New Age Islam News Bureau
9 Feb 2018
Members of religious parties gathered in Mardan on Wednesday to welcome those acquitted by the court in th Murder of Mashal Khan - Photo by Author
• Religious Parties Assemble In Mardan to Demand Release of Men Convicted In Mashal Khan Murder Case
• Now, Deoband Ulema Say ‘Buying Life Insurance Policy, Un-Islamic’
• How Myanmar Forces Burned, Looted and Killed In a Remote Village: Report
• How This Muslim Teacher in Berlin Is Fighting Anti-Semitism
• Syrian Regime Kills 200 Civilians in Four Days Raid; 100 Pro-Assad Men Die In Strikes
• Young Men Left America To Join ISIS. They Ended Up Cooking and Cleaning For the Caliphate
• Religious Parties Assemble In Mardan to Demand Release of Men Convicted In Mashal Khan Murder Case
• Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan against Public Hangings Of Pedophiles
• IHC directs ‘converted’ Christian minor to be handed over to family
• TTP’s Sajna reportedly killed in US drone strike in NWA
• Switzerland, UAE being asked about Pakistanis’ assets
• US drone kills three ‘militants’ in N Waziristan
• Now, Deoband Ulema Say ‘Buying Life Insurance Policy, Un-Islamic’
• Muslim Law Body AIMPLB Vows to Remove ‘Flaws’ In ‘Triple Talaq’ Bill
• Sri Sri Ravishankar Raises Hopes of a Settlement in Babri Masjid Case
• IAF officer who leaked info to ISI for sex chats arrested
• Four held for facilitating LeT man's escape from hospital
• LeT fugitive poses with Hizb terrorists on social media
• How Myanmar Forces Burned, Looted and Killed In a Remote Village: Report
• Karzai Says Pak, US Used Afghan War to Further Their Own Interests
• Dhaka in turmoil as former Bangladesh PM Khaleda Zia jailed for 5 years, Delhi is wary
• Karzai urges US to impose sanctions on Pak military and intelligence
• 11 ISIS militants including 2 local leaders killed in Nangarhar operations
• How This Muslim Teacher in Berlin Is Fighting Anti-Semitism
• Briton Jailed For Anti-Muslim Facebook Posts
• Paris attacks suspect in Belgian language mix-up acquittal bid
• How the UK government’s 'extremism' strategy targets Muslims
• Syrian Regime Kills 200 Civilians in Four Days Raid; 100 Pro-Assad Men Die In Strikes
• Iraqi Kurds Accused of Carrying Out ‘Mass Executions’ Of ISIS Members
• 2 of ISIS’ Infamous British Fighters Are Captured by Syrian Kurds
• SDF Continues Forced Recruitment in Raqqa
• Syrian Army on Verge of Full ISIL Cleanup in Hama
• Turkish Army Occupies Several Points in Afrin
• Syrian state TV confirms US attack against government forces fighting Daesh
• Trial begins of 4 Saudis linked to Hezbollah terror cell
• Young Men Left America To Join ISIS. They Ended Up Cooking and Cleaning For the Caliphate
• ‘History of Islam In Dearborn’ Draws Crowd To Historical Museum
• Trump's Targeting of Muslims Isn't Just Racist – It's Dumb Policy
• The persistent gaslighting of Muslims about Islamophobia
• 'As Canadian as everyone else': Surrey Muslim School tries out road hockey
• Washington hosts Saudi Arabian & Middle East Legal Forum
• Rights Group Tells Malaysia Not To Send Back Chinese Muslims to Torture
• Maldives' Embattled President Sends Envoys to China, Saudi for Support
• Indonesia: Muslim Clerics Push Lawmakers to Outlaw Gay, Extramarital Sex
• US Concerned Over Possible Deportation of Uighur Muslims
• Dr Mahathir advises Muslims to accept court's decision on unilateral conversion
• Ethiopia: A Nation with Interfaith Harmony - Religious Leaders, Theologians
• UN Says Over 300 Child Soldiers Have Been Freed In South Sudan
• Thousands flee militia violence in Central African Republic
• Turkish association helps thousands in Africa
• Uhuru praises KDF for crippling al Shabaab, promoting regional peace
• Boko Haram-ravaged areas in Nigeria need $1bn in aid, says the UN
• Turkey Should Drop ‘Disproportionate’ Emergency Powers: EU Parliament
• Tensions between Turkey, US Enter New Stage
• Houthi leaders killed in precision strike along with 35 others
• Aoun: Lebanon military ready to confront Israel
• Fresh Saudi airstrikes leave seven civilians dead in Yemen
• Several options to kick-start Mideast peace talks: Palestinian UN envoy
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Religious parties assemble in Mardan to demand release of men convicted in Mashal Khan murder case
February 08, 2018
Multiple religious parties are set to protest on Friday against the conviction of 31 men found to have been involved in the brutal murder of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan student Mashal Khan, who was lynched in April 2017 after being falsely accused of blasphemy.
The protest will be held after Friday prayers at a mosque in Mardan, where different religious and political parties will converge under the 'Khatm-i-Nabuwwat Mardan' banner to protest the convictions.
The protest has been sponsored by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Maulana Samiul Haq's Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam.
The JI also held a gathering in Mardan on Wednesday to 'welcome' those acquitted by the ATC.
JI's Emir in Mardan, Dr Attaur Rehman, while speaking to DawnNews said the party is a constitutional and religious party which wants Shariah law imposed in Pakistan.
"The Haripur ATC honourably acquitted 26 individuals in the Mashal Khan case. This means they are innocent and we have gathered to give them an exemplary welcome," he had said.
JUI-F's Provincial General Secretary Shujaul Mulk, when asked about the reasons behind the Friday protest, told DawnNews that the 26 who were acquitted in the case by the Haripur Anti-Terrorism Court on Wednesday will address protesters tomorrow.
Mulk said that those let off were allegedly eyewitnesses to the lynching of Mashal Khan and continue to claim that he (Mashal) had committed blasphemy. He added that they had included this information in the statements recorded in court.
He also alleged that the men arrested for the murder of Mashal were beaten and forced confessions were extracted from them.
He said the men acquitted will tell attendees of the protest tomorrow about how they were treated in custody.
"Despite all this, the government cleared Mashal," the JUI-F leader said. "We are not going to sit quietly, we will approach the Supreme Court and challenge the punishments handed to each of the convicts," he insisted.
He added that the religious parties workers will ask the government to avoid appealing against the acquittals in the Mashal Khan case "as it will hurt the sentiments of Muslims" and warned that the move "may spark protests across the country."
A formal decision in this regard will be made at the gathering on Friday, Mulk said.
On Wednesday night, a jubilant crowd of religious party workers had gathered at the Mardan Motorway Interchange to "welcome" the 26 "heroes" who had been acquitted by the court, and to protest the ATC's verdict against the 31 men convicted of Mashal's murder.
The charged crowd chanted slogans against the murdered student and vowed to "move the Supreme Court against the verdict".
At least six of the acquitted reached Mardan on Wednesday night. One of the acquitted, Aizaz, was welcomed and garlanded enthusiastically by the crowd.
Aizaz, who was showered with petals and carried on the shoulders of supporters, addressed the crowd in Pashto, vowing that anyone who committed blasphemy or spoke against Khatm-i-Nabuwwat would "meet the same end as Mashal".
Meanwhile, JUI-F's Mulk said that the court may have sentenced one "lover of the Prophet (Peace be upon him)" to death, "but that there are thousands more Imrans on the streets" ready to act.
Now, Deoband Ulema Say ‘Buying Life Insurance Policy, Un-Islamic’
Feb 09, 2018
Meerut: The Deoband ulemas or clerics are back at doing what they do best: issuing fatwas. This time, the clerics have issued a fatwa against life insurance policies, stating that buying such a policy or getting property insured was against the tenets of Islam as a Muslim should have faith in Allah, and not in any insurance companies. The fatwa was issued in response to a query posed by a Ghaziabad-based man.
The fatwa read, "Life and death are in the hands of Allah and no insurance company can guarantee a man's longevity. On the contrary, these insurance companies invest the premium paid by the purchaser of the policy and earn interest on the same, later distributing some of it among their clients. And any income earned through interest is haram (forbidden)."
Speaking to the Times of India, Maulana Najif Ahmad, a senior cleric and head of Deoband-based Madrasa Darul Niswah said that the God was the supreme being to decide on matters of life and death and thus a Muslim should have faith in him. He said, "The fatwa has been issued in the light of Islamic Shariat and has clear directions that a Muslim must put his trust in Allah and not in any insurance company because ultimately it is God who reigns supreme when it comes to life and death."
Prior to this, in a controversial fatwa, Deoband ulemas had asked Muslim families to avoid marrying men/women working in banks as "money earned through interest is illegitimate in the eyes of Islam", the Times of India reported.
Since the start of the new year, the Deoband has issued several fatwas against several practices that it deemed 'un-Islamic', including women wearing body-hugging or designer burqas. Stating that wearing such a burqa was 'haraam' or 'forbidden' in Islam, the fatwa read, "Veil and burqa are supposed to protect a woman from prying eyes. So, a woman wearing a designer burqa or body-hugging outfit is strictly not allowed in Islam."
Recently, the ulemas had also criticised a 15-year-old Muslim girl from Meerut, Alia Khan, for reciting slokas from the Bhagwad Gita at a state-government organised contest in Lucknow.
How Myanmar Forces Burned, Looted and Killed In a Remote Village: Report
February 09, 2018
Bound together, the 10 Rohingya Muslim captives watched their Buddhist neighbors dig a shallow grave. Soon afterwards, on the morning of Sept. 2, all 10 lay dead. At least two were hacked to death by Buddhist villagers. The rest were shot by Myanmar troops, two of the gravediggers said.
“One grave for 10 people,” said Soe Chay, 55, a retired soldier from Inn Din’s Rakhine Buddhist community who said he helped dig the pit and saw the killings. The soldiers shot each man two or three times, he said. “When they were being buried, some were still making noises. Others were already dead.”
The killings in the coastal village of Inn Din marked another bloody episode in the ethnic violence sweeping northern Rakhine state, on Myanmar’s western fringe. Nearly 690,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled their villages and crossed the border into Bangladesh since August. None of Inn Din’s 6,000 Rohingya remained in the village as of October.
The Rohingya accuse the army of arson, rapes and killings aimed at rubbing them out of existence in this mainly Buddhist nation of 53 million. The United Nations has said the army may have committed genocide; the United States has called the action ethnic cleansing. Myanmar says its “clearance operation” is a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
Rohingya trace their presence in Rakhine back centuries. But most Burmese consider them to be unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh; the army refers to the Rohingya as “Bengalis.” In recent years, sectarian tensions have risen and the government has confined more than 100,000 Rohingya in camps where they have limited access to food, medicine and education.
Reuters has pieced together what happened in Inn Din in the days leading up to the killing of the 10 Rohingya – eight men and two high school students in their late teens.
Until now, accounts of the violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine state have been provided only by its victims. The Reuters reconstruction draws for the first time on interviews with Buddhist villagers who confessed to torching Rohingya homes, burying bodies and killing Muslims.
This account also marks the first time soldiers and paramilitary police have been implicated by testimony from security personnel themselves. Members of the paramilitary police gave Reuters insider descriptions of the operation to drive out the Rohingya from Inn Din, confirming that the military played the lead role in the campaign.
The slain men’s families, now sheltering in Bangladesh refugee camps, identified the victims through photographs shown to them by Reuters. The dead men were fishermen, shopkeepers, the two teenage students and an Islamic teacher.
Three photographs, provided to Reuters by a Buddhist village elder, capture key moments in the massacre at Inn Din, from the Rohingya men’s detention by soldiers in the early evening of Sept. 1 to their execution shortly after 10 a.m. on Sept. 2. Two photos – one taken the first day, the other on the day of the killings – show the 10 captives lined up in a row, kneeling. The final photograph shows the men’s bloodied bodies piled in the shallow grave.
The Reuters investigation of the Inn Din massacre was what prompted Myanmar police authorities to arrest two of the news agency’s reporters. The reporters, Burmese citizens Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were detained on Dec. 12 for allegedly obtaining confidential documents relating to Rakhine.
Then, on Jan. 10, the military issued a statement that confirmed portions of what Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo and their colleagues were preparing to report, acknowledging that 10 Rohingya men were massacred in the village . It confirmed that Buddhist villagers attacked some of the men with swords and soldiers shot the others dead.
The statement coincided with an application to the court by prosecutors to charge Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, which dates back to the time of colonial British rule. The charges carry a maximum 14-year prison sentence.
But the military’s version of events is contradicted in important respects by accounts given to Reuters by Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim witnesses. The military said the 10 men belonged to a group of 200 “terrorists” that attacked security forces. Soldiers decided to kill the men, the army said, because intense fighting in the area made it impossible to transfer them to police custody. The army said it would take action against those involved.
Buddhist villagers interviewed for this article reported no attack by a large number of insurgents on security forces in Inn Din. And Rohingya witnesses told Reuters that soldiers plucked the 10 from among hundreds of men, women and children who had sought safety on a nearby beach.
Scores of interviews with Rakhine Buddhist villagers, soldiers, paramilitary police, Rohingya Muslims and local administrators further revealed:
- The military and paramilitary police organized Buddhist residents of Inn Din and at least two other villages to torch Rohingya homes, more than a dozen Buddhist villagers said. Eleven Buddhist villagers said Buddhists committed acts of violence, including killings. The government and army have repeatedly blamed Rohingya insurgents for burning villages and homes.
- An order to “clear” Inn Din’s Rohingya hamlets was passed down the command chain from the military, said three paramilitary police officers speaking on condition of anonymity and a fourth police officer at an intelligence unit in the regional capital Sittwe. Security forces wore civilian clothes to avoid detection during raids, one of the paramilitary police officers said.
- Some members of the paramilitary police looted Rohingya property, including cows and motorcycles, in order to sell it, according to village administrator Maung Thein Chay and one of the paramilitary police officers.
- Operations in Inn Din were led by the army’s 33rd Light Infantry Division, supported by the paramilitary 8th Security Police Battalion, according to four police officers, all of them members of the battalion.
POTENTIAL CRIMINAL CASES
Michael G. Karnavas, a U.S. lawyer based in The Hague who has worked on cases at international criminal tribunals, said evidence that the military had organized Buddhist civilians to commit violence against Rohingya “would be the closest thing to a smoking gun in establishing not just intent, but even specific genocidal intent, since the attacks seem designed to destroy the Rohingya or at least a significant part of them.”
Evidence of the execution of men in government custody also could be used to build a case of crimes against humanity against military commanders, Karnavas said, if it could be shown that it was part of a “widespread or systematic” campaign targeting the Rohingya population.
Kevin Jon Heller, a University of London law professor who served as a legal associate for convicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, said an order to clear villages by military command was “unequivocally the crime against humanity of forcible transfer.”
In December, the United States imposed sanctions on the army officer who had been in charge of Western Command troops in Rakhine, Major General Maung Maung Soe. So far, however, Myanmar has not faced international sanctions over the violence.
Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has disappointed many former supporters in the West by not speaking out against the army’s actions. They had hoped the election of her National League for Democracy party in 2015 would bring democratic reform and an opening of the country. Instead, critics say, Suu Kyi is in thrall to the generals who freed her from house arrest in 2010.
Asked about the evidence Reuters has uncovered about the massacre, government spokesman Zaw Htay said, “We are not denying the allegations about violations of human rights. And we are not giving blanket denials.” If there was “strong and reliable primary evidence” of abuses, the government would investigate, he said. “And then if we found the evidence is true and the violations are there, we will take the necessary action according to our existing law.”
When told that paramilitary police officers had said they received orders to “clear” Inn Din’s Rohingya hamlets, he replied, “We have to verify. We have to ask the Ministry of Home Affairs and Myanmar police forces.” Asked about the allegations of looting by paramilitary police officers, he said the police would investigate.
He expressed surprise when told that Buddhist villagers had confessed to burning Rohingya homes, then added, “We recognize that many, many different allegations are there, but we need to verify who did it. It is very difficult in the current situation.”
Zaw Htay defended the military operation in Rakhine. “The international community needs to understand who did the first terrorist attacks. If that kind of terrorist attack took place in European countries, in the United States, in London, New York, Washington, what would the media say?”
NEIGHBOR TURNS ON NEIGHBOR
nn Din lies between the Mayu mountain range and the Bay of Bengal, about 50 km (30 miles) north of Rakhine’s state capital Sittwe. The settlement is made up of a scattering of hamlets around a school, clinic and Buddhist monastery. Buddhist homes cluster in the northern part of the village . For many years there had been tensions between the Buddhists and their Muslim neighbors, who accounted for almost 90 percent of the roughly 7,000 people in the village . But the two communities had managed to co-exist, fishing the coastal waters and cultivating rice in the paddies.
