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Islamic World News ( 8 Dec 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Militant Groups in The Arab World Face A Gradual Decline And Most Arabs Oppose The Use Of Religion For Political Gain







• Militant Groups in The Arab World Face A Gradual Decline And Most Arabs Oppose The Use Of Religion For Political Gain

• Islamic and Humanitarian Law Experts Discuss Preservation of Human Dignity in Armed Conflict

• ‘Publicity Gives Us Protection,’ Says Whistleblower In China Crackdown On Uighur Muslims

• Official Claims People In China’s Muslim Detainment Camps Have ‘Graduated’ And Are Living ‘Happy Lives’

• AISPLB asks Centre to have Shias in Citizenship Amendment Bill

• As Sanctions Bear Down, Iranian Mullahs Suppress a Populace That Wants More Openness and Opportunity

• Myanmar Leader Heads to Hague for Rohingya Muslim Genocide Hearings

• ADL Downplays Anti-Semitism among European Muslims

• Muslim Girl, Duaa Ahmad, Praised For Opening Mosque to Students during School Attack

• Police Suspect Militant Outfits behind Student’s Kidnapping In DHA

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/militant-groups-in-the-arab-world-face-a-gradual-decline-and-most-arabs-oppose-the-use-of-religion-for-political-gain/d/120478

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Arab World

• Arabs fed up with corruption, survey suggests

• Saudi Arabia among top 10 in UN’s e-commerce index

• King Salman, Al-Zayani review agenda of GCC Supreme Council's 40th session

• Saudi jewellery designers reach sales worth SR10m via online shopping

• Saudi minister receives head of Iranian Hajj organization

• Kuwaiti Shia cleric sentenced to 5 years in prison

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Southeast Asia

• Dikir barat singer starts solo cycling expedition to explore 41 mosques in Kelantan

• Billions lost in defence procurement scandals

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India

• 25,000 Pakistan Muslims Visit Kartarpur Sahib

• Ayodhya Verdict: Hindu Mahasabha to Challenge Order Granting Five-Acre Plot to Muslims

• Tension prevails after mosque signboard damaged in UP’s Pratapgarh

• Govt Attempting ‘Invisible Partition’ Of Hindus and Muslims: Shiv Sena on Citizenship Bill

• SAD lauds Citizenship Bill, differs on exclusion of Muslims

• Aligarh Muslim University students reject Citizenship Amendment Bill

• Don’t unleash chaos: Citizenship Amendment Bill not only excludes Muslims but creates other complications

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Mideast

• Poverty Would Be Tackled In Muslim Countries with Zakat: Erdogan

• Ayatollah Sistani rejects Hosni Mubarak’s claim on disloyalty of Shiites to their homelands

• Released Professor: US No. 1 Enemy of Iranian People

• Bad tidings for Middle East’s religion-based political groups

• Lebanon’s Dar al-Fatwa Backs Hariri to Form New Cabinet, Khatib Withdraws

• Around 200 displaced Syrians leave Al-Hol camp: Kurds

• Physician Warns about Deteriorating Health Condition of Detained Nigerian Cleric

• President Rouhani: Iran’s Annual Budget Planned against Sanctions

• Zarif: Iranian Scientist Detained for US Anger at Iran’s Scientific Advancements

• Iranian Professor Back Home after 14 Months in US Jail

• Iran, Oman to Ease Financial Transactions

• Israeli Defence Minister Warns Islamic Republic That Syria ‘Will Become Your Vietnam’ Following Air Strike on Pro-Iran Militia

• UN Officials Block Syrian Christian Refugees from Getting Help

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South Asia

• Tanwir: I Would Marry Hazara Girls to Pashtoon Men If I Am In Power

• Nooristani’s son-in-law joins the president’s electoral team

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Europe

• General Election: Muslim Activists Target Tory Candidate with Leaflet Campaign

• Mufti Tells Khatib There's Sunni Consensus on Naming Hariri

• British Sikh peer seeks BBC apology for Lord Singh over radio ‘censorship’

• UK PM Johnson visits Hindu temple, vows to partner with PM Modi to build new India

• Before Florida attack, gunman showed off mass shooting videos

• Muslims must focus on political change outside party politics

• Russian forces bombed a mosque in Kafranbel city in Idlib, on December

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North America

• Washington DC: US Veterans Join Indian-Americans to Protest against Pakistan-Sponsored Terrorism

• Saudi gunman tweeted against US before naval base shooting

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Pakistan

• Investigators Fail To Resolve Mystery Behind Release Of Dua Mangi

• PM Imran to receive Bahrain's highest civil award: PM's special assistant

• Tareen denies PM Imran ordered details of £190m settlement sealed

• PML-N leader gets caught in NAB cross hairs

• Nawaz may be shifted to US for treatment on 16th

• HRCP team finds Gul Sama’s stoning claim false

• Will support forward bloc in Sindh PPP, says PTI leader

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Africa

• Imam Zakzaky: How Nigerian Cleric Became A Pawn In Gulf Power Struggle

• Largest Islamic party in Algeria decides rejects all presidential candidates

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Militant Groups In The Arab World Face A Gradual Decline And Most Arabs Oppose The Use Of Religion For Political Gain

CALINE MALEK & JUMANA KHAMIS

December 09, 2019

DUBAI: Militant groups in the Arab world face a gradual decline and most Arabs oppose the use of religion for political gain, a new survey suggests.

The appeal of extremists such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Daesh and the Taliban is likely to fade over the next 10 years, researchers found.

The survey indicates that most Arabs view corruption as the main problem in their home country and the leading cause of conflict in the Arab world.

Researchers also found overwhelming approval for developments in female empowerment such as Saudi women driving, and most Arabs expect further progress in their own countries in the next 10 years.

The survey’s findings on political Islam were “good news” for the region, said political science professor Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla. The Middle East had had enough of extremism and Arabs realized that political groups based on religion were “taking them nowhere,” Abdulla told Arab News.

“Indeed, we have seen the ugly face of it during the four to five years of Daesh’s control of large areas in Syria and Iraq. So it is natural to see there is a decline in the popularity of these parties. But much more important are the predictions that support for religious parties, whether moderate or extremist, is in sharp decline.

“People are becoming aware that there has been some kind of abuse and overuse of people’s emotions for political gains by these religious movements. The foremost is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is going through its worst moment.”

The YouGov survey was commissioned by Arab News in partnership with the Arab Strategy Forum, which takes place today in Dubai. The 12th annual event will explore events and trends expected over the next 10 years, with 18 key speakers including former ministers, government officials, industry experts, international strategists, writers and media professionals.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596156/middle-east

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Islamic and humanitarian law experts discuss preservation of human dignity in armed conflict

08 DECEMBER 2019

Cairo (Al-Azhar, ICRC) – Experts in Islamic studies and international humanitarian law participated in a two-day workshop during which they addressed and exchanged views on specific issues that abound because of protracted conflicts.

The workshop, entitled “Preservation of human dignity in armed conflict under IHL and Islamic law”, was jointly organized by Al-Azhar University, one of the oldest institutions of Islamic teaching and learning, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It was held at Al-Azhar Conference Center in Nasr City, Cairo.

Over 26 and 27 November 2019, sharia and law teachers from Al-Azhar and other Egyptian universities, scholars from Morocco, Iraq and Libya, and experts in humanitarian law focused their discussions on ways to protect civilians caught in the middle of armed conflicts, ensure humane treatment of detainees and work towards proper management of the dead.

Highlighting the important role played by religious leaders in promoting compliance with humanitarian law and alleviating the suffering of victims of armed conflict, his eminence professor Nazir Ayad, secretary general of Al Azhar Islamic Research Academy and Ronald Ofteringer, ICRC head of delegation for Egypt. stated that, “The protracted armed conflicts in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world have led to unprecedented human suffering that has not been seen since World War II. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, some 20 million have been displaced as refugees, cities have been destroyed and basic infrastructure stands devastated. One of the main reasons for this suffering is the fact that all parties to the conflict do not abide by the rules of international humanitarian law.”

“There are clear convergences between humanitarian law and Islamic law. Humanitarian rules are enshrined in the moral and legal codes of all religions and civilizations, including Islam.” they added.

The workshop aimed at reinforcing universal acceptance of IHL and highlighting the humanitarian values and provisions of protection enshrined in Islamic jurisprudence. Experts engaged in an academic-humanitarian debate on the provisions of these two important legal frameworks.

https://www.icrc.org/en/document/islamic-and-humanitarian-law-experts-discuss-preservation-human-dignity-armed-conflict

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‘Publicity gives us protection,’ says whistleblower in China crackdown on Uighur Muslims

December 8, 2019

Uighurs China detention camps, China Uighurs Muslims detention, Muslims detention camps in China, China Uighurs Muslims New York Times report

Written by Claire Moses and Elian Peltier

A Uighur woman living in the Netherlands said she helped leak secret Chinese government documents that shed light on how Beijing runs mass detention camps for Muslim ethnic minorities, recounting how she has lived in fear after receiving death threats for speaking out.

Asiye Abdulaheb, 46, told a Dutch newspaper that she was involved in the release of 24 pages of documents published by Western news outlets last month and was speaking out now to protect relatives from retaliation.

The documents, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and examined by journalists around the world, followed an earlier leak of 403 pages of internal papers to The New York Times that described how authorities created, managed and justified the continuing crackdown on as many as 1 million ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs.

Abdulaheb said she had decided to speak about her involvement in the leak even though it might endanger her or her family.

“I can handle the pressure, but I’m afraid that something will happen to my children and their father,” she told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. “We no longer sleep. We need more protection. Publicity gives us protection.”

Abdulaheb, who speaks Mandarin, said that she had worked for Chinese state institutions and that she moved to the Netherlands in 2009.

In an interview Saturday, she confirmed that she received and helped leak the 24 pages, but she did not explain how she obtained the documents.

The Dutch newspaper reported that Abdulaheb had “shaken with nerves” when she acquired the 24 pages of internal Chinese documents on her laptop this year. After she posted a screenshot of one of the documents on Twitter, a German researcher on Xinjiang, China — Adrian Zenz — reached out to her and confirmed the authenticity of the documents.

Those documents were later acquired by various news organizations, though Abdulaheb did not say how.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an independent nonprofit based in Washington, later partnered with 17 other organizations, including The New York Times, to publish revelations on internment camps based on the 24-page set of documents.

That article came a week after the Times published a report based on 403 leaked pages that shed light on the origins and expansion of the crackdown in Xinjiang. The Times report said the source of its documents was a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity.

In a statement Saturday, the consortium declined to say whether Abdulaheb was the source for its report. “ICIJ does not comment on its sources,” it said.

Uighur Muslims, China Uighur Muslims, Uighur Muslims China, Opinion, Indian Express FILE — A muezzin sounds the call to prayer from the roof of a mosque in Kashgar, in China’s far western province of Xinjiang, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Dean/The New York Times)

The two exposés sharpened international debate over the Chinese government’s intense crackdown across the region. Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party has overseen a wave of mass detentions in Xinjiang, driving up to 1 million members of largely Muslim minority groups, especially Uighurs, into indoctrination camps intended to drastically weaken their religious attachments and make them loyal to the party.

Initially, Chinese officials brushed away questions and reports about the detentions. But late last year, Beijing shifted its response: Chinese authorities have since acknowledged the existence of the program but defended the camps as job training centers that teach language and practical skills and that also warn people of the dangers of religious extremism.

Earlier this year, senior officials in Xinjiang said that many people had been released from the centers but gave no clear numbers to back up that assertion, which has been met with widespread skepticism among foreign experts and Uighurs abroad.

In previous decades, Xinjiang, in far northwest China, experienced tensions between largely Muslim ethnic minorities and China’s Han ethnic majority. About half the region’s population is made up of minority groups, mainly 11.7 million Uighurs and 1.6 million Kazakhs. Both groups’ language and culture set them apart from Han people.

In 2009, the year Abdulaheb left China, ethnic rioting erupted in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, and nearly 200 people were killed, most of them Han. China has cited that bloodshed and a succession of subsequent attacks on Chinese targets to defend its tough policies in Xinjiang.

The leaks have challenged the official Chinese position by revealing the coercive underpinnings of the camps and by hinting at dissent within the Chinese political system over the harsh policies in Xinjiang. Chinese government spokesmen and official media outlets have denounced the reports, calling them “fake news” and claiming they were part of a conspiracy to undermine stability in the region.

In the Netherlands, where Abdulaheb was raising two children, she began to post criticism of the crackdown on social media this past summer and started feeling more pressure, including death threats.

Abdulaheb’s description of harassment and threats, apparently from members of China’s security services, could not be independently verified. Still, her account fit a pattern that other Uighurs abroad have described. They have also recounted threats and pressure coming from China to remain silent or provide information to agents.

Despite such threats, growing numbers of Uighurs and Kazakhs have spoken out, often using Twitter and Facebook to publicize family members in Xinjiang who have disappeared, possibly into re-education camps or prisons.

The quiet campaign against Abdulaheb, however, seems to have been especially menacing. Abdulaheb issued an image of one of the documents on Twitter to catch the attention of foreign experts on Xinjiang. But her tweets may have also attracted the unwelcome attention of Chinese security officers.

In an interview Saturday, Zenz, the researcher, said that “going public makes her safer” from potential retaliation.

“So if something happens to her now, it will become a new story,” Zenz said. “Silence would have been so much worse.”

Abdulaheb told De Volkskrant that she now wanted to write essays about Uighur history, find work in the Netherlands and improve her Dutch language skills. She also said she felt relieved to have revealed her identity.

“These documents needed to be published,” she said, “even if it means the death of me.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/publicity-gives-us-protection-says-whistleblower-in-china-crackdown-on-uighur-muslims-6156097/

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‘Publicity gives us protection,’ says whistleblower in China crackdown on Uighur Muslims

December 8, 2019

Uighurs China detention camps, China Uighurs Muslims detention, Muslims detention camps in China, China Uighurs Muslims New York Times report

Written by Claire Moses and Elian Peltier

A Uighur woman living in the Netherlands said she helped leak secret Chinese government documents that shed light on how Beijing runs mass detention camps for Muslim ethnic minorities, recounting how she has lived in fear after receiving death threats for speaking out.

Asiye Abdulaheb, 46, told a Dutch newspaper that she was involved in the release of 24 pages of documents published by Western news outlets last month and was speaking out now to protect relatives from retaliation.

The documents, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and examined by journalists around the world, followed an earlier leak of 403 pages of internal papers to The New York Times that described how authorities created, managed and justified the continuing crackdown on as many as 1 million ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs.

Abdulaheb said she had decided to speak about her involvement in the leak even though it might endanger her or her family.

“I can handle the pressure, but I’m afraid that something will happen to my children and their father,” she told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. “We no longer sleep. We need more protection. Publicity gives us protection.”

Abdulaheb, who speaks Mandarin, said that she had worked for Chinese state institutions and that she moved to the Netherlands in 2009.

In an interview Saturday, she confirmed that she received and helped leak the 24 pages, but she did not explain how she obtained the documents.

The Dutch newspaper reported that Abdulaheb had “shaken with nerves” when she acquired the 24 pages of internal Chinese documents on her laptop this year. After she posted a screenshot of one of the documents on Twitter, a German researcher on Xinjiang, China — Adrian Zenz — reached out to her and confirmed the authenticity of the documents.

Those documents were later acquired by various news organizations, though Abdulaheb did not say how.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an independent nonprofit based in Washington, later partnered with 17 other organizations, including The New York Times, to publish revelations on internment camps based on the 24-page set of documents.

That article came a week after the Times published a report based on 403 leaked pages that shed light on the origins and expansion of the crackdown in Xinjiang. The Times report said the source of its documents was a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity.

In a statement Saturday, the consortium declined to say whether Abdulaheb was the source for its report. “ICIJ does not comment on its sources,” it said.

Uighur Muslims, China Uighur Muslims, Uighur Muslims China, Opinion, Indian Express FILE — A muezzin sounds the call to prayer from the roof of a mosque in Kashgar, in China’s far western province of Xinjiang, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Dean/The New York Times)

The two exposés sharpened international debate over the Chinese government’s intense crackdown across the region. Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party has overseen a wave of mass detentions in Xinjiang, driving up to 1 million members of largely Muslim minority groups, especially Uighurs, into indoctrination camps intended to drastically weaken their religious attachments and make them loyal to the party.

Initially, Chinese officials brushed away questions and reports about the detentions. But late last year, Beijing shifted its response: Chinese authorities have since acknowledged the existence of the program but defended the camps as job training centers that teach language and practical skills and that also warn people of the dangers of religious extremism.

Earlier this year, senior officials in Xinjiang said that many people had been released from the centers but gave no clear numbers to back up that assertion, which has been met with widespread skepticism among foreign experts and Uighurs abroad.

In previous decades, Xinjiang, in far northwest China, experienced tensions between largely Muslim ethnic minorities and China’s Han ethnic majority. About half the region’s population is made up of minority groups, mainly 11.7 million Uighurs and 1.6 million Kazakhs. Both groups’ language and culture set them apart from Han people.

In 2009, the year Abdulaheb left China, ethnic rioting erupted in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, and nearly 200 people were killed, most of them Han. China has cited that bloodshed and a succession of subsequent attacks on Chinese targets to defend its tough policies in Xinjiang.

The leaks have challenged the official Chinese position by revealing the coercive underpinnings of the camps and by hinting at dissent within the Chinese political system over the harsh policies in Xinjiang. Chinese government spokesmen and official media outlets have denounced the reports, calling them “fake news” and claiming they were part of a conspiracy to undermine stability in the region.

In the Netherlands, where Abdulaheb was raising two children, she began to post criticism of the crackdown on social media this past summer and started feeling more pressure, including death threats.

Abdulaheb’s description of harassment and threats, apparently from members of China’s security services, could not be independently verified. Still, her account fit a pattern that other Uighurs abroad have described. They have also recounted threats and pressure coming from China to remain silent or provide information to agents.

Despite such threats, growing numbers of Uighurs and Kazakhs have spoken out, often using Twitter and Facebook to publicize family members in Xinjiang who have disappeared, possibly into re-education camps or prisons.

The quiet campaign against Abdulaheb, however, seems to have been especially menacing. Abdulaheb issued an image of one of the documents on Twitter to catch the attention of foreign experts on Xinjiang. But her tweets may have also attracted the unwelcome attention of Chinese security officers.

In an interview Saturday, Zenz, the researcher, said that “going public makes her safer” from potential retaliation.

“So if something happens to her now, it will become a new story,” Zenz said. “Silence would have been so much worse.”

Abdulaheb told De Volkskrant that she now wanted to write essays about Uighur history, find work in the Netherlands and improve her Dutch language skills. She also said she felt relieved to have revealed her identity.

“These documents needed to be published,” she said, “even if it means the death of me.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/publicity-gives-us-protection-says-whistleblower-in-china-crackdown-on-uighur-muslims-6156097/

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Official claims people in China’s Muslim detainment camps have ‘graduated’ and are living ‘happy lives’

DEC 8 2019

People who were at vocational training centers in China’s far west Xinjiang have all “graduated” and are living happy lives, an official said Monday. But Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities from the region say their family members continue to be arbitrarily detained in camps and prisons.

Shohrat Zakir, Xinjiang’s Uighur governor, made the remarks during a press briefing as part of a strident propaganda campaign launched following U.S. Congress’ approval last week of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act.

“When the lives of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang were seriously threatened by terrorism, the U.S. turned a deaf ear,” Zakir said at a press briefing. “On the contrary, now that Xinjiang society is steadily developing and people of all ethnicities are living and working in peace, the U.S. feels uneasy, and attacks and smears Xinjiang.”

The U.S. legislation condemns the mass detentions of an estimated more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others. It also raises possible sanctions against Chinese government officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Former detainees and their relatives have told The Associated Press that the centers for “re-education” were essentially prisons where they were forced to renounce Islam and express gratitude to the ruling Communist Party. They were subject to indoctrination and torture, the detainees said.

While Chinese authorities have described the detentions as a form of vocational training, classified documents recently leaked to a consortium of news organizations revealed a deliberate strategy to lock up ethnic minorities even though they had not committed any crimes.

Xu Hairong, the Communist Party chief of Urumqi city, Xinjiang’s capital, did not dispute the documents’ authenticity. He said, however, that there was no such thing as “detention camps.”

“The reports by the New York Times, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other foreign media organizations are purely malicious attempts to smear and discredit Xinjiang’s vocational education centers and its counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts,” Xu said.

Officials have repeatedly declined to give a figure for how many people are in these centers, but they insist that it is far less than 1 million. Zakir said Monday that the number is “dynamic.”

All those in the centers who were studying Mandarin Chinese, law, vocational skills and de-radicalization have “graduated” and found stable employment, Zakir said, adding that others such as village officials, farmers and unemployed high school graduates continue to enroll on a rolling basis in programs that allow them to “come and go freely.”

Some ex-detainees have told The AP that they were forced to sign job contracts and barred from leaving factory grounds during weekdays, working long houses for low pay.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/09/china-again-slams-us-bill-condemning-muslim-detainment-camps.html

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AISPLB asks Centre to have Shias in Citizenship Amendment Bill

Dec 9, 2019

LUCKNOW: In a unanimous resolution passed on Sunday, the All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) asked the Centre to include Shia Muslims, who are facing persecution in various countries, in Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).

