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‘Sufi Dialogue’ Launched At the BJP Headquarters in New Delhi as a Means of Reaching Out To the Muslim Community

New Age Islam News Bureau

16 March 2023


The BJP Minority Morcha will hold a large sammelan in December featuring an address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: PTI/File)


• UN Secretary-General Delivers Statement on International Day to Combat Islamophobia

• Muslims in US Call For Global Efforts to Combat Islamophobia, Foster Inclusivity

• “Self-Perceived Identity” Un-Islamic: Pakistan Transgender Law Comes Under Fire at Council of Islamic Ideology Meeting

• From Islamic State to Hefazat: Sheikh Hasina Needs to Fight a Long War against Radicalism



• Stones Pelted At Mosque, School and Houses during Hindu Outfits’ Rally in Karnataka

• Petition Seeks Transfer of Mathura Mosque Cases to High Court, Judge Says ‘Matter Should Not Be Unnecessarily Prolonged’

• 55:45 Muslim-Hindu arrests in child wedding cases: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

• UP Minority Panel Urges Chief Secretary for Best Facilities for Muslims in the Coming Month of Ramzan

• UP Muslim body urges not to pull down loudspeakers that follow decibel limit

• UP: Ittehad-e-Millat Council Chief Put Under House Arrest For Allegedly Making Inflammatory Remarks

• India invites Pak defence minister Khawaja Asif for SCO meeting: Report

• 20 arrested for Haveri communal clash, more arrests to follow: Karnataka police



• UK Islamophobia Victim Urges Muslims to Report Hate Crimes

• Germany’s Muslim Community Calls for Determined Stance against Islamophobia

• EU official says inciting hatred against Muslims incompatible with bloc’s values

• Christchurch mosque attack leaves survivor with 52% disability, trauma

• UK’s The Royal Mint Releases Exclusive Ramadan Gold Bar with Kaaba Design


North America

• US Secretary of State marks International Day to Combat Islamophobia

• Canadian minister urges public to denounce Islamophobia



• Amid High Drama, HC Asks Security Forces to Halt Op outside Imran House

• Pakistan Ex-PM Imran Khan Says Arrest Bid Is Plot to Bar Him from Election

• Pakistan-occupied Kashmir: All sections of society reject Census 2023

• Two Pakistani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia after walking on foot for months

• Toshakhana case: Judge offers to halt arrest attempts if Imran surrenders in court

• Amid unrest, Shehbaz offers to parley with Imran

• Punjab capital smoulders amid lull in Zaman Park operation


South Asia

• Ahmadiyya leader terms Fakhrul’s remark irresponsible, disheartening

• World Security Forum in Doha Discusses Afghanistan Situation

• Stability in Afghanistan Requires an Inclusive Political System, Says EU Envoy



• ‘Don't Come Back’: Israelis Protest As Netanyahu Heads Abroad

• Fireworks and defiance: Iranians mark fire festival with anti-regime protests

• ‘Sanctions work’: Iranian Nobel winner urges EU ‘not to give in’ to Tehran

• Israelis, Palestinians to meet in Egypt in bid to lower tensions before Ramadan

• Army says suspected Hezbollah-linked suicide bomber shot dead in Israel

• Erdogan says Turkey may ratify Finland’s NATO membership bid

• Pope Francis commends Ayatollah Sistani for commitment to peace and unity


Southeast Asia

• Selangor Bans Muslims from Attending Events at Churches, Temples

• Malaysia’s Christian minister dismisses proselytization claim

• Malaysia’s opposition raises spectre of another government collapse

• DPM Zahid: Govt to upgrade Islamic education curriculum at Kemas kindergartens

• Singapore PM: We will work with Indonesia, ASEAN, UN to push Myanmar peace plan


Arab World

• Saudi Arabia Could Invest In Iran ‘Very Quickly’, Says Minister

• Saudi Arabia, UK hold inaugural session of strategic aid dialogue in London

• Saudi official: China has leverage on Iran to enforce compliance with agreement

• Syria’s Assad expresses his support for Russia in war in Ukraine

• Lebanon’s Salameh does not attend hearing, session postponed: Sources

• Saudi wildlife centre uses satellite tracking devices to monitor animals

• Lebanon’s empty schools bode long-term damage from crisis

• Syrians mark 12th anniversary of uprising against regime

• Former Iraqi PM hails Gen. Soleimani as architect of Iran-Saudi détente

• UAE to send 200 tons of dates to quake victims in Türkiye ahead of Ramadan



• Somalia Military Court Executes 3 Terrorists By Firing Squad

• Tons of Uranium Missing From Libyan Site, IAEA Tells Member States

• Tunisia opposition spokesman and latest Saeid critic detained: Party

• Security Council renews UN South Sudan mission for one year

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



‘Sufi Dialogue’ Launched At the BJP Headquarters in New Delhi as a Means of Reaching Out To the Muslim Community


The BJP Minority Morcha will hold a large sammelan in December featuring an address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: PTI/File)


March 15, 2023

Sufi Samvad (Sufi Dialogue) programme was launched at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, under the aegis of the party’s minority Morcha, as a means of reaching out to the Muslim community, with a year-long set of programmes planned by 150 non-political people, to end with a big meeting to be addressed by Prime Minister Modi himself.

President of the BJP’s minority morcha Jamal Siddiqui said it was on the direction of Prime Minister Modi to reach out to the Sufi community who are “advocates of peace and harmony”. “Prime Minister Modi spoke of ‘ sabka saath, sabka vikas’, therefore we also should have ‘ sabka saath’ as an important component,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Yasir Jilani, media coordinator for the programme, said, “this is a great occasion where people working in Sufi dargahs across 30 States have gathered at the BJP headquarters, to firm up our programme for the Sufi Samvad. The idea of the programme is to go among the Muslim community, bring to their notice the fact that the Modi government had worked for all, irrespective of caste, creed or community, and dispel the notions set out by Opposition parties on the BJP and Prime Minister Modi.”

A majority of the programmes will be aimed at Muslim-majority areas, districts where there is up to 20% or more of the Muslim population. States like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar and Telangana will be included in this programme. Within Uttar Pradesh, programmes are being planned to be held in Saharanpur, Meerut, Rampur, and Azamgarh, while in Bihar, Kishanganj, Araria, and Katihar Lok Sabha constituencies will host events.

The main talking point of the Sufi Samvad would be to show how the welfare programmes undertaken by the BJP-led Central government have been uniformly implemented without discrimination. The planning for the programme, minority morcha leaders said, came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked BJP leaders at the Hyderabad national executive of the party to reach out to deprived sections among the Muslim population, as they too have benefitted from the welfare policies of the Modi government.

Another programme which is being launched by the BJP’s minority morcha, also from the same Hyderabad meeting, is the “ sneh milan” goodwill meeting with Muslim community members, with the slogan “one nation, one DNA”. These will start at the end of March and 12 such meetings will be held in Muslim-majority Lok Sabha constituencies.

Source: The Hindu

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UN Secretary-General Delivers Statement On International Day To Combat Islamophobia


Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN General Assembly High-Level Event on the International Day to Combat Islamophobia


March 15, 2023

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized that Islam’s message of peace, compassion and grace has inspired people across the world for millennia, Emirates News Agency reported. 

Guterres called for action to counter anti-Muslim hatred in his statement on the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. He noted that nearly 2 billion Muslims worldwide are frequently subjected to bigotry due to their faith.

The UN chief also emphasized the triple discrimination faced by Muslim women because of their gender, ethnicity and faith. He added that rising anti-Muslim sentiment is part of a resurgence of ethnonationalism, neo-Nazi white supremacist ideologies, and violence against vulnerable populations such as Muslims, Jews, minority Christian communities, and others.

Discrimination diminishes everyone, he said, and it is thus the responsibility of all to fight it.

Guterres called for policies that fully respect human rights and protect religious and cultural identities to strengthen defenses against discrimination. He also advocated for greater investment in social cohesion and the recognition of diversity as a source of wealth in order to combat bigotry.

The UN secretary-general stressed that all major faiths and traditions call for tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. He called on people to confront the forces of division by reaffirming their common humanity every day, not just on the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

Source: Arab News

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Muslims in US Call For Global Efforts to Combat Islamophobia, Foster Inclusivity




March 15, 2023

HOUSTON, United States

The UN has declared March 15 the International Day to Combat Islamophobia with the goal of taking "concrete action in the face of rising hatred, discrimination, and violence against Muslims.”

"It says to me that we really have a problem, a big problem, in order for the UN to come out and recognize that Islamophobia is a worldwide issue and to talk against it," said Heisam Galyon, a member of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

In a phone interview with Anadolu, Galyon said the only way to address Islamophobia is to get the message out to the world, which is exactly what the UN is doing.

"We need to talk about it," said Galyon. "You can't solve a problem if you don't bring it up."

While Galyon acknowledged that discrimination against Muslims is an age-old problem, he said the prevalence of Islamophobia came to light in the US immediately after the 9/11 attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"They saw us as terrorists, as Osama bin Laden," said Galyon. "It really did great harm to Muslims here in the United States. People who had neutral views about Islam, all of sudden, developed negative views about them just like after Pearl Harbor in World War II where the US created internment camps and discriminated against the Japanese community living in America."

In declaring Wednesday as International Day against Islamophobia last year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the nearly 2 billion Muslims worldwide "face bigotry and prejudice simply because of their faith" and that Muslim women suffer “triple discrimination” due to their gender, ethnicity, and faith.

“It is an inexorable part of the resurgence of ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazi white supremacist ideologies, and violence targeting vulnerable populations including Muslims, Jews, some minority Christian communities and others,” said Guterres.

‘Islamophobia is rooted in xenophobia’

UN General Assembly President Csaba Korosi also noted that "Islamophobia is rooted in xenophobia, or the fear of strangers, which is reflected in discriminatory practices, travel bans, hate speech, bullying and targeting of other people" and urged countries to uphold the freedom of religion and take action against the hatred.

“All of us carry a responsibility to challenge Islamophobia or any similar phenomenon, to call out injustice and condemn discrimination based on religion or belief – or the lack of them,” said Korosi.

The UN said all countries “must confront bigotry wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head,” including tackling online hate speech, adding that it is working with governments, regulators, media and technology companies “to set up guardrails, and enforce them.”

"It's a really big issue. It's an international issue. And I'm glad the UN is recognizing this," said Munir Ibrahim, the former president of the Indian Muslim Association of Greater Houston.

Ibrahim told Anadolu via phone that while Islamophobia in the US is not at the extreme level it once was more than two decades ago after 9/11. He said that “discrimination and alienation against Muslims are still societal problems” that need to be addressed.

"Kneeling and praying and wearing a hijab have become negative symbols of judgment for places around the world, not just the United States," said Ibrahim, who added that Islamophobia affects Muslims in all nations, from Europe to Russia to India and China.

Ibrahim emphasized that the “best way” to combat Islamophobia is to shed light on the problem and educate the public about tolerance, understanding and kindness.

"Let this international day be the catalyst," he said. "Battling Islamophobia and discrimination should be communicated every day."

2-way street

However, Ibrahim believes tolerance is a two-way street, saying that as much as non-Muslims need to understand a different religion and way of life, he said that Muslims need to do their part to be tolerant of other religions and their practices.

"In Houston, Muslims have done a good job of embracing all communities and religions," he said. "We are all the same. We may pray differently. We may worship differently. But we are still all the same."

That being said, Ibrahim believes that Islamophobia is still a major concern that the US and the rest of the world face.

"I believe that 99% of Muslims are good and there is just 1% of bad, as with any other community," said Ibrahim. "But I fear that we are just one moment away, one negative incident, from extreme Islamophobia becoming prominent again, from this hatred and discrimination that's underlying in society from coming to the surface," he said.

Both Ibrahim and Galyon believe the road going forward can be a positive one to combat Islamophobia worldwide, but it will take plenty of work from all sides.

"Muslim communities need to get more involved and reach out to other communities," said Ibrahim. "Educate society about Islam, bring them into your mosques and share your religious beliefs. Embrace other cultures and learn about other religions, just as you want others to learn about yours."

Galyon believes governments must do their part too in order to set the standard that hatred and intolerance of any kind are unacceptable.

"I think each country has to pass some laws making Islamophobia a crime," said Galyon. "There should be punishment for people who attack Muslims or desecrate their places of worship."

"There have to be penalties for people who commit hate crimes against Muslims," he added. "Somehow, they need to be held liable for both their discriminatory actions and words."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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“Self-Perceived Identity” Un-Islamic: Pakistan Transgender Law Comes Under Fire at Council of Islamic Ideology Meeting


The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz (centre) addressing a press conference on Thursday. — Photo provided by author


March 16, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz on Wednesday said that after a detailed review of the Transgender Persons (Rights of Protection) Rules, the council had reached the conclusion that “self-perceived identity” is un-Islamic.

Addressing a press conference after taking the sense of all stakeholders during a two-day meeting, he said these rules were framed in continuation of the Transgender Act and contained several provisions and clauses which were not compatible with Sharia.

The council expressed concerns over the social and legal problems faced by intersex and transgender persons, he said, adding that protection of basic human rights of these persons must be ensured.

Dr Ayaz said the council also examined the amendment bills presented by Senator Mohsin Aziz, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed and Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and suggested amendments to them.

Apart from the CII members and other religious scholars and leaders, representatives of the trans­gender community, doctors, legal and social experts, civil society organisations, the Nat­ional Database and Regis­tration Authority and Ministry of Human Rights also participated in the meeting to review all aspects of the issues pertaining to the intersex and transgender community.

Islamophobia resolution

Meanwhile, the CII also passed a resolution in connection with the International Day to Combat Islamophobia and hailed the UN decision to celebrate it on March 15 annually as a commendable initiative.

