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Islamic World News ( 17 Feb 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Fight against Terror Can’t Become War against Islam: Germany


















Kellyanne Conway showed ‘a savage indifference to smearing all Muslim refugees as potential – even likely – terrorists’. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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Fight against Terror Can’t Become War against Islam: Germany

Pakistan Province Takes Further Action against Hafiz Saeed, Puts Anti-Terrorism Act Restraints on Him

ISIS Presence in India's Neighbourhood May Provide Cover to ISI Activities

Protesters outside Masjid Toronto Call for Ban on Islam As Muslims Pray Inside

 

Europe

Fight against Terror Can’t Become War against Islam: Germany

Angela Merkel Says Europe Must Take MORE Refugees and Islam 'Isn't Source of Terror'

Europe's Biggest Paper Ran A Bogus Refugee 'Sex Mob' Story. What Now?

At G-20 meet, India laments UN inability to define terrorism

Bosnia to appeal ruling clearing Serbia of genocide

Muslim Canadian MP Subjected to Death Threats Over Parliamentary Motion

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Pakistan

Pakistan Province Takes Further Action against Hafiz Saeed, Puts Anti-Terrorism Act Restraints on Him

Rulers Accused Of Pursuing ‘Good Taliban, Bad Taliban’ Policy

Unraveling the Mystery over ‘Muslim NATO’ Chief Raheel Sharif

Senate passes landmark Hindu marriage bill

Army attacks suspected militant hideouts near Pak-Afghan border

Punjab CM announces arrest of Lahore suicide blast 'facilitator'

Opposition unhappy with in-camera briefing on fresh wave of terror

China offers support to fight terrorism in Pakistan

Entire nation united against terrorism, reaffirmed to root out the menace of extremism

Security forces kill 3 terrorists in Dera Ismail Khan

Eliminate terrorists ‘wherever they are’: PM

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India

ISIS Presence in India's Neighbourhood May Provide Cover to ISI Activities

In ISI Code, ‘Cold’ is BSF, ‘Hot’ is ARMY and ‘RAIN’ is Air Force

Pakistani Sufi Cleric Will Have to Leave India, SC Says Courts Can’t Grant Visas

India’s Civil Code Conundrum: reflection of diversity or case for reform?

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North America

Protesters outside Masjid Toronto Call for Ban on Islam As Muslims Pray Inside

In Canada: Saying Islamic Terrorism Will Be Illegal

Canadians voice support for Muslims amid 'hatred' unleashed at Liberal MP

Pope Francis: ‘Muslim Terrorism Does Not Exist’

Europe warns US against hurting cohesion, favouring Russia

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South Asia

Bangladesh: Textbook Changes Violate Secular Rules, Critics Charge

IS Fighters Kill 18 Afghan Soldiers

Pakistan Army reportedly destroys JuA compound in Afghanistan

How a 13-year-old spread panic from TSC to Facebook

17 Afghan soldiers killed in Daesh attack in Nangarhar

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Southeast Asia

How One Islamist Party Could Sway Malaysia’s Election

We Need 'Solid Evidence' To Back India's Efforts to Ban Masood Azhar at UN: China

Malaysia: Hundreds of thousands expected to join mass rally calling for greater Syariah laws

Opposing Hadi’s Bill a violation of federal laws, non-Muslim MPs told

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Arab World

Russia Starts Rebuilding Syrian Army after 6 Years of War on Terrorism

Syrian Army Scores More Victories against ISIL in Eastern Aleppo

Syrian Air Force Launches Massive Airstrikes on Terrorists in Idlib

Syrian Army Engages in Fierce Clashes with Al-Nusra Front in Homs

Syria: ISIL Terrorists Withdraw from More Lands West of Ancient Palmyra

Terrorists Fail to Prevail over Syrian Gov't Forces' Positons in Quneitra

ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties in Syrian Army Attack in Deir Ezzur

Terrorists' Saudi Commander Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army in Dara'a

Aleppo: ISIL Centers Hit Hard in Russian Air Force' Strikes

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Mideast

Harsh Hezbollah Words Aim To Draw 'Red Lines' For Trump

Turkey Clearing Syria’s Al-Bab of Remaining ISIS Militant

Bomb kills at least five soldiers in Sinai

Saudi forces defend Yemen border, stop Houthi advance

Erdogan to Al Arabiya: We will eradicate terrorism with GCC support

Iran urges broad, global fight against terrorism

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Africa

Multiple Suicide Bombing Targets Nigerian Refugees, Boko Haram Blamed

Central African Republic: Rival Rebel Groups Kill CAR Civilians

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/fight-against-terror-can’t-become-war-against-islam--germany/d/110126

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Fight against Terror Can’t Become War against Islam: Germany

February 18, 2017

MUNICH - Germany’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Friday that the international campaign against terrorism including the Islamic State organisation must not become a general war against Muslims and Islam.

“We should be careful that this fight (against terror) does not become a front against Islam and Muslims. Otherwise we run the risk of digging ourselves into a deeper grave in which violence and terror only grow further. Rather, it is right to seek partnership with like-minded Muslim and Arab nations,” she said.

In a hard-hitting speech at the Munich Security Conference against President Donald Trump’s administration, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen urged the United States not to take transatlantic ties for granted.

“Our American friends know well that your tone on Europe and NATO has a direct impact on the cohesion of our continent,” the German minister told the Munich Security Conference.

“A stable European Union is also in America’s interest, as is a strong and unified NATO,” she said.

Trump’s praise for Britain’s decision to quit the EU, his criticism of NATO, and his softer approach towards Russia have rattled allies, prompting them to seek assurances from his lieutenants on whether long-standing American policies have indeed been scrapped. In a bid to calm jittery partners, the White House has dispatched top generals to Europe this week.

Vice President Mike Pence is due to address the Munich conference Saturday, a day after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis affirmed to the same forum that the bond between Europe and America is the “strongest bulwark” against instability and violence.

“I am confident that we will strengthen our partnerships, confronting those who choose to attack innocent people or our democratic processes and freedoms,” he told the gathering of security and defence experts.

Separately in Bonn where foreign ministers of G20 nations closed a two-day meeting, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made short, brief statements in which he stuck close to conventional foreign policy, including on North Korea and Russia.

With the White House embroiled in controversy over its ties to the Kremlin, Tillerson was cautious in his dealings with Moscow, despite Trump’s pledges to take for closer ties. Following his first sitdown with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday, Tillerson said the US sought cooperation with Moscow only when doing so “will benefit the American people”. In Munich, Germany’s defence minister cautioned the US against taking transatlantic ties for granted, pointing out that its allies should not be put on the same footing as Russia.

“There cannot be a policy of equi-distance to allies and to those who openly question our values, our borders and international law,” she said.

While pursuing a reliable relationship with Russia as a whole, allied nations must not be “going above partners’ heads in bilateral negotiations,” she added.

Von der Leyen reminded Washington of core values that all NATO members have signed up to.

“That never leaves any room for torture. It requires us to prevent causing any civilian victims and it means giving protection to those who are in need.”

She also took aim at Trump’s move to ban migrants from majority-Muslim nations.

Although the initial decree to block people from seven mainly Muslim nations from entering the United States was scrapped as it fell foul of the law, Trump has said he is considering drafting a new order.

“We should be careful that this fight (against terror) does not become a front against Islam and Muslims,” said von der Leyen.

“Otherwise we run the risk of digging ourselves into a deeper grave in which violence and terror only grow further. Rather, it is right to seek partnership with like-minded Muslim and Arab nations,” she said.

Since taking office Trump has said he fully backs NATO, but he spoke with disdain about the alliance while campaigning for election, calling it “obsolete.”

He has advocated waterboarding, repeatedly praised Putin and called for better cooperation with Russia, including in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Washington insisted Assad had to go as part of a political solution to end the fighting.

But Trump has called for closer cooperation with Moscow in the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria, downplaying the issue of Assad’s future.

With Russia’s sway in the conflict growing since it launched a military intervention in support of Assad’s regime, it has seized the initiative by brokering the fragile six-week-old truce on the ground and, this week, hosting separate peace talks in Kazakhstan along with Turkey.

Yet in a sign that the Trump administration will keep to existing policy, US allies said they won assurances from Tillerson that Washington backed a UN-brokered political solution to the Syria conflict, rather than the Kazakhstan talks.

A new round of United Nations-led talks is set to take place in Geneva on February 23 involving Syrian regime and rebel representatives.

http://nation.com.pk/international/18-Feb-2017/fight-against-terror-can-t-become-war-against-islam-germany

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Pakistan province takes further action against Hafiz Saeed, puts Anti-Terrorism Act restraints on him

Shailaja Neelakantan

Feb 18, 2017

NEW DELHI: Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed has finally been named under the country's Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) which puts major restrictions on all his movements, Dawn reported.

On Islamabad's orders, Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed, has been put on the ATA's fourth schedule by Pakistan's Punjab province, Dawn said, quoting a senior police official.

The fourth schedule, according to Dawn, is a section of the ATA under which a person suspected of terrorism is kept under observation. As per the schedule's norms, it also becomes mandatory for that person to register his attendance with the local police regularly.

The federal interior ministry, which ordered the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) to add Saeed's name to the ATA's fourth schedule, has directed it to "move and take necessary action" against him and four others, the senior police official told Dawn.

"The Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 empowers the government to mark a person as "proscribed", and to place that person on the fourth schedule on an ex-parte basis," Dawn wrote. The five men were identified by the interior ministry as "active members of the Jamaat-ud- Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat".

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-province-takes-further-action-against-hafiz-saeed-puts-anti-terrorism-act-restraints-on-him/articleshow/57217742.cms

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ISIS presence in India's neighbourhood may provide cover to ISI activities

Feb 18 2017

India may not be having a direct physical threat from ISIS itself, but if the extremist outfit's foothold gets stronger in Afghanistan, neighbouring Pakistan's ISI may well act behind their cover.

''It is the ISI which would be taking advantage of the spread of ISIS tentacles towards South Asia,'' highly- placed sources told UNI.

So far, only a miniscule number of India's minority youth had been influenced by the Islamic state propaganda and it was very unlikely that the extremist West Asian organisation could get a direct foothold in India. ''But our main concern is the ISI striking in India in the name of ISIS,'' the sources said.

Attempts by these extremist groups have by and large failed to wean away the Indian Muslim youth to any radical ideologies.

According to intelligence sources, so far, there was no presence of ISIS in India on the ground.

However, in view of the increasing threat of these forces in West Asia and in the more immediate neighbourhood, the Government has turned its attention to promoting a more moderate version of Islam as represented by Sufism.

It was as part of this project that India last year hosted the World Sufi conference, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The conference was conceptualised and organised by very senior members of the team that works at a very high level to devise counter-terror strategies.

The team has been assigned the task of liaising with West Asian countries in counter-terror cooperation.

Thursday's blast in Karachi at the Dargah of sufi saint Shahbaz Qalandar has once again highlighted the ISIS threat to a version of Islam as propounded by sufis.

Indian Muslims are being eyed by these forces, as the country has roughly 180 million Muslims, who are 11 per cent of the global Muslim population, which is the biggest population of the community in the world except Indonesia and Pakistan.

''ISIS many not be having any active ground presence as of now but some incidents like that which happened a few years ago in Kerala in which a Professor's hands were chopped by extremists should sound an alarm bell for us. Both state and civil society abdicated,'' Director, Society For Policy Studies, Commodore C Uday Bhasklar C Uday said.

