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Islamic World News ( 18 May 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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UK: Syed Hussain Set To Become Burton's First Muslim Mayor; Move Hailed As a "Progressive Step to Bring Communities Together"

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 May 2023


Syed Hussain



Warning after alleged spate of thefts at Newham mosques

First in district Muslim scout group puts call out for volunteers

Man attacked near Harlow Islamic Centre as council slams "cowardly" assault

Ukraine denies Russia destroyed Patriot missile defence system

Dozens of Serbia Schools Receive Bomb Threats Following Mass Shootings In Early May

Andover Muslim Community Seeks Larger Meeting Space



Islamabad High Court Bars Police from Arresting Imran Khan's Party Leaders

Pakistan Braces For Unrest as Imran Khan Fears another Arrest

$18bn penalty feared if Pakistan doesn’t complete Iran gas project

‘Road to Makkah’ Project: PM Shehbaz Thanks Kingdom OfSaudi Arabia For Including Pakistan

Marriyum holds PTI’s top leadership responsible for May 9 attacks


South Asia

China’s Growing Influence in Taliban-Ruled Afghanistan

US Representatives Concerned by Misuse of US Aid by Islamic Emirate

Won't use taxpayers' money: Bangladesh withdraws 'extra' security cover for Indian diplomats

Afghan Taliban Appoint Mawlawi Kabir Caretaker PM

Afghanistan Commerce Minister Off To Russia-Islamic World Forum



Karnataka HC Grants Bail To Cow Vigilante Accused Of Killing A Muslim Man

SC to Hear on Friday Appeal against Gyanvapi Mosque’s Scientific Survey

Zafaryab Jilani, Who Represented Muslims in Babri Case, Dies At 73

Ayodhya Mosque Project Hangs In Balance over Lack of Funds and Other Hurdles

Ahead of LS polls, RSS-linked Muslim body to launch nationwide campaign to woo minority community

The Kerala Story is a 'great service to Islam', says Sudipto Sen

Hindu man assaulted after locals spot him with Muslim woman on bike in Patna



400 Israeli Settlers Invade Al-Aqsa Mosque Ahead of Flag March

Tensions ahead of contentious Flag March through Jerusalem Old City’s Muslim Quarter

Prime Minister Shtayyeh: Christian and Muslim holy places are targets of settler attacks

Iran leader says Hajj aims to unify Muslims against Israel, arrogance

Israeli Mk to Invade Aqsa Mosque Thursday morning

Palestinian Islamic Jihad calls the shots in Gaza from Lebanon

Iran's Ebadi in Vienna on a Mission against "Oppressive" Islamic Republic


North America

"We Simply Cannot Normalize These Incidents": Suspected Arson Damages St. Paul Islamic Centre

US State Department Grants Access to Classified Cable on Chaotic Afghanistan Withdrawal

Leaders Condemn Sixth Incident of Vandalism againstTwin Cities Mosques, Suspect Remains At Large

Islamic extremist who killed 8 in NYC terrorist attack gets 10 life sentences plus 260 years

Man charged after car driven at worshippers at 2 Toronto mosques: police

Muslim Groups Ask Court to Quash Quebec's 'Discriminatory' School Prayer Ban

Refuting Mahmoud Abbas’ UN Lies, Nearly 4 Million Muslims Visited the Temple Mount during Ramadan

St. Paul mosque fire believed to be arson, community leaders 'disgusted'

State and local leaders condemn arson at St. Paul mosque, latest in series of incidents



64 Islamic Scholars Killed By Boko Haram and ISWP, Since the Inception of the Terrorists’ Activities in Nigeria

Islamic Groups Organise Training On Combating Extremism

Crisis hits Niger Imam Forum as three sects break out

Using Islam to subjugate women senseless; North’s backwardness self-imposed: Adamu


Arab World

World Must Ensure Chemical Weapons Do Not Re-Emerge and Spread, Says Saudi Envoyto the Netherlands

US-Saudi Business Council invites American delegation on business-development mission to Kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah readies itself to welcome Arab League summit delegates

Saudi men ‘more open’ to having cosmetic procedures

Pakistani cyclist, traveling through Saudi Arabia, falls in love with Kingdom’s natural beauty, hospitality


Southeast Asia

Home Minister: ‘Allah’ Appeal Withdrawn To Give Govt Time To Study Schism In 1986 Directives

Right to use ‘Allah’ a good thing to come from unity govt, says Sarawak’s Telang Usan rep

‘Allah’ issue: Proposal for conference of rulers shows gov’t protects sanctity of Islam

Timing of ‘Allah’ appeal withdrawal throws neutral Malay vote up in the air, analysts say

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



UK: Syed Hussain Set To Become Burton's First Muslim Mayor; Move Hailed As a "Progressive Step to Bring Communities Together"


Syed Hussain


By Richard Castle

18 MAY 2023

East Staffordshire's new mayor has been announced - and for the first time in history, a Muslim councillor is set to be appointed. Syed Hussain will take on the mayoral chains at the borough's new Labour administration's first full council meeting on May 26.

The party has hailed the move as a "progressive step to bring communities across our towns together". But socio-political statements aside, Councillor Hussain has been putting in groundwork over eight years as East Staffordshire borough for Anglesey - one of the most deprived areas of Burton.

It has a relatively high first-and-second-generation immigrant population, with many residents StaffordshireLive has spoken to praising Councillor Hussain for his community work - and representing them at Burton Town Hall.

Dozens of Muslim families have lived in its streets for generations and Councillor Syed having built a loyal following, who, if election results are anything to go by, trust him implicitly.

However, the Anglesey resident and dad of three - also deputy leader of the opposition at Staffordshire County Council - has not been afraid to call people out when he identifies problems in his community.

