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Muslim Community Responds: Why PM Modi Is Only Talking About Pasmanda Muslims "When He Should Take All Muslims Along"

New Age Islam News Bureau

20 January 2023


While some appreciated PM Modi's statements, many remained sceptical (India Today photo)


• Iran Hands Death Sentence to Mentally Ill Man, Javad Rouhi, Over Alleged Qur’an Burning During an Anti-Regime Protest

• Court Sends Sharia Court Judges, Others to Prison for Allegedly Diverting N500m Meant For Orphans in Kano

• Saudi Prosecutors Want Cleric, Awad Al-Qarni, Executed For Using Social Media to Stoke Unrest

• Former LeT Chief Makki Denies Link to Al-Qaeda, ISIS; Says 'Never Met Osama Bin Laden'


• Banners near Kadri Sri Manjunatha Temple Banning Muslim Traders Removed by Police

• MP: Man Arrested For Raping, Threatening To Cut Muslim Woman into Pieces and Forcing Her to Marry Him



• Netanyahu discusses with US security advisor ‘normalizing ties’ with Saudi Arabia

• Tehran Denies Reported Meeting between Its UN Envoy and Biden’s Iran Envoy Malley

• Iranian Envoy Decries UNSC's Inaction on Israeli Crimes against Palestinians

• MP: Iranian Parliament Seeking to Declare EU's Armed Forces as Terrorist Organization in Tit-for-Tat Step

• Palestinian prisoner released after 40 years amid Israeli ban on celebrations



• Over 40 Al-Shabaab Terrorists Killed In New Operation, Says Somali Military

• Funke Akindele’s Ex-Husband, Abdul Rasheed Bello, Popularly Known As JJC Skillz, Returns To Islam, Says ‘I Was Lost, But Now I’m Found’

• Jordan, Iraq Call for Greater Cooperation among Arab Nations

• Will fragile peace in Ethiopia’s Tigray endure?


Arab World

• Saudi Arabia Presses Israel to 'Work Seriously' On Resolving Palestine Issue

• Saudi Regime Forces Arrest Renowned Cleric from Shia-Populated Eastern Province

• Saudi Arabia Restricts Loudspeakers to 4 to Make Prayer Calls in All Mosques across the Kingdom

• German lawmakers recognize Islamic State crimes against Yazidis as genocide

• Islamic State Attacks Still Claiming Iraqi Lives Five Years after Defeat

• Stampede outside stadium in Iraq’s Basra kills 2, injures dozens



• Gilgit-Baltistan Protestors Demand Unification with India: Islam Khabar

• Shehbaz government ‘U-turn’ on Toshakhana policy

• NAB tweaks do not ‘abridge’ fundamentals of Constitution, SC told

• Swabi Marchers Vow To Stand United Against Terrorism In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

• Terrorist attack on police post leaves three dead in Khyber

• Ali Zaidi, around 200 party men booked on terror, rioting charges

• Two policemen martyred in suicide attack on Jamrud checkpost

• Pakistan urges Iran to investigate attack that killed four soldiers



• North London Man Charged With ‘Islamist Terrorism’ Offences in Met Police Operation

• NZ Boxer Sonny Bill Williams Performs Umrah, Shares Pics

• Germany recognises IS crimes against Yazidis as genocide

• EU assembly wants Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on terror list

• Türkiye takes helm of NATO’s Response Force Maritime Component for 1 year

• European Parliament calls for listing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorist entity

• Turkish military chief attends NATO meeting in Brussels


South Asia

• The Plight of Afghan Journalists under the Taliban Regime

• Pakistan Taliban Kill 3 Police Officers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

• Foreign Minister Muttaqi Meets AKDN Representative for Afghanistan

• Second phase of Biswa Ijtema begins


Southeast Asia

• Stronger Relationships between Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey Can Promote World Peace

• Indonesia to Provide Funding Assistance to Islamic Schools Soon

• PM Anwar launches new slogan for Malaysia, promises to be clean, help everyone

• Study: Malay votes in GE15 not a monolith, but discourse dominated by anti-DAP sentiment

• Human rights activists urge move toward abolishing death penalty


North America

• US ‘Clear-Eyed’ About Threat Hezbollah Poses To Lebanon: State Department

• US, UAE, Bahrain, Israel National Security Advisors Meet On Expanding Normalization

• Harvard Backtracks After Denying Fellowship to Rights Leader over His Criticisms of Israel

• Turkish foreign minister hopes US extradites members of FETO terror group

• US sees Türkiye 'as a reliable ally,' says White House

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Muslim Community Responds: Why PM Modi Is Only Talking About Pasmanda Muslims "When He Should Take All Muslims Along"


While some appreciated PM Modi's statements, many remained sceptical (India Today photo)


Siraj Qureshi

Jan 20, 2023

At the recently held BJP national executive meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked party workers to approach every citizen and let them know about the country's rising status ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. His main focus was on the Muslim community, especially the Pasmanda Muslims.


When India Today reached out to the community to gauge the effect of PM Modi's statement, most of them appreciated the prime minister's sentiments. However, many also said his statements need to be translated into actions and did not easily sing his praise.

Amir Ahmed Jafri, senior advocate and former secretary of the Collectorate Bar Association, asked why PM Modi is only talking about Pasmanda Muslims "when he should take all Muslims along".

He added, "It is his responsibility to do concrete work, to give benefits of government schemes to the Muslims, and give representation to Muslims in the BJP and government as well. Speech alone will not work."

Haji Mohammad Iqbal, Chief of Islamic Peace and Foundation Development, said, "We fully support the positive initiative of Prime Minister Modi, but whether what he has said will be implemented or not, time will tell. Mere rhetoric will not work."

Senior High Court advocate Rubina Anjum said that these are all political gimmicks.

"What has happened suddenly that only Pasmanda Muslims are being talked about while there are other classes/castes among Muslims whose condition is not good? There should be equal treatment according to the Constitution. There is a system according to the Constitution and there are also fundamental rights, so nothing is going to happen with the statements. Modi's statement has to be implemented to be believed."

Sami Aghai, the president of the Indian Muslim Development Council, said PM Modi and the BJP are focusing on the upcoming assembly elections and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

"If Prime Minister Modi is so concerned about the upliftment of the Muslim community, then he should bring the Sachchar Committee to the Lok Sabha to discuss it or make a plan of the same level and follow it and give a place to the Muslim community in the organisation and the government."

According to the information received by India Today, the country has had 400 Muslim MPs so far, out of which 60 were Muslim Pasmandas.

Source: India Today

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Iran Hands Death Sentence to Mentally Ill Man, Javad Rouhi, Over Alleged Qur’an Burning During an Anti-Regime Protest


Javad Rouhi and two teenagers were sentenced to death after protests in the town of Nowshahr in September. He says he was unaware a Qur’an had been burned. Photograph: Twitter


January 19, 2023

LONDON: Iran has sentenced a mentally ill man to death on apostasy charges for allegedly burning a Qur’an during an anti-regime protest, with rights groups warning that the 35-year-old was severely tortured in custody and faced an unfair trial, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

Javad Rouhi, from a village in northern Iran, was sentenced to death on three charges: Waging war against God, corruption on Earth and apostasy.

After his arrest, he was transported to a detention facility overseen by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He was left unable to speak and walk after suffering extreme torture while in custody.

His family were only permitted one visit before his court hearing, with his father saying: “They didn’t allow any more visits or phone calls after that.”

Rouhi, who suffers from severe mental illness, was accused of entering a local traffic police headquarters last September, along with two others, and setting the building on fire, including copies of the Qur’an.

Iran state media reported that he had “confessed to the fact that he destroyed the headquarters and set it on fire.”

Rouhi was prevented from hiring a lawyer of his choice, with court authorities requiring him to be represented by a state defender, Habibullah Qazvini.

Qazvini said during the trial: “The review of the CCTV footage and the statements of Javad Rouhi only show his presence at the gathering place, and there is no evidence that he participated in burning and destroying public property.”

He added: “Javad had separated from his wife due to mental illness and unemployment; in September, he had gone to Nowshahr to meet his ex-wife and try to bring her back. He didn’t have any money, so he had slept on the street during those few days in Nowshahr before his arrest.”

In further evidence of an unfair trial, Rouhi’s charges were also connected with the deaths of five protesters who rights groups say were killed by Iranian security officers.

Norway-based Iran Human Rights said: “At least 109 protesters are currently at risk of execution, death penalty charges or sentences. This is a minimum, as most families are under pressure to stay quiet; the real number is believed to be much higher.”

Source: Arab News

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Court Sends Sharia Court Judges, Others to Prison for Allegedly Diverting N500m Meant For Orphans in Kano


By Umar Audu

January 19, 2023

A chief magistrate’s court in Kano has ordered the remand of 15 persons in a prison for allegedly diverting N 500 million meant for the orphans.

According to Daily Trust, those remanded include judges, registrars, and a cashier with the Kano State Sharia Court of Appeal, Hussaina Imam.

The accused are standing trial for offences bordering on criminal conspiracy, joint act, and criminal breach of trust by public servants, theft and forgery.

The offence is contrary to Sections 97, 79, 315 and 289 of Penal Code Law.

According to the first information report, FIR, the defendants, Bashir Ali Kurawa, Sa’adatu Umar, Tijjani Abdullahi, Maryam Jibrin Garba, Shamsu Sani, and Hussaina Imam, sometimes in 2020/2021 committed the offence in which Mrs Imam reportedly used her official position as the court cashier to conspire with her co-accused persons.

The cashier allegedly forged the letterheads and signatures of the two signatories to the Stanbic IBTC Bank account 0020667440 belonging to Kano State Sharia Court of Appeal and stole money to the tune of N484,067,327:07.

Mrs Imam was accused of fraudulently authorizing the bank to transfer the said amount to various bank accounts without the knowledge and or consent of the authorized body or person.

In a separate charge, the accused were arraigned for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, joint act, criminal breach of trust by a public servant, and theft by a clerk or servant, contrary to Sections 97, 79, 315, and 289 of the Penal Code.

“An official complaint was received by the Commission from Kano State Ministry of Justice that sometime ago, in the year 2018 to 2021, you Sani Ali Muhammad, Sani Buba Aliyu, Bashir Baffa, Garzali Wada, Hadi Tijjani Mu’azu, Alkasim Abdullahi, Yusuf Abdullahi, Mustapha Bala Ibrahim, Jafar Ahmad, Adamu Balarabe, Aminu Abdulkadir, Abdullahi Suleiman Zango, Garba Yusuf, Bashir Ali Kurawa and you Hussaina Imam, criminally conspired, breached the trust in you as a public servant, acted jointly and create 15 fake civil servants’ death benefit files and fraudulently siphoned funds to the tune of N96,250,000.00 that was remitted by the Kano State Pension Fund Trustee to the bank accounts of Kano State Sharia Court Appeal and stole the said amount through eight Sharia Courts under the Kano State Sharia Court Appeal without the consent and knowledge of the authorizing authority,” the FIR reads.

However, all the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the counsel representing them applied for the court to admit the defendants on bail.

The defendants, through their counsels, argued that the application was brought pursuant to sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,[1999 as amended] and sections 168 and 172 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2019 of Kano.

In his response to the bail applications by the defense counsel, the prosecution counsel, Zaharaddeen Kofarmata, urged the court to consider the huge amount involved in the case while granting the bail.

The trial magistrate, Mr Datti, therefor adjourned the case to February 1, 2023 for hearing and ordered the remand of all the defendants in a correctional center.

Speaking to journalists after the proceeding, the acting chairman of the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission, Mahmoud Balarabe, said the commission, during its investigations on the matter, had recovered vehicles, jewelry, landed properties, and other valuable property, including N8 million, from the defendants and would be used as exhibits.

Source: Daily Nigerian

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Saudi Prosecutors Want Cleric, Awad Al-Qarni, Executed For Using Social Media To Stoke Unrest


Detained hard-line Saudi cleric Awad Al-Qarni


January 20, 2023

DUBAI: Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a prominent cleric accused of using social media to stoke unrest, according to a court document seen by this news agency on Thursday.

Awad al-Qarni was among dozens of prominent clerics and dissidents arrested in September 2017, three months after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became first in line to the throne.

Human rights activists accuse Prince Mohammed of overseeing a crackdown on critics seen as harsh even by the standards of Saudi Arabia, which does not allow political opposition. The prosecution’s filing was shared by Qarni’s son Nasser, who last year fled to the United Kingdom to seek asylum.

Prosecutors accuse Qarni of spreading anti-government messages on Facebook and on Twitter, where he has two million followers.

“He tweets from his Twitter account at every opportunity, using it as a means to express his misguided opinions and direction,” the court document states.

Objectionable posts cited in the document include statements of support for the Muslim Brotherhood, criticism of Saudi judicial decisions and commentary on a diplomatic rift that saw Saudi Arabia lead a years-long boycott of neighbouring Qatar.

The two Gulf countries later mended ties during a summit in January 2021.

The posts are seen as being part of “efforts to destabilise the nation’s foundation, turning society against its rulers, stirring up unrest and showing sympathy for a hostile state (Qatar),” the filing states.

They also convey “support for the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organisation against the homeland and its rulers,” the filing added.

Qarni is also accused of “striving to destabilise the social fabric… and stir up public opinion by inciting sedition and division between Muslims and between the ruler and the ruled”.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, is pursuing an ambitious reform agenda intended to attract foreign investment and tourists while diversifying its oil-dependent economy.

