochloride, Naltrexone base, Citalyptin phosphate, Peo gliatzone and other medicine.

The drugs have applications in treatment of digestive diseases and intestinal insufficiency, and will also be exported to the regional states.



Rising crime in Lebanon blamed on economic slump amid livelihood crisis


December 03, 2019

BEIRUT: Lebanese citizen Naji Al-Fulaiti hung himself on Sunday in his house in Arsal, after his 6-year-old daughter asked him for 1,000 Lebanese pounds ($0.66) for school, which he could not afford.

The news shocked his family. His relative Wahiba Al-Fulaiti told Arab News: “Naji was unemployed for two years. He used to work as a municipality officer. He also worked in a stone-cutting sawmill. He lost his wife to cancer and was indebted, owing 200,000 Lebanese pounds. He refused to borrow money from his brothers and he committed suicide.”

The incident provoked national indignation among activists in the civil movement, protesting against the widespread corruption in the authority, which has led to economic collapse.

Al-Fulaiti is not the first victim of the livelihood crisis in the country.

Georges Zreik committed suicide in February after he failed to pay off his children’s school fees. When the school refused to provide the certificates required to move his children to a free school, Zreik set himself alight outside his children’s school.

Economic and political experts have warned that if the economic downturn continues, Lebanon will be facing further social crises.

Economist Jassem Ajjaka said: “The downturn has dangerous repercussions on the social level. Amid the lack of accurate statistics on the losses suffered by Lebanon, given the exaggeration in the current numbers due to political reasons, we can say that the worst is yet to come, unless a salvation government is formed soon.”

Ajjaka added: “If the government is set to stay on in a caretaker capacity amid the political obstacles hampering the formation of a new government, reactivating the government that the people had toppled will not be easy.

“The question here is: Will the international community deal with it properly? I doubt it.

“Relying on Gulf countries to provide urgent assistance to save the Lebanese economy is impossible due to the crisis of confidence.”

Ajjaka fears the repercussions of the crisis might lead to a “chaos and crime rise.”

He said: “Every Lebanese that loses their job will most certainly join the protests.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun received on Monday the newly elected head of the bar association Melhem Khalaf and his accompanying delegation.

Khalaf stressed during the meeting “the importance for the constitutional institutions to function properly and the need for the judicial authority to be independent and impartial to fight corruption.”

Khalaf called on Aoun to “adopt an urgent and rational approach to save the country, in accordance with the people of all ages and regions demanding change peacefully.”

Aoun said the movement “has eliminated a lot of red lines.”

However, the president also discussed “corrupt people protected by society,” considering that it is impossible to “prosecute people for corruption without proof and objection alone is not enough.” Aoun said: “Freedoms have reached chaos, and the freedom we have defended has crossed the limits and this is not acceptable.

“The economic and financial crisis has worsened due to accumulation over tens of years. Rumors today are stronger than the truth.”

In a press statement, head of the Hezbollah parliamentary bloc Mohammed Raad said: “The crisis cannot be resolved unless a national unity government is formed according to the Taif Agreement. Otherwise, the country will remain under a caretaker government. All those refraining from carrying out their duties will be held accountable.”



Top rebel leader says more time needed for Sudan peace deal

December 02, 2019

KHARTOUM: A senior Sudanese rebel leader Monday called for a three-month extension to finalize a peace deal with the Khartoum government, as talks between the two sides are to resume next week.

Yasir Arman, deputy leader of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), also called on Washington to remove Sudan from its blacklist of “state sponsors of terrorism.”

Peace talks opened in October in Juba between Khartoum’s new transitional government and rebels who fought now-ousted president Omar Al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

A second round of talks is set to begin next Tuesday in the South Sudanese capital, and a peace deal had been expected to be struck a few days later on December 14.

But Arman, who is a senior leader in the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance, said more time was needed.

“We call for an extension of the Juba Declaration by three months until March 8,” he told reporters in Khartoum on Monday.

“We hope that the December 10 round will be the last and peace will be achieved,” he added, without giving a specific reason for the extra time needed to reach that goal.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in fighting between rebel groups and Sudanese security forces in the three conflict zones during Bashir’s rule.

The transitional authorities, tasked with leading the way to civilian rule after Bashir’s ouster in April, have made ending wars in these regions their top priority.

“We support peace ... We are looking for a national project and a strategic exit for armed rebel movements,” Arman said.

He also urged Washington to drop Sudan from its blacklist.

“After the fall of the National Congress Party, Sudan is no longer a state that sponsors terrorism,” Arman said, referring to Bashir’s party.

Washington had added Sudan to its blacklist in 1993 for Khartoum’s alleged support to Islamist militant groups.

Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 to 1996.



Don’t forget the Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands

December 3, 2019

(December 2, 2019 / JNS) In international conflicts, history is more of a weapon than a field of study. That’s why the history of Palestinian Arab refugees is so well-known. Far less understood is the story of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, who were at least comparable to, if not greater in number, than the Palestinians. Though Israel has tried to promote an annual commemoration of their history on Nov. 30, the day passed without much fanfare or notice around the world, and certainly garnered far less attention than the ongoing narrative of the plight of the Palestinians.

That the Palestinians get more notice is in one sense understandable. These refugees were never resettled but kept stagnant in camps for the last 70 years in order to be used as props in the Arab and Muslim worlds’ war to destroy Israel. Their descendants are still there—now built-up slums rather than camps—still claiming refugee status decades later and with a United Nations agency (UNRWA) dedicated to perpetuating their plight rather than helping them. By contrast, the Jewish refugees were absorbed into Israel and in Western countries, where they have settled, found communities and become a major force in Israeli life and culture.

Jewish refugees are no longer objects of sympathy, but their history remains important. It not only puts what happened to the Palestinians into a historical context, but a full understanding of how vital they and their descendants are in Israeli society gives the lie to the claims that Israeli is a colonial European state that all non-whites should oppose.

Unable to compromise with the Jewish community of British Mandate Palestine after the United Nations voted to partition the country, the Arab inhabitants launched a bitter war to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state. It was a war that they could not win on their own or even with the help of the five surrounding Arab states that invaded the new Jewish state on the day of its birth.

