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Islamic World News ( 6 Dec 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Folk Singer in Jalpaiguri in West Bengal Commits Suicide Due To NRC Panic

New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Dec 2019

The In this 2018 photo, Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, inspects an archaeological site in Tabuk region. (Photo/SCTH)


Folk Singer in Jalpaiguri in West Bengal Commits Suicide Due To NRC Panic

• Pakistan Government to Sell Unused State Properties for Better Utilisation of Funds on Public Welfare Projects

• Recent Archaeological Discoveries Highlight Saudi Arabia as ‘A Cradle of Human Civilizations,’ Rome Conference Told

• China Must Not Be Allowed To Host The 2022 Olympic Games While It Persecutes Its Uyghur Muslims

• Uighur Leader Warns China's Nazi-Style Treatment Of Muslims Is 'History Repeating Itself' And Calls On Australia To Take Action

• Indonesian Faints during Whipping for Sharia-Banned Sex

• Al Majiri and Standardization of Islamic Seminaries: Recipes for Counter-Insurgency

• German Muslim Politician Takes the Fight to Nazi Group after Racist Death Threats

• Secret U.S. Efforts in Latin America Keep Jihadis Out

• Turkey, Malaysia, Qatar Can Pioneer In Islamic Finance

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




• Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati Oppose Citizenship Bill: It Divides, Discriminates

• Plot Thickens: ‘Land Mafia’ Targets Sultanate-Era Mosque In Mehrauli

• Jharkhand Elections: In Town Where Tabrez Tied Up, Beaten, Parties Avoid His Family

• BHU Teachers Appeal President Kovind To Revoke Muslim Professor’s Appointment

• Dec 6, Babri Mosque demolition anniversary, educational institutes to remain shut on in Bulandshahr

• "Harping On Hindu-Muslim Issues" Won't Help: Mamata Banerjee On Economy




• Minorities in Pakistan Wait as Hard-Line Islamic Cleric Indicted 

• ‘Media Role Vital For Preaching Islam’, Says International Conference on Dawah

• IBD assistance sought to improve trade in Muslim economies

• Four-Day Exhibition Titled ‘Buddhist Monk, Islamic Scripture’ Starts In Islamabad

• Pakistan borrowed $10.40 billion during PM Imran Khan's innings: Report

• Verdict in Musharraf treason case to be announced on December 17: Pak court

• Money recovered from tycoon lands in Supreme Court

• NA deputy speaker summons interior minister after BNP-M protests 'arrest of four women' in Awaran



Arab World

• Iraq revolution will be dramatized, written, read, and painted

• Richard Bodeker: Ambassador of Green in Saudi Arabia

• Ksrelief To Work With Islamic Counter-Terror Alliance

• Saudi autistic youth treated to a day at Formula E races

• Saudi, Chinese navies conclude military drills

• Misk event aims to nurture talents of youngsters

• World Islamic Banking Conference opens in Bahrain



South Asia

• ICC judges 'were wrong to reject Afghan probe': Prosecutors

• Afghans to hold candlelight vigil for slain Japanese doctor

• Afghanistan will need continued financial support after a political settlement: WB

• US's Afghanistan envoy arrives in Kabul, next stop: Qatar



Southeast Asia

• MIC Approves Of Umno and PAS Getting Closer, Fine With Hudood, Says Nothing To Do With Non-Muslims’

• Sharia-compliant social commerce startup Evermos bags a little over $8.2m

• Former Negri Sembilan Islamic Religious Council staff jailed three years for CBT

• Typhoon Kammuri death toll hits 13 in Philippines

• Defending jail sentence, PAS MP says more Muslims skipping Friday prayers

• Kuala Lumpur Summit important to promote the true message of Islam




• Missioners To Muslims: Be Good Ambassadors Of Islam

• We are starving, come back and rescue us - Muslim Council to Mahama

• Omar Tall; the 19th-Century Islamic conqueror whose stolen sword France returned

• 18 Indians abducted by pirates off Nigerian coast

• Hundreds of Christians in Nigeria ‘slaughtered’ by Islamist militia this year




• Sikh man wins compensation for being denied UK hotel job over beard

• Expelled Student, 22, Is Jailed For 18 Months after Calling for Muslims to Be 'Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth' In Vile 17-Minute Facebook Video Rant

• The Tories Risk Losing In Dozens of Marginals Because Of Muslim Concerns over Islamophobia

• Guests at official opening of Cambridge Central Mosque admire its stunning architecture and eco-friendly design



North America

• Iran may have killed more than 1,000 in recent protests: US

• US Considers Sending Several Thousand More Troops To Middle East

• US Bill Against Muslim Detainment Camps in China Sparks Anger

• Muslim group seeks help from Milton council in long-running quest for a permanent mosque




• FM Blasts EU3's Letter to UN Chief on Iranian Missiles

• Iran Reiterates Support for Peaceful Solutions to Yemen Crisis

• Iran Asks for ICC's Continued Impartiality, Reaction to US Threats

• DM: All Needed Military Equipment Produced in Iran

• Iranian VP Asks for Using National Currencies for Trade with Kyrgyzstan

• Anger at Erdogan’s ‘sea grab’ in the Mediterranean

• Lebanese protesters vow to step up demonstrations as decision on new prime minister looms

• Tripoli government to confront Moscow over forces’ deployment

• Iran’s ballistic missiles ‘can carry nuclear weapons’

• Turkey's President Erdogan opens Cambridge 'eco-mosque'



Folk singer in Jalpaiguri in West Bengal commits suicide due to NRC panic

New Age Islam News Bureau

NRC panic claimed another victim in West Bengal on

Thursday. A folk singer named Md Shahabuddin committed suicide reportedly due to the panic created by the proposed implementation of the NRC. A resident of Badar Block of Jalpaiguri district, Shahabuddin was a singer of Bhawaiya and Marsiya songs. He was depressed because he could not find documents to prove his citizenship. As of now more than 10 persons have either died or committed suicide due to NRC panic in West Bengal though the NRC has not been implemented in the state.



Pakistan Government To Sell Unused State Properties For Better Utilisation Of Funds On Public Welfare Projects

Dec 5, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has decided to sell its precious unutilised state properties to attract foreign and Pakistani investors, according to media reports on Thursday, as the cash-strapped country tries to overcome a ballooning balance-of-payments crisis and bolster its public finances.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the precious government properties will be sold for better utilisation of funds on public welfare projects.

The properties would be sold at the Dubai Expo and the funds generated through the exercise will be spent on public welfare schemes related to education, health, food and housing, Dawn newspaper reported.

"These unutilised state properties will be marketed at the Dubai Expo to attract foreign and Pakistani investors to buy these assets," privatisation secretary Rizwan Malik informed the PM.

"Unfortunately, criminal negligence was done by the previous governments as they did not utilising these valuable properties. Despite billions of rupees' assets, various federal government institutions are bearing losses of billions of rupees every year," Khan said.

Khan also warned that stern action would be initiated against officers found to be creating hurdles in the identification of non-utilised government-owned properties, The News International reported.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July approved a three-year US $6 billion loan for Pakistan with tough conditions to address its balance of payment crisis and help the country's ailing economy return to "sustainable growth".

Pakistan approached the IMF in August 2018 for a bailout package after the Imran Khan government took over.

Pakistan has also received billions in financial aid packages from friendly countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.



Recent archaeological discoveries highlight Saudi Arabia as ‘a cradle of human civilizations,’ Rome conference told

December 06, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has become a leader in the field of archaeological research in the past five years, a major exhibition in Rome was told.

Abdullah Al-Zahrani, director-general of archaeological research and studies at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said that 44 international archaeological missions had been carried out this year in the Kingdom.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the “Roads of Arabia: Masterpieces of Antiquities in Saudi Arabia Across the Ages” exhibition, which opened at the National Museum of Rome on Nov. 26.

The groundbreaking exhibition was inaugurated by Saudi Minister of Culture Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan and Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities Dario Franceschini.

Al-Zahrani said that the Kingdom “has become one of the most advanced countries in terms of archaeological disclosures.”

“Recent discoveries by local and international missions have highlighted the Kingdom’s historical status and cultural depth as the cradle of the beginnings of human civilizations,” he said.

Archaeological discoveries continue to “instil the civilized dimension of the Kingdom,” he said.

“The religious, political, economic and cultural stature that Saudi Arabia enjoys is an extension of its long cultural heritage, in addition to its distinctive geographical position as a bridge and hub of cultural interaction between East and West that made it a meeting point for international land and sea trade routes throughout all ages,” he added.



China Must Not Be Allowed to Host the 2022 Olympic Games while it Persecutes its Uyghur Muslims

CJ Werleman

5 December 2019

As early as 1922, Adolf Hitler signalled his desire to rid Germany and the European continent of the Jewish people, telling a journalist: “Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews”. Eleven years later, he and the Nazi Party seized control of the country, but the “Final Solution” – the mass extermination of the Jews – would not begin until the summer of 1941.

Exactly five years before the Einsatzgruppen began shooting Jewish women, children, and men – hastily digging ditches located well behind the lines of fighting between the Wehrmacht and Soviet forces during Operation Barbarossa – Nazi Germany hosted the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin.

Although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the games to Germany in 1931 – two years prior to the Nazi Party putting an end to the Weimar Republic – Hitler’s evil intent was no secret when the world’s biggest sporting event got underway five years later. In fact, the official Nazi newspaper Volkischer Beobachter declared, in no uncertain terms, that Jews should not be allowed to participate.

When a number of countries threatened to boycott the games, Hitler gave assurances that Jewish and black athletes would be allowed to compete. A decade later, six million Jews would be slaughtered at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi thugs – illustrating just how shameful the 1936 Olympic Games are considered to be in the 120-year history of the event, held once every four years.

Today, however, the IOC finds itself exactly where it stood more than 80 years ago, staring face-to-face with an eerily similar moral predicament. This time, with a potentially genocidal Communist regime.

In 2015, the IOC awarded Beijing the hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games – two years before a trickle of information emerged regarding the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) establishment of a network of Muslim concentration camps in Xinjiang.

In the four years since, the sheer weight of credible and corroborated reports, alongside thousands of personal testimonies, could not only fill a public library, but also narrate the screenplay to the most nightmarish of dystopian movies. Accounts of torture, family separations, forced labour camps, forced marriages, forced sterilisations, forced adoptions, public executions, pack rape, destruction of mosques, and even live organ harvesting programmes are as common as they are widespread.

In June, the China Tribunal, a panel of lawyers and experts concluded that “many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason”, adding that many of China’s organ harvesting victims were “cut open while still alive for their kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, cornea and skin” for the purpose of having Chinese Muslim body parts “turned into commodities for sale”.

Based on these testimonies, investigations and even satellite images of constructed camps and mosque demolition alone, how on earth can the IOC continue to stand by its decision to allow Beijing the right to host the 2022 Olympic Games?

Is it because the world’s top international sporting body lacks evidence akin to a ‘smoking gun’? Or is it waiting to see footage of smoking chimney stacks spewing the remains of gassed Muslims into the atmosphere? Can it be that it is somehow satisfied with Beijing’s stubborn but flimsy denials?

If the IOC has believed the evidence to be weak or the CCP convincing in the past, it now has no reasons to reassure itself, given more than 400 pages of leaked internal Chinese Government documents have provided irrefutable evidence of its systematic efforts to annihilate and erase 12 million ethnic Uyghur Muslims – in the words of CCP officials themselves. The documents are so detailed that they even include directives for teachers on how to address students whose parents have “disappeared”.

“Freedom is only possible when this ‘virus’ in their thinking is eradicated and they are in good health,” reads one chilling directive in the documents, mirroring the kind of demonising rhetoric the Nazis used to describe Judaism in the years leading up to the “Final Solution”.

“At the very least, officials are explicitly ideologically committed to cultural genocide as a goal on the path to so-called social harmony,” observes Azeem Ibrahim. “And the possibility of mass killing – or of other attempts to forcibly shatter Uyghur identity, whether by sterilisation or deportation – remains very real. This leaves the international community with an unambiguous moral duty to intervene.”

Intervention has remained stubbornly difficult, however, given that China is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The IOC, on the other hand, is not restrained by such procedural and organisational constraints, and thus surely it must be cognisant of the fact that it could play a part in pressuring Beijing into changing its behaviour – particularly because China needs the Olympics more than the IOC needs China, due to the economic benefits and accumulation of soft power such an event bestows upon a host nation.

The IOC can act and it must. In the same way Hitler saw the Berlin Games as an opportunity to promote and showcase his party’s ideals, including anti-Semitism and white supremacy, the CCP views the Beijing Winter Olympics as a chance to sell its brand of authoritarianism – one that is brutally opposed to notions pertaining to democracy, pluralism and equality and committed to carrying out the world’s largest persecution of a religious minority since the Holocaust.

Failure to revoke Beijing’s right to host the 2022 Olympic Games would mean that the world’s top international sporting body hasn’t learnt a thing from its shameful decision to allow Nazi Germany to host the event in 1936. The IOC should know what it needs to do. The question is: will it?



Uighur leader warns China's Nazi-style treatment of Muslims is 'history repeating itself' and calls on Australia to take action

5 December 2019

A leading activist says China's Nazi-style treatment of its Uighur population is 'history repeating itself', and has called on Australia and other Western democracies to force change by leveraging trade partnerships.

Rushan Abbas, a Uighur living in America, is calling for the emerging superpower to be stripped of its 2022 Winter Olympics and 2021 FIFA Club World Cup hosting rights.

She said holding the events in China would be rewarding its government for committing genocide and crimes against humanity, and that the global community must take a harsher approach.

'When Nazi Germany built its first concentration camps in 1933 ... most of the economically independent or rich countries continued to do business with Germany, enabled Germany's economy to murder more people,' she told reporters at the US embassy in Canberra on Thursday.

'That's exactly the same thing that's happening right now.

'Continuing to do business with China is enabling the Chinese economy to be the threat to the world community, democracy and values.'

The United Nations says there are credible reports that at least one million Uighur Muslims are being held in 're-education' camps in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.

But the Chinese government has consistently denied any mistreatment of Uighurs and says the camps are providing vocational training.

Ms Abbas' comments echoed those of Liberal politician Andrew Hastie, who was criticised in August for likening the global response to China's rise to the lack of preparedness in Europe for the growth of Nazi Germany.

The West Australian backbencher, who chairs federal parliament's intelligence and security committee, drew a mixed reaction from his coalition colleagues and condemnation from Beijing at the time.

He has also used parliamentary privilege to speak out about Chinese influence in Australia and human rights abuses against Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Ms Abbas, the founder of the Campaign for Uighurs advocacy group, visited Parliament House to take her message directly to politicians.

She said 'freedom is not free' and Australia and other Western democracies must invoke their trade relationships with China to send a message.

'Every time when there is a foreign policy or any kind of trade or negotiations, the Uighur issue should be there linked together,' she said.

'Unless we use that trade and economy to defend those millions of voiceless people's rights, nothing is going to work.'



Indonesian faints during whipping for Sharia-banned sex

5 December 2019

An Indonesian man who fainted as he was being whipped for pre-marital sex Thursday was revived to receive the rest of his punishment before being rushed to hospital.

Despite international condemnation, public flogging is common for a range of offences banned under local Islamic law in the conservative Aceh region on Sumatra island, including gambling, drinking alcohol, and having gay or pre-marital sex.

Aceh is the only region in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, that imposes religious law.

On Thursday, a 22-year-old man -- sentenced to 100 strokes -- pleaded with a masked Sharia officer to stop lashing his back with a rattan cane before he fainted, an AFP reporter witnessed.

He was revived and given brief medical attention and then the flogging continued. He was later rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The man had been found guilty of having sex with a woman who was also sentenced to 100 lashes outside a mosque in Aceh Timur district, along with another man she had relations with.

Local media reported that a woman who was whipped in a separate case in Aceh Tamiang on Thursday also fainted.

"The fact that two people were beaten unconscious today, in two separate incidents, is a damning indictment of the authorities who let this happen on their watch," said Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia.

He added that the "cruel, inhuman and degrading" punishments amount to torture and called on authorities in Aceh and Indonesia to end them.

Some 500 jeering spectators watched the punishment as some yelled "harder, harder".

"This is the consequence they have to face for violating the law," onlooker Muhammad Yunus told AFP.

In July, three people were flogged 100 times each for having premarital sex, while two men caught having sex with underaged girls were also whipped 100 times last year. Other offences tend to carry dozens or even fewer lashes.

In October, Aceh officials announced that poachers who threaten endangered orangutans, tigers and other wildlife could receive up to 100 lashes under new rules.

Rights groups have slammed public caning as cruel, and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has called for it to end, but the practice has widespread support among Aceh's mostly Muslim population.



Al Majiri and standardization of Islamic seminaries: recipes for counter-insurgency

DECEMBER 5, 2019

By Dr. Lukman A. Olorogun

Islam is popularly known as a total way of life that transcends rites and rituals and is one of the major leading religions in Nigeria. Historically, Islam has enjoyed a large number of adherents across states, local governments and more, albeit at a different percentage in those places.

Being one of the monotheist religions that encourage missionary activities and entail the whole-life, Nigerian Muslims often inculcate their offspring with Islamic ethos from birth.

Thus, Nigerian parents/families are classified into two i.e. “Ascetic and non-Ascetic” families. On the one hand, those with traditional Islamic background “ascetic” are locally known as Sheikh, whereby the parents are well established Islamic scholars.

On the other hand, there are those Islamic adherents by faith but who have less knowledge in Islamic ethos. The latter often send their children to the ascetics for the purpose of learning and developing Islamic ethos.

There began creations of Islamic seminaries across Nigeria known as “Ile Kewu” in Western Nigeria and “Makarantan Zaure/Allo” in the Northern part. They serve as the missionary front for the propagation of Islam across the nation.

The development of these traditional seminaries was left in the hands of individuals (Sheikh). These individuals were believed to possess adequate Islamic knowledge without any formal authentication from the government or authorities in general.

This loose system embodies different characters of proprietors of those seminaries in both the philosophy and the applications of Islamic fundamentals. Additionally, there is the cultural belief of Nigerians that knowledge is a hardship-laden with the natural triplets of Patient, Perseverance and Persistent which I term “P3

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”. Furthermore, economic motives play a great role in the extension and sustenance of those seminaries. In both ways, seminaries serve as sources of income to the proprietor, as well as the easiest and cheapest way of delivering knowledge to the students.

Proprietors serve as putative fathers, teachers, and spiritual guardians of students and, at times, parents as well. Proprietors often pass many months or years without receiving any “Kobo” or reimbursement from the students and their parents. Meanwhile, most of the proprietors have no other means or sources of income.

Thus, the genesis of the term “Al Majiri” which literally translates to “Student”, or more technically as “Disciple”. These students were sent out to neighborhoods to receive charity such as money, clothes, and donated foods.

The above system was widely spread across Nigeria in the early time of Islamic civilization. Precisely, the system was obvious in North-North, North-East, North-Central, South-West, and a small part of MiddleBelt.

It was even evident in Lagos State and other core South-Western states until the late 20th century such as Zumratul Muminina method. Due to prevalent Western education in South-Western states, eradication of the Al Majirisystem was quickly obvious.

Add to this, the emancipation of modern and well-organized Islamic seminaries established by individuals such as “Markaz” in the Agege suburb of Lagos State, founded by the erudite Islamic scholar “Sheikh Adam Al Ilori”, Sheikh Kamal Al Adabi’s seminary in Ilorin, Kwara State on one hand.

On the other hand, well-organized Islamic missionaries, such as Nawarud Din, Anwarul Islam, Ansarul Din and more in the propagation of Islamic civilization. Few well-grounded missionaries such as Jama’atu Nasrul Islam, Jama’atu Izalatul bidi’a wa Iqamatu Sunnah (JIBWIS) are notable in the Northern states. By the end of the 20th century, Westerners had discarded the Al Majiri system in major cities and suburbs.

There are only a handful of these crude seminaries remaining in the interior part of the South-West states. However, Northern states have witnessed the opposite. Northern Nigeria became a fertile ground for the grooming of the Al Majiri system for many reasons: It serves as Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio base i.e. “Islamic Caliphate” and Sheikh Dan Fodio as the Sultan engraved in Islamic civilization.

In fact, the conquest of Northern Nigeria was without serious war with the British colonial rulers. It is, thus, very difficult to separate the local and the Islamic culture in the Caliphate.

