New Age Islam
Mon Aug 03 2020, 07:47 AM

Islamic World News ( 5 Jan 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians Pray Together in One Room at Chandigarh’s GMCH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer room at GMCH in Sector 32, Chandigarh, on Friday. (Express photo)

----

 

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians Pray Together in One Room at Chandigarh’s GMCH

Don't Eat Prawns, They Are Not Fish: Hyderabad-Based Islamic Outfit Issues Fatwa

Don’t Play Role of Allah, Johor Islamic Council Advisor Warns Muslims

Tolerance in Islam Allows For Fighting Corruption: Al-Sudais

Jamaat-e-Islami Calls for Immediate Dissociation from US

Islamic Dress Code Should Be Accommodated In Schools - Group

 

India

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians Pray Together in One Room at Chandigarh’s GMCH

Don't Eat Prawns, They Are Not Fish: Hyderabad-Based Islamic Outfit Issues Fatwa

Govt Hurting Muslim Sentiments: Maulana of Saffron-Painted Haj House

Uttarakhand Madrassas Yet to Install PM Narendra Modi’s Pictures, Cites ‘Religious Considerations’

Muslims up In Arms against Centre’s Move On Talaq

Politics Of Religion Can Create Hafiz Saeeds Among Hindus: Dalit Leader Prakash Ambedkar

Preacher Called 'Zakir Naik of Kerala' Cries Foul After State Shutters His School

Kerala ‘love jihad’: NIA to quiz ‘some accused’ who knew Hadiya’s husband

14 B'deshi prisoners released by Indian govt

4 cops killed in IED blast set off by terrorists in J&K

No bias, more Muslims held for clashes than Hindus, says Karnataka govt

--------

Southeast Asia

Don’t Play Role of Allah, Johor Islamic Council Advisor Warns Muslims

Najib: Religious Institutions Must Also Counter Terrorism, Extremism

Malaysia: Terrorists should be deported to Home Countries

Syed Saddiq chides Tawfik Ismail over ‘Mahathir’s Islamisation’

Terror groups in southern Philippines still recruiting in Malaysia

--------

Arab World

Tolerance in Islam Allows For Fighting Corruption: Al-Sudais

Al-Wefaq Condemns Arrest of Shia Cleric in Bahrain

Corrupt politicians and terrorism directly linked in Iraq, say officials

Tens of Terrorists Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army in Eastern Damascus

Syrian Army Captures Two More Towns in Idlib

Syrian Army Keeps Rolling on Terrorists' Centers in Southern Idlib

Saudi-French meeting to discuss regional and international state of affairs

Syrians demand expulsion of militants from Damascus outskirts

--------

Pakistan

Jamaat-e-Islami Calls for Immediate Dissociation from US

Aizaz Asks US to Clarify Special Watch List on Religious Freedom

Don't see Parliament completing term: Senate deputy chief

JuD sends Rs100 million notice to Khurram Dastgir

Pakistan Renews Pledge to Work for Regional Peace despite US Aid Suspension

Cop’s killing: ATC move on boy’s plea for ATA exclusion

Pakistan Doesn’t Need US Aid At The Cost Of National Dignity: Army

--------

Europe

Islamic Dress Code Should Be Accommodated In Schools - Group

Racism Row Online in Austria over Muslim New Year’s Baby

Outrage as Danish MP calls for Muslims to worship in warehouses

France's Macron urges respect of rule of law in talks with Erdogan

France says Jihadists can be tried in Syrian Kurdistan, signaling de facto recognition

--------

Mideast

‘Grand Fajr Campaign’ Activists Bring A New Dawn to Gaza

Palestinian Teen, Nour Tamimi, Granted Bail in ‘Slap Video’ Case

Israel approves construction of over 2,200 new settler units in occupied West Bank

Daesh declares war on Palestine’s Hamas resistance movement

Saudi Arabia, Daesh following Trump's lead: Iran's Zarif

US freezes $125 million in funding to Palestinian refugees: Report

Bilateral Legal Accords with US Losing Validity: Erdogan

Erdogan Accuses US, Israel of ‘Meddling’ In Pakistan, Iran

Protests threaten Iran’s ascendant role in the Middle East

--------

South Asia

Myanmar Army Overruns Kachin, a Christian State, Rebel Camps

Explosion in Taliban Leader’s House in Kunar Leaves 4 Dead

90% Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh under-nourished: UN

OIC delegation: Rohingyas are victims of brutal torture

Myanmar President Calls for Reform of Nation's Military-Drafted Constitution

Rohingya insurgents ambush Myanmar military truck, five wounded

--------

North America

US-Sought UNSC Meeting on Iran Backfires On Washington

Why It's So Difficult For the US to Crack Down On Pakistan

Hundreds protest for jailed Palestinian teen in NY

National Council of Canadian Muslims Asks For Day of Remembrance for Mosque Shooting

US says Iran ‘on notice’ at Security Council meeting

--------

Africa

Al Qaeda Maintains Operational Tempo in West Africa In 2017

Armed groups clash at key Libya border post

South Africa: Muslims Concerned As Cape Town Mortuary Backlog Rises Again

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/hindus,-muslims,-sikhs,-christians-pray-together-in-one-room-at-chandigarh’s-gmch/d/113842

--------

 

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians Pray Together in One Room at Chandigarh’s GMCH

by Adil Akhzer

January 6, 2018

THE AXIOM ‘God is one’ is a living reality at the city’s Government Medical College Hospital (GMCH) in Sector 32 where the prayers of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and believers of other faiths converge in a single room that has been opened by the hospital authorities for those who pray for the unwell admitted to the health facility.

GMCH is the first government hospital in the city to set up such a facility. The prayer room is located in the C block where more than 10 operation theatres are also situated. A number of signages has also been put up to direct people towards the room. The facility is used primarily by family members and other attendants accompanying patients.

“When I was praying this morning, next to me was a Muslim man, who was also saying his prayers…. All the religions meet here at one place which gives you so much of peace,” says Baljinder Singh, whose relative met with an accident in Bathinda, Punjab, on Thursday night and is now undergoing treatment. “The administration has done such a wonderful thing by opening this facility.”

“Everyone feels the need to pray during hard times. One wouldn’t think of religious differences at such times. These moments in this room make us realise that we need each other,” says Mohammed Afrazul, from Saharanpur, UP, whose daughter is admitted in the hospital.

The room has a bare floor, with a table against the wall facing the entrance. A lit diya (lamp) adorns the table and a board over the table has symbols of all major religions printed on it. The room is filled mostly in the morning and evening with those who believe that in addition to medical science and doctors, their loved ones need a helping hand from God.

Dr Ravi Gupta, Medical Superintendent, GMCH, and the key person for the initiative, told Chandigarh Newsline that the common prayer room was opened after it was noticed that family members were praying for their kin just outside the OTs. “Earlier, there was no place where anyone can pray. After opening this prayer room, it converges people from different faiths at a single place,” said Gupta.

At present, no government hospital in the city has a designated prayer room. Officials from Government Multi Specialty Hospital, Sector 16, and Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) told Chandigarh Newsline that no such facility exists at the two hospitals.

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/hindus-muslims-sikhs-christians-pray-together-in-one-room-at-chandigarhs-gmch-5013529/

--------

 

Don't Eat Prawns, They Are Not Fish: Hyderabad-Based Islamic Outfit Issues Fatwa

Syed Akbar

Jan 6, 2018

HYDERABAD: City-based Islamic seminary, Jamia Nizamia, has stirred up a controversy by issuing a decree (fatwa) that consumption of prawn is not permissible for Muslims. The fatwa was issued on January 1 by Mufti Mohammad Azeemuddin, the chief mufti of the 142-year-old Islamic deemed university.

Many Muslim religious scholars have, however, differred with the Jamia's ruling.

According to the fatwa, prawn is an arthropod (to which insects also belong) and it does not fall under the category of fish. The chief mufti labelled prawn under the category 'makruh tahrim' (strictly abominable) and advised Muslims against eating it. In Islamic jurisprudence there are three categories of food — lawful (halal), haram (prohibited) and makruh (abominable).

Foods falling under makruh are sub-divided into makruh (abominable but can be eaten) and makruh tahrim (strictly abominable and thus should be avoided). Jamia Nizamia is a distinguished Islamic educational institution revered in several countries.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/hyderabad-seminary-bars-muslims-from-eating-prawns/articleshow/62387480.cms

--------

 

Don’t play role of Allah, Johor Islamic council advisor warns Muslims

January 5, 2018

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 5 — The act of Muslims labeling one another as infidels is an extremist attitude, said Johor Islamic Religious Council advisor Datuk Nooh Gadut.

He said this would tarnish the image of Islam which had clearly warned followers against humiliating or bringing disgrace upon others and themselves.

“Is it man or Allah who is able to tell if the infidels are going to hell? So do not play the role of Allah,” he told reporters at the 2018 Putrajaya International Security Dialogue (PISD) here today.

Earlier when delivering the paper titled ‘The Role of Religion In Nurturing the Values of Wasatiyyah  and Rejecting Radical and Extreme Ideologies,’ Nooh said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s efforts in adopting the wasatiyyah or moderation concept to deal with Islamophobia, was commendable.

He also proposed that wasatiyyah subjects be taught extensively at secondary school and tertiary levels to further raise understanding of the concept.

“Everyone should understand and appreciate the concept of wasatiyyah in an effort to create spiritual, balanced individuals and proactive communities in developing a progressive and dynamic society that will ultimately contribute to the success of the nation,” he said.

Nooh added that if the values of wasatiyyah were not practiced, it would continue to tarnish the image of Islam in the eyes of the world and non-Muslim societies and would actively promote Islamophobia. — Bernama

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/dont-play-role-of-allah-johor-islamic-council-advisor-warns-muslims#ihBQyTXxXlHCq9EJ.97

--------

 

Tolerance In Islam Allows For Fighting Corruption: Al-Sudais

Jan 6, 2018

MAKKAH — Sheikh Abdurahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, emphasized that tolerance in Islam does not stop one from taking firm and decisive steps in fighting corruption and combating extremism and terrorism. Delivering the Friday sermon at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Sheikh Al-Sudais, who is also imam and khateeb of the holy mosque, said that tolerance in Islam also does not stop from being firm and decisive in preserving holy sites, as well as in enhancing integrity, fighting the dangers of drugs and liquor, countering fabricated news and rumors spread through social networking sites, maintaining security and preventing the spread of chaos.

He reaffirmed that the basic tenets of Islamic Shariah are designed to serve the broader interests of the people while bringing in benefits to them in addition to deterring evil and alleviating their suffering. “Islam is a religion of moderation and tolerance, and a mercy to the entire mankind,” he said.

Referring to the continuing Israeli occupation of the holy city of Jerusalem, Al-Sudais emphasized that the tolerance in Islam is not weakness, nor will it be a passage to occupy its land or confiscate its holy sites. “Our souls are insignificant in comparison to the holy sites of Islam and their protection. The real terrorist is the one who initiates aggression while the one who defends his land and its holy sites is not at all a terrorist,” he said, while reminding the faithful that the core issue of Muslims in the contemporary world is the issue of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Arab and Islamic holy city of Jerusalem, which will forever be Islamic and Arab regardless of the oppression.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/525544/SAUDI-ARABIA/Tolerance-in-Islam-allows-for-fighting-corruption-Al-Sudais

--------

 

Jamaat-e-Islami Calls for Immediate Dissociation from US

Jan 6, 2018

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami chief, senator Siraj-ul-Haq has called for immediate dissociation from the US as it has always made Pakistan a scapegoat and deceived the country in the hour of need.

In a message to the nation in response to the actions of the US against Pakistan, he said that the US wanted Pakistan to convert its defeat in Afghanistan to victory.

Allah has blessed this country with abundant resources and we do not need to beg from anyone, said Haq.  He also said that those who take the US as a friend and are advocating for its slavery, have only brought disgrace to the country and the nation. The US has never stood by Pakistan and has always patronised India, he added.

Haq also said that during the wars of 1965 and 1971, the US left Pakistan alone and now is blaming Pakistan for its defeat in Afghanistan. He added that when Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests in response to India, the US imposed sanctions against the country.

The JI chief said that Pakistan has sacrificed more than seventy thousand men in the US war on terror besides incurring a financial loss of above 120 billion dollars, but the US never acknowledged it. As such, he said, Pakistan could not be a party of the US war anymore.

Haq said that the measures taken by Trump against the country would ultimately go against the US itself, and it would stand isolated. He said the international community has voted against the US decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while making it clear that it can never support Washington’s wrong policies. The US stance on Palestine has also been rejected by the world at large, he added.

The JI chief said that Trump’s declaration has brought the entire Pakistani nation on one page, and complete national unity and harmony has emerged.  He said that it was high time that the nation stood on its own feet and the rulers tried to compensate for the losses caused to the country because of their wrong policies by taking the path of ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-reliance’, following the teachings of Allama Iqbal.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/01/05/ji-calls-for-immediate-dissociation-from-us/

--------

 

Islamic dress code should be accommodated in schools - group

Jan 6, 2018

A Muslim campaign group says school uniforms should accommodate Islamic dress codes by allowing girls to wear full-length skirts, long-sleeved shirts and headscarves.

The Irish Muslim Board has also called for school uniforms which have crucifix symbols or images of saints to be made optional in the interests of creating greater inclusivity.

The recommendations are contained in the board’s submission to a Department of Education consultation process over school admission policies.

The group, chaired by Dr Ali Selim, was formed in 2016 to encourage Muslims to become more politically active.

While there are two Muslim primary schools in Dublin, the community does not have a secondary school.

In its submission, the group says Muslim children can feel alienated at school, particularly in activities that revolve around Christmas such as nativity plays and carol services.

It recommends that schools should take greater steps to include Muslims, such as accommodating the “Islamic religiously mandated code of dressing, deemed to be an essential component of their Muslim identity”.

“Muslim girls should be allowed to wear full-length loose school skirts or loose trousers, a long-sleeved shirt and a headscarf to cover their hair.

“Schools have the right to specify the colour and the style of scarf for reasons of uniformity . . .”

Religious symbolism

It adds that school uniforms which have the crucifix symbol or other religious symbolism should be made optional.

“The school uniform should be a reflection of the school’s inclusive policy for creating a cohesive atmosphere at school where every student feels valued and contributions and suggestions of all kinds are welcome.”

In addition, the group said school assemblies in faith-based schools could be made more inclusive by recognising aspects of the Muslim faith.

For example, schools could introduce Ramadan-based themes at assembly such as a communal breaking of the fast, when pupils, teachers and community members could eat together.

In addition, it says schools could enter into the charitable spirit of Ramadan by raising funds for the poor and needy.

In a separate submission, the Muslim Primary Education Board – which represents Dublin’s two Muslim primary schools – says parents were finding it increasingly difficult to secure school places for their children at second level.

It says anecdotal evidence indicates that the “Baptism barrier” is adding to these difficulties.

“While it has been stated that the number of children refused because of lack of baptismal certificate is small . . . this does not take into account the parents who do not apply for admission into schools that they know may ask for a certificate.

“The situation at present is that the majority of schools in Ireland have a Catholic ethos, leaving Muslim children at the mercy of these admission policies, and are seriously curtailing parents and students’ choice.”

This inequality of access, it states, may lead to the social, economic and civic exclusion of Muslims in Ireland.

“Those schools which have more open admission policies are left to cater for large groupings of Muslim students instead of encouraging integration across the school system.”

