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Maharashtra Imam Zakir Sayyed Khaja, Beaten, Beard Cut Off For Refusing To Chant Jai Shri Ram While He Was Reading The Quran

New Age Islam News Bureau

28 March 2023

Zakir Sayyed Khaja, an Imam at a mosque in Maharashtra's Jalna district was beaten up and his beard cut off for refusing to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. (India Today photo)


• Pakistan-Origin Humza Yousaf Becomes Scotland's 1st Muslim Leader, Vows To Revive Independence

• Community Development Ministry Of Malaysia Mulls Mandatory Prenuptial Courses For Non-Muslims

• Turkey’s Ruling Alliance Welcomes Islamist Parties With Misogynist Agendas

• Saudi Crown Prince, In Talks With Chinese President, Recognizes Beijing’s Role In Renewal Of Ties With Iran



• Minority Community Leaders, Who Are Engaged In A Dialogue With The Organisation, Urge RSS To Speak Against Attacks On Muslims

• Plea In Kerala HC Against Move To Sound Siren To Alert Muslims On Ending Fast

• New Dress Code For Mecca And Shahi Masjid Employees In Telangana On The Lines Of The Cleaning Staff At The Grand Mosque In Mecca, Saudi Arabia

• Islamophobic Speech: Muslims Compared To Snakes, Call For Akhand Bharat At Digital Hindu Conclave at Bhopal

• UP: After objection to Taraweeh in Moradabad, notice sent to Muslim family



• French Far-Right Leader Marine Le Pen Rebukes Colleague For Attending Mosque Opening

• Australian soldier charged over Afghan killing freed on bail


Southeast Asia

• Philippines arrests suspected Sikh separatists in first Khalistan detection

• Govt allows retailers to sell used imported clothes during Ramadan

• Man allegedly misappropriated about $470k paid to firm for Islamic religious pilgrimage

• Beijing’s Opponents ‘May Not Allow’ Alliance With Pakistan

• Attacks On Anwar’s Saudi Visit Are ‘All About Malay Votes’

• More than 180 Rohingya Muslims arrive by boat in Indonesia's Aceh



• Hamas: Israel's Expulsion Of Muslim Worshipers From Aqsa Mosque Amounts To Religious War

• Iran strongly condemns desecration of Holy Qur'an, says it only foments extremism, violence

• Israeli Embassy In US Ends Strike After Netanyahu About-Face

• Israeli PM Netanyahu says delaying judicial overhaul to avoid ‘civil war’

• Yemeni leaders vow to resist renewed Houthi assault

• Hamas: Resistance capable of deterring potential Israeli aggression

• Israeli troops, extremists storm al-Aqsa mosque, force out Muslim worshipers


Arab World

• 1,300-year-old Al-Safa Mosque in Al-Baha to be renovated

• Lebanon’s cabinet reverses decision to delay daylight’s savings

• Iraq changes electoral laws, sparking anger from opposition

• How Arab-Islamic Migration, Language And Culture Shaped Modern Latin America

• Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss cooperation



• Thaw In KSA-Iran Ties To Benefit Pakistan: Ashrafi

• Scathing Note Torpedoes CJP’s Order In Election Suo Motu

• PTI lawmakers return to parliament with noisy protest

• Al Aqsa raid, desecration incident in Denmark condemned

• India And Pakistan Invited ForUS Democracy Summit: Report

• PTI slams interior minister for 'incendiary' remarks against Imran Khan

• Govt will never surrender to Imran’s wishes: Saad Rafique


South Asia

• Suicide Bomber Kills 6 People Near Foreign Ministry In Kabul

• Despite Recent Diplomatic Efforts, Pakistan-Taliban Ties Face More Challenges

• Education, Civil Society Activist MatiullahWesa, Detained by Taliban

• Afghan Security Forces Kill Senior IS-K Leaders in Afghanistan

• Private Afghan University Sells its Library Due to Financial Issues

• UN Condemns Attack Near Afghan Foreign Ministry in Kabul

• Japan Contributes $21 Million for Life-Saving Vaccines in Afghanistan



• UN Rights Investigator Says EU Aided And Abetted Abuse Of Migrants In Libya

• If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM

• Burkina Faso blocks France 24 broadcasts over al-Qaeda interview

• Violent protests in Kenya leave 1 dead, property damaged

• Libya: Haftar's army chief arrives in Tripoli to hold military meetings


North America

• Canada Gov't Report Calls For Training To Stop Tax Bias Toward Muslim Charities

• Khalilzad does not speak for Biden administration: US State Dept official

• US will not back off Syria mission despite deadly attacks: White House

• Canada imposes new sanctions against Iran over protests, drones

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Maharashtra Imam Zakir Sayyed Khaja, Beaten, Beard Cut Off For Refusing To Chant Jai Shri Ram While He Was Reading The Quran

Mar 28, 2023

Zakir Sayyed Khaja, an Imam at a mosque in Maharashtra's Jalna district was beaten up and his beard cut off for refusing to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. (India Today photo)


An Imam who led the prayer at a mosque in Maharashtra's Anwa village was attacked by unidentified individuals who entered the place of worship and beat him up for refusing to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. Speaking to India Today, the Imam, Zakir Sayyed Khaja, said the incident took place on Sunday at around 7.30 pm when he was sitting inside the mosque reading the Quran.

Unidentified individuals entered the mosque with cloth over their faces and forced the Imam to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' while he was reading the Quran. When the Imam refused to do as he was told, three individuals took him outside the mosque and beat him up. The Imam said his attackers used a chemical-laced cloth to make him unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he realized that his beard had been cut off.

When people arrived at the mosque for the prayer at 8 pm, they found him lying outside in an unconscious state. They rushed him to a government hospital in Sillod. He was later shifted to the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in Aurangabad where he is currently undergoing treatment.

After the incident came to light, police arrived at Anwar village where the mosque is located and started investigating the case. A case was registered at the Paradh police station in Bhokardan against the unidentified individuals under Sections 452 (trespassing after preparation for hurt, assault), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 34 (criminal act by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi also took to social media to demand Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister DevendrFadnavis to take strict action against the attackers.

Following the incident, security has been tightened in the village and a large number of police personnel has been deployed to maintain the peace in the area.


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Pakistan-Origin Humza Yousaf Becomes Scotland's 1st Muslim Leader, Vows To Revive Independence

Mar 28, 2023

Humza Yousaf speaks was elected as the new Scottish National Party leader. (Photo: Reuters)


Humza Yousaf beat his competitors on Monday to become the head of the governing Scottish National Party (SNP). The 37-year-old became the first Muslim leader of a major UK political party and also the first Muslim to lead a country in Western Europe. In his victory speech, Humza Yousaf said he will deliver Scotland's independence.

"The people of Scotland need independence now, more than ever before and we will be the generation that delivers independence," he was quoted as saying by Reuters in his victory speech. He also talked about his grandparents who arrived in Scotland from Pakistan in the 1960s, barely speaking any English, and said they would not have believed "in their wildest dreams" that their grandson would one day become first minister of Scotland.

"We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message: that your colour of skin or, indeed, your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country that we all call home," Yousaf said.

As Yousaf gave his victory speech and paid tribute to his grandparents, his wife and mother were captured brushing away tears, reported news agency AFP.

Yousaf said as Scotland's leader, his focus will be on tackling the cost of living crisis, ending the divisions in the party, and making a renewed push for independence.


Humza Yousaf beat Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader. He will take over as head of the semi-autonomous government once he wins an approval vote in the Scottish parliament.

The contest between the three candidates exposed deep divisions in the SNP over policy and a stalled independence campaign. The party's unity broke down over arguments on how to achieve a second independence referendum and the best way to introduce social reforms such as transgender rights.

After winning the election, Yousaf said his own experience as an ethnic minority means he will fight to protect the rights of all minorities, including gay and transgender people.

Yousaf has a rough road ahead after taking over the SNP's leadership. The party's central policy is to end Scotland's three-centuries-long union with England. His predecessor stepped down after the British government repeatedly blocked a route to a new vote on independence.


Yousaf is the son of first-generation immigrants. His father was born in Pakistan and his mother was born into a family of Punjabi descent in Kenya. He attended a private school in Glasgow and studied politics at Glasgow University.

He worked in a call centre before becoming an aide to Alex Salmond, former first minister of Scotland. He was elected to the Scottish Parliament as an additional member for the Glasgow region in 2011. After his win, Yousaf took his oath in English and Urdu.

The next year, he entered the Scottish cabinet, serving various roles, with the latest one being the country's health secretary.

He married former SNP worker Gail Lythgoe in 2010, but they divorced seven years later. He married his second wife Nadia El-Nakla in 2019.


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Community Development Ministry Of Malaysia Mulls Mandatory Prenuptial Courses For Non-Muslims

27 Mar 2023

Aiman Athirah Sabu said the proposed committee to study the mandatory premarriage courses for non-Muslims will make the recommendations before a decision is taken.


KUALA LUMPUR: The government is looking at the feasibility of having pre-marriage courses for non-Muslim couples, the Dewan Negara was told today.

Deputy women, family and community development minister AimanAthirah Sabu said the ministry was in the process of drafting a proposal paper to establish a committee to study its feasibility.

She said the committee would propose suitable programmes to be presented to the Cabinet in the near future for a final decision.

Aiman said this when winding up the debate session on the motion of thanks for the royal address in the Dewan Negara.

She was replying to Senator AknanEhtook, who proposed that non-Muslim couples undergo a pre-marriage course before tying the knot.

Meanwhile, commenting on the lack of officers and staff from the social welfare department (JKM) at temporary relief centres during the recent floods in several states, Aiman said the department had taken steps to address this issue through community empowerment.

“JKM had taken the initiative to appoint community leaders, heads of local agencies, school principals, head teachers and other community volunteers as supervisors, committee members and staff at relief centres.”

Source:Free Malaysia Today

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Turkey’s ruling alliance welcomes Islamist parties with misogynist agendas

Andrew Wilks

March 27, 2023

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) addresses a statement next to a screen showing listening members of the Council of Ministers (R) after a Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Complex, Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 26, 2022. - Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images


ISTANBUL — Two Islamist parties have signed up to support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s electoral alliance, putting a law on violence against women under threat and challenging the wider rights of women and the LGBTQ community.

In a U-turn over the weekend, the New Welfare Party (YRP) was officially admitted into the People’s Alliance led by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The alliance also includes two far-right parties.

The Free Cause Party, known as Huda-Par, announced on Friday that it would field candidates under the AKP’s list in the parliamentary election being held alongside a presidential vote on May 14.

Prior to throwing their support behind the People’s Alliance, both the YRP and Huda-Par had insisted their backing was conditional on amending Law 6284 on the prevention of violence against women and children. In a list of 30 demands, the YRP also called for the closure of LGBTQ associations.

“The memorandum of understanding, in which the principles that we demanded as the New Welfare Party are written, was signed by the [parties’] general secretaries,” YRP leader Fatih Erbakan said Friday.

Law 6284 was passed in 2012, a year after Turkey ratified the Istanbul Convention to protect women against violence. Erdogan signed a presidential decree in March 2021 to withdraw from the Council of Europe convention.

In a copy of the agreement between the AKP and YRP published by journalist Ismail Saymaz, the parties pledge to “prevent perversions against our moral values” and reevaluate existing laws to “protect the integrity of the family.”

The document also mentions alimony payments, calling for changes to “eliminate grievances in society.”

Ali Ihsan Yavuz, the AKP’s deputy chair and head of electoral affairs, told broadcaster CNN Turk on Monday that there had been “no abnormal proposal by the New Welfare Party on women’s rights. … Our president is very meticulous about this issue.”

He added, “What we have accepted is just a memorandum of understanding [on what] the New Welfare Party is sensitive to.”

The inclusion of the YRP and Huda-Par under the alliance’s umbrella came despite protests among female AKP officials.

OzlemZengin, deputy chair of the AKP’s parliamentary group, described Law 6284 as a “red line” while Family and Social Services Minister DeryaYanik said it was “unacceptable … that even its existence is open to discussion.” Zengin said she had received “hundreds of threatening messages” following her remarks.

Dilek Bulut of the Left Feminist Movement said the discussion of amending Law 6284 would make women more vulnerable to violence.

“In an environment where violence and discrimination against women is increasing and becoming savage every day, those who annulled the Istanbul Convention have now revealed their true faces by making Law 6284 a subject of negotiation,” she said.