''The extremists are against the moderate and tolerant interpretation and practice of Islam as represented by sufis, and that is why they have targeted the dargah of Shabaz Qalandar.'' ''The fact that this is perhaps the only Dargah in Pakistan where women can also participateand some of them join the dhamalis a red rag for ideology which is deeply misogynistic,'' Mr Bhaskar said.

Full report at:

http://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/India/20170218/3059018.html

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Protesters outside Masjid Toronto call for ban on Islam as Muslims pray inside

Feb 17, 2017

More than a dozen people gathered outside a mosque in the heart of downtown Toronto with loudspeakers and banners in hand, shouting slogans about banning Islam as Muslims gathered to pray inside.

The protest happened Friday outside Masjid Toronto on Dundas Street West near University Avenue.

The shouting was so loud that Tera Goldblatt, who works on the 21st floor in a nearby building, said she could hear it from inside her office.

When she came down to see what was going on, she said, she saw some 15 people screaming, some blocking the path of those trying to enter the mosque.

"The response from the people who were trying to get inside was very sort of 'Oh well, they're entitled to their opinion' and 'Oh well, I guess that's just part of life,'" Goldblatt said.

"And it makes me really angry because that's not part of life and it's not freedom of speech. It's awful and hateful and it shouldn't be allowed."

'It's very upsetting'

Mohamed Abdi, a member of the mosque, said it's the first time he's seen such a strong backlash against his religion.

"I was under the assumption that lately there's been a lot of sentiment and positivity towards the Muslim communities, especially with recent events," Abdi said. "It's very upsetting that this did happen."

Bryant Greenbaum also witnessed the protest. "You don't do it in front of a place of worship on the holiest day of the week for Muslim people, and in an intimidating manner," he told CBC Toronto.

Mayor John Tory and city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam sent tweets condemning the protest.

In an email, Toronto police Const. Jenniferjit Sidhu said police will investigate possible hate crimes if an official complaint is reported.

'Islam is hate'

A protester carrying a sign with a list of women's names — victims of alleged honour killings — told CBC Toronto she was protesting Islam because when Muslim immigrants come to Canada "they don't want to follow the law of the country." 

Another woman gathered at the downtown mosque to challenge M-103, a House of Commons motion to condemn Islamophobia and track incidents of hate crime against Muslims.

Full report at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/anti-muslim-protest-masjid-toronto-1.3988906

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Pakistan

 

Rulers accused of pursuing ‘good Taliban, bad Taliban’ policy

February 18, 2017

KARACHI - Religious parties on Friday held demonstrations in response to the wave of coordinated terrorist attacks across the country.  Speakers at the rallies strongly condemned the terrorist attacks and demanded implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) to curb the menace of terrorism in Pakistan.

It’s worth mentioning here that more than 100 people, including media persons and policemen, were killed in the recent terror attacks in the capital cities of four provinces – Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar – and Sehwan Sharif.

According to details, Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) observed a peaceful strike across the Sindh province while demonstrations were held outside the Jamia Masjid Noor-e-Iman in Nazimabad, Jamia Masjid Hussani in Malir, Jamia Masjid Hassan Mujtaba in Gulshan-e-Maymar, Jamia Masjid Jaffaria in New Karachi and other places.

Addressing the demonstrations, MWM leaders said that nine deadly attacks during the last five days put a big question mark on the performance of the government and law enforcement agencies (LEAs). They said that rulers had been making tall claims for long, but failed to take any solid action against the banned outfits, which were operating freely across the country. Rulers themselves were the main hurdle in the way of action against terrorists, as they were providing shelter to these elements in line with their ideology of good and bad Taliban, they added.

They said that internationally recognised terrorist organisations had made Pakistan their next target and were using the platform of various banned outfits present in the country to achieve their nefarious agenda. Terming the situation alarming, they demanded that the government and security agencies initiate crackdown on the facilitators and those providing assistance to the ISIS. They also urged the rulers to take the religious parties on board the issues relating to terrorism and execute the verdicts of military courts.

Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST) leaders, addressing the demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC), demanded that the government launch operation in interior Sindh and Punjab province under the supervision of the paramilitary force, Rangers.

It is deplorable that terrorists targeted Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine, they said, adding that terrorists by carrying out such nefarious acts could not abolish the creed of humanity and peace. Expressing concerns over a lack of security at the shrines, they said that provincial rulers allocated budget for the Auqaf Department, but deputed only a few security personnel to safeguard the shrines.

Addressing a demonstration in Kharadar, Shia Ulema Council leaders condemned the bomb attack at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine and slammed the Sindh government for its failure to provide security to citizens. They demanded stern punishment for terrorists and strict implementation of death penalty against them.

Closing the shrines for the public is not the solution, as it should be considered a complete failure of the rulers, said SUC leaders. They demanded foolproof security of the shrines. They demanded that the government form an inquiry committee to probe the Sehwan attack.

http://nation.com.pk/karachi/18-Feb-2017/rulers-accused-of-pursuing-good-taliban-bad-taliban-policy

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Unraveling the mystery over ‘Muslim NATO’ chief Raheel Sharif

By Ehtesham Shahid

18 February 2017

For most analysts and watchers of Pakistan, the appointment of General Raheel Sharif as head of the Saudi-led military coalition continues to be shrouded in mystery. They either see little progress since the announcement or cannot comprehend what it really entails.

Despite the skepticism, General Sharif heading the 39-nation Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) is being seen as a step in the right direction. Observers believe this has been in the works for some time and that Pakistan, despite occasional turbulence in its relations with the Arab world, continues to be in the scheme of things, definitely at a military level.

Arshi Saleem, a leading security analyst in Pakistan, says the announcement generated a lot of discussion and debate in the country. “It is still not confirmed because the way system works here, his appointment needs to be endorsed by the government,”, she says.

According to her, the government’s still sees it as a proposal and will decide keeping in view the best interest of the country. Anyways, there has been no official statement on his appointment from the military sources.

Army protocol

“Once a military official retires there is a certain period during which he cannot accept any position because of the sensitivity attached to his work. Especially being army chief, he is privy to a lot of state information related to security,” says Saleem.

According to her, it is still not clear whether this would be more of an advisory and planning position or actually commanding forces on the ground. “It seems if at all he accepts the position, it may be more of an adviser than commander leading the forces,” she says.

Kamran Bokhari, Vice President of Middle Eastern & South Asian Affairs at Stratfor, US, admits there is very little in the way of available details. “It is very difficult to say with any degree of certainty beyond some basic geopolitical realities that are shaping this,” he says.

According to him, either way there are limits to how far Islamabad is willing to be part of this venture. “At best the Pakistanis are willing to offer retired personnel. Gen Sharif is also the most popular general that the Pak army has produced in decades, which means his decision to lead this military alliance will not be as controversial on the home front,” says Bokhari.

Work in progress

Defense analyst Awad Mustafa chooses to look beneath the headlines. He says the alliance against terrorism has been built on the 2015 plan to create an Arab League quick intervention force also dubbed as the "Arab NATO".

“The Arab NATO plan was set to be an air, naval and land operation force large enough to intervene in major operations but also specialized enough to conduct special operations tasks against terrorist organizations”, says Mustafa.

According to him, Sharif’s appointment is the first key step to establishing the force and establishing the communication format between all the members. “Currently the only members experienced in coalition combat would be the GCC states. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE have all been working together in Yemen and regularly exercise as well,” he says.

This is also not the first effort at coalition-building in this part of the world. The Northern Thunder exercise, for instance, brought forces from Turkey, Sudan, Jordan and other members establishing a link between their forces.

By the look of things, Gen Sharif would have to build on this platform but also build a political structure to facilitate future operations.

“Gen Sharif’s experience in the provision of unconventional warfare training to the Pakistani forces - shown by the counter-insurgency operations he led against Tehrik-i-Taliban (Pakistani Taliban) militants - is a clear example of his leadership prowess and why he is the right choice to set up the IMAFT structure,” says Mustafa.

A strategic relationship

Riad Kahwaji, Founder/CEO, Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), says Sharif’s pick will possibly get Pakistan more involved in this coalition. This is where geo-strategic realities begin to surface and probably also explains the slow progres.

“Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a long-term strategic relationship on many levels and this coalition will be another pillar solidifying their partnership,” he says.

According to him, Pakistan being the only Muslim nuclear power, makes a logical choice to provide the founding leadership of this coalition, which so far remains a virtual alliance. “We have seen so far declaration of intent to form this entity and heard others interested in joining. Now it is time to see it come together,” he says.

Kahwaji believes that, at this stage, General Sharif will have to lay out the military strategies and the process of establishing the coalition’s command and structure.

“More important is to see the financial backing and the seriousness of the member states to contribute manpower and resources necessary to create the co-called Muslim NATO,” says Kahwaji.

The quartet?

The move is also being positively viewed in Turkey, which is being forced into conflicts in the Middle East. This also adds another layer to the posibilities such alliances may throw up.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2017/02/18/The-mystery-surrounding-the-head-of-Muslim-NATO-.html

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Senate passes landmark Hindu marriage bill

KALBE ALI

February 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Hindu community is set to have a personal law for the first time as the Senate on Friday unanimously passed ‘The Hindu Marriage Bill 2017’.

The bill — appro­ved by the National Assem­bly on Sept 26, 2015 — is likely to get presidential assent next week to become a law.

The bill will mainly help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage. It will be the first personal law for Pakistani Hindus, applicable in Punjab, Balo­chis­tan and Khyber Pakhtun­khwa. Sindh has already formulated its own Hindu marriage law.

The bill presented in the Senate by Law Minister Zahid Hamid faced no opposition or objection. It was mainly due to the considerate and sympathetic views expres­sed by the senators and the MNAs of all political parties in the relevant standing committees. The bill was approved by the Senate Functional Com­mittee on Human Rights on Jan 2 with an overwhelming majority. However, Senator Mufti Abdul Sattar of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl had opposed the bill, claiming that the Constitution was vast enough to cater for such needs.

While approving the bill, committee chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had announced: “This was unfair — not only against the principles of Islam but also a human rights violation — that we have not been able to formulate a personal family law for the Hindus of Pakistan.”

Senators Aitzaz Ahsan, Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini and Sitara Ayaz, while supporting the bill, had said it related to the marriage of Hindus living in Pakistan and had nothing to do with Muslims.

Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who had been working relentlessly for three years to have a Hindu marriage law in the country, expressed gratitude to the parliamentarians.

“Such laws will help discourage forced conversions and streamline the Hindu community after the marriage of individuals,” he said, adding that it was difficult for married Hindu women to prove that they were married, which was one of the key tools for miscreants involved in forced conversion.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1315482/senate-passes-landmark-hindu-marriage-bill

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Army attacks suspected militant hideouts near Pak-Afghan border

NAVEED SIDDIQUI

February 18, 2017

The Pakistan Army on Friday night reportedly attacked suspected militant hideouts close to the Pak-Afghan border, DawnNews reported.

The army attacked the alleged training camp of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar located near the Pak-Afghan border and reportedly destroyed the compound and four other hideouts of suspected terrorists.

The military action was reportedly carried out near the Pak-Afghan border in areas adjacent to Mohmand and Khyber Agency.

The training camp of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar deputy commander Adil Bacha was reportedly destroyed in the attack and suspected militants were also killed, DawnNews reported quoting sources, however, these claims could not be independently verified.

