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Islamic World News ( 26 May 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Penang Deputy CM’s Apology Issued for Calling Zakir Naik 'Satan' Was Meant for the Public, Not the Preacher, High Court Hears

New Age Islam News Bureau

26 May 2023

 

 Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy. -filepic

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Southeast Asia

In a changed Indonesia, some fear a ‘backlash’ against freedoms

Malaysia remains largest Islamic banking market in Asia-Pacific

Anwar: ‘Allah’ issue should be discussed behind closed doors to avoid confusion

Ahmad Maslan tells off critics who labelled him as 'Kafir'

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Africa

Africa must not become ‘geostrategic battleground’ warns AU

Traditionalists seek equal recognition with Christians, Muslims

AbdellahTaïa is Morocco’s first openly gay writer – his work reimagines being Muslim, queer and African

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India

Three Islamic Countries, Indonesia, UAE, and Bangladesh, Attended India-Hosted G20 Meet in Jammu and Kashmir

"Land Jihad" Won't Be Allowed In State, Says Uttarakhand Chief Minister

Calligraphy Works Based On the Verses in the Quran on Display at Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad

Fresh letter from education ministry fuels ‘minority’ fear in Aligarh Muslim University

Delhi HC Orders Muslim Man Accused of Forced Religious Conversion of Woman to Remove Social Media Posts about Her within 48 Hours

Mob beats up Muslim man, kin in Telangana; video goes viral

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia ‘Committed To Opening Embassy in Colombia’: Saudi FM

Border guards thwart drug smuggling attempt in Jazan

Wireless laser optics brings hope to expand high-speed connectivity in Saudi Arabia

Saudi health minister meets with Iranian, Syrian counterparts in Geneva

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North America

Muslim civil rights group demands hate-crime probe into call to Charlotte mosque

AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Qatar Islamic Insurance Group Q.P.S.C.

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Mideast

Iranian Dictatorship Slams Taliban Claiming IEA Regime Is Un-Islamic

European Muslim Forum endorses Erdogan in Turkish presidential election

UAE condemns storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police

Mosque in Germany gets letter with neo-Nazi threats

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South Asia

Activists, Journalists and Academics Continue To Be Targeted In Afghanistan

Heavy Rains, Flash Floods Kill 13 People in Afghanistan

Pakistan Releases 60 Afghan Prisoners from Sindh Central Jail

Mutual Interactions of Countries with IEA Menas Recognition, Muttaqi Says

US Seeking to Destabilize Region Using Terrorists in Afghanistan: Russia

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Pakistan

Civilians’ Trial by Military Illegal in Peacetime: Imran

Conference on ‘Islamic Capital Markets’ on Monday

SC begins hearing pleas against constitution of panel probing audio leaks

Pakistan has not joined ‘China bloc’: FO

PPP to back bid to ban PTI, Bilawal tells PM

Nation will never forget sacrifices of martyrs: President

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Europe

Islamic Centre of England Run as Iran Regime’s UK Office Shut Down

Muslim activists disrupt The Kerala Story screening in Birmingham

Suspect in linked series of east London Mosque thefts arrested

‘We Want To Participate In the Thriving Change in Saudi Arabia,’ Czech Republic FM

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/penang-apology-zakir-naik-satan/d/129861

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 Penang Deputy CM’s Apology Issued for Calling Zakir Naik 'Satan' Was Meant for the Public, Not the Preacher, High Court Hears

 

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy. -filepic

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By Farah Solhi -

May 26, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: The public apology issued by Penang deputy chief minister P. Ramasamy in which he called preacher Dr Zakir Naik as "Satan" was actually directed to the public, and not the preacher.

This was clarified by Ramasamy when he was crossed examined by Zakir's lead counsel, DatukAkberdin Abdul Kader, in the High Court today.

He said this in the trial involving a lawsuit filed by Zakir against Ramasamy in 2019 over several of Ramasamy's statements.

Ramasamy further explained in his witness statement that the word "satan" was used as a metaphor.

However, he agreed with Akberdin's suggestion that he did not clarify to the public on how the word was used in his Facebook status on April 10, 2016.

He agreed with Akberdin's suggestion that the word "satan" is highly derogatory and it would terribly offend anybody, and that it might be deemed as a provocation.

However, he took the court by surprise when he revealed that the public apology issued on April 12, 2016 following his Facebook status was directed to the public.

He said the apology was issued following a case where a petrol bomb was thrown into his service centre between April 10 and 12.

"The apology was meant for the public. I didn't apologise to him, but I apologised for using the word 'satan' against him.

"I realised that I shouldn't have used the word against Zakir, so I apologise for using the word."

Ramasamy then irked Akberdin again when he refused to agree with the latter's suggestion that his answers defied any logic.

The politicians answers also led to the lawyer claiming that Ramasamy was being dishonest.

Ramasamy also told the court that he had no evidence to prove his allegation on Facebook that Zakir was banned from entering Canada and the United Kingdom.

Akberdin: He who asserts must prove. So I put it to you that this allegation of yours is unjustified because you don't have evidence.

Ramasamy: I don't have evidence, but that does not mean he was not banned from the United Kingdom and Canada.

He had also testified that Ramasamy did not even bother to listen to his talks and had interpreted what he said out of context.

The preacher, in October 2019, filed a lawsuit against Ramasamy over four of the politician's statements that were alleged to be defamatory against Zakir. The statements were issued between 2016 and 2019.

Zakir, in his suit, claimed that Ramasamy made the first defamatory statement via a Facebook post on April 10, 2015.

The second was in the form of an article titled "Is Malaysia harbouring alleged fugitive Zakir Naik?" which was published by an online news portal on Oct 1, 2017.

The third defamatory statement was made on Aug 11, 2019, through the article titled, "Naik should not question loyalty of Hindus in Malaysia", which was also carried by the online news portal.

Ramasamy was also alleged to have defamed Dr Zakir through a video interview on Aug 20, which was given to India-based media platform, India Today.

He then filed a second suit against Ramasamy, in December 2019, where he alleged the defendant's remarks about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had defamed him.

Zakir was represented by Akberdin, while Ramasamy was represented by lead counsel Datuk N. Mureli.

The trial before High Court Judge Hayatul Akmal Abdul Aziz continues on June 16.

Source: nst.com.my

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https://www.nst.com.my/news/crime-courts/2023/05/913615/ramasamys-apology-issued-calling-zakir-naik-satan-was-meant-public

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Somalia: New TV Series ‘Arday’ Draws Ire for ‘Violating’ Islamic Values

 

ABDISHUKRI HEYBE/ Novice Shukri Abdikadir now wants to pursue a career in acting after a starring role in Arday

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May 26, 2023

There has been a lot of public criticism and outcry about the television show Arday (student in Somali) – a number of civil society organisations have called for the immediate suspension of the show as soon as its episodes began airing on local TV stations in Mogadishu. They claim that it violates ethics, adversely affects the education system in Somalia, and that it is contrary to both Somali cultural values and Islamic values.

“We call for the immediate suspension of this film and Bile TV should apologise for its conduct,” said the statement from several civil society organisations and Islamic scholars, naming the television network that airs Arday.

As one of the first series produced and broadcast by a local television channel since the fall of the central government in 1991, it aimed to educate and entertain Somalis both within and outside Somalia.

However, civil society groups say the film is an ‘invasion from the outside’ designed to destroy the country’s education system. “Those behind it want to hurt Somali kids’ chances of getting what they’re looking for in life,” said the statement. The release of the TV series coincides with the period that schools are preparing for annual exams.

Source: theafricareport.com

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https://www.theafricareport.com/310663/somalia-new-tv-series-arday-draws-ire-over-claims-of-unethical-values/

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Moral Policing: Hindu Boy and Muslim Girl Harassed In Karnataka; Girl Files Police Complaint

 

The boy and girl belonging to different faiths were harassed for having a meal together at a restaurant in Chikkaballapura.

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May 26, 2023

Nagarjun

Dwarakanath

Moral policing has again reared its ugly head in Karnataka. A boy and a girl belonging to different faiths were harassed by a group for sharing a meal at a restaurant in Chikkaballapura. The incident, which took place on Wednesday, was caught on camera and the video is going viral.

A Hindu boy, whose identity remains undisclosed, was enjoying a meal with a Muslim girl, his classmate, when a group of Muslim youths entered the establishment. The interlopers started questioning the girl about her choice of companion.

The video shows the men rebuking the girl, asserting that it was inappropriate for her to be seen in public with someone from a different religious background.

While the video does not show it, the boy was allegedly roughed up by the self-styled vigilantes.

However, the girl refused to be cowed by the group and confronted them. She ripped into them for interfering in her personal life and defended her right to choose her own companions, regardless of their religious beliefs.

The incident prompted the girl to file a complaint at the nearest police station. Authorities have taken swift action and registered the FIR on Friday morning, launching an investigation into the matter.

The incident comes mere days after Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah vowed to put an end to moral policing in the state, and asked police officials to ensure that there is no discrimination on religious grounds. “No moral policing here on, we will put an end to thisâ€æ” he had said.

Source: indiatoday.in

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https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/hindu-boy-and-muslim-classmate-harassed-sharing-meal-karnataka-chikkaballapura-viral-video-2384596-2023-05-26

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ICRC, Al-Azhar University Discuss Commonalities between International Humanitarian Law and Islamic Sharia in Cairo Seminar

 

ICRC, Al-Azhar University Discuss Commonalities between International Humanitarian Law and Islamic Sharia

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25 MAY 2023

The seminar included lectures and discussions around the protection of civilians and the humane treatment of prisoners during armed conflicts from the perspectives of IHL and Islamic Sharia, with the aim of reinforcing universal acceptance of IHL and highlighting the humanitarian values and provisions of protection enshrined in Islamic jurisprudence.

“There are a lot of commonalities between IHL and Islamic Sharia when it comes to taking into consideration the welfare of human beings in all circumstances. Islamic law guarantees victims of armed conflict the right to protection, respect, and dignified humane treatment,” said Professor Mohamed Fekry Khedr, deputy head of Al-Azhar University’s girls branch, during the opening ceremony of the seminar.

Mr. OualidBech, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Egypt, emphasized the universality of IHL’s principles, which oblige protection of all people not taking part in the conflict, as well as limiting the means and methods of warfare. “The rules and laws of war undoubtedly have deeper historical roots. They are derived from elementary human values that transcend legal traditions, civilizations, and cultures,” Mr. Bech said.

The seminar was attended by 100 students and 35 professors and teachers from the faculty of Sharia and Law from several governorates across Egypt.

The seminar was an opportunity for the ICRC and Al-Azhar’s experts and students to exchange knowledge about the common principles between Islamic Sharia and IHL that aim to preserve human dignity in armed conflicts.

The seminar is part of the ICRC Egypt delegation’s ongoing cooperation with Al-Azhar. It is also part of the wider dialogue that the ICRC maintains with Islamic intellectuals and academics around the world to emphasize the common principles and values that apply to all humankind.

The ICRC is an impartial, neutral, and independent organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence. It is present in more than 90 countries around the world, including Egypt, where it has been working for over 100 years.

Source: icrc.org/

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https://www.icrc.org/en/document/icrc-al-azhar-university-discuss-commonalities-between-international-humanitarian-law-and

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Nearly 50 Percent Increase In Anti-Muslim Incidents in New Jersey, Report Finds

 

Muslim men pray at a mosque in Jersey City, New Jersey, on 7 December 2015 (AFP)

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25 May 2023

There was a 46 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents in the US state of New Jersey in 2022 compared to the previous year, a new report shows.

According to the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (Cair) new 52-page report, “Beyond the Courts”, the civil rights organisation received 152 complaints last year. In 2021, the number of complaints was 104.

The numbers do not account for every incident of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias in New Jersey, rather they reflect sample data that consists of reports by community members and greater trends overall, the report stated.

"While it is true that the tragic events of September 11, 2001, shot Muslims into the international spotlight overnight, structural anti-Muslim rhetoric and bigotry and the resulting violence have long preceded the events of 9/11."

One of the main objectives of the report was to correct the narrative and “dangerous misinformation” campaigns “given the imploding anti-Muslim rhetoric that, ultimately, normalizes anti-Muslim bigotry and violence and makes way for anti-Muslim legislation”.