The result of their disastrous decisions was what they have aptly termed a nakba—a “catastrophe” or “disaster.” Approximately 750,000 Arabs fled the country. While some were forced out of their homes by Israel as a result of bitter fighting, most did so voluntarily under the mistaken belief that conquering Arab forces would soon allow them to return.

Yet at the same time, Jews living in the Arab world were already finding that their already precarious status as dhimmi—or second-class citizens who were tolerated, though never granted equal rights—was also undergoing a change. Within a few years, Jewish communities that had been in existence since the first millennium or earlier were largely destroyed as riots and heightened official discrimination drove hundreds of thousands from their homes.

The totals were staggering as the Mizrahi Jewish world was forced to flee. Some 259,000 Jews left Morocco. Approximately 140,000 left Algeria and another 100,000 from neighboring Tunisia. More than 120,000 Jews fled Iraq. Elsewhere in North Africa, 38,000 fled Libya and 75,000 from Egypt. Some 135,000 fled Iraq, 55,000 were airlifted from Yemen, while 20,000 moved out of Lebanon and 18,000 from Syria.

The circumstances in each country varied, but the pattern was familiar. The birth of Israel, which was seen as a humiliation by Muslims who believed that none but members of their faith could govern anywhere in the region, gave an excuse to those who wished to target Jews. Nevertheless, the notion that Jewish life in the Arab world was a golden age disrupted only by Zionism is a myth.

At various points in history, the plight of Jews in the Muslim world was less awful than that faced by their co-religionists in Christian Europe. Still, to depict it as anything but one in which Jews existed at the sufferance of Muslims is fallacious. These communities had deep roots and enjoyed periods of prosperity, but Jews were rarely, if ever, fully accepted as equals. To the contrary, every period of peaceful coexistence was always punctuated with new outbursts of hatred and intolerance.

What happened in the 20th century was not a complete break with history as Arab nationalists used Jews and Zionism as scapegoats for the failings of the Muslim world. Those who spread hate against Jews found it easy to do so because such discrimination was deeply embedded in the culture of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

While we should mourn the destruction of these communities, the emigration of so many of their members to Israel enabled their culture and learning to flourish anew in a country where they were truly at home. And even though these immigrants suffered from discrimination at the hands of Ashkenazi elites, today their descendants constitute a majority of the Israeli Jewish population.

That’s why, in addition to the fact that Israel is a democracy where equal rights are guaranteed under law, the notion that it is an apartheid state is a big lie. The Jews from the Arab and Muslim worlds, as well as those who came out of Ethiopia, are “people of color” as defined by those who see the world exclusively through a racial lens. Those who buy into intersectional ideology that sees the Palestinian war on Israel as akin to the struggle for civil rights in the United States are dead wrong.

We should learn the stories of these communities not just because doing so puts the suffering of the Palestinians into context, or because it also demonstrates the wrongs committed by Arabs and Muslims in the course of their war on Israel. Their heritage, which is integral to the culture of the Jewish state whose life they have enriched, is deserving of study and honor. Learning the history of these refugees is also a necessary response to those who accept the Palestinian nakba narrative. Once you recognize that the Palestinians weren’t the only refugees in the Middle East, the arguments of those who claim that their plight means that Israel has no right to exist are exposed as transparent falsehoods.





Ex-Pak President Musharraf admitted to Dubai hospital

Dec 3, 2019

ISLAMABAD: President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf was on Monday admitted to a hospital in Dubai due to serious health issues.

As per medical reports, Musharraf is suffering from cardiac problem and having a blood pressure issue, Pakistan Today reported.

Since 2016, Musharraf has been living in a self-imposed exile in Dubai for "seeking medical treatment" and has not returned to the country since. He is wanted by authorities in connection to the high treason case filed against him.

Last month, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) stopped the special court from announcing the verdict in the matter. The order came before a special court was scheduled to announce the verdict on the basis of the available record.

The IHC was hearing a petition filed by the Pakistan government seeking an adjournment of the verdict's announcement. A similar petition was also filed by Musharraf in the Lahore High Court.

The court has also directed the government to notify a new prosecutor or a team of prosecution in the treason case by December 5. It has also asked the special court to fix a date "for affording a reasonable opportunity of hearing" to the notified prosecutor or prosecution team as well as the counsel appointed for Musharraf.

The special court on November 19 concluded the trial proceedings in the high treason case against Musharraf for declaring a state emergency on November 3, 2007. The trial of the former leader has been pending since December 2013 when he was booked in the case.

Musharraf was indicted on March 31, 2014, and the prosecution had tabled the entire evidence before the special court in September the same year. However, due to litigation at appellate forums, the trial of the former president lingered on and he left Pakistan in March 2016 "to seek medical treatment."

The retired general was that year declared an absconder as he failed to appear before the court despite repeated summons and court directives issued to the Federal Investigation Agency to arrest him.



New FIA chief meets PM as ‘sidelined’ predecessor resigns

Iftikhar A. Khan

December 03, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The newly-appointed director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Wajid Zia, who shot to fame for heading the Joint Investigation Team that probed NAB references against former premier Nawaz Sharif, called on Prime Minister Imran Khan here on Monday.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar, who was also one of the key players in Panama Papers case, was appointed Minister of State for Interior. He will hold dual charge of the special assistant and the state minister.

On the occasion, Mr Khan said that fighting organised crime including corruption, cybercrime, economic crime, immigration-related crimes and money laundering, as well as carrying out across-the-board accountability, were the plank of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government’s agenda.

The new FIA chief assured PM Khan that he would do his best to serve the country with commitment.

Meanwhile, former FIA DG Bashir Memon resigned from service as a mark of protest against being posted out close to his retirement date.

Imran appoints Shahzad Akbar as state minister on interior; federal bureaucracy shake-up continues

“It is usual courtesy in official working not to post out any officer nearing retirement. I have been denied this courtesy which in my opinion is an expression of displeasure towards me. Aforementioned in view, I tender my resignation from service,” the resignation sent to the establishment division, a copy of which is available with Dawn, reads.

The resignation had been signed on Nov 29, the day Mr Memon was asked to report to the establishment division and Mr Zia was appointed in his place.