The development comes hours after the Inter-Services Public Relations announced that the security forces have been given special orders to maintain strict vigilance all along the Pak-Afghan border.

“The border has been closed since last night due to security reasons. No cross-border or unauthorised entry will be allowed into Pakistan from Afghanistan,” read the ISPR statement.

It is pertinent to mention that it was Jamaat-ul-Ahrar which claimed responsibility for the repeated acts of terrorism across Pakistan in the past few days.

Earlier in the day, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa called US General John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, and said that continued acts of terrorism in Pakistan from Afghanistan are testing the current policy of cross border restraint.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1315397/army-attacks-suspected-militant-hideouts-near-pak-afghan-border

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Punjab CM announces arrest of Lahore suicide blast 'facilitator'

February 18, 2017

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, while addressing a press conference in Lahore on Friday, claimed that the suspects involved in planning and carrying out the Feb 13 suicide bombing on a protest at Lahore's Charing Cross belonged to Afghanistan.

During the conference, Sharif also announced the arrest of an alleged facilitator of the attacker, who he said belonged to Fata's Bajaur Agency, which neighbours Afghanistan.

The suspect's confessional statement was aired during the briefing.

The suspect introduced himself as Anwar-ul-Haq, and said he hailed from a remote village in Bajaur Agency.

“I was associated with Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and they trained me,” said the suspect, adding that he has visited Afghanistan around 15 to 20 times.

Shahbaz Sharif urged Afghan residents residing in Pakistan to call out any person they find suspicious.

He said Pakistan had hosted Afghan migrants for more than 30 years, but some of them seemed to have turned their backs on the country.

"Please consider us your brothers and turn those you think are nefarious," he appealed.

Sharif voiced strong support for reviving military courts in the briefing, saying a lot of credit for curbing terrorism successfully in Pakistan went to them.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1315347/punjab-cm-announces-arrest-of-lahore-suicide-blast-facilitator

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Opposition unhappy with in-camera briefing on fresh wave of terror

IFTIKHAR A. KHAN

February 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Expressing complete dissatisfaction over an in-camera briefing by Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rahman on the fresh wave of terror across the country, the opposition in the Senate on Friday demanded convening of another in-camera session for a detailed and substantive briefing.

Informed sources told Dawn that after the in-camera session, opposition members said that they found nothing new in the briefing and that some crucial questions, including the one about the presence of the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Pakistan, remained unanswered.

A participant of the session quoted Mr Rahman as saying that the IS had claimed responsibility for the Sehwan shrine attack and that investigation with respect to facilitators of the attacker was going on. He said three senators — Saleh Shah, Sassui Palejo and Mir Kabir — asked if the IS had pre­­­sence in Pakistan, but the minister could not give an appropriate response.

Mr Rahman was quoted as saying that the fresh spate of terrorism was unacceptable and that the state and its institutions were vigorously pursuing the mission to stamp out the menace in all its forms and manifestations. He said that out of the four incidents taken place on Feb 13 and Feb 15, the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and one of its factions had claimed responsibility for the two. He said Jamaat-ul-Ahrar had claimed responsibility for the Lahore incident, while the TTP for the Peshawar incident.

A member of the Senate said that the only disclosure in the briefing was the arrest of teenagers in Lahore and Peshawar on suspicion of terrorism.

He said Mr Rahman informed the house that threat alerts had been issued after some important arrests. He said that a few kids aged between 10 and 12 had been arrested in Lahore who during interrogation had revealed a plan of attack on the Kamran boys school at Abdali chowk in the city. He said a threat alert issued on the basis of this information helped avert a disastrous terror attack.

He said that three children of 15 years old had been arrested in Peshawar on Jan 31. He claimed that they had links with Lashkar-i-Islam and they also disclosed a plan for attacks on schools. He said a facilitator, Yasin Qambar Khel Afridi, was in Afghanistan. He said a terror threat in Quetta had also been issued after extracting information from some arrested terrorists.

During the briefing, some senators talked about the role of external forces in terrorist activities in Pakistan. They said it was an open secret that terrorists were operating from Afghanistan with the support of India and other enemies.

The only excuse with Mr Rahman for an unsatisfactory briefing was that all these incidents were fresh and it took time to gather relevant information. It was finally decided that the minister would give another in-camera briefing soon. He was asked by Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani to come prepared next time.

Earlier during the regular session, the opposition staged a walkout from the house as a mark of protest against absence of the minister concerned when a few senators sought to move an adjournment motion to discuss the US travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries by the Trump administration.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1315527/opposition-unhappy-with-in-camera-briefing-on-fresh-wave-of-terror

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China offers support to fight terrorism in Pakistan

February 18, 2017

BEIJING: Condemning the Sehwan terrorist attack, China on Friday offered its support to Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

“We express deep condolences to the victims and sincere sympathies to the injured and the bereaved,” said spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1315516/china-offers-support-to-fight-terrorism-in-pakistan

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Entire nation united against terrorism, reaffirmed to root out the menace of extremism

18-Feb-17

KARACHI: Entire nation is united against terrorism and will fight against all coward attacks till the eradication of the menace of extremism from the country.

Leaders from different political parties have condemned the coward suicide attacks in different cities of the country on the innocent people and the holy shrine of Lal Shabaz Qalendar. They reaffirmed the commitment to root out the menace of extremism from the country.

Secretary General of Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) Waqar Medhi along with the PPP leader Rashid Rabbani visited the injured of Sehwan suicide victims at the Trauma Center of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) on Friday.

They condemned the yesterdays attack on the holy shrine of Lal Shabaz Qalendar. Waqar criticized the federal interior minister's non-serious attitude regarding the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) in its true spirit.

He termed that the federal interior minister is the biggest hurdle in implementing NAP.

Sindh government has seriously implemented the NAP and the federal government is not playing its due role in implementing it, he claimed.

PPP legislators, workers and leaders were looking after the injured of Lal Shabaz Qalendar shrine round the clock on the directions of former president Asif Ali Zardari. Our workers are present in all those hospitals were the injured are being brought for treatment, he added. PPP leader Rashid Rabbani asked the people of the province to cooperate with the law enforcing agencies to root-out terrorism.

Meanwhile, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP organised Quran Khawani for victims of all those who died in Lahore, Sehwan, Quetta and Peshawar incident and offered fateha for the departed souls. They also prayed for the early recovery of injured people.

PSP President Anis Qaimkhani, Raza Haroon, Wasim Aftab also condemned the attacks.

The Amir of Central body of Jammat Ahle-Hadith, Mufti Yousuf Kasuri has also condemned the coward attacks in different cities of the country.

Full report at:

http://dailytimes.com.pk/sindh/18-Feb-17/entire-nation-united-against-terrorism-reaffirmed-to-root-out-the-menace-of-extremism

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Security forces kill 3 terrorists in Dera Ismail Khan

February 18, 2017

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: In a clash between security forces and terrorists, today, at least three terrorists were killed near Golachi road.

According to sources, the operation was conducted after receiving intel about the location of the terrorists hideout.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/18-Feb-2017/security-forces-kill-3-terrorists-in-dera-ismail-khan

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Eliminate terrorists ‘wherever they are’: PM

February 18, 2017

SEHWAN - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday said terrorists would be countered with full force, urging the army to eliminate them wherever they are.”

According to a PM House statement, he said this while chairing a meeting in the aftermath of the horrific bomb blast at the shrine of sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.

He was briefed by the Sindh chief secretary about the tragic incident in which 88 people were killed and 343 injured of whom 76 are in serious condition.

The prime minister said Pakistan had been fighting a war for its identity since its inception. “In the pursuit of peace and prosperity, every state in history has faced opposition from those who have wished to take them to primitive and barbaric roots,” he said.

The prime minister said: “For the past many years, we have been fighting the enemies from within and those abroad. We have faced dark days in our history. However, we have always come through with a resilience that has been an inspiration for the world.”

“It is time for us to unite and fight the radicals wherever they may be whether inside or coming from outside, and I direct and authorise my armed forces and law-enforcement agencies to eliminate the enemy wherever they are with the full force of the state.” He termed it an obligation towards future generations and others facing oppression.

“We must hold firm, but reject fear and renounce this depravity wherever we see it with a moral rebuke we reserve only for the most heinous,” the statement quoted the prime minister as saying.

“My administration will do its part in ensuring defeat to those who question our humanity, and the rights and liberties of our fellow countrymen,” the PM affirmed.

“This war will end and will conclude with the victory of our people and our positive values that bind us,” the prime minister said.

The meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

Earlier, the prime minister visited a hospital in Nawabshah and inquired after those injured in Thursday’s blast at Sehwan Sharif. He expressed profound solidarity with the victims. He was accompanied by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, National Security Adviser Nasir Janjua, Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Meanwhile, dozens of passionate devotees Friday staged protest against the suicide bomb blast and entered Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine by breaking barriers.

The protest erupted when a large number of people arrived at the mausoleum and became angry over closure of the gates. The security officers barred them from visiting the place after which they staged a demonstration and chanted slogans against the government.

While expressing a strong devotion, the activists broke barricades, entered the shrine and termed police responsible for Thursday’s blast in Sehwan Sharif that took lives of 88 people and left about 240 injured.

They said terrorism cannot crush their determination and that the mosques and worship places can never be closed.

Police later cordoned off the shrine. The centuries-old shrine's white floor was smeared with blood, scattered with shoes, shawls, and baby bottles.

At 3.30 am the shrine's caretaker stood among the carnage and defiantly rang its bell, a daily ritual that he vowed to continue, telling AFP he will "not bow down to terrorists".

Health officials said the number of people killed in the shrine blast had jumped to 88, including at least 20 children, making it the deadliest attack in Pakistan since a 2014 assault on a Peshawar school.

Pakistanis also vented their grief and fury at the bombings on social media and with small protests in some cities.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/18-Feb-2017/eliminate-terrorists-wherever-they-are-pm

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India

 

In ISI Code, ‘Cold’ is BSF, ‘Hot’ is ARMY and ‘RAIN’ is Air Force

February 18, 2017

Jodhpur: Suspected Pakistan spy Haji Khan, who was arrested earlier this month by the security agencies, had been using name of weathers as codeword for passing on information to ISI and other agencies about the movements of BSF, Army and Air Force, his interrogators have said. According to an intelligence source, he used the word cold for BSF, hot for Army and rain for the Air Force.

“When border surveillance by BSF would be stepped up, he would convey to the Pak agencies it was too cold and the same was the method for army and the air force,” the source said.

As per his disclosure earlier, he had been actively working for ISI and two other agencies for about past three years and has got about Rs 15 lakh from these agencies by way of deposits in his wife’s bank account in Pakistan or through hawala transaction to his cousin in Dubai.

“In order to extract information from the border guards or army soldiers, he would sit with them near the bordering areas and offer them milk and tea of goat milk,” said the source.

Security agencies have been interrogating Khan since he was caught in Kishangarh in Jaisalmer district on February 11.

Full report at:

http://www.siasat.com/news/isi-code-cold-bsf-hot-army-rain-air-force-1134268/

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Pakistani Sufi Cleric Will Have to Leave India, SC Says Courts Can’t Grant Visas

Feb 18, 2017

A Pakistani Sufi cleric’s plea to extend his and his wife’s visa was on Friday declined by the Supreme Court, which told him that it was not for courts to grant or reject visas.