Mr Ayaz said the council hoped that continuous, integrated and comprehensive measures would yield positive results in this context.

It noted that certain elements in the West and some other countries were engaged in nefarious designs to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred towards Islam and Muslims, due to which there were serious threats to the global peace

Source: Dawn

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From Islamic State to Hefazat: Sheikh Hasina Needs to Fight A Long War Against Radicalism


Sheikh Hasina led from the front to curb terror in Bangladesh after the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka


Mar 16 2023

By Darakhsha Qamar

New Delhi, Mar 16: The recent instance of violence between the police and a group of people protesting against an Ahmadiyya community event that left 2 dead and at least 50 others, including policemen injured, is only the latest in the slew of extremist violence targeting minorities in Bangladesh in the last decade.

Throughout 2014-15, members of religious minorities, prominent activists, intellectuals, members of the LGBTQ community as well as atheist social media activists were targeted in a series of machete murders.

In 2016, there was a 6 hour hostage situation in the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka that left 24 non- Muslims and an Indian national dead.

2021 saw more than 100 temples, a Buddhist monastery, homes and shops of non-Muslims being attacked, vandalised and set on fire because malicious rumours had been spread that the holy book of Muslims, the Quran, was desecrated at a Durga puja pandal.

These instances point to the rise of radical Islamist groups and their exclusivist doctrine in the Bangladesh polity. Yet their existence is not new, nor have they emerged into the scene overnight. Since independence in 1971, the Bangladesh polity has been dominated by two broad, opposing strands of nationalist thought. One is a secular ethno-linguistic identity built around the Bengali language, and the other is a religious nationalism that gives precedence to the Muslim identity of the Bangladeshi people over all else.

The former is the nationalism of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and is enshrined in the founding principles of the Bangladeshi Constitution. The influence of the second kind of nationalism spread after the death of Sheikh Mujib, during the military regimes of 1975-1990. It is especially apparent in the chequered history of amendments to the constitution during this time, the most significant of which was the 8th amendment of June 1988, when Islam was recognised as state religion. This is a significant event in the political history of Bangladesh because it undermined one of the founding principles and therefore the basic structure of the constitution- secularism.

Since that time, the position of radical religious groups representing an orthodox section of the majority Sunni Muslims, was consolidated in the Bangladesh political scene, with them having ties to the main opposition party BNP and therefore wielding enormous political influence. They have also posed a big challenge to the Sheikh Hasina led Awami League government that is its ideological antithesis.

Sheikh Hasina's secular policies, strong opposition to anti-minority violence, zero tolerance approach to terrorism and her conviction to uphold the constitutional guarantee of religious equality have elicited vehement opposition from these groups, resulting in violence instances and the death of innocent civilians. And though the Bangladeshi government has been resolute in asserting that these groups operate without any outside assistance and influence, it has long been speculated that the local extremist outfits have now become and operate as a part of the global terror network, spearheaded by ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The increasingly sophisticated and organised nature of such attacks in the last decade has only strengthened this conviction. The Islamic state has even claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, like the 2016 Dhaka attack on the Bakery.

Ideologically too, groups like the Hizbut Tahrir (HuT), Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen-Bangladesh and Ansarulla Bangla Team (ABT) have links to ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Other groups like Hefazat-E-Islam- an overarching collective of radical Islamist groups - came up in 2010 in Chittagong, following the 2009 Women development policy draft that advocated for equal inheritance rights for women. It sought to fight secularism and protect Islam from anti-Islamic policies. But the Jamaat-e-Islami remains of course, the most influential radical outfit in Bangladesh and the majority of extremist groups in Bangladesh receive indoctrination and operational assistance from it. This indoctrination is believed to take place in religious schools or Madrassas, where radical ideologies in variance with the teachings of Islam are imparted.

These schools have unfortunately turned into a recruitment facility for these terror outfits. More than a million children attend these schools which are controlled by the Hefazat-E-Islam and have been financed by Saudi Arabia since the 1970's. International support in infrastructural funding and operational assistance then, is one of the main reasons for the strengthening presence and increasingly large scope of their attacks.

Radicalism has also found a space to thrive due to the contentious and polarised nature of the Bangladesh polity. Fierce rivalry between the two main political parties has allowed them space to exist, as the parties employ these extremist groups to counter the other party and their affiliates' influence.

The liberation of Bangladesh was the victory of secular, democratic values over parochial religious fundamentalism. The radical Islamist elements wish to preserve, what they consider, the 'true' Islamic culture of Bangladesh. They have no regard or respect for the syncretic nature of Bangladeshi society and religious practice, the very culture that the leaders of its liberation movement had fought to preserve and protect. The people of Bangladesh share with their west Bengali counterparts many rituals and festivals. For example Mongol Shubhojatra is a procession to celebrate the Bengali New Year where people wear masks representing motifs like birds, owls, fishes and other animals. It is an assertion of the people of Bangladesh's pride in the Bengali folk history and a sign of resistance against extremists forces because the radical groups consider this procession to be un-Islamic and blasphemous.

Their idea of an ideal society, just like every religious nationalist's, is an extremely narrow, intolerant and exclusivist one that allows no space for the vibrant, pluralist ethos that are the foundation of Bangladesh. Everything that doesn't conform to their narrow worldview then, is a threat to them and must be done away with.

The growing extremism in Bangladesh could also create more security concerns in the north-eastern border states of India. It could also affect India's strategies to counter Chinese designs in the east of India.

The political influence these radical groups wield in Bangladesh is unquestionable, but what is heartening and a source of great hope, is that the biggest political force against such violence and extremism, is the government of Bangladesh itself led by Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League. They are the carriers of the legacy of a more benevolent and secular nationalism and are therefore the biggest threat to extremist groups that if unwatched, could tear the very fabric of Bangladeshi society.

Source: Daiji World

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Stones pelted at mosque, school and houses during Hindu outfits’ rally in Karnataka

by Kiran Parashar

March 15, 2023

Tension prevailed in Karnataka’s Haveri district after some Hindu activists allegedly pelted stones on a mosque, Urdu school and Muslims’ houses while taking out a rally on Tuesday afternoon.

Superintendent of police Shivakumar said that 8-10 houses and cars parked outside them had been damaged in the incident in Rattihalli. Fifteen people were detained for questioning, he said, adding that the situation was now normal.

According to a police officer, the procession was taken out in honour of Sangolli Rayanna, a freedom fighter. The participants are also alleged to have attacked a Muslim autorickshaw driver and smashed his vehicle.

The police officer said that a bike rally was taken out and that the participants took a road for which they had not sought permission.

Congress leader Siddaramaiah called for an amicable solution. Police should maintain peace and whoever violates the law should be punished, he added.

Agriculture Minister B C Patil, who represents the Hirekerur Assembly constituency of Haveri district, said he was not aware of any attack on the mosque.

Source: Indian Express

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Petition seeks transfer of Mathura mosque cases to High Court, judge says ‘matter should not be unnecessarily prolonged’

March 16, 2023

Hearing a plea seeking transfer of similar cases in the Shahi Idgah Mosque dispute in Mathura district, the Allahabad High Court Wednesday said the “matter should not be unnecessarily prolonged”.

The plea filed by Hindu petitioners representing Lord Krishna sought the transfer of all suits related to the dispute over the ownership of a plot of land where Shahi Idgah Mosque stands to the Allahabad High Court from local courts in Mathura.

Hearing the plea, Justice Arvind Kumar Mishra-I on Wednesday said the “matter should not be unnecessarily prolonged”.

The application was first heard by the High Court on February 1. The court directed all respondents to “exchange their pleadings within the stipulated period” and listed the matter for a hearing on April 4.

In 2020, Lucknow-based advocate Ranjana Agnihotri, along with six others, had filed a plea before the Civil Judge (Senior Division), seeking the removal of the Shahi Idgah mosque from the temple complex.

The plea is pending in the same court.

In the latest transfer application, Agnihotri and others are seeking the transfer of their case and other “similar” cases to the Allahabad High Court. The transfer application was filed on behalf of Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman and seven others.

The dispute involves ownership of 13.37 acres, which the petitioners claim belongs to the deity Lord Shri Krishna Virajman.

Representing the Shahi Idgah mosque, Senior Advocate SFA Naqvi opposed the transfer application and submitted that it is “not maintainable”.

Source: Indian Express

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55:45 Muslim-Hindu arrests in child wedding cases: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

by Sukrita Baruah

March 16, 2023

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Wednesday said his government had ensured that an almost equal proportion of Muslims and Hindus was arrested in child marriage cases to ward off allegations of communal targeting, despite child marriage being “more prevalent in Muslim-majority areas”.

Sarma told the Assembly that he had got “some of our people” picked up too “because you all [Opposition MLAs] will feel bad”. He said the ratio of arrests of Muslims to Hindus since the February 3 crackdown is 55:45.

“The NFHS 5 [National Family Health Survey] data shows that the problem is highest in Dhubri and South Salmara [Muslim-majority districts]. Not Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. But because you communalise every single thing, I told the Dibrugarh SP to pick up a few from there as well. NFHS 4 data collated during Congress times also shows that the highest number of underage marriages and childbirths is done in Lower Assam districts [where there is a greater Muslim population],” he said.

Sarma also claimed that “Muslims in Assam have never lived as peacefully” as they are today. “Have there been communal clashes in Udalguri? Have there been communal clashes in BTR? [Bodoland Territorial Region]? Have there been communal clashes in Kokrajhar? Muslims in Assam have never lived as peacefully as they are today. They are all getting schools and colleges… Today people are accusing us that 60% of houses under PM Awas Yojna have gone to Muslims. The amount of roads that are being built in Muslim villages today have never been built before…” he said.

“Today if someone honestly asks how many minority people in Assam have died of communal attacks, you people keep talking about encounters. Are encounters something that gets done deliberately? Communal attacks are deliberate… If someone brings out their revolver, only then will the police bring out their revolver,” he added.

Accusing the Opposition MLAs of shedding “crocodile tears” for minorities in Assam, he said that the law under which people are being evicted from forest lands in the state’s continuing anti-encroachment drive had been passed by a Congress-led government at the Centre.

He added that the “real problem” is not evictions but of the lack of population control in Lower Assam districts.

“The main thing is that till the population is controlled in Lower Assam, we will stop having land… Even if I don’t do an eviction today, where will the next generation live if one family has eight children,” he said.

Source: Indian Express

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UP Minority Panel Urges Chief Secretary for Best Facilities for Muslims in the Coming Month of Ramzan

Mar 16, 2023

AYODHYA: The UP minority’s commission has advised the chief secretary to ensure best arrangements in the coming month of Ramzan expected to begin on March 23.

Talking to TOI, commission chairman Ashfaq Saifi said, "I have written a letter to the chief secretary of the state and also advised all police chiefs and district magistrates of all districts to give best facilities and security to Muslim community members during Ramzan".

"Almost all of the mosques in cities and villages of the state remain full at all times of namaz and specially during evening and night prayers while the Muslims break fast and offer long namaz of 'Taraveeh'," said Saifi.

The official letter issued by Saifi addressed to the chief secretary with copies to director general of police and all DMs and district police chiefs and police commissioners advised for proper arrangements of lighting, cleanliness, uninterrupted supply of electricity and water to all mosques.

"I have received lots of complaints from Muslim community that the loudspeakers mounted on mosques, even after being in accordance with the guidelines of the high court, were being forcefully removed by the local administration. I have asked the chief secretary to ensure that loudspeakers mounted as per law must not be removed and Muslims must be given a feeling of security and harmony," Saifi said.

"During Ramzan there are huge crowds of namazis in mosques, also for Friday prayers and especially on Eid. I have asked for proper security arrangements so that no untoward incident takes place", he added.

Source: Times Of India

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UP Muslim body urges not to pull down loudspeakers that follow decibel limit

16th March 2023

Lucknow: Ashfaq Saifi, the chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh State Minorities Commission, has written a letter to the state government, urging the latter to not bring down loudspeakers from mosques that follow the decibel limit.

In his letter ahead of Ramzan, he pointed out that there have been complaints that loudspeakers are being removed from mosques despite clerics adhering to the prescribed volume limits.

He has also asked the state to ensure civic amenities like water, electricity, and better approach roads around mosques during Ramzan.

Saifi further urged for better security around Eidgah and mosques and a better street-light arrangement.

Source: Siasat Daily

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UP: Ittehad-e-Millat Council Chief Put Under House Arrest For Allegedly Making Inflammatory Remarks

15th March 2023

Bareilly: A Muslim cleric, who had been booked by Uttar Pradesh police for allegedly making inflammatory remarks, was placed under house arrest after he made a call to his supporters to march to Delhi seeking a ban on Hindutva organisations, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Ittehad-e-Millat Council chief Maulana Tauqeer Raza and his three associates were placed under house arrest on Tuesday night for three days after his call for march to Delhi, District Magistrate Shivakant Dwivedi said. He said the cleric’s detention could be extended if there’s a need.

Bareilly City Magistrate Renu Singh said Raza had not taken permission to take out the march and only informed senior officials about his plans. Police said Raza and his associates were detained based on the information provided by intelligence agencies with regard to law and order.

The cleric had announced plans to start a ‘Tiranga Yatra’ from Bareilly to Delhi on Wednesday to hand over a memorandum to President Droupadi Murmu seeking a ban on Hindutva organisations.

Raza had told reporters in Moradabad last week that the government, which files a case of treason against those who demand a separate Khalistan, should also do the same with those who seek a “Hindu Rashtra”.

According to a viral video of Raza, he had said, “What would happen if our youths started demanding a Muslim nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas is a lie. Some fanatics are sowing the seeds of hatred in the country. Those who do this and their supporters are neither well wishers of society nor of the country, but are traitors,” police said.