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/islamic-dress-code-should-be-accommodated-in-schools-group-1.3346343

--------

 

India

 

Govt hurting Muslim sentiments: Maulana of saffron-painted Haj house

Jan 05, 2018

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) [India], Jan 5 (ANI): The maulana of the Haj house, whose exterior walls were painted in saffron colour in Lucknow, has averred that the government should not do anything that hurts the sentiments of the Muslim community.

"I think this is not a right decision because the saffron colour is the identity of a particular religion, while Haj is associated with Islam. So the government shouldn't do anything that hurts the sentiments of Muslims," Maulana Nadeem-ul-Wajidi of Deoband told ANI.

He also said the current Uttar Pradesh Government was made out of a collective decision - of the Hindus and the Muslims.

The exterior walls of the Haj House in Lucknow, earlier in the day, were painted in saffron colour -- majorly related with the Hinduism and also associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Reacting to the incident, Uttar Pradesh Minister Mohsin Raza said the move should not invite any controversy as the building was painted saffron just to beautify it.

However, the Opposition is claiming that the BJP resorted to alleged 'saffronisation' of the state. (ANI)

https://www.aninews.in/news/national/general-news/govt-hurting-muslim-sentiments-maulana-of-saffron-painted-haj-house201801052302160003/

--------

 

Uttarakhand Madrassas Yet to Install PM Narendra Modi’s Pictures, Cites ‘Religious Considerations’

January 5, 2018

Madrassas in Uttarakhand are yet to comply with a state government order asking educational institutions to install a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi inside their premises, citing “religious considerations”. The order, issued to all government-run educational institutions after the Independence Day last year, asked them to install a picture of the prime minister inside their premises and to take a pledge to implement Modi’s vision of building a new India by 2022. “Madrassas in the state have not installed pictures of the PM because of religious considerations as Islam prohibits installation of pictures of living beings in mosques and madrassas,” Deputy Registrar of Uttarakhand Madarsa Board Akhlaq Ahmad told PTI. However, he said the refusal to install the picture of the prime minister should not be interpreted as their opposition to an individual. “They aren’t opposed to any individual in particular. It is purely due to religious beliefs. Islam does not permit us to install pictures of living beings or individuals, including religious leaders inside mosques or madrassas,” Ahmad said.

Full report at:

http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/uttarakhand-madrassas-yet-to-install-pm-narendra-modis-pictures-cites-religious-considerations/1003431/

--------

 

Muslims up In Arms against Centre’s Move On Talaq

JANUARY 06, 2018

Question “unnecessary intervention” in civil matters like divorce

Muslims have criticised the Centre’s efforts in amending the Sharia (Muslim Personal Law) by moving the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill in Parliament, calling it “unnecessary intervention” in civil matters.

They said it was a futile effort as 99.5% of Muslim women were opposing the Bill. Even if it was passed, they would abide by the Sharia, they said: “We will oppose the amendment tooth and nail to protect our Sharia.”

Former chairman of AP Urdu Academy and All India Muslim Peronal Law Board executive member Mohammed Raheemuddin Ansari said Muslims would not accept changes in the personal law and protect it from the Government as well as the judiciary. Marriage and divorce were purely civil matters, as previously confirmed by the Supreme Court.

“The amendment imposing three-year rigorous imprisonment (on men resorting to triple talaq) is not correct. Who will protect the children if the husband is sent to prison? Last year, we sent 2.5 crore signatures of Muslim women opposing the amendment to the National Law Commission,” he said.

Opposing the Bill, the Muslim Personal Law board is organising “Tahffuz-e-Shariat and Islaha e Mashera” (public meeting and awareness programme) on a big scale at Eidgah in Nizamabad on Saturday and in Adilabad on Sunday. MP Assaduddin Owaisi, Raheemuddin Ansari, Muqbool Badesha Shuttari, Hameed Mohammed Khan, president Jamait e Islami, Telangana, and a galaxy of Muslim elders are expected to attend the meetings.

Meanwhile, Sadia Begum, principal of Women’s College here also said that a majority of women among Muslims were against the amendment as the Sharia itself protects women’s rights.

Full report at:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/muslims-up-in-arms-against-centres-move-on-talaq/article22379197.ece

--------

 

Politics Of Religion Can Create Hafiz Saeeds Among Hindus: Dalit Leader Prakash Ambedkar

Jan 6, 2018

BHOPAL: The politics of religion, if not checked, could give rise to "many Hafiz Saeeds" among Hindus, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar said here today.

"The politics of religion can become uncontrollable if it is not checked and it can give rise to many Hafiz Saeeds among the Hindus," he said, referring to the Pakistan-based co- founder of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"This new order, in the name of religion, that is coming into existence is like Hitler-shahi (Hitler's rule)," Ambedkar said, addressing the gathering at a programme, organised to mark the birth anniversary of former Satna MP, late Sukhlal Kushwaha.

Referring to the recent violence in Maharashtra over the 200th anniversary celebrations of the battle of Bhima- Koregaon, Ambedkar, who had subsequently called for a bandh which brought life in Mumbai and elsewhere in the state to a halt, said, "People belonging to Hindutva organisations attacked those from the backward classes.

"We are demanding that the (Maharashtra) government arrest those who were involved, but the government appears to be helpless. It is the government's responsibility to act and if not checked immediately, it (violence against Dalits) may spread to the other states."

He urged the backward class communities to recognise their electoral strength and vote only for backward class, Dalit and tribal candidates, so that they could control the reins of power.

Referring to the BJP-led government at the Centre, Ambedkar said, "If it comes to power again, even the right to speak, which we are enjoying now, will be taken away. Therefore, we have to fight to save this right and the Constitution."

The former MP, who is the grandson of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar, urged the Congress to declare backward class leader and the president of the party's Madhya Pradesh unit, Arun Yadav, its chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming state Assembly election.

"If the Congress fails to do so, we will have to choose our own way," he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/politics-of-religion-can-create-hafiz-saeeds-among-hindus-prakash-ambedkar/articleshow/62390677.cms

--------

 

Preacher Called 'Zakir Naik of Kerala' Cries Foul After State Shutters His School

January 5, 2018

New Delhi: A day after the Kerala government ordered the closure of Peace International School near Kochi for teaching objectionable and extremist content, Islamic preacher MM Akbar, who is also the MD of the school, accused the CPM-led government of targeting a minority institution that laid emphasis on “national integration and social inclusion.”

The school was in the headlines recently after 21 people went missing from Kerala to reportedly join the ISIS in Afghanistan and Syria. Among the missing were Abdul Rasheed, who the police suspects to be the ring leader of this group, who was employed at the Peace School. His wife Yasmin Ahmad, also missing, had earlier taught at the school.

Akbar is known as Kerala’s Zakir Naik thanks to his fiery speeches that enjoy wide circulation in social media.

Akbar told News18 from Qatar that he hasn’t received any formal order yet to shut down the school. “But if it is indeed the case, it is unfortunate that it has happened. The move is aimed at shutting down an institute that is completely lawful and was inspiring students towards national integration and social inclusion. It is sad that the government is targeting such an institute. Yes, there are religious teachings that happen in the schools that are not part of CBSE, but it is the same religious education that any other minority-school in the state imparts,” he said.

Peace International School’s curriculum allegedly encouraged students to give up their lives for Islam. A case was registered against the school in 2016 for teaching objectionable content to the students and for promoting enmity among different groups on the basis of religion.

“The whole controversy is around one chapter of the book published by Burooj Realizations. Now, one must know that we only used books that were available in that area. We didn’t think there was anything highly dangerous in those books. And if at all there are things are like this, we don’t teach the children those things. And now, since the government had issues with it, we stopped using it. Even after that, if the government is still shutting our school, it is unfortunate,” he said.

He said that they decided to go ahead with the book because it was an “activity-oriented textbook aimed at enhancing children’s creativity.”

“We focus on skill-based, activity based teaching rather than just restricting to books. I don’t why the government ordered for the school to be shut, but I think it’s been done so that people from the Muslim community don’t get a shot at entering mainstream. That is the only logical conclusion I can make,” Akbar told News18.

About the controversial portions of a class II textbook, he claimed it was only about “martyrdom and what to do when someone embraces Islam.”

“Certainly, it can be misappropriated considering the young minds that class II students have. Which is why we decided not to teach it to such young children when the government asked us,” he said. One of the objectionable questions in the said book asked students to state what they would advise a friend who had converted to Islam.

Akbar claimed the curriculum was not exactly “religious.”

“We started Peace schools with the aim of nurturing children into young, good people. More than 50% of our teachers are Muslims and we impart subjects like English, Science etc which have no religious connotations. We are working towards holistic development of students, which includes teaching them about faith too. But there is no religious ‘education’ involved,” he told News18.

“Out of the 500-odd people associated with our foundation, 2 people are said to have pledged allegiance to ISIS. How does that matter to us? These 2 people who are said to have left for ISIS are also part of a larger society; they must have had some other influence. We don’t know that. We, at our organization, have always preached and taken an anti-terrorism stand,” he said.

Commenting on the radicalization of youth in the state, the controversial Islamic preacher said that the there was a very small percentage from the lakhs of Keralites who had been radicalized. “There are other organizations that have Muslims too and they are associated with organizations like Jamaat-e-Islami, Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen. Out of the lakhs of people in the state, the government says only 21 have left to join terrorism. That is very miniscule number. Terrorism is the cancer that destroys society. More than it being harmful for India, it is more harmful for Muslim community,” he said, adding that Muslims have always supported the government in its anti-terrorism programs and decisions.

Full report at:

http://www.news18.com/news/india/preacher-called-zakir-naik-of-kerala-cries-foul-after-state-shutters-his-school-1623905.html

--------

 

Kerala ‘love jihad’: NIA to quiz ‘some accused’ who knew Hadiya’s husband

Jan 6, 2018

Kochi: The National Investigation Agency probing the 'Kerala Love-Jihad' case on Friday decided to interrogate "some accused" jailed in connection with an Islamic State (ISIS) module case in the state.

NIA sources said "some accused" in the 'Kanakamala ISIS module case' knew Shafin Jahan, a Muslim man facing probe into his marriage with Hadiya, a Kerala woman at the centre of the alleged love-jihad case.

The sources said they had communicated with Jahan so that the probe agency has "to speak to them to verify true facts."

The NIA's Kochi unit had earlier filed two charge sheets before the NIA special court in Kochi against eight people from Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the case relating to a secret meeting by the Kerala-based ISIS module (Omar Al-Hindi ISIS module) at Kanakamala in Kannur.

The NIA had in December questioned Jahan, after the Supreme Court gave its nod to it to continue its probe into his marriage with Hadiya and her conversion.

Their marriage was annulled by the Kerala High Court in December 2016 after her father alleged that his daughter was being indoctrinated and may be taken to Islamic State territories in Iraq and Syria by extremist Islamic outfits.

The Supreme Court in November last year had allowed Hadiya, who was placed under her parents' custody since her marriage was annulled by the High Court, to resume her studies at a homeopathy college in Tamil Nadu's Salem district.

Full report at:

http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/060118/kerala-love-jihad-nia-to-interrogate-some-accused-who-knew-hadiyas-husband.html

--------

 

14 B'deshi prisoners released by Indian govt

Jan 05, 2018

Dhaka [Bangladesh], Jan 5 (ANI): The Indian Government on Friday released 14 Bangladeshi refugees, including five children, two years after they had entered the country illegally.

According to the Dhaka Tribune, the refugees had entered India through the Jessore border, in search of jobs, and did not have valid documents.

The refugees returned home through the Petrapole-Benapole check post, which marks the demarcation of the Indo-Bangladeshi border.

Tarikul Islam, the officer-in-charge of the Benapole Immigration Police, said, "The Petrapole Immigration Police handed the refugees to us after all formalities were completed."

Motiar Rahman, a sub-inspector at the Benapole Police Station, said the police had handed the refugees back to their families.

In 2015, the refugees were arrested from a makeshift camp in Kolkata. The Calcutta High Court had later sentenced them to one-and-a-half years in jail.

Full report at:

https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/14-bdeshi-prisoners-released-by-indian-govt201801051553270002/

--------

 

4 cops killed in IED blast set off by terrorists in J&K

Jan 6, 2018

NEW DELHI: Four policemen were killed and one was seriously injured in an IED blast set off by terrorists in Sopore in Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla district today.

Three of the four policemen were identified as ASI Irshad of Doda, M Amin of Kupwara, Ghulam Rasool od Sopore and Ghulam Nabi, also of Sopore, police said.

Militants had planted the IED near a shop in a lane between the 'Chotta Bazaar' and 'Bada Bazaar' in Sopore in Baramulla district, the official said. The policemen were patrolling the area in view of a separatist-sponsored strike there, said PTI. The policemen were from the 3rd Battalion of Indian Reserve Police

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said she was "deeply pained" at the deaths.

Three days ago, also in Sopore, unidentified gunmen shot dead a man Arif Maqbool Sofi, police said.

The 25-year-old Sofi died on the spot.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/3-cops-killed-in-ied-blast-set-off-by-terrorists-in-jk/articleshow/62390047.cms

--------

 

No bias, more Muslims held for clashes than Hindus, says Karnataka govt

Jan 6, 2018

BENGALURU: Countering allegations made by the opposition BJP that incidents of communal violence have increased sharply due to Congress' policy of minority appeasement, the Karnataka government said it had cracked down on criminals and mischief-mongers irrespective of their religion or political affiliation. Between 2013 and 2017, 670 Muslims were arrested for communal violence against 578 Hindus, it said.

In all, 1,254 people have been arrested for communal violence in the past three years; besides Hindus and Muslims, 6 Christians were arrested.

"When it comes to communal violence, we have not supported any community," said home minister R Ramalinga Reddy. "We have arrested the perpetrators of violence irrespective of their political or religious affiliations and have filed chargesheets in these cases. We have allowed law to take its course," Reddy added.

The Congress rebuttal is aimed at blunting the BJP offensive which has intensified following the death of Hindu activist Deepak Rao in Mangaluru. Leaders of the saffron party have alleged that members of Muslim fringe groups were getting emboldened due to support from the ruling Congress which is anti-Hindu. "Congress is allowing murders for political gain," state BJP spokesperson CT Ravi alleged.

Dismissing the charge, a Congress leader said. "BJP is resorting to polarisation of votes on communal lines in the run-up to assembly elections. BJP will not speak about moral policing and communal violence triggered by Hindu groups."

The Congress has also launched a campaign on social media with the hashtag '#CongressCondemnsHatePolitics'.

Ravi sought to turn the tables on Congress, saying: "Congress withdrew 175 cases against 1,614 members of fringe groups from minorities in 2015. Not a single case was withdrawn against Hindu activists. If Congress is claiming to be neutral, why has it selectively withdrawn cases against minorities and not Hindus? Congress will not speak about how many Hindus have been murdered and injured in communal clashes." Muslims make up over 12% of the state's population and constitute a substantial segment of Siddaramaiah's votebank, he said.

Reddy denied the charge, saying the government had not withdrawn cases against those booked for murder/attempt to murder or largescale damage caused to property. "The cases dropped pertain to communal tension that cause minor disruptions. Moreover, a few cases were dropped after representations were received from a few Muslim groups. No requests were made by Hindu groups," he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/no-bias-more-muslims-held-for-clashes-than-hindus-says-karnataka-govt/articleshow/62388992.cms

--------


Southeast Asia

 

Najib: Religious institutions must also counter terrorism, extremism

January 6, 2018

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Najib Razak said today the role of religious institutions should not only be to propagate beliefs but also to actively counter terrorism and extremism.