The ex-DG was due to retire on Dec 17. He had been on leave from work since September and had resumed work only last week. He was said to be under immense pressure for arresting leaders of political parties in different cases.

Also after the massive reshuffle in bureaucracy last Friday, the federal government on Monday notified some other postings and transfers.

While federal postal services secretary Hamid Haroon was asked to report to the establishment division with immediate effect, communications secretary Jawad Rafiq Malik was given the additional charge of postal services in his place.

Besides, trade secretary Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera was given the additional charge of textile secretary.

Dual charge

Meanwhile, Shahzad Akbar will hold dual charge of SAPM and the state minister. The PM tasked him to reorganize FIA to make it a vibrant organisation to curb money laundering and other transnational crimes.

Mr Akbar’s appointment may slash down the powers of federal interior minister retired brigadier Ijaz Shah.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Akbar said the PM wanted to address the issue of money laundering with special reference to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) [an international body on anti-money laundering] and therefore he had been tasked to focus on money laundering, anti-corruption and other related crimes.

He said during his liaison with other powers like United Nations and Switzerland on money laundering, he had observed that the FIA required restructuring to tackle the issue of money laundering.

Mr Akbar said he had also asked the PM that for improving performance of FIA, the government would have to give some incentives to FIA officials. “For example, a constable of the FIA is getting salary of Rs35,000 while the same constable in NAB gets Rs80,000 monthly pay,” he added.

Mr Akbar said he would soon present the FIA’s restructuring plan to the PM for approval.

Earlier, the prime minister in a meeting with the recently promoted officers said their promotion was based purely on merit.

Mr Khan said Pakistan stood at a crucial juncture of history and the bureaucracy would have to work hard. “Our country, which was exemplary in terms of governance in the 60s, is lagging behind other countries in the region today for various reasons. Today political leadership and bureaucracy have to determine the future of the country. It requires new thinking and good governance,” he said, adding that they should fulfill their responsibilities as Jihad and national duty.

Pakistan had immense resources and manpower, he said, adding that in the past 15 months, foreign investors had expressed keen interest in every sector of the economy.

He said international organizations had acknowledged improvement in the economy. To strengthen the economic stability, the bureaucracy should play an integral role in the welfare of the government and the people, he added.



NAB files reference against former premier Abbasi, 9 others in LNG case

Tahir Naseer

December 03, 2019

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Rawalpindi on Tuesday filed a reference in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import contract case against 10 accused, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail and former Pakistan State Oil (PSO) managing director Sheikh Imranul Haq.

The accountability bureau submitted the reference in an accountability court in Islamabad. According to the reference, one company received benefits of over Rs21 billion between March 2015 and September of this year.

Additionally, the reference stated that the national exchequer will suffer a loss of Rs47bn by 2029 because of the contract.

Former Ogra chairman Saeed Ahmed Khan, Ogra chairperson Uzma Adil Khan, chairman of the Engro group Hussain Dawood, former chairman PQA Agha Jan Akhtar, former member Ogra Aamir Naseem, former PSO MD Shahid M Islam and Abdul Sammad have also been named in the reference.

Both main accused persons — Abbasi and Ismail — have been behind bars for over four months in this case, while Haq obtained pre-arrest bail last Tuesday from the Islamabad High Court.

A source had told Dawn on Monday that of 10 persons accused, against whom the reference has been framed, two are said to have turned approvers. The source added that NAB believed that corruption of some Rs20 billion had occurred in the scam.

Abbasi was arrested in connection with the case in July. He is accused of awarding a 15-year contract for a terminal against the rules when he was the petroleum minister in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet. The case was closed by NAB in 2016 but then reopened in 2018.

On Jan 2, NAB’s executive board authorised investigations against Abbasi, being former minister for petroleum and natural resources, for his alleged involvement in irregularities in the import of LNG.

However, Abbasi has said several times in the recent past that he did not commit any illegality in the award of contracts for LNG import, and could, therefore, prove his innocence at any forum. He has presented the view that the import of LNG was the need of the time in 2013, when the country was facing an acute shortage of gas.

In April, the government imposed a travel ban on Abbasi, Ismail and five other persons in this case.



Zardari agrees to file bail plea ‘at family’s insistence’

Amir Wasim

December 03, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari, who is under detention on charges of money laundering and presently undergoing treatment at a hospital, has agreed to file a bail petition on medical grounds at the insistence of his family members. His lawyers are expected to move the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday (today) for his bail.

This was announced by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during a brief news conference after meeting his ailing father Asif Zardari at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) here on Monday.

The PPP chairman also announced that the party had decided to hold a major event on the 12th death anniversary of his mother and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto at Rawalpindi’s historic Liaquat Bagh — the place where she was assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack on Dec 27, 2007.

Previously, the PPP had a tradition of holding gatherings on the occasions of birth and death anniversaries of the party leaders at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Larkana, Sindh.

Bilawal announces holding Benazir’s 12th death anniversary event at Liaquat Bagh — the place where she was assassinated

“A clear message will once again come from Liaquat Bagh for whole Pakistan and the world that as per the PPP’s belief, all powers belong to the people,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said.

Accompanied by his sisters Bakhtawar and Aseefa, the PPP chairman expressed concern over the deteriorating health of his father and said the doctors had suggested a “cardiovascular procedure” to trace blockade. “There are two procedures and we want that as soon as possible these procedures are carried out and Mr Zardari gets the treatment,” he said.

“(Former) president Zardari had stopped us from filing the bail petition which was a difficult situation for us, my sisters and the whole family. Now he has accepted Aseefa’s request and, Insha Allah, the PPP will apply for the bail on medical grounds after finalising it tomorrow (Tuesday),” he added.

He said the doctors at PIMS must be competent, but he and his family did not have trust in them and they would feel satisfaction after getting a “second opinion”.

On July 29, the PPP chairman, after attending the accountability court proceedings against Mr Zardari, had told reporters that his father had decided not to seek any relief in the form of post-arrest bail and was ready to remain behind bars for an indefinite period rather than compromising on the 18th Amendment, the parliamentary system and media freedom.

