New Age Islam
Wed Oct 21 2020, 08:53 AM

Islamic World News ( 28 Dec 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Kerala: Malappuram Temple Joins CAA Protest of Mosque Committees








• Kerala: Malappuram Temple Joins CAA Protest Of Mosque Committees

• India’s Minority Affairs Minister Seeks to Punish Uttar Pradesh Cop Who Asked Muslim Protesters to ‘Go to Pakistan’

• Pakistanis Never Discriminated Against Me: Pakistan Former Leg Spinner Kaneria

• Pakistan Tight-Lipped About Its ISIS Operatives in Afghanistan

• Foreign Policy Vision for the New Government in Afghanistan

• Is Antisemitic Mahathir Becoming A Leading Figure In The Muslim World?

• Saudi Ministry Fines Animal Welfare Act Violators

• Controversial Anti-Islamic Dutch MP Revives Plan For Mohammad Cartoon Contest

• US’ Pompeo Slams China for Treatment Of Muslim Uighurs

• Iran’s Health System, Pioneer in Islamic World

• Truck Bomb Kills At Least 90 In Somalia's Capital, Mayor Blames Islamist Terror Group

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/kerala--malappuram-temple-joins-caa-protest-of-mosque-committees/d/120653

 

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India

• Muslim Anger, Hindu Support: In Uttar Pradesh, Police Rampage Deepens Old Faultlines

• India's Tourism Industry Hit Hard By Protests against Anti-Muslim Law

• In concession to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia to host OIC meet on Kashmir

• We The People: ‘I Wish In The New Year We Start Looking At People As Humans, Not As Hindu, Muslim’

• Community Leaders In Upper Darby Denounce Law Passed In India That Discriminates Against Muslim Immigrants

• Muslims will be hit badly if CAA, NRC are implemented: Uttam Kumar Reddy

• 1000 Aligarh Muslim University Students in Hot Water Over Violence, Property Damage Charges in India

• Tamil Nadu Muslim body holds protest against CAA in Chennai

• “Can a man who cannot tolerate Muslim names tolerate Muslims?” Zakir Nagar’s women against CAA

• With CAA, BJP aims to divide Hindu-Muslim and win Bengal, Assam polls: P Chidambaram

• ANALYSIS - Why do Muslims oppose citizenship engineering in India?

• CAA-NRC protests in Chennai: Eight detained for drawing kolams on road

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Pakistan

• Islam has no contradictions with science: Qadri

• Imran says will bring reform against all odds

• Pakistan rolls out fighters made with Chinese collaboration

• OIC should raise effective voice for Indian Muslims, Kashmir: FM Qureshi

• Imran asks KP govt to focus on tribal districts

• PML-N leader justifies screening of video a day after brush with FIA

• ‘Kufa politics can’t make Madina state’

• NAB Ordinance meant to protect PM Imran’s friends, cronies

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South Asia

• NRC is India's internal affair: Border Guards Bangladesh DG Shafeenul Islam

• Tajikistan: Muslim Faces 18-Year Charges, Jehovah’s Witness Prisoner Denied Bible, Pastor Freed

• Taliban attack on Afghanistan army base kills 10 soldiers

• Taliban dig tunnel into base in AF, kill 10 soldiers in blast

• Hekmatyar Disappoints Again, Setback for Pakistan

• A Peace agreement or withdrawal deal?

• Young Afghan MMA fighter defeats his Russian rival in a breathtaking fight

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Southeast Asia

• Don’t cite Jawi writing as reason to embrace Islam, says Hadi

• China sends 5 lakh Muslim kids to boarding schools

• More than S$10,316 raised to honour Muslim youth who protected church-goers from bomb blast in 2000

• MUIS restructuring to restore glory of Islam in Sabah

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Arab World

• Young Saudis: We Value Responsibility, Hard Work, Tolerance And Justice

• Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Condoles Kazakhstan President, on Victims of Civilian Passenger Airline

• Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival returns for its 22nd edition

• Iraqi artists pay tribute to dead protesters with sculptures

• Saudi Arabia’s Jazan Heritage Village ready to receive visitors

• Music maestro Omar Khairat says honored to perform at AlUla

• Najran governor visits troops on Saudi Arabia’s southern border

• Dubai’s Burj Khalifa promotes Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020

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Europe

• Anti-Muslim group says 5,000 members join Conservatives

• Congratulations To British Muslims Named In 2020 New Years Honours List

• UN condemns Myanmar for human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims

• Today's Muslims are changing with the times – yet they remain rooted to their beliefs

• Russian forces bombed a mosque in Talmennes town in Idlib, on December 27

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North America

• US mass killings hit new high in 2019, most were shootings

• ‘We have the resources’: Democratic presidential candidates propose trillions in spending amid debate over what’s doable

• A government shutdown and the biggest raise in a decade: How Trump gave federal workers whiplash in 2019

• They Can’t Get Enough of ‘The West Wing’ Right Now

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Mideast

• Day of carnage on Egypt’s roads kills 28

• Salahaddin Bahadin re-elected as Secretary-General of Kurdistan Islamic Union

• Turkey will not withdraw from army posts in Syria’s Idlib

• Iraqi artists pay tribute to dead protesters with sculptures

• Blast hits military parade in Yemen

• Turkey-backed Syrian rebels being sent to join Libya fighting

• Protesters storm Beirut bank as fears over economy mount

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Africa

• 2020 Prophecy: Islamic scholar predicts political wrangling imminent in Nigeria if

• Muslims would not be provoked to take up arms against anybody - Sultan

• 43 shrapnel pieces still remain in Sheikh Zakzaky body

• An Islamic State Christmas killing of 11 hostages in Nigeria threatens to flare up religious tensions

• Muslims In Nigeria Good People -Sultan Of Sokoto

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Kerala: Malappuram temple joins CAA protest of Mosque committees

Dec 28, 2019

MALAPPURAM: Extending support to a large section of Muslim community, a temple committee in the district has joined the protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizen (NRC) organized by three Mahallu committees in Punnathala near Kottakkal

Around 20 persons representing Narasimha Moorthy Temple in Punnathala, including the temple office bearers attended the protest rally held on Friday evening, after committee meeting decided to give support to the demand of the Mahallu committees to repeal CAA.

The protest rally was jointly organized by the mosque committees in Edamana, Chirakkal and Chelakkod. The rally was taken out from Punnathala School premises around 4pm. When the protest rally reached the temple premises the temple office bearers including the president of the committee C Mayandi, treasurer K P Viswanathan , joint secretary Kuttan , committee member Suresh and others joined the rally expressing solidarity with the demand of the protesters.

Areekadan Mammu Master, a local political activist and former panchayath president of Athavanu panchayat, said that it was the temple committee which offered support to the organisers when a collective of three Mahallu committees planned a protest programme in the area.

Suresh Babu K P, member of the temple management committee, said that the committee unanimously decided to support the rally. “Muslims and Hindus of the area have been living in harmony For many years, without any discords between people of different communities. Temple committees and Mosque committees are cooperating with each other for different social causes. As the entire Muslim community is anxious over the implementation of controversial citizenship act, we have also decided to share their concern. We think it is our responsibility to support their fight to protect secular credentials of our nation”, Suresh said adding that all committee members irrespective of political parties attended the rally.

During the holy month of Ramadan, the same temple had hosted a mass Iftar serving dinner to around 700 Muslim people in the locality, as part of the Consecration Day (Pathishta Dinam) festival. Many Muslim families in the region had given financial support to the temple committee to complete renovation works of the temple.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/kerala-malappuram-temple-joins-caa-protest-of-mosque-committees/articleshow/73007687.cms

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India’s Minority Affairs Minister Seeks to Punish Uttar Pradesh Cop Who Asked Muslim Protesters to ‘Go to Pakistan’

29.12.2019

New Delhi (Sputnik): The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has witnessed deaths in the ongoing protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), with at least 19 people dying in violent demonstrations.

India’s Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Sunday demanded action from the Uttar Pradesh state government against a senior police officer who allegedly made some objectionable remarks against protesters in a Muslim locality in Meerut.

A video clip shows Meerut’s Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Narayan Singh taking a broadside on a few Muslim men and telling them to “Go To Pakistan”.

In the video clip posted on social media, the cop who visited the Muslim locality with several other anti-riot security personnel, is seen asking residents to convey his message to protesters, particularly to four men who raised Pakistan flags during their protest against CAA.

In the video, Meerut’s Superintendent of Police Singh, wearing riot gear can be seen saying “Go To Pakistan”, while being surrounded by three Muslim men in a narrow lane.

Singh is further heard saying that since he now has the chance, he will set the residents of the lane right. He also claimed he will comb the locality for rioters and lock them up. Yet again referring to Pakistan, he is heard saying in the video, “If you do not want to live here then go away. You come here but you sing the praises about somewhere else?"

In his defence, however, Singh on Saturday said his Pakistan jibe was only directed at those who were chanting pro-Pakistan slogans during protests against the citizenship law.

The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has seen a surge in violence as protesters continue to oppose the Citizenship Law, which grants Indian citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Jains, Parsis, Christians, Buddhists and Sikh minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The legislation, however, doesn't extend to Muslims - something which many see as a violation of the Indian Constitution. The country's prime minister, Narendra Modi, has vehemently denied these claims, saying that the law doesn't discriminate against Muslims.

His Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan has, meanwhile, stressed that Islamabad would not accept Muslim refugees from India in the wake of a curfew imposed by New Delhi in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The state police have identified 110 rioters and released a poster with their photographs. The state administration has also sent notice for compensation to the vandals who were identified defacing public property. According to reports, at least 288 police officers have suffered injuries in clashes with protesters.

https://sputniknews.com/world/201912291077892100-indian-minister-seeks-to-punish-uttar-pradesh-cop-who-asked-muslim-protesters-to-go-to-pakistan/

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Pakistanis Never Discriminated Against Me: Pakistan Former Leg Spinner Kaneria

December 29, 2019

KARACHI: Former leg spinner Danish Kaneria on Saturday clarified that he was never discriminated on the basis of religion during his playing career for Pakistan, but did claim that he was treated differently by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) after he was found guilty in a spot-fixing scandal.

Kaneria made headlines this week after former teammate Shoaib Akhtar said that the leggie was discriminated by some Muslim members of the Pakistani cricket team because of his Hindu faith.

The spinner had later backed Akhtar’s explosive claim, and thanked him for “telling the truth to the world”. However, following public backlash, Kaneria has had a change of hearts, as he detailed in a series of tweets earlier that he has a bone to pick with the authorities and not the public. “The people of Pakistan never discriminated against me on the basis of religion,” he said.

Kaneria did say though that he did not get any support from the PCB or the government of Pakistan after being banned — unlike “other players in similar situation”.

Though he did not name, Kaneria’s gripe stems from the PCB’s handling of Mohammad Amir and Sharjeel Khan — both of whom were found guilty in separate spot-fixing scandals. Amir admitted his guilt, served his time and has since largely been forgiven and become a regular fixture of the national team. Sharjeel, too, has completed his rehab and been picked by the Karachi Kings for the Pakistan Super League 2020, after which a national recall could also be on the cards. Having said that, it took Kaneria — banned for life by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2012 — six years to admit his guilt in the spot-fixing scandal of 2009. By that time, he had lost his cricketing utility for the national team and the PCB.

Kaneria’s case has similarities to that of former Pakistan captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, both of whom have complained of being treated differently than Amir.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/590452-pakistanis-never-discriminated-against-me-kaneria

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Pakistan tight-lipped about its ISIS operatives in Afghanistan

Dec 28, 2019

NEW DELHI: Even as the majority of over 600 ISIS Khorasan operatives, who, along with hundreds of their family members, surrendered in Afghanistan last month, are from Pakistan, the Imran Khan government has remained tight-lipped about it.

Sources based in Kabul told IANS that Islamabad made no attempt to take back the women and children of the Pakistani ISIS operatives, who, along with others, were defeated by the US-Afghan coalition security forces in a massive counter-terror operation in Nangarhar province of eastern Afghanistan in November.

Nangarhar province was the center of the ISIS Khorasan operations in Afghanistan. Besides Pakistani nationals, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Russians, Iranians and Kurds were among those ISIS operatives who turned themselves in to the Afghan government.

Later, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani who visited Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province and the US declared that the ISIS Khorasan Province had been wiped out. The ISIS has however refrained from issuing any statement on the defeat of the Khorasan province.

In 2015, in an expansionary move, ISIS created 'Wilayat Khorasan' (Khurasan Province), a historical region that includes parts of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIS recruited defectors and disgruntled members from the Taliban. As a result, a turf war between Taliban and ISIS broke out in Nangarhar province, in which ISIS was able to seize territory.

On April 13, 2017, the US dropped its mother of non-nuclear bombs, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), to destroy tunnel complexes used by ISIS Khorasan Province.

Last month, the coalition forces defeated them decisively, forcing hundreds to surrender along with their families, with most of them being Pakistani nationals who had infiltrated, four years ago, into Nangarhar province through the Durand Line --the border which Afghanistan has disputed since it was drawn by the British in 1893.

Sources in Kabul said that Pakistan has tried to hush the news given the enormous pressure from Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global watchdog for money laundering and terror funding. "They are fencing the Durand Line so that they get to control whom they can send from Pakistan to Afghanistan and whom they will prevent from entering Pakistan. They have been sending mujahideen to Afghanistan just as they send them to Kashmir. But in both cases, they don't take back their people," sources in Jalalabad said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-tight-lipped-about-its-isis-operatives-in-afghanistan/articleshow/73008354.cms

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Foreign Policy Vision for the New Government in Afghanistan

Saturday, 28 Dec 2019

President Ashraf Ghani’s recent electoral victory has once again put him at the helm of one of the most challenging politico-economic transitions any nation-state faces in the present times. In his first term, foreign Policy became a key focus area, where Kabul’s efforts were directed at roping in investments and pitching Afghanistan as an indispensable node in myriad regional connectivity projects floated by China, India and Eurasian states. Afghanistan’s participation in initiatives like the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chabahar project and the Lapis Lazuli corridor demonstrated President Ghani’s efforts to integrate the nation with the global markets. The phase also witnessed pressures on the domestic front, which were assiduously managed to ensure a smooth execution of the government’s foreign policy vision.  

The gravity of international challenges to the domestic politics was evident in the repeated postponement of the elections, a tight ropewalk which the Ghani regime successfully carried out in the preceding months in face of opposition from the Taliban. Also, the extent of domestic challenges to any international initiative can be gauged from the political opposition president Ghani faced in roping in foreign investment or transit project as any initiative would be seen through ethnic or local political calculations. A glaring example of these machinations is the Asian Development Bank approved TUTAP power project, a proposed power line running connecting Turkmenistan and Pakistan via Afghanistan.  The government faced protests in 2016 as the proposed route of the power transmission line was said to be discretionary. In an unfortunate turn of events, a protest gathering was attacked in the same year, killing almost 80 people belonging to the Hazara ethnic group. In crux, the Ghani administration not only faced challenges where the domestic political got intertwined with the government’s international ventures, but they further ended up being hijacked by non-state actors as witnessed in the above-mentioned incident. Working towards a regional vision, President Ghani had been equally engaged in taking the Afghan political establishment towards a consensus as far as critical issues were concerned.

Despite the centrifugal forces operating within the National Unity Government (NUG), President Ghani charted out a robust and ambitious program based on Afghanistan’s location in the heart of Asia. Kabul has availed the opportunity to embrace several regional projects, ranging from the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative to the INSTC corridor spearheaded by India and Russia.  The revival of Kabul-Urumqi flight in 2016 and the slow but steady functioning of China-Afghanistan freight train only substantiate Kabul’s commitments, besides making China the largest investor in Afghanistan. Similarly, the Afghanistan-India trade breached the $1 billion mark in 2018, marking the Ghani administration’s success in engaging the two regional powers to the best of Afghanistan’s interests.

For the Afghan regime, any regional vision has to be framed in the light of the nation’s landlocked geography weighed against its centrality to South and Central Asia. Within this context, the core of his vision was an economic program to integrate Afghanistan as a corridor of trade and cooperation connecting South, Central and west Asia and simultaneously securing alternative routes to access the wider transit and trading networks. As Afghanistan looks to integrate itself in the global economic chain, it is worth noticing how transit routes to Iran, Central Asia, China and even Europe figured prominently in President Ghani’s vision.  Ghani’s pragmatism on the foreign policy front is visible from his refusal to accept Afghanistan as a landlocked state and its historic dependence on the Karachi port for trade. Addressing the Loya Jirga earlier this year, he stated that “we want Afghanistan to be the connecting point for transferring of the energy of the Central Asia to South Asia and this is something that only Afghanistan can do for Pakistan”, indicating Afghanistan’s potential in transforming the Af-Pak relationship into that of mutual interdependency.

In another occasion, President Ghani, on his visit to China described the foreign policy of his administration as “as a bundle of relations, the thickness or thinness of which depends on mutual trust and respect for our sovereign right to make choices that serve the interests of our people, the region and the world”. The larger message conveyed through this statement was Kabul’s confidence as the sole foreign policy driver in its economic choices, even though it acknowledges American assistance in the defense and security matters (even in the latter aspect the government has grown assertive in the last few years).

To conclude, the foreign policy needs a strong impetus in key affairs. Firstly, as Afghanistan focuses more on external trade, a nationally inclusive framework needs be developed where key export sectors are identified with emphasis on increasing the value added of the primary exports. The ongoing projects that seek to develop Special Economic Zones, resource mining and industrial have well laid rules and regulations but their slow pace needs to be looked into to infuse greater investor confidence.

Despite these successes, the human capital constraint remains a persistent concern which has prevented the foreign policy establishment from realizing its full potential. The other priority for the new government should be an institutional overhaul of the diplomatic establishment, which was affected by vested interests working at cross-purposes. Specifically, the influence of warlord-driven interests need to be curtailed from the foreign policy making and efforts should be made to make it professionally driven. Greater emphasis on inducting academicians and technocrats would add more vigour to Afghan foreign policy. Every year, Afghanistan gets growing number of young graduates from world’s leading universities. It is incumbent on the new administration to overhaul the foreign policy establishment of political cronyism and create a competent, loyal and patriotic diplomatic corps that looks into the sensitive aspects of policymaking. Concomitantly, the nascent think tank ecosystem in Afghanistan must be roped in to flesh out foreign policy issues with greater scrutiny and critical inputs, thereby enabling the foreign office to engage with the widest possible spectrum of input.

https://www.khaama.com/foreign-policy-vision-for-the-new-government-in-afghanistan-90876/

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Is antisemitic Mahathir becoming a leading figure in the Muslim world?

By OLIVER TAYLOR  

DECEMBER 28, 2019

Today was the first day of the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Malaysia, where leaders from the world’s most populous Muslim Majority’s came together to address issues facing the Muslim world such as Islamophobia, leadership, and poverty.

Although there were several last-minute dropouts from leaders, such as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, organizers of the event state that there are at least 250 foreign representatives from 52 countries and 150 Malaysian delegates in attendance.

In theory, the goals of the summit are positive and the aims, such as progression and economic stability, laudable. However, the problem comes in when you consider who is the organizer and leader of this gathering – Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir, a proud antisemite and Israel-hater with disturbing opinions.

The list of his slurs and antisemitic comments is as lengthy as it is vile. In a 2012 blog post, Mahathir stated that he is “proud to be labeled antisemitic,” and in his autobiography he claims that “Jews are not merely hook-nosed but understand money instinctively.” There have been multiple times where he questioned the accuracy of the Holocaust, and he often blames the “Jewish agenda” for his own economic failures.

It is hard to tell whether he is more antisemitic or anti-Israel. A popular Malaysian outlet, Malaysiakini, reported him stating, “What is the reason we don’t allow Israelis to come here? We say they are crooks, and we just got rid of one crook,” and he was widely criticized after his decision to ban Israeli para-athletes from a swimming meet planned in Malaysia.

Indeed, Mahathir has never missed an opportunity to insult, mock, and vehemently criticize both the Jewish people, and the state of Israel. So, it is highly concerning that this very man is leading an International summit for Muslim leaders and taking other steps to position himself as a central figure in the Islamic world.

Attendees of the four-day summit include Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid Al-Thani, and several leaders of terrorist organization Hamas.

Mahathir welcomed the guests claiming, “We need to find a way to address our shortcomings, our dependency on non-Muslims, to protect ourselves against the enemies of Islam,” giving the clear message that the “enemies of Islam” are front and center on his mind as he steers the event forward. With a crowd that is already eager for the destruction of Israel, there is no doubt this summit will stir up anger and a thirst for “revenge.”

Besides being the host of this summit, Mahathir has been making several other moves to show his alliance to Hamas. The political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, was given permission to tour several Muslim countries after a year and a half travel ban.

One of the first countries on the list of his destinations is Malaysia due to a personal invitation from Mahathir. The two leaders have a close relationship and often have long phone calls, in which Mahathir has reportedly stated that he views Israel as a “criminal state which Malaysia does not welcome.”

Having yet another open antisemite rally for a position of importance in the Muslim world is frightening. What is even more frightening is how most of the Western world respect and admire the Malaysian prime minister for his famous sarcasm, his elderly wisdom, and his charismatic smile.

Mahathir has shown himself to be a conniving and talented politician, with the ability to influence and unite. And if he uses this power to stir up more hatred and anger, there could be dangerous consequences.

The author is a British student completing a master’s degree in political science.

https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Is-antisemitic-Mahathir-becoming-a-leading-figure-in-the-Muslim-world-612375

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Saudi ministry fines Animal Welfare Act violators

December 29, 2019

RIYADH: The Saudi Environment Ministry has imposed fines of SR1.7 million ($453,333) on 29 violators of the Animal Welfare Act, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday. 

The ministry said the violations include selling animal products unsafe for human consumption, transporting animals from one region to another without the required health certificate, to license-related violations, health violations inside facilities, and the mistreatment of animals by not providing an appropriate environment for them.

The majority of violations, 16, were registered in Makkah, seven were recorded in Riyadh, two in Tabuk and one each in Jazan, Assir, Madinah and Hail.

The ministry praised veterinary observers at its branches and offices, and all those who contributed to reporting the violations especially those related to animal abuse.

The ministry urged owners and supervisors of facilities to cooperate with the observers and abide by the law.

The ministry urged people to call the hotline 8002470000 to report any suspected violation.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605441/saudi-arabia

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Controversial anti-Islamic Dutch MP revives plan for Mohammad cartoon contest

Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders said he had revived his plan to hold a contest for cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammad, more than a year after cancelling such an event out of fear for attacks in the Netherlands.

In a post on Twitter late on Saturday, Wilders called on people to send in their Mohammad cartoons.

“Freedom of speech must prevail over violence and Islamic fatwa’s”, the leader of the largest opposition party in the Dutch parliament wrote.

Wilders cancelled a similar contest in August last year after police arrested a man who had threatened to kill him over his plan.

At the time, plans to hold the contest also prompted large demonstrations in Pakistan, organised by Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik, which called on Islamist countries to sever all ties with the Netherlands.

Images of the Prophet Mohammad are traditionally forbidden in Islam as idolatrous. Caricatures are regarded by most Muslims as highly offensive.

In 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Mohammad that sparked demonstrations across the Muslim world as well as several attempts to kill either its editor or cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Ten years later, a pair of Islamist gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, also known for publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/505201

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US’ Pompeo slams China for treatment of Muslim Uighurs

29.12.2019

Safvan Allahverdi

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed China on Saturday for its treatment of minority Muslim Uighur population, calling for “respect and protect religious freedom”.

“From #Tibet to #Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party's repressive campaigns are not about combating terrorism,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

“The #CCP is attempting to erase its own citizens’ faiths and cultures. All societies must respect and protect religious freedom,” he added.

China’s western Xinjiang region is home to 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused Chinese authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

China is accused of carrying out repressive policies against the Uighurs and restraining religious, commercial and cultural rights.

Up to 1 million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.

In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused China of carrying out a “systematic campaign of human rights violations” against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

China denies the charges, claiming Uighurs are being educated in "vocational training centers."

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-pompeo-slams-china-for-treatment-of-muslim-uighurs/1686617

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Iran’s health system, pioneer in Islamic world

28 December 2019

TEHRAN, Dec. 28 (MNA) – Pakistan’s Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar said that Iran’s health system is pioneer in the Islamic world.

She made the remarks in an interview with IRNA on Sat. and added, “salient achievements gained by Iran in the field of healthcare are on par with the developed countries, and Pakistan is ready to take advantage of high potentials and capabilities of Iran in this field.”

Iran is a friend and neighboring country to Pakistan and the two countries have established amicable and intimate relations with each other for a very long time period.

She termed activity of higher education centers, medical universities and other health services organizations in Iran as ‘significant’, adding, “we can make use of the capacities and potentials of Iran in the fields of research and training.”

Pakistan has taken remarkable measures in line with supporting the low-income families such as alleviation of poverty among women in the society, she emphasized.

Pakistan’s Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar also appreciated policies taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran with regards to empowering women in the country.

https://en.mehrnews.com/news/153797/Iran-s-health-system-pioneer-in-Islamic-world

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Truck bomb kills at least 90 in Somalia's capital, mayor blames Islamist terror group

At least 90 people were killed when a bomb-laden truck exploded at a busy checkpoint in the Somali capital Mogadishu yesterday, an international organisation working in the country said, in the deadliest attack in more than two years.

The dead included many students and two Turkish nationals, Somalia’s foreign minister said, adding that dozens were injured.

Saturday is a working day in the Muslim country and the explosion occurred during the morning rush hour. Rescuers carried bodies past the twisted wreckage of a vehicle and a minibus taxi smeared with blood.