Yet the kingdom still faces lingering reputational damage from the 2018 killing by Saudi agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

And it is routinely criticised for harsh court rulings, including decades-long prison sentences handed down last year to two women who tweeted and retweeted posts critical of the government.

Saudi officials have not commented on those cases, and they did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the case against Qarni.

The prosecution’s request for the death penalty for Qarni is another example of overreach by “kangaroo courts”, said Abdullah Alaoudh, Gulf research director for Democracy for the Arab World Now, a US-based rights group founded by Khashoggi. Alaoudh’s father, Salman al-Awdah, is another prominent cleric who was arrested around the same time as Qarni.

The cases against the two men stem from “bogus charges relating to their peaceful work, books and tweets”, Alaoudh said.

Source: Dawn

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Former LeT Chief Makki Denies Link to Al-Qaeda, ISIS; Says 'Never Met Osama Bin Laden'


Former Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Abdul Rehman Makki | Twitter


20 JAN 2023

Pakistan-based deputy leader of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Abdul Rehman Makki released a video on Thursday from the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore, denying any links with al-Qaeda or Islamic State.

Makki, the brother-in-law of the Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Hafiz Saeed, however, did not mention the 26/11 attack that killed 166 people.

The UN Security Council's 1267 ISIL (Da'esh) and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee added 68-year-old Makki to its list of designated terrorists on Monday, subjecting him to an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, after years of efforts by India and its allies.

He has been in jail since 2019 where he is serving multiple sentences in terror finance cases along with Saeed and some other LeT and JuD senior leaders.

What did Makki say?

"I believe that the grounds for my listing are based on heresy and disinformation by the Indian government. I never met Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri or Abdullah Azam as alleged by some propaganda reports," Makki said.

He said he considers the views and actions of Al-Qaeda and ISIS totally opposite of what he believes in.

"I denounce all kinds of terrorism and violence perpetrated by such groups. I believe in the principal position of the Pakistani government regarding Kashmir…," he said.

He regretted the UNSC decision to enlist him without giving fair opportunity to respond to allegations or hearing his point of view.

"No due process was followed or information was provided regarding these listings," Makki said.

He denied allegations against him for being a faculty member of Islamic University Islamabad in the 1980s where he was accused of meeting Al-Qaeda leaders or Afghan commanders.

He said that he had not studied or taught at Islamic university and had never had any contact with Abdullah Azam, Ayman Al Zawahiri or Bin Laden.

Source: Outlook India

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 Banners near Kadri Sri Manjunatha Temple Banning Muslim Traders Removed by Police

Jan 20, 2023

Banners appeared near the Kadri Sri Manjunatha temple fair prohibiting Muslim traders from carrying out business activities near the temple.

Police sources said the banners, put up by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, were removed on Thursday.

The fair started on January 15 and will end on January 21. The banners put up by right wing outfits were seen on Thursday which mentioned the cooker blast and alleged that the primary target of the accused in the case was the Kadri Manjunatha temple.

The banner also said people with such a mindset and those who opposed idol worship cannot engage in trade and business during the fair near the place of worship.

The banners also stated that only traders who believed in the rituals and ceremonies of the Hindu religion will be allowed to continue with their trade and business.

The temple administration, which falls under the Religious Endowment department, did not approve of the banner that was put up in the vicinity of the temple fair.

Source: India Today

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MP: Man Arrested For Raping, Threatening To Cut Muslim Woman into Pieces and Forcing Her to Marry Him

19th January 2023

A young man was arrested for allegedly raping and threatening a 22-year-old Muslim woman and forcing her to marry him.

The incident happened in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, where the accused – Shubham Kumar – forced the victim, from the same town, to have a sexual relationship with him. He further threatened her that if she refused his demands, he will cut her into 35 pieces, the police said.

Unable to bear his torture, the victim lodged an FIR with the Banganga police station. Shubham has been arrested under section 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 376 (2) (n) (commits rape repeatedly on the same woman), 454 (Lurking house-trespass or house-breaking in order to commit offence punishable with imprisonment) and 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (ADCP) Rajesh Raghuvanshi said, “The 22-year-old Muslim girl had lodged a complaint against the accused at Banganga police station in the city. The accused had made physical relations with the girl and was pressuring her for marriage. He also threatened her that if she did not marry him then he would cut her into pieces.”

Source: Siasat Daily

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Netanyahu discusses with US security advisor ‘normalizing ties’ with Saudi Arabia

19 January ,2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed normalizing ties with Saudi Arabia in talks with visiting White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Thursday, his office said.

Netanyahu, who returned to power last month with the formation of a new government, was also at the helm in 2020 when Israel established ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco as part of the Abraham Accords.

The Israeli premier has repeatedly expressed his desire to see Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, join the list.

In their talks, Netanyahu and Sullivan discussed “measures to deepen the Abraham Accords and expand the cycle of peace, with an emphasis on a breakthrough with Saudi,” the Israeli leader's office said in a statement.

They also discussed joint efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program and its regional activities, with Netanyahu thanking his American guest for President Joe Biden's commitment to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear arms, the statement said.

“You come at a special time because we have acute challenges to our security and vast opportunities for peace,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks relayed by his office.

“I am convinced that by working together we can both meet the challenges and realize the opportunities,” he said. “That's something that bolsters our extraordinary alliance but also can change the region and change history.”

The White House said that Sullivan reiterated the US pledge to “ensure Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon”.

Netanyahu and Sullivan “also discussed Ukraine, as well as the burgeoning defense partnership between Russia and Iran and its implications for security in the Middle East,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

Touching on an area where the new hardline Israeli government and the Biden administration do not see eye to eye, Sullivan said he opposed policies endangering the “viability” of a future Palestinian state, according to the statement.

Sullivan likewise “underscored the urgency of avoiding unilateral steps by any party that could inflame tensions on the ground, with special attention to maintaining the historic status quo with respect to the holy places in Jerusalem.”

Sullivan's visit, the first by a senior US official since Netanyahu's new government was sworn in, also saw him meet President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday for talks about “ways to deepen the strategic cooperation”, Herzog's office said.

Before speaking with Netanyahu on Thursday, Sullivan had met with the head of Israel's Mossad spy agency, David Barnea, and Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tehran denies reported meeting between its UN envoy and Biden’s Iran envoy Malley

19 January ,2023

Iran denied on Thursday media reports that its permanent representative to the United Nations had met with US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley.

Iran’s permanent mission to the UN said it had “not conducted any negotiations with any American officials,” the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

The denial comes after London-based news channel Iran International reported that Malley had met Saeed Iravani, Iran’s envoy to the UN in New York, “at least three times in the last two months.”

A US delegation led by Malley had been participating in indirect talks with Iran for over a year starting April 2021 to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

But these efforts have stalled for months and Washington has since said that Iran’s crackdown on domestic protesters and its supplying of drones to Russia have turned its focus away from reviving the deal.

The 2015 deal offered Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for strict but temporary curbs on its nuclear program.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iranian Envoy Decries UNSC's Inaction on Israeli Crimes Against Palestinians


Iravani made the remarks while addressing a UN Security Council open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, on Wednesday.

“Sympathy alone is not enough,” he stated.

The diplomat added that the Israeli regime’s oppressive, expansionist and apartheid practices against Palestinians continued unabated in 2022, and the Palestinian people, particularly women and children, are facing severe poverty and violation of their basic rights.

The Israeli regime has committed atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territories without accountability for more than 70 years, he continued, stressing the importance of fully recognizing, upholding and protecting the Palestinian nation’s right to self-determination.

But long as the Security Council remains silent, this is impossible to do so, Iravani noted.

The Security Council is duty-bound to remain committed to the UN Charter and maintain international peace and security, he stated, emphasizing that it should use all legal channels to hold the Israeli regime accountable for all the crimes it is committing.

The Iranian envoy underscored that the Israeli regime’s incursion into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound earlier this month violated the mosque’s sanctity and worship rites and was a brazen provocation of Muslim feelings.

“This illegality and recklessness have serious consequences that should not be underestimated,” he underlined, noting that if not properly addressed, it can further destabilize an already fragile situation and endanger regional and international peace and security.

Iravani further emphasized that the UN silence on Tel Aviv’s crimes will only encourage the regime to continue its occupation of the Palestinian territories and intensify its brutal aggression against Palestinians.

He stated that Iran is responsible to support the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to resist the oppression and violence of the racist Israeli regime in accordance with Palestinians’ right to self-determination, emphasizing that it will be Tehran’s permanent position until the end of the occupation.

Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the illegally occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year, including 51 Palestinians during Israel’s three-day assault on Gaza in August, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

International rights groups have condemned Israel’s excessive use of force and “shoot-to-kill policy” against Palestinians.

Iran describes Israel as the root cause of the region’s instability, but also stresses Israel's US-supported barbarity will not change the inevitable fate of the Tel Aviv regime.

Source: Fars News Agency

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MP: Iranian Parliament Seeking to Declare EU's Armed Forces as Terrorist Organization in Tit-for-Tat Step


Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Khodabakhshi stated on Thursday the parliament is going to put a double-urgent bill to vote as part of a response to the EU’s potential move to blacklist the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

He added the legislation would call for blacklisting the armed forces of the EU as terrorist.

The bill describes the IRGC as a pillar of the Iranian ruling establishment and says if it is blacklisted by the bloc, Iran will blacklist the EU armed forces in West Asia, in which case any cooperation with them will be treated as complicity in act of terrorism.

The legislation obliges Iran’s intelligence community to provide a list of the commanders of the EU’s armed forces for prosecution by the Iranian Judiciary.

The bill requires the Iranian foreign ministry to use all its legal and political capacities to push the EU’s forces from the region.

Any country abiding by the bloc’s blacklisting of the IRGC will be subject to a response in kind, according to the legislation.

The Iranian government will be obliged, under the legislation, to protect all legal and real persons affiliated with the IRGC against any harm or damage.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament's members backed an amendment added to an annual foreign policy report, calling for "the EU and its member states to include the IRGC in the EU's terror list". The step was passed by a vote of 598 in favor and nine against, with 31 abstentions.

The amendment will urge Brussels to blacklist the IRGC military force, the volunteer Basij force, and the IRGC's Quds Force.

Tehran has repeatedly announced that the IRGC is an official state body which has had and will continue to have an important and key role in ensuring the security of Iran and the region.

Iranian officials have recently warned the EU that its plan to blacklist the IRGC as a “terrorist organization” may have unbearable consequences and ruin any chance of negotiations.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Palestinian prisoner released after 40 years amid Israeli ban on celebrations

20 January 2023

Palestinian prisoner Maher Younis has been released after forty years in Israeli jails for resistance against occupation forces.

Maher, 65, along with several others including his cousin, Karim Younis, was put behind bars in 1983 on charges of capturing and killing an Israeli soldier three years earlier.

Maher was initially sentenced to death, but his sentence was reduced to 40 years in jail. He was ultimately released on Thursday, two weeks after Karim.

In his hometown of Arara, Maher was warmly welcomed despite Israel’s decision to ban any gathering around his house. His mother showered him with petals and adorned him with a traditional white gown, a necklace of red flowers, and a ring, which belonged to his father, who died in 2008.

“The best gift is to see our people walk on the path of reconciliation, and to live in freedom, as there was hope, after 40 years, to live in the homeland freely,” he said.

“The attempts of the [Israeli] occupation and its policy of diverting our joy will not succeed. Although there is a policy of arrogance, they will not prevent our joy. Palestine is implanted in our hearts and its flag is drawn in the hearts, and any attempts to remove it from us will not succeed,” added the former prisoner.

Israel still holding 23 pre-Oslo prisoners

Despite the release of the two cousins, the Israeli regime is holding 23 Palestinians who have been imprisoned since before the signing of the Oslo accords between the Palestinians and Israel in 1993, which called for the release of all Palestinian prisoners

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said in a statement that Mohammad al-Tous, who has been incarcerated since 1985, has become the longest-serving Palestinian freedom fighter in Israeli jails after the release of Karim and Maher.

According to the statement, carried by WAFA news agency, 10 other Palestinians who were arrested before the Oslo accords and were released during prisoner exchange deals have been re-arrested by the occupation forces with their sentences being re-instated.

The PPS said over 340 Palestinian freedom fighters have spent more than 20 years in Israeli jails.

There are reportedly more than 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Hundreds of them have been incarcerated under the practice of “administrative detention,” under which some prisoners have been held without a charge for up to 11 years.

Palestinians and human rights groups say the detention policy violates the right to due process since the evidence is withheld from prisoners while they are held for lengthy periods without being charged, tried, or convicted.

The detention takes place on orders from a military commander and on the basis of what the Israeli regime describes as secret evidence.

Human rights organizations have condemned the so-called administrative detention as a “cruel, unjust practice” which helps maintain “Israel’s system of apartheid” against Palestinians.

Source: Press TV

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Over 40 al-Shabaab terrorists killed in new operation, says Somali military

Mohammed Dhaysane  



More than 40 al-Shabaab terrorists have been killed in an operation in the Middle Shabelle region, the Somali military said on Thursday.

The operation was launched in response to Tuesday’s deadly attack on a military base in Hawadley, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu.

