New Age Islam
Wed Nov 25 2020, 12:47 AM

Islamic World News ( 14 March 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islamic State Asks Terrorists to Avoid Travel to Coronavirus-Affected Countries, Wash Hands

YPG (Kurdish People's Protection Units) is written over a wall painting of ISIS flag inside a house in Syria. (Reuters)

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Islamic State Asks Terrorists to Avoid Travel to Coronavirus-Affected Countries, Wash Hands

Linwood Mosque Imam's Message of Unity on Anniversary of Terrorist Attack - 'The Blood That Runs in Me, Runs In You'

India Supreme Court Must Use Legal Methods to End Discrimination Against Muslims: Iran’s Guardian Council

Ending Religious Violence: How Aggrieved Imam, Pastor Brought Peace To Plateau Community, Others

National Solidarity Calls by Iranian Resistance Leaders to Combat Coronavirus and the Role of Mullahs’ Regime in Spreading the Virus

Papering Over the Fissures Inherent in the Afghan Reconciliation Process

No Cremation for Mindanao’s First COVID-19 Mortality; Burial in Accordance with Islamic Rites but With Some Modifications

Muslim Leaders Fear Christchurch-Style Attack Could Happen In UK

Trump Tests Negative for Virus As US Expands Europe Traveller Ban

 

Arab world

Islamic State Asks Terrorists to Avoid Travel to Coronavirus-Affected Countries, Wash Hands

Head of Syrian regime postpones legislative elections and “Scientific Jurisprudence Council” suspends public prayers in mosques 

Imams called upon to not prolong reading in Oman mosques

Coronavirus in UAE: Sheikh Zayed Mosque closed from Sunday

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New Zealand

Linwood Mosque Imam's Message of Unity on Anniversary of Terrorist Attack - 'The Blood That Runs in Me, Runs In You'

Bikies And A Muslim Imam Share A Powerful Traditional Embrace As They Come Together To Commemorate The One-Year Anniversary Of The Christchurch Mosque Shootings

Kilbirnie Mosque Cancels Open Day at Last Minute, One Year on From Christchurch Terror Attacks

Christchurch mosque attacks: 'We were all impacted by the ripples'

Christchurch mosque shooting footage still on Facebook, one year on

Christchurch attack, one year on: 'We are stronger and more united' - Cashmere head boy

Cancelled open day fails to prevent people from paying respects at Wellington mosque

Shot 9 times during mosque massacre, survivor overcomes fear

Hate-motivated crime data collection being strengthened as Muslim leaders demand action

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India

India Supreme Court Must Use Legal Methods to End Discrimination Against Muslims: Iran’s Guardian Council

In Bangladesh, Protest Against PM Modi On Hold, Only Until He Pays A Visit

Muslim Outfits Meet Tamil Nadu Chief Secy, Demand Resolution Against NPR, NRC and CAA

India treads with caution on Iran’s take on riots

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Africa

Ending Religious Violence: How Aggrieved Imam, Pastor Brought Peace To Plateau Community, Others

Coronavirus in SA: Ridgeway Muslim School in Joburg closes after pupil’s mom tests positive

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Mideast

National Solidarity Calls by Iranian Resistance Leaders to Combat Coronavirus and the Role of Mullahs’ Regime in Spreading the Virus

Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque shut as precaution against coronavirus

Coronavirus: Palestinians Suspend Prayers at Mosques, Churches

Islamic Republic Fails Again. This Time, the Coronavirus Outbreak Management Test

Coronavirus: Jordan cancels flights and bans prayers at mosques

Iran says worsening outbreak could strain health facilities

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South Asia

Papering Over the Fissures Inherent in the Afghan Reconciliation Process

‘They’re Not Acting in Good Faith’, U.S. CENTCOM Commander Says Reacting To Taliban Attacks

Jamiyyathul Ulama Urges Muslims To Stop Prayer Gatherings

Unequal Bangladesh-India relationship

Banks target to utilize religious sentiment for tapping business

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Southeast Asia

No Cremation for Mindanao’s First COVID-19 Mortality; Burial in Accordance with Islamic Rites but With Some Modifications

Mosque in Shah Alam closed in Covid-19 shutdown

Covid-19: Thai Embassy in KL urges Thai Muslims who attended Sri Petaling event to get tested

Jais says ordered Shah Alam mosque to cancel closure over Covid-19

Malaysia reports 190 new coronavirus cases, most linked to mosque event

Beijing to send all travellers from abroad to quarantine facility for 14 days

M’sia reports highest-ever spike of 190 new Covid-19 cases in 1 day, most linked to mosque event

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Europe

Muslim Leaders Fear Christchurch-Style Attack Could Happen In UK

ISIS tells its terrorists not to travel to Europe for jihad because … coronavirus

County Lines kingpin Bodrul Islam who flooded Class A drugs into Hereford via Birmingham jailed

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North America

Trump Tests Negative for Virus As US Expands Europe Traveller Ban

Coronavirus: Over 300 American soldiers quarantined after returning from Afghanistan

The Latest: Republic of Congo reports 1st coronavirus case

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Pakistan

Govt, Judiciary Vying to Take Over Khyber Levies Training Centre

Pre-arrest bail hampers probe, prosecution processes, SC rules

Speaker cancels meetings of NA committees

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/islamic-state-asks-terrorists-to-avoid-travel-to-coronavirus-affected-countries,-wash-hands/d/121307

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India

 

Muslim Outfits Meet Tamil Nadu Chief Secy, Demand Resolution Against NPR, NRC And CAA

15th March 2020

CHENNAI: Muslim organisations which held discussions with Chief Secretary K Shanmugam on Saturday were firm on their demand that a resolution against Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) should be adopted in the Assembly. Besides, they also demanded an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.  The outfits also told government that the ongoing protests were not instigated by anyone but had been happening spontaneously.  

In all, 49 representatives of Muslim organisations from the State took part in the discussions. Abdul Rahim, vice president, Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamaat, said the meeting called by the Chief Secretary was a big disappointment to them since the apprehensions of Muslims were not clarified satisfactorily.  As such, the protests against CAA, NPR and NRC will be intensified in the coming days across the State. On March 18, a ‘Jail Bharo’ agitation will be staged. 

Talking to reporters after the 90-minute discussions with the Chief Secretary, at the Secretariat, MH Jawahirullah, on behalf of Federation of Tamil Nadu Islamic Organisations, said there was no legal barrier for adopting a resolution against NPR as it was being carried out as per rules of CAA.  Jawahirullah said that during the discussions, the Chief Secretary said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had clarified that no documents would be required for the NPR and no one would be classified as doubtful.

To this, the Muslim outfits had said, “If this is true, the guideline that the local enumerator who is updating NPR can mark as doubtful if any person is unable provide any information, should be deleted.  Also, the rule that providing information to NPR is a duty and that those who default will be punished should also be deleted. The Assembly resolution on CAA and NPR should  include these points.”

Asked whether the meeting was satisfactory, Jawahirullah said, “The Chief Secretary has assured us to convey the views expressed by Muslim representatives to government.  Only when we come to know about the response of the Chief Minister, we can say whether this meeting was useful or not.” He also said the federation would take a decision on the future course of agitation depending upon the government’s response to their demands.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2020/mar/15/muslim-outfits-meet-chief-secy-demand-resolution-2116868.html

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The lawless Indian jails demand attention and reforms

Mar 15, 2020

By Humra Quraish

With news-reports coming in of Dr. Kafeel Khan’s wife fearing his very survival cum safety in the Mathura Jail, where he sits imprisoned, I have been wondering the vulnerability of an Indian Muslim prisoner, in the backdrop of the terribly horrifying communal times we are living in. What, with the Hindutva Agenda holding sway to such an extent that none of the communally-twisted politicians have been arrested or even questioned in the backdrop of the Delhi pogrom of 2020. This, when there are videos after videos playing out their communal provocative speeches, and also many victims holding them responsible for this pogrom. Ironically, instead of getting booked, these very tainted politicians are roaming about with security cover! State protection for the culprits…for  politicians terrorizing us day and night!

In this Delhi pogrom 2020, if Muslim boys and men could be very blatantly attacked and assaulted by the Hindutva goons on the streets and mohallas and residential colonies of North East Delhi, all under the watchful gaze of the cops, then one can well imagine what could be taking place behind the high walls of the prisons.

Not to overlook the news reports, focusing on the Kashmiri prisoners battling severe health problems in far-away jails and with that finding it very, very difficult to survive in the prisons of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi and in the other Northern states of the country.

I would say it’s a double whammy for prisoners from the disadvantaged minority backgrounds…Yes, I am saying so after reading, rather re-reading books written by several former prisoners and also by those who have been interacting with the imprisoned population – Anjum Zamarud Habib’s ‘Prisoner No. 100’ (Zubaan). Mohammad Aamir Khan’s ‘Framed As A Terrorist’(Speaking Tiger), Abdul Wahid Shaikh’s Begunah Qaidi (Pharos Media), Mufti Abdul Qayyum Ahmad Husain Mansuri’s ‘I Am A Mufti & I Am Not A Terrorist - 11 Years Behind the Bars’ (Jamiat Ulama,Ahmedabad and Maharashtra), Nandita Haksar's "Framing Geelani, Hanging Afzal - Patriotism In The Time of Terror" (Bibliophile South Asia,) and Iftikhar Gilani’s ‘My Days in Prison’ (Penguin) …

Read what these former prisoners had to face in prison and you’d realize how tough and unsafe and humiliating it got for them …I repeat double whammy for them!

Triple whammy, when their tormentors are released and set free. Yes, though it gets almost impossible to nail or arrest any of the tainted cops but even if that happens in some rare cases, there is every possibility of they getting bailed out …set free!

I must hasten to add that nothing comes as a shocker in these RSS-ridden times. I recall when in the first week of August 2017, the special CBI court discharged former IPS officer D.G. Vanzara and also the Rajasthan-cadre IPS officer Dinesh MN in the case of alleged fake encounters of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati, there was little hue and cry from the opposition.

This, when there is this vital backgrounder to this encounter specialist’s killings. After all, DG Vanzara, a DIG-rank officer, was arrested on April 24, 2007, in connection with the alleged fake encounter of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi, who were abducted by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad from Hyderabad on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra. Sheikh was killed in an alleged fake encounter near Gandhinagar in 2005, after which his wife ‘disappeared’, killed! Prajapati, an eyewitness, was also allegedly killed by the police in 2006…The Sohrabuddin case was transferred to Mumbai in 2012 on the CBI’s request for a fair trial. In 2013, the Supreme Court clubbed the “fake encounter” case of Prajapati with that of Sheikh.

DG Vanzara’s this particular letter published in RB Sreekumar’s book Gujarat - Behind The Curtain (Revised edition to be published by Pharos Media) carries pointers. I’m quoting from this book, “DIG D. G. Vanzara, jailed since April 2007 for the alleged guilt of committing fake encounters, in his resignation letter to the government of Gujarat, dated 1st September2013, said ‘Tendering of resignation from my service with renunciation of all post-retirement benefits …Gujarat CID / Union CBI had arrested me and my officers in different encounter cases, holding us to be responsible for carrying out alleged fake encounters, if that is true then the CBI investigating officers of all the 4 encounter cases of Sohrabuddin, Tulsi Ram, Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan have to arrest the policy formulators also, as we, being field officers have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government, which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters. By this reasoning, I am of the firm opinion that the place of this government, instead of being in Gandhinagar, should either be in Taloja Central Prison at Navi Mumbai or in the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad.’”

After reading these books, one wonders: Why are the communal cum corrupt jail officers not booked or dismissed? Where is transparency? Why should we go only by police hand-outs? Why shouldn’t a non-governmental agency be allowed to carry out simultaneous investigative probes? Why should minorities always sit in fear of the police and its ways!

After all, it is not difficult to arrest an innocent and heap terror charges on him; with that he sits languishing. Not to overlook the patent one-liners that go along with the arrests —the arrested has ‘confessed’ his or her ‘crime’ to the police. Who will believe that the arrested ‘confessed’ without those torture sessions. Aren’t we aware of the fact that the police can make one confess any possible crime in the midst of torture sessions. And as we are more than aware that the police can arrest and detain just about anyone.

Though big-bodied commissions had been set up to look into the living conditions of the Muslims of the country yet it seems unfortunate that there's no looking into the condition of the imprisoned Muslim population.

Here it gets relevant to point out that when I had suggested to Justice Sachar who was heading the Sachar Committee that why don’t they extend the Committee’s findings to jails and the jailed population, he made it very clear that doesn't come under their mandate. As he put across, “The Sachar Committee had tried to go a little extra finding, in terms of doing headcount of the Muslim in the Indian Army and see what a volley we faced.”

http://www.milligazette.com/news/16882-the-lawless-indian-jails-demand-attention-and-reforms

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India Supreme Court must use legal methods to end discrimination against Muslims: Iran’s Guardian Council

14 March 2020

A member of Iran's Guardian Council, Hadi Tahan Nazif, has called on India's Supreme Court to use all legal methods and procedures to pave the way for the repeal of a discriminatory law against Muslims in the South Asian country.

In the worst communal violence in decades in New Delhi on February 23, more than 50 people were killed and over 100 wounded as groups chanting Hindu nationalist slogans torched mosques and dozens of Muslim houses after looting shops and businesses.

The violence began amid widespread protests across India over a citizenship law that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government introduced in December last year offering citizenship to six religious groups from neighboring countries, specifically excluding Muslims.

Critics insist the law is discriminatory, coming in the wake of other severe government measures against the country’s Muslim population such as the withdrawal of autonomy for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir.

There are 200 million Muslims in India, comprising more than 14 percent of the country’s population.

Critics of Modi’s government have blamed the anti-Muslim violence on members of the prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was crushed in local Delhi elections early last month. The party has embraced a militant brand of Hindu nationalism and its leaders have openly vilified Indian Muslims.

In a letter to Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, Nazif said, "Our respected colleagues in the Supreme Court of India are expected to use the legal methods and procedures enshrined in the Indian Constitution and pave the way for repeal of this discriminatory law against Muslims."

As your Excellency well know, supporting basic rights and freedoms and safeguarding their human and citizenship rights are among the principal aims and objectives of judicial and constitutional review bodies that supervise laws and regulations approved by parliaments and other bodies. As we and you, at two judicial and constitutional review bodies that supervise parliamentarian laws, feel it incumbent upon ourselves to prevent the establishment of norms that can contribute to the deterioration of people’s rights.

Sadly, however, today’s images and news coming out of India show the scale of violence used against oppressed Muslims and denial of their very basic rights, including their right to life. This is while India has always been a key supporter of peace in the world and promoted peaceful coexistence of followers of different faiths and ideologies.

Moreover, India is best known for exercise of tolerance and invitation to peace and friendship among Buddhists and members of other religious minorities, particularly Muslims, issues stressed by the country’s independence icon Mahatma Gandhi in the diverse and multi-cultural India.

Undoubtedly, the Indian government will take the necessary measures to prevent a religious conflict from escalating. But what our colleagues in India as a friendly and brotherly country can do to end the ongoing protests as well as brutality against Muslims is to reconsider a controversial citizenship law that was ratified by the Parliament of India in December 2019.

It seems that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is discriminatory as it excludes Muslims from the fabric of Indian society by eliminating their rights to equality and citizenship, which runs contrary to basic human rights principles.

According to articles 1 and 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. …

Again, according to article 15 of the same document, “Everyone has the right to a nationality and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”.

Articles 2 and 26 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Government of India is a party, also emphasize that “all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law”.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution attaches importance to equality before law and equal protection of laws as well while Article 15 prohibits discrimination against citizens on the basis of religion and race.

Our respected colleagues in the Supreme Court of India are expected to use the legal methods and procedures enshrined in the Indian Constitution and pave the way for repeal of this discriminatory law against Muslims.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/14/620864/Muslims-Guardian-Council-Iran-India-Hadi-Tahan-Nazif

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India treads with caution on Iran’s take on riots

March 14, 2020

New Delhi: India is treading cautiously on Iranian leaders’ recent remarks on the Delhi violence and is not overreacting on the issue.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei recently commented on the incident asking “India to stop the massacre of Muslims in order to prevent India’s isolation from the world of Islam”.

Before that, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also posted a comment on Twitter saying “Iran condemns the wave of organised violence against Indian Muslims”.

Though India reacted after Zarif’s remarks and subsequently summoned the Iranian Ambassador to India to lodge its protest, it preferred not to comment after Khamenei’s remarks. This is seen as India’s calculated strategy not to overreact. As regards summoning of Zarif, it is seen by experts as normal diplomatic exercise.

A.K. Mohapatra, a Professor at the Centre for West Asian Studies at Jawahalal Nehru University (JNU), told The Sunday Guardian: “The concerns voiced by the Iranian leaders are more of political nature rather than showing any genuine concern. There is a competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran on becoming a leader of Muslim nations. Since, for Iran, India appears to be having a tilt in favour of Saudi Arabia, it has tried to given a message to India not to ignore Iran’s interests.”

“India has interests in Iran. So it cannot antagonize the South Asian country. Islamic fundamentalism has links with Sunnis whereas Iran is a Shia-dominated country. That is the reason it has sided with India when it comes to issues related to India and Pakistan. It will be good for India not to react much on the comments made by Iranian leaders. Rather it should try to explain India’s position and placate them. The gesture of donating a lab to test COVID-19 virus in Iran is a welcome step which will help in placating the Iranians. India should try to do the balancing act and neutralize the opposition from Iran diplomatically. There is no need to be vindictive or reactive,” he said.

Sources said Iranian leaders’ remarks were unexpected given that Iran normally avoids public criticism of internal matters of India. Following the revocation of Article 370, Tehran had limited its reaction to expressing concerns over the “condition of the people” in the Valley and urging New Delhi to adopt “a fair policy” towards the people of the region. Tehran has also avoided taking Islamabad’s side whenever tension between India and Pakistan escalated in recent years.  The relations between India and Iran have been on an upswing in the last few years.

Despite US sanctions against Iran, India has been maintaining cordial ties with Tehran and has been actively involved in the development of Chabahar port there. India, however, had to reduce its oil imports from Iran despite the fact that it acknowledges that Iran is an energy source.

“The hearts of Muslims all over the world are grieving over the massacre of Muslims in India. The Government of India should confront extremist Hindus and their parties and stop the massacre of Muslims in order to prevent India’s isolation from the world of Islam,” said Khamenei in an official statement issued recently.

This came following a similar comment by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier. India took strong exception to his comments. Iranian ambassador Ali Chengeni was summoned to the foreign office to protest the remarks.

“The Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni was summoned and a strong protest was lodged against the unwarranted remarks made by the Iranian foreign minister. It was conveyed that his selective and tendentious characterisation of recent events in Delhi are not acceptable. We do not expect such comments from a country such as Iran,” MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/india-treads-caution-irans-take-riots

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In Bangladesh, Protest Against PM Modi On Hold, Only Until He Pays A Visit

15 March 2020

Pranay Sharma

The anti-Indian protests planned during Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka has now been put on hold in view of the former's deferred trip to Bangladesh. But his Bangladeshi detractors claim they will be out in the streets in numbers whenever the Indian prime minister touches down in their country.

“Our protests have been held back, they have not been called off,” says Kafi Ratan, member of the Bangladesh Communist Party’s presidium. “We will take to the streets in large numbers to protest whenever he comes to Dhaka,” he adds.

The communists, the Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam and sections of students had held a series of protests in Dhaka and other Bangladeshi cities this month to express displeasure with the BJP-led government in India in the wake of the Delhi riots.

They had plans of holding a series of protests next week but decided to hold them back since the Indian Prime Minister’s scheduled two-day visit to Dhaka from March 17 had been deferred because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Modi was to participate in Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s centennial and hold bilateral meetings with his host, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. A fresh date for his visit to Dhaka will be announced later at the convenience of both leaders.

During his 2015 visit to Dhaka, the Indian Prime Minister was given a very warm welcome. He and Sheikh Hasina have met several times in the intervening period and both enjoy an extremely warm and cordial relations.

Despite the claim of the communist party members to come out in numbers to protest against Modi, it is highly unlikely that the Sheikh Hasina government will allow street agitations during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit. The protests held in Dhaka in the wake of the Delhi riot do not necessarily mean they could have been held at a time when Modi was in Bangladesh.

Since the main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had also distanced itself from holding any such demosntration during Modi’s visit to Dhaka, therefore, even if some sections were keen to hold such protests, they would have been easily marginalised by the Hasina government.

But resentment and frustration had been rising against India in sections in Bangladesh. They stemmed mainly from pending issues like sharing water of the Teesta and other rivers that run between the two countries, the border killings as well as frequent reports of attacks on Muslims in India. The recent Delhi riot was perhaps the tipping point for a number of street demonstrations against India in Bangladesh.

But the main grouse against Delhi seems to be over Bangladesh being the target of attack in the ruling party BJP’s political rhetoric.

“The atmosphere for India is not very conducive in the Bangladeshi society,” says Saheb Enam Khan, a professor of international relations at the Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka referring to the widespread resentment.

Khan is of the view that the Indian Prime Minister should be welcomed to Dhaka. “But when he comes, he should give a categoric assurance that the anti-Bangladesh tirade that comes out of India at regular intervals should stop for good.”

He points out that while India claims Bangladesh to be a close friend, it does not stop from clubbing it Pakistan and Afghanistan as countries that indulge in religious persecution of its minorities. At a time when Bangladesh is playing host to over a million Rohingya refugees, such remarks by the Indian leadership look completely untrue and as something being deliberately said to malign Bangladesh, says Khan.

Similar views are also expressed by the BNP leaders who are keen to build good relations with Delhi. “We want PM Modi to clarify what he wants to do with those people who have been identified as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are kept in camps in India,” former minister and BNP foreign affairs committee head Amir Khusro Chaudhary said.

He also stressed that while the BNP leadership too is keen on developing good relations with India, it is totally confused as to what Delhi wants to achieve by the anti-Bangladeshi remarks that senior BJP leaders making in their public speeches.

India-Bangladesh relations have shown a significant improvement since Sheikh Hasina came to power in Dhaka in 2009. But she was disappointed with the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government for its failure to sign the Teesta River Water treaty—a highly emotive issue in Bangladesh.

Though even under Modi’s BJP government that treaty has remained elusive, the two sides have managed to expand and deepen their cooperation in a number of areas from which both sides benefit. The marked improvement in Indo-Bangladesh relations is also a high-point in Modi’s “ neighbourhood first” policy. But domestic developments in India, especially legislations like the Citizens’ Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register for Citizens have brought the focus squarely on illegal immigration into the country from Bangladesh. Additionally, BJP leaders frequent attempt to club Bangladesh with Pakistan where Hindus are being persecuted has deeply hurt the Bangladeshi sentiment, putting PM Hasina in an awkward position as questions are raised on growing Indo-Bangladesh ties.

PM Modi has often assured the Bangladesh leadership that NRC and the CAA are internal affairs of India that will not affect Bangladesh. But the sporadic anti-Bangladeshi criticism, often terming the illegal immigrant from across the border as “termites” have raised doubts in Dhaka as the kind of relation that is on offer from Delhi.

“We are not slaves who can be abused by India whenever it wants,” says political commentator and Dhaka University professor Asif Nazrul.

For some like him, the anger against the Hasina government has also merged with that against India. “Sheikh Hasina may be indebted to India for its support and keeping her in power. But there is a growing resentment in Dhaka against her and the Modi government for its anti-Bangladeshi policies,” he adds.

Indications suggest that in the coming days the anger, especially over the Delhi riot and perceived anti-Muslim policies of the Modi government, might not be as strong as they are now among many in Bangladesh. But whenever the Indian Prime Minister visits Dhaka, he will have to reassure his hosts that India will not pursue any policy that will jeopardise the strong Indo-Bangladesh relations that have so far, benefitted both countries immensely.

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/world-news-demonstrations-planned-against-pm-modi-during-bangladesh-visit-will-hasina-govt-let-it-happen/348814

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Pakistan

 

Pre-arrest bail hampers probe, prosecution processes, SC rules

March 15, 2020

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has held that the grant of bail to an accused required in a cognizable and non-bailable offence before his arrest clogs the very mechanics of the state authority to investigate and prosecute violations of law designated as crimes.

“The grant of bail to an accused required in a cognizable and non-bail offence prior to his arrest is an extraordinary judicial intervention in an ongoing or imminent investigative process,” observed Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed.

The observation came on an appeal filed by Ghulam Farooq Channa, secretary of Jamshed Town Union Council, Karachi, against the Feb 13 Sindh High Court (SHC) order of denying him the same remedy.

A two judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed had taken up the appeal on March 3.

“To prevent arrest of an accused required by a law is a measure with far reaching consequences that may include loss or disappearance of evidence,” the judgement feared, adding that the statute did not contemplate such a remedy besides it was also judicially decided way back in 1949 in the case of Hidayatullah Khan versus the Crown.

Such a grant of bail was always intended with a purpose sacrosanct and noble, the judgement observed, explaining that essentially such a relief was meant to provide judicial refuge to the innocent and the vulnerable from the rigours or abuse or process of law with an intention to protect human dignity and honour from the humiliation of arrest intended for designs sinister and oblique.

The remedy oriented in equity could not be invoked in every run of the mill criminal case, Justice Ahmed observed, adding that prima facie the post arrest bail certainly was not a substitute in cases not supported by material and evidence, constituting a non-bailable/cognizable offence, warranting arrest which was an inherent attribute of the dynamics of the criminal justice system with a deterrent impact.

The petitioner had been avoiding arrest since Aug 28, 2019 when he was accused of having fabricated a fake death certificate of a woman namely Naseem Begum Chotani. The fake death certificate had helped his co-accused to attempt to hoodwink judicial process and grab valuable properties whose ownership vested in the woman.

When disclosed, the scam was reported to the Anti-Corruption Authorities and after an inquiry the petitioner was booked as an accused alongside with other accomplices.

Senior lawyer Ghulam Sajjad Gopang, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, argued that alleged fabrication was reported after five years and it was committed by the officials at the higher rung. But his client was being hounded as a scapegoat to save the real culprits, the counsel said, adding that co-accused in the case had since been released on post-arrest bail and thus the petitioner’s remission into custody was not likely to serve any useful purpose in the investigation process.

In the judgement, Justice Ahmed observed that the petitioner was at the helm of affairs when the bogus certificate was issued and that cognizance on belated disclosure did not mitigate the culpability nor should be equated with mala fide.

The judgement held that the view taken by the SHC and the special judge, (Central-I) Karachi in the first round of litigation was in accord with the law being consistently followed by the Supreme Court.

“Thus the petition is dismissed and the leave denied,” the judgement said, adding that the release of the petitioner on post- arrest bail would frustrate the investigation purposes.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1540990/pre-arrest-bail-hampers-probe-prosecution-processes-sc-rules

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Speaker cancels meetings of NA committees

March 15, 2020

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has cancelled all the meetings of the house committees till further order as part of the measures taken by the government to fight coronavirus in the country.

This was announced by a spokesman for the National Assembly Secretariat here on Saturday, a day after the National Security Committee (NSC), headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, took a number of decisions, including closure of educational institutions and bar on all kinds of public gatherings for the next three weeks.

It is worth mentioning that Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had cancelled the meetings of all the standing and functional committee on Friday even before the meeting of the NSC.

The spokesman for the NA Secretariat stated that notices had been issued regarding the cancellation of all the meetings for an indefinite period as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Interestingly, the official websites of the two secretariats have not been updated till filing of this report on Saturday night and according to them, most of the meetings are still scheduled to be held on time.

The speaker’s decision has affected the meetings of 25 committees that were scheduled be held from March 16 to March 31. Similarly, the Senate chairman had cancelled meetings of 18 various committees which were scheduled to be held between March 16 and 26.

The decision to cancel the NA committees meetings will definitely affect the working of the parliament since more than 150 government and private member’s bills are pending before these committees which had been constituted very late by the speaker due to a row between the government and the opposition over the nomination of the Opposition Leader and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif as chairman of the all-powerful Public Accounts Committee.

Meanwhile, the Capital Deve­lopment Authority (CDA), the civic body responsible for the maintenance of the Parliament House has been directed to initiate immediate measures in order to protect Parliament House from the coronavirus.

The CDA had been directed to complete the fumigation, cleaning and washing exercise positively by today (Sunday).

According to another handout issued by the National Assembly Secretariat, Speaker Asad Qaiser called federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan and expressed his deep concern over the sudden raise of airfares of flights intended for Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

The speaker said the aviation ministry should take necessary measures before expiring of the 72-hour deadline set by the Saudi government for the return of their own nationals and other Iqama holders.

The speaker said no one should be allowed to extort money from anyone at this juncture of time. He said airlines were overcharging rather extorting money from the Pakistanis intending for Saudi Arabia. He asked the minister for aviation to immediately address that issue.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1541002/speaker-cancels-meetings-of-na-committees

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Containing the virus

March 15, 2020

THE National Security Council has met to discuss a strategy for a looming healthcare crisis of unprecedented proportions — the contagious coronavirus, which has sparked panic across the world owing to its rapid spread and potential to kill.

The government has announced the formation of a national coordination committee along with a string of measures which include the sealing of borders with Iran and Afghanistan, restricting international flights and barring mass public events.

The advisory also declared the shutdown of educational institutions, cinemas, theatres and marriage halls, the adjournment of civil cases in courts and changes in hearing procedures for criminal cases.

The decisions came as Pakistan reported some 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which include at least one individual who did not travel abroad, indicating that community spread within the country could be a reality.

Given that Pakistan is straddled by China and Iran which have among the highest reported cases, the authorities’ response to the fast-spreading virus has been lethargic and more reactive than proactive — a circumstance which has led the virus to thrive in other countries.

States including China, Iran and Italy were unable to contain the spread and have reported thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths.

One illustration of this is that until just a couple of days ago, Punjab, the most populated province, had ostensibly taken no measures to limit public gatherings or establish health protocols.

The ijtima at Raiwind, a congregation of thousands, began despite the provincial government’s pleas to organisers not to hold it.

This defies logic. Pakistan is a developing country with poor healthcare infrastructure and low hygiene standards, so authorities ought to have sounded the alarm by enforcing strict screening and cancelling mass public events when the first case was reported at the end of February.

Moving forward, the government must share its resources and work with the provincial governments to contain the virus.

This would include effective screening at entry ports, which until recently involved filling out a form.

Resources must be allocated to establish health desks at ports which check symptoms and isolate passengers who show signs of being infected.

Across cities, the government must kick off mass multilingual awareness drives about hygiene, symptoms and the availability of medical help.

The federal government must take on board religious authorities to examine the roles that mosques can play to create awareness and limit the spread.

Prime Minister Imran Khan should follow in the footsteps of other world leaders and be visible in the COVID-19 messaging campaign, which he had stayed away from until yesterday.

Given the potentially high mortality rate and the ensuing economic losses, this is not the time to bicker over the 18th Amendment or the availability of funds. Our politicians ought to show leadership and focus on action, transparency and communication.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1541040/containing-the-virus

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Govt, judiciary vying to take over Khyber Levies training centre

March 15, 2020

Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and the judiciary are vying to take over the US-funded under construction Shakass Levies Training Centre in Khyber tribal district, while the donor has insisted that the facility should be specifically used for the purpose for which funds were approved by the US Congress.

Sources told Dawn that Khyber district’s judiciary wanted to relocate from its transitional premises in Peshawar to the training centre temporarily.

The provincial cabinet in a meeting on Feb 25 decided to convert the facility into a training centre for Rescue 1122.

The sources said the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs-Pakistan, which provides $5.9 million funds for the construction of the training centre at Shakass, had strongly opposed the use of the facility for any other purpose.

Sources said the INL, which funded other projects, had conveyed to the relevant authorities that the violation of the memorandum of understanding would not only create misunderstanding between the government and donor but it was also likely to impact future financial assistance to the province.

“The INL (Pakistan) has conveyed to the authorities that funds are approved by the US Congress for a specific purpose and the facility is meant for the same. Any violation in the mode of utilisation of the funds or facility will not only create a grave concern but will also lead to the stoppage of further aid in all fields by the US government,” according to official documents.

INL head of public affairs section Scot Robinson did not reply to an email of this correspondent.

“We are being sandwiched between the provincial government and the judiciary in the prevailing scenario,” said an official dealing with the development side in the district.

Interestingly, the provincial government has fixed gaze on the takeover of the training centre but it ignored around 35 employees including ministerial staff hired for the project and training of the Levies Force.

“The government seems interested only in taking over the property and is not ready to own us,” said an employee at the facility.

The centre is being set up over 300 acres of land in Shakass area of Bara tehsil of Khyber district. It will initially cater to the training needs of 28,000 personnel of Levies and Khasadar forces, the law-enforcement arm of the administration in the erstwhile Fata.

The contract for the construction of the training facility having capacity to accommodate 400 trainees with boarding facilities, parade ground and firing range was awarded to the Frontier Corps (North). Work on the project began in 2011 and is likely to finish by the end of April 2020.

Following the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 28,000 Levies and Khasadar personnel have been absorbed into the provincial police, while the law and order section of the defunct Fata Secretariat was handed over to the home department.

The merger and subsequent developments, including the absorption of tribal districts’ law- enforcement agencies into police, gave other departments ideas about taking over the training centre.

Sources told Dawn that on Feb 17, the additional district and session judge of Khyber district chaired a meeting, which discussed the taking over of two blocks of the training centre for shifting of the district courts temporarily until the construction of the district judicial complex.

The meeting was informed that the registrar of the Peshawar High Court visited the training centre in Oct 2019 regarding the establishment of a judicial complex and making necessary modifications and arrangements in the training centre to meet the requirements of the district judiciary.

The meeting decided to bring the issue to the notice of the PHC registrar with a request to convene a meeting of the chief secretary, inspector general of police, inspector general of Frontier Corps (North), secretary of the home and tribal affairs department and INL officials for the early handing and taking over of the proposed building.

In the meanwhile, the relief, rehabilitation and settlement department managed to push a summary proposing to shift the centre into training academy for Rescue 1122 through the provincial cabinet on Feb 25.

Sources said after the cabinet’s approval, the department concerned would approach the FC for handing over the facility to Rescue 1122.

Official sources said the police were interested to retain the control of the sprawling facility instead of handing it over to any other department.

They said after the absorption of Levies and Khasadar forces, the strength of the province’s police had totalled over 100,000.

They said the existing police training college in Hangu did not have sufficient space and capacity to cater to the needs of the police.

The sources said the police department had pointed out security issues of the building in case of utilisation other than the training school for Levies.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1541035/govt-judiciary-vying-to-take-over-khyber-levies-training-centre

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Middle East

 

GC member urges India to abolish discriminatory law against Muslims

Mar 15, 2020

He wrote, “respected colleagues of the Justice of India are expected to provide the possibility of abolishing the discriminatory laws against Muslims using the legal methods predicted in the Indian Constitution.”

The full text of the letter is read as follows, “supporting the fundamental rights and freedoms of the nation and guaranteeing human rights and their citizenship is one of the missions and objectives behind the formation of judicial bodies in judicial oversight of the laws and regulations approved in parliaments and legislation bodies. As we and you, in two observing institutions on laws of parliament, are duty-bound to prevent the formation of norms that undermine the rights of the nation."

“A part of the news and images, which is communicated from India to the international community these days, depicts violence and human rights abuses. An image that we have had from India in our mind is nothing but peace and peaceful life of followers of different religions and groups. Tolerance, inviting to peace and friendship between Buddhism and other minorities especially Muslims by the Great Gandhi is famous in the world.

“Undoubtedly, the Indian government will take necessary measures to prevent religious war. It seems that the CAA Law approved in Dec. 2019 in Indian Parliament includes discriminatory articles against Muslims such as right of equality and citizenship law which contradicts with the initial principles of the Human Rights and various documents of human rights such as Article (1), (2) and (15) of the World Proclamation of Human Rights, Articles (2) and (26) of protocol of civil-political laws as well as Articles (14) and (15) of the Indian Constitution which points to the equality right of Indian citizenship explicitly.”

https://en.mehrnews.com/news/156720/GC-member-urges-India-to-abolish-discriminatory-law-against-Muslims

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Coronavirus: Palestinians suspend prayers at mosques, churches

14 March 2020

The Palestinian Authority (PA) suspended prayers in mosques and churches in the occupied West Bank on Saturday to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and Gaza's Hamas rulers said all the enclave's border crossings would be closed to travel.

The PA's Religious Affairs Ministry asked Palestinians to worship at home, Reuters reported.

"In light of the Health Ministry's recommendation to minimise contact between people and to reduce gatherings as much as possible we call upon our Muslim people in Palestine to hold their prayers at home," a ministry statement said.

In Ramallah, a prayer leader reciting the Muslim call to prayer at one mosque in the early evening added the words: "Pray at home, pray at home."

Palestinians in Gaza are trying to prepare for the novel coronavirus outbreak. But the Israeli blockade is making it much harder.

