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Islamic World News (29 Mar 2020 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Intelligence Agency on Saturday Received A Specific Input About A Possible Strike Being Planned by Islamic State, In Indian Capital Delhi







• Intelligence Agency on Saturday Received A Specific Input About A Possible Strike Being Planned by Islamic State, In Indian Capital Delhi

• No, Foreign Nationals from Italy, Iran Weren’t Hiding In Patna Mosque To Avoid Coronavirus Testing

• Iraqi Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Says Same-Sex Marriage Caused Coronavirus

• Egypt’s Salafists Exploit Mosques Shutdown to Expand Influence

• Moroccans Reject Salafists’ ‘Irresponsible’ Attempt at Assailing Closure of Mosques

• Old Video of Interfaith Service Viral as Donald Trump Offers Islamic Prayers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

• Council of Muslim Theologians Urge South Africans To Take Lockdown Seriously

• NZ Muslim Community Solidarity with Sikhs, Condolences

• Violating Ban on Friday Congregations: Religious Parties Condemn Arrests, Cases Against Imams

• Iran, Russia Send Joint Letter to UN Chief to Push Lift of Unilateral Sanctions

 

 

India

• Intelligence Agency on Saturday Received A Specific Input About A Possible Strike Being Planned by Islamic State, In Indian Capital Delhi

• No, Foreign Nationals from Italy, Iran Weren’t Hiding In Patna Mosque To Avoid Coronavirus Testing

• Northern Railway Makes the First Prototype of Hospital Isolation Coach For Covid-19 Patients

• Police in Telangana chase away people, imam gathered to offer Friday prayer

• Coronavirus case in Uttar Pradesh: Youth returns from UAE, tests positive

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Arab world

• Iraqi Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Says Same-Sex Marriage Caused Coronavirus

• Egypt’s Salafists Exploit Mosques Shutdown to Expand Influence

• Imams of Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque urge cooperation with government health measures and precautions

• Saudi Arabia Intercepts Houthi Missiles Above Riyadh

• Bahrain Islamic Bank Offers Relief Measures to Retail and Corporate Clients and Urges Utilisation of Digital Platforms to Ensure Personal Safety

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Europe

• Moroccans Reject Salafists’ ‘Irresponsible’ Attempt at Assailing Closure of Mosques

• Imam speaks out on viral photo of crowds outside Leeds mosque in 'coronavirus lockdown'

• Muslims in Britain should prepare for more COVID-19 deaths and emergency rule

• 'Things will get worse before they get better': Boris Johnson warns tougher lockdown may be needed in letter to every UK household

• U.K. coronavirus death toll under 20,000 would be ‘good result’: health chief

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North America

• Old Video of Interfaith Service Viral as Donald Trump Offers Islamic Prayers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

• Disagreement over US presence throws Iraq’s Shia camp in disarray

• Two Canadian human rights organizations protest to remind world of Yemen tragedy

• Top US general warns Pentagon against plan to 'destroy' Iraq's Kata'ib Hezbollah group

• US wrestling with how to respond to rising, bolder attacks on Americans in Iraq

• US to send equipment to terrorists in Syrian refugee camp under guise of medical aid: Report

• US beefs up security around Baghdad embassy amid Washington’s plans to target PMU: Iraqi MP

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Africa

• Council of Muslim Theologians Urge South Africans To Take Lockdown Seriously

• Coronavirus: Details of FCT Minister’s meeting with Christian, Muslim leaders emerges

• Kaduna: Police arrest two Islamic clerics for flouting directive on religious gatherings

• Cameroonian Muslims Defy Coronavirus Prayer Restrictions

• Gov. Umahi shuts down all Churches, Mosques in Ebonyi State

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New Zealand

• NZ Muslim Community Solidarity with Sikhs, Condolences

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Pakistan

• Violating Ban on Friday Congregations: Religious Parties Condemn Arrests, Cases Against Imams

• Shehbaz Recommends Use of Marriage Halls, Schools, Colleges and Mosques as Isolation Centres

• Govt distributes relief goods among deserving non-Muslims

• Law ministry endorses IHC order for release of over 700 under-trial prisoners

• Mosque sealed in Hyderabad after Chinese man tests positive for virus

• Minister draws UNHCR attention to Afghan refugees’ problems

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Mideast

• Iran, Russia Send Joint Letter to UN Chief to Push Lift of Unilateral Sanctions

• Yemeni scholar: Jews, Israel and US made coronavirus to shut down Mecca

• Palestinian groups in Gaza Strip cancel anti-Israel mass protests over coronavirus concerns

• Bosnia-Herzegovina Islamic Society expresses solidarity with Iran in fighting COVID-19

• By observing recommendations, we can take steps to eradication Coronavirus

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South Asia

• Taliban’s Reaction to Formation of Negotiation Team by Afghan Government

• Pompeo reacts to formation of negotiating team for the talks with Taliban

• 4 members of a family killed as duck hunting turns deadly in North of Afghanistan

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Southeast Asia

• 365 days later: The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Philippines

• Bank Islam refining details, to introduce iTekad programme by May 2020

• Coronavirus could stop millions of Indonesians returning to home villages after Ramadan

• Jakarta Muslim Gathering Ends with 183 Placed in Quarantine

• Coronavirus: Muslim group in close contact with infected patients moved to quarantine ward

• COVID-19: Singapore records one more death

• There might be no Ramadan bazaar in Kelantan this year - MB

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/intelligence-agency-on-saturday-received-a-specific-input-about-a-possible-strike-being-planned-by-islamic-state,-in-indian-capital-delhi/d/121430

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Intelligence Agency on Saturday Received A Specific Input About A Possible Strike Being Planned by Islamic State, In Indian Capital Delhi

Mar 29, 2020

NEW DELHI: The threat of a terror attack looms large over the capital. An intelligence agency on Saturday received a specific input about a possible strike being planned by Islamic State operatives in the coming days.

The input, accessed by TOI, mentions human intelligence sources stating that two Pakistani terrorists, who were operating in Shopian region of J&K till now, had moved out to launch a terror attack somewhere in the mainland. “The terrorists owe their allegiance to ISIS and are using Telegram to communicate,” it added.

The agency was given the tip-off that the two terrorists had left the Valley last week by road and were going to reach Delhi in a couple of days.

Security has been stepped up in Delhi and efforts are on to disperse the crowd gathered at various interstate bus terminals and at the UP border. Police of states like Punjab and metros like Mumbai have also been alerted.

The threat is being taken “very seriously” as IS magazines like al-Naba and Voice of Hind have written cover-page articles urging Indian Jihadis to capitalise on the “enemy’s preoccupation with novel coronavirus” and wage attacks.

In an editorial piece in al-Naba, Islamic State mentioned that jihadis could exploit this opportunity as the security apparatus of all countries was busy fighting the pandemic. The article elaborated on how the ability of the governments in coordinating counter-terror operations was reduced as it was focusing on dealing with casualties, price hike and product shortages.

“We are preparing for new attacks, which will be the last thing they want. The military apparatus is also crippled because of restriction of movement. The overburdened hospitals will have a nightmare if the mujahideens greet them in the morning,” added the article, which was widely circulated on pro-ISIS channels and chat platforms like Rocketchat, TamTam, Threema and Telegram.

Intelligence sources said they were well aware of these communications and were closely monitoring them.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/intelligence-agency-warns-of-terror-threat-in-delhi/articleshow/74867967.cms

 

 

No, foreign nationals from Italy, Iran weren’t hiding in Patna mosque to avoid coronavirus testing

28th March 2020

Priyanka Jha

On March 27, over 900 people died due to novel coronavirus in Italy in a single day. The state’s death toll has now crossed 9,000. Meanwhile, in Iran, the virus has taken the lives of more than 2,000 people. In the midst of the disturbing news, a video is viral on Facebook and Twitter which shows people coming out of a building. It is being claimed that 50 people from Italy and Iran came to Patna’s Kurji last month and have since been hiding in a mosque. They were apprehended by Digha police, the claim furthers.

These media outlets, in contrast to News 24 India’s report of 50 foreign nationals, claimed that only 12 people were arrested. Meanwhile, News18 reported, “The number of people who were kept hidden is being said to be 12. Everyone is said to be from Turkestan. People living in the neighbourhood objected when they came to know about them and started creating a ruckus. Local police were informed about the ruckus, after which, the police took these 12 people into their custody. Police are conducting raids in the area (translated).”

ANI’s Bihar bureau chief Mukesh Singh also tweeted the video and questioned Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, “At lane no. 74 of Patna’s Kurji area, 25-30 foreign nationals said to be from Iran and Italy, suddenly got down from 2-3 cars. The locals have informed the police and some of them were taken for interrogation. But why this disaster?”.

Right-wing website OpIndia went a step further and speculated that these people could be ‘Chinese Ughyur Muslims’. “Seeing their physique, the possibility, of them being Chinese Uyghur, cannot be denied. For time being, the police are interrogating them. (translated)”

As stated above, the video was published with two different claims. One that these people were hiding inside the mosque and the other that they are from Iran and Italy. Accordingly, we have divided the fact-check into two different sub-sections.

On the basis of the above details, we found a March 23 post by a Facebook page ‘Digha Samachar‘. The post says, “Please don’t spread any kind of rumour about the foreign nationals in Kurji mosque. All of them have tested for COVID-19 and found to be negative.”

We reached out to the admin of this Facebook page. He said, “The issue is related to a mosque located near gate 74 of Patna’s Kurji. These people had come from Krygyzstan in the first week of January for ‘jamaat’. Some people saw them in the mosque and quickly informed the [authorities]. The police came and took them to AIIMS. The reports of these people have come negative.”

Alt News was independently able to access the reports. Each of the men has tested negative. You can see the results in the images posted below. It may be noted that out of the 12 people, ten were foreign nationals and two were local guides. Below are the medical reports of two of the tourists.

We also spoke with Patna AIIMS which confirmed that these were foreign nationals of Kyrgyzstan who were tested negative for coronavirus.

We requested Digha Samachar’s Imad to share copies of the individuals’ passports and visas. The travel documents carried details about their arrival in India. Alt News is not attaching every person’s document in this article to protect their privacy. However, to ascertain whether these men were foreign nationals of Krygyzstan, or Iran/ Italy as claimed by the multiple media outlets, we are posting the copies of the visa and passport of two people while blurring their names and passport numbers. One of them arrived in India on December 19, 2019, and other, on January 10, 2020. All of these individuals had arrived in India before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country on January 30, 2020.

There were also two local guides with these foreign nationals. We spoke to one of them, Munawar Iqbal. “We had reached the Kurji mosque on the same day. ‘Jamaats’ have been coming to the mosque, but this [ruckus] has never happened before, why now? Because there is a fear of the disease that’s why? The whole neighbourhood had gathered at one spot. When the police came, they asked us what is the problem. We said we have no issues, a jamaat has come. Police were given this incorrect information that a jamaat has gathered here from last 2-4 days and one of our fellow travellers died due to coronavirus whom we would bury later. Later, the police asked every one of us to move out. At the time, when we were getting out of the mosque, some people who were standing outside made inappropriate remarks and filmed videos of the incident. It was later made viral by someone falsely claiming that people from Iran and Italy found at the mosque. We all were taken to Patna AIIMS. There we were tested for coronavirus and by the grace of God, the reports were negative.” Tablighi Jamaat is the outreach society to preach Islam.

Iqbal also informed, “They have come to India on a tourist visa and not as a group for the Tablighi Jamaat. Everyone has their own individual visas. They have come in pairs of two and three people. All of them don’t come together. For instance, when a jamaat from here went to Malaysia, they did the same. Eight people went separately and not in a group. Three jamaats had come to Patna. One from Krygyzstan, one from Malaysia which is working in Buxar right now and one more from Indonesia. Verification of all these three jamaats has [also] been done.”

We did a video call to confirm that we were speaking to a person who was seen in the viral video. He is highlighted in the image below.

Alt News reached out to SHO Manoj Kumar Singh of Digha police station. He rubbished the claims and reiterated that the individuals are not from Iran or Italy but Krygyzstan. “This is fake news,” said the SHO and informed that they had jamaat going on in the area. “These men preach information about Islam and have come on tourist visas. They had come for a jamaat at the mosque,” said the policeman, adding the group was in Patna since March 6.

A section of the media misreported that people from the Muslim community were hiding inside a mosque in Bihar during coronavirus pandemic. These outlets even reported that these men were foreign nationals from Iran, Italy and China. However, they were from Krygyzstan and had arrived in India before the first coronavirus case was reported in the country. In all likelihood, Iran, Italy and China were used to promote the misinformation owing to a large number of COVID-19 cases in these countries.

A YouTube search with keywords, “Patna Mosque Foreigners” reveals that the same video has been uploaded by several channels with the identical false claim. Some went a step further and called the incident ‘Corona Jihad’.

Note: The number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus in India exceeds 900. This has caused the government to impose a complete restriction on movement apart from essential services. Globally, more than 6 lakh confirmed cases and over 28,000 deaths have been reported. There is a growing sense of panic among citizens, causing them to fall for a variety of online misinformation – misleading images and videos rousing fear or medical misinformation promoting pseudoscience and invalid treatments. While your intentions may be pure, misinformation, spread especially during a global pandemic, can take lives. We request our readers to practice caution and not forward unverified messages on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

https://www.altnews.in/were-50-foreigners-from-itlay-iran-and-china-hiding-in-mosque-due-to-corona-virus-detained-in-bihar-kurji/

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Iraqi Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Says Same-Sex Marriage Caused Coronavirus

28/03/2020

BERLIN — The firebrand Iraqi Shi’ite cleric leader Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday said that legalization of same-sex marriage caused the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the most appalling things that have caused this epidemic is the legalization of same-sex marriage,” Sadr tweeted, adding, “Hence, I call on all governments to repeal this law immediately and without any hesitation.”

Peter Tatchell, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activist and human rights campaigner, told The Jerusalem Post:“The idea that the Coronavirus is divine punishment for same-sex marriage is as absurd as it is bigoted. The cleric is an ignorant, hateful fool who wants to impose religious tyranny on all Iraqis."