The Shia Board, which includes scores of Shia clerics from across the country, also asked the central government to re-think the National Register of Citizens.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/aisplb-asks-centre-to-have-shias-in-citizenship-amendment-bill/articleshow/72434026.cms

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As sanctions bear down, Iranian mullahs suppress a populace that wants more openness and opportunity

December 8, 2019

Just as every American should stand with the freedom-loving throngs in Hong Kong, every American should stand with the thousands of Iranians taking to the streets in Tehran and elsewhere, only to be met with brute force, a choked-off internet and a government that funds terrorism and nuclear ambitions rather than answering their crying economic needs.

Analysts can debate the precise role American sanctions, introduced after President Trump discarded the Obama-brokered nuclear deal, have played in unleashing the unrest. What they must not minimize is the dismal condition of the long-suffering populace and their yearning for a better way.

As oil exports have cratered, Iran’s economy has imploded. GDP is shrinking. Hyperinflation is devaluing earnings.

The crowds raising their voices cut across class and ethnic divides.

A communications blackout and brutal crackdown that has taken hundreds lives, seems to only be emboldening the people as they demand an end to the theocracy that has kept them under its yoke for four decades now.

President Trump last week stepped on himself, first answering the question “Does the United States support these protesters in Iran?” with a flat “no,” later tweeting “The United States of America supports the brave people of Iran who are protesting for their FREEDOM.” The contradiction was rich coming from a White House that had vowed not to repeat Obama’s supposedly “shameful” failure to buck up protesters.

But American stumbles look small alongside a proud Iranian march toward something like liberty.

https://www.twincities.com/2019/12/08/other-voices-as-sanctions-bear-down-iranian-mullahs-suppress-a-populace-that-wants-more-openness-and-opportunity/

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Myanmar leader heads to Hague for Rohingya Muslim genocide hearings

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi departed the nation’s capital for The Hague on Sunday to defend the government in the UN’s high court against charges that it committed genocide against the country's Rohingya Muslims, Reuters reports.

The big picture: Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has defended Myanmar's military crackdown as a legitimate response to Rohingya militants, despite international condemnation. More than 700,000 have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh as a result of a campaign that the UN said was executed with “genocidal intent," according to Reuters.

What to watch: During three days of hearings starting on Dec. 10, Gambia will ask the 16-member panel of UN judges overseeing the case to impose measures to protect the Rohingya people before the case can be heard in full.

Suu Kyi, who remains popular in Myanmar, met the evening before her departure with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Both countries pledged stronger ties, and Suu Kyi thanked China for defending Myanmar's national sovereignty by opposing foreign interference.

https://www.axios.com/myanmar-aung-san-suu-kyi-rohingya-muslim-un-9e36a76b-562d-4ca5-8080-5b6035cdc25d.html

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ADL downplays anti-Semitism among European Muslims

(December 8, 2019 / JNS) Cardiologist Vera Kosova, a German Jewish immigrant from Uzbekistan, provided these balanced, lucid insights on Western European anti-Semitism during an interview at the Frankfurt Book Fair (Oct. 16 to Oct. 20):

“It is important that the anti-Semitism debate be led openly, honestly and broadly. There’s a right-wing anti-Semitism; there’s a left-wing anti-Semitism, and there is Muslim anti-Semitism. Muslim anti-Semitism clearly dominates in the statistics, and also does especially among the surveys done among the Jews.”

A lone study of its kind, conducted in 2012 by FRA – European Union for Fundamental Rights to assess violence and violent threats targeting Jews, bolsters Dr. Kosova’s contention. Uniquely, the FRA study queried Jewish victims of anti-Semitic attacks and threats about the identity of their attackers.

The study found that such attacks were anywhere from three to 13 times more likely to come from Muslims than from those with “extremist right-wing views.” Furthermore, with the lone exception of Germany, where the numbers of left-wing vs. right-wing attacks were essentially equal, the study found that left-wing Anti-Semitic violence or threatened violence also exceeded right-wing anti-Semitic violence or threatened violence.

Violent acts or threats from by those with “Christian extremist” views were negligible in absolute terms and even more so relative to “Muslim extremists.”

A month after Dr. Kosova’s interview, on Nov. 21, the Anti-Defamation League released its 2019 survey data on the occurrence of extreme anti-Semitism in 18 countries, assessed between April 15 and June 3, 2019. Six of these countries—Belgium, The United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France and Italy—included a Muslim over-sample, allowing for a direct comparison of Muslims vs. Christians, those professing no religion, and the overall populations.

ADL’s own press release stated:

“Muslim acceptance of anti-Semitic stereotypes was substantially higher than among the national populations—on average almost three times as high—in the six countries tested: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and The United Kingdom”

However, the ADL downplayed these striking findings in its press release, listing them as the last of six bullet points.

The ADL also failed to note how compared to Western European Christians, specifically, Muslims were also some three times more likely to harbor extreme anti-Semitic attitudes as gauged by agreeing with at least six of 11 anti-Semitic stereotypes queried.

Given the worldwide pandemic of Muslim anti-Semitism ADL’s 2014 global survey revealed, it is imperative to acknowledge and hold accountable the most authoritative, mainstream Islamic religious teaching institutions—Sunni and Shi’ite alike—that continue to promote canonical Islam’s most virulently anti-Semitic tropes from the Koran and the traditions of Islam’s prophet Muhammad.

Sunni Islam’s Vatican, Al-Azhar University, and its previous and current Grand Imam papal equivalents, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (d. 2010), and Ahmad al-Tayeb, respectively, epitomize these trends.

Tantawi, arguably the greatest modern commentator on the Koran, in addition to serving as Al-Azhar Grand Imam from 1996 until his death in 2010, provided this summary gloss on the Koranic depiction of Jews, emphasizing its timeless relevance:

“[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah [see Koran 2:61/ 3:112 ], corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places [4:46], consuming the people’s wealth frivolously [4:161], refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do [3:120; 5:79], and other ugly characteristics  caused by their deep-rooted (lascivious) envy [2:109] … only a minority of the Jews keep their word … [A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims [3:113], the bad ones do not.”

More ominously, Tantawi’s exhaustive modern analysis of Islam’s defining, canonical sources concludes by sanctioning bigoted—even violent—Muslim behaviors towards Jews, to “rid them of their evil.”

Tantawi’s successor, current Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, shares Tantawi’s Jew-hating virulence. Al-Tayeb has labeled the Jews eternal Koranic enemies (per Koran 5:82), blamed Jews for the rise of Islamic State and other jihadist groups, and claims “the issue of anti-Semitism is a lie.” Not surprisingly, both Tantawi and Tayeb (then Al-Azhar mufti) sanctioned homicide bombing against Israel’s Jews even in the immediate aftermath of the horrific Netanya Passover massacre in March, 2002.

Such “sacralized” hatred, preached authoritatively by the avatars of institutional Islam, continues to fuel the global pandemic of Muslim anti-Semitism, and is being promulgated unchallenged. The abject failure of Jewish and other religious and civic leaders to denounce this institutionalized Islamic Jew-hatred is a lingering disgrace.

https://www.jns.org/opinion/adl-downplays-anti-semitism-among-european-muslims/

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Muslim Girl, Duaa Ahmad, Praised For Opening Mosque to Students During School Attack

Sunday, 08 December 2019

Duaa Ahmad, a senior at Oshkosh West High School, is seen in the footage ushering her classmates in to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's Oshkosh chapter mosque, where she is a member.

Ahmad told ABC News that she “felt a little fear” but she felt like it “had to be done."

The mosque is across the street from the high school, where police said an armed student stabbed a school officer during an incident before being shot by the officer.

Both the student and officer were treated at a hospital for non-life threatening injuries, according to police.

Ahmad said a teacher told students to run from the campus minutes before the incident, but they had no idea why.

"It could have been anything. That fact that we didn't know caused even more anxiety," the Muslim teen said.

"I'm lucky that I was in that place when that situation ensued, and I'm just grateful that I was able to enter the code and let as many people in," she added.

In a post on its Facebook account, the Oshkosh Ahmadiyya Muslims group praised Ahmad for her quick thinking and said, "our doors are always open."

It was the second shooting to take place in a high school in Wisconsin in two days.

The shootings, both involving resource officers, have sparked a renewed debate about gun violence and the role of armed teachers or police in American schools.

Tony Evers, Wisconsin's Democratic governor, called the incidents “breathtaking and tragic”. 

There has been an average of one shooting per week in schools across the US this year.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/12/08/613159/Muslim-girl-mosque-school-shooting

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Police suspect militant outfits behind student’s kidnapping in DHA

Imtiaz Ali

December 09, 2019

KARACHI: Police found evidence that those kidnapped a 20-year-old law student in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) were also engaged in a shoot-out with police in Gulshan-i-Iqbal a day before her safe release, it emerged on Sunday.

They also suspected the involvement of some elements belonging to militant outfits in the kidnapping incident.

Dua Mangi was kidnapped by four armed men, who first shot her friend Haris Soomro and then escaped in a car in Khayaban-i-Bukhari, DHA, on Nov 30. The girl was freed and reached home safely on early Saturday morning.

The spent bullet casing found at the scene of Dua’s abduction was sent for a forensic analysis. It matched with the spent bullet casings found at the NIPA traffic intersection, where on Dec 3 an encounter took place between policemen and armed motorcyclists.

Investigators believe Dua Mangi and Bisma were abducted and freed by the same group

Narrating details of the encounter, Aziz Bhatti SHO Adeel Afzal told Dawn that on Thursday night four policemen were patrolling in Gulshan-i-Iqbal on two motorbikes when they signalled two masked men riding a motorbike at around 11:30pm. However, the suspects resorted to indiscriminate firing and the police returned fire.

The suspects managed to escape, but in the exchange of gunfire Constable Arsalan sustained five bullet wounds and was taken to a hospital, where his condition is said to be stable now.

The area SHO said that they suspected that one of the attackers was also wounded.

Ballistic matching

A police officer told Dawn that one spent bullet casing found at the crime scene in DHA on Nov 30 and five spent bullet casings of the Gulshan encounter were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory.

An analysis at the lab confirmed that all the six bullets were fired from a same weapon, the source said, adding that

investigators suspected that the criminals were possibly in the Gulshan neighbourhood to collect the ransom amount before freeing Dua.

He recalled that in a previous kidnapping incident, in which a girl named Bisma was abducted in a similar fashion from the same Defence neighbourhood in May, the kidnappers had collected the ransom money just about 200 metres away from the scene of Thursday’s encounter.

Security officials believed that a ‘professional criminal gang’ was involved in the kidnapping of Dua as well as Bisma.

Dua’s family not cooperating

Sources said that the statement of the kidnapped girl or her family could not be recorded on Sunday as reportedly the family was not cooperating or sharing any information with police.

However, columnist Aijaz Mangi, who is girl’s maternal uncle, told a section of media that Dua was not in a position to give any statement.

“When her condition improves, she will definitely give a statement to the police,” he said.

He claimed that the police had so far not contacted the family for recording the statement.

Recalling similarities between the Bisma and Dua kidnappings, the police officer opined that it was significant to note that the kidnappers did not mistreat Bisma and there were also reports that they did not mistreat Dua in their captivity.

‘Militant elements’

The officer suggested that the manner with which the kidnappers executed their plan, abducted both the girls and then treated their captives suggested that they might belong to some militant outfits.

He said that the kidnappers had targeted both the girls apparently because of their appearance as they considered them as a “fashionable person who don’t follow Islamic traditions or conventions”.

The kidnappers appeared to be sophisticated who were familiar with the use of modern technology.

The officer hinted that the kidnappers might belong to one of the militant groups as they were experts of modern technology.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521251/police-suspect-militant-outfits-behind-students-kidnapping-in-dha

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Arab World

 

Arabs fed up with corruption, survey suggests

JUMANA KHAMIS

December 09, 2019

DUBAI: Corruption is considered by a large majority of Arabs to be one of the major problems facing their home country, according to an Arab News-Arab Strategy Forum public opinion research study.

The survey, conducted in 18 countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, found that out of 3,079 respondents, a combined average of 57 percent said corruption is the leading problem in their home country. The study, which was carried out by YouGov, also found that Arabs see corruption as the leading cause of conflict in the Arab world.

Independent experts consider corruption, whether grand, petty or political, to be a leading factor behind the wave of protests sweeping the region.

Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, said that “outrage over corruption and financial mismanagement by governments” has underpinned mass protests in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon over the past two months.

Imad Salamey, associate professor of political science at the Lebanese American University, said corruption was “the source of a legitimacy deficit” that sparked the 2011 protest movements known as the Arab Spring.

Corruption is not an “isolated” phenomenon but widely prevalent in the region, Salamey said, adding that it is “a product of weak and unaccountable governments that lack institutional checks and balances.”

He cited Tunisia and Lebanon as examples of corrupt countries where “nepotistic networks” are linked to politicians.

By contrast, he attributed Lebanon’s “rampant corruption” to the country’s political elite placing “incompetent followers (belonging to their own sects) in public offices in exchange for loyalties.”

However, Salamey argued that “yet more serious corruption is associated with political leaders who grant immunity to illicit networks involved in cross-border armed smuggling and drug harvesting.”

The YouGov study shows that nationals of economically challenged Arab states are the most worried about corruption, with 63 percent selecting it as a top concern.

In the GCC countries, just under half of respondents (48 percent) named corruption as the top problem, while in the Levant this rose to 57 percent and was still higher in North Africa (64 percent).

The findings suggest that corruption is seen as more blameworthy by people in struggling economies such as Egypt, Salamey said. The same cannot be said about the oil-rich states, he told Arab News, since these countries find it relatively easy to make good any losses caused by corruption.

Abeer Alnajjar, a professor at the American University of Sharjah and researcher in Middle East politics, described corruption as a “marriage of convenience” between business and politics in the MENA region.

Abuse of power for private gain has not only helped tip many countries into the category of fragile or failed states, but its ripple effect also causes considerable hardship to large segments of the population, including women and marginalized people.

“Corruption is feeding on the lack of political and economic accountability of Arab political and business leaders,” said Alnajjar.

Arab countries with transparency watchdogs designed to enforce accountability are no different in the sense that their political and economic structures are likely to be interconnected.

In the YouGov poll, 65 percent of respondents in Iraq and 53 percent in Lebanon listed corruption as one their country’s top problems.

The two nationalities were also the most conclusive in thinking that religion is affecting their country’s political decisions, with 75 percent in Iraq and 57 percent in Lebanon agreeing with the statement.

Talking about the two countries, Alnajjar said that both have suffered from sectarianism and other forms of political and religious polarization for decades.

“The good news,” she said, “is that people in Lebanon and Iraq have realized that sectarianism is just an instrument of the rich and the powerful to divert their attention from their real enemies — corrupt politicians and complacent business leaders.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596116/middle-east

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Saudi Arabia among top 10 in UN’s e-commerce index

December 09, 2019

RIYADH: The UN e-commerce index ranked Saudi Arabia among the top 10 countries in the e-commerce sector.

The index, issued by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, ranked the Kingdom 49th in the global ranking, rising three places in the general index.

The report indicated that the improvement achieved by the Kingdom came from two criteria: The proportion of Internet use — which has risen to 93 percent — and the rising postal reliability standard.

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha said that this achievement came as a result of unlimited support from the leadership.

He added that the ministry works with partners to develop the Kingdom’s digital capabilities to invest in the growth of future projects in order to achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plans.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596101/saudi-arabia

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King Salman, Al-Zayani review agenda of GCC Supreme Council's 40th session

December 08, 2019

Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), called on King Salman at his palace in Riyadh on Sunday.

During the meeting, they reviewed issues on the agenda of the 40th session of the Supreme Council of GCC. They also discussed ways to enhance the GCC’s role and joint action for the betterment of the region.

GCC leaders will meet in Riyadh on Tuesday (Dec. 10). King Salman will chair the session of the organization’s supreme council.

The leaders will discuss a number of important issues relating to defense, economics and law.

The GCC Supreme Council is composed of the heads of the member states. It is the highest decision-making entity of the GCC, setting its vision and goals.

Decisions on substantive issues require unanimous approval, while issues on procedural matters require a majority. Each member of the organization has one vote.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596056/saudi-arabia

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Saudi jewelry designers reach sales worth SR10m via online shopping

December 08, 2019

JEDDAH: Saudi specialists have revealed precautionary measures that should be taken during the purchasing process of jewelry and precious metal at the national competition for gold and jewelry “Watan mn Dahab,” which concluded on Friday at the Jeddah Hilton Hotel.

Estimated yearly sales of Saudi jewelry designers via online shopping reached SR10 million ($2.7 million), but the experts have still urged caution, and spoke to visitors at the event on how to secure themselves against commercial fraud. 

In the “Jewelry Online Shopping” conference, jeweler Rami Bawajeeh reviewed designers’ needs, such as metals, stones, design, drawing, clarification and description. He also reviewed the importance of learning presentation skills, sales, pricing, and the constant update of information.

He stressed the importance of online shopping, which represents the future of sales in the world of gold and jewelry, and enables new opportunities in e-commerce.

Bawajeeh advised jewelry designers to acquire new skills and experience to keep up with the Saudi market’s developments. He said he expected substantial growth of up to 200 percent in the next five years, amid the electronic transformation in the Kingdom and the spread of social media platforms and modern technologies. 

The supervisor of creative design at the advertising department of the University of Business and Technology in Jeddah, Safa Merheb, spoke about creating and designing advertisements for jewelry during a lecture on the topic. She said precious metals required special care to highlight their characteristics, and further attract the public to buy them.

Jewelry designer Effat Bahmeddin presented the international standards for jewelry design during an interactive workshop about “metal formation through drawing and coloring”. She highlighted the fundamental principles recognized for coloring and drawing, and stressed the importance of studying to support talent in order to reach excellence and success in the sector of gold and jewelry.

Chadi Mohammed Al-Mofleh, operation manager at Solitaire Laboratories, spoke about the importance of securing consumers against commercial fraud, through a thorough examination of jewelry, in the “Your Guide to Buying Jewelry” lecture. He spoke about classifying diamonds, processed diamonds, industrial diamonds, precious stones and precious metals.

He addressed how to ensure jewelry’s purity upon purchase, the major components for each piece, and modern techniques used in the diamond and precious stones industry which make the detection of natural stones difficult for experts without the use of sophisticated equipment. He noted the necessity of sending precious stones, diamonds and jewelry to laboratories and issuing a certification to protect the buyer and merchant equally.

Jewelry designer Dalal Al-Aqeel told her success story. She started in 2015 and overcame many challenges to reach an international level, and launch her brand Talida Jewellery. She noted that her goal was to create unconventional jewelry to keep pace with the market and satisfy the desires of women looking for sophistication and excellence.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596001/saudi-arabia

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Saudi minister receives head of Iranian Hajj organization

December 08, 2019

MAKKAH: The Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Salih Bentin received today in his office in Makkah Ali Reza Rashidian, head of the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization in Iran in preparation of the upcoming season.

The meeting was attended by Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, deputy minister for Hajj and Umrah in the Kingdom, and a number of Saudi officials.

Bentin and Rashidian signed a treaty related to the arrival of Iranian pilgrims.

Bentin confirmed in a press conference “the keenness of the government of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to provide all necessary facilities for pilgrims coming from around the world.”

In addition, he expressed his thanks to Iranian pilgrims and their cooperation during the last Hajj season, and their dedication to their religious rituals, serenity and peace.

Rashidian expressed his thanks for the reception and hospitality, and expressed his best wishes for the success of the upcoming Hajj season, as was the case in previous years.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1595971/saudi-arabia

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Kuwaiti Shia cleric sentenced to 5 years in prison

December 8, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The Kuwaiti Court of Appeals has issued a definitive ruling on the imprisonment of top Shiite cleric.

According to this strange verdict, the term of Sheikh al-Mutuq's imprisonment is 5 years.

According to the Kuwaiti court, he is accused of "espionage for Iran" and this action has been identified as harming Kuwaiti political and social interests.

He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, along with another person, whose name and identity were not mentioned.

It is noteworthy that Sheikh al-Mutaq is a member of the Supreme Council of the Secretary-General of AhlulBayt (a.s.) World Assembly.

The issuance of this unfair verdict has caused a lot of negative reactions in various parts of the world and statements of outrage and hatred have been issued by organizations and individuals.

https://en.abna24.com/news//kuwaiti-shia-cleric-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison_992273.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Dikir barat singer starts solo cycling expedition to explore 41 mosques in Kelantan

09/12/2019

KOTA BHARU, Dec 9 -- A popular ‘dikir barat’ singer in Kelantan, Mohamad Afandi Mohamad, today began a three-day solo cycling expedition to explore 41 mosques in the state.

Mohamad Afandi, 35, better known by his stage name ‘Fendi Kenali’, started the 160-kilometre solo cycling journey at Sultan Ismail Petra Mosque in Kubang Kerian here, and is expected to travel through six districts namely Kota Bharu, Tumpat, Pasir Mas, Tanah Merah, Machang and Pasir Puteh.

