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Islamic World News ( 30 Dec 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Community in US Faces Shortage of Sunni, Shia Scholars

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 Dec 2019

Navigating intricacies. Imam Mohammad Qazwini speaks during a class at the Al-Hujjah Islamic Seminary in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, October 9. (AP)


• Muslim Community in US Faces Shortage of Sunni, Shia Scholars

• As It Detains Parents, China Weans Children from Islam

• MHA's NPR Manual Excludes Muslim Holidays for Reference Point to Estimate Date of Birth of Those Who Don't Know

• 51 BHU Teachers Write to Govt Condemning New Citizenship Law, Police Action

• Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Bombay, Says Religion Should Not Be Criterion For Citizenship

• OIC to Convene Meeting on IOK Lockdown, Anti-Muslim Law in India

• Key Pakistan Taliban Commander Qari Saifullah Mehsud Shot Dead In Afghanistan

• Saudi Arabia: Artifacts Found Near Makkah Cemetery Date Back To Early Islamic Era

• ‘Jews Did 9/11’: Anti-Semitic Graffiti Appears On Shops and Synagogue In London During Hanukkah

• Hamas Says Palestinian Authority Helped Israel Kill Islamic Jihad Commander

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




North America

• U.S. strikes Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia in Iraq and Syria

• US Strikes In Iraq, Syria Target Iranian-Backed Shi'ite Muslim Militia Group – Reuters

• MAS-ICNA Convention, one of largest Islamic conferences in US, wraps up in Chicago

• US civil rights icon John Lewis diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

• Five stabbed at New York rabbi's home in 'terrorist' attack

• US strikes against Al-Shabaab kill four militants in Somalia: AFRICOM

• 2 dead, 1 critically injured in Texas church shooting



Southeast Asia

• China Gifts 200 Sets of ‘King Gesar’ To Pakistan as Token Of Historical Bonds

• Leaking issue at Crystal Mosque to be fixed soon - Exco

• What really went wrong with Malaysia in 2019?

• Cops claim physically abused by MACC officer




• Karnataka: Pejawar Mutt Seer Vishwesha Teertha’s Driver Is a Muslim

• ‘Modi Govt Will Not Tolerate This’: HRD Minister to Universities against CAA

• Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Defenders – One Muslim, the Other Dalit – Arrested For Protesting CAA

• Yogi Adityanath doing injustice to Muslims to save chair: Akhilesh

• State-Wide Black Day On Jan 3 Against The CAA And 'Atrocities' Of UP Police On 'Peaceful' Protesters: Shahi Imam Punjab

• ‘Not for all Muslims’: UP deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya backs Meerut SP over communal remarks

• Every assailant was policeman: Activists accuse UP Police of assaulting Muslims during CAA stir, release videos

• India and anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act: Modi Might Have Finally Gone Too Far




• PTI to show solidarity with Indian Muslims

• Pakistan urges OIC to raise voice for Indian Muslims

• PM’s Jihad against Corruption Continues with Full Force: Firdous



South Asia

• Report: 10 Afghan journalists killed in 2019

• Taliban’s ambush in Takhar kills 20 members of public uprising forces

• Taliban council agrees to cease-fire in Afghanistan

• Afghanistan's Taliban Ruling Council Ready for Ceasefire with US



Arab World

• Kuwait Championed Arab, Islamic and Humanitarian Causes At UNSC

• Treasury Bill Issues and Short-Term Islamic Lease (Ijarah) Sukuk listed

• Non-profit aims to build bridges between cultures, foster better understanding of Saudi Arabia

• Maraya: A world-class mirrored concert hall in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla Valley

• Saudi transport authority launches program to regulate and improve taxi services




• UK Detained A Man Who Sent £150 To Son Fighting IS With Kurds In Syria

• Russian Security Forces Prevent New Year Terrorist Attacks In St. Petersburg Based On US Tip-Off




• Successor to Khamenei Died Because He Trusted Islamic Medicine, Son Reveals

• Senior Palestinian Claims Jesus Was an Islamic Martyr

• Last Week Alone, Nearly 900 Settlers Invaded Al-Aqsa Mosque

• 2010-2019 The Decade ISIS Overtook Al-Qaida and Changed the Face of Radical Islam

• Gaza sermon: Pensacola shooter acted out of compassion for Islamic nation

• Hamas: PA security officers helped Israel kill Islamic Jihad commander

• Unity, avoidance of division, first step towards a civilized society

• Syrian regime shelled a mosque in al Ghadafa village in Idlib, on December 28

• Iranian Muslims Give Flowers to Compatriot Christians

• Turkey detains dozens of Daesh suspects ahead of New Year

• Journalists in Turkey convicted of terrorism

• Anxious Gazans fear for the future as daily life in Palestine worsens

• Israel to withhold $43 million of Palestinian tax funds




• Islamic Movement of Nigeria condemns AGF over comments on El -Zakzaky’s fate

• Supported by US, Saudi Arabia, Nigerian govt. putting pressure on Sheikh Zakzaky: Daughter

• Dasuki, Sowore: Islamic organisation attacks Buhari govt over comment on El-Zakzaky



Muslim community in US faces shortage of Sunni, Shia scholars

Sunday 29/12/2019

The seminary instructor challenged his students: "Brothers and sisters" don't believe in God because your "parents believe in God" but because "you know why God exists."

The students were engaged, deeply engrossed in a discussion about faith with their teacher and one another. However, more than Imam Mohammad Qazwini's interesting delivery, deep understanding of Islam and his formal training at a seminary in the holy city of Qom, Iran, drew them to this suburban Detroit classroom just off the large prayer room of a mosque.

He speaks their language -- literally.

The Quran is written in classical Arabic but not many students are well-versed in the language. Qazwini navigates its intricacies effortlessly in the everyday English the students use, opening a door for many and possibly an option for solving a clerics shortage at the same time.

Al-Hujjah, started by Qazwini and his father, Islamic Institute of America leader Imam Hassan Qazwini, is the newest of several seminaries focused on the Shia branch of Islam in the United States and Canada working to address a shortage of leaders.

An increasing number of US Muslims want guidance from religious instructors whom they can understand linguistically and culturally and the imams and scholars who once came from the Middle East or were educated in schools there are having more difficulty entering the United States. The Trump administration imposed a travel ban in January 2017 on people from several Muslim-majority countries and the government has made it harder to enter the United States entirely, with more rigorous interviews and background checks.

"In many other states there are mosques with no... functional imam, who can assume the responsibilities of the religious leader or even speak," Hassan Qazwini said. "I thought maybe a long-term solution for facing this shortage is to have our own Shia Islamic seminary in the US, instead of waiting for imams to come."

The father and son started the seminary in fall 2017 with about 35 registered students. Now it has nearly 400, with some attending in person, others watching live and still more watching recorded videos online. In addition to the Qazwinis, there are four other instructors.

The seminary has students in 25 countries but the emphasis is on North America, said Hassan Qazwini, a native of Iraq. He said the desire to deepen the bench of US-trained imams, scholars and speakers is also driven by the political reality of the travel ban.

In a class recently, Qazwini led an intense session on faith, proposing case studies, playing devil's advocate and prompting a philosophical back-and-forth with his students. His execution is informal but authoritative. The students understand him.

"I need to make sure he speaks the language, he's knowledgeable, he's respectful, he's truly caring and he's trying to adapt to the country we live in," said Alia Bazzi, 32, a graphic designer and seminary student. "Why would my imam speak Arabic if we live in America and the main language we speak is English?... I want to know he's up to date, he knows what's going on."

About an hour's drive south, in Toledo, Ohio, the Ahlul Bayt Centre Mosque has been operating for about four years without a full-time imam. Mohammad Qazwini and other clerics travel there for services and special events.

Ali Nawras, a board member of the Toledo mosque, said the arrangement works for day-to-day needs because of its proximity to the Detroit area, a long-time hub for Islam in the United States, but the centre seeks a permanent imam to meet its broader, long-term objectives: Having a strong understanding of challenges in their own community, particularly among young people and forging stronger bonds between the Muslim and non-Muslim populations.

"On one hand, you can find an imam who is very knowledgeable, [with a] very strong background in theology but that person might not speak English or might have lived most of his life outside the country," Nawras said. "On the other hand, you might find someone who is born here and educated here but they don't have a good or strong theology background.

"To have a combination of both, that is where the challenge comes."

Qazwini said he wants to expand the curriculum, faculty and enrolment at Al-Hujjah but another important step for the seminary is pursuing accreditation so it can award official degrees rather than completion certificates. He has spoken with other established schools offering Islamic studies about collaborating on accreditation.

The Ahl al-Bayt Islamic Seminary, near Chicago, is another US-based seminary focused on Shia tradition. Shaykh Amir Mukhtar Faezi founded it in 2014, offering a 5-year graduate programme. Ten students graduated earlier.

Faezi, a Pakistan native who also studied in Iran, said the programme is on hold while they seek more resources but it plans to accept students in 2020.

Traditionally, as a minority, Shia communities are more dependent on having trained and accredited scholars leading their mosques but as the community has grown in the United States, so, too, has the need for trained scholars.

Faezi said, in the 1980s, Shia communities began inviting scholars and imams from India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon to fill the need but many scholars were unable to get visas, especially as relations between the United States and some of the countries soured.

"Those who were able to get the visa and they came here, they were also not very effective because their mindset was very different than the people who had migrated here... not to mention the communication barrier," Faezi said.

Jawad Bayat, 31, comes from a Shia background and is part of the changing face of faith in the United States. While in college, he began to explore his spiritual journey and considered going abroad to attend a seminary. Instead he enrolled at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, a non-denominational graduate school for religious and theological studies. Bayat graduated in 2015 and serves as an imam and Muslim chaplain at an academic medical centre in Cleveland, Ohio.

"There is a shortage of Muslim leaders as a whole in the US, whether it's in Sunni or Shia communities," Bayat said, adding the focus on applied spirituality that allows him to connect with the Cleveland Muslims he serves may not have been covered in a more traditional seminary overseas.

Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, was founded in 2009 and is the first accredited US-based Muslim college but it focuses on the Sunni branch of Islam. Overall, Sunni is the largest sect of Islam and Shia the second largest. The schism between the groups stems from the early days of Islam and arguments over the Prophet Mohammad's successors as the spiritual and temporal leader.

There are nearly two dozen other institutions across the United States offering varying levels of post-secondary degrees in Islamic scholarship. Most are Sunni-based and are seeking accreditation.

For Ali Ghazala, 22, the purpose of attending the Michigan seminary is to gain a greater understanding of his faith so he can better represent it around those who don't practise or understand it.

"It is vital that if you are a Muslim growing up in the West interacting with non-Muslims that you present to them the correct religion," he said. "I have to be the one who is certain before I can go to other people and explain to them why I am the way I am or why we are the way we are."



As it detains parents, China weans children from Islam

DEC 29, 2019

HOTAN, CHINA (NYTIMES) - The first-grader was a good student and beloved by her classmates, but she was inconsolable, and it was no mystery to her teacher why.

"The most heartbreaking thing is that the girl is often slumped over on the table alone and crying," he wrote on his blog. "When I asked around, I learnt that it was because she missed her mother."

The mother, he noted, had been sent to a detention camp for Muslim ethnic minorities. The girl's father had died, he added.

But instead of letting other relatives raise her, the authorities put her in a state-run boarding school - one of hundreds of such facilities that have opened in China's far western Xinjiang region.

As many as one million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been sent to internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang over the past three years, an indiscriminate clampdown aimed at weakening the population's devotion to Islam.

Even as these mass detentions have provoked global outrage, the Chinese government is pressing ahead with a parallel effort targeting the region's children.

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

The party has presented the schools as a way to fight poverty, arguing that they make it easier for children to attend classes if their parents live or work in remote areas or are unable to care for them.

And it is true that many rural families are eager to send their children to these schools, especially when they are older.

But the schools are also designed to assimilate and indoctrinate children at an early age, away from the influence of their families, according to the planning document, published in 2017.

Students are often forced to enrol because the authorities have detained their parents and other relatives, ordered them to take jobs far from home or judged them unfit guardians.

The schools are off limits to outsiders and tightly guarded, and it is difficult to interview residents in Xinjiang without putting them at risk of arrest.

But a troubling picture of these institutions emerges from interviews with Uighur parents living in exile and a review of documents published online, including procurement records, government notices, state media reports and the blogs of teachers in the schools.

State media and official documents describe education as a key component of President Xi Jinping's campaign to wipe out extremist violence in Xinjiang, a ruthless and far-reaching effort that also includes mass internment camps and sweeping surveillance measures.

The idea is to use the boarding schools as incubators of a new generation of Uighurs who are secular and more loyal to both the party and the nation.

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

To carry out the assimilation campaign, the authorities in Xinjiang have recruited tens of thousands of teachers from across China, often Han Chinese, the nation's dominant ethnic group.

At the same time, prominent Uighur educators have been imprisoned, and teachers have been warned they will be sent to the camps if they resist.

Thrust into a regimented environment and immersed in an unfamiliar culture, children in the boarding schools are allowed visits with family only once every week or two - a restriction intended to "break the impact of the religious atmosphere on children at home", in the words of the 2017 policy document.

The campaign echoes past policies in Canada, the United States and Australia that took indigenous children from their families and placed them in residential schools to forcibly assimilate them.

"The big difference in China is the scale and how systematic it is," said Dr Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado who studies Uighur culture and society.

Public discussion in China of the trauma inflicted on Uighur children by separating them from their families is rare.

References on social media are usually quickly censored. Instead, the state-controlled news media focuses on the party's goals in the region, where predominantly Muslim minorities make up more than half the population of 25 million.

Visiting a kindergarten near the frontier city of Kashgar this month, Mr Chen Quanguo, the party's top official in Xinjiang, urged teachers to ensure children learn to "love the party, love the motherland and love the people".

Mr Abdurahman Tohti left Xinjiang and immigrated to Turkey in 2013, leaving behind cotton farming to sell used cars in Istanbul.

But when his wife and two young children returned to China for a visit a few years ago, they disappeared.

He heard that his wife was sent to prison, like many Uighurs who have travelled abroad and returned to China. His parents were detained too. The fate of his children, though, was a mystery.

Then in January, he spotted his four-year-old son in a video on Chinese social media that had apparently been recorded by a teacher.

The boy seemed to be at a state-run boarding school and was speaking Chinese, a language his family did not use.

"What I fear the most," he said, "is that the Chinese government is teaching him to hate his parents and Uighur culture."

Beijing has sought for decades to suppress Uighur resistance to Chinese rule in Xinjiang, in part by using schools in the region to indoctrinate Uighur children.

Until recently, though, the government had allowed most classes to be taught in the Uighur language, partly because of a shortage of Chinese-speaking teachers.

Then, after a surge of anti-government and anti-Chinese violence, including ethnic riots in 2009 in Urumqi, the regional capital, and deadly attacks by Uighur militants in 2014, Mr Xi ordered the party to take a harder line in Xinjiang, according to internal documents leaked to The New York Times earlier this year.

In December 2016, the party announced that the work of the region's education bureau was entering a new phase.

Schools were to become an extension of the security drive in Xinjiang, with a new emphasis on the Chinese language, patriotism and loyalty to the party.

In the 2017 policy document, posted on the education ministry's website, officials from Xinjiang outlined their new priorities and ranked expansion of the boarding schools at the top.

Without specifying Islam by name, the document characterised religion as a pernicious influence on children and said having students live at school would "reduce the shock of going back and forth between learning science in the classroom and listening to scripture at home".

By early 2017, the document said, nearly 40 per cent of all middle-school and elementary-school age children in Xinjiang - or about 497,800 students - were boarding in schools.

At the time, the government was ramping up efforts to open boarding schools and add dorms to schools, and more recent reports suggest the push is continuing.

Chinese is also replacing Uighur as the main language of instruction in Xinjiang. Most elementary and middle school students are now taught in Chinese, up from just 38 per cent three years ago.

And thousands of new rural preschools have been built to expose minority children to Chinese at an earlier age, state media reported.

The government argues that teaching Chinese is critical to improving the economic prospects of minority children, and many Uighurs agree. But Uighur activists said the overall campaign amounts to an effort to erase what remains of their culture.

Several Uighurs living abroad said the government had put their children in boarding schools without their consent.

Mr Mahmutjan Niyaz, 33, a Uighur businessman who moved to Istanbul in 2016, said his five-year-old daughter was sent to one after his brother and sister-in-law, the girl's guardians, were confined in an internment camp.

Other relatives could have cared for her, but the authorities refused to let them. Now, Mr Niyaz said, the school has changed the girl.

"Before, my daughter was playful and outgoing," he said. "But after she went to the school, she looked very sad in the photos."

In a dusty village near the ancient Silk Road city of Hotan in southern Xinjiang, nestled among fields of barren walnut trees and simple concrete homes, the elementary school stood out.

It was surrounded by a tall brick wall with two layers of barbed wire on top. Cameras were mounted on every corner. And at the entrance, a guard wearing a black helmet and a protective vest stood beside a metal detector.

It wasn't always like this. Last year, officials converted the school in Kasipi village into a full-time boarding school.

Mr Kang Jide, a Chinese language teacher at the school, described the frenzied process on his public blog on the Chinese social media platform WeChat: In just a few days, all the day students were transferred. Classrooms were rearranged. Bunk beds were set up.

Then, 270 new children arrived, leaving the school with 430 boarders, each in the sixth grade or below.

Officials called them "kindness students", referring to the party's generosity in making special arrangements for their education.

The government said children in Xinjiang's boarding schools are taught better hygiene and etiquette as well as Chinese and science skills that will help them succeed in modern China.

"My heart suddenly melted after seeing the splendid heartfelt smiles on the faces of these left-behind children," said a retired official visiting a boarding elementary school in Lop County near Hotan, according to a state media report.

He added that the party had given them "an environment to be carefree, study happily, and grow healthy and strong".

But Mr Kang wrote that being separated from their families took a toll on the children. Some never received visits from relatives, or remained on campus during the holidays, even after most teachers left. And his students often begged to use his phone to call their parents.

"Sometimes, when they hear the voice on the other end of the call, the children will start crying, and they hide in the corner because they don't want me to see," he wrote.

"It's not just the children," he added. "The parents on the other end also miss their children, of course, so much so that it breaks their hearts and they're trembling."

The internment camps, which the government describes as job training centres, have cast a shadow even on students who are not boarders.