At least 10 soldiers, including a senior commander, were killed in that early morning assault, which began with a suicide car bombing and ended after heavy gun battles.

The operation was carried out with intelligence support from Somali spy agency NISA and the country’s international partners, Abdiaziz Ahmed, a security official, told Anadolu.

“We focused on farmlands and areas on the outskirts of Hawadley,” he said, adding that heavy weaponry, including an anti-aircraft twin-barreled autocannon, was also destroyed.

The Somali army, backed by local militias, has been engaged in a sweeping offensive against al-Shabaab since last year, when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared “all-out war” on the terrorist group.

Somalia has been plagued by insecurity for years, with al-Shabaab and Daesh/ISIS being among the main threats.

The UN has warned of growing instability in the country, issuing periodic reports last year that detailed attacks by al-Shabaab and pro-Daesh/ISIS terror groups.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Funke Akindele’s Ex-Husband, Abdul Rasheed Bello, Popularly Known As JJC Skillz, Returns To Islam, Says ‘I Was Lost, But Now I’m Found’

By Umar Audu

January 19, 2023

Abdul Rasheed Bello, popularly known as JJC Skillz, has announced that he has reverted to Islam, his former religion.

The award-winning songwriter and filmmaker, made this known in a post on his verified Instagram handle, @JJCSkillz.

Mr Bello, who is a former husband of movie star cum politician, Funke Akindele, said he was born a Muslim but never practiced the religion as he followed the religion of his mother.

“I was lost, but now I’m found, O Allah, I ask You for Your pardon and well-being in this life and the next. O Allah, I ask You for well-being in my religious and worldly affairs, and my family and my wealth.

“O Allah, veil my weaknesses and set at ease my dismay, and preserve me from the front and behind and on my right and my left and from above, and I take refuge with You lest I be swallowed up by the earth.

In an interview with an online Islamic publication, Muslims News, the musician said it was the will of God that he would finally embrace Islam, saying the religion has given him direction and focus.

“I was born a Muslim—AbdurRasheed by name. My dad, Bello, is a Muslim, but my mum is a Christian. Back then, I used to go to Islamiyah, but all I remembered about it was getting beaten. They used to scare us with hellfire, so I never practiced.

“It’s God’s design that I will return to Islam.” I thank Allah for sparing my life,” he said.

Source: Daily Nigerian

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Jordan, Iraq call for greater cooperation among Arab nations

January 19, 2023

DAVOS: The leaders of Jordan and Iraq have called for deeper Arab collaboration in the energy, agriculture and oil sectors to achieve regional prosperity.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Iraq’s President Abdulatif Rashid and Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Hani Al-Khasawneh said the Amman-Baghdad-Cairo mechanism would benefit the broader regional economy.

Rashid said that after years of wars, civil conflicts and terrorism, Iraq was ready to embark on a new journey of achieving peace and stability at home, while contributing to a better reality for the region.

He pointed to an “optimistic” outlook if the Middle East was “able to solve its conflicts without foreign interference.”

The newly formed Iraqi government planned to increase oil, gas and agriculture projects to help advance the regional economy, which has been reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation, he added.

But Iraq needed “regional cooperation and some international help in terms of investment and contracts,” Rashid said.

“We get most of our water from neighboring countries. In many cases, we share oil fields with Kuwait, Iran and other countries. We don’t have many ways but to cooperate along these lines, but in Iraq, we are lucky to have agriculture, tourism, oil fields and gas.”

Al-Khasawneh said the war between Ukraine and Russia had “reinforced beliefs in Jordan that the key to progress rests upon the foundation of collective action.”

But, he said, the region suffered from a serious deficiency in inter-Arab trade, which “does not exceed 13 percent of the total volume of Arab countries’ trade.”

“All synergies are fundamental and essential to the advancement of the economies of the region and in dealing with the challenges that respective countries face,” he added.

Al-Khasawneh said that the Amman-Baghdad-Cairo mechanism “does not exist in the void, and it’s open to all interested parties in the region.”

The mechanism essentially focuses on building an industrial zone on the Jordanian-Iraqi border and establishing a pipeline to carry oil and gas from Iraq to the borders of Jordan and Egypt.

Al-Khasawneh said that for a country that lacked natural resources, building on its human capital and establishing ties with neighboring countries in the region had been essential to achieving Jordan’s national objectives.

Due to collaborations with the International Monetary Fund and other regional and international institutions, the country had been able to keep its inflation rate at 4.2 percent, which, according to Al-Khasawneh, was a “low number compared to neighboring countries with the exemption of those with natural resources.”

Meanwhile, Rashid stressed the need to encourage private enterprise and modernize financial laws and banking regulations.

Source: Arab News

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Will fragile peace in Ethiopia’s Tigray endure?

Sadik Kedir Abdu 


Eyes welled with tears of joy, faces beamed with genuine smiles, and hearts brimmed with cautious hope as dozens gathered in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa for a journey that, just months ago, seemed all but impossible.

Their destination was one propelled to global fame, rather a notoriety, in recent years: Mekele, capital of Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, where war, death, and destruction have been unwelcome guests for far too long.

Since late 2020, Ethiopia has been at war with itself, and Tigray has been the battlefield.

The conflict is between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – known today as a rebel group but a force that wielded unparalleled power in Ethiopia for decades – and the federal government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Yet, it has been far more about just them, cascading into a clash of regions and cultures, ripping apart loved ones, and tearing at the very fabric of Ethiopian society.

After more than two years of devastating violence, peace seems within grasp.

Hopes have risen after the warring sides signed an agreement in South Africa in November 2022, a deal that Ethiopians want to believe has paved the way for some sort of mutual understanding and a lasting solution.

There are visible signs of progress, such as the crowds seen at the airport in Addis Ababa as flights to Mekele resumed after a shutdown lasting 18 months.

“There was a mix of feelings. People were so hopeless they questioned whether it was true or not,” Mohammed Hagos, a university lecturer in Mekele, told about the general public reaction to the November peace deal.

When the fighting was at its peak, it felt “as if the world had turned upside down,” said Mohammed, who saw the violence firsthand for more than a year before making an “adventurous and life-threatening” trek to Addis Ababa.

He said the crisis made him feel like a “second-class citizen,” particularly while trying to “escape from one part of my country to another.”

The provisions of the November agreement include immediate cessation of hostilities, restoration of basic services such as electricity and telecommunications, unimpeded humanitarian access, and withdrawal of foreign forces, particularly Eritrean troops.

Another key point is the TPLF’s disarmament and reintegration into Ethiopian politics once the government delists it as a terrorist group.

“Having access again to those basic services has given everyone hope. It is a very emotional moment when you get to hear your children’s voices after years,” said Mohammed, who had no direct communication with his family for months.

Seeds of conflict

In a way, the war started long before the actual fighting began in October 2020, as both sides churned out divisive rhetoric and propaganda sprinkled with threats and displays of military might.

“This was a clear case of mismanagement of a political transition,” said Mukerrem Miftah, assistant professor of policy studies at the Ethiopian Civil Service University in Addis Ababa.

He was referring to the change of guard in 2018 that brought Prime Minister Abiy into power after the nearly 30-year rule of a coalition led by the TPLF.

Over a year after taking office, Abiy unveiled his Prosperity Party to replace its predecessor, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four parties representing the country’s most powerful ethnic communities based in its northern and central parts, as well as some 50 smaller groups in the south.

The TPLF, the then-dominant force in the EPRDF, refused to be part of Abiy’s new political entity and retreated to its stronghold in Tigray.

The descent into war gathered pace when the TPLF went ahead with regional elections in Tigray in Sept. 2020, defying the federal government’s decision to delay all polls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the TPLF tried to use the results to further its claim as Tigray’s sole legitimate political authority, the all-out conflict became the only probable result and eventually erupted on Oct. 4, 2020.

Both sides blamed each other for the violence. The government contended that it was a TPLF attack on a major military base that sparked the war, while the rebels viewed the entire conflict as an invasion by Abiy’s government and its ally Eritrea.

Regardless, their clash for political power has plunged Ethiopia into a crisis of unprecedented proportions.

According to the latest figures from the African Union, the conflict has claimed up to 600,000 lives and displaced more than 2.5 million people, apart from wreaking economic and humanitarian devastation.

What brought them to the table?

The agreement has so far brought about a certain level of calm in Tigray, according to Mukerrem.

“At this point in time, the situation in northern Ethiopia is relatively stable. At least there is no active violence. From this vantage point, we can say this deal is significant,” he told Anadolu.

He also delved into what remains a burning question in the country and a source of doubt over the deal’s durability: What exactly brought the TPLF and the government to the negotiating table?

“Exhaustion was the primary factor. This war has been miscalculated by both sides, who each believed they could get a total submission from the other,” said Mukerrem.

“They no longer have the means or resources to continue this war,” he added.

Economic considerations also had a role, with the war draining the government’s budget and rendering it incapable of pursuing any sort of development project.

Over in Tigray, life was a struggle for survival as the government severed basic utilities and barred essential services such as banking.

Adding to the internal factors was the erosion of Ethiopia’s diplomatic ties with its strategic partners, including the US.

“I believe that third parties, particularly the US, played a major role in the negotiations. Not only in facilitating dialogue, but also in designing the terms and agenda,” said Mukerrem.

As the crisis festered, the US punished Ethiopia with a raft of sanctions, including its exclusion from the US African Growth and Opportunity Act duty-free trade scheme.

Just a month after the successful talks, Washington named a new ambassador to Ethiopia, a post that was vacant for nearly two years, while its allies France and Germany sent their respective foreign ministers on visits that were clear indicators of rapprochement.

A fragile peace

According to Mukerrem, there is a great need to tread carefully in terms of implementing the peace deal.

“Foremost is the issue of inclusivity, and it should be taken seriously,” he said.

For the deal to last, all stakeholders need to feel included and like they have a part in it, he added.

He warned of growing voices of discontent and claims of exclusion in regions such as Amhara and Oromia.

Cooperation is also essential for this agreement to work, particularly on points such as disarmament and cessation of hostilities, said Mukerrem.

For Mohammed, the teacher in Mekele, the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray “could be a breaking point if not handled gently.”

“Given the longstanding border issues between Eritrea and Tigray, this can be an arduous task,” he warned.

“Unless the Eritrean government is included in the peace process, it will jeopardize this push for stability in the region,” he added.

Another problem between the TPLF and the federal government relates to the border of Tigray and its neighboring Amhara region.

Amhara wants to renegotiate the borderline in a disputed area known as Welqait, a small region of over 1,300 square miles with a population of some 130,000 people.

The Tigray conflict has also raised constitutional questions in Ethiopia, as one of the TPLF’s grievances against the government is that it is centralizing power.

Making sure peace endures

For Mukerrem, “transitional justice” is essential to ensure lasting peace in Ethiopia.

“One important challenge would be mediation and ensuring justice for the crimes committed by both sides during the war,” he said.

“Unless and until justice is served to the victims of war, unless and until this is guaranteed, this peace agreement will be null and void,” he stressed.

Mohammed also urged both parties to “honor their word” while reiterating the need for an inclusive approach for sustained peace.

Another factor is the structure of the Ethiopian state, which is based on the principles of ethnic federalism, recognizing the autonomous rights, even as far as self-determination, of all ethnic groups.

According to various analysts, there is potential for more conflict in other regions of Ethiopia unless the issue of federalism is addressed and the autonomy of ethnic groups is assured as enshrined in the constitution.

This is what Mukerrem alluded to as he warned of a looming threat of unrest in central and eastern parts of Ethiopia, mainly in its largest region of Oromia, where the Oromo Liberation Army, a group the government has labeled a terrorist entity, is gaining ground and influence.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Arab World


Saudi Arabia presses Israel to 'work seriously' on resolving Palestine issue

Ibrahim Al-Khazen 



Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has urged Israel’s new government to “work seriously to solve the Palestinian issue.”

“We must focus on a path to resolve the Palestinian issue, which will happen through negotiation between the two sides,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

“This is what we are trying to achieve at the level of the international community, but the new Israeli government is not enthusiastic about finding a solution,” he added.

Talks between Palestine and Israel broke down in 2014, largely due to Israel’s refusal to stop building settlements on confiscated Palestinian land.

The minister emphasized that “a solution is in Israel’s and the region’s interest,” according to Saudi news channel Al Ekhbariya.

“Israel must work seriously to solve the Palestinian issue,” he said.

On developments in Yemen, Prince Faisal said the push for “a permanent cease-fire must continue.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Saudi regime forces arrest renowned cleric from Shia-populated Eastern Province

19 January 2023

Saudi regime forces have reportedly arrested a prominent cleric in the country’s oil-rich and Shia-populated Eastern Province, as the kingdom intensifies a heavy-handed crackdown against members of the religious community as well as opponents of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his policies.

Social media activists reported that the forces detained Sheikh Hassan al-Khuwailidi amid authorities’ attempts to silence influential religious scholars, and press ahead with plans aimed at transforming the the cultural setting of Saudi Arabia, which is greatly influenced by the Arab and Islamic culture, to the Western style.

The report comes as Saudi officials sentenced prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Kadhim al-Amri to four years in prison late last year.

Lebanon-based al-Ahed news website announced that the clergyman – the son of Shia cleric Sheikh Muhammad al-Omari, who is the son of the late Sheikh Muhammad al-Amri and among distinguished religious figures in the holy city of Medina – received the ruling on December 24.