"The journey is expected to take three days but it depends on the weather," he told reporters when met at the mosque.

The father of five said he chose to visit mosques to draw more people, especially youngsters, to these houses of worship.

"The mosques include Muhammadi, Langgar, Sultan Ismail Petra and Al-Ismaili in Pasir Pekan (Tumpat),” he said.

Mohamad Afandi said he would also handed over aid to the needy and flood victims along the journey.

http://www.bernama.com/en/general/news.php?id=1797707

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Billions lost in defence procurement scandals

Dennis Ignatius

December 9, 2019

Reading the long and never-ending litany of malfeasance, corruption and incompetence in our nation is always a frightfully depressing affair.

It has become so commonplace that even the public has become blasé about it. But we cannot afford to just roll our eyes, mutter under our collective breath and move on; it is, after all, our money that is being plundered.

Of course, it is encouraging to see former leaders like Najib Razak, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, among others, in the dock on charges of corruption and abuse of power. But anyone who thinks that this signals a new toughness against corruption in Malaysia should think again.

1MDB, as horrific as it was, was only the tip of the iceberg, part of a pattern of systematic plunder that has plagued the nation for decades. Worryingly, it is an iceberg that many of today’s leaders prefer not to see, perhaps because it might wash too close to shore.

Take, for example, recent news reports concerning the RM300 million deal to acquire lightweight combat helicopters from American aerospace giant McDonnell Douglas (MD). Two were to have been delivered in July 2017 with the remaining four in December last year.

To date, 35% of the contract value – RM112.65 million – has already been paid but there’s still no sign of the helicopters. It was reported that the local company appointed as the agent for the purchase had its dealership rights terminated by MD. The government might now cancel the project and seek to recover the monies already paid. Good luck with that.

Strangely, when discussing the issue in Parliament, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu was quoted as saying, “If the helicopters are delivered and the Armed Forces refuse to use them, discussions will be held with other ministries on how they can be utilised.”

He did not explain why the Armed Forces might refuse to accept them but, in any case, which other ministry would have need for combat helicopters? Perhaps Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof might need a few to shoot down out-of-control flying cars.

In the meantime, the RMAF’s fleet of Nuri (Sea King) helicopters has been grounded following the crash of a Nuri in early August this year due to an “unspecified technical fault.” Press reports indicate that the air force is now looking to lease helicopters to replace the grounded fleet.

Coming, as it does, after the defence minister admitted last year that only four of the 28 Russian fighter jets in the RMAF’s inventory are actually able to fly, it does raise questions about the ability of the RMAF to adequately maintain its aircraft.

And then there’s the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) which seems to be the victim of one procurement disaster after another.

In 1998, an Umno-linked company which had never built anything but trawlers and police boats before, was awarded a RM4.9 billion contract to supply six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) to the RMN by 2006. The project was plagued by delays, shoddy workmanship and cost overruns which pushed the final price tag to RM6.75 billion.

It was also discovered that the defence ministry had paid RM4.26 billion in advance to the contractor even though the progress of work done amounted to only RM2.87 billion.

After an 18-month delay, two OPVs, poorly finished and full of flaws, were delivered; it chalked up 298 complaints in its first few months of operation. Reports at the time indicated that it had even failed initial sea trials.

But apparently, we learned nothing from the OPV fiasco because we are embroiled once again in another naval procurement scandal. In October 2013, the government signed an agreement with another local shipyard to supply six littoral combat ships (LCS). The first vessels were to have been delivered in December last year.

The defence minister recently confirmed in parliament that RM6 billion has already been paid but there’s still no sign of the ships. Delivery has now apparently been pushed back to 2023. The minister also hinted that the government might have to pay an additional RM1.4 billion to ensure full completion of the contract.

Explaining the delay, the defence minister said the contractor had failed to submit complete designs, failed to acquire the necessary equipment and failed to adhere to design specifications. If this is true, it would mean that the taxpayers will be paying an extra RM1.4 billion to compensate the company for its own incompetence and negligence.

At the end of the day, having spent billions on defence, we are left with aircraft that cannot fly, helicopters that are grounded, submarines that have problems diving, and ships that exist only on paper. What is the point in tabling grandiose white papers on defence in parliament when we cannot even keep our air and naval assets operational and cannot properly manage the acquisition of needed assets? It’s an absolute disgrace!

And here’s the amazing thing: despite the corruption, mismanagement, malfeasance and incompetence involved, despite the annual auditor-general’s reports and the findings of the Public Accounts Committee, not a single politician, senior general, senior civil servant or CEO has ever been taken to task, leave alone charged, for malfeasance, corruption or dereliction of duty.

Instead, the cabinet, on many occasions, waived late delivery penalties, topped up payments and generally went out of its way to avoid sanctioning the contractors concerned. The cabinet seemed more interested in protecting and helping out cronies than in safeguarding the interests of the nation and giving our men and women in uniform the equipment and support they deserve.

In other democracies, those involved in such scandals would have been charged for malfeasance or at the very least ranked over coals by parliament; but here, we award them with titles, reward them with high paying positions in government-linked companies or allow them to run around making political deals and holiday abroad with key cabinet ministers.

The fact is we’ve created a corrupt system of acquisition that enables politicians to channel lucrative defence projects to cronies who inflate prices but cannot deliver on their commitments, all in the name of promoting bumiputera empowerment. Call it anything you want but there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a gigantic scam that has enabled unscrupulous politicians and their cronies to rake in billions at the expense of taxpayers.

Of course, all these issues took place during the former Barisan Nasional administration; the question now is what is Pakatan Harapan going to do about it? Are they going to clean house once and for all or continue mollycoddling the cronies at the expense of the people? This is particularly important as the government is currently mulling new big-ticket defence acquisitions including next-generation fighter aircraft, trainers and helicopters as well as naval assets.

As well, by the looks of things, some of the old cronies appear to be making a comeback, hungry for new opportunities for plunder.

When the OPV scandal came to light in 2007, Lim Guan Eng, then in opposition, angrily questioned why cabinet approved the increase in contract price twice from RM4.9 billion to RM6.75 billion or 38% even though the OPVs were either not delivered or fully operational at the time. Hopefully, now that he is finance minister, he might be able to prevent history from repeating itself.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/12/09/billions-lost-in-defence-procurement-scandals/

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25,000 Pakistan Muslims visit Kartarpur Sahib

09th December 2019

CHANDIGARH: More than 25,000 Muslims visited the Durbar Sahib Gurdwara in Kartarpur after the Pakistan government permitted its citizens to the holy shrine.

Sources said more than 25,000 Muslims visited Durbar Sahib Gurdwara and the ‘Bridge of Peace’, as the corridor is being called, last week. The Muslim pilgrims could only pay obeisance at the grave of Guru Nanak. Only the portion of the gurdwara complex where the Sikh guru was laid to rest by Muslims is open for members of the community to pay obeisance. They are not allowed inside the ‘Sukhasan’ building where the Guru Granth Sahib is kept.

However, they are allowed to pray near the temple complex. The Muslim visitors paid Rs 200 in Pakistani currency as fee and had to flash a valid identity card before they were allowed inside the temple complex. Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan, have, however, been exempted from paying this fee.

Sources said as many as 1,462 pilgrims visited the shrine on November 24, the biggest single-day footfall recorded so far. Before November 24, the pilgrims numbered in their hundreds. A total of 562 pilgrims visited Kartarpur Sahib on November 9, the day the corridor on the Indian side was opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On November 10, 11 and 12, the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the pilgrims numbered 229, 122 and 546 respectively.

While the number of Indians taking the trip across the border has seen a steady climb since the Pakistan government opened the Kartarpur corridor, the Indian Army has issued guidelines for its personnel visiting the Sikh shrine.

The Army has advised its jawans to be extra cautious while visiting the shrine across the border, as they would run into Pakistani security personnel and other foreigners.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/dec/09/25000-pakistan-muslims-visit-kartarpur-sahib-2073434.html

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Ayodhya verdict: Hindu Mahasabha to challenge order granting five-acre plot to Muslims

The Hindu Mahasabha on Monday said it will file a review petition challenging the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict, ANI reported.

Lawyer for the right-wing outfit, Vishnu Jain, said they will challenge the top court’s decision to allocate a five-acre plot elsewhere in Ayodhya for the construction of a new mosque.

On November 9, the top court’s five-judge Constitution bench had asked the Centre to set up a trust within three months to oversee the construction of a Ram temple at the site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood till 1992.

This will be the first review petition from the Hindu side. So far, six review petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court. On December 2, the first review petition in the case was filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and five other petitions were filed on Friday with the support of All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

The petition said since it was an undisputed fact that Muslims were praying at the site till December 16, 1949, and had entered the mosque through the outer courtyard, Hindus had never been in exclusive possession of the site. “The court erred in not considering that there was a dedication of the mosque which was self-evident from the inscriptions,” it said, adding that “the judgment erred in holding that the Waqf was not established by ‘user’ though continuous possession and prayer were shown at all times”.

One of the review petitions said that despite acknowledging several illegalities committed by the Hindu parties, including the destruction of the mosque at the disputed site, the top court had condoned them and granted the land to them.

The Sunni Waqf Board, which was one of the major litigants in the dispute, has decided against a review.

https://scroll.in/latest/946255/ayodhya-verdict-hindu-mahasabha-to-challenge-order-granting-five-acre-plot-to-muslims

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Tension prevails after mosque signboard damaged in UP’s Pratapgarh

December 9, 2019

Unidentified people ripped off a signboard indicating the direction of the Jama Masjid in  Pratapgarh district’s  Chaukhara village on Sunday. Tension prevails in the area because of this incident.

About 300 villagers gathered on Khiribir Road and claimed that the board had been deliberately damaged and demanded action against people responsible for it.

A police team from Kanhai police station was rushed to the spot and Inspector RK Singh told reporters that a case under Section 427 of the IPC had been lodged against unidentified persons.

Section 427 deals with mischief committed knowingly or intentionally to cause the loss of another person. It says: “whoever commits mischief and thereby causes loss or damage to the amount of fifty rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

According to the police, preliminary investigation and circumstantial evidence indicated a possible vehicle collision.

“A speeding vehicle may have hit the signboard at night and flattened it. There are also collision marks on a temporary tea stall near the board,” said police.

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/tension-prevails-mosque-signboard-damaged-1502831432.html

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Govt attempting ‘invisible partition’ of Hindus and Muslims: Shiv Sena on Citizenship Bill

December 9, 2019

Ahead of the introduction of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) in Lok Sabha on Monday, the Shiv Sena has accused the Government of attempting an “invisible partition” of Hindus and Muslims.

The former BJP ally, in an editorial in its mouthpiece, ‘Saamana’, further questioned the Centre on whether “selective acceptance” of Hindu illegal immigrants will act as a trigger for a religious war in the country.

“It is true that there is no other country for Hindus except Hindustan. But by accepting only Hindus among the illegal immigrants, will it be a trigger of a religious war in the country?” the Sena wondered.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) is set to be tabled in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, has already faced cold vibes from the opposition with the Congress calling it “unconstitutional”.

Minority outfits too have lashed out against the Bill for leaving out Muslims and also on the ground that it is at odds with the Constitution, which does not differentiate between citizens on the basis of their faith.

If the bill is passed in the Parliament, it will amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 that requires applicants to have resided in India for 11 of the previous 14 years. The amendment seeks to relax this requirement from 11 years to 6 years.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led party said “vote bank politics” under the garb of the CAB is not in the interest of the country.

The party also questioned the timing of the bill.

“There is no dearth of problems in India now but still we are inviting new ones such as CAB. It looks like the Centre has made an invisible partition of Hindus and Muslims over the bill,” it said.

Senior party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut has said that while “illegal intruders must be thrown out and immigrant Hindus must be given citizenship”, they should not be given voting rights to “give rest” to allegations of “creating vote bank”.

The CAB has drawn opposition from various quarters, especially from Northeast leaders.

In Assam, the proposed amendment has raised concern as the local leaders believe it will nullify the 1985 Assam Accord, which set March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for identification and deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

Mizoram leaders are opposing the CAB on the ground that it would make Buddhist Chakma refugees Indian citizens. Even people from Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have opposed the proposed legislation.

Meanwhile, the BJP has issued a 3-line whip to all its members of parliament (MPs) to attend the session from December 9-11 to “support Government stand” on a slew of bills that the treasury bench is slated to move.

Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi, while speaking to reporters on Monday, said that the bill is in the interest of the northeast states and the country and added that it will get a nod from both the Houses of the Parliament.

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/govt-attempting-invisible-partition-hindus-muslims-shiv-sena-citizenship-bill-1502831431.html

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SAD lauds Citizenship Bill, differs on exclusion of Muslims

Dec 08, 2019

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has appreciated the NDA government’s decision to bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill for clearance in the Parliament on Monday.

The SAD said a long-pending demand of the party had been accepted, but simultaneously urged that the Bill should cover all persecuted people irrespective of religion. “Keeping in view the country’s socialistic, secular and democratic credentials as well as humanitarian principles, Muslims should not be excluded from the Bill on the basis of religion,” it said in a statement after a meeting of the party’s core committee at Badal village in Muktsar on Sunday.

The meeting presided over by SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the NDA government had fulfilled the demand of the Akali Dal as well as all minorities, including Sikhs, Hindus, Jain, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians, who had fled religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and taken refuge in India. Sukhbir said the party had been raising the issue of more than 75,000 Sikhs who fled Afghanistan more than 30 years back and were living in Delhi in dire straits. “Sikhs and Hindus and even people from other communities had fled Pakistan and Bangladesh and sought refuge in India but were denied rights. “The Bill not only franchises them but also protects their life and liberty as per the constitution of the country,” he said.

The core committee said efforts should be made to encompass all persecuted people under the Bill and not to have any distinction based on religion.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/chandigarh/sad-lauds-citizenship-bill-differs-on-exclusion-of-muslims/story-9lAe0nc7sA4QB9T5plCY8L.html

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Aligarh Muslim University students reject Citizenship Amendment Bill

Dec 8, 2019

AGRA: Students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) have unequivocally rejected the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, that aims to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and shuts India’s doors for Muslims.

According to a statement, issued by the students, "this bill is a threat to the fundamentals of India, and those supporting the bill are anti-national and want to break India in the name of religion. The political parties that support this divisive bill are a threat to the unity and integrity of India. India was born on the basis of equality and explicit prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion, and this bill is an attempt to alter the foundations of India".

The students further dubbed the bill as a product of an "obnoxious mindset" that functions on the basis of cultural assimilation and hate, and wants to rob India of its constitution and diversity.

Former students’ union members condemned the mindset behind the bill and asked all stakeholders in peace and unity of the nation to rise and challenge the government on this divisive bill.

"We call upon all the citizens of India to speak against this drastic and unconstitutional change in the character of the nation that aims to violate the core concepts of India. Former students’ union called upon all the Parliamentarians of India to speak against this anti-people and anti-India bill and “nip the evil in the bud." He added that it is high time for the President of India and the Supreme Court of India to caution about the India’s character, as any structural alterations in the idea of India will demolish the very basis of our existence in the country.

Former vice president of Students’ union, Hamza Sufyan, said it is against the secular framework and spirit of the Constitution of India as the CAB is intended to give citizenship to the people on the basis of their religion. "Since CAB is religion-based and excludes exclusively the Muslims from it, then the NRC will automatically be religion-based as the people left out of CAB are Muslims and they will be the one who will have to face the wrath of NRC," said Sufyan.

He said, moreover, CAB is also against Assam Accord (1985) which granted citizenship to the people who came to India before the year 1971. "The sole purpose of this exercise is to increase communal hatred, polarize people and increase the vote bank of a particular section of people to gain political advantage in the upcoming elections," said Sufyan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/agra/aligarh-muslim-university-students-reject-citizenship-amendment-bill/articleshow/72428242.cms

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Don’t unleash chaos: Citizenship Amendment Bill not only excludes Muslims but creates other complications

December 9, 2019

As government introduces the flawed Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament, it can expect stormy weather both inside and outside the House. Opposition parties such as Congress, TMC, SP, NCP, DMK and CPM will coordinate their position to oppose the bill. This will include highlighting how the CAB undermines the constitutional principle of secularism in granting citizenship to only non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. If the opposition is able to wean away secular NDA allies like JD(U) and AIADMK, it could put up a tough fight in the Rajya Sabha.

Government is also expected to see stiff resistance against the bill in north-east states, particularly Assam. The CAB’s cut-off date of December 31, 2014 for regularising migrants directly contradicts the 1985 Assam Accord, which had stipulated March 24, 1971 as the cut-off. The All Assam Students Union which had spearheaded the Assam Agitation from 1979-85 is already mulling approaching the Supreme Court against the bill, and plans to intensify the anti-CAB movement across the region with other north-east bodies. Even BJP’s Assam ally AGP is demanding that certain safeguards are enacted for the state before CAB is tabled. This includes an Inner Line Permit (ILP) system for Assam, restricting entry of visitors to these states.

Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma has said those who get citizenship under CAB will not get residency rights or be allowed to own land and run businesses in the exempted areas unless given permission by the state governments. But if ILP is introduced for Assam, lakhs of people who have been residing, owning land and doing business in the state for decades, and will get regularised under CAB, will be left without rights. After all, the recent NRC exercise in Assam excluded around 12 lakh Hindus and Hindu Bengalis.

Besides, ILP for Assam will be a death knell for the state’s development and India’s Act East policy. Businesses and foreign investments can’t be expected to flourish under such restrictions. It’s ironic that BJP scrapped special status for Jammu & Kashmir on the ground that it would aid that state’s development. Thus, CAB creates grounds for disaffection in Kashmir as well. The silver lining in this cloud is it’s unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge if it comes up before the SC, as it violates Article 14 which guarantees equality before the law, as well as Article 15 which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-editorials/dont-unleash-chaos-citizenship-amendment-bill-not-only-excludes-muslims-but-creates-other-complications/

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Mideast

 

Poverty would be tackled in Muslim countries with Zakat: Erdogan

December 8, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The Turkish president on Sunday urged Muslim countries to work harder together to help millions of Muslims facing economic hardship.

“Twenty-one percent of the population of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) [countries], which means 350 million brothers and sisters, are trying to hold onto life at the poverty level,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the OIC High-Level Public and Private Investment Conference in Istanbul.

Erdogan stressed that the wealthiest Muslim country is 200 times richer than the poorest, but that if Muslims paid their zakat -- a religious obligation to provide financial assistance to the poor -- no Muslim country would suffer poverty, Anadolu Agency reported.

Also urging OIC member states to help Albania recover from last month’s powerful earthquake, he said: “I ask you to support out brother Albania by mobilizing all your means to treat their wounds.”

The 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Albania’s Adriatic coast on Nov. 26, killing 51 people and injuring more than 900.

https://en.abna24.com/news//poverty-would-be-tackled-in-muslim-countries-with-zakat-erdogan_992286.html

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Ayatollah Sistani rejects Hosni Mubarak’s claim on disloyalty of Shiites to their homelands

December 8, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): In a letter, which dates back to 2006, top Iraqi Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani rejected a claim by the former Egyptian president Mubarak on the disloyalty of Shiite Arabs to their homelands.

In the 2016 document, the overthrown Hosni Mubarak had cast doubt on the loyalty of the Shia Muslims to their homeland.

In the document published by Imam Hussein Organization in the holy city of Karbala, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had rejected the Arab ruler’s claim as negligence of the sacrifices that tens of millions of Shia Muslims made to serve their own homelands.

The top Iraqi Shia cleric referred to different historical Shia movements and their participation in the national movements in Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain against the colonialists, aggressors, and occupiers.

He further added that Mubarak’s viewpoint on Shiites would belittle the patriotism that great political, religious and cultural Shia leaders patriotic stuck to in their struggle for freedom, reconstruction of their countries.

Ayatollah Sistani further described the former Egyptian president’s viewpoint as very dangerous at the sensitive period that the region was going through, pointing to the attempts to partition the countries of the region by igniting sectarian conflicts.

In the end, the senior Shia cleric described the statistics given by Mubark’s viewpoint as flawed, while expressing gratitude to Mubarak’s concerns over the unity of the countries of the region and social cohesion of the nations.

https://en.abna24.com/news//ayatollah-sistani-rejects-hosni-mubarak%e2%80%99s-claim-on-disloyalty-of-shiites-to-their-homelands_992281.html

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Released Professor: US No. 1 Enemy of Iranian People

Sun Dec 08, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Prominent stem cell Professor Masoud Soleimani, who was imprisoned by the US government for 14 months, said that Washington is the number one enemy of the Iranian people, recounting that his American jailers had told him they did not care if his patients died while he was incarcerated.

Upon arrival at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport, Iranian stem cell scientist Dr. Masoud Soleimani said that his jail wardens had told other prisoners that he was a terrorist with a mission to carry out bombings in the United States.

Recounting his ordeal at the hands of American jailers, Soleimani described the United States as "the number one enemy" of Iran and the Iranians.

Soleimani — who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine — was on a sabbatical when he was arrested by US authorities upon arrival in Chicago a year ago and transferred to a prison in Atlanta, Georgia.

"US authorities in the jail had told prisoners that I was a terrorist who wanted to carry out bombings in America," he told reporters upon arrival at Tehran's Mehrabad airport on Saturday night. 