He had alleged that hatred against Muslims was rising and mosques and madrassas need to be protected.

Moradabad police booked him for allegedly making provocative remarks on Sunday.

On Wednesday, Raza and his associates Nafees, Nadeem and Munir Idrishi (also his spokesperson) were placed under house arrest.

A large number of police personnel have been deployed around the Hazrat Dargah complex, where Raza lives, and the residence of the detained officials. Seniors officials are monitoring the situation around Raza’s residence since this morning, the Bareilly city magistrate said.

SP (City) Rahul Bhati said PAC and other staff in the Police Lines have also been put on alert.

Source: Siasat Daily

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India invites Pak defence minister Khawaja Asif for SCO meeting: Report

Mar 15, 2023

ISLAMABAD: India has invited Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif to attend the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to be held in New Delhi in April, according to a media report on Wednesday.

India currently holds the presidency of the SCO, which comprises China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

As President of the SCO, India is set to host a series of meetings.

Diplomatic sources told The Express Tribune newspaper that the Indian government shared the formal invitation with the Pakistan Foreign Office on Tuesday.

There was no immediate confirmation from New Delhi on the Pakistani media report.

India earlier invited Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, as well as shared an invitation for the meeting of foreign ministers of SCO, the report said.

The chief justice, however, skipped the meeting of the SCO chief justices and instead Justice Muneeb Akhtar attended the meeting through a video link recently, it said.

The foreign ministers' meeting is scheduled for May in Goa while the defence ministers' huddle will be held in New Delhi in April.

The Pakistani government has said that it has not yet taken a decision on whether Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari or Defence Minister Asif will attend the meetings in India.

Bilawal and China's Qin Gang are among the foreign ministers of the SCO member nations invited by India for the meeting it is scheduled to host in May.

The Pakistan Foreign Office has said that the decision will be taken at an appropriate time.

If the Pakistani foreign minister attends the meeting in person, it will be the first such visit from Islamabad to India since 2011. Then Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited India that year. Khar is currently serving as the minister of state for foreign affairs.

In May 2014, then-Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited India to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony.

In December 2015, then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Pakistan and days later, Modi made a brief visit to the neighbouring country.

The ties between India and Pakistan came under severe strain after India's warplanes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Pakistan's Balakot in February 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack.

The relations further deteriorated after India announced the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir's special powers and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into Union territories in August 2019.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Source: Times Of India

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20 arrested for Haveri communal clash, more arrests to follow: Karnataka police

15th March 2023

Twenty people have been arrested so far in connection to the recent clash between Hindu and Muslim community people on Tuesday in Rattihalli taluk of Haveri district, police said.

“Through the various videos present online, we have arrested 20 people. Investigations are still on,” said an official from the Rattihalli police station.

Following the incident, police security has been beefed up. The situation is under control, the police officer told

On Tuesday, clashes between the Hindus and Muslims were reported after stones were pelted at a mosque, an Urdu medium school, and a few Muslim houses.

According to the Haveri district Superintendent of Police Dr Shivakumar, a Hindu bike rally carrying a statue of revolutionary Sangolli Rayanna, who fought the British in the 19th century, was underway.

“The rally was going on peacefully but suddenly nearly 150 people took a sudden detour and went near the mosque and pelted stones We have detained 15 people for investigation. Further action will be taken. the situation is under control,” he said.

Source: Siasat Daily

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UK Islamophobia victim urges Muslims to report hate crimes

Rabia Ali 


On a bustling street of Central London, *S hurried to catch an underground train back home after a long day's work. For many years, this had been her routine, and on that chilly night in February 2019, she expected no different.

That evening, however, her pride in being able to move freely as a practicing Muslim woman fell apart when her headscarf was pulled by a man at the train station who then assaulted her.

With the first-ever International Day to Combat Islamophobia being commemorated by the UN on March 15, *S, a British Muslim spoke to Anadolu about the assault she encountered and the racism she has suffered over her religious beliefs.

On that particular night, when she was at the St. James's Park station in London, a man approached her from behind and stood very close. Uncomfortable, she moved to put distance between her and the man, but he blocked her way and swore at her, then pulling her hijab and pushing her down to the floor, where she slammed her head on the hard tiles.

"I stayed on the floor out of shock, I didn't understand what had happened. I didn't know I had hurt my head. I didn't know I was bleeding," she said, recounting the traumatic incident in an online interview in which she requested to remain unnamed to protect her privacy.

A bystander helped her get back on her feet as the attacker fled the scene. The police later arrived to report the crime, along with an ambulance, cleaning up the cut she got on her forehead.

A British citizen with Asian roots, *S said this was the second Islamophobic attack she encountered in a span of three months. In November 2018, she was on her way to work in southwest London when a woman in a car beckoned to her. "Excuse me, girl in the yellow scarf..." she said, before swearing at her and her religion, and driving off.

*S says she was left shaken by the incident. "Not only was I upset by what the woman had said, but the fact that (there were) people around her who were staring and laughing. I was embarrassed and humiliated. People should have found it despicable."

Upon her employer's insistence, she reported the incident to the police, who considered it a hate crime. These were not the only abuse *S faced for being a Muslim. She has also had schoolchildren pointing at her, calling her, "bloody terrorist" or "you ninja."

Such incidents have made her realize the need to be careful against the daily risk of Islamophobia. "There are a lot of people with a lot of hatred, and people think it's OK to hate on Muslims. I have realized I can also be assaulted. I have to be more careful. I can't be as carefree as I used to be."

Sympathetic for her fellow victims, *S said: "It's so unfortunate and I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who has experienced it. Statistically women experience Islamophobia a lot more because they have a visual representation through their scarves."

According to Home Office statistics, around 3,459 Muslims were subjected to religious hate crimes in Britain during 2021-2022, making them the highest number of people — around 42% — to be persecuted because of their faith. In London, hate crimes have spiked, with a 188% rise since 2012-2013, according to police. The highest number of Islamophobic hate crimes took place in 2017-2018, when 1,667 occurred.

Since then, police have reported an annual decline of 50% in the number of incidents until 2021-2022, when they shot back up 20% in a single year.

Briefly taking off hijab

Following the two incidents, *S decided to stop covering her head for a brief period as she feared more attacks and discrimination.

"I felt I would be safer if I took off my hijab. So for a small period in my life, unfortunately, I took off the hijab. And putting it on in the first place was so hard for me. So, taking it off felt so painful that I had worked (for) something so hard but, due to unwarranted Islamophobic events, I felt my safety was important."

This decision led to a psychological mess, she said. "I feared for my safety, I feared for my wellbeing. I feared (that) as a Muslim, I had failed for taking off my hijab." It was during this time that she realized in anger that she could not hide her identity.

During the COVID pandemic, she found in her the courage to once again cover her hair. She felt safer since she worked from home during that time.

Today, as she covers her head, she feels more confident and aware on how to tackle hate crimes. "I feel like I am a bit braver again, and able to speak up. I am very aware. People are racist but you have to live your life best to your ability."

Reporting cases

For anyone encountering Islamophobia incidents, *S strongly urges them to report cases to the police. This applies not only physical attacks but also to verbal abuse.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Germany’s Muslim community calls for determined stance against Islamophobia



Germany’s Muslim community called for a more determined stance against Islamophobia, saying Muslims continue to experience prejudice, hate crimes and discrimination in their daily lives.

“The anniversary of Christchurch mosque attacks painfully reminds us that stirring up prejudices and hatred against Muslims do not stop at words, but they can be carried into action,” the president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany said in a statement.

“This also makes it clear that we have to take a much more determined stand against Islamophobia in our society, even if it sometimes hypocritically portrayed as the criticism of Islam,” Aiman Mazyek said.

On March 15, 2019, an Australian white supremacist shot dead 51 Muslim worshippers and wounded 40 others at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Last year, the UN designated 15th March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

Mazyek called on the German government to take concrete steps to address the problem, and reiterated the Muslim community’s demand to appoint a commissioner to combat Islamophobia.

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

Authorities registered at least 272 Islamophobic crimes in 2022, including verbal and physical assaults, threatening letters, and arson attacks targeting mosques.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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EU official says inciting hatred against Muslims incompatible with bloc’s values

Agnes Szucs 



Inciting hatred against Muslims goes against EU values, and defending Muslims' rights protects individual freedoms, a recently appointed EU official said on Wednesday.

Marion Lalisse, who was assigned last month as the European Commission’s coordinator on combatting anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination, issued a video statement on Twitter introducing her priorities.

“Acts of violence and incitement to hatred against Muslims are not compatible with the funding values of the EU,” she pointed out, noting that “the Muslim community represents the biggest religious minority in Europe.”

Lalisse explained that the fight against violence and hatred against Muslims subscribes to the “broader work on combatting hatred and discrimination” and the core of the values that the EU has been built on.

“It is about protecting the rights of individuals and not of a religion in particular,” she asserted.

Lalisse said she was “aware of the multiple discrimination and harassment that Muslim women could face.”

She stressed that it is important to collect information on discrimination and harassment on the EU level to understand the extent of the phenomenon and to present a political response.

“Combating anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination should be done on every single day of the year,” she stressed, promising to work “tirelessly” with EU institutions, nongovernmental organizations, governments, and other international organizations and researchers.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Christchurch mosque attack leaves survivor with 52% disability, trauma

Omer Kablan 



Temel Atacocugu, a survivor of the 2019 Christchurch mosque attack, has been left with 52% disability and is still feeling the effects of the trauma after being shot nine times during the assault.

Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre, where 51 people lost their lives. Atacocugu told Anadolu he was shot nine times during the attack, adding that he was still struggling and seeking professional help while taking antidepressants to manage the trauma.

Despite the difficulties he has been facing, Atacocugu remains grateful for the support he has received from people all around the world.

Speaking to reporters, he expressed his appreciation for the love and care shown to him and his fellow survivors.

The Christchurch attack left Atacocugu with a physical disability of 52%, which has added to the challenges he faces on a daily basis. However, he remains resolute in his determination to overcome the trauma and stay strong against all ideologies of hate.

Atacocugu's message of hope and peace is one that resonates with many, and he has vowed to respond to hate with peace. His unwavering commitment to this message is an inspiration to others who have been affected by similar tragedies.

The Christchurch mosque attack was a devastating event that shook the world and brought attention to the rising threat of far-right extremism. Atacocugu's story is a reminder that the effects of such events can be long-lasting and that those affected require ongoing support and care.

He said he is getting better and he is "carrying onto life."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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UK’s The Royal Mint releases exclusive Ramadan gold bar with Kaaba design

March 15, 2023

LONDON: The Royal Mint, the UK’s oldest company and official maker of coins, has released a gold-minted bullion bar for Britain’s Muslim community that depicts the Kaaba.

The 20-gram bar, which was released ahead of Ramadan, was created in consultation with the Muslim Council of Wales.

Abdul-Azim Ahmed of the Muslim Council of Wales said: “It’s been wonderful to work with The Royal Mint to introduce this special gold bullion bar depicting the Kaaba. Covered by the kiswa, a black cloth with gold decoration, the building’s outline is unmistakable, and it has now been minted in gold, the precious metal prized for millennia.

“The design will undoubtedly be popular with the Muslim community and exemplifies the craftsmanship of The Royal Mint. It’s been a fascinating process and I hope people across the world will enjoy this bar.”

In marking the launch of the bar, The Royal Mint in February took part in three events across the UK hosted by Islamic Relief, a leading Muslim charity that provides aid responses to disasters and emergencies around the world.

The three events — in Manchester, London and Glasgow — aimed to raise funds for Turkiye and Syria in the wake of last month’s deadly earthquakes.

The Royal Mint donated one of the Kaaba gold bars for auction at each event, raising more than $10,000.

Islamic Relief Director Tufail Hussain said: “We’re honored to be partnered with the historic Royal Mint and so pleased to be able to hold these events across the country.

“These Kaaba gold bars, donated by The Royal Mint, will help us to raise significant funds for the Turkiye and Syria appeal.”

Director of Precious Metals at The Royal Mint Andrew Dickey said: “We are delighted that for the first time, the distinctive cube structure of the Kaaba is being represented on a 20-gram gold bullion minted bar by The Royal Mint.

“Drawing on more than 1,100 years of minting expertise, we have applied our expert craftsmanship to create a beautiful representation of the Kaaba, the holiest place on Earth for many Muslims.”

Source: Arab News

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North America


US Secretary of State marks International Day to Combat Islamophobia

Servet Gunerigok 



US Secretary of State Antony Blinken marked the first International Day to Combat Islamophobia on Wednesday, saying each person has the freedom to manifest their beliefs.

"Every person, everywhere has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the freedom to change their beliefs or not believe," Blinken said in a statement.

"Each person also has the freedom, either individually or in community with others, in public or private, to manifest those beliefs in worship, observance, practice, and teaching," he said.

Blinken said Muslims around the world too often face discrimination and hatred based on their religious beliefs.

March 15 is a day that is the first of its kind declared by the UN in 2022.

The day also marks four years since the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers and injured 40 others.

"On this day, we call attention to people around the world who are harassed, detained, imprisoned, or even killed for identifying, practicing, converting to Islam or being perceived as Muslim.

"The United States will continue to advocate for individuals’ ability to live in accordance with the dictates of their consciences and speak out on behalf of those who have been denied the ability to do so," said Blinken.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Canadian minister urges public to denounce Islamophobia

Servet Gunerigok 



A Canadian minister on Wednesday urged the country to denounce Islamophobia, saying the government will continue to work to fight it.

Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen said in a statement that Islamophobia, discrimination and hate have no place in Canada.

His comments came on International Day to Combat Islamophobia, declared by the UN in 2022.