In fact, the British colonial masters officially adopted Islamic Shari’ah as the source of Law for the Northern region. Meanwhile, Northerners have two major sources of income: farming and animal rearing.

The majority of families are either farmers who are “Hausa and other minority ethnics” and “Shepherd i.e. animal rearing”, this being major trade of the Fulanis. Moreover, they hold the belief that Allah “God” is the ultimate Provider and Sustainer.

Those professions need manpower in order to sustain production and survival. The mismatching of need for manpower and the Islamic ethos encourages the marrying of the maximum number of wives as permitted and prescribed in the Qur’an, as well as having numbers of children, as many as is endowed by Allah “God”.

At liberty, the majority of men marry more than one wife and have a great number of children without factoring in the provisional part of the marriage requirements.

Education of those children was mostly left to the mercy of the seminaries’ proprietors who, in turn, have few resources. The only solution was sending those disciples on the road begging in the neighborhood for foods, clothes and other donations. The Western states managed to reverse their view on seminaries.

Northern states are yet to come closer to the reality. Meanwhile, the status quo in terms of lifestyle has changed in Northern states as individuals are exposed to modern amenities. Unfortunately, the majority are yet to engage in mind migration from a crude 1960s lifestyle to the modern world.

Arrest and prosecutions would never bring an end to the predicament of Al Majiri and the illegal detention centers saga. The way forward involves all segments of government, particularly, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism who should champion the course. However, this will not be possible unless the Islamic organizations, at the grassroots level, take charge.

In this light, the “Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affair” (NSCIA) must lead the course of action. The only single solution is to standardize the local Islamic seminaries. Standardization starts with compelling proprietors to register the seminaries with the NSCIA.

NSCIA would forward the registered seminaries to the Ministry of Religious Affairs such as in Katsina State. That registered list of seminaries should be forwarded to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The registration of seminaries would provide adequate overseeing by the authorities and monitoring of development at local, state and federal government levels. One suggestion is the monitoring by using C5 formula for measuring credibility risk exposure:

First C: Character: Morals and ethics are well-defined terms in Islamic ethos, both in Qur’an and Prophetic traditions. Thus, Islamic ethical and moral standards of the proprietor must be ascertained before giving the approval to establish or operate a private seminary. This would impact students directly which in turn reflects on society.

A morally-cultured proprietor with high integrity would definitely be preferred to an unethical proprietor who would negatively affect the society at large. As it were, students’ protection is a priority. This would minimize or eradicate the indoctrination of terrorists’ ideology.

Second C: Capital: Most importantly, economic capacity i.e. sources and adequacy of income of the proprietor. This is to avoid and abate financial crises which bring about the current problems of Al Majiris.

Ensuring that the proprietor has enough economic power to sustain his/her family without waiting for the students’ fees would bring the end of the issue of sending students on the road to beg for donations.

Third C: Capacity: This addresses whether or not the proprietor has the capacity to maintain the seminary.

Capacity in knowledge about Islam, mental capacity, strength to deliver the required knowledge to the students and so on. Lastly, the capacity of the seminary in terms of the number of students that should be admitted at a time.

Fourth C: Condition: The sensitivity of the area of operation i.e. the location and condition of the

seminary: its environment, surroundings, and hygiene, for instance. This is vital as to whether the place is suitable for learning or not. This would go a long way in the eradication of the kind of detention centers that have recently created suspicion about the integrity of Islamic seminaries across Nigeria.

Fifth C: Collateral: Here, the collateral would be an intangible asset owned by the proprietors. In this case, I mean the spiritual level of the proprietor. Spirituality is a central or core part of Islamic religion and civilization.

It would serve as a check and balance for both proprietors and students alike. Guardians are drawn from Qur’an and Prophetic Sunna. It would manifest after careful study of the proprietor’s private and public dealings. This would have to be assessed by both parents and the government alike.

Damage to one spiritual level would mean a “collateral damage” which would reflect on all other four (C1-4) elements stated above. Thereby, we would achieve the eradication of terrorist insurgency.

Dr. Lukman A. Olorogun is an Assitant Professor of Business, FWC, Higher Colleges of Technology, Fujairah, UAE.



German Muslim politician takes the fight to Nazi group after racist death threats

Dec 5, 2019

A prominent Muslim German politician has refused to stand down after murderous threats from a far-right group, saying she will not be silenced.

Sawsan Chebli, Berlin’s state campaigner for civil engagement, told The National she had become one of the most attacked politicians in Germany because of her Palestinian Muslim background.

But she would not resign despite receiving a letter from neo-Nazis threatening to kill her.

“I have never experienced this kind of continuous and daily hate,” said Ms Chebli, who is from the centre-left Social Democratic Party.

The most recent death threat had only spurred her into further action, she said.

“I even feel encouraged to be even louder. They are not going to silence me,” Ms Chebli said.

This week she shared on social media an intimidating letter she had received from a right-wing extremist group referring to itself as the Atomwaffen Division Deutschland.

The note, littered with racist epithets, threatened Ms Chebli with death if she did not stand down from her appointed position in the Berlin state government.

It also threatened her family and was signed off with the infamous Nazi salute, “Heil Hitler”.

Ms Chebli, whose Palestinian parents arrived in Germany from a Lebanese refugee camp in 1970, has attracted racist hatred because of her heritage and her outspoken condemnation of Islamophobia, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism.

“As a Muslim, as a Palestinian, as a woman and a woman of colour who is very outspoken, I am their enemy,” she said.

While the extreme right has focused on Ms Chebli because of her background, she says her heritage has always been a source of motivation.

“It is the reason why I am in politics," she said. "It is what encouraged me and motivated me.

"It triggered me to go into politics and not to let others decide upon my life as politics always decided my parents’ lives."

In recent months, support for the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has grown significantly as its leaders exploited anti-migrant, populist sentiment, particularly in the east of the country.

In October in local elections in the eastern state of Thuringia, it came second with 23.4 per cent of the vote.

The regional poll placed the populist, right-wing party ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union.

In 2017, the AfD won 12.6 per cent of the vote in parliamentary elections, winning 94 seats. It was the first time the party entered the lower house, becoming the third largest party in the national legislature

Ms Chebli says she draws a direct line between the rise of the far-right in mainstream German politics and the threats she has received.

"I never expected in my life before that a party that has fascists in its ranks would sit in the Bundestag," she said. "After our dark Nazi history I thought we would be immune."

Ms Chebli said that ultimately it was her hope to battle the right-wing minority in Germany and inspire others to speak out.

“The majority is pro-democratic and a tolerant and wants an open society,” she said.

“I want to fight to help others so they don't have to suffer and don't have to have the same obstacles."



Secret U.S. Efforts in Latin America Keep Jihadis Out

by Todd Bensman

December 2, 2019

Acting on a U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Wanted alert in June 2019, Nicaragua arrested four migrants from the Middle East who had just crossed their border on a journey north to the U.S. border. The American alert had listed two Iraqis and an Egyptian as possible ISIS terrorists. Another Egyptian had been picked up with the three.

Knowledgeable intelligence community sources said an informant based in Brazil had fingered the men as ISIS operatives, which prompted DHS to send its Wanted alert to countries along known smuggling routes that connect the Middle East to the U.S.'s southern border. Nicaragua handed the men over to Costa Rica, where U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officers no doubt got at them.

No update on the suspected ISIS operatives has become public.

But this case is one of many just like it that help answer a lingering question about the porous American border, one consequential to U.S. national security and immigration policy: Why has no Islamist terrorist breached it to commit a successful attack on U.S. soil?

A new study published by the Center for Immigration Studies, which authenticated terrorist border infiltration patterns in Europe, provides answers along with a warning. Chief among the answers is that, unlike the European Union, the U.S. secretly built a security infrastructure throughout Latin America that has detected and interdicted migrant-terrorists before they could potentially attack. So far. As for the warning, the risk of border infiltration persists, in part, because that same security cordon is neglected and easily defeatable.

A Clandestine U.S. Counterterrorism Effort in Latin America

That conclusion is based on informed analysis since, obviously, prevented terror attacks cannot be confirmed and tallied. But the largely unknown American effort almost certainly took identified prospective migrant-terrorists offline before they could kill, tragically unlike the infiltrators did throughout Europe, as Part I of this series demonstrated.

What does this effort look like?

After 9/11, legislation required the nation's border security agencies to figure out ways to stop terrorists from infiltrating over the border. Homeland decided to target the flow of 3,000 to 4,000 migrants already known to be smuggled from countries of terrorism concern in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. Programs targeted such "special interest aliens," as they were dubbed, far south of the border.

ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, for instance, deployed agents to dozens of transit countries to disrupt special interest alien smuggling networks, aided by the U.S. Navy and spy satellites. Also, the U.S. equipped transit countries like Panama and Costa Rica to collect biometrics information on transiting special interest aliens. FBI and DHS agents stationed in Mexico conducted interviewed special interest aliens inside Mexican detention centers and also in Panama and Costa Rica. They trained local proxies to do the same and forward the intel.

At home on the border, starting in 2004, the FBI and DHS did the same interviews in detention centers, collected pocket trash, and checked terrorism databases and foreign intelligence repositories.

FBI informants sometimes were placed inside detention centers.

With a little luck and serendipity, this cordon paid a completely unrecognized safety dividend.

For example, just between 2012 and 2017, these systems reportedly identified more than 100 special interest migrants – at least 20 "Known or Suspected Terrorists" per year – apprehended at the border or en route through Latin America who were already listed on U.S. terror watch lists. That means they were either suspects in plots or attacks or are directly or indirectly involved with those who were, which means they were higher risks to public safety. it is worth remembering that a mere 19 al-Qaeda hijackers attacked in New York and Washington, D.C. on 9/11. Smuggling investigations since 2017 identified numerous additional terror-watch-listed migrants from Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan.

American efforts have picked up many others not on watch lists. The Somali national Abdullahi Omar Fidse is emblematic. Fidse had himself and his wife smuggled to the Texas border in the summer of 2008, where they requested political asylum. While still in a Texas detention center waiting to post bond, though, he confided to an undercover FBI informant placed inside.

According to court records from his 2010-2013 immigration fraud case, Fidse said he was a combat-experienced soldier of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab who'd come for an unspecified operation. He'd been a plotter in an aborted plan to attack the U.S. ambassador in Kenya and kill his protective U.S. Marine detail, confided he received military training at a camp run by an Afghanistan war mujahedeen, knew how to operate heavy weapons and once procured a $100,000 battle wagon for al-Shabaab blown up in battle.

He was not baselessly boasting, either; Americans found a phone number in Fidse's cell phone memory card belonging to an al-Shabaab terrorist implicated in the 2010 Uganda soccer fan bombings that killed 76 spectators.

We'll thankfully never know what Fidse might have wrought once inside America had he not encountered the FBI informant. He is among at least 15 border-crossing terror suspects with resumes just as fearsome. At least some must have been prevented from attacking. Many other apprehensions, each a potential plot disruption, no doubt remain classified.

Holes in the Security Cordon and Europe Elevate the Risk

Don't get too comfortable.

Despite some U.S. counterterrorism success, the CIS study concludes that "significant vulnerability to border infiltration" persists due to "ineffectiveness of effort, inconsistent application, discordant inter-agency coordination, and a highly dysfunctional asylum system."

One Somali carrying the jihadist gene got through and attacked – albeit in Canada. Abdullahi Sharif crossed the southern border into California in 2011, ignored supervised release conditions, and was accepted by Canada as a refugee. By 2015, he was on Canadian intelligence services radar for extremism. In 2017, he conducted a double-vehicle ramming attack in Edmonton, carrying an ISIS flag, that critically wounded five people.

Others like him could wash, rinse and repeat because: ICE-HIS human smuggling energy abroad has been diverted to drug investigations. FBI and DHS agents don't conduct threat-assessment interviews of all apprehended special interest alien. The FBI stopped conducting universal interviews in 2011 for all but high-priority ones. Many undoubtedly go free with minimal vetting, especially at times like now when hundreds of thousands of Central Americans are crashing all systems.

This state of affairs is even more problematic since many show up at the border with no identification other than a proffered name that may as well be Mickey Mouse.

"You interview them, run every database possible, fingerprints, watch lists, check their stories... Could we be fooled? Of course," one FBI agent said.

Perhaps most problematic are Government Accountability Office investigations that consistently find the U.S. political asylum processes are riddled with high rates of undetected fraud and lengthy backlogs that outpace even Europe's. This matters because the research shows that most terrorist border infiltrators exploited failed European asylum systems to kill and plot.

Success Begets Success

Beyond these broad, exploitable security gaps, the risk of terrorist-migration infiltration through the southern border probably increased after the European infiltrations for no other reason than that they almost certainly were noticed as successful and replicable.

It is baseline human nature to notice success, things that work, and to copy them. ISIS repeatedly boasted of their infiltration feats in online forums to an audience far beyond their own cohorts to all Islamic terrorist organizations, then planned one itself. In 2016, in the afterglow of European successes. ISIS reportedly arranged for a team of Trinidadians to be smuggled from Syria over the U.S. southern border. What became of the plan is unclear.

But no one should assume time has dampened desire. Higher expense, longer distances and the chances of American interdiction will not likely keep a determined, well-financed terrorist from trying. Now is the precisely the wrong time for complacency, as I'll show next week.



Turkey, Malaysia, Qatar can pioneer in Islamic finance

December 6, 2019

Ready to be taken to the next level, the burgeoning sector of Islamic finance is ready to take root in new regions through Turkey, Malaysia and Qatar, according to a leading figure in Qatari finance.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, the CEO of the Qatar Financial Centre Yousuf Al-Jaida said Malaysia could act as a gateway for Islamic finance into Asia, with Turkey into Europe and Qatar the Middle East and Africa.

He stressed that Malaysia was ready with its legal framework to facilitate the sector, as well as such products as Sukuk — a non-interest-bearing note. Qatar, and Turkey need to step up and do more for the sector, which should be pioneered by Muslim countries.

Underlining that Doha and Ankara needed to step up and do more, he said these three countries could form a large platform to share experience, technology and knowledge in the $2.4-trillion field.

“I think we can create something really superb and magnificent for the industry,” Al-Jaida said, adding that Islamic finance is now growing at an even quicker pace than traditional or conventional finance.

The CEO highlighted several new potential fields for Islamic finance, such as Islamic financial technologies, Islamic reinsurance and Islamic asset management.—AA





Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati Oppose Citizenship Bill: It Divides, Discriminates

December 6, 2019

A DAY after the Union Cabinet cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday that his party would oppose it. BSP president Mayawati also criticised the Bill, and said it should be sent to a parliamentary committee for review.

The Bill, that aims to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, is set to be introduced in Parliament during the ongoing Winter Session.

Speaking in Wayanad, Rahul said: “The Congress party is against any form of discrimination. So, anybody who discriminates against anyone who is Indian, we are against them. That is our party’s line. We believe that India belongs to everybody — all communities, all religions and all cultures.”

In Lucknow, Mayawati called the Bill “completely divisive and unconstitutional”. “Through the Bill, they want to give citizenship on the basis of religion, which will lead to discrimination on the basis of religion. This is against the basic structure of the humanitarian and secular Constitution, drafted by Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. Hence, the BSP is not content with the Bill in its current form,” she said.

Saying that the Bill was “brought in haste”, she said: “Like demonetisation and GST… the Citizenship Bill is being forcefully imposed on the country… It should be sent to a parliamentary committee for discussion so that it can come in front of the nation in a constitutional form.”

“Any decision by the Centre should not appear to be against a caste, religion, community or region, and should not show any malice. Such a decision will be considered a crime against the dignity of the Constitution,” she said. “It is the BSP’s Ambedkarite policy that it will support any decision of the Centre if it respects people from different castes, religions and communities and if it is not made with a narrow mind. If this is not the case, we will oppose it rigorously. The CAB, in its current form, has a lot of issues. The government should consult all parties before bringing it to Parliament, and resolve all serious apprehensions,” she said.

Meanwhile, Opposition parties, including the Congress, TMC, SP, AAP, CPI, CPI(M), IUML, DMK and RJD, met in New Delhi to discuss the Bill. Resolving to make clear the government’s “inherent intention” to the “masses”, they are set to counter the government’s stand on the CAB being crucial for national security with a counter-narrative on how it violates the Constitution.

“A copy of the Bill is yet to be circulated, hence the information that we have so far is from media reports. It does not seem likely that the Bill will be circulated before next week. In the interim, we will take our message to the people and effectively counter the national security spin that is given to the Bill,” said an Opposition leader who attended the meeting.

The parties emphasised the need to communicate to the people that if religion-based discrimination is condoned, it will not stop with one religion. “This is just the beginning. Today it is one religion, tomorrow it will be another,” said a leader.

“Wake up or else BJP will rob you of your citizenship. Sometimes it will be Sikh, or Dalit, or Tamil, or Bengali. All will lose citizenship,” tweeted AAP MP Sanjay Singh.

While most of the Opposition parties have stated their intent to vote against the Bill, some like the TMC are learnt to be weighing their options, considering whether to directly oppose it or adopt an alternate strategy like a walkout. With the change in numbers in Rajya Sabha, and parties like the Shiv Sena supporting the Bill, the Opposition camp feels that the legislation may be passed by Parliament, despite their protests.

In Kerala, Rahul also targeted the Centre on the economic slowdown. “Mr Amit Shah and Mr (Narendra) Modi live in their own imagination. They don’t have contact with the outside world. They live in their own world and fantasise about things. That is why the country is in such trouble. If Narendra Modi listens to the people of the country, the people of Kerala, there would not be such problems. Modi’s style of governance is to distract the attention of people from real issues. Because he lives in an imaginary world… he wants India to live in an imaginary world. Now that imagination he has created is crumbling,’’ he said.

Later, addressing party workers in his constituency, Rahul said the BJP could not bully him by registering cases against him across the country. “There are 15 to 16 cases against me. When you look at a soldier, he has many medals on his chest. Every single case is a medal for me. The more the cases, the happier I am. So when they lodge a case against me, they put a medal on my chest. It is also a medal for you (party workers),” he said.



Plot thickens: ‘Land mafia’ targets Sultanate-era mosque in Mehrauli

Dec 6, 2019

NEW DELHI: A Sultanate-era mosque in Mehrauli has become a cause of much anguish for the locals after a land-grabber occupied the structure and allegedly razed parts of the building. The building, which conservationists think came up in the Lodhi period, is less than 10 metres from the Lodhi-era Jahaz Mahal, which is a centrally protected monument. And although it has no known name in the records, locals call it the Neelgo Masjid.

The ruins as they were in the 1950s when a University of Tokyo team had documented them. The mosque in question is indicated in red. The building in the foreground is the Jharna while immediately ahead of the mosque is the Jahaz Mahal

TOI visited the spot on Tuesday and found “bouncers” guarding the structure. They didn’t allow anyone to go near the place or click photographs. Entreaties with people who live in buildings adjacent to the spot to let us click photographs from their rooftops didn’t yield positive results either as nobody wanted to earn the wrath of the “land mafia”.

Eventually, our photographer had to climb atop Jahaz Mahal to manoeuvre for a shot. And the violation was apparent. Huge, blue-coloured tin sheets have been installed as barricade around the site so that nobody can enter or even see what is going on inside. The lone opening there has been blocked with a truck. Since the building falls in the prohibited zone (100-metre radius), any construction or demolition there is illegal.

Incidentally, it was being conserved by Delhi government’s archaeology department until an NGT ban on constructions kicked in two months ago. The mosque was then occupied and barricaded on November 26, locals said. Qari Muhammad Hassan, who claims to be the imam of the mosque, said goons arrived there and pushed him out of the mosque. “Ye kuch dinon se koshish kar rahe thhe ki masjid shahid kar di jaye (they had been trying for sometime to raze the mosque),” Hassan alleged.

Others said there was an ownership dispute over the plot of land where the mosque stands. “The land is owned by DDA, but there has been a dispute over its ownership for a while. The Supreme Court ordered to maintain status quo there sometime ago. We included the monument in the list for conservation and had been working there when the NGT ban on constructions kicked in. And now, this has happened. How can anyone put up those tin barricades with a court-ordered status quo in place and the building falling in the prohibited zone of ASI? We have written letters to all authorities concerned, including the police. Action is awaited,” said Vikas Maloo, head of the department of archaeology, Delhi government.