A month earlier, Saudi forces had re-arrested distinguished Shia scholar Sheikh Muhammad al-Abbad in al-‘Umran city in al-Ahsa province without a warrant, and taken him away to an unknown location.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution, and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners, in particular in Eastern Province.

The province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.

Ever since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

As a result, Islamic scholars have been executed, women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

Source: Press TV

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Saudi Arabia restricts loudspeakers to 4 to make prayer calls in all mosques across the kingdom

January 19, 2023

Khitam Al Amir

Dubai: Saudi Arabia has issued directives to restrict the use of loudspeakers in all mosques across the Kingdom, local media reported.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Dr. Abdul Latif bin Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh has set the number of external loudspeakers at four which are only to be used in mosques to make the prayer calls.

Dr. Al Sheikh has instructed all Imams to remove extra loudspeakers, if any, from mosques and store them in a warehouse for later use or give away to mosques that do not have enough.

The minister's directives come almost two months ahead of Ramadan, which is expected to fall on March 23.

Last year, the ministry issued restrictions on volume levels for loudspeakers at mosques during the fasting month. Speakers must not exceed a third of their maximum volume.

Officials at the ministry asked mosque staff to ensure they abide by the circular that limits the use of external loudspeakers for the first (adhan) and second (Iqamah) calls to prayer.

It also stressed that speakers cannot be used for additional prayers during the holy month, and banned the live transmission of prayers from mosques on all types of media during last Ramadan.

Source: Gulf News

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German lawmakers recognize Islamic State crimes against Yazidis as genocide

JANUARY 19, 2023

German lawmakers on Thursday recognized as genocide crimes committed by Islamic State (IS) militants against minority Yazidis in Iraq in 2014.

The jihadist group killed thousands of Yazidis, enslaved 7,000 Yazidi women and girls and displaced most of the 550,000-strong community from their ancestral home in northern Iraq.

The Yazidis are an ancient religious minority in eastern Syria and northwest Iraq that Islamic State viewed as supposed devil worshippers for their faith that combines Zoroastrian, Christian, Manichean, Jewish and Muslim beliefs.

"Three years ago, I met Yazidi women in northern Iraq: they were abducted, enslaved, raped. I cannot let go of their pain," Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted.

"The Bundestag has decided to name the IS crimes against the Yezidis for what they are: genocide," she added.

The parliamentary resolution is expected to facilitate the further prosecution of IS perpetrators in Germany.

Islamic State's territorial gains

An offshoot of al Qaeda, Islamic State seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014 before being ousted by U.S.-backed counter-offensives, losing its last territorial redoubt in 2019.

Thursday's move by lawmakers in the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) came after a German court in 2021 jailed a former Islamic State militant for life for involvement in genocide and crimes against humanity against Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, including the murder of a five-year-old girl.

"We know that no parliamentary resolution in this world can undo their suffering," Baerbock added.

"But I am deeply convinced that this decision makes a difference: a decisive step towards recognition of the suffering and towards justice for the survivors."

Source: J Post

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Islamic State attacks still claiming Iraqi lives five years after defeat


19 January 2023

ALBU BALI, Iraq (AFP) — The attack came after sunset in the quiet Iraqi village of Albu Bali when Islamic State group gunmen drove into town and unleashed fire with automatic rifles.

“I heard the shots, I went out and I saw my nephew lying on the ground,” recalled Ali Menwar about the deadly violence that shattered the local calm on December 19.

The group of Sunni Muslim extremists “arrived at about 8:15 pm and started firing randomly,” said another local from the mainly Shiite village, Abbas Mazhar Hussein, 34.

As Menwar rushed inside, bullets smashed into the wall around him and two grazed his neck, which now bears angry red scars, before he could slam the gate shut behind him.

Others were less lucky in the village of 5,000 people, about 70 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital Baghdad.

“My son, my grandson and my cousins fell as martyrs,” said Menwar’s neighbor Jabbar Alwan, his eyes welling up with tears.

“It’s very painful,” said the elderly man, who lost four relatives. “We didn’t expect this.”

When it was all over, eight people lay dead and another six were wounded in Albu Bali.

None of the attackers have been caught.

Fear of reprisals

Iraq has come a long way since major fighting ended over five years ago against IS, putting an end to its self-declared “caliphate” which once stretched across swathes of Iraq and Syria.

After a grueling urban battle in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, forces backed by a US-led coalition declared victory over IS in the country in late 2017.

But periodic attacks still claim lives among Iraq’s war-weary citizens who have endured decades of conflict which flared especially after a 2003 US-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

An IS ambush last December 18 killed nine federal policemen in Kirkuk, 100 kilometers north of Baghdad — but all too often it is civilians who fall victim.

The residents of Albu Bali, like the majority of Iraqis, are predominantly Shiites, a branch of Islam that the Sunni extremists of IS consider apostates and label “rawafid” or “rejectors.”

Claiming the bloody attack on the Telegram messaging service, IS did not refer to civilians but claimed it had targeted “rawafid militiamen,” a term used to describe members of the Shiite-led former paramilitary group Hashed al-Shaabi.

Sheikh Khalis Rashid, the local chief, said Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani had called him after the attack and “begged me to prevent any” violent reprisal.

Such reprisals would likely have taken the form of attacks on nearby Sunni-majority villages sometimes accused of providing a safe haven to the jihadists, the local chief said.

‘Gangster operations’

According to a police colonel who asked not to be named, “the terrorists hide in the countryside and continue to attack sporadically.”

The municipality of Al-Khalis, where Albu Bali is located, is used as a “transit” zone for jihadists, explained mayor Uday al-Khadran.

The surrounding Diyala province and neighboring Salaheddin are crossroads for jihadists to the northern autonomous Kurdistan region, which according to Khadran “is not secure.”

A United Nations report last July estimated that “between 6,000 and 10,000” IS fighters remained across Iraq and Syria, “concentrated mostly in rural areas.”

According to Khadran, the group “no longer conducts military operations or seizes territory.”

Instead, he labeled IS attacks as “gangster operations,” noting that while there were security forces in the village at the time of the attack, there were not enough military forces.

Since the bloody attack on Albu Bali, nearly 200 army, police and Hashed forces have been stationed there, and surveillance cameras have been installed, said the police colonel.

Source: Times Of Israel

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Stampede outside stadium in Iraq’s Basra kills 2, injures dozens

19 January ,2023

A stampede outside a stadium in southern Iraq killed at least two people and injured dozens Thursday.

The deadly incident happened as spectators gathered to attend the final match in the first international soccer tournament held in the country in four decades.

The Iraqi News Agency said one person was killed and 60 people who were injured outside the Basra International Stadium some of whom are in critical condition.

A doctor at Basra General Hospital told The Associated Press that two people were killed and 38 were injured, some of whom have been discharged from the hospital.

Iraq’s Interior Ministry in a statement urged people who don’t have tickets for the final match to leave the stadium area. It said that the stadium is full and all gates have been closed.

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani urged people help authorities in order to “show the final match of 25th edition of the Gulf Cup in its most beautiful form.”

INA later reported that giant screens were placed in different public places in Basra so that people can watch the match.

The final match in the eight-nation Arabian Gulf Cup is scheduled to be held later Thursday between Iraq and Oman.

The tournament faced several incidents, including chaos inside the VIP section during which a Kuwaiti prince was not able to attend the opening match earlier this month.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Gilgit-Baltistan Protestors Demand Unification With India: Islam Khabar

19 January, 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], January 19 (ANI): The unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan has become a matter of concern for Pakistan as the protestors have been demanding to get united with India, according to Islam Khabar.

Pakistan’s mainstream news media has ignored such protests in Gilgit-Baltistan, it said.

All Pakistan provinces except Punjab have some time in the past stated that they wanted to get separated from Pakistan. None have, however, desired to go with India. Gilgit-Baltistan has now demanded to get united with India, the news portal said.

According to the Islam Khabar report, it can be detrimental to Pakistan’s narrative about the whole Kashmir dispute.

Though India has not responded to the developments officially, it is likely to cite these protests against Pakistan when the Kashmir dispute is discussed in global events, it said.

“India has maintained its claims on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as an integral part of India. Pakistan, on the other hand, wants the independence of Jammu and Kashmir, which is under India’s control by blaming India for human atrocities,” according to the Islam Khabar report.

The Indian government, social activists, and news media regularly highlight the issues in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir including the protests over military oppression, lack of basic rights, high inflation, unemployment, and unsustainable resource exploitation among others, the report said.

The Islamabad government may not have realised that such demands for unification may come up. Pakistan’s mainstream news media has ignored such protests in Gilgit- Baltistan.

Source: The Print

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Shehbaz government ‘U-turn’ on Toshakhana policy

Jan 20, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government told the Lahore high court Thursday that disclosing Toshakhana (state depository) gifts could cause “unnecessary media hype” and “potentially damage Pakistan’s interests in international relations”, months after accusing ex-PM Imran Khan of concealing such gifts and complaining to the election commission about it.

The reservations were expressed by the Shehbaz-led PML (N) coalition government in a report submitted before a single-judge bench of the HC as it heard a petition seeking to make the Toshakhana gift records public. The petition was filed by a private citizen, Munir Ahmad, last month. It contends that people have the right to such details about public functionaries in a democratic society.

Fawad Chaudhry, leader of Imran’s Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), expressed surprise at the court stance, pointing out that “a Toshakhana watch was the top agenda of the (Shehbaz) government until a few days ago and now it is finding an escape route due to fears of being exposed”.

The Toshakhana -- a state repository that preserves gifts received by public officeholders -- caught public attention after the poll watchdog started proceedings against Imran for allegedly hiding details of gifts he had received as PM.

In the HC Thursday, the government’s three-page response states: “The Prime Minister’s Office (dated 26-11-2015), declared that the information pertaining to Toshakhana gifts is classified as disclosure of such information can cause unnecessary media hype, which could be potentially damaging to the interests of Pakistan in the conduct of international relations.”

According to the response, PM Shehbaz’s office constituted an inter-ministerial committee to formulate a new Toshakhana policy based on international best practices and principles of transparency. In doing so, the PM’s office also wanted to maintain confidentiality of the information “as per existing SOPs till the new policy was formulated”, the reply states.

Source: Times Of India

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NAB tweaks do not ‘abridge’ fundamentals of Constitution, SC told

Nasir Iqbal

January 20, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The changes to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) have not “abridged” the fundamentals of the Constitution or eroded the “concept of public trust and accountability”, said Makhdoom Ali Khan, counsel representing the federal government in a petition against NAB amendments.

The counsel was arguing before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial that had taken up challenges to the Aug 2022 amendments to the NAB law by former prime minister Imran Khan.

Makhdoom Ali Khan emphasised that when the parliament legislates a law to be applied with retrospective effect then it also reserves the right to repeal the same law.

He added right from the Ehtesab (Amendment) Ordinance of 1998 to NAO of 1999, all of these laws have been applied with retrospective effect.

Citing a book authored by Islamic scholar Muhammad Hashim Kamali called “Islamic Jurisprudence”, the counsel argued that a concept of Islamic jurisprudence was emerging which described that what happens in parliament through debates was a kind of ‘Ijma’ (consensus) and ‘Ijtihad’ (independent reasoning by an expert).

Justice Mansoor asks whether a law should be examined on basis of ‘constitutionality’ or ‘morality’

He added the scholar also emphasised that one should never read Islamic concepts narrowly when interpreting things, especially when no specific command was available in Islam and the Holy Quran.

During the hearing, Justice Ijazul Ahsan wondered that when the Islamic laws prescribe capital punishment, could Pakistan, being an Islamic state, abolish the death penalty? The concept of accountability essentially has its roots in Islamic jurisprudence, he added.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, however, observed that what bothers him about the approach to judicial review was whether a judge should examine the validity of the law in light of its constitutionality and on the touchstone of the fundamental rights or on the basis of morality and religion, especially if the judge hails from a different faith.

If tomorrow, parliament decides to abolish capital punishment, will the changes to the law be retrospective, he wondered. If the NAB was repealed completely, could someone challenge its annulment before the courts, and could the court dub this act of parliament ‘unconstitutional’ citing the absence of accountability laws after its abolition?

The counsel argued that no constraint could be placed on the powers of parliament to repeal a law completely. He added that the removal of the death penalty through legislation would definitely apply with a retrospective effect.

Referring to Islamic jurisprudence, the counsel argued that the punishment of death was a custom of the time during the period of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). While citing eminent Islamic scholar Khalid Masood, the counsel emphasised that “capital punishment was a tribal customary law though not displaced during the Islamic period”.

But at the same time, Islam also sanctioned the concept of ‘Qisas’ and ‘Diyat’ so that a private settlement between the aggressor and victim parties could be reached, he added. But no court in Pakistan had ever struck down this concept by asking how one could “put a value on the life of a person who had been murdered”.

The ‘Qisas’ and ‘Diyat’ law is a “progressive” piece of legislation, the counsel contended, adding that there was no intention to end the “doctrine of public trustee” through these amendments.

Source: Dawn

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Swabi Marchers Vow To Stand United Against Terrorism In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Muqaddam Khan

January 20, 2023

SWABI: People from different walks of life thronged the venue of a mammoth peace march here on Thursday and pledged to stand united for fighting the fresh wave of terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The leaders of Awami National Party (ANP), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), National Democratic Movement (NDM) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) addressed the peace march.