"I encourage all Canadians to recommit to denouncing Islamophobia and to choose inclusion over intolerance as we continue to build a Canada that is safer, more equal, and equitable for everyone," said the minister, who is originally from Somalia.

Hussen came to Canada in 1993 as a refugee.

"We recognize that there is more work that needs to be done, and our government will continue to work alongside Muslim Canadian communities in this important fight," he said.

Hussen noted that the government invested $85 million to support a new anti-racism strategy and Canada’s action plan on combatting hate and appointed Amira Elghawaby as the first special representative to combat Islamophobia.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Amid high drama, HC asks security forces to halt op outside Imran house

Mar 16, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Amid high drama, the Lahore high court on Wednesday directed law enforcers to halt the operation outside Pakistan’s former PM Imran Khan’s residence till Thursday morning even as the police failed to arrest him after passage of more than 21 hours.

Security forces had already started retreating from around Imran’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore before the HC’s orders, citing a Pakistan Super League cricket match at Gaddafi Stadium, that was scheduled later on Wednesday, as the reason for calling off the siege. Following the withdrawal, the PTI chief came out of his home and greeted his supporters. In one of the videos, he can be seen wearing a mask while PTI supporters celebrate and chase the law enforcers away. Videos posted by the party on social media showed people hugging each other and raising pro-Imran slogans.

“A moment of joy for the workers who had been fighting for 21 hours to send back the police force from Imran Khan’sresidence for a third time,” PTI posted on Twitter with a video of jubilant party supporters.

Shortly after the Lahore HC’s orders stopping the police operation at Zaman Park till 10am (local time) on Thursday, the Islamabad high court disposed of a plea seeking the cancellation of the PTI chief’s arrest warrants. The Islamabad HC asked him to provide the lower court with an undertaking that he will present himself on a specific date in the Toshakhana case. The case is related to allegations that Imran had sold state gifts while in office and did not reveal it in his annual declaration.

On Wednesday, Islamabad Police, backed by Punjab Police and Pakistan Rangers, resumed their operation — which had started at noon on Tuesday — to arrest the PTI chairman. However, they were met with strong resistance from PTI workers, who threw petrol bombs and stones at them. The law enforcers responded with volleys of tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

In a series of tweets, Imran said after a day of facing tear gas, cannons with chemical water, rubber bullets and live bullets, “we now have Rangers(a paramilitary force) taking over and are now in direct confrontation with the people”.

The former premier claimed that the real intent of the authorities behind the entire episode was to “abduct and assassinate” him. “Clearly, the arrest claim was mere drama because the real intent is to abduct & assassinate. From tear gas & water cannons, they have now resorted to live firing,” he posted on Twitter. “My question to the establishment (military), to those who claim they are “neutral”: Is this your idea of neutrality?” he added.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan Ex-PM Imran Khan Says Arrest Bid Is Plot to Bar Him from Election

Mar 15, 2023

LAHORE: Former Pakistan prime Minister Imran Khan said Wednesday the government wanted him behind bars in order to stop him taking part in elections due later this year.

"The reason why this is happening is not because I broke any law. They want me in jail so that I cannot contest elections," he told AFP after police called off a siege of his residence.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan-occupied Kashmir: All sections of society reject Census 2023

16 March, 2023

Muzaffarabad (PoK), March 16 (ANI): Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has rejected the demand of the civil society of Pakistan occupied and Kashmir (PoK) to register their data as citizens of PoK. The census being conducted right now is adding the data of PoK citizens as Pakistanis.

This is not only a serious breach of the United Resolutions that have classified PoK as the disputed territory between India and Pakistan, but by denying the people of PoK to be identified according to their ethnicity and linguistic identity, Pakistan is blatantly committing a crime against the people of PoK.

The ongoing 52nd session of the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva must take note of this humanitarian injustice that is aimed at erasing our identity as a nation. Let me remind you that this is not the first attempt by Pakistan to undermine our freedom

and subjugate our people.

On the night of October 22, 1947, the Pakistan army attacked the sovereign state of Jammu and Kashmir. During the first Kashmir war, more than 100,000 civilians of Jammu and Kashmir was killed by the Pakistan army, many of whom were of Hindu and Sikh faith. Pakistan’s occupation of PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan has resulted in the total destruction of our culture, political liberties, economic independence, and social fabric.

For 75 years Pakistan has followed a well-formulated plan to systematically alter our identity as a nation. First and foremost, Pakistan altered our geographical unity by facilitating the forceful divide of our independent state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Secondly, Pakistan imposed Islamic statutes in an attempt to convert our people into Hindu/ India-hating religious fanatics set up jihadi terrorist camps across PoK where jihadis from Punjab and Khyber Paktoonkhawa were brought for training in the art of terrorism.

In short, Pakistan orchestrated the death of our indigenous culture by suffocating it with issuing dozes of Islamic dictates, thereby establishing the religious hegemony of Islam at the cost of the destruction of indigenous cultures.

Thirdly, Pakistan crippled our political liberties by conditioning any political activity with loyalty to the state of Pakistan. The fact of the matter is that the United Nations has given us the right to choose between Pakistan and India, however, we are not allowed to campaign for reuniting with India as per the instrument of accession signed between the last king of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh and the last viceroy of British India Lord Mountbatten.

If a resident of PoK dares to speak about a reunion with mother India he/she is persecuted, executed, like the late Arif Shahid advocate who was gunned down by Pakistan’s secret services outside his house in Rawalpindi on May 13, 2013, or the way Ghulam Abbas was shot in the face at the doorstep of his house in June 2021 in Kotli PoK.

Fourthly, Pakistan has ruthlessly conducted the plunder our natural resources. Our minerals scattered all over PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan are being dug out day and night without the consent of the local population.

Our rivers have been diverted in order to construct hydropower projects that supplies electricity to Pakistan. While the whole of the occupied region suffers from up to 20 hours of load shedding a day.

Our development funds have been stopped and the governments of both PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan have no cash to pay wages or pensions.

And finally, the coherent social fabric of our societies and the right to individual freedom of choice has been ripped apart by the introduction of medieval traditions such as mandatory wearing the hijab in schools, colleges, and universities. An Islamic authority by the name of Rehmat fulfill Alameen has been set up in PoK to further the religious tyranny of Islam at the cost of our indigenous cultural practices.

Islamic religious ideology is made sacred by banning any form or shape in which Islamic laws imposed upon us might be challenged. Cult worship around the personality of the last prophet of Islam, Muhammed, has been enforced by the state that condemns anyone who thinks

otherwise with blasphemy and condemned to death.

The question is what is the UNHRC going to do about this? Is the UNHRC going to organise a fact-finding mission and send it to PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan to obtain first-hand information about our plight and present it to the general council or is the 52nd UNHRC session being

held in Geneva yet another eye wash.

For now, all sections of PoK society have rejected the census that is being conducted by Pakistan.

Source: The Print

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Two Pakistani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia after walking on foot for months

15 Mar, 2023

RIYADH – Two Pakistani pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia on foot. They walked for nearly three and a half months to reach Islam’s holiest place to perform the obligatory ritual of Hajj.

On December 2, 2022, Khalid Abdul Ghafoor and Zeeshan from the central-eastern Pakistani province of Punjab left their hometown Faisalabad for Makkah with a trolley carrying their personal belongings.

The duo covered a distance of 30 kilometres in a day to reach their dream destination and finally they entered the Kingdom via the UAE border after three months and 12 days. Still, they have 1500km to travel to reach the Holy Kaaba in Makkah.

Expressing their feelings in a conversation with the Pak Media Forum (PMF) in Saudi Arabia, they thanked Allah Almighty for giving them the courage to travel on foot for the holy pilgrimage. As they have entered Saudi Arabia, they wish to reach their destination as soon as possible.

Source: Daily Pakistan

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Toshakhana case: Judge offers to halt arrest attempts if Imran surrenders in court

Umer Burney

March 16, 2023

Additional District and Sessions (ADSJ) Judge Zafar Iqbal said on Thursday that he would stop the Islamabad police from arresting PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case if the ex-premier surrendered in court.

The judge passed these remarks while hearing the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) reference seeking criminal proceedings against Imran for concealing details of Toshakhana gifts.

The sessions court was set to indict Imran in the reference on Feb 28, but his lawyer had requested the judge that he be exempted from the hearing because he had to appear in several other courts. His indictment was deferred multiple times before.

The judge had subsequently issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran and instructed the police to present him in court by March 7. The PTI chief managed to dodge the arrest and later approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for the cancellation of the warrants.

The IHC, while granting some relief to Imran, had told him to appear in the sessions court by March 13, but the former prime minister once again skipped the hearing. Resultantly, ADSJ Iqbal had on Monday re-issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran and directed the police to bring him to court by March 18.

However, when the police reached Imran’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore to arrest him on Tuesday, they were met with resistance, leading to two-day pitched battles between PTI supporters and law enforcement agencies. The clashes ultimately subsided after the courts intervened on Wednesday.

That same day, the PTI also challenged the latest arrest warrants issued for Imran in the IHC. It rejected the plea and directed the PTI chief to submit an undertaking to the trial court which states he would attend the hearing on March 18.

On Thursday morning, the court of ADSJ Iqbal resumed hearing the case. Imran’s lawyers Khawaja Haris Ahmed and Babar Awan were present on his behalf.

The hearing

As the proceedings commenced, the judge remarked that the court had not yet received the high court’s directives as per judicial procedures.

“Do you think a notice should be issued to the ECP regarding the case being maintainable,” ADSJ Iqbal asked. “This matter can be resolved in a second … where is Imran Khan?

“When has Imran appeared in court in person? What is the concept of an undertaking,” he inquired.

At that, Haris asked if it was necessary to arrest his client to bring him to court.

“We want Imran to come to court. Why is he not coming? What is the reason? Imran Khan has to assist the police according to the law, not resist them,” the judge remarked, adding that had the warrants been bailable, there would have been no issue.

“But the warrants are non-bailable.”

Here, Haris read the IHC’s order out loud in court. However, the judge stated that the arguments presented by the counsel were for bailable warrants.

“There already is a surety in the case,” ADSJ Iqbal pointed out. “In its verdict, the IHC has also said that the court order should not be affected by any illegal actions.”

Meanwhile, Haris argued that a surety had already been submitted in the court and his client was ready to give an undertaking as well. “Do you want to remain strict and uphold Imran’s non-bailable arrest warrants?”

The judge stated that the warrants were issued for Imran’s appearance in the case to which the lawyer stated that Imran wanted to come to court.

“Imran is not asking for an exemption, he wants to come to court,” Haris said. “But, at this moment, are non-bailable warrants necessary for an arrest?” he asked.

The lawyer contended that the court had two options. “The first is that you accept the undertaking and cancel the non-bailable arrest warrants and the second is that you take a surety and issue bailable arrest warrants,” he proposed.

Haris also clarified that Imran wanted to give an undertaking that he would appear in court on March 18.

Here, ADSJ Iqbal remarked that the arrest warrant — issued for Imran — had become the most expensive warrant in the world. “Millions of rupees have been spent [to execute] this warrant.

“What happened shouldn’t have taken place,” the judge asserted.

Haris agreed with ADSJ Iqbal and then urged the court to cancel Imran’s warrants. He also requested that the ECP lawyer be issued notices and called for arguments.

But the judge asked: “Why is the situation bad outside Zaman Park right now?”

Imran’s lawyer replied that the government was carrying out a political vendetta through arrests. “In more than three incidents, there have been instances of torture and case have been registered against people.”

Here, ADSJ Iqbal said that he would stop the Islamabad police from the arrest if Imran surrendered in court. “Legally, Imran should have been directly brought to court… it wouldn’t have been possible to harass him during the court appearance.”

“Section 91 has been violated but the arrest warrants were issued under Section 93,” he added.

The judge also said Pakistan was a poor country and there was no need to spend millions of rupees on the warrants. “If a date is mentioned on the warrant, it doesn’t mean that action should be taken that day only … it means that the person be arrested and presented in court whenever possible.

The police cannot sit outside doing nothing, he added.

ADSJ Iqbal further asked why Imran resisted the warrants that were legally issued. “This is the money of the public. You could have held a peaceful protest.”

In criminal proceedings, he went on to say, arrest warrants were usually issued and then cancelled after the suspect appeared in court.

At one point, Imran’s lawyers presented his undertaking in court and requested that the non-bailable arrest warrants for him be forthwith cancelled.

However, the judge issued notices to the secretariat police and ECP and summoned them to court. The hearing was subsequently adjourned till 12pm.

Toshakhana case

The reference, which alleges that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana (during his time as the prime minister) and proceeds from their reported sales, was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year. On October 21, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.

The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries. According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.

The watchdog’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.

Source: Dawn

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Amid unrest, Shehbaz offers to parley with Imran

Syed Irfan Raza

March 16, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Extending an olive branch to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan again, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday emphasised that all political forces will have to sit for dialogue to rid the country of the ongoing political and economic crises.

He said the government would hold the general election on its scheduled time as per the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The prime minister said that the threat of Pakistan defaulting on its debt was now over as the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be finalised soon.

“All political forces will have to sit together to take the country forward,” the premier said while addressing a meeting held with a delegation of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) at the PM House.

PM Shehbaz lamented that he had invited PTI for talks on two occasions in the recent past, but the party did not turn up.

“Though politicians always resort to dialogue, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has a history of not responding positively in this regard,” he noted.

The prime minister said the country was facing serious political and economic challenges but stressed that all component parties of the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM) ruling coalition had contributed positively to improving the situation.

He regretted that PTI did not even attend the apex committee meeting held in Peshawar in the wake of the suicide attack inside a mosque in the Police Lines.

The meeting, on Wednesday, held an in-depth discussion on the overall situation in the country in areas of politics, economy, foreign affairs and security.