Talking about crime issues after a stabbing in Uxbridge Street - a melting pot of cultures, corner shops and takeaways - in 2020, he said: "Residents are petrified. The majority are law-abiding citizens, but because of these incidents, they are frightened to be in their area.

"There have been a few incidents and it's causing a domino effect. People feel they cannot open their doors and windows because of abuse, a pungent smell of cannabis and brawls."

He suspected people who took issue with his work to crack down on covid rule-breakers during lockdown were behind the vandalisation of his car in 2021.

And Councillor Hussain has never been scared to embrace publicity to get his messages across. Down the years, he has been pictured standing in a massive sinkhole in Uxbridge Street and lying in a giant pothole in Walker Street in a bid to encourage highways bosses to act.

Environmental work has included regularly being seen out in Uxbridge Street picking up rubbish and lobbying the authorities to act on its long-standing fly-tipping problems.

A regular backer of charities, he has secured county council grants for organisations including the Love Inspire Foundation, which helps support families in Burton.

But in 2020, he was the subject of more negative headlines when he was accused of 'bullying' a Queen Street Community Centre employee.

Despite strongly denying the allegations, he was found by standards board chiefs to have breached East Staffordshire Borough Council's code of conduct.

Announcing Councillor Hussain's new post, the Burton and Uttoxeter Labour Party wrote on its Facebook page: "Councillor Syed Hussain will make history at the full council meeting on May 26 as he is set to become the first Muslim mayor of East Staffordshire.

"In one of its first moves since taking control on May 5, Labour will make this progressive step to bring communities across our towns together."

StaffordshireLive has been unable to contact Councillor Hussain for comment on his appointment.


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Turn ‘Dozens of ‘Terrorists’ Holed Up At Your House’ In or Be Ready For Action, Imran Told


LAHORE: Police personnel search commuters during snap checking at Sundar Das Road near Zaman Park, on Wednesday.—PPI


May 18, 2023

LAHORE: A large number of police officials surrounded the residence of PTI chairman at Zaman Park after the Punjab caretaker government gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the former prime minister, asking Imran Khan to hand over dozens of ‘terrorists’ allegedly holed up at his house in the provincial capi­tal or face police action.

According to late-night reports, at least 1,500 police officials armed with teargas and heavy machinery were advancing towards Zaman Park to encircle it from all sides by dividing the deployment into three security layers.

Elite police commandos and other trained personnel would lead the operation while Rangers were kept on high alert to control the law and order situation in case of clashes.

Police also blocked all roads leading to Zaman Park by making heavy deployment of force and erected barriers on Jail Road, The Mall, Allama Iqbal Road, and Dharampura, suspending all kinds of traffic to and from Zaman Park.

However, caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said the operation would not take place before the lapse of 24-hour deadline at 2pm on Thursday (today).

As scores of special police vans, water cannons, prison vans, bulldozers, heavy machinery, teargas shells, and elite police force commandos encircled Zaman Park, there were reports that Imran Khan would also be arrested alongside the alleged “miscreants”, almost 40, hiding at his house.

Informed sources claimed there was a strong possibility that Mr Khan would also be arrested and would be tried along with other party leaders and workers under the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act in connection with attacks on military installations.

They claimed that the matter of Mr Khan’s arrest came under discussion at Tuesday’s National Secu­rity Committee meeting which endorsed the decision to try all ‘miscreants’ involved in attacks on military installations during May 9 violence.

They said the same decision was later conveyed to Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar to prepare the officials for the operation against the suspects at Zaman Park.

The IG summoned a meeting attended by senior police officers. The details of the meeting were restricted to police high-ups and key government officials due to ‘highly sensitive’ information. A source said the IG gave a nod to the operation, directing the officers to make the Elite Force commandos part of the action.

Increase in deployment

On Tuesday night, a heavy contingent of police was deployed near Mr Khan’s residence. The strength was increased manifold on Wednesday when hundreds of more personnel reached there to boost the number of policemen deployed there. The strength was increased to avert a possible stand-off between the PTI workers and the law enforcers as witnessed in March and last week when thousands of party supporters allegedly attacked the police, injuring more than two hundred police personnel.

‘30-40 terrorists’ at Zaman Park

At a press conference on Wednesday, Amir Mir claimed that ‘30 to 40’ all­e­ged terrorists were hiding at Mr Khan’s residence giving the ousted premier an ultimatum of 24 hours to hand them over to police or face action.

“We have received an intelligence report that some 30 to 40 terrorists who were involved in attacking the military installations, especially Lahore Corps Commander House on May 9, are hiding at the residence of Imran Khan. We give an ultimatum of 24 hours to the PTI to hand them over to police or face stern action,” Mr Mir claimed.

PTI leader Hassaan Niazi, nephew of Imran Khan, was also hiding there as he was wanted in such attacks, and asked the PTI leadership to stop patronising alleged miscreants and immediately hand them over to police.

“Initial inquiry has proved that the miscreants who attacked the army installations have taken shelter in Zaman Park. The PTI has become a non-state actor like the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan after being stripped of power, which does not believe in upholding the Constitution and law, and challenges the writ of the state through mischief,” the caretaker minister added.

Mr Mir said Imran Khan had given a clear message to the workers to carry out arson attacks in case of his arrest. In the past, he repeatedly lashed out at the institutions responsible for national security and often incited his workers against the army, he alleged.

When asked why Punjab police did not stop the protesters/rioters, he said the government did not want bloodshed. “But if this time anyone tried to take the law into the hand he would be dealt with iron hands,” he claimed.

Replying to another question, the minister said this time given a free hand to deal with these rioters and arrest all the miscreants and their facilitators involved in the incidents of May 9.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government said the identification of 542 people and 305 vehicles and motorcycles had been completed through safe city cameras.