They alleged that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) ruled the province for 10 years but it failed to counter the new wave of terrorism. They said that PTI leaders were responsible for increasing incidents of terrorism in the province.

The participants of the march chanted slogans of “we want peace” and “terrorism is unacceptable”. Such peace marches were already held in Swat, South Waziristan and Bajaur.

People poured in from different areas to reach Karnal Sher Khan Chowk and participate in the march. They were holding white flags and placards inscribed with different slogans. No political party was allowed to display its flag at the march.

Speakers blame PTI for current law and order situation in province

Swabi-Jehangira, Swabi-Mardan, Swabi-Topi and Swabi-Maneri roads remained closed to traffic for more than five hours. Political activists, social workers, traders and youth participated in the march in a large number and said that peace should be maintained at all costs as it was prerequisite for development and progress.

ANP provincial general secretary Sardar Hussain Babak, PPP provincial vice-president Liaquat Shabab, PTM head Manzoor Pashteen, JUI-F central vice-president Maulana Fazal Ali, JI’s Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, NDM provincial president Bushra Gohar and PML-N district general secretary Babar Saleem addressed the march.

They said that they were ready to play leading role in the present testing times. They said that PTI ruled the province for 10 years but its leaders were passing the buck to the federal government.

Manzoor said that Pakhtuns were targeted under a well-planned strategy to keep them backward. He said that there was lawlessness in the country as parliament had little authority. He added that Pakhtuns were not terrorists and they would fight together for peace.

Sardar Babak said that they believed in non-violence philosophy of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and inked peace agreements with militants but they violated the accords and started increasing their influence through brutal tactics.

He said that they remained steadfast against terrorism and tendered sacrifices. He said that their leaders and workers were targeted by terrorists.

Maulana Fazal Ali said that PTI during its rule failed miserably on all fronts. “PTI has destroyed all the institutions. It is responsible for economic instability and worsening law and order,” he added.

Senator Mushtaq said that it was the responsibility of the government to ensure protection of life and property of the people. “We call the killing of Pakhtuns state terrorism. He also flayed imprisonment of MNA Ali Wazir.

Liaquat Shabab also criticised PTI for the present situation in the province. He said that PTI failed to protect people from terrorism. “The people (militants) against whom we are fighting today are those, who kill our children in schools and target police and army. Benazir Bhutto, Bashir Bailour and other people, who sacrificed their lives, were fighting for peace,” he added.

Bushra Gohar said that the people of Waziristan taught them to fight for peace. She said that Pakhtuns were united and ready to render sacrifices for peace. “Our peace is linked with the policies of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. We are not ready to allow anyone to spill our blood anymore,” she added.

Source: Dawn

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Terrorist attack on police post leaves three dead in Khyber

Ibrahim Shinwari | Ghulam Mursalin Marwat

January 20, 2023

KHYBER/LAKKI MARWAT: Three persons including two policemen and a cook were killed when terrorists attacked a checkpost in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber tribal district on Thursday evening.

Khyber DPO Mohammad Imran told journalists that terrorists conducted a three-pronged coordinated attack at Takhtabeg checkpost on the main Peshawar-Torkham Highway at around 7:30pm.

He said that the attackers, including a suicide bomber, initially hurled hand grenades at the police post alongside resorting to indiscriminate firing which resulted in the killing of a policeman on the spot while critically injuring two others including a cook.

“One of the injured policeman succumbed to his injuries while being shifted to hospital while the cook died at Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar later,” said the DPO. The two martyred policemen included Younas Khan and Manzoor Shah while the cook was identified as Rafiq, all hailing from Jamrud.

He said that police courageously intercepted the suicide bomber at the entry point of the checkpost as he was trying to enter and blew himself inside the checkpost.

He was killed when his explosive-laden jacket was blown up with police firing.

“No policemen was either killed or injured in the suicide explosion,” said the DPO. He added that police collected body parts of the suicide bomber for forensic investigation.

He said that a part of the checkpost was also damaged due to explosion of suicide jacket and grenade attack. He said that an extensive search operation was immediately launched in the surrounding localities jointly by police and counter-terrorism department personnel to trace and arrest the attackers, who managed to escape.

Nobody claimed responsibility of the attack till filing of the report while police officials said that they recently received threats from militant groups and were on high alert.

Sources told Dawn that the attack was carried out at a time when there was rush on the main road. They said that traffic was immediately suspended while the motorists and passersby ran for cover in the surrounding localities. No civilian was, however, affected in the attack.

In Lakki Marwat, a search operation was launched after a clash between police and terrorists in a forest along the Kurrum River in Ihsanpur area on Thursday.

Officials said that the clash took place when a large police contingent raided the hideout of terrorists in the dense forest locally called Darga.

“Terrorists fired at police with automatic weapons. They also used rocket launchers and other heavy weapons,” they said. They added that the forest spreading over a vast area along the river was used by the terrorists as safe haven.

Ihsanpur area is located on plain and saline lands between Gambila and Kurrum rivers. A bridge over the Gambila River links the area with Lakki Marwat city.

The trans-Kurrum river locality known as Kurrum Par area borders Karak and Mianwali districts where several terrorist attacks on police force had taken place in the recent months. Six policemen had embraced martyrdom when terrorists attacked them in the Kurrm Par area two months ago.

Officials said that policemen were dispatched to the area on credible information about the presence of terrorists in in the forest. They said that a police van was damaged in the attack by terrorists. “Policemen equipped with modern and heavy weapons also took positions and returned the fire bravely,” they added.

They said that the policemen engaged the terrorists until an additional contingent reached there to assist them. They said that security forces and commandos of Quick Response Force (QRF) also reached Ihsanpur area and took part in the operation against terrorists.

Source: Dawn

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Ali Zaidi, around 200 party men booked on terror, rioting charges

Imtiaz Ali

January 20, 2023

KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Ali Zaidi along with 150-200 party workers and supporters was booked on the charges of terrorism, rioting, attempt to murder, stealing laptops, criminal intimidation etc at the SITE-A police station on Thursday.

The complainant, Kashif Mobin, the district manager of Peoples Service Centre functioning at the Keamari deputy commissioner’s office, stated in the FIR that the suspects carried out an “armed attack” on the Keamari DC/DRO office while the process of recounting of votes and consolidation of results of the [Jan 15] LG polls was under way.

He said he was present at his office for public dealing when at around 5pm the PTI workers led by Ali Zaidi, Bilal Ghaffar, Attaullah, Saeed Afridi, Shabbir Qureshi, Haider Khalil, Hazrat Khalil, Ismail Khalil, Burhan, Tariq Khan, Meraj, Koman Khan, Qadir Pathan, Idris Afridi, Fayaz Yusufzai, Chaudhry Zubair, Qaiser Awan and Dawa Khan carried out the attack.

According to the FIR, the suspects started beating up the people present there and also opened fire with the intention of murder. Ghafoor Khan, Hayat Panchhi and Lal Khan were wounded, he added.

The PTI workers pelted the offices with heavy stones and while forcibly entering the offices, they damaged furniture, doors, windows and other goods. They also took away laptops and other stuff from the DC office. They escaped after ransacking the DC office, claimed the complainant.

The FIR has been registered under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 324 (attempt to commit qatl-i-amd), 506-B (punishment for criminal intimidation), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 380 (theft in dwelling house, etc), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) and 7-ATA (anti-terrorism act of 1997). SITE-A SHO Zulfiqar Ali Bajwa told Dawn that so far, no one had been arrested.

FIR against JI workers

Separately, a female returning officer (RO) on Thursday got an FIR registered against Jamaat-i-Islami workers and supporters for allegedly attacking her car and injuring the driver at the Federal Urdu University on Wednesday.

The RO, Shahana Rizwan, was posted at Safoora TMC, Federal Urdu University, Block-9, Gulshan-i-Iqbal. She claimed that during the recounting of votes, representatives of PPP, JI and PTI were present at the camp office. A large number of JI activists chanting slogans tried to enter the camp office by constantly hitting the gate with sticks which caused a delay in the recounting process, which could be completed at about 9pm. When the PPP candidate was declared winner, the JI workers got enraged as they wanted result of their own wishes, according to contents of FIR.

The complainant said that when she came out from the camp office at 9:40pm, around 300-400 workers of the JI armed with sticks and stones attacked her. However, SHO Aziz Bhatti and other law enforcers helped her to reach her car. The JI workers attacked her car with sticks and stones, resultantly her vehicle sustained substantive damages and her driver was also injured.

SHO Aziz Bhatti and other law enforcers helped her to go outside.

The complainant has nominated 14 workers of the JI namely Ateeq, Faizan, Afzal Dalmia, Jehangir, Tariq, Kashif, Junaid, Huzaifa, Bilal, Kamran, Qutub, Noman, Salman and Manan and other unknown.

The complainant RO said the JI workers attacked her with sticks and ballot boxes with intention to kill her, injured her driver, damaged her car, created hindrances in performance of her official duty, blocked road while resorting to stones and threatened her of dire consequences, therefore, she wanted legal proceedings against the nominated suspects and others.

Source: Dawn

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Two policemen martyred in suicide attack on Jamrud checkpost

January 20, 2023

PESHAWAR: At least two police officials were martyred and three others injured when armed militants, including a suspected suicide bomber, attacked a security check post in Jamrud area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Khyber district, police officials said on Thursday.

According to District Police Officer (DPO) Imran Khan, the terrorist activity took place at the Takhta Baig checkpost in the district’s Jamrud area during which the attackers also used hand grenades and also opened gunfire.

He said that a large contingent of police reached the area as soon as information about the incident was received. Imran said that the police killed the attackers and cordoned off the area.

He further said that there were conflicting reports about the attack as the operation against the terrorists was ongoing, adding that further details would be shared with the media soon.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Pakistan urges Iran to investigate attack that killed four soldiers

January 19, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, spokesperson of the Foreign Office, called on Iran to investigate a recent attack in the Panjgur district of Balochistan that killed four Pakistan Army soldiers and bring the perpetrators to justice.

In a weekly news briefing in Islamabad, Baloch said the terrorists had used the neighbouring nation’s soil to target a convoy of security forces patrolling in the remote district along the border, and emphasised that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for cross-border attacks in Iran.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, and the Iranian embassy in Islamabad tweeted that Tehran “strongly condemns (the) terrorist attack.” “Terrorism is the common pain of Iran and Pakistan. Both sides are victims of the ominous phenomenon,” the embassy added.

The spokesperson also noted that communication channels with Iran are active and that Pakistan has shared its concerns regarding the attack with Tehran.

Following the attack, the prime minister had also called on Iran not to allow its territory to be used for “cross-border attacks.”

“I strongly condemn the killing of our four security officials in a terrorist incident along the Pakistan-Iran border in Balochistan,” Shehbaz Sharif said in a tweet. “Nation pays homage to the sacrifices of their martyred soldiers in line of duty. We expect Iran will ensure that its soil is not used for cross-border attacks.”

Source: Pakistan Today

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North London man charged with ‘Islamist terrorism’ offences in Met Police operation

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

A man from north London been charged with six terror offences following an investigation relating to Islamist terrorism, the Metropolitan Police said.

Abdiwahid Abdulkadir Mohamed, 31, was arrested and charged on Wednesday with six counts of “possessing documents likely to be useful for committing or preparing an act of terrorism”, after an investigation by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.

A Scotland Yard statement said on Thursday: “He is in custody, and is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

“Mohamed was arrested on Wednesday, January 18 as part of a proactive operation by counter terrorism officers.

Source: Standard

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NZ boxer Sonny Bill Williams performs Umrah, shares pics

Sakina Fatima

19th January 2023

Professional heavyweight boxer and former Rugby player from New Zealand, Sonny Bill Williams is the second famous Muslim convert to mark the religious trip to Makkah and Madinah this year after South Korean pop singer, YouTuber, Daud Kim.

Sonny performed his first Umrah of 2023 and shared several glimpses of pilgrimage on his Instagram handle.

Sharing several photos of himself in an ihram, the garments worn to perform Umrah by men from Makkah Sonny Bill Williams wrote, “Umrah 2023 To anyone that myself or my family have upset or may have wronged please forgive us 🤲🏽 love and blessings my friends ❤️🕋.”

In another post, Sonny also shared photos from Madinah and wrote, “A surreal feeling being at a Janazah in Madinah. Always puts this life into perspective. Forever grateful for each day. 🤲🏽❤️ Alhamdullilah.”

Umrah is a pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia. It can be undertaken at any time of the year, while Haj is an annual pilgrimage performed around Eid-Al-Adha.

More about Sonny Bill Williams

37-year-old Sonny Bill Williams, who is of Samoan and European descent, converted to Islam in 2009 after meeting a Tunisian Muslim family who lives with their five children in a small apartment in Toulon (southern France).

According to him, he was the guy who used to chase girls, drink wine, and indulge in luxury, which made him feel empty and empty in his heart. He said my message is about unity, love and peace – that’s what Islam is. His life conversion greatly affected many other people but mainly his mother and his teammate, leading them to convert to Islam.

He was a Christian before converting to Islam.

Sonny, who has now turned his attention to boxing, is never shy about his faith — his social media is full of Islamic threads and topics.

Sonny met his wife Alana for the first timd at a shop where she worked at in 2013. After a few chaperoned meetings, they had their nikah (wedding).

