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Islamic World News ( 4 Feb 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Tale of Kerala Muslim woman who raised three Hindu kids as her own is now a film

New Age Islam News Bureau

04 February 2023

A STILL FROM THE FILM 'ENNU NINTE SREEDHARAN

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• Egyptian Coptic Church holds first ever masses in Saudi Arabia to coincide with Christmas

• State tied our hands, threw us to beasts, say Pak cops on Peshawar mosque blast

• Islamophobia should be criminal offense, says Malaysian official

• Latin patriarch of Jerusalem condemns acts of hate against Christians

• UK police urged to prosecute Iranian accused of backing Rushdie fatwa

• UN ‘unable’ to resolve conflicts, Jordanian official

• Ilhan Omar's removal from US foreign affairs panel over anti-Israel remarks divides internet, tweets viral

• Islamic Emirate Leader: Intl Pressure Creates Mistrust

 

India

• Mumbai: Undeterred by Court Restrictions, Raja Singh Yet Again Calls for Violence Against Muslims

• Why’s RSS having meetings with Muslim intellectuals? ‘Civilisational solution, not electoral gain’

• Ramdev hurls barbs at Muslims, accuses them of abducting Hindu women

• In Indore, ‘love jihad’ vigilantes from Bajrang Dal have a free run

• SC seeks Centre, 6 states reply on transfer of religious conversion cases from HC

• Assam: Child marriage ‘war’ with faith disclaimer

• French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain visits Aligarh Muslim University, stressed for exchange programme

• In a new outreach, RSS leader Indresh Kumar meets representatives of Muslim countries

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Arab World

• Family of slain Lebanon activist urges UN probe into port blast

• French envoy criticizes Lebanon over ‘slow’ reforms needed for IMF loan

• Lebanese Christian bloc leader rallies nation against electing pro-Hezbollah president

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Pakistan

• 'Don't blame others for...': Taliban to Pakistan on Peshawar mosque blast

• Why are Ahmadiyya mosques in Pakistan under attack by vandals?

• Citizens take to the streets in KP against rising terrorism

• School in PoK raided by assailants while President was busy meeting senior UN officials: Report

• PTA bans Wikipedia in Pakistan over ‘sacrilegious content’: spokesperson

• Pakistan-US anti-terror talks from next month, says Bilawal

• Nation together will root out menace of terrorism: Gen Asim Munir

• Pakistan to attend Moscow meeting on Afghan crises next week

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Southeast Asia

• Johor Sultan says fatwa barring Muslims from other faiths’ rituals not against ‘Bangsa Johor’ concept

• Daegu group stages second Islamophobic pork feast in protest of mosque

• Are you suggesting that Malaysians who don’t vote for PAS promote Islamophobia? Kit Siang asks Hadi

• Report: Rainy weather causing vegetable supply shortage ahead of Ramadan

• SPM workshop controversy won’t happen again, vows minister

• Philippines tightens rules for Kuwait recruitment after maid murder

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Mideast

• Iran rebukes Macron’s double standard, urges France to speak out against Israeli nukes

• Iran behind hack of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, Microsoft says

• ‘Parliamentary tyranny’: Iran blasts US House Committee vote to oust Ilhan Omar

• Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi released on bail

• Palestinian mosque in Israel targeted with Molotov cocktails

• Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders head for Egypt amid Israel tensions

• Landmine kills 13-year-old boy in Yemen port city Hodeida

• Former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom asks US for sanctions on Turkey, Erdogan

• US imposes sanctions on board of directors of Iranian drone maker

• Iran’s security forces targeting eyes of protesters: Rights group

• Satellite photos show damage at Iran military site hit by drones

• Death of Amini sparks irreversible Iran ‘revolutionary process’: Nobel laureate Ebadi

• Turkey says Western nations gave it no evidence to back up security threat reports

• Iranian protests are ‘beginning of the end for regime in Tehran’, says Nobel laureate Ebadi

• Yemeni minister condemns Iran’s escalated arms smuggling to Houthis

• Images of emaciated Iranian prisoner on hunger strike prompt outrage

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Europe

• Sweden says claims that its agencies kidnap Muslim children is part of a systematized disinformation campaign

• London synagogue sold to Muslim group tied to antisemitic figures

• West has failed to deal with migration, says Turkish minister

• MP calls on UK to proscribe Iran guards to end ‘nefarious activities’

• Whistleblower sacked for speaking out on withdrawal from Afghanistan takes UK government to court

• Turkish president receives Kosovar premier for talks

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Africa

• Ganduje: Kano Sharia Court dissolves daughter’s marriage

• Sudan demands United Nations immediately lift arms embargo

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North America

• New York couple gets combined 20 years for supporting Islamic State

• Biden backs legal ‘status quo’ of Al-Aqsa mosque

• US giving cold feet to countries willing to normalize with Syria: Report

• Iran, Venezuela vow closer cooperation to thwart foreign pressures

• Ex-Clinton aide: Monica Lewinsky scandal caused Clinton admin to lose track of bin Laden

• Elghawaby controversy has reignited debate over Islamophobia: mosque official

• US, allies, criticize Iran’s ‘inadequate response to UN nuclear watchdog report

• American sniper, weapons trainer for ISIS on trial in US

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South Asia

• SIGAR: US Aid May 'Confer Legitimacy' Onto Islamic Emirate

• Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: We Judge Islamic Emirate on Its Actions

• Pakistani Police Detains Scores of Afghan Refugees in Islamabad

• Pakistani Troops Kill Two Militants in Raid Near Afghanistan Border

• No option on table to recognise Taliban regime: EU special envoy Niklasson

• Why Bangladesh is seeking Saudi oil on credit after IMF success

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/kerala-muslim-woman-hindu-kids-film/d/129033

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Tale of Kerala Muslim woman who raised three Hindu kids as her own is now a film

February 01, 2023

A STILL FROM THE FILM 'ENNU NINTE SREEDHARAN

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Nearly 50 years have passed since Chakki died, but Shanavas remembers that day like it was yesterday. His mother Subaida handed baby Jafer to his grandmother and left the house in a hurry with tears in her eyes, hoping for one last glance of Chakki, more of a friend to her than a house help. Subaida returned home as a mother to three more children — Chakki’s youngest, baby Sreedharan, in her arms, and two young girls Ramani and Leela. That day, at the age of seven, Shanavas welcomed three new siblings into his life.

ThennadanSubaida and Abdul Aziz Haji, a pious Muslim couple from Nilambur’s Kalikavu village in Kerala’s Malappuram district, had gone on to foster the three children of their former domestic worker as their own for all their lives, all the while refusing to bring them into the fold of Islam. Subaida passed away due to a kidney ailment in July 2019, and her husband Aziz Haji followed two years later. The family’s heartwarming tale has now been adapted to screen by acclaimed filmmaker Siddik Paravoor. The film, EnnuSwanthamSreedharan ('With Love, Sreedharan'), titled after the youngest of Chakki’s children, premiered at the Vanitha Theatre in Edappally on January 9.

A memorial note and a revelation

It was through a Facebook post by Sreedharan, sharing the tragic news of the passing away of his umma (Islamic term for mother in Malayalam) in July 2019, that the world beyond Kalikavu first came to know of Subaida. “How does ‘Sreedharan’ have an ‘umma’? Whom are you misleading? Is this a fake ID?” his Facebook friends had prodded. For Sreedharan, his heartbreak amplified by his inability to return home from Oman to see his mother, the doubts and aspersions cast on his life’s experiences had seemed to border on harassment.

A day later, he had decided that he would not allow society’s dogmas to deem him as anything less than Subaida’s son — a Hindu child of a Muslim mother. “Umma and uppa (father) had three biological children of their own, including Joshina, who was born a few years after we came to the house. But we have never felt like outsiders there. That is the only home I have known. I have heard that umma used to breastfeed me and Jafer together,” Sreedharan tells TNM. And hence he had taken to Facebook, relating his life’s story, letting the world in on a gratifying lesson in love and coexistence.

“This post is to clear your doubts about who I am,” he wrote. “When I shared the news of my umma’s passing, some of you had doubts. Even when I posted a picture of me wearing a taqiyah, there were doubts if a Muslim man could be named Sreedharan. My mother died when I was about a year old. I have two sisters. I had a father too. The very day my mother died, this umma and uppa brought us to their house. They gave us an education, just like they did for their own children. When my sisters reached a marriageable age, it was uppa and umma who married them off. Having kids of their own did not stop them from taking us in. They had three kids. Even though they adopted us at a young age, they did not try to convert us into their religion. People say that an adoptive mother can never match up to one’s biological mother. But she was never an ‘adoptive mother’ to us, she was truly our mother,” the post said.

Everybody who read his post was surprised, says Sreedharan. “Suddenly we were getting calls from activists and media persons to ordinary people, all of them wanting to know more about the story behind that post,” he says. “In today’s political climate, where religions are constantly pitched against each other, the fact that this family took us in and raised us to believe in god, believe in our own faith, seemed almost unbelievable for some.”

In fact, the siblings were surprised by the world’s reaction to the story. “We grew up as brothers and sisters. We had never thought of our family as different from the others,” says Shanavas, the eldest of Subaida’s biological children. “Of course, when umma first brought Ramani, Leela, and Sreedharan into our home, I had asked her what she was planning to do. She then told me that these children will now grow up in our house, and that was it. We never questioned it. Our father, who was in the Gulf at the time, was also equally supportive of umma’s decision,” he says.

Beyond religious barriers

Sreedharan recalls the day he asked his adoptive parents why they didn’t bring him into the fold of Islam. “Their first response was concern. They asked me if someone had said something bad to me. After I reassured them, they explained to me that we should not let religion define anyone. They said that all religions were essentially preaching the same thing — to love and help people, and that it was human beings who were interpreting these teachings wrongly.”

“They also taught us to have faith, no matter what the religion. My sisters and I used to go to the temple, walk around with sandal marks on our foreheads and more. They actively encouraged us. All they expected from us was to ensure we don’t lie, steal, or hurt others. And we also took care to never do something that would hurt their reputation,” he says.

Sreedharan is also cognisant of the fact that if he and his sisters had not been adopted by Subaida, his life would have panned out very differently, especially considering his biological family’s caste background. “We are of a lower caste. When we were growing up, people would have expected us to be silent and subservient, standing in the margins. That was the culture back then. But uppa and umma taught us not to do that. They told us that we should never bow before anyone unnecessarily,” he says.

It was only after he had a son of his own that he realised the true depth of his parents’ love, says Sreedharan. “Now I know the effort that goes into bringing up a child. So I can only imagine how big of a task bringing up six children would have been. As a matter of fact, after my biological father died, they had also taken the daughter he had from a second marriage under their wings. That’s not something many people know,” he adds.

Journey to the silver screen

Director Siddik Paravoor, whose previous film Thahira had featured in the Indian Panorama Feature Film section of the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa, first heard of Subaida through Kondotty-based social worker and orator AP Ahamed. “Presumably after Sreedharan’s Facebook post went viral, I read a note Ahamed master had written about Subaida and her life, which deeply affected me. I wanted to bring her story to more people’s attention. I wanted to let them know that there are people who live like this. People who put love and kindness over religion and prejudices,” he says.

Siddik recalls hearing more heartwarming stories about Subaida after he arrived at her village. “Everyone in Kalikavu knew her and loved her. For all her life, she has spent her ancestral money not on herself, but to help the underprivileged. She bought clothes and jewellery for them annually. She had some 12 acres of land, all of which she donated to people in need over the years. In a later stage of her life, she had even resorted to seeking loans to help other people. By the time she died, she was in a debt of about Rs 28 lakh — and none of it was for herself. Eventually, it was Shanavas who paid it all off with his own money,” he says. While in Kalikavu, he had also heard that after Subaida passed away, the vicar at a nearby church rang the church bell, usually reserved only for the faithful, and even held a prayer meeting for her.

After Ahamed put Siddik in touch with the family, it didn’t take much time for the project to go on the floor. While dancer Nirmala Kannan donned the role of Subaida, journalist and writer Suresh Nellikode – who has also produced the movie – became Aziz Haji. Actor Nilambur Ayisha and writer ShihabuddinPoythumkadavu also appeared in prominent roles, alongside Sachin Roy, Vaibhav Amarnath, Harsha Arun, and Rajitha Santhosh.

“It was Aziz Haji himself who turned on the camera for the first shot. They were all glad that more people would now come to know about their Subaida and the benevolent woman that she was. Unfortunately, Aziz Haji passed away a year later during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the director says. “People are inherently good. But sometimes we need stories like these to remind them of that goodness. Subaida deserves to be remembered, and her story repeatedly told.”

Source:TheNewsMinute

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/tale-kerala-muslim-woman-who-raised-three-hindu-kids-her-own-now-film-172715

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Egyptian Coptic Church holds first ever masses in Saudi Arabia to coincide with Christmas

01 February, 2023

Coptic Orthodox Egyptians are the largest Christian community in the Middle East [Getty]

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The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church has held a series of masses for the first time ever in Saudi Arabia on the occasion of Coptic Christmas, the Copts United website reported on Monday.

Bishop Morcos (or Mark), the Metropolitan of Shubra al-Kheima, led masses in several Saudi cities including Riyadh and Jeddah, ending with a Divine Liturgy on Christmas Eve.

The masses took place with the approval and sponsorship of Saudi authorities, the Egypt Independent reported and were attended by Egyptian and Eritrean Christians.

In its latest edition, Al-Keraza, the official magazine of the Coptic Church in Egypt, thanked the Saudi ambassador to Cairo for facilitating the visit.

Coptic Orthodox Christians make up approximately 10% of Egypt’s population and are the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

Approximately 3 million Egyptians work in Saudi Arabia, many from the Coptic community.

The Gulf country, however, has strict rules on the practice of non-Islamic faiths and does not permit the construction of churches or other non-Islamic religious buildings, following a centuries old convention.

Under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia in recent years has seen social liberalisation, with many restrictions on dress, entertainment, and tourism relaxed.

But this has not been accompanied by political reform and thousands of dissidents and activists have been arrested and languish in jail.

Last October, 10 Egyptians were sentenced to up to 18 years in prison for trying to organise a commemoration of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Source: The New Arab

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.newarab.com/news/egyptian-copts-hold-first-ever-mass-saudi-arabia

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State tied our hands, threw us to beasts, say Pak cops on Peshawar mosque blast

Feb 3, 2023

The suicide bomber who killed more than 80 people at a mosque inside a sensitive compound earlier this week entered wearing a uniform and helmet, a provincial police chief said on February 2. (Photo: AFP)

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Pakistan police officers said they were "thrown to the beasts" in their battle against rising militancy days after an explosion in a mosque in Peshawar killed 84.

A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform infiltrated the heavily guarded compound in Peshawar on January 6 and blew himself up during afternoon prayers at a mosque, in the deadliest attack Pakistan has seen for several years.

Pakistani authorities revised the death toll to 84 on Friday. It was earlier estimated that over 100 people were killed in the explosion. Nearly 400 worshippers were present inside the mosque in Peshawar when a suicide bomber blew himself up. As per latest estimates, 83 policemen were killed in the explosion.

The explosion which blew up the wall of a prayer hall, crushing those inside the mosque, was a security lapse, the police admitted on Thursday.

However, officers, who are at the frontline of the war against militancy, are feeling abandoned.

"We are in a state of shock, every other day our colleagues are dying, how long will we have to suffer?" one police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity. "If the protectors are not safe, then who is safe in this country?"

"We are at the frontline of this war, we are protecting the schools, offices, and public places, but today we feel abandoned. The state has tied our hands and thrown us to the beasts," another officer told AFP.

"It's incomprehensible to me," said Inayat Ullah, a 42-year-old policeman who spent several hours under the rubble of a collapsed wall before being rescued, losing a thumb.

"Every time we leave our homes, we hug our loved ones and they hug us. We don't know if we will come back alive or not," said another policeman, who lost six friends in the blast.

Police attributed the Peshawar blast to Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a more radical group occasionally affiliated to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has denied any involvement. Peace negotiations between the TTP and Pakistan, mediated by the Afghan Taliban, fell through in November, shattering a shaky ceasefire.

The Pakistani Taliban is separate from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar ideology. Peshawar has been at the heart of daily attacks since the group emerged in 2007, allied with Al-Qaeda.

Source:IndiaToday

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/state-tied-our-hands-threw-us-to-beasts-say-pak-cops-on-peshawar-mosque-blast-2329866-2023-02-03

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Islamophobia should be criminal offense, says Malaysian official

Gulci·n Kazan Doger and Rabia Ali  

03.02.2023

Islamophobia needs to be recognized as a crime, a senior Malaysian official said on Friday, calling for "firmer" response by Muslim countries towards incidents of burning of the Muslims' holy book, the Quran.

"Anything that is Islamophobic can actually be regarded as something which is criminal in nature. So, much like anti-Semitism is a criminal offense in many other countries," Abdul Razak Ahmad, a special representative of Malaysia's foreign minister, told Anadolu in an interview.

"We should also make Islamophobia a criminal offense, especially in Muslim countries," said Ahmad, who praised the role of Türkiye for its strong reaction to a recent spate of Quran burnings in Europe that drew the anger of Muslims worldwide.

Referring to one such attempt in Norway in which authorities withdrew a permit previously given for a Quran burning following a warning from Ankara, Ahmad said the episode demonstrated the effectiveness of Turkish diplomacy.

"It shows that, you know, Turkish soft power works. And I think this is what we should do to actually be confronting these people and to engage with them and to tell them that, 'look we are offended and this is not the right way to do things and this is not a manifestation of an egalitarian society. And they should stop'," said that special representative on peacebuilding and countering Islamophobia.

Ahmad said that Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, and very few other countries had shown leadership against Islamophobia.

"I think our concern about Islamophobia is really about the globalization of Islamophobia, how Islam has been misinterpreted, how Islam has been subject to hatred by people who has minimum understanding of the religion. It's a very narrow understanding of the religion itself."

He stressed that it was important for Malaysia and Türkiye to work together in addressing Islamophobia, which he described as a global issue affecting the Muslim community.

The West has to be realistic, he underlined. "Freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of speech can never be at the expense of undermining other people's religion, undermining faith, and undermining coexistence."

He also stressed that Islamic countries need to be more "responsive" towards the issue.

"They can burn another 1,000 or 1 million Qurans but you can never eliminate the teaching of Islam from the hearts and mind of the Muslims."

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/islamophobia-should-be-criminal-offense-says-malaysian-official/2805587

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Latin patriarch of Jerusalem condemns acts of hate against Christians

Abdel Ra'ouf D. A. R. Arnaout 

04.02.2023

JERUSALEM

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop PierbattistaPizzaballa, on Friday condemned sabotage against Christian sites in occupied East Jerusalem.

Pizzaballa said a Jewish American broke into the Church of the Flagellation on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City and vandalized a statue of Jesus.

He also said the incident was the fifth in just a few weeks and last week a group of tourists was attacked by a Jewish group who turned the area into what looks like a battlefield.

"Two weeks ago, a Christian cemetery in Jerusalem was vandalized, and writings calling for death to Christians were written on the walls of one of the monasteries in the Armenian quarter," said Pizzaballa.

"We are following with serious concern, and we strongly condemn this increasing acts of hate and violence against the Christian community in Israel," he added.

Israeli authorities have yet to comment on Pizzaballa's statement.

Church leaders have repeatedly urged Israeli authorities to put an end to the "hate crimes" attacks.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/latin-patriarch-of-jerusalem-condemns-acts-of-hate-against-christians/2805867

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UK police urged to prosecute Iranian accused of backing Rushdie fatwa

FEBRUARY 3, 2023

The Metropolitan police is being urged to crack down on Iranian terrorism in the UK by prosecuting a former senior Iranian government official accused of advocating the fatwa against Sir Salman Rushdie.

The Metropolitan police has been studying a legal dossier accusing Sayed Ataollah Mohajerani, who lives in Britain, of encouraging terrorism contrary to the 2006 Terror Act. He denies the claims.

Four months after being presented with the dossier, the police have told those making the accusation that the complex issues raised require considerable resources and more time to investigate.

The fatwa was imposed on Rushdie by the previous Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, in February 1989 and has never been revoked. Last August, Rushdie was stabbed multiple times at a literary festival in Chautauqua, New York.

The UK has promised a new harsher line against Iran in the wake of the execution there of the former Iranian deputy defence minister Alireza Akbari, but has so far only recalled its ambassador from Tehran and imposed sanctions on the Iranian prosecutor general.

Source: IranWire

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://iranwire.com/en/speaking-of-iran-2/113378-uk-police-urged-to-prosecute-iranian-accused-of-backing-rushdie-fatwa/

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UN ‘unable’ to resolve conflicts, Jordanian official

February 04, 2023

AMMAN: Jordan’s Senate Speaker Faisal Fayez has said that the UN is still “unable” to play its role in ending conflicts and crises, especially ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

On Friday, Jordan’s News Agency reported that Fayez’s statement came during a student workshop on the role of the UN and the goals on which it was founded.

He said the UN has been unable to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and had not been able to take any decision regarding the crimes and massacres committed by the Israeli authorities daily against Palestinians.

“The UN is unable to end the conflicts and political crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya,” Fayez added.

The organization needed to play a more “effective” role in ending regional conflicts and enabling its people to live freely and safely, he said.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244546/middle-east

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Ilhan Omar's removal from US foreign affairs panel over anti-Israel remarks divides internet, tweets viral

VIKRAM BHALLA

Feb 3, 2023

US House of Representatives Republicans on Thursday ousted Democrat Ilhan Omar from a high-profile committee over remarks widely condemned as antisemitic, two years after Democrats removed two Republicans from committee assignments.