Last week, MEE reported that the PA declared a state of emergency in the occupied West Bank and locked down Bethlehem after seven cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed in the city.

According to Palestinian health officials, 38 coronavirus cases have now been confirmed in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self-rule under the Palestinian Authority. None have been reported in the densely populated Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

The Hamas-led government said it was closing Gaza's border crossings with Israel and Egypt for travel, excluding life-threatening cases that required medical treatment outside the enclave. Gatherings would be limited to 100 people and schools were to remain shut through March.

Citing security reasons, Israel and Egypt keep the coastal Gaza Strip under a blockade with tight control of movements over their border land crossings.

Religious authorities have so far kept Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque, which is Islam's third-holiest site, open for prayers.

The Jordan-appointed council that oversees Islamic sites on Jerusalem's sacred compound has kept it open for Friday prayers, encouraging faithful to congregate on the 35-acre complex's outdoor grounds rather than inside its covered shrines.

The Waqf council reassured worshippers in a statement this week that the entire compound, including its golden Dome of the Rock shrine, was being "sterilised continuously."

In Israel, where 164 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, gatherings have been limited to 100 people. Some religious authorities in the Holy Land, including the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, have moved to implement crowd controls at places of worship.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-palestinians-suspend-prayers-mosques-churches-0

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National Solidarity Calls by Iranian Resistance Leaders to Combat Coronavirus and the Role of Mullahs’ Regime in Spreading the Virus

14 March 2020

The Resistance Units, and the youth supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK),distributed messages of Mr. Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance and Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the NCRI, in various cities calling for national solidarity to combat Coronavirus.

Some of the slogans were: "Velayat-e-Faqih virus is taking down the Iranian children, the response is in the Liberation Army", "To save the people’s lives, publicize information about Coronavirus," "to get your rights, one must raise up against the inhumane mullahs", "the bigger catastrophe is the mullahs' virus(rule) in Iran, the response is in the Liberation Army", "Iranian people do not want Coronavirus, neither do they want the mullahs", "hail to the doctors and nurses who have sacrificed their lives to care for their patients" , "Medical and preventive equipment and resources must be seized from the regime and returned to the people "

https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/ncri-statements/iran-protests/27557-national-solidarity-calls-by-iranian-resistance-leaders-to-combat-coronavirus-and-the-role-of-mullahs-regime-in-spreading-the-virus

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Islamic Republic Fails Again. This Time, the Coronavirus Outbreak Management Test

14 March 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has plunged the Islamic Republic’s decision-making system into unprecedented chaos and has distracted the government from the day-to-day affairs of the country.

President Hassan Rouhani reportedly wanted to appoint his First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri to head the National Headquarters to Contain and Fight Coronavirus (NHCFC) – but Jahangiri was infected with the virus before he could do it. And the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds the real power in the country and heads the “hidden government,” of Iran through organizations and entities under his command, is against Rouhani’s decision.

Khamenei directly interferes in all affairs of state and insists on showing off these interventions. But as of now, he has shown no sign that he is taking any specific actions to manage the current crisis. His only contribution was to send a video message, thanking doctors and nurses for their service and exhorting them to take safety measures seriously.

The NHCFC, supervised by President Rouhani, has complained that its decisions are not taken seriously and it is reported that the government wants to create a “Support Council for NHCFC”.

Religious institutions, especially in the holy city of Qom where the coronavirus epidemic in Iran started, believe that they are only accountable to Ayatollah Khamenei and have refused to shut down religious sites and shrines. For instance, the director of Jamkaran Mosque in Qom has promised that his mosque would receive visitors during Iran’s new year’s holidays that starts on March 20. This is one of Khamenei’s favorite mosques and there have been many reports about his hours-long visits there.

Qom’s local officials and influential religious figures prevented a city-wide quarantine, with the government saying that such a measure was “outdated” and belonged to the past. The result was the spread of coronavirus to the whole country. This mismanagement must be compared to the decision by Italy’s government to quarantine the whole country to fight this lethal epidemic.

The official statistics about coronavirus infections and fatalities were announced by the Ministry of Health but, on March 13, it was Abdulali Ali Asgari, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) who quoted the health minister as saying that the epidemic will reach its peak [Persian link] in late March and early April.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), which is supposed to toe the government line and publish official reports, has now strayed and is publishing reports from hospital sources that show the coronavirus mortality rate is much higher than official figures say.

A number of members of parliament (MP), especially from northern Iran and the shores of Caspian Sea, have criticized the government for not taking seriously the need to control traffic among cities. The MPs threatened that if things continue as they have, they would mobilize the people to stop the movement.

In a strange and unprecedented move, Mohsen Rezaee, the Secretary of Expediency Council, announced [Persian link] that bank borrowers do not have to settle their accounts until June 20. This council has no power to issue executive orders but its secretary has taken an action that will cost the government money. It remains to be seen what would be the consequences of such an unprecedented and unilateral order.

The public does not see much action from President Rouhani and he does not appear to have affairs of the state under his control. Less than a week after the coronavirus outbreak in Iran was officially announced, he said that things would go back to normal starting from Saturday, February 29 — a statement that undermined the remaining credibility of the government.

This chaos occurs at a time when parliament has been closed because an outbreak among MPs. Meetings of the Expediency Council, the Assembly of Experts and the Guardian Council have also been suspended. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, for the first time in 41 years the regime is absent from everyday life.

The coronavirus epidemic has put the decrepit and dilapidated body of the Islamic Republic in full public view. In his desperation, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that an authoritative mediator [Persian link] trusted by the public is needed so that, in such a crisis, the public will take seriously solutions offered by the government. It does not appear that they have found one.

A clear illustration of the lack of public trust in the government emerged three weeks into the epidemic. Rumors spread that gas stations were to be closed; and although the government denied the rumors, long lines formed at midnight at gas stations, out of widespread fear that people would not have another chance to refuel.

Over the years, the Islamic Republic has discredited and repressed voices of authority whom the public could trust and has rendered them ineffective on the national stage. Repeated exhortations to take decisions by the NHCFC seriously only show that, even in a time of crisis, government institutions are still rebuffing each other and tensions among them are increasing.

The NHCFC was approved by the Supreme National Security Council and decisions by this body must be approved by Ayatollah Khamenei before they can be executed. In other words, decisions by the Council show what powers that the Supreme Leader had delegated to it – but now the weakening of government institutions by Khamenei himself is manifesting itself in multiple ways.

The coronavirus crisis does not merely demonstrate the regime’s inability and irresponsibility in preventing the outbreak in Qom. More than anything else, the regime has tried to justify its failings by accusing the “enemy,” by denying unofficial figures of coronavirus infections and mortality and even by threatening and arresting [Persian link] people such as the staff of medical centers who publish accurate figures which show that the government is lying.

Another reality that has been laid bare is the unprecedented discrimination between government officials and ordinary citizens in terms of access to tests and treatment. Even among medical staff who have died of coronavirus, the cause of death had been identified as COVID-19 only after their deaths; but various officials of the Islamic Republic, even those without noticeable symptoms, have been treated as “first-class” citizens and have used scarce test kits to assure themselves that they are healthy.

The coronavirus crisis that, as of now, has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent citizens will eventually subside. But this unprecedented chaos in managing the affairs of the country have exposed for a vast group of Iranians the broken-down and decrepit system of the Islamic Republic, a system that believes the cure for any crisis is to deny that it exists and then to intimidate and arrest those who dare to speak the truth.

https://iranwire.com/en/features/6813

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Coronavirus: Jordan cancels flights and bans prayers at mosques

14 March 2020

By Areeb Ullah

Jordan said it would stop all passenger flights leaving the country from Tuesday and ban all public gatherings to prevent the further spread of the new coronavirus.  

The country has already closed its borders with Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Syria, and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Other measures introduced by the Jordanian government include shutting down of all schools and universities for two weeks, and closing cinemas, sporting facilities and tourist sites.

The government also said public prayers at mosques and churches would be banned and that visits to hospitals and prisons would be halted. 

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Saturday announced the measures during a televised press conference and urged Jordanians to stay at home. 

"The situation around us is from bad to worse, and we are not isolated," Razzaz said, adding that the restrictions would be reviewed periodically.

Razzaz also said that Jordan would close all tourist sites, sporting facilities and cinemas to help prevent the further spread of the disease. 

The prime minister made his announcement after Jordan confirmed that its first Covid-19 case left hospital on Friday after receiving treatment. 

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-jordan-cancels-flights-and-bans-prayers-mosques

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Coronavirus: Jordan cancels flights and bans prayers at mosques

14 March 2020

By Areeb Ullah

Jordan said it would stop all passenger flights leaving the country from Tuesday and ban all public gatherings to prevent the further spread of the new coronavirus.  

The country has already closed its borders with Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Syria, and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Other measures introduced by the Jordanian government include shutting down of all schools and universities for two weeks, and closing cinemas, sporting facilities and tourist sites.

The government also said public prayers at mosques and churches would be banned and that visits to hospitals and prisons would be halted. 

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Saturday announced the measures during a televised press conference and urged Jordanians to stay at home. 

"The situation around us is from bad to worse, and we are not isolated," Razzaz said, adding that the restrictions would be reviewed periodically.

Razzaz also said that Jordan would close all tourist sites, sporting facilities and cinemas to help prevent the further spread of the disease. 

The prime minister made his announcement after Jordan confirmed that its first Covid-19 case left hospital on Friday after receiving treatment. 

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-jordan-cancels-flights-and-bans-prayers-mosques

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Turkish citizens returning from mecca quarantined in dormitories

Mar 15 2020

The Youth and Sports Ministry said that Turkish citizens returning from pilgrimages in Mecca, Saudi Arabia have been placed in 14-day quarantine in university dormitories in Ankara and Konya in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday.  

The ministry said the capacity of the dormitories in Ankara was 3,592 and the capacity in Konya was 4,938. 

Meanwhile, Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkish Religious Affairs said Sunday that Turkish pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia should not leave their homes nor accept visitors for 14 days “to protect their health and the health of the people around them”, reported Anadolu. 

But photographs circulated on Twitter on Saturday of purportedly showing dozens of Justice and Development Party (AKP) figures sharing photos of themselves having returned from Mecca and meeting groups of people, despite instructions for returnees to self-isolate.

A locked account has found literally dozens of AKP figures sharing photos of themselves having returned from Mecca and meeting groups of people despite Health Ministry instructions to self-isolate

The return of some 21,000 Turkish nationals from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia over the next few days has sparked fear over the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Erbaş said that at least 5,300 pilgrims will return to Turkey from Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

On Saturday Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter that a Turkish citizen returning from Islamic pilgrimage in Mecca in the last week had tested positive for the virus, becoming the sixth confirmed coronavirus case in Turkey.

The global death toll from the virus has surpassed 5,300 with more than 142,000 cases confirmed worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

https://ahvalnews.com/coronavirus/turkish-citizens-returning-mecca-quarantined-dormitories

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Palestinians suspend prayers at mosques, churches to fight coronavirus

MARCH 14, 2020

The Palestinian Authority suspended prayers in mosques and churches in the occupied West Bank on Saturday to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and Gaza’s Hamas rulers said all the enclave’s border crossings would be shut for travel.

The Palestinian Authority’s Religious Affairs Ministry asked Palestinians to worship at home.

“In light of the Health Ministry’s recommendation to minimize contact between people and to reduce gatherings as much as possible we call upon our Muslim people in Palestine to hold their prayers at home,” a ministry statement said.

In Ramallah, a prayer leader reciting the Muslim call to prayer at one mosque in the early evening added the words: “Pray at home, pray at home.”

According to Palestinian health officials, 38 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self rule under the Palestinian Authority. None have been reported in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas group.

The Hamas-led government said it was closing Gaza’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt for travel, excluding life-threatening cases that required medical treatment outside the enclave. Gatherings would be limited to 100 people and schools were to remain shut through March.

Citing security reasons, Israel and Egypt keep the coastal Gaza Strip under a blockade with tight control of movements over their border land crossings.

Religious authorities have so far kept Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque, which is Islam’s third holiest site, open for prayers.

The Jordan-appointed council that oversees Islamic sites on Jerusalem’s sacred compound has kept it open for Friday prayers, encouraging faithful to congregate on the 35-acre complex’s outdoor grounds rather than inside its covered shrines.

The Waqf council reassured worshippers in a statement this week that the entire compound, including its golden Dome of the Rock shrine, was being “sterilised continuously.”

Muslim faithful believe the site to be where the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven. Jews revere it as the site of the Jewish temples of antiquity. It is one of the most sensitive venues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In Israel, where 164 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, gatherings have been limited to 100 people. Some religious authorities in the Holy Land, including the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, have moved to implement crowd controls at places of worship.

Egypt will suspend schools and universities for two weeks starting on March 15. Among Gulf Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait taking the most drastic decisions by cancelling all international flights.

Attendance at Friday prayers is generally mandatory for able-bodied men in Islam, but Riyadh said those under quarantine and those afraid of being infected or infecting others need not attend.

Pakistan has shut its schools and land borders and decided to limit international flights and discourage large gatherings.

https://in.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-palestinians/palestinians-suspend-prayers-at-mosques-churches-to-fight-coronavirus-idINKBN2110V5?rpc=401&

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Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque shut as precaution against coronavirus

4 MINUTES AGO

Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock will shut their doors as a precaution against coronavirus, Islamic religious authorities have said, according to Reuters.

The director of Al-Aqsa mosque Omar Kiswani told Reuters that “the Islamic Waqf department decided to shut down the enclosed prayer places inside the Al-Aqsa mosque until further notice as a protective measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All prayers will be held in the open areas of the Al-Aqsa mosque.”

https://www.dawn.com/live-blog/#1541108

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Iran says worsening outbreak could strain health facilities

MARCH 15, 2020

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s official leading the country’s response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East on Sunday acknowledged that the pandemic could overwhelm health facilities in the country, which is under severe U.S. sanctions.

Muslim authorities meanwhile announced that the Al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, would be closed indefinitely due to concerns about the outbreak, with prayers continuing to be held on the sprawling esplanade outside.

Similar measures have been taken at the nearby Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, where outdoor prayers continue but only 10 people at a time are permitted in enclosed areas, in keeping with measures taken by the Israeli government.

Iran is battling one of the worst outbreaks outside China, with nearly 13,000 confirmed cases and more than 600 fatalities. The real number of infections could be even higher, as questions have been raised about the government’s transparency.

“If the trend continues, there will not be enough capacity,” Ali Reza Zali, who is leading the campaign against the outbreak, was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.

Iran is believed to have around 110,000 hospital beds, including 30,000 in the capital, Tehran. Authorities have pledged to set up mobile clinics as needed.

Zali also acknowledged that “many” of those who have died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus were otherwise healthy, a rare admission by local authorities that the virus does not only prey on the sick and elderly.

The Health Ministry released figures showing that while 55% of fatalities were in their 60s, some 15% were younger than 40.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Most people recover in a matter of weeks. But the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by individuals with no visible symptoms.

The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed more than 5,700. More than 70,000 people worldwide have recovered after being infected.

In Iran, the virus has even infected a number of senior officials, including the senior vice president, Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Revolutionary Guard members and Health Ministry officials.

Authorities have nevertheless been slow to adopt measures taken by other hard-hit countries. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday ruled out a general quarantine and said the government was working to keep the borders open.

The country has also struggled to respond in part because of crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal. The U.S. says it has offered humanitarian aid but that Iran has rejected it.

Countries across the Middle East have imposed sweeping travel restrictions, cancelled public events and in some cases called on non-essential businesses to close for the coming weeks.

In the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, a global business and travel hub in the United Arab Emirates, authorities announced on Sunday that all movie theaters, arcades and gyms would be closed through the end of the month.

Dubai Parks & Resorts announced it would be closed through the end of the month. The sprawling amusement park, built at a cost of $3 billion, has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since opening.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, also shut down its amusement parks and museums through the end of the month, including Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Al-Aqsa is the latest in a series of religious sites where access has been halted or strictly limited. Saudi Arabia has halted the umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina and could be forced to limit or cancel the much larger haj later this year. On Sunday, it announced the temporary closure of all mosques and called off Friday prayers.

Sheikh Omar Kiswani, the director of the Al-Aqsa mosque, said Sunday that the closure of the mosque and other buildings on the compound would continue indefinitely.

The UAE’s central bank announced a $27 billion stimulus package directed at supporting banks and said regulatory limits on loans will be eased. Saudi Arabia announced its own $13 billion stimulus plan.

Tiny, oil-rich Kuwait meanwhile shut down malls, salons and barbershops to slow the spread of the virus. Authorities allowed coffee shops to remain open, but said no more than five customers can wait in line at a time and must be a meter apart from each other.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on serious corruption charges, which was supposed to begin this week, was postponed for two months due to restrictions on public gatherings.

Netanyahu has meanwhile been pressing for an emergency unity government with his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, following three inconclusive elections and more than a year of political deadlock. Gantz has appeared open to the idea.

Israel imposed sweeping travel and quarantine measures more than a week ago but has seen its number of confirmed cases double in the last two days, to around 200. On Saturday, the government said restaurants, malls, movies, gyms and daycare centers would close. Schools and universities have already been shut down until next month.

Jordan, which had previously reported just one infection in a man who later recovered, said it had confirmed six new cases. Four are French tourists while the other two are Jordanians, Health Minister Saad Jaber said Sunday.

Jordan has suspended all flights into and out of the kingdom except for aid workers and diplomats, and has closed schools for two weeks. It has also banned the smoking of hookahs, or water pipes, in cafes.

https://mynorthwest.com/1767069/al-aqsa-mosque-3rd-holiest-in-islam-closes-over-virus/

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Turkish citizens returning from mecca quarantined 

Mar 15 2020

The Youth and Sports Ministry said that 10,300 Turkish citizens returning from pilgrimages in Mecca, Saudi Arabia have been placed in 14-day quarantine in university dormitories in Ankara and Konya in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter that a Turkish citizen returning from Islamic pilgrimage in Mecca in the last week tested positive for the virus.

The return of some 21,000 Turkish nationals from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia over the next few days has sparked fear over the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The other five confirmed coronavirus cases to date in Turkey had been in contact with each other, and were discovered during isolation procedures for the first patient who was diagnosed last week.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev agreed on Saturday to suspend air and land travel (excluding cargo) between the two countries, while Ankara reached an agreement with neighbouring Georgia to temporarily close the Sarp border crossing to passengers, but with no restrictions on freight transportation, news site T24 said.

Turkish authorities earlier on Saturday quarantined 57 Turkish passengers on an incoming flight on Friday from Baghdad to Istanbul, after diverting the plane to Ankara where Turkey handles coronavirus isolations. The 57 Turkish passengers were moved to a quarantine hospital in Ankara. Turkey had suspended air travel to and from Iraq as part of measures against the coronavirus.

A total of nine civil society organisations called for preventative measures against the spread of the deadly coronavirus in Turkey’s prisons, Artı Gerçek news site reported on Saturday.

Turkey’s measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus includes a temporary shut-down of schools, barring fans from sporting events and urging citizens returning from abroad to self-isolate.

Several state bodies have announced paid leave for public workers, while mosques remain open for worship. Officials also announced on Saturday reduced hours in shopping malls throughout the country.

Following panic buying due to the coronavirus outbreak, Turkish pasta producers have sought to reassure the public after pasta started being sold online at an inflated rate.

Nihat Uysallı, President of the Pasta Manufacturers' Association and Nuhun Ankara General Manager, told Hürriyet newspaper that the domestic market consumption is 650,000 tons per year, the production capacity is 2.9 million tons, and there are almost 900,000 tons in reserve stock, with exports being temporarily suspended.

The Youth and Sports Ministry said that 10,300 Turkish citizens returning from pilgrimages in Mecca, Saudi Arabia have been placed in 14-day quarantine in university dormitories in Ankara and Konya in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday.

A Turkish citizen returning from Islamic pilgrimage in Mecca in the last week had tested positive for the virus said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Twitter on Saturday. 

Around 21,000 Turkish nationals are expected to return from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia over the next few days.

The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Sunday confirmed the sixth case of the COVID-19 in the northern third of the island it controls, T24 said.

The Turkish Cypriot administration has suspended flights from 23 countries, allowing only inbound flights from Turkey and Britain on condition passengers undergo a 14-day period of quarantine.

Turkish Cypriot authorities on Thursday shut two of the nine border gates with the Republic of Cyprus, which had previously shut four gates.

Despite Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca's instruction to follow 14-day self-isolation after returning from the pilgrimage, AKP figures shared photos of themselves meeting groups of people.

https://ahvalnews.com/coronavirus/turkish-citizens-returning-mecca-quarantined-live-blog

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South Asia

 

‘They’re not acting in good faith’, U.S. CENTCOM commander says reacting to Taliban attacks

15 Mar 2020

The Commander of the U.S. CENTCOM Marine Corps, General Kenneth F. Mckenzie Jr., has said the Taliban attacks are still too high, warning that the Afghans would be forced to respond if the Taliban did not stop the attacks in another two or three days.

“Taliban attacks are not occurring against coalition forces, they’re not typically occurring in the cities and they’re not occurring against bases. They’re occurring against checkpoints and isolated locations across Afghanistan. But the level of attacks, in my judgment, is not consistent with a group that wants to pursue and be a — be a fair and faithful partner, going forward,” Gen. Mckenzie said in response to a question.

“So those attacks are too high. And we have noted — I’ve seen what the Afghans have said, if they don’t knock them off here in another two or three days, they’re going to begin to respond,” he said, adding that “So I think actually, the Afghan government has been remarkably restrained in responding to the Taliban attacks.”

Raising questions regarding the continued violence, Gen. McKenzie said “So the question is, do the Taliban attacks represent a core strategy of the group, they’re going to continue the attacks? Or is it a splinter of the group and are they not monolithic? We’re still assessing that.”

However, he said “If it’s directed from the top, then obviously that’s not a good thing. Because it shows that they’re not — they not acting in good faith.”

In regards to U.S. troops pullout from Afghanistan, Gen. McKenzie said “We are in the process of drawing down to a level of 8,600. I anticipate that we’ll arrive at that level by the middle of the summer. We believe that any further — as we go beyond this, it’s going to be a conditions-based approach. We have an aspiration to go to a zero level in Afghanistan, but that is very clearly going to be conditions-driven.”

The U.S. and Taliban group signed a peace deal late last month after observing a 7-day reduction in violence. The two sides signed the agreement after almost 18 months of negotiations in Qatari capital of Doha.

However, there are fears that the latest trends in Taliban attacks in remote parts of the country and the growing political tensions could undermine the peace process, specifically the launch of intra-Afghan peace talks.

The State Department had earlier confirmed that the Taliban group has taken steps to stop attacks against the coalition forces and in the cities but the group is still killing too many Afghans in the countryside.

Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokesperson said the current high level of violence by the Taliban is unacceptable.

“We acknowledge the Taliban have taken steps to stop attacks against the Coalition and in cities,” Ortagus said in a statement, adding that “But they are killing too many Afghans in the countryside.”

https://www.khaama.com/theyre-not-acting-in-good-faith-u-s-centcom-commander-says-reacting-to-taliban-attacks-04516/

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Jamiyyathul Ulama, Sri Lanka, Urges Muslims To Stop Prayer Gatherings

15 March 2020 

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) today requested the Muslim Community to temporarily stop the Friday Jummah Prayers and five times congregational prayers at Masjids and all kinds of public gatherings until further notice due to Covid-19 outbreak.

http://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking_news/Jamiyyathul-Ulama-urges-Muslims-to-stop-prayer-gatherings/108-185009

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A year later, New Zealand Muslims still feel unsafe

MARCH 14, 2020

Aliya Danzeisen rises before dawn every day to hear the news so she can prepare her school-age daughters for any harassment they may face for being Muslim.

“We don’t feel any safer,” the Muslim community leader says, reflecting on the 12 months since the Christchurch mosque attacks, in which a self-declared white supremacist killed 51 Muslims at Friday prayers.

The abuse experienced prior to the attacks on March 15 last year died down immediately after the killings, Ms. Danzeisen said, adding: “It felt the entire New Zealand population was rallying behind us.” But she says it is now on the rise again, a year on from the killings. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — who received widespread praise for her handling of the aftermath of the massacre — admitted Friday there was “much more” her country could do to tackle white supremacists.

Anjum Rahman, co-founder of the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand said there was an “undercurrent or rhetoric of hate... it isn’t just our community, we see it a lot in online hate (towards) the transgender community. “I wouldn't say it’s specifically just us, but we’re feeling it.”

Ms. Danzeisen, a former corporate lawyer in the U.S. who moved to New Zealand 14 years ago, said she believes the support shown to Muslims in the immediate aftermath of the shooting “surprised those in the fringe supremacist movements”.

“As a result it’s made them more defensive and more vitriolic, they’ve become louder,” she said. The impact spreads beyond New Zealand. At the Al Noor mosque, Jabara Akhter Juti said her family in Bangladesh remain “very concerned about me” since she moved to Christchurch last year with her husband.

The imam at Al Noor, Gamal Fouda, wanted the broader impact of extremism addressed and not just confined to Muslims.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/a-year-later-new-zealand-muslims-still-feel-unsafe/article31070489.ece

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Unequal Bangladesh-India relationship

Mar 15,2020

Golam Mustafa

THE bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and India has been a cause of public concern, particularly among students. In 2020, a number of events have further stirred the debate including the escalation of border killings by the Indian Border Security Force (in January, at least 15 Bangladeshi citizens are killed), the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Registrar of Citizens and subsequent protest in India and finally, the government’s invitation to India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, defying public sentiment against him for birth centenary for the founding president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

For the diplomatic relationships between the two countries to be considered as friendly and equal, any agreement should be negotiated on equal footing by both parties. One country should not meddle in the neighbouring country’s policy and internal affairs. One country should not spread propaganda about the other nation. However, our relationship with India is mostly one-sided. Every bilateral agreement has mostly served the interests of India.

Nearly 50 years have passed after the independence but we are yet to get the fair share of water of the River Teesta. However, a few months ago, during the India tour of the prime minister, the government had signed a MoU allowing India to take 1.82 cusec water from the Feni River, but the issue of River Teesta’s water deal was not even on agenda of bilateral meeting. Why? There are plenty of examples which demonstrated how the Bangladeshi power quarters, for their partisan interest, compromised the national political and economic interest and served Indian interests. It is because of the India appeasement policy of the government, people of Bangladesh has been a victim of India’s aggression for a long time.

Bangladesh, as a state, has been failing over and over again to negotiate an equal and dignified relationship with India. India’s dominance over Bangladesh explicit in the unequal trade deals, cultural aggression, unjust intervention in Bangladeshi politics, border killings and the unresolved water share deal of 54 trans-border rivers. A major reason for these is the Bangladeshi power quarters’ tendency to appease India sacrificing the sovereign interest of the nation.

Whenever Indian power quarters pass controversial laws or policies that go against the public and face local and regional pressure, they start spreading propaganda against Bangladesh. Indian citizens are not even well informed about the border killings because of their corporate controlled media. Indian media pays biased attention to the story BSF presents.

India is currently facing severe job crisis. More people are unemployed than any time in their history. Their economy is at a dangerous juncture. One of the top banks of India is bankrupt. Many Indian economists say the lowest growth rate after 1978, in 2019, the government is engaged in the politics of polarisation. The Bharatiya Janata Party led government wants to return to power by hiding their failure. So, to secure their vote banks, the government passed the sectarian, which many termed as anti-Muslim and fundamentalist, laws like CAA-NRC.

A prime reason behind these laws is keeping Muslim as the second class citizens in India. The Bharatiya Janata Party, in order to remain in power, has resorted to communal hatred, anti-Muslim sentiments and communal violence. Religious sentiment and nationalism is being deliberately woven together for the propagation of the political agenda. Muslim citizen’s criticism of the government is portrayed as seditious, ‘anti-India’ or ‘anti-nationalist speech’.

BJP activists launched attacks on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University and left over 30 union leaders and members, as well as teachers injured in January, 2020. A recent ruling bans foreign students from taking part in any political activities at any Indian university. A few days ago, a Bangladeshi student was rusticated for capturing photos. There is no scope for the foreign students to express their opinion.

Politics of identity, in the name of racial purity, is becoming part and parcel of populist politics not just in India, but globally. People with different ethnic or religious identity are deliberately made enemies of the majority. Hate crimes are committed with the backing of the state and political parties. Which court will roll trial of these hate crimes? This is called fascism. A world driven by money and power cannot create congenial and equal atmosphere for all.

However unpleasant it sounds, when India is going through oppressive system designed by the BJP government, Bangladesh is experiencing something similar — the rule of the Awami League led government. Student wings of these two parties — Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Bangladesh Chhatra League — resort to violence to maintain their dominance. We have seen how BCL launched attacks on the Dhaka University Central Students Union vice-president Nurul Hoque Nur, similarly, the ABVP’s masked activists left JNU VP Oishi Ghosh and her fellows injured.

A number of Indian states have recently experienced ‘communal’ violence where more than 50 people were killed. Why international quarters are silent at these grievous crimes of the Indian government? South Asian and world leaders should take necessary measures to stop the killings. Bangladesh government should protests at the killings and mobilse international support to pressure India to stop the attack on its citizens. Otherwise, as Bangladesh shares land border with India, effects of such violent and sectarian policies will come to our country.

Protests sparked across India against the CAA-NRC. I think that all the neighbouring countries will be affected by these. In the current context, if any Hindu becomes victim of any situation in this region, the BJP government would capitalise on it by spreading further communal hatred. Different quarters in Bangladesh would also capitalise on the situation. Meanwhile, after mosques were attacked in India, a Hindu temple was vandalised in Chittagong. In cases of violence on Hindu or ethnic minority communities in India, there are some Islamic political groups and parties in Bangladesh who would try to ‘retaliate’ and further this politics of hatred. From history, we know, communal violence has snow-ball effects and hatred begets more hatred. We should be deeply concerned, alarmed and act quickly to not fall in the ideological trap of BJP.  

India constructed damns on trans-border rivers and unfairly controlling the water flow causing distress to Bangladesh farmers and ordinary citizens. By violating international water laws, India made Farakka damn, Teesta damn, Tipaimukhi damn and Ganga damn. They keep the gates closed during winter seasons and opened them during monsoon creating floods and draught in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the government in Bangladesh sees India as friend.

The foreign policy of Bangladesh has allowed trade deficit with India, China and other states which should be reduced. Such deficit in trades between India and Bangladesh is in fact increasing and currently hovers between USD 8-10 billion. In the black market, this deficit is several times higher. Millions of Bangladeshis are unemployed while nearly half a million Indian’s are working in Bangladesh and a mere 10 per cent of them are legal. Man power exchange should be done protecting the interest of both the countries.  

Bangladesh signed an agreement with India allowing them to establish radar system in the Bay of Bengals to stop foreign invaders. Interestingly, Indian authorities will look after the system and they would ‘allow’ Bangladesh to have the information upon request. Now the question is we are surrounded by Indian land on three sides, so only intrusion we can expect is Indian intrusion. In this sense, allowing India to establish radar system to refrain them from entering Bangladesh exposes our weak-willed foreign policy.   

Bangladesh government seem unmoved by the rising number of border killings. In the January 2020 alone, BSF killed more than 15 Bangladeshi citizens and Bangladesh did not take any step. In the last decades, India’s border forces killed more than 1300 Bangladeshi citizens and no one has ever faced trial for the killings. Our state has failed to address this issue. Under such hostile scenarios, labelling India as friend is nothing but a mockery to the family of the victims.

Bangladesh power quarters prefer getting help from states like China, India, the USA, Russia or even Myanmar to secure their power, instead of creating a congenial democratic political atmosphere inside the country. To ensure the dignity of the citizens and sovereignty of the state, the power quarters should reduce their dependency on foreign government. The government is bound to build an equal relationship with India and the citizens should create pressure on the government to do so.

We can call India friend only when they stop all aggression on Bangladesh. All the border killings should see judicious trial and verdict. Water distribution of the 54 shared rivers should be resolved. Bangladesh should stop employing Indian citizens when local youths are unemployed. The government should ensure that we can form a relationship of dignity and equality with India where both the country’s interests are ensured.

https://www.newagebd.net/article/102197/unequal-bangladesh-india-relationship

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Banks target to utilize religious sentiment for tapping business

March 15, 2020

Abu Sazzad: In the recent years, most of the commercial banks have targeted to use the religious sentiment for tapping business under Sariah-based banking operation mainly for gaining profits easily.

Experts said, the Sariah-based banking concept is gaining public trust gradually, and for this, the conventional banks are showing their interest to convert their operations as full-fledged Islamic banks to gain easy achievements. The gradual increase in market share of the Islamic banking represents customers’ growing confidence over the banking system when the traditional banks are facing setback to retain public confidence, they said.

However, Jamuna Bank, one of the third-generation conventional banks has turned into a full-fledged Shariah-based bank recently. The central bank on Thursday last approved it its board meeting.

Earlier, on February 9, the central bank allowed two conventional banks namely Standard Bank and NRB Global Bank to convert into Islamic banks.

Meanwhile, IFIC, NCC and South-Bangla Agriculture and Commerce Bank are waiting the central banks’ approval to convert their bank as full-fledged Islamic banks.

In this backdrop, currently eight banks including Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited, Al-Arafah Islami Bank, Shahjalal Islami Bank, Social Islami Bank, First security Islami Bank, EXIM Bank, Union Bank and ICB Islamic Bank are operating as full-fledged shariah banks in the country. Moreover, some 17 conventional banks have Islamic banking windows.

According to a senior Bangladesh Bank official, the Islamic banks are allowed to maintain lower ADR ratio than private and state-owned commercial banks to disburse credit. The Islamic banks can disburse Tk 90 against the deposit of Tk 100 while it is Tk 85 for the conventional banks.

On the other hand, the Islamic banks are authorized to maintaion lower SLR ratio against deposit. The conventional banks have to maintain 18.5 per cent statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) and cash reserve requirement (CRR) of their total deposits. They must also maintain a maximum 85 per cent loans-deposit ratio.

Experts said, Bangladesh is the third largest Muslim country in the world with around 180 million populations of which 92 percent are Muslim. The remarkable shift or conversion of the conventional banks and their branches into Islamic lines gives the signal of high acceptance of the interest-free banking by the public, they added.

Islamic banks are conducting under the principles of Islamic law (Shariah) and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. Actually, the Shariah prohibits the payment or acceptance of interest fees for the lending and accepting of money respectively.

Many experts said, Bangladesh needs to enact Islamic banking law for providing a legal framework for the banking system. Proper law and regulations would ensure dynamic leadership in the sector as Islamic banking accounts for one-fourth of the entire banking business, is growing day by day.

According to Bangladesh Bank data, the deposits in the country’s Islamic banks grew by 18.06 per cent or Tk 42,860.9 crore in 2019 with the banks attaining an increased market share among all banks in the period. The growth in deposits in Islamic banks was the highest after 15.08 per cent growth in 2016.

The growth rate was 10.78 per cent in 2018 and 14.15 per cent in 2017 respectively. Customers’ deposits in the Islamic banks increased to Tk 2,80,227.8 crore in December last year from Tk 2,37,366.9 crore a year ago.

Due to the increased deposit growth, Islamic banks’ market share increased to 24.65 per cent in 2019 from 23.50 per cent a year ago, according to a BB report.

Considering the growing popularity on Islamic banks, the government should formulate a separate law to recognize Islamic banking a strong legal coverage. At the same time, Islamic banks should introduce more Shariah-compliant bonds for better liquidity management, they opined.

They claimed that most of the Islamic category banks are not following the appropriate policy or even IBBL, the pioneer of Islamic category banks.

Global Economist Forum (GEF) sources said, “Islamic money market is the pre-condition to further flourish of shariah banking in Bangladesh.” The Islamic money market can utilize excess liquidity of Islamic banks, the GEF source added.

Associate Professor of BIBM Md Alamgir said that it is high time to introduce more comprehensive guidelines to bring greater transparency and accountability in the industry.

Without a strong legal framework, it is not possible to make the mode popular, he said adding Islamic banks in the country lack liquidity instruments such as treasury bills and other marketable securities.

http://www.dailyindustry.news/banks-target-utilize-religious-sentiment-tapping-business/

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Papering Over the Fissures Inherent in the Afghan Reconciliation Process

March 15, 2020

By M Waqas Jan

In the wake of last month’s highly publicized peace agreement between the US and the Taliban, as well as the recently concluded Presidential elections, political turmoil in Afghanistan has once again taken center stage. While both these developments represent much welcomed progress of sorts in helping stabilize a fragile and war-torn country on the surface, there still however remain a whole host of underlying issues that have cast even greater uncertainty over the prospects of achieving lasting peace and stability. The kind of peace that would benefit not only the Afghan Nation, but the wider South Asian, Central Asian and Persian Gulf regions.