He called on religious experts and institutions to become more engaged and innovative in coming up with methods to counter extreme ideology and distorted narratives about religious obligations.

“The propaganda of Daesh (Islamic State) and their fellow travellers is cunning and slick.

“We have to do everything in our power to explain exactly why their actions are the very opposite of Islam,” he said at the closing of the Putrajaya International Security Dialogue (PISD) 2018 here.

The two-day high-profile discourse on international security issues, themed “Wisdom and Moderation in Combating Terrorism”, was organised by the home ministry in collaboration with Rabitah Al-Alami Al-Islami (World Muslim League), a non-governmental organisation based in Saudi Arabia.

Najib asserted at the forum that moderation was a crucial shield against extreme ideologies, radicalisation and terrorism.

He called on Muslim leaders to craft a roadmap for teaching the Islamic theology of moderation in law and practice to the worldwide ummah.

Citing verses from the Quran, Najib said Muslims belonged to a moderate people.

“This is part of an Islamic theology and fiqh of moderation. I call on our scholars to build this theology on sure Quranic and Prophetic foundations. I call on our leaders to craft a roadmap for teaching this theology to the worldwide ummah,” he said.

He said the imams, religious school teachers, media experts, business people, politicians, diplomats and counter-terrorism experts should also be a part of the roadmap work.

“Our roadmap will move us towards societies and governments that proactively implement the theology of moderation in law and practice,” he said.

Najib said the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF) had been a key centre for the gathering and dissemination of information and materials to promote moderation and to fight against extremism and terrorism.

He added that the establishment of the King Salman Centre for International Peace in Malaysia would rectify international misperceptions about Islam as well as counter the pernicious online narratives put out by Daesh and other extremist groups.

Najib also took the opportunity to pay tribute to the security forces for keeping the country safe.

“Let me assure the Malaysian people that the government will never surrender to terrorists or compromise. The safety and security of the people will always be my first priority,” he said.

Also present at the closing were Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the home minister, and Rabitah al-Alam al-Islami (Muslim World League) secretary-general Muhammad Abdul-Kareem Al-Issa.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/?p=859179

--------

 

Malaysia: Terrorists Should be Deported to Home Countries

2018-01-05

Suspected foreign terrorists should be deported to their home nations rather than sent back to the country they just left, Malaysia’s counter-terrorist police chief said Friday on the sidelines of a an international conference here.

Separately, the director of Malaysia’s prison system told BenarNews at the same meeting that 135 militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) were taking part in a state-run deradicalization process, but only nine have nearly completed phase three of the four-phase program. It was implemented under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in September 2015.

Under current international law, a person can be deported to the last point of flight embarkation, said Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, chief of the national police’s counter-terrorist special branch. Several countries had allowed suspects to choose where they wanted to be sent and many chose Malaysia because of its easy visa rules.

“From 2014 to 2017, nearly 50 suspected foreign terrorists have entered Malaysia. We have arrested and deported about 30 of them,” Ayob told reporters on the sidelines of the Putrajaya International Security Dialogue 2018, a meeting in Malaysia’s administrative capital attended by about 1,000 representatives and experts from 20 countries.

“We are still tracking the others and some may have left the country,” he said.

Ayob did not specify the nationalities of the suspects.

“If the country that deported them – who I cannot name – had instead informed us, the police could have detected them,” Ayob said, adding that such information could have helped counter-terrorism officials arrest and deport the militants.

The two-day international conference, which runs through Saturday, is focusing on how nations can pool their experience of “wisdom and moderation in countering terrorism.”

Malaysia’s Home Ministry and Rabitah Al-Alam Al-Islami (the Muslim World League), a Saudi Arabia-based think-tank, co-organized the event, which runs through Saturday. The 18 other countries participating at the conference include Indonesia, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia, France and Britain.

Borneo spotlight

Part of Friday’s conference program focused on the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island. Suspected militants, including many allegedly linked to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), have been arrested in the coastal town of Sandakan, home to ferry services to the southern Philippines.

Sabah has long served as a transit route for foreign militants, including from neighboring Indonesia, Ayob said.

“If they don’t transit from Sabah, they can go to southern Philippines directly from their home country. But it’s a long journey over the Sulawesi Sea,” he said. “So it is much easier to transit from Sabah.”

Yusoph Roque Morales, a member of the Philippines National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said many foreign militants, especially from Indonesia and Malaysia, had made the southern Philippines their base.

“Normally they have support from the locals. They give the foreigners a place to stay, [and] food, and the local communities accept them,” Morales told the conference. “Malaysians and Indonesians have similarities in terms of culture, food, and communities – and most of them have common social relations like a sultan [community leader] – so that is why Muslim communities in southern Philippines accept Malaysians and Indonesians with open hearts.”

Because they are welcome, some remain and join IS or ASG, he said. Yusoph did not give a specific number, but said thousands of Malaysians and Indonesians had settled in the southern Philippines.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian minister called on other countries to emulate Malaysia’s “soft approach” in countering extremism.

“It should be tackled in a balanced way from all sorts of angles including education and economic. In this regard, Malaysia has been a leading country when it comes to dealing with such issues compared to other countries, which are facing problems such as starvation and deprivation of education, which then leads people to extremism,” said Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic affairs.

Terrorists in Malaysia

Over the last four years, Malaysian authorities arrested 369 people for suspected links to terror groups, according to government statistics compiled by BenarNews.

In October, Ayob told reporters that 70 foreign fighters had been detained by Malaysian officials since 2013. Nine were suspected ASG members thought to have been in contact with Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian militant considered the IS recruiter in Southeast Asia.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte had declared that Mahmud was among militants killed in the southern city of Marawi during a five-month battle that left more than 1,100 people dead, including more than 900 militants.

Ayob said counter-terrorism officials are monitoring efforts in the Philippines to attract militants. “The recruitment of foreign fighters to the southern Philippines is not over yet,” he said Friday.

Malaysia, home to about 32 million people including 19.5 million Muslims, has foiled at least nine IS-related bomb plots since 2013, according to officials. Those foiled plots included one that targeted the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur in August 2017, police said.

But militants were successful in June 2016, when an IS-linked grenade attack injured eight people at a nightclub in Puchong, near Kuala Lumpur.

Deradicalization program

Prison Director-Gen. Zulkefli Omar said nine of the 135 people detained under POTA nearly two years ago were to be evaluated by the end January to determine if they could be placed in the final phase of the deradicalization program and reintegrated into the community.

“Currently, this militant deradicalization program has not yet been successful because the process is very long and requires evaluation by POTA evaluation committee members,” Zulkefli told BenarNews.

Carried out by government agencies under the Home Ministry – namely the Prisons Department, Royal Malaysia Police and the Malaysia Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) – the program consists of four phases.

Phase one, which covers the first six months, is overseen by the Prisons Department and focuses on orientation; phase two, which runs through month 12, involves de-radicalization activities broken down into three sections by the Prison Department, Home Ministry, Jakim and the police.

Phase three, which runs from month 13 to 20, concentrates on personality reinforcement and self-development; the final phase focuses on reintegrating detainees into society.

Zulkifli said none of the 135 detainees were in the fourth phase, but nine had nearly completed the third phase.

“I can’t reveal the identity of the nine detainees, but they are Malaysians and among those are Malaysians who were headed to Syria and students,” he told BenarNews on Friday.

However, Ayob, the chief of Malaysia’s counter-terrorist special branch, suggested that the two-year program is not long enough to reform people who are placed into it.

Full report at:

http://www.benarnews.org/english/news/malaysian/terror-dialogue-01052018162549.html

--------

 

Syed Saddiq chides Tawfik Ismail over ‘Mahathir’s Islamisation’

Nurul Azwa Aris

January 6, 2018

PETALING JAYA: PPBM Youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman has come to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s defence and says the former prime minister did not destroy moderate Islam in Malaysia.

Responding to remarks made by former MP Tawfik Ismail in a recent article, Syed Saddiq said Tawfik should be looking at Prime Minister Najib Razak instead of pointing fingers at the PPBM chairman.

Syed Saddiq said Najib had allowed the saga of amending Act 355 to proceed for his own political gain despite massive division on the ground.

He was referring to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) to enhance punishments that the shariah courts could impose.

“Mahathir preaches a far moderate Islam than Najib. You can call him so many things, even a dictator, but to say that he destroyed moderate Islam is just a disgusting allegation,” Syed Saddiq said.

In an interview with FMT yesterday, Tawfik asked Pakatan Harapan (PH) to state its stand on the policy of infusing Islamic values into administrative procedures, which was introduced when Mahathir was prime minister and PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim was his deputy.

Tawfik, who was Sungai Benut MP for one term (1986-1990), claimed that Mahathir’s Dasar Penerapan Nilai-Nilai Islam had caused deep divisions between the different races and even within the Muslim community.

“While the idea of instilling Islamic values is laudable, not much thought was given to its implementation. Mahathir and Anwar are both big on ideas but not so hot on the follow through,” he told FMT.

Tawfik had also noted that when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came to power and promoted Islam Hadhari (Civilisational Islam), both Mahathir and Anwar belittled the effort.

“They mobilised hardliners in order to discredit him. Why would the two of them be any different in 2018?”

Tawfik had also taken PH to task for allegedly lacking firmness in opposing Hadi’s private member’s bill.

Syed Saddiq said Mahathir had ensured that Malaysia took the path of moderation and as a result, the country was known worldwide as a Muslim democracy.

He said during Mahathir’s era, Malaysia was a leader in moderation and even Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates looked to Malaysia’s version of Islam.

However, he said, there was now a complete reversal.

“Now, we are just followers, as we are looking to Saudi Arabia.”

Syed Saddiq said it was ironic that Mahathir was labelled as a hardliner while on the other hand, PAS had labelled the PPBM chairman as the most anti-Islam prime minister who had always opposed any Islamic development.

“Yet, Tawfik states Mahathir did all the Islamisation and everything else.”

Tawfik responds to Syed Saddiq

Meanwhile, in an immediate response, Tawfik asked the PPBM Youth chief: “Why don’t you check your sources and see my legal action against RUU355? And also my record of speaking against the creeping theocracy wrought by Mahathir and Anwar?”

According to Tawfik, Anwar had joined Umno on the condition that his Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) agenda would become Umno’s agenda. Anwar led Abim as president from 1974 until he was roped in by Mahathir to join Umno in 1982.

“Read the article again and you will see that I attack both coalitions on this issue.

Full report at:

Tawfik is the son of former deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/?p=859172

--------

 

Terror groups in southern Philippines still recruiting in Malaysia

Zam Yusa

January 5, 2018

PUTRAJAYA: Recruitment for terrorist activities in southern Philippines is still going on in Malaysia, a top counter terrorism official said.

Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, Malaysian police’s counter terrorism chief, said the recruitment of foreign fighters for southern Philippines would not end soon.

“This issue is not over, I think it will keep on going,” Ayob told reporters on the sidelines of an international counter terrorism dialogue here today.

“There have been attempts to go to southern Philippines and we have intel that says recruitment of fighters is still going on.”

FMT earlier reported that some 80 foreign fighters, mostly Malaysians and Indonesians, were believed to have fought in the five-month-long battle between pro-Islamic State groups and government forces in Lanao del Sur provincial capital city of Marawi.

Philippine and Malaysian authorities had announced the names of several Malaysians who fought in Marawi.

But FMT learned from the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) that more than 30 Malaysian militants were believed involved in the Marawi siege based on chatter on pro-IS communication channels monitored by TRAC.

If this number is taken into account and considering the number of named Malaysian militants reported killed in Marawi, about 20 Malaysian militants are still unidentified.

The Philippines have not yet confirmed the identity of bodies of supposed Malaysians killed in Marawi.

Even after the end of the Marawi battle on Oct 23, Malaysians were still trying to join the terror groups there via Sabah’s east coast.

In December last year, several men were taken into custody in Sandakan after allegedly trying to join the militants in southern Philippines.

The Philippine authorities have also picked up Indonesians trying to enter the southern part of their country after the Marawi battle.

“It’s not just Malaysians, but Indonesians also like to transit in Sabah to go to southern Philippines because the routes from there are easier,” said Ayob.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/?p=858917

--------

 

Arab World

 

Al-Wefaq condemns arrest of Shia cleric in Bahrain

Jan 5, 2018

Bahrain’s opposition al-Wefaq National Islamic Society condemns the arrest of yet another senior Shia cleric as part of the Manama regime’s ongoing suppression of dissidents.

Sheikh Mahmoud al-Ali, the vice-president of the Islamic Scholars’ Council, Bahrain’s largest Shia religious and cultural organization, was arrested on Wednesday for voicing solidarity with Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s Shia majority.

Al-Wefaq reacted a day later by saying the arrest showed the enormity of the ruling Al Khalifah regime’s hostility towards civil liberties and dissent.

The group said the latest arrest is a reminder of the ruling Al Khalifah regime’s brutal crackdown on religious freedoms, calling for the immediate release of al-Ali and other clergymen.

Al-Ali’s apprehension, it added, is part of the regime’s calculated scheme to insult and humiliate Shia Islam and its followers.

Sheikh Qassim had his citizenship revoked in June 2016 over accusations that he had used his position to serve foreign interests and promote sectarianism and violence. The cleric has denied the allegations.

Since 2011, Bahrain has witnessed daily protests against its trampling on the rights of the religious majority. The regime has come down hard on the rallies, killing scores and arresting hundreds.

The crackdown has seen Manama dissolving both al-Wefaq and the Islamic Scholars’ Council.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/05/547881/Bahrain-alWefaq-crackdown

--------

 

Corrupt politicians and terrorism directly linked in Iraq, say officials

6 January 2018

BAGHDAD: Government corruption provided Daesh and local militias with the umbrella they needed to seize power in Iraq, officials and lawmakers told Arab News on Thursday.

They said Iraq’s security and political stability will remain threatened as long as corrupt officials continue to control the country’s assets.

Iraq is high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The Iraqi Parliamentary Committee of Integrity told Arab News that the estimated value of “looted” amounts during the past 12 years has been more than $200 billion.

Almost a third of Iraqi territories in the north and west fell into the hands of Daesh militants in June 2014 after the dramatic collapse of the Iraqi Army. That was the result of financial and administrative corruption which undermined the security establishment at the time.

The results of an eight-month-long investigation by the Iraqi Parliamentary Committee for Security and Defense in August 2015 showed that financial and administrative corruption played a key role in widening the gap between the residents and the security services of Mosul, Iraq’s second most populated city.

Corruption led to the fall of the city and its suburbs into the hands of the militants in 2014. The report states that Nuri Al-Maliki, the former Iraqi prime minister, tops the list of officials responsible for the fall of Mosul as he was in charge of “the appointment of incompetent leaders … and the lack of accountability of corrupt security officials.”

Late in November, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi established a campaign to combat corruption.

“The corrupt (officials and politicians) and those who seized state funds are the ones who caused these disasters (the fall of Mosul and other cities into the hands of militants),” Abadi tweeted last week.

“Daesh was only able to occupy cities because of corruption,” he said.

Iraqi lawmakers involved in the fight against corruption told Arab News that financial and administrative corruption had provided cover for the armed groups, and not vice versa.

“Before the emergence of Daesh, there was a great deal of evidence that the governors of these provinces (the three seized by Daesh) were involved in many thefts of state funds,” Talal Al-Zubaie, the head of the Parliamentary Committee for Integrity, told Arab News.

“The armed groups emerged as a result of this corruption, which aimed to undermine the authority of the state so no one could discover the thefts by some governors, which would make it seem as if Daesh was responsible,” Al-Zubaie said.