Talking about the general election in the country, the PM said: “No one should have any doubt in this regard. We will wholeheartedly participate in the election and follow whatever decided by the ECP.”

He said it was for the ECP to take a decision in this respect. However, he added, as president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, he had directed his party to finalise names of aspiring candidates.

He said the government was cognisant of the fact that timely elections led to a stronger state and its progress.

During the 11 months since it took over, he said, the government had successfully overcome the shadows of default.

He regretted that the previous government stepped back from the agreement inked with IMF, adding that it was not a private but a state deal non-implementation of which resulted in a big loss to the country.

He expressed the confidence that the staff-level agreement with IMF would be struck soon.

Shehbaz Sharif recalled that friendly countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and China, had extended support to Pakistan in trying times.

The prime minister slammed former prime minister Imran Khan for his “naked defiance” of court orders and making fun of the state institutions by his no-show in courts.

“For the first time in Pakistan, a so-called political person is considering himself above the law … non-appearance in courts is tantamount to violation of law,” he said.

He mentioned that PML-N leaders were implicated in fake cases by the previous government, but they still appeared before the courts.

“The government is not taking the action on its own, but it’s acting on the court orders,” he said in reference to the police action with regards to Imran Khan’s arrest warrants.

On the Toshakhana case, he said that Imran Khan, who called himself an ‘honest person’, was in fact a liar, who even sold a wristwatch with the model of Holy Ka’aba.

Source: Dawn

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Punjab capital smoulders amid lull in Zaman Park operation

Mansoor Malik | Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

March 16, 2023

LAHORE: After the Lahore High Court ordered the police to put off its operation to arrest former prime minister Imran Khan till 10am today (Thursday), an eerie calm prevailed in Zaman Park — the residence of the PTI chairman — after a night of pitched battles between the police and supporters of the PTI chief.

The situation could be best described as a ‘calm before the storm’ — police pickets around the residence are still in place while a defiant Imran Khan is refusing to back down. The second-tier leadership of the PTI is fearing an escalation of hostilities, whereas the residents of the city are keeping their fingers crossed.

As Wednesday dawned on Zaman Park, there was no let-up in clashes between PTI workers and law enforcement agencies. Party supporters retaliated with petrol bombs as police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse PTI activists, and gunshots were also heard. The party workers collected and showed empty bullet shells on posts widely circulated on social media.

Police initially suspended the operation due to a PSL match scheduled for the evening, saying the operation would resume after the cricket match.

In the meantime, the LHC suspended the police operation until 10am on Thursday (today).

In the early hours of Wednesday, Imran Khan released a video message alleging that attempts to arrest him were part of an alleged ‘London Plan’ that required his imprisonment. He said the London Plan also required the dismantling of the PTI and getting cases against Nawaz Sharif quashed.

Stating that police and Rangers were raiding time and again as if they wanted to conquer Zaman Park, he said, he gave an undertaking to LHCBA President Ishtiaq A. Khan for a personal appearance before the court on March 18 to avoid confrontation. He regretted the Punjab police DIG did not receive his undertaking because of the ‘London Plan’.

In his second address, Mr Khan appeared on screens with a number of empty tear gas shells and bullets neatly arranged on his tabletop. He urged the establishment and the judiciary to stop the “drama” going outside his residence and stop working on the ‘London Plan’.

He said the criminals currently in the corridors of power wanted to “minus Imran Khan” so that he should not contest upcoming elections.

In a question posed to ‘neutrals’ — a euphemism he uses for the military establishment — Mr Khan asked why they allowed the Rangers to come and raid his residence. “What crime I have committed that the Rangers were scaling the outer walls of my residence,” he asked.

Pointing to the tear gas shells and bullet casings, Mr Khan asked, “Is this democracy? I ask those, who hold real power, whether they are concerned about Pakistan or not.”

The PTI chief said he wanted to turn himself in but several party leaders and workers did not let him do so because of custodial torture. The party workers feared that any arrest would entail torture as they did to other party leaders,“ he said and added that the situation “is getting out of my control”.

LHC suspends operation

In response to a petition submitted by PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh suspended the police operation till 10am when the court will resume proceedings in the case. Justice Sheikh is also scheduled to take Imran Khan’s petitions seeking protective bail in FIRs registered against him at the Ramna police station in Islamabad and Racecourse PS in Lahore.

Lahore High Court Bar Association President Chaudhry Ishtiaq A. Khan appeared on behalf of the petitioner, whereas Advocate General of Punjab Shan Gul represented the caretaker government.

In the first phase of the hearing, the advocate general questioned the maintainability of the petition, arguing that the matter fell under the domain of the IHC, where the PTI chief had also filed a petition against the arrest warrants. However, Advocate Khan insisted that the police action violated the fundamental rights of citizens and turned Zaman Park into a “war zone”.

The judge summoned the chief secretary, the inspector general of police of Punjab and the Islamabad operations chief at 3:15pm. The judge warned to issue arrest warrants after a federal law officer said the Islamabad police did not fall under the jurisdiction of the LHC.

As the judge resumed the hearing, IGP Punjab Dr Usman Anwar told the court that the Lahore police were only supporting the capital police for the compliance of the arrest warrants of Imran Khan issued by an Islamabad court.

He said that at least 59 police officers had been injured and two police vehicles, including water cannons, were damaged “due to the attack by PTI workers”. He accused the party workers of hurling petrol bombs at the police. The IGP said there was “no police operation” and only those attacking cops had been arrested.

Source: Dawn

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South Asia


Ahmadiyya leader terms Fakhrul’s remark irresponsible, disheartening

March 15, 2023

Reacting to BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir calling the Ahmadiyya community's recent religious event in Panchagarh “controversial”, a spokesperson of the community said such remarks “go against their constitutional right”.

“The government gave permission to hold this controversial event,” Fakhrul said at a press conference on Monday, a video of which has generated reactions among netizens on social media, UNB reported.

Ahmad Tabshir Chowdhury, a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at, said: “First, Mirza Fakhrul puts the blame squarely on the government, saying the attack on our religious event was staged by the government to divert public attention, and now he finds it convenient to call our congregation ‘controversial'.”

Referring to Ahmadiyyas' constitutional rights, Chowdhury said: “Our religious gathering was set to be held within our premises. We have a right to hold such peaceful events.”

He said: “How can he disregard our rights by calling our congregation ‘controversial'? We didn't seek permission from the government to hold our event in a busy commercial area like Paltan in Dhaka. We rather planned to hold it within our premises, it was on our property.

“When such irresponsible remarks come directly from a major political leader like Fakhrul, we are gravely disheartened.”

He further requested all political parties to at least maintain a modicum of decency while making comments on issues involving any minority community.

Fakhrul's remark came at a time when Basherkella – a pro-Jamaat-e-Islami Twitter account – condemned police action to stop the violence over the Ahmadiyya religious event and called for “boycotting” the community. The Ahmadiyya community has called it a “hate campaign” against them.

BNP ally Jamaat-e-Islami also issued a statement blaming the Ahmadis for the clashes on March 3.

Acting Secretary General Maulana ATM Masum issued a statement on March 5, asking the government to officially declare the Ahmadiyya community “non-Muslim”.

He said: “Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country where 90% of people are Muslims. In this country, the Ahmadiyya community is committing reckless activities against Islam. The Islam-loving people will never accept it. The government's role in this regard is questionable.

“The government should resolve the Ahmadiyya crisis permanentlby paying heed to public views and also officially declaring Ahmadiyyas non-Muslim."

Long history of persecution

The Ahmadiyyas are members of a minority Muslim community who have been living in different parts of Bangladesh since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Their rituals are very similar to the other sects of Islam but the predominant Sunni Muslims and hardline Islamists are opposed to their way of saying prayers, among other issues.

They demand that the government banish the Ahmadiyyas from Islam through a formal announcement, a call first raised by Jamaat-e-Islami founder Abul Ala Maududi in 1953, leading to the slaughtering of over 2,000 Ahmadis in Lahore.

Since 1963, over a dozen Ahmadis have been killed and scores of others injured or assaulted in separate incidents across Bangladesh. Moreover, their mosques are also targeted by the Islamists.

The situation worsened in 2004 and 2005 when the BNP's coalition partners -- Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ) -- dedicated themselves to the preservation of "the finality of the prophethood" of Prophet Muhammad. They threatened the Ahmadiyya community with attacks on their mosques and campaigned for Ahmadis to be declared non-Muslim, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In 2013, in the face of growing demands during the Hefazat-e-Islam's movement, the government said that it could not accede to such demands as the constitution upheld religious rights.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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World Security Forum in Doha Discusses Afghanistan Situation

By Fidel Rahmati

March 16, 2023

The Afghanistan situation was discussed in the fifth edition of the Global Security Forum on Wednesday in Qatar.

The session on Afghanistan was held on the last day of the forum, where the panellists included Afghan officials and activists from the ousted government of Afghanistan.

The Panel reflected on the development in Afghanistan and its prospects, including security, human rights, women’s rights, education and governance.

One of the Panelists included the ex-deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hekmat Khalil Karzai, and the other was Fawzia Koofi, an ex-member of the parliament.

Karzai criticized the caretaker government, particularly their policies concerning women and girls’ rights and education while emphasizing an inclusive government in the country; he said,

“First and foremost, girls be able to go to school, for them to be able to decide their future, for them to be able to set the path for their life and, second, to have a government that is representative of all Afghans, not just one particular segment of the population,” he stated.

He added that education is obligatory in Islam for both men and women, while the Islamic Emirate denied education for girls and women.

He also stressed that a government representative of all Afghans who “still have legitimacy should be able to talk to Afghans.”

Simultaneously, an ex-parliament, Fawzia Koofi, discussed the current situation in the country, saying that the ongoing situation in Afghanistan is unlike any other Muslim country.

She noted, “As much as the Taliban are experts at fighting, they do not know how to handle a transformed Afghanistan, including the women’s movement.”

However, the acting authorities in Kabul are seeking international recognition, saying the government has fulfilled all its obligations.

Source: Khaama Press

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Stability in Afghanistan Requires an Inclusive Political System, Says EU Envoy

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 16, 2023

Tomas Niklasson, European Special Representative for Afghanistan expressed his concerns about human rights and said stability in Afghanistan requires an inclusive political system and national dialogue.

Mr. Niklasson on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that an inclusive government should be formed to avoid further political unrest and stability in the war-torn country.

Furthermore, he expressed concerns about human rights and growing threats from terrorism in Afghanistan and stated that peace and stability can be restored through the participation of all political parties and ethnic groups.

Mr. Niklasson left the country five days ago and said in a press gathering in Belgium that major challenges pose threats to the media in Afghanistan. 

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in a statement said that Afghanistan is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. 

According to the reports of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number need Afghan people has increased from six million in 2019 to 28.3 million in 2023.

The significant rise in the number of needy individuals indicates the presence of deep poverty in the war-torn country, being seriously affected by the late regime – followed by a severe economic crisis.

Moreover, the international community and Afghanistan’s partners have repeatedly called on the Afghan interim government to establish an all-inclusive government, in which every segment of the society could see them represented. However, the de facto authorities have their own priorities and objectives, which have paved the way for a deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.

Source: Khaama Press

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‘Don't come back’: Israelis protest as Netanyahu heads abroad

15 March ,2023

Opponents of controversial judicial reforms sought by Israel's government demonstrated Wednesday at Ben Gurion airport ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's departure on an official trip to Germany.

“Dictator on the run” and “Don't come back”, read placards held up by demonstrators near the airport, where a convoy of cars bearing Israeli flags circulated between the terminals, making them difficult to access, an AFP correspondent reported.

The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, voted Tuesday to approve a bill in first reading that would, among other things, allow lawmakers to scrap Supreme Court rulings with a simple majority vote.

The government of Netanyahu, which includes ultra-Orthodox and extreme-right parties, introduced its package to overhaul the judiciary in January.

Netanyahu, who also has a planned trip to Britain, presents the overhaul as key to restoring balance between the branches of government in a system he believes gives judges too much power over elected officials.

But the move has sparked 10 consecutive weeks of nationwide demonstrations, with critics expressing concerns that the reform package threatens Israel's liberal democracy.

They have also charged that the proposed changes aim to protect the Israeli prime minster as he fights corruption charges.

At Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, some demonstrators held aloft banners that read “Crime Minister”, in reference to Netanyahu's ongoing legal battle.

The convoy of cars that moved between the terminals included veterans of the Israeli armed forces.

Among them were veterans who took part in the 1976 operation in Uganda to free hostages of a Tel Aviv-Paris flight that had been hijacked and during which Netanyahu's brother Yoni was killed.

Israeli President Issac Herzog -- who, in his largely ceremonial role, has tried to broker dialogue -- last week called on the coalition to halt the legislation, dubbing it “a threat to the foundations of democracy”.

The German and British governments have come under pressure for hosting Netanyahu, with 1,000 writers, artists and academics urging the two countries to scrap the visits.

“In the face of Mr. Netanyahu's dangerous and destructive leadership, and in light of a vast democratic civilian resistance against the destruction of state institutions by undemocratic law-making, we are asking that Germany and Great Britain swiftly announce” the cancellation of Netanyahu's visits, they wrote.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Fireworks and defiance: Iranians mark fire festival with anti-regime protests

15 March ,2023

Iranians in several cities took to the streets late on Tuesday to express their opposition to their theocratic leaders, using celebrations linked to a traditional fire festival as a platform.

Every year on the last Tuesday night of the Iranian calendar year, which ends on March 20, Iranians celebrate the Chaharshanbeh Suri festival, a pre-Islamic tradition that involves leaping over bonfires to keep away evil spirits.

The festival is not officially endorsed but is popular among young people. It festival also results in significant casualties every year, with this year’s celebrations resulting in 11 deaths and over 3,500 injuries, according to Iran’s emergency services chief.

