New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 17 May 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Holy Quran in Hand, Supreme Court Asks How Is Triple Talaq Integral to Islam



















Saudi Visit: Trump to Ask Muslim Leaders to Ban Raising Of Funds for Extremists

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Holy Quran in Hand, Supreme Court Asks How Is Triple Talaq Integral to Islam

Pakistani Scholars Hope US-Arab Islamic Summit Will ‘End Bloodshed’ In Region

Student's Essay on Diversity, Religious Harmony in Indonesia Goes Viral on Facebook

Germany Concerned About Spread of Wahhabism in Kosovo

Saudi Visit: Trump to Ask Muslim Leaders to Ban Raising Of Funds for Extremists

 

India

Holy Quran in Hand, Supreme Court Asks How Is Triple Talaq Integral to Islam

Wait, We're Coming Soon: Kerala ISIS Fugitive in Afghan to Indian 'Faithfull

NDA Has Made a U-Turn on Personal Law, Claims Kapil Sibal

Forces carry out major search operation in Kashmir's Shopian for 2nd time in two weeks

Asaram victim of Israel, MNCs, says Hindu-Muslim forum

Amid student protests, J&K govt warns: Can’t take exams if low on attendance

Hyderabad: Three summoned after getting caught on tape talking about IS

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Pakistan

Pakistani Scholars Hope US-Arab Islamic Summit Will ‘End Bloodshed’ In Region

Bill Calls for Setting up Think-Tank to Counter Extremism

Sindh leads in number of casualties from sectarian violence in three months: report

Four more terrorists convicted by military courts hanged in KP: ISPR

Two Pakistani diplomats ‘held, tortured’ in Kabul

Pakistan, Afghanistan announce ceasefire at Chaman border

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Southeast Asia

Student's Essay on Diversity, Religious Harmony in Indonesia Goes Viral on Facebook

Zaid: How Is Beating Children Part Of Islamic Education?

LGBT pride march in Taylor’s University cancelled after Islamist pressure

Indonesian men sentenced to public caning for "gay sex"

Philippines Declines EU Aid after Securing Billions from China

Jokowi Ready to 'Beat Up' Anyone Who Disrupts Indonesia's Unity

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Europe

Germany Concerned About Spread of Wahhabism in Kosovo

Muslim Campaign Groups Publish Key Demands Ahead Of UK Election

Putin says Islamic world can ‘count on Russia’

Germany may vote to move troops in Turkey as row with Ankara deepens

Protest in Geneva targets Syrian detentions

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North America

Saudi Visit: Trump to Ask Muslim Leaders to Ban Raising Of Funds for Extremists

Trump To Encourage GCC to Form NATO-Like Force for the Middle East

Trump doesn't plan to use Israel trip to announce embassy move

John Guandolo Discusses The Muslim Brotherhood’s Network in America, Attacks the Media

Group in Maryland Is Recruiting Muslim Candidates for Office

Questions about Islam answered at Peterborough session Thursday

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South Asia

23 Militants Killed, 4 of Their Hideouts Destroyed In US Airstrikes in Helmand

Suicide bombers storm Afghan state broadcaster

'It all depends on how I behave' - press freedom under threat in Bangladesh

Afghan intelligence foil Taliban attack plans in Kabul city

ISIS claims responsibility for the attack on Nangarhar television

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Arab World

Shiite Sheikh’s House Shot at by Unknown Assailants in Saudi’s Qatif

Prominent Bahraini Activist Slams US Arms Sales to Manama, Riyadh

Tens of ISIL Terrorists Killed in Failed Attack on Syrian Army Positions in Deir Ezzur

Syrian Army Scores More Victories against Terrorists in Eastern Aleppo

Syrian Army Makes Fresh Advances against ISIL in Eastern Aleppo

Syrian Army Ready to Foil US-Led Plan to Create Buffer Zone in Southern Part of Country

New US Marine Unit Arrives in Syria to Aid Partners in Raqqa

Large-Scale Battle among Rival Terrorist Groups Imminent in Northwestern Syria

UN envoy proposes forming team to draft new Syria constitution

Mosul’s Rifaei neighbourhood liberated from ISIS

Ex-CIA Officer: Trump Lies about Assad's Chemical Attack against Idlib

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Mideast

Salvation Gov't PM Warns of Saudi, UAE Plots to Disintegrate Yemen

Rouhani attacks Khamenei: Iran will choose between deception and honesty

Saudi air raid on Yemen leaves over 20 civilians dead

Turkey goes to bat for executed Jamaat leaders again

Turkish MPs elect judicial board under new Erdogan constitution

Cautious lull in Taiz amid raids on militias in Sanaa, Jawf

Iran won't accept UN docs that go against its values, beliefs: Qassemi

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Africa

UN To Deploy 'Rapid Intervention Force' In Central Mali

Sudan's president risks overshadowing Trump's Muslim speech

Jordan’s king in Egypt visit discusses Mideast issues

Car bomb explodes in Rukban refugee camp near Jordan

Buhari not running Nigeria as Muslim organization – MURIC replies CAN

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Australia

Austrian Parliament Bans Full Facial Veils in Public

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/holy-quran-in-hand,-supreme-court-asks-how-is-triple-talaq-integral-to-islam/d/111196

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Holy Quran In Hand, Supreme Court Asks How Is Triple Talaq Integral To Islam

May 18, 2017

NEW DELHI:  For five days, the country's five seniormost judges have heard lawyers argue that triple talaq wasn't just a centuries-old practice but also an integral part of Islam. On Wednesday, Chief Justice of India JS Khehar had a question after the court had heard one of the lawyers wax eloquent how the practice was intrinsic to Islam.

"You recite namaz in mosque every Friday. In that prayer, you say triple talaq is a sin and bad. How can you say it is integral part of Islam," the Chief Justice, who is heading the five-judge constitution bench asked him. The five judges hearing the triple talaq have a copy each of the English translation of Holy Quran with them for reference that they carry with them when they sit for the day-long hearing.

Whether triple talaq is an integral part of Islam or not will be key to how the judges will rule once they sit down to pen their judgement. If they conclude it is, there may not be an awful lot that the top court will do given how they have zeroed in on points that they will respond in their verdict.

Over the last few days, however, there haven't been too many organisations that have unequivocally backed triple talaq anyways. Those who did, like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), came around to the view that it was an undesirable practice.

But the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board that represents the interests of women from the community has argued that it wasn't fundamental to Islamic tenets. "Can something found to be sinful by God be validated by men through law," asked Justice Kurian Joseph.

Former Union Minister Arif Mohammed Khan had also extensively quoted from the Quran, telling the bench that the Muslim law board had distorted the tenets to ridiculous levels.

On Wednesday, the Centre's top law officer Mukul Rohatgi's arguments counter to the supporters of triple talaq made similar points.

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/holy-quran-in-hand-supreme-court-asks-how-is-triple-talaq-integral-to-islam-1694989

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Pakistani scholars hope US-Arab Islamic summit will ‘end bloodshed’ in region

17 May 2017

The Council of Pakistani Scholars said on Wednesday that it hopes the US-Arab Islamic summit will address the fundamental issues facing the Islamic world today.

The council said in a press release that it has hopes that the summit will find a solution to the radical phenomenon of extremism and terrorism suffered by the Islamic world, which claimed the lives of a large number of its citizens.

The summit will be held in Riyadh in the presence of more than 40 heads of state, including the US president on May 20.

“We hope that this historic summit can end the bloodshed in the Levant, whose sons have been displaced and cities have been destroyed. It is time to find a way to achieve the expectations of this oppressed people, to end the bloody rule of Bashar Assad and curb the aspirations of the Iranian and foreign militias in this country,” the statement read.

Relations between Islamic world and West

Hafiz Mohammad Taher Mahmoud Ashrafi said that the council supports Saudi Arabia’s position in holding this summit, which is the foundation of new relations between the Islamic world and the West.

Ashrafi stated that there are hopes that the leaders of the Islamic world, who are gathering in Riyadh in cooperation with the international forces, can put an end to Iran’s attacks and interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries. Including its support for the Houthi Militia in Yemen and its assistance to the Syrian regime and the killing of Muslims in Iraq.

Furthermore, he stresses that it is necessary to restrain the Iranian influence in the Islamic countries so that peace and security can reign in the region.

The statement praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts in bringing peace and combat extremism and terrorism:

“Terrorism has proven that it is not related to Islam when it attacked the holiest sanctities of Muslims and the tomb of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him in Medina. Saudi Arabia spared no effort to eliminate terrorism and its effects in the Islamic community. We believe in this summit and we affirm we are committed to taking all effective measures to accomplish its goals.”

It also went on to state that the people of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Libya are looking forwards the leaders to end “their long-term suffering” and hope that a solution to their legitimate problems and issues will be found.

“Our peoples also hope that all contentious issues between the Islamic world and the Western world will be resolved on a just basis and that the security and safety of Muslims around the world will be guaranteed,” the council said.

The Council of Scholars of Pakistan reaffirmed its support for this summit and Saudi Arabia in this initiative which aims to resolving the issues of the region.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2017/05/17/Pakistani-scholars-hope-US-Arab-Islamic-summit-will-end-bloodshed-in-region-.html

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Student's Essay on Diversity, Religious Harmony in Indonesia Goes Viral on Facebook

May 18, 2017

Jakarta. Afi Nihaya Faradisa, a young high school student from Banyuwangi, East Java, wrote an essay on Sunday (14/05), which received over 31,000 Facebook "likes" and has been shared by more than 15,000 users, addressing issues of diversity and religious harmony in Indonesia.

Afi Nihaya Faradisa, whose essays have continued to attract many readers on various social media platforms, wrote about the role of national and religious identity in her latest post, "Warisan," ("Legacy") on her Facebook account.

WARISAN Ditulis oleh Afi Nihaya Faradisa Kebetulan saya lahir di Indonesia dari pasangan muslim, maka saya beragama...

Posted by Afi Nihaya Faradisa on Sunday, May 14, 2017

For Afi, legacy refers to her citizenship, her name as well as her faith – all of which were bestowed upon her, none of which was she says were her choice.

In her essay, Afi reminded readers that a country filled with people who share the same faith does not guarantee harmony.

"Some time in the future, we will tell our children and grandchildren how this country was on the verge of division not because of bombs, weapons, bullets or missiles, but because its people fussed about their legacies on social media," Afi wrote.

The writer ended her essay by saying that "we don’t have to think alike, but let’s all think together."

Unlike people in the West who are free from pressure to freely choose their religion or even their name, most Indonesians are pressured to follow their "given identity."

Afi's essay came a time where recent tension surrounding religion and the rampant use of the word kafir (infidel) have caused division among Indonesian communities.

The essay also touched on the 1945 Constitution and Indonesia's official national motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity), as the foundation of Indonesian ideology.

"From the perspective of Pancasila, every one is free to choose and practice their respective religion, but they do not have the right to impose their religion's perspectives and teachings as a benchmark [to evaluate] others who may believe differently," Afi wrote.

Drawing from her own experience, Afi said that she was taught that Islam is the one and only true religion. But as she grew up, she learned that other people believe that about their respective religions.

To further illustrate her point, the young writer quoted renowned Muslim poet Rumi: "The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth."

Going Viral

Afi's essay has garnered praise for her maturity and wisdom, giving her audience a voice of hope and an alternative perspective on how to react to the seemingly divided environment, as opposed to reacting in anger and with blame.

Facebook users were quick to respond, many of whom expressed their appreciation and complimented Afi’s eloquent writing.

"Another intelligent essay…Which can only be understood clearly by them with an open mind and heart. Respect," Facebook user Ni Luh Junial wrote.

"Afi, reading your essay warms the hearts of every reader, I pray that you will be the next generation that the world can be proud of," Endang S wrote.

Afi shares her essays on Facebook regularly, touching on many different topics and aspects of life. She has more than 260,000 Facebook followers.

http://jakartaglobe.id/news/students-essay-on-diversity-religious-harmony-in-indonesia-goes-viral-on-facebook/

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Germany concerned about spread of Wahhabism in Kosovo

May 17, 2017

The German government has expressed concern over the spread of Wahhabism, promoted by the Saudi regime, in Kosovo and other areas in the region.

Wahhabism is a radical ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia and freely preached by clerics supported by the regime in Riyadh. The ideology has been a source of inspiration for terrorists worldwide.

Daesh and other Takfiri terrorist groups take advantage of Wahhabism to declare people of other faiths "infidels." The idea provides a justification for the terrorists to kill those individuals.

Sevim Dagdelen, a Left Party lawmaker, said on Wednesday it was "scandalous" that hard-line Saudi preachers were active in Kosovo under the eyes of Western peacekeepers. Sources within the government have confirmed that argument.

According to the German government, donors from Saudi Arabia and certain other Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf are reportedly funding communities in Kosovo to fuel extremism.

Kosovo has been a major source of recruitment for Takfiri terrorist groups such as Daesh, which is mainly active in Syria and Iraq.

According to a recent study by the International Center for Counter-Terrorism based in The Hague, four European Union member states of Belgium, Britain, France and Germany have been branded as the largest source of European militants fighting in Iraq and Syria. The four European countries contributed to militancy in  the two Arab countries by having 2,838 of their nationals travel to those countries to join terror groups, the study said.

The center, which has used data provided by 26 EU countries, said about 30 percent of European militants have returned home and about 14 percent were killed on the battlefield. It said 17 percent of the militants were women, and up to 23 percent were converts to Islam.

Berlin says there does not appear to be a "broad movement away from traditional liberal interpretation of Islam toward a Wahhabi interpretation" in Kosovo, the Associated Press reported.

In February, Belgium also expressed concern about the matter. A report by De Standaard newspaper said Belgium's OCAM national crisis center had warned about Wahhabism being preached in an increasing number of mosques in the country with financial support from Riyadh. The report also said Saudi Arabia had initiated a "generous" grant system for foreign students who are later encouraged to indoctrinate people in Belgium and other countries with Wahhabism.