Nearly 22.4 percent of the complaints, the report found, were related to employment. About 18.4 percent were referrals, which constitute community reports for issues that fall outside of Cair-NJ’s scope, such as criminal law, immigration law, divorce and family law, and financial assistance.

According to the report, nearly 17.8 percent of the complaints were related to schools, which involved bullying, perceived bias, mistreatment, curriculum issues, and denial of religious accommodations.

“Discrimination cases are easier to pursue when the perpetrator is not of a minority group, but perpetrators of anti-Muslim bias in New Jersey are diverse. The public at large still needs proactive education on Islam.”

Hate incidents

Several incidents of anti-Muslim hate have been documented in the state over the past year.

In August 2022, a bulldozer was controversially displayed during an India Independence Day event in New Jersey, something critics say has become a symbol for Hindu nationalist politicians and a tool to intimidate the country's minority Muslim community.

“We urged officials and the public that just because they may not know what Hindutva is, or have never seen a bulldozer used as a hate symbol, this shouldn't mean they do not care,” the report said.

“What was supposed to be a celebration of independence from colonial rule was hijacked by hate.”

In January 2023, the inclusion of the bulldozer was deemed an act of bias, a joint investigation by the local county's prosecutor's office and police department found.

In 2022, a 14-year-old Muslim boy was playing basketball. A group of five high school boys started allegedly hurling racial epithets at him and told him to leave the basketball court. He refused and ignored them and then they started throwing balls and other objects at him.

Also that same year, a Muslim woman who worked at a bank in Hudson County, New Jersey, was allegedly called a “piece of shit” by her supervisor who was displeased that she would not drink alcohol during happy hours, the report stated.

Source: middleeasteye.net

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https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/nearly-50-percent-increase-anti-muslim-incidents-new-jersey-report-finds

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Southeast Asia

In a changed Indonesia, some fear a ‘backlash’ against freedoms

26 May 2023

Medan, Indonesia – On the morning of May 21, 1998, Indonesia’s then-leader Soeharto stood in the Presidential Palace and addressed the nation.

For weeks, protesters had filled the streets amid soaring prices of fuel, cooking oil and rice as a result of the Asian Financial Crisis.

The unrest had spread to cities across the country. Shops and businesses of the country’s ethnic Chinese were attacked and there were violent clashes between protesters – mainly students – and security forces. On May 12, four students had been shot dead during a demonstration at Trisakti University in Jakarta. In all, more than 1,000 people had been killed and there were reports of rapes of ethnic Chinese women.

After 30 years in power, the military strongman sometimes called the Smiling General, announced he was resigning with immediate effect.

Standing next to Soeharto was his vice president, BJ Habibie, who would take over the top job and allow Indonesians freedoms that had been denied during Soeharto’s decades in power – a time when activists disappeared and the military was deployed in the restive regions of Aceh and Papua.

The administration of the charismatic Soekarno, who led Indonesia to independence from the Dutch in 1945, became increasingly chaotic and in 1965, an abortive coup attempt led to the killing of millions of suspected Communists.

Amid the chaos, Soeharto’s emergence in 1968 was initially greeted with optimism. Many hoped his New Order administration would bring calm and prosperity.

But despite its early promise, the New Order modernisation eventually came to embody a highly-centralised government that focused on consolidating power, and an emboldened military designed to support Soeharto and his determination to stay in the presidential palace, whatever the cost.

Since his surprise resignation, Indonesia has embraced democracy, if imperfectly, and has had five different presidents chosen through free and independent elections.

The economy has also recovered from the 1998 crisis and is now the second-fastest growing in the G20, behind India and ahead of China. Indonesia hosted the group’s annual gathering in Bali last year as its current president, Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, also tried to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine.

There have been challenges, however, and concerns that legislation including the new Criminal Code and the Omnibus law – as well as the rise of hardline religious groups – could erode the hard-won freedoms of the past 25 years. There have also been accusations that some of the corruption, cronyism and nepotism that blighted the Soeharto years still runs rife across the country.

On the anniversary of one of Indonesia’s most significant historical moments and with the next presidential elections set to take place in February 2024, Al Jazeera asked activists, academics and human rights advocates how the country has changed in the 25 years since Soeharto’s dramatic fall from power.

Andreas Harsono, researcher at Human Rights Watch Indonesia

“We were not naive when we were trying to topple the Soeharto rule in the 1990s but we really did not anticipate that we would see the rise of Islamism and religious zealots in post-Soeharto Indonesia with Shariah-inspired discriminatory regulations against gender, sexuality, and religious minorities.

“There have been 45 anti-LGBT regulations and at least 64 mandatory hijab regulations, out of over 700 rules in post-Soeharto Indonesia. Obviously, the biggest one is the new Criminal Code.”

DamaiPakpahan, feminist activist

“Indonesia changed dramatically for at least the first five years post 1998. A lot of laws and policies changed that focused on women and the women’s agenda. We got the Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence in 2004 under former President Megawati Soekarnoputri and, in 2007, we got the Anti-Trafficking Law during the SusiloBambangYudhoyono presidency.

“We also had the Presidential Directive on Gender Mainstreaming in 2000 under President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur). We also changed the age for marriage from 16 for women and 18 for men to 19 years old for both women and men in 2019, after lobbying from feminist groups. Last year, we got the new Sexual Violence Eradication Law.

“Women’s interests are heard by the state now at a legal level. But we are also facing a backlash where women and girls are not able to freely choose what they want. The rise of conservative Islam has forced some women, girls and even babies to wear hijab. We also have a backlash in the form of discriminatory or unconstitutional local laws around Indonesia which mostly target women and minority rights.”

Yohanes Sulaiman, lecturer in international relations at UniversitasJenderalAchmadYani

“At the time, I was in Madison, Wisconsin in the United States. I remember more about when I found out about 9/11 but, if I’m not mistaken, I read about the fall of Soeharto online.

“Back in those days, when people had demonstrations or public protests, the cities were eerily quiet in Indonesia. Shops would close down and students were told to go home quickly and quietly. We feared the military a lot. They were basically the kings as they were in power.

“Nowadays, I think they are far less arrogant, more approachable and more respectful of the law. When I was a kid, I saw an officer who was stuck in a traffic jam. He simply got out of his car, slapped a traffic policeman and told him to get his car moving. I was flabbergasted. I think the status of Chinese has changed a lot too and to some degree for the better. I think people are less discriminatory nowadays, though of course except for the usual suspects.”

Ian Wilson, lecturer in politics and security studies at Murdoch University

“I was doing my PhD at Murdoch University in Perth and watched Soeharto’s resignation on TV on campus in excitement, but also in apprehension. We just saw this wave of people say ‘No, we’ve had enough’. It happened so quickly.

“There was no fundamental electoral democracy in Indonesia pre-1998 and we have seen big structural reform in that area which has been imperfect but important. More regional autonomy has meant that a new generation of Indonesians have grown up with a different set of political expectations about power. There is an expectation now that the government should be clean and serve the public good.

“While there has of course been some democratic backsliding, public support for electoral policy has remained high and people support public elections. This prevents the wishes of political parties to capture the system so they can control it. It is harder now for elites to push things forward. The next few years after the elections in 2024 will be fundamental for Indonesia.”

Source: aljazeera.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/26/in-a-changed-indonesia-some-fear-a-backlash-against-freedoms

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Malaysia remains largest Islamic banking market in Asia-Pacific

Monday, May 22, 2023

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Malaysia, with 62.7% of Asia-Pacific’s total Islamic banking assets, continues to be the largest Islamic banking market in the region; and is likely to maintain its position in the next two years, according to S&P Global Ratings.

As reported by the Malaysian national news agency Bernama, the rating agency said Islamic financing in Southeast Asia is expected to grow by 8% over the next two years, with Malaysia retaining its dominant market position.

“Islamic banks in core markets of Malaysia and Indonesia have healthy capitalisation and stable retail deposit bases,” it said in a report on the Asia-Pacific Islamic banking sector.

On growth drivers for the region, it said they include the proposed merger of Malaysia Building Society Bhd and Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd, which will create a full-service Islamic bank in Malaysia, as well as increasing digitalisation of banking services in the region.

S&P Global forecast that Malaysian Islamic banks’ share of Islamic financing in Southeast Asia will increase to 45% by 2026. It said profitability for Malaysian Islamic banks is expected to stay flat in 2023.

The rating firm also said Malaysia’s Islamic banks are leading the way on environmental, social and governance (ESG) practice./.

Source: en.vietnamplus.vn

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https://en.vietnamplus.vn/malaysia-remains-largest-islamic-banking-market-in-asiapacific/253434.vnp#:~:text=Malaysia%2C%20with%2062.7%25%20of%20Asia,according%20to%20S%26P%20Global%20Ratings.

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Anwar: ‘Allah’ issue should be discussed behind closed doors to avoid confusion

25-05- 2023

SHAH ALAM: The issue relating to the use of the word ‘Allah’ by the non-Muslims should not be discussed openly to the extent of causing confusion among Muslims, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said.

He also reiterated that the government’s decision to withdraw its appeal in the court case relating to the use of the word ‘Allah’ was made after seeking the views of the muftis and referring to the decrees of the Malay rulers.

He said the matter has been repeatedly explained, including in Parliament, before.

“Meaning that only the Muslims in Peninsular Malaysia can use the word ‘Allah’ to avoid confusion and problems with other religions. So, non-Muslims in the peninsula are not allowed (to use the word). But, for Sabah and Sarawak, there are some relaxations with restrictions (for non-Muslims to use it) so as not to cause confusion.

“The issue can be discussed and debated, but only behind closed doors. It should not be done openly and confuse the people. However, we are still being accused of betraying the people’s trust,” he said at the Muzakarah Ulama-Umara held in conjunction with the Selangor Turath Islami Festival here today. – Bernama

Source: thesundaily.my

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https://www.thesundaily.my/local/anwar-allah-issue-should-be-discussed-behind-closed-doors-to-avoid-confusion-MC11023825

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Ahmad Maslan tells off critics who labelled him as 'kafir'

May 24, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan has expressed his regret over remarks labelling him as "kafir" (infidel) following his statement urging Umno members to support DAP candidates in the upcoming state elections.

The Umno Supreme Council member described the actions of detractors as immature and shallow-minded, which should not occur in the first place.

"This is not a personal issue but instead a principle. You cannot just label someone as an infidel. Just because I urge (Umno members) to support DAP, such labelling was thrown against me.

"I am not pointing fingers at anyone, but it just portrays how shallow-minded they are. In fact, I would like to remind you that Pas was once 'comrades' with DAP, but we (Umno) had never labelled them as infidels.

"There is no connection to faith either, as we are working together as parties under the unity government, so we need to help each other."

Ahmad said this in response to a viral Facebook post that shows his face replaced with a picture of a pig and "kafir" written next to it.

The Pontianmember of parliament added that several police reports, including by Umno Youth, had been lodged over the social media posting.

"I believe that police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will investigate the matter.

"I don't want to point fingers but this must be stopped. We need harmony to ensure political stability."

It was reported that Ahmad had urged Umno voters in the six states facing state elections to vote for DAP candidates to strengthen the unity government.

Source: nst.com.my

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https://www.nst.com.my/news/politics/2023/05/912940/ahmad-maslan-tells-critics-who-labelled-him-kafir

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Africa

 

Africa must not become ‘geostrategic battleground’ warns AU

May 26, 2023

Africa must not become a “geostrategic battleground” for global powers, as it grapples with several threats to its own peace and security, African Union leaders warn.

The continent of 1.3 billion people has found itself at the centre of a tussle for influence among the major powers, which has redoubled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 15 months ago.

And just as the AU marked the anniversary of the creation of its forerunner, the Organisation of African Unity, on this day in 1963, Ukraine itself announced it wanted to boost ties with Africa.

“In this international context of confrontation of divergent political interests, the will of each side threatens to transform Africa into a geostrategic battleground, thereby creating a new Cold War,” AU Commission chair MoussaFakiMahamat said.