Mr Zardari was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after cancellation of his pre-arrest bail by the IHC in the fake bank accounts case on June 10.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said his father was firm on the party’s stance and manifesto and no compromise would be made on the 18th Amendment, democracy and media freedom.

Responding to a question about the party’s possible stance on the bill to be moved by the government in parliament on the army chief’s extension, he said his party was waiting for a detailed judgement of the Supreme Court, anticipating that the court would provide some guidelines for parliament as it did in the 18th Amendment case.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that in the opinion of the lawyers belonging to the PPP and different bars a constitutional amendment would be needed for this purpose. “The PPP’s role will be positive and we will want a consensus to be there. However, I would also like to add that it seems that our prime minister [Imran Khan], like before, does not want a consensus just like he couldn’t reach one regarding Kashmir, economy, democracy and governance,” he added.

The PPP chairman said the reaction given by the prime minister after the Supreme Court’s verdict made it apparently clear that “he [the PM] wants to antagonise the opposition”. He said his party had no hope that the government would be able to develop a consensus on the issue, adding that a government which couldn’t even draft a notification in three months and was not able to pass any legislation in 15 months would not be able to do so in six months given by the apex court.

“This will be the biggest test of Imran Khan’s government and from his actions and traditions that he is non-serious, it seems to me that he has made a negative impact on our institutions,” he added.

The PPP chairman concluded his presser by saying in response to a question that “the way PM Imran Khan is behaving, I think, we will first have a new prime minister and then a constitutional amendment”.



Army chief for inter-services coordination

December 03, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday emphasised jointness and integration between the three uniformed services.

Speaking to the pilots at PAF Base Mushaf (Sargodha), the army chief noted that “inter-service harmony and synergy” were “vital for operational success”, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement on Gen Bajwa’s visit to the base during which he flew a combat action simulation mission on an F-16 aircraft.

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, who flew in another aircraft on that occasion, also participated in the mission.

The two chiefs together took part in the manoeuvre.

The army chief praised the PAF for its dedication and professionalism.

Air Chief Marshal Khan, in his remarks, too stressed greater cooperation between the three services in training and operations.

The ISPR said PAF Base Mushaf holds claim to some of the most valiant actions in the history of air warfare and is a proud repository of capability, skills and traditions.



Judiciary’s charge-sheet against NAB grows and grows

Ansar Abbasi

December 3, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Not once, twice, thrice but there are more and more cases coming up where the superior judiciary has found, only during the last one year, that the NAB is wrong in making corruption cases and arresting individuals for months and years.

However, there is no correction being made in the system by either Parliament or the government to save innocents from being wronged in the name of corruption and corrupt practices.

In its recent orders of the last one year, the superior judiciary has seriously questioned the NAB’s functioning in different cases and used the words and expressions like “arbitrary use of power”, “mala fide”, “conjectures”, “unperceived perceptions”, “lack of capacity” etc for the Bureau and its accountability. In almost all these cases, the courts have found NAB’s failure to produce evidence of corruption but arrested the accused. The NAB, however, is of the view that it works as per law and rules and does not believe in victimisation, and pursues the corruption cases on merit without any fear or favour. Repeatedly the NAB chairman and its spokesperson have stated that the Bureau sees cases and not the faces in its endeavour to root out menace of corruption from the country.

But the superior judiciary has not only pointed out the poor understanding of NAB’s investigators but has also questioned the decision making of the NAB chairman. Despite such repeated damning orders from the superior judiciary against the NAB, no corrective measures have been taken to save people from Bureau’s wrongs.

In a PUNJMIN mining contract reference, the LHC recently while accepting the bail application of Muhammad Subtain Khan, the then minister for mines and minerals, had pointed out that the NAB in 2013 closed the inquiry into the matter noting that no loss had been caused to the public exchequer as the contract was cancelled by the Punjab government but the NAB chairman re-opened the case without holding inquiry against those who had closed it earlier.

The LHC verdict that pointed out serious flaws in Bureau’s decision making even at the highest level had noted, “But surprisingly without bringing on record any fresh ground or to digging out any hidden truth, the inquiry was reinitiated on the same allegations vide letter dated 26.04.2018 issued by the NAB DG.

The reasons and circumstances were, apparently, neither brought before the NAB chairman nor he had formed opinion on the basis of material. He had just ordered the re-opening of inquiry without holding any official of the NAB responsible for closure of the inquiry. It is not the whims and designs unsubstantiated by the fresh disclosed facts on the basis of which it could re-open the closed inquiry in a slipshod manner. The reasons, if any, are shrouded in mystery. Needless to observe here that with greater powers always lies the greatest responsibilities. The powers of the NAB chairman are also structured by law and conscience, and therefore, he must be guided by them and not by unperceived perception infatuated by his subjective approach so as to use his discretion for taking some kind of imaginary blaming act. The prosecution has not alleged that the petitioner has got any kickbacks, made financial gains or caused any corresponding loss to the state.”

Only last week, the IHC almost trashed NAB’s LNG Terminal case in which three reputed men - former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-finance minister Miftah Ismail and MD PSO S Imranul Haq.

Admitting that the bail application of former MD PSO Sheikh Imranul Haq, the IHC in its order pointed out the sheer incompetence of NAB, how the cases are made on the basis of mere “conjectures”, lack of Bureau’s capacity to probe such matters, arbitrary use of NAB law provisions, violation of fundamental rights and that standard global business practices are treated by the anti-graft body as corruption and corrupt practices.

The IHC said the NAB could not point out any significant violation of the rules committed in the bidding process of LNG Terminal whereas the figures quoted by the Bureau as alleged loss to the exchequer are based on conjectures.

According to the IHC judgment, there was no material evidence of corruption available against the petitioner but it was NAB’s conjecture that the Sheikh Imranul Haq appointment as MD PSO was an alleged gain for him.

The court underlined that the standard business practices and arrangements, which are industry norms internationally are being treated, as corruption and corrupt practices.