In April 2016, the Telegraph newspaper said Wahhabi preachers were spreading extremism across Bosnia. Bosnian parents blamed Wahhabi followers for recruiting their sons to fight alongside militants in battlefields in the Middle East.

Estimates say some 30,000 foreign militants from about 104 countries were fighting in Iraq and Syria in a time span of one year beginning from September 2014. European militants are likely to return to their home countries and, battle-hardened, plot to carry out attacks there.

Back in November 2015, Daesh claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in the French capital, Paris, where a total of 130 people were killed. Investigations revealed that the perpetrators were mostly based in Belgium.

In March 2016, two bomb attacks in Belgium's capital, Brussels, killed at least 14 people and left nearly 100 people wounded.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/05/17/522235/Germany-Wahhabism-Kosovo

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Saudi visit: Trump to ask Muslim leaders to ban raising of funds for extremists

May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON: When US President Donald Trump travels to Saudi Arabia to address the Muslim world this week, participating leaders would be asked to sign a pledge to make it "illegal" in their country to fund outfits that promote extremism and terrorism.

Leaders of more than 50 mostly-Muslim countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan from India's neighbourhood, are scheduled to attend the meeting convened by Saudi Arabia.

Trump would address the gathering on Sunday.

Such a pledge would have a far-reaching implications on countries like Pakistan, where fundraising for terrorist organisations is common and at times supported by the ruling establishment.

While the pledge would be legally non-binding, it would be used for making these countries accountable by the Trump administration, which has made the fight against terrorism a priority, a senior administration official said.

"One of the other things (we are) doing on this trip is to get a lot of countries to sign a pledge to make it illegal in their countries to fund organisations that promote extremism and terrorism. Once we have that we are going to try to figure out where the grey is," an administration official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that White House has been working "very hard" on this.

"Because we want the countries to make a choice, do you want to be good, do you want to be gray or do you want to be bad? We are not going to allow people not to choose their destinations. I am not saying that check this box. (But) we intend to go to these countries and say look you told us that you would do these things then these are the things that we see you doing to the contrary, are you going to stop them or now?" the official said.

According to the official, many of these countries are doing what they are doing because of the circumstances they are in.

"What we find that a lot of these countries find in the gray because the people next to them, ...compete with them... playing in the gray and they are scared to jump. And we feel that if we can get all of them to commit to doing that, we would have a real chance of making progress," the official said.

The official, who has been part of the planning of Trump's maiden overseas trip, acknowledged that a lot of people would say that such a pledge is destined to fail.

But, he added, there's no harm in trying.

"A lot of these countries are saying that they want to be on the good side and cooperate with America. So our job is to take that and then really verify and hold them accountable to them not doing that, and be very honest with them," the official said.

"We want to keep a 100 per cent success as our objective and work as hard as we can to get there," the official said

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/saudi-arabia-visit-trump-to-discuss-extremism-in-afghan-pak-with-muslim-leaders/articleshow/58726439.cms

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India

 

Wait, We're Coming Soon: Kerala ISIS Fugitive in Afghan to Indian 'Faithfull

May 18, 2017

New Delhi: Fugitive Islamic State (IS) preacher from Kerala, Abdul Rashid Abdullah, who is wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for leading 23 residents from the state to join the terrorist group in Afghanistan, is now telling his target audience to travel to the war-torn country instead of waging jihad in India.

In an interview to the Indian Express, Abdullah justified his stand by saying that it has become impossible to wage ‘offensive jihad’ in India.

Today, it is impossible to wage offensive jihad in India. First, we have to consolidate the Caliphate, and then expand its frontiers,” he was quoted as saying.

Abdullah said that ISIS in Afghanistan was telling Indian Muslims to ‘wait, the Caliphate is coming faster than you think’. He claimed that the aim was for ‘the whole world to be ruled by Allah, so he alone can be worshipped, not false gods’.

Calling the Narendra Modi government a ‘blessing in disguise’ for ISIS, Abdullah said in the interview that this is because while Muslims face ‘visible’ oppression in some parts of India, in other parts they do not realise they are being oppressed. Abdullah claimed that the Modi government was planning to change the Constitution, and only then, Muslims would truly be awakened and ‘start searching for a solution’.

Lashing out at Muslim scholars for ‘misleading’ the community in India, Abdullah said that while they claim that it is possible for Muslims to practise their faith fully in India - pray, fast, go for hajj etc, they do not mention that there is no scope for ‘offensive jihad’ in the country.

Stating that Islam seeks to ‘fight evil’, Abdullah said there was evil all around in the country. He blamed the Hindus for practicing idol worship, and said evils like alcoholism, prostitution and homosexuality were also rife in the country. However, Abdullah bemoaned that no Muslim could raise his hand to stop these.

Claiming that Islam was ‘spread by the sword, not by peace’, Abdullah said in the interview that the Prophet Mohammad the Caliph Abu Bakr Siddiq, and their followers conquered the world by the sword, not by doing ‘dawah’.

Dismissing the claim of Muslim scholars in India that campaigning to improve the conditions of Muslims in India was more important than global jihad, Abdullah said education and jobs were pseudo-achievements, and the respect for other religions was anti-Islamic.

“Indian Muslim leaders fall into three categories”, he alleged, “those who do not know the truth, those who deliberately obscure the truth, and those who realise the truth, but only wish to work for it indirectly, fearful of the consequences of speaking out," he added.

Abdullah also claimed that 'any Muslim' supported the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, and called the Caliphate in Afghanistan 'a kind of utopia'. He also said that many Indians, 'far more than you can imagine', were travelling to Afghanistan to fight for ISIS.

Decrying even the fundamentalist Taliban, Abdullah claimed their actions were anti-Islamic because they wanted to implement Sharia only in Afghanistan, not the whole world.

The preacher said that Muslim youth had realised that western philosophy and western ways of life 'rested on shaky foundations' and some had turned to atheism. But he said that the advent of the internet and the knowledge of English had 'opened up a new world' for these youth.

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/180517/wait-were-coming-soon-kerala-isis-fugitive-in-afghan-to-indian-muslims.html

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NDA has made a U-turn on personal law, claims Kapil Sibal

Dhananjay Mahapatra

May 18, 2017

NEW DELHI: By questioning the constitutional validity of triple talaq, the Centre had contradicted the stand taken in 2001 by the then NDA government which had said that personal law could be a legitimate basis for discrimination, counsel for All India Muslim Personal Board Kapil Sibal told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Sibal had argued that personal law practice like triple talaq could not be termed either right or wrong as it is a matter of faith and hence fell outside the purview of the test of constitutional morality. But attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said since the board claims it to be part of personal law, it must meet gender justice, equality and women's dignity as mandated in the Constitution.

Sibal said after the SC in the Shah Bano case ruled that a divorced Muslim woman was entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC beyond the 'iddat' period if she had not remarried and was unable to maintain herself, Parliament had enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 to step around the ruling in 1985.

This law was challenged by Danial Latifi and the SC judgment in this case in 2001 recorded the then NDA government's submissions through its solicitor general, who had defended the validity of the Act saying, "Personal law is a legitimate basis for discrimination, if at all, and, therefore, does not offend Article 14 of the Constitution."

Sibal said, "The governments have changed and the law officers have changed. And, there is a change of stand now. Then they had argued what AIMPLB argues today that perceived discrimination in personal law practices could not be termed to be violative of Article 14. But the NDA government now argues that triple talaq, a personal law practice, must be struck down because it is discriminatory."

Sibal did not mention that matters of a community's faith, depending on the exigencies of a situation, had always been a matter of convenience for any government, be it NDA or UPA. In September 2007, the UPA government had filed an affidavit in the SC in the case relating to dredging of Rama Sethu in Palk Strait, which was challenged by petitioners, including Subramanian Swamy, arguing that the Sethu is a place of worship and matter of faith for Hindus.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nda-has-made-a-u-turn-on-personal-law-claims-sibal/articleshow/58725658.cms

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Forces carry out major search operation in Kashmir's Shopian for 2nd time in two weeks

May 17, 2017

SRINAGAR: In less than two weeks, security forces today conducted the second major cordon-and-search operation in Kashmir's Shopian district but called it off after hours as no militant could be found but not before stone-pelting mobs hampered it.

The search operation, in which a large number of security forces were involved, was launched in Heff village in the Zainapora area following information about presence of militants there, an Army official said.

The operation, which started in the early hours, was hampered by local residents who pelted the forces with stones, a police official said.

The official said additional security force personnel were sent to the area to disperse the stone-pelters.

No casualties were reported in stone-pelting, he said.

The forces did not find any militant or hideouts and as a result, the operation was called off, the official said.

The search operation was carried out two weeks after a similar but larger operation was undertaken in Shopian district which has witnessed a spurt in militant activities recently.

In the operation conducted on May 4, about 4,000 troops scanned two dozen villages of Shopian district for a day but could not find any militant.

However, while the troops were returning on that day, militants attacked an Army patrol, resulting in the death of a taxi driver and injuries to several security personnel.

Six days after that operation, a young Kashmiri Army officer Lt Ummer Fayaz, who was on leave and unarmed, was abducted and shot dead by militants in the same district where he had gone to attend a family wedding.

Major General B S Raju, General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Victor Force which is responsible for security in south Kashmir, had said on Saturday lat that more than 100 militants are active in that region.

"I am aware of the presence of the militants in the area (south Kashmir) and I must tell you that because of the high vegetation that is there, they are having slight amount of freedom but we are doing operations in a way to restrict their movement and subsequently neutralize them, he had said.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/forces-carry-out-major-search-op-in-kashmirs-shopian-for-2nd-time-in-two-weeks/articleshow/58721123.cms

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Asaram victim of Israel, MNCs, says Hindu-Muslim forum

Asad Ashraf   

May 17, 2017

A week ago hundreds of people chanting Hari Om were protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar seeking the release of rape accused Asaram. The banner hanging on the wall behind the stage read Hindu Muslim Ekta Manch, a forum for preserving the traditions and culture of the Hindu way of life in India.

The event was organised by Shiraz Quraishi, who calls himself the brain behind this organisation meant to ‘promote’ Hindu–Muslim unity. Explaining the philosophy behind establishing the organisation, Shiraz said he wants to bridge the gap between the two religious communities that is increasing.

“There is a general perception among Hindus in this country that Muslim Ulema have more privileges than Hindu saints and that Hindu saints are time and again targeted whereas Muslim priests are appeased by the government. To remove this notion from the mind of the masses, we have decided to run a campaign in support of Asaram Bapu, who we believe was a victim of Congress politics. Being a lawyer, I can understand that the charges against Bapu are false and manipulated but unfortunately he has been languishing in jail for four years now,“ said Quraishi. 

He told the Statesman that his organisation is supported by Hindu Mahasabha. Its general secretary Pooja Pandey was present at the event organised in support of Asaram at Jantar Mantar. Pooja Pandey accused the Modi government and current regime of going soft on Hindutva and slammed the Prime Minister for calling Gau Rakshaks anti-social elements.

Shiraz, who is also a member of the Madhya Pradesh Haj committee, claims to have his offices in every major city in India and a few outside India too. He believes that there is involvement of Israel too in implicating Asaram in this case besides several multi-national companies in compliance with Christian missionaries.

“Israel wants to disturb Muslims living in every part of this world. By conspiring against ‘saints’ like Asaram they want to create tension among Hindus and Muslims in India. Besides, big corporations like those involved in soft drinks business are also after him because Asaram had time and protested against them,“ Shiraz added.

Full report at:

http://www.thestatesman.com/india/asaram-victim-of-israel-mncs-says-hindu-muslim-forum-1495037469.html

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Amid student protests, J&K govt warns: Can’t take exams if low on attendance

By Adil Akhzer

May 18, 2017

WITH STUDENT protests continuing across the Valley for over a month now, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided not to allow students to sit for their exams if they fall short of the required attendance.

Speaking to The Indian Express, J&K Education Minister Syed Altaf Bukhari said he has instructed the authorities not to provide any relaxation in the rules. “Exams are starting in schools and colleges soon. If their attendance is low, they (students) will not be allowed to sit for the exams,” he said.

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When contacted, Ghulam Nabi Itoo, Director, School Education (Kashmir), said the minimum attendance required is 90 per cent. “The issue was discussed at a meeting today… If a student does not meet the attendance criteria, he will not be allowed to sit for the exams,” he said.

“We will strictly adhere to the academic schedule, the session will be completed on time and exams will be held on time. I am not a votary of curtailing the syllabus to 50 per cent and then conducting the exams,” said Bukhari.

“The protests started from Pulwama (in April), where security personnel entered the college. But action was taken against the police officer. I am unable to understand why the students are continuing their protests,” said Bukhari.

He said the government has instructed security forces not to enter any educational institute. “You must have seen… there isn’t a single report about (security forces) trespassing into a school anywhere in Kashmir after the Pulwama incident. We have issued clear directions on this,” he said.

The minister said that if the students confined their protests to the campus grounds, it would not be a problem. “But when they come out of their campus, it becomes a law and order problem. I have been appealing to the students that they have a right to demonstrate, but that right is confined to within the four walls of the campus. The moment you leave the campus and protest on the roads, you are not students and it will be dealt with as a law and order issue,” he said.

Asked about the reported use of pellet guns against students in North Kashmir on Tuesday, Bukhari said there was heavy stone-pelting and students also targeted private vehicles. “For the first time, pellets were used yesterday. But the more this issue becomes a law and order problem, the more frequent will be the use of pellets. The use of pellets is wrong and I condemn it. But what can the police do when 4,000-5,000 students are protesting,” said Bukhari.

Stating that there were about 17 such incidents across Kashmir in the last one month, Bukhari said the students have faced “mild” action so far. “Even if they are arrested, students are released immediately, either on the same day, next day or within a few days. So far, only two FIRs have been registered. The number of students arrested and released must be in hundreds. We feel that they don’t have criminal intent, but the protests are getting too much now,” he said.

Bukhari said the students were being “misled” and the government knew who was inciting them. “We know why these protests are happening. I don’t want to name them… do you think it so easy… one day, it happens in Magam, then in Handwara, and then in another area. They are being misled and they (students) have to understand this,” he said.