“The corruption provided cover for armed groups to ensure that chaos continued to serve the corrupt officials,” he said.

Mossa Faraj, the former head of the Integrity Committee, a governmental body established in 2004 to combat corruption and supervise the government’s performance, agrees with Abadi and Al-Zubaie.

“The relationship between politicians and terrorism in Iraq is direct and cannot be denied. It (the corruption) aims to seize power, not to accumulate money or wealth,” Faraj said.

“Seizing power requires headquarters, weapons, cars, militiamen, TV channels, and thousands of followers. All of these require a lot of money every month,” he said.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1219956/middle-east

--------

 

Tens of Terrorists Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army in Eastern Damascus

Jan 06, 2018

The sources said that 77 terrorists, including several commanders, of Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board), Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman have been killed and many more have been wounded in the army attacks in the Vehicle Management Center in Eastern Ghouta in the last 8 days.

Khalid Ibrahim al-Khouli, a field commander of Ahrar al-Sham, Hassan al-Boushi nom de guerre Abu al-Foz, the field commander of Faylaq al-Rahman and Moslem Abu Hamad and another key commander are reportedly among the dead terrorists.

A military source said on Friday that the army's 39th and 40th brigades of the 4th Division were given orders to redeploy to Harasta suburb in Eastern Damascus in order to help with the ongoing campaign against terrorists.

In addition to helping other units lift the siege on the Vehicles Management Center, the 4th Division will also lead the charge to retake the entire suburb and expel the Al-Nusra Front from the area.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961016000267

--------

 

Syrian Army Captures Two More Towns in Idlib

Jan 05, 2018

The sources said that the units of the Syrian Army’s Tiger Forces and 4th Mechanized Division have swooped through two more towns in Southeast Idlib during recent hours after capturing 8 other settlements earlier in the day.

The towns have been identified as Sheikh Barakah  and Rabit Mousa.

The latest advance now puts the Syrian Army within three kilometers of the militant-held town of Sinjar.

Sinjar has immense strategic value. It is a crossroad town that commands the way to the Abu al-Dhohour military airport (a highly sought objective of the Syrian Army) as well as the general traffic routes between Northeast Hama, Southeast Idlib and South Aleppo provinces and is a major stronghold used by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) terrorist group.

Relevant reports said on Thursday that the army forces continued attacks against Al-Nusra militants from its positions in the village of Um al-Khalakhil in Southeastern Idlib, regaining control of the villages of Rasm al-Abid, al-Fahil, al-Robideh and Moshirfeh.

The Syrian army forces killed a number of terrorists during the clashes and destroyed their military equipment.

Also, the Syrian army regained control of over 50sq/km of territories in Southeastern Idlib.

The army forces continued clashes with al-Nusra Front terrorists in Sanjar in Southeastern Idlib, retaking control of the two villages of Rajm al-Mushrif and Mushrefat al-Khanzir in the Northern parts of al-Khanzir and al-Maqta'a hills.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961015000537

--------

 

Syrian Army Keeps Rolling on Terrorists' Centers in Southern Idlib

Jan 05, 2018

The sources said that the army men managed to push Al-Nusra back from more lands and deployed forces at 4 km away from Sinjar that is one of the most important strongholds of terrorists in Eastern Idlib.

The sources said that the army units managed to capture the towns and villages of al-Lowbideh, al-Fahil, Rasm al-Abd, Babi'eh Musa, al-Qasr al-Abyadh, Um al-Rijini, al-Haqiqeh and Tal Um Rajim, deploying forces 4km away from Sinjar in depths of militant-held regions.

The pro-government forces are now 21 km away from Abu al-Dhohour airbase from the Southern direction.

The army men, under the command of Soheil al-Hassan, launched their military operation in Southern Idlib ten days ago and have thus far liberated over 30 towns, villages and heights.

Relevant reports said on Thursday that the army forces continued attacks against al-Nusra militants from its positions in the village of Um al-Khalakhil in Southeastern Idlib, regaining control of the villages of Rasm al-Abid, al-Fahil, al-Robideh and Moshirfeh.

The Syrian army forces killed a number of terrorists during the clashes and destroyed their military equipment.

Also, the Syrian army regained control of over 50sq/km of territories in Southeastern Idlib.

The army forces continued clashes with al-Nusra Front terrorists in Sanjar in Southeastern Idlib, retaking control of the two villages of Rajm al-Mushrif and Mushrefat al-Khanzir in the Northern parts of al-Khanzir and al-Maqta'a hills.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961015000405

--------

 

Saudi-French meeting to discuss regional and international state of affairs

6 January 2018

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir on Friday at the French ministry's headquarters in Paris.

The two sides discussed the bilateral relations between the two countries and the means of boosting cooperation and the joint efforts to combat terrorism and extremism, the situation in the five Sahel countries, the peace process, the situation in Syria and Yemen and developments in the regional and international arenas, especially the situation in Iran.

Al-Jubeir told Al Arabiya that the Saudi Arabia and France have a strategic and historical relationship: "We have discussed important issues and there is an agreement on views regarding the peace process and the situation in Syria, as well as the situation in Iran."

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/01/06/Saudi-French-meeting-to-discuss-regional-and-international-state-of-affairs.html

--------

 

Syrians demand expulsion of militants from Damascus outskirts

Jan 6, 2018

Hundreds of people have staged a protest on the southern outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus, to express their frustration with the presence of anti-Damascus militants in the region as government forces gain more ground there.

The residents of Beit Sahem, Yalda and Babbila took to the streets on Friday, demanding that armed groups leave their towns, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported.

According to local sources, the demonstrators also called for reconciliations with the Syrian government that consolidate regional security and stability.

The protesters further stressed their commitment to Syria’s national unity, noting that terrorism has brought nothing but destruction and devastation to their homeland.

Members of the Jaysh al-Ababil militnat group opened fire to disperse the participants at Friday’s rally, the local sources said.

Under increasing battlefield pressure, members of the al-Nusra Front terrorist outfit lately agreed to surrender Syria’s southwestern areas and move to Idlib Province.

A Syrian military source told Reuters on Friday that the Nusra Front and its allies are now the target of the Syrian army’s counter-terrorism operation in the provinces of Hama and Idlib.

“The army’s operations there are continuing and the army is achieving advances. The terrorists (are facing) big losses in the area,” he said.

The US and its allies have been supporting the militants fighting to topple the Syrian government since an armed conflict erupted in Syria in 2011.

Recently, the anti-Damascus elements have suffered heavy blows at the hands of the Syrian and allied forces.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/06/547988/Syria-Damascus-Idlib

--------

 

Pakistan

 

Aizaz asks US to clarify special watch list on religious freedom

Jan 6, 2018

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has asked the US State Department to clarify its new categorization regarding placement of Pakistan on a ‘Special Watch List’ under the purview of the US legislation on International Religious Freedom.

“We have noted the announcement by the State Department regarding placement of Pakistan on a Special Watch List under the purview of the US legislation on International Religious Freedom. This is a new categorisation and we are seeking clarifications from the US side regarding its rationale and implications,” he said in a statement.

However, he said that it was important to acknowledge that Pakistan was firmly committed to promotion and protection of human rights including the right to religious freedom, under its constitution. “Wide-ranging legislative, institutional and administrative measures have been taken by the government geared to ensuring full coverage of guarantees afforded by the constitution,” he said.

Ambassador Aizaz said that the international community was well aware of incremental steps being taken by Pakistan that have brought about positive change on the ground. For instance, in the past year alone, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has come up with landmark decisions setting important precedents with regard to enforcement of the relevant constitutional provisions, in letter and spirit.

“We will continue to work with the international community with a view to ensuring that the internationally-agreed standards on religious freedom are observed in Pakistan and the broader region,” he said.

PAKISTAN REJECTS BEING PLACED ON LIST: Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign office rejected Pakistan’s designation in the “special watch list for severe violations of religious freedom”, saying the report is not based on objective criteria.

In a statement, FO Spokesperson Muhammad Faisal said, he said the designation overlooked the significant achievements of Pakistan in the area of human rights.

Pakistan, the spokesperson said, is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom under its Constitution.

Dr Faisal said the international community is aware of steps being taken by Pakistan that have brought about positive changes on the ground.

“It is surprising that countries that have a well known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities have not been included in the list,” the spokesperson added. “This reflects the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence lacks credibility.”

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/01/05/aizaz-asks-us-to-clarify-special-watch-list-on-religious-freedom/

--------

 

Don't see Parliament completing term: Senate deputy chief

Jan 05 2018

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Chairman Senate Maulana AbdulGhafoor Haideri said on Friday that he does not see the Parliament completing its term under present circumstances.

Speaking to newsmen at the Parliament House, Haideri said that if there comes a change in Balochistan, then he also does not see Senate elections being held.

"The Imran-Zardari-Qadri troika seeks to topple the government before March," the Senate deputy chairman said.

He said that Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) is in opposition in Balochistan and the opposition is supposed to give tough time to the government and topple it.

"The matter can move towards Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for preventing elections in the Senate," Haideri said.

He said the JUI-F chief has rested the decision, whether or not to bring no-confidence move in Balochistan Assembly, with the provincial chapter of his party.

Full report at:

https://www.geo.tv/latest/175479-dont-see-parliament-completing-term-senate-deputy-chief

--------

 

JuD sends Rs100 million notice to Khurram Dastgir

BY IHSAN QADIR

Jan 6, 2018

LAHORE: Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) has served a Rs100 million defamation legal notice to Federal Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir over his misleading statement that the action against the JUD was a part of operation Raddul Fasaad.

The legal notice, a copy available with Pakistan Today, has been served through Advocate AK Dogar on behalf of the JUD chief Hafiz Saeed. The minister has been asked to tender an apology in writing within 14 days, or face litigation.

Following the ban on JuD charity activities, Dastgir had said: “The actions against JuD were linked to ongoing Operation Raddul Fasaad and not taken due to mounting pressure from the US and action is being taken that ‘terrorists cannot open fire on school children anymore’.”

In reply to Dastgir’s statement, JUD spokesperson had said the JuD will sue the minister over his remarks. He had said the JuD was first to support the Operation Raddul Fasaad.

Meanwhile, in a Friday sermon at Markaz Al-Qadsia—JuD’s stronghold— Hafiz Muhammad Saeed said that the nation should reject the US aid with dignity and self-esteem. “If we stand on our feet, our economic issues will be solved.”

He further opined, “Today, Trump says that the US has given aid to Pakistan for 16 years but it was duped in return. We say, you were made ‘fool’ so long and you are still the same. America wanted to stabilise its occupation over Afghanistan but it was defeated in the region.”

Pointing out so-called contradictions in the government’s attitude towards the US,  he said, “On the one hand, rulers are issuing statements against the US threats; while on the other, the government wants to take custody of ambulances of JuD and its charity wing, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF).

“In past, US has imposed a ban on organisations; now sanctions are being imposed on Pakistan,” said Saeed.

Terming initiation of Pakistan as an independent and solid state in the aftermath of the US bans, he said, “A strong Pakistan can be surety for protection of Kashmir and Palestine.”

He went on to say that the US and its allies don’t accept any voice be raised against their designs in the region, but Pakistan’s rulers should make it clear to them that they are not willing to act against their ‘own organisations’ on American dictates.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/01/05/jud-sends-rs100-million-notice-to-khurram-dastgir/

--------

 

Pakistan renews pledge to work for regional peace despite US aid suspension

Baqir Sajjad Syed

January 06, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has renewed its pledge to continue efforts for peace and stability in the region despite suspension of US security assistance, but cautioned against unilateral actions.

In response to the US suspension of full spectrum of security aid package for Pakistan, the Foreign Office (FO) said: “We are determined to continue to do all it takes to secure the lives of our citizens and broader stability in the region”.

The latest US action follows President Trump’s New Year Day tweet chastising Islamabad for taking $33 billion in aid, but allegedly selectively acting against terrorist groups. It is believed that the US decision to suspend security assistance is the first in a series of coercive steps planned by it to force Pakistan into submission.

Emphasising the need for more cooperation, particularly against outfits like the militant Islamic State group, the FO called for “mutual respect and trust along with patience and persistence” and said “arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats”.

In response to US suspension of security aid, FO says unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive

The FO said Pakistan was coordinating with Washington on its move to withhold security cooperation. “We are awaiting further details. Impact of US decision on pursuit of common objectives is also likely to emerge more clearly in due course of time,” the statement said.

American security assistance for Pakistan has been lacking transparency. However, open source information suggests it comprises the allocations under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF); Foreign Military Assistance; International Military Education and Training; non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, demining and related activities; Pakistan’s counter-insurgency capability; and counter-narcotics programmes. Coalition support has been the major contributor under this head even though it was a reimbursement of the costs incurred by Pakistan while supporting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan was allocated $134 million under the security assistance head for 2018 in addition to around $900m in CSF reimbursements. However, the US has already been annually deducting $350m from CSF on the pretext of lack of certification by its defence secretary that Pakistan has acted against Haqqani Network.

Lately, the administration decided to withhold another $255m. Therefore, the actual impact of the aid and reimbursement suspension would be close to $500m.

Pakistan has received almost $23bn from 2002 to 2017 from the US under security assistance and CSF reimbursements.

The FO recalled that Pakistan had been undertaking the counter-terrorism operations out of its own pocket, which had over past decade and half cost it over $120bn.

“We believe that Pakistan-US cooperation in fighting terrorism has directly served US national security interests as well as the larger interests of international community,” it added as it recalled the decimation of Al-Qaeda in the region.

The FO regretted that Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts were not matched by Afghan side in terms of “clearance of vast stretches of ungoverned spaces on the Afghan side, bilateral border management, repatriation of Afghan refugees, controlling poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and initiating Afghan-led and owned political reconciliation in Afghanistan”.

Religious freedoms

In another rejoinder to US designation of Pakistan in the ‘Special watch list for severe violations of religious freedom’, the FO said it did not follow objective criteria.

“This placement on special watch list is a new categorisation and we would be seeking clarification from the US regarding its rationale and implications,” the FO said.

Pakistan is currently the only and the first country to be placed in this newly constituted category in the annual report of US Commission on International Religious Freedoms. The move comes amid aggravating Pak-US ties. The US administration has over the past few years been refusing to include Pakistan in a higher category of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’, which include Saudi Arabia, China and Iran.

“The designation overlooks the significant achievements of Pakistan in the area of human rights. Pakistan is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom, under its Constitution,” the FO said and, in an allusion to India, pointed out that countries with known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities had not been included in the list.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1381139/pakistan-renews-pledge-to-work-for-regional-peace-despite-us-aid-suspension

--------

 

Cop’s killing: ATC move on boy’s plea for ATA exclusion

January 06, 2018

LAHORE: An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Friday issued notice to the prosecution department over inclusion of seven ATA charges in killing of a policeman and injuring another at a picket in Defence on the eve of New Year.

The ATC was hearing a complaint filed by Munir Mustafa against inclusion of 7ATA charges in the killing of police constable Mustansar and injuring another, Qasim, when his vehicle rammed into a check post in Defence.

Both the constables were on duty at the check post on a road in Defence and had signalled a rashly-driven car to stop but it ended up hitting and critically injuring them.

The Defence police registered a case under sections 302, 324, 353, 109 and 114 of the Pakistan Penal Code and 7-Anti-Terrorism Act.

The counsel for the accused said a constable was killed and another injured when the car rammed into them.

He pleaded the incident was not an act of terrorism and there had been no reason to include terrorism charges in the case.