“In this zero-sum game, where the gains of others would translate into losses for Africa, we must resist all forms of instrumentalisation of our member states,” he added in an address at AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Moscow is seeking deeper political, economic and military ties in Africa as well as Asia as Russia becomes increasingly isolated on the international stage over the conflict in Ukraine.

‘Capacity for resilience’

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister DmytroKuleba, who is currently on a tour of Africa, on Wednesday urged certain African nations to end their “neutrality” over the war.

In February, 22 AU member states abstained or did not vote on a UN General Assembly resolution that called for Russia withdraw from Ukraine.

Two of them – Eritrea and Mali – voted against the resolution.

And in a statement to mark the pan-African body’s anniversary, Kuleba also announced a Ukrainian diplomatic push on the continent.

“We want to develop a new quality of partnership based on three mutual principles: mutual respect, mutual interests, and mutual benefits,” he said, announcing plans to establish new embassies in Africa and hold a Ukraine-Africa summit.

In this zero-sum game, where the gains of others would translate into losses for Africa, we must resist all forms of instrumentalisation of our member states.

Moscow itself has scheduled a Russia-Africa summit in July, following a trip to several African countries at the start of the year by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

China and the US have also despatched their foreign ministers to the continent in rival diplomatic offensives this year.

Beijing has funded major infrastructure development in Africa but denies Western charges it is practising “debt-trap diplomacy”, while Russia is a key arms exporter and is making forays through mining projects, analysts say.

‘Conflicts and terrorism persist’

Faki meanwhile also hailed the successes of the 54-nation AU which succeeded the OAU in 2002: “Independence and victory against apartheid, that of significant economic and scientific progress, sports, arts, the growing international role of Africa and so on.”

However, he also acknowledged “negative factors such as democratic decline through unconstitutional changes of government, with their litany of oppression and gagging of freedoms, insecurity, the spread of terrorism, violent extremism, the uncontrolled circulation of arms, the harmful effects of climate change”.

Despite the difficulties, Faki said, Africa remains “characterised by its greater capacity for resilience”, pointing for example to its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The current head of the African Union, Comoros President AzaliAssoumani also denounced “the unconstitutional changes of power” which have multiplied in Africa in recent years.

“Inter and intra-African conflicts but also terrorism persists and consequently the peace, security, democracy and development of our continent are threatened in several of our countries,” he said.

Assoumani spoke of the conflict between rival generals in Sudan which erupted in mid-April and has persisted despite several truce agreements.

“We must convince our brothers in Sudan to favour dialogue so that the fratricidal war raging in this country ends,” he added.

Source: theafricareport.com

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https://www.theafricareport.com/310874/africa-must-not-become-geostrategic-battleground-warns-au/

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Traditionalists seek equal recognition with Christians, Muslims

May 26, 2023

Traditional religion adherents have enjoined the government to accord them the same recognition given to Muslims and Christians. 

They made this known yesterday at a news conference held in Ibadan to herald the 2023 World Annual Ifa Festival. 

Those who spoke at the event included the Araba/OluIsese of Ibadanland, High Chief IfalareOdegbemiOdegbola; Araba/Oluwo of Oyo, High Chief FaleyeKusaanu; Araba of Oka Akoko in Ondo State, Chief AdewaleOso and JagunmoluAwoAgbaye, Dr. FayemiFatundeFakayode.

The traditional religion faithful said they were entitled to the things Muslims and Christians enjoyed. 

They noted that traditional religion had never waged war against any religion.

“We implore our monarchs to promote the traditional religion, which is the basis of their crowns.

“The World Annual Ifa Festival began two weeks ago with activities, including pilgrimage to our sacred shrines and grooves in Ekiti State. Activities in Ile-Ife will commence on June 1 and the grand finale will hold on June 3 at OkeItase, Ile-Ife, Osun State.

“The new year Ifa divination will be cast in the early hours of June 4, which is the first day in Yoruba calendar.”

Source: thenationonlineng.net

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https://thenationonlineng.net/traditionalists-seek-equal-recognition-with-christians-muslims/

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AbdellahTaïa is Morocco’s first openly gay writer – his work reimagines being Muslim, queer and African

AbdellahTaïa was born in 1973 in Rabat, Morocco. He currently lives in Paris. He is the first writer from north Africa – and in fact the Arab world – to openly declare that he is gay. In 2006, he came out in a highly publicised article in the Moroccan magazine Tel Quel. This was considered scandalous by conservative Muslims.

Being queer is often seen as conflicting with being religious. Yet, in African contexts – as in other parts of the world – religion and queerness intersect in multiple and productive ways.

Much of the academic study of religion and queerness in Africa has focused on Christianity. This runs the risk of reinforcing the idea of Islam as a more homophobic “other”. However, Islam can be a resource of queer creativity and subjectivity in contemporary Africa.

A small but growing body of literary works have represented what queerness means in African Muslim societies. Taia’s novels are a significant example of this.

We came together as a scholar of French and queer literature, and a scholar of religion and African studies to consider Taïa’s work alongside texts by queer Muslim writers from other parts of the continent. In our research we argue that doing so recognises the continent’s political, cultural and intellectual diversity.

We also tackle the problematic historical distinctions between north and sub-Saharan Africa, which are often imagined as different and diametrically opposed. In fact, they share many lived Muslim African experiences.

AbdellahTaïa’s work

Taïa has published numerous novels, often with a semi-autobiographical element. He also produced a film, Salvation Army, that details the complexity of being gay in Muslim societies of Morocco.

Although his work has received critical acclaim and awards internationally, this has not been the case in his home country.

His most notable novels that have been translated into English include Salvation Army (2009), An Arab Melancholia (2012) and Infidels (2016).

These all challenge the culture of discretion and silence on queer-related issues in north Africa and the broader Muslim world.

Taïa’s books have played a key role in building an archive of African queerness and have foregrounded the place of Islam in such gender and sexual identities.

Islam is not inherently homophobic

Taïa’s novels demonstrate that Muslim cultures and Islamic traditions are not inherently homophobic. This counters the common perception by Muslim conservatives that homosexuality is a sin. Rather, Muslim social spaces are portrayed as promoting physical closeness and contact between bodies – Muslim societies are linked to considerable levels of homosociality and tolerance for homoeroticism.

For Taïa, queer bodies can find intimacy, protection and acceptance in the ceremonial and mystical spaces created by Islamic practices of communal and private prayer.

In Infidels, he describes how the space of the hammam, or steam baths, is at once homosocial, intimate and erotic. During his first visit to a hammam, the narrator is surprised by how men showed off their virility. He sees men “in a new light: fragile, sensitive, handsome, and open to all experiences”. He says:

An infinite tenderness passed between their bodies, through their strongly scented, intoxicating skin. They brushed against each other, they touched. Pure sensuality.

Writers from sub-Saharan Africa have supported Taïa’s assertion of how Muslim cultures generally tolerate queerness. Novels like Fairytales for Lost Children by the Somali writer Diriye Osman, Confessions of a Gambler by Rayda Jacobs, as well as Jamil F. Khan’s Khamr: The Makings of a Waterslams highlight how queer sexuality is tolerated in Muslim communities in different African countries.

Reimagining Islam

Islam, like the other Abrahamic religions, can be intolerant of queerness. Different parts of the Quran are cited in admonishing homosexuality.

Taïa’s novels, like those from sub-Saharan Africa, show that it’s possible to rethink Islam to find within it freedom of being and expression. This is a restorative and liberatory process.

Reimagining Islam is rooted in specific local contexts and histories. However, when these disparate histories, texts and contexts are read together, they give a rich impression of how Islam tolerates queerness on the continent, both historically and to date.

Why this matters

Literary texts are crucial in illuminating the diverse ways queerness exists and is negotiated in Muslim contexts in Africa. What emerges from examining these novels is that practising Islamic ritual and faith does not necessarily have to conflict with queer African lived realities. Rather, Islam can affirm these marginalised ways of being.

Admittedly, some queer African Muslims experience considerable levels of religiously motivated queerphobia. This disparity, however, highlights the importance of creative and literary writing as a tool for representing, critiquing and reimagining religious realities and their impact on everyday lived experiences.

Literary texts do not simply reflect, but model the world. Therefore, they can be seen as forms of African Muslim queer worldmaking.

Source: theconversation.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://theconversation.com/abdellah-ta-a-is-moroccos-first-openly-gay-writer-his-work-reimagines-being-muslim-queer-and-african-205574

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India

 

Three Islamic Countries,Indonesia, UAE, And Bangladesh,  AttendedIndia-Hosted G20 Meet In Jammu And Kashmir

May 25, 2023

Sidhant Sibal

In a significant development for India's diplomatic ties, three Islamic countries — Indonesia, UAE, and Bangladesh — attended the G20 tourism meeting held in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir union territory.

This gathering marked the first international meeting in the union territory since the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories in August 2019.

Representing Bangladesh at the meeting was its High Commissioner Mustafizur Rahman, while the UAE sent two officials from its capital.

The presence of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country and a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as well as the G20, was particularly noteworthy. All three countries are members of OIC.

The development highlights the strengthening ties between India and these three nations, as evidenced by a series of high-level visits and engagements between them.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Indonesia's Bali last year to attend the G20 meet. Bangladesh and India have been emphasising the "golden phase" of ties, and the relationship with the UAE has grown leaps and bounds—from economy to food security.

The G20 Srinagar meet provided an opportunity for the participants to discuss and exchange ideas on tourism and related sectors. This engagement can contribute to the growth and development of the tourism industry in the region and facilitate the sharing of best practices among countries.

However, it is worth noting that some G20 member countries and invited guests decided not to attend the meeting.

Three G20 member countries—China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—and two guests who were invited by India —Egypt, and Oman—were among those who did not send their delegations. Though there were some unofficial representations from Saudi Arian and Egypt.

Pakistan in a statement welcomed this decision, reflecting the complex regional dynamics at play.

Source: wionews.com

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https://www.wionews.com/india-news/three-islamic-countries-attended-india-hosted-g20-meet-in-jammu-and-kashmir-596478

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"Land Jihad" Won't Be Allowed In State, Says Uttarakhand Chief Minister

May 26, 2023

Illegal encroachments in the name of "land jihad" will not be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere of Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said on Friday, amid an ongoing statewide drive to remove structures built without permission on government land.

Addressing a meeting of the Vishva Hindu Parishad's (VHP) KendriyaMargadarshak Mandal here, Dhami said, "Uttarakhand shares its borders with two countries (China and Nepal). A particular community had illegally encroached on land and raised structures in the border areas of the state, which are being removed as part of a drive." "Illegal encroachments in the name of land jihad will not be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere in Uttarakhand", Dhami said.

He said the state government has already appealed to encroachers to remove such structures on their own, or the administration will demolish them.

Last month, Dhami warned occupiers of illegally built Mazars (tombs) to remove those on their own and reiterated that his government would not allow "land jihad" in the state.

Under a conspiracy, thousands of shrines have been built illegally on public and forest land without permission, he said.

"Not a single illegally built religious structure will be allowed to remain standing in the state. All illegal structures will be completely demolished," Dhami said on Friday.

He said Uttarakhand will be the first state to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). "The committee constituted to prepare a draft of the UCC has done 90 percent of its job and will submit its report to the state government by June 30," he said.

The UCC will be implemented after being examined, he said, adding that it will apply to people of all religions and communities.

Uttarakhand's UCC will become a model for the entire country, Dhami said.

The VHP's central Margadarshak Mandal is holding a two-day meeting here to debate a range of issues, including conversion, land jihad, same-sex marriages, and live-in relationships.

Source: ndtv.com

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https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/land-jihad-wont-be-allowed-in-state-says-uttarakhand-chief-minister-pushkar-singh-dhami-4068485

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Calligraphy Works Based On the Verses in the Quranon Display at Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad

May 26, 2023

Neeraja Murthy

By Shamim Qureshi

Islamic calligraphy is worship for artist Shamim Qureshi who is exhibiting her Quranic calligraphy works at Hyderabad’s Salar Jung Museum. Titled Rabbana Quranic Calligraphy, the display at a gallery on the first floor of the Western block comprises 22 handcrafted pieces of ceramic and terracotta pots and vases, and mounted canvases, all with verses in calligraphy.