Asked about the preventive measures being taken by the government, Bukhari said counselling was being done through parents, teachers and principals. “Our major focus is on counselling… we will also ensure that all students who have less attendance won’t be allow to sit for their exams,” he said.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/amid-student-protests-jk-govt-warns-cant-take-exams-if-low-on-attendance-srinagar-unrest-4661321/

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Hyderabad: Three summoned after getting caught on tape talking about IS

May 18, 2017

Hyderabad police have summoned three people detained last year for trying to join the IS. The summons followed a recent TV sting in which Abdullah Basith, Salman Mohiuddin and Abdul Hanan Qureshi purportedly proclaimed support for the IS. The three were caught on tape allegedly saying that they owe allegiance to IS and will go to Syria to join IS if given a chance. They had been enrolled for a de-radicalisation programme and released after detention.

Basith was detained twice; first in West Bengal and later at Nagpur. He purportedly said that he may do something here if he does not find a way to go to Syria. He allegedly added that he will do “something like Dilsukhnagar (blasts)’’ when asked what he might do.

Basith allegedly spoke about implementing Sharia and “kill or get killed’’ in the process. “I reject democracy and Sharia law is best for India. You cannot allow people to make or decide laws,’’ he is purportedly heard saying. Qureshi spoke about how he purportedly contacted Australian recruiter of Syrian-origin, Mohammed Ibn Al-baraa alias Mohammed Zuhbi.

Mohiuddin, who purportedly described his contacts in IS, was detained in January 2015 while he was about to board a plane to Dubai after a US agency tracking his activity on Internet tipped off the police. Qureshi was allegedly part of the group whom Basith had allegedly radicalised. The group had tried to go to Bangladesh via West Bengal in September 2014 and intended to fly to Syria from Dhaka. But they were caught at Malda, brought back and released with a warning.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/hyderabad-three-summoned-after-getting-caught-on-tape-talking-about-is/

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Pakistan

 

Bill calls for setting up think-tank to counter extremism

KALBE ALI

May 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: PML-N MNA Romina Khursheed Alam has tabled a private member’s bill in the National Assembly to establish an institution, similar to a think tank, to fulfil the core objectives of the National Action Plan and promote peaceful conflict management at the grassroots level.

Read: How to tackle violent extremism in society

The bill would establish a National Centre for Countering Extremism, which also indicates that the government has recognised the long term presence of extremism in the country.

The centre’s responsibilities would include identified risk factors that contribute to violent extremism in Pakistani communities and potential remedies for public and private institutions and populations targeted by violent extremist propaganda, messaging or recruitment.

It would manage outreach and engagement efforts directed towards communities and areas at risk of radicalisation and recruitment for violent extremist activities, in addition to ensuring relevant information, research and products inform efforts to counter violent extremism.

The idea did not go down well with the largest religio-political party in the country, and Senator Hafiz Hamdullah from the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) said the establishment of such a centre would be a futile exercise.

He claimed that religious extremists account for “less than 2pc” of society, while secular extremists are found all over and “whenever there is any bill, especially related to women, the secular lobbies become active”.

“The solution to countering extremism is to enforce the writ of the law as per the 1973 Constitution,” he said, adding that the root of extremism in the country were the impositions of martial law and the politicians who supported them.

Similar initiatives are also being taken by the army, and a high level seminar on countering extremism is being held at General Headquarters on Thursday, but the core responsibility for the matter lies with the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta).

The bill states that the chairman of the centre’s board of governors would be the minister for defence. Other members would consist of three MNAs and three senators nominated by the speaker of the National Assembly and the Senate chairman, the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence, a Ministry of Federal Education representative, a Ministry of Interior representative, a Higher Education Commission representative and two experts in the relevant discipline nominated by the federal government.

An independent analyst argued that the centre should be under the prime minister or interior minister, and not directly affiliated with the defence ministry.

“Such centres have been established in many Muslim countries, but this needs serious consideration and should not be taken lightly,” Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies director Amir Rana said.

The bill also said that the centre would help establish undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degrees and other programmes in the relevant discipline, in accordance with the standards and requirements of various universities.

It would also cooperate with other universities or public authorities within and outside Pakistan, recognise selected members of teaching staff from affiliated educational institutions and award fellowships, scholarships, grants and prizes to students from affiliated educational institutions who need financial assistance.

The bill has been forwarded to the relevant standing committee for discussion.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2017

https://www.dawn.com/news/1333835/bill-calls-for-setting-up-think-tank-to-counter-extremism

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Sindh leads in number of casualties from sectarian violence in three months: report

HASAN MANSOOR

May 18, 2017

KARACHI: A study of the first three months of the current year has shown that Sindh dominates the national scene in sectarian violence with 93 of the total 101 people having fallen prey to the menace across the country.

“The province had the highest number of casualties from sectarian violence during this period [Jan-March] followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Punjab,” said the first quarterly report prepared by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), a think tank.

It said that during the same period last year, 79 people were killed in sectarian violence. This year, the number had jumped to 101 in the first quarter — more than 25 per cent increase.

“Also bear in mind that several incidents of potential attacks were also reported that caused no casualties, such as finding and defusing a bomb next to an Imambargah wall in Karachi,” said the report.

In Sindh, said the report, the suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was one of the most fatal attacks of the year that left 91 people dead and 150 injured.

In Karachi, it added, two persons from Shia community became the victims of targeted killing in Nazim­abad and Gulshan. Thus, the report said, 93 people were killed and 150 were injured in Sindh and the remaining eight in other three provinces totalling 101 casualties in the country.

In Balochistan, two persons from Shia Hazara community in Quetta and a Hindu trader in Qilla Abdullah were killed in the incidents of targeted killing.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a Sunni teacher of a seminary was found dead in Chamkani, Peshawar, and three persons from Shia community were gunned down in Prawa tehsil of Dera Ismail Khan.

Punjab had a single casualty recorded when a prominent local leader of the Ahmadi community and a relative of Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam was gunned down in Nankana Sahib.

In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a Shia scholar Allama Tasawar Jawadi and his wife were attacked by unknown assailants leaving them critically injured.

The report said that three militant outfits claimed responsibility for most of the sectarian attacks in the country.

“Daesh [militant Islamic State group] claimed the suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar while the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Al-Aalmi claimed responsibility for the targeted killing of two persons from Shia Hazara community in Quetta,” said the report, adding that after staying dormant for more than a year, the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the targeted killing of an Ahmadi community leader in Nankana Sahib.

“The largest numbers of victims of sectarian violence during this quarter were Sufi devotees [91] followed by the adherents of the Shia sect [five],” said the report.

It said in the last quarter [of last year], the Sufi devotees had the highest number of fatalities as well.

“Daesh has made its presence known by claiming two suicide attacks within last six months,” said the report, adding that while the ongoing operation against Daesh in Syria and Iraq was reclaiming territory, the appearance of IS, or IS affiliates in Pakistan was a matter of great concern.

“Reports indicate that militants from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other proscribed outfits are now shifting their loyalties and joining Daesh. If the trend continues, it may transform the scenario of militancy in the country,” it warned.

Instead of choosing urban centres for violence as has been the case in the past by other militant outfits, said the report, IS has begun attacking the less-guarded, less-settled areas, reflecting a new strategy.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1333777/sindh-leads-in-number-of-casualties-from-sectarian-violence-in-three-months-report

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Four more terrorists convicted by military courts hanged in KP: ISPR

May 18, 2017

Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated that four more terrorists were hanged in Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa today.

According to media wing of military, all four were involved in destroying electricity and communication infrastructure, destruction of educational institutions and attacks on security and law enforcement forces.

The names of the hanged are Muhammad Ibrahim, Rizwan Ullah, Sardar Ali and Sher Muhammad.

All four were convicted by military courts where they pleaded guilty of their crimes.

There is recent surge in hanging of militants convicted by military courts. Pakistan government and army want to give a strong message to militant organisations through these death sentences.

The military courts were given two-year extension by the government after much debate in National Assembly and Senate.

The details of hanged militants released by ISPR is:

Muhammad Ibrahim S/O Maseen.  The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in killing of a civilian, destruction of a bridge and attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan which resulted in death of civilians and a soldier. He was also in possession of explosives. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was awarded death sentence.

Rizwan Ullah S/O Taj Mir Khan.      The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in killing of a civilian, kidnapping WAPDA employee and attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan which resulted in injuries to an officer and a soldier. He was also in possession of fire-arms and explosives. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was awarded death sentence.

Sardar Ali S/O Muhammad Akram Khan.   The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan and destruction of educational institution which resulted in injuries and death of soldiers. He was also in possession of explosives. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was awarded death sentence.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/18-May-2017/four-more-terrorists-convicted-by-military-courts-hanged-in-kp-ispr

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Two Pakistani diplomats ‘held, tortured’ in Kabul

May 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Wednesday summoned Afghan envoy and lodged protest over the “detention” of two Pakistani embassy diplomats in Kabul, the foreign ministry said.

Pakistani sources in Kabul earlier told media in Islamabad that the two embassy members were “forcibly” taken by Afghan security officials when they had gone for shopping. Both were later released.

Reportedly, Afghanistan’s spy agency National Directorate of Security (NDS) took into custody Protocol Assistant Hassan Khanzada and driver Syed Muneer Shah along with their car from a stationery shop.

A Pakistani TV channel quoted sources as saying that the agency kept them in confinement for three hours, during which they were also tortured.

Both the men, after their release, reached the embassy and reported the incident, prompting Pakistan Foreign Office to summon Afghan envoy in Islamabad and lodge a protest.

“The Afghan Deputy Head of Mission (DHM) was summoned to the Foreign Office to lodge Pakistan’s strong protest over the incident...,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Afghan DHM was conveyed that it was a clear violation of the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations and also against the spirit of the brotherly relations between the two countries, the statement said.

“It was emphasised that such incidents undermined the constructive engagement which the two countries envisaged for strengthening of bilateral ties,” it added.

The foreign ministry urged the Afghan government to take immediate steps to ensure the security and safety of Pakistani diplomatic personnel and premises and to ensure that such incident will not take place in future.

The ministry didn’t identify the diplomats and offered no further details. There was no immediate comment from Kabul too.

Ceasefire at Chaman border

Officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday agreed to ceasefire at Chaman border, Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.

A flag meeting of the two sides took place in Chaman. The Pakistani side was led by the chief of Balochistan FC.

The statement said that the Afghan delegation asked Pakistani officials to move their troops out of Killi Jahangir and Killi Luqman “before proceeding for census”.

“Pak delegation maintained that Pak troops are deployed along international border on Pakistan side and shall remain there. Both sides agreed to maintain ceasefire till consensus is reached,” it added.

The border has remained closed after skirmishes killed dozens, with senior Pakistan Army General Amir Riaz telling reporters it would remain so “until Afghanistan changes its behaviour”.

The two countries also plan to use Google Maps to help settle the border dispute. “Officials from the geological survey departments of the two countries will conduct a survey, and they will also make use of Google Maps,” said a senior Pakistani security source in Islamabad who requested anonymity.

Google complies with local laws in certain countries that compel it to show borders in line with national demands. For instance, its Indian site shows the entirety of disputed Kashmir as controlled by India.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/18-May-2017/two-pakistani-diplomats-held-tortured-in-kabul

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Pakistan, Afghanistan announce ceasefire at Chaman border

May 17, 2017

Officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday agreed to ceasefire at Chaman border, Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.

A flag meeting of the two sides took place in Chaman. The Pakistani side was led by the chief of Balochistan FC.

The statement said that the Afghan delegation asked Pakistani officials to move their troops out of Killi Jahangir and Killi Luqman “before proceeding for census”.

“Pak delegation maintained that Pak troops are deployed along international border on Pakistan side and shall remain there. Both sides agreed to maintain ceasefire till consensus is reached,” it added.

The border has remained closed after border skirmishes killed dozens, with senior Pakistan Army General Amir Riaz telling reporters it would remain so "until Afghanistan changes its behaviour".

The two countries also plan to use Google Maps to help settle the border dispute. "Officials from the geological survey departments of the two countries will conduct a survey, and they will also make use of Google Maps," said a senior Pakistani security source in Islamabad who requested anonymity.

Google complies with local laws in certain countries that compel it to show borders in line with national demands. For instance, its Indian site shows the entirety of disputed Kashmir as controlled by India.

In Pakistan, however, the site shows the internationally recognised de facto border, the Line of Control, marked with a dotted line to denote it is disputed.

Pakistan last year began trying to harden the traditionally soft border with Afghanistan through trenching and fencing, but its efforts were met with hostility from Kabul. The so-called "Durand Line", a 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) frontier drawn by the British in 1896 and disputed by Kabul.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/17-May-2017/pakistan-afghanistan-announce-ceasefire-at-chaman-border

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Southeast Asia

 

Zaid: How is beating children part of Islamic education?

May 18, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Zaid Ibrahim has voiced his concern over the treatment of students at tahfiz schools (religious schools) in the country.

Referring to recent reports of how a hostel warden, who is also an ustaz or religious teacher, had beaten and even punched a student until his ribcage was injured, Zaid questioned the rationale for such punishment.

In a series of tweets, the former minister first asked: “How is it that beating children is now part of Islamic education?”

He then took a swipe at Malay right-wing groups, such as Perkasa, who speak up against so many other issues affecting Muslims, calling on them to make a stand on this issue too.

“Perkasa and other Malay rights groups should be on the war path against wardens who beat young boys.”

The other message Zaid tweeted out related his challenge to opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan and how they would deal with the same issue.

“Pakatan should also outline how they will manage tahfiz schools better and how children will not be beaten.”

Yesterday, Harian Metro reported that a 13-year-old boy was beaten with a cane after denying any wrongdoing when questioned over a personal matter by the warden. He was also punched.

The teenager sustained injuries to his ribs and arm.

His father later lodged a police report. According to the Malay daily, the father alleged that this was not the first time his son had been punished by the same person.

The victim was also caned for turning up late for class.

The father also claimed that the ustaz had since apologised for the latest incident and also offered to pay for the medical costs incurred.