A report by the international organisation, which did not want to be named, said the death toll was more than 90 and that university students and 17 police officers were among those killed. A Somali MP also tweeted that he had been told the death toll stands at more than 90.

Like other checkpoints in a city scarred by decades of conflict, traffic is often clogged at the Ex-Control Junction, where heavily armed security forces check vehicles for explosives and weapons and other officers direct traffic. There is also a government tax collection point at junction, officials said.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast but the city’s mayor blamed al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab.

The group regularly carries out such attacks in an attempt to undermine the government, which is backed by the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping troops.

The most deadly attack blamed on al Shabaab was in October 2017 when a bomb-laden truck exploded next to a fuel tanker in Mogadishu, creating a fireball that killed nearly 600 people.

While al Shabaab carries out frequent attacks, the death tolls are often lower than in Saturday’s blast. The group has sometimes not claimed responsibility for attacks that sparked a big public backlash, such as a 2009 suicide bombing of a graduation ceremony for medical students.

Many attacks this year, including one in September on a base where US special forces train Somali commandos, show the group maintains a strong intelligence network and can mount deadly and sometimes sophisticated operations, analysts say.

Three witnesses told Reuters that a small team of Turkish engineers were present at the time of the blast, constructing a road into the city.

Turkey’s foreign ministry confirmed the death of two of its nationals.

Turkey has been a major donor to Somalia since a famine in 2011, and together with the government of Qatar is funding many infrastructure and medical projects in the country. Turkey opened a military base in Mogadishu in 2017 to train Somali soldiers.

‘Screaming for help’

After the explosion, 55-year-old Sabdow Ali, who lives nearby, said he left his house and counted at least 13 people dead.

“Dozens of injured people were screaming for help but the police immediately opened fire and I rushed back to my house,” he told Reuters.

The injured were transported to Medina Hospital, where a witness saw dozens arriving by ambulance, and to other hospitals.

A nurse at Medina, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the facility had received more than 100 wounded people. Weeping relatives gathered outside the entrance as they sought information on their loved ones.

Speaking to reporters at the blast site, Mogadishu Mayor Omar Muhamoud said students were killed as they commuted to their studies, many of them to the capital’s Banadir University.

Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad tweeted that many of the dead were “students with ambition, and hardworking men and women”.

The mayor blamed al Shabaab for the attack, without giving details.

Police officials were not immediately available for comment on casualty numbers.

Al Shabaab's staying power

Somalia has been riven by conflict since 1991 when clan warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

Al Shabaab grew out of a political movement that used Islamic courts to try to impose order on the country. US-backed Ethiopian soldiers defeated the Islamic Courts Union in 2006, but the movement’s youth wing split off and launched an insurgency.

Al Shabaab pledged loyalty to al Qaeda in 2012.

The AU peacekeeping force, in Somalia since 2007, has been gradually withdrawing its forces over the past several years. Somali forces are scheduled to assume responsibility for security next year, though the precise date of the withdrawal has repeatedly shifted.

“Somalia is not ready to take over control of security next year or the year after,” said Hussein Sheikh-Ali, a former national security adviser and founder of the Hiraal Institute, a Mogadishu-based security think-tank.

Saturday’s attack was the 20th vehicle-borne explosives attack of 2019 and the year is ending with more deaths from such attacks than 2018, he said.

Al Shabaab has also carried out attacks in east African countries such as Kenya and Uganda. It claimed responsibility for an attack in January on an upscale hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital that killed 21 people. — Reuters

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/505198

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India

 

Muslim anger, Hindu support: In Uttar Pradesh, police rampage deepens old faultlines

The tiny balcony of a two-room tenement in Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh exploded with anger on December 23, as a group of middle-aged Muslim women all spoke up at the same time. “They want to evict us,” said one, referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party government, “but we won’t leave.” Another declared: “We were born here. We will die here.” A third woman was emphatic: “This country is made of our sweat and blood. We will spill our blood but we will not leave. Bas.”

Similar anxious voices have echoed across Muslim homes and neighbourhoods in India ever since the Narendra Modi government pushed through an amendment of India’s citizenship law in Parliament on December 11.

But in Uttar Pradesh, the anxiety is now laced with desperation: 19 Muslim men were killed after the police conducted baton charges and fired bullets in their neighbourhoods on December 19 claiming to enforce a controversial statewide ban on peaceful protests. From the state capital of Lucknow to small towns, Muslims recounted how the police ransacked their homes, vandalised their properties, beat up even women and children – with video footage surfacing to support these accounts.

Five of the 19 men killed in the violence lived in the Lisadi Gate area of Meerut, a sprawling neighbourhood that is home to working-class Muslim families. The police claim they had to use force to contain a protest march on the main road, but residents point out that bullets hit bystanders like Zahir Ahmed deep inside the lanes. What has angered them further is that Ahmed and the other men who died have been named as rioters by the police.

Four days later, when Scroll.in visited Meerut, Muslim women were staying awake all night to keep vigil against raids, arrests and detentions by the police. Fearful of the repercussions of speaking against the government, they asked that their names not be revealed. But they insisted Muslims were not going to be cowed down – despite the police violence.

“They took away our deen [religious symbol], we did not say anything,” said a middle-aged woman. She was referring to the dispute over the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, which came to an end in November when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Hindus, despite acknowledging that the mosque that stood on the disputed site had been illegally demolished by a Hindutva mob in 1992.

“But how can we stay silent if they take away our country from us?” she asked.

Not too far away, in the same city, Pankaj Malik, who runs a restaurant, endorsed the police action. “These Muslims are always violent,” he said, praising the BJP government of Chief Minister Adityanath for ordering a crackdown on protestors. Malik’s Punjabi Hindu family has roots in Pakistan. His grandparents had migrated across the border at the time of Partition in 1947. He barely knew what the protests were about – “something to do with a new law” – yet he was convinced there was no reason Muslims should be protesting.

What sparked the protests

At the heart of the Muslim protests are fears of losing citizenship.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, for the first time, introduces a religious test for Indian citizenship. It speeds up citizenship for migrants from six religious communities in three Muslim-majority countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan – specifically excluding Muslims.

The changes in the citizenship law have come after repeated assertions by home minister Amit Shah that the government will soon prepare a National Register of Citizens, and that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsis have no reason to worry about it, implying that only Muslims do.

Put simply: the fear among Indian Muslims is that members of other communities who fail to be included in the NRC would be considered refugees under the new citizenship law and get to stay in India, but they will not.

“Those left out of the NRC will come back in through the CAB [Citizenship Amendment Bill]. Everyone except Muslims,” said a middle-aged businessman in the town of Nehtaur in Bijnor district where two young Muslim men had died.

“How is this fair? How is this equal?” he asked.

Many Muslims in Bijnor said word about an impending NRC began to circulate a few months ago, sparking fears. But few had drawn a connection between the NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Act, until the police stormed Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh on December 12.

This acted as a lightning rod, transmitting anger across the state. “It made even the poor in the community, say, a man who pulls a rickshaw, sit up and take notice,” said the businessman.

Living with fear

Among the places where Muslims came out to protest in Uttar Pradesh was Bajardiha neighbourhood of Varanasi, a vast, dirt-poor urban slum that produces one of the world’s most opulent garments: the heavily embroidered, silk Banarsi sari. On December 19, a brutal lathi-charge by the police on a peaceful crowd of protestors here led to an 11-year old child being crushed to death.

When Scroll.in travelled to Bajardiha on December 21, conversations mostly centered around the anger at the police for unleashing such brutal action on children. But even in this moment of grief, anxiety around the NRC surfaced frequently.

“Will Aadhaar card do as proof of NRC, sir?” asked 23-year-old Noor, who manages a small team of weavers and sells stock to sari shops in the city.

Over the next three days, on every visit to Bajardiha, the conversation would turn to documents. With low education levels and high poverty, the weavers of Bajardiha assumed that an English-speaking correspondent knew all the answers. But no one knows how the final NRC will shape up even as its first step, the National Population Register, has already commenced.

A sharp divide

At the historic Hussainabad Clock Tower in Lucknow’s old city, conversation on December 27 centred around a poster put up by the Uttar Pradesh police. It carried photographs, apparently shot by the police, of young boys and men whom the police have labelled rioters. The poster called upon the public to identify the men to receive a reward.

This area was a flashpoint of the violence between the protestors and the police last week and its residents say the police is now unleashing its wrath on them. Since December 19, a large number of policemen have been positioned in this area, some deep inside the old mohallas.

“The police are treating this as a war zone and us like the enemy,” said a man selling magazines. “On Friday, they had put up barricades and sent in an army as if doing namaaz is a terror activity.”

A first-year journalism student at the Moinuddin Chisti University who lives close to the Clock Tower said she was scared for her four brothers. “Every day boys are being arrested by the police from this neighbourhood,” she said.

Her brothers expressed anger at the posters that had come up and questioned this method of policing. “On the condition of anonymity, anyone can name anyone, the next thing is that the person is in jail, “ said one of them. “Is this how police intelligence will work now?”

At the Cafe Coffee Day in the bustling market of Hazratganj, however, a group of young people offered a completely different assessment of the recent events. Shruti, a student of Lucknow University, said she was proud of the fact that barely any students from her college had come out on the streets.

“Lucknow University doesn’t promote hooliganism,” she said. “Students should be studying.” Her friend piped in to support her: “This NRC/CAA issue is being blown out of proportion. It is not about Muslims. Even America and England don’t allow immigrants to come in and I am glad our government is tightening India’s immigration policies.”

When it was pointed out that the Citizenship Amendment Act does not tighten immigration, she interrupted to say: “You have misunderstood the government.”

Support for Adityanath

The lack of understanding about the citizenship law or the NRC did not prevent many Hindus from expressing support for the police action ordered by Chief Minister Adityanath, popularly known as Yogi.

Sanjay Shukla runs an app-based bike motorcycle taxi service in Varanasi . He lost business over two days in December when the state government shut down the internet to stymie protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. For this, he blamed the protestors.

“The protests that are happening are terrible,” he said. Even though there were no credible reports of public property being damaged in Varanasi, he admonished Muslims, saying, “They should not destroy public property.”

Shukla is a supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He voted for the party in both state and national elections. The police crackdown had reaffirmed – not shaken – his support for it. “What Yogi is doing is good. This has been his style of working since the beginning,” Shukla argued. “He has cracked down on Muslim criminals. He is pro-Hindu and Uttar Pradesh needs that.”

Shukla was firm in his belief that the protestors were misguided. “They don’t actually know anything about the law. They have got money to protest and are being misled by mullahs.”

Did Shukla himself know anything about the law? No, he only learnt of the existence of the Citizenship Amendment Act after the police action on Friday. Days later, he still had no details about it.

The BJP has tried to project the debate over the law through the prism of the Hindu-Muslim conflict, and not as one of constitutional rights. If the knowledge that Hindus in Varanasi have of recent events is restricted to a police lathicharge in a Muslim ghetto, that limited knowledge might actually help the party.

Concern over the economy

But the unrest has come at a time when there is growing public disenchantment over rising inflation and a faltering economy.

Praveen is a mallah or boatman on the historic ghats of Varanasi. For a few hundred rupees, he rows his small wooden skiff from ghat to ghat, doubling up as a tourist guide to the Varanasi riverfront as well as a religious facilitator for anyone who wants to take a dip in the holy waters of the river Ganga.

Praveen was angry with the Modi government. “Have you seen the price of onions?” he asked. “How is a poor man like me supposed to survive?”

He had little idea of what had prompted Muslims in the city to protest, but the police crackdown had given him another stick to beat the government with.

“Muslims are asking for something. Why doesn’t Modiji listen?” he said. “Is it right for the prime minister to order attacks on them?”

Deepening despair

With their backs to the wall, despair among Muslims sometimes snapped into defiance.

“When we had 500-year record of the Babri Masjid and the court gave it away, then what guarantee is there that we will not be expelled even if we produce a 70-year-old document?”said Shabbir, a resident of Bajardiha.

The economic slowdown had already hurt livelihoods here, but since the police violence, the slum has been in a state of siege. Random arrests, lookout notices and intersections thick with policemen characterised the area.

“First NRC, then the police beat us and now they are stopping us from making a living,” exclaimed one resident. “Can any human take this? There will be an explosion soon if the police don’t let up.”

https://scroll.in/article/948145/muslim-anger-hindu-support-in-uttar-pradesh-police-rampage-deepens-old-faultlines

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India's tourism industry hit hard by protests against anti-Muslim law

India’s tourism industry has been hit by a wave of violent anti-government protests against a new citizenship law that have rocked several cities this month, with at least seven countries issuing travel warnings.

At least 25 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters, and demonstrations against the law continue.

Officials estimate about 200,000 domestic and international tourists cancelled or postponed their trip to the Taj Mahal in the past two weeks, one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions.

“There has been a 60% decline in visitor footfalls in December this year,” said Dinesh Kumar, a police inspector overseeing a special tourist police station near the Taj Mahal who has access to visitor data. He said the decline was compared to December last year.

“Indian and foreign tourists have been calling our control rooms to check security. We assure them protection, but many still decide to stay away,” said Kumar.

The 17th century marble monument is in Uttar Pradesh, the northern state that has witnessed the highest number of deaths and intense bursts of violence in two weeks of unrest.

A group of European tourists travelling in a group across India said they now planned to cut short their 20 day trip.

“We are all retired folks, for us travel has to be slow and relaxing. The newspaper headlines have led to a sense of concern and we will leave sooner than we had planned,” said Dave Millikin, a retired banker living on the outskirts of London, who spoke to Reuters from the capital New Delhi.

The Taj Mahal, situated in the town of Agra, attracts over 6.5 million tourists every year, generating nearly $14 million annually from entrance fees. A foreign tourist pays about $15 to enter the grounds, although nationals from neighbouring countries get a discount.

Managers in luxury hotels and guest houses around the Taj Mahal said last minute cancellations during the festive season have further dampened business sentiment at a time when the country’s economic growth has slowed to 4.5%, its slowest pace in more than six years.

In a bid to clamp down on violence and unrest, authorities have suspended mobile internet services in Agra.

“Blocking the internet has affected travel and tourism in Agra by about 50-60%,” said Sandeep Arora, president of the Agra Tourism Development Foundation that groups over 250 tour operators, hotels and guides.

The United States, Britain, Russia, Israel, Singapore, Canada and Taiwan have issued travel advisories asking their citizens to either refrain from visiting or to exercise caution when visiting regions embroiled in India’s protests.

Jayanta Malla Baruah, the head of the Assam Tourism Development Corp., said the state, home to the world’s largest concentration of one-horned rhinoceroses, is visited on average by 500,000 tourists during December.

“But this time, due to the ongoing protests and travel advisories by various countries, the number is down by 90% if not more.”

https://www.trtworld.com/asia/india-s-tourism-industry-hit-hard-by-protests-against-anti-muslim-law-32562

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In concession to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia to host OIC meet on Kashmir

Dec 29, 2019

NEW DELHI: In a move that could impact ties with India, Saudi Arabia has agreed to hold a special foreign ministers’ meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) devoted to Kashmir after it persuaded Pakistan to back out of an Islamic summit hosted by Malaysia last week.

The gesture by the kingdom was reportedly conveyed to the Pakistani government during Saudi foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud’s+ visit to Islamabad this week. It was a concession secured by Pakistan to compensate for PM Imran Khan being compelled by Saudi Arabia to pull out of a meeting on Islamic issues chaired by Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur.

After having been a key mover behind the KL summit along with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mahathir, Pakistan pulled out of the conclave to discuss issues agitating the Muslim world. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attended the meeting, a likely red rag for Saudi Arabia as well.

While dates for the foreign ministers’ meet are yet to be firmed up, the very fact of Saudi Arabia agreeing to organise the meeting will be viewed negatively in New Delhi, which has gone the extra mile to build a strategic partnership with the kingdom. Pakistan has felt the Islamic world, particularly OIC, did not support it enough after India’s August 5 decision.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are pillars of India’s renewed foreign policy push in the Islamic world which has helped contain the diplomatic fallout of decisions such as ending J&K’s special status.

Pakistan has felt the Islamic world, particularly OIC, did not support it enough after India’s August 5 decision. India has already begun working on a diplomatic pushback. It is no coincidence that foreign minister S Jaishankar spent two days in Tehran meeting his counterpart Javad Zarif on his way back from the 2+2 meeting in the US.

Jaishankar meets Iranian President as India, Iran agree to accelerate work on Chabahar

It was on the margins of the UN general assembly that Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia held their first trilateral meeting, where they decided to launch a TV channel to counter “Islamophobia”.

The idea of the summit flowed from there. Turkey, according to sources, harbours ambitions of leading the Islamic world, wresting the mantle from Saudi Arabia. Erdogan allowed Malaysia to host the summit, which could, if allowed, rival OIC.

Saudi Arabia, as the acknowledged leader of the Islamic world, found itself threatened, particularly with Iran joining in. For Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Erdogan and Rouhani being at an alternative Islamic summit was difficult to swallow. King Salman reportedly spoke to Mahathir to back down, but when that did not happen, Riyadh squeezed Pakistan to absent itself. Indonesia, too, decided to stay away from the summit.

Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan pulled out of the summit at the eleventh hour, drawing flak both externally as well as at home.

Speaking to the Turkish media, Erdogan was quoted as saying, “Unfortunately, we see that Saudi Arabia pressures Pakistan. Now, there are promises that the country has given to Pakistan regarding the central bank. However, more than that, there are four million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia. They (threaten by saying that they) would send (Pakistanis) back and re-employ Bangladeshis instead.”

Erdogan added that Saudi Arabia also threatened to withdraw money it had deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan, underlining Islamabad’s need for Saudi assistance to deal with its economic mess.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/in-concession-to-pakistan-saudi-arabia-to-host-oic-meet-on-kashmir/articleshow/73013088.cms

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We The People: ‘I Wish In The New Year We Start Looking At People As Humans, Not As Hindu, Muslim’

Written by Asad Rehman

December 29, 2019

A resident of Akrabad town in UP’s Aligarh district, Ali now lives in the AMU hostel. He was raised by his grandfather after his father passed away when he was three years old. He studied at a government school in Akrabad, and is now doing a critical study of the Sanskrit translation of Mirza Ghalib’s Diwan-e-Ghalib. Last month, Dr Firoze Khan’s appointment as assistant professor in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan faculty of Banaras Hindu University triggered protests by students.

What does India mean to you?

When I hear a group of people singing the national anthem, or when India wins in a sport, or we achieve something in space missions… That feeling is unparalleled, it makes me feel Indian the most.

Being Indian means that we treat people of all religions equally. For me, it also means that we work towards improving the country in whatever way we can.

Have you ever been to Delhi?

I have been to Delhi several times, my relatives live there. I really like Connaught Place.

What is the farthest place you have travelled to from your hometown?

Five years ago, I had gone to Shimla with my family for a vacation.

Do you have a friend from another part of the country?

Yes. My best friend, Ali Akbar, is from Kolkata. We pursued our Master’s together at AMU. I speak to him at least once a week.

What are the three most important rights enjoyed by an Indian citizen?

It’s the freedom to say what I want, the freedom of expression. It’s the most important right. The Indian Constitution guarantees us that. I feel speaking up is really important — we must speak up on what is right and wrong. In private, the most important right is the freedom to eat what I want.

For you, the government is…

The government is essentially a set of chosen people who work for the country’s improvement and growth. We all hope that elected people work for our country, for the people.

For you, a good citizen is…

One who speaks out about any wrong in society. He/she is a person who does not sabotage the country and its people’s progress and works towards improving it. A good citizen will not stay quiet when the country is in any kind of danger.

For you, the most important historical event has been…

It is when the Constitution of India, drafted by Dr B R Ambedkar, became effective on January, 1950. It is still the most important document of the country.

In the New Year, what is the one change you hope for in the country?

I wish in the new year we start looking at people as humans and not as Hindu, Muslim, Sikh…

Do you know of the Citizenship Amendment Act protests? Do you fear being asked to prove citizenship and not having the documents for the same? What papers do you have, and where do you keep them?

I am not scared. I don’t know if the Act is right or wrong, but the Prime Minister has said that it will not have any negative effect. I believe him… I feel that when the apex court – when it hears the matter on January 22 — will take a decision which is best for all people of the country. I have full faith in the top court. I have not collected any papers yet. Dekha jayega (We will see).

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/we-the-people-i-wish-in-the-new-year-we-start-looking-at-people-as-humans-not-as-hindu-muslim-6189658/

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Community Leaders In Upper Darby Denounce Law Passed In India That Discriminates Against Muslim Immigrants

December 28, 2019

UPPER DARBY, Pa. (CBS) — A coalition of faith, political and civic leaders are denouncing a recently passed law in India that discriminates against Muslim immigrants. The groups came together Saturday night in Upper Darby due to concerns by Philadelphia-area Muslims for their family members and loved ones.

On Dec. 11, the government of India passed a law that excluded people of the Muslim faith from obtaining citizenship.

“We are holding a protest and a rally against the atrocities that are happening in India. We are going to have a petition that is going to be signed by all the people here and then we are going to take that petition to all of Congress and the senators and request them to bring awareness and do something about it,” Emgage Pennsylvania Boardmember Abdul Mughees said.

Some Muslims living in the Indian state of Assam have already been stripped of their citizenship and prison cares are under construction.

https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2019/12/28/community-leaders-in-upper-darby-denounce-law-passed-in-india-that-discriminates-against-muslim-immigrants/

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Muslims will be hit badly if CAA, NRC are implemented: Uttam Kumar Reddy

Dec 29, 2019

HYDERABAD: Telangana Congress president N Uttam Kumar Reddy on Saturday said Muslims in India could be reduced to second-grade citizens if the Centre goes ahead with implementation of CAA, NPR and NRC across the country.

He also took strong objection to police denying senior Congress members and cadres to take out ‘Save India, save Constitution’ rally from Gandhi Bhavan to Ambedkar statue on Tank Bund. Tension prevailed at the Congress headquarters here when cops stopped AICC general secretary RC Khuntia, Uttam, CLP leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir, among others, from taking out the rally coinciding with the 135th foundation day of Congress.

Hundreds of Congress members came on to the road and shouted slogans against chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. Vehicular traffic came to a standstill on Moazzam Jahi Market-Lakdikapul stretch.

“Hyderabad police commissioner Anjani Kumar is conducting himself in a manner unbecoming of an IPS officer. He should consider putting KPS (Kalvakuntla police service) as his epaulettes instead of IPS,” Uttam said.

He said they would seek governor Tamilisai Soundararajan’s intervention under section 8 of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act-2014 to take action against Anjani Kumar. “What business has police got to arrest Congress members from entering Gandhi Bhavan. All the Congress members who were detained will file complaints against Anjani Kumar ,” Uttam told STOI. He said cops had allowed RSS activists to take out a rally and permitted MIM to hold a public meeting.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/muslims-will-be-hit-badly-if-caa-nrc-are-implemented-uttam/articleshow/73012923.cms

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1000 Aligarh Muslim University Students in Hot Water Over Violence, Property Damage Charges in India

28.12.2019

New Delhi (Sputnik): Passions are running high in India against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that was recently passed by the government entitling illegal non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who entered India before 2015 to apply for Indian citizenship.

Protests and demonstrations led by millennials against the Act is coupled with the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) requiring Indians to prove their ethnicity.

India’s Rapid Action Force has filed a complaint against 1,000 unnamed students from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in the state of Uttar Pradesh on charges of violence, property damage, and violation of prohibitory orders.

The Rapid Action Force is India’s special wing of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trained to control crowd situations and riots in the country.

The protests in AMU were triggered after students at the prestigious New Delhi college Jamia Milia were allegedly physically assaulted by the police during a “peaceful” anti-CAA rally.

“An FIR in this regard was filed on 23 December by RAF (Royal Airforce Commander) commandant Punit Kumar", the reports quoted Senior Superintendent of Police Aakash Kulahari as saying.

Earlier on Tuesday, 1,200 unnamed staff and students from AMU ended up in hot water for taking part in a candle light march as a tribute to all the people who lost their lives in light of the ongoing protests in India.

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 prohibits the assembly of more than four people in a public place. The law entitles any “unlawful assembly” within the curfew area to be booked for engaging or triggering a riot.

https://sputniknews.com/asia/201912281077888553-1000-aligarh-muslim-university-students-in-hot-water-over-violence-property-damage-charges-in-india/

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Tamil Nadu Muslim body holds protest against CAA in Chennai

28th December 2019

CHENNAI: Protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), members of Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaath (TNTJ) took to the streets and held a huge rally here on Saturday.

The members of TNTJ also took out a huge procession in protest against the CAA.

Family members of some of the TNTJ members participated in the procession.

The protesters carried a long tricolour above their heads and shouted slogans against the CAA.

Similar protests were held outside the Chennai collectorate by some other Muslim organisations.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2019/dec/28/tn-muslim-body-holds-protest-against-caa-in-chennai-2082064.html

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“Can a man who cannot tolerate Muslim names tolerate Muslims?”: Zakir Nagar’s women against CAA

28 December 2019

Every evening for the past week since 16 December, the residents of Zakir Nagar, a locality in south Delhi’s Okhla area, have stood on the street holding a candlelight vigil to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens. The locality is a little over a kilometre away from the Jamia Millia Islamia university, that has been the center of anti-CAA protests and subsequent police bruality. The purpose of the vigil is also to register the locality’s opposition to the police’s violent crackdown on the students of Jamia.

The protests in Zakir Nagar are part of nationwide demonstrations against the CAA since the law was enacted on 12 December. Across India, the police have clamped down on protests by beating people, firing tear gas shells and detaining hundreds.