“Concrete evidence of conversations and messaging between miscreants and certain political leaders has emerged through geo-fencing,” the provincial government said and added these cases would be brought to logical conclusions.

The military top command announced trying the rioters under the Army Act. Mr Mir said all cases would not be tried in military courts. “Some cases will be tried in military courts and remaining in the anti-terrorism courts,” he added.


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UK-Based Group Documents Rights Abuses since Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan with ‘Witness Map’


FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2021 file photo, Afghan journalists Neamatullah Naqdi, 28, left, and Taqi Daryabi, 22, pose for a portrait at the Etilaat Roz daily's office, after they were detained and beaten by Taliban forces while covering a women's protest, in Kabul, Afghanistan. A U.K.-based rights group on Thursday, May 18, 2023 launched an interactive map documenting human rights abuses and violence against civilians since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan nearly two years ago. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)


By Rahim Faiez


ISLAMABAD (AP) — A U.K.-based rights group on Thursday launched an interactive map documenting rampant human rights abuses and violence against civilians since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan nearly two years ago.

The documented violations — committed by both the Taliban and militant groups such as the Islamic State group — paint a harrowing picture of present-day Afghanistan. The project by the independent, non-profit Centre for Information Resilience is meant to draw wider attention to the surge in abuses against civilians, journalists, and ethnic minorities across the troubled country.

With more than 1,300 data points of incidents since Aug. 17, 2021, the map is part of the center’s Afghan Witness initiative.

“The map reveals the violence and human rights abuses occurring under Taliban rule against women, independent journalists, and minorities, sometimes in the form of ad hoc beatings in the street or staged public punishment, as well as violence used to suppress peaceful protest and armed resistance,” said Benjamin Den Braber, lead analyst at Afghan Witness.

He described the map as a “transparent record of verified human rights violations in Afghanistan.”

“What we can verify represents only the tip of the iceberg of human rights violations in Afghanistan; many abuses are hidden from view and never recorded online,” Den Braber said.

The Britain-based center has used open-source data and techniques to investigate human rights abuses, war crimes and disinformation in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Myanmar. To develop the map, the Afghan Witness team collaborated with C4ADS, a U.S.-based group that uses data-driven analysis and technology to shine a light on conflicts, instability, environmental crimes and human rights abuses.

“Our ability to tell the stories of the Taliban’s human rights abuses through visualization is a powerful tool,” said Lawrence Henderson, a program director at C4ADS.

Earlier this month, a report released by the United Nations strongly criticized the Taliban for carrying out public executions, lashings and stoning, and urged them to halt such practices. In the past six months alone, 274 men, 58 women and two boys were publicly flogged in Afghanistan, according to the report by the U.N. mission in Afghanistan.

The Taliban seized Afghanistan in mid-April 2021, during the last weeks of the U.S. and NATO troops drawdown from the country. Despite initial promises of a more moderate rule than during their previous stint in power in the 1990s, they swiftly moved to impose harsh measures in line with their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.

In the months following their takeover, the Taliban gradually tightened restrictions on women, barring them from public spaces, such as parks and gyms, and banning education for girls beyond the sixth grade.

The restrictions have triggered an international uproar, increasing the country’s isolation at a time when its economy has collapsed — and worsening a humanitarian crisis.

The Afghan Witness map contains more than 450 pieces of footage showing attacks on civilians, more than 100 clips of attacks in the minority Shiite and Hazara communities, and more than 350 videos of protests. A viewer can search for a particular incident using keywords, access footage, original tweets or a report about it.

“Afghan Witness investigates, verifies where possible and archives data in the hope that one day accountability mechanisms will bring the perpetrators to justice,” said David Osborn, a team leader at Afghan Witness.

A statement released Thursday alongside the map, which can be accessed through the website of the Center for Information Resilience, said that the project “will continue to work with journalists around the world and civil society in Afghanistan to increase access to accurate, reliable sources of information.”


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Offering Frankincense: Muslims Deny Attempting To Forcibly Enter Nashik Temple, Maharashtra Orders Probe


Trimbakeshwar temple in Nashik district. | Trimbakeshwar temple trust



Muslim community leaders in Maharashtra have expressed dismay at the state government’s decision to set up a Special Investigation Team to inquire into an alleged attempt to forcibly enter the Trimbakeshwar temple in Nashik, reported The Indian Express on Tuesday.

The order was issued after the temple authorities filed a police complaint alleging that on May 13, a group of Muslims attempted to offer a Chadar – a ceremonial cloth printed with religious verses – to Hindu deity Shiva. Four Muslim men have been arrested in the case, according to India Today.

However, Muslim community leaders have claimed that they were only following a decades-old ritual of offering frankincense at the entrance of the temple. The temple authorities have denied that any such tradition exists.

Avez Kokni, former president of the Trimbakeshwar civic body, told The Indian Express that the practice of sending fumes of frankincense from the temple premises to a nearby dargah during an annual gathering has been going on for decades and the Hindu community never objected to it.

“We are surprised that this issue has now been raked up and it has taken a communal turn,” he told the newspaper.

In Nashik, Muslims conduct a procession during the Urs – the death anniversary of a Sufi saint – that passes in front of the temple and enters the dargah of Hazrat Gulab Shah Wali.

“Every year, Muslims stand on the first step of the temple at the entrance and send the fragrant smoke rising from the burning frankincense inside the premises,” Kokni said. “This has been done for years as a mark of respect. The procession then moves toward the dargah. On Saturday, too, a similar thing happened. At no time was an attempt made to storm the temple.”

Those who participated in the procession said that only four or five of them had entered the temple premises to conduct the ritual.