These issues include the finer points of the US’s agreements with the Taliban particularly regarding prisoner exchanges, as well as the highly public rifts within the Afghan state apparatus that have brought serious challenges to the legitimacy of its newly re-elected President and his accompanying cabinet. The kind of legitimacy which otherwise holds the key to presenting a united and credible negotiating team to represent the Afghan government in its dealings with the Taliban. Thus, taken together, these issues present dangerous obstacles which need to be overcome if the country’s nascent peace process is to stop from being derailed even before having properly begun.

For instance, the spectacle of two rival presidential inaugurations that were aired in split screen throughout Afghan news channels earlier this week represented the clear schism that exists within the country’s more mainstream politics. Fueled by yet another controversial presidential election result, this tussle for power between former president Ashraf Ghani and his long-time rival Abdullah Abdullah manifests the deep-rooted differences that have existed amongst Kabul’s ruling elites for almost two decades since the US toppled the Taliban. Hence, it is no surprise that both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah, despite their diverse support bases within the war-torn country, have repeatedly relied on the US as a key mediator and power broker within the Afghan political system. 

These difficulties are in turn further indicative of the immense complexity associated with the many tasks assigned to the US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. Not only has Mr. Khalilzad been made responsible for bringing about an equitable peace deal between the US and the Taliban from a position of relative weakness, but also to reconcile the deep seeded political differences that have permeated through the Afghan democratic system, most of which are of the US’s own making. In fact, the very advent of a democratic Afghanistan since the creation of its 2004 constitution is of the US’s own making with all its so-called victories and failures.

The Afghanistan Papers that were released just a few months back have presented ample reasons for these outcomes. They have provided key insights into the unrealistic expectations and lack of appreciation on the US’s part for the extremely difficult task it had set out for itself in its ‘nation-building’ experiment. Attributed to a clear lack of goals and strategy, the US is estimated to have spent $133 billion just to have built up Afghanistan, with only rampant political instability and insecurity to show for it. What’s worse, the US (ironically along with Russia) has had to now condemn and downplay recent statements from boisterous Taliban representatives that they would soon be restoring the Islamic government that had existed before the US invasion in 2001. Hence, nullifying whatever achievements the US had to show for in terms of bringing an inclusive democracy backed by a capably enforced rule of law.

The initial catchphrases of ‘empowering’, ‘bringing freedom’ to, and ‘enabling political representation’ for the Afghan people were touted globally as huge successes. Built on the back of championing women’s rights and amidst promises of unfettered development and investment these presented as one of the many goals the US had achieved over the course of its campaign in Afghanistan . However, the succeeding lawlessness, rampant nepotism and corruption that has since plagued the Afghanistan has marred whatever political gains the US had to show for on the international stage over the last decade and half.

Rather, one of the very reasons why the Taliban have gained so much traction politically, and why they still enjoy a considerable support base amongst the local population, is primarily because of the rampant corruption and bureaucratic in-fighting that has since characterized the US backed Afghan government. It also stands as one of the primary reasons why the Taliban beyond its power as a militant force has still come to politically represent considerable swathes of the Afghan population. Thus, representing a reality which even Pakistan had been trying to get the US to realize ever since the US embarked on its hunt for Al-Qaeda in the Af-Pak theatre.

However, considering the haste and forced manner in which the US is going through with its current exit in Afghanistan, it seems there are still key lessons the US has once again ignored. Despite its attempts at fostering political reconciliation, empowering the Afghan military and police, as well as bringing about some semblance of modernity in what by US standards was an archaic country, the US is nowhere near achieving these ambitions for all its military and economic might. Instead what appear to be the primary factors driving Afghan reconciliation at the moment are the much-needed headlines and photo-ops required for an embattled president to win re-election. Not to mention the mounting domestic pressure to bring US troops back home from an unending quagmire that has seen the US sink limitless amounts of blood and treasure in. A glaring truth which no optics or spin doctoring has been able to convince the American public let alone the rest of the world.

https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/03/15/papering-over-the-fissures-inherent-in-the-afghan-reconciliation-process/

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Understanding the history of our time

15 March, 2020

BY H. L. D. MAHINDAPALA

The last 72 years can be categorized as one of the most remarkable periods in our long history. It is a period in which we have marched through some of the most traumatic socio-political events imaginable. We have come through the 20th century into the 21st as a wounded but not a defeated soldier. We have limped home to tell a tale of heroic proportions. The devastating tsunami that swept us into one of the overwhelming tragic natural disasters is a typical example we faced in the post-independent era. The man-made tsunamis too hit us from various points of the compass. Some came from abroad. Some were manufactured at home.

The man-made tragedies were the worst. Of the 72 years the Northern region was held under the gun of the Tamil leader for 33 years (From the Vadukoddai Declaration of War on May 14, 1976 to its end in Nandikadal on May 19, 2009). Velupillai Prabhakaran, the first child born of the Vadukoddai Resolution, promised liberation to the Tamils and gave the nation a spell of unprecedented violence.

Obsessed with extreme ideologies of liberation the Sinhala and Tamil youth embarked on political violence promising instant solutions to knotty problems coming out of semi-feudal, semi-colonial and semi-capitalist complexities. The task before them was beyond their limited capacities. They believed mistakenly that the power they derived from the guns and bombs was sufficient to solve their problems and that of the nation. But both boomeranged and destroyed them. A profound truth established in the post-independent era is that violence of the North, South and the East was not a viable means of solving the crises arising out of grievances and aspirations of any community. The misguided youth in the South and the North who promised liberation in the two regions failed to deliver even the basic rights. They were pursuing suicidal politics and ended up as pathetic victims of their own deadly cult. Revolutionary justice promising political liberation in the South and the Vadukoddai violence promising ethnic liberation spawned only death, destruction and despair.

Terrorists can survive only by increasing violence to sustain their fascist grip to generate more violence. In time they become prisoners of the violent forces they created to live off terror. The biggest man-made disasters that plagued the nation in the post-independent years came from those who promised ‘liberation.’ It was the most deceptive and misleading mantra of our time.

The first to take up arms promising liberation was the JVP – a bunch of lumpen fascists (disguised as Marxists) who knew how to kill but not to live or to let live. The cult of death – i.e, suicide and killing -- was glorified as the way to attain political nirvana. The fascist culture of Sinhala ‘liberationists’ was picked up by the Tamil youth of the North who enlarged the cult of death into a way of life for the Tamils.

In the North the cult of death was elevated to holy heights, and was glorified as a religious ritual performed to attain elusive Eelam. Suicidal brigades were paraded as the way to the future. Northern violence reached despicable depths when under-aged schoolchildren were forcibly recruited and thrown into a futile war.

The obscenity was not in desperate Prabhakaran sacrificing other people’s children to save his life – a cowardly act for any leader -- but in Tamil intellectuals and the pro-Tamil NGO pundits white-washing and glorifying it as a voluntary commitment of the self-sacrificing Tamils to achieve ‘Tamil aspirations.’ It was a propaganda exercise to legitimise the fascist tyranny of Prabhakaran.

The third wave of terror was unleashed by the multi-millionaire Muslim extremists. They targeted the Christian churches filled mainly with Tamils. In the history of the Muslims the most brutal attacks faced by them were launched by the Tamil regimes. It goes back to the time of Sankilli who introduced ethnic cleansing for the first time into national politics by expelling the Muslims and the Sinhalese from Jaffna. The ideological battle against the Muslims was launched by Sir. Ponnambalam Ramanthan who propounded the theory that the Muslims were not descendants of Arabs but Tamils who had embraced Islam. The finishing touches to Sankilli-Ramanathan combination was given by Prabhakaran who revived the ingrained hatred against Muslims by ethnically cleansing them from the North in 1995 and later slaughtering the innocent civilians praying at Kattankuddy in the East. He was reviving the Sankilli cult of killing the Muslims with the sole aim of ethnically cleansing the North and the East for Tamils only.

Hatred of the ‘other’ was an incurable part of the peninsula’s Tamil political culture which turned Jaffna into a closed society, preventing the winds of change that took the rest of the nation into modernity. The Tamil supremacists manufactured a separatist ideology, fired with bitter hatred of the ‘other,’ including their own low-castes who they despised.

Their ideology was tailored to reject all possibilities of co-existence with the multicultural, multi-ethnic, democratic, liberal and open society of the South. The Jaffna-centric politics veered incrementally and intransigently, starting from the 50-50 politics of G. G. Ponnambalam in the last decades of the British period, towards explosive ethno-religious extremism which culminated in enthroning and hero-worshipping the ruthless war-monger Prabhakaran. Senior Tamil leaders branded him as the biggest killer of Tamils.

At the same time, they were overawed by his unrestrained and unlimited power to kill. The more he killed the more they worshipped him. Eventually, they deified their killer as ‘Surya Devan.’

The three violent waves of the post-1948 period – the JVP, LTTE and millionaire Muslim terrorists – that lashed the democratic centre has proved the resilient power of the embedded democratic DNA in the political culture of the South. Though the centre has been pushed to the brink of collapse from time to time it always bounced back triumphing over inimical fascist forces that attacked it. The violence of the Left and the Right in the South and the violence of the North (Tamils) and the East (Muslims) have failed repeatedly to destroy the democratic framework that remained intact within its broad parameters. It was not easy for democracy to survive in the environment that turned violent in the late fifties and escalated in the seventies. For one thing, the democratic centre was not concretized by a thriving economy. Nor were the walls of the legislature, executive and judiciary solid enough to withstand the penetrating imperfections. The triumph of the democratic mainstream against all these odds demonstrates the inner strength of the grassroot Sinhala-Buddhist culture that did not collapse under the massive attacks of the brutal fascists of the North and the South.

On the contrary, the Northern political culture collapsed almost overnight and surrendered totally to a fascist regime that denied the Tamils their basic rights to maintain their dignity, or their human rights. The Tamil leaders found their dignity only when they had the freedom to act on their own free will in Parliament at Jayewardenepura and not at the feet of Prabhakaran.

To the ever-lasting credit of the South it must be recorded that they fought a brutal 33-year-old war against terrorism within a democratic framework while the North fought under the unrestrained and overwhelming power of a one-man regime without being hampered by any of the legal and moral shackles that tied the hands of the Southern democracy. The militant power of the Tamils reached its peak under Prabhakaran. They had a committed diaspora willing to finance Tamil violence against the Sinhalese, Muslims, dissident Tamils and even Indians like Rajiv Gandhi. They had the ear and the sympathy of the ignorant Westerners who believed in the fictions of victimology marketed by the Tamils and their fellow-travellers. The Tamil intellectuals were working overtime to manufacture theories and fictions to justify Tamil violence even though they knew that it was going against the security and the interests of the beleaguered Tamil people. Despite all these factors running in its favour the Tamils lost the war confirming the theory that in a contest between democracy and tyranny, democracy has won consistently.

The violence that emerged from all three communities, with each turning against the other, makes all three ethno-religious groups guilty of violating human rights. No one can point a holier-than-thou finger at the other. However, of the three communities it is the Sinhala-Buddhists that have proved their commitment to the democratic framework steadfastly. Maintaining and rescuing the democratic infrastructure, however feeble it may be, for all communities to benefit, has been an outstanding achievement of the Sinhala-Buddhists. The alternatives that surfaced to challenge the Sinhala-Buddhist mainstream were led by the Marxists (JVP type), Prabhakaranists and the Zaharanists. What chances were there for any shade of democracy to survive under these authoritarian and violent fascists? The power and the glory of the Sinhala-Buddhist culture manifested itself in all its splendour when it defended, sustained and won repeatedly against the enemies of its multicultural, multi-ethnic rainbow society.

The Sinhala-Buddhists in the mainstream political culture, stunned the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist pundits, and proved once again on November 19 that they can wield their power collectively and express their political will unambiguously through a chosen leader.

When the Sinhala-Buddhist mainstream lined up behind Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a single file on election day they elected him as their alternative to the Prabhakarans, Wijeweeras, Zaharans, or the local forces that were steering the nation away from its roots. The Sinhala-Buddhists placed their trust in him as the only force that could save the nation from falling into a bottomless precipice.

The power of the ballot won by Gota at the polls is greater than the power of the bullet he won at Nandikadal. The affirmation of the Sinhala-Buddhist commitment to the democratic way of life was never expressed with such clarity before. Once again, they have rejected the fascist megalomaniacs as a necessary means to make our way into the future. Gotabaya Rajapaksa stands out as the crowning symbol of that traditional grassroots forces that acted collectively each time the nation was imperilled by the dark, inimical forces. Though he comes from a background of military barracks Gota has defined his political personality as a force that belongs to the liberal and democratic tradition of the Sinhala-Buddhists. Prabhakaran’s militarism defines the Tamil culture that has utter contempt for liberalism, democracy, multiculturalism, humanism, pluralism and democratic tolerance to co-exist with the ‘other.’ As a descendant of Sankilli he was driven by only one overwhelming ideology: survive at any cost on subhuman brutalities.

This is his second victory. He scored his first when the Sri Lankan forces crushed the Tamil Pol Pot and restored the right of R. Sampanthan to walk this earth with dignity – a dignity that was denied to him by his Tamil leader. The victory at Nandikadal was a triumph for the Sinhala-Buddhist culture that restored the right of the Tamil children to go to school without fear of being abducted on their way, or for Wigneswaran to make nominations for the coming election on his own free will without begging for consent on his bended knee from his ‘Thalaivar.’

The Tamil war-mongers who declared war against the Sinhalese too were taught that their violence can only take them as far as Nandikadal. ‘Gota’s War’ ended the unstoppable violence of the Tamil war-mongers who refused to accept peace deals that came with international guarantees, mark you!

The two victories make Gota a unique political figure. The electoral map defined by Gota’s victory befuddled the psephologists and theoretical pundits who were reading their own partisan minds and not the subterranean political forces moving at the grassroots level. His victory has confirmed once again that the Sinhala-Buddhist culture has rejected (1) violence (2) anti-democratic Pol Pots of all communities and (3) the so-called liberals who were re-writing constitutions to please their Western masters. These liberals failed because they were trying to teach Sinhala-Buddhist grandmothers how to suck eggs at the polling booths.

After the polls the fear-mongering foreign media and their NGO feeders who were bewildered by the victory of Gota went berserk screaming that the Rajapaksas have returned to impose their family rule and/or the ‘white van’ culture. The path taken by Gotabaya so far has taken the winds out of the sails of the fear-mongering hawkers in the media and diplomatic (Swiss and American) provocateurs. His detractors know that they have failed to demonize him by raising the threadbare Rajapaksa bogey. They continue to present him as a negative force. But he stands in the eyes of those who elected him as a messianic figure chosen to defend the democratic Sinhala-Buddhist culture that safeguarded the nation down the ages.

He is now entrenched as the decisive force picked by the Invisible Hand that moves history. He remains in the centre between chaos and order. His will has the power to clear the path to the future. He has risen as a force of the traditional past indicating unambiguously that there is no alternative to the democratic, liberal Sinhala-Buddhist culture. The alternative for all communities is to surrender to weird reincarnations of a Wijeweera, a Prabhakaran or a Zaharan.

The democratic Sinhala-Buddhist culture has been the beacon that lit the dark seas for Sri Lankan ships to come home. Gota, who has inherited this culture, is not the type to betray the nation that has chosen him.

So far, he has won two great victories. He is now standing on his third battlefield. It will also be his toughest. All hopes hang on him because there is no alternative to him. He has to win the coming battles because the alternative is not what the nation can endure any more.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2020/03/15/opinion/understanding-history-our-time

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Southeast Asia

 

Coronavirus: Five Singaporeans who attended religious event in KL visited 10 mosques here while infectious

56 MIN AGO

SINGAPORE - After attending a large religious gathering at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, five Singaporeans returned here and tested positive for Covid-19.

Congregants who visited these mosques during certain time frames may have been exposed to a Covid-19 case, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) in a statement on Sunday (March 15).

The affected mosques are Masjid Al-Iman, Masjid Al-Muttaqin, Masjid Hajjah Fatimah, Masjid Hajah Rahimabi Kebun Limau, Masjid Kassim, Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, Masjid Sultan, Masjid Al-Mawaddah, Masjid Jamae (Chulia) and Masjid Al-Istiqamah.

Muis advises congregants who had visited these mosques to monitor their health closely for two weeks from their last visit to the affected mosque.

They should look out for fever or respiratory symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose or breathlessness, and seek medical attention promptly if they have these symptoms or feel unwell.

They should also wear a mask and call the clinic ahead of the visit to inform the clinic doctor of their attendance at the affected activities that are linked to the confirmed Covid-19 cases, said Muis.

The Council also reminded members of the public to be socially responsible and exercise personal hygiene. See a doctor when unwell, even with mild flu-like symptoms, and stay at home to prevent spreading illness to others, it said.

Members of the public should also keep to the same family physician for better continuity of care, isolate themselves at home when unwell and as advised by a doctor, wash their hands frequently with soap and water, and avoid touching their faces.

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/five-singaporeans-who-attended-religious-event-in-kl-visited-10-mosques-here-while

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MUIS details mosque visits by COVID-19 patients, urges other visitors to go to doctor if unwell

15 Mar 2020

SINGAPORE: The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) on Sunday (Mar 15) released a list of 10 mosques visited by five Singaporeans who had tested positive for COVID-19, after they attended a mass religious gathering in Malaysia.

"Thus far (the Ministry of Health)'s contact tracing efforts have revealed that the individuals who tested positive visited a total of 10 mosques during their infectious period," said MUIS in a public advisory.

As such, congregants who have visited any of the mosques during the period specified may have been exposed to a COVID-19 case, said MUIS.

It advised these visitors to monitor their health closely for two weeks from their last visit to the affected mosque, and seek medical attention promptly if they have any symptoms.

“They should also wear a mask and call the clinic ahead of the visit and inform the clinic doctor of their attendance at the affected activities that is linked to a COVID-19 case,” said MUIS.

As of Friday, five Singaporeans who attended a large religious gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia have tested positive for the coronavirus, said MUIS.

Based on media reports, at least 37 Bruneians and 77 Malaysians, who also attended the gathering or were their close contacts, have also tested positive.

“It is possible for more cases to emerge from persons who had visited the mosque, or further spread to their close contacts,” MUIS said. “Thus far, the Ministry of Health’s contact tracing efforts have revealed that the individuals who tested positive visited a total of 10 mosques during their infectious period.”

As part of social distancing measures, Friday prayers in Singapore were suspended for the first time on Mar 13. All 70 mosques will also be closed for at least five days for disinfection.

Mosques will also cancel all activities, lectures, religious classes and mosque-based kindergarten sessions for the next two weeks.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/coronavirus-covid-19-patients-mosque-visits-muis-12539790

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Mosque in Shah Alam closed in Covid-19 shutdown

15 Mar 2020

BY AZRIL ANNUAR

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — A mosque in Seksyen 27 Shah Alam has been temporarily shut for all prayer times, including the daily five times fardhu prayers due to Covid-19 exposure.

Malay daily Berita Harian reported that Masjid Al Munawwarah official, Muhaiyat Husin had issued a statement saying that one of the congregation had been infected with Covid-19 while on holiday in Vietnam, forcing the mosque to close its doors for the time being.

“After evaluating the health risk and the Covid-19 pandemic, we would like to inform the public that Masjid Al Munawwarah, Seksyen 27, is temporarily closed to all activities including fardhu prayers.

“All of our congregation and flock have been advised to pray at home or other mosques and suraus nearby as we wait for further actions from the authorities such as the Health Ministry, Majlis Agama Islam Selangor and the District Islamic Office,” he reportedly said in a statement.

However, the azan (call to prayer) and prayers will be conducted by mosque officials who are on duty as usual but the congregation is discouraged to attend mass prayers.

Muhaiyat had reportedly said that all activities will return to normal after all sanitisation work has been completed and given approval by the authorities or if conditions permit.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/15/mosque-in-shah-alam-closed-in-covid-19-shutdown/1846739

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Covid-19: Thai Embassy in KL urges Thai Muslims who attended Sri Petaling event to get tested

March 15, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR — The Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has issued an urgent advisory to all 132 Thai Muslims who were present at a recent religious gathering at Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur to get themselves tested for Covid-19 “as soon as possible”, a report today said.

According to Thai paper Bangkok Post, this warning was issued by Thai Ambassador Narong Sasithorn on Friday, with the embassy believing that some of the 132 Thai attendees of the February 27 to March 2 event titled “Jhor Qudamak and Ulamak Malaysia 2020” are currently still in Malaysia.

The Thai Embassy reportedly urged its citizens who had attended the event and were still in Malaysia to get tested at the nearest designated hospital and to contact the embassy at its hotline 017-700-48 or Malaysia’s national Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre.

The Thai attendees were also told to quarantine themselves until they receive the Covid-19 test results, and that they may have to be quarantined for 14 days at state quarantine centres in Malaysia, the report said.

The Bangkok Post said the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur had so far not been contacted by any of the 132 Thai citizens who attended the mass religious gathering, but also noted that an official from Thailand’s Narathiwat province confirmed that authorities had contacted some of the 132.

An estimated 16,000 people had attended the “itjimak tabligh” gathering at the Jamek Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, with 14,500 being Malaysians and the rest being foreigners from the region.

As of yesterday, Malaysia had a total tally of 238 Covid-19 cases, including 36 who have since fully recovered and 77 who tested positive after attending the Sri Petaling event.

More than 30 Covid-19 cases in Brunei are linked to this event, while Singapore also confirmed new cases involving its citizens who had participated in the event.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/15/covid-19-thai-embassy-in-kl-urges-thai-muslims-who-attended-sri-petaling-ev/1846710

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Jais says ordered Shah Alam mosque to cancel closure over Covid-19

15 Mar 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — A mosque in Seksyen 27, Shah Alam in Selangor has been ordered to withdraw its previous decision to close over the Covid-19 outbreak affecting the country, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) reportedly said.

Jais director Mohd Shahzihan Ahmad reportedly said that the Shah Alam mosque’s notice of its closure was issued without the department’s prior knowledge.

“I have ordered the retraction of that order and for activities to continue,” he was quoted saying by local daily Sinar Harian. 

He also reportedly urged the mosque management to advise those who are awaiting test results or had tested positive to undergo quarantine.

The Masjid Al Munawwarah mosque in Seksyen 27, Shah Alam was reported saying that it was temporarily closing the mosque for all activities including for Muslims’ obligatory prayers five times each day, following evaluations on the health risk and Covid-19 pandemic after one of the mosque’s congregation tested positive for Covid-19 after a holiday trip in Vietnam.

The mosque had said all its congregation were advised to pray at home or other nearby mosques and suraus pending further actions from health and religious authorities. 

The mosque also reportedly said all activities will resume as usual after sanitisation work is carried out and with the authorities’ approval or if conditions permit.

In the same Sinar Harian report today, Mohd Shahzihan said mosque closures would only be announced after Jais weighs all considerations relating to such matters. 

He added that Jais had ordered all mosques in Selangor to continue with congregational prayers with tighter control measures and that all mosques have to be cleaned immediately with the cooperation of the health ministry.

On Friday, Jais announced that it had circulated a guideline for all mosques and suraus in Selangor to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections among its congregation and that it was also restricting large-scale gatherings to curb the spread of the virus.

Among other things, Jais had also on Friday said it was deferring all large-scale events including in religious primary schools and pre-schools in Selangor under its supervision, and with students and teachers there to practise social distancing with students and encouraged to wash their hands.

On Thursday, Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari announced that the Selangor state government has decided to cancel non-critical large-scale public events, and that precautionary steps would be taken for public events that cannot be avoided.

On Friday, the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs) directed Muslims not to perform Friday prayers in the state’s mosque in response to the Health Ministry’s recommendation to avoid mass gatherings.

Also on Friday, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department overseeing Islamic Affairs Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad said the Friday prayers would proceed as usual on that day, but with certain guidelines in place such as shorter sermons, abstaining from attending prayers if one has symptoms of illness, and the provision of hand sanitisers and masks at mosques.

Malaysia recently experienced a spike in Covid-19 cases that has now pushed up the total tally to 238 cases as of yesterday, with 77 of these cases so far traced back to a recent large-scale religious gathering at the Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling in Kuala Lumpur.

An estimated 16,000 people had attended the “ijtimak tabligh” gathering that was held at the Sri Petaling mosque in Kuala Lumpur from February 28 to March 1, with a reported 14,500 being Malaysians and the rest being foreigners from the region.

As of yesterday, the Health Ministry said that a total of 4,942 participants from the Sri Petaling mosque had been identified and had either undergone tests or are currently under self-quarantine, and that efforts to track down other participants are still ongoing.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/15/jais-no-mosque-ordered-to-close-in-shah-alam/1846782

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No cremation for Mindanao’s first COVID-19 mortality; burial in accordance with Islamic rites but with some modifications

By FROILAN GALLARDO

MARCH 14, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 14 March) – There was no cremation for Mindanao’s first COVID-19 mortality,  a Muslim,  because it is “haram” (forbidden) under Islam so Patient No. 40, as tagged by the Department of Health (DOH), was buried according to Islamic rites but with some modifications.

Dr. Adriano Suba-an, DOH Northern Mindanoa Director, told a press briefing Saturday that they asked the family to do away with the traditional washing of the corpse.

Patient 40, a 54- year old male from Lanao del sur, died in a government hospital here on Friday evening, officials said.

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno (R) and Department of Health Region 10 director Dr. Adriano Suba-an (center) announce the death of Patient No. 40, the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Mindanao during a press conference on Saturday, March 14, 2020. With them is Dr. Jose Chan (L), head of the Northern Mindanao Medical Center where the patient died Friday evening. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Suba-an said Patient 40 succumbed Friday night to acute respiratory distress syndrome “due to severe pneumonia, with concomitant acute kidney injury” at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) here.

Suba-an said Patient 40’s family also agreed to do away with the traditional gathering of relatives and friends offering their collective prayers for the dead.

Suba-an said the patient’s remains were placed in a body bag for burial in a location preferred by the family within 24 hours in accordance with their religious practice.

Patient No. 40, a resident of  Lanao del Sur who moved to Metro Manila during the Marawi Siege in 2017 and who had just  recently returned, is the sixth person to have succumbed to  COVID-19  in the country.

Cagayan de Oro health personnel prepare a disinfectant solution for use on Saturday, March 14, 2020 during the city-wide disinfection in all places of worship, following the death of Patient No. 40, the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Mindanao. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Two more were reported to have died Saturday, March 14, bringing to eight the total number of dead out of 111 confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. on Saturday. A day earlier, the number of confirmed cases was only 64.

“We are sad that this happened to Patient No. 40. We pray that he would be the last person to die of this dreaded illness,” Mayor Oscar Moreno said.

Suba-an said the wife and daughter who took care of Patient No. 40 are already quarantined at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center.

Patient no. 40 was admitted at the Adventist Medical Center in Iligan City on March 3 and transferred to the NMMC on March 8.

Suba-an said the medical staff of the Adventist Medical Center who were in direct contact with the patient have been quarantined. 

He said they have already identified some 100 persons who might have had close contact with Patient No. 40 from Manila to Iligan City.

“Even his seatmates in the plane that took him from Manila to Laguindingan have already been identified,” he said.

https://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2020/03/no-cremation-for-mindanaos-first-covid-19-mortality-burial-in-accordance-with-islamic-rites-but-with-some-modifications/

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Malaysia reports 190 new coronavirus cases, most linked to mosque event

6 MIN AGO

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia reported 190 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday (March 15), most linked to a religious event at a mosque that was attended by more than 10,000 people from several countries.

The new cases bring the total number of infections in the country to 428, the health ministry said in a statement.

straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-reports-190-new-coronavirus-cases-most-linked-to-mosque-event

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Beijing to send all travellers from abroad to quarantine facility for 14 days

30 MINUTES AGO

A Beijing city official has said that anyone arriving in the city from abroad will be transferred directly to a central quarantine facility for 14 days for observation, Reuters reports.

The decision comes as the majority of new coronavirus cases being reported in China have come from people arriving from abroad, rather than from domestic transmission.

https://www.dawn.com/live-blog/

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M’sia reports highest-ever spike of 190 new Covid-19 cases in 1 day, most linked to mosque event

March 15,2020

Health Minister Adham Baba said that most of these new cases can be traced to the tabligh programme in Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling, held from Feb. 27 to Mar. 1.

Adham said that the ministry is tracing the attendees, and urges participants to contact their nearest district health office for further instructions.

They should also be monitored for 14 days from the end of the programme, or from the last date of contact they had with a Covid-19 case.

According to MUIS, the Ministry of Health (MOH) determined that “around 90” Singaporeans attended the event, and that they are likely to be regular mosque-goers.

Five Singaporean attendees of the event, including a 37-year-old GrabFood rider, also later tested positive for Covid-19.

On March 12, it was announced that all mosques in Singapore will be closed as a precautionary measure until the end of March 17, a period of five days.

https://mothership.sg/2020/03/malaysia-covid-19-spike-cases-mosque/

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Arab world

 

Islamic State asks terrorists to avoid travel to coronavirus-affected countries, wash hands

March 15, 2020

The notorious Islamic State (ISIS) has issued a series of directives for its terrorists across the world in their latest newsletter published in al-Naba asking them to avoid travel to countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Islamic State has also asked its jihadists to wash hands at all times even if they wake up in the middle of the night, said a report.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Islamic State has asked its terrorists to stay away from sick people, wash your hands and avoid travel to the affected countries.

ISIS pores over religious texts. Comes out in favor of putting your trust in God but also in favor of quarantine, hand-washing & running from the sick like from a lion. Their rivals in Qom stopped after No. 1. Thx to @ajaltamimi for his translation http://www.aymennjawad.org/2020/03/islamic-state-advice-on-coronavirus-pandemic …

The militant group based in Iraq has also asked its followers to have faith in God and that the pandemic is also happening for a reason as the disease will only strike the ones who the God has chosen.

Among the directives, it has also been said that one must flee from an infected person like someone would escape from a lion.

The Islamic State has offered some valuable advice on covering mouths and water vessels at all times as a preventive. The banned organisation has said one must avoid sneezing out in the open and cover their nose and mouths while sneezing, much on the lines of guidelines issued by health experts across the world.

Coronavirus across the world has claimed over 5,000 lives while over 1,35,000 people have been infected. In Iraq, 79 people have been infected with the virus so far.

After being triggered from China, coronavirus has now spread across the world with the WHO saying Europe is the new epicentre of Covid-19 that continues to wreak havoc across the world.

India has so far reported 93 confirmed cases and 2 deaths while millions of passengers have been screened at airports and ports.

https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/islamic-state-warns-terrorists-on-coronavirus-pandemic-1655688-2020-03-15

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How the Muslim community gave Kiwis hope after Christchurch attacks

JAMES MUNRO

March 14, 2020

Today we mark one year since the unprecedented terror attack against peaceful Muslims worshipping at Al-Noor-and Linwood mosques in Christchurch.

One year on from what is perhaps the darkest hour in my country’s modern history, we still find ourselves without words to express the mix of horror, outrage and sadness we feel following an act of such enormous brutality. 

As I struggled with my own deep, yet infinitely inadequate, sadness, in the days and weeks following the attack, hundreds of my Muslim friends and contacts, including several ministers and senior officials, reached out to offer support and condolences. One phrase they uttered in common gave me strength and hope — As-salaam Alaikum. Peace be upon you.

These simple but profound words were to be repeated over and over again in the aftermath of the attack. They would be repeated by victims from their hospital beds. By community members who witnessed the loss of their friends and loved ones. Words spoken by Superintendent Naila Hassan, one of our highest-ranking police officers. Simple words, spoken by the bereaved and grieving. 

They were words spoken by our Muslim community who, in the face of hate and violence, had every right to express anger and distrust. Instead, they opened the doors of their mosques, community centers and homes to allow us to grieve beside them. New Zealand learned about the true meaning of Islam in those days. 

I do not use the terrorist’s name. Nor will my prime minister or any public official. In New Zealand, we remember and honor the victims and survivors of the Christchurch atrocity. And it is the dignity, quiet strength and love that our Muslim community demonstrated that shows us we are right in doing so. It is love, care for others and common humanity, not hatred, that will abide. 

And so we say to those who have lost the most, while we may not have always had the words, know that we stood with you. We reverted to actions. We left flowers, donned a hijab, visited mosques, performed haka, sung songs or simply embraced the victims or held our Muslim community closer. But even when we had no words, we still heard yours, and they left us humbled and united.

Over the past year we have heard the stories of those affected by the terror attack. Stories of bravery. Stories of those who were born in New Zealand, who chose to make New Zealand their home, and who visited us for a time. 

It is often said that in difficult times, you learn who your true friends are. In the aftermath of the attack, we were overwhelmed and humbled by the support and solidarity from across the world, the region and, poignantly, from Saudi Arabia — the home of Islam. 

I had the privilege of welcoming over 200 members of New Zealand’s Muslim community to the Kingdom last year, when the families of the victims came to Makkah to perform Hajj as guests of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. They spoke of how much this extraordinary gesture meant for their journey of recovery — physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

In addition to King Salman’s generous invitation to the victims, we welcomed the messages of condolence he and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent to New Zealand. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir represented the Kingdom at the National Memorial Service in Christchurch, alongside representatives of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation and the Muslim World League. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal donated over $1 million to families of the victims. 

Allow me to once again put on record our sincere gratitude and appreciation for this support and your friendship. And thank you also to the countless ordinary Saudis who wrote to the embassy, messaged me on Twitter, or just picked up the phone and talked to us.  

One year later, we reiterate our determination to fight the cancer of extremism. The world risks being stuck in a vicious cycle, with extremism breeding extremism. We saw this demonstrated only a month after the Christchurch atrocity, when 259 innocent victims were killed in the Sri Lankan Easter bombings. Sadly this cycle continues with depressing regularity as we saw as recently as last month in the xenophobic attack carried out in Hanau, Germany. As with Christchurch, the perpetrators were terrorists, committed to the path of hate and violence, and bent on sowing discord between faiths and peoples. We will not let them win.   

Our initial response to the attack focused on supporting victims, families and the community. The government’s response has also included reform of New Zealand’s gun laws and acceleration of a review of New Zealand’s counter-terror legislation. 

A royal commission has also been established to find out what, if any, measures could have been taken by government agencies to prevent this attack and any future attacks. 

Paths to extremism can start online in hidden and not-so-hidden extremist chatrooms among the susceptible, marginalized and angry. Individuals who have lost perspective are, in turn, further radicalized on electronic platforms that make them feel part of a movement — albeit a misguided and deeply repugnant one. 

In New Zealand, we have reinforced our work to combat terrorism and violent extremism, where it exists online and in dark corners of our communities. 

On May 15, 2019, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron brought together heads of state and government and leaders from the tech sector to adopt the Christchurch Call to Action to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

We have seen that love is stronger than hate. That common humanity binds us and demands that we combat hatred and extremism. We will see it on March 15 as New Zealand marks the first anniversary of the attack that changed us forever. 

Today, we remember those who have left us. Those who have suffered, and those who have lost. We will remember the heroes and first responders who gave so much of themselves to save others. We will remember the tears of our nation, the support of our friends and we will acknowledge the new resolve we have formed to fight hatred. 

In the dark days after the attack, I  often turned to a proverb in our first language, Te Reo Maori, as I struggled to deal with the awesome sadness and tragedy of the massacre: “Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.” Be strong, be brave, be steadfast. 

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1641461

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Head Of Syrian Regime Postpones Legislative Elections And “Scientific Jurisprudence Council” Suspends Public Prayers In Mosques

14/03/2020

Head of the Syrian regime issued today a legislative decree No. 86 for 2020 postponing the elections of members of the People’s Council (parliament) for the third legislative round, as part of the precautionary measures taken by the state to fight the coronavirus, according to the new legislative decree.

On the other hand, the Scientific Jurisprudential Council of Syria’s Ministry of Endowments and the Union of Levant Scholars issued a formal “fatwa”, suspending Friday prayers, sermons and prayers in groups in Syrian mosques, while allowing only calls to prayers five times a day, the ministry said.

Several medical sources in Damascus, Homs, Latakia and Tartus have confirmed to SOHR that 113 cases have been quarantined in order to prevent the possible spread of the infection to others, 35 of which have been discharged from the quarantine after testing negative, while 78 are still under quarantine.

On the other hand, very reliable SOHR sources confirmed that (COVID-19) spread among Iranian-backed militias in Al-Mayadin city, east of Deir Ezzor. Six Iranians and two Iraqis showed symptoms of the virus and were placed into quarantine in the Iranian hospital of Al-Zahraa in Al-Mayadin city. The eight cases tested positive to the disease after samples had been sent to the capital Damascus.

Yesterday, Regime’s Ministry of Education issued a statement suspending classes in public and private schools from Saturday, March 14, 2020 until Thursday, April 2, 2020.

