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Pope at Al-Azhar; Religious Leaders Must 'Unmask' Violence and Hatred

New Age Islam News Bureau

29 Apr 2017

The Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb (R) and Pope Francis (L) gesture during the closing of Al-Azhar International Peace Conference, in Cairo, Egypt, Apr. 28, 2017. EPA/KHALED ELFIQI


 Pope at Al-Azhar; Religious Leaders Must 'Unmask' Violence and Hatred

 Waged Jihad in Revenge against Western Military Action in Muslim Countries--Message Left by Westminster Attacker

 Trump Administration Considering Assisting Arab Coalition in War against Houthis

 Erdogan's India Visit - A Muslim Nationalist Meets a Hindu Nationalist

 Buddhist Monks, Supporters Force Closure of Muslim Schools in Myanmar


Arab World

 Pope at Al-Azhar; Religious Leaders Must 'Unmask' Violence and Hatred

 40 Dead and 70 Wounded In Rebel-Extremist Clashes near Damascus

 Egyptian tribe burn ISIS militant in Sinai

 Syria: Terrorists Targeting Civilians in Northern, Eastern Damascus

 ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties in Syrian Soldiers' Rapid Counterattack in Deir Ezzur

 Syrian Army Aircraft Target Terrorist' Movements, Positions in Northern Hama

 Syrian Army Continues to Hit Hard Al-Nusra Positions in Eastern Damascus

 Turkish Armoured Vehicle Destroyed in Kurdish Fighters' Attack in Northern Syria

 ISIS claims deadly car bomb attack in Baghdad’s Karrada neighbourhood

 Assad meet sees European rights group leader censured



 Waged Jihad in Revenge against Western Military Action in Muslim Countries--Message Left by Westminster Attacker

 Germany to Ban Veil for Civil Servants, Judges, Soldiers

 In Egypt, Pope Seeks Christian-Muslim Rejection of Violence

 Moscow’s point-man for Syria meets Iran security chief

 Mogherini says EU respects Turkish vote


North America

 Trump Administration Considering Assisting Arab Coalition in War against Houthis

 Quebec: Uniting To Fulfil Mosque Attack Victim's Dream

 Number of ‘Muslim-Free’ Gun Shops, Businesses Increases

 Graduating Senior Explores U.S. Muslim Identity through Fiction

 American Muslim composer detained for hours at New York airport after trip to UK



 Erdogan's India Visit - A Muslim Nationalist Meets a Hindu Nationalist

 Shahrukh Khan Rues Social Media's 'Enclosure of Judgment'

 Muslim Neighbours Help Perform Hindu Man’s Cremation in Malda

 Man Lands at IGI, Claims To Be ISI Killer, Seeks Refuge


South Asia

 Buddhist Monks, Supporters Force Closure of Muslim Schools in Myanmar

 Bangladesh Militants Blow Themselves Up, Ending Standoff

 Taliban not to achieve goals through war and violence: Hekmatyar

 Local officials in Badakhshan reject fall of Zebak district

 Afghanistan reacts at Taliban’s announcement of spring offensive

 Ghani has handed over 50 percent of territory to Taliban, claims Massoud



 Erdogan Sees ‘New Page’ In Turkey-US Ties under Trump

 Israel Planning 15,000 More Settlement Homes

 Palestinians say dozens wounded at protests for prisoners

 Turkish army, Syrian Kurdish militia in new clashes

 Iran reserves right to respond to terrorist crime against border guards: Dehqan


Southeast Asia

 Hadi: Parties Opposing Islam’s Growth Biggest Threat to Religious Freedom

 Nothing against Islam, Just Zakir Naik, Say Indian NGOs

 Guan Eng: No issue with PM of Malaysia being Malay Muslim

 ‘No One’ Can Force PAS to State Stand, Says Hadi

 DAP: PAS motion on Muslim PM to pit Muslims against non-Muslims



 In Defiance: Celebrating Baisakhi at a Hindu Shrine in Pakistan

 Better US-China Ties Create Opportunities For Pakistan

 Hindu temple desecrated in Sindh’s Gharo

 GB lawmakers oppose NOC for foreigners’ visit to region



 Ethiopian Court Jails Al-Shabaab Suspects

 Somalia: No Confirmation of Reported Changes to U.S. Immigration Policies for Somalis

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Pope at Al-Azhar; religious leaders must 'unmask' violence and hatred

Apr 29, 2017

Religious leaders must denounce violations of human rights and expose attempts to justify violence and hatred in the name of God. That was Pope Francis’ message on Friday at the International Peace Conference taking place at the Al-Azhar conference centre in Cairo. The Pope’s words came at the start of his two day trip to Egypt, following a courtesy visit to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

After listening to an opening address by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheik Ahmad Al-Tayeb, the Pope spoke of Egypt’s “inestimable cultural heritage”, saying such wisdom and open-mindedness is urgently needed today to ensure peace for present and future generations.

Calling for respectful interreligious dialogue, Pope Francis said the only alternative to a culture of civilized encounter is “the incivility of conflict”. Recalling the visit of St Francis to the Sultan in Egypt eight centuries ago, he called for dialogue based on sincerity and the courage to accept differences.

Speaking of the covenant which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, the Pope said that religion cannot simply be relegated to the private sphere but, at the same time, religion must not be confused with the political sphere or tempted by worldly powers that seek to exploit it.

Faith and violence are incompatible

At the heart of the law given to Moses, the Pope continued, is the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’. Violence, he stressed, “is the negation of every authentic religious expression” and religious leaders are called to “unmask” violence and selfishness masquerading as sanctity. Together, he insisted, “Let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred”, upholding instead “the sacredness of every human life”.

Weapons 'feed the cancer of war'

Echoing the words of Sheik Al-Tayeb, Pope Francis also reiterated his appeal for an end to the arms trade, saying that if weapons are produced and sold, “soon or later they will be used”. Only by bringing to light “the murky manoeuvrings  that feed the cancer of war can its real causes be prevented”, he said.

Peacemakers, not populism

Finally the Pope stressed the importance of working to eliminate poverty and to combat the current rise of populism that does not promote stability and peace. Every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared solutions, he warned, is “a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence”. What our world needs, he said, is peacemakers, not fomenters of conflict; firefighters, not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation, not instigators of destruction”.

Please find below the full address of Pope Francis at the International Conference for Peace in Cairo's Al-Azhar Conference Centre

As-salamu alaykum!    Peace be with you!

I consider it a great gift to be able to begin my Visit to Egypt here, and to address you in the context of this International Peace Conference.  I thank the Grand Imam for having planned and organized this Conference, and for kindly inviting me to take part.  I would like to offer you a few thoughts, drawing on the glorious history of this land, which over the ages has appeared to the world as a land of civilizations and a land of covenants.

A land of civilizations

From ancient times, the culture that arose along the banks of the Nile was synonymous with civilization.  Egypt lifted the lamp of knowledge, giving birth to an inestimable cultural heritage, made up of wisdom and ingenuity, mathematical and astronomical discoveries, and remarkable forms of architecture and figurative art.  The quest for knowledge and the value placed on education were the result of conscious decisions on the part of the ancient inhabitants of this land, and were to bear much fruit for the future.  Similar decisions are needed for our own future, decisions of peace and for peace, for there will be no peace without the proper education of coming generations.  Nor can young people today be properly educated unless the training they receive corresponds to the nature of man as an open and relational being.

Education indeed becomes wisdom for life if it is capable of “drawing out” of men and women the very best of themselves, in contact with the One who transcends them and with the world around them, fostering a sense of identity that is open and not self-enclosed.  Wisdom seeks the other, overcoming temptations to rigidity and closed-mindedness; it is open and in motion, at once humble and inquisitive; it is able to value the past and set it in dialogue with the present, while employing a suitable hermeneutics.  Wisdom prepares a future in which people do not attempt to push their own agenda but rather to include others as an integral part of themselves.  Wisdom tirelessly seeks, even now, to identify opportunities for encounter and sharing; from the past, it learns that evil only gives rise to more evil, and violence to more violence, in a spiral that ends by imprisoning everyone.  Wisdom, in rejecting the dishonesty and the abuse of power, is centred on human dignity, a dignity which is precious in God’s eyes, and on an ethics worthy of man, one that is unafraid of others and fearlessly employs those means of knowledge bestowed on us by the Creator.

Precisely in the field of dialogue, particularly interreligious dialogue, we are constantly called to walk together, in the conviction that the future also depends on the encounter of religions and cultures.  In this regard, the work of the Mixed Committee for Dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue offers us a concrete and encouraging example.  Three basic areas, if properly linked to one another, can assist in this dialogue: the duty to respect one’s own identity and that of others, the courage to accept differences, and sincerity of intentions.

The duty to respect one’s own identity and that of others, because true dialogue cannot be built on ambiguity or a willingness to sacrifice some good for the sake of pleasing others.  The courage to accept differences, because those who are different, either culturally or religiously, should not be seen or treated as enemies, but rather welcomed as fellow-travellers, in the genuine conviction that the good of each resides in the good of all.  Sincerity of intentions, because dialogue, as an authentic expression of our humanity, is not a strategy for achieving specific goals, but rather a path to truth, one that deserves to be undertaken patiently, in order to transform competition into cooperation.

An education in respectful openness and sincere dialogue with others, recognizing their rights and basic freedoms, particularly religious freedom, represents the best way to build the future together, to be builders of civility.  For the only alternative to the civility of encounter is the incivility of conflict.  To counter effectively the barbarity of those who foment hatred and violence, we need to accompany young people, helping them on the path to maturity and teaching them to respond to the incendiary logic of evil by patiently working for the growth of goodness.  In this way, young people, like well-planted trees, can be firmly rooted in the soil of history, and, growing heavenward in one another’s company, can daily turn the polluted air of hatred into the oxygen of fraternity.

In facing this great cultural challenge, one that is both urgent and exciting, we, Christians, Muslims and all believers, are called to offer our specific contribution: “We live under the sun of the one merciful God…  Thus, in a true sense, we can call one another brothers and sisters… since without God the life of man would be like the heavens without the sun”.   May the sun of a renewed fraternity in the name of God rise in this sun-drenched land, to be the dawn of a civilization of peace and encounter.  May Saint Francis of Assisi, who eight centuries ago came to Egypt and met Sultan Malik al Kamil, intercede for this intention.

A land of covenants

In Egypt, not only did the sun of wisdom rise, but also the variegated light of the religions shone in this land.  Here, down the centuries, differences of religion constituted “a form of mutual enrichment in the service of the one national community”.   Different faiths met and a variety of cultures blended without being confused, while acknowledging the importance of working together for the common good.  Such “covenants” are urgently needed today.  Here I would take as a symbol the “Mount of the Covenant” which rises up in this land.  Sinai reminds us above all that authentic covenants on earth cannot ignore heaven, that human beings cannot attempt to encounter one another in peace by eliminating God from the horizon, nor can they climb the mountain to appropriate God for themselves (cf. Ex 19:12).

This is a timely reminder in the face of a dangerous paradox of the present moment.  On the one hand, religion tends to be relegated to the private sphere, as if it were not an essential dimension of the human person and society.  At the same time, the religious and political spheres are confused and not properly distinguished.  Religion risks being absorbed into the administration of temporal affairs and tempted by the allure of worldly powers that in fact exploit it.  Our world has seen the globalization of many useful technical instruments, but also a globalization of indifference and negligence, and it moves at a frenetic pace that is difficult to sustain.  As a result, there is renewed interest in the great questions about the meaning of life.  These are the questions that the religions bring to the fore, reminding us of our origins and ultimate calling.  We are not meant to spend all our energies on the uncertain and shifting affairs of this world, but to journey towards the Absolute that is our goal.  For all these reasons, especially today, religion is not a problem but a part of the solution: against the temptation to settle into a banal and uninspired life, where everything begins and ends here below, religion reminds us of the need to lift our hearts to the Most High in order to learn how to build the city of man.