Lawyer GokcecicekAyata, of the Women’s Platform for Equality, agreed the debate would fuel misogynist violence. “With this protocol, they encourage and incite the perpetrators of violence,” she said. “In a country where at least three women are killed every day, the People’s Alliance is opening to question the rights of women of all political views, from 7 to 70, for the sake of their own success. It’s not just 6284; they oppose the right to alimony, civil law, equality and women’s right to life.”

Ties to Huda-Par, meanwhile, brought other considerations, namely its roots in the Kurdish Hizbollah movement.

Hizbollah, which is entirely unconnected to the Shiite Lebanese group of the same name, sprang up in the 1990s from Sunni Islamist groups in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast.

It became one of the groups most associated with violence of its era, waging attacks including assassinations on members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Turkish security forces and civilians such as secularist journalists.

Due to its opposition to the PKK, Hizbollah was widely believed to be backed by elements of the military and police.

Its influence waned after a police raid on an Istanbul safe house in 2000 in which the group’s leader was killed. The police also seized documents detailing membership and footage of torture sessions and murders, leading to hundreds of arrests.

Links to terrorism, however, were brushed aside by Erdogan’s ally DevletBahceli, who heads the Nationalist Movement Party.

“The Free Cause Party completely rejected terrorism and shared with our nation that it has no ties to any illegal organization,” said Bahceli, who frequently accuses the opposition of supporting the PKK. “There has never been a clear relationship between the Hizbollah terrorist organization and the Free Cause Party, and within this framework, there has been no convincing and substantiating information up to now.”

SadettinTantan, who served as interior minister from 1999 to 2001, insisted that Bahceli, as deputy prime minister during the same period, was “one of the names who know best that Huda-Par is the political extension of Hizbollah.”


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Saudi crown prince, in talks with Chinese president, recognizes Beijing’s role in renewal of ties with Iran

March 28, 2023

RIYADH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had a phone conversation on Tuesday with Chinese president Xi Jinping, where they emphasized the importance of relations the two countries.

The crown prince also expressed the Kingdom’s appreciation for the Chinese role and efforts to develop the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Saudi Press Agency reported.

For his part, the Chinese president praised the Kingdom’s role in strengthening Beijing’s relations with GCC countries and countries of the Middle East.

During the call, they reviewed aspects of partnership between the Kingdom and China, as well as joint efforts to enhance cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

Source: Arab News

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Minority Community Leaders, Who Are Engaged In A Dialogue With The Organisation, Urge RSS To Speak Against Attacks On Muslims

Ishita Mishra

March 27, 2023

In a letter to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, prominent Muslim leaders and intellectuals, who are engaged in a dialogue with the organisation to bridge the communication gap between the minority community and the RSS, said there was virtually no let-up in the constant barrage of hate speech, calls for genocide and acts of violence against Muslims.

The group urged Mr. Bhagwat, the Union government and the State governments to “speak more” condemning the cases of attacks on Muslims.

Among the representatives of the minority community were former Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung, former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, former Aligarh Muslim University Vice-Chancellor Lieutenant-General Zameer Uddin Shah (retd), Rashtriya Lok Dal national vice-president Shahid Siddiqui and businessman Saeed Shervani.

Detailing the urgency of writing to Mr. Bhagwat, who has denied a meeting with the group before June citing previous commitments, the members pointed out the recent ‘anti-Muslim’ marches in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, which, they claimed, were full of hate and included calls for boycott of Muslim businesses. In Maharashtra, the hate marches continued for months, they said in the letter dated March 23.

There are reports that a right-wing organisation, Hindu Jan Aakrosh Morcha, has held 50 rallies in Maharashtra since November 2022.

The rallies, which attracted a large number of people, saw speeches warning Hindus about “Love Jihad”, “Land Jihad” and conversion, and also called for boycott of Muslims traders and businesses. This came despite Supreme Court orders against hate speech.

The members of the minority community maintained that these rallies and speeches happened in the presence of police and that there was no action. “Even if there is action, it’s perfunctory and people are let off with ease. This is causing anguish and immense consternation among Muslims,” they said in the letter.

The letter further mentioned about the group’s meeting with Mr. Bhagwat in August 2022 after which the two sides decided to hold continuous dialogue.

The Hindu, in its edition of September 21, 2022, reported that in their last close-door meeting with Mr. Bhagwat, the RSS chief asked the members to clear their stand on cow slaughter. He also questioned the use of terms such as kafir (non-believer) and jihad’ (holy war) against Hindus and suggested that they be avoided. At the same meeting, the members of the group shared the pain of being dubbed as deshdrohis (anti-national) for activities that are simply part of freedom of expression.

After the meeting, Mr. Bhagwat asked RSS joint general secretary Krishna Gopal and senior leaders Indresh Kumar and Ram Lal to take forward the discussion. The RSS delegation and the members of the group held a follow-up meeting in January in which concerns and expectations of both sides were discussed.

The group maintained that they had met various influential Muslim leaders and groups, including the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Firangi Mahal, and all of them appreciated the efforts and idea of reaching out to the RSS for dialogue.

“Today, there is a sense of dismay and a question on the usefulness of our efforts,” they said in the letter.

Underlining the RSS’s credibility and desire for nation building, the group quoted Mr. Bhagwat telling them that “nation building will not be possible if we do not take along all sections, including the minorities that constitute 20% of India”.

“Therefore, under the circumstances, it is absolutely imperative that voices such as yours, as indeed from senior echelons of the Sangh, are heard loud and clear to condemn such acts and to clear our country of communal discord and speak of love and harmony,” the letter added.

The group maintained that whenever Mr. Bhagwat had spoken on attacks on minorities, the impact was noticed. The members urged the RSS chief to speak more. They also urged the Union government and the State governments to take the strictest possible action against those who seem committed to harm India through discord.

Source: TheHindu

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Plea In Kerala HC Against Move To Sound Siren To Alert Muslims On Ending Fast

March 27, 2023

A petition was filed on Monday before the Kerala High Court challenging the Changanassery municipal secretary’s directive to its staff to sound a siren at 6.30 p.m. every day from March 23 to April 21 to alert the Muslim community about end of Ramzan fast.

The petition was filed by Christian Association and Alliance for Social Action (CASA). According to it, the municipal secretary issued the order on a request made by the Puthoor Pally Muslim Jamaath and deputed one of its contingent workers and a supervisor respectively to ring the siren and supervise it. The petitioner pointed out that fasting during Ramzan was purely an Islamic ritual and it was not a State or a national festival.

Cost of exchequer

Source: TheHindu

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New Dress Code For Mecca And Shahi Masjid Employees In Telangana On The Lines Of The Cleaning Staff At The Grand Mosque In Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Mar 27, 2023

HYDERABAD: The Telangana minorities welfare department has introduced a uniform dress code for all the staff members of Mecca Masjid and Shahi Masjid.

The dress code is on the lines of the uniform for the cleaning staff at the grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

All the employees of the mosque in Old City have been provided with the new uniforms and identification cards to give them a professional look and ensure discipline in providing services.

Thousands of people visit the 16-century Mecca Masjid, which is one of the largest mosques in India, and it is difficult to differentiate between the employees and visitors. The new dress code will help in identifying employees easily and easy delivery of help to visitors.

B Shafiullah, IFS, commissioner of minorities welfare, introduced the dress code policy.

Source: Times Of India

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Islamophobic Speech: Muslims Compared To Snakes, Call For Akhand Bharat At Digital Hindu Conclave at Bhopal

27th March 2023

Leaders from the ruling BJP delivered Islamophobic speech in full swing at the recently concluded Digital Hindu Conclave held on March 18.

BJP leader Kapil Mishra, Kajal Shingala aka Kajal Hindusthani and far-right author KshitijPatukale compared minorities, particularly those belonging to Muslim community, to snakes, distorted history by calling for violence as the only way to attain Akhand Bharat besides raising the topic of Love Jihad.

Kajal Shingala said that there can never be brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims and called out those who support secularism and peace between the two communities as a “sinking ship”.

“I want to let these people who have one leg on the Hindu boat and the other on a Muslim boat, you are going to drown,” she said.

She stressed that the making of Hindu Rashtra is inevitable and no one can stop them. “They (Muslims) kept shouting against Ram Mandir. But we succeeded and now it will be completed by next year. Similarly, I am confident that we will achieve success by creating a Hindu Rashtra and that day is not far away,” she said.

Without mentioning names, Kajal referred to Shah Rukh Khan’s recent visit to Vaishno Devi temple before the release of his movie Pathaan as well as Aamir Khan’s photograph doing Kalash pooja.

“We will make sure each one of them undergoes gharvaapsi,” she said.

GharVaapsi is a Hindutva programme meant to convert those belonging to other religions to Hinduism. it is conducted by right-wing organsationsVishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal, and their allies.

She also alleged that the Waqf board is forcibly snatching land from the Hindus. “You people came some 1,400 years before. We have been here forever. How can you claim this is your land?” she said.

She also spoke highly about the bulldozer culture introduced by the Yogi Adityanath government. “Such large-scale demolitions of Muslim homes have never been recorded in Indian history,” she said proudly.

BJP leader Kapil Mishra spoke about Love Jihad. Taking the recent murder of Shraddha Walker, whose live-in partner Aftab Poonawala stored her chopped body in a refrigerator, he said, “There will come a day when we will see ads like keep fruits in the fridge, not ‘Shraddha’.”

Source: Siasat Daily

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UP: After objection to Taraweeh in Moradabad, notice sent to Muslim family

27th March 2023

After a group of right-wing organisation men objected to the offering of Taraweeh prayers by some Muslims in Lajpat Nagar of Moradabad district, the city magistrate issued a notice to Zakir Hussain and nine others.

On Saturday night, Rashtriya Bajrang Dal men barged into the house of Zakir Hussain, led by its state president Rohan Saxena, who was praying along with his family. He alleged that this was creating an atmosphere of panic nearby.

“We have repeatedly asked the police to lodge FIRs against violent people (referring to the Muslim community),” Saxena told reporters. spoke to the SHO of Katghar police station who declined to comment on the issue.

On Tuesday, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Moradabad Hemraj Meena, while speaking to reporters said that upon investigation, police found out the information received by Saxena was false.

“Both communities had a land dispute. On investigation, we found that false information was being spread. Taking action, people from both sides have been bound down,” the SSP told reporters.

Source: Siasat Daily

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French far-right leader Marine Le Pen rebukes colleague for attending mosque opening

27 March, 2023

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's leading far-right party, has reportedly rebuked a colleague for attending the inauguration of a mosque last week.

Joris Hébrard, an MP for Rassemblement National (National Rally), attended the opening of the mosque in Le Pontet, a southern French city he was once mayor of.

The mosque was festooned with French and Turkish flags, the latter due to the city's large Turkish population, during its launch.

An image of Hébrard at the mosque shows him alongside someone who is reportedly a Turkish government-linked official.

His attendance at the ceremony clearly displeased Le Pen, whose party has tried to appear "moderate" but has demanded the introduction of discriminatory laws against French Muslims, dictating what they can wear in public and closing down mosques.

Le Pen said on Hébrard's appearance at the Muslim place of worship "is a personal initiative that I very clearly disapprove of" and that she hadn't been notified he would be attending, Le Monde reported.

Marion Maréchal, Le Pen's niece and a member of the rival far-right Reconquête party, also hit out at Hébrard's attendance.

"I am extremely disappointed and scandalised by the inauguration of the Turkish mosque in Pontet by National Rally deputy @Joris_Hebrard," she tweeted.

Le Pen and her party have been accused of stoking Islamophobia in their political campaigning.

She has called for a ban on the hijab in public and once shockingly compared Muslims praying on the streets of France to the Nazi occupation, when tens of thousands of French, including around 74,000 Jewish citizens and residents, were murdered.

Although she has been widely condemned for her views internationally, she has performed well in national elections and saw a recent boost over opposition to President Emmanuel Macron's planned pension reforms.

In the run-off of the last presidential elections, Le Pen lost to Macron but still managed to attract 14 million voters.

Source: The New Arab

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Australian soldier charged over Afghan killing freed on bail

March 28, 2023

SYDNEY: A former elite soldier charged with murder for allegedly killing an unarmed man in Afghanistan was released on bail Tuesday by a magistrate who concluded he would face danger from Muslim extremists in prison.