The statement stressed that: “For the safety and health of students, and since there are large numbers of students in small classrooms, and as it is more difficult for children to follow preventive methods and safety measures, schools will be closed  to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

However, the Syrian regime is still denying the fact that the virus is spreading and originating from the Iranian militias entering Syria.

On March 10, several medical sources in regime-controlled areas have confirmed to SOHR that the virus (COVID-19) known as the coronavirus has spread mainly in the governorates of Damascus, Tartus, Latakia and Homs.

Many coronavirus cases have been recorded, some of whom have died and some others have been quarantined.

The Syrian Observatory contacted doctors at several hospitals in those provinces. The doctors confirmed that they were given strict orders from the authorities of the Syrian regime to remain silent and refrain from talking about the outbreak of the coronavirus.

A large number of Iranians coming in and out of Syria to visit religious sites, as well as the Iranian forces which have already deployed there and entered Syria with their families.

Iran has recorded thousands of coronavirus cases, with dozens of people dead. The Syrian regime suspended flights yesterday to and from Iran and Iraq.

http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=157103&__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=4b1d5bc123fe44d2f9c9d7999d826a39dd51e5e9-1584255062-0-AVstMIYJfEqIzyVGlCxfbAtTP3EQUd5dn3HRw_ZDZSzXEa-67Y4Ht4oCK9bRFgrTqiEX1sa6z3ZaatD43_PH8PYVvLwa8S5S_0luPQqD-jte0dvGHUHweiqVVwKtqFqn0ViEDPdOAEpHgTJKi4LMB5GmrZUDaCMEBq-0SOH1oXx7NryHaTrF-v_2iXA-cPDwVbQO6gy4mbOEbAlh5RQd670lF0S9pba9WqWtxUdb5mmN-5KQotK_DiVvceJnkeXm1S0z0Wf912XAd_vEDgv5WtOuN4CiH5C8Po4Ufa_GArhE

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Imams called upon to not prolong reading in Oman mosques

March 15, 2020

Muscat: The Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA) has asked imams of mosques to not prolong reading during prayers and directed their attention towards cleaning mosques and their facilities.

In its statement on the preventive measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the ministry said: "The ministry decides to implement the following: postponing religious activities and activities of a collective nature for a month starting from Sunday."

The ministry also directed the imams and preachers to urge people to avoid handshakes and hugging.

"Directing mosque agents and their supervisors to take great care of the cleanliness of mosques and its facilities and take preventive measures based on instructions issued by the competent authorities," the ministry added.

https://timesofoman.com/article/2912637/Oman/Government/Imams-called-upon-to-not-prolong-reading-in-Oman-mosques

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Coronavirus in UAE: Sheikh Zayed Mosque closed from Sunday

March 14, 2020

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque will be closed for worshippers and visitors from Sunday as part of precautionary measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (SZGMC) on Saturday announced that the mosque will be temporarily closed for prayers and visits from March 15, 2020 to carry out the disinfection operation of the mosque and its facilities to ensure the well-being and safety of Emiratis, residents and visitors.

"This comes within the preventive efforts and measures taken by public institutions across the UAE to counter coronavirus," the SZGMC said on Instagram.

With the growing concern over the spread of Covid-19, authorities in UAE have taken precautionary measures including closure of schools, public parks, public swimming pools and cancelling of all major events across the country.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism on Friday announced that nightclubs and tourist restaurants in Abu Dhabi will be shut-down with immediate effect until the end of March to restrict further cases of coronavirus.

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/coronavirus-outbreak/coronavirus-in-uae-sheikh-zayed-mosque-closed-from-sunday

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Europe

 

Muslim leaders fear Christchurch-style attack could happen in UK

By Helen William

March 14 2020

They said the attacks – in which a gunman killed 51 people at two New Zealand mosques and posted the rampage live online a year ago – may have happened a long distance away, but it feels close to home.

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of north London’s Finsbury Park Mosque (FPM) – which suffered a terror attack in which a worshipper was killed in 2017, said: “As a community here in the UK, this might happen as well. We have had to take extra precautions in terms of security.

“On the same day (as Christchurch attacks), somebody called us and said `you will be next, what has happened to them, will happen to you’.

“This was shocking. We never imagined that during such a crisis, after more than 50 innocent people got killed, that somebody would tell us this.

“We have to take everything seriously in the current climate. Islamophobia is spreading and it is being tolerated.”

Darren Osborne was jailed for a minimum of 43 years for murdering one man and injuring others after deliberately targeting Muslims by using a van to mow down worshippers near FPM in 2017.

The FPM bolstered its security after the Christchurch attacks. Other mosques and community centres have done the same, but smaller organisations do not have the resources, experience or government assistance to deal with it, according to Mr Kozbar.

Asked if Britain feels like a less safe place to be a Muslim today than it did a year ago before the Christchurch killings or the Finsbury Park terror attack three years ago, Mr Kozbar said: “Yes, I have to say it is. It is frightening.  It is not only me who feels that way, it is actually across our community.

“It makes you feel like you are a second-class citizen and you are not treated as equal to anybody else. Such feelings are hurtful – especially to young people who are born and raised in this country.”

Mr Kozbar’s message for Christchurch’s grieving community is to be “strong, united and resilient” as they try to come to terms with what has happened.

He said: “I know how this can affect you for a long, long time. The Muslim community everywhere is a resilient community.

“Make sure you set an example to others in terms of being a good citizen for your country. Make sure that our young people understand what happened and try to explain to them that the only people who are responsible are perpetrators. The rest of the society is with you.

“I hope this never happens again,  so we need to engage more as a community with our wider society in a positive way and to explain what Islam is about.”

Shaykh Shams Ad-Duha Muhammad, of the British Board of Scholars and Imams, remembers a new feeling of being “vulnerable and like I could be in somebody’s cross hairs” when he went to pray after the Christchurch attacks.

Hosne Ahmed, a distant relative of his wife, was among the victims. She was shot as she ran back into the mosque to try to save her husband, Farid, – who uses a wheelchair. Mr Ahmed later said he forgives her killer and will pray for him.

On the prospect that a similar attack could happen in Britain, he added: “It is a horrible thing to say but I think it is a matter of expectation – it is only a matter of time.”

He described New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the tragedy as “rare” and “so genuine and compassionate that I think it moved everybody”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks with women during Friday prayers in Christchurch (John Kirk-Anderson/AP)

The deadliest types of semi-automatics are now banned, and gun owners turned in about 60,000 of their newly-outlawed weapons for money in a national buy-back.

Ms Ardern worked on trying to eliminate terror attacks from being shown online, after the gunman livestreamed the bloodshed.

Shaykh Shams said: “It is a powerful example of what a leader can do if they truly have that kind of concern and can display it.

Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 29, is due to stand trial in June on charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder.

A Home Office spokesman said: “All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable and the UK has a tough laws in place respond to it.

“The UK has some of the most robust legislation anywhere for tackling hate crime and through our Hate Crime Action Plan we have worked hard to encourage victims of hate crime to report incidents so that we can bring perpetrators who commit these crimes to justice.”

Work has been done with the police to try and reassure communities and approximately £1.5 million has been shared between various places of worship from different religions since 2016 to improve security.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/muslim-leaders-fear-christchurch-style-attack-could-happen-in-uk-39044933.html

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ISIS tells its terrorists not to travel to Europe for jihad because … coronavirus

By Laura Italiano

March 15, 2020

After years of urging its terrorists to attack major European cities, ISIS is now telling them to steer clear due to the coronavirus.

Any sick jihadists already in Europe, however, should stay there — presumably to sicken infidels, according to a ‘sharia’ directive printed in the group’s al-Naba newsletter, the Sunday Times of London reported.

The “healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it,” the newsletter advised.

The newsletter instructs jihadists that the “plague” is a “torment sent by God on whomsoever He wills.”

Iraq, where most of the surviving fragments of the group remain, had 110 reported coronavirus cases on Sunday morning, ten of them fatal, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the contagion.

https://nypost.com/2020/03/15/isis-tells-its-terrorists-not-to-travel-to-europe-for-jihad-because-coronavirus/

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County Lines kingpin Bodrul Islam who flooded Class A drugs into Hereford via Birmingham jailed

14 MAR 2020

A county lines mastermind who flooded heroin and crack cocaine into a Midlands town via Birmingham has been jailed.

He recruited his pals to bring drugs into Hereford where street level dealers would do the dirty work on Islam’s behalf.

West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit − working alongside West Mercia Police − found Islam made frequent train trips to Birmingham’s Grand Central station where he restocked drug couriers and pocketed cash profits.

CCTV showed the 31-year-old returning to London clutching bags from designer clothes outlets having spent his ill-gotten gains on shopping trips while in Birmingham.

Police raided Islam’s home in Earlham Grove, Newham, in February 2018 and found him with the main drugs hotline plus thousands of pounds in cash.

It’s estimated the Dee Line pumped up to 2kg of heroin and crack cocaine into Hereford and made yearly sales of around £200,000.

London men Ramone Parkins, 22, Jeffrey Akyaa, 28 and 20-year-old Dylan Creffield-Foster all acted as couriers moving drugs from the Birmingham handover point into Hereford.

Fellow Londoners Michael Fadeyibi, 22 and 21-year-old Raylan Joseph-Wright coordinated activity in Hereford.

Hereford men Joshua Juson, 28, Harry Oakley-Davies, 21, Scott Lewis, 40 and 39-year-old Anthony Fish acted as street dealers for Islam.

Gemma Peach, 33, Simon Matthews, 48 and 40-year-old Peter Neil allowed their Hereford homes to be used as drugs ‘safe houses’ from where the dealers co-ordinated their activity.

All 13 were charged with conspiring to supply Class A drugs; most admitted their roles with but Islam and Fadeyibi denied involvement.

However, Islam entered a guilty plea midway through a trial which started last month at Worcester Crown Court and Fadeyibi was found guilty by a jury.

Parkins and Akyaa were both handed four-year terms while Creffield-Foster was jailed for three years on top of a three year sentence he’s already serving for a firearms offence in London.

Joseph-Wright was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years, Lewis for three years and Fadeyibi − who’s only recently been released from prison for a similar drugs crime − for 12 months.

Joseph-Wright, Lewis and Fadeyibi Neil and Oakley-Davies were both given suspended jail sentences for their roles, while Juson, Fish, Peach, and Matthews will all be sentenced later this month.

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/county-lines-kingpin-bodrul-islam-17925745

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North America

 

Trump tests negative for virus as US expands Europe traveller ban

March 15, 2020

US President Donald Trump has tested negative for the novel coronavirus, his physician said on Saturday, following concerns over his exposure to a disease that has paralyzed the globe.

Trump agreed to the test after coming in contact with several members of a Brazilian presidential delegation visiting his Florida resort who have since tested positive for the virus.

"This evening I received confirmation that the test is negative," the president's physician Sean Conley said in a memo.

"One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation at Mar-a-Lago, the President remains symptom-free," he said.

Trump, 73, had dismissed concerns over his exposure to the disease which has killed at least 51 Americans and upended the rhythm of daily life across the country, with millions working from home and schools shuttered.

New York, the most populous US city, saw its first coronavirus death on Saturday, as store shelves were stripped bare after days of panic buying.

"I have been through Hurricane Sandy [...] through 9/11, I have never seen shopping like this," said Larry Grossman, manager of a Manhattan supermarket.

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday announced a further restriction on travel to the United States, saying a travel ban imposed on European nations over the pandemic would be extended to the United Kingdom and Ireland Tuesday.

Trump advised against non-essential travel, and said officials were considering imposing travel restrictions within the United States.

"If you don't have to travel, I wouldn't do it," Trump said at a White House news conference. "We want this thing to end. We don't want a lot of people getting infected."

Trump declared a national emergency on Friday in what critics say was a long-delayed admission of the gravity of the crisis, freeing up some $40 billion in disaster relief funds.

Late Friday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill — crafted by Democrats in consultation with the Trump administration — to provide billions of dollars for free virus testing, emergency paid sick leave and family leave related to the epidemic.

Repeatedly attacked for sending out mixed signals on the health crisis, the president raised eyebrows on Friday when, contrary to medical advice, he was seen shaking hands as he gathered his coronavirus response team at the White House.

On Saturday, he blamed habit — "people put their hand out [...] you don't think about it" — but said it would have to change.

"Maybe people shouldn't be shaking hands for the long term," said Trump, a self-declared germophobe, "because it does transmit flu and other things".

Trump's virus test came after not only contact with the Brazilian delegation, but also US lawmakers and political leaders who have gone into self-quarantine over potential infection.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was on Saturday awaiting results of a virus test after she came down with flu-like symptoms.

She reportedly attended an event in Florida with Trump on Monday and flew back to Washington on Air Force One.

On Saturday a 30-day US ban took effect on all travel from the EU's Schengen border-free zone, part of a global clampdown on travel to curtail the virus.

Pence said the ban — which notably excluded Britain and Ireland — would include both countries as of midnight EST on Monday.

Trump also aimed a new jab at the US Federal Reserve, saying he wanted it to be "much more proactive" in moving to protect Americans from the widespread economic dislocation caused by the pandemic.

But the president — wearing a navy blue USA cap — seemed otherwise subdued during Saturday's briefing, uncharacteristically offering praise to Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi said she was "proud" to have reached an agreement on the relief package after days of tense talks with the White House.

Trump also tweeted that he had a "nice conversation" with Canadian leader Justin Trudeau and that it was "great to hear that his wonderful wife Sophie is doing very well". Trudeau has been telegoverning since his wife was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1541060/trump-tests-negative-for-virus-as-us-expands-europe-traveller-ban

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Coronavirus: Over 300 American soldiers quarantined after returning from Afghanistan

15 Mar 2020

More than 300 American soldiers have been quarantined after returning from Afghanistan amid ongoing efforts to prevent the further outbreak of coronavirus.

The 82nd Airborne Division in a statement said more than 300 paratroopers of the divisons will undergo health monitoring and medical treatment at Fort Bragg in North Carolina after completing a 9-month rotation in suport of the U.S.-led Resolute Support Mission and returning home.

Maj. Gen. James Mingus, 82nd Airborne Division commander said “My No. 1 priority is the protection of our Paratroopers, their families, our community, and the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19.”

“We are taking proactive steps to protect and prevent spread,” he was quoted as saying in a report by Stripes.

This comes as the Afghan officials have so far reported more than 10 positive cases of coronavirus across the country so far.

The Ministry of Public Health said four new positive cases of coronavirus have been recorded in western Herat province, increasing the number of positive cases to 9.

The Ministry also added that the authorities in central Daikundi province have also recorded a positive of coronavirus in the province.

Earlier, the officials in northern Samangan province reported that they have recorded three positive cases of coronavirus in this province.

https://www.khaama.com/coronavirus-over-300-american-soldiers-quarantined-after-returning-from-afghanistan-04515/

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The Latest: Republic of Congo reports 1st coronavirus case

March 15, 2020

The Latest on the world's coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 150,000 people and killed more than 5,700. The disease for most people causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness.

The Republic of Congo, which is home to the World Health Organization’s regional Africa headquarters, has reported its first case of the coronavirus.

The government said late Saturday that a duel French and Republic of Congo citizen returned from Paris on an Ethiopian Airlines flight on March 1. After recently showing symptoms, they alerted authorities. The government asked that others on that flight come forward.

Turkey has set up quarantine locations for more than 10,300 people returning from pilgrimages to Islam’s holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

The Youth and Sport Ministry said Sunday that beds had been made available in university dormitories in the capital, Ankara, and the central Anatolian city of Konya for those returning from Umrah, a pilgrimage that can be made at any time of the year. Returnees will be quarantined for 14 days in an effort to combat the coronavirus.

Universities have been closed for three weeks due to the virus outbreak. Turkey’s latest case, its sixth, was a returning pilgrim.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has asked people to work, study and worship from home to reduce the risk of being infected with the coronavirus.

Widodo said at a news conference Sunday that his country faces an especially challenging fight against the coronavirus due to its unique geography. The sprawling archipelago nation comprises over 17,000 islands and is home to more than 260 million people.

Austria is further tightening restrictions on public life, closing restaurants and sports facilities and halting flights to a number of countries in an effort to fight the coronavirus.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the new measures in a parliamentary session on Sunday. The Austria Press Agency reported that he announced flight bans for Britain, Ukraine and Russia.

Restaurants will now have to close entirely starting on Tuesday. Previous plans had called for them to open only until 3 p.m.

Travelers returning to the U.S. from Europe have been greeted with hourslong waits for required medical screenings at airports.

While American citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return to the U.S. amid new European travel restrictions, they're being funneled to 13 U.S. airports where they're subject to health screenings and quarantine orders.

Acting Secretary Chad Wolf says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to add additional screening capacity and work with airlines to expedite the process. In tweets posted early Sunday morning, he said it takes about a minute per screening.

Videos and photos posted to social media showed packed, winding lines of returning travelers. On Twitter, airports like Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare acknowledged the delays and asked for patience.

South Korea’s president has declared southeastern parts of the country hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak as “special disasters zones,” a designation that makes residents there eligible for emergency relief, tax benefits and other state financial support.

President Moon Jae-in’s office says he on Sunday approved a proposal by his prime minister to declare the Daegu city and some areas in the southeastern Gyeongsang province as such disaster zones.

It’s the first time for South Korea to declare any area a special disaster zone due to an infectious disease. Past disaster zone designations were declared for areas stricken by typhoons, floods and other national disasters.

South Korea has so far reported 8,162 coronavirus cases, about 88% of them in the southeastern region. More than 830 people have recovered.

Australia's prime minister says all travelers arriving in the country will have to self-isolate for 14 days to try and stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement Sunday after a phone hookup with the leaders of Australian states and territories leaders under a new national cabinet meeting.

Just across the Hudson River from New York City, a New Jersey city is imposing a curfew on residents amid the virus outbreak.

Hoboken residents must stay in their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Monday, a daily curfew that's among the first and most far-reaching such measures taken in the U.S.

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla announced Saturday night that exceptions will be made for emergencies and people required to work.

He also said bars and restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery services. Bars that don't serve food will shut down altogether Sunday.

In New Zealand, passengers aboard a cruise ship in the South Island tourist town of Akaroa are not being allowed off the vessel while three passengers are tested for the new coronavirus.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said Sunday that one of the passengers on the Golden Princess is being treated as a suspected case because that person has developed symptoms of the disease and is a close contact of another person who has been confirmed as having contracted COVID-19.

Bloomfield says they should get the test results on Monday, and that officials are considering their response should the case be confirmed.

He says one lesson from observing problems with the virus spreading on other cruise ships is to avoid leaving everybody on board. Bloomfield didn't elaborate on what form any response might take.

The news came just one day after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country was banning cruise ships from entering its waters as it took a more aggressive approach to COVID-19. The Golden Princess was already in New Zealand at the time Ardern made her announcement.

The cruise ship departed from Melbourne, Australia. An Akaroa cruise schedule indicates the ship was expected to have about 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crew.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

https://www.wsls.com/news/world/2020/03/15/the-latest-cruise-ship-in-new-zealand-awaits-virus-test/

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Africa

 

Coronavirus in SA: Ridgeway Muslim School in Joburg closes after pupil’s mom tests positive

2020-03-14

Nhlanhla Jele

The board of the Ridgeway Muslim School in Johannesburg has closed the school until further notice, after information that a pupil’s mother had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

It is understood that the mother of the pupil was contacted by the Department of Health to inform her of her status. The department found that the children were not displaying any symptoms, but has placed the whole family in quarantine.

"Medical practitioners have advised that, although the children have not shown any symptoms at the school, they recommend that you and your children remain in isolation for 14 days," the letter reads. 

The school encouraged parents and their children to take precautionary measures, adding that it would keep them updated on developments.

The board of the Ridgeway Muslim School in Johannesburg has closed the school until further notice, after information that a pupil’s mother had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

It is understood that the mother of the pupil was contacted by the Department of Health to inform her of her status. The department found that the children were not displaying any symptoms, but has placed the whole family in quarantine.

"Medical practitioners have advised that, although the children have not shown any symptoms at the school, they recommend that you and your children remain in isolation for 14 days," the letter reads. 

The school encouraged parents and their children to take precautionary measures, adding that it would keep them updated on developments.

news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/coronavirus-in-sa-ridgeway-muslim-school-in-joburg-closes-after-pupils-mom-tests-positive-20200314

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Ending Religious Violence: How aggrieved imam, pastor brought peace to Plateau community, others

March 15, 2020

For the greater part of May 2, 2004, 40-year-old Amina Abubakar endured nine-month-old pregnancy pangs, what some call “false labour”.

It is the kind of cramp most pregnant women experience hours or shortly before the actual labour begins. So, counting her time and drawing from her past childbirth experience, Mrs Abubakar knew she could have her second baby that day and be free from the pains, thereafter.

Sure enough, her baby girl came out before night, but her body pain relief was overshadowed by even deeper grief because shortly after childbirth, her first child was killed.

“Some people just came and told me that my son had been killed,” she said, in a sorrow-filled tone, as though it all happened yesterday. “I cried and cried. It was the same day I delivered my daughter.”

Auwal Abubakar, her son, was murdered by a mob during a conflict between the two communities, Yelwa and Shendam, in central Nigeria’s Plateau State.

The ethno-religious conflict, which peaked after years of local political power struggle and protracted arguments over land rights, ended with many mass graves. One. Two. Three. As many as 16.

Yelwa town in southern Plateau is occupied by people of the Jarawa tribe who migrated to the area from northeast Nigeria’s Bauchi State more than 200 years ago. The town – with its majority Muslim population – is under the political control of Shendam Local Government Area, which is headquartered in Shendam town.

Shendam town plays host to several native ethnic groups, most of which are Christians. One of such groups is Goemai.

Goemai and Yelwa have lived harmoniously for over two centuries. Their relationship, however, got strained in 1996 after each laid strong claim to the ownership of Yelwa land.

While Goemai claims that the land belongs to them and that they benevolently gave it to the Jarawa people to settle in many years back when they migrated to the area, the Jarawa group claims that given their long stay on the land, they have become rightful owners with indigenous rights.

These claims and counterclaims further birthed arguments about whether or not the Jarawa people – tagged “settlers” and accused of being disrespectful to their hosts and the Long-Goemai (traditional paramount ruler for the entire Shendam Local Government Area) – should dominate local politics, which they were suspected of trying to achieve with their large population.

By the time the arguments turned violent, given the groups’ sharp Muslim-Christian religious divide, people were simply being identified by their religious affiliations and killed.

The fact that past government plus non-government efforts to settle the brawl failed as both towns maintained uncompromising positions and often resumed hostilities, made many fear that peaceful coexistence between them was elusive.

Surprisingly, however, for about 15 years, they have lived peacefully. And that was after they both signed a “peace affirmation” document, accepting to accommodate each other and to tackle future disagreements via dialogue.

For this, residents of both communities and former government officials have only one group to thank: The Interfaith Mediation Center (IMC).

Formerly known as Muslim-Christian Youth Dialogue Forum, IMC is a nonprofit based in northwest Nigeria’s Kaduna State. While it also works to build peace among warring communities (that might be fighting on non-faith-based reasons) in Nigeria and beyond, it primarily combines the instruments of dialogue and mediation with religious verses that support forgiveness and love to help religiously-divided groups reconcile, build trust, and peacefully coexist.

It also tries to embed in youth, the virtues of religious tolerance in a country where faith-based violence is almost commonplace and one in which the jihadist group, Boko Haram, has killed over 30,000 people since 2009.

It does this by regularly organising radio and television programmes and public events during which the dangers of religious violence and the need for peaceful co-existence are discussed. For the same purpose, it has also established “peace clubs” in about 42 colleges and universities with over 10,000 members across Nigeria.

Sixty-year-old Wuye is an Assemblies of God (AG) pastor in Kaduna. The son of a former soldier, Wuye Movel, who was conscripted into the Nigeria Army during the country’s civil war (1967-1970), he grew up in the central Kaduna town of Tudun Nupawa.

His journey towards spiritual leadership started when he was an adolescent, a time he stopped following his parents to the Baptist Church and started attending the Assemblies of God Church where he grew prominently. He eventually occupied relevant positions within the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body of Christian denominations in the country.

That included working as an assistant secretary of CAN in Kaduna and later as the head of a militia, formed by the youth wing of CAN – the Young Christian Association of Nigeria.

The militia was to defend Christians and churches against attacks during imagined future religious rifts between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna where faith-based violence has been responsible for the death of some 20,000 people since the 1980s.

During a 1992 Muslims-Christians conflict that started in the southern Kaduna town of Zango-Kataf and later spread to several other parts of the state and in which over 2,000 people were killed, Mr Wuye’s right hand was chopped off by Mr Ashafa’s (his co-founder at the IMC) boys while he was leading his militia to fight the Muslims.

Mr  Wuye became a pastor after obtaining three certificates in theology; a diploma from AG’s Northern Theological Seminary in Kaduna, an undergraduate degree from Vision University, based in the U.S. (via its Kaduna satellite campus) and a master’s degree from the West Africa Christian University.

His colleague, Mr Ashafa, is the spiritual administrator of the Ashafa Central Mosque in Kaduna. The 61-year-old was born into a conservative Muslim family in northern Kaduna’s city of Zaria.

Mr Ashafa’s dream, right from childhood, was to become an imam and to preserve the traditions of Islam, a desire that was mostly inspired by his father, Abdul-Yakeen Ashafa, a 90-year-old-plus imam.

He  spent most of his childhood and early adult life building his Islamic knowledge at a madrasa (a Quranic recitation school) attached to his father’s mosque. He later took a nine-month course in Arabic Studies at the International University of African in Sudan.

During  the Zango-Kataf conflict, he led a Muslim militia called the “Defense League” to fight Christians. His militia, which comprised young men drawn from the National Council of Muslim Youths Organization (NACOMYO), was founded in 1987 for the primary purpose of defending Muslims and Mosques against attacks during faith-motivated conflicts in Kaduna.

Like Mr Wuye, the 1992 religious crisis did not leave Ashafa without personal losses. His spiritual mentor, Ahmed Tijani, and his two cousins were killed by Mr Wuye’s boys.

The pair started the IMC several years after the conflict ended through military intervention. Thanks to a friend of theirs, Idris Musa, a 70-year-old former technical officer at the Kaduna State Media Corporation, who first urged them, in 1995, to let go of their pains and work for peace.

The admonition was one they initially found hard to accept, but, further encouragement both received from their respective spiritual superiors and religious organisations gave them more reasons to forgive each other and to create space for partnership towards peacebuilding.

Now co-executive directors on Christian and Muslim matters respectively at the IMC, they have been able to broker peace between several groups and communities in several Nigerian states, including in Plateau, Taraba, Benue, Bornu, and Kaduna.

They worked with the state government in Kaduna to achieve the Kaduna State Peace Declaration (2002) that saw Muslim and Christian leaders commit to promoting peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance.

Part of the declaration reads: “According to our faiths, killing innocent lives in the names of God is a desecration of His Holy Name, and defames religions in the World.

Hitherto warring communities in countries like Iraq, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Libya have also benefited from their peace-building efforts that have brought them support from several local and international organisations, including the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Christian Aid, Islamic Relief UK, British High Commission, UNDP, and the British Council.

The Yelwa-Shendam or Jarawa-Goemai conflict they were able to resolve remains one of their biggest achievements. When the IMC volunteered to deploy its conflict resolution and peacebuilding strategies to end the conflict, it was at the peak of it.

IMC’s strategy divided the mediation process into four parts. For several months, the organisation worked to identify the “faceless” human instigators of the conflict and the obvious causes – what they called “shuttle mediation”.

Next was intra-mediation where Christians at IMC, led by Mr Wuye, met with the Goemai people of Shendam at a neutral ground to discuss their grievances, while Mr Ashafa and his Muslim group did same with the Jarawa people of Yelwa.

The third part, called intermediation, saw both groups coming together to dialogue and to shift grounds where necessary.

The last phase, which was observed by local and international interests and media, was a 2005 occasion tagged “Peace Affirmation”. It included the public signing of a document in which both parties pledged to live peacefully and to use dialogue to resolve any future disagreements they may have.

For about 15 years running, both parties have kept their pledge, lending credence to IMC’s peacebuilding process that has earned the duo several local and international recognitions. These include three honorary doctorate degrees, two Nobel Peace Prize nominations, and multiple awards that include the Peacemaker in Action Award (2000), the Bremen Peace Award (2005), the Prize for Conflict Prevention (2009) and the Duetsche Africa-Preis (2013).

This pitiful situation is partly caused by regular religion-based destructions that – apart from the thousands of human casualties – have cost the country billions of dollars. This includes the activities of Boko Haram whose impact on agriculture has made Nigeria one of the top 10 countries facing food insecurity, according to a 2019 report by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Efforts like that of Messrs Wuye and Ashafa, therefore, do not only add to prevent and possibly end conflict among religious groups, they also help to secure an environment that is healthy for everyday economic and social activities that are necessary for growth and development.

The activities of the duo have motivated more people to get into voluntary and selfless conflict resolution roles as personal contributions to further achieve lasting peace among religious groups in Nigeria.

Back in Yelwa, though Mrs Abubakar often remembers the gruesome killing of her son with deep sadness, she, however, feels grateful that her family and community have known peace for 15 years without fears of attacks and reprisals as was the case before the Yelwa-Shendam Peace Affirmation.

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/investigationspecial-reports/381905-ending-religious-violence-how-aggrieved-imam-pastor-brought-peace-to-plateau-community-others.html

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New Zealand

 

Kilbirnie Mosque cancels open day at last minute, one year on from Christchurch terror attacks

15-03-2020

Imam Tahir Nawaz said the community were planning for the event to start after morning prayers today, with preparation taking place late into the evening last night.

He said the Christchurch shootings are still feel very fresh for the community and they are still hurting.

Mr Nawaz welcomed action taken by the Government in the last year to prevent the spread of hate but said more still needs to be done to tackle extremist groups and racism in New Zealand.

People are arriving at the mosque this morning, despite the event being cancelled, to view a photo exhibition focused on the Muslim community and to offer their respects and leave flowers.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/kilbirnie-mosque-cancels-open-day-last-minute-one-year-christchurch-terror-attacks

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Bikies and a Muslim Imam share a powerful traditional embrace as they come together to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch mosque shootings

15 March 2020

Motorcycle club members and the Iman of the Al Noor Mosque have embraced with a traditional Maori greeting to mark the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch mosque shootings 

Members of the Tu Tangata Riders Iwi Tapu group turned up to support the Christchurch Muslim Community who were marking one-year since the devastating attacks in March 2019, in which 51 people were killed.

One photograph shows the Mosque's Imam Gamal Fouda performing a hongi – a traditional Maori greeting in which people embrace and touch noses – with members of the group.

Members of the group, whose Maori name translates as 'stand tall, stand proud holy tribe' also 'hongied' other mosque members before they assembled to perform a haka.

According to its Facebook page the Tu Tangata Riders are 'a motorcycle group that rides with a positive purpose'.

The group is active in organizing events by the group, Man Up, a non-government funded free 15 week program that 'helps identify, expose, and understand core root issues of why men experience dysfunctions'.

The South Island Man Up was established in Timaru, New Zealand in July 2018 and is based on a programme by Destiny Church, which is led by controversial pastor, Brian Tamaki.  

The group has helped many former members of feared gangs such as the Mongrel Mob, and Black Power, in dealing with issues including crime, violence, drugs, alcohol and depression.

'Heal the man - Heal the family. Heal the family - Heal the community. Heal the community - Heal the city. Heal the city - Heal the nation,' he said in the New Zealand Herald. 

A large commemoration event to be held on Sunday at Christchurch's Horncastle Arena was earlier cancelled due to new restrictions in place because of the coronavirus.

At a news conference on Friday, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country and its people 'have fundamentally changed' since the attacks.

Ardern also said: 'The challenge for us will be ensuring in our everyday actions, and every opportunity where we see bullying, harassment, racism, discrimination, calling it out as a nation.'

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8113463/Bikie-gang-members-Muslim-Imam-share-powerful-traditional-embrace-mark-Christchurch-attack.html

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Christchurch mosque attacks: 'We were all impacted by the ripples'

10:22 am today 

By Saziah Bashir

All of us can place ourselves at some point of that formerly serene surface in terms of how deeply we felt the disruption.

Except that feels reductive of the enormity of what happened, and maybe the analogy I'm looking for is instead one of a giant sinkhole opening up in the ground.

Because 15 March cannot be viewed as a mere disruption, but a rupture in the very fabric of what I believe life in New Zealand is meant to be.

When the news broke, I abandoned the conference I was attending in Canberra and sat in the hotel lobby, teary and frantically trying to call my family. Once I knew they were safe, the panic turned into a sort of muted horror.

By the time we got to the airport that evening, I was already being contacted for comment by various media outlets. I started writing my first piece on the plane in a desperate attempt to get out of my own head and channel my feelings into something tangible.

When I landed back in Melbourne I went straight to a friend's house where several Kiwis had gathered. A home normally full of chatter and raucous laughter, it was quiet, the mood sombre.

I didn't know what that would achieve but in that moment I just missed my family, and I missed home. My friends urged me not to change my plans because then "he" wins, "they" win.

The week I spent in Bali was surreal. My friend had expected a travel companion to share in her enthusiasm for Balinese food and massages.

I just felt angry (at racism, bigotry), guilty (that it wasn't me, I survived, my family survived, we were lucky!), sad, devastated, raw, too much, all at once. I had never felt anything like this before.

Because this wasn't unavoidable destruction from a natural disaster, but a vicious act that should never have happened.

My parents visited me in Melbourne over Easter and I was hypervigilant whenever they were on public transport, worried someone would rip off my mum's hijab.

It's never happened before, but anything could happen now, right? Even Nazis are a thing again. I went back to Auckland for the last week of Ramadan and Eid in May.

The 27th night of Ramadan is especially auspicious and there are special prayers at the mosque which we attend together as a family. I was shocked to find police patrolling our local mosque in Massey as added security. This was the new normal?

I found myself thinking that night that if a shooter was to show up in that packed mosque there would be no way out, but at least then I would die with my family.

This was not a possibility I had ever imagined grappling with in New Zealand, but here we were. We'd crossed a threshold and there was no going back.

When my parents travelled to the United States in August I was a worried wreck. I imagined losing them to some Trumpian black site for Muslims. I was the paranoid parent now, checking on them daily.

I look back and it makes sense that my normally well managed anxiety peaked, dissolving into frequent panic attacks by October. It's taken regular therapy and an obscene amount of yoga for me to get back to myself (somewhat) in the last few months.

And I wasn't even there, in Christchurch, on the day. I wasn't hurt, I haven't lost anyone personally. But New Zealand being as small as it is, we were all impacted by the ripples.

My brother, Mukseet, felt a heightened sense of responsibility to speak on his previous experiences of racism and Islamophobia, but also fatigued at being approached about this repeatedly when all he wanted to do was process and grieve in solidarity.

For him, the aftermath of 15 March really highlighted the dearth of diverse voices and representation in local mainstream media. I second this, given the number of requests I received myself.

My friend Zainab Al-Alawi grew up in the Muslim community in Christchurch where she attended Quran lessons as a child at the Al Noor Mosque most weekends.

Her stepfather still attends Friday prayers there. On 15 March he was still parking when the attack started, thus managed to escape.

She lost a number of family friends. Her sister died in December from unrelated causes and is buried with the victims of the attacks. That grave site in Christchurch will now forever be a part of Zainab's life.

Previously Zainab disregarded the "but where are you really from?" question all too familiar to anyone who claims to be a New Zealander but does not look a certain way as stemming from a sort of benign ignorance about the distinction between ethnicity and nationality.

She now worries the same train of thought that leads to that question can also lead to far more dangerous places.

My friend Kershia Singh was on a bus in Auckland when she heard the news, and describes herself feeling "more brown and exposed" than she had in a long time. She identifies as a migrant Kiwi of South African-Indian heritage.

In the immediate aftermath a rift developed between herself and her European partner when she realized he could choose to disengage from the events of that day when she, with her lifetime's collection of racist encounters, microaggressions, fears and fraught South African history, could not.

It was as if the burden of that collection weighed her down further in grief, and the attack was not only on Muslims but on migrants, brown people and minorities in general.

This comment reminded me that the first victim of an Islamophobic hate crime in the United States post 9/11 was a bearded Sikh man who wore a turban.

Kershia also described feeling shame, questioning if she'd done enough to challenge Islamophobia in her own life from her position of relative privilege, not being Muslim herself. Many of my Pakeha friends echoed this concern.

Over the past year Kershia and her partner have had to do the work of interrogating the role race plays in how they navigate the world.

For her personally, it's highlighted a need to explore the South African-Indian aspects of her heritage in a way she never felt so keenly while growing up on the North Shore, busy assimilating into her new home.

Though I've had many conversations like this with other friends demonstrating the various complexities of reactions to 15 March, there was one sentiment we all shared - we were not surprised.

