New Age Islam News Bureau
2 Dec 2017
After meeting several Rohingya Muslims and hearing their stories in Bangladesh, Pope Francis uttered a moving prayer from the heart, affirming their dignity and asking forgiveness on behalf of all who persecute the Burmese minority.
• ‘I Ask Forgiveness,’ Pope Francis Tells Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh
• Obama Calls for Religious Tolerance, Says India Must Nurture Its Muslims
• Trump Might Declare Jerusalem the Israeli Capital: Officials
• Amanah: Review Islam in Schools, Introduce ‘Maqasidiq’ Approach
• Al-Qaida Leader’s New Message Shows Increased Discord with Jihadists in Syria
• Taliban, Disguised In Burqas, Attack Agriculture College in Pakistan
• ‘I Ask Forgiveness,’ Pope Francis Tells Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh
• Drones Target ISIS Compound in Nangarhar Leaving 12 Dead, Wounded
• Pope Francis calls Rohingya 'presence of God today'
• Afghanistan to double Special Forces, triple Air Forces size: Ghani
• Tensions intensify among Afghan leaders, Noor and Dostum stopped to visit Kandahar
• Obama Calls for Religious Tolerance, Says India Must Nurture Its Muslims
• Terrorism Can't, Shouldn't Be Linked With Any Religion: External Affairs Minister
• Zakir Musa's Portrait Displayed During Milad Procession in South Kashmir
• Jaipur court convicts 8 LeT members for terrorist activities
• Madhya Pradesh: Muslims come forward to cremate destitute Hindu found dead
• Trump Might Declare Jerusalem the Israeli Capital: Officials
• Immigrants Are Future of America, Says Frank Islam
• Twitter defends its decision not to take down Trump’s retweets of anti-Muslim videos
• S’pore blocks American-Muslim preacher from entering to preach on Islamic-themed cruise
• Mattis to Pressure Pakistan 'One More Time' on Militant Groups
• Obama says Pakistan did not know whereabouts of Bin Laden
• Amanah: Review Islam in Schools, Introduce ‘Maqasidiq’ Approach
• Official: Muslim Rhetoric Drives Wedge between US-Indonesia
• Step back; recalibrate ties with Saudi Arabia, urges ex-diplomat
• Skin in the Game: Philippine Students Protest Duterte in Naked Run
• Al-Qaida Leader’s New Message Shows Increased Discord with Jihadists in Syria
• Battle May Be Brewing In Sinai between Al-Qaeda, IS Groups
• Syrian government delegate Jaafari quits Geneva peace talks
• Islamic group rejects terrorism charge by states boycotting Qatar
• Sheikh Zayed Mosque: The legacy of its founder, and a symbol of modern values
• Booby trap bomb leaves over two dozen civilians’ dead in Iraqi house
• Saudi FM: Solution in Lebanon is to withdraw weapons from Hezbollah
• Gruesome ISIS video purports to show Syrian pilot burned alive
• Osama bin Laden’s curse chases an Iraqi boy to his grave
• Syrian Army Recaptures Town in Southern Aleppo after Rapid Counter-Assault
• Syrian Army Seizes Fire Control over Key Town near Golan Heights
• Taliban, Disguised In Burqas, Attack Agriculture College in Pakistan
• Lahore Sit-In Called Off After 7 Days; Jalali to Resign From Tehreek-i-Labbaik
• Gunmen kill intelligence officer at Islamabad Shi'ite mosque
• Political leaders strongly condemn terrorist attack in Peshawar
• Terrorists will not succeed till we're united: State Interior Minister Tallal Chaudhry
• Eid Milad-un-Nabi (PBUH) being celebrated today
• Two terrorists killed in Gujrat, 3 arrested in Multan
• Three killed, eight hurt in armed clash between religious groups
• Turkey Priorities ‘Disaggregation’ Of Moderate Opposition in Idlib
• Palestinians Warn Trump over Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel Capital
• Israeli soldier stabbed to death in 'terror attack'
• Houthi militias clash with Saleh loyalists for second day, three killed
• Iran FM calls attention to Daesh presence in neighboring Afghanistan
• Nigeria: Eid Maulud - Dogara, Amosun, Obaseki, Others Felicitate With Muslims
• Ethnic Clash In Nigeria Leaves Four Police Officers Dead: Official
• Nigeria: Muslim activists stand with Palestine
• Libya to allow emergency repatriation of refugees
• Sen. Sani tasks African leaders on fight against terrorism, illegal migration
• Pandemonium in Kaduna as police disperse Shiites procession
• US-led Coalition Must Leave Syria after Daesh Defeat: Russia’s Lavrov
• Three Officials of Swiss-French Firm Accused Of Financing Daesh in Syria
• MEPs urge Saudi arms ban, blast EU members for continued sales amid Yemen war
• Despite Greek shelter, Yazidis struggle to integrate
• Muslim Student Says She Was Ordered To Remove Headscarf at Mcdonald's
• Germany’s Intel Worries about Islamist Mobilization in the Balkans
• UK Security Services Foil Significant Jihadist Terror Plot
• Huge Decline in ISIS Propaganda Mirrors Losses on Battlefield
• Georgia kills suspected leader of Istanbul attack
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
‘I Ask Forgiveness,’ Pope Francis Tells Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh
By JASON HOROWITZ
DEC. 1, 2017
DHAKA, Bangladesh — On the eve of his return to Rome, Pope Francis on Friday used the word “Rohingya,” coming face-to-face with some of the persecuted Muslims whose plight had cast a long shadow over his visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Critics had been asking why a pontiff who so often condemned injustice against the downtrodden had stayed silent earlier in the week, when he made his first visit to Myanmar, a country in which Rohingya Muslims have been raped, killed or driven into exile in Bangladesh by a brutal military campaign of repression.
In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, on Friday, the pope listened to the stories, and held the hands, one by one, of 16 survivors of the persecution — 12 men, two women and two young girls — vowing: “We won’t close our hearts or look away. The presence of God today is also called Rohingya.”
On a stage following a large interfaith gathering for peace, the pope patted men’s shoulders and pressed the forehead of a girl whose parents and brothers had been killed. He bent low to kiss a small child on the head. The enormity of their tragedy seemed to weigh on him.
“In the name of everyone, of those who have persecuted you, of those who have done you harm, above all for the indifference of the world, I ask forgiveness. Forgiveness,” the pope said in emotional and apparently unscripted remarks, as the survivors stood around him. He did not address his own recent silence.
To the large audience of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and others, he stressed that the Rohingya, as all of humanity, were created in the image of God and he vowed to continue helping them “so that their rights become recognized.”
The Rohingya are stateless Muslims from western Myanmar who, according to the United Nations, the United States and many human rights groups, have been the targets of ethnic cleansing. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, where they live in desperate, sprawling refugee camps in areas like Cox’s Bazar, where the group that met the pope had earlier sought shelter.
Francis had in the past, from the Vatican, denounced the “persecution of our Rohingya brothers,” but during his visit Monday to Thursday in Myanmar, diplomatic considerations and a fear of prompting a military crackdown on the Christian minority had kept the usually outspoken pope from uttering the term Rohingya or directly addressing the humanitarian disaster.
That uncharacteristic silence prompted criticism and frustration from those who had grown accustomed to considering the pope as a moral compass in a world that had gone adrift. The Vatican found itself refuting the notion that the pope had relinquished the moral authority that imbued his office with influence.
But as soon as the pope left Myanmar, where the Vatican hinted that he had raised the issue with the military commander, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, and the country’s de facto leader, the tarnished Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he was more willing to broach the issue.
On Thursday night, at an event with Bangladesh’s president, he crept up to the word Rohingya, talking about Rakhine State where massacres, systematic rape and burning of villages have occurred.
But through much of Friday, he focused on his own small church in Bangladesh, with Roman Catholics numbering less than 400,000 in a densely populated, majority Muslim country of 160 million. In the morning, he celebrated Mass during which he ordained new priests and then met with church leaders, complimenting them on their attention to the poor.
“Especially in light of the present refugee crisis, we see how much more needs to be done,” he said.
Remarkably, for a pope who has consistently elevated and championed the human suffering of refugees, some supporters of Francis also thought that he could have done more during his trip.
Others understood the diplomatic minefield he had perhaps foolishly wandered into. They contented themselves with his mere presence, hoping that would be enough to draw attention to the issue.
“He had to be balanced over in Myanmar,” said Rafiqul Islam, a Muslim auto dealer in the audience who has participated in charity missions to bring blankets and clothing to the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar. “But here he can call all the world to please, help this problem. They are butchering us.”
Before the interfaith event began, the Rohingya took their seats on green plastic chairs to the side of a stage and at the foot of a riser where the news media assembled. Reporters clamored, cameras clicked and video was taken as a little girl ate a clementine on her mother’s lap. An older girl — who said she had lost her parents, two brothers, and two uncles in the violence — sat next to them.
Abdul Fyez, 35, stared ahead with sunken eyes. “We have been Rohingya for generations, my father and my grandfather,” he said, adding that the Myanmar military had killed his brother.
Mohammed Ayub, 32, said the Myanmar military killed his three-year-old son when they attacked his village in August. “The pope should say Rohingya. He is the leader of the world,” Mr. Ayub said.
Moments later, the pope was brought by rickshaw into the tented garden of the archbishop’s residence and saluted the large crowd seated in rows on the lawn. Many of them wore the traditional dress of their Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian faiths.
“May our meeting this afternoon be a clear sign of the efforts of the leaders and followers of the religions present in this country to live together in mutual respect and good will,” the pope said, adding that he hoped that the spirit of unity would serve as “a subtle yet firm rebuke to those who would seek to foment division, hatred and violence in the name of religion.”
Throughout the trip, Francis had been making subtle asides, alluding to principles of democracy, equity and tolerance. For Francis, it seemed, the Rohingya were the endangered whose name he dared not speak. But on Friday night, toward the close of his trip, that all changed when he brought them onto center stage.
“Many of you have told me of the big heart of Bangladesh that welcomed you,” the pope said as they stood around him. “And now I appeal to your big hearts to be capable of granting us the forgiveness that we ask.”
Obama calls for religious tolerance, says India must nurture its Muslims
Dec 1, 2017
New Delhi: India needs to cherish and nurture its Muslim population that is integrated and considers itself Indian, former US president Barack Obama said in Delhi on Friday.
It is an idea that needs to be reinforced, the former president said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Obama said he had emphasised the need for religious tolerance and the right to practice one's own faith during closed door talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his last trip to India in 2015.
The 44th US president, who held office between 2009 and 2017, had made similar comments during a public interaction on the last day of his visit, which had come against the backdrop of controversy over religious conversions.
"There's a counter narrative taking place, at all times, but it's particularly pronounced now... in Europe, US and sometimes in India where those old tribal impulses reassert themselves under leaders who try to push back and under leaders who try to exploit them," Obama said.
Responding to an India-specific question, Obama referred to India's "enormous Muslim population", which is successful, integrated and thinks of itself as Indian.
That is unfortunately not always the case in some other countries, Obama added.
Referring to India, he said, "And that is something that needs to be cherished and nurtured, cultivated. It's important to continue reinforcing it."
Answering a question on terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Obama said, "We had no evidence that Pakistan was aware of Osama bin Laden's presence there but that is something obviously we looked at."
Trump might declare Jerusalem the Israeli capital: Officials
December 02, 2017
President Donald Trump is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, officials say, a highly charged declaration that risks inflaming tensions across the Middle East but would be a way to offset a likely decision delaying his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy there.
Trump’s announcement is expected next week and follows months of internal deliberations that grew particularly intense in recent days, officials familiar with the talks said Thursday. They described the president as intent on fulfilling his pledge to move the embassy but also mindful that doing so could set back his aim of forging a long-elusive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim part of Jerusalem as the capital of an eventual state.
The officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the outlines of Trump’s plan emerged from a meeting of his top national security advisers at the White House on Monday. Trump himself was expected to drop by the meeting for 15 or 20 minutes. He ended up staying for at least an hour and grew increasingly animated during the session, according to two officials briefed on what happened.
Trump is likely to issue a waiver on moving the embassy by Monday, officials said, though they cautioned that the president could always decide otherwise.
The White House also is considering a possible presidential speech or statement on Jerusalem by Wednesday, according to the officials and an outside administration adviser. Another possibility involves Vice President Mike Pence, who is set to travel to Israel in mid-December, making the Jerusalem announcement during his trip, one official said. Pence said Tuesday that Trump is “actively considering when and how” to move the embassy.
The Trump administration insisted the president hasn’t made any decisions on the embassy.
White House spokesman Sarah Sanders on Wednesday called an earlier report saying Trump would order an embassy move as “premature.”
“No decision on this matter has been made yet,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday.
Moving the embassy could spark widespread protest across the Middle East and undermine an Arab-Israeli peace push led by president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Trump’s campaign season promises won him the support of powerful pro-Israel voices in the Republican Party. But as president, he has faced equally forceful lobbying from close U.S. allies such as King Abdullah II of Jordan, who have impressed on him the dangers in abandoning America’s carefully balanced position on the holy city.
Under U.S. law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the U.S. must relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless the president waives the requirement on national security grounds, something required every six months. If the waiver isn’t signed and the embassy doesn’t move, the State Department would lose half its funding for its facilities and their security around the world. Republicans have championed embassy security since a 2012 attack on American compounds in Benghazi, Libya.
All presidents since Clinton have issued the waiver, saying Jerusalem’s status is a matter for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate. Trump signed the waiver at the last deadline in June, but the White House made clear he still intended to move the embassy.
Trump’s approach appears to thread a fine needle, much like he did with the Iran nuclear deal. After vowing to pull out, Trump in October decertified the agreement as no longer serving America’s national interests. But he didn’t announce new sanctions or take any other step to immediately revoke the accord.
Now, as then, he faced significant resistance from his top national security advisers.
At Monday’s White House meeting, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the case that moving the embassy in Israel would pose a grave danger to American diplomats and troops stationed in the Middle East and Muslim nations, the U.S. officials said.
King Abdullah II, who met Pence and Tillerson this week in Washington, made the same argument, telling the vice president and others that any change to the embassy in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would create unrest and instability throughout the region and drive up anti-American sentiment, according to the officials.
After a lengthy back and forth at the White House meeting, Trump and his inner circle appeared to accept those concerns but insisted that the president had to demonstrate his stated commitment to move the embassy, the officials said. The discussion then turned toward waiving the embassy move for another six months but combining it with recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital, which the Israelis have long sought.
Any change in U.S. position is delicate.
The State Department recently advised American diplomatic posts in predominantly Muslim nations that an announcement about the embassy and Jerusalem’s status is possible next week, and advised them to be vigilant about possible protests, officials said.
Inside the Trump administration, officials said debate now centers on how to make a Jerusalem announcement without affecting Israeli-Palestinian “final status” negotiations. One option under consideration is to include in any such statement a nod to Palestinian aspirations for their capital to be in east Jerusalem .
The U.S. also faces legal constraints. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without a peace deal could run afoul of U.N. Security Council resolutions that don’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city. Washington has a veto on the council and could block any effort to declare the U.S. in violation, but any such vote risks being an embarrassment and driving a wedge between the United States and many of its closest allies.
Amanah: Review Islam in Schools, Introduce ‘Maqasidiq’ Approach
December 1, 2017
KUALA LUMPUR: It is time for a critical review of how lslam is taught in schools, Amanah said today.
There was a need to replace the “outmoded” approach of imparting the ritualistic aspect of lslam with a new approach, Amanah strategy director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said.
He said in a statement that it was not Islam per se but rather the mode and orientation of its teaching that urgently required addressing and redressing.
Dzulkefly was responding to remarks by Abdul Razak Baginda at a forum that the growing prominence of Islam in schools has had a negative impact on the education system.