In August 2022, Sonny shared his delight with fans about his wife Alana’s decision to wear the headscarf.

“My wife’s a hijabi! Alhamdullilah my wife decided to put the head scarf on. One of the proudest moments of my life,” he wrote on Twitter.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Germany recognises IS crimes against Yazidis as genocide

January 19, 2023

BERLIN: German lawmakers today recognised as genocide crimes committed by Islamic State (IS) militants against minority Yazidis in Iraq in 2014.

The jihadist group killed thousands of Yazidis, enslaved 7,000 Yazidi women and girls and displaced most of the 550,000-strong community from their ancestral home in northern Iraq.

The Yazidis are an ancient religious minority in eastern Syria and northwest Iraq that IS viewed as supposed devil worshippers for their faith that combines Zoroastrian, Christian, Manichean, Jewish and Muslim beliefs.

“Three years ago, I met Yazidi women in northern Iraq: they were abducted, enslaved, raped. I cannot let go of their pain,” foreign minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted.

“The Bundestag has decided to name the IS crimes against the Yezidis for what they are: genocide,” she added.

The parliamentary resolution is expected to facilitate the further prosecution of IS perpetrators in Germany.

An offshoot of Al-Qaeda, IS seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014 before being ousted by US-backed counteroffensives, losing its last territorial redoubt in 2019.

Today’s move by lawmakers in the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) came after a German court in 2021 jailed a former IS militant for life for involvement in genocide and crimes against humanity against Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, including the murder of a five-year-old girl.

“We know that no parliamentary resolution in this world can undo their suffering,” Baerbock added.

“But I am deeply convinced that this decision makes a difference: a decisive step towards recognition of the suffering and towards justice for the survivors.”

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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EU assembly wants Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on terror list

January 19, 2023

BRUSSELS: The European Parliament on Thursday called for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to be put on the European Union’s terrorist list and insisted that sanctions targeting Tehran had to be expanded after the violent suppression of protests.

In a nonbinding resolution, the legislature mustered a large majority to call on the EU’s 27 member states for such punitive action to counter what it sees as a swift backsliding of human rights in Iran.

Beyond the call to put the organization on its terrorist blacklist, the European Parliament also wants the EU to ban any economic or financial activity that can linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The United States has already designated the corps as a “foreign terrorist organization,” and subjected it to unprecedented sanctions.

Iran warned on Thursday that the European Union would “shoot itself in the foot” if it designated the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity.

“We have repeatedly said the Revolutionary Guards are a formal and sovereign organization whose role is central for guaranteeing Iran’s security,” Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said during a phone call to the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell.

“Steps taken by the European Parliament to list the organization as terrorist are in a way a shot in the foot of Europe itself.”

The European Parliament action came before Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers where more sanctions against Tehran are expected to be approved.

Thursday’s resolution came after four months of anti-government protests in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was being held by the morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code.

The protests quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the theocracy and mark one of the biggest challenges it has faced in more than four decades.

Source: Arab News

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Türkiye takes helm of NATO’s Response Force Maritime Component for 1 year

Durmuş Genç, Sabri Kesen 


Türkiye has taken over the helm of NATO's Response Force Maritime Component from the UK for one year.

The command of the NATO component will be performed by the Turkish Maritime Force (TURMARFOR) until Jan. 31, 2024.

Rear Admiral Huseyin Tigli, head of TURMARFOR and the Turkish Surface Action Forces, said NATO has five headquarters with this capability and TURMARFOR’s headquarters is one of these five.

Tigli said it has a large headquarters that can plan and coordinate such a comprehensive operation and coordinate the command.

"Giving such a capable headquarters structure to NATO's service shows the importance Türkiye attaches to NATO,” he added.

Cuneyt Talayman, a Turkish Navy official and the secretary general of TURMARFOR, said NATO high readiness naval component commands were created to command its operations in case of crisis and war.

Noting that the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Türkiye already have these kinds of headquarters, Talayman said Germany is on its way to achieving it.

Possible missions were determined as collective defense, contributing to the protection of territorial integrity, peace support operations, embargo operations, the protection of critical infrastructure and security and pioneer force operations, he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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European Parliament calls for listing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorist entity



The European Parliament urged the European Union on Thursday to place Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on its terrorist list, according to the website of the Strasbourg-based legislative body.

In a nonbinding resolution, EU parliamentarians managed to get a large majority to urge the EU’s 27 member states to take such a punitive move.

The resolution said the Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for human dignity and the democratic aspirations of its own citizens as well as its support to Russia “necessitate further adjustments in the EU’s position towards Iran.”

“All those responsible for human rights violations should face EU sanctions, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps should be on the EU terrorist list,” the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) urged.

They also called on the EU and its member states to add the IRGC’s subsidiary forces, including the paramilitary Basij militia and the Quds Force, to the EU terrorist list.

Any country in which the IRGC deploys military, economic or informational operations should sever and outlaw ties with this organization, the resolution said.

The MEPs also urged the EU to expand its sanctions list to cover all individuals and entities responsible for human rights violations and their family members, including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri and all foundations linked to the IRCG.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament condemned "in the strongest terms the death sentences against and executions of peaceful protesters in Iran and called on the Iranian authorities to end the crackdown on their own citizens."

The MEPs urged the authorities of the Iranian regime "to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all protesters sentenced to death.”

They also “condemn the fact that criminal proceedings and the death penalty have been weaponized by the regime to stamp out dissent and to punish people for exercising their basic rights."

"Those responsible for the killing of hundreds of protesters must be brought to justice," they added.

The resolution also called for “the expansion of restrictive measures” against Iran as it continues to provide unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and plans to provide surface-to-surface missiles to Russia.

Finally, the MEPs expressed “deep concern over the structural transnational repression carried out by the authorities of the Islamic Republic, which includes espionage and assassinations, against the Iranian diaspora living in the EU.”

They called on the EU and the member states “to protect those affected more robustly against such repression.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Turkish military chief attends NATO meeting in Brussels

Diyar Guldogan  


Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Yasar Guler on Thursday attended NATO’s highest meeting of military officers in Brussels.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Guler held separate bilateral meetings with Gen. Christopher Cavoli, supreme allied commander Europe (SACEUR), UK Chief of Defence Staff Adm. Tony Radakin, and French military Chief of Staff Thierry Burkhard, the Turkish Armed Forces said on Twitter.

Starting on Wednesday, the two-day meeting of the NATO Military Committee in Chiefs of Defense Session (MCCS) gathered the allied military chiefs to discuss issues of strategic importance to the alliance, including Ukraine, NATO's military capacity, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR).

Source: Anadolu Agency

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South Asia


The Plight of Afghan Journalists Under the Taliban Regime

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 20, 2023

It is extremely difficult to report under the Taliban-run administration, with strict regulations restricting journalistic activities and media freedom, according to Afghan journalists.

It is hard to continue doing journalistic activities under Afghanistan’s de facto regime, because the Taliban do not allow journalists to cover security issues, such as explosion and suicide attacks, says local reporters.

Media workers can report what the de facto authorities want to be covered, and have to receive government approval before publishing reports.

Following the return of the Taliban to power in August 2021, they promised that media would be free and independent to operate across the country, however, a month later, a new set of rules were imposed that strictly monitor and censor the journalist and medial. The short-lived media freedom was gone after the initial weeks of the Taliban-rule government.

More than 200 violation cases have been recorded against journalists in Afghanistan in 2022, which include arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment, harassment, threats, and intimidation according to the United Nations.

Media freedom in Afghanistan has gone from bad to worse and journalists are suffering from low morale under the ruling regime. Many reporters have been arrested, persecuted and threatened with death for reporting sensitive issues which are not to the likes of Taliban authorities across the country. 

Taliban’s return had a devastating effect on the media which are struggling to survive. A considerable number of radio and TV stations as well as news agencies have closed their doors, with some estimates indicating that more than 6,000 journalists have lost their jobs.

Worst of all, female Afghan journalists suffer from double pressure for being a journalist and a woman. The latest restrictions imposed by the Taliban administration restricting women from attending university, working with government or non-governmental aid organizations, and appearing in public places have turned the situation extremely for female journalists.

Source: Khaama Press

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Pakistan Taliban Kill 3 Police Officers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 20, 2023

Local authorities have reported that militants attacked a police outpost using in northeastern Pakistan, killing three security personnel on Thursday evening.

The terror attack took place in the Khyber district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan late yesterday evening. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed the responsibility for the deadly attack, resulting in the death of three security force members.

Imran Khan, the district police chief told reporters that at least four heavily armed attackers, including a suicide bomber, stormed the premises in what he said was a “coordinated attack” and inflicted casualties.

khan said, “they opened fire and lobbed hand grenades at police officers before a suicide bomber blew himself up. The other perpetrators managed to escape the area afterward.

Terror incidents have rapidly increased throughout Pakistan over the past months, ending in the death of hundreds of security officials and civilians. The outlawed Taliban Pakistan has been mostly behind such brutal attacks.

TTP, the ideological twin of the Afghan Taliban has been waging deadly attacks in the country for more than 15 years to enforce what they call the “Islamic system” in Pakistan.

The TTP called off their unilateral months-long ceasefire with the government in November and intensified their attacks on military personnel, police officers, ISI officials, and local citizens. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the brutal attacks executed by the militant group.

The Afghan Taliban hosted the talks between the TTP and Pakistan government which did not last very long. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government accuses the de facto authorities of Afghanistan of providing sanctuaries to Pakistani Taliban in border areas between the two countries, and not fulfilling the promises of the Doha agreement signed between the Taliban and the United States. 

Source: Khaama Press

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Foreign Minister Muttaqi Meets AKDN Representative for Afghanistan

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 19, 2023

Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi met with Akbar Ali Pasnani Special Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Afghanistan on Thursday.

The two sides discussed stocks of topics during the meeting. The special representative of the AKDN expressed his deep condolences over the brutal terror attack which took place near the entrance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, resulting in the death of scores of servicemen and innocent civilians.

Pasani thanked the Islamic Emirate authorities for insuring security for non-governmental aid organizations, providing much-needed life-saving support to vulnerable families across the country during these difficult times.

Muttaqi asked the international aid organizations to enhance their coordination and interactions with the Afghan government across areas in the future as well.

AKDN has been functioning in most parts of Afghanistan with a wide range of services aimed at improving the living conditions of people in the rural and urban parts of the country.

AKDN began working in Afghanistan in 1996, distributing food aid during the civil war. Since 2002, the aid organization along with its partners has committed over $1 billion in development assistance to the country.

AKDN’s development work now spans the humanitarian, economic, social, and cultural fields. The economic projects cover over 240 cities and towns in the country’s 34 provinces. The organization’s social development and humanitarian works are focused on 61 districts in seven provinces, impacting over three million people. Its cultural programs, which operate in Kabul, Herat, Balkh and Badakhshan, have restored over 90 historic buildings.

AKDN works to strengthen Afghan institutions and the public sector, engaging communities and local leadership. In the private sector, it supports the Chamber of Commerce, business associations and entrepreneurs. Local civil society organizations are also strengthened as critical partners, for example, extending community savings programs to further districts.

Source: Khaama Press

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Second phase of Biswa Ijtema begins

Jan 20,2023

The second phase of Bishwa Ijtema, one of the largest Muslim congregations of the world, began on early Friday on the bank of the river Turag in Tongi, on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.

This phase of 56th edition of the Biswa Ijtema began with the ‘a’m bayan’ (general sermons) after Fazr prayers with the participation of a large number of devotees.

The second phase, attended by followers of Muhammad Saad Al Kandhalvi, would end on January 22 with akheri munajat. The first phase took place at the same venue from January 13-15, which Tablig group Zubair Hassan’s followers attended.

However, Maulana Saad is not attending this year’s Ijtema. The sermons were delivered by Pakistani Islamic scholar Maulana Mohammad Osman which were translated into Bangla by Maulana Zia bin Qasim.

Thousands of devotees from home and abroad thronged the banks of the Turag River to listen to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran and to renew their commitment to Islamic values.

Gazipur Metropolitan Police commissioner Molla Nazrul Islam said that the authorities took strict measures to maintain law and order during the second phase of Ijtema.

‘All the security measures we took for the first phase will also be available during the second phase. Members of special units, such as dog squads, bomb disposal units, helicopter patrol, and observation teams, will be on duty,’ Nazrul mentioned.

Saad would not be attending the Ijtema but his three sons, Yousuf, Sayeed and Ilias and son-in-law Hasan reached the venue on Thursday afternoon, said organising committee member Wasiful Islam.

‘For allegations of disorder and a lack of a permit, Saad could not attend Ijtema since 2019. However, his three sons will deliver a speech in the second phase this year,’ he said.

The authorities will restrict vehicular movements around the venue ahead of akheri munajat on Sunday.

To facilitate the attendees, the metro rail will run non-stop from Uttara North station to Agargaon station from 8:00am to 5:00pm on January 22 to ensure a smooth journey for passengers, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha reported.

The Tabligh Jamaat authorities split the Ijtema into two phases in 2011, dividing the participation of the 64 districts to reduce the pressure on the venue and to ensure better management and security.

But, due to a conflict between the followers of two factions over the nomination of the chief of the World Tabligh Jamaat in December 2018, the Ijtema has been held in two phases based on the following of the faction leaders.