Oliver Schulz, 41, had been in custody since his arrest in rural New South Wales state last week on the war crime of murder.

His lawyer Phillip Boulten applied for bail in Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court on Monday, arguing the former Special Air Service Regiment trooper faced serious risks to his personal safety from Muslim extremists in the prison system and had to be segregated from other inmates.

“Wherever this man is going to be held in prison, he is likely to have to mix with people in prison who sympathize with the Taliban or with other Islamic extremist groups,” Boulten said.

Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson granted the request, agreeing the risks posed to him while behind bars were too great.

“It’s possible to infer that there may be some people being held there who may take an adverse position in relation to what was said to be the accused’s behavior both as a member of the (Australian Defense Force) and also on the day the incident allegedly occurred,” Atkinson told the court.

Schulz had been held at a maximum-security prison in Goulburn, 200 kilometers southwest of Sydney. Most of New South Wales’ worst convicted terrorists are held at Goulburn.

Helmet camera footage aired by Australian Broadcasting Corp. in 2020 that was shot in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province in 2012 will form part of the prosecution case.

The footage allegedly shows Schulz shoot local man Dad Mohammad three times as he lay on his back in a wheat field with his hands and knees raised. His father later made a complaint to the Australian Defense Force alleging his son had been shot in the head.

Atkinson said that because of the murder allegation, Schulz would be in a “very difficult if not dangerous environment” in custody and correctional staff could not be available 24 hours a day to supervise him.

“I am of the view that the position the accused finds himself in could be worse than other persons who are on remand given the particular security risks to his person,” she said.

Schulz would also have difficulties giving advice to his lawyers and accessing confidential material under strict conditions due to national security concerns surrounding the case if he were forced to do so behind bars, Atkinson said.

The court has suppressed the names of the town and region where Schulz lives to protect his family from threats.

After footage of the Afghanistan shooting was broadcast nationally, the then-Defense Minister Linda Reynolds referred the allegation to the Australian Federal Police.

Schulz was suspended from duty in 2020 and later discharged from the Australia Defense Force on medical grounds.

Schulz, who was awarded the Commendation for Gallantry for his service in Afghanistan, is the first former or serving Australian Defense Force member to face a war crime charge of murder under domestic law.

He faces a potential life sentence in prison if convicted.

He is among 19 current and former Australian special forces soldiers who a war crimes investigation found could face charges for illegal conduct in Afghanistan.

A military report released in 2020 after a four-year investigation found evidence that Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians.

Source: Arab News

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Southeast Asia


Philippines arrests suspected Sikh separatists in first Khalistan detection

March 27, 2023

MANILA/NEW DELHI: Philippine authorities have arrested suspected members of a Sikh separatist group banned in India, a government agency announced on Monday, as demands for an independent Sikh homeland are rising abroad.

Officers from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration, the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center and the Military Intelligence Group arrested three suspected members of the Khalistan Tiger Force in the central Philippine city of Iloilo on March 7, the CICC said in a statement issued Monday.

“It is out of the ordinary, their presence here,” CICC Executive Director Alexander K. Ramos told Arab News.

The three suspects are all Indian nationals in their 20s, who were named in a red notice issued by the global police agency Interpol, Ramos said. They are currently in the custody of the Philippine military.

“It appears they are a group. In fact, there may be more that we are still trying to track down. This is the first time that the Khalistanis were detected here,” he added.

Their group KTF supports a movement banned in India known as Khalistan, which calls for an independent Sikh homeland and was known as a violent separatist movement in the 1980s and early 1990s, then prompting a controversial military operation by the Indian government that killed thousands of people.

The Philippine development follows Indian police launching on March 21 a manhunt in Punjab province for Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh, who has captured national attention and revived talks of Khalistan.

The crackdown has triggered fresh demands abroad for an independent Sikh state, including protesters gathering in front of Indian missions in Canada and the UK this month, which has sparked concerns from Indian authorities.

Though recent developments are stoking fears of a return to the violence that occurred decades ago, the Khalistan movement does not have much support within India, said Delhi-based counterterrorism expert Ajai Sahni.

Sahni said Khalistan supporters are most active in Canada and the UK, but they also have a presence in the US, across Europe, and even in Malaysia and the Philippines.

Source: Arab News

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Govt allows retailers to sell used imported clothes during Ramadan

Jakarta (ANTARA) - Minister of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises (MenKopUKM) TetenMasduki and Minister of Trade Zulkifli Hasan agreed to give leeway to retailers or resellers to sell imported used clothing during Ramadan and Eid.

"The authority lies with the minister of trade, and the minister of trade said, traders, who still have goods that they have bought from these smugglers, are still allowed to sell them," Masduki stated during a press conference in Jakarta, Monday.

Although he strictly prohibits the import and sale of used clothing, including selling it in e-commerce platforms, he said the government had agreed to postpone the action against small traders. Currently, he affirmed that the government will first stop the smuggling of imported used clothing, including imported used footwear.

"Especially in this fasting month, they still have to earn a living, right? We have a compromise there. Now, what we agreed with the minister of trade is that we need to be stricter, so there will be no smuggling," he emphasized.

Although they still have permission to sell used imported clothes for a while, Minister Masduki urged traders to have the awareness to switch to legal products, such as those owned by MSMEs.

"We urge them to have their own awareness. The government's goal is quite good, right? How to protect local fashion producers, who have been selling their products in the domestic market and have been hit hard by imported products and also used clothes," he stated.

He further said that through a special hotline service for business actors affected by the ban on the import of illegally used clothing, several traders had requested that they be facilitated with legal substitute products that they could sell.

Responding to this request, KemenKopUKM and Smesco are preparing several lists of MSME-owned clothing, footwear, and cosmetics manufacturers, who will become suppliers of merchandise to replace imported used clothing.

On the same occasion, Director of Business and Marketing of Smesco Indonesia Wientor Rah Mada appealed to traders, affected by the ban on the import of illegally used clothing, to immediately report via the hotline number, so they can be matched with local products that can be sold.

Source: AntaraNews

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Man allegedly misappropriated about $470k paid to firm for Islamic religious pilgrimage


MAR 27, 2023

SINGAPORE - A man allegedly misappropriated about $470,000 from at least 218 people who had signed up for a package to perform the umrah – an Islamic religious pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

SuwandiMarchuke, 55, is claiming trial to multiple charges, including one count of criminal breach of trust and five counts of intentionally aiding a company called Bil Hikmah Consultants to carry on the business of a travel agent when it was not licensed to do so.

Suwandi, who is also known as Andy Martiin, as well as Datuk Andy Martiin, was declared bankrupt on Aug 22, 2013.

He was said to be the sole manager of Bil Hikmah, which was registered in Singapore on Feb 13, 2014.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Ryan Lim and Joshua Phang said that the partners of the firm were Ms Siti RohaniKusno, whom Suwandi had employed in his separate scaffolding business, and his brother-in-law, MrSulaiman Hussain.

The DPPs told the court that both were partners in name only and played no part in Bil Hikmah’s management.

They added: “Some time in or before September 2014, the accused, through Bil Hikmah, began to offer an umrah travel package called (Pakej Umrah Mampu Pergi) Pump 2015.

“The package included flights and accommodation, with the trip due to take place from Dec 12 to 22, 2015. Save for Pump 2015, Bil Hikmah offered no other travel packages and carried out no other activities.”

The price per person was $1,998, with additional fees payable for extras. There was also a registration fee of $150.

The DPPs said that at least 218 people signed up with Bil Hikmah for Pump 2015, adding that around September 2014 to November 2015, they collectively paid about $470,000 to the firm.

According to court documents, the prices for Pump 2015 were substantially less than the market price for umrah travel packages offered by others, which typically cost up to $3,500 more.

The DPPs told District Judge ShaiffudinSaruwan: “On Nov 7, 2015, the accused announced at a meeting with (the) customers that Pump 2015 would not take place on the scheduled dates, claiming that there were issues with hotel bookings.

“Multiple police reports were subsequently made against the accused and Bil Hikmah.”

Suwandi allegedly misappropriated the collected funds and is accused of using the monies for business investments.


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Beijing’s Opponents ‘May Not Allow’ Alliance With Pakistan

Anwar Iqbal

March 28, 2023

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and China are engaged in a “threshold alliance” but Beijing’s opponents, particularly the US, may prevent it from becoming a fully-fledged alliance, says a recent US report.

The report titled The Future of the China-Pakistan Military Relati­onship describes the current status of the China-Pakistan relationship as “a threshold alliance,” but argues that it may not lead to a fully-fledged future alliance, “potentially due to China’s own missteps, or due to opponents’ active measures to arrest the relationship”.

The author, Sameer P. Lalwani, works for the US Institute of Peace (USIP), a federal institution with a Congressional mandate.

The report notes that in 2015, analysts forecast a decline in the China-Pakistan military ties, citing various reasons. But the same year, President Xi Jinping visited Pakis­tan and introduced CPEC as a “flagship” project and announced sale of eight submarines to Pakistan.

US report examines ties between ‘iron brothers’

Now, in less than a decade, the China-Pakistan military relationship has “advanced from an episodic partnership to a threshold alliance”, the author argues.

The document claims that Pakistan’s major defence equipment is “increasingly sourced from China, especially the higher-end combat strike and power projection capabilities; and Pakistan continues to retire older US- and European-origin platforms”. But, more is needed for this threshold relationship to become a fully-fledged one. One indicator would be Beijing granting Pakistan more military aid and access to sensitive systems such as the J-20 stealth fighter or nuclear-powered attack submarines.

The other indication would be their militaries adopting a joint peacetime mission “to back each other in the event of a China-India or Pakistan-India border crisis”.

A final signal might be the Chinese Navy deploying maritime reconnaissance assets in Gwadar, it says.

The report, however, notes that both civilian and military leaders have “explicitly denied that Pakistan is drifting into Beijing’s camp and have eschewed pressures forcing them to choose between relations with China and the West”.

According to the report, in China’s and Pakistan’s current political and security environment, there are several points of friction that could slow or reverse the current trajectory of their military relationship.

Politically, China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim minority, in Xinjiang Province could hinder its ties with Pakistan by causing public dissent.

Source: Dawn

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Attacks on Anwar’s Saudi visit are ‘all about Malay votes’

Elill Easwaran

28 Mar 2023

PETALING JAYA: Perikatan Nasional’s attacks on Anwar Ibrahim over his Saudi Arabia visit are to create doubt among Malay-Muslim voters about Anwar’s standing as a leader of an Islamic nation, according to a political analyst.

Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara said PN was trying to portray to Malay-Muslim voters that Anwar’s failure to obtain an audience with the Saudi king and crown prince meant that he had not won the respect of the Saudi rulers.

However, Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said what happened in Saudi Arabia could also be linked to Anwar’s close ties with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“What is happening is that there is competition between the Saudi royal family and Erdogan to be seen as the leader of the Muslim world,” he said.

Azmi said Pakatan Harapan had also suffered a negative perception among voters in 2018 because of Dr Mahathir Mohammad’s strained relationship with his Saudi counterpart.

“PN is trying to paint an image that Anwar is not getting the respect of Riyadh, which is considered as the symbol of the Islamic world and also known as the guardian of Mecca,” he told FMT.

He said PH could counter the attacks by explaining convincingly why the meeting between the top leaders did not take place.

Anwar has been under criticism for failing to meet with King Salman Abdulaziz or crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the Saudi prime minister.

Azmi said PN would play up the lack of an audience as a sign that Anwar is not recognised as a leader of a Muslim nation.

Awang Azman said the only way for Anwar to counter his critics would be to ensure he meets the Saudi leaders during his next visit to give a positive image of his leadership as prime minister.

“If King Salman and the crown prince come to visit Malaysia, Anwar’s image in the eyes of Malay-Muslim voters will be positive,” he said.

On Sunday, an aide of Anwar brushed off criticism from the opposition which attempted to paint the visit as a failure and a waste of public funds.

Ahmad Farhan Fauzi said Anwar’s three-day visit was “fruitful” and had strengthened bilateral ties between both nations.

Farhan also said the prime minister had a tight schedule which meant that he was unable to meet with other leaders of the Saudi Arabian government.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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More than 180 Rohingya Muslims arrive by boat in Indonesia's Aceh

27 Mar 2023

JAKARTA: More than 180 Rohingya Muslims landed in Indonesia's Aceh province on Monday (Mar 27), officials said, the latest among hundreds who have fled by boat from desperate conditions in Myanmar and in camps in Bangladesh.