If you were surprised that this could have happened, you have not been paying attention to the world around you.

However, in relation to this attack, I feel compelled to distinguish the particular flavour of Islamophobia from your bog standard racism and xenophobia, though they are all rotten fruit of the same tree.

The genocide of the Rohingya in Burma, the recent violence in India and the detention of the Uighur in China, are all specifically targeted at Muslim minorities.

I've had Indian-Kiwi friends explain the battles on social media with their non-Muslim Indian relatives propagating Islamophobic rhetoric due to their support of the Hindu nationalist BJP.

I am told many unfriendings happened post 15 March because of opposition to the call to prayer playing over the radio or the absurd fears of the infiltration of "Sharia law" in New Zealand.

I would not want the particular politics associated with Islamophobia to be erased or subsumed into a generic conversation about race because that would be unproductive and ineffective.

But I believe talking about this, in real terms, of how it felt and the way it's changed us, is vital. The government must respond at a macro level, but we feel this in our chests, in our guts.

How else do we make sense of this? An act of violence so monstrous it took away 51 people, full and complex human beings, with their own hurts and hopes and dreams, at a time when they were gathering to submit themselves in peaceful worship, one Friday afternoon that shouldn't have ended the way it did.

I don't know what role I have to play in the aftermath of 15 March except to continue doing what I have always done, which is speak my truth and tell my story, and the stories of those I love.

This is why I have not attempted to speak for the survivors and victims, though my heart is with them. Instead I hope true allies and the media will offer their platforms to amplify the voices of the survivors and the loved ones of those who were lost.

For the first anniversary of the attacks I've opted to commiserate in the only way I know how - with community and kai.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/411773/christchurch-mosque-attacks-we-were-all-impacted-by-the-ripples

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Christchurch mosque shooting footage still on Facebook, one year on

15 Mar 2020

A year on from the Christchurch mosque shootings, raw footage from the alleged gunman's video is still appearing on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram.

Eric Feinberg, vice president of the Content Moderation Coalition, has been consistently finding copies of the gunman's clip since the March 15 tragedy last year.

Before he talked to the Herald earlier week (see video above), he was able to locate 14 copies of the clip across Facebook and Instagram.

The New York-based hate content researcher says he has been able to find copies of the clip that have escaped Facebook's filters, in part, because he has run searches for related terms in multiple languages, and used machine-learning tools that have allowed him to locate edits, including those that are cleverly disguised. In one instance, he found four sections of the gunman's video woven into a mock video game.

He has also partial copies of the clip embedded within news reports, which he concedes is a "grey area" in the US - although it's not in New Zealand, where the Chief Censor rated the footage objectionable, meaning it is illegal to view or share (and not just in the abstract.

As the first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque shootings approached, Chris Keall talked to New York-based hate-content researcher and Vice President of the Content Moderation Coalition Eric Feinberg.

In June last year, Christchurch man Philip Neville Arps was sentenced to 21 months for sharing the clip. He was released on January 29 , with a GPS tracker and condition he did not go near the two mosques.)

Facebook says it has beefed up its human and artificial intelligence filters since the Christchurch shootings, and taken steps such as multi-language searches and "listening" for gunshot-like audio (Facebook's policy director for counter-terrorism told US Congress members that its algorithm did not detect the massacre livestream because there was "not enough gore".)

"The argument, always hear this that 'because of the systems, we're able to catch perpetrators.' No, you're creating the perpetrators," the researcher says.

"Look what happened in Christchurch. [The gunman] had an agenda. It was premeditated that he was going to go in and do what he did. And because the system existed, he was allowed to broadcast this to the world."

In Feinberg's opinion, there is still too much hate-content on Facebook. He considers the social network leans too heavily on free-speech arguments.

Last week, Martin Cocker - head of NetSafe, the approved government agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, struck a similar note, saying: "There has been good progress against violent content on Facebook and other platforms, but there hasn't been a heck of a hot of progress against hate pages that can ignite it."

And Islamic community leader Aliya Danzeisen said although Facebook had made some progress, she felt it still fell on Muslim members of the social network to report hate content.

"I'd like to sit down with Mark Zuckerberg," she said. " I just don't think he realises what the impact is on the average Muslim kid - or adult - of the sustained abuse," she said.

Facebook has declined to follow the Google-owned YouTube's lead in switching-off livestreaming for most users post-Christchurch.

Facebook ANZ policy director Garlick said: "Since March 15, we've made significant changes and investments to advance our proactive detection technology, grow our teams working on safety, and respond even quicker to acts of violence.

"No single solution can prevent hate and violent extremism, but the meaningful progress on the commitments made to the Christchurch Call are delivering real action in New Zealand and internationally."

Facebook had now banned more than 200 white supremacist organisations from its platform, Garlick said.

"When someone searches for something related to hate and extremism in the US – we point them to resources that help people leave behind hate groups.

"Last year, we expanded this to Australia in partnership with Exit Australia, an organisation focused on helping to redirect people away from hate and radicalisation."

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Christchurch attack, one year on: 'We are stronger and more united' - Cashmere head boy

8 hours ago

A vigil was held by school students in Hagley Park on Friday night to honour the 51 people killed during the March 15 mosque attacks.

Cashmere High School head boy Cameron Hudson says it's important for people to talk about that horrific day. Two of the school's students were among those killed in the attack, while a third was injured. 

"Of course there's the initial grief and shock but from that - we are stronger and more united as students," Hudson told Newshub.

"We had a great range of different schools who showed up and that's what it's all about for us - the people who do want to come together."

"I think it speaks to a general message of mental health and that we need to be checking up on our friends - checking up on our whānau."

"The blood was splashing on me - and I'm thinking 'oh my god, oh my god'," a man inside one of the mosques told Newshub in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.

"I had New Zealanders telling me that they had visited a mosque for the first time," she told reporters in Christchurch on Friday.

Sunday's planned memorial events, including a National Remembrance Service in Christchurch, have been cancelled because of fears of the coronavirus.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/03/christchurch-attack-one-year-on-we-are-stronger-and-more-united-cashmere-head-boy.html

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Linwood mosque Imam's message of unity on anniversary of terrorist attack - 'The blood that runs in me, runs in you'

18 MIN AGO 

Six kilometres from the Al Noor mosque, where the first victims were killed, seven more people died inside Linwood Mosque after being shot and another at hospital hours later - a huge toll on the place of worship where only a small group pray each day.

"I run out quickly this way," he recounted to 1 NEWS. "And the Eftpos machine was on this white table and I grabbed it and run outside and that's all I could do cause we had nothing else.

"That was my natural reaction," he said. "That's the love of the people to call me a hero but I believe that was my job first of all as a human being. I done my job.

"We are very proud of the brother and sister, you know, 'cause we showed to the world you can win people's hearts by love, not by hate and that's what we did actually - spread more love."

"Everybody, bring everybody together. You're Kiwi I'm African, he's Somalian, he's Fijian, he's Māori. We got no difference in us expect our names that's all," he said.

"The blood that runs in me, runs in you. You use your mouth to eat, nose to breathe, eyes to see - same thing."

"Hopefully having a more spacious place, which is quite wide, we can see every part from whoever's coming from the gate easily," Mr Zirullah said, saying it would mean more safety for worshipers.

On a weekday, between 15 and 25 people pray at the mosque in Linwood, but on Fridays that number can be up to 200.

The new mosque would not only cater to the numbers, but in the words of the Imam, he said it's compensation from Allah, for after every difficulty, ease eventually follows.

"Being the Imam is not something I'm proud of, I'm just fortunate to be in the mosque that day, to witness such a thing and survive and be one of those who send my brother and sisters to their resting place and just proud to be a Muslim in New Zealand."

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/linwood-mosque-imams-message-unity-anniversary-terrorist-attack-blood-runs-in-me-you

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Cancelled open day fails to prevent people from paying respects at Wellington mosque

Mar 15 2020

A cancelled open day failed to keep people from paying their respects at a Wellington mosque a year on from the Christchurch terror attacks.

International Muslim Association of New Zealand president Tahir Nawaz said about 400 people turned up at the mosque between 9.30am and 4pm, despite the late cancellation.

The open day was planned at Kilbirnie Mosque on Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of the attacks on two Christchurch mosques on March 15 last year.

Imam Nizamul Haq Thanui stands in the prayer room at Kilbirnie Mosque on the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch terror attacks. 

Hundreds turned up to pay their respects at the mosque despite a planned open day being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Hundreds turned up to pay their respects at the mosque despite a planned open day being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"People were still coming in non-stop. We really realise their hearts are still open, and they still have a lot of love for us. You can't measure it. It's a very special thing."

There was a lot of disappointment the open day had to be cancelled but the mosque hoped to hold it again at a later date.

A member of the Friends of Kilbirnie Mosque group, set up following the attacks, created a poem for the occasion made up of messages from the group's members.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington/120294593/cancelled-open-day-fails-to-prevent-people-from-paying-respects-at-wellington-mosque

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Shot 9 times during mosque massacre, survivor overcomes fear

Mar 14, 2020

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — When the gunman walked into the Al Noor mosque, Temel Atacocugu was kneeling for Friday prayers. He looked up into the man’s face, thinking he was a police officer because of his paramilitary outfit. Time slowed. Atacocugu saw a puff of smoke come from the raised gun, felt a bullet smash into his teeth, and thought, “Oh, my God, I'm dying.”

But despite being shot nine times, Atacocugu survived the attack at Al Noor, one of two mosques in the city of Christchurch that were attacked on March 15 last year, in New Zealand's deadliest modern-day mass shooting.

On Sunday, New Zealand will commemorate the 51 people who were killed in the attacks. Atacocugu, 45, is slowly overcoming his own physical and psychological injuries from that day. And he’s even found himself ready to face a childhood fear: sharks.

On the day of the attacks, Atacocugu was in a buoyant mood when he walked into the mosque. An active man who loves soccer, fishing and running, he’d just finished his last acupuncture session for a sports injury and was feeling in great shape.

Growing up in Turkey, he’d been through compulsory military training, so he quickly realized what was happening. Medical staff would later tell him he was incredibly fortunate that the bullet, which struck his upper jaw, deflected downward rather than continuing into his brain or an artery.

Atacocugu says that after that first shot to his mouth, he leapt up in shock and was shot four more times in both legs. People were screaming. Another worshipper rushed at the gunman and was killed, but it gave Atacocugu a couple of seconds to react, and to run as best he could.

There was no obvious way out, so he laid down motionless on the floor. He was later shot four more times in his left arm and leg as the gunman fired indiscriminately into the piles of bodies.

Atacocugu spent a month in a hospital and underwent four operations that included bone and skin grafts. He’ll need at least three more surgeries in the months to come.

“The biggest change after the attack was that I can’t be free the same as before,” Atacocugu says. “Because very limited moving around. And I was feeling like a little baby, because somebody has to look after me all the time.”

Yet his physical recovery a year later is remarkable. The wheelchair and cane are gone. His left arm remains weakened, but when he walks down the street or plays with his Labradoodle dog, Max, Atacocugu’s limp is barely noticeable.

A few weeks ago, he started playing soccer again with a group of his friends, joking that these days he’s being outrun by fit men in their 70s. In one game, he showed off his skills by tackling, spot kicking and back-heeling a pass.

Atacocugu's mental recovery is taking longer. He’s been seeing a psychologist who’s helping him work through the images and flashbacks that still haunt him.

Atacocugu has experienced bouts of depression and has been taking antidepressants since the shooting. He figures he’ll need to keep taking the medication for at least another year. He’s found that his memory and ability to concentrate have also been affected.

He says he doesn’t want to keep working at the kebab shop he ran with a business partner at the time of the attack and is now trying to sell his stake. He’s helped out at the shop a couple of times since the shooting but has found himself nervous around strangers, not wanting to explain.

Atacocugu says he’s thinking instead of turning back to his skills as a painter and decorator. It’s more peaceful, he says, working alongside a trusted crew with only a single customer to deal with at any one time. He’s also recently put in an offer to buy a new home in Christchurch, which he hopes will help him make a fresh start.

Atacocugu moved to the South Pacific country after meeting a New Zealand woman in Turkey and marrying her in 2001. They thought Christchurch would be a good place to raise their children, in an environment that seemed friendly and safe. The couple separated in 2016 and Atacocugu stayed in Christchurch to be near his two teenage sons.

He plans to attend the trial of the 29-year-old Australian white supremacist who is accused of carrying out last year's massacre. Brenton Tarrant has pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder, and his trial is scheduled to start in June. If found guilty, he faces life imprisonment.

Atacocugu says the way that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and people throughout the country came together in unity after the shooting shows the gunman has already failed in his quest to sow division. Hate, he says, has lost and love has won.

“As a human, yes, I'm so angry,” Atacocugu says. “But also, deep of my heart, my religion makes me calm down and be patient. So I know the New Zealand law system is going to punish this man, this terrorist, as much, as high as can be possible, under the law.”

Over the past year, Atacocugu has found moments of peace during two overseas trips. One was to Turkey, where he spent time with his mother and other family members and friends. The other was a trip to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, the annual pilgrimage that most Muslims are required to perform during their lifetime. Atacocugu was among 200 survivors and relatives from the Christchurch attacks who traveled to Saudi Arabia as guests of King Salman.

“Pretty much my whole life is upside down and changed,” Atacocugu says. “But spiritually, in a religious way, I'm much stronger than I used to be.”

That newfound strength has filtered through into other aspects of his life. Atacocugu recalls watching the “Jaws” movies when he was a boy, an experience that for months left him terrified of swimming.

Years later, he drew up a list of new things to experience during his life, including diving with sharks. Still, he could never quite get over that childhood fear.

A couple of months ago, he drove to the southern end of New Zealand and, on a picture-perfect day, went on a tour boat and was submerged in a protective metal cage among great white sharks that swam within a body length of him. The experience left him exhilarated.

https://www.aspendailynews.com/associated_press/shot-times-during-mosque-massacre-survivor-overcomes-fear/article_098ee0c5-38fc-5756-bba3-af98dd8f325b.html

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Muslims in NZ still feel unsafe a year after mosque shootings

9 HOURS AGO

CHRISTCHURCH • Ms Aliya Danzeisen rises before dawn every day to listen to the news so she can prepare her school-aged daughters for any harassment they may face for being Muslim.

"We don't feel any safer," the Muslim community leader said, reflecting on the 12 months since the Christchurch mosque attacks, in which a white supremacist killed 51 Muslims at Friday prayers.

The abuse experienced prior to the attacks on March 15 last year died down immediately after the killings, Ms Danzeisen said, adding: "It felt like the entire New Zealand population was rallying behind us."

But she says it is now on the rise again, a year on from the killings that rattled the normally peaceful South Pacific nation, with unease among the Muslim community amid ongoing vitriol and threats.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who received widespread praise for her handling of the aftermath of the massacre, admitted on Friday that there was more the country could do to tackle white supremacists.

Ms Anjum Rahman, co-founder of the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand, said that there was an "undercurrent or rhetoric of hate".

"It isn't just our community. We see it a lot in online hate (towards) the transgender community... I wouldn't say it's specifically just us, but we're feeling it."

Keep up with the latest in the region with the ST Asian Insider newsletter, delivered to your inbox every weekday

Muslim women who wear headscarves were targeted "because they think we're vulnerable and can't fight back", she said.

Gun laws were tightened, Ms Ardern launched a global campaign to have terrorist and extremist content removed online, and a judicial inquiry was set up to investigate what could have been done to prevent the attacks.

Ms Danzeisen, a former corporate lawyer in the United States who moved to New Zealand 14 years ago, said that she believes the support shown to Muslims in the immediate aftermath of the shooting "surprised those in the fringe supremacist movements".

In a recent threat to the Islamic Women's Council, "they told us that they knew what we were doing, who we were, who we were meeting with and they were watching us and there was a mention of poisoning".

Ms Danzeisen said that she felt it was important to brief her high-school-aged daughters about global incidents so they could handle any intimidation.

"I did that for years, so they could go to school and be prepared, to be able to explain to peers or teachers when there is an international issue to explain why in their response. I am aware of children being harassed by peers but also educators."

The impact spreads beyond New Zealand. At the Al Noor Mosque, Ms Jabara Akhter Juti said that her family in Bangladesh remains very concerned about her since she moved to Christchurch last year with her husband.

The imam at Al Noor, Mr Gamal Fouda, wanted the broader impact of extremism addressed and not just confined to Muslims.

"That was a war against New Zealand, not only against Muslims, because today it is against one group; tomorrow against another group. People of other ethnic backgrounds are targeted," he said.

Mosque spokesman Tony Green said a recent incident in Auckland, where a Chinese doctor was abused in public because of the coronavirus, highlighted the problem.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/australianz/muslims-in-nz-still-feel-unsafe-a-year-after-mosque-shootings

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Hate-motivated crime data collection being strengthened as Muslim leaders demand action

15/03/2020

Jamie Ensor

We record where a traffic accident occurs. We record the number of burglaries reported by victims. We record how many drivers zoom through red traffic lights. 

Trends in that data highlight how initiatives and campaigns are, and are not, working. With that information, schemes can be evidence-based, appropriate targets can be set, and money isn't necessarily thrown into the dark. 

But there's a hole in our legislation that restricts the collection of information about hate crimes. It's something Muslim organisations and figures across New Zealand want fixed.

What people may commonly refer to as 'hate crimes' are offences motivated by hostility towards an individual or group's race, gender, sexuality, religion, age or disability. 

This hostility is an 'aggravating factor' noted down and considered by police when investigating a crime or by a judge when sentencing an offender. 

But hate crime is not an offence in and of itself in New Zealand, unlike in some other countries. That means it's not recorded by police as a specific offence type, limiting the data available.

"The absence of systematically collected data and information on hate-motivated crime in New Zealand makes it difficult to have an informed discussion about its prevalence and design effective measures to counter them," Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt told Newshub.

Hunt is one of many who have been vocal for years about the need for such information. In 2007, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said New Zealand should collect data on "complaints, prosecutions and sentences" for racially motivated crimes. 

The demand for information about hate-motivated crimes increased following the March 15 shootings, with many in the Muslim community concerned authorities didn't properly comprehend how prevalent discrimination against minorities was. Some, on the other hand, wanted to ensure New Zealand's issue with hate crime wasn't inflated. 

"It is about getting the data of what is happening, where it is happening, what places, what time of the day and feeding that into either the police's own prevention programmes or going out to other departments and having a more whole of the Government approach," said Anjum Rahman, co-founder of the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand.

There is work underway to strengthen police's systems, which already allow for some detail about hostility to be recorded.

A police spokesperson told Newshub that where "staff believe a crime is motivated by hostility, they have the ability to note this in police information systems". 

"Work continues within police to improve our systems and processes to allow timely access to data for these types of offences/incidents."

Police Minister Stuart Nash reiterated that police take hate crime seriously and aggravating factors can be flagged.

Following the massacre, Justice Minister Andrew Little ordered a review of New Zealand's hate crime legislation. It was suggested by some that hate crime could become a separate offence.

Currently, the Human Rights Act only penalises inciting racial disharmony against a group of people - a policy scrutinised by Little when he wrote in April: "Is it right that we have sanctions against incitement of disharmony on racial grounds but not, for example, on grounds of religious faith?"

A year on, real changes are yet to be made, but Little has told Newshub he received advice in December on issues concerning the Human Rights Act, which he's now considering. 

Dr Mustafa Farouk, the President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, strongly believes that by collecting the data, public agencies can identify how normal hate-motivated crimes are. From there, patterns can emerge over years, showing the Government, as well as not-for-profit organisations and community groups, how their work fighting discrimination is progressing and what particular groups are most at risk.

"Just like we have traffic incidents, we have other types of incidents, assaults, crime. Hate-related crimes should also be included," he told Newshub. 

After working with officials before and after the shootings, Dr Farouk believes there is support for specific hate crime data collection within the police force. 

"They themselves would have loved to have records of what is happening, but I think there is no way they could have done it because it wasn't part of the law," he said.

"I think it is very important that [that] record of racism and other forms of hate-related crimes are kept. Not only racism, but also offences against faith groups.

"It is easy for somebody to say that actions were against someone because they were different colours or because that person came from this place, but when it comes to religion the law isn't as strong."

The data wouldn't just highlight the effectiveness of current measures, including in education and policing, but it could drive new actions, Rahman says. 

"The one thing that is holding us back in this area is the fact that if police make it easier to report and record, and people will start recording more about incidents that they otherwise wouldn't have reported, it looks like crime is soaring," she told Newshub.

"Then it becomes a political football and the police get hammered because they are not dealing with crime when actually they are dealing with it a lot better by making it easier for people to report and then making it something they can respond to.

"Effective measures are pushed back because if people are reporting more, crime has risen when it hasn't."

New Zealand acting Race Relations Commissioner Professor Paul Hunt says the government needs to act regarding hate speech.

Although a full set of specific data about hate crimes isn't collected by authorities, limited by the lack of a specific offence, some agencies and groups are making an attempt to gather as much information as possible.

The Ministry of Justice's New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey of about 8000 people found last year that 20 percent of all incidents were perceived to happen because of an offender's attitude towards the victims' race, sex, age, sexuality, religion or disability. More than one-third of violent interpersonal offences and about 80 percent of sexual offences were perceived as driven by discrimination.

The Foundation Against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR) is one group attempting to get specific information about hate-motivated incidents. It officially launched a register in November which allows victims and witnesses of these alleged crimes to share information about the incidents. So far, it has received records about 15 so-called hate crimes, ranging from online abuse to verbal threats to an alleged physical assault. 

Azad Khan from FAIR says there is a whole raft of different types of incidents being reported. 

"Not necessarily islamophobic in nature, some are islamophobic, some are racist in nature, some are anti-Semitic in nature," he told Newshub.

The majority of the recorded incidents relate to Muslims, Khan says, and almost all haven't been taken to the police as the complainants are concerned their reports won't be taken seriously or they have a lack of confidence in police.

Police told Newshub it does take hate crime seriously and would "encourage all members of our communities to be alert to, and report, all instances of hate, bias or prejudice to Police on 105."

Khan hopes FAIR can collaborate with police on the register but recognises the vagueness of the law around hate crime makes this difficult to do in an official sense. 

There's also the Human Rights Commission (HRC), which provides a resolution service between people or groups after someone complains of unlawful discrimination. 

While it's important to note the complaints only reflect instances where people have proactively reported alleged unlawful discrimination to the HRC, the grounds the complaints are made on provide some insight into the prevalence of perceived discrimination in New Zealand. 

In 2019, the Commission received 1257 complaints, down from 1563 in 2018. Many of those complaints may allege unlawful discrimination on multiple grounds. 

Figures provided to Newshub show 363 complaints were made on the grounds of disability, followed by 230 on the grounds of race, and 180 on the grounds of ethnic or national origins. Fifty-one were due to colour, 66 were due to racial disharmony, 64 due to alleged racial harassment, and 62 due to religious belief.

Specific instances of race and religion hate crime in New Zealand were highlighted in a Human Rights Commission report last year. 

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/03/hate-motivated-crime-data-collection-being-strengthened-as-muslim-leaders-demand-action.html

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Islamic State asks terrorists to avoid travel to coronavirus-affected countries, wash hands

March 15, 2020

The notorious Islamic State (ISIS) has issued a series of directives for its terrorists across the world in their latest newsletter published in al-Naba asking them to avoid travel to countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Islamic State has also asked its jihadists to wash hands at all times even if they wake up in the middle of the night, said a report.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Islamic State has asked its terrorists to stay away from sick people, wash your hands and avoid travel to the affected countries.

ISIS pores over religious texts. Comes out in favor of putting your trust in God but also in favor of quarantine, hand-washing & running from the sick like from a lion. Their rivals in Qom stopped after No. 1. Thx to @ajaltamimi for his translation http://www.aymennjawad.org/2020/03/islamic-state-advice-on-coronavirus-pandemic

The militant group based in Iraq has also asked its followers to have faith in God and that the pandemic is also happening for a reason as the disease will only strike the ones who the God has chosen.

Among the directives, it has also been said that one must flee from an infected person like someone would escape from a lion.

The Islamic State has offered some valuable advice on covering mouths and water vessels at all times as a preventive. The banned organisation has said one must avoid sneezing out in the open and cover their nose and mouths while sneezing, much on the lines of guidelines issued by health experts across the world.

Coronavirus across the world has claimed over 5,000 lives while over 1,35,000 people have been infected. In Iraq, 79 people have been infected with the virus so far.

After being triggered from China, coronavirus has now spread across the world with the WHO saying Europe is the new epicentre of Covid-19 that continues to wreak havoc across the world.

India has so far reported 93 confirmed cases and 2 deaths while millions of passengers have been screened at airports and ports.

https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/islamic-state-warns-terrorists-on-coronavirus-pandemic-1655688-2020-03-15

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Linwood mosque Imam's message of unity on anniversary of terrorist attack - 'The blood that runs in me, runs in you'

18 MIN AGO

Six kilometres from the Al Noor mosque, where the first victims were killed, seven more people died inside Linwood Mosque after being shot and another at hospital hours later - a huge toll on the place of worship where only a small group pray each day.

"I run out quickly this way," he recounted to 1 NEWS. "And the Eftpos machine was on this white table and I grabbed it and run outside and that's all I could do cause we had nothing else.

"That was my natural reaction," he said. "That's the love of the people to call me a hero but I believe that was my job first of all as a human being. I done my job.

"We are very proud of the brother and sister, you know, 'cause we showed to the world you can win people's hearts by love, not by hate and that's what we did actually - spread more love."

"Everybody, bring everybody together. You're Kiwi I'm African, he's Somalian, he's Fijian, he's Māori. We got no difference in us expect our names that's all," he said.

"The blood that runs in me, runs in you. You use your mouth to eat, nose to breathe, eyes to see - same thing."

"Hopefully having a more spacious place, which is quite wide, we can see every part from whoever's coming from the gate easily," Mr Zirullah said, saying it would mean more safety for worshipers.

On a weekday, between 15 and 25 people pray at the mosque in Linwood, but on Fridays that number can be up to 200.

The new mosque would not only cater to the numbers, but in the words of the Imam, he said it's compensation from Allah, for after every difficulty, ease eventually follows.

"Being the Imam is not something I'm proud of, I'm just fortunate to be in the mosque that day, to witness such a thing and survive and be one of those who send my brother and sisters to their resting place and just proud to be a Muslim in New Zealand."

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/linwood-mosque-imams-message-unity-anniversary-terrorist-attack-blood-runs-in-me-you

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India Supreme Court must use legal methods to end discrimination against Muslims: Iran’s Guardian Council

14 March 2020

A member of Iran's Guardian Council, Hadi Tahan Nazif, has called on India's Supreme Court to use all legal methods and procedures to pave the way for the repeal of a discriminatory law against Muslims in the South Asian country.

In the worst communal violence in decades in New Delhi on February 23, more than 50 people were killed and over 100 wounded as groups chanting Hindu nationalist slogans torched mosques and dozens of Muslim houses after looting shops and businesses.

The violence began amid widespread protests across India over a citizenship law that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government introduced in December last year offering citizenship to six religious groups from neighboring countries, specifically excluding Muslims.

Critics insist the law is discriminatory, coming in the wake of other severe government measures against the country’s Muslim population such as the withdrawal of autonomy for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir.

There are 200 million Muslims in India, comprising more than 14 percent of the country’s population.

Critics of Modi’s government have blamed the anti-Muslim violence on members of the prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was crushed in local Delhi elections early last month. The party has embraced a militant brand of Hindu nationalism and its leaders have openly vilified Indian Muslims.

In a letter to Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, Nazif said, "Our respected colleagues in the Supreme Court of India are expected to use the legal methods and procedures enshrined in the Indian Constitution and pave the way for repeal of this discriminatory law against Muslims."

As your Excellency well know, supporting basic rights and freedoms and safeguarding their human and citizenship rights are among the principal aims and objectives of judicial and constitutional review bodies that supervise laws and regulations approved by parliaments and other bodies. As we and you, at two judicial and constitutional review bodies that supervise parliamentarian laws, feel it incumbent upon ourselves to prevent the establishment of norms that can contribute to the deterioration of people’s rights.

Sadly, however, today’s images and news coming out of India show the scale of violence used against oppressed Muslims and denial of their very basic rights, including their right to life. This is while India has always been a key supporter of peace in the world and promoted peaceful coexistence of followers of different faiths and ideologies.

Moreover, India is best known for exercise of tolerance and invitation to peace and friendship among Buddhists and members of other religious minorities, particularly Muslims, issues stressed by the country’s independence icon Mahatma Gandhi in the diverse and multi-cultural India.

Undoubtedly, the Indian government will take the necessary measures to prevent a religious conflict from escalating. But what our colleagues in India as a friendly and brotherly country can do to end the ongoing protests as well as brutality against Muslims is to reconsider a controversial citizenship law that was ratified by the Parliament of India in December 2019.

It seems that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is discriminatory as it excludes Muslims from the fabric of Indian society by eliminating their rights to equality and citizenship, which runs contrary to basic human rights principles.

According to articles 1 and 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. …

Again, according to article 15 of the same document, “Everyone has the right to a nationality and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”.

Articles 2 and 26 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Government of India is a party, also emphasize that “all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law”.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution attaches importance to equality before law and equal protection of laws as well while Article 15 prohibits discrimination against citizens on the basis of religion and race.

Our respected colleagues in the Supreme Court of India are expected to use the legal methods and procedures enshrined in the Indian Constitution and pave the way for repeal of this discriminatory law against Muslims.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/14/620864/Muslims-Guardian-Council-Iran-India-Hadi-Tahan-Nazif

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Ending Religious Violence: How aggrieved imam, pastor brought peace to Plateau community, others

March 15, 2020

For the greater part of May 2, 2004, 40-year-old Amina Abubakar endured nine-month-old pregnancy pangs, what some call “false labour”.

It is the kind of cramp most pregnant women experience hours or shortly before the actual labour begins. So, counting her time and drawing from her past childbirth experience, Mrs Abubakar knew she could have her second baby that day and be free from the pains, thereafter.

Sure enough, her baby girl came out before night, but her body pain relief was overshadowed by even deeper grief because shortly after childbirth, her first child was killed.

“Some people just came and told me that my son had been killed,” she said, in a sorrow-filled tone, as though it all happened yesterday. “I cried and cried. It was the same day I delivered my daughter.”

Auwal Abubakar, her son, was murdered by a mob during a conflict between the two communities, Yelwa and Shendam, in central Nigeria’s Plateau State.

The ethno-religious conflict, which peaked after years of local political power struggle and protracted arguments over land rights, ended with many mass graves. One. Two. Three. As many as 16.

Yelwa town in southern Plateau is occupied by people of the Jarawa tribe who migrated to the area from northeast Nigeria’s Bauchi State more than 200 years ago. The town – with its majority Muslim population – is under the political control of Shendam Local Government Area, which is headquartered in Shendam town.

Shendam town plays host to several native ethnic groups, most of which are Christians. One of such groups is Goemai.

Goemai and Yelwa have lived harmoniously for over two centuries. Their relationship, however, got strained in 1996 after each laid strong claim to the ownership of Yelwa land.

While Goemai claims that the land belongs to them and that they benevolently gave it to the Jarawa people to settle in many years back when they migrated to the area, the Jarawa group claims that given their long stay on the land, they have become rightful owners with indigenous rights.

These claims and counterclaims further birthed arguments about whether or not the Jarawa people – tagged “settlers” and accused of being disrespectful to their hosts and the Long-Goemai (traditional paramount ruler for the entire Shendam Local Government Area) – should dominate local politics, which they were suspected of trying to achieve with their large population.

By the time the arguments turned violent, given the groups’ sharp Muslim-Christian religious divide, people were simply being identified by their religious affiliations and killed.

The fact that past government plus non-government efforts to settle the brawl failed as both towns maintained uncompromising positions and often resumed hostilities, made many fear that peaceful coexistence between them was elusive.

Surprisingly, however, for about 15 years, they have lived peacefully. And that was after they both signed a “peace affirmation” document, accepting to accommodate each other and to tackle future disagreements via dialogue.

For this, residents of both communities and former government officials have only one group to thank: The Interfaith Mediation Center (IMC).

Formerly known as Muslim-Christian Youth Dialogue Forum, IMC is a nonprofit based in northwest Nigeria’s Kaduna State. While it also works to build peace among warring communities (that might be fighting on non-faith-based reasons) in Nigeria and beyond, it primarily combines the instruments of dialogue and mediation with religious verses that support forgiveness and love to help religiously-divided groups reconcile, build trust, and peacefully coexist.

It also tries to embed in youth, the virtues of religious tolerance in a country where faith-based violence is almost commonplace and one in which the jihadist group, Boko Haram, has killed over 30,000 people since 2009.

It does this by regularly organising radio and television programmes and public events during which the dangers of religious violence and the need for peaceful co-existence are discussed. For the same purpose, it has also established “peace clubs” in about 42 colleges and universities with over 10,000 members across Nigeria.

Sixty-year-old Wuye is an Assemblies of God (AG) pastor in Kaduna. The son of a former soldier, Wuye Movel, who was conscripted into the Nigeria Army during the country’s civil war (1967-1970), he grew up in the central Kaduna town of Tudun Nupawa.

His journey towards spiritual leadership started when he was an adolescent, a time he stopped following his parents to the Baptist Church and started attending the Assemblies of God Church where he grew prominently. He eventually occupied relevant positions within the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body of Christian denominations in the country.

That included working as an assistant secretary of CAN in Kaduna and later as the head of a militia, formed by the youth wing of CAN – the Young Christian Association of Nigeria.

The militia was to defend Christians and churches against attacks during imagined future religious rifts between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna where faith-based violence has been responsible for the death of some 20,000 people since the 1980s.

During a 1992 Muslims-Christians conflict that started in the southern Kaduna town of Zango-Kataf and later spread to several other parts of the state and in which over 2,000 people were killed, Mr Wuye’s right hand was chopped off by Mr Ashafa’s (his co-founder at the IMC) boys while he was leading his militia to fight the Muslims.

Mr  Wuye became a pastor after obtaining three certificates in theology; a diploma from AG’s Northern Theological Seminary in Kaduna, an undergraduate degree from Vision University, based in the U.S. (via its Kaduna satellite campus) and a master’s degree from the West Africa Christian University.

His colleague, Mr Ashafa, is the spiritual administrator of the Ashafa Central Mosque in Kaduna. The 61-year-old was born into a conservative Muslim family in northern Kaduna’s city of Zaria.

Mr Ashafa’s dream, right from childhood, was to become an imam and to preserve the traditions of Islam, a desire that was mostly inspired by his father, Abdul-Yakeen Ashafa, a 90-year-old-plus imam.

He  spent most of his childhood and early adult life building his Islamic knowledge at a madrasa (a Quranic recitation school) attached to his father’s mosque. He later took a nine-month course in Arabic Studies at the International University of African in Sudan.

During  the Zango-Kataf conflict, he led a Muslim militia called the “Defense League” to fight Christians. His militia, which comprised young men drawn from the National Council of Muslim Youths Organization (NACOMYO), was founded in 1987 for the primary purpose of defending Muslims and Mosques against attacks during faith-motivated conflicts in Kaduna.

Like Mr Wuye, the 1992 religious crisis did not leave Ashafa without personal losses. His spiritual mentor, Ahmed Tijani, and his two cousins were killed by Mr Wuye’s boys.

The pair started the IMC several years after the conflict ended through military intervention. Thanks to a friend of theirs, Idris Musa, a 70-year-old former technical officer at the Kaduna State Media Corporation, who first urged them, in 1995, to let go of their pains and work for peace.

The admonition was one they initially found hard to accept, but, further encouragement both received from their respective spiritual superiors and religious organisations gave them more reasons to forgive each other and to create space for partnership towards peacebuilding.

Now co-executive directors on Christian and Muslim matters respectively at the IMC, they have been able to broker peace between several groups and communities in several Nigerian states, including in Plateau, Taraba, Benue, Bornu, and Kaduna.

They worked with the state government in Kaduna to achieve the Kaduna State Peace Declaration (2002) that saw Muslim and Christian leaders commit to promoting peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance.

Part of the declaration reads: “According to our faiths, killing innocent lives in the names of God is a desecration of His Holy Name, and defames religions in the World.

Hitherto warring communities in countries like Iraq, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Libya have also benefited from their peace-building efforts that have brought them support from several local and international organisations, including the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Christian Aid, Islamic Relief UK, British High Commission, UNDP, and the British Council.

The Yelwa-Shendam or Jarawa-Goemai conflict they were able to resolve remains one of their biggest achievements. When the IMC volunteered to deploy its conflict resolution and peacebuilding strategies to end the conflict, it was at the peak of it.

IMC’s strategy divided the mediation process into four parts. For several months, the organisation worked to identify the “faceless” human instigators of the conflict and the obvious causes – what they called “shuttle mediation”.