In October 2016, Rohingya militants attacked three police posts in northern Rakhine – the beginning of a new insurgency. After the attacks, Rohingya in Inn Din said many Buddhists stopped hiring them as farmhands and home help. The Buddhists said the Rohingya stopped showing up for work.
On Aug. 25 last year, the rebels struck again, hitting 30 police posts and an army base. The closest attack was just 4 km to the north. In Inn Din, several hundred fearful Buddhists took refuge in the monastery in the center of the village , more than a dozen of their number said. Inn Din’s Buddhist night watchman San Thein, 36, said Buddhist villagers feared being “swallowed up” by their Muslim neighbors. A Buddhist elder said all Rohingya, “including children,” were part of the insurgency and therefore “terrorists.”
On Aug. 27, about 80 troops from Myanmar’s 33rd Light Infantry Division arrived in Inn Din, nine Buddhist villagers said. Two paramilitary police officers and Soe Chay, the retired soldier, said the troops belonged to the 11th infantry regiment of this division. The army officer in charge told villagers they must cook for the soldiers and act as lookouts at night, Soe Chay said. The officer promised his troops would protect Buddhist villagers from their Rohingya neighbors. Five Buddhist villagers said the officer told them they could volunteer to join security operations. Young volunteers would need their parents’ permission to join the troops, however.
The army found willing participants among Inn Din’s Buddhist “security group,” nine members of the organization and two other villagers said. This informal militia was formed after violence broke out in 2012 between Rakhine’s Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, sparked by reports of the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men. Myanmar media reported at the time that the three were sentenced to death by a district court.
Inn Din’s security group built watch huts around the Buddhist part of the village , and its members took turns to stand guard. Its ranks included Buddhist firefighters, school teachers, students and unemployed young men. They were useful to the military because they knew the local geography, said Inn Din’s Buddhist administrator, Maung Thein Chay.
Most of the group’s 80 to 100 men armed themselves with machetes and sticks. They also had a handful of guns, according to one member. Some wore green fatigue-style clothing they called “militia suits.”
ORGANIZING THE ARSON ATTACKS
In the days that followed the 33rd Light Infantry’s arrival, soldiers, police and Buddhist villagers burned most of the homes of Inn Din’s Rohingya Muslims, a dozen Buddhist residents said.
Two of the paramilitary police officers, both members of the 8th Security Police Battalion, said their battalion raided Rohingya hamlets with soldiers from the newly arrived 33rd Light Infantry. One of the police officers said he received verbal orders from his commander to “go and clear” areas where Rohingya lived, which he took to mean to burn them.
The second police officer described taking part in several raids on villages north of Inn Din. The raids involved at least 20 soldiers and between five and seven police, he said. A military captain or major led the soldiers, while a police captain oversaw the police team. The purpose of the raids was to deter the Rohingya from returning.
“If they have a place to live, if they have food to eat, they can carry out more attacks,” he said. “That’s why we burned their houses, mainly for security reasons.”
Soldiers and paramilitary police wore civilian shirts and shorts to blend in with the villagers, according to the second police officer and Inn Din’s Buddhist administrator, Maung Thein Chay. If the media identified the involvement of security personnel, the police officer explained, “we would have very big problems.”
A police spokesman, Colonel Myo Thu Soe, said he knew of no instances of security forces torching villages or wearing civilian clothing. Nor was there any order to “go and clear” or “set fire” to villages. “This is very much impossible,” he told Reuters. “If there are things like that, it should be reported officially, and it has to be investigated officially.”
“As you’ve told me about these matters now, we will scrutinize and check back,” he added. “What I want to say for now is that as for the security forces, there are orders and instructions and step-by-step management, and they have to follow them. So, I don’t think these things happened.”
The army did not respond to a request for comment.
A medical assistant at the Inn Din village clinic, Aung Myat Tun, 20, said he took part in several raids. “Muslim houses were easy to burn because of the thatched roofs. You just light the edge of the roof,” he said. “The village elders put monks’ robes on the end of sticks to make the torches and soaked them with kerosene. We couldn’t bring phones. The police said they will shoot and kill us if they see any of us taking photos.”
The night watchman San Thein, a leading member of the village security group, said troops first swept through the Muslim hamlets. Then, he said, the military sent in Buddhist villagers to burn the houses.
“We got the kerosene for free from the village market after the kalars ran away,” he said, using a Burmese slur for people from South Asia.
A Rakhine Buddhist youth said he thought he heard the sound of a child inside one Rohingya home that was burned. A second villager said he participated in burning a Rohingya home that was occupied.
“I STARTED HACKING HIM WITH A SWORD”
Soe Chay, the retired soldier who was to dig the grave for the 10 Rohingya men, said he participated in one killing. He told Reuters that troops discovered three Rohingya men and a woman hiding beside a haystack in Inn Din on Aug. 28. One of the men had a smartphone that could be used to take incriminating pictures.
The soldiers told Soe Chay to “do whatever you want to them,” he said. They pointed out the man with the phone and told him to stand up. “I started hacking him with a sword, and a soldier shot him when he fell down.”
Similar violence was playing out across a large part of northern Rakhine, dozens of Buddhist and Rohingya residents said.
Data from the U.N. Operational Satellite Applications Programme shows scores of Rohingya villages in Rakhine state burned in an area stretching 110 km. New York-based Human Rights Watch says more than 350 villages were torched over the three months from Aug. 25, according to an analysis of satellite imagery.
In the village of Laungdon, some 65 km north of Inn Din, Thar Nge, 38, said he was asked by police and local officials to join a Buddhist security group. “The army invited us to burn the kalar village at Hpaw Ti Kaung,” he said, adding that four villagers and nearly 20 soldiers and police were involved in the operation. “Police shot inside the village so all the villagers fled and then we set fire to it. Their village was burned because police believed the villagers supported Rohingya militants – that’s why they cleaned it with fire.”
A Buddhist student from Ta Man Tha village , 15 km north of Laungdon, said he too participated in the burning of Rohingya homes. An army officer sought 30 volunteers to burn “kalar” villages, said the student. Nearly 50 volunteered and gathered fuel from motorbikes and from a market.
“They separated us into several groups. We were not allowed to enter the village directly. We had to surround it and approach the village that way. The army would shoot gunfire ahead of us and then the army asked us to enter,” he said.
After the Rohingya had fled Inn Din, Buddhist villagers took their property, including chickens and goats, Buddhist residents told Reuters. But the most valuable goods, mostly motorcycles and cattle, were collected by members of the 8th Security Police Battalion and sold, said the first police officer and Inn Din village administrator Maung Thein Chay. Maung Thein Chay said the commander of the 8th Battalion, Thant Zin Oo, struck a deal with Buddhist businessmen from other parts of Rakhine state and sold them cattle. The police officer said he had stolen four cows from Rohingya villagers, only for Thant Zin Oo to snatch them away.
Reached by phone, Thant Zin Oo did not comment. Colonel Myo Thu Soe, the police spokesman, said the police would investigate the allegations of looting.
THE VICTIMS ARE CHOSEN
By Sept. 1, several hundred Rohingya from Inn Din were sheltering at a makeshift camp on a nearby beach. They erected tarpaulin shelters to shield themselves from heavy rain.
Among this group were the 10 Rohingya men who would be killed the next morning. Reuters has identified all of the 10 by speaking to witnesses among Inn Din’s Buddhist community and Rohingya relatives and witnesses tracked down in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Five of the men, Dil Mohammed, 35, Nur Mohammed, 29, Shoket Ullah, 35, Habizu, 40, and Shaker Ahmed, 45, were fishermen or fish sellers. The wealthiest of the group, Abul Hashim, 25, ran a store selling nets and machine parts to fishermen and farmers. Abdul Majid, a 45-year-old father of eight, ran a small shop selling areca nut wrapped in betel leaves, commonly chewed like tobacco. Abulu, 17, and Rashid Ahmed, 18, were high school students. Abdul Malik, 30, was an Islamic teacher.
According to the statement released by the army on Jan. 10, security forces had gone to a coastal area where they “were attacked by about 200 Bengalis with sticks and swords.” The statement said that “as the security forces opened fire into the sky, the Bengalis dispersed and ran away. Ten of them were arrested.”
Three Buddhist and more than a dozen Rohingya witnesses contradict this version of events. Their accounts differ from one another in some details. The Buddhists spoke of a confrontation between a small group of Rohingya men and some soldiers near the beach. But there is unanimity on a crucial point: None said the military had come under a large-scale attack in Inn Din.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay referred Reuters to the army’s statement of Jan. 10 and declined to elaborate further. The army did not respond to a request for comment.
The Rohingya witnesses, who were on or near the beach, said Islamic teacher Abdul Malik had gone back to his hamlet with his sons to collect food and bamboo for shelter. When he returned, a group of at least seven soldiers and armed Buddhist villagers were following him, these witnesses said. Abdul Malik walked towards the watching Rohingya Muslims unsteadily, with blood dripping from his head. Some witnesses said they had seen one of the armed men strike the back of Abdul Malik’s head with a knife.
Then the military beckoned with their guns to the crowd of roughly 300 Rohingya to assemble in the paddies, these witnesses said. The soldiers and the Rohingya, hailing from different parts of Myanmar , spoke different languages. Educated villagers translated for their fellow Rohingya.
“I could not hear much, but they pointed toward my husband and some other men to get up and come forward,” said Rehana Khatun, 22, the wife of Nur Mohammed, one of the 10 who were later slain. “We heard they wanted the men for a meeting. The military asked the rest of us to return to the beach.”
FRESH CLOTHES AND A LAST MEAL
Soldiers held and questioned the 10 men in a building at Inn Din’s school for a night, the military said. Rashid Ahmed and Abulu had studied there alongside Rakhine Buddhist students until the attacks by Rohingya rebels in October 2016. Schools were shut temporarily, disrupting the pair’s final year.
“I just remember him sitting there and studying, and it was always amazing to me because I am not educated,” said Rashid Ahmed’s father, farmer Abdu Shakur, 50. “I would look at him reading. He would be the first one in the family to be educated.”
A photograph, taken on the evening the men were detained, shows the two Rohingya students and the eight older men kneeling on a path beside the village clinic, most of them shirtless. They were stripped when first detained, a dozen Rohingya witnesses said. It isn’t clear why. That evening, Buddhist villagers said, the men were “treated” to a last meal of beef. They were provided with fresh clothing.
On Sept. 2, the men were taken to scrubland north of the village , near a graveyard for Buddhist residents, six Buddhist villagers said. The spot is backed by a hill crested with trees. There, on their knees, the 10 were photographed again and questioned by security personnel about the disappearance of a local Buddhist farmer named Maung Ni, according to a Rakhine elder who said he witnessed the interrogation.
Reuters was not able to establish what happened to Maung Ni. According to Buddhist neighbors, the farmer went missing after leaving home early on Aug. 25 to tend his cattle. Several Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya villagers told Reuters they believed he had been killed , but they knew of no evidence connecting any of the 10 men to his disappearance. The army said in its Jan. 10 statement that “Bengali terrorists” had killed Maung Ni, but did not identify the perpetrators.
Two of the men pictured behind the Rohingya prisoners in the photograph taken on the morning of Sept. 2 belong to the 8th Security Police Battalion. Reuters confirmed the identities of the two men from their Facebook pages and by visiting them in person.
One of the two officers, Aung Min, a police recruit from Yangon, stands directly behind the captives. He looks at the camera as he holds a weapon. The other officer, police Captain Moe Yan Naing, is the figure on the top right. He walks with his rifle over his shoulder.
The day after the two Reuters reporters were arrested in December, Myanmar’s government also announced that Moe Yan Naing had been arrested and was being investigated under the 1923 Official Secrets Act.
Aung Min, who is not facing legal action, declined to speak to Reuters.
VENGEANCE FOR A MISSING FARMER
Three Buddhist youths said they watched from a hut as the 10 Rohingya captives were led up a hill by soldiers towards the site of their deaths.
One of the gravediggers, retired soldier Soe Chay, said Maung Ni’s sons were invited by the army officer in charge of the squad to strike the first blows.
The first son beheaded the Islamic teacher, Abdul Malik, according to Soe Chay. The second son hacked another of the men in the neck.
“After the brothers sliced them both with swords, the squad fired with guns. Two to three shots to one person,” said Soe Chay. A second gravedigger, who declined to be identified, confirmed that soldiers had shot some of the men.
In its Jan. 10 statement, the military said the two brothers and a third villager had “cut the Bengali terrorists” with swords and then, in the chaos, four members of the security forces had shot the captives. “Action will be taken against the villagers who participated in the case and the members of security forces who broke the Rules of Engagement under the law,” the statement said. It didn’t spell out those rules.
Tun Aye, one of the sons of Maung Ni, has been detained on murder charges, his lawyer said on Jan. 13. Contacted by Reuters on Feb. 8, the lawyer declined to comment further. Reuters was unable to reach the other brother.
In October, Inn Din locals pointed two Reuters reporters towards an area of brush behind the hill where they said the killings took place. The reporters discovered a newly cut trail leading to soft, recently disturbed earth littered with bones. Some of the bones were entangled with scraps of clothing and string that appeared to match the cord that is seen binding the captives’ wrists in the photographs. The immediate area was marked by the smell of death.
Reuters showed photographs of the site to three forensic experts: Homer Venters, director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights; Derrick Pounder, a pathologist who has consulted for Amnesty International and the United Nations; and Luis Fondebrider, president of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, who investigated the graves of those killed under Argentina’s military junta in the 1970s and 1980s. All observed human remains, including the thoracic part of a spinal column, ribs, scapula, femur and tibia. Pounder said he couldn’t rule out the presence of animal bones as well.
The Rakhine Buddhist elder provided Reuters reporters with a photograph which shows the aftermath of the execution. In it, the 10 Rohingya men are wearing the same clothing as in the previous photo and are tied to each other with the same yellow cord, piled into a small hole in the earth, blood pooling around them. Abdul Malik, the Islamic teacher, appears to have been beheaded. Abulu, the student, has a gaping wound in his neck. Both injuries appear consistent with Soe Chay’s account.
Forensic pathologist Fondebrider reviewed this picture. He said injuries visible on two of the bodies were consistent with “the action of a machete or something sharp that was applied on the throat.”
Some family members did not know for sure that the men had been killed until Reuters returned to their shelters in Bangladesh in January.
“I can’t explain what I feel inside. My husband is dead,” said Rehana Khatun, wife of Nur Mohammed. “My husband is gone forever. I don’t want anything else, but I want justice for his death.”
In Inn Din, the Buddhist elder explained why he chose to share evidence of the killings with Reuters. “I want to be transparent on this case. I don’t want it to happen like that in future.”
How This Muslim Teacher In Berlin Is Fighting Anti-Semitism
Dervis Hizarci is a secondary school teacher in Kreuzberg, one of Berlin’s most diverse neighborhoods, and the chairman of the Kreuzberg Initiative against Anti-Semitism (KIgA).
As a Berliner with Turkish-Muslim roots, he has seen two disturbing developments firsthand: growing hate against Muslims, and worrisome anti-Semitism among Muslims.
One day, a student in his classroom called another student “Jew.” Both students were Muslim. But as Hizarci pointed out in the account below, rather than evidence of deep-seated anti-Semitism among young Muslims, this incident is proof that no case is hopeless.
“Jew” Can’t Become An Insult Again
Dervis Hizarci: I intervened immediately after the incident occurred. I made it clear to the student that comments that belittle others and stir up hatred had no place in my classroom. But I wanted to find out where his comment came from. Was it simply a rash remark? Was it considered “cool” among kids to say things like this? Or was it a form of deep-seated anti-Semitism?
It became clear that the students in this classroom often spoke disparagingly about Jews. I wanted to know exactly where these insults were coming from. They are unacceptable. “Jew” can’t become an insult in Germany once again.
We must confront hate
Hizarci: The KIgA is a civil society initiative to develop education-based methods for dealing with anti-Semitism. We have a diverse team of 30 members. Our work is also diverse: Besides providing assistance to students and teachers, we also organize Jewish-Muslim exchanges, have planned an exhibition on modern Jewish life in Berlin and advise politicians, administrators, and civil society.
In the classroom where this particular incident occurred, we did a weeklong workshop. Among other things, we visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin, talked about identity and Jewish diversity, discussed the theme of anti-Semitism, and also spoke about some of the students’ own experiences of discrimination.
Where Does Anti-Semitism Come From?
Hizarci: There are different theories about the origins of anti-Semitism among children and young people from Muslim immigrant backgrounds.
? The Arab-Israeli conflict - When anti-Semitic ideas would be ascribed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
? Conspiracy theories - When anti-Semitic ideas spring from the belief that there is some sort of “great Jewish power” secretly ruling the world. This is a cocktail made of false information and a flood of emotions.
But there are few conclusive findings about the spread of anti-Semitism among these young immigrants. The theories here are basically that it comes from the parents, from the imam, over satellite TV or from people who’ve fled the Arab world. All this is conceivable, but it should first be examined before it is postulated as fact. We must make sure of these things and develop our strategies accordingly.