“It is an age-old practice and a symbol of syncretism,” Parvez Kokni, former chairman of the Nashik District Central Cooperative Bank, told The Indian Express. “This ritual has been taking place for ages. Muslims make up a very small percentage of the city’s population and have stayed in harmony... I am surprised why this age-old custom is now suddenly being questioned.”

Those who participated in the ritual submitted videos to the police to show that the same practice had been carried out in previous years too.

“We were called by the police,” Salim Sayyed, one of the participants, told the newspaper. “I told them that I remember doing this ritual since I was a child. My forefathers did the same. However, if we have hurt anyone’s feelings I apologise.”

However, Pankaj Bhutada, a temple trustee, told The Indian Express, that there was no mention of any such ritual in their official records. “Just because they managed to do it once, [it] does not become practice.”

Nashik (Rural) Superintendent of Police Shahji Umap said that security guards at the temple had stopped the Muslim men at the entrance as the visiting hours had ended. “They returned from the gate,” he added. “The members of the Muslim community have now said that if what they did hurt anyone’s religious feelings they will not repeat the act.”


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Iranian-Backed Shi’ite Militia Leader, Qais Al-Khazali, Says Mossad Used Prostitute to Kill Medieval Imam


Iraqi Shi'ite Militia Leader Qais Al-Khazali


MAY 17, 2023

The Iranian regime-backed leader Qais Al-Khazali of the Iraqi Shi’ite militia claimed that the Mossad used a prostitute to assassinate the first Shi’ite Imam in the seventh century.

The Middle East Media Research Institute first documented and translated Al-Khazali’s anti-Semitic diatribe that appeared in May. 

"The Jews! The Jews! The Jews! They assassinated Hasan, the son of [Imam] Ali, and they did this by using a woman. The Umayyads were mere collaborators with the Jews. Then they assassinated Imam Hussein. It was the same perpetrators, only they used different people,” said Al-Khazali.

Al-Khazali continued: "Qatam was a prostitute. What had been the modus operandi of the Israeli-Jewish intelligence agency? What do we know about them? How do they get their sources? It is either through money or through women. Right? In this case, it was a woman. There is no doubt that she worked for the Israeli Mossad back then, and through her, they recruited [Imam Ali's killer]. Abd Al-Satan Ibn Criminal [i.e. Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Mujlam]."

Al-Khazali sanctioned by US Department of Treasury

The US Department of Treasury sanctioned Qais Al-Khazali for human rights abuses in 2019. According to Treasury,” Qais al-Khazali is Secretary General of the Iran-backed Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia in Iraq.  During the late 2019 protests in many cities in Iraq, AAH has opened fire on and killed protesters. “

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion approved the establishment of the Mossad in 1949 which took place in the 20th century.


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Warning after alleged spate of thefts at Newham mosques

17th May

A number of "disturbing" thefts have allegedly been carried out at mosques across Newham.

According to Newham Muslim Forum, the incidents have affected at least six mosques.

The forum said the most recent incident occurred on May 13 at Anjuman-e-Islamia Newham, High Street North, East Ham, where multiple wallets and mobile phones were allegedly stolen.

A Met Police spokesperson confirmed that they were contacted on May 13 regarding an allegation of theft from a mosque in High Street North, Newham.

There have been no arrests and enquiries continue.

Other mosques allegedly affected include Quwwatul Islam, Masjid-e-Ilyas, Masjid-e-Tauheed, Masjid Bilal and Masjid al Hira.

Police could not confirm these other allegations of thefts.

The forum is urging mosques in Newham and wider London to review their security arrangements and warn worshippers not to leave valuables or personal belongings unattended.

Kamran Qureshi, of Anjuman-e-Islamia Newham, said: “We are here to raise awareness about this issue and to urge the local authorities to take swift action in identifying and apprehending the culprit.

“It is highly disturbing to think that places of worship, which are supposed to be sanctuaries of peace and safety, are being targeted by criminals.

“We condemn such acts of criminality and call upon all members of the community to come forward and report any other incidents.”

Anas Khan, of Newham Muslim Forum, added: “We understand the importance of our local mosques to the local community and the impact that these incidents can have on their sense of safety and security.

“Masjids are safe havens and open to everyone and we will come together as communities to address the issue.

“We will monitor the situation closely and provide updates as necessary.”


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First in district Muslim scout group puts call out for volunteers

17th May

By Jo Winrow

A MUSLIM scout group is holding a recruitment drive this weekend looking for volunteers to join them or start their own groups.

1st Heckmondwike Ansaar Scouts is holding the adult recruitment day on Saturday from 2pm to 5pm, in an effort to meet the increasing demand from within the local Muslim community.

No previous experience is required, and training will be provided, with plenty of behind-the-scenes roles available. Volunteering can be done on a weekly basis or on an ad hoc basis too.

Leader at the first Muslim scout group in the Heavy Woollen district, Abdul Latif said: “I volunteer to give our next generation skills for life and confidence and make them into go-getters and doers.”

The recruitment day takes place at the Al Hikmah Centre, Track Road, Batley.


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Man attacked near Harlow Islamic Centre as council slams "cowardly" assault

17 MAY 2023

Police are investigating an allegation of racially aggravated assault on the outskirts of Harlow, close to an Islamic Centre. Officers were made aware of the allegation after a man reported being assaulted in Parringdon Road in Harlow on Sunday (May 14).

The incident is reported as taking place on Parringdon Road on the edge of Harlow, a road on the Kingsmoor Christian Centre and Harlow Islamic Centre are near to. It's not known whether any of these communities were directly involved.

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust has been approached for further information. Essex Police said the victim was driving his car when he had cause to stop his car.

There was a verbal exchange with a group of young people who were with an older male before the driver got out of his car. He was then subjected to racial abuse and assaulted.