Ilhan Omar's past statements make it clear she is unfit to represent the U.S. on the House Foreign Affairs Committe… https://t.co/5iQiITp6mn

— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) 1675363867000

Omar, who arrived in the United States as a refugee from Somalia, is the only African-born member of Congress and one of the only Muslim women in the House. She was in line to be the top Democrat on the foreign affairs panel's Africa subcommittee.

Ilhan Omar closes the debate and says, "this debate today is about who gets to me an American ... I am Muslim. I am… https://t.co/2Mx6HcactH

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) 1675357206000

Republicans, who won a narrow House majority in November's election after years in the minority, said they wanted Omar, a third-term House member, off Foreign Affairs for statements that included a 2019 tweet which read, "It's all about the Benjamins baby," suggesting that Israel's supporters in US politics were motivated by money rather than principle.

She has also opposed US military aid to Israel and five years earlier, before entering Congress, she said Israel had "hypnotized the world," and urged people to open their eyes to the US ally's "evil doings."

Omar's critics say she earlier downplayed the massive 9/11 tragedy by saying, "Council on American-Islamic Relations was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties."

These remarks coupled with her anti-semitic comments led to her ouster, triggering a debate on social media, with many siding and opposing Omar’s removal.

Someone who has questioned whether or not a plane actually hit the Pentagon on 9/11 and said the Parkland shooting… https://t.co/BomMwSmXEX

— Jo 🌻 (@JoJoFromJerz) 1675374681000

Honored to have been the first Member of Congress to publicly oppose the placement of raging antisemite and far-lef… https://t.co/zLjkF3mWK7

— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) 1675374539000

Republicans kick Ilhan Omar off US House foreign affairs panel.Muslim-American legislator says her ‘voice will get… https://t.co/WxeWD0keOp

— Babar khan Niazi (@Babarniazi777) 1675410330000

I am American, but I will not be grateful to American people for accepting Islamic bigot like me. I am refugee, but… https://t.co/G9lsOlzPy9

— Anuj Singh (@caanujs) 1675372225000

Wrong! This is about traitorous, anti American, Muslim Brotherhood operatives no longer having direct access to se… https://t.co/spHjoW3MGe

— Ron Hanforth (@ronhanforth) 1675358838000

Anti-Semitic Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar KICKED OUT From Foreign-Affairs Committee.“Some people did something”. I'… https://t.co/l9mkYaymhZ

— Hananya Naftali (@HananyaNaftali) 1675376225000

‘US govt is weaponizing hate against a beautiful black Muslim woman’

So desperate to distract the American people from their total inability to govern, the GOP is doing what it is best… https://t.co/nDcqeIgPQy

— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@RepRashida) 1675365599000

‘She panders to Islamic radicals and is anti-India’

Islamist radical democrat Ilhan Omar has been removed from the US Foreign Affairs Committee. Omar has been accused… https://t.co/kJBEv1DdiB

— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) 1675389844000

"Disgraceful day at House," said Bernie Sanders.

It is an outrage that every Republican voted to remove @IlhanMN – a third term Muslim American woman – from the For… https://t.co/XRkpsqJpZ8

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 1675359882000

‘She’s anti-America’

Just for emphasis, @SenSanders. @IlhanMN wasn't removed because she's "a Muslim American woman." It was because she… https://t.co/FBxQdA4XZT

— Michael Podwill (@MichaelPodwill) 1675369527000

MTG didn't mean "muslims" she means muslims like you that disrespect 9/11, spew hatred for this country, and antise… https://t.co/OkFbt9CUAb

— Steve613 (@TheRealSteve613) 1675142868000

‘Omar did not try to subvert democracy on January 6’

Kevin McCarthy removing Ilhan Omar--a 3rd-term Muslim American woman--from the Foreign Affairs Committee is shamefu… https://t.co/tDkQxdNeCc

— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) 1675381516000

‘She’s national security threat’

Ilhan Omar is a national security threat via our intelligence She was removed! We certainly do not want terrorists… https://t.co/N9j6DkgbGa

— MikelCromms (@MikelCromms) 1675368434000

Source: Times Of India

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/viral-news/ilhan-omars-removal-from-us-foreign-affairs-panel-over-anti-israel-remarks-divides-internet-tweets-viral/articleshow/97575506.cms?from=mdr

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Islamic Emirate Leader: Intl Pressure Creates Mistrust

By Mohammad Farshad Daryosh

The leader of the Islamic Emirate, MawlawiHebatullah Akhundzada, said at a meeting with army corps commanders that pressure from the international community on the current government will not be beneficial, but will instead create mistrust.

MawlawiHebatullah Akhundzada emphasized at this meeting that if they act against Sharia, the people will rise against the Islamic Emirate, according to a statement from the Islamic Emirate's spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid.

"In this meeting, the security issues were discussed in order to be strengthened, as well as the issues of the nation, so that Afghanistan does not harm anyone and that we do not encounter harm from the outside,” Mujahid said.

In the statement, the leader of the Islamic Emirate visited the commanders and high-ranking officials of 207 Farooq, 203 Mansouri, 217 Omari and 201 Khaled bin Waleed corps.

Some political analysts do not consider the application of pressure to be beneficial for either side, and say that the problems should be resolved through dialogue and understanding.

"The solution is to change stance and achieve understanding with the international community,” said Shir Hassan Hassan, a political analyst.

"We hope that the discussion and talks with the international community and international organizations will continue on the basis of a shared definition of national interests that will close gaps between the government and the people,” said Mohammad ZalmaiAfghanyar, a political analyst.

On Thursday, in response to the ban on women attending university and working for NGOs in Afghanistan, the US State Department imposed new visa restrictions on a number of current and former officials of the Islamic Emirate.

The US State Department in a press statement said that the Islamic Emirate cannot expect the respect and support of the international community until they respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghans, including women and girls.

Source: ToloNews

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan-181884

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India

 

Mumbai: Undeterred by Court Restrictions, Raja Singh Yet Again Calls for Violence Against Muslims

Sukanya Shantha

Mumbai: In November last year, the Telangana high court laid down three strict conditions while setting aside MLA Raja Singh’s preventive detention order. Singh, who has over 100 criminal cases against him, had spent 76 days in jail under preventive detention for stoking communal tensions in Hyderabad.

In the November 9, 2022 order, Justices A. Abhishek Reddy and Juvvadi Sridevi laid down clear restrictions. Singh “shall not participate in or hold any celebratory rallies/meetings after his release”. Singh shall be prohibited from giving “any interviews to any kind of media houses including the print media” and, in the future, Singh “shall not make any provocative speeches against any religion or post any derogatory or offensive posts on any social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, etc.”

It took Singh less than three months to violate all three conditions. He was in Mumbai on January 29 to attend an event organised by a radical Hindu group ‘Sakal Hindu Samaj’. At the Hindu Janakrosh Morcha organised by the group, Singh declared that if the Maharashtra state government didn’t come up with an anti-conversion law, Hindus would soon be up in arms. The anti-conversion law, one of the most contentious issues in the country, is ostensibly to restrict ‘forced conversion’, but experts have said that it infringes on the right to practice religion.

Singh had not simply promoted the idea of a new law. He was provoking the gathering to pick up arms and attack Muslims. He used abusive, derogatory words and called for direct violence against the Muslim community. His speech not just violated the high court order but clearly promoted enmity between two religious groups, as described under Sections 153 B and 295-A of the Indian Penal Code for promoting enmity between two communities and for deliberately and maliciously acting with an intent to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Following Singh’s speech, another Hindutva leader Sakshi Gaikwad made an equally provocative speech, making an open call for a genocidal attack and treating the Muslim community like “sacrificial lambs”, waiting to be sacrificed.

The Hindu Jan Akrosh Morcha began from Shivaji Park in Dadar and culminated at Kamgar Maidan in Parel, covering a distance of more than four kilometres. Leaders and workers of right-wing outfits such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were part of this rally.

The speeches made by Singh and other speakers have since been actively shared on social media. Despite communally charged content, the Mumbai police have failed to initiate any action against the speakers. The Wire made repeated attempts to contact the Dadar police and the Mumbai police spokesperson for their comment. However, hasn’t managed to elicit a comment yet. The story will be updated as/when they respond.

Meanwhile, the Hyderabad police have been prompt in issuing notices to Singh. In the past four days, the Mangalhat police in Hyderabad, citing the conditions applied on his release by the high court, has issued two notices. The first notice was issued soon after the speech was delivered. The notice, asking Singh to respond in two days as to why a criminal action should not be initiated against him, was sent to his residence.

“In the video, your speech is very much provocative to a particular community regarding demands of laws on love jihad, cow slaughter, conversion and a few other words,” the notice issued to Raja Singh by the Mangalhat police stated while reminding him of the content and conditions of his release orders. “Your speech with the potential to provoke a particular religion is a violation of conditions imposed by the HC,” the notice further stated.

Only a week before his visit to Mumbai, Raja Singh was served with another notice for making an equally provocative speech in Ajmer Dargah last year. The police, in that notice, too had mentioned that if Singh doesn’t stop deliberately stoking communal feelings and making provocative statements, he could be arrested. The police have, however, only issued more notices and have not initiated any concrete steps to stop him.

Singh continues to be undeterred and has challenged the Telangana police. Singh claims that the police’s decision to issue a notice was a political one and that he was “not scared of going back to jail”. Singh was suspended from the BJP in August for having posted a video with alleged derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad.

The Sakal Hindu Samaj has another similar public event scheduled in the city on February 5. Following Singh and Gaikwad’s violent speeches, a lawyer moved the Supreme Court seeking immediate action against the group. A bench of Supreme Court judges Justices K.M. Joseph and J.B. Pardiwala have asked the Maharashtra government to ensure that the event is allowed to be carried out only on the condition that provocative speeches are not made and that the event is videographed.

Source:TheWire

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

https://thewire.in/communalism/raja-singh-court-restrictions-violence-muslims

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Why’s RSS having meetings with Muslim intellectuals? ‘Civilisational solution, not electoral gain’

MADHUPARNA DAS

4 February, 2023

New Delhi: The Muslim outreach organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — under which senior functionaries are meeting Muslim leadership — is a comprehensive effort by the organisation for a ‘civilisational and cultural’ solution to the Hindu-Muslim conflict, according to the Sangh.

This effort, a senior RSS functionary told ThePrint, is unlike the outreach to specific Muslim groups, which have been politically focused and based on electoral benefit. Those, the functionary said, are short term solutions that will not work in the interest of the country in the long term, while explaining the significance of the two meetings that took place — once in Delhi earlier this month, and one in August last year — between a four-member RSS team and a nine-member team of Muslim intellectuals.

The senior functionary, who wished to not be named, said the next meeting would be held in April in Delhi as it is a process of discussing issues and ideas, and finding ways to alleviate conflict between the two communities. “This is the first such Muslim outreach that the Sangh has started. We are not looking for any electoral gains or any political benefit. We are not choosing any specific group of Muslims. We are reaching out to everyone who is interested in a long-term solution. We all are working for a social civilisational solution to this age-old communal conflict,” said the functionary.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has designated four senior functionaries — Krishna Gopal, Ram Lal, Manmohan Vaidya, and Indresh Kumar — to take the dialogue forward. The Muslim intellectuals include former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, former Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, and senior journalist Shahid Siddiqui.

Speaking to ThePrint, Quraishi said, “It is a beginning, a process has been initiated. We need better understanding with each other. There are certain misconceptions both sides have against each other and both sides are talking to their community leaders and spiritual leaders to bring down the sense of conflict.”

Hindu Rashtra

While discussing various issues, the group of Muslim intellectuals brought up the instances of clashes, the aggression against each other (Hindu and Muslim), the mention of Hindu Rashtra and issues related to Kashi and Mathura .

“We have mentioned the incidents, the instigation by some RSS affiliates or fringe elements and (how) Muslims were targeted in places. We told them that these incidents vitiate the atmosphere. They have similar issues to raise with us. There has to be a command system, the spiritual leaders in temples and mosques have crucial roles to play. But these will not happen overnight. It takes time,” said Quraishi.

The issue of Hindu Rashtra was mentioned in the meeting. “Bhagwat ji and all senior functionaries explained that they don’t mean religion when they call all Indians Hindu and they talk about the same DNA and the same ancestors. They believe that all Muslim and Christians converts were Hindus and their ancestors are the same. We agree with them on this and this is a fair enough point. They said they cannot imagine a Hindu Rashtra without Muslims. They talk about more Muslim participation in the political process too,” added Quaraishi.

Outreach at multiple level

Another senior Sangh functionary, who is privy to the discussion between the RSS team and the group of Muslim intellectuals, said, “There is just one group of Muslim intellectuals which is opening up about the meetings. But we have held many such meetings with different groups, and they have not spoken yet. Sangh, on its own, will never talk about it openly. But the process is on and we are getting positive responses from all.”
Source:ThePrint

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

https://theprint.in/india/whys-rss-having-meetings-with-muslim-intellectuals-civilisational-solution-not-electoral-gain/1351905/

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Ramdev hurls barbs at Muslims, accuses them of abducting Hindu women

03.02.23

In provocative remarks at a meeting of seers, Yoga guru Ramdev accused Muslims of resorting to terror and abducting Hindu women while comparing Hinduism to Islam and Christianity.

He alleged that the two faiths were obsessed with conversion while Hinduism taught its followers to do good.

"Muslims offer namaz five times a day and then do whatever they want. They kidnap Hindu girls and commit all kinds of sins. Our Muslim brothers commit a lot of sins but they definitely offer namaz as they are taught to do so. Hindu religion is not like this," he said Thursday at the gathering in Barmer.

A video of his speech has surfaced on social media.

"I am not criticising anyone but people are obsessed only with this. Some people talk about converting the entire world to Islam and others want to convert the world to Christianity," Ramdev said.

He claimed that these faiths had no other agenda.

Continuing his attack on Muslims, he said they become terrorists or criminals and yet offer namaz. He also referred to the attire of orthodox members of the community.

He said Hinduism teaches people not to engage in violence and dishonesty.

Source:TelegraphIndia

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

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/yoga-guru-ramdev-hurls-barbs-at-muslims-accuses-them-of-abducting-hindu-women/cid/1914130

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In Indore, ‘love jihad’ vigilantes from Bajrang Dal have a free run

Zafar Aafaq

On the afternoon of January 21, Moin Khan was attending to a personal matter in a court in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, when he got a panicked call from his friend Mohammad Rizwan.

“‘Bajrang Dal men have barged into my home, come fast,’ he told me,” said Khan. Unable to leave his work and go all the way to Shree Nagar, a middle-class neighbourhood where his friend lived, the 21-year-old sent his father instead.

When his father Anwar Khan Qadri reached the building in which Rizwan lived, he found a mob of 100 men from the Bajrang Dal swarming around the third-floor flat and taking videos. “They had locked Rizwan and his friends inside the apartment and were beating them,” Qadri told Scroll. “I couldn’t do anything.”

Six months ago, Rizwan and his four friends, residents of Shajapur, a town 100 km away, had moved to Indore to learn web design, Moin said.

That day, Salman Akhtar, one of the flatmates, had invited his friend, a young woman from the Hindu community, to the apartment to celebrate her birthday. Another woman was also in the apartment.

In the afternoon, Bajrang Dal workers forced their way into the flat to carry out a “raid”, accusing Rizwan and his friends of “love jihad”.

“Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory peddled by Hindutva organisations that claims there is an organised plot by Muslim men to seduce Hindu women and convert them to Islam. Since 2020, several states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, including Madhya Pradesh, have enacted laws against religious conversion that effectively criminalise inter-faith relationships and marriage.

Qadri recalls that the Bajrang Dal men continued to question and assault Rizwan and his friends till the police arrived 30 minutes later. (The names of the five men and their family members have been changed to protect their identity.)

The personnel from the MIG police station dispersed the mob, but took the five men into custody.

The Bajrang Dal men followed the police van carrying Rizwan and his friends on two-wheelers, raising slogans, as video clips that circulated on social media after the incident show.

No action was taken against the Bajrang Dal members – a pattern that is by now familiar in Indore.

In the past two months, the city has seen several such incidents where Bajrang Dal men have accosted couples, beat up the men and then handed them over to the police.

In the majority of the incidents, Scroll found, Bajrang Dal leaders boasted on social media about their role in the “raids” on couples. In most cases, the police turned a blind eye to the violence.

‘The matter has ended’

A day after the “raid” on the birthday party, Tannu Sharma, the Indore head of the Bajrang Dal, bragged on Facebook that his group had been tracking the five men for two weeks before they “caught” them. He labelled them “love jihadis”.

A video that he shared on his Facebook page shows Bajrang Dal men inside a small flat decorated with balloons and streamers. A young woman in the video is seen hiding her face, as the Bajrang Dal men question the flatmates.

Later, Rizwan would recount his experience to Moin. “He told me he was on a video call with his mother when the Bajrang Dal men entered and started shouting,” Moin told Scroll.

The Bajrang Dal members snatched Rizwan’s phone and asked him to open the photo gallery. “They asked Salman how long he had been dating the girl. He told them they were friends. But Rizwan said the men were not convinced,” said Moin. “They lined them up and started beating them.”

At the MIG police station, Rizwan and his four friends were taken into preventive custody, under Section 151 of the Indian Penal Code.

“We used Section 151 because the two groups were fighting and it could have led to law-and-order problems,” assistant sub-inspector Seema Sharma told Scroll. “We detained the five men because the Bajrang Dal complained against them. We did not take action against the Bajrang Dal because there was no complaint against them,” she said.

The five men were released three days later on January 24.

They returned to Shajapur almost immediately. Neither their family members nor the men agreed to speak to Scroll about the attack.

“The matter has ended,” said Mohammad Salman, the father of one of the boys. “We do not want to talk about this issue.”

Saleem Abbasi, Salman’s cousin who also lives in Shajapur, said that the five men have been confined to their homes since the attack. “Their families are so afraid that they are not even letting them go out to the market,” he said.

The new normal

By forcing their way into a private home to target Muslim men on January 21, the Bajrang Dal did cross a line.

But this is hardly the first time that members of the Hindutva organisation have beaten up Muslim men in Indore after finding them in the company of women from the Hindu community.

As is evident from Bajrang Dal Indore leader Tannu Sharma’s Facebook timeline, since the first week of December, the organisation’s members have been involved in more than a dozen incidents in which they accosted Hindu women and Muslim men in public spaces – cafes, bus stands, parks, or parking lots.

Zaid Pathan, the state coordinator of Association of Protection of Civil Rights, said “love jihad” vigilantism has been growing unchecked in Madhya Pradesh. He believes it was a statement on December 4 last year by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, assuring that his government will bring in “stronger laws against love jihad” that encouraged the Bajrang Dal.

“Since then, groups like Bajrang Dal have been emboldened,” he said. “They harass Muslim men and youth regularly. Many cases do not even surface in the media.”

In most cases, the police locked up the men under preventive detention and released them after three or four days in jail.

Take, for instance, the case of 21-year-old Faizan Khan, a YouTuber who makes short comedy sketches and has seven million subscribers to his channel.

On a December evening, he was with his girlfriend at the Thakur da Café in Indore when a group of Bajrang Dal men barged in demanding to know what he what he was doing with the young woman.

Before he could answer, Faizan Khan said, the men grabbed his collar and started beating him. “They dragged me out while slapping me,” he said. They also filmed the assault.

They hauled him to the MIG police station where he was locked up for the night before being detained for four days under Section 151 of the IPC.

“I was alone and they were a group of 14-15 men,” Khan told Scroll. “But the police took their side.”

He said he had met his girlfriend around July last year through a mutual friend.

“We started talking and liked one another,” Khan said. “The Bajrang Dal men pressured her to give a statement against me but she refused. She took my side.”

However, after the incident, Khan and the girl broke up.

In a video posted on December 13 on Tannu Sharma’s Facebook timeline, the Bajrang Dal leader is seen speaking to reporters about the “raid” on Faizan Khan.

He said that “Bajrangis” found Faizan Khan and a Hindu girl “doing obscene acts” and handed him over to the police. “We will not let any girl in Indore be cut into 35 pieces like Shraddha Walkar”, Sharma is heard saying in the video.

He was referring to the murder of 27-year-old woman, Shraddha Walkar, by her live-in partner Aaftab Amin Poonawala, which has been spun as a case of “love jihad” by several leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Khan, like the men from Shajapur, did not take any legal action against the Bajrang Dal men, saying that he wanted to focus on his career and not get sucked into legal battles. “I do not want my career to be affected,” he said. “I know I faced injustice but when I think of my mother and sister, I suppress my feelings.”

Staging a spectacle

In several cases, Bajrang Dal members haul the couples to the police station, gather the media, hold demonstrations and demand that the police take action.

Social media is key to the Bajrang Dal’s missions. The interrogation of young men and women is filmed and shared on several platforms and instant messaging services.

In almost all cases, they accused Muslim men of using Hindu names to dupe women and later convert them to Islam. In some cases, they claimed that the men forced the women to do drugs and sexually exploited them.

Bajrang Dal’s Indore co-ordinator Manoj Yadav claimed incidents of “love jihad” have increased but denied that the organisation targeted any community. “We only protect our religion and our sanskriti (culture),” he said, adding that members advise girls and boys to “stay within limits”. “Even if we find Hindu girls and boys doing wrong things, we make them understand and tell their parents to teach them good behaviour,” he said.

Yadav said they keep a watch on young men and women through a network of informers. “All these young people go to hotels and show their identity cards. We have intimated all the staff at the hotels to inform us when such couples come,” he said.

He admitted that there have been instances of violence by the organisation’s members in the past. “But we have orders from the top to not beat up anyone, and straight away call the police or take the couples to the police station,” he said. “We involve the police because we do not want our members to indulge in violence. We have contacts in all the police stations,” he added.