Mumbai-based Shamim was drawn to art since childhood. In the early 90s, when she did not get admission to JJ School of Arts, she learnt art from a craft teacher in Mumbai and taught herself calligraphy in ‘94. “I used to observe, learn and practise at home,” recalls Shamim. Having carved a niche in the field, the artiste’s speciality is designing Quranic verses on pots and vases. “I give design specifications to a kumhar (potter) and choose a verse or hymn from the Quran, which fits below the vase’s neck like an ornament and gives it an antique look.”

While she works in diverse mediums such as photography, painting, ceramics, and calligraphy, she pursues calligraphy with devotion. Shamim works from a studio at home and travels to participate in exhibitions. It was an exhibition based on the Quran in 2008 in Tehran, Iran which brought recognition to her works. “The team in the then Culture Ministry were surprised to know the work was a handcrafted one and done by a woman.” Shameem’s exhibits have travelled to Jeddah, Algeria and Belgium.

Unlike the calligraphy on paper or canvas, designing it on a pot or vase can be quite challenging. Creating five pieces at a time, Shamim does everything on her own — from clearing the rough edges of a pot to adding layers and filling colours for the design. She says, “Even when I explain the process, others are unable to visualise the images the way I do. Doing it on my own is challenging as it is a strain on my eyes and vision is affected, but I manage to do it as I get sukoon (peace) with every work.”

Shamim feels fortunate to display her works at the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. “Yahanpecheezonkoparakhnekikala logon meinhai; Bahut mazaaatahai jab log mujhe mere kaamkebaaremein vista se poochtehain (Here, people are discerning. I enjoy it when they ask about my work in detail, )” says Shamim.

Rabbana Quranic Calligraphy exhibition is on at Salar Jung Museum till May 31.

Source: thehindu.com

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https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/artist-shamim-qureshis-calligraphy-works-based-on-the-verses-in-the-Quran-on-display-at-salar-jung-museum-in-hyderabad/article66892138.ece

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Fresh letter from education ministry fuels ‘minority’ fear in Aligarh Muslim University

May 26, 2023

Successive letters from the education ministry to Aligarh Muslim University about a proposed review of the law that governs it has raised fears that the government might be looking to strip the institution of the special powers it enjoys because of its minority background.

Last November, the ministry wrote to AMU, Banaras Hindu University and Delhi University seeking their opinions on a proposal for a "review of pre-Independence University Acts".

DU is learnt to have consented to a review of the DU Act of 1922 while BHU has set up a committee to prepare its response to the suggested review of the BHU Act of 1915.

AMU had, last November itself, sent its response disagreeing with the idea of a review of the AMU Act of 1920.

But the ministry issued another letter this month seeking the university’s opinion again on the proposed review, setting alarm bells ringing. AMU has set up a committee to prepare a response.

Some AMU teachers and alumni expressed fear that the proposed review was meant to withdraw AMU’s special powers through the legislative route at a time the government has opposed the continuance of the university’s minority status in a case being heard in the Supreme Court.

In 2016, then social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot had demanded that AMU and the Jamia Millia Islamia be stripped of their minority status so they could be made to follow the government’s reservation policy in admissions.

In its reply to the ministry in November, AMU had underscored that the AMU Act had been amended from time to time according to the needs of the times. It had added that the institution’s minority character was pending before the courts, and the act contained no redundant provisions to be amended now.

"The government has not accepted AMU’s (initial) response and sent the same proposal again. It has not specified what provision is to be amended. The opacity is arousing suspicion that the minority character may be withdrawn," an AMU faculty member said.

Another faculty member, however, cautioned against any speculation and said the government might well be looking to review the law to add a few progressive provisions.

Mohammad Adeeb, an AMU alumnus, feared the BJP might be looking to create an issue over the university’s minority character that it can exploit during the 2024 general election to stoke communal passion.

“The (proposed) review of the law is part of the BJP’s political agenda,” he said.

An AMU official said the university provided up to 50 per cent reservation in undergraduate courses to students passing out of its constituent schools, and in postgraduate admissions to its own graduates.

Also, AMU has a significant say in the selection of its vice-chancellor, with its executive council and Court drawing up a shortlist from which the Visitor — the President of India — appoints one candidate. Other central universities’ VCs are short-listed by search panels set up by the education ministry.

AMU was born out of the Muhammadan Ango-Oriental College — set up in 1875 by philanthropist Syed Ahmed Khan, mainly to promote education among Muslims — through an act of Parliament in 1920.

After Independence, the AMU Act was amended to make religious teaching optional and remove the exclusive membership right for Muslims in the AMU Court.

In 1967, hearing a petition from Azeez Basha, the Supreme Court held that since AMU had been set up by an act of Parliament, it cannot be said to have been established by Muslims. It was, therefore, not a minority institution.

In 1981, the Indira Gandhi government brought in an amendment to restore the university’s minority status. But Allahabad High Court in2006 struck down the amendment. A challenge to the verdict is being heard in the apex court.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha in November 2016, then minister of state for human resource development, Mahendra Nath Pandey, had said: “AMU is not following the reservation policy ofthe government considering itself to be a ‘minority institution’. The minority status of AMU is sub judice before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.”

An email sent to higher education secretary Sanjay Murthy, seeking his comments on the fears expressed about the government planning to scrap AMU’s special privileges, is yet to evoke an answer.

Source: telegraphindia.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/fresh-letter-from-education-ministry-fuels-minority-fear-in-aligarh-muslim-university/cid/1939753

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Delhi HC Orders Muslim Man Accused of Forced Religious Conversion of Woman to Remove Social Media Posts about Her within 48 Hours

Sukriti Mishra

 MAY 26, 2023

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed a man named Azmat Ali Khan, accused of forced religious conversion of a woman, to take down all social media posts, including images and videos, that he made about her.

Justice Prathiba M Singh was hearing a petition filed by Khan asking for the removal of news articles and videos that had been posted online by the woman he had been romantically involved with for seven years who later claimed that he had tried to convert her to Islam.

Notably, on May 12, the single-judge bench directed several news channels and social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter to immediately block links to the video accusing Khan of forcibly converting a woman to Islam.

During the hearing, the complainant woman appeared in person and interacted with Justice Singh in her chambers. She stated that Khan has her phone and that he has posted some videos on social media (Instagram) which are not appropriate.

After the interaction with the complainant, Justice Singh said that she appears to be traumatised and asked Khan’s counsel to advise his client to remove all posts related to her.

“She has a number of allegations against your client. You will have to cooperate in the investigation. The issue is your client seems to have posted videos on Instagram and she has photographs (screenshots) to show that her phone is with your client…We have protected you regarding the videos posted against you. Twice over protection has to be given to the woman. Any videos or post that you have put up against her, not a single one should be there. You remove it within 48 hours. Tell your client to take it seriously. You can’t seek protection and not reciprocate it to the woman,” Justice Singh remarked orally.

To this, the counsel assured the court that the posts will be removed.

“As far as the allegations about Khan keeping the complainant woman’s phone are concerned, she can approach the Sessions Court for relief,” the HC said.

The matter will be taken up next on August 29.

Source: news18.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.news18.com/india/delhi-hc-orders-muslim-man-accused-of-forced-religious-conversion-of-woman-to-remove-social-media-posts-about-her-within-48-hours-7917853.html

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Mob beats up Muslim man, kin in Telangana; video goes viral

25th May 2023

HYDERABAD: A man belonging to a minority community was beaten up by a mob after he "abused and hit" a gas cylinder delivery person in Telangana'sMedak district, police said on Thursday.

A video, purportedly showing a mob assaulting the man, with his mother and pregnant sister trying to save him and requesting the group of people not to beat him, has gone viral on social media.

The issue was a result of an argument between the gas delivery person and the other man over returning an empty cylinder, police said.

A police official said, on May 7 the gas cylinder delivery person, who was in 'deeksha' (undertaken ahead of a pilgrimage) delivered an LPG cylinder at the residence of the victim and later asked him to return the empty cylinder but was told it would be done so two days later, An argument broke out between them over the matter following which the man allegedly abused the gas delivery man in filthy language and hit him with footwear.

Later, the gas cylinder delivery person informed about the incident to some people, who went to the man's house and dragged him out and started beating him up, even as his mother and pregnant sister tried to save him, police said adding police reached the spot and dispersed them.

Subsequently, the gas cylinder delivery person lodged a complaint with the police stating the man outraged his religious feelings.

Based on the complaint a case was registered against the man and he was arrested, police said.

Similarly, another case was booked against the mob and notices were issued to 11 of them including a councillor, police said.

Meanwhile, the arrested man's sister delivered a baby on May 14 but the child later passed away.

With some trying to link its death with the assault, police said it was not confirmed and added they will verify it.

Source: newindianexpress.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2023/may/25/mob-beats-up-muslim-man-kin-in-telangana-video-goes-viral-2578592.html

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Arab World

 

Saudi Arabia ‘Committed To Opening Embassy in Colombia’: Saudi FM

May 26, 2023

BOGOTA: Saudi Arabia is committed to opening an embassy in Colombia, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs told his South American counterpart at a recent meeting. 

Adel Al-Jubeir met with Colombia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Alvaro Leyva Duran during his ongoing visit to the country.

“We received the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Adel Al Jubeir,” Leyva said in a tweet, adding: “At the meeting, Minister Adel highlighted the commitment to open an Embassy in Colombia soon.”

The two ministers discussed Riyadh-Bogotá relations and ways to enhance them in all fields and exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Apart from his Cabinet position, Al-Jubeir is also the Kingdom’s envoy for climate affairs.

Relations between the two countries have been strengthening over recent years, including the establishment of diplomatic relations as announced through the UN on Sept. 8, 2011.

Source: arabnews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

The two countries also already have open trade links worth millions in both directions.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2310571/saudi-arabia

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Border guards thwart drug smuggling attempt in Jazan

May 25, 2023

JAZAN: Saudi Border Guard land patrols in Al-Dair governorate in the Jazan region thwarted an attempt to smuggle 77,700 pills.

The initial investigation was completed after the drugs were seized and handed to the relevant authorities.

The Saudi government has urged anyone with information related to suspected smuggling or trafficking operations to call the confidential hotline 911 in Makkah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Region, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom’s regions. They can also contact the General Directorate of Narcotics Control at 995 or through email: 995@gdnc.gov.sa.

Tips received by the authority related to smuggling crimes are treated with strict confidentiality.

Source: arabnews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2310336/saudi-arabia

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Wireless laser optics brings hope to expand high-speed connectivity in Saudi Arabia

May 25, 2023

THUWAL: Saudi Arabia could soon enjoy low-cost, high-speed internet wired into every device, thanks to the telecommunications experts at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Experts in telecommunications at KAUST and Taara at X, the moonshot factory, successfully tested a wireless “network-in-the-box” laser optics system in the Red Sea — a promising step toward cheap but fast full connectivity for the Kingdom.

A team of researchers led by KAUST’s Prof. Mohamed-Slim Alouini and doctoral candidate Fahad Al-Qurashi are testing the viability of a low-cost, laser-based technology, known as free space optics, as an alternative to fiber optics, which is costly, and radio frequency in the Kingdom.

FSO is a line-of-sight technology that uses light propagating in free space to wirelessly transmit video, voice and data at high speeds of tens of gigabits per second.

The system brings a tradeoff — the lasers deliver the desired high speeds at low cost, but they are exposed to the atmosphere, unlike fiber optics, which are protected by cables.

To address this challenge, the research team will install weather stations at FSO deployment sites to monitor and test the technology throughout the coming year. The equipment will assess how conditions such as temperature variations, wind speeds, and humidity might affect the system’s performance, factoring in variables such as duration, distance and outages. The data will be used to refine the system, with the eventual goal to deploy it broadly to other areas across the Kingdom.

KAUST and Taara successfully established a FSO high-speed connection at 20 Gbps between the KAUST shore and a small island 2 km away, marking the first time that Taara’s FSO has been deployed in the Kingdom for maritime communication.

Taara’s regional lead in Middle East and Africa, Bhavesh Mistry, said: “Taara’s mission is to expand global access to fast and reliable internet, and we are proud to be working with KAUST to deploy Taara’s technology in regions where fiber can be hard to deploy, to close the connectivity gap.”