The Start Of A Learning Process
Hizarci: In the case of this student, it wasn’t his parents who influenced him to do this. The boy does not even attend a mosque. He explained that people were saying “Jew” during soccer games, and that it simply functioned as a sort of insult. Problematic enough!
The workshop started a learning process for these students. They were encouraged to express themselves and take in other perspectives. Thinking about situations in which they had felt excluded themselves made them realize that comments like these hurt. This resulted in empathy for others.
When a student manages to endure contradictions, accept others and other ways of being, and scrutinize his or her own prejudices and assumptions, this often produces tolerance and openness. This also applies to teachers. It applies to all of us.
How We Can All Stand Against Hate
Hizarci: I could have ignored this incident. I could have simply punished them. But I made the effort to engage with the students and try to understand them.
Every teacher, every citizen can take this approach ? intervene and confront. That is “modern moral courage.” It works on and offline, and creates specific changes.
I challenge everyone in Germany, regardless of career, belief or origin: When and wherever anti-Semitism appears, don’t avoid it. Start a conversation and identify if it’s ignorance, “youth slang” used without reflection, or deep-seated spitefulness. Then respond appropriately.
I hope imams, pastors, and church- and mosque-goers will do this as well. I hope everyone will. Don’t look away when you witness anti-Semitism. For many people, that attitude is already a given. But it needs to be a guiding principle for everyone.
Syrian Regime Kills 200 Civilians In Four Days Raid; 100 Pro-Assad Men Die In Strikes
9 February 2018
JEDDAH: Four days of Syrian regime raids on Eastern Ghouta have killed more than 200 civilians, a war monitor said on Thursday, as the Syrian opposition denounced the “atrocities.”
Regime troops have since Monday waged an intense air campaign against Eastern Ghouta, the only significant opposition pocket near the capital Damascus.
Bombardment on Thursday alone killed 58 civilians, including 15 children, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The deadliest strikes hit a market in the town of Erbin, killing 21 civilians, including nine children.
“These are the worst four days that Eastern Ghouta has ever gone through,” said Hamza, a doctor at the local Erbin clinic who was treating wounded patients.
“From 2011 until now, there has never been the level of bombardment we’ve seen in the last 96 hours.”
The opposition condemned the air raids. “As long as Iranian militias and Hezbollah are there, Syria won’t see peace,” opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.
Hezbollah has killed Syrians and worked “brutally” to keep the regime in power, he said.
Also on Thursday, the US-led coalition said it killed at least 100 pro-regime fighters to fend off an attack on its allies in eastern Syria, in one of its deadliest confrontations yet with forces backing Damascus.
The initial attack was carried out by pro-regime forces on key oil and gas installations in parts of Deir Ezzor province controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the ultimate US goal in Syria was not to fight Daesh but to seize economic assets, the Interfax news agency reported.
Al-Aridi said: “The Russians are working on finding all sorts of excuses to cover up the failure of the political process and their efforts to sideline any political process.”
The Russians are also trying to mask the savagery being inflicted in Eastern Ghouta, he added.
Turkish presidential sources on Thursday said Ankara, Moscow and Tehran will meet in Istanbul to discuss the Syrian crisis. Though the date is not fixed yet, the meeting is expected to take place this month.
In parallel, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met on Wednesday in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani.
Young men left America to join ISIS. They ended up cooking and cleaning for the caliphate.
By Mark Berman
February 8, 2018
When Mohamad Khweis fled his home in the United States in 2015 and headed to Islamic State territory in Syria and Iraq, he was “curious” about life in the group’s self-declared caliphate, he later recalled.
“I would see .?.?. people from all around the world leaving their countries and going to live in this state,” Khweis said when he testified last summer during his federal trial on terrorism charges. “It was kind of interesting.”
What he found did not live up to the hype. Khweis was tasked with running errands such as grocery shopping, taking out the trash at his Islamic State house and caring for wounded fighters. He eventually became “frustrated with waiting” for military training, according to an FBI special agent who testified during Khweis’s trial. He ended up fleeing and was captured in Iraq.
Khweis, who was found guilty of supporting terrorism and sentenced to 20 years in prison, was not alone in feeling disillusioned by what he encountered. Many of the Americans who traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the group wound up coming back because “life in jihadist-held territory did not live up to their expectations,” according to a new study from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism that provides a sweeping look at their experiences.
These Americans had seen “an idealized version of reality” in online propaganda they consumed, but that contrasted unfavorably with the harsh living conditions, infighting and menial assignments that greeted them, the report found. For Americans like Khweis — who later insisted he was not part of the group and only wanted to see the situation in Syria for himself — household chores could lead to their decisions to abandon the fight.
“Many of the Americans had little to no combat experience and were assigned duties such as cleaning safe houses, cooking, and caring for the sick and injured,” the report states. “This was hardly the glamorous experience they anticipated, and some sought a way back to the comforts of home.”
The Americans who went overseas tended to be male, with an average age of 27, according to the report. They were like thousands of others drawn by the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — as the terrorist group seized territory in Syria and Iraq, creating its own society on the ground. The Islamic State’s physical territory has since dwindled following punishing military losses, but its online propaganda machine continues to churn out material as part of a “virtual caliphate” rallying its followers.
More than 150 Americans were arrested on Islamic State-related charges between 2011 and 2017, and about a third of them were people who sought to travel abroad but were stopped, according to the report, which notes that attempts to travel to Iraq or Syria have steadily fallen since 2015. Dozens of people in the United States already have been convicted on federal charges relating to the group. (Far more people left Europe to join the Islamic State — estimates range from 5,000 to 6,000, the report says — though that flow of volunteers also plummeted as the group lost territory.)
The report’s authors examined 64 people — described as “travelers” — who left the United States to join Islamist militant groups in Syria and Iraq since 2011, the year protests began against the Syrian regime. Most of them were associated with the Islamic State, either at the outset or joining up with the group as it expanded, according to the report. Just a handful — four — reached leadership positions in the Islamist militant groups they joined.
Most of the travelers were described as “networked,” meaning they had some connection with Islamist militant supporters in the United States or others traveling with them, according to the study, which is based on interviews with law enforcement officials, reviews of legal documents and interviews with some Americans who went to Islamic State territory and returned. Khweis was in the smaller category of “loners,” those who apparently traveled without any personal connections to the fight and still made it to Syria or Iraq.
Relatively few of the travelers returned to the United States, the study found. Just a dozen of them are known to have come back, and nine of them were arrested and faced terror charges. One of that dozen returned intending to carry out an attack, the report said, but was taken into custody early in the planning stages; he was sentenced last month to 22 years in prison. About one-third of the travelers examined in the report are believed to have died overseas.
The report states that returning travelers do pose a risk, because they can help with recruiting other Islamist militants or provide knowledge about travel or conducting attacks. While the Trump administration has repeatedly argued that stronger immigration restrictions are needed to keep terrorists out of the United States, the report notes that most of the 64 travelers were U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
“The traveler phenomenon, like the domestic terrorist threat, is primarily homegrown,” the authors wrote.
The report concludes that people who never left the United States pose a greater danger than those who went overseas and came back, noting that none of the terrorist attacks in the United States in recent years have been carried out by people who traveled to Syria or Iraq first. In high-profile case after high-profile case, U.S. officials have determined that attackers were radicalized in the United States after consuming online propaganda.
“The risk that ‘homegrown’ extremists will commit attacks on U.S. soil outweighs the risk of attacks from returning travelers,” the authors wrote.
Council Of Islamic Ideology In Pakistan Against Public Hangings Of Pedophiles
9 February 2018
Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on Thursday advised against introducing in the law an amendment seeking public hanging for child kidnappers according to The Express Tribune newspaper.
“There is no need to amend ‘Criminal Law Amendment Act 2017’ for a modification in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) Act’s Section 364-A with regard to kidnapping or abduction of a person under the age of 14’’.
“Rather there is a need to ensure punishing culprits involved in such heinous crime in order to build trust and confidence of judiciary among victim’s family,” CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz told a press conference on Thursday.
Media kept on asking the CII chief for a more detailed opinion on public hanging of such culprits as demanded by a section of society in the wake of recent incidents of abduction, rape and murder of minor children particularly in Kasur. However, Ayaz desisted from delving into details.
Senators suggest rationality on public hanging
Speaking with regard to seven-year-old Zainab’s murder case, he said the council recommended speedy trial in such cases of heinous crimes in order to ensure easy and immediate justice for the victims.
“Certainty of punishment is a solution to the growing social malaise. This can ensure reduction in crimes. The penalty can be publicised through modern means of communication to achieve Islamic objective of deterrence to the crime. This is the main objective of the Islamic theory of penalty,” he said.
The chairman said the council unanimously opined that the justice system of Pakistan has become outdated and has failed to provide justice to the people. “Major steps are needed to develop a totally new justice mechanism,” he remarked.
A few weeks ago, the Senate Secretariat referred the bill to the CII for its view over public execution. This move came after the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice discussed a proposed amendment to the section of 364-A of the PPC to allow public hanging last month.
IHC directs ‘converted’ Christian minor to be handed over to family
Feb 9, 2018
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday ordered the handing over of the Christian girl to her parents in an underage Christian girl marriage case, besides referring the case to a family court.
The marriage case of a twelve-year-old Christian girl with a Muslim boy came up for the hearing before a single bench of the IHC headed Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.
The boy stated before the court the girl has become Muslim. However, the court remarked the girl failed to satisfy court about her conversion to Islam.
The IHC court said: “How the girl has become Muslim when she does not know even about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).”
The counsel for the petitioner argued that had the girl been adult then they [parents] would have no objection.
The court also talked to the parents of the boy remarking that the parents of the boy were equally responsible for this offence.
Full report at:
TTP’s Sajna reportedly killed in US drone strike in NWA
Feb 9, 2018
A US drone strike along the Pak-Afghan border in the North Waziristan region has reportedly killed the deputy chief of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Sajna Mehsud, according to unconfirmed reports on Thursday.
Reports suggested that Sajna was among two men reportedly taken down in the US strike. However, another report claimed that the US drone strike was conducted inside Afghan territory and it had killed at least three suspected militants linked with the Afghan Haqqani Network.
Full report at:
Switzerland, UAE being asked about Pakistanis’ assets
ISLAMABAD: The government has started negotiations with the UAE and Swiss governments to collect information regarding Pakistanis holding billions of dollars of offshore assets and bank accounts to bring these Pakistanis into the tax net.
“We have started negotiations with authorities in Dubai and Switzerland to get information about properties and other assets of Pakistanis,” said Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal while talking to reporters after a meeting of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice at the Parliament House on Thursday.
He said Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland were members of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and under the charter of the organisation they had to share information about assets and properties of nationals of each other’s countries.
“The process of exchange of such information started among OECD-member countries with effect from Jan 1, 2018,” he said.
According to media reports, hundreds of Pakistanis have stashed billions of dollars abroad via their offshore companies and properties to evade taxes in Pakistan.
Mr Afzal said that because of the OECD charter, the government would also be able to obtain information regarding properties and bank accounts of those 500 Pakistanis who had been exposed in the Panama Papers scandal in April 2016.
The minister said that those Pakistan having stashed their money abroad would have an opportunity to legalise their wealth by paying a certain amount of tax in Pakistan as the government was preparing an amnesty scheme for the purpose.
“Indonesia and Malaysia have taken advantage of such amnesty schemes, and received billions of dollars in taxes from their nationals,” he pointed out.
He said rich Pakistanis who had hidden their wealth abroad had a chance under the scheme to declare their properties and bank accounts and whiten their money and wealth by paying a certain amount of tax in Pakistan. He said the government was fine-tuning different aspects of the scheme to make it more beneficial for the government and the people.
Full report at:
US drone kills three ‘militants’ in N Waziristan
February 09, 2018
PESHAWAR: Three suspected militants were killed in a US drone strike at a compound close to the Afghan border in North Waziristan Agency on Thursday, sources said.
According to an official of the political administration, two missiles were fired at the compound in the Gorwek area across the border near Zero Point.
Names of the deceased could not be ascertained but local sources claimed that both belonged to the Haqqani network.
Drone strikes in the region have surged in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s announcement of a new Afghan policy in which Pakistan was accused of harbouring terrorists and offering “safe havens to the agents of chaos”.
On Jan 17, two suspected militants were killed and another was injured when US drones fired missiles at some locations on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border in Kurram Agency’s Badshah Kot area.
Full report at:
Muslim Law Body AIMPLB Vows to Remove ‘Flaws’ In ‘Triple Talaq’ Bill
February 09, 2018
HYDERABAD: Slamming the triple talaq bill proposed by the BJP-led NDA government for its "flaws", the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Thursday vowed to work towards removing them.
Describing the "flaws" in the bill as being against the Constitution and fundamental rights, AIMPLB spokesperson Maulana Syed Khaleel-ur-Rahman Sajjad Nomani alleged that the proposed bill bans the institution of talaq itself.
"It is generally publicised that this bill is presented to stop triple talaq. But, the fact is, if you read the bill, it is to ban the entire institution of talaq," Mr Nomani told reporters on the eve of the Board's three-day 26th plenary session.
"The flaws in it, because of them, it (the bill) is against the Constitution of India, judgements of the Supreme Court, women and children rights and fundamental rights. Those flaws be removed," he said.
The AIMPLB also claimed efforts are being made to enact a "very wrong law".
The spokesperson, however, said the "board was not opposed to the bill, but wanted the flaws removed".
The board requested all the opposition parties to consider whether the bill can be passed in its present form, he said.
The triple talaq bill has already been passed in the Lok Sabha, but it is yet to get a nod in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP-led NDA lacks majority.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, criminalises instant talaq and provides for up to three years of imprisonment for accused Muslim men.
The bill also enables any person from anywhere to complain against a Muslim man vis-a-vis divorce, he claimed.
"Even if the wife says he (her husband) has not given divorce and that it was a wrong report (on the matter), police will say you have to prove that in court and that we have to arrest. This is a strange legislation. That means, the truth is, it makes us feel ashamed not just as a Muslim but as a citizen of this country," Mr Nomani said.
He said an effort was being made to make a "very wrong" type of law.
"I challenge categorically there is no such law in the whole world. This is very shameful type of drafting. An effort was being made to make a very wrong type of law. There are other such flaws. The Muslim Personal Law Board's stand is to get those flaws removed," Nomani said.
The board would exercise all the democratic options regarding the bill, he said.
The board sought an appointment with the prime minister after the bill came into public domain, but no response was received from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office, Mr Nomani alleged.
The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, pending before the Supreme Court, would also be discussed in the meetings, he said.
Sri Sri Ravishankar raises hopes of a settlement in Babri Masjid case
Feb 9, 2018
Bengaluru: On a day when Supreme Court set March 14 as the next date of hearing in the politically-sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case, members from Muslim community met Sri Sri Ravishankar and evinced interest to have an out-of-court settlement.
The Art of Living claimed that Muslim leaders had supported the proposal of shifting the Masjid outside to another place. The meeting was held in AoL campus in Bengaluru. A bigger meeting would be held in Ayodhya to take the talks to the next level. Members of the Sunni Waqf Board, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and others were present.
IAF officer who leaked info to ISI for sex chats arrested
Feb 9, 2018
NEW DELHI: The Delhi Police arrested Group Captain Arun Marwaha on Thursday on charges of passing on details of secret IAF documents to Pakistani spy agency ISI.
DCP (special cell) Pramod Khushwah has confirmed the arrest. Marwaha, 51, was allegedly using his smartphone to click pictures of classified documents pertaining to combat exercises at the IAF headquarters and then sending them across via WhatsApp.
The Group Captain had been detained by the Indian Air Force for investigation on January 31 after his activities were found suspicious.
Sources said Marwah had been honey-trapped online by the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) through two Facebook accounts in mid-December. ISI operatives were masquerading as models through these profiles. After being lured through seductive conversations for a week or so, he was enticed to share information pertaining to IAF exercises.
Till now, cops have not found any evidence of a monetary exchange and say Marwaha was passing on classified information in lieu of sex chats. The documents mostly comprised of training and combat-related air exercises. Gagan Shakti was one such exercise whose details he passed on to the ISI, a source said.
While police remained tight-lipped, sources confirmed to TOI that Marwaha was produced before the court of Deepak Sehrawat at Patiala House and taken on five days of police remand by the special cell. He is being interrogated at the cell's headquarters in Lodhi Colony. It is also being probed if he had any accomplices.
The cops now aim to identify the Pakistani handlers and gather more details about the shared documents.
Full report at:
Four held for facilitating LeT man's escape from hospital
M Saleem Pandit
Feb 9, 2018
JAMMU: Police on Thursday claimed to have cracked the case of daring escape of a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist from the Sri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in the heart of Srinagar by arresting four people, including the "main conspirator".