‘Abuse of power’

Several lawyers have criticised the use of Section 151 of the Indian Penal Code – which allows the police to take someone into preventive custody when they fear a breakdown of law and order – in these cases.

“The apprehension of disturbance in law and order should be real and reasonable. The way police detain these boys even after they are beaten is abuse of power,” said Rohit Sharma, advocate at Indore High Court.

Since in several cases, the young women refused to file a complaint against the Muslim men, preventive custody was used to placate the mob, said the lawyers. “The police should take action against the Bajrang Dal instead of filing cases against the victims,” said Ehtisham Hashmi, a lawyer in Indore.

Indore police commissioner Hari Narayan Chari Mishra denied accusations of bias, saying they take action whenever they get a complaint. “If there is no complaint, what can the police do?”

On being asked about Bajrang Dal men beating up Muslim men in public spaces or at people’s homes, he said, “It is wrong but police will act when there is a complaint.”

But, as civil rights activist Zaid Pathan and Hashmi point out, the reluctance of Muslim men and their families to file a complaint shows a lack of faith in the system.

“The police and administration are under pressure from the top to go easy on organisations like Bajrang Dal and its supporters,” said Pathan.

The families do not pursue legal action as they find solace and relief in the fact that their son has been granted bail and they want to move on,” said Hashmi. “There is not much faith in the system and most people from the minority community do not have much hope of justice.”

No space for friendship

For young Muslim men in Indore, the threat of vigilantism has only shrunk the space for friendship between communities. “Pehle jaisamahaulnahinraha ab,” said Zubair Ahmad, a student at a private law college in Indore.

He said that members of groups like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad ask Hindu students to stay away from Muslim students. “They spread hatred against Muslims and pressure Hindu girls to not talk with Muslims.”

He admitted that the targeting of Muslim men had made them wary about engaging with non-Muslim students. “We don’t want to give them a chance to target us,” he said. “We go to college, sit in the class and come back.”

The Bajrang Dal, Ahmad said, “has people everywhere”. “In colleges, in localities, shops, cafes, autowallahs, everywhere,” he said. “They can gather a mob in 15 minutes at any place if they have a suspicion about a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl.”

Ahmad’s friend Basit Raza, a student who asked Scroll not to use his real name, said he was in a relationship with a Hindu woman for two years. They broke up in March last year.

Source:Scroll

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

https://scroll.in/article/1043195/in-indore-love-jihad-vigilantes-from-bajrang-dal-have-a-free-run

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SC seeks Centre, 6 states reply on transfer of religious conversion cases from HC

3rd February 2023

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from Centre and six state governments on a plea by Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind seeking transfer of over 20 cases, challenging laws regulating religious conversion, to the top court.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, issued a notice on the Muslim body’s plea moved through advocate M.R. Shamshad.

The bench, also comprising Justice P.S. Narasimha, said: “Issue notice in petitions, in which no notices have been issued till now, including the transfer petition.” The bench also asked Attorney General R. Venkataramani to file a reply.

Five petitions are pending in Allahabad High Court, one petition in the Karnataka High Court, three in the Gujarat High Court, three in the Himachal Pradesh High Court, three in the Jharkhand High Court, and six in the Madhya Pradesh High Court. These petitions have challenged the respective state laws. The Muslim body has sought transfer of all these petitions from the high courts to the apex court.

Also, two separate petitions have been filed by Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments challenging the interim orders of the respective high courts, which put on hold certain provisions of the state laws on conversion.

The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing after three weeks.

On January 30, the top court had agreed to examine a clutch of pleas challenging the controversial state laws regulating religious conversions.

NGO “Citizens for Justice and Peace” of activist Teesta Setalvad, had also moved the apex court in the matter but Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had challenged the locus standi.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in a written response to a petition filed by NGO ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’, said: “The petitioner is guilty of collecting huge funds exploiting the agonies of riot affected people for which criminal proceedings are going on against Teesta Setalvad and other office bearers of the petitioner.”

It further added, “under the guise of serving public interest, the petitioner deliberately undertakes, and consciously and surreptitiously espouses, divisive politics in an attempt to divide the society on religious and communal lines. Similar activities/endeavors of the petitioner organization are also found in other states. Presently this activity is going on in the state of Assam”.

The NGO has challenged the laws passed by the Uttar Pradesh government and Chhattisgarh government.

Source:Siasat Daily

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https://www.siasat.com/sc-seeks-centre-6-states-reply-on-transfer-of-religious-conversion-cases-from-hc-2518178/

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Assam: Child marriage ‘war’ with faith disclaimer

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati  

04.02.23

Assam police have launched a statewide crackdown against child marriage and had arrested 2,044 people by Friday afternoon, with the state government insisting that the drive was not directed at any specific community.

Chief minister and BJP leader HimantaBiswaSarma had on Thursday evening asserted that his government would “unleash a complete war” against child marriage from Friday and sought popular support.

The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men.

Assam director-general of police G.P. Singh told reporters that 4,074 FIRs relating to child marriage had been registered in the past two days and 2,044 people arrested till 3pm on Friday.  Among those arrested were 52 priests or qazis who had solemnised the marriages of underage girls.

“We started taking action from last night,” Singh, who took over as state police chief on Tuesday, said. “Most of the arrests have been made in Biswanath, Baksa, Barpeta, Dhubri, Hojai and Kokrajhar districts.”

Dhubri, Hojai and Barpeta have majority Muslim populations while Baksa is a tribal district with a significant minority population. Biswanath has significant Muslim and Adivasi populations.

Muslims account for about 34 per cent of the 3.2 crore people in Assam, which has a BJPled coalition government.

Sarma had on Thursday evening emphasised that the police drive was not aimed at any community and said the campaign was drawing public support, including that from minority communities.

“We have been able to foil at least 9 or 10 child marriages in Barpeta district. People from the minority community are helping us,” Sarma said.

Singh said on Friday that chief minister Sarma had two months ago directed the police to look into allegations of rampant child marriage in the state.

The police then began collecting data from gaonburahs (traditional village headmen) and village defence groups, among others. Data was collected for the years 2020, 2021 and 2022 and FIRs were registered where cases of cognisable offence were made out.

Most of the cases were registered suo motu, based on information provided by local people. Arrests have been made in all the 36 police districts in the state.

“They (accused) have been arrested under various provisions of the Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act and relevant sections of the IPC (Indian Penal Code),” Singh said.

Singh said: “Going by the FIRs, there are around 8,000 accused but most moved out after the crackdown started. It will take some time to arrest all the accused.”

Sarma had at a media interaction on January 23 directed the police to launch a crackdown within 15 days against those who marry underage girls as part of his government’s efforts to end child marriage within five years.

The crackdown comes after a thorough discussion within the state government on the National Family Health Survey 5.

The survey, conducted between 2019 and 2020 by the Centre, revealed that the proportion of underage mothers and pregnant girls in Assam was an “alarming” 11.7 per cent. This was far higher than the national average of 6.8 per cent and reflected “rampant” child marriage, one of the causes of the high maternal and infant mortality rates in the state.

Sarma had said that men who married girls under 14 would be booked under the Pocso Act and those marrying girls between 14 and 18 would be booked under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. Conviction entails varying jail terms under either act.

According to the list of arrests furnished by the police, Biswanath is at the top with 137 arrests, followed by Dhubri (126), Baksa (120), Barpeta (114), Nagaon (97), Hojai (96) and Kokrajhar (94).

Districts with single-digit arrests include Dibrugarh (6), Jorhat (8) and Hamren (9). Dhubri accounts for the most FIRs (374), followed by Hojai (255), Morigaon (224), Udalguri (213) and Kokrajhar (204). Udalguri and Kokrajhar have majority tribal populations.

Opposition parties said they were against child marriage but argued that mass arrests could lead to a societal problem by breaking up families and affecting young children.

All India United Democratic Front MLA Rafiqul Islam told The Telegraph that his party was against child marriage. He, however, blamed both the arrested people and the government for the situation reaching such a pass.

“The Child Marriage Act was enacted in 1929 and amended several times, including once in 2006. Had the government discharged its duty, the need to arrest thousands would not have arisen,” he said.

“We are all for lawful action to check child marriage but we also foresee a social problem when husbands and family members (of married underage girls) land up in jail. The government should look into this aspect of the matter.”

Congress media department chairman M. Mahanta told this newspaper that his party was against child marriage. He too warned of a social problem if married couples were separated after several years of living together.

“Who will take care of the affected families and their children? The Child Marriage Act has been there since 2006 — what was the government doing all these years? Is the BJP-led government trying to divert attention from the serious and fundamental issues facing the state and the country?” Mahanta said.

Assam had a Congress government from 2001 till 2016 before the BJP came to power. Sarma became chief minister in 2021.

Sarma had on Thursday evening said: “I think Assam will become one of the first states to launch a complete war against child marriage, from tomorrow…. We want to try and break the modus operandi.… Our target will be the qazis and pujaris who solemnise and encourage such marriages.”

Source:TelegraphIndia

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

https://www.telegraphindia.com/north-east/assam-child-marriage-war-with-faith-disclaimer/cid/1914208

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French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain visits Aligarh Muslim University, stressed for exchange programme

Feb 3, 2023

Agra: Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain and his delegates visited Aligarh Muslim University on Friday. AMU Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor and administrative officers welcomed Ambassador and his team members.

The Vice-Chancellor and Ambassador discussed the scope to promote future cooperation between French Universities and AMU. VC said AMU with its interdisciplinary nature would like to join hands with eminent universities across the globe to encourage research through exchange programs and to promote educational cooperation for the benefit of students.

The University will explore all the possibilities of inter- universities collaboration and cooperation with French Universities. “Our university plays a vital role in strengthening ties of India with other countries”, he added. AMU spokesperson Omar Peerzada said, "The French delegation discussed the promotion of French among students in AMU and stressed the need for mooting a development and exchange programme with the Government of France for educational purposes and emphasized that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) should be drawn and signed in this regard".

Emmanuel Lenain at AMU

The AMU officials, who attended the meeting, included Pro-Vice Chancellor, Prof Mohammad Gulrez, Registrar, Mr Mohammad Imran (IPS), DSW, Prof Abdul Alim, Proctor, Prof Waseem Ali, Dean, Faculty of International Studies, Prof Jawaid Iqbal and MrSawan Kumar Singh, Assistant Professor, French Language Section, Department of Foreign Languages, AMU.

The Ambassador and his team comprising Ms Amal Benhagoug, Political counselor, Fabien Chareix, Science and Higher Education Attaché, Ms Leah Paul, project manager and Mr Jatinder Singh, Deputy Attaché for Cooperation in Education visited the Department of Foreign Languages. He interacted with students. He delivered a talk on the topic entitled opportunities of studying in France. He shared his opinion to strengthen the social, cultural, and educational exchanges. He emphasised future cooperation between France and AMU.

Emmanuel Lenain at AMU

The programme was attended by Murad Ahmad Khan, Udai Singh Kunwar, Suhail, Yasir, Abdur Rahman Ansari and other faculty members of the Department of Foreign Languages. Sawan Kumar Singh conducted the proceedings.

Prof Jawaid Iqbal Dean of FIS in his welcome address talked about the progress of the Department of Foreign Languages.

Source: Times Of India

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/education/news/french-ambassador-emmanuel-lenain-visits-aligarh-muslim-university-stressed-for-exchange-programme/articleshow/97582167.cms?from=mdr

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In a new outreach, RSS leader Indresh Kumar meets representatives of Muslim countries

3rd February 2023

New Delhi: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, senior Sangh leaders Indresh Kumar, Krishna Gopal and Ram Lal have been regularly holding interactions with Muslim intellectuals for some time now.

Recently, a new episode of these interactions was witnessed in the national capital in which India, and along with over 10 Muslim countries, began a fresh campaign in the biggest ever non-governmental exercise. In this, unity in diversity, harmony, cooperation, education, culture, literature, coordination, religious restraint and respect and trade have been emphasised.

Under the joint aegis of the Himalaya Hind Rashtra Group, Forum for Awareness of National Security (FANS) and School of Language Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), a two-day international seminar was held at the Convention Centre of JNU on the topic of historical, cultural and economic links between India and Central Asia.

A large number of Muslim intellectuals participated in the meeting.

Diplomats, high commissioners, scholars and intellectuals from at least 12 Muslim countries participated in the international seminar at the JNU under the leadership of senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar.

Those who attended included Iraj Elahi from Iran, FiratSonal from Turkey, Lukmon Baba Kolajdeh from Tajikistan, NurlanZalgaisbaev and HabibulloMirzozoda from Kazakhstan, Asin Isaev from Kyrgyzstan, DilsodAkhmatov and Aziz Bartoun from Uzbekistan, ShalarGeldinjarov from Turkmenistan, Ganbold from Mongolia. Dambajav, Armen Martirosyan from Armenia, Farid Mamundzai from Afghanistan and Ashraf Shikhaliyev from Azerbaija.

The foreign participants during their speech underlined that “India, as our elder brother should play the role of Vishwaguru”.

On this, Indresh Kumar said: “Our concept of VasudhaivaKutumbakam is to treat everyone as a family. India is a country full of diversity.”

Ambassadors, High Commissioners and representatives of more than 50 participants of 12 countries demanded that a mission document, which can also be called a vision document, be prepared on the entire programme under the leadership of leader Indresh Kumar.

In the seminar, Subhas Sarkar, Union Minister of State for Education; Iqbal Singh Lalpura, Chairman, National Commission for Minorities; Indira Gandhi Kala Kendra Secretary, Sachidanand Joshi; General Secretary of Rashtriya Suraksha Jagran Manch, Golok Behari and Convener of International Seminar, Prof. from Jamia Millia Islamia M MahtabAlam Rizvi also participated.

During an exclusive interview with IANS on the sidelines of the event, Indresh Kumar also spoke about some current issues.

IANS: How can we end terrorism?

Kumar: Terrorism is the enemy of peace, development, harmony and humanity. Bombs, ammo, shells, bullets or stones are not the solution to any problem. There is no place for anti-social things like terrorism and Maoism in any civilised society, so everyone should unite and strongly oppose it. The delegates said that they will not allow it to flourish in their countries and also appealed to the world that all countries should unite against terrorism.

IANS: Is religion becoming an issue in harmony?

Kumar: Criticising religion, religious scriptures, religious places, gods, goddesses, deities, prophets etc., creates violence and anarchy, which is condemnable. That’s why everyone should follow their own religion and not disrespect other religions, thus walking on the path of peace, unity, brotherhood and harmony.

IANS: Religious conversion is becoming an issue in society…

Kumar: The Chief Patron of the Forum for Awareness of National Security (FANS) said that it is necessary to stop religious conversions for world peace and development.

IANS: There was a buzz in the seminar that peace and harmony cannot be established with India. Would you elaborate on this?

Kumar: It was discussed in the seminar that the path of world peace and progress passes through Asia and peace and harmony cannot be established in the world without India. It was also agreed that in addition to the air route, mutual unity and integrity should be promoted through road and sea routes.

Source: Siasat Daily

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https://www.siasat.com/in-a-new-outreach-rss-leader-indresh-kumar-meets-representatives-of-muslim-countries-2518219/

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Arab World

 

Family of slain Lebanon activist urges UN probe into port blast

03 February ,2023

The widow of Lebanese intellectual Lokman Slim called Friday for a UN fact-finding mission to determine whether his assassination and two other murders are linked to the Beirut port explosion.

A secular activist from a Shia Muslim family, 58-year-old Slim was found shot dead in his car on February 4, 2021, a day after his family reported him missing.

Beirut’s catastrophic August 4, 2020 port blast killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and ravaged swathes of the capital.

Nobody has been held responsible in either case.

Slim’s widow Monika Borgmann urged the UN Human Rights Council “to commit itself” to a “fact-finding mission to support Lebanon and its people in its calls for justice and accountability.”

Lebanon’s own investigation into the blast “is not advancing and is hampered,” Borgmann said at a ceremony marking the second anniversary of Slim’s killing at his home in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

In one of Slim’s last TV appearances, he accused the Syrian regime of having links to an ammonium nitrate shipment that caused the blast.

Borgmann urged any UN fact-finding mission to investigate Slim’s killing and two other deaths that she said “could be linked to the port explosion.”

She was referring to Munir Abu Rjeili, a retired colonel from the customs administration, and amateur military photographer Joe Bejjany, the circumstances of whose December 2020 deaths have also not been clarified.

“The culture of impunity and lack of accountability has gripped Lebanon for far too long,” Borgmann said.

Slim’s body was found in southern Lebanon -- a stronghold of the Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah, which is also an ally of Syria’s regime.

Last month, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called on the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently pass a resolution to create an impartial fact-finding mission” into the port explosion.

Amnesty’s Middle East deputy director, Aya Majzoub, said on Friday that Slim was “the victim of a decades-long pattern of impunity in Lebanon.”

“The perfunctory efforts by the Lebanese authorities to find his killers are yet more evidence of this,” Majzoub continued in a statement.

The UK-based group called on the Lebanese authorities to launch an “effective, transparent, impartial and independent” investigation into his death.

Lebanese authorities have rejected calls for an international inquiry into the 2020 blast, while the domestic investigation has been repeatedly stalled as high-level officials have mounted a slew of political and legal challenges.

An outspoken activist and researcher passionate about documenting the civil war that raged from 1975-1990, Slim was a divisive figure.

His sway over foreign diplomats in Lebanon often sparked the anger of Hezbollah and its loyalists.

On Thursday, UN rights experts voiced deep concern at the slow pace of the investigation into Slim’s death, demanding that Beirut ensure accountability.
Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/03/Family-of-slain-Lebanon-activist-urges-UN-probe-into-port-blast

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French envoy criticizes Lebanon over ‘slow’ reforms needed for IMF loan

03 February ,2023

The French diplomat charged with coordinating international support for Lebanon, so it can receive International Monetary Fund aid, on Friday criticized the slow pace of reforms in the crisis-hit country.

The IMF last April announced an agreement in principle with Beirut for $3 billion in aid spread over four years, but conditional on implementing crucial reforms.

“It’s really slow,” Pierre Duquesne told journalists in the Lebanese capital, at the same time highlighting “a few minor adjustments that go in the right direction.”

Among the reforms demanded by the IMF is parliament’s approval of the 2022 budget, which Duquesne said came “late.”

Lebanon has been effectively leaderless for months, without a president and ruled by a caretaker cabinet.

The IMF is also demanding reform of banking secrecy laws and a restructuring of the banking sector as a whole, as well as a law on capital controls.

“There is no other solution than the IMF to provide capital, credibility and confidence... and to reduce inequality,” Duquesne said.

Paris will host an international meeting on Monday on how to end months of political deadlock in Lebanon, with representatives from France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt.

Duquesne is in Beirut to provide French support for the recovery of Lebanon’s energy sector, a mission that has already taken him to Egypt and Jordan.

“The two countries have expressed extreme goodwill and said they are technically ready to supply gas and electricity to Lebanon,” which is almost completely without power, the diplomat said.

However, energy supplies would have to pass through Syria, which is subject to stringent US sanctions.

Duquesne said he would visit Washington over the next 10 days to discuss “exemptions” for Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity supplied to Lebanon via Syria.

There, he will also meet officials from the World Bank, which is expected to finance energy deliveries.

Lebanon’s political impasse has hampered efforts to resolve its worst-ever financial crisis.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its market value to the dollar since 2019, and more than 80 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/03/French-envoy-criticizes-Lebanon-over-slow-reforms-needed-for-IMF-loan

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Lebanese Christian bloc leader rallies nation against electing pro-Hezbollah president

NAJIA HOUSSARI

February 04, 2023

BEIRUT: The head of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, Sami Gemayel, has threatened to disrupt presidential elections if the other parties try to elect a president who would provide cover for Hezbollah’s weapons.

Speaking at the party’s general conference on Friday, Gemayel — a fierce opponent of Hezbollah — said that what was happening was an attempt to change the face of Lebanon.

The opening session of the general conference was attended by anti-Hezbollah political figures, who also expressed opposition to the party’s recent actions.

Gemayel’s parliamentary bloc is the third largest Christian bloc following the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces Party.

“They are trying to kill our country by killing freedom, cooperation, democracy, a strong and free economy, and Lebanon’s openness to the world,” he said.

Gemayel added that the battle today was not against a certain category of Lebanese people, but rather over Christian and Muslim coexistence.

“However, there is a huge group of Christian and Muslim Lebanese, and of all denominations, who believe that Lebanon is a message of civilization and development.

“They also believe in freedom and were born clinging to this freedom.

“Whoever is trying to eliminate the Lebanese spirit is not a group of Lebanese, but rather an armed party that is taking its sect hostage and trying to turn the conflict in Lebanon into a sectarian one,” he said.

Gemayel talked about suspicious land purchases, demographic change, institutional crippling and a systematic attack on free media.

He said: “We could not force the Syrian army to withdraw until we stood hand-in-hand in Martyrs’ Square. Today, we will not be able to preserve Lebanon unless we all unite again.”

Gemayel said that the ruling class handed over the country to Hezbollah under the pretext of defending Christians.

“We had warned against handing over the country to Hezbollah,” he added.

“We warned against economic collapse and international isolation. Some are clearly trying to kick us out of the economic, diplomatic, and political equations, but the true will of the Lebanese people was expressed in the Cedar Revolution and the Oct. 17 Revolution.”

Gemayel added: “Today, there are two states in Lebanon, the Lebanese Republic, and another state, which is the Islamic Republic of Hezbollah, and each state has its own funding, army, and foreign policy.

“The Islamic Republic is trying to put its hand on the pluralistic Lebanese Republic, and we need to fight such attempts. We cannot continue to deal with the dictatorial practices in a traditional manner; compromising with the Islamic Republic has dragged us into this catastrophic situation. We kept making one concession after the other, one settlement after the other.

“From this moment on, we refuse to submit to Hezbollah’s will."