Razak, the Centre for Global Affairs (ICON) president had said that Islam had crept into “our schools and our educational institutions”. “Religion is now prominent in our schools. There is too much religion in the system, but no politician will dare say it. Someone will accuse them of being anti-Islam. We have imprisoned ourselves in this dilemma.”
Saying Razak’s “outburst” deserved a critical and fair appraisal, Dzulkefly noted that religious bigotry was visible and endemic in society and was tearing apart the nation. He said the current mode of religious education did not help to heal this, but instead, likely inadvertently exacerbated it.
The authorities, he said, should rather consider a “maqasidiq” approach to the teaching of Islam.
He said: “A ‘maqasidiq approach’ to religious education advocates and simultaneously endeavours to reorientate imparting of the ‘higher intents and purposes’ (Maqasid) of religion, namely of lslam and the shariah; of the timeless principles of human dignity, justice, brotherhood of humanity, compassion and mutual respect, as the critical cornerstones of the total development of a student, and hence the building block of nation-rebuilding.”
Dzulkefly said the philosophy and curriculum should be crafted in this “maqasidiq”, or higher intents, approach to empower students to relate across religion, ethnicity and culture.
This approach, he said, would not only educate them on the “higher intents and rationale” of religion, but also endow them with “a moral compass whose true north points to the universal values of human brotherhood, mutual respect, co-existence and love for the nation and humanity”.
“These are timeless principles and values much needed by our very embattled and divided nation! It must be rooted from the early formative stage in schools.”
However, Dzulkefly said, this could only happen if there was a strong and vibrant leadership committed to the reform agenda.
“When leaders are themselves perceived as being steeped in greed and dishonesty, and ever so willing to abuse religion for parochial and narrow partisan interests, we will always be entrapped in an unending crisis, and deepening race and religious antagonism,” he added.
Al-Qaida Leader’s New Message Shows Increased Discord With Jihadists in Syria
December 01, 2017
The al-Qaida terror organization has released a new audio message from its elusive leader in which he slams the Syrian Jihadi group Liberation of the Levant Organization, or more commonly known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), for going after senior jihadists loyal to al-Qaida in Syria.
In the 35-minute undated audio video “So Let Us Fight Them With Solid Foundations,” Ayman al-Zawahiri denounced HTS’s decision to break off formal ties with al-Qaida last year and betray its oath of allegiance as the offshoot of the terror organization in Syria. VOA could not independently verify the video’s authenticity.
“Why did this love disappear among us and was replaced by roughness, conflict, cruelty of the heart, conspiracy to evade the oaths of allegiance, and the insubordination of the brothers and working to drive them out, curb them, and put them under captivity?” al-Zawahiri said, addressing HTS leaders in the message, which was published by al-Qaida’s media propaganda al-Sahab Foundation on Tuesday.
HTS, originally called al-Nusra Front, rebranded itself last year and later merged with several smaller rebel factions into a new alliance.
A report by the Institute for the Study of War last week claimed that the group has exploited the international community’s focus on annihilating the Islamic State to significantly increase its influence in southern Syria, consolidating control over most of the northwestern province of Idlib.
Al-Zawahiri said he did not approve the HTS departure from al-Qaida. He described as a “fatal mistake” offers by the HTS leaders to keep their loyalty to him secret in order to avoid a U.S.-led military campaign.
In August, Michael Ratney, the top U.S. State Department official in charge of Syria policy, said Nusra and its leaders would be targets for Washington even if they rebranded and adopted new names in an effort to escape U.S. and other countries’ military campaign against terrorism in the region.
Global jihad vs. nationalism
Al-Zawahiri suggested the HTS leaders were attempting to abandon global jihad and turn to a nationalist agenda. He denounced them for starting a campaign of rounding up senior al-Qaida leaders, particularly foreign fighters and their families, “to appease” the U.S.
“O brothers, we haven’t forced you, pressured you, threatened you with a sharp knife or a shattering bullet,” al-Zawahiri said while describing the desperate state of al-Qaida loyalists under the HTS. “If this is our situation, filled with fear and disturbance, during this critical phase, then what will we do to each other when we prevail?”
On Monday, Syrian local media reported that HTS started a large-scale arrest campaign against people with alleged ties to al-Qaida. A day later, HTS released a statement confirming the detention of several senior jihadists, including Sami al-Oraydi and Abu Juleibib al-Urduni, both of whom have been vocal in criticizing HTS for severing ties with al-Qaida.
HTS officials said detained jihadists were “leaders of dissension who were spreading specious arguments,” adding that they would be put before a Sharia court.
In a response statement, which surfaced Thursday on Telegram, a top HTS leader, Abdul Rahim Atun, defended the arrests as being focused only on those who meant harm for the Syrian Islamist group.
“We have not treated those who follow al-Qaida but with good,” Atun said, addressing al-Zawahiri. “But there must be a distinction between those who work for jihad, regardless of what group they are affiliated with, and those who seek to destroy the [HTS] in the name of loyalty to al-Qaida to vent their psychological crises.”
Atun said the HTS rebranding and break off from al-Qaida was not done to appeal to the West but was an attempt to reunite with local rebel groups and achieve efficiency in decision-making.
Experts charge the arrest campaign of the al-Qaida loyalists by HTS leadership and their public shaming by al-Zawahiri signals that the relationship between them has reached a point of no return.
“(Al-)Zawahiri said that he has been trying for more than a year to resolve the issue with HTS internally and privately, but this did not work out; so he had to call them out in public,” Hassan Hassan, a Middle East expert at Tahrir Institute in Washington, told VOA.
Hassan said the tensions show that al-Zawahiri is disappointed with the HTS and is pleading for his followers to possibly reorganize into a new group.
Hassan added the disengagement with al-Qaida has helped HTS gain more effectiveness in the Syrian war scene.
“Ayman al-Zawahiri is now hiding somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he expects people to wait for his letters that usually take months to reach them. And then a response from them to reach al-Zawahiri will take other months. This will not work. These groups need to make day-to-day decisions,” Hassan added.
But their parting of ways will ultimately not spare HTS from being targeted by the U.S., Hassan emphasized.
“HTS will not be attacked now, although it will be dealt with eventually as a jihadist organization. The U.S. will not remove its designation as a terrorist group,” Hassan said.
Taliban, disguised in burqas, attack agriculture college in Pakistan
1 December 2017
Pakistani Taliban gunmen disguised in all-enveloping burqas stormed the campus of an agriculture university in Pakistan on Friday, wounding at least five people, police said.
Police and army troops summoned to the scene killed all of the attackers at the Directorate of Agriculture Institute in the northwestern city of Peshawar about two hours into the attack, the military’s press wing said.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in message from spokesman Mohammad Khorasani that they had targeted a safe house of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
The gunmen arrived at the campus in an auto-rickshaw and disguised in the burqas worn by many women in the region, Peshawar police chief Tahir Khan said.
They shot and wounded a guard before entering the campus, he said, adding that five wounded people had been taken to hospital. A wounded student, Ahteshan ul-Haq, told Reuters that the university hostel usually houses nearly 400 students, but most of them had gone home for a long holiday weekend and only about 120 students remained.
“We were sleeping when we heard gunshots. I got up and within seconds everybody was running and shouting ‘the Taliban have attacked’,” he said.
Drones target ISIS compound in Nangarhar leaving 12 dead, wounded
Dec 01 2017
An airstrike was carried out in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan on Thursday targetig a compound belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group loyalists, the local officials said Friday.
The airstrike was carried out in the vicinity of the restive Khogyani district, leaving at least twelve fighters of the group dead or wounded.
The provincial government media office in a statement also confirmed the airstrike left at least four ISIS militants dead and eight others wounded.
The statement further added that the US unmanned aerial vehicles targeted a compound of the terror group in Wazir Tangi area.
The anti-government armed militant groups including the ISIS loyalists have not commented regarding the report so far.
This comes as at least eight foreign militants were killed in a similar airstrike in this province on a day earlier.
The 201st Silab Corps officials said the airstrikes were carried out on Wednesday in the vicinity of the restive Achin district.
The officials further added that the militants were targeted in the vicinity of Mamand Margha, leaving eight dead.
According to the Silab Corps officials, the militants killed during the airstrikes were likely hailing from the Pakistan.
Pope Francis calls Rohingya 'presence of God today'
December 2, 2017
Pope Francis did not only refer to Muslim Rohingya refugees by name when he met 16 of them in Dhaka on Dec. 1, he called them "the presence of God today."
It was the first time the pontiff referred to the persecuted minority by word in the wake of criticisms that he has been avoiding the use of the term during his visit to Myanmar early this week.
Pope Francis shook hands and prayed with 16 Rohingya refugees — 12 men, three women, and a child — who travelled from the southern Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, during an Interreligious and Ecumenical Meeting for Peace at the residence of the Dhaka Archbishop Dec. 1.
In what turned out to be an emotional encounter, the pontiff said, "We all are images of God, including the Rohingya."
"They too are images of God, the creator," he said. "Today, the presence of God is also called Rohingya," he added.
Addressing a gathering of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders, Pope Francis said religious stories tell of a creator making human beings from a bit of salt mixed with soil.
"We all have a little bit of salt. These brothers and sisters also contain the salt," he said.
The pontiff spent time clasping hands with the refugees, listening intently to their stories. He later told them "your tragedy is very difficult, but it has a place in our hearts."
"In the name of all those who have persecuted you, who have harmed you, in the face of the world's indifference, I ask for your forgiveness," Pope Francis told them.
‘Tell the world our story’
In an interview with ucanews.com, the refugees said they told Pope Francis to help them share their stories to the world.
"I have told the pope (that) we want security for our lives, citizenship in Myanmar, justice for the burning of our homes, and the killing of my two uncles," said 37-year old Muhammad Nurullah.
"The pope told me that he would try to help me," said Nurullah who fled to Cox’s Bazar Balukhali refugee camp with his wife and three children in October.
Ahmed Hossen told the pope about life in the refugee camp. The 60-year old man said he fled to Bangladesh with six family members in December last year.
He said Pope Francis assured him that he would help the Rohingya people. "I want that justice be meted out for the killing of our people," Hossen said.
"I told the pope to help us get justice," said Foyez Ali Majhi whose village in Myanmar was razed to the ground by soldiers.
Abul Syed, another refugee, said he asked the pope to help them have their identity as Rohingya back.
"Rohingya" simply means "inhabitant of Rohang," the early Muslim name for Arakan. The government and military — along with many Myanmar citizens — instead refer to the Rohingya, who number up to 1.1 million, as "Bengalis" implying that the minority group are instead illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. This is done even though vast numbers of the Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for at least several decades.
"We want our nationality," said Abul Syed, adding that without their identity they will always be in danger. He said they also want Myanmar to ensure the safe return of all refugees.
"The pope listened to us and he said he would talk about our demands," said Syed.
A young Rohingya woman said she does not know if Pope Francis would be able to help them, adding that many people have already talked to them but "we continue to suffer every day."
Pope reiterates appeal for help
The pontiff urged religious leaders present at the gathering to keep helping the Rohingya people and "show the world what its selfishness is doing to the image of God."
"Let's continue working so their rights are recognized. Let's not close our hearts. Let's not look away," he said.
In his prepared speech during the interfaith meeting, the pontiff called on the religious leaders "to reach out to others" to promote respect for human rights and peace.
He said interreligious dialogue "challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding" to be able to build "a unity that sees diversity not as a threat."
"Openness of heart is likewise a path that leads to the pursuit of goodness, justice and solidarity. It leads to seeking the good of our neighbors," said the pope.
He said religious concern for the welfare of others can "quench the dry and parched wastelands of hatred, corruption, poverty and violence that so damage human lives (and) tear families apart."
Farid Uddin Masud, a Muslim religious leader, praised Pope Francis for speaking on behalf of "the oppressed, irrespective of religion, caste and nationality."
In a meeting earlier with Catholic bishops, the pontiff said the church's "option for the poor" is a sign of God's love and mercy.
"The inspiration for your works of assistance to the needy must always be that pastoral charity which is quick to recognize human woundedness and to respond with generosity," he said.
Full report at:
Afghanistan to double Special Forces, triple Air Forces size: Ghani
Dec 01 2017
The Afghan government plans to increase the size of the Afghan Special Forces by two times while the size of the Afghan Air Force will be tripled in coming years.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani informed regarding the government’s plan as he was speaking the Heart of Asia Conference, briefing the summit participants regarding the achievements of the Afghan forces in the fight against terrorism.
“I am doubling the size of my Special Security Forces and tripling the size of the Air Force to defeat the terrorists and further secure the population,” he said.
President Ghani further added that “Today, Afghan Commandos conduct four out of every operations independently from US and NATO support.”
“We Afghans own the fight and have turned the corner. Our special forces – the Kitah Khas and Commandos – have never lost a battle – they are becoming one of the best special forces in the region,” he added.
In regards to the ongoing fight against ISIS loyalists, President Ghani said ”Daesh failed in building a base for their so-called caliphate in Afghanistan. Daesh is on the run – in Southern Nangarhar, Achin, Kunar, and Tora Bora – Daesh is being killed and cleared from Afghanistan.”
According to President Ghani, in the last year, the Afghan forces conducted over 1500 combined ground operations and 300 air strikes against them, killing 3 emirs, over 2500 fighters, and capturing over 200 Daesh fighters.
Full report at:
Tensions intensify among Afghan leaders, Noor and Dostum stopped to visit Kandahar
Dec 01 2017
Tensions have intensified among the Afghan leaders as the provincial governor and chief executive of Jamiat-e-Islami Ata Mohammad Noor and leader of Junbish Millie Batur Dostum were stopped to travel to Kandahar province.
Noor in an online video message harshly criticized the government for aborting their flight to southern Kandahar province.
Calling the move by the government as illegal and immoral, Noor warned that such steps will have an intense negative impact on the unity of the Afghan people.
According to Noor, a delegation led by him including Batur Dostum and other figures were due to visit Kandahar to participate in a gathering but their flight was aborted after waiting for one and half in the plane.
In the meantime, reports indicate that the government did not allow the flight to take place as there were security threats claiming that the Taliban group was looking to attack the plane.
Relations among Noor, Dostum and government remains strained since early this year with Noor harshly criticizing the government leaders for their failure, particularly in ensuring the security for the people of the country.
The leaders opposing with the government’s policies also formed a coalition, coalition for the salave of Afghanistan, after a series of deadly attacks rocked Kabul city and other parts of the country earlier this year.
Full report at:
Terrorism Can't, Shouldn't Be Linked With Any Religion: External Affairs Minister
Dec 1, 2017
SOCHI (Russia): External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday said that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion as she urged the international community to enhance cooperation to combat the scourge which is a "crime against the entire humanity".
Swaraj, who is here to attend the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) -- a China-dominated security grouping which is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO -- said that India strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
India is attending the SCO summit as a permanent member for the first time. In June, India and Pakistan had become full-fledged members of the SCO.
"My congratulations to Pakistan for becoming the full member of SCO," Swaraj said.
"This meeting has a special significance for India because it is the first meeting of the Council, after India became the full member of the SCO. Furthermore, it is being hosted by our old and trusted friend Russia.
"I bring warm greetings and best wishes from our Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the success of this meeting," the minister said.
Swaraj said that there can be no justification whatsoever for any acts of terrorism.
"We are determined to consistently strengthen cooperation within the SCO framework, and to work together, to seek comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security.
"We must reaffirm that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic group. It is a crime against the entire humanity," she said while addressing the 16th meeting of Council of SCO heads of governments.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was also present during the summit.
India urges all nations to enhance cooperation in intelligence sharing, law enforcement, developing best practices and technologies, mutual legal assistance, extradition arrangements, capacity building amongst other measures for countering terrorism, Swaraj said.