A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra refused to get drawn into Syed Waseem Ur Rehman’s submission that Sufism faced serious threats from Islamist terrorists in Pakistan where around 100 people died in a suicide bomb blast on Thursday.

Rehman and his wife Sayeda Saima Waseem Ur Rehman had moved the SC against the government’s decision to let him stay in India. The couple has been living in Mumbai since 2010 and working as ‘sajjadanashin’ (caretaker) of a Sufi shrine in Mumbai.

Their counsel, senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, said there were no adverse reports against her clients during their seven-year stay in India.

She urged the court to show a humane approach towards the couple, an argument the court was not inclined to accept. The bench said it was for the government to take such decisions.

Arora’s request to direct the authorities to consider the petitioners’ visa applications “compassionately” and extend their visas for 10 days was also declined.

The couple approached the top court after the Bombay High Court gave no relief.

Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar opposed their petition on behalf of the Centre before the SC. He said the petitioners had given an undertaking before the Bombay high court to leave the country, but instead they moved the top court.

The HC on February 3 had dismissed their plea against the November 11, 2016 order of the foreigner regional registration officer in Mumbai that refused to extend their visas without assigning any reasons.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pakistani-sufi-cleric-will-have-to-leave-india-sc-says-courts-can-t-grant-visas/story-iZo7zyRpkSOxc9XebvETNN.html

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India’s Civil Code Conundrum: reflection of diversity or case for reform?

18 Feb 2017

India is a land of many religions, castes, communities and their consequent customs and codes of conduct termed as civil codes or personal laws, which have evolved over centuries of mutual co-existence in the country. The various codes followed by different communities have been sought to be unified in the form of a Uniform Civil Code by an authority no less than the Constitution of India under Section 44 of its Directive Principles. In recent times, India’s Supreme Court has been called upon to revise some of these civil codes in a march towards a Uniform Civil Code, which, in its most recent pronouncement, the Honourable Court has refused to dwell upon.

Ancient India

Ancient India’s civil codes are believed to have evolved through many centuries from the Vedas, which were seen as the first form of divinely ordained laws. However, a set of formal laws evolved from them as a branch (Vedanga) initially for elaborating proper conduct of rituals and procedures. These further evolved into manuals for conducting domestic rituals (Grahya Sutras) and finally into manuals for ethical human conduct called the Dharmasutras. A number of authorities developed different manuals termed collectively as Dharmasutras from the sixth to the second century BCE. However, only the work of four jurists viz Gautama, Baudhayana, Vashista and Aapastamba have survived as manuscripts. These manuals were in poetic form and finally evolved into verse forms called Dharmashastras or Smritis of the four surviving Smritis, that of Manu called Manu Smriti or Manava Dharma Shastra, probably formed the basis of Hindu laws from 2nd century CE onwards, though they were never formally codified as laws. Manu Smriti is presented as a set of sermons by Manu and Bhrigu on human duties, rights, laws, virtues and other aspects of ethics as applied to various sections of the Hindu society.

The only secular ancient Indian text which deals with the practical aspects of ancient Indian laws is the Arthashastra, purportedly written by Chanakya, the Chief Minister of Chandragupta Maurya. The later period of Indian History saw the rise of commentaries on Dharmashastras by new authorities, two of these, Mitakshara — a treatise on Yajnavalkya Smriti by Vijnaneswara, a courtier of the Karnataka ruler, Chalukya Vikramaditya VI, and Dayabhaaga — a treatise on inheritance by Jimutavahana, a Sanskrit scholar for 12th century Bengal. These two works became the influential basis of Hindu laws on inheritance during the British period.

Medieval India

The conquest of India by Islamic rulers, both foreign and home-grown dynasties did not affect the laws of Hindu society but introduced the Islamic Shari’a for India’s Muslim citizens.

The Sharia evolved in the wider Islamic world from the eighth century onwards through interpretations of various jurists of the different passages in the Holy Quran and the Hadiths (the sayings and incidents in the life of Prophet Muhammad compiled by authorities after his death). The Sharia was, however, presented as the Holy Law by the Muslim clergy, and the Ulema (learned ones) while its human interpretations were deemed as Fiqhs.

Four major schools of Fiqh thought arose in the Sunni Islamic world under four jurists namely Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi’i.

In the Indian sub-continent, the Hanafi school of thought named after Abūanīfa an-Nu‘man ibn Thābit (d. 767), gained ground and became the basis of its Islamic laws. The implementation orders of the Fiqh by the Ulema or Islamic law officers, the Qazis were termed as Fatwahs.

Indian Sultans and the Mughals later did not impose the Sharia laws strictly keeping some space for customary beliefs under the system of Hiyal which was used to accept some laws not strictly acceptable according to the Sharia; Sharia laws were not applied to the Hindus who were left to their own courts. The Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb appointed a board of Sunni Ulema to compile a set of governing laws based on Hanafi laws between 1664 and 1672 which were termed as the Fatwa-i-Alamgiri which gave direction to the laws of later Muslims especially in the colonial period.

Colonial India

“That in all suits regarding inheritance, marriage, caste and other religious usages or institutions, the law of the Koran with respect to Mahometans, and those of the Shaster with respect to Gentoos shall be invariably be adhered to.” — Warren Hastings, August 15, 1772.

The British first encountered the various laws of India when they were appointed as official representatives of the Mughal Emperor for collecting the Diwani rights of Bengal and Orissa in 1765. The initial British approach to personal laws of both Muslims and Hindus termed as the Anglo-Muslim and Anglo-Hindu Laws sought the easy way of referring these matters to the medieval sources of the Muslims like the Fatwa-i-Alamgiri and in case of Hindus, the Manu Smriti (translated by Orientalist, William Jones) and extracts from the Dharmashastras (translated by Henry T. Coolebrooke).

However, later, British administrators especially Lord Bentinck, the Governor-General of British India from 1828 till 1835 pushed towards a uniform civil code based on humanism and succeeded in suppressing the Hindu custom of Sati and encouraging widow remarriage by passing the Widow Remarriage Act 1856. His efforts were lauded by reformers like Raja Rammohun Roy and Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar which led to their eventual acceptance.

However, after the Indian revolt of 1857-58, the personal laws were cautiously dealt and the British left the personal laws of various communities unchanged. However, the Christian community got the first law in the form of the Indian Marriage Act in 1864 (later Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872) and the Indian Divorce Act in 1869. Hindu Laws were slowly reformed as the Indian Succession Act was passed in 1865 which was succeeded by the Married Women's Property Act, 1923, the Hindu Inheritance (Removal of Disabilities) Act, 1928 and the Hindu Women's right to Property Act, 1937 which permitted and protected Hindu women's right to property. The Parsi community gots its Personal laws enacted under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936.

The Special Marriage Act, 1872 gave Indian citizens an option of a civil marriage but had a limited application because it required those involved to renounce their religion and was applicable only to Hindus. The later Special Marriage (Amendment) Act, 1923 permitted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains to marry either under their personal law or under the act without renouncing their religion as well as retaining their succession rights.

The Muslim elite resisted changes to its personal laws fiercely leading to the government passing the Sharia Law of 1937 which stipulated that all Indian Muslims would be governed by Islamic laws on marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption, succession and inheritance. The Sharia Act, 1937 was however fairly balanced by Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 which gave Muslim women some recourse to legal help.

Post-Independence

The initial debates in the Indian Parliament were a set of reforms proposed to lead to Uniform Civil Code for all Indian citizens. However, the findings of the Hindu Law Committee shifted the focus to Hindu law reforms which were strongly endorsed by the Prime Minister, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and his law minister, Dr BR Ambedkar provoking resistance from orthodox Hindu members, who tried to stall the imminent changes on important subjects like monogamy, divorce and inheritance to daughters, which challenged the patriarchal system of the Hindu society. Thus, the Hindu Code Bill as it was called, was delayed till 1955 and when it was passed, it was diluted and made into a set of four separate laws on Hindu Marriage, succession, minority and guardianship and maintenance.

The Hindu Laws were applied to a set of Indian religious groups like Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs along with the various Hindu castes with the exceptions of the scheduled tribes. The Uniform Civil Code was endorsed as an ideal under the Article 44 of the Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution, which some say was done to see that it was never implemented.

The Special Marriage Act’s scope was further widened by the Special Marriage Act, 1954 to provide civil marriage to any citizen irrespective of religion, thus permitting any Indian to have their marriage outside the realm of any specific religious personal law. The Sharia Act, 1937 continued to govern the Muslim personal laws and its major challenge came in 1985 when it was challenged during the Shah Bano verdict.

This verdict saw a strong reaction from the Muslim community which opposed the interference in its customs especially the All India Muslim Personal Law Board leading to the passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 by the Rajiv Gandhi government. Thus, the issue of Muslim law reform became a political hot potato with the formation of opposite political groupings.

Full report at:

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-india-s-civil-code-conundrum-reflection-of-diversity-or-case-for-reform-2326723

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North America

 

In Canada: Saying Islamic Terrorism will be Illegal

February 17, 2017

Well you just can’t make this stuff up.

A motion to condemn “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” has sparked fierce debate in Canada’s parliament and online, as rumors spread that the government would soon make criticizing Islam illegal.

The motion, proposed by liberal MP Iqra Khalid back in early December, calls on the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear” and to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” The motion was debated this week, and will likely be voted on in March or April.

A petition signed by 69,742 people highlighting a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada was presented to Canada’s parliament on the same day as the motion.

The petition points to the contributions Muslims have made throughout history and calls on the House of Commons to recognize “that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam” and to condemn “all forms of Islamophobia.”

News of the motion, which wouldn’t alter Canada’s laws in any way, has left a number of social media users concerned that it’s just another step towards an outright ban on the criticism of Islam.

Full report at:

http://www.livetradingnews.com/canada-saying-islamic-terrorism-will-illegal-30950.html#.WKgSiIF96zc

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Canadians voice support for Muslims amid 'hatred' unleashed at Liberal MP

February 17, 2017

OTTAWA - Canada's Muslim community has received an outpouring of support in the wake of stinging personal attacks against a Liberal MP and her motion to condemn and combat Islamophobia.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada says individual Canadians and elected officials alike have reached out in the 48 hours since the federal Liberals voiced support for the motion put forward by Mississauga MP Iqra Khalid.

Still, spokesman Safwan Choudry says he is troubled by the messages Khalid described receiving through social media about her motion.

Khalid told the House of Commons she has received thousands of sexist comments, Islamophobic remarks and even death threats after introducing the motion, known as M-103, late last year.

Full report at:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canadians-voice-support-for-muslims-amid-hatred-unleashed-at-liberal-mp-1.3290308

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Pope Francis: ‘Muslim Terrorism Does Not Exist’

17 Feb 2017

In an impassioned address Friday, Pope Francis denied the existence of Islamic terrorism, while simultaneously asserting that “the ecological crisis is real.”

“Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist,” Francis said in his speech to a world meeting of populist movements.

What he apparently meant is that not all Christians are terrorists and not all Muslims are terrorists—a fact evident to all—yet his words also seemed to suggest that no specifically Islamic form of terrorism exists in the world, an assertion that stands in stark contradiction to established fact.

“No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent,” Francis said, while also suggesting—as he has on other occasions—that terrorism is primarily a result of economic inequalities rather than religious beliefs. “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.”

The Pope also reiterated his conviction that all religions promote peace and that the danger of violent radicalization exists equally in all religions.