Next was intra-mediation where Christians at IMC, led by Mr Wuye, met with the Goemai people of Shendam at a neutral ground to discuss their grievances, while Mr Ashafa and his Muslim group did same with the Jarawa people of Yelwa.

The third part, called intermediation, saw both groups coming together to dialogue and to shift grounds where necessary.

The last phase, which was observed by local and international interests and media, was a 2005 occasion tagged “Peace Affirmation”. It included the public signing of a document in which both parties pledged to live peacefully and to use dialogue to resolve any future disagreements they may have.

For about 15 years running, both parties have kept their pledge, lending credence to IMC’s peacebuilding process that has earned the duo several local and international recognitions. These include three honorary doctorate degrees, two Nobel Peace Prize nominations, and multiple awards that include the Peacemaker in Action Award (2000), the Bremen Peace Award (2005), the Prize for Conflict Prevention (2009) and the Duetsche Africa-Preis (2013).

This pitiful situation is partly caused by regular religion-based destructions that – apart from the thousands of human casualties – have cost the country billions of dollars. This includes the activities of Boko Haram whose impact on agriculture has made Nigeria one of the top 10 countries facing food insecurity, according to a 2019 report by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Efforts like that of Messrs Wuye and Ashafa, therefore, do not only add to prevent and possibly end conflict among religious groups, they also help to secure an environment that is healthy for everyday economic and social activities that are necessary for growth and development.

The activities of the duo have motivated more people to get into voluntary and selfless conflict resolution roles as personal contributions to further achieve lasting peace among religious groups in Nigeria.

Back in Yelwa, though Mrs Abubakar often remembers the gruesome killing of her son with deep sadness, she, however, feels grateful that her family and community have known peace for 15 years without fears of attacks and reprisals as was the case before the Yelwa-Shendam Peace Affirmation.

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/investigationspecial-reports/381905-ending-religious-violence-how-aggrieved-imam-pastor-brought-peace-to-plateau-community-others.html

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National Solidarity Calls by Iranian Resistance Leaders to Combat Coronavirus and the Role of Mullahs’ Regime in Spreading the Virus

14 March 2020

The Resistance Units, and the youth supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK),distributed messages of Mr. Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance and Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the NCRI, in various cities calling for national solidarity to combat Coronavirus.

Some of the slogans were: "Velayat-e-Faqih virus is taking down the Iranian children, the response is in the Liberation Army", "To save the people’s lives, publicize information about Coronavirus," "to get your rights, one must raise up against the inhumane mullahs", "the bigger catastrophe is the mullahs' virus(rule) in Iran, the response is in the Liberation Army", "Iranian people do not want Coronavirus, neither do they want the mullahs", "hail to the doctors and nurses who have sacrificed their lives to care for their patients" , "Medical and preventive equipment and resources must be seized from the regime and returned to the people "

https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/ncri-statements/iran-protests/27557-national-solidarity-calls-by-iranian-resistance-leaders-to-combat-coronavirus-and-the-role-of-mullahs-regime-in-spreading-the-virus

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Papering Over the Fissures Inherent in the Afghan Reconciliation Process

March 15, 2020

By M Waqas Jan

In the wake of last month’s highly publicized peace agreement between the US and the Taliban, as well as the recently concluded Presidential elections, political turmoil in Afghanistan has once again taken center stage. While both these developments represent much welcomed progress of sorts in helping stabilize a fragile and war-torn country on the surface, there still however remain a whole host of underlying issues that have cast even greater uncertainty over the prospects of achieving lasting peace and stability. The kind of peace that would benefit not only the Afghan Nation, but the wider South Asian, Central Asian and Persian Gulf regions.

These issues include the finer points of the US’s agreements with the Taliban particularly regarding prisoner exchanges, as well as the highly public rifts within the Afghan state apparatus that have brought serious challenges to the legitimacy of its newly re-elected President and his accompanying cabinet. The kind of legitimacy which otherwise holds the key to presenting a united and credible negotiating team to represent the Afghan government in its dealings with the Taliban. Thus, taken together, these issues present dangerous obstacles which need to be overcome if the country’s nascent peace process is to stop from being derailed even before having properly begun.

For instance, the spectacle of two rival presidential inaugurations that were aired in split screen throughout Afghan news channels earlier this week represented the clear schism that exists within the country’s more mainstream politics. Fueled by yet another controversial presidential election result, this tussle for power between former president Ashraf Ghani and his long-time rival Abdullah Abdullah manifests the deep-rooted differences that have existed amongst Kabul’s ruling elites for almost two decades since the US toppled the Taliban. Hence, it is no surprise that both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah, despite their diverse support bases within the war-torn country, have repeatedly relied on the US as a key mediator and power broker within the Afghan political system.

These difficulties are in turn further indicative of the immense complexity associated with the many tasks assigned to the US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. Not only has Mr. Khalilzad been made responsible for bringing about an equitable peace deal between the US and the Taliban from a position of relative weakness, but also to reconcile the deep seeded political differences that have permeated through the Afghan democratic system, most of which are of the US’s own making. In fact, the very advent of a democratic Afghanistan since the creation of its 2004 constitution is of the US’s own making with all its so-called victories and failures.

The Afghanistan Papers that were released just a few months back have presented ample reasons for these outcomes. They have provided key insights into the unrealistic expectations and lack of appreciation on the US’s part for the extremely difficult task it had set out for itself in its ‘nation-building’ experiment. Attributed to a clear lack of goals and strategy, the US is estimated to have spent $133 billion just to have built up Afghanistan, with only rampant political instability and insecurity to show for it. What’s worse, the US (ironically along with Russia) has had to now condemn and downplay recent statements from boisterous Taliban representatives that they would soon be restoring the Islamic government that had existed before the US invasion in 2001. Hence, nullifying whatever achievements the US had to show for in terms of bringing an inclusive democracy backed by a capably enforced rule of law.

The initial catchphrases of ‘empowering’, ‘bringing freedom’ to, and ‘enabling political representation’ for the Afghan people were touted globally as huge successes. Built on the back of championing women’s rights and amidst promises of unfettered development and investment these presented as one of the many goals the US had achieved over the course of its campaign in Afghanistan . However, the succeeding lawlessness, rampant nepotism and corruption that has since plagued the Afghanistan has marred whatever political gains the US had to show for on the international stage over the last decade and half.

Rather, one of the very reasons why the Taliban have gained so much traction politically, and why they still enjoy a considerable support base amongst the local population, is primarily because of the rampant corruption and bureaucratic in-fighting that has since characterized the US backed Afghan government. It also stands as one of the primary reasons why the Taliban beyond its power as a militant force has still come to politically represent considerable swathes of the Afghan population. Thus, representing a reality which even Pakistan had been trying to get the US to realize ever since the US embarked on its hunt for Al-Qaeda in the Af-Pak theatre.

However, considering the haste and forced manner in which the US is going through with its current exit in Afghanistan, it seems there are still key lessons the US has once again ignored. Despite its attempts at fostering political reconciliation, empowering the Afghan military and police, as well as bringing about some semblance of modernity in what by US standards was an archaic country, the US is nowhere near achieving these ambitions for all its military and economic might. Instead what appear to be the primary factors driving Afghan reconciliation at the moment are the much-needed headlines and photo-ops required for an embattled president to win re-election. Not to mention the mounting domestic pressure to bring US troops back home from an unending quagmire that has seen the US sink limitless amounts of blood and treasure in. A glaring truth which no optics or spin doctoring has been able to convince the American public let alone the rest of the world.

https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/03/15/papering-over-the-fissures-inherent-in-the-afghan-reconciliation-process/

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No cremation for Mindanao’s first COVID-19 mortality; burial in accordance with Islamic rites but with some modifications

By FROILAN GALLARDO

MARCH 14, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 14 March) – There was no cremation for Mindanao’s first COVID-19 mortality,  a Muslim,  because it is “haram” (forbidden) under Islam so Patient No. 40, as tagged by the Department of Health (DOH), was buried according to Islamic rites but with some modifications.

Dr. Adriano Suba-an, DOH Northern Mindanoa Director, told a press briefing Saturday that they asked the family to do away with the traditional washing of the corpse.

Patient 40, a 54- year old male from Lanao del sur, died in a government hospital here on Friday evening, officials said.

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno (R) and Department of Health Region 10 director Dr. Adriano Suba-an (center) announce the death of Patient No. 40, the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Mindanao during a press conference on Saturday, March 14, 2020. With them is Dr. Jose Chan (L), head of the Northern Mindanao Medical Center where the patient died Friday evening. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Suba-an said Patient 40 succumbed Friday night to acute respiratory distress syndrome “due to severe pneumonia, with concomitant acute kidney injury” at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) here.

Suba-an said Patient 40’s family also agreed to do away with the traditional gathering of relatives and friends offering their collective prayers for the dead.

Suba-an said the patient’s remains were placed in a body bag for burial in a location preferred by the family within 24 hours in accordance with their religious practice.

Patient No. 40, a resident of  Lanao del Sur who moved to Metro Manila during the Marawi Siege in 2017 and who had just  recently returned, is the sixth person to have succumbed to  COVID-19  in the country.

Cagayan de Oro health personnel prepare a disinfectant solution for use on Saturday, March 14, 2020 during the city-wide disinfection in all places of worship, following the death of Patient No. 40, the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Mindanao. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Two more were reported to have died Saturday, March 14, bringing to eight the total number of dead out of 111 confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. on Saturday. A day earlier, the number of confirmed cases was only 64.

“We are sad that this happened to Patient No. 40. We pray that he would be the last person to die of this dreaded illness,” Mayor Oscar Moreno said.

Suba-an said the wife and daughter who took care of Patient No. 40 are already quarantined at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center.

Patient no. 40 was admitted at the Adventist Medical Center in Iligan City on March 3 and transferred to the NMMC on March 8.

Suba-an said the medical staff of the Adventist Medical Center who were in direct contact with the patient have been quarantined.

He said they have already identified some 100 persons who might have had close contact with Patient No. 40 from Manila to Iligan City.

“Even his seatmates in the plane that took him from Manila to Laguindingan have already been identified,” he said.

https://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2020/03/no-cremation-for-mindanaos-first-covid-19-mortality-burial-in-accordance-with-islamic-rites-but-with-some-modifications/

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Muslim leaders fear Christchurch-style attack could happen in UK

By Helen William

March 14 2020

They said the attacks – in which a gunman killed 51 people at two New Zealand mosques and posted the rampage live online a year ago – may have happened a long distance away, but it feels close to home.

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of north London’s Finsbury Park Mosque (FPM) – which suffered a terror attack in which a worshipper was killed in 2017, said: “As a community here in the UK, this might happen as well. We have had to take extra precautions in terms of security.

“On the same day (as Christchurch attacks), somebody called us and said `you will be next, what has happened to them, will happen to you’.

“This was shocking. We never imagined that during such a crisis, after more than 50 innocent people got killed, that somebody would tell us this.

“We have to take everything seriously in the current climate. Islamophobia is spreading and it is being tolerated.”

Darren Osborne was jailed for a minimum of 43 years for murdering one man and injuring others after deliberately targeting Muslims by using a van to mow down worshippers near FPM in 2017.

The FPM bolstered its security after the Christchurch attacks. Other mosques and community centres have done the same, but smaller organisations do not have the resources, experience or government assistance to deal with it, according to Mr Kozbar.

Asked if Britain feels like a less safe place to be a Muslim today than it did a year ago before the Christchurch killings or the Finsbury Park terror attack three years ago, Mr Kozbar said: “Yes, I have to say it is. It is frightening.  It is not only me who feels that way, it is actually across our community.

“It makes you feel like you are a second-class citizen and you are not treated as equal to anybody else. Such feelings are hurtful – especially to young people who are born and raised in this country.”

Mr Kozbar’s message for Christchurch’s grieving community is to be “strong, united and resilient” as they try to come to terms with what has happened.

He said: “I know how this can affect you for a long, long time. The Muslim community everywhere is a resilient community.

“Make sure you set an example to others in terms of being a good citizen for your country. Make sure that our young people understand what happened and try to explain to them that the only people who are responsible are perpetrators. The rest of the society is with you.

“I hope this never happens again,  so we need to engage more as a community with our wider society in a positive way and to explain what Islam is about.”

Shaykh Shams Ad-Duha Muhammad, of the British Board of Scholars and Imams, remembers a new feeling of being “vulnerable and like I could be in somebody’s cross hairs” when he went to pray after the Christchurch attacks.

Hosne Ahmed, a distant relative of his wife, was among the victims. She was shot as she ran back into the mosque to try to save her husband, Farid, – who uses a wheelchair. Mr Ahmed later said he forgives her killer and will pray for him.

On the prospect that a similar attack could happen in Britain, he added: “It is a horrible thing to say but I think it is a matter of expectation – it is only a matter of time.”

He described New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the tragedy as “rare” and “so genuine and compassionate that I think it moved everybody”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks with women during Friday prayers in Christchurch (John Kirk-Anderson/AP)

The deadliest types of semi-automatics are now banned, and gun owners turned in about 60,000 of their newly-outlawed weapons for money in a national buy-back.

Ms Ardern worked on trying to eliminate terror attacks from being shown online, after the gunman livestreamed the bloodshed.

Shaykh Shams said: “It is a powerful example of what a leader can do if they truly have that kind of concern and can display it.

Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 29, is due to stand trial in June on charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder.

A Home Office spokesman said: “All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable and the UK has a tough laws in place respond to it.

“The UK has some of the most robust legislation anywhere for tackling hate crime and through our Hate Crime Action Plan we have worked hard to encourage victims of hate crime to report incidents so that we can bring perpetrators who commit these crimes to justice.”

Work has been done with the police to try and reassure communities and approximately £1.5 million has been shared between various places of worship from different religions since 2016 to improve security.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/muslim-leaders-fear-christchurch-style-attack-could-happen-in-uk-39044933.html

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Trump tests negative for virus as US expands Europe traveller ban

March 15, 2020

US President Donald Trump has tested negative for the novel coronavirus, his physician said on Saturday, following concerns over his exposure to a disease that has paralyzed the globe.

Trump agreed to the test after coming in contact with several members of a Brazilian presidential delegation visiting his Florida resort who have since tested positive for the virus.

"This evening I received confirmation that the test is negative," the president's physician Sean Conley said in a memo.

"One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation at Mar-a-Lago, the President remains symptom-free," he said.

Trump, 73, had dismissed concerns over his exposure to the disease which has killed at least 51 Americans and upended the rhythm of daily life across the country, with millions working from home and schools shuttered.

New York, the most populous US city, saw its first coronavirus death on Saturday, as store shelves were stripped bare after days of panic buying.

"I have been through Hurricane Sandy [...] through 9/11, I have never seen shopping like this," said Larry Grossman, manager of a Manhattan supermarket.

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday announced a further restriction on travel to the United States, saying a travel ban imposed on European nations over the pandemic would be extended to the United Kingdom and Ireland Tuesday.

Trump advised against non-essential travel, and said officials were considering imposing travel restrictions within the United States.

"If you don't have to travel, I wouldn't do it," Trump said at a White House news conference. "We want this thing to end. We don't want a lot of people getting infected."

Trump declared a national emergency on Friday in what critics say was a long-delayed admission of the gravity of the crisis, freeing up some $40 billion in disaster relief funds.

Late Friday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill — crafted by Democrats in consultation with the Trump administration — to provide billions of dollars for free virus testing, emergency paid sick leave and family leave related to the epidemic.

Repeatedly attacked for sending out mixed signals on the health crisis, the president raised eyebrows on Friday when, contrary to medical advice, he was seen shaking hands as he gathered his coronavirus response team at the White House.

On Saturday, he blamed habit — "people put their hand out [...] you don't think about it" — but said it would have to change.

"Maybe people shouldn't be shaking hands for the long term," said Trump, a self-declared germophobe, "because it does transmit flu and other things".

Trump's virus test came after not only contact with the Brazilian delegation, but also US lawmakers and political leaders who have gone into self-quarantine over potential infection.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was on Saturday awaiting results of a virus test after she came down with flu-like symptoms.

On Saturday a 30-day US ban took effect on all travel from the EU's Schengen border-free zone, part of a global clampdown on travel to curtail the virus.

Pence said the ban — which notably excluded Britain and Ireland — would include both countries as of midnight EST on Monday.

Trump also aimed a new jab at the US Federal Reserve, saying he wanted it to be "much more proactive" in moving to protect Americans from the widespread economic dislocation caused by the pandemic.

But the president — wearing a navy blue USA cap — seemed otherwise subdued during Saturday's briefing, uncharacteristically offering praise to Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi said she was "proud" to have reached an agreement on the relief package after days of tense talks with the White House.

Trump also tweeted that he had a "nice conversation" with Canadian leader Justin Trudeau and that it was "great to hear that his wonderful wife Sophie is doing very well". Trudeau has been telegoverning since his wife was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1541060/trump-tests-negative-for-virus-as-us-expands-europe-traveller-ban

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Arab world

 

Head Of Syrian Regime Postpones Legislative Elections And “Scientific Jurisprudence Council” Suspends Public Prayers In Mosques

14/03/2020

Head of the Syrian regime issued today a legislative decree No. 86 for 2020 postponing the elections of members of the People’s Council (parliament) for the third legislative round, as part of the precautionary measures taken by the state to fight the coronavirus, according to the new legislative decree.

On the other hand, the Scientific Jurisprudential Council of Syria’s Ministry of Endowments and the Union of Levant Scholars issued a formal “fatwa”, suspending Friday prayers, sermons and prayers in groups in Syrian mosques, while allowing only calls to prayers five times a day, the ministry said.

Several medical sources in Damascus, Homs, Latakia and Tartus have confirmed to SOHR that 113 cases have been quarantined in order to prevent the possible spread of the infection to others, 35 of which have been discharged from the quarantine after testing negative, while 78 are still under quarantine.

On the other hand, very reliable SOHR sources confirmed that (COVID-19) spread among Iranian-backed militias in Al-Mayadin city, east of Deir Ezzor. Six Iranians and two Iraqis showed symptoms of the virus and were placed into quarantine in the Iranian hospital of Al-Zahraa in Al-Mayadin city. The eight cases tested positive to the disease after samples had been sent to the capital Damascus.

Yesterday, Regime’s Ministry of Education issued a statement suspending classes in public and private schools from Saturday, March 14, 2020 until Thursday, April 2, 2020.

The statement stressed that: “For the safety and health of students, and since there are large numbers of students in small classrooms, and as it is more difficult for children to follow preventive methods and safety measures, schools will be closed  to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

However, the Syrian regime is still denying the fact that the virus is spreading and originating from the Iranian militias entering Syria.

On March 10, several medical sources in regime-controlled areas have confirmed to SOHR that the virus (COVID-19) known as the coronavirus has spread mainly in the governorates of Damascus, Tartus, Latakia and Homs.

Many coronavirus cases have been recorded, some of whom have died and some others have been quarantined.

The Syrian Observatory contacted doctors at several hospitals in those provinces. The doctors confirmed that they were given strict orders from the authorities of the Syrian regime to remain silent and refrain from talking about the outbreak of the coronavirus.

A large number of Iranians coming in and out of Syria to visit religious sites, as well as the Iranian forces which have already deployed there and entered Syria with their families.

Iran has recorded thousands of coronavirus cases, with dozens of people dead. The Syrian regime suspended flights yesterday to and from Iran and Iraq.

http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=157103&__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=4b1d5bc123fe44d2f9c9d7999d826a39dd51e5e9-1584255062-0-AVstMIYJfEqIzyVGlCxfbAtTP3EQUd5dn3HRw_ZDZSzXEa-67Y4Ht4oCK9bRFgrTqiEX1sa6z3ZaatD43_PH8PYVvLwa8S5S_0luPQqD-jte0dvGHUHweiqVVwKtqFqn0ViEDPdOAEpHgTJKi4LMB5GmrZUDaCMEBq-0SOH1oXx7NryHaTrF-v_2iXA-cPDwVbQO6gy4mbOEbAlh5RQd670lF0S9pba9WqWtxUdb5mmN-5KQotK_DiVvceJnkeXm1S0z0Wf912XAd_vEDgv5WtOuN4CiH5C8Po4Ufa_GArhE

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Imams called upon to not prolong reading in Oman mosques

March 15, 2020

Muscat: The Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA) has asked imams of mosques to not prolong reading during prayers and directed their attention towards cleaning mosques and their facilities.

In its statement on the preventive measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the ministry said: "The ministry decides to implement the following: postponing religious activities and activities of a collective nature for a month starting from Sunday."

The ministry also directed the imams and preachers to urge people to avoid handshakes and hugging.

"Directing mosque agents and their supervisors to take great care of the cleanliness of mosques and its facilities and take preventive measures based on instructions issued by the competent authorities," the ministry added.

https://timesofoman.com/article/2912637/Oman/Government/Imams-called-upon-to-not-prolong-reading-in-Oman-mosques

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Coronavirus in UAE: Sheikh Zayed Mosque closed from Sunday

March 14, 2020

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque will be closed for worshippers and visitors from Sunday as part of precautionary measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (SZGMC) on Saturday announced that the mosque will be temporarily closed for prayers and visits from March 15, 2020 to carry out the disinfection operation of the mosque and its facilities to ensure the well-being and safety of Emiratis, residents and visitors.

"This comes within the preventive efforts and measures taken by public institutions across the UAE to counter coronavirus," the SZGMC said on Instagram.

With the growing concern over the spread of Covid-19, authorities in UAE have taken precautionary measures including closure of schools, public parks, public swimming pools and cancelling of all major events across the country.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism on Friday announced that nightclubs and tourist restaurants in Abu Dhabi will be shut-down with immediate effect until the end of March to restrict further cases of coronavirus.

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/coronavirus-outbreak/coronavirus-in-uae-sheikh-zayed-mosque-closed-from-sunday

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New Zealand

 

Bikies and a Muslim Imam share a powerful traditional embrace as they come together to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch mosque shootings

15 March 2020

Motorcycle club members and the Iman of the Al Noor Mosque have embraced with a traditional Maori greeting to mark the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch mosque shootings

Members of the Tu Tangata Riders Iwi Tapu group turned up to support the Christchurch Muslim Community who were marking one-year since the devastating attacks in March 2019, in which 51 people were killed.

One photograph shows the Mosque's Imam Gamal Fouda performing a hongi – a traditional Maori greeting in which people embrace and touch noses – with members of the group.

Members of the group, whose Maori name translates as 'stand tall, stand proud holy tribe' also 'hongied' other mosque members before they assembled to perform a haka.

According to its Facebook page the Tu Tangata Riders are 'a motorcycle group that rides with a positive purpose'.

The group is active in organizing events by the group, Man Up, a non-government funded free 15 week program that 'helps identify, expose, and understand core root issues of why men experience dysfunctions'.

The South Island Man Up was established in Timaru, New Zealand in July 2018 and is based on a programme by Destiny Church, which is led by controversial pastor, Brian Tamaki. 

The group has helped many former members of feared gangs such as the Mongrel Mob, and Black Power, in dealing with issues including crime, violence, drugs, alcohol and depression.

'Heal the man - Heal the family. Heal the family - Heal the community. Heal the community - Heal the city. Heal the city - Heal the nation,' he said in the New Zealand Herald.

A large commemoration event to be held on Sunday at Christchurch's Horncastle Arena was earlier cancelled due to new restrictions in place because of the coronavirus.

At a news conference on Friday, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country and its people 'have fundamentally changed' since the attacks.

Ardern also said: 'The challenge for us will be ensuring in our everyday actions, and every opportunity where we see bullying, harassment, racism, discrimination, calling it out as a nation.'

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8113463/Bikie-gang-members-Muslim-Imam-share-powerful-traditional-embrace-mark-Christchurch-attack.html

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Kilbirnie Mosque cancels open day at last minute, one year on from Christchurch terror attacks

15-03-2020

Imam Tahir Nawaz said the community were planning for the event to start after morning prayers today, with preparation taking place late into the evening last night.

He said the Christchurch shootings are still feel very fresh for the community and they are still hurting.

Mr Nawaz welcomed action taken by the Government in the last year to prevent the spread of hate but said more still needs to be done to tackle extremist groups and racism in New Zealand.

People are arriving at the mosque this morning, despite the event being cancelled, to view a photo exhibition focused on the Muslim community and to offer their respects and leave flowers.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/kilbirnie-mosque-cancels-open-day-last-minute-one-year-christchurch-terror-attacks

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Christchurch mosque attacks: 'We were all impacted by the ripples'

10:22 am today

By Saziah Bashir

All of us can place ourselves at some point of that formerly serene surface in terms of how deeply we felt the disruption.

Except that feels reductive of the enormity of what happened, and maybe the analogy I'm looking for is instead one of a giant sinkhole opening up in the ground.

Because 15 March cannot be viewed as a mere disruption, but a rupture in the very fabric of what I believe life in New Zealand is meant to be.

When the news broke, I abandoned the conference I was attending in Canberra and sat in the hotel lobby, teary and frantically trying to call my family. Once I knew they were safe, the panic turned into a sort of muted horror.

By the time we got to the airport that evening, I was already being contacted for comment by various media outlets. I started writing my first piece on the plane in a desperate attempt to get out of my own head and channel my feelings into something tangible.

When I landed back in Melbourne I went straight to a friend's house where several Kiwis had gathered. A home normally full of chatter and raucous laughter, it was quiet, the mood sombre.

I didn't know what that would achieve but in that moment I just missed my family, and I missed home. My friends urged me not to change my plans because then "he" wins, "they" win.

The week I spent in Bali was surreal. My friend had expected a travel companion to share in her enthusiasm for Balinese food and massages.

I just felt angry (at racism, bigotry), guilty (that it wasn't me, I survived, my family survived, we were lucky!), sad, devastated, raw, too much, all at once. I had never felt anything like this before.

Because this wasn't unavoidable destruction from a natural disaster, but a vicious act that should never have happened.

My parents visited me in Melbourne over Easter and I was hypervigilant whenever they were on public transport, worried someone would rip off my mum's hijab.

It's never happened before, but anything could happen now, right? Even Nazis are a thing again. I went back to Auckland for the last week of Ramadan and Eid in May.

The 27th night of Ramadan is especially auspicious and there are special prayers at the mosque which we attend together as a family. I was shocked to find police patrolling our local mosque in Massey as added security. This was the new normal?

I found myself thinking that night that if a shooter was to show up in that packed mosque there would be no way out, but at least then I would die with my family.

This was not a possibility I had ever imagined grappling with in New Zealand, but here we were. We'd crossed a threshold and there was no going back.

When my parents travelled to the United States in August I was a worried wreck. I imagined losing them to some Trumpian black site for Muslims. I was the paranoid parent now, checking on them daily.

I look back and it makes sense that my normally well managed anxiety peaked, dissolving into frequent panic attacks by October. It's taken regular therapy and an obscene amount of yoga for me to get back to myself (somewhat) in the last few months.

And I wasn't even there, in Christchurch, on the day. I wasn't hurt, I haven't lost anyone personally. But New Zealand being as small as it is, we were all impacted by the ripples.

My brother, Mukseet, felt a heightened sense of responsibility to speak on his previous experiences of racism and Islamophobia, but also fatigued at being approached about this repeatedly when all he wanted to do was process and grieve in solidarity.

For him, the aftermath of 15 March really highlighted the dearth of diverse voices and representation in local mainstream media. I second this, given the number of requests I received myself.

My friend Zainab Al-Alawi grew up in the Muslim community in Christchurch where she attended Quran lessons as a child at the Al Noor Mosque most weekends.

Her stepfather still attends Friday prayers there. On 15 March he was still parking when the attack started, thus managed to escape.

She lost a number of family friends. Her sister died in December from unrelated causes and is buried with the victims of the attacks. That grave site in Christchurch will now forever be a part of Zainab's life.

Previously Zainab disregarded the "but where are you really from?" question all too familiar to anyone who claims to be a New Zealander but does not look a certain way as stemming from a sort of benign ignorance about the distinction between ethnicity and nationality.

She now worries the same train of thought that leads to that question can also lead to far more dangerous places.

My friend Kershia Singh was on a bus in Auckland when she heard the news, and describes herself feeling "more brown and exposed" than she had in a long time. She identifies as a migrant Kiwi of South African-Indian heritage.

In the immediate aftermath a rift developed between herself and her European partner when she realized he could choose to disengage from the events of that day when she, with her lifetime's collection of racist encounters, microaggressions, fears and fraught South African history, could not.

It was as if the burden of that collection weighed her down further in grief, and the attack was not only on Muslims but on migrants, brown people and minorities in general.

This comment reminded me that the first victim of an Islamophobic hate crime in the United States post 9/11 was a bearded Sikh man who wore a turban.

Kershia also described feeling shame, questioning if she'd done enough to challenge Islamophobia in her own life from her position of relative privilege, not being Muslim herself. Many of my Pakeha friends echoed this concern.

Over the past year Kershia and her partner have had to do the work of interrogating the role race plays in how they navigate the world.

For her personally, it's highlighted a need to explore the South African-Indian aspects of her heritage in a way she never felt so keenly while growing up on the North Shore, busy assimilating into her new home.

Though I've had many conversations like this with other friends demonstrating the various complexities of reactions to 15 March, there was one sentiment we all shared - we were not surprised.

If you were surprised that this could have happened, you have not been paying attention to the world around you.

However, in relation to this attack, I feel compelled to distinguish the particular flavour of Islamophobia from your bog standard racism and xenophobia, though they are all rotten fruit of the same tree.

The genocide of the Rohingya in Burma, the recent violence in India and the detention of the Uighur in China, are all specifically targeted at Muslim minorities.

I've had Indian-Kiwi friends explain the battles on social media with their non-Muslim Indian relatives propagating Islamophobic rhetoric due to their support of the Hindu nationalist BJP.

I am told many unfriendings happened post 15 March because of opposition to the call to prayer playing over the radio or the absurd fears of the infiltration of "Sharia law" in New Zealand.

I would not want the particular politics associated with Islamophobia to be erased or subsumed into a generic conversation about race because that would be unproductive and ineffective.

But I believe talking about this, in real terms, of how it felt and the way it's changed us, is vital. The government must respond at a macro level, but we feel this in our chests, in our guts.

How else do we make sense of this? An act of violence so monstrous it took away 51 people, full and complex human beings, with their own hurts and hopes and dreams, at a time when they were gathering to submit themselves in peaceful worship, one Friday afternoon that shouldn't have ended the way it did.

I don't know what role I have to play in the aftermath of 15 March except to continue doing what I have always done, which is speak my truth and tell my story, and the stories of those I love.

This is why I have not attempted to speak for the survivors and victims, though my heart is with them. Instead I hope true allies and the media will offer their platforms to amplify the voices of the survivors and the loved ones of those who were lost.

For the first anniversary of the attacks I've opted to commiserate in the only way I know how - with community and kai.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/411773/christchurch-mosque-attacks-we-were-all-impacted-by-the-ripples

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Christchurch mosque shooting footage still on Facebook, one year on

15 Mar 2020

A year on from the Christchurch mosque shootings, raw footage from the alleged gunman's video is still appearing on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram.

Eric Feinberg, vice president of the Content Moderation Coalition, has been consistently finding copies of the gunman's clip since the March 15 tragedy last year.

Before he talked to the Herald earlier week (see video above), he was able to locate 14 copies of the clip across Facebook and Instagram.

The New York-based hate content researcher says he has been able to find copies of the clip that have escaped Facebook's filters, in part, because he has run searches for related terms in multiple languages, and used machine-learning tools that have allowed him to locate edits, including those that are cleverly disguised. In one instance, he found four sections of the gunman's video woven into a mock video game.

He has also partial copies of the clip embedded within news reports, which he concedes is a "grey area" in the US - although it's not in New Zealand, where the Chief Censor rated the footage objectionable, meaning it is illegal to view or share (and not just in the abstract.

As the first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque shootings approached, Chris Keall talked to New York-based hate-content researcher and Vice President of the Content Moderation Coalition Eric Feinberg.

In June last year, Christchurch man Philip Neville Arps was sentenced to 21 months for sharing the clip. He was released on January 29 , with a GPS tracker and condition he did not go near the two mosques.)

Facebook says it has beefed up its human and artificial intelligence filters since the Christchurch shootings, and taken steps such as multi-language searches and "listening" for gunshot-like audio (Facebook's policy director for counter-terrorism told US Congress members that its algorithm did not detect the massacre livestream because there was "not enough gore".)

"The argument, always hear this that 'because of the systems, we're able to catch perpetrators.' No, you're creating the perpetrators," the researcher says.

"Look what happened in Christchurch. [The gunman] had an agenda. It was premeditated that he was going to go in and do what he did. And because the system existed, he was allowed to broadcast this to the world."

In Feinberg's opinion, there is still too much hate-content on Facebook. He considers the social network leans too heavily on free-speech arguments.

Last week, Martin Cocker - head of NetSafe, the approved government agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, struck a similar note, saying: "There has been good progress against violent content on Facebook and other platforms, but there hasn't been a heck of a hot of progress against hate pages that can ignite it."

And Islamic community leader Aliya Danzeisen said although Facebook had made some progress, she felt it still fell on Muslim members of the social network to report hate content.

"I'd like to sit down with Mark Zuckerberg," she said. " I just don't think he realises what the impact is on the average Muslim kid - or adult - of the sustained abuse," she said.

Facebook has declined to follow the Google-owned YouTube's lead in switching-off livestreaming for most users post-Christchurch.

Facebook ANZ policy director Garlick said: "Since March 15, we've made significant changes and investments to advance our proactive detection technology, grow our teams working on safety, and respond even quicker to acts of violence.

"No single solution can prevent hate and violent extremism, but the meaningful progress on the commitments made to the Christchurch Call are delivering real action in New Zealand and internationally."

Facebook had now banned more than 200 white supremacist organisations from its platform, Garlick said.

"When someone searches for something related to hate and extremism in the US – we point them to resources that help people leave behind hate groups.

"Last year, we expanded this to Australia in partnership with Exit Australia, an organisation focused on helping to redirect people away from hate and radicalisation."

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Christchurch attack, one year on: 'We are stronger and more united' - Cashmere head boy

8 hours ago

A vigil was held by school students in Hagley Park on Friday night to honour the 51 people killed during the March 15 mosque attacks.

Cashmere High School head boy Cameron Hudson says it's important for people to talk about that horrific day. Two of the school's students were among those killed in the attack, while a third was injured.

"Of course there's the initial grief and shock but from that - we are stronger and more united as students," Hudson told Newshub.

"We had a great range of different schools who showed up and that's what it's all about for us - the people who do want to come together."

"I think it speaks to a general message of mental health and that we need to be checking up on our friends - checking up on our whānau."

"The blood was splashing on me - and I'm thinking 'oh my god, oh my god'," a man inside one of the mosques told Newshub in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.

"I had New Zealanders telling me that they had visited a mosque for the first time," she told reporters in Christchurch on Friday.

Sunday's planned memorial events, including a National Remembrance Service in Christchurch, have been cancelled because of fears of the coronavirus.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/03/christchurch-attack-one-year-on-we-are-stronger-and-more-united-cashmere-head-boy.html

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Cancelled open day fails to prevent people from paying respects at Wellington mosque

Mar 15 2020

A cancelled open day failed to keep people from paying their respects at a Wellington mosque a year on from the Christchurch terror attacks.

International Muslim Association of New Zealand president Tahir Nawaz said about 400 people turned up at the mosque between 9.30am and 4pm, despite the late cancellation.

The open day was planned at Kilbirnie Mosque on Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of the attacks on two Christchurch mosques on March 15 last year.

Imam Nizamul Haq Thanui stands in the prayer room at Kilbirnie Mosque on the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch terror attacks.

Hundreds turned up to pay their respects at the mosque despite a planned open day being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds turned up to pay their respects at the mosque despite a planned open day being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"People were still coming in non-stop. We really realise their hearts are still open, and they still have a lot of love for us. You can't measure it. It's a very special thing."

There was a lot of disappointment the open day had to be cancelled but the mosque hoped to hold it again at a later date.

A member of the Friends of Kilbirnie Mosque group, set up following the attacks, created a poem for the occasion made up of messages from the group's members.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington/120294593/cancelled-open-day-fails-to-prevent-people-from-paying-respects-at-wellington-mosque

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Shot 9 times during mosque massacre, survivor overcomes fear

Mar 14, 2020

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — When the gunman walked into the Al Noor mosque, Temel Atacocugu was kneeling for Friday prayers. He looked up into the man’s face, thinking he was a police officer because of his paramilitary outfit. Time slowed. Atacocugu saw a puff of smoke come from the raised gun, felt a bullet smash into his teeth, and thought, “Oh, my God, I'm dying.”

But despite being shot nine times, Atacocugu survived the attack at Al Noor, one of two mosques in the city of Christchurch that were attacked on March 15 last year, in New Zealand's deadliest modern-day mass shooting.