To return to the image of Mount Sinai, I would like to mention the commandments that were promulgated there, even before they were sculpted on tablets of stone.   At the centre of this “decalogue”, there resounds, addressed to each individual and to people of all ages, the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex 20:13).  God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man, and so he exhorts us to reject the way of violence as the necessary condition for every earthly “covenant”.  Above all and especially in our day, the religions are called to respect this imperative, since, for all our need of the Absolute, it is essential that we reject any “absolutizing” that would justify violence.  For violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression.

As religious leaders, we are called, therefore, to unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity and is based more on the “absolutizing” of selfishness than on authentic openness to the Absolute.  We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God: Holy is his name, he is the God of peace, God salaam.   Peace alone, therefore, is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his Name.

Together, in the land where heaven and earth meet, this land of covenants between peoples and believers, let us say once more a firm and clear “No!” to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God.  Together let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.  Together let us declare the sacredness of every human life against every form of violence, whether physical, social, educational or psychological.  Unless it is born of a sincere heart and authentic love towards the Merciful God, faith is no more than a conventional or social construct that does not liberate man, but crushes him.  Let us say together: the more we grow in the love of God, the more we grow in the love of our neighbour.

Religion, however, is not meant only to unmask evil; it has an intrinsic vocation to promote peace, today perhaps more than ever.   Without giving in to forms of facile syncretism,  our task is that of praying for one another, imploring from God the gift of peace, encountering one another, engaging in dialogue and promoting harmony in the spirit of cooperation and friendship.  For our part, as Christians, “we cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people as other than brothers and sisters, for all are created in God’s image”.   Moreover, we know that, engaged in a constant battle against the evil that threatens a world which is no longer “a place of genuine fraternity”, God assures all those who trust in his love that “the way of love lies open to men and that the effort to establish universal brotherhood is not vain”.   Rather, that effort is essential: it is of little or no use to raise our voices and run about to find weapons for our protection: what is needed today are peacemakers, not fomenters of conflict; firefighters and not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction.

It is disconcerting to note that, as the concrete realities of people’s lives are increasingly ignored in favour of obscure machinations, demagogic forms of populism are on the rise.  These certainly do not help to consolidate peace and stability: no incitement to violence will guarantee peace, and every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared processes is in reality a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence.

In order to prevent conflicts and build peace, it is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence.  Even more radically, an end must be put to the proliferation of arms; if they are produced and sold, sooner or later they will be used.  Only by bringing into the light of day the murky manoeuvrings that feed the cancer of war can its real causes be prevented.  National leaders, institutions and the media are obliged to undertake this urgent and grave task.  So too are all of us who play a leading role in culture; each in his or her own area, we are charged by God, by history and by the future to initiate processes of peace, seeking to lay a solid basis for agreements between peoples and states.  It is my hope that this noble and beloved land of Egypt, with God’s help, may continue to respond to the calling it has received to be a land of civilization and covenant, and thus to contribute to the development of processes of peace for its beloved people and for the entire region of the Middle East.;_religious_leaders_must_unmask_violence/1308713



Waged Jihad in Revenge against Western Military Action in Muslim Countries--Message Left by Westminster Attacker

Apr 29, 2017

The last message left by the killer Khalid Masood on the WhatsApp messaging service, revealing his motivation for the lethal attack in Westminster, has been uncovered by the security agencies, according to The Independent.

In the message, sent just minutes before he began the rampage in which five people died and 50 were injured, the 52-year-old Muslim convert had declared that he was waging jihad in revenge against Western military action in Muslim countries in the Middle East.

The person who received the message has been extensively questioned, but freed after the police and MI5 concluded that he was not part of a plot and had no prior knowledge of what was unfolding on 22 March.

Eleven others detained following the attack were freed and have been cleared from inquiries.

The continuing threat in centre of the capital and heart of the government was highlighted just today with the arrest of a man allegedly carrying what was described as “rucksack of knives” close to the Treasury.

The suspect was taken away by armed police; no one was injured during the incident.

The accessing of Masood’s message was achieved by what has been described by security sources as a use of “human and technical intelligence”.

Details of the method used cannot be disclosed for security reasons, but sources said they now have the technical expertise to repeat the process in future.

It was made possible because Masood’s mobile telephone was recovered after he was shot dead.

Discovering Masood’s last recorded thoughts was the key part of the investigation into what lay behind the assault which started with him mowing down people on the road with a rented car and then stabbing a police officer, Keith Palmer, dead on the grounds of the House of Commons.

Scotland Yard stated at the outset that his communications on the day of the attack was the main line of inquiry.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu stressed in an appeal: “If you heard from him on 22 March, please come forward now. The information you have may prove important to establishing his state of mind.”

There was initial thought among investigators that Masood may have been in contact with someone involved in a plotting his attack.

There have been repeated recent atrocities – two in France and two in Germany just in the past year – in which terrorists were found to have been guided through messaging service by Isis “handlers” just before they struck.

Isis had claimed “credit” for the Westminster attack, but no evidence has emerged to back this up.

Masood, who was born in Kent, had come to the notice of the security service for being on the fringes of Islamist extremism in the past, but he was not seen as a threat.

It is suspected that he may have been radicalised during spells in prison in this country and three trips to Saudi Arabia. But it is not known at what point he decided to turn to violence.

Investigators have established that he carried out a reconnaissance journey to central London four days before the attack; he did not discuss the trip with anyone else.

It is unclear when Home Secretary Amber Rudd was made aware that Masood’s WhatsApp message had been retrieved.

She complained soon after the killings that the law agencies had been unable to access Masood’s words because of the use of encryption by the technology company.

She said: “It’s completely unacceptable. There should be no place for terrorists to hide. We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.”

The Home Secretary subsequently urged, at a meeting with her EU counterparts in Brussels, swift action to tackle online access for terrorists and held a meeting later that week in London with technology companies on the same issue.

The secrecy provided to users by social media companies has become a contentious issue after a series of cases in which the sites were used by terrorists and their accomplices.

Michael Adebowale, one of the murderers of Fusilier Lee Rigby, had used Facebook to describe in a graphic way how he wanted to kill a soldier, but Facebook failed to pass this on to the authorities.

Following criticism from the parliamentary intelligence and security committee a spokesman for Facebook said they “do not allow terrorist content on the site and take steps to prevent people from using our service for these purposes”.

Families of victims of terrorism in Brussels, Paris and California are taking legal actions in American courts against Twitter and Facebook claiming that the companies had failed to stop violent extremists from using their platforms.

But civil liberties campaigners, social media firms and technology analysts hold that measures like encryption were essential not just to prevent unwarranted state prying into lives of people but also to ensure that hackers and criminals are prevented from gaining access to personal information.



Trump administration considering assisting Arab coalition in war against Houthis

28 April 2017

US officials have revealed that elaborate discussions are taking place within the administration of President Donald Trump that will provide more assistance to the Gulf States in their war against the Houthi militias and their Iranian allies.

According to Reuters, they explained that this aid includes expanding the range of intelligence provided by Washington. Administration officials have not ruled out US assistance in the battle to be waged by the coalition and the Yemeni army on the port of al-Hudaydah, explaining that they would not strike at Houthi targets or deploy ground troops.

According to sources, the naval support will be through maritime surveillance and preventing arm smuggling to the militias across the Red Sea while the intelligence aid will provide more Intel on the movements of the Houthis that Americans are monitoring through the satellites.

The new US administration is aware that the conflict in Yemen has been stirred by Iranian interference, which has become an obstacle to the war on al-Qaeda and threatens the strategically important Bab Al Mandab strait.

Observers confirm that Iran is helping to raise the level of proficiency of guerrilla fighters. The commander of the US Central Command’s Marine Corps believes that the militias have weapons they did not have before the war, including long range Ballistic missiles.

An Emirati official revealed that the militias have aircraft, anti-tank missiles, ships and land and marine mines.



Erdogan's India Visit - A Muslim Nationalist Meets A Hindu Nationalist


Srinivas Mazumdaru

When Turkey's charismatic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan touches down in India's capital New Delhi for a two-day trip this weekend, he will be treated to the pomp and protocol-dictated flashy ceremonial welcome, in line with the extravagance showered by India's equally popular Prime Minister Narendra Modi on foreign leaders.

Erdogan and Modi share a lot of similarities. They both are rightwing religious nationalists governing vast multicultural democracies and emerging economies. The two leaders highlight their humble beginnings, association with religious groups and their deep personal piety.

They cast themselves as leaders who are determined to take the fight to the established elites and deliver a more prosperous future for the common man.

They are effective orators, with an uncanny knack to reach out to their followers and sell them their visions for the future of their respective nations. Even their electoral pledges - solid economic development and good governance - look strangely similar.

Both came from religious-nationalist political groupings, although their religious affiliations are different.

While Modi and his supporters advocate an illiberal form of Hindu nationalism, Erdogan and his followers are the standard-bearers of Muslim conservatism. Both leaders espouse majoritarian politics in their countries, with all the concomitant effects of rising intolerance and communal tensions.

Business and trade

So there is no dearth of experiences to share when Modi and Erdogan meet on May 1 in New Delhi. The Turkish president is also scheduled to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee and a host of other senior Indian officials, as well as take part in a gathering of business people from both countries.

Enhancing and deepening trade and investment ties between India and Turkey appears to be high on Erdogan's agenda, whose entourage includes a 150-member strong business delegation.

India is Turkey's second-largest trading partner in the Asia-Pacific region. But an impetus on the trade front seems necessary as bilateral commerce in 2015-16 was down roughly 28 percent year-on-year to $4.91 billion, according to Indian government data. Whereas India's exports to Turkey dipped over 22 percent, Turkish exports saw a whopping 47-percent decline. Modi and Erdogan are also likely to engage in discussions on a proposed free trade pact between the two nations.

Terrorism and nuclear cooperation

But trade is unlikely to be the dominant theme of the talks. Instead, issues related to terrorism and India's bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is expected to top the agenda.

Both Turkey and India have witnessed numerous terror attacks on their soil and share a common interest in developing as well as implementing potent counterterrorism strategies.

The NSG, meanwhile, is a 48-nation grouping that controls the export of technology and materials used to generate nuclear power and make atomic weapons. India has been fervently campaigning for admission into the club because it believes being a member grants it easier access to technologies and materials that it needs to bolster its nuclear program.

The energy-hungry South Asian nation has grand plans to expand nuclear power to meet the surging electricity demand of its rapidly-growing economy. And becoming an NSG state would elevate the country's prestige and end its embarrassing exclusion from an elite international body.

At the club's meeting last June, New Delhi pushed hard for membership, but failed due to objections from countries like China and New Zealand.

Turkey, which is also a member of the NSG, maintained that the applications of both India and Pakistan should be treated equally, a proposition that irked Indian officials. Ankara has traditionally maintained friendly ties with Islamabad, causing consternation in India.

Observers believe the NSG issue is certain to figure in Modi's talks with Erdogan.

"We remain engaged with Turkey on NSG," Ruchi Ghanashyam, an Indian foreign ministry official told reporters on Thursday.

But as Toby Dalton, an expert on non-proliferation and nuclear energy at the Washington-based think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says: "Although it makes sense for India to be a member of the group, it could take another 1-2 years for the group to discuss all of the issues and implications of bringing India in."