The United Nations refugee agency has said 2022 may have been one of the deadliest years at sea in almost a decade for the Rohingya, a persecuted religious and ethnic minority in Myanmar.

A spokesperson for the local police, Kamil, confirmed by phone that 184 Rohingya had arrived in East Aceh district and were "all in healthy condition".

It was not immediately clear how many vessels they were on.

Miftah Cut Ade, a senior member of the local fishing community in Aceh, said 90 women and children were among the migrants, who arrived about 3.30am on Monday.

Many Rohingya have for years attempted in rickety wooden boats to reach neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh, and Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, especially between November and April when the seas are calm. An untold number of them have died at sea from disease, hunger and fatigue.

Since November last year, Indonesia has registered 918 Rohingya who reached Aceh, its westernmost region, according to the foreign ministry, having made the journey south in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. That compared to 180 in the whole of 2021.


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Hamas: Israel's expulsion of Muslim worshipers from Aqsa Mosque amounts to religious war

28 March 2023

The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement has censured the forcible removal of Muslim worshipers from the al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the holy month of Ramadan, saying that the move amounts to declaration of a religious war against Palestinians and is an attempt to change the sacred site’s Islamic identity.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement on Monday that 50,000 Palestinian worshipers had performed Tarawih prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque despite restrictions imposed on their entry to the mosque.

“Such Israeli measures are part of the Zionist enemy’s failed attempts to impose spatial and temporal divisions on the holy site,” Abu Zuhri said, calling for the constant presence of Palestinians at the al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard.

The Hamas spokesman then held the right-wing Israeli administration led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for the repercussions of the recurrent assaults on Muslim worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque.

He called on Arab and Muslim nations to support Palestinian worshipers while they defend the mosque, urging the international community to stop Israeli attacks which are a blatant violation of Palestinians’ right to worship.

On Sunday, the Grand Mufti of al-Quds Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein slammed the Israeli police for forcibly expelling Muslim worshipers from al-Aqsa Mosque, terming the move as a serious violation against Muslims.

He underlined that such a practice constitutes a provocation to the feelings of Muslims.

Sheikh Hussein also condemned plans by extremist groups to launch massive raids into al-Aqsa Mosque next April to celebrate Jewish holidays.

On Saturday night, a large number of Israeli police forces stormed the al-Qibli prayer building at al-Aqsa Mosque and forcibly expelled Muslim worshipers from it.

Video from the scene showed Muslim men and women praying, chanting “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is the greatest,” and shouting at police officers as the officers removed worshipers from the building and the complex.

Palestinians were blocked from entering the gates of the mosque, according to Palestinian reports. Footage from some of the gates showed Palestinians scuffling with Israeli forces who blocked the gates. A number of Palestinians were arrested at the scene.

Hardline Israeli legislators and settlers regularly storm the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied city, a provocative move that infuriates Palestinians. Such mass settler break-ins almost always take place at the behest of Tel Aviv-backed temple groups and under the auspices of the Israeli police in al-Quds.

The al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Source: Press TV

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Iran strongly condemns desecration of Holy Qur'an, says it only foments extremism, violence

27 March 2023

Iran has vehemently condemned recent desecration of the Holy Qur'an by a Danish far-right group while denouncing the silence of so-called advocates of human rights vis-à-vis such measures.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan'ani made the remarks on Monday, less than a week after the extremist and anti-Muslim group known as Patrioterne Gar Live, burnt a copy of the Qur'an in front of the Turkish embassy in Copenhagen.

Warning about the increased number of insults against the Holy Qur'an and sanctities of Muslims, Kan'ani denounced the silence of so-called advocates of human rights in the face of such measures.

"These measures only pave the way for hate-mongering and extremism and foment violence, which pose a risk to peace, peaceful coexistence among humans, and global security," the Iranian spokesman said.

He added that overlooking the recent insults against Islam in the name of human rights is totally in contravention to the universal principles of human rights.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran as well as [other] Muslim countries and nations expect Danish officials to prevent repetition of such insulting shows under the excuse of freedom of expression by assuming their responsibility and not permitting such acts of sacrilege and hate-mongering [to happen again]," Kan'ani concluded.

His remarks came as the frequency of insults against Islam and its holy book has been on the rise in Europe. Several European countries have been playing host to such despicable acts on their soils over the past months, drawing far-and-wide condemnation from the world's Muslim countries.

In January, dual Danish and Swedish citizen Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Holy Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, and later again in front of a mosque.

Days later in the Netherlands, far-right extremist, Edwin Wagensveld, who leads the anti-Muslim PEGIDA party, tore a copy of the Quran apart before setting it on fire.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Libya, among others, issued separate statements, condemning in the strongest terms desecration of the Holy Qur'an in Denmark. They asserted that such insulting acts hurt the feelings of the world Muslims during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Source: Press TV

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Israeli embassy in US ends strike after Netanyahu about-face

27 March ,2023

The Israeli embassy in Washington ended an hourslong strike on Monday after the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone controversial judicial reform legislation.

Early Monday morning, the embassy’s spokesman, EladStrohmayer, posted to Twitter that the embassy was shutting down until further notice and suspending consular services.

Israeli diplomats around the world decided to go on strike collectively.

But in a quick about-face, Netanyahu addressed his country and said he would delay talks on the legislation until next month.

Moments after, Strohmayer told reporters that the strike was over and the embassy would reopen on Tuesday.

The White House welcomed Netanyahu’s decision and played down fears of nationwide anti-government protests devolving into a civil war.

Calling for compromise among Israeli factions, National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the US was concerned out of respect, friendship and admiration for the Israeli people and its democracy.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US welcomed Netanyahu’s announcement as an “opportunity to create additional time and space for compromise,” which the US had called for.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israeli PM Netanyahu says delaying judicial overhaul to avoid ‘civil war’

27 March ,2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced a pause to divisive judicial reforms moving through parliament, after months of street rallies that drew tens of thousands.

“Out of a sense of national responsibility, out of a will to prevent a rupture among our people, I have decided to pause the second and third readings of the bill,” he told the nation.

He added he would delay consideration of the bill to the next session of parliament which begins in the second half of April.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog earlier Monday had called for an immediate halt to the legislative process, a day after Netanyahu fired his defense minister Yoav Gallant for making a similar demand.

That sparked a general strike call on Monday from Israel's top trade union chief, Arnon Bar-David, but he called off the action after Netanyahu's address.

“Following the prime minister's announcement I declare the end of the strike,” Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut trade union confederation, said in a statement.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Yemeni leaders vow to resist renewed Houthi assault


March 28, 2023

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Yemen’s presidential council has promised to confront the “terrorist” Houthis and called for resistance as international envoys criticized the militia’s renewed assault.

The council, chaired by Rashad Al-Alimi, said the latest Houthi attacks, primarily in Marib and Shabwa, demonstrated that the militia had no wish to end the war. It promised to thwart their advances and said it would help people in Houthi-controlled areas to resist their domination.

“The council urged the international community to recognize the gravity of this terrorist escalation, with the continuous smuggling of additional Iranian weaponry to militias, and the disastrous consequences for world peace and security,” the council was quoted by the SABA news agency as saying.

It did not specify how it would respond but pledged to “take all steps necessary to protect public interests and deter terrorist groups.”

The eight-man presidential council has faced increasing public pressure to launch counter-strikes since the militia attacked oil installations in Hadramout and Shabwa provinces last year.

The Houthis have made minor advances in Shabwa and Marib since early last week, targeting government forces with heavy weaponry and explosive drones.

The Houthis seized some villages in Marib’s Hareb and Shabwa’s Merkhah Al-Ulya districts before government troops received reinforcements and pushed them back.

The militia also attempted to assassinate Taiz Governor NabeilShamsan, targeting his car with artillery and missiles on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Western ambassadors in Yemen have condemned the renewed attacks and urged the Houthis to de-escalate and comply with efforts to end the war.

Richard Oppenheim, the British ambassador, said the militia must “cease their provocative actions and show genuine commitment to peace in Yemen.”

Steven Fagin, the US ambassador, said: “We condemn the recent Houthi escalation in Taiz and Marib, which led to fatalities, and express our condolences to the victims' families.

“The Houthis must stop exacerbating Yemenis’ suffering and support a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

Yemeni government officials say that the Houthi escalation coincided with the eighth anniversary of the Arab coalition’s military intervention to show that they had not been defeated.

Source: Arab News

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Hamas: Resistance capable of deterring potential Israeli aggression

27 March 2023

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas says it is capable of deterring any potential Israeli act of aggression.

Speaking in an interview with the Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera on Sunday, Khalil al-Hayya, with the political bureau of the movement, said the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades – the military wing of Hamas – was ready to repeat the 2021 operation ‘Sword of al-Quds’ if need be.

Hayya said the operation “established great political and field equations” and the resistance in the besieged Gaza Strip became a shield for the Palestinian land.

The Hamas official said every battle the resistance fought against Israel had its own circumstances, but Sword of al-Quds was the fiercest one. “We are close to resolving the conflict with the occupation, whose signs of weakness appear day after day.”

The operation was launched in May 2021in defense of Palestinians in occupied al-Quds. It opened a new chapter in the fight against Israel.

Last year, Ismail Haniyeh, head of the political bureau, said at a ceremony to commemorate the first anniversary of the operation that the initiative that resistance groups undertook by launching the operation “shattered the Zionist enemy’s security theory.” With the operation, he said, resistance groups brought the war into the Israeli-occupied territories and targeted every inch of the occupied land with their intelligence operations as well as their missiles and drones.

Source: Press TV

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Israeli troops, extremists storm al-Aqsa mosque, force out Muslim worshipers

27 March 2023

Muslim worshipers have been forced out of the sacred al-Aqsa mosque as Israeli forces and extremists stormed the vicinity of the mosque on the fourth day of the Holy month of Ramadan.

Video footage circulating online showed that Israeli soldiers and extremist illegal settlers forced Muslims from the holy place late on Sunday.

The large groups of Israeli radicals – whose incursion on Sunday came during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – were under Israeli forces’ protection.

According to Wafa news agency, the Palestinian foreign ministry called for forcing Israel to comply with its commitments and “halt violations of holy sites in al-Quds, including al-Aqsa Mosque, before it is too late.”

The ministry termed the Israeli assault on worshipers inside al-Aqsa as “a serious escalation” and held Tel Aviv fully responsible for its consequences.

For Muslims, al-Aqsa represents the world’s third-holiest site.

This violence comes after the Israeli police approved the storming of al-Aqsa at the instruction of far-right Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

On Thursday, the first day of Ramadan, almost 300 extremists raided the compound.

The head of the Islamic Supreme Committee in al-Quds, Sheikh Ekrama Sabri, warned of a campaign against the mosque.

He said that the campaign began late on Saturday with the storming and desecration of the al-Qibli prayer hall, urging a rally around al-Aqsa and for a stronger defense of the site.

Sheikh Sabri pointed out that the Israeli soldiers are trying to remove the worshipers from the holy site to pave the way in front of Israeli illegal settlers to storm the mosque and carry out their acts of violence and desecration.

Many Palestinians have called on worshipers to break their fast during Ramadan inside the courtyards of al-Aqsa Mosque and perform prayers in the mosque.

One of their goals is to intensify the presence of Palestinians in the mosque during the holy month to reassert their right to al-Aqsa Mosque and the city of al-Quds, in light of recurrent raids by settlers.

Source: Press TV

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Arab World


1,300-year-old Al-Safa Mosque in Al-Baha to be renovated

March 27, 2023

RIYADH — Built some 13 centuries ago, representing one of the Kingdom’s oldest mosques in the Al-Baha region, the Al-Safa historical mosque will undergo a comprehensive renovation process under the second phase of the Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Project for the Development of Historical Mosques.

The renovation project will ensure preservation of the mosque’s unique Sarat style and its historical value while restoring its aesthetic elements and renewing its construction with natural materials including stone from the Sarawat Mountains and local wood used in ceilings, columns, windows, and doors.

Located in Baljurashi Governorate, the renovation process will keep unchanged the mosque’s footprint and its capacity. The mosque’s current area is 78 square meters, and it can accommodate 31 worshippers. The restoration will be executed as per a set of methods that preserve the mosque’s historical and design values.