The festival comes after months-long protests that erupted in Iran in September following the death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, who died shortly after being arrested by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress rules for women.

Videos posted on Twitter by the activist group 1500tasvir showed acts of defiance taking place in several parts of Iran, including the capital Tehran, with protesters chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

One video showed Iranians in Tehran throwing fireworks at security forces on motorcycles, while another showed two individuals in an unspecified city throwing fireworks at a billboard featuring the late IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani.

In another video from Tehran, a crowd gathered around a bonfire with women throwing their headscarves into the fire.

Other videos posted on Twitter showed protests in Bandar Anzali, Khorramabad, Doroud, Rasht Bukan, Karaj, Esfahan, and Sanandaj, with demonstrators chanting slogans against Khamenei and the IRGC.

Source: Al Arabiya

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‘Sanctions work’: Iranian Nobel winner urges EU ‘not to give in’ to Tehran

16 March ,2023

Nobel Peace Prize-winning Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi on Wednesday urged the EU to maintain pressure on the authorities in Tehran over human rights violations.

“Subordinate aid to Iran, contracts with Iran, and treaties with Iran to respecting international norms, otherwise the money will not benefit the Iranian people at all,” the activist said in a speech to the European Parliament.

Ebadi -- who won the Nobel Prize in 2003 and now lives in exile outside Iran -- insisted that “sanctions work” against the authorities in Tehran.

“Do not give in to this regime,” she told EU legislators.

The European Union has imposed multiple rounds of sanctions on Iranian officials for their fierce crackdown on protests over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amini died in custody in Tehran in September after being arrested for an alleged violation of Iran’s mandatory dress code for women.

The 27-nation European bloc has so far stopped short of formally labelling Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terror group, despite calls to do so from Germany and the Netherlands.

But Ebadi was categorical that “the Revolutionary Guards is a terrorist group.”

“Say it officially,” she urged the EU.

She said that since the start of the protests over Amini’s death “at least 500 people” had been killed and 20,000 imprisoned.

“Don’t look away from the immense violations of fundamental rights in Iran,” she said.

Her address came on the eve of MEPs voting on a resolution on Iran, in particular on the mystery poisonings of thousands of schoolgirls.

Ebadi shrugged off claims that poverty in Iran was due to sanctions being imposed by the international community on the country.

Instead she pinned the blame on “the misappropriation of funds” and “bad economic policies” by the authorities.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israelis, Palestinians to meet in Egypt in bid to lower tensions before Ramadan

Rina Bassist

March 15, 2023

Israel's public broadcaster KAN revealed on Tuesday evening that Israeli and Palestinian officials will meet in Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt ahead of Ramadan, set to begin mid of next week, in another regional attempt to try to calm tensions in the West Bank.

A first such meeting took place on Feb. 26 in Aqaba, Jordan. Haaretz reported that the summit in Sharm al-Sheikh will take place on Sunday.

The Aqaba meeting was convened at the initiative of the Biden administration and under the auspices of Jordanian King Abdullah. It included representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, Egypt and Jordan. The summit ended with an agreement to establish a joint security committee to examine renewing Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation and another to establish a civilian committee to advance confidence-building economic measures. The participants agreed to hold another summit in Egypt.

Israel also agreed at Aqaba not to advance any further moves on settlement expansion. But later in the day, after the murder in the Palestinian West Bank village of Huwara of two Israeli brothers, Israeli authorities reversed that decision. Israel committed instead not to announce any new measures in the four coming months. In other words, the government intends to go forward with the legalization of nine West Bank outposts and advance the construction of some 10,000 housing units in existing settlements.

The Sharm al-Sheikh meeting is expected to have same attendees as Aqaba. They included from Israel Foreign Ministry Director General Ronen Levy, national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Rassan Alian. The Palestinian delegation in Aqaba was headed by Palestinian intelligence head Majed Faraj. US National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk also participated, as well as senior Jordanian and Egyptian security officials.

Still, parallel to these efforts to lower the flames, Hamas has been increasing its belligerent rhetoric. Hamas Political Bureau deputy Saleh al-Arouri said on Tuesday, "Israel's attempt to use the month of Ramadan as a trigger to implement a policy that will change the status quo and divide the prayer times at the Al-Aqsa Mosque will lead to a furious reaction from the Palestinian people." Senior Hamas official Marwan Issa warned Wednesday morning, "The diplomatic process regarding the West Bank is over. The coming days will be full of events."

The most complicated issue expected to be discussed at the summit is the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, considered the most volatile point in the region. This year, the month of Ramadan coincides with the Jewish Passover holiday, to be celebrated on the second week of April. Jordanians and Palestinians fear that extreme-right activists, possibly even National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, will ascend to the site during the Passover, generating friction.

Source: Al Monitor

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Army says suspected Hezbollah-linked suicide bomber shot dead in Israel

March 15, 2023

JERUSALEM: Israel’s army on Wednesday announced it killed a suspect wearing an explosive belt in the country’s north earlier this week, suggesting the possible involvement of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

“We are examining a possibility of the Hezbollah terrorist organization of being involved” with the suspected attacker who was shot dead on Monday, the army said.

The suspect was stopped in a car at one of the established border crossings in the north of Israel after an explosive device was detonated in the area, at the Meggido junction about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Haifa.

The army said the suspect was believed to have been responsible for that explosion, which severely injured an Israeli civilian.

“He could have used the explosive belt in the first attack but chose not to,” the army said in a press briefing.

“Our assumption is that he was aiming to conduct another terrorist attack,” perhaps before committing suicide, it added.

The suspected attacker is believed to have asked a driver to pick him up to take him back toward the north of the country, according to the army.

Source: Arab News

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Erdogan says Turkey may ratify Finland’s NATO membership bid

16 March 2023 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country may soon approve Finland’s application to join the NATO military alliance, fulfilling its pledge to the Nordic country following months of negotiations.

Erdogan made the remarks at the Grand National Assembly in Ankara on Wednesday, ahead of his scheduled meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto later this week.

“Whatever the process is, we will run that process. We will do our part. We will keep our promise,” Erdogan said, marking the clearest sign yet that Turkey will approve Helsinki’s NATO membership bid.

Niinisto is due to travel to Ankara on Thursday, after Erdogan asked the Finnish president to meet him in person to give his approval to join NATO.

“I have said yes to the invitation,” Niinisto said. “It was known that once Turkey’s President Erdogan has made up his decision on ratifying Finland’s NATO membership, he will want to meet and make good on his promise from one president to another.”

Finland and Sweden applied last year to join the transatlantic defense pact after Russia attacked Ukraine.

All 30 NATO members must unanimously agree on admitting new members, so that they can benefit from the pact’s collective security guarantee.

Finland and Sweden had pledged to enter the alliance “hand in hand,” but Turkey has held up Sweden’s application over a row about protests held in Stockholm, including the burning of the Holy Quran in front of Turkey’s embassy.

Therefore, if Turkey approves the Finnish application, as is expected, Finland will join NATO without its Nordic partner.

Turkey initially opposed Finland and Sweden’s bid, accusing the two Nordic countries of giving a safe haven to forces linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.

However, in recent weeks, Erdogan has softened his tone regarding Finland’s attempt to join NATO, signaling that Ankara could accept Helsinki’s bid without its Nordic neighbor.

Source: Press TV

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Pope Francis commends Ayatollah Sistani for commitment to peace and unity

15 March 2023

Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, has written a letter to Iraq’s prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, hailing his commitment to preserving unity in Iraq while also praising their face-to-face meeting two years ago.

Back on March 8, 2021, the pontiff held a meeting with the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shias during his unprecedented visit to the Arab country in what is seen as a landmark interfaith meeting.

Pope Francis addressed Ayatollah Sistani as his "dear brother" in the letter,  describing the meeting as "a milestone on the path of interreligious dialogue and understanding between peoples."

The Pope also commended the top cleric for "his commitment to those who suffered persecution, preserving the sacredness of life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people."

The letter, which was published by the Holy See Press Office on Tuesday, was also sent to address a conference in Najaf entitled "Catholics and Shias facing the future" held on the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq. The event, held on March 8-10, was organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Al_Khoei Institute of Najaf and was attended by a number of Shia and Christian religious leaders.

"Collaboration and friendship between believers of different religions are indispensable, in order to cultivate not only mutual esteem but above all that concord that contributes to the good of humanity, as the recent history of Iraq teaches us," wrote the Pope.

According to the pontiff, faith-based communities must be "a privileged place of communion and a symbol of peaceful coexistence, in which we invoke the Creator of all, for a future of unity on earth."

He noted that "respect for the dignity and rights of every person and every community, especially freedom of religion, thought and expression, is a source of personal and social serenity and harmony between peoples."

Accordingly, religious leaders are duty-bound to "encourage those with responsibilities in civil society to work to affirm a culture based on justice and peace, promoting political actions that protect the fundamental rights of each person," added the pontiff.

"It is essential that the human family rediscover a sense of fraternity and mutual acceptance, as a concrete response to today's challenges," the Pope continued, expressing his hope that together, Christians and Muslims, may always be "witnesses of truth, love and hope, in a world scarred by numerous conflicts and therefore in need of compassion and healing."

During the meeting in March 2021, Ayatollah Sistani pointed to the role of belief in God and commitment to high moral values in overcoming challenges facing today's world, including justice, oppression, poverty, religious persecution, repression of fundamental freedoms, and wars.

Source: Press TV

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Southeast Asia


Selangor Bans Muslims from Attending Events at Churches, Temples

15 Mar 2023

PETALING JAYA: Any programme involving Muslims at non-Muslim houses of worship are not allowed, says Selangor religious affairs exco Zawawi Ahmad Mughni.

In a statement, Zawawi said while Selangor welcomed the programmes organised by NGOs to foster tolerance, these programmes should follow the guidelines set by the Selangor Islamic religious department (Jais).

“The rules state that any programme involving Muslims in non-Muslim houses of worship is prohibited.

“Jais will monitor and take action against those who violate this rule under Sections 5 and 6 of the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment,” he said.

Zawawi reminded those wanting to organise religious activities to be more sensitive to avoid any misunderstanding. He also urged them to refer to Jais or the state Mufti for clarification.

His response comes after an uproar over a poster by Impact Malaysia, a non-profit organisation under the youth and sports ministry, about a planned visit to a church in Klang.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Malaysia’s Christian minister dismisses proselytization claim

March 15, 2023

Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh dismissed allegations from political rivals that her ministry’s program to visit houses of worship of various faiths was meant to convert Muslim youths.

Yeoh, 43, a member of the ruling Democratic Action Party, refuted the allegations during a speech in parliament, Malay Mail reported on March 14. 

She said the program Projek Article 11 by Impact Malaysia, a non-profit agency under the ministry, did not have any Muslim youths when the team members visited mosques and Sikh Gurdwara this month.

No Muslim youth has registered for a program to visit a church later this month, she noted.

Yeoh said that the program known as “Jom Ziarah” aims to promote a better understanding of the different races, religions, and cultures in Malaysia.

"Jom Ziarah is not a project that is organized to make all religions equal and is not intended to illustrate that all religions have the same standings, as what has been portrayed by certain quarters," Yeoh was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.

The project is a combination of efforts to know the differences between religions, and to help people in Malaysia’s multi-ethnic society to live in harmony and tolerance, she said, adding that the program is an exercise of freedom of religion guaranteed in Malaysia’s Federal Constitution.

The lawmaker from Segambut, a constituency in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, reacted after Islamists and political rivals accused the program of evangelizing Muslim youth.

Badrul Hisham Shaharin, a blogger and former member of the People’s Justice Party who was reportedly sacked for defying party orders in 2016, slammed the Impact Malaysia event saying "Christian evangelist has started its work."

He alleged in Facebook posts that a visit to a church in Klang city was the beginning of groundwork by evangelists.

“While religious preachers are being barred, an agency under a ministry headed by a DAP minister is looking to bring Muslim youths to church.”

In response, Yeoh lodged a police complaint against the Muslim politician on March 13 for spreading false information about the program, media reports say.

"So, accusing me of using agencies under the Youth and Sports Ministry for [evangelism] is an accusation that is overboard, and making me a punching bag to cover up charges that are being faced by their leaders,” she said in the parliament.

Meanwhile, Afnan Hamimi Taib Azamudden, a lawmaker from the Islamic Party of Malaysia or PAS criticized Yeoh and the ministry for the church visits by non-Christians.

“It is not wrong to learn about other religions, but to (specifically address) non-Christian youths, I feel, causes uneasiness in our community,” he told parliament on March 13, the Star reported.

This is not the first time Yeoh or Christian leaders in Malaysia have been targeted by Muslim politicians, activists, and Islamists.

Last year, Universiti Utara Malaysia lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff filed a defamation lawsuit against seven lawmakers from DAP including Yeoh after the MPs issued statements to rebuke him. Their criticism came after Yusoff accused Yeoh of using politics to propagate Christianity in the country.

The court rejected the lawsuit while accepting a defamation lawsuit from Yeoh against him.

In May 2021, Yeoh also filed a lawsuit against the former inspector-general of Malaysian police, Musa Hassan, who allegedly said she had been trying to turn Malaysia into a Christian country.

Both cases are still pending in the courts, reports say.

Christians make up about 10 percent of the estimated 32 million citizens in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

For years, Muslim radicals and Islamist politicians have spread anti-Christian propaganda in the country.

Until a court ruled in 2021, non-Muslims were legally banned to use the word “Allah.” The decades-long legal battle triggered violent protests and at least 11 churches were attacked.

That year, Muslim politician Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh told parliament that the Bible’s New Testament had been “corrupted by Christians over time” and so they did not reflect the true teachings of Jesus.