"It isn't a simple political matter, but has many legal, technical and policy implications that the group has not yet discussed."

A difficult balancing act

Erdogan's visit also poses a tricky diplomatic challenge to Indian officials, insofar as New Delhi this week is hosting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Turkey and Cyprus are embroiled in an unresolved territorial dispute, but both of them are NSG members and India needs their backing to join the group. The two presidents' visits come ahead of an NSG meeting planned for June.

The situation forces Indian officials to perform a delicate balancing act to safeguard the nation's interests.

India is the first stop on Erdogan's itinerary, which includes visits to Russia, China and the US. The tour comes after the Turkish leader declared victory in this month's referendum that granted Erdogan wide-ranging presidential powers.



Buddhist Monks, Supporters Force Closure of Muslim Schools in Myanmar

April 29, 2017

Ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks and their supporters have forced the closing of two Muslim schools in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, in a reminder that religious strife remains a threat to the country’s stability. About a dozen monks and scores of supporters gathered this afternoon near the two Muslim Madrasas while police stood by as protesters demanded that local officials close the buildings. The raucous three-hour gathering ended when officials agreed to allow them to chain the entrances of the two buildings, which the protesters claim were built illegally.

Tensions between Myanmar’s overwhelmingly Buddhist population and the Muslim minority spread after violent conflict broke out between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in 2012 in western Rakhine state, where the Rohingya are accused of entering the country illegally from Bangladesh. It appeared that the madrassas were chained shut largely to appease the protesters and defuse tension, but it was unclear what their long-term fate would be. “What happened today was very, very sad to me,” said Tin Shwe, a Muslim community leader. “This school has been built many years ago and all of our generations took care of it.”

A militant organisation of Buddhist monks, known as Ma Ba Tha, has spearheaded protests against Muslims. Its leaders have been accused of stirring up mob violence leading to the deaths of Muslims and destruction of their property around the country. Most of the anti-Muslim activities have taken place outside of Yangon, the country’s most cosmopolitan city. In what seemed to be a coordinated campaign, anti-Muslim activists last year pressured local officials to have Muslim institutional buildings declared illegal and torn down. In some cases, the activists occupied and dismantled the structures themselves.

Today’s action against the madrassas was unusual because it occurred in Yangon, one of the rare times such forced closures have happened there. The Ma Ba Tha movement had seemed to be in decline for the past few years, but the situation that fuelled its growth, the ethnic conflict in Rakhine, remains unresolved.

More than 1, 00,000 Rohingya Muslims live in squalid displacement camps where they were resettled after the 2012 violence. The government still refuses to grant citizenship to most of the estimated 1 million Rohingyas, even though in many cases, they have lived in Myanmar for generations. Violence heated up late last year when a small armed Rohingya insurgency was launched, leading to massive retaliation by Myanmar’s army, which was accused of carrying out severe human rights violations.



Arab World


40 Dead and 70 Wounded In Rebel-Extremist Clashes near Damascus

28 April 2017

Fierce clashes between extremists and Islamist rebels near Damascus left at least 40 dead and 70 wounded on Friday, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes pitted the rebel faction Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) against Fateh al-Sham, Al-Qaeda’s former branch in Syria, and Faylaq al-Rahman.

“There were at least 15 dead among the ranks of Jaish al-Islam and 23 among its adversaries” as well as two civilians, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Another 70 were wounded.

Jaish al-Islam said its opponents had provoked the clashes by harassing reinforcements headed for Qabun, east of the Syrian capital, a front with regime forces.

Faylaq al-Rahman denied the allegation.

In May 2016, more than 300 people were killed in a battle between the two sides.



Egyptian tribe burn ISIS militant in Sinai

28 April 2017

An Egyptian tribe released a video that showed what they claim to be an ISIS militant being burnt alive in Sinai.

In the video the al-Tarabeen tribesmen are heard threatening to burn and kill other ISIS members in response to a threat from the extremist group for cooperating with the army and police against them.

One of the tribe members said to Al Arabiya, that they burnt one of the most important ISIS leaders, who previously killed and burnt three citizens and a police officer.

The tribe issued a statement on Thursday evening denying what ISIS and other extremists’ claim of killing 40 members of al-Tarabeen tribe.

They said that this was “completely false,” and asserted that they are going to fight ISIS “bravely and courageously as the sons of the tribe do not fear the battles.”

The statement called on all tribes in Sinai to unite with them, saying: “It is time to get together to face ISIS, which did not have mercy on the elderly or young, and filled the earth with corruption and destruction.”

Full report at:



Syria: Terrorists Targeting Civilians in Northern, Eastern Damascus

Apr 28, 2017

The sources said that the terrorist groups based in Barzeh Farms have opened fire at the civilians at the al-Urwar junction, adding that Jeish al-Islam has mounted heavy machineguns on a residential building in Haza targeting residential areas in Kafr Batna and Saqba towns.

The sources added that the Syrian army has started targeting the militants to top their sporadic attacks on civilians in both regions.

Another source reported that the army has expanded control over the aL-Hedaya Mosque and several nearby building blocks between the Southern part of Tishin district and the Northern sector of al-Qaboun after heavy fighting with the armed groups.

The source went on to add that the Syrian air force also targeted the positions of Al-Nusra Front (also known as Fatah al-Sham Front or the Levant Liberation Board) in al-Qaboun.

They added that the army's artillery and missile units also shelled the positions of Al-Nusra front in al-Qaboun.

In relevant developments in the province on Wednesday, the army soldiers continued to beat back terrorists from more positions in Eastern Damascus and imposed full control over vast areas of gardens spreading from al-Barzeh farms to al-Qaboun district and then to Western Harasta and Dhahiyah al-Assad regions.

Local sources confirmed that the army's advances in al-Qaboun put an end to all terrorist activities via their main tunnels, adding that there were only a few numbers of tunnels left for the terrorists to transfer forces and dispatch equipment.

Full report at:



ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties in Syrian Soldiers' Rapid Counterattack in Deir Ezzur

Apr 28, 2017

The sources said that ISIL shifted to defence after their attack on pro-government forces' positions in al-Maqaber (cemetery) region and Regiment 137 base was pushed back and they came under a rapid army counterattack.

They added that 30 ISIL terrorists were killed and tens of others were wounded in the battles today.

Local sources reported that the army soldiers, supported by pro-government forces, are making a steady advance around Deir Ezzur's airbase, recapturing more lands and pushing the terror group back.

Relevant reports said on Thursday that the army soldiers engaged in clashes with a group of terrorists who intended to occupy the Syrian troops' new positions in the Western parts of al-Tamin brigade base in Southern Deir Ezzur, and repulsed their offensive after inflicting casualties on the militants.

The army units then launched a counterattack on ISIL bases near al-Tamin brigade region and won control of Abu Hassan hill after heavy clashes with the terrorists.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Aircraft Target Terrorist' Movements, Positions in Northern Hama

Apr 28, 2017

The Syrian choppers swarmed Northern Hama leaving Tahrir Al-Sham Hay'at and its allied militants little respite amid their ongoing retreat towards Southern Idlib.

In the meantime, the Syrian Air Force bombed the position of terrorists in the town of Kafr Zita, as Russian jets are also pounding the militants.

Also, the Syrian Army troops targeted and destroyed multiple Tahrir Al-Sham car bomb attacks and repelled a renewed terrorist attack in Northern Hama, while gearing up for their own offensive towards the towns of al-Latamina and Morek.

Relevant reports said on Thursday that the army units warded off an attack that was aimed at reoccupying the village of al-Masaseneh in Northern Hama, inflicting heavy losses on the terrorists and destroying their military equipment.

A military source reported that tens of militants attacked the village with a large number of their military, armored and suicide vehicles but were faced with the Syrian army's resistance.

Meantime, the Russian and Syrian fighter jets and the army's artillery and missile units launched fierce attacks on the al-Nusra Front positions and moves in Morek, Kafr Zita and al-Latamina (also known as the terrorists' triangle), killing and wounding tens of them and smashing several caches of arms, ammunition and military equipment.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Continues to Hit Hard Al-Nusra Positions in Eastern Damascus

Apr 28, 2017

The artillery and missile units opened very heavy fire at Al-Nusra's positions behind their first defense lines in al-Qaboun district, while Jeish al-Islam's strongholds in the town of Douma came under fire of the same units.

Military sources confirmed that Al-Nusra and Jeish al-Islam suffered heavy casualties in the attacks.

They further said that a tough battle is underway between the army soldiers and terrorists in al-Qaboun, adding that the armored vehicles of the army are also targeting terrorists' defense lines in the same district.

Reports said on Thursday that the army forces regained control of vast areas in the Southern parts of al-Qaboun in Eastern Damascus after heavy clashes with Al-Nusra terrorists.

A military source said that the army soldiers killed and wounded several militants and held captive two Al-Nusra terrorists.

Noting that the terrorists were confused by the army's rapid advance, he said they demanded fresh forces and logistics from their comrades in other regions.

Full report at:



Turkish Armored Vehicle Destroyed in Kurdish Fighters' Attack in Northern Syria

Apr 28, 2017

The sources said that the SDF fighters targeted an armored vehicle of the Turkish army in a region West of the border town of Tal Abyadh, after Turkish fighter jets bombed the Kurdish-held villages of Susek and Gri Sur near Tal Abyadh along with several positions in the Efrin area of rural Aleppo.

They added that after frequent Turkish airstrikes hitting Kurdish-held areas of Northern Syria again, the SDF responded on Thursday afternoon by destroying a Turkish radar station across the border near Tal Abyadh.

Turkish artillery units also shelled both areas in what appears to be the fiercest bombardment on Kurdish forces this year.

According to a statement by the Turkish military, 17 SDF fighters were killed by airstrikes and shelling.

The statement added that 11 Turkish border posts were targeted by Kurdish fighters.

Meanwhile, the SDF reportedly destroyed the fifth Turkish tank in the last 48 hours with a guided missile launched on a Turkish Army trench across the border near Tal Abyadh. Four tanks were targeted and destroyed by Kurdish forces yesterday.

Media sources reported on Wednesday that the Turkish army attacked the Kurdish-populated areas in Syria's Northern region of Afrin with fighter jets and artillery fire.

According to ANHA TV channel, Turkey's attacks focused on Ferfirak village in Rajou area of Afrin region.

Full report at:



ISIS claims deadly car bomb attack in Baghdad’s Karrada neighbourhood

29 April 2017

A suicide car bomb attack on a traffic police compound in central Baghdad Friday killed at least four people and wounded six, security and medical sources said.

The blast took place in Karrada, a neighbourhood of the Iraqi capital that has been repeatedly targeted in recent years.

Interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said in a statement that the attack was carried out by a suicide car bomber and "killed four people, including a police lieutenant colonel.

"Medical and police sources said at least another six people were wounded in the blast, which lit up the sky in the usually busy neighbourhood but struck a relatively quiet side street shortly before 11:00 pm (2000 GMT).

One of the deadliest bombings to hit Karrada occurred in July 2016, when a suicide truck bomb explosion set teeming shopping arcades ablaze and killed more than 320 people.

Full report at:



Assad meet sees European rights group leader censured

28 April 2017

A controversial meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad led Europe’s foremost human rights group to say it had no confidence Friday in its Spanish president as he had tarnished his office.

Pedro Agramunt, president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, visited Damascus last month.

The 65-year-old Spanish senator has now forbidden to travel or speak on behalf of the Council’s assembly after its members “resolved that it has no confidence” in him, said a statement.

The decision came after Agramunt refused to resign. However, the assembly does not have the power to dismiss him.

The Council of Europe, comprised of more than 300 members of national parliaments across the continent, meets four times a year for one week in Strasbourg to discuss the defense of human rights, promotion of the rule of law and efforts to fight corruption.