When I visited the Zakir Nagar vigil on the night of 23 December, people were peacefully lined up on either side of a road leading to the local mosque. Children sang the poet Muhammad Iqbal’s Saare Jahan Se Accha. Men distributed biscuits and tea to the people braving Delhi’s cold December nights. Amidst the vigil, the participants engaged in conversations about the consequences of the newly enacted law. Emotions ran high at the protest in Zakir Nagar, but the fear of the Narendra Modi-led government was not one of them.

On an entire stretch of one side of the road, women stood holding posters with slogans calling for the repeal of the CAA. For most of them, this was the first time that they were participating in a public protest. “Till today, we have never come out on the streets, but today it is the question of the whole country,” Nishat, a resident of Zakir Nagar, told me. Her poster read, “Laathi, goli nahi, rozgar, roti do”—Don’t give us laathis and bullets, give us employment and bread. Describing the other protestors, she added, “All the women who wear burqas and niqabs are here to stand up for their rights.” Nishat said she had been attending the protests at Jamia during the day and then joining the protest in her locality in the evenings.

“The prime minister has not taken one good decision till today,” Nishat continued. “He raises burdens for the common man, be it demonetisation, be it GST”—the goods and services tax—“or the Babri Masjid dispute. All his decisions so far have not been for the welfare of the people but for the owners of big companies.” The protests across the country have given her hope. She said she sees them as a vindication of the Muslim community’s resistance to Modi.

Fauzia, another protestor, said that when Modi has shown no concern for “big people” like Indian soldiers, ordinary Muslims stood no chance. “You saw what Modi did to the soldiers fighting at the borders? If he can betray soldiers who are laying down their lives for us then what are we?” she asked, refering to allegations that Modi continued shooting for a TV show for The Discovery Channel even after being informed of the terror attack in the Pulwama district of Kashmir on 14 February. The attack killed atleast forty soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force. Modi later made multiple references to the Pulwama attack in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rallies before the Lok Sabha elections.

Fauzia arrived at the protest carrying a photograph of BR Ambedkar. “The laws made by him are under attack,” she said, comparing the secular Constitution to the communal overtones of the CAA. “He did not make laws just for Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs or Christians. He made them for everyone. He was not partial in drafting the laws.”

Shabana Khan, another protestor, highlighted the peaceful nature of the protests. She said she felt no fear or shame participating in these protests since they had not resorted to violence. “Inshallah, we will continue to protest till the Modi government withdraws the law,” Khan told me. “My appeal to the public is that we have stood up for you, so please stand up for us.” Several other protestors, including Khan said they believed the Modi government will eventually attempt to divide Hindus too. “Even after passing this bill and even after committing wrongs against the Muslims, what is the guarantee that Modi won’t go against Hindus as well?” Fauzia said. Agreeing with her, Nazma, another protestor said that it is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s agenda to divide the Hindus as “upper caste, lower caste.”

The women protestors at Zakir Nagar also said the BJP government is erasing every aspect of the country’s history that has a Muslim association. “What is your problem if cities have Muslim names?” Nishat asked. “How can a man who cannot even tolerate Muslim names tolerate Muslims themselves?” Nazma added, “The struggle that is ongoing today has begun in a Muslim university. Jamia students know what is right and what is wrong. The best part is that students from Jamia have stood up for us.” She said she believed that everyone who has participated in the anti-CAA protests understands that laws cannot be made on the basis of religion.

The women also believed that Jamia’s students faced police excesses because the university is perceived to predominantly Muslims, which they said is a misconception. “Children from every caste, every community study in the university,” Naseema Begum, an elderly protestor whose granddaughter studies in Jamia, told me. “You receive education from here and then become ministers and officers. And then you beat the same students and destroy their university. Why?” Begum added that the govermnent was attempting to brand Muslims as foreigners. “The government did not see whether we are citizens or not when they were seeking votes,” she said. “Now they want to divide the country.”

Echoing similar views, Fauzia believed that Modi had created an insulting impression of Muslims as uneducated. “Modi laughs at us and thinks that we don’t know what CAA is, what NRC is,” she said. “We will not be fooled anymore. We have taught the uneducated as well. Everyone understands what is going on.”

Speaking with anger, Fauzia continued, “The country got rid of the British. We will continue to fight. We are not worried about our lives.” Referring to the home minister Amit Shah and the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath, she added, “Whether Modi or Amit or Yogi or Supreme court or the high court stands with us or not, the voice of the people is powerful.”

By 10.30 pm, the protestors had dispersed for the night. A young man stood at the steps of a nearby building, sharing factual information about the CAA to a gradually growing crowd.

https://caravanmagazine.in/politics/zakir-nagar-women-protesting-caa

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With CAA, BJP aims to divide Hindu-Muslim and win Bengal, Assam polls: P Chidambaram

December 28, 2019

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram launched a scathing attack on the Modi government on Saturday saying the Centre's aim is to divide India as Hindu and Muslim and to win upcoming elections in Assam and West Bengal. "You cannot divide the people based on religion," he said.

The former Union minister said that the central government is playing with fire and the future of our young generation.

P Chidambaram was speaking at the 'Maha Rally' against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), organised by Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) in front of Raj Bhavan in Thiruvanathapuram.

Slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah over conflicting statements on the National Register of Citizens (NRC), P Chidambaram said that the PM said there has been no discussion on NRC. He added that however, on December 9, the HM said that the government is bringing NRC and he also said it on December 11 in Rajya Sabha.

P Chidambaram further said the minister of state has answered questions in Parliament eight times asserting that NRC is the ultimate goal of this government.

He said the NRC will make lakhs of people landless. Rs 1,600 crore have gone down the drain and more than 19 lakh people are out of the list in Assam, he stated.

"The Centre has sanctioned to build a detention centre in Assam that will accommodate three thousand people. Just calculate and see how much will it cost for 1 lakh. Which country will accept them as refugees? How will you send them?" P Chidambaram asked.

The former finance minister mentioned that the UPA government had directed setting up of detention camps under the foreigners act and not for lakhs of people like in Assam.

"Now they have started a bogey called NPR. The NPR laws were made by the Vajpayee government. We used NPR in 2009 for 2010 census. Our form had only fifteen fields. They have added six more fields. NPR is supposed to count the number of people. Why do you want to know where the father and mother were born? It's a mischievous agenda. People of India do not trust the words of the PM and HM," he said.

He also said, "What has galvanised the protest is the large scale participation by students and youth. I'm happy that students of universities have come out in large number. This is not an agitation of Muslims against the government or the Constitution. This is an agitation of Indians against the government."

"If this government had two-thirds of majority in the Parliament they would have amended the Constitution..."

"Most liberal democracies are based on the principles of equality. For seventy years, India has been a republic administered by equality. This government is completely against it," the former FM added.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/with-caa-bjp-aims-to-divide-hindu-muslim-and-win-bengal-assam-polls-p-chidambaram-1632189-2019-12-28

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ANALYSIS - Why do Muslims oppose citizenship engineering in India?

28.12.2019

Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami

The writer is an international affairs analyst who has written for the Asia Times, Daily Sabah, and Hurriyet Daily News and think tanks ORSAM, IRAM, and GASAM. 

NEW DELHI

India’s Hindu nationalist government recently passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955, paving the way for granting Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Those listed as eligible to become Indians in the new law are Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, and Christians. Only Muslims have been deliberately excluded, a move seen as part of the Indian government’s Hindu supremacist agenda in which ethnic and communal engineering play a key role.

Those opposing the new law have no objection to Indian citizenship being granted to asylum seekers from the three neighboring countries. Aside from that, the three countries mentioned in the Indian legislation may have their own views on how India treats its own religious minorities. There is strong opposition in India -- particularly from the Muslim community -- to the law because the exclusion of Muslims makes it discriminatory and creates suspicion about the real motive behind the amended law.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Home Minister Amit Shah have made statements that are considered provocative and against the Muslim community. Though the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government through the Home Ministry fought a “misinformation campaign” and said the Citizenship Amendment Act does not affect any Indian citizen, including Muslims, who enjoy all the fundamental rights given to them by the Constitution, its opponents have demanded the law’s complete withdrawal. Associated with the new law is a bizarre citizenship test for India’s more than 1.3 billion people. Called the National Register of Citizens (NRC), it fills people with horror as they will be asked to prove their Indian citizenship.

In a normal country, the government knows who is a citizen and who is not and when it has doubts, it carries out the required checks on an individual. In India, the test involves the whole country. Such citizenship engineering is unheard of in human history. To complicate matters further, BJP leaders have made aggressive statements against Muslims, who fear that a failure to prove citizenship will lead to deletion from the citizenship rolls. India is already building detention centers in the northeastern state of Assam, where the NRC was implemented and produced horrific results. Both Hindus and Muslims numbering 1.9 million have been left out of the NRC in Assam, a volatile border state of various ethnicities, language groups, and religions.

- Arbitrary process

India grants citizenship to any person who migrated before July 19, 1948, except in Assam, where the cutoff date is March 25, 1971. Assam’s NRC was intended to identify illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. The process was full of discrepancies and has been criticized for its arbitrariness and the incompetence of those responsible for conducting it.

The Pandora’s Box was opened after the results of the NRC were declared and it became known that many Hindus were also excluded from the NRC final list. With the help of the new Citizenship Act, Hindus in Assam will automatically get nationality while Muslims will remain stateless and will be put in detention camps in inhuman conditions. The new citizenship law has been compared to Nazi Germany’s racist laws against Jews. The ruling BJP says it will launch the NRC across the country. The scale of the NRC’s ambition is amazing, considering India is a poor country where hundreds of millions lack adequate access to education, healthcare, proper housing, and food. Most people lack proper personal documents, and in rural areas births and deaths are barely ever officially registered. Due to multiple languages, spellings of names change when written in English, clerks and officials lack training, and most of them mispronounce words even in their mother tongue.

Some even suggest that most Indian lawmakers would not be able to furnish proper documents about their families, education, and property ownership. Yet, India under Hindu nationalist control wants to undertake a national citizenship test that may produce global horror stories. Those who oppose the CAA and nationwide NRC believe that most Indians would not be able to produce the required documents of their pedigree to prove their nationality. Plus, you never know when the Indian government will introduce new rules and change the goalposts. One thing looks clear, namely that the government will find various ways to give citizenship to Hindus and adopt a discriminatory approach in document screening towards Muslims. It is natural that Muslims fear the NRC and consider it a BJP tool to harass the community and deny them even their basic rights under the Constitution.

The images of police brutality against protesters across the country, especially in BJP-ruled states where dozens of protestors were reportedly killed in police gunfire, do not show India as a pluralist democracy. Naturally, India's international image and reputation have been battered beyond repair. Pretty much every foreign publication worth its salt has reported the horror going on in India. Statements from the UN, United States, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are a clear indication that people outside have not bought the Indian government's narrative. India's tools of soft power cannot douse the flames of hatred, and the government cannot project the image of India being an investment hub when social and economic indicators point in the wrong direction. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's comments are worth noting. He told India how his country achieved prosperity and stability by accepting Indian and Chinese religious minorities as equal citizens rather than creating chaos by seeking conflict.

- Dubious approach

In response to what happened in Assam, the government of Bangladesh has announced that it would take in genuine Bangladeshi citizens but has demanded that the Indian government must prove that those whom it labels as foreigners are not Bengali-speaking citizens of the Indian state of West Bengal. There is a lot of migration within India, and Bengali-speaking people have migrated to different places in the eastern and northeastern regions. The Indian government’s approach to the issue is dubious, as it says one thing officially to the Bangladeshi government and has another message for the local audience. It will be a next-to-impossible task for the BJP government to prove that the Bengali-speaking Muslims are indeed Bangladeshis. There is a strong possibility that these alleged Bangladeshis will ultimately end up as stateless persons and condemned to languish in detention centers.

The next national census is due in 2021, and the government on Tuesday allocated around $5.5 billion for a National Population Register (NPR) against the backdrop of nationwide protests over the CAA and NCR. Many civil right activists oppose the collection of demographic and biometric data for updating the NPR as the first step towards the NCR. The government has included the NPR with a census exercise. For various reasons, millions of Indians belonging to various religious groups will fail to produce requisite documents to prove their Indian citizenship. Due to the CAA, non-Muslims are already eligible to get Indian citizenship but millions of Muslims may end up stateless, deprived of all fundamental rights.

It is possible to prove that the Bengali-speaking Muslims have come from Bangladesh, but what will happen after the nationwide NRC is implemented and some Urdu or Punjabi-speaking Muslims fail to produce documents to prove their citizenship? They are likely to be condemned for having come from Pakistan, and this will sow new tensions with Pakistan. There are Muslims in every part of India, with their population numbering almost 200 million. They speak all sorts of languages and belong to various ethnic groups, just like the Hindus. Most of these languages do not even exist in Pakistan or Afghanistan. So, how will the Hindu nationalist government treat these Muslims? The NRC’s logic is unclear, but its mischief is apparent to most Indians and foreigners who are knowledgeable about India.

* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/analysis/analysis-why-do-muslims-oppose-citizenship-engineering-in-india/1686263

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CAA-NRC protests in Chennai: Eight detained for drawing kolams on road

Dec 29, 2019

CHENNAI: The Chennai police on Sunday detained eight people, including five women, for drawing kolams on a road and a street in Besant Nagar to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The protesters had informed the police that they were going to draw kolams on Fourth Main Road in Besant Nagar. They drew kolams on the road and an adjacent street at the bus terminus, which attracted several people and affected traffic.

A team from Sastri Nagar police station nabbed the protesters and detained them at a community hall in the area. Later, they were released.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/caa-nrc-protests-in-chennai-eight-detained-for-drawing-kolams-on-road/articleshow/73014714.cms

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Pakistan

 

Islam has no contradictions with science: Qadri

December 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD, Dec 28 (APP):Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sahibzada Noor-ul-Haq Qadri Saturday said Islam, the religion of nature, has no contradictions with science as over 1,000 verses of the holy Quran exhorts its readers to study nature, acquiring knowledge and think about Signs of God in the universe.

Addressing at the 10th International Conference titled “Collaboration between Science and Faith,” organized by Medics International in connection with its Silver Jubilee celebrations, the Minister said Islam has no contradictions with science and the contradictions, if any were due to ignorance from the teachings of Quran. Science confirms the veracity of the teachings of Islam and Quran. It was difficult to confirm the teachings of Islam from science.

He said promoting knowledge friendly society was essential but alas importance of knowledge, teachers were missing from the entire Muslim Ummah.

Science could be a source of winning Almighty’s blessings and nearness as knowledgable people fear from Almighty more as comparing to the ignorant one.

https://www.app.com.pk/islam-has-no-contradictions-with-science-qadri/

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Imran says will bring reform against all odds

PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s efforts to bring about change in the country was meeting strong resistance by those who wish for the “old, corrupt ways” to remain.

Addressing a meeting of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) here, PM Imran said regretted that the efforts for reform had been met with a lot of resistance by the status quo.

“The status quo or mafia which derives benefit from the old, corrupt system, creates hurdles everywhere,” he said, adding that a lot of resistance is always put when change is brought in.

“Which is why I always tell people not to give in to fear. This was bound to happen and we were expecting it.”

“Two types of governments come: one that wishes to complete their tenure and our government is one that wishes to bring in reform,” said the premier.

He said it was the government’s task to withstand pressure and resistance to change, but one thing is clear: Pakistan can never progress without change. “Our corrupt status quo has destroyed our institutions.”

The premier said that a lot of governments fear that they will be dissolved and take a back foot when it comes to implementing change.

“I assure you our government will in no way step back from reforms.”

“Quality is of extreme importance in Pakistan. Unfortunately, our institutional collapse is due to the fact that our quality has declined when it comes to our educational institutions and hospitals,” said the premier, adding that was the reason why hospital reforms were being brought in so that quality standards comparable to healthcare institutions abroad can be duplicated in Pakistan.

He said they purposely dub the reforms as privatisation knowing full well that is not the case. “They purposely do it to sway public opinion and to mobilise them for demonstrations and to sabotage our efforts.”

He said due to an overall “decay in the system” it was impossible to find quality healthcare in government hospitals.

“The hospitals have fallen under bureaucratic control and [the bureaucrats] have no idea of what the administrative structure of a modern hospital is.

He said with the reforms being brought in in Punjab and KP, the aim is for government hospitals to compete with private hospitals.

“We are not privatising but the management structure of private hospitals will be implemented in government hospitals so the common man can avail good quality treatment,” he said.

He said the “old, corrupt ways” do not only pose a challenge in the health sector but across all sectors, such as FBR (Federal Board of Revenue), the tax collection machinery in which the government is trying to bring automation.

‘PAK-AMERICANS SHOULD LOBBY AGAINST INDIA’:

Imran also urged APPNA members to step up their efforts to counter the Indian lobby in the United States besides raising their voice for Muslims suffering in Kashmir and India at the hands of the BJP government.

He said that APPNA is the most powerful and influential Pakistani group overseas. “You are the most educated, with the most awareness.”

The premier said that the Pakistan government not only wishes to have an institutional arrangement with APPNA but to have them lobby for the country.

“India’s lobby in America right now is far more powerful than Pakistan’s. India’s point of view always overshadows that of Pakistan and American policies for Pakistan are affected by that viewpoint,” he explained.

“What India is doing right now in Kashmir and with Muslims [in India] is in violation of all humanitarian laws and international laws. In the 21st century we are witnessing a fascist, racist government.

“The programmes they are bringing in are identical to those in Hitler’s Nazi Germany when they committed genocide of the Jews. The exact same pattern is being followed by the RSS-led BJP government in India,” said PM Imran.

He said that while the Pakistan government has been trying to raise awareness in America on this, the APPNA group will prove instrumental in furthering the cause.

“Raise your voice for Kashmiris who have been suffering for five months in an open prison and not only for that but for the change in demography which is considered a war crime.”

The premier said that the Citizenship Amendment Act in India also poses a danger. “Even enlightened Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis have stood up against an Act whose purpose it is to target Muslims,” he said.

“I don’t think you realise your lobbying strength. It is under utilised,” added the premier, urging the group to take advantage of their position in the US.

He warned of India undertaking a false-flag operation to draw attention away from their actions which had for the first time been met with international criticism.

He urged the body to begin raising its voice because the “situation in India will further deteriorate”.

“Once this demon is out of the bottle, it will never go back in. This is what history has shown us. When a movement is launched based on hatred […] the Nazi Party created a Jew register before their genocide and in Myanmar, Muslims were asked to register,” he said, calling to attention similar moves being made by India.

“To counter where all this is headed, you must be prepared beforehand and lobby with full force.”

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/12/28/imran-says-will-bring-reform-against-all-odds/

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Pakistan rolls out fighters made with Chinese collaboration

Dec 29, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has rolled out the first batch of its indigenous dual-seat fighter jets, manufactured in collaboration with its all-weather ally China.

To mark the occasion, a grand ceremony was held at the Aircraft Manufacturing Factory in Kamra near Islamabad on Friday, the Pakistan air force (PAF) said in a statement.

Pakistan’s air chief marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chinese ambassador Yao Jing and Aviation Industries of China executive vicepresident Hao Zhaoping were present on the occasion.

The first batch of eight dual-seat JF-17 aircraft was manufactured by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in collaboration with the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC).

Air chief Khan congratulated the PAC and the CATIC on completing the fighter jets in a record time of five months. He said the serial production of the dual-seat variant was a landmark development for the JF-17 programme and a true manifestation of the everlasting Sino-Pak friendship. Khan said the JF-17 Thunder was the backbone of PAF.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-rolls-out-fighters-made-with-chinese-collaboration/articleshow/73013315.cms

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OIC should raise effective voice for Indian Muslims, Kashmir: FM Qureshi

December 29, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday said that an effective voice should be raised from the platform of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) over the issue of an anti-Muslim law in India and violations of human rights in occupied Kashmir.

Addressing a press conference in Multan, the foreign minister said that Pakistan has already raised its voice over these issues. "Indian government has deprived students of education and patients of medical treatment in occupied Kashmir [...] internet remains cut off," he added.

"We are aware of our responsibilities and all possible diplomatic steps are being taken in this regard," he said, adding that "Indian designs will be unveiled" before the global community.

The minister said that he took up the issue with other Islamic countries and suggested that an OIC meeting of foreign ministers should be convened. He added that he received positive response in this regard.

Radio Pakistan on Sunday reported that the OIC has decided to convene a meeting on the grim human rights situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the enactment of the anti-Muslim law in India.

The state-run radio service, while quoting the Kashmir Media Service, said the ministerial level OIC meeting is expected to be held in Islamabad in April 2020.

Talking about Indian steps to "jeopardise regional peace and security situation", Qureshi during his press conference said that India has cut the fence along the line of control from five points and installed BrahMos and spike missiles. "What does this indicate?" he questioned.

He added that India itself was divided over the newly passed citizenship law and quoted Indian political leader P. Chidambaram as saying that the legislation was in violation of the Indian constitution and would be struck down by Indian courts.

The foreign minister said that although the Indian judiciary didn't fulfill expectations of people in the Babri mosque case, it will quash this controversial law.

He said that the controversial legislation crossed all thresholds of tolerance in India, pointing out that since protests against the law erupted, 25 people have been killed, hundreds have been arrested, and thousands of cases have been lodged. Irreparable loss to the image of India has been done among the global community, he said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1525097/oic-should-raise-effective-voice-for-indian-muslims-kashmir-fm-qureshi

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Imran asks KP govt to focus on tribal districts

Manzoor Ali

December 29, 2019

PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to pay proper attention to tribal districts’ development to end the sense of deprivation prevailing in the region.

While talking to the KP governor, chief minister and members of his cabinet on the lawns of Governor House, the prime minister reminded them that the main objective behind the merger of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was to provide facilities to the residents of those areas.

The premier, who was scheduled to arrive at Peshawar on Saturday, came here late Friday night after his plane could not land at Nur Khan Airbase due to Islamabad’s inclement weather, official sources said.

The prime minister said it was his government’s major success to take forward the merger process, as the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government allocated record funds for the development of the tribal districts which had been facing government neglect in the past.

He directed the provincial administration to create job opportunities for the youth of the merged districts as it was among the top priorities of the PTI government. He also stressed upon creating business opportunities in these areas to generate employment opportunities along with socioeconomic development.

CM raises issue of net hydel profit proceeds under AGN Kazi committee formula

KP Governor Shah Farman, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, KP Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani, members of the provincial cabinet and senior members of administrative machinery were present, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

Mr Khan observed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had showed its willingness to invest in Pakistan’s tourism industry. He asked the provincial government to pay special attention to fully explore the potential of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the tourism sector.

As the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had reposed confidence in his party twice, it had become their responsibility to fully serve the masses, the prime minister told the cabinet members.

A member of the provincial cabinet told Dawn that the premier mostly talked about the development of the merged districts and related issues. He claimed that PM Khan had appreciated the chief minister and the provincial cabinet members for visiting the merged districts on several occasions.

The minister claimed that the premier talked about the development of the tribal districts in detail and directed the provincial cabinet to focus on the region’s uplift to end the sense of deprivation prevailing in the merged districts.

AGN Kazi formula

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra took up with Prime Minister Khan the issue of payment of Net Hydel Profit (NHP) proceeds to the province under the AGN Kazi committee formula, the cabinet member told Dawn.

The Kazi committee, headed by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Aftab Ghulam Nabi Kazi, was formed in July 1985 to frame a formula for the calculation of the NHP to the provinces under Article 161(2) of the Constitution.

The cabinet member said that the chief minister asked the premier to implement the AGN Kazi formula, as the decision would not only have a huge impact on the development of the province but would also generate a massive goodwill for the ruling PTI in the province.

They also requested PM Khan to convene a meeting on the issue next week so that a team of the provincial government could explain its position in detail to all stakeholders.

About a possible reshuffle in the cabinet, the minister said that they expected a discussion on the subject but it did not come up during the meeting. He said the governor and the chief minister did call on the premier but he was not sure if they discussed cabinet reshuffle or not.

Reforms

Addressing the inauguration ceremony of the 42nd annual winter meeting of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA) and Khyber Medical College Alumni Association (KMCAA), PM Khan expressed his resolve to eliminate the status quo resisting the reforms his government wanted to introduce in different sectors.

He said the government was facing resistance and pressure from the old and corrupt mafia that had been taking advantage of the ailing administrative system, but the PTI government will not budge from its reforms at any cost.

Mr Khan told the gathering that such resistance was not limited to the health and education sectors. Such elements were also in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), among the traders and those doing business through smuggled goods, he said.

However, the PM did not elaborate if he was referring to his latest announcement regarding changes to the NAB ordinance to save traders and businessmen from the process of accountability.

The PM said whenever the government wanted to bring about reforms and changes to the old system, they created wrong impressions among the masses. But he reminded the people that they should not worry as they would win the war against the ‘corrupt mafia’ ultimately.

Citing the prevalent rustic administrative system and bureaucratic hurdles, Mr Khan said that bringing about a ‘change would be a difficult task’, but those nations had succeeded that faced it and referred to successful reforms introduced in Malaysia and Turkey by their political leadership.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1524970/imran-asks-kp-govt-to-focus-on-tribal-districts

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PML-N leader justifies screening of video a day after brush with FIA

Zulqernain Tahir

December 29, 2019

LAHORE: PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar has said the screening of the purported video of accountability judge Arshad Malik in which he allegedly confessed to have convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia Mills reference for seven-year imprisonment under pressure, was necessary to “prove the innocence of the party’s supreme leader.”

The PML-N has also said it has completed the legal consultative process to challenge Federal Investigation Agency chief Wajid Zia’s ‘political’ appointment in a court of law.

Mr Tarar, who recorded his statement to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday, said it was his firm belief that any evidence that could be helpful in proving the innocence of Nawaz Sharif should be brought forth. He stated that he sat in the press conference with this resolve and was fully convinced that the video of Arshad Malik should have been made public.