Gemayel continued: “We call on all the Lebanese to assume their responsibilities, and we want Hezbollah to know that we will no longer accept this status quo.

“If a divorce between the two states is inevitable, then so be it. Hezbollah ought to announce it, but we will not accept living like second-class citizens. We will not submit; we will resist.

“The Kataeb Party is not a fan of war. We support the state and the army, but if anyone dares approach our homes, we will defend ourselves,” he added.

On the second anniversary of the assassination of researcher Lokman Slim, who was known for his outspoken opposition to Hezbollah, Gemayel noted: “We know that no trial will ever be held to shed light on Slim’s assassination.”

He added: “We thus know the extent of intimidation to which the Lebanese who oppose Hezbollah are subjected.”

Slim’s family and friends commemorated the second anniversary of his assassination on Friday in the absence of an indictment from the Lebanese judiciary.

Slim had told the public that he was receiving death threats from Hezbollah prior to his assassination in southern Lebanon.

MP Ashraf Rifi said: “They are trying once again to impose a president and government by taking advantage of the vacuum and making threats.

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244456/middle-east

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Pakistan

 

'Don't blame others for...': Taliban to Pakistan on Peshawar mosque blast

Feb 03, 2023

The Taliban on Wednesday slammed the Pakistan Government for blaming Afghanistan for the Peshawar mosque blast.

The Taliban's Acting Foreign Minister Amir Muttaqi called on Pakistan to investigate the Peshawar attack rather than blame neighbouring Afghanistan for terror carnage. "Don't blame others for your own failures," said the Taliban.

On January 30, a suicide bombing at a mosque in the Peshawar Police Lines area claimed the lives of at least 101 people, mostly police officials.

Muttaqi called on Pakistan to investigate the Peshawar attack instead of blaming Kabul and said that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for terrorists.

"If Afghanistan was the centre of terrorism, it would have gone into China, Central Asia & Iran," he said.

Muttaqi told a gathering in the capital, Kabul, that Pakistani officials should find a solution to their security challenges locally and desist from "sowing the seeds of enmity" between the two countries.

Pakistani authorities were quick to blame the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, also called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for what they said was a suicide bomb attack and suggested the violence emanated from Afghanistan, reported Voice of America.

Muttaqi echoed suspicions and questions being raised by critics in Pakistan in the wake of the large-scale destruction caused by the blast and said, "Our region is used to wars and bomb blasts. But we have not seen in the past 20 years a lone suicide bomber blowing up roofs of mosques and killing hundreds of people."

The TTP, designated a global terrorist group by the United States, has long been conducting deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistan and its leadership allegedly directs the violence from Afghan sanctuaries. But the Pakistani Taliban has formally denied involvement in the Peshawar mosque bombing, reported VOA.

Moazzam Jah Ansari, the provincial police chief, told reporters Tuesday that a suicide bomber had entered the mosque as a guest, using up to 12 kilograms of explosive material earlier brought to the site in bits and pieces.

A spate of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, mostly claimed by the TTP, has strained relations between the two countries.

Pakistan is weighing its options to deal with the resurgence of terrorism with a focus on how to ensure that the Afghan interim government fulfills its promises, people familiar with the development have said.

It is evident from background discussions with the relevant quarters that Pakistan is increasingly frustrated over the lack of cooperation from the Afghan Taliban in tackling the growing threat posed by the banned TTP.

Meanwhile, the desperate police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been brought to the point where they are protesting for their rights.

"This is an example of a complete loss of trust in the State. They have been dying needlessly in the Establishment's double games, and there is no one to put an end to this," tweeted Mohsin Dawar, Member National Assembly, NA-48, North Waziristan.

In an unusual protest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police in front of Peshawar Press Club chanted slogans, "We know all the unknown persons."

Source: Hindustan Times

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https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/dont-blame-others-for-taliban-to-pakistan-on-peshawar-mosque-blast-101675403345367.html

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Why are Ahmadiyya mosques in Pakistan under attack by vandals?

February 4, 2023

Unknown attackers broke the domes and minarets of a mosque of Pakistan’s minority Ahmadiyya community in Karachi, Pakistan, recently. In videos shared on social media, people were seen climbing atop an Ahmadi Masjid in Saddar, Karachi and raining hammer blows on the structure.

This attack is another in a string of attacks that have taken place on Ahmadiyya places of worship in Pakistan. Most recently, minarets of Ahmadi Jamaat Khata on Jamshed Road in Karachi were demolished, ANI reported. In December last year, police removed the minarets from a mosque in Gujranwala, Punjab.

Who are the Ahmadiyyas?

The origins of the religious sect are in Qadian near Amritsar in Punjab, India. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad founded the movement in 1889. In opposition to some aspects of Islam, he preached that he was the promised messiah who had the task of bringing God’s teaching into harmony with the present-day world. He said his coming was awaited not only by Muslims but by Christians and Jews as well.

There are around 2-5 million Ahmadis in Pakistan. The community is also present in India, and some estimate their numbers at around 1 lakh.

The sect has long been opposed by hardline Muslim clerics, some of whom consider Ahmadiyyas to be heretics. However, Ahmadiyyas do not dispute the centrality of the Prophet in their religion.

What’s happening with the Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan?

The Ahmadiya community faces frequent attacks and persecution in Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has previously strongly condemned the desecration of an Ahmadiyya worship site in Punjab province’s Wazirabad district and called for the protection of such spaces of the religious minorities in the country.

Issues of desecration often relate to the removal of minarets from Ahmadiyya mosques. The presence of a minaret is considered to be giving the religious place the position of a mosque – which is opposed by many in Pakistan, and is also penalised in law.

In 1974, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto enacted an amendment to the constitution, declaring Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslims. Flowing from this, they were barred from going to mosques.

According to a document of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq’s 1984 ordinance introduced explicit discriminatory references to Ahmadiyyas in Sections 298-B and 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

There are significant restrictions on Ahmadiyyas’ freedom of religion and expression, and violations could lead to fines and jail terms. In 2002, a supplementary list of voters was created in which Ahmadiyyas were categorised as non-Muslims. Even following amendments in the Constitution, Ahmadiyyas are the only religious group in Pakistan to continue being on a separate electoral list.

Source: Indian Express

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

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-global/why-are-ahmadiyya-mosques-in-pakistan-under-attack-by-vandals-8422349/

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Citizens take to the streets in KP against rising terrorism

February 3, 2023

Citizens in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa took to the streets on Friday against the recent wave of terrorism in the province.

The rallies come as Pakistan has been hit by a wave of terrorism, mostly in KP, but also in Balochistan and the Punjab town of Mianwali, which borders KP. A terror attack also reached as far as the peripheries of Islamabad.

On Jan 30, a powerful explosion ripped through a mosque in Peshawar’s Red Zone area where between 300 and 400 people — mostly police officers — had gathered for prayers. The suicide blast blew away the wall of the prayer hall and an inner roof, claiming the lives of 101 people.

January was the deadliest month since 2018, in which 134 people lost their lives — a 139 per cent spike — and 254 received injuries in at least 44 militant attacks across the country.

On Friday, several rallies organised by local rights organisations were held in KP’s Shangla district. The leadership of different political parties, including the PTI, PPP, Awami National Party (ANP) and others, also addressed the rallies.

The participants, carrying white flags, demanded justice for the victims of the ghastly blast in Peshawar on January 30 as well as sustainable peace in the region.

The main rally began from Karora area and upon reaching the district headquarters of Alpuri, turned into a huge gathering as others joined.

The speakers said protecting citizens was the responsibility of the authorities concerned, lamenting that they did not seem interested and only engaged in political matters.

ANP leader Muhammad Yar Khan said the Peshawar tragedy was the “biggest security lapse” and questioned how a suicide bomber was able to enter such a sensitive area.

He said that the sole purpose for taking to the streets was to “fight against terrorism and restore complete peace in the region”.

“We will not let anyone sabotage KP’s peace,” he said. He also questioned what the establishment was doing regarding the matter and why the people were not being provided security.

Ghulamullah, a local PPP leader, said that the blood of the KP police was “not so cheap” that officials were being killed in the streets or in mosques. He highlighted that hundreds of police officers had lost their lives due to terrorism.

“If police in the province are not safe, then who is supposed to safeguard the people?”

Ghulamullah said the protesters wanted peace and protection for the people in the province and the end to “further Pakhtun genocide”.

Shangla Coal Mine Workers Rights Association’s President Abid Yar said the people were facing hardship on two fronts: increasing inflation and rising terrorism.

He also questioned why only KP was being targeted by the terrorist wave while there was relative peace in other areas.

Rallies were also held in Puran tehsil’s Aloch bazaar and Kana tehsil’s Olandar bazaar where people recorded their protest against the Peshawar blast and demanded the government maintain peace in the region.

They demanded KP Inspector General Moazzam Jah Ansari resign from his position if he had failed to protect the police and had put the citizens at greater risk.

The protesters said they would initiate a mass peace movement in the region if terrorism was not eliminated.

Meanwhile, the PTI — the former ruling party in the province — also staged an ‘Aman March’ in Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda, Bannu, Lower Dir and Timergara.

Source: Pakistan Today

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

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2023/02/03/citizens-take-to-the-streets-in-kp-against-rising-terrorism/

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School in PoK raided by assailants while President was busy meeting senior UN officials: Report

4 February, 2023

Gilgit-Baltistan [PoK], February 3 (ANI): A high school in Pakistan’s illegally occupied Jhang area was raided by assailants, when the President of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry, was busy meeting senior United Nations officials, Islam Khabar reported.

It said that the assailants attacked the school staff and then molested school girls in the incident that shook the entire community already reeling under a severe food crisis and power breakdown.

A gang of thugs ransacked the school and held the entire school hostage. Policemen were stoned and teachers were assaulted with knives. One of the assailants even whipped out a gun to threaten them. It was mayhem in the school. Children and their parents have since been petrified, Islam Khabar reported.

Crime graph has been rising rapidly in Gilgit-Baltistan in the wake of widespread food shortages and power breakdowns, according to Islam Khabar.

The crime index is being pushed higher by the day due to the increasing population, shrinking resources, rising joblessness and poverty, it said.

The root cause of the problems of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is the territory’s occupation by Pakistan and therefore the demand should be simple and focused – freedom from Pakistan – writes Amjad Ayub Mirza, a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK who currently lives in exile in the UK.

According to Mirza, the mode of relations between Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is not of equality but of subjugation.

Several waves of protests have surfaced in the past only because Pakistan cannot and will not deliver.

Several political and social organisations in Nakyal in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on January 30, held an All Parties Conference.

It was held against the backdrop of massive cuts in subsidies that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has enjoyed for the past 75 years.

At the end of the one-day conference, a joint declaration was issued. Demands were made to add the Gojri and Pahari languages and tribal identity to any future census that may be carried out in the region. The declaration rejected irregularities in the state-subject rule of Maharaja Hari Singh of 1927, according to Mirza.

The Nakyal declaration made a demand for the empowerment of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s legislative assembly. A demand to reverse the perks and privileges of the assembly members and government employees above 18 grade and spend the money on the welfare of the public was also added.

The problem is that the declaration issued at the Nakyal conference is making the above-mentioned demands from a government that itself is bogged down in negotiation with the International Monetary Fund in Islamabad, Mirza wrote.

Source:ThePrint

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

https://theprint.in/world/school-in-pok-raided-by-assailants-while-president-was-busy-meeting-senior-un-officials-report/1353380/

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PTA bans Wikipedia in Pakistan over ‘sacrilegious content’: spokesperson

Irfan Sadozai

February 4, 2023

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has banned popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia in the country for not “blocking/removing sacrilegious content” within the 48-hour deadline given to the website, a spokesperson confirmed on Saturday.

Wikipedia is a free, crowdsourced, editable online encyclopedia often used as a starting point by millions across the world for basic information.

The PTA had on Wednesday degraded Wikipedia services countrywide for not complying with the directives for the removal of controversial content from the website.

The regulator said the website had neither responded to its requests, nor taken down the content in question.

Speaking to Dawn.com, PTA spokesperson Malahat Obaid said the ban had primarily been imposed for non-compliance with the orders.

“The decision can be reviewed once Wikipedia removes sacrilegious content that has been identified by the regulatory authority,” the spokesperson added.

Users are met with “this site cannot be reached” when trying to access the website.

The message one sees when going to Wikipedia.

Yesterday, the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity that runs Wikipedia, said it “does not make decisions around what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained”.

It added that this is “by design to ensure that articles are the result of many people coming together to determine what information should be presented on the site, resulting in richer, more neutral articles”.

It goes on to say: “We hope that the Pakistan government joins with the Wikimedia Foundation in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restores access to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly, so that the people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world.”

In a statement earlier this week, the telecom regulator said it had approached Wikipedia to block or remove the content in question by issuing a notice under “applicable law and court order(s)”.

“An opportunity of hearing was also provided, however, the platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the authority,” the statement had said.

“Given the intentional failure on part of the platform to comply with the directions of PTA, the services of Wikipedia have been degraded for 48 hours with the direction to block/remove the reported content,” the statement added.

The regulator warned that in case of non-compliance, Wikipedia would be blocked in the country and its restoration would be “reconsidered subjecting to blocking/removal of the reported unlawful content”.

Move criticised

When service to the site was “degraded” by the PTA, analysts and activists criticised the move.

This is not the first time the authority has taken notice of objectionable content on the platform. In December 2020, the PTA had issued notices to Wikipedia and Google Inc for “disseminating sacrilegious content”.

Source: Dawn

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

https://www.dawn.com/news/1735273/pta-bans-wikipedia-in-pakistan-over-sacrilegious-content-spokesperson

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Pakistan-US anti-terror talks from next month, says Bilawal

Anwar Iqbal

February 4, 2023

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the United States will hold talks next month to explore possibilities of coordinating their efforts to combat terrorism, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told Dawn on Friday.

During his one-day stay in Washington to attend the annual prayer breakfast, the foreign minister had a separate meeting with US State Depart­ment’s counselor Derek Chollet as well who assured him that “the US stands with Pakistan in combating terrorism for the safety of all”.

Mr Chollet said in a tweet after the meeting that he conveyed his deep condolences to the Pakis­tani foreign minister on the recent bombing in Peshawar and “discussed progress towards Pakis­tan’s economic stability and flood recovery”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari also told Dawn that the talks focused on “terrorism and on Pakistan’s efforts” to recover from last summer’s devastating floods.

“We are grateful for the support we received from the US,” he said. “Not just for bilateral assistance but also for supporting the Geneva conference.”

Last month, Pakistan and the United Nations co-hosted a one-day conference in Geneva where Pakistan sought international support for its rehabilitation, and reconstruction efforts. Pakistan raised about $9 billion at the conference, at least a billion more than it had asked for and the United States is believed to have helped Pakistan in achieving this target.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that when he visited Washington late last year, he was worried about raising funds for Pakistan’s flood recovery programs but the Americans “really helped, not just bilaterally” but also reached out to other nations and donors, encouraging them to help.

Talking about next month’s counterterrorism conference, the foreign minister said: “Terrorism is really becoming an issue, not just for Pakistan but for others too.” He said he discussed the issue with Russian officials as well, during his trip to Moscow last week.

“We, once again, need international coordination to combat terrorism,” he said. “The terrorists coordinate their actions with each other, why shouldn’t the forces combating terrorism do the same?”

“We, in Pakistan, have to deal with the TTP. China worries about ETIM. The United States is concerned about Al Qaeda while Russians too are focused on some groups. And they all need to coordinate their efforts,” he said. “The CT dialogue will be a good thing for engagement.”

Pakistan and the United States, he said, would also hold talks on poverty reduction, narcotics control and on some other issues next month.

Replying to a question about his visit to Russia, the foreign minister said: “We had a detailed conversation on many sectors, including energy.” The two sides, he said, discussed both “old and new proposals for purchasing oil and gas from Russia”. Asked if Pakistan was close to clenching an oil deal with Russia, he said, “the energy conversation is ongoing, it has not matured yet”.

The talks on energy cooperation with Russia, he said, were probing both short-term and long-term possibilities of buying oil from Moscow.

“Our desire is that we get oil from Russia at the same rate that India does but there are technical things that need to be sorted first,” he said. “That’s why it’s premature to talk about a deal.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah and the Pakistani foreign minister spoke at the luncheon, attended by a large number of delegates. “King Abdullah spoke very well,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said. “They played a clip of my mother as well.”

The foreign minister said he would return to the United States on March 8 to attend an international conference on Muslim women at the UN headquarters in New York.

Given the events in Afghanistan, the conference also “serves as a strong message to them that the Muslim world is not where they are,” he said.

Prayer breakfast speech

In his prayer breakfast speech, he emphasised the role of faith and prayer in one’s life, both individually and collectively as a global community, says a press release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued on Friday.

Source: Dawn

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

https://www.dawn.com/news/1735198/pakistan-us-anti-terror-talks-from-next-month-says-bilawal

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Nation together will root out menace of terrorism: Gen Asim Munir

February 4, 2023

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir on Friday appreciated the high morale of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police personnel and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and paid rich tribute to the martyrs of police who have laid down their lives for defence of the motherland.

“We as a nation together will root out this menace of terrorism till enduring peace and Insha Allah we shall achieve this,” said a press release of ISPR quoting Gen Asim Munir as saying.

According to ISPR, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Syed Asim Munir visited site of the blast at the Peshawar Police Lines, where at least 100 people—mostly policemen—lost their lives when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a packed mosque earlier this week.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the army chief met with officers and men of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police during his visit.

The COAS appreciated the bravery and contribution of K-P police and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in the war against terrorism, the ISPR said.

The army chief said that the K-P police was one of the bravest forces and has fought as a frontline force against terrorism.

Separately, an apex committee meeting held earlier today expressed determination to protect the lives and property of the people at every cost, and to make an example of the terrorists who shed the blood of Pakistanis.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired the important meeting of the apex committee held at the Governor House in Peshawar.

Source: Pakistan Today

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

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2023/02/04/nation-together-will-root-out-menace-of-terrorism-gen-asim-munir/

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Pakistan to attend Moscow meeting on Afghan crises next week

February 3, 2023

MOSCOW: A meeting on Afghanistan between the secretaries of the security councils of Central Asian countries — including Pakistan, India and China — will be held in Moscow next week, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan, Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Zamir Kabulov told TASS on Friday.

“Yes, that’s true,” he said replying to a question on the matter.

“There will be regional participants, the secretaries of the security councils of countries in the region are invited — our Central Asian partners, as well as Pakistan, India and China,” the diplomat explained.

On May 27, 2022, a fourth round of multilateral consultations on Afghanistan between top security officials was held in Dushanbe.

It should be noted that under the US withdrawal deal signed by the Trump administration in the year 2020, the US army withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021 and the Taliban took control of Kabul.

After the US departure, all the regional countries became active to stabilise Afghanistan and prevent its land to to be used for terrorism — which haunted the neighbouring countries for decades.

The regional countries believe that the power vacuum left by the US may be a lucrative opportunity for the other non-state actors and terror organisations to launch their activities and globalise their operations — which also threatens regional peace and security.

It may also be noted that the prevalent economic and social crises in Afghanistan have caused their people to flee to the neighbouring countries.

Source: Pakistan Today

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

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2023/02/03/pakistan-to-participate-in-moscow-meeting-on-afghan-crises/

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Southeast Asia

 

Johor Sultan says fatwa barring Muslims from other faiths’ rituals not against ‘Bangsa Johor’ concept

By Ben Tan

03 Feb 2023

JOHOR BARU, Feb 3 ― Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar today said the new fatwa against Muslim participation in the other faiths’ rituals would not alter the racial and religious diversity espoused in the “Bangsa Johor” concept.

He explained that the fatwa the Johor Islamic Religious Council issued yesterday did not conflict with the state’s inter-faith values of tolerance, unity and understanding, adding that Johor would always respect multiracialism and religious diversity.

“The fatwa only prohibits Muslims from taking part in other religious rituals. It is a guideline for them. They can still attend the festive events of other faiths.

“Other religions must also respect Muslims’ sensitivities. It is a two-way street. We must be sensitive to each other’s religious obligations in order to get along,” he said on Facebook today.

He was commenting on to the fatwa that some saw as restricting Johor’s progressive values as it did not differentiate between religious acts, cultural events and folklore.

In light of the fatwa and its guidelines, Sultan Ibrahim pointed out that as all religions emphasise good values like compassion, respect, tolerance, moderation and kindness.

“Malaysians should focus on these common values rather than on our racial or religious differences.

“I hope with this explanation, we can put a stop to any confusion on the new fatwa as it only clarifies what is permissible to Muslims and forbidden in Islam,” he said.

Sultan Ibrahim then advised Muslims who were still confused to consult with the state mufti for further clarification.

Yesterday, the fatwa detailed guidelines for Muslims in Johor on celebrations held by people of other faiths.

Johor Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid was reported as saying that Muslims should not take part in religious rituals of other faiths.

He said this is based on Sultan Ibrahim’s consent to the fatwa.

Source:MalayMail

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

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/02/03/johor-sultan-says-fatwa-barring-muslims-from-other-faiths-rituals-not-against-bangsa-johor-concept/53277

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Daegu group stages second Islamophobic pork feast in protest of mosque

Feb.3,2023

Daegu residents opposing the construction of a mosque held their second “pork party,” having first staged a pork barbeque in December 2022.

At 12:30 pm on Thursday, a group calling itself the “Daehyeon Neighborhood Anti-Mosque Emergency Action Committee” held a “village feast” in front of the mosque’s construction site in Daegu’s northern Buk District, near the west entrance of Kyungpook National University. The party was nothing more than a meat-feasting performance, in which boiled pork and beef gukbap stew was served to 100 people.