Alouini said: “With 71 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, the rising presence of oceanic activities has highlighted the importance of dependable maritime communication technologies.

“In this regard, the utilization of FSO communications holds the potential to achieve remarkable data rates, paving the way for diverse innovative applications that rely on maritime communication.”

This wireless connectivity could bring life-changing benefits to unconnected rural areas and isolated maritime locations.

Source: arabnews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2310306/saudi-arabia

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Saudi health minister meets with Iranian, Syrian counterparts in Geneva

May 25, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Health Fahad Al-Jalajel met with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts in separate meetings in Geneva on Thursday.

During a meeting on the sidelines of the 76th World Health Assembly taking place this week, Al-Jalajel and Iran’s Health Minister Dr. BahramEynollahi discussed the health conditions in their countries and developing joint work in the health sector.

They agreed to form technical teams on both sides to discuss health cooperation, especially in the fields of public health, health research, and crowd medicine.

Al-Jalajel also met with his Syrian counterpart Dr. Hassan Al-Ghobash and they discussed aspects of cooperation between their countries in the health sector.

The Kingdom’s health minister welcomed Syria’s participation in the 59th session of the Council of Arab Ministers of Health, the first ministerial meeting after the Arab League summit in Jeddah during which the country was welcomed back to the league after a 12 year suspension.

The two ministers discussed health cooperation in the wake of the devastating Turkiye-Syria earthquake that claimed a number of lives, and strengthening joint work in the health sector which would preserve the health of Arab societies and contribute to the protection of lives.

Source: arabnews.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2310231/saudi-arabia

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North America

 

Muslim civil rights group demands hate-crime probe into call to Charlotte mosque

Joe Marusak

Fri, May 26, 2023

A national Muslim civil-rights group is demanding a hate-crime probe into what the Islamic Center of Charlotte this week called a direct threat to the mosque.

A caller Tuesday made a reference to 9/11 and “terrorists,” and could be heard saying in an audio recording of the call, “I’ll blow you harder than 9/11,” The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

The caller rambled on despite being told of the recording, but he was direct in his threat against the center, spokesman Jibril Hough said.

When the Observer called a phone number linked to the call, a man who answered said a 14-year-old family friend in his office “did something stupid” by calling the Islamic Center.

The man, who identified himself only as “Dave,” said the call to the center “was inappropriate” but that he didn’t believe the 14-year-old “made any type of threat.”

The man soon texted the Observer an apology related to what happened.

“I would like the center to know it was very inappropriate,” the man texted, “and that it will be made known to any parties involved it absolutely will never happen again.

Hough said that after the man texted the apology to the Observer, the mosque received a call from the same South Carolina phone number. This time, there was only silence on the other end, he said.

On Thursday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on state and federal law enforcement to investigate the call as a hate crime.

“If the caller has indeed apologized for his actions, that is a welcome first step,” CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchel said in a statement. “But this person must also face accountability for violating the law just like anyone else who threatens a house of worship.”

The group’s demand came the same day a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department spokesman said CMPD won’t pursue criminal charges in the case.

“CMPD detectives completed a thorough threat assessment after this call was received into 911,” spokesman Mike Allinger said in an email to the Observer. “The investigation concluded that the verbiage communicated during the call did not rise to a criminal level.”

Hough said CMPD’s conclusion “is more of the same,” when the mosque reports an apparent threat. “Makes you wonder what does rise to a criminal level, if this does not,” he said.

Hough said he intends to contact CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings, adding. “I would like to invite (CMPD leaders) to our community to discuss what does rise to a criminal level.”

Source: yahoo.com

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original

https://www.yahoo.com/news/muslim-civil-rights-group-demands-202559551.html

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AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Qatar Islamic Insurance Group Q.P.S.C.

May 25, 2023

LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AM Best has affirmed the Financial Strength Rating of A- (Excellent) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating of “a-” (Excellent) of Qatar Islamic Insurance Group Q.P.S.C. (QIIG) (Qatar). The outlook of these Credit Ratings (ratings) is stable.

The ratings reflect QIIG’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best assesses as very strong, as well as its strong operating performance, limited business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.

QIIG employs a hybrid takaful model, whereby the shareholders’ fund charges the policyholders’ fund (PHF) a Wakala fee based on gross written contributions (GWC) and a Mudarabah fee based on investment income. QIIG’s ability to accumulate surpluses within the PHF, whilst regularly distributing surplus back to policyholders, supports the sustainability of its takaful model.

QIIG’s balance sheet strength is underpinned by its risk-adjusted capitalisation, which was at the strongest level at year-end 2022, as measured by Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio (BCAR), and is expected to remain comfortably at this level over the medium term. Supporting the balance sheet strength assessment is QIIG’s consistent demonstration of internal capital generation. In 2022, the company reported capital and surplus of QAR 456.3 million (USD 126.1 million), growing 8.3% compared with 2021 (5.7% growth when including the PHF to QAR 701.2 million [USD 193.8 million]). While maintaining sufficient liquidity to support its insurance operations, QIIG’s investments portfolio continues to carry exposure to higher risk real estate assets and investments in associates, which accounted for 40% of its total investments as at year-end 2022, albeit reducing in recent years. QIIG is moderately dependent on reinsurance, as the group cedes a high proportion of its large commercial risks.

QIIG’s ability to generate strong operating returns is demonstrated by its five-year weighted average return-on-equity ratio of 13.8% (2018-2022). Profitability is driven mainly by QIIG’s strong and stable technical results, which have generated positive returns in each of the last 10 years. The company’s earnings have been moderately supported by investment income; however, investment yields have experienced some volatility in recent years driven by fair value losses arising on real estate and the impairment of investments in associates.

QIIG holds a niche position within its domestic insurance market, as an established provider of Sharia-compliant products. In 2022, QIIG reported a 9% increase in contributions compared with 2021, writing GWC of QAR 467.3 million (USD 129.1 million). Whilst the group looks to expand its geographical presence, operations remain concentrated in Qatar, where it maintains a strong reputation benefiting from its track record of distributing surpluses back to its policyholders.

Source: businesswire.com

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https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20230525005682/en

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Mideast

 

Iranian Dictatorship Slams Taliban Claiming IEA Regime Is Un-Islamic

26-05-23

As tensions over a water dispute simmer, Iran’s foreign minister says Tehran does not recognize the Taliban, calling for the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, part of a government deemed one of the harshest dictatorships in the world, stated that the Taliban is only part of the reality in Afghanistan not all of it.

In spite of Iran's oppression of women which has led to months of uprisings since September, when Mahsa Amini was killed in morality police custody for the wrong wearing of her hijab, the minister said: “We are unhappy with the ban on Afghan women and girls to study because this is against the teachings of the Prophet of Islam."

Iran had good relations with the Taliban before the tensions over the Islamic Republic’s water share from the HirmandRiver.

Due to Taliban damming to halt the flow of water from Afghanistan hundreds of thousands of civilians' lives have been badly affected in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan.

While Afghanistan says it needs dams to store water for agriculture or to produce electricity, which it imports from neighboring countries including Iran, many environmentalists are critical of large-scale water engineering projects.

“We have had negotiations with the Afghan authorities, and we believe that according to the 1351 treaty, the issue must be resolved through legal channels,” said Amir-Abdollahian.

Afghanistan’s embassy in Tehran was “formally” handed over to the Taliban after the fall of President Ashraf Ghani in 2021.

Iran was the third country after Pakistan and Russia that handed the Afghan embassy to the Taliban.

Source: iranintl.com

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https://www.iranintl.com/en/202305256538

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European Muslim Forum endorses Erdogan in Turkish presidential election

26/05/2023

The European Muslim Forum (EMF) declared its support for Türkiye’s incumbent president and presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference Thursday in Istanbul.

At the venue, which had a clear view of the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, officials of the forum called on the Turkish electorate to vote for Erdogan, who they say is not only the president of Türkiye, but also “the leader of the Ummah,” using the Islamic term referring to the global Muslim community.

“The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque is a symbol of the existence of Muslims in Europe,” the forum’s president, Abdul-VahedNiyazov, said at the press conference.

“The return of the Hagia Sophia mosque to Muslims is a symbol of future victories and accomplishments of the Turkish nation,” the EMF said previously in an official statement in praise of the Erdogan government’s move to revert Hagia Sophia, which originally served as a church and then as a museum, to a mosque.

Niyazov said that 170 million Muslims live in the European continent.

“That’s why the fate of Türkiye matters to us. That’s why we are now in front of the Hagia Sophia.”

He also said the EMF advises the Turkish electorate to vote for Erdogan.

“This way, you will support both the Ummah and our leader.”

Meanwhile, Lauren Booth, a British Muslim journalist, criticized the West for “looking down on Türkiye.”

“Why did someone like myself, a journalist who works in the mainstream (media), move here?” she rhetorically asked, explaining her decision to settle in Türkiye.

“It is interesting that immigration is such a big question in this election,” Booth, who is former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, said in criticism of anti-refugee stances in politics.

“On the one hand, Türkiye is hosting one of the poorest, some of the most vulnerable people in the world, the Syrian refugees,” she added.

“On the other hand, it is also the envy of the Muslim world and beyond.”

“As we look at this important election and what the West is trying to say about President Erdogan, we must take into consideration their standing in reality,” Booth added.

She also criticized the Western way of life, saying it is “in freefall.”

“The Western lifestyle that I come from is in freefall,” she said, adding that it is “a finished ideology.”

Booth also praised Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) Party.

“Türkiye and the leadership of the AK Party are both forward-looking and have traditional values,” she said.

“Nations that are failing do not have people wanting to come and live in them,” she added.

“They have people wanting to leave.”

The British journalist also claimed that the West is “making young Turkish people want to leave when they don’t know how good Türkiye is.”

Booth also praised Turkish people for “having such an amazing society.”

“And as your sister in Islam, I invite the Muslims of Türkiye to look around with your eyes and the eyes of your heart.”

“Are your streets clean? Do you have new bridges? Do you have good infrastructure? Are you growing or retracting? Think about this,” she said.

“May Allah reward President Erdogan for his forward thinking and determination.”

In the statement released prior to the event, the EMF also called on “their fellow Muslims from the Republic of Türkiye to vote for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is rightfully considered the leader of the modern global Ummah.”

“This Sunday, May 28, the Turkish people will make their final choice: who will be the leader of the nation and head of state in the coming years,” the statement also said, referring to the second round of the presidential elections.

In the first round, which was held on May 14, no candidate managed to garner enough votes to surpass the 50% threshold.

“The Muslims of Europe are convinced of the wisdom of the Turkish people and that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated, and the Turkish nation will continue its development as the vanguard of the global Ummah under the leadership of its current leader,” the EMF said in the statement.

Source: yenisafak.com

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https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/european-muslim-forum-endorses-erdogan-in-turkish-presidential-election-3664569

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UAE condemns storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police

Wed 05/4/2023

The UAE strongly condemned the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police, which resulted in the assault of worshipers and multiple arrests.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) reiterated its firm position on the need to provide full protection for Al-Aqsa Mosque and halt serious and provocative violations taking place there, and emphasized that worshipers should not barricade themselves inside the mosque and places of worship with weapons and explosives.

Furthermore, the UAE underscored the need to respect the custodial role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the holy sites in accordance with international law and the historical context at hand, and not to compromise the authority of the Jerusalem endowment that manages the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Moreover, the UAE called on Israeli authorities to halt escalation and avoid exacerbating tension and instability in the region affirming the UAE's rejection of all practices that violate resolutions on international legitimacy and threaten to further exacerbate escalation.

Moreover, the UAE stressed the need to support all regional and international efforts to advance the peace process in the Middle East, end illegal practices that threaten the two-state solution, and establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Source: mofaic.gov.ae

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https://www.mofaic.gov.ae/en/mediahub/news/2023/4/5/05-04-2023-uae-aqsa

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Mosque in Germany gets letter with neo-Nazi threats

25.05.2023

A mosque in the central German city of Goettingen received a threatening letter with a Swastika and other neo-Nazi symbols, officials said on Thursday.