“I told the FIA that this video having evidence of innocence of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif should be brought forth and the public must know the truth,” Mr Tarar told Dawn on Saturday.

Attaullah Tarar says the party is set to challenge Wajid’s appointment as FIA head

As regards the making of the video, he told the investigators that they should contact Nasir Butt in London who had made this video and wanted to record his statement. He also said Nasir Butt’s evidence and affidavit were not being taken by the High Commission on the instructions of the federal government as it was playing foul.

The FIA has also summoned PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid and party’s Punjab information secretary MPA Azma Bokhari on Dec 30 to record their statements.

On July 6, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz had held a press conference at the Model Town secretariat and played a ‘secretly recorded’ video in which judge Arshad Malik was allegedly seen saying that he was pressurised into convicting her father Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference.

“Why the government is reluctant to carry out forensic audit of the original video presented by Nasir Butt. Judge Malik had confided to Mr Butt that he had given the verdict under pressure. Even the apex court observed that judge Malik had disgraced the judiciary,” Mr Tarar said, adding that Nasir Butt had gone to the Pakistan High Commission in London to submit the original video but it did not receive it on the directive from Imran Khan.

He said the PML-N leaders present at the presser had already recorded their statements.

Mr Tarar said: “Legal consultation has been finalised to challenge Wajid Zia’s appointment in court and also filing application in police station for registration of a case against the FIA for raiding its secretariat in Model Town.”

He further said: “Wajid Zia who is seen as having a bent of mind against the PML-N because of his role in the Panama JIT, has been appointed the DG FIA by PM Khan to target it (PML-N). Bashir Memon, the outgoing DG, took early retirement as there was pressure on him to act against political opponents of the PTI.”

The FIA on Thursday last had raided the PML-N secretariat in Model Town and confiscated a computer hardware on which the purported video was played. The FIA had warrants of the raid.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1524942/pml-n-leader-justifies-screening-of-video-a-day-after-brush-with-fia?preview

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‘Kufa politics can’t make Madina state’

Asim Yasin

December 28, 2019

RAWALPINDI: Addressing a mammoth public rally in Liaquat Bagh on the martyrdom anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday predicted that 2020 would be the year of free, fair and transparent elections.

He said political orphans were ruling in the name of a new Pakistan but they could not run it, as the puppet rule of political orphans was shaking. “They are the same political orphans Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had warned of in her last address and they are shaking, as they can’t run the government and economy. The state of Madina could not be established through the politics of Kufa,” he said.

Bilawal said as long as the political orphans ruled the country, there would not be people’s rule.

“From Karachi to Khyber people are saying goodbye to political orphans,” he said amid the thundering slogan of “Goodbye political orphans, goodbye political orphans”. He said in one year over one million people had lost their jobs and instead of responding to their queries, the rulers were declaring their opponents robbers and dacoits. “The political orphans claimed that Nawaz Sharif could not come out of jail but he came out. They claimed Asif Ali Zardari will not come out but he too came out. The political orphans are coward, as they are putting older people and women into jails,” he continued.

“Parliament is locked, the media is without freedom, the judiciary is under attack, 18th Amendment is under attack, extremism is on the rise, people from Khyber to Karachi are protesting, students and doctors in Lahore are protesting, people of Sindh are angry as the gas produced in their province was not given to them, there is a sense of deprivation among the people of Balochistan,” he said. The PPP chairman said the country’s sovereignty had been compromised to such an extent that Prime Minister Imran Khan could not visit a country without an NOC.

He said the IMF was taking economic decisions while Islamabad was silent on the plight of Kashmiris in the IOK.

The PPP chairman said Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave rights to the labourers, voice to the people of Pakistan, right to vote and constitution to the country, while Benazir Bhutto fought two dictators during her lifetime and never backed down.

"You are witness that they used to say a woman can never be the prime minister of a Muslim country and you saw how she became the first female head of state of a Muslim state," he said.

He said Zulfikar Ali Bhutto united the whole country, brought back 90,000 war prisoners, brought back 5,000 square miles of occupied land, gave constitution to the country, made the country a nuclear state and united the whole Islamic Ummah.

Bilawal said the credit for providing Pakistan with the much-needed missile technology went to Benazir. “Benazir Bhutto Shaheed came back to Pakistan before her assassination to ensure continuation of democracy in the country.”

He criticised the government for delisting women beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) by declaring them "undeserving". Bilawal said the country was in danger and it was his duty to save Pakistan and complete the mission of his mother. “Benazir Bhutto was a chain that united the federation of Pakistan but this was not acceptable to the enemies of the country.

“From one family, the father, his two sons and daughter were martyred,” he said. He vowed to restore the power of the people and give rights to the youth, farmers and laborers. “I will continue the struggle of ZA Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, fulfill their promises and complete the unfinished mission of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto,” he added.

Earlier in a video message, which was telecast on a screen at the Liaquat Bagh, former president Asif Ali Zardari said the place where Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was standing was the same where Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were martyred during the rules of two dictators. Zardari said both the dictators had faced the wrath of their doings. He said the PPP will form the next government. “They can bring the people in through selection but they will also not be able to run the country,” he said.

“The present regime has nothing to do with the problems being faced by the country's poor,” he said.

Zardari said Bilawal had come out and will cross all the hurdles to move forward for the resolution of issues facing the people. “The PPP will be with him (Bilawal). We are with him and the people of Pakistan are also with him,” he said.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/589930-kufa-politics-can-t-make-madina-state

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NAB Ordinance meant to protect PM Imran’s friends, cronies

Asim Yasin & MA Muhammad Anis

Sohail Khan

December 29, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Saturday charged that the NAB Amendment Ordinance was promulgated for the ‘friends and cronies’ of Prime Minister Imran Khan and asked the government to tell the names of those friends of the prime minister who were given the 'NRO Plus' and immunity through this ordinance.

Addressing a press conference here along with the PPP Media Coordinator Nazir Dhoki, Ijaz Dhamra and Senator Rubina Khalid, the PPPP Secretary Information Dr Nafisa Shah said the government was exempting the ‘friends and cronies’ of Prime Minister Imran Khan through this ordinance and the opposition would lodge a strong protest against it in Parliament. “If it was necessary to promulgate this ordinance, why the government brought it through the backdoor, as it was a scam bigger than Panama and the government should tell the names of those friends who were given immunity through this ordinance,” she said.

Nafisa said the PTI government was trying to hide its incapability by using these anti-people tactics and keep the masses in dark about such advances. Such an ordinance, which is related to a change in the NAB laws, should be discussed and agreed upon by all parties in Parliament, she said. She said the supposed 'accountability' was not inclusive at all, and that only politicians were being targeted, while businessmen were being provided with relief due to their connections with the PTI government. She said the accountability of judges and military was already out of scope of the NAB. “The effort to bring a change in the NAB laws is a worse scandal than that of the PanamaLeaks,” she said.

Dr Nafisa Shah said the ‘selected prime minister’ promulgated this ordinance through the backdoor to benefit and give immunity to the accused in the Peshawar BRT and Malam Jabba from investigations and they will take up this issue in Parliament. She said the prime minister visits Karachi in order to weaken the provincial government and to make amends with his allies. She further said the current government was taking historical U-turns that will be protested in Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Rahber Committee of the opposition parties categorically rejected the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)) Ordinance 2019 accusing that the ordinance was promulgated to save the prime minister and his friends.

Addressing a press conference after the Rahber Committee's meeting, Muhammad Akram Khan Durrani, the convener of the committee, termed the promulgation of the NAB Ordinance an insult to Parliament. He observed that the Senate Standing Committee had passed the NAB bill unanimously but the Senate session had not been summoned for over three months to prevent the Upper House from taking up the legislation. "Instead, the NAB Ordinance, 2019 has been promulgated and the prime minister is telling good news to his friends that now their corruption will not be questioned," he regretted.

Referring to the arrest of Ahsan Iqbal and a notice served on Bilawal Bhutto, Akram Durrani said there was certainly NAB-Niazi alliance. "Every person who speaks against the government's corruption is arrested by the NAB or issued notice," he said.

Talking about the Special Court verdict against Pervez Musharraf, he said the judiciary was independent and if anybody had any grievance, they should file an appeal against it. Durrani also condemned the government efforts to seek stay against FIA inquiry against Peshawar BRT.

In a related development, the promulgation of NAB Amendment Ordinance 2019 was challenged in the Supreme Court on Saturday.

Mahmood Akhtar Naqvi filed the petition under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution making the federation of Pakistan, Ministry of law and justice, NAB chairman, secretary interior, secretary foreign affairs and secretary Ministry of Defence as respondents. The petitioner prayed to the apex court to suspend the promulgation of the ordinance till the final decision on the petition. He contended that the ordinance was against Islam, the Constitution and law and promulgated on mala fide intentions.

He further submitted that the ordinance was also against Article 25 of the Constitution, which said all the citizens were equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of law and there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex. "The NAB Amendment Ordinance 2019 is an effort to protect the corruption of politicians and government officials," the petitioner submitted. The ordinance said the NAB had assumed a parallel jurisdiction and was inquiring into matters pertaining to taxation, imposition of levies etc. and was therefore interfering in the domain of taxation regulatory bodies. It was felt necessary to define the operational domain of NAB, says the ordinance. Moreover, the amended NAB Ordinance provides protection to public office holders or government.

Our correspondent from Lahore adds: Meanwhile, a lawyer challenged the promulgation of NAB Amendment Ordinance 2019 in the Lahore High Court.

“The watchdog authority has been chained by joining hands with parliamentarians, civil administration and the business community,” said Advocate Ishtiaq A Chaudhry in a ‘public interest’ petition. He argued that Article 25(1) of the Constitution postulated that all citizens were equal before law and they were entitled to equal protection of law.

He said the special facilitation given to suspects of NAB, whereby powers to arrest and investigate had been interfered and a new plea-bargain before investigation had been introduced, was highly discriminatory. The lawyer pleaded that Article 5 of the Constitution spoke for loyalty to the state and the recent amendments introduced to the NAO were likely to make public office-holders corrupt and disloyal to the state. He argued that the restriction imposed on issuance of public statements by the NAB on inquiries was in direct conflict with the fundamental right to know, enshrined in Article 19-A of the Constitution.

He said powers of the NAB chairman had also been curtailed to protect bureaucrats as prior approval from a six-member scrutiny committee will be required to hold any inquiry, investigation or arrest a government servant. The petitioner also questioned eliminating the role of the NAB chairman in appointment of the bureau’s prosecutor general and reducing maximum limit of physical remand from 90 days to 14 days under the impugned amendments.

Advocate Chaudhry contended that limiting powers of NAB to probe corruption cases involving less than Rs500 million was also tantamount to protecting the corrupt practices. He pointed out that the amendments also omitted Section 14 of the Ordinance, which was a hallmark of whole accountability law and required an accused to prove his assets beyond means and all corrupt practices. The lawyer asked the court to declare the amendments introduced by insertion of Section 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 through NAB (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 ultra vires to the Constitution.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/590478-nab-ordinance-meant-to-protect-pm-imran-s-friends-cronies

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South Asia

 

NRC is India's internal affair: Border Guards Bangladesh DG Shafeenul Islam

29 December 2019

The process of creation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is completely an "internal affair" of the Indian government and the cooperation between the border guarding forces of the two countries is very good, the chief of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) said here on Sunday.

The BGB will continue to work to prevent illegal crossings into India, its Director General Maj Gen Shafeenul Islam said at a press conference here.

A BGB delegation, led by Islam, is on a bilateral visit to India to hold DG-level border talks with their counterparts, the Border Security Force (BSF) said.

"This is completely an internal affair of the Indian government," he said when asked to comment on the NRC issue.

http://www.catchnews.com/international-news/nrc-is-india-s-internal-affair-border-guards-bangladesh-dg-shafeenul-islam-181619.html

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Tajikistan: Muslim Faces 18-Year Charges, Jehovah’s Witness Prisoner Denied Bible, Pastor Freed

December 29, 2019

By Mushfig Bayram and Felix Corley

After returning to Tajikistan from Turkey in February 2019, the 35-year-old Sadriddin Mulloyev is now on trial in the capital Dushanbe facing charges which carry a jail sentence of up to 18 years. He had previously been jailed from 2008 to 2013 on charges of membership of the banned Tabligh Jamaat Muslim missionary movement.

After being freed, Mulloyev went to Turkey where he learnt that he was being sought again by Tajikistan on “extremism” charges. He voluntarily returned to Tajikistan in February 2019 and reported to police, where he repented of having been a Tabligh Jamaat member and was granted amnesty. However in September he was arrested and held on serious criminal charges because of his earlier adherence to the Tabligh Jamaat movement (see below).

In October, Sogd Regional Court rejected the appeal of Jehovah’s Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov against being jailed for seven years, six months in strict regime custody for allegedly “inciting religious hatred”. He was also sentenced to a ban on all exercise of freedom of religion and belief from his release (due in August 2026 when he would be 74 years old) until August 2029. “I am guilty of nothing,” he told the court. His real “crime” appears to be that police think he leads Khujand’s Jehovah’s Witness community (see below).

Part of the “case” against Kakhimov was a “state religious expert analysis” of the Tajik translation of the Bible published by the Institute for Bible Translation (IBT) in Stockholm. (The IBT is not linked to Jehovah’s Witnesses and its translations are used by a wide range of Christians.) The “analysis” – conducted by three local Imams – concluded: “The book does not correspond to our society of Hanafi Muslims, its propaganda and distribution among the Muslim people does not meet the goals of our society, and its distribution among Hanafi Muslims causes confrontation and schism, and leads to misunderstandings” (see below).

On 9 October, a panel of three Judges rejected Khakimov’s appeal in 30 minutes. “Although the court asserted that the hearing would be open to the public, court staff prevented representatives from both the German Embassy and the European Union Delegation in the country from attending, as well as 10 of Shamil Khakimov’s friends,” Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum 18 (see below).

Prisoner of conscience Khakimov was then sent to Strict Regime Prison YaS 3/5, where in November his health deteriorated. He had to dress his leg on his own and was not allowed nail scissors, which added to pain. His bed was broken, he was cold and the prison authorities provided no warm bedclothes or hot food. The prison authorities at that point refused to accept items brought for him by his lawyer. The prison authorities also obstructed meetings between Khakimov and his lawyer. But after international pressure Khakimov’s conditions have now improved.

However, the prison authorities are denying Khakimov access to a Bible and other religious literature, in breach of United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules) which require governments to respect the freedom of religion and belief and other human rights of prisoners (see below).

However, Protestant Pastor and prisoner of conscience Bakhrom Kholmatov was released on 17 December after serving all but three months of a three-year jail sentence for allegedly “singing extremist songs in church and so inciting ‘religious hatred'” (see below).

The National Security Committee (NSC) secret police arrested Pastor Kholmatov in April 2017 after they raided his Sunmin Sunbogym (Full Gospel) Protestant Church in Khujand, sfter the NSC forcibly closed it in 2017 after raiding and physically torturing church members, as well as firing them from their jobs (see below).

The authorities also closed the Sunmin Sunbogym congregation in the northern city of Konibodom in March 2017. “The church there remains closed,” a Protestant told Forum 18 on 19 December 2019 (see below).

Despite Tajikistan’s binding international obligations under the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, no arrests or prosecutions appear to have taken place against officials who tortured Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestants, or followers of other beliefs.

Other known prisoners of conscience currently jailed for exercising their freedom of religion and belief are all thought to be Muslims (see below).

Mulloyev: Return to Tajikistan, amnesty after “repentance”

Sadriddin Hairiddinovich Mulloyev (born 1984), the son-in-law of a noted imam in the northern Kulyab region, returned to Tajikistan from Turkey in February 2019, local news agencies noted on 22 February, citing the Youth and Sports Committee.

Committee officials noted that the authorities had been hunting Mulloyev on charges under Criminal Code Article 307, Part 1 (“Public calls to carry out extremist activity”).

Mulloyev was jailed from 2008 to 2013 on charges of membership of the Tabligh Jamaat Muslim missionary movement. Tajikistan’s Supreme Court had banned the movement as “terrorist” and “extremist” on 30 March 2006.

As well as the Tabligh Jamaat movement, the Salafi school of Islamic thought, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some Protestant groups were also banned – even though the regime has not provably linked any crimes committed allegedly because of their beliefs to followers of any of the banned beliefs.

An independent human rights defender familiar with Tabligh Jamaat followers in Tajikistan described it to Forum 18 in May 2009 as peaceful and said “they tell Muslims how to recognise dangerous Islamic movements (..) This is exactly what Tajikistan needs”. Many Muslims allegedly associated with Tabligh Jamaat Islamic missionary movement were in 2010 given long prison sentences and huge fines. One of the Muslims complained to Forum 18 that he “does not understand why we should be prosecuted for peacefully praying in mosques and propagating Islam”.

After leaving Tajikistan soon after his release from prison in 2013, Mulloyev worked in Russia for a year. Only after he moved to Turkey in 2014 did Mulloyev learn that he was wanted in Tajikistan on “extremism”-related criminal charges. He read in the media that his country was offering amnesty to those who returned to Tajikistan and fully repented of any wrongdoing.

Committee officials said Mulloyev then called the police Department for the Struggle with Organised Crime, told them everything and said he wanted to return home. He then returned from Istanbul to Dushanbe in February 209 and presented himself to the Department, which granted him amnesty from prosecution.

The police arranged the video-recording of Mulloyev’s confession, where he repented of having been a Tabligh Jamaat member, vowed to have nothing to do with it in future and called on other Tajiks abroad who had committed “crimes” to return home. The short video was posted on YouTube on 19 February.

Mulloyev: September arrest

However, on 21 September, the General Prosecutor’s Office summoned Mulloyev for questioning in Kulyab and then arrested him. It appears he was transferred soon afterwards to the capital Dushanbe, where he was held in the city’s Investigation Prison.

Prosecutors accused Mulloyev of serious criminal charges because of his earlier adherence to the Tabligh Jamaat movement. He was accused under Criminal Code Article 307 (“Public calls for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order”), Article 187 (“Organisation of a criminal group”) and Article 401 (“Mercenary activity”).

The Department for Investigating Crimes of Special Importance at the General Prosecutor’s Office in Dushanbe prepared the criminal case against Mulloyev, an official of the police Struggle with Extremism and Terrorism Department told Forum 18 from Dushanbe on 19 December.

Rajabali Sodiqzoda, the head of the Department for Investigating Crimes of Special Importance, refused to discuss Mulloyev’s case, telling Forum 18 on 19 December that he did not have the information to hand. He confirmed that Mulloyev’s trial continues.

Mulloyev: Trial begins

Prosecutors handed the criminal case against Mulloyev to Dushanbe’s Sino District Court. The prosecutor demanded in court that the Judge hand Mulloyev an 18-year prison term, Radio Free Europe’s Tajik Service noted on 31 October.

Mulloyev’s lawyer told Radio Free Europe that the defendant had been expecting to give his last address to the court, but the session was postponed.

No official at Sino District Court would tell Forum 18 on 19 December when Mulloyev’s trial is likely to conclude.

Mulloyev’s brother Negmatullo told Radio Free Europe that an 18-year sentence would be “especially harsh”. They hoped that Mulloyev would be freed under amnesty. However, those sentenced under such charges are not eligible for amnesty.

Sadriddin Mulloyev’s father Hairiddin told Radio Free Europe that the family had hoped that the authorities had dropped all accusations against his son. He said he had asked the Judge: “Why aren’t you fulfilling the president’s promises about an amnesty?”, to which the Judge reportedly responded: “It’s as the Prosecutor’s Office decided.” Hairiddin Mulloyev insists that his son is “absolutely innocent”.

Khakimov: Appeal rejected in absentia

On 9 October, a panel of three Judges at Sogd Regional Court chaired by the head of the Court, Bakhtiyor Okilzoda, rejected the appeal by Jehovah’s Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Rasulovich Khakimov (born 30 January 1951) against his seven and a half year jail term in a strict regime prison, according to the decision seen by Forum 18.

The appeal hearing lasted just 30 minutes and Khakimov was not brought from the Investigation Prison for it. “Although the court asserted that the hearing would be open to the public, court staff prevented representatives from both the German Embassy and the European Union Delegation in the country from attending, as well as 10 of Shamil Khakimov’s friends,” Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum 18.

Khakimov: Arrest and jailing

Jehovah’s Witness Shamil Khakimov was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention in February 2019 for allegedly “inciting religious hatred”, but his real “crime” appears to be that police think he leads Khujand’s Jehovah’s Witness community.

The 68 year-old widower, who is in poor health, was arrested after police found his phone number on the phones of two female Jehovah’s Witnesses they arrested for sharing their beliefs on the street. Investigator Nekruz Ibrokhimzoda of the Sogd Regional Police Organised Crime Department called Kakhimov’s number as well as other numbers on the phones, and then arrested Kakhimov.

Part of the “case” against Kakhimov was a “state religious expert analysis” of the Tajik translation of the Bible published by the Institute for Bible Translation (IBT) in Stockholm. (The IBT is not linked to Jehovah’s Witnesses and its translations are used by a wide range of Christians.) The analysis – conducted by three local Imams – was carried out at the request of the National Security Committee (NSC) secret police, and concluded: “The book does not correspond to our society of Hanafi Muslims, its propaganda and distribution among the Muslim people does not meet the goals of our society, and its distribution among Hanafi Muslims causes confrontation and schism, and leads to misunderstandings”.

Prisoner of conscience Khakimov’s arrest was part of a series of raids and interrogations, in some cases involving torture, against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sogd Region and other religious communities nationwide.

While in pre-trial detention Khakimov was given medicines and allowed to pray, but not allowed to read his Bible. He is still in December 2019 not being allowed to read any Bible (see below).

This breaks the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules – A/C.3/70/L.3), which require governments to respect the freedom of religion and belief and other human rights of prisoners.

In a closed hearing in prison on 10 September, the 68 year-old Khakimov was jailed for seven years, six months in strict regime custody for allegedly “inciting religious hatred”. He was also sentenced to a ban on all exercise of freedom of religion and belief from his release (due in August 2026 when he would be 74 years-old) until August 2029. “I am guilty of nothing”, he told the court.

Despite Tajikistan’s binding international obligations under the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, no arrests or prosecutions appear to have taken place against officials who tortured Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestants, or followers of other beliefs.

Khakimov: Prison transfer, health improves, no Bible

After the failure of his 9 October appeal, the authorities transferred Khakimov from Khujand’s Investigation Prison to the strict regime prison YaS 3/5, also in Khujand, where he will serve his sentence, Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum 18.

Back in November, Khakimov’s situation in prison was much worse and his health was deteriorating. He had to dress his leg on his own and was not allowed nail scissors, which added to pain.

Khakimov’s conditions were also poor, Jehovah’s Witnesses noted. His bed was broken, he was cold and the prison authorities provided no warm bedclothes or hot food. The prison authorities at that point refused to accept items brought for him by his lawyer. The prison authorities also obstructed meetings between Khakimov and his lawyer.

However, Khakimov’s conditions in prison have improved slightly, Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum 18 on 18 December. He was transferred out of the medical unit and placed in Block 7 of the prison, where those convicted of fraud are held. “We believe the international community’s attention to this case has its impact on the improvement of his condition.”

Khakimov is “feeling better now”, Jehovah’s Witnesses added. “He doesn’t do the dressing on his leg, but wraps it in an elastic bandage. Currently he does not take any medication, he will resume taking it in January.”

The prison authorities allowed Khakimov’s friends to provide him with a mattress, blanket, pillows, sheets and a duvet cover and the bed he has now is not broken.

However Khakimov is not able to read the Bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses complain. As was the case since he was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention in February 2019, “there is no Bible in the prison library,” they note. Jehovah’s Witnesses also state that the prison authorities took away from him a copy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian-language New World Version. They say they hope he will at least be allowed to be provided with the Synodal translation of the Bible or another Russian Bible translation (Khakimov speaks little Tajik).

Forum 18 was unable to reach the prison administration on 19 December to find out why Khakimov’s friends have had to provide adequate bedding for him and why he is being denied religious literature of his choice.

Denial of access to religious literature, poor bedding, inadequate heating and medical care all break the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules – A/C.3/70/L.3), which require governments to respect the freedom of religion and belief and other human rights of prisoners.

Prisoner of conscience Khakimov’s address in prison:

YaS 3/5 Muassisai

735700 Khujand

Sogd Region

Tajikistan

Kholmatov: Freed three months early

The prison authorities freed prisoner of conscience Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Khasanovich Kholmatov (born 20 July 1975) on the morning of 17 December, local Protestants told Forum 18. He had been held in Yavan Prison in the south-western Khatlon Region.

Kholmatov had been due for release in April 2020. “The prison court examined the question of Bakhrom’s early release and reduced his term,” a local Protestant told Forum 18.

“I’d like to express my huge gratitude to all the people who supported and prayed for me, my family and my church,” World Watch Monitor quoted Kholmatov as declaring after his release. “All these three years I felt your prayers, they helped me to stand, they helped my precious wife and children, they helped the members of my church who were left without a pastor, then kicked by the authorities out of our building.”

Prisoner of conscience Pastor Kholmatov, who led a Protestant Church in Khujand, was jailed for three years in July 2017 for allegedly “singing extremist songs in church and so inciting ‘religious hatred”. The National Security Committee (NSC) secret police arrested Pastor Kholmatov in April 2017 after they raided his Sunmin Sunbogym (Full Gospel) Protestant Church in Khujand, and harassed and physically tortured its members.

The authorities also closed the Sunmin Sunbogym congregation in the northern city of Konibodom in March 2017, after the NSC secret police forcibly closed it in March 2017 after raiding and physically torturing church members, as well as firing them from their jobs. “The church there remains closed,” a Protestant told Forum 18 on 19 December 2019.