On Tuesday, Naveed Jati alias Abu Hanzullah escape from the hospital where he had been brought for a check-up from Srinagar Central Jail. Two policemen were also killed.
ADG, Kashmir range, Munir Khan said the main conspirator, Tikka Khan, two Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists — Shakil Ahmed and Syed Tajamul alias Rahil Kachroo — and an over ground LeT worker — Muhammad Shafi — were arrested from Pulwama on Wednesday.
"Tikka Khan was the kingpin. He had arranged the escape of the Pakistani terrorist with others. Terrorists Hilal Rather and Naveed are on the run," he said at a press conference in Srinagar.
"Rather and Shakeel used to meet Naveed in Srinagar Central Jail. During one such meeting, they hatched a plan to get Naveed out of jail. As per plan, Naveed complained of abdominal pain and was referred to the hospital," Khan told TOI.
A top police officer revealed that the special investigation team (SIT) probing the case identified the culprits from CCTV footage and their conversation on social media. He said the SIT probe would bring facts about the conspiracy and might indict some jail officials involved in it.
"Rather was involved in the shootout. He handed over the pistol to the handcuffed Naveed, which led to the shootout and killing of two policemen and helped him to escape with them on a motorbike," Khan said.
He said the terrorists were planning the escape for the past four months. "They had tried to escape from Pulwama court a few months ago, but failed."
Khan said the conspirators had a bike and a car when they entered the hospital. "Shakil, Naveed and Rather sped away on the bike and stayed at a house at Raj Bagh in Srinagar till late Tuesday night. Tikka drove the car and later took the others in his car to Pulwama. Since there was huge rush at the hospital, they succeeded in their plan," he added.
Earlier, J&K police chief SP Vaid had admitted that the attack was not possible without connivance of Srinagar Central jail officials. "A SIT, headed by a SP-level officer, is looking into this incident. A magisterial probe is also being ordered to ascertain all that led to the attack and the subsequent escape," he said.
Full report at:
LeT fugitive poses with Hizb terrorists on social media
M Saleem Pandit
Feb 9, 2018
JAMMU: Two days after his escape amid a shootout in Srinagar's SMHS hospital, pictures of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist — Naveed Jati alias Abu Hanzullah — surfaced on social media on Thursday. The photos showed Jati holding an AK-47 rifle and posing with his Hizbul Mujahideen counterparts — Sadam Paddar and Aadil Malik — from south Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir government suspended the superintendent of Srinagar central jail — Hilal Ahmad Rather — for the security breach that led to Jati's escape and the killing of two cops. It had also removed from duty the jail doctor — Dr Zeenat — and a pharmacist Mansoor Ahmad in this connection on Wednesday.
The fugitive was referred to SMHS by the jail doctor on Rather's instructions. There, Jati's accomplices opened fire on the police party escorting him and took him away to a hideout in south Kashmir. Sources said Jati had already planned the escapade over the phone, in connivance with his accomplices outside the jail.
The state home department has appointed DIG jails Mohammad Sultan Lone to inquire into the attack.
SSP Shopian Sri Ram Ambedkar said the pictures look recent and cops are verifying them. Paddar, from Shopian, was a close associate of former Hizb commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter in July 2016, sparking violent protests across the Valley. In the unrest that lasted for several months, at least 80 civilians were killed and thousands injured in clashes between protestors and security forces.
Full report at:
Karzai says Pak, US used Afghan war to further their own interests
Feb 9, 2018
KABUL: Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused Pakistan and the United States of using the Afghanistan war to further their own national interests, adding that Afghanistan is in “terrible shape” 16 years after the collapse of the Taliban.
He also said that Afghans who had embraced the US as a friend and liberator now see it as “hurting us, not helping us”. “That has to change,” Karzai said in an interview.
In an interview at his Kabul home, where he wore his signature ankle-length green striped coat and karakul cap, Karzai echoed complaints from Afghanistan’s current government that accused neighbouring Pakistan of harbouring Taliban militants and urged the US to impose sanctions on Pakistani military and intelligence officials.
Citing US President Donald Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet that accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit”, Karzai said, “We hope the US will now act against Pakistan.”
But he added that “doesn’t mean that the Pakistani people should be hurt or that war should be launched in Pakistan”.
“In other words, I want the US to impose sanctions on the Pakistan military and the intelligence, not on the Pakistani people,” Karzai said.
The interview occurred a day after the US lawmakers questioned the direction of America’s longest war.
Dhaka in turmoil as former Bangladesh PM Khaleda Zia jailed for 5 years, Delhi is wary
by Jyoti Malhotra
February 9, 2018
Plunging Bangladesh into turmoil, a Dhaka special court Thursday sentenced Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to five years rigorous imprisonment for corruption. The 72-year-old, who was taken to jail immediately, may be disqualified from contesting elections due in December this year.
The sentencing of Zia was met by stony silence in Delhi which believes that despite the possibility of even greater expansion of power by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, she remains the best bet to rule Bangladesh.
Reports from Bangladesh say Zia’s party BNP is planning a nationwide protest Friday. Her party secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir called the court verdict “completely politically motivated”. Zia will be in jail for at least three days before bail can be posted.
But in comments that speak of the intense rivalry between the country’s two most powerful women, Prime Minister Hasina said of her chief opponent: “Where is she now?” She criticised Zia and her party for instigating violence from 2013 to 2015.
“The Throne of the Almighty Allah gets shaken when one carries out repression on people. Those who burnt people to death face such consequences. And that justice is being done,” Hasina told a rally in Dhaka.
The question is whether Zia’s five-year incarceration disallows her from contesting the generalelections that will take place in December. If the BNP boycotts the polls, like it did five years ago in 2013, then Hasina and her Awami League will rule without the spectre of a real Opposition — to the disappointment of Delhi.
In recent months, a watchful establishment in Delhi, mindful of the strains and pressures from radical Islamists as well as the temptation of financial assistance offered to Dhaka by a rapidly influential China, has made it clear that it will support Hasina’s democratic Awami League.
But it has also gently urged Hasina to allow “visible minimum participation” by the Opposition BNP, with whom she has been at daggers drawn for several years. Delhi’s argument has been that an Awami League government in power will be better able to deal with democratic dissent inside the system than outside it.
It is an argument that Hasina may not have been totally averse to, even as she has exponentially expanded her influence during the last four years of her prime ministership — muzzling the media, expanding the ambit of security forces in civilian spaces, and welcoming the Chinese into Bangladesh.
Delhi has been particularly watchful of China’s rapidly expanding influence in Bangladesh, since the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, when he cut a cheque of $26 billion and handed it over to Sheikh Hasina.
Since then, the Bangladeshis have bought two submarines from China and also allowed Chinese companies to build some infrastructure around the Chittagong port.
On its part, Delhi has made it a point to reach out to the BNP. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met Zia in Dhaka in October 2017, even though a section of the Awami League said that she should not meet her.
Full report at:
Karzai urges US to impose sanctions on Pak military and intelligence
Feb 08 2018
The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged the United States to impose sanctions on Pakistan’s military and intelligence as he accused the two institutions of harboring the Taliban militants.
Karzai made the remarks during an exclusive interview with the Associated Press where he echoed the complaints from the government of Afghanistan regarding the safe havens of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Pointing towards the recent Tweet of the President Donald Trump regarding Pakistan, Karzai said “We hope the U.S. will now act in Pakistan.”
But he added that “doesn’t mean that the Pakistan people should be hurt or that war should be launched in Pakistan.”
“In other words I want the U.S. to impose sanctions on the Pakistan military and the intelligence, not on the Pakistani people,” Karzai said.
This comes as the Afghan officials have long been criticizing Pakistan for failing to act against the safe havens and leadership councils of the Taliban and Haqqani network in its soil.
However, the Pakistani officials reject the allegations of the Afghan officials sayig there is no organized presence of the terror networks in its soil.
The US President Donald Trump earlier last month criticized Pakistan in strong words for harboring the terrorist groups despite receiving billions in aid to support the counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan.
Full report at:
11 ISIS militants including 2 local leaders killed in Nangarhar operations
Feb 09 2018
At least eleven militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed during the joint operations of the Afghan national defense and security forces in eastern Nangarhar province.
The 201st Silab Corps in the East said at least two local leaders of the terror group were also among those killed.
According to the Silab Corps, the operations were jointly conducted by the Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army, and Afghan Local Police forces in Deh Bala district.
At least two hideouts of the terror group along with a depot containing medicines were also destroyed during the operations, the Silab Corps added.
The anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups including the ISIS insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.
This comes as the Silab Corps officials said Wednesday that a number of ISIS suffered casualties during the airstrikes and operations of the Afghan security forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
According to Silab Corps, the US forces carried out airstrikes using unmanned aerial vehicles in Dowa Kholi area of Nazian and Gorgori area of Deha Bala district, leaving least three militants were killed and another militant was wounded.
Full report at:
Briton jailed for anti-Muslim Facebook posts
Feb 08, 2018
A Briton who posted messages on Facebook to stir up religious hatred against Muslims was sentenced at the Bradford Crown Court to one year in jail and 300 hours of community service on Wednesday.
John Hanson, 61, from Yorkshire, posted two messages on Facebook in July 2016 in which he accused Muslims for being responsible for wars and attacks around the world and called on others to commit acts of violence against Muslims.
In a third post published in June 2017, he included a photo of himself wearing a t-shirt which mentioned destroying Islam. In a police interview he admitted that the Facebook page he posted the comments on was his and he was the only person able to update it.
Hanson initially denied that the posts were intended to stir up religious hatred but accepted that what he had written could be upsetting for others. He later pleaded guilty to three counts of stirring up religious hatred. His sentence was suspended for two years.
Sue Hemming from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “John Hanson’s case is another example of people posting extremist messages on social media. This is a serious offence which harms community relations.
“Where there is enough evidence and it is in the public interest we will prosecute those who seek to stir up religious hatred.”
Paris attacks suspect in Belgian language mix-up acquittal bid
February 09, 2018
A Belgian court must acquit Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam over a shootout with police because of a legal language mix-up between Dutch and French, his defence lawyer said Thursday.
Abdeslam, 28, refused to come to court in Brussels on Thursday, after accusing judges on the first day of the trial on Monday of being anti-Muslim and proclaiming he would only put his "trust in Allah".
In Abdeslam's absence, lawyer Sven Mary sought the case's dismissal over a technicality in how the judges were named to investigate the gunbattle in Brussels in March 2016, in which three police offers were wounded.
"It's a very Belgian story," said Mary, explaining that the top counter-terror judge should have issued the document naming the judges in Dutch, and not in French, because he serves in a Dutch-speaking court in Brussels.
The "whole case" against Abdeslam and his Tunisian co-defendant, Sofiane Ayari "must be thrown out," Mary said.
Belgium's deep divisions between Dutch and French-speakers were often cited as a factor in the country's widely criticised investigations into the cell behind attacks in 2015 in Paris and 2016 in Brussels.
Mary also said the case has been "polluted" by media leaks in France and Belgium that deny his client a fair trial, and that there was "no element that would allow you to convict Abdeslam of a terrorist offence."
- 'Mock the rule of law' -
Prosecutors have asked for the maximum available 20-year jail term for both Abdeslam and Ayari, who face terrorist-related charges of attempted murder and possession of banned weapons over the shootout.
Abdeslam was brought to Brussels from a jail near Paris under heavy security for the trial on Monday. He had been transferred to France shortly after his arrest in March 2016.
His fellow defendant Ayari, 24, appeared alone in the court on Thursday, listening intently to his Arabic-speaking interpreter but often frowning, surrounded by elite police in balaclavas.
Abdeslam's co-defendant Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian, appeared alone in the court on Thursday, often looking down and frowning.
Lawyers for police wounded in the gunbattle earlier Thursday accused Abdeslam, the Belgian-born Frenchman of Moroccan descent, of scorning the trial.
"His attitude and his opportunism tire me," Tom Bauwens, a lawyer for two of the elite police officers involved in the raid in the Forest district of Brussels, told the courtroom.
"He will mock our rule of law, he will mock everybody. He will not recognise your court, he will not recognise your laws," he said. "But he will nevertheless ask for a lawyer to plead his case before you."
The court may take several weeks to deliberate before handing down a verdict.
One of the three police officers injured in the battle, described only as agent nine, is still suffering the after-effects, his lawyer said.
The court may take several weeks to deliberate before handing down a verdict.
One of the three police officers injured in the battle, described only as agent nine, is still suffering the after-effects, his lawyer said.
"He is suffering so much from his brain lesions that he no longer knows what to do," Bauwens told the court.
"He has epileptic fits. He has loss of vision and balance. It's the reality. Agent number nine did his work and all he asks for is for you the court to continue the work he started," he said.
- Silence 'not criminal' -
Abdeslam, the last surviving suspect from the Islamic State cell behind the November 2015 Paris attacks , had said on Monday that his decision to refuse to answer questions was his method of defence, and that "silence does not make me a criminal."
Mary initially represented Abdeslam after his arrest in Brussels, which happened three days after the gun battle, but then dropped the former bar owner because of his attitude.
However Mary then took Abdeslam back on as a client ahead of the trial and managed to delay the hearings from December last year to have more time to prepare.
Prosecutors have said that DNA links Abdeslam to the apartment in the Forest district of Brussels where the shooting took place, but not to the weapons themselves that were used.
Full report at:
How the UK government’s 'extremism' strategy targets Muslims
8 February 2018
None of us have the faintest excuse for feeling surprised at the intervention by new Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman over the hijab ban at St Stephen's primary school in Newham.
Spielman's defence of "muscular liberalism" is another manifestation of the approach that produced Sara Khan as Britain’s first extremism commissioner. Ofsted’s successful High Court appeal to ban gender segregation in Birmingham's Al-Hijrah School forms part of the same pattern.
How can we be so certain these three events are connected? Try reading the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto. Spielman is implementing government policy.
Promoting 'British values'
The manifesto states that one of Prime Minister Theresa May's core objectives is "confronting the menace of extremism". It notes: "Extremism, especially Islamist extremism, strips some British people, especially women, of the freedoms they should enjoy, undermines the cohesion of our society and can fuel violence." It pledges that an incoming Tory government would "support the public sector and civil society in identifying extremists, countering their messages and promoting pluralistic, British values."
The leadership chaos inside the Conservatives Party, coupled with Brexit, has caused observers to lose sight of what is actually happening. But there should be no confusion: May is determined to establish a new and much tougher relationship between the central government and Muslims. Those who refuse to conform to so-called “British values” will be pilloried as “extremist”.
Over the short term, the prime minister's war against what she calls extremism will deliver political benefits; just look at the glowing reviews Spielman is already receiving in the mainstream media.
The Muslim communities at the receiving end of the Tory extremism policy are already unpopular. They do not vote Conservative, and provide convenient whipping boys.
Over the long term, I am certain that this new policy will open up unnecessary sectarian divisions. This is because nobody has come up with a definition of extremism; despite the best efforts of the finest minds in Whitehall, all attempts to provide a definition have failed. Indeed, this is why May's promise to bring a counter-extremism bill to parliament has never been fulfilled.
Extremists - from suffragettes to Gandhi
This failure to define extremism is serious because it means that the term is open to abuse. Lacking an agreed meaning, it can be used selectively by politicians and activists as a way of insulting their enemies.
According to Hansard, the parliamentary record, the term "extremist" was first used in Parliament in 1912, at the height of the suffragette agitation six years before women secured the vote.
Hereditary peer Viscount Helmsley (who was killed four years later in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on the western front) told the House of Lords of his "fear that the sensible women, the majority of women, would be so disgusted by the conduct of the extremists of their sex, that you would find that gradually they tended to drift more and more out of politics, and you would be left with this type of woman only, exercising the vote which you are proposing to confer up them to-day."
It's easy to see what was going on here. The term extremist was being used to exclude suffragettes from mainstream discourse. Women who did not believe they should have the vote were considered "sensible" (or moderate). By contrast, those who wanted the vote were “extremist” - far beyond the range of accepted opinion. They could therefore be ostracised or ignored.
Today, by an extraordinary historical irony, the positions have switched entirely. Anybody who campaigned for women to be denied the vote would themselves be regarded as “extremists."
Muslims singled out
My research, carried out with my friend and collaborator Alastair Sloan as part of a research project for a book I plan to write on British Islam, shows that once women were given the vote, politicians ceased to describe suffragettes as extremists. Instead, they used the term against those who supported Home Rule for India.
Once again, a huge historical irony is at work. Mahatma Gandhi is today regarded as one of the greatest statesmen in world history; it is the opponents of Indian independence who are seen as the die-hard extremists.
The term was also applied in parliament to the early Zionists who supported the existence of a state of Israel for the Jewish people. This is no longer viewed as an "extremist" position. In fact, not believing the Jewish people have a right to self-determination is, in Britain today, seen as extremist. Nowadays, our research has shown, the term "extremist" is almost exclusively applied to Muslims.