Built nearly 1.350 years ago, the mosque is surrounded by adjacent buildings separated by narrow passages in the village in the high mountains, where there are many forms of construction, including stone buildings characterized by narrow openings.

Al-Safa Mosque is supported by two distinct columns of juniper trees, which the Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Project will redevelop, in addition to preserving the inscriptions on the mosque's columns and developing them with inscriptions of the staircase unit, in a step that will also revive the ancient architectural traditions of the Al-Baha region and highlight its ancient historical heritage.

It is said that the first person to build the Al-Safa Mosque was Sufyan Bin Auf Al-Ghamdi, and at the time, the mosque had a prominent social role, as it was considered a place for villagers to assemble and discuss their affairs and resolve their disputes between the Maghrib and Isha prayers.

The second phase of the project covered 30 historic mosques across the Kingdom's 13 regions, including six mosques in Riyadh, five mosques in Makkah, four mosques in Madinah, three in Asir, two in each of the Eastern Region, Al-Jouf, and Jazan, and one mosque in each of the Northern Borders Region, Tabuk, Al-Baha, Najran, Hail, and Al-Qassim.

This comes upon the completion of the first phase, which included the rehabilitation and restoration of 30 historical mosques in 10 regions.

The project aims to achieve a balance between ancient and modern construction standards in a way that gives the components of mosques an appropriate degree of sustainability and integrates the effects of development with a set of heritage and historical characteristics.

The renovation process is being carried out by Saudi companies specialized in heritage buildings, with an emphasis on involving Saudi engineers to ensure the preservation of the authentic urban identity of each mosque since its establishment.

The Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Project for the Development of Historical Mosques serves four strategic objectives: restoration of historical mosques for worship and prayer, restoration of the urban authenticity of historical mosques, highlighting the cultural dimension of Saudi Arabia, and enhancing the religious and cultural status of historical mosques.

Source: Saudi Gazette

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Lebanon’s cabinet reverses decision to delay daylight’s savings

27 March ,2023

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister said the cabinet had voted to move clocks one hour ahead on Wednesday night, reversing his decision to postpone the move to daylight savings by a month that had sparked uproar across the country.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the decision had been taken after a “calm discussion”.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iraq changes electoral laws, sparking anger from opposition

27 March ,2023

Iraq’s parliament voted Monday to restore electoral laws that were scrapped after 2019 anti-government demonstrations, sparking anger from independent lawmakers who see it benefiting larger parties.

The law, which parliament said in a statement was “adopted” without detailing the votes, revives the electoral law of 2018 and sweeps away one of the gains of the mass protest movement which shook Iraq.

After the protests, a new system favored the emergence of independent candidates, with some 70 independents winning seats in the 329-member parliament in the last legislative elections in 2021.

Parliament is dominated by the Coordination Framework, an alliance of powerful pro-Iran Shia factions, from whose ranks Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani emerged.

The new law removes 83 electoral districts and creates 18 seats, one for each of Iraq’s provinces.

This “makes it easier for top party politicians to win seats,” analyst Sajad Jiyad said on Twitter.

Conversely, it will make it “harder for candidates in smaller parties and independents to compete” because they will be running at a provincial rather than a local level, he added.

During the debate, which ran from Sunday into the early hours of Monday, several angry independent lawmakers were expelled from the debating chamber, according to videos they filmed themselves.

The law also replaces a first past the post system with proportional representation.

Overall, the changes will benefit the larger parties and make it possible “for their candidates who didn’t get enough votes initially to win seats,” Jiyad added.

“Independent candidates will no longer have any hope of obtaining representation in parliament”, said Alaa al-Rikabi, an independent lawmaker.

“They will be crushed.”

But Coordination Framework lawmaker Bahaa al-Dine Nouri welcomed the change, arguing that it will “distribute the seats according to the size of the parties”.

Nouri said this will “lead to the formation of a government within the time limits set by the constitution” to avoid the endless standoffs that followed the 2021 election.

The new law will apply to the next legislative elections, the date of which has not yet been set.

It will also apply to provincial elections slated for November 6, to be held in 15 of the 18 Iraqi provinces, excluding the three provinces in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Source: Al Arabiya

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How Arab-Islamic Migration, Language And Culture Shaped Modern Latin America

March 28, 2023

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL: In recent years, a new generation of researchers has been examining the ancient Islamic roots of Latin American societies.

In the age of social media, such content is being disseminated among larger audiences, and many people in Latin America seem to be avidly interested.

“I began to read about the Moors when I was studying Arabic in Egypt,” said Mansour Peixoto, a Muslim convert from the Brazilian city of Recife who in 2014 founded the website Historia Islamica (Islamic History).

“I’d already learnt at that time about the Islamic influence on Portugal, but then I became interested in its direct and indirect impacts on Brazilian culture,” he told Arab News.

Between 711 and 1492, Arab-Berber rulers dominated parts of present-day Portugal, Spain and France, naming the region Al-Andalus.

An almost-800-year presence in the Iberian Peninsula left many influences that were brought to colonial Latin America.

After the Christian re-conquest, Islam was forbidden in Spain and Portugal. From then on, especially at the beginning of the 17th century, many Muslims — including people of European ancestry — were forced to move to North Africa, but many accepted to convert to Catholicism, some of whom remained secretly Muslim.

“Those people, especially the poor, were numerous among the Portuguese who came to colonize Brazil since the 16th century,” said Peixoto.

Although his website deals with several Islamic themes, the history of Muslim Portuguese settlers — known as Mouriscos, or Moors — and their influence on Brazil is a frequent topic. “Many people don’t realize that we have customs in Brazil that come from the Islamic world,” said Peixoto.

Historia Islamica’s publications about the influence of Arabic on the Portuguese language are among the most shared by the website’s followers.

Some researchers believe that 700-1,000 Portuguese words come from Arabic, but recent studies suggest that the number of Arabisms could be much higher.

Several everyday words in Brazil have Arabic origins, such as alface (lettuce), almofada (cushion), acougue (butcher shop) and garrafa (bottle).

“Not to mention architectural terms that we still use today, like alicerce (foundation) and andaime (scaffolding),” said Peixoto.

“Iberian building methods were mostly Arab in the 16th century, and they were brought to the Americas.”

Islamic architectural influence in Latin America is one of the most noticeable cultural traits of Al-Andalus in the region, according to Hernan Taboada, an expert on the subject and a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

“That can be seen in the architectural style in New Spain, the viceroyalty that extended from the south of the present-day US to Central America,” he told Arab News.

Along with the Viceroyalty of Peru, in South America, that region probably concentrated most of the Moorish settlers in colonial Latin America, Taboada said.

Colonial-era churches in Mexico, from Veracruz on the Atlantic coast to Oaxaca in the south, exhibit evident Moorish artistic traits.

“They’re especially visible in the elements of decoration in those churches,” Taboada said. “Many temples in Mexico undoubtedly have Moorish style, which doesn’t mean they were necessarily built by Moors. In general, such elements were assimilated in Spain and transposed to Latin America.”

The presence of Muslims in New Spain and elsewhere in the region is not easy to verify, given that it was a clandestine presence.

This may be why the subject was ignored in academia for so long, although classical works of Latin American history mentioned it in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“The study of the Moorish presence was mostly resumed by Muslims and people of Arab origin. Those works showed that they weren’t as few in Latin America as was once supposed,” Taboada said.

Although Islam was forbidden, the Moors — like the Jews — largely enjoyed tolerance in the New World, though the Inquisition did act against them at times, he added.

Historian Ricardo Elia, cultural director of the Islamic Center of the Republic of Argentina, has since the 1980s been one of the pioneers in the study of the Moorish presence in the region of La Plata River.

“I discovered that the gauchos (the term used in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil for legendary horsemen) are nothing less than Moors,” he told Arab News.

There is an ancient controversy regarding the etymological origin of that term in Argentina. Some scholars say it comes from a Quechuan word, but Elia and other researchers say it comes from chauch, a term with Arabic origins that means something like indomitable.

“In Valencia, Spain, the word chaucho was used to designate horsemen and pastors,” Elia said, adding that most of the crews of the Spanish ships that explored the Americas since the 15th century were composed of Moors, and that the first person to catch sight of the Americas was Rodrigo de Triana, a Moor.

“They needed to leave Spain so they came to the Americas. And they were good sailors.”

Over the centuries, Moors intermarried with other ethnic groups such as the Guarani indigenous people, but their cultural impact in the region is felt to this day.

Elia said empanadas, Argentina’s most typical pastry, have Andalusian origins, as does dulce de leche (caramelized milk).

The linguistic influence on the Spanish language is unquestionable. Elia estimates that there are about 4,000 Arabisms, most of them adopted in Spain.

“But in Argentina and Uruguay, the Moors also impacted our way of pronouncing the words,” he said.

Over the years, Elia has taught classes in universities in Argentina and Chile about the Moorish presence in South America.

“Unfortunately, the community of Lebanese and Syrian descent in Argentina has never shown much interest in such themes. Non-Arab Argentinians have always been the most curious about that,” said Elia, who comes from a Lebanese family.

He added that more and more people now want to learn about the first Muslim settlers in Latin America.

“In Morocco, an academic conference dealing especially with that topic was organized in 2021,” he said.

Peixoto said many people are “willing to discover more about their ancestry and the many questions not answered about it,” which is why a new generation of scholars has been researching the Moors of Latin America.

He plans to conduct an academic study about the Moors in Brazil, publish books on that topic and offer online classes.

“Our elite (in Brazil) likes to see itself as European, but we’re a combination of indigenous peoples, Africans, Europeans, and also Moors,” he said.

Peixoto thinks Muslims and Arabs made a decisive contribution to the formation of the Brazilian people, not only with the settlers from Al-Andalus, but also with the Africans brought as slaves, and the huge wave of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants who came to Brazil since the end of the 19th century.

Source: Arab News

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Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss cooperation

March 28, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia' Al-Sudani, have discussed ways to enhance bilateral strategic cooperation and partnership within the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council.

Source: Arab News

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Thaw in KSA-Iran ties to benefit Pakistan: Ashrafi

By Asim Yasin

March 28, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi has said the resumption of Iran-Saudi Arab relations is a good omen for the Muslim world and the role of Pakistan’s great friend China in this regard is commendable.

“The resumption of relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran is good news for the Muslim Ummah, and it is necessary for the strength of Islamic countries to stop sectarian and foreign interference in the affairs of Muslim countries,” he said while talking to media here on Monday.

He said the restoration of Saudi Arabia-Iran relations would bring many benefits to Pakistan and the Islamic world had to solve its problems through unity. He said Saudi Arabia, China and Russia should also play their role in Palestine and Kashmir.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have the same position on the issue of Palestine that until an independent Palestinian state is established, relations with Israel cannot be thought of. In response to a question, he said Saudi Arabia was the centre of the Islamic world.

“The role played by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Muhammad bin Salman under the patronage of Khadim-e-Harmain Al-Sharifain Shah Salman bin Abdulaziz is being appreciated all over the world for the cause of peace,” he said, adding that the Ummah must take practical measures against the atrocities on Palestinians and Kashmiris.

The stance of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the issues of Palestine and Kashmir is clear. He said Israeli atrocious practices towards oppressed Palestinians were increasing and Israel was not recognizing international laws and resolutions and the same was the situation in IIOJ&K.

Source: TheNews Pakistan

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Scathing note torpedoes CJP’s order in election suo motu

Nasir Iqbal

March 28, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Two judges of the apex court on Monday cast doubt on the judgement handed down in the March 1 suo motu regarding elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, saying that the proceedings stood dismissed by a majority of 4-3, and contended that the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) does not have the power to restructure benches without the consent of the respective judges.

The 28-page ‘order of the court’ came in stark contrast to the order issued earlier, wherein the top court ruled in a 3-2 verdict that elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab should be held within 90 days.

The ruling sparked a debate on whether the decision is considered a verdict by a majority of three to two or by four to three, with the government insisting on the latter.

The recent order, authored by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mando­khail, seems to address this controversy by stating that once “the cause list [is] issued and the bench is assembled for hearing cases, the chief justice cannot reconstitute the bench…”

“We are of the considered view that our decision concurring with the decision of our learned brothers (Yahya Afridi and Athar Minallah, JJ.) in dismissing the present suo motu proceedings and the connected constitution petitions is the Order of the Court with a majority of 4 to 3, binding upon all the concerned.”