Inspector Natalie Rooney, Harlow Community Policing Team, who leads the investigation, said: “Officers from my community policing team are investigating this incident and supporting the victim. We take reports of hate crimes very seriously and we will not tolerate this behaviour within Harlow.

"We will continue to work with our communities to stamp out this behaviour and bring offenders to justice. I would ask anyone who has information that could help our enquiry, to contact us.”

This investigation is ongoing, and no arrests have been made at this stage.

Harlow Council said they are "concerned" by the allegation and said it "was a cowardly act, and such attacks have no place in our town." A spokesperson added: "Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this incident. Our Community Safety team is stepping up patrols in the area to reassure the community.

"The police are investigating, and we are urging anyone with any information to call Essex Police on 101 quoting incident 971 of 14 May. Information can also be reported online."

Essex Police said: "If you have any information, CCTV, dash cam or other footage in relation to this incident, then please get in contact with us. You can let us know by submitting a report on our website or by using our online Live Chat service available Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) between 10am-9pm.

"Alternatively, you can call us on 101. In an emergency always call 999. If you would like to make an anonymous report, you can contact independent charity on Twitter at @CrimestoppersUK, by visiting their website or by calling 0800 555 111."

Please quote crime reference 42/87024/23 when providing any information to make sure it gets to the right person as quickly as possible.


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Ukraine denies Russia destroyed Patriot missile defence system

May 17, 2023

KYIV: Ukraine denied on Wednesday that a Russian hypersonic missile had destroyed a US-made Patriot missile defence system during an air strike on Kyiv.

Russia's defence ministry made the assertion on Tuesday after an overnight air attack on the Ukrainian capital. Two US officials later said a Patriot system had probably suffered damage but that it did not appear to have been destroyed.

"I want to say: do not worry about the fate of the Patriot," Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat told Ukrainian television.

He ruled out the possibility of a Russian "Kinzhal" missile knocking out a Patriot system.

"Destroying the system with some kind of 'Kinzhal', it's impossible. Everything that they say there, it can remain in their propaganda archive," he said.

The Patriot system is one of an array of sophisticated air defence units supplied by the West to help Ukraine repel Russian air strikes following Moscow's invasion last year.

It is considered one of the most advanced US air defence systems, including against aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, and typically includes launchers along with radar and other support vehicles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has touted the Kinzhal missile as proof that his country has world-beating military hardware.

Ukraine said it had shot down six Kinzhal missiles on Tuesday, but Russia denied this. It was not clear which Western weapon Ukraine used, and the Pentagon had no immediate comment.


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Dozens of Serbia schools receive bomb threats following mass shootings in early May

May 18, 2023

BELGRADE: Dozens of Serbian schools on Wednesday received bomb threats, the education ministry said, amid security concerns following two mass shootings early this month, including one in an elementary school.

The education ministry said 78 elementary schools and 37 high schools in Belgrade received warnings by email early on Wednesday that explosive devices had allegedly been planted.

Classes were postponed and students evacuated as police checked the buildings. There have been no reports that bombs were found in any of the schools, and police are yet to issue their report.

Similar multiple threats have been sent to school addresses in the past, in Serbia and other countries in the region, and have proven false each time. However, the threats could further heighten security fears after the May 3 and May 4 shootings that left 18 people dead and 20 injured.

Authorities already have deployed police in schools and launched a gun crackdown.

The first shooting happened at an elementary school in central Belgrade when a 13-year-old boy took his father's gun and opened fire. A day later, a 20-year-old shot randomly at people with an automatic weapon in two villages south of Belgrade,

The shootings stunned Serbia and sparked calls for action. Tens of thousands marched in two protests against violence after the shootings, and more protests are planned on Friday.

Opposition parties are demanding that ministers of interior and intelligence chief resign and that two pro-government networks be stripped of nation-wide broadcast licenses because of airing violent content and hosting war criminals and crime figures on their program.

Opponents also have accused populist President Aleksandar Vucic of hate speech against critics and a crackdown on democratic freedoms, which they say fuel tensions and divisions in the troubled Balkan nation.

Vucic has denied this. He has called an own rally for May 26 while suggesting a snap election could be held by September.


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Andover Muslim community seeks larger meeting space

By Kiran Sajan

The Muslim community in Andover is facing a space crunch as its current meeting place can no longer accommodate its rapidly expanding membership.

The Andover Muslim Community Association, currently meeting at 48 East Street, has experienced a significant rise in members over the past few years, making it increasingly challenging to fit approximately 1,000 people into their current location.

Rahela Khanom, who founded the association in 2005, expressed the community's struggle to accommodate everyone for prayer during the month of Ramadan and their earnest desire to secure a more spacious venue.

"There are a lot more Muslims in Andover, with people coming from Turkey, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Palestine, and more," said Rahela, who also owns the Shahi Raj restaurant at 4A Winchester Street.

"We started renting 48 East Street from the council around 10 years back, but we need a bigger place to meet and pray."

The former United Reformed Church building, located adjacent to 48 East Street, has remained vacant for nearly a year due to declining congregation numbers, leading to its permanent closure.

Having been a landmark on East Street since its completion in 1702, the church is the oldest religious building in Andover.

While some parts of the building are listed, there is some uncertainty and debate among community members regarding which parts specifically hold that designation.

Members of the Muslim community, including Rahela, used to gather once a week at the church when retired minister Rev Jill Bentall ran a luncheon club there.

Currently, discussions are taking place between the Muslim community and the United Reformed Church to explore the possibility of utilising the former church's space.

"We believe it would be best if we could use the former church's space as we will be praying to the same God," Rahela said.

"If the church is planning to rent out or sell the building, we would be eager to seize the opportunity. It would be beneficial for the community and the building itself, as it would continue to serve as a place of worship."