He added that “Muqtada al-Sadr is a dangerous pro-Iranian fanatic. He rejects human rights and his militias have been accused of targeting LGBT+ people and others for execution. Shamefully, sections of the UK Left and anti-war movement gave representatives of this poisonous homophobe and opponent of democracy a platform at rallies against the Iraq war."

The Jerusalem Post reported last month that the influential radical Iranian regime-linked cleric issued an anti-gay and anti-American diatribe against the city of Chicago in his effort to stop Iraqi women from protesting gender segregation.

Sadr tweeted that he "will not allow Iraq to become a Kandahar of religious extremists, nor a Chicago of immorality and homosexuality."

The fanatical Shi’ite cleric was harbored by Iran’s regime from 2007 until 2011 and studied in the religious city of Qom to advance his clerical resume.

In September 2019, he was filmed seated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force head Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani. The US eliminated Soleimani during a January military strike. Both the EU and the US classified Solemani as a foreign terrorist.

The Post reported in March that anti-gay Shi'ite cleric Jawad Al-Khalisi called for British and US ambassadors to be expelled from Iraq in response to a United Kingdom embassy tweet recognizing the rights of the Iraqi lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The British embassy tweeted on March 3 that "We recognize the significant work IraQueer has done to advance the rights of homosexuals. We welcome the recent recognition by the Iraqi government of the right of individuals to live, regardless of their sexual orientation. Live and let others live.”

https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/pro-iran-regime-cleric-in-iraq-says-same-sex-marriage-caused-coronavirus-622707

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Egypt’s Salafists exploit mosques shutdown to expand influence

29/03/2020

CAIRO-- As Arab countries take exceptional measures to confront the coronavirus pandemic, including closing mosques, the Salafist movement tried to exploit the religious naivety of many people and presented itself as a substitute for official institutions, dictating how people should connect with God and offering “religious prescriptions” to combat the disease.

Whether in Algeria, Morocco or Egypt, Salafists seem to have agreed on using the epidemic to serve their political ambitions. They started spewing extremist discourse, inciting people to rebel against closing of mosques and promoting ideas claiming to confront the disease by refusing to observe government actions under the pretext that they serve the goals of secularists.

While Salafism seems to converge ideologically in some countries, it has taken a different bent in Egypt. Egyptian Salafists are looking to regain control of mosques, making them places of political activism and fundraising.

The official Egyptian religious institution Dar al-Ifta intervened in the confrontation between Salafists and official institutions regarding closing places of worship to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Dar al-Ifta issued a statement saying that “insisting on having collective prayers in mosques (in the current circumstances) is forbidden in jurisprudence.”

Salafist leaders argued that closing mosques while urging people to pray at home is a major sin. “Eliminating the scourge of the disease must take place within the houses of Allah and not by closing them,” they said. They urged people to pray in groups because “closing places of worship will bring forth a divine punishment that humans will not be able to withstand.”

Dar al-Ifta said Islamic jurisprudence gave priority to preventing calamities over gaining blessings. It set out ways to protect oneself and the community from contagious diseases and epidemics, urged people to adopt preventive measures, including forbidding contact with those who have contagious

diseases, giving authorities responsibility to protect the community and power to decide on necessary measures to that end and condemning disobeying authorities.

Observers noted that Salafist strategy has been to grab major events to present the Islamist project as the only model that can save society and immunise people against calamities and epidemics because it is based on seeking Allah’s approval.

Salafists also tell people it is the ordained duty of every Muslim to combat all attempts to stop the project through illegal decisions and measures.

The Salafists’ strategy of mobilising popular support is based on exploiting society’s religiosity and deciding on red lines not to be crossed. They have promoted the idea that government is seeking greater secularisation of society by clamping down on Islamic voices. Their evidence includes government decisions to close mosques instead of disinfecting them.

Sameh Eid, an expert on Islamist groups, said Salafists were taking advantage of people’s religiosity to promote hard-line rhetoric and retaliate against the government for excluding Salafists from the social and political scene and for paying greater attention to the Christian community to protect them from harm.

There have been several instances of flaunting governmental decisions by the Salafists. Well-known movement figures began a campaign to impose themselves as the only legitimate source of religious education. In addition to telling people to defy the ban on group prayers, Salafist imams insisted on calling the faithful to prayer and purposely using mosques’ external loudspeakers to conduct prayers.

A parallel campaign began on social media, which buzzed with Salafist sermons and rants against the government’s decisions. There are also online sermons and religious lectures to “participate in the religious and intellectual education of the general public by urging people to use their confinement time at home to get closer to Allah.”

This is a repeat of the strategy used by the Salafist movement in the early 1990s before widespread internet availability. At that time, Salafist scholars recorded religious lessons and sermons on cassette tapes to spread their ideas. Later, they had access to satellite television channels to achieve an even wider spread. Now, they have turned to social media.

Salafists claim their opportunity has come to take back the mosques and religious affairs from the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf after years of being excluded. They are circulating religious discourse completely different from the one promoted by official institutions, a discourse based on convincing people that Salafist dogma is the foundation of protection from epidemics.

Some Salafist actions were directed at Egyptian Copts. The Coptic Church in Egypt has been observing the government’s decision to close all houses of worship

Since Salafists could not ignite sectarian strife in Egypt, their insistence to keep mosques open while churches are forced to close is seen as suggesting that Egypt is an Islamic country where mosques and churches do not have the same standing.

It is striking that the government appeared complacent in the face of Salafists’ efforts to return on the scene. No punitive measures have been taken against imams who violated official decisions to close mosques or against those who openly accuse official institutions of being against religion, which gives the impression that the Salafist figures are above accountability.

Eid said the Egyptian government is aware of the danger of using force to close mosques, even when it knows they are run by Salafists. The government also knows that Salafist figures have convinced some people that closing mosques is antireligious. Still, it prefers to avoid clashing directly with those who consider religion a red line.

Eid said the solution lies in convincing people that the Salafist challenge to government decisions is an attempt to exploit religion and public fear for political gain. This is why it is necessary for the grand imam of al-Azhar to declare the opening of mosques during epidemics unlawful because many citizens are not convinced by the Ministry of Awqaf. A statement by al-Azhar would carry more weight, Eid said.

https://thearabweekly.com/egypts-salafists-exploit-mosques-shutdown-expand-influence

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Moroccans reject Salafists’ ‘irresponsible’ attempt at assailing closure of mosques

29/03/2020

CASABLANCA-- Salafists tried to paint the closing of mosques, which was among measures taken by Moroccan authorities to contain the coronavirus outbreak, as an assault on faith and not as a precaution aimed at saving lives.

In a video on Facebook, Salafist Sheikh Abou Naim called on the High Council of Ulemas and the Rabita Mohammedia for Ulemas to worry more about places of gambling, selling alcohol and debauchery where deadly diseases spread instead of talking about mosques.

“It is a scandal! Considering that the epidemic has not reached a dangerous level that requires the closure of mosques. It is not necessary to close the mosques and I warn the ministry and the institutions against this measure,” said Abou Naim.

“The country that closes its mosques renounces its religion. Do not despise the mosque, otherwise God will punish you,” he warned authorities.

“Abou Naim’s remarks contained threats of committing dangerous acts that would lead to disrupting general order,” a police statement said.

Observers saw Abou Naim’s declarations as undermining governmental efforts at preventing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and seeking to sow discord regardless of the public interest during a critical period.

Mohammed Abdelouahab Rafiqui, a researcher in Islamic studies in Morocco, said Abou Naim’s declaration was out of context and not warranted, even if motivated by ignorance of facts about coronavirus

“The government took some drastic decisions for citizens’ safety, which is at the forefront of its concerns, even at the expense of performing group prayers,” said Rafiqui.

“We should back all the decisions and precautionary measures that seek to protect citizens. There is absolutely no place for such takfiri fatwas that are jeopardising the state’s efforts to combat the pandemic,” he added.

Hassan al-Kettani, another Salafist advocate, referred to the opinion of Kuwaiti Sheikh Hakem al-Mutairi, who criticised the closure of mosques and suspending Friday prayers because of COVID-19.

“It would have been possible to take precautions against the disease by imposing a curfew if necessary, and forcing people to stay home without closing mosques,” Mutairi said.”

Mutairi claimed there was “no evidence from the Quran or the Sunnah to ban Friday and group prayers as no one had dared before.” Kettani described Mutairi’s views, which he posted on Facebook, as a “great fatwa.”

“Following a request for a fatwa addressed to the Supreme Council by Amir al-Mu’minin, the Scientific Authority for Fatwas of the Supreme Council advises to close the mosques, whether with regard to the five daily prayers or the Friday prayers,” said the Supreme Council of Ulemas in a statement, adding that the procedure was temporary.

Rachid Benzine, a French-Moroccan Islamologist, said the state’s reasoning must absolutely prevail during this critical time.

“The state saw an interest in closing the mosques, which is entirely commendable considering the risks of contamination,” said Benzine.

“We came back to some kind of medieval theology, which thinks that diseases come from God. This leads some people to think that the diseases are the fruit of perversion in society, which undermines the scientific discourse.”

Dozens of people marched overnight March 22 in Tangier, Tetouan, Sale and Fez, to plead for God to defeat the coronavirus pandemic. The march was in defiance of a public health state of emergency declared March 20.

“God is great! God is great and alone to be able to help us defeat the coronavirus!” the crowds chanted, prompting condemnations on social media and calls for sanctions.

The council of the government adopted two decree-laws that would increase current penalties of up to three months in prison and a fine of up to 1,300 dirhams ($135) against anyone violating the state of emergency.

Morocco deployed armoured vehicles to enforce the state of emergency to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Images on social media showed heavy-handed arrests and reprimands of those not abiding orders.

https://thearabweekly.com/moroccans-reject-salafists-irresponsible-attempt-assailing-closure-mosques

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Old video of interfaith service viral as Donald Trump offers Islamic prayers amid coronavirus pandemic

28th March 2020

Archit Mehta

A March 28 report in The Guardian states, “The US has become the first country to exceed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as Donald Trump signed into law the largest economic stimulus package in US history, a $2.2tn bill designed to rush federal assistance to workers and businesses.”

As the US becomes the new epicentre for the coronavirus, a 3-minute video with the claim “US President Trump joins Muslims prayers for respite from Coronavirus after failing to tackle it” has gone viral. On the bottom right corner, the viral video has a logo of ABC News. Alt News received several requests to fact-check the viral video on WhatsApp (+91 76000 11160) and on our official Android application.

Alt News performed a reverse image search on Yandex and found link which suggested that the video could be from an interfaith service held in 2017.

Using that as a clue Alt News performed a keyword search on YouTube and found that the viral video is a clip from the National Prayer Service for the 58th presidential inauguration at the National Cathedral, Washington on January 21, 2017. According to a 2017 article in NPR, “The inaugural prayer service is a tradition that began with President George Washington and was revived in 1933 by President Franklin Roosevelt, continuing ever since.”

The guest list for the event is available on the National Cathedral‘s website. Islam was represented by Imam Mohamed Magid, executive Imam, ADAMS Center, Sterling, Virginia and Sajid Tarar, advisor, Medina Masjid, Baltimore, Maryland at the event.

The viral video begins with Magid’s address followed by a portion of Tarar’s address. Alt News could not find the video uploaded by ABC News. However, we found the same video by C-SPAN. The relevant section of the video begins from the 36:58 mark. A video of the same event shot from a different angle was uploaded by Fox News. The relevant section can be watched onward 35:40.

A January 21, 2017 article by Washingon Post reported, “President Trump spent more than an hour Saturday at an interfaith prayer service designed to appeal for national unity as an expected 500,000 people streamed into the nation’s capital to protest his fledgeling presidency.”

Thus, a video of an interfaith national prayer service from 2017 was shared as US President Donald Trump offering Islamic prayers in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

https://www.altnews.in/old-video-of-interfaith-service-viral-as-donald-trump-offers-islamic-prayers-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/

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Council Of Muslim Theologians Urge South Africans To Take Lockdown Seriously

Mar 28, 2020

The Council of Muslim Theologians has urged South Africans to respect the 21-day lockdown as the country battles to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

A number of people in various areas around the country, including Lenasia, have been defying the lockdown.

South Africans have been told to stay at home for the next 21 days but some areas have not been compliant.

Secretary-general Moulana Ebrahim Bham said that the national lockdown required each and every South African to respect the measures taken by President Cyril Ramaphosa to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

“The spread of the coronavirus is a reality. It is happening around us, it is happening in the world and as such, the president has called for a lockdown. We encourage the people of South Africa not to take this lightly and to take the necessary precautions. It is better to heed the advice than to be regretful later on.”

https://iafrica.com/council-of-muslim-theologians-urge-south-africans-to-take-lockdown-seriously/

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NZ Muslim Community Solidarity With Sikhs, Condolences

29 March 2020

Tahir Nawaz, International Muslim Association of New Zealand wishes to pass condolences to the Sikh community following attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) during the week. At least 25 people were killed in the Sikh Gurdwara temple in Kabul on Wednesday, followed by an attack at the funeral of the victims on Thursday.

The temple was home to many as well as a place of worship, and during the attack up to 200 people were trapped inside. ISIL has targeted the Sikh minority in Afghanistan before, and the attack has been widely condemned in the country.

“This is terrible tragedy at any time, but for a country at the brink of a COVID-19 outbreak with 110 cases and 4 deaths to date, this crime is particularly heinous,” Mr Nawaz said.

“This represents a wider crime against humanity as a war-ravaged society fights a deadly contagion. The Muslim community here in New Zealand abhors this violence and wishes to express our solidarity with our Sikh brothers and sisters at this time” Mr Nawaz said.