Muslims will likely pass on the baton in due course, and some other group will have the misfortune to be invidiously singled out as "extremist" by the dominant media and political class of the age.
Extremism is something that only exists in the eye of the beholder: it cannot be objectively defined, but it does have a spurious authority that makes it ideal for vulgar abuse against whatever group happens to be most unpopular at any given moment.
Before the First World War, that unpopular group was the suffragettes. In the 1930s, it was the agitators for Indian independence and the Zionists. At present, it's applied to Muslims.
Enforcing cultural conformity
There is, however, a special difficulty about the use of the term today that makes it far worse and more dangerous than a century ago when it was applied to suffragettes, Zionists and supporters of Gandhi. This is the Conservative Party determination to incorporate the term into British government practice.
Officially sanctioned busybodies like Spielman (who has no teaching experience and was given her job against the advice of the House of Commons education select committee) are starting to use it as part of their work.
Spielman is on a mission. Ofsted used to focus on establishing high education standards in British schools. Now it's got a second objective: enforcing cultural conformity in British classrooms - but, it appears, only when it comes to Muslim children.
Crucially, Spielman’s determination to enforce conformity to so-called British values - another undefinable phrase - appears to apply to only Muslims. So far at least, there's no evidence that she has a problem with Jewish boys wearing the kippah with clips and tzitzit, Sikh boys wearing the patka, gender-segregated public school boys wearing top hats and tail jackets and girls wearing ankle-covering floor-length skirts.
Ofsted was firm on this point, with a spokesman noting that Spielman has "been clear that the context of this debate specifically relates to the wearing of the hijab by young girls where traditionally, the hijab is not worn until girls reach puberty, as a mark of modesty as they become young women".
In other words, Spielman's war against extremism in British schools is being applied selectively.
No legal definition of extremism
To be fair to Spielman, this is inevitable once you start using a term that has no generally agreed meaning. This is spelled out very well in an excellent research note circulated on Wednesday by the advocacy group Cage, entitled "Why we must reject the Commission for Countering Extremism".
"The CCE has no such basis in law," the note states. "It has not been debated in Parliament, there is no legal definition of extremism and its work is not underpinned by any parliamentary authority."
It then draws attention to an alarming exchange between Democratic Unionist Party MP Gavin Robinson and Conservative MP Gerald Howarth in Parliament in January 2016. Robinson told Parliament: “The government recently published a counter-extremism strategy. When I asked why Northern Ireland, which has a fair number of extremists, was not included in the strategy, I was told, 'Don't push the issue too far. It is really a counter-Islamic strategy.'"
Howarth replied: "Indeed. Everything is being done so that the government can pretend that they are being even-handed. We cannot be even-handed between those who do not threaten our national security and those who do. We have to be specific."
Here, we have two well-informed MPs apparently agreeing that the term extremism is being applied only to Muslims. This selective use of "extremism" as a weapon against Muslims recalls the way UKIP mobilised the debate over Halal meat.
'Caught in the crossfire'
In February 2015, UKIP announced that it would ban the ritual slaughter of animals for religious reasons. But speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, responding to concerns that this would affect Jews, the party’s agricultural spokesman said: "This isn’t aimed at you - it’s aimed elsewhere - it's aimed at others. You’ve been caught in the crossfire; collateral damage. You know what I mean." In other words, UKIP was saying that this was a policy directed at Muslims only.
Everyone interested in the manipulation of the term extremism should carefully study the research note circulated by Cage. In this context, the following passage is worth highlighting:
‘Extremism’ is a term that is not legally defined. Despite this, the work of the CCE will seek to incorporate a second definition. This, at a time when already the notion of Fundamental British Values has been embedded within counter-terrorism without any clarity. The terms are not and cannot be legally defined because notions of what they constitute vary between people and within communities, across society and change from time to time.
"In the absence of clear legal definitions, we are left with subjective opinions of individuals and think-tanks of the most powerful groups in society being able to impose their views and opinions on minority groups.
"This will simply lead to more discrimination and criminalisation against Muslim communities and further erosion of rights. Muslims who support the CCE will be effectively supporting self-criminalisation of their own community and unequal treatment."
Full report at:
Iraqi Kurds accused of carrying out ‘mass executions’ of ISIS members
9 February 2018
Human Rights Watch on Friday accused Iraqi Kurdish security forces of carrying out mass executions of detainees alleged to be members of ISIS.
The watchdog said the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters detained Iraqis and foreigners at a school in Sahel al-Maliha, 70 kilometers northwest of Mosul, from which ISIS was expelled in July.
“The evidence suggests that Asayish (Kurdish) security forces conducted mass executions of captured ISIS suspects night after night for a week, perhaps killing scores or even hundreds of male detainees,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s deputy Middle East director. “Iraqi and KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) authorities should urgently and transparently investigate the allegations of mass executions and hold those responsible to account,” she said in a statement. The executions allegedly occurred between August 28 and September 3.
Questioned about the report by HRW, Iraqi Kurd government official Dindar Zebari denied the accusations. Zebari said that according to the head of the Asayish, the Peshmerga were battling IS on a 71-kilometre front line as the jihadists attempted to flee to Syria.
During the clashes, many ISIS and Peshmerga fighters died, and “the corpses of the killed ISIS members in this fighting were probably brought in one place to be buried”, he was quoted as saying.
The front line is located about 40 kilometers from the site at which the bodies were found, said HRW, casting doubt on his account.
“This explanation does not match the state the bodies were found in, shot in the head” and buried “in a solitary desert area, far from where any fighting had occurred,” said the watchdog.
2 of ISIS’ Infamous British Fighters Are Captured by Syrian Kurds
By ADAM GOLDMAN and ERIC SCHMITT
FEB. 8, 2018
WASHINGTON — Syrian Kurdish fighters have detained two British men infamous for their role in the Islamic State’s imprisonment, torture and killing of Western hostages, according to American officials.
The men were part of a group of four Islamic State militants known as the “Beatles” because of their British accents. Officials identified the two men captured as Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh. They were the last two members of the group to remain at large.
The ringleader, Mohammed Emwazi, was killed in an airstrike in 2015 in Syria after an intensive manhunt. Known as “Jihadi John,” he beheaded American and British hostages. A fourth man, Aine Davis, is imprisoned in Turkey on terrorism charges.
All four had lived in West London. Mr. Kotey, born in London, is of Ghanaian and Greek Cypriot background, while Mr. Elsheikh’s family fled Sudan in the 1990s. Both men have been designated foreign terrorists by the United States.
The British extremists were known for their brutality. They repeatedly beat the hostages they kept imprisoned in Raqqa, Syria, formerly the Islamic State’s self-declared capital, and subjected them to waterboarding and mock executions. Mr. Emwazi was believed to have killed the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as Abdul-Rahman Kassig, an aid worker. The American government says the group beheaded more than 27 hostages.
According to the State Department, Mr. Kotey “likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding. Kotey has also acted as an ISIL recruiter and is responsible for recruiting several U.K. nationals to join the terrorist organization.” ISIL is another name for the Islamic State.
Mr. Elsheikh traveled to Syria in 2012 and joined Al Qaeda in Syria before aligning himself with the Islamic State. “Elsheikh was said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixions while serving as an ISIS jailer,” the State Department said.
Mr. Kotey, 34, and Mr. Elsheikh, 29, were detained by the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia, which is fighting the last pockets of Islamic State insurgents in Syrian towns and villages along the Euphrates River south to the border with Iraq. American officials were informed in mid-January that the militia might have captured the men.
The S.D.F. suspected that the two men were foreign fighters and gave them access to American Special Operations forces, United States officials said. The Americans confirmed their identities using fingerprints and other biometric measurements.
Their capture and detention were described to The New York Times by several United States officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because details of the case remain secret. Cmdr. Sarah Higgins of the Navy, a Pentagon spokeswoman for detention policy issues, declined to comment.
The series of gruesome beheadings that started with Mr. Foley in 2014 rocked the Obama administration, which had been accused by the victims’ families of failing to do enough to save their loved ones. The American military did raid the prison in Raqqa in July 2014, but the Islamic State had already moved its hostages.
Because of the families’ complaints, the Obama administration made major changes to the way the government handles the abduction of United States citizens. It created a Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, which is led currently by the F.B.I., and a special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. The Trump administration has yet to fill the envoy role.
The families have long hoped to recover the bodies of their loved ones, but the Islamic State’s control of chunks of Syria rendered the task nearly impossible.
It was not clear whether the Justice Department would prosecute the two men or when the United States military would take custody of them. For the F.B.I. agents and other officials who have long worked on the case, bringing back the men to face federal prosecution would be a major victory.
But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been an outspoken supporter of continuing to use the wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the military commissions held there. Thomas P. Bossert, the president’s chief counterterrorism adviser, has also pushed for the suspects to be sent to the military prison.
Britain, a close ally of the United States, could object to sending the men to the wartime prison, which has a toxic image abroad. It negotiated the repatriation of all nine of its citizens whom the Bush administration had brought there by 2005; the last resident of Britain held at the prison, Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen who lived for years in Britain with his family, was sent back there in 2015.
But the British government has stripped Mr. Kotey and Mr. Elsheikh of their citizenship, according to a United States official. Last year, The Times of London reported that the government had rescinded the British citizenship of about 150 dual citizens who were suspected of having joined the Islamic State, in order to keep them from re-entering the country.
In addition, because the men are suspected of being members of the Islamic State, not Al Qaeda, taking them to Guantánamo — where detainees have a right to bring habeas corpus challenges to their detention — would create a legal headache that national security officials want to avoid. It would give a judge an opportunity to rule on the dispute over whether the congressional authorization for use of military force against the perpetrators of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, legitimately covers the Islamic State.
Moreover, if the United States fails to prosecute the men in federal court, it could anger the victims’ families, causing yet another disappointment. The Guantánamo military commissions system has struggled to get contested cases to trial, even as prosecutors in civilian court have won numerous convictions in terrorism cases.
The United States government has in the past avoided taking on the difficulties of handling the long-term detention or prosecution of Islamic State detainees caught in the war zone.
In 2016, an Iraqi woman, known by the nom de guerre Umm Sayyaf, was captured in a raid on an Islamic State compound in eastern Syria. She was implicated in the imprisonment of an aid worker, Kayla Mueller, 26, of Prescott, Ariz., who was killed in 2015. (The circumstances surrounding Ms. Mueller’s death remain a mystery. The Islamic State said she was killed in a bombing raid.)
Some American law enforcement officials wanted to prosecute Ms. Sayyaf in Virginia, and federal prosecutors filed charges against her, but after a lengthy interrogation, she was turned over to Iraqi government custody instead.
Ms. Mueller had been originally imprisoned by the British militants, but was moved to another location, where she is believed to have been badly abused by the leader of the Islamic State before her death.
A senior United States official said Mr. Kotey and Mr. Elsheikh had provided valuable information to military interrogators about the remaining Islamic State leadership and support structure, which are under tremendous pressure from air and ground attacks.
There were some indications that the two men initially sought to hide their identities, but the Special Operations forces routinely run fingerprint checks and other biometric measurements to identify known terrorist leaders and catalog rank-and-file militants.
Other information has been collected from cellphones and other electronic equipment they were carrying, the United States official said. The men could also have information about other hostages, including the British journalist John Cantlie, who was abducted with Mr. Foley in 2012. Since he was taken hostage, Mr. Cantlie has appeared in several Islamic State propaganda videos.
American officials had sought to keep the capture of the two British suspects under wraps to allow analysts more time to pursue the intelligence leads developed from their detention and prepare raids against unsuspecting Islamic State targets.
American warplanes and Kurdish-led ground forces are hunting for the several hundred remaining Islamic State fighters hiding along the Euphrates River Valley near the border between Syria and Iraq.
The American-led military command in Baghdad said in a statement last week that four senior Islamic State commanders and officials, including two operatives dealing with logistics and immigration, were killed in the region in the past month.
Full report at:
SDF Continues Forced Recruitment in Raqqa
Feb 08, 2018
The sources in Northern Raqqa reported that the Kurdish forces have detained over 1,500 young people from the towns and villages of the region with the aim of recruiting them for fight against the Turkish army and its affiliated militants.
They also underlined increased recruitment activities by the Kurds in the region, adding that a large number of teachers in Salouk and Tal Abyadh regions in Raqqa province have been transferred to Khorous base in South of the town of Ain al-Arab (Kobani) in Eastern Aleppo.
Local sources in Hasaka province had confirmed earlier this month that the Kurdish forces have arrested a large number of civilians in Mabrouga camp near the town of Ra'as al-Ein, forcing them to join the SDF fighters.
Full report at:
Syrian Army on Verge of Full ISIL Cleanup in Hama
Feb 08, 2018
The Syrian army forces continued clashes against the ISIL terrorists in Northeastern Hama, regaining control of the towns and villages of Northern Hawayes, Ab al-Khazaneh, Hawayes Ibn Hadib, Jabal al-Hawayes, Tal Abouyeh, Rasm al-Hamam, Jabal al-Modawar, Tal Za'abaq, Qasr Ibn Wardan, Rasm al-Anaz, Tarout al-Shamaliyeh and Tarout al-Jonoubiyeh.
Meantime, the army soldiers killed a number of terrorists and destroyed their military equipment.
In a relevant development earlier today, the Syrian army forces retook control of 20 new regions in purging operations against the ISIL in Hama, Aleppo and Idlib provinces.
The army soldiers continued clashes against the ISIL in Northeastern Hama, winning back control of the villages of Janineh, Job al-Sakar, al-Hanin, al-Khatabiyeh, Abu Mahaleh, Job al-Hanteh, al-Qanater, Jadideh, Abu Habaya, Marami Bani Hilal, Um Zahimak, al-Baydhah, Faydhah and Motevasetiyeh.
They also continued advance in the region, taking back control of the villages of Aqlah, Moshirfeh, Maksar al-Sharqi, Abu al-Qanat, Aby Sawaya and Qal'at al-Hawayes.
Full report at:
Turkish Army Occupies Several Points in Afrin
Feb 08, 2018
The sources affiliated to the Ankara-backed militants confirmed that they have taken control of Tal al-Hawez during clashes in Bolbol region in Northern Afrin.
They added that continued advance in the region led to taking control of Sheikh Khorouz mountain and three adjacent villages of Sheikh Khorouz Foqani, Sheikh Khorouz Vasatani and Sheikh Khorouz Tahtani.
Meantime, the Kurdish forces announced that they have regained control of the village of Sheikh Khorouz from Ankara in Bolbol region.
They also declared destruction of a tank belonging to the Turkish army in the village of Qastal Khazrya in Bolbol region.
In a relevant development on Wednesday, a sum of Nine Turkish Army men and Ankara-backed militants were killed and several more wounded in clashes with the Kurdish militias in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo, a media outlet reported.
The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported that the Turkish army men and their allied militant groups suffered nine casualties in clashes with the Kurds in Shiheh region.
Hawar news added that the Kurdish fighters killed or wounded a number of the Turkish soldiers and allied militants in clashes near the village of Shikhourzeh and managed to destroy a military vehicle and seize a large volume of arms and ammunition.
Full report at:
Syrian state TV confirms US attack against government forces fighting Daesh
Feb 8, 2018
Syrian state media have slammed as an act of aggression the recent US-led aerial assault against the pro-government forces operating in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, saying the strike was aimed at promoting terrorists.
“International coalition forces are bombing popular forces fighting Daesh and the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) east of the Euphrates River and there are reports of casualties,” the Syrian TV report added.
The report described the attack as “a new aggression and in an attempt to support terrorism.”
Earlier in the day, Russian lawmaker Franz Klintsevich also denounced the attack as an illegal act of aggression.
“The actions of the US coalition do not comply with legal norms, beyond all doubt it is aggression,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
On Wednesday, the US-led alliance said it carried out air strikes against pro-government forces after they launched an “unprovoked attack” on the headquarters of the US-backed SDF.
The statement also claimed that the US-led attack was “in self-defense.”
Reuters later cited a US official as saying on condition of anonymity that over 100 pro-government forces had been killed in the assault.
The US has around 2,000 military personnel in northern Syria supporting the SDF, which is an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria and largely dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.
The strikes, however, have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.
Full report at:
Trial begins of 4 Saudis linked to Hezbollah terror cell
9 February 2018
JEDDAH: The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh on Thursday began the trial of a terrorist cell of four Saudis linked to Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.
The court’s first session revealed that three of the cell members coordinated with a wanted fugitive in Iran.
They were convicted of joining a Hezbollah training camp to manufacture and deploy C4 and TNT explosives for use in the Kingdom.
Their aim was to cause chaos, target security men, smuggle guns into Saudi Arabia, finance terrorism via an organized gang, and smuggle fugitives from the Kingdom to Iran by sea.
The prosecutor called for the death penalty. Failing that, he demanded the most severe punishment (imprisonment and financial penalty) for having violated border security and many other regulations.