The judgment said, “We have noted in several cases that the investigations are not carried out by experts, fraud examiners or investigators or data mining experts. We had also not come across any case like the one in hand where chartered accountants or trained professionals in matters relating to white-collar crime may have been associated during the inquiry or investigation. The capacity and professional competence of investigators is inevitable to deal with matters relating to white collar crimes. The object for which the Ordinance of 1999 was enacted can only be achieved if the alleged crime is investigated by professionals who are trained as experts in white collar crime. The case in hand appears to be a classic example of the violation of the guaranteed rights of a citizen. The investigation reports placed on the record and the written comments filed in this case speak volumes about competence and capacity of the Bureau to investigate white collar crime.”

Before this latest decision by IHC, the Saaf Pani Project, Ramazan Sugar Mills and Ashiana Housing Scheme - the three corruption cases made by the National Accountability Bureau against Shahbaz Sharif and others- have already become huge embarrassment for NAB at the hands of the superior judiciary.

In at least two of these cases, the Lahore High Court finds “mala fide” on part of NAB. In all the three cases, the LHC found no abuse of authority or violation of law, rules and procedure. Rather court held that no corruption, kickback, commission or illegal gratification was alleged even by NAB. The corruption watchdog had alleged abuse of authority and illegalities against former three times chief minister and his key bureaucratic aides but failed to prove any allegation.

Despite the fact that at bail stage courts make cursory assessment of allegations and do not go deep down but the Lahore High Court in at least two cases - Saaf Pani and Ramazan Sugar- found mala fide on part of NAB.

The LHC on the bail application of Shahbaz Sharif in Ashiana Housing Scheme and Ramazan Sugar Mill had ruled that Shahbaz neither misused his authority nor misappropriated funds allocated for the project or received illegal gratifications, commission or kickbacks.

In the Ashiana case, the court ruled that not an inch of state land was given to anyone. In Saaf Pani case the management saved almost Rs400 million whereas in Ramazan Sugar Mill case, the court found that the drain, which the NAB alleged was built for Ramazan sugar, was a “public welfare project”.

While dealing with NAB’s Ashiana case, the LHC referred to PTI government housing scheme to expose the double standards of the NAB, and said, “It is not understandable that as to why the NAB is insisting that the project (Ashiana housing) should have been executed in the government instead of public private partnership mode when the later mode is also lawful, as envisaged under the Public Private Partnership Act, 2014. It is also noteworthy that even the sitting government has launched a project for the construction of 5,000,000 houses in Pakistan under the same mode (public private partnership) and no objection has so far been raised in this respect by the NAB.”



Australia to end bilateral aid to Pakistan

December 3, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Morrison government will cease all bilateral aid to Pakistan, which includes support for successful programmes helping poor women and girls, as funds for development assistance are diverted to the Pacific.

According to the ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, Australia has a 70-year history of providing aid to Pakistan but will end all government-to-government development assistance in 2020-21, the latest aid programme performance report on Pakistan reveals.

“Funding in Australia’s overall aid programme has been redirected to support new initiatives in our immediate Pacific region,” it said. “This has reduced bilateral aid to Pakistan from $39.2 million in 2018-19 to $19 million in 2019-20 and funding for bilateral programmes will fully cease in 2020-21.”

A key objective of Australia’s aid to Pakistan has been assisting women and girls with a focus on education, increased access to quality reproductive health and gender-based anti-violence services.

Pakistan is one of the poorest countries in Asia and was placed 150 out of 178 nations on the most recent United Nations Human Development Index, which ranks countries according to health, education and income.

Australia’s overall foreign aid budget has been slashed by 27 per cent in real terms since 2013 and now makes up just 0.82 per cent of federal government spending, an all-time low.

Despite those cuts, the Morrison government has pledged an Australian “step-up” in the Pacific and aid spending in that region was lifted to a record $1.4 billion in 2019-20. The policy shift came amid fears of growingChinese influence on Australia's doorstep.

Professor Stephen Howes, an expert on Australia’s aid programme at the Australian National University, said it was a “national embarrassment” that aid was being funnelled to the Pacific at the expense of effective development programmes in Pakistan. “No one could plausibly claim the need in the Pacific is greater than the need in Pakistan,” he said.

Last financial year Australia's aid to Pakistan provided food and cash transfers to over two million poor people affected by drought and internal displacement. It supported a further 1.2 million people in disadvantaged regions, helping them to gain access to justice, public services and business grants.

The government's decision to end bilateral aid to Pakistan is a marked shift from its priorities in 2015, when an official aid investment plan said Australia has “strong interests” in Pakistan because of its size and strategic position in the South Asia region.

The Morrison government’s aid budget summary released in April said “gender disparities are stark” in Pakistan and noted that "nine in 10 Pakistani women experience violence in their lifetime, among the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence."

Pakistan will continue to receive a small amount of Australian aid through "regionally and globally funded programs" such as scholarships to study at Australian universities. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia "will continue to work with Pakistan on areas of shared interest, including through trade and investment, community links, defence cooperation, human rights and gender equality, and regional security.”

While government to government aid will cease, Pakistan will continue to receive some Australian humanitarian and "regional" funding such as scholarships for study in Australia. This will total approximately $13.5 million in 2020-21.

Tim Costello, executive director of aid advocacy group Micah Australia, said the Morrison government was abandoning Pakistan. “We support the Pacific step-up but that should not come at the cost of aid to Pakistan,” he said. “Apart from lacking any humanitarian heart it is foolish in security terms.”

Australia’s bilateral development assistance to Pakistan peaked at $70 million in 2009 when the Rudd government was in office. Pakistan's neighbour Nepal has also been hit by cuts to Australia's aid. Bilateral assistance to Nepal will be 42 per cent lower in 2019-20 than the previous year.



Primary education to be imparted in Urdu: CM Usman Buzdar

December 3, 2019

LAHORE:Punjab Minister for Schools Education Murad Raas called on Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar at his office here Monday.

According to a handout, talking on this occasion, the chief minister regretted that education sector was not given importance during the last seven decades adding that new generation would be given a secure future through educational investment.

The chief minister said that primary level education would be imparted in Urdu language through ‘the new deal’ adding that far-reaching educational reforms were being introduced through this policy.