“Standards and principles of the parliamentary assembly are more important than any individual member, and the integrity of our assembly must be upheld,” said Britain’s Sir Roger Gale, its senior vice-president, after chairing the meeting that censured Agramunt.

The motion of no confidence follows the Spanish politician’s visit last month to the Syrian capital, arranged by Russia’s government, in which he met and was pictured with Assad.

“It is sickening to see that the president of this assembly has been photographed with someone who has gassed his own population,” said Ukraine’s Oleksil Goncharenko, an assembly member, alluding to allegations of chemical weapons attacks on civilians attributed to Assad’s regime.

Agramunt, who recently apologized for being in Damascus, did not attend Friday’s hearing and was not immediately available for comment.

He was also accused of inaction over a corruption scandal dating back to 2013 dubbed “Caviargate,” in which assembly members are accused of being “bought” by Azerbaijan’s government.

Full report at:





Germany to ban veil for civil servants, judges, soldiers

Apr 29, 2017

BERLIN : Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament agreed to a draft law on Thursday that will prevent civil servants, judges and soldiers in Germany from wearing full-face veils at work.

The move comes after Chancellor Angela Merkel called in December for a ban on full-face Muslim veils “wherever legally possible”. There are five months to go before a federal election, and her conservatives lost some support to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) during the migrant crisis..

More than a million migrants, many of them Muslims from the Middle East, have arrived in Germany over the last two years, and concerns about integration are widespread.

“Integration also means that we should make clear and impart our values and where the boundaries of our tolerance towards other cultures lie,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. “The draft law we have agreed on makes an important contribution to that.”

In February, the southern state of Bavaria, ruled by the Christian Social Union (CSU) - the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s conservatives - said it would ban the full-face veil in schools, universities, government workplaces and polling stations.



In Egypt, pope seeks Christian-Muslim rejection of violence

Apr 28, 2017

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis is brushing off security concerns to forge ahead with a two-day trip to Egypt aimed at presenting a united Christian-Muslim front that repudiates violence committed in God's name.

Three weeks after Islamic militants staged twin Palm Sunday church attacks, Francis lands in Cairo on Friday for a series of deeply symbolic encounters with Egypt's religious and political leadership. He will meet with Egypt's president, patriarch and the "other" pope, Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and pray for victims of the attacks.

Most importantly, he will also visit Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of learning in Sunni Islam. There, he will meet privately with grand imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, and participate in an international peace conference Friday afternoon.

The goal is to bring a message of peace to a country that has been ravaged by Islamic extremist attacks, and encourage a culture of respect and tolerance for religious minorities, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.

"The fundamental issue is education, and educating those of different religious beliefs and especially the young, to have great respect for those of other faiths," Parolin told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. "The question of language is fundamental: when you use a violent language, there is the danger that it can result in violent acts."

After visiting Al-Azhar, Francis meets with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and then heads to the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which accounts for about 10 percent of Egypt's 92 million people.

Francis and Tawadros will preside over an ecumenical prayer service in St. Peter's church, the Coptic cathedral that was the site of a December suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State militants that killed 30 people.

Francis has frequently spoken out about today's Christian martyrs and the "ecumenism of blood" that has united Catholic, Orthodox and other Christians targeted for their faith by Islamic militants.

Full report at:



Moscow’s point-man for Syria meets Iran security chief

28 April 2017

Russian special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev met with the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) on Thursday, according to an SNSC statement.

At a meeting in Tehran, Lavrentiev and Ali Shamkhani discussed the ongoing conflict in Syria, along with Russian-Iranian political and military ties, the statement noted.

According to the same statement, the two men hailed the "effective cooperation" currently underway between Iran, Syria and Russia and discussed the impact of peace talks held in Kazakh capital Astana.

Full report at:



Mogherini says EU respects Turkish vote

28 April 2017

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said Friday that accession talks with Turkey have not been halted and she still wants it to join, if Ankara can meet necessary conditions.

Her remarks, following a EU foreign ministers meeting in Valletta, came after recent calls from some countries that negotiations over Turkey's potential membership of the bloc should be stopped.

The talks in Malta highlighted sharp differences on ties with Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's victory in a referendum to reform the constitution gave him increased powers.

Germany urged its EU peers not to end accession talks despite deep misgivings over Turkey's rights record, saying the country is key to European interests, not least as a NATO ally.

Austria however reiterated its demand that negotiations be ditched, saying Erdogan had violated the EU rule of law and eschewed democratic norms that candidate countries must put in place.

After a "very frank and open" meeting with the foreign ministers, Mogherini said she was "happy to have (Turkey) in but a level of clarification" was needed from Ankara.

"The accession process continues, it is not suspended, not ended (although) we are currently not working on any new chapters," she told reporters.

"The criteria are very clear, well known and if Turkey is interested in joining, as the foreign minister told us today, ... it knows very well what that implies, especially in the field of human rights, rule of law, democracy and freedoms," she said.

Erdogan meanwhile accused the EU of backing the 'No' campaign in this month's referendum on expanding his powers, but insisted Turkey's door was still open.

The EU backed the losing side but that was in the past and from now on the EU should "put efforts into how you will develop your relations with Turkey. Although you carried out that campaign, we are opening our door," he said.

Mogherini, who said the EU respected the outcome of the vote, was due to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu later Friday.

 'Wrong reaction' 

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said earlier that his government was "strictly against breaking off the accession talks.... It would be the completely wrong reaction."

"In NATO, we did not even exclude Turkey even during the times of military dictatorship (there). Why should we now have an interest in pushing it in the direction of Russia?" he said.

Full report at:



North America


Quebec: Uniting to fulfil mosque attack victim's dream

byJillian Kestler-D'Amours

Apr 29, 2017

Mamadou Tanou Barry once dreamt of bringing a permanent supply of fresh water to his native town in Guinea.

But his dream was brutally cut short when a gunman opened fire on a mosque in Quebec City, killing Barry and five other Muslim men as they prayed.

The attack at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre on January 29 sent shockwaves across Canada, and prompted candlelit vigils, rallies, and an outpouring of support for the victims’ families and the larger Muslim community.

Now, three months after the killings, Barry's family, their supporters, and the Guinean community in Quebec City have launched a campaign to commemorate all six victims - and turn Barry's unrealised goal into reality.

Organisers hope to raise about $18,000 to establish two water wells in Central Guinea, which is where Barry, a father of two, and his friend, Ibrahima Barry, a father of four who was also killed in the attack, were originally from.

The wells will be dug in their memory, and in the memory of the other victims: Aboubaker Thabti, Abdelkrim Hassane, Khaled Belkacemi, and Azzedine Soufiane.

"We can’t replace these fathers," Souleymane Bah, president of the Guinean Association of Quebec, said. But the project will show the men's families that the world has not forgotten about them, he told Al Jazeera.

"All we're asking is for sensitivity, joy, and generosity from people, in the hopes of realising this dream."

Organisers hope to build the wells in Guinea this summer in collaboration with a French NGO.

Kim Vincent, another campaign volunteer, said the goal is "to create some sort of positive action as a result of such a horrible event".

Security measures

The Muslim community across Canada, and in Quebec in particular, is still coming to terms with the deadly attack.

Mohamed Labidi, interim president of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, said the first priority after the shooting was to re-open the mosque and bring some semblance of normality back to the Muslim community in the city.

"We spent one week cleaning and putting the space back in order," Labidi said. "After we tried to re-launch all the activities we did before," including prayer services, meetings, and Arabic lessons.

"Especially for those who lived through the tragedy, who were eye-witnesses, yes, they were quite traumatised by it, and we feel it daily. But it didn't stop them from coming back to the mosque to pray."

He said mosque officials have taken steps to provide greater security at the mosque, which prior to the attack was always open, especially during prayer times, giving anyone access to the building.

The mosque is now locked, but about 1,000 electronic entry passes have been distributed to regular congregants, Labidi said, and plans to reinforce the building's glass facade and build more emergency exits are under way.

He said putting a better security system in place was a long-standing priority, but the attack created a sense of urgency.

"The hateful acts started with graffiti on the walls, continued with leaflets passed around to houses in the neighbourhood, and culminated with the pig's head" that was left on the doorstep of the mosque in June 2016, Labidi said.

"All that put us on guard that something was being prepared. It was like a race against the clock."

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, both Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard described it as "a terrorist act".

But the alleged shooter, Alexandre Bissonnette, does not face explicit terrorism or hate crimes charges. The 27-year-old has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder, and five counts of attempted murder.

Labidi said charging Bissonnette with terrorism is important because it would send a clear message to society at large "that hate can cause tragedies, [and] can cause audacious criminal acts".

Anti-Islam rallies

In the months since the attack, anti-Muslim rhetoric has seen a rise in Canada.

Far-right hate groups, spurned on by Conservative Party politicians, have recently become more vocal, rallying in several major Canadian cities against a federal parliamentary motion on Islamophobia.

Passed in March, the federal motion condemns all forms of systemic racism, including Islamophobia, and tasks a parliamentary committee to study the issue, and track hate crimes.

Opponents said the bill would lead to Islamic law in Canada, and stifle freedom of speech, and far-right groups held protests against it at city halls across the country, often shouting anti-Muslim slogans.

Mosques have been vandalised in Montreal and Ottawa, and Montreal police recorded a spike in reported hate crimes in the city immediately after the attack in Quebec City.

Elsewhere, anti-Muslim protesters calling for a ban on Islam picketed outside a Toronto mosque in February, and several incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim graffiti have been reported.

A poll released earlier this week found that 59 percent of Quebecers thought that racial discrimination is a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" issue.

Still, Labidi said the Muslim community received a great show of solidarity and sympathy from people across Quebec and Canada following the attack, and that this openness and sense of inclusion is still being felt today.

"There are very positive signs," he said.

"It continues, and we hope it doesn't fade because I hope that everyone learnt the lesson from this, to have a better integration of Muslims and a better openness towards Muslims from their co-citizens in Quebec and Canada."



Number Of ‘Muslim-Free’ Gun Shops, Businesses Increases

pril 28, 2017

by Sloan Toth

The emergence of multiple self-declared "Muslim-free" businesses has alerted some in American judicial system to a growing trend of possible religious segregation.

Crocket Keller's gun store in Mason, Texas, for example, teaches a concealed-carry course to all customers, with one major caveat...people of Islamic faith are banned, according to Vocativ.

"If you are a non-Christian Arab or Muslim, I will not teach you the class," said Keller.

The store proprietor, who views Islam as a threat to American values, explained his method for weeding out the would-be Muslim applicants to his course.

"We will offer a prayer for our country and a safe class along with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance," said Keller of his course.

"If you don't love and respect the United States of America, you're in the wrong place!"

Keller's sentiments are not the first among gun store owners.

Jan Morgan, owner of the Gun Cave in Hot Springs, Arkansas and an investigative journalist, has repeatedly supported barring Muslims from her business, according to

Gun activist Morgan has both touted her support of the Second Amendment and emphasized that her reasons for excluding the Muslim sub-population from her facility relate largely to the violent nature of the business, and to violent passages in the Quran.

Morgan maintains the legality of her prohibition on Muslims by stating that her gun range is a private club, meaning that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not apply.

"There is sort of a disturbing trend of businesses declaring themselves to be a Muslim-free zone – or declaring that they are going to decline services to people who are Muslim," said Veronica Laizure, Civil Rights Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Laizure was careful to point out that the "Muslim-free" label frequently applies to gun stores.

" don't really hear of many Muslim-free bake shops or florists," Laizure said.