The case is being investigated under Section 323 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt.

The latest incident comes barely a month after Mohamed Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, 11, died from his injuries after being beaten with a rubber hose by an assistant warden at a tahfiz school in Johor.

Thaqif’s legs were both amputated in a bid to prevent infection from spreading. He later went into a coma and died on April 26.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/05/18/zaid-how-is-beating-children-part-of-islamic-education/

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LGBT pride march in Taylor’s University cancelled after Islamist pressure

May 18, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — A three-day lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) public awareness campaign that included a pride march that was scheduled for next month in Taylor’s University was cancelled last night.

The event, called “Courage in the Face of Adversity” and organised by its students, was cancelled following protests since Tuesday by pro-Islamists blogs that were incensed it would be held during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“The Pride event in Taylor’s University has been cancelled and will not happen. Please be informed,” the Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative, or Pelangi, said in a brief Facebook status last night.

Pelangi, one of the supporters of the event, said it will deliver a statement on the matter soon.

There has been no public statement so far from the student organisers, who called themselves “Pride Not Prejudice”, besides the deletion of the event’s Facebook page.

Malay Mail Online is currently seeking verification over the cancellation from Taylor’s University and its School of Communications, both listed as co-organisers of the event.

Other supporters of the event included Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor or EMPOWER, PT Foundation, SEED Foundation, Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces or KRYSS, and Gerakbudaya.

The event planned for June 6 to 8, more than a week after Ramadan begins, would include a movie screening, forum, exhibition, open mic session, and a pride march at Taylor’s Lakeside Campus.

Yesterday was International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, when activists worldwide co-ordinate international events to raise awareness of LGBT rights violations.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/lgbt-pride-march-in-taylors-university-cancelled-after-islamist-pressure

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Indonesian men sentenced to public caning for "gay sex"

May 17, 2017

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- A Shariah court in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time, further undermining the country's moderate image after a top Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy.

The court, whose sentencing Wednesday coincided with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, said the men, aged 20 and 23, would each be subjected to 85 lashes for having sexual relations. One of the men cried as his sentence was read out and pleaded for leniency. The chief prosecutor, Gulmaini, who goes by one name, said they will be caned next week, before Ramadan starts on about May 25.

The couple was arrested in late March after neighborhood vigilantes in the provincial capital Banda Aceh suspected them of being gay and broke into their rented room to catch them having sex. Mobile phone footage that circulated online and formed part of the evidence shows one of the men naked and visibly distressed as he apparently calls for help on his cellphone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.

The lead judge, Khairil Jamal, said the men were "legally and convincingly proven to have committed gay sex."

He said the three-judge panel decided against imposing the maximum sentence of 100 lashes because the men were polite in court, cooperated with authorities and had no previous convictions.

"As Muslims, the defendants should uphold the Shariah law that prevails in Aceh," Jamal said.

International human rights groups have described the treatment of the men as abusive and humiliating and called for their immediate release. Human Rights Watch said in April that public caning would constitute torture under international law.

Prosecutors had asked that they receive 80 lashes.

Indonesia's reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam has been battered in the past year due to attacks on religious minorities, a surge in persecution of gays and a polarizing election campaign for governor of the capital Jakarta that highlighted the growing strength of hard-line Islamic groups.

Earlier this month, the outgoing Jakarta governor, a minority Christian, was sentenced to two years in prison for campaign comments deemed as blaspheming the Quran. The judges also imposed a tougher sentence than sought by prosecutors who had ultimately downgraded the charge from blasphemy and asked for just two years of probation.

"The prosecution is very harsh. The verdict is harsher," said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch. "It shows the increasingly conservative judiciary in Indonesia," he said.

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia allowed to practice Shariah law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a war with separatists, but some other areas have introduced Shariah-style bylaws.

Full report at:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/indonesia-men-sentenced-caning-gay-sex-muslim-shariah-court-aceh/

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Philippines Declines EU Aid After Securing Billions From China

May 18, 2017

Manila. The Philippine government has told the European Union it will no longer accept development aid from the bloc, putting at risk programs to assist poor and conflict-hit regions in the country's south, Europe's ambassador said on Wednesday (17/05).

Ambassador Franz Jessen said the decision to cut aid from the EU, a strong critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's drugs war, would mean the loss of about 250 million Euros ($278.73 million) worth of grants mostly allocated to Muslim communities.

Manila's move comes days after Duterte won billions of dollars in pledges from China after attending the Belt and Road summit in Beijing.

"The Philippine government has informed us they no longer accept new EU grants," Jessen said without elaborating.

The EU will issue a statement on Thursday, officially announcing the end of its funding agreement with the Philippines.

There was no immediate response from the Philippines' foreign ministry.

Duterte says European nations don't understand the extent of the narcotics problem in the Philippines.

Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defense during legitimate operations.

The EU has been providing support to Manila's efforts to end nearly 50 years of Muslim rebellion in a conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 1 million and stunted growth in one of the country's resource-rich regions.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/international/philippines-declines-eu-aid-securing-billions-china/

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Jokowi Ready to 'Beat Up' Anyone Who Disrupts Indonesia's Unity

May 18, 2017

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Wednesday (17/05) he will not hesitate to "beat up" anyone who disrupts the unity of Indonesia.

"I used the word 'beat up.' Had I used 'ear pulling,' people would think the government isn't bold enough," Jokowi said at the State Palace during a meeting with chief editors of several Indonesian newspapers.

The president said that one of the factors that have caused political turmoil during the recent gubernatorial election in Jakarta, was dissatisfaction of some interest groups which saw their businesses endangered by several governmental policies, especially on oil and gas trading and meat prices.

Another factor, according to Jokowi, is the 2019 presidential election, for which campaigning had already begun.

"We know 2019 is near, and this [political turmoil] will be utilized from now on," he said.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jokowi-ready-beat-anyone-disrupts-indonesias-unity/

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Europe

 

Muslim campaign groups publish key demands ahead of UK election

18 May 2017

Organisations representing Muslims in the UK this week launched their manifestos ahead of the 8 June general election in an attempt to lobby potential parliamentarians on the issues they believe matter most to Muslim communities across the country.

Addressing concerns over the rise of Islamophobia and counter-terrorism strategies, as well as calling for more engagement with a range of representatives from Muslim communities, were on top of the lists of demands made by the various advocacy groups.

In its manifesto published on Tuesday, the anti-Islamophobia advocacy group Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) called on the UK’s leading political parties to focus on “key areas of concern to Britain’s Muslim community” which include the rise of Islamophobic hate crime post-Brexit, anti-Muslim discrimination in the workplace and preserving access to halal meat and the freedom to wear religious dress.

“We’ve sent it [the document] out to all the political parties nationally and also locally we are approaching all the potential parliamentary candidates,” said Azad Ali, head of community development and engagement at MEND.

“The idea is to target widely all the different constituencies across the countries, but because we are focusing on the Muslim community, we are focusing on some of those key areas where the Muslim vote is perhaps higher,” he told Middle East Eye, mentioning places like Birmingham, Bradford and East London.

According to MEND, “The UK’s Muslim community could potentially have a decisive outcome in over 80 seats” at the upcoming elections.

“In 83 parliamentary constituencies, Muslims make up an estimated 10 percent or more of electoral voters… making the Muslim vote significant in determining key battleground seats in June’s upcoming elections,” the group said in a statement.

Concerns over counter-terrorism

The group’s manifesto also called on political parties to take British Muslims’ concerns over counter-terrorism strategies in the UK more seriously.

The launch of the document came as Muhammad Rabbani, the international director of human rights group Cage, was charged after being arrested during a Schedule 7 examination at London's Heathrow Airport last year. Rabbani said that he declined to disclose passwords for a phone and a laptop to protect the confidentiality of a client.

Since the war in Syria started in March 2011, between 700 and 850 British citizens are estimated to have travelled there to fight with anti-government militants.

"Within the current climate on radicalisation and Syria, listening to the voices of young British Muslims is therefore crucial if the UK government, the police and other key stakeholders are serious about preventing the escalation of young people going out to fight in Syria," wrote Imran Awan, Associate Professor in Criminology and an expert on issues related to Islamophobia.

As a means to facilitating these demands, MEND also called on British Muslims to refer to a list of hustings’ questions which the group had produced to help voters raise their concerns when interacting with candidates.

In the run up to the May 2015 general elections, MEND had built links with both major parties – and been chosen as an “official partner” by the Electoral Commission for the poll – after claiming to promote “democratic engagement” by Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) also published a document listing eight key issues of importance to British Muslims, which overlapped with MEND’s manifesto.

“We [MEND and MCB] have similar interests in the areas of Islamophobia, concerns with the counter-terrorism legislation and the protection of human rights… that kind of stuff we share similar asks,” Ali told MEE.

The MCB’s document included a list of demands asking potential parliamentary candidates to commit to defending the right of Muslims to observe their faith, to combat Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination, to increase the participation of minorities in public life as well as develop an inclusive national curriculum reflecting the diverse religious and ethnic identities of the British community.

Harun Khan, Secretary General of the MCB, said: "As the election approaches, we hope that all the main parties engage with Muslim communities and Muslim communities themselves engage in the democratic process. We have seen many arrange hustings, Q&A sessions and even go out campaigning for their local candidate - it is an important election - make your voice heard."

The MCB is a national representative umbrella body of the Muslim community in the UK with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations including mosques, charities and schools.

The group also made more international demands including a call on potential parliamentarians to recognise Palestine as an independent state and to uphold principles of poverty alleviation and justice in UK foreign policy.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uk-muslim-advocacy-groups-publish-key-demands-ahead-june-elections-1352453825

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Putin says Islamic world can ‘count on Russia’

18 May 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia would always be a "reliable ally" to the Islamic world.

"I would like to stress that the Islamic world can fully count on Russia's help and support," Putin said in an address to participants of the "Russia-Islamic world" strategic vision group.

"We are ready to boost cooperation with our partners in confronting terrorist forces as well as in search for ways to peacefully resolve regional crises," the Russian president stated.

Putin went on to express confidence that by combining efforts, global security and stability could be strengthened.

"We support the position of Muslim countries to strengthen values such as justice and the rule of law in international relations," Putin told vision group participants.

"Together we can build a fair and democratic world order, free of any kind of intolerance, discrimination and military dictate," he added.

The Russia-Islamic World strategic vision group was established in 2006, in the response to Russia joining the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as an observer.

Full report at:

https://www.dailysabah.com/mideast/2017/05/17/putin-says-islamic-world-can-count-on-russia

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Germany may vote to move troops in Turkey as row with Ankara deepens

17 May 2017

Germany’s foreign minister on Wednesday said parliament would likely vote on withdrawing troops involved in the fight against ISIS in Syria from a Turkish military base if Ankara persisted in denying German lawmakers access to the site.

Turkish officials have told Reuters a visit by German lawmakers to some 250 German troops stationed at Incirlik to provide logistical support to the US-led coalition would not be appropriate at the moment.

The deepening row has further soured relations that became increasingly strained ahead of a constitutional referendum in Turkey that handed President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

“I can only hope that the Turkish government changes its mind in the coming days. Otherwise, the German parliament will certainly not leave the soldiers in Turkey,” Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung.

Gabriel’s comments struck a tough tone after Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday said that Berlin might move the troops elsewhere.

Spiegel Online has reported that Germany was exploring the possibility of redeploying the soldiers to Jordan. The Berliner Zeitung reported that the opposition Greens and Left parties were calling for a vote on pulling the soldiers out.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply after a series of diplomatic rows.

Turkey was angered by Germany’s cancellation of political rallies in support of Erdogan ahead of the Turkish referendum and is furious that Germany is granting asylum to Turks accused of participating in a failed coup last July.

The failed putsch prompted a purge of the Turkish military, judiciary and civil service. German officials have said more than 400 Turkish citizens with diplomatic passports and other government work permits had sought asylum in Germany since then.

Mass-selling daily Bild reported that two Turkish generals had sought asylum at Frankfurt airport late on Tuesday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2017/05/17/Germany-may-vote-to-move-troops-in-Turkey-as-row-with-Ankara-deepens.html

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Protest in Geneva targets Syrian detentions

17 May 2017

Members of the Syrian opposition delegation who participated in recent peace talks gathered in front of United Nations building in Geneva on Wednesday to protest against detentions by the Syrian regime.

 "We are Syrian families demanding freedom for all the country's sons and daughters. These demands are not just for our own families, but for every Syrian family with a detainee. Our position is against enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention by the Syrian regime and all parties to the conflict," the members of the Syrian opposition delegation said in Arabic and English.

"We, as families, demand the immediate release of our relatives who have been unlawfully detained," they said.

The 50 protesters or so called for pressuring the Syrian regime and all warring sides to immediately release the detainees, whose names were included in a list, along with their current locations and statuses, and to immediately stop torture and mistreatment.

The head of the opposition delegation, Nasr al-Hariri wrote the names of detainees on a sheet of paper which he placed on the ground in front of UN Office in Geneva.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday will meet separately with the delegations of Syrian regime and opposition on the second day of a sixth round of peace talks in Geneva.

The current round of talks is expected to end on Friday. The delegation from the Syrian regime is headed by Bashar Jaafari. The opposition is led by Nasr al-Hariri from the High Negotiations Committee.

The main discussions are to focus on a new constitution, governance, elections and the fight against terrorism.

Upon arrival in Geneva on Monday, Hariri said: "The road to Syria's freedom runs through Geneva.

“That is why we have come here, committed to negotiate a political solution. And that is why [Bashar al-] Assad is frightened of this process. He is afraid to engage with the agenda of political transition."

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/189641/protest-in-geneva-targets-syrian-detentions

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North America

 

Trump to encourage GCC to form NATO-like force for the Middle East

18 May 2017

United States President Donald Trump will use his upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia to encourage Gulf states to form a NATO-like force for the Middle East, a senior administration official was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

According to a Washington Post report, discussions of the project said that in addition to Saudi Arabia, initial participants in the coalition would include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, with the United States playing an organizing and support role while staying outside of the proposed alliance.