Other prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion

The other prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising their freedom of religion and belief are all thought to be Muslims. In September 2017 42-year old Imam Ilkhomiddin Abdulloyev of the Chorrukh-Dorun Mosque in a suburb of Guliston and four members of the Mosque community, one of whom is named Kasymov, were arrested. In November 2017 all were jailed for five and half years.

Human rights defender Faiziniso Vakhidova told Forum 18 in December 2017 that Imam Abdulloyev is “not an extremist at all, but a very peaceful believer” and a disciple of Imam Boltuyev who was imprisoned earlier under similar “extremism” charges. “Imam Abdulloyev may have been arrested for that reason”, human rights defender Vakhidova commented.

Also jailed in Sogd Region between August and December 2017 were other male Muslim prisoners of conscience, including a well-known heart surgeon. All were accused of being adherents of Salafi Islam, a movement banned since 2009. None of those jailed appears to have called for or committed any violation of the human rights of others, and officials refused to explain what exactly they had done wrong. But it appears that their “crime” was to be identified by regime officials as being devout Muslims. All received prison terms of at least five years.

Other violations of freedom of religion and belief

Tajikistan’s other violations of the freedom of religion and belief and related human rights include: a ban on all exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission; severe limitations on the numbers of mosques permitted and activities allowed inside those mosques; the banning of Central Asia’s only legal religious-based political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party, and the arrest as prisoners of conscience of its senior party figures; forcing imams in state-controlled mosques (the only sort permitted) to preach state-dictated sermons

The regime has also: forcible closed thousands of mosques; banned all public beard and hijab-wearing, enforced using police roadblocks among other methods; banned teachers and school pupils attending mosques on the Muslim festival of Id al-Adha, even though it is a public holiday, as well as banning customs such as haj pilgrimage returnees holding celebratory meals.; and denied religious funerals to about 50 prisoners killed while the regime suppressed a November 2018 Khujand Labour Camp riot.

https://www.eurasiareview.com/29122019-tajikistan-muslim-faces-18-year-charges-jehovahs-witness-prisoner-denied-bible-pastor-freed/

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Taliban attack on Afghanistan army base kills 10 soldiers

December 28, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): At least 10 Afghan soldiers have been killed in a Taliban attack on a military base in the southern Helmand province, officials said.

The Taliban dug a tunnel into the base, located in the volatile Sangin district, and blew it up before its militants attacked the compound, Nawab Zadran, spokesman for 215 Maiwand Army Corps in southern Afghanistan told AFP news agency on Saturday.

"There were 18 soldiers in the base at the time of the attack providing security for the people of Sangin. Four soldiers were wounded and four repelled the Taliban attack bravely," he said.

Provincial spokesman Omar Zawak confirmed the attack and said the soldiers were killed by the powerful blast inside the base.

In a statement sent to media, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Taliban have increased their attacks in recent days on Afghan army bases and checkpoints across different provinces.

On Thursday, a similar attack killed six Afghan soldiers as a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car outside an army compound in the northern Balkh province.

Another attack on a checkpoint in Balkh province killed at least seven Afghan soldiers on Tuesday.

On Monday, a US soldier was killed in combat in northern Kunduz province. The Taliban claimed they were behind a fatal roadside bombing that targeted American and Afghan forces in Kunduz.

https://en.abna24.com/news//taliban-attack-on-afghanistan-army-base-kills-10-soldiers_996982.html

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Taliban dig tunnel into base in AF, kill 10 soldiers in blast

Dec 29, 2019

KANDAHAR: Ten Afghan soldi- ers were killed in a Taliban attack on a military base in the southern province of Helma- nd on Saturday, officials said.

The Taliban dug a tunnel into the base in volatile Sangin district and then blew it up before their fighters could attack the compound, Nawab Zadran a spokesman for 215 Maiwand Army Corps in southern Afghanistan said.

"There were 18 soldiers in the base at the time of the attack providing security for the people of Sangin. Four soldiers were wounded and four repelled the Taliban attack bravely," he said. Provincial spokesman Omar Zawak said the soldiers were killed by the blast inside the base. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack comes as local and international forces brace for another winter amid US-Taliban talks to end the violence in Afghanistan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/taliban-dig-tunnel-into-base-in-af-kill-10-soldiers-in-blast/articleshow/73013247.cms

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Hekmatyar Disappoints Again, Setback for Pakistan

Sunday, 29 Dec 2019

Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan, the most radical militant resistant group against the Soviet invasion and now turned politician, has once again disappointed his masters—Pakistani establishment— by performing extremely poor in the electoral results. He secured only 70,427 (3.85%) votes. The penalty of one million Afghanis, having failed to secure 10% of the votes, adds salt to the wounds. As a warlord, he failed to capture Kabul and as a politician, he fails to secure 10% votes let alone claiming victory in presidential elections.

The history between Pakistan, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, and Gulbaddin Hekmatyar date back to 1973 when the Afghan President Daud initiated cracking down on the Islamist leaders and compelled them to exile. Hekmatyar was among the rebels who were received by the Zulfiqar Bhutto government as ‘state guests’ and received training, logistics and monetary assistance from the ISI which valued them as strategic assets against the nationalist policies and expansionist aspirations of Afghan premier, Daud Khan.

During the decade-long resistance against the Soviet invasion, Hekmatyar along his militant group Hezb-e-Islami remained the most favored Afghan Mujahideen leader receiving the lion share of money and arms funded by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and funneled through the ISI. In the Pakistani intelligence community, Hekmatyar was the chosen one for his loyalties to the Pakistani designs and objectives in Afghanistan which he believed would feature him as the sole power bearer. His obsession with power has continuously kept him closely attached with his sponsors.

The withdrawal of godless Soviets, the collapse of Najibullah’s authority and the ensuing tussle for power among the Afghan armed groups prompted Pakistan’s quest for Strategic Depth, a doctrine of gaining hold over Afghan territory to enhance the capacity of a prolonged conventional war against India, expounded by Aslam Beg, the then Chief of Army Staff and pushed by Hamid Gul, the ISI chief. Strategic Depth required a friendly or to be precise a puppet regime in Afghanistan and there was no better choice than Hekmatyar who had already declared his preferences for a confederation of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pakistani military and Intelligence agency threw their lot in favor of Hekmatyar to subdue the warring rivals and ensure the establishment of a client regime in Kabul.  However, it was not that simple in practice given the complexity of dynamic involved in Afghan crisis.

The departing time arrived when Hekmatyar failed to realize the Pakistani expectations: Capture Kabul before others do. Hekmatyar disappointed his masters by not being able to take control of Kabul. Before him, Ahmad Shah Masoud, the archrival of Hekmatyar and prominent leader of Northern Alliance, had successfully breached and controlled the capital, leaving Hekmatyar helpless outside Kabul. What ensued later attributed Hekmatyar a globally infamous title, the Butcher of Kabul, and among Afghans he became known as Pakistan’s man. Hekmatyar shelled Kabul with rockets for months killing 60,000 residents of the capital.

Hekmatyar’s inability to capture Kabul led to his separation with the ISI which had coopted and hired a new client, more ruthless, efficient and capable to fulfill the orders: the Taliban. The emergence of Taliban and their successful takeover of power sidelined Hekmatyar who was forced to leave the country for Iran.

After the events of 9/11, the toppling of Taliban emirate and the subsequent Taliban resurgence against the US invasion and the newly established Afghan government, Hekmatyar was once again employed to work in correspondence with other players for the fulfillment of Pakistani objectives in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar remained in Pakistan, throughout the War on Terror, and continuously trained militants in Pakistani safe havens to fight Afghan and International forces.

In 2017, Hekmatyar acceded to cease hostilities and join the peace process with the Afghan government. The inclusion of Hekmatyar into the political process of Afghanistan was a product of compromise and bargain. Hekmatyar returned to Afghanistan and was welcomed with a sea of supporters. Hekmatyar’s return to Afghan politics was suspected, by many Afghans, another gambit of Pakistani establishment to enhance their influence and solidify interference on political sphere. This suspicion was substantiated by Hekmatyar’s extremely pro-Pakistani remarks and public speeches maligning the Afghan democracy and constitution.

After disappointment on the military front, Hekmatyar faced the same fate on political front. Hekmatyar, due to his fascination for power and autocratic nature, has been dealt another blow. Many prominent senior members of his party and his old entourages decided to leave the party because of Hekmatyar’s centralization of party and decision-making. Moreover, Hekmatyar’s performance in the Presidential Elections was humiliating for him and his party where he was able to secure only 3% of total votes. Hekmatyar was quick to deny the results, alleging the elections rigged. To add salt to the wounds, He will lose one million Afghani as a penalty for his failure to secure 10% votes, as per the regulations of Independent Election Commission. One thing that is quite clear is the fact that the Afghan masses have explicitly clarified that they don’t support war criminals, warlords and foreign agents anymore.

This time, Hekmatyar’s disappointment might not spare him for another chance as Pakistan, for many years, has been striving to diversify the clients and sources to enhance the much sought soft power in Afghanistan.

https://www.khaama.com/hekmatyar-disappoints-again-setback-for-pakistan-98760/

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A Peace agreement or withdrawal deal?

Sunday, 29 Dec 2019

By Sadam Hussain Zaheer

9 /11 attack on America paved the way for her intervention and demolition of Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001. American president announced global war on terror through justification of defensive just war and Further reinforced by all the major powers. Taliban being sole power from 1996—2001 once again emerged as rebels and began its insurgency in 2003 when US military concentration was divided into two prones, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Taliban being subject to Pakistan’s strategic depth policy in 1990s was again backed by Pakistan militarily, politically and economically to take revenge from US who fluctuated all the Pakistan oriented policies and for extension of global war on terror to stuck US in Afghanistan.

When Trump came to power, he announced the south Asian policy which mainly focused on ending the US longest war in Afghanistan. According to these claims Trump administration began peace process with Taliban in February 2019 which was dependent upon the following four points.

Foreign troop’s withdrawal

Intra-Afghan dialogue

Ceasefire

Afghan soil would not be used against US

In the initial rounds, Afghan government was unconscious of the dialogue and even unaware of any advancement of peace process. Yet the Afghan national security adviser Hamdullah Muhib shook the entire peace process by criticizing Zalmay khalilzad , the US special representative, for not informing and bypassing Afghan government which restricted both his official and unofficial entry to America. Nine rounds have been completed and still both US and Taliban are unable to ascertain the result. The recent resumption of peace process, which was called off by Trump, has again developed the expectations in Afghanistan.

There are different discernments about peace process in Afghanistan. Most of the individuals imagine that United States on accomplishing its deal with Taliban may leave Afghans and rehash the history of 1990s when US vanquished its cold war rival putting gun on Afghan shoulders and left them vulnerable to descend to civil war with its neighbors’ interference. Moreover, Trump also wants to return his forces back in order to find a campaign card for his upcoming elections. These declarations could further be forged by the speedy visits of Zalmay khalilzad everywhere throughout the world about peace process. On the other hand, some contrasting rumors are also revolving that United States spending about trillion dollars in Afghanistan for reconstruction and installment of Islamic democratic government could never leave Afghanistan to return to conservatism and extremism and US could never reverse the 18 years achievements of democracy. 

Challenges to the new government

For the most part individuals in Afghanistan anticipated about the interim government and perceived that elections may not occur yet at the same time Afghan government held elections on 28th September 2019 in the interlude of Trump cancellation of peace process. Taliban also cautioned afghan individuals not to take part in election. More than 9.7 million individuals did their enrollment yet just 2 million casted the ballot because of Taliban threats.  Now recently the preliminary results of afghan elections have announced which has considered the incumbent president  Dr Ashraf Ghani as the leading candidate of having majority vote of 50.64%.

There would be numerous challenges to upcoming president which will be hard to defeat effectively. The very first and definitive test would be intra- afghan dialogue in the event that US and Taliban came to an arrangement. The procrastination of elections results were viewed as that it may be because of the uncertainty of a deal among Taliban and US yet now after the result of elections it looks in favor of afghan government since president is chosen and Taliban desire to come Afghanistan would be considered as surrender which would also be the enormous hindrance in intra-Afghan discourse.

In addition, we know the weak afghan economy which will be another major impediment for new afghan government. Afghan government will need continued financial support after political settlement. According to world bank that afghan government will require $6 billion to $8 billion a year in international grants between 2020 and 2024 to fund basic services and Afghanistan  total  revenues currently amount to around  $2.5 billion per year, while expenditures reach around $11 billion per year. This huge imbalance could be overcome with some effective economic policies.

Alongside , in the event that US completely withdrew, there are opportunities that Afghanistan may become the safe haven for terrorists once again and may America  or this time any other major power face the 9/11 sort of attack again because in spite of Taliban, there still present many other terrorist groups in Afghanistan.  I think,  the coming government needs a multi vector foreign policy since Afghanistan war and crumbled economy have regional roots. What’s more, these regional states due to  convergence of interest in Afghanistan also need a stable Afghanistan and struggle to play positive role in the afghan peace process.

https://www.khaama.com/a-peace-agreement-or-withdrawal-deal/

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Young Afghan MMA fighter defeats his Russian rival in a breathtaking fight

Saturday, 28 Dec 2019

Afghanistan’s young MMA fighter, Hussain Bakhsh Safari defeated his powerful Russian fighter Peter Berg in a breathtaking fight in Moscow on Saturday.

Afghanistan’s Hussain Bakhsh Safari and Russian’s Peter Berg faced each other in the weight class of 65kg, inside a martial art cage in Moscow on Saturday evening.

Hussain Bakhsh defeated his Russian opponent Peter Berg in ‘Night Fight Global’ MMA fights in Moscow securing high score points in all three rounds fights.

Safari is a young Afghan MMA fighter and Jujitsu athlete who has always attended fights with full self confidence and high spirit .

Safari’s win has sparked joys amongst Afghan nation and most social media users have praised him for his tonight’s sweet win.

Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah have congratulated Safari’s win, posting on their Facebook walls.

https://www.khaama.com/young-afghan-mma-fighter-defeats-his-russian-rival-in-a-breathtaking-fight-98764/

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Southeast Asia

 

Don’t cite Jawi writing as reason to embrace Islam, says Hadi

December 29, 2019

PETALING JAYA: PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang today hit out at those who claimed the introduction of Jawi in vernacular schools was an attempt to Islamise students as criticisms against detractors of the policy increased.

He said it would be easier to explain Islam in the respective mother tongues to woo non-Muslims than through Jawi.

“So, do not cite Jawi writing as one of the reasons someone would embrace Islam,” he said in a statement.

The government has announced that Jawi will be taught to Year Four students in schools beginning in 2020. However, the subject will be made optional for vernacular schools, with prior approval from the parent-teacher association.

The move, however, sparked controversy, with Chinese education group Dong Zong at the forefront of opposing the decision.

Citing “research by some scholars and literary experts”, it claimed in a petition that it was meant to spread Islam.

Education Minister Maszlee Malik has denied the allegation.

Hadi pointed out that Muslims were encouraged to learn other languages, including Chinese and Tamil, and did not force converts to change languages after embracing Islam.

“Hence, it is not fair for them to prevent their community to learn our language and it is even more unfortunate that they are not aware that they are staying in a Malay world,” he said.

On the eve of a conference — supposed to have been held yesterday — on the introduction of Jawi in vernacular schools, Hadi had warned Dong Zong that it was an ethnic group living in “a Malay world” and should not overstep its boundaries.

Dong Zong called off the event after police obtained a court order.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/12/29/dont-cite-jawi-writing-as-reason-to-embrace-islam-says-hadi/

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China sends 5 lakh Muslim kids to boarding schools

Dec 29, 2019

HOTAN: The first grader was agood student and beloved by her classmates, but she was inconsolable, and it was no mystery to her teacher why. “The girl is often slumped over on the table alone and crying,” he wrote on his blog.

“When I asked around, I learned that it was because she missed her mother.” The mother, he noted, had been sent to a detention camp for Muslim ethnic minorities. The girl’s father had passed away, he added. But instead of letting other relatives raise her, the authorities put her in astate-run boarding school — one of hundreds of such facilities that have opened in China’s Xinjiang region.

As many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been sent to internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang over the past three years, a clampdown aimed at weakening the population’s devotion to Islam. The Chinese government is pressing ahead with a parallel effort targeting the region’s children.

Nearly a half million children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools so far, according to a planning document published on a government website, and the ruling Communist Party has set a goal of operating one to two such schools in each of Xinjiang’s 800-plus townships by the end of next year.

The party has presented the schools as a way to fight poverty, arguing that they make it easier for kids to attend classes if their parents live or work in remote areas or are unable to care for them. But the schools are also designed to assimilate and indoctrinate kids at an early age, away from the influence of families, according to the document, published in 2017.

The schools are off limits to outsiders and tightly guarded. State media and official documents describe education as a key component of President Xi Jinping’s campaign to wipe out extremist violence in Xinjiang. The idea is to use the boarding schools as incubators of a new generation of Uighurs who are secular and more loyal to the party and the nation.

“The long-term strategy is to conquer, to captivate, to win over the young generation from the beginning,” said Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington who has studied Chinese policies that break up Uighur families.

To carry out the assimilation campaign, authorities in Xinjiang have recruited thousands of teachers from across China, often Han Chinese, the nation’s dominant ethnic group. At the same time, prominent Uighur educators have been imprisoned. Children in the boarding schools are only allowed visits with family once every week or two.

Without specifying Islam by name, the policy document, characterised religion as a pernicious influence on kids. By early 2017, the document said, nearly 40% of all middle-school and elementary-school age kids in Xinjiang — or about 4,97,800 students — were boarding in schools. Visiting a kindergarten near the frontier city of Kashgar this month, Chen Quanguo, the party’s top official in Xinjiang, urged teachers to ensure children learn to “love the party, love the motherland and love the people”.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/china-sends-5-lakh-muslim-kids-to-boarding-schools/articleshow/73013292.cms

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More than S$10,316 raised to honour Muslim youth who protected church-goers from bomb blast in 2000

December 29

A 25-year-old Indonesian who sacrificed his life to protect church-goers from a bomb blast in 2000, has raised more than Rp 106 million (S$10,316), The Jakarta Post reports.

This fundraiser to honour the late Riyanto Banser was started by an anonymous Twitter account Katolik Garis Lucu on the Kitabisa crowdfunding platform, with the total funds raised exceeding its initial target of Rp 50 million (S$4,866).

On Dec. 24, 2000, the member of Indonesia’s largest Islamic group Nahdlatul Ulama’s (NU) youth wing died while patrolling and guarding the Eben Haezer Church in Mojokerto, East Java.

In Indonesia, it is common for police, soldiers and members of Nahdlatul Ulama to help guard churches across the country during the Christmas period to caution against attacks by terrorists.

Breakdown of incident

According to CNN Indonesia, Riyanto had told his mother, Katinem, that he and his friends intended to go to the mosque after guarding the church on Dec. 24, 2000.

Katinem said: “He left in the afternoon, said goodbye to me, said goodbye to his father, and went to Eben Haezer Church. It was in the afternoon so he did not have time to break fast too”.

At night, Katinem and Riyanto’s brothers heard news that a bomb had exploded on Jalan Kartini Number 4 at Mojokerto City.

That was the address of the Eben Haezer Church which Riyanto had been patrolling with four other members from the NU youth wing on Christmas Eve.

Mother initially didn’t think Riyanto was affected

Katinem initially didn’t think Riyanto was affected by the explosion.

It was only when her husband, Sukarmin, came back home did Katinem start to worry.

He told her that there was no news of Riyanto after the explosion.

Later on, it was confirmed that Riyanto was a victim of the bomb blast that night.

Katinem also found out her son’s colleague who served in the same church, Amir Sagianto, was hit by the explosion, but survived.

Found a bag with wires and nails under a public telephone in front of the church

Just like Riyanto, Amir was also guarding the Eben Haezer Church on Dec. 24, 2000.

After arriving at the church, Amir said that they began to prepare to guard.

When the evening call to prayer rose, they broke their fast and took turns to perform the obligatory prayer.

At around 7:45pm, one of the congregants told Amir that there was a bag lying under a public telephone in front of the church.

Amir and Riyanto went to check the bag and were surprised that there were wires and nails in the bag.

One of the policemen who saw the bag realised it was a bomb and reflexively shouted: “Get down!”

The situation in the church was chaotic.

Riyanto hugs bomb and runs away with it, sacrificing himself

Amir remembered seeing Riyanto hugging the bomb and running away with it, getting it away from others.

“The bomb exploded, the road went dark, the situation was chaotic, I don’t remember anything anymore,” Amir said.

Based on the description of his colleagues, the explosion made Riyanto’s body bounce as far as 30 metres from the point of explosion.

Amir was also rushed to the hospital. He suffered a torn wound on his head and was bleeding profusely.

Monetary assistance from President and church

While he was alive, Riyanto, who only had an elementary school education, was the backbone of his family.

After his death, Riyanto’s younger brother Titik Sumarmi and their mother said that the family’s economic condition was not stable.

Despite Riyanto’s father being old and due to retire, he still had to pull a pedicab to support the family’s living expenses.

Thankfully, the family managed to receive monetary help from a number of parties.

Katinem mentioned that she had received Rp 10 million (S$9,744) from the fourth President of the Republic of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid alias Gus Dur.

However, once Gus Dur stepped down from the presidency due to the impeachment of the MPR in 2001, the family no longer received any government assistance.

Apart from Gus Dur, monetary assistance also came from the church.

Rudy Sanusi Widjaja, the pastor of the Eben Haezer Church, said that his party provided compensation in the form of educational scholarships to one of Riyanto’s younger brothers, Partini.

Although Rudy stated that the assistance provided by his party was not comparable to what Riyanto had sacrificed, he hoped, in a way, that what he had given would ease the burden on the family.

Fundraising effort to honour Riyanto’s sacrifice

To honour Riyanto’s sacrifice, the Katolik Garis Lucu Twitter account recently set up a fundraising effort, The Jakarta Post reports.

More than Rp 106 million (S$10,316) was raised after 15 days.

On Dec. 24, the account tweeted:

Indonesians laud fundraising initiative and praise Riyanto

Since the fundraiser concluded, Indonesian netizens have come forth to laud the donation initiative and praise Riyanto for his sacrifice.

Translation: “Thank you, friend. You have brought justice to our brother.”

Translation: “Very thankful that we collected more than the target. Hope this can benefit the victim’s family.”

Translation: “Hate will only lead to vengeance. But love and sincerity will live forever. Thank you all.”

https://mothership.sg/2019/12/riyanto-banser-muslim-church-bomb/

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MUIS restructuring to restore glory of Islam in Sabah

28/12/2019

KOTA KINABALU, Dec 28 -- The restructuring of the Sabah Islamic Religious Council (MUIS) is seen able to restore the glory of Islam in the state, said Sabah Law and Native Affairs Minister Datuk Aidi Moktar.

In ensuring that the restructuring exercise is in the right direction, he urged agencies under MUIS to closely work together.

All matters pertaining to mosques, surau and cemeteries would be put under the Mosque, Surau and Cemetery Management Board, Aidi said at a programme at Sekolah Menengah Ugama Toh Puan Hajah Rahmah here today.

After this, JHEAINS will focus more on syariah affairs and preaching activities he said adding that a committee would be set up to improve the system adopted by Muslim cemeteries in the state.

http://www.bernama.com/en/general/news.php?id=1803026

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Arab World

 

Young Saudis: We value responsibility, hard work, tolerance and justice

RAWAN RADWAN & ARAB NEWS

December 28, 2019

JEDDAH/DUBAI: The recent Saudi Youth Development Survey revealed that 67.02 percent of the Saudi population is between the age of 0 and 34.

The survey, which was performed during the second quarter of 2019 and was published by the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT), aimed to provide many important indicators about the life of young people.

This included social, demographic and economic aspects, as well as the obstacles and challenges that face the younger generation.

Researchers compiled the figures in visits to 5,000 families in 13 regions and results showed that Saudis aged between 15 and 34 years formed 36.7 percent of the total population, 51.03 percent of them males, and 48.97 percent females.

The GASTAT survey also focused on education among youth in the Kingdom, reporting that 31.75 percent believe they have faced learning difficulties during their educational years, of which 31.86 percent were males and 31.64 percent were females.

Amongst these challenges, difficulty in accessing a school or university proved to be significantly low, with only 4.55 percent of males and 5.88 percent of females saying they have struggled to have an education. However, close to 14 percent said they have “difficulty studying.”

Commenting on these difficulties, Dr. Asma Siddiki, a Saudi education management leader with a degree in cognitive psychology from the University of Oxford said: “What’s interesting about this percentage is that it is self-reported. If we were to look at the recently published PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) results, we find that the majority of our 15-year-olds do very poorly with their problem-solving skills in tests on reading, mathematics and science. So it’s no surprise that a third of our 15 to 34 year-olds are aware of their challenges with learning difficulties,” said Dr. Siddiki.

“This is both unfortunate, given the efforts being made in the education sector, and an opportunity, if we are bold enough to recognize that the fix must be in tackling the earlier years and in ensuring that foundations are better laid so that children can be inspired to learn to learn — and not learn to rote learn,” she added.

However, despite a third of respondents facing learning difficulties, the report showed that more than half (58 percent) said they have participated in extracurricular activities, of which 59.67 percent were male and 56.26 percent were females.

In addition, the results showed that the percentage of young people fully satisfied in their work was 23.54 percent — 23.9 percent of males, and 21.85 of females. The percentage of working young people who have faced work difficulties, whether past or present, was estimated at 45.88 percent, 45.33 percent of males and 48.53 percent of females.