Maloo also rejected the claim made by a few locals that namaz was offered in the mosque until 2009. “I am not aware of any such thing. It was a barren structure when we picked it up for conservation,” he said.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), while refusing to confirm if it has lodged an FIR, said it has explored all legal means. “ASI Delhi circle is handling this. The circle officers have been tasked with preparing a detailed ground report on this,” said an ASI official.

Parvez Alam Khan, president of Okhla Block Congress Committee, said the entire plot measures about an acre. “People were happy when the state archaeology department conserved the adjacent Jharna (a Mughal pleasure garden built in 1700). The mosque was the next in their list for conservation. In fact, they had started the work when their work was obstructed. You could still see the material brought for the work lying abandoned inside,” he said.

An Intach official agreed with some of the points made by Parvez Alam. “We were chased around by people when we worked there. So, we can understand when you say that you were obstructed. The idea was to develop the entire area from the Jharna to Jahaz Mahal as an integrated heritage complex. Tourists could start with the Jharna, then visit the mosque, and step out of it to enter the Jahaz Mahal and go all the way to Hauz-i-Shamsi. The Delhi government liked the plan and they included the mosque in the list. As we began work, the NGT ban came into force in October and we had to stop,” the official said.

Parvez Muhammad, a retired engineer, showed video clips purportedly showing workers razing portions of the mosque. “I am amazed this can happen under the nose of so many different agencies,” he said.

Another local said on the condition of anonymity that the land-grabber intends to build residential flats and a commercial complex on the plot. However, TOI could not independently verify those claims.

But the Intach official stressed that the Delhi government needs to act aggressively. “If there is a land dispute, fix it. If you have to compensate people, do it. But get the building back and conserve it. It’s a Sultanate period building. You cannot let it go waste,” he said, adding that a Japanese delegation had documented this building as part of an official visit in the 1950s.

Delhi Waqf Board claims ownership of the mosque. Its chairman Amanatullah Khan confirmed to TOI that the mosque has been illegally occupied. “We have now obtained a stay order from court,” Khan said. He said he would provide a copy of the stay order with this correspondent but hadn’t done so till the time of filing of this report. “It is the police’s fault,” Khan alleged.



Jharkhand elections: In town where Tabrez tied up, beaten, parties avoid his family

Written by Abhishek Angad

December 6, 2019

In June, Kharsawan, a nondescript Jharkhand town about 60 km west of Jamshedpur, hit the national headlines, and notoriety, when a man named Tabrez Ansari was reportedly tied to a pole, beaten and forced to say Jai Shri Ram. Ansari, caught for an alleged act of theft, succumbed to head injuries four days later.

The incident sparked widespread criticism of the state government’s ostensible administrative lapses, with many political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, condemning the incident.

Six months on, as Kharsawan Assembly constituency gets ready to vote in the Vidhan Sabha elections on Saturday, there is no mention of Ansari by any candidate, including incumbent Dasrath Ghagrai of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and his main opponent, BJP’s Jawahar Lal Banra.

The BJP is seeking votes on the promise of double-engine growth – with governments in both the state and at the Centre – and the JMM’s main plank is the ruling party’s “anti-tribal decisions and five years of misrule”.

After Ansari’s death, his wife Sahista Parween, 19, has moved to her mother’s home on the outskirts of Kharsawan. As campaigning ended on Saturday, Sahista told The Indian Express, “Many political leaders come up to the end of the colony, seeking votes; no one comes to us. They probably fear that they would lose votes.”

Muslim votes are not a deciding factor in Kharsawan, and the family believes political parties don’t want to be seen as sympathisers of one community.

After the crime, JMM leader Hemant Soren had said that the incident signified a “complete breakdown of law and order” in the state and demanded compensation for Ansari’s family. The JMM, or its candidate, does not mention the incident any longer.

Sahista’s mother Shehnaz Begum said, “Many people said they would help us. We received money from some people, which is being used for Sahista’s treatment. But she needs a job to sustain herself.”

Aam Aadmi Party leader Amanatullah Khan had met the family to give Sahista a cheque and offer her a job at Delhi Waqf Board, but Sahista said she cannot move to Delhi.

Less than 10 km away in Dhatkidih village, where Ansari was assaulted, there is palpable anger against the police and the media.

A shopkeeper (name withheld on request) said two of his family members are in jail as accused in the case. “The lower court rejected bail. We will move the High Court,” he said. On his voting preference, he said, “Various organisations supporting the BJP helped us with ration. No one else looked after us.”

The police had initially arrested 11 accused and charged them with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, among others, stating that the mob’s intent was not to murder Ansari, and that the postmortem report was not conclusive.

After media reports on the incident, the police filed a supplementary chargesheet and charged 13 accused with murder.

This has irked villagers. While The Indian Express was speaking with the shop owner, angry villagers refused to let him speak. One of them said, “We don’t want to talk about anything. We have 797 votes and we will see whom to vote for.”

Nishant Kumar, in-charge of Kolhan Range of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha, youth wing of BJP, had visited the village after the incident and later wrote on Facebook how innocent villagers were being made to live in fear and that the morcha was with them in their “sorrow and happiness”.

Among others campaigning for BJP candidate Banra is Union Minister Arjun Munda’s wife Meera Munda.



BHU teachers appeal President Kovind to revoke Muslim professor’s appointment

Dec 06, 2019

As many as 20 BHU teachers including the retired ones have written a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind appealing him to revoke the appointment of Feroze Khan who was appointed as Assistant Professor in the Sanskrit Department of the varsity.

These teachers are of the view that Khan could have been appointed in any other faculty except Sanskrit because in “other faculties doors are open for teachers of all religion”.

“Please revoke the faulty appointment of Feroze Khan as Assistant Professor in the Sanskrit Department of the varsity. We would have been very happy had he be appointed in any other faculty except the Sanskrit because doors have other faculty are open for all,” stated the letter.

The students had on Monday resumed their protest against the appointment of Khan in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan of the University.

The protest had begun after a break of ten days since November 22, when the agitation was called off after giving a memorandum to the university administration against the appointment of the professor.

The appointment of Khan in the department has triggered protests by the varsity’s students last month.

The agitating students had claimed that the protest was not against the appointment of a Muslim professor, but the appointment of a non-Hindu in a subject closely connected with the religion.



Dec 6, Babri Mosque demolition anniversary, educational institutes to remain shut on in Bulandshahr

Friday, December 6, 2019

Bulandshahr, Dec 05: All schools, colleges and educational institutions in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh will remain shut on Friday in view of law and order situation, officials said on Thursday.

December 6 marks the 17th anniversary of the Babri Mosque demolition in Ayodhya. "In view of law and order situation, all government and private schools up till class 12, colleges and educational institutions will remain closed on December 6, 2019," District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar said in a written order.

Earlier in the day, top police and administration officials in this western UP district went on foot patrolling in crucial localities to assess ground situation ahead of Friday.

On November 9, the Supreme Court had paved the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya, and directed the Centre to allot an alternative 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a new mosque at a "prominent" place in the holy town in Uttar Pradesh.

In one of the most important and anticipated judgements in India's history, a 5-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi put an end to the more than a century old dispute that has torn the social fabric of the nation.



"Harping On Hindu-Muslim Issues" Won't Help: Mamata Banerjee On Economy

December 05, 2019

Kolkata: In a veiled attack on the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said "politics of divide and rule" would do no good to the country, which is currently facing an economic slowdown.

Speaking at a programme in Kolkata, the chief minister asserted that it was time to address the economic woes in the country instead of harping on "Hindu-Muslim" issues.

"Unemployment and poverty have reached sky-high levels. At a time like this, I don't know if harping on Hindu-Muslim issues will yield any positive result," she said.

The chief minister urged people to work together for peace and prosperity.

"Nobody knows what will happen to the banks tomorrow. There is uncertainty everywhere. This never happened before. Let us work together for peace, prosperity and unity. Dwelling on religious matters will not bring the desired outcome," she insisted.

The TMC chief also claimed that industrialists in the country feel intimidated by central agencies - the CBI, the IT department and the ED.

"Many of them have left Indian shores due to this (intimidation). Rahul Bajaj had the guts to speak out. But I feel he has been put under scanner since then," she said.

Veteran industrialist Rahul Bajaj recently said that India Inc was afraid of criticising the Centre's policies. He found support in Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who said the government treated India Inc as "pariahs" and doesn't want to hear any criticism of the economy.

Slamming West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar over alleged delay in clearing bills, she said there was a "parallel administration running in the state".

"I am sorry to say this... The House got adjourned as bills were not signed. We are fighting, and we will fight this out," she added.





Minorities in Pakistan Wait as Hard-Line Islamic Cleric Indicted 

By Niala Mohammad

December 05, 2019

WASHINGTON - Minorities in Pakistan are anxiously awaiting the final court ruling against a hardline cleric who was indicted last month on charges of sedition and terrorism for inciting nationwide protests in Pakistan.

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Pakistan's Punjab province formally charged Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), an extremist political party, but has not yet given a date for its final ruling.

Analysts predict that it will take some time, given the sensitivity of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

ATC was established in 1998 as a separate court, under former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government to address crimes related to terror in a speedy manner. 

The latest indictment against Rizvi comes a year after Pakistan's Supreme Court's decision in 2018 in which Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of committing blasphemy, was acquitted of the charges. Rizvi's party took issue with the ruling, demanding that the court proceed with the initial charges and sentence Bibi to death for insulting the prophet of Islam.

After spearheading large protests in the country that blocked several cities, the government last year took measures, cracked down on TLP's members, and arrested its leader, Rizvi after he openly urged his supporters to target the Supreme Court judges for their decision in Asia's case.

"Either be loyal to the Prophet or leave Islam. There is no third way for true Muslims; the third way is only for hypocrites and infidels." Rizvi told his supporters at the time.

Despite the Pakistani government's crackdown on the TLP members, religious minorities and experts are concerned about Rizvi's expanding ideological reach.

Noman Taj, a Punjab-based journalist, told VOA that Rizvi maintains a large following that adheres to his hardline ideology.

"There is a sizable faction of people that not only follow Allama Khadim Rizvi but who support and admire him for his outspokenness and knowledge about Islam," Taj told VOA.

Taj added that Rizvi's public speaking skills further enable him to draw large crowds.

"The language Rizvi uses and his style of delivering sermons appeals to the masses … A big chunk of the rural population in Punjab agrees with his ideology and preaching's, especially in regards to Mumtaz Qadri," Taj said.

Mumtaz Qadri, a security guard for Salman Taseer, former governor of Punjab province, killed the very person he was tasked with protecting in 2011 because Taseer defended Asia Bibi and criticized Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.

TLP party members, particularly Rizvi, openly praise Qadri for the assassination of Taseer and often refer to him in sermons as a "martyr" and true defender of Islam.

Qadri was sentence to death and executed in 2016 on murder charges.

Appeal to masses

Christian minority groups in Pakistan say that Rizvi has the ability to "emotionalize people successfully" and the capacity to rally masses.

"Even in the streets they have been able to mobilize people in good size and number all around the country which has created an atmosphere of fear and threat among the minorities," Samson Salamat, Chairman of Rwadari Tehreek, a social movement that works to counter religious extremism, told VOA.

Harris Khalique of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan echos Salamat's concerns and charges that Rizvi caters to people's religious sentiments and emotions, which run high, especially when it comes to blasphemy cases.

But Khalique thinks the case would be resolved through back door channels given the sensitivity of blasphemy laws in the country.

"Mostly, in such cases, a back door settlement is negotiated in Pakistan to avoid any political ramifications," he said.


Critics complain that Pakistan's blasphemy laws are used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas, prompting criticism from rights groups and activists that the law needs to be modified.

"HRCP [Human Rights Commission Pakistan] has long maintained that blasphemy laws are used to settle personal and political vendettas." Khalique said.

He added that change in Pakistan's blasphemy laws would likely not occur in the near future and the resistance to amend the law "not only comes from religious outfits like Rizvi's but some important mainstream political parties in Pakistan that have kept the issue alive for their political expediency."



‘Media Role Vital For Preaching Islam’, Says International Conference On Dawah

December 6, 2019

Islamabad: A two-day international conference on Dawah in the contemporary world, its principles, methodologies, and solutions concluded here on the Faisal Masjid Campus of the International Islamic University (IIU).

The conference was organised by Dawah academy of the university that witnessed as many as 70 papers in nine sessions.

The scholars and researchers delivered lectures on exploring the Prophetic approach of Dawah, women, and Dawah, contemporary sources and tools for Dawah, the role of youth in Dawah, the impact of business ethics on Dawah and many other important topics.

The conference was addressed by Senator Raja Zafarul Haq as chief guest who said media must be utilized for promotion of Islamic values and special programs for children must be prepared to make them more interested in the religion.

He said Islam is the most popular religion across the world despite negative propaganda against it.

The event was also addressed by Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Dr. Qibla Ayaz who spoke on various periods of Muslim history and Dawah. He also discussed the role of religious seminaries in the subcontinent.

Dr. Masoom Yasinzi, rector IIUI said in his speech that Islam-phobia is spreading due to misconceptions disseminated against Islam. He said that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism as it is the religion of peace and tranquility.



IBD assistance sought to improve trade in Muslim economies

Mehtab Haider

December 6, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday sought financial and technical assistance from Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to establish an export-import bank to improve trade among Muslim economies.

Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar said the government requested the bank to set up an Exim bank in Pakistan, which would help improve foreign trade in the Islamic world.

“The proposal is under consideration,” he said, addressing a one-day seminar at the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) in Jeddah.

International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation is an autonomous body under the Islamic Development Bank that aims to promote trade to improve the economic condition of the people of Muslim countries. ITFC helps businesses and governments in the member countries with its expertise and funds to promote business finance as per the shariah law.

Azhar said ITFC has provided financing facility to Pakistan to cover its oil and liquefied natural gas imports over a period of three years. Since its inception, IDB has approved $12.43 billion in financing to Pakistan, he said.

The minister appreciated the efforts of ITFC in bringing change in people’s lives through promotion of trade amongst Muslim countries.

The economic minister told the seminar’s participants that international trade helps in achieving sustainable development goals and positively impacts people’s lives.

“There is a need to increase trade amongst the Muslim countries to achieve the objectives of sustainable development and bring positive change and improve the lives of common man,” he was quoted as saying in a statement.

Economic affairs minister asked ITFC to develop training tools in Islamic banking as Islamic banking is very popular in the country.

The minister said forty percent of Pakistan’s economy is based on small and medium enterprises and “we are building an export oriented economy”. “There is a need to focus on trade in our nearby region and amongst the Muslim countries and explore the opportunities.”

The minister said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor offers immense investment opportunities to all countries.

Azhar said Pakistan is one of the founding members of Islamic Development Bank. “We highly appreciate IDB for its generous support in Pakistan’s development,” he added. “Pakistan is the third largest beneficiary of the IDB financing.”

The minister commended Islamic Development Bank’s assistance in health and education sectors in Pakistan, especially in the polio eradication project.

The minister also interacted with economists and financial advisers and chief executive officers of banks from different Muslim countries and discussed matters relating to development of bilateral trade and investment.



Four-Day Exhibition Titled ‘Buddhist Monk, Islamic Scripture’ Starts In Islamabad

December 5, 2019

ISLAMABAD, Dec 5 (APP):A four-day exhibition titled “Buddhist Monk and Islamic Scripture, a work of art by Monk Dr Neung Hur” on Thursday inaugurated here at Arts and Craft Village, Islamabad.

The art works by reverend monk, Dr Neung Hur, was inspired by a spiritual experience at the Bhamala Stupa, Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, after the conclusion of Buddhist led peace prayer ceremony for Kashmir in October, 2019, which stirred up a thunderstorm with sudden flashes of lightening, giving the present exhibition its theme; the divine light and spiritual energy.

As an artist in residence at the Gandhara Research and Resource Centre, which is a project of Centre for Culture and Development, Islamabad, the monk, Dr Neung Hur, has produced a large body of work, inspired from local and Islamic cultural and aesthetic traditions, while creatively fusing it with Buddhist inspired colour symbolism, which is on display in the exhibition at the Aqs Gallery, as a token of his love for Gandhara, the Pakistan’s symbol for inter faith harmony.

The artworks draw attention towards the universal human energy that unites us, and lifts the veil over the façade of cultural diversity that divide us. The self-realization of the unity of human nature, paves the way for inter-religious understanding and world peace.

The artwork draws on the literal meanings of the calligraphic texts as well as on the interplay of colour symbolism. The artist believes that God is best illustrated through light and light is also a symbol of life. Living creatures cannot exist without light.

Those who aspire to resemble God’s attributes must shine and help others shine with divine light.

In his spiritual vocabulary inspired by Buddhism, the black color represents the dark human self which is blind to the light of God and lives through hate, arrogance, jealousy, and selfishness.

Reverend Dr Neung Hur, is a Buddhist monk from Korea, who specializes as an Oriental doctor and also holds PhD degrees, in the disciplines of Philosophy and Psychology.



Pakistan borrowed $10.40 billion during PM Imran Khan's innings: Report

Dec 5, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The cash-strapped Pakistan government of Prime Minister Imran Khan borrowed $10.40 billion as loans from friendly countries like China and the UAE to stabilise the foreign exchange reserves and repayment of old loans, a media report said on Thursday.

Pakistan has been facing a serious economic crisis with short supplies of foreign currency reserves and stagnating growth. Since assuming power in last August, Prime Minister Khan has been appealing to close allies to provide concessional loans to reduce the size of the bailout package that Pakistan may need from the IMF.

The Economic Affairs Division, in a reply submitted in the National Assembly, the lower House, said that the loans borrowed in the government included bilateral, multilateral and commercial loans, ARY News reported.

According to the figures, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by prime minister Khan borrowed commercial loans from Chinese, UAE and European banks. A total of $4.80 billion was borrowed as loans from the commercial banks.

Pakistan has borrowed $4.550154 billion in the current fiscal year 2018-19 till now, the finance ministry informed the Senate, the upper House.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to provide a $6 billion bailout package to Pakistan to avert an economic crisis.

Moreover, China, United Arab Emirates and Qatar provided direct deposits to Pakistan, the report said.

In May, the Ministry of Finance informed the Senate that Pakistan's foreign debt has reached $88.199 billion.

The country borrowed $26.19 billion in past six financial years with $7.32 billion interest, which enhanced the overall foreign debt in past six years to $33.50, the ministry said.

Pakistan borrowed $6.90897 billion in fiscal year 2013-14, $5.40721 billion in fiscal year 2014-15 and $4.45020 billion in financial year 2015-16, the finance ministry said in its answer.

Pakistan's borrowing from foreign sources remained $6.520381 billion in fiscal year 2016-17, while in year 2017-18 the country borrowed $6.020526 billion from foreign sources, the ministry added.

While agreeing to the bailout package to Pakistan in May, the IMF said the country faces a "challenging economic environment, with lacklustre growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness, and a weak external position".

The IMF said the funding programme would support the authorities' strategy for stronger growth by "improving the business environment, strengthening institutions, increasing transparency, and protecting social spending".



Verdict in Musharraf treason case to be announced on December 17: Pak court

Dec 5, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The verdict in the high treason case against former Pakistan dictator General (retd) Pervez Musharraf would be pronounced on December 17, a special court announced on Thursday.

Last week, the special court ordered 76-year-old Musharraf to record statement by December 5 in the treason case after the Islamabad high court (IHC), after hearing the petitions filed by Dubai-based Musharraf and the Pakistan government, stopped the special court from issuing the verdict on November 28.

The statement was made by a three-member bench of the special court, headed by Peshawar high court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth, which was conducting a hearing of the case against the former president on Thursday, Geo News reported.

The new prosecution team's lawyers informed the court that they needed more time to prepare for the case.

Justice Seth said thatno postponement will be allowed and an order in writing should be submitted stating that arguments would be completed by December 17.

Adjourning proceedings till December 17, Justice Seth said they would hear the arguments in the next proceeding and announce the verdict, Dawn News reported.

They (prosecutors) should keep aside other cases and fight this case, Justice Seth was quoted as saying by the report.

He said that the judges had come from various parts of the country for the special court.

"This is a special case and this is a special court," Justice Seth remarked.