Muslim international students visited the temporary prayer center in front of the construction site for their lunch prayers, but no conflict ensued.

Kim Jung-ae, vice chairperson of the action committee stated that the group “received a lot of support from all over the country” after the news covered the group’s barbeque in December.

“This feast was prepared for all of those who cheered us on. I don’t understand since when South Koreans had to provide reasoning for eating pork. We residents will stand very close together to prevent the construction of the mosque.”

This group of people has rejected the Buk District Office’s conciliatory offer to purchase land near the mosque to build a public facility such as a senior citizen center. Before the pork party, the committee held a press conference in front of the Buk District Office and stated “the solution that Buk District Mayor Bae Kwang-sik took two years to come up with is nothing but a one-sided notice saying that he will kick out residents who he thinks are obstacles to the mosque’s construction. He says he will build public facilities near the mosque, but they will only be used by Muslims.”

Source:Hani

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

http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/1078218.html

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Are you suggesting that Malaysians who don’t vote for PAS promote Islamophobia? Kit Siang asks Hadi

By John Bunyan

04 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 — Counting 10 weeks of silence, Lim Kit Siang today continued to call out PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang to clarify his past remarks accusing the DAP of Islamophobia.

The DAP veteran noted that Hadi has continued to glibly portray his party as anti-Malay, anti-Islam and anti-monarchy without showing any proof to substantiate his claims.

“Is Hadi suggesting that Malaysians who do not vote for PAS candidates in elections were promoting Islamophobia?” Lim asked in a statement.

Hadi had accused the DAP of spreading Islamophobia in a lengthy Facebook rant last November 28, after the contentious 15th general election that resulted in a hung Parliament before the Yang di-PertuanAgong appointed Pakatan Harapan’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister to lead a “unity government”.

In August 2022, the Marang MP accused non-Muslims and non-Bumiputera of making up the bulk of what he called “roots of corruption” — those who chase illicit gains — to the detriment of the country’s economy and politics.

Hadi was questioned by the police over his remarks last December but the outcome of the investigations have not been made known so far.

Lim noted that Hadi has yet to apologise or face any action for his remarks to date.

He pointed out that it was not the first time Hadi “got away” with making unsubstantiated allegations against the DAP, which it had allied with politically in the past.

Among the incidents were in 2018 when Hadi accused the DAP of being the mastermind to Mahathir administration’s decision to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and when the PAS leader failed to report to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Islamophobia Observatory about the so-called anti-Islam part’s purported movement in Malaysia.

“Hadi must be made an example of how irresponsible a political/religious leader can be in making wild, preposterous and completely baseless allegations of political opponents, a practice which must be stopped in an era where the toxic and divisive politics of lies, falsehoods, and fake news could polarise race and religious relations in a plural society like Malaysia,” Lim said.

He promised to pursue this subject every week until Hadi breaks his silence.

Source:MalayMail

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

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/02/04/are-you-suggesting-that-malaysians-who-dont-vote-for-pas-promote-islamophobia-kit-siang-asks-hadi/53387

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Report: Rainy weather causing vegetable supply shortage ahead of Ramadan

By John Bunyan

Saturday, 04 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 — The unusual wet weather this Chinese New Year is expected to cause a shortage of produce that could continue till the Muslim fasting month next month, Utusan Malaysia reported today.

The newspaper cited Yong Peng Vegetable Gardeners Association president Cheng Tai Hoe saying that farmers in the country are having a tough time meeting the demand for vegetables if the rainy spell continues till the end of this month.

According to Cheng, vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes, beans and chillies are often in high demand during Ramadan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and need up to two months to be fully mature.

“Due to this, it is expected that the supply of vegetables will not be sufficient ahead of the fasting month and the price is likely to rise due to the high demand during the festive season.

“However, there is no problem for leafy vegetables such as spinach and mustard because there is still time for them to mature,” he was quoted as saying.

Cheng said produce from neighbouring Thailand is likely to be similarly affected by the weather, adding that this will likely drive up the prices of imported vegetables.

As an example, he said prices of cucumbers have gone up to between RM9 and RM10 per kilogramme compared to the previous maximum high of RM6; likewise long beans imported from Thailand are up RM16 per kilogramme.

Source:MalayMail

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

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/02/04/report-rainy-weather-causing-vegetable-supply-shortage-ahead-of-ramadan/53345

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SPM workshop controversy won’t happen again, vows minister

Elill Easwaran

February 3, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Last month’s controversy involving an SPM workshop which was allegedly organised by a government school exclusively for its Muslim students will not happen again, says education minister FadhlinaSidek.

“Discrimination is not allowed in the education system and we will ensure that this will not take place again,” she told reporters after attending a National Union of the Teaching Profession’s (NUTP) grand seminar.

Fadhlina warned of stern action against any school that allows such an incident to occur.

The issue first came to light on Jan 23 after parents of SPM students at SMK Infant Jesus Convent alleged that the school had discriminated against non-Muslim students by holding the SPM workshop only for Muslim students.

The education ministry denied the claim, explaining that the workshop was meant for all students but had been broken up into different sessions to avoid disrupting the festivities for students celebrating Chinese New Year.

The ministry also acknowledged that the school should have communicated details about the workshop better.

The school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) has since said that the matter has been resolved amicably.

When asked whether action will be taken against the school in Johor, Fadhlina said the case has been handed over to the state education department, “and the issue has been resolved”.

Separately, on the suggestion that classes at all schools in Peninsular Malaysia start at 8am, instead of the current 7.30am, Fadhlina said the ministry has not decided on the matter and it was not their main focus.

“We have heard the suggestions from the experts, but we need to listen to the views of the parents as well.”

Recently, UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia senior lecturer Anuar Ahmad urged the government to start classes at 8am in the peninsula to ease the burden on teachers, parents and students.

Source:Free Malaysia Today

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

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2023/02/03/spm-workshop-controversy-wont-happen-again-vows-minister/

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Philippines tightens rules for Kuwait recruitment after maid murder

ELLIE ABEN

February 03, 2023

MANILA: The Philippines is tightening rules for the deployment of workers to Kuwait after the brutal murder of a migrant Filipino worker last month sent shockwaves across the Southeast Asian nation.

The charred body of the 35-year-old maid, JullebeeRanara, was found abandoned in a desert in late January and repatriated to the Philippines last week. Kuwaiti police have since arrested and charged the 17-year-old son of her employer over the killing.

Ranara was one of more than 268,000 overseas Filipino workers living in Kuwait. Most are women employed as domestic helpers.

After Ranara’s murder, the Philippine Migrant Workers Office in Kuwait suspended the accreditation of new recruitment agencies in the Gulf country, while President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced on Monday that the Philippine government is scheduling meetings with Kuwaiti authorities to review the bilateral labor agreement to “see if there are any weaknesses in the agreement that allowed this (murder) to happen” and provide more protection to overseas Filipino workers.

“The Philippine government’s priority is to seek justice for our deceased compatriot,” Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Eduardo Jose De Vega told Arab News on Thursday.

“The Department of Migrant Workers is reviewing the records of the currently accredited agencies and is imposing stricter rules for deployment in the meantime.”

Ranara’s murder is not the first such incident in Kuwait to shock the Philippines, which in 2018 imposed a worker deployment ban to the Gulf country after the killing of Filipino domestic helper Joanna Daniela Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment.

The ban was partially lifted the same year, after the two countries signed a protection agreement for workers. In May 2019, Filipino maid Constancia Lago Dayag was killed in Kuwait, and a few months later, another employee, JeanelynVillavende, was tortured to death by her employer. The Philippines again imposed a worker deployment ban in January 2020, which was lifted when Kuwaiti authorities charged Villavende’s employer with murder and sentenced her to death.

The Philippine government is not considering another ban, despite calls from Filipinos outraged by the recent gruesome killing.

According to migrant work expert Emmanuel Geslani, a ban “may result in more harm than good” by leading to human trafficking.

“Any deployment ban always leads workers to illegal recruitment syndicates enticing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) eager to find work in the oil-rich country of Kuwait,” he told Arab News.

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244236/world

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Mideast

 

Iran rebukes Macron’s double standard, urges France to speak out against Israeli nukes

03 February 2023

Iran has censured the latest “unconstructive” remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron after his talks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Tehran’s peaceful nuclear activities.

Macron warned in a statement on Thursday that Iran’s nuclear activities “would inevitably have consequences.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani said on Friday the French president spoke against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program while it seems he has forgotten the Israeli regime, which possesses tens of nuclear warheads in its nuclear arsenal, refuses to accept any international supervision.

“Instead of expressing fake concerns about Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities, which are completely under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the French side should inform the world about the ways that the Zionist state terrorism has obtained nuclear weapons,” Kan’ani said.

He said that meeting with Israel’s prime minister is in itself worthy of condemnation as the world considers the Israeli regime to be the manifestation of the sinister phenomenon of organized terrorism, violence, massacre and displacement of oppressed women and children in West Asia, including in Palestine.

With a dark record of occupation and military aggression, the Israeli regime is “the prime source of threat against regional and international peace and security,” he said.

The Iranian spokesperson called on French officials to correct their wrong approaches and engage in mutual respect to stop inflicting further damage on Tehran-Paris relations.

Israel, which pursues a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear weapons, is estimated to possess 200 to 400 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, making it the sole possessor of non-conventional arms in West Asia. The illegitimate entity has, however, refused to either allow inspections of its military nuclear facilities or sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Iran, on the other hand, is a member of the NPT and has officially declared that its nuclear activities are peaceful in nature. Iran also signed a nuclear deal with six world powers in 2015 to reassure the world about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

Despite Iran’s strict compliance with the deal, the US, under former US president Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and pursued a confrontational policy against Iran.

Source: Press TV

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

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/02/03/697532/Iran-France-Israel-Kan-ani-Macron-nuclear-weapons-Netanyahu-warheads-mutual-respect-relations

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Iran behind hack of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, Microsoft says

03 February ,2023

An Iranian government-backed hacking team allegedly stole and leaked private customer data belonging to French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, security researchers at Microsoft said on Friday.

The magazine was hacked in early January after it published a series of cartoons that negatively depicted Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The caricatures were part of a media campaign that Charlie Hebdo said was intended to support anti-government protests in the Islamic nation.

Representatives for the Iranian and French governments did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A press officer for Charlie Hebdo said the magazine had no comment on the matter “for the moment.”

Iran publicly vowed an “effective response” to the “insulting” cartoons, and summoned the French envoy in Tehran, while also ending activities of the French Institute of Research in Iran and saying it was re-evaluating France’s cultural activities in the country.

The hack-and-leak targeting Charlie Hebdo was part of a wider digital influence operation with techniques matching previously identified activity linked to Iranian state-backed hacking teams, Microsoft researchers said in a report.

The group responsible is the same one that US Department of Justice officials earlier identified as having conducted a “multi-faceted campaign” to interfere in the 2020 US presidential election, Microsoft said. Iran denied the claims at the time.

Amid Iran’s criticism of the Khamenei cartoons, a group of hackers calling itself “Holy Souls” posted on an online forum that they had access to the names and contact details of more than 200,000 Charlie Hebdo subscribers. In their post, they said they would sell the information for 20 bitcoins ($470,000).

A sample of the leaked data was later released and verified as authentic by the French newspaper Le Monde.

“This information, obtained by the Iranian actor, could put the magazine’s subscribers at risk for online or physical targeting by extremist organizations,” the Microsoft researchers said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/03/Iran-behind-hack-of-French-magazine-Charlie-Hebdo-Microsoft-says

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‘Parliamentary tyranny’: Iran blasts US House Committee vote to oust Ilhan Omar

03 February 2023

The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry has censured a decision by the Republicans in the US House of Representatives to oust Democrat Ilhan Omar from a high-profile House committee.

The Republican-led chamber on Thursday voted to oust Somali-born Omar from her seat on the influential Foreign Affairs Committee over the Muslim lawmaker’s mocking of American politicians for their unwarranted support of the Israeli regime in exchange for financial rewards.

In reaction to the highly politicized move, Nasser Kan’ani said boycotting a critic of the Israeli apartheid regime depicts the United States’ “parliamentary tyranny.”

“Ousting IlhanOmar black Muslim& critic of Israeli #Apartheid from a House Committee indicates practical commitment of US to motto of #women, life, freedom,” Kan’ani tweeted, referring to the key slogan behind the recent Western-backed riots across Iran.

The spokesman added that the US resorted to the slogan as a means to interfere in Iran’s internal affairs.

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted on January 25 in favor of a resolution that expressed solidarity with Iranian people following what was claimed to be a “brutal crackdown” on protesters after the death of a 22-year-old woman of Kurdish descent in the capital Tehran.

The bipartisan resolution, which called for more sanctions against Iranian officials and entities over “human right violations,” was approved days after the European Union announced sanctions on more than 30 Iranian officials and organizations over the deadly riots triggered by the death of MahsaAmini in September 2022.

In a post on his Twitter account, Kan’ani censured the US Congress’ resolution, saying Americans “never want to accept the realities” of the country and wish them to be as they like.

“While the US intelligence and security services say Iran left behind the unrest and their support for Iran riots was futile, US congressmen voted for a resolution supporting riots in Iran!,” the spokesman wrote. “They never want to accept the realities on Iran, but like the realities to be as they wish.”

Amini fainted at a police station and was pronounced dead three days later in hospital. An official report by Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization concluded that the death was caused by illness rather than alleged blows to the head or other vital body organs.

Source: Press TV

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

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/02/03/697519/Iran-US-Ilhan-Omar-Nasser-Kan-ani-House-Representatives-House-Israel-women-life-freedom-interferecommittee--

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Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi released on bail

3 Feb 2023

Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been released on bail from Tehran’s Evin prison after going on hunger strike to protest his detention.

Yusef Moulai, Panahi’s lawyer, confirmed he had been released on bail and returned home. He said Panahi was in good health after two days without food, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Panahi’s wife TaherehSaidi posted an image on Instagram of Panahi being driven from prison in a vehicle.

There was no immediate comment from the judiciary on the release.

News on Thursday that Panahi, 62, had gone on a hunger strike in which he was refusing food and water caused a wave of concern across the world about the director, who has won prizes at all of Europe’s top three film festivals.

 Considered one of Iranian cinema’s greatest living masters, Panahi is known for prizewinning films such as The Circle, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000. He also won the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or prize for his 1995 movie White Balloon and the Golden Bear in Berlin for Taxi Tehran in 2015.

“It is extraordinary, a relief, a total joy,” Panahi’s French distributor, producer Michele Halberstadt, told the AFP news agency on Friday about the director’s release. “We express our gratitude to all those who mobilised yesterday.”

“His next fight is to have the cancellation of his sentence officially recognised,” Halberstadt said. “He’s outside, he’s free, and this is already great.”

Panahi was imprisoned despite a ruling by Iran’s Supreme Court in October that quashed a six-year sentence in 2010 for “propaganda against the system”.

“I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison,” Panahi had warned in a statement announcing his hunger strike, which was published by his wife.

The director was detained in July in the wake of the government crackdown on dissent. He was arrested after he inquired about another director, Mohammad Rasoulof, who was imprisoned a few days earlier after signing an appeal against police violence.

Rasoulof was released from prison on January 7 after being granted a two-week furlough for health reasons and is believed to still be free.

Cinema figures have been among the thousands of people arrested in Iran in the government’s crackdown on protests sparked by the September 16 death of MahsaAmini. The 22-year-old died in police custody after her arrest for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Actor TaranehAlidoosti, who had published images of herself without the Islamic headscarf, was among those detained although she was released in early January after being held for almost three weeks.

Source: AlJazeera

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

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/2/3/acclaimed-iranian-filmmaker-jafar-panahi-released-on-bail

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Palestinian mosque in Israel targeted with Molotov cocktails

03 February, 2023

Molotov cocktails were thrown at a mosque on Thursday, in an Israeli city that was built on the land of a former Palestinian village.

The Sayyidna Ali Mosque is in Herzliya near Tel Aviv, where the village of Al-Haram was once located before its population was displaced during the 1948 Nakba (Arabic for "catastrophe").

The Nakba saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages by Zionist militias in the run-up to the creation of Israel.

It follows a previous attack on the mosque in January 2019, The New Arab's Arabic sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

"My son and I live in the Sayyidna Ali Mosque and I have been working to guard it for years," said Mohammed Tayeh, who has guarded the site for 38 years and who delivers the call to prayer there.

"This morning, we woke up and saw two Molotov cocktails on the roof of the mosque, with minor damage and burns recorded," he said.

"We did not hear exactly when the Molotov cocktails were thrown because of the rainy weather and the loud sound of the wind."

Tayeh said they called the police as soon as they found the two bottles, adding that officers examined the site and opened a file to investigate what happened.

Christian and Muslim places of worship in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem are often attacked by Israeli extremists.

Radical Israelis also routinely storm Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, with many of them wanting to see a Jewish temple built in its place.

Such raids often see extremist Jews pray at the site, despite worship being reserved for Muslims under the longstanding status-quo agreement.

Many Palestinians worry about Israeli attempts to split Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site in Islam, between Jews and Muslims in terms of time and space available for use.

On Thursday, a Jewish American tourist allegedly knocked a statue of Jesus over in East Jerusalem's Old City, according to churchgoers.

"Exodus Chapter 20 says you can't have idols in Jerusalem. This is the holy city," the suspect reportedly said while a guard kept him on the floor.

The suspect was detained by Israeli police after a wooden statue of Jesus was pulled down and damaged in the Church of the Condemnation, where Christians believe Jesus was flogged and sentenced to death.

Source: The New Arab

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

https://www.newarab.com/news/palestinian-mosque-israel-targeted-molotov-cocktails

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders head for Egypt amid Israel tensions

03 February, 2023

A delegation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders left the Gaza Strip for Egypt on Thursday.

The representatives of the besieged Palestinian enclave's second-most-powerful faction made their way through the Rafah land crossing for Cairo following an invitation by Egypt to discuss issues of common concern.

The visit of a delegation of leaders from Gaza rulers Hamas is expected to take place at a later date, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

Islamic Jihad's Secretary-General Ziyad Al-Nakhalah, who lives in Lebanon, is at the helm of the visiting party, joined by members of the group's political bureau.

It comes amid a dramatic escalation in Israeli violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank - with 35 killed so far this year - and continued violations against Palestinian detainees.

Six Israelis and a Ukrainian were shot dead in the occupied East Jerusalem settlement of Neve Yaakov on Friday, the day after a raid by Israeli forces that killed 10 Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp.

Egypt, which has a long history of mediating between Israel and Palestinian factions, seeks to prevent an explosion of unrest in the West Bank and particularly in Gaza, with which it shares a border.

A leading source in the Islamic Jihad group had previously told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the movement had accepted an invitation to visit Cairo.

The source said the delegation would – in a surprising development – include prominent leaders from its Al-Quds Brigades military wing.

This was with the aim of consulting on the high state of alert of armed factions in the  Gaza Strip. Palestinian armed groups have said that they are preparing to respond to violations against female Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Egyptian intelligence officials have invited Hamas's leadership to Cairo to discuss maintaining calm in Gaza and how to prevent inflaming the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed has learned.

Source: The New Arab

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

https://www.newarab.com/news/islamic-jihad-leaders-head-egypt-amid-israel-tensions

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Landmine kills 13-year-old boy in Yemen port city Hodeida

04 February ,2023

A landmine killed a 13-year-old boy in the contested Yemeni city of Hodeida, medical and security officials said Friday, the latest in a string of similar incidents in the war-torn country.

It came a day after three children and one woman were critically injured in a landmine explosion, according to an aid group.

The explosion Friday happened on a city street and also seriously injured a teenager, said officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

Thursday's blast happened when a child began playing with a landmine. The explosion injured that child and the three others nearby, Doctors Without Borders said. It said the four casualties arrived at a hospital in the besieged city of Taiz and were transferred to other health facilities.

Landmines have been laid in Yemen since the 1960s. However, since the outbreak of war in 2014, both sides have planted more. According to Yemeni Landmine Records, a group that documents landmine casualties, 32 people in Yemen were killed by landmines and other unexploded ordinance last month.

Yemen's ruinous civil war began after Iranian backed-Houthis swept down from the northern mountains and seized the capital, Sanaa, along with much of the north of the country, ousting the internationally recognized government.

The Houthis have widely used landmines. The US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project said Houthi landmines killed at least 122 people between 2016 and 2018.

“Due to the difficulty of obtaining accurate estimates, these figures are likely to make up a fraction of all mine detonations involving civilians in Yemen,” ACLED said in a 2018 report.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/04/Landmine-kills-13-year-old-boy-in-Yemen-port-city-Hodeida

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Former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom asks US for sanctions on Turkey, Erdogan

03 February ,2023

A former NBA center is calling on the Biden administration to impose sanctions against Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the Turkish government placed a bounty on his head.

Enes Kanter Freedom, a US citizen and an outspoken critic of the Turkish president, has met with over 125 members of Congress in the two weeks.

In an interview with Al Arabiya English on Capitol Hill, Kanter Freedom said he was on the Hill to further educate US lawmakers on what he says are human rights violations around the world.

“It is unacceptable that a foreign government can put a bounty on an American citizen’s head on US soil,” he said.

Kanter Freedom has had to bounce around and move several times out of fear for his safety. “This is a real threat to his life,” one congressional aide who met with Kanter Freedom said.

The former NBA player was placed on Turkey’s wanted list this week for allegedly being a member of a terrorist organization. Up to 10 million Turkish liras, close to $500,000, are being offered as a reward to anyone who provides helpful information that leads to his capture.

Ankara is accusing Kanter Freedom of being a member of a group founded by Fethullah Gulen, who currently lives in exile in the US.

Washington has rejected Turkey’s request to extradite Gulen.