In 2016, politician Andul Hadi Awang from the Islamist Party of Malaysia penned an article where he accused Christian missionaries of “preying on poor and uneducated people” in impoverished communities in Malaysian states like Sabah and elsewhere by paying them off to convert to Christianity.

Source: UCA News

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Malaysia’s opposition raises spectre of another government collapse

Ram Anand

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) has raised political temperatures with the spectre of another government collapse after several of its leaders were arrested and charged with alleged graft and abuse of power during the coalition’s brief tenure in power between 2020 and 2021.

Leaders of the largely Malay-Muslim opposition coalition, headlined by Malay-Muslim parties Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), have played up the prospect of a premature end to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration.

“God willing, it will happen soon,” PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said during a dialogue on Feb 27, a week after Bersatu information chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan became the first politician to be charged over a growing scandal surrounding Jana Wibawa, a Covid-19 stimulus measure for the construction industry introduced by Bersatu chief Muhyiddin Yassin when he was PM.

Despite the country’s appetite for political stability after seeing four prime ministers in as many years, Datuk Seri Hadi doubled down on his comments last week, claiming that it was PN’s “right” to plan to topple the government, while claiming that there were government parties that were already unhappy.

Soon after, Muhyiddin, who became the second Malaysia ex-premier to be charged with graft after he was accused last Friday, echoed the view that there was discontent among parties in the mixed coalition government, and that the government might “drop out” before its full five-year term expires in 2027.

In 2018, former PM Najib Razak faced multiple graft allegations over the corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB, and has since been jailed.

While a new anti-hopping law effectively prevents individual MPs from changing parties, it still allows political parties to switch allegiances en bloc – something which Muhyiddin’s Bersatu did to collapse the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2020 and kickstart a period of prolonged political turmoil.

Datuk Seri Anwar’s PH has only 82 seats in Parliament, and is highly dependent on smaller regional outfits and former rival Barisan Nasional to form its majority in Parliament. Despite the government having a two-thirds majority, PN remains the second largest bloc in Parliament with 74 seats, although it makes up the entirety of the opposition bench.

University of Malaya sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi told The Straits Times that the messages being sent out by PN were a form of “political warning” towards Mr Anwar to keep him on his toes.

However, Dr Awang Azman said that toppling the government now would be difficult, given its majority and the anti-hopping law.

“Muhyiddin is facing a crisis in leadership. His reputation is falling, so he tries a democratic power grab, with the hope that his case can be dropped if he becomes PM,” he added.

Muhyiddin had largely campaigned on an anti-corruption and pro-Malay platform during last year’s closely fought general election, which produced no clear winner and a hung Parliament. He had raced against Mr Anwar to form a government after the November polls, and lost.

Mr Anwar has taken a keen interest in investigating the purported wrongdoings of Muhyiddin’s short but controversial tenure as PM between 2020 and 2021. Muhyiddin has maintained his innocence and claimed he and his party colleagues are victims of political persecution.

After coming to power through midterm defections in 2020, Muhyiddin stayed as premier for 17 months – most of it marred by a worsening Covid-19 pandemic and a six-month state of emergency – before he lost majority support in Parliament and was forced to resign.

Source: Straits Times

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DPM Zahid: Govt to upgrade Islamic education curriculum at Kemas kindergartens

15 Mar 2023

KOTA BARU, March 15 — The government will upgrade the Islamic education curriculum for Community Development Department (Kemas) kindergartens throughout the country by introducing the Penghayatan Pendidikan Islam (PPI) module beginning this year.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the new module would emphasise the aspects of worship and Quran studies and would benefit some 250,000 children.

“The upgrading will also involve a revamp of the module as a whole, catering to five- and six-year-olds in a more specific manner.

“In line with the digital era, the learning and teaching applications used will be contemporary and based on the fun education concept to maintain the Kemas identity,” he said.

He told reporters this after attending a Ramah Mesra programme with Kelantan Kemas staff at the state Culture and Arts Department Auditorium here today.

Also present were Rural and Regional Development Ministry (KKDW) secretary-general Datuk Seri Ramlan Harun and Kemas director-general Ahmad Kamal Idris Mohd Nawawi.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Rural and Regional Development Minister, said efforts to upgrade Kemas education would involve providing professional skills training for its teaching manpower.

“We also give an assurance that non-Muslim students will not be sidelined as they will have a chance to attend their own religious classes since our country allows freedom of worship,” he added.

He also said the government planned to introduce a digital communications module soon for Kemas developers and educators.

Source: Malay Mail

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Singapore PM: We will work with Indonesia, ASEAN, UN to push Myanmar peace plan

March 16, 2023

SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday the city-state would work with Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as partners like the United Nations, to push Myanmar’s military rulers to implement a stalled peace plan.

He was speaking after meeting visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Lee said the leaders regretted the lack of progress on a peace plan led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Myanmar, which has been gripped by violence and unrest since a coup in February 2021 that upended a decade of democratic reforms.

“Singapore will continue working with Indonesia and ASEAN members, plus ASEAN’s partners like the UN, to push for the full implementation of the five-point consensus,” he said, referring to the peace plan that Myanmar’s top general agreed to with ASEAN.

Indonesia currently chairs the 10-member ASEAN bloc.

In addition, Singapore and Indonesia would work together on developing renewable energy, their leaders announced.

Source: Arab News

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Arab World


Saudi Arabia could invest in Iran ‘very quickly’, says minister

March 16, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia could start making investments in Iran “very quickly” after they agreed to restore diplomatic ties, the Saudi finance minister said on Wednesday, despite sweeping US sanctions against Tehran.

Mohammed Al Jadaan said there were “a lot of opportunities” in Iran and that he could not see any reason to prevent investments from taking place between the two Gulf heavyweights.

“I would say quickly,” he told the Financial Sector Conference in Riyadh, when asked how soon Saudi Arabia could start making “significant” investments in Iran. “When people really stick to the principles of what was agreed, I think that could happen very quickly.”

In a surprise, Chinese-brokered announcement on Friday, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to work towards restoring ties and reopening diplomatic missions within two months.

Source: Dawn

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Saudi Arabia, UK hold inaugural session of strategic aid dialogue in London

March 15, 2023

LONDON: The inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-UK Strategic Aid Dialogue was recently held in London, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The Adviser at the Royal Court and Supervisor General of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, headed the Saudi delegation, which included representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs and finance, and the Saudi Fund for Development.

Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz also attended the meeting along with SFD CEO Sultan bin Abdulrahman Al-Marshad.

UK Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Andrew Mitchell, and Director General of the Humanitarian and Development at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Nick Dyer were among representatives of the UK.

Al-Rabeeah expressed KSrelief’s hopes for humanitarian cooperation with the UK, adding that “Saudi Arabia is a significant donor worldwide.”

He said Saudi Arabia provided $65 billion for 2,300 humanitarian projects in 167 countries between 2000 and 2023.

Development and humanitarian support to countries in need amounted to $85.5 billion, Al-Rabeeah said.

He said that the Kingdom believes in supporting education projects for girls, as well as projects aimed at providing women with professional skills to enable them to support their families and improve their livelihoods.

Al-Marshad voiced his appreciation for the outstanding partnership with the UK in the development field, which has yielded essential initiatives such as Ethiopia’s water and sanitation program project, and the clean energy for schools project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.

Such efforts affirm the commitment of both sides to providing development assistance to countries in need, added the CEO.

Al-Marshad said he looks forward to continuing this partnership to support the development process in developing countries and positively impact the lives of beneficiaries.

The session discussed the progress made within the framework of the British-Saudi partnership in the field of development and humanitarian assistance concerning cooperation agreements and the launch of joint humanitarian development projects.

Source: Arab News

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Saudi official: China has leverage on Iran to enforce compliance with agreement

15 March ,2023

China has leverage on Iran and Tehran will find it difficult to explain if it does not honor the agreement signed with Saudi Arabia in Beijing, a Saudi official said on Wednesday.

Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on Friday to re-establish relations after years of hostility following talks in China.

The official, who declined to be named, said China is in a unique position as it enjoys exceptional relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The most difficult topics in the talks with Iran were related to Yemen, the media, and China's role, the official said.

Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on Friday to re-establish relations after seven years of hostility which had threatened stability and security in the Gulf and helped fuel conflicts in the Middle East from Yemen to Syria.

“This is a victory for dialogue, a victory for peace, offering major good news at a time of much turbulence in the world,” the Chinese foreign ministry cited Wang Yi as saying at the close of the dialogue.

Previously undisclosed talks between the two were held March 6-10 by top security officials from Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Chinese capital, according to a tripartite joint statement of the countries released by China's foreign ministry.

In the statement, the three parties expressed their willingness to make “every effort” to strengthen international and regional peace and security.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Syria’s Assad expresses his support for Russia in war in Ukraine

15 March ,2023

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday offered Russian President Vladimir Putin his support in the conflict in Ukraine.

In a televised meeting with Putin in the Kremlin, Assad said Russia was fighting neo-Nazis and “old Nazis” in Ukraine, according to a Russian translation.

Without offering evidence, Assad said the West had taken in “old Nazis,” and was now giving them support.

Kyiv and the West say Russian accusations that Ukraine has become a hotbed of Nazism and “Russophobia” are a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Lebanon’s Salameh does not attend hearing, session postponed: Sources

15 March ,2023

Lebanon’s embattled central bank governor Riad Salameh did not attend a corruption probe hearing on Wednesday held by a local judge alongside European investigators after procedural objections by Salameh’s lawyer, two sources told Reuters.

Salameh is being investigated in Lebanon and in at least five European countries over alleged embezzlement of public funds. He denies the charges and says they are part of an attempt to scapegoat him for Lebanon’s financial crisis.

Lebanese authorities last month charged him with a slew of financial crimes and set a first hearing for Wednesday. French and German investigators who arrived in Beirut this week to pursue their own probe into him had been told they could attend the hearing, two source told Reuters earlier.

But on Wednesday, Salameh’s lawyer arrived at the justice palace without him and objected to the presiding judge over the European officials’ presence, a senior judicial source and a second source with knowledge of the developments said.

“Salameh’s lawyer attended and submitted an explanatory memo in which he considered that summoning him to a European investigation session is a violation of the sovereignty of the Lebanese judiciary under the International Anti-Corruption Convention,” the senior judicial source said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi wildlife centre uses satellite tracking devices to monitor animals


March 15, 2023

MAKKAH: Al-Baida Park in Madinah is embracing technology in a bid to track the movement of its wildlife.

Abdulrahman Al-Fadli, the Saudi minister of environment, water and agriculture, recently presided over the release of some 92 wild animals into the park to help enrich biodiversity, and restore environmental balance and aid sustainability.

And Dr. Ahmed Al-Bouq, director general of wildlife conservation at the National Center for Wildlife Development, supports the concept of using technology to help the well-being of the creatures at the location.

He told Arab News that the evaluation process is the first step in any release operation. This includes focusing on the release area and noting whether it will aid protection and if it contains the vegetation density to help the species.

He said: “During the first release, we dealt with 10 species, including the Alpine ibex, mountain gazelles, vultures, eagles, crowned sandgrouses, European turtle doves, crested larks and Namaqua doves.

“The pre-evaluation process is of utmost importance as it will provide us with sufficient information on how to set appropriate conditions to ensure the safety and integration of all animals.”

Al-Bouq said that this is followed by the installation of satellite tracking devices to target the released animals and track their movements.

He added: “What we are aiming to achieve is to bring people closer to wildlife, while giving them the chance to become familiar with animals that are endangered, so they no longer find them strange or feel a cultural dimension keeping both worlds apart. The release operation is a bridge linking people and wildlife.”

Al-Bouq said that the center is working hard on helping people understand the link between man and nature, in the hope of helping to enrich the environment in the process.

He added: “We are adding to the diversity in parks and raising the visitors’ environmental awareness level, while enhancing the readiness of concerned parks to invest in the wildlife sector in general.

“We are also looking to improve the level and quality of life of the animals, given that natural parks are way more important than industrial parks, especially in the outskirts of cities, such as Al-Baida wild natural park.”

The Verreaux’s eagle was released in Al-Baida Park. It is a breeding resident of the Kingdom that can only be found in the western highlands in mountainous areas. Pairs can be seen throughout the year near nesting sites in rocky cliffs.

The greater hoopoe is a bird that was also released during the operation, along with the Tristram’s starling.

The steppe eagle was also released into the park. This is a migrant bird that visits the Kingdom during the winter season, from November until the end of March.

It can be found in deserts, mountains, plains, and near the beach, as well as in garbage dumps.

The bird breeds in central and northern Kazakhstan, and feeds on rodents and dead animals.

The nubian ibex is a herbivore goat species with a stout brown body, and it too was released into the park. It traditionally lives in mountainous areas and on steep slopes.

It needs to be continuously hydrated so the animal gravitates to areas where surface water is available.

Source: Arab News

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Lebanon’s empty schools bode long-term damage from crisis

March 16, 2023

BEIRUT: On a recent school day, the Rene Mouawad High School in Beirut was empty, its classrooms dark, just like all of Lebanon’s public schools have been for most of the past three months. Its striking teachers were protesting in front of the Education Ministry, not far away.

About 100 teachers joined the demonstration outside the ministry, blocking traffic and holding placards demanding pay raises. “We are done with charity,” said Nisreen Chahine, the head of the union for contractor teachers. “We are not negotiating anymore. They should either rightfully pay or us or go home.”

The teachers gave speeches demanding officials come out and talk to them. But as usual in these regular protests, no one from the ministry emerged. After several hours, the teachers packed up and went home.