Mehmet Ibrahimbas, chairman of the mosque association, said the letter contained racist and Islamophobic language, and had the neo-Nazi alias “NSU 2.0.”

“Our mosque community and Muslims in Goettingen are worried due to the continued threats of violence,” he said, adding that it was the second threatening letter they received in several months.

In September last year, unidentified suspects also painted a swastika on the wall of the mosque, which is run by the Turkish-Muslim umbrella group DITIB.

“NSU 2.0” refers to the National Socialist Underground, a neo-Nazi terror group uncovered in 2011 that murdered 10 people and carried out bomb attacks targeting immigrants.

Germany has witnessed growing racism and Islamophobia in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of far-right groups, which have exploited the refugee crisis and attempted to stoke fear of immigrants.

According to the latest data, police registered at least 610 Islamophobic hate crimes in 2022 across the country.

Some 62 mosques were attacked between January and December last year, and at least 39 people were injured because of anti-Muslim violence.

The figures also included dozens of hate crimes against Muslims, cases of intimidation, vandalism and property damage.

A country of over 84 million people, Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. It is home to nearly 5 million Muslims, according to official figures.

Source: aa.com.tr

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https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/mosque-in-germany-gets-letter-with-neo-nazi-threats/2906014

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South Asia

 

Activists, Journalists and Academics Continue to be Targeted in Afghanistan

May 26, 2023

Afghans are routinely detained and attacked for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of association, peaceful gathering and expression in Afghanistan, according to CIVICUS Monitor, a global civil society organization and alliance.

In March 2023, the CIVIC Monitor downgraded Afghanistan’s rating from ‘repressed to closed’, the lowest possible category on the scale – indicating the Taliban’s systematic and intensifying crackdown on civic space in the country since their return to power in August 2021.

It is reported that the situation of human rights in Afghanistan has drastically deteriorated over the past months. Not only women are sidelined, but also social activists, academics and journalists have been targeted.

Richard Bennett, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan in his latest report expressed his deep concerns over the deteriorating situation on civic space.

While presenting his report in person to the UN Human Rights Council in March, he expresses concern that: “human rights defenders, who peacefully protest the increased restrictions on women and girls, are at heightened risk and have been increasingly beaten and arrested. The intention is clearly not only to punish them for protesting but also to deter others from protesting.”

The report added that human rights defenders and civil society organizations and journalists are all facing tremendous pressure. Moreover, civil activists and human rights defenders are subject to intimidation, including phone calls, verbal attacks and arbitrary detentions.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have completely erased Afghan women and girls from public life by continuously increasing restrictions on education, work and appearing in public spaces – making the situation extremely difficult for women.

In April 2023, the Taliban banned Afghan women from working for the UN in Afghanistan, sparking serious criticism from the global organization. However, despite the ban in place, the UN agencies have continued their operation in Afghanistan as their female employees still remain at home – a disappointing move from the UN as described by its local Afghan female staff.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/activists-journalists-and-academics-continue-to-be-targeted-in-afghanistan/

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Heavy Rains, Flash Floods Kill 13 People in Afghanistan

May 26, 2023

Thirteen people were killed and eight others were injured due to persistent heavy rains and flash floods over the past couple of days in Afghanistan, Taliban officials said.

Shafiullah Rahimi, the spokesman of the state ministry for natural disaster management, said that at least 13 people were killed and 8 others were injured by heavy rains across the country.

Mr. Rahimi in a recorded video said that floods happened in Laghman, Paktia, Khost, Daikundi, Maidan Wardak, Qandahar, Baghlan, Nangarhar and Ghor provinces.

As per the findings of the Taliban’s state ministry for natural disaster management, due to flash floods caused by heavy rains at least 56 residential houses have been completely destroyed in the different parts of the country.

The spokesperson further added that certain water canals and waterways were destroyed and more than three thousand acres of agricultural land and fruit gardens have been ruined, adversely affecting the living conditions of the people.

Earlier, the United Nations and aid organizations had predicted that with the arrival of summer, followed by heavy rains and landslides, the people of Afghanistan would need emergency aid.

This comes as Afghan people are already grappling with dire economic and humanitarian crises. Security issues, food insecurity and unemployment have further complicated the conditions for the ordinary people since the overthrow of the previous regime in the hands of the Taliban in August 2021.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/heavy-rains-flash-floods-kill-13-people-in-afghanistan/

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Pakistan Releases 60 Afghan Prisoners From Sindh Central Jail

May 26, 2023

According to the Afghanistan Embassy in Islamabad, another 60 Afghan prisoners were released from the Sindh Central Jail of Pakistan.

The General Consulate of Afghanistan in Karachi, Sindh province, said that another 60 prisoners were released due to the efforts of Afghan officials of the Embassy.

Earlier, the General Consulate of Afghanistan said that 66 prisoners, including eight children, were released from Karachi jails.

According to the statement, the inmates were transported to Afghanistan via Chaman at the expense of the government in accordance with directives from the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, around 2,342 Afghan prisoners were released from several Pakistani prisons and have returned to the country due to the efforts of Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry.

Most Afghan nationals immigrate to the neighbouring country due to medical treatment, work and fleeing from prosecution and security threats.

Some Afghan refugees do not have valid travel documents, particularly those who travel for medical treatment or flee from prosecution by the de facto regime. Therefore, the Pakistani officials arrest them and put them in jail.

Over three million Afghan refugees who are officially registered have lived in Pakistan for many years.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/pakistan-releases-60-afghan-prisoners-from-sindh-central-jail/

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Mutual Interactions of Countries with IEA Menas Recognition, Muttaqi Says

May 26, 2023

Taliban’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has said the current government is inclusive and mutual interactions of the world countries with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan literally means recognizing the regime.

The press office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Taliban in an announcement on Thursday (May 25) said that Minister Muttaqi expressed these remarks in a meeting hosted by the political deputy of the prime minister at Sapedar palace.

Pointing to the friendly relations of the neighboring countries and regional governments, Muttaqi said that Afghanistan has good relations with countries including Iran, Pakistan and Central Asian states.

Minister Muttaqi further added that several countries have reopened their embassies in Kabul and Afghan diplomats are serving in the Afghan diplomatic missions in those countries.

The meeting was hosted by the Taliban’s deputy prime minister at Sapedar palace in Kabul in which several cabinet members and influential figures from different segments of the society had participated.

These remarks come as no single country has officially recognized the Taliban’s de facto regime as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

The international community emphasizes on establishing an all-inclusive government in which people from different segments of society including religious groups, ethnic minorities, women and youth could see themselves represented. Furthermore, the rights of all people of Afghanistan including women and girls should be respected and protected.

On the contrary, the Taliban leadership keeps claiming that their government is already inclusive and that the international community should not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan under the pretext of human rights and all.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/mutual-interactions-of-countries-with-iea-menas-recognition-muttaqi-says/

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US Seeking to Destabilize Region Using Terrorists in Afghanistan: Russia

May 25, 2023

Sergey Shoigy, Russian Defense Minister, on Thursday, accused the United States of aiming to exploit militant groups in Afghanistan to destabilize the region.

The Russian Minister made the remarks while visiting Minsk, Belarus, where he met with counterparts from other CSTO member states to discuss regional challenges and issues.

He said that Afghanistan remains a hotbed of instability, stating that the United States intends to use the potential of terrorist organizations to destabilize the situation in the region.

“Afghanistan remains a hotbed of instability. The main threat comes from illegal armed groups that have significantly strengthened their positions in that country since Taliban took control of power.” He continued by saying, “We believe that the United States intends to use the potential of these terrorist organizations to destabilize the situation in the region. For this purpose, the redeployment of fighters from the controlled gangs in the Middle East to Afghanistan has been organized,” He said, TASS News Agency quoted.

He also warned the Central Asian countries, particularly the CSTO member states, that the illegal armed groups seek to infiltrate the neighbouring countries in the future.

“In the future, their infiltration into neighbouring countries is possible for committing terrorist acts,” the minister said.

He criticized NATO countries, particularly the US, for trying to reestablish their military presence in the Central Asian region rather than concentrating on Afghanistan’s rehabilitation following the hasty withdrawal.

Meanwhile, he emphasized the significance of coordinated efforts on the Afghan track and proposed joint exercises in the framework of bilateral and multilateral.

The conference also covered several mutual interest topics and modernized the organization’s crisis response mechanism.

Member States Of The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) The Moscow-led CSTO is a military alliance in Eurasia comprising six post-Soviet states: Armenia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/us-seeking-to-destabilize-region-using-terrorists-in-afghanistan-russia/

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Pakistan

 

Civilians’ trial by military illegal in peacetime: Imran

May 26, 2023

ISLAMABAD: An und­a­u­nted Imran Khan on Thursday challenged the way his supporters are being treated over riots, urging the Supreme Court to declare the arrests, inv­e­s­tigation and trial of civi­lians in peacetime under the Army Act and the Official Secrets Act as the negation of Constitution.

In a petition moved thr­o­ugh senior counsel Hamid Khan, the PTI chief also urged the SC to order the formation of a judicial commission consisting of its judges to probe the horrendous and terrible incidents of May 9 and 10.

The commission should fix responsibility, besides recommending actions against persons involved in the unfortunate incidents that caused loss of dozens of lives and damage to state and private properties thus defaming Pakistan internationally.

Earlier on Monday, a similar petition was filed by Advocate Gohar Khan on behalf of PTI.

Petitions SC to hold judicial probe into ‘horrendous’, ‘terrible’ incidents of May 9, 10

Imran Khan in the fresh petition contended that the alleged imposition of an “undeclared” martial law or calling in aid of the armed forces in Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pak­h­tunkhwa and Islamabad was unconstitutional, unlawful and without any effect and all actions taken under the same were void.

The petition has named as respondents the ministries of defence and interior, cabinet, Prime Minis­ter Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Asif Zardari, Foreign Min­ister Bilawal Bhutto-Zard­ari, Maulana Fazlur Reh­man, MQM convener Khalid Maqoobl Siddiqui, caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab Mohsin Naqvi, KP’s caretaker CM Azam Khan, IGP Punjab and Islamabad, KP and commandant, Frontier Constabulary.

The petition said that arrests of PTI members under the MPO and their successive detention orders were unconstitutional and void and they were liable to be set free with immediate effect as their arrests were illegal, mala fide without jurisdiction and void being against the Constitution.

The alleged dismantling of PTI by forcing the party leaders to quit its membership and office were unconstitutional and void being against Article 17.

Availability of personnel

Quite interestingly, the petition contended, the respondents had been claiming before the SC in the matter of holding elections that law enforcement personnel could not be deployed due to security situation in the country. However, in response to protests enough personnel were found available to control the situation indefinitely, it said. The federal government, which could not call the armed forces to fulfil a constitutional responsibility and implement an SC order, decided to requisition the armed forces to quell its political rivals.

Thus, it argued, it is more than obvious to any reasonable observer that the requisition of the armed forces is mala fide and in excess of jurisdiction.

Likewise, the trial of civilians through military courts is a clear violation of the constitutional guarantees of due process and fair trial. Such trials are highly deprecated internationally and domestically and widely considered as falling short of providing a fair trial, the PTI chief contended.

In the limited circumstances in which military courts for civilians were utilised required a constitutional amendment, which has since been lapsed and was in relation to hardcore terrorists. The party supporters, now sought to be tried through military courts, are not part of any terrorist organisation and pose no threat to national security, the petition emphasised.

In light of the provisions of Articles 9, 14, 17, 19, and 23, these actions have deprived the citizens of access to their constitutional right to life, dignity, privacy, association, equality and protection of property.

The political parties that have the government’s support were allowed to hold a rally outside the SC despite the imposition of Article 245, Section 144. Thus, the petitions argued, clearly there is a discriminatory attitude in violation of Article 25 that is at play.

The petition stressed that the power to invoke Article 245 has not been rightly exercised by the cabinet which has to authorise the request made by governments of Punjab and KP in whose case their authority is questionable following the lapse of the time period allocated to the caretaker government.

Source: dawn.com

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1755884/civilians-trial-by-military-illegal-in-peacetime-imran

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Conference on ‘Islamic Capital Markets’ on Monday

May 26, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) will be hosting the inaugural conference on Islamic Capital Markets (ICM), in Islamabad on Monday, May 29, 2023.