Full report at:
‘History of Islam in Dearborn’ draws crowd to Historical Museum
Feb 8, 2018
A presentation on the History of Islam in Dearborn packed the McFadden-Ross House Feb. 7 as the Dearborn Historical Society hosted University of Michigan–Dearborn Associate Professor Sally Howell.
Howell, director of the Center for Arab American Studies and an associate professor of history, has written “Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past,” “Citizens in Crisis: Arab Detroit after 9/11” and “Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade,” and is currently working on “Halal Metropolis: Mosques, Markets and Neighborhood Development.”
Howell dispels the notion that Islam is a religion of recent immigrants, when in fact the Detroit area was home to thousands of Muslims in the early 1900s, primarily from Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire and British India. When immigration laws were liberalized in 1965, new Islamic immigrants found Detroit’s established mosques to be Americanized and unorthodox.
Howell said the Muslim population in the early 1920s was not very religious, the buildings used for services were not really mosques, they were not politically active, and the Muslim community was divided along ethnic and racial lines.
“If you are a new minority religious community to America, you have some challenges you have to face,” Howell said. “You have probably never had to organize a house of worship by yourself. They aren’t voluntary organizations the way American institutions are. So you have to build these viable institutions, and that’s hard.”
She said the Armenian Genocide, which was carried out by Ottoman or Turkish Muslims against the Armenian Christian minority, was often covered by newspapers during the early 1920s.
“Muslim violence against Christians were very common in the media, so the Muslim community in this period had a lot of work to do to represent their faith the way they understood it,” Howell said.
She said the original Turkish immigrants didn’t have families in America because the Turkish government at the time would only allow men to immigrate, not women. She said the people who first started building the mosques that would survive were the Syrians, because they had their families with them.
“They wanted to educate their children, they wanted to find marriage partners for their children,” Howell said. “They were really building these institutions – the ones with staying power – for families.”
She said you also needed institutions to bury your dead, follow your religious holidays and perform weddings.
Henry Ford imported Muslim workers from India because he wanted to build plants over there, and he wanted to teach them to manage a factory.
“So there were Indians here even though there were racial exclusion laws that made it impossible for Indians to naturalize,” Howell said.
She also emphasized a key point that was relevant during this time period, expressed in a quote by Mufti Mohammad Sadiq: “The religion of Islam treads underfoot all racial prejudices.”
Howell said when black Americans were migrating north to escape the Jim Crow conditions of the South, they were the most receptive to new religious ideas, and some were open to the message of Islam. While most religions point the way to salvation, Islam was more open to people of other ethnicities, which resonated with black Americans.
In Dearborn, Mayor Orville Hubbard, who was an acknowledged racist and anti-Arab, was known for his attempts to demolish the south end of Dearborn. However, he always attended Arab community fundraisers.
“Why would he come to their fundraisers?” Howell asked. “He loved raw kibbeh. If there was raw kibbeh, he would be there. He was also a politician, and he was a pretty good one.”
Howell noted in a photo taken in a mosque in the 1950s that none of the women were wearing hijabs, the scarf worn around the head and chest. During the time period, in middle class Arabic communities overseas, women did not wear the hijab — only the elite and peasant women did.
During the 1950s immigration laws designed to limit the number of Catholic Europeans from entering the country also impacted Arab immigration.
“The immigration laws that were passed in 1965 were like another part of the Civil Rights Act,” Howell said. “The descendants of Roman Catholics immigrants from eastern Europe and southern Europe said ‘Look, we are citizens, too, change those laws so they don’t continue to discriminate against us.’”
When immigration was restricted during the 1950s, she said an intense period of Americanization began. Some in the Muslim community worried about the danger of traditions “melting away” with the resultant loss of cultural identity, “drifting away on the new American ocean.”
Howell said the Muslim community was also experiencing the prosperity of the 1950s, and were becoming even more Americanized as a result.
When immigration opened up after 1965, the new immigrants from the Middle East were judging the Muslims who had been in Dearborn for generations.
“The Muslims of Dearborn, who had been here 60, 80 years, were as Dearborn as you could be — suddenly they were a minority, too,” Howell said. “They had wars happening in the Middle East, new groups were coming, and they judged them.”
She said the new Muslim immigrants judged the Muslim community they found in Dearborn, and the Yemeni and Palestinians instituted changes, including women wearing the hijab to services. It created a serious rift in the community.
By the 1980s, the Iranian revolution had happened, the oil embargo occurred and there was a rise in Islamophobia.
“Islam itself has changed over the course of this last century, so Islam here in America has changed, and a lot of these institutions have this sort of tension between their desire to be religiously pure, or people associate Islam with overseas, another place,” Howell said. “We still don’t think it is authentically American.”
Howell said the African slaves brought to America were Muslim, and it has been a part of the country’s DNA even before it was an independent country.
“Here in Dearborn, given the long history of Islam in this community, I hope we’re coming to a point where we recognize that,” Howell said.
For information about upcoming events at the Dearborn Historical Society, visit thedhm.com.
An Interfaith Forum will explore prophecy from an Islamic, Christian and Jewish perspective from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 18 at Sacred Heart Church in the parish hall, 22430 Michigan Ave., Dearborn.
Sponsored by the Committee to Promote Better Understanding of Islam – the Islamic House of Wisdom Interfaith Committee and Neighbors in Faith, it will discuss what it means to be a prophet and who is called to be one, how each faith understands prophets and their mission, prophets common to the three faiths and whether there are present-day prophets.
The speakers include Imam Mohammed Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom; Dr. Robert Fastiggi, professor of systematic theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary; and Dr. Howard Lupovitch, Wayne State University Professor and director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic studies.
Trump's Targeting of Muslims Isn't Just Racist – It's Dumb Policy
By Jessica Pishko
Feb 9, 2018
In April of 2010, ex-FBI agent John Guandolo, who left the agency due to ethical breaches that included sleeping with confidential sources, held a training session for the Columbus, Ohio police department titled "Understanding the True Nature of the Threat to America." During the course of the seminar, Guandolo made several outlandish claims about "secret" Muslim societies trying to take over the American government and the inherent dangerousness of Islam. Towards the end, he made an utterly unsubstantiated claim: a 59-year-old college professor – an American citizen and a Muslim who helped run Muslim outreach programs for the state – was, in fact, a secret would-be terrorist who should be watched. Present in the room were dozens of law enforcement officers, including the Chief Deputy who knew the professor well. The claim was eventually disproven, but not before the professor was fired from his job and slandered as a threat to the community.
A new document published by Foreign Policy on Monday indicates that the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security are planning to turn a similar brand of baseless fear mongering into actual governmental policy. The draft report, which was reportedly requested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, describes the nascent stages of a system that would profile Sunni Muslims living in America, including permanent residents and possibly citizens. Titled "Demographic Profile of Perpetrators of Terrorist Attacks in the United States Since September 2001 Attacks Reveals Screening and Vetting Implications," it calls for the long-term surveillance of Muslims who fit certain "at risk" criteria: being male, Muslim, and from "the Middle East, South Asia or Africa."
The report purportedly examines 25 select terrorism-related prosecutions in the U.S. that involved Sunni Muslims, making the argument that the government should "continuously evaluate" Sunni Muslims due to their "higher risk of becoming radicalized." This would likely include stricter standards for travel, visas and other benefits within the U.S. (Naturalized citizens can have their citizenships revoked under certain circumstances.) While the body of the report doesn't include details of the cases being scrutinized, it does assert that more than half of these select perpetrators were not born in the U.S. – suggesting the proposed measures would largely target visa holders and other immigrants.
In a comment to Foreign Policy, CBP representatives emphasized that the report was a "first draft" that "did not reflect a large number of substantive comments and revisions that have since been made to subsequent versions of the document as a result of CBP's internal and external review process." But the draft memo marks another instance of the Trump administration inaccurately painting foreign-born Muslims as the primary perpetrators of terror. Trump's "Muslim ban," now in its third iteration, is being implemented even as it remains under Supreme Court review. Trump's "extreme vetting" program has called for increased electronic surveillance, including the monitoring of social media accounts. After a young man from Uzbekistan drove into a bike path in Manhattan, killing eight people, Trump seemed to doubled-down on the power of racial profiling, tweeting: "I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!"
The DHS memo is also not the first instance of immigration authorities supporting the president's nativist agenda. Last month, the Department of Justice and DHS released a report – authorized by the executive order that limited Muslim immigration – saying that "3 out of every 4" people convicted of international terrorism charges in federal U.S. courts are foreign-born. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in the press release, "[W]e must examine our visa laws and continue to intensify screening and vetting of individuals traveling to the United States to prevent terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous individuals from reaching our country."
But according to terrorism experts, the January 2018 report is misleading both in terms of data selection and interpretation. First, the administration is citing figures that do not match the total number of terrorism-related cases, and seeming to skew the results to include more foreign-born defendants. The DOJ periodically releases the number of international terrorism defendants, and the latest tally from 2015 included 627 defendants. (The Intercept has produced a complete list of terrorism defendants that cites around 800 cases as of January 2018.) But the January report lists only 549 defendants, making it seem that the 402 non-U.S. citizens on the list make up an overwhelming majority of cases.
In fact, long-standing data has shown that country of birth is not an important factor in determining whether or not someone will commit an act of terrorism. Faiza Patel, the Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Center at NYU's Brennan Center, found that twice as many "homegrown" terrorists were prosecuted in federal court as "foreign" ones – a fact that's particularly striking given certain selection issues, like biases in prosecution resources that target Muslim defendants. And then there's the fact that deaths from terror attacks in the U.S. are statistically much lower than other forms of homicide. On that last point, the list of international terrorism defendants fails to distinguish cases based on threat. According to the Intercept, the vast majority involve providing "material support," which can include sending money or Twitter messages.
Perhaps most telling – and unsurprising – the DHS memo last week ignores the growing threat of U.S.-born non-Muslim terrorists. In April 2017, the Government Accountability Office reported that almost 75 percent of all terrorism fatalities were due to right-wing extremists. The Anti Defamation League has similarly "identified more than 150 domestic terror incidents related to right-wing extremists over the past 25 years, with hundreds of perpetrators—almost every one of which was born in the United States." At least 255 people have been killed and more than 600 injured in those incidents. "Our current report on extremist murders demonstrates that 71 percent of extremist-related murders in the past decade have come at the hands of right-wing extremists," says Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. "Stopping hate and violence begins with recognizing and understanding where it comes from.”
Of course, every administration since September 11th has disproportionately focused on the threat of Muslim terrorism. George Bush's National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a registration system that required mostly Muslim non-citizens to submit to fingerprinting and enhanced background checks, was implemented in 2002 as a way to track people coming from Muslim-majority countries. And the recent DHS memo, Patel points out, "is not as radical a departure from the Obama years as it might first seem," adding: "American Muslims are treated as populations vulnerable to terrorist recruitment and have routinely been targeted by a variety of counterterrorism programs based on their shared faith rather than suspicion."
Full report at:
The persistent gaslighting of Muslims about Islamophobia
By AZEEZAH KANJI
Feb. 8, 2018
Last week — the same week that marked the one-year anniversary of the Quebec mosque massacre, the most fatal act of ideology-inspired violence in Canada since 1989 — the Parliamentary Heritage Committee released the fruits of its months-long study on Islamophobia and systemic racism.
The shooting rampage in the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec, which killed six men and injured 19 others, emblematized the deadly power of Islamophobia in Canada. And the Heritage Committee’s report, which largely ignores Islamophobia’s deep and pervasive Canadian roots, epitomizes the gross inadequacy of the government’s response.
One year after Azzedine Soufiane, Abdelkrim Hassane, Mohamedou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Aboubaker Thabti, and Khaled Belkacemi were gunned down after evening prayers on Jan. 29 last year, the reality is that the myths that fuel anti-Muslim hatred remain as prevalent as ever.
Surveys conducted since the shooting have found that 46 per cent of Canadians have negative views of Islam, 44 per cent of Ontarians think police are justified in racially profiling Muslims, fewer than half of Canadians would find it acceptable for one of their children to marry a Muslim, and 51 per cent support government surveillance of mosques.
Mainstream media outlets and state counterterrorism publications continue to propagate the misperception that Muslims are the primary source of terror in Canada, rather than some of the primary victims — even though White supremacist and right-wing extremists have murdered and maimed several times more people in Canada than Muslim extremists ever have.
The Quebec mosque shooting received four times less coverage in major Canadian media than the Boston Marathon bombing, although the assault on the mosque was more fatal and happened in Canada. CBC’s flagship news program The National spent five minutes of airtime on the mosque shooting the night it occurred — a stark contrast to the many hours of live reporting and commentary devoted to the London Bridge attack (in which three British Muslim men killed eight people) five months later.
CSIS has produced two reports on terrorism in Canada since Jan. 29, 2017; neither mentions the Quebec mosque shooting at all, or the metastasizing menace of right-wing extremists and White supremacists.
Public Safety Canada’s “2017 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada,” published 11 months after the mosque shooting, includes only two paragraphs on right-wing and White-supremacist violence.
It insists that Muslims constitute “the principal terrorist threat to Canada,” while claiming the activities of the extreme right are merely “sporadic” and “predominantly [conducted] online” — even as groups like PEGIDA, the III%, and Soldiers of Odin brazenly commit regular real-world acts of aggression, such as border patrols, mosque stakeouts, paramilitary training exercises, and rallies against immigration and Islam.
Young Muslims who play paintball are treated as security threats — while Alexandre Bissonnette, who’s charged in the Quebec shooting case, was able to practice at a gun range without attracting suspicion. State security agents hound Muslims at their schools and places of work — while not a single Canadian politician bothered to visit shooting survivor Aymen Derbali, who was permanently paralyzed while trying to shield others from bullets.
For the last decade-and-a-half, Muslim communities have endured a steady stream of hostility and harassment, from intrusive surveillance in our most intimate spaces to violent assaults in public places. And yet, widespread denialism about Islamophobia persists, including in the Heritage Committee study purporting to investigate Islamophobia in Canada.
The committee’s report says nothing about security agencies’ repeated abuses of Muslims’ basic rights: not a word about the Muslim men tortured with Canadian complicity, or about the Muslim kids barred from travelling because of Canada’s no-fly list. And it says little about the continuing Islamophobic stereotypes that rationalize these abuses: government and media representations of Muslims as “terrorist” threats.
In fact, the committee’s study on Islamophobia says remarkably little about Islamophobia at all. Instead of analyzing the forms of systemic discrimination that Muslims experience, it fixates on semantic debates about the appropriateness of the term “Islamophobia.” (As Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn observed, “If we demand precision, what of anti-Semitism, a word that has been accepted for centuries to describe 2,000 years of persecution against Jews?” — even though not all Jewish people are Semitic, and not all Semites are Jewish.)
Only one of the Heritage Committee’s 30 recommendations deals specifically with Islamophobia: the call to recognize Jan. 29 as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.
Full report at:
'As Canadian as everyone else': Surrey Muslim School tries out road hockey
Feb 08, 2018
Students at the Surrey Muslim School took a break from their regular curriculum on Wednesday for a lesson on Canada's national game.
"A lot of our kids are new immigrants. They're from mostly desert countries, they are not familiar with hockey very much, and yet they are as Canadian as everyone else," said Ali Roy, the school's principal.
"So, we thought we would introduce them to Canada's love for hockey."
Roy organized the school's first ever road hockey tournament to help the students fit in with others once they graduate from the school, since there is no Muslim high school and they will most likely have to attend a public high school.
"It's important to integrate them into Canada and for other people to see the girls in hijab playing hockey," he said.
Despite the rain, all 230 students from kindergarten to Grade 7 participated in the games held in the vacant parking lot behind the school.
For the most part, the students enjoyed Canada's national sport.
"What I like most about hockey is that you can run, you can make goals. I don't like when you get hurt or injured," said nine-year-old Eliya Khan.
The students didn't care much for the conversation about hijab, nor did they feel "un-Canadian." They were more interested in the final score.
"We won and we did not expect that, so that was really cool," said Grade 7 student Ayra Ali.
Full report at:
Washington hosts Saudi Arabian & Middle East Legal Forum
9 February 2018
WASHINGTON: The Saudi Arabian & Middle East Legal Forum took place in the US capital on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It was organized by the Georgetown Arab Lawyers Organization (GALO) and the Saudi Law Training Center (SLTC), under the supervision of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).
Attendees and participants included more than 350 prominent Saudi and American figures from various fields, including education, law, economics, business and media.
The forum discussed ways to attract international investment and develop the Saudi economy in the fields of energy, transport, financial services, trade, sports and entertainment.
The event also discussed doing business within the Saudi legal system, and the impact of legal reform and transparency on privatization projects and partnerships between the public and private sectors in the fields of trade, health care and entertainment. --------
The forum discussed Saudi and Middle Eastern arbitration and judicial systems, and outlined new challenges and opportunities in the fields of health care, energy and transport.