“The government is giving full attention to plug in educational drawbacks. Insaf Afternoon School programme is an innovative scheme to educate out-of-school children,” he added. He said 100 more schools were being established for such children and Insaf Afternoon School programme would prove harbinger of real change. Every possible effort will be made for the promotion of education as educating the children is the responsibility of the government. The revolutionary steps taken in education sector would lay the foundation of a new Pakistan. Meanwhile, the educational syllabus was being synchronised with the new requirements, he added.

patwar culture: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s ticket-holder and assembly members held meetings with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar at his office here Monday and discussed matters of mutual interest.

Talking on this occasion, the chief minister reiterated that the promise of changing archaic patwar culture would be fulfilled through Punjab Land Record Authority. The Punjab government has devised the digital solution of patwar culture and the service-level agreement between Punjab Land Record Authority and banks is an important milestone in this regard. He said that banks and other development finance institutions had been given a secure link of central database of digital land record.

Now, the farmers and other traders would easily get loans after banks’ verification. The banks would complete loan process after necessary verification of relevant documents and facility of providing print of ownership deed would be available at authorised branches of banks, he added. He said that digitalisation of centuries’ old revenue system would leave lasting impact. One crore pages of revenue record of 5.5 million land owners have been secured through digitalisation and the record of 23,000 revenue status can be checked online any moment.

He said that digitalisation of revenue record would also help to ease burden on courts along with decreasing disputes.

Usman Buzdar said that overseas Pakistanis would also be able to benefit from land record services from abroad. He added that special counters would be set up at Pakistani embassies in USA, UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia. He said that record of owners of commercial and residential flats in multi-storey buildings would also be compiled; 115 land record centres and 20 mobile van projects are being completed soon with an amount of Rs2 billion in the province, he added.

Usman Buzdar maintained that change was being brought in the province speedily adding that slogans of changing patwar culture were heard in the past but it was not improved. With the grace of Allah Almighty, the PTI government will change patwar culture, he added. Those who called on the chief minister included Aamir Dogar MNA, MPAs Ghazanfar Abbas, Khan Sher Akbar Khan, Kh Muhammad Daud Sulemani, Showana Bashir, Sabeen Gul Khan and PTI’s ticket-holder Abrar-ul-Haq. Chief Whip Syed Abbas Ali Shah and others were also present on this occasion.



South Asia


China may ban US officials from region with Muslim detainment camps

DEC 2 2019

China might ban all U.S. diplomatic passport-holders from entering the country’s western Xinjiang autonomous region, Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin said on Tuesday.

Hu said in a tweet that China is also considering visa restrictions against U.S. officials and lawmakers with “odious performance” on the Xinjiang issue, in retaliation to legislation being prepared by the U.S. Congress. He did not say how he had obtained the information.U.N. experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs, and members of other largely Muslim minority groups, have been detained in camps in the remote Xinjiang region. Top U.S. officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have criticized China publicly on the situation there.

China has denied mistreatment at the camps, which Beijing says provide vocational training to help eliminate religious extremism and teach new skills to people of the region. It has repeatedly demanded that U.S. and other foreign states critical of its policies in Xinjiang end their interference in China’s domestic affairs.



None will be allowed to lead lavish life with illegal money: PM

November 30, 2019

DHAKA, – Terming making money illegally ‘a disease’, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today warned that her government will not allow anybody to lead a lavish life with stolen money.

“Someone will lead a luxurious life with the illegally-earned money, while someone will suffer from miseries by leading an honest and simple life – it cannot be tolerated,” she told the inaugural function of triennial council of Dhaka North and South City units of Bangladesh Awami League at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan here this afternoon.

Sheikh Hasina, also the president of Bangladesh Awami League (AL), reaffirmed to continue her government’s ongoing drive against corruption, saying that the hard-earned money of the people will be spent for their welfare, not for leading lavish life by anybody.

“We’re continuing our drives against terrorism, militancy and narcotics … we’re also keeping up our drives against graft and these drives will go on. Because, the hard-earned money of the people will be spent for their welfare, not for leading a lavish life by anybody,” she said.

The prime minister said leading an honest and simple life is a matter of huge honour than having ‘biriyani’ and ‘pulau’ (rich food) and wearing brand clothes or other things through the illegal money.

“Those who make money illegally always think about the stolen money. Actually, it’s a disease … those, who once made money illegally, only wish to do the same. But those who earn money in the honest way could sleep in peace,” she said.

The AL president said the children of those who earn money illegally go to the wrong path, their studies are destroyed and they get addicted to drugs due to that money.

“The parents of these children have no time to look after their sons and daughters. They’ve no attention to the fact that their family is ruining … they’re continuing to run after money,” she said.

The premier continued: “We don’t want such a social condition … we want everybody to earn money in an honest way and move with honour.”

Sheikh Hasina said, for leading a lavish life, the people may applause verbally those who earn money illegally. “But the people actually will scold them from behind, saying that they’re corrupts and thieves,” she said.

While talking about the BNP’s demand for release of its chairperson, the prime minister said the case for which Khaleda Zia is serving jail is a corruption case, not a political one.

“The case was filed against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia for embezzling the orphans’ money and she is now in jail after being convicted in that case,” she said.

In this connection, the AL chief said many people want to give this case a political colour. “We didn’t lodge any case against her politically. But after coming to power in 2001, the BNP government sued me with 12 cases,” she said.

Referring to the unbridled terrorism, militancy, corruption and money laundering during the BNP-Jamaat regime from 2001-2006, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh was turned into a country of these social menaces at that time.

“Begum Khaleda Zia and her two sons had indulged in bribery and graft and it was disclosed in the FBI investigation, not only in our probe,” she said.

The prime minister said the BNP leader was convicted in the case filed by the caretaker government, and her beloved and close persons were in that government,” she said.

The prime minister said the BNP wanted to take the country towards destruction and ruin the Awami League. “The BNP worked in the way that Bangladesh can never rise,” she said.

Referring to the BNP-Jamaat mayhem in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in the name of movement, Sheikh Hasina said they killed people and destroyed buses, trucks launches, rails, CNG-run auto-rickshaws and public and private property through arson at that time.

“We bought articulated BRTC buses and new rail bogies. But BNP destroyed that buses and rail bogies by torching… we procure these on the one hand and the BNP set these on fire on the other hand,” she said.