Source: New Age BD

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Southeast Asia


Stronger relationships between Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey can promote world peace

January 20, 2023

JAKARTA – The recent visit of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to Indonesia to meet with his counterpart President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo of Indonesia was both important and strategic in three ways. They affirmed the obvious, that Indonesia and Malaysia do have a “special relationship”.

But more importantly they opened the way for other countries who are already a part of the ASEAN process, such as Turkey, all of whom can jointly pioneer new ways of finding solutions to global peace, notably the most-important current global peace issue, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has triggered Japan to double its defense spending between 2022-2027 for the first time since the end of World War II in 1945.

Should this dyad continue to become even more toxic than it already is, the whole Asia-Pacific would be on the most extreme alert. No amount of goodwill between Indonesia and Malaysia alone can show the way forward. Why? China, India, Russia, North Korea and the United States are all nuclear-weapons states with conflicting claims on what should be their roles in the world’s most-populous continent.

If anything, with each passing day, the animosity between Russia and Ukraine, not excluding Belarus, of which President Alexander Lukashenko is the leader and is on the side of President Vladimir Putin, has become extremely acute and lethal. This is precisely because Russia is a nuclear weapon state that has threatened on numerous occasions to use various munitions loaded with fissile materials.

When Malaysia and Indonesia are closer in their “special relationship”, as both nations speak almost the same language, it is a lesson for the pan-Slavic nations of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus that also understand each other linguistically up to 62  percent to stop the dehumanizing violence immediately.

The reach of Malaysia and Indonesia alone is not enough to cause the aggrieved parties to cease and desist from these mindless aggressions. Turkey, more specifically, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has to work with PM Anwar and President Jokowi to show Europe how one exits from a destructive conflict that can literally end human civilization if nuclear weapons are used. 

Thus, granted that Indonesia and Malaysia do have a good relationship with Turkey, of which the latter is a sectoral partner of ASEAN, more rather than less can be done to foster world peace. It is with this hope that all should embrace the arrival of 2023 not with “fear” lest the psychosis become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now, back to why the visit of Anwar to meet Jokowi is of critical importance.

First, not only is this the inaugural visit of Anwar to Indonesia as the 10th prime minister of Malaysia, it needs to be said that this is the last time all the key meetings involving ASEAN and the East Asian Summit will be held in Jakarta, before they are next organized in Nusantara, the new administrative capital of Indonesia in East Kalimantan, in 2033.

Whether there is a next decade or not depends on how Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey, the Muslim country closest to the conflict, can handle this conflict deftly in the service of humanity.

Second, the “veranda diplomacy” of Anwar and Jokowi at the Bogor Presidential Palace was a prelude and sign for Malaysia to send an ambassador as soon as possible. This is a good sign. The fact that Anwar has always considered Indonesia the most “loyal friend”, as is Erdogan, speaks highly of the respect that all these leaders deserve.

As a pan Asia-Pacific power, Indonesia is trying its level best to prevent the United States and China from coming to blows, both militarily and metaphorically. As a pivotal power, Turkey is trying to restrain Russia from any further self-aggrandizing actions. The fact that Turkey is not succeeding does not mean that Malaysia and Indonesia cannot enhance the peace process.

Third, the relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia has never been about any balance of power. Russia does outsize Ukraine several times over. Yet, this is the same situation as in Indonesia and Malaysia. If Indonesia has never made Malaysia feel any threat since the end of 1965 to this very day, it boggles the mind why Russia should be so insecure.

NATO is a collective defense organization. Article 5 of NATO says when one member state is attacked every member state must respond. Yet, NATO’s reaction to the sea change in global security since the seeming end of the Cold War in 1989 that has now proven to be false remains extremely restrained. This was the case albeit Russia’s claim of NATO’s unrestrained eastward expansion. 

Yet, it was only after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, that all 30 members of NATO all united in agreement they must increase their defense spending collectively.

Therefore, just because Ukraine was guided, perhaps misguided, into believing that it would be safer to become a member of NATO in the future does not warrant a frontal and almost immediate attack from Russia and Belarus, not forgetting the annexation of almost 20 percent of Ukraine in its eastern border with Russia, of which Ukrainian forces have clawed back some 8 percent. This does not preclude the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

To be sure, Indonesia and Malaysia have had maritime conflict for ages too. Neither side has chosen armed actions. If anything, the two have always seen it proper to form a regional concert of diplomacy, be it through ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defense Plus Meeting, or just as importantly, the East Asian Summit, indeed, to foster what is known as “open regionalism” in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

As for Indonesia, it was extremely wise of the government of President Jokowi to receive PM Anwar well. Sabah and Sarawak are now designated as “regions” not “states” of the Federation of Malaysia effective from January 2023.

With the onset of the new Unity Government, the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 is being redeemed and respected by the Anwar administration, which is why for the first time in the history of Malaysia, there is a deputy prime minister from Sarawak, namely Datuk Fadhilah Yusuf.

As the Lunar New Year and Ramadan are fast approaching, in the third week of January and March 2023 respectively, more acts of “forgiveness in international relations” are needed to crystalize them into an arch of open embrace. The whole Asia-Pacific should be adopting such an ethos and ethic as the highest level of statecraft.

Source: Asia News

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Indonesia to provide funding assistance to Islamic schools soon

January 20, 2023

The Religious Affairs Ministry will soon disburse the 2023 School Operational Assistance (BOS) to private Islamic schools (madrasas), with the total allocation pegged at Rp4 trillion.

“Some time ago, I had approved the disbursement (of the assistance),” director general of Islamic education at the ministry, M. Ali Ramdhani, informed here on Wednesday.

According to the procedures, the funds were to be disbursed by the Directorate General of Treasury of the Finance Ministry to the Directorate General of Islamic Education at the Religious Affairs Ministry’s BOS channeling bank account (RPL) on Wednesday, he said.

The ongoing disbursement is the first phase of madrasas’ BOS distribution, he added. The funds will be provided to 49,074 private madrasas.

Director of madrasa curriculum, facilities, institutions, and student affairs (KSKK) at the Religious Affairs Ministry, M. Isom Yusqi, informed that Rp1.7 trillion of the Rp4 trillion assistance will be handed to 24,034 private Islamic elementary schools (MIs).

Meanwhile, Rp1.4 trillion will be disbursed to 16,667 private Islamic junior high schools (MTs) and Rp801 billion to 8,373 private Islamic senior high schools (MA).

Starting from 2023, the Gradual BOS policy for madrasas will be implemented, he added.

The Gradual BOS will provide financial assistance of varying amounts based on the operational expense of each madrasa.

“With the Gradual BOS policy, it is hoped that madrasas can better meet their operational needs and improve the quality of education in the schools. Utilize the budget according to their designation and in an accountable manner,” Yusqi noted.

He said that the Religious Affairs Ministry has prepared the EDM ERKAM V.2 application, which can be used in the transfer process of the BOS.

“This year (in 2023), no new account will be created.

Source: Pak Observer

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PM Anwar launches new slogan for Malaysia, promises to be clean, help everyone

JAN 19, 2023

PUTRAJAYA - Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday launched a new slogan for his administration – called Malaysia Madani – which he said aims to bring the country forward.

The slogan followed those introduced by previous prime ministers, including Keluarga Malaysia (Malaysian Family) by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, 1Malaysia by Najib Razak, and Islam Hadhari (Civilisational Islam) by Tun Abdullah Badawi.

Datuk Seri Anwar said in a speech that the concept’s main core are accountability and transparency, and he promised to help every Malaysian regardless of ethnicity.

Behind him on the stage in Putrajaya where he spoke were the words “Membangun Malaysia MADANI” (Developing Malaysia MADANI). The word “madani” in Arabic carries the general meaning of civilised or modern.

The premier said that the word Madani is the Malay acronym for Sustainability, Care & Compassion, Respect, Innovation, Prosperity and Trust, The Star daily reported.

Mr Anwar, who assumed the premiership two months ago, said he wants to reset the country’s attitude towards race and religion, a mainstay of Malaysian politics.

“Our country’s pillar is still the Malay majority and with an emphasis on the principles of Islam, the Malay language, and Malay rights, but we are a multiracial country.

“We do not want this country to be developed in a way where certain groups of the people, whether it is a minority race or the poor or those in rural areas or in Sabah or Sarawak, are still left behind,” he said, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site.

The country’s long-standing Bumiputera policy, which aims to uplift the Malay majority and other indigenous races, is widely seen today as hobbling Malaysia’s development and causing the migration of talent.

PM Anwar leads a multiracial coalition and is aware that he must corral higher Malay-Muslim support, including from the Malay-majority civil service, to strengthen his leadership.

“We want to ensure that while the economy will grow robustly, the people will not be forsaken and that the government is accountable in its service to the country,” said Mr Anwar, who became prime minister after November’s general election.

He added that for the 33-million-strong country to grow and move forward, past weaknesses must not be repeated. “If we can rectify mistakes, we can save the country and bring her back to her former glory,” he said at the launching at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre. The event was attended by Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants.

The launch also saw the unveiling of PM Anwar’s book titled Developing A Madani Nation, The Star reported.

The book among others features his ideas from his political experience and knowledge gathered from four decades of reading that began from his days as a student to leading the Reformasi movement.

On the Madani concept, PM Anwar said the government is introducing something holistic that will ensure development goes hand in hand with the interests and well-being of the people.

He said the Madani concept would see to it that growth would prioritise the people’s needs – especially those of the poor – so that they could be freed from poverty.

On racial unity, he said the leadership would protect the people from racism and put a stop to attempts to use identity politics to split the people.

Source: Straits Times

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Study: Malay votes in GE15 not a monolith, but discourse dominated by anti-DAP sentiment

By Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam

20 Jan 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 — A research conducted by Iman Research said it found that the Malay community's voting patterns during the 15th general election were "the most diverse", and not as easy to pigeonhole.

The think tank pointed out that pre-election, there was a prevalent sentiment that "Malay rights were being eroded and that Islam is under threat by non-Muslims" — which led to the situation where numerous ethnic-based political parties were fighting over the same demographic, the Malays.

"This has led to the rise in ethnoreligious based campaigning where each political party tried to outdo the other. The Malay voting segment alone is estimated to be around 40 per cent of the total voters, a significant piece of the pie," it said in the report titled "Election Sentiments Analysis of Malaysia’s 15th General Election”.

Its research said that there were two factors at the top of the majority group's mind: their livelihoods and the position of Malays. This led to them utilising a two-tier process in choosing their representatives.

"First, as their livelihood is seen as connected to corruption, they want clean and non-corrupt leaders. Second, they are looking for leaders that will safeguard the position and ‘take care’ of the Malays,” it said.

The study also showed that as Malay-Muslim narratives became the central theme of the election, campaigning tended to focus on the community "taking care” of its own interests rather than any clash of ideologies. In this regard, PH was not seen as fulfilling this criterion.

"As the campaign from both Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) to portray Barisan Nasional/Umno as corrupt, naturally the Malay voters would lean into the coalition that fulfils the two criteria mentioned above — PN," it said.

Iman suggested there were three main points that were presented as threats to the Malay community prior to the election: the alleged threat of DAP, liberalism, and the polarising effect of PH chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who was despised by the conservatives.

It highlighted how its respondents in non-urban areas said they were worried about a "non-Muslim party" winning easily in urban areas, which was a reference to DAP.

"This fear of losing out to a non-Muslim party is seemingly obvious amongst Malay-Muslim respondents interviewed. Although, there are some Malay-Muslim respondents who dismissed the 'fear-mongering' tactics that a non-Muslim win of the election would bring detriments to the majority Malay-Muslim population, a tactic that is 'too often used by Malay-Muslim groups to sow hatred towards other Malaysians'," it related.

Iman Research focuses on the domains of protective security, peacebuilding and sustainable development, with experts in sectors of preventing and countering violent extremism, ethnoreligious issues, social policy and community resilience.

The think tank conducted the latest research through news reports and interviews nationwide prior to and during the GE15 campaigning period.

The last general election saw an unprecedented result as no political side managed to get a simple majority of 112 seats to form the federal government.

Source: Malay Mail

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Human rights activists urge move toward abolishing death penalty

20-01- 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: In June last year, Malaysia announced its intention to abolish the mandatory death penalty for non-violent offences and give the courts discretion in sentencing but the road to achieving this is long and winding albeit with an end in sight.

With the new coalition government, led by Pakatan Harapan which first put the moratorium on the death penalty in 2018, in place, work on the necessary amendments to existing legislation has continued. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) Ramkarpal Singh said in a statement on Jan 10 that they were re-examining and reviewing alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty before tabling the amendments in the Dewan Rakyat next month.

The first reading of the amendments abolishing the death penalty was on Oct 6, 2022. In the first reading, the amendments proposed imprisonment for natural life as a replacement for the mandatory death penalty. There have not been any announcements of changes so far.

“(The only difference is) either you are executed and you will die or you end up being in prison for the rest of your life. But it is a substantial change ... to do away with the death penalty and give discretion to the judges,” said Datuk Seri M Ramachelvam, chairman of Bar Council Malaysia’s Law Reform and Special Areas Committee.

Previously, the government had agreed to amend the related Acts to pave the way for the abolishment of the mandatory death sentence. At the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat in October last year, the amendments were presented via the following seven government Bills: the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2022, the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 2022, the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2022, the Kidnapping (Amendment) Bill 2022, the Firearms (Increased Penalties) (Amendment) Bill 2022, the Arms (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2022.