She went on to explain that the recent shift in the political climate has coincided with this apparent uptick in Muslim-free businesses.

"Normalizing discrimination against American Muslims results in concrete acts of discrimination," continued Laizure.

"We have seen increases in [discrimination] both here and nationally as a trend since the last presidential campaign."

Thus far, the majority of Muslim-free business have not suffered legal ramifications, although law firms are beginning to take notice of Muslim-Americans who are turned away at the door of any business that might categorically refuse to serve Muslims.

US Army Reserve member and Muslim-American Raja'ee Fatihah was one individual who was caught in the cross hairs of such a business.

In October 2015, he was denied access to the services of Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range after revealing his Muslim identity.

"There is no justification for a business denying people service based on religion," said Fatihah. 

Full report at:



Graduating Senior Explores U.S. Muslim Identity Through Fiction

April 28, 2017

Madani Sheikh remembers when he first got the writing bug. He was a sophomore at McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, N.J., taking an AP writing composition course. He immediately fell in love with wordplay and writing.

“I had a great teacher whom I still keep in touch with,” says Sheikh. “He gave me not only a chunk of his library but the courage to say I actually like English and literature, and that this is what I want to do with my career, early on.”

The only child of a Pakistani father and Dominican mother, Sheikh arrived at Rutgers University–Newark in 2014 and entered the Honors College with enough AP credits to finish early. Though he considered being a pre-med major and took a year’s worth of science courses, he ultimately decided to follow his heart and pursue English, with a minor in creative writing.

It appears he made the right choice.

During his three years at RU-N, Sheikh received the Rachel Hadas Scholarship, given to a full-time NCAS undergraduate majoring in English or Classical and Modern Languages or Humanities who demonstrates a love of literature and intellectual curiosity. He added two other prizes: the English Department’s the Madison C. Bates award and the Toni Cade Bambara Endowed Scholarship.

He also received an FASN Dean's Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship, which he used to complete his Honors College senior thesis, a collection of three short stories depicting Muslim life in America. The project involved months of research and interviews in N.J. and New York City. He used his manuscript to get accepted to RU-N’s renowned MFA program for fiction, which he’ll start in the fall.

Professor John Keene, an acclaimed author who chairs RU-N’s Department of African American and African Studies, served as Sheikh’s thesis advisor.

“He believed in me and encouraged me to apply for both the Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship and the MFA program,” says Sheikh. “He’s been an invaluable mentor, giving me guidance and big boosts of confidence right when I’ve needed them.”

When Sheikh is not writing, he’s attending literary events such as the Writers at Newark Reading Series and many off-campus gatherings. He’s also served on the board, and this year became Vice President, of the Muslim Students Association.

Through his work with that group, Sheikh has performed community service and has acted as a liaison between Muslim students and campus administrators.

“I have really appreciated the generosity of the many deans and provosts who have taken the time to talk with us when we have concerns,” says Sheikh. “It has meant a lot.”

As he moves forward and continues to work on his craft, Sheikh will be inspired not only by Keene and other authors he’s met at RU-N but also by Sufi poetry, which his father first exposed him to in middle school.

For Sheikh, the mysticism of this special brand of poetry has been transformative, helping him look inward and get to the essence of Islam: moving beyond simply following its rules and attempting to act with love and sincerity in everything he does.

Naturally, this has seeped into his writing.

“Sufi poets have given me the language to express what I’ve felt inside all along,” says Sheikh. “Coming from a family of Catholics and Muslims, I wanted to create a composite so as not to divide myself and my family, to create a holistic view of the world that unifies rather than divides us. The Sufi poets’ metaphors and imagery and spirit have really affected my work. It’s been so significant to me.”

Full report at:



American Muslim composer detained for hours at New York airport after trip to UK

Apr 29, 2017

An American Muslim composer has said he was detained for hours at a New York airport when he returned home from a recent trip to London.

Mohammed Fairouz, who has been described as one of the most frequently performed composers of his generation, had travelled from Heathrow to John F Kennedy airport after visiting the UK to record with a British string orchestra.

He says he was pulled aside for “additional screening” by an immigration officer with no explanation except that his name is “super common”.

The 31-year-old said he had already scanned his documents and fingerprints, which should have distinguished him from anyone else with the same name.

Mr Fairouz, who was born in the US, described how his luggage and laptop were taken away and he was told that he could not use his mobile phone, in a comment piece penned for The Independent.

“Clueless and aggressive officers escorted me to a room and had me sit in a plastic chair without the ability to listen to music or read a book,” he said.

He was detained for almost four hours – long enough, he said, to have written a short piano etude, had he been allowed to keep his belongings with him.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on”.

One of the new president’s first acts was to issue a ban on travel from mainly Muslim countries, leading to many travellers being denied boarding flights to the US. The ban has faced repeated legal challenges.

In addition to being condemned as Islamophobic, critics have said the ban and other orders issued by the White House have given border police far more power to behave as they wish without consequences.

Mr Fairouz said he encountered bullying behaviour by officers who treated him like a criminal.

“Instead of allowing me to quietly get on with something productive, I was barked at to 'SIT DOWN' by officers who every so often would loudly remind the people going through screening that 'NOBODY LEAVES THIS ROOM WITHOUT CLEARANCE'" he said.

“We were all, without arrest or charge, being treated like criminals: guilty until proven innocent.”

Full report at:





Shahrukh Khan rues social media's 'enclosure of judgment'

Chidanand Rajghatta

Apr 29, 2017


SRK ruminated at length about the Internet Age, observing, “Humanity is a lot like me. It's an aging movie star, grappling with all the newness, wondering whether she got it right.“

The dignity of a life, a human being, a culture, a religion, a country, actually resides in its ability for grace and compassion, SRK said.

VANCOUVER: There was none of that K-K-K-Kiran stuff that he stammered through in 'Darr'. There was no fear, and no second and third take. No dubbing or ad-libbing. Shah Rukh Khan simply hit it out of the park. Aced it. Wowed everyone.

Of course he would. Those who go beyond tinsel town and celluloid would know that before and beyond Bollywood, this most celebrated of movie stars was part of a Delhi theater group. It showed in the ease of delivery in front of an intellectual powerhouse: the annual TED conference.

He ruminated at length about the Internet Age, observing, "Humanity is a lot like me. It's an aging movie star, grappling with all the newness, wondering whether she got it right."

The provocation for his distrust of social media, it turns out, is the lurid sensationalisation of his personal life on Twitter, a sewage pit of self-appointed and self-important digital soldiers aka trolls. "We had expected an expansion of ideas and dreams; we had not bargained for the enclosure of judgment," Khan mused, masking his hurt with laughter.

The dignity of a life, a human being, a culture, a religion, a country, actually resides in its ability for grace and compassion, he said, with the gentlest suggestion that you don't get to see enough of it in social media. In an interview with TOI in the media cave after his talk, he spoke easily and disarmingly about the aging process, about yet another phase in his life (although he says he still enjoys the goofy song-and-dance stuff), about weighing in with intellectual heft, if nothing else to impress his kids.

"I have been guided by a lot of people to become what I am. I think it is my job now to get over my own self-importance," he reflected.

There was an oblique reference to troubling signs everywhere. "You may use your power to build walls and keep people outside. Or you may use it to break barriers and welcome them in. You may use your faith to make people afraid and terrify them into submission. Or you can use it to give courage to people, so they rise to the greatest heights of enlightenment.”



Muslim neighbours help perform Hindu man’s cremation in Malda

28 APRIL 2017

A Muslim community from Malda in West Bengal carried out the last rites of a Hindu man who died on Monday. The cremation that took place on Tuesday saw many Muslim youths helping the family with money and pallbearers to perform the deceased Biswajit Rajak’s cremation.

35-year-old Biswajit, who was a day labourer, was suffering from chronic liver cancer for over two years. He was not able to undergo proper treatment for the same due to his financial circumstances. When his own brother refused to help, it was his neighbours who aided him financially so he could go to Kolkata for his treatment. Unfortunately, it was too late by the time he sought help. The hospital in Kolkata advised him to go to Mumbai for proper treatment but he could not afford that.

According to India Today, a member of the village panchayat, Mohammed Iyasin, said,

Biswajit was again brought back to his village after a week in the hospital in Kolkata. Soon after coming back, he passed away on Monday. He is survived by his parents, wife, and three daughters.

Since there was no young boy in the deceased's family to carry the body to the crematorium, the group of Muslim youths stepped up and carried the body to the crematorium, which is at a distance of three kilometres. All the Hindu rituals were performed from consigning the ashes to a nearby river to taking a dip in the river following the cremation.

Full report at:



Man lands at IGI, claims to be ISI killer, seeks refuge

Rajshekhar Jha

Apr 29, 2017

NEW DELHI: A 38-year-old man created a flutter in Indian intelligence circles when he landed at IGI Airport on Friday morning and claimed that he was an assassin working for the Pakistani spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

The Pakistani national, who holds a passport in the name of Muhammad Ahmad Sheikh Muhammad Rafiq, said the ISI was preventing him from quitting by keeping his family captive in Dubai. He claimed to have carried out several killings and said he wanted to repent for his sins, according to sources.

An external intelligence agency unit in Dubai has been asked to verify the claims. Psychiatrists and mental health experts have been roped in to ascertain if the man was mentally fit. He is being cross-examined extensively so that his claims can be verified.

The man landed from Dubai in an Air India flight (AI 996) around 4.45am on Friday. He was booked on an ongoing flight (AI 213) to Kathmandu scheduled at 7.45am.

He was spotted near the prayer room around 6.15am and was visibly hassled. He also walked up to the help desk officials and sought help. When the officials questioned him, he revealed his alleged connection with ISI and asked officials to save him.

Sleuths of different intelligence agencies were informed and he was escorted to an undisclosed location in south Delhi for questioning. The Pakistan high commission was also informed and details were sought. His passport was sent for verification. The man claimed before officials that he had been trying to quit the organisation for the past six months but the ISI wanted him to continue carrying out assassinations and had threatened to eliminate his family if he left.

Full report at:



South Asia


Bangladesh Militants Blow Themselves Up, Ending Standoff

Apr 29, 2017

DHAKA: Four suspected Islamist fighters blew themselves up at a hideout in Bangladesh, ending a 24-hour standoff, police said Friday.

Police raided the house in the northern town of Shibganj late Wednesday on a tip-off that extremists were hiding out there, triggering a tense standoff that ended with explosions and gunfire late Thursday.

“The four militants from JMB blew themselves up with a bomb explosion,” local police chief Mujahidul Islam told AFP, referring to the banned Islamist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh. “We asked them to surrender multiple times but there was no response.”

Islam said police had arrested the wife of one of the men, who was in custody with her six-year-old daughter. The Bangladesh government blames the JMB for a wave of deadly attacks against religious minorities and foreigners in the Muslim-majority country. These include a major attack on a Dhaka cafe last year in which 22 people were killed, most of them foreigners. The Islamic State group claimed that attack and several others, but Dhaka insists they were the work of homegrown Islamist groups.



Taliban not to achieve goals through war and violence: Hekmatyar

Apr 29 2017

The leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has said the Taliban militants group will never achieve their goals to govern on nation through war and violence.

Hekmatyar made the remarks during a meeting with the Nangarhar officials in eastern Laghman province.

He also emphasized on intra-Afghan negotiations to bring peace and stability and said the foreigners will never bring peace to the country.

The Hezb-e-Islami leader further added that his party would continue fighting if it was for the better of the country and Islam but insisted that war and violence is not an option and there is no need to wage a holy war or Jihad.

He also added that the no one can govern on Afghan nation with the use of power, urging the Taliban group to adopt politics rather war and violence to achieve their goals.