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2003/S00149/nz-muslim-community-solidarity-with-sikhs-condolences.htm

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Violating ban on Friday congregations: Religious parties condemn arrests, cases against Imams

Zia Ur Rehman

March 29, 2020

KARACHI: Condemning the arrests and registering cases against pesh-e-imams for violating the Sindh government's restriction on congregational prayers, religious parties on Saturday demanded their immediate release and withdrawing cases against them.

On Thursday, the provincial government backed by Fatwa by number of religious scholars had announced that citizens would not be allowed to offer congregational prayers — including Friday prayers — in mosques until April 5 to contain the spread of coronavirus. However, a significant number of clerics defied the government’s ban and held Friday congregations. Most of the clerics who defied the government's ban belonged to the Barelvi school of thought who were following the directions of Mufti Muneebur Rehman and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan chief Khadim Husain Rizvi. Some of them were reported to have linked with Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl. Police in Karachi and other cities of the provinces registered dozens of cases and arrested a number of clerics for violating a number of ban. Mufti Munib ur Rehman, who also heads the central Ruet-Hilal Committee, on Saturday, condemned the arrest and registering of cases against the imams and said that instead of containing coronavirus, the entire police is harassing the religious scholars and imams.

Rehman alleged that provincial minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah and advisor Murtaza Wahab have intentionally sabotaged the March 25 joint declaration of religious scholars by announcing the closure of mosques for Friday prayers on Thursday night. “Shah and Wahab did not provide sufficient time to the religious scholars to convince people of the need to reduce their attendance in the congregational prayers,” Rehman said. He said that the Sindh government should abandon the hypocrisy and announce a firm decision regarding the closures of mosques. Pesh-e-imams and mosque neither will resist nor unlock the seal,” said Rehman. “But the government will have to face its repercussions.” He said that no one can guarantee that the campaign will end on April 5. “It seems that coronavirus will only enter mosques, not in grocery stores and TV channels that are open to the public,” he said.

The JUI-F Sindh’s secretary-general also Rashid Mehmood Soomro has condemned the arrest of the clerics and said that it was the duty of law enforcement agencies to stop worshippers from going to mosques. “Despite the ban and arranging limited gatherings on the eve of Friday prayers, a large number of cases were registered against the clerics across the province, including Karachi.

A significant number of them have also been arrested, who will be bailed out from courts on Monday,” Soomro told The News. He said that the JUI-F is supporting the government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus. “Mosques are open and clerics and religious scholars are not inviting people to come to pray there,” he said. “It is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to stop them.” He demanded that the government should immediately release the clerics and withdraw all cases against them. “Otherwise the party will be forced to announce its strategy against the biased policy of the government” Soomro said.

The Jamaat-e-Islami Sindh has also condemned the arrests and registering of cases against the pesh-e-Imams and said that stopping the worshippers from mosques is tantamount to inviting Allah’s wrath.

Muhammad Hussain Mehanti, the JI Sindh chief, demanded the government to open mosques so the people could pray to Allah to get rid of the pandemic. “We understand that Pakistan and the entire world is passing through a critical time because of the pandemic and religious parties are helping the people through mosques to make them aware about precautionary measures,” said Mehanti, who is also a former MNA from Karachi. “But without consultation with religious parties, the government's announcement to ban the Friday prayers and putting the mosques under lock is to invite Allah’s wrath.” He demanded the government to revise its decision to ban the prayer congregations, release the pesh-e-imams and withdraw cases against them.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/636410-violating-ban-on-friday-congregations-religious-parties-condemn-arrests-cases-against-imams

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Iran, Russia send joint letter to UN chief to push lift of unilateral sanctions

March 28, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): A group of countries including Iran, Russia, Venezuela, China, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua and Syria, sent a joint letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday urging him to push for waiving the US unilateral sanctions on certain countries, according to a statement issued by Russian Foreign Ministry.

The letter calls for an immediate lift of unilateral sanctions which hinder efforts of countries in effective fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Considering the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, removing any obstacle on the way of meeting emergency medical supplies is of special significance, the statement said.

The UN Security Council has excluded humanitarian items from its sanctions mechanisms, it added, noting that such mechanisms were expected to work and not be ignored for political concerns of certain countries.

It is the only way to avoid harmful consequences of sanctions for ordinary people, the statement said.

“And I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion,” said the UN secretary-general in a letter to G20 on March 25.

https://en.abna24.com/news//iran-russia-send-joint-letter-to-un-chief-to-push-lift-of-unilateral-sanctions_1021208.html

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India

 

Northern Railway makes the first prototype of hospital isolation coach for Covid-19 patients

Mar 28, 2020

LUCKNOW: In a bid to battle the coronavirus outbreak in the country, Northern Railway has successfully made the first prototype of hospital isolation coach.

After clearance, when the prototype will be finalised, 10 railway coaches per week will be converted into isolation wards for Covid-19 patients by each zonal railway and the same shall be placed all across India to fight against Covid-19.

In order to construct an isolation cabin prototype for the patients, the middle berth has been removed from one side of the coach while all three berths have been removed in front of the patient berth.

All ladders for climbing up the berths have also been removed. The bathrooms, aisle areas and other areas have also been modified to prepare the isolation coach.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/northern-railway-makes-the-first-prototype-of-hospital-isolation-coach-for-covid-19-patients/articleshowprint/74861802.cms

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Police in Telangana chase away people, imam gathered to offer Friday prayer

March 28, 2020

Ashish Pandey

Narayanpet police on Friday recieved information that people have gathered for a Friday prayer at a mosque in Telangana.

The video of the inicedent shows people are dangerously jumping from one roof to another and the imam is running helter-skelter as the police chase them away.

It is alleged that the call given by ulemas (Muslim scholars) not to come to masjid for Friday prayers in view of novel coronavirus outbreak could not reach many Muslims.

Majlis Bachao Tahreeq (MBT) leader Amjadullah alleged that there was more confusion after Telangana Waqf Board issued an order allowing imam to conduct Friday prayers with five persons.

He pointed out that Narayanpet police should have involved some elders and posted a picket outside the mosque and convinced Muslims, but it did not take any precautions and resorted to lathi charge.

"I strongly condemn the act of Narayanpet police of beating the imam and Muslims and demand strong action against the said police officers for the cruel act or else MBT will be forced to agitate against this police atrocity on Muslims of Narayanpet," MBT spokesman Khan said.

Earlier Telangana govt, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi had requested the community to perform namaz from home instead of gathering at mosques.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/telangana-narayanpet-police-chase-imam-friday-prayers-mosque-1660798-2020-03-28

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Coronavirus case in Uttar Pradesh: Youth returns from UAE, tests positive

Mar 29, 2020

VARANASI: The second positive case of COVID-19 was detected in Varanasi on Saturday. The patient, a 30-year-old youth, has been admitted to the isolation ward of DDU District hospital.

District magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said the youth, a resident of Chhatripur locality in Shivpur area, was working at a call centre in Jabel Ali town of the UAE since June 2019. He had returned to Varanasi through a direct flight from Sharjah on March 20. From the airport he went to his home in a taxi.

According to him, he remained quarantined in his home. He also did not visit the hospital, where his wife gave birth to a baby three days ago. With cough symptom he went to the hospital, where his same was taken on Friday and sent to the microbiology lab of BHU for testing. He test report as found positive on Saturday.

The other members of his family include his wife, baby, parents and brother and sister-in-law. They have been put in home quarantine. Their samples would be sent for testing.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/youth-returns-from-uae-tests-ve/articleshowprint/74866770.cms

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Arab world

 

 

Imams of Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque urge cooperation with government health measures and precautions

28 Mar, 2020

The Imam of the Grand Mosque (Alharam) in Makkah and the Imam of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah urged people in Friday Prayer’s Khutbah to cooperate with government measures and precautions in the health field, praising the leadership and government's efforts in this regard for both citizens and residents.

In his Friday sermon delivered at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Sheikh Dr. Abdullah bin Awad Al-Juhani said that Islam "urged protection and initiated rulings to guarantee that."

He stated that the measures and precautions taken by the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques are based on Sharia foundations before the scientific ones, adding that the government made a great efforts and it is our duty to be of assistance to the government by following the instructions for the protection of all of us.

In Madinah, Sheikh Ali Abdulrahman Al-Hudhaifi called in his Friday sermon on people to cooperate with leadership to take precaution and to ensure prevention and adherence to health guidelines.

He praised the work and efforts made by the government and the wise leadership in the interest of the health and safety of citizens and residents

http://alriyadhdaily.com/article/2388528240754b7fb62a8e792d9ef1fe

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Saudi Arabia Intercepts Houthi Missiles Above Riyadh

29 March, 2020

Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat

The Saudi Air Defense Forces intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile launched by the Houthi militia in Yemen towards the kingdom.

Initial reports said that the missile was launched toward Riyadh which resulted in debris scattering on some residential areas. There were no deaths or injuries reported.

The Houthi attack comes only hours after a ceasefire was announced between the Iranian-backed militias and Yemen's legitimate government due to coronavirus fears.

“The launching of ballistic missiles by the terrorist Houthi militia and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards at this time reflects the real threat to this terrorist militia and the Iranian regime supporting it, as this barbaric attack does not target the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its citizens and residents on its lands, but rather targets the world’s unity and its solidarity, especially in these difficult time,” said the official Spokesman of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen Col. Turki Al-Malki.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2205206/saudi-arabia-intercepts-houthi-missiles-above-riyadh

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Bahrain Islamic Bank Offers Relief Measures to Retail and Corporate Clients and Urges Utilisation of Digital Platforms to Ensure Personal Safety

March 29th, 2020

In line with its commitment to provide ongoing support to its Retail and Corporate clients during this difficult period, Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB) has launched a series of relief measures to help lessen the financial burden of companies and individuals under its portfolio. The Bank has been duly complying with the directives of wise leadership to unify all national efforts to avert the spread of the virus and minimise impact on society and the economy. BisB is pushing customers to take full advantage of its digital platforms and minimise visits to the branches to reduce the risk of exposure.

“As an integral member of the community, BisB stands in solidarity with the government and the industry in helping to support individuals and businesses and limit the strain on society and the national economy. We applaud the energy exerted by the wise leadership in containing the situation and safeguarding the well-being of all citizens, residents and businesses. We consider it our responsibility to play our part to further enhance these efforts,” explained the Chief Executive Officer of BisB, Mr. Hassan Amin Jarrar.

Following the national directives, all Bahraini customers who have already applied for personal, mortgage and auto-financing solutions by 19 March 2020 or before, will automatically receive a six-month deferral of installments without any fees, no profit on profit or increase in profit rate unless the borrower agrees to a shorter period or does not wish to avail any deferral, in which case they can request this by either emailing callcentre@bisb.com, through BisB Digital or by contacting BisB on 17515151 before 30 April 2020. Customers interested in applying for new personal and auto financing solutions will be granted a six-month grace period.

As for credit card holders, the required minimum monthly payment will be set to zero from March until August 2020 and late payment or over-limit fees will not apply for this time period.

BisB has also introduced support initiatives for its corporate customers. Existing customers applying for any new drawdown will automatically receive up to six months grace period and will also be offered the same on their existing facilities. The Bank has been continuously engaging with its customers in an effort to analyse and assess their liquidity status and Relationship Managers are on standby to advise and guide clients through relief solutions suitable to their cash flow. In addition, the Bank’s corporate mobile application, BisB Corporate Digital, which is available to all existing customers, enables quick and easy access to multiple functions, thus enabling customers to perform all their banking transactions digitally, without visiting the branches.

“Our main priority at this time is to ensure the health and safety of our employees, customers and the community, and to continue to do everything we can to meet the banking needs of our customers and offer much needed support to those impacted by the situation, be it through advisory, solutions or our digital platforms (BisB Digital and BisB Corporate Digital). We urge all of our customers to make extensive use of our digital platforms to complete their banking transactions from the comfort and safety of their homes, and avoid going out, to reduce the risk of exposure to themselves and their families,” concluded Mr. Jarrar.

https://www.albawaba.com/business/pr/bahrain-islamic-bank-offers-relief-measures-retail-and-corporate-clients-and-urges

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Europe

 

 

Imam speaks out on viral photo of crowds outside Leeds mosque in 'coronavirus lockdown'

ByNathan Hyde

29 MAR 2020

People have been slammed for using an old photograph to claim Muslims are flouting the coronavirus lockdown rules and congregating at a Leeds mosque.

South Leeds Life ran an article on people going to places of worship during the pandemic and it included a photograph of men attending Friday prayer at Masjid Ibraheem.

The photograph was taken on Friday, March 20 – three days before the government imposed lockdown rules, which banned public gatherings of more than two people and stated that people should only to leave their homes under a list of “very limited purposes”.

People have been sharing the image on Twitter and accusing West Yorkshire Police of failing to stop Muslims from congregating - but the force has repeatedly stated it is "taken from a week-old news article about the mosque closing".

Jeremy Morton, editor of South Leeds Life, said: "I'm appalled. It's a very fast-changing situation and that story is from a week ago when the lockdown wasn't in place.

"We weren't criticising anyone, it was just a report about how mosques and churches were coping with people wanting to worship in an unsafe environment."

"The religious leadership has religious and social responsibility to protect lives and act in the interest of people's health and wellbeing."

The lockdown measures have been imposed to try and curb the spread of Covid-19, which has infected 95 people in Leeds and 17,089 people across the country.

Speaking today, Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, said that if the UK can keep the number of deaths below 20,000 during this epidemic, the country will have "done very well".

People have been slammed for using an old photograph to claim Muslims are flouting the coronavirus lockdown rules and congregating at a Leeds mosque.

South Leeds Life ran an article on people going to places of worship during the pandemic and it included a photograph of men attending Friday prayer at Masjid Ibraheem.

The photograph was taken on Friday, March 20 – three days before the government imposed lockdown rules, which banned public gatherings of more than two people and stated that people should only to leave their homes under a list of “very limited purposes”.

People have been sharing the image on Twitter and accusing West Yorkshire Police of failing to stop Muslims from congregating - but the force has repeatedly stated it is "taken from a week-old news article about the mosque closing".