The news comes as the US is close to completing a series of arms deals with the kingdom totaling more than $100 billion, a senior White House official told Reuters earlier this month. Over 10 years, total sales could reach $350 billion.

A day earlier, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of a state-owned military industrial company aimed at contributing more than 14 billion riyals ($3.7 billion) to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030.

Trump is scheduled to be in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, from Saturday on his first foreign trip since taking office in January.

The Saudi-hosted summit of Arab and Muslim leaders is expected to include top level talks on Sunday.

Trump will also give a major speech on the Islamic faith during visit to Saudi Arabia, home to the religion’s holiest shrines, the White House said on Tuesday.

“He will meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, where he will deliver an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam,” National Security Advisor HR McMaster told reporters.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/05/18/Trump-to-encourage-GCC-to-form-NATO-like-force-for-the-Middle-East.html

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Trump doesn't plan to use Israel trip to announce embassy move

18 May 2017

US President Trump will encourage Gulf countries to form a Middle East force such as the Atlantic Alliance, during his anticipated visit to Saudi Arabia, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

The official said Trump is not planning to announce the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem on his visit to Israel.

He added that the Trump administration does not want to complicate attempts to resume the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by announcing the embassy move.

Last March, US Vice President Mike Pence spoke of the possibility of transferring the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Pence said then that Trump was "seriously considering it."

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/05/18/Official-Trump-will-not-announce-the-relocation-of-US-the-embassy-to-Jerusalem-.html

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John Guandolo Discusses The Muslim Brotherhood’s Network in America, Attacks the Media

May 17, 2017

The Muslim Brotherhood operates a nationwide network of Islamic organizations actively working to subvert America and establish an Islamic State governed by Sharia law, former FBI agent John Guandolo explained during an interview on “The Alex Nitzberg Show.” Guandolo, the founder of UnderstandingtheThreat.com, said:

“There are thousands of organizations whose stated objective, if they’re Muslim Brotherhood, is to wage civilization jihad in order to impose Islamic State here.”

He says that he conservatively estimates that “well over seventy percent” of the “over 3000 mosques, Islamic centers in the United States right now,” belong to “the Muslim Brotherhood’s network.” During the interview, Guandolo explained:

“…the 2008 Holy Land Foundation trial that was adjudicated in Dallas, Texas was the culmination of a 15-year FBI investigation—it was the largest terrorism financing and Hamas trial in American history ever successfully prosecuted—and it revealed that the prominent Islamic organizations in the United States are a part of a movement led by the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood to establish an Islamic state under Sharia, the same objective as ISIS and Al Qaeda.”

While the case yielded “hundreds of unindicted coconspirators” Guandolo said that plans to indict “the leader of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Omar Ahmad, and CAIR itself” never came to fruition because Eric Holder “shut that down and we have not prosecuted anyone else since HLF was convicted…”

Many other groups could be indicted based on existing evidence Guandolo said. In addition to CAIR, he specifically mentioned the Islamic Society of North America, the North American Islamic Trust, the Muslim Student Association, and the Muslim Youth of North America.

Guandolo sharply criticized the media’s failure to alert the public to the terror threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s network. Asked why the media do not regularly report this information or even cover it at all, he replied:

“Well, because my experience is that the media is on the side of the socialists and the Marxists and they are not patriotic and they are not for the United States.”

He also said reporters’ laziness is a significant problem, noting that he has asked “At least a hundred journalists just in the last few years” whether they have ever researched Sharia or the Holy Land Foundation, and they have replied that they have never read about those issues.

Guandolo believes that journalists should face prosecution in some cases:

“If you can demonstrate that they have been provided the facts and they know and they continue to report and defend a terrorist group, yes, I would argue legally…that is material support of terrorism.”

Questioned about academia, Guandolo said that, “…most of our supposed great universities are havens for socialist thought…” He stated that, “the biggest problems in this war are academics who, in my personal opinion, seem to have lost the ability to reason and logically think through problems.”

The Muslim Students Association (MSA) founded in 1963 was “the very first national Islamic organization in America” according to Guandolo who explained that it “was created also by the Muslim Brotherhood cuz Hamas is an inherent part of the Muslim brotherhood.”

Currently the MSA has about 800 chapters on campuses across the country. Guandolo also said that, “Americans for Palestine, AFP, is a Hamas front now on college campuses and there are new ones popping up all the time. It’s a very pro-Hamas, pro-Sharia movement going on, on college campuses right now.”

Sharia requires Muslims to wage jihad, “until the entire world is under Islamic rule,” Guandolo stated. He said that according to Islamic teaching, “…Islam is a complete way of life: social, cultural, military, political and religious all governed by Islamic law, and all Islamic law, as I just said, obliges jihad and jihad is only legally defined in Islamic law as warfare against non-Muslims.”

Islamic doctrine teaches Muslims to lie when deception is deemed necessary to accomplish “obligatory” objectives and because jihad and the creation of a caliphate under Sharia are obligatory objectives, Guandolo explained:

“So what we need to understand is the way you know an Islamic leader is lying is when he’s talking to you, when his mouth is moving.”

This license to lie makes it very difficult for the U.S. government to implement effective vetting procedures and Guandolo said America should “…stop putting Muslims in positions of responsibility until we find a way to…vet them, and I’m not sure we’re gonna find it, but you cannot put people in the positions—especially given the now 15-year history since 9/11—where so many of these people put into sensitive positions have turned out to be bad guys.”

He said “It’s the majority of the people that our government is working with, the vast majority, are batting for the other team. I mean you’d have to work to find someone that’s not—that’s a problem.”

According to Guandolo, America fails to win the war on terror because the U.S. government takes advice from the enemy:

“When we can demonstrate that one hundred percent of the advisors—Islamic advisors at the Pentagon, the White House, the FBI, the CIA—are Muslim Brothers or…part of the Muslim sisterhood, but primarily Muslim Brothers, and those are the people that we’ve relied on to advise us on how to fight the war, both overseas and domestically our counterterrorism strategy, that would explain why we’re getting thrown all over the map and why we’ve been getting…the floor mopped up with us for the last 15 years.”

Full report at:

https://www.aim.org/aim-column/john-guandolo-discusses-the-muslim-brotherhoods-network-in-america-attacks-the-media/

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Group in Maryland Is Recruiting Muslim Candidates for Office

May 17, 2017

POTOMAC, Md. (AP) — A newly formed political action committee based in Potomac says it will train 30 Muslim Americans to run for state and local offices in Maryland in 2018 and also will recruit hundreds of other candidates across the country.

"If we are not at the table of democracy, we may end up on the menu of authoritarianism," said Hamza Khan, a longtime Democratic activist in Montgomery County who is executive director of the Pluralism Project. "By training Muslim candidates in the skills they need to run for and win political office, we intend to empower Muslims to take back control of their narrative in the American experience."

Khan announced the recruitment of the 30 Maryland candidates on Monday but would not identify them or say which offices they will seek.

Just over half the candidates are women; their average age is about 39 years old, and 95 percent were born in the United States, Khan said. Half of the candidate pool is from Montgomery County, which is believed to have the state's largest Muslim population.

Few Muslims have run for elected office in Maryland before, and most who have are men, Khan said, which is why the Pluralism Project particularly encouraged Muslim women to run.

"They are a marginalized community within a marginalized community," he said.

The Pluralism Project is a hybrid PAC, which means it is a blend of a traditional political action committee and a super PAC. Hybrid PACs can raise unlimited amounts of cash to support candidates through advertisements and limited amounts of money to donate directly to candidates.

Khan said his group plans to focus its attention on training, not fundraising, for specific races. Candidates will be given tips on giving stump speeches, raising money and developing a "field plan."

Khan said the committee spread the word about its efforts by connecting with local mosque boards, youth groups, labor unions and progressive groups. All have seen a surge of interest and activism, he said, since the 2016 campaign and election of President Trump, a Republican.

Full report at:

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/maryland/articles/2017-05-17/group-in-maryland-is-recruiting-muslim-candidates-for-office

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Questions about Islam answered at Peterborough session Thursday

May 17, 2017

National Ask Islam spokesperson Ahmed Sahi hopes visitors will talk walk away from an upcoming question and answer session with a better understanding of the oft-misunderstood faith.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association will host the event starting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Peterborough Lions Community Centre. The event will include a free dinner and interactive question and answer session.

There is an acute shortage of correct, genuine and authentic information on Islam in Canada, where most only known what they see in the media, organizers stated.

But that ignores most of a vast religion that spans hundreds of cultures and dozens of countries with rich and deep traditions of learning and spirituality, they added.“It is important to provide our fellow Canadians with the correct information,” Sahi said. “That helps everybody ... We’re all in this together.”

Breaking down barriers is critical, he added, explaining how the teachings of Islam do not include anything that Canadians would not respect – something that organizers aim to shine more light on through the nationwide initiative.

Ask Islam was launched to provide Canadians with an open platform to learn about Islam from fellow Muslims in Canada.

The events typically hear a broad spectrum of questions, Sahi said, from topics such as jihad, Sharia law to the doctorate and philosophy of Islam and the Quran.

The current campaign comes at an important time as increasing controversy surrounding Islam and Muslims in the west has created misunderstandings about Islam and a growing apprehension of Muslims, organizers stated.

As a result, there is a growing need of grass root engagement to remove these misconceptions.

Full report at:

http://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/2017/05/17/questions-about-islam-answered-at-peterborough-session-thursday

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South Asia

 

23 militants killed, 4 of their hideouts destroyed in US airstrikes in Helmand

May 18 2017

At least twenty three militants were killed in airstrikes conducted by the US forces in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government in a statement said at least four hideouts of the militants were also destroyed in the airstrikes.

The statement further added that the airstrikes were carried out in the vicinity of Garamser district of Helmand.

The first airstrike targeted two vehicles of the militants carrying nine militants and were travelling in the vicinity of Kamarbandi (Kharko) area, leaving all nine militants dead and the two vehicles totally destroyed, the statement said.

The statement also added that the second airstrike was carried out in the vicinity of Omarzo area as the personnel of the 215th Maiwand Corps of the Afghan army were busy conducting counter-terrorism operations.

The provincial government said at least 14 insurgents including five Pakistanis were killed in the airstrike and 8 others were wounded and four of their hideouts were destroyed.

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

http://www.khaama.com/23-militants-killed-4-of-their-hideouts-destroyed-in-us-airstrikes-in-helmand-02767

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Suicide bombers storm Afghan state broadcaster

May 18, 2017

JALALABAD -  Suicide bombers stormed the national television station in Afghanistan's Jalalabad city on Wednesday, killing six people as gunfights and explosions rocked the building with journalists trapped inside, officials and eyewitnesses said.

At least 17 others were left wounded in the four-hour assault on Radio Television Afghanistan, which marks the latest in a string of attacks on media workers in the conflict-torn country.

Islamic State jihadists have claimed responsibility for the raid in eastern Nangarhar province, where the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb last month in an unprecedented strike.

"There were four attackers - one blew himself up at the gate, killing the guard. Three others entered the building but were killed after our security forces fought them for four hours," Nangarhar Governor Gulab Mangal told reporters.

"Six people, including four civilians and two policemen, were killed and 17 others wounded," he added. A health worker told AFP that many of those brought to hospital suffered gunshot wounds.

Among the dead were four RTA employees, including a driver, a guard, and two technical personnel, according to Mangal. Seventeen civilians and seven members of the security forces were wounded, he added.

An RTA photographer said he fled the building as soon as the gunfight erupted, but many of his colleagues were stuck inside until the assailants were killed.

Nangarhar province is a hotbed of IS jihadists, who claimed Wednesday's attack through its propaganda agency Amaq, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

The US military last month dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb - dubbed the "Mother Of All Bombs" - on IS positions in Nangarhar, killing dozens of jihadists.

The bombing triggered global shock waves, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban.

According to the US Forces-Afghanistan, defections and recent battlefield losses have reduced the local IS presence from a peak of as many as 3,000 fighters to a maximum of 800.

The Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity - a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago. Wednesday's attack underscores the growing dangers faced by media workers in Afghanistan as the security situation worsens.

The country suffered its deadliest year on record for journalists in 2016, according to the Afghan Journalists' Safety Committee (AJSC), adding that the country is the second most dangerous for reporters in the world after Syria.

As least 13 journalists were killed last year, AJSC said, claiming that the Taliban was behind at least ten of the deaths.

In January last year, seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo, which is often critical of the insurgents, were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul in what the militant group said was revenge for "spreading propaganda" against them.

It was the first major attack on an Afghan media organisation since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.

Dan Coats, the head of US intelligence agencies, warned last week that the security and political situation in Afghanistan "will also almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in the military assistance by the US".

US-led forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, making it America's longest war.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/18-May-2017/suicide-bombers-storm-afghan-state-broadcaster

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'It all depends on how I behave' - press freedom under threat in Bangladesh

Michael Safi

18 May 2017

Mahfuz Anam still laughs at the size of the damages claims he was landed with last year.

“It amounted to about US $8bn [£6.2bn],” the editor of Bangladesh’s Daily Star newspaper said. “I’m in the realm of Bill Gates.”

In a two-week flurry in February 2016, Anam was served with about 67 criminal defamation cases and 16 sedition charges.

Most were lodged by members of the Awami League, Bangladesh’s ruling party. “It was farcical,” he said from his office in Dhaka.

“Its purpose was to intimidate me and my institution. The message was: if we can do that to the Daily Star and its editor, we can do it to anybody.”

Avoiding jail became a logistical challenge. The cases had been lodged in far-flung districts across Bangladesh deliberately, Anam said.

As a result, he spent weeks traversing the country making bail applications, some scheduled for the same time in multiple districts at once. “It was legal harassment,” he said.

The Bangladesh high court criticised the charges and stayed them in April last year. Those suing Anam have yet to respond to the court’s decision and the cases are sitting in limbo.

Anam still eyes the charges warily. “A stay means they are frozen in time,” he said.

“If the government felt I was exercising too much press freedom, they could revive the cases … or they could institute new ones. It all depends on how I behave.”