According to Hekmatyar, there should a centralized system in place that should unite the nation and reflect their will.

Full report at:



Local officials in Badakhshan reject fall of Zebak district

Apr 28 2017

The local government officials in northeastern Badakhshan province have rejected the fall of Zebak district.

Deputy provincial governor Gul Mohammad Bedar said the district has not fallen to Taliban control but admitted that heavy clashes are underway in this district.

He said reports regarding the fall of the district are absolutely baseless but added that heavy clashes are underway around one kilometer near the district administrative compound.

This comes as the Taliban group spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid earlier said that the fighters of the group have managed to take control of the district.

The claim by the Taliban spokesman comes as the group announced its spring offensive in the early hours of Friday morning.

However, the Ministry of Defense officials said the Afghan forces are fully prepared to respond to the psychological war of the war the Taliban group.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri said the latest spring offensive announced by the Taliban will only lead to destruction and casualties of the innocent civilians in the country.

Gen. Waziri further added that the Afghan security forces will utilize all the available resources to thwart the plots laid by the Taliban under the name of Mansoori operations in a bid to ensure the protection of the national sovereignty of the country.

He said the Afghan forces are committed to any kind of sacrifices to ensure peace and stability for the people of Afghanistan.

Full report at:



Afghanistan reacts at Taliban’s announcement of spring offensive

Apr 28 2017

The Ministry of Defense o f Afghanistan reacted at the announcement of spring offensive by the Taliban insurgents under the name of Mansoori operations.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri said the latest spring offensive announced by the Taliban will only lead to destruction and casualties of the innocent civilians in the country.

Gen. Waziri further added that the Afghan security forces will utilize all the available resources to thwart the plots laid by the Taliban under the name of Mansoori operations in a bid to ensure the protection of the national sovereignty of the country.

He said the Afghan forces are committed to any kind of sacrifices to ensure peace and stability for the people of Afghanistan.

This comes as the Taliban militants group in Afghanistan announced the launch of their new spring offensive under the name of Mansoori, vowing to carry out more attacks across the country.

The group said earlier today that the operation has been named after their former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, claiming that they had major achievements on the political and military level under his leadership.

Full report at:



Ghani has handed over 50 percent of territory to Taliban, claims Massoud

Apr 28 2017

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has handed over the control of 50 percent of Afghanistan’s territory to Taliban, the former presidential envoy Ahmad Zia Massoud claims.

Massoud was dismissed by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani eleven days ago as the presidential palace said the step was taken as the post of the presidential envoy for reforms and good governance had proved as inefficient.

Speaking during a gathering in Kabul, Massoud said the country is facing the worst political and economical situation, apparently criticizing the government’s leadership for failure to main stability in the country.

Massoud claimed that the administration of President Ghani follows a dictatorship rule similar as Hafizullah Amin and emphasized that differences among different ethnic groups are on the rise.

In regards to his dismissal, Massoud said the decision was taken as he had not accepted slavery but did not elaborate further regarding his claims.

He also claimed that the government is attempting to weaken the security forces, pointing towards the recent attacks across the country and said the government is unable to ensure security for the people.

Full report at:





Erdogan sees ‘new page’ in Turkey-US ties under Trump

Apr 29, 2017

ISTANBUL : President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced confidence Friday that he and Donald Trump can open a “new page” in troubled Turkey-US ties when they meet next month, after discord over Syria and last year’s failed coup.

The May summit between Erdogan and Trump, their first face-to-face encounter as heads of state, is a chance to mend a relationship between two key NATO allies that was strained by a series of disputes under former president Barack Obama.

“I believe that we will open a new page with Mr Trump in Turkey-US relations,” Erdogan told the Atlantic Council Istanbul summit ahead of the May 16 meeting in the United States.

Erdogan made clear he expected a turnaround from Trump on the use of the Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) as the chief US ally on the ground in Syria in the battle against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Turkey says the YPG is merely the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatists inside Turkey, who have waged an insurgency since 1984 that has left tens of thousands dead.

“We expect our American friends to better understand the threats our country is facing and to show the solidarity that we need,” said Erdogan.

Of the US alliance with the YPG in Syria he said: “We can never accept cooperation with a terror organisation that is aiming at the lives of our people on the pretext of fighting against Daesh (IS).”

He said that “concrete support” given to the YPG by the United States in Syria was “harming the spirit of alliance and partnership”.

His comments came after Turkey angered the United States this week by bombing YPG positions in Syria. There have also been successive clashes between the Turkish army and the YPG over the border in the last days.

Erdogan warned the YPG that Turkey would fire back against any assault and thwart the creation of any Kurdish state in northern Syria.

“Are we going to leave them unanswered? We are doing what is necessary. We will take this kind of measure as long as the threats continue.”

Blasting “fools” who he said were trying to form a Kurdish state in norther Syria, he said: “We will not allow the formation of such a state.”

The spat over the YPG has so far held up any plan for Turkey and the United States to work together in Syria to prise the militant de-facto capital of Raqa out of the hands of IS.

Erdogan said 2,500-5,000 IS fighters were believed to still be in Raqa. A joint operation with the United States but excluding the YPG to take Raqa “would be nothing difficult for us. We can do this together,” said Erdogan.

But Erdogan praised Trump for showing a “more determined” approach than Obama against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad after the air strikes this month that followed a suspected chemical attack.

“It was late coming but something that we welcomed,” he said of the US air strikes. “The Assad regime has seen for the first time in six years that there will be no silence to the massacre of innocents.”

Along with the Syrian Kurds, the second main thorn in the side of Turkey-US relations is the future of Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blamed for the failed July 15 coup and resides in a secluded Pennsylvania compound.

Ankara has pressed for the extradition of Gulen - who denies the charges - to face trial and was disappointed by the slack progress under Obama.

Erdogan said Turkey was “seriously concerned that the terrorist chief can easily go about his business,” referring to Gulen.

He said that the arrest of Gulen by the United States was a “basic expectation” of Turkey.

James Jones, chairman of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council and former US national security advisor, said in Istanbul that he believed the relationship between the two men would be a good one. “I am optimistic that the personal relationship on a presidential level is off to a good start. It bodes very well,” he said.



Israel planning 15,000 more settlement homes

Apr 29, 2017

JERUSALEM - Israel intends to build 15,000 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem, the Housing Ministry said on Friday despite US President Donald Trump's request to "hold back" on settlements as part of a possible new push for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

A formal announcement of the settlement plan, quickly condemned by the chief Palestinian negotiator, could come around the time Trump is scheduled to visit Israel next month.

Israel views all of Jerusalem as its "eternal and indivisible capital", but the Palestinians also want a capital there. Most of the world considers Jerusalem's status an issue that must be decided through negotiations. The last peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant told Israel Radio that his ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality had been working on the plan for two years, with proposals for 25,000 units, 15,000 of which would be in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed. "We will build 10,000 units in Jerusalem and some 15,000 within the (extended) municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. It will happen," he said. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians' chief negotiator, said Israel's move was a systematic violation of international law and a "deliberate sabotage" of efforts to resume talks.

"All settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal under international law," he said in a statement. "Palestine will continue to resort to international bodies to hold Israel, the occupation power, accountable for its grave violations of international law throughout occupied Palestine." Channel 2 news said an announcement on building could be made on "Jerusalem Day" which this year, according to the Hebrew calendar, falls on May 24, when Israel celebrates its capture of the eastern part of the city.

This year marks the 50th anniversary, with a large number of celebrations planned. Trump's visit is expected to take place on or shortly after May 22.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Trump told Reuters in an interview at the White House on Thursday that he wanted to see a peace deal.

"I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians," he said. "There is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians - none whatsoever."

The US leader met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington in February and is to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on May 3.

In January, two days after Trump took office, Netanyahu said he was lifting restrictions on settlement construction in East Jerusalem, just as the city's municipality approved building permits for hundreds of new homes.

During Barack Obama's presidency, Netanyahu's government came under repeated censure for building in settlements, which the previous US administration saw as an obstacle to peace. Under Trump, Netanyahu expected more of a green light to ramp up settlement building, but it hasn't been straightforward.

While Trump has said he does not think settlements are necessarily an obstacle to peace, he did directly ask Netanyahu during a White House press conference in February to "hold back on settlements for a little bit".

In 2010, Israel announced its intent to build homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by then-Vice President Joe Biden, who condemned the plan. It caused huge embarrassment to Netanyahu, who suspended the plan before reintroducing it in 2013.

Full report at:



Palestinians say dozens wounded at protests for prisoners

28 April 2017

Dozens of protesters were wounded at West Bank demonstrations in support of hunger-striking prisoners held by Israel, Palestinian health officials said Friday.

Spokesman Anas Diek said three people were hospitalized, including one who was shot in the head by a rubber bullet and another who was hit in the knee by a tear gas canister. He said others were treated on the scene, including for inhaling tear gas, but that he had no further details.

Director of Ramallah Hospital Ahmad Bitawi said more than 20 people were injured. He said most were leg injuries and not life threatening.

In Bethlehem, protesters waved flags with photos of Marwan Barghouti, the jailed leader who called for the hunger strike.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently in Israeli lockups. Israel calls them security prisoners - held for offenses ranging from stone throwing to carrying out attacks that killed or wounded Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Palestinians say between 1,300 and 1,500 prisoners have been on a hunger strike for 12 days demanding better conditions. Israel puts the number at about 1,100.

The Israeli military said about 2000 Palestinians “participated in violent riots” at several places in the West Bank on Friday. It said soldiers responded with riot control procedures but did not elaborate.

Full report at:



Turkish army, Syrian Kurdish militia in new clashes

28 April 2017

New clashes erupted Friday between the Turkish army and a Syrian Kurdish militia seen as a terror group by Ankara but as a key ally by the United States in the fight against extremist, the Turkish army said.

Rockets fired from an area in Syria controlled by the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) targeted a Turkish army command post in the Ceylanpinar district of Turkey’s southern Sanliurfa province.

The Turkish army fired back, killing 11 “terrorists,” it said. There were no reports of casualties on the Turkish side.

This was the third day in a row clashes have been reported across the tense border after the Turkish air force earlier this week bombed YPG targets in Syria.

The US State Department has said it was “deeply concerned” that the strikes were conducted “without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition” against ISIS.

Russia’s foreign ministry on Wednesday meanwhile said Turkey’s bombing raids were unacceptable and called on all sides to show restraint.

But Ankara insisted that Washington and Moscow had been properly informed ahead of time.

Turkey says fighters of the YPG in Syria are linked to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatists inside Turkey, who have waged an insurgency since 1984 that has killed over 40,000 people.

But Washington, wary of committing large numbers of its own forces on the ground, sees the YPG as essential in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

The new clashes came as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday warned the YPG that Turkey would fire back against any assault and thwart the creation of any Kurdish state in northern Syria.

Full report at:



Iran reserves right to respond to terrorist crime against border guards: Dehqan

Apr 28, 2017

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan says the Islamic Republic reserves the right to give a crushing response to the recent terrorist crime against Iranian border guards serving on the country’s southeastern frontier.

“While we reserve the right to give a firm response to such acts of terror, we call on Pakistani officials to arrest and punish the perpetrators of this crime at the earliest,” Dehqan said on Friday.

He added that Iran would follow up on the case through the Pakistani government.

On Wednesday, 11 Iranian border guards were killed and three others injured in clashes near the town of Mirjaveh in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-and-Baluchestan. The Pakistan-based Jaish ul-Adl terror group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

Brutal terrorist attacks will not go unanswered: Police chief

Iran’s Police Chief Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari also said on Friday that terrorist attacks against the country would not go unanswered.