The conference was opened by GALO President Ahmed Medhat Karoub, who praised the Kingdom’s opening of its economy and society, and the international community’s embrace of this.
He said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform plan is derived from his appreciation of, and support for, innovation and science.
The Kingdom has made great strides in many areas, reflecting decision-makers’ efforts to establish a legal system and working environment that will help create a prosperous and sustainable economy, Karoub added.
Andrew Patterson, a board member of the International Environmental Business Organization, said during a panel discussion that the Kingdom is investing in its youth via Vision 2030.
Andrea Sherman, professor of law at Georgetown University, said: “I am very pleased to participate in the conference, which brought back wonderful memories of my time in Saudi Arabia as legal adviser to a number of elite companies.”
He praised the organization of the conference, and the ambition of young Saudi men and women to improve their society and country.
Stephen Hammond, a lawyer and partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, said the forum exceeded all expectations in addressing all issues relating to the Kingdom’s future and Vision 2030.
Such events are important in correctly presenting Saudi society, especially from a legal perspective, he added.
Saudi Justice Ministry Judge Sheikh Saleh Al-Saawi said laws and regulations enacted by the Kingdom’s leadership guarantee the judiciary’s independence and social justice for all its citizens.
Dr. Nouf Al-Ghamdi, a legal adviser and member of several accredited legal committees, praised the aims of Vision 2030 to strengthen the fields of entertainment, sports and tourism, and to encourage women’s participation in the workforce and in decision-making.
Attorney Majed Karoub, head of the SLTC, expressed pride in the conference’s success.
The Kingdom’s future lies in its youths’ determination to enable it to compete with developed countries in all sectors, he said.
SAPRAC’s vice president of media, Reem Daffa, said the forum successfully merged Saudi and American cultures.
Full report at:
Rights group tells Malaysia not to send back Chinese Muslims to torture
February 9, 2018
PETALING JAYA: A global rights group today urged the government not to deport 11 Uighur Muslims from China who have reportedly been detained in Malaysia following their dramatic escape from a Thai jail last year.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Uighurs should instead be given urgent access to refugee status determination proceedings by the United Nations refugee agency.
“Uighurs forcibly returned to China face credible threats of imprisonment and torture, so it’s critical that Malaysia does not forcibly expel to China anyone the Chinese claim is a Uighur,” HRW Asia director Brad Adams said in a statement.
“Malaysian authorities should allow these individuals access to a fair process to determine their refugee claims, not ship them to China based on Beijing’s demands.”
The 11 Uighurs were part of a group of 20 who broke out of a cell near the Thai-Malaysian border in November by digging holes in the wall and using blankets as ladders.
The escapees were part of a group of more than 200 Uighurs detained in Thailand in 2014.
Members of the group identified themselves as Turkish citizens and asked to be sent to Turkey but more than 100 were forcibly returned to China in July 2015, Reuters reported.
Yesterday, sources told Reuters that the 11 Uighurs had been detained in northern Malaysia, and that China was in talks with the government on their deportation.
“They (Malaysia) are under great pressure from China to hand them over to China and not to Thailand,” one of the sources was quoted as saying.
However, Adams said past cases had shown that Uighurs returned to China are almost always at the risk of persecution.
“Malaysia needs to ensure that these 11 people are protected and not sent into harm’s way,” he added.
Adams also said Malaysia was one of several countries that in recent years had returned Uighurs to China in violation of customary international law.
Last September, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Malaysia had arrested 29 “Uighur militants” involved with the Islamic State.
Zahid said China had praised Malaysia for the arrests and that bilateral cooperation in security had since strengthened.
The Uighur people are the majority ethnic group in China’s Xinjiang region which has a Muslim-majority population.
China has been accused of rights abuses at Xinjiang, torture of Uighur detainees and tight control on their religion and culture. However, it denies any wrongdoing.
HRW said the Chinese government routinely restricted Uighurs’ observation of Ramadan, and that some Uighurs were required to give DNA samples and other biodata to obtain passports.
“China’s state media reports selectively on counterterrorism operations, but does not provide information on the number of deaths of local residents in such raids or the treatment of those detained in the operations, among other information.
“Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Uighurs have fled the country in recent years,” it said.
Maldives' embattled president sends envoys to China, Saudi for support
February 09, 2018
The embattled president of the Maldives has sent envoys to friendly nations such as China , Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to brief them on a political crisis in the Indian Ocean nation that spurred the imposition of a state of emergency, his office said.
Abdulla Yameen left out key regional power India, which had joined Britain, the United States and the United Nations in calling for the lifting of the emergency and the freeing of two Supreme Court judges whose ruling against Yameen sparked new instability.
The Maldives , best known for luxury tourist resorts, has become another arena of contest for India and China after it signed up to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond.
India, which has had longstanding political and security ties to the islands about 400 km (250 miles) away, has sought to push back against China’s expanding presence in the country of 400,000 people, most of them Muslims. Maldivian opposition leaders have urged New Delhi to intervene in the crisis.
Yameen sent his economic development minister, Mohamed Saeed, to China , foreign minister Mohamed Asim to Pakistan and farming and fisheries minister Mohamed Shainee to Saudi Arabia, according to a post on his website late on Wednesday.
“Members of the cabinet, on the direction of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, will visit friendly nations of the Maldives and provide updates on the current situation,” it said.
The government wanted to send a special envoy to India as well but the dates were not suitable for the Indian foreign ministry, said Ahmed Mohamed, the Maldives’ ambassador to India.
The Maldives has been in crisis since last week, when the Supreme Court quashed convictions ranging from corruption to terrorism against nine opposition figures, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, its first democratically elected leader.
Tension came to a head when Yameen’s government rejected the ruling, imposed the emergency for 15 days on Monday and then arrested the chief justice and another judge of the court.
A delegation of diplomats from Britain, the European Union and Germany was denied a meeting with Yameen and his cabinet colleagues, the German embassy in Sri Lanka said.
“Our requests were unfortunately refused. That is surely not the way forward,” it said in a post on Twitter.
The military warned media outlets late on Thursday “to stop spreading information that negatively affect national security and safety and spread fear and discord among the people”.
Independent media outlet Raajje TV suspended its broadcast, saying that “law enforcement refused to adequately address credible threats, and due to the utter lack of an environment conducive to unbiased and independent journalism”.
Nasheed, in exile since he was allowed to go abroad for medical treatment in 2016, urged India to send an envoy “backed by the military” to the Maldives to free the detained judges and political prisoners.
India sent soldiers to foil a coup against the government in 1988 but has since refrained from getting directly involved in the country’s unstable politics.
Experts say it is more likely to put diplomatic or economic pressure on the Yameen government than send its military.
China has warned against outside powers meddling in the affairs of the tiny archipelago and rejected Nasheed’s criticism of its economic involvement on Thursday.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China’s aid to the Maldives had never carried political conditions.
Full report at:
Indonesia: Muslim Clerics Push Lawmakers to Outlaw Gay, Extramarital Sex
Following advice from the top Muslim clerical body, Indonesian lawmakers are poised to pass a set of revisions to the country’s criminal code that would expand the definition of adultery to include sex outside marriage and gay sex.
During a meeting with House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo and members of the bill deliberation committee on Tuesday, the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) called for clauses that would outlaw extramarital sex and gay sex between consenting adults, according to MUI legal committee chairman Basri Barmanda.
“We also asked the lawmakers to impose heavier sentences to such offenders. Thank God our requests have been accomodated,” Basri told BenarNews.
The proposed revisions to the criminal code, which could be voted on next week, offer a five-year prison term for adultery and one year for couples accused of cohabitation.
Arsul Sani, a legislator from the Islamic-based United Development Party, attended the meeting with MUI and said in January that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) could be prosecuted because of their “deviant behavior.”
“We are going to be firm, that we should forbid those kinds of relationships,” Bambang told reporters after the meeting. “The fact that they occur in private, only God knows, but the state has to regulate it when same-sex relationship is shown in public and causes public anxiety.”
The parliament is expected to vote on Feb. 14 following 12 years of deliberation to revise the country’s outdated penal code known by its acronym KUHP.
Bambang said that parliament could delay the vote, saying some articles require additional discussion. The next hearing session starts on March 5 and finishes on April 27.
In addition to changing penalties for adultery, the bill would allow the potential prosecution of health volunteers, social workers and NGO activists advocating for family planning by publicly showing contraceptives. Those prosecutions would not carry prison sentence but violators could face fines of up to 10 million rupiah (about U.S. $730).
“Criminalizing sexual behavior and [displaying] contraceptive tools could create a climate of fear in the midst of society and eventually makes people afraid to access health care because they could be prosecuted,” Ajeng Gandini, a researcher from Jakarta-based rights advocacy group Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) told BenarNews.
She also said the proposed bill is counterproductive to the government’s family-planning program and contradicts the health law and other regulations.
“The use of contraception is inevitable. Therefore, information regarding the use of contraceptive tools should not be something prosecutable,” Ajeng said.
The bill also includes an article advocates see as a setback to Indonesia’s progressive democratization and freedom of expression by outlawing criticism of the government’s leaders. The article states punishment for “publicly insulting the president or the vice president” is up to five years in prison.
ICJR Managing Director Erasmus Napitupulu cited the case of Zaadit Taqwa, the head of Universitas Indonesia’s student executive body, who flashed President Joko Widodo with a yellow card – as a symbolic criticism to the president – during a university event on Feb 2.
Under the bill, flashing the yellow card, which is used by referees to signal warnings against players in football matches, could result in Zaadit being prosecuted for insulting the president, Erasmus said.
In 2006, the Constitutional Court overturned similar articles in the existing KUHP because they had originated from lese majeste, the royal defamation law, and were incompatible with Indonesia’s efforts to be a democratic country where all citizens are equal.
“It is regrettable that the KUHP bill, which is intended to decolonialize the law, is going to reinstate a provision that could take us back to the colonial era. It will curb freedom of expression and goes against our constitution,” Erasmus told BenarNews.
Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, a member of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), said the article that punishes insults of government leaders is not aimed at silencing criticism. Instead, it is necessary to prevent the country from becoming too liberal, he said.
In 2013, PDIP politicians strongly opposed a similar article in the bill, saying it would be a setback to democracy.
On Wednesday, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and parliamentarians from Southeast Asian countries called on Indonesia to not fan further discrimination against LGBT people and others, and drop efforts to pass the amendments.
“At a time when it is consolidating its democratic gains, we urge Indonesians to move forward – not backward – on human rights and resist attempts to introduce new forms of discrimination in law,” Zeid said on the final day of his three-day trip to Indonesia’s capital.
The ASEAN Parliamentarian for Human Rights (APHR) said the legislative amendments being debated in Indonesia went against freedom.
Full report at:
US concerned over possible deportation of Uighur Muslims
February 9, 2018
WASHINGTON/KUALA LUMPUR: The US today expressed concerns over Malaysia’s possible deportation of 11 Uighur Muslims to China, following a Reuters report that Beijing wanted the Southeast Asian country to hand over the Uighurs who escaped from Thailand.
Citing sources, Reuters reported yesterday that the 11 ethnic Uighurs from China, who were among 20 that escaped from a Thai jail last year, have been detained in Malaysia, and that Beijing was in talks with Malaysia over their deportation.
Malaysia was under “great pressure” from China to hand them over to Beijing, and not to Thailand, and some Western foreign missions were trying to dissuade them from sending the Uighurs to China, the sources said.
“We are concerned by media reports regarding Malaysia’s possible deportation of Uighur individuals to China,” a US State Department spokesperson told Reuters in an email.
“We urge Chinese authorities to uphold international human rights norms with regard to any individuals who have been returned to China, and to ensure transparency, due process, and the safety and proper treatment of these individuals.”
Human Rights Watch called on Malaysia to ensure the detained Uighurs are not forcibly deported to China as they face “credible threats of imprisonment and torture”.
“Malaysian authorities should allow these individuals access to a fair process to determine their refugee claims, not ship them to China based on Beijing’s demands,” Brad Adams, Asia director of the rights group, said in a statement.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said yesterday he did not know of the case of the detained Uighurs in Malaysia.
Beijing accuses separatist extremists among the Uighur minority of plotting attacks on China’s Han majority in the restive far western region of Xinjiang and other parts of China.
China has been accused of rights abuses in Xinjiang, torture of Uighur detainees and tight control on their religion and culture. It denies wrongdoing. Over the years, hundreds, possibly thousands, of Uighurs have escaped unrest in Xinjiang by travelling clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey.
The 20 Uighurs broke out of a cell near the Thai-Malaysian border in November by digging holes in the wall and using blankets as ladders. Five of them were recaptured in Thailand later that month. The escapees were part of a larger group of more than 200 Uighurs detained in Thailand in 2014.
Full report at:
Dr Mahathir advises Muslims to accept court's decision on unilateral conversion
8 Feb 2018
PUTRAJAYA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has advised Muslims to accept the Federal Court's ruling on unilateral conversion for the sake of religious harmony.
The former premier, who is also Muslim Welfare Organisation of Malaysia (Perkim) president, said this in light of the Federal Court's decision to nullify the unilateral conversion of M. Indira Gandhi's three children to Islam by her ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah.
"We heard the (court) decision that the religion of the children must be agreed to by both parents.
"Many of us did not feel easy with this decision and we wanted a just and solid action whereby Islam is prioritised," he said in his speech during Perkim's 58th anniversary celebration at the Perdana Leadership Foundation here Thursday.
However, Dr Mahathir said there are cases where wise decisions needed to be made for the sake of religious harmony in a multiracial nation such as Malaysia.
"When we look at such cases, we must be very considerate and prioritise justice for all parties. Islam requires us to deliver fair judgements.
"This is why I ask that we be prepared to accept decisions that we cannot shift (alih).
"We try to change things that we can but things that we cannot, we must accept," said Dr Mahathir who also apologised to the audience as he was unwell.
Also present was his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali and Perkim honorary secretary-general Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Noor.
The 58th anniversary is held on Feb 8 in conjunction with the birthday of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, who is the founder of Perkim.
Full report at:
Ethiopia: A Nation With Interfaith Harmony - Religious Leaders, Theologians
7 FEBRUARY 2018
By Yared Gebremeden
Theologians and religious leaders from different countries said that Ethiopia is a model nation in terms of peaceful coexistence and harmony among followers of different religions since ancient times.
The leaders came to the country to attend the Interfaith Harmony Week recently held at the African Union.
Speaking to The Ethiopian Herald Daryl Anderson, an American Theologian and an attendee in the conference, said that unity among religions is paramount importance to live in harmony among different religions and to promote peace and tolerance to human kind.
The Theologian, who studied Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other religions, underlined that all faiths have common stances of upholding unity, love, compassion peace and cooperation. Hence, he emphasized, religious institutions and their leaders should enhance mutual understanding and need to foster intra and inter-religious harmony through creating open dialogue platforms.
Taking Ethiopia's experience he said that there is an amazing unity and harmony among religions in the country and this should be well promoted across all nations in the world. He said "The fact that over 80 languages, with diverse faith, culture and background live in harmony makes Ethiopia an ideal example to the rest of the world."
Recalling his two days visit of Lalibella, he said Ethiopia has many ancient religious places that have ample tourism potential. He further mentioned "The tradition, culture, religious harmony and all the tradition in the nation show amazing scene to anyone who happened to visit the place."
Allaudin Allinger Universal Sufism Representative from USA said on his part that Ethiopia is a wonderful place with great strength that emanates from the oldest deep culture and diversity. "Beyond these, the Rock Hewn churches which I visited along with the crew were amazing too."
He further expressed that Ethiopia is a special place that has potential to be an exemplary to the world in its long established peaceful and harmonious coexistence among different religions.
The nation, according to him, is also a country where the different religious institutions are highly working jointly for the good of humanity.
Phramaha Boonchuay Doojai, a Buddhist Monk from Thailand said on his part that there needs to be interfaith cooperation among all religions of the world like the exemplary cooperation seen among diverse religions of Ethiopia to promote peace and harmony towards human dignity.
The Monk further noted that globally, cooperation between and among religious institutions need to be further promoted to build mutual understanding among different religious beliefs like Ethiopia's experience.
According to the information from the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia, the country since the establishment of the Council some seven years back has played a role to open platforms and enhance inter-faith dialogues to promote harmony among diverse religions.
UN says over 300 child soldiers have been freed in South Sudan
Feb 7, 2018
The United Nations says over 300 child soldiers have been released by armed groups in war-ravaged South Sudan under a scheme to help reintegrate them into society.
According to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), at least 311 children, 87 of them girls, were released by armed groups on Wednesday in Yambio, which is located in the south of the country.
David Shearer, the UN secretary general's special representative and head of UNMISS, said in a statement that the children would soon begin reintegrating into their communities and learning new skills to support themselves. "This is the first time so many young women have been involved in a release like this in South Sudan," the statement read.
"They will have endured suffering, including sexual abuse. It is vital that they receive the support they need to rejoin their communities and that they are welcomed home by family and friends without any sense of stigma."