The spree of killings of writers and LGBT activists in Bangladesh in the past four years has drawn international scrutiny.

But editors, journalists and bloggers in the south Asian country say they have plenty of other worries – not just the threat of machete attacks from Muslim extremists.

The Bangladesh government is increasingly charging and jailing writers using vague new laws against “prejudicing the image” of the state, threatening national security, and “hurting religious belief”, according to a report this month from Amnesty International.

“Between the violence of armed groups and state repression, secular voices in Bangladesh are being consistently silenced,” said Olof Blomqvist, the Bangladesh researcher for the London-based human rights group.

Prothom Alo, another national newspaper, has faced more than 100 criminal cases against its staff since 2013, nearly half of them still awaiting resolution in Bangladesh’s overburdened legal system, according to the report.

Along with the Daily Star, Prothom Alo is also being starved of advertising revenue.

In mid-2015, Bangladesh military intelligence reportedly took exception to the newspaper’s coverage of militants in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

At least one major corporation has admitted it and several others were called by the military and ordered to cease advertising in both outlets, which share an owner.

The informal ban remains in place, according to Amnesty, and has cost the newspapers at least 25% of their advertising revenue.

Section 57 of Bangladesh’s digital communications act is singled out by media workers as particularly harmful.

Amended in 2013 to allow police to arrest people without a warrant, the section punishes any media perceived to have deliberately attacked religion or undermined the state.

According to Odhikar, a Dhaka-based human rights organisation, at least 82 people have been arrested under the law between January 2014 and December last year.

Among them is AKM Wahiduzzaman, an environmental researcher and blogger who has been critical of the government’s human rights record.

He told the Guardian he was briefly held in jail on remand in 2013 after being accused of making derogatory comments about Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the prime minister, on his Facebook page.

“People like us who write on blogs and social media are always under threat,” he said.

“Those who write against the government are threatened under Section 57 and get arrested, detained and tortured by police.

“And those who write against religion are threatened by fanatic followers of those religions,” he said.

Afsan Chowdhury, a veteran journalist and researcher, said: “In terms of media freedom, Bangladesh is going through a very major transition.”

He said that throughout the country’s brief history (it established independence from Pakistan in 1971), media had traditionally been aligned with one of the two political parties who had alternately controlled the government.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/18/it-all-depends-on-how-i-behave-press-freedom-under-threat-in-bangladesh

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Afghan intelligence foil Taliban attack plans in Kabul city

May 18 2017

The Afghan intelligence operatives have foiled plans by the Taliban group to carry out a series of attacks in capital Kabul.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) in a statement said Wednesday that a hideout of the Taliban insurgents was busted in capital Kabul, resulting to the killing of a Taliban insurgent.

The statement further added that the operation was conducted in the vicinity of Mosahi district of Kabul.

The Taliban insurgent killed during the operation was actively involved in terrorist attacks and bombings, NDS said, adding that two of his companions were also arrested during the operation.

The Afghan intelligence operatives also confiscated three Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), large cache of ammunition, and documents for spreading propaganda in favor of the Taliban group along with other types of military equipment and kits, NDS added.

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

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/afghan-intelligence-foil-taliban-attack-plans-in-kabul-city-02768

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ISIS claims responsibility for the attack on Nangarhar television

May 18 2017

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group offshoot in Afghanistan, ISIS Khurasan, claimed responsibility behind the attack on television station in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

ISIS in a statement said the attack was carried out by a group of suicide bombers belonging to the group.

The attack was launched around 10:30 am local time after a group of at least four suicide bombers stormed the compound of the radio and television station in Jalalabad city, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province.

Provincial governor Gulab Mangal told reporters that the attack ended after all four suicide bombers were shot dead by the security forces.

He said clashes between the security forces and the insurgents continued for almost three hours before they were eliminated.

Mangal further added that four people, all workers of the television, were killed during the attack and at least 24 others were wounded.

According to Mangal, seven security personnel and 17 civilians were among those wounded during the clashes.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/isis-claims-responsibility-for-the-attack-on-nangarhar-television-02766

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Arab World

 

Shiite sheikh’s house shot at by unknown assailants in Saudi’s Qatif

17 May 2017

What has been said about Sheikh Abdallah al-Khanizi’s house being shot at by unknown assailants, with bullets entering his home, is correct.

An eye witness said that since he was outside the kingdom, he called to check up and the sheikh was in good health and no one was hurt, highlighting that bullets have gone through from the windows of the house. The authorities and the neighbors were informed of the incident.

He pointed out that the news has sparked uproar in the community especially due to the house being for the Shiite sheikh, with his current health condition since he has gone through an operation a month and a half ago after breaking his thigh, and he is currently healing.

Earlier in the week, A new video from inside the restive al-Awamiya neighborhood showed a car carrying terrorists shooting at citizens and security officers.

Two people, including an infant, were killed and 10 others wounded after terrorists shot at workers at a development project in the eastern Qatif governorate and left the scene.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/05/17/Shia-sheikh-s-house-shot-at-by-unknown-assailants-in-Saudi-s-Qatif.html

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Prominent Bahraini Activist Slams US Arms Sales to Manama, Riyadh

May 17, 2017

Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has slammed the US government for arms sales to the Manama regime and Saudi Arabia.

The jailed activist made the remarks in an op-ed article published in The New York Times on Wednesday ahead of a scheduled visit by US President Donald Trump to Riyadh for a regional summit.

The Trump "administration already decided to lift all human rights restrictions on arms sales to my country, Bahrain, which is a partner in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen," he said.

Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstate Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement. The Riyadh regime has, however, failed to reach its goals despite suffering great expense.

"It fills me with shame that my country, Bahrain, is bombing Yemen, with United States support. And while the Saudi-led coalition continues its air assault on Yemen, Bahrain is also trying to crush civil society back home," he added.

Earlier this month, a senior official in the Trump administration announced that the US was close to completing an over $100 billion dollar arms sale with the kingdom.

“Does the Trump administration know that former Bahraini soldiers have left the country to join Daesh? Does Washington know that Bahrain allows no Shia citizens in its military even though Shias are a majority of the population? Does the White House know that the Bahraini army is a sectarian force that publishes books endorsing the murder of Shias who do not “repent?”' he added.

Rajab is being held in detention, pending trial on alleged charges of insulting the Bahraini ruling dynasty. He has been arrested multiple times in recent years over anti-regime protests in Bahrain. The activist was pardoned for health reasons in 2015 before being rearrested in June 2016. He is currently on trial for tweets and statements deemed insulting to the Manama and Riyadh regimes.

Anti-regime protesters have taken to the streets of Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since the popular uprising began in the tiny Persian Gulf country in February 2011.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/05/17/522284/bahrain-nabeel-rajab-oped

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Tens of ISIL Terrorists Killed in Failed Attack on Syrian Army Positions in Deir Ezzur

May 17, 2017

The army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in al-Maqaber (cemetery) region and al-Mowazafin neighborhood in the Southern outskirts of Deir Ezzur city and managed to repel their attack, killing 28 militants and wounding 30 others.

In the meantime, two military vehicles and a bomb-laden tank of ISIL were destroyed by the army men before reaching the pro-government forces' positions.

Also, the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over the concentration centers and movements of ISIL in al-Thardah mountain, the regions of al-Maqaber, al-Ma'amel, al-Makbat and the neighborhoods of Khasarat, al-Kanamat, al-Arzi and Shiekh Yasin and the village of al-Jafreh, inflicting a number of casualties on the terrorists and destroying several vehicles.

Earlier reports said that the army troops, backed up by the country's Air Force, repelled several offensives of ISIL in Deir Ezzur's military airports, killing and wounding a number of terrorists and destroying their equipment.

The army soldiers engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL in areas surrounding Jonayd division base Southwest of Tamin brigade base and in the Southern direction of Deir Ezzur airbase and managed to fend off their attacks, killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

The army men also targeted and destroyed a bomb-laden suicide vehicle of ISIL before reaching their positions in al-Makbat region.

The Army's artillery and missile units, meantime, shelled ISIL's position heavily in al-Ma'amel region, killing and wounding the entire terrorists in the position.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960227001217

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Syrian Army Scores More Victories against Terrorists in Eastern Aleppo

May 17, 2017

The sources said that following the liberation of Aliyat Bu Kamal on Tuesday afternoon, the army soldiers advanced further South to the Tal Hassan Quarries, where they were confronted by an exhausted ISIL force.

Not long after launching the attack on the Tal Hassan Quarries, the army units managed to break-through the ISIL's first-line of defense; thus, forcing the terrorist group to withdraw South in order to avoid being overrun.

With the Tal Hassan Quarries captured, the army's Tiger Forces have successfully secured the important Jarah Military Airbase and positioned themselves to strike the integral town of Maskana.

Field sources said on Tuesday that the army troops engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL in Southeastern Aleppo and repelled their attack on the pro-government forces' positions along a key road connecting Hama to Aleppo.

The sources said that simultaneous with the army's rapid advances in Eastern Aleppo to drive ISIL out of the province, the ISIL launched a large-scale assault to cut off the Syrian government’s only supply route to Aleppo province once again, hitting hard the army positions in the al-Azib Valley near the Ithriya-Khanasser Road.

The army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL and fended off their attack, inflicting major losses on them.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960227001058

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Syrian Army Makes Fresh Advances against ISIL in Eastern Aleppo

May 17, 2017

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL South of Jarah airbase and imposed full control over the town of Bilouneh, killing over 25 terrorists and destroying several military vehicles.

Military sources said that Maskana as the last bastion of ISIL in Aleppo province is the next target of the Syrian army forces, adding that recapture of Maskana by the army men will end ISIL's presence in the province.  

Field sources said on Tuesday that the army troops engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL in Southeastern Aleppo and repelled their attack on the pro-government forces' positions along a key road connecting Hama to Aleppo.

The sources said that simultaneous with the army's rapid advances in Eastern Aleppo to drive ISIL out of the province, the ISIL launched a large-scale assault to cut off the Syrian government’s only supply route to Aleppo province once again, hitting hard the army positions in the al-Azib Valley near the Ithriya-Khanasser Road.

The army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL and fended off their attack, inflicting major losses on them.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960227000885

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Syrian Army Ready to Foil US-Led Plan to Create Buffer Zone in Southern Part of Country

May 17, 2017

The Russian-language Izvestia daily quoted a field source as saying that the Syrian pro-government sources are getting ready to take control over a chunk of Damascus road to Baghdad to restore sustainable security to the main supply line of importing arms and other military equipment from Iraq.

In the meantime, Mohammad Abbas, a retired army general and military expert, said that terrorist groups and the US as their main backer intend to create a buffer zone in parallel with the Golan Heights and borders with Jordan and Iraq in Southern Syria, but the Syrian Army is to prevent them to do their plan.

Intelligent agents reported last week that the US, British and Jordanian forces were preparing for a possible invasion of Syria under the pretext of war on ISIL terrorists.

According to reports, Damascus went on the alert after intelligence reports gathered from surveillance drones suggested that the US, Britain and Jordanian militaries might be prepping a massive invasion of Syria.

Nearly 400 American and Jordanian military vehicles were located at a Jordanian military base near the Syrian desert border, the reports said, adding there was no ISIL terrorists in the region in which the US, British and Jordanian forces were operating.

The reports further added that activities of these three countries at border were aimed at gathering Arab and Western forces in al-Zarqa camp in which there were almost 4,500 gunmen.

The report went on to say that the gunmen in al-Zarqa camp went under training to battle the Syrian army to stretch a belt around Syria, a plan that was nothing more than an occupation.

The intelligence reports also said that the military convoys of the US, Jordan and Britain might launch an assault to help the West-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) around the Al-Tanf border crossing.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960227000768

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New US Marine Unit Arrives in Syria to Aid Partners in Raqqa

May 17, 2017

"They are providing support, on a temporary basis, across the combined joint operations area that the commander needs to ensure a lasting defeat for ISIL," Jacques told the Marine Corps Times.

However, Jacques declined to say how long the unit will be deployed in Syria.

The unit has replaced some 400 Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit who deployed to Syria in March to establish an outpost in support of the ongoing operation against ISIL in Raqqa.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960227000858

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Large-Scale Battle among Rival Terrorist Groups Imminent in Northwestern Syria

May 17, 2017

The sources said that simultaneous with the attacks of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board) on Ahrar al-Sham's positions in Idlib province and the reports about a possible military meddling of the Turkish army in the province, the Idlib city has now come on the verge of a large-scale battle between the two rival groups.

The sources said Tahrir al-Sham has announced that its forces seized control over several sites of Ahrar al-Sham in Saraqib, around Ma'arat al-Nu'aman, Ma'arat Mesrin, Sarmin and in the slopes of al-Rawj plain from Sinjar direction, while both Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham have deployed their heavy arms in the conflict-prone regions, mainly in Western and Northern countryside of Idlib.

Media sources close to Ahrar al-Sham, meantime, said that the group's field commanders have started reinvigorating their defense lines in the region.

Based on the sources, border regions with Turkey, including Harm, Darkoush and Salqin are more prone to intensifying clashes between Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham.

They added that Tahrir al-Sham has also started carrying out precautionary measures near the border with Turkey to be ready to face the Turkish army's meddling to back up Ahrar al-Sham or other pro-Ankara militant groups.

Ahrar al-Sham has fortified its positions near several border passageways and its forces are on red alert in several strategic regions.

Tahrir al-Sham's units have started patrolling in main streets in Idlib city, arresting a number of pro-Ahrar al-Sham and their allies.

Local sources reported on Saturday that simultaneous with the eruption of a fresh round of clashes with Ahrar al-Sham, the representatives of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at traveled to Turkey to persuade the Turkish Army not to back up the rival terrorist group of Ahrar al-Sham in Northwestern Syria.

The sources said that while a number of senior members of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at were in Turkey to negotiate about an imminent meddling of the Turkish army in Idlib, the terrorist group increased the number of its checkpoints in Idlib province.

The sources added that Tahrir al-Sham felt much worried about an operation of the Turkish army in support of Ahrar al-Sham rival group and, hence, called on Ahrar al-Sham to pull out its forces from Western Idlib in 48 hours.