“There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia,” he said.

While denying the existence of Islamic terrorism, Francis also seemed to condemn the denial of global warming, asserting that “the ecological crisis is real.”

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system,” he said.

We know “what happens when we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature,” the Pope said. “Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation.”

While acknowledging that science is not “the only form of knowledge,” and that “science is not necessarily ‘neutral’” and often “conceals ideological views or economic interests,” he still insisted that people of good will should not oppose “scientific consensus” regarding global warming.

Leftist media like the liberal Guardian in the U.K. immediately politicized the speech, predictably claiming that the Pope was backing “anti-Trump protests,” despite the fact that the Pope himself denied such a claim, explicitly declaring that “I am not speaking of anyone in particular.”

“I am not speaking of anyone in particular, I am speaking of a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity,” he said.

Moreover, although the Guardian claimed that the Pope was “condemning populism,” in point of fact, he was speaking to populist movements and praised their commitment to democracy.

“The direction taken beyond this historic turning-point,” Francis said, “will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements.”

Nevertheless, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Monday that the Holy See is concerned over growing populist and nationalist movements, both in Europe and in the United States.

Full report at:

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/02/17/pope-francis-muslim-terrorism-not-exist/

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Europe warns US against hurting cohesion, favouring Russia

Feb 18, 2017

MUNICH: European leaders on Friday fired a salvo of warnings against Washington, cautioning it against hurting EU cohesion, abandoning shared values and seeking a rapprochement with Russia behind the backs of its allies.

In a hard-hitting speech at the Munich Security Conference against President Donald Trump's administration, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen urged the United States not to take transatlantic ties for granted.

"Our American friends know well that your tone on Europe and NATO has a direct impact on the cohesion of our continent," the German minister told the Munich Security Conference.

"A stable European Union is also in America's interest, as is a strong and unified NATO," she said.

Polish President Andrzej Duda also stressed that "the basis of our strength is our transatlantic bond. We must not recklessly put it into question.

"We all realise that the consequence of a potential destabilisation on Europe will be felt on both sides of the Atlantic," he added.

Trump's praise for Britain's decision to quit the EU, his criticism of NATO, and his softer approach towards Russia have rattled allies, prompting them to seek assurances from his lieutenants on whether long-standing US policies have indeed been scrapped. As jittery partners wonder what foreign policy under Trump would look like, the White House has dispatched top generals to Europe this week to offer reassurances.

Vice President Mike Pence is due to address the Munich conference Saturday, a day after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis affirmed to the same forum that the bond between Europe and America is the "strongest bulwark" against instability and violence.

"I am confident that we will strengthen our partnerships, confronting those who choose to attack innocent people or our democratic processes and freedoms," he told the gathering of security and defence experts.

Separately in Bonn, where foreign ministers of G20 nations closed a two-day meeting, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made brief statements in which he stuck close to conventional foreign policy, including on North Korea and Russia.

With the White House embroiled in controversy over its ties to the Kremlin, Tillerson was cautious in his dealings with Moscow, despite Trump's pledges for closer ties.

Following his first sitdown with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday, Tillerson said the US sought cooperation with Moscow only when doing so "will benefit the American people".

In Munich, Germany's defence minister urged the US to cherish transatlantic ties, pointing out that allies should not be put on the same footing as Russia.

"There cannot be a policy of equi-distance to allies and to those who openly question our values, our borders and international law," von der Leyen said, adding that allied nations must not be "going above partners' heads in bilateral negotiations."

Von der Leyen also reminded Washington of NATO's core values.

"That never leaves any room for torture. It requires us to prevent causing any civilian victims and it means giving protection to those who are in need."

She also took aim at Trump's plan to ban migrants from majority-Muslim nations.

"We should be careful that this fight (against terror) does not become a front against Islam and Muslims.

"Otherwise we run the risk of digging ourselves into a deeper grave in which violence and terror only grow further. Rather, it is right to seek partnership with like-minded Muslim and Arab nations," she said.

Since taking office Trump has said he fully backs NATO, but called it "obsolete" while campaigning for election.

He has advocated waterboarding, repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and called for better cooperation with Russia, including in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/europe-warns-us-against-hurting-cohesion-favouring-russia/articleshow/57217274.cms

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh: Textbook Changes Violate Secular Rules, Critics Charge

2017-02-17

Millions of Bangladeshi students celebrated last month as the government gave away free textbooks, but some parents and educators soon questioned whether the contents violated secular rules for learning materials.

Complaints surfaced that the government approved books to satisfy conservative Muslim groups, particularly to appease the powerful Hefazat-e-Islam, a national organization of teachers and students at Islamic boarding schools – madrassas – whose influence is coveted by the ruling Awami League and opposition parties to win votes.

Four years earlier, Hefazat-e-Islam staged a huge demonstration in which the group issued a 13-point declaration for bringing sharia law to Bangladesh, whose constitution guarantees secularism. Changing the national curriculum for public schools was listed among the 13 points.

This year, members of the group praised the government for fulfilling their calls to change 29 articles in textbooks.

“After our long struggle and rally, the authorities could finally understand the gravity of the issue and brought changes in the textbooks,” Hefazat-e-Islam leader Shah Ahmad Shafi said in a statement. He criticized protesters from pro-secular government groups.

Intellectuals voiced concern that religion is seeping into the country’s education system.

National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) chairman Narayan Chandra Saha, however, denied that Hefazat-e-Islam had influenced the changes.

“We do review the curriculum every five years. We did it for this year’s curriculum. Only students, parents and academicians were welcomed for recommendation,” Narayan told BenarNews

‘A slow poisoning of children’

Efforts by Islamic-based political parties to remove the secular tone from literature textbooks began in 1975 but were unsuccessful until this year. Prior to that year, religion-based political parties were banned.

Critics pointed to changes occurring as early as class one in alphabet books.

“Ol,” a kind of yam, was replaced with “Orna,” a kind of scarf girls wear as they become adolescents.

Bangladeshi students study religion according to their faith, which should not be linked with literary textbooks, Rasheda K. Chowdhury, executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education (Campe), told BenarNews.

“Say, for example, earlier literature books had poems and prose written by Muslim and non-Muslim authors. This year, unnecessarily, some textbooks’ contents moved to religious content. If you want me to describe the situation, I will say, behind the scenes was a slow poisoning of children taking place,” Chowdhury said.

BenarNews analyzed textbooks on literature from grades one to 10, finding that the book in grade two contained an essay “sobai meele kori kaj” (“Let’s work together”), which told a story about a Muslim prophet, Hazrat Muhammad.

In grades three and four, students read the story of two Khalifas, Hazrat Omar and Hazrat Abu Bakar. The grade five literature book saw the addition of the farewell sermon of Prophet Muhammad.

‘Creeping into the mainstream’

Expunged from textbooks was the poem “Boi” (“Book”) by Humayun Azad, a secular writer and professor at the University of Dhaka, who was attacked by militants with machetes during the Ekushey Book Fair in February 2004, and died a few months later.

Literature text books from grades six to 10 saw similar changes.

Among the essays removed from textbooks was “Samay Gele sadhon Hobe na” by Baul, a group of people in Bangladesh and part of India who practice mysticism and believe that the soul is the abode of God, and who follow a late mystic known as Lalon Fakir.

Also removed were excerpts from an adaptation of the Hindu epic “Ramayana,” written for children by Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury, and “Lalu,” a popular novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

Full report at:

http://www.benarnews.org/english/news/bengali/textbook-changes-02172017170637.html

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IS fighters kill 18 Afghan soldiers

February 18, 2017

KABUL - Islamic State fighters attacked an Afghan army post in the eastern border province of Nangarhar, near Pakistan, late on Thursday and killed at least 18 soldiers, a local official said.

Ahmad Ali Hazrat, head of the provincial council, said the attack took place in the Deh Bala district of Nangarhar and killed about 18 soldiers manning an outpost. A security official, who declined to be named, confirmed the account.

Attahullah Khoqyani, spokesman for Nangarhar's governor, said operations by Afghan troops backed by international forces, had killed about 25 Islamic State militants in two districts of the province in the past 24 hours.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/18-Feb-2017/is-fighters-kill-18-afghan-soldiers

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Pakistan Army reportedly destroys JuA compound in Afghanistan

February 18, 2017

The Pakistan Army on Friday night carried out raids on suspected militant hideouts in Afghanistan, reported Waqt News, eliminating several alleged militants in the process.

Soldiers reportedly destroyed the training camp of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar deputy commander Adil Bacha. The group said it had carried out Monday's Lahore bombing in which at least 15 people were killed and dozens injured.

The security raids were reportedly carried out near the porous Pak-Afghan border. A military spokesperson said authorities had sealed the Torkham border crossing between the two countries after a suicide bomber ripped through a shrine in Sehwan Sharif.

Authorities launched a nationwide security crackdown Friday, officials said, after the blast killed at least 83 people, including 20 children, and wounded hundreds.

Police had cordoned off the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a 13th century Muslim saint, early Friday as forensic investigators reached the town of Sehwan in Sindh, some 200 kilometres (124 miles) northeast of financial hub Karachi.

The centuries-old shrine's white floor was still smeared with blood, with scattered debris including shoes, shawls, and baby bottles. At least 20 children are believed to be among the dead, the head of Sehwan's medical facility Moeen Uddin Siddiqui said.

At 3:30am the shrine's caretaker stood among the carnage and defiantly rang its bell, a daily ritual that he vowed to continue, telling AFP he will "not bow down to terrorists".

The Islamic State group (IS) has claimed the attack, which came after a series of bloody extremist assaults this week, including a powerful Taliban suicide bomb in Lahore which killed 13 people and wounded dozens.

The attacks have dented growing optimism in security after Pakistan's decade-long war on militancy.

Military spokesman Asif Ghafoor said the attacks had been carried out from sanctuaries in Afghanistan and that Kabul had been asked to take action.

He also said the military had "closed" the porous border between the two countries where Kabul and Islamabad have long accused each other of harbouring extremists.

“Scores of suspects have been arrested from different cities in a pre-dawn crackdown,” a government official speaking anonymously told AFP.

Security officials said at least 18 terrorists had been killed in Sindh overnight, and 13 more in the northwest.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/18-Feb-2017/pakistan-army-reportedly-destroys-jua-compound-in-afghanistan

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How a 13-year-old spread panic from TSC to Facebook

February 17, 2017

The youths frisked the boy and searched his bag, and found a small knife with some clothes in it.

On Thursday night, some youths were chatting in the TSC area near the book fair venue when they noticed a boy in white punjabi staring at them.

Alarmed, they asked the boy about his identity and what he was doing there alone. Their suspicion grew even more when the boy kept giving confusing and vague answers to their questions.

He said his name was Nur-e-Alam and he was 13 years old, and he had fled the Lalbagh madrasa near Pakistan Road where he is a student of Hifjul Qur’an class.

The youths frisked the boy and searched his bag, and found a knife with some clothes in it.

They handed him over to police suspecting that he could be a member of any of the machete-wielding Islamist militant groups who have killed dozens of people in the last couple of years, two of whom were attacked near the TSC.

The law enforcers took the matter seriously this time; they took him to Shahbagh police station. “We called his parents in Noakhali and informed the madrasa authorities,” Shahbagh OC Abu Bakar Siddique said on Thursday night, adding that they had not found the teenager’s involvement with any militant activists.

The incident took place around 10pm.