The minister said that connectivity with SCO countries is India's priority.
"We want connectivity to pave the way for cooperation and trust between our societies. For this, respect for sovereignty is essential. Inclusivity, transparency and sustainability are imperative," Swaraj said.
Connectivity with Afghanistan is an important priority sector for India, and has improved with the operationalisation of the Air Freight Corridor between Kabul, Kandahar and New Delhi this past June, she said.
"Greater involvement of the Central Asian countries in the economic development of Afghanistan especially through enhanced trade, investment and connectivity would serve the purpose of consolidating peace and security in our region," the minister said.
The annual SCO summit is being held in the Russian city of Sochi on November 30 and December 1.
On economy, Swaraj said that challenges before the global economy continue to persist.
"Slowdown in the world economy accompanied with increasing tide of protectionism and policy uncertainties will require measures of matching proportions.
"In the background of sluggish economic growth in the world, India's economic growth is expected to accelerate in the long-term and we would like the other SCO members to be part of India's growth story," she added.
As an SCO member, India is expected to have a bigger say in pressing for concerted action in dealing with terrorism as well as on issues relating to security and defence in the region.
India's membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan's entry into the grouping was backed by China.
India had been an observer at the SCO since 2005. It has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.
The SCO had set the ball rolling to make India a member of the bloc during its summit in Ufa, Russia, in July 2015.
Zakir Musa's portrait displayed during Milad procession in South Kashmir
M Saleem Pandit
Dec 1, 2017
SRINAGAR: In an extraordinary development in South Kashmir's Pulwama district, the Sufi sect of Muslims displayed portraits of militants including that of al-Qaida's Kashmir chief Zakir Musa during the Eid-ul Milad procession on Friday, police sources said.
Al-Qaida emphasises on Wahhabism that discourages shrine-going and even observing the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad. Milad celebrations are in complete contradiction with the philosophy of al-Qaida, which propagates extremism and call for Islamic caliphate.
Security forces allowed the procession but there were clashes in South Kashmir's Anantnag district after some youth who were part of the procession pelted stones at the security forces after Friday prayers led by Mirwaiz South Kashmir, Qazi Yasir, police said.
Eyewitnesses said that as the procession passed through Achabal Ada, a large number of youth pelted stones on the forces who retaliated with tear-gas shells. The clashes continued for hours while two protesters were injured.
The youth then displayed banners carrying photographs of terrorists and shouted slogans in favour of Zakir Musa, even as thousands of Sufi Muslims thronged Srinagar's famous Hazratbal shrine housing the relic of the Prophet.
The emotional devotees raised their hands in prayers reciting Quranic verses while taking a glimpse of the holy relic. Milad processions were taken out at many places where speakers highlighted various aspects of the life and teachings of the prophet.
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Jaipur court convicts 8 LeT members for terrorist activities
December 1, 2017
A Jaipur court has convicted eight Lashkar-e-Taiba members, including three Pakistani nationals, for their involvement in terrorist activities in the country. The Additional District and Sessions Court will pronounce the punishment on Monday, special public prosecutor Mahaveer Jindal said.
The court convicted the LeT members under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on Friday. They were arrested by Rajasthan ATS in 2010 and 2011. The court found them guilty under various sections of the Act on charges of conspiracy and recruiting persons for terrorist activities. They were also found guilty of being members of a terrorist organisation.
The Pakistani LeT members – Asgar Ali, Shakkar Ulla and Shahid Iqbal – have been lodged in various jails in India. The other five are: Babu alias Nishachand Ali, Hafiz Abdul, Pawan Puri, Arun Jain, and Kabil. All of them were in touch with an LeT commander based in Pakistan.
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Madhya Pradesh: Muslims come forward to cremate destitute Hindu found dead
Dec 01, 2017
In a novel gesture, Muslims from a local cultural organisation on Friday came forward and cremated a Hindu man who was found dead in Begamganj tehsil of the district.
The body of 50-year-old destitute Prem Singh Sahu was found by a resident named Farooq Baig in the Narayan Das Tekri area.
With no one stepping forward to cremate Sahu, the resident informed Shakeel Ahmed, the president of the Muslim Tyeohar Committee, Begamganj. The committee is a Muslim organisation that conducts religious and cultural activities.
Ahmed said that Sahu’s body was taken to the crematorium after police was duly informed.
“The mortal remains of Sahu was consigned to flames as per Hindu rituals after informing Begumganj police station inspector Alok Shrivastava,” he said.
Full report at:
Immigrants Are Future Of America, Says Frank Islam
December 2, 2017
By Lalit K Jha
Washington, Dec 2 (PTI) An eminent Indian-American philanthropist has described immigrants as "the future of the United States", which he said, is a nation of inclusion, openness, opportunity, democracy and freedom.
Frank Islam made these remarks during a ceremony where some 200 foreign nationals took the oath of citizenship.
Islam borrowed a quote from Former President John F. Kennedy: In a democracy, every citizen regardless of his interest in politics or holds office, every one of us is in a position of responsibility. The kind of government we get depends on how we fulfill those responsibilities.
"I ask you to fulfill those responsibilities by being a 21st Century Citizen," he said during his speech at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston on Thursday.
At the age of 16, Frank Islam left his family and friends in India with just USD 35 to pursue his life-long dream of owning a business. He went on to become founder and CEO of a company worth more than USD 300 million. Islam became a citizen in 1980, but he never attended a naturalization ceremony, said a media release issued by the presidential library.
"... My story reaffirms the notion that America is a land of opportunity. It also shows that America is a nation of inclusion, openness, opportunity, democracy, and freedom. All of us can proudly and truly embrace these values and qualities of America," he said.
"As immigrants and the future of America, I know that you will make great contributions to ensure that dream is even stronger and better for the citizens of this immigrant nation...I am extremely positive about the future of America because of the courage, tenacity and indomitable spirit of my fellow immigrants," Islam said.
Noting that over the past few years, there have been a lot of complaints regarding the countrys politicians, and the government, he said some of that criticism is "warranted".
"On the other hand, we must remember that the United States is a representative democracy. At the end of the day, we get the politicians and the government we deserve," he said.
"If we dont like things in this great democracy of ours, we can change them. That is our right and responsibility as citizens," Islam said. PTI LKJ CK
Twitter defends its decision not to take down Trump’s retweets of anti-Muslim videos
By Hamza Shaban
December 1, 2017
President Trump shared the videos posted by a far-right British activist this week, drawing fury from the British prime minister and others. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock )
After President Trump shared three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos on Twitter this week, the social media company defended it’s decision to leave the posts online, saying Friday that the commander in chief’s retweets did not violate its media policies.
The videos — whose authenticity could not be independently verified — were originally posted by a far-right British activist, Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First. The organization bills itself as a political party but has been widely condemned as an extremist group that targets mosques and Muslims. The videos drew a swift backlash from across Britain, including a sharp rebuke from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who said that Trump was “wrong” to retweet the messages from a “hateful organization.”
Britain First has posted a number of misleading videos on Twitter, and the three that Trump shared were titled “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!,” “Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”
Earlier this week, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN, “To help ensure people have an opportunity to see every side of an issue, there may be the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behavior which may otherwise violate our rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability.”
The spokesperson said that each situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
But on Friday, Twitter appeared to alter its justification for not removing the offensive videos, which Trump shared with his 43 million followers.
Full report at:
S’pore blocks American-Muslim preacher from entering to preach on Islamic-themed cruise
By CYNTHIA CHOO
Dec 02, 2017
SINGAPORE — A third foreign preacher, American-Muslim Yusuf Estes, was barred from entering Singapore last month in connection with a controversial Islamic-themed cruise, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Friday (Dec 1).
Mr Estes was reportedly being considered as a speaker on the cruise after two previous candidates, Zimbabwean Ismail Menk and Malaysian Haslin Baharim, were banned from setting foot in the Republic for their “segregationist and divisive teachings”.
The 73-year-old American preacher was denied entry into Singapore on November 24 on similar grounds, with MHA citing several examples of his “divisive views” and “exclusivist practices”.
Mr Estes, for instance, said in a video in March 2012 that it was “not part of Islam to celebrate other people’s holidays” and that it was not in the Muslim faith to wish Christians and Jews a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah respectively.
The American, who converted from Christianity to Islam in 1991, had also published an article on his website in December 2016 which questioned the religious basis for Christmas.
“The article claimed that Christmas was ‘from the Solstice celebration, and had been going on for hundreds of years before the time of Jesus’. Hence, Muslims were advised against ‘celebrating something that even the Christians should not be doing’, as this will end up in Muslims engaging in ‘such offensive acts’ towards Allah,” the ministry said in its statement.
The MHA pointed out that the Government will not allow religious preachers of any faith to denigrate other religions, adding that it had previously rejected the applications by two Christian preachers to speak in Singapore, as they had made inflammatory comments about other religions, including Islam and Buddhism.
“Such divisive views breed intolerance and exclusivist practices that will damage social harmony, and cause communities to drift apart. They are unacceptable in the context of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society,” the ministry said.
The religious cruise left Singapore last Saturday (Nov 25) for Banda Aceh and returned on Wednesday. The trip first made headlines in October when MHA announced its decision to to bar Mufti Menk and Haslin from setting foot in Singapore.
The authorities had previously rejected the two men’s miscellaneous work pass applications to preach in Singapore. Mufti Menk has been banned from preaching in Singapore since 2015, while Haslin’s work pass application was rejected earlier this year.
A work pass is required to preach in Singapore, but not on a cruise ship.
A notice published on the website of the trip’s organiser, Malaysian company Islamic Cruise, said Mr Estes and his wife Khadijah, would be on the cruise “to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary”.
However, MHA said the cruise organisers “had earlier been seeking views about Estes as a possible speaker”. The decision to bar Mr Estes from entering Singapore was made in consultation with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), the ministry added.
Before religious speakers can preach here, Muis assesses their applications, which includes reviewing their backgrounds and what they have previously propagated.
Full report at:
Mattis to Pressure Pakistan 'One More Time' on Militant Groups
December 01, 2017
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis is expected to pressure Pakistan to end its alleged ties to militant groups when he visits the country as part of a four-nation tour that began Friday.
Terrorism also will be a main focus of the U.S. defense secretary's stop in Egypt, which last week suffered what officials called the deadliest terror attack in the country's modern history.
Mattis' trip, which will also include stops in Kuwait and Jordan, comes as the U.S. military shifts its focus in the Middle East, after having largely driven out the Islamic State militant group from its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Another major priority is Afghanistan, where U.S. generals acknowledge the NATO coalition remains in a stalemate with Taliban insurgents after 16 years of war.
Thousands more U.S. troops are headed to Afghanistan, along with an increase in U.S. airpower, as part of a new White House strategy announced in August.
The plan also involves enlisting the help of neighboring Pakistan, which the United States has long accused of providing safe haven to the Afghan Taliban.
'One more time'
Pakistan denies sheltering the militants, and the issue has served as a major irritant to bilateral ties.
In October, Mattis said the United States would try "one more time" to work with Islamabad before taking "whatever steps are necessary" to address its alleged support for the militants.
U.S. officials have said Pakistan has not changed its behavior since President Donald Trump in August called out Pakistan for continuing to "harbor criminals and terrorists."
In response, the Trump administration is considering measures that include expanding U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan or downgrading the country's status as a major non-NATO ally, according to media reports.
More severe options include declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism or sanctioning individual Pakistani leaders suspected of having ties with the Taliban.
But the Trump administration is not likely to take any kind of punitive action for at least a few weeks, said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia analyst with the Woodrow Wilson Center, a global policy research group.
"I think it [the administration] wants to give the Pakistanis a bit more time to see if they're responding to the various demands that the United States made of them when it comes to cracking down on terrorists," said Kugelman.
One of the likelier U.S. responses, according to Kugelman, is expanding not only the geographic scope of the drone war but also the types of targets the United States goes after.
"I think we could start seeing the U.S. trying to target more Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban targets," especially in the sparsely populated Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, he said.
The United States has much to lose if ties were to deteriorate. Pakistan controls U.S. military supply routes to landlocked Afghanistan, and could close them down, as it did in 2011. The U.S. would also like Pakistan to scale back its nuclear modernization, improve ties with India and stay engaged in the broader fight against Islamic militants.
But despite the risks, Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a public policy research group, warns that Washington appears to be running out of patience.
"For many years we were trying to hold out hope that the Pakistanis would change their mind about Afghanistan and our role there," he said. "But those kinds of hopes aren't as prevalent anymore. And on balance, therefore, I think we are closer to using some of those tougher methods."
Mattis' four-country tour will begin in Egypt, which is reeling from last week's terror attack in the Sinai Peninsula. More than 300 people were killed when 25 to 30 militants carrying Islamic State flags attacked a mosque frequented by Sufi Muslim worshippers.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The militant group Sinai Province has been active in North Sinai since 2011, a remote desert region that borders the Gaza Strip. It has carried out several deadly attacks against police, soldiers and Coptic Christians.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has vowed to use "all brute force" necessary to respond to the attackers, and to secure the restive Sinai within the next three months.
Securing the area has proven problematic for Sissi. Egypt's military launched a large-scale military campaign against militants in September 2015. But, as evidenced by last week's attack, its effectiveness has been questionable.
Rights groups also have accused Egypt's military of carrying out extrajudicial killings and torture.
U.S. aid to Egypt
Human rights concerns could come up during Mattis' meeting with Egyptian leaders.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration denied Egypt $96 million in aid and delayed another $195 million over human rights concerns. Trump has since said he would consider reinstating the aid.
The Sinai attack could help justify that decision, said Timothy Kaldas, who specializes in U.S.-Egypt relations at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. He warned, though, that Egypt's rights record has not progressed since the aid suspension was announced.
"Moreover, there are no indications from the government, nor legislation under consideration, that suggest the rights situation will improve in the near future," Kaldas added.
Full report at:
Obama says Pakistan did not know whereabouts of Bin Laden
December 01, 2017
Former US president Barack Obama on Friday said Washington does not distinguish between terrorist groups which target India and those that target the United States.
He was speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit — an annual meeting of business tycoons, world leaders and Nobel laureates.
This year's theme at the summit is “The Irreversible Rise of India”.
During the summit, while speaking to journalist Karan Thapar, Obama pointed out a "consistent problem" that Washington has faced in its relationship with Pakistan.
"Pakistan has been in many ways a partner in fighting against certain terrorist outfits," Obama said. However, he added that, "there are some elements that sometimes have not been good partners with us."
The former president went on to say that it was a "source of frustration" that connections are made between "explicit terrorist organisations based in Pakistan and elements that are connected to various more official entities inside of Pakistan."
"But that's not just true for organisations directed at India, it is also true for organisations, like Haqqani, that [have] killed US soldiers."
Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts: Pakistan complicit or unaware?
Another question Thapar posed to the former US president concerned the 2011 capture of Osama Bin Laden from Abbottabad and Pakistan's role in the matter.
Thapar asked whether Pakistan had been hiding the Al Qaeda founder and was, therefore, complicit. "Or, unaware and incompetent?"
In response, Obama said that "we had no evidence that Pakistan was aware of his presence — that is something that we looked at."
Thapar also told Obama that "many Indians feel that when it comes to questions of terror, the terror we face is treated differently from the one you face."
"America makes a distinction between the terror groups in Pakistan, like the Haqqani Network, which target American interests in Afghanistan and terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT], which primarily target this country," Thapar said.
"That's not how we viewed it," Obama responded.
India has alleged that the LeT was responsible for the 2008 attacks that rocked India's financial hub. The allegation has been supported by Washington.
Obama recalled that at the time of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Washington was "just as obsessed with how to dismantle that network [LeT] as the Indians."