He said the police were exceeding their powers by including the terrorism charges and requested that the court exclude these.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1381110/cops-killing-atc-move-on-boys-plea-for-ata-exclusion

--------

 

Pakistan doesn’t need US aid at the cost of national dignity: army

JANUARY 6, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military said Friday the suspension of US assistance will undermine bilateral security cooperation and regional peace efforts but will not deter the Pakistan’s counterterrorism resolve.

“Pakistan never fought for money but for peace. We don’t need security aid at the cost of national dignity,” army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor told VOA.

The Trump administration announced Thursday it was suspending hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Pakistan until the latter takes ‘decisive action’ against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. The militant groups allegedly operate out of Pakistani territory and conduct attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.

“Suspension of security assistance will not affect Pakistan’s resolve to fight terrorism; however, it for sure will have an impact on Pakistan-US security cooperation and efforts towards regional peace,” noted Maj Gen Ghafoor.

Military-led counterterrorism operations, he added, have targeted terrorists ‘indiscriminately’, including Haqqanis at a ‘heavy cost of blood and treasure’. There are no more ‘organized’ terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan, Ghafoor maintained.

“Casting doubts on our will is not good to our common objective of moving toward enduring peace and stability. Pakistan shall continue its sincere efforts in best interest of Pakistan and peace,” the army spokesman said.

The war of words between the two countries was triggered by US President Donald Trump’s tweet on Monday in which he threatened to slash funding for Pakistan, accusing it of providing a haven to terrorists and playing US leaders for ‘fools’.

In his Twitter comments, Trump said Washington has received ‘nothing but lies and deceits’ in return for giving Pakistan more than $33 billion in the last 15 years.

Islamabad denounced the comments as ‘completely incomprehensible’ and reiterated its pledge to work with Washington to fight terrorism and stabilize neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistani leaders say the United States is scapegoating their country for the US’s Afghan ‘failures’.

A leading opposition politician, Imran Khan, Friday demanded the government categorically refuse to accept any future US assistance in the wake of Trump’s remarks.

While addressing a news conference in Islamabad, the opposition leader praised Pakistani forces for cleansing and securing traditionally volatile tribal areas, including North Waziristan, on the Afghan border.

“Despite Pakistan clearing up North Waziristan, still half of Afghanistan is in Taliban hands. So, who is responsible for this?

To make Pakistan the scapegoat of a failed strategy in Afghanistan is not just a travesty of justice, it is deeply insulting and humiliating for people of Pakistan,” Khan said. Pakistan’s reluctance to undertake counterterrorism operations in the Waziristan region had been a major irritant in relations with the US The area was believed to be a training ground for Taliban and Haqqani militants.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/175132/pakistan-doesnt-need-us-aid-cost-national-dignity-army/

--------

 

Europe

 

Racism Row Online in Austria over Muslim New Year’s Baby

Jan 6, 2018

VIENNA, Austria — A Catholic charity on Friday protested that Facebook had removed a page for Vienna’s first baby of 2018, born of Muslim parents, which had garnered 20,000 messages of support after a rash of racist comments.

The birth of Asel, hailed in the press as “the first Viennese baby” of the year, sparked a wave of racist comments on the internet as the mother was seen wearing an Islamic veil.

In response, the Catholic charity Caritas, which works with migrants and refugees, launched a campaign of support for the infant and her parents, Naime and Alper Tamga.

“It is a completely new dimension of online hate, targeting an innocent newborn,” said Klaus Schwertner, head of Caritas in Vienna. “That crosses a red line.”

Schwertner said the Facebook page was probably targeted in a concerted campaign to get it taken down and called on Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg to reinstate access.

“We want to show that love is stronger than hate, on Facebook just as in real life,” he said.

The hateful messages come amid tensions in Austrian society over the migrant influx to Europe and Islam.

The country’s new conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s coalition includes a far-right party.

One of the hostile messages to the baby’s family referred to the new far-right interior minister Herbert Kickl, saying he “is going to send you out of the country. He’s the man to do it.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/racism-row-online-in-austria-over-muslim-new-years-baby/

--------

 

Outrage as Danish MP calls for Muslims to worship in warehouses

5 January 2018

LONDON: The Danish People’s Party (DPP) has sparked outrage by calling for Muslims to move their worship to “unmarked” buildings.

The right-wing party’s spokesperson, Martin Henriksen, told Arab News, Muslim worship is “fine” if the praying ritual takes place in “normal buildings without minarets”, such as “offices or warehouses.”

“We take a stand against the divisive symbolism of traditional mosques,” Henriksen said. “We stand against those who try to divide themselves from society,” the MP added.

Henriksen said he was “not against Muslims or Islam” and that individuals should be free to practice their faith as long as they abide by the rules of the “Danish constitution.”

The populist, anti immigration DPP on Thursday called for a ban on the construction of new mosques, as part of a plan to tackle “ghettos” in the country. Other measures unveiled in the package include an 8 p.m. curfew for young people.

Henriksen confirmed that the DPP, which is the second largest party in the Danish parliament, aims to ban the construction of mosques in cities where there are “social problems.”

The Danish MP’s rhetoric is redolent of the 2009 Swiss minaret referendum, the federal popular initiative in Switzerland, which successfully prevented the construction of Mosque minarets in the country.

The Swiss government opposed the ban, saying it would harm the nation’s image, particularly in the eyes of Muslims.

But Martin Baltisser, the Swiss People’s Party general secretary, told the BBC at the time: “This was a vote against minarets as symbols of Islamic power.”

Chris Doyle, director of CAABU, Council for Arab British Understanding, told Arab News: “This is a lop-sided view. What about churches or Hindu temples? All these can also been as symbols of different religions living peacefully and cohabiting and assimilating well. It’s wrong to point out mosques and make Muslims feel like they are third class citizens. A minaret is something that shouldn’t be seen as wrong or divisive in any way shape or form.”

He continued: “As if not building mosques would in any way resolve the problem. This problem is not about mosques … and this rhetoric is pandering to a populist ethos which is anti-Muslim. (The DPP’s proposal is) completely counterproductive and wrong at every level.”

Doyle added: “It will only exacerbate hate crime and bigotry which is growing in Europe. There are concerns about mass immigration into the EU and legitimate worries about extremist attacks in Europe, but none of that warrants the stopping of building mosques.”

Shaista Aziz, a journalist and founder of the Everyday Bigotry Project, told Arab News: “Why should mosques not look like mosques? Freedom to worship is a basic human right and should be afforded to all citizens including Muslims. It appears Denmark wants to go down the same road as France and push Muslims into unmarked buildings – the only thing this does is create further alienation of a marginalized community and create further hostility at a time of rising open racism and anti Muslim sentiment in Europe.”

The DPP is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament, which includes center-right parties like the UK’s ruling Conservative Party.

Doyle added that the Conservatives should “seriously question” being allies in the European Parliament with a party which has such extremist views.

Benjamin Martill, Dahrendorf Fellow in Europe after Brexit at LSE, told Arab News: “The sources of these policies are not difficult to discern. Communities across Europe, reeling from years of wage stagnation and austerity-induced cuts to public services, are looking for someone to blame. Blaming immigrants, Muslims and other nations for society’s problems is scapegoating, pure and simple.”

Martill said the implications for the Conservative party are ‘interesting.'

The LSE fellow said that to suggest the Conservative party would endorse any such policy is “clearly very far fetched.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1219761/world

--------

 

France's Macron urges respect of rule of law in talks with Erdogan

JANUARY 5, 2018

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron told Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan on Friday that democratic countries must respect the rule of law in their fight against terrorism as he voiced concerns about the fate of students, teachers and journalists detained by Ankara.

Macron also said after his talks with the Turkish president at the Elysee presidential palace that they had disagreed about human rights.

“Our democracies must be strong standing up to terrorism... But at the same time our democracies must completely protect the rule of law,” Macron said in a joint news conference.

Macron said that recent developments in Turkey did not allow for progress in Ankara’s decades-long push to join the European Union.

Discussions should change focus, he said, mentioning the possibility of a “partnership” that would fall short of full membership.

The EU has expressed concern over Turkey’s crackdown on suspected supporters of an abortive 2016 coup that has seen some 50,000 people arrested pending trial and 150,000, including teachers, journalists and judges, sacked or suspended from their jobs.

Macron said he had raised with Erdogan the cases of specific journalists and members of Galatasaray University who had been detained, but declined to give details.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 15 years, defended the crackdown, saying that some journalists encouraged terrorism with their writing, comparing them to gardeners nurturing plants.

“These gardeners are those people viewed as thinkers. They water ... from their newspaper columns,” Erdogan said. “And one day, you find, these people show up as a terrorist in front of you.”

Even before the coup and the subsequent crackdown, France has long been skeptical about admitting Turkey, a large, relatively poor and overwhelmingly Muslim nation with a population of around 80 million people, into the EU.

Erdogan was visibly irritated when a French journalist suggested that Turkish intelligence had sent arms to Syria.

Erdogan said the operation had been conducted by supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed by Turkish authorities for orchestrating the failed coup, and accused the French journalist of speaking like one of them.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-turkey/frances-macron-urges-respect-of-rule-of-law-in-talks-with-erdogan-idUSKBN1EU1LI

--------

 

France says Jihadists can be tried in Syrian Kurdistan, signaling de facto recognition

Jan 6, 2018

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – French jihadists who joined the Islamic State (IS) group and were captured in Syria can be tried at courts in the self-declared Kurdish autonomous region there, said France's Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet.

Speaking to Radio RMC on Thursday, Belloubet said local authorities in Syrian Kurdistan could "eventually proceed to trials," given the French nationals accused of terrorism were guaranteed access to a lawyer and if necessary consular services.

The announcement from Paris appeared to give the Kurdish-dominated "Democratic Federation of Northern Syria" a de facto diplomatic recognition, although the Minister highlighted that Syrian Kurdistan, also known as Rojava, was not a state recognized by her country.

Kurds in Syria hope to eventually attain the status of a self-ruling entity, similar to that of Kurdistan Region in Iraq, through negotiations and peace talks with the sides involved in the six years-long Syrian civil war.

Their quest has so far been rejected by the Syrian regime, opposition, neighboring countries, namely Turkey, and the global powers including the United States that backs Kurdish forces in Syria.

Russia though has appeared to give substantial support to the idea in UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, much to the dismay of Ankara in Astana meetings.

France has historically kept amiable relations with the Kurds in Iraq and those in Syria where it once had a colonial mandate in the first half of the past century.

There are several IS militants of French nationality held as prisoners of war at the hands of Kurdish authorities whose military forces, the US-supported People's Protection Units (YPG) has been at the forefront of the fight on the jihadists.

YPG is also backed by France which keeps a contingent of its special forces along with Americans at several bases in Rojava.

One particular IS member, Emilie Konig, a 33-year-old Muslim convert from France's northwestern Brittany region, who became a notorious recruiter, this week pleaded for repatriation, according to Liberation.

"We will take care of all the people who will come back on the French territory. However, we will not necessarily look for them where they are," said Belloubet, ruling out Konig's plea to be brought back.

If "in Syrian Kurdistan, there are judicial institutions that are able to ensure a fair trial with guaranteed rights of defense, they will be judged there," said a spokesperson for President Emmanuel Macron's administration Benjamin Griveaux, echoing the Justice Minister.

While other European countries, such as the Scandinavians one have come forward with proposals of "re-integrating" former Islamist fighters into the society, France, a victim of several deadly bombings and massacres in the past two years, has taken a hardline posture against them.

Full report at:

http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/71a9eb59-9e28-491b-a31d-bea37a172fff

--------

 

Mideast

 

‘Grand Fajr Campaign’ Activists Bring A New Dawn to Gaza

5 January 2018

In recent weeks, Gaza residents have been jolted awake in the dead of night to a raucous mixture of Quranic phrases, Islamic supplications and prayers delivered by loudspeakers to their doorsteps.

The “Grand Fajr Campaign” is the work of fervent religious activists, many affiliated with the ruling Hamas movement, seeking to spread the message of Islam. But not everyone is ready to listen.

The Fajr, or “Dawn,” campaign has set off a heated debate over whether it is appropriate to force religion on the masses. One leading religious scholar has even warned that it is un-Islamic to “annoy” people.

After beginning in several Gaza City neighborhoods, the campaign has spread to areas across the Gaza Strip. The organizers, mostly mosque committees reporting to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Religious Affairs, say they want to see the mosques as full at dawn as at the noon prayer on Friday.

Ahmed Hammad, a volunteer in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, said it is paying off, increasing the “rows” of worshippers at the local mosque. “It used to be a row or half a row of worshippers. But today after the campaign, the number has grown to three rows,” he said.

The campaign comes at a difficult time for Gaza, where despair is widespread among the 2 million inhabitants after a decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade and recent restrictions by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to squeeze the territory’s Hamas rulers.

Though Hamas has offered to relinquish power, reconciliation talks with Abbas have stalled as Gaza’s battered economy continues to deteriorate. In this difficult decade, the Gaza population has grown increasingly conservative and religious.

“The Fajr prayer is important to raise the morale and spirits in this state of strangulation and constraints,” said Abu Aziz al-Waheidi, who oversees the campaign in 22 mosques in Tal al-Hawa.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ supreme leader, has endorsed the effort, with his office distributing pictures showing him and other Hamas officials surrounded by dozens of worshippers after praying at a mosque in the Shati refugee camp, where he lives.

Trump move

The campaign started last month, shortly after President Donald Trump decided to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

When the Morning Prayer patrols began, residents were perplexed by the raucous sound outside their homes. The only time anything similar occurs is during Ramadan, when drummers wander through the streets waking people.

Dozens of mosques now take part in the daily pre-dawn displays. “This is the word of God. They are people urging to do good and worship,” said Saed al-Shurafa, 63, at the mosque.

But opposition has emerged over the forceful tactics, which include the use of powerful car-mounted loudspeakers.

Saed Abu Hasera, another resident, said it is generally a good thing to encourage people to pray. He said he even found the sounds of a recorder played by one activist to be a “beautiful” way to start the day. But he said they sometimes go too far.

“The banging will awaken children and it will cause confusion,” he said. Abdel-Bari Khela, an influential Islamic scholar and a Mufti, issued a ruling highlighting the importance of prayer and going to the mosque at dawn. However, he said it is against Islam’s instructions to “annoy” people.

He issued a statement saying that the two traditional calls of prayer issued from the mosque, known as “azans,” is the instruction of Islam. “Replacing them with illegitimate means such as drums, music and loud sound that makes noise is illegal. If it leads to harm like annoying people or disturbing them, this is forbidden,” he said.

Emerging in the dark from the Abu Honayfa mosque in Tel al-Hawa on a recent morning, Hamad and a group of young men split into two groups, each carrying a portable loudspeaker.

They walked through streets and alleys, with Ahmed calling on people to rise over a microphone, as an Islamic supplication blared from the loudspeaker.

“The sound is not high, not low; it’s very light as you see,” he insisted. “We only go out half or quarter an hour before the azan. How can this be annoying?!”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/01/05/-Grand-Fajr-Campaign-activists-bring-a-new-dawn-to-Gaza.html

--------

 

Palestinian Teen, Nour Tamimi, Granted Bail in ‘Slap Video’ Case

January 06, 2018

RAMALLAH - Israel on Friday released a Palestinian woman on bail after she was charged with assaulting an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank following a viral video of the incident.

Nour Tamimi, 20, was released early on Friday from a military prison after a court rejected the prosecution’s appeal against her release, her father Naji Tamimi told AFP.

Her cousin Ahed Tamimi, 16, and Ahed’s mother Nariman Tamimi remain in custody, after they were also charged following the video of the cousins slapping and kicking two soldiers last month.