Lebanon’s schools are crumbling under the weight of the country’s economic collapse as the political leadership — which caused the crisis through decades of corruption and mismanagement — balks at taking any measures to resolve it. Since the meltdown began in late 2019, over three-quarters of Lebanon’s 6 million people have been plunged into poverty, their assets evaporating as the currency’s value shrivels and inflation rises at one of the world’s highest rates.

Most of the country’s children have not been in school for months — many since even before teachers, who say they can no longer live on their salaries, went on strike in December. Lebanon was once known for producing a highly skilled, educated work force. But now an entire generation is missing out on schooling, wreaking long-term damage on prospects for the country’s economy and future,

Teachers called their strike because their salaries, in Lebanese pounds, have became too low to cover rent and other basic expenses. The pound has gone from 1,500 to the dollar before the crisis to 100,000 to the dollar currently. Most teachers are now paid the equivalent of about $1 an hour, even after several raises since 2019. Grocery stores and other businesses now usually price their goods in dollars.

Teachers are demanding adjusted salaries, a transportation stipend, and health benefits. The government only offered to partially cover transportation, saying it didn’t have the budget for more. Though schools partially reopened last week after some teachers returned to work, most chose to continue striking.

Even before the crisis, Lebanon’s investment in public schools was limited. In 2020, the government’s spending on education was equivalent only to 1.7 percent of Lebanon’s GDP, one of the lowest rates in the world, according to the World Bank. The 2022 budget allocated 3.6 trillion Lebanese lira for education — the equivalent of around $90 million at the time the budget was passed in October, less than half the $182 million budget on education from a donor-funded humanitarian program.

Instead, the government has relied for years on private and charity schools to educate children. Humanitarian agencies paid to cover salaries and keep decrepit infrastructure functioning. Two-thirds of Lebanese children once went to private schools, but hundreds of thousands dropped out in recent years because private schools have had to increase tuition to cover soaring costs. Public and private schools struggle to keep lights on as fuel costs mount.

Even before the strike, more than 700,000 children in Lebanon, many of them Syrian refugees, were not in school because of the economic crisis. With the strike, an additional 500,000 joined their ranks, according to UNICEF.

“It means we now see children ages 10, 12, 14 and they are not able to even write their own names or write basic sentences,” Ettie Higgins, UNICEF deputy representative for Lebanon, told the The Associated Press. UNICEF said that last week it gave almost $14 million to help more than 1,000 public schools pay staff.

Rana Ghalib, a mother of four, said it makes her anxious to see her children at home when they should be in school. Her 14-year-old son had to repeat the 6th grade because he has fallen behind during previous disruptions.

“The classrooms are basically empty because teachers are demanding their rights and they’re dark because there is no fuel,” Ghalib told the AP.

The international community has been pushing Lebanon’s leaders to carry out wide-ranging reforms in the economy, financial system and governance in order to receive a $3 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund and unlock development aid. The political elite, which has run the country since 1990, has stalled — because, critics say, reforms would undermine its grip on power and wealth. Amid political deadlock, there hasn’t been a president for months, and the government only functions in a limited caretaker capacity.

Education, meanwhile, is joining banks, medicine and electricity in the ranks of Lebanon’s failing institutions. That could cause long-term damage: Lebanon has traditionally relied on its educated and skilled diaspora population abroad to send remittances back home to support families, invest and feed dollars into the banking system. The exodus of skilled people skyrocketed during the economic crisis, leaving remittances as Lebanon’s last economic lifeline.

Hussein Cheaito, an economist and nonresident fellow at The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think tank, says the crippled education system will further “deteriorate the social fabric” of Lebanon and deepen poverty.

“This will have a effect on the longer-term growth of the economy,” he told the AP. “This means there will be less access to jobs in the future … (and) weaken the labor market in general.”

Ghalib, meanwhile, checks on her children, who are watching TV and playing with their cellphones at a time when they would usually be studying. Even her 9-year-old daughter is aware that her future is in jeopardy, she said.

Source: Arab News

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Syrians mark 12th anniversary of uprising against regime

March 15, 2023

IDLIB: Thousands of Syrians demonstrated in the war-ravaged country’s rebel-held northwest on Wednesday, marking 12 years since the start of pro-democracy protests and rejecting any international “normalization” with Damascus.

The brutal repression of the 2011 protests, which began during the Middle East’s Arab Spring uprisings, triggered a complex civil war that drew in foreign powers and jihadists.

It has claimed more than 500,000 lives and left millions displaced internally and abroad.

In Idlib city, demonstrators waved revolutionary flags and held banners reading: “The people demand the fall of the regime” and “Freedom and dignity for all Syrians.”

“We have come to commemorate the anniversary of the revolution, this great memory in the heart of every free Syrian,” protester Abu Shahid, 27, said. “We are proud of the day we managed to break the barrier of fear and demonstrate against the criminal regime.”

The rebel-held areas of Syria’s north and northwest, controlled by Islamist groups and Turkish-backed fighters, are home to more than 4 million people, at least half of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.

Protests also took place on Wednesday in Tabqa, a Kurdish-held area of Raqqa province in central Syria.

Both Damascus and Ankara see a common “enemy” in Kurdish groups in northern Syria, which Ankara calls “terrorists” but are backed by Washington.

Source: Arab News

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Former Iraqi PM hails Gen. Soleimani as architect of Iran-Saudi détente

15 March 2023

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has lauded late Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani as a “pacesetter” in the recent agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic ties and re-open diplomatic missions.

In an article published on the website of Iraq's Al-Ahad TV channel on Tuesday, Abdul-Mahdi provided an exclusive account of the recent Iran-Saudi agreement and praised General Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), as the one who “launched” the groundbreaking deal.

Abdul-Mahdi said during a state visit to China in September 2019, he received a phone call from General Soleimani who asked him if he could visit Saudi Arabia and act as an “intermediary” between Iran and the kingdom.

“General Soleimani said the matter was urgent,” to which the former Iraqi premier replied that he would go to Riyadh right after returning to Baghdad.

“I informed the Chinese side of the martyr's request, and they rejoiced,” Abdul-Mahdi added.

The former Iraqi premier continued by saying that he contacted the Saudi government, which inquired about the purpose of the visit.

“I informed them of Iran's request for mediation and identified Soleimani as the Iranian representative. The Saudis welcomed the proposal,” Abdul-Mahdi said.

"We returned to Iran on the morning of 25/9/2019 and left Baghdad in the evening for Saudi Arabia. Former Prime Minister [Mustafa] al-Kadhimi accompanied me, along with Minister of Oil Thamer al-Ghadhban, and Mohamed al-Hashimi, the cabinet secretary. We were received by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; then we held a late-night meeting with the Crown Prince [Mohammad bin Salman]."

Abdul-Mahdi stressed that the initiative was obstructed following strikes on Saudi Arabia's state-run oil giant Aramco and the US-directed assassination of General Soleimani along with his companions in the Iraqi capital.

"Regrettably, the former American administration executed their misguided and cowardly operation...I then passed on the responsibility to Prime Minister al-Kadhimi on May 7, 2020. Despite this setback, the initiative continued, and the first meetings were held in Baghdad in April 2021, with Mr. Mohammad Hashemi representing al-Kadhimi in his stead. Sheikh Khaled al-Humaidan led the Saudi delegation, while the Iranian side was represented by Deputy Secretary General of the National Security Council, Mr. Saeed Iravani. Meetings proceeded with the involvement of other officials, culminating in a strategic agreement in Beijing," he said.

The former Iraqi premier also said many parties had contributed to the conclusion of the agreement, which, if successful, "has the potential to alter not only the region but the world."

Abdul-Mahdi added that the deal is not merely about re-establishing ties between the two countries, adding that it will lead to a complete resolution of sensitive and dangerous issues.

"Both parties engaged in robust and forceful negotiations, and the agreement could not have been reached without regional and global developments, the growing influence of China, and guarantees from both sides. The agreement holds a shared vision for the wider trajectory of the region, as can be gleaned from the concluding statement," Abdul-Mahdi concluded.

After several days of intensive negotiations hosted by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia finally clinched a deal on Friday to restore diplomatic relations and re-open embassies and missions within two months.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by the Saudi government, stormed its embassy in Tehran.

Source: Press TV

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UAE to send 200 tons of dates to quake victims in Türkiye ahead of Ramadan

Muhammed Sheikh Yusuf 


An Emirati plane carrying 28 tons of dates arrived at Gaziantep airport in southern Türkiye on Wednesday as part of a campaign to support the victims of last month’s deadly earthquakes.

According to the UAE Embassy in Ankara, the plane was the first of a group of shipments amounting to 200 tons of dates for the quake victims.

More planes will arrive in the coming days to deliver the 200 tons, it added.

The dates are scheduled to be distributed to the quake victims before the start of the fasting month of Ramadan, due to begin next week.

The UAE has delivered 7,176 tons of aid materials to Türkiye and Syria aboard 223 cargo planes and one ship since the quake disaster. The aid was sent as part of Operation Chivalrous Knight 2 to support those affected by the quakes in both countries.

More than 48,448 people were killed in Türkiye in the quakes on Feb. 6, according to official figures.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Somalia military court executes 3 terrorists by firing squad

Mohammed Dhaysane 



Somalia’s military court executed three al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group senior officers Wednesday by firing squad in the nation’s capital of Mogadishu.

Mohamed Abdi Nur Jirow, Sharif Mohamed Barqadle Ayanle Jeego, and Mohamed Abdulle Abkow Omar Biyamalow were found guilty of carrying out bombings and murders throughout the country and in particular in Mogadishu, according to the court.

Thirteen people from the al-Shabaab and ISIS/Daesh terrorist groups were also executed in the northeastern semiautonomous state of Puntland earlier this month.

The executions ordered by a military court took place around Galkayo, Garowe, and the state’s commercial capital of Bosaso.

The court in the region also executed six soldiers after they were convicted of carrying out killings in Puntland.

The Puntland military court in the northern city of Galkayo executed 18 people in 2021 who were sentenced to death after being found guilty of terrorism, according to the Puntland's Justice Department.

Somalia’s Armed Forces Court has been carrying out death penalties for years despite pressure from international partners and human rights groups to stop the practice.

.Although Somalia experienced years of armed conflict and political instability, in recent years, it has made significant progress to rebuild state and government institutions, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Tons of uranium missing from Libyan site, IAEA tells member states

16 March ,2023

UN nuclear watchdog inspectors have found that roughly 2.5 tons of natural uranium have gone missing from a Libyan site that is not under government control, the watchdog told member states in a statement on Wednesday seen by Reuters.

The finding is the result of an inspection originally planned for last year that “had to be postponed because of the security situation in the region” and was finally carried out on Tuesday, according to the confidential statement by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi.

IAEA inspectors “found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of UOC (uranium ore concentrate) previously declared by (Libya) ... as being stored at that location were not present at the location,” the one-page statement said.

The agency would carry out “further activities” to determine the circumstances of the uranium's removal from the site, which it did not name, and where it is now, the statement added.

“The loss of knowledge about the present location of nuclear material may present a radiological risk, as well as nuclear security concerns,” it said, adding that reaching the site required “complex logistics”.

In 2003 Libya under then-leader Muammar Gaddafi renounced its nuclear weapons program, which had obtained centrifuges that can enrich uranium as well as design information for a nuclear bomb, though it made little progress towards a bomb.

Libya has had little peace since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising ousted Gaddafi. Since 2014, political control has been split between rival eastern and western factions, with the last major bout of conflict ending in 2020.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tunisia opposition spokesman and latest Saeid critic detained: Party

15 March ,2023

The spokesman of Tunisia’s Ennahdha party has been detained, his party said on Wednesday, denouncing the latest arrest of a prominent critic of President Kais Saied.

Abdelfattah Taghouti was detained by a national guard unit on Tuesday evening, Ennahdha said, demanding his immediate release.

More than 20 political figures have been arrested in the North African country in recent weeks, including members of the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, and its main component, Ennahdha.

In its statement Wednesday, the party condemned a “campaign of arbitrary arrests aimed at diverting attention from the failings of the regime.”

Saied froze parliament and sacked the government in a dramatic July 2021 move against the sole democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings.

He later pushed through sweeping changes to the country’s political system, concentrating near-total power in his office.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Security Council renews UN South Sudan mission for one year

March 16, 2023

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council voted Wednesday to extend for another year its mission in South Sudan, the world’s youngest state, which is undertaking a fragile peace process but remains plagued by post-civil-war violence.

Thirteen of the council’s 15 members voted to extend the mandate for the mission, known as UNMISS, until March 15, 2024.

China and Russia abstained.

Early this month the head of UNMISS, Nicholas Haysom, urged South Sudan’s government to implement its peace agreement in order to hold “credible” elections next year.

UNMISS, one of the global body’s most expensive operations with an annual budget of $1.2 billion, will “maintain its force levels with a ceiling of 17,000 troops and 2,101 police personnel,” according to a UN statement.

The adopted resolution allows UNMISS to carry out tasks in four key areas: protecting civilians; improving conditions for delivery of humanitarian aid; support for implementation of the peace process; and monitoring and reporting on violations of international humanitarian law and human rights.

After a five-year civil war ended in 2018 having claimed at least 380,000 lives, President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar formed a transitional government and agreed to join forces in a single army to protect the population, hard hit by conflicts and climatic disasters.

Armed violence, however, continues in the oil-rich country where the majority of people live below the poverty line.

Haysom acknowledged last week there are still conflicts that “increasingly present an ethnic or tribal dimension, and, as President Kiir noted... threaten to unravel hard-won peace gains.”

The United States meanwhile had said it was “gravely alarmed” by the rise of violence against civilians in South Sudan.

South Sudan became independent on July 9, 2011, from Sudan after years of bloody fighting that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. the UN mission was established by United Nations Security Council just a day before South Sudan's independence day.

Source: Arab News

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