United Reformed Church has been contacted for a comment on whether they are planning to sell the building.


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Islamabad High Court bars police from arresting Imran Khan's party leaders

May 17, 2023

ISLAMABAD: After Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior vice president Fawad Chaudhry, Islamabad High Court barred the authorities from arresting the party's leader Shireen Mazari and Falak Naz Chitrali, Geo News reported.

The court also directed the authorities to not investigate further the two politicians when they appeared before the judge hearing a plea seeking relief from further arrest.

"No further investigation is needed from Falak Naz and Shireen Mazari," the judge remarked.

The court then went on to order authorities against their arrest, directing them to present details of the cases filed against them, reported Geo News.

Earlier, on Tuesday, the PTI leaders were re-arrested from outside the jail immediately after being released on High Court's orders.

They were arrested during the countrywide riots that erupted after PTI Chairman Imran Khan was taken into custody by Rangers personnel on May 9 following orders of the National Accountability Bureau, according to Geo News.

"Senator Falak Naz's family and I (& our lawyer) were waiting outside Adiala Jail to receive amma and Falak Naz. Islamabad Police arrested them from outside the jail while we were waiting outside the exit they told us to wait at. We have no idea where they have been taken," Mazari-Hazir tweeted last evening.

Islamabad High Court's Justice Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb had already declared Mazari's arrest under Section 3 of Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) illegal and ordered her release.

The decision was announced on a petition filed by the former human rights minister's daughter. The bench also ordered the release of Senator Naz who was apprehended under the same law as Mazari.

Previously, the High Court barred Islamabad Police from arresting Fawad Chaudhry till May 17 (today), reported Geo News.

Chaudhry had earlier returned to the Islamabad High Court seeking protection, shortly after the court issued his release.

The IHC on Tuesday ordered authorities to release the PTI leader from custody after he was detained on May 10 and declared his arrest "illegal".


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Pakistan braces for unrest as Imran Khan fears another arrest

May 18, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former premier Imran Khan said the police have surrounded his house in the eastern city of Lahore to potentially arrest him again, stoking concerns of a repeat of the violent clashes between his supporters and security forces last week.

A minister in Punjab province claimed Khan was sheltering dozens of people, who allegedly attacked state and military property. The ex-cricket star, who denies the allegations, was given until 2pm local time, Thursday, to hand over the suspects.

This marks a further escalation in the showdown between Khan, 70, and the military that has an outsized influence on security and domestic politics. In recent days, the army has publicly condemned those who they have identified as Khan supporters for instigating last week’s attacks and vowed to try the perpetrators in military courts.

“This is the most unprecedented crackdown,” Khan told the UK’s Channel 4 in an interview posted on Thursday morning. “In 27 years of my party’s existence, we have never indulged in violent protests, now 7,500 people have been arrested in my party. All the senior leadership has been arrested.”

Khan has called for a judicial commission headed by the chief justice to probe the attacks on state and military property. He has warned the government may take the next step of banning his party since it has started calling the group a terrorist organization.

“There are no raid or arrest plans as of now. The deployment is normal and routine,” a Lahore police spokesman said by phone. Khan’s residence already had a heavy police contingent present outside for security but this was also the scene of at least two other attempts to arrest him in March.


The politician, known for his firebrand speeches, was dramatically arrested last Tuesday in the country’s capital Islamabad by paramilitary troops in relation to a corruption case. The Supreme Court later ordered his release calling his detention illegal and Khan’s legal team has obtained protective bail for scores of cases to prevent another arrest.

At least eight people were killed and hundreds injured in the clashes that broke out between Khan’s supporters and security forces following his arrest. The escalating political crisis takes place as Pakistan faces its worst economic distress in decades, including Asia’s fastest inflation, and is struggling to revive a $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund bailout.

Khan was ousted as premier by a no confidence vote in April last year and has since sought to return to power by pushing for early elections. His rival, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, rejected his demands and said the government will complete its term that ends in August.

To force national polls, Khan has pushed for by-elections and his party has dissolved the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it has majorities. The government has refused to hold those polls, saying there’s inadequate funds and these provincial elections should be held at the same time as the national vote later this year.

Khan remains wildly popular with Pakistanis, with an opinion survey showing that a majority blame the current government for the economic crisis and the tough IMF reforms. His appearance at rallies often draws tens of thousands of people.

It was at one such rally in November that Khan was shot in the leg. He blamed the government and the military for orchestrating an assassination attempt, which they have strongly denied. Things came to a head earlier in May when Khan revived those allegations at a weekend gathering and on social media, prompting the military to have a very public war of words with him before his arrest last week.

Khan’s allegations stem from Pakistan’s own history where no prime minister has served a full five-year term in office. Those who lasted more than two years were either exiled or killed, including Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007 during a campaign stop in an attack similar to the one against Khan in November.

“They are too scared for elections because they are scared I will win,” Khan later told Al Jazeera, referring to the military and the ruling coalition. “They are doing everything to make sure I am out of the election race.”


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$18bn penalty feared if Pakistan doesn’t complete Iran gas project

May 18, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee expressed concern on Wednesday that Pakistan would have to pay a staggering amount of $18 billion in penalty if the country did not go ahead with the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project.

“The US should pay the penalty if it does not approve of Pakistan and Iran going ahead with the gas pipeline project. The USA will have to do away with double standards — being lenient with India in meeting its energy needs while punishing Pakistan for the same,” said Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Noor Alam Khan.

The observation came after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) informed the PAC through a letter that a meeting with the US ambassador would be arranged after his return from Washington.

The letter was in reply to a concern arising out from deliberations that the PAC held on March 1.

The ministry said: “In view of great importance of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project in the emerging regional situation, this ministry has been exploring all possible options, including close engagements and meaningful exchanges with relevant parties, including Iran and the USA.