Jeremy Morton, editor of South Leeds Life, said: "I'm appalled. It's a very fast-changing situation and that story is from a week ago when the lockdown wasn't in place.

"We weren't criticising anyone, it was just a report about how mosques and churches were coping with people wanting to worship in an unsafe environment."

"The religious leadership has religious and social responsibility to protect lives and act in the interest of people's health and wellbeing."

The lockdown measures have been imposed to try and curb the spread of Covid-19, which has infected 95 people in Leeds and 17,089 people across the country.

Speaking today, Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, said that if the UK can keep the number of deaths below 20,000 during this epidemic, the country will have "done very well".

https://www.leeds-live.co.uk/news/leeds-news/imam-speaks-out-viral-photo-18001078

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Muslims in Britain should prepare for more COVID-19 deaths and emergency rule

26 mins ago

Jahangir Mohammed.

This is the most depressing article I have written on a UK issue, but it has to be done so Muslims can plan and deal with the reality ahead.

After three weeks of debating whether we should heed medical advice and stop congregational prayers at mosques, and most likely having spread coronavirus in the community via the mosques, the stark reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing death toll has finally hit home.

Muslim communities were alerted to this reality by the UK government’s Coronavirus Emergency Powers Bill, which sought to disapply a section of the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984 to allow cremation of a dead body against people’s wishes, as a last resort. The thought of deceased Muslims being cremated served as a great wakeup call. That power has now been granted along with many others and the Coronavirus Act 2020 is in now in force. Muslims will hopefully not be cremated as long as their wish is expressed, and we should encourage all Muslims to maintain a written record of their wish not to be cremated.

Across the country, as Muslims started dying from contracting COVID-19, local communities and mosques committees eventually got their acts together, started planning for large number of deaths and burials.

They began engaging with their local authorities and health agencies. These are difficult and unprecedented times for Muslims in the UK, it is the first time that we have had to deal with large numbers of deaths on our own shores.

So far, the local responses have been encouraging, local attempts at co-ordinated efforts are taking place. People are looking at streamlining procedures for burials, giving advice to communities, creating extra storage and burial space, and getting the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in place to carry out burials. There are also hotlines and contacts for communities in some of the major cities.

This response, within a week, is heartening to see, and probably the first time Muslim communities across sectarian differences have started to work together locally.  While some differences of religious opinions exist over issues of whether the dead body of someone who contracted COVID-19 requires washing or not, such differences will inevitably disappear as the reality of numbers of deaths and pressure of washing or lack of volunteers kicks in.

For some in the community, the number of expected deaths and their consequence, both during this period and the economic difficulties after, have not yet fully sunk in. Whilst a scientific method of calculating the expected number of deaths, especially for Muslims, is likely to prove difficult, there are some estimates, and it is possible to project from this what level of Muslim deaths we should plan for.

One worst case scenario of deaths for the UK is that there will be 250,000 deaths up to 2021. It could be more if the pandemic enters a second year, or the virus mutates. The best outcome for the UK is predicted to be 20,000 deaths for the same period.

Muslims make up around 6.3% of the UK’s total population. All other things being equal, we would expect the Muslim death toll to be proportionate to that of the rest of the UK. That would mean a worst-case scenario of 15,750 deaths out of the 250,000 could be Muslims.  A best-case scenario would be of 1,260 Muslim deaths out of 20,000.

However, many factors would mitigate against deaths being proportion to the general  population as a whole. We know that the death rate among the elderly and those with heart disease and diabetes are the biggest categories globally for death from coronavirus.

The Muslim population profile is younger than the indigenous non-Muslim population, which has a greater proportion of elderly (across Europe). Therefore, we should expect that population to have a higher death rate, than that of the Muslim and immigrant descent community. This may well still be the case.

However, other factors in the Muslim community may even out those differences. The Muslim population in Britain, specifically South Asians who make up the demographic majority, have much higher rates of heart disease and diabetes than the indigenous population.

Additionally, non -Muslim elderly tend to live more in isolation while Muslim elderly tend to live in larger extended families and households. In some communities, the average family size is five, excluding elders and siblings. A larger proportion of Muslim communities also tend to live in densely populated areas (particularly in the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire in outdated terraced housing, in close proximities with each other). In these areas, young children often act as carers for elders and siblings who are ill.

We can also add to this to the fact that most Muslim men across the country attend Friday prayers every week, and most children attend madrassah or Quran classes after school, which would enhance the rate of spread. Within Muslim communities, some have a larger elderly population and family size. This means social distancing has been much more difficult to achieve in practice.

These factors would tend to cancel out any the difference in age of population of the indigenous community, so an expected death rate is in line with the percentage of population or a slightly higher rate above 6.3% of the population, perhaps around 8% would not be unrealistic.

Based on this we, could be looking at a best outcome of 1,260 -1,600 Muslim deaths, and a worst-case scenario of 15,750 – 20,000 Muslim deaths. The highest concentrations could be in some Muslim cluster areas in London, the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire. We should of course ask Muslim funeral directors to record the number of burials they perform related to COVID-19.

As of 26th of March 2020, the British state, police, army and local authorities were granted temporary powers of an emergency state. This introduced powers to disapply rights that existed under a plethora of existing laws. Despite this, some Muslims do not appear to have accepted this new reality, or have disregarded it, and tried to continue as normal. The odd mosque has also reportedly continued to hold congregational prayers. The police and local authorities now have an extended range of powers to apprehend, spot fine, arrest and detain individuals who disobey government guidelines and advice on social distancing and mitigating public health risks. The powers also allow the police to stop events and gatherings and close or takeover mosques, and buildings.

No individual or organisation should be engaging in activities and behaviours outside of the guidelines issued by the government or try to circumvent them. If the Muslim community believes some of those restrictions or powers need easing or amending, they need to make a responsible and reasonable case for their review, not attempt to justify their own wishes. The government will be reviewing guidelines on a regular basis.

It is very likely that mosques will not be allowed to hold congregational prayers this Ramadan. There will most likely be no charity events or community iftars and street collections. Whilst this will be a challenge for many mosques and charities, adversity also presents opportunities and a chance for creativity. I know that many mosques and charities have been taken out of their comfort zones and are thinking of and planning interesting initiatives.

Time will tell whether they can meet the challenges of the future. The next two months also offers Muslim families the chance to rethink and re-orient their lives and relationships in a much more positive and constructive God-conscious way.

Times of hardship and adversity should be treated as a learning curve, and a blessing and mercy from Allah.  Despite the reality of deaths and burials, I am optimistic that Muslim communities and wider society will meet these challenges with great resolve and renewal.

https://5pillarsuk.com/2020/03/28/muslims-in-britain-should-prepare-for-more-covid-19-deaths-and-emergency-rule/

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'Things will get worse before they get better': Boris Johnson warns tougher lockdown may be needed in letter to every UK household

6 hours ago

Boris Johnson is to write to every household in the UK urging people to remain at home “at this moment of national emergency” and warning that tougher lockdown measures may be needed to stop the spread of coronavirus.

In his letter to the nation, the prime minister urges the public to obey social distancing restrictions to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed by patients.

Mr Johnson, who began self-isolating in Downing Street on Friday after testing positive for Covid-19, warns that “things will get worse before they get better”.

“From the start, we have sought to put in the right measures at the right time,” the prime minister writes. “We will not hesitate to go further if that is what the scientific and medical advice tells us we must do

“But we are making the right preparations, and the more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal.

“Thousands of retired doctors and nurses are returning to the NHS – and hundreds of thousands of citizens are volunteering to help the most vulnerable.

Mr Johnson adds that the lockdown, while disruptive to daily life, is “absolutely necessary” to save as many lives as possible.

“I know many of you will be deeply worried about the financial impact on you and your family,” he writes. “The government will do whatever it takes to help you make ends meet and put food on the table.”

The letter will be accompanied by a leaflet attempting to reduce confusion about the rules on leaving the house. Guidance will also be given about the symptoms of the virus, the shielding of the vulnerable and the merits of hand washing.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coronavirus-latest-boris-johnson-letter-uk-lockdown-covid-a9432101.html

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U.K. coronavirus death toll under 20,000 would be ‘good result’: health chief

MARCH 28, 2020

The United Kingdom will do well if it manages to keep the coronavirus death toll below 20,000, a senior health official said on Saturday after the deadliest day so far of the outbreak saw the number of fatalities rise to more than 1,000.

Stephen Powis, the medical director of National Health Service England, warned the public against complacency and said everyone had to play their part in hindering the spread of the virus.

The number of confirmed cases stood at 17,089 on Saturday morning. The death toll rose by 260 in a day to 1,019, the seventh highest toll in the world behind Italy, Spain, China, Iran, France and the United States.

When asked if Britain was on the same trajectory as Italy, where the death toll has passed 9,000, Powis said that if the public adhered to the nationwide lockdown the total toll could be kept below 20,000.

“If it is less than 20,000… that would be a good result though every death is a tragedy, but we should not be complacent about that,” he said at a news conference in Downing Street.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major power to announce a positive test result for coronavirus on Friday. He is self-isolating in Downing Street but still leading the UK response to the crisis.

Britain is bracing for the epidemic to peak in the coming weeks, and is building field hospitals in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff to bolster its state-run National Health Service (NHS).

The government, which had been criticised by some doctors and nurses for not providing them with enough protective gear and testing kits, said on Friday it was introducing a much bigger testing regime, with checks for health workers in England.

As the British government urged the public to stay indoors, the virus struck at Downing Street itself. Besides Johnson, health minister Matt Hancock has also tested positive and chief medical adviser Chris Whitty is self-isolating with symptoms.

The minister for Scotland, Alister Jack, said on Saturday he had developed a temperature and a cough in the past 24 hours and was now working from home in isolation. He has not been tested for coronavirus.

Jack spoke in the House of Commons on Wednesday, immediately before Johnson appeared at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session, during which Jack was seated on the government bench behind Johnson.

Hospitals have been rushing to increase intensive care capacity, including by turning operating theatres and recovery areas into beds for critically ill patients.

A drive-through coronavirus testing facility for health workers has begun operating in the car park of the Chessington World of Adventures theme park near London.

Health workers, who remain in their cars, are tested by nurses who carry out swabs in the nose and mouth through the windows.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-british-coronavirus-death-toll-under-20000-would-be-good-result/

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North America

 

Disagreement over US presence throws Iraq’s Shia camp in disarray

29/03/2020

The walls are closing in on Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Adnan al-Zurfi, whose task of forming the new Iraqi government remains fiercely contested by pro-Iran factions that accuse him of being “America’s man in Iraq.”

Those pushing back against Zurfi are the same actors who, 17 years ago, toed the line of a controversial pro-US fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani ordering Iraqis not to resist occupying forces.

The trade-off paved the way for members of Iraq’s Islamist political class, who have safeguarded very little other than the powers they were granted, to be rewarded for allowing occupiers to trespass their country. The groundwork this laid is crumbling 17 years on.

The path to political legitimacy today relies on the formula’s reversal — a commitment to expel US coalition troops, who, before the coronavirus outbreak, numbered approximately 7,500. An exemplar of this trend are pro-Iran factions that in the past month spearheaded three attacks on military bases housing US forces.

On March 19, which coincidentally marked the 17th anniversary of the war on Iraq, US troops withdrew from positions along the Iraqi-Syrian border as part of plans drawn up prior to the global spread of COVID-19.

In practical terms, a US exit would do little to alter bilateral ties between the two countries. Those cheerleading for the full departure of coalition troops are setting their sights elsewhere — the status quo, Iraq’s leadership ranks, to protect their place within it while fending off figures whose allegiance, they claim, lies with America.

Members of the Islamic Resistance, whose existence is not constitutionally recognised, have consistently called on Zurfi to step down since his nomination was announced March 17.

On March 19, Hadi al-Amiri’s Fattah Alliance fired more criticism at Zurfi, dubbing him an American joker, a term popularised since protests erupted last October to refer to “bad seedlings” — men whose guns were hired to exterminate peaceful protesters and their demands for a US- and Iran-free Iraq.

Before Zurfi’s appointment, former Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi was ushered in to satisfy not only popular demands for a new government but to reassure those in power that their seats would not be lost. Unable to satisfy their ambitions, Allawi’s cabinet was denied the vote of confidence. He resigned on March 1.

The anti-Zurfi chorus that Fattah and others espouse is keen to see the reinstatement of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned in late November 2019 amid calls for his ouster throughout the country.

Abdul-Mahdi was one of several names cited in a cable leak last year for their “special relationship” to Iran. Abdul-Mahdi and Zurfi both have long-standing ties to Iran and the United States but the pro-Iran Shia camp has a single target — Zurfi.

As the threat of COVID-19 in Iraq makes the balancing act Zurfi is tasked with ever more difficult, the former Najafi mayor has not defended himself against allegations of serving American interests.

Other prominent figures who faced similar allegations are involved in efforts to firewall Zurfi’s cabinet choices for the sake of the status quo. Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, known for his corrosive sectarian-motivated rule and collaboration with various US administrations, is staging a comeback having descended into the shadows after agreeing to relinquish power in late 2014.

Maliki and members of factions of the Islamic Resistance who have been meeting at his home represent a united front against Zurfi but Maliki for years accepted the United States’ presence in Iraq and hand and hand with their officials.

As in 2014, Maliki’s growing leverage casts minds back to the ways in which, as prime minister, he took advantage of security flaws to nurture paramilitaries that grew into the Popular Mobilisation Forces. As COVID-19 forces a critical pause in Iraq’s National Protest Movement, Maliki is behind the scenes trying to exploit this strategic window.

Iran’s inability to sway Iraqi politics in the direction that safeguards its foothold has only raised the stakes and explains Maliki’s latest role as conductor of the Islamic Resistance orchestra.

In early March, Iranian Admiral Ali Shamkhani travelled to Baghdad to unite all strands of Iraq’s Shia leadership, especially over the choice of who should steer the country.