However, four days after the amendments were tabled, Parliament was dissolved to make way for the 15th general election.

Now that work on the abolishment of the mandatory death penalty has resumed, lawyers and human rights activists are urging the government to consider more penal reforms, such as adding more alternative sentences in place of the mandatory death sentence and clarifying the fate of the current death row inmates. They say Malaysia needs to join most of the world in having a more just system that not only deals with retribution but also allows for rehabilitation, reform and reintegration, in spite of the public which mostly supports capital punishment.

However, the focus in Malaysia has mostly been on retribution.

Abdul Rashid Ismail, former president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM), said the proposed amendments in their current iteration were not just.

“From my perspective, that (imprisonment for natural life) is a regressive type of penal sanction to be introduced in place of the death penalty. Simply for the simple reason that natural life does not accord with the principle that we want to rehabilitate or reform the individuals who have committed the wrong,” he said.

“We live in the year 2023. The concept of an eye for an eye is no longer relevant.”

Nevertheless, that attitude, recorded in public opinion surveys conducted in the past decade or so, is still very much prevalent in Malaysian society.


Poll after poll has found that most Malaysians are highly supportive of the death penalty. However, that support is complicated and not necessarily intransmutable.

A 2018 study by The Centre – a Kuala Lumpur-based centrist think tank – and a 2021 study by Associate Prof Dr Saralah Devi Mariamdaran Chethiyar and her team from Universiti Utara Malaysia found most people who support capital punishment considered it as a deterrent. Many also cited retribution for their support. Other factors that influence support for and against the death penalty are cost and rehabilitation.

Bernama talked to several members of the public whose responses ran the whole gamut – from those who wanted to execute and forget to those who favoured execution for only violent and heinous crimes to no death penalty.

“I prefer to maintain the death penalty. If confirmed they are convicted (committed the crime), then why should we be keeping them around? They don’t benefit society,” said Anis, a 34-year-old financial analyst who only wanted to be identified by her first name.

When asked about cases of drug mules who are mostly poor and uneducated – such as the 55-year-old single mother from Sabah with nine children who was sentenced to death in 2021 for drug smuggling – Anis told Bernama she was sorry to hear of cases like that but added poverty was not an excuse. She said the woman could have done something else to make a living.

Others thought differently, with a few thinking the moratorium on the death penalty meant Malaysia had actually abolished the death penalty.

Marketing executive Yap Swe Lian, 35, said he was against sentencing people to death, with rare exceptions.

“For me (drug mules should) get prison, regardless of whether they know or they don’t know. Because some of them, they’re poor so they just do it. So for this one, can give a lighter sentence like 10 or 20 years but must still be punished,” he said.

He added murder with the intention to kill others, such as the recent bomb attack in Pandan Indah here that killed a 29-year-old waiter, should receive the death penalty.

As for newly-minted engineer Ahmad Arif Abu Zaimah, 26, he was against the death penalty as it was absolute. As such, he said there should be more options in sentencing to allow for rehabilitation.

“It’s better than death. Other sentences should be allowed to give people a (second) chance. (They) can still bring good things to others. (They) can still contribute to society,” he said, especially after hearing about Chu Tak Fai, a British-Hong Kong national who served 27 years in prison in Malaysia for smuggling heroin.

Chu had been sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to natural life. While in prison, Chu converted to Islam and became a model prisoner. Bernama wrote about Chu’s journey in January 2021 after he received a pardon from the Sultan of Kedah a few months earlier. He has now returned to Hong Kong.

Abdul Rashid said not many people consider the rehabilitative aspect of the penal system or mitigating factors surrounding a case, which contribute to their support for the mandatory death penalty.

“Mandatory death penalty is an unfair punishment because you don’t take into account the personal circumstances of the individual. Take for example someone with mental health issues whose culpability may be in question. With the mandatory system, the court would not be able to take that into account,” he said.

He added educating the public on the nuances and various scenarios of capital cases would help the public understand the issue better.

Roger Hood in his 2013 Death Penalty Project on Malaysians’ attitudes regarding capital punishment found that when confronted with different scenarios, support for capital punishment halved. The 2018 study by The Centre found that the older you were and the more money you made, the less likely you were to support the death penalty.

Oddly enough, those with tertiary education were 45 percent more likely to support capital punishment. The Malays least support the death penalty while the Chinese are 16 percent more likely and Indians most likely at 18 percent.


There are other issues at play here. While the focus has mainly been on the abolishment of the mandatory death sentence, there has been little mention of what to do with the 1,327 inmates currently on death row, most of whom were convicted of drug offences, followed by murder.

Human rights activists are concerned that the amendments will not address them. Due to the moratorium, all have had their execution stayed but some or all may be at risk of being put to death once the amendments have passed.

Amnesty International Malaysia said there must be clarity in the law that the measures will be applied retroactively and all individuals on death row will have a chance to have their sentences reconsidered by the courts.

Its executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv told Bernama the government has not addressed the issue so far.

“This is very concerning because the proposals from October (2022) do not contain provisions to commute the death sentences of the more than 1,300 people on death row in light of the changes, essentially extending the ‘limbo’ they have been in for potentially several years now. It also brings back the prospect that they might face execution and that is just plain cruel,” she said in an email.

“It is an opportunity to give a second chance and for judges to weigh in individually on all cases for all factors that they could not consider due to the mandatory death penalty and this opportunity must not be missed.”

She added any alternative punishments introduced in place of the death penalty must be consistent with international human rights principles.

Ramachelvam agreed, saying at the end of the day, there needed to be a holistic reform of sentencing processes in the court system and judicial criminal justice system.

One way is to set up a Sentencing Council to lay down guidelines on sentencing depending on the offence.

Source: The Sun Daily

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North America


US ‘clear-eyed’ about threat Hezbollah poses to Lebanon: State Department

19 January ,2023

The Biden administration is “clear-eyed” about the threat Hezbollah poses to Lebanon and will continue to work to counter and combat the Iran-backed group’s influence in the crisis-struck country, a senior State Department official said Thursday.

Hezbollah, designated a terrorist organization by the US and several Gulf countries, continues to impose its will upon Lebanese politicians as they struggle to elect a new president and is the only group possessing weapons outside the state’s control.

Decades of corruption and clientelism have also played a key role in plunging Lebanon into what the World Bank has said is one of the worst economic crises globally since the mid-nineteenth century.

“As these crises compound, we are also clear-eyed about the threat Hezbollah continues to pose to Lebanon, the United States, and to the broader region,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ethan Goldrich said on Thursday.

Goldrich vowed that the US would continue to use a range of tools “at our disposal” to undercut the threat of Hezbollah. He pointed to US sanctions as recently as last Fall on individuals and entities for providing financial services to Hezbollah. Another batch of sanctions targeted a smuggling network that helped divert money from illicit Iranian oil to Hezbollah.

“Indeed, combating Hezbollah’s influence and shoring up Lebanon’s stability and security remain key objectives for this administration,” Goldrich said during a webinar with the American Task on Lebanon.

Government formation, World Bank deal

The State Department official hit back at claims that the US or foreign powers were the ones who would choose Lebanon’s next president.

Hezbollah has been adamant about electing pro-Syria Sleiman Frangieh and Parliament today failed to elect a president for the 11th time. Anti-Hezbollah lawmakers have been casting their ballots for Michel Moawad, the son of slain Lebanese President Rene Moawad.

On Thursday, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah said, “We want a president who does not submit to American threats.”

Goldrich said it was for the Lebanese parliament to determine the next president in accordance with the demands of the Lebanese people. “We, the US government, are not in the business of picking winners and losers,” he asserted.

But Goldrich said the next president needed to be capable of uniting the country and implementing critical economic reforms that take into account the interests of the Lebanese people.

The IMF and Lebanon signed a draft agreement last year that would see $3 billion for Beirut after several reforms were implemented. The previous government and the current caretaker government have yet to carry out their part of the deal.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US, UAE, Bahrain, Israel national security advisors meet on expanding normalization

19 January ,2023

The national security advisors of the US, UAE, Bahrain and Israel met today to discuss deepening regional integration as the Biden administration looks to increase the number of Arab states normalizing ties with Israel.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who is in Tel Aviv this week, and his Israeli counterpart took part in the meeting, which was virtually attended by Bahrain’s Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and the UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed.

Discussions touched on clean energy, emerging technology, regional security, and commercial relations, according to a joint statement from the four countries.

They reaffirmed their intention to further deepen and expand progress achieved since the signing of the Abraham Accords, the peace deal brokered by the Trump administration.

The meeting also focused on “promising new partnerships,” including the I2U2, which brings together the US, India, UAE and Israel to address the food security crisis.

The Negev Forum is another topic that was discussed during Thursday’s meeting.

Around 150 officials from the US, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates attended an American-led summit earlier this month, which the Biden administration created as it looks to continue the progress made by the Trump administration on peace efforts between Israel and its neighbors.

But Jordan and Palestine continue to abstain from attending, a decision the US is trying to reverse.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Harvard backtracks after denying fellowship to rights leader over his criticisms of Israel

Michael Gabriel Hernandez 



Harvard University's Kennedy School reversed course Thursday after initially denying a fellowship to Ken Roth, the man who led Human Rights Watch (HRW) for three decades.

The school's decision came after Dean Douglas Elmendorf initially blocked Roth from receiving an illustrious one-year fellowship at the school's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Roth led HRW since1993 before recently retiring and has been dubbed the "godfather" of human rights by The New York Times.

Roth had long been involved with the Carr Center, and the organization's executive director, Sushma Raman, contacted him soon after news of his exit from the rights group became public in April to extend an invitation to join the center.

Roth expressed interest in accepting, which prompted Raman to send the offer to Elmendorf, the Kennedy School dean, in what was supposed to be a formality, according to an in-depth article published in the Nation, a left-leaning bi-weekly magazine.

But two weeks after a video call with Roth, Elmendorf announced that he would not approve the fellowship. At issue for Elmendorf was HRW's "anti-Israel bias," Kathryn Sikkink, the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, told the Nation.

The disclosure prompted widespread backlash from several corners, including the school's faculty and academic freedom, rights and Palestine advocates.

Roth, who is Jewish and whose father fled Nazi Germany, lashed out against Elmendorf, saying, "he has no backbone whatsoever," indicating the decision was primarily driven by the school's pro-Israel donors.

Elmendorf denied in a letter to the Kennedy School community that his initial decision to block Roth's fellowship was motivated by donors but did not specify what was behind the decision other than to say that it "was based on my evaluation of his potential contributions to the School."

He acknowledged, however, that he had been in "error."

"I am sorry that the decision inadvertently cast doubt on the mission of the School and our commitment to open debate in ways I had not intended and do not believe to be true," he wrote.

"I have spoken now with a colleague at the Carr Center, and we will extend an offer to Mr. Roth to serve as a Fellow. I hope that our community will be able to benefit from his deep experience in a wide range of human rights issues," he added.

After being rebuffed by Elmendorf, Roth accepted an offer to become a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Perry World House.

Speaking to the MSNBC television network, Roth voiced appreciation for the decision but said "this is about a lot more than me."

"I am relatively privileged. I was able to shine an intense spotlight on this really misguided decision. But what about those many scholars, those many academics, the students, who rightfully fear that their future could be jeopardized if they criticize Israel?" he said.

"What I hope is that, beyond just reversing the decision on my fellowship, that the Kennedy School and Harvard University more broadly finds some way to reaffirm the principle of academic freedom to make clear that criticizing Israel is never grounds for penalizing scholars."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Turkish foreign minister hopes US extradites members of FETO terror group

Servet Günerigök  



Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that he "hopes" Washington will extradite members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) based in the US.

Speaking at an event to meet members of the Turkish American community and Ahiska Turks in Houston, Texas, Cavusoglu stressed that FETO members are "intensely" present in the city.

Stating that FETO's educational institutions were shut down in many countries and their members were handed over to Türkiye, Cavusoglu said: "I hope the United States will also extradite" them.

The minister said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been carrying out investigations in connection with FETO's activities in several US states and added that officials with the US investigative bureau traveled to Ankara and provided their counterparts with information about their work.

"The FBI told us that they saw the dark side of the FETO terrorist organization and that they resorted to all kinds of methods, including human smuggling, irregularities in visas, money laundering," said Cavusoglu.

"I hope the entire US will see what FETO is at the end of these investigations," he added.

FETO orchestrated the July 15, 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye in which 251 people were killed and 2,734 injured.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US sees Türkiye 'as a reliable ally,' says White House

Servet Günerigök  



The US sees Türkiye as "a reliable ally," the White House said Wednesday, as the two nations’ top diplomats met in Washington, D.C.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre made the remarks in response to a question about Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids. A reporter asked if President Joe Biden considers Türkiye "a reliable NATO ally," citing "an impasse" over the accession of the Nordic nations to the military alliance.

"We do see Turkey as a reliable ally," Jean-Pierre responded.

The Biden administration also hailed US relations with Türkiye, with State Department spokesman Ned Price saying, “We have a very constructive relationship with Turkey.”

"We are grateful for the role that Turkey has played in helping to address many of the most pressing challenges of our time," said Price.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as part of the Türkiye-US Strategic Mechanism.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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