He described his conversations with Republican and Democratic lawmakers as “really good” and said members of Congress agreed that the actions of Erdogan’s government were unacceptable.

More than 40 House Republicans signed a letter to US President Joe Biden earlier this week asking for him to look at potential sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, which is meant to crack down on human rights violations and violators.

But Kanter Freedom said he has bipartisan support, and there is agreement from both sides of the aisle on his human rights campaign.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re from the right or the left; you have to care about human rights issues going on anywhere in the world,” he said.

Asked what could be done from a US point of view, Kanter Freedom was explicit in expressing his support for sanctions. “You know, condemning dictators is not going to work. So, we have to take some concrete actions,” he said.

Kanter Freedom pointed to the upcoming Turkish elections slated for May. “We literally have around three months, so that’s why we are coming here and trying to do our best to just bring awareness and see what we can do.”

He is also trying to land a meeting with Biden to explain to him the situation inside Turkey as well as other global human rights issues.

“I’m not the only one on the [wanted] list. There are so many innocent people, journalists, academics, athletes, and celebrities… And now their life is in danger,” Kanter Freedom said.

As Kanter Freedom continues to speak out on these issues, including against China and its detention of over one million Uyghur Muslims, his chances of returning to the NBA weaken.

“They do care about a lot of issues that are happening, but not China,” he said when asked if he was getting support from the NBA or his former colleagues.

He cited the lucrative shoe, jersey and TV contracts inside China. “They are scared to say anything against the Chinese government, but they [NBA players] are learning for sure,” Kanter Freedom said.

At 30 years old, he says he is healthy and can still play for at least another six years in the NBA. But basketball experts he has discussions with say his stance on China is “very unacceptable,” making it nearly impossible to return to the league.

With his parents having their passports taken away by the Turkish government and not having a team to play professional basketball with, Kanter Freedom says he will continue to advocate against “brutal regimes” in China and Turkey.

“We have to do whatever we can to save Turkey because if Erdogan wins the elections, that’s another six years of this whole craziness,” he said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/features/2023/02/04/Former-NBA-player-Enes-Kanter-Freedom-asks-US-for-sanctions-on-Turkey-Erdogan

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US imposes sanctions on board of directors of Iranian drone maker

03 February ,2023

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the board of directors of Iranian drone maker Paravar Pars, the US Treasury Department said, adding Iranian drones were being used by Russia to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated eight senior executives of Paravar Pars, the department said in a statement.

The drone maker was previously sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for making drones for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force.

“Iranian entities continue to produce UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for Iran’s IRGC and military. More broadly, Iran is supplying UAVs for Russia’s combat operations to target critical infrastructure in Ukraine,” said Brian Nelson, the US Treasury’s top sanctions official.

As a result of Friday’s action, all property and interests in property of those individuals that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC, the Treasury Department said. People that engage in transactions with the individuals designated on Friday may themselves be exposed to sanctions, the department added.

The United States on Tuesday had put new trade restrictions on seven Iranian entities for producing drones that Russia has used to attack Ukraine. The firms and other organizations were added to a US export control list for those engaged in activities contrary to US national security and foreign policy interests.

Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine in February 2022, the United States and over 30 other countries have sought to degrade its military and defense industrial base by restricting its access to defense needs.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2023/02/03/US-imposes-sanctions-on-board-of-directors-of-Iranian-drone-maker

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Iran’s security forces targeting eyes of protesters: Rights group

03 February ,2023

Iran’s security forces have been systematically targeting the eyes of demonstrators in their crackdown on the protests that have swept the country since September, a human rights group said Friday.

Norway-based Iran Human Rights said initial data indicated young women were disproportionately represented among people who had sustained such wounds.

A Tehran newspaper earlier this week asked a top police commander if security forces had been targeting the eyes and other sensitive areas. He insisted on their good conduct.

IHR said protesters had been shot in the head and the face, leading “to many, including a significant number of young women, being blinded.”

It said this “inhumane and unlawful act” had been “carried out systematically to crush protests.”

IHR said it had documented 22 cases of people being blinded in one eye as a result of fire from the security forces, nine of them women.

The youngest person wounded -- Bonita KianiFalavarjani, aged just six, from the city of Isfahan -- was shot and blinded in one eye while standing on her grandfather’s balcony, it said.

In a high-profile case, KosarKhoshnoudikia, a member of Iran’s national archery team, was blinded in one eye after a protest in December in the city of Kermanshah.

“We don’t have enough data yet, but I have the impression that young girls are over-represented among those whose eyes are targeted,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam.

Asked if security forces were targeting eyes, the commander of the special police, Hassan Karami, told the Hamshahri newspaper that “not harming the protesting population” was a priority for the police forces.

“I have so much faith in the ability of the special police units that I have said many times that I will offer a reward to anyone who can prove that someone was killed as a result of a mistake by our staff,” he said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/03/Iran-s-security-forces-targeting-eyes-of-protesters-Rights-group

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Satellite photos show damage at Iran military site hit by drones

03 February ,2023

Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press on Friday showed damage done to what Iran describes as a military workshop targeted by Israeli drones, the latest such assault amid a shadow war between the two countries.

While Iran has offered no explanation yet of what the workshop manufactured, the drone attack threatened to again raise tensions in the region. Already, worries have grown over Tehran enriching uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels, with a top United Nations nuclear official warning the Islamic Republic had enough fuel to build “several” atomic bombs if it chooses.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose earlier tenure as premier saw escalating attacks targeting Iran, has returned to office and reiterated that he views Tehran as his country’s top security threat.

With State Department spokesperson Ned Price now declaring Iran has “killed” the opportunity to return to its nuclear deal with world powers, it remains unclear what diplomacy immediately could ease tensions between Tehran and the West.

Cloudy weather had prevented satellite pictures of the site of the workshop since it came under attack by what Iran described as bomb-carrying quadcopters on the night of January 28.

Quadcopters, which get their name from having four rotors, typically operate from short ranges by remote control.

Video taken of the attack showed an explosion at the site after anti-aircraft fire targeted the drones, likely from one of the drones reaching the building’s roof. Iran’s military has claimed shooting down two other drones before they reached the site.

Images taken Thursday by Planet Labs PBC showed the workshop in Isfahan, a central Iranian city some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Tehran. An AP analysis of the image, compared to earlier images of the workshop, showed damage to the structure’s roof.

That damage corresponded to footage aired by Iranian state television immediately after the attack that showed at least two holes in the building’s roof.

The Iranian state TV footage, as well as satellite photos, suggest the building’s roof also may have been built with so-called “slat armor.” The structure resembles a cage built around roofs or armored vehicles to stop direct detonation from rockets, missiles or bomb-carrying drones against a target.

Installation of such protection at the workshop suggests Iran believed it could be a drone target.

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry in July claimed to have broken up a plot to target sensitive sites around Isfahan. A segment aired on Iranian state TV in October included purported confessions by alleged members of Komala, a Kurdish opposition party that is exiled from Iran and now lives in Iraq, that they planned to target a military aerospace facility in Isfahan after being trained by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service.

It remains unclear whether the military workshop targeted in the drone attack was that aerospace facility. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the satellite images and other questions about the workshop.

The attack comes as Iran’s theocratic government faces challenges both at home and abroad.

Nationwide protests have shaken the country since the September death of MahsaAmini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman detained by the country’s morality police. Its rial currency has plummeted to new lows against the US dollar. Meanwhile, Iran continues to arm Russia with the bomb-carrying drone that Moscow uses in attacks in Ukraine on power plants and civilian targets.

Israel is suspected of launching a series of attacks on Iran, including an April 2021 assault on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges. In 2020, Iran blamed Israel for a sophisticated attack that killed its top military nuclear scientist.

Israel has not commented on this drone attack. However, Israeli officials rarely acknowledge operations carried out by the country’s secret military units or the Mossad.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/03/Satellite-photos-show-damage-at-Iran-military-site-hit-by-drones

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Death of Amini sparks irreversible Iran ‘revolutionary process’: Nobel laureate Ebadi

03 February ,2023

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman last year has sparked an irreversible “revolutionary process” that would eventually lead to the collapse of the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s clerical rulers have faced widespread unrest since MahsaAmini died in the custody of the morality police on September 16 after she was arrested for wearing “inappropriate attire.”

Iran has blamed Amini’s death on preexisting medical problems and has accused the United States and other foes fomenting the unrest to destabilize the clerical establishment.

As they have done in the past in the face of protests in the past four decades, Iran’s hardline rulers have cracked down hard. Authorities have handed down dozens of death sentences to people involved in protests and have carried out at least four hangings, in what rights activists say is aimed at intimidating people and keep them off the streets.

A staunch critic of the clerical establishment that has ruled in Iran since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Ebadi has been one of the most outspoken supporters of the anti-government demonstrations.

Like many critics of Iran’s clerical rulers, Ebadi believes the current wave of protests has been the boldest challenge to the establishment’s legitimacy yet.

“This revolutionary process is like a train that will not stop until it reaches its final destination,” said Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work defending human rights and who has been in exile in London since 2009.

The 1979 revolution toppled Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a secular monarch allied with the West, and led to the formation of an Islamic Republic.

With the latest protests ushering Iran into an era of deepening crisis between the rulers and society at large, Amini’s death has unbottled years of anger among many Iranians over issues ranging from economic misery and discrimination against ethnic minorities to tightening social and political restrictions.

For months, Iranians from all walks of life have called for the fall of the clerical establishment, chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

However, protests have slowed considerably since the hangings began. They have been at their most intense in the Sunni-populated areas of Iran and are currently mostly limited to those regions.

Videos shared on social media, unverifiable by Reuters, showed people chanting “Death to Khamenei” from rooftops in some cities, but nothing on the scale of past months.

The rights group HRANA said that as of Wednesday, 527 protesters had been killed during unrest, including 71 minors. It said 70 members of the security forces had also been killed. As many as 19,262 protesters are believed to have been arrested, it said.

Growing anger

Ebadi, speaking in a phone interview from London, said the state’s use of deadly violence will deepen anger felt by ordinary Iranians about the clerical establishment because their grievances remain unaddressed.

“The protests have taken a different shape, but they have not ended,” Ebadi told Reuters in a phone interview from London.

With deepening economic misery, chiefly because of US sanctions over Tehran’s disputed nuclear work, many Iranians are feeling the pain of galloping inflation and rising joblessness.

Inflation has soared to over 50 percent, the highest level in decades. Youth unemployment remains high with over 50 percent of Iranians being pushed below the poverty line, according to reports by Iran’s Statistics Centre.

The crackdown has stoked diplomatic tensions at a time when talks to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers are at a standstill. The United States and its Western allies have slapped sanctions on Iranian authorities and entities for their involvement in the crackdown and other human rights abuses.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/03/Death-of-Amini-sparks-irreversible-Iran-revolutionary-process-Nobel-laureate-Ebadi

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Turkey says Western nations gave it no evidence to back up security threat reports

03 February ,2023

Turkey said on Friday that Western nations, including the United States and Germany, had not given it any information to back up their assertions that security threats had prompted them to close their missions in the country.

Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu suggested the powers may have been trying to portray Turkey as a volatile state when they temporarily shut embassies and consulates and issued travel warnings following Quran-burning incidents in Europe.

“We see the closures of consulates without sharing the details of the information with us as intentional,” Cavusoglu told reporters.

“If they want to give the impression that Turkey is an unstable country which faces a terrorism threat, this act is not in line with our friendly and allied relationships.”

Last week, France, Germany, Italy, the United States and others issued warnings to their citizens of an increased risk of attacks in Turkey, particularly against diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship, in the wake of Quran-burning protests in Europe.

This week, countries including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland temporarily closed diplomatic missions in Turkey, saying it was for security reasons.

On Wednesday Turkey summoned the ambassadors of nine Western countries to criticize the decision, as interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, said on Twitter the embassies were waging “a new psychological war” on his country.

“They say there is a terror threat... But when we ask what the source of information was and who the perpetrators of such attacks might be, they did not share any information with our intelligence and security authorities,” Cavusoglu said on Friday.

Over the last month, far-right activists burned copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, acts that prompted Turkey to suspend negotiations meant to lift its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

Turkey had already increased security measures around foreign embassies and consulates after Quran-burning incidents, Cavusoglu said.

“But we see that some countries that have nothing to do with these incidents also shut their consulates. We have the information that some countries asked others to shut their consulates,” he said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/03/Turkey-says-Western-nations-gave-it-no-evidence-to-back-up-security-threat-reports

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Iranian protests are ‘beginning of the end for regime in Tehran’, says Nobel laureate Ebadi

February 04, 2023

JEDDAH: Protests in Iran over the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman are the start of an irreversible “revolutionary process” that will eventually lead to the collapse of the regime, one of Tehran’s most eloquent critics said on Friday.

Shirin Ebadi, the distinguished Iranian lawyer and former judge who lives in exile in London, said the protests were the boldest challenge yet to the legitimacy of Iran’s clerical establishment.

“This revolutionary process is like a train that will not stop until it reaches its final destination,” said Ebadi, 75, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work defending human rights.

“The protests have taken a different shape, but they have not ended,” she told Reuters in a phone interview from London.

Iran’s clerical rulers have faced widespread unrest since MahsaAmini died in the custody of the morality police on Sept. 16 last year after she was arrested for wearing “inappropriate attire.”

Iran has blamed Amini's death on existing medical problems and has accused its enemies of fomenting the unrest to destabilise the regime.

For months, Iranians from all walks of life have called for the fall of the clerical establishment, chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Amini’s death has unbottled years of anger among many Iranians over issues ranging from economic misery and discrimination against ethnic minorities to tightening social and political restrictions.

As they have done in the past in the face of protests in the past four decades, Iran’s hard-line rulers have cracked down hard. Authorities have handed down dozens of death sentences to people involved in protests and have carried out at least four hangings, in what rights activists say is a crackdown aimed at intimidating people and keep them off the streets.

The rights group HRANA said 527 protesters had been killed during unrest, of whom 71 were children, and nearly 20,000 protesters had been arrested.

However, protests have slowed considerably since the hangings began. Videos posted on social mediashowed people chanting “Death to Khamenei” from rooftops in some cities, but nothing on the scale of past months.

Ebadi said the state’s use of deadly violence would deepen anger felt by ordinary Iranians about the clerical establishment because the their grievances remain unaddressed. “The protests have taken a different shape, but they have not ended,” she said.

The crackdown has stoked diplomatic tensions at a time when talks to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers are at a standstill.

To force the regime from power, Ebadi said the West should take “practical steps” such as recalling their ambassadors from Tehran, and should avoid reaching any agreement with Iran, including the nuclear deal.

With deepening economic misery, chiefly because of US sanctions over Tehran’s disputed nuclear work, many Iranians are feeling the pain of galloping inflation and rising joblessness.

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244481/middle-east

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Yemeni minister condemns Iran’s escalated arms smuggling to Houthis

February 04, 2023

DUBAI: Iran has escalated its arms smuggling operations to the Houthi militia since the United Nations-backed truce ended last October, said Muammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s minister of information, culture, and tourism.

The minister pointed to a recent operation, jointly carried out by US and French forces, that intercepted an Iranian shipment of weapons heading to Yemen through the Gulf of Oman. 

Reports earlier said the vessel carried 3,000 assault rifles, 20 anti-tank missiles, and around 500,000 rounds of ammunition en route to the Houthi militia.

In a statement, the US said the operation was one of four major interdictions over the last two months that prevented over 5,000 weapons and 1.6 million rounds of ammunition from reaching Yemen.

Al-Eryani said the Yemeni security forces’ seizure of 100 drone engines, headed to the Houthis via Shahn land port in the 5th such violation in two months, has demonstrated Iran’s role in undermining the international community’s efforts to end the war and bring peace to Yemen.

He added that it confirms Iran’s full empowerment of a militia that “doesn’t have power to decide on war and peace.”

Al-Eryani accused Iran’s regime of committing such violations to “export its internal crises” and “cover up atrocities against the Iranian people.”

The regime, he said, wanted to “mobilize its sectarian militias to create chaos, terrorism, destabilize security and stability, and threaten energy security and international shipping lanes.”

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244581/middle-east

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Images of emaciated Iranian prisoner on hunger strike prompt outrage

February 04, 2023

TEHRAN: Social media images purported to be of an emaciated jailed Iranian dissident on hunger strike have caused outrage online as supporters warned on Friday he risks death for protesting the compulsory wearing of the hijab.

FarhadMeysami, 53, who has been in jail since 2018 for supporting women activists protesting against Iran’s headscarf policy, began his hunger strike on Oct. 7 to protest recent government killings of demonstrators, the dissident’s lawyer said.

The images of Meysami went viral on social media on the same day Iran released award-winning director Jafar Panahi on bail after seven months in jail. Panahi said the images of Meysami reminded him of survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Iran’s judiciary denied the hunger strike claim and said the photos were from four years ago when Meysami, a physician, did go on hunger strike.

As evidence, the semi-official YJC news agency posted what it said was Meysami’s latest photo, in which he does not look emaciated and is sitting on the floor of his prison cell with a bag of what looks like chips next to him.

Reuters was unable to confirm when the pictures were taken.

Iranian authorities released Panahi on bail after he started a hunger strike this week to demand to be freed pending a retrial, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported, citing the Directors Guild of Iran.

There was no official word from Iran’s judiciary on the release, but videos on social media purportedly showed Panahi speaking to well-wishers outside Evin prison.

“The images of FarhadMeysami... remind one of the people in Auschwitz or of (Mahatma) Gandhi, since Meysami has written about non violence,” Panahi said. “Many are left behind bars... so how can I say I feel happy?“

Iranian authorities detained Panahi in July to serve a six-year sentence which a court originally ordered in 2010 for “propaganda against the system.” In October, the ruling was quashed by Iran’s supreme court which ordered a retrial.

Iran has been rocked by nationwide unrest following the death of Iranian Kurdish woman MahsaAmini on Sept. 16 in police custody, one of the strongest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.

Morality police arrested Amini for flouting the hijab policy, which requires women to dress modestly and wear headscarves. Women have played a prominent role in the protests, with many waving or burning their headscarves.

Rights groups say more than 500 protesters have been killed and nearly 20,000 arrested. At least four people have been hanged, according to the Iranian judiciary.

“My client FarhadMeysami’s life is in danger,” tweeted lawyer Mohammad Moghimi. “He went on hunger strike to protest the recent government killings in the streets.” He said Meysami had lost 52 kg (115 lb).

Images show Meysami curled up on what looks like a hospital bed, and another standing, his ribs protruding.

“Shocking images of Dr. FarhadMeysami, a brave advocate for women’s rights who has been on hunger strike in prison,” tweeted Robert Malley, Washington’s special envoy for Iran.

“Iran’s regime has unjustly denied him and thousands of other political prisoners their rights and their freedom. Now it unjustly threatens his life,” he said.

Amnesty International said: “These images (of Meysami) are a shocking reminder of the Iranian authorities’ contempt for human rights.”

In a letter published by BBC’s Persian Service on Thursday, Meysami made three demands: an end to executions, the release of political-civil prisoners and an end to “forced-hijab harassment”.

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244496/middle-east

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Europe

 

Sweden says claims that its agencies kidnap Muslim children is part of a systematized disinformation campaign

February 3, 2023

The Swedish government again sought Friday to discredit claims that Swedish social service agencies kidnap Muslim children, saying Sweden was again seeing a "systematized" and "extensive" disinformation campaign.

"This campaign has now gained momentum again," said Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

"This is false. This is not true. Sweden does not kidnap children. The social services do not kidnap children," Kristersson told a press conference. "Neither Muslim nor other children."

He said that social workers and other employees are being "exposed on social media and are being threatened."

He said the government will post guards inside social services offices and will earmark more funds to the Swedish Psychological Defense Agency, which was established to counter misinformation, to help it tackle the "systematized" campaign against Sweden." He didn't say how much money would be given to the agency.

The statement came at time of tensions with mostly Muslim Turkey over the applications of Sweden and Finland to become NATO members.

Turkey is angry that Sweden has allowed anti-Turkish protests to take place, and particularly that it has not prevented an anti-Muslim activist from repeatedly burning the Quran, the Muslim holy book. It also thinks that Sweden is not doing enough to counter Kurdish activists that it considers terrorists. Unless its demands are met, it says it won't approve Sweden's NATO application, which must be accepted by all of the miliary alliance's 30 members.

Kristersson said the disinformation campaign over child kidnappings started in 2021. The Psychological Defense Agency said last year that the allegations could be traced to an Arabic-language site whose creator expressed support for the Islamic State group.

Source: FoxNews

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https://www.foxnews.com/world/sweden-says-claims-agencies-kidnap-muslim-children-part-systematized-disinformation-campaign

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London synagogue sold to Muslim group tied to antisemitic figures

A Muslim group buying a historic London synagogue has apologized after a leaflet seeking donations called the location “a former place of worship for non-believers.”

The Pakistan-based charity Dawat-e-Islami has said the brochure was poorly worded, and only meant to say that the previous worshipers were not of the Muslim faith.

But the sale of the Wembley Synagogue building has invited further scrutiny, with The Jewish Chronicle reporting that the organization has problematic ties to antisemitic figures.

A founder of the group, Muhammad Ilyas Attar Qadri, has called Jews “Islam’s enemies,” favors boycotting Jewish products and has called not to “imitate the Jews” by shaving.

In 2021, it hosted Shaykh Asrar Rashid, a UK preacher who last year said Adolf Hitler “did a favor for the Jews” by boosting European sympathies, which enabled them to establish the Jewish state. He added that the Jews at the time “of course held all the politicians in their pockets.”

A former rabbi for United Synagogue, which had owned the Wembley shul since the 1930s and recently sold it to Dawat-e-Islami, told JC it was “the height of insult for the synagogue to be sold to a group which openly describes Jews as ‘non-believers.'”