Abdul-Mahdi, whom pro-Iran actors seek to restore to power, was the horse that Tehran backed and sought to protect from being ousted. The man behind those moves, the late Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the executioner of Tehran’s ambitions in Iraq, made this possible but his assassination left the Shia camp in greater disarray.

Iran’s quislings in Iraq are anxious to preserve powers that the United States handed to them in 2003 but many forget that those actors shared a waltz with America, welcomed its officials into their homes and toured the palaces of Saddam Hussein together.

https://thearabweekly.com/disagreement-over-us-presence-throws-iraqs-shia-camp-disarray

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Two Canadian human rights organizations protest to remind world of Yemen tragedy

March 28, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Despite the Coronavirus crisis that has spread in Canada and around the world, the Canadian Defender for Human Rights CD4HR, in cooperation with another human rights organization, organized a protest to remind the Canadian government of the Yemeni people's misery, in light of the aggression against Yemen.

The two organizations said, in a statement: “With all the preventive measures that are taken to reduce the infection by Coronavirus, we went out on the anniversary of the beginning of the Saudi aggression against Yemen, which entered its sixth year, to express rejection of this brutal aggression that targets the besieged Yemeni people.

The two organizations renewed their request to the Canadian government to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which are used to target Yemeni infrastructure and the defenseless Yemeni people, especially women and children.

https://en.abna24.com/news//two-canadian-human-rights-organizations-protest-to-remind-world-of-yemen-tragedy_1021261.html

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Top US general warns Pentagon against plan to 'destroy' Iraq's Kata'ib Hezbollah group

March 28, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): A top US general in Iraq has warned over a Pentagon’s secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare a campaign against Iraq's pro-government anti-terror Kata'ib Hezbollah group.

Several American officials, who saw the directive or were briefed on it, told The New York Times on Friday that the Pentagon had last week ordered planners at the US military's Central Command and in Iraq to draw up a strategy to dismantle Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is part of the anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi.

In response, the officials said, US army lieutenant general Robert P. White had written a memorandum warning about the costs and risks of any such attack, saying it could be "bloody and counterproductive."

They added that General White had also cautioned that a new military action would require thousands more American troops be deployed to Iraq and divert resources from existing missions there.

The officials further said the memo had pointed out that a possible Iraq campaign might run afoul of the current agreement with the Baghdad government that allows American troops to operate in the country.

Washington has blamed Kata'ib Hezbollah for about a dozen rocket attacks against American troops based in Iraq over the past few months. It claims that the group is backed by Iran.

The US has also conducted a string of deadly airstrikes on Iraqi military bases, which are denounced by Baghdad as a violation of its sovereign and targeted aggression against its official armed forces.

American officials said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, have been pushing for an aggressive action against Iraqi resistance groups, while Pentagon chief Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been wary of a sharp military escalation.

Similarly, during an Oval Office meeting on March 19, US President Donald Trump did not make a decision about whether he might authorize the new campaign in Iraq, but allowed the planning to continue, they emphasized.

Earlier this week, Kata’ib Hezbollah held a military drill, dubbed Hunting the Crow, in the town of Jurf al-Nasr near Baghdad, to prepare itself for battling occupying US troops after suspicious American activities.

Kata’ib spokesman Jaafar al-Husseini said sophisticated weapons with live ammunition were used in the exercises, which simulated a number of engagement patterns, including confronting airstrikes and land exposure, and fighting in a forest environment.

On January 5, the Iraqi parliament obliged the government "to work towards ending the presence of all foreign troops," including some 5,200 American forces.

The vote came two days after the US military - acting on Trump’s order - launched a fatal drone strike on Iran's prominent anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani upon his arrival in the Iraqi capital at the invitation of the Baghdad government.

The attack also claimed the lives of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the PMU's second-in-command, along with eight other Iranian and Iraqi people.

Infuriated by the Iraqi parliament's vote, Trump threatened sanctions should US troops be expelled from the country.

https://en.abna24.com/news//top-us-general-warns-pentagon-against-plan-to-destroy-iraqs-kataib-hezbollah-group_1021205.html

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US wrestling with how to respond to rising, bolder attacks on Americans in Iraq

29 March 2020

US official are expressing serious concerns about persisting attacks on American military and diplomatic compounds in Iraq and receiving “near-daily reports” of “imminent” attacks on such facilities, a report has unveiled.

“Militias are becoming more audacious in attacking US personnel in Iraq, with rocket strikes against military bases occurring more frequently and, for the first time, in broad daylight,” The Washington Post reported Saturday quoting American officials that spoke on the condition of anonymity, alleging  -- without any evidence -- that the attacks have been perpetrated by “Iran-backed” groups.

The report then points out that the question of how to deter future attacks against US targets in the war-torn country without putting troops at greater risk “highlights how much American security and influence have evaporated in Iraq.”

According to the daily, in the two weeks since US forces conducted bombing raids against Iraqi army’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) just outside the nation’s capital of Baghdad to avenge a rocket attack on the US-occupied Taji military base that killed a Briton and two Americans, “the Trump administration has been wrestling with what additional steps to take to confront the militias without sparking costly retaliation.”

The report then goes on to underline Washington’s inability to make Iraqi authorities to track down and prosecute those responsible for the rocket attacks against US facilities in the country, pointing out that American air raids on PMU forces were instead censured by the Iraqi army as “treacherous” as militia groups opposing US military presence in Iraq vowed further attacks on American installations in their nation.

An Iraqi lawmaker says the US has fortified security in and around its embassy in Baghdad amid reported plans to target Hashd al-Sha’abi.

Since the US strikes, there have been at least four more rocket attacks around American military and diplomatic compounds as officials in Washington express concerns that it is only a matter of time before more US troops are killed or wounded.

Moreover, the daily further points to what one military official described as “a lot of chatter about” further militia attacks that indicates the Trump administration is struggling to calibrate its potential response.

It then lists potential US strike targets as bases of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps inside Iran and in Syria, noting however that such targets “were swiftly dismissed as likely to prompt greater escalation,” citing two individuals familiar with the decision-making in Washington that spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Yet another US consideration may be the level of confidence it has in identifying who is behind a particular attack, according to the daily, which emphasized that after the rocket attack on Camp Taji Britain refused to join the American retaliatory bombing raids “because it did not believe the evidence provided by the Americans met the legal threshold to justify a strike” against Iraq’s PMU forces.

The anti-terror Iraqi resistance group Kata’ib Hezbollah holds a maneuver to prepare itself for a possible battle against occupying American troops in the Arab country.

“The prospect of more militia violence is already influencing the US posture in Iraq,” the report further underlined, quoting officials as adding that more US air defense equipment and personnel have been deployed to Iraq, including new air defenses such as C-RAMs and Patriot missile batteries, expected to be in place in the next week or two.

Meanwhile, with the growing militia threats to US-allied foreign troops in Iraq, hundreds of coalition personnel have shifted out of smaller military outposts in recent weeks, relocating to larger facilities in Iraq or heading to Syria and Kuwait, according to the paper.

“At the same time, the Iraqi government’s suspension of joint training due to the covid-19 crisis has prompted the US to withdraw some military trainers from Iraq.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/29/621830/US-military-forces-Iraq-rising-attacks-militia-groups-Taji-Camp-retaliatory-strikes

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US to send equipment to terrorists in Syrian refugee camp under guise of medical aid: Report

28 March 2020

The United States plans to transport equipment to terrorists in a refugee camp in war-ravaged Syria under the guise of providing refugees with medical and humanitarian aid, Syrian and Russian officials warn.

The Russian and Syrian coordination committees on the Return of Syrian Refugees said in a joint statement on Saturday that Washington was exploiting humanitarian situation in the al-Rukban Camp near the Jordanian and Iraqi frontier and planned to provide terrorists with necessary equipment.

“The US side seeks to make use of coronavirus spread and tries to exert pressure on the UN to pass shipments and equipment to the terrorists under the guise of diagnostic tools and humanitarian aid to the besieged refugees in the camp,” said the statement, which was carried by Syria's official news agency SANA.

The camp, which has already been described by the committee as the "death camp" in the Homs province, is home to some 25,000 internally-displaced Syrians, who have been taken "hostage" by US-controlled militants there.

Last July, the committee said that US-backed armed groups demanded up to $1,500 per family for leaving the camp, which lies within a 55-kilometer zone occupied by the US around its unauthorized military base in the Syrian town of At-Tanf.

It also urged the US command in the area to stop "the criminal activities of the gangs" under its control and ensure "the unimpeded exit" of the camp residents.

"It is necessary to intensify the evacuation of Syrian citizens, since every day of delay in disbanding the camp only prolongs the suffering of its inhabitants," the statement stressed at the time.

The al-Rukban Camp was established by US forces a few years ago, purportedly for the sake of the Syrian refugees. However, Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly stated that it is being used by US forces as a training base and a hideout for militants in Syria.

Back in September, the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation reported that the so-called "camp administration, controlled by illegal armed units" refused to let UN buses inside to evacuate some refugees, with an intention of keeping them and the rest at the camp as a human shield.

Additionally at the time, a large part of cargo delivered by the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to al-Rukban Camp was also seized by US-backed militants and moved to the north of the camp.

It has now become evident that Washington is providing financial and military support for anti-Damascus militants in Syria.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/28/621814/US-to-send-equipment-to-terrorists-in-camp-in-S-Syria'

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US beefs up security around Baghdad embassy amid Washington’s plans to target PMU: Iraqi MP

28 March 2020

A senior Iraqi lawmaker says the United States has tightened security around its embassy in the capital Baghdad, emphasizing that any attack against the positions of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, as well as affiliated field commanders will not go unanswered.

“Security in and around the American embassy in the Iraqi capital has been fortified, because these forces (US troops) have a plan to carry out strikes against the PMU, resistance factions and their leaders. They want to keep their soldiers away from any reaction that their actions might trigger off,” Karim Alawi, a member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee, told the London-based and Arabic-language al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper on Saturday.

He noted, “This is why US soldiers have been moved from some sites in Iraq to major military bases, where the forces can be protected. They fear their presence in small bases would expose them to rocket fire from Hashd al-Sha’abi groups. As a result, they have gathered their forces in major bases, so that they are protected.”

The anti-terror Iraqi resistance group Kata’ib Hezbollah holds a maneuver to prepare itself for a possible battle against occupying American troops in the Arab country.

“Americans are well aware of the fact that any attack against resistance fighters or Hashd al-Sha’abi will not go unanswered, therefore, they want to protect their forces against any potential missile attack by resistance factions,” Alawi said.

The Iraqi legislator highlighted that “there is no withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and what happened is simply redeployment of the troops in main bases like Ain al-Assad and Harir,” which lie in Iraq’s western province of Anbar and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region respectively.

The New York Times reported on Friday that the Pentagon had last week ordered a secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare a campaign against Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is part of Hashd al-Sha’abi.

Lieutenant General Robert P. White wrote in a blunt memo that a new military campaign would also require that thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq and divert resources from the so-called fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill on January 5, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Hashd al-Sha’abi, and their companions in a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport two days earlier.

Later on January 9, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the former Iraqi prime minister, called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by his office at the time, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The 78-year-old politician said Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the assassination airstrike.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/28/621810/US-beefs-up-security-around-Baghdad-embassy-amid-Washington%E2%80%99s-plans-to-target-PMU:-Iraqi-MP

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US beefs up security around Baghdad embassy amid Washington’s plans to target PMU: Iraqi MP

28 March 2020

A senior Iraqi lawmaker says the United States has tightened security around its embassy in the capital Baghdad, emphasizing that any attack against the positions of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, as well as affiliated field commanders will not go unanswered.

“Security in and around the American embassy in the Iraqi capital has been fortified, because these forces (US troops) have a plan to carry out strikes against the PMU, resistance factions and their leaders. They want to keep their soldiers away from any reaction that their actions might trigger off,” Karim Alawi, a member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee, told the London-based and Arabic-language al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper on Saturday.

He noted, “This is why US soldiers have been moved from some sites in Iraq to major military bases, where the forces can be protected. They fear their presence in small bases would expose them to rocket fire from Hashd al-Sha’abi groups. As a result, they have gathered their forces in major bases, so that they are protected.”

The anti-terror Iraqi resistance group Kata’ib Hezbollah holds a maneuver to prepare itself for a possible battle against occupying American troops in the Arab country.

“Americans are well aware of the fact that any attack against resistance fighters or Hashd al-Sha’abi will not go unanswered, therefore, they want to protect their forces against any potential missile attack by resistance factions,” Alawi said.

The Iraqi legislator highlighted that “there is no withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and what happened is simply redeployment of the troops in main bases like Ain al-Assad and Harir,” which lie in Iraq’s western province of Anbar and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region respectively.

The New York Times reported on Friday that the Pentagon had last week ordered a secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare a campaign against Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is part of Hashd al-Sha’abi.

Lieutenant General Robert P. White wrote in a blunt memo that a new military campaign would also require that thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq and divert resources from the so-called fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill on January 5, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Hashd al-Sha’abi, and their companions in a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport two days earlier.

Later on January 9, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the former Iraqi prime minister, called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by his office at the time, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The 78-year-old politician said Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the assassination airstrike.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/28/621810/US-beefs-up-security-around-Baghdad-embassy-amid-Washington%E2%80%99s-plans-to-target-PMU:-Iraqi-MP

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Africa

 

Coronavirus: Details of FCT Minister’s meeting with Christian, Muslim leaders emerges

March 29, 2020

By Don Silas

The Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja will work closely with religious organisations in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable members of the society should the need arise following the outbreak of Coronavirus in Abuja.

The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, disclosed this following a meeting he held with the leaders of the Christian and Muslim faithful in Abuja and was contained in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Anthony Ogunleye.

The meeting had in attendance, former AMAC Chairman, Hon. Zephaniah Jisalo, FCT Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria Rev. Samson Jonah, the Chairman, FCT League of Imams Dr. Tajudeen Adigun, and other religious leaders, as well as senior members of the FCTA management.

Malam Bello said: “Religious organizations should be at the forefront for humanitarian activities, particularly if the situation escalates to a point where there is a need for massive support for the poor and the vulnerable members of the society.