In 2012, Washington had announced a $10 million bounty for Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the proscribed group Jamaatud Dawa, which is known to be affiliated with the LeT.
"Our intelligence and military personnel were immediately deployed to work with the Indian government in any way," Obama added.
Full report at:
Official: Muslim rhetoric drives wedge between US-Indonesia
December 1, 2017
JAKARTA, Indonesia — A top Indonesian Cabinet minister said that the Trump administration’s hostile rhetoric toward Islam has left many in the world’s most populous Muslim nation feeling that a wedge has been driven between the U.S. and Indonesia.
Luhut Pandjaitan said in a column written for Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper that the negative sentiment felt in Indonesia will only disappear when it’s clear the U.S. has not abandoned its openness to all faiths.
“Many Indonesians were dismayed by the Trump administration’s hostile rhetoric and intemperate policy stance towards the Muslims of the world,” he said. “Given that Indonesia is home to the largest number of them, there was a feeling that a wedge was being driven between America and Indonesia.”
President Donald Trump’s travel ban directed at several majority Muslim nations did not include Indonesia but nevertheless drew criticism from Indonesians.
This week, Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos from a far-right British group in only the latest of statements to inflame sentiment against the U.S. in the Muslim world.
Luhut said Indonesia is the biggest country in Southeast Asia and it’s “unimaginable” the U.S. can have sound security ties with the region without reaching out to Indonesia in particular.
Cooperation between the U.S. and Indonesia is also crucial in combating violent extremism, he said.
Step back; recalibrate ties with Saudi Arabia, urges ex-diplomat
Melissa Darlyne Chow
December 2, 2017
PETALING JAYA: Malaysia should step back and recalibrate its relations with Saudi Arabia and the region, said a former ambassador.
Redzuan Kushairi said Malaysia should take a neutral stance and not get involved in the politics and conflicts in the region.
“Taking a completely neutral policy would allow Malaysia, as a medium power, a Muslim country and a member of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries), to play a role that could contribute towards diplomatic efforts and search of peaceful resolutions of conflicts in the region,” he told FMT.
Redzuan was commenting on remarks made by political analyst Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, who had voiced concern over the strengthening of ties between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, saying it may have grave long-term effects on the way ordinary Malays perceived their religion.
Redzuan said for starters, Malaysia should withdraw from any involvement with Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
“If regional efforts are absent or failing, the government should urge the United Nations to push for the end of war and push for diplomatic and peace efforts in Yemen,” he said.
Redzuan also said that the government should view with serious concern any moves towards a formation of an “unholy alliance” involving the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Further to that, Redzuan said Malaysia should also step back from the setting up of the King Salman Centre for International Peace in the country.
“For reasons given by Prof Fauzi, Malaysia should monitor closely the support given to and activities of Wahhabi scholars from Saudi Arabia and financial assistance from Saudi Arabian sources to religious and other bodies and individuals in Malaysia.
“I believe Indonesia has been doing this under the new president and by both the Nahdatul Ulama and Mohamadiyyah Movement,” he said.
Redzuan added that Malaysia should also review its policy of sending students for religious studies in Saudi Arabia.
Fauzi, a professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia, had said he feared that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s increasing closeness with the Saudi regime might encourage the spread of Salafi ideas in Malaysia.
“Najib has been cozying up to Saudi Arabia despite increasing evidence that the Saudi-born Salafism is precisely the very rigid school of Islamic thought that is fuelling extremism all over the world,” Fauzi told FMT.
“Many people have already pointed out that the religious practices of most Malays have been going towards a more rigid direction and Malays do this sometimes not consciously but because this is the Islam that has been portrayed to them and supported by government-backed scholars.”
Last July, Najib announced that the government had decided to earmark 16ha of land in Putrajaya to build the King Salman Centre for International Peace because the Saudi monarch had chosen to site it in Malaysia.
One of the objectives of the institution is to fight the threat of terrorism.
Several quarters, including controversial Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) officer Zamihan Mat Zin, had criticised the idea of asking the Saudi government to help fight terrorism in Southeast Asia.
Zamihan said it was “unrealistic” and Islamic Renaissance Front director Ahmad Farouk Musa said it made “little sense”.
Recently, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies added to their “terror list” an international organisation of Muslim scholars whose leaders include PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
Full report at:
Skin in the Game: Philippine Students Protest Duterte in Naked Run
December 02, 2017
Manila. A Philippine college fraternity used its annual naked run on Friday (01/12) to protest against President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs and the imposition of martial law in the south in the army's fight against Islamist militants.
The masked and hooded young men sprinted in the nude through their college, holding signs reading "Lift Martial Law" and "Stop the Killings", as bystanders laughed and pointed and others took photos.
"The level of violence in society is growing and the fraternity cannot simply ignore that, that thousands of people are dying", Alpha Phi Omega spokesperson Thomas Roca said, when asked why the fraternity picked the protest theme this year.
Since taking office last June, Duterte has launched a ferocious war of drugs that has left thousands of Filipinos dead, and in May, he imposed martial law in Mindanao, an island of 22 million people, when Islamic State-linked militants took over large parts of the city of Marawi.
This is not the first time the fraternity has taken a political stance with its yearly bare-bottomed event.
The society used its naked run during the rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s to protest against the censorship of activists at the University of the Philippines.
For a finale on Friday, the men gathered by a pond, arms slung over each other's shoulders, and lustily sang their fraternity song, alumni members in the audience joining in as well.
Full report at:
Battle may be brewing in Sinai between al-Qaeda, IS groups
December 1, 2017
It looks like affiliates of the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda could go to war with each other in the Sinai Peninsula, though at this point the battle would be lopsided.
In an audio recording released Nov. 11, al-Qaeda adherent Jund al-Islam declared war on much larger Wilayat Sinai, which is associated with IS, and claimed responsibility for the Oct. 11 attack on a Wilayat Sinai vehicle that killed the four passengers. Jund al-Islam is vowing to eradicate Wilayat Sinai members if they do not repent and abandon what it calls “Baghdadi law,” which it says violates Sharia in part because it targets civilians and fellow Muslims.
Though no group has come forward yet, Wilayat Sinai is a top suspect in the Nov. 24 bombing and shooting attack on a Sinai mosque that killed more than 300 people and injured at least 100. Area villagers reported Wilayat Sinai had threated them a week before the attack.
Jund al-Islam also declared war on the Egyptian army, which it described as an “apostate.”
Jund al-Islam first gained notice, briefly, in Sinai on Sept. 11, 2013, when it claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing attack on the military intelligence headquarters in Rafah, Egypt, that killed six soldiers and wounded 17 others. This was the only terrorist operation claimed by Jund al-Islam in Sinai.
So where has Jund al-Islam been since 2013? Nowhere, really, until it began receiving a small influx of disillusioned members of Wilayat Sinai.
Wilayat Sinai began as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in 2011, a group that espoused the same basic ideologies as al-Qaeda. But it gradually became more extreme, influenced by IS. In 2014, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis pledged loyalty to IS and changed its name to Wilayat Sinai. Some of its members wanted no part of the transition and defected to Jund al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam).
A resident of the town of Shabanah told Al-Monitor she knew of such a member.
“In mid-2014, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terrorist organization attacked the house of a neighbor known [in the village] for his hard-line Salafist-jihadi ideology. They searched his house, and we heard them threatening him," she said on condition of anonymity.
“A few days later, the Egyptian army raided the house of our Salafist neighbor but did not find him. He had disappeared, and we later found out he had defected from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis after refusing to pledge allegiance to IS."
Abu Ahmad al-Sawarka, an expert on jihadi groups in Sinai, told Al-Monitor that some 20 people defected from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis around that time, for that same reason.
According to Sawarka, those who split from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and joined Jund al-Islam remained loyal to al-Qaeda, because they believed IS relies on extremism in killing civilians, breaking the tenets of jihad.
Asked why Jund al-Islam kept such a low profile, he said the group lacks members and equipment and has been weakened by Wilayat Sinai, which declared that Sinai is subject to IS’ influence and whoever does not respect that will be targeted.
A researcher who focuses on Sinai and the affairs of armed groups there told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that both the disappearance and recent reappearance of Jund al-Islam are based on guidance from al-Qaeda's No. 1 man in Egypt, Hisham Ashmawi, aka Abu Omar al-Muhajir. He is an elite officer who was dismissed from the Egyptian army for embracing jihadi ideology, and who split from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda.
The researcher, based on his study of the situation, said Ashmawi asked members of the ragtag group to disappear for a while and develop their combat capabilities to be able to fight IS. Ashmawi and some dissidents went to Libya to train and recruit before returning to Egypt, while others hid in the desert of central Sinai.
The source suggested that Ashmawi is seeking the return of al-Qaeda to Egypt through small groups spread in different areas: Jund al-Islam in Sinai; Ansar al-Islam in the Western Desert, which carried out an Oct. 21 ambush of police in Giza province; and the Mourabitoun, who are Salafist jihadis affiliated with al-Qaeda and are spread across Egypt.
Also, the researcher pointed out that Jund al-Islam's threat of eradicating IS in Sinai is blown out of proportion, given the former's small size. The real purpose behind the statement, he said, is to attract new fighters, rebuild the group and return to the battlefield in Sinai.
Why now? The researcher said Jund al-Islam saw that Wilayat Sinai was grappling with difficult conditions as a result of IS’ defeat in Iraq and saw this as an ideal time to stage a comeback. Also, he said, Wilayat Sinai has suffered heavy losses over the past four years at the hands of the Egyptian army and has lost members to the Tarabin tribe, one of the strongest tribes in Sinai. Add to this the siege imposed on the organization by Palestinian movement Hamas that, with the Egyptian army, prevented smuggling operations and funding from reaching IS and banned Gazan fighters from moving in and out of Sinai.
The Jund al-Islam statement shows the group is trying to attract Sinai citizens who are sick of the daily violations, slaughter and torture committed by Wilayat Sinai. “There is conclusive proof of attacks committed by … the Wilayat Sinai group against Muslims in Sinai,” the statement said.
The group also hopes to recruit citizens who have fallen prey to the Egyptian army’s violations, especially those who were forcibly displaced from Rafah. The statement said, “The tyrants displace the people of Rafah while the apostates erect checkpoints at every corner of Sinai.”
The group wants to attract Palestinian fighters and people who are hostile to Israel by saying, “The Jews are bombing our residents without any deterrents."
So far, developments in Sinai indicate that Jund al-Islam is still a weak group, but its latest statement may change the equation if it succeeds in its campaign to attract followers.
Syrian government delegate Jaafari quits Geneva peace talks
2 December 2017
Syria’s government delegation quit UN-led peace talks in Geneva on Friday and said it would not return next week unless the opposition withdrew a statement demanding President Bashar al-Assad play no role in any interim post-war government.
“For us (this) round is over, as a government delegation. He as mediator can announce his own opinion,” government chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said after a morning of talks, referring to UN mediator Staffan de Mistura.
“As long as the other side sticks to the language of Riyadh 2 ... there will be no progress,” Ja‘afari said.
He was referring to a position adopted by Syrian opposition delegates at a meeting in Riyadh last week, in which they stuck to their demand that Assad be excluded from any transitional government.
Jaafari went further in a televised interview with al-Mayadeen TV: “We cannot engage in serious discussion in Geneva while the Riyadh statement is not withdrawn.”
De Mistura put a brave face on the impasse, saying in a statement that he had asked the delegations to engage in “talks next week” and give their reactions to 12 political principles.
Previously there had been some speculation the opposition could soften its stance ahead of this week’s Geneva negotiations, in response to government advances on the battlefield.
The Syrian civil war, now in its seventh year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million from their homes. So far all previous rounds of peace talks have failed to make progress, faltering over the opposition’s demand Assad leave power and his refusal to go.
Pressed whether the government delegation would return to Geneva next week, Ja‘afari replied: “Damascus will decide.”
Ja‘afari said the statement insisting Assad leave power that was adopted by the opposition in Riyadh ahead of this week’s peace talks was a “mine” on the road to Geneva, and the opposition had purposefully undermined the negotiations.
“The language with which the statement was drafted was seen by us, the Syrian government, as well as by too many capitals, as a step back rather than progress forward, because it imposed a kind of precondition,” he said.
“The language is provocative, irresponsible,” he said.
The opposition, which held brief talks later with UN officials, rejected the charge that it was seeking to undermine the talks, and said it sought a “political solution”.
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Islamic group rejects terrorism charge by states boycotting Qatar
December 1, 2017
DOHA: An influential group of scholars has rejected its inclusion in a terrorism blacklist compiled by four Arab countries boycotting Qatar, the Gulf Arab state where it is based.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain added the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) to the list last week, saying it used “Islamic rhetoric as a cover to facilitate terrorist activities.”
The group, listed along with another entity and 11 individuals, dismissed the move as unacceptable.
“These accusations against IUMS are baseless and we consider this attempt to weaken the leadership of an institution that represents 90,000 scholars and hundreds of millions of Muslims for political purposes unacceptable and illogical,” the group said in a statement on its Twitter account.
The union was formed in 2004 mostly by clerics belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world’s oldest and largest Islamist organisation, and is chaired by prominent preacher Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi.
Some Gulf states are wary of the Brotherhood’s acceptance of the ballot box, a position that challenges the Gulf tradition of dynastic rule and offers an alternative interpretation of the role of Islam in politics.
The four countries cut ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of financing militants in Syria and allying with Iran, their regional foe. Qatar denies the charges.
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Sheikh Zayed Mosque: The legacy of its founder, and a symbol of modern values
1 December 2017
Finding one place where people from around the world, who speak different languages and have diverse religions, can peacefully coexist with each other, is challenging. There is a prevailing stereotype that extremist ideologies are connected with Islam itself, and embedded within Muslim umma sectarian divisions, which has fueled hatred and separation.
In contrast, for almost ten years the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque has encouraged people to value the virtues of tolerance and coexistence. Millions of people around the world, in viewing the stunning patterns of Islamic Art, in appreciating its magnificence and charm, and in hearing the Ayahs of the Quran, have been convinced that Islam is a religion of peace.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is located in the heart of Abu Dhabi, was constructed as a monument to consolidate Islamic culture, and to act as a recognized center for Islamic sciences. The mosque is the third largest in the world after those in Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia, with 82 domes, four minarets (each 107m tall), and an area of 22,412m2. With a diameter of 32.8 meters, the largest dome is unrivalled for size by any other mosque.
Similarly, the courtyard, which covers 17,000m2, is the largest open space at a mosque anywhere in the world. It contains 1048 columns, and is paved with a mosaic design. More than 3500 workers and 38 companies were involved in the process of creating this wonder of Islamic art.
After the first stage, linking the concrete structure and foundations, the mosque was completed with the purest types of marble in the world, of Italian and Greek origin. For the interior design, calligraphers from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Syria supervised the work of artists from around the world. In three types of Arabic calligraphy, verses from the Holy Quran are written. As well as being a favored place for prayers, the mosque has become a landmark in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.
In a 2017 poll by Tripadvisor, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was ranked by travellers as the world’s second favorite landmark, out of 706 landmarks in 82 states. Placing after Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, in the ‘Top 25 Landmarks – World’ category, the Grand Mosque surpassed such well-known world landmarks as St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (4th), the Taj Mahal in India (5th), and the Eiffel Tower (13th).
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque also took first place in TripAdvisor’s ‘Things to Do in Abu Dhabi’ category, with more than 20,660 reviews. The scale and beauty of this monument is equaled to that of its purpose, and with this in mind, it is perhaps more relevant to note the fact that since 2004, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has been the last resting place of its visionary founder and namesake, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
The legacy of Sheikh Zayed
In his book With United Strength, HH Muhammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan explains that ‘[Sheikh Zayed’s] great ambition was to found a masjid where many thousands could congregate for Friday prayers, and he began to make plans for this building that would stand at the heart of the UAE’ (2013: 297). From the late 1980s, Sheikh Zayed developed his ideas for the architectural style of the mosque. While travelling he noticed the beautiful features of mosques around the world, and the final design in 1990s was informed by his impressions.