Alam was handed over to his elder brother, who works at a shop in Dhaka, on Friday afternoon, OC (investigation) Zafar Ali Bishwas told the Dhaka Tribune.

The youths who called the police said Alam had been giving different answers to the same questions every time they asked him. “But some of the police members were trying to save him saying it was a trivial matter,” one of the youths, who requested anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune on Friday.

“The knife’s blade was about 4 inches long. But the police said that the boy might use it to peel  mangoes,” the unnamed source added.

On February 9, Shahbagh police released two youths from their custody even though they had been found carrying two machetes with them when frisked at the entrance of the book fair on Bangla Academy premises.

The youths told the police that they had bought the machetes from Gulistan for household work.

However, another team of police was suspicious when they spotted a group of 11 youths in Islamic attire at a book stall on the Suhrawardy Udyan premises of the fair the same night. The youths, coming from different places including Dhaka and friends on Facebook, were released after questioning.

Both the incidents have sparked a debate on Facebook: some people think police took the matter lightly and released the suspects without extensive investigation, while others vehemently censure the law enforcers for harassing innocent Muslims.

Among the 11 was the grandson of late Mufti Amini, a student of Hefazat-e-Islam chief Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi.

The detention of the 13-year-old boy drew the attention of some other groups sitting nearby and panic gripped them as soon as they learnt about the knife he was carrying. Some of them posted the matter on Facebook, and it took no time to go viral.

People started looking for news on the detention, and many were eager to learn about the status of their near and dear ones who were in and around the book fair on Thursday night.

Primarily, a rumour spread that a madrasa student had been held with a machete in the TSC area. Then it came down to knife and after several hours it was clear that the suspect was a 13-year-old madrasa student, who might not be a threat.

Machete attacks are commonplace

It was a place like the TSC of Dhaka University where prominent secular activist Avijit Roy was hacked to death during the book fair two years ago. His wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya, now the editor of Mukto-Mona blog, sustained critical injuries in the machete attack as well.

Science writer Avijit’s murder on February 26, 2015 was just the beginning of a series of machete attacks by al-Qaeda supporters who label their targets as atheists or blasphemers to justify the murders. Three more secular activists, all close to Avijit, and one of his publishers were killed while another publisher was critically injured in similar attacks in 2015.

On February 27, 2004, secular writer Prof Humayun Azad was hacked with machetes near the TSC by Islamists who were mad about “Pak Sar Jamin Sad Bad,” his novel on the anti-Bangladeshi elements during the 1971 Liberation War.

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/crime/2017/02/17/13-year-old-spread-panic-tsc-facebook/

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17 Afghan soldiers killed in Daesh attack in Nangarhar

Feb 17, 2017

Seventeen Afghan soldiers have been killed in an attack by the Daesh Takfiri terrorists on army security posts in eastern Afghanistan.

Ahmad Ali Hazrat, the chief of the provincial council, said on Friday that the attack was carried out in Dih Bala district of Nangarhar province the previous night.

The photo shows Afghan security forces during an operation against Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Kot district of Nangarhar province, February 16, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Hazrat said the Daesh terrorists attacked the posts from three directions and after several hours of fierce battles, 17 soldiers were killed.

General Doulat Waziri, the spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said army troops killed 21 militants in the battle.

In a separate attack on Friday, Taliban militants assaulted several government security posts in the eastern province of Kunar, killing five police officers.

Police forces, aided by other security personnel, managed to repel the attackers, forcing them to flee. Provincial Governor Waheedullah Kalimzai said a sixth police officer was missing after the attack.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/17/510942/Afghan-soldiers-Daesh-Nangarhar

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Southeast Asia

 

How One Islamist Party Could Sway Malaysia’s Election

BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA

18 FEB 2017

Malaysia’s biggest Islamist party, long a whipping post for the country’s liberals, is finding itself newly popular with former rivals and estranged allies as it emerges as a potential kingmaker in upcoming general elections.

Due to its hardline brand of Islam, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has traditionally had an uneasy relationship with the country’s non-Muslim communities, such as the ethnic Chinese and Indians, but the deep influence it has enjoyed with the majority Malay community since it was founded in 1951 could make it a deciding force in the national polls, widely expected this year.

Rural Malay seats are likely to be the key battleground in those polls, in which two coalition parties – the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) and the Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition) – will be the main contenders.

Why Malaysia is fighting Singapore over a rock

Leaders of both coalitions are working behind the scenes to curry favour with the PAS, as the Islamist party gears up for a rally this weekend in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, in a show of strength to convince the public it is still an influential political player.

The PAS left the Hope Coalition in 2015 and became independent after a fellow coalition member, the secular Democratic Action Party, protested against its campaign to introduce a Muslim penal code called hudud. A senior leader of the Democratic Action Party – which is popular with ethnic Chinese voters – recently signalled a willingness to mend ties with the PAS, while former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, long known for his criticisms of the PAS’ ultra-conservatism, has also appeared to change tack.

Mahathir’s party, the Malaysian Indigenous People’s Party, or Bersatu, is allied to the Hope Coalition and is now leading negotiations for an electoral pact with PAS in an effort to oust the National Front and its scandal-tainted chairman, Prime Minister Najib Razak. But Najib, too, is thought to be working behind the scenes to influence the PAS, leading to questions over where its loyalties lie.

Malaysia’s ringgit rout raises spectres of 1998 Asian Financial Crisis

Will the PAS side with its estranged former allies in the Hope Coalition? Or will it go it alone in the elections, splitting support for the opposition and thereby helping keep Najib in power?

A reconciliation with the Hope Coalition might prove difficult. The 2015 spat was not the first time the alliance had broken down. The first split came in 2002, when the Democratic Action Party took issue with the PAS policy of turning Malaysia into an Islamic state.

Even when the two were stablemates, relations were often testy and the alliance was described by detractors – including Mahathir – as a “marriage of convenience” between two incompatible partners. Hardliners in both parties rued the compromises involved in presenting a common opposition front.

Since the 2015 breakup, and the takeover of the PAS by hardliners led by Abdul Hadi Awang, the party has underlined its independence, returning to its roots and calling for the establishment of an Islamic state with hudud and other sharia laws at its core.

“The dominant faction in PAS now sees the party as being stronger when it is independent, when it does not compromise its principles and when it holds strictly to its original principles,” political analyst Hisommudin Bakar said.

Why Trump’s travel ban puts Macau, Malaysia in Islamic State’s sights

“This is their main offer to Malaysian voters, that they are a principled party. The problem is whether Malaysians these days are necessarily attracted to ideologically driven parties,” said Hisommudin, the executive director of think tank Ilham Centre.

This insistence on principles did not stop PAS president Abdul Hadi from sharing the stage with Najib at two high-profile Islamic-themed events (a dinner for the Al-Azhar University alumni association in 2015 and a Rohingya solidarity rally in 2016). Those appearances came despite the cloud following Najib, who is at the centre of a multibillion ringgit fraud probe at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Investigators have alleged that US$681 million in transfers from the fund were made to Najib’s personal bank accounts in 2013. He says these were “personal donations” from the Saudi royal family and has denied any wrongdoing.

Leaders from Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) – a Malay supremacist party that is the biggest player in the National Front coalition – claim Najib’s meetings with Abdul Hadi were aimed at rapprochement in the name of Malay-Muslim solidarity. However, there have been suggestions (consistently denied by the PAS) that the two parties – historical rivals for the ethnic Malay vote – are seeking an alliance.

Why Malaysia’s hopes for a post-racial politics are fading – even if Mahathir is not ‘anti-Chinese’

“Absolutely not. We are 100 per cent going to fight Umno in the next general election,” PAS election director Mustafa Ali said.

Full report at:

That in turn might affect the popularity of the supposed kingmaker PAS, as such voters were “unlikely to choose an independent party with one ideology”.

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2071876/how-one-islamist-party-could-sway-malaysias-election

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We need 'solid evidence' to back India's efforts to ban Masood Azhar at UN: China

Feb 17, 2017

BEIJING: Ahead of its strategic dialogue with India, China on Friday said "solid evidence" was needed for it to back efforts to get JeM chief Masood Azhar banned+ by the United Nations.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar and China's executive vice-foreign minister Zhang Yesui will hold a new round of strategic dialogue in Beijing on February 22+ , Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a media briefing here.

The two sides will have an in-depth exchange of views on the international situation and other regional and global issues of mutual interest in the strategic dialogue which is an important communication mechanism between India and China, he said.

Commenting on reports of "friction points" in the bilateral relationship+ , including the Masood Azhar issue and India's admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Geng said "differences are only natural".

"Through all kinds of conversation and exchanges, including (the) upcoming Strategic Dialogue, (the) two sides can step up communication to narrow differences and reach new consensus on achieving cooperation," he said.

On the Masood Azhar issue, over which China has put a technical hold on the recent US move to list the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief as a terrorist in the 1267 committee of the UN Security Council, Geng said China will support the move if there is solid evidence.

"China upholds principles of objectivity, impartiality and professionalism and takes part in relevant discussions. Whether last year's application by India or this year's by (the) relevant country, our position is consistent," Geng said.

"Our criteria is only one, we need solid evidence. If there is solid evidence the application can be approved. If there is no solid evidence there is hardly consensus," he said.

Stating that China has reiterated its stand several times, Geng said, "On (the) 1267 committee, the latest development is relevant countries have made another application with the committee. Relevant members of (the) committee are in consultation and relevant parties have failed to reach consensus so far."

China last year put a technical hold twice+ on India's application to get Masood Azhar banned by the UN.

This year, the US moved the proposal in the UNSC to designate Masood Azhar, the mastermind of the Pathankot terror attack, as a terrorist. China once again has put a technical hold on the move.

On India's entry into the NSG, he said, "We have said many times this is a multilateral issue".

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/we-need-solid-evidence-to-back-indias-efforts-to-ban-masood-azhar-at-un-china/articleshow/57204858.cms

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Malaysia: Hundreds of thousands expected to join mass rally calling for greater Syariah laws

By A. Azim Idris

18th February 2017

HUNDREDS of thousands of protesters are expected to throng the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this afternoon in what could be the country’s largest call to strengthen the Syariah justice system, as the Muslim-majority nation reaches a major cross roads over its secular laws.

Amid a backdrop of rising Islamic sentiments and fractured race-relations, the country’s pious northeastern state of Kelantan is closer to realising its decades-long pursuit of enforcing strict Islamic Syariah laws for criminal offences, threatening to worsen religious ties in a polarized multiracial nation.

Next month, lawmakers will debate a controversial bill, known as “Hadi’s Bill”, to amend Act 355 of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, proposing harsher punishments to replace current sentences that have long been implemented under the civil system.

Traditionally, Malaysia’s Syariah courts focused on family and marital affairs, and handed out minor fines amounting to several thousands of ringgit and relatively light prison sentences for moral offences, which are hardly enforced.

SEE ALSO: Islamisation of Malaysia: Hudud to rear head again next week

The religious courts are restricted to imposing punishments of up to three years’ jail; RM5,000 fine or whipping of no more than six strokes — also referred to in the country as the “3-5-6” penalties — for offences against Islam.

However, if passed, the bill is tipped to grant punitive powers to the Syariah courts and allow its judges to impose up to a hundred lashes, hundred thousand ringgit fines (US$21,000) and 30-year jail sentences on Muslims convicted of the same moral offences and other victimless crimes. Save for the death penalty, the amendments will be enshrined under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.