He also stated that the traditional institutions and religious leaders had organized structures that can be used and mobilized towards providing palliatives that will ease the problems of the weaker members of the communities.

The Minister also disclosed that as part of resolutions reached during the meeting, religious, traditional and political leaders would galvanize and mobilize individuals of means within the communities “so that we can create an extensive structure of safety net for our poor people.”

He said, “for us to fight this pandemic, every person has to be disciplined to comply with the regulations of periodic and constant handwashing with soap and water and alternatively, hand sanitizers.”

According to Malam Bello, the religious leaders agreed that it was imperative in these uncertain times to intensify prayers for divine intervention in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister said: “we’ve also agreed that in times like this, prayers are paramount. So, we are appealing to all residents and citizens of the FCT to continue to pray to God Almighty for us to get over this pandemic.

“The leaders of both religious groups have assured us that they ‘ll use their internal network to encourage individual prayers by their followers wherever they are, based on the already established protocol for such prayers by all the religious organisations.”

Meanwhile, the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, had disclosed on Saturday that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria now stands at 97.

https://dailypost.ng/2020/03/29/coronavirus-details-of-fct-ministers-meeting-with-christian-muslim-leaders-emerges/

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KADUNA: Police arrest two Islamic clerics for flouting directive on religious gatherings

March 28, 2020

The Kaduna State government said Saturday that two Islamic clerics have been arrested for flouting the directive on religious gatherings in the state.

The government said in a tweet that the clerics – Aminu Umar Usman and Umar Shangel – were arrested for conducting congregational prayers in defiance of the ban on religious gatherings in the state.

The government had on Thursday invoked the quarantine act of 1926 and the Kaduna State public health law, to impose a curfew in the state, in its bid to curb the spread of coronavirus in the state.

The tweet read: “KADUNA UPDATE: Two clerics have been arrested for conducting congregational prayers in violation of Kaduna State public health preventive measures.

https://www.ripplesnigeria.com/kaduna-police-arrest-two-islamic-clerics-for-flouting-directive-on-religious-gatherings/

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Cameroonian Muslims Defy Coronavirus Prayer Restrictions

March 28, 2020

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Muslims in Cameroon have defied and are protesting government restrictions on prayer attendance at mosques, imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which has so far been confirmed in 92 people in less than a month.

The Muslims say the government order defies God’s teachings. Hundreds of Muslim faithful attended their Friday worship sessions in mosques throughout Cameroon despite the government order for prayers to be said at home and for numbers in worship houses to be limited.

The government said most of those defying the order were on the central African state’s northern border with Nigeria. Student Koulanya Abo, 23, said he went to the mosque in the town of Maroua in the Far North region of Cameroon to pray for Allah to rid the world of the disease.

"This is a time people have to go to the mosque and pray ceaselessly. Anything out of that will not be tolerated by Allah, because this is a period where people are facing a lot of difficulties due to the outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19," Abo said.

Cameroon’s Far North region has been an epicenter of Boko Haram terrorist attacks for 10 years. The Nigerian Islamist militants want to create an Islamist caliphate. They have not made a statement on their stand on COVID-19.

However, Bouba Bakary, the traditional leader and Muslim spiritual guide of Maroua, said that when he noticed resistance to the government order, he directed clerics under him to keep an eye on extremists.

He said he told the 1,200 imams and clerics under his authority that the measures taken by the government were aimed at saving their lives and protecting their communities from a deadly disease that has killed thousands of people all over the world. He said there was a surprising amount of resistance, and he wanted the government to take further measures that would  force the faithful to obey the instructions and at the same time maintain peace.

Bakary said he was also asking the government to use such local languages as Fulfulde and Haoussa to inform both clerics and the faithful who may not understand French that COVID-19 kills, and that the decision that people should stop crowding into mosques was made to save their lives.

Cameroonian Minister of Youth Affairs and Civic Education Monouna Foutsou said the situation was very worrying. He has sent youths not only to the regions where there is resistance but all over Cameroon to inform civilians that they should abide by the measures or they will be punished.

He said President Paul Biya had instructed him to advise Cameroonians to be socially responsible, and he has dispatched youths to towns and villages with loudspeakers, flyers and banners to try to persuade the population to adhere to the lifesaving measures directed by the government. He said the government would not spare anyone who exhibited irresponsibility after the two-day education phase.

A crisis meeting was held at the Defense Ministry on Friday, where it was decided that the military would be deployed to areas where there is resistance.

The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Cameroon on February 6. Health officials said Saturday that the number of confirmed cases had increased to 92. Two people have died.

In an effort to stop the spread of the virus, Cameroon on March 18 closed its borders and suspended issuance of visas into the country until further notice. The central African state also closed all schools and asked Christians and Muslims to limit worship attendance and pray at home.

https://www.voanews.com/science-health/coronavirus-outbreak/cameroonian-muslims-defy-coronavirus-prayer-restrictions

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Gov. Umahi shuts down all Churches, Mosques in Ebonyi State

March 28, 2020

The Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi has ordered the immediate shutdown of all religious gatherings in the state following the discovery of two COVID-19 cases in neighbouring Enugu State.

Umahi, in a statement signed by Ugbala Kenneth Igwe, the secretary to the state government, revealed that despite several warnings, some religious institutions in the state were still flouting/disregarding the ban on social gatherings. The statement read;

“The Ebonyi State Government observed with dismay that some religious organizations have been disobeying Government’s directives on public gathering, by mounting loud crusades, conducting wedding and burial ceremonies as well as other gatherings outside their worship centres.”

“Consequently, Ebonyi State Government hereby shut down all religious gatherings in the State effective from 30th March 2020 to 14th April 2020, in other to protect the lives of our people from the scourge of COVID-19; since Government will not like to cause embarrassment to our religious leaders.”

“The Government, therefore, requests Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Ebonyi State, Chapter and leadership of other religious organizations in the State to ensure that this directive is fully obeyed by every religious group in the State, as Christians, as well as other religious groups, are encouraged to pray from their homes.”

“Ebonyi State Government is concerned that with 2 cases of COVID-19 having been confirmed in Enugu State, Government cannot in any way afford to risk the lives of Ebonyians, hence these directives.”

“Ebonyians are hereby advised to take the fight against COVID-19 very seriously by observing the government’s directives on the dos and don’ts of COVID-19 preventive measures.”

“Meanwhile, Ebonyi State Government directs that with effect from Monday, 30th March 2020, all market and shops that are not dealing on essential commodities be shutdown. In like manner, all drinking joints, sports and sporting activities, as well as other forms of public events, are hereby shutdown.”

“This means that the shops that will be allowed to remain open are: Vegetable, foodstuff and fruits market, meat market, building materials, medical shops, hotels, hospitals, pharmaceutical stores, spare parts dealers and other allied essential services.”

“The government further called on farmers, especially the rice millers and other food processing industries to expedite action on food production, to ensure availability of food to the general public, in case there is need for total lockdown of activities in the State.”

“Government is also considering inter-senatorial partial movement restriction in the state from Monday, 30th March, 2020.”

“Ebonyi State Government has prepared quarantine, isolation and treatments centres at the border between Enugu and Ebonyi State as well as Unity Square, with one holding area at Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (AE-FETHA) where suspected cases will stay, if the test result is positive, he/she will be moved to any of the isolation/treatment centres.”

“Members of the public are enjoined to supply information about the returnees from outside the country or from other parts of Nigeria. Also, Government has made available hotel accommodation for all the medical personnel that will be involved in carrying out test/treatment on patients with suspected cases, and also, to ensure that they are fully isolated from associating with families and the public, as the government does not want to risk their lives or that of their family members.”

“Given the foregoing, Ebonyi State Government is calling on medical workers, who wish to volunteer in the handling and treatment of suspected COVID-19 patients and confirmed cases to report to the office of Hon. Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezurike or Dr. Emeka Onwe Ogah, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (AE-FETHA) and register immediately.”

“All these actions taken by the State Government are to ensure the protection of lives of Ebonyians which government swore to, under the oath of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

“By the grace of God, there is no record of COVID-19, so far in Ebonyi State, and there shall be none in Jesus name, amen; provided we do our own part and God will do his part.”

https://politicsnigeria.com/breaking-gov-umahi-shuts-down-all-churches-mosques-in-ebonyi-state/

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Pakistan

 

 

Shehbaz recommends use of marriage halls, schools, colleges and mosques as isolation centres

March 29, 2020

LAHORE Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) has demanded isolating coronavirus patients outside hospital premises to save medical staff, patients and visitors from the pandemic.

Speaking at a consultative session with medical experts through video link on Saturday, Shehbaz Sharif demanded setting up makeshift quarantine facilities in marriage halls, mosques, schools and colleges for COVID19 patients.

PML-N President demanded free of cost test for COVID-19 and urged the government to immediately complete the mapping of those, who had come from abroad and issue comprehensive data of their screening, testing and treatment in a transparent manner. “Hiding of facts will not help solve the problem,” he added. He called for conducting training of doctors, nurses and medical staff as well as police to properly handle COVID-19 patients. “The doctors, nurses and paramedical staff must be properly equipped with protective gears and other essential medical supplies,” he said.

He suggested seeking support of China for providing specialized training to medical staff. “In the first phase, Chinese must train master trainers, who will then impart training to the staff in their respective categories in the second phase”, he said. The bio-technicians, bio-medical equipment operators and maintainers must be trained, which was of paramount importance to operate bio-medical equipment on a large scale in case of any emergency.

Joint communiqué issued after the consultative session demanded of the government to issue details of daily screening of people, the new cases surfacing every day and the number of casualties on a daily basis in a transparent manner.  It demanded to start Life and Health Insurance of medical staff engaged in provision of healthcare services to the patients round the clock, and the insurance premium must be paid by the government. “The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) should be restored immediately,” it demanded.

https://nation.com.pk/29-Mar-2020/shehbaz-recommends-use-of-marriage-halls-schools-colleges-and-mosques-as-isolation-centres

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Govt distributes relief goods among deserving non-Muslims

13 HOURS AGO

LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Human Rights & Minorities Affairs (HR&MA) Ijaz Alam Augustine, along with the Youth Development Foundation (YDF), on Saturday distributed relief goods among the minority families, who had lost their sources of livelihood due to coronavirus pandemic.

According to a handout issued here, volunteers of YDF distributed food items among almost 100 deserving families of Christian, Sikh and Hindu community, while Ijaz Alam Augustine, Secretary HR&MA Dr Shoaib and Executive Director YDF Shahid Rehmat attended the event.

All standard operating procedures (SOPs) recommended by the Punjab government regarding coronavirus care, were ensured as precautionary measures during the distribution ceremony. People were called for items delivery at different times to avoid a large gathering, a distance of 3 to 4 feet was also ensured while each person was made to wear mask and gloves after using hand sanitizers.

The minister appreciated the YDF efforts for helping the ailing humanity and said that the YDF youth were always found ready for any welfare work without any discrimination. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Bazdar were monitoring day-to-day activities to deal with the coronavirus situation, and all provincial ministers were busy in their respective constituencies to serve the nation.

The minister said that every possible step was being taken to control coronavirus and the Punjab government was trying to facilitate the poor by maintaining supplies at utility stores. Organisations like the YDF could help reach out to the people at the grassroots level,” he said. He urged people to take special care of cleanliness and most times stay at their homes. He appealed to people having resources to come forward for the help of the needy families.

YDF representative Shahid Rehmat said the initiative was aimed at helping at least 100 poor families, especially transporters and daily-wagers, who were facing a lot of difficulties as shopping malls, markets, parks, restaurants and tourist spots would remain closed till April 6.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/03/28/govt-distributes-relief-goods-among-deserving-non-muslims/

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Law ministry endorses IHC order for release of over 700 under-trial prisoners

March 29, 2020

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: The law ministry endorsed the recent order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for the release of over 700 under-trial prisoners (UTPs) on bail.

While hearing a petition seeking implementation of the order, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that “under-trial prisoners who are involved in cases pending before the courts within the jurisdiction of this court are incarcerated in the Central Prison, Rawalpindi. The said prison is overcrowded and the living condition therein is intolerable.

Most of the prisoners do not have access to the courts because they cannot afford to engage professional services of enrolled counsel. Many in the first place should not have been incarcerated. It is a constitutional obligation of this court to ensure that fundamental rights are safeguarded. There are serious concerns regarding welfare of the prisoners, particularly their right to life”.

The high court, however, deferred the implementation of its order when it was apprised that the Supreme Court had constituted a five-member larger bench to hear a petition filed against the release orders of the UTPs.

Chief Justice Minallah, while referring to a news item published in an English daily which claimed that the government was not happy with the release of UTPs by the IHC, inquired from law secretary Khashihur Rehman about the authenticity of the news.

Mr Rehman said that the government has no reservations on the release of UTPs from the overcrowded jail. He, however, did not give any plausible reason as to why the law ministry, which otherwise promptly contradicted even routine news reports, did not issue a clarification about the above-mentioned report. He sought some time to look into the matter.

Chief Justice Minallah directed the law secretary to submit a report regarding steps taken to ensure observance of law. He pointed out that Pakistan has slipped from 117 to 120 out of 128 countries on the Rule of Law Index prepared by World Justice Project that is acknowledged as the leading sources for original and independent data on the rule of law.

“This ought to raise serious concerns,” he observed, adding that the framework of the Rule of Law Index is based on eight factors, including constraints of government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and lastly criminal justice.

“The criminal justice component includes prison i.e. questioning whether the correctional system is effective in reducing criminal behaviours. Most of these components are within exclusive domain of the executive authorities and the courts are dependent on its effective implementation/performance,” states the court order.

The court also inquired whether the constitutional requirement of submitting a report by the President before the Parliament on the observance and implementation of the Principles of Policy to ensure inexpensive and expeditious justice was fulfilled? The law secretary again sought time to file the report.