On Sunday, New Zealand will commemorate the 51 people who were killed in the attacks. Atacocugu, 45, is slowly overcoming his own physical and psychological injuries from that day. And he’s even found himself ready to face a childhood fear: sharks.

On the day of the attacks, Atacocugu was in a buoyant mood when he walked into the mosque. An active man who loves soccer, fishing and running, he’d just finished his last acupuncture session for a sports injury and was feeling in great shape.

Growing up in Turkey, he’d been through compulsory military training, so he quickly realized what was happening. Medical staff would later tell him he was incredibly fortunate that the bullet, which struck his upper jaw, deflected downward rather than continuing into his brain or an artery.

Atacocugu says that after that first shot to his mouth, he leapt up in shock and was shot four more times in both legs. People were screaming. Another worshipper rushed at the gunman and was killed, but it gave Atacocugu a couple of seconds to react, and to run as best he could.

There was no obvious way out, so he laid down motionless on the floor. He was later shot four more times in his left arm and leg as the gunman fired indiscriminately into the piles of bodies.

Atacocugu spent a month in a hospital and underwent four operations that included bone and skin grafts. He’ll need at least three more surgeries in the months to come.

“The biggest change after the attack was that I can’t be free the same as before,” Atacocugu says. “Because very limited moving around. And I was feeling like a little baby, because somebody has to look after me all the time.”

Yet his physical recovery a year later is remarkable. The wheelchair and cane are gone. His left arm remains weakened, but when he walks down the street or plays with his Labradoodle dog, Max, Atacocugu’s limp is barely noticeable.

A few weeks ago, he started playing soccer again with a group of his friends, joking that these days he’s being outrun by fit men in their 70s. In one game, he showed off his skills by tackling, spot kicking and back-heeling a pass.

Atacocugu's mental recovery is taking longer. He’s been seeing a psychologist who’s helping him work through the images and flashbacks that still haunt him.

Atacocugu has experienced bouts of depression and has been taking antidepressants since the shooting. He figures he’ll need to keep taking the medication for at least another year. He’s found that his memory and ability to concentrate have also been affected.

He says he doesn’t want to keep working at the kebab shop he ran with a business partner at the time of the attack and is now trying to sell his stake. He’s helped out at the shop a couple of times since the shooting but has found himself nervous around strangers, not wanting to explain.

Atacocugu says he’s thinking instead of turning back to his skills as a painter and decorator. It’s more peaceful, he says, working alongside a trusted crew with only a single customer to deal with at any one time. He’s also recently put in an offer to buy a new home in Christchurch, which he hopes will help him make a fresh start.

Atacocugu moved to the South Pacific country after meeting a New Zealand woman in Turkey and marrying her in 2001. They thought Christchurch would be a good place to raise their children, in an environment that seemed friendly and safe. The couple separated in 2016 and Atacocugu stayed in Christchurch to be near his two teenage sons.

He plans to attend the trial of the 29-year-old Australian white supremacist who is accused of carrying out last year's massacre. Brenton Tarrant has pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder, and his trial is scheduled to start in June. If found guilty, he faces life imprisonment.

Atacocugu says the way that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and people throughout the country came together in unity after the shooting shows the gunman has already failed in his quest to sow division. Hate, he says, has lost and love has won.

“As a human, yes, I'm so angry,” Atacocugu says. “But also, deep of my heart, my religion makes me calm down and be patient. So I know the New Zealand law system is going to punish this man, this terrorist, as much, as high as can be possible, under the law.”

Over the past year, Atacocugu has found moments of peace during two overseas trips. One was to Turkey, where he spent time with his mother and other family members and friends. The other was a trip to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, the annual pilgrimage that most Muslims are required to perform during their lifetime. Atacocugu was among 200 survivors and relatives from the Christchurch attacks who traveled to Saudi Arabia as guests of King Salman.

“Pretty much my whole life is upside down and changed,” Atacocugu says. “But spiritually, in a religious way, I'm much stronger than I used to be.”

That newfound strength has filtered through into other aspects of his life. Atacocugu recalls watching the “Jaws” movies when he was a boy, an experience that for months left him terrified of swimming.

Years later, he drew up a list of new things to experience during his life, including diving with sharks. Still, he could never quite get over that childhood fear.

A couple of months ago, he drove to the southern end of New Zealand and, on a picture-perfect day, went on a tour boat and was submerged in a protective metal cage among great white sharks that swam within a body length of him. The experience left him exhilarated.

https://www.aspendailynews.com/associated_press/shot-times-during-mosque-massacre-survivor-overcomes-fear/article_098ee0c5-38fc-5756-bba3-af98dd8f325b.html

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Hate-motivated crime data collection being strengthened as Muslim leaders demand action

15/03/2020

Jamie Ensor

We record where a traffic accident occurs. We record the number of burglaries reported by victims. We record how many drivers zoom through red traffic lights.

Trends in that data highlight how initiatives and campaigns are, and are not, working. With that information, schemes can be evidence-based, appropriate targets can be set, and money isn't necessarily thrown into the dark.

But there's a hole in our legislation that restricts the collection of information about hate crimes. It's something Muslim organisations and figures across New Zealand want fixed.

What people may commonly refer to as 'hate crimes' are offences motivated by hostility towards an individual or group's race, gender, sexuality, religion, age or disability.

This hostility is an 'aggravating factor' noted down and considered by police when investigating a crime or by a judge when sentencing an offender.

But hate crime is not an offence in and of itself in New Zealand, unlike in some other countries. That means it's not recorded by police as a specific offence type, limiting the data available.

"The absence of systematically collected data and information on hate-motivated crime in New Zealand makes it difficult to have an informed discussion about its prevalence and design effective measures to counter them," Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt told Newshub.

Hunt is one of many who have been vocal for years about the need for such information. In 2007, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said New Zealand should collect data on "complaints, prosecutions and sentences" for racially motivated crimes.

The demand for information about hate-motivated crimes increased following the March 15 shootings, with many in the Muslim community concerned authorities didn't properly comprehend how prevalent discrimination against minorities was. Some, on the other hand, wanted to ensure New Zealand's issue with hate crime wasn't inflated.

"It is about getting the data of what is happening, where it is happening, what places, what time of the day and feeding that into either the police's own prevention programmes or going out to other departments and having a more whole of the Government approach," said Anjum Rahman, co-founder of the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand.

There is work underway to strengthen police's systems, which already allow for some detail about hostility to be recorded.

A police spokesperson told Newshub that where "staff believe a crime is motivated by hostility, they have the ability to note this in police information systems".

"Work continues within police to improve our systems and processes to allow timely access to data for these types of offences/incidents."

Police Minister Stuart Nash reiterated that police take hate crime seriously and aggravating factors can be flagged.

Following the massacre, Justice Minister Andrew Little ordered a review of New Zealand's hate crime legislation. It was suggested by some that hate crime could become a separate offence.

Currently, the Human Rights Act only penalises inciting racial disharmony against a group of people - a policy scrutinised by Little when he wrote in April: "Is it right that we have sanctions against incitement of disharmony on racial grounds but not, for example, on grounds of religious faith?"

A year on, real changes are yet to be made, but Little has told Newshub he received advice in December on issues concerning the Human Rights Act, which he's now considering.

Dr Mustafa Farouk, the President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, strongly believes that by collecting the data, public agencies can identify how normal hate-motivated crimes are. From there, patterns can emerge over years, showing the Government, as well as not-for-profit organisations and community groups, how their work fighting discrimination is progressing and what particular groups are most at risk.

"Just like we have traffic incidents, we have other types of incidents, assaults, crime. Hate-related crimes should also be included," he told Newshub.

After working with officials before and after the shootings, Dr Farouk believes there is support for specific hate crime data collection within the police force.

"They themselves would have loved to have records of what is happening, but I think there is no way they could have done it because it wasn't part of the law," he said.

"I think it is very important that [that] record of racism and other forms of hate-related crimes are kept. Not only racism, but also offences against faith groups.

"It is easy for somebody to say that actions were against someone because they were different colours or because that person came from this place, but when it comes to religion the law isn't as strong."

The data wouldn't just highlight the effectiveness of current measures, including in education and policing, but it could drive new actions, Rahman says.

"The one thing that is holding us back in this area is the fact that if police make it easier to report and record, and people will start recording more about incidents that they otherwise wouldn't have reported, it looks like crime is soaring," she told Newshub.

"Then it becomes a political football and the police get hammered because they are not dealing with crime when actually they are dealing with it a lot better by making it easier for people to report and then making it something they can respond to.

"Effective measures are pushed back because if people are reporting more, crime has risen when it hasn't."

New Zealand acting Race Relations Commissioner Professor Paul Hunt says the government needs to act regarding hate speech.

Although a full set of specific data about hate crimes isn't collected by authorities, limited by the lack of a specific offence, some agencies and groups are making an attempt to gather as much information as possible.

The Ministry of Justice's New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey of about 8000 people found last year that 20 percent of all incidents were perceived to happen because of an offender's attitude towards the victims' race, sex, age, sexuality, religion or disability. More than one-third of violent interpersonal offences and about 80 percent of sexual offences were perceived as driven by discrimination.

The Foundation Against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR) is one group attempting to get specific information about hate-motivated incidents. It officially launched a register in November which allows victims and witnesses of these alleged crimes to share information about the incidents. So far, it has received records about 15 so-called hate crimes, ranging from online abuse to verbal threats to an alleged physical assault.

Azad Khan from FAIR says there is a whole raft of different types of incidents being reported.

"Not necessarily islamophobic in nature, some are islamophobic, some are racist in nature, some are anti-Semitic in nature," he told Newshub.

The majority of the recorded incidents relate to Muslims, Khan says, and almost all haven't been taken to the police as the complainants are concerned their reports won't be taken seriously or they have a lack of confidence in police.

Police told Newshub it does take hate crime seriously and would "encourage all members of our communities to be alert to, and report, all instances of hate, bias or prejudice to Police on 105."

Khan hopes FAIR can collaborate with police on the register but recognises the vagueness of the law around hate crime makes this difficult to do in an official sense.

There's also the Human Rights Commission (HRC), which provides a resolution service between people or groups after someone complains of unlawful discrimination.

While it's important to note the complaints only reflect instances where people have proactively reported alleged unlawful discrimination to the HRC, the grounds the complaints are made on provide some insight into the prevalence of perceived discrimination in New Zealand.

In 2019, the Commission received 1257 complaints, down from 1563 in 2018. Many of those complaints may allege unlawful discrimination on multiple grounds.

Figures provided to Newshub show 363 complaints were made on the grounds of disability, followed by 230 on the grounds of race, and 180 on the grounds of ethnic or national origins. Fifty-one were due to colour, 66 were due to racial disharmony, 64 due to alleged racial harassment, and 62 due to religious belief.

Specific instances of race and religion hate crime in New Zealand were highlighted in a Human Rights Commission report last year.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/03/hate-motivated-crime-data-collection-being-strengthened-as-muslim-leaders-demand-action.html

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India

 

In Bangladesh, Protest Against PM Modi On Hold, Only Until He Pays A Visit

15 March 2020

Pranay Sharma

The anti-Indian protests planned during Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka has now been put on hold in view of the former's deferred trip to Bangladesh. But his Bangladeshi detractors claim they will be out in the streets in numbers whenever the Indian prime minister touches down in their country.

“Our protests have been held back, they have not been called off,” says Kafi Ratan, member of the Bangladesh Communist Party’s presidium. “We will take to the streets in large numbers to protest whenever he comes to Dhaka,” he adds.

The communists, the Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam and sections of students had held a series of protests in Dhaka and other Bangladeshi cities this month to express displeasure with the BJP-led government in India in the wake of the Delhi riots.

They had plans of holding a series of protests next week but decided to hold them back since the Indian Prime Minister’s scheduled two-day visit to Dhaka from March 17 had been deferred because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Modi was to participate in Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s centennial and hold bilateral meetings with his host, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. A fresh date for his visit to Dhaka will be announced later at the convenience of both leaders.

During his 2015 visit to Dhaka, the Indian Prime Minister was given a very warm welcome. He and Sheikh Hasina have met several times in the intervening period and both enjoy an extremely warm and cordial relations.

Despite the claim of the communist party members to come out in numbers to protest against Modi, it is highly unlikely that the Sheikh Hasina government will allow street agitations during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit. The protests held in Dhaka in the wake of the Delhi riot do not necessarily mean they could have been held at a time when Modi was in Bangladesh.

Since the main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had also distanced itself from holding any such demosntration during Modi’s visit to Dhaka, therefore, even if some sections were keen to hold such protests, they would have been easily marginalised by the Hasina government.

But resentment and frustration had been rising against India in sections in Bangladesh. They stemmed mainly from pending issues like sharing water of the Teesta and other rivers that run between the two countries, the border killings as well as frequent reports of attacks on Muslims in India. The recent Delhi riot was perhaps the tipping point for a number of street demonstrations against India in Bangladesh.

But the main grouse against Delhi seems to be over Bangladesh being the target of attack in the ruling party BJP’s political rhetoric.

“The atmosphere for India is not very conducive in the Bangladeshi society,” says Saheb Enam Khan, a professor of international relations at the Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka referring to the widespread resentment.

Khan is of the view that the Indian Prime Minister should be welcomed to Dhaka. “But when he comes, he should give a categoric assurance that the anti-Bangladesh tirade that comes out of India at regular intervals should stop for good.”

He points out that while India claims Bangladesh to be a close friend, it does not stop from clubbing it Pakistan and Afghanistan as countries that indulge in religious persecution of its minorities. At a time when Bangladesh is playing host to over a million Rohingya refugees, such remarks by the Indian leadership look completely untrue and as something being deliberately said to malign Bangladesh, says Khan.

Similar views are also expressed by the BNP leaders who are keen to build good relations with Delhi. “We want PM Modi to clarify what he wants to do with those people who have been identified as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are kept in camps in India,” former minister and BNP foreign affairs committee head Amir Khusro Chaudhary said.

He also stressed that while the BNP leadership too is keen on developing good relations with India, it is totally confused as to what Delhi wants to achieve by the anti-Bangladeshi remarks that senior BJP leaders making in their public speeches.

India-Bangladesh relations have shown a significant improvement since Sheikh Hasina came to power in Dhaka in 2009. But she was disappointed with the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government for its failure to sign the Teesta River Water treaty—a highly emotive issue in Bangladesh.

Though even under Modi’s BJP government that treaty has remained elusive, the two sides have managed to expand and deepen their cooperation in a number of areas from which both sides benefit. The marked improvement in Indo-Bangladesh relations is also a high-point in Modi’s “ neighbourhood first” policy. But domestic developments in India, especially legislations like the Citizens’ Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register for Citizens have brought the focus squarely on illegal immigration into the country from Bangladesh. Additionally, BJP leaders frequent attempt to club Bangladesh with Pakistan where Hindus are being persecuted has deeply hurt the Bangladeshi sentiment, putting PM Hasina in an awkward position as questions are raised on growing Indo-Bangladesh ties.

PM Modi has often assured the Bangladesh leadership that NRC and the CAA are internal affairs of India that will not affect Bangladesh. But the sporadic anti-Bangladeshi criticism, often terming the illegal immigrant from across the border as “termites” have raised doubts in Dhaka as the kind of relation that is on offer from Delhi.

“We are not slaves who can be abused by India whenever it wants,” says political commentator and Dhaka University professor Asif Nazrul.

For some like him, the anger against the Hasina government has also merged with that against India. “Sheikh Hasina may be indebted to India for its support and keeping her in power. But there is a growing resentment in Dhaka against her and the Modi government for its anti-Bangladeshi policies,” he adds.

Indications suggest that in the coming days the anger, especially over the Delhi riot and perceived anti-Muslim policies of the Modi government, might not be as strong as they are now among many in Bangladesh. But whenever the Indian Prime Minister visits Dhaka, he will have to reassure his hosts that India will not pursue any policy that will jeopardise the strong Indo-Bangladesh relations that have so far, benefitted both countries immensely.

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/world-news-demonstrations-planned-against-pm-modi-during-bangladesh-visit-will-hasina-govt-let-it-happen/348814

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Muslim Outfits Meet Tamil Nadu Chief Secy, Demand Resolution Against NPR, NRC And CAA

15th March 2020

CHENNAI: Muslim organisations which held discussions with Chief Secretary K Shanmugam on Saturday were firm on their demand that a resolution against Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) should be adopted in the Assembly. Besides, they also demanded an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.  The outfits also told government that the ongoing protests were not instigated by anyone but had been happening spontaneously. 

In all, 49 representatives of Muslim organisations from the State took part in the discussions. Abdul Rahim, vice president, Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamaat, said the meeting called by the Chief Secretary was a big disappointment to them since the apprehensions of Muslims were not clarified satisfactorily.  As such, the protests against CAA, NPR and NRC will be intensified in the coming days across the State. On March 18, a ‘Jail Bharo’ agitation will be staged.

Talking to reporters after the 90-minute discussions with the Chief Secretary, at the Secretariat, MH Jawahirullah, on behalf of Federation of Tamil Nadu Islamic Organisations, said there was no legal barrier for adopting a resolution against NPR as it was being carried out as per rules of CAA.  Jawahirullah said that during the discussions, the Chief Secretary said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had clarified that no documents would be required for the NPR and no one would be classified as doubtful.

To this, the Muslim outfits had said, “If this is true, the guideline that the local enumerator who is updating NPR can mark as doubtful if any person is unable provide any information, should be deleted.  Also, the rule that providing information to NPR is a duty and that those who default will be punished should also be deleted. The Assembly resolution on CAA and NPR should  include these points.”

Asked whether the meeting was satisfactory, Jawahirullah said, “The Chief Secretary has assured us to convey the views expressed by Muslim representatives to government.  Only when we come to know about the response of the Chief Minister, we can say whether this meeting was useful or not.” He also said the federation would take a decision on the future course of agitation depending upon the government’s response to their demands.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2020/mar/15/muslim-outfits-meet-chief-secy-demand-resolution-2116868.html

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India treads with caution on Iran’s take on riots

March 14, 2020

New Delhi: India is treading cautiously on Iranian leaders’ recent remarks on the Delhi violence and is not overreacting on the issue.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei recently commented on the incident asking “India to stop the massacre of Muslims in order to prevent India’s isolation from the world of Islam”.

Before that, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also posted a comment on Twitter saying “Iran condemns the wave of organised violence against Indian Muslims”.

Though India reacted after Zarif’s remarks and subsequently summoned the Iranian Ambassador to India to lodge its protest, it preferred not to comment after Khamenei’s remarks. This is seen as India’s calculated strategy not to overreact. As regards summoning of Zarif, it is seen by experts as normal diplomatic exercise.

A.K. Mohapatra, a Professor at the Centre for West Asian Studies at Jawahalal Nehru University (JNU), told The Sunday Guardian: “The concerns voiced by the Iranian leaders are more of political nature rather than showing any genuine concern. There is a competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran on becoming a leader of Muslim nations. Since, for Iran, India appears to be having a tilt in favour of Saudi Arabia, it has tried to given a message to India not to ignore Iran’s interests.”

“India has interests in Iran. So it cannot antagonize the South Asian country. Islamic fundamentalism has links with Sunnis whereas Iran is a Shia-dominated country. That is the reason it has sided with India when it comes to issues related to India and Pakistan. It will be good for India not to react much on the comments made by Iranian leaders. Rather it should try to explain India’s position and placate them. The gesture of donating a lab to test COVID-19 virus in Iran is a welcome step which will help in placating the Iranians. India should try to do the balancing act and neutralize the opposition from Iran diplomatically. There is no need to be vindictive or reactive,” he said.

Sources said Iranian leaders’ remarks were unexpected given that Iran normally avoids public criticism of internal matters of India. Following the revocation of Article 370, Tehran had limited its reaction to expressing concerns over the “condition of the people” in the Valley and urging New Delhi to adopt “a fair policy” towards the people of the region. Tehran has also avoided taking Islamabad’s side whenever tension between India and Pakistan escalated in recent years.  The relations between India and Iran have been on an upswing in the last few years.

Despite US sanctions against Iran, India has been maintaining cordial ties with Tehran and has been actively involved in the development of Chabahar port there. India, however, had to reduce its oil imports from Iran despite the fact that it acknowledges that Iran is an energy source.

“The hearts of Muslims all over the world are grieving over the massacre of Muslims in India. The Government of India should confront extremist Hindus and their parties and stop the massacre of Muslims in order to prevent India’s isolation from the world of Islam,” said Khamenei in an official statement issued recently.

This came following a similar comment by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier. India took strong exception to his comments. Iranian ambassador Ali Chengeni was summoned to the foreign office to protest the remarks.

“The Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni was summoned and a strong protest was lodged against the unwarranted remarks made by the Iranian foreign minister. It was conveyed that his selective and tendentious characterisation of recent events in Delhi are not acceptable. We do not expect such comments from a country such as Iran,” MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/india-treads-caution-irans-take-riots

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Africa

 

Coronavirus in SA: Ridgeway Muslim School in Joburg closes after pupil’s mom tests positive

2020-03-14

Nhlanhla Jele

The board of the Ridgeway Muslim School in Johannesburg has closed the school until further notice, after information that a pupil’s mother had tested positive for the coronavirus.

It is understood that the mother of the pupil was contacted by the Department of Health to inform her of her status. The department found that the children were not displaying any symptoms, but has placed the whole family in quarantine.

"Medical practitioners have advised that, although the children have not shown any symptoms at the school, they recommend that you and your children remain in isolation for 14 days," the letter reads.

The school encouraged parents and their children to take precautionary measures, adding that it would keep them updated on developments.

The board of the Ridgeway Muslim School in Johannesburg has closed the school until further notice, after information that a pupil’s mother had tested positive for the coronavirus.

It is understood that the mother of the pupil was contacted by the Department of Health to inform her of her status. The department found that the children were not displaying any symptoms, but has placed the whole family in quarantine.

"Medical practitioners have advised that, although the children have not shown any symptoms at the school, they recommend that you and your children remain in isolation for 14 days," the letter reads.

The school encouraged parents and their children to take precautionary measures, adding that it would keep them updated on developments.

news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/coronavirus-in-sa-ridgeway-muslim-school-in-joburg-closes-after-pupils-mom-tests-positive-20200314

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Mideast

 

Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque shut as precaution against coronavirus

4 MINUTES AGO

Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock will shut their doors as a precaution against coronavirus, Islamic religious authorities have said, according to Reuters.

The director of Al-Aqsa mosque Omar Kiswani told Reuters that “the Islamic Waqf department decided to shut down the enclosed prayer places inside the Al-Aqsa mosque until further notice as a protective measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All prayers will be held in the open areas of the Al-Aqsa mosque.”

https://www.dawn.com/live-blog/#1541108

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Coronavirus: Palestinians suspend prayers at mosques, churches

14 March 2020

The Palestinian Authority (PA) suspended prayers in mosques and churches in the occupied West Bank on Saturday to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and Gaza's Hamas rulers said all the enclave's border crossings would be closed to travel.

The PA's Religious Affairs Ministry asked Palestinians to worship at home, Reuters reported.

"In light of the Health Ministry's recommendation to minimise contact between people and to reduce gatherings as much as possible we call upon our Muslim people in Palestine to hold their prayers at home," a ministry statement said.

In Ramallah, a prayer leader reciting the Muslim call to prayer at one mosque in the early evening added the words: "Pray at home, pray at home."

Palestinians in Gaza are trying to prepare for the novel coronavirus outbreak. But the Israeli blockade is making it much harder.

Last week, MEE reported that the PA declared a state of emergency in the occupied West Bank and locked down Bethlehem after seven cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed in the city.

According to Palestinian health officials, 38 coronavirus cases have now been confirmed in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self-rule under the Palestinian Authority. None have been reported in the densely populated Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

The Hamas-led government said it was closing Gaza's border crossings with Israel and Egypt for travel, excluding life-threatening cases that required medical treatment outside the enclave. Gatherings would be limited to 100 people and schools were to remain shut through March.

Citing security reasons, Israel and Egypt keep the coastal Gaza Strip under a blockade with tight control of movements over their border land crossings.

Religious authorities have so far kept Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque, which is Islam's third-holiest site, open for prayers.

The Jordan-appointed council that oversees Islamic sites on Jerusalem's sacred compound has kept it open for Friday prayers, encouraging faithful to congregate on the 35-acre complex's outdoor grounds rather than inside its covered shrines.

The Waqf council reassured worshippers in a statement this week that the entire compound, including its golden Dome of the Rock shrine, was being "sterilised continuously."

In Israel, where 164 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, gatherings have been limited to 100 people. Some religious authorities in the Holy Land, including the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, have moved to implement crowd controls at places of worship.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-palestinians-suspend-prayers-mosques-churches-0

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Islamic Republic Fails Again. This Time, the Coronavirus Outbreak Management Test

14 March 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has plunged the Islamic Republic’s decision-making system into unprecedented chaos and has distracted the government from the day-to-day affairs of the country.

President Hassan Rouhani reportedly wanted to appoint his First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri to head the National Headquarters to Contain and Fight Coronavirus (NHCFC) – but Jahangiri was infected with the virus before he could do it. And the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds the real power in the country and heads the “hidden government,” of Iran through organizations and entities under his command, is against Rouhani’s decision.

Khamenei directly interferes in all affairs of state and insists on showing off these interventions. But as of now, he has shown no sign that he is taking any specific actions to manage the current crisis. His only contribution was to send a video message, thanking doctors and nurses for their service and exhorting them to take safety measures seriously.

The NHCFC, supervised by President Rouhani, has complained that its decisions are not taken seriously and it is reported that the government wants to create a “Support Council for NHCFC”.

Religious institutions, especially in the holy city of Qom where the coronavirus epidemic in Iran started, believe that they are only accountable to Ayatollah Khamenei and have refused to shut down religious sites and shrines. For instance, the director of Jamkaran Mosque in Qom has promised that his mosque would receive visitors during Iran’s new year’s holidays that starts on March 20. This is one of Khamenei’s favorite mosques and there have been many reports about his hours-long visits there.

Qom’s local officials and influential religious figures prevented a city-wide quarantine, with the government saying that such a measure was “outdated” and belonged to the past. The result was the spread of coronavirus to the whole country. This mismanagement must be compared to the decision by Italy’s government to quarantine the whole country to fight this lethal epidemic.

The official statistics about coronavirus infections and fatalities were announced by the Ministry of Health but, on March 13, it was Abdulali Ali Asgari, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) who quoted the health minister as saying that the epidemic will reach its peak [Persian link] in late March and early April.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), which is supposed to toe the government line and publish official reports, has now strayed and is publishing reports from hospital sources that show the coronavirus mortality rate is much higher than official figures say.

A number of members of parliament (MP), especially from northern Iran and the shores of Caspian Sea, have criticized the government for not taking seriously the need to control traffic among cities. The MPs threatened that if things continue as they have, they would mobilize the people to stop the movement.

In a strange and unprecedented move, Mohsen Rezaee, the Secretary of Expediency Council, announced [Persian link] that bank borrowers do not have to settle their accounts until June 20. This council has no power to issue executive orders but its secretary has taken an action that will cost the government money. It remains to be seen what would be the consequences of such an unprecedented and unilateral order.

The public does not see much action from President Rouhani and he does not appear to have affairs of the state under his control. Less than a week after the coronavirus outbreak in Iran was officially announced, he said that things would go back to normal starting from Saturday, February 29 — a statement that undermined the remaining credibility of the government.

This chaos occurs at a time when parliament has been closed because an outbreak among MPs. Meetings of the Expediency Council, the Assembly of Experts and the Guardian Council have also been suspended. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, for the first time in 41 years the regime is absent from everyday life.

The coronavirus epidemic has put the decrepit and dilapidated body of the Islamic Republic in full public view. In his desperation, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that an authoritative mediator [Persian link] trusted by the public is needed so that, in such a crisis, the public will take seriously solutions offered by the government. It does not appear that they have found one.

A clear illustration of the lack of public trust in the government emerged three weeks into the epidemic. Rumors spread that gas stations were to be closed; and although the government denied the rumors, long lines formed at midnight at gas stations, out of widespread fear that people would not have another chance to refuel.

Over the years, the Islamic Republic has discredited and repressed voices of authority whom the public could trust and has rendered them ineffective on the national stage. Repeated exhortations to take decisions by the NHCFC seriously only show that, even in a time of crisis, government institutions are still rebuffing each other and tensions among them are increasing.

The NHCFC was approved by the Supreme National Security Council and decisions by this body must be approved by Ayatollah Khamenei before they can be executed. In other words, decisions by the Council show what powers that the Supreme Leader had delegated to it – but now the weakening of government institutions by Khamenei himself is manifesting itself in multiple ways.

The coronavirus crisis does not merely demonstrate the regime’s inability and irresponsibility in preventing the outbreak in Qom. More than anything else, the regime has tried to justify its failings by accusing the “enemy,” by denying unofficial figures of coronavirus infections and mortality and even by threatening and arresting [Persian link] people such as the staff of medical centers who publish accurate figures which show that the government is lying.

Another reality that has been laid bare is the unprecedented discrimination between government officials and ordinary citizens in terms of access to tests and treatment. Even among medical staff who have died of coronavirus, the cause of death had been identified as COVID-19 only after their deaths; but various officials of the Islamic Republic, even those without noticeable symptoms, have been treated as “first-class” citizens and have used scarce test kits to assure themselves that they are healthy.

The coronavirus crisis that, as of now, has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent citizens will eventually subside. But this unprecedented chaos in managing the affairs of the country have exposed for a vast group of Iranians the broken-down and decrepit system of the Islamic Republic, a system that believes the cure for any crisis is to deny that it exists and then to intimidate and arrest those who dare to speak the truth.

https://iranwire.com/en/features/6813

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Coronavirus: Jordan cancels flights and bans prayers at mosques

14 March 2020

By Areeb Ullah

Jordan said it would stop all passenger flights leaving the country from Tuesday and ban all public gatherings to prevent the further spread of the new coronavirus. 

The country has already closed its borders with Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Syria, and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Other measures introduced by the Jordanian government include shutting down of all schools and universities for two weeks, and closing cinemas, sporting facilities and tourist sites.

The government also said public prayers at mosques and churches would be banned and that visits to hospitals and prisons would be halted.

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Saturday announced the measures during a televised press conference and urged Jordanians to stay at home.

"The situation around us is from bad to worse, and we are not isolated," Razzaz said, adding that the restrictions would be reviewed periodically.

Razzaz also said that Jordan would close all tourist sites, sporting facilities and cinemas to help prevent the further spread of the disease.

The prime minister made his announcement after Jordan confirmed that its first Covid-19 case left hospital on Friday after receiving treatment.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-jordan-cancels-flights-and-bans-prayers-mosques

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Iran says worsening outbreak could strain health facilities

MARCH 15, 2020

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s official leading the country’s response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East on Sunday acknowledged that the pandemic could overwhelm health facilities in the country, which is under severe U.S. sanctions.

Muslim authorities meanwhile announced that the Al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, would be closed indefinitely due to concerns about the outbreak, with prayers continuing to be held on the sprawling esplanade outside.

Similar measures have been taken at the nearby Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, where outdoor prayers continue but only 10 people at a time are permitted in enclosed areas, in keeping with measures taken by the Israeli government.

Iran is battling one of the worst outbreaks outside China, with nearly 13,000 confirmed cases and more than 600 fatalities. The real number of infections could be even higher, as questions have been raised about the government’s transparency.

“If the trend continues, there will not be enough capacity,” Ali Reza Zali, who is leading the campaign against the outbreak, was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.

Iran is believed to have around 110,000 hospital beds, including 30,000 in the capital, Tehran. Authorities have pledged to set up mobile clinics as needed.

Zali also acknowledged that “many” of those who have died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus were otherwise healthy, a rare admission by local authorities that the virus does not only prey on the sick and elderly.

The Health Ministry released figures showing that while 55% of fatalities were in their 60s, some 15% were younger than 40.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Most people recover in a matter of weeks. But the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by individuals with no visible symptoms.

The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed more than 5,700. More than 70,000 people worldwide have recovered after being infected.

In Iran, the virus has even infected a number of senior officials, including the senior vice president, Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Revolutionary Guard members and Health Ministry officials.

Authorities have nevertheless been slow to adopt measures taken by other hard-hit countries. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday ruled out a general quarantine and said the government was working to keep the borders open.

The country has also struggled to respond in part because of crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal. The U.S. says it has offered humanitarian aid but that Iran has rejected it.

Countries across the Middle East have imposed sweeping travel restrictions, cancelled public events and in some cases called on non-essential businesses to close for the coming weeks.

In the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, a global business and travel hub in the United Arab Emirates, authorities announced on Sunday that all movie theaters, arcades and gyms would be closed through the end of the month.

Dubai Parks & Resorts announced it would be closed through the end of the month. The sprawling amusement park, built at a cost of $3 billion, has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since opening.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, also shut down its amusement parks and museums through the end of the month, including Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Al-Aqsa is the latest in a series of religious sites where access has been halted or strictly limited. Saudi Arabia has halted the umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina and could be forced to limit or cancel the much larger haj later this year. On Sunday, it announced the temporary closure of all mosques and called off Friday prayers.

Sheikh Omar Kiswani, the director of the Al-Aqsa mosque, said Sunday that the closure of the mosque and other buildings on the compound would continue indefinitely.

The UAE’s central bank announced a $27 billion stimulus package directed at supporting banks and said regulatory limits on loans will be eased. Saudi Arabia announced its own $13 billion stimulus plan.

Tiny, oil-rich Kuwait meanwhile shut down malls, salons and barbershops to slow the spread of the virus. Authorities allowed coffee shops to remain open, but said no more than five customers can wait in line at a time and must be a meter apart from each other.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on serious corruption charges, which was supposed to begin this week, was postponed for two months due to restrictions on public gatherings.

Netanyahu has meanwhile been pressing for an emergency unity government with his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, following three inconclusive elections and more than a year of political deadlock. Gantz has appeared open to the idea.

Israel imposed sweeping travel and quarantine measures more than a week ago but has seen its number of confirmed cases double in the last two days, to around 200. On Saturday, the government said restaurants, malls, movies, gyms and daycare centers would close. Schools and universities have already been shut down until next month.

Jordan, which had previously reported just one infection in a man who later recovered, said it had confirmed six new cases. Four are French tourists while the other two are Jordanians, Health Minister Saad Jaber said Sunday.

Jordan has suspended all flights into and out of the kingdom except for aid workers and diplomats, and has closed schools for two weeks. It has also banned the smoking of hookahs, or water pipes, in cafes.

https://mynorthwest.com/1767069/al-aqsa-mosque-3rd-holiest-in-islam-closes-over-virus/

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South Asia

 

‘They’re not acting in good faith’, U.S. CENTCOM commander says reacting to Taliban attacks

15 Mar 2020

The Commander of the U.S. CENTCOM Marine Corps, General Kenneth F. Mckenzie Jr., has said the Taliban attacks are still too high, warning that the Afghans would be forced to respond if the Taliban did not stop the attacks in another two or three days.

“Taliban attacks are not occurring against coalition forces, they’re not typically occurring in the cities and they’re not occurring against bases. They’re occurring against checkpoints and isolated locations across Afghanistan. But the level of attacks, in my judgment, is not consistent with a group that wants to pursue and be a — be a fair and faithful partner, going forward,” Gen. Mckenzie said in response to a question.

“So those attacks are too high. And we have noted — I’ve seen what the Afghans have said, if they don’t knock them off here in another two or three days, they’re going to begin to respond,” he said, adding that “So I think actually, the Afghan government has been remarkably restrained in responding to the Taliban attacks.”

Raising questions regarding the continued violence, Gen. McKenzie said “So the question is, do the Taliban attacks represent a core strategy of the group, they’re going to continue the attacks? Or is it a splinter of the group and are they not monolithic? We’re still assessing that.”

However, he said “If it’s directed from the top, then obviously that’s not a good thing. Because it shows that they’re not — they not acting in good faith.”

In regards to U.S. troops pullout from Afghanistan, Gen. McKenzie said “We are in the process of drawing down to a level of 8,600. I anticipate that we’ll arrive at that level by the middle of the summer. We believe that any further — as we go beyond this, it’s going to be a conditions-based approach. We have an aspiration to go to a zero level in Afghanistan, but that is very clearly going to be conditions-driven.”

The U.S. and Taliban group signed a peace deal late last month after observing a 7-day reduction in violence. The two sides signed the agreement after almost 18 months of negotiations in Qatari capital of Doha.

However, there are fears that the latest trends in Taliban attacks in remote parts of the country and the growing political tensions could undermine the peace process, specifically the launch of intra-Afghan peace talks.

The State Department had earlier confirmed that the Taliban group has taken steps to stop attacks against the coalition forces and in the cities but the group is still killing too many Afghans in the countryside.

Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokesperson said the current high level of violence by the Taliban is unacceptable.