She added: “They (BNP) know only destruction, not creation, they can inflict pain to the people, cannot give peace. But when the Awami League comes to power, it works for the welfare and development of the people.”

Pointing out severe crisis of water and electricity in the capital during the BNP-Jamaat government, the prime minister said the Awami League government after assuming office in 2009 solved the problems.

Sheikh Hasina also listed her government’s various steps for development of communication, education and healthcare in Dhaka city.

The prime minister said the country earned independence in exchange for blood of millions of martyrs. “So our work is to change the lot of the people and develop the country and we’re continuing this work … we want that our every leader and worker will build the country with that ideology,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said the country is advancing and will continue to move Insha Allah. “No more herd of hyenas could sit on the chest of the people of Bangladesh and suck their blood … no more corrupts, terrorists and those who burnt people to death could play ducks and drakes with the fate of the people – Insha Alllah,” she asserted.

Earlier, the prime minister opened the council of AL’s Dhaka North and South City units as the chief guest by hoisting the national flag as well as releasing pigeons and balloons.

AL General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader addressed the function as the special guest, while Dhaka North City AL President AKM Rahmatullah and General Secretary Sadeq Khan and Dhaka South City AL President Hazi Abul Hasnat and General Secretary Shahe Alam Murad also spoke.



German defense minister calls for extension of NATO mission in Afghanistan

Germany wants to extend its participation mandate in the current NATO mission in Afghanistan, the German defense minister said on Monday.

CDU party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is widely tipped as Chancellor Angela Merkel's successor, made the announcement as she visited German troops in Mazar-e Sharif.

"As things stand today, I would say that there is a great deal to suggest that the work we have begun, and which has not yet been completed, can be continued," she said during her visit.

"It's a long road. It's a difficult road, but we can still see that progress is being made today," she added.

Why are German troops in Afghanistan?

German troops are currently in Afghanistan under the NATO Resolute Support mission, which aims to foster peace and stability in the country. The current mandate runs out on March 31, 2020, but Kramp-Karrenbauer is now eager for German forces to remain longer.

Around 1,000 German troops are currently stationed at Camp Marmal, with several more hundred stationed elsewhere in Afghanistan.

Read more: Is Germany reassessing its role in Afghanistan?

US President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to US troops on Thanksgiving last week, as he announced that peace talks with the Taliban had reopened.

If these talks prove successful, they could lead to the withdrawal of many of the 16,000 NATO soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan, including the German forces.



North America


NATO summit toasts 70 years. But is it waving or drowning?

December 3, 2019

There will be plenty of applause when NATO leaders gather in London to celebrate seven decades of the most successful military alliance in history.

But with a French president who calls it “brain dead”, a Turkish leader who is attacking US allies and buying Russian weapons, and an American president who questions the entire premise of his superpower defending the West — the political future of NATO has rarely if ever seemed quite so dubious.

“The question is, as we celebrate 70 years, are we waving in celebration or do people think we are drowning?” said a senior European NATO diplomat.

Queen Elizabeth will host the leaders at Buckingham Palace. But even the British hosts, for generations the most enthusiastic champions of the trans-Atlantic partnership that NATO represents, are disunited over their project of quitting the EU and distracted by a rancorous election next week.

NATO’s chief Jens Stoltenberg argues that despite quarrels that have made headlines, the alliance is in fine health, having strengthened its capability to carry out its core mission of defending Europe following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“We are faced with a paradox,” Stoltenberg told Reuters. “Yes we have some differences, but the reality is that we are doing more together than for many years.”

Europe, Turkey and Canada will pledge $400 billion in defence spending by 2024, aiming to placate President Donald Trump who has long said US allies need to spend more on the collective defence.

Leaders will also agree a new 2021-2024 budget that reduces the US contribution to fund the alliance itself. They will approve a new strategy to monitor China’s growing military activity for the first time, and name space as a domain of warfare, along with air, land, sea and computer networks.

Still, allies with sore memories of a showdown with Trump at the last NATO summit in July 2018 will now also have to contend with two other presidents in attendance who have made NATO a foil: France’s Emmanuel Macron and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan.

Macron sent shivers through the alliance last month when he publicly questioned NATO’s central tenet that an attack on one member is an attack against all.

His frustration at a US troop withdrawal in Syria in October that set the stage for Turkey’s unilateral offensive into northern Syria prompted Macron to describe the alliance as “experiencing brain death”, as he decried a lack of strategy.

Erdogan is sticking to a policy to defeat Kurdish fighters in Syria that fought alongside the United States, even holding up approval of NATO military plans to defend the Baltics and Poland in protest. He has also defied his allies to buy Russian anti-aircraft missiles despite a threat of US sanctions.

Eastern Europeans are considering whether to confront Erdogan at the London gathering, one senior diplomat said, but they also need his support for dealing with Russia, which has developed new missiles capable of hitting Europe.

A Franco-German proposal would create a group of eminent figures to consider the alliance’s future political role, submitting a report by the next scheduled summit in late 2021.

Wariness of Russia may prove to be a unifying factor, diplomats said. Leaders will issue a statement condemning Moscow’s Crimea annexation and its military build-up, recommitting to the alliance’s collective defence pledge.



Donald Trump renews tariff threat against France over tech taxes

December 3, 2019

Written by Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson

The Trump administration said on Monday that a new French tax that hit American technology companies discriminated against the United States, a declaration that could lead to retaliatory tariffs of as high as 100% on French wines.

It could also jeopardize international efforts to negotiate a truce on so-called digital taxes.

The announcement from the Office of the US Trade Representative ended a monthslong investigation into the French tax, which hits companies like Facebook and Google even though they have little physical presence in France. The investigation concluded that the tax “discriminates against US companies, is inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy and is unusually burdensome for affected US companies.”

It recommended tariffs as high as 100% on certain French imports valued at $2.4 billion, including cheese, wine and handbags.

The administration suggested it could open similar investigations into digital taxes proposed by Italy, Austria and Turkey.