The architectural concepts were his own: he chose the location, approved every significant detail, and he decided that the whole building should be covered with white marble. Finally, Sheikh Zayed appointed architect Yousef Abdelky to realise the design, and oversaw the construction of the magnificent monument. His dedication to the nation, and his vision of progress, marked the building of a mosque which unites thousands of Emirates, and the Muslim community worldwide.
This vision was central to the project’s success. In 1953, while Sheikh Zayed was the Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain, he visited Paris with his elder brother Sheikh Shakhbut, who ruled Abu Dhabi between 1928 and 1966. Abdul Rahman Ziyad, in Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan: A life of Achievement, states that during this visit, Sheikh Zayed had an opportunity to view a modern city, and was fascinated by landmarks such as the Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower (1982:22). He was also impressed by modern French hospitals with their crèches ‘while he knew that in that time in Abu Dhabi malnourished babies were lying in their desert cradles, in conditions virtually unchanged from about BC 2000’.
This visit changed Sheikh Zayed’s vision of nation-building, according to Abdul Rahman Ziyad, who explains that the Sheikh wondered when these ‘gifts of progress’ would arrive in his own country. Visits to other countries changed the course of Zayed’s thinking; ‘From this time on, through his regular visits to other countries and also through the medium of radio and the occasional film that found its way to Al-Ain, he became more and more convinced of the need for progress’ (ibid, 1982:22).
As a consequence of Sheikh Zayed’s efforts to realise his ambitions, the UAE has become a favourite destination for millions of tourists who have been impressed by the country’s rapid development, and leaders around the world now learn from the UAE’s experience and development. In other words, just as Sheikh Zayed was impressed in 1953 by symbolic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, so now has his creation, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, become a powerful and popular internationally recognised symbol.
For Sheikh Zayed, a sense of belonging to the nation, and a desire to build a society that benefits everyone, was as important as, if not integral to, maintaining union. In 1968, when the British declared their intention to withdraw from the Trucial States by the end of 1971, Sheikh Zayed, the ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1966, led discussions to establish a federation between the emirates. In 1971 the new state, the United Arab Emirates, was established, and the UAE today carefully preserves the tradition of union. In its unique combination of modern technologies and history, the Etihad Museum demonstrates the story of the founders of the Emirates.
Especially emotional is the pavilion Seeds of Unity, a visual showcase of the meeting between Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, where they agreed that the Sheikh Zayed would become the first President of the United Arab Emirates. The collection of quotes of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Flashes of Wisdom (2015:119), described the role of the founders, specifically Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid: ‘How does history judge Zayed and Rashid? Are they still remembered today? Of course. I personally know many a man whose eyes well up with tears at the memory of Zayed and Rashid. Such is history’s judgment’. Deeply believing that the only way to prosperity was unity, Sheikh Zayed built the foundations and values on which the modern UAE was developed.
This vision and wisdom of Sheikh Zayed included not only the unity of the nation, but union between Arabs and with other states. Abdul Rahman Ziyad (1982:32) cites Sheikh Zayed’s declaration that the ‘first priority is to unite for the sake of Islam and the Arab world, then we extend our relationship with the Third World and finally the international community of nations as a whole’.
Sheikh Zayed considered the success of one state to strongly depend on cooperation with others: ‘…the biggest job of persuasion is to make human beings all over the world create relationships with one another so that they can obtain advantages from each other. […] Any country wishing to behave in an isolated manner will not succeed in the long run’ (ibid, 1982:32).
Moreover, in the Collection of Speeches, Stances, Meetings and Instructions of H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates ‘Leadership’ since 1971 to 1987, Muhammed Khaleel Al-Siksek and Shams Al-Din Al-Doaifi (1998:258) refer to the Sheikh Zayed’s explanation of the importance of coexistence and friendship between different parts of the world: ‘The east is working together with the west and the west is working together with the east. Both of them are far away (geographically) from each other… Between them lie terrains and distance… Nevertheless, friendship between them has been established’. The values on which Sheikh Zayed built policies were coexistence and tolerance, and these values are connected with another explanation of the reasons for building the Mosque. The custodians of the Mosque have defined at some length the purpose and symbolic significance of the construction:
The late Sheikh Zayed aimed to establish a historic Mosque, personifying the Islamic message of peace, tolerance and diversity. He intended to turn the Grand Mosque into a living reference in modern Islamic architecture linking the past with the present in a harmonious melody. The Mosque is the fruit of Sheikh Zayed’s unique vision. The father of the UAE has created an Islamic monument, a center for Islamic sciences and an emblem of genuine Islamic values, in order to illuminate the horizons of Islamic thought rooted in tolerance, love and peace.
Global unity and tolerance, coexistence and friendship are other key values of Sheikh Zayed’s legacy; and the mosque helps to preserve and promote these founder’s values by hosting millions from both the west and east.
The wisdom and legacy of Sheikh Zayed is preserved by the UAE leadership and every Emirati citizen. Sheikh Zayed declared the importance of learning from the past to live a better future, and the Emirates today follows this path, using its experience to make progress while avoiding the mistakes of previous generations (Al-Siksek and Al-Doaifi, 1998:96). The UAE has declared 2018 as ‘Sheikh Zayed Year’, to commemorate the 100th birthday of their late founding father.
The President of the UAE, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed states: ‘ The Year of Zayed is great national occasion when we will proudly share memories of the life of the founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his gift to us of deeply-rooted values, principles and traditions that have become part of our Emirati identity.’ In addition, HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed highlights that Sheikh Zayed applied a unique system of noble values and morals that transformed the conscience of the UAE people, establishing a positive image of the UAE worldwide.
‘The UAE’s image is founded on a core belief system of tolerance and coexistence’. He also added that ‘The late Sheikh Zayed established a global school of tolerance and coexistence because he knew that from the Union’s beginnings, the UAE’s uniqueness lay in its ability to welcome different races, religions, and cultures without abandoning its social and cultural identity. The principles in which the late ruler believed, and strived for, were aimed at creating a world of coexistence and peace’.
In fulfilling the vision of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE leadership has not only preserved Sheikh Zayed’s legacy, but found a niche in international politics of building internal and foreign policies on principles of tolerance and coexistence. The greatest legacies of Sheikh Zayed, such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, help to make the UAE a leader in promoting these principles.
Place-branding and soft power
Along with its importance for the UAE as the main masjid, uniting Emiratis and Muslims for prayers, and as the legacy left by the founder of the nation, the Mosque also serves as a political tool for the UAE, via place-branding and soft power. These two concepts are widely used in academia, especially in the context of GCC strategies, but the difference between them is rarely explained.
Soft power was defined by Joseph Nye (2004) as a state’s ability to achieve political influence without resorting to the use of force or financial clout. Meanwhile, place-branding, according to Peter van Ham (2008:1-2), is an attempt to ‘use strategies developed in the commercial sector to manage, if not necessarily wield, the soft power of a geographical location’. Place-branding is a part of soft power focussed on concepts like norms, values, and rules in global politics.
Thus, place-branding is not only about ‘selling’ products, ideas or services, and gaining attention, it is about reputation and identity. While soft power is a tool of influence and control, place-branding is an essential component of forming an identity on the international stage. The area which is now the UAE has along history of place branding, and this strategy has proven to be extremely beneficial, attracting tourists and establishing the identity of the country worldwide.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque plays a significant role in identifying the UAE with magnificence and modernity, suggesting an Arab fairy tale brought into reality, and for these reasons it attracts tourists from around the world. Last year, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque hosted 5,209,801. Moreover, above-mentioned facts that the Mosque the second year became the world’s second favorite landmark and the published online posts about the Mosque describe it as ‘stunning – a modern wonder’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘beautiful’ reveal how the Mosque plays an important role in place building.
Successful place-building means achieving greater influence through soft power. While many states aspire to this, often, the idea remains an ambition alone. The creation of soft power is difficult, and not all states have succeeded in it. The UAE, however, recognized that the successful implementation of soft power depends on isolating and exhibiting its uniqueness in order to attract others. The successful and strategic use of soft power by the USA during the Cold War provides a clear example, resulting in the collapse of the USSR and a unipolar world dominated by American influence. Because soft power incorporates political values, cultures and foreign policies, ideology serves a crucial role in implementing soft power. Militarily and economically the USSR could not be defeated, so American soft power worked to erode the ideological identity of the USSR.
The USA’s famous universities and education system, an element of culture and therefore soft power, helped them to achieve this. Nye explains that Aleksandr Yakovlev, a member of the Politburo, became one of the main liberalizing influences on Mikhail Gorbachev, having studied at the Columbia political school in 1958 under David Truman. Oleg Kalugin, a high-ranked KGB official stated that ‘Exchanges [in education] were a Trojan Horse for the Soviet Union.
They played a tremendous role in the erosion of the Soviet system’ (Nye, 2004: 46). In other words, instead of working on improving communist ideology and appealing to other governments, which served as one of the main identifiers/political niches of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev’s government started to adopt American values. For example, in 1987 Gorbachev introduced the slogan ‘Demokratizatsiya’ (Democratization), and introduced ‘democratic’ elements into Soviet Communist ideology, including a set of reforms such as glasnost, uskoreniye, and perestroika.
In addition, the propagation of the myth of the ‘American dream’ encouraged people around the world to believe that the USA was the best place to live and achieve their ambitions, and for the leadership of other states, it was an example of a democratic government that symbolised prosperity.
As Nye (2004:17) puts it, much American soft power has been created by Harvard, Microsoft, Hollywood, and Michael Jordan; all of them American icons with global recognition, a combination which helps to win the ‘heart and minds’ of the international community. After the collapse of the USSR, the USA was welcomed as the world’s hegemon, and it achieved this by finding its uniqueness and using it to attract others.
The UAE similarly found its niche in international politics by suggesting a new world order based on the values of tolerance and coexistence. In a speech at the UN Assembly in September 2016, HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan highlighted that the UAE’s efforts to restore stability in the region were through promoting tolerance, compassion and inclusion: ‘My country works with regional and international partners to put in place mechanisms which remind our youth of our shared human values and counter the rhetoric of the terrorists. [ … ] We have learned from experience that we must expose extremist and terrorist rhetoric and defeat it intellectually, and provide an alternative narrative based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and tolerance’.
In order to make people around the world feel welcome and comfortable in their home, regardless of their nationalities or faiths, the UAE promotes these on an international scale. As a symbol of the state and its values, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque strengthens this process in the same way that Microsoft, Harvard and Hollywood did for the USA. One example is that when visiting the Mosque, people view the stunning architecture without questioning the need to wear veils, abayas or other aspects of Muslim tradition that are considered appropriate when visiting a mosque.
In doing so, these visitors become acclimatized to the idea that veils or other Muslim clothing requirements are part of the culture and religion, not a sign of extremist ideology, and take this idea back to their own country. While the coexistence of different religions is possible under one roof at the Mosque, it is also possible in the international arena, as Sheikh Zayed’s legacy shows us.
For every state, only time can measure the success and tactical accuracy of the founders’ vision. Considering Sheikh Zayed’s legacy, the rapid and dynamic development of the UAE today is undoubtedly an indication that the state was fortunate to have such a leader of the nation, whose vision in the past brought success in the present. His wisdom and his values of union, tolerance and coexistence with others extended to the international arena, just as the modern UAE leadership approach promotes such principles internally and internationally.
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Booby trap bomb leaves over two dozen civilians’ dead in Iraqi house
Dec 1, 2017
More than two dozen civilians have lost their lives when a house rigged with explosives blew up in Iraq’s embattled western province of Anbar as government troops, backed by allied fighters from Popular Mobilization Units, are engaged in a large-scale military operation to dislodge the remnants of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group from their hideouts in the desert in northern Iraq.
The Deputy Governor of Rawah, Hussain Ali, told Arabic-language Baghdad Today news agency on Friday that 25 people were killed by a “house-borne improvised explosive device” in the recently-liberated Rawah town.
He added that local authorities have called upon the central government in Baghdad as well as provincial officials to dispatch bomb disposal units to the area as the number of explosive devices left by Daesh Takfiris is very high.
Ali further noted that internally displaced families cannot be repatriated to Rawah since many districts are still infested with hidden bombs and military ordnance.
On November 17, army troops and pro-government fighters from Popular Mobilization Units – also known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi – had completely retaken Rawah, located about 300 kilometers northwest of the capital Baghdad, and hoisted the national Iraqi flag over a number of buildings there.
The commander of Upper Euphrates and al-Jazira Liberation Operations, Major General Abdul Amir Yarallah, announced on November 23 the launch of the second phase of the offensive aimed at clearing the vast desert near the border with Syria, which extends to the northern provinces of Nineveh and Salahuddin and the western province of Anbar.
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Saudi FM: Solution in Lebanon is to withdraw weapons from Hezbollah
1 December 2017
The solution in Lebanon, according to Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister reiterated, is to withdraw weapons from the Hezbollah terrorist group.
Speaking at on Friday at the Mediterranean Dialogue Forum in Rome Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that Hezbollah had used Lebanese banks to smuggle and launder money for their terrorist activities.
He said that Lebanon is country kidnapped, by the terrorist group, Hezbollah.
In his speech al-Jubeir clarified that the Kingdom has no relations with Israel. “We have no relations with Israel and we are waiting for the peace process,” he said. “The need for political will to reach a solution to end the Arab-Israeli conflict is paramount,” he stressed.
He added that Iran has facilitated the movement of al-Qaeda members and resources.
He said that the Iranians have been unable to change the balance of power in Yemen. He considered the targeting by Iranian allies, the Houthis, of some Saudi villages as “desperate attempts” and expressed the hope that they would realize that they cannot control the Yemeni state.
Al-Jubeir said Saudi Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman had started the fight against corruption from the top. “The Saudi people are beginning to feel the restoration of their homeland,” he said.
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Gruesome ISIS video purports to show Syrian pilot burned alive
2 December 2017
ISIS has released a video allegedly showing a Syrian pilot that the extremists captured more than a year ago being set on fire while alive.
The video released late Thursday allegedly showed Maj. Azzam Eid being chained to a tree while wearing a red uniform before being set on fire. The man could be heard screaming in pain before his body became charred.
It was not clear when the killing occurred and ISIS did not give further details in the video released. The video included old footage of ISIS fighters attack in Syria and Iraq.
In April 2016, ISIS released a video showing what it said was a Syrian government fighter jet that they said they shot down east of the capital Damascus. ISIS said at the time that the pilot was captured alive.
Eid's fate has been unknown since then.
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Osama bin Laden’s curse chases an Iraqi boy to his grave
1 December 2017
Just four days before he was about to legally change his first name, Iraqi teenager Osama Bin Laden Hussein died after being electrocuted, a cousin said on Thursday.
The 16-year-old was named by his father after Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, whose group carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, his cousin, Mohannad, told AFP.
“He was born at the end of 2001, just after the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers [in New York],” said Mohannad, who declined to give his surname.
At time Iraqi media under former dictator Saddam Hussein “depicted Ben Laden as a hero, not a terrorist” and Hussein’s father chose that first name for his newborn son as a tribute, he said. But that choice backfired.
After the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, US soldiers raided the Hussein family home after they learned that “Bin Laden” lived there, an episode that scarred the young boy, said the cousin.
Hussein was afraid of venturing out of the family home, staying indoors to avoid encountering a patrol which would ask for his papers.
Eventually he dared to go out and sold tea on the street to earn some pocket money.
His luck changed after he was interviewed by a local television channel two months ago.
Interior Minister Qassem Al Araji saw the show and invited Hussein and his family to a meeting in Baghdad’s high-security “Green Zone”, said Ahmad Al Hajj, the journalist who conducted the interview.
The family was “terrified” when they received the call from the interior minister asking to meet them but the visit went well, Hajj told AFP.
The minister “joked with Hussein, gave him an Iphone and asked him to choose a new first name”, said Hajj.
Hussein could not think of one and the minister opted for Ahmad, and a new identify card bearing his name change was due to be delivered on Sunday.
Buoyed by his good fortune, Hussein went looking for a job and a week ago found one in a shop that sells spare parts.
On Wednesday, he climbed on the roof of the shop to bring down some supplies but slipped and grabbed onto an electricity cable, said Mohannad.
“He was electrocuted and died,” the cousin said.
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Syrian Army Recaptures Town in Southern Aleppo after Rapid Counter-Assault
Dec 01, 2017
The army soldiers, led by the 3rd and 5th legions, began the day by attacking the town of Abisan from their positions at the nearby region of Azizah.
The army units would manage to prevail over Al-Nusra's frontlines and recaptured Abisan and its corresponding hilltop.
Following the capture of these sites, the army soldiers shifted their attention to the town of al-Ramleh, which was captured by Al-Nusra on Wednesday.
Sporadic clashes are taking place outside of al-Ramleh, but the Syrian Army has yet to fully storm the town.
Relevant reports said on Thursday that the army extended the range of its advances towards the strategic Abu al-Dhohour airport in Idlib, sending reinforcement and new equipment to Southern Aleppo.
The army forces continued clashes with al-Nusra Front terrorists in Southern Aleppo on Thursday, regaining control of the village of Ramlat al-Thour.
Meantime, field sources confirmed that the army has sent a new military convoy, consisting of fresh forces and equipment, from Hama to Southern Aleppo.
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Syrian Army Seizes Fire Control over Key Town near Golan Heights
Dec 01, 2017
The sources said that the army men that broke-through defense lines of the Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) on the Western slope of Bardaya hills managed to force the militants to retreat to the nearby town of Mughar al-Mir.
The source added that the Syrian Army now has fire control over Mughar Al-Mir and should be able to capture the town in the coming days.
Once Mughar Al-Mir is captured, the Syrian Army can work their way to the strategic town of Beit Jinn, which has long been a terrorist stronghold near the occupied Golan Heights.
Military sources confirmed on Wednesday that the army stormed again the strongholds of the Al-Nusra Front in Southwestern Damascus, coming closer to the terrorists' largest bastion in the region.
The sources said that the army soldiers clashed fiercely with Al-Nusra terrorists close to Bardaya hill and managed to seize control over the Eastern direction of the hill covering a region from Northeast of Beit Jinn farm up to the Southwest of the village of Kafr Hoor.
A large number of Al-Nusra fighters were killed and their military equipment was destroyed in the attack, they said.
The sources went on to say that the Bardaya hill is of paramount importance and its capture by the army will enable the government forces to access Beit Jinn farm that is one of the largest bastions of Al-Nusra in Western Ghouta.
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Lahore sit-in called off after 7 days; Jalali to resign from Tehreek-i-Labbaik
December 02, 2017
The Maulana Asif Jalali-led faction of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY), which had been holding a sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly for the past week, concluded their protest around midnight on Friday, December 1 after the government convinced them to withdraw their main demand -- the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah from his post.
The Lahore sit-in had been launched by the Jalali-led faction of the political party following reports of a police operation against the participants of the Faizabad sit-in on the morning of November 25th.
The protesters had alleged that the government had "dumped" the bodies of the party's supporters "killed" in the Islamabad operation; demanded blood money for those affected; demanded Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah's resignation; and demanded that the report compiled by a Raja Zafarul Haq-led commission to investigate the Elections Act 2017 controversy made public.
The sit-in was concluded after a final round of negotiations between representatives of the Punjab government and the protesters remained fruitful. Both the sides agreed to publish the report compiled by the Raja Zafarul Haq committee by December 20.
The two sides also agreed that the federal government will act upon the points mutually agreed upon between the faction and the government in Islamabad a month ago.
As per the agreement, a committee would be constituted to decide on the number of loudspeakers in each mosque in the province. The government agreed that the legislation will be made in line with the recommendations of the committee by January 16, 2018.
The two sides also agreed that the Muttahida Ulema Board, Punjab will review the educational curriculum of the province in connection with the religious views propagated through it.
Following the talks, Jalali announced he was concluding the sit-in and that he was providing the government with a "free hand" for one month.
Speaking on Sanaullah's resignation, he said that the "court of Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi" will decide the matter. He, however, said that they are not retracting the demand for action against the minister.
Jalali announces to resign
Talking about his differences with Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the head of the other faction of TYL, Jalali announced that a "Sunni Ulema Board" has been constituted on Friday and that he is going to submit his written resignation to the board. He further said that Rizvi will also be appearing before the board to express his viewpoint.
It was not clear what prompted the decision, but Jalali said that he would "be happy if the sacrifice of his designation brings unity among the ranks of the Barelvi school of thought."
Gunmen kill intelligence officer at Islamabad Shi'ite mosque
NOVEMBER 29, 2017
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on worshippers at the entrance of a Shi‘ite Muslim mosque in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on Wednesday, killing an intelligence officer at the scene, police said.
Three or four attackers on two bikes shot at members of the minority Shi‘ite community who were leaving evening prayers in a residential neighborhood, police official Ghulam Qasim said.
A member of Pakistan’s domestic Intelligence Bureau among the worshippers got hit several times and died later in hospital, Qasim said.
“We’re not sure yet whether it is a sectarian incident,” Qasim added. “The man who died got five or six bullets. That seems to make him a target.”
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Political leaders strongly condemn terrorist attack in Peshawar
Dec 2, 2017
PESHAWAR: Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Pervez Khattak, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, along with other politicians have strongly condemned Friday’s terrorist attack at Peshawar Agriculture Directorate.
In their separate messages, Chief Minister KP Pervez Khattak condemned the terrorist attack in Peshawar and directed authorities to ensure all injured are given the best of medical facilities. The CM also lauded prompt action by the security forces to control the situation.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan lamented that he was “saddened by condemnable terrorist attack in Peshawar this morning.”
Khan took to Twitter to condemn the attack. He tweeted, “My prayers to the victims and their families. Commend the rapid response of KP police and army that helped in containing damage and concluding the operation.”
He further tweeted, “The reformed professional KP police force with its special rapid response unit has made a difference in dealing with acts of terrorism in a timely, holistic and coordinated manner.”
Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that it was due to the timely response of the security forces that the terrorists were defeated.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal expressed his condolences with the families of the martyred and injured and said that Pakistan is united to destroy the aims of these terrorists adding, “terrorists have nothing to do with Islam.”
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Terrorists will not succeed till we're united: State Interior Minister Tallal Chaudhry
Dec 01 2017
ISLAMABAD: State Interior Minister Tallal Chaudhry came down hard on Friday on the various 'tactics' being employed against the sitting government.
Addressing the media, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader said the only difference between the sit-in of 2014 (by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) and of 2017 (by a religious party) was that one's participants had beards and the others did not.
Criticising the "unfair" blame accorded to the ruling party over the amendment in the Finality of Prophethood declaration in the Elections Act 2017, Chaudhry said all parties were on the committee which oversaw the change in the law.
The minister said people still stand with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif since this government has delivered to the public.
"The only purpose of this religion-coloured protest is to bring down the government," he claimed.
Chaudhry also criticised the change in stance of Dr Ashraf Jalali, who leads his own faction of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah, saying that Jalali gave his word that he would not protest against the government.
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Eid Milad-un-Nabi (PBUH) being celebrated today
DECEMBER 1, 2017
LAHORE: Eid Milad-un-Nabi (Peace Be Upon Him) is being celebrated across the country with religious zeal on Friday (today).
The day dawned with 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salutes in all provincial capitals to pay homage to the last Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Eid Milad-un-Nabi (SAW) processions and rallies are being taken out different parts of the country.
Many government and private buildings have also been well-lit, including streets, mosques, shrines, shopping centres and residential areas have been beautifully illuminated with colourful lights.
Special prayers are also scheduled for progress and prosperity of the country.
The concerned authorities have announced strict security measures to be taken in all the major cities to avoid any untoward incident.
PM’s message on Eid Milad-un-Nabi (PBUH)
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urged the need for following the path of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to create an environment of love, peace and harmony in the country.
“Our survival and our worldly and religious successes depend on completely following Uswa-e-Hasna,” the Prime Minister said in his message on the occasion of 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1439. “Today we have to pledge that, by completely following Uswa-e-Hasna, we will create among ourselves the qualities of unity, mutual harmony, tolerance, and sense of responsibility, which are helpful in taking our country and nation forward on the path of development.”
“The best way to celebrate this blessed day is an affirmation from ourselves to prove before the world with our character, way of talking and acts that we are the Ummah of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH).”
The PM said the last prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) came in this world as “Rehmat-ul-Aalameen” not only for Muslims but for the whole of mankind and the universe.
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Two terrorists killed in Gujrat, 3 arrested in Multan
DECEMBER 1, 2017
GUJRAT/MULTAN: At least two terrorists of a banned outfit were killed in encounter with Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in Gujrat late on Wednesday. Three other were arrested during a separate operation in Multan.
According to CTD, the raid was carried out on an intelligence tip-off about presence of militants, affiliated with a banned organisation, planning a terror attack. The CTD spokesman informed that explosive material and arms were recovered from dead terrorists. As the CTD personnel began to encircle the hideout, the terrorists resorted to firing at them. “In subsequent exchange of gunfire, two terror suspects were killed while three others managed to flee from the spot taking advantage of darkness, said the CTD spokesperson in a statement. A huge cache of arms and ammunition, besides explosives and hand grenades were recovered during the raid, the spokesperson added. The identities of slain terrorists have not been ascertained so far. Last week, police killed four terrorists in an encounter in Faisalabad.
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Three killed, eight hurt in armed clash between religious groups
DECEMBER 1, 2017
KHAIRPUR: At least three people were killed and eight others were critically injured as armed clash erupted between two groups near Kot Diji on Thursday.
A scheduled rally was brought out by religious organisation Labaik Ya Rasool Allah. When it reached at Ammer Shah Chowk Jani Burira near Hussainabad taluka Kotdiji, some un known gunman from a mosque near road side suburbs of village Katohar opened fires on the rally and as the result Zulfiqar Buriro, Latif Dino Buriro and Mushataq Buriro were killed while Qurban Ali, Imtiaz Kothar, Kashmir Buriro, Dodo Khan Buriro, Shaubuddin and Ghulam Shabbir Dharejo and others were critically wounded. The bodies and wounded shifted to Civil Hospital Khairpur. After postmortem bodes were shifted to native village Aftababd near Hussainabad.
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Turkey priorities ‘disaggregation’ of moderate opposition in Idlib
December 01 2017
Turkey is prioritizing a strategy of “disaggregation” of moderate opposition groups from radical terror groups listed by the United Nations, a Foreign Ministry official has told the Hürriyet Daily News.
So far, a number of “moderate groups” previously associated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib have peeled away from the ranks of the group as part of these efforts, the official claimed, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The international community considers the HTS alliance a terrorist group, largely because its main faction, Jabhat al-Nusra, used to be the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. The group holds large areas in northwest Syria’s Idlib province and parts of the northeastern Hama countryside.
The Turkish military is currently engaged in a campaign to establish observation points in Idlib, following up from the Astana process with Russia and Iran, aiming to declare de-escalation zones in Syria ahead of a political solution. Three observation points have been established in Idlib so far out of 12 planned.
Russia, Turkey, and Iran each agreed to establish 12 separate observation points, but the other countries are still preparing to fulfill their commitment, said the Foreign Ministry official, adding that the implementation is overdue “because all parties are acting very carefully on this very difficult and sensitive process.”
A new operation by the Syrian military similar to the one conducted in Aleppo would harm around three million people in Idlib, the official warned.
Turkey, Iran, and Russia are currently working on a list of participants for a national dialogue congress in Black Sea resort Sochi, but the official date has yet to be agreed.
“We want this congress team to establish a connection with the U.N. efforts and its team,” said the official.
A new round of Astana meetings will be held in late December, while discussions for the Geneva process are ongoing. The U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, aims to bring opposition groups and the representatives of the Syrian regime in the same venue at the same time, if not in the same room, and make shuttle diplomacy. Participant of the Geneva talks aim to discuss issues of a transitional government and a new constitution.
Representatives from the Cairo and Moscow platforms were included in the High Negotiation Committee of the Syrian opposition at a meeting last week held in Riyadh, bring the number of representatives at the committee to 36.
Eleven members of the committee participated in the ongoing eighth round of Geneva talks.
Palestinians warn Trump over recognizing Jerusalem as Israel capital
Dec 1, 2017
Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina has warned US President Donald Trump against any decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the Jerusalem al-Quds, and recognize the occupied territory as the capital of the Israeli regime.
Abu Rudeina, in a statement released on Friday and published by Palestine’s official Wafa news agency on Friday, announced that any just solution in the Middle East region required recognition of East Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
“Failure to formulate a solution to the Palestinian issue will keep tensions, chaos and violence prevalent in the region and the whole world,” he pointed out.
“East al-Quds, with its holy places, is the beginning and the end of any solution and any project that saves the region from destruction,” Abu Rudeina commented.
Abu Rudeina added that President Mahmoud Abbas remains committed to a just peace based on the so-called “two-state solution.”
Trump is due to decide by Monday on whether to renew a six-month waiver on the relocation of US diplomatic mission in Israel.
There are reports that the US president could again delay moving the embassy but recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of Israel.
Earlier this year, Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed Momani said that moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds would be a “red line” for Jordan and would “inflame the Islamic and Arab streets.”
He noted that the transfer of the US diplomatic mission could disrupt relations between the US and regional allies, including Jordan, stressing that Amman will make use of all available political and diplomatic avenues to prevent the relocation.
Jordan administers the holy al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has also warned the US against the relocation of its diplomatic mission in Israel, saying all American embassies in the Arab world would have to close in the face of popular Arab outrage that would follow such an action.
PLO Secretary General Sa’eb Erekat said late last year that the potential move would deliver a death blow to any prospect of the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and would have his organization rescind all agreements with Tel Aviv.
Trump backtracked on Washington’s support for the so-called “two-state solution” in February, saying he would support any solution favored by both sides.
Full report at:
Israeli soldier stabbed to death in 'terror attack'
1 December 2017
A soldier has been stabbed to death in southern Israel in what police say was a suspected terror attack.
Sgt Ron Isaac Kukia, 19, was killed at a bus stop in the city of Arad on Thursday night. Security forces are searching for at least one attacker.
The attack comes amid an increase in tension, after a Palestinian was shot dead by an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank earlier in the day.
Israel also struck the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar fire.
Hundreds of police and troops have been deployed around Arad and roadblocks have been set up in the hunt for suspects.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the "main direction of the investigation is that it is most probably a terrorist attack".
Some 50 Israelis and five foreign nationals have been killed since late 2015 in a series of gun, knife, and car-ramming attacks, predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.
Around 300 Palestinians have also been killed in that period. Most were assailants, Israel says, while others were killed in clashes with troops.
Thursday night's attack came hours after Israeli tank-fire and air strikes struck militant positions inside the Gaza Strip in response to mortar fire across the border into Israel.
At least 10 mortars landed, without causing casualties. Three Palestinians were lightly hurt by an air strike south of Gaza City, Palestinian sources in Gaza said.
Israel said it targeted sites belonging to the militant Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad. An Israeli military spokesman indicated that Islamic Jihad was suspected of being behind the mortar fire, though no group has said it was responsible.
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Houthi militias clash with Saleh loyalists for second day, three killed
1 December 2017
Three fighters from forces loyal to the former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh were killed in a second day of clashes with their own allies from the Houthi militias in the capital Sanaa, Saleh’s party said on Thursday.
The two groups are fighting a Saudi-led coalition that has intervened in a 2-1/2 year Yemeni civil war with a view to restoring the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
A statement from Saleh’s General People’s Congress Party said three guards were killed when Houthi forces attacked the house of Tarek Saleh, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s nephew, adding that they also besieged the residence of Ibrahim Sharaf, a party member and foreign minister of the Sanaa-based government.
“The Houthis violated the truce agreement and attacked the residence of colonel Tarek and killed three guards and wounded three others,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Al-Arabiya sources in Sanaa said Houthi commanders Hamza Yahya al-Mukhtar and Ali Khoreim were killed along with 10 others while they tried to raid the house of the deposed president’s son.
Local sources told Reuters some residents fled areas where the fighting, which involved heavy artillery and rocket launchers, raged for several hours for a second day.
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Iran FM calls attention to Daesh presence in neighboring Afghanistan
Dec 1, 2017
At an international conference focusing on Afghanistan, Iran’s top diplomat urges attention to the growing presence of the Daesh Takfiri terror group in the Central Asian country.
“At the Heart of Asia summit, we laid emphasis on the need for attention to the Daesh phenomenon in Afghanistan, which is expanding these days,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on the sidelines of the conference in the Azeri capital of Baku on Friday.
“The summit is an effort to create common interests and cooperation, especially among regional countries, towards security and economic development of Afghanistan,” he added.
The conference was launched in 2011 to provide a platform for discussions on regional issues, particularly encouraging security, political, and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbors.
This year’s edition gathered 250 representatives from 40 countries and international organizations.
Zarif further said the Afghan conflict does not have a military solution, adding that if there are no comprehensive strategies in the area, the achievement of lasting peace would be impossible.
“Afghanistan has made positive achievements in various areas, but it has [also] been faced with foreign invasion and the threat of Daesh,” the Iranian top diplomat said, and asserted, “Prevention of this threat is possible through common endeavor by all the regional countries.”
The terrorist outfit, which has become notorious for its brutality worldwide, began establishing a notable presence in Afghanistan almost a year after making sweeping land grabs in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
It has mostly been populating the eastern province of Nangarhar, from where it has carried out high-profile brutal attacks against major population centers in the Central Asian country.
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Nigeria: Eid Maulud - Dogara, Amosun, Obaseki, Others Felicitate With Muslims
1 DECEMBER 2017
By Oladeinde Olawoyin
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has felicitated with Nigerian Muslims as they join other believers globally to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
In a statement issued by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Turaki Hassan, the Speaker enjoined the Muslim faithful to continue to demonstrate in their lives, the good virtues of the prophet.
This, he said, would engender peace and unity needed for the growth and development of the country.
"As I rejoice with you on this holy and significant occasion, I wish to enjoin you to replicate in your lives, the lessons of tolerance, piety, patience, honesty, justice and good neighbourliness as preached and exemplified by Prophet Muhammad.
"The celebration of Maulud should also renew our faiths and increase our tempo in coming together as a people of common destiny to pray for unity, peace, progress and stability of the nation for the country to attain its aspirational growth and development", he said.
Similarly, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, urged Muslims to reflect on and emulate the "good nature, show love, and imbibe teachings of tolerance of Prophet Muhammad."
Mr. Obaseki said the celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad is a time for Muslim faithful to rededicate themselves to the teachings of the prophet not just as a matter of religious obligation but also a recipe for peaceful coexistence in society.
The governor urged Muslims to pray for the peace and progress of the state and the country.
"I celebrate with our Muslim brothers and sisters in Edo State, in Nigeria and across the globe on this day set aside to mark the celebration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W)", he said.
"The occasion should remind us all of the virtues of the Prophet, which we should emulate in advancing love, peace and progress of the state and country. That Muslims constitute a major force for peace and progress wherever they may be, signifies the import of the Prophet's message."
Also, the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, urged Muslims to use the occasion to reflect on the ideals the Prophet stood for.
"The teachings of Prophet Muhammad centred round sobriety, peace, sacrifice and selflessness. These were the ideals he stood for and which, we, as Muslims, should emulate", Mr. Amosun said in a statement signed by Dayo Adeneye, Ogun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy.
"We need to imbibe these virtures and manifest them in our lives, particularly at this period, when we need to support the President Mohammadu Buhari led government, towards the consolidation of the gains recorded so far in its change agenda."
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu State Governor, in his goodwill message, urged Nigerians, especially Muslim faithful, to offer special prayers for peaceful coexistence among the various peoples of the nation.
"I wish all our Muslim brothers and sisters in our state and across the country a joyous and hitch-free Eid el Maulud celebration", the governor said.
Ethnic clash in Nigeria leaves four police officers dead: official
DECEMBER 1, 2017
YOLA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Muslim cattle herders are suspected of killing four police officers in the northeastern Nigerian state of Adamawa, a police official said on Friday.
The four officers were killed on Thursday night defending a village in the Numan region from the herdsmen, who attacked the settlement as a reprisal for an earlier deadly clash, said Othman Abubakar, a police spokesman for the state.
In the earlier clash, unidentified attackers killed more than 30 cattle herders in Numan.
Numan has recently become a flashpoint for clashes between the herders and Christian farmers, which occur frequently across broad swathes of Nigeria, as each group contests the other’s rights to land for pasture and agriculture.
Nigeria: Muslim activists stand with Palestine
At least 2,000 Muslim activists took to the streets of the Nigerian capital Lagos on Friday to show solidarity with the peoples of Palestine, Kashmir, and Myanmar’s minority Rohingya community.
“Palestinians and Muslim minorities around the world have been facing persecution, and in extreme cases we saw ethnic cleansing and genocide in Myanmar,” said Waheed Atoyebi, the head of Muslim Awareness International (MAI).
The event -- 2017 Al-Aqsa Solidarity Day rally -- was attended by top Muslim intellectuals and influential religious leaders, who called on world bodies to respond to the appeals of the persecuted people, especially Palestinians.
“The hypocrisy of the world is such that a referendum was secured for South Sudan to break away from Sudan, yet Kashmiris have waited in vain for a referendum to decide their fate, with India using all forms of subterfuge to prevent and abort such an exercise.
“We have seen them paying lip service to the plight of the Palestinians Muslims,” Atoyebi added.
Atoyebi said the 2017 Al-Aqsa day coincided with the centenary of that “ignoble duplicity, dishonesty and daylight robbery when Britain through the Balfour Declaration gave its nod to the establishment of a homeland for Jews in Palestine”.
He also criticized the decision by academic institutions in the U.K. to allow “Zionist elements to use their premises to commemorate this most tragic human event in history”.
Ismail Busayri, a top cleric, called on world leaders and the UN to address the plight of persecuted communities.
Busayri spoke on the topic of “Selective Justice; History, Relevance, and Significance of the Palestinian Struggle” in a sermon to drum up support for minorities at Friday prayer.
Full report at:
Libya to allow emergency repatriation of refugees
Dec 02, 2017
Libya has reached a deal with European and African leaders to allow the emergency repatriation of refugees and migrants facing abuse in detention camps in the North African country.
Thursday's announcement came after revelations that African asylum seekers and migrants were being sold into slavery in Libya as they tried in vain to reach European shores.
"This disgraceful drama reminds us of the darkest hours of humanity. I call on our collective sense of responsibility to take urgent action," Alassane Ouattara, president of Ivory Coast, said at a two-day African-European Union summit in Abidjan.
The summit, which was meant to focus on development in African countries, instead focused largely on the Mediterranean refugee crisis.
French President Emmanuel Macron said leaders were focused on fixing "a series of very critical issues and atrocities, like in Libya".
The African Union, European Union and UN announced the creation of a task force to deal with the migration crisis, notably in Libya.
The body will work in close collaboration with the Libyan government, the groups said in a statement.
The goal is "to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya, accelerating the assisted voluntary returns to countries of origin, and the resettlement of those in need of international protection".
It will also aim to dismantle criminal networks involved in trafficking.
However, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said it was important to address the root causes of the crisis if it was to be resolved.
"We will not put an end to the tragedy in the Mediterranean if we do not create significant, legal migration opportunities. We must also ensure that people can find a dignified future in their home country," he said during the meeting.
Opportunities at home
Others said more must be done to give young Africans opportunities at home.
"We have to invest in jobs," said Oxfam's Magalie Laliberte.
"We have to invest to cover their basic needs, that's what we need to do."
Al Jazeera's Natacha Butler, reporting from Abidjan, said the slave trade in Libya has shocked and embarrassed leaders in both Africa and Europe.
Full report at:
Sen. Sani tasks African leaders on fight against terrorism, illegal migration
DECEMBER 1, 2017
Sen. Shehu Sani has advised African leaders to join hands to tackle terrorism and illegal migration. A statement issued on Friday in Abuja quotes Sani as giving the advice in an address to an assembly of Sudanese intellectuals and students at the International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan. Senator Sani Sani, who is the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, said terrorism and illegal migration were among the many challenges confronting Africa that required urgent attention. ”Terrorism not only represents a 21st century threat to global peace and stability but also to Muslims and Islam. ”Islam is confronted by two dangers on two fronts, from the inside and from the outside. ”The inside forces are those who manipulate and misuse the religion in furtherance of their extremist or political or violent agenda. ”And the outside are those with a mindset set and conditioned to hate Muslims and anything associated with Islam. ”The need for humanity and the world to unite and defeat terrorism is urgent and necessary but it’s the Muslims that must lead the battle with common courage, common focus and collective determination. ”Terrorists are anarchists, their cruel actions and atrocious violence create bad perception and impression for the faith they falsely lay claim to belong to,” he said. The lawmaker urged Muslim intellectuals, scholars and students to lead efforts to cast the light of peace and tolerance in the hearts of all believers in the faith. He said Sudan and Nigeria shared centuries of historical, cultural and political ties, adding that the peoples of both nations must move to sustain and reinforce such ties in the spirit of unity, brotherhood and African solidarity. According to him, Sudan holds a strategic and geographical position as abridge between North Africa and sub Saharan Africa. Sani said that this therefore imposed on it a moral and historic duty to champion causes to promote and enhance unity and continental peace. ”International University for Africa in Sudan should breed students who will go back to their countries to lead the fight against religious extremism and terrorism. ”The products of your institution should symbolise a synergy of intellect, modernity, African unity and faith. ”Any ideology that promotes mass murder of innocent souls in the mosques, churches and schools are forces of evil and we must collectively resist and defeat.
Full report at:
Pandemonium in Kaduna as police disperse Shiites procession
Pandemonium ensued in Kaduna metropolis yesterday when members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as Shiites, and the Police clashed during the group’s procession in commemoration of the birthday of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) in the state.
The Shiites, who came out in their hundreds, were marching and singing along major roads and highways when a combined team of armed policemen quickly emerged to stop the procession by shooting teargas and bullets in the air to disperse the procession.
The Police were able to restore peace and orderliness, as hoodlums almost took over the situation to cause pandemonium in the city.
The deputy spokesperson of the IMN Media Forum, Mallam Abdulmummunin Giwa, condemned the action of the Police in an interview, saying: “Today is the 12th of Rabiu Awwal, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed (SAW) and we are celebrating it as a Muslim community. We don’t know why the Police should be attacking us.
“Usually, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed (SAW) is commemorated by Muslims all over the world, so members of the IMN, along with other Muslims, came out in procession in commemoration of the prophet’s birthday.
“As they were going, singing, the Police came with weapons, bullets and teargas and dispersed them. Later, there was reinforcement by the Police and they further dispersed the gathering.
“Usually, this event takes place annually. It is the birthday of the Prophet and we were commemorating it when the Police came to start shooting.
“This action of the police is sending dangerous notice to the entire people in the state that we are now in a Police state and not democracy. Probably the government is not only dealing with members of IMN alone, but also the entire Muslim community, who are also celebrating the birthday of Prophet Mohammed.
“They are in disguise, fighting Islam and Muslims, because this is the birthday of the Prophet. Why should they attack us?”
Giwa, who gave details of the procession by the Shiites said: “The procession started from Leventis Roundabout along Ahmadu Bello Way. We went down to Kano Road and Lagos Street and it was at this point that the Police came and started shooting. The attack lasted for a while until the Police overpowered everybody.
“For now, nothing can be said whether any of our members were arrested or sustained severe injuries. We will get to know this later. During the reinforcement, they came with thugs carrying sticks and other dangerous items and we saw then beating many people.
“But we can’t say whether those people are members of IMN or innocent people walking on the street.”
Full report at:
US-led coalition must leave Syria after Daesh defeat: Russia’s Lavrov
Dec 2, 2017
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says all foreign forces, including those of the so-called US-led coalition that are present in Syria without the authorization from the Damascus government, have to withdraw from the Arab country after the total defeat of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
The senior Russian diplomat made the remarks in a speech he delivered at the third edition of the Rome MED-Mediterranean Dialogues held in the Italian capital Rome on Friday.
Lavrov said Moscow expected the so-called military coalition to adhere to fighting Daesh as propagated by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other American officials.
Back on October 12, Lavrov said that Tillerson, during a telephone conversation between the pair three days earlier, had assured him that the US’ only goal in Syria was fighting the terror outfit.
The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of fulfilling its declared aim of destroying Daesh.
Lavrov’s comments come as Daesh has lost its strongholds in Syria thanks to the Syrian army’s counter-terrorism offensives, backed by Russian air cover.
Lavrov's Friday remarks echoed his earlier assertion two months ago that the presence of the US-led coalition in the form of "a wide range of foreign countries" is "illegitimate" because "nobody has invited them" to the war-torn Arab country.
The top Russian diplomat further noted at the time that “after terrorism is defeated, the first step should be the pullout of those who stay illegitimately in Syria.”
Russia is also involved militarily in Syria. It began targeting the positions of Daesh and other militant groups in September 2015 upon an official request from the Syrian government.
Daesh started a campaign of terror against Syria and Iraq in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Three officials of Swiss-French firm accused of financing Daesh in Syria
Dec 1, 2017
Three top managers of the Swiss-French industrial company LafargeHolcim have been accused of indirectly financing the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group through the company’s activities in war-ravaged Syria, judicial sources say.
The trio, arrested in Paris on Wednesday, was charged on Friday with paying the terror outfit and other foreign-backed militant groups through a middleman in an attempt to allow the company's plant in Jalabiyah in northern Syria to continue to operate, said a Paris judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The company, which produces cement, construction aggregates and concrete, was initially founded as Lafarge in France in 1833. In 2015, however, it merged with Holcim, a Swiss building supplies company, and began to be called LafargeHolcim henceforth.
The Swiss-French firm is also suspected of employing fake consulting contracts to purchase oil from Daesh in mid-2013, when the terror organization took control of most of Syria’s strategic oil reserves.
The arrested officials are identified as Bruno Pescheux, Jean-Claude Veillard and Frederic Jolibois. Pescheux, who was the chief of the Syrian branch between 2008 and 2014, and Veillard, the company’s security boss, have been charged with financing terrorism as well as “endangering others’ lives.”
Jolibois, who took over as the manager of the Syrian branch in 2014 according to his lawyer Jean Reinhart, is accused of financing terrorism and violating a European Union embargo on Syrian oil. Jolibois has already admitted to purchasing oil from “non-governmental organizations,” particularly Kurdish and Takfiri groups, in violation of the 2011 embargo.