“In this regard a technical team from the petroleum division visited Tehran in January to discuss ways and means to proceed with the IP gas project. The Prime Minister’s Office has held inter-ministerial meetings of all stakeholders and agreed on an action plan to proceed on the IP gas pipeline project.”

In reply to a question on the purchase of petroleum products from Russia, the foreign affairs ministry said an agreement had been signed with Moscow for purchasing a test cargo of crude oil which would be reaching Pakistan soon.

“Pakistan was committed to the Pak Stream Pipeline project. The two sides are negotiating outstanding issues,” the ministry said.

Recovery from petroleum firms

The committee directed the ministry to recover “money embezzled” by two petroleum companies that had caused big losses to private investors and the national exchequer.

The two companies, BYECO and HASCOL, have yet to return in full the looted public money.

The PAC members were shoc­ked to learn that the owners of the two firms had managed to leave the country even though their names were placed on the exit control list. The meeting was infor­med that BYECO owed Rs 57 billion to the exchequer, but only Rs3.9bn had been recovered so far.

Expressing his displeasure over the meagre recovery, Noor Alam Khan observed the committee had already directed the Petroleum Division not to show leniency in recovery of the embezzled amount, but they were holding talks with the defaulters.

The PAC reiterated its directives about action against the two organisations for recovery of the looted amount.

Noor Alam directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to arrest the owner of BYECO and seize his properties. “Sell his assets to recover the embezzled amounts,” said the PAC chief.

Through another directive, the PAC asked the petroleum ministry to withdraw Rs500 in adjustment fee from gas bills in order to lessen the burden on the poor.

The PAC also proposed withdrawal of the ban on installation of new gas meters because “it encourages theft”.

Noor Alam Khan directed the office of the Auditor General to provide details of perks and privileges being given to the President, the prime minister, federal ministers and bureaucrats.

He noted that the Auditor General had not provided information so far about salaries and perks of senior officers of the armed forces.


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‘Road to Makkah’ project: PM Shehbaz thanks Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for including Pakistan

May 18, 2023

Islamabad: In a meeting with Saudi Deputy Minister for Interior Dr Nasir bin Abdul Aziz Al- Dawood, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Wednesday thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for including Pakistan in the “Road to Makkah” project, which would facilitate Pakistanis intending to go for Hajj this year through the Islamabad International Airport.

During the meeting, the Saudi minister apprised PM Shehbaz that the project would be extended to Lahore and Peshawar next year to facilitate more Pakistani pilgrims in the discharge of the important religious obligation.

PM Shehbaz thanked the brotherly Kingdom for its support to Pakistan during the last year’s catastrophic floods. He also thanked the KSA for helping in the evacuation of Pakistanis stranded in Sudan as the law and order situation worsened there.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia sign Road to Makkah agreement

On Wednesday, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia officially inked an agreement to implement the “Road to Makkah” initiative, designed to simplify the immigration process for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.

The signing took place at the Prime Minister’s House, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Ambassador in Islamabad, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki witnessed the signing ceremony.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pakistani Hajj and Umrah pilgrims will receive streamlined immigration facilities within Pakistan, exempting them from lengthy processes upon arrival at Saudi airports. Initially, this service will be available at Islamabad International Airport, benefiting around 26,000 pilgrims during the first phase.

Furthermore, the Saudi authorities have assured that this facility will later be extended to Karachi and Lahore airports.

In addition to the “Road to Makkah” project, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also signed joint minutes of the meeting, during which they discussed the issuance of Pakistani passports to Burmese Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia. Since 2012, these individuals have faced difficulties as their passports were not renewed, causing legal complications within the Kingdom.


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Marriyum holds PTI’s top leadership responsible for May 9 attacks

May 18, 2023

The federal government has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf workers who attacked military installations including the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi would be tried under the Pakistan Army Act.

“This matter [of attacks on military installations] comes under the army’s jurisdiction,” Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb told reporters in Islamabad.

“The sentiments of the army men standing on the borders were hurt,” she said while talking about the attacks on GHQ, Lahore Corps Commander House, and the martyrs’ monument.

The information Minister, while noting that those protesters who attacked civilian establishments would be tried under civilian laws, said the government would ensure “no one faces injustice”.

“But they will have to pay for what they did,” she said. The information minister also blamed PTI’s top-tier leadership, including Khan and Murad Saeed, for inciting party workers to violence and noted that they “cannot be disassociated from the protests”.

She also asked the courts to think about ensuring the state’s writ as she criticised Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial for saying “good to see you” to the PTI chief when he appeared before him.

The courts have granted relief to Khan, allowing him to come out of jail only two days after he was put behind bars in the Al-Qadir Trust case, a move which further widened the gulf between the government and the judiciary.


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South Asia


China’s Growing Influence in Taliban-Ruled Afghanistan

May 17, 2023

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of Pakistan and Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting Foreign Minister of Taliban, last week in Islamabad to hold talks as part of a China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Minister’s Dialogue.

Afghanistan’s stability is much more critical as the country’s insecurity will spill over to the regional countries. Meanwhile, there have been differences between the Taliban authorities and Pakistani officials over the presence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and their hideouts in the country.

Pakistani officials accused the Taliban-ruled government of supporting the TTP and their hideouts in the country, while the Taliban denied any militant groups or their support, The New Arab reported.

According to statistics, there have been more than 150 attacks in 2022 in the neighbouring countries by the outlawed TTP, which can spill over to the broader region.

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, Chine, with its strategic coordination in the framework of a trilateral mechanism, hope to bring peace to the region. As the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin, says, “There should be no ‘double standards’ in fighting terrorism,” The New Arab reported.