Wedjan Al-Ghamdi, a 31-year-old BIS graduate from Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK, returned to the Kingdom and had difficulty finding a job in her field due to her family commitments and her husband’s job, which requires him to move from one city to another every few years.

To ensure that she made use of her degree, which she obtained through the Ministry of Higher Education, she had to settle for jobs that are far from her field and only provided her with one disappointment after another.

“I have changed jobs several times in the past six years,” said Al-Ghamdi. “I had to work in international schools as a supervisor, a teacher and at times an activities supervisor. It was difficult as I moved from one small city to the next due to my husband’s job, but I believe what would have been best for people like me is to find a company that would allow workers to work from home. There weren’t many in my field that provide that and there are many who have returned from abroad who are still finding it difficult to find jobs in their respective fields.”

Al-Ghamdi said that she has recently found a job that she is content with.

The Saudi government has a series of reform plans, including the ambitious Vision 2030, for the country to invest in education for its people to prepare them to participate in the workforce. Additionally, the Kingdom has proposed strict quotas in the private sector to encourage enterprises to prioritize hiring Saudi nationals and ensure economic and social growth.

The percentage of hired young people who considered that their salary was sufficient to meet their financial obligations was 68.91 percent, 69.59 percent of males, and 70.48 percent of females, while the percentage of young people who said that they can save part of their monthly income, was 44.71 percent, 43.62 percent of males, and 50.19 percent of females.

John Sfakianakis, chief economist at the Gulf Research Center and associate fellow at Chatham House in London, said that the tendency to save more money could be a result of higher income.

“There are a lot of young people that we classify as youth who are engaged in the economy far more today than a few years back and there are more women in the workforce, which is very positive. Saudi Arabia had a low female labor participation rate in the wider region and that has been improving.”

“At one point, youth unemployment rates were higher than they were in Egypt and Greece,” said Sfakianakis. “This was challenging for many years and now we see the overall youth unemployment rates falling, which is proof that many government programs to bolster the economy are working.”

In a recent survey also published by GASTAT, the labor market bulletin for the third quarter of 2019 showed that unemployment rates decreased to 5.5 percent, compared to 5.6 percent for the second quarter of this year. It’s a significant drop in comparison to the fourth quarter of 2018, where it was at 12.7 percent.

Meanwhile, social media proved to play a major role in the lives of Saudi youth.

The GASTAT survey showed that around 98 percent of youth use social media platforms, with 35.83 percent of respondents saying their social relationships have been affected by social media. This included 36.81 percent of males and 34.8 percent of females.

When it comes to societal norms, the report showed that youth believe that social values are strong in their communities. Among these values are an individual sense of responsibility (98.55 percent), hard work (98.12 percent), tolerance (98.26 percent), efficiency (97.46 percent), rational spending (89.22 percent), compliance with regulations (94.64 percent), justice (97.95 percent), moderation (97.42 percent), determination and perseverance (98.41 percent), and transparency (92.64 percent).

“In the unprecedented development that the Kingdom is witnessing, such reported high numbers in the social values that young Saudis share reflect a great sense of patriotism and nationalism,” said Razan Alaquil, Saudi Youth Delegate to the 2018 UN ECOSOC Youth Forum. “Our Saudi identity is being structured and defined on important factors that we as young Saudis not only share, but keep one another accountable for.

“Because this is a time for us to tell the story of our Kingdom through our actions by being responsible citizens who actively contribute. Those actions develop our Kingdom and make the Saudi identity what it is — an identity based upon our sense of contribution and responsibility for our country’s development, hard work, tolerance, efficiency, and so much more. As young Saudis, we keep one another accountable for those civic values because we all look at each other as one.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605216/saudi-arabia

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Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Condoles Kazakhstan President, on Victims of Civilian Passenger Airline

2019/12/28

Riyadh, Dec 28, 2019, SPA -- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud sent a message of condolence and consolation to President Qasym-Jomart Kemeluly Toqaev of the Republic of Kazakhstan, on the victims of the crash of a civilian passenger plane.

The King said in his cable: "We learned of the news of the crash of a civilian airliner after a takeoff from Almaty Airport, and the resulting deaths and injuries, and we as send to Your Excellency, the families of the deceased and the brotherly people of the Republic of Kazakhstan, in the name of the people, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in our name the warmest condolences and the most sincere sympathy, We wish the Almighty that the deceased be blessed with the grace and forgiveness of His mercy, and inspire their families with patience and solace, to grant the injured a speedy recovery, and to preserve you and the people of the Republic of Kazakhstan from all misfortune and harm, He is All Hearing and All Answering."

https://www.spa.gov.sa/viewfullstory.php?lang=en&newsid=2015917

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Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival returns for its 22nd edition

December 28, 2019

DUBAI: The 22nd edition of the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival, which kicked off this month, is currently underway throughout the emirate, with thought-provoking exhibitions presented in three different locations: The Sharjah Art Museum, Al-Majaz Waterfront and Maraya Art Center.

Bringing together exhibitions, installations, talks and workshops scattered across the emirate, the event, which runs until Jan. 21, 2020, is not one to miss.

The month-long art festival is organized under the theme of “Prospect,” and features a mishmash of artworks that celebrate the splendor of Islamic art by 108 artists from 31 different countries.

Among the artists showcasing their works is Egyptian sculptor Ahmed Karaly, who is known for his architectural installations. He is presenting his work “The Spirit of The City” at the contemporary art space, the Maraya Art Center. For the installation, the artist used eight layers of chiffon in his reinterpretation of Islamic architecture.

The Egyptian sculptor’s work is presented alongside Chinese artist Li Hongbo’s paper sculptures that are inspired by the patterns prevalent in traditional Islamic art.

Other highlights include Emirati artist Moza Matter, who is showcasing work centered around the act of making du’aa — an Islamic supplication. The work portrays people raising their hands in du’aa during their Hajj pilgrimage.

Meanwhile, Syrian-American artist and architect Mohamad Hafez reconstructed the ancient city of Damascus’s streetscapes, replete with intricately carved wooden doors, clotheslines hanging from balconies and satellite dishes via a hyper-realistic diorama.

Another standout art piece on display is an immersive installation entitled “Infinitum.” The piece of work was designed by Italian architect and designer Antonio Pio Saracino, who drew inspiration from the distinctive arches of the region, which are a fixture in Islamic architecture. 

Australian artist James Tapscott and Shozy, a Russian 3D artist, are also participating in the 22nd edition of the fair.

Established in 1998, the annual Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival aims to spotlight the different styles of Islamic art through various mediums.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605236/lifestyle

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Iraqi artists pay tribute to dead protesters with sculptures

Dec 29, 2019

BAGHDAD: The sculptures carved by seven art trainees were lined up outside a makeshift workshop in Baghdad's Tahrir Square. With them were posters depicting protesters who have been killed in anti-government demonstrations in the past three months.

One sculpture showed a protester with a tear gas canister in his eye. Another showed a volunteer tuk tuk driver next to his three-wheeled vehicle who was killed while evacuating wounded protesters during clashes. A third illustrated a protester's hand flashing the victory sign and colored by the Iraqi flag.

For Iraqi artist Mahdi Qarnous, 53, the exhibition that was recently inaugurated in Baghdad's central Tahrir Square _ the epicenter of Iraq's anti-government protest movement _ is a personal contribution to the movement. It is aimed at immortalizing fellow protesters killed and kidnapped during the demonstrations that have engulfed Iraq since Oct. 1. It is also a way, he says, to allow young, talented Iraqis to channel their talents away from violence.

Iraq has been roiled by protests that have left at least 490 people dead, the vast majority of them demonstrators killed by security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition. The mass uprisings prompted the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi late last month.

Qarnous said he recruited seven uneducated and unemployed young protesters from Tahrir Square, put them through an intensive six-week course that he personally funded and after three weeks they were able to start their own art projects.

``We see this activity as part of the ongoing protests and a memorial monument for our martyrs and our abducted fellow protesters,'' he said.

Tahrir Square has emerged as a focal point of the protests, with protesters camped out in tents. Dozens of people took part in the simple opening of the sculpture exhibition on a recent day. None of the art trainees who were presenting their work attended the event, however, and their names were withheld due to security concerns.

``The current regime produced a generation that is poor in producing and cherishing arts. ... You see here in this exhibition that our people have potential but lack the path,'' said Qarnous.

Murtada Muthanna, 23, an artist and activist, said the exhibition is a message to the world.

``It says we are a people with inspirations for life not death. Our revolution is peaceful and we are seeking reform not destruction,'' he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/iraqi-artists-pay-tribute-to-dead-protesters-with-sculptures/articleshow/73015574.cms

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Saudi Arabia’s Jazan Heritage Village ready to receive visitors

29 December 2019

The Tourism Development Council in Jazan has completed the development work for Jazan Heritage Village in time for the launch of the port city’s 12th winter festival, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The heritage village is located on the southern corniche and the event has the slogan “Beautiful Jazan, Everyone’s Winter Resort.”

The village director, Moussa bin Ali Namis, said the development work included increasing green spaces and growing the plants that Jazan is known for, adding shops, building special pathways for people with special needs and visitors. Buildings and relaxation areas for reading have been stocked with cultural books written by Jazan’s writers and poets.

He said that the development work also included setting up a cinema to present movies and short documentaries that introduce the region’s heritage and tourism to the audience.

He said the chairman of Jazan Winter Festival’s High Commission, Abdullah Al-Mudaimeigh, was following up on the development work in the village.

Jazan Heritage Village allows visitors to see Jazan’s history and lifestyle through a traditional mud hut, a home suited to mountainous climes, and a house representing Farasan Island.

The village was established in 2009 based on the directives of the governor of Jazan, Prince Muhammad bin Nasser bin Abdul Aziz, following the success of the first winter festival, which honored the region’s heritage and archaeological treasures. The village has become a mainstay for this festival.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605436/saudi-arabia

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Music maestro Omar Khairat says honored to perform at AlUla

HUSSAM AL-MAYMAN

December 29, 2019

RIYADH: Music maestro Omar Khairat said he was honored to be at the second Winter at Tantora festival in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla Valley, where he performed a piece he composed specifically for the festival.

Khairat, along with legendary singer Aziza Jalal, made history as the first two artists to perform at the new Maraya concert hall in AlUla, which was unveiled as part of the Winter at Tantora festival.

Khairat said that the inspiration for his piece came during his visit to the first festival.

“I took a helicopter ride with Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah for a tour of AlUla. I saw everything and I was asked how I felt about it and if there was inspiration from this place for a new composition. I said yes, of course, it would be a new piece, and I started working on it,” he added.

“It is an honor to feel that you are wanted, any artist will feel honored for that. I love you all because I know you love my music,” Khairat said.

Khairat said the Maraya hall is much better than the one that was built for last year’s festival, and he believed it was a really professional venue that complements the acoustics for the orchestra.

“The place is forever. The Maraya hall is beautiful,” he added.

Maraya means reflection or mirror in Arabic, and the hall is built close to Hegra — Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO world heritage site.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605421/saudi-arabia

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Najran governor visits troops on Saudi Arabia’s southern border

December 28, 2019

NAJRAN: Prince Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz, governor of Najran, visited the border areas to review strategic projects along the Kingdom’s borders and the operation and control mechanism.

The commander of the Border Guards in the region, Maj. Gen Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Duwaikh, affirmed the determination of the Saudi forces to protect their homeland.

Najran is one of the most southerly provinces of Saudi Arabia and shares a border with Yemen. It has more than a million people with an area equal to that of the US state of Pennsylvania, which is 46,000 sq. miles. In August 2014, a report claimed that a Saudi-French archaeological team has unearthed in Najran what might be considered the oldest inscription in the Arabic alphabet.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605386/saudi-arabia

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Dubai’s Burj Khalifa promotes Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020

December 28, 2019

DUBAI: Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is part of a global campaign to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the Dakar Rally from January 5 to 17, the first time the world’s most challenging race will be held in Asia.

The campaign features an action-filled video ad that will be screened in iconic locations around the world such as Burj Khalifa, Times Square in New York and Leicester Square in London, in addition to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia.

The campaign will also appear in Milan and Madrid as well as Paris, the home of Dakar Rally.

Saudi Arabia, through the video promotion, aims to introduce the Kingdom’s uncharted desert to the world of motorsport as well as feature its distinctive terrain so racing fans would know what to expect when the adventure begins on January 5.

“This campaign is our way of giving the world a glimpse of Saudi Arabia’s stunning natural beauty, fascinating desert, unparalleled hospitality, and world-class standards in staging international sporting events,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, said.

Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, with more than 550 drivers from 62 world countries competing in the race, gets underway in Jeddah before the teams navigate their way to the north through the challenging trip along the coast, passing by Red Sea Project and the futuristic megacity of Neom.

The drivers then cruise then through the sandy hills of Ha’il on the way to Riyadh before taking a turn to the west in the center of the Kingdom’s enormous desert and then looping back towards the east to enter the Empty Quarter ahead of crossing the finish line in Qiddiya.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605286/saudi-arabia

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Europe

 

Anti-Muslim group says 5,000 members join Conservatives

28.12.2019

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON

More than 5,000 members of an Islamophobic far-right group in Britain joined the leading Conservative Party in recent weeks, according to local media reports.

The fringe group Britain First said their support for Tories came with the stance adopted by the leading party toward “radical Islam.”

The leaders of Britain First, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, were jailed last year for hate crimes against Britain’s Muslim minority.

“We will support a party that is willing to take a firm stance against radical Islam and it looks like the Tories are willing to do that,” Ashlea Simon, the group’s spokeswoman, was quoted by local press, including the Guardian.

“The majority of our followers appreciate [Home Secretary] Priti Patel’s and [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson’s hardline approach,” said Simon whom British officials questioned previously under terrorism laws last October after a trip to Russia.

Britain First members’ registering as Tory members came after the Dec. 12 election victory for the Conservative Party that has been urged repeatedly to launch an investigation into Islamophobia within the party ranks.

Johnson said during the election campaign an investigation would look into all discrimination in the party -- a pledge British Muslims were not satisfied with.

The group’s leader Golding claimed to have joined the party, but the membership was not confirmed by the Tories, according to reports.

Golding last week said he liked the "cut of the cloth" of the prime minister after he described Muslim women who wear the all-covering burqa as looking like "letterboxes", referring to an article by Johnson in which he described Muslim women wearing burqa and niqab as “letterboxes” and “bank robbers.”

"He [Johnson] is more of a populist leader and I think in recent weeks he has nailed his colors to the mast against immigration and being for Brexit," he said.

Golding was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, and his deputy Fransen received 36 weeks, for “religiously aggravated harassment” last year.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s official Twitter account in November 2017 retweeted a series of inflammatory anti-Muslim videos originally posted by Britain First leaders.

The three clips were previously tweeted by Fransen, who was previously convicted in November 2016 of religiously aggravated harassment.

Shortly after Trump's retweets, then-Prime Minister Theresa May described the group as “a hateful organization."

Britain First is well known in the U.K. for anti-Muslim outbursts, anti-mosque protests, and street and online provocations.

It was founded by former members of the British National Party in 2011.

Golding and his deputy Fransen were arrested numerous times and both received convictions.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/anti-muslim-group-says-5-000-members-join-conservatives/1686503

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CONGRATULATIONS TO BRITISH MUSLIMS NAMED IN 2020 NEW YEARS HONOURS LIST

The Muslim Council of Britain today congratulated all those named in the New Year Honours List.

Among those recognised for their contribution to British society include TV chef and author Nadiya Hussain, as well as community cricket activist Afzal Pradhan from a member mosque of the Council of European Jamaats (COEJ), Mohamed Ashraf Ali of the British Muslim Heritage Centre (BMHC) and Yashmin Harun from the Muslimah Sports Association, which are Muslim Council of Britain affiliates.

In addition, 13-year old Ibrahim Yousaf was amongst those recognised, for his passionate fundraising in his free time for eleven different charities in his home town of Oldham, Greater Manchester, despite his own health problems.

Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “The Muslim Council of Britain congratulates the newly recognised British Muslims in the 2020 New Year’s Honours list for their leadership, hard work and dedication in their respective fields. The bedrock of the Muslim faith is giving back to the community and wider society, and the positive contributions that British Muslims are making continues to add to the rich diversity of Britain today.”

List of British Muslims named in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List:

Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Ali AKBOR Chief Executive Officer, Unity Housing Association. For services to the community in Leeds

Professor Abdel Ghayoum BABIKER Professor of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, University College London. For services to Medical Research

Shabir BEG Chair, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society. For services to Interfaith Relations in Glasgow

Dr Zahid Mehmood CHAUHAN For services to Homeless People

Sabah GILANI Chief Executive Officer, Better Community Business Network. For services to Young People and to the Muslim community

Professor Sophie GILLIAT-RAY for services to Education and to the Muslim community in the UK

Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Mumtaz ALI Work Coach, Sparkhill Jobcentre Plus, Department for Work and Pensions. For services to Disadvantaged Customers in Birmingham

Mohamed Ashraf ALI Head of Projects, British Muslim Heritage Centre. For services to Community Relations

Mohammad Saqib BHATTI Lately President, Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. For services to Diversity and Inclusion in Business Communities

Aziza CHAUDRY Quality Manager, Adult Education  Wolverhampton. For services to Education

Mete COBAN Founder and Chief Executive, My Life My Say. For services to Young People

Maksud Ahmed GANGAT Director of Education, Al Risalah  Education Trust. For services to the Muslim community and Interfaith in South London

Parveen HASSAN Inclusion and Community Engagement Manager, Crown Prosecution Service. For services to Community Engagement, Inclusion and Equality

Nadiya HUSSAIN For services to Broadcasting and the Culinary Arts

Arif HUSSAIN For services to the Muslim community in the UK and Abroad

Nadeem Hassan JAVAID For services to Community Cohesion and Young People

Yusuf PATEL Community Engagement Coordinator, Redbridge Borough Council. For services to Community Cohesion and Interfaith in the London Borough of Redbridge

Mohammed Tariq RAFIQUE For services to the community in Greater Manchester

Dr Adeela Ahmed SHAFI Reader in Education, University of Gloucestershire. For services to Social Justice in Bristol

Medallists of the Order of the British Empire – British Empire Medal (BEM)

Ali ABDI For voluntary service to the BAME community in Cardiff

Subnum HARIFF-KHAN For services to Public Libraries

Yashmin HARUN For services to Female BAME Representation in Sport

Nadia Rehman KHAN Co-founder, The Delicate Mind. For services to Mental Health and Integration in London and Birmingham

Afzal PRADHAN Volunteer Cricketeer, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. For services to Cricket

Abdool Hamid ROHOMON Police Constable, West Midlands Police. For services to Policing

Ibrahim YOUSAF For services to the community in Oldham, Greater Manchester

https://mcb.org.uk/press-releases/congratulations-to-british-muslims-named-in-2020-new-years-honours-list/

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UN condemns Myanmar for human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims

Samuel Osborne

The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution condemning human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.

The 193-member world body voted 134-9 with 28 abstentions in favour of the resolution, which called on the country’s government to take urgent measures to combat incitement of hatred against the Rohingya.

More than 740,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh since a brutal crackdown began in 2017.

During the military campaign, the security forces have been accused of committing mass rapes and killings, as well as burning down thousands of homes.

The UN resolution expressed alarm at the continuing influx of Rohingya to Bangladesh “in the aftermath of atrocities committed by the security and armed forces of Myanmar”.

It also expressed alarm at an independent international fact-finding mission’s findings “of gross human rights violations and abuses suffered by Rohingya Muslims and other minorities” by the security forces, which the mission said “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”.

The resolution, which is not legally binding, called for an immediate cessation of fighting and hostilities.

It reiterated “deep distress at reports that unarmed individuals in Rakhine state have been and continue to be subjected to the excessive use of forces and violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law by the military and security and armed forces”.

And it called for Myanmar’s forces to protect all people, and for urgent steps to ensure justice for all rights violations

The resolution also urged the government “to expedite efforts to eliminate statelessness and the systematic and institutionalised discrimination” against the Rohingya and other minorities, to dismantle camps for Rohingyas and others displaced in Rakhine, and “to create the conditions necessary for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of all refugees, including Rohingya Muslim refugees.”

It noted the Rohingya have twice refused to return to Myanmar from Bangladesh because of the absence of these conditions.

Myanmar’s UN ambassador, Hau Do Suan called the resolution “another classic example of double-standards [and] selective and discriminatory application of human rights norms” designed “to exert unwanted political pressure on Myanmar”.

He said the resolution did not attempt to find a solution to the complex situation in Rakhine state and refused to recognise government efforts to address the challenges.

The resolution, the ambassador said, “will sow seeds of distrust and will create further polarisation of different communities in the region”.

It comes after Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, defended the country’s military during an appearance at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The Nobel peace prize laureate denied allegations the army had executed civilians and said the situation in Rakhine state was “complicated and not easy to fathom”.

She conceded disproportionate force may have been used and civilians killed, but said the acts did not constitute genocide.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/myanmar-rohingya-muslims-bangladesh-un-resolution-human-rights-a9262376.html

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Today's Muslims are changing with the times – yet they remain rooted to their beliefs

Shelina Janmohamed

Dec 28, 2019

On a bright, sunny day in May 2016, the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was sworn in at Southwark Cathedral on a Quran. He had faced what had been described as a dog-whistle Islamophobic campaign but instead of being defensive, he was proud of his identity. “There is no clash of civilisation between Islam and the West. I am the West, I am a Londoner, I’m British, I’m of Islamic faith, Asian origin, Pakistani heritage.”

His words captured the zeitgeist of a young, faithful and confident Muslim identity that became the hallmark of the 2010s. Young Muslims coming of age over the past decade from America to Abu Dhabi to Australia vigorously railed against the US war on terror and the "clash of civilisations" theory, in which political scientist Samuel Huntington argued that wars would be waged between cultures and not countries. Yet instead of recoiling from the harsh global spotlight on their identity, they dug deep into their Islamic values and have been busy creating a vibrant, optimistic and warm-hearted worldview, in which their own lives were proof that the notion of an existential incompatibility was a toxic myth.

Individuals like Malala Yousafzai became a beacon for female education winning a Nobel prize. Her faith and heritage were always up front and centre. She was part of a rising tide of Muslim women taking on leadership roles, such as Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in the US, and Halimah Yacob, Atifete Jahjaga and Ameenah Gurib in Singapore, Kosovo and Mauritius respectively.

This was not just about politics and certainly not about one-off individuals, though. The new Muslim generation of the 2010s cut across all sectors.

Sports was a huge theme: American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad won a bronze Olympic medal and had a Barbie doll created in her likeness. Global football star Mohamed Salah inspired chants among football fans that “if he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too".

Young Muslims emerged as social media influencers with following of millions seeking out ways to live this new faithful modern life. Marvel Comics released the first ever female superhero in the shape of Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel, commissioned and written by Muslim women. Star Wars actor Riz Ahmed spoke openly about the challenges of Muslim representation and diversity. Nadiya Hussain triggered a cultural moment in the UK by winning its most beloved Great British Bake Off competition. Comedians like Hasan Minhaj were up front about their Muslim heritage. Apple released a hijabi emoji, after being pitched the idea by 15-year-old Saudi-German Rayouf Alhumedhi.

Even as the debates about what Muslim women should or should not wear continued unabated, with bans being imposed on burkinis, niqabs and hijabs, "modest fashion" came to be one of the defining industry trends of the decade. Muslim women built a whole new global industry worth in excess of $270 billion. Its most famous face is Halima Aden, a Somali-American hijab-wearing supermodel who walked at the New York Fashion Week and has been the cover face for Vogue.

There were heroes aplenty. Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet was killed as he faced down the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo office attack. "Hero Imam" Mohamed Mahmoud stood watch over the perpetrator of an attack on a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London. Muslims formed a human chain around churches in Egypt to protect their Christian brothers and sisters in their worship.

There were some challenges and difficult conversations that were begun, particularly with regard to women, diversity and their acceptance within the global ummah. The celebrity leaders that emerged over the decade came under scrutiny, triggering movements parallel to the #MeToo movement under hashtags like #MosqueMeToo.

Among the hardest of these conversations was tackling extremism. When terrorists claimed their horrors were being perpetrated to further Islam, these young Muslims pushed back with campaigns and outreach that this was not Islam, all the while having to deal with backlash. No one cheered louder at the end of Osama bin Laden and ISIS than Muslims, who had been their primary victims.

All of this has been in the face of an alarming rise of the far-right and a blatant Islamophobic narrative. Its emergence is clear in Europe but the terrifying persecution especially at the state level has been escalating around the world and most notably across Asia in recent years. It is also impossible not to mention the political, natural and humanitarian crises in areas such as Palestine, Kashmir, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan. This list is by no means exhaustive.

The emergence of this young Muslim generation that is strong, positive, faithful and proud of its identity is one of the most important and significant developments of the past decade – even though it has slipped under the world’s radar. It is a story of hope and humanity, which means that we should exit this decade with optimism. What has been achieved should give us renewed vigour for the future, when the energies of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims will be required not just to tackle their own huge challenges but the challenges of humanity as a whole.

Shelina Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World

https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/today-s-muslims-are-changing-with-the-times-yet-they-remain-rooted-to-their-beliefs-1.957168

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Russian forces bombed a mosque in Talmennes town in Idlib, on December 27

SNHR: fixed- wing warplanes we believe were Russian fired a missile on al Rahman Mosque in Talmennes town in the eastern suburbs of Idlib governorate, partially destroying its building and damaging its furniture, on December 27, 2019.

http://sn4hr.org/sites/news/2019/12/28/russian-forces-bombed-mosque-talmennes-town-idlib-december-27/

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North America

 

US mass killings hit new high in 2019, most were shootings

Dec 28, 2019

WASHINGTON: The first one occurred 19 days into the new year when a man used an ax to kill four family members including his infant daughter. Five months later, 12 people were killed in a workplace shooting in Virginia. Twenty-two more died at a Walmart in El Paso in August.