Pescheux, for his part, acknowledged that the company paid up to $100,000 on a monthly basis to Syrian tycoon Firas Tlass, a former minority shareholder who gave cash to armed groups in a bid to keep the factory running. According to Pescheux’s estimation, Daesh would have received around $20,000.
The Takfiri terrorists, who have now lost large swathes of Syrian territory, had took control of the Jalabiyah plant in September 2014.
Full report at:
MEPs urge Saudi arms ban, blast EU members for continued sales amid Yemen war
Dec 1, 2017
European Union lawmakers have overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the bloc to slap an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, which is leading a brutal military campaign against Yemen.
The non-binding resolution, which was adopted in a nearly unanimous 539-13 vote on Thursday, condemned attacks against Yemeni civilians as “war crimes,” and slammed EU members for authorizing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in breach of EU laws on arms export control.
The parliament “condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing violence in Yemen and all attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, which constitute war crimes,” the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) said in their statement.
Referring to a similar resolution from February last year, the lawmakers called on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to launch an initiative to impose an EU arms embargo against the Riyadh regime “given the serious allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”
The UK, France, Germany and Greece are known to have struck major arms deals with Saudi Arabia in the course of the war, which began in 2015.
Last year, France authorized arms licenses worth $18 billion to Saudi Arabia, according to reports.
The United States was the second largest weapons provider to Riyadh with $5.9 billion followed by Britain at over $4 billion.
German weapons sales to Saudis have also risen over the past two years, jumping from $321 million in 2015 to over $630 million in 2016, according to Deutsche Welle.
Meanwhile, Greece has come under pressure over a $77 million arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
‘Alarming humanitarian crisis’
The MEPs also expressed “grave concern at the alarming deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Yemen,” referring to civilian deaths resulting from the years-long Saudi war and an outbreak of deadly diseases such as cholera and diphtheria.
More than 12,000 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s deadly campaign, which has the backing of a coalition of its vassal states.
Another 2,100 people have died of cholera since April as hospitals struggle to secure basic supplies across the country.
The war has destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure, with the impoverished country relying heavily on international aid to slow down the humanitarian crisis. Those efforts, however, have been impeded by a long-running Saudi blockade on key Yemeni ports and airport.
In their statement, the European lawmakers blasted the blockade and called for its “immediate” removal.
“The aerial and naval blockade imposed on Yemen by the coalition forces has been one of the main causes of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe; whereas this blockade has restricted and disrupted the import and export of food, fuel and medical supplies, as well as humanitarian aid,” the statement added.
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Despite Greek shelter, Yazidis struggle to integrate
2 December 2017
SERRES, Greece: Although Ibrahim Hondeta’s Yazidi family reached Greece a year ago after fleeing persecution, they still fear being the target of violence and are fighting to keep their community together.
Having run the gauntlet of invasion, combat, killings and enslavement by Daesh terrorists in Iraq, the members of this religious minority have found temporary shelter in the largely agricultural region of Serres in northern Greece.
The camp they have been allocated to is one of the best in the country — their prefabricated homes have air conditioning and solar panels to heat water. The grounds are clean and there is a playground for the children.
Many hope to be reunited with other Yazidis stranded in Greece, but with the country struggling to manage more than 50,000 refugees and migrants stranded on its territory, that is not always an option.
“Creating a camp just for Yazidis is neither possible nor viable,” said a Greek official with knowledge of refugee management efforts.
The camp can normally accommodate 700 people. At the moment there are some 350 Yazidis, most of them women and children, waiting for EU-sponsored relocation to other parts of Europe.
Greece’s policy is to move eligible refugees from overcrowded island camps — where they undergo identity checks upon arrival from Turkey — to the mainland, where more comfortable accommodation is available in better camps, UN-funded flats and hotels.
But the Yazidis, who have already faced an ordeal keeping their dwindling community together thus far, oppose this policy.
This is partly down to fear of other communities. They had a scare earlier this year, when a Yazidi celebration in Kilkis, another part of northern Greece, descended into violence between Arabs and Kurds.
“(The Arabs) threatened to kill us. They hunted us down with knives and clubs. We had to hide in a forest to save our lives,” says 55-year-old Hondeta, sitting on a bench outside the camp.
“After that, we asked to be given a safe place for our families and we ended up here together.”
Since that time, they have frustrated the Greek government’s attempts to bring in non-Yazidis.
They recently blocked the transfer of 60 Congolese and Senegalese mothers and their children to the Serres camp, the government official said.
All of them were Catholic.
In Athens, a migration ministry source said every effort is being made to facilitate and protect the Yazidis from possible harm.
“To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an incident in 10 months,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But there are some people who chafe toward any attempt at integration,” the official said.
“Respecting one’s religious convictions, and using this issue to create sub-groups among the refugee population are two totally different things,” the government official in Athens said.
“Suppose Syrian Christians demand four camps for themselves? It’s not something that can be managed,” he added.
Rooted in Zoroastrianism, the Yazidis adhere to a faith that emerged in Mesopotamia more than 4,000 years ago but that has over time integrated elements of Islam and Christianity.
Of the world’s 1.5 million Yazidis, about 550,000 lived in Iraqi Kurdistan but some 400,000 have been displaced by fighting due to Daesh.
Around 1,500 have been killed and more than 3,000 are believed to remain in captivity, the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN rights office said in an August report.
In areas controlled by Daesh, thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi minority were used as sex slaves and suffered horrific abuse, including rape, abduction, slavery and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
The suffering the Yazidis have endured explains why community elders in Serres have written to the migration ministry to officially request that the camp be assigned to Yazidis alone.
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Muslim student says she was ordered to remove headscarf at McDonald's
1 December 2017
McDonald’s has apologised after a Muslim woman complained she was told to remove her headscarf or leave one of the fast-food chain’s restaurants, saying she was told it was a security threat.
The 19-year-old student, who asked not to be named, said she was stopped in a north London McDonald’s by a security guard who repeatedly told her to remove her hijab on Thursday evening.
When she refused, she said the guard appeared shocked but continued to ask, so she decided to film the incident on her phone. A friend later uploaded it to Twitter on her behalf.
In the video, the woman, who is a British Muslim of Middle Eastern descent, asks the guard why she cannot come into the McDonald’s. He responds: “It’s just a matter of taking it off.”
“It’s not just a matter of taking it off. I wear this for religious reasons and I’m not ashamed of it, and I will stand in line and I will get the food I want, because this isn’t OK,” she replies.
A member of the public intervenes to tell the security guard he cannot ask the woman to remove her hijab, to which he responds: “It’s none of your business.”
When the woman says “this is fucking ridiculous”, a member of staff replies “don’t be rude” and tells her to stop filming. She refuses. She is then told she will be served but says: “I don’t want want anything any more.”
The student told the Guardian: “I thought: ‘It’s finally happening to me,’ like it has to so many hijabis. It didn’t feel real because I had seen so many videos like this and it was finally happening to me in real life. I was in so much disbelief.
“The friend I was with was shocked and scared, and said it was a risky situation. When it was over, I finally realised how these situations can become dangerous. This is not a one-off thing.
“I will never walk into a McDonald’s again,” she added.
A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said the chain “does not have a policy in place which restricts or prevents anyone wearing a hijab, or any other religious dress, from entering” one of its restaurants.
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Germany’s Intel Worries About Islamist Mobilization in the Balkans
December 1, 2017
German Intelligence Agency (BND) is concerned about the Islamist ideology increasing its influence in the Balkan region, German newspapers report. The main focus of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency is the Muslim-majority country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The agency has been alarmed by massive investments being made by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the religious and Islamist infrastructure of the country.
The investments made by Arab patrons are paying off handsomely. Bosnia-Herzegovina has the highest percentage of ISIS recruits compared to any other European country, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirmed. An estimated 200 Bosnians have left the country to fight for the Islamic State, a German broadcaster reported. In recent months, Bosnian Police have made several arrests and recovered large amounts of explosives and military hardware in raids across the country.
Carved out of the Communist Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992, the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina became the first Muslim-majority state of the modern Europe. Nearly 16 years later, Kosovo would declare independence from Serbia, emerging as Europe’s second Muslim-majority state. Unsurprisingly, both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are today hotbeds for Jihadi recruitment. In early 1990s, hundreds of ‘mujahedeen’ fighters came from abroad to bolster the ranks of Bosnian Muslims forces battling the Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. Today, Bosnian Muslims are returning the favor by exporting Jihad abroad.
German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
German Intelligence Agency (BND) is increasingly turning its attention towards the Balkans, especially towards Bosnia-Herzegovina. The BND is cooperating with other intelligence agencies in this regard, the newspaper Berlin Zeitung reported citing sources within the national security circles. The primary reason behind this is the growth of Islamist movement in the region.
Like most of the erstwhile Yugoslav states, Bosnia-Herzegovina is regarded as a highly volatile entity. Besides, Arabian Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia, have invested heavily in order to replacing the existing moderate variety of Islam with the so-called Wahhabi kind. From no other European state — in proportion to its population — did so many fighters join Jihadists group than from Bosnia.
Furthermore, the Balkans remain a transit route for the refugees that arrive through Turkey and Greece and move towards Central Europe — despite the EU-Turkey Deal halting that flow. [Translation by the author]
Formerly part of the Christian Byzantine Empire, the Islamization of the Balkans began with the Ottoman conquest in the fourteenth century. The rise of the European nationalism led to several revolutions and uprisings but failed to create stable nation-states in the region.
After the Second World War, the region was consolidated under the communist dictatorship of Josip Broz Tito into the unified and multi-ethnic Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. The collapse of the Eastern Block in the early 1990s reignited the dormant ethnic nationalism in the region, fueling a decade-long war which led to the creation of 6 new countries on ethnic and historical lines: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Serbia’s Muslim-majority provinces of Kosovo was the latest addition to the Balkan states, declaring Independence in 2008.
The European security apparatus, however, has a bigger problem at hand than a bunch radicalized Muslims somewhere in the Balkans. If the trend in Muslim-majority Balkan states is any indicator, Europe’s biggest challenge is rearing its head in its heartland.
According to the projections released by the Pew Research Center, the Muslim population in major European countries is expected to triple by 2050. The Muslim population of Germany is predicted to grow from 6 percent in 2016 to nearly 20 percent in next three decades. As the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian points out, “Even if all current 28 EU members, plus Norway and Switzerland, closed their borders to migrants, the Muslim population share in the west would continue to grow owing to a younger age profile and higher fertility rates, but remain very low in the east.”
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UK Security Services Foil Significant Jihadist Terror Plot
1 Dec 2017
Counter-terror officials believe a serious, well-advanced Islamic extremist terror plot against the UK has been foiled after two alleged jihadists were arrested.
The plot is thought to have been inspired by the Islamic State group, with attacks planned in the capital London and the UK’s second city Birmingham.
The young suspects, aged 20 and 21, were held on Wednesday night “on suspicion of being involved in the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorism”, a statement from the Metropolitan force revealed.
Searches of addresses in Southeast Birmingham and North London were said to be ongoing and the Met’s Firearms Command was involved in the operation.
The arrests were linked to “UK-based activity”, counter-terror sources told The Telegraph, but the precise nature of the plot is still unknown as the investigation is in its early stages and suspects are yet to be interrogated.
The Islamic extremist threat to the UK is at an unprecedented scale and has increased “dramatically” over the past year, MI5 Director-General Andrew Parker revealed last month.
“In 2017, with all that has happened and much that has not, it is clear that we are contending with an intense UK terrorist threat from Islamist extremists,” he said in a rare public speech.
“That threat is multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly, and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before… We’ve seen a dramatic upshift in the threat this year. It’s at the highest tempo I’ve seen in my 34-year career.
“Today there is more terrorist activity, coming at us more quickly, and it can be harder to detect,” he said.
Adding: “Islamist terrorism is an acute and enduring challenge that requires a sustained and comprehensive approach.”
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Huge Decline in ISIS Propaganda Mirrors Losses on Battlefield
December 01, 2017
As Islamic State stands on the brink of defeat in its previous heartlands in Syria and Iraq, analysts say the group’s effort to win the information war is also failing.
As its propagandists can no longer maintain a pretense of military victory, they are switching attention to trying to inspire attacks overseas.
A recent video produced by the media arm of Islamic State demonstrates the dramatic change in the group’s multimedia efforts.
Gone are the scenes of hundreds of victorious ISIS fighters, the huge arsenals of weapons and the boasts about the swaths of territory the militants control. There is no illusion either of the populations living in purported blissful harmony in the Islamic State’s dreamed-of caliphate.
Big change recently
Instead, the video shows a handful of fighters on an armored truck.
“It looks like this is in Raqqa. They’re trying to portray the Islamic State’s army as still this professional, capable, well-oiled machine. But, I mean, this is three guys in one truck in an abandoned city. It’s miles apart from what they used to do,” said Charlie Winter, an expert in terrorist propaganda at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College London.
Winter says the most significant change occurred during the past few weeks.
“The Islamic State is far less productive than it’s ever been,” he said. “I mean, it’s almost as if someone has pressed mute on its propagandists. But in October, that was when it really suddenly went silent, and I think that’s because a media center or a few media centers had been destroyed around Raqqa and Mayadin (in Syria) in particular.”
Shrinking territory, same ideology
The territory held by Islamic State has shrunk to a fraction of the area it controlled just a year ago and it has far less source material from which it can create its media.
U.S.-backed coalition forces battling ISIS have also learned the importance of its propaganda. On the ground and online, its media operations have been targeted. Winter says the militants are recalibrating their followers’ expectations of victory — from dreams of an Islamic caliphate to mere survival.
“Even if it doesn’t have the territory, it still has the ideology, it still has the adherents, it still has the true believers killing themselves in its name,” Winter said.
In previous years, ISIS propaganda was aimed at luring foreign believers to live in its purported Islamic utopia.
“No longer is it calling for people to travel to Iraq and Syria,” Winter said. “Instead, it’s really trying to double down on getting people to carry out operations back in their home countries.”
That is where Islamic State propaganda is trying to claim success. Despite little evidence of direct links, the group trumpets that it has the ability to inspire terror attacks anywhere in the world, such as the series of vehicle attacks in London and other European cities, and in New York in October.
That puts a big responsibility on global media that Winter says is effectively sustaining Islamic State, even as the group is defeated on the battlefield.
“So, how the global media responds to these operations. Because increasingly they are going to be the Islamic State’s lifeblood. They are going to be the thing that keeps it afloat as an ideology, as a movement, as an organization,” he said.
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Georgia kills suspected leader of Istanbul attack
Dec 02, 2017
Georgian security services say they have killed the suspected mastermind of the 2016 bombing of Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.
Akhmed Chatayev was killed in a special operation in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, during which three other people also died. The 20-hour standoff ended with three suspects killed and one arrested, while one officer was killed and four wounded.
The identities of the other two slain suspects remained unclear. "The investigation is ongoing. We continue to work with our international partners to identify the other two," Nino Giorgobiani, the deputy chief of Georgia's state security service, told the Reuters news agency.
Georgian authorities are looking into what the suspects were doing in Georgia and how they got there.
Chatayev, a 37-year-old from Chechnya, was believed to have been a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. Interpol says that Chatayev was seen as one of the more senior Russian-speaking ISIL members, responsible for training and commanding at least 130 fighters.
He lost his arm during the Second Chechen War, which took place between 1999 and 2009. In 2015, he moved to ISIL-controlled territory and was placed on a US Treasury sanctions list for planning attacks against US and Turkish facilities. He was also put on a UN sanctions list, wanted by Russian authorities for "terrorist crimes committed in its territory", according to Interpol.
Last year, Chatayev was named by Turkish and American intelligence services as the mastermind behind the 2016 bombing at Ataturk Airport in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
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