Among others, examples of punishable crimes under the proposed amendments include pre-marital sex, alcohol consumption, failure to attend Friday prayers or fast during Ramadhan. If implemented, the new laws threatened to throw modern Malaysia back into a medieval plot-setting where punishments were carried out in public, in full view of an onlooking crowd, similar to what is done in the self-autonomous region of Aceh, Indonesia.

Spearheading the Islamic law reforms is the hard-line Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and its president Abdul Hadi Awang, an influential Islamist political movement headed by ulamas and religious clerics that fell out with the country’s opposition bloc over the disputed “Hudud” aspect of Islamic jurisprudence, which lies at the core of the issue.

The United Malays National Organisation or Umno, the ruling party led by Prime Minister Najib Razak who is faced with a massive corruption scandal and declining favour among voters, is seen to be banking in on the reforms.

In its bid to shore up political support, Umno, which has ruled the country for more than half a century via the rural Malay voter bank, has shown keenness in backing the demands of the hardline Islamists as Najib mulls calling for snap polls as early as the second half of the year.

Showing their solidarity for PAS’ flagship cause, Umno top brass and grassroots members are expected to join the much-talked-about rally in Padang Merbok, a landmark field in the capital that could fit up to 50,000 people.

Nasrudin Hassan, a senior PAS politician and director of the Himpunan RU355 (Act 355 Rally), said at least 200,000 people, from different political backgrounds will attend the protest.

He said the mass rally, which will be one of the biggest rallies to ever be held in the country, has received approval from police and will see 21 speakers talk between 2pm and 11pm on Saturday. The organisers will deploy at least 2,500 volunteers to ensure order and security while the authorities corderned off the area to traffic.

Even though Padang Merbok can only handle between 40,000 to 50,000 people, the police and city hall officials will cooperate by holding roadblocks in the surrounding area to allow us to accommodate the crowd,” he said, as quoted by Utusan Malaysia.

“We are also encouraging the rally-goers to bring their own prayer mats and mineral water bottles. We also remind bus drivers to come early to avoid congestion.”

Race-relations, biased implementation and economic impact

While the proposed laws apply only to Muslims, critics argue that they could extend to others while a sizable number of law experts have labeled the bill “unconstitutional” and open to abuse.

Malaysia’s 30 million populace is Muslim-majority, but nearly 40 percent profess other faiths such as Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism.

Past debates on the bill have also triggered much controversy and created major fissures on both political fronts.

It has led to divisions in the multiracial ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) pact – with protests from Umno’s non-Muslim allies for its support of the bill – as well as in the opposition, whose parties split with PAS in 2015 over disagreements regarding hudud. Malaysia’s Muslim conservatives, however, insist that such laws are mandatory, not just for religious adherents but for all of Malaysia.

Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the president of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), said the opposition party was concerned with the motion due to its ambiguity on the matter regarding the scope of punishments.

“Since the proposals involve criminal laws that conflict with Islamic laws, the proposed punishments have to be absolutely certain. Whatever amendments that deal with punishments must be precise in their meaning.

“Any proposed amendments need to be absolutely aligned with Islamic laws. We also need to consider whether the amendments fit into the framework of the Federal Constitution,” she said in the party’s official stance on the matter.

Full report at:

https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/02/msia-hundreds-thousands-expected-mass-rally-greater-syariah-laws/

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Opposing Hadi’s Bill a violation of federal laws, non-Muslim MPs told

BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY

February 18, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 ― Non-Muslim MPs who oppose PAS’s bid to increase the powers of the Shariah Courts are violating the federal constitution, an activist said today during his speech at the Himpunan 355 rally here.

Dr Abdul Kadir Warsi, from Pertubuhan Permuafakatan Ayahanda Malaysia, also questioned why non-Muslims especially are meddling with Islamic affairs.

“We did not affect, we did not disturb anyone, but why are you being imbecilic towards us?

“Because all these while, we were soft. So I ask of all, all Yang Berhormat (MPs) today, in the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara, to not hesitate in ensuring support and passing the Act 355, disregarding their race and religion,” he said referring to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355.

“Why ladies and gentlemen? I would like to say here, that any parliamentarians, and I remind  the parliamentarians. Anyone who opposes matters linked to Islam, as stipulated under the Federal Constitution, then they have committed a big mistake in Malaysia. That is, they did not respect the Constitution and can be charged,” he added.

Abdul Kadir however did not elaborate how not supporting the amendments to Act 355 would viotale the federal constitution.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/opposing-hadis-bill-a-violation-of-federal-laws-non-muslim-mps-told

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Arab World

 

Russia Starts Rebuilding Syrian Army after 6 Years of War on Terrorism

Feb 17, 2017

Russian military advisors started training hundreds of Syrian Army recruits in the Qalamoun mountains, as part of the first stage of the rebuilding process.

Engineering and infantry units of the Syrian Army were the first group in Damascus province that took part in the rebuilding process , while other training sessions were done in different regions of Syria.

The Russian Armed Forces' Demining Center disclosed late in January that it established a base center in Aleppo to train Syrian soldiers to form new engineering units.

Head of the Russian Demining Center Igor Mikhailic said that the best soldiers of the Syrian Army would be trained in the newly-stablished demining center in Aleppo.

He added that the newly-established base would train between 50 up to 70 Syrian soldiers in each phase.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000239

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Syrian Army Scores More Victories against ISIL in Eastern Aleppo

Feb 17, 2017

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in Eastern Aleppo and could take back the strategic hill of Humeimeh Southwest of Showeilakh or Northwest of Humeimeh al-Kabireh.

ISIL suffered heavy casualties in the attack and pulled the remaining pockets of its forces back form the battlefield to evade more casualties.

On Wednesday, the army troops launched a new round of offensives on ISIL's positions to take control of the al-Assad Lake that is the main source of water supply to Aleppo city.

After their advances against ISIL and liberating the villages of al-Moshrefeh, Bayjan and Tal (hill) Bayjan Southeast of the town of al-Bab, the army troops have started intensive attacks on terrorists' defense lines to seize back al-Assad lake, villages around the lake and al-Khafseh region as the main water reservoir of Aleppo city.

Full report at:

ISIL has closed off flow of water from al-Khafseh facilities to Aleppo city.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000606

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Syrian Air Force Launches Massive Airstrikes on Terrorists in Idlib

Feb 17, 2017

The warplanes pounded a main position of the newly-formed coalition of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board) near the town of Jisr al-Shughour, while the army aircraft targeted terrorist groups' positions in the town of al-Naqir at night.

Army reports said the terrorists suffered heavy casualties in the air raids.  

Also the Syrian fighter jets carried out several combat sorties over the gatherings and positions of Jund al-Aqsa in Southern Idlib on Thursday, killing at least 20 terrorists and wounding several more.

The warplanes pounded the positions of Jund al-Aqsa in the villages of Kafr Ein and Madaya, leaving 20 terrorists dead and several positions of them destroyed.

Reports said on Sunday that Russian fighter jets targeted Ahrar al-Sham's positions in Southern Idlib, killing at least 10 terrorists, including their field commander.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000501

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Syrian Army Engages in Fierce Clashes with Al-Nusra Front in Homs

Feb 17, 2017

The Al-Nusra Front failed to prevail over the army positions in the village of al-Moshrefeh in Northeastern Homs, suffering heavy casualties in clashes with the army soldiers.

In the meantime, the army men engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists in al-Qabou region in Northern Homs.

The army said its soldiers pushed terrorists into a trap in al-Tibeh, killing a number of them.

On Wednesday, the army troops fended off a joint offensive of the Al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups in the Central part of Homs province, killing and wounding over 60 militants in several hours of clashes.

Al-Nusra and its allied terrorist groups stormed the positions of the government forces from the towns of Ein al-Hossein Janboul and al-Amiriyeh in Central Homs to capture the town of Ein al-Dananir and reach the key village of al-Moshrefeh, but the army soldiers repelled their offensive, killing over 15 militants.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000543

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Syria: ISIL Terrorists Withdraw from More Lands West of Ancient Palmyra

Feb 17, 2017

The army soldiers stormed ISIL's defense lines near Tadmur and won back al-Kalabiyeh farms South of al-Bayarat, advancing almost 2km in the region.

The ISIL suffered a heavy death toll and its military hardware sustained major damage in the attack.

The army said that its missile and artillery units targeted movements and positions of terrorists' in al-Sa'an.

The army units, meantime, hit the concentration centers of the terrorists in the village of al-Farhaniyeh Northeast of Jabourin in Northern Homs, killing and wounding a number of militants.

Reports said on Thursday that the army continued military operations to liberate the ancient city of Palmyra  in Homs province and advanced in vast areas after harsh clashes with the ISIL terrorists.

The army units regained control of several points in the Southern parts of Western al-Bayarat and advanced 4km in the region.

Meantime, other units of the army clashed with the ISIL militants near Jahar oilfield and advanced 2km in the region.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000478

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Terrorists Fail to Prevail over Syrian Gov't Forces' Positons in Quneitra

Feb 17, 2017

The army soldiers and popular forces targeted an 8-member group of terrorists and did not allow them to break through the government forces' positions in Tal (hill) Sahi site in the town of Khan Arnaba, inflicting an almost 100 percent casualty on the group.  

Also, the army units launched heavy artillery attacks against the terrorists in al-Rawihina, al-Mushirefah and Um Batenah villages on Thursday, killing and wounding dozens of militants.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000434

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ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties in Syrian Army Attack in Deir Ezzur

Feb 17, 2017

The army's artillery units targeted heavily ISIL's positons and barricades in the village of Baqaliyeh and also near al-Halabiyeh roundabout in al-Salehiyeh region, inflicting heavy losses on the terrorists.

In relevant developments in the Eastern province on Thursday, the Syrian air force pounded the ISIL moves and gathering centers near al-Ta'min Battalion region and al-Taym, Talat al-Rawad, Western Tal Barouk, al-Baliqiyeh and al-Hosseiniyah districts in Deir Ezzur.

According to a source, 17 militants were killed and dozens of others were wounded in the attack while their command center and three of their military vehicles were fully destroyed.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000456

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Terrorists' Saudi Commander Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army in Dara'a

Feb 17, 2017

The army soldiers stormed Al-Nusra's positions and gatherings in Dara'a al-Balad district, killing and wounding a number of terrorists, including Mohammad al-Faraj, a field commander of Al-Nusra from Saudi Arabia.

In relevant developments in the province on Thursday, the army units clashed with a group affiliated to Al-Nusra terrorists who sought to occupy a residential complex in al-Manshiyeh district and warded off their offensive.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000359

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Aleppo: ISIL Centers Hit Hard in Russian Air Force' Strikes

Feb 17, 2017

“As for the operations of the Russian air task force, its basic efforts are currently focused on eliminating the objectives of ISIL in Eastern Syria and in Northern part of the province of Aleppo,” Gadzhimagomedov said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that the Syrian army supported by Russian aviation destroyed an ISIL stronghold near the city of al-Bab in the Aleppo province.

The Syrian army killed over 650 terrorists and terrorists' hardware in their operation to free the town of Tadif near al-Bab.

"During the fighting near the Tadif populated area, the (Syrian) government forces killed more than 650 terrorists, destroyed two tanks, four armored personnel carriers, 18 off-road vehicles equipped with heavy weapons, seven mortars and six 'jihad-mobiles'," the Defense Ministry said.