“Enemies of the great Iranian nation must know that such terrorist and brutal measures will not remain unanswered,” Ashtari added.

He emphasized that such desperate moves would never be able to affect the faithful Iranian nation and the country's border guards would continue with their efforts to protect the Islamic Republic and would never allow ill-wishers to infiltrate into the country.

Funeral ceremony for killed border guards

Thousands of Iranians have held a funeral ceremony for the border guards who lost their lives in the terrorist attack near the border with Pakistan.

The funeral took place in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where mourners condemned the terrorist act. They also called for a response to the perpetrators.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday wrote to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

“Pakistan’s safety, growth and efflorescence has always topped Iran’s agenda of ties with the friendly and neighboring country…Iran’s soil has never been abused against any of its neighbors, including Pakistan,” he wrote.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Hadi: Parties opposing Islam’s growth biggest threat to religious freedom


April 29, 2017

ALOR SETAR, April 29 — Political parties opposing the growth of Islam in Malaysia are the country’s "biggest threat" to religious freedom, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said today.

"There are parties that are racing each other to become the main hurdle for Islam's growth among Muslims in the country," Hadi said in his speech at the 63rd PAS annual general assembly, which the party calls a muktamar, here.

"Such actions, if continued, will become the biggest threat to the harmony and religious freedom that is enjoyed in Malaysia, where Islam is the religion of the federation," he added.



Nothing against Islam, Just Zakir Naik, Say Indian NGOs

Nawar Firdaws

 April 28, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: After receiving nothing but silence from the Malaysian government on controversial preacher Zakir Naik, a group of 28 local Indian NGOs is now putting the pressure on the Indian government instead.

Following a two-hour protest outside the Indian High Commission here today, the group handed over a memorandum addressed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among others.

Satees Muniandy, who is secretary of the Penang Society for the Advancement of Tamils, told reporters during the protest that since the Malaysian government, “for some reasons”, had chosen not to act against Naik, they were hoping that the Indian authorities would assume responsibility instead.

Naik is, after all, “a citizen of India”, he said.

“We don’t want Malaysia to be the platform for Naik to spread and incite hatred in the multiracial and multi-religious society here.

“For almost 60 years, we have all lived in peace and harmony. Naik’s presence is a threat to this.”

In the background, chants of “Zakir Naik, go back to India”, and “Zakir Naik, illegal immigrant” could be heard from the group.

“Take back this citizen of yours. We don’t want to talk to the Malaysian government anymore. We don’t want this citizen of yours,” the 30-odd protesters said.

A Elangovan, chairman of the Malaysian Indian Education Transformation Association, said the protesters were angered by Naik, who had crossed the line by talking about Hinduism despite his limited knowledge on the matter.

“If a learned religious leader like (Perlis mufti) Mohd Asri (Zainul Abidin) can be influenced by Naik to say bad things about the Indian government, what about the laymen?

“They can be easily influenced by Naik’s speeches to hate those from other religions.

“So we want the Indian government to take action by getting Interpol to issue a red alert on Naik, or to extradite him,” Elangovan said.

Tamilar Kural president David Marshel added that if the Indian government failed to take immediate action, especially after the memorandum today, they might consider going to India and filing a case against the country in its own court.

“We are discussing this possibility with other NGOs and our friends in India.”

He said the protesters had nothing against Islam or any other Muslim preachers.

“We are only objecting to Naik, because he’s threatening the country’s religious harmony.”

Full report at:



Guan Eng: No issue with PM of Malaysia being Malay Muslim

28 April 2017

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (pix) expressed regret over the motion tabled by PAS during the party's Muktamar today, that the prime minister of Malaysia must be a Malay Muslim to uphold Islam in the administration of the country.

In a live Facebook video today, Lim said there is no issue of non-Malays or non-Muslims eyeing the top post in the country.

"It seems like they (PAS) are trying to pit Muslims and Non-Muslims against each other," he said.

Lim who is also DAP secretary-general, said the matter should not be an issue as the candidate for prime minister has always been a Malay Muslim.

"Even in Pakatan Harapan (PH), our candidate is Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim," he said.

He described the move by PAS as unhealthy and also denounced those in the PAS leadership who often used harsh words against non-Muslim leaders in PH.

Yesterday PAS Ulama delegates passed a motion to amend the Federal Constitution to insert a new clause that the prime minister must be a Malay Muslim.

Full report at:



‘No one’ can force PAS to state stand, says Hadi

Robin Augustin

April 29, 2017

ALOR SETAR: PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang says “no one” can force or threaten PAS into stating their political stand, more so when it is part of the Islamist party’s political strategy.

In his opening address at PAS’ 63rd Muktamar here today, Hadi said that for the next general election (GE14), PAS will proceed with its “Green Tsunami” at the “right time” as a call to all Malaysians to join PAS in bringing about change in the country.

“No one can force or threaten us to state our political stand, more so when it involves our strategy.”

In recent times, Pakatan Harapan leaders, specifically those from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and PKR, have urged PAS to state whether they would be joining the opposition bloc to take on the Barisan Nasional (BN).

PAS however has refused to enter into an electoral pact with Pakatan Harapan, saying that it would enter the polls as a “third bloc” instead, referring to Gagasan Sejahtera, which it formed with Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan) and Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa).

PAS leaders have also said that they would place candidates in seats belonging to other opposition parties, forcing three-cornered fights which analysts say would ultimately favour BN.

Hadi’s strong words also come at a time when ties between PKR and PAS are strained, with PAS’ Dewan Ulama and youth wing calling for the Islamist party to end its political cooperation with PKR.

He also said PAS needed an approach which could unite the different races in Malaysia and ensure they understood the needs of Muslims to continue with a religious way of life in Malaysia.

“PAS must also work hard to win over voters in the west coast, including those who are non-Muslims and non-Malays.”

Traditionally, PAS has been a force to be reckoned with in Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast and the rural Malay heartlands in other parts of the peninsula. It has led the Kelantan government since 1990, and administered Terengganu from 1999 and 2004 and Kedah (2008-2013).

He said non-Muslims must be given room to listen to PAS’ message, and to this end the PAS Supporters’ wing for non-Muslims, who aren’t allowed to be PAS members, must be strengthened and further supported.

“In line with this, PAS, with our allies in Gagasan Sejahtera must be strengthened with more members from the public, community leaders, former top government officials and NGOs to face the intense political environment,” he said, adding a more systematic agenda must be developed after the muktamar.

This year’s muktamar is the second party assembly since the 2015 party elections which saw the defeat of several veteran leaders who were contesting for top posts.

These leaders, who were part of the so-called progressive movement within PAS, later set up Parti Amanah Negara. Amanah then teamed up with PKR and DAP to form a new opposition coalition called Pakatan Harapan.

Full report at:



DAP: PAS motion on Muslim PM to pit Muslims against non-Muslims

Predeep Nambiar

April 28, 2017

GEORGE TOWN: DAP’s Lim Guan Eng says PAS is creating animosity between Muslims and non-Muslims with a motion tabled in its muktamar yesterday insisting that a Malay Muslim be made prime minister.

Lim, who is DAP secretary-general, said the motion was unnecessary as the position of prime minister was always given to a Muslim.

“Although PAS can table any motion they wish, it appears that they are trying to melaga-lagakan (pit) Muslims against non-Muslims.

“I regret they have proposed this motion. It is as if non-Muslims have demanded the PMship. They (PAS) appear to be racist and extremist with such motions.

“These kinds of efforts are unhealthy, especially when leaders use bahasa kesat (vulgar language) against non-Muslim leaders,” Lim said in a Facebook Live statement today.

PAS’ Dewan Ulama had reportedly proposed a motion asking PAS MPs to urge the government to amend the Federal Constitution, to specifically state that the position of prime minister must go to a Malay Muslim.

PAS Ulama information chief Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali had said a Muslim was needed for proper leadership through Islamic values.

Lim said Pakatan Harapan’s candidate for prime minister had always been Anwar Ibrahim.

He urged PAS to remember that Malaysia was a country of many races and religions.

“We should be fighting all kemungkaran (evils) and rasuah (bribery). That should be our top priority,” he said.

Lim also took the opportunity to speak on the goods and services tax (GST), saying that there was no difference between abolishing the GST and zero-rating it, as both had the same effect.

Full report at:





In defiance: Celebrating Baisakhi at a Hindu shrine in Pakistan

Apr 29, 2017

Dressed in brown Shalwar Qameez, Abdul Razzak stood behind his small portable wooden stall of colourful glass bangles, his 7-year-old son beside him. He had just returned from selling his wares in nearby villages to where his wife had spread out her collection of bangles on the ground, hawking to people gathered for the annual fair at the 16th century shrine of Baba Ram Thaman.

Baba Ram Thaman was a Hindu saint, an older cousin of Guru Nanak. He came from Khala Kharu village, now in Kasur district of Pakistan’s Punjab province. He set up his camp at a short distance from the village where his devotees would pay homage to him. After his death, a shrine was built at the spot. Over time, other buildings were added and the shrine eventually became a vast complex with several temples and a pond. His devotees permanently settled at the complex, turning it into the small independent community of Ram Thaman.

As a child, Razzak would accompany his father to Baba Ram Thaman’s shrine for the fair of Baisakhi, the harvest festival that is celebrated across Punjab in mid-April, to sell bangles, just as his father did before him and his son does now. The annual trip, though, has always been more than an economic enterprise for Razzak’s family. They are devotees of the saint, so it is also a pilgrimage, a religious duty.

In olden days, the Baisakhi mela at the shrine was among the largest in Punjab, attended by hundreds of thousands of people. That was before Partition ripped apart the social fabric of the land. Communities, religious traditions, history, culture, pilgrimages, festivals and saints were divided into distinct religious groups, each more conscious of its identity than ever. Most residents of Khala Kharu had to cross to the other side of the newly chiselled Radcliffe boundary, while a stream of refugees descended upon the village from the east, desperately looking for any vacant space to settle down. A vast shrine complex with several abandoned temples offered more than ample space.

One of the refugee families was Ghulam Hussain’s. Standing in the courtyard of the shrine, I spoke with the 85-year-old man in 2011 when I first visited the mela. He had tied a chunri around his forehead just as the devotees of goddess Durga do when they undertake her pilgrimage. Coming from Firozpur district in Indian Punjab, Ghulam Hussain’s family knew there was only one place in the unknown country of Pakistan that would provide them refuge. The family’s patriarch, Ghulam Hussain’s grandfather, was a devotee of Ram Thaman and was living at the shrine. And the family had often attended the Baisakhi mela at the shrine before Partition.

Settled in a small village away from the influences of a big city, Ghulam Hussain’s family, like millions of villagers in British India, was unaware of the newly crafted religious identities being forced upon them through the state apparatus. Religious identity for them was not connected to a larger imaginary community but to their geographical surroundings — referred to as folk religion by academics. Local saints, myths and traditions dominated their discourse, shared by several religious communities, bound together by their geography. Without a uniform education system and mass media, several villages adopted their own sacred traditions that did not necessarily fall within the umbrella of any organised religion. A Muslim family devoted to a Hindu saint and vice versa, therefore, was not much of an anomaly as it would appear today, especially to someone whose sensibilities are shaped by post-Partition state rhetoric expressed through the education system and mass media.

Finding refuge in a Kali temple next to the shrine of Ram Thaman, Ghulam Hussain’s family could not bear to witness how their sacred complex was being transformed. They wanted to preserve the sanctity of the shrine but understood the desperation of the times. Finally, they put a lock on Ram Thaman’s shrine, ensuring, as other buildings and temples were being taken over by refugees, no one occupied the central shrine.