Before the conversion of the school, Mr Kang posted a photo of a letter that an eight-year-old girl had written to her father, who had been sent to a camp.

"Daddy, where are you?" the girl wrote in an uneven scrawl. "Daddy, why don't you come back?"

"I'm sorry, Daddy," she continued. "You must study hard too."

Nevertheless, Mr Kang was generally supportive of the schools. On his blog, he described teaching Uighur students as an opportunity to "water the flowers of the motherland".

"Kindness students" receive more attention and resources than day students. Boarding schools are required to offer psychological counselling, for example, and in Kasipi, children were given a set of supplies that included textbooks, clothes and a red Young Pioneer scarf.

Learning Chinese was the priority, Mr Kang wrote, though students were also immersed in traditional Chinese culture, including classical poetry, and taught songs praising the party.

On a recent visit to the school, children in red and blue uniforms could be seen playing in a yard beside buildings marked "cafeteria" and "student dormitory".

At the entrance, school officials refused to answer questions.

Tighter security has become the norm at schools in Xinjiang. In Hotan alone, more than US$1 million (S$1.35 million) has been allocated in the past three years to buy surveillance and security equipment for schools, including helmets, shields and spiked batons, according to procurement records.

At the entrance to one elementary school, a facial recognition system had been installed.

Mr Kang recently wrote on his blog that he had moved on to a new job teaching in northern Xinjiang.

Reached by telephone there, he declined to be interviewed. But before hanging up, he said his students in Kasipi had made rapid progress in learning Chinese.

"Every day I feel very fulfilled," he said.

To carry out its campaign, the party needed not only new schools but also an army of teachers, an overhaul of the curriculum - and political discipline.

Teachers suspected of dissent were punished, and textbooks were rewritten to weed out material deemed subversive.

"Teachers are the engineers of the human soul," the education bureau of Urumqi recently wrote in an open letter, deploying a phrase first used by Stalin to describe writers and other cultural workers.

The party launched an intensive effort to recruit teachers for Xinjiang from across China.

Last year, nearly 90,000 were brought in, chosen partly for their political reliability, officials said at a news conference this year.

The influx amounted to about one-fifth of Xinjiang's teachers last year, according to government data.

The new recruits, often ethnic Han, and the teachers they joined, mostly Uighurs, were both warned to toe the line.

Those who opposed the Chinese-language policy or resisted the new curriculum were labelled "two-faced" and punished.

The deputy secretary-general of the oasis town of Turpan, writing earlier this year, described such teachers as "scum of the Chinese people" and accused them of being "bewitched by extremist religious ideology".

Teachers were urged to express their loyalty, and the public was urged to keep an eye on them.

A sign outside a kindergarten in Hotan invited parents to report teachers who made "irresponsible remarks" or participated in unauthorised religious worship.

Officials in Xinjiang also spent two years inspecting and revising hundreds of textbooks and other teaching material, according to the 2017 policy document.

Some who helped the party write and edit the old textbooks ended up in prison, including Yalqun Rozi, a prominent scholar and literary critic who helped compile a set of textbooks on Uighur literature that was used for more than a decade.

Rozi was charged with attempted subversion and sentenced to 15 years in prison last year, according to his son, Mr Kamaltürk Yalqun.

Several other members of the committee that compiled the textbooks were arrested too, he said.

"Instead of welcoming the cultural diversity of Uighurs, China labelled it a malignant tumour," said Mr Yalqun, who lives in Philadelphia.

There is evidence that some Uighur children have been sent to boarding schools far from their homes.

Ms Kalbinur Tursun, 36, entrusted five of her children to relatives when she left Xinjiang to give birth in Istanbul but has been unable to contact them for several years.

Last year, she saw her daughter Ayshe Tursun, then six, in a video circulating on Chinese social media.

It had been posted by a user who appeared to be a teacher at a school in Hotan - more than 480km away from their home in Kashgar.

"My children are so young; they just need their mother and father," Ms Tursun said, expressing concern about how the authorities were raising them.

"I fear they will think that I'm the enemy - that they won't accept me and will hate me."



MHA's NPR Manual Excludes Muslim Holidays For Reference Point To Estimate Date Of Birth Of Those Who Don't Know

Dec 30, 2019

Meena Menon

In the midst of a raging opposition, all over the country, to the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), the  Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its recently-released Instruction Manual for Updation of NPR 2020 for Enumerators and Supervisors, has used only Hindu and Sikh religious festival holidays as a reference point for people who may not know their exact date of birth.

Conspicuously absent in the list of holidays and festivals, are any references to Muslim holidays in the entire year. The idea behind this reference is elaborated in the manual. In the instructions to enumerators, there is advice on how to help people who don’t know the exact details of their date of birth. Many possible scenarios are outlined and how, in each case, the enumerator should probe the matter.

The manual says, "Date of birth is one of the important items of information being collected in the NPR. In most of the cases, the date of birth of a person may be known. In case, the respondent does not know the exact date of birth, the same could be ascertained from documents such as birth certificate, school leaving certificate or any other relevant document like Aadhaar card, Voter ID card, PAN card, passport etc. In some cases, the horoscope (janampatri) may contain the date of birth in English or in the local language. In case it is written according to the local calendar, then you might have to convert the same into the English (Gregorian) calendar. In order to assist you, the conversion sheet is given in the Annex III."

Annex III lists the years according to the English calendar and the corresponding local calendars ie Saka, Islamic, Vikram Samvat and Bengali.

In case only the year of birth is known, the manual advises a step-wise approach where first the enumerator will record the year of birth. Then the manual goes on: "If the informant tells only the year of birth but is not sure about the month of birth, ask whether the birth was before the rainy season or not. If the birth was before the rainy reason, you may further ask whether the birth was in the month during which some important festivals like New Year's Day, Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti, Makara Sankranti, Pongal, Republic Day, Basant Panchami, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati Jayanti, Maha Shivratri, Holi, Gudi Padwa, Ramnavmi, Vaisakhi, Bihu, Mahabir Jayanti, Good Friday Budh Purnima are celebrated and estimate the month of birth. Similarly, if the birth was during or after the rainy reason, you may probe and estimate the month of birth by asking whether the birth was in the month during which some important festivals like Nagapanchami, Janamashtmi, Raksha Bandhan, Independence Day, Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam, Dussehra, Gandhi Jayanti, Diwali, Bhai Duj, Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti, Chhath Puja, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Ayyappa Festival, Christmas festival are celebrated. For your convenience, a list of important festivals and corresponding Gregorian months in which they fall is given at Annex V."

Annex V is a list of 30-odd important festivals/holidays corresponding to the English calendar. While Hindu and Sikh festival holidays, Christmas and Good Friday find a place, there is not a single Muslim holiday, when officially in India there are at least five national and regional holidays for Muharram, for Jamat ul Vida, Ramzan, for Bakri Id, for the birth of the Prophet and at least five more regional holidays in some states. Muslims follow the lunar calendar but that cannot be the reason to exclude the holidays as a reference point.

There is an "Indian" calendar (Paush, Magh, Phalgun, Chaitra, Vaisakh, Jyaishtha, Ashadha, Shravana, Bhadrapad, Ashwin, Kartik, Agrahayana) and corresponding English months to further assist enumerators in their quest for the correct date of birth in Annex IV. However, not all of India understands the months by these names.

The manual discusses some of the situations that an enumerator is likely to encounter while canvassing the question on date of birth of a person and gives possible solutions in the Annexes III to V.

And there is a cautionary note as well.  In the section "Nationality as declared", the manual says, "Nationality recorded is as declared by the respondent. This does not confer any right to Indian citizenship."

The manual says that the government has decided to update the NPR database along with House-listing and Housing Census phase of Census of India 2021 during April–September 2020. The National Population Register (NPR) of all the 'usual residents' in the country was created in 2010. The field work for NPR data collection was undertaken along with House-listing and Housing Census 2010. The electronic database of more than 119 crore usual residents of the country has already been created under NPR in English as well as the regional languages by collecting specific information of all usual residents.

Now according to the decision of the Government of India, the NPR database has been updated during 2015-16 in all States/UTs (except Assam and Meghalaya) to make a comprehensive resident database. The scheme for the creation of the NPR being undertaken under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship Rules, 2003. The NPR will contain the details of all the usual residents of the country regardless of whether they are citizens or non-citizens of India.

However, for the first time, the  place of birth has been introduced and this is being seen as the yardstick to create doubts over the Indian citizenship of those who cannot prove where they were born. Besides, the CAA does not grant citizenship to Muslim from other countries specified in the Act on par with the other communities, fuelling protests that it is unconstitutional.

In response to a question on this issue, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a clarification saying that "…the same Annex was used while collecting data for Census 2011 and NPR 2010. This was also pre-tested for Census 2021 and NPR 2020. No adverse feedback on this Annex was ever received."

In its Clarification Regarding Annex V, the MHA said:

"There have been queries from general public with regard to Annex V 'Important Festivals corresponding to English/Gregorian Months' on page 32 of the NPR Manual 2020 for Enumerators and Supervisors. It has been observed that none of the Muslim festivals are mentioned in the list of Indian festivals in this Annex. In this regard, it is to be noted that this Annex V is to be read along with pages 15, 16, 17 of the manual which deals with Question No 5 on date of birth. The purpose of this Annex is to help the enumerators to approximate the month of birth of the respondent. Particular attention is invited to the following para at page 16:

c. Only year of birth is known: In such situations follow the step-wise approach stated below:

1. Record the year of birth.

If the informant tells only the year of birth but is not sure about the month of birth, ask whether the birth was before the rainy season or not. If the birth was before the rainy reason, you may further ask whether the birth was in the month during which some important festivals like New Year’s Day, Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti, Makara Sankranti, Pongal, Republic Day, Basant Panchami, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati Jayanti, Maha Shivratri, Holi, Gudi Padwa, Ramnavmi, Vaisakhi, Bihu, Mahabir Jayanti, Good Friday, Budh Purnima are celebrated and estimate the month of birth. Similarly, if the birth was during or after the rainy reason, you may probe and estimate the month of birth by asking whether the birth was in the month during which some important festivals like, Nagapanchami, Janamashtmi, Raksha Bandhan, Independence Day, Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam, Dussehra, Gandhi Jayanti, Diwali, Bhai Duj, Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti, Chhath Puja, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Ayyappa Festival, Christmas festival are celebrated. For your convenience, a list of important Festivals and corresponding Gregorian months in which they fall is given in Annex V.

ii. Also estimate the day in these cases appropriately and record the same in the space provided."



51 BHU teachers write to govt condemning new citizenship law, police action

December 27, 2019

Fifty-one teachers at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have written an open letter to the Centre, condemning the new citizenship law and NRC. It also condemned police action against students of universities like BHU, Jamia.

The letter states, “We, the teachers of BHU, IIT BHU and affiliated colleges are deeply pained and aghast with the recent CAA passed by Parliament of India and the declared follow up by implementation of National Citizenship Register. This is completely against the spirit of freedom struggle and the idea of a pluralist democracy. This is not acceptable in the land of Gandhi and Tagore. This is clearly an attempt to divide society on communal lines…”

One of the signatories of the letter, Professor M P Ahirwar, who teaches at Faculty of Arts at BHU, said they would send the letter to the President and Prime Minister. “We are against the action that has been taken against students at Jamia, AMU and even BHU. The students who have been arrested should be released,” said Ahirwar.



Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Bombay,Says Religion Should Not Be Criterion For Citizenship

Since December 9, protests and violence have erupted across India against a recent law which allows non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who settled in India prior to 2015 to obtain Indian citizenship.

By Vatican News

“Religion should never be the criterion for citizenship of a country. Nor is violence a solution when there is a difference of opinion.”  Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Bombay, made the statement on Friday regarding the controversy and protests roiling India over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Since December 9, protests and violence have erupted across India against the law which allows non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who settled in India prior to 2015 to obtain Indian citizenship.

Muslims make up some 14% of India's population.  Critics say the exclusion of Muslims is discriminatory and that the award of citizenship based on religion is an attack on the secular constitution.

“The ongoing controversy and demonstrations and counter-demonstrations concerning the Citizenship Amendment Act is a cause of great anxiety for all citizens and could harm the country,” Cardinal Gracias, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), wrote in a December 27 press statement posted on the archdiocesan website. 

“There is a danger,” he warned, “that there could be a polarization of our peoples along religious lines, which is very harmful for the country.”

Many Muslim students, non-Hindu groups and Hindu intellectuals took to the streets to protest the controversial legislation.  Some Catholic leaders joined them and have been detained as a result.

At least 25 people have been killed and thousands have been injured in protests across the country since the law was adopted on Dec. 11.

Cardinal Gracias suggested the government dialogue with “those opposing the Act, and come to an agreement about the way forward with justice, equity and fairness”.   “There is no harm in backtracking, changing course if this is necessary for the good of the country and our people.”  

“The time of Christmas is a time for peace, justice and unity,” he said, adding that these values, “which Our Lord brought to humankind in Bethlehem should be paramount in our hearts and minds at this time.”



OIC to convene meeting on IOK lockdown, anti-Muslim law in India

December 29, 2019


In a major diplomatic triumph for Pakistan, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has decided to convene a meeting on the grim human rights situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and enactment of an anti-Muslim law in India.

According to the sources, the ministerial level OIC meeting is expected to be held in Islamabad in April 2020.

The development comes after Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud’s maiden visit to the country earlier this month during which he extended Riyadh’s “steadfast support to Pakistan’s core national interests” including the OIC’s greater role in the Kashmir dispute.

The visit of top Saudi diplomat had come against the backdrop of the recently concluded Kuala Lumpur Summit, which Pakistan skipped after Riyadh expressed it concerns and viewed it as an effort by Turkey, Malaysia, Iran and Qatar to create a new Islamic bloc.

Sources claimed that the official communique of the meeting will specifically mention the human rights violation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the passage of Citizenship Amendment Bill, which is fundamentally discriminatory against Muslims in India.

At least 25 people have been killed since the protests began earlier this month against the citizenship legislation, which makes it easier for members of religious minorities from India’s Muslim-majority neighbours – Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan – who settled in India before 2015 get citizenship but does not offer the same concession to Muslims.

Insiders said the meeting will push India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lift the curfew in IOK — in place since August 5 when New Delhi revoked its special status in a bid to convert the region’s Muslim majority into minority.

The forum would also put pressure on the used panic by mistakenly sending a news alert saying North Korea fired a missile over Japan that landed in the sea off the country’s northeastern island of Hokkaido early Friday. –AP



Key Pakistan Taliban commander Qari Saifullah Mehsud shot dead in Afghanistan

December 30, 2019

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Qari Saifullah Mehsud has been shot dead by gunmen in Afghanistan, the group confirmed on Sunday.

Qari Saifullah Mehsudwas killed outside the Guloon camp in Khost province, the group spokesperson said in an audio message, Anadolu News Agency reported.

The spokesman claimed that the attack was carried out by the Haqqani network, as they had killed three terrorists belonging to the TTP's Hakimullah Mehsud group in the area a few days ago.

The TTP was founded in 2007 by Baitullah Mehsud and is currently divided into four factions -- Swat group, Mehsud group, Bajaur Agency group, and Darra Adamkhel group.

Qari Saifullah Mehsud was among the terrorists wanted by Pakistani authorities for his involvement in various attacks in the country.

In an audio message, Mehsud had claimed that his group conducted 75 terror attacks this year, mostly targeting local elders in North and South Waziristan districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The claim was not verified and confirmed by officials.

Analysts said that Qari Saifullah Mehsud's death is a big jolt for TTP as he was attempting to unite all the four factions.

"TTP has already split into several groups and Mehsud was trying to unit them. Secondly, he was the most active terrorist and wanted by Pakistan for several terror attacks," Saboor Khattak, a Peshawar-based senior journalist, told Anadolu News Agency.

Qari Saifullah Mehsud had claimed responsibility for the horrific 2015 bus attack in Karachi which killed 45 people, Khattak said.

In 2016, the TTP commander was arrested by US forces in Afghanistan and was jailed for 14 months. However, he was released subsequently, the journalist added.



Saudi Arabia: artifacts found near Makkah cemetery date back to early Islamic era

December 29, 2019

RIYADH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has said that the artifacts found next to Al-Maala cemetery in Makkah were historical gravestones and pottery pieces all dating back to the early Islamic era.

“The artifacts are being delivered to SCTH so that experts can examine and study them thoroughly,” said the director general of the Registration and Protection of Antiquities Department In SCTH, Dr. Nayef Al-Qanoor. “The SCTH specialized team will continue to follow up on the excavation work on the site daily in anticipation of the emergence of any new historical landmarks or artifacts. It will do so in direct coordination with the city’s municipality and the operating company,” he added.

Makkah’s municipality had announced on Saturday on its official website: “As the excavation contractor carried out work on a new smart parking lot project next to Al-Maala cemetery, artifacts were found.”



‘Jews did 9/11’: Anti-Semitic graffiti appears on shops & synagogue in London during Hanukkah

29 Dec, 2019

As London’s Jewish community celebrated the holiday of Hanukkah, vandals daubed their shops and a synagogue in anti-Semitic graffiti. Police are investigating the incidents, as anti-Jewish sentiment rises.

London’s Metropolitan Police received reports of the graffiti on Saturday, and are conducting inquiries “to find who is responsible,” officers said on Sunday.

The graffiti – found at a number of locations in the Hampstead and Belsize Park area – depicts a Star of David and the numbers “9.11,” a reference to the conspiracy theory that a Jewish cabal orchestrated the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. One of the crude messages was spray-painted onto South Hampstead Synagogue.

“We must move heaven and earth to eradicate this racist hatred, which was unimaginable just a few years back,” Hampstead Councillor Oliver Cooper tweeted on Sunday.

An August report by a Jewish advocacy group found that 892 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in the first six months of 2019, including 85 assaults. Such incidents have been rising since 2013, and range from harassment on social media to attacks on the street.

The rise in anti-Semitism has been blamed on the far right, on Muslim immigrants, and on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

The situation is similar across Europe, with an EU-wide survey last year finding that 89 percent of Jews felt that anti-Semitism had increased in the preceding five years. Thirty-five percent of British Jews surveyed said they had considered emigrating to Israel in response.

As council workers power-washed away the graffiti in Hampstead, a knife-wielding attacker broke into a rabbi’s house in upstate New York on Saturday night and stabbed five people with a machete. New York and the surrounding area has been struggling with its own rise in anti-Semitism in recent weeks, and Governor Andrew Cuomo called the knife attack “an act of domestic terrorism.”



Hamas Says Palestinian Authority Helped Israel Kill Islamic Jihad Commander

Jack Khoury

Dec 29, 2019

Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of transferring information to Israel that aided in the assassination of senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata in a statement released Sunday.

Hamas' interior ministry released a statement saying that it had arrested a PA intelligence cell that collected information on the militant leader, whose November 12 assassination set off a sharp escalation in hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Strip. 

The PA cell, the statement said, was taking orders from Col. Shaaban Abdullah Algharbawi, who is responsible for the PA's intelligence in the Gaza Strip. Algharbawi is based in Ramallah, but Hamas claims that he directs Gazans to collect intelligence within the Strip on behalf of the PA. The statement added that Algharbawi transferred the information his people collected directly to Israeli intelligence officials. 

Ata commanded Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the northern Gaza Strip. He had several hundred fighters under his command and an arsenal of dozens of rockets at his disposal that could be fired at Israel, Gazan sources claimed. Ata operated independently from Hamas; The Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces said that he was responsible for most of the rocket and mortar launches at Israel over the past year.

Following his killing, Islamic Jihad launched hundreds of rockets at Israel, and at least 34 Palestinians, most of them Islamic Jihad militants but also including nine members of a family whose house was erroneously targeted, were killed by Israeli strikes. Hamas largely stayed out of the conflict. 

The PA cell's operatives, Hamas said, trailed Ata for months, tracking his movements and location up until the strike that killed him.

The statement went on to say that though Israel was directly responsible for Ata's killing, the information provided by Algharbawi's cell contributed significantly to the operation. Over the course of the investigation, Hamas said it uncovered materials and evidence that prove the PA's involvement in the strike.    

The Palestinian Authority has not officially responded to Hamas's allegations, but a source affiliated with the PA's security and intelligence services in Ramallah called Hamas's statement a transparent ploy. Its goal, he said, is to attempt to cover up the organization's failures and to prepare for the process of an agreement with Israel.

The source said that Abu al-Ata spoke out mainly against Hamas's policies and its calm vis-à-vis Israel. It is clear, he added, whose interest it serves to be rid of him.

Senior Fatah official and Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh called the Hamas statement "an attempt to shirk responsibility" by the organization.



North America


U.S. strikes Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia in Iraq and Syria

December 29, 2019

WASHINGTON,— The U.S. military carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia group in response to the killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

The Pentagon said it targeted three locations of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia group in Iraq and two in Syria. The locations included weapons storage facilities and command and control locations the group had used to plan and execute attacks on coalition forces, it said.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the strikes were carried out by F-15 fighter jets.

The United States had accused Kataib Hezbollah of carrying out a strike involving more than 30 rockets on Friday which killed the U.S. civilian contractor and injured four U.S. service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hezbollah attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes … that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

In Iraq, four militia fighters were killed and 30 were wounded following three air strikes in the country on Sunday, an Iraqi military statement said. The dead included several Iraqi militia fighters killed in an air strike on their headquarters near the western Qaim district on the border with Syria, military sources and militia commanders told Reuters.

The strike was likely carried out by drones and targeted Kataib Hezbollah, the sources said.

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iranian-backed forces for a series of attacks on bases in Iraq and warned Iran that any attacks by Tehran or proxies that harmed Americans or allies would be “answered with a decisive U.S. response.”

Tensions have heightened between Tehran and Washington since last year when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.



US strikes in Iraq, Syria target Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militia group – Reuters

Dec 29

By Ross J Burland

In recent news, and reported by, "the US military has carried out “defensive strikes” in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, the US Pentagon said on Sunday, two days after a US civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.

Lead paragraphs

The US military has carried out “defensive strikes” in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, the US Pentagon said on Sunday, two days after a US civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.

The Pentagon said it targeted three locations of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia group in Iraq and two in Syria. The locations included weapons storage facilities and command and control locations the group had used to plan and execute attacks on coalition forces, it said.

The United States had accused the group of the 30-plus rocket attack on Friday that killed the U.S. civilian contractor and injured four U.S. service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes ... that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

Market implications

The Iran threat is simmering away on the back burners, but headlines like this, should they come back to the fore, oil prices, which are already elevated, could run higher.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iranian-backed forces for a series of attacks on bases in Iraq and warned Iran that any attacks by Tehran or proxies that harmed Americans or allies would be “answered with a decisive U.S. response.”

Oil prices are trading in WTI on the $61 handle within a steep rising channel from the depths of the $51's and October lows – more to come



MAS-ICNA Convention, one of largest Islamic conferences in US, wraps up in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One of the largest Islamic conventions in the United States wrapped up in Chicago on Sunday.

The annual MAS-ICNA Convention was held at McCormick Place from December 27-29.

The program is designed to help Muslims overcome challenges they may face when they move to the U.S., and it's a chance to learn about businesses as well as other Muslim communities.

Event organizers said many people return year after year to reunite with people they know, and to spend time with friends and family.



US civil rights icon John Lewis diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

Dec 30, 2019

WASHINGTON: Civil rights icon and US House Representative John Lewis has announced that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

The diagnosis followed a "routine medical visit," Lewis, a 79-year-old Democrat who has repeatedly sparred with President Donald Trump, said in a statement on Sunday, adding that he would seek treatment while continuing to represent his Georgia district.

"I have been in some kind of fight -- for freedom, equality, basic human rights -- for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now," he said.

Known for his decades of work in the civil rights movement, Lewis marched with slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr at the August 1963 rally in Washington at which King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community," Lewis said.

He added the he will miss a few votes while he undergoes treatment.

"But with God's grace I will be back on the front lines soon." The son of sharecroppers, Lewis also took part in the Freedom Rides -- challenges to segregated facilities at bus terminals in the South.

On March 7, 1965, he led a march in Selma, Alabama that ended in an attack by state troopers on the protesters that later became known as "Bloody Sunday." He joined Congress in 1987, representing a district that includes parts of Georgia's state capital and largest city, Atlanta.

Lewis was among a group of Democratic lawmakers to skip Trump's inauguration in January 2017, saying he saw his election as illegitimate.

In response, the president-elect tweeted that Lewis should "spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)," a remark drawing widespread criticism.

"John, know that generations of Americans have you in their thoughts & prayers as you face this fight," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted following Lewis's announcement of his diagnosis.

"We are all praying that you are comfortable. We know that you will be well."



Five stabbed at New York rabbi's home in 'terrorist' attack

Dec 29, 2019

MONSEY: An intruder stabbed and wounded five people at a rabbi's house in a New York suburb late Saturday, in an incident the state governor said was "an act of terrorism" after a spate of attacks on Jewish targets.

Local media reported that a man with a machete entered the rabbi's property in Monsey, Rockland County, during celebrations for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, knifing several people before fleeing.

Victims were rushed to nearby hospitals, with no official details on their injuries. Police said a suspect was later arrested.

"This is an act of terrorism. I think these are domestic terrorists. They are trying to inflict fear," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters at the scene on Sunday.

"They're motivated by hate. They are doing mass attacks. These are terrorists in our country perpetrating terrorism on other Americans, and that's how we should treat it."

Last year a white supremacist walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 people -- the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in the United States.

Earlier this month six people, including two suspects, were killed in a Jersey City shooting at a kosher deli, which authorities said was fueled in part by anti-Semitism.

A report in April from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) stated that the number of anti-Semitic attacks in 2018 was close to the record of 2017, with 1,879 incidents.

"I was praying for my life," said witness Aron Kohn, 65, comparing the knife used by the attacker to "the size of a broomstick."

Kohn threw chairs and tables in an attempt to head off the assault.

"I saw him stabbing people," he added. "He injured a guy, he was bleeding in his hand, all over."

Kohn said the attacker tried to enter the adjacent synagogue, but it was locked.

Yossi Gestetner, of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC), told The New York Times that one of the victims was a son of the rabbi.

"The house had many dozens of people in there," Gestetner said.

"It was a Hanukkah celebration." Rockland has the largest Jewish population per capita of any US county, with 31.4 percent, or 90,000 Jewish residents.

In response to the recent surge in hate-crimes in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio had announced on Friday that the NYPD was stepping up patrols in three neighborhoods and increasing the number of visits to places of worship.

After Saturday's attack, the mayor also tweeted that he has recently spoken to longtime Jewish friends who are fearful of outwardly showing their faith.

"We will NOT allow this to become the new normal," he wrote. "We'll use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all."

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country "strongly condemns the recent displays of antisemitism including the vicious attack at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, New York."

"We will cooperate however possible with the local authorities in order to assist in defeating this phenomenon."

The attack happened at about 10:00 pm on Saturday, the seventh night of Hanukkah.

"It's a wave and a trend of hate-filled violence that is sweeping the country, not just NY State," tweeted Maya Wiley, a civil rights activist and senior vice president for social justice at the New School private university in New York.

"We have to stand together to keep our neighbors safe."



US strikes against Al-Shabaab kill four militants in Somalia: AFRICOM

Dec 30, 2019

WASHINGTON: The US military launched airstrikes against the Al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia on Sunday, US Africa Command said, killing four "terrorists."

"In coordination with the federal government of Somalia, US Africa Command conducted three airstrikes in two locations targeting al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Qunyo Barrow and Caliyoow Barrow, Somalia, respectively, December 29," AFRICOM said in a statement.

It said two airstrikes had killed two militants and destroyed two vehicles in Qunyo Barrow while a separate strike killed another two in Caliyoow Barrow.



2 dead, 1 critically injured in Texas church shooting

Dec 30, 2019

HOUSTON: Two people died and one person sustained critical injuries in a shooting at a church in White Settlement of Texas, officials said.

According to the authorities, police responded to reports of a shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ on Sunday around 10:00 am local time.

At least two people were found dead at the scene, MedStar Mobile Healthcare spokeswoman Macara Trusty said. A third person was undergoing treatment for critical injuries, she said. MedStar is an ambulance service.

Mike Drivdahl of the Fort Worth Fire Department said the situation has "stabilised" and there was no active threat to the community.

Police believe the suspected gunman is among the three who were shot, Drivdahl said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement calling the shooting an "evil act of violence".

"Places of worship are meant to be sacred, and I am grateful for the church members who acted quickly to take down the shooter and help prevent further loss of life," Abbott said.

White Settlement is a suburb about 15 minutes west of downtown Fort Worth.

The shooting comes more than two years after a gunman opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs -- a community about 300 miles away from White Settlement -- killing at least 26 people.



Southeast Asia


China gifts 200 sets of ‘King Gesar’ to Pakistan as token of historical bonds

December 29, 2019

BEIJING - China’s Sichuan Publishing Group has presented 200 sets of King Gesar, an epic story of the East, to Pakistan as a token of the deep-rooted historical cultural ties between the two countries at a ceremony held at Tsinghua University.

Pakistan Ambassador to China, Naghmana A. Hashmi, chief guest of the event said she would present the precious collection to the National Library of Pakistan.

Due to geographic proximity, the culture, language, lifestyle and architecture of people living in Baltistan of northern Pakistan are similar to those of the Tibet ethnic minority in China. King Gesar is a hero-worshiped by Tibetan, as well as the Baltistan people.

It is said that Baltistan has passed down the Gesar tradition from history, and some local villagers can still sing “King Gesar” in its full lyrics even now, China Economic Net reported.

Ambassador Hashmi said:”Even before it was built in early 1950s, Khunjerab Pass was a popular route for trade and exchanges of culture and religion between northern Pakistan and Xinjiang, China.  The people of Baltistan used to connect with the Tibetan through the Pass. If you go to Baltistan, you could still see similar ethnic groups with Tibetan, and even (hear) similar dialect.”

The Epic of King Gesar got published in more than 100 Tibetan versions in China, and the Gesar epic tradition was included in Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2009.

Preceding the ceremony, Ambassador Hashmi delivered a lecture titled Pakistan: The land of Sufis, Mountains, Valleys, and Deserts, in an endeavor to share the core spirit of Pakistan and its people.

She provided deep analysis of the unique geographic presence of Pakistan explained the concept of Sufism that shape the characteristics of Pakistani and presented a comprehensive image of the magnificent landscape, as well as economic status quo of all the provinces of Pakistan.

“Today’s Pakistan is a country in rejuvenation, rebirth, and a land full of hope,” the ambassador mentioned because excellent young people with knowledge and expertise are taking the tide, and especially, the backbone of the Pakistani characteristics Sufism that contains tolerance, love, understanding and humanism, is leading the nation forward.

“We are not fundamentalists through history, and it is such a basic spirit of Pakistan that has made it the only country in the world to have fought the scourge of terrorism.”

To provide the audience with a more perceptual vision of Pakistan, Ambassador Hashmi displayed representative images of each province of Pakistan, from the magnificent mountains and glaciers to the breathtaking vast seas and azure blue lake, from the development of the primitive agriculture to the emerging industries.

Regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Ambassador Hashmi said the first phase of CPEC has laid a solid foundation in terms of infrastructure and energy and the second phase would focus on economic zones and social welfare.

She invited Chinese friends and international ones to relocate industries, set up joint-ventures or invests in Pakistan.

READ MORE: Year of climate strike: climate change protests in 2019

Hailing Belt and Road Initiative as a route of peace and connectivity, the ambassador advocated for the proper settlement of Afghanistan issue to maintain a peaceful environment for the west border of Pakistan, as well as peace and development for the region.

The event was hosted by Prof. Li Xiguang, Director of Pakistan Culture and Communication Center, and participated by scholars, teachers and students from different countries in Tsinghua University.



Leaking issue at Crystal Mosque to be fixed soon - Exco


KUALA TERENGGANU, Dec 29 -- The leakage problem at the Crystal Mosque in the Islamic Civilisation Park here will be resolved as soon as possible, state Tourism, Culture and Information Technology Committee chairman Ariffin Deraman said.

He said the state government was aware of the problems that had been going on for the last two years which had led to a negative image of the tourism site.

"The repair process has been going on since the beginning of last year, the contractors have also been changed, but the problem remains unresolved as repairs are done on a small scale.

"To ensure that the problem is fully resolved, the dome needs to be taken off, with new glue put in place before the dome can be re-installed, but the cost is too high, estimated to be RM2 million," he told reporters today.

Ariffin said the state government was currently in talks with a multi-national company to finance the mosque's repair process as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme.

The Crystal Mosque, which was opened in February 2008, is part of the tourist attractions in the Islamic Civilization Park, besides the Monument Park, B Beteng Restaurant, Convention Centre and the Sungai Terengganu cruise package.

However, leaks at the mosque have forced it to remain closed to tourists, who can now only admire it from the outside.



What really went wrong with Malaysia in 2019?

Monday, 30 Dec 2019

IN two of my recent columns, I wrote on Malaysia’s lost strength and Malaysia’s lost unity.

My plan for 2020 is to not just be constructive, but to construct.

Before going hard in that direction, let me end the year with a final recap of what problems in Malaysia my projects for 2020 will seek specifically to address.

There are two main areas generally: the incentive structure of our political system, and what can (for shorthand purposes anyway) broadly be termed the national unity question.

I think most of our problems started in 2018.

When Pakatan Harapan won the 14th General Election (GE14), it did so off the back of three-cornered fights that Umno thought would benefit Barisan Nasional, but benefited Pakatan instead.

In essence, Pakatan won off the back of a third or less of the Malay vote. This was the first important factor – one that never left the minds of key Pakatan politicians.

Secondly, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was chosen as Prime Minister. Many were not sure what kind of premier he would be this time around. As 2020 (the year he himself famously touted) rolls around, the answer to this question is becoming apparent.

As a detailed exposition would take too long, we skip to the conclusion: most signs point to the fact that Dr Mahathir wants to go back to the “good old days”.

In this case, this simply means a return to the Barisan formula: have an unchallenged, Malay-only party at the apex of Malaysians politics, with the other races represented by one party each, in a Barisan-style coalition.

It is entirely logical for Dr Mahathir to think this way. In his view and experience, this system led the country strongly and stably for decades.

Thus, one interpretation of his first year and a half in office is that he has been working relentlessly behind the scenes to twist, squeeze, and force Malaysia into a dress that no longer fits.

The acrobatics Dr Mahathir has done to try and get his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia to be the new Umno has been a disservice to Malaysia, and the effort in turn has put coalition partner the DAP in an untenable position.

As I have repeated ad nauseam: swapped actors, but same script. Different players, same game.

Simultaneously, Dr Mahathir seems perfectly content to actively brew or passively abet discord in PKR – most likely because PKR’s multiracial formula lies in such opposition to Dr Mahathir’s own belief regarding what does and doesn’t work in Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir, perhaps more than anyone else, is the person responsible for concentrating so much power in the PM’s office. In doing so, he has created a winner-takes-all game, in which no other question in politics matters anywhere near as much as the question of who becomes prime minister.

It feels like at least 90% of all the energy and effort of our politicians (especially from Bersatu and PKR) has been built directly or indirectly around making sure the candidate they support becomes PM – generally at the expense of doing what is really necessary for making Malaysia better.

Dr Mahathir meanwhile knows that he does not have the strength to unilaterally impose his “back to the good old days” vision, and so he makes concessions here and there, while still trying hard to do things the way he wants to.

The end result? A Frankenstein-ish hodgepodge of incoherent policy – always neither here nor there.

The first major gaffe perhaps was Icerd (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination). Went in guns blazing, got hit with a fierce backlash, made a U-turn.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was a startlingly similar experience. Went in guns blazing, got hit with a fierce backlash, made a U-turn.

The Jawi/ khat controversy was similar. Suddenly announced a big policy, got hit with a fierce backlash, and now going around in circles – all while racial tensions run higher and higher.

The lack of preparation with regards to proper planning and stakeholder engagement is glaring.

It feels like many policies are introduced to please one faction or another, usually on the progressive versus conservative ethnoreligious spectrum.

When the conflict bursts onto the public sphere, the crisis begins to become a zero-sum game.

In the Jawi controversy for instance, perhaps the Education Minister fears compromise because it weakens his position in Bersatu, an all-Malay party.

The progressives in Dong Zong meanwhile, may prefer dialogue over conflict, but may have trouble defending such approaches in the light of violent threats from right-wing Malay groups.

So on and on we go, trapped in decades-old cycles of mistrust and ethnoreligious conflict, because for all its talk of new Malaysia, Dr Mahathir’s government is firmly stuck in old Malaysia’s deep-rooted culture of letting partisan and racial concerns be the prime driver and determinant of government policy.

That dress no longer fits. The more we try to squeeze into it, the more the government will continue to appear directionless, inept, and utterly confused as to its own identity.

On the part of ordinary Malaysians, I think our biggest mistake is in believing that all we need to do to get better government is to change politicians.

I saw one Christmas sweater that said, “Santa, all I want for Christmas is a new Prime Minister”. I saw on Twitter a hashtag inviting us to identify which five ministers we needed to change.

In my humble opinion, all these miss the point. If 2019 has taught us one thing, it is that it is not the players that shape the game, but the game that shapes the players.

This leaves us with two tasks for 2020.

First: stop relying on politicians and players that have already been shaped by the game, and instead take our own initiative to reclaim Malaysia and put her back on the right track.

Second: redesign the game from scratch. It’s well past time.

If 2019 was a year of disappointment in our government, let 2020 be the year was stop looking to them to solve our problems, and start doing it ourselves.

Details to come in a week or so. Happy New Year, everyone!



Cops claim physically abused by MACC officer

December 30, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Three policemen have alleged that they were hit by a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officer while at the Selangor MACC office in Shah Alam to give their statements.

The policemen, aged 24, 25 and 26, from the Narcotics Criminal Investigation division of the Sungai Buloh district police headquarters, were at the office to assist investigations into a case.

They claimed they were punched, slapped and kicked by the MACC officer while their statements were being recorded in a room on Dec 24 and 26.

They lodged a police report against the MACC officer on Dec 27.

Selangor police chief Noor Azam Jamaludin, when contacted, confirmed receiving the report.





Karnataka: Pejawar Mutt seer Vishwesha Teertha’s driver is a Muslim

Dec 30, 2019

BENGALURU: In a point that proved his inclusiveness, Vishwesha Teertha’s driver is a Muslim.

Mohammed Arif chauffeured the seer around for the past two years. Prior to that, Arif’s brother, Mohammed Akhir, was the seer’s driver for three years while Mohammed Manoor, another brother, spent seven years as the seer’s driver.

There were the inevitable rumblings within and outside the mutt when the seer appointed a Muslim as his driver. But the pontiff refused to heed the criticism. He is said to have asked Arif, “Is it difficult for you to work as my driver?” When Arif replied in the negative, the seer said, “Don't bother about others, do your work.” Arif said the seer never showed him any ill-will and he was given free access to the mutt.



‘Modi govt will not tolerate this’: HRD minister to universities against CAA

Dec 30, 2019

As anti-citizenship law protests in various universities showed no signs of let up, Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal on Sunday said the central government will not tolerate educational institutions turning into hubs of politicking “at any cost”.

He said that anyone is free to engage in political activities, but colleges and universities should be kept out of it, as many students come to study from far-off places.

“The Narendra Modi government is not going to tolerate this at any cost,” he asserted.

Scores of students from universities across the country, including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University, Jadavpur University and Presidency University, have been protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Pokhriyal accused the opposition parties of deliberately spreading misinformation over the CAA. “It is the Congress, which is responsible for the country’s division on religious grounds, that is spreading misinformation about CAA,” he said.

Taking a swipe at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for opposing the citizenship law, the minister said the TMC supremo was the one to protest against illegal immigration in the state in 2005 when she was an MP.

“She had vociferously demanded the Citizenship Amendment Bill back then,” he said.

On the new education policy that is under works, Pokhriyal said it would be connected with the values of the country.

“The new education policy, which will be brought out after a gap of 33 years, will be India-centric and connected with the country’s values,” he said.

Pokhriyal said the country’s education will advance through knowledge, science and investigaton.

He sought to justify the Centre’s decision to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, contending that these countries are “not secular”.

The minister said that during Partition, religious minorities -- including Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Christians -- accounted for “over 23 per cent” of Pakistan’s population, but the figure stands at “around 3 per cent” at present.

“I want to ask Mamataji, where have these people gone and the Congress should also give an answer as to whether they were forced to change religion or killed or forced to flee?” he said.

Pokhriyal claimed that the Muslim population in India has grown from “9 per cent during Independence to 14 per cent at present”.

“The opposition is referring to Article 14 of the Constitution, but the Constitution is for the citizens of the country and it is not a charity house for the whole world,” he said, asserting that there is equality for every citizen irrespective of religion.

Pokhriyal said there is “no bigger” a well-wisher of Muslims of the country than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Asked about the protests against West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at universities, he said it is the failure of the state government and an indication that law and order situation is “slipping out of the hands” of the administration.



Uttar Pradesh human rights defenders – one Muslim, the other Dalit – arrested for protesting CAA

In recent years, when police brutality or arbitrary detentions have been reported in Uttar Pradesh, advocate Mohammed Shoib and retired Indian Police Service officer SR Darapuri have been among the first to challenge the legality of such acts. But last fortnight, as the Uttar Pradesh police went on the rampage against the state’s Muslims amidst protests against the citizenship law, the two were silent.

Perhaps to forestall the possibility of them filing complaints and petitions, both men, one a Muslim, the other a Dalit, known for fighting for the constitutional rights of fellow citizens, were placed under house arrest on the evening of December 18. The next night, they were taken into custody by the police under cover of darkness. For the past week, they been in Lucknow’s Gosaiganj jail.

“Mohammed Shoaib is an easy target for the police not because he has done anything wrong but since he is simply a thorn in their side,” said Zaid Farooqui, an advocate and friend of Shoaib, who is among the founders of a civil rights organisation called the Rihai Mach. “He has used the right of law to ensure the acquittal of over a dozen innocent men, falsely accused of terror charges.”

Farooqui added, “The government is trying to paint Mohammed Shoaib and the Rihai Manch as dangerous people in an attempt to puncture their work.”

Student protests

On December 16, two days before Shoaib was placed under house arrest in Lucknow, members of the Rihai Manch had organised a rally in the city to condemn the brutal police action against students at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University. The students had been protesting the new Citizenship Amendment Act, which discriminates against Muslims, and plans for a National Register of Citizens. Many fear that these initiatives, used in tandem, could result in Muslims losing their citizenship.

Anger against the new law has sparked hundreds of protests across India, most of them peaceful. However, violence has accompanied demonstrations mainly in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. At least 26 people have died in the protests – 19 of them in Uttar Pradesh.

Bomb blast cases

Mohammed Shoaib’s work started gathering attention more than a decade ago. In November 2007, in the aftermath of serial bomb blasts in Faizabad, Lucknow and Varanasi, he took up cases of several Muslim youth who had been picked up by the police. In a communally charged atmosphere, the bar associations in these towns had prohibited lawyers from defending suspects. Shoaib was undeterred and went ahead to represent several young men without charging them a fee.

For this, he was even thrashed at the Lucknow High Court ten years ago by fellow lawyers, angry that he had defied their injunction. But it seemed clear to Shoaib that many of those arrested were facing trumped up cases. He eventually secured the release of over a dozen suspects.

His work led to the formation of the Rihai Manch. This small but effective group began to offer legal and paralegal help not just to Muslims but people of all communities who were unable to fend for themselves.

“Some of the key members of Rihai Manch are young idealistic Hindu men,” a supporter of the group told “It is absurd to see the Manch either as a political front, an Islamist group or driven by any extreme ideology. All it can be charged with is idealism, and a belief in justice.”

Grassroots work

Since then, the Rihai Manch has been active on the ground, speaking out against discriminatory actions of the state, doing rights-based work among poor, marginalised communities and has collated evidence of a dramatic, alarming rise in false encounters under Chief Minister Adityanath’s regime. For journalists, Rihai Manch members have often been the first stop for information and case studies on human rights violations, their stories resting on the ground work done by the Manch members.

This reporter, for instance, last met Mohmammed Shoaib in 2017 while working on a report on the impact of the government’s ban on slaughter houses on Lucknow’s butcher community. She was but one among many. A Google search for Mohammed Shoaib’s name throws up many reports by prominent journalists who have interviewed him in the past few years.

This work came with evident risks. “When I first married Shoaib sahib, I used to get very worried about risks he took in doing his work but my anxiety would only raise his blood pressure, so I have learnt to keep calm,” said his wife Malka Bi. “But when I saw him jail, I couldn’t help it. The tears just came out.”

Barely able to hide her deep concern for her husband’s health, she added, “He’s 72 now, getting old, has high blood pressure, a thyroid problem. Couldn’t the police just keep in house arrest if they had to?”

On the evening of December 18, when Mohammed Shoaib was placed under house arrest, he had spoken out against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, but had not attended the protests. On December 19, the police came to his home at 11.45 pm and told him that an officer was waiting to talk to him at Nazirabad. Shoaib left with them. Hours later, he had still not returned. For Malka Bi, this “was the worst night as we had no idea where the police had taken him”.

Unable to trace Shoaib, Shoaib’s junior AB Solomon filed a case of habeas corpus, asking that the authorities be ordered to present before the lawyer before the court. In response, the state government’s lawyer claimed that Shoaib had been taken into custody from Clark Hotel on December 20. The police later charged him under the sections of the Indian Penal Code that it has generically used against several recently arrested activists, these include rioting with arms, damaging property and even attempted murder.

On December 21, Shoaib’s family and friends learned that he had been taken to the Hazratganj thana and then to jail.

Lecturer arrested

The Rihai Manch has been a clear target of these arrests. On the list of those the police sought to arrest for the violence on December 19 are the names of two other Rihai Manch members. The list also includes Robin Verma, who while not a member has helped the Rihai Manch with its work. In his mid-thirties, Verma was a lecturer appointed on an ad-hoc basis at the Shia College in Lucknow, but has been suspended from his position after his arrest on December 20. He was picked up by the police along with Omar Rashid, a journalist with The Hindu.

In a first-person account about the incident, Rashid wrote that he had been detained by four men in plain clothes on December 20 as he, Verma and two other journalists, were “trying to grab a quick meal at a dhaba outside the Uttar Pradesh BJP office, waiting to hear about a press conference to be held by the UP government a few blocks away”. Verma and he were taken to the Hazratganj police station 1 km away.

“We were then escorted to a room – it looked like a cyber cell – where within seconds of entering, cops, already stationed there, started thrashing Robin with a thick leather belt and slapped him many times,” Rashid wrote.

Rashid was released after a few hours but Verma is still in jail, charged under the same sections that have been used against Shoaib. His family is scared to speak out. They see him as paying a price for his “goodness”.

Verma’s friends describe him as idealistic in his struggle against caste and communal divides. “He named himself Robin, though he is a Kurmi Hindu and last month when he had a daughter, he named her Ellinor,” Rashid said. “Even the Verma part of his name has only come up because of his arrest, usually he doesn’t use this name.”

The concern and apprehension of his family finds an echo in both the homes of both Shoaib and Darapuri.

Said Shoaib’s wife Malki Bi, “When I met my husband in jail on the 22nd, he said he and Darapuri sahib are well for now, the authorities are taking care of them but he was worried about the others who had been arrested. I have put my faith about his well-being in the hands of God. He has always helped others and that’s not a crime.”

During the conversation she said she was busy gathering blankets and slippers that her husband had requested, not for himself but for other inmates who were cold and needed supplies allowed by the jail authorities. “People use the English word ‘activist’ for him but to tell you the truth, this is who he is,” she said. “Even before we were married, people tell me of his social work as a student in his native Gonda.”

At Darapuri’s home, his son Ved Kumar, while sharing Malika Bi’s anxiety, expressed a palpable disbelief that his father had been arrested by the very police that he had served, that had often consulted him in the past on how to better work with the people. The family is worried about his health as Darapuri is undergoing treatment for cancer.

“There was no question of my father being involved in anything violent,” said Kumar. “As a police officer and a staunch Ambedkarite, he strictly believes in both the letter of the law and the Constitution.”

Originally from Jalandhar, Darapuri is an IPS officer from the 1972 batch. He officer began his career with a posting in Saharanpur and settled in Lucknow after his retirement.

Darapuri has agitated for better working conditions for the police and even participated in a peaceful protest to demand the implementation of the mritak ashrit scheme under which the government gives employment to family members of policemen who have been killed in the line of duty. “I’m not saying he is innocent just because he is in the police but because he is and has only ever believed in abiding by the law,” said his son.

As a Dalit officer, Darapuri’s achievements made him a role model for many in his community. “Whether it was gender equality, Dalit rights, minimum wages, or a need for a Whistleblower Act, Darapuri ji has always raised his voice for any issue that strengthens democracy,” said Kumar.

Since his retirement in 2003, Darapuri has been part of fact-finding teams looking into almost all the major incidents of violence in the state. Last year, he was part of the group that gave a report on the communal violence in Kasganj, which raised questions about the police’s inability to control a riot-like situation.

“Arresting men like Mohammad Shoaib, SR Darapuri, Robin Verma and other respected activists is simply frightening,” said veteran journalist Sharat Pradhan. “It reveals the unthinkable extent to which the government will go to suppress dissent and throttle democracy.”

Among other prominent civil society members who have been arrested are Deepak Kabir, known for his vibrant work in organising cultural festivals in the city and actress Sadaf Jafar. Their families have alleged that they were badly beaten by the police.

Even some prominent citizens who went to the police station to seek information on the arrests were detained. According to Madhavi Kuckreja, a social entrepreneur and activist, “We had gone to get information on Deepak, Sadaf and others. Along with me was Arundhati Dhuru, Meera Sanghamitra and SR Darapuri’s son with medicines for his father. Instead of telling us where the men were, why they were arrested, the police detained us.”

Though they were released after two hours, the intention of the act was not lost on anyone. It was clear that consequences would follow for anyone who was vocal in condemning the actions of the police, organising protest rallies or in the chief minister’s words, trying to “shock the state into silence”.

For now, the brunt of this is being borne by the families of those arrested. Ironically, the only time Mohammed Shoaib had been jailed in the past is in the mid-seventies when he protested against the Emergency. He even has a pension card from the government for his battle for fundamental rights.

His wife’s quiet words, as she displayed the pension card, summed up the tragedy that the government is enacting. “For years my husband has gone to jail to meet those he is representing,” said Malki Bi. “Now I go to visit him. In my heart I know he will come back for he is innocent.”



Yogi Adityanath doing injustice to Muslims to save chair: Akhilesh

Dec 29, 2019

LUCKNOW: Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday accused Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath of trying to save his chair by doing "injustice" to Muslims in the garb of action taken against people protesting the contentious citizenship law and the NRC.

A number of Bharatiya Janata Party legislators had staged a sit-in during the recent assembly session after a ruling party lawmaker accused the present regime of harassing him.

Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, Yadav said: "Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath knows that 200 BJP MLAs had staged a sit-in against him inside the UP Assembly. To save his chair, he is doing injustice on Muslims."

The SP leader claimed that if the BJP MLAs were taken into confidence, it would emerge that 300 MLAs were angry with the chief minister.

"He (Adityanath) is afraid of this and getting injustice done by the police to save his chair," Yadav said.

At least 19 people were killed across the state in widespread clashes during protests against the amended Citizenship Act and proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Yadav said the truth would come out if a probe by a retired high court or Supreme Court judge was conducted into the violence.

"It will also become clear that the people who died in the violence were killed by police bullets. What is the truth that the government wants to hide?" Yadav asked.



Statewide black day on Jan 3 against the CAA and 'attrocities' of UP police on 'peaceful' protesters: Shahi Imam Punjab

Dec 29, 2019

LUDHIANA: Shahi Imam Punjab Maulana Habib Ur Rehman Saani on Sunday said that the Muslims will observe state wide black day on January 3 as a mark of protest against CAA and police "atrocities" on Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. He was addressing mediapersons after meeting of Imams (priests) of mosques, muftis, members of Muslim organizations, intellectuals, social and political leaders of the community from the state at Shahi Mosque in Field Gunj in Ludhiana.

Head Priest said that it was unanimously decided in the meeting that January 3 will be observed as Black day against the divisive politics of the BJP-led Central government and against the "atrocities" of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Karnataka police on peaceful protesters. He added that on that day Muslims will say prayers by tying Black cloth and will hold protests by carrying black flags before handing over memorandum to district Administration for President of India.

Shahi Imam said that the protests against the "black law" will continue throughout the country as the Constitution of India is secular. He added that they at any cost won’t allow change in the tradition of the country.

Head priest claimed that in the BJP ruled UP, the way UP police "resorted" to brutality even General Dyer would have been ashamed of that. He alleged that "Yogi’s Police" not only resorted to lathicharge and fired indiscriminately on the peaceful protestors and threatening them to go to Pakistan, but the Prime Minister and chief minister didn’t see police brutality and justified the action.

Shahi Imam said that it is shameful that those at the helm of affairs have to hold rallies to justify the wrong Law made by them. He added that he is hopeful that the cases will be registered against the police officers who broke law and killed innocent people.



‘Not for all Muslims’: UP deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya backs Meerut SP over communal remarks

Dec 29, 2019

Uttar Pradesh’s deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has defended the police officer who was caught on camera using communal language against Muslims in Meerut during protests against the citizenship act last week.

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader’s comments came as his party colleague and Union minister for minority affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, demanded “immediate action” against Meerut’s superintendent of police (city), Akhilesh Narayan Singh, who purportedly asked Muslims to “go to Pakistan” during a protest.

“He (Meerut SP) did not say it for all Muslims but probably to those who were raising pro-Pakistan slogans while pelting stones,” Maurya said, according to news agency ANI.

“Meerut SP’s statement is not wrong for the people involved in anti-national activities. The statement is right for those people who are sloganeering against India and supporting Pakistan,” he said.

In the now viral video, the police officer is heard telling a group of Muslim men to go to Pakistan and threatening to ruin their career.

Opposition party leaders, including Congress’ Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, have condemned the Meerut police officer’s behaviour and police excesses against the protestors.

Maurya also slammed opposition parties for joining the anti-citizenship law.

“Congress and the Samajwadi Party are unnecessarily making the CAA an issue. The CAA is not against our Constitution. These parties are misleading people. They are spreading lies,” he said.

Protests erupted in several parts of the country last week, including Uttar Pradesh, over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

At least 20 people, including five in Meerut, have died during the violent protests against the law that favours non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.



Every assailant was policeman: Activists accuse UP Police of assaulting Muslims during CAA stir, release videos

December 29, 2019

Ateam of human rights activists has accused the Uttar Pradesh Police of targetting Muslims in the aftermath of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that took place in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. A civilian fact-finding team, which includes prominent human rights activists like John Dayal, Kavita Krishnan and Harsh Mander, has claimed to have proof that violence during the agitation was incited by the state police and that the Muslims in the area were tortured.

A number of videos and pictures shared in a series of tweets and Facebook posts by the activists purportedly show Muslims being targetted by the Uttar Pradesh Police during the protest over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). wasn't able to independently verify the videos. The UP Police has not commented on the claims yet.

In one of the tweets, Kavita Krishnan accused the UP Police, the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of acting as "rioters" in uniform. She posted videos that shows ransacked homes of several Muslims in the region and claimed that the UP Police "targeted and trashed their homes".

She said the "RAF was also involved in this destruction of Muslim homes singled out for being prosperous." The police, PAC and RAF, while doing their "jobs", were shouting: "Muslims will be thrown out of India. Don't damage the floor or walls. After all, all this will one day belong to us," she claimed.

Another tweet shows pictures of broken washbasins and vandalized scooter allegedly belonging to a Muslim family.

Describing the alleged atrocities, Krishnan claimed that a man was dragged, arrested and then forced to accept that he possessed guns.

The activist said that a teenage boy was detained and tortured for two days. A young girl's head was brutally injured when she tried to protect her uncle, she added.


John Dayal and Kavita Krishnan further said that the UP Police, under the pretext of carrying out flag march, broke anything and everything while barging into the houses belonging to many Muslims. "Not a single plate or cup or shelf has been left whole. There was only a woman with three children at night when the forces stormed in," Krishnan said.

Krishnan even claimed that some men in plainclothes possessed sharp weapons and vandalised a hostel first set up in 1929. CCTV cameras were smashed and their records were stolen by the "marauding" police, she claimed.

It is alleged that many children and the school's principal were hiding inside the Begum Naushaba Complex of Shia educational institutions when the police broke open the gates and assaulted them.

There were several other schools and hostel which were allegedly attacked by the police. The floor of Saadat hostel and school still had bloodstains, according to the activists.


John Dayal quoted another victim Hamid Hasan who said when the police announced the flag march, the streetlights were switched off. "The police were in numbers, in perhaps 40 vehicles."

"They smashed Muslim shops before entering Hamid Hasan's house. They were brutal. They were abusive. They were relentless. "Go to Pakistan", the men in uniform told the old men with beards," John Dayal alleged.

Another account involves the story of Mohd Intessar who lives in Jaswantpuri, Muzaffarnagar, UP. Intessar is a big farmer, a social worker and a community leader. He was not home when over 40 policemen raided his house, upturned and smashed his two cars, and destroyed everything they could.

Dayal narrated an account of a postgraduate who "lies in a shattered room of her grandfather Hamid Hasan's house in Jaswantpuri, Barafkhana in Muzaffarnagar."

"Her forehead is bandaged, covering a deep gash caused by a steel rod. In the next bed is her 14-year-old brother, his eyes still terrified, his body bruised. Both were beaten up by the police on 20 December 2019," Dayal wrote.

"The 72-year-old man, the richest Muslim on the street with a lumber sawmill, several shops and land in his native village, alleges every assailant was a policeman, all in uniform," he said.


Kavita Krishnan claimed that "not a single Hindu person, or shop, or home has been torched or attacked or harmed".

"Instead all we saw were "wanted" notices of poor Muslim boys and men, with rewards announced for information about them or for their capture! And police have themselves acted as the biggest rioters, biggest," she tweeted.

Slamming Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the human activists posted a picture of Adityanth's tweet where he is condemning the "rioters" and saying that they will pay the price of the loss done during protests.

Making a scathing attack on Yogi Adityanath, the activist said: "...Read this tweet by the UP CM, triumphantly gloating that he is great because "rioters" are demoralised, weeping, will have to pay, have been put in their place etc. @UPPolice force is a mob, its leader is @myogiadityanath @myogioffice."

She even juxtaposed the Nazi regime in Germany to the BJP rule in India and said: "That's what Nazis and paramilitary did to German Jews in 1938. Next step was the concentration camps."


Krishnan also alleged that some men, affiliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led mobs that torched vehicles and vandalised shops at Meenakshi Chowk.

She said that the shop owners filed complaints naming a BJP man by the alias "Bobby", but the Uttar Pradesh Police told them that no named FIRs were accepted. "You can get compensation but don't try to get the communal rioters punished, they told the complainants," she claimed.



India and anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act: Modi Might Have Finally Gone Too Far

Sunday 29 December 2019

Achin Vanaik, Thomas Crowley

Thomas Crowley (TC) To start, can you give a brief overview of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?

Achin Vanaik (AV) The act enables fast-track naturalization of certain people, under the guise of their being persecuted minorities from three neighboring states, all Islamic: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. And it very explicitly excludes Muslims. By excluding Muslims, it excludes Hazaras, Baluchis, and Ahmadiyyas — Muslims sects that are also persecuted within Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s notable also that there are a number of persecuted minorities in other neighboring states who do not come under the terms of the act, for example, Rohingyas. So this is clearly, deliberately creating a distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim minorities, and promoting the idea that India is the “natural” home of Hindus.

TC How is this act related to larger debates and developments around citizenship in India?

AV The act is the prelude — and this is very, very clear, it’s been announced — to having what is called a National Register of Citizens (NRC) on an all-India level. There’s no need for such a thing. Unlike the ten-year census, when they carry out the National Register of Citizens you will have to prove your citizenship according to a very restricted list of documents. Now the burden of proving one is a citizen is not on the accuser, not on the government, it’s on the person. What if you are not able to prove it? For example, most births are at home, not in hospitals, and such households have no birth certificates. All those who are not Muslims can opt for being “persecuted” under the new act and can be fast-track naturalized. What will happen to Muslims? They will be sent to detention centers. This is the aim.

Let me point out that the 1935 Reich Citizenship Law first moved citizenship away from German Jews, and then sent them to concentration camps. And it happened in 1982 in Myanmar. Rohingyas were excluded from citizenship. So this is really part of a systematic attempt to exclude Muslims. They are not going to be expelled, because the neighboring states are not going to accept them. So what’s going to happen to them? They’re going to be in detention centers. And detention centers are already being set up in different parts of the country.

The NRC has already been implemented in one state, in Assam. What they’ve found is that in a state of thirty-three million, initially four million didn’t have the required documentation. Then after a period of time it was reduced, but it was still nearly two million. The people already in detention centers have suffered badly. Some have committed suicide. All kinds of things have taken place. And given the huge numbers that are likely, with an all-India NRC, what will certainly happen is that a part of them will be in detention centers. But for those not in detention centers, all kinds of rights will be taken away from them: the right to vote, the right to hold land or property. In other words, a systematic effort to reduce them to second-class citizens. This is clearly the plan.

TC How have the protests against the CAA and NRC unfolded?

AV There’s been a huge upheaval against them, by three categories. First, there have been many Muslims. Then there are many others, who are very deeply concerned about this violation of the secular principle that rights should not be connected to affiliation with one specific religion. And finally, you also have a large section in the Northeast, in the state of Assam, who are protesting for reasons which have a positive and a negative dimension.

The positive dimension is, insofar as you have a large number of non-Muslims supporting the protest, at least it comes across that it’s not just a small minority of so-called secular-minded people and Muslims who are upset about it, but a very large number of Hindus and others. The negative aspect is a regional chauvinism that’s also connected to the concerns of the Northeast against migrants from other parts of India, especially from West Bengal.

As for these current demonstrations, they are really being spearheaded by students, up and down the country. And you will notice that there has been very considerable brutality against students in two universities in particular: Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). Now these are what are called Minority Educational Institutions. These institutions were historically set up to enable religious minorities, primarily Christians and Muslims, to get tertiary degrees and improve their condition. They have a much larger proportion of Muslims and Christians, respectively, but they are, like all the universities, open to all comers.

So for example, at AMU and Jamia, maybe 40 percent of students will be Muslims (whereas Muslims are 14 percent of the overall population) but 60 percent of students are non-Muslims, and the majority of the staff and professors at these universities are also non-Muslims. And you had students — both Muslim and non-Muslim students — at these two universities, as well as other universities, come out in opposition to the act and in opposition to the NRC. But the brutality that has been visited upon these two universities in particular, because they are Muslim-minority education institutes, has been much greater than even the kind of brutality you’ve seen at other universities up and down the country. So students are protesting against this.

The fact that young people in India, students and others, are erupting in this particular way, gives me some hope, because electorally speaking, unlike in the UK and the United States, people in the eighteen-to-twenty-four age group voted disproportionately more for the BJP.

TC Why have protests exploded now, whereas one didn’t see such a response to the ongoing repression in Kashmir?

AV What happened in the case of Kashmir is that the resentment was basically confined to Kashmir. You didn’t have anywhere near the level of popular anger that you have now. In fact, for the Congress Party and even the mainstream left parties, their opposition to the annulment of Article 370 was not so much the fact of annulment, as much as the manner in which it was done. The Congress Party, after all, has a whole history, well before the BJP, of unconstitutionally and shamefully eroding the autonomy that was initially given and promised to the Kashmir Valley.

The current protests, on the other hand, have been everywhere. It’s not been localized. And it is not an eruption that’s been instigated by political parties, but by students in different universities and then joined by different protesters. There is a clear recognition that the government is really out to attack Muslims.

Now since this government is also determined to eliminate or subordinate all other political parties, the other parties are recognizing that for their own survival they have to oppose the BJP. So their motives are not pure, but they do recognize that for their own sake they have to do that. So interestingly, a number of BJP-allied parties, which supported the CAA, are now saying, do not go in for the NRC.

TC In your earlier work, in the 1990s, you were wary of describing the Hindu nationalism of the BJP as fascism, though you noted it certainly had fascistic tendencies. What has changed since then? Has the BJP gone from a potentially fascist to an actually fascist formation?

AV The Indian left has for a long time debated the fascist or fascistic character of this force, which is clearly a far-right force. There were a number of liberal scholars who said, you know, India is a country that is so diverse, and if you really want to come to power at the center, you have to moderate. So this view is that there is always pressure for far-left forces and far-right forces to moderate, to move toward the center — something I long rejected. I’ve said that what’s actually happened is that the far right has actually pulled the center of gravity of Indian politics to the right.

The theoretical question is: how do you understand fascism? Do you understand fascism as an organism, or do you understand it as a process? I’ve always taken the view, based on left traditions of understanding, that it’s a process, it’s something in motion. There’s always a fascist potential. And the culmination of the fascist potential would be the fascist state. And the fascist state is one of the most class-autonomous forms. You have an extremely centralized and autonomous state. It’s a one-party dictatorship with nothing to do with democracy, an imperial character and so on.

Many people were worried about a fascist state when the BJP first came to power in the 1990s. But I remember saying very clearly that even if it comes to power, the democratic state will not be lost. Now, most people recognize that there’s not going to be a complete elimination of democracy. Instead, there’s going to be a dramatic hollowing out of democracy, which means that you will continue to have elections because they provide legitimacy for many far-right forces and so on.

So I think one needn’t make too much of the fascist debate. It’s enough to recognize that this is a very, very, very dangerous force, with fascistic characteristics, and the important thing is to not get too hung up on theoretical differences. Much more important are programmatic differences that may follow from theoretical disagreements. And what I mean by that is: is there a straight line from saying that it’s fascistic to a kind of programmatic statement of how to fight it? Is there a straight line from saying it’s fascism to how to fight it? And you find that there’s no straightforward line. So I think one should not get too hung up about this, but should recognize the importance of agreement on the long-term perspective of how to fight, and also understand that compared to any other far-right force, anywhere else in the world, this is the most powerful and most dangerous. Can I just elaborate briefly on why that is the case?

TC Yes, that would be great. How would you position the BJP and other Hindu nationalist organizations — particularly the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — in terms of other global right-wing forces?

AV First of all, unlike your Marine Le Pens, your Dutertes, your Bolsonaros, this is a force that has a continuous existence for over ninety years. I’m talking here not just about the BJP or the RSS, but the whole association of Hindu nationalist organizations that are part of what is called in India the Sangh Parivar, the family of the Sangh. Which other far-right force anywhere in the world has this?

Number two: it has the widest and deepest implantation in the pores of Indian civil society. It has over eight hundred NGOs doing all sorts of work. It has thirty-six affiliates and four pan-India bodies: the RSS, BJP, VHP (World Hindu Council), and Bajrang Dal (lumpen attack force). I mean, I can go on and on. There are millions of cadres and activists and so on. It gets its loyalty not just because of people who accept its ideology, but because it does all kinds of other things in terms of meeting the basic needs of people. It’s a cadre-based organization that is institutionalized in various ways. It’ll help with neighborhood or leisure activities, or help a family get a doctor if their child is not well. It’ll help you with education. It has the largest private network of schools at a primary level. So it’s all of these things, things that the Left used to be able to do when it was expanding as a cadre force.

The third difference is that unlike Brazil, the Philippines, France, and so on, the opposition here is so much weaker. You have more political competition in other countries, from other political parties, even if they are conservative, so that the far-right election force, which doesn’t have a deep implantation, is also countered to a large extent by a number of other political forces which are very substantial electorally. Here you have a much weaker opposition.

And the fourth difference is, since 1947, this is the only major party in India that has never suffered a major split. The Congress Party has had splits, the Left has had splits. And I put this down to the specificity of its ideological foundations, which allows it also to be flexible. That foundation, of course, is its anti-Islamic character and its Hindu nationalism, which means that it can be flexible in rejecting its earlier economic nationalism and becoming gung ho about neoliberal economics. Of course, by doing that they have established a support base among the ruling classes and so on.

TC If this force has been ninety years in the making, what would have to happen to build a broad movement that could counter it?

AV Now here let’s be very clear that one of the crucial elements of building an opposition to it would have to be opposition to this capitalist-neoliberal economic direction, which all the other major parties in one way or the other support. And this of course has created tremendous problems for them. You can’t eliminate poverty, you have an increasing problem with joblessness, you have massive inequalities of income and wealth. So where is the force that is going to stand up against that?

Now in the short and middle term you do all kinds of things. You make tactical alliances with other political forces, with other social movements, you fight on specific issues of democracy and so on. But how do we build in the longer term a force that would be seriously committed to overcoming the reality of an expanding Hindutva? Which cannot be separated from a force that will fight to overturn neoliberal capitalism. Which in my view cannot be separated from a force that will be committed to the ultimate overthrow of capitalism itself. And the reason I say that is because I do not see neoliberalism, as a new system of accumulation, ever retreating and becoming an older form of social-democratic capitalism. I think that era is over. I used to think that the struggle to ultimately overthrow capitalism will have to pass through a reestablishment of a more humane capitalism. But I think we have to rule that out. If nothing else, climate change will see to that.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t fight for reforms that are social democratic, of course we do. But my basic point is that the long-term path to fight against Hindutva is the same as the long-term path to fight against neoliberal capitalism and therefore against capitalism itself, which means that you have to make a new kind of a left.

And how will that look, how will the Left emerge? It will of course come from splits and fusions and all sort of activities, creating activist leaders, ideologically committed cadres. It’s long-term. Even as we have to fight at the electoral, political level, we have to fight to build a cadre force that can penetrate into civil society, in the way that even the mainstream left earlier did, at least in a few parts of India.

You can be sure that there are going to be all kinds of eruptions, from all kinds of problems. The problem of joblessness is very serious. The BJP is not guaranteed to avoid upheavals and disruptions against it. Unfortunately, even as these are going to happen, the direction that Indian politics will take as a result really depends upon living politics. Whether it’s going to move in a rightward direction or left direction depends on what happens here, how we can take advantage of these struggles and upheavals. And that will require a much more organized political force.

TCWhat do you think will be the long-term fallout of the current developments?

AV I would not want to make any definite predictions. India is a huge country. So one of the most dangerous things to do about India, even as I talk about the hegemonizing drive of the Sangh Parivar, is to see anything in the longer term as inevitable. India constantly surprises us by what happens. Maybe I’m taking a bit of refuge in optimism about the future.

Source: 22 December 2019 Jacobin.





PTI to show solidarity with Indian Muslims

December 30, 2019

HYDERABAD             -             Parliamentary leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Sindh Assembly, Haleem Adil Sheikh has announced that PTI will take out huge rally on January 5, 2020 from Rama Pir temple Tando Allahyar to Khokhrapar border to show solidarity with Indian Muslims.  Addressing a crowded press conference along with Imran Qureshi, Ali Hingoro, Nisar Zai, Advocate Baghwan Das Bheel, President Hindu Panchiat Hyderabad Jadgesh Malani and other leaders at Hyderabad Press Club (HPC) here Sunday, he said a large number of people belonging to Hindu community will participate in the rally to condemn Indian government’s attitude with Muslims and other religious minorities.

He said the enemy was fighting fifth generation war against Pakistan which would be foiled at all costs.

Shaikh said after Modi government’s initiatives against Muslims and other religious minorities, the real face of so called secular India had been exposed.

Modi government has ceased citizenship of all non Hindu people who had migrated to India after 1948 and legislative bill in that regard had been passed by the parliament, he said and added that such kind of decision were purely anti Muslim acts.

He said Modi was a Hitler of India who was involved in genocide of Muslims in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. He said a civil war was going on in India. He said in Pakistan, all minorities including Hindus were being provided equal opportunities like Muslims and they had been given full representation legislature and other forums.

He said Hindus, in Pakistan, were enjoying basic and fundamental rights and they are much more safe and secure than Hindus living in India.

The PTI leader said gross human rights violations were being conducted in Indian Held Kashmir where people had been kept hostage since last several months, they were denied of their free movement and not allowed to offer Friday prayer in mosques.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was a real leader who had raised Kashmir case on world forums and world community acknowledged the Indian highhandedness of the Indian occupation forces in Indian Held Kashmir.

Haleem Adil said the whole nation was standing with Pakistan’s brave armed forces and Pak Army would deter any aggression from outside the borders with full force. He said those who were maligning state institutions in pretext of court verdict, were being used by our enemies for fifth generation war against Pakistan.

He said the nation will foil fifth generation war at all costs through use of social media and defeat anti Pakistan forces.

Earlier, PTI leader Haleem Adil Shaikh also visited the Mirpurkhas and offered fateha with party leader Jansher Junejo over sad demise of his uncle. Haleem Adil also held meetings with the people belonging to Hindu community and invited them to participate in the rally being taken out from Tando Allahyar on January 5.

PTI leaders Imran Qureshi, Ali Hingoro, Nisar Zai, Advocate Bhagwandas Bheel, Hindu Panchayat leader Jagdish Malani and others were also present on the occasion.



Pakistan urges OIC to raise voice for Indian Muslims


Islamuddin Sajid

Pakistan’s foreign minister on Sunday urged the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to bring together its foreign ministers to help defend Indian Muslims. 

"We hope the OIC will convene its foreign ministers meeting in [the capital] Islamabad and jointly raise their voices for Indian Muslims," Qureshi told reporters in his hometown Multan, a city in the northeastern Punjab province.

On the India citizenship law, Qureshi said India appears to be divided into secularists and the “Hindutva Supremacy," as minorities and educated Hindus are also protesting the controversial law.

Citing the lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir that began on Aug. 5, he added: "The Indian government put the Kashmiri people in open prison for the last five months after an imposed curfew there, but all of India cannot be put under curfew, and the world saw the real face of India."

On Dec. 11, India’s parliament passed a controversial citizenship law offering citizenship rights to Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi, and Jain communities migrating from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. The law, however, excluded Muslims, triggering mass protests across the country that have so far claimed 26 lives.

On Dec. 24, the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission strongly condemned the violence and loss of life during ongoing peaceful protests in the country against the citizenship law, urging the international community and the UN to pressure the Indian government to repeal the discriminatory clauses of the new law and abide by relevant international norms and standards in dealing with the ongoing peaceful protests and ensure the protection of all human rights.



PM’s Jihad against corruption continues with full force: Firdous

December 29, 2019

ISLAMABAD, Dec 29 (APP):Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Sunday Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Jihad against corruption continues with full force.

In a series of tweets, she said National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is supposed to carry out action against mega corruption scandals and it would do its job with reinforced commitment.

She said action would definitely be taken against those government employees who have secured personal interests through procedural flaws or departmental lacunas.

She said public office holders, who have increased their assets manifold, misusing authorities would not be spared of action.

Firdous Ashiq Awan said under National Accountability Bureau Amendment Ordinance, honest public office holders would be able to make decisions in public interest fearlessly to perform their constitutional responsibilities.

She regretted that Pakistan Muslim League -Nawaz spokespersons, who frequently spoke against NAB, are doing politics on NAB Amendment Ordinance.

She said even the strong opponents of Imran Khan have failed and would fail to level allegation of corruption against him.

She said Imran Khan has no fear of accountability as the country’s apex court has declared him truthful and righteous.



South Asia


Report: 10 Afghan journalists killed in 2019

Monday, 30 Dec 2019

At least 10 Afghan journalists have been killed in 2019, which still shows a reduction in violence against Afghan journalists comparing it with the year 2018, Nai reported.

Nai Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan released its annual report on Sunday which indicates that the violence against journalists in Afghanistan have decreased by 42% comparing with last year.

Journalists and media staff assassination has significantly been reduced by 50% in Afghanistan, report says.

“Nai’s Statistics reveal that 10 journalists and media staff had been killed in 2019 while 20 journalists and media staff were killed in 2018.”, Mujeeb Khelvatgar, Nai executive director said in a press conference on Sunday.

According to the data provided by the ‘Committee to Protect Journalists’, 46 journalists have been murdered in Afghanistan since 2001, which indicates the country has been one of the worst place for the reporters and media staff.

60% increase of journalists detentions by the government

The report released by Nai Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan shows that detention of journalists and media staffs by the government authorities have increased 60% in the year 2019.

“At least 20 journalists and media staffs have been detained by the Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS) in 2019, which comparing it to last year indicates a 60% increase.”, Khelvatgar said.

Nai in its report has proposed to government to take necessary steps in reducing violence against journalists.

The assassination cases whose main ’cause’ have been Taliban should be reviewed by the International courts, Nai has proposed.

Those who still work for the government and have been the ’cause’ of violence against journalists in Afghanistan should be called to justice, Nai has said.

This comes as Jamshid Rasuli, the spokesperson for the General Attorney office said they highly believe in freedom of expression and committed that the ‘violence against journalists’ cases are a priority for them and the General Attorney office will follow them up seriously.



Taliban’s ambush in Takhar kills 20 members of public uprising forces

Sunday, 29 Dec 2019

Taliban forces ambushed on the house of a former jihadi leader and public uprising forces head in Khwaja Bahauddin district of northern Takhar province last night.

Maryam Koofi, a former parliamentarian from Takhar province told Khaama Press that on Saturday late evening a number of Taliban militants ambushed on the house of Malik Tatar, a former Jihadi commander and the head of public uprising forces in Khwaja Bahauddin district of Takhar.

“The battle between the Taliban and Malik Tatar’s forces lasted for 12 hours as a result of which 10 Taliban militants and 20 members of public uprising forces were killed.”, Maryam Koofi said.

This comes as there is an on going peace negotiations between the Taliban representatives and U.S peace envoy Zalmay Khalizad, in Doha Qatar.

Sources close to Taliban said that Taliban leaders have agreed on a short-term ‘ceasefire’ after an agreement is signed with the United States.



Taliban council agrees to cease-fire in Afghanistan


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban’s ruling council agreed Sunday to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan, providing a window in which a peace agreement with the United States can be signed, officials from the insurgent group said. They didn’t say when it would begin.

A cease-fire had been demanded by Washington before any peace agreement could be signed. A peace deal would allow the U.S. to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America’s longest.

The White House said it would have no comment.

The U.S. wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups. The U.S. currently has an estimated 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.

The Taliban chief must approve the cease-fire decision but that was expected. The duration of the cease-fire was not specified but it was suggested it would last for 10 days. It was also not specified when the cease-fire would begin.

Four members of the Taliban negotiating team met for a week with the ruling council before they agreed on the brief cease-fire. The negotiating team returned Sunday to Qatar where the Taliban maintain their political office and where U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding peace talks with the religious militia since September, 2018.

Talks were suspended in September when both sides seemed on the verge of signing a peace pact. However, a surge in violence in the capital Kabul killed a U.S. soldier, prompting President Donald Trump to declare the deal “dead.” Talks resumed after Trump made a surprise visit to Afghanistan at the end of November announcing the Taliban were ready to talk and agree to a reduction in violence.

Khalilzad returned to Doha at the beginning of December. It was then that he proposed a temporary halt to hostilities to pave the way to an agreement being signed, according to Taliban officials.

Taliban officials familiar with the negotiations spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media outlets.

A key pillar of the agreement, which the U.S. and Taliban have been hammering out for more than a year, is direct negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict.

Those intra-Afghan talks were expected to be held within two weeks of the signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal. They will decide what a post-war Afghanistan will look like.

The first item on the agenda is expected to address how to implement a cease-fire between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s National Security Forces. The negotiations, however, were expected to be prickly and will cover a variety of thorny issues, including rights of women, free speech, and changes to the country’s constitution.

The intra-Afghan talks would also lay out the fate of tens of thousands of Taliban fighters and the heavily armed militias belonging to Afghanistan’s warlords. Those warlords have amassed wealth and power since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 by the U.S.-led coalition. They were removed after Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The Taliban had harbored bin Laden, although there was no indication they were aware of al-Qaida’s plans to attack the United States.

Even as the Taliban were talking about ceasing hostilities, insurgents carried out an attack in northern Afghanistan on Sunday that killed at least 17 local militiamen.

The attack apparently targeted a local militia commander who escaped unharmed, said Jawad Hajri, a spokesman for the governor of Takhar province, where the attack took place late Saturday.

Local Afghan militias commonly operate in remote areas, and are under the command of either the defense or interior ministries.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last week, a U.S. soldier was killed in combat in the northern Kunduz province. The Taliban claimed they were behind a fatal roadside bombing that targeted American and Afghan forces in Kunduz. The U.S. military said the soldier was not killed in an IED attack but died seizing a Taliban weapon’s cache.

The U.S. military in its daily report of military activity said airstrikes overnight Sunday killed 13 Taliban in attacks throughout the country.

Taliban as well as Afghan National Security Forces aided by U.S. air power have carried out daily attacks against each other

The Taliban frequently target Afghan and U.S. forces, as well as government officials. But scores of Afghan civilians are also killed in the cross-fire or by roadside bombs planted by militants. The United Nations has called on all sides in the conflict to reduce civilian casualties. The world body said increased U.S. airstrikes and ground operations by Afghan National Security Forces, as well as relentless Taliban attacks, have contributed to an increase in civilian casualties.

Last year, Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest conflict.

Gannon reported from Islamabad.



Afghanistan's Taliban ruling council ready for ceasefire with US

Mon 30 Dec 2019

The Taliban’s ruling council has agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan, providing a window in which a peace agreement with the United States can be signed, officials from the militant group have said. They did not say when it would begin and there was no immediate response from Washington.

A ceasefire had been demanded by Washington before any peace agreement could be signed. A peace deal would allow the US to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America’s longest.

The US wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups. The US has an estimated 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.

The Taliban chief must approve the ceasefire decision but that was expected. The duration of the ceasefire was not specified but it was suggested it would last for 10 days.

Afghanistan papers reveal US public were misled about unwinnable war

Four members of the Taliban negotiating team met for a week with the ruling council before they agreed on the brief ceasefire. The negotiating team returned on Sunday to Qatar where the Taliban maintain their political office and where US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding peace talks with the religious militia since September 2018.

Talks were suspended in September when both sides seemed on the verge of signing a peace pact. However a surge in violence in the Kabul killed a US soldier, prompting Donald Trump to declare the deal “dead”. Talks resumed after Trump made a surprise visit to Afghanistan at the end of November announcing the Taliban were ready to talk and agree to a reduction in violence.

Even as the Taliban were talking about ceasing hostilities, insurgents carried out an attack in northern Afghanistan on Sunday that killed at least 17 local militiamen.

Last week, a U.S. soldier was killed in combat in the northern Kunduz province.



Arab World


Kuwait championed Arab, Islamic and humanitarian causes at UNSC


KUWAIT: Kuwaiti diplomacy spent two years in the halls of the United Nation Security Council actively tackling various issues and putting its weight behind Arab, Islamic and humanitarian causes. The end of this year marks the end of this journey at the Security Council, but Kuwait will continue its role in the United Nations and its different institutions. Through its non-permanent membership in the Security Council, Kuwait succeeded in enforcing its distinguished diplomatic mark and present solutions to many complex issues facing the world, and coordinate with member countries to suggest and adopt many important projects, resolutions and statements.

On January 1, 2018, Kuwait began its membership at the Security Council as a non-permanent member, succeeding Egypt, to represent Arab countries. Although it was faced by many challenges, Kuwait tackled some of the most important global challenges, most significantly maintaining peace and security, and improving work methods at the Security Council. On that historical day, Kuwait returned to that seat 40 years after its first membership in 1973. Kuwait, earing trust of the international community for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council, received support of 188 out of 198 members and gave the Gulf Nation a two-year mandate.

Before commencing its activities at the Security Council, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah asserted Kuwait’s keenness on continuing its moderate and balanced approach in seeking to achieve preventive diplomacy. He added that Kuwait would cooperate with member countries to prevent disputes and wars, in addition to solve conflicts peacefully. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled added, “We represent our Arab brothers, the Asian group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Asia-Pacific countries. We will work on looking into all that is related to our Arab causes and the challenges facing our Arab and Islamic nations.”

During its tenure on the UNSC, Kuwait presented a number of draft resolutions concerning significant global issues, and released statements on many vital issues in Arab and Islamic countries. In February 2018, Kuwait assumed presidency of the UNSC. During that month many important sessions were held and discussed three main issues: Palestine, Iraq and the purposes of the United Nations Charter in maintaining international peace and security.

On February 21, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled chaired a UNSC session at the request of Kuwait about “the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter in Maintaining International Peace and Security.” Member countries discussed methods to improve the UNSC working mechanisms to limit risks and threats facing the international community. During the session member states reiterated their commitments to the principles of United Nations Charter in light of the increasing challenges facing the international community, and the best means to employ the tools provided by the charter to enable the UNSC to carry on it mission effectively.

The following day, The UNSC discussed Kuwait’s request to hold a special session to discuss the best means to revive the peace process in the Middle East in light of regional and international initiatives approved by the Council. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled chaired the session which aimed to provide a clear path to reach a solution to the Palestinian cause which would grant Palestinians the right to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital by implementing relevant international resolutions and the Arab peace initiative.

On October 30, 2018, Kuwait and Sweden, as the penholders of the Syrian Humanitarian file at the UNSC, called on all concerned parties to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to ‘Rukban’ area on Syrian-Jordanian border, and to respond to UN demands and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Kuwait and Sweden also expressed deep concern over the horrible situation in Rukban, where more than 45,000 people are suffering acute shortages of food, humanitarian and medical supplies.

On December 13, 2018, the UNSC held a vote on a draft resolution presented by Kuwait and Sweden asserting the need to ensure that humanitarian assistance reach Syrians in need, specifically cross-border aid through four crossings in order to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. After gaining UNSC’s approval, the Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the UN Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said that the resolution is a success for Kuwaiti diplomacy and is a continuation of the humanitarian work by the country’s leadership, which focus on improving the humanitarian situation in Syria.

On March 15, 2019, the UNSC approved a statement presented by Kuwait and Indonesia condemning in the strongest terms the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed and injured dozens of civilians. The statement affirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. On May 31, 2019, Kuwait chaired the UNSC for the month of June, for the third time in its history.

The first was in February 1979 during its first non-permanent seat term at the UNSC, and the second was on February 2018 during its current tenure. In that occasion, Ambassador Otaibi stated that chairing the UNSC is considered a historical moment for Kuwaiti diplomacy whose foreign policy is based on balance and moderation, respecting principles of the UN Charter and international laws, and seeks to actively contribute to maintain international peace and security.

On June 11, the UNSC unanimously adopted a Kuwaiti draft resolution on missing persons in armed conflicts. It aims to support and promote frameworks to protect civilians in armed conflicts. That resolution is the only one that Kuwait presented solely, and it reflects Kuwait’s continuous effort to shed light on humanitarian issues. Furthermore, Kuwait-sponsored resolution stems from its bitter experience during the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait in 1990 which resulted in a large number of missing Kuwaitis with their fates still unknown.

Kuwait is of the view that this resolution will form a basis on the methods of dealing with missing persons in armed conflicts. This is the first resolution on missing persons and armed conflicts in the UNSC. In accordance with the resolution, the UNSC deplores the deliberate targeting of civilians and other protected persons in armed conflicts, calling upon all parties to put an end to these practices, in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

On June 13, 2019, Kuwait released a presidential statement of the UNSC on the cooperation between the council and the Arab League during a session chaired by Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled, which included representatives of both bodies to discuss “Cooperation between the United Nations, Regional Organizations and Sub-regional Organization in Maintaining International Peace and Security.” The session was included in Kuwait’s agenda as president of the UNSC for the month of June.

Among the participants are the United Nations Security General Antonio Guterres and the Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Abul Gheit. The statement affirmed that the UNSC is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, and that resolutions and presidential statements which assert the need for establishing an effective partnership between the UN and regional organizations according to the UN Charter and relevant regulations applied in regional and Sub regional organizations.

On August 20, 2019, Ambassador Otaibi submitted a letter to the UNSC regarding Kuwait constructing a platform in Fisht Al-Eij. It affirmed that the platform is being constructed within Kuwait’s territorial waters, thus was part of Kuwait’s practicing of its sovereignty over its territories, and it is being constructed to monitor and follow-up ships movement in Khor Abdullah. On August 29, 2019, Ambassador Otaibi announced that the penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file at the UNSC, which are Kuwait, Belgium and Germany, presented a draft resolution to the UNSC on Idlib, which aims to put an end to the deteriorating human conditions in the Syrian city.

The UNSC discussed the draft resolution on September 29, however it failed to adopt it due to Russian and China’s veto. In response, Ambassador Otaibi expressed disappointment of the UNSC’s failure in living up to its responsibility, noting that “The stance of each UNSC member towards this balanced humanitarian draft presented by Kuwait, Belgium and Germany will go down in history.”

He added that “the draft was meant to protect civilians in Idlib.” The UNSC consists of 15 member states, 10 elected for two-year terms, while the five permanent member states-US, Britain, France, China and Russia-enjoy veto right. The United Nations Security Council is an entity of the six principal bodies of United Nations. These bodies are: UN Secretariat, the General Assembly, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). – KUNA



Treasury Bill Issues and Short-Term Islamic Lease (Ijarah) Sukuk listed

29 Dec 2019

Manama, Dec. 29 (BNA): Bahrain Bourse (BHB) announced on Sunday the listing of 6 issues in the Treasury Bills Market effective on Monday worth a total of BD371 million, issued by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) with discount rates ranging between 2.56% and 2.61% for 3-12 months. 

With the listing of those issues, the total number of Treasury Bills and Short-Term Islamic Lease (Ijarah) Sukuk listed at Bahrain Bourse became 34 issues with a total value of BD2.266 billion.



Non profit aims to build bridges between cultures, foster better understanding of Saudi Arabia


December 30, 2019

In a world rife with religious intolerance, rampant bigotry, and more divisiveness than ever, many people believe that “every man for himself” has become the motto for survival. But others believe that the key to a better tomorrow lies in standing together, united for a brighter future. One of those people is Naif Al-Harbi.

The 26-year-old activist found his calling as a student at Arizona State University, in the US. During his college years, he joined a student group known as SunDABT, an interfaith organization seeking to create a more peaceful, tolerant, and inclusive community at the university.

“The experience changed me. I started to become a new person. I decided to be that person for the rest of my life, and to bring that exposure of interfaith and intercultural dialogue to my people,” said Al-Harbi.

Al-Harbi aims to bring together people of various different faiths, races, and cultures with his initiative, but also to promote a better understanding of Saudi Arabia in the outside world.

“Saudi people have a lot of misconceptions about outsiders, and outsiders have a lot of misconceptions about Saudis. I want to become a bridge between cultures and societies,” he said.

He thinks that this is mostly due to the changes that Saudi society has experienced in recent years. “Saudis today are way more open to getting to know others from different religions and cultures. When I first had the idea to start ‘Saudis for Peace’ in 2015, I faced a lot of issues from my family and friends. But I kept fighting for it, and I believed in it.”


His big break came in 2017, when the Misk Foundation invited him to be a speaker at the Misk-UNDP Youth Forum in New York. Al-Harbi delivered a passionate address about the importance of interfaith and intercultural dialogue, which kick-started Saudis for Peace. “It was like a door opened for me,” he said.

Unable to do it all on his own, he took to social media to recruit people to his cause. Since then, he has been propelled into success; between his personal Twitter account and that of Saudis for Peace, he has more than 30,000 followers. Saudis for Peace now boasts 40 members in addition to Al-Harbi himself.

“I thought I was doing this alone. I was really surprised, but also gratified, to see the response on social media,” he said.

To Al-Harbi’s delight, people are taking notice. Saudis for Peace was officially recognized and licensed as an NGO by the United Religions Initiative (URI) earlier this year. According to Al-Harbi, Saudis for Peace is currently made up of a majority of Sunni Muslims: “It’s about 70 percent Sunni, 30 percent Shiite right now,” he said.

However, he was keen to note that any and all faiths, genders, orientations, and races were welcome in the organization. “We don’t discriminate against anyone. And it’s important to note that we celebrate our differences. I don’t want to sit in a room with a bunch of people that just agree with everything I say. That would be doing it wrong,” he said.

However, he does put matters to a vote in the group, especially in situations where he thinks there might be tension. “Interfaith work isn’t as easy as people may think, but it’s our reality, and we need it, especially with Saudi Arabia opening itself up to tourists. We need to create an inclusive environment for everyone,” he said.

Since its formation, Saudis for Peace has participated in a number of projects to open the doors to interfaith discussion. One of the biggest is a series of short documentaries on YouTube called “Peace 101,” which explore the world’s major religions, all translated into Arabic.

The organization also translated the Golden Rule of religion — the ethics of reciprocity — into Arabic, a feat that Al-Harbi takes pride in.

Despite the fact that it is still a new organization with a lot of ground to cover, Al-Harbi is optimistic about the future. “I’m not a powerful person, I don’t have unlimited funds or very high connections, but I managed to build myself up from zero. This is huge, and I appreciate every moment of it,” he said.

His hope for the future of Saudis for Peace is that it can deliver a message; tolerance, understanding, and compassion are the answer for peace that everyone is looking for, and it all starts with just opening oneself up to discussion.

“It’s like Ibn Rushd (Averroes) says: Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hatred, and hatred leads to violence,” he said.



Maraya: A world-class mirrored concert hall in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla Valley


December 30, 2019

ALULA: The newly constructed Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, has been showcased as part of the Winter at Tantora festival. 

Maraya, which means reflection or mirror in Arabic, is built close to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO world heritage site Al-Hijra.

The architecture of the mirrored hall captures the attention of visitors and adds to the mystery of AlUla Valley. The hall is surrounded by mountains, combining modernism and antiquity.

The 500-seat capacity venue is hosting global talent who are showcasing their skills during the cultural event. Last week, Arab music maestro Omar Khairat wowed the audience and more treats are in store throughout the festival.

It was built by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to become an architectural extension of the environment that surrounds it at its site in Ashar, situated in the volcanic foothills of Harrat ‘Uwayrid.

“AlUla is a place of heritage for the world and this is our 21st century realization of our vision to create a cultural hub, with Maraya as a stunning centerpiece venue for world-class events, performances, celebrations and business gatherings,” RCU CEO Amr Al-Madani told Arab News.

“Maraya is a medium that intertwines nature, culture and humanity. We are proud to celebrate the opening and we thank the expert team of architects, construction specialists and partners who give rise to this incredible building from a stunning desert setting.”

Architect Florian Boje said Maraya made people reflect on the “incomparable spectacle” of the geological epic and the “unique incursions” of man in the landscape.

“The reflection becomes an immersive connector and balance, giving to us the burden and responsibility of our own image merged with the landscape,” he added.

Maraya is part of the RCU vision set out in its cultural manifesto, an open invitation to the global arts and business communities to join it in building a new chapter for AlUla.

“AlUla’s art mandate is bold,” says the manifesto. “It will continue to be a destination reflected, carved and inspired by artists, and a place for era-defining monumental works. Successive civilizations have infused the landscape with their material culture and ideas. AlUla will be considered an arts destination that continues to be built by artists, breathing imagination, inspiration, and expression into AlUla’s infrastructure, buildings, daily life and visitor experiences.”



Saudi transport authority launches program to regulate and improve taxi services

December 30, 2019

RIYADH: The taxi sector in the Kingdom is witnessing a qualitative shift implemented by the Public Transport Authority (PTA), in cooperation with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).

Taxis are to be clearly identifiable, with a green exterior, and will be obliged to use a regulated fare system, meters and electronic payment facilities. Vehicles will be linked to modern tracking technologies and maps.

The new taxis will start appearing at the Kingdom’s airports, and the change will gradually include taxis all over the Kingdom. The PTA has started implementing a training program for taxi drivers in all regions of the country. The program includes major airports and contains specialized training courses focused on developing the skills of drivers to serve tourists and visitors, raising the level of professional competence of drivers in dealing with customers and enriching the experience of visitors to the Kingdom in general.

Fawaz Al Sahli, vice president of the PTA land transport sector, said that the program has been supported by taxi companies, and more than 10,000 taxi drivers have benefited so far. Moreover, the PTA has made the courses available in three languages — Arabic, English and Urdu — to benefit as many drivers as possible.

Majed bin Salem Al-Zahrani, director general of Small Vehicle Transport, said that the training course focused on the importance of customer service, highlighting the importance of maintaining the vehicle’s cleanliness and operational efficiency, which improves the passengers’ experience. He said the course was part of a comprehensive training program that also includes bus drivers and the employees of car rental offices. It also offers a professional accreditation program for drivers. The courses are in partnership with the SCTH and Saudi airports.





UK detained a man who sent £150 to son fighting IS with Kurds in Syria

Dec 30, 2019

LONDON: The father of a British citizen who fought with Kurdish forces in northern Syria has been arrested on suspicion of financing terrorism, in a rare action taken against a relative of a European citizen who joined the Kurdish ranks. The father, Paul Newey, said on Friday that he had given £150 (about $196) to his son, Daniel Newey, who travelled to Syria in October to fight with the People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG. The Kurdish force fought with the US military against the Islamic State terror group in Syria.

Daniel Newey first went to Syria in August 2017. He returned home in March 2018 before going back to Syria this fall after Turkey launched an offensive in Kurdish-controlled territories. His father, 49, said he had not known his son had returned to Syria when he sent him the money. “I transfer money to him all the time, and I wanted to get him back on the road after all he’s been through since he’s been back,” Newey said. Newey was taken to a police station on December 11, after being arrested at his home. Newey was questioned for 36 hours and then released on bail. He was not charged, police said.

While prosecutors in France, Britain, Belgium and other European nations have charged relatives who sent money to IS militants with terrorism offences, no family members of volunteers who joined the YPG have faced similar charges. In recent months, British authorities have taken a harder stance against people who have fought alongside Kurdish-led forces in Syria, a shift exemplified by a plan by Sajid Javid, recently the home office secretary, to designate northern Syria as a forbidden area.

The YPG is not considered a terrorist group by Britain or the US; the government of Turkey has designated it as one.



Russian security forces prevent New Year terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg based on US tip-off

29 Dec, 2019

Two people, who planned to stage terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg during the New Year holidays, have been detained by Russia’s security services. The arrests were made after a tip-off from US intelligence agencies.

The suspects were detained on Friday, Russia’s Security Service (FSB) announced. They were planning to target “crowded areas” in the country’s second largest city.

The operatives acted on “information earlier received from the American partners,” it added.

Earlier on Sunday, Vladimir Putin thanked Donald Trump for sharing intelligence that allowed them to prevent terrorist attacks on Russian territory. The two leaders talked on the phone, agreeing to continue cooperation in the field of fighting terrorism.





Successor To Khamenei Died Because He Trusted Islamic Medicine, Son Reveals

December 29, 2019

The son of a prominent Ayatollah, once named as a possible successor to the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, says his father died because he trusted Islamic medicine and the so-called Islamic physicians.

Speaking to Hawza's (Shi'ite seminary) news website, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi's son, Ala, said, "The so-called Islamic doctors had convinced my father to ignore what modern physicians said about his illness and how to treat it."

Twelver Shia cleric and conservative politician Ayatollah Shahroudi was the Chairman of the powerful Expediency Discernment Council from August 14, 2017, until his death on December 24, 2018. He was previously the head of the Islamic Republic judiciary from 1999 to 2009.

He died on December 24, 2018, of still undeclared complications. Shahroudi was accused of presiding over the killings of hundreds of prisoners and other gross violations of civil and human rights.

He spent time from late 2017 to January 2018 receiving treatment in Hannover, Germany. Iranian opposition groups raised questions about Shahroudi who faced human rights violations for being allowed into the country. Apparently, this expedited his departure.

Shahroudi who was born in Iraq moved to Iran when Islamists took over Iran’s post-revolutionary government in 1979. He was trusted by both the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini and his successor Ali Khamenei.

The so-called Islamic doctors' intervention in treating Ayatollah Shahroudi's illness took so long that even surgery could not help him recover; his son has bitterly said.

"My father underwent surgery in 2017. Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, secretly visited and advised him to ignore what the Islamic doctors say, and listen to the modern-day physicians," Ala Shahroudi disclosed, adding, "Nevertheless, my father ignored the leader's recommendation, and continued to trust the so-called Islamic Medicine experts."

The topic of Islamic medicine (al-Tibb an-Nabawi, in Arabic, or Medicine of the Prophet) has triggered a heated debate in recent years in Iran. Ayatollah Shahroudi was an ardent advocate, calling Shi'ites seminaries to collect Prophet Mohammad and Shi'a Imams' medical quotations and revive Islamic medicine.

However, most of the medical quotations attributed to Prophet Muhammad and Shi'a Imams are unscientific, mind-boggling, and even risible tales.

"Use the black seed, because it contains a cure for every type of ailment except death," one of the tales cites prophet Muhammad as advising his followers.

The deputy of the Islamic Republic Ministry of Health, Iraj Harirchi, disclosed on October 7, 2019, "Four Grand ayatollahs had cancer. Three of them, with progressive disease, were treated and recovered. But, the fourth, who believed in Islamic medicine, sadly died."

Apparently, he was referring to Ayatollah Shahroudi, who died at 70 on December 24, 2018.



Senior Palestinian claims Jesus was an Islamic martyr


DECEMBER 30, 2019

Jesus was not only a Palestinian, but was the first Islamic martyr, a senior Palestinian leader said this week.

Writing on his Facebook account on December 24, Tawfiq Tirawi, a senior Palestinian leader and Fatah Central Committee member posted: “This is blessed Christmas, The birthday of our lord Jesus the Messiah, the first Palestinian and the first Shahid [Islamic Martyr],” Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has reported.

PMW has noted that Tirawi's reference to "our lord Jesus" is not an acceptance of Christianity; rather, Islamic tradition teaches that Jesus was a Muslim who preached Islam.

PA Mufti Muhammad Hussein, the top religious figure within the PA, has made this point before, saying: "We’re talking about an ongoing chain [of prophets of the Islam], from Adam to Muhammad. It’s an ongoing chain, representing the call for monotheism, and the mission of Islam…

"The prophets were all of the same religion [Islam]… Jesus was born in this land. He lived in this land. It is known that he was born in Bethlehem… He also lived in Nazareth, moved to Jerusalem. So he was a Palestinian par excellence… We respect Jesus, we believe in him [as a Muslim prophet], just as we believe in the prophet Muhammad."

Claims that Jesus was a Palestinian have been made multiple times this week. On December 26, Fatah Revolutionary Council member Muwaffaq Matar wrote in the Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida "If someone could win the Nobel Peace Prize every year forever, it is Palestinian Jesus son of Mary who was born in Bethlehem…"

He added: "Palestinian Jesus son of Mary was a victim…"

Similarly, PMW have translated Laila Ghannam, District Governor of Ramallah as writing in the same publication two days earlier: "The entire Palestinian people celebrates Christmas because we are proud of Jesus being Palestinian."

According to the non-profit research institute, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas also made the claim. In an appearance on official PA TV News on December 28, he claimed Christmas for the Palestinians.

"Christmas is a national-religious holiday and not just a religious one. For all of us Palestinians, this holiday is ours. Therefore we all celebrate it. The Palestinian leadership is going to church to be present for [Christmas] Mass," he said, adding: "It is our obligation to do this, because it – as I told you – is a religious holiday for our [Christian] people, and you are our people, and it is [also] a national holiday for us all."

According to PMW, Abbas' Fatah party likewise declared on Facebook on December 20: "Christmas is a Palestinian holiday… There is a special significance to the Christmas celebrations in Palestine, since it has clearly become a national holiday in which all of our people participate, starting from [PA] President of Palestine [Mahmoud Abbas] and down to the last of the children."

According to Islamic tradition, the reward for an Islamic martyr in heaven is 72 dark-eyed virgins, a claim that many Christians would find defamatory.



Last Week Alone, Nearly 900 Settlers Invaded Al-Aqsa Mosque

December 29, 2019

Nearly 900 of Israel’s extremist settlers, last week, stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque under heavy Israeli protection, according to Quds News Network.

Israeli media reported that 897 extremist settlers invaded the holy mosque under the armed protection of the Israeli police and special forces.

Groups of extreme far-right Israeli settlers called for Israelis to carry out intensive invasions into the holy mosque to mark the Jewish holiday of Hannukah.

The colonists stormed the holy mosque from the Magharbeh gate, which has been occupied by the Israelis since 1967, and carried out provocative tours that included Talmudic rituals.

Last week several Muslim worshipers were assaulted, and four women were arrested, and upon release, were banned from entering the holy mosque for arbitrarily set periods of time.

The occupation state allows uncompromising extremist settlers to break into Al-Aqsa Mosque every Sunday to Thursday. At the same time, Muslim worshipers are arrested and kicked out of their holy site to allow for the illegal colonists to desecrate the sacred site.



2010-2019 The Decade ISIS Overtook Al-Qaida and Changed the Face of Radical Islam

By Shaina Oppenheimer 

Dec 29, 2019

In December, 2010, a disgruntled Tunisian street vendor by the name of Mohamed Bouazizi stood in the middle of traffic in front of the governor’s office in Sidi Bouzid, a city in central Tunisia, and doused himself in gasoline. With the flick of a match, he set himself on fire and sparked a wave of Arab Spring protests that would rock the Middle East in 2011. Soon the region would descend into chaos and the course of radical Islamic movements would take new directions.

In the decade to come, the world would witness gruesome beheadings, lone wolf attacks, an influx of thousands of foreign fighters into the Middle East, the systematization of sexual slavery, a Yazidi genocide and millions of displaced civilians in the worst refugee crisis of our time.

“ISIS and Al-Qaida kept saying that the Arab Spring was a kind of revolution. That this was what they were waiting for in order to fulfill the dreams of the jihadist,” says Dr. Michael Barak, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. But the Islamic State and Al-Qaida reaped the fruits of the geopolitical chaos in very different ways.

ISIS exploited the political upheaval to recruit fighters from all over the Middle East, especially from Libya and Tunisia. Syria’s regime lost control of the country as it spiraled into a bloody civil war. In Iraq, protests exacerbated Sunni disenfranchisement and political turmoil that had been brewing since the 2003 U.S. invasion. The Ba'athist Salafists, who had already mobilized thanks to Saddam Hussein’s Faith Campaign to pursue an Islamist agenda in the ’90s, soon started joining the Islamic State. In the absence of9/11 state pushback and with a population feeling increasingly sidelined by their government, ISIS was able to gain significant traction and recruit an army of fighters. It would not fully materialize until 2014.

In June 2014, following Friday prayers in Mosul, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of this motley army, stood at the marble pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri and declared himself caliph – “leader for Muslims everywhere.” With this declaration, Baghdadi dared to take the Islamic State where no radical Islamist group had gone before, distinguishing itself from the likes of Al-Qaida and Islamist terror groups in Egypt, Zvi Bar’el writes in Haaretz. ISIS would go on to establish dominance in parts of Iraq and Syria; at its height, the territory under the group’s control was the size of Britain. Almost one century after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk abolished the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, the Islamic State brought in a new era of radical Islamic movements.



Gaza sermon: Pensacola shooter acted out of compassion for Islamic nation

(December 29, 2019 / MEMRI) Palestinian Sheikh Nael Mossran said in a Friday sermon in Rafah, Gaza that Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the Saudi Air Force officer who shot and killed three U.S. servicemembers at the Pensacola Naval Station in Pensacola, Florida on December 6, 2019, had felt overcome with compassion for the Islamic nation and that the last thing Alshamrani said had been that America is a nation of evil.

Sheikh Mossran said: “[People] started to paint this young man as a criminal [and] calling him evil, criminal, and backward… as if America spread flowers in every country its air force has been through.” He said that the United States is waging an organized crusade against Islam that can only be stopped by an organized Islam and by Jihad for the sake of Allah.

The sermon was delivered at the Al-Huda Mosque in Rafah and uploaded to Sheikh Mossran’s YouTube channel on December 22, 2019.



Hamas: PA security officers helped Israel kill Islamic Jihad commander


DECEMBER 29, 2019

Hamas announced on Sunday that its security forces have arrested Palestinian Authority security officers on suspicion that they helped Israel assassinate senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad military commander Bahaa Abu al-Ata on November 12.

The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry said the cell members collected information about al-Ata, including monitoring his movements.

“They followed him for several months until the last hour before the [Israeli] occupation assassinated him,” a statement said.

According to the ministry, the cell members are officers from the PA’s General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, who were assigned the task of monitoring and following the movements of al-Ata.

The statement named General Intelligence Service commander Sha’ban Abdullah al-Ghrabawi of ordering the cell members to collect the information about the slain PIJ commander. It claimed that Ghrabawi, for his part, transferred the information “directly to the Israeli occupation intelligence services.”

The Hamas security forces also seized “technical materials” confirming that Ghrabawi had communicated with Israeli intelligence officers, the statement added.

In a video posted by the ministry, one of the cell members – whose identity was not revealed – said that in March 2017, he was contacted by Ghrabawi who asked him to form a cell of General Intelligence Service officers in the Gaza Strip. In September 2019, according to the cell member, he received another phone call from Ghrabawi, who asked him for details about al-Ata.

Another unnamed cell member who also appeared in the video said he, too, had received instructions from Ghrabawi to collect information about al-Ata.



Unity, avoidance of division, first step towards a civilized society

December 29, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Ayatollah Javadi Amoli asked, “When will a society become civilized?” And he replied, “The first step is for people to be united and in other words they should avoid division.”

“The teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (AS) instruct us how to make civilizations and how to live. When they introduce themselves and as they mention their Supplications, in fact it means they want us to live as such. The word “Imam” does not mean a man who just speaks and leave other things alone but the imam shows the roadmap (of life)”, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, a prominent scholar in the Advanced Course of Qom seminary studies stated

Pointing to a part of Imam Ali’s Ziarat, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli said, “In Ziarat for Imam Ali (A.S) we say that he is the right path and the touchstone for our deeds, it means that he teaches us how to live. And another important part of that is the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S) wanted to construct a civilized society”.

In his Quranic exegesis class, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli asked, “When will a society become civilized?” and answered, “The first step is for people to be united and in other words they should avoid division and be harmonious. And the second step is to consider each other’s problems as their problems and have ‘Taawon’ (cooperation). The third step is not only considering each other’s problems as their problems, but also help solving each other’s problems with dignity and honor. In other words, the cooperation should not be as an economical trade and one should not help the other expecting due cooperation and help – it should be a real dignified and honorable conduct. Why? Because Allah (SwT) said in Quran “Verily we have honored the Children of Adam” [17:70] and you – Prophets and twelve Imams – are Allah’s Caliphs so you should treat humanity honorably and Quran and Ahl al-Bayt and Prophet Muhammad which are Allah’s Caliphs teach us people that it is our duty to treat each other honorable.”

“The position of Allah’s Caliph maybe is not for ordinary people but it is said that you can manage the society honorable as such the pious people of the society follow you and this makes you ‘Imam al-Mottaqin’ (The Imam of the Pious). It means that we can also read this Dua in Quran which Allah (SwT) instruct us that we are supposed to treat each other honorably and say: ‘وَ اجْعَلْنا لِلْمُتَّقینَ إِماماً (and make us an example for the righteous) [25:74] ”, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli concluded.



Syrian regime shelled a mosque in al Ghadafa village in Idlib, on December 28

SNHR: Syrian regime forces missile launcher shelled near Belal al Othman Mosque in al Ghadafa village in the eastern suburbs of Idlib governorate, partially damaging its building and furniture, on December 28, 2019.



Iranian Muslims Give Flowers to Compatriot Christians

Sun Dec 29, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- Scores of Iranian Muslims went to churches across the country to celebrate the ceremony of "the Appointment of the Cross and the Crescent" with their compatriot Christians, handing bunches of flowers to Armenians and Assyrians.

Spokesman of Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs attended the ceremony of "the Appointment of the Cross and the Crescent" at Saint Sarkis Cathedral in Tehran where many Muslims showered their fellow Iranians of Christianity with flowers.

The ceremony was held on Sunday as a manifestation of the friendship between Muslims and Christians on the advent of the Christian New Year and with the purpose of deeper friendship between the divine religions.

Mousavi also met with Archbishop Sebuh Sarkisian.

On Friday, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in a message advised followers of the Jesus Christ together with Muslims to adhere to righteousness.

"The honor Muslims attribute to Jesus Christ (pbuh) is no less than his position and merit in the eyes of the Christian believers in Christianity," Supreme Leader wrote in his Twitter account.

 "The guidance of Jesus, the son of Mary (peace be upon our Prophet and her) is guidance towards worshiping God and confronting the Pharaohs and tyrants," he said.

"Following Jesus Christ requires adherence to righteousness and abhorrence of anti-righteous powers, and it is hoped that Christians and Muslims in every part of the world will adhere to this great lesson from Jesus (pbuh) in their lives and deeds," he reiterated.

Catholic Christians celebrate the birth of Holy prophet Jesus Christ (PBUH) on December 26.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended congratulations to the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, on the advent of Christmas which marks the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ.

“I am delighted to offer my sincerest congratulations to Your Holiness on the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Prophet of peace and kindness and messenger of freedom, as well as the start of year 2020,” read the opening of President Rouhani's congratulatory message to Pope Francis.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Zarif expressed his felicitations over the auspicious birth anniversary of the prophet of friendship and brotherhood, Jesus Christ, describing Christmas as a “wondrous occasion”, and wishing a “joyous, peaceful holiday season” for all Christians.

“Wishing my Christian compatriots, and all across our globe who are observing, a very Happy Christmas and a joyous, peaceful holiday season. The birth of Jesus Christ, prophet in Islam, is a wondrous occasion to celebrate,” the top Iranian diplomat wrote.

Christians constitute less than one percent of the Iranian population. However, they are represented by three MPs at the Iranian Parliament.

There are at least 600 churches and over 300,000 Christians in Iran, a predominantly Muslim country.

Two years ago, Zarif had commemorated the occasion quoting verses from the Holy Quran.

“The angels said, Mary, God gives you glad-tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Christ, Jesus, son of Mary; highly honored in this world and the next" Quran 3:45,” Zarif wrote on his Twitter message.



Turkey detains dozens of Daesh suspects ahead of New Year

December 30, 2019

ANKARA, Turkey: Police in Turkey detained dozens of people suspected of links to the Daesh group, the state-run news agency reported Monday, in an apparent sweep against the militant group ahead of New Year celebrations.

At least 33 foreign nationals were detained in the capital Ankara in a joint operation by anti-terrorism police and the national intelligence agency, according to the Anadolu Agency. Police conducted simultaneous, pre-dawn raids in the city of Batman, in southeast Turkey, where 22 suspects were detained, it said in a separate report.

Raids were also conducted in the cities of Adana and Kayseri where 15 people, including six foreign nationals were detained.

Anadolu said the IS suspects apprehended in Ankara were from Iraq, Syria and Morocco. Police were searching for some 17 other suspects, the report said.

The country was hit by a wave of attacks in 2015 and 2016 blamed on Daesh and Kurdish militants that killed over 300 people.

Daesh also claimed responsibility for an attack at an Istanbul nightclub during New Year celebrations in the early hours of 2017. The attack killed 39 people, most of them foreigners.



Journalists in Turkey convicted of terrorism

December 30, 2019

JEDDAH: Seven people from a Turkish newspaper including six journalists have been convicted of terror-related charges. An Istanbul court convicted the group from Sözcü newspaper on Friday, handing down prison terms of two years or more.

The charges relate to a failed coup attempt in 2016 to oust the Turkish government and remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ankara blamed the coup attempt on Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish preacher who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999.

The seven individuals were convicted of helping the coup perpetrators through their reporting.

Columnists Emin Colasan and Necati Dogru were handed down sentences of three years and six months. The paper’s chief editor Metin Yilmaz and its online edition’s managing editor, Mustafa Cetin, were given three years. Online news editor Yucel Ari, financial manager Yonca Yucelan and journalist Gokmen Ulu were sentenced to two years each.

They will appeal the verdict and have denied the charges against them. Sözcü denounced the verdict as a “black stain.”

Turkey is ranked the second highest jailer of journalists in the world according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Currently 108 journalists are incarcerated in Turkey, where the media industry is either controlled directly by the government or by conglomerates which are dependent on government contracts and therefore back the state’s position.

“Turkey’s daily Sözcü is and always has been openly critical of the group which the journalists were found guilty of helping,” Ozgur Ogret, the CPJ’s Turkey representative, told Arab News. “This trial has always been an absurd one from the very beginning by that fact alone.”

Dozens of media outlets were shut down following the coup attempt and, as many newspapers depend on advertising revenue that the Press Advertising Agency allocates from state resources, there emerged another trigger for self-censorship and restrictions on the space for independent journalism.

Sözcü is a staunch opposition of the domestic and foreign policies of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP), enraging pro-government circles through critical headlines especially those regarding the president.

Colasan recently criticized Erdogan over his decision to send troops to Libya’s Government of National Accord, asking how could the president speak so irresponsibly, while Dogru has written about government corruption.

The newspaper also disclosed where Erdogan was on the day of the coup attempt, infuriating pro-Ankara figures who said the president had been made into a target.

“Turkish authorities have tried and imprisoned many journalists since the failed coup attempt of 2016 with highly questionable evidence of links to Gülen and his network, like in the Cumhuriyet trial,” said Ogret. “The guilty verdict of the Sözcü trial is the latest example of this misguided approach.”

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who leads the main opposition CHP, also condemned the verdict. “It is a decision made upon the instruction of the political authority,” he told Arab News. “They cannot tolerate that Sözcü enlightens Turkey and says the truth.”



Anxious Gazans fear for the future as daily life in Palestine worsens


December 30, 2019

GAZA CITY: Mother-of-six Suad Sultan, 54, cannot hide her fear that the coming year will be all but impossible for her family along with other residents of the Gaza Strip.

After years of conflict, and with no political or economic solutions on the horizon, living conditions in the Palestinian enclave are steadily worsening.

Two of Sultan’s children are university graduates, but are unable to find work and build their own families, just as her husband cannot find a job with a steady income.

“We are on the threshold of a new year, but I can see no difference between last year and the coming year. All I see is another year of suffering,” Sultan said.

In 2012, the UN Conference on Trade and Development predicted that the Gaza Strip could become “uninhabitable by 2020.”

“The social, health and security implications of high demographic growth and overpopulation are among the factors that may make Gaza uninhabitable by 2020,” the report said. The Gaza Strip suffers from a scarcity of water sources. Up to 97 percent of the groundwater is unsuitable for drinking, forcing the local population to buy supplies from itinerant vendors.

A shortage of medical services is another pressing problem. Sultan said: “I don’t care about official reports, positive or negative. The circumstances on the ground show that we are in a very bad situation.”

High unemployment adds to the enclave’s woes, with up to 60 percent of young people unable to find work. “We have been living in an uninhabitable place for many years,” Ali Salman, 31, a freelance nurse told Arab News.

“Things have been getting complicated since the war in 2014, and if you look at our situation you will find that the elements of life are absent here. The electricity is cut off, infrastructure is destroyed, water is not safe to drink, transportation is difficult and agriculture continues to deteriorate.



Israel to withhold $43 million of Palestinian tax funds

December 30, 2019

JERUSALEM: The Israeli Security Cabinet on Sunday voted to withhold $43 million of tax funds from the Palestinians, saying the money has been used to promote violence, Israeli media reported.

The sum represents funds that Israel says the Palestinians have used to pay the families of Palestinians who have been jailed or killed as a result of attacking Israel, according to various reports.

Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund rewards violence. The Palestinians say the payments are needed to help vulnerable families who have been affected by violence and Israeli occupation.

Under past agreements, Israel collects customs and other taxes on behalf of the Palestinians and transfers the money to the Palestinian Authority. These monthly transfers, about $170 million, are a key source of funding for the budget of the authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel last year passed a law deducting parts of these transfers and Sunday’s decision was a continuation of that policy.

In February, after Israel withheld $140 million, the Palestinians said they would reject all transfers to protest the Israeli policy. But six months later, with the Palestinian Authority in a deep financial crisis, the sides worked out a deal to resume most of the transfers.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi denounced the latest Israeli move, calling it a “blatant act of theft and political extortion.”

“This is a clear violation of Palestinian rights and signed agreements as well as a criminal act of collective punishment exacted for cynical domestic Israeli political reasons,” she said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined comment.





Islamic Movement of Nigeria condemns AGF over comments on El -Zakzaky’s fate

December 29, 2019

By John Gabriel

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has faulted a statement credited to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) that the fate of its leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife, lies in the hands of the Kaduna State Government and its governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

The movement insists that rather, the Federal Government is complicit in the continuous detention of the IMN leader.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the group’s Spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, said it is not, therefore, possible, under any logical reasoning, to exonerate the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government from the “continued contemptuous detention of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife”.

The group also alleged that the Federal Government mischievously concocted a case in Kaduna, three years after the illegal detention of the IMN leader and his wife, accusing them of aiding and abetting homicide before the Kaduna State high court.

According to the statement, the case against Sheikh Zakzaky is, therefore, only a mischievous attempt at keeping the revered leader in perpetual illegal detention.

The group, however, called on the Buhari Government to “stop deceiving the public by trying to paint itself a saint and simply obey the court judgment to free the revered sheikh and stop further false and fake cases with the deliberate intention of keeping him in detention”.

The Statement Reads In Part:

“Firstly, the Federal Government’s criminal complicity in the heinous genocide in Zaria of December, 2015 that led to the extrajudicial murder of over a thousand members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the subsequent arrest and detention of the sheikh is beyond doubt.

This much was accepted and testified to by the general himself in an interview he granted a Qatari television channel while on a visit there as early as March 2016.

The Saudi crown prince’s self-confessions during a visit to the us that the brutal and inhuman suppression and the continuing illegal detention of sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky was part of his major foreign policy achievements further confirm the Federal Government’s involvement, as foreign policy issues are in the exclusive list of the federal government.

Was that not why the Saudi King was the first to call the general Buhari in December 2015, soon after the Zaria genocide, to congratulate him for what he called a victory against terrorism? Was that not also why general Buhari wanted to smuggle Nigeria into a Saudi-led military alliance at the time in the name of fighting terrorism? Was not the then Nigerian Defense Minister, Mansur Dan Ali accorded honor by the Saudi authorities on behalf of the federal government for the role the Nigerian military, an agent of the federal government, played?”

Secondly, the attacks, arrest and subsequent detention of sheikh Zakzaky were by federal government agencies. For the past four years, the department of state security (DSS) took custody of the sheikh and his wife from the army. Nobody is granted access to see him except with the express permission of these federal agents. It even had to take the involvement of the AGF for anyone; even the Kaduna State established judicial commission of inquiry at the time, to access sheikh Zakzaky.

Furthermore, when the federal high court declared the detention of the sheikh and his spouse illegal and unconstitutional and ordered their immediate release from custody forthwith, the order was against the DSS, Nigeria police force and the AGF, all representing the federal government.

The Kaduna State government was never a party in any of these matters. Who is the AGF now fooling that it is purely Kaduna State affair?



Supported by US, Saudi Arabia, Nigerian govt. putting pressure on Sheikh Zakzaky: Daughter

December 29, 2019

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): “Presently, my father is under a high pressure and the Nigerian government does not let use a doctor," one of Sheikh’s daughters said, noting that the Nigerian Government is putting pressure on Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky by the support of the US and Saudi Arabia.

In a meeting with senior Iranian Cleric, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, on of the daughters of Sheikh Zakzaky said his father has been under supervision of security forces during the past four years.

She reminded that Sheikh had traveled to India for some treatments but due to cooperation between the Nigerian and Indian governments, he was returned to Nigeria and imprisoned.

She underscored that her father is not in a good health, now.

Nigerian authorities have transferred top Shia cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, and his wife to a dilapidated prison, where many detainees have so far died due to lack of medical attention.

Earlier in December, a high court ordered the Department of State Services on to transfer the cleric and his wife, Zinat, to the Correctional Center in Kaduna state, northwest of the country.

Sheikh Zakzaky, who is in his mid-sixties, lost the sight of his left eye in a 2015 raid by security forces, that left more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons dead. His wife also sustained serious injuries during the raid.

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



Dasuki, Sowore: Islamic organisation attacks Buhari govt over comment on El-Zakzaky

December 29, 2019

By John Owen Nwachukwu

The Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has come under fire for saying that the fate of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife lies in the hands of the Kaduna State government.

While explaining why the Buhari government didn’t order the release of El-Zakzaky, Malami had insisted that the case was being prosecuted by the Kaduna State government and as such, the federal government would not interfere.

He gave the examination after former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore, were released on Tuesday.

The IMN, in a statement signed by Ibrahim Musa, its President, Media Forum and made available to DAILY POST on Sunday, said that Shiites, as they are otherwise called, are not deceived by any denial of complicity of Buhari-led government.

It added, “We wish to categorically repudiate the audacious insinuations by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN that the fate of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife, lies in the hands of the Kaduna state government and its governor, Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai.

“We are not deceived by any denial of complicity of General Buhari-led Federal Government.

“Firstly, the Federal government’s criminal complicity in the heinous genocide in Zaria of December, 2015 that led to the extrajudicial murder of over a thousand members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the subsequent arrest and detention of the Sheikh is beyond doubt.

“This much was accepted and testified to by the General himself in an interview he granted a Qatari Television Channel while on a visit there as early as March 2016.

“The Saudi Crown Prince’s self-confessions during a visit to the US that the brutal and inhuman suppression and the continuing illegal detention of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky was part of his major foreign policy achievements further confirm the Federal government’s involvement, as foreign policy issues are in the exclusive list of the federal government.

“Was that not why the Saudi King was the first to call General Buhari in December 2015, soon after the Zaria genocide, to congratulate him for what he called a victory against terrorism? Was that not also why General Buhari wanted to smuggle Nigeria into a Saudi-led military alliance at the time in the name of fighting terrorism? Was not the then Nigerian Defense Minister, Mansur Dan Ali accorded honor by the Saudi authorities on behalf of the federal government for the role the Nigerian military, an agent of the federal government, played?

“Secondly, the attacks, arrest and subsequent detention of Sheikh Zakzaky were by federal government agencies. For the past four years, the Department of State Security (DSS) took custody of the Sheikh and his wife from the Army. Nobody is granted access to see him except with the express permission of these federal agents. It even had to take the involvement of the AGF for anyone; even the Kaduna state established Judicial Commission of Inquiry at the time, to access Sheikh Zakzaky.

“Furthermore, when the federal high court declared the detention of the Sheikh and his spouse illegal and unconstitutional and ordered their immediate release from custody forthwith, the order was against the DSS, Nigeria Police Force and the AGF, all representing the federal government. The Kaduna state government was never a party in any of these matters. Who is the AGF now fooling that it is purely Kaduna state affair?

“It is not therefore possible, under any logical reasoning, to exonerate General Buhari and the junta he leads at the federal level from the continued contemptuous detention of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife. Even as the government mischievously concocted a case in Kaduna, three years after the illegal detention, accusing them of aiding and abetting homicide before the Kaduna state high court, these charges have since been squashed by the same court when hundreds of those who stood trial, who the duo supposedly aided and abetted, had since been discharged and acquitted. The case against Sheikh Zakzaky is therefore only a mischievous attempt at keeping the revered leader in perpetual illegal detention.

“Finally, we call on the Buhari regime to stop deceiving the public by trying to paint itself as Saint in a place its actions are glaringly worse than those of the devil. It should simply obey the court judgment, free the revered Sheikh and stop further false and fake cases with the deliberate intention of keeping him in detention.”




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