The theme of the conference is “ICM development with ecosystem completion: innovation, growth, and transformation”.

SECP Chairman Akif Saeed, while addressing the media said that SECP is committed to fostering an inclusive and vibrant financial system that adheres to the principles of Shariah.

He was apprising journalists on the agenda and the overall goals of the conference. He said, “Collaborative efforts between SECP and various stakeholders have been instrumental in driving the growth and development of Islamic finance, and aligning best practices with global standards.” Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Ishaq Dar, Chairman AAOIFI Board of trustees Sheikh Ebrahim bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of State for Reforms Ashfaq Tola, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Jameel Ahmad, Chairman SECP Akif Saeed and Islamic Finance Department’s Commissio-ner at SECP Abdul Rehman Warraich will address the conference.

Source: brecorder.com

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https://www.brecorder.com/news/40244308/conference-on-islamic-capital-markets-on-monday

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SC begins hearing pleas against constitution of panel probing audio leaks

May 26, 2023

The Supreme Court has begin hearing a set of petitions challenging the constitution of a government-appointed judicial formed last week to probe audio leaks which have surfaced on social media over the last few months.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, a five-judge panel consisting of Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed is hearing a set of four petitions moved by president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Abid Shahid Zuberi, SCBA Secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir, PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi.

All four petitions seek to declare the constitution of the audio commission as illegal.

The commission, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, was formed on May 20 under Section 3 of the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 2017 and is required to conclude the task within a month.

Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq are also included in the commission which will have “all the power to fix responsibility against the delinquents for their alleged role behind phone tapping and could exercise authority to constitute special teams consisting of experts, or form an international team and seek international cooperation or exercise powers” under the Criminal Code of Procedure.

Earlier this week, the commission had conducted its maiden session in which it decided to make its proceedings public to ensure transparency and openness. The next session will be held on May 27 (tomorrow).

The hearing

Babar Awan appeared on behalf of the PTI chairman while SCBA President Abid Shahid Zuberi and Secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir were also present alongside Advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi.

At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan came to the rostrum and raised an objection regarding the five-member larger bench hearing the case.

At this, the CJP remarked, “How can the government select judges of the Supreme Court [to serve] its own purpose?”

“Attorney general sahib, this is a matter concerning the judiciary’s independence. Enough is enough attorney general sahib, please sit down,” CJP Bandial said.

The petitions

Both Abid Zuberi and Muqtedir Shabbir filed the petition on Thursday, in which they requested the SC to order the federal government, the inquiry commission, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to identify persons or entities operating anonymous Twitter accounts/handles.

They further requested the court to pass directions to fix responsibility for engaging in the unconstitutional practice of illegal phone tapping in the territory of Pakistan.

Likewise, Imran Khan also pleaded in the petition that the commission should probe the “powerful elements” behind the audio leaks. These elements allegedly tapped and recorded telephone conversations of citizens, including high-ranking public functionaries.

The SCBA petitions contend that the government or any person, authority, or functionary, whether identified or anonymous, should not conduct surveillance of citizens through phone tapping, phone interception, or any other similar means, except in accordance with the Investigation for Fair Trial Act, 2013.

The petitions also pray before the apex court to declare that no legal proceedings or penal action, under any law including the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2017, could be taken against any citizen based on alleged audio recordings mentioned in the May 19 notification by any other state body, including regulatory bodies.

The petitions argue that with the advent of modern technology and the popularity of social media, it has become possible to anonymously upload illegally obtained tapped phone conversations or fabricate, distort, manipulate and disseminate such illegal recordings across the populace, anonymously, to cast aspersions against institutions such as the judiciary or to blackmail citizens.

All the audio recordings referred to in the May 19 notification have been disseminated by uploading them on unverified, anonymous social media accounts. It is submitted that such unlawful tactics not only blatantly violate the law and the constitution but also enable those in power to suppress citizens and trample upon their fundamental rights without attracting any liability or leaving any trace.

The petition submits that such conduct cannot be allowed, as it will further erode the fabric of society, respect and dignity of individuals, as well as institutions, and the rights and privileges enjoyed by citizens.

Zuberi argued that any communication between an advocate and his client is protected by legal privilege. Illegally recording legally privileged communications that took place over different periods of time and then doctoring such communications to further a nefarious agenda violates Article 18 of the Constitution and the protections afforded by law.

The commission

According to an SRO issued on May 19, 2023, the controversial audio leaks regarding judiciary and former chief justices raised serious apprehensions about the independence, impartiality and uprightness of CJPs and judges of the superior courts in the administration of justice.

“Such audio leaks have eroded public trust besides serious concerns have been raised by the general public regarding the independence, impartiality and uprightness of the CJPs and judges of the sup­erior courts,” the notification said, adding that judiciary was one of the main pillars under the Con­stitution and the society’s confidence was shattered when the independence of judiciary was tarnished.

“Therefore it is imperative to [hold] inquiry into the authenticity, correctness and veracity of these audio leaks to restore not just the credibility of the judiciary but also the public trust and confidence in the judiciary in the larger public interest, as a matter of definite public importance,” explained the SRO.

In response to a question, an insider told Dawn that CJP Bandial was not consulted before the constitution of the commission — a common practice — as some of the leaks reportedly concerned his family members. Therefore, the CJP was “conflicted”; this was the reason he was not “req­uested to suggest names of judges to become members of the commission”.

According to the ToR, the commission will probe the authenticity of the audio leaks purportedly concerning the judiciary, a call between ex-CM Parvez Elahi and a lawyer regarding a Supreme Court judge; between Elahi and lawyer Abid Zuberi regarding fixation of some cases before a particular SC bench; between Elahi and an SC judge; between ex-CJP Saqib Nisar and lawyer Khawaja Tariq Rahim; between lawyer Tariq Rahim and journalist Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui on the outcome of a case pertaining to Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9; between Imran and his party member about their links in the SC; between the mother-in-law of a top judge and wife of a lawyer regarding cases in SC; between the son of ex-CJP and his friend discussing the role of the ex-CJP in the award of the election ticket for a political party.

The commission will also inquire into the correctness of the allegations surfacing on print and electronic media and social media allegedly regarding the son-in-law (Ali Afzal Sahi) of the Lahore High Court CJ, allegedly influencing judicial proceedings before the LHC.

The commission will also determine violation, if any, of integrity or the process of administration of justice, independence of the judiciary, right to fair trial and equality of citizens, to determine the liability incurred by any or all persons named in the alleged audio leaks against or any other person or public office holders including under the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 or any other law, to determine as to whether any disciplinary proceedings are attracted.

The commission will also be empowered to fix the responsibility of any person or public office holder aiding and abetting by any act in violation of the laws of Pakistan so determined, to recommend any necessary legal action by any agency, department or person etc. If these audio leaks proved to be fake or fabricated, the commission will inquire into and fix responsibility with regards to who is making these and recommend action to be taken in this regard, it added.

According to the ToRs, it will be the duty of all executive authorities in the federal [government] and the provinces to aid the commission and comply with any of its directions.

The commission will be entitled to establish a secretariat and appoint a secretary for the inquiry at the cost of the federal government whereas the attorney general for Pakistan will assist the commission by providing all documents and material required by it.

The commission will initiate the inquiry immediately after the notification of its constitution and will conclude the investigation and submit its report to the federal government within 30 days which can be extended.

Source: dawn.com

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1755908/sc-begins-hearing-pleas-against-constitution-of-panel-probing-audio-leaks

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Pakistan has not joined ‘China bloc’: FO

May 26, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Amid a global power rivalry bet­ween the United States and China, Pakistan on Thursday rejected speculations it had joined ‘the China bloc’.

“I would like to refute any such speculation that Pakistan has joined one bloc or the other. Pakistan has a consistent policy that we do not believe in bloc politics,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told a weekly press briefing here.

She said Pakistan had an “All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” with China. She noted that it was a relationship that had grown from strength to strength over the last several decades and both countries were committed to this relationship.

Similarly, she said, Pakistan had excellent relations with a large number of countries around the world, in the Middle East, in Asia Pacific, in Europe and in Africa.

“The United States esp­ecially is one of the oldest friends and partner of Pakistan and the biggest export market. Our relations with the United States are perhaps as old as Pakistan itself. Pakistan-US relations are multidimensional with several areas of cooperation with Pakistani Americans acting as a bridge between Pakistan and the United States. We have no desire to take sides or to join one bloc or the other,” she said.

Answering a question about a letter written to US Secretary of State by more than 60 congressmen about human rights violation in Pakistan, she said: “We have seen the letter. We do not agree with the characterisation of events of May 9 and the situation in Pakistan, as reflected in that letter.”

She said the National Security Committee had spelt out the factual situation around the events of May 9. “Pakistan remains committed to its constitutional obligations to protect the rights and property of all its citizens. These constitutional guarantees and fundamental freedoms are being underwritten by our judiciary,” she remarked.

Criticising India’s move to host the meeting of the G-20 Tourism Working Group in Srinagar, she said Jammu and Kashmir was an internationally-recognised disputed territory.

She said the dispute had remained on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for over seven decades. In that backdrop, India hosted the meeting in Indian-held Kashmir in complete disregard of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, principles of the UN Charter and international law.

“By holding the G20 meeting in Srinagar, India cannot hide the reality of its illegal occupation of IIOJK and oppression of the Kashmiri people. India’s facade of normalcy in Kashmir is met by the harsh reality that IIOJK remains one of the most militarised zones on the planet,” she remarked.She appreciated China, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, Egypt and Oman for not attending the Srinagar meeting. These countries have stood for international law and for the UN Charter. She said India has politicised yet another international forum, and it was exploiting its position as the current Chair to advance its self-serving agenda.

“India should instead provide unhindered access to international media and independent human rights organisations to report on the situation in IIOJK. It must bring an end to the repression it has unleashed there, agree to the establishment of the UN Commission of Inquiry and hold a UN supervised plebiscite for the people of Kashmir to determine their own future,” she stressed.

Ms Baloch also announced that the government had appointed Ambassador Asif Ali Khan Durrani as Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghanistan. A retired Foreign Service officer, Ambassador Durrani served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Iran and the UAE. He also served in various capacities at Pakistan’s Missions in Kabul, Tehran, New Delhi, London and the Permanent Mission to the UN, New York.

As the Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Durrani will serve as a bridge between international partners and the Pakistani leadership. He will also represent Pakistan in major international mechanisms on Afghanistan held at the level of Special Representatives.

Answering a question, she rejected claims by some that President Dr Arif Alvi was holding secret meetings with ambassadors of various countries, without taking the Foreign Office on board.

Source: dawn.com

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1755880/pakistan-has-not-joined-china-bloc-fo

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PPP to back bid to ban PTI, Bilawal tells PM

May 26, 2023

ISLAMABAD: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Thursday his party will not resist any move to impose a ban on PTI “for promoting extremism and violence”.

Earlier, the PPP leader had voiced his disagreement when some PML-N leaders proposed a ban on PTI as a political party.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari made these remarks while speaking to the media in Islamabad, which echoed the sentiments he expressed during the meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as well.

“I have opposed the move to ban PTI in the federal cabinet, but now we can do nothing as they [the PTI] have crossed the red line,” he said.

“What can we do if a political party wants to be turned into a militant organisation,” he asked rhetorically.

On setting up military courts to prosecute PTI supporters who were involved in riots and violence on May 9, the PPP chairman said his party will support anything done under the law and Constitution.

Although he endorsed the trial under the Army Act, 1952, the PPP leader ruled out the possibility of a constitutional amendment to establish new military courts.

The courts could be formed under the Army Act and thus, there was no need for a constitutional amendment, he added.

While Mr Bhutto-Zardari has made his intentions clear, the opinion within the PPP was divided on both issues — the establishment of military courts and a ban on PTI.

Talking to Dawn, PPP leader Farhatullah Babar said Mr Bhutto-Zardari had met the prime minister for the first time since the PPP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting on May 19.

In the CEC meeting, some PPP leaders were of the view that PTI should be banned completely while some said it would not provide a level playing field to all political forces, according to Mr Babar.