‘Disagreement’ not grounds for redoing bench

In order to corroborate this, Justice Shah referred to the administrative powers enjoyed by the CJP in reconstituting a bench. Once the bench is constituted, a cause list is issued and the bench starts hearing the cases, the matter regarding the constitution of the bench goes outside the pale of administrative powers of the CJP and rests on the judicial side, the ruling said, adding that any member of the bench may, however, recuse from the bench. The bench may also be reconstituted if it is against the rules and requires a three-member bench instead of two, the ruling added.

“In the absence of a recusal… any amount of disagreement amongst the members of the bench… cannot form a valid ground for reconstitution of the bench,” it said, adding that reconstitution of a bench while hearing a case, in the absence of any recusal would amount to stifling the independent view of the judge.

“After having made a final decision on the matter at an early stage of the proceedings of a case, the non-sitting of a judge in the later proceedings does not amount to his recusal from hearing the case nor does it constitute his exclusion from the bench,” it argued.

According to the order, the decision of the CJP to remove the two judges from the bench through its reconstitution “has no effect on the judicial decision” passed in the case since the reconstitution was simply an administrative act to facilitate the further hearing by the remaining five members of the bench.

It added that the administrative exercise could not nullify or brush aside the judicial decisions given by the two judges in this case, which have to be counted when the matter is finally concluded.

Panama precedent and ‘one-man show’

“Failure to count the decision of our learned brothers (Yahya Afridi and Athar Minallah, JJ.) would amount to excluding them from the bench without their consent, which is not permissible under the law and not within the powers of the chief justice.”

“We are also fortified in our opinion by the precedent of the well-known Panama case. In the said case, the first order of the court was passed by a 3-2 and in the subsequent hearings conducted in pursuance of the majority judgement the two judges, who had made and announced their final decision, did not sit on the bench but they were not considered to have been excluded from the bench and were made a party to the final judgement…and they also sat on the bench that heard the review petitions.”

The order also questioned the discretion of the CJP in regulating the constitution of the benches and highlighted the need of revisiting the power of “one-man show” enjoyed by the office of CJP to ensure public trust and confidence in the judiciary.

This court cannot be dependent on the solitary decision of one man but must be regulated through a rule-based system approved by all judges, said the judgement.

Referring to CJP’s power, the judgement said the power of doing a “one-man show” was not only anachronistic, outdated and obsolete but also antithetical to good governance and incompatible with modern democratic norms.

The one-man show makes the system more susceptible to the abuse of power, it said, adding that in contrast, a collegial system with checks and balances helps prevent the abuse and promotes transparency and accountability.

“Ironically, the Supreme Court has time and again held how public functionaries ought to structure their discretion but has miserably failed to set the same standard for itself leaving CJP with unfettered powers in the matter of regulating the jurisdiction under Article 184(3) constituting benches and assigning cases.”

“It is this unbridled power enjoyed by CJP that has brought severe criticism and lowered the honour and prestige of the apex court,” the judgement regretted.

Political thicket

By initiating suo motu proceedings regarding polls, the Supreme Court had ushered into a “political thicket,” which commenced last year with the dissolution of the National Assembly and reached the dissolution of the provincial assemblies this year.

“We must not forget that democracy is never bereft of the divide. The very essence of the political system is to rectify such disagreements but to take this key characteristic outside the realm of our political system and transfer it to the judiciary, threatens the very core of democratic choice – raison d’etre’ of democracy,” the judgement said.

Source: Dawn

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PTI lawmakers return to parliament with noisy protest

Amir Wasim

March 28, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Ending almost a year-long boycott, opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) senators returned to the joint sitting of parliament on Monday with their signature noisy protest, causing disruptions to the proceedings as both the Senate opposition leader and a minister accused each other of causing chaos in the country.

For the first time since assuming the office in April last year, Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was seen struggling in running the house smoothly as members from both sides continued sloganeering against each other despite warnings from the chair.

Speaker Ashraf on a couple of times was seen losing temper when he warned the opposition senators that they might also not be allowed to speak if they continued interrupting Minister for Communications Asad Mehmood’s speech. He taunted the PTI members by saying, “end your protest now as you have marked your attendance before someone”.

The PTI senators, carrying placards inscribed with anti-government slogans, gathered in front of the speaker’s dais and raised full-throated slogans soon after entering the hall and again when Mr Mehmood in his speech named the sons of Imran Khan, asking the PTI chief to bring them to the country and get them enrolled in some Madressah, if he really wanted to turn the country into a Madina-like state.

Shahzad Waseem strikes a ‘reconciliatory’ note; ministers join ex-Fata members in walkout over non-release of funds; speaker adjourns joint sitting until April 10

In their speeches dominated by political rhetoric, Opposition Leader in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem of PTI and Mr Mehmood accused each other of violating the Constitution and causing chaos in the country.

PTI Senators Waleed Iqbal, Fawzia Arshad and Saifullah Abro were the most active among those leading the protest.

During the hard-hitting speech of Mr Mehmood, who is the son of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the assembly hall kept on being echoed with slogans both from the treasury benches and the opposition side.

Though Dr Waseem lashed out at the government for allegedly running away from the Constitution, running a campaign against judges and politically victimising the PTI, he delivered his speech in somewhat conciliatory tone. He did not surprisingly utter a single word about the alleged corruption of PPP or PML-N leaders. He only criticised the rulers for their present policies, particularly for bringing the country at the verge of economic collapse.

The PTI senator then stressed the need for political unity and called for sitting together to find out the way out of the crisis. He declared that his party did not want to create chaos and only desired for fair and free elections. In what can be described as a polite offer for engagement, Dr Waseem said they should sit together keeping aside their personal interests, adding that it was the job of the government to “extinguish fire”, instead of causing chaos.

He also made an indirect “request” to the speaker to allow the PTI MNAs to return to the house after the party’s decision to withdraw their en masse resignations.

On the other hand, Mr Mehmood in so many words hinted that the government was in no mood of engaging the PTI leadership.

“We will drive a final nail into your political coffin,” Mr Mehmood thundered amid loud jeering by the opposition PTI members. However, the PTI senators were not supported by the dissident MNAs, who had ditched the party at the time of vote of no-confidence against then prime minister Imran Khan in April last year.

Referring to Mr Khan’s oft-repeated claim that he had acquired power after 23-year struggle, Mr Mehmood declared that PTI would never be able to get power again even if it carried out a struggle for the next 46 years.

The communications minister also hit out at the judiciary and accused it of becoming a party in the political confrontation. He particularly criticised the superior judiciary over its recent decisions regarding the date for the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as the previous rulings at the time of the election of PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz as the Punjab chief minister. He alleged that the judiciary announced its verdict in the case about the election date without providing the ruling parties an opportunity to present their viewpoint.

“If you will make political statements before issuing orders, then we will criticise you,” he said in an apparent reference to some remarks of the judges during the hearing of political cases.

The JUI-F MNA dubbed Mr Khan “an agent of Jewish lobby” and mentioned recent statements by US officials, including Zalmay Khalilzad, and some journalists and human rights activists in PTI’s favour to prove his point.

He said PTI could never come to power without the support of establishment. He claimed that former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa held a meeting with Imran Khan after his ouster from power at the behest of Mr Khalilzad.

Terming the PTI’s March 25 public meeting in Lahore a disaster, Mr Mehmood challenged Imran Khan to organise a rally without music or women. He passed some derogatory remarks about the PTI participants of the public meetings, prompting a strong protest by the opposition senators.

Mr Mehmood was still on his legs when the speaker abruptly adjourned the joint sitting till April 10 after failing to contain the protesting PTI members.

Earlier, Dr Waseem began his speech with the criticism on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for delaying polls in Punjab and KP despite the Supreme Court’s order, terming it a violation of the Constitution as well as contempt of court. He then protested over the alleged government crackdown on the PTI leaders and workers and police action at Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore.

He also lamented the role of the caretaker Punjab government, accusing it of going beyond its mandate of holding the elections. He particularly mentioned the statement of Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi for using threatening tone against the PTI activists and asked him to apologise over it.

It was during Dr Waseem’s speech that the journalists staged a walkout from the press gallery against the alleged custodial torture by police on one of their colleagues and non-payment of salaries in some media organisations.

Taking cue from the journalists’ walkout, Dr Waseem started portraying a dismal picture of the state of media freedom in the country, alleging that journalists were being booked on terrorism charges and tortured merely for exposing the wrong policies of rulers.

Later, the speaker directed the interior ministry to take action against those responsible for violence against journalists during the appearance of PTI chief Imran Khan before a court in Islamabad and referred the issue of non-payment of salaries to the concerned house committee.

NA session

Earlier during the separate National Assembly session, the coalition government faced embarrassment when treasury members, including two federal ministers, belonging to erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) staged a token walkout from the house over non-release of promised development funds for the region.

The issue was raised by independent MNA Mohsin Dawar, who alleged that despite promises by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar funds for tribal people had not been released.

He said that out of the Rs55bn allocated amount, the government had so far released only Rs5bn. He said dollars were raining on the country when these areas were being destroyed in war against terrorism, and now when they required funds for rehabilitation, there was no money in the national kitty.

The protesting MNAs also criticised Finance Minister Ishaq Dar who, according to them, did not have time to even have a meeting with them.

Source: Dawn

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Al Aqsa raid, desecration incident in Denmark condemned

Iftikhar A. Khan

March 28, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakis­tan on Monday strongly condemned the raid by Israeli forces on Al Aqsa Mosque on the third day of Ramazan, expelling worshippers and violating the sanctity of the mosque – one of the holiest sites of Muslims.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, the Foreign Office also condemned another abhorrent act of desecration of the Holy Quran in Denmark.

In a statement, the FO regretted that such reprehensible attacks on Al Aqsa Mosque by Israeli occupation forces during Ramazan.

On Thursday, the first day of Ramazan, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man during a raid in the occupied West Bank.

It noted that such acts not only constitute grave violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief of the Palestinian people but also an affront to religious sentiments of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.

“The indiscriminate use of force by Israeli occupation forces against defenseless Palestinians defies all humanitarian and human rights norms and laws. By carrying out such illegal raids, Israel has backed out on its own recent commitment to respect the sanctity of Ramazan,” the FO statement said.

“Pakistan calls upon the international community to take urgent action to put an end to the Israeli transgressions that have been particularly ascendant since the beginning of this year,” the FO said.

“We reaffirm our un-stinted support for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause, and renew our call for a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State, with pre-1967 borders, and Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital being the only just, comprehensive and lasting solution of the Palestinian question, in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions.”

Separately, referring to another incident of desecration of the Holy Quran in Denmark, the FO noted that the “recurrence of such wilful and vile acts is a troubling manifestation of growing hatred, racism and phobia against Muslims and their faith”.

The incident took place on March 24 when far-right activist Rasmus Paludan, who earlier staging a Quran-burning protest in Sweden on January 21, repeated the act in front of a mosque and Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen and vowed to continue every Friday until Sweden is admitted into NATO.

It said that repeated occurrence of such premeditated acts calls into question the efficacy of legal framework behind which Islamophobes hide and incite hatred.

“The exercise of the right to freedom of expression cannot be used as a smokescreen to deliberately denigrate the Holy Scriptures or personalities of any religion,” the FO said.

Source: Dawn

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India And Pakistan Invited For US Democracy Summit: Report

Mar 28, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The democracy summit in Washington beginning on Tuesday would be a test for Pakistan's diplomacy as the cash-strapped country would look to rekindle ties with the US without irking its long-time ally China, as per a media report. Like the first democracy meet in 2021, both India and Pakistan have been invited to the summit. Pakistan had opted out of the first summit, reportedly on the back of the Biden administration's refusal to reach out to the then-PM Imran Khan.

Dawn newspaper reported that for the cash-starved Pakistan, the summit could be a major opportunity to win over the US support for raising funds from international lenders and bilateral donors. But Pakistan's "all-weather friend" China would be closely monitoring these overtures as US has already annoyed Beijing by inviting Taiwan, the self-ruled island which China claims as its own.

Source: Times Of India

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PTI slams interior minister for 'incendiary' remarks against Imran Khan

Mar 28, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) slammed interior minister Rana Sanaullah for his “inflammatory” remarks saying the former prime minister had taken political rivalry to a point of enmity.