Nour was allowed to return to her home in the village of Nabi Saleh in the Israeli-occupied West Bank after posting a bail of 5,000 shekels ($1,450, 1,200 euros).

A guarantor vouched she would show up for her court proceedings, set to begin on February 12, her lawyer Gaby Lasky told AFP.

The military appeals court ruled Nour would also have to sign in at an Israeli police station every Friday at noon.

On Sunday, a military court charged Nour with aggravated assault of a soldier and disturbing soldiers carry out their duties.

Ahed’s family says the December 15 incident that led to the charges occurred in the yard of their home in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah.

Israel’s military said the soldiers were in the area to prevent Palestinians from throwing stones at Israeli motorists nearby.

A video that was shared widely on social media shows the cousins approaching two Israeli soldiers and telling them to leave before shoving, kicking and slapping them.

The heavily armed soldiers do not respond in the face of what appears to be an attempt to provoke rather than seriously harm them.

They then move backwards after Ahed’s mother Nariman becomes involved.

On Monday, Ahed was charged with 12 counts, including assault. Her mother faces five charges, including incitement.

Ahed has been lauded as a hero by Palestinians who see her as bravely standing up to Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank.

She has been involved in a series of previous confrontations, leading Israelis to accuse her family of using her as a pawn in staged provocations.

Palestinians however say she is engaged in legitimate resistance.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/06-Jan-2018/palestinian-teen-granted-bail-in-slap-video-case

--------

 

Israel approves construction of over 2,200 new settler units in occupied West Bank

Jan 5, 2018

Israeli officials have approved plans for the construction of more than 2,200 new settler units in the occupied West Bank irrespective of the international outcry against the Tel Aviv regime’s land expropriation and settlement expansion policies in Palestinian lands.

Israel's minister of military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, has agreed to settlement expansion activities in Palestinian territories, and Israeli authorities are going to issue permits for the construction of 900 housing units at Ariel settlement in the central West Bank, Israel's Hebrew-language Channel 10 television network reported.

The report added that the so-called Supreme Planning Council of the Civil Administration will hold a session next week, in which it is supposed to grant the necessary permits to start building 225 units.

Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.

This as there have been regular anti-US protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since December 6, when Trump declared that Washington recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and was moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. Many say Trump's move has effectively killed any chances of further negotiations.

The dramatic shift in Washington’s Jerusalem al-Quds policy drew fierce criticism from the international community, including Washington's Western allies, and triggered protests against the US and Israel worldwide.

The United Nations General Assembly later voted by a resounding majority to reject Trump's Jerusalem al-Quds move.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/05/547914/Israel-approves-construction-of-over-2200-new-settler-units-in-occupied-West-Bank

--------

 

Daesh declares war on Palestine’s Hamas resistance movement

Jan 5, 2018

The Egyptian wing of Daesh Takfiri terrorists has released a new execution video, declaring war on the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement based in Gaza.

The video, released Wednesday, purports to show the execution of a man who Daesh claims cooperated with Hamas’ armed wing.

“Never surrender to them. Use explosives, silenced pistols and sticky bombs. Bomb their courts and their security locations, for these are the pillars of tyranny that prop up its throne,” said one of the militants in the video.

The Egyptian wing of Daesh, known as the Sinai Province, is notorious for its brutal massacres, including the Sinai 2015 plane crash which killed 224 passengers and mass killing of over 300 people at a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the deadliest attack in modern Egyptian history.

The video comes as Hamas has been cooperating with Egyptian security forces to restore stability to Sinai, which borders Gaza.

In October, the Palestinian resistance movement arrested four senior Daesh terrorists in Sinai.

In July 2015, Daesh released a video saying that it would overthrow Hamas “tyrants” for their perceived lack of religious rulings in Gaza.

Takfiri groups such as Daesh have never attacked Israel despite operating close to Syria’s borders with the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel is widely believed to be supporting terrorists in Syria by launching airstrikes against various targets there from time to time.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/05/547908/Palestine-Hamas-Daesh

--------

 

Saudi Arabia, Daesh following Trump's lead: Iran's Zarif

Jan 5, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Saudi Arabia and Daesh Takfiri terrorist group are "eternal bedfellows" and both are following US President Donald Trump's lead.

"All endorse violence, death and destruction in Iran. Why are we not surprised," Zarif said in a "breaking" post on his official Twitter account on Friday.

On December 28, a number of protests over economic problems broke out in several Iranian cities, but the gatherings turned violent when groups of participants, some of them armed, vandalized public property and launched attacks on police stations and government buildings.

Over a dozen people have been killed in the ensuing violence in Iran, according to state media reports.

In a series of tweets Trump has backed the protests. In its latest weekly publication, Al Nabaa, Daesh terrorist group also declared support for the protests in Iran and said they should continue.

The Iranian foreign minister also said on Thursday the US president’s moves against the Iranian people belie his recent claim that he “supports” them.

Zarif took to Twitter to condemn Trump’s latest claim of support for the Iranian people, saying “Trump has an odd way of showing ‘such respect’ for Iranians: from labeling them a ‘terrorist nation’ & banning them from visiting the US, to petty insults on the name of the Persian Gulf.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/05/547930/Zarif-KSA-Daesh-Trump-Twitter

--------

 

US freezes $125 million in funding to Palestinian refugees: Report

Jan 6, 2018

The US has reportedly cut off $125 million in funding for a UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, less than a week after US President Donald Trump threatened to hold back future aid payments to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The Axios news website, citing three unnamed Western diplomats, said on Friday that the sum -- a third of the annual US donation to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) which was expected to be delivered on Monday -- was frozen until the White House finishes its review of aid to the PA.

On Tuesday, Trump, in a number of tweets, threatened to cut Washington’s aid to Palestinians, currently worth more than $300 million a year, alleging that the PA was no longer willing to engage in the so-called peace talks with Israel.

“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” he said at the time.

US 'denies' freezing the aid

However, a US State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the “(Axios) story is very misleading."

"Just because they were expecting the money on the first, and they did not get it at that time, does not mean it was suspended or canceled,” the official added.

Meanwhile, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness also said that his respective agency had not been “informed directly of a formal decision either way by the US administration.”

Tensions between the US and Palestinians started escalating after Trump announced last month that Washington would recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of Israel and would relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

Palestinians condemned the decision, asserting that the US has no credibility as a Middle East peace broker.

The dramatic shift in Washington’s policy vis-à-vis the city triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

On December 21, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the Israeli capital.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/06/547958/Palestine-US-aid-PA-Israel-UNRWA-Trump

--------

 

Bilateral legal accords with US losing validity: Erdogan

January 05, 2018

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday warned that bilateral legal accords with the United States were “losing validity”, lashing out at Washington over the conviction of a Turkish banker in a U.S. trial.

A jury in a U.S. federal court on Wednesday convicted an executive of Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank for evading Iran sanctions in a case Erdogan has cast as a political attack against his government.

“If this is the U.S. understanding of justice, then the world is doomed,” Erdogan told a news conference before his departure to France for an official visit, in his first public comments since the verdict.

“The United States should excuse us , but the laws in our bilateral ties and the bilateral accords between us are losing their validity. I am saddened to say this, but this is how it will be from now on.”

He did not say to which accords he was referring.

Turkey’s foreign ministry on Thursday condemned the conviction as unprecedented meddling in its internal affairs.

The Halkbank executive, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was convicted on five of six counts, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate U.S. sanctions law. The case was based on the testimony of a wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges of leading a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.

In his testimony Zarrab implicated top Turkish politicians, including Erdogan . Zarrab said Erdogan personally authorized two Turkish banks to join the scheme when he was prime minister.

Turkey says the case was based on fabricated evidence and has accused U.S. court officials of ties to the cleric blamed for a 2016 coup attempt.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/05-Jan-2018/bilateral-legal-accords-with-us-losing-validity-erdogan

--------

 

Erdogan accuses US, Israel of ‘meddling’ in Pakistan, Iran

January 06, 2018

ANKARA/Islamabad -  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States and Israel on Friday of meddling in Iran after Turkey’s neighbour was gripped by several days of deadly unrest.

A total of 21 people died and hundreds were arrested in the week-long protests which were the biggest challenge to the Islamic regime since the 2009 mass demonstrations.

“We cannot accept that some countries - foremost the US , Israel - to interfere in the internal affairs of Iran and Pakistan,” Erdogan told reporters before heading on a trip to France. “It is turning the people against each other in these countries. It’s a shame that we have seen this done in many nations... We saw this in Iraq.”

Erdogan did not expand on the nature of the alleged meddling in Pakistan but on Thursday the US announced a freeze in deliveries of military equipment and security funding until Pakistan cracks down on the militants.

The Turkish president then referred to problems in “Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia” and in African countries including Sudan and Chad. He claimed a “game was being played” in certain countries, which he noted were all Muslim-majority nations.

“They are taking steps towards making the plentiful underground riches in all these countries their own resources,” he said. “Sorry, these realities should be known by our people and all people,” he said.

Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on Wednesday in a call in which the Turkish leader gave his support for the return of “peace and stability” to Iran.

Erdogan on Friday praised Rouhani’s statements that the street protests were the people’s “democratic right”, saying this had helped normalise the situation.

Turkey’s conservative media had previously accused the US and Israel of stoking the Iran protests as part of a purported plot to transform the Middle East.

Erdogan has on occasion criticised Iran’s “Persian imperialism” in the Middle East amid bouts of tension in the Turkey-Iran relationship. But relations between Ankara and Tehran have warmed since the two countries worked closely with Russia in the last few months to bring peace to Syria.

Meanwhile, Press Attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Islamabad Abbas Badrifar on Friday said since Trump assumed power in the US , “we have witnessed unusual and abnormal steps by him, which surprised the world.”

Trump approach, he said, had been “an approach based on aggression, arrogance and bull[y]ing and it may be said explicitly that decisions and policies adopted by [the] American government after his presidency had been against the interests of the nations of the world in general and in contrast to the Islamic world in particular.”

Speaking to The Nation, Badrifar said that discriminatory unilateral actions of US such as withdrawal from Paris climate change agreement, destructive environmental effects of that were threatening to the people of the world, Islamphobia, creation of divide in the Islamic world, interference in Islamic societies, confrontation with the Islamic countries, agitation and instigation of them against each other was the clear approach of Trump administration.

Trump, in his beginning of presidential tenure, he said, imposed ban on the entry of the nationals of some Islamic countries in the US including Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan, and showed his animosity towards the Islamic nations.

Heinous killing of oppressed Muslim nations including children and women in Yemen, Syria and Iraq enjoys clear and hidden support of the US , Badrifar added.

He said impudent step of Trump regarding recognition of Al-Quds as capital of the Zionist regime, was another evident example of his anti-Islam behaviour, which prompted reaction of the Islamic world and vast protests world over.

Badrifar criticised the recent tweet from Trump saying Pakistan had been victim of terrorism and since US attack on Afghanistan in 2001, and had given a lot of sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

“Intervention in the shape of drone attacks on Pakistan during his tenure persists,” he added.

Badrifar said the US in Trump era had increased its presence in Afghanistan in the pretext of fight against terrorism.

“As during [the] last 16 years presence of Americans has not led to eradication of terrorism in Afghanistan and the region, definitely it would not happen subsequently. They came to fight against two phenomenon of terrorism and narcotics in Afghanistan. But now we witness that narcotics production in that country has increased 45 times and terrorism in various forms expanded,” he said.

Badrifar said Iran had not been immune from intervention and conspiracies.

“Eight years Iran-Iraq war, which imposed huge expenses on the people of Iran, fought by support and instigation of [the] US and after that economic sanctions on the pretext of nuclear activities of Iran were imposed,” he recalled.

Badrifar said intervention of Americans was taking place when like past they were unable to understand realities and developments in the Iranian society.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/06-Jan-2018/erdogan-accuses-us-israel-of-meddling-in-pakistan-iran

--------

 

Protests threaten Iran’s ascendant role in the Middle East

By Liz Sly

January 5

BEIRUT — The eruption of political unrest in Iran has presented an unforeseen challenge to Tehran’s rising influence in the Middle East, potentially threatening the country’s claims to dominance just when it seemed to have secured an unassailable role.

The demonstrations, triggered mostly by popular disaffection with the stagnant economy, come at a time when Iran has been boasting about its newfound clout, won mainly by intervening in the region’s many wars.

Iran’s role as the Middle East’s most consequential power has been cemented by its support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, for the Shiite militias in Iraq fighting the Islamic State, for the Houthi rebels in Yemen and for the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.

But the interventions have been costly and, as the demonstrations have revealed, unpopular — at least with some Iranians.

“No Gaza, no Lebanon, our lives for Iran,” the crowds chanted at one of the first demonstrations, a reference to Iranian support for the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza and for Hezbollah in Lebanon. “Leave Syria alone, think about us,” and “Death to Hezbollah” were among other slogans.

These are a reminder that Iran’s power plays in the region have come at a price, according to Mohamad Bazzi, a professor of journalism at New York University who is writing a book about Iran’s role in the region and its rivalry with Saudi Arabia.

“For the past few months, if not years, Iran has been viewed as ascendant. They’ve been, quote, winning in the Middle East,” he said. “And now we find out Iranians don’t approve of their government spending all this money in places like Lebanon and Syria.”

With the anti-government protests apparently starting to fade, there is no reason to anticipate any immediate changes to Iranian policies, either foreign or domestic. For a third straight day on Friday, the authorities organized pro-government demonstrations in numerous Iranian cities, seeking to underline their message that the anti-government protesters represented a tiny minority of Iranians whose actions had been instigated by Iran’s foreign enemies, notably the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The spread of the anti-government protests over the past week nonetheless suggests a level of domestic unhappiness that calls into question whether Tehran’s regional ambitions can be sustained, said Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East politics at the London School of Economics.

“Before the protests, you had this dominant narrative that Iran is unstoppable, Iran is undefeatable, Iran is as solid as a rock,” he said. “The protests have undermined the posture of the Islamic Republic in the region, as the unrivaled superpower.”

“Thousands of protesters have exposed a major rupture in Iranian society, not just between reformists and ultraconservatives but between a critical segment of Iranian public opinion and the leadership,” he said. “This is really why this particular moment matters a great deal.”

Exactly how much Iran has spent on its foreign interventions is unknown, said Sanam Vakil, who analyzes Iran at London’s Chatham House think tank. One of the triggers for the demonstrations, she said, appears to have been the recent unveiling of the country’s 2018 budget by President Hassan Rouhani. It featured, among other unpopular items, a big jump in funding for the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, to about $8 billion — almost two-thirds of the defense budget, according to Iranian news reports.

The IRGC oversees the Quds Force, labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, which has overall responsibility for promoting Iran’s vision of revolutionary Shiite Islam in the region. The group is commanded by the legendary warrior Qassem Soleimani, who has repeatedly been pictured at the front lines of the region’s wars in photographs on Instagram and Twitter. This strategic portrayal broadcasts Iranian influence on the outcome of battles from Aleppo in Syria to the small town of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad.

The IRGC also controls extensive business interests that amplify its income while obscuring the true cost of Iran’s foreign interventions, Vakil said. “A lot of money is spent that is not accountable. It’s a black box, and the government doesn’t publicize it.”

The budget featured big sums for some of Iran’s religious foundations, and the protests appeared to be rooted as much in resentment over local issues, such as corruption and income inequality, as in specific concerns about the country’s foreign interventions.