"They had made such false statements so that other prisoners would not come close to me and keep away from me.

"After a while, the inmates would tell me, 'you do not look like a terrorist and a bomber, what these guys are saying and I would tell them I don't know what they are saying'," he said.

"The Americans were so mean and low that when I told them that many patients were waiting for me to have their things done, they said, 'let them die, it doesn't matter'," he said on Saturday.

"This shows their main problem is with the Iranian people. They are upset and angry about the scientific progress and the right path that Iran has taken, and we have a duty to continue this path so that the country can grow and prosper."

Soleimani suffered from several health problems which aggravated during his incarceration.

According to American political analyst Scott Bennett, the Trump administration held the Iranian stem cell scientist hostage to gain leverage over the Islamic Republic through "diplomatic extortion."

Professor Soleimani arrived at Tehran Mehrabad airport on Saturday evening after he was released by the US in a prisoner swap. He was welcomed by his family members and Iranian officials upon his arrival. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accompanied the released scientist from Zurich where the swap took place.

Soleimani had travelled to the US on October, 21, 2018 with a visa issued upon an invitation by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to lead a research program on the treatment of stroke patients.

He was, however, arrested by the FBI upon arrival at the Chicago airport. His visa was canceled and he was transferred to a jail in Atlanta, Georgia.

His family had several times voiced worries about Soleimani’s “poor” mental and physical condition in jail, saying he is suffering from chronic irritable bowel syndrome, has lost 15 kilograms and suffers from severe vision loss.

Soleimani’s family condemned the US government's hostile act.

BJay Pak, the US attorney in Atlanta, secured Soleimani’s indictment on June 12, 2018, just a month after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, and Soleimani had been fully unaware of such an indictment when he flew to the US.

Franco and Page Pate, another Atlanta lawyer, said that they had been puzzled by the federal government’s decision to prosecute a renowned Iranian professor and two of his former students - Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri - for purported trade sanction violations over eight vials of human growth hormone.

Franco said that Soleimani’s treatment by federal authorities, the revocation of his visa and the decision to detain him without bond doesn’t square with Soleimani’s international reputation as a scholar, professor, and doctor widely known in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Soleimani has no criminal history anywhere in the world, he added.

The hormone, which is a form of synthetic protein, was seized from Jazayeri in 2016 by customs authorities in Atlanta when she was heading to Iran to give it to professor Soleimani for research purposes. Jazayeri had received the hormone from Ghaedi.

The seizure occurred at a time when Washington was still a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and anti-Iran sanctions had not been re-imposed yet.

The growth hormone is not banned in the US or Iran and was being used “exclusively for medical research”, which is still considered largely exempt from US sanctions, Franco said.

However, Ghaedi and Jazayeri faced similar federal charges for attempting to supply Soleimani with the growth hormone.

Ghaedi is a permanent American resident and an assistant professor at Yale University's School of Medicine. She is free on a $250,000 bond. Jazayeri is a naturalized US citizen and Kentucky resident and has conducted medical research at the University of Louisville. She is currently free on a $200,000 bond.

“I truly don’t understand it,” Franco said of the government’s decision to prosecute, adding that it appeared to be “some type of policy argument”. Pate, who represents Jazayeri, said his client was “completely confused by all this.”

Motions to dismiss the charges are pending in federal court in Atlanta in front of US District Judge Eleanor Ross. However, Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have not yet responded to the motions.

Hearing this case had been adjourned for at least three times since October and his family and Tarbiat Modares University had paid over $70,000 to his lawyers to prove his innocence, but all to no avail, said TMU’s Vice-chancellor for Research Affairs Yaghoub Fathollahi.

Fathollahi added that Soleimani is a distinguished professor who has been ranked among the top 1% scientists in the world.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980917000648

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Bad tidings for Middle East’s religion-based political groups

December 09, 2019

DUBAI: The popularity of extremist groups such as Daesh, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as religious political parties and groups, like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah, will decline over the next 10 years.

That is what a substantial number of respondents predict for their home country in a YouGov poll on “Mosque and state: How Arabs see the future,” conducted across 18 countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

As part of its partnership with the Arab Strategy Forum, Arab News commissioned the survey of the views and concerns of Arabs today, and their projections for the future of the region. A total of 3,079 Arabic speakers aged 18 or above were interviewed.

One of the strongest messages conveyed by the study was that the Arab world has had enough of extremist groups and political organizations based on religion, with substantial combined averages believing their home country would see less of the Muslim Brotherhood (59 percent), Hezbollah (63 percent), Al-Qaeda (75 percent) and Hamas (57 percent) over the next 10 years.

Evidently, neither the killing of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in 2011, nor the deaths of his son Hamza bin Laden and Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi this year generated measurable sympathy for extremist organizations in the Arab world.

“Without a doubt, the region is falling behind because of persistent violence and conflict,” said Dr. Albadr Al-Shateri, politics professor at the National Defense College in Abu Dhabi.

“That the people are sick and tired of extremism is obvious enough. The region is facing a real crisis in terms of development and governance. Revisiting old issues repeatedly will not solve the problems.”

His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, who says the Middle East has had enough of extremism, with Arabs having realized that political parties, groups and organizations based on religion were “taking them nowhere.”

“Indeed, we have seen the ugly face of it during the four to five years of Daesh’s control of large areas, both in Syria and Iraq,” he said. “So it is very natural to see there is a decline in the popularity of these parties. But much more important are the predictions that support for religious parties, whether moderate or extremist, is in sharp decline.”

Abdulla described the shift as “good news” for the region, where religion has been widely used for political purposes. “People are becoming aware that there has been some kind of abuse and overuse of people’s emotions for political gains by these religious movements,” he said.

“The foremost is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is going through its worst moment.”

After the failure of extremist governments or parties across the region — including, most recently, the regime in Iranian — Michael Singh, managing director at the Washington Institute, says it is little surprise that public opinion has soured.

“Nevertheless, violent extremist groups continue to grow across the region, as do incidents of terrorism,” he told Arab News. “These survey results suggest that governments will have the public on their side if they wish to defeat extremism, but doing so will require addressing some of its underlying causes, such as the lack of political space for dissent, abuse by security forces, or a sense of economic unfairness and corruption.

“Too often, governments in the region have cynically brandished extremist groups to discredit all political opposition, a practice which only contributed to radicalization.”

Al-Shateri added the region needed openness and more integration with the world, and global engagement in the form of trade, investment and cultural exchange.

“These needs will not be met by extremism and dogmatism,” he said. “On the contrary, it will set back the cause of modernity and development.”

The issues of extremism and violence are intertwined, according to Al-Shateri, given the plethora of problems that beset the Middle East. Describing the combination of external and internal factors as lethal, he says occupation and foreign meddling amount to a lethal combination, over and above the region’s economic problems, political repression and social dislocation.

Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at the UK foreign policy institute Chatham House, views the anti-government protests taking place in Lebanon and Iraq as very different from the ones in the past, revealing a generational shift.

“People are fed up with 70 years of war, sectarianism and nationalism,” he told Arab News. “What is happening now is a revolt against extremism but by Shiites, against the institutions of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — in Iran itself, in Lebanon and in Iraq.”

He attributes the apparent shift to the predicted decline of extremist groups. “There is a new dynamic in the region, so the rhetoric of mainstream politicians who use extremism to gain power is no longer credible because of the economic situation,” Shehadi said, adding: “It’s going in a new direction because these populist revolts are not particular to the Middle East. They are everywhere.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1596136/middle-east

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Lebanon’s Dar al-Fatwa Backs Hariri to Form New Cabinet, Khatib Withdraws

Sunday, 8 December, 2019

Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanon’s Sunni sect wants Saad Hariri to be prime minister, businessman Samir Khatib said on Sunday after meeting Lebanon's top Sunni cleric, spelling the end of his own candidacy for the position and prolonging the country's political crisis.

Hariri quit on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the corruption and mismanagement of Lebanon's ruling elite. The protests have continued since then and Lebanon is in dire need of a new government to start tackling an economic crisis.

The prime minister's post is reserved for a Sunni in Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system. Hariri said last week he backed Khatib as consensus appeared to emerge among Lebanon's main parties on him being designated in formal consultations led by President Michel Aoun.

But Khatib, speaking after a meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian at Dar al-Fatwa, said the mufti backed Hariri. "I learnt ... that as a result of meetings and consultations and contacts with the sons of the (Sunni) Islamic sect, agreement was reached on nominating Saad Hariri to form the coming government," Khatib said.

Khatib later headed to Hariri's Beirut residence, the Center House.

“I apologize with a good conscience from completing the journey to which I have been nominated,” he said following talks with the caretaker PM.

Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister if he could lead a government of specialist ministers which he believes would be best placed to deal with the crisis and attract foreign aid.

But his demand was rejected by groups including Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement that has been founded by Aoun. Both say the government must include politicians.

The binding parliamentary consultations to name a new PM were due to be held Monday but were postponed until Dec. 16, further complicating the task of forming a new cabinet.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2026731/lebanon%E2%80%99s-dar-al-fatwa-backs-hariri-form-new-cabinet-khatib-withdraws

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Around 200 displaced Syrians leave Al-Hol camp: Kurds

Dec 8, 2019

QAMISHLI (SYRIA): Around 200 Syrian displaced people, mostly women and children, were heading home from an overcrowded desert camp in the northeast of the war-torn country on Sunday, a Kurdish official said.

Syria's Kurds, after years of fighting the Islamic State group, are holding tens of thousands of civilians and IS relatives in camps for the displaced.

In June, they started sending home Syrian families that had fled their homes during battles against the jihadists from the overpopulated camp of Al-Hol.

A Kurdish official said around 200 people were leaving the camp on Sunday, to head back to their villages in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

"Most are women and children, with just some men," said Sheikhmous Ahmad, a Kurdish official in charge of the displaced.

Syria-afp

The Damascus regime has repeatedly vowed to take back control of the Idlib province which is controlled by the country's former al-Qaida affiliate.

The majority were civilians with no ties to IS, he said, while a few might have aligned with the jihadists but today regretted their decision.

The group was headed back to the villages of Hajin, Shaafa or Baghouz, which were the last to be held by IS before US-backed fighters expelled them from the entire area in March.

Ahmad said around 300 people from Al-Hol had already been taken back to the same area last week.

Previously, evacuations had been put on hold after Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies on October 9 launched a blistering military operation against Kurdish forces.

In June, several hundred women and children had returned to the towns of Raqa — once the de-facto IS capital in Syria — and Tabqa, both located in the northern province of Raqa.

That area was taken by Kurdish-led forces from IS in October 2017.

The United Nations said the Al-Hol camp's population last month stood at around 70,000 people.

These included more than 30,000 Iraqis, some 28,000 Syrians and over 10,000 foreign nationals — many of them relatives of alleged jihadist fighters being held in detention.

The Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called on Western nations to repatriate their nationals, but they have been largely reluctant, except in a handful of cases.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/around-200-displaced-syrians-leave-al-hol-camp-kurds/articleshow/72428665.cms

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Physician Warns about Deteriorating Health Condition of Detained Nigerian Cleric

Sun Dec 08, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- The health condition of Nigeria’s top Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is worsening in prison, his doctor Naser Omar warned on Sunday, recounting the situation after Zakzaky’s four years of arbitrary detention in the African country’s prisons.

“In the past years, and due to the [Nigerian] army’s cruel measures, Sheikh Zakzaky’s health condition has been severely undermined,” Omar said in a meeting held in Tehran on Sunday, attended by a number of the top cleric’s family members and relatives.

Referring to the recent transfer of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife to a dilapidated prison, the doctor said, “This is a prison where many detainees have so far died due to lack of medical attention.”

“Sheikh is suffering from lead poisoning,” he added.

The cleric’s daughter, Soheila Zakzaky, who was also present at the session, said after four years from the Zaria incident, the justice has not been served yet.

“The Nigerian government is seeking to slowly murder the Sheikh,” she said.

Back in 2015, the Nigerian security forces raided the city of Zaria, during which they detained Sheikh Zakzaky, who is in his mid-sixties. The raid left more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons dead. The Sheikh lost one of his eyes; his wife also sustained serious injuries.

He has been kept in custody along with his wife and a large number of his followers ever since.

A High Court ordered the Department of State Services on Thursday (December 5) to transfer the cleric and his wife, Zinat, to the Correctional Center in Kaduna state, northwest of the country.

Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) said on Thursday that any attempt to take the couple anywhere other than a hospital will put them in further jeopardy.

The IMN said the facilities at the Kaduna Central Prison are dilapidated, adding that it was the same prison where some survivors of the December 2015 raid perished due to a lack of medical attention.

Earlier this year, the IMN accused the Nigerian government of having poisoned Zakzaky in jail after “large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium have been found in his blood”.

In August, in an exclusive interview with FNA, Dr. Pourrahim Najafabadi, MD, said Sheikh Zakzaky needs to be cured by an experienced medical team of physicians in a specialized multi-specialty hospital outside Nigeria, since there is no such medical center in the African country.

In September, Tehran's provisional Friday Prayers leader Hojjatoleslam Kazzem Seddiqi blasted the international bodies which claim support for human rights for keeping mum about the dire situation of detained Nigerian cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980917000779

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President Rouhani: Iran’s Annual Budget Planned against Sanctions

Sun Dec 08, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that the country's budget bill for the next fiscal year has been set in a way to offset the negative effects of the US sanctions and, hence, includes a significant cut in oil revenues.

“Our budget for the next year, like the current year, will be based on resistance against sanctions; the budget’s message is that we will manage the country despite all sanctions,” President Hassan Rouhani said this morning in the open session of the Parliament in Tehran.

“Next year’s budget is not much reliant on oil. Anticipated revenues for oil and gas sales are close to the required budget for civil projects,” he said, adding that 700 trillion rials (some $5.3 billion) have been allocated to such projects.

Rouhani was at the Parliament to submit the next year’s budget bill.

“We were under the toughest sanctions last year; we promised that the administration, with the support of the resistant Iranian nation and other organizations, would make every effort to provide and implement the budget and this has been realized by now,” Rouhani said.

Nine months have passed since the start of the local calendar year of 1398 and all the daily budgets have been provided, he said, adding that 340 trillion rials (some $2.6 billion) have been allocated to civil projects. “Major projects have either been inaugurated or will be by the year-end.”

“All this has been realized while Americans and Zionists thought that sanctions would cripple the government, but they gave up on that and will keep being disappointed in the future,” Rouhani said.

In October, Governor of the Central bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnasser Hemmati announced that the country has further reduced its reliance on oil revenues to bring the share of the income earned though crude sales in the budget to less than 30 percent.

“Oil has had the major share of production and exports in Iran’s economy for 50 years, but today less than one-third of the exports is related to oil,” Hemmati wrote on his Instagram.

He reiterated that Iran’s economic growth had been greatly affected by the oil sector, but now the situation has changed.

“The CBI will be able to create stability in non-oil sector by adopting monetary and currency policies,” the CBI governor added.

In August, Iranian Vice-President and Head of the Management and Planning Organization Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said that his country is determined to draft its new budget bill with zero-dependence on oil revenues in a bid to disappoint the US with its maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.

Following the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year, US President Donald Trump's administration went ahead with re-imposing sanction on Iran, targeting the country’s energy and banking sectors, and stepping up efforts to drive Iran’s oil revenues to zero.

In April, the White House announced its decision not to renew waivers that allow eight countries, including China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey, to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.

Meanwhile, Iran says with or without waivers, the country’s oil exports will not fall to zero under any circumstances. At the same time, the country is making efforts to reduce its reliance on oil revenues and instead turn its focus on non-oil production and exports.

Back in July, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani underlined the US failure to cut to zero his country's oil exports, saying that Washington has been defeated by Iran's smart moves.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980917000445

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Zarif: Iranian Scientist Detained for US Anger at Iran’s Scientific Advancements

Sun Dec 08, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Washington invited stem cell Professor Masoud Soleimani and put him behind bars last year as a result of its anger over Iran's scientific advancements.

Upon arrival at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on Saturday evening while accompanying the Iranian stem cell scientist Dr. Masoud Soleimani, Zarif said that Iran’s science and technology advances have become like a thorn in the eyes of the ill-wishers of the country.

Professor Soleimani arrived at Tehran Mehrabad airport after he was released by the US in a prisoner swap. He was welcomed by his family members and Iranian officials upon his arrival. Zarif accompanied the released scientist from Zurich where the swap took place.

Zarif told reporters that he is "very happy that on National Students’ Day, one of the greatest professors and scientists of our country is returned home."

Rebuking the US for indicting the Iranian professor “without any reason”, Zarif said “they arrested a university professor with 500 scientific articles after they invited him and gave him a visa to do research at the highest US scientific institute."

According to the Iranian minister, Dr. Soleimani had been repeatedly offered by the United States to stay in the US instead of returning home but the “patriotic professor" turned down their request.

Soleimani arrived in the US on October, 22, 2018 with a visa issued upon an invitation by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to lead a research program on the treatment of stroke patients.

He was, however, arrested by the FBI upon arrival at the Chicago airport. His visa was canceled and he was transferred to a jail in Atlanta, Georgia.

His family had several times voiced worries about Soleimani’s “poor” mental and physical condition in jail, saying he is suffering from chronic irritable bowel syndrome, has lost 15 kilograms and suffers from severe vision loss.

Soleimani’s family condemned the US government's hostile act.

BJay Pak, the US attorney in Atlanta, secured Soleimani’s indictment on June 12, 2018, just a month after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, and Soleimani had been fully unaware of such an indictment when he flew to the US.

Franco and Page Pate, another Atlanta lawyer, said that they had been puzzled by the federal government’s decision to prosecute a renowned Iranian professor and two of his former students - Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri - for purported trade sanction violations over eight vials of human growth hormone.

Franco said that Soleimani’s treatment by federal authorities, the revocation of his visa and the decision to detain him without bond doesn’t square with Soleimani’s international reputation as a scholar, professor, and doctor widely known in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Soleimani has no criminal history anywhere in the world, he added.

The hormone, which is a form of synthetic protein, was seized from Jazayeri in 2016 by customs authorities in Atlanta when she was heading to Iran to give it to professor Soleimani for research purposes. Jazayeri had received the hormone from Ghaedi.

The seizure occurred at a time when Washington was still a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and anti-Iran sanctions had not been re-imposed yet.

The growth hormone is not banned in the US or Iran and was being used “exclusively for medical research”, which is still considered largely exempt from US sanctions, Franco said.

However, Ghaedi and Jazayeri faced similar federal charges for attempting to supply Soleimani with the growth hormone.

Ghaedi is a permanent American resident and an assistant professor at Yale University's School of Medicine. She is free on a $250,000 bond. Jazayeri is a naturalized US citizen and Kentucky resident and has conducted medical research at the University of Louisville. She is currently free on a $200,000 bond.

“I truly don’t understand it,” Franco said of the government’s decision to prosecute, adding that it appeared to be “some type of policy argument”. Pate, who represents Jazayeri, said his client was “completely confused by all this.”

Motions to dismiss the charges are pending in federal court in Atlanta in front of US District Judge Eleanor Ross. However, Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have not yet responded to the motions.

Hearing this case had been adjourned for at least three times since October and his family and Tarbiat Modares University had paid over $70,000 to his lawyers to prove his innocence, but all to no avail, said TMU’s Vice-chancellor for Research Affairs Yaghoub Fathollahi.

Fathollahi added that Soleimani is a distinguished professor who has been ranked among the top 1% scientists in the world.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980917000601

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Iranian Professor Back Home after 14 Months in US Jail

Sun Dec 08, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian stem cell scientist Professor Masoud Soleimani was welcomed by his family members, his students, and the country’s officials at Tehran Mehrabad airport, arriving home after 14 months of imprisonment in the US where he was invited by an American institute for a research project.

Soleimani arrived at Tehran Mehrabad airport on Saturday evening after he was released by the US in a prisoner swap. He was welcomed by his family members and Iranian officials upon his arrival.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accompanied the released scientist from Zurich where the swap took place.

The Iranian foreign minister said in a tweet earlier in the day that the top scholar, along with Xiyue Wang — a Chinese-born US citizen who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage in Iran in 2017 — had been delivered to the Swiss officials and would “be joining their families shortly.”

Speaking to reporters at the airport, Zarif said he is “very happy that on the National Students’ Day, one of the greatest professors and scientists of our country is returned home”.

He added that Dr. Soleimani had been taken hostage by the American forces for 14 months "without any reason."

The US "arrested a university professor with 500 scientific articles without any reason" after it invited him and gave him a visa “to do research at the highest US scientific institute”.

The top Iranian diplomat emphasized that Dr. Soleimani had been repeatedly offered by the United States to stay in the US instead of returning home but the “patriotic professor” turned down their request.

Zarif also thanked Iran's Supreme National Security Council, the Judiciary and security bodies for agreeing to the Iranian scientist's swap with an American who was held in Iran on espionage charges and was pardoned based on “Islamic compassion” and returned to the US.

"Over the past 40 years, the US has been trying to hinder Iran's scientific progress. The US’ maximum pressure has been pursuing such a goal," he said.