In an interview with a private TV station on Sunday, Sanaullah said the narrative built by Imran had led to a situation where only one of the two parties, PTI and PML-N, could exist and the other would be “eliminated” from the political scene.

Blaming Imran for an anarchy-like situation in the country, he said the PTI chairman’s rhetoric had created so much bad blood among followers of both parties that either he or they (PML-N leaders) could be killed.

Condemning Sanaullah’s comments, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry asked if the minister was “doing politics or running a gang?” The Supreme Court was “absolutely right” in calling PML-N the “Sicilian mafia”, he said.

Source: Times Of India

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Govt will never surrender to Imran’s wishes: Saad Rafique

Khalid Hasnain

March 28, 2023

LAHORE: Federal Minister for Railways and Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique has said that what Imran Khan wants will never happen, as the government will never surrender to his desires.

“Whatever you want, it will not come to pass. It will not be done because you are a fascist. You don’t have any connection with democracy. You have abrogated the Constitution. You are ‘falsely’ popular,” the minister lashed out at PTI chief Imran Khan at a news conference here at the Pakistan Railways (PR) headquarters on Monday.

“You (IK) have a cult-following. And [we] will not hand over this country to a man having such following,” he declared.

Describing Mr Khan and his facilitators as thieves and Sicilian Mafia, the minister asked them to apologise to the nation for promoting and installing a party that had allegedly destroyed everything in the country.

Claims ‘facilitators’ are trying to reinstall ex-PM; asks PIA pilots to ‘bear with’ govt on tax issue

“Not we, you are thieves. Not we, you are the Sicilian Mafia. Instead of seeking pardon individually and covertly, you all (IK’s facilitators) must seek pardon collectively from the nation.”

He alleged that Imran Khan’s facilitators (within the establishment and the judiciary) had now started efforts to bring the PTI chief back to power at a time when the PDM-led government is trying hard to clean the mess created by Imran Khan.

Mr Rafique said the opposition threw Mr Khan out in a constitutional way, but his facilitators had started fresh efforts to bring him back. “We undertook the work to clear the mess created by him [Imran] that caused further inflation,” he said, adding the PDM government did this at the cost of its political capital. And now, he lamented, by highlighting the same pretext of inflation before the public, they (the facilitators) are trying to install him again.

“We know what’s happening. You [facilitators] can do whatever you want, but we will not give space to Imran Khan,” he warned.

In reply to a question, the minister termed the April 30 date for elections in Punjab and KP unrealistic. According to him, it was done in isolation to support a particular party. How long will PTI be given special treatment, he questioned.

Recalling the previous PML-N government, he deplored that state institutions (establishment, judiciary and some journalists) had joined hands to remove a well-performing government under a conspiracy, repeatedly called opposition leaders as looters and thieves, rigged elections, installed a man having no sense of politics, put opposition politicians behind bars, registered baseless cases against them and destroyed their businesses and the country’s economy.

And when he was removed through a no-confidence move, he declared that was done under a conspiracy, the minister said. However, he added, the conspiracy turned out to be false as PTI is now polishing American boots by hiring lobbying firms in the US.

“You (Imran) and your facilitators will have to bring back Pakistan on the position of 2017,” Mr Rafique warned, referring to the time when PML-N was in power.

“What justice you have given to Nawaz Sharif who was thrown out of politics on the basis of an iqama (work permit) or non-receiving of salary from his son. Did anyone find and prove even a single corruption case against Nawaz Sharif or Shehbaz Sharif during their 20 years’ opposition period,” he argued.

Trains being upgraded

Mr Rafique said Pakistan Railways had decided to upgrade two more trains to reduce travelling pressure on Green Line Express.

“Besides running special trains on the eve of Eid, we have decided to operate summer or seasonal trains. The department has also decided to run a new cargo train from Peshawar to Karachi, besides reducing freight charges for all existing freight trains,” he explained.

He said a pilot project is being launched under which railway stations (Lahore City and Raiwind) and several trains, including Green Line and Railcar, will be branded and added that for this purpose bidding process will be held soon. The process to auction or lease out some 2,600 PR-owned shops has also started.

“The PR management has decided to convert 51 buildings, including railways stations, to solar energy,” he said.

Talking about the aviation ministry, Mr Rafique said his ministry is all set to outsource the operation of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports and the issue will be placed before the Economic Coordination Committee soon.

He urged the PIA pilots to cooperate with the government, saying it was trying hard to resolve their issue of 32 per cent tax on their salaries.

Source: Dawn

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South Asia


Suicide bomber kills 6 people near foreign ministry in Kabul

Mar 27, 2023

Islamabad: A suicide bomber struck on Monday near the foreign ministry in Kabul, killing at least six people and wounding several, according to officials. It was the second time this year that there has been an attack near the ministry.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing but the regional affiliate of the Islamic State group has increased attacks since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August 2021. IS has targeted Taliban officials and patrols, as well as members of the country's minority Shiites.

According to Khalid Zadran, a spokesman for the Kabul police chief, Taliban security forces spotted the bomber before he was able to reach a checkpoint at the Malik Asghar intersection, near the ministry.

The attacker then detonated his explosives, killing at least six civilians. Three members of the Taliban security forces were among those wounded in the attack.

The Kabul hospital run by the EMERGENCY non-governmental organisation said it received two fatalities from the explosion and 12 wounded, including a child.

In mid-January, an IS attack near the ministry killed at least five people and wounded several others. Checkpoints line the fortified route to the ministry, which is on one of the roads leading to the presidential palace. Guards stop and search vehicles and people along the way.

Source: Times Of India

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Despite recent diplomatic efforts, Pakistan-Taliban ties face more challenges

27 March, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], March 27 (ANI): Despite recent diplomatic efforts, the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban is expected to face more challenges, as Islamabad’s internal crises complicate the situation, reported Afghan Diaspora Network (ADN).

Pakistan is currently grappling with unprecedented internal political and economic crises, and the Taliban leadership is closely monitoring these developments, making them cautious about making any hasty decisions in favour of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s recent diplomatic efforts to improve relations with Afghanistan have been unsuccessful. On February 22, a senior Pakistani delegation, including Defence Minister Khwaja Asif and Lieutenant General Nadeem Anjum, Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, visited Kabul to hold talks with the Taliban leadership.

This visit occurred shortly after the Torkham border crossing was closed, raising tensions between the two countries. The delegation’s purpose was to meet with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Afghanistan’s acting deputy prime minister for economic affairs.

The high-level meeting occurred against the backdrop of increasing violence by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in various parts of Pakistan. The meeting reportedly ended in a stalemate, as the Taliban refused to address the TTP issue but agreed to improve bilateral economic and trade relations, reported ADN.

The delegation from Pakistan was left embarrassed as the Taliban government did not even officially acknowledge that the TTP issue was part of the meeting and simply emphasized the importance of trade and commerce relations between the two countries.

Furthermore, the Taliban side urged Khawaja Asif and other officials to “release Afghans being detained in detention facilities in Pakistan.”

The official statements released by both sides indicate that there were significant differences regarding the issue of terrorism allegedly originating from Afghanistan, reported ADN.

The delegation talks included the cross-border implications of trade, particularly the border skirmishes at Torkham and Chaman-Spin Boldak, as well as the alleged cross-border movements of the TTP and Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) terrorists.

With the growing mistrust against Islamabad’s border control efforts and allegations of ISI’s involvement in providing material and infrastructure support to the ISKP, it is possible that the Taliban could impose policy options on Islamabad, forcing them to make concessions on cross-border trade and possibly granting a second opportunity for peaceful negotiations with the TTP, reported ADN.

Furthermore, Islamabad has been unsuccessful in persuading other countries to formally recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan, adding to the strain on their relationship. Ongoing tensions over the TTP issue, regular cross-border skirmishes, and frequent border closures have only worsened ties between the two countries.

Source: ThePrint

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Education, Civil Society Activist MatiullahWesa, Detained by Taliban

By Fidel Rahmati

March 28, 2023

MatiullahWesa, the well-known human rights activist who advocated for girls’ education and the founder of Pen Path, was detained by the Taliban on Monday, his brother confirmed.

His brother AtaullahWesa claimed that Wesa was detained by the Taliban close to their house in the Khoshal Khan Area west of Kabul, while the Taliban rejected the allegation.

Wesa was an education and human rights activist who created educational opportunities for thousands of girls across Afghanistan within the last decade.

Wesa runs an education organization, “Pen Path”, which promotes education in the remote areas of Afghanistan.

Since the closure of the girls’ school by the Taliban, Wesa visited 20 out of 34 provinces of Afghanistan to provide thousands of girls’ students with educational materials.

Wesa’s arrest came amid the beginning of the new academic year in Afghanistan. This is the third consecutive year the Taliban-led government has not reopened girls’ schools beyond sixth grade.

On Sunday, a group of women raised their voices against the prolonged ban on Afghan women and girls’ schools and universities, but the protesters were dispersed by air fire, and three of them were detained by the Taliban. The women protesters were released later by the Taliban.

Source: Khaama Press

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Afghan Security Forces Kill Senior IS-K Leaders in Afghanistan

By Fidel Rahmati

March 27, 2023

Three senior Islamic State-Khorasan leaders had been killed in a special raid on Sunday in the Northern Province of Afghanistan, Balkh, the Afghan General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) said in a statement.

According to the statement, the three senior leaders, including; Mavlavi Ziauddin, Abu Omar Afridi, and Ustad Salman Tajiki, were killed in operation.

The GDI also added that Mavlavi Ziauddin had been the acting governor of Islamic State-Khorasan and was in charge of administrative and judicial affairs. Abu Omar Afridi was a senior member of the Khorasan branch council, and Ustad Salman Tajiki was a national of Tajikistan and a specialist bomb-making and military trainer.

The statement also claimed that an operation was carried out in Faryab province earlier, which led to the arrest of Islamic State members involved in Killing the former governor of Balkh province, DawooMuzamal.

Recently the interim government of the Taliban has intensified their operation against Islamic State hideouts across the country which led to the Killing and arresting of several militants.

In a recent operation by the Taliban, security forces killed a key Daesh member known as ‘Qaes’ in the 12 districts of the capital city, Kabul, who was allegedly involved in the attack on the interior ministry mosque, DGI officials said.

Several arms and ammunition were confiscated during the operation, including explosive vests, hand grenades and several AK-47s.

Source: Khaama Press

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Private Afghan University Sells its Library Due to Financial Issues

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 28, 2023

Afghanistan University has announced to sell its library due to financial issues which led to the suspension of the private educational institution in the capital city of Kabul.

The library accommodates nearly 3,000 books on different principles including political sciences, international relations, law, religious education, economics, security, and social sciences.

The library includes bookshelves, a computer lab, equipped with e-books, and electronic search systems which facilitates issuing and returning books effectively.

Many students of Afghanistan University have described the decision of the university management as extremely disappointing and unfair because it adversely affects the future of hundreds of students who are still studying for their respective degrees at this educational institution.

“As a current student of this university, I’m overwhelmingly disappointed with this decision. Afghanistan University did not only leave its students midway but also darkened the future of dozens of students,” one student commented.

The university management has taken the decision without communicating it with the students, which is believed to have political reasons behind it. 

Since the return of the Taliban to power in August 2021, the dire economic situation has had its ramifications on private universities and educational institutions as well. A considerable number of universities closed their doors mainly due to financial issues and social constraints imposed by the Taliban-run administration.

The Taliban takeover last August hit Afghanistan’s reading culture and book industry especially hard. Universities, libraries, bookstores, and the publishing industry went quiet, and are on the verge of gradual closure.

Meanwhile, the ban restricting women and girls from attending university education has negatively impacted the financial situation of private universities. Nearly half of the female students studying for their degrees in private educational institutions have been barred for the past months.

Source: Khaama Press

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UN Condemns Attack Near Afghan Foreign Ministry in Kabul

By Fidel Rahmati

March 28, 2023

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed its condolences and condemned the attack near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul.

The UNAMA has condemned Monday’s attack near the foreign ministry in Kabul that killed at least six, including one child, and wounded several others.

“UNAMA sends condolences to the victims and their families.”

The stamen also said that the attack on ordinary people of Afghanistan is unacceptable.

“Reports of numerous casualties in Monday’s attack in Kabul, at least one child among them. It is unacceptable that ordinary Afghans continue to be targeted as they go about their daily lives.”