“This goes against the principle of having respect for members of other faiths… all avenues should be explored to stop this sale,” Martin van den Bergh said.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said it would be seeking an investigation into “the disturbing allegations that [the organization’s] Midlands branch hosted a preacher accused of claiming Hitler did Jews ‘a favor’and that its founder called on Muslims to boycott Jewish goods.”

United Synagogue, meanwhile, has insisted it carried out “robust due diligence processes” before deciding on the sale, and noted the group’s apology over the flyer.

Source:TimesOfIsrael

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https://www.timesofisrael.com/london-synagogue-sold-to-muslim-group-tied-to-antisemitic-figures/

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West has failed to deal with migration, says Turkish minister

Diyar Guldogan

03.02.2023

The West has been unsuccessful in dealing with the migration wave, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Friday

"The West has been a disgrace to the world on the issue of migration. It has lost face with its lack of vision, cruelty and incompetence," Soylu said at a migration meeting in Türkiye's southern Antalya province.

However, Türkiye has implemented a straightforward immigration policy from the start, he said.

"We were fighting against terrorism, while the US and Europe were making great efforts to establish a terrorist state at our border. We managed this process without making people suffer," he added.

In the fight against illegal migration, Türkiye has blocked the entrance of 2.7 million people at the border since 2016, the minister said.

"By year-end of 2022, the number of illegal migrants we held was 285,000, and a total of 130,195 illegal migrants were deported in the last 12 months," Soylu added.

Also since 2011, Türkiye has banned a total of 111,000 people from 150 countries from entering the country, he said.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/west-has-failed-to-deal-with-migration-says-turkish-minister/2805649

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MP calls on UK to proscribe Iran guards to end ‘nefarious activities’

SARAH GLUBB

February 04, 2023

LONDON: Iran poses a “clear and present danger” and immediate action must be taken to proscribe the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization in the UK, according to a parliamentarian.

“Every day we delay, we give them the opportunity to expand their operations, to carry out other nefarious activities,” Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East, told Arab News. “We’ve seen evidence of some of the organizations in the United Kingdom that are operating under direct control of the IRGC.”

He said that this was “a serious threat to our homeland security, so it’s key that we have to address it and prompt action is required.”

Blackman said that the British government has already proscribed Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip as terrorist organizations and they “are funded and supported by the IRGC.” The things the regime has done and is doing have been listed, and these are sufficient for it to be proscribed.

The US has done it, other European countries are working on it and “we need to encourage our allies to work jointly with us so they cannot operate anywhere else in the world, but that’s the key challenge,” he added.

Although it has received cross-party support as a matter of national interest and security, the UK has failed to proscribe them so far, and “the only reason why the government, I think, are hesitating over that is that ends negotiations, and if it ends negotiations, well, fine. I don’t mind that,” Blackman said.

Talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which was scrapped by then-president, Donald Trump, in 2018, have been deadlocked since September.

“There are no negotiations going on because obviously the IRGC activities and the activities of the regime in Iran is suppressing their people with a position whereby thousands have been arrested, hundreds have been killed, and many face potential execution for the mere crime of protesting against the regime. There’s no time to negotiate on that basis,” he said.

Blackman believes negotiations are a mistake in the first place as there has been evidence that Iran was in violation of its obligations under the current treaty, and talks cannot be held under those circumstances.

“What we do have to do is prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon at all costs. That of course, does mean at all costs. We cannot get them to a point where they’ve got a nuclear weapon and can threaten the region with potential nuclear war. That would just be a complete disaster for everyone in the region and possibly beyond.”

He called for imposing stronger sanctions against individuals to “bring this regime to its knees” because it did not respond to negotiations.

Blackman said that the UK government’s rationale must also be that there are dual nationals and British citizens in Iran, and urged them to leave because they could be captured and used as hostages, which has happened already.

“We’re seeing all sorts of nefarious activities, interference in elections in other countries, terrorist plots which have been foiled not only across the Middle East but also in Europe and in the UK itself, as well as now cyberattacks which are proven to be going on, attacking the House of Commons and the Houses of Parliament generally, for the sole purpose, obviously, of disrupting our data and causing us damage overall.

“That just demonstrates that these people are not to be trusted one iota and therefore need to be proscribed,” he said.

Blackman was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s UK office on Thursday to reveal new information about the terrorist activities of the IRGC and the need to proscribe them. He said they have held numerous negotiations with the UK Foreign Office and will now speak with the Home Office, as it was up to them to make the decision.

Hossein Abedini, deputy director of the NCRI’s UK representative office, said they are in touch with many MPs in different parties and there is a strong British committee supporting Iranian freedom in parliament, which has been very active in different debates.

He highlighted to reporters the ways in which the IRGC was an army of terror and oppression, and suppressing the Iranian people, along with their training and military bases and major garrisons around the country and in the capital, Tehran

Abedini shared a classified document in Farsi obtained by the NCRI of minutes of a meeting at the International Directorate of the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on May 31, 2022, where representatives of eight terrorist and extremist organizations of the regime participated.

Among the minutes, one representative from the Quds Force — one of five branches of the IRGC — reported bringing a 55-member military delegation from Venezuela to Iran in 2022, “which shows the dimensions of the IRGC’s intervention in a Latin American country,” an English explanation of the document provided by the NCRI said.

Abedini called for the London-based Islamic Center of England, which is under the supervision of the International Directorate Khamenei’s Office and headed by Mullah Seyed Hashem Mousavi, to be closed down as it had agents around the UK that aimed to spread the regime’s propaganda.

On the recent execution of Alireza Akbari, an Iranian-British national who was a former Iranian deputy defense minister, Abedini said that this could add weight to the UK’s decision to proscribe the IRGC.

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244511/world

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Whistleblower sacked for speaking out on withdrawal from Afghanistan takes UK government to court

February 04, 2023

DUBAI: A former senior official at Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is taking the UK government to court test the legal protections for whistleblowers, amid concerns they are not sufficient to protect civil servants.

Josie Stewart, who worked at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and was sacked after turning whistleblower to reveal details of the chaotic UK response to the fall of Kabul, said the British civil service has become so dangerously politicized that officials who dare to speak out risk being sidelined or losing their jobs.

She told The Guardian newspaper that former colleagues felt their role was to protect ministers, some of whom were only interested in “looking good,” rather than working in the public interest.

Stewart, who was head of the illicit finance team at the FCDO, was fired over an anonymous interview she gave to the BBC about the government’s handling of the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. She is challenging her dismissal, based on the provisions the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

In her first interview since her dismissal, she said the government’s strategy for the withdrawal of its forces had been shaped by political concerns at home. Ministers were more focused on media coverage and “the political fallout” than saving lives, she added.

Her legal action adds to the pressure on Dominic Raab, who was foreign secretary at the time and who is currently fighting for his political career following allegations of bullying, which he denies. Raab was heavily criticized for failing to return home early from holiday in August 2021 when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

Stewart, who worked for two years at the British embassy in Kabul during her seven years with the FCDO, volunteered to work in the Whitehall crisis center when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. One of her allegations was that ministers had not expected the British public to care about the evacuation of locals who had helped British troops amnd officials.

Her case, for which a final hearing is scheduled for September, could set a precedent for how the courts handle similar cases in future, including clarification of whether whistleblowers can avoid dismissal if they disclosed information in “exceptionally serious circumstances” and it should therefore be considered “reasonable” to have done so.

In her interview with The Guardian, 42-year-old Stewart said: “If the law is not tested and used then I don’t know how much it actually means, as potential whistleblowers don’t know which side of the line it is going to fall. Is what they’re going to do likely to be legally protected or not? If they don’t know, then I’m not sure how meaningful the fact the law exists is.”

Stewart, who now works for nonprofit organization Transparency International, alleged that the civil service has been dangerously politicized since the era of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and she accused the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, of failing to stand up for officials.

“I increasingly saw senior officials interpreting their role as doing what ministers say and providing protections to ministers,” she said. “It was almost as if their first loyalty (was) to their political leaders rather than to the public.

“Essentially people who said ‘yes’ and went along with it and bought into this shift in culture and approach were those whose careers went well. Those who resisted either found themselves buried somewhere or looking for jobs elsewhere.

“It threatens the impartiality of the civil service. The civil service is supposed to bring expertise in how to get things done. It risks that expertise being neutered by a slant towards focusing on things that look good rather than achieving impact.”

Stewart also suggested the politicization of the civil service had a dramatic effect on the government’s handling of the evacuation from Afghanistan. Moreover, she highlighted the government’s failure to draw up a plan to help Afghan nationals who had assisted the British, such as translators or contractors, but were not eligible for the existing Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy because they did not work directly for the UK, to leave the country.

“There was no policy because we didn’t intend to do it at all,” Stewart said. “The only reason it came into life during the crisis was because the government was surprised to learn that the British people did actually care and did feel that we owed something to those people.

“Then they thought: ‘Well, people do care and we had better do something about it.’ So it was a misjudgment, politically. Hence the chaos.”

The crisis center received thousands of emails from desperate Afghans asking for help, which remained unopened until pressure from MPs led Raab to promise in the House of Commons that they would all be read by a certain date.

In January 2022 Stewart gave her anonymous interview and leaked emails to the BBC’s Newsnight program that revealed a decision to allow the animal charity Nowzad’s Afghan staff to be evacuated had been taken as a result of instructions from Johnson himself that overruled officials, who had said the workers were not eligible and others were at higher risk. Johnson had denied being involved in the decision.

The unredacted emails were accidentally published on social media by the BBC, revealing Stewart’s identity. She was stripped of her FCDO security clearance and subsequently sacked because, without it, she was unable to do her job.

Stewart’s lawyers expect the government to argue that the protections under the Public Interest Disclosure Act do not apply in this case because she was not, ultimately, dismissed for the act of whistleblowing, and they plan to challenge this.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are rightly proud of our staff who worked tirelessly to evacuate more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan within a fortnight.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The cabinet secretary is proud to lead a civil service that works day in, day out to deliver the government’s priorities for the people of this country.”

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244506/world

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Turkish president receives Kosovar premier for talks

Diyar Guldogan

03.02.2023

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday received Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Istanbul for talks on various issues.

Meeting at the Vahdettin Mansion, Erdogan and Kurti will review various aspects of Türkiye-Kosovo relations and the potential steps that would further enhance the bilateral cooperation.

Views on regional and international matters, regarding the Balkans in particular, will also be on the agenda.

Later, Erdogan and Kurti will hold a joint news conference.

Türkiye recognized Kosovo on Feb. 18, 2008, the very first day following the declaration of independence.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkish-president-receives-kosovar-premier-for-talks/2805633

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Africa

 

Ganduje: Kano Sharia Court dissolves daughter’s marriage

03 February 2023

A Kano Upper Shariah Court sitting at Filing Hockey, yesterday, granted appeal of AsiyaGanduje, daughter of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State, for dissolution of her 16-year-old marriage.

Asiya had approached the Islamic court seeking to divorce her husband Inuwa Uba on the ground that she’s no longer interested in the marital affairs that produced four children.

Delivering the judgment, the Sharia Judge, (Khadi) Halliru Aliyu declared that Asiya reserved the right and decision to relinquish her marriage on the condition that she would be ready to return her dowry.

Khadi Aliyu insisted that since the plaintiff has agreed to return the considered amount of N50, 000 as dowry to her husband, the court cannot compel the marriage to hold.

The court also dismissed Uba’s claim and demand for documents of properties he insisted belong to him and upheld the submission of Asiya not to relinquish the ownership to her ex-husband.

Counsel to the plaintiff, Ibrahim Nassarawa, expressed satisfaction with the declaration of the court, assuring of Asiya’s readiness to fulfill all orders of court, including returning of N50, 000 dowry to her ex-husband.

Source: Guardian Nigeria

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https://guardian.ng/news/ganduje-kano-sharia-court-dissolves-daughters-marriage/

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Sudan demands United Nations immediately lift arms embargo

04 February ,2023

Sudan is demanding the UN Security Council immediately lift an arms embargo and other sanctions imposed during violence in the western Darfur region in 2005, saying the punishment did not include conditions or require the military government to meet UN benchmarks.

Sudan’s UN ambassador, al-Harith Idriss Mohamed, said in a letter to the council circulated Friday that the sanctions “are no longer relevant to the magnificent reality on the ground in Darfur today compared to the situation in 2005.”

“Darfur has, for the most part, overcome the state of war, as well as previous security and political challenges,” he said.

Mohamed said Sudan’s transitional government is committed to addressing the remaining social and security issues in Darfur, including sporadic tribal clashes. He added that efforts are being made to form and deploy a Joint Security-Keeping Force to protect civilians.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly urged the Security Council to lift sanctions but this letter was much stronger. It said that “Sudan will accept nothing less than the immediate lifting of these sanctions without conditions or benchmarks.”

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the authoritarian government in Khartoum then led by former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The UN previously estimated 100,000 people died in the conflict and 2.7 million fled their homes.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged atrocities in Darfur. The court issued an arrest warrant for him in 2009 for crimes against humanity and war crimes and added genocide to the charges in 2010.

In April 2019, al-Bashir was ousted after three decades in power. He is incarcerated in Khartoum, where he is facing corruption charges and charges related to the overthrow of the former elected government.

In October 2021, Sudan was plunged into turmoil following a coup led by the country’s leading military figure, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, that derailed the short-run democratic transition following al-Bashir’s ouster.

Sudan’s ambassador told the Security Council that the continued sanctions have had “a detrimental impact and negative consequences that extend beyond the arms embargo in Darfur and the targeted sanctions on some individuals,” including asset freezes and travel bans.

Sanctions discourage investors and “encourage the rogue armed transboundary bands to disrupt peace and order in Darfur, owing to the imbalance of hard power,” Mohamed said. Lifting sanctions would enable Sudan “to further play an active regional role,” he said.

In July 2021, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recommended four benchmarks to guide the Security Council in reviewing sanctions: progress on political and economic governance issues; transitional security arrangements in Darfur; the National Plan for Civilian Protection; and transitional justice and accountability.

Mohamed said some of the benchmarks and targets “are completely unrealistic and cannot be met, neither in the Sudan nor elsewhere in the majority of developing nations.” He did not single out any of the benchmarks.

Source: Al Arabiya

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https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/04/Sudan-demands-United-Nations-immediately-lift-arms-embargo

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North America

 

New York couple gets combined 20 years for supporting Islamic State

February 3, 2023

A husband-wife militant duo will spend about a decade in prison after each of them pleaded guilty to trying to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Prosecutors say the man told a law enforcement officer posing as a terrorism sympathizer that he wanted to carry out a terror attack in the United States. Potential targets included the U.S. Military Academy at West Point or against a university in New York State where he frequently saw Reserve Officer Training Corps or ROTC cadets training.

James Bradley, 21, of the Bronx was sentenced to 11 years in prison Thursday in a federal court in Manhattan. His wife, Arwa Muthana, 30, of Hoover, Alabama, was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison during proceedings before Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.

The sentencings came after they pleaded guilty in September, admitting that they were Islamic State group supporters who tried to go to the Middle East to fight for the organization. They were married in an Islamic marriage ceremony in January 2021, authorities said.

The couple was arrested on March 31, 2021, on the gangplank at Port Newark–Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey and held without bail. At the time, authorities said they were planning to board a cargo ship that an undercover law enforcement officer told them would go to Yemen.

Bradley sought transit to the Middle East by cargo ship because he feared he might have been on a terrorist watch list, prosecutors said.

Authorities said that prior to their arrest, the couple distributed extremist online content, including images of IS fighters, Osama bin Laden and terrorist attacks.

After Muthana was arrested, she told investigators that she was willing to fight and kill Americans if it was for God, prosecutors said.

Her lawyers had asked Engelmayer to sentence her to time served, saying she was a woman with "no passport, little money and no real plan." They said her actions were the result of an "abused and traumatized young woman who was trying to get as far away from home as possible."

Bradley's lawyers also sought a sentence of time served.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence each of them to at least 15 years in prison, saying it was necessary "to deter and prevent the defendants from resuming their activities in support of radical Islamic terrorist ideology, and to deter others who, like the defendants, seek to join and serve brutal terrorist organizations."

Source: FoxNews

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https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-couple-gets-combined-20-years-supporting-islamic-state

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Biden backs legal ‘status quo’ of Al-Aqsa mosque

February 4, 2023

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden has underlined his support for the legal “status quo” of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound in a meeting at the White House with Jordanian King Abdullah II.

Biden, the king and Crown Prince Hussein had a private lunch on Thursday in which the US president “reaffirmed the close, enduring nature of the friendship between the United States and Jordan,” the White House said. They also both spoke with Iraq’s prime minister by phone.

Referring to growing tensions around the Al-Aqsa mosque — located on a site venerated both by Muslims and Jews inside Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem — Biden reaffirmed “the critical need to preserve the historic status quo”. He also recognised Jordan’s “crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” the White House said in a statement.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden reiterated the US position of “strong support for a two-state solution,” also thanking King Abdullah “for his close partnership and the role he and Jordan play as a force for stability in the Middle East”.

Reiterates American position of ‘strong support for a two-state solution’

While with the king, Biden spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani “to reaffirm US commitment to Iraq,” the White House said.

Biden hailed Sudani’s “efforts to strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty and independence,” the statement said, adding that Biden expressed support for the country’s “economic agenda and plans to ensure that Iraq’s economy is delivering for the Iraqi people”.

Biden and Sudani stressed their commitment to keeping the Islamic State militant group from being able to “threaten the Iraqi people or regional and international security.”

King Abdullah was invited to join the call, the White House said, and he “stressed Jordan’s support for Iraq, including through joint strategic infrastructure projects”.

Al-Aqsa mosque is the third-holiest place in Islam and the most sacred site to Jews, who refer to the compound as the Temple Mount.

Under a longstanding status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there.

Source: Dawn

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1735192/biden-backs-legal-status-quo-of-al-aqsa-mosque

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US giving cold feet to countries willing to normalize with Syria: Report

03 February 2023

The United States is actively working to discourage countries willing to normalize relations with Syria, according to a report.

The report, based on the summary of a recent UN Security Council meeting on Syria seen by al-Akhbar, shows that Washington has tried to draw “red lines” for countries seeking to normalize with Syria, return the Syrian refugees to their homeland, or help find a permanent solution to the crisis in the Arab country.

Regarding the return of refugees, the report said instead of encouraging a repatriation process, the United States is urging the host countries to “double their support” for refugee programs, despite the heavy social and economic burden the refugee crisis puts on some of these countries, most notably Lebanon.

Al-Akhbar said the European representatives present in the meeting conditioned their support for the reconstruction of Syria and the repatriation of refugees on Damascus accepting a “credible and comprehensive political process” – which is considered by many to mean a political process dictated by Washington.

The report said that the summary of the meeting, which was held on January 25, shows the US-led camp continues to block a rapprochement – facilitated by Russia and Iran – between Syria and Turkey.

Ankara resumed diplomatic contacts with Damascus late December, following a decade of severed ties in the wake of the crisis in Syria.

Turkey has now announced its willingness for a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.

Source: Press TV

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

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/02/03/697522/Syria-US-normalization-report

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Iran, Venezuela vow closer cooperation to thwart foreign pressures

04 February 2023

Venezuela and Iran are weighing plans to strengthen cooperation in various fields, and rapidly implement joint projects, calling for heightened vigilance in the face of US-led foreign pressures.

The plans were discussed during a meeting between Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Caracas on Friday.

The meeting revolved around ways to implement memoranda of understanding and joint projects between Tehran and Caracas.

Maduro and Amir-Abdollahian also underlined the need to boost exchange of viewpoints between officials from the two countries.

Amir-Abdollhian described the Venezuelan president’s trip to Iran in mid-June last year as a turning point in mutual ties between the two countries, and called for closer cooperation.

Maduro, for his part, pointed to the extensive experience of Venezuela and Iran in the face of common challenges, and stressed the need for improvement of bilateral ties.

Earlier, the Iranian foreign minister met with his Venezuelan counterpart Yvan Gil Pinto and underlined the importance of enhancing mutual cooperation in all fields.

He stated that senior Iranian and Venezuelan authorities are determined to enhance cooperation and thwart cruel sanctions against their respective countries.

Amir-Abdollahian also highlighted the importance of accelerating the implementation of joint economic projects within the framework of the agreements reached between the two countries’ officials.

The chief Iranian diplomat also touched down on the Ukraine conflict, and criticized Western governments for the prolongation of the crisis and using human rights as an instrument to fulfill their political interests.

Describing Venezuela and Iran as two important partners in the international arena, Gil Pinto called for closer cooperation and expansion of relations between Tehran and Caracas in various fields.

Moreover, Amir-Abdollahian had separate meetings with Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, Minister of Petroleum Tareck El Aissami, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela Jorge Rodríguez, where he called for closer political, parliamentary and energy cooperation between the two nations.

Both Iran and Venezuela, two petroleum-rich OPEC members, have found solidarity against shared common enemy the United States, which has subjected them to a regimen of economic sanctions for years.

While Venezuela is believed to have the world’s largest petroleum deposits, years of maintenance issues in the face of US sanctions have hampered its production.

Source: Press TV

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

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/02/04/697554/Iran,-Venezuela-vow-closer-cooperation,-joint-projects-in-face-of-foreign-pressures

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Ex-Clinton aide: Monica Lewinsky scandal caused Clinton admin to lose track of bin Laden

Feb 3, 2023

A former aide to President Bill Clinton revealed in a new book that the Monica Lewinsky scandal was such a distraction during the Clinton presidency that it caused the White House to lose track of the whereabouts of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks.

Political pollster Doug Schoen’s memoir details the years in which he worked as a White House adviser and senior campaign aide to then-President Clinton during his 1996 re-election campaign.