The chief justice observed that since most of incarcerated UTPs cannot access the courts because of financial constraints it is the duty of the executive under various laws to take action so that inmates are not unnecessarily kept in prison.

It is the duty of the prosecution and executive authorities to ensure that every prisoner has access to the courts and such duty is an integral part of the constitutional obligation to ensure inexpensive and expeditious justice, he added.

Subsequently, the court asked Additional Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Khokhar and Advocate General Niazullah Khan Niazi to assist it regarding powers of the constitutional courts having regard to the constitutional obligation of the state of ensuring inexpensive and expeditious justice. “They are also expected to suggest a mechanism in this regard.”

https://www.dawn.com/news/1544610/law-ministry-endorses-ihc-order-for-release-of-over-700-under-trial-prisoners

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Mosque sealed in Hyderabad after Chinese man tests positive for virus

March 29, 2020

HYDERABAD: Officials of civil administration and police sealed off Noor Masjid in Wahdat Colony, local headquarters of Tableeghi Jamaat, on Saturday after a member of the Jamaat, a 19-year-old Chinese-origin man tested positive for coronavirus a day before and was admitted to hospital for treatment.

Health officials shifted 19 suspected cases who might have remained in contact with the coronavirus-positive man to Kohsar Latifabad quarantine facility and sent samples of eight of them to laboratory before sealing off the worship place.

Personnel of Rangers and police were deployed outside the mosque where 210 faithful, some of them foreign nationals, were staying during the exercise. The measure had been taken for ‘quarantine’ purposes so that nobody could enter or leave the place, contended Hyderabad SSP Adeel Chandio.

The hospital in-charge Dr Suresh said that a total of 28 people were under observation at the quarantine centre under strict surveillance. The infected Chinese man’s brother and eight other persons were shifted to hospital from Noor Masjid on Friday and of them the eight were asymptomatic while the Chinese national had already tested negative.

More than two dozen people including prayer leaders were picked up in the city on Saturday for offering congregational prayers in different mosques in violation of an official ban on such gatherings inside masjids.

Twenty-three of them were picked up from inside Ibrahim Khalilullah and Sarfaraz Baba mosques and two from outside the Fruit Market mosque after Zuhar prayers. Cantonment police booked Maulana Asad Ali under sections 269 and 188 PPC vide crime No. 24/20 and picked him up from Sohna Sain mosque located behind the SSP Office.

Eleven unidentified persons were also nominated in the FIR. Maulana Ali was later released on personal bond to enable him to seek bail from court.

Another case was registered at the Hali Road police station against Qari Naveed of Jamia Masjid Choothi while Baldia police booked Ghulam Yamin of Qadri Mosque located in Baldia Colony under sections 269 and 188 of the PPC for similar offences.

Three persons, who had travel history and recently stayed with an influential figure of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), tested positive for coronavirus here on Saturday, raising number of the virus-infected persons of the district to seven.

After the three confirmed cases were disclosed by the health department, Dawn made inquiries and found that they were guests or friends of the PPP figure and were not residents of Hyderabad though their samples were obtained in Hyderabad a couple of days back.

Sindh government’s focal person for coronavirus situation in Hyderabad, Sharjeel Inam Memon, said that he did not have details on the new cases released by the health department. Possibly there might be some confusion about the new cases within the health department, he said.

Reports of suspected patients were being awaited on Saturday but none came. Among the suspected patients was a Tando Moha¬mmad Khan resident admitted to isolation ward of Liaquat University Hospital and eight persons whose samples were obtained at Noor Masjid yesterday.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1544504/mosque-sealed-in-hyderabad-after-chinese-man-tests-positive-for-virus

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Minister draws UNHCR attention to Afghan refugees’ problems

March 29, 2020

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Amid the coronavirus epidemic, Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Shehryar Khan Afridi drew the attention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) towards Afghan refugees, urging the world body in a letter to accelerate its relief efforts and provide food rations to the Afghan refugees living across Pakistan.

Pakistan is among the countries that are hosting large numbers of refugees. According to estimates, there are around 3.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, about 1.8m of whom are registered and 0.8m hold Proof of Registration cards.

The minister along with cricket superstar Shahid Afridi visited an Afghan refugee camp in the city of Kohat, 150km southwest of Islamabad, where they oversaw the distribution of ration, provided by the cricket star’s eponymous charity organisation, to nearly one thousand refugee families impacted by the ongoing lockdown.

“The Afghan refugees are our brothers and Pakistanis stand side by side with Afghan families in these testing times. The Afghan brothers should not be forgotten in these difficult times,” Mr Shahid tweeted in Urdu from his Twitter account.

According to a press release by the UNHCR, it has started dispatching core relief items to support Pakistan government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The necessary relief items include “medical supplies and sanitation products such as sanitary clothes, soap and disinfectants”. These items “will be provided to health facilities in support of refugees and host communities in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab”, said the statement.

Four trucks carrying some of the many items left from UNHCR’s central warehouse in Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and some destined to Balochistan. More items are scheduled to be delivered next week.

“UNHCR is committed to supporting the government’s Covid-19 prevention and response measures,” said Iain Hall, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Pakistan.

“The UNHCR’s priority is to contribute to the overall effort to minimise the spread and impact of the virus,” he added further.

The agency committed to provide medical supplies and consumables including personal protective equipment (PPE), which “will be delivered to support the people of Pakistan and the Afghan refugees that they have so generously hosted for forty years”, he said.

The Commissionerate of Afghan Refugees (Ministry of Safron) and UNHCR’s NGO partners are amplifying the government’s messages and reminders based on WHO guidance on Covid-19 infection prevention and control, including self-hygiene and social distancing, according to a statement.

The Refugee Rights Network Pakistan (RRN) has also appreciated the efforts by Minister Safron Mr Shehryar and Mr Shahid’s foundation for helping the Afghan refugees in testing times.

“RRN Pakistan extends its gratitude to the minister and federal government for all its commitment for care and protection of Afghan refugees in Pakistan,” the statement said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1544607/minister-draws-unhcr-attention-to-afghan-refugees-problems

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Mideast

 

Yemeni scholar: Jews, Israel and US made coronavirus to shut down Mecca

MARCH 29, 2020

Yemeni scholar Ibrahim Al-Ubeidi delivered a sermon on Friday in which he claimed that Jews and Americans created COVID-19 with the intention of closing down the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina.

He went on to say that not only is the pandemic because of this secret plot, but the Saudi Royal family is secretly Jewish and that they are all descendants of a Jew called Mordechai who lived in Iraq, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported in a tweet on Sunday. 

Al-Ubeidi went on to praise the late Hussein Badreddin Al-Houti for allegedly being “the only one in the Islamic world” to warn of the possibility that Jews and Americans could use viruses and germs to shut down holy sites.

Saudi authorities ordered an end to mass events across the kingdom in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The same step has been taken by other religious leaders and organizations around the world, including the Vatican in Rome and the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel.  

The sight of the Kaaba in Mecca being almost empty is painful for many Muslims, leading some to feel as if God had rejected them. 

Al-Ubeidi went on to ridicule the Saudi policies of seeking better ties with Israel and the US, which include a new openness to some aspects of Western culture, by cynically asking if the virus is not present in dance halls where women and men dance together and only in holy sites of religious worship. 

The Kaaba in Mecca and the Mosque built by the Prophet of Islam, Muhamad, in Medina are the two holiest sites in Islam, the third being the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Saudi Arabia views itself as the guardian of these two holy sites, Jordan sees itself as the guardian of the third.

https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Yemeni-scholar-Jews-Israel-and-US-made-coronavirus-to-shut-down-Mecca-622765

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Palestinian groups in Gaza Strip cancel anti-Israel mass protests over coronavirus concerns

28 March 2020

Palestinian groups have cancelled mass anti-occupation rallies scheduled to be held next week along the fence separating besieged Gaza strip from the Israeli-occupied territories over coronavirus pandemic concerns.

From March 30, 2018 onward, Palestinians in the blockaded enclave have held weekly “Great March of Return” protest rallies against the Israeli occupation of their lands, demanding the return of those driven out of their homeland by Israel aggression during the past decades.

According to the Palestinian Information center, Israeli forces have killed some 350 protesters during the weekly demonstrations. Nearly 31,000 others have been injured in the rallies.

Earlier in the year, Palestinian groups had called for holding mass rallies along the border with the Israeli regime to mark the second anniversary of the "Great March of Return", but on Saturday they announced that the planned rallies were cancelled over the pandemic.

“We call upon our people not to go to the Return encampments on March 30 and to stay home in order to maintain the safety of our people in the face of this lethal pandemic,” said Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of the Palestinian resistance group the Islamic Jihad.

He instead called upon Gazans to mark the day by raising Palestinian flags on their rooftops and burning those of the Israeli regime.

The COVID-19 disease, caused by a new coronavirus, jumped from wildlife to people in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and is currently affecting 199 countries and territories across the globe. It has so far affected more than 621,590 people and killed over 28,790.

The Palestinian government issued an order confining Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to their homes for two weeks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

According to figures by Palestine's health ministry, as of Saturday, the infectious disease has affected 97 Palestinians and killed one. Nine of the infected people are in Gaza Strip and the rest are in the occupied West Bank. 

On Thursday, the health ministry called on the international and relief institutions to "urgently" provide the Gaza Strip, which is home to some two million people, with "$23 million."

“The health ministry is deeply concerned over the severe shortages of essential medicines, medical consumables, laboratory supplies and blood banks, in addition to the limited equipment used to carry out coronavirus examinations,” added spokesman for the health ministry Ashraf Qudra during a press conference.

He also blamed the Israeli regime for systematically undermining the health and humanitarian services in Gaza over long years of siege, holding it fully responsible for the lives of the population.

Israeli warplanes have conducted new airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip in response to a purported rocket attack from the Palestinian coastal enclave.

Gaza has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

The Israeli regime denies Gazans their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs with proper wages as well as adequate healthcare and education.

Since 2008, Israel has waged three wars against Gaza, where two million Palestinians live under a 12-year Israeli blockade. Thousands of Gazans have been killed in each of these deadly wars.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/28/621808/Palestine-Gaza-coronavirus

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Bosnia-Herzegovina Islamic Society expresses solidarity with Iran in fighting COVID-19

March 28, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Head of Bosnia-Herzegovina Islamic Society Husein Kavazovic in a message to Iran's Ambassador in Sarajevo Mahmoud Heydari on Friday expressed solidarity with the Iranian nation in battling coronavirus.

"While we are grappling with the disease, we, concerned and hopeful, are pursuing the situation in the brotherly and friendly state of Iran and are praying for them," the message said.

Power of faith, resolve and self-care are of high significance in the fight against the invisible enemy, he said, noting that the Iranian nation will surely over the challenge, as it did previously, he said.

"I am willing to announce Your Excellency and Iran's religious and political institutes that Iran is not alone against coronavirus and we pray for you, as praying is the most valuable thing a believer can donate to the other person," he said.

Earlier, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Šefik Džaferović in a message expressed solidarity with the Iranian nation in the fight against coronavirus.

In his message to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Džaferović condoled with the bereaved families of the coronavirus victims and wished immediate recovery for the patients.

https://en.abna24.com/news//bosnia-herzegovina-islamic-society-expresses-solidarity-with-iran-in-fighting-covid-19_1021220.html

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By observing recommendations, we can take steps to eradication Coronavirus

March 28, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The revered source of emulation offered his appreciation for the efforts of doctors and nurses and emphasized the importance observing the health and hygiene advice given by the officials.

In a statement released by his office, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Alavi Gorgani praised the efforts of doctors and nurses caring for those suffering from COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and for those observing the health and hygiene advice given by the officials.

Worldwide, there have been more than 471,410 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus and 21,295 deaths. Europe has turned into the new epicentre of the virus, with Italy being the hardest hit country.

In Iran, the respiratory disease has so far killed 2,234 people and infected 29,406 others. A total of 10,457 people have also recovered.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus epidemic over the past several weeks has disrupted the natural order of the lives of the people’s in Iran. In these circumstances, what is most noteworthy is the struggles and efforts of the doctors, nurses, managers and colleagues. They are also jihadi and popular forces who spent their Norouz holidays assisting the ill in the hospital.

I give many thanks to the officials and hardworking people of Golestan province, especially the Public Health Advocates Camp, the head of the Golestan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services and all the doctors and nurses, the honourable governor and his colleagues, the honourable mayor of Gorgan and other cities of the province and their colleagues, the Ninava Brigades of the IRGC and Basij and other organs and all jihadi and popular forces who are sincerely and tirelessly seeking to assist the people of the province.

The general public needs to heed the advice of physicians better than ever before and by observing personal and social hygiene and the instructions of the authorities, they can help to eradicate this tribulation.

Also, it is hoped that resorting to the Ahl al-Bayt, praying to the Lord and constant obeyance and humility toward God during the month of Sha’ban which will make it possible for this tribulation to be ended and for the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi for the Islamic ummah as soon as possible will not be forgotten.

https://en.abna24.com/news//by-observing-recommendations-we-can-take-steps-to-eradication-coronavirus_1021218.html

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South Asia

 

Taliban’s reaction to formation of negotiation team by Afghan government

29 Mar 2020

The Taliban group rejected the team formed by the Afghan government to participate in the talks with the group as efforts are underway to kick start the intra-Afghan talks following the signing of U.S.-Taliban peace deal last month.

“We had committed in the peace accord reached with the US on February 29 in Doha that we would join the intra Afghan dialogue but made it clear that all Afghan factions would participate in the peace process,” a Taliban leader was quoted as saying in a report by The News.

The Taliban leader further added “Today we were surprised when came to know about the team constituted by the Afghan government. It would be a total negation of our earlier stance if we started talks with the Afghan government now, which obviously not possible.”

“And we rejected the team formed by the Afghan government. There should be a broad based team and needed to be comprised all Afghan factions,” he said.

The Afghan government announced last week that it has formed a negotiating team led by former intelligence chief Masoom Stanikzai to hold talks with the Taliban group.