The special court had on November 19 concluded the trial proceedings in the high treason case against Musharraf for declaring a state of emergency on November 3, 2007, and had ruled that a verdict would be announced on November 28 on the basis of the available record.

The high treason trial of the former military dictator for clamping the state of emergency on November 3, 2007, filed during the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government, has been pending since 2013.

He was booked in the treason case in December 2013. Musharraf was indicted on March 31, 2014, and the prosecution had tabled the entire evidence before the special court in September the same year.

But due to litigation at appellate forums, the trial of the former military dictator lingered on and he left Pakistan in March 2016 with the nod of superior courts as well as the interior ministry for medical treatment.

According to previous Pakistani media reports, Musharraf had amyloidosis, a rare disease caused by the build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in organs and tissues in the body, and is under medication.



Money recovered from tycoon lands in Supreme Court

Syed Irfan Raza

December 06, 2019

ISLAMABAD: After three-day confusion as to who will be the beneficiary of 190 million pounds [Rs39 billion] recovered by the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) from the family of real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, the money has been transferred to the Supreme Court’s accounts and the government has requested it for the transfer of the money to the national exchequer.

“The money has been transferred to the Supreme Court and we have already filed a request before the apex court that the money should be given to us [state of Pakistan],” said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar at a joint press conference with Communications Minister Murad Saeed. He later confirmed it during a private TV talk show.

Besides, he told Dawn that out of 190m pounds, 140m pounds had been transferred while 50m pounds would be received later when a property of 1 Hyde Park [owned by Malik Riaz] would be sold.

The SAMP, however, did not remove the ambiguity as to how the money can be transferred to the Supreme Court, if the NCA anno­unced in its official press release that it will be given to the state of Pakistan. “We [the government of Pakistan, NCA and Malik Riaz] have also signed a deed of confidentiality. Therefore, I cannot comment more than what has already been presented in the official press releases of the government and the NCA,” he said, adding that: “Is the Supreme Court not part of the government? So if the money goes to the apex court it means that the money comes to the state.”

Earlier, when the NCA gave its decision on Dec 3, Mr Akbar had claimed that the money would directly come to the state.

Shahzad Akbar says out of £190m, £140m has been transferred while £50m will be received later when a Hyde Park property is sold

Interestingly, hours after the NCA verdict, Malik Riaz had claimed, in his tweets, that the recovered amount would go to the Supreme Court to return Rs460bn for acquiring vast land in Karachi for developing the Bahria Town housing scheme. His tweets raised eyebrows of many as to why the government was not taking credit of the recovery.

Barrister Iftikhar, a senior legal expert on UK laws, said at the TV channel that there must be no link with the money repatriated by the NCA to the state and the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Former attorney general Irfan Qadir said if the money went to the Supreme Court then the court will have to explain about it that how it came into its bank accounts.

Replying to a query that in one of the video clips that did the rounds on social media in which he was receiving a bag from Malik Riaz somewhere in the UK, Shahzad Akbar said it was nothing but a laptop. “It was my laptop as the bag could not carry 190 million pounds,” he added.

According to a press release issued on Tuesday by Prime Minister Office, the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) in the PMO facilitated repatriation of 190 million pounds (approximately $250 million) through a settlement and that the NCA had agreed for immediate repatriation of funds to the state of Pakistan.

Responding to a question that will the government go for criminal proceedings against the real estate tycoon for being involved in money laundering, the SAPM said: “The government encourages agreements in civil cases and recovery of laundered national wealth and does not wish to keep people in jail.”

He, however, took credit of the recovery of 190 million pounds and said it was the first time in Pakistan’s history that money had been repatriated from another country through the legal process, adding that the settlement was reached in a civil case not a criminal one.

Mr Akbar said the government was thankful to the UK government and the NCA for expediting the investigation on the complaint of the government of Pakistan and returning the money to the motherland.

The SAPM was reluctant to elaborate as to how the money was stashed away and was there any political figure involved in the crime; he said as another country [UK] was involved in the matter, he was bound to confidentiality and could not comment on the details. “We have inked a bond of confidentiality with the UK government and therefore we cannot talk about the details of the case,” he added.

Corruption of Sharif Family

Mr Akbar recalled the alleged corruption by leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and his family and said the assets of the Sharif family have increased exponentially over the span of ten years.

He said the corruption of Shahbaz Sharif and Sharif family was exposed by English newspaper Daily Mail and despite Shahbaz’s claim that he will sue him [Shahzad Akbar] and the daily, nothing has so far been done against it by Mr Sharif.

Mr Akhbar explained that the corruption was carried out during Shahbaz’s tenure as Punjab chief minister. Through charts, he explained that their entire fortune has been built by accumulating money from kickbacks into their personal accounts, before injecting them into their own companies to mimic sales. “During this period, Shahbaz’s assets rose by 70 per cent while his son Salman’s rose by 8,000 per cent,” he said.

However, despite their repeated claims of innocence, the Sharifs have not been able to provide a single shred of evidence which proves to the contrary, he added.

Referring to the article published in Daily Mail that alleged that Shahbaz had embezzled funds provided by UK’s Department for International Development, he said former chief minister Punjab was surprisingly mum on the issue despite his initial response.

“So many facts have been revealed in recent days. Setting his claims about taking legal action against The Mail aside, he has not given a specific answer to any of the allegations levelled against him,” he said.

He said the Punjab CM secretariat was being used by Shahbaz Sharif as a hub of planning of corruption.

Mr Akbar raised several questions including had one Nisar Ahmed Gill and one Mahr Ali acted as front men of ex-chief minister Punjab.

Malik Riaz not guilty

Meanwhile, Malik Riaz pointed out that NCA had not declared him guilty of any wrongdoing after year-long investigation into property and accounts connected to his family.

Talking to reporters at the launch of Bahria Town Peshawar office on Thursday, the real estate tycoon said they were working in Pakistan despite many hurdles. He said other people should also follow suit and bring their money back to Pakistan. He said he would even mortgage his house to pay the sum agreed in settlement with the Supreme Court.



NA deputy speaker summons interior minister after BNP-M protests 'arrest of four women' in Awaran

Amir Wasim | Inamullah Khattak

December 05, 2019

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri on Thursday directed the interior minister to take notice of the alleged arrest last month of four women from Balochistan's Awaran district and come to the session tomorrow to brief lawmakers on the issue.

The directives were issued after the opposition members led by Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, a government ally, staged a sit-in in front of the speaker's dais.

According to Mengal, "four women had been kidnapped on November 29 and taken away to a torture cell and tortured".

On Tuesday, the BNP-M had termed the reported arrest of the women a direct attack on the traditions of Baloch people. The party had demanded the formation of a high-level committee to investigate the incident.

During a press conference that day, BNP-M acting president Abdul Wali Kakar had stated that the four Baloch women were picked up from their homes without showing any warrants and put behind bars.

The BNP-M leader had said that a day after the four women were picked up from their home at night, they were presented before media personnel in the presence of Levies and police personnel. Some weapons were also shown to the media and it was claimed that they belonged to the arrested women.

While speaking on a point of order in the NA session today, Akhtar Mengal criticised the government for following the footsteps of the previous governments which had neglected the Balochistan province. He said no one could run Balochistan "on gunpoint".

He questioned whether it was "unseen forces" that were running the government or a civil government. "What message will the arrest of these women send to people?"

Mengal also remarked what kind of government "hides the faces of terrorists in court but allows the display of pictures of women with weapons placed in front of them".

"Neither did the previous government wish to take Balochistan forward with them, nor does this government," he said.

"A committee for Balochistan was formed in June but its members have still not been named," said Mengal. "When you want votes, then you want Akhtar Mengal and you want Shahzain Bugti," he said in further criticism of the government.

Earlier in the session, PML-N general secretary Ahsan Iqbal protested against the non-issuance of production orders for Rana Sanaullah and the failure in production of Saad Rafique despite issuance of orders. He said that the Punjab government was defying the speaker's orders by not producing Rafique in the house. "This is an insult to parliament. We are staging a walkout against this. We will come back only when the respect and honour of the chair of the speaker are restored."

The BNP-M chief, after a brief protest at the dias and threatening to quit the coalition with the government, joined the opposition in walking out. He declared that the party will not return until the "kidnapped" women are released.

Abdul Qadir Patel of the PPP pointed out a lack of quorum, as there were only 75 members in the house against the required 86.

The deputy speaker then adjourned the sitting till Friday morning and asked the interior minister to appear in the assembly.



Arab World


Iraq revolution will be dramatized, written, read, and painted

December 06, 2019

The pops of gunfire rang out across the protest camp in Iraq’s capital. Blood-stained bodies writhed on the pavement, and smoke from burning tires smarted the captive audience’s eyes.

But for once in recent weeks, the scenes playing out in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square were a dramatization, put on by actors who traveled 600 km from the port city of Basra.

To an audience in tears, they acted out protesters railing against corruption and the lack of jobs, and filming with smartphones to broadcast the rallies live on social media.

Suddenly, the actors crumpled to the ground, motionless, under a volley of tear gas canisters and live rounds.

Each actor took turns recounting the story of his “martyr,” weaving through the stunned spectators and occasionally folding into one of their hands an Iraqi tricolor labeled with the names of towns where dozens have died.

The south has been particularly bloody over the last week, pushing the two-month toll to nearly 430 dead and 20,000 wounded — the vast majority of them protesters.

In a time of such hope and heartbreak, art is the answer, says 30-year-old Ali Issam, one of the actors.

“Art is finally playing its true role: Carrying the voice of Iraq,” he told AFP.

As anti-government demonstrations in the capital and Shiite-majority south enter their third month, they are being turned into plays, paintings, poems and literature.

Tahrir has become an art hub, a rare space for free expression in a country where conservative tribes, paramilitary forces and powerful politicians have at various points tried to snuff out criticism.

“It’s a mini-ministry of culture,” said Muslim Habib, a young director from Baghdad.

Every day at dusk, he sets up a small projector in a tent on Tahrir, marked with a huge banner identifying it proudly as “Revolution Theater.”

Inside, he screens documentaries, shorts and other works by Iraqis both at home and abroad and hopes to soon show “films from the revolutions in Ukraine, Egypt or Syria.”

Rows of chairs spill out from the tent onto the pavement, packed nightly with young and old, men and women, protesters and curious onlookers.

Even police officers poked their heads in for a glimpse.

Across the rest of the square, poets puffed out their chests and recited their latest revolutionary verses while small groups debated politics and philosophy.

Busking musicians dotted the nearby streets and painters canvased the walls with large murals and “calligraffiti” — a hybrid of graffiti and intricate Arabic calligraphy.

Culture even reigns in the “Turkish restaurant,” the gutted 18-story building that has been occupied by protesters for two months after decades of abandon.

A 24-hour library has opened in its ground-floor garage, a rare sight in Iraq where now just 50 percent of adults know how to read despite its legendary role as a literary hub.

The library is full of dozens of worn second-hand books, ranging from translated American novels and political essays to romance novels and theological works.

“This is culture,” said Mustafa, the 20-year-old volunteer manager, confessing: “I especially love Dan Brown novels.”

Curled up with a book in his hand, Mustafa said he stopped going to school at a young age so he could work to provide for his parents.

Already married, he worked in a printing shop but now peddles bottles of icy water in Baghdad’s traffic-clogged streets during sweltering summers.

“Reading is my way of continuing my education,” Mustafa said, insisting Tahrir should be flooded with novels for protesters.

“This is the proof that we are awake, we understand what is happening and we’re trying to succeed,” he said.

Youth make up a vast majority of the protesters in Tahrir, as well as 60 percent of Iraq’s 40 million people.

Many have said their active roles in demonstrations disprove those dismissing them as the “PUBG generation,” a combat video game that is so popular among Iraqi youth that parents often scold them for playing it too much.

“Yes, we are the PUBG generation — but we are also a cultured generation,” chuckled Mustafa, before turning back to his book.



Richard Bodeker: Ambassador of Green in Saudi Arabia


December 06, 2019

RIYADH: For 46 years, Richard Bodeker was devoted to turning Saudi Arabia into a lush garden. The architect landscaper recently passed away, but his green print lives on as he is celebrated for his loving work.

Gardening runs deep in the family as both he and his wife’s family are in the profession. Bodeker considered himself blessed because he could do what he loved, working with plants and creating gardens.

“He developed a real love of Saudi Arabia as his favorite country and created many lifelong friendships in the Kingdom,” Bodeker’s son, Jens Bodeker, told Arab News.

His relationship with Saudi clients was special. They had a great mutual understanding, said his son. One of those special relationships was with Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Space Commission. Bodeker landscaped his Al-Uthaibat Ranch in Diriyah.

“He opened the doors to all his friends, clients, colleagues and partners in Saudi Arabia. Most of his contacts became close friends to me, too,” Jens said.

Saudi Arabia honored the late Bodeker and his works when the minister of culture, Prince Badr Al-Farhan, named a park in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter after the talented landscaper.

Creativity is key and he was never daunted by developing a green oasis in the midst of a desert capital. “As a plant lover, he was impressed by the survival strategies of desert plants. Acacia trees can develop 50-meter-deep roots to get water, for example. He was convinced to be able to water the trees by treated greywater which is produced by each citizen. So, each citizen could irrigate a tree by using water in the house,” Jens said.

His vision to make use of the materials that can be found in nature with his strategy of “cut and fill,” in which he would cut Riyadh limestone and build a garden out of it. He maintained sustainability by using local sources for construction material. His approach was to create garden oases with local materials in respect of the site and the local culture, his son explained.

Bodeker’s passion was ramped with a desire to turn the desert capital into a green sanctuary. “He possessed strength, persuasiveness and the ability to assert himself to even fight for green, gardens and uncommon ideas. This passion made him an ambassador for green in the Kingdom,” he added.

Passion for his profession was the secret of his success: “Gardens and plants have been his lifelong loves,” said Jens, adding that “the creation of gardens was his real mission.”

Following his fathers’ footsteps, he inherited his passion and love for this country and landscape design from his father: “I feel the same passion when it comes to greening the country to work with nature and to follow nature in design,” he said.

“He shared his professional knowledge and passion for this country ... with me. The respect for tradition and culture in landscape design was essential,” he added.

“His passion for landscape design, especially the challenge to green the desert set me on fire and carries me to continue what he started. His focus laid on local material, like the Riyadh limestone and plants for arid regions to create lush garden oases.”

Of all his unique designs, Islamic gardens were the most symbolic. Jens explained: “Islamic gardens mirror paradise on earth with water, fruits and lush greens. He wanted to respond to this in his garden design works. Bodeker always saw gardens and green as the most important element in Riyadh.”

In 1993, Bodeker started the “Initiative Green,” which was Jens’ most significant influence.

The secret to great success is working with nature in environments, like the desert with its valleys, oases, escarpments, sand dunes and rock plains, he added.

“In Thumamah Nature Park, one can see the impact of land protection. The park is much greener than any landscape in the surroundings without that protection, just by fencing, nature recovers slowly,” Jens said.

“My part is to give my contribution to developing the landscape and environment for the better and give nature a chance. I will follow in his footsteps and will stand up for green as an ambassador for green environments, parks and gardens.”

From childhood, he and his brother had been strongly influenced by gardening and landscape design. For many years they worked together with their father. It was not always easy to work with him because his father had “a strong personality.” However, he noted that he found his own path which he learned through discussions and debates “to find my own place next to him.”



KSRelief to work with Islamic counter-terror alliance

December 06, 2019

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has signed an agreement with the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition to implement joint programs and develop a strategic partnership.

The agreement was signed in Riyadh by Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabiah, KSrelief’s general supervisor, and Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Moghedi, secretary-general of the coalition.

Both organizations will work on initiatives and programs of common interest, conferences, seminars and lectures, capacity-building and joint training programs, and advisory and voluntary services.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Al-Moghedi said that the agreement will enhance the integration and strategic partnership between the counter-terror alliance and KSRelief as well as extending cooperation and coordination on various levels.

The coalition is striving to develop links with local and international Islamic organizations, he said.



Saudi autistic youth treated to a day at Formula E races

December 06, 2019

RIYADH: A group of Saudi autistic youths were treated to a day at the races as part of an initiative to raise awareness of the developmental disorder.

Accompanied by Prince Saud bin Abdul Aziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, chairman of the Charitable Society of Autism Families (SAF), the young people enjoyed watching the Formula E motorsport event.

The outing was organized by the Saudi General Sports Authority (GSA), the SAF, the Formula E team, and volunteers as part of Diriyah Season.

“We wanted to utilize Formula E to give the autistic youth a chance to enjoy it as normal people, especially that the racing cars used in Formula E are noiseless, which is perfect for people with autism,” Prince Saud said.

“We believe that people on the autism spectrum are an important segment of society and should receive appreciation, attention and care. These events bring opportunities to raise awareness about their needs in society.”

For many of the youth it was their first experience of electric car racing.

“We are grateful to Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki (Al-Faisal, GSA chairman) and the GSA for giving us a special opportunity to engage the autistic youth in such an important event, and we are equally thankful to the Formula E leadership and their team who gave us unlimited support to ensure a joyful experience for our youth,” the prince added.

Earlier this week, on the sidelines of the Diriyah Formula E, Prince Saud and Formula E chairman, Alejandro Agag, signed an agreement to build a strategic partnership between the SAF and Formula E.

“We are happy to have a positive role in Saudi society through the agreement we have signed with the SAF. As well as being a world-class sport organization, we also have our social responsibility programs that we wish to implement in Saudi Arabia,” Agag said.

The SAF and Formula E hope the strategic cooperation accord will increase opportunities to expand the role of the motorsport in terms of inclusion and reaching all segments of the Saudi population.

The SAF has been supporting people with autism and their families for more than 11 years. Prince Saud was appointed as chairman of the board in May 2019, and since then has been working on several innovative projects to develop the SAF on multiple fronts.



Saudi, Chinese navies conclude military drills

December 06, 2019

The Royal Saudi Navy’s Special Forces of the Western Fleet in Jeddah on Thursday concluded a joint military exercise with China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Code-named Blue Sword 2019, the exercise took place at King Faisal Naval Base. It was overseen by Commander of the Special Naval Security Group Rear Adm. Saleh Al-Ghamdi, on behalf of Commander of the Western Fleet Rear Adm. Faleh Al-Faleh, and a number of Chinese military commanders.

Al-Ghamdi praised the forces that took part in the exercise for their combat readiness, their professionalism and teamwork during the drill.

He also thanked King Salman for the care and support given to the Saudi Armed Forces, and the directives and support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Col. Abdullah Mohammed Al-Omari, the director of the exercise, earlier said that it is part of the efforts to ensure the Saudi military is fully prepared and ready to face all challenges to maintain security and peace in the region and the world.

“The exercise targets building mutual trust, enhancing cooperation between the Saudi Royal Navy and the Chinese PLA Navy, exchanging experiences, developing the capacity of participants to combat maritime terrorism and piracy, and improving training and combat readiness,” he added.



Misk event aims to nurture talents of youngsters

December 06, 2019

JEDDAH: The Misk Foundation is organizing Awalmna — an interactive recreational platform that aims to encourage children to discover and develop their talents — as part of Riyadh Season.

The event will take place at the Abu Bakr Salem Theater on Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Through Awalmna, Misk aims to develop children’s personal and performance skills, imagination and ideas.

The event will include a comprehensive fantasy theatrical play with child actors, and activities in the areas of art, skills, sciences and technology.

People wishing to participate with their children can register at



World Islamic Banking Conference opens in Bahrain

December 6, 2019

The 26th anniversary edition of The World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC), the largest and most prestigious gathering of Islamic banking and finance leaders in the world, kicked off on December 3 in Bahrain.

The conference is being held under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain at The Gulf Hotel Bahrain.

Convened by Middle East Global Advisors – a leading financial intelligence platform facilitating the development of knowledge-based economies in the MENASEA markets and in strategic partnership with the Central Bank of Bahrain, the forum is spurring a series of discussions focusing on “Mega Trends in Banking & Finance”, a theme that resonates with the conference’s steady vision to serve as a definitive check point for the global Islamic finance and banking industry.

Showcasing his support for Islamic finance entities to thrive and grow globally and stressing on the way forward for the industry, Godwin Emefiele, Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria in his address said: “Globally, banking and ?nancial landscapes have evolved radically over the last few years. These changes have been driven by impactful forces including regulatory changes, digitalization and technological innovations.