[Working-class anger in Iran shows government’s vulnerability]

But there is no question that spending billions of dollars on other countries’ wars clashes with the reality of dwindling living standards in Iran, said Alireza Nader of the Rand Corp.

“They’re completely overstretched,” he said of the Iranian government. “On the surface, they seem to be doing pretty well and winning these conflicts, but they’re spending money they don’t have.”

Iran’s leadership has until now seemed oblivious to any potential contradiction between its role in fighting the region’s wars and its standing with ordinary citizens. Rather, leaders have repeatedly trumpeted the gains they have made.

The surprise challenge to Iran’s role could trigger a shift in perceptions even if there is no immediate policy change, said Paul Salem of the Middle East Institute in Washington. “This will make Iran’s allies and proxies nervous and feeling vulnerable.”

In comments aimed at reassuring Hezbollah’s supporters in Lebanon, the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, told the Lebanese television network Al-Mayadeen on Wednesday that there is no reason to fear a loss of Iranian funding. Even if Iran were to find itself unable to continue funding Hezbollah, he added, ordinary Iranians would dig into their pockets to do so.

“There is nothing to worry about,” he said. “The size of the protests is not large.”

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/protests-threaten-irans-ascendant-role-in-the-middle-east/2018/01/04/86246e7e-994f-457b-a85b-f1eb76b71998_story.html?utm_term=.80fe49cfa342

--------

 

South Asia

 

Myanmar Army Overruns Kachin, a Christian State, Rebel Camps

January 06, 2018

YANGON - Myanmar's military has used heavy weapons to overrun remote rebel camps in northern Kachin state, the army said Friday, as a seasonal offensive ramps up the long-running conflict. A separate military campaign in Rakhine state, which has forced 655,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh, has dominated global attention. But the conflict in Kachin, a mainly Christian state in the Buddhist-majority country, has rumbled on away from international headlines and fighting is again intensifying now that monsoon rains have ended.

https://nation.com.pk/06-Jan-2018/myanmar-army-overruns-kachin-rebel-camps

--------

 

Explosion in Taliban leader’s house in Kunar leaves 4 dead

Jan 06 2018

At least four militants were killed in a premature bomb explosion inside the residence of a local Taliban leader in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) in a statement said Saturday that the incident took place late on Friday in the vicinity of Nari district.

The statement further added that the militants were busy in making of Improvised Explosive Devices when the incident took place, leaving four dead, including the local Taliban leader.

No further details have been given regarding the identity of the Taliban leader killed in the explosion but MoI says the slain militant leader was involved in major terror-related activities.

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

This comes as a senior leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was killed in an explosion triggered by own explosives in this province.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Army said late in December that the Taliban leader Jan Wali who was also famous as Ahmad Sheena was killed in Shaltan district.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/explosion-in-taliban-leaders-house-in-kunar-leaves-4-dead-04200

--------

 

90% Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh under-nourished: UN

January 6, 2018

A new UN study has revealed that over 90 per cent of the recent Rohingya refugee arrivals in Bangladesh are under-nourished despite receiving emergency food assistance. The World Food Programme (WFP) Rohingya Emergency Vulnerability Assessment and food security sector partners study in November and December 2017 raised concerns over limited access to a well diversified and balanced diet, deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq announced on Friday.

As a result, he said, the WFP will scale up its e-voucher programmes in 2018 to reach new arrivals in Cox’s Bazar district, reports Xinhua news agency. Some 90,000 people are enrolled in WFP’s e-voucher programmes where they receive a monthly amount on a pre-paid debit card which can be used in allocated shops to buy 19 different foods, including rice, lentils, fresh vegetables, eggs and dry fish, Haq said.

The e-programmes contrast with WFP’s food distribution program for new arrivals which include rice, vegetable oil and lentils. It’s an emergency ration designed to provide basic calories, but lacking in dietary diversity, the spokesman said. The study also recommends the scaling up of a livelihood support programme within host communities prioritising especially women who have no income, he said, adding that the WFP is providing food and food vouchers to more than 700,000 refugees.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/90-rohingya-refugees-in-bangladesh-under-nourished-un/

--------

 

OIC delegation: Rohingyas are victims of brutal torture

January 05, 2018

The organization will always stay beside the persecuted Rohingya Muslims, the delegation says

The Rohingya refugees sheltering in refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh fled “brutal torture” in Myanmar, a delegation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has said.

The OIC team visited refugee camps in Kutupalong and Balukhali on Thursday and Friday to acquire firsthand information on the state of human rights violations faced by the Rohingyas in Rakhine state.

“We have found substantial evidence that Rohingya Muslims were victims of brutal tortures including massacre and rape,” the president of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), Rashid Al Balushi, told a media briefing held at Balukhali-2 refugee camp at 12.30pm yesterday.

“We will submit our report to the OIC.”

The OIC visit was undertaken in coordination with the government of Bangladesh.

The delegation also included OIC vice-chairs SK Kaggwa and Raihana Binte Abdullah; OIC IPHRC members Ambassador Muhammad Zamir, Abdul Wahhab, Mahmud Mustafa Afifi and Adam Nana; and OIC executive directors Marghoob Saleem Butt, Hafid El Hachimi, Akem Al Ghamdi, Hassan Abedin, Maha Akil, Abdullah Kabi and Mohammad Kalaba.

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cox’s Bazar district administration were also present.

Full report at:

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2018/01/05/oic-delegation-rohingyas-victims-brutal-torture/

--------

 

Myanmar President Calls for Reform of Nation's Military-Drafted Constitution

January 05, 2018

Yangon. Myanmar's civilian president called in an Independence Day speech on Thursday (04/01) for reform of a military-drafted constitution and for justice for all recognized minorities under a federal system, but made no mention of the treatment of its Rohingya Muslim people.

Amending the charter to remove a dominant political role for the military has been one of the most contentious issues facing Myanmar as it emerges from nearly half a century of strict army rule.

The debate over constitutional reform, however, has been muted since the assassination in January last year of a lawyer advising government leader Aung San Suu Kyi's ruling party on the issue.

"As we build the Democratic Federal Republic, in accordance with the results of the political dialogues, we all need to work collectively for creating a suitable constitution," President Htin Kyaw said in his speech marking the 70th anniversary of Myanmar's independence from Britain.

Htin Kyaw's post is largely ceremonial but he is a close ally of Suu Kyi. He did not elaborate on what he meant by suitable or spell out why he was suggesting the 2008 constitution drawn up by the military was unsuitable.

The constitution bars Suu Kyi from becoming president because it rules out candidates with a foreign spouse or child. Suu Kyi's late husband was British as are her two sons.

It also reserves for the military one quarter of the seats in parliament and several major cabinet posts, including defense, interior and border affairs, giving it an effective veto over constitutional change and control of security affairs.

Myanmar began emerging from 49 years of military rule in 2011. Suu Kyi's party swept a 2015 election and formed a government but concern is growing that the reform program is stalling or even sliding back.

This has been compounded by attacks on press freedom, including the detention of several journalists over the past year. On Dec. 12, the authorities arrested two Reuters reporters who had covered the army crackdown that has led to the mass flight of Rohingya residents of Rakhine State across the border into Bangladesh.

Htin Kyaw called for respect for human rights but he did not refer to the crisis over the exodus of 655,000 Rohingya people, nor to the international condemnation it has generated.

"We are working for the emergence of a democratic state based on the principles of freedom for all ethnic national races, justice, equality and right of self-determination," he said.

"National race" is a term used by Myanmar referring to what it categorizes as indigenous ethnic groups. The Rohingya, who have traditionally lived in Rakhine, have been denied inclusion as authorities regard them as illegal immigrants who have crossed over from Bangladesh.

End to Conflict

The Rohingya crisis erupted in late August after Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts in Rakhine triggered a fierce military response that the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar denies ethnic cleansing saying its security forces have mounted legitimate clearance operations.

Htin Kyaw called for an end to conflict with insurgents from various ethnic minorities who have been battling for autonomy for decades.

Clashes have flared in recent weeks between the army and guerrillas in Kachin and Shan states in the north.

Myanmar's minorities have long demanded self-determination under a federal system. The army has traditionally seen itself as the only institution preventing the country's disintegration and has favored a unitary state.

Amending the constitution would not be easy.

Changes require a 76 percent majority vote in a parliament dominated by military members and their allies.

The killing of lawyer and constitutional expert Ko Ni last year has not been fully explained even though the gunman was caught at the scene.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/international/myanmar-president-calls-reform-nations-military-drafted-constitution/

--------

 

Rohingya insurgents ambush Myanmar military truck, five wounded

6 January 2018

YANGON: Rohingya Muslim insurgents ambushed a military vehicle in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, wounding five members of the security forces, state media and officials said, and the rebels claimed responsibility for the rare attack.

A wave of raids by the insurgents on security force posts on Aug. 25 sparked sweeping army counter-insurgency operations in the Muslim-majority north of the state that led to widespread violence and arson and an exodus of some 650,000 Rohingya villagers to neighboring Bangladesh.

The United Nations condemned the Myanmar military campaign as ethnic cleansing. Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejected that.

But since Aug. 25, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents, who claimed responsibility for the coordinated raids on 30 security posts, have mounted only a few sporadic attacks.

The military said “extremist Bengali terrorists ARSA” carried out the Friday attack on a truck taking someone to hospital.

“A vehicle ... was attacked by 20 insurgents from the mountain using homemade mines and small arms,” the government said. The military said there were about 10 attackers.

An ARSA spokesman said his group had carried out the attack.

“Yes, ARSA takes responsibility for the latest military movement,” the spokesman told Reuters through a messaging service.

He said further details may be revealed later.

The ARSA dismisses any links to Islamist militant groups and says it is fighting to end the oppression of the Rohingya people.

The Yangon-based Frontier Myanmar magazine quoted a resident of a nearby village as saying sporadic gunfire had been heard at the time of the ambush. A state-run newspaper reported on Saturday that fighting continued after the ambush.

The area is largely off-limits to reporters.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1220096/world

--------

 

North America

 

US-sought UNSC meeting on Iran backfires on Washington

Jan 6, 2018

The UN Security Council (UNSC) finally gives into a US push for a meeting on the latest events inside Iran, but the session does not go as planned as the council’s veto wielders and Washington’s own allies use the debate to criticize the White House for involving the council in Iran’s domestic affairs and seeking to link those issues to the 2015 multinational nuclear deal.

At Friday’s session, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley gave an exaggerated account of a series of scattered riots in some areas in Iran last week, and said Washington would remain steadfastly behind the Iranian “protesters,” attempting to bring other UNSC members onboard with Washington against the Islamic Republic.

A previous US attempt to convene the UNSC had failed earlier this week.

But Haley’s political show soon went down the drain as her hostile comments against Iran was met with a cold response from Russia, China and France, three veto-holding UNSC permanent members, and several other council members, including Sweden.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, bottom right, prepares to leave as Iranian Ambassador to the UN Gholamali Khoshroo, second from left, speaks to a member of his delegation after a Security Council meeting on Iran, January 5, 2018. (Photo by AP)

Last week, some Iranian towns and cities were hit by scattered riots, which followed a series of peaceful demonstrations over economic issues.

However, Iranian law enforcement forces, backed by locals, intervened in time and ended the violence, which saw vandals and armed elements launch attacks on public property, mosques and police stations. Over a dozen people died amid the violence.

Russia to US: You’re dispersing UNSC energy!

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya accused the US of “abusing” the UNSC platform.

“Why is the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council and one of the authors of the UN Charter, undermining the authority of the Security Council as the main body which is responsible for maintaining international peace and security? I think it is obvious for everyone that the topic chosen today does not fall within the parameters established by the UN Charter for this Security Council,” he asked.

The Russian envoy also stressed that the UNSC meeting was actually meant to undermine the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“You are dispersing the energy of the Security Council, instead of focusing it on dealing with key crisis situations in Afghanistan, Syria Libya, Iraq, Yemen, DPRK, the African continent. Instead of that, you are proposing that we interfere in the internal affairs of a state,” said the Russian official.

“We don’t want to get involved in destabilizing Iran or any other country,” he said.

Similarly, China’s Deputy U Ambassador Wu Haitao said the Security Council is tasked with maintaining international peace and should not be “the venue for discussing the human rights situation of any country.”

“The Iranian situation did not pose a threat to international peace and security, and discussing its domestic situation was not part of the Council’s responsibilities as outlined in the Charter,” he pointed out.

France: Iran events must not serve personal ends

Even France distanced itself from the US, with its UN Ambassador Francois Delattre saying the recent protests in Iran do not threaten international security.

“However worrying the events of the last few days in Iran may be, they do not constitute per se a threat to international peace and security. We must react appropriately to what has been going on,” he said. “But we must be wary of any attempts to exploit this crisis for personal ends, which would have the diametrically opposed outcome to that which is wished.”

Kairat Umarov, Khazakstan’s representative who also serves as the council’s president, said that his country considered the events unfolding in Iran to be “a domestic issue that did not fall under the mandate of the Security Council.”

Meanwhile, Sweden’s representative Irina Schoulgin Nyoni emphasized that Stockholm had “reservations on the format and timing of this session.”

She further supported the JCPOA, saying the nuclear accord’s “continued implementation was crucially important.”

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/06/547976/Iran-UNSC-Russia-China

--------


Why it's so difficult for the US to crack down on Pakistan

January 05, 2018

ISLAMABAD, Jan 5, 2018 (AFP) - Washington accuses Pakistan of playing a dangerous double game, taking billions in US aid while supporting militants attacking its forces in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.

Its belated move to suspend assistance, after years of mistrust, highlights the perils of alienating a quasi-ally whose support is vital in the long-running Afghan conflict.

The dramatic freeze in deliveries of military equipment and security funding comes after President Donald Trump lambasted Pakistan for its alleged support for militant safe havens, including in a furious new year tweet.

What does the US want from Pakistan ?

Washington and Kabul accuse Pakistan of cynically supporting militant groups including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group.

They say the insurgents have safe havens in Pakistan 's border areas and links to its shadowy military establishment, which aims to use them in Afghanistan as a regional bulwark against arch-nemesis India.

Pakistan 's support for these groups must end, Washington insists.

Islamabad has repeatedly denied the accusations, insisting it has eradicated safe havens and accusing the US of ignoring the thousands who have been killed on Pakistani soil and the billions spent fighting extremists.

It also levels the same charge at Kabul, accusing Afghanistan of harbouring militants on its side of the border who then launch attacks on Pakistan .

Why hasn't Washington axed aid before?

US figures show that more than $33 billion has been given to Pakistan in direct aid since 2002. Given fears Pakistan is being duplicitous, cutting the money off seems an obvious step.

It has been suspended before, notably after the US raid on the Pakistani town of Abbotabad in 2011 that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The discovery of the world's most wanted man, less than a mile from Pakistan 's elite military academy, drew suspicions that he had been sheltered by the country's intelligence agency for years.

But despite the provocations, the US does not want to completely rupture its relationship with Pakistan , where anti-American sentiment already runs high.

Washington's footprint in Afghanistan is much smaller than it was at the height of the war, and it needs access to Pakistan 's supply lines and airspace.

Pakistan is still believed to have the strongest influence over the Taliban, making its cooperation necessary for peace talks.

Pakistan also holds the Muslim world's only known nuclear arsenal and the US wants to prevent it from going to war with rival nuclear power India, or collapsing and allowing the weapons to fall into the hands of extremists.

"They want to apply graduated pressure to Pakistan to change its policy, rather than abandon it altogether," security analyst Hasan Askari said.

Will the US strategy work?