He said some PPP leaders were also perturbed by how PTI leaders were quitting their party and said other parties have also been victims of such a situation in the past.

Source: dawn.com

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1755874/ppp-to-back-bid-to-ban-pti-bilawal-tells-pm

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Nation will never forget sacrifices of martyrs: President

May 26, 2023

President Arif Alvi has said the entire nation values the sacrifices of martyrs and will always remember them.

He made the remarks during telephonic conversation with the heirs of the security personnel martyred in recent acts of terrorism in the country.

Commiserating with the bereaved families, the President paid glowing tributes to the martyrs.

Source: radio.gov.pk

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https://www.radio.gov.pk/26-05-2023/nation-will-never-forget-sacrifices-of-martyrs-president

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Europe

 

Islamic Centreof England Run as Iran Regime’s UK Office Shut Down

26-05-23

The Islamic Center of England, affiliated with the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader, has been shuttered "until further notice".

A banner has been installed on the closed door of the center that reads, “After receiving the concerns of the community and for their safety, we are saddened to inform you that all upcoming programs, including prayers, have been suspended until further notice.” The message was later removed.

The center was closed on Wednesday following an investigation by the UK Charity Commission into how it was run, following weeks of efforts by the charity watchdog to take control. The Telegraph cited unnamed sources as saying that "the Iranian regime decided to pull the plug on the operation rather than lose control to an interim manager appointed by the Charity Commission.”

According to the Charity Commission, the building was closed down, but the center’s charity will be run by the interim manager -- a senior partner at an international law firm identified as Emma Moody – who has been appointed “due to the trustees’ failure to comply with their legal duties and responsibilities and their failure to protect the charity’s assets”.

The inquiry into the charity was opened in November last year after the watchdog issued an official warning over “serious governance concerns” as well as the content of its website and the events it organizes.

Founded in 1995 and opened officially in 1998, the Islamic Center of England Ltd (ICEL) is a religious and cultural institute run by Ali Khamenei’s representative in the UK, SeyyedHashemMousavi, and funded by the Islamic Republic. The center, which hosted a vigil for Qassem Soleimani, head of IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds force who was killed in a US drone strike in 2020, has been called the cultural arm of the regime.

Senior UK officials have been calling for the closure of the center for years, with MP Alicia Kearns, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, describing it as the "London office" of the Iranian regime. Theresa Villiers, a member of the intelligence and security select committee, called the charity "the voice" of Khamenei in the UK.

As calls continue to shut down the center, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat last week described it as a "vile threat" against the country.Tugendhat told The Times that the government was “pulling together” to deal with “this vile threat that’s taken over a country and is now threatening ours.”

During a parliamentary debate last week, several UK lawmakers called for the Islamic Republic’s outpost to be closed.

Tugendhat stated that MPs are “absolutely right” to be worried about such “cultural centers” in Britain, adding: “Sadly, the Islamic Centre for England is not alone and the work of the IRGC is not limited to those Iranian proxy organizations.”

Previously, a group of Iranians had prepared an online petition for the closure of the Islamic Center of England, which was signed by tens of thousands of people.

In recent months while global rallies against the Islamic Republic are growing, Iranians have demonstrated many times in London demanding the closure of the center.

Source: iranintl.com

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https://www.iranintl.com/en/202305250028

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Muslim activists disrupt The Kerala Story screening in Birmingham

25 May, 2023

By: Mohnish Singh

Top lined by Adah Sharma, filmmaker Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story has been hitting headlines ever since entering cinemas on May 5, 2023. Despite facing opposition from several states and political leaders, the film has been performing exceptionally well in India and some key international territories. Resultantly, it has managed to go past the much-coveted £20 million club at the domestic box office and is expected to touch the £25 million mark in the coming days.

The Kerala Story recently hit the UK theatres. However, its screening was disrupted in Birmingham on Friday after Muslim activists stormed a theatre claiming the film was spreading Islamophobia.

A 10-minute clip uploaded on the British Muslim news website ‘5Pillars’ showed Kashmiri activist Shakeel Afsar, 35, with a group of demonstrators entering the Cineworld theatre and causing disruption and halting the screening of the film.

In the clip, Afsar along with at least two others can be seen asking to speak to the cinema manager about the ‘Islamophobic’ nature of the film.

The staff at the Cineworld were forced to pause the screening, with audience members seen confronting the activists and telling them to leave the theatre.

After the activists were taken out by the security personnel, a theatre attendant could be heard telling the audience: “If you want to watch this film, you should calm down first. I am going to resume this film. We’re trying to deal with this in the best way we can. We’ve paused the film, we’ve turned the lights on, we’ve called the police.”

The Kerala Story revolves around a Hindu woman from Kerala, played by Adah Sharma, who is brainwashed to accept Islam and go to Syria.

Source: easterneye.biz

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https://www.easterneye.biz/muslim-activists-disrupt-the-kerala-story-screening-in-birmingham/

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Suspect in linked series of east London Mosque thefts arrested

25 MAY 2023

A man has been arrested in connection with a spate of thefts from mosques in London.

Commander Simon Crick of the North East Basic Command Unit which is home to mosques affected by the crimes, said: “This series of thefts is believed to be linked, and has impacted numerous people in boroughs across London.

“It is good progress that an arrest has been made and we will wait to hear the outcome of this development from the detectives who are investigating.

“I have been liaising with our partners from the Newham Muslim Forum and I know that my colleagues in the other areas of London are also in touch with people in the community who have been affected.”

The arrest was made at 11:56hrs on Wednesday 25 May in Plumstead.

Source: news.met.police.uk

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https://news.met.police.uk/news/suspect-in-linked-series-of-east-london-mosque-thefts-arrested-467345

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‘We Want To Participate In the Thriving Change in Saudi Arabia,’ Czech Republic FM

May 25, 2023

RIYADH: The Czech Republic is keen to take part in the development of various sectors in Saudi Arabia in line with the goals of Vision 2030, according to the country’s chief diplomat.

Speaking to Arab News, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky praised the rapid progress being made as part of the Saudi reform strategy, describing the changes as “something you can see with your own eyes,” and expressed an eagerness to facilitate collaboration between the two countries to help the Kingdom reach its goals.

First announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016, Vision 2030 is a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors, such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.

“Everyone feels the thriving change in Saudi Arabia motivated by Vision 2030. So, definitely, it is something which we want to participate in, in the most positive and mutually beneficial manner,” Lipavsky said.

The interview took place on Wednesday, just hours after Lipavksy met with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan — “a very good meeting, a very productive meeting” — to review aspects of Saudi-Czech relations and areas of bilateral cooperation, including regional and international issues of mutual concern.

According to a Saudi Press Agency report, the two ministers also discussed efforts by Saudi Arabia and Czechia to lay a foundation for international peace and security, as well as contribute to achieving global sustainable development goals.

The goal of the visit by Lipavsky, who was accompanied by a 15-member Czech business delegation, was described by his ministry as “deepening of political and economic cooperation in the context of the Saudi Arabia’s efforts to open the country more to the international community or to develop the local economy toward industrial innovation and diversification of state revenues.”

Elaborating on the topic, Lipavsky said: “There are traditional (Czech) industries like tourism and spa, but we can also discuss energy, because the energy industry globally is going to be transformed. There is a lot of interest in renewable resources and we are very much interested, for example, in cooperation in the hydrogen industry.”

Pointing to the EU, of which Czechia has been a member since 2004, he said the bloc is “looking for renewable sources of energy, and also sources of energy which will be carbon neutral.”

He added: “I feel that Saudi Arabia wants to be part of the change, too, which is a very clever decision, and I understand that.”

In 2003, the Czech-Saudi Business Council was created by the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Czech Chamber of Commerce. The council would eventually go on to hold biannual meetings in both countries.

Over the past 22 years, the two countries have signed more than nine agreements and memoranda of understanding covering healthcare, science and technology, commerce and industry, and avoidance of double taxation.

In recent years, several Czech companies, including the well-known Czech vehicle manufacturer Tatra Trucks, have expanded into the Kingdom. More than 2,500 of Saudi Arabia’s medium and heavy military vehicles are Tatra, produced domestically by the Saudi Military Industries Corporation.

Czech-Saudi business ventures are also evident in the healthcare field, which is witnessing growing cooperation between the two countries. The Czech Saudi Medical Company has operated in the Kingdom since 2009, and the Czech Rehabilitation Center in Riyadh offers more than 45 specialized physiotherapy services to more than a thousand patients per day.

According to the UN’s COMTRADE international trade database, Czechia’s exports to Saudi Arabia in 2022 amounted to a little under $600 million, consisting mostly of vehicles, machinery and electrical equipment, while Saudi Arabia’s $11 million in exports were made up mostly of aluminum, plastics and other man-made fibers.

Opening a business event in Riyadh that was attended by the local chamber of commerce, Lipavsky said his country was ready to offer Saudi Arabia high-quality expertise in a number of fields. He told the forum: “Czechia has a long tradition of innovation and we can also be proud of our highly skilled workforce, cutting-edge technologies and quality products. We are always looking for new business opportunities, even in markets outside the single European market.”

Commenting on the meetings with Saudi industry leaders, as well as Czechs working for Saudi companies, Lipavsky told Arab News: “We have quite a lot to offer when it comes to business. There are companies that are traditionally present in the Saudi market, and there are a lot of companies that would like to be part of that.”

Czech-Saudi relations are more than strictly business, however. In 2017, Jeddah’s honorary consulate hosted the Czech Food Festival, where Saudis sampled beef goulash, roasted duck and potato dumplings prepared by Czech chefs.

The following year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the formation of Czechoslovakia, Riyadh hosted another Czech culinary festival, complete with music played by a traditional Czech band.

Lipavsky explained that Czechia is a tourist destination for many Saudis because of its spa resorts and beautiful landscape, as well as a destination for those from the Kingdom looking to study at the country’s renowned universities.

In September 2021, Lipavsky’s predecessor, JakubKulhanek, visited Saudi Arabia, where he met with Prince Faisal and Adel Al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs.

Kulhanek said then that Saudi Arabia and Czechia were prepared to establish a “strategic partnership in the near future” and “intensify contacts at the highest political level.”

Referring to that statement, Lipavsky said: “We are working on this goal, and the next step will be another level of consultation between the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will cover many aspects of this relationship.”

After departing from Saudi Arabia, Lipavsky’s delegation visited Iraq, where Czech forces are stationed as part of the US-led coalition to provide military advising and humanitarian aid and participate in NATO missions.

“We have a very strong relationship with Iraq. We want to provide for their security. We have also a military presence in Iraq, but we are also cooperating in many other areas,” he told Arab News.

Czech forces have been in Iraq for more than 30 years, first serving within the Coalition during the Gulf War in 1991 and, later, during the 2003 Iraq war. In 2014, Czechia became a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, providing millions of dollars in humanitarian aid, medical care, and civilian training projects.

Czech forces in Iraq have also contributed to police training missions, surgical teams, and chemical protection training teams. After the killing of the Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in 2020, Czech forces remained in Iraq even as other countries withdrew their troops due to security concerns.

“Now that there is a new government in Iraq, we need to be in constant dialogue with them and to listen very carefully. What are the needs of Iraq? Of course, it’s not only about the Czech-Iraq relationship, but about the EU-Iraq relationship. And as a member of the EU, we can influence EU policy as well,” Lipavsky said.

Closer to home, Czechia is dealing with its own security and humanitarian concerns since the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February 2022.

He said the war “has influenced things, not in a good way, such as the price of energy (and caused) high inflation.

“Then there are also global impacts, for example, on food security, which we can see may lead to crises in, for example, in Africa.”

He said that Czechia leads the EU in terms of hosting Ukrainian refugees per capita, and added: “My country is under security pressure because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We have 10 million people and we have accepted half a million refugees.

“We have opened our hearts and homes. We provided shelter for them. And, you know, we want to have them as a part of society until they are ready to be safe in Ukraine.”

Czechia, a NATO member since 1999, had a significant role in the recent creation of the Register of Damage, a record of damage, losses and injuries caused by the war in Ukraine so far.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2310371/saudi-arabia

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