“While traditional banking institutions will remain relevant in mobilizing deposits, providing credits, and processing transactions, the conduct of ?nancial services will continue to change drastically, re?ecting major shifts in consumer expectations. Conventional banking with its rising cost of operations may be replaced by faster and more convenient ?nancial gateways.”

“All over the world, e-commerce comprising payments for goods and services via internet and mobile applications, is projected to be the dominant factor driving growth as more people embrace digital payment solutions. As at the end of 2017, mobile commerce was estimated to account for 48 percent of digital commerce sales worldwide and is projected to reach $4.6 trillion by 2022.”

Dr Sami Al-Suwailem, acting director general, Islamic Research & Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group in his keynote address stated, “Many analysts expect the crisis to take place in 2020. The exact timing is not what matters most. What matters is “Why” and “How”. Why would there be another major crisis, and how can it be avoided. Experts unanimously agree: It is because of excessive debt. Low interest rates since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 made it unusually easy for corporates and sovereigns to pile up debt.”

“The main question now is: How can we curb the growth of debt so that we can achieve sustainable stability? It must be clear from the beginning that stability is a public good. This means that, while the economy as a whole is better o? in a low leverage environment, each market player has an incentive to deviate and add up leverage. But if everyone does the same, the economy stagnates and becomes susceptible to ?nancial turmoil,” he added.

Dr Adnan Chilwan, Group chief executive officer, Dubai Islamic Bank said, “In its 26th year, WIBC continues to bring forth industry leading thought leadership and perspectives towards the progress of the broader financial industry in a time where advancements in technology and regulations are critical for the success of all key stakeholders.”

I feel that traditions should not be treated as shackles. They should not restrict you from moving forward. Rather, they should serve as a platform for the next transformation. Banking stands at a crossroads today.

The leaders of financial institutions in this highly dynamic and progressive world have to make the key decision now – to remain relevant to the demands of the customers or disappear.

“We are competing not just with entities within the sector but ambitious institutions from outside the traditional boundaries. So, it’s time to continuously be a part of the customers’ life – simple as that. Banking 2.0 (or Lifestyle Banking) is the only way forward,” he added.

Other key highlights from the day include the Presentation on Global Economic Outlook by Dr Jihad Azour, director – Middle East & Central Asia Department, International Monetary Fund, panel discussions focusing on New Markets & Harmonization of Global Islamic Finance Standard, Digital Transformation: New Trends in Fintech, and Value Creation via M&A.

Leading industry experts analyzed the challenges at hand and focused on coming up with effective suggestions with the ultimate aim of developing a convergence roadmap for the Islamic Finance industry at large.

Key highlights to look forward to tomorrow include: Presentation on Economic Cooperation & Connectivity, Panel discussions on the Objectives of Shari’ah and Islamic Finance, Sustainable Finance & Corporate Social Responsibility, Islamic Economy – Opportunities & Working Models, SMEs & Financial Inclusion, and Sukuk Market.

The World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) has established its reputation as the world’s largest and most influential gathering of international Islamic banking and finance leaders for over two decades.

With the strategic support of the Central Bank of Bahrain, the next generation WIBC will focus on transforming Islamic finance into a global proposition by facilitating strategic opportunities, addressing systematic challenges and connecting international market players and institutional investors to the industry’s catalysts, thought leaders, partners and institutions. —TradeArabia News



South Asia


ICC judges 'were wrong to reject Afghan probe': Prosecutors

International Criminal Court judges overstepped their powers when they refused to authorise an investigation into allegations of widespread abuses by government forces, the Taliban and US military and intelligence operatives during the Afghanistan conflict, a prosecution lawyer and victims' representatives said on Thursday.

But a lawyer representing Afghanistan at an ICC appeals hearing countered by saying that Afghanistan opposes an international investigation and should be allowed to prosecute war criminals in its own courts.

They were speaking on the second day of a hearing into the ICC prosecution office's appeal against an April decision by a pretrial chamber to reject a proposed investigation in Afghanistan, saying it was not in the interests of justice.

The high-stakes hearing at the Hague-based court is focused on a proposed investigation that could, for the first time, lead to ICC indictments against Americans and help end widespread impunity for crimes in Afghanistan.

It is extremely unlikely that, even if the investigation were to go ahead and prosecutors indicted Americans, they would ever appear in court. The United States government is not a member of the ICC and refuses to cooperate with it.

While the US government didn't send any official representatives to the hearing, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, was in court representing the European branch of the American Center for Law and Justice.

He told judges that the lack of US cooperation with the court was based on US law and bilateral treaties Washington had signed with Afghanistan and was not going to change.

Sekulow said Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants the investigation to go ahead "because she thinks the United States may yet decide to cooperate. We submit that this ignores the history of principled non-cooperation under multiple administrations of multiple parties in the United States."

He added that "it is not in the interests of justice to waste the court's resources while ignoring the reality of principled non-cooperation."

The hearing came on the day the court's prosecution office issued an annual report on progress in other preliminary probes, including high-profile cases in the Palestinian territories, Ukraine, Venezuela, the Philippines and into allegations of crimes by UK forces in Iraq.

The report said that in the case of alleged crimes by Israel and Palestinians in the occupied territories, the prosecutor "believes that it is time to take the necessary steps to bring the preliminary examination to a conclusion". It did not provide a timeframe.

After the preliminary probe in Afghanistan that lasted more than a decade, the court's prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, asked judges in November 2017 to authorise a far-reaching investigation.

She said there was information that members of the US military and intelligence agencies "committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period".

She also said that the Taliban and other armed groups had killed more than 17,000 civilians since 2009, including some 7,000 targeted killings, and that Afghan security forces were suspected of torturing prisoners at government detention centres.

But in a decision that was condemned by victims' organisations and human rights groups, ICC judges said in April that an investigation would not be in the interests of justice because of a likely lack of cooperation and the time that has elapsed since the alleged crimes were committed.

Prosecution lawyer Helen Brady told a five-judge panel at Thursday's hearing that the judges who rejected Bensouda's request considered factors that were outside their powers and "gave inadequate consideration to the gravity of crimes and interests of victims".

Rodney Dixon, a lawyer representing Afghanistan, told the hearing that the country opposed the proposed investigation and had set up an international crimes unit to prosecute cases involving rebel groups and Afghan security forces in domestic courts.

The ICC began work in 2002 as a court of last resort, which could take on cases which national legal authorities were unable or unwilling to prosecute.

Dixon said that while Afghanistan opposes the investigation, the ICC could help the country to carry out local prosecutions and act as a "backstop" if necessary.

He said the court's focus should be on Afghanistan's "true potential to do more in the future, especially if it is supported by the ICC and the prosecutor".



Afghans to hold candlelight vigil for slain Japanese doctor

December 5, 2019

Afghans across the country are shocked at the killing of Japanese physician Tetsu Nakamura, who was gunned down with five Afghans in a roadside shooting the previous day in eastern Nangarhar province.

A candlelight vigil is planned in Kabul for later on Thursday.

Hundreds of social media posts have expressed sorrow and outrage over the attack.

One post carries a drawing of the 73-year-old physician who had been in Afghanistan since 2008, taking the lead in water projects in rural areas. His services to the people earned him the nickname ”Uncle Murad.”

The words beneath the drawing read: “Sorry we couldn’t save you Nakamura.”

The Taliban issued a statement soon after the shooting denying responsibility for the attack. Police say their investigation is still looking for those behind the attack.



Afghanistan will need continued financial support after a political settlement: WB

Thursday, 05 Dec 2019

Afghanistan will need continued financial support from the international community following a potential political settlement, a new World Bank report says.

The World Bank concludes that Afghanistan will require $6 billion to $8 billion a year in international grants between 2020 and 2024 to fund basic services, support faster economic growth, and consolidate and sustain any potential reduction in violence following a political settlement with the Taliban.

“An improving security situation, political stability, and freedom of movement can help increase private sector investment and job creation. But the gap between revenue and public expenditure remains large, and certain expenditure needs may increase following a political settlement,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

“While a gradual decline in grant support can and should occur, it needs to be carefully calibrated to economic realities, to avoid deterioration in services and development outcomes. Such a deterioration may, itself, imperil prospects for sustainable peace”, he added.

According to the World Bank, however, Afghanistan has achieved remarkable progress in increasing revenues over recent years, the gap between revenues and expenditures remains wide.

This comes as Afghanistan continues to rely on grants to finance 75 percent of its total public expenditures. Total revenues currently amount to around $2.5 billion per year, while expenditures reach around $11 billion per year, according to World Bank.

The report also finds that expectations of a major aid-driven economic dividend following any political settlement are unlikely to be realized. Grant inflows are likely to remain limited under any scenario, relative to the extent of grant support already being provided. The most critical gains for Afghans following any political settlement would rather come from increased private sector investment, job creation, and access to services.



US's Afghanistan envoy arrives in Kabul, next stop: Qatar

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Wednesday in an attempt to breathe new life into efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, the US State Department has said.

His next stop will be Doha, where he is due to rejoin talks with Taliban negotiators to discuss steps that could lead to a ceasefire and a settlement to the war in, according to a State Department statement.

"Ambassador Khalilzad will rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a ceasefire," the statement said.

In September, the United States and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin pulling thousands of troops out of Afghanistan in return for promises to keep out foreign armed groups.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.

But that same month, Trump abruptly called the year-long effort "dead" and withdrew an invitation to the Taliban to meet in the US after the killing of an American soldier.

During a surprise visit to an American military base in Afghanistan last week, Trump said the Taliban "wants to make a deal."

But the group later said it was "way too early" to speak of resuming direct talks with Washington.

"We will not announce any ceasefire before a deal with the US, and secondly we will not agree to hold any meetings with the Afghan government before that," a senior Taliban official told Reuters News Agency.

The Taliban has described the Afghan government as illegitimate and steadfastly refused to a ceasefire before reaching a deal with the US, but even during the stall in talks, Khalilzad has seen signs that the Taliban is ready to cooperate.

He recently helped arrange a captive swap in which the Taliban released two academics, from the US and Australia, whom they had held hostage for three years.

And in an indirect dovetailing of interests that was noted favourably by Khalilzad, both US and Afghan forces as well as the Taliban have been battling fighters from ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

Afghan forces recently announced that the group's local branch, dubbed IS-K or ISIS-K, was completely defeated in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

"ISIS-K hasn't been eliminated but this is real progress," Khalilzad wrote on Twitter, noting "effective operations" by US-led, Afghan government as well as Taliban fighters.

Khalilzad has also kept visiting nations seen as vital to Afghan peace, including Pakistan.



Southeast Asia


MIC approves of Umno and PAS getting closer, fine with hudud, says nothing to do with non-Muslims’

Friday, 06 Dec 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — MIC president Tan Sri Vigneswaran Sanasee today said the Indian-centric party is fine with its Barisan Nasional (BN) partner Umno’s political pact with PAS and sees no problem with a push to implement stricter Shariah criminal laws in the country.

Vigneswaran told reporters at the Umno general assembly here that MIC is not against amending the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, shortened as Act 355 — which will pave the way for hudud in Malaysia.

“We are not against Act 355. MIC is not against it. As far as we’re concerned, if they bring back Act 355 and implement it, it’s up to them.

“The Constitution takes care of the non-Muslims and there’s nothing wrong with it as Islam has nothing to do with the non-Muslims,” he added when asked if the Indian party would have issues with PAS’ Islamist principles in the pact with Umno known as Muafakat Nasional.

Muafakat Nasional became the battlecry during the Umno wings assemblies yesterday to galvanise the Opposition party to take back Putrajaya at the next general election due in 2023.

Yesterday, Umno Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki called for Muafakat Nasional to be institutionalised.

Vigneswaran who previously said he is keen for MIC to join the pact was today asked to comment on Asyraf’s remark.

“I don’t think this government will approve of that Muafakat Nasional. I don’t think (it) will be registered, but if it does, then good,” he replied.

“You see, MIC is part of BN. Muafakat Nasional is absorbing PAS into a working relationship. Umno and PAS who were arch enemies in the past are now together under the broader view of Malay-Islam.

“So if they can work together, I don’t see why MIC and MCA can’t work together,” he added.

Vigneswaran said he hopes that in Muafakat Nasional, all parties will work together but added that there should be certain rules set beforehand to ensure none are marginalised if the Opposition pact wins the 15th general election.

“There is always a possibility that after GE15 there could be differences of opinions, but if we do things properly and put a system in place so that say after GE15 BN wins, none of us are sidelined.

“We’re not working together just to win but also to have a better understanding between the Malays and Indians because even after 50 years of working together we still have misunderstandings between races,” he said.

There have been several legal battles involving Indians of the Hindu faith and Muslims due to conversion disputes in the past and the MIC had been an outspoken defender of the community’s rights then.

Malaysia’s dual-track legal system provides for Islamic courts to operate alongside the civil courts.

Two years ago, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang sought to table a contentious private member’s Bill to amend Act 255 that would empower the Islamic courts to enforce any punishment — except for the death penalty — provided in Shariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution.

The Bill was criticised then for the harsh penalties proposed in Section 2 of the Act is, include increasing the current “imprisonment of more than three years or fine of more than RM5,000, or more than six lashes” to “jail term of more than 30 years or fine more than RM100,000 or 100 lashes as administered in line with the Shariah crimes”.



Sharia-compliant social commerce startup Evermos bags a little over $8.2m

Muslim-focused social commerce platform Evermos has closed its over US$8.2 million series A round led by Singapore-based VC firm Jungle Ventures.

Shunwei Capital, as well as existing investor Alpha JWC, also participated in the oversubscribed round, according to a statement.

Founded in November 2018, Indonesia-based Evermos provides a platform that connects consumers to resellers and brands offering halal and sharia-compliant goods. It claims to have grown its network to more than 20,000 paid resellers across every province in Indonesia since its launch.

With the new funds, it plans to expand its presence in the digital Islamic economy, establish more collaborations with brands and organizations, and further grow its online reseller network.

According to data from Thomson Reuters, the market for halal and sharia-compliant products has surpassed US$2 trillion in 2016 and is expected to almost double to US$3.8 trillion by 2022. Evermos looks to capitalize on that growth, complemented by the supportive regulations and plans from the Indonesian government, said Evermos co-founder and CEO Iqbal Muslimin.

“We believe Evermos is not limited to a business platform, but it is also an economic driver for the Muslim community,” said company co-founder and head of partnership Ilham Taufiq. “There’s a lot of untapped potential on this that we will address in the future, including social goods, ZISWAF, halal travel, and sharia fintech.”

One startup in the sharia fintech space is peer-to-peer lending platform Alami, which recently raised pre-seed funding in a round led by Singapore’s Tryb. Unlike conventional lending, sharia-compliant financing doesn’t generate income from interest as its prohibited by Islamic law. It instead relies on profit and risk sharing to get returns.

Local ecommerce unicorn Tokopedia also recently launched a sharia-compliant travel service called Tokopedia Umroh. It is part of the Tokopedia Salam ecosystem, a sharia-compliant section within the company’s platform that lists over 21 million Muslim-friendly products.



Former Negri Sembilan Islamic Religious Council staff jailed three years for CBT

Friday, 06 Dec 2019

SEREMBAN, Dec 6 — The Sessions Court here today sentenced a former account executive assistant with the Negri Sembilan Islamic Religious Council (MAINS) to three years’ jail for criminal breach of trust involving RM144,480.20 eight years ago.

Judge Diana Md Razali handed down the sentence on Kamrizah Kamarudin, 49, after the woman pleaded guilty to 60 counts of CBT.

On all the 60 charges, the woman was charged with committing CBT by forging the signature of her employer and making false claims, for which payments were made through Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad cheques to Maziela Enterprise, a company registered under her name.

The offences were committed at Suite 1-2, Wisma Arab Malaysia, Jalan Tuanku Munawir in Seremban, between January 5, 2011 and September 24, 2012.

In mitigation, Kamrizah, unrepresented, said her husband died recently and she has a daughter to support.

She told the court that the money she took was not for her personal use, but to pay off debts with the loan shark.

Deputy public prosecutor Noralis Mat prosecuted. ­— Bernama



Typhoon Kammuri death toll hits 13 in Philippines

Dec 5, 2019

MANILA: The number of people killed by Typhoon Kammuri's pounding of the Philippines this week has hit 13, officials said on Thursday, as authorities confirmed reports of storm-related deaths.

Kammuri's fierce winds toppled trees and flattened flimsy homes across a swathe of the nation's north on Tuesday, and forced a rare 12-hour shutdown of Manila's international airport.

Authorities said on Wednesday one person had drowned while three died after being hit by trees and flying objects.

Disaster officials did not offer details on how the other victims died, but local police reports indicated some may have drowned or been crushed by trees.

Mark Timbal, spokesman for the national disaster agency, said no new bodies have been found but the death toll could rise as reports on the ground are verified.

"There is the possibility of an increase in the number, but we are hoping against it," Timbal told AFP.

Hundreds of thousands of people living in exposed or low-lying areas were evacuated from their homes before Kammuri made landfall late Monday, which authorities said had saved lives.

Still the storm damaged 135 schools and destroyed nearly 1,200 homes, with crop damage in the hardest hit areas estimated to reach nearly $16 million.

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

President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to visit on Thursday the Bicol region, a peninsula south of Manila which was hit hard by the typhoon.

Ninoy Aquino international airport was closed half of Tuesday as a precaution, affecting over 500 flights, while roughly half the day's programme at the Southeast Asian Games, hosted by Manila and nearby cities, had to be postponed.



Defending jail sentence, PAS MP says more Muslims skipping Friday prayers

Friday, 06 Dec 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 ― The prison sentence given to six Muslim men who missed compulsory Friday prayers was correct and a needed deterrent to combat the truancy, a PAS lawmaker claimed.

Kuala Terengganu MP Ahmad Amzam Mohamed @ Hashim asserted that more people were now skipping Friday Muslims prayers and urged the authorities to check this.

“This offence of not performing Friday prayers is becoming more widespread, especially in urban areas and would, without enforcement, become a normalisation process for Muslims in Malaysia.

“This matter can be seen when many eateries are open during Friday prayers where the workers and customers are men,” he purported in a statement published on the Harakah Daily website.

“This strict enforcement action also has to receive moral support from all Muslims in Malaysia so that those who wish to challenge the authority (wibawa) of Islamic laws would not dare to oppose openly,” he concluded.

Earlier in his statement, Ahmad Amzam lauded the Hulu Terengganu Shariah Subordinate Court for handing down fines and a one-month prison term to six men for deliberately missing Friday prayers on August 23.

The offence was violation of Section 16 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Takzir) (Terengganu) Enactment that providing for a maximum two-year jail term or maximum RM3,000 fine upon conviction.

Section 16 penalises Muslim men who fail to perform Friday prayers in a mosque for three consecutive weeks without reasonable cause.

Describing this as the first such sentencing in Malaysia, the PAS MP said it would elevate the perception of Islamic law.

Ahmad Amzam went on to criticise rights group Lawyers for Liberty's (LFL) views that the criminal punishment of the personal matter of failure to attend Islamic prayers was excessive and disproportionate.

He claimed the Federal Constitution allowed for an Islamic criminal administration framework via Shariah courts.

“The offence of not performing Friday prayers should also not be disputed as morals and crime are closely related and cannot be separated to protect community life. Lowering the rate (kadar) of the sentence would only further affect the credibility of Shariah laws,” he said.



Kuala Lumpur Summit important to promote the true message of Islam

The Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 will be an important platform to bring the true message of Islam to the world, more so to resolve issues on radicalism and Islamophobia, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa said.

As the minister in-charge of Islamic affairs, he said, radicalism sparked terrorist acts, purportedly in the name of religion, that led to Islamophobia, a baseless fear that created discrimination and stigma against Muslims worldwide.

Mujahid said the summit, with the Islamic narrative of Rahmatan lil Alamin (compassionate Islam), aims to tell the world that Islam is a progressive and productive religion that wants peace.

“Islam is looking for space for us to reduce the tension and Muslims want to live as others want to live, contributing to the world’s happiness and prosperity.

“This message is very important because it will reflect the real intention of Islam ... we will see what this KL Summit contributes to the world," he told Bernama.

In addressing problems facing Muslim countries, Mujahid said the concept of Rahmatan lil Alamin was very practical in resolving issues between Muslims and non-Muslims or issues among the Muslim community, like over differences in sects.