Zarif added that the science, progress and technology that the Iranian nation has managed to acquire trough its self-reliance are the "biggest thorn in the side of those who do not want this nation's prosperity."

For his part, Soleimani said Iran’s achievements in science and technology have made the US angry and that is the main reason behind Washington's animosity towards Tehran.

He called on Iranians to build up the country’s scientific front to further make the enemy disappointed.

He also thanked Iranian officials for securing his release. 

In a tweet, President Donald Trump thanked Tehran for a "very fair" negotiation that led to the release Saturday of an America held in Iran and an Iranian scientist jailed in the US.

"Thank you to Iran on a very fair negotiation. See, we can make a deal together!"

Soleimani arrived in the US on October, 22, 2018 with a visa issued upon an invitation by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to lead a research program on the treatment of stroke patients.

He was, however, arrested by the FBI upon arrival at the Chicago airport. His visa was canceled and he was transferred to a jail in Atlanta, Georgia.

His family had several times voiced worries about Soleimani’s “poor” mental and physical condition in jail, saying he is suffering from chronic irritable bowel syndrome, has lost 15 kilograms and suffers from severe vision loss.

Soleimani’s family condemned the US government's hostile act.

BJay Pak, the US attorney in Atlanta, secured Soleimani’s indictment on June 12, 2018, just a month after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, and Soleimani had been fully unaware of such an indictment when he flew to the US.

Franco and Page Pate, another Atlanta lawyer, said that they had been puzzled by the federal government’s decision to prosecute a renowned Iranian professor and two of his former students - Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri - for purported trade sanction violations over eight vials of human growth hormone.

Franco said that Soleimani’s treatment by federal authorities, the revocation of his visa and the decision to detain him without bond doesn’t square with Soleimani’s international reputation as a scholar, professor, and doctor widely known in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Soleimani has no criminal history anywhere in the world, he added.

The hormone, which is a form of synthetic protein, was seized from Jazayeri in 2016 by customs authorities in Atlanta when she was heading to Iran to give it to professor Soleimani for research purposes. Jazayeri had received the hormone from Ghaedi.

The seizure occurred at a time when Washington was still a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and anti-Iran sanctions had not been re-imposed yet.

The growth hormone is not banned in the US or Iran and was being used “exclusively for medical research”, which is still considered largely exempt from US sanctions, Franco said.

However, Ghaedi and Jazayeri faced similar federal charges for attempting to supply Soleimani with the growth hormone.

Ghaedi is a permanent American resident and an assistant professor at Yale University's School of Medicine. She is free on a $250,000 bond. Jazayeri is a naturalized US citizen and Kentucky resident and has conducted medical research at the University of Louisville. She is currently free on a $200,000 bond.

“I truly don’t understand it,” Franco said of the government’s decision to prosecute, adding that it appeared to be “some type of policy argument”. Pate, who represents Jazayeri, said his client was “completely confused by all this.”

Motions to dismiss the charges are pending in federal court in Atlanta in front of US District Judge Eleanor Ross. However, Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have not yet responded to the motions.

Hearing this case had been adjourned for at least three times since October and his family and Tarbiat Modares University had paid over $70,000 to his lawyers to prove his innocence, but all to no avail, said TMU’s Vice-chancellor for Research Affairs Yaghoub Fathollahi.

Fathollahi added that Soleimani is a distinguished professor who has been ranked among the top 1% scientists in the world.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980917000285

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Iran, Oman to Ease Financial Transactions

Sun Dec 08, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnassder Hemmati said Tehran and Muscat have paved the way for facilitating financial transactions.

“Easing exchanges between Iran and Oman will the be key to development of trade relations between the two countries,” Hemmati said in a meeting with Oman’s trade minister.

The CBI governor noted that Iran will study launching more flights and shipping lines to Oman in a bid to help to further development of trade relations.

Oman’s trade minister, for his part, stressed that Muscat will not spare efforts to further develop relation with Iran.

Hemmati made the remark in a meeting with Oman trade minister who stressed that Muscat doesn’t spare any efforts to further develop relations with Iran.

Last month, Head of Iran-Oman Chamber of Commerce Mohsen Zarrabi said that the volume of Iran's annual exports to Oman has skyrocketed from $146 to $728 million in the past year which indicates a fivefold jump, hailing the rise also in the volume of imports from the Arab country.

In a meeting with Omani Ambassador to Tehran Saud bin Ahmad Khalid al-Barwani on November 12, Zarrabi said that the economic interactions between Iran-Oman joint chambers are expected to increase, citing that Iran’s exports to Oman stood at $146 million in the Iranian year of 1396 (March 21, 2017-March 20, 2018) but the figure increased up to $728 million in the Iranian year of 1397 (March 21, 2018-March 20, 2019).

He went on to say that Iran's imports from Oman has also reached $433 million resulting in increasing of trade volume to $1.1 billion.

Thanks to its good political relations with various countries, having free trade agreement with them and its membership in World Trade Organization, Oman can be a good target for exporting Iranian products to various markets in the world, Zarrabi noted.

He reiterated that the best way for entering into Oman's market is to attend eight exhibitions which have been established through Omani government's efforts.

The Omani envoy, for his part, said, “Omani officials seek expansion of economic ties with Iran.”

“It is vital for delegations from both countries to attend Iran-Oman joint economic summit to prepare the ground for development of mutual economic relations,” he added.

Late in October, Tehran and Masqat announced that they are eager to boost their trade ties up to $1bln.

"The volume of trade exchanges between the two countries are expected raise to $1bln by the end of this year," Head of Iran-Oman joint chamber of commerce Mohsen Zarrabi told FNA on October 28.

He also added that the volume of Iran's exports to Oman had increased by 57% in the first six months of the Iranian year of 1397 (March 21, 2018- August 20, 2019) compared with the corresponding period in 2017.

Zarrabi said that imports of goods from Oman to Iran have also shown a 264% increase in the past six months of the current year.

Iran and Oman have had good economic relations from old times and the ties have even expanded in recent years due to extended bank cooperation between the two countries.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980917000432

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Israeli Defense Minister Warns Islamic Republic That Syria ‘Will Become Your Vietnam’ Following Air Strike on Pro-Iran Militia

by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett warned the Islamic Republic on Sunday that Syria “will become your Vietnam” shortly after an air strike on a pro-Iran militia in the war-torn country.

Israel has repeatedly undertaken air strikes against Iranian assets in Syria, sometimes acknowledging responsibility and sometimes not.

According to Israel’s Channel 13, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that the latest strike destroyed weapons depots used by a pro-Iran militia, killing five of its fighters.

Last month, following a similar strike for which Israel took responsibility, Bennett said, “The rules have changed. Whoever shoots at the State of Israel by day will not sleep at night.”

“Our message to Iranian leaders is simple — you are no longer immune,” he added.

On Sunday, Bennett warned Iran that if it continues to entrench itself in Syria “you will drown and bleed there” and “it will become your Vietnam.”

https://www.algemeiner.com/2019/12/08/israeli-defense-minister-warns-islamic-republic-that-syria-will-become-your-vietnam-following-air-strike-on-pro-iran-militia/

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UN Officials Block Syrian Christian Refugees from Getting Help

2019-12-08

Christian Syrian refugees have told CBN News that they have been blocked from getting help from the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, by Muslim UN officials in Jordan.

UN Response to Syrian Christians? Get Lost

One of the refugees, Hasan, a Syrian convert to Christianity, told us in a phone call that Muslim UN camp officials "knew that we were Muslims and became Christians and they dealt with us with persecution and mockery. They didn't let us into the office. They ignored our request."

A clear pattern of discrimination by the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan against Christians. And it appears to be one reason that while tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim war refugees have been settled in the United States and Britain, only a small number have been Christian.

And the two governments that could stop this persecution of Christian refugees – the US and Britain – have done little to nothing about it.

A Former Archbishop of Canterbury Says "Enough"

Lord George Carey is suing Britain's home office alleging that "politically correct" officials have been "institutionally biased" against Christian refugees. He also wants to find out why out of 60-thousand Syrian war refugees accepted into the United States and Britain in 2014, almost none were Christians.

Lord Carey's attorney, Paul Diamond, explains the case:

"You have this absurd situation where the scheme is set up to help Syrian refugees and the people most in need, Christians who have been "genocided," they can't even get into the U.N. camps to get the food. If you enter and say I am a Christian or convert, the Muslim U.N. guards will block you [from] getting in and laugh at you and mock you and even threaten you.

Christian Refugee Viewed as the Enemy by Muslim UN Officials

Another Syrian refugee, Timothy, who told us he became a Christian after seeing Jesus in a dream, said he was also blocked from entering a refugee camp by Muslim UN officials.

"All of the United Nations officials, most of them, 99 percent, they are Muslims," Timothy explained from Jordan, "and they were treating us as enemies."

Diamond says, "Sunni Muslim officials have blocked the way. They've laughed at them, threatened them, said 'You shouldn't have converted. You're an idiot for converting. You get what you get,' words to that effect."

Carey says by doing nothing, western governments are complicit in what calls "the steady crucifixion of Middle East Christians."

"And no simple measures are taken by both the British and the American government,' Diamond says, "It would be simple just to open up a refugee camp for religious minorities, for Christians, Yazidis, whatever they are, and they'd be safe. But no one does that."

Nations Also Deporting Christian Refugees to Certain Imprisonment or Death

Christians refugees who have made it to western countries are increasingly being deported back to Muslim nations, with no regard for the danger they will face.

Swedish attorney Gabriel Donner who represents Christian asylum seekers, says Sweden is now deporting up to one-third of Christian refugees back to Muslim nations where they are likely to be imprisoned or killed.

One of those Christian refugees now facing imminent deportation is Iman Amir-Ourang from Iran, shown here with members of his church in a foot washing. He says Swedish officials either did not understand or care about the evidence of his Christian faith.

Amir-Ourang told us, "There are so many atheists living in Sweden, so they can't believe in somebody that believes in God. So just because they don't believe in our Lord, they don't trust anybody else to believe in the Lord either."

"They don't understand the message in the Bible. It's just completely alien to them," Donner added.

Britain Ignores Christian Refugees While Welcoming ISIS Children

President Trump told CBN News in 2017 that Christian refugees would be given priority. But Muslim governments officially classify Christians as security threats, causing their asylum applications to western countries to be rejected.

The UN Refugee program did not respond to our request for answers.

Lord Carey has publicly appealed for money in his suit against the British home office, which has already threatened the 84-year churchman with all court costs if he loses.

Meanwhile, Britain's Home office is spending a lot of time and money on the resettlement of the children of ISIS terrorists.

https://en.zamanalwsl.net/news/article/50078/

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South Asia

 

Tanwir: I would marry Hazara girls to Pashtoon men if I am in power

Monday, 09 Dec 2019

Afghan politician Mohammad Halim Tanwir has said in a gathering, if he was in power he would have married Hazara girls to Pashtoon men for the social equality.

A video clip of Mohammad Halim Tanwir, Afghan politician has gone viral on Social media in which he says he would have married Hazara girls to Pashtoon men if he was in power in order to end the social inequality.

I would not let anyone to rise up in the name of tribe or ethnicity, Tanwir says.

“Most educational resources are taken to a valley and small area, even a football stadium has been constructed where no one yes yet played there, but in the Kabul university entrance examination only 6 people from Paktya province succeed only, pointing to Panjshir province, he says.

“For the rights equality Afghanistan, Dostum, Mohaqqiq and others should be killed”, he adds.

Mohammad Mohaqqiq, a Hazara tribal leader reacted to this statement and asked the UN agencies to investigate this matter.

“The statement by Dr. Tanwir is risky at this very sensitive situation in Afghanistan. The UN agencies must take it serious and run an investigation on such matters”, Mohaqqiq told Khaama Press.

“Tanwir is a member of Mohammad Asrhaf Ghani’s think tank and his statement reflects Ghani’s ideology”, Mohaqqiq said.

Mohammad Bashir Tayanj, spokesperson for Junbesh Party led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum in reaction to Tanwir’s comments, told Khaama Press that Mohammad Haleem Tanwir intends to further spread hypocrisy and divide the nation of Afghanistan.

“Tanwir has been away from the country for a long time, he is not aware of the realities and facts of the Afghanistan community”, Tayanj said.

“Mohammad Halim Tanwir spread hypocrisy to divide the nation of Afghanistan, however, the nation is in need of love, friendship and brotherhood”, he added.

The presidential office has not yet commented on Dr. Tanwir’s statements.

Mohammad Halim Tanwir admits in the video clip that he is a follower and student of Mohammad Gul Khan Mohmand, a man who is popular for his biased behavior during the kingdom of Mohammad Nader Shah, the father of King Zahir Shah.

Mohammad Gul Mohmand was a senior advisor to King Mohammad Nader Shah, who suppressed other ethnicities and tribes, during his kingdom.

https://www.khaama.com/tanwir-i-would-marry-hazara-girls-to-pashtoon-men-if-i-am-in-power-8776/

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Nooristani’s son-in-law joins the president’s electoral team

Sunday, 08 Dec 2019

Faramarz Tamanna, a presidential candidate and son-in-law of Hawa Alam Nooristani, the chief of Independent Election Commission joins president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s electoral team, president office reported on Sunday.

A joint statement published on Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s Facebook page states that the two electoral team have coalesced to work jointly.

Faramarz Tamanna, the head of ‘Contrivance and Development’ electoral team has endorsed ‘Government Builder’ electoral team.

Faramarz Tamanna is a close ally and business partner of Amrullah Saleh, the vice-president candidate for the ‘Government Builder’ team.

Tamanna and Saleh have jointly created the ‘Afghanistan Institute of Higher Education’, a private educational institution.

Abdul Latif Pedram, another presidential candidate in a Facebook post stated that Faramarz Tamanna has endorsed President Ghani is for his personal interest.

Afghanistan presidential election held on September 28 amid security challenges with a low turn out.

Less than 2 million voters attended the September’s presidential election.

The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan had promised to announce the preliminary results twenty days after the election day.

The IEC has been unable to announce the preliminary election results in 9 weeks after election.

The ‘Stability and Convergence’ electoral team accuses IEC of favoritism and claims that IEC has counted 300K fraudulent and suspicious votes in favor of President Ghani.

Election Commission is working in the favor of ‘Government Builder’ electoral team, Mohammad Natiqi, a key member of Abdullah’s team claimed.

Through peaceful protests we demand from the electoral commissions to invalidate the 300K fraudulent votes, Natiqi said.

https://www.khaama.com/nooristanis-son-in-law-joins-the-presidents-electoral-team-8765/

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Europe

 

 

General election: Muslim activists target Tory candidate with leaflet campaign

ByJoe Burn

9 DEC 2019

Activists have targeted a Stoke-on-Trent election candidate with leaflets and a letter – saying the Muslim vote could help defeat him locally.

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC UK) has distributed the fliers in Stoke-on-Trent South, claiming that Conservative incumbent Jack Brereton has voted for 'Islamophobic' legislation.

Mr Brereton, who strongly rejects the allegations he is anti-Muslim, is among 14 Tory candidates in marginal seats being targeted by 'Operation Muslim Vote' during this general election campaign.

MPAC UK says it 'pro-actively works to expose and counter the sinister and toxic anti Muslim narrative that is common in mainstream politics and media'.

The red 'Operation Muslim Vote' leaflets, which show Mr Brereton alongside his voting record, were first spotted in Normacot on November 23 by local Tory councillor Sadaqat Maqsoom.

The flier claims he voted for an 'Islamophobic' counter-terrorism bill, voted to cover up Windrush scandal documents that affected many black and minority ethnic immigrants, and voted against retaining human rights after Brexit.

Mr Maqsoom, who has been campaigning for Mr Brereton, described the campaign as 'worrying'.

He said: "This is worrying and quite serious as it seeks to persuade people on the basis of religion rather than political opinion.

"Jack has always been there to help anyone from any community, and had been a huge help to residents of my ward. This kind of divisive campaigning has no place in our city or our politics."

A letter has also been sent out with the leaflets, which claims that the Conservative government has played a 'key role' in the normalisation of 'Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred'.

The constituencies being targeted by MPAC UK include Boris Johnson's Uxbridge seat.

Full list of MPs targeted by MPAC UK in 2019:

Boris Johnson

Amber Rudd

Alok Sharma

Andrew Stephenson

Bob Blackman

Chris Green

Ian Duncan Smith

Iain Stewart

Mark Lancaster

Royston Smith

Steve Baker

Theresa Villiers

Stuart Andrew

Jack Brereton

The organisation claims to have helped unseat eight MPs over three elections, including Labour's Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas in 2010.

Mr Brereton said: "Over the past two-and-a-half years I’ve worked hard to represent every community in Stoke-on-Trent South, no matter their religion or background.

"I have strongly supported the local Muslim community on the issues that matter most, such as fighting for the freedom of the Kashmiri people and calling for an end to appalling human rights abuses."

Labour candidate for Stoke-on-Trent South Mark McDonald said he had not been aware of the campaign.

He said: "The leaflet has come as a surprise to me. I understand that MPAC UK are not affiliated with any political party. This is more of an attack on Jack's position on Muslims than it is any support for any other particular candidate."

Normacot resident Wynnie Key of Queensberry Road said voters should be left to make up their own minds.

The 77-year-old said: “I’ve never met him but I do think other people should mind their own business. If the Asians would like to vote then they will vote.”

A spokesman for MPAC UK said: "All of our statements about each of candidates we are campaigning against is evidenced by research of their public record on Hansard and Public Whip.

"In Jack Brereton's case, he has, as with the majority of his party, voted to expand the Prevent agenda to local authorities and Schedule 7 powers. Both already impact Muslims heavily and disproportionately.

"A 2019 Yougov poll of Conservative Party Members shows that 54 per cent believe Islam is 'generally a threat to the British way of life'.

"Muslims should not support a party that is institutionally Islamophobic."

https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/general-election-muslim-activists-target-3577142

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Mufti Tells Khatib There's Sunni Consensus on Naming Hariri

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan on Sunday told premiership candidate Samir Khatib that there is Sunni “consensus” on naming caretaker PM Saad Hariri to lead the new government.

The Mufti is “among the supporters of PM Saad Hariri, who is exerting efforts to advance Lebanon, and he supports his Arab and international role in this regard,” Khatib said in a statement from Dar al-Fatwa after meeting Daryan.

“I learned from His Eminence that as a result of the meetings, consultations and contacts with the sons of the (Sunni) Muslim community, consensus has been reached on naming PM Saad Hariri to lead the new government,” Khatib added.

“Accordingly, I will head to the Center House to meet with PM Saad Hariri and inform him of this, because he was the one who named me to form a new government, and I thank him for his precious confidence,” Khatib went on to say.

As Khatib’s meeting with Hariri got underway later in the day, MTV reported that Hariri will meet with the political aides of Speaker Nabih Berri and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in “the coming hours.”

Speaking after his meeting with Hariri, Khatib said: "When my name was mentioned to be appointed Prime minister-designate, I listened to the wishes of many friends and political leaders. This is an occasion to extend my thanks to President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and the leaders who gave me their trust."

"It was natural to conduct a series of contacts with the concerned political parties. These contacts took place over a period of two weeks during which I was subjected to an unfair campaign by some biased people," he lamented.

He added: "After my latest meeting today with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, I came to meet with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who had named me and supported me. I informed him of the position of the Mufti, which I announced from Dar al-Fatwa.”

Khatib concluded: "Thus, I apologize with a very clear conscience for not being able to continue the journey to which I have been nominated, asking God Almighty to protect Lebanon from all evil and to enlighten the consciences and minds of the Lebanese and political leaders to overcome the crisis and reach the shore of safety. I renew my thanks to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who overwhelmed me with his affection and trust, and who will remain for me a role model in loyalty, patriotism and wise leadership.”

The developments come on the eve of binding parliamentary consultations to pick a new premier.

The main political parties, including Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement, had reached consensus on Khatib’s nomination in recent days.

Hariri stepped down on October 29, bowing to pressure from unprecedented street protests.

The protest movement that has swept the country since October 17 has demanded the appointment of an independent technocrat government and an overhaul of the entire political system.

http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/267101-mufti-tells-khatib-there-s-sunni-consensus-on-naming-hariri

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British Sikh peer seeks BBC apology for Lord Singh over radio ‘censorship’

Dec 8, 2019

British Sikh peer Lord Ranger has written an angry letter to the BBC’s director-general Lord Hall slamming the corporation for trying to censor a fellow Sikh peer Lord Singh and prevent him from broadcasting certain Sikh teachings on BBC Radio Four’s Thought for the Day out of fear they might offend Muslims and has demanded the corporation issue an apology.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon quit Thought for the Day after 35 years in October this year in protest at what he claimed was BBC censorship.

He was particularly upset about a senior producer trying to stop him broadcasting a message about the martyrdom of the 9th Sikh master, Guru Tegh Bahadur on the BBC’s Radio Four religious slot last year. He said the senior producer tried to pull his broadcast at the last minute saying it might offend Muslims. It was finally allowed to go ahead in November 2018.

However, this triggered the 87-year-old crossbench peer to issue a complaint about a series of attempts to censor him over a period of time and accused the BBC of “a misplaced sense of political correctness.”