The finding does not immediately impose tariffs on French products such as wine, which was already hit with a 25% tariff in October in a separate dispute, but it allows the president to impose them if and when he chooses. It could also upend an effort led by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to unite 135 countries around a shared system of taxing technology companies and other multinational corporations, which leaders had hoped would come together in 2020.

An escalation of tensions between France and the United States would complicate any resolution to those negotiations.

The French government approved a new “digital service tax” this year on online economic activity, which would hit large US tech companies widely frequented by French citizens. French leaders have expressed concern that their government has not been able to capture revenue from companies that sell or advertise online in France, a concern that is shared by a growing number of countries, including Britain and India.

President Donald Trump’s trade representative responded to the French tax by opening the investigation into whether it unfairly targeted American companies. In July, the president threatened to impose tariffs on French wine as a response to the new tax.

But in August, French and US leaders reached a 90-day agreement to pause the dispute and allow multinational negotiations to proceed on an ambitious global agreement on taxes that would extend well beyond technology companies.

Those talks, which include an array of countries and multinational corporations, are making progress, said Bart le Blanc, an Amsterdam-based partner and tax adviser at the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm. But such an agreement would require countries like France to scrap their individual digital taxes, he said.

“There seems to be room for everybody to agree to this proposal,” le Blanc said, “if everything falls into place.”

While past administrations have treated European leaders as close economic allies, the Trump administration has taken a more adversarial approach. Trump has accused the Europeans of manipulating their currency and the terms of trade to export more goods to the United States than they import from it. He has threatened a variety of tariffs to block European goods from US markets.

In October, his administration slapped tariffs on French aircraft, wine and cheese and a range of other European products after the World Trade Organization gave the United States permission to impose levies on up to $7.5 billion of European exports annually. That decision was part of a long-running trade case about subsidies provided to the European plane-maker Airbus.

On Monday, the World Trade Organization issued another ruling saying that Europe’s efforts to reform its subsidies had been insufficient and that its aid to Airbus still ran afoul of global trade rules. In a statement, the Office of the US Trade Representative said it was starting a process to assess whether to increase its tariff rates or place levies on new European products.

The Trump administration has also considered other types of tariffs that do not have the approval of the World Trade Organization. Trump threatened to tax European cars, but chose to let a Nov. 13 deadline to impose those tariffs lapse last month.

Some in the administration have discussed opening a new investigation into European trade practices, under a legal authority known as Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, that could allow Trump to levy more tariffs, people familiar with the discussions said. That is the same sort of investigation that the administration conducted in the case of the French digital tax.

But there is no concrete sign that the administration has begun those machinations yet.



Belgian town sheds UNESCO status over anti-Semitism row

December 2, 2019

The northern Belgian town of Aalst has decided to withdraw its annual carnival from the UN cultural heritage list, saying it is fed up with allegations of anti-Semitism.

The town was widely condemned after one of the floats at its carnival parade in March featured offensive caricature depictions of Orthodox Jews with hooked-noses and sitting atop bags of money. UNESCO, the European Union and Jewish groups called the float anti-Semitic, with the EU saying it was reminiscent of the kind of caricatures disseminated in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

Aalst mayor Christoph D’Haese said Sunday that city officials “have had it a bit with the grotesque complaints” and no longer want the UNESCO designation.

“We are neither anti-Semitic nor racist. All those who support this are acting in bad faith. Aalst will always remain the capital of mockery and satire,” he said in a statement quoted by Belga news agency.

Aalst’s carnival is a 600-year-old tradition that attracts tens of thousands of people each year. The celebration is famous for its provocative and satirical parade floats, which often poke fun at celebrities, as well as religious and political leaders.

D’Haese said it was not up to him to police humor, adding that it was “unavoidable” that there would be more Jewish ridicule at next year’s carnival.

“We are on a very dangerous slippery slope when people will be able to decide what can be laughed at,” he said.

Hans Knoop of the Belgian Forum of Jewish Organizations told The Associated Press that renouncing the UNESCO cultural heritage tag shouldn’t clear the way for similar displays of anti-Semitism in the future.

“They are not at liberty to spew any more anti-Semitic dirt,” he said. “We will keep a close eye on Aalst.”

It’s not the first time the town’s carnival has drawn controversy. In 2013, revelers dressed as Nazi SS officers marched in the parade alongside a float that resembled a Nazi railway wagon used to transport Jews to death camps.

The three-day festival, which takes place ahead of Roman Catholic Lent, was given heritage status by UNESCO in 2010.

The UN body was expected to decide at a December 12 meeting in Bogota, Colombia, whether to strip Aalst of its Intangible Cultural Heritage designation.



New Zealand


Image by Christchurch photographer among world's best photos of year

Dec 03 2019

An image by a Stuff photographer capturing the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attacks has been named as one of the world's best photos of the year.

Stacy Squires took the photograph of imam Alabi Lateef, a survivor with blood stained clothes, emerging through the cordon from the Linwood Mosque shooting on March 15.

Another mosque-goer stands behind him, with a small group gathered around the red police tape at the cordon.

The photo by Squires, who is based in Christchurch, was featured in the CNN website's News category, celebrating the most "eye-catching" pictures of the year titled "2019: The year in review".

The photo was first featured on the front page of The Press newspaper the day after the attacks, where 51 people died and dozens more were injured.

The volunteer imam earlier said he was in the middle of prayers when he saw the gunman outside the mosque.

"I stopped my prayer, I peeked through the window, and I saw the person with a machine gun, heavily dressed. By the time I looked on the ground and saw dead bodies I thought this is something else, this is a terrorist."

Another photograph made internationally famous after being projected on the world's tallest building – an 829-metre-tall skyscraper in Dubai – of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugging a woman at the Kilbirnie Mosque, was also featured.

The image, captured by Wellington photographer Hagen Hopkins for Getty Images, was taken two days after the mosque attacks and beamed onto buildings worldwide with the Arabic word "salam" and its English translation, "peace".

At the time, Ardern received credit from commentators around the world for her handling of the tragedy. Two editorials by The New York Times were headlined "America deserves a leader as good as Jacinda Ardern", and "Jacinda Ardern leads by following no-one".

Other well-known images included a diver swimming next to a 6-metre Great White Shark, smoke and flames rising from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II with her new great-grandchild, Archie.




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