He said Malaysia's experience in making Rahmatan lil Alamin as a national policy, coupled with the Maqasid Syariah, can be shared by other countries to be practised in their own local context.

“The objective of Maqasid Syariah is to maintain relations among mankind… it encompasses the community, law, tradition, political system and economic position of a country,” he said, adding that it was because of this that he promoted the concept of Rahmatan lil Alamin internationally.

Mujahid said he had promoted the concept at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, during a dialogue with 13 European Union ambassadors and at an information session with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ambassadors.

He said the Kuala Lumpur Summit would be significant not only to Malaysia, but also to the entire Muslim world as it would bring together Muslim world leaders to discuss the survival of Muslims.

Besides, analysing the socio-economy of the Muslims, he said, it would also be a platform for Muslims to reflect upon themselves and overcome their weaknesses.

The Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019, scheduled from Dec 18 to 21 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, will discuss issues on Muslims based on seven thrusts, namely development and sovereignty; integrity and good governance; culture and identity; justice and freedom; peace, security and defence; trade and investment; as well as Internet and technology governance.

It aims to revive the Islamic civilisation, deliberate and find new and workable solutions for problems afflicting the Muslim world, to contribute in the improvement of the state of affairs among Muslims and Muslim nations and to form a global network among Islamic leaders, intellectuals, scholars and thinkers.

Some 450 Muslim leaders, thinkers, intellectuals and scholars from all over the world are expected to attend the summit, with Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Qatar and Pakistan as the pioneers.





Missioners To Muslims: Be Good Ambassadors Of Islam

By Saheed Salawu

Dec 6, 2019

NIGERIAN Muslims have been urged to be good ambassadors of Islam if indeed they want to be seen and respected as followers of Prophet Muhammad.

The president of the National Council of Muslim Missioners (NACOMM), Alhaji Rasheed Bakere, made the plea at a special programme organised by Mushin Ajina/Odi-Olowo Ojuwoye branch of the body to commemorate the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Eid-al Maulud).

Alhaji Bakere also described true Muslims as those who promote peace and love in the land and not those whose behaviours have become liabilities to Islam and its prophet.

He called on Nigerians to live in peace and promote love for the greatness of the country.

“Peace and love are important to build a great nation. We cannot claim to be good Muslims if we don’t love our neighbours. Throughout his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad lived in peace and love with people around him and that is why the world is celebrating him today.

“He is the best of human beings and he was integrity-personified. He didn’t lie; he didn’t steal; he didn’t gang up against another man; he was transparent and he was accountable. In fact, he warns in one of his sayings that whoever does not like for his neigbour what he wants for himself is not a Muslim,” the NACOMM president stated.

Bakere noted that the formation of NACOMM had deepened the propagation and understanding of Islam, particularly in the Mushin area of Lagos, called on Muslim leaders and politicians to promote peaceful coexistence and use their positions to better the lot of the society.

Earlier, the chairman on the occasion, Alhaji Yusuf Ayinla, popularly known as Anobi Mushin, urged Muslims to emulate Prophet Muhammad and try to be best versions of themselves anywhere they find themselves.

“Today, all over the world, Prophet Muhammad is being celebrated because he contributed positively to humanity. That was many years ago and he played his roles well. We are here today, we should also live for posterity by touching lives and doing all that is good,” he said.

The guest lecturer at the event, Sheikh Jamiu Ami Olohun, called on Muslims to always put their hope in Allah as help comes only from Him.

“Today, we talk about hustling as if that is what brings blessing to us. Anybody that makes it in life makes it not because he or she is hard-working but because Allah, in His infinite mercies, wants to lift such a fellow.

“We should shun any act that could make us associate partners with Allah and submit our lives totally to the one God that created heaven and earth,” he said.

The chief host of the event, the chairman of Odi Olowo/Ojuwoye Local Council Development Area, Mr Rasak Ajala, gave an address on behalf of himself, Honourable Adeyemi Ali representing Mushin 1 Constituency in the House of Representatives and Honourable Nureni Akinsanya of the Lagos State House of Assembly.

He said their presence at the event was meant to express gratitude for the support they got from the Muslim community during the last general election and to assure them of their commitment to delivering dividends of democracy to them.

“Last year, we joined the Muslim community in Mushin for this celebration as contestants, but today, we are here as honourable members in various cadres of government.

“While we are appreciating our fathers in Islam and the entire Muslim ummah, I want to assure this gathering that we remain committed to the cooperative scheme which we are putting in place to support our people at the grassroots,” he said.



We are starving, come back and rescue us - Muslim Council to Mahama

The Chairman of the Federation, Alhaji Showumni Abdulai Williamsi said since the NDC flagbearer lost power, there has been untold hardship in the country.

“Unfortunately, you lost and the loss has brought hardship to Ghana today, maybe I can partly blame you. Mr. President at the time, you were the commander in Chief of the Armed forces and you had all the power to check some people who came lawlessly into the country to train for atrocities which has led us to this situation,” he said.

It is time he made greater efforts to ensure he returns to power to ‘correct the mistakes’ he left behind, according to the Muslim leader.

“We are starving, our people are dying and we pray that you come back and rescue us.”

He is of the conviction that Mr. Mahama’s return to the presidency will restore the ‘lost treasures’ of Ghanaians, including the Muslim community.



Omar Tall; the 19th-Century Islamic conqueror whose stolen sword France returned


December 05, 2019

A revered political leader, Islamic scholar and military commander, Tall founded a brief empire covering much of what is Guinea, Senegal, and Mali.

The tenth of 12 children, Tall in 1828 embarked on Hajj returning in 1830 with the title Alhajj. He was then initiated into Tijaniyya, assuming the role of the Khalifa of the Tijaniyya Sufi brotherhood in Sudan.

Tall took the honorific title Khalifat Khatim al-Awliya and that would become the basis of his authority necessary to lead Africans, according to historical reporting.

From 1831—1837, he settled in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria where he took several wives, one of whom, it was reported was the daughter of the Fula Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, Muhammed Bello—son of Usman Dan Fodio. Fodio was a religious teacher, revolutionary, military leader, writer, and Islamic promoter.

In 1836 Saidou Tall moved to Imamate of Futa Jallon. He then moved to Dinguiraye in present-day Guinea in 1840 to prepare for his jihad. It was said that there in Dinguiraye, he mobilized his followers into a professional army.

Fifty thousand strong, tooled with French ammunition Tall reportedly declared a jihad against people he considered pagans, European intruders as well as incompetent rulers of Futa Toro and Futa Jallon.

Tall was said to extremely appeal to the residents of his birthplace based on local grievances against the military elites. His community was also said to appeal to rootless individuals of mixed ethnic background who found new social identity and opportunities for conquest under the aegis of Islam. His Jihad began with the conquest of Futa Toro and by 1862 his empire included Timbuktu, Masina, Hamdallahi, and Segu.

Tall’s Toucouleur army went into conflict with the French who were attempting to establish their commercial supremacy along the Senegal river around 1857. He besieged the French colonial army at Medina Fort. However, the siege failed on July 18 of the same year when Louis Faidherbe, French governor of Senegal, arrived with relief forces.

In 1860 Tall made a treaty with the French that recognized his, and his followers’, sphere of influence in Futa Toro and assigned them the Bambara states of Kaarta and Segu.

According to historians, Tall disappeared mysteriously from the cliffs of Bandiagara in Mali, an area known for its dramatic landscape, in 1864.

He was succeeded by his son Ahmadou (1836-1897) who fought and defeated the French in April 1893 in Bandiagara.

During that battle the French seized the sword Tall bequeathed his son. It had a French-made blade and a handle shaped like a bird’s beak.

French colonialists also looted books belonging to Tall, according to El-Hajj Mamadou Mactar Thiam, a descendant of the Muslim scholar.

“They took everything, including his library, in Segou, and I hope that all our books that are now in France will be returned to us,” Thiam told BBC Afrique.

France, however, returned the sword belonging to the 19th Century Senegalese Islamic scholar and ruler last month as part of the French government’s commitment to give back key items of cultural heritage it stole from its former West African colonies.

A report commissioned by the French President last year recommended the country amend its strict heritage laws to allow for the return of thousands of African artworks looted during the French colonization.



18 Indians abducted by pirates off Nigerian coast

December 6, 2019

EIGHTEEN INDIANS onboard a Hong Kong-flagged vessel were kidnapped by pirates near the Nigerian coast, a global agency tracking maritime developments in the region said on Thursday.

Sources said following reports of kidnapping, the Indian mission in Nigeria has approached the African nation’s authorities for help to ascertain details and rescue the abducted Indians.

ARX Maritime, which tracks the movement of ships, said on its website that the ship was taken over by pirates on Monday and 19 people on board the vessel were kidnapped, out of which 18 were Indians.

The Hong Kong-flagged ‘VLCC, NAVE CONSTELLATION’ was attacked during the evening hours of December 3 while transiting through Nigeria, it said.



Hundreds of Christians in Nigeria ‘slaughtered’ by Islamist militia this year


06 DECEMBER 2019

MORE than 1000 Christians in Nigeria have been “slaughtered” by Islamist militia since January.

This is the key finding of a new report, Your Land or Your Blood, from the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which was presented at the International Organisation for Peace and Social Justice (PSJ) crisis conference in London, last month. The PSJ promotes peace-building and social justice in Nigeria.

Since January, there have been five serious attacks in Kaduna State, in the centre of the country, resulting in an estimated 500 deaths. There were at least another five attacks in the counties of Bassa and Riyom, and more in Taraba State. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram remains in power around the Chad border region, including parts of Borno State in the north (News, 19 March).

More than 6000 people have been killed since 2015.

Baroness Cox, who founded HART to promote and support peace and development groups in Nigeria, has recently returned from a research trip to the country. She explained that the Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group of about 20 million people across 20 West- and Central-African countries, were largely responsible for the new wave of violence. The terrorist group was listed as the fourth most deadly in the Global Terrorism Index in 2016 and 2017.

The HART report, which is named after a common threat to Christians in the country, notes a series of trends that suggest that religion and ideology are key motivations behind the attacks. This includes a “warning signal” sent by the Fulani (in line with the rules of engagement in jihad) to alert villagers of an imminent attack; specifically targeting Christian pastors; destroying hundreds of churches; and reported shouts of “Allahu akbar” and “Wipe out the infidels” by the Fulani during attacks.

Lady Cox urged the UK government to make its annual £300 million foreign-aid donation to Nigeria conditional on the Nigerian government’s taking determined action to stop the killings.

“While the underlying causes of violence are complex, the asymmetry and escalation of attacks by well-armed Fulani militia upon predominantly Christian communities is stark, and must be acknowledged,” she told the conference.

“It is too simplistic to label these atrocities as driven by desertification, climate change, or competition for resources. Unless the UK and Nigerian governments are willing to address the massacre’s ideological roots, they will never be able to help the innocent victims being slaughtered on the killing fields of Plateau, Benue, Taraba, southern Kaduna, and parts of Bauchi.”

The work of HART would be safer and more effective with Government support, she said. “To the extent that the Nigerian leadership abdicates its fundamental duty to look after its most vulnerable citizens, we suggest making UK foreign aid to Nigeria conditional on the successful protection of Christian communities.”

The report asks the international community to recognise the attacks as genocide and an abuse of religious freedom, and to hold the Nigerian authorities accountable.





Sikh man wins compensation for being denied UK hotel job over beard

December 4, 2019

A Sikh man has been awarded over 7,000 pounds in compensation for being denied the chance to work at the luxury Claridge’s Hotel in London over a “no-beards” policy.

A UK employment tribunal heard that Raman Sethi, a turbaned Sikh from New Zealand, was refused work by recruitment agency Elements Personnel Services Ltd a few years ago over a general “no pony tails or facial hair” policy of many of its high-end hotel clients.

However, Judge Holly Stout found that the hotels themselves had not been consulted to determine if an exception was made on religious grounds for Sikhs.

“The agency has not produced any evidence of their clients being asked about whether they would accept a Sikh working for them who could not shave for religious reasons,” said Judge Stout.

“The possibility of clients making an exception to their policy for Sikhs for religious reasons had not, on the evidence before us, been explored,” she concluded as she awarded the 7,102.17-pound compensation, 5,000-pound of which was towards “injury to feelings”.

According to ‘The Daily Telegraph’, Sethi plans to donate the compensation money to UK-headquartered Sikh charity Khalsa Aid.

The 34-year-old had attended a recruitment event run by Elements Personnel Services in November 2017 and was signed up, but was later told that they couldn’t keep him on their books.

An email from Elements to Sethi said that there “wouldn’t be enough shifts to give you” as hotel managers “won’t allow having facial hair due to health and safety/hygiene reasons”.

Speaking after the ruling, Sethi’s barrister Mukhtiar Singh said: “He was deeply hurt by the decision not to recruit him and, like many Sikhs, felt duty bound to fight for justice. The case is important because it shows that a no-beard policy will be subject to close scrutiny by the tribunals and courts.”

After being turned down by Elements, which specialises in providing staff for London’s luxury hotels, Sethi went on to secure shifts working at another five-star hotel, The Savoy in London, through another agency.

In evidence during the tribunal hearing which concluded this week, a member of the agency’s management team argued that the requirements of their five-star customers were outside their control and that clients would send staff home instructing them to shave or they will not be given further shifts.

The tribunal accepted that the agency had felt pressure to apply a blanket “no beards” policy but ruled that it was discriminatory for not taking religious beliefs into account.



Expelled student, 22, is jailed for 18 months after calling for Muslims to be 'wiped off the face of the earth' in vile 17-minute Facebook video rant

5 December 2019

An expelled student has been jailed for 18 months after he called for Muslims to be 'wiped off the face of the earth' in a vile 17-minute Facebook rant. 

Louis Duxbury, 22, issued the 'call to arms' shortly after a series of terrorist attacks in 2017.

A fellow sports science student at York St John University reported the tirade to the university authorities who expelled him and called in police.

The court heard Duxbury, of York, was first reported to police about his far right views as a 15-year-old schoolboy in 2015.

Teachers reported him for an inflammatory anti-Islam comment he posted online following the murder of Fusilier Rigby, it was heard.

Jailing him, the Recorder of York, Judge Sean Morris, warned him his video could contribute to a future attack on Muslims.

'It has been a multi-racial and multi-faith island for thousands of years and will continue to be so,' he said.

'We have to live together in harmony because otherwise mayhem follows. I think you are a bit of a sad loner, but you have to go to prison.'

Duxbury denied inciting religious hatred but was convicted by a jury.

Glenn Parsons, mitigating, said: 'The full force of those 17 minutes nearly two years ago have been brought home to Louis Duxbury.'

A statement from the university said: 'Incitement to violence of any kind is abhorrent and there is absolutely no place for racist behaviour or language at York St John University.'

Duxbury had refused to go through the Prevent anti-radicalisation process.

The university added: 'Whilst we are saddened to see behaviour that does not reflect our commitment to equality and human rights, we know that cases like this are extremely rare amongst our student community.

'We are pleased that our students identified this behaviour as unacceptable and brought their concerns to us.'

Detective Constable Mike Holden, of North Yorkshire Police, said: 'I hope this goes to show that people who attempt to stir up tensions between communities will be dealt with robustly.

York and North Yorkshire is a safe place to live and work, and I want communities to be reassured that North Yorkshire Police will always take positive action against people who are threatening towards others because of their race or religion.'

The university has launched a service for students to report hate crime.

At his trial, Duxbury claimed that the 2017 video was a 'rant', and he believes in a diverse, multi-cultural society.

He claimed he was only talking about extremists and terrorists and not Muslims in general and denied bring racist or fascist.



The Tories Risk Losing In Dozens Of Marginals Because Of Muslim Concerns Over Islamophobia

December 5, 2019

Hannah Al-Othman

It’s a Friday in Keighley, West Yorkshire, and groups of men spill out of a mosque after lunchtime prayers. They pass an Asian sweetshop and a takeaway restaurant, as they make their way home down the narrow streets of terraced houses, where the town’s textile workers once lived.

Vibrant Muslim communities such as this one are found in mill towns on both sides of the Pennines, in constituencies where Boris Johnson is desperate to break through in order to secure his all-important majority. But his party’s ongoing problem with anti-Muslim racism could cost him crucial votes.

Junaid Shaukat, 29, who voted Tory last time, is one. “At the last general election in 2017, I wasn’t aware of how big the issue of Islamophobia is in the Conservative party,” he told BuzzFeed News.

“And now with different accounts on Twitter ... for two or three years we’ve got these people calling out the Conservative party on a daily basis, and there’s not any action at all — the action they do take is suspending somebody for a week and letting them back in, they’ve not really dealt with it.”

“I don’t think I’ll be voting Labour,” he added. “I was going to vote for the Conservative party if they included something in the manifesto about an inquiry into Islamophobia, but they didn’t do it as far as I know, so I’m put off from voting at all, to be honest.”

“If they try, they can win a lot of votes from Muslims, but they just don’t try,” he added.

Tayyab Iftekhar, 19, is a student and a first-time voter. He has put a lot of thought into his vote but is still undecided.

“Personally I wanted to do my own research on which party offers the best for my future, and I feel like the Conservatives … I agree with a lot of the policies that they stand for.

“But what’s going round in the media now the Islamophobia ... is kind of off-putting, being a Muslim youth and hearing comments that Boris made about women in burqas looking like letterboxes.

“If you’re prime minister, you not only have to be able to represent the country, you have to represent the people of the country, and if he’s making comments like that in our country, how’s he going to represent us on an international basis?”

“It’s now a toss-up over who to vote for,” he added, “I’m very unsure.”

The Muslim Council of Britain crunched the numbers to find out the seats where Muslim votes could matter the most and found that 31 marginals could change hands because of the Muslim electorate.

Keighley is one. Labour’s John Grogan took the seat from the Tories in 2017 and is defending a majority of just 249 votes. The MCB estimate the Muslim electorate to be 21.6 times bigger than the margin.

“It’s going to be a very close contest,” Abid Hussain, a Keighley Central Labour councillor told BuzzFeed News.

“The Muslim vote is a very important vote,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in Keighley, in Bradford, who might be supporting the Conservative party, but they’re not supporting [them] this year.”

And in the streets around the town’s Victoria Park, there isn’t much enthusiasm for Johnson’s party.

Selma, who doesn’t want to give her full name, is unimpressed with Johnson and won’t be voting for his party. “He keeps going on about letterboxes,” she said. “I know a lot of people hate him, I’ve had a lot of discussions, they just don’t like him.”

Rosama Nawaz, 22, is a politics graduate who works for a mental health access project. She is voting Labour. “I want a Jeremy Corbyn government,” she said, adding that Islamophobia is “a problem with Muslims who vote Conservative.”

“They think if they ignore it enough it’ll go away,” she said.

Zenab, who doesn’t want to give her full name, is also voting Labour. “I want someone with a bit of credibility representing us on an international stage and I don’t trust Boris Johnson at all.”

She thinks the Tory Islamophobia issue is well known here and that it will lose them votes among Muslims who have supported them in the past. “I know a few,” she said.

According to research from the Runnymede Trust, Muslim voters were overwhelmingly backing Labour by the time of the last general election. The organisation found: “Labour did especially well among Muslim voters in 2017; in 2015, Labour received 74% of votes from British Muslims — in 2017, this had risen to 87%.”

This was put down to a number of factors, including former Lib Dem voters who had opposed the Iraq War switching back to Labour and Conservative austerity measures hitting ethnic minority voters.

However, there is still a margin for the Conservatives to lose more votes. Following an unprecedented intervention by the chief rabbi, who criticised Labour’s record on anti-Semitism, the MCB issued its own unprecedented statement, saying: “the Conservative Party [have] approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit.”

“British Muslims — whilst from the most disadvantaged communities and rarely allowed a voice in the public space — will listen to the Chief Rabbi and agree on the importance of voting with their conscience,” it added.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a former Conservative chair and vocal critic of the party on this issue, said the Conservatives are continuing to lose the votes of the few Muslim supporters it has left.

“A lot of people who are fundamentally conservative in their political ideology just feel that it’s not a place that they feel they’re welcome or that they can belong to,” she said, “and that’s why they are confused about whether they can go out and vote this time.”

She said the Conservatives have also lost at least four Muslim donors who feel that they can no longer give their votes — let alone their money — to the party.