A local source in the town of Kafr Takharim said that Tahrir al-Sham established a large number of checkpoints along the road connecting Idlib to the town of Salqin, erected walls and other forms of entanglement and deployed military vehicles behind them to enhance its defense capabilities.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960227000679

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UN envoy proposes forming team to draft new Syria constitution

17 May 2017

As the Geneva talks between Syria’s warring sides continue for a second day on Wednesday, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has proposed forming a team comprising civil society activists and technocrats aimed at creating a new constitution for the war-torn country.

The idea behind a more inclusive Syrian constitution is to stave off any legal vacuum in case the country undergoes a political transition, which is currently not part of the agenda at the peace talks in the Swiss city.

The talks between Syria’s warring sides is continuing in Geneva amid skepticism and lack of belief in any breakthroughs to end the six-year conflict.

The meetings were the sixth round of talks brokered by de Mistura. Both the Syrian government and opposition representatives met separately with the UN envoy after the start of the talks on Tuesday.

The Syrian opposition is expected to meet on Wednesday evening with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov for discussions on what has been agreed during the talks in Astana.

In early May, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed on a deal in the Kazakh capital Astana over de-escalation zones.

De Mistura is still waiting for responses over his proposal to form a consultative mechanism to discuss the constitution. The UN envoy also rejects talking about any issue pertaining to transfer of power as he deems this as an hindrance for any progress.

Meanwhile, the opposition side attacked the Syrian regime, saying it is not serious. The opposition also pressed on de Mistura over the issue of political prisoners.

Damascus on Tuesday rejected US accusations that it carried out mass killings at a prison near Damascus and then burned the victims’ bodies in a crematorium, describing the allegations as “lies” and “fabrications.”

The allegations are a “new Hollywood plot” to justify US intervention in Syria, the Foreign Ministry said, noting what it called a US track record of using false claims as a pretext for military aggression.

Syrian opposition spokesman Salem Meslet said the US allegations about the use of a crematorium to cover up the mass killings were “credible” and not surprising.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/05/17/Geneva-talks-between-Syria-s-warring-sides-continue-for-second-day-.html

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Mosul’s Rifaei neighbourhood liberated from ISIS

17 May 2017

Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent reported on Wednesday that al-Rifaei neighborhood in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul has been liberated.

The news came after ISIS militants launched an attack on Iraqi forces in al-Rafaei Wednesday morning using five suicide car bombs.

Iraqi forces have recaptured nearly 90 percent of west Mosul from ISIS after retaking the city’s eastern side earlier this year, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

Neighborhoods around the historic Old City with its narrow streets and crowded buildings make it difficult for military vehicles and armored vehicles to progress, forcing Iraqi forces to fight street by street on foot.

In an interview with al-Hadath, Iraqi army spokesman Brigadier General Yahya al-Zubaidi said, “We will soon announce full control of Mosul.”

“We will adopt a new tactic in the coming days,” he added, as Iraqi forces make their final push against the militants after seven months of fighting

ISIS mining Mosul

A federal police commander and witnesses told Reuters on Wednesday that ISIS militants are planting bombs near front doors in Mosul to prevent civilians leaving.

Trapped in a shrinking area of the city, the militants are increasingly using the several hundred thousand civilians under their control as human shields to avoid being targeted or perhaps tarnish what Iraqi leaders describe as imminent victory.

Lieutenant-General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi told state TV earlier that his elite Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) were advancing steadily in the al-Rifaie and Najjar districts, aiming to reach the western bank of Tigris river and complete the Old City's encirclement.

“God willing the coming hours we will complete our assigned task,” he said on Wednesday.

The militants had deployed 30 suicide car bombs against his troops in Mosul over the past two days, he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/05/17/ISIS-attacks-Iraqi-forces-in-Mosul-with-five-suicide-car-bombs.html

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Ex-CIA Officer: Trump Lies about Assad's Chemical Attack against Idlib

May 17, 2017

Ray McGovern told al-Mayadeen news channel that Donald Trump intended to divert public attention from internal problems in the US to another country when he ordered the strike on al-Shayrat airbase in Homs without any logical reasons.

He also said that Trump's popularity rate in the US is at the lowest.

Meantime, McGovern, revealed that the CIA launched the cyber attack during the presidential election in the US but accused the Russians for the attack.

On April 4, a chemical weapons incident in Syria's Idlib province claimed the lives of some 80 people and inflicted harm on an additional 200 civilians.

The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as well as a number of Western states, accused the Syrian government troops of carrying out the attack, while Damascus refuted these allegations, with the Syrian army telling that it did not possess chemical weapons.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960227000990

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Mideast

 

Salvation Gov't PM Warns of Saudi, UAE Plots to Disintegrate Yemen

May 17, 2017

"The events in the Southern and Eastern provinces of Yemen are the result of Saudi Arabia and the UAE's occupation, specially as the two countries have an old plot to disintegrate Yemen again and turn them into regions under their control," Habtoor, the former governor of Aden, was quoted as saying by al-Mayadeen news channel on Wedneday.

He said that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are rivals in taking control over the Southern parts of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia launched brutal aggression against its Southern neighbor on 27 March 2015 in a bid to restore power to Yemen's resigned president who fled to Riyadh after Yemeni people's uprising in 2015.

Western countries, specially the US and Britain, are among key suppliers of weapons used by the Saudi regime to commit atrocities and war crimes in Yemen.

Over 14,100 Yemenis, mostly civilians including women and children have been killed during the ongoing Saudi-leg aggression on Yemen.

The Saudi military aggression has also taken a heavy toll on Yemen’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, mosques and factories. This illegal aggression has prompted retaliation from Yemeni forces including launching missile attacks on Saudi military installations in the country’s capital Riyadh.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960227001242

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Rouhani attacks Khamenei: Iran will choose between deception and honesty

18 May 2017

Just a day before Iranians head to the polls, President Hassan Rouhani has stepped up attacks against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his close associates like the Revolutionary Guards, Astan Quds Razavi Institute headed by rival candidate Ebrahim Raisi, as well as Iran’s Broadcasting and Television Authority and the judiciary.

Addressing thousands of his supporters in Mashhad, Rouhani appeared to take on Khamanei and question his legitimacy.

“We have one government, one leader and one constitution and for each city we do not need a separate leader,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by IRNA news agency.

On Friday people will go to polling stations to choose between deceitfulness and righteousness, Rouhani said, adding, “We will choose the one who shoulders responsibility”.

Iranian hardline nominee Raisi strongly criticized moderate Rouhani’s foreign policy in a speech in his hometown of Mashhad, Iran’s second most populous urban area.

Raisi, 56, pointed his criticism at President Rouhani’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, seen as his government’s main achievement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/05/18/Rouhani-attacks-Khamenei-Iran-will-choose-between-deception-and-honesty.html

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Saudi air raid on Yemen leaves over 20 civilians dead

May 17, 2017

At least 23 civilians have lost their lives when Saudi fighter jets carried out an airstrike in Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta'izz as the Riyadh regime continues with its atrocious aerial bombardment campaign against its impoverished southern neighbor.

Local sources told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the aerial attack had targeted a vehicle as it was travelling along a road in the province's Mawza' district on Wednesday afternoon.

The sources added that the victims were returning from al-Barh market in the neighboring Maqbanah district.

There were reportedly several women and children among those killed in the airstrike.

Al-Masirah cameraman wounded in Saudi drone strike

Meanwhile, a cameraman for al-Masirah television network sustained injuries when a Saudi unmanned aerial vehicle carried out an attack against the channel's staff in the Harad district of the northwestern province of Hajjah, located approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of the capital Sana’a.

Al-Masirah correspondent Walid al-Muthar said the Saudi drone targeted the crew as they were moving to cover relief activities in Harad.

Muthar identified the injured cameraman as Ismail al-Balahi.

Yemeni soldiers, allies make advances in Saudi Arabia

Separately, Yemeni army soldiers and allied fighters from Popular Committees have advanced east of Ulaib Mountains in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border region of Najran.

A military source, requesting anonymity, said Saudi troops launched a counterattack shortly afterwards to reclaim control over a hilltop but failed despite intense air support.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/05/17/522250/Saudi-airstrike-Yemen-Taizz-civilians-killed-alMasirah-cameraman-injured

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Turkey goes to bat for executed Jamaat leaders again

May 17, 2017

The report also lists police brutality, arbitrary arrests, silencing the opposition and enforced disappearances as being among the present government’s offences

TRT World – the news website of Turkey’s national broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation – published a report on May 1 terming Bangladesh a “rogue state,” and criticising the government for trying and executing war criminals linked to Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and arrests of its supporters.

The report titled “Bangladesh’s rogue state: 10 things to know” says the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh is not international enough and accuses the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, of using the tribunal for political gains.

The report also lists police brutality, arbitrary arrests, silencing the opposition and enforced disappearances as being among the present government’s offences. It quotes the daughter of executed war criminal Mir Quasem Ali, Sumaiya Rabeya, to claim that women are raped in the custody of Bangladesh police.

The Bangladesh government has not given any official reaction to the Turkish government’s concerns portrayed in the report, which includes condemnations by sons and daughters of executed war criminals.

The report was published ahead of the apex court’s hearing on the government’s appeal against the life sentence to war criminal Delawar Hossain Sayedee – the last remaining influential leader of Jamaat.

The Appellate Division upheld its previous judgement (imprisonment till death), also rejecting Sayedee’s petition seeking acquittal.

In the near future, the apex court is likely to begin appeal hearing in the cases of two other senior Jamaat leaders – ATM Azhar and AKM Yusuf. Jamaat’s petition against the cancellation of its party registration is also pending with the top court.

While the Bangladesh government continues to execute the verdicts of the war crimes tribunals, children of the top war criminals linked to Jamaat-e-Islami and its local leaders are campaigning against the trial process at home and abroad – thanks to pro-Islamist governments in Turkey and Pakistan.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the government of Newaz Sharif in Pakistan have expressed concerns over the trials on several occasions since 2010, branding them as their martyrs, and blaming the ruling Awami League for political vengeance to wipe out its opposition.

The Pakistan government has condemned all the executions and war crimes verdicts calling the Jamaat leaders patriots of Pakistan. Its lawmakers proposed resolutions against the executions in parliament while the Foreign Ministry summoned Bangladesh’s high commissioner in Islamabad in protest.

Turkey condemned the execution of Jamaat’s leader Mir Quasem Ali in September last year, when, according to government officials of Bangladesh and Turkey, the bilateral relations had improved after a earlier breakdown.

The stance of Turkey and Pakistan has apparently increased confidence among the supporters of Jamaat and its radical student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir at a time when most of the top Jamaat leaders have been hanged or imprisoned by the International Crimes Tribunal formed in 2010.

Even though Jamaat has got a new leadership after the execution of Motiur Rahman Nizami last year, its political activities have remained limited to surprise processions, clandestine meetings on regrouping the grassroots and social media campaigns on contemporary issues linked to religion.

Leading opposition BNP has refused to sever ties with Jamaat and remains mum over the judgements against Jamaat leaders and their executions.

The Bangladesh wing of Pakistan-based Jamaat has close ties to the Turkish ruling party – Justice and Development Party, abbreviated JDP or AK in English. Egypt’s Brotherhood, Turkish AK Party, and Jamaat in Bangladesh and Pakistan want to establish Islamic rule in their own countries, according to the BBC.

Turkey’s concerns for Jamaat

Erdogan issued a statement on the eve of Nizami’s execution in May last year, while demonstrators in Ankara and Istanbul protested against the hanging of the war criminal. Turkey also recalled its ambassador in Dhaka after Nizami was hanged.

“I condemn the mentality that sentences to death a mujahid, who is over the age of 70 and who we believe has no earthly sin. I think that such proliferation of hatred there, and the ordering of such death sentences despite our repeated initiatives, is neither fair governance nor a democratic mentality,” Erdogan said about Nizami.

He also lashed out at Europe for not speaking out against the execution. “Weren’t you against executions? There was no noise [from the EU] because the person who was executed was a Muslim.”

In September last year, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry floated a press release to protest the hanging of top Jamaat financier Mir Quasem Ali for war crimes.

Turkey also reacted strongly after the execution of convicted Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla in December 2013. Erdogan himself telephoned Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stop the execution.

After the hanging, Erdogan warned that history would not forgive Bangladesh while his deputy Bekir Bozdag said that justice, human rights and the law had been trampled.

Also Read Nizami execution: Turkey withdraws Bangladesh ambassador

In December 2012, then Turkish president Abdullah Gul wrote to his Bangladeshi counterpart Zillur Rahman, calling on him not to put former Jamaat ameer Ghulam Azam to death if he was found guilty.

Sudden improvement, sudden fall

Despite tension over the war crimes trials, Bangladesh had an export volume of $720 million with Turkey in fiscal 2015 against the import of $158.90m.

“Bilateral trade will exceed $2 billion within short time if cooperation is intensified,” Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said after a meeting with Turkish Ambassador to Bangladesh Devrim Ozturk in September last year.

Lauding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, Ozturk said Bangladesh was moving ahead with her dynamic leadership and that Turkey would be beside Bangladesh in this journey.

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/05/17/63850/

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Turkish MPs elect judicial board under new Erdogan constitution

17 May 2017

Turkish lawmakers elected seven members to a reshaped judicial authority on Wednesday, part of a constitutional overhaul backed by a referendum last month that considerably expands the powers of President Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan says the changes are vital to ensure stability in Turkey, which is battling Kurdish and extremist militants and experienced an abortive coup last year blamed by Ankara on a US-based cleric who had many supporters in the judiciary.

But opposition parties and human rights groups say the reforms threaten judicial independence and push Turkey towards one-man rule. Some of Turkey’s NATO allies and the European Union, which it aspires to join, have also expressed concern.

The two largest opposition parties, who say the April 16 referendum was marred by possible fraud, boycotted the overnight vote in parliament appointing seven members to a redesigned, 13-strong Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) - all candidates of the ruling AK Party and its nationalist MHP ally.