The State Ministry in Peace Affairs said the negotiating team consists of 21 members including Masoom Stanikzai, Nader Naderi, Abdul Mateen Baig, Zerar Ahmad Muqbil, Fatema Gilani, Fawzia Koofi, Mohammad Rasool Talib, Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, Habiba Sarabi, Dr. Ghairat Baheer, Mohammad Hafeez Mansoor, Ghulam Farooq Majrooh, Mawlavi Enayatullah Baligh, Kalimullah Naqeebi, Mohammad Nateqi, Batur Dostum, Gern. Ayoub Ansari, Shahla Fareed, Sharifa Zurmati, Dr. Ameen Ahmadi and Khalid Noor.

https://www.khaama.com/talibans-reaction-to-formation-of-negotiation-team-by-afghan-government-04578/

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Pompeo reacts to formation of negotiating team for the talks with Taliban

29 Mar 2020

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the formation of negotiating team by the Afghan side for the talks with the Taliban group.

“Thankful to my Afghan counterparts for preparing an inclusive negotiating team to make intra-Afghan negotiations successful. I also applaud your commitment to begin releasing prisoners and your commendable effort to set conditions for peace and reconciliation,” Pompeo said in a Twitter post.

The Afghan government announced last week that it has formed a negotiating team led by former intelligence chief Masoom Stanikzai to hold talks with the Taliban group.

The State Ministry in Peace Affairs said the negotiating team consists of 21 members including Masoom Stanikzai, Nader Naderi, Abdul Mateen Baig, Zerar Ahmad Muqbil, Fatema Gilani, Fawzia Koofi, Mohammad Rasool Talib, Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, Habiba Sarabi, Dr. Ghairat Baheer, Mohammad Hafeez Mansoor, Ghulam Farooq Majrooh, Mawlavi Enayatullah Baligh, Kalimullah Naqeebi, Mohammad Nateqi, Batur Dostum, Gern. Ayoub Ansari, Shahla Fareed, Sharifa Zurmati, Dr. Ameen Ahmadi and Khalid Noor.

https://www.khaama.com/pompeo-reacts-to-formation-of-negotiating-team-for-the-talks-with-taliban-04577/

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4 members of a family killed as duck hunting turns deadly in North of Afghanistan

29 Mar 2020

The authorities in North of Afghanistan confirmed that four members of a single family lost their lives in a brawl which turned into an armed clash over the hunting of ducks.

Mohammad Farooq, the Director of the Crimianl Investigation Department of Parwan, confirmed to Salaam Watandar that the incident and said four members of a family lost their lives and another was wounded during the clash.

Farooq further added that the incident took place before noon on Saturday, at around 10:00 am, in Balto Khel area of the provincial capital of Parwan.

He also added that the police forces arrested two people in connection with the deadly clash and an investigation is underway.

The Balto Khel Village and Sayad are the main hunting places for the birds in northern Parwan province of Afghanistan.

https://www.khaama.com/4-members-of-a-family-killed-as-duck-hunting-turns-deadly-in-north-of-afghanistan-04579/

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Southeast Asia

 

365 days later: The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Phillippines

March 29, 2020

Jorjani Sinsuat

As the country joins the rest of the world in combatting an outbreak that has taken countless lives, the journey towards lasting peace in its southern region continues.

cades of seemingly endless conflict, the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front finally closed a monumental chapter with the passage and ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, paving the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). On March 29, 2019, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim regional parliament, marked its first inaugural session, launching the next chapter of the peace process in Mindanao.

It’s important to look back on what's described as one of the most important peace agreements in this lifetime, and to revisit how far the BARMM has gone – 365 days later.

By mandate, the BTA is expected to produce priority bills which will serve as the hallmarks of the new bureaucracy.

As of writing, the education and local government codes are now in its final stages while the administrative, internal revenue, electoral, civil service and Indigenous People’s codes are also in the works. There is a need, however, to mainstream these codes for the locals, who are probably still unaware that the crafting of these laws is the heart of the transition period. (READ: [OPINION] Building social capital with the Bangsamoro is a must)

Whether the Parliament can deliver all codes before 2022 or not remains to be seen, but the hope remains intact, especially with the incredible support of the different Members of Parliament.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front which currently leads the Government of the Day has also rallied behind the “moral governance” advocacy, signaling a new dawn of bureaucratic accountability inspired by the shared faith of the Muslims in the South. In fact, this might be the most important legacy of this interim government: to redefine public service and governance to its core, to portray BARMM as a new system that rejects corruption, and to reimagine the future of the Bangsamoro with all stakeholders involved.

Rappler talks to Zia Alonto Adiong, a member of the Bangsamoro Parliament, on controversies, challenges, and milestones of the fledgling Bangsamoro region in its first year

Abdullah Hashim's appointment to the Bangamoro Transition Authority completes the interim government's required 80 members nearly a year after it was formed in March 2019

Separatist terror groups pose a challenge to the newly established regional government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which marks its first anniversary this month

Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawah Ebrahim, Al Hadj who currently leads the new bureaucracy has also introduced social services to provide for the immediate needs of the once conflict-stricken region, which includes Project TABANG (Tulong Alay sa Bangsamorong Nangangailangan), a special initiative that brings major government services to the people, and the AMBAG (Ayudang Medikal Mula sa Bangsamoro Government) Program, which provides medical assistance to needy constituents of the region should they be confined in 12 partner hospitals of the BARMM Government.

In all fairness, the appreciation from the grassroots is overwhelming, especially those who rallied behind the “YES” campaign last year.

Of course, the region is currently on its feet to see how the new government will utilize and safeguard the unprecedented P65 billion block grant, and how it will address the socio-economic conditions of the Bangsamoro.

The first year of the Bangsamoro Government has seen its share of challenges. For example, the pressing issues on the separation pay of some employees from the defunct ARMM, the heated discussions on the inclusion of Cotabato City, the rehabilitation of Marawi City, and the entry of the new members of the bureaucracy through the Job Portal, among many others, are valid concerns that will contribute to the lasting legacy of this transition period.

It is important to acknowledge that the MILF is also undergoing its normalization track, as prescribed in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. So, the transition phase is truly wholistic by nature through the bureaucracy and through social interventions on the ground.

While skepticism will remain, the Bangsamoro needs to pull everyone together, regardless of affiliation, ethno-linguistic group, or ideology, because at the end of the day, we will be the ones who will collectively redefine what it means to be Bangsamoro and redirect its future towards progress, development, and most importantly, self-determination

https://www.rappler.com/move-ph/ispeak/256091-opinion-bangsamoro-first-anniversary

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Bank Islam refining details, to introduce iTekad programme by May 2020

29 Mar 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd is currently refining the details of the iTekad programme announced by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and expects to introduce it by May 2020 to ensure its efficient implementation and execution.

The iTekad programme by BNM aimed to support sustainable income generation and financial resilience of B40-owned micro-enterprises affected with Covid-19 pandemic.

As the first participating Islamic bank to introduce the programme, Bank Islam will utilise Zakat contributions for the micro-financing arrangement during the first phase of its implementation.

Bank Islam chief executive officer Mohd Muazzam Mohamed said the bank has been doubling its effort to ensure service deliverables at its level best and achieve sustainable prosperity for the community, customers and the bank.

“The implementation of iTekad programme enables Bank Islam to play our part in providing financial assistance to the most vulnerable segment which consists of the B40 individuals and B40-owned micro-enterprises.”

iTekad programme will involve collaborations with selected State Islamic Religious Councils including Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan and implementation partners such as SME Corporation Malaysia.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/money/2020/03/29/bank-islam-refining-details-to-introduce-itekad-programme-by-may-2020/1851341

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Coronavirus could stop millions of Indonesians returning to home villages after Ramadan

2 HOURS AGO

Indonesia's capital Jakarta has announced a two-week extension of its state of emergency following a surge in coronavirus cases across the country, its governor says.

Anies Baswedan told reporters on a video conference call that the state of emergency, imposed on March 20 to try to slow the spread of the virus in Indonesia's biggest city, would be extended until April 19.

Indonesia's chief security minister Mahfud MD said on Friday that the government was considering a plan to ban "mudik" - the tradition in which millions of Indonesians leave towns and cities for their native villages at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in May.

Indonesia confirmed 109 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, taking the total cases in the country to 1155, a health ministry official said.

The airline AirAsia Indonesia said in a statement posted on its website on Saturday that it would suspend flights starting on April 1.

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/coronavirus-could-stop-millions-of-indonesians-returning-to-home-villages-after-ramadan

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Jakarta Muslim Gathering Ends with 183 Placed in Quarantine

MARCH 29, 2020

Jakarta. West Jakarta authorities began to evacuate 183 people from a mosque and send them to the isolation facility on Saturday evening after three of them tested positive for coronavirus during a Muslim gathering.

The participants include 78 foreign citizens who made a pilgrimage to the century-old Jammi Mosque in Taman Sari subdistrict.

All the participants have been kept inside the mosque since Thursday after three of them, reportedly from Sumatra, tested positive for the virus.

West Jakarta Mayor Rustam Effendi said all the people inside the mosque were evacuated in stages and transported to the makeshift hospital at the athletes’ village in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.

"In the first batch, 39 people were transported to the Kemayoran Athletes’ Village. The rest will follow in stages," Rustam said.

The foreigners included 48 from India, 10 from Bangladesh, four from Sri Lanka, 10 from Thailand, five from Palestine and one from Pakistan.

The news about confirmed Covid-19 carriers among the participants stirred a widespread panic in the neighborhood and prompted authorities to deploy policemen and soldiers to prevent anyone in the mosque from leaving.

The Jakarta government has announced an emergency and imposed restrictions on travels and public gatherings amid the rapidly growing Covid-19 cases in the capital.

Worship places are told to halt religious congregations, including the Friday congregational prayer for Muslims, until the outbreak is over.

Jakarta is the epicenter of the outbreak in Indonesia with 627 confirmed cases and 62 deaths as of Saturday. At the national level, there are 1,155 positive cases and 102 fatalities, according to the government data.

https://jakartaglobe.id/news/jakarta-muslim-gathering-ends-with-183-placed-in-quarantine

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Coronavirus: Muslim group in close contact with infected patients moved to quarantine ward

17 MIN AGO

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

JAKARTA - Indonesian armed forces were progressively moving more than 200 Muslim worshippers - half of them are foreigners - from a mosque in West Jakarta to the country's largest quarantine centre the Wisma Atlet in North Jakarta, in a pre-emptive move to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The more than 200 Muslim worshippers were in close contact with three fellow Muslims during Friday prayers on March 20 who later tested positive for coronavirus. Authorities began moving the group of more than 200 Muslims on Saturday night (March 28). The group has been in isolation at the West Jakarta mosque since March 26.

Comprising 106 were Indonesian nationals and 102 foreigners, they were part of a group that had travelled to attended a large Muslim Tabligh gathering, state news agency Antara reported, citing chief of Jakarta military command Brig-Gen M. Saleh on Saturday night.

Tabligh is formally known as Tablighi Jama'at, a global movement of evangelical Muslims that promotes proselytising, known as dakwah. Two weeks ago (March 18), more than 8,000 Tabligh members arrived in Gowa in Indonesian province of South Sulawesi to attend the gathering that had been slated to take place the following day (March 19).

More than 400 of them were from the region and countries as far as Saudi Arabia, and among the largest groups of foreign Muslims were those from Thailand, Malaysia and Pakistan. None of them was from Singapore, according to the authorities.

The gathering was cancelled at the last minute following appeals from the authorities, amid fears of the spread of coronavirus. The pilgrims then made their way home via the airport and seaports in Makassar on March 19, through Jakarta.

Three of the Muslims - one from North Sumatra and two from Aceh province - who joined Friday prayers on March 20 tested positive for coronavirus and were rushed to the Wisma Atlet quarantine centre earlier, Antara reported without giving a date. The 10-tower Wisma Atlet was built for participating athletes in the 2018 Asian Games, which Jakarta co-hosted with Palembang, South Sumatra.

Some of the towers have been converted into quarantine wards for patients with mild to moderate coronavirus symptoms as well as for people who might have been in close contact with infected patients.

Five of the 102 foreign nationals went back to their home territory, Palestine, Antara cited Brig-Gen Saleh as saying, who did not elaborate.

Indonesia has appealed to its citizens to avoid crowds and to work, study and pray at home. On March 19, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan appealed to Muslims to cancel Friday prayers for two weeks but many mosques disregarded the appeal.

The world's fourth-most populous country announced its first two cases of coronavirus infections on March 2, and the number has risen to 1,155 as of Saturday. Its Covid-19 fatalities have reached 102, the highest in South-east Asia.

Meanwhile, Jakarta has continued to deploy drones and trucks to spray disinfectants across parts of the capital on Sunday (March 29). The spraying teams are covering 11 points across Jakarta on Sunday, working from 7am to 3pm local time.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/coronavirus-muslim-group-in-close-contact-with-infected-patients-moved-to-quarantine

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COVID-19: Singapore records one more death

29/03/2020

SINGAPORE, March 29 – Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed that a patient has passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection today.

In a statement here, MOH said he was a 70 year-old male Singaporean with no recent travel history to affected countries and regions.

The elderly who had a history of hypertension and hyperlipidaemia, was admitted to Singapore General Hospital on Feb 29, and was confirmed to have COVID-19 infection on March 2.

https://www.bernama.com/en/news.php?id=1826290

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There might be no Ramadan bazaar in Kelantan this year - MB

29/03/2020

KOTA BHARU, March 29 -- Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob today said that  there might be no Ramadan bazaar in the state this year.

He said the state government had yet to decide definitively on the matter and any decision would be based on the current state of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The state government has not finalised the matter but for now, no Ramadan bazaar will be held," he told reporters after chairing the Kelantan-level National Security Council (MKN) meeting at the Kota Darul Naim Complex here.

Meanwhile, Ahmad said the state government would conduct mass clean-up operations at wet markets in Kota Bharu town starting tomorrow in line with the recommendation of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

https://www.bernama.com/en/general/news.php?id=1826332

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