“I’m not convinced that they’ll go out and necessarily vote Labour,” she added, “but I think a lot of people will sit the election out because they can’t bear to put a cross there.”

Warsi said she is disappointed that she gave the party a detailed six-page breakdown of why Muslim votes were lost at the last election, and what could be done to stem the flow — but the Conservatives have done nothing to act upon her recommendations.

“Nothing at all,” she said, “And that’s the tragedy of it. We have been aware of this, and we’ve done absolutely nothing to change it.”

This problem could ultimately see Johnson fail to make what are on paper easy gains in seats like Keighley.

Ghulam Rabini runs the Sangat Community Centre. “These politicians, we always know they will say anything to achieve something,” he told BuzzFeed News. “They do not think how much damage it will do to the community.”

Rabini said most people in the community are aware of Islamophobia in the Conservative party, but there are Muslim Conservative councillors here, and it may not be the deciding factor for everyone.

Racist comments from politicians are not just hurtful on a personal level, but also risk stoking divisions and damaging the local economy by putting off potential investors, he said: “We need people with money to come and invest their money here, create jobs, that’s what we need from the politicians.

“This is what we need, we don’t need these superficial, artificial remarks about different communities.”

He added: “It hurts the people whom they make the target, but it also provokes other people to maybe do more harm to the community.”

Over the border in Pendle, it’s a similarly tight contest, except for the fact that the Conservatives are on the defensive.

The seat has a slim Conservative majority of just 1,279 and was held by Labour until it was won by the incumbent, Andrew Stephenson, in 2010. As of June last year, 14% of the electorate were Muslim.

BuzzFeed News met Azhar Ali, the Labour candidate, for a walk around Nelson, the largest town in the constituency. It is market day, and despite the November rain, the streets are busy.

Islamophobia will be an election issue here, Ali said, particularly “amongst a lot of young Muslim men and women,” but so will “bread and butter issues,” such as the NHS, school cuts, and local infrastructure.

“There’s a real concern that over the last couple of years, Islamophobia along with anti-Semitism has been on the rise,” he told BuzzFeed News, “and people feel uncomfortable.”

He added: “They are concerned that people who are in positions of responsibility, people like Boris Johnson, who has made comments in the past, and they feel that these comments are being orchestrated, they’re not off-the-cuff comments, they’ve been said and designed to create division and to create anxiety and to pit Muslim women against other parts of the community.”

Stephenson did not respond to requests for a meeting, but Conservative councillor Nadeem Ahmed was happy to talk. He doesn’t think the issue will play heavily among Muslim voters here, and he predicts the Conservatives will retain this seat.

“I think it’s an issue in all the parties to be honest,” he said. “I think it’s a particular problem in society generally that needs to be addressed rather than a particular party … it needs to be challenged, I agree, more needs to be done by the Conservative party, I totally accept that.”

Warsi has been up to Pendle to campaign for Stephenson. She said the seat is “on a bit of a knife-edge.”

“I did a detailed breakdown in 2017,” she told BuzzFeed News, “and I said to them that one of the reasons that I think we lost seats like Bury North, Keighley, Peterborough, was because of [Islamophobia]. Because the members of Parliament in those seats just did not engage.

“What I’ve found is where a local member of Parliament has built relationships and is understanding and representative of everybody in that constituency, we’ve managed to hold those seats.

“Seats like Pendle, even against the odds, because Andrew Stephenson is so engaged and actually very thoughtful and informed on the issue then those seats we seem to hold and we did last time.”

In seats where MPs had not built relationships, or where relationships had broken down, the Conservatives lost, she said.

On the streets of Nelson, it’s a mixed bag. Gulfam Azan, 24, thinks he will be voting Conservative. “I don’t really support the Conservatives, but I think they’re the best party right now,” he said.

He is aware of the issues around Islamophobia in the Conservative party, but he is also mindful of Labour’s anti-Semitism problem, which puts him off voting for them. “The Labour party engaged the war in Iraq, this is one of the reasons I don’t like them,” he added.

Safina Iqbal, 32, said she is aware of Johnson’s comments about Muslim women, but wasn’t shocked by them. “There’s loads of Asian community here,” she told BuzzFeed News, “and we don’t fear these kinds of [comments], we’re used to [it] now. We choose Labour every time.”

“I might go for Tories, because I’m a landlord,” Tahir Mahmood, 34, said. “There are black sheep everywhere,” he added, “even in Muslims, there are some racist people … I might ignore [Johnson] … still I might go for Tory.”

However, for Nadia, who doesn’t want to give her full name, it is a big issue, and she is voting Labour. “That’s quite a big concern because I feel like since the Conservatives have come in, Islamophobia has definitely spread,” she said. “I don’t think it’s deteriorated, I think it’s been escalated.”

Katie Nolan is a community development officer with community cohesion charity Building Bridges Pendle. Islamophobia from people in power can make their work more difficult, she said: “I think because people then snap back to their own ways of thinking, because it’s then starting from scratch really.”

Her colleague Shabaz Ahmed added: “I think it’s irresponsible.”

“[Johnson] might not have meant it in the way that it’s been portrayed and broadcast,” he said, “but the fact that he said something like that shouldn’t be happening because we live in a diverse country now.”

They were in agreement that the issue would have some impact on votes in Pendle — but they weren’t sure to what extent.

“Put yourself in the shoes of a Muslim, if they’ve heard that, how are they going to vote for him? They’re not are they?” Ahmed said.

There is little doubt that Muslim votes are important in these seats. The question is how many voters will have switched allegiance since last time.

CCHQ had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.



Guests at official opening of Cambridge Central Mosque admire its stunning architecture and eco-friendly design

05 December 2019

By Paul Brackley

Cambridge Central Mosque was officially opened today (December 5), with hundreds of guests admiring its stunning architecture and environmental measures.

Europe’s first eco-friendly mosque caters for Cambridge’s 6,000-strong Muslim community and was paid for entirely by donations.

Aiming for a zero-carbon footprint, the mosque in Mill Road features air source heat pumps and airtight insulation, solar panels, water-saving measures and sustainably sourced wood.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was present for the opening ceremony after an invitation from founding patron Yusuf Islam, also known as Cat Stevens, the singer-songwriter behind songs like Where Do The Children Play?, Wild World and Peace Train.

The trustees of the Cambridge Mosque Trust, the registered charity that looks after the mosque, said: “The Cambridge Muslim community, which brings together local people from over 70 different ethnic groups, is delighted that its long-standing dream to create an ecologically-responsible mosque has today become a reality.

“We are grateful to all our sponsors, to local residents, and to all who have shown such patience over the last 10 years while we planned and built this ambitious addition to the Cambridge skyline.

“We are sure that its symbolism of harmony between East and West will preside over a hub for peace, prayer, and mutual understanding.”

The Cambridge Mosque Trust, founded to manage the inception, design and build of the new mosque, was established in 2008 by Cambridge academic Dr Tim Winter and Yusuf Islam because it had become clear that the Abu Bakr Mosque on Mawson Road in Petersfield, Cambridge, was far too small for the growing Muslim population in the city.

The trust is a registered charity and a joint venture of the Muslim Academic Trust (MAT), the Diyanet Foundation of the UK and the Cambridge Muslim Welfare Society (CMWS).

The ventilation is supplied via roof lights and grilles, combined with air source heat pumps and airtight insulation, which naturally regulates the air quality.

Twenty per cent of the building’s energy use are supplied by solar panels on the roof,and rainwater is harvested and repurposed for flushing toilets and watering the garden.

In the atrium and main prayer hall are tree-like columns with timber branches that support the roof. This means it does not require additional support from unsustainable materials.

The trees themselves are made from cross-laminated spruce, which were sourced in sustainably-managed forests in Central Europe, milled in Switzerland and assembled on site in Cambridge.

Sensors detect differences in light intensity and are able to dim the energy-efficient lights. Careful use of glass helps to preserve heat.

Swift boxes are placed on the exterior walls to help the bird population.

Water-saving features accessed via sensor controls are incorporated into the ablution areas, where worshippers wash their face, arms and feet before prayer.

The aim was for a deliberately British structure that would cater for diverse group of worshippers from all over the world while reflecting the local culture.

An international competition was held calling for inventive and innovative ideas.

“Our intention was to develop a strongly contemporary design, of its place and time yet reflecting both the Islamic and British sacred traditions,” said the trust.

Marks Barfield Architects, designers of the London Eye, were selected by a representatives from CMT, CMWS, the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture and the East Mill Road Action Group. The mosque was builtby Gilbert-Ash.

The architects’ design is intended to take visitors “on a journey from the busy street through a progression of spaces, encouraging them to experience a gradual transition from the day-to-day, mundane world to a reflective, more spiritual one”.

Visitors first pass through a community garden, then a beautiful Islamic garden with a water fountain.

The garden was designed by Islamic garden designer Emma Clark, professor of design at the Prince of Wales Institute for Traditional Arts, working with landscape architects Urquhart and Hunt.

Many of the plants were chosen because they are found in Turkey, the Mediterranean and further East, but many also grow in the UK.

In the community garden at the front, for example, the columnar form of the birch offers a strong vertical accent familiar to Islamic gardens while reflecting the birch trees in the area.

From the gardens, visitors progress through to a portico. Brickwork cladding here is a nod to Romsey’s Victorian architecture.

Through here, visitors are taken into the atrium, where they can visit the café or the teaching and exhibition spaces, or move through to the ablution areas and into the main prayer hall.

Cambridge Central Mosque on December 5, 2019. Pictures: Amina Elbayoumi (23448420)Cambridge Central Mosque on December 5, 2019. Pictures: Amina Elbayoumi (23448420)

The ablution areas feature turquoise Turkish tiles, while the prayer hall has custom made calligraphy, a mihrab (prayer niche) and minbar (pulpit) by Turkish artist Hüseyin Kutlu.

Geometric patterns symbolise the unison of English Gothic design and Islamic architecture. These were hand designed by Professor Keith Critchlow, an expert in sacred architecture and Islamic geometry. He uses tessellating geometric patterns “to symbolise the infinite and mathematical perfection”.

The natural world was chosen by the trust as the “proposed point of connection between Islamic and British cultural history.”.

Timber was therefore chosen as the main building material, since it is one of the most sustainable building materials, and timber construction company Blumer-Lehmann worked with the architects.

The design incorporates 16 wooden columns in the inner sanctuary, which open up to support the roof. These ‘trees’ in the prayer hall symbolise the four imams of Sunni Islam and the 12 imams of Shia Islam.

Architect David Marks said: “We didn’t want to create a replica or pastiche of something that existed elsewhere. The opportunity to do something English, British, excited us. Now that there is a significant Muslim community in the UK it’s time to work out what it means to have an English mosque.”

The mosque also includes two staff residences, an underground car park, cycle parking and a mortuary.

International collaboration

The building is seen as a triumph of international co-operation.

Envisioned by the Muslims of Cambridge, designed by British architects and financed by Turkish stakeholders, it was constructed by Irish contractors using Swiss-made timber components and Spanish marble. Cambridge property consultants Bidwells helped to manage the process.

It has won a host of awards already. The mosque was named Culture and Leisure Project of the Year at the British Construction Industry Awards, earned a regional award from the Royal Town Planning Institute, won the Education and Public Sector category prize at the Wood Award and was judged as the Best Community and Faith Project at the AJ Architecture Awards.

A consortium of government agencies in Turkey were the main donors for the mosque, along with a Turkish private company and the Qatar National Fund. THe Turkiye Diyanet Foundation, a civil trust, joined forces with the MAT and CMWS to help bring the project to completion.

An inclusive place

While primarily a place of Muslim worship, the Cambridge Central Mosque is non-denominational and welcoming to the whole community.

It is also intended to be “one of the UK’s leading women-friendly mosques”, with features such as a soundproof mother and child section, mobile stands to accommodate for the change in numbers of women present in the mosque, spaces for female worshippers both on the main floor and the mezzanine and a complementary therapy room.

The building is fully wheelchair accessible and fitted with hearing loops.



North America


Iran may have killed more than 1,000 in recent protests: US

Dec 6, 2019

WASHINGTON: Iranian security forces may have killed more than 1,000 people, the top US diplomat for Iran said on Thursday, since protests over gasoline price hikes began in mid-November, a crackdown US President Donald Trump described as "horrible."

Speaking at a press briefing at the US State Department, Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, said among those killed were at least a dozen children and "many thousands of Iranians" were also wounded.

"As the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over a thousand Iranian citizens since the protests began," Hook told reporters.

The unrest, which began on November 15 after the Iranian government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300%, spread to more than 100 cities and towns and turned political as young and working-class protesters demanded clerical leaders step down.

Tehran has given no official death toll but Amnesty International said on Monday it had documented the deaths of at least 208 protesters, making the disturbances the bloodiest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"It's a horrible situation," said Trump, speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting at the White House with the permanent representatives of the United Nations Security Council.

"They're killing a lot of people and they're arresting thousands of their own citizens in a brutal crackdown in recent weeks because they're protesting," he said.

Tehran's clerical rulers have blamed “thugs” linked to its opponents in exile and the country's main foreign foes - the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia - for the unrest.

The struggle of ordinary Iranians to make ends meet has become harder since last year, when Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran's nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have further crippled Iran's oil-based economy.

Hook also said a US Navy warship seized advanced missile parts believed to be linked to Iran from a boat it stopped in the Arabian Sea on Nov. 25. The parts are likely further proof of Tehran's efforts to inflame conflict in the region, he said.

"We interdicted a significant hoard of weapons and missile parts evidently of Iranian origin. The seizure includes sophisticated weapons," he said, adding that the vessel was reportedly heading to Yemen to deliver the weapons.

"The weapon components comprise the most sophisticated weapons seized by the US Navy to date during the Yemen conflict," Hook said.

In recent years, US warships have intercepted and seized Iranian arms likely bound for Iran-aligned Houthi fighters.

Under a United Nations resolution, Tehran is prohibited from supplying, selling or transferring weapons outside the country unless approved by the Security Council. A separate UN resolution on Yemen bans the supply of weapons to Houthi leaders.



US considers sending several thousand more troops to Middle East

Dec 6, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon is considering sending several thousand additional troops to the Middle East to help deter Iranian aggression, amid reports of escalating violence in Iran and continued meddling by Tehran in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the region.

John Rood, defense undersecretary for policy, told senators Thursday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper "intends to make changes" to the number of troops deployed in the region. Other officials said options under consideration could send between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East, but they all stressed that there have been no final decisions yet. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The troop deliberations follow several decisions since spring to beef up the US presence in the Middle East because of a series of maritime attacks and bombings in Saudi Arabia that the US and others have blamed on Iran.

President Donald Trump has approved those increases, even though he also routinely insists that he is pulling US troops out of the Middle East and withdrawing from what he calls "endless wars" against extremists. In October, Trump told his supporters that despite the sacrificing of US lives in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, the region is less safe and stable today. "The single greatest mistake our country made in its history," he said, "was going into the quicksand of the Middle East."

Asked about a possible troop increase, Trump told reporters Thursday: "We'll announce whether we will or not. Certainly there might be a threat. And if there is a threat, it will be met very strongly. But we will be announcing what we may be doing — may or may not be doing."

Later Thursday, Trump's national security adviser Robert O'Brien said the president was open to sending more troops to the Middle East. "If the troops are needed to deter Iran, we have the capacity to move them into the region — although I don't think that's happening right now," O'Brien said on Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Bret Baier."

Military leaders have argued that the US needs to increase its presence in the region in order to deter Iran from conducting more and broader attacks. Rood provided no details to back up why the additional troops are needed, but said the US is concerned about recent intelligence indications suggesting an increased threat from Iran.

Rood was asked several times about reports that 14,000 more troops could be sent to the region. He repeatedly said Esper hasn't made a decision yet, but didn't specifically confirm or deny the number, so his answers appeared only to confuse senators. Shortly after the hearing, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah sent out a statement flatly denying the 14,000 number, saying Esper told the Senate committee chairman Thursday morning that "we are not considering sending 14,000 additional troops" to the region.

The troop discussions came as the Trump administration on Thursday accused Iranian security forces of killing more than 1,000 people in crackdowns against recent protests that have swept the country.

The estimated death toll is significantly higher than previously estimates from human rights groups and others, and the administration did not present documentary evidence to back up the claim. But Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, told reporters the tally was based on a variety of reports coming out of Iran as well as intelligence analyses.

Speaking at the State Department, Hook said the US had received and reviewed video of one specific incident of repression in the city of Mahshahr in which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps had mowed down at least 100 protesters with machine-gun fire.

He said the video was one of tens of thousands of submissions the US has gotten since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appealed last month for Iranians to submit evidence of atrocities by the authorities in putting down the protests. In it, he said IRGC forces can be seen opening fire on protesters blocking a road and then surrounding those who fled to nearby marshlands where they were sprayed with bullets.

"In this one incident alone the regime murdered as many as 100 Iranians and possibly more," Hook told reporters at the State Department. He did not display the video but said the actions it depicted corresponded to accounts of a brutal nationwide crackdown on the demonstrations, which started in response to gasoline price increases and rationing.

"We have seen reports of many hundreds more killed in and around Tehran," he said. "And, as the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began." The dead include 13- and 14-year-old children, he said.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said Iran had "killed hundreds and hundreds of people in a very short period of time" and called for international pressure to be applied. "They are killing protesters. They turned off their internet system. People aren't hearing what's going on," he told reporters while hosting a lunch for the ambassadors of UN Security Council members.

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran's mission at the United Nations, again disputed any casualty figures from abroad as "purely speculative and highly inaccurate." However, Iran's government has so far refused to release any of its own.

"Mr. Hook has already said in public that he is very pleased with the suffering of ordinary Iranians, and that the US has had arrangements in the past two years to maximize what occurred with the recent violence and damages in Iran," Miryousefi told The Associated Press.

There was no known public video that supported Hooks' allegation of a massacre in Mahshahr, although he said the State Department had gotten more than 32,000 responses to Pompeo's appeal for videos and other evidence using the encrypted messaging app Telegram, which is popular in Iran.

Nor has there been any widely accepted claim matching Hook's death toll of more than 1,000. Amnesty International believes at least 208 people have been killed and that the number could be higher. Iran has disputed that figure, but has refused to offer any nationwide statistics of the number of injuries, arrests or deaths from the unrest.

However, Hook's numbers appear to match a figure put out late Wednesday by the Iranian exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which has paid Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for speeches at its events in the past.

The MeK alleged late Wednesday that more than 1,000 people had been killed. It published a list of 320 people it said it had identified so far as having been killed but did not provide proof.

Iran has alleged MeK supporters and those backing exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the country's late shah, of being behind the unrest alongside foreign powers. It has not offered evidence to support those allegations.

In addition to the deaths, Hook said more than 7,000 protesters had been detained, with many sent to two prisons. Hook said that Pompeo had notified Congress on Thursday that both prisons would be hit with US sanctions for gross human rights abuses. It was not immediately clear when those designations would occur.

Hook's comments come as the US steps up its "maximum pressure campaign" on Iran that it began after withdrawing from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year. That campaign has been highlighted by the imposition of increasingly tough sanctions and an increase in rhetoric critical of Tehran and its leadership.

As part of the pressure campaign, Hook announced that the US is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the whereabouts of a top IRGC commander now believed to be supporting rebels in Yemen. He said Abdul Reza Shahalai was responsible for numerous attacks against US forces in Iraq and had been behind a foiled plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington restaurant.



US bill against Muslim detainment camps in China sparks anger

05 Dec, 2019

Official Chinese media outlets lashed out against the United States and called for harsh reprisals in editorials on Thursday after the US House of Representatives passed legislation calling for a stronger response to Beijing’s mistreatment of its Uighur Muslim minority.

A front-page editorial in the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said the legislation “harbors evil intent and is extremely sinister” reported CNBC.

“Underestimating the determination and will of the Chinese people is doomed to fail,” it said.

The bill still had to be approved by the Senate and then sent and signed to president Donald Trump in order for it to become law.

And the White House had yet to say whether Trump would sign or veto the bill.

According to UN experts, China had already possibly detained as many one million Uighurs inside massive camps in the Xinjiang region. China claimed that the camps were part of an anti-terror crackdown and had denied any mistreatment of the minority.

The harsh criticism of Washington from state media followed warnings from China on Wednesday that the bill could impact bilateral cooperation and a putative trade deal.