The book, “POWER: THE 50 TRUTHS, The Definitive Insider’s Guide,” claims that the administration allowed bin Laden to slip out of their grasp because the Lewinsky scandal was so all-encompassing, according to the New York Post.

Schoen spent five decades in politics working for both parties, including most recently for Donald Trump before he was elected, and also served three Israeli prime ministers and New York City mayors Mike Bloomberg and Ed Koch.

In the memoir, he describes Clinton as the “Elvis Presley of American Politics,” saying he was the “the most accomplished political operative I have ever met” who was a natural at winning over crowds while campaigning.

However, he notes that he was shocked by Clinton’s personal life and was disturbed by how he let it interfere with his professional responsibilities as president, including that he would have an affair with White House intern Lewinsky. The scandal bogged down his second term in office, leading to a House impeachment trial and a permanent black cloud over his legacy.

“I watched this unraveling happen close up, in painful slow motion, from inside the White House," Schoen writes in the book. “I watched the White House surreptitiously mount a whispering campaign to discredit Lewinsky.”

He goes on to recall that “there was also, I believe, a serious impact on national security. On Aug. 20, 1998, Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda in Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The strikes, named Operation Infinite Reach, missed Osama bin Laden… Beset by the Lewinsky affair, the Clinton Administration lost focus and leverage to pursue him aggressively and bin Laden struck again on 9/11.”

He also explains that the Lewinsky affair and other sex scandals Clinton was embroiled in played a part in Hillary Clinton losing the election to Donald Trump in 2016.

“By the time of her presidential bid, after several sexual scandals, he hung like a millstone around her neck. When she lost, I’m told by people close to them, Hillary and Bill were for a time not even on speaking terms. She seemed to blame him for her narrow loss,” Schoen writes. “What Bill considered innocent dalliances ended up hurting not just himself but also Hillary. Harming your wife also counts as self-harm.”

Source: Israel NationalNews

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

https://www.israelnationalnews.com/news/366924

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Elghawaby controversy has reignited debate over Islamophobia: mosque official

Jesse Feith

Feb 03, 2023

A group of 30 Quebecers including activists, lawyers and community leaders have signed an open letter in support of Amira Elghawaby, Canada’s new representative on combatting Islamophobia.

Elghawaby, a journalist and human rights activist, has faced calls to resign over previous comments she wrote about Quebecers’ support for the province’s secularism law, Bill 21.

In a letter emailed to media Friday, the group, which includes philosopher Charles Taylor, said Elghawaby has apologized and expressed her desire to engage in further dialogue.

“We are sensitive to the concerns that have been raised since her appointment,” the letter states, “but the challenge before her is a considerable one and we believe that Ms. Elghawaby should be given the opportunity to assume and pursue the mandate for which she was appointed.”

Elghawaby was appointed to the position on Jan. 26.

The backlash she has faced largely stems from a 2019 column in which she referenced a poll that found 88 per cent of Quebecers who held negative views of Islam supported Bill 21’s ban on religious symbols.

“Unfortunately,” she wrote at the time, “the majority of Quebecers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment.”

Other remarks have also resurfaced, including a social media post in which Elghawaby said she was “going to puke” over an opinion piece that stated French Canadians are the largest group in Canada to be “victimized by British colonialism.”

Elghawaby has clarified her remarks and apologized this week, but the Quebec government still believes she needs to resign. After meeting with her, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has also called on her to step down and for the position to be abolished.

In an interview Friday, BoufeldjaBenabdallah, a spokesperson for the Quebec City mosque who signed the open letter, said he did so in hopes the province can move past the controversy.

Benabdallah said the mosque was among those who asked Elghawaby to apologize for her comments, though he thinks she had already decided to do so.

“She made an indefensible mistake but has apologized. Now we need to give her a chance and she can be evaluated on her results,” Benabdallah said, adding how important he considers the position to be.

More frustrating to Benabdallah, he said, is how the conversation around Elghawaby’s appointment has reignited the debate over Islamophobia in Quebec.

“It’s what we wanted to avoid and yet we’ve plunged back into it. It has swelled to the point that now intellectuals in different media are again speaking about needing to redefine Islamaphobia,” he said.

Benabdallah recalled that the 2017 attack on the Quebec City mosque, which was fuelled by hatred toward Muslims, left six men dead, one man in a wheelchair and 17 children fatherless.

“We’re diving back into definitions and semantics. No,” Benabdallah added. “Let’s work on living together and finding mutual recognition to make a just and equal society.”

Prominent human-rights lawyer Julius Grey said he signed the letter because he believes Elghawaby’s previous comments shouldn’t disqualify her from the job and she deserves the chance to prove herself.

“I feel very strongly about Quebec’s tendency to take offence when it’s criticized,” Grey said on Friday.

“It’s not either an approval or disapproval of what (Elghawaby) said in her articles,” he added, “but a statement that nothing she said justified removing her from her position because people claim to be offended.”

For SamaaElibyari, who has known Elghawaby for 20 years, the backlash she has faced this week is unreasonable. Elibyari signed the letter on behalf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s Montreal chapter.

“I think what’s been attributed to her is much harsher than what she actually intended,” Elibyari said, noting Elghawaby was commenting on the poll’s findings in her column.

But it’s the timing of the backlash that bothers Elibyari the most, she said, coming on the heels of Muslim Awareness Week. The yearly campaign aims to help Quebecers learn more about the Muslim community.

“We really were delighted (with the appointment) and suddenly this relentless attack happens,” Elibyari said.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/quebec-activists-lawyers-express-support-for-embattled-amira-elghawaby/wcm/ebb55f0a-63dd-4e13-b436-30a88c911e5a

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US, allies, criticize Iran’s ‘inadequate response to UN nuclear watchdog report

04 February ,2023

The United States issued a joint statement with France, the United Kingdom and Germany on Friday criticizing Iran’s “inadequate” response to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on its nuclear program.

The UN nuclear watchdog issued a warning to Tehran on Wednesday after it found that changes had been made without prior notification at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant to equipment that can enrich uranium to up to 60 percent.

Iran claimed that an IAEA inspector had accidentally flagged the changes as being undeclared, and that the matter was later resolved.

“Iranian claims that this action was carried out in error are inadequate,” the joint statement said.

“We judge Iran’s actions based on the impartial and objective reports of the IAEA, not Iran’s purported intent.”

According to the IAEA report, seen by AFP, during an unannounced Fordo inspection on January 21, inspectors found that “two IR-6 centrifuge cascades... were interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran to the agency.”

The IAEA did not specify the kind of changes made to the interconnection between the cascades.

The four countries said that the change was “inconsistent with Iran’s obligations” under treaties and that “such lack of required notifications undermines the Agency’s ability to maintain timely detection at Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

“We recall that the production of high-enriched uranium by Iran at the Fordow Enrichment Plant carries significant proliferation-related risks and is without any credible civilian justification,” their statement said.

The Fordo site has been under increased scrutiny since Iran began producing uranium enriched to 60 percent there since November 2022, as well as at its Natanz site.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/04/US-allies-criticize-Iran-s-inadequate-response-to-UN-nuclear-watchdog-report-

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American sniper, weapons trainer for ISIS on trial in US

03 February ,2023

He had been brought from the battlefields of Syria to a New York lockup, a US citizen charged with serving as a sniper and weapons trainer for ISIS.

And even in jail, Ruslan MaratovichAsainov kept a makeshift version of the militants’ black flag right above the desk in his cell, according to trial testimony this week.

“What’s the big deal? It’s mine. It’s religious,” then-jail lieutenant Judith Woods recalled him saying when she went to confiscate the hand-drawn image in 2020.

Years after the fall of the extremist group’s self-proclaimed governance, the trial is a reminder of the enduring and far-reaching fallout of a war that drew tens of thousands of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq. Their home countries are still contending with what should become of them.

Jurors, who are expected to start deliberating as soon as Monday, have gotten a refresher course on ISIS’ gruesome rule and its sophisticated, social-media-savvy recruitment of distant supporters to come and take up arms. Prosecutors say Asainov did so and rose through the group’s ranks, eventually becoming an “emir” who taught other members to use weapons.

In post-arrest videos shown at his trial, he gives his occupation as “a sniper” to FBI agents and readily tells them that he provided instruction in everything from rifle maintenance to ballistics to adjusting for weather effects — and, of course, “how to actually pull the trigger.”

“Oh, it’s a long lesson,” he explains, sitting on a bed in a room where he was being held. “I would give, like, a three-hour lesson, just on that, just to pull the trigger.”

Jurors have seen photos alleged to be of Asainov in camouflage, aiming a rifle, and the handmade flag that Woods said she took from his cell. Witnesses have included his flabbergasted ex-wife, who testified that he morphed from a Brooklyn family man into a zealot.

She said he weighed in from Syria to complain about their daughter donning a Halloween costume and sent a photo of the bodies of what he said were comrades killed in a battle, according to the Daily News of New York.

Asainov chose not to testify. One of his lawyers, Susan Kellman, has said he went to Syria because he wanted to live under Islamic law. He has pleaded not guilty — a plea that Kellman entered on his behalf because, she said, he didn’t abide by the American legal system.

Nonetheless, the 46-year-old Asainov listened politely to government witnesses on a day this week, alternately stroking his beard and folding his arms across his chest.

ISIS fighters seized portions of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and declared the establishment of a so-called governance there, at a time when Syria was already convulsed by civil war. Fighting laid waste to multiple cities before Iraq’s prime minister declared the rule vanquished in 2017; the extremists lost the last of their territory two years later, though sporadic attacks persist even now.

During the height of the fighting, as many as 40,000 people from 120 countries showed up to join in, according to the United Nations. There is no comprehensive US statistic on Americans among those foreign fighters; a 2018 report by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism found at least 64 who had joined extremist fighting in Iraq and Syria since 2011.

Since ISIS’ defeat, some foreign members and their families have lingered in detention facilities in Syria because their countries refused to take them back. Other accused foreign fighters have returned to their countries, including some who were prosecuted. Recent US cases include a Kansas mother who led an all-female ISIS battalion, a Minnesota man who served in a battalion that prepared foreign fighters for suicide attacks in Europe, and a Detroit-area individual convicted this week of training with and then spending more than two years with the group.

Born in Kazakhstan, Asainov is a naturalized US citizen. He lived in Brooklyn starting in 1998, married and had a child.

Then he flew to Istanbul on a one-way ticket in December 2013 and made his way to Syria to join what he later described in a message as “the worst terrorist organization in the world that has ever existed,” authorities say.

“You heard of ISIS,” he said in another text message in January 2015, according to prosecutors’ court filings. “We will get you.”

By that April, Asainov told an acquaintance — in fact, a government informant — that he’d been fighting in Syria for about a year, according to court papers. They say that in various exchanges, he urged the informant to come to Syria and help with ISIS’ media operations, asked for $2,800 to buy a rifle scope, and sent photos of himself with fatigues and rifle, saying he “didn’t mean to show off” but was showing what was “just normal” in his new life.

Authorities announced in July 2019 that US-backed forces in Syria had captured Asainov and turned him over to the FBI.

Source: Al Arabiya

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/02/03/American-sniper-weapons-trainer-for-ISIS-on-trial-in-US

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South Asia

 

SIGAR: US Aid May 'Confer Legitimacy' Onto Islamic Emirate

By Bibi Amina Hakimi

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in its newly released report said that the “Taliban” derives revenue from this aid in the form of “licenses,” “taxes,” and “administrative fees” imposed on NGOs and their employees as a condition for operating in Afghanistan.

SIGAR also said that since the fall of the former government, the US has appropriated or otherwise made available over $8 billion in assistance to Afghanistan and Afghan refugees.

“This includes more than $2 billion, primarily for humanitarian and development aid in Afghanistan, and $3.5 billion transferred to a newly created Afghan Fund to recapitalize the Afghan central bank and for related purposes. In addition, the United States obligated $2.7 billion in FY 2022 for the Department of Defense (DOD) to transport, house, and feed Afghan evacuees,” the report said.

According to SIGAR, the US is also the largest donor to the United Nations humanitarian aid effort for Afghanistan.

SIGAR said that most gains made by Afghan women and girls over the past 20 years have now been wholly lost.

“By Taliban edict, women are being systematically erased from public life,” the report said. “They face severe restrictions on their movements outside their homes, requirements to be fully covered in public, limited opportunities for employment, and a ban on attending school past the sixth grade.”

SIGAR said that its judgment shows that the “Taliban regime’s institutionalized abuse of women” raises the important question for policymakers of whether the United States can continue providing aid to Afghanistan without benefiting or “propping up the Taliban.”

Several realities have to be taken into consideration, according to SIGAR:

“First, the Taliban regime derives revenue from this aid in the form of “licenses,” “taxes,” and “administrative fees” imposed on NGOs and their employees as a condition for operating in Afghanistan. Second, U.S. aid to Afghanistan, whether humanitarian in nature or of some other kind, may inadvertently confer legitimacy onto the Taliban, both internationally and domestically. Third, the Taliban’s erasure of women from public life has substantially hindered or prevented the provision of humanitarian aid. Fourth, a record twothirds of the country, or some 28.3 million Afghans, are depending on international food assistance this winter, according to the UN.”

SIGAR said that there is no certainty how much of this aid will reach its intended recipients and that there is also no guarantee that either providing or stopping that aid will succeed in changing the Taliban’s behavior.

Source: ToloNews

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

https://tolonews.com/index.php/afghanistan-181880

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Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: We Judge Islamic Emirate on Its Actions

By Fatima Adib

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations, said that the Islamic Emirate has not been recognized due to its policies imposed on women and girls in Afghanistan.

She further said that the US and United Nations are going to judge the Islamic Emirate on its actions.

"We are going to judge them on their actions and so for that reason, they are not recognized in the UN and we have not recognized them here ...," she said.

The Islamic Emirate has always reiterated that it has completed all the conditions required for official recognition.

The Islamic Emirate believes that it has made noticeable achievements during the past one and half years.

"We want UN officials to come  to Afghanistan and continue their interaction. They shared their concerns, we are working on them, the Islamic Emirate will endeavor to consider all concerns and problems until our islamic principles and country's values allow us," said Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Islamic Emirate. 

Meanwhile, political experts believe that Islamic Emirate` government has not met the expectations of the international community, therefore the current goverment has not been recognized.

"Receiving legitimation would be an easy task for the Islamic Emirate when they respect the participation of people fairly in a political structure, the Islamic Emirate should respect the right of education and work for women, said Naseer Ahmad Taraki, political expert.

Source: ToloNews

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

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan-181868

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Pakistani Police Detains Scores of Afghan Refugees in Islamabad

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 4, 2023

Pakistan police detained scores of Afghan nationals on Friday night in the ‘Barakaw’ locality in the capital Islamabad, according to official sources.

According to local sources, police has detained more than 20 Afghan refugees from the Barakaw neighborhood in Islamabad and taken them to an unknown location.

It is also stated that refugees’ mobile phones and laptops have been confiscated. However, neither the government of Pakistan nor the Embassy of Afghanistan in Islamabad has commented on the detentions. 

Following the brutal terror attack at a mosque in Peshawar which claimed the lives of hundreds of people, the Pakistan government decided to take serious actions against growing militancy and the resurgence of terrorism in the country.

As part of the wide range of initiatives to combat growing militancy, the Pakistani police has commenced a unique “search operation” across the country. They incarcerate undocumented foreign nationals including Afghans who are illegally residing in Pakistan.

Police conducted a similar search operation in Rawalpindi on Thursday night. They randomly entered into the houses of Afghan nationals, and asked for legal documents including visas, and stay permits.

“A few police officers entered my flat Thursday night, checked our official documents, and left our place without even bothering us, or conducting any major investigation,” said an Afghan citizen in Rawalpindi.

The incarceration of Afghan nationals by Pakistani police continues across the country. Over the past months, they have put undocumented Afghan citizens including women and children behind bars in Sindh province and deported hundred more to Afghanistan.

Source: Khaama Press

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

https://www.khaama.com/pakistani-police-detains-scores-of-afghan-refugees-in-islamabad/

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Pakistani Troops Kill Two Militants in Raid Near Afghanistan Border

By Fidel Rahmati

February 3, 2023

According to the Pakistani military, two rebels were killed during a raid on a terrorist hideout in a former Taliban stronghold on Pakistan’s border near Afghanistan.

On Friday, Pakistan officials released a statement that troops had found a weapons cache at a militant hideout in North Waziristan, located in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest of Pakistan.

Pakistani military routinely carries out such raids to find and arrest Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as Taliban Pakistan.

Today’s military raid comes after Friday’s shootout in North Waziristan, a district of the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and days after a suicide bomber attacked a mosque, killing 101 and injuring at least 225 in the provincial capital of Peshawar.

On the same day, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced that he would meet with Imran Khan, his predecessor and the current opposition leader, next week to discuss a response to the recent violence.

Source: Khaama Press

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

https://www.khaama.com/pakistani-troops-kill-two-militants-in-raid-near-afghanistan-border/

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No option on table to recognise Taliban regime: EU special envoy Niklasson

3 February, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], February 3 (ANI): As Afghanistan continues to face a humanitarian crisis and grapples with the worst political turmoil, the European Union (EU) special envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson said that they are not in favour of isolating Afghanistan but recognising the Taliban regime is also not an option, pointing at the discrimination against women and atrocities being undertaken by the organization, Khaama Press reported.

Taliban prohibited co-education in universities, separating morning classes for girls and afternoon classes for boys. Recently, the group also banned secondary education for female students. Although this decision has been withdrawn, the schools are yet to be reopened.

He also emphasised the importance of forming an inclusive administration and defending the rights of the Afghan people, including the rights of women and girls, as well as religious minorities.

The special envoy made his remarks during his recent visit to Pakistan where he raised the issue of how Afghanistan should be provided with humanitarian aid in difficult times, Khaama Press reported.

The latest prohibition enforced by Afghanistan’s de facto authorities barring women from working with NGOs coincides with the country’s worst economic situation, in which children and women suffer the most.

Recently, a United Nations (UN) delegation warned the Taliban that Afghanistan would be further isolated if it isolates its women, Afghanistan-based news agency Khaama Press reported.

The Taliban was called by UN legal experts to prioritize protecting the rights of women and girls under any circumstance. The international community was also urged to support Afghan women during these critical times.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, the Executive Director of UN Women SimaBahous, and the Assistant Secretary-General for UN political, peacebuilding, and peace operations Khaled Khiari, were part of the UN delegation visiting Kabul.

The aim of the four-day visit was to observe the situation, engage with de facto authorities and highlight the UN solidarity with the Afghan people, the delegation said in a statement.

Amid the ongoing violation of the rights of Afghan women under the Taliban regime, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid recently said in a statement that overturning restrictions against women is not a priority for the group, reported Khaama Press.

The Taliban said that it would not permit any acts that violate Islamic law, and the concerns regarding restrictions on women’s rights will be dealt with according to the established rule of the group in the country.

Source: ThePrint

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

https://theprint.in/world/no-option-on-table-to-recognise-taliban-regime-eu-special-envoy-niklasson/1352988/

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Why Bangladesh is seeking Saudi oil on credit after IMF success

SHEHAB SUMON

February 03, 2023

DHAKA: After securing a stabilization package from the International Monetary Fund this week, Bangladesh has asked Saudi Arabia for extended credit on oil supplies, in a move that experts say would further help its economy get back on track.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen met Riyadh’s Ambassador to Dhaka, Essa Al-Duhailan, earlier this week. The foreign ministry said after the meeting that Momen had asked the Kingdom to consider supplying crude and refined oil “on a deferred payment basis” to help Bangladesh meet its energy needs.

The request came shortly after the IMF approved a $4.7 billion loan for Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh is now passing through a period of constrained foreign exchange reserves and is having difficulty in terms of opening LCs (letters of credit) and also in terms of paying for our imports,” Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue in Dhaka, told Arab News on Friday.

“If we can get Saudi oil on a deferred payment basis, it will ease up Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves and help Bangladesh in terms of purchasing other necessary imports which require instantaneous payment.”

The IMF’s Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility package approved for Bangladesh on Jan. 30 are likely to boost the country’s outlook among its creditors, including Saudi Arabia, and demonstrate its capacity to pay back.

Unlike other regional countries, such as crisis-hit Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Bangladesh did not ask the fund for a bailout loan. The approved arrangements are a stabilization package to fund structural reform, ensure balance-of-payment stability, and a stable and sustainable economic position.

“The IMF granting of $4.7 billion will be helpful in providing positive signals to our development partners that the fundamentals of the Bangladeshi economy remain strong, and that Bangladesh is also ready to take up reforms,” Rahman said.

“From that perspective, it will also be helpful in projecting to Saudi Arabia that while we are asking for deferred payment, the Bangladeshi economy will be able to sustain good foreign reserves and when the negotiated time comes, we will be able to pay.”

Besides taking the pressure off its dollar reserves, the extended credit on oil supplies would also help Bangladesh with energy security. The South Asian nation, which is dependent on imported liquefied natural gas, has been struggling with an energy crisis in recent months.

Since mid-July, the government has been resorting to daily power cuts amid high global prices driven up by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Industries that do not receive sufficient power to run their operations have been forced to remain idle for several hours a day. In early October, about 80 percent of Bangladesh’s 168 million people were left without electricity after a grid failure caused by fuel shortages to over a third of the country’s gas-powered units.

Saudi Arabia supplies more than half of Bangladesh’s crude imports.

“We are bringing in oil, which is our regular, normal import, because our transport sector is fully dependent on this oil, and also partially our production,” said Prof. Mohammad Tamim, dean of chemical and material engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Importing energy and ensuring its uninterrupted supply are crucial to keeping the Bangladeshi economy afloat and helping it stabilize while other reforms requested by the IMF are implemented to fix structural problems.

Source: Arab News

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2244321/world

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