A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University shows that there were more mass killings in 2019 than any year dating back to at least the 1970s, punctuated by a chilling succession of deadly rampages during the summer.

In all, there were 41 mass killings, defined as when four or more people are killed excluding the perpetrator. Of those, 33 were mass shootings. More than 210 people were killed.

Most of the mass killings barely became national news, failing to resonate among the general public because they didn't spill into public places like massacres in El Paso and Odessa, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Jersey City, New Jersey.

The majority of the killings involved people who knew each other — family disputes, drug or gang violence or people with beefs that directed their anger at co-workers or relatives.

In many cases, what set off the perpetrator remains a mystery.

That's the case with the very first mass killing of 2019, when a 42-year-old man took an ax and stabbed to death his mother, stepfather, girlfriend and 9-month-old daughter in Clackamas County, Oregon. Two others, a roommate and an 8-year-old girl managed to escape; the rampage ended when responding police fatally shot the killer.

The perpetrator had had occasional run-ins with police over the years, but what drove him to attack his family remains unknown. He had just gotten a job training mechanics at an auto dealership, and despite occasional arguments with his relatives, most said there was nothing out of the ordinary that raised significant red flags.

The incident in Oregon was one of 18 mass killings where family members were slain, and one of six that didn't involve a gun. Among other trends in 2019: — The 41 mass killings were the most in a single year since the AP/USA Today and Northeastern database began tracking such events back to 2006, but other research going back to the 1970s shows no other year with as many mass slayings. The second-most killings in a year prior to 2019 was 38 in 2006.

The 211 people killed in this year's cases is still eclipsed by the 224 victims in 2017, when the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history took place in Las Vegas.

California, with some of the most strict gun laws in the country, had the most, with eight such mass slayings. But nearly half of US states experienced a mass slaying, from big cities like New York, to tiny towns like Elkmont, Alabama, with a population of just under 475 people.

Firearms were the weapon in all but eight of the mass killings. Other weapons included knives, axes and at least twice when the perpetrator set a mobile home on fire, killing those inside.

Nine mass shootings occurred in a public place. Other mass killings occurred in homes, in the workplace or at a bar.

James Densley, a criminologist and professor at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, said the AP/USA Today/Northeastern database confirms and mirrors what his own research into exclusively mass shootings has shown.

"What makes this even more exceptional is that mass killings are going up at a time when general homicides, overall homicides, are going down," Densley said. "As a percentage of homicides, these mass killings are also accounting for more deaths."

He believes it's partially a byproduct of an "angry and frustrated time" that we are living in. Densley also said crime tends to go in waves with the 1970s and 1980s seeing a number of serial killers, the 1990s marked by school shootings and child abductions and the early 2000s dominated by concerns over terrorism.

"This seems to be the age of mass shootings," Densley said.

He and James Alan Fox, a criminologist and professor at Northeastern University, also expressed worries about the "contagion effect," the focus on mass killings fueling other mass killings.

"These are still rare events. Clearly the risk is low but the fear is high," Fox said. "What fuels contagion is fear.” The mass shootings this year include the three in August in Texas and Dayton that stirred fresh urgency, especially among Democratic presidential candidates, to restrict access to firearms.

While the large death tolls attracted much of the attention, the killings inflicted a mental and physical toll on dozens of others. The database does not have a complete count of victims who were wounded, but among the three mass shootings in August alone, more than 65 people were injured.

Daniel Munoz, 28, of Odessa, was caught in the crossfire of the shooting that took place between a 10-mile (16-kilometer) stretch in West Texas. He was on his way to meet a friend at a bar when he saw a gunman and the barrel of a firearm. Instinctively, he got down just as his car was sprayed with bullets.

Munoz, who moved to Texas about a year ago to work in the oil industry, said he had actually been on edge since the Walmart shooting, which took place just 28 days earlier and about 300 miles (480 kilometers) away, worried that a shooting could happen anywhere at any time.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/us-mass-killings-hit-new-high-in-2019-most-were-shootings/articleshow/73006967.cms

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‘We have the resources’: Democratic presidential candidates propose trillions in spending amid debate over what’s doable

Dec. 29, 2019

By Toluse Olorunnipa

In 2019, Democrats running for president announced a slate of multitrillion-dollar proposals aimed at transforming the country and combating the economic and social ills they blame for giving rise to President Trump.

But as the year comes to a close, the mounting price tag of those plans has become a point of contention between the liberal and moderate wings of the party.

“No one inside the Beltway seems to ask how much the status quo costs,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote Thursday on Twitter, defending his proposals by citing estimates of deaths caused by air pollution and a lack of health care. “We have the resources — and a moral obligation — to pass Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.”

Sanders’s agenda would cost more than $50 trillion over 10 years, more than the plans of any other Democratic candidate. Like the others, he would pay for his plans by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

As Democrats seek to appeal to a broad swath of voters, candidatesare airing proposals that include government-supported health care and child care, free college, student loan forgiveness, transformative climate policies, massive pay raises for teachers, and a universal basic income, among others.

A Washington Post review of the major spending proposals of the leading Democratic presidential candidates found 10-year costs ranging from about $4 trillion to more than $50 trillion. The annual federal budget now is about $4.5 trillion.

Even the most sparse of the 2020 plans dwarfs what successful Democrats pushed before. As she seized the Democratic nomination in 2016, Hillary Clinton proposed a 10-year agenda estimated at $1.45 trillion, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The rapidly rising price tags and expansive reach of the current plans has led to charges of socialism from Republicans. But in recent weeks, more-moderate Democrats have been the most vocal critics of their liberal colleagues’ spending plans.

“On issue after issue, we’ve got to break out of the Washington mind-set that measures the bigness of an idea by how many trillions of dollars it adds to the budget or the boldness of an idea by how many fellow Americans it can antagonize,” South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said during the Democratic presidential debate this month in Los Angeles.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who has said her priority as president would be a $1 trillion infrastructure program, has questioned the practicality of her competitors’ more expensive proposals.

“Where I disagree is, I just don't think anyone has a monopoly on bold ideas,” she said during the debate. “I think you can be progressive and practical at the same time.”

The Post analysis focused only on the broad categories of health care, housing, the environment, criminal justice, education, child care and other anti-poverty initiatives. Using self-reported estimates from the campaigns of the candidates leading nationally and in early states — Sanders, Buttigieg, former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — the review found a shared desire to strengthen the social safety net, enlarge the federal government and reduce inequality. But each arrived at different ways of doing so, with varying price tags.

Sanders, for example, would increase minimum salaries for teachers to $60,000 and provide free breakfast and lunch to every public school student in the country, as part of an agenda that tops $51 trillion over 10 years. Among a set of plans with a total 10-year cost exceeding $30 trillion, Warren proposes subsidizing child care for almost all Americans and reducing rental costs nationwide by 10 percent.

Biden’s agenda, a more moderate set of proposals costing more than $4.1 trillion over 10 years, calls for tripling funding at low-income schools and making community college free.

Buttigieg, who unveiled a $1.1 trillion 10-year economic plan in November, now has spelled out more than $5.5 trillion in federal initiatives. He has criticized Warren and Sanders for their free college programs that would provide a universal benefit, regardless of income.

Trump has seized on the Democrats’ spending proposals and led the GOP characterization of them as socialists. He has warned that the true outcome of Democrats’ plans would be higher taxes.

“They say, ‘We’re going to give away your health care. We’re going to do free education. We’re going to cut student loan debt down to nothing,’” Trump said in September during a speech to the House Republican Conference in Baltimore. “Everything is given away.”

Yet Trump signed a $1.4 trillion spending bill this month that will add more red ink to the record $23 trillion national debt. Republicans’ signature legislative achievement under Trump, a massive 2017 tax cut whose benefits skewed toward corporations and the wealthy, has helped pushed the annual federal deficit past $1 trillion.

But many Republicans, following Trump’s lead, have largely abandoned the concerns about debt and deficits they expressed during former president Barack Obama’s tenure.

Democrats have likewise felt free to sidestep discussions about the $23 trillion national debt during their primary contest, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“The fetters around fiscal responsibility have been thrown off,” said Zandi, who has analyzed the spending plans of several Democratic presidential candidates. “There’s no real political constituency for fiscal discipline either on the Republican or Democratic side.”

Indeed, several trailing Democratic candidates have, like Klobuchar and Biden, been critical of the spending surge — but have found voters largely shrugging off their concerns.

Other lower-polling candidates in the historically large primary also have built their candidacies around costly and ambitious initiatives.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has backed a universal basic income of $12,000 per year for every American adult, which he estimated would cost $2.4 trillion per year — or $24 trillion over 10 years. He has also proposed giving $100 in “Democracy Dollars” for every American voter to use to participate in the political system.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has proposed “baby bonds” for every newborn. Several candidates have expressed openness to the idea of providing reparations to the descendants of enslaved Americans.

For his part, Trump has boasted at rallies about spending trillions of dollars on the military and giving more than $28 billion in payouts to farmers affected by the trade war he sparked with China and other countries. Speaking to a conservative group in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Dec. 21, Trump praised his administration for securing more than $2.5 trillion in military spending, dismissing the idea that the increased funding had added to the growing budget deficit.

“Let me tell you about budgets: I’m a big budget person, but when it comes to the military, there is no budget,” he said.

 In his 2016 campaign, Trump differed from other Republicans by brushing aside proposals to curb Social Security and Medicare spending, which members of his party had long argued were necessary to halt runaway deficits. He has pledged to get serious about fiscal discipline and reducing the deficit if reelected, but his campaign has not put forward a plan to cut spending.

Democrats have said Trump’s 2016 election and the policies he’s pursued while in office require bold countermeasures that will level the playing field for middle-class Americans. They’ve sought to outdo one another by targeting primary voters concerned about issues including systemic racism, climate change and education.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this month found that 56 percent of Democratic primary voters prefer candidates who propose “large scale policies that cost more” compared with 38 percent who like candidates pitching less-expensive policies that would bring less change but potentially be easier to pass into law.

With just a few weeks before primary voting begins, some of the more-moderate candidates are increasingly hopeful voters will be repelled by the rising price tags of the most ambitious proposals. Biden, who is leading the national race in most polls and leads with voters who prefer smaller-scale change, has repeatedly challenged his rivals to explain how they would pay for their spending programs.

Warren has been the most detailed in outlining the costs of her various plans and how she would pay for them. With a 2 percent “wealth tax” on fortunes exceeding $50 million and other tax hikes on the wealthy, Warren has said she would be able to fund a broad expansion of the federal government’s social contract without raising taxes on middle-class Americans.

Warren advanced in the polls earlier this year as she released dozens of plans offering vast benefits to most Americans by redistributing wealth that has become increasingly concentrated among the rich.

Calculators on her campaign website allow Americans to find out how much money they would save through her plan canceling student loan debt, and how much extra cash they would receive from her proposal to provide an extra $200 monthly for everyone receiving Social Security.

Her momentum appeared to stall after she was pressured to release her own plan for universal health care. Warren’s $20.5 trillion proposal, her most expensive plan yet, would be funded through an array of taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Both Sanders and Warren, who continue to face bipartisan questions about the costs and feasibility of their health-care plans, have said most Americans would pay less for health care under a government-run system that eliminates premiums, deductibles and the private insurance companies that collect them.

But over the course of the year, several Democratic candidates backed away from Medicare-for-all, citing its requisite tax increases and its upending of the private insurance industry.

“I believe this hits the middle class too hard,” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) wrote in July about Sanders’s proposal to pay for his Medicare-for-all plan with a 4 percent income tax on most families. Harris, who had proposed an ambitious agenda estimated at more than $12.3 trillion, dropped out of the primary this month.

In addition to his Medicare-for-all proposal eliminating out-of-pocket health-care costs, Sanders has also pledged to have the government wipe out all $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. His proposal, announced in June, went even further than Warren’s pledge to eliminate debt for 95 percent of the people who have student loans.

Sanders has pledged to pay for his agenda by reversing Trump’s tax cuts and imposing a wealth tax and a series of tax hikes on the finance industry and more. He has acknowledged that his health-care plan would raise taxes on middle-class Americans, but he insists that would be offset by the trimmed costs.

Candidates have also touted 13-figure price tags as they’ve competed to show their visions for combating climate change.

Warren’s $3 trillion plans include a tenfold increase in federal spending on clean-energy research and development. She also proposed a $10.7 trillion “green jobs plan” to invest in environmentally friendly industries. Buttigieg’s $1.5 trillion plan creates a national extreme weather insurance program. Biden’s $1.7 trillion plan aims to achieve net zero emissions of carbon pollution by 2050.

Sanders has boasted that his plan, the most expensive at $16.3 trillion, would declare climate change a national emergency, eliminate fracking, and ban all imports and exports of fossil fuels.

Several candidates have pushed ahead with expensive plans by arguing that the cost of not acting far exceeds the price tag for their proposals.

“My opponents and critics say, ‘Bernie, you’re proposing to spend a lot of money on climate,’” Sanders said recently at a rally in Los Angeles. “And I say, ‘What is the alternative?’

Others have followed the example of Trump, who was able to win in 2016 by making broad promises that connected with voters while disregarding political structures of Washington policymaking, such as detailing how he would pay for it, said Michael Strain, an economist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

“These policies are so large and so different from what we’ve seen that it’s hard to come up with a good estimate of how much they would cost and how disruptive they would be,” Strain said of the Democratic proposals. “That creates political space for the candidates to argue the best-case scenario.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/we-have-the-resources-democratic-presidential-candidates-propose-trillions-in-spending-amid-debate-over-whats-doable/2019/12/28/1d8a74e0-28c6-11ea-a14c-412f7b9e2717_story.html

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A government shutdown and the biggest raise in a decade: How Trump gave federal workers whiplash in 2019

Dec. 29, 2019

By Lisa Rein

It started as one of the worst years for federal employees in recent memory, as President Trump’s demands for billions of dollars for a border wall led to a historic partial shutdown of the government that stretched for 35 jittery days.

It ended on a high note, as the president signed off on 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, a generous raise and a midweek vacation day before Christmas against the recommendation of his own staff — and as he issued an exuberant letter of thanks to “Our Incredible Federal Workforce.”

In between, the 2.1 million civil servants who work in the government were whipsawed by a president who attacked the bureaucracy, railed against career officials who testified in the impeachment inquiry, rebuked weather forecasters over their hurricane predictions and disparaged FBI officials for their handling of the Russia investigation.

The bread-and-butter benefits that followed, after many employees felt under siege by their president, underscore Trump’s unorthodox relationship with the permanent workforce that keeps the sprawling federal presence operating around the clock.

Many of Trump’s top aides have long been openly hostile toward a bureaucracy they view as wasteful and too big. But Trump’s actions, in the view of both supporters and critics, often hinge less on ideology than on his gut — and what works for him politically. His recent moves also have given hope to some federal workers that he has learned their value.

“I think it’s overall creating a positive buzz in my office,” John Milan Sebik, a claims specialist for the Social Security Administration in Jersey City, said of his co-workers’ reaction to the year-end surprises. “They’re happy. They’re actually shocked.”

Sebik, 48, said the enthusiasm that “things might be turning for us” is tempered by uncertainty over what could come next and frustration with the decision of a new commissioner to cancel telework for 12,000 employees. The hard feelings from that decision run deep, he said.

“Trump put a cherry and icing on the cake. The cake is still burnt,” Sebik said.

Federal workers have often served as a vehicle for Trump to advance his own interests in the moment, critics say, and as leverage in the president’s standoffs with opponents.

“Like everything else he does, it’s transactional,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist and ­MSNBC political analyst who has been a sharp critic of Trump. He compared the president’s approach to that of a callous chief executive who views his employees as “expendable or exploitable.”

The government, of course, works differently from a private company. “All of these people work for the American public,” Tyler said.

Asked how Trump reconciles his year-end boost to the workforce with his attacks on some career rank-and-file employees, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said some federal workers have shown bias against the president.

“The President appreciates the dedication, sacrifice, and hard work of federal employees found across this great country,” Gidley said in a statement. “Unfortunately, there is evidence that shows some federal workers ... used their power to try and stop the duly elected president’s agenda, and undermine his Presidency — that’s not only despicable selfish behavior, it’s a dangerous threat to our republic.”

Trump struck a deal with House Democrats weeks ago to pass a defense bill that gives federal employees their biggest victory in nearly 30 years, the costly parental leave benefit viewed by many of his top advisers as a momentous concession. The president, however, saw a rare opportunity to win approval for a pet project, his proposed sixth branch of the military dubbed the Space Force, ahead of the 2020 election.

Democrats achieved their goal of a significant raise for the workforce in budget negotiations, in exchange for White House priorities that included border wall funding. The result was a 3.1 percent federal pay hike starting in January, greater than any raises in the Obama era, when the recession led to a three-year freeze.

Trump took credit for both changes in his year-end letter to federal employees, citing a campaign promise “to deliver Paid Family Leave to workers across the nation” and his victory overcoming “partisan gridlock” to deliver parental leave and a raise.

Such credit-taking would not be possible, though, without the House takeover by worker-friendly Democrats who forced the president to the negotiating table, said Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, whose Northern Virginia district includes tens of thousands of federal workers.

“The fact that these things got done were despite his efforts, not because of them,” Connolly said.

He co-sponsored legislation months ago to give the workforce a 3.6 percent raise, and Democrats have pressed for paid family leave for years.

Federal employee unions are united in cheering the unexpected pocketbook wins but unforgiving of other White House actions against them. Those include an accelerating crackdown on union activity, a rollback of telework at many agencies and the relocation of hundreds of employees in the Agriculture Department out of Washington to the Midwest.

When nearly half of the staff at the Agriculture Department’s economic research offices quit rather than relocate, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney joked that the administration had found “a wonderful way to streamline government.”

“Most of them are looking at Trump’s letter and saying, ‘You’re writing us this letter, but look at what’s happened throughout the year,’” said Andrew Huddleston, spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 150,000 employees, recalled that as employees went unpaid during a shutdown over Congress’s refusal to fund $5.7 billion for Trump’s border wall, Trump allowed a pay freeze for 2019 to take effect. Pressure from unions and lawmakers in Congress eventually overturned it.

“If the question is how the administration has treated federal employees in their workplace, I think the answer is clear,” Reardon said in a statement.

At the same time, Trump’s actions have complicated conservatives’ goals to shrink government and hold employees accountable. After an 18-month effort by top budget officials to dissolve the Office of Personnel Management and parcel out its functions to other offices, the president reversed course late this fall after watching a local government program showing that the plan was ill-conceived and had little support in Congress.

He told aides that breaking up the agency would bring him poor reviews. In a split second, stability returned to a workplace whose employees had been convulsed by uncertainty.

Other Trump actions have contradicted the policies of his own administration. As the union representing Border Patrol agents finalized a new contract this fall, Trump urged his U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner to agree to fund 74 new union positions pulling agents from their jobs to focus on labor matters full time.

The agreement was startling, not just because the White House has called the flow of undocumented immigrants at the U.S. southern border a national security crisis requiring maximum staffing, but because the administration is systematically wiping out full-time union work, called “official time,” across the rest of the government.

The Washington Post reported this month that some current and former administration officials viewed the contract as a reward to the head of the Border Patrol union, a vocal supporter of Trump’s border policies.

Trump’s predecessors used uneven rhetoric about government employees. Barack Obama promised to “make government cool again” and attract millennials. But he offended some as he tried to sell his health-care plan by assuring Americans that “I don’t want government bureaucrats meddling in your health care.”

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the government’s national security apparatus ballooned under George W. Bush, with entire new agencies born. His administration also tried to weaken employee unions, re­imagining a merit-based personnel system for the Navy, but the project petered out.

Bill Clinton, declaring that “the era of big government is over,” oversaw the largest reduction in the size of the workforce in modern history, a shift still felt today in personnel offices and other areas.

Trump’s fight with federal employee unions is about to get real

Trump allies say his commitment to downsizing government does not translate to an antipathy toward its employees.

“The president and conservatives in general have a goal to shrink the workforce, which is too large and too bloated,” said Wesley Denton, former acting chief of staff at the White House budget office, “but that doesn’t dim his affection and appreciation for those who are doing their jobs.”

Denton and other conservatives describe Trump’s battle with the unions that represent the majority of the workforce as one seeking to enable high performers to flourish while weeding out poor performers.

“Trump is beating the union bosses and telling them, ‘You can’t protect bad apples who don’t show up for work,’” anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said.

Norquist called Trump’s decision to close the government Tuesday to give employees the day off with pay — against the advice of personnel agency officials who said a midweek Dec. 24 holiday would set a costly precedent — a reward to “the vast center that’s just doing their jobs.”

“He’s speaking to the middle-income, working-class people in the government.”

Trump, meanwhile, has personally targeted other employees who have been caught up in the investigations surrounding his presidency.

There was the bashing of FBI agents involved in the Russia inquiry — some by name — whom Trump called “scum” a few weeks ago at a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa. He was condemning them over the rationale for wiretapping a former campaign adviser.

There was the forecast he turned political in September as he dug in on groundless claims of a hurricane threat to Alabama and then pressed top aides, including his commerce secretary, to intervene with a federal scientific agency and rebuke the forecasters who contradicted him.

There was the castigating of the anonymous whistleblower and career officials who testified publicly in the impeachment investigation as “rogue bureaucrats of the deep state” for their narrative of his campaign to press Ukraine for political favors.

Trump this fall did praise the work of intelligence agents as he announced the death in October of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Government-wide surveys suggest that while federal workers’ morale has taken a nosedive in some agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture, Education and State departments, it has risen at others, including Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department.

The employees’ political views largely mirror the nationwide electorate. Close to 450,000 federal workers live in the 12 traditional swing states, from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to Colorado, that could help decide the election.

As for what federal employees can expect from the Trump administration in 2020, “there isn’t so much a strategy,” said Donald Kettl, a public affairs professor at the University of Texas at Austin, “as there is a strategy that changes depending on how’s he’s feeling on any given day.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-government-shutdown-and-the-biggest-raise-in-a-decade-how-trump-gave-federal-workers-whiplash-in-2019/2019/12/28/7e99f55e-2677-11ea-b2ca-2e72667c1741_story.html

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They Can’t Get Enough of ‘The West Wing’ Right Now

Dec. 29, 2019

By Sarah Lyall

Election night, 2017. Alarmed and unnerved by the state of politics in America, Josh Reinitz, a lawyer and Democrat in Fair Lawn, N.J., is running for borough council. But it is a stressful time.

As his campaign waits for the results at a local senior center, Mr. Reinitz slips away to a dark room to the side and powers up his iPhone. For the next 45 minutes, he sits by himself watching television — “Two Cathedrals,” to be specific, his favorite “West Wing” episode.

“Fortunately,” Mr. Reinitz recalled recently, “I was able to immerse myself in the episode to the point that I didn’t hear another sound until the room erupted in cheers as our victory was assured.”

“The West Wing,” a workplace drama set in the White House and dedicated to the notion that Washington is run by good people who are doing their best, was broadcast on NBC for seven seasons, from 1999 to 2006. Though its ratings declined over the years, at its peak it regularly drew more than 17 million viewers.

It is now streaming on Netflix. And to its many liberal and independent-leaning fans, in particular, it has become something more than just a nostalgic drama from a time when men’s suits with pleated pants is fashionable and Twitter does not yet exist. For many in the Trump era, the show is an idealistic alternative reality, an escape from the vitriol and ill-will that they see coursing like poison through contemporary politics.

Much as people may return to the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” to remind themselves that feeling worthless does not mean you have no worth, or to the children’s book “Goodnight Moon” to remember that bedtime once meant being enveloped in a cocoon of love, fans revisit “The West Wing” to recall an era — even a fictional one — when it seemed possible for the three branches of government to be populated by public servants of integrity, intellect and wit.

“When I feel the need for comfort from the circus in the White House, I watch the pilot,” said Terry Callanan Kempf of Glens Falls, N.Y., who belongs to the Facebook group “Fans of West Wing Weekly Podcast,” whose members share a passion for revisiting the show. “Seriously, almost every night before I go to sleep.”

“The West Wing” premiered two years into President Bill Clinton’s second term in office, but the bulk of it was broadcast during President George W. Bush’s administration. The partisan divide was bad then, but it was not nearly so awful — so personal, so vicious, so apocalyptic, so apparently beyond redemption — as it appears to many people now.

Bradley Whitford, the actor who played Josh Lyman, the deputy White House chief of staff, has called the show “liberal porn,” and that is true, in a way. Its president, Josiah Bartlet, is a progressive Democrat whose policies run firmly to the left. Erudite, articulate, empathetic, able to speak Latin and quote the Bible, inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt, he seems almost painfully distant from many American presidents (some perhaps more than others).

But “The West Wing” also presents the opposition Republicans, for the most part, as equally honorable — as much as they may disagree with President Bartlet’s politics. For much of his administration, he battles a Congress led by Republicans, losing as often as he wins.

“The bulk of the mail we’d get would be from people who identified themselves as Republicans or said, ‘I don’t agree with the politics’ but nonetheless liked the way they felt when they watched the show,” Aaron Sorkin, who created the show and wrote nearly all of the episodes in the first four seasons, said in an email. “That continues today.”

Katherine Bell Butler, 43, a lifelong conservative from Sharpsburg, Ga., who describes herself as “not crazy over Trump,” said that she had the boxed set, and had watched every episode of “The West Wing” “multiple times.”

“I love the show,” she said in a Facebook message. “Even when I disagreed with something said, I honestly didn’t care.”