According to the Russian ministry, Tadif which is located in Aleppo province's North-East was "one of the most fortified strongholds of terrorists near al-Bab."

After liberating Tadif, the Syrian army agreed with Turkey on a demarcation line with Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army opposition fighters.

"As a result of the advance, the Syrian government forces have reached a demarcation line with the Free Syrian Army's units as it had been agreed with the Turkish side," the Defense Ministry added.

Moreover, the Syrian government forces gained control over a strategic highway leading to Raqqa.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951129000303

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Mideast

 

Harsh Hezbollah words aim to draw 'red lines' for Trump

February 18, 2017

The Hezbollah leader's harsh words for Israel and U.S. President Donald Trump this week were aimed at drawing "red lines" to prevent any threatening action against Lebanon or the group, a source familiar with the group's thinking said on Friday.

Trump and administration officials have used strong rhetoric against Hezbollah's political patron Iran and to support its main enemy Israel, including putting Tehran "on notice" over charges it violated a nuclear deal by test-firing a ballistic missile.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday described Trump as being an "idiot". On Thursday he said that his group, which played a major role in ending Israel's occupation of Lebanon, could strike its nuclear reactor at Dimona.

The harsh words for Israel and Trump were aimed at drawing "red lines" for the new U.S. administration, the source familiar with the thinking of the Lebanese Shi'ite group said.

"Until now, Hezbollah is not worried about the arrival of Trump into the U.S. administration, but rather, it called him an idiot this week and drew red lines in front of any action that threatens Lebanon or Hezbollah's presence in Syria," the source said. Israel and the United States both regard Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanese politics and maintains an armed militia that has had a significant part in fighting for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, as a terrorist organization.

The group was founded as a resistance movement against Israel's occupation of the predominantly Shi'ite Muslim south Lebanon which ended in 2000, a role that meant Beirut allowed it to keep its arms after the country's civil war ended in 1990.

In 2006 Israel launched another war against Hezbollah in south Lebanon but withdrew without forcing the group, which gives allegiance to the supreme leader of Shi'ite Iran, to abandon its weapons.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, defended the group this week, saying: "As long as the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the need for (Hezbollah's) arsenal because it complements the army's role".

THREATS

In his speech on Sunday, Nasrallah said: "We are not worried (about Trump), but rather we are very optimistic because when there is an idiot living in the White House, who boasts of his idiocy, it is the beginning of relief for the weak of the world".

On Thursday he urged Israel to dismantle its nuclear reactor at Dimona. Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal at its Dimona reactor but it refuses to confirm or deny if it is a nuclear power.

"We can turn the threat (of their nuclear capability) into an opportunity," he said, signaling that Hezbollah could strike the Dimona reactor and other Israeli atomic sites according to the source familiar with Hezbollah thinking.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said in a statement on Thursday: "If Nasrallah dares fire on the Israel's home front or on its national infrastructure, then all of Lebanon will be hit."

The source familiar with Hezbollah thinking said that it has been Nasrallah's policy since the 2006 war with Israel to reveal elements of the group's military capabilities as part of a policy of deterrence against attack by the Jewish state.

http://nation.com.pk/international/18-Feb-2017/harsh-hezbollah-words-aim-to-draw-red-lines-for-trump

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Turkey clearing Syria’s al-Bab of remaining ISIS militant

17 February 2017

Turkey on Thursday said its armed forces were engaged in “clean-up” operations to clear remaining ISIS militants from the flashpoint Syrian town of al-Bab after a weeks-long campaign. The Turkish army, backing Syria rebels, have since December been engaged in fierce fighting to oust the militants from the town but Ankara now says Al-Bab is largely under its control.

“Al-Bab is now completely surrounded,” Defense Minister Fikri Isik told Turkish media in Brussels where he was attending a NATO meeting. “There is a serious clean-up going on inside to clear Daesh (ISIS) completely,” he added. “Once this clean-up is completed, we expected life in Al-Bab to return to normal.”

Turkey’s offensive has been matched by a separate operation by forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the town from the south. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights however said Turkish forces had made little progress since entering the town from the west.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/17/Turkey-clearing-Syria-s-al-Bab-of-remaining-ISIS-militants.html

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Bomb kills at least five soldiers in Sinai

February 18, 2017

CAIRO: At least five soldiers were killed and two injured on Friday by a roadside bomb in Egypt’s restive Northern Sinai where the government faces an Islamic State-led insurgency, medics and security sources said. The explosive device went off when an armoured vehicle passed by killing and injuring the soldiers, the sources said. The most populous Arab country is battling an insurgency that gained pace after its military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, following mass protests against his rule in mid-2013. The insurgency, mounted by Islamic State’s Egyptian branch in the Sinai peninsula, has killed hundreds of soldiers and police and started to attack Western targets within the country.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/18-Feb-2017/bomb-kills-at-least-five-soldiers-in-sinai

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Saudi forces defend Yemen border, stop Houthi advance

17 February 2017

Saudi forces defended the border with Yemen from Houthi militias, stopping them from getting closer, Al Arabiya reported.

At least four Houthis were killed after attempting to approach the Saudi-Yemen border.

The militias, who wore uniforms of the deposed president’s special forces, began their failed attempt at the break of night.

Several military equipment were seized from them, including weapons, explosive devices of various sizes and rocket-propelled grenades.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/02/17/Saudi-forces-defend-Yemen-border-stop-Houthi-advance.html

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Erdogan to Al Arabiya: We will eradicate terrorism with GCC support

17 February 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes that ISIS is living its final days and the decisive victory in fighting the terrorist organization would happen with the support of GCC countries led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Erdogan is convinced that ISIS and other international terrorist groups like Boko Haram and Al Qaeda are being aided by some members of the international community.

In an interview with Turki AlDakhil that was aired on Al Arabiya on Friday, Erdogan tackled a number of regional and international issues including the Syrian crisis, the war on terror, as well as Turkey’s stance towards the Muslim Brotherhood group.

Syria

When asked about the Syrian conflict, Erdogan said that Assad’s regime in Syria has killed nearly one million “innocent people”, as he added that the fight against terror in the region is a continuous process.

Erdogan said that Turkey – as discussed with Saudi and European officials - will continue aiding the anti-Assad local forces with the needed training.

He added that his country currently hosts 2.8 million Syrian refugees, adding that a safe and no-fly zone should be established between Jarabulus and Al-Rai to provide a safe haven for more refugees.

He added "the Relationship between Russia and Turkey may worry some, maintaining friendly relationship between the two countries is very important for the future of the region and its stability."

Muslim Brotherhood

According to Erdogan, the Brotherhood is an ideological group rather than a militant one, adding that he will not blacklist the group’s member unless they have resorted to armed and violent activities.

“I have not seen any armed acts [by the Muslim Brotherhood], and if I do see any militant activities by the group, my stance towards it will be the same as that against terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said.

“We have many ideological groups and organizations of thought that function freely,” he added.

Failed coup

Erdogan said that the failed coup attempt Turkey faced was plotted by a terrorist organization that is headed by Turkish dissident Abdullah Gulen, who may have played a part in downing a Russian fighter jet in order to harm Turkey’s solid ties with the Russian Federation.

“We faced a terrorist group of the highest level. But thank God we managed to beat this failed coup attempt. We lost 248 martyrs in the process,” he said.

"We were able, by the good grace of God, and the sincere support of the people, to foil the coup attempt, many martyrs sacrificed their souls for the good of the homeland. We were facing a new virtual terrorist organization with unusual and different technics; this terrorist organization has been premeditating for 40 years and then suddenly emerged. The leader of this organization went to the United States where he ran the activities of his cell. The organization is active in 170 countries in the world via endowments, education, trade and others." he added.

Erdogan said that he does not consider secularism to be against religion, but it is rather a system that maintains the freedom of practice for all religions and beliefs.

“It is not right to consider secularism as a form of imposing [certain] opinion on religious people,” he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/02/17/Erdogan-to-Al-Arabiya-We-need-GCC-support-on-fighting-terrorism-.html

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Iran urges broad, global fight against terrorism

Feb 17, 2017

Iran has denounced a deadly terrorist attack on a Sufi shrine in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, urging an extensive and global fight against the vicious phenomenon.

“It is necessary that a broad and international move against terrorism, violence and extremism be launched and all peace-seeking governments and nations join it,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Friday.

He added that the use of terrorism and intimidation as a means for political purposes is the most heinous policy, adding that the approach has led to the creation of insecurity and instability in the region and across the world.

The Iranian spokesperson urged all nations to adopt “practical and coordinated measures free of double standards” to root out terrorism and stop the killing of innocent people.

“The world must know and keep in mind that the lives of all humans in every part of the world are equally valuable,” Qassemi said.

At least 80 people, including 20 children, lost their lives and some 250 more injured in the terrorist bombing in the city of Sehwan in Sindh Province on Thursday.

Pakistani activists and mourners light candles during a vigil in Karachi on February 17, 2017, to pay tribute to the victims of a bomb attack on the Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in the city of Sehwan in Sindh Province. (Photo by AFP)

The blast occurred as a large number of people gathered at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine for a special Sufi ritual. According to security officials, the bomber entered the main hall of the shrine and detonated his explosives in the middle of the crowd.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/17/510949/Iran-Pakistan-Bahram-Qassemi-Sehwan-Sindh-Sufi

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Africa

 

Multiple suicide bombing targets Nigerian refugees, Boko Haram blamed

February 18, 2017

Seven suspected Boko Haram militants blew themselves on the outskirts of a northeast Nigerian city on Friday, a local aid agency said, in an attack witnesses said targeted refugees preparing to return to their home villages.

The bombing took place outside Maiduguri, the population center at the heart of a government campaign to eradicate the Islamist group, whose more than seven-year insurgency has killed 15,000 people and forced some two million from their homes.

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency said eight members of a local militia, the civilian Joint Task Force, were wounded in the attack, which underscored Boko Haram's ability to continue to operate despite the government's insistence it has crushed the group.

Witnesses told Reuters the attackers detonated their bombs

near a large refugee camp, outside which crowds of displaced people were gathering around trucks to form convoys before trying to return home.

In December, President Muhammadu Buhari said the capture of a key camp marked the "final crushing" of Boko Haram in its last enclave in Sambisa forest, once the group's stronghold.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/18-Feb-2017/multiple-suicide-bombing-targets-nigerian-refugees-boko-haram-blamed

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Central African Republic: Rival Rebel Groups Kill CAR Civilians

17 FEBRUARY 2017

By Jean Kassongo

Kinshasa — TENSIONS between rebel groups in the troubled Central African Republic have left scores dead in recent days. Rights groups confirmed rebels from the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), recently executed 25 people in Bakala after calling them to a school for an allegedmeeting.

UPC fighters also executed seven men who were returning from work at a nearby gold mine. At least 29 other civilians have been killed in fighting around Bakala since late November.

The fighting in Bakala and the surrounding area displaced between 9 000 and 10 000 people. The violations are an aftermath of tensions between the UPC and the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic (FPRC),another rebel group drawn from the predominantly Muslim Seleka fighters. Rebel fighters are killing people on suspicion of belonging to rival groups. Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said these executions by UPC were brazen war crimes. "The group is carrying out its killing sprees with no fear of punishment,despite the presence of United Nations peacekeepers."

Full report at:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201702170479.html

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/fight-against-terror-can’t-become-war-against-islam--germany/d/110126

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