"Children should not be carrying guns and killing each other. They should be playing, learning, having fun with friends, protected and cherished by the adults around them," Shearer said.
The integration program in Yambio is aimed at helping 700 child soldiers return to normal life. Of these, 563 are part of President Salva Kiir's force and 137 are with rebels.
The UN peacekeeping force, acting in unison with the UN children's agency UNICEF, is negotiating the release of child soldiers in other regions of the country.
“This is a crucial step in achieving our ultimate goal of having all of the thousands of children still in the ranks of armed groups reunited with their families,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan. “It is the largest release of children in nearly three years and it is vital that negotiations continue so there are many more days like this.”
Civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, just two years after the country became independent, when disagreements between President Kiir and then Vice President Riek Machar turned into an armed conflict between their loyalists. While fighting generally subsided early last year, clashes once again intensified in July 2016.
Tens of thousands of people have died and more than four million people have been driven from their homes, while millions of others are suffering from hunger in a humanitarian crisis expected to worsen as the lean season sets in.
Full report at:
Thousands flee militia violence in Central African Republic
8 February 2018
BANGUI: About 7,400 people have been forced to flee their homes as fighting raged between rival militias in northwest Central African Republic, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.
The internally displaced people in the area of Markounda since late December have faced living conditions that “are extremely difficult,,” according to the ICRC, which is working alongside the Central African Red Cross and the NGO Doctors Without Borders. “Families are confined to makeshift huts. The only health center in Markounda has been looted since the outbreak of hostilities, there are not enough showers and latrines,” said Jean-Francois Sangsue, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui.
For more than a month two rival armed groups, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) and Revolution and Justice (RJ), have been battling for control of the area.
Up until the end of last year, they divided territory and checkpoints — a crucial source of income where businessmen, travelers and farmers are charged a fee to pass through.
But the murder of an RJ leader in November set off a chain reaction of killing and counter-killing.
More than 65,000 people have already fled fighting in the area to take refuge in Paoua, a town whose normal population is 40,000, according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
An operation by a United Nations peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) has been under way since mid-January to neutralize the armed groups.
The Central African Republic — one of the poorest countries in the world — has been mired in a deadly conflict since 2013.
Full report at:
Turkish association helps thousands in Africa
09 February 2018
A Turkish association has said it has been very successful in Africa in providing health and humanitarian aid to thousands across the continent.
Association of the Friends of Africa (TADD) was founded three years ago to stimulate cooperation between African countries and Turkey in health and economic fields.
It also provides aid to the region to boost development. The association has successfully delivered food supplies and has helped in providing clean water throughout the continent.
TADD is currently working in Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Niger. It recently provided free medical treatment to 5,348 Ethiopians via voluntary Turkish doctors, including surgery, gynecological care or dental exams.
Some 143 people underwent surgery, some operations lasting up to 13 hours.
TADD President Bilgehan Guntekin told Anadolu Agency that the association had reached 5,000 people in Africa in the last three years.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), the Ministry of Health, Turkish Airlines and various ministries and institutions participated also provided support, said Guntekin.
''The level of poverty I have seen was unbelievable, the reality of living with an income of one dollar or less per day is terrible. Having proper health care is impossible for many.
"Despite the poverty the people are very warm and believers. I saw a community that seemed content with their situation, they are thankful for whatever is shared with them," he said.
"People can lose their lives because they cannot get 3-5 dollars worth of medicine," he added.
Turkish Airlines with 50 direct flights to African countries helped TADD's activities greatly, according to Guntekin.
He said it was impossible to reach some remote areas of the continent if not for Turkish Airlines.
"We set a huge goal for ourselves when we started this journey and we will continue to work until the living standards of the African people become equal to ours," said Guntekin.
Our main goal is to help the African people become self-sufficient.
In particular, in the health sector, our goal is to educate our brothers and sisters in Africa and train them so that they have good health personnel, doctors and administrators that can serve their own people.
''Africa is not as far away as it actually looks, it is actually very close. The resources of Africa are rich beyond what we know. If opportunities are given, the African people can easily overcome the problems on the continent with their own resources,'' he explained.
Guntekin emphasized that the only country serving Africa with no expectations was Turkey.
Full report at:
Uhuru praises KDF for crippling al Shabaab, promoting regional peace
Feb. 08, 2018
KDF soldiers have displayed utmost integrity and discipline in their service to the country, the president has said.
Uhuru Kenyatta praised them on Thursday for fighting terrorism and supporting civil authorities in the maintenance of peace and security.
He said Kenya Defence Forces have reduced al Shabaab's capacity to launch attacks in Kenya, contributing to peace in the region.
The president noted that soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty made sacrifices for Kenya's greater good.
“Our engagement in Somalia and closer home in the multi-agency operation in Boni Forest have indeed degraded capacity of the alShabaab to launch attacks in the country and elsewhere," he said.
“The gallant soldiers who lost their lives in the line of such duty did not do so in vain."
He spoke during a pass-out parade at Moi Barracks Recruits Training College (RTC) in Eldoret. Uasin Gishu county.
Uhuru noted the force is a symbol of nationhood and unity as it has members from all parts of the country.
“Your unity and cohesion stand as proof of the greatness that can be achieved when we all live in harmony, irrespective of ethnicity, race religion or gender. It serves as an example to be emulated by all Kenyans."
Uhuru also recognised the supportive role Kenya Defense Forces plays in development projects and the maintenance of law and order by civil authorities.
He added the training offered at the college is of high quality.
Full report at:
Boko Haram-ravaged areas in Nigeria need $1bn in aid, says the UN
08 FEBRUARY 2018
Abuja — The UN on Thursday said more than $1bn in funding was needed this year to help millions of people affected by Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in northeast Nigeria.
The humanitarian co-ordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said "life-saving emergency assistance to the most vulnerable" in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states was the "immediate priority".
Funding would also go towards improving the quality of programmes already in place and increasing the ability of local agencies to respond in the longer term, he added.
"In doing so, humanitarian partners will require $1.05bn to reach 6.1-million people with humanitarian assistance," he said in the foreword to the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan.
Launching the document in Abuja, Kallon said about 70% of last year’s appeal for $1bn in funding was met, making Nigeria "one of the best-funded appeals globally".
A total of $196m has been carried over and will go towards programmes providing food, shelter, clean water, education for out-of-school children and medical care.
But Kallon said: "Most of the carry-over will be exhausted in the first quarter of the year."
The UN and other aid agencies have previously warned about the potential effects of underfunding the humanitarian response to the insurgency.
At least 20,000 people have been killed since 2009 and more than 2.6-million have been forced into camps for the displaced or to stay with distant family or friends elsewhere in Nigeria.
Others have fled across the border into Cameroon, Chad or Niger.
A counterinsurgency launched in early 2015 has succeeded in recapturing territory lost to Boko Haram but has exposed the extent of the effects of the violence on the population.
"Famine-like" conditions were found in many places where farmland had been destroyed and access was impossible, while there were warnings that hundreds of thousands faced starvation.
International aid agencies were forced to make cuts in the first half of last year because of funding shortfalls.
The report said that despite improvements in international and domestic aid since then, the situation remained "fragile" and longer-term solutions were needed.
"Millions are vulnerable to severe food insecurity as any disruption of the food pipeline may cause people to again slip below emergency thresholds," he said.
Full report at:
Turkey should drop ‘disproportionate’ emergency powers: EU parliament
9 February 2018
STRASBOURG:The European parliament on Thursday called on Turkey to scrap the emergency powers which members said were being used to stifle “legitimate and peaceful opposition” and a free press.
Meeting in Strasbourg the MEPs denounced, in a resolution, the hundreds of arrests by the Turkish government, which they said were being carried out “in an attempt to censor criticism over its military assault” in the Syrian town of Afrin.
The assembled deputies criticized the “deterioration of freedoms and fundamental rights and the rule of law in Turkey.”
According to the parliament, the state of emergency in place since a failed coup in 2016 is “being used to further stifle legitimate and peaceful opposition.”
Since then, more than 160 media outlets have closed and Turkey’s civil society faces a massive crackdown, the MEPs agreed, by a show of hands.
EU funds destined for Turkey should be conditional on Ankara improving its record on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, they added.
The parliament also condemned the recent arrests of journalists, activists, doctors and ordinary citizens for expressing their opinions.
Turkey on January 20 began a major operation aimed at ousting fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) from their enclave in the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin.
At least 68 civilians have been killed in the offensive according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Turkey has strongly rejected any civilian casualties, saying that its military is showing utmost care not to harm any civilians in the Afrin region.
The Turkish foreign ministry described the EU parliamentary resolution as “nothing but a patchwork of ungrounded claims compiled... just for the sake of criticism.”
The emergency measures are still needed “to fully eliminate the threats against the existence of our state and our nation’s right to democratic life,” the ministry insisted.
On Tuesday EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini also denounced the continuation of Turkey’s emergency measures and Ankara’s military action in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet top European Union officials next month in the Bulgarian city of Varna, officials said Tuesday, in a bid to repair strained ties.
Relations between the EU and Turkey have taken a nosedive since the July 2016 failed coup as well as Brussels’ continued objections to Ankara’s crackdown. Over 140,000 people have been suspended or sacked over alleged links to coup-plotters.
Turkey’s EU membership talks that officially began in 2005 have stalled since the coup bid, to the chagrin of Erdogan who previously said the wait was “exhausting.”
Tensions between Turkey, US Enter New Stage
Feb 08, 2018
News websites affiliated to the terrorists confirmed that a helicopter carrying high-ranking US Generals, including General Paul E. Funk, the commander of the third armored division, Colonel Ryan Dillon, the spokesman of the US-led coalition, and General James Jarrard, has landed in the US base in West of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo.
They added that the visit is aimed at strengthening cooperation with the Kurdish forces as their main ally in the region.
General Funk has stressed that the US forces will remain in Manbij despite Turkey's repeated demands for their withdrawal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused US President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barrack Obama of not fulfilling the promise they'd made to Ankara to compel the Kurdish fighters from Manbij in Syria's Aleppo province.
"Obama deceived Turkey on the issue of the Syrian Kurdish militants in Manbij, and Trump follows the same path. Trump told us that they cannot stay there and head East from the Euphrates. He acknowledged that the Arabs are the real rulers of Manbij. But what he promised was not fulfilled," Erdogan told Turkish journalists, returning to Turkey after an official visit to the Vatican and Italy, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.
He warned the US once again to withdraw from the Syrian city of Manbij, saying that Turkish forces aim to return the city “to its true owners”.
Speaking at a meeting of his ruling AK Party in parliament on Tuesday, Erdogan said that countless terrorists had been “rendered inactive” by the recent Turkish offensive in Afrin.
Vowing that the operation would continue, he mocked Washington's criticisms, saying “When are you going to finish with us asking the question, when did you finish your operations in Afghanistan? When did you finish your operations in Iraq? It's been 18 years."
He described the American military presence in Syria as opportunistic, saying that Washington had “calculations against Turkey, Iran and maybe Russia” now that ISIL has been largely defeated.
Full report at:
Houthi leaders killed in precision strike along with 35 others
9 February 2018
Leading Houthi leader, Muhsin Muhammad al-Ghuraibi, was killed along with 35 militia members in the Yemeni province of Al Jawf on Thursday.
The strike also killed Abu Jihad al-Hamzi supervisor of preventive security, Abu Mortada the engineers battalion commander and Abu Ruhollah commander of the Jawf front.
The Yemeni National Army responded to an attack by the militias on al-Jawf province that killed three minors.
Coalition aircraft provided support and conducted precision air strikes on three Houthi military formations. The coalition also destroyed an anti-aircraft position that the militia had tried to use in targeting coalition fighters.
Thursday morning, Houthi military vehicles in Jawf province were also targeted while enroute to supply the militia controlled fronts.
Full report at:
Aoun: Lebanon military ready to confront Israel
Feb 8, 2018
Lebanese President Michel Aoun says he has ordered the country's armed forces to confront any attempt by Israel to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty, as Israeli officials stir more territorial tensions with Beirut.
Addressing a cabinet session on Thursday, Aoun vowed to “prevent any Israeli aggression on Lebanon’s land and water” in the wake of disagreements with Israel over Mediterranean oil fields as well as a planned border wall.
“We hope to put an end to this matter through diplomatic channels, yet our military has been given the orders to confront any threat to our sovereignty," Aoun asserted, noting that talks were underway "to prevent Israeli greed."
The two sides have nearly come to blows over a tender by Lebanon in December for oil and gas exploration projects in two of the country's 10 offshore blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, namely Block 4 and Block 9.
Israel, which claims sovereignty over the ninth block and claims it runs into its side of the Mediterranean, has blasted the move as "very provocative."
The Tel Aviv regime has also escalated the tensions by announcing plans for a wall to isolate the occupied Palestinian lands from Lebanese territories.
Lebanon has objected to the plan, saying the wall violates its sovereignty by passing through territory that belongs to the country but is located on the other side of a UN-designated Blue Line, which sets the limits for Israel's 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
Present at Thursday's cabinet session was Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who called on “all political parties to put aside their differences and stand united in the face of Israel’s aggression.”
He also said “communications with the international community are underway to confront Israel’s ambitions.”
A day earlier, Lebanon's Higher Defense Council, also chaired by Aoun, held an extraordinary session to double down on Beirut's stance.
US takes on mediation role
Following the recent escalation, the US has sent David Satterfield, the acting assistant US secretary of state, to the region on a mediation mission, Israeli media reported, citing Lebanese and Israeli officials.
The American official, who once served as the US ambassador to Beirut, headed to Israel last week and spent this week meeting with the Lebanese president, prime minister and other officials.
Full report at:
Fresh Saudi airstrikes leave seven civilians dead in Yemen
Feb 8, 2018
At least seven civilians have been killed when Saudi military aircraft carried out airstrikes against a residential area in Yemen’s northern province of al-Jawf as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its atrocious bombardment campaign against its southern neighbor.
Saudi fighter jets conducted two aerial assaults against the house of Ali bin Hussein bin Ashal in the Salbah area of Khabb wa ash Sha'af district on Thursday evening, leaving seven people dead, unnamed local sources told Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network.
The sources added that the victims were all members of a single family, and that there were women and children among the deceased.
Meanwhile, one of the cameramen of Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Sahat television network lost his life while filing a report on the damage caused by Saudi Arabia’s devastating aerial bombardment campaign in the country’s western coastal province of Hudaydah.
Abdullah al-Montaser was reporting from Hays district when Saudi fighter jets struck the area.
Additionally, Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from Popular Committees, have launched an operation against Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to Yemen's resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, in the Yatmen area of Jawf province.
The offensive left scores of the Saudi mercenaries dead and injured. A number of them were arrested as well.
A Yemeni military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Yemeni troops and their allies also managed to wrest full control over several areas, namely Wadi Salbah, Jebel Habash, Jabal Kahal, Wadi Qa’if, Jabal Hamr al-Sayd, Jabal Hamr al-Dhayab and Tawathena.
At least 13,600 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen in 2015. Much of the country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.
The Saudi-led war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen.
According to the World Health Organization’s latest tally, the cholera outbreak has killed 2,167 people since the end of April 2017 and is suspected to have infected 841,906.
In November 2017, the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said more than 11 million children in Yemen were in acute need of aid, stressing that it was estimated that every 10 minutes a child died of a preventable disease there.
Additionally, the UN has described the current level of hunger in Yemen as “unprecedented,” emphasizing that 17 million people were food insecure in the country.
Full report at:
Several options to kick-start Mideast peace talks: Palestinian UN envoy
8 February 2018
UNITED NATIONS: A collective Middle East peace process could be led by the UN Security Council, a “Quartet” expanded to include China and Arab states or an international conference, the Palestinian UN envoy said on Thursday, all options involving the United States.
Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour laid out the possibilities after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month said he would only accept a broad, internationally backed panel to broker peace talks with Israel.
“We’re saying a collective approach involving several players at minimum would have a better chance of succeeding than the approach of only one country that is so close to Israel,” Mansour told reporters.
The Palestinians are furious at US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and cut to US funding for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
Mansour said a collective peace process could “be in the format of the (UN) Security Council, that would be something that we will look at seriously.”
“The Quartet plus China plus the League of Arab States plus maybe others ... we could also look at that. Or the collective process might be of the nature of the French Paris conference or international conference,” he said.
The so-called Quartet sponsoring the stalled peace process comprises the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union, while in January last year France invited dozens of countries to Paris to show support for a peace process.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Abbas plan to discuss a possible new mediation mechanism to replace the Middle East Quartet when they meet next week, the Interfax news agency said on Wednesday, citing a Palestinian diplomat in Russia.
Abbas is due to address the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 20 during the body’s monthly meeting on the Middle East.
Trump has said his administration had a peace proposal in the works. Mansour said the United States had given no indication of what the peace plan might be.
Full report at:
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism