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Islamic World News ( 17 Dec 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Minimum Age Of 18 For Marriage Ideal For Islam; ‘Child Bride’ Has No Legitimacy In Terms Of Islam: Türkiye’s Diyanet Head

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 December 2022 

Representational image | Photo: Pixabay


• 'Muslims In India In Much Better Condition Than Those In Pakistan': Ajmer Dargah Cleric’s All-Out Attack At Bilawal Bhutto

• Daughter Organization Of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Opposes Government's Decision To Discontinue Fellowship To Muslim Students

• Sindh High Court Dismisses Petition To Include Quran In School Syllabus F Primary To College Level Education

• Qatargate In Europe: The Left’s Ideological Pact With Islam Is Far Beyond Corruption



• Netanyahu Says He May Offer Palestinians Self-Rule But No Sovereignty

• Turkish Artist Dedicates 30 Years On Interior Decorations Of Seljuk And Ottoman Mosque Motifs

• Iranians hit streets again as protests enter fourth month

• At least 65 children killed for participating in demonstrations by the Iranian regime

• Moscow welcomes Turkiye's call for trilateral Syria diplomacy

• Hamas hails UN resolution in favour of Palestine’s self-determination



• Jamia Masjid Srinagar Prohibits Photography Inside Mosque, Men And Women From Sitting Together In Its Lawns

• Sikh Family Donates Land For Mosque, To Help Build It Too In Punjab

• Pakistan Foreign Minister Calls PM Modi ‘Butcher Of Gujarat’, India Condemns ‘Uncivilised’ Remark

• ‘Land for outsiders’ fear in Jammu and Kashmir

• Amravati killing revenge for backing Nupur Sharma: NIA

• Cops: Terrorists in Canada, Europe planned Tarn Taran RPG attack

• NE Delhi riots: Court acquits 4 who were part of mob that assaulted Muslims

• Gujarat: Muslim Students, Parents Struggle With Cancellation of Pre-Matric Scholarship, MANF

• Bajrang Dal workers object to Hindu woman travelling with Muslim man



• Pakistan Reserves Right To Act Against Cross-Border Terrorism: Bilawal

• Pakistan at end of its tether with Kabul over TTP attacks

• Only state should deal with religious matters: SC

• ‘Illegal Afghan immigrant’ held for NED student’s murder in Karachi

• Pak-Afghan meeting today amid unease at Chaman



• Divisive Australia: Promotes Islam, Shuns Christianity

• Russia Launches Missile Attacks in Ukrainian Cities, Including Kyiv

• Supporters of PKK terrorist group hold illegal demonstration in Swedish capital


Southeast Asia

• Should Christians Support Indonesia Criminalizing Cohabitation and Extramarital Sex?

• Malaysia’s Anwar may give Thai Deep South talks shot in arm

• Malaysia death toll rises to 21

• Rescuers race to find survivors of deadly landslide at Malaysia campsite


Arab World

• Marvels Of Saudi Urban Landscape Testify To Abiding Italian Design Influence

• Muslim Council of Elders participates in Interfaith Dialogue in the Czech Republic

• Saudi Arabia condemns attack on UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon

• Saudi sport minister hosts world football leaders at Saudi House in Qatar

• Why many Italians are choosing Saudi Arabia as their holiday destination

• Doctors, architects, and engineers flock to Riyadh Winter Wonderland for Professions Day

• Saudi Ministry of Culture opens Fenaa Alawwal Centre to encourage global cultural exchange

• Libya rejects Egypt’s decision on demarcation of maritime borders

• US senators call for sanctions to pressure Lebanon to form government



• Proper Islamic Education Will Reduce Crime – Borno State Governor

• France announces it will end visa restrictions with Morocco

• Jordanians protest over fuel price rises, after policeman killed in riots

• Polls open in Tunisian vote boycotted by opposition


North America

• Groups Actively Spreading Islamophobia Smear Law-Abiding Muslims

• Top US senators urge Biden to sanction more Lebanese bankers, politicians

• US court decision paves way for depositor case against Lebanese bank


South Asia

• MoFA Calls on International Community to Have Positive Interactions With Afghanistan

• Pak summons Afghan envoy to condemn “unprovoked” firing by Taliban forces in Chaman border area

• UNSC extends mandate of team monitoring sanctions against Taliban-linked entities

• Afghanistan: UN experts call on Taliban to immediately halt public floggings and executions

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Minimum Age Of 18 For Marriage Ideal For Islam; ‘Child Bride’ Has No Legitimacy In Terms Of Islam: Türkiye’s Diyanet Head 

Representational image | Photo: Pixabay


December 17 2022

The law imposing the minimum age of 18 years for marriage is ideal in terms of Islam, says Türkiye’s top religious official amid a controversial child abuse case where the victim’s father forced her into marriage at the age of 6.

“All kinds of abuse, reflected to the public as ‘child bride’ cases and should actually be considered as ‘child abuse,’ has no legitimacy in terms of Islam,” said Ali Erbaş, the head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).

The allegations came to the country’s agenda and caused a bombardment of cursing posts on social media platforms when a daily published the story on Dec. 3.

The woman, identified only by the initials H.K.G., accused her father, Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel, the head of the Hiranur Foundation affiliated with İsmailağa Jamia, of forcibly marrying her to a 29-year-old sect member, Kadir İstekli, in 2004 when she was just 6.

According to Islam, it is out of question for men and women to get married before they reach both physical and spiritual maturity, and “rushd,” the maturity of mind, and they come of age and understand the meaning and responsibility of starting a family, Erbaş said.

The age of puberty should not be confused with the age of marriage, as adolescence is a biological development process, while what is sought in marriage is rushd, he warned.

“Therefore, the age limit of 18 for marriage in our laws is an ideal practice in terms of the rushd age required by our religion,” he noted.

“It is regrettable that our young girls are forced into marriage at such an early age that they can be considered children and that this practice is tried to be based on religion. This approach has no scientific or religious basis.”

Erbaş announced that a sermon prepared on the mistake of marrying minors was to be read in all mosques in Friday prayer on Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, he also warned that all Muslims should not be accused of associating these “treacherous and cruelty” with Islam.

The prosecutor asked for a prison sentence of over 67 years for İstekli with charges of “child abuse” and “sexual assault.” Another 22-and-a-half-year prison sentence was asked for each of H.K.G.’s parents on the charge of “sexual harassment of children.”

İstekli and Gümüşel, who were taken into custody, were referred to the courthouse after their procedures at the police station and were arrested.

The first hearing of the lawsuit, first scheduled on May 22, 2023, was moved up by four months to Jan 30, 2023.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

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'Muslims In India In Much Better Condition Than Those In Pakistan': Ajmer Dargah Cleric’s All-Out Attack At Bilawal Bhutto 

Ajmer Dargah's cleric


Dec 17, 2022

Ajmer: Launching a blistering attack at Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's personal comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an Ajmer dargah cleric said that Muslims in India are “far more secure” and in “much better condition” than those in Pakistani.

“I strongly condemn the venomous language used by the Pakistani foreign minister and deputy foreign minister against our Prime Minister and our motherland,” Hazrat Syed Naseeruddin Chishty, chairman of All India Sufi Sajjadanshin Council and successor of spiritual head of Ajmer Dargah, said.

The Muslim cleric further said that Bhutto has not only downgraded the position of his portfolio but also of his entire nation.

“Pakistan should keep this in mind that Indian Muslims are far more secure and in much better condition than Pakistani Muslims….Bilawal Bhutto has forgotten that terrorist Osama bin Laden didn’t died but was killed in Pakistan by American forces right under the nose of the Pakistani government,” he added.

He also asked the Pakistan foreign minister not to ever compare “great country”” India with his “unstable country”, stating that the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion to all.

Bilawal Bhutto's anti-Modi remarks spark row

The Pakistan Foreign Minister has come under fire after he resorted to a personal attack against PM Modi and hit out at the RSS after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tore into Pakistan over terrorism at UNSC and described the country as the "epicentre of terrorism".

India on Friday came down heavily upon Zardari for his "uncivilized outburst" at PM Modi, sayting that it seemed to be a result of Pakistan's increasing inability to use terrorists and their "proxies".

Launching a no-holds-barred attack at Zardari, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, said, "These comments are a new low, even for Pakistan. Pakistan foreign minister's frustration would be better directed towards the masterminds of terrorist enterprises in his own country, who have made terrorism a part of their state policy. Pakistan needs to change its own mindset or remain a pariah."

"Pakistan is a country that glorifies Osama bin Laden as a martyr, and shelters terrorists like (Zakiur Rehman) Lakhvi, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Sajid Mir and Dawood Ibrahim. No other country can boast of having 126 UN-designated terrorists and 27 UN-designated terrorist entities," Bagchi said.

Source: Times Now News

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Daughter Organization Of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Opposes Government's Decision To Discontinue Fellowship To Muslim Students 

Syed Ali Mujtaba

The Central Government’s decision to discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF), that provided scholarship to minority students in higher education, is being vehemently opposed by the National Federation of Girls Islamic Organization, the daughter organization of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.

Ms. Sumayyah Roshan, President National Federation of Girls Islamic Organization condemned the Central Government’s move to abolish MANF and called it a blatant injustice to Muslim students in the country.

“By eliminating minority scholarships, a concerted effort is being made to institutionally exclude socially backward communities from the education sector,” Ms. Sumayyah said at a press meet.

The GIO General Secretary, Ms. Samar Ali added, “The previous action of the Central Government to revoke pre-metric scholarships for students up to class 8 is also part of the same discrimination agenda.”

Both office bearers of the GIO equivocally said that the decision to discontinue the scholarship indicates the government’s ignorance about the socio-economic conditions of the Muslims in India and urged the government to reverse the decision immediately and reinstate the scholarship at the earliest.

The MANF scholarship was implemented in 2009 on the recommendation of the Sachar Committee report, to facilitate the inflow of minority students to the premiere institutes and central universities, enabling the presence of minority voices on these campuses.

Earlier, the Union Minister Ms. defended the government’s decision to discontinue minority scholarships saying that the MANF scheme overlaps with several other governments’ schemes and hence being stopped. 

Girls Islamic Organization of India (GIO) is a student organization for girls.          It actively works in various states including Rajasthan, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka besides several other states of India.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at


Sindh High Court Dismisses Petition To Include Quran In School Syllabus F Primary To College Level Education 

Dec 16, 2022

A top Pakistani court here on Friday dismissed a petition that sought to make it compulsory the inclusion of the holy Quran with translation in the syllabus of primary to college level education.

The Sindh High Court in its verdict dismissed the petition on the grounds that faith is a personal matter of an individual and the court cannot interfere.

It said no changes can be made to the education syllabus if fundamental rights are violated.

The High court also observed that the Constitution has created a balance among the roles of three pillars of power — Judiciary, Legislature, and Administration.

The court also noted that Article 20 of the Constitution provides religious freedom to citizens and makes it mandatory for the state not to interfere in the religious matters of individuals.

In its verdict, the court further said that the Constitution of Pakistan gives a guarantee to an individual to exercise his fundamental rights without the government interfering unless he breaks a law.

Advocate Imtiaz Ali, who appeared for the petitioner, argued that the holy Quran education should be made compulsory in the Sindh province as Pakistan was an Islamic state created for Muslims.

Presently students in primary and secondary levels are required to study Islamic studies as a subject but non-Muslims can opt for an optional subject.

Source: India Today

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Qatargate In Europe: The Left’s Ideological Pact With Islam Is Far Beyond Corruption 



Giulio Meotti, Italy

Dec 16, 2022

From “gauche caviar”* to “gauche Qatar”… What is an atheist, LGBT, feminist, abortionist left doing arm in arm with Sharia, the Islamic law of Allah?

( "Gauche caviar" = *“caviar leftist” referring to a person who claims to be a socialist but leads a hypocritic lifestyle inconsistent with such beliefs. "Gauche" means left in French, ed.)

“Political Islam: How the Muslim Brotherhood Gained a Foothold in Brussels”. The weekly Marianne's investigation on newsstands recounts a scandal that goes far beyond corruption and which has just led to the arrest and searches of numerous MPs and politicians and parliamentary assistants in the European Parliament, accused of corruption in dealings with Qatar.

In the words of L'Echo, "it is the tip of an immense iceberg".

If it were just a story of bribes and personal enrichment, it wouldn't be interesting. No, there is an ideological-political pact between European progressivism and Islamism. "Having worked on the subject for more than ten years, I firmly believe that the Qatargate revelations in the European Parliament are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of corruption and influence acquisition by Doha in Europe", commented the journalist Georges Malbrunot, author of the Qatar Papers.

“Iratxe Garcia Perez, President of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, is happy to support Femyso”, explains the Belgian sociologist Florence Bergeaud-Blackler (a recent investigation by Le Point has shown that Femyso lies within the Qatari bed).

“Money is not the most important thing,” continues Bergeaud-Blackler. “It must be understood that the European Muslim Brotherhood forms a political-religious movement that has long-term ambitions. What they want is to enter the European institutions, to learn as much as possible about how they work. The European Union spends huge sums of money to study and combat Islamophobia, to the point that there is no longer a euro left to study Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. There is a division of tasks. The Muslim Brotherhood and those it formed get money from the EU, from Turkey, from Qatar, from all the private partners who don't understand anything or want to see anything. At EU level the left is more involved because the Brotherhood flatters and serves it (at least temporarily because once in power the Muslim Brotherhood will fight it). This makes Brussels, in addition to the European capital, the most Islamist capital in the EU. It is an endemic phenomenon which affects a liberal Europe which seems deaf and blind to the concerns of the nations”.

In L'Express, Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, a CNRS researcher, also explains that the left has signed an agreement with Islam for electoral reasons: "A vote based on confessional requests such as the veil, Islamic education, mosques, halal...It is no longer even an alliance between the left and Islamism, but between the left and Islam”.

A former prime minister and foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema, has lectured extensively at the University of Leuven with Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and co-authored articles with the Islamist preacher in the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. The Municipality of Rome invited Ramadan to the Parco della Musica in an event wanted by the mayor Walter Veltroni. And who paid Ramadan's hefty salary of 35,000 euros a month in those years? Qatar, of course.

In Brussels, the Democratic Party with its head of delegation, deputy Brando Benifei supported the Muslim Brotherhood and their youth acronym Femyso on the occasion of the "European Day against Islamophobia". Le Point was able to consult the emails exchanged between Femyso and representatives of the Qatar Charity organization, which finances thousands of Islamist organizations around the world. “Islamophobia,” which the late Christopher Hitchens called “a word created by fascists and used by cowards to manipulate cretins.”

"For the votes and the hatred of the white man, the left has allied itself with Islam", says the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. "It is betting on the demographic change of immigration". In the last elections, the Social Democrats in Sweden received 38 per cent of the vote among foreign-born voters, ten per cent higher than 28 per cent of their overall vote.In Norway, the Labor Party has the most p MPs of immigrant origin. In Germany, the number of Social Democrat MPs who have immigrant backgrounds rose from 10 percent to 17 percent in just one election.

Why is the socialist mayor of Denain, in France, talking to the imam Hassan Iquioussen, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who fled to Belgium after a French arrest warrant? Algerian journalist Mohamed Sifaoui wrote a book about it, “Taqiya”. Subtitle: “Mayors, universities, parties, media, associations. How the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrates France”. Erwan Seznec, the author of the book “Nos élus et l'islam” ("Our elect and Islam"), explained how many leftist leaders allowed Islamism to flourish.

In exchange for votes, Islam received social housing, public works, halal canteens, prayer rooms. Yes, it's the votes, stupid.

Helena Dalli, the Maltese socialist European Commissioner for Equality who has proposed not to say "Merry Christmas" anymore, takes part in the Femyso meetings, celebrates the "day against Islamophobia" and participates in the seminars of Islamist movements.

The Labor mayor of London, Ken Livingstone (later suspended from the party for anti-Semitism), invited Imam Yusuf al Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who justified the suicide bombings against "infidels" and Israeli Jews (even against pregnant women, as they are mothers of future Israeli soldiers). And the former leader of the British Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been in dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood for years.

Ten years ago, the Social Democrat-led government in Hamburg, Germany's second largest city, concluded a "state treaty" with its Muslim communities that granted Muslims many rights and privileges. Signed by then-Mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, now German Chancellor, and the leaders of four Muslim umbrella groups, the deal was praised by multiculturalists for putting the port city's 200,000 Muslims on an equal footing with Christian residents. The most controversial part of the agreement included a commitment by the government to promote the teaching of Islam in Hamburg's school system. "In Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood, driven out of Egypt and financed by Qatar, is organizing itself to conquer Europe", explained the great specialist in the Muslim world, Gilles Kepel.

In Sweden there was the scandal of the Muslim Brotherhood's infiltration of the Greens. Greens' Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan had to resign after his Islamist ties came out. Lars Nicander, director of the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College, said “today people close to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party, have gained a solid footing in the Green Party. I see a similarity to the way Soviet communism acted during the Cold War, when it tried to infiltrate the various democratic parties." Then photos surfaced in which Kaplan and the other members of the Greens show the four raised fingers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A leaflet from the Ecologist party was distributed in Brussels. Yes to the Islamic veil, yes to free days according to the Islamic calendar… The case of Kauthar Bouchallikht broke out in Holland, veiled politician and rising talent of the green party GroenLinks, which is part of Femyso. "Socialist Party: champion of Muslim clientelism", says Le Figaro. In “Sept pas vers l'enfer” ("Seven steps to hell"), the new book by Alain Chouet, the former number two of the DGSE, the powerful French counterintelligence service, this alliance is recalled:

"I was invited every year to hold a conference on the problems of the Arab world in Molenubeek, a s suburb of Brussels. I was there one day (...) when Philippe Moureaux, the socialist mayor of the city and big boss of the Belgian Socialist Party, occupied the first row flanked by two imposing bodyguards in djellabas, with beards and white caps on their heads. The management of Molenbeek is exemplary in this sense: authorizations granted easily and without any control of the opening and functioning of mosques, Islamic private schools…”.

Inclusive, hypermodern, emancipatory, progressive, anti-racist, imbued with the suicidal ideology of "diversity", politically correct down to the grotesque use of asterisks and neutral pronouns, the "gauche Qatar" is the main terrain for the entry of Islam into society European. Not in the name of money, but of ideology - hatred for Europe founded on Rome, Athens and Jerusalem - and they have turned us into a soft underbelly.

Source: Israel National News

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Netanyahu says he may offer Palestinians self-rule but no sovereignty

Abdelraouf Arna'out  



Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said the peace he plans to seek with Palestinians would offer them powers to rule themselves, with security matters in the hands of Israel.

"The only peace that will hold is one that we can defend," Netanyahu said on Thursday in an interview with the US' National Public Radio.

"Palestinians have all the powers to govern themselves, but none of the powers to threaten our life, which means that security, in whatever political arrangements we'll have, realistically will have to remain in Israel's hands," he added.

As prime minister at the time, Netanyahu recounted that in a 2014 visit, then-US Vice President Joe Biden told him that such an offer would not give the Palestinians "complete sovereignty."

He replied: "You're right, Joe, but that's the only one that will last."

Peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis collapsed in April 2014 as Tel Aviv refused to stop settlement building and release Palestinian detainees imprisoned before 1993.

On the issue of the government he plans to form, Netanyahu defended the far-right parties that are expected to be part of his administration after their support carried him to victory in last month's elections.

For Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of far-right Jewish Strength party, Netanyahu said he had "modified" many of his views in recent years.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Turkish Artist Dedicates 30 Years On Interior Decorations Of Seljuk And Ottoman Mosque Motifs

DEC 16, 2022

Sıddık Korkutata, 52, a muralist living in Sakarya, has been working on interior decorations of mosques in various cities of Türkiye, adorning the holy places of worship with Seljuk and Ottoman motifs for 30 years.

Embroidering the motifs with utmost attention like lacework, Korkutata strives to preserve Turkish-Islamic culture for future generations.

Currently continuing his work in Sakarya's Kadriye Binek Mosque, Korkutata's work decorates several mosques in Kocaeli, Yalova, Kayseri and Istanbul.

Speaking with Anadolu Agency (AA), Korkutata explained that he has been working in detail both in Türkiye and abroad for 30 years. "When we first enter mosques, we first look at the architecture, we design where and what we will do in our minds, we draw the dimensions and apply our project on paper and apply it on the wall. We work in millimeters with pencil brushes," he said.

Explaining that he works with Ottoman and Seljuk motifs, he said, "30 years ago, when I was working in a mosque, I observed the masters and fell in love with this profession and I have worked in mosques since then."

Source: Daily Sabah

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Iranians hit streets again as protests enter fourth month

December 16, 2022

PARIS: Hundreds took to the streets Friday in Iran’s restive southeast, footage shared by human rights groups showed, beginning a fourth month of protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death.

The Islamic republic has seen waves of demonstrations since the September 16 death in custody of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who had been arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

Protesters in Zahedan, the Sistan-Baluchestan provincial capital, chanted “Death to the dictator,” taking aim at supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to a video shared by Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) and verified by AFP.

Other images from Zahedan showed crowds of men, some raising posters with anti-regime slogans, and a group of black-clad women marching down what appeared to be a nearby street, also chanting slogans.

Sistan-Baluchestan, on Iran’s southeastern border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, had been the site of often deadly violence even before nationwide protests erupted.

The province’s Baluchi minority, who adhere to Sunni Islam rather than the Shiite branch predominant in Iran, have long complained of discrimination.

US-based rights group HRANA said hundreds rallied after Friday prayers in Zahedan, which has seen weekly protests since the security forces killed more than 90 people in the city on September 30, in what has been dubbed “Bloody Friday.”

The trigger for that violence was the alleged rape in custody of a 15-year-old girl by a police commander in the province’s port city of Chabahar.

But analysts say Baluchis were inspired by the protests that flared over Amini’s death, which were initially driven by women’s rights but have expanded to include other grievances.

Last week, a cleric was killed after being kidnapped from his mosque in Khash, a town in Sistan-Baluchestan.

Zahedan’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday that the killers of cleric Abdulwahed Rigi had been arrested, and accused them of seeking to stir trouble between Sunnis and Shiites.

The largely peaceful demonstrations sparked by Amini’s death have been met with a crackdown by the Iranian security forces that has killed at least 458 protesters, according to a toll issued on December 7 by the Norway-based IHR.

Iran’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, said on December 3 that more than 200 people had been killed in the unrest, including security personnel.

The United Nations says Iran’s security forces have arrested at least 14,000 people.

Iran’s judiciary said it has handed down 11 death sentences in connection with the protests.

Iran executed Mohsen Shekari on December 8 and Majidreza Rahnavard on Monday. Both were 23 years old.

Rahnavard was hanged in public rather than in prison as has been usual in the Islamic republic in recent years.

Amnesty International said on Friday that at least 26 people were at risk of execution in connection with the protests in Iran, which according to the London-based rights group is already the world’s most prolific user of the death penalty after China.

The crackdown on the demonstrations has led to international condemnation, sanctions and Iran’s removal Wednesday from a UN women’s rights body.

Solidarity protests have also erupted worldwide, and a group of Iranians in Germany on Friday reached the final day of a hunger strike while camped outside their country’s consulate in the city of Frankfurt.

Ultraconservative cleric Ahmad Khatami meanwhile lashed out at the European Union after the bloc slapped him with sanctions over what it called “repression against protesters.”

Khatami was sanctioned for allegedly inciting violence against protesters, including demanding the death penalty.

During a Friday sermon in Tehran, the cleric said the EU had a “black” human rights record, state news agency IRNA reported.

The EU “is on the top of the list of human rights violators,” Khatami charged.

Source: Arab News

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At least 65 children killed for participating in demonstrations by the Iranian regime

December 16, 2022

LONDON: At least 65 children between the ages of 2 and 17 have been killed in a “brutal crackdown” since protests erupted against the Iranian regime over 90 days ago, an opposition group has said.

“Three months have passed since the beginning of the Iranian people’s uprising against the mullahs’ regime,” said the National Council of Resistance of Iran. “According to the reports by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran from inside the country, more than 700 people have been murdered and thousands injured by repressive forces and more than 30,000 people arrested and subjected to the most brutal torture.”

A report issued by the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which is based on information from the PMOI network, revealed the name and age of each victim, as well as the city in which they were killed.

It found that 13 of the victims were girls and 52 were boys, while five victims were under 10 years old, and 60 were between 10 and 17 years old.

The report also said that the victims were from 33 cities across Iran, with the largest number of child victims reported in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan Province, which registered 15 deaths in the southeast, followed by nine in Tehran and four in Piranshahr, in Kurdistan Province.

“Most of these children were killed by gunshots, but some of them, including Sarina Ismailzadeh, Nika Shakrami, Mohammad Hossein Kamandalo, and Maedeh Hashemi, were killed by baton blows to their heads and other vital areas, or by severe beatings by the security forces,” the reports said.

“Some were injured due to severe blows and injuries and died after some time. One example is Armika Ghaem Maghami, who was in a coma fighting for her life for 10 days before finally succumbing to her injuries,” it added.

“It should be emphasized that this report only includes confirmed cases and that the actual number of child victims is certainly higher, with some families being afraid to reveal victims’ names due to continuous threats by the regime.”

The report also said that the Iranian regime has denied any involvement in the children’s deaths but added that “the fact that children have been brutally victimized by the regime’s repression is also evident in protesters’ slogans, which include chants of ‘We don’t want a child-killing regime.’”

Amnesty International said 26 people faced possible execution after the Islamic Republic hanged two people who were arrested over the protests that erupted after the death in police custody of young Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16.

The unrest, in which demonstrators from all walks of life have called for the fall of Iran’s ruling theocracy, poses one of the biggest challenges to Iran since its 1979 revolution. “At least 26 people are at great risk of execution in connection with nationwide protests after Iranian authorities arbitrarily executed two individuals following grossly unfair sham trials in a bid to instil fear among the public and end protests,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“The time has come for the international community to stand with the people of Iran, to accept their will, and to recognize their right to resist and defend themselves,” the NCRI said.

Source: Arab News

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Moscow welcomes Turkiye's call for trilateral Syria diplomacy

December 16, 2022

ISTANBUL: Moscow has welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's proposal to establish a three-way mechanism for diplomacy between Turkey, Russia and Syria.

Erdogan has brought the new proposal to the table to open a diplomatic channel with Damascus.

Turkish state-run broadcaster TRT cited Erdogan as telling reporters during his flight back from Turkmenistan that he offered to initiate a series of meetings between Turkiye, Russia and Syria to reconsider strained ties with Damascus.

“As of now, we want to take a step as a Syria-Turkiye-Russia trio. First our intelligence agencies, then defense ministers, and then foreign ministers of the parties could meet. After their meetings, we as the leaders may come together,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Erdogan added that he offered this plan to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who viewed it “positively.”

In September, Reuters reported that Hakan Fidan, head of Turkiye’s National Intelligence Organization, had met several times in Damascus with his counterpart, Syrian National Security Bureau Chairman Ali Mamlouk.

Experts noted that the move might be linked with Turkiye’s domestic politics, especially with regard to managing the issue of refugees ahead of the approaching elections, as Erdogan’s main focus has shifted from ousting the Assad regime to curbing advances of Kurdish militants along Turkish borders with Syria.

Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad have not had contact since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, as Ankara supported Syrian opposition forces fighting Damascus.

“For Assad, this is all good news. Normalization with Turkiye would be a major watershed moment in the conflict, even if it won’t suffice to end it or address all the problems faced by his regime,” Aron Lund, fellow with Century International, told Arab News.

If Damascus and Ankara can get back on speaking terms, Lund thinks that they would still have a lot to disagree on — not least Turkiye’s troop presence in Syria.

“But they would also have the opportunity to address common problems, one of which is the role of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the US troops in northeastern Syria,” he said.

Lund also emphasized that it is just a proposal and not a done deal.

“It takes two to tango — or three in this case, with Russia. Assad will be able to shape the terms of this process, too, and I’ll be interested to see what the Syrian response will be. The Syrian regime is typically very stubborn about these things, and Assad realizes, of course, that he would be boosting Erdogan’s reelection chances,” he said.

“I don’t think Assad will want to squander the opportunity,” Lund added.

Erdogan “is likely to stay in power one way or the other, and once the elections are over, he may not have the same strong incentive to cozy up to Assad. Still, though, judging by past behavior, I would not be surprised at all if Assad starts to play hardball and stalls the process to extract concessions,” said Lund.

On its side, Russia, Assad’s main backer, has been pushing for reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus for a couple of months.

In September, Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian president’s deputy foreign minister and special envoy to the Middle East and Africa, said that Moscow is willing to organize a meeting between Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Following Erdogan’s offer, Bogdanov was quoted by RIA news agency as saying that Moscow reacted positively to the idea of the Turkish president holding a meeting between the leaders of Turkiye, Syria and Russia.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin was in Turkiye last week to discuss Syria-related developments, while Putin held a phone call with Erdogan on Sunday when the Turkish president asked for a 30-km security corridor on Turkiye’s southern border, in line with the 2019 agreement between Turkiye and Russia.

Under the 2019 deal, Russia guaranteed to establish a buffer zone between the Turkish border and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which would be controlled by the Syrian army and Russian military police. The agreement, however, was not fully implemented.

Following a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul that killed six and injured 81, Turkiye carried out an aerial operation against the YPG in northern Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq on Nov. 20.

Erdogan also pledged a ground operation into northern Syria “at the most convenient time” to build a security strip.

But, Francesco Siccardi, senior program manager and senior research analyst at Carnegie Europe, thinks that for Ankara, normalization with Assad is not an alternative to a ground operation in northern Syria.

“The link between these two policies is Ankara’s interest to undo Kurdish gains in Northern Syria — an objective that it shares with Damascus, too,” he told Arab News.

According to Siccardi, everything Ankara does is calculated to maximize Erdogan’s chances for reelection.

“In this sense, dialogue with Damascus strips the opposition of a key talking point, since they are proposing to do the same,” he said.

“It also allows President Erdogan to present his concrete work toward a solution to the issue of Syrian refugees in Turkiye. And lastly, it puts the security and terrorism issues at the center of the political debate. This approach has benefitted the incumbent president in the past,” Siccardi added.

Turkiye hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world. But the country’s ongoing economic crisis has further fueled anti-Syrian refugee sentiment, pushing several opposition parties to call for forced deportations of Syrians, blaming them for the economic problems of Turkiye.

In the meantime, the trio offer came at a time when Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, criticized Turkiye over its ties with Russia and urged Ankara to join the EU’s sanctions against Moscow.

Prof. Emre Ersen, an expert on Turkiye-Russia relations from Marmara University, thinks that if the two governments finally decide to come together, this could be regarded as a significant achievement for Russian diplomacy, particularly at a time when Moscow is becoming more isolated in the international arena due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Yet, Ersen noted a number of thorny issues that need to be resolved between Ankara and Damascus in order for this diplomatic process to be successful.

“Turkiye still continues to support the rebel groups in Syria, which is a major problem for the Assad regime,” he said.

Source: Arab News

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Hamas hails UN resolution in favour of Palestine’s self-determination

16 December 2022

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has welcomed a United Nations General Assembly resolution that affirms the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and ends the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.

“This resolution is a continuation of previous ones adopted recently that affirm such right and the subsequent UN and international obligations to put an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory and grant the Palestinian people their rights guaranteed by all international conventions,” Hisham Qasem, a member of the Hamas political bureau abroad, said on Friday. 

He said the overwhelming voting in favor of the resolution shows an “increasing conviction” within the international community that the time is ripe for Palestinians to enjoy their right to self-determination, end the Israeli occupation, and prosecute this settler-colonial occupation for its heinous crimes committed against the Palestinian people over the past seven decades. 

The Hamas official called on the countries that voted against the resolution or abstained to reconsider their positions.

Qasem said more resolutions are needed in favor of the Palestinian people.  

The UN General Assembly on Wednesday adopted a resolution declaring that Syrians and Palestinians have sovereignty over their natural resources in the Israeli-occupied tracts of land in the strategic Golan Heights and the West Bank, including East al-Quds.

The UNGA passed the resolution on “permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” including East al-Quds, and of “the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources,” with 159 votes in favor.

Palestine welcomes UN resolution on natural resource sovereignty

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on Thursday hailed the UN resolution. “Voting in favor of the resolution confirms the right of the Palestinian people and their sovereignty over their natural resources, including land, water, and energy resources.”

He said the international community should work on obliging Israel “to implement international resolutions and guarantee the right of the Palestinian people to their natural resources.”

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East al-Quds as its capital.

Israel, which captured the territory in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community, calls al-Quds its indivisible capital.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East al-Quds.

Source: Press TV

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Jamia Masjid Srinagar Prohibits Photography Inside Mosque, Men And Women From Sitting Together In Its Lawns

December 16, 2022

The management of the historic Jamia Masjid here has issued a notification banning photography inside the mosque and asking men and women to not sit together in its lawns.

Entry of photography equipment is also prohibited, the Anjuman Auquaf Central Jamia Masjid said in the notification put up all around the mosque complex.

“Photographers or camera persons are prohibited to take any kind of photos or clicks inside the mosque. Even equipment used to click any kind of photos are totally disallowed and need to be stopped at the gate forthwith,” it read.

It also prohibited the carrying of eatables into the mosque premises.

“Nobody is allowed to have lunch or any kind of eatables inside the mosque. As such, visitors need to be stopped at the gate itself,” the notification read.

The management of the 14th-century mosque directed its security guards to implement the instructions immediately.

Women can enter the mosque if there is a designated place for them, separate from men.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Anjuman Auqaf said being a place of worship, the visitors are requested to respect its sanctity as a mosque and observe decorum while visiting it.

“It is not a public park or a recreational facility. So, while clicking photographs visitors — both local and outsiders — should keep this in mind. For professional purposes, permission needs to be sought from Anjuman Auqaf before taking any pictures or video of Jamia Masjid,” the statement said.

Source: Indian Express

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Sikh family donates land for mosque, to help build it too in Punjab

Dec 16, 2022

BATHINDA: Setting up an example of communal harmony, a Sikh family has donated land for a mosque at Bakhatgarh in Punjab' Barnala district, while several more Sikh and Hindu families will support the project in cash and kind, so that the village's 15 Muslim families don't have to go 5 kilometres to Chunga for prayers.

Bakhatgarh only has a Muslim graveyard. Sensing the Muslim sentiments, villager Amandeep Singh donated 8 marlas (250 square yards) for a mosque and, a few days ago, registered the deed at the tehsildar's office in the name of Noorani Masjid. The Muslim families of the village are preparing the site plan. The estimated cost will cross Rs 12 lakh, and the Sikh and Hindus will bear a part of it.

Amandeep Singh, who has MA and BEd degrees, told TOI that: "The village has two gurdwaras apart from a dera but no mosque. Its Muslim families go to nearby village for prayers, so my family gave them land for a mosque and will also contribute in the construction."

Moti Khan, who will oversee the project, said: "We are indebted to the Sikh family and many others who have promised to support us. We pray for similar brotherhood everywhere for communal peace."Punjab has many examples where Sikhs and Hindus have built mosques for the Muslims of their villages, which shows the peaceful coexistence of these communities in the state.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan foreign minister calls PM Modi ‘Butcher of Gujarat’, India condemns ‘uncivilised’ remark

Anita Joshua   |   New Delhi 


Pakistan on Friday lashed out at India for accusing it of harbouring Osama bin Laden, its foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari telling the media at the United Nations: “Osama bin Laden is dead but the Butcher of Gujarat lives. And, he is the Prime Minister of India.”

India responded sharply, issuing a long statement condemning the “uncivilised” remarks. External affairs ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said: “These comments are a new low, even for Pakistan.”

Bagchi recalled the genocide in East Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 and the terrorist attacks in cities across the world that bear the fingerprints of Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups, and said no other country had as many UN-designated terrorists as Pakistan.

At a news conference at the UN, Bilawal had been asked about Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday bringing up bin Laden, whose killing by US special forces in a stealth operation not far from Pakistan’s premier military training academy put Islamabad’s deep state on the back foot.

Referring to a US visa ban on Narendra Modi, imposed after the 2002 riots in Gujarat and lifted once the BJP won the 2014 elections under him, Bilawal said: “He was banned from entering this country till he became Prime Minister.”

He added: “This is the Prime Minister of the RSS and the foreign minister of the RSS. What is the RSS? The RSS draws its inspiration from Hitler’s SS.”

Gandhi reference

Bilawal then brought up Jaishankar’s unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the UN in New York.

“If the foreign minister of India was being honest, then he knows as well as I that the RSS does not believe in Gandhi, in the ideology of Gandhi, in the manifesto of Gandhi. They do not see this individual as the founder of India. They hero-worship the terrorist that assassinated Gandhi,” he said.

Bilawal also flagged the pardon granted to the rapist-murderers in the Bilkis Bano case ahead of the Gujarat elections.

Spokesperson Bagchi said Pakistan lacked the credentials to cast aspersions on India. Bilawal’s outburst “seems to be a result of Pakistan’s increasing inability to use terrorists and their proxies” as his country’s role in sponsoring terrorists “remains under the scanner”, he said.

In an uncharacteristically long response, India said New York, Mumbai, Pulwama, Pathankot and London were among the many cities that bore the scars of terrorism sponsored, supported and instigated by Pakistan.

“‘Make in Pakistan’ terrorism has to stop,” Bagchi said. India said Pakistan glorified Osama as a martyr and sheltered terrorists like Lakhvi, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Sajid Mir and Dawood Ibrahim.

The BJP called Bilawal’s remarks “shameful and derogatory” and said it would hold protests on Saturday.

Source: Telegraph India

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‘Land for outsiders’ fear in Jammu and Kashmir

Muzaffar Raina   |   Srinagar 


A decision by the Jammu and Kashmir administration to deny renewals for expired leases on government land and freshly lease out the plots has triggered fears that it wants to “snatch” land from local people to benefit “outsiders”.’

While non-Kashmiris always had the right to take government land on lease in Jammu and Kashmir, the overwhelming majority of existing lessees are local people. Hundreds of hotels, schools and other institutions have come up on leased land over the decades.

However, a new government notification, which rules out the renewal of expired leases, says the fresh leases will be given for “self-employment or for housing purposes of ex-servicemen, war widows, families of deprivation categories (as per latest socioeconomic census), specially abled persons (divyang), families of martyr(s) (one who has sacrificed his life in the line of duty for the sake of nation), migrant workers/ building and other construction workers.”

Apart from the migrant workers, the ex-servicemen and war widows, especially, are likely to be non-Kashmiris. The notification says nothing about  the outgoing lessees having the right of first refusal.

The government is expected to exercise its  discretion in deciding who to grant the fresh leases to. If bidding is held for commercial properties like hotels — with the existing lessees compensated if they have built the structures themselves — big companies from outside should be able to easily outbid local rivals.

An empowered committee headed by the financial commissioner, revenue, and made up of officials from various departments will “identify and designate land and the purpose for grant of the lease”.

“Its function would also be to recommend the period of grant of lease, which shall ordinarily be for 40 years,” says the notification on the Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Rules, 2022.

The government says the Rules have been notified under a 1960 law. The Rules say the leases will be granted for “development” purposes such as education, healthcare, agriculture and allied activities, tourism, skill development, and infrastructure and industrial projects.

Existing leases given out for residential purposes are among a small category that is exempt from the notification, and will be renewed. Others whose leases expire must immediately hand over possession of the land, failing which they will be evicted.

National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah and People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said the administration was bent on arbitrarily evicting local people, institutions, tourism players, hoteliers and businesses occupying leased land.

“At least, people who kept these institutions, structures and businesses alive in difficult times should get the first chance. Fix the rate and tell them to submit the money,” Omar said.

Source: Telegraph India

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Amravati killing revenge for backing Nupur Sharma: NIA

Dec 17, 2022

NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday filed a chargesheet in the case relating to the murder of veterinary chemist Umesh Prahladrao Kolhe in Amravati, Maharashtra, in June 2022, describing the killing as an act of revenge against Kolhe's social media post in support of former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma's controversial remarks about the Prophet.

All the 11 accused named in the chargesheet - Mudhassir Ahmed, Shahrukh Kha, Abdul Taufeeque Shaikh, Mohammad Shoeb, Atib Rashid, Yusuf Khan, Irfan Khan, Abdul Arbaz, Mushifique Ahmad, Shaikh Shakil and Shahim Ahemad - are residents of Amravati.

NIA on Friday said its investigation revealed that a criminal conspiracy was hatched by the accused by constituting a terrorist gang to carry out the attack.

The accused, working with common intention, waylaid Kolhe in a public area at Ghantaghar, Amravati, and murdered him with an aim to strike terror among people, said an NIA spokesperson. They have all been chargesheeted under Sections 120B, 341, 302, 153-A, 201, 118, 505, 506 and 34 of IPC and Sections 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

On Friday, an NIA official told TOI that no link to any banned organisation, like the Popular Front of India or Islamic State, was established in the Kolhe murder case. It is suspected that the accused were self-radicalised, and chose to use violent means to "punish" what they perceived as "blasphemy".

The Kolhe murder case was initially registered by the city kotwali police station, Amravati, and re-registered by NIA on July 2 this year. The Amravati police had intially suspected robbery as the motive. However, after the killing of tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur over social media posts in favour of Nupur, days after Kolhe was murdered in Amravati, there was a demand from BJP members in Maharashtra to also explore a likely revenge angle in the case.

After the Union home minister handed over the Kolhe murder case to NIA, the probe revealed a common thread of "revenge killing" and "pro-Nupur Sharma posts".

Source: Times Of India

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Cops: Terrorists in Canada, Europe planned Tarn Taran RPG attack

Dec 17, 2022

TARN TARAN: The attack at Sarhali police station in Punjab's Tarn Taran district on December 9 night was masterminded by foreign-based terrorists, DGP Punjab Gaurav Yadav said on Friday. He named the accused as Lakhbir Singh alias Landa Harike, Satbir Singh alias Satta and Gurdev alias Jaisel, and Ajmeet Singh, who is currently lodged in jail.

Six youths, including two juveniles, were arrested for planning and carrying out a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attack .

According to sources, Landa is based in Canada, Satta and Gurdev are residing in European countries and Gurdev migrated to Europe from Dubai recently.

The arrested accused are Gurpreet Singh alias Gopi Numberdar, 18, resident of Naushera Pannuan; Gurlal Singh alias Gahla ,19, of Chohla Sahib, Surlalpal Singh alias Gurlal alias Lali, 21, of Thathiya Mahanta village, and Jobanpreet Singh alias Joban, 18, of Naushera Pannuan. Two juveniles arrested in the case had fired the RPG.

The Soviet-era single-use 70mm caliber RPG-26 weapon, which was used by Mujahideen in Afghanistan, was sourced from across the border. Police have recovered three pistols - two .32 bore and one .30 bore - along with ammunition, one hand grenade and one motorcycle from the arrested persons.

Gopi Numberdar who turned 18 years old a day after his release on November 22, 2022, immediately got in touch with the foreign-based handlers. The DGP said the foreign-based handlers used cut-outs and Dead Letter Box (DLB) techniques for retrieval of consignment and establishing contact so that the module members were assigned tasks directly by the handlers, and the sub-modules were unknown to each other.

Tarn Taran senior superintendent of police Gurmeet Singh Chohan said the attack was the handiwork of Gopi Numberdar and Gurlal Gahla, who were directly in touch with Landa Harike and Satta Naushehra. Both were apprehended from Patti Morh Sarhali on Thursday along with one .32 pistol and 15 live cartridges. The police teams had also recovered a hand grenade on the inputs provided by Gopi Numberdar, he said.

Source: Times Of India

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NE Delhi riots: Court acquits 4 who were part of mob that assaulted Muslims

December 16, 2022

A Delhi court acquitted four men who allegedly were part of a mob that beat up Muslim men after ascertaining their religious identity at Johripur Pulia.

Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramchala acquitted four accused Dinesh Yadav, Babu, Sandeep and Tinku, who were accused of being part of a mob which assaulted several Muslim men on February 25, 2020.

The prosecution had relied on the fact that the three accused pleaded guilty in a separate riot case and submitted that they were all part of the same mob in the present case as well. However, the court said this “submission is not based on evidence, rather it is a kind of presumption made by the prosecution”.

“A member of unlawful assembly can join at any moment and in the same manner, he can leave any moment. Therefore, the presence in one such assembly at a different time, cannot be sufficient to presume that the accused remained member of that assembly all the time,” the judgment read.

The court also said that the “victims of the riot did not identify any of the accused persons as part of the respective riotous mob”.

Source: Indian Express

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Gujarat: Muslim Students, Parents Struggle With Cancellation of Pre-Matric Scholarship, MANF

Tarushi Aswani

Gandhinagar: On November 25, 2022, the Union government decided to cancel the pre-matric scholarships for students from class 1 to 8 belonging to minority communities from the academic year 2022-23.

In its widely criticised move, the government restricted the pre-matric scholarship scheme meant for minority communities to only include students of classes 9 and 10. The government justified its stand by saying that the Right to Education Act (RTE Act) covers compulsory education up to class 8 for all students.

The decision drew fierce flak from scholars, activists and political parties, with the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party government of revoking rights of the poor.

For Chohan Isha, a student of class 7 from Modasa, the cancelled scholarship means her dream of becoming a teacher is going dark. “My father is a driver and earns Rs 6,000 a month. The scholarship was helping us study, without being a burden on him,” explained Isha, whose brother is in class 5 and was also benefitting from the scholarship.

Struggling to study

Amid the chaos created because of the cancellation of pre-matric scholarships, the Union government also withdrew the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF). The MANF was launched by the earlier United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre in an effort to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee.

Both financial assistance schemes – the MANF as well as the pre-matric scholarships for minority communities – were formulated by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. While one was aiding students in their early education, the other fellowship aided research scholars from the minority communities.

Rashid Chaki, a teacher and social activist from Jamnagar, has been struggling to help students avail what he calls the scholarship ‘rightly belonging’ to them. Chaki filed an RTI with the Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) and the state government after some parents of excluded children approached him for help. The Begum Hazrat Mahal scholarship is for girl students in classes 9 to 12 from the minority community. Students of classes 9 and 10 receive Rs 5,000 annually as scholarship and students studying in classes 11 and 12 receive Rs 6,000. Following the process of RTIs and its replies, Chaki did not get a very solution-oriented response of the ministry. MAEF told Chaki that it had received 2.82 lakh applications from across India, of which 4,362 were pending verification. Out of these, 1,019 applications are from Gujarat.

Chaki, who helps scores of students correctly fill up scholarship forms, told The Wire that even until November 15, 2022, the portal was accepting applications for pre-matric scholarships.

Chaki’s uncle, Adam Chaki, has also been instrumental in getting these scholarships to beneficiaries at the ground level – as a petitioner in the case at the Gujarat high court.

In 2008, when the pre-matric scholarships were launched, the Gujarat government under then chief minister Narendra Modi argued in the apex court that the Centre’s scholarship for minorities is a scheme based on religion and the Centre cannot compel the state to implement it, and that a similar scheme was in place in the state for all poor students irrespective of their religion.

The then Gujarat government had appealed to the Supreme Court in this matter, challenging the Gujarat high court verdict upholding tge constitutional validity of the scholarship. In this pre-matric scholarship, the Union and state governments share the financial burden in the ratio of 75:25. A student is eligible if their parental income from all sources does not exceed Rs 2.50 lakh per annum.

Chaki explained that the reasoning that the government has given – that the RTE covers expenses for students of class 1-8 – does not apply to minority students studying in private schools. He added that as even minority-run schools were exempt from implementing the RTE policy and did not fall under the government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, this would be problematic in case a student from a minority community went to study in a minority-run school of another community.

Isha, who studies in a private school in Karimnagar along with her younger brother, feels that now, her parents will have to pick which child they want to educate in the future, considering the cash crunch and loss of the pre-matric scholarship.

Marginalising minorities

Mukhtar Bapu, trustee of Derawala Vidyalaya in Dhebar, Jamnagar has been receiving calls ever since the news of the cancellation of the scholarship came out. “Parents, students and even us school staff are worried about the future of these children,” he said. The Vidyalaya Bapu runs has 176 students from classes 1-8. The fee system of the school is such that Bapu and his staff help children to fill forms wherein they take only half the scholarship money as fees and let parents keep the rest. “We don’t know where to go now, how to help these children in the middle of their academic years,” he said.

Hamza Chiroliya, 32, is a former beneficiary of the MANF, and is grateful for it. Chiroliya feels that had the fellowship not aided his education, he would have never been able to complete his PhD. Like Chiroliya, many students have been left in limbo, and forced to either borrow loans or leave their education midway. “Had I been in this situation I would not have been able to complete my PhD; it is not only unfair, but also pushing Muslims to illiteracy.” Chiroliya also added that while not many pursued PhDs in the state, this action would disable economically deprived persons from the minority community to pursue an education at all.

Adding to the argument that the cancellation is discriminatory in nature, Dr Manish Doshi, Congress’s Gujarat spokesperson, said that the party vehemently opposed the BJP government’s politically coloured decision. “The BJP government has a track record of robbing ST, SC and OBC community members off of facilities. Rather than spending crores on their own advertising, they should spend on the future of our country,” said Doshi.

Source: The Wire

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Bajrang Dal workers object to Hindu woman travelling with Muslim man

16th December 2022

Bengaluru: An incident of Bajrang Dal activists objecting to a young Hindu woman and Muslim man travelling together in a bus and creating a scene has been reported from the communally sensitive district of Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka, said police on Friday.

According to police, the woman was travelling with her friend in a private bus from Mangaluru to Bengaluru.

The Bajrang activists, who got to know about this, tried to stop the bus near the Pump well area in Mangaluru. However, when they could not stop the bus, they informed their members in Kalladka town.

The activists stopped the bus at Dasakodi near Kalladka Thursday midnight. They questioned the woman and the man over their travelling together. The activists scolded the woman, and asked both to get down from the bus. They later informed the Bantwal police, which immediately rushed to the spot and took the two to safe custody.

This is the sixth incident of moral policing reported from the coastal district of Dakshina Kannada in two weeks.

A video of the woman arguing with the Bajrang Dal activists went viral on social media. The activists told the police that the two were travelling together on a sleeper bus and they suspected it to be a trap.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Pakistan reserves right to act against cross-border terrorism: Bilawal

December 16, 2022

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan on Friday said that it would not tolerate cross-border terrorism by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or other terrorist groups and that the country reserved the right to take direct action against them.

“Pakistan will not tolerate such cross-border terrorism by the TTP or other terrorist groups, like the BLA, which are also receiving financial and other support from hostile quarters. We reserve the right to take direct action against them,” the foreign minister said addressing an event to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar held here at the UN Headquarters.

Hosted by Pakistan, the event was held as part of the UN’s Office of Counter Terrorism’s “Remembrance of the Victims of Terrorism” campaign.

Started with one-minute silence, the commemorative event brought together the UN member states, victims, experts, academics, civil society organizations and representative of law enforcement agencies.

In his address, the foreign minister said 132 children and eight teachers and staff at the School had died in that attack and several others were injured.

The attack was claimed by the so-called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an entity listed as a terrorist organization by the Security Council and many Member States, he added.

“This terrorist attack was particularly heinous because the clear aim of the terrorists was to kill children. In this sense, it was a targeted attack designed to deal a grievous blow to the morale of the people of Pakistan.”

He told the gathering that instead, the shock of the APS massacre mobilized the Pakistani nation and motivated it to eliminate all terrorists from their soil as massive military operations were undertaken to cleanse the frontiers of the TTP and associated terrorist groups.

“Pakistan’s operations were successful. Our territory was cleared of terrorists. We paid a heavy price – 80,000 civilians and soldiers killed or injured and the economy set back by $120 billion,” he remarked.

However, Foreign Minister Bilawal said unfortunately the TTP and some other terrorist groups found “safe havens” and even more frequent attacks have been conducted against Pakistan’s military and civilian targets.

He said the brutal nature of the TTP, and its callous targeting of children in the APS attack, and other crimes should also reinforce the world community’s determination to combat and defeat the TTP, along with other terrorist organizations, like ISIL-K, operating in Afghanistan.

He told the participants that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies had “solid proof” of financial and organizational support and direction provided to the TTP.

“We have shared a comprehensive dossier with the Secretary-General and the Security Council containing concrete evidence of such external support to the TTP and other terrorist groups operating against Pakistan.”

The foreign minister said Pakistan had ?expected that the new authorities in Kabul would be able to convince or constrain the TTP from conducting cross-border terrorist attacks against Pakistan as they had promised to do in the Doha Agreement and in subsequent policy declarations.

“However, endeavours towards this end appear to have failed. The TTP seems to have been emboldened to declare a “war” against Pakistan. Its attacks have intensified.”

He expressed the hope that the remembrance of the APS attack would serve to mobilize the UN’s counter-terrorism machinery to address the threat of terrorism which presently emanated from Afghanistan and adjacent regions in a comprehensive and effective manner.

“We need to eliminate the “safe havens” of these terrorists; to cut off the sources of their financing and sponsorship; and to target and hold accountable individuals and entities responsible for the terrorist attacks or for sponsoring and financing such attacks,” he commented and assured Pakistan’s support to the UN and the international community in realizing the said objectives.

The foreign minister also read out the last word of APS Principal Tahira Qazi “They are my children and I am their mother” she uttered before being burnt alive by the terrorists in front of her pupils as she struggled to protect them.

He also showed the picture of a student Sher Shah Khattak who sacrificed his life while tryign to save his classmates.

The foreign minister told the gathering that he had also lost his mother in a terrorist attack carried out by the same terrorist organisation.

Deputy Under-Secretary-General and Representative of United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism Raffi Gregorian said the APS attack had shocked the world.

He said there was no justification of attacking children particularly when they were there to learn.

He said the United Nations stood in solidarity with the victims and families whose lives were changed after the terror attacks.

He said the UN took multiple measures for the rights of terror victims like the observance of an annual day and adoption of two UN Assembly resolutions.

He said the member states needed to be more inclusive and make the victims’ associations part of the anti-terror efforts and strategies.

Among notable speakers included Ahmed Nawaz , a survivor of the APS terrorist attack, President of Oxford Union, Dr. Fatima Ali Haider, a therapist whose husband and son were killed in a sectarian incident in 2013. In the aftermath of Peshawar’s Army Public School massacre in December 2014, she co-founded The Grief Directory in 2015.

Other speakers included Sallie Lynch, Consultant for Tuesday’s Children and Muhammad Khalid Khan Khattak, Member-Policy on Counter Terrorism Extremism and Financial Terrorism of NACTA.

A short video was also played developed by the Pakistan Mission. Brochures were also distributed amongst the member states to apprise them of the horrific incident.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Pakistan at end of its tether with Kabul over TTP attacks

Anwar Iqbal

December 17, 2022

UNITED NATIONS: For­eign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday warned the perpetrators of terrorism that Pakistan will not tolerate cross-border terrorism by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and other militant groups, adding that Islamabad reserved the right to take direct action against them.

In an earlier statement, the minister also said Pakistan could reconsider its strategy for dealing with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, but it could not afford to disengage with Kabul.

“Pakistan will not tolerate cross-border terrorism by the TTP or other terrorist groups, like the BLA,” FM Bhutto-Zardari said at a UN event. In an indirect reference to India, the foreign minister said Pakistan had evidence to prove that such groups were “receiving financial and other support from hostile quarters”.

“We reserve the right to take direct action against them,” the foreign minister told the participants who had gathered to honour the victims of the Dec 16, 2014, terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.

The TTP militants, who had come from Afghanistan, killed 149 people — including 132 schoolchildren — in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

While raising the issue of resumption of attacks by TTP and other militant groups inside Pakistan, a journalist asked the foreign minister at a Thursday afternoon news briefing here if Islamabad would consider disengaging with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers because they were allowing them to carry out the attacks.

“I can’t wish the Taliban away or Afghanistan away. They are a reality, and they are on my border,” he replied, but “the modes and ways in which we are engaging, particularly within the Pakistani context, and as far as the TTP is concerned, perhaps that can be reconsidered, as far as the strategy is concerned”.

However, in his address to the APS commemoration event, the foreign minister said that Kabul’s Taliban rulers had failed Pakistan’s “hope and expectation” that Kabul’s new authorities “would be able to convince or constrain the TTP from conducting cross-border terrorist attacks.”

He recalled that the Afghan Taliban pledged to do so in Doha, where they signed a peace agreement with the United States and also in subsequent declarations. “But endeavors towards this end appear to have failed. The TTP seems to have been emboldened to declare a war against Pakistan. Its attacks have intensified,” he noted.

The foreign minister then directly blamed India for encouraging TTP terrorists for attacking Pakistan.

“Our intelligence agencies have solid proof of financial and organizational support and direction provided to the TTP by the agents of our eastern neighbor and by elements of the previous government in Kabul,” he said.

He said Pakistan had shared a comprehensive dossier with the secretary-general and the UN Security Council “containing concrete evidence of such external support to the TTP and other terrorist groups operating against Pakistan”.

The chief Pakistani diplomat hoped that the UN’s counter-terrorism machinery will address the threat of terrorism that presently emanates from Afghanistan and adjacent regions in a comprehensive and effective manner.

“We need to eliminate the safe havens of these terrorists; to cut-off the sources of their financing and sponsorship; and to target and hold accountable individuals and entities responsible for the terrorist attacks or for sponsoring and financing such attacks,” he said.

Reconstruction his top priority: UN chief

On the sidelines of the G77 ministerial conference in New York, the foreign minister met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday evening.

The UN chief assured the Pakistani leader that “resilient reconstruction” of flood-hit areas in his country was his “top priority.”

Mr Guterres also reaffirmed “full UN support” to the ongoing humanitarian work in the country.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari conveyed his appreciation to the secretary general for his “solidarity” and massive support to Pakistan in the wake of the devastating floods in the country, and for announcing the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva on Jan 9, 2023.

Source: Dawn

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Only state should deal with religious matters: SC

Nasir Iqbal

December 17, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to an accused facing blasphemy charges for joining a “WhatsApp” group, which alleged­ly posted sacrilegious content, and obser­ved that the state, and not individuals, should have the authority to deal with the matters concerning religion.

“The state should not surrender itself to individuals on religious matters rather the state machinery should be used in such sensitive matters with great care in a proficient manner,” observed Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who was heading a two-judge SC bench also comprising Justice Yahya Afridi.

The bench, which had taken up the bail plea, regretted how the accused would defend himself when he had no idea about the nature of crime he committed.

The court allowed the bail petition subject to furnishing of a surety bond of Rs100,000 and said the present case needs further inquiry.

Grants bail to blasphemy accused

The accused had challenged the rejection of his bail application by La­­hore High Court’s Multan bench which was also seized with a review petition against framing of charges against him under the blasphemy section.

Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Shafqat Abbasi told Dawn that the accused was arrested from Layyah on April 22 this year by the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime wing on a complaint registered on April 6 under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which deals with offences for insulting religion as well as Section 11 of the Prevention of the Electronic Crime Act relating to hate speech.

Surprisingly, the complainant was not a member of the WhatsApp group and registered the complaint after one of his friends told him about the questionable text which the latter received on his cellphone.

The FIA later dropped Section 295C of the PPC from the challan after seeking an opinion from the Council of the Islamic Ideology (CII) which had held that the matter did not attract this section.

During the hearing, the apex court raised doubts and observed that how the accused would defend himself when he did not know about the nature of the allegations.

The SC bench was also not amused with the way FIA’s team conducted the inquiry, regretting that the investigation failed to explain whether the complainant was well conversant with the Arabic language since the social media group in which the objectionable text was posted was in Arabic.

The court noted that the CII opinion was not taken into account while framing charges against the accused by the trial court. “What is the purpose of CII if the opinion of the constitutional institution is not to be followed,” the court regretted.

Source: Dawn

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‘Illegal Afghan immigrant’ held for NED student’s murder in Karachi

Imtiaz Ali

December 17, 2022

KARACHI: A suspect allegedly involved in the killing of a young NED University student, was shot and arrested during an encounter on Superhighway, police said on Friday.

Twenty-one-year-old Bilal Nasir, a resident of Federal B. Area, who was in his third year at the petroleum engineering department of the NED University, was shot dead when he put up resistance to a robbery bid at a tea shop outside the main university gate near Samama Shopping Mall on Thursday.

The killing sparked outrage on social media with students holding protest demonstrations on campus against the breakdown of law and order in Karachi.

Karachi police chief Javed Odho told a press conference at his office that the suspect, who was arrested on Friday morning after an encounter, hailed from Afghanistan.

Slain Bilal Nasir laid to rest amid moving scenes; demonstration held against murder outside varsity

A special team led by East-SSP Syed Abdul Rahim Shirazi arrested 16-year-old Nizamuddin, an Afghan Tajik, while his accomplice, also a Tajik, was still at large.

The suspects were ‘illegal immigrants’ and residents of the Jamali Pull area off Superhighway, he said, stressing the need to bring illegal immigrants living in Karachi under a law.

Meanwhile, funeral prayers for Bilal Nasir were held at a Federal B. Area mosque on Friday.

A large number of residents, friends, students and others attended the funeral prayers. The robbery victim was buried in Yaseenabad Graveyard amid moving scenes.


Students and activists staged a demonstration outside the university against the killing. The protesters claimed that street crimes had increased particularly on University Road.

Speaking on this occasion, Jamaat-i-Islami Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem Rehman said law enforcers were present in vicinity of the university and Rangers were also present, but when they asked the Rangers to control robberies in the city, they replied that “this was not within the ambit of their powers”.

The JI leader announced that they would observe a ‘mourning day’ on Saturday and a rally would also be taken out.

Source: Dawn

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Pak-Afghan meeting today amid unease at Chaman

Saleem Shahid

December 17, 2022

QUETTA: A day after armed clashes between Pakistan and Afghan forces claimed one life, the situation at the Chaman border remained calm with routine trade activities continuing unabated.

Pakistan also summoned the Afghan chargé d’affaires on Friday to protest over the “unprovoked” shelling that left 15 people wounded.

Amid the relative calm, the tension was palpable as forces on both sides of the border remained alert, with heavy weapons drawn.

Quetta Corps Commander Lt-Gen Asif Ghafoor visited Chaman and reviewed the situation at the border in a meeting with the authorities.

He met with tribal elders living along the border, traders, ulema and locals of Chaman.

Head of southern command visits border; Pakistan summons Afghan chargé d’affaires

Lt-Gen Ghafoor expressed his grief over the loss of life and property due to shelling by Afghan forces. He expressed sympathy for the affected families and assured all-out help and cooperation.

The participants of the meeting condemned the aggression from the Afghan side and said it was ‘an attempt to create misunderstandings’ between the two brotherly countries.

The meeting decided to take steps at all levels to mend fences and defuse the situation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Lt-Gen Ghafoor urged the tribal elders on both sides to play a role in reducing tensions and maintaining close contact with the other side.

“Nobody should be happy with the losses that took place in Chaman or Spin Boldak,” Lt Gen Ghafoor said, adding Pakistan did not initiate the attack and will not do so in future as well.

However, he vowed to “protect and defend the citizens at all costs.”

Sources said a flag meeting was also expected between senior commanders and border authorities of both sides on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Friendship Gate at the border remained open throughout the day and routine trade activities took place as usual. Travellers from both sides were allowed to move across the border after showing the required legal documents.

The transit trade was not suspended as well and trucks were allowed to cross the border.

FO summons Afghan diplomat

The Foreign Office, in a statement on Friday, said the Afghan chargé d’affaires was summoned to protest over recent firing incidents.

The FO condemned the unprovoked cross-border shelling by Afghan Border Security Forces in the Chaman-Spin Boldak area.

“It was reiterated that protection of civilians remained the responsibility of both sides and that recurrence of these incidents must be prevented. It was agreed to use established institutional mechanisms in this regard,” the FO added.

Pakistan remained committed to maintaining “fraternal relations” with Afghanistan, the statement said, adding, “Peace along the Pak-Afghan border is intrinsic to this end.”

Thursday’s attack came four days after the Afghan authorities ‘apologised’ over cross-border shelling that claimed the lives of eight people.

At least 16 people also suffered injuries on Sunday when Afghan border forces attacked civilian population in Chaman with heavy gunfire and artillery shelling.

The relations between the two sides have been strained for the past few weeks after a number of cross-border attacks and an ‘attempt on the life’ of Pakistan’s Head of Mission in Kabul Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani on Dec 2.

Amid rising tensions, voices are being raised in Pakistan to revisit the police vis-à-vis Afghanistan after the border clashes.

On Thursday, PPP’s Senator Farook H. Naek called for revisiting the Afghan policy while chairing a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Source: Dawn

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Divisive Australia: Promotes Islam, Shuns Christianity

by Mark Durie

December 16, 2022

In the lead-up to the recent Victoria, Australia, election, Premier Daniel Andrews announced grants of more than $8 million to the Victoria Islamic community. A social media video posted by his office celebrated this news in a way that can only be described as joyful. In the video, Andrews stated that $3 million will fund education to tackle Islamophobia. He also declared that Victoria will be funding Muslims to spread the word of Islam:

We think it is important, as part of an education process, that everyone across our state knows about the works of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him. It's very important that his teachings, his life, his journey, is understood by so many people. That's why we will provide a $500,000 grant to the Islamic Museum in partnership with the Board of Imams and also the Islamic Council of Victoria to develop a program to educate, to share those teachings, that wisdom. This is part of a comprehensive plan to do what matters.

This sounds awfully like state-funded proselytism.

Of course it is important that people know about Muhammad's deeds, teachings, and life. However, we can expect that the information made available to Victorians through this largess will be more promotional than informative. It will urge Victorians not only to respect but also to believe in the message and mission of Muhammad.

The figure of Muhammad is complex, contradictory, and controversial. At times, he advocated for what today would be recognised as justice – for example, caring for widows and orphans. At the same time, Muhammad's works and words stand behind the many strict restrictions and punishments applied by Islamic legal codes. The Afghan Taliban has forbidden car drivers, restaurants, and public media from playing music, based on Muhammad. Qatar banned alcohol from the FIFA World Cup and bans homosexual acts, based on Muhammad. Saudi Arabia applies the penalties of amputation for theft and cross-amputation for moharebeh, based on Muhammad. Indonesia has recently banned sex outside marriage, reflecting religious beliefs based on Muhammad. Similar bans are in place in other Muslim-majority nations, including Pakistan, Qatar, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.

Andrews' enthusiastic praise for Muhammad, and his glowing praise of the Muslim community – including a declaration that he will always 'stand' with them – contrast starkly with his recent vilification of conservative Melbourne Anglicans for their views on abortion and same-sex marriage. He called their views 'intolerance', 'hatred', 'bigotry', and 'absolutely appalling'. Ironically, Andrews was castigating Victorian Christians for holding views that very many Victorian Muslims also hold.

Our culture manifests two opposite, extreme approaches to religion, both flawed. One is to treat religion as something that is merely a part of culture, perhaps at times rather odd, but essentially of secondary importance. In a sense, this is what Andrews has done with Muhammad, for his glowing praise is vacuous and treats with dismissive contempt the actual content of Muhammad's words and deeds. It is as if the profound impact of Muhammad on millions of men's, women's, and children's lives is irrelevant and deserves no critical reflection.

The other extreme response to religion is to vilify and demonise. Andrews' response to the beliefs of some Victorian Anglicans about abortion and marriage was an example.

Religion is too important to be abused in these ways. The American journalist Andrew Breitbart observed that 'politics is downstream from culture'. And culture is downstream from religion. Over time, religions have tremendous power to shape cultures and, through them, politics and law, both for good and for evil.

Source: ME Forum

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Russia Launches Missile Attacks in Ukrainian Cities, Including Kyiv

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

December 16, 2022

The Russian air strikes targeted Kyiv, the capital city, Kryvyi Rih, in the south and Kharkiv in the northeast of Ukraine. The sound of explosions was heard across the country the local authorities reported.

“The attack on the capital continues, and subway services in the capital were suspended, as people flocked inside its tunnels deep underground to seek shelter” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported on Telegram.

According to experts striking energy infrastructures has been part of a new Russian strategy to try to freeze Ukrainians into submission after key battlefield losses by Russian forces in recent months.

The unwanted Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24 and the war has prolonged beyond Putin’s expectations. To continue supplying its military, Russia has already started looking for alternatives. Iran, for instance, one of its closest allies in the Middle East is reported to be supplying Russia with drones and missiles.

On the other hand, U.S. and NATO member states provide military supplies and ammunition including sophisticated missiles to Ukraine’s forces to resist the mighty Russian Army. According to local authorities, the Ukrainian army has been able to bring down Russian missiles, Rockets, and drones before hitting the target.

Source: Khaama Press

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Supporters of PKK terrorist group hold illegal demonstration in Swedish capital

Atila Altuntas 



Supporters of the PKK/YPG terrorist group staged an unauthorized demonstration in Stockholm on Friday.

Terror supporters displayed a PKK banner over a bridge in the city's Kungsgatan street, chanting slogans praising the terrorist organization.

Video footage posted later on a social media account affiliated with the terror group showed that preparations were underway to hold a planned large-scale demonstration on Jan. 21 in the Swedish capital.

Sweden and Helsinki struck a deal with Ankara in June, which requires them not to provide support to the PKK and its offshoots, or to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye. Ankara has also called for the extradition of terror suspects.

Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have warned that Türkiye will not give the nod to their memberships until its concerns are addressed.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently visited Türkiye to discuss the membership bids, which require unanimous approval from the alliance's 30 members.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Southeast Asia


Should Christians Support Indonesia Criminalizing Cohabitation and Extramarital Sex?

DECEMBER 16, 2022

Last week, Indonesia’s parliament approved a new penal code that received backlash from the United Nations and human rights groups inside and outside the Southeast Asian nation.

The new code, which replaces a colonial-era code enacted while the archipelago was under Dutch rule, includes the criminalization of cohabitation and sex outside marriage, bans insulting the president, and keeps in place blasphemy laws that have been used at times against religious minorities, including Christians. The law will go into effect after a transitional period of three years.

Home to the world’s largest Muslim population, Indonesia places a high value on religious harmony—known officially as Pancasila—among its 277 million citizens, and its constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have mostly kept quiet on the new code.

CT asked five Indonesian Christians for their thoughts on the new criminal code’s article on cohabitation and extramarital sex, as well as other articles on blasphemy and criticizing the president. They explained how enforcement matters and why many Christians share the same stance on morality but disagree with the government’s attempts to legislate it.

Ihan Martoyo, director of Center for Research and Community Development, Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH) in Tangerang

Many reports in Western media found the Indonesian new criminal law controversial, especially the point related to sex outside marriage. But only a few explained that the offense regarding extramarital sex is in fact a complaint offense (delik aduan), which does not apply unless a close family member—a spouse, a parent, or a child—reports the offense to the police. So the fear that it would apply to unmarried foreign tourists is unlikely to happen unless the tourist offends Indonesian family members by sleeping with an Indonesian.

I think the media controversy also highlights the undercurrent of cultural differences. In Western culture, which is typically more individualistic than in the East, sex is a matter of personal choice and freedom. However, Eastern culture is more communal and considers how sexual relations can cause repercussions to the community, especially the close family members. It seems there is a widely accepted consensus among Indonesian Muslims and Christians to view extramarital sex as compromising good moral values.

It is quite interesting to note that many biblical passages also articulate communal religious or virtuous values. Paul often admonishes the church to pay attention to the body of Christ (1 Cor. 11:27), perhaps something that modern Christians find difficult to comprehend.

Should the government legislate morality? For some issues like marriage, the answer seems to be quite complicated. Reformer John Calvin faced issues sharing responsibilities between the Consistory (a church court) and the City Council regarding marital disputes in Geneva. In our modern time, debates on the “acceptable kind” of marriage touch on civil law and create some of the most difficult debates among churches. This dichotomy between civil criminal codes and morality seems to be an artifact of modernity that we are still struggling to navigate. For religious Indonesians, they do not believe that the public sphere must be kept sterile from religious values.

William Wijaya (name changed for security reasons), a seminary professor in Indonesia

As someone who holds to a traditional view on sexual ethics, I agree that extramarital sex is prohibited by the Scriptures. Nevertheless, the issue here is whether or not the government should make laws regarding this. I don’t think that just because something is prohibited in Christian ethics, Christians should support its criminalization.

I accept my own bias: I’ve been educated in the West, where privacy is important. This law is an intrusion of privacy. It’s very hard—if not impossible—to enforce laws on private matters. The law stipulates that only a parent or a child could make an accusation against someone. How could the government prove that sexual activity has happened?

I’m very glad that the law in Indonesia is not the Islamic law. I’m glad to live in a country where the majority doesn’t impose their ethics on me, a Christian. I can do things that my Muslim neighbors are prohibited from doing.

I’d like to say to my Christian sisters and brothers, in the US especially, that in a pluralistic society, I don’t think we should use our Christian ethics as the basis of our law. We should find a way to move forward together, to find a common ground, and even to allow some of the things that are prohibited by our faith.

Samuel Soegiarto, head of the Institute of Spiritual Development and Christian Leadership at Petra Christian University in Surabaya

From a Christian perspective, God designs sex to be one of the most beautiful things that can happen between a man and a woman in a marriage. So yes, extramarital sex is against God’s design. Religious leaders, Christians and Muslims, should not stop encouraging their followers to live according to God's design. But when this divine precept is legalized, when it becomes law, we need to be cautious. As a Christian, I want more and more people to live a holy life. But if what drives them is the fear of prison, something is wrong.

The blasphemy laws in the code are designed to protect the rights of religious followers. But some parts are ambiguous; for example, “expressing hatred and hostility toward other people’s religious beliefs” can be interpreted in many ways, including expressing disagreement with religious claims. In the end, the interpretation will be decided by the majority.

I think Christians should not insult the president. We have to be critical of government policies and, if necessary, protest. Regarding the law, the government should make clear the definition of insult. If not, this law has much potential to be abused to silence the opposition.

Martin Lukito Sinaga, pastor and chairperson of the Interreligious Relations Commission at Communion of Churches in Indonesia

Extramarital sex and cohabitation acts can be regarded as criminal only if family members report it. Some experts told me that this aligns with an existing domestic violence law in which an “act of negligence” from the parent due to his or her cohabitation can be regarded as criminal. In this case, religious morality is used to protect family members.

The critical issue is its enforcement and whether it will be used to punish cohabitation or to protect the family from negligence by any members engaged in it.

The blasphemy laws are a long-standing issue. Some NGOs believe the articles on blasphemy should be replaced with a law that would combat intolerance, discrimination, and violence against a person based on religion or belief. This would require more public deliberation on the issue of defamation.

The law criminalizing insulting the president is also debated in the context of freedom of speech and freedom to criticize the government. Therefore, democracy is at stake here. This is also a complaint offense, and hopefully, the meaning of insult is clearly defined. Insult is understood as giving false information about the personal life of the president. Again, how complaints about the president are processed by the police is the key to whether this will harm democracy or not.

Christine Elisia Widjaya, a civil-law notary and private law lecturer at Universitas 45 in Surabaya

Most people agree that what is legal is not necessarily what is moral. However, laws should be based on—and in harmony with—the moral principles of society. As the representative of the Indonesian people, the government has the responsibility to pass bills. By governing morality, the government plays an important role in protecting its citizens. That doesn’t only include extramarital sex but also drug abuse, alcohol, and pornography due to the physical and mental health risks associated with those acts. As a result, society faces consequences such as public health issues, the cost of the criminal justice system, and the decline of economic productivity.

However, not every immoral act should be necessarily made illegal. What is defined as “morality” is relative, depending on the environment, religion, and philosophy. In my opinion, the government may legislate morality, but not every immoral behavior should be punishable by law. Criminalization should be used as the last resort. I believe that placing limits on these behaviors is the best policy for protecting society from morally corrupt behavior.

The blasphemy laws will affect Christians in many ways, such as to silence political opposition and justify attacks on religious minorities. In short, it will promote intolerance and discrimination, violate the fundamental rights to freedom of religion and expression, as well as prevent harmony among religious society in the multicultural country of Indonesia.

As Christians, we must follow the teaching of Jesus and submit ourselves to the governing authority (Rom. 13:1–7). The government is established by God and serves the purpose of ruling and promoting general welfare, so it is our responsibility to be good citizens by submitting to and obeying the laws.

Source: Christianity Today

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Malaysia’s Anwar may give Thai Deep South talks shot in arm

Iskandar Zulkarnain and Iman Muttaqin Yusof


Change may be coming to slow-moving and thus far fruitless peace talks in Thailand’s Deep South, observers say, as Malaysia’s new prime minister is keenly interested in the conflict and no friend of the current facilitator, who once punched him in the eye.

Talks between negotiators representing Thailand’s government and insurgents in the mostly Muslim southern border region were informally on hold while Malaysia – which for years has brokered the talks – held an election in November. The two sides last conferred in August.

Malaysia’s new leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has already met with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. But the two governments have kept mum about the future direction of the peace talks, saying only that they are discussing matters, including whether peace broker Abdul Rahim Noor, a former national police chief, would be replaced.

The date of the next round of talks hasn’t yet been confirmed, although the Malaysian facilitator told BenarNews last week that it would take place in January. BenarNews tried to get information from Thai officials, but calls to the head and secretary of the Thai peace panel were not picked up.

Meanwhile, a senior member of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) – the largest and most powerful insurgent group in the Thai Deep South – said recently that it would be open to autonomy instead of independence, if that is what people in the region want.

The BRN man gave a rare, on-camera interview to BenarNews in August on condition that his identity be concealed and his voice altered.

“The ultimate goal is independence. …. To achieve the goal, the Patani people’s support is a key factor,” said the insurgent, who asked to be identified as “Mustakim.”

“However, if the people see during the struggle that there are better options than independence, such as what occurred in Aceh or Mindanao, [then] that could be their consensus.”

Rebel groups in Aceh, Indonesia, and Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, originally sought independence but settled for autonomy in return for peace.

Mustakim said the Deep South peace talks have left much to be desired.

“[T]he peace talk process does not live up to ideal standards, when compared to successful processes such as in other ASEAN countries like Indonesia’s Aceh [region],” he said.

“They had a detailed and tangible process leading to a peace agreement in a short time, not 10 or 20 years.”

BRN has been fighting to establish an independent state for Malay Muslims who form the majority of the population in Thailand’s southern border region. It was not clear if “Mustakim” was stating an official view or his own opinion, and whether BRN had authorized him to speak to reporters.

Anwar ‘can play a significant role’

Meanwhile, observers of regional conflict also noted the slow progress of the peace talks.

The Thai government and BRN representatives began Malaysia-brokered peace negotiations in early 2020, soon before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the neighboring countries. These talks followed years of negotiations between the government and MARA Patani, an umbrella group that brought together Deep South insurgent groups, including BRN.

Mohd. Mizan Mohammad Aslam of the National Defense University of Malaysia said peace talks had not changed anything on the ground because, in his view, the conflict actually escalated after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malaysia needs to revamp the whole negotiation process to reach a workable solution, and that includes getting someone new to replace the facilitator Abdul Rahim Noor, he said.

“The [Malaysian] government has two choices: whether you want someone energetic, relatively young, and who has a will to finish the task or the job, or do you want someone who is very experienced with wisdom to tackle the issue?” he told BenarNews.

Mohd Mizan believes Anwar can play a prominent role.

“He is one of the very respected figures in Thailand. I know during his tenure as deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim helped a lot of Muslims, especially madrassas in southern Thailand. So with that, I believe he can play a significant role,” he said. 

Another analyst, Altaf Deviyati, co-founder and director of IMAN Research, a Kuala Lumpur think-tank, said Malaysia had not been proactive in these past few years on the Deep South issue.

“Malaysia is [currently] functioning literally like a secretariat office. … [But] Anwar Ibrahim has shown over the years his interest in the situation in the Deep South and security in ASEAN in general,” she told BenarNews.

“I would think he will take a personal interest in the progress of the dialogue. …I would assume that the facilitator may [also] be replaced.”

Last week, Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the possibility of replacing Rahim Noor was among things discussed during a meeting with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit.

“When the time comes we will announce [any change] … I can say that the matter was also touched on during the meeting,” he told reporters in Putrajaya.

“[I]t was too specific and detailed with several mutual commitments that need to be discussed, but it is still too early for me to divulge the details on the matter for the moment.”

Rahim Noor was appointed facilitator for the southern Thai peace talks in September 2018 by then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, which was part of Mahathir’s coalition government, strongly objected to the appointment. Party members had not forgotten that Rahim Noor, as the police inspector-general, punched Anwar in prison in 1998 after Mahathir had sacked Anwar as deputy prime minister, in a notorious case dubbed as the “black eye incident.”

Two years later, Rahim Noor was sentenced to two months in prison for the assault. In 2005, the former police chief publicly apologized to Anwar in court.

BenarNews contacted Rahim Noor last week to seek comment but he declined to answer. Officials at Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the PM’s Office did not respond to BenarNews questions about whether the facilitator would be replaced.

Don Pathan, a Thailand-based security analyst, declined to comment on the Anwar-Rahim Noor relationship, but said a new facilitator in the talks may move things along.

“About Rahim Noor, perhaps it’s time for him to step aside. He was Dr. Mahathir’s choice,” Pathan told BenarNews.

“PM Anwar is in charge now, and he appeared to be more hands-on, making a quick trip to Bangkok just days before the General Election to meet Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan,” Pathan said, referring to Anwar’s visit to the Thai capital on Sept. 22.

The armed separatist movement in the Deep South region against Buddhist-majority Thailand began in the 1960s. 

Source: Benar News

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Malaysia death toll rises to 21

17 December ,2022

Rescue workers scoured muddy terrain for survivors and bodies on Saturday as the death toll from a landslide at a Malaysian campsite rose to 21, including five children, authorities said.

A dozen people were still missing after a predawn landslide hit a campsite at an organic farm on Friday near the town of Batang Kali just outside the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Officials said there had been more than 90 people, most of them asleep, at the campsite near a mountain casino resort when the landslide struck.

Authorities said 61 people had been found safe or rescued.

Two of the victims were “believed to be a mother and her child in a state of embrace buried under the earth”, Norazam Khamis, director of the Selangor state fire and rescue department, told reporters on Friday.

The farm did not have a licence to run a campsite and its operators would be punished if they were found to have broken the law, authorities said.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim visited the area late Friday and said financial aid would be given to the families of those killed or injured in the disaster.

Selangor state chief minister Amirudin Shari tweeted that all picnic and camping sites in the state would be closed for a week.

Landslides are common in Malaysia after heavy rains, which are regular at the end of the year, and can occur after bouts of bad weather.

However, no heavy rains were recorded in the area on the night of the disaster.

The government has imposed strict rules on hillside development.

In March, four people were killed after a massive landslide triggered by heavy rains buried their homes in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Rescuers race to find survivors of deadly landslide at Malaysia campsite

December 16, 2022

KUALA LUMPUR: Rescuers raced to find survivors of a deadly landslide on Friday, which killed at least 21 people, including women and children, near the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The landslide struck a campsite in the town of Batang Kali in Selangor, where families were sleeping in their tents on early Friday morning.

Nearly 100 people were swept away and about a dozen are still missing, feared buried under the heavy soil, the Fire and Rescue Department told reporters, as hundreds of personnel from search agencies continued to scour thick mud and downed trees.

“Total victims are 94 individuals, those confirmed dead are 21 individuals, those still missing are 12 people,” Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters at the site.

Environmental Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said in a press release that the 500-meter-long landslide that moved 450,000 cubic meters of soil was likely a result of an embankment slope failure.

The campsite belonged to Father’s Organic Farm, located about 4 km from the Genting Highlands resort, which describes itself as a child-friendly attraction promoting organic fruit and vegetable planting.

The farm has been reportedly operating the campsite illegally.

The landslide was the deadliest such incident in the Selangor region since the 1995 incident in which a massive mudslide buried 20 people on the road leading up to Genting Highlands.

Environmental group Sahabat Alam Malaysia urged the government on Friday to promptly investigate the tragedy and make the outcome of the probe open to the public.

“How was a campsite allowed on a hilly area? Photographs showed that a major slope failure has occurred under the highway nearby in the upper reaches of the site. What triggered that to happen?” Meenakshi Raman, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Source: Arab News

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Arab World


Marvels of Saudi urban landscape testify to abiding Italian design influence


December 16, 2022

RIYADH: As Saudi Arabia and Italy mark 90 years of formal diplomatic relations, evidence of their strong bonds of friendship can be found in the brick and mortar of their respective cities, from architectural masterpieces to unique design innovations.

Among the most striking examples of this collaboration is Al-Balad cultural square, the permanent venue of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, renovated by Rome-based architectural design firm Schiattarella Associati.

In the historic Diriyah district near Riyadh, Italian architect Amedeo Schiattarella, founder and chairman of the eponymous firm, is also responsible for Diriyah Art Futures — the world’s first education-focused digital arts center — which will be completed next year.

The 10,000-square-meter site will not only act as an innovation hub but also as a tourist attraction, dotted with hotels, restaurants, parks and coffee shops, set in the historic grounds where the Saudi state was born.

Incidentally, Diriyah is also home to the Qasr Al-Hukm (Palace of Justice), renovated by Italian architect Marco Albini in the mid-1970s.

In the space of just a few years, the long-neglected region of AlUla in the Kingdom’s northwest has also been transformed into an enchanting living museum, attracting visitors from across the globe and gaining recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

AlUla’s awe-inspiring Maraya Concert Hall — an edifice covered in 9,740 mirrors, allowing it to blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape — was developed by Italian architecture firm Gio Forma and designed by architect Florian Boje.

Maraya was the first development under the Journey Through Time Masterplan, a Saudi initiative to preserve the Kingdom’s cultural oasis and explore 200,000 years of heritage in AlUla dating back to the Nabataeans.

As part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda, Maraya aims to raise awareness about the region’s cultural legacy and remarkable topography.

The Maraya Concert Hall’s ties to Italy do not end with its architecture. The venue regularly hosts performances by Italian artists. Tenor Andreas Bocelli has performed four times at the annual Winter at Tantora.

Gio Forma is also responsible for the Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdulaziz Airport in AlUla and has submitted a proposal to refurbish Al-Muazzam Fort Hotel in Tabuk, northwest Saudi Arabia.

Italian involvement in the Kingdom’s infrastructure projects is not a recent phenomenon. Webuild, a Milan-based engineering firm, originally founded as Impregilo in 1959, is behind multiple sustainable infrastructure projects in the Kingdom dating back to 1966.

The firm, today headed by CEO Pietro Salini, has built several housing units, the architectural frameworks for hospitals, and sustainable methods of water sourcing. Its most notable work is the Kingdom Tower, a 41-story, 302.3-meter-tall skyscraper located in Riyadh’s Olaya district.

More recently, Webuild has contributed to the design of the Riyadh Metro.

Pescara-based engineering company Proger is another Italian firm that has contributed to the Kingdom’s cultural life through managing Riyadh Art, the entity behind Noor Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s largest annual light festival, which transforms the capital into an open-air gallery.

The 2022 festival broke six world records, including one for the biggest celebration of light-based art.

Saudi Arabia has left its own indelible touches on Italy’s religious, social and cultural landscape, chief among which is the Grand Mosque of Rome — the biggest in the Western world, able to accommodate 12,000 worshippers.

King Faisal provided nearly EUR20 million ($21 million) to fund the mosque’s construction, which was designed and developed by Italian and Arab architects.

Design cooperation between Italy and Saudi Arabia does not end with architecture.

In recent times, the Fashion Commission’s Saudi 100 Brands, an initiative championing Saudi creatives and placing them on a global platform, saw the first set of designers showcase their work at Milan Fashion Week, in collaboration with White Milano.

Source: Arab News

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Muslim Council of Elders participates in Interfaith Dialogue in the Czech Republic

December 17, 2022

Prague: The Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Elders Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam said that interreligious and inter-cultural dialogue are especially important considering recent global challenges.

"The Document on Human Fraternity is the pinnacle of interfaith dialogue and is one of the most important steps taken towards conceiving contemporary global peace," he said while addressing the opening session of the 7th Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue hosted by the Czech Republic.

Abdelsalam added: "The historic Document on Human Fraternity which was co-signed by His Eminence Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and His Holiness Pope Francis of the Catholic Church under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, was the preeminent event for interfaith relations in modern history."

Shared vision

"There is a shared vision towards directing future generations down the path of coexistence and human fraternity. This can be seen with the adoption of the Document on Human Fraternity in various school and tertiary curricula, with a total of 1.5 million students around the world benefiting from the noble values of the Document.

"Likewise, the anniversary of the Document's signing on the 4th of February has been recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Human Fraternity. Also, the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity was launched with the aim of recognizing individuals and groups who embody the values of human fraternity."

"The Muslim Council is exerting great efforts to consolidate peace and coexistence through its many meetings with world leaders. The Council will continue to spearhead efforts to spread human fraternity through its many initiatives to stop all forms of conflict and bloodshed.

Source: Gulf News

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Saudi Arabia condemns attack on UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon

17 December ,2022

Saudi Arabia on Friday condemned the attack on a UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

An Irish soldier was shot and killed on a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon and a second was in a critical condition after a “hostile” crowd surrounded their armored vehicle late on Wednesday.

The Kingdom’s foreign affairs ministry expressed its “strong condemnation and denunciation of the attack,” and called for an “immediate and transparent” investigation into the incident.

The ministry expressed the Kingdom's absolute rejection of all forms of violence and affirmed the Kingdom’s support for UNIFIL.

It also extended its “sincere condolences to the government and people of Ireland, wishing the wounded a speedy recovery,” SPA added.

Southern Lebanon is a stronghold for Hezbollah, a powerful armed group and a heavyweight political party backed by Iran.

The party has denied a role in the violence, saying it was an “unintentional incident” between residents and the UN forces.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi sport minister hosts world football leaders at Saudi House in Qatar

December 17, 2022

DOHA: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sport Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal on Friday hosted a number of international football sports federations and Qatari officials at the “Saudi House” zone.

The zone was founded by the Saudi Football Federation in the Doha Corniche to coincide with the FIFA World Cup 2022 being hosted by Qatar.

The celebration included a dinner party at the Saudi House, attended by the President of the Asian Football Confederation, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, the President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, Sheikh Joa’an bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatari Minister of Youth and Sports Salah bin Ghanem Al-Ali, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, and a number of international sports leaders.

They praised the activities they witnessed that enriched the experience of fans of all nationalities.

The guests toured the zone and were briefed on the more than 21 activities it offers across 10 pavilions.

Source: Arab News

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Why many Italians are choosing Saudi Arabia as their holiday destination

December 16, 2022

ROME: In 2022, Italywasamong the top five countries of origin for tourists who chose Saudi Arabia as their holiday destination.

Italian tourism in the Kingdomhas been seeingsteady growth. In justthe first 6 months of2022, around 1,500 Italians traveled to the country.

AlUla, with its archaeological wonders, remains thefavoritedestination for Italian tourists, followed by Riyadh and Jeddah, the historical centers of which carry obvious appeal to Italians.

“When they go back home, all Italian tourists say theywereenthusiastic and incredibly surprised by Saudi Arabia,EleonoraBertuzzi, director ofBertel,one of the first Italian tour operators to organize trips to Saudi Arabia, beginning in 2002, told Arab News.

Bertuzzilives in Milan and collaborates with Kel12, a tour operator in the city. However, shesays she prefersto cooperate withSaudi suppliers who maintain authentic local traditions.

“Beforegetting there, Italian touristsexpect to find an extremely closed country where nothing can be done. Instead,theyseea modern and interesting country, where young people have a great desire toenjoy lifeand do interesting things.

Shesays Italiansalways tell her they areimpressed by the Saudi people, especially those engaged in promoting heritage, trying to offer tourists new experiences, like those who have opened their homes to organize lunches and show how a middle-class Saudi family lives every day.”

Italian touristsare equally fascinatedby the archaeological heritage of the Kingdom.

“AlUlais an open-air museum,andRiyadh with its antiquities is also much loved by our tourists who seek to understand the country by studying its origins,” Bertuzzisaid.

“Fifty percent of Italian touristssay theywant to return to Saudi Arabia. We are now studying alternative itineraries and destinations.Among these,NEOM will be very interesting,” she added.

Source: Arab News

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Doctors, architects, and engineers flock to Riyadh Winter Wonderland for Professions Day


December 16, 2022

RIYADH: Riyadh Winter Wonderland hosted a special Professions Day on Thursday as part of Riyadh Season. Participants who came along dressed in their uniforms received a free pass to Winter Wonderland — one of Riyadh Season’s main zones.

“As doctors, my friends and I arrived today to celebrate with everyone else, check out their uniforms, and have fun,” Mussab Jaber, who is studying medicine, told Arab News.

According to architects Nasser Bahamdan and Abdulrahman Al-Bahoth, who wore safety helmets and vests, the event demonstrates the variety of professions practiced by Saudis.

“We heard about Professions Day and came to see how everyone was dressed and if there were any other architects here,” Bahamdan said. “Everyone is dressed to reflect their profession, which is cool.”

Ateeq Al-Shahrani, a student of aviation technology, arrived with his peers in an aviation uniform. He said his college had encouraged him to participate.

“Our college emailed us about Professions Day and encouraged us to participate and show off our uniform, which bears the International Aviation Technical College logo, our names, and this red line on the shoulder that represents which year you are in; I’m a freshman, so I have one line,” Al-Shahrani said.

Ghaith Al-Enazi, a refrigeration technician, said he had heard that many people were coming, so he wanted to come and see what people were wearing.

“We refrigeration technicians wear overalls or jumpsuits, safety shoes, and a helmet,” he said. “I think it’s great to be proud of what you do for a living.”

Doctor Zahraa Al-Abdullah arrived wearing a lab coat and said she had come to play with her children. 

“I’m happy to see how my profession is influencing my children,” she told Arab News. “As a mother and a doctor, work can sometimes cause us to drift from our families, but today I find it amusing that I can come in with my lab coat and feel appreciated by my kids, who are asking me why people are taking pictures of me.”

Many children took part in the festival themselves, dressing up as musicians, astronauts, chefs, and other professionals.

Source: Arab News

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Saudi Ministry of Culture opens Fenaa Alawwal Centre to encourage global cultural exchange


December 16, 2022

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Culture opened its first cultural center, Fenaa Alawwal, on Thursday in Riyadh.

The new arts and culture center is located in the former headquarters of the Kingdom’s first commercial bank — Alawwal Bank — in the Saudi capital’s Diplomatic Quarter. It is one of Riyadh’s most-recognizable landmarks, with traditional geometric patterns typical of Saudi Arabia around its cylindrical edifice.

Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan and various other dignitaries from the cultural and diplomatic sectors attended the opening ceremony, which was marked by a light show.

The ministry established Fenaa Alawwal as part of its efforts to fulfill the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and to “encourage culture as a way of life.” It is intended to be a cultural and creative hub which will offer a wide range of cultural activities, including exhibitions and workshops, and bring together a diverse community of thinkers, creators and leading talents.

The center includes a library dedicated to art books, and a restaurant and cafe called Circle 3 by Acoustic.

Explaining the center’s mission, director Rola Alghrair told Arab News: “Fenaa Alawwal will gather diverse minds in a unique space that inspires cultural exploration and discovery through creative and artistic activities.”

She added: “From next year, our programs aim to directly involve embassies; from ideation to implementation, all activities will be the product of cross-cultural collaboration and exchange.”

The center’s opening exhibition is “The Memory Deposit,” which runs until Feb. 28. Entry is free from Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Inspired by the building’s former role as a bank, the exhibition explores the history of Saudi currency and features work from six contemporary artists based on from milestones of Saudi heritage, identity and culture depicted on the Kingdom’s coinage and banknotes.

Saudi artist Saddek Wassel, whose work is part of the show, told Arab News: “My artwork shows a man sitting on a rock, contemplating nature and (his surroundings). This artwork is in close dialogue with the historical depth behind the place that hosts it — the sculpture garden at the Fenaa Alawwal Culture Center — because this center has a history. It is also about a man contemplating the history and background of his people and his country.”

Argentinian artist Carola Zech contributed a mirrored work called “Us” to the show. “It is meant to be an interactive work,” she said. “People can move through most of the parts and then can build different spaces, but they are collective social spaces because when you interact with one of these, other people can interact with you. It is a work without hard limits. You construct the limits.”

Source: Arab News

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Libya rejects Egypt’s decision on demarcation of maritime borders

Ahmet Gençtürk  


Libya on Friday rejected a Dec. 11 decision by Egypt to demarcate maritime borders.

"This demarcation is unjust because it was unilaterally announced, it violates Libya's territorial integrity and the principles of good faith and respect for sovereignty," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US senators call for sanctions to pressure Lebanon to form government

17 December 2022

In yet another case of blatant US intervention in Lebanon’s domestic affairs, top Republican and Democratic senators have called on the administration of US President Joe Biden to use sanctions to pressure Lebanese lawmakers to form a new government in the crisis-plagued Mediterranean country.

“Instead of simply waiting for political movement and reforms, it is time for the administration to implement a more forward leaning policy,” Republican Senator James Risch and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said in a letter sent to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday.

“We urge the Biden administration to use all available leverage, including the threat of sanctions, to ensure that Lebanese lawmakers select a new president and form a government in a timely manner and implement overdue economic reforms,” said the letter, viewed by Middle East Eye.

Accusing the Lebanese lawmakers of “corruption,” Risch and Menendez added, “We strongly urge the administration to use its existing authorities to sanction members of Lebanon’s financial and political elite across the political and sectarian spectrum who are engaging in corruption and undermining the rule of law.”

The Lebanese parliament, which is divided between camps for and against the Hezbollah resistance movement, failed for the 10th time on Thursday to select a replacement for former President Michel Aoun, whose term expired in October.

Thursday's vote was attended by 109 lawmakers in the 128-member parliament. Candidate Michel Moawad, who is seen as close to the United States and backed by the Lebanese Forces Party, received 38 votes, well short of the figure needed to win the first round. A candidate needs two-thirds of the vote, or 86 lawmakers, to make it through the first stage. An absolute majority is needed in subsequent rounds. A total of 37 lawmakers cast blank ballots, while the other votes went to other candidates.

Speaker Nabih Berri ended the session without setting a date for another voting session, which was usually held on a weekly basis over the past nine voting sessions.

Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, head of the religious council of Hezbollah resistance movement, said last week that the United States is seeking to impose a president on Lebanon who will serve the best interests of Washington and the Tel Aviv regime amid a political stalemate in the crisis-ridden Arab country.

Sheikh Yezbek added that the Lebanese are themselves capable of electing a president and building their country, noting that one should only trust those who are preoccupied with the homeland and its sovereignty.

Lebanon’s presidency has seen stalemate several times since the 1975-1990 civil war. The country has also had only a caretaker government since May.

The Arab country has been mired in an economic crisis that the World Bank has dubbed one of the worst in recent history, which comes amid crippling sanctions imposed by the US and its allies. The Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value on the black market since 2019.

According to the United Nations, the ongoing financial crisis in Lebanon has caused poverty rates to reach more than 80 percent of the population, and food prices have risen by an astonishing 2,000 percent.

Source: Press TV

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Proper Islamic Education Will Reduce Crime – Borno State Governor

December 16, 2022

By Ifeanyi Nwannah

The Borno State Governor, Professor Banbagana Zulum has appealed to Zamfara State indigenes to support efforts to rid the region of insecurity

Zulum made the call during his opening remarks as the chairman of the 37th national Quranic recitation competition in Gusau, saying many state governments inherited security challenges

He said even the coronavirus pandemic destroyed the economic set-up of many states and that of the country at large.

“It is also very clear that Governor Matawalle inherited the insecurity and had tried his best to address the insecurity situation”

Source: Daily Post Nigeria

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France announces it will end visa restrictions with Morocco

16 December ,2022

France will end visa restrictions for Moroccan nationals, the foreign minister said on Friday, in a sign of warmer relations between the two countries after more than a year of tensions between Paris and Rabat.

“We’ve taken measures with our Moroccan partners to re-establish a consular relationship,” Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Friday after talks with her Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita in Rabat.

France, under pressure from public opinion to act to curb undocumented immigrants, announced last year it would cut the number of visas granted to nationals from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia because of the North African countries’ refusal to take back their citizens living illegally in France.

It was not immediately clear whether France had got anything in return from Morocco. Morocco’s Bourita said France had made a unilateral decision to end restrictions after what he said was also a unilateral decision to introduce the restrictions.

France has generally warmer relations with Morocco than with its eastern neighbor Algeria, also a former colony.

But ties deteriorated after media reports in the summer of 2021 said President Emmanuel Macron’s phone was on a list of potential targets for surveillance by Morocco using the Pegasus software. Morocco has denied the allegation and said it did not possess Pegasus.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Jordanians protest over fuel price rises, after policeman killed in riots

December 16, 2022

AMMAN: Jordanians staged sit-ins on Friday and activists called for more protests over fuel price rises that have added to a cost-of-living squeeze, a day after riots in a southern city left one police officer dead, witnesses and security sources said.

The authorities said the policeman was killed on Thursday night by a gunshot fired by an unidentified individual when armed officers entered a neighborhood of Maan to quell riots. Youths had attacked government property in the city, witnesses said.

King Abdullah and Crown Prince El Hassan bin Talal on Friday extended condolences to the family of Col. Abdulrazzaq Dalabeeh, the deputy police director of Maan Governorate, Petra News Agency reported.

According to a royal court statement, King Abdullah reaffirmed that violence against the state, vandalism of public property, and violating Jordanians’ rights will be dealt with firmly, stressing that assaults and acts of vandalism are dangerous threats to national security and will not be tolerated.

He expressed his deepest sympathies and condolences to Dalabeeh’s family, describing him as the son of all Jordanians and adding, “we will not rest until the criminal is brought to justice.”

“We will not tolerate violence against our security personnel, who work day and night to protect Jordan and Jordanians,” the king stressed.

He also acknowledged Jordanians’ difficult economic conditions and their right to peaceful self-expression within the law, highlighting that state institutions will take all measures to hold outlaws to account.

Jordan’s Public Security said heavy security has been deployed in the kingdom’s governorates to “ensure the enforcement of the rule of law and maintain the security of citizens.”

It said that it had dealt with riots in a number of regions and arrested 44 people, who “will be referred to the competent authorities, in addition to those who were arrested in the previous days.”

It added that there was a noticeable decline in the number of riot units since Thursday, especially in the southern governorates.

It also said that investigations into Dalabeeh’s death are continuing and will not end until the perpetrator is arrested.

Tensions have mounted in Maan and several cities in southern Jordan in particular after sporadic strikes by truck drivers protesting against high fuel prices and demanding cuts in diesel prices. Fuel rises have added to the squeeze on households.

Interior Minister Mazen Farrayeh told a news conference that the government will apply tough steps and redeploy more anti-riot police against demonstrators who protest violently.

“We have seen a large jump in violent acts,” he said. “After what happened, there will be tougher security measures to reinforce the security forces in the areas that witness such acts.”

Although the streets were calm on Friday, sporadic protests continued with a sit-in in front of Maan’s main mosque and a mosque in the capital Amman after Friday prayers, while activists called for more demonstrations.

Overnight, riot police chased scores of youths throwing stones in Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and other cities where Farrayeh said rioters torched public property, vandalized state buildings and burned tires that closed major highways across the kingdom.

The US, a close ally of Jordan, on Thursday said US government personnel had been restricted from both personal and official travel to the provinces of Karak, Tafilah, Maan, and Aqaba until further notice.

This was because of “reports of ongoing protests, burning tires, and throwing stones at vehicles on streets and highways throughout Jordan and particularly in the south,” the US embassy in Jordan said.

Internet users and activists said Internet services faced slowdowns in several regions, disrupting social media platforms activists used to share footage of clashes with police.

The government has promised to examine truck strikers’ demands but says it has already paid more than 500 million dinars ($700 million) to cap fuel prices this year and cannot do much more if it wants to avoid breaching an International Monetary Fund deal.

Source: Arab News

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Polls open in Tunisian vote boycotted by opposition

December 17, 2022

TUNIS: Polls opened on Saturday in a Tunisian parliamentary election that will tighten President Kais Saied’s grip on power, capping what his opponents denounce as a march to one-man rule over a country that shook off dictatorship in 2011.

Taking place 12 years to the day after vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in an act of protest that sparked the Arab Spring, the vote is being boycotted by political parties which have accused Saied of mounting a coup.

Voters will be choosing a parliament largely defanged by a new constitution, approved with a low turnout in a July referendum that was engineered by Saied to shift Tunisia back toward a presidential system.

Nejib Chebbi, head of an anti-Saied coalition including Ennahda, has labelled the election a “still-born farce.”

Saied shut the previous parliament down last year, surrounding the legislature with tanks and assuming near total authority.

The vote appears to have stirred little interest among a population jaded by political dysfunction and struggling with economic hardship.

Voting is due to take place from 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. (0700 GMT-1700 GMT).

Saied, a former law lecturer who was a political independent when elected president in 2019, has described the election as part of a roadmap for ending the chaos and corruption he says afflicted Tunisia under the previous system.

His opponents including the Islamist Ennahda party meanwhile accuse him of a coup, and have rejected the ballot along with all the president’s other moves since last summer, when he dissolved parliament and began ruling by decree.

The election is taking place against the backdrop of an economic crisis that is fueling poverty, leading many to attempt the perilous journey to Europe aboard smugglers’ boats.

With the main parties absent, a total of 1,058 candidates — only 120 of them women — are running for 161 seats.

Source: Arab News

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North America


Groups Actively Spreading Islamophobia Smear Law-Abiding Muslims

Dec. 17, 2022

An ecosystem of influencers, media and more, Dec. 10

After the 9/11 attack in New York, the Canadian Islamic community became a target of our intelligence agencies to spy on our mosques, schools and community services to look for Islamic terrorists.

The Islamic community in Canada is very diverse, well-established, and made up of law-abiding citizens.

Islamophobia is widespread and not reported.

Canada and the U.S now have to handle their own home-grown, extreme, right-wing terrorists.

There are certainly groups here actively involved in Islamophobia, which must be condemned.

Rafat Khan, Mississauga

Every Dec. 6, we must renew vigilance, Dec. 6

I have been working in community agencies with men and youth to prevent violence and abuse for over 20 years. Every year on and around Dec. 6, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre of young women, I take stock on where our communities are regarding violence against women.

My reflection is one of sadness, and frustration: intimate partner abuse is increasing in frequency and severity.

We have seen an increase in the number of women killed by intimate partners/ex-partners since the start of the pandemic and calls to helplines have increased exponentially.

The vast majority of violence in our communities is perpetrated by men. As a man, I take that very seriously and feel that if I do not act to help reduce and stop this violence, I am part of the problem.

I work in an agency, Counterpoint Counselling and Educational Cooperative that provides Partner Abuse Response (PAR) programs to men (as) mandated by the criminal courts. PAR programs are unique in that they are the only program working with offenders of domestic violence to change their behaviour, while also monitoring and managing the risk they pose to their partners.

The only way to end intimate partner abuse successfully is to work with men who are the perpetrators of this violence, while providing support and resources to those suffering from it. Through my work I have witnessed that change is possible, and we can make women and families safer. However, it requires investment in programs (such as PAR).

These urgently need a sustainable funding base.

The urgency is now before another woman is mourned.

Rodrigo Moreno, Midland, Ont.

Teen was in ‘wrong place, ’ police say, Dec. 13

My sympathies to the parents of David Petrovic, senselessly murdered in his own neighbourhood.

For anyone to say, especially the police, that he was in the wrong place at 7 p.m. in a Canadian city is ridiculous.

Anyone should be able to walk safely anywhere at any time without fear of being murdered by a stranger in a random attack.

Have the police simply given up on some areas of the city?

Source: The Star

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Top US senators urge Biden to sanction more Lebanese bankers, politicians

17 December ,2022

A bipartisan group of 22 powerful US lawmakers has called on the Biden administration to levy more sanctions against members of Lebanon’s financial and political elite who are engaging in corruption and undermining the rule of law.

Lebanon has been without a fully functioning government for months, and lawmakers have failed to elect a new president since Michel Aoun’s term ended at the end of October. Meanwhile, the economic and social collapse of the country has continued due to political bickering and a flawed sectarian system.

“Given this new phase of political deadlock and a lack of movement on necessary reforms, we strongly urge the Administration to use its existing authorities to sanction members of Lebanon’s financial and political elite across the political and sectarian spectrum who are engaging in corruption and undermining the rule of law,” the US senators wrote in a letter to the US secretaries of State and Treasury.

The senators said this should be done in coordination with Washington’s European allies.

Consecutive US administrations since 2006 have supported continued American military and economic assistance to Lebanon. Part of the argument has been that supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces is the only way to push back against Iran-backed Hezbollah.

But the years of corruption and siphoning of state funds culminated in recent years with the election of Aoun, backed by Hezbollah and its allies. Ties between Lebanon and its traditional backers, mainly Saudi Arabia, soured, and the COVID-19 pandemic and Beirut blast dealt a further blow to the country.

And with no government, Lebanon has failed to implement reforms needed to unlock international funds and grants as well as a regional gas deal with Egypt.

The lawmakers slammed Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a longtime Hezbollah ally, for facilitating the tactics used by lawmakers to prevent the quorum needed to elect a new president.

“Speaker Berri and other pro-Hezbollah politicians must stop playing procedural games with Lebanon’s future and allow for the maintenance of a quorum and for successive simple majority votes to take place,” the senators said.

Aoun’s government was, however, able to finalize a US-backed deal to demarcate their maritime border with Israel. This is expected to help Lebanon’s long-term economic gains. “However, for too long, Hezbollah and others in Lebanon’s political class have continuously failed to prioritize the needs of the Lebanese people over their own narrow agendas,” the senators wrote.

They added: “The need for an effective elected government, free from malign foreign influence and that prioritizes the needs of its people, cannot be understated.”

The Trump administration sanctioned Aoun’s son-in-law and former foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, Berri’s top political aide and another senior official close to Sleiman Frangieh.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US court decision paves way for depositor case against Lebanese bank

16 December ,2022

A US court of appeals determined this week that cases against Lebanese commercial banks can be tried outside Lebanon, according to a decision seen by Reuters, paving the way for more cases by depositors seeking to unlock their frozen funds.

The court decision, issued on Dec. 15 in a case brought by Lebanese depositors against leading lender Bank Audi, overturned a lower district court’s decision that said Beirut courts had “exclusive jurisdiction” to try cases against Lebanese banks.

During Lebanon’s three-year financial collapse, banks have imposed tight controls on withdrawals in both US dollars and the local currency, which has lost more than 90 percent of its value.

Those restrictions have yet to become law and have been challenged in both local and international courts by savers who have sought to gain back their money promptly in US dollars, with mixed results.

The Raad family filed a lawsuit in New York in December 2020, saying Bank Audi had breached their contract by refusing to transfer their funds abroad at the beginning of the financial crisis, according to the court document.

A district court dismissed their claim on the reasoning that such cases should only be heard by Lebanese courts.

Nada Abdelsater, a lawyer representing Patricia, Stephanie and David Raad, said this week’s new decision could allow them to proceed with the case, saying it had “made history.”

“The door is now open, and the real action begins,” she told Reuters.

“This decision rightly removes the main obstacle that has so far been preventing cases from being taken up... and this New York decision allows us to further pursue proceedings in competent courts outside of Lebanon,” Abdelsater added.

There was no immediate response from Bank Audi in Beirut to a request for comment filed outside business hours.

Jeffrey Rotenberg, a lawyer from DLA Piper representing Bank Audi in the case, said the decision was “non-precedential.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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South Asia


MoFA Calls on International Community to Have Positive Interactions With Afghanistan

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

December 16, 2022

Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan on Friday said in his remarks that the international community should have positive interactions with Afghanistan.

In a meeting ‘unveiling the book of one-year achievements of MoFA’ Mr. Muttaqi reiterated that the current regime will not allow Afghanistan to change to a ‘competitive field’ of the powerful countries. He further added, “it is the Islamic Emirate’s politics, and responsibility to provide education and employment opportunities for the people.”

The Foreign Minister’s remarks on ‘education and employment opportunities came as the unemployment rate among the Afghan populace has skyrocketed since the overthrow of the previous regime in August 2021. Thousands of highly educated and experienced Afghan youths migrated to neighboring countries such as Iran and Pakistan in search of work to feed their families.

A large majority of private businesses and NGOs closed their doors due to the existing dire economic situation and the uncertain political environment in Afghanistan – adversely affecting the living conditions of the ordinary people.

Meanwhile, the ruling regime has barred women from working in government organizations and girls from attending schools beyond grade six since. Recently, they have resumed public punishment such as flogging, stoning and public execution – receiving worldwide criticism.

Source: Khaama Press

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Pak summons Afghan envoy to condemn “unprovoked” firing by Taliban forces in Chaman border area


16 December, 2022

Islamabad, Dec 16 (PTI) Pakistan on Friday summoned the Afghan charge d’affaires here to condemn the recent incidents of “unprovoked” cross-border shelling by Afghan troops near the southwestern Chaman border crossing that have escalated tensions between Islamabad and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers.

At least one person was killed and 11 others were wounded on Thursday when Afghan Taliban forces fired mortars toward civilians in the Chaman-Spin Boldak area in the restive Balochistan Province.

The latest violence follows a series of deadly incidents and attacks that have strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers in recent months. Thursday’s violence was the second incident of firing in less than a week after a similar attack on December 10 had killed seven civilians.

“Afghan Charge d’Affaires in Islamabad was called in to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pakistan’s strong condemnation over recent incidents of unprovoked cross-border shelling by Afghan Border Security Forces,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Pakistan conveyed to the Afghan official that the firing in the Chaman-Spin Boldak area resulted in the loss of life, injuries and damage to property.

“It was reiterated that protection of civilians remained the responsibility of both sides and that recurrence of these incidents must be prevented,” the FO said.

The two sides agreed to use the established institutional mechanisms to prevent such incidents in future, it said.

“Pakistan remains committed to maintaining fraternal relations with Afghanistan and peace along the Pak-Afghan border is intrinsic to this end,” FO said.

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul came under gunfire in an attack that was later claimed by the Islamic State group. Pakistani officials at the time had called the incident an attack on its envoy there. Islamabad also has said Afghanistan’s rulers are sheltering militants who carry out deadly attacks on its soil.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-km volatile border.

Chaman remains a busy border trading area for Pakistan and Afghanistan and has also been a flashpoint for clashes between border forces on both sides.

The Chaman border crossing, also known as the Friendship Gate, connects Balochistan province to Afghanistan’s Kandahar. It was closed last month after an armed Afghan crossed onto Pakistan’s side of the border and opened fire on security troops, killing a soldier and injuring another two.

Islamabad has completed almost 90 per cent of fencing work along the border despite protests from Kabul, who contested the century-old British-era boundary demarcation that splits families on either side.

Source: The Print

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UNSC extends mandate of team monitoring sanctions against Taliban-linked entities

17th December 2022

United Nations: The UN Security Council has decided to extend the mandate of the team monitoring sanctions against Taliban-linked entities in Afghanistan.

Unanimously adopting Resolution 2665, the council decided to extend for 12 months the mandate of the team monitoring sanctions against individuals and entities associated with the Taliban, as well as other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with the Taliban in constituting a threat to the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan, Xinhua news agency reported.

The council directed the monitoring team, whose current mandate expires on December 31, to gather information on instances of non-compliance with measures imposed in Resolution 2255.

The council highlighted the importance of ensuring that the monitoring team receives the necessary support to effectively, safely and in a timely manner fulfil its mandate, including with regard to duty of care in high-risk environments.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Afghanistan: UN experts call on Taliban to immediately halt public floggings and executions

16 December, 2022

Geneva [Switzerland], December 16 (ANI): UN experts are deeply aggrieved about a public execution and that flogging has resumed in Afghanistan and call on the de facto authorities to halt immediately all forms of torturous, cruel and degrading forms of punishments.

They said in a statement issued today, “Since November 18, 2022, the de facto authorities have reportedly carried out floggings of over 100 individuals, both women and men, in several provinces including Takhar, Logar, Laghman, Parwan and Kabul. Each were given between 20 and 100 lashes for alleged crimes including theft, ‘illegitimate’ relationships or violating social behaviour codes. While criminalisation of relationships outside of wedlock seem gender-neutral, in practice, punishment is overwhelmingly directed against women and girls. The flogging has been carried out in stadiums in the presence of officials and members of the public.”

On December 7, 2022, the Taliban publicly executed a man in Farah city, Farah province, in what appears to be the first public execution since seizing power in August 2021.

“Senior de facto officials, including the Deputy Prime Minister and Chief Justice, were in attendance. The application of these punishments began after the Supreme Leader on November 13, 2022 ordered the judiciary to implement Hudood (crimes against God) and Qisas (retribution in kind) punishments across the country,” added the statement.

Public floggings and public executions violate universal principles prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Afghanistan is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which prohibits torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. The public spectacle of these punishments make them especially distasteful and undignified.

“We are additionally raising doubts about the fairness of the trials preceding these punishments, which appear not to satisfy basic fair trial guarantees. International human rights law prohibits the implementation of such cruel sentences, especially the death penalty, following trials that apparently do not offer the required fair trial guarantees,” added the statement.

It called on the de facto authorities to immediately establish a moratorium on the death penalty, prohibit flogging and other physical punishments that constitute torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and guarantee a fair trial and due process in accordance with international standards. At all times, no matter the status of a person, they are entitled to dignity and respect.

The experts included Richard Bennett, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Ivana Radacic (Vice-Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Meskerem Geset Techane and Melissa Upreti, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Source: The Print

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