A review ordered by senior management rejected his complaint and in October this year he resigned saying that free speech was being curtailed. He has now started a new formal complaint against the BBC, which is still in progress.

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), of which Lord Singh is director, has since launched a petition calling for public inquiry into BBC censorship and bias. Nearly 2,000 people have signed the petition on 38 Degrees. It states: “The UK Sikh community and many people of other faiths, regret that no apology has yet been given to Lord Singh of Wimbledon for an inexplicable attempt to censor a well-recorded historical event emphasising a total Sikh commitment to freedom of religion and belief.”

In the letter, Lord Ranger, writes: “I would be grateful if an apology is extended to Lord Singh so that he can broadcast his important message to our great nation.” He writes that the Sikhs who fought in both the Great Wars were “influenced by the virtues of the same Guru whose martyrdom BBC wishes to stop from broadcasting on the publicly funded radio station paid for by UK taxpayers including the Sikhs. By stopping Lord Singh from remembering a selfless Guru who sacrificed his life for others is an insult to Sikh worldwide. This is a unique example of when a religious leader lays down his life to protect the rights of people of other faiths and not that of his own. Should we rewrite our history for the sake of political correctness?” the letter states. Lord Ranger has not received any response as yet.

“The BBC would be doing the right thing if they issued an unequivocal apology to not just Lord Singh, but Sikhs and Hindus worldwide, who have just marked the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur. It is simply unacceptable, and moreover insulting to Sikh teachings that a senior producer would attempt to censor our history. Surely the Guru’s example of standing up for the freedom of belief of others, no matter the cost, is something we should all be celebrating?” said Hardeep Singh, deputy director, NSO.

“Lord Singh was trying to find a resolution internally but in the end that didn’t happen and he realised the futility of it and so he quit,” said Hardeep, explaining why Lord Singh took almost a year to resign over the issue.

A BBC spokesperson told TOI: “Lord Singh has broadcast the story of Guru Tegh Bahadur on several occasions on Thought for the Day, including as recently as last year. Lord Singh was a respected contributor for many years but given our commitment to increasingly feature a range of voices from Sikh and other communities, we couldn’t agree to his request for a guaranteed number of appearances. By its nature Thought for the Day is a live, topical segment and it’s not unusual for editorial changes to be made.”

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/british-sikh-peer-seeks-bbc-apology-for-lord-singh-over-radio-censorship/articleshow/72430219.cms

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UK PM Johnson visits Hindu temple, vows to partner with PM Modi to build new India

Dec 8, 2019

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a pledge to partner with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his mission to build a new India, as he and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds visited a famous Hindu temple here to woo Indian diaspora votes ahead of Thursday's General Election.

Dressed in a bright pink silk sari, 31-year-old conservationist Symonds made her first official campaign tour on Saturday with 55-year-old Johnson at one of the UK's most famous temples Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, north-west London.

Prime Minister Johnson vowed to partner with his Indian counterpart Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his mission to build a new India.

"I know Prime Minister Modi is building a new India. And, we in the UK government will support him fully in his endeavour," said Johnson, whose ruling Conservative Party is currently leading in opinion polls over the opposition Labour Party.

In an indirect reference to Labour's perceived anti-India stance over the issue of Kashmir, he noted: "There can be no place for racism or anti-India sentiment of any kind in this country".

"British Indians have played a vital role in helping the Conservatives win elections in the past. When I told Narendrabhai (Modi) this, he just laughed and said Indians are always on the winning side," said a tilak and garland sporting Johnson.

In reference to the temple, he said, "This temple is one of the greatest gifts that the Hindu community has given to our country. It is brought to life by the amazing community spirit that inhabits it. You are giving back to our society through the great charitable work that you do. London and the UK are lucky to have you".

The event, also attended by UK home secretary Priti Patel dressed in a sari, marked celebrations for what would have been the 98th birthday of guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the president of the Swaminarayan Sanstha.

She reiterated the party's commitment to introduce a new Australian-style points-based immigration procedure for a "fairer" visa system for migrants from all over the world, including India.

"The vote to leave the EU was a vote to take back control of our borders, and that is exactly what a Conservative majority government will do by getting Brexit done and ending freedom of movement. Immigration will finally be subject to democratic control," Patel said.

In a letter to the nation on Sunday, Johnson says that the new immigration system would allow them to make it easier for the brightest talent from around the world to come to the UK.

"But it will put in place tough new checks to ensure that lower skilled migrants only enter the UK if there is a specific shortage of workers and that their stay will only be temporary. Everyone who comes to the UK will contribute to our NHS from day one – that is only fair," he writes.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/uk-pm-johnson-visits-hindu-temple-vows-to-partner-with-pm-modi-to-build-new-india/articleshow/72429438.cms

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Before Florida attack, gunman showed off mass shooting videos

December 8, 2019

Written by Frances Robles, Eric Schmitt, Patricia Mazzei and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

As federal authorities worked Saturday to piece together clues to last week’s attack at a Florida military training base, new details emerged about the gunman, a Saudi trainee who had apparently shown videos of mass shootings at a dinner party the night before.

Several days earlier, the gunman and three other Saudi military trainees visited New York City, including several museums and Rockefeller Center, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly.

Investigators were seeking to determine whether the New York trip was a tourist excursion — foreign students often take recreational trips — or whether there were other motives. They also hoped to learn whether the group met with other people during the trip.

The 24-year-old gunman, identified as 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, did not appear to have any ties to international terrorist groups, said a senior American official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about investigators’ findings.

The Friday morning attack in a classroom building at the Pensacola Naval Air Station left three service members dead and eight others injured. The gunman, armed with a 9 mm handgun and several extra magazines, was killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

Authorities offered no details about the mass shooting videos said to have been shown at Alshamrani’s apartment, nor did they confirm a report that a Twitter account with a name matching the gunman’s had posted shortly before the shooting a screed criticizing the U.S. as “evil” and quoting Osama bin Laden.

The report, from the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi activity on the internet, said the posting had criticized America’s “invasion” of many countries and its support for Israel.

Several other Saudis on the Pensacola base, which hosts some 200 foreign military trainees, were detained for questioning after the shooting. One of them, who had been at the scene of the shooting with two others, had recorded the chaos in front of the classroom building where the shooting took place. He later told investigators the three of them just happened to be there at that time, were caught up in the moment and he had wanted to record it, said the person briefed on the investigation.

Some of the Saudis were detained in order to make sure every last trainee from that country was accounted for on the base, according to a senior U.S. official. Some Saudis at bases in Oklahoma and Louisiana who had entered the country on the same flight as the gunman earlier this year were also investigated, the official said. No ties to the suspect or to terror groups were found.

The FBI office in Jacksonville has declined to characterize the nature of its investigation, but a local member of Congress said it clearly appeared to be a terrorist attack.

“I said it was terrorism because it was a premeditated terrorist attack and more than one person was involved,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican whose congressional district includes Pensacola and has been kept abreast of the investigation. “The filming and potential attempts at publication show that this was an attack intended for theatrical effect to terrorize. It is the definition of terrorism.”

Witnesses described a chaotic scene after Friday’s shooting. The classroom building was covered in broken glass, shell casings and obvious signs of horror.

One of the wounded, Ryan Blackwell, a Navy airman and assistant high school wrestling coach, told the Pensacola News Journal that he was at his office on the first floor of the classroom building when he heard gunshots in the hallway. He and his colleagues closed the door and took cover. The gunman shot through the door.

Blackwell said he had shielded a woman with his body. All three airmen in the office were shot, he said, with Blackwell wounded in his right arm and pelvis. He and his colleagues were able to open a window and run out, he said.

“We could have been three more casualties if we didn’t escape,” he said.

At a vigil for the shooting victims at the Olive Baptist Church Saturday, Chief Deputy Chip W. Simmons of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said he had visited one of the two deputies who were injured while confronting the gunman and that he was in good spirits.

He recounted the shock Friday morning of hearing the two words law enforcement officials have come to dread over the police radio: “Active shooter.” Usually, he said, that is followed up with the reassuring word of a false alarm. “I never heard that,” Simmons said. “The closer I got to NAS, the more gunshots I heard on the radio.”

Then he heard another, even more dreaded phrase: “Officer down.” And then: “‘Another person down, two officers down. Get rescue.’ How much rescue do you need? ‘As many as you can bring.’”

One of the two injured deputies from the sheriff’s office was released from the hospital Saturday. The other had been released Friday.

Authorities by Saturday evening had not officially released the victims’ names, but family members said Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 23-year-old rifle team captain, was among the dead. Adam Watson, his older brother, wrote in a Facebook post that Joshua “saved countless lives today with his own.”

“After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable,” he wrote. “He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.”

Watson’s father, Benjamin Watson, told The Pensacola News Journal that his 23-year-old son was shot five times. He had reported to the base two weeks earlier for flight training.

The Tampa Bay Times identified a second victim as Mohammed Haitham, a 19-year-old airman from St. Petersburg, Florida.

Questions swirled both in the community and in Washington about the thoroughness of the review that the U.S. conducts before foreign trainees are invited onto military bases.

Alshamrani’s training with the U.S. military began in August 2017 and was scheduled to finish in August 2020, Pentagon officials said Saturday.

After his initial arrival in the country, Alshamrani attended language school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. There, he took classes in English, basic aviation and initial aviation training. During school breaks, the lieutenant would return home to Saudi Arabia, Pentagon officials said.

When he came back to the U.S. this February, friends and colleagues noticed that Alshamrani, who was Muslim, had become more religious, said a person briefed on the investigation.

It was not immediately known what he did between February and last week, when he signed into his new training unit in Pensacola. He had been living in the Pensacola area for some time before that, said the person briefed on the inquiry.

Abbas Musa, the imam at the Al Islam Dawah mosque in Pensacola, said he did not recognize the shooting suspect, and said news of the attack had made his skin crawl. “What in the world would trigger you to do something like that?” Musa said. “It makes you sick. We reject it.”

At the apartment building where public records suggest the gunman may have lived, in unincorporated Escambia County, several neighbors said they did not know him. Landlords often offer short-term leases to people participating in Navy training at the base and there is a high amount of turnover, they said.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Saturday that he had directed the Pentagon to look at vetting procedures for foreign nationals who come to study and train with the U.S. military.

The Department of Defense has 5,181 foreign students from 153 countries in various training programs. Acceptance requires screening for each applicant before acceptance, including running searches for evidence of drug trafficking, support of terrorist activity, corruption or other criminal conduct.

President Donald Trump said before flying to South Florida Saturday evening that the government would immediately look into “the whole procedure” of accepting foreign military trainees. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, he added, “will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones” of those killed and injured in the attack.

“I think they’re going to help out the families very greatly,” Trump said.

Members of the community who gathered for Saturday’s vigil prayed for the two deputies injured while stopping the gunman, along with others injured in the gunfire.

Mike Dimick, the military pastor at Olive Baptist Church, said he had spoken with one of the injured deputies, a 24-year-old military reservist who was shot in the arm. The young man, whom he declined to name, had reminded Dimick about a conversation they had a year ago in Bible study. An 18-year-old trainee at the base had said she was frightened because she felt the location made them a target.

“He said, ‘Every time I put on my uniform and drive by the base, I think of her, and here I am, a first-responder there,’” Dimick said.

The officer was doing well, Dimick said, but seemed solemn because of “the things he has seen.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/before-florida-attack-gunman-showed-off-mass-shooting-videos-6156105/

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Muslims must focus on political change outside party politics

Jahangir Mohammed of the Centre of Muslim Affairs says that while Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is the natural choice for Muslims this Thursday, real positive change for Muslims can only come outside of the political system.

On Thursday Britain will go into a General Election which will define its future direction for decades to come. Some have even called it the most important election of a lifetime.

But my own understanding and experience of British political history has taught me that political change in the UK has nearly always been the product of mobilisation of politics and power (by groups or movements) outside of Westminster. This eventually leads to change in positions and policies among political parties, eventually being translated to laws and change via Parliament.

We have two examples of that type of change before us in this General Election.

Firstly, the movement outside of Parliament to leave the European Union led by Nigel Farage over a two decades. After a struggle within the Conservative Party over the same period and a referendum, the Brexit position has now been adopted as Party policy.

Secondly, the current leadership of the Labour Party, the growth in its younger membership and a shift in its policies both on the international and domestic front are the product of an anti-war and Left politics movement that has mobilised outside Parliament since 9/11.

The current Labour party divisions, like those in the Conservative Party over Brexit, will play out over the next decade, but the Party is now adopting policies which mark a break with the past.

It also marks the beginning of a rupture between the historic relationship between Zionism, Israel and the Labour Party, which will become more pronounced with the younger generation of activists.

Muslim involvement in politics

The Muslim involvement in UK politics to date, save for a few examples, has been in the opposite direction to this. That is, little effort has been put into mobilisation and organisation outside of the political system, and a great deal of involvement has been devoted to party politics.

This has led to political integration and confusion between a genuine Muslim community agenda and party-political agenda. This situation has become so confused these days that councillors and MPs are considered representatives of the Muslim/Islamic interest by councils and others, when quite often they are simply reiterating the party line.

So in short our main political activity has been voting.

But in my opinion, Muslims must at all times exist as an independently organised political community with its own leadership and agenda, retaining a distinction and separate identity from the political system and political parties. This is central to the preservation of Islamic identity, and the enjoining of good and forbidding of evil as stated in the Quran.

There is no such thing as “individual Islam,” or Islam outside an organised political community/entity, even though Muslims can obviously practice Islam as a private faith.

This organised political community effort is a requirement even as a minority community amongst a non-Muslim majority population. Ironically, this point was understood in early Muslim history in the UK under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam and the organised community he created. Such an independent community derives part of its power by being plugged into to the source of power of the global Muslim Ummah.

Whilst Muslims have groups and leaders, this does not constitute an organised community, and having leaders is not the same as leadership. In the absence of such an organised political community individual opinions about our relationship to political parties and the state exist and everyone seems to have their own view.

It is every person/group for themselves and voting for their own interests or perceived community interests, or not voting at all. However, it must be said that in this election pro-vote groups have been trying to define what those best interests are.

An historic change?

Generally speaking, and certainly during my lifetime there has been very little difference in policy or approach between the main political parties towards Muslims or to the Muslim world.

All have offered the same overall direction in policies, whether it be war and imperialism overseas or domestic policies towards religion, Muslim and minority communities. The only real choice has been which party would manage the economy slightly better, and give some more benefits to working class people, businesses or rich people.

My assessment of this election is that there is (for the first time in my life) a real and substantive difference of choice for Muslims between the two main political parties and leaders regarding Muslims and the Muslim world. It would be dishonest of me not to recognise that difference.

Obviously, there are other policy areas that are problematic for Muslims. That would always be the case where the Muslims’ views are that of a small religious community in a majority secular society.

In those areas Muslims are not obliged to accept or adopt those values and beliefs. For example, we are not required to take interest-based loans, or drink alcohol, or commit sexual sins, and can counter those by teaching or promoting our own beliefs. Those policy areas would be the same no matter who came to power.

A clear choice for Muslims

So in this General Election there is a clear choice if you are a Muslim and believe it is permissible to vote.

It is a choice between having Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and leader of this country or Jeremy Corbyn. This is a choice between a PM who has a history of making statements against Islam and Muslims, as well as racist comments, and one who has been supportive of Muslims and not made any statement against Islam and Muslims to my knowledge.

We have a choice between a leader and party policy that supports the War on Terror narrative and a leader and party that is moving away from that. Between someone who wants more terrorism laws and someone who doesn’t. The difference between the two has been plain to see even after the London Bridge attack.

If as a Muslim you spent the time since 9/11 speaking out against British foreign policy and the War on Terror, and arguing it is the root cause of political violence by Muslims in the West, then the choice you should make is clear.

It is the choice between Jeremy Corbyn who wants a different foreign policy, wants to try to end injustice and oppression in the Muslim world, and is committed to peace and against war. And someone who proposes no change to the old way of war, selling weapons to murderous regimes and fighting injustice, and supports the current status quo in parts of the Muslim world.

If you have been going on about the neo-con warmongers in the United States and their role in UK policy on Muslims as well as the Islamophobia industry, the choice is really simple. You can choose between someone aligned with the neo-con U.S. Right, who is linked to the Islamophobia industry in the U.S., and who will involve them even more in UK policies against Muslims, and someone who is not involved with them at all.

You can choose someone who Tommy Robinson endorses as the leader or someone he doesn’t.

On the wider policies, it is a choice between someone who wants to reduce poverty and inequality in this country, which has a major impact on the Muslim community (an overwhelmingly poor community living in the most deprived areas of the UK), and someone who wants to continue with the old individualistic and materialistic polices of the Conservative party that have created poverty and hardship.

As for those Muslims who don’t believe in voting, there is really no argument or debate to be had. Their argument is there is no difference, they are all the same because they are not Muslim, or Islamic, and we are religiously forbidden from voting in any context or condition.

They have to explain their own position and the alternative they have for Muslims in the UK to prevent the obvious harm that UK domestic and foreign policy has been doing for decades.

But this Thursday whatever the outcome, and whichever way Muslims vote, Britain is heading for change which will have a significant impact on Muslims. It remains to be seen if Muslims will be able to influence the direction of that change or not.

https://5pillarsuk.com/2019/12/08/muslims-must-focus-on-political-change-outside-party-politics/

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Russian forces bombed a mosque in Kafranbel city in Idlib, on December

SNHR: fixed- wing warplanes we believe were Russian fired missiles on al Madina al Munawara Mosque in Kafranbel city in the southern suburbs of Idlib governorate, partially destroying its building and damaging its furniture, on December 7, 2019. We note that the mosque was targeted earlier several times due to the ongoing attacks by Syrian- Russian Alliance forces on the area since April 26, 2019.

http://sn4hr.org/sites/news/2019/12/08/russian-forces-bombed-mosque-kafranbel-city-idlib-december/

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North America

 

Washington DC: US veterans join Indian-Americans to protest against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism

Dec 9, 2019

WASHINGTON DC: A group of US veterans joined members of Kashmiri diaspora and other Indian-Americans to protest outside the Pakistani embassy in Washington DC on Sunday (local time) against the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

The demonstrators, representing different communities and backgrounds, gathered to voice their anguish and strong condemnation of Pakistan's policy and practices of state-sponsored terrorism directed against neighbouring India, and Afghanistan as well as some western countries, rally organiser Mohan Sapru said.

"It is a human tragedy that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism resulted in the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus during the dark period of 1989-1991. While the world remained silent, these terrorists committed the most outrageous human rights violations by killing, raping, and uprooting about 4 lakh native Kashmiri Hindus who were forced to flee Kashmir," said Sapru, who is also the Washington DC coordinator of the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora.

Sapru cited a US Country Reports on Terrorism which describes Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists - a country where terrorists are able to organise, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, transit, and operate in relative security.

"The current Prime Minister of Pakistan has publicly acknowledged the presence of 30,000-40,000 armed terrorists in his country. Whether terrorist acts happen in Kashmir, or Mumbai or any other part of the world, at the end of the day, terrorism is a blot on the conscience of humanity and cannot be a legitimate means to settle disputes in a civilized world," he said.

Two congressional candidates from Virginia and American veterans who fought and worked in Afghanistan were among those who participated in the rally 'Veterans Rally against terror state Pakistan'.

Demonstrators held placards and chanted slogans against Pakistan. A few protesters were seen holding a banner that read, 'Pakistan has been involved in more than 90 per cent of all terror attack that has happened in the past 20 years within the United States'.

"Imagine the days of horror, terror and human tragedy of 2008 Mumbai attacks that were carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba," said Adapa Prasad, a prominent community leader.

"There is widespread anguish that despite documented proof implicating Lashkar-e-Taiba, and former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif admission that the Pakistani government played a role in the 2008 Mumbai attack, the terrorist organization continues to be shielded and nurtured by Pakistan. It is high time to declare Pakistan a terrorist state," Prasad said.

Pakistan has been repeatedly asked by the international community to take action against state-sponsored terrorism.

The demonstrators also held posters demanding 26/11 Mumbai attack culprits to be brought to justice. The series of coordinated shootings and bombing on that day claimed the lives of 166 people and injured over 300 others and was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists who came to the city via sea route from Pakistan.

India has repeatedly asked Pakistan to take action against the terrorist groups operating from its soil. However, the architects of Mumbai attack like Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Sufayan Zafar continue to receive Pakistan's military patronage.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/washington-dc-us-veterans-join-indian-americans-to-protest-against-pakistan-sponsored-terrorism/articleshow/72433061.cms

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Saudi gunman tweeted against US before naval base shooting

Dec 9, 2019

PENSACOLA: The Saudi gunman who killed three people at the Pensacola naval base had apparently gone on Twitter shortly before the shooting to blast US support of Israel and accuse America of being anti-Muslim, a US official said Sunday as the FBI confirmed it is operating on the assumption the attack was an act of terrorism.

Investigators are also trying to establish whether the killer, 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, of the Royal Saudi Air Force, acted alone or was part of a larger plot.

Alshamrani, who was killed by a sheriff's deputy during the rampage at a classroom building Friday, was undergoing flight training at Pensacola, where members of foreign militaries routinely receive instruction.