The China Daily called the bill a “stab in the back, given Beijing’s efforts to stabilise the already turbulent China-US relationship”.

“It seems an odds-on bet that more (sanctions) can be expected if the latest approval for State Department meddling goes into the statute books,” it said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, said on Wednesday that “any wrong words and deeds must pay the due price.”

Nevertheless, it was unclear whether the matter would affect the relationship between the US and China in terms of trade.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that both sides were still moving closer to signing a phase one agreement and rolling back tariffs.

US negotiators expected a phase-one deal with China to be completed before the next wave of American tariffs were due to kick-in, on 15 December, people close to the matter told Bloomberg.

Just the day before, stocks in Asia and Europe had rallied, while US equities rebounded from the declines seen on Tuesday, thanks to the good news around the trade conflict.



Muslim group seeks help from Milton council in long-running quest for a permanent mosque

By Bambang Sadewo

Thu., Dec. 5, 2019

A local Muslim group in Milton that has been on a quest to establish a place of prayer since 2004 is turning to council for help.

“We are perhaps the biggest religious group in Milton to rent out town facilities for our prayer needs across weeks, months and years,” said Fahim Umaid, who represented Muslim Association of Milton, at a recent council meeting.

For its weekly Friday prayers, the group uses the gym area at Milton Sports Centre. This poses problems of its own, such as traffic congestion and parking issues, even with multiple back-to-back prayers scheduled to meet the occupancy limit.

“Our hearts long to get places of our own. I'm sure there might be other groups that are trying to achieve the same goals,” he said.

Sharing some of their recent efforts, Umaid said that they have made leasing offers to more than 15 locations and purchase offers to more than six properties since 2016 — all to no avail.

The challenges they have had in securing a deal include the lack of religious zoning and insufficient parking space. Condo corporations and plazas also typically don’t want to lease out to religious groups, despite the group getting occupancy permits from the town, he said.

“There are (by)laws in effect to allow land for parks, schools and other community services in every neighbourhood. But there is no bylaw allocating religious zone places in every subdivision, especially for a community like ours,” he said, adding that as a registered charity organization they have contributed tremendously to make Milton what it is today.

“We need spaces to get this going. And we desperately need it now,” he said.

As the town is in the process of reviewing and updating its official plan, Coun. Sameera Ali hopes that staff will consult with all religious groups in Milton that are facing similar problems, including the Filipino Christian community and the Hindu community, the latter she noted has to travel to Oakville.

She added that many religious groups can’t compete with the market when it comes to bidding on pieces and parcels of land.

Going forward, she believes that the community should have designated spots that are zoned in a way that they can be converted to religious places of worship — as well as youth and seniors hangout spaces and more.

Given the complexities of the many bylaws, rules and regulations and provincial standards that the current official plan is bound to, Ali said the reviewing process “is the time for us to add stipulations to make it easy for us to have a very well-connected community in the future that provides for all the needs of community.”

For the Muslim Association of Milton, having a permanent mosque will also allow them to serve the community in other ways, including providing counselling service, funeral service, daycare, youth programs and activities and more.

“We’re not outsiders asking for unrealistic favours. We are Miltonians,” Umaid said. “We have the same shared objectives to be good citizens to keep our youth focused on good morals and behaviours by offering programs and activities for their overall development.“





FM Blasts EU3's Letter to UN Chief on Iranian Missiles

Thu Dec 05, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the three European states' letter to the UN chief on Iran's missiles is an attempt "to cover up their miserable incompetence" to implement the nuclear deal.

"Latest E3 letter to UNSG on missiles is a desperate falsehood to cover up their miserable incompetence in fulfilling bare minimum of their own JCPOA obligations," Zarif wrote on his twitter page on Thursday.

His remarks were in reaction to a letter penned by France, Germany and Britain to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in which the three European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) made the allegation that Iran’s ballistic missile activity is “inconsistent” with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

"If E3 want a modicum of global credibility, they can begin by exerting sovereignty rather than bowing to US bullying," Zarif stressed.

The Iranian diplomat capped off his tweet with an image of two UNSC resolutions, with the Resolution 1929 on banning Iran's ballistic activities stamped as 'terminated', and Resolution 2231, still endorsed, outlining the termination of Resolution 1929 in 2010, under Article 41 of UN Charter.

Iran has several times stressed that its missile program is not included in the resolution 2231.

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi underlined in May the defensive nature of Iran's missile activities, saying that UN Security Council Resolution 2231 was not related to Tehran's missile program.

Iran's missile program is a national defense issue which is non-negotiable and never contradicts with the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, Takht Ravanchi told said in an interview with the state TV.

He referred to the US attempts to raise allegations that Iran is violating the UN Resolution 2231, and said that one of the officials at the US State Department conferred with members of the UNSC about Iran’s ballistic missile activities.

They are trying to create a negative atmosphere against Iran’s missile activities, Takht Ravanchi said.

Positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran are very clear in a way that Iran’s missile programs are not included within the framework of UNSC Resolution 2231 at all, he emphasized.

“Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities have been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for 14 times as well," the senior diplomat said.



Iran Reiterates Support for Peaceful Solutions to Yemen Crisis

Thu Dec 05, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif underlined his country's support for peaceful solutions and talks to resolve the crisis in Yemen.

"Iran sees no benefit in continued war and siege in Yemen, but it welcomes peaceful solutions," Zarif wrote on his twitter page in Arabic language on Thursday.

He added that Iran welcomes all initiatives which invite to talks and persuades everyone to use peaceful solutions.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past four and a half years.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

The Western-backed military aggression, coupled with a naval blockade, has plunged Yemen into “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, according to the United Nations.



Iran Asks for ICC's Continued Impartiality, Reaction to US Threats

Thu Dec 05, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran called on the International Criminal Court to continue independence and impartiality and show reaction to the US threats against the ICC and its judges.

Iran's representative at the 18th ICC Assembly in The Hague Reza Pourmand Tehrani emphasized the need to maintain independence, impartiality, and avoidance of political susceptibility of the international body.

During the meeting, Pourmand Tehrani emphasized the necessity of maintaining the independence, impartiality, and avoidance of political susceptibility of the International Criminal Court in the Statute of the ICC.

He also condemned the recent threats by the US officials against the International Criminal Court and its judges, prosecutors, and staff, saying that halting these threats to justice and at the same time a test for the tribunal for its independence and effectiveness.

The Iranian envoy in The Hague also welcomed the Court's recent approach to investigate crimes committed against Rohingya Muslim minorities in Myanmar, Palestine and Afghanistan, while also emphasizing impartiality and resistance to political pressure in these cases.

The Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court is the highest decision-making body that meets annually to determine the Court's non-judicial policies with the participation of representatives of the Member-States and its observers.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is an observer member of the International Criminal Court.



DM: All Needed Military Equipment Produced in Iran

Thu Dec 05, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said that the country's experts are capable of producing all types of weapons and military equipment needed for defense.

“The Ministry of Defense does not look outside the borders for procuring any minor or major defensive equipment that the country needs on the battleground,” General Hatami said on Thursday, addressing the unveiling ceremony of the first domestically-manufactured intelligent communication management system at the Defense Industries Organization.

“Today, all of the country’s required defensive equipment at all levels and fields of combat, including ground, air, maritime, electronic, passive, etc. will be delivered to the Armed Forces in a short and reasonable period of time, and with acceptable and standard quality,” he added.

Iran has made major achievements in manufacturing different weapons and military equipment.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei urged the Iranian Armed Forces to further reinvigorate their capabilities and deterrence power.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran does not intend to start a war against anyone but you (Armed Forces) should increase your capabilities to the extent that not only does the enemy fear attacking Iran but also the shadow of war against the Iranian nation will fade away with the help of the Armed Forces' solidarity, might and effective deployment," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing Navy officials and commanders in Tehran on the occasion of the Navy Day in Iran last year.

He added that the Armed Forces' preparedness played as a deterrent power against the enemy threats.



Iranian VP Asks for Using National Currencies for Trade with Kyrgyzstan

Thu Dec 05, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri proposed Kyrgyzstan to use national currencies in trade ties between the two countries.

Jahangiri made the remarks in a meeting with Kyrgyz Economy and Transport Ministers in Tehran on Wednesday evening.

During the meeting, he expressed satisfaction with successful holding of the joint commission on economic cooperation between Iran and Kyrgyzstan, expressing the hope that the commission would help remove obstacles to mutual cooperation and develop a roadmap for the development of bilateral relations.

Jahangiri stated that fortunately, the legal documents required for expanding relations and Iran-Kyrgyzstan cooperation have been formulated and approved, providing the necessary framework for the development of bilateral and regional relations, specially within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union Agreement.

He referred to the agreement of the two countries' Ministers of Road to establish a Tehran-Bishkek direct flight in the near future, and said that this could play an important role in facilitating the trade between the two countries.

Jahangiri emphasized the use of national currencies for the development of economic relations and trade exchanges between Iran and Kyrgyzstan, and highlighted the technical and engineering capabilities of Iran in various fields, including road construction, dam building and construction of large industrial plants.

He also noted Tehran's readiness to cooperate with Bishkek on transit.

Iran and Kyrgyzstan enjoy a long record of cooperation and friendly ties.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a message to his Kyrgyz counterpart Sooronbay Jeenbekov, in September voiced hope that bilateral ties between Tehran and Bishkek would grow further and deeper.

Rouhani forwarded a message of felicitations to his Kyrgyz counterpart offering congratulations on the anniversary of the Independence Day of the Central Asian country.

He expressed his hope that the good relations between Tehran and Bishkek continue to grow and further expand and deepen in all political, economic and cultural areas.



Anger at Erdogan’s ‘sea grab’ in the Mediterranean

December 06, 2019


ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced growing anger on Thursday over Turkey’s “sea grab” in the Mediterranean.

Ankara signed a maritime border agreement last month with the Libyan government in Tripoli that gives Turkey control over a vast area of sea stretching from its southern coast to North Africa. The Turkish Parliament approved the deal last night.

The agreement gives Turkey lucrative rights to drill for oil and gas in areas that include the island of Crete’s territorial waters. Ankara says such islands are not entitled to territorial waters.

The deal has infuriated Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, who dismissed it as “illegal.” Cyprus petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Thursday to safeguard its offshore mineral rights. The ICJ has the power to issue binding decisions on countries that recognize its jurisdiction.

President Nicos Anastasiades said the island was committed to protecting its sovereign rights with every legal means possible. “Our recourse to The Hague has that very purpose,” he said.

The maritime border deal was also condemned by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the rival Libyan National Army in the eastern city of Benghazi. Haftar said the government in Tripoli had no authority to sign such an agreement, which was therefore void.



Lebanese protesters vow to step up demonstrations as decision on new prime minister looms


December 06, 2019

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters on Thursday vowed to step up their peaceful demonstrations despite political moves to form a new government.

President Michel Aoun has set next Monday for binding parliamentary consultations to officially name a prime minister to head a new administration for the country.

Caretaker premier, Saad Hariri, who quit in October amid protests over political corruption and economic hardships, has said he will not take part in the new government but is backing businessman Samir Khatib to replace him.

However, many protesters in the Lebanese civil movement, which on Thursday marked 50 days of demonstrations, are unhappy with Hariri’s choice for PM and have pledged to escalate their action throughout Lebanon.

One activist, Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad, told Arab News: “Protesters are absolutely against the naming of Samir Khatib as the future PM. They consider that he dealt with the country’s corruption system and its icons.

“He was tested by Hezbollah and Amal’s representatives in power and by the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, before agreeing on his name.

“Protests are headed toward a greater escalation until a clean person comes along. The crisis is caused by corruption, so how can the same parties regain power through different faces? People are angry and disgusted and want independent personalities,” he said.

Another activist, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The different groups of the civil movement refuse to see the appointment of Khatib as head of the government because he is part of the structure benefiting from this system. We are asking authorities to replace a certain mindset, not swap faces. We want an independent government.”

He said protesters were undecided on their plan of action for Monday’s crunch meeting, with some groups proposing to stop deputies from reaching the presidential palace and blocking all of Lebanon’s roads, while others preferred to await the outcome. “It is true that people do not trust any person chosen by the current authority, but we must wait until this person proves the contrary.”

On the economic crisis gripping the country, the activist added: “Those in power bear the responsibility for what may happen. They insist stubbornly on their mindset and are yet to be convinced of the need to change their way of thinking. They have not presented a different model.

“What has taken place so far (the civilian protests) is an organized revolution. The people who haven’t taken to the streets to protest haven’t lost anything yet, but when people go hungry and see that their state has been disregarded, they will definitely take to the streets.”



Tripoli government to confront Moscow over forces’ deployment

December 06, 2019

TRIPOLI: Officials in UN-supported government in Tripoli — Government of National Accord (GNA) — say they plan to confront Moscow over the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside their opponents in the country’s civil war.

Libyan and US officials accuse Russia of deploying fighters through a private security contractor, the Wagner Group, to key battleground areas in Libya in the past months.

They say the Russian fighters are backing commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been trying for months to capture the capital Tripoli.

The GNA has documented between 600 to 800 Russian fighters in Libya and is collecting their names in a list to present to the Russian government, according to Khaled Al-Meshri, the head of the GNA’s Supreme Council of State.

“We are going to visit Russia after we collect all evidence and present to the authorities and see what they say,” Al-Meshri told The Associated Press last week. He did not say when that visit would take place.

Moscow has repeatedly denied playing any role in Libya’s fighting.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army — made up of army units and tribesmen — launched its offensive on Tripoli in April after seizing much of eastern Libya from militants and other rivals in recent years. Haftar is backed by the UAE and Egypt, as well as France and Russia.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country is now split between a government in the east, allied with Haftar, and the GNA in Tripoli in the west. Both sides are bolstered by militias. Fighting has stalled in recent weeks, with both sides dug in and shelling one another along Tripoli’s southern reaches.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker told reporters last week that the State Department is working with European partners to impose sanctions on the Russian military contractor responsible for sending fighters to Tripoli.

“The way that this organization of Russians in particular has operated before raises the specter of large-scale casualties in civilian populations,” he said.

Schenker’s comments came shortly after US officials met with Haftar to press for a cease-fire and “expressed serious concern” over Russia’s intervention in the conflict.

But President Donald Trump has sent decidedly mixed messages to Haftar.

Trump voiced support of Haftar when he launched his attempt to take over Tripoli, praising the commanders “anti-terrorism” efforts in a phone conversation. The call was a sharp break with the US policy of supporting Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.

Al-Meshri called for confidence-building measures and a push toward presidential and parliamentary elections.

“Since Qaddafi’s ouster, there have been no presidential elections. People are fed up,” he said.

The Russians’ presence has further mired an already complex conflict.

Al-Meshri maintains his administration has strong evidence that there are Russians fighters on the ground.

He says that government forces have found cell phones, intercepted communications and seized personal belongings left behind in the chaos of battle. He said flight data show dates and names of Russians moving from Syria to Egypt and then the Jordanian capital of Amman before flying to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, Haftar’s seat of power. He didn’t elaborate or present any of these documents or items to the AP.

Wagner Group is believed to have sent mercenaries to multiple conflicts, including Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere, raising accusations that Moscow is using it to spread its influence. The firm is a military contractor run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close ties to the Kremlin. Russian officials have refused in the past to comment on the firm’s activities.

By deploying fighters into Libya, Russia is embroiling itself in another conflict in the Middle East. Russia’s military is involved in Syria’s civil war, conducting airstrikes and deploying troops and military police. That operation successfully shored up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and — at a relatively modest cost — helped Moscow expand its clout in the region.

Analysts believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to find leverage with Western powers in oil-rich Libya. They say he also recognizes that the country is a gateway for many migrants trying to reach European shores.

“Most of this is smoke and mirrors designed to induce fear,” said Anas Gamati, founder of the Tripoli-based Sadeq Institute. “Russian influence has done only two things: inflate their size and specter of their power in Libya. They’re not positively engaged or trying to play a constructive role with diplomatic or political value.”

Officially, Russia continues to maintain a dialogue with both sides. Haftar has visited Moscow several times the past years, and a delegation of the Tripoli-based government met with Putin during a Russia-Africa Economic Forum summit in Sochi in October.

The allegations of Russian interference come amid a renewed push for international players to reach a consensus on Libya.

Germany is working with the United Nations to host a conference on Libya by early 2020. Observers hope that international players could exert enough pressure to stop the fighting.

But others worry that Haftar’s appetite for territory and power might prove too large. Former GNA defense minister Mahdi Al-Barghathi, who left in the government in July, says the only way toward peace is for Haftar to be left with no powerful friends, and no other options. Otherwise, Al-Barghathi said Haftar will be set to become another Qaddafi.

“We don’t want to go back to square one,” he said.

As long as international powers remain divided, Libya’s conflict risks continuing to play out as the world’s latest proxy war, some observers warn.

“Putin would like nothing more than to keep Europe busy and divided over Libya, scared of illegal immigration, paralyzed by right-wing populism that threatens the very idea of the EU,” said Mohammed Eljareh, an analyst who runs Libya Outlook, a consulting company on Libyan affairs.

“All of this is music to Putin’s ears,” he said.



Iran’s ballistic missiles ‘can carry nuclear weapons’

December 05, 2019

JEDDAH: Britain, France and Germany on Thursday accused Iran of developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, UN ambassadors for the three countries said Tehran’s actions were inconsistent with the UN resolution enshrining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions.

The envoys’ letter referred to video footage on social media in April of the test flight of a new Shabab-3 medium range ballistic missile variant that was “technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.”

The European powers also pointed to three other launches this year, including that of the Borkan-3, a new medium-range ballistic missile tested by Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen on August 2.

There were “the latest in a long series of advances in Iranian ballistic missile technology,” the ambassadors said.

Separately, Russian state company TVEL on Thursday suspended a research project with Iran because of its decision to resume enriching uranium at the Fordo facility.

The company said the decision made it impossible to convert the facility to produce radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.

Iran agreed to stop uranium enrichment under the JCPOA, but it has resumed such activities after the US pulled out of the agreement and imposed new sanctions. TVEL’s suspension apparently reflects Moscow’s attempt to distance itself from Iranian nuclear activities to avoid the US penalties. It follows a US announcement last month that the waiver allowing foreign companies to work at Fordo will end on Dec. 15.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the US pressure “created a difficult environment” for Russia and other participants in the JCPOA. He said Russia was suspending its participation in the project to “analyze the possibilities and potential negative consequences of the American measures.”

The Russian announcement came a day before consultations in Vienna between Iran and the world powers involved in the JCPOA.

Last month, Iran announced that it was resuming uranium enrichment at Fordo, a heavily fortified facility inside a mountain ringed by anti-aircraft batteries that has over 1,000 centrifuges.

Under the 2015 deal, Russia and Iran were supposed to work together to turn Fordo into a research center to produce radioactive isotopes of tellurium and xenon for medical use. It was monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.



Turkey's President Erdogan opens Cambridge 'eco-mosque'

5 December 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has attended the official opening of a mosque in Cambridge.

The Central Mosque in Mill Road, which cost £23m and has the capacity for 1,000 worshippers, has been billed as "Europe's first eco-mosque".

A group of about 40 supporters welcomed the arrival of his cavalcade, while a rally held in the city centre attracted a similar number of protesters.

Campaigners said they were "standing in solidarity with the Kurdish community".

President Erdogan, who arrived in the UK this week for the Nato leaders' meeting, was invited to the mosque by singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. The musician is patron of the mosque.

The main donor was a consortium of government agencies in Turkey, together with a Turkish private company and the Qatar National Fund.

There was a heavy police presence in the area from early in the morning, with officers drafted in from as far away as Derbyshire.

Yunus Aslan travelled to Cambridge from London with a group of Erdogan supporters.

"I'm here to greet the greatest leader on earth, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, our president, and we're here to support him while he's in the UK," he said.

A short distance away in the city centre, protesters could be heard shouting "terrorist Erdogan".

One of them said: "I don't think Erdogan should be welcomed anywhere, especially not to open a house of worship."

The mosque, which first opened to the public in April, was designed to "pay homage to Islam's emphasis on the sanctity of the natural world and the commandment to avoid waste and extravagance".

It boasts zero-carbon on-site emissions, rainwater harvesting and air source heat pumps.




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