“We acknowledge the Taliban have taken steps to stop attacks against the Coalition and in cities,” Ortagus said in a statement, adding that “But they are killing too many Afghans in the countryside.”

https://www.khaama.com/theyre-not-acting-in-good-faith-u-s-centcom-commander-says-reacting-to-taliban-attacks-04516/

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Jamiyyathul Ulama, Sri Lanka, Urges Muslims To Stop Prayer Gatherings

15 March 2020

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) today requested the Muslim Community to temporarily stop the Friday Jummah Prayers and five times congregational prayers at Masjids and all kinds of public gatherings until further notice due to Covid-19 outbreak.

http://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking_news/Jamiyyathul-Ulama-urges-Muslims-to-stop-prayer-gatherings/108-185009

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Unequal Bangladesh-India relationship

Mar 15,2020

Golam Mustafa

THE bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and India has been a cause of public concern, particularly among students. In 2020, a number of events have further stirred the debate including the escalation of border killings by the Indian Border Security Force (in January, at least 15 Bangladeshi citizens are killed), the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Registrar of Citizens and subsequent protest in India and finally, the government’s invitation to India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, defying public sentiment against him for birth centenary for the founding president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

For the diplomatic relationships between the two countries to be considered as friendly and equal, any agreement should be negotiated on equal footing by both parties. One country should not meddle in the neighbouring country’s policy and internal affairs. One country should not spread propaganda about the other nation. However, our relationship with India is mostly one-sided. Every bilateral agreement has mostly served the interests of India.

Nearly 50 years have passed after the independence but we are yet to get the fair share of water of the River Teesta. However, a few months ago, during the India tour of the prime minister, the government had signed a MoU allowing India to take 1.82 cusec water from the Feni River, but the issue of River Teesta’s water deal was not even on agenda of bilateral meeting. Why? There are plenty of examples which demonstrated how the Bangladeshi power quarters, for their partisan interest, compromised the national political and economic interest and served Indian interests. It is because of the India appeasement policy of the government, people of Bangladesh has been a victim of India’s aggression for a long time.

Bangladesh, as a state, has been failing over and over again to negotiate an equal and dignified relationship with India. India’s dominance over Bangladesh explicit in the unequal trade deals, cultural aggression, unjust intervention in Bangladeshi politics, border killings and the unresolved water share deal of 54 trans-border rivers. A major reason for these is the Bangladeshi power quarters’ tendency to appease India sacrificing the sovereign interest of the nation.

Whenever Indian power quarters pass controversial laws or policies that go against the public and face local and regional pressure, they start spreading propaganda against Bangladesh. Indian citizens are not even well informed about the border killings because of their corporate controlled media. Indian media pays biased attention to the story BSF presents.

India is currently facing severe job crisis. More people are unemployed than any time in their history. Their economy is at a dangerous juncture. One of the top banks of India is bankrupt. Many Indian economists say the lowest growth rate after 1978, in 2019, the government is engaged in the politics of polarisation. The Bharatiya Janata Party led government wants to return to power by hiding their failure. So, to secure their vote banks, the government passed the sectarian, which many termed as anti-Muslim and fundamentalist, laws like CAA-NRC.

A prime reason behind these laws is keeping Muslim as the second class citizens in India. The Bharatiya Janata Party, in order to remain in power, has resorted to communal hatred, anti-Muslim sentiments and communal violence. Religious sentiment and nationalism is being deliberately woven together for the propagation of the political agenda. Muslim citizen’s criticism of the government is portrayed as seditious, ‘anti-India’ or ‘anti-nationalist speech’.

BJP activists launched attacks on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University and left over 30 union leaders and members, as well as teachers injured in January, 2020. A recent ruling bans foreign students from taking part in any political activities at any Indian university. A few days ago, a Bangladeshi student was rusticated for capturing photos. There is no scope for the foreign students to express their opinion.

Politics of identity, in the name of racial purity, is becoming part and parcel of populist politics not just in India, but globally. People with different ethnic or religious identity are deliberately made enemies of the majority. Hate crimes are committed with the backing of the state and political parties. Which court will roll trial of these hate crimes? This is called fascism. A world driven by money and power cannot create congenial and equal atmosphere for all.

However unpleasant it sounds, when India is going through oppressive system designed by the BJP government, Bangladesh is experiencing something similar — the rule of the Awami League led government. Student wings of these two parties — Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Bangladesh Chhatra League — resort to violence to maintain their dominance. We have seen how BCL launched attacks on the Dhaka University Central Students Union vice-president Nurul Hoque Nur, similarly, the ABVP’s masked activists left JNU VP Oishi Ghosh and her fellows injured.

A number of Indian states have recently experienced ‘communal’ violence where more than 50 people were killed. Why international quarters are silent at these grievous crimes of the Indian government? South Asian and world leaders should take necessary measures to stop the killings. Bangladesh government should protests at the killings and mobilse international support to pressure India to stop the attack on its citizens. Otherwise, as Bangladesh shares land border with India, effects of such violent and sectarian policies will come to our country.

Protests sparked across India against the CAA-NRC. I think that all the neighbouring countries will be affected by these. In the current context, if any Hindu becomes victim of any situation in this region, the BJP government would capitalise on it by spreading further communal hatred. Different quarters in Bangladesh would also capitalise on the situation. Meanwhile, after mosques were attacked in India, a Hindu temple was vandalised in Chittagong. In cases of violence on Hindu or ethnic minority communities in India, there are some Islamic political groups and parties in Bangladesh who would try to ‘retaliate’ and further this politics of hatred. From history, we know, communal violence has snow-ball effects and hatred begets more hatred. We should be deeply concerned, alarmed and act quickly to not fall in the ideological trap of BJP. 

India constructed damns on trans-border rivers and unfairly controlling the water flow causing distress to Bangladesh farmers and ordinary citizens. By violating international water laws, India made Farakka damn, Teesta damn, Tipaimukhi damn and Ganga damn. They keep the gates closed during winter seasons and opened them during monsoon creating floods and draught in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the government in Bangladesh sees India as friend.

The foreign policy of Bangladesh has allowed trade deficit with India, China and other states which should be reduced. Such deficit in trades between India and Bangladesh is in fact increasing and currently hovers between USD 8-10 billion. In the black market, this deficit is several times higher. Millions of Bangladeshis are unemployed while nearly half a million Indian’s are working in Bangladesh and a mere 10 per cent of them are legal. Man power exchange should be done protecting the interest of both the countries. 

Bangladesh signed an agreement with India allowing them to establish radar system in the Bay of Bengals to stop foreign invaders. Interestingly, Indian authorities will look after the system and they would ‘allow’ Bangladesh to have the information upon request. Now the question is we are surrounded by Indian land on three sides, so only intrusion we can expect is Indian intrusion. In this sense, allowing India to establish radar system to refrain them from entering Bangladesh exposes our weak-willed foreign policy.  

Bangladesh government seem unmoved by the rising number of border killings. In the January 2020 alone, BSF killed more than 15 Bangladeshi citizens and Bangladesh did not take any step. In the last decades, India’s border forces killed more than 1300 Bangladeshi citizens and no one has ever faced trial for the killings. Our state has failed to address this issue. Under such hostile scenarios, labelling India as friend is nothing but a mockery to the family of the victims.

Bangladesh power quarters prefer getting help from states like China, India, the USA, Russia or even Myanmar to secure their power, instead of creating a congenial democratic political atmosphere inside the country. To ensure the dignity of the citizens and sovereignty of the state, the power quarters should reduce their dependency on foreign government. The government is bound to build an equal relationship with India and the citizens should create pressure on the government to do so.

We can call India friend only when they stop all aggression on Bangladesh. All the border killings should see judicious trial and verdict. Water distribution of the 54 shared rivers should be resolved. Bangladesh should stop employing Indian citizens when local youths are unemployed. The government should ensure that we can form a relationship of dignity and equality with India where both the country’s interests are ensured.

https://www.newagebd.net/article/102197/unequal-bangladesh-india-relationship

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Banks target to utilize religious sentiment for tapping business

March 15, 2020

Abu Sazzad: In the recent years, most of the commercial banks have targeted to use the religious sentiment for tapping business under Sariah-based banking operation mainly for gaining profits easily.

Experts said, the Sariah-based banking concept is gaining public trust gradually, and for this, the conventional banks are showing their interest to convert their operations as full-fledged Islamic banks to gain easy achievements. The gradual increase in market share of the Islamic banking represents customers’ growing confidence over the banking system when the traditional banks are facing setback to retain public confidence, they said.

However, Jamuna Bank, one of the third-generation conventional banks has turned into a full-fledged Shariah-based bank recently. The central bank on Thursday last approved it its board meeting.

Earlier, on February 9, the central bank allowed two conventional banks namely Standard Bank and NRB Global Bank to convert into Islamic banks.

Meanwhile, IFIC, NCC and South-Bangla Agriculture and Commerce Bank are waiting the central banks’ approval to convert their bank as full-fledged Islamic banks.

In this backdrop, currently eight banks including Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited, Al-Arafah Islami Bank, Shahjalal Islami Bank, Social Islami Bank, First security Islami Bank, EXIM Bank, Union Bank and ICB Islamic Bank are operating as full-fledged shariah banks in the country. Moreover, some 17 conventional banks have Islamic banking windows.

According to a senior Bangladesh Bank official, the Islamic banks are allowed to maintain lower ADR ratio than private and state-owned commercial banks to disburse credit. The Islamic banks can disburse Tk 90 against the deposit of Tk 100 while it is Tk 85 for the conventional banks.

On the other hand, the Islamic banks are authorized to maintaion lower SLR ratio against deposit. The conventional banks have to maintain 18.5 per cent statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) and cash reserve requirement (CRR) of their total deposits. They must also maintain a maximum 85 per cent loans-deposit ratio.

Experts said, Bangladesh is the third largest Muslim country in the world with around 180 million populations of which 92 percent are Muslim. The remarkable shift or conversion of the conventional banks and their branches into Islamic lines gives the signal of high acceptance of the interest-free banking by the public, they added.

Islamic banks are conducting under the principles of Islamic law (Shariah) and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. Actually, the Shariah prohibits the payment or acceptance of interest fees for the lending and accepting of money respectively.

Many experts said, Bangladesh needs to enact Islamic banking law for providing a legal framework for the banking system. Proper law and regulations would ensure dynamic leadership in the sector as Islamic banking accounts for one-fourth of the entire banking business, is growing day by day.

According to Bangladesh Bank data, the deposits in the country’s Islamic banks grew by 18.06 per cent or Tk 42,860.9 crore in 2019 with the banks attaining an increased market share among all banks in the period. The growth in deposits in Islamic banks was the highest after 15.08 per cent growth in 2016.

The growth rate was 10.78 per cent in 2018 and 14.15 per cent in 2017 respectively. Customers’ deposits in the Islamic banks increased to Tk 2,80,227.8 crore in December last year from Tk 2,37,366.9 crore a year ago.

Due to the increased deposit growth, Islamic banks’ market share increased to 24.65 per cent in 2019 from 23.50 per cent a year ago, according to a BB report.

Considering the growing popularity on Islamic banks, the government should formulate a separate law to recognize Islamic banking a strong legal coverage. At the same time, Islamic banks should introduce more Shariah-compliant bonds for better liquidity management, they opined.

They claimed that most of the Islamic category banks are not following the appropriate policy or even IBBL, the pioneer of Islamic category banks.

Global Economist Forum (GEF) sources said, “Islamic money market is the pre-condition to further flourish of shariah banking in Bangladesh.” The Islamic money market can utilize excess liquidity of Islamic banks, the GEF source added.

Associate Professor of BIBM Md Alamgir said that it is high time to introduce more comprehensive guidelines to bring greater transparency and accountability in the industry.

Without a strong legal framework, it is not possible to make the mode popular, he said adding Islamic banks in the country lack liquidity instruments such as treasury bills and other marketable securities.

http://www.dailyindustry.news/banks-target-utilize-religious-sentiment-tapping-business/

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Southeast Asia

 

Mosque in Shah Alam closed in Covid-19 shutdown

15 Mar 2020

BY AZRIL ANNUAR

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — A mosque in Seksyen 27 Shah Alam has been temporarily shut for all prayer times, including the daily five times fardhu prayers due to Covid-19 exposure.

Malay daily Berita Harian reported that Masjid Al Munawwarah official, Muhaiyat Husin had issued a statement saying that one of the congregation had been infected with Covid-19 while on holiday in Vietnam, forcing the mosque to close its doors for the time being.

“After evaluating the health risk and the Covid-19 pandemic, we would like to inform the public that Masjid Al Munawwarah, Seksyen 27, is temporarily closed to all activities including fardhu prayers.

“All of our congregation and flock have been advised to pray at home or other mosques and suraus nearby as we wait for further actions from the authorities such as the Health Ministry, Majlis Agama Islam Selangor and the District Islamic Office,” he reportedly said in a statement.

However, the azan (call to prayer) and prayers will be conducted by mosque officials who are on duty as usual but the congregation is discouraged to attend mass prayers.

Muhaiyat had reportedly said that all activities will return to normal after all sanitisation work has been completed and given approval by the authorities or if conditions permit.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/15/mosque-in-shah-alam-closed-in-covid-19-shutdown/1846739

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Covid-19: Thai Embassy in KL urges Thai Muslims who attended Sri Petaling event to get tested

March 15, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR — The Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has issued an urgent advisory to all 132 Thai Muslims who were present at a recent religious gathering at Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur to get themselves tested for Covid-19 “as soon as possible”, a report today said.

According to Thai paper Bangkok Post, this warning was issued by Thai Ambassador Narong Sasithorn on Friday, with the embassy believing that some of the 132 Thai attendees of the February 27 to March 2 event titled “Jhor Qudamak and Ulamak Malaysia 2020” are currently still in Malaysia.

The Thai Embassy reportedly urged its citizens who had attended the event and were still in Malaysia to get tested at the nearest designated hospital and to contact the embassy at its hotline 017-700-48 or Malaysia’s national Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre.

The Thai attendees were also told to quarantine themselves until they receive the Covid-19 test results, and that they may have to be quarantined for 14 days at state quarantine centres in Malaysia, the report said.

The Bangkok Post said the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur had so far not been contacted by any of the 132 Thai citizens who attended the mass religious gathering, but also noted that an official from Thailand’s Narathiwat province confirmed that authorities had contacted some of the 132.

An estimated 16,000 people had attended the “itjimak tabligh” gathering at the Jamek Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, with 14,500 being Malaysians and the rest being foreigners from the region.

As of yesterday, Malaysia had a total tally of 238 Covid-19 cases, including 36 who have since fully recovered and 77 who tested positive after attending the Sri Petaling event.

More than 30 Covid-19 cases in Brunei are linked to this event, while Singapore also confirmed new cases involving its citizens who had participated in the event.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/15/covid-19-thai-embassy-in-kl-urges-thai-muslims-who-attended-sri-petaling-ev/1846710

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Jais says ordered Shah Alam mosque to cancel closure over Covid-19

15 Mar 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — A mosque in Seksyen 27, Shah Alam in Selangor has been ordered to withdraw its previous decision to close over the Covid-19 outbreak affecting the country, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) reportedly said.

Jais director Mohd Shahzihan Ahmad reportedly said that the Shah Alam mosque’s notice of its closure was issued without the department’s prior knowledge.

“I have ordered the retraction of that order and for activities to continue,” he was quoted saying by local daily Sinar Harian.

He also reportedly urged the mosque management to advise those who are awaiting test results or had tested positive to undergo quarantine.

The Masjid Al Munawwarah mosque in Seksyen 27, Shah Alam was reported saying that it was temporarily closing the mosque for all activities including for Muslims’ obligatory prayers five times each day, following evaluations on the health risk and Covid-19 pandemic after one of the mosque’s congregation tested positive for Covid-19 after a holiday trip in Vietnam.

The mosque had said all its congregation were advised to pray at home or other nearby mosques and suraus pending further actions from health and religious authorities.

The mosque also reportedly said all activities will resume as usual after sanitisation work is carried out and with the authorities’ approval or if conditions permit.

In the same Sinar Harian report today, Mohd Shahzihan said mosque closures would only be announced after Jais weighs all considerations relating to such matters.

He added that Jais had ordered all mosques in Selangor to continue with congregational prayers with tighter control measures and that all mosques have to be cleaned immediately with the cooperation of the health ministry.

On Friday, Jais announced that it had circulated a guideline for all mosques and suraus in Selangor to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections among its congregation and that it was also restricting large-scale gatherings to curb the spread of the virus.

Among other things, Jais had also on Friday said it was deferring all large-scale events including in religious primary schools and pre-schools in Selangor under its supervision, and with students and teachers there to practise social distancing with students and encouraged to wash their hands.

On Thursday, Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari announced that the Selangor state government has decided to cancel non-critical large-scale public events, and that precautionary steps would be taken for public events that cannot be avoided.

On Friday, the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs) directed Muslims not to perform Friday prayers in the state’s mosque in response to the Health Ministry’s recommendation to avoid mass gatherings.

Also on Friday, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department overseeing Islamic Affairs Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad said the Friday prayers would proceed as usual on that day, but with certain guidelines in place such as shorter sermons, abstaining from attending prayers if one has symptoms of illness, and the provision of hand sanitisers and masks at mosques.

Malaysia recently experienced a spike in Covid-19 cases that has now pushed up the total tally to 238 cases as of yesterday, with 77 of these cases so far traced back to a recent large-scale religious gathering at the Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling in Kuala Lumpur.

An estimated 16,000 people had attended the “ijtimak tabligh” gathering that was held at the Sri Petaling mosque in Kuala Lumpur from February 28 to March 1, with a reported 14,500 being Malaysians and the rest being foreigners from the region.

As of yesterday, the Health Ministry said that a total of 4,942 participants from the Sri Petaling mosque had been identified and had either undergone tests or are currently under self-quarantine, and that efforts to track down other participants are still ongoing.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/15/jais-no-mosque-ordered-to-close-in-shah-alam/1846782

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Malaysia reports 190 new coronavirus cases, most linked to mosque event

6 MIN AGO

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia reported 190 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday (March 15), most linked to a religious event at a mosque that was attended by more than 10,000 people from several countries.

The new cases bring the total number of infections in the country to 428, the health ministry said in a statement.

straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-reports-190-new-coronavirus-cases-most-linked-to-mosque-event

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Beijing to send all travellers from abroad to quarantine facility for 14 days

30 MINUTES AGO

A Beijing city official has said that anyone arriving in the city from abroad will be transferred directly to a central quarantine facility for 14 days for observation, Reuters reports.

The decision comes as the majority of new coronavirus cases being reported in China have come from people arriving from abroad, rather than from domestic transmission.

https://www.dawn.com/live-blog/

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M’sia reports highest-ever spike of 190 new Covid-19 cases in 1 day, most linked to mosque event

March 15,2020

Health Minister Adham Baba said that most of these new cases can be traced to the tabligh programme in Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling, held from Feb. 27 to Mar. 1.

Adham said that the ministry is tracing the attendees, and urges participants to contact their nearest district health office for further instructions.

They should also be monitored for 14 days from the end of the programme, or from the last date of contact they had with a Covid-19 case.

According to MUIS, the Ministry of Health (MOH) determined that “around 90” Singaporeans attended the event, and that they are likely to be regular mosque-goers.

Five Singaporean attendees of the event, including a 37-year-old GrabFood rider, also later tested positive for Covid-19.

On March 12, it was announced that all mosques in Singapore will be closed as a precautionary measure until the end of March 17, a period of five days.

https://mothership.sg/2020/03/malaysia-covid-19-spike-cases-mosque/

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Europe

 

ISIS tells its terrorists not to travel to Europe for jihad because … coronavirus

By Laura Italiano

March 15, 2020

After years of urging its terrorists to attack major European cities, ISIS is now telling them to steer clear due to the coronavirus.

Any sick jihadists already in Europe, however, should stay there — presumably to sicken infidels, according to a ‘sharia’ directive printed in the group’s al-Naba newsletter, the Sunday Times of London reported.

The “healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it,” the newsletter advised.

The newsletter instructs jihadists that the “plague” is a “torment sent by God on whomsoever He wills.”

Iraq, where most of the surviving fragments of the group remain, had 110 reported coronavirus cases on Sunday morning, ten of them fatal, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the contagion.

https://nypost.com/2020/03/15/isis-tells-its-terrorists-not-to-travel-to-europe-for-jihad-because-coronavirus/

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County Lines kingpin Bodrul Islam who flooded Class A drugs into Hereford via Birmingham jailed

14 MAR 2020

A county lines mastermind who flooded heroin and crack cocaine into a Midlands town via Birmingham has been jailed.

He recruited his pals to bring drugs into Hereford where street level dealers would do the dirty work on Islam’s behalf.

West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit − working alongside West Mercia Police − found Islam made frequent train trips to Birmingham’s Grand Central station where he restocked drug couriers and pocketed cash profits.

CCTV showed the 31-year-old returning to London clutching bags from designer clothes outlets having spent his ill-gotten gains on shopping trips while in Birmingham.

Police raided Islam’s home in Earlham Grove, Newham, in February 2018 and found him with the main drugs hotline plus thousands of pounds in cash.

It’s estimated the Dee Line pumped up to 2kg of heroin and crack cocaine into Hereford and made yearly sales of around £200,000.

London men Ramone Parkins, 22, Jeffrey Akyaa, 28 and 20-year-old Dylan Creffield-Foster all acted as couriers moving drugs from the Birmingham handover point into Hereford.

Fellow Londoners Michael Fadeyibi, 22 and 21-year-old Raylan Joseph-Wright coordinated activity in Hereford.

Hereford men Joshua Juson, 28, Harry Oakley-Davies, 21, Scott Lewis, 40 and 39-year-old Anthony Fish acted as street dealers for Islam.

Gemma Peach, 33, Simon Matthews, 48 and 40-year-old Peter Neil allowed their Hereford homes to be used as drugs ‘safe houses’ from where the dealers co-ordinated their activity.

All 13 were charged with conspiring to supply Class A drugs; most admitted their roles with but Islam and Fadeyibi denied involvement.

However, Islam entered a guilty plea midway through a trial which started last month at Worcester Crown Court and Fadeyibi was found guilty by a jury.

Parkins and Akyaa were both handed four-year terms while Creffield-Foster was jailed for three years on top of a three year sentence he’s already serving for a firearms offence in London.

Joseph-Wright was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years, Lewis for three years and Fadeyibi − who’s only recently been released from prison for a similar drugs crime − for 12 months.

Joseph-Wright, Lewis and Fadeyibi Neil and Oakley-Davies were both given suspended jail sentences for their roles, while Juson, Fish, Peach, and Matthews will all be sentenced later this month.

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/county-lines-kingpin-bodrul-islam-17925745

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North America

 

Coronavirus: Over 300 American soldiers quarantined after returning from Afghanistan

15 Mar 2020

More than 300 American soldiers have been quarantined after returning from Afghanistan amid ongoing efforts to prevent the further outbreak of coronavirus.

The 82nd Airborne Division in a statement said more than 300 paratroopers of the divisons will undergo health monitoring and medical treatment at Fort Bragg in North Carolina after completing a 9-month rotation in suport of the U.S.-led Resolute Support Mission and returning home.

Maj. Gen. James Mingus, 82nd Airborne Division commander said “My No. 1 priority is the protection of our Paratroopers, their families, our community, and the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19.”

“We are taking proactive steps to protect and prevent spread,” he was quoted as saying in a report by Stripes.

This comes as the Afghan officials have so far reported more than 10 positive cases of coronavirus across the country so far.

The Ministry of Public Health said four new positive cases of coronavirus have been recorded in western Herat province, increasing the number of positive cases to 9.

The Ministry also added that the authorities in central Daikundi province have also recorded a positive of coronavirus in the province.

Earlier, the officials in northern Samangan province reported that they have recorded three positive cases of coronavirus in this province.

https://www.khaama.com/coronavirus-over-300-american-soldiers-quarantined-after-returning-from-afghanistan-04515/

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The Latest: Republic of Congo reports 1st coronavirus case

March 15, 2020

The Latest on the world's coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 150,000 people and killed more than 5,700. The disease for most people causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness.

The Republic of Congo, which is home to the World Health Organization’s regional Africa headquarters, has reported its first case of the coronavirus.

The government said late Saturday that a duel French and Republic of Congo citizen returned from Paris on an Ethiopian Airlines flight on March 1. After recently showing symptoms, they alerted authorities. The government asked that others on that flight come forward.

Turkey has set up quarantine locations for more than 10,300 people returning from pilgrimages to Islam’s holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

The Youth and Sport Ministry said Sunday that beds had been made available in university dormitories in the capital, Ankara, and the central Anatolian city of Konya for those returning from Umrah, a pilgrimage that can be made at any time of the year. Returnees will be quarantined for 14 days in an effort to combat the coronavirus.

Universities have been closed for three weeks due to the virus outbreak. Turkey’s latest case, its sixth, was a returning pilgrim.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has asked people to work, study and worship from home to reduce the risk of being infected with the coronavirus.

Widodo said at a news conference Sunday that his country faces an especially challenging fight against the coronavirus due to its unique geography. The sprawling archipelago nation comprises over 17,000 islands and is home to more than 260 million people.

Austria is further tightening restrictions on public life, closing restaurants and sports facilities and halting flights to a number of countries in an effort to fight the coronavirus.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the new measures in a parliamentary session on Sunday. The Austria Press Agency reported that he announced flight bans for Britain, Ukraine and Russia.

Restaurants will now have to close entirely starting on Tuesday. Previous plans had called for them to open only until 3 p.m.

Travelers returning to the U.S. from Europe have been greeted with hourslong waits for required medical screenings at airports.

While American citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return to the U.S. amid new European travel restrictions, they're being funneled to 13 U.S. airports where they're subject to health screenings and quarantine orders.

Acting Secretary Chad Wolf says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to add additional screening capacity and work with airlines to expedite the process. In tweets posted early Sunday morning, he said it takes about a minute per screening.

Videos and photos posted to social media showed packed, winding lines of returning travelers. On Twitter, airports like Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare acknowledged the delays and asked for patience.

South Korea’s president has declared southeastern parts of the country hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak as “special disasters zones,” a designation that makes residents there eligible for emergency relief, tax benefits and other state financial support.

President Moon Jae-in’s office says he on Sunday approved a proposal by his prime minister to declare the Daegu city and some areas in the southeastern Gyeongsang province as such disaster zones.

It’s the first time for South Korea to declare any area a special disaster zone due to an infectious disease. Past disaster zone designations were declared for areas stricken by typhoons, floods and other national disasters.

South Korea has so far reported 8,162 coronavirus cases, about 88% of them in the southeastern region. More than 830 people have recovered.

Australia's prime minister says all travelers arriving in the country will have to self-isolate for 14 days to try and stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement Sunday after a phone hookup with the leaders of Australian states and territories leaders under a new national cabinet meeting.

Just across the Hudson River from New York City, a New Jersey city is imposing a curfew on residents amid the virus outbreak.

Hoboken residents must stay in their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Monday, a daily curfew that's among the first and most far-reaching such measures taken in the U.S.

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla announced Saturday night that exceptions will be made for emergencies and people required to work.

He also said bars and restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery services. Bars that don't serve food will shut down altogether Sunday.

In New Zealand, passengers aboard a cruise ship in the South Island tourist town of Akaroa are not being allowed off the vessel while three passengers are tested for the new coronavirus.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said Sunday that one of the passengers on the Golden Princess is being treated as a suspected case because that person has developed symptoms of the disease and is a close contact of another person who has been confirmed as having contracted COVID-19.

Bloomfield says they should get the test results on Monday, and that officials are considering their response should the case be confirmed.

He says one lesson from observing problems with the virus spreading on other cruise ships is to avoid leaving everybody on board. Bloomfield didn't elaborate on what form any response might take.

The news came just one day after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country was banning cruise ships from entering its waters as it took a more aggressive approach to COVID-19. The Golden Princess was already in New Zealand at the time Ardern made her announcement.

The cruise ship departed from Melbourne, Australia. An Akaroa cruise schedule indicates the ship was expected to have about 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crew.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

https://www.wsls.com/news/world/2020/03/15/the-latest-cruise-ship-in-new-zealand-awaits-virus-test/

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Pakistan

 

Govt, judiciary vying to take over Khyber Levies training centre

March 15, 2020

Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and the judiciary are vying to take over the US-funded under construction Shakass Levies Training Centre in Khyber tribal district, while the donor has insisted that the facility should be specifically used for the purpose for which funds were approved by the US Congress.

Sources told Dawn that Khyber district’s judiciary wanted to relocate from its transitional premises in Peshawar to the training centre temporarily.

The provincial cabinet in a meeting on Feb 25 decided to convert the facility into a training centre for Rescue 1122.

The sources said the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs-Pakistan, which provides $5.9 million funds for the construction of the training centre at Shakass, had strongly opposed the use of the facility for any other purpose.

Sources said the INL, which funded other projects, had conveyed to the relevant authorities that the violation of the memorandum of understanding would not only create misunderstanding between the government and donor but it was also likely to impact future financial assistance to the province.

“The INL (Pakistan) has conveyed to the authorities that funds are approved by the US Congress for a specific purpose and the facility is meant for the same. Any violation in the mode of utilisation of the funds or facility will not only create a grave concern but will also lead to the stoppage of further aid in all fields by the US government,” according to official documents.

INL head of public affairs section Scot Robinson did not reply to an email of this correspondent.

“We are being sandwiched between the provincial government and the judiciary in the prevailing scenario,” said an official dealing with the development side in the district.

Interestingly, the provincial government has fixed gaze on the takeover of the training centre but it ignored around 35 employees including ministerial staff hired for the project and training of the Levies Force.

“The government seems interested only in taking over the property and is not ready to own us,” said an employee at the facility.

The centre is being set up over 300 acres of land in Shakass area of Bara tehsil of Khyber district. It will initially cater to the training needs of 28,000 personnel of Levies and Khasadar forces, the law-enforcement arm of the administration in the erstwhile Fata.

The contract for the construction of the training facility having capacity to accommodate 400 trainees with boarding facilities, parade ground and firing range was awarded to the Frontier Corps (North). Work on the project began in 2011 and is likely to finish by the end of April 2020.

Following the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 28,000 Levies and Khasadar personnel have been absorbed into the provincial police, while the law and order section of the defunct Fata Secretariat was handed over to the home department.

The merger and subsequent developments, including the absorption of tribal districts’ law- enforcement agencies into police, gave other departments ideas about taking over the training centre.

Sources told Dawn that on Feb 17, the additional district and session judge of Khyber district chaired a meeting, which discussed the taking over of two blocks of the training centre for shifting of the district courts temporarily until the construction of the district judicial complex.

The meeting was informed that the registrar of the Peshawar High Court visited the training centre in Oct 2019 regarding the establishment of a judicial complex and making necessary modifications and arrangements in the training centre to meet the requirements of the district judiciary.

The meeting decided to bring the issue to the notice of the PHC registrar with a request to convene a meeting of the chief secretary, inspector general of police, inspector general of Frontier Corps (North), secretary of the home and tribal affairs department and INL officials for the early handing and taking over of the proposed building.

In the meanwhile, the relief, rehabilitation and settlement department managed to push a summary proposing to shift the centre into training academy for Rescue 1122 through the provincial cabinet on Feb 25.

Sources said after the cabinet’s approval, the department concerned would approach the FC for handing over the facility to Rescue 1122.

Official sources said the police were interested to retain the control of the sprawling facility instead of handing it over to any other department.

They said after the absorption of Levies and Khasadar forces, the strength of the province’s police had totalled over 100,000.

They said the existing police training college in Hangu did not have sufficient space and capacity to cater to the needs of the police.

The sources said the police department had pointed out security issues of the building in case of utilisation other than the training school for Levies.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1541035/govt-judiciary-vying-to-take-over-khyber-levies-training-centre

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Pre-arrest bail hampers probe, prosecution processes, SC rules

March 15, 2020

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has held that the grant of bail to an accused required in a cognizable and non-bailable offence before his arrest clogs the very mechanics of the state authority to investigate and prosecute violations of law designated as crimes.

“The grant of bail to an accused required in a cognizable and non-bail offence prior to his arrest is an extraordinary judicial intervention in an ongoing or imminent investigative process,” observed Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed.

The observation came on an appeal filed by Ghulam Farooq Channa, secretary of Jamshed Town Union Council, Karachi, against the Feb 13 Sindh High Court (SHC) order of denying him the same remedy.

A two judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed had taken up the appeal on March 3.

“To prevent arrest of an accused required by a law is a measure with far reaching consequences that may include loss or disappearance of evidence,” the judgement feared, adding that the statute did not contemplate such a remedy besides it was also judicially decided way back in 1949 in the case of Hidayatullah Khan versus the Crown.

Such a grant of bail was always intended with a purpose sacrosanct and noble, the judgement observed, explaining that essentially such a relief was meant to provide judicial refuge to the innocent and the vulnerable from the rigours or abuse or process of law with an intention to protect human dignity and honour from the humiliation of arrest intended for designs sinister and oblique.

The remedy oriented in equity could not be invoked in every run of the mill criminal case, Justice Ahmed observed, adding that prima facie the post arrest bail certainly was not a substitute in cases not supported by material and evidence, constituting a non-bailable/cognizable offence, warranting arrest which was an inherent attribute of the dynamics of the criminal justice system with a deterrent impact.

The petitioner had been avoiding arrest since Aug 28, 2019 when he was accused of having fabricated a fake death certificate of a woman namely Naseem Begum Chotani. The fake death certificate had helped his co-accused to attempt to hoodwink judicial process and grab valuable properties whose ownership vested in the woman.

When disclosed, the scam was reported to the Anti-Corruption Authorities and after an inquiry the petitioner was booked as an accused alongside with other accomplices.

Senior lawyer Ghulam Sajjad Gopang, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, argued that alleged fabrication was reported after five years and it was committed by the officials at the higher rung. But his client was being hounded as a scapegoat to save the real culprits, the counsel said, adding that co-accused in the case had since been released on post-arrest bail and thus the petitioner’s remission into custody was not likely to serve any useful purpose in the investigation process.

In the judgement, Justice Ahmed observed that the petitioner was at the helm of affairs when the bogus certificate was issued and that cognizance on belated disclosure did not mitigate the culpability nor should be equated with mala fide.

The judgement held that the view taken by the SHC and the special judge, (Central-I) Karachi in the first round of litigation was in accord with the law being consistently followed by the Supreme Court.

“Thus the petition is dismissed and the leave denied,” the judgement said, adding that the release of the petitioner on post- arrest bail would frustrate the investigation purposes.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1540990/pre-arrest-bail-hampers-probe-prosecution-processes-sc-rules

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Speaker cancels meetings of NA committees

March 15, 2020

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has cancelled all the meetings of the house committees till further order as part of the measures taken by the government to fight coronavirus in the country.

This was announced by a spokesman for the National Assembly Secretariat here on Saturday, a day after the National Security Committee (NSC), headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, took a number of decisions, including closure of educational institutions and bar on all kinds of public gatherings for the next three weeks.

It is worth mentioning that Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had cancelled the meetings of all the standing and functional committee on Friday even before the meeting of the NSC.

The spokesman for the NA Secretariat stated that notices had been issued regarding the cancellation of all the meetings for an indefinite period as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Interestingly, the official websites of the two secretariats have not been updated till filing of this report on Saturday night and according to them, most of the meetings are still scheduled to be held on time.

The speaker’s decision has affected the meetings of 25 committees that were scheduled be held from March 16 to March 31. Similarly, the Senate chairman had cancelled meetings of 18 various committees which were scheduled to be held between March 16 and 26.

The decision to cancel the NA committees meetings will definitely affect the working of the parliament since more than 150 government and private member’s bills are pending before these committees which had been constituted very late by the speaker due to a row between the government and the opposition over the nomination of the Opposition Leader and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif as chairman of the all-powerful Public Accounts Committee.

Meanwhile, the Capital Deve¬lopment Authority (CDA), the civic body responsible for the maintenance of the Parliament House has been directed to initiate immediate measures in order to protect Parliament House from the coronavirus.

The CDA had been directed to complete the fumigation, cleaning and washing exercise positively by today (Sunday).

According to another handout issued by the National Assembly Secretariat, Speaker Asad Qaiser called federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan and expressed his deep concern over the sudden raise of airfares of flights intended for Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

The speaker said the aviation ministry should take necessary measures before expiring of the 72-hour deadline set by the Saudi government for the return of their own nationals and other Iqama holders.

The speaker said no one should be allowed to extort money from anyone at this juncture of time. He said airlines were overcharging rather extorting money from the Pakistanis intending for Saudi Arabia. He asked the minister for aviation to immediately address that issue.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1541002/speaker-cancels-meetings-of-na-committees

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URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/islamic-state-asks-terrorists-to-avoid-travel-to-coronavirus-affected-countries,-wash-hands/d/121307

 

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