On Monday afternoon, a blast occurred near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, killing at least six and injuring several people, including three members of the Taliban.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack.

Source: Khaama Press

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Japan Contributes $21 Million for Life-Saving Vaccines in Afghanistan

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 27, 2023

The Embassy of Japan in Afghanistan on Monday announced that Japan has contributed US$ 21 million for live life-saving vaccines for mothers and children, and water and sanitation in schools.

With this funding, UNICEF will provide clean water for 30,000 people in four provinces, and vaccines for 18.3 million mothers and children across Afghanistan. 

Amid the devastating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the government of Japan has donated to UNICEF US$ 18 million in support of essential vaccines for over 18 million mothers and children, and US$ 3.6 million for water and sanitation facilities in public schools.

The vaccines include measles, rotavirus, tetanus and diphtheria, polio, hepatitis B and others. These funds will also enable UNICEF to reach around 10 million children with oral polio vaccines during national vaccination campaigns in 2023.

“This support from the Japanese government will not only help to give mothers and children the immunity boost they need to stay healthy, but it will also improve sanitation and hygiene in schools,” said Rushnan Murtaza, UNICEF Afghanistan Deputy Representative.

“Complementing our past support to Afghanistan in health, nutrition and education, we hope these contributions will create cleaner, safer learning environments and communities for children and their families,” says Takashi Okada, Ambassador of Japan to Afghanistan.

Water and sanitation projects will be implemented in Ghor, Uruzgan, Zabul and Pakitika which are among the most deprived provinces in Afghanistan, according to UNICEF officials.

Since the return of the Taliban to power in August 2021, the government of Japan has generously contributed towards improving the living conditions of women and children, who have been the most vulnerable segments of society under the Taliban regime.

Source: Khaama Press

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UN rights investigator says EU aided and abetted abuse of migrants in Libya

March 27, 2023

GENEVA: A member of the UN fact-finding mission to Libya investigating rights abuses said on Monday that European Union support for Libyan authorities that stop and detain migrants had “aided and abetted” the commission of rights violations against migrants.

Source: Arab News

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If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM

March 27, 2023

ROME: The international community runs the risk of “having the Muslim Brotherhood create instability” in Tunisia if the country is not promptly granted “substantial financial help,” Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said at a conference attended by Arab News.

“We can’t afford the radicalization of the Mediterranean,” he added, saying Tunisia is on the verge of “economic collapse,” and negotiations for a loan of nearly $1.9 billion from the International Monetary Fund have “stalled” over President Kais Saied’s recent policies.

Elected in 2019, Saied dissolved Parliament in July 2021, reformed the country’s constitution to increase his presidential powers, and then held a referendum followed by parliamentary elections with a very low turnout.

At the beginning of this year he cracked down on dissent, arresting politicians, labor union members, judges and members of civil society.

The economic situation in Tunisia is dire, leading more and more people to try to reach Italy on small boats.

Tajani said Italy is “the most interested” in ensuring that “Tunisia solves its problems and doesn’t become a failed state.”

He added that the Italian government has been working hard to ensure that the IMF and the World Bank help Tunisia.

“But there’s a problem: The IMF, with the support of the US, says, ‘You first carry out reforms, and then we’ll give the money.’ On the other hand, the Tunisians say, ‘First the money and then the reforms’,” he said.

“This is why we propose that the IMF gives immediately a first tranche of money; the rest of the loan can be paid in line with the progress of reforms.”

Tajani said the international community “can’t afford to make the mistake of leaving Tunisia to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Stefania Craxi, president of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Italian Senate, told Arab News: “The Muslim Brotherhood will prosper if the grant doesn’t come and the economy keeps going down.”

Source: Arab News

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Burkina Faso blocks France 24 broadcasts over al-Qaeda interview

James Tasamba


Burkina Faso’s military government said on Monday it has suspended France 24 broadcasts after the TV station ran an interview with the head of the al-Qaeda terror group’s North African wing.

The channel aired an interview with YezidMebarek, head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), earlier this month.

Mebarek, also known as Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, has been the leader of the terror group since 2020 when French forces killed his predecessor in an operation.

By interviewing Mebarek, France 24 “is not only acting as a mouthpiece for these terrorists but worse, it is providing a space to legitimize terrorist actions and hate speech,” Burkina Faso’s Communication Minister Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo said in a statement.

The minister said the Burkina Faso government does not contest the channel’s editorial independence, but the interview put a spotlight on its “professional ethics.”

“The government has, therefore, decided, in all responsibility and in the best interests of the nation, to immediately suspend the broadcasting of France 24 programs nationwide,” he said.

France 24, which is run by French state-owned holding company France Medias Monde, deplored the move, saying it was based on “unfounded accusations.”

“The channel never gave him the floor directly,” it said in a statement, arguing it only reported Mebarek’s comments through a studio conversation with one of its journalists.

The decision was taken without notice and in disregard of the procedures provided for in the broadcasting agreement the channel signed with Burkina Faso’s communications regulator, the statement said.

In December 2022, the Burkinabe government suspended Radio France International in similar disregard of procedures, it added.

Relations between France and Burkina Faso have soured since last September’s military coup.

In January, Burkina Faso ended its military pact with France, giving the former colonial power one month to withdraw troops stationed in the country to help fight insurgents.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Violent protests in Kenya leave 1 dead, property damaged

Andrew Wasike


One person was shot dead during anti-government protests in Migori, Western Kenya on Monday as demonstrations against the high cost of living in Kenya entered their second week.

George Rae, the head of the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital, confirmed the death to reporters, saying the wounded person was shot twice, in the leg and chest area.

“He was brought to the hospital by police, and later pronounced dead,” he said, adding that the person is yet to be identified.

The total number of people killed by police rises to three since the opposition protests kicked off last week on Monday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people stormed and looted the farm of former President Uhuru Kenyatta during the protests.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga condemned the attack on the Northlands farm of the Kenyatta family and the stoning of his gas plant, the East African Spectre Limited, both of which were carried out on Monday by unknown intruders.

Human rights activists have raised concerns over police brutality in Kenya following the death of William Mayenga, a third-year student at Maseno University, who was shot in the neck during protests near the school last Monday.

The incidents have sparked renewed debate about police violence and the importance of protecting freedoms of assembly and expression in the country.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Libya: Haftar's army chief arrives in Tripoli to hold military meetings

Walid Abdullah



A military chief from eastern Libya strongman Khalifa Haftar's army on Sunday arrived in the capital Tripoli to attend a meeting of the 5+5 joint military committee.

Abdel Razek al-Nadori, Haftar's army chief, landed at Tripoli's Mitiga airport escorted by a military delegation to attend the UN-sponsored meeting, Anadolu learned.

It is expected that al-Nadori will hold a meeting with Libyan Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Al-Haddad in the presence of the UN envoy to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily.

On March 17, Bathily urged Libyan rivals to engage in talks to unify Libya's military institutions, and to pave the way for a safe environment to hold the country's long-awaited elections.

The 5+5 Joint Military Committee includes five members from the Libyan government military in western Libya and five other members from Haftar's forces in the east.

The committee has been holding UN-sponsored meetings over the past two years to ensure a continued cease-fire and hold talks on unifying the military in Libya.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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North America


Canada gov't report calls for training to stop tax bias toward Muslim charities

Barry Ellsworth 



A new report released Monday says Canada’s tax department is ensnared in red tape and a comprehensive review is impossible but it should provide training to end “unconscious” bias when dealing with Muslim charities.

The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson report found that bias creeps in unconsciously and training would “improve the CRA’s (Canada Revenue Agency’s) services to both Muslim-led charities and charities in general.”

The report also said there is so much red tape when dealing with the CRA that a comprehensive review of its operations regarding charities is impossible.

“Despite our best efforts, we encountered legislative and administrative obstacles that prevented us from having the information we needed to conduct a comprehensive examination and validate the information gathered from all sides,” said the report, titled Charity Begins with Fairness: More to Explore.

"However, regardless of these obstacles, we believe that this report identifies opportunities for the CRA to improve the service it provides to charities," said the report.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has for years accused the CRA of bias when it comes to Muslim charities.

It said in a press release Monday that yet another planned review, this time by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, is overkill and would run into the same red tape experienced by the Ombudsperson office.

“Thus, we reject the notion of waiting for yet another review to tell us what we already know,” the NCCM release said. “It is unfair to continue to subject Muslim-led charities to unfair audit practises in the interim.”

The problem is donations to charities are tax deductible. But if CRA audits find charities may be misusing the funds for purposes such as financing terrorism, it can suspend the charity’s tax-deductible status, seriously undermining donations.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Khalilzad does not speak for Biden administration: US State Dept official

March 28, 2023

State Department Spokesperson Vedant Patel has clarified that former US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad did not represent the country’s foreign policy and did not speak for the administration of President Jo Biden.

Patel’s statement came in response to a question asked during a press briefing on Monday (March 27) about Khalilzad’s recent statement regarding the political situation in Pakistan.

Earlier this month, Khalilzad — who had served as the special envoy for Afghan reconciliation under both the Trump and Biden administrations — had said that Pakistan was “underperforming and falling far behind” India.

“Pakistan faces a triple crisis: political, economic, and security. Despite great potential, it is underperforming and falling far behind its archrival, India. It is time for serious soul-searching, bold thinking, and strategising,” he had remarked.

The former US ambassador had also criticised Pakistan for jailing its political leaders — particularly hinting at the recent police attempts to arrest PTI Chairman Imran Khan — and had proposed “two steps” to deal with the country’s challenges the first being to set a date for general elections in early June to “avert a meltdown”.

Commenting on the matter in the press briefing today, Patel said that Khalilzad was a private citizen.

“Any social media activity or comments or tweets that you might reference, those are done in his private capacity, does not represent US foreign policy, and he does not speak for this administration,” he stated.

In response to another question regarding the political “chaos” in Pakistan, the spokesperson responded that any implication of violence, harassment or intimidation had no place in politics.

Source: Dawn

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US will not back off Syria mission despite deadly attacks: White House

28 March ,2023

The US will not back away from its nearly eight-year-old deployment to Syria, where it is battling the remnants of ISIS, despite attacks on US forces there last week by Iran-backed militia, the White House said on Monday.

A one-way attack drone struck a US base in Syria on March 23, killing an American contractor, injuring another and wounding five US troops.

That triggered US retaliatory air strikes and exchanges of fire that a Syrian war monitoring group said killed three Syrian troops, 11 Syrian fighters in pro-government militias and five non-Syrian fighters who were aligned with the government.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said he was not aware of any additional attacks over the past 36 hours but cautioned, “We're going to stay vigilant.”

Kirby also referred to President Joe Biden's remarks on Friday, in which Biden warned Iran that the US would act forcefully to protect Americans.

“There's been no change in the US footprint in Syria as a result of what happened the last few days,” Kirby said, adding the mission against ISIS would continue.

“We're not going to be deterred ... by these attacks from these militant groups.”

Syria's foreign ministry on Sunday condemned US strikes, saying Washington had lied about what was targeted and pledging to “end the American occupation” of its territory.

Iran's foreign ministry also condemned the strikes, accusing US forces of targeting “civilian sites.”

US forces first deployed into Syria during the Obama administration's campaign against ISIS partnering with a Kurdish-led group called the Syrian Democratic Forces. There are about 900 US troops in Syria, most of them in the east.

Prior to the latest spate of attacks, US troops in Syria had been attacked by Iranian-backed groups about 78 times since the beginning of 2021, according to the US military.

Iran has been a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during Syria's 12-year conflict.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Canada imposes new sanctions against Iran over protests, drones

27 March ,2023

The Canadian government said on Monday it was targeting two entities and eight individuals as part of new sanctions against Iran over human rights violations and production of drones and ballistic missiles.

Canada’s latest round of sanctions against Iran, the 10th since October, targets individuals including senior officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) for “gross and systematic human rights violations” in Tehran and northwestern Iran, the Canadian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Sanctions also target senior Iranian officials involved in unmanned aerial vehicle and ballistic missile production, the ministry said.

Tension between Iran and the West have mounted over Tehran’s nuclear activity and its supply of drones for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as the Islamic Republic’s clampdown on months of anti-government-protests. Tehran denies selling drones to Moscow for use in the Ukraine war.

“We call on the Iranian regime to stop the brutal oppression of Iran’s people and to address their demands in good faith,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in the statement.

Source: Al Arabiya

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