"We are, as we do in most active-shooter investigations, work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism," said Rachel J Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI's office in Jacksonville.

Authorities believe the gunman made social media posts criticizing the US under a user handle similar to his name, but federal law enforcement officials are investigating whether he authored the words or just posted them, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Also, investigators believe the gunman visited New York City, including Rockefeller Center, days before the shooting and are working to determine the purpose of the trip, the official said.

All foreign students at the Pensacola base have been accounted for, no arrests have been made, and the community is under no immediate threat, Rojas said at a news conference. A Saudi commanding officer has ordered all students from the country to remain at one location at the base, authorities said.

"There are a number of Saudi students who are close to the shooter and continue to cooperate in this investigation," Rojas said. "The Saudi government has pledged to fully cooperate with our investigation."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the investigation was proceeding under "the presumption that this was an act of terrorism"and he called for better vetting of foreigners allowed into the US for training on American bases.

Speaking at a news conference Sunday afternoon, DeSantis also said the gunman had a social media trail and a "deep-seated hatred of the United States."

He said he thought such an attack could have been prevented with better vetting.

"You have to take precautions" to protect the nation, DeSantis said.

"To have this individual be able to take out three of our sailors, to me that's unacceptable," the governor added.

Earlier in the week of the shooting, Alshamrani hosted a dinner party where he and three others watched videos of mass shootings, another US official told the AP on Saturday.

Alshamrani used a Glock 9 mm weapon that had been purchased legally in Florida, Rojas said. DeSantis questioned whether foreigners should continue to be allowed under federal law to buy guns in the US and called it a "federal loophole."

Republican DeSantis said he supports that the Second Amendment but that it "does not apply to Saudi Arabians."

Family members and others identified the three dead as Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 23-year-old graduate of the US Naval Academy; Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida, who joined the Navy after graduating from high school last year; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia.

The official who spoke Saturday said one of the three students who attended the dinner party hosted by the attacker recorded video outside the classroom building while the shooting was taking place. Two other Saudi students watched from a car, the official said.

In a statement, the FBI confirmed Sunday that it had obtained base surveillance videos as well as cellphone footage taken by a bystander outside the building, and had also interviewed that person.

Rojas would not directly answer when asked whether other students knew about the attack beforehand or whether there was anything "nefarious" about the making of the video. She said that a lot of information needs to be confirmed by investigators and that she did not want to contribute to "misinformation" circulating about the case.

Rojas said federal authorities are focused on questioning the gunman's friends, classmates and other associates. "Our main goal is to confirm if he acted alone or was he part of a larger network," she said.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, said on CBS' ""Face the Nation" that the shooting looked like "terrorism or akin to terrorism." But he cautioned that the FBI was still investigating.

"Look, to me it appears to be a terrorist attack," he said. "I don't want prejudge the investigation, but it appears that this may be someone that was radicalized." O'Brien said he did not see evidence so far of a "broader plot."

The US has long had a robust training program for Saudis, providing assistance in the US and in the kingdom. More than 850 Saudis are in the United States for various training activities. They are among more than 5,000 foreign students from 153 countries in the US going through military training.

Foreigners allowed into the US for military training are subject to background checks to weed out security risks.

"This has been done for many decades," Trump said on Saturday. "I guess we're going to have to look into the whole procedure. We'll start that immediately."

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/saudi-gunman-tweeted-against-us-before-naval-base-shooting/articleshow/72433430.cms

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Investigators fail to resolve mystery behind release of Dua Mangi

December 9, 2019

KARACHI: Investigators probing the kidnapping case of 20-year-old Dua Mangi have failed to resolve the mystery behind the kidnapping and her sudden release. The investigators are still looking to record the statement of the abducted young woman.

The 20-year-old Dua Mangi was kidnapped from Khyaban-e-Bukhari on November 30 by unidentified men when she was with Haris Fateh Soomro, her friend. During the abduction, the kidnappers also shot and critically injured Haris. Later, an FIR was lodged by the Darakhshan police and an investigation team was formed under the supervision of the DIG South, assisted by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee.

However, Dua Mangi, whose kidnapping a week ago had shocked the entire city, suddenly returned home, in the early hours of Saturday apparently following payment of hefty ransom by the family.

The young woman remains in shock and trauma while investigators are still looking to record her statement. The investigators probing the kidnapping case have failed to resolve the mystery behind the kidnapping and release as the family has already denied reports about paying ransom money to kidnappers while police officials remained tight-lipped on the matter.

On Sunday, it was being reported that Dua Nisar Mangi's kidnappers were involved in a shootout with police officers three days ago in which two policemen of the Aziz Bhatti police station were injured.

The suspects, who were wearing masks at the time, had opened fire on the police vehicle as soon as they saw it. Reports further said that the shells obtained from the encounter matched those that were obtained from the gun of Mangi's kidnappers that was used to shoot her friend, Haris Soomro. However, a senior police official of the Karachi Police when contacted denied such news.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/580621-investigators-fail-to-resolve-mystery-behind-release-of-dua-mangi

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PM Imran to receive Bahrain's highest civil award: PM's special assistant

Naveed Siddiqui

December 09, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan will receive Bahrain's highest civil award, the King Hamad Order of the Renaissance, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Bukhari has told Arab News.

"Prime Minister is going on an official visit to Bahrain in mid-December where he will be conferred Bahrain’s highest civilian award," the publication quoted Bukhari in a report published on Saturday. Bukhari added that the premier will receive the award at a special ceremony during his visit to the Gulf nation.

According to Arab News, the award was also conferred upon Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 25, the same month that India revoked the special constitutional status of Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK).

According to diplomatic sources, Prime Minister Imran will leave for Bahrain on December 15 and will attend the Gulf nation's national day celebrations as special guest.

While in Bahrain, Prime Minister Imran will meet Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the report added.

The premier will also visit Switzerland and Malaysia. In Geneva, he is expected to address a conference on refugees.

In Malaysia, he will attend the first Kuala Lumpur Summit to discuss the ummah's problems. The summit in the Malaysian capital from December 18 to 20 is being attended by Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan and Qatar in addition to host Malaysia. The event’s theme is 'The Role of Development in Achieving National Sovereignty'.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521306/pm-imran-to-receive-bahrains-highest-civil-award-pms-special-assistant

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Tareen denies PM Imran ordered details of £190m settlement sealed

December 08, 2019

Former PTI parliamentarian Jahangir Khan Tareen on Sunday rejected reports that the prime minister had ordered the details of the £190 million settlement between Malik Riaz's family and the United Kingdom government to be "sealed".

"There is no truth in this. What I know is that when a civil deal is reached in Britain, they require its contents to not be disclosed. These are not the prime minister's instructions. It is a condition set by Britain," said Tareen during a wide-ranging talk with the media following the Polo Cup final in Lahore.

On Tuesday, the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) had issued a statement saying it has agreed to a settlement worth £190 million with the family of property tycoon Malik Riaz.

A statement, released from the office of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar had followed, saying that Britain had agreed to an "immediate repatriation" of the funds received after the settlement.

The PTI leader also rejected the impression that a political change would take place in Pakistan next year. "Imran Khan sahib is the prime minister and will serve his full term. There is no doubt about that."

"The opposition are in a fool's paradise and keep trying because Khan sahib as part of his accountability drive is hot on their heels. They only wish to save their money and will try other things as well.

"They will be dealt a defeat in all their conspiracies," said Tareen.

When asked if it was right for Maryam Nawaz to go visit her ailing father Nawaz Sharif, Tareen remarked that the PML-N supremo "surely has his sons and daughters-in-law with him there".

"For Maryam to go especially is beyond my understanding. But she has applied (for a one-time permission to travel) and maybe wants to run away.

"So, like our friend said, 'first Nawaz, then Shehbaz and now the time has come for Maryam to be minus' from the country."

Tareen was asked by a reporter to comment on whether the rift between the government and opposition will be broken regarding ascertaining an army chief's tenure through legislation and on remarks made by Fawad Chaudhry about the Supreme Court having "no right to order the parliament to legislate".

In response, the PTI leader said: "We consider the parliament supreme. The people are supreme and this is a representative parliament. When the detailed judgment comes we will see whether we want to review it or whether we want to go ahead and legislate."

Tareen was disqualified by the Supreme Court in December 2017 for mis-declaration under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution — the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was held ineligible for life to hold any public office over the Panama Papers leaks case.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521155/tareen-denies-pm-imran-ordered-details-of-190m-settlement-sealed

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PML-N leader gets caught in NAB cross hairs

December 09, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has initiated an inquiry against senior PML-N leader Mian Javed Latif for alleged misuse of power and making assets worth billions of rupees in the name of his siblings.

According to state-run APP news agency, NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal has directed the Lahore NAB under Section 34(a) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 to hold an inquiry into the matter and submit a final report.

The NAB Lahore had constituted an eight-member combined investigation team (CIT) to probe the alleged misuse of authority under Section 9 (a) of NAO and Section 3 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010.

Lahore NAB spokesperson, when contacted by Dawn, didn’t confirm initiation of inquiry against Mr Latif.

Sources close to Javed Latif also denied the allegations and said the MNA was being defamed through corruption allegations. “This is not something new for us; when we will receive [NAB] notice, we will respond,” one of the sources said while talking to Dawn. He said that during the Musharraf era, such inquiries were also conducted, but nothing could be proved against Mr Latif.

Javed Latif accused of misusing power and making assets worth billions of rupees in the name of his siblings

According to APP, NAB received information that Javed Latif, an MNA from Sheikhupura district, had acquired assets worth billions of rupees in the name of his siblings after coming into politics.

According to available information, Javed Latif inherited a 12-marla house in Habib Colony, Sheikhupura, before joining politics, which has now been extended up to 1.5 acres, APP quoted a source as revealing. He allegedly acquired majority of his assets in the name of his mother, who is a housewife and supposedly non-tax filer, to park his black money.

According to the news agency, the NAB Lahore has so far been investigating the source of funds used to buy six CNG (compressed natural gas) and petrol stations in Sheikhupura and Sargodha, one paper mills in Sheikhupura, one plaza and houses constructed on a half-an-acre land and two flour mills in Sheikhupura owned by his mother Walait Latif. It said Javed Latif’s mother also owned his dera and a building [rented out to APNA Bank], which had been constructed on a land measuring two kanals and 17 marlas near Sharqpur Chowk, Sheikhupura city.

According to APP, Javed Latif’s mother and brothers — Anwar Latif, Munawar Latif and Akhtar Latif — also owned two brick kilns spreading over 20 acres in Kot Ranjeet, Sheikhupura district.

The CIT will also investigate the source of funds used to buy a 136-kanal agricultural land in Mouza Hiran Minrar, Sheikhupura, in the name of his brothers Amjad Latif and Anwar Latif.

According to APP, there were also charges against Javed Latif and his siblings of forcefully occupying a 24-marla land belonging to Khalid Aleem, a resident of Lahore, and Mehboob Ul Haq, of Sheikhupura, to include it in their flour mills. Similarly, Javed Latif and his siblings are facing charges of illegally occupying a two-kanal land of M/s Shahid & Brothers lying between the two flour mills.

His brothers Amjad Latif, Munawar Latif, Anwar Latif and Akhtar Latif and son Mohammad Ahsan Javed also owned City Tower constructed on a land measuring 18 kanals and 12 marlas in Mouza Hanjrianwala, Lahore Road, Sheikhupura city. An ongoing inquiry by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) found that this property/multi-storey building was being constructed on a government land belonging to the highway department. This structure was allegedly built without any approval from the LDA/TMA or any municipal agency.

The ACE is investigating this matter vide inquiry 32-E-19.

Javed Latif’s family has approached the Lahore High Court for halting the inquiry.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521184/pml-n-leader-gets-caught-in-nab-cross-hairs

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Nawaz may be shifted to US for treatment on 16th

December 09, 2019

LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to fly to US on Dec 16 for medical treatment of his ailment there, family sources say.

The PML-N supreme leader is presently residing at the Avenfield flats owned by his son Hasan Nawaz in London since Nov 20. Serving a seven-year jail term in a corruption case, Nawaz had been released on medical grounds for eight weeks by the the Islamabad High Court on Oct 27. The Lahore High Court later directed the government to remove his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) for four weeks on Nov 16 so that he could fly abroad for his treatment as suggested by various medical boards.

The ex-premier had refused to travel abroad on the condition set by the PTI government that he should submit an indemnity bond as a guarantee for his return to the country after his treatment.

Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s younger brother and also the PML-N president, then gave an undertaking to the court that he would ensure the return of his brother on certification by the doctors that he was fit to travel to Pakistan.

Mr Nawaz had been flown to the UK in an air ambulance accompanied by his personal physician Dr Adnan and Mr Shahbaz.

Diagnosed with an immune system disorder causing low platelet count, the sources said as treatment of the disease was not available in London too, Nawaz had to be shifted to the United States for the purpose.

They said the medical tests conducted in London revealed that blood supply to a part of Nawaz’s brain was obstructed causing low platelet count issue and the surgical procedure facility required to treat it was available only in Boston, US.

A group of senior PML-N leaders is in London to inquire after Mr Nawaz. But they were so far not allowed to visit him and were briefed on his condition by Dr Adnan.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521175/nawaz-may-be-shifted-to-us-for-treatment-on-16th

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HRCP team finds Gul Sama’s stoning claim false

Qurban Ali Khushik

December 09, 2019

DADU: A fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has declared after visiting Shahi Makan area and collecting information from locals that claim about death of nine-year-old Gul Sama Rind after stoning over a karo-kari allegation is part of a drama, which is an outcome of simmering inter-tribal and political disputes among bigwigs of the area.

The mission led by Dr Abdul Majeed Chandio who was aided by Imdad Chandio, Alia Buxal Thallho, Hussain Musarrat, journalists Farooq Soomro and Mahesh Kumar visited Shahi Makan, Wahi Pandhi, Johi and Dadu towns and collected evidence on Sunday to unearth reasons behind the much-hyped death of the girl.

The HRCP team said that disputes among tribal chiefs and political bigwigs over royalty of minerals abundant in Khirthar range of mountains, especially at Karo Koat, and other incentives from oil and gas companies were found to be at play behind attempt to get the accidental death of Gul Sama portrayed as a case of honour killing by stoning.

Media reports termed political bigwigs’ game

Sources said the team had rejected the girl’s death after stoning and reported that neither was Gul Sama declared kari nor any jirga was held for the purpose. In fact, a Wahi Pandhi journalist working for a Karachi-based private TV channel had misreported the girl’s death. The journalist had claimed that Gul Sama was stoned to death over allegation of kari under a jirga verdict, said the sources.

The HRCP team learnt that Wahi Pandhi police had come under pressure after the journalist aired the fake new and lodged an FIR about the girl’s having been stoned to death.

The team met Lilan Khatoon Rind, mother of Gul Sama, and residents of the area in Shai Makan and mother rejected claims that her daughter was stoned to death or a jirga was held for the purpose, said the sources.

The team went to Wahi Pandhi police station and met Ali Bux Rind, Gula Sama’s father, and Maulvi Mumtaz Leghari who had led the funeral prayers of the girl and recorded their statements.

Then, it visited the Wahi Pandhi, Johi and Dadu towns, collected information from people of different walks of life about the incident and informed that residents of Shahi Makan had told them that Gul Sama was playing with other children at the foot of Karo Koat mountain at a little distance from her home when some rocks fell down on her and she died.

The team said that the chemical examination of Gula Sama’s body parts would determine final cause of the death but evidence and statements of people had established to a large extent that the girl had died after some heavy objects hit her head and not after stoning.

It argued that the facts that the girl’s last rites were held, her funeral prayer was offered, the bereaved family members received condolences for three days and distributed food on the third day of her death among a number of people of the area; proved that if she had been declared a kari or killed after stoning, her last rites would not have been performed.

There was all likelihood that hidden hands of tribal chiefs and political bigwigs were involved in circulating the fake story of stoning to death to achieve their political and financial ends like royalty for minerals and other incentives, said the sources.

The HRCP team visited Wahi Pandhi police station where it met the SHO, went to offices of DSP of Johi and SSP of Dadu who admitted that the case of stoning to death was lodged under growing pressure from social media.

ASI Ghulam Qadir Gopang, who had lodged the case on behalf of state, was reportedly on leave hence his statement could not be recorded while the journalist based at Karachi who aired this news refused to meet with the HRCP team.

The head of HRCP team and members declined to share more details with journalists and said the team had submitted its report to HRCP’s Lahore office and it would be made public soon.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1521232/hrcp-team-finds-gul-samas-stoning-claim-false

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Will support forward bloc in Sindh PPP, says PTI leader

Zia Ur Rehman

December 9, 2019

KARACHI: Once again, the political temperature in Sindh province is running high after the recent claim of the Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi about the existence of a forward bloc in Sindh against the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government.

The statement came from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s key leader Naqvi two days after a joint delegation of Sindh’s opposition parties, including PTI, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Grand Democratic Alliance, flew to Islamabad to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss the future political strategy in the Sindh province.

On Saturday, the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, giving an indirect reference to Sindh’s opposition parties' meeting with the prime minister, said that some disappointed political souls of Sindh met and complained against the provincial government to an already 'panicked person’ in Islamabad but the ‘already panicked person’ urged them not to be alarmed and sent them back disappointed.

On Sunday, Naqvi, along with other PTI leaders, addressed a press conference at the Insaf House, the party’s secretariat in Karachi, where he made the revelation about the presence of a forward bloc in the PPP Sindh, formed by disgruntled members.

During the press conference, Saleem Sachwani, a senior leader of PPP Karachi and former electoral candidate, announced to join the PTI. “The PPP is facing a severe split in its parliamentary party and the PTI is ready to support the PPP’s forward bloc,” he said. He claimed that the PPP has itself said that Speaker Sindh Assembly Agha Siraj Durrani is a party’s traitor.

Naqvi said that because of corruption and bad governance, the PPP has been limited only to rural Sindh. The PTI-led federal government has forced the corrupt leaders to flee the country and now it was the turn of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. “But the PTI Sindh will not allow him to flee the country.”

He said that Sindh chief minister was so frightened after the statement of an MQM-London’s alleged target killer, that he removed a competent police officer from District East Karachi and surrendered his services to the federal government. “This week, another police officer from Shikarpur district has been removed after he said that tribal chieftains and political leaders are involved in the unrest in the district,” he said.

He said that the PPP government did not remove police officer Rao Anwar who was involved in a number of heinous crimes because he was blue-eyed of the party supremo Asif Ali Zardari. He said that after the passage of 18th Amendment, now it is the responsibility of the provincial government to resolve the issues of Karachi.

Reacting to the PTI leader’s comments, PPP leaders have denied any possibility of the formation of a forward bloc in the PPP’s parliamentary party in Sindh province. The PPP leaders declined to comment on it, saying that responding to Naqvi’s baseless claims will give him unnecessary importance.

However, Saeed Ghani, a PPP leader and provincial information minister, told the media that the PTI has itself been making efforts to remove Naqvi from the post of the opposition leader and get rid of him. Adviser to Chief Minister of Sindh on Law Murtaza Wahab, commenting on Naqvi’s statement, said that the opposition leader should use decent language while highlighting political matters. “PTI’s fascist behavior shows that the opposition is only focusing on using abusive words for the provincial government,” he said.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/580610-will-support-forward-bloc-in-sindh-ppp-says-pti-leader

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Africa

 

Imam Zakzaky: How Nigerian cleric became a pawn in Gulf power struggle

Amandla Thomas-Johnson

8 December 2019

Though she was only three at the time, Suhaila Zakzaky says she can still recall the day when police burst into the family home, beating her mother and taking them all into detention.

Wandering the prison by day, Suhaila recalls, she would see officers torturing inmates, events that would form some of her earliest memories.

It was the mid-1990s in Nigeria, and her father, an outspoken Muslim cleric, had fallen foul of Sani Abacha's corrupt military regime, which would detain, torture and, in some cases, hang its opponents on a whim.

Nigeria is a different country now. Democracy has returned. And state authorities including the army are expected to behave constitutionally.

But Suhaila's father, Imam Ibrahim Zakzaky, has been held without charge since 2015, despite a high court ruling three years ago ordering his release.

Zakzaky's anti-establishment rhetoric and social welfare schemes for the poor have drawn support from millions, as well as the ire of authorities.

He is also the leader of Nigeria's Shia community, a factor, analysts say, in the killings of his followers, driven by fears of growing Iranian Shia influence in the West African nation where Sunni Muslims make up the largest religious group and the government has courted close ties with Saudi Arabia.

Yet in recent months, his supporters have taken to the streets to demand his release, braving bloodshed and the bullets of Nigerian security forces. They have told Middle East Eye that they are prepared to lay down their lives until he is set free.

Authorities have accused them of violence against security forces and of destroying public property, and called them a "terrorist group," allegations that Zakzaky's supporters reject.

Spending much of the 1980s and 1990s as a political prisoner, Zakzaky's run-ins with authorities have become so frequent that his daughter Suhaila said she has become used to it.

"Although it's not normal and not how any family should be, we've just gotten used to that. He's been in prison multiple times and has been targeted multiple times throughout our lives."