The council oversees the appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplining and dismissal of judges and prosecutors.

The judiciary had previously appointed most of the HSK members but following the referendum parliament now picks seven and Erdogan a further four. The other two members of the board are the justice minister and ministry undersecretary.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/05/17/Turkish-MPs-elect-judicial-board-under-new-Erdogan-constitution.html

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Cautious lull in Taiz amid raids on militias in Sanaa, Jawf

17 May 2017

On Wednesday morning, the Arab coalition aircraft launched a series of raids on the militias in the provinces of Sanaa, al-Jawf and Hajjah in Yemen.

According to military field sources, the aircraft bombed the militias’ hubs in the area of Harib Nihm, north-east of Sanaa. They also bombed military vehicles and reinforcements in the coastal Midi and Haradh fronts.

In al-Jawf province, the coalition aircraft raided the militias in the Muzawiya front in the Mtoun directorate. At the same time, fresh clashes erupted between the national army and the Houthi militias.

Sources said that fierce confrontations took place on the Muzawiya front in the north of Mtoun, along with heavy artillery shelling carried out by the Yemeni army forces against the militias there.

The coalition aircraft also launched several raids on the militias near the area of Orouq Muzawiya, leading to deaths and injuries among their ranks.

Houthi missile intercepted

In Marib, Arab coalition defenses intercepted a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis towards a refugee camp.

According to eyewitnesses, the Arab coalition defenses intercepted the missile within a short distance from one of the refugee camps in the desert of the Manqaza in the area of al-Ruwaik.

Most fronts in the province of Taiz have also witnessed a cautious lull in the past few hours. The eastern neighborhoods of the city witnessed intense raids by the militias located in the Softel area on the eastern entrance of the city, destroying houses and other facilities.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/05/17/Cautious-lull-in-Taiz-amid-raids-on-militias-in-Sanaa-Jawf-.html

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Iran won't accept UN docs that go against its values, beliefs: Qassemi

May 17, 2017

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has stressed that the country will never accept any UN document that even minutely goes against the country’s beliefs and religious values.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi made the remarks on Wednesday in relation to a UN document, dubbed as the Education 2030 agenda, which charts out development goals for world nations.

He noted that Iran has officially notified UNESCO that any part of the document which is against the country’s cultural, religious, social and moral beliefs is not executable.

“Our country has no commitment whatsoever to its execution,” he said, stressing that this is Iran’s "unchangeable stance" on the subject.

On May 7, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said the document had been prepared under the influence of world powers.  

Iran signed the document in 2016, but Ayatollah Khamenei said the Islamic Republic will not submit to it.

“A hushed signing and implementation of this document is definitely not permissible and the related bodies have been notified of that," the Leader said.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/05/17/522287/iran-unicco-qassemi-2030

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Africa

 

UN to deploy 'rapid intervention force' in central Mali

May 18, 2017

A rapid intervention force of Senegalese troops will soon be deployed in central Mali, which has seen an increase in militant attacks and communal violence since 2015, the new UN peacekeeping chief says.

"We are awaiting the upcoming deployment in the center (of Mali), by Senegal, of a rapid intervention force to deal with the situation of insecurity," Jean-Pierre Lacroix, under secretary-general for UN peacekeeping operations, told reporters on his first visit to the West African country since taking office.

"In light of the security situation," the UN's Mali mission (MINUSMA) had a "robust mandate but, despite its efforts, there was a lack of capacity," Lacroix said Wednesday.

"We are hopeful that, soon, a number of reinforcements will arrive, which will make up for these shortcomings," he said.

MINUSMA has been stationed in Mali since July 2013 and has just over 12,000 military and police personnel on what is considered the UN's most dangerous active peacekeeping deployment.

It is the most deadly peacekeeping mission since Somalia in 1993-95, with more than 70 peacekeepers killed.

Mali's north fell in 2012 under the control of militant groups linked to al-Qaeda, who hijacked an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, though the extremists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013.

A 2015 peace deal signed by Tuareg-led rebels, the government and pro-Bamako militias aimed to quell separatist uprisings in the north and isolate militant groups. But its implementation has been piecemeal, and the militants, who did not sign up to the accord, continue to mount attacks on civilians and the army, as well as French and UN forces.

"The peace agreement is a process that is slowly evolving, too slowly no doubt, even if there has been some progress recently and which must be encouraged," said Lacroix.

Those developments include the establishment of interim authorities in the north and the start of mixed patrols, said Lacroix, who held talks with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/05/18/522312/Mali-violence-MINUSMA-rapid-intervention-force

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Sudan's president risks overshadowing Trump's Muslim speech

2017-05-17

Washington - President Donald Trump is hoping the Muslim world's leaders join him in confronting extremist ideology when he attends a weekend summit in Saudi Arabia.

But the event could be overshadowed by a surprise attendee: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court and shunned by the United States for the past decade.

It's not clear if al-Bashir will actually attend the meeting. Saudi officials say he has been invited.

That prompted American diplomats to press Riyadh to at least avoid any situation in which Trump and Bashir are seen together, according to US officials familiar with the situation.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the delicate diplomacy.

Sudan's foreign minister said on Wednesday in Geneva that al-Bashir would be traveling to Riyadh and planned to attend the conference.

More than 50 Muslim leaders are expected.

Washington's unease over Bashir's potential presence at the conference was evident in a statement released earlier Wednesday by the US Embassy in Khartoum.

"In response to rumors recently circulating in the media, US Embassy Khartoum reiterates that the United States has made its position with respect to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's travel clear," it said. "We oppose invitations, facilitation, or support for travel by any person subject to outstanding International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants, including President Bashir."

The statement added that despite an easing of US sanctions that occurred in the final days of the Obama administration, Sudan remains a designated "state sponsor of terrorism" by the State Department.

That designation led Sudan to be included among the countries the Trump administration wanted in a temporary travel ban. The order is still being challenged in US federal courts.

Al-Bashir, who has been Sudan's leader since 1989, is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan's Darfur region.

The UN estimates 300 000 people died last decade as conflict raged in the region, which is about the size of Texas. Some 2.7 million are estimated to have fled their homes.

The US is not a member of the ICC but has repeatedly called for member states to respect their obligations to the court.

It expressed disappointment when South Africa refused to arrest Bashir while he attended an African Union summit there in 2015.

As such, US officials have tried to avoid appearances with Bashir. Former Secretary of State John Kerry was criticized for taking part in a group photo at an event in Egypt in 2015 that Bashir also attended.

Trump can expect similar or stronger criticism from human rights groups should he have even incidental contact with Bashir, which could distract his plans at the conference.

The president intends to "deliver an inspiring, yet direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology" and "his hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world," national security adviser HR McMaster said on Tuesday.

Trump already has a tough sell, having called throughout his presidential campaign for a complete ban on Muslims entering the country.

Full report at:

http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/sudans-president-risks-overshadowing-trumps-muslim-speech-20170517

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Jordan’s king in Egypt visit discusses Mideast issues

18 May 2017

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has visited Egypt to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace prospects for the region.

Wednesday’s talks in Cairo were also expected to touch upon the upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia by US President Donald Trump.

The Egyptian presidency spokesman, Alaa Youssef, says Abdullah met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in efforts to capitalize on the momentum for a Mideast peace push created by the new US administration.

Youssef says the two leaders also asserted their commitment to a political solution to the civil war in Syria and to global counter-terrorism efforts.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/05/18/Jordan-s-king-in-Egypt-visit-discusses-Mideast-issues.html

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Car bomb explodes in Rukban refugee camp near Jordan

17 May 2017

A car bomb exploded in Syria’s sprawling Rukban refugee camp near the border with Jordan on Wednesday causing injuries, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and two rebel sources said.

The blast targeted fighters from a rebel group, the Britain-based war monitor said.

The blast came two days after a double car bomb attack at the same site.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/05/17/Car-bomb-explodes-in-Rukban-refugee-camp-near-Jordan.html

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Buhari not running Nigeria as Muslim organization – MURIC replies CAN

By Ameh Comrade Godwin

May 17, 2017

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has faulted the recent claim by the Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN) and four other affiliated Christian unions that President Muhammadu Buhari was running the country as a Muslim organization and neglecting the entire Christian faith.

YOWICAN’s National President, Daniel Kadzai, had pointed out that the removal of Christian religious studies from primary/secondary schools, especially in the North and the alleged unequal treatment meted out to Christians in the North showed that the current government is out to kill the Christian religion.

Reacting, however, MURIC in a statement by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, described the claim as totally wrong.

The group said YOWICAN was only trying to tarnish the image of president Buhari.

It said, “The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) rejects this allegation. It is baseless, reckless, false and malicious. There is no iota of truth in CAN’s claims. It exists only in the figment of the writers’ imagination.

“Contrary to CAN’s claim, both Christian and Islamic studies are available in public schools in the North unlike the South where every school has teachers of Christian studies but lacks teachers of Islamic studies. The South West case is even pathetic. Teachers of Islamic Studies are hardly employed and they are deliberately and treacherously diverted to teach other subjects.

“The aim behind this is to render them useless for Islamic Studies. Some school principals even refuse to allow teachers of Arabic and Islamic studies to teach what they are employed for. Many state schools’ boards have been pocketed by CAN for the purpose of eliminating Arabic and Islamic Studies from the South West, including Edo State.

“It sounds amusing that CAN on one hand claims to be praying for President Muhammadu Buhari’s recovery yet on the other hand it accuses the Federal Government of lying about his health status. Is that what will facilitate the acceptance of the prayer? CAN is blowing hot and cold at the same time. We advise CAN to come out in the open and show its true colour. The Christian body should stop intimidating FG. To be ill is human, to heal divine.

“CAN’s complaint about Nigeria’s participation in the Islamic solidarity football game is still the old song and it fits CAN’s main objective, namely, to isolate Nigerian Muslims from their counterparts in other parts of the world. Football and all games generally are known for their ability to unify humanity under one love. If CAN would have its way, Nigerian Muslims would not be allowed to perform hajj. It was the same complaint over Shari‘ah, Islamic bank, etc. When will CAN live and let live?

“As professional lobbyists, we are not surprised that CAN is demanding Christian replacements (as if it is a right) for the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) Ayo Oke. This is primordial sentiment. Is it religious affiliation that will benefit Nigerians or competence and integrity?

“CAN also complained that no Christian has been minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) since 1999. We will like to place this claim in its proper perspective. CAN has deliberately restricted its claim to 1999 for its parochial agenda. We must ask CAN what happened from the beginning?

Full report at:

http://dailypost.ng/2017/05/17/buhari-not-running-nigeria-muslim-organization-muric-replies-can/

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Australia

 

Austrian Parliament Bans Full Facial Veils in Public

By DAN BILEFSKY and VICTOR HOMOLA

MAY 17, 2017

Austria has banned wearing a full facial veil in public places, the latest move by a European country to restrict expressions of Muslim identity viewed as contrary to Western secular values. The decision immediately drew criticism from rights advocates and from representatives of Austria’s Muslim community.

Under the new legislation, approved by Parliament on Tuesday, women who wear clothing that covers their faces, such as burqas or niqabs, in places like universities, public transportation or courthouses will face fines of 150 euros, or about $167. The measure will take effect in October.

The ban is part of legislation aimed at improving the integration of immigrants, according to Muna Duzdar, a state secretary in the office of Chancellor Christian Kern. Other elements of the legislation include mandatory integration courses, German-language lessons and requirements that asylum seekers do unpaid work while awaiting the processing of their claims. Under the new law, migrants who do not meet the requirements could see their welfare benefits slashed.

Analysts said the new law appeared to be at least partially calculated to try to defuse the growing influence of the far-right anti-immigrant Freedom Party. (On Tuesday, it criticized the legislation, saying it did not go far enough.)

Sevgi Kircil, a member of Austria’s Muslim community, said the new restrictions were an infringement on individual privacy and a reckless “intervention in religious freedom and the freedom of expression.” Earlier this year, thousands of Muslim women took to the streets of Vienna to protest the proposed law.

The Austrian Bar Board, which represents the legal profession, said the ban breached the values of constitutional democracy, along with “the fundamental rights of the freedom of conscience and the freedom of private life.”

The current coalition government — which includes the conservative People’s Party and the center-left Social Democratic Party — is on the brink of collapse, and early elections are expected in October. That could create an opportunity for the far-right Freedom Party to enter government for the second time since it was formed by former Nazis in the 1950s.

The Freedom Party’s nominee for president of Austria lost to a moderate in May and December of last year. (The election was ordered repeated because of procedural irregularities in the vote counting the first time.)

The new restrictions come as countries across Europe, buffeted by the rise of far-right anti-immigrant parties, have been grappling with how to integrate a large influx of migrants, many of whom come from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. Amid a simmering anti-immigrant backlash, religious clothing has become a proxy for fears that European identity and values are being subsumed by Islamic immigration. That alarm has been magnified by recent terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, Sweden and elsewhere, and by fears that extremists are entering Europe by posing as refugees.

Austria is hardly alone in imposing restrictions on religious garb. Many critics of religious attire say it oppresses women, is physically restrictive and isolates them from mainstream society; many defenders say it is a religious obligation or, in some cases, a matter of individual identity and an expression of one’s heritage.

In 2010, the French Parliament voted to ban the wearing of face-concealing veils in public places, making France the first country to do so. Violators face a fine of 150 euros. A woman with a full facial veil was spotted in the audience at Opéra Bastille in Paris in 2014 and some of the performers refused to sing. After she was asked to uncover her face or leave, she and her husband left.

A similar ban in Belgium went into effect in 2011.

Germany’s Parliament this year approved a draft law banning women working in the judiciary, the civil service or the military from wearing face-covering veils, and will come into effect soon.

In December, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her support for the ban, arguing that full facial veils were “not acceptable in Germany.” She called for them to be prohibited “wherever it is legally possible.”

The European Union’s highest court entered into the politically explosive debate in March, ruling that private employers can prohibit female workers from wearing head scarves on the job as long as it applies to religious garb from all faiths.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/world/europe/austria-veil-ban-muslim.html

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