Only once a year, on the occasion of Baisakhi, as the village around them remained engulfed in silence, they would open the lock, clean the floor of the shrine, present the samadhi with a new chaddar and pray. In the subsequent years, they were accompanied by a few other devotees, who too had witnessed the festivities at the shrine in pre-Partition days. Over time, a small mela, a shadow of the former festival, began to be organised on Baisakhi. Ram Thaman, irrespective of the name, became one of the Sufi saints the villagers held in esteem. Just as they would present a chaddar to the grave of any Sufi saint, they began to present a chaddar to the samadhi of Ram Thaman on Baisakhi.

The mela grew by the year as more devotees started coming. Along with them came the stalls, the rides, the circus, the performers and the music. Even as such non-Muslim traditions were being abandoned in the cities of the newly created Pakistan, Baisakhi at the shrine of Ram Thaman became an annual festival. Now, for three days every year, the village is decked up as devotees and other participants pour in for the mela, unaware perhaps of how this little tradition in a small village in Punjab stands in defiance to the religio-nationalist propaganda that the state has spewed over the past seven decades.

Haroon Khalid is the author of three books, Walking with Nanak, In Search of Shiva and A White Trail



Better US-China ties create opportunities for Pakistan


Apr 29, 2017

WASHINGTON: A recent improvement in US-China relations can create a ‘comfort zone’ for Pakistan as Washington views Beijing’s growing influence in Afghanistan as a positive development, diplomatic observers say.

“While Pakistan has close and tested friendship with China, it also desires strong and mutually beneficial ties with the United States,” says Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary, Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington. “Pakistan was a bridge for the US to China and remains so for common good.”

Senior US and Pakistani officials met in Washington last week to review their relations, discussing both “difficult and less difficult” issues, as an observer said. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar led the Pakistani team at these talks. National Security Adviser Gen H.R. McMaster led the US team.

Speaking at a seminar on US-Pakistan relations at the Harvard Kennedy School on Thursday, two days after the White House meeting, Ambassador Chaudhary said that both sides showed a desire to strengthen their ties.

“The recent high-level engagements between the two sides were cordial and there was a desire on both sides to constructively engage for a broad-based relationship,” he said.

Islamabad hopes that new US policy for Afghanistan will protect its interests in the region

Pakistan’s relations with the United States began to strain in May 2011, when Americans discovered Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, launched a commando operation and eliminated him without informing Islamabad.

Since then, the United States has regularly accused Pakistan of allowing terrorists to use its tribal belt to attack targets inside Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects these charges as incorrect and says that it launched two major military offensives in the area, eliminating militants’ sanctuaries and killing hundreds of terrorists.

The United States acknowledges the success of those operations but says that some elements of the Haqqani Network are still operating from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Mr Chaudhary, while talking to Dawn, stressed the need to overcome the disputes as ties bet­ween the two nations were too important to be igno­red. “Both Pakistan and the US have a shared interest to stabilise Afghanistan, defeat the increasing presence of Daesh, and augment the ongoing cooperation in several areas, from education to health to energy to IT and commerce and investment,” he said.

Pakistan expressed desire to reboot ties with the US at a time when the Trump administration is reviewing its policy for the South Asian region. But US sources say the review process foc­uses on Afghanistan, not Pakistan or the greater South Asia. The team making the new Afghan policy is expected to complete the task by mid-May.

“Since the relationship between the US and Pakistan is security-centred, the US administration looks at Pakis­tan from the Afghan perspective,” said a diplomat while explaining why the review also concerned Pakistan.

Pakistan has already conveyed its views on Afghanistan and hopes that the new policy would also protect its interests in the region: it wants a role in the peace process and an assurance that India will not be allowed to use the Afghan territory for stirring troubles in Pakistan.

A former Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, confirmed Pakis­tan’s concerns in a confessional statement earlier this week, stating how Indian and Afghan officials had sheltered Pakistani Taliban, who had fled after the launching of Operation Zarb-i-Azb, and were now encouraging them to attack targets inside Pakistan.

The US concern, however, revolves around the militancy in Afghanistan as it wants enough stability in that country to allow a peaceful disengagement. The Americans also want the set-up they established in Kabul to continue after their withdrawal.

Washington also notes with concern that their apparent failure to contain the Afghan insurgency, and continued terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, have encouraged two other international players — China and Russia — to claim a role in Afghanistan.

Diplomatic observers say that US does not want Russia to re-enter Afgha­nistan after its disastrous withdrawal from there in 1989 and that’s why it’s suspicious of Islamabad’s growing ties with Moscow. But it is more comfortable with China, particularly after President Donald Trump’s April 6-7 meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Full report at:



Hindu temple desecrated in Sindh’s Gharo


Apr 29, 2017

Police in Gharo on Friday registered a First Information Report (FIR) against three persons for desecrating the deities inside a Hindu temple in Thatta.

According to community leaders, unknown miscreants entered the temple of Rama Pir and dumped their sacred idols in the sewage lines after desecrating them.

Gharo Town Committee Councillor Lal Mehshwari, while talking to Dawn, said the condemnable act was carried out on the eve of an annual festival at their place of worship, and urged the authorities concerned to take notice of the incident.

The police registered the FIR under sections of 295 A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Sections 6 and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) on behalf of the state.

Full report at:



GB lawmakers oppose NOC for foreigners’ visit to region

Apr 29, 2017

GILGIT / ISLAMABAD: As members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly from across the aisle on Friday opposed the federal government’s decision to bar foreign tourists from visiting the region without obtaining a no-objection certificate from the interior ministry, Islamabad has decided to ease the procedure for issuance of the NOC.

Speaking on a point of order, Kacho Imtiaz Haider, member of the opposition Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, said the restriction, which was an insult of GB people, would lead to the collapse of the region’s economy.

GB Minister for Works Dr Muhammad Iqbal said getting an NOC from the interior ministry was not an easy task and it would discourage foreign tourists from visiting GB.

Aurangzaib Advocate, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, asked the federal government to empower the GB government to issue NOCs to foreign tourists.

Minister for Tourism Fida Khan said GB was one of the most peaceful regions in South Asia but the federal ministry had unnecessarily created problems for foreign tourists intending to visit GB. However, there were also voices defending the NOC. Barkat Jamil of the PML-N said GB had a security threat and the house was aware of involvement of Indian intelligence agency RAW in (subversive) activities in the region.

Interior ministry decides to ease the procedure for issuance of NOCs

“We should respect the country’ integrity and accept the policy of the federal government,” he said.

Deputy Speaker of the assembly Jaffarullah Khan, who chaired the session, said they could not compromise on Pakistan’s integrity for economic factors.

He said GB was the entry point of the China-Pakistan Economic Corri­dor and international conspiracies were being hatched to fail the project. “Agents of enemies of Pakistan have been arrested from the region. To stop the enemies from making inroads in the region, the federal government has made the NOC mandatory for foreign tourists visiting the region.”

He advised GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman to approach the federal government to seek withdrawal of the ban or to ensure that an NOC was issued within 10 days.

Taking part in a debate on a resolution seeking an increase in the number of judges in GB higher judiciary, Law Minister Dr Muhammad Iqbal said judges were being appointed on the basis of their religious and political affiliations and personal like and dislike of those who mattered.

Full report at:





Ethiopian court jails al-Shabaab suspects

29 April 2017

Three years after their arrest, an Ethiopian court on Friday sentenced two men to up to six-and-a-half years on terrorism charges.

The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation quoted the federal attorney general as saying the defendants, identified as Bedris Yesuf and Anis Usman, were arrested three years ago while they were planning to carry out a terror attack.

The pair had received training from the Somalia-based al-Shabaab terror group, the court heard.

They were also engaged in recruitment for al-Shabaab and were intent on establishing a terror cell in Ethiopia, the report added.

Bedris was accused of taking part in a gunfight in Mogadishu between the militant group and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

"The first defendant, Bedris in particular took part in an exchange of gunfire held nine years ago in Mogadishu between the militant group and the African Union Mission in Somalia," the broadcaster said.

Ethiopia contributes a significant number of troops to AMISOM, a multi-national force fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia.

In 2013 two Somali nationals blew themselves up while putting on their explosive vests to attack football fans who had gathered at an Addis Ababa stadium to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Ethiopia and Nigeria.



Somalia: No Confirmation of Reported Changes to U.S. Immigration Policies for Somalis

28 APRIL 2017

By Mohamed Olad Hassan And Falastine Iman

Somalia's ambassador to the U.S., Ahmed Isse Awad, says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has informed his embassy the agency will no longer arrest illegal Somali immigrants in their homes or at their workplaces. However, federal authorities have not confirmed that there has been any shift in policy.

Awad said the agency reached the decision after his embassy expressed concern to immigration authorities regarding the recent arrests of 11 Somalis in Virginia, Minnesota and Georgia.

"Once we found out that 11 Somalis were arrested from their homes for removal, we thought the arrests looked [like] profiling and targeting Somalis. Then we submitted our concern to ICE and asked clarification," Awad told VOA's Somali service. "Fortunately, they came back to us tell us that they would no longer arrest Somalis from their homes or at their workplaces."

No response from ICE

Authorities at ICE did not respond directly to questions about the claimed policy change for Somalis.

However officials have previously said that ICE does not have specific exemptions in place for certain groups of people. The agency policy currently directs that anyone in violation of immigration laws may be subject to arrest, detention and removal from the United States.

Authorities say the agency's policy directs personnel to avoid conducting enforcement activists at "sensitive places" such as schools, places of worship and hospitals, unless they have prior approval from a supervisor.

The U.S. government said almost 5,000 Somali nationals in the United States face deportation orders.

"As of April 1, 2017, there were 4,801 Somali nationals with final orders of removal," ICE spokesman Brendan Raedy said last week. "As of that same date, 237 Somali nationals have been removed to Somalia in fiscal year 2017."

Earlier rulings will stand

One of those arrested at home, Awad said, was a Somali father whose four children and wife are all U.S. citizens. Awad said, "He is not criminal, but a court ordered his removal in 2000."

A 50-year-old Somali man who identified himself as second in command of Somalia's National Security Service was also among those arrested. He had previously been deported to Somalia in 1996.

Awad said the decision does not mean a halt in the deportation of individuals whose removal cases have already been decided by an immigration judge.

"The U.S. law that ordered the enforcement of the removal of the individuals with aggravated criminal records is still in place, but I think what the ICE decision means is that they will not target Somalis and arrest them from their homes and workplaces." Awad said. "They can continue their normal life."

Requests for asylum denied

Most of the Somalis facing final orders of removal are not in detention centers and are unlikely to be removed in the near term because their cases are making their way through the system.

Since Somalia's embassy in Washington reopened in November 2015, the ambassador said, about 170 Somali immigrants who either ran afoul of U.S. law or had their asylum applications rejected have been deported to Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Most of those previously deported had applied for, but been denied, political asylum in the United States, he added. Another group of Somali applicants whose requests for asylum have been denied are now in detention centers or prisons, awaiting deportation.

Fewer than 300 face return

Fewer than 300 Somalis are scheduled to be moved out in the next couple of months, Awad told VOA, adding that his embassy was awaiting information from U.S. authorities on who the deportees were and when they would depart.

ICE agents recently arrested 82 people from 26 nations during a five-day operation in and around the U.S. capital.

According to a statement from ICE, 68 of those detained March 26-30 had previous criminal convictions for crimes including armed robbery, larceny and drug offenses. All but three were arrested in Virginia.

U.S. immigration officials said eight of those arrested during that roundup had no known criminal records; they either had overstayed visitor visas or ignored final orders to leave the country.

Full report at:




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