Born into a Sunni Muslim family in the north of Nigeria, Zakzaky underwent a traditional Islamic education, before arriving in the late 1970s to Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna state, one of Nigeria's largest and most prestigious, where debates about political Islam were just taking off.

During the 19th century, Kaduna was part of the Sokoto Caliphate founded by Usman Dan Fodio, a powerful Fulani tribal leader who followed Sufi Islam, which has been the dominant expression of Sunni Islam in Nigeria for generations.

By the early 20th century, northern Nigeria, including the Sokoto Caliphate, had been forcefully brought under British rule. British authorities co-opted traditional rulers and religious leaders, who began to preach a quietist message, emphasising Islamic ritual and education over political and social reform.

Nigeria achieved independence from Britain in 1960. But its newfound optimism was short-lived, as the oil giant soon lurched from civil war to military coup to counter-coup, its wealth squandered.

A failing state and a loss of religious authority meant that by the 1970s a new generation of Nigerian Muslims were itching for change. While Dan Fodio and his 19th-century caliphate continued to be a source of inspiration, they now found favour with vigorous ideas then emanating from the Middle East.

Initially influenced by Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood figure Sayyid Qutb, Zakzaky had by 1979 risen to become president of the Ahmadu Bello University's Muslim Student Society. An influential hotbed of Islamic activism, its members would go on to hold sway and influence in orthern Nigeria for years to come.

Contemporaries included Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, the current governor of Kaduna, with whom Zakzaky would clash many years later, as well as future leaders of Nigeria's emerging Salafi movement.

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war would divide students as it would other parts of the Muslim world, inflaming Sunni-Shia relations.

Some students would fall under the influence of Saudi Arabia, taking up scholarships to study there, after the kingdom, fearing increased Iranian Shia influence, launched an aggressive recruitment drive in the West African nation, which is home to the continent's largest Muslim population.

Others drew their inspiration from the revolutionary vision of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who seemed to offer a radical alternative to the decadent kingdoms of the Middle East. Iran also did its part to counter Saudi influence, pumping out literature and meeting with Sufi leaders, the traditional gatekeepers of Islam in Northern Nigeria.

Both student groups, however, harboured dreams of a society governed by Islamic law.

Zakzaky headed to Iran. Returning in the 1980s as a learned Shia cleric, he set about building an Iranian-inspired socio-religious movement, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).

By the 2000s, Zakzaky had drawn millions to his cause, many of whom had converted to Shia Islam from Sunni Islam. Others also flocked to his side, including Christians, because of his uncompromising stand on issues of social justice and against corruption.

But in the battle for hearts and minds, his success has landed him in the crosshairs of sectarian members of a Saudi-sponsored group called Izala society.

Founded in 1978, the group had mounted a serious campaign against Sufi Islam as practised by most Nigerian Muslims, arguing that it strayed away from the true path, its young adherents refusing to pray in the mosques of their parents and grandparents.

Founder Abubakar Gumi was a key link in Saudi-Nigerian affairs. An adviser to Saudi Arabia's Islamic University of Medina in the 1970s, he received the King Faisal Prize for "services to Islam" in 1987.

After his death in 1992, Izala's ranks were filled with a new generation, many of them Islamic Studies graduates from the University of Medina, from where 865 Nigerians graduated between 1965 and 2001. Some of those then splintered off to form other groups.

But as Alex Thurston, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and author of Salafism in Nigeria explains, their anti-Sufi campaign eventually became unstuck.

"The argument got a bit stale. They spent decades saying that Sufis were innovators, that their doctrines were shot through with lies and that they were charlatans. After 30 years people got tired."

And so they turned to the Shia, a tiny but increasingly vocal minority in Sunni-dominated northern Nigeria.

'The Shia are a pretty easy punching bag. If you beat up on them there won't be much of a consequence'

- Alex Thurston, author of Salafism in Nigeria

Izala supporters attacked INM supporters during the annual Ashoura mourning procession, the most important commemoration in Shia Islam, across the region in 2016.

A year earlier, Boko Haram, a hardline Islamic militant group whose founder Mohammad Yusuf had been a member of Izala before brutally turning on them, killed 22 people in a twin suicide attack and threatened to "wipe out" the Shia.

"The Shia are a pretty easy punching bag. If you beat up on them there won't be much of a consequence," Thurston adds.

As Saudi-backed groups and ones inspired by Iran clashed, the growing sectarian tensions set the scene for a blood-letting that has continued to this day.

Demanding his release

For the last three years Baqeer Gashua has been among hundreds of followers of Zakzaky who have regularly taken to the streets of Abuja, Nigeria's capital, to demand his release from imprisonment.

Well-organised, they have their own traffic-control staff who direct cars away from the side of the road where a tide of IMN supporters, some of whom wear green scarves tied around their heads, stride forward holding banners, according to video footage. Their chants include "Free Zakzaky" and "Buhari is a criminal," referring to the current president of Nigeria.

Waiting for them, however, is the full force of Nigeria's army, even though peaceful protests are protected under Nigeria's constitution.

On 22 July, 11 people, including a journalist, were killed with live fire, Human Rights watch decrying what it described as the army's "excessive use of force". According to IMN, 20 people in total were killed that week alone, while around 65 have been killed in clashes over the last few years in Abuja, with scores arrested.

In September, during the annual parades marking Ashoura, 15 were killed, according to IMN figures.

The crackdown, Baqeer says, has emboldened the IMN.

"We have this conviction in our hearts that what we're doing is right, even though we know it's very difficult and that they will kill us and arrest us.

'We have this conviction in our hearts that what we're doing is right, even though we know it's very difficult and that they will kill us and arrest us'

Baqeer Gashua, Islamic Movement of Nigeria

"This is not discouraging us, it's always giving us encouragement," he adds, likening their cause to that of Hussein's, a central figure in Shia Islam.

Demonstrations demanding the imam's release have also taken place in Tehran and London.

And yet, remarkably, the most recent bloodshed pales in comparison to that suffered by the group years ago.

In July 2014 at the IMN's annual Al-Quds day procession, a peaceful march in solidarity with the people of Palestine that is held globally, an unprovoked Nigerian army began to fire indiscriminately.

The march had already come to an end when armed soldiers surrounded and set upon a group at the tail end of the three-kilometre-long procession. Victims included bystanders hit by the random spray of bullets. Soldiers pursued victims fleeing into local sugar cane fields before shooting them dead, according to survivors.

Dozens were detained without charge, and the injured were denied medical care. Among those killed were three sons of Zakzaky, who were reportedly tortured before being shot dead.

A report by the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) into the violence states that their deaths "suggest that eliminating members of the sheikh's family was one of their primary goals".

An internal Nigerian army report from the time claimed that Zakzaky's followers were armed and "unlawfully engaged in an act of civil disturbance," attacking innocent civilians and soldiers, yet it says that no troops were killed and none were injured.

A year later, on the morning of Saturday 12 December 2015, scores of soldiers gathered outside the Hussainiyah, the IMN's mosque in Zaria, hours before followers were due to begin a religious commemoration.

At 12pm they opened fire. Unarmed civilians who tried to escape, including children, were shot dead. Twelve hours later, now with added reinforcements, they called on people holed up inside the centre, said to number hundreds, to leave with their hands up. When they did so they were shot on the spot, according to a detailed report of the incident by the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission based on eyewitness testimonies.

A 14-year-old girl attending a maths class inside the centre told Human Rights Watch she was shot as she walked out of the centre with other children.

At around 5.30am on Sunday, some 30 hours after the stand-off began, the army threw grenades into the mosque and then stormed inside, killing many.

Meanwhile, at about 10pm on Saturday, another army contingent had advanced into the Gyellesu neighbourhood, to the residence of Zakzaky, some 10 kilometres from the mosque. Troops met human shields formed around the home of Zakyzaky, consisting of followers fearing that he might be killed.

Suhaila Zakzaky recounts her experiences from inside the house as the family came under siege.

"We had to anticipate that they would attack us in our home and prepare for the worst possible outcome. People who were arriving at our house from around the country put up sandbags, and some put their cars in front of the house so that they [security forces] wouldn't be able to drive in."

Eyewitnesses say that the army killed their way through the human ring, indiscriminately shooting, and mowing down those who came out to help the injured, through the night and into the morning. In defence, people threw stones and wielded sticks but to little avail.  Not a single army soldier was injured let alone killed, according to an army report.

By the early morning, the forces finally broke through and stormed the family home.

"They tied us up with ropes, and they walked me out. I remember seeing along the driveway burnt cars and bodies burnt to a crisp were everywhere. They kept us in front of the house while soldiers pointed guns at us."

'I remember seeing along the driveway burnt cars and bodies burnt to a crisp were everywhere'

- Suhaila Zakzaky

Zakzaky and his wife were taken away into detention.

Some survivors of those attacks took refuge in buildings in a cemetery owned by the movement. The army pursued them, attacking using rocket launchers, killing 50.

Afterwards, the army razed the mosque and Zakzaky's house and demolished graves at the cemetery.

Anti-Shia sentiments

In a sign that anti-Shia sentiments had taken root in army ranks, survivors reported troops as saying: "We have finished with the Shia and Zakzaky. No more Shia in Nigeria."

For its part, the army has claimed that the IMN tried to obstruct a convoy carrying Nigeria's army chief of staff on the Saturday afternoon, in what a spokesperson described as "a deliberate attempt to assassinate the chief of army staff and members of his entourage".

But rights groups have contested this explanation. Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said at the time that the Nigerian military's version of events "does not stack up".

"At best it was a brutal overreaction and at worst it was a planned attack on the minority Shia group," he added.

Massoud Shadjareh, director of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told MEE: "Armies are not supposed to go around killing their own people after a traffic violation.

"You don't go around spending 30 hours killing innocent people," added Shadjareh, who has been a close friend of Zakzaky since the 1980s.

The London-based group has a case pending with the International Criminal Court in the Hague, alleging the army's actions amount to a crime against humanity.

The following August, an official enquiry found that the army had used "excessive force" and were culpable for 349 deaths.

IMN supporters have dismissed its findings and claim that about 1,000 people were killed in total who were then buried in a series of mass graves. This number includes 300 killed in the siege of the mosque alone, of which 100 were children.

A Shia act of piety or forbidden trend? The debate on self-inflicted wounds on Ashura

Three more of Zakzaky's sons were among the dead, bringing the total number of his children killed by Nigerian armed forces to six.

No one has been held responsible for the violence.

Instead, Zakzaky and his wife, both sustaining bullet wounds in the attacks, were detained. After a legal challenge brought by Zakzaky, Nigeria's Federal Court, one of the country's highest courts, demanded their release in 2016 and the payment of substantial damages, including the building of a new home - and a security detail drawn from Nigeria's own security forces.

Authorities have refused to comply in contempt of court. Meanwhile, a case has been opened against Zakzaky in a regional court in his home state of Kaduna, charging him with attempted murder. But the case has been continually adjourned.

As a result, three years on from the Zaria massacre, Zakzaky and his wife find themselves still behind bars.

According to an April medical report seen by MEE, the cleric is suffering from several illnesses including heart problems and is virtually blind, having received a bullet in one of his eyes.

Laboratory tests indicate that he has lead levels 45 times the acceptable limit, the result of the bullets he has absorbed over the years gradually seeping into his bloodstream.

"This heavy metal toxicity has grave short term as well as long-term consequences," the report says, "… and carries the high risk of malignancy and death."

'Animal'

The Zaria massacre took place just months after a new political alignment began to take shape in Nigeria.

Muhammadu Buhari was elected president in the March general election, which led to Nigeria's first ever democratic transfer of power, supposedly a turn away from the country's authoritarian past. A Sunni Muslim from the North, Buhari had been military ruler during the 1980s, a period when Zakzaky was in and out of prison.

His ally, Nasir El-Rufai, was also elected as governor of Kaduna, the strategic gateway to northern Nigeria and the home of Zakzaky's movement.

Zakzaky and El-Rufai's relationship stretches back to the late 70s when they served as comrades in the influential Muslim Student Society at Ahmadu Bello University.

While they would go on to become two of the most powerful men in Kaduna, their political journeys could not have been more different.

Zakzaky had gone to study in revolutionary Iran, then viewed as a pariah state by much of the international community, before returning to Nigeria to build a Shia movement from the ground up that would go against the grain of powerful northern political and religious elites.

El-Rufai, on the other hand, studied at some of most prestigious universities in the West - Harvard, Georgetown and London - before returning to Nigeria and rising to the summit of the political ladder, becoming a part of the northern political elite that Zakzaky had been railing against for years.

The men have had a mixed relationship over the years, but comments El-Rufai made in 2017 appeared to point to a rift between the two.

"I know El-Zakzaky personally, we were both students at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, we were both active in the Muslim Student Society so I know the animal I'm dealing with," he said.

'I know El-Zakzaky personally, we were both students at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, we were both active in the Muslim Student Society so I know the animal I'm dealing with'

- Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State

Matthew Page, associate fellow at Chatham House's Africa Programme, suggests that the crackdown "has to do with Kaduna state politics," pointing out El-Rufai's close relationship with Buhari.

"IMN has been a problem for the political elites of Kaduna. It makes them look weak. They enjoy more grassroots support among the working poor than these politicians do. This was a reckoning that was set up to take place."

Another factor, he adds, is that under Buhari the army has been able to act with "unprecedented lassitude" and with little government oversight.

"He's a retired general and is hands off and doesn't subscribe to the notion of strong civilian oversight of the military," he said.

Page also says that the Nigerian army has escaped criticism from the international community for its actions because its fight against Boko Haram, which claims allegiance to the Islamic State group, is perceived within the wider war on terror, even though its security-first approach is a "significant cause of insurgency".

Furthermore, since the Zaria massacre,  El-Rufai and Buhari have characterised the IMN as a "terrorist group," putting it in on the same footing as Boko Haram.

In 2016, Kaduna state authorities banned IMN, declaring it an "unlawful society," while in August, Nigeria's government proscribed the group as a "terrorist organisation," just as Zakzaky supporters stepped up their protests for his release. The presidency accused IMN of "attacking soldiers, killing policemen and a youth corps member, destroying public property, consistently defying State authority".

IMN has consistently denied taking up arms, with Baqeer, one of Zakzaky's followers describing the movement as engaged in a "non-violent resistance".

"The designation of us as a terrorist group is a formality. They have already been treating us like terrorists. They have been killing us as terrorists and jailing us as terrorists. This is nothing new to us," he said.

Page explained further: "It seems fairly opportunistic on the part of the government to label this group as a terrorist group and therefore justify how it has already been treating the group which is pretty unjustly."

"This is a group which engages in protests that are obviously very troublesome to the government, but which have been peaceful. There has been bloodshed at protests only because of the violent way that Nigerian security forces deal with this group."

'There has been bloodshed at protests only because of the violent way that Nigerian security forces deal with this group'

Yet commentators have suggested that continued state violence against IMN could lead them to take up arms, drawing parallels with Boko Haram, which turned to violence only after its leader, Muhammad Yusuf, was killed by Nigerian armed forces in 2009.

Page disagreed, stating that the group has already experienced years of violence at the hands of authorities, and that this "hasn't driven them over the edge into violent extremism".

Yet while it might eschew violence, IMN makes no secret that it seeks to govern territory according to Islamic law.

 "We're trying to get a society that looks like us. We have a system that is working against us," said Suhaila Zakzaky, who said she experienced having her hijab snatched off her head by a school teacher while growing up in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north.

"The colonialists stripped us of our religious identity to an extent, and we're trying to restore that. We know Nigeria is a diverse place, we're not calling for all people to become Muslim, but we want laws that don't stop us from being able to practise Islam."

Suhaila plays down the extent to which this should be perceived as a threat, emphasising that this has little to do with the bloodshot secessionist aspirations of Boko Haram or IS.

Still, authorities' fears over secession are not unfounded. A million lives were lost in a brutal civil war after the Igbo people living in the country's southeast declared the state of Biafra following the slaying of their kin in the north.

Even so, since 1999, a brand of Islamic law has been tolerated in most states in Nigeria's north, including in some parts of Kaduna, the state in which El-Rufai governs.

Lagun Akinloye, a London-based analyst, also points out that Zakzaky has been effectively allowed to carve out his own "enclave" in Zaria by successive governments since as far back as the 1990s.

But that tolerance has begun to wane, Akinloye points out.

Buhari has, for instance, singled out IMN as operating a "state within a state". El-Rufai has taken this further, choosing to interpret Zakzaky's intentions as though he wished to turn the entire country into an "Islamic republic" with the help of a foreign power - Iran.

They "don't recognise the president of Nigeria as sovereign, they don't recognise me as governor," he said in 2017. "Their allegiance is to another country and their objective is to turn Nigeria into an Islamic republic."

'Conspiracy theories'

For its part, IMN denies receiving any financial support from Iran, though openly professes to following the ideological school of Imam Khomeini, whose image and that of current Ayatollah Khameini appear with Zakzaky on the front page of its website.

Behind its violent treatment at the hands of Nigerian authorities, IMN sees the influential hand of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has made no secret of his plans to counter Iranian influence in the Muslim world.

Baqeer suggests that MBS was referring to IMN in an interview last year with Time Magazine in which he said of Riyadh's efforts to counter Iranian influence: "We drove them out of Africa heavily, more than 95 percent."

This view, according to IMN supporters, is further backed by a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, and sent in 2012 from the Saudi embassy in Niger - the country directly north of Nigeria - to Riyadh.

The cable lists organisations in the country said to be the fruits of Iranian "activity" and observes that Shia clerics from Nigeria are being brought to the country to teach the poor and the young.

Saudi Arabia was one the first countries to recognise newly independent Nigeria, which has the largest Muslim population in Africa. Nigerian participation in the annual Hajj pilgrimage and the two countries' membership of the oil producing group Opec has only strengthened relations over the years.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has financially aided Nigeria's fight against Boko Haram, and Buhari is known to be a frequent visitor to the kingdom.

Nigeria also maintains good relations with Iran, but these came under strain in 2010 when Nigerian authorities seized an Iranian arms shipment and again when in 2013 authorities arrested suspected Hezbollah operatives.

Though officially remaining neutral in the 2017 Qatar crisis in which Saudi Arabia and her allies severed ties with the tiny Gulf kingdom, demanding it break-off relations with Iran, it nevertheless joined a Saudi-based, pan-Islamic military coalition which excludes and has been viewed as an alliance against majority-Shia Iran and its allies.

Analysts have sought to downplay the actual extent to which foreign interference is driving the violence. However, Ini Dele-Adedeji, research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, says purported Iranian influence in the region continues to cast a dark shadow over Nigerian Muslims, many of whom overwhelmingly support Saudi Arabia in its ongoing spat with Iran.

"There are conspiracy theories about Iran and Shias trying to upend or subvert the power structure in northern Nigeria," he said.

While ostensibly a political rivalry in the Middle East, the clash between the two nations has played out as a sectarian conflict in Nigeria, with the minority but vocal Shia community bearing the brunt of the brutality over the years. And despire their losses, they still refuse to back down.

"It is understandable that there is a lot more hostility to the Shia," said Dele-Adedeji. "They are much more vocal and way more visible in terms of their performance of protest and dissent."

"Some northern Muslims feel they have to do everything in their power to stop the Shia Muslims, who they view as a nuisance. Some of the response is driven by sectarian concerns," he added.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/imam-zakzaky-how-jailed-nigerian-cleric-became-pawn-gulf-power-struggle

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Largest Islamic party in Algeria decides rejects all presidential candidates

December 9, 2019

The Algerian Movement of Society for Peace (the largest Islamic party in the country) announced on Sunday that it would not support any of the candidates for the presidential elections scheduled for next Thursday.

This came in a statement, seen by Anadolu Agency, the party issued after a series of consultations between Executive Office and the movement’s leadership bodies.

“The (executive) national office confirms that the movement does not recommend or elect any of the five candidates for the presidential elections,” the statement said.

The Shura Council, the movement’s highest leadership body, had rejected, at a meeting at the end of September, the nomination of the movement’s president, Abderrazak Makri, or any of the leaders for the presidential elections.

The most significant Islamic movement in Algeria had confirmed in previous statements that it supports the option of elections “but not in the current circumstances under which there is no consensus.”

Five candidates are competing in the elections, to be held on 12 December, including Azzedine Mihoubi, who was appointed in July as the Acting General Secretary of the Democratic National Rally Party, replacing former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, who was imprisoned on corruption charges.

The other candidates are the two former Prime Ministers, Ali Benflis, Secretary-General of the Tala’a Al-Hurriyat party, and Abdelmadjid Tebboune (independent), in addition to Abdelaziz Belaïd, Head of El Moustakbal (Future) Front, and Abdelkader Bengrina, head of El Bina National Movement (Islamic party).

The elections are taking place amid division among the Algerian public. Supporters consider it imperative to overcome the ongoing crisis since the outbreak of the popular movement on 22 February.

In contrast, opponents consider that the elections need to be postponed, and demand the departure of the remaining symbols of the regime of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, warning that the polls will be a way for the government to renew its structures.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191209-largest-islamic-party-in-algeria-decides-rejects-all-presidential-candidates/

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/militant-groups-in-the-arab-world-face-a-gradual-decline-and-most-arabs-oppose-the-use-of-religion-for-political-gain/d/120478

 

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