Some analysts have said there is no real way to pressure Pakistan , which believes keeping Kabul out of nemesis India's orbit is more important than clamping down on cross-border militancy.

Askari warned the suspension of millions of dollars in security assistance might see the US lose crucial influence over Pakistan which will instead look to other countries for support.

China -- which is investing some $60 billion in infrastructure projects in Pakistan -- was the first to rush to Pakistan 's defence after Trump's latest tweet criticising its militant policy.

But China may also prove to be intolerant of any double-dealing with extremists.

It has a horror of Islamist militancy and its own interests in keeping Pakistan and Afghanistan stable, from protecting its investment to ensuring security on the borders with its vast, restive western province of Xinjiang.

In the end, observers say, until Washington addresses Pakistan 's fears over India, it will not shake its support for militant proxies.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/05-Jan-2018/why-it-s-so-difficult-for-the-us-to-crack-down-on-pakistan

--------

 

Hundreds protest for jailed Palestinian teen in NY

06 January 2018

Hundreds on Friday gathered inside of Grand Central Terminal in New York, demanding the release of the 16 year old Palestinian activist Ahed al-Tamimi who was taken into custody by Israeli soldiers two week ago.

Protestors chanted and carried banners reading “Release Ahed Tamimi Now”, “US has to stop helping Israel” and "Palestinian prisoners needs to be released".

In a press release handed out during the demonstration, Israel was accused of illegally detaining her and information was given about her family's activism which includes them also being shot by Israeli soldiers in the past. The event ended without incident.

Ahed and her mother who was detained by Israeli forces during an overnight raid in the occupied West Bank two weeks ago, is well known for her bold activism for a free Palestine.

Videos and pictures of Ahed confronting and slapping Israeli soldiers have gone viral for weeks.

The teenager and her mother Nariman were ordered to be detained behind bars for an additional eight days by Ofer Court Monday, located near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The statement said Ahed had been accused of five offenses, including “assaulting an Israeli soldier, assault and throwing rocks at security forces, and other felonies”.

“Ahed is also accused of opposing the work of the army, participating in rebellious demonstrations and encouraging others to participate in these, and her mother Nariman is accused of involvement in the same events and encouraging participation in these activities from her Facebook account.”

The reason for the extension of the detention period is continued interrogation, the statement added.

Ahed's cousin Nour was released on bail for 48 hours.

Footage from a Dec. 15 confrontation with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh showed Ahed and Nour approaching two soldiers before shoving, kicking and slapping them.

Nariman also pushes the soldiers.

On Dec. 19, Israeli forces detained Ahed in Nabi Saleh. Her mother and cousin were arrested shortly afterward.

The latest case is not Ahed’s first brush with the Israeli authorities. In 2012, Istanbul’s Basaksehir Municipality awarded her the Hanzala Courage Award for defying Israeli soldiers who had just arrested her brother.

Then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Ahed to personally convey his admiration.

On Dec. 6, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, drawing condemnation from across the Arab and Muslim world and sparking angry protests across the Palestinian territories.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/197558/fbi-probes-clinton-foundation-over-corruption-claim

--------

 

National Council Of Canadian Muslims Asks For Day Of Remembrance For Mosque Shooting

01/05/2018

OTTAWA — One of Canada's most prominent Muslim groups is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to designate the anniversary of the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting as an official day of remembrance.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims wants Trudeau to endorse Jan. 29 as a national day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia.

In a letter to the prime minister released today, executive director Ihsaan Gardee says such a designation would help enhance public education about hate, bigotry and Islamophobia.

Communities still feeling aftershocks

Last January, six Muslim men were shot and killed and 19 others were wounded in an attack on the mosque during prayers. Alexandre Bissonnette of Quebec City is to stand trial in March on six charges each of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Gardee says Canadian Muslim communities are still feeling the aftershocks of the attack.

He says the call for a day of remembrance is supported by dozens of other Canadian Muslim groups and community partners.

Elected leaders like Trudeau need to work to ensure that such a tragedy is not repeated, Gardee writes.

Full report at:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/01/05/national-council-of-canadian-muslims-asks-for-day-of-remembrance-for-mosque-shooting_a_23325181/

--------

 

US says Iran ‘on notice’ at Security Council meeting

06 January 2018

The U.S. on Friday sought to highlight the importance for the Security Council of ongoing demonstrations in Iran, prompting criticism from some member states who questioned the topic's validity within the institution tasked with maintaining international peace and security.

“Today, the people of Iran are speaking to their government, and their message is undeniable: stop the support for terrorism. Stop giving billions of our money to killers and dictators," the U.S.'s UN envoy, Nikki Haley, said during an emergency meeting of the council.

Haley said the Security Council should "amplify the message of the Iranian people", warning that Iran "is now on notice: the world will be watching what you do”.

On Dec. 28, thousands of people took to the streets in Iran’s northeastern cities of Mashhad and Kashmar to protest rising inflation, unemployment and perceived government mismanagement.

In the following days, however, the protests appeared to turn into anti-government rallies, spreading to Tehran, Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Zanjan, Ahvaz and Arak provinces.

More than 20 people were killed in the demonstrations, including at least one police officer, while more than a thousand others were detained by authorities.

Russia promptly accused Washington of "abusing" its position within the Security Council by using the forum to discuss the matter, calling it "completely inappropriate" for the council to take up Iran's demonstrations.

“The topic chosen today does not fall within the prerogatives of the” Security Council, Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said.

He said that while Moscow regrets the loss of lives in the protests, Iran should be left to "deal with its own problems".

"We don't want to get involved in destabilizing Iran or any other country," he said.

Iran's UN envoy, who was sitting in on the session despite not being a council member, agreed, calling Friday's session an “abuse of its [the U.S.'s] power as a permanent member, and an abuse of the council itself.”

U.K. ambassador Matthew Ryctoft disputed the categorization, however, saying "No one is forcing Iran onto our agenda", and maintaining that Article 34 of the council's charter empowers the council to investigate disputes that may lead to international conflict.

France's UN ambassador Francois Delattre said before the meeting that the international community should "follow a narrow path".

"Yes of course to a necessary vigilance and a call for the full respect of freedom of expression, but no to the instrumentalization of the crisis from the outside because it would only reinforce the extremes, which is precisely what we want to avoid," he said.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/197561/fbi-probes-clinton-foundation-over-corruption-claim

--------

 

Africa

 

Al Qaeda maintains operational tempo in West Africa in 2017

BY CALEB WEISS

January 5, 2018

According to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal, al Qaeda and its many allies and affiliates launched at least 276 attacks in Mali and the wider West Africa region in 2017. That means the al Qaeda has largely kept its operational tempo in West Africa consistent when compared to last year.

That number is the combination of attacks claimed by, or attributed to, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), AQIM’s Katibat Murabitoon, Ansar Dine (a front group for AQIM), and Ansar Dine’s Katibat Macina (also known as the Macina Liberation Front). Beginning in March, these groups merged together to form the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri.  Aside from Mali, assaults claimed or attributed to Ansaroul Islam in Burkina Faso, as well as attacks attributed to jihadists in Niger, were also added.

Of the 276 attacks, 71 came as a result of improvised explosive devices. Another 24 were from mortar or rocket barrages aimed at French, Malian, or UN military bases in northern Mali. There were also 11 kidnappings, with several occurring in both Mali and Burkina Faso. Two were suicide bombings. The remaining 168 attacks were a variation of assaults, ambushes, or assassinations.

The central regions of Mali became the most volatile region of Mali compared to recent years with 90 attacks occurring within the Mopti, Segou, and Koulikoro regions. That marks a significant shift from recent years, as jihadist assaults move progressively south. The Kidal region accounted for 46 assaults in 2017, even though it was the most volatile region in 2016. In Gao there were 41 attacks, while Timbuktu was relatively less violent with just 30 attacks. The final 69 occurred in Burkina Faso and Niger.

Whether the intended target or collateral damage, civilians were targeted 68 times in Mali and Burkina Faso. Malian security forces (military, national guard, gendarmerie, and police) were the primary target for jihadists, with those security forces being the target in 98 instances. The UN’s forces were targeted 48 times. Another 16 were directed at French forces. The other 46 were directed towards Burkinabe or Nigerien security personnel.

Prior to the merger which formed JNIM, Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for two attacks while AQIM claimed four. After the merger, JNIM has only claimed direct responsibility for 73 instances. Many instances go unclaimed due to unwanted results, communication problems, operational security, or other issues deemed unwanted by the group. However, attacks were added to the data if local media reported that jihadists were suspected.

This also applies to the data gathered from northern Burkina Faso. The JNIM-linked Ansaroul Islam is thought to be responsible for the majority of the attacks in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region, but it has only formally claimed less than a handful of these instances. Local Burkinabe media and residents have provided invaluable reporting as this was used to determine if Ansaroul Islam is suspected, and therefore, should be added to the data.

Clashes between rival Tuareg groups or communal violence were not added to the data, unless the jihadists explicitly claimed involvement. This includes when JNIM involved itself in communal violence in central Mali in March. Instances where the primary motivation appears to have been robbery or other types of banditry were also not added.

Ansaroul Islam was founded by Malam Ibrahim Dicko, a close ally of Amadou Kouffa, who is the leader of Ansar Dine’s Katibat Macina. In posts made on its (now deleted) Facebook page, Ansaroul Islam confirmed that Dicko had met with Kouffa in the past. Jeune Afrique has reported that Dicko initially tried to link up with jihadist groups in northern Mali in 2013, but was arrested by French forces in Tessalit and then subsequently released in 2015.

Malam Dicko died earlier this year and was replaced by his brother Jafar, which was confirmed by Le Monde. In addition, the French newspaper has also reported that Ansaroul Islam has around 200 members and is largely based in Boulkessi, Burkina Faso. The group maintains a heavy degree of operational ties with JNIM, which involves taking part in many raids across the border in Mali. JNIM also claimed six attacks in Burkina Faso, giving more evidence to the relationship between it and Ansaroul Islam.

Violence in northern Burkina Faso saw a significant uptick in 2017, including the first ever use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the country. According to FDD’s Long War Journal’s data, there have been at least six instances of IEDs in Burkina Faso. Most of Ansaroul Islam’s attacks are focused on Burkinabe security forces, as well as civilian infrastructure, near the Malian border.

At least two separate attacks, one in Mali and one in Niger, have been attributed to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, but this number is likely higher. This includes the October 4 ambush in which four US Special Forces soldiers were killed in Niger near the Mali border. JNIM claimed one attack in Niger, an ambush on Nigerien troops in the Tahoua Region on July 5.

The large number of attacks represents a resurgent al Qaeda-led insurgency based in Mali, which continues to able to penetrate into the southern and central regions with great frequency and spread across the borders. However, while rate of attacks did go down in the northern Malian regions of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal compared to last year, al Qaeda continues to be a persistent threat in the north. That said, JNIM’s killing of prominent civilians in the north has also exacerbated tensions with some Tuaregs, especially some within the large Kel Ansar tribe, has hurt its public support. The extent of which remains to be seen, though.

Despite a French-led counterterrorism mission and a United Nations peacekeeping force, Al Qaeda still retains the ability to operate openly in Mali. And like last year, Al Qaeda has been able to strike throughout West Africa, though it did not conduct any large-scale terrorist attack like in 2016. The attack frequency and scale is expected to continue in 2018. Since the UN mandate began in 2013, more than 100 peacekeepers have been killed in Mali, making it the deadliest UN peacekeeping force in the world. https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/01/al-qaeda-maintains-operational-tempo-in-west-africa-in-2017.php

--------

 

Armed groups clash at key Libya border post

6 January 2018

TRIPOLI: Armed groups clashed Friday in western Libya, forcing the closure of a key border crossing with Tunisia, an official and a military commander said.

The clashes took place near the Ras Jedir border post, the main crossing between western Libya and southeastern Tunisia.

The crossing has been controlled by militias from the western port city of Zuwara since the fall of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 in a NATO-backed revolt.

On Friday, a force set up by the country’s UN-backed unity government to stabilize Libya’s west attacked in a bid to seize the crossing, said an official from Zuwara who asked to remain anonymous.

The unity government force’s commander Osama Jouili, who served as Libya’s defense minister after Qaddafi’s fall, confirmed the offensive had taken place Friday.

Speaking to Libya’s 218TV, he argued his forces had a mandate from the unity government to secure the region, but did not specify whether the operation was coordinated with authorities in Tripoli or not. The border post was closed temporarily to “ensure the safety of travelers,” he said.

Libya has been wracked by violence since Qaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011.

The unity government has struggled to impose its rule in a country where hundreds of militias hold sway.

Successive transitional authorities have failed to create regular police and army forces capable of restoring order in Libya.

The western border region is highly dependent on cross-border trade, both legal and illegal.

The Zuwara forces who controlled the border post also nominally support the unity government.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1219936/middle-east

--------

 

South Africa: Muslims Concerned As Cape Town Mortuary Backlog Rises Again

5 JANUARY 2018

The backlog for Muslim autopsies in Cape Town is growing again, making it difficult for mourners to comply with the customary 24-hour funeral procedures required in Islam.

"The backlog for Muslim autopsies have been between two to three days - a marked decrease from 6+ days a few months ago," said Sheikh Riad Fataar, the Muslim Judicial Council's (MJC) second deputy president and chairperson of the Muslim Cemetery Board.

"However, due to an increase in cases over the holiday period, including deaths due to road accidents, the backlog continues to grow," Fataar said on Wednesday.

One of the affected cases was that of the 12-year-old girl, who died after drinking her father's cancer medication.

The girl's family is not yet ready to speak to the media, but it is understood that, although her death was announced on January 1, the family had to wait until January 3 to bury her.

The backlogs have been a concern for the Muslim community.

Last October, there were consultations between the MJC and Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo, over mortuaries' inability to complete post-mortems within the pre-agreed customary period.

In November, the department announced that it had reduced the "turnaround time" for the release of Muslim bodies from six days, to three days, and then to 48 hours.

A follow-up meeting with Mbombo is scheduled for the end of January, but the December holiday season has seen the waiting time increase again.

Department of Health spokesperson Marika Champion said on Wednesday that 39 bodies were waiting to be examined with their expected release set for Friday.

At the Salt River mortuary, the time from admission to examination is currently at an average of 3.32 days.

Tygerberg mortuary is experiencing longer delays, with the time from admission to examination at 4.47 days.

Champion said that, as a result of a high case load during the festive season, the release time by Forensic Pathology Services (FPS) could be negatively affected. However, she said the department prioritised those who were Muslim.

She added that service was also dependant on staff, but pointed out that FPS has endeavoured to arrange leave applications over the holiday season in such a way that continuity of service was still assured.

Champion explained that cases were prioritised with the only absolute criterion being that of medico-legal investigation of unnatural deaths.

Case are triaged and the following prioritisation is considered: the needs of National Prosecuting Authority; evidence collection needs; case complexity and the type of case; the admission date, and whether a case has been identified.

She reiterated a call made last year for the quick identification of bodies for all deceased - not only Muslims - as delayed identification leads to delayed release.

Full report at:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201801050125.html

--------

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/hindus,-muslims,-sikhs,-christians-pray-together-in-one-room-at-chandigarh’s-gmch/d/113842

 

New Age IslamIslam OnlineIslamic WebsiteAfrican Muslim NewsArab World NewsSouth Asia NewsIndian Muslim NewsWorld Muslim NewsWomen in IslamIslamic FeminismArab WomenWomen In ArabIslamophobia in AmericaMuslim Women in WestIslam Women and Feminism

 

Loading..

Total Comments (0)

    There are no comments on this Article