For Allison Picard, 61, a retired local government official from Martinez, Calif., the best episodes are those that show healthy bipartisan cooperation, as in Season 4 when President Bartlet, played by the actor Martin Sheen, steps aside after his daughter is kidnapped by terrorists, briefly ceding control of the country to the conservative Republican speaker of the house, played by the actor John Goodman. (The vice president has unfortunately resigned over a sex scandal, leaving a gap in the order of succession.)

Ms. Picard also loves the president’s decision to hire Ainsley Hayes, a fast-talking, fast-thinking Republican lawyer who vehemently disagrees with him. “It’s such a patriotic moment, that the president would want someone who was smart and who would challenge his perspective,” Ms. Picard said, sounding a little teary over the phone.

Netflix does not release viewing figures, so it is impossible to know how popular “The West Wing” reruns are. But for something that ended 13 years ago, the show continues to have a peculiar relevance to public life.

While a student at Harvard, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, ran for president of the Institute of Politics in part by proposing that students meet for “West Wing” viewing parties.

He has appeared on “The West Wing Weekly” podcast and seems to see himself as a “West Wing”-style politician. When he opened his presidential campaign office, Mr. Buttigieg posted a video of himself walking down the hall while interacting with his aides, one of the classic shots from the show. “Finally an office with room for a walk and talk,” he wrote on Twitter.

There is also a “What would Bartlet Do?” Facebook page, with nearly 4,200 members. At American University in Washington, students compare the show to real life in Gautham Rao’s “The West Wing as History” course. And on “The West Wing Weekly” podcast, the actor Joshua Malina, who played Will Bailey in the show, and Hrishikesh Hirway, a musician and superfan, have been hosting an episode-by-episode discussion of the program since March 2016.

They are currently up to the final season, which only has a few more episodes scheduled. Some 3,500 fans showed up in London for a live broadcast recently. (The podcast has its own Facebook page, with more than 56,000 followers. The fans’ Facebook group has 6,800 members.)

“It’s a particularly painful time to be watching the show,” Mr. Malina said. “We have an administration and a chief executive who ought to watch it for basic civics lessons about the Constitution and checks and balances and all the stuff the rest of us learned in fifth grade.”

Not everyone is into it, of course. People who don’t like “The West Wing” say, as they have all along, that the program presents an unrealistically idealistic view of government, that it moralizes, that it preaches, that it incorrectly suggests that minds can be swayed by grand gestures and eloquent speeches.

“I sense there are two kinds of people: people who like ‘The West Wing’ and people who find that shows like ‘Veep’ and ‘House of Cards’ are much more realistic portrayals of how politics happen in the real world,” said Christy Quirk, an American-born consultant who lives in Nice, France, and is also a member of the podcast fans’ page on Facebook.

She would put herself in the latter group.

“I watched the first season or so, but I found the speechifying, the high-minded earnestness — it was like fingernails on a blackboard,” she said. “The stakes are really high right now, and we have to have a very realistic view of what can happen if we don’t understand the real dynamics and motivations of people, that not everyone is in this for the right reasons.”

But it can be hard, sometimes, to follow politics in Washington and not indulge in wishful thinking, even when what you are wishing for comes from a television show.

After observing the impeachment proceedings unfold, Al Sibilo of Alberta, Canada, had a question: Why can’t the politicians in 2019 behave more like the politicians on “The West Wing”?

He is thinking of a particular time in Season 3 when the hostile Congress investigates President Bartlet after he fails to disclose his multiple sclerosis while running for office. But instead of impeaching him, the Republicans censure him.

“Censure may have been a great option for the Democrats and perhaps a more proportional response to many of the president’s wrongdoings and indiscretions,” Mr. Sibilo, 53, said of President Trump.

On the other hand, he said in an email, Mr. Trump is unique in his zest for flouting the norms of presidential behavior.

“As a concurrent resolution, they’d need President Trump to admit he was even just a little bit wrong — it will never happen,” Mr. Sibilo said.

Kim Elliott, 50, a teacher in Nashua, N.H., is a devoted viewer who spent much of Inauguration Day — Jan. 20, 2017 — watching not the inauguration, but “The West Wing.”

During her lunch hour, she sat alone in her classroom and watched the pilot episode. When she got home, she watched three more of her favorite episodes — two about the Supreme Court and the third a special episode in Season 3 featuring real-life presidents and staff members from both parties.

“I watched these episodes not to wallow, but to gear up,” Ms. Elliott said in an email. “Yes, I was avoiding the news coverage. But I wanted to remind myself of what ideas to keep front and center.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/29/us/politics/west-wing-politics.html

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Mideast

 

Day of carnage on Egypt’s roads kills 28

December 28, 2019

CAIRO: At least 28 people including tourists and laborers were among the vicitims of two separate crashes in a bloody day on Egypt's treacherous on Saturday.

Health authorities said at least 22 people, mostly laborers, were killed when a minibus collided with a truck on a highway in Port Said in northern Egypt.

The minibus was bringing the laborers from a garment factory in Port Said.

The crash took place on a highway linking the cities of Port Said and Damietta.

Earlier, six people, including tourists from India and Malaysia, were killed and at least 24 injured when two buses carrying tourists crashed into a truck east of Cairo on the road to the Ain Sokhna resort on the Red Sea, a security official said.

A medical source said two female Malaysian tourists and an Indian man were killed along with three Egyptians — one bus driver, a tour guide and a security guard.

At least 24 others were injured, several of them tourists and some left in serious condition, a medical source said without giving further details.

Traffic accidents are common in Egypt where many roads are poorly maintained and regulations are laxly enforced.

But efforts by authorities to crack down on traffic violations, including speeding, appear to have borne fruit in recent years, with official figures showing a decline in road deaths.

In 2018 there were 8,480 road accidents compared to 11,098 the previous year, according to the bureau of statistics.

Deaths from traffic accidents fell from more than 5,000 in 2016 to 3,747 the following year and 3,087 in 2018, official figures show.

Ain Sokhna is a popular seaside resort town in the Suez governorate southeast of Cairo. It is also home to several petrochemical, ceramics and steel factories.

*With AFP and AP

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605356/middle-east

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Salahaddin Bahadin re-elected as Secretary-General of Kurdistan Islamic Union

December 28, 2019

HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Salahaddin Mohammed Bahaddin was re-elected as the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) Secretary General during the party’s 8th Congress on Saturday, a spokesman for the Congress said.

Out of 900 voters, Bahadin secured a total of 546 votes.

The KIU held the first day of its Eighth Congress in Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s capital on Saturday.

Bahadin and Leadership Council member Abubakir Karwani were the only candidates standing for secretary-general, after Hiwa Mirza withdrew as a candidate on Friday. He threw his support behind the current leadership.

Spokesperson for the congress Bahzad Zrebari said Bahadin obtained 546 votes 900 members of the congress. Karwani obtained 366 votes.

Zebari said earlier on Saturday that the congress had approved several changes to the party’s internal regulations, which will be in place for the next four years. The changes passed with 82.3 percent of the congress voting in favor

Founded in 1994 during the Kurdish civil war, the party originally worked on proselytizing among Kurds and acted as fierce opposition to the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). It is linked to the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, and is largely considered its Kurdish franchise.

The KIU won 10 seats in Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary election in 2013 before its numbers were slashed in half in 2018, encouraging the party to promise reforms after it acknowledged shortcomings.

https://ekurd.net/salahaddin-bahadin-reelected-kiu-2019-12-28

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Turkey will not withdraw from army posts in Syria’s Idlib

December 29, 2019

ISTANBUL: Turkey will not withdraw from its observation posts in Syrian rebel bastion province of Idlib which has seen an increase in violence carried out by regime forces supported by Russian airstrikes, the defense minister said.

The posts were established under a September 2018 deal between Syrian regime ally Moscow and Ankara, which backs the rebels, to avert an all-out Syrian government onslaught in Idlib.

Government forces surrounded one of 12 Turkish observation post in Idlib province on Monday after overrunning nearby areas in a push to take the last opposition holdout, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“We respect the agreement reached with Russia and we expect Russia to abide by this agreement,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in comments published on Sunday on the defense ministry’s Twitter account.

“We will by no means empty those 12 observation posts, we will not leave there,” Akar said.

His comments came during a visit together with top army commanders to the southern province of Hatay on the Syrian border to inspect Turkish troops on Saturday.

Turkey, worried over a new wave of refugees from the Idlib region, is pressing for a fresh cease-fire deal, as it sent a delegation to Moscow on Monday.

Akar’s visit to soldiers on the border region comes as Turkey is also readying to send troops to support the UN-recognized government in Tripoli against strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said Ankara would respond to an invitation from the Libyan national unity government and Turkish parliament would vote on a motion to send troops as soon as it returns from recess as early as next month.

Ankara signed in November a security and military cooperation deal with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) but in order to send troops, parliament needs to vote a motion like it does for Iraq and Syria.

The official Anadolu news agency, citing sources in Erdogan’s ruling party, reported that the timetable could be brought forward and the motion could be presented to parliament speaker’s office on Monday.

The General Assembly could vote the measure in an extraordinary session on Thursday, it said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605576/middle-east

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Iraqi artists pay tribute to dead protesters with sculptures

December 29, 2019

BAGHDAD: The sculptures carved by seven art trainees were lined up outside a makeshift workshop in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. With them were posters depicting protesters who have been killed in anti-government demonstrations in the past three months.

One sculpture showed a protester with a tear gas canister in his eye. Another showed a volunteer tuk tuk driver next to his three-wheeled vehicle who was killed while evacuating wounded protesters during clashes. A third illustrated a protester’s hand flashing the victory sign and colored by the Iraqi flag.

For Iraqi artist Mahdi Qarnous, 53, the exhibition that was recently inaugurated in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square — the epicenter of Iraq’s anti-government protest movement — is a personal contribution to the movement. It is aimed at immortalizing fellow protesters killed and kidnapped during the demonstrations that have engulfed Iraq since Oct. 1. It is also a way, he says, to allow young, talented Iraqis to channel their talents away from violence.

Iraq has been roiled by protests that have left at least 490 people dead, the vast majority of them demonstrators killed by security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition. The mass uprisings prompted the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi late last month.

Qarnous said he recruited seven uneducated and unemployed young protesters from Tahrir Square, put them through an intensive six-week course that he personally funded and after three weeks they were able to start their own art projects.

“We see this activity as part of the ongoing protests and a memorial monument for our martyrs and our abducted fellow protesters,” he said.

Tahrir Square has emerged as a focal point of the protests, with protesters camped out in tents. Dozens of people took part in the simple opening of the sculpture exhibition on a recent day. None of the art trainees who were presenting their work attended the event, however, and their names were withheld due to security concerns.

“The current regime produced a generation that is poor in producing and cherishing arts ... You see here in this exhibition that our people have potential but lack the path,” said Qarnous.

Murtada Muthanna, 23, an artist and activist, said the exhibition is a message to the world.

“It says we are a people with inspirations for life not death. Our revolution is peaceful and we are seeking reform not destruction,” he said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605571/middle-east

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Blast hits military parade in Yemen

December 29, 2019

DUBAI: A blast struck a military graduation parade in Yemen’s southern town of Al-Dhalea, Yemen’s Security Belt forces said in a tweet on Sunday, in an attack witnesses said caused dozens of injuries or deaths.

No claim of responsibility was made. Al-Arabiya, meanwhile, reported Yemeni sources accusing the Houthi militants of launching the attack.

The Security Belt forces are part of a southern separatist front in south Yemen, and are backed by the UAE in a fight against Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group.

Witnesses told Reuters that a blast occurred near a guest platform during the parade and that dozens were injured or killed. They reported seeing bodies at the scene, and Al-Arabiya said the death toll has risen to nine.

Yemen has suffered from almost five years of conflict since the Houthi movement ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government in late 2014.

The town of Al-Dhalea is controlled by southern separatist forces. It lies on the main south-to-north road linking the southern port of Aden — controlled by Hadi’s government — to the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa. A contested frontline runs across Al-Dhalea province.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605566/middle-east

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Turkey-backed Syrian rebels being sent to join Libya fighting

December 28, 2019

ANKARA: Turkey-backed Syrian rebels will be dispatched to support Libya’s government in its fight against veteran commander Khalifa Haftar, according to press reports.

The fighters have close ties to Turkey and will mainly be those who have fought alongside it in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this week that Parliament would vote in early January on a motion to send troops to Libya.

The parliamentary vote is a continuation of Ankara’s recent commitments to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) through a security and military cooperation deal, and an agreement to delimit maritime borders.

Sultan Murad Division, Suqour Al-Sham Brigades and Faylaq Al-Sham are reported to be among the armed groups destined for Libya, but the Syrian Interim Government has denied any possibility of sending troops who have fought government forces during the civil war.

But deploying fighters from such groups can be done immediately, without the need for a parliamentary green light.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkey-backed Syrian rebels had opened recruitment centers in Aleppo for dispatching young men to western Libya with a monthly salary of up to $2,000, while Russian media said Turkey had already sent 7,000 fighters to the north African nation.

“If the war’s impact was nightmarish before, it’ll be even worse now if this is confirmed,” tweeted Emadeddin Badi, a Libya analyst with the Middle East Institute. “TFSA/Turkmen Syrian with Sultan Murad have been responsible for some horrendous war crimes against Kurds in Northern Syria (as part of Turkey’s offensive). Their deployment in Libya might halt Haftar’s offensive; but at what price? This was an entirely avoidable outcome.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605396/middle-east

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Protesters storm Beirut bank as fears over economy mount

NAJIA HOUSSARI

December 28, 2019

BEIRUT: Widespread anger at Lebanese banking restrictions boiled over on Saturday when dozens of protesters stormed a Beirut branch following its refusal to deliver employees’ salaries in US dollars.

The protest group, made up mainly of Communist Party members, occupied the BLC bank’s Hamra branch and staged a sit-in over what they described as “the false practices of the banks.”

Lebanon’s banks have imposed weekly limits on withdrawals of US dollars amid a shortage in liquidity as the country grapples with its worst economic and financial crisis in more than three decades.

The restrictions have added to mounting anger over job layoffs, salary cuts and rapidly rising prices.

The Communist Party later issued a statement saying that the sit-in resulted in “all customers receiving their money and deposits, which confirms the false practices of the banks, as the administration claimed that the dollar was not available inside the branch, which turned out to be untrue.”

On Thursday, protesters staged a sit-in outside the central bank and the Lebanese Banks’ Association building in protest against the banks’ policies amid unprecedented capital controls.

Banks’ strict controls on releasing hard currency have added to the liquidity crisis on top of an economic downturn.

Meanwhile, attempts to form a national salvation government stalled after a number of Sunni political figures refused to accept ministerial positions in the leadership. The Future Movement, the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc, is boycotting attempts to establish a new government.

Nasser Yassin, acting director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, told Arab News that he had rejected a request to take up a ministerial position.

Yassin described the portfolio as a “suicide mission.”

“I am not enthusiastic in the current circumstances,” he said.

Yassin said the offer of a ministerial position “has nothing to do with the representation of the movement, but rather because I am a Sunni figure, in light of other people refusing to participate in the government.”

He said: “The parties that have held power for decades lack any idea of justice and human rights. Nothing will change unless these politicians are removed from power and replaced by a new academic generation armed with new concepts that prevent them from using power to enrich themselves and exert influence.”

“What applies to politicians applies to banks as well since the private good has priority over the public good,” Yassin added.

Leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, told a party meeting that the immediate solution would be “to form a government whose members are all independent technocrats because the economic wheel cannot be relaunched with the same forces present in authority.”

Muhammad Al-Hajjar, a member of the Future parliamentary bloc, said that although the incoming government appears to be technocrat, “in reality it is political.”

“I fear it will not gain the trust of the people and the international community, which monitors what is happening in Lebanon,” he said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1605296/middle-east

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2020 Prophecy: Islamic scholar predicts political wrangling imminent in Nigeria if

DECEMBER 28, 2019

By Adeola Badru A renowned Islamic scholar, Professor Sabit Olagoke Ariyo (JP), has predicted that if serious care was not observed come 2020, there would be serious political wrangling, which would snowball into a whirlwind of problems in some quarters in Nigeria. He added that despite some security measures being put in place to checkmate crime and criminality, a lot remains to be done by the Federal Government in the new year.

The don, founder and Spiritual Head of Shafaudeen In Islam Worldwide made the prediction yesterday, in his message titled: “Divine Revelation For The Year 2020,” released from the International Head Quarters of the Mission, Wakajaye  Ibadan, the Oyo state capital. He declared that the revelations were not “to frighten the citizens but to guide our leaders and fellow Nigerians on some happenings and avoidable events. This is to allow proactive measures in governance for effective socio-spiritual and political administration.” Olagoke who is a Justice of Peace (JP) said: “There shall be security challenges as usual. There shall be a need for conscious and tight security, the need for surveillance and vigilance.” The President of Ajagun Esin Consultative Forum (AECF) who commanded the nation’s security agents for checkmating the menace of criminals. Particularly terrorists, kidnappers and armed robbers he said: “We are to pray to avoid clashes among security agents. This will have a far-reaching implication on the nation.” The Islamic leader revealed that the education sector would receive a boost adding that “education sector shall receive attention for improvement,” but admonished Nigerians to “pray against a ploy in the sector to avoid sabotage” On politics, he revealed that: “there shall be wrangling among politicians over the sharing of economic booties. Political wrangling shall snowball into a whirlwind of problems in some quarters.” Olagoke then pleaded to religious leaders and political class to imbibe the culture of tolerance and focus on the issue of welfare of the citizens, adding that religious sector must, therefore, imbibe the spirit of religious harmony to promote peace and be more dedicated to the service of God to save the nation through their prayers, while all Nigerians must uphold discipline, love and patriotism to move the nation forward. While revealing that sports sector would witness an improvement as there shall be a conscious and cautious effort to resolve issues in sports, Olagoke who is a patron of many clubs advised: “pray against sports mismanagement in disarray for things to work.” He appealed to all stakeholders in religion to pray fervently to God to touch the hearts of those in government to resist the temptation of seeing public offices as an opportunity to loot the nation’s treasury, adding that government activities, particularly in August 2020,” shall have hope of giving worthwhile dividends.”

https://www.vanguardngr.com/2019/12/2020-prophecy-islamic-scholar-predicts-political-wrangling-imminent-in-nigeria-if/

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Muslims would not be provoked to take up arms against anybody - Sultan

The Sultan of Sokoto who also doubles as the president-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, on Friday, December 27, advocated for continued dialogues as a way to resolve religious issues in the country. Abubakar said public comments on the issue only serve to worsen the situation, adding Muslims in the nation are good people and will not be pushed to take up arms, Daily Trust reports.

This was made known at the 34th National Qur’an Recitation Competition that was put together by thee Musabaqah Foundation for Quranic Recitation in Nigeria/Centre for Islamic Studies, Usman Danfodiyo University. It should be noted that the comment of the Sultan was coming on the heels of the disagreement between the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and NSCIA over Nigeria making US watchlist. The sultan said that there are, however, bad Muslims like in other societies, enjoining the government to fish them out. “And I want to assure you that no Muslim would be provoked into taking up arms against anybody based on what you have been seeing in the media particularly of recent. “These are issues we need to tackle; these are issues the various governments at all levels need to tackle by sitting down and talking to one another because making public comments don’t normally help. They aggravate situations. And I want to assure all, everything is right with us,” he said. by his special assistant on media and communications. In the statement, the association warned that discrimination against Christians can result in another civil war which Nigeria may not survive.

https://www.legit.ng/1288279-muslims-provoked-arms-sultan.html

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43 shrapnel pieces still remain in Sheikh Zakzaky body

December 28, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Hospital sources in Nigeria say 43 shrapnel pieces still remain in the body of top Shia cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky.

According to the sources, recent X-rays show there are still 43 pieces of shrapnel left inside the body of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), who was seriously injured in a Nigeria army raid on his residence in the city of Zaria in 2015.

They also say the cleric’s left eye has been completely damaged by a bullet of the Nigerian army in the raid.

Sheikh Zakzaky's relatives have condemned the Nigerian government for refusing to allow the Sheikh to receive proper medical treatment despite his critical conditions.

They accuse the government of seeking his death in detention.

Zakzaky and his wife have been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigeria’s forces, during which he was beaten and lost vision in his left eye.

During the brutal arrest, three of his sons were also killed, his wife sustained serious wounds, and more than 300 of his followers were killed.

Zakzaky was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace, and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty, vehemently rejecting all accusations brought up against him.

Recent reports said that his health has been deteriorating, but prison authorities have prevented him from getting much-needed treatment.

In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.

https://en.abna24.com/news//43-shrapnel-pieces-still-remain-in-zakzaky-body_996977.html

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An Islamic State Christmas killing of 11 hostages in Nigeria threatens to flare up religious tensions

By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

December 28, 2019

A video released by Islamic State on Dec. 26 which claims to show the killing of 11 Christian hostages in northern Nigeria threatens to spark religious tensions in the country and compounds the political problems of president Muhammadu Buhari.

The Islamic State sub-group called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) said the “beheading” of the hostages was part of its campaign to “avenge” the killing of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a US military raid in Syria last October.

ISWAP is a 2016 breakaway faction of the Nigeria-founded Boko Haram terrorist group. Until last year when more radical leaders took over, ISWAP was led by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf. As well as Nigeria, it operates in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali, all of which are Nigeria’s neighboring countries. In December, the group killed four aid workers from the NGO Action Against Hunger who they originally abducted in Damasak in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state in July.

In a bid to ward off talk of religious disputes getting widespread, president Buhari said Nigerians shouldn’t allow terrorists split the populace along religious lines. “We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims because these barbaric killers don’t represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world,” he said in a statement.

Nigeria, whose 200 million-strong population is split almost evenly between Christians and Muslims, is particularly sensitive to the risks of religious tensions being ignited after decades of on-and-off conflict especially in the country’s middle belt region over the last couple of decades. Most recently the region has been subject to vicious clashes between migratory herdsmen and local farmers primarily over land use. As the herdsmen are often Muslim and landowners widely believed to be Christian, these clashes are regularly perceived as religious clashes.

Islamic State’s release of the video came days after the United States government accused Nigeria of not protecting religious freedom. The US State Department on Dec. 18 added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan on a Special Watch List (SWL) of governments that “have engaged on or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.”

Nigeria and the other three countries now join Comoros, Russia and Uzbekistan on the list. The designation was a triumph of American Christian right groups that have been lobbying the Trump’s administration to appease its evangelical base by taking up the fight of Christians across the globe.

Earlier, Nigeria’s information minister Lai Mohammed rejected Nigeria’s new designation and argued the Trump administration was acting on the basis of a discredited narrative from “failed politicians and disgruntled elements.”

“The deliberate effort to give religious colouration to the farmers-herders clashes and the Boko Haram insurgency, in particular, has undoubtedly helped to mislead the US into concluding that the government is doing little or nothing to guarantee religious freedom in the country,” said Mohammed.

The video of ISWAP killing of Christians says otherwise. In fact, it reinforced what some Nigerian Christian leaders have previously claimed—that the government of Buhari had not done enough to curtail the activities of various Islamic terrorist groups operating in Nigeria.

In his reaction to the US designation of Nigeria amongst countries on SWL, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Samson Ayokunle warned “discrimination against Christians can result in another civil war which Nigeria may not survive.” Through a spokesman CAN’s president pointed to killings of Christians in states in the middle-belt region as atrocities that could not have gone unnoticed by the United States. The Christian group alleges that while Muslims have also been killed, the primary targets were Christians.

After initially receiving plaudits for pushing back against the peak of Boko Haram’s rise in Nigeria’s northeast, Buhari’s government, which came to office in 2015, has been more recently criticized over its weak handling of Islamic insurgency, broader conflict and rising insecurity across the country.

As a result of continuing insecurity in Nigeria’s northeast, conservative Christian groups including Washington DC-based Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC) have seized on the killings to urge the Trump administration to appoint a US special envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad region to monitor what it called “heightened violence against Christians.”

In conservative media across America, there are barrage of stories emerging about the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. The Christian Post reported Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen have killed over 1,000 Christians in Nigeria in 2019 alone. A separate figure by put the estimated number of dead Nigerians in 10 years of the insurgency as 27,000.

The break away of ISWAP is widely believed to have brought about a change in direction for the Islamic insurgency. What started in 2009 as an indiscriminate campaign of terror against Muslims and Christians alike has in recent times seemed more targeted. From the 2018 kidnapping in Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe state and the release of the girls with the exception of Leah Sharibu, a Christian, the insurgence seems to have taken a turn to primarily targeting Christians.

https://qz.com/africa/1776736/islamic-state-kills-11-nigerian-christians-pressure-on-buhari/

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Muslims In Nigeria Good People -Sultan Of Sokoto

DEC 28, 2019

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, has said that the Muslim faithful in Nigeria are good people.

The traditional ruler, who is also the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, said this while addressing participants at the 34th National Qur’an Recitation Competition in Lagos.

The Christian Association of Nigeria had backed the United States report, saying Christians are being persecuted in the country but Sultan insists nothing of such exists, stressing that not all Fulani herdsmen are Muslims and they were not after the Christians as insinuated by CAN.

He said, “And I want to assure you that no Muslim would be provoked into taking up arms against anybody based on what you have been seeing in the media particularly of recent.

"These are issues we need to tackle; these are issues the various governments at all levels need to tackle by sitting down and talking to one another because making public comments don’t normally help.

“They aggravate situations. And I want to assure all, everything is right with us. The Muslims in Nigeria are very good people. We will continue to do the best. But among all good people, there are also bad people and we know there are bad people among all societies."

http://saharareporters.com/2019/12/28/muslims-nigeria-good-people-sultan-sokoto

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