The Chinese FM then focused on critical regional issues like the unresolved Kashmir dispute and new geopolitical alliances in the neighbourhood, hoping Kabul and Islamabad would also tighten security measures for Chinese personnel, institutions, and project groups working in their countries.

According to experts, China’s two main objectives are to become a regional superpower and play a specific role in maintaining peace and security, as well as to increase its economic might so that it can participate in the exploitation of natural resources and the construction of infrastructure.

Recently, China has actively invested in Afghanistan’s natural resources, including Lithium and energy resources. The China-Based Gochin Company is interested in investing more than $10 billion in Afghanistan’s lithium mining sector, estimated to be worth more than $ 3 trillion.

This indicates that China has decided to control the county’s mineral resources, particularly lithium deposits, which are critical in global mineral supply chains.

Beijing has sought to expand its economic presence in Afghanistan and gain control of its natural resources since the Taliban overran Kabul. Chinese businesses and authorities have contacted Taliban leaders to renegotiate and restart prior mining and oil contracts. 

On January 6, the Taliban signed a deal with Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Company (CAPEIC), a contract to extract oil from the Amu Darya basin. The deal will see an investment of USD 150 million in the first year and USD 540 million over the next three years. A more significant presence in Afghanistan strengthens China’s regional power and influence.

China is in charge of the world’s lithium battery supply chain despite having yet to have anything close to the most significant lithium reserves in the world. According to the International Energy Agency, China accounts for 58% of the world’s refining capacity. By 2025, UBS AG projects that mines under Chinese control will have increased lithium production from 194,000 tons in 2022 to 705,000 tons.

This would increase China’s share of the mineral need for electric vehicle batteries from 24% in 2021 to 32% of the world supply. Other nations may now need to lessen their reliance on the Chinese lithium supply and build a safe, independent supply of Lithium before it is too late.

This could increase supply chain risks for those nations. The possibility that China will dominate the lithium market, as OPEC did with crude oil, is a real threat.


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US Representatives Concerned by Misuse of US Aid by Islamic Emirate


The letter was also signed by some other members of the House of Representatives.

“While the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan undeniable, it is essential that US provided assistance benefits suffering Afghans rather than the Taliban,” they wrote.

But the Ministry of Economy denied the claims in the letter of the US representatives, saying that the Islamic Emirate is attempting to provide aid with transparency. 

“We not only interfere in international aid but we provide further facilities for it. Our monitoring is aimed at reaching the people who deserve it, through transparency,” said Abdul Latif Nazari, Deputy Minister of Economy. 

Afghanistan plunged into a severe economic crisis after the collapse of the former government that followed with the suspension of international aid and the freezing of more than $9 billion in foreign reserves.

“One of the reasons that this aid does not reach the people who are in need of it, is that they (Taliban) support their own ruling in Afghanistan,” said Sayed Masoud, an economist.

This comes as some economists say that international aid will not solve economic challenges until it is directed at development projects.

“Unfortunately, it has been 42 years that we are being provided with aid. We don’t have any positive result. Its results could be seen when we do fundamental work,” said Abdul Baseer Taraki, an economist. 

“Investment of international aid in major economic and intrastromal projects can create jobs and also increase the level of production and it will also increase the level of income,” said Seyar Qureshi, an economist.

Last month, speaking to the US House Oversight Committee, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconciliation (SIGAR) John Sopko testified that he cannot say whether the US assistance is currently not “funding the Taliban.”


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Won't use taxpayers' money: Bangladesh withdraws 'extra' security cover for Indian diplomats

May 17, 2023

By India Today News Desk: Bangladesh will no longer provide extra security cover to Indian envoys and other top diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia during their movements in the country. Although the normal security protocols will be in place, the "extra security escort" will be withdrawn.

Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Tuesday said that Dhaka will not spend the taxpayers’ money on the "extra security escort" for diplomats.

"We won’t provide this extra (security) escort service with taxpayers’ money,” said Bangladesh's foreign minister as quoted by the United News of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh's Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to the four embassies regarding the decision a week ago, as per a report by the Dhaka Tribune.

The extra security cover was provided to the diplomats of the four countries after the militant attack in a Dhaka restaurant in 2016. Twenty people - 17 foreigners including an Indian girl - were killed in the attack.

The security measure consisted of policemen equipped with riot gear, escorting the envoys in their vans.

“The additional security protocol we were providing to ambassadors and high commissioners of some particular countries has been withdrawn. But the normal security measures for them are in place,” a diplomatic security division official of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday as per news agency PTI.


Several other embassies other than the four were also demanding the extra security measures. This is one of the reasons why Bangladesh took the decision to withdraw the extra protocols. Dhaka Police Commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq also said that another reason is the shortage of manpower, reported PTI.

However, if any country wished to continue the extra security measures, they can rent such services. The Indian embassy has not made any comments on the withdrawal of extra security measures for its diplomats in Bangladesh.


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Afghan Taliban Appoint Mawlawi Kabir Caretaker PM

May 18, 2023

In a major development, the supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Haibitullah Akhund, has appointed Mawlawi Abdul Kabir as caretaker prime minister and interim head of the cabinet.

Akhund made the announcement owing to the ill health of Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the acting head of the Taliban government.

The former had suffered a heart attack after visiting Kandahar during the Eid holidays and despite 45 days having passed since, he was unable to recover and resume his responsibilities.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the official spokesperson of the Taliban regime has confirmed that the acting premier was suffering from various illnesses and wished to take rest.


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Afghanistan Commerce minister off to Russia-Islamic World Forum

May 17, 2023

According to the ministry, Azizi, will also meet with Russian officials along with officials from other countries and companies in a bid to boost trade and investment with Afghanistan.

The two-day Russia-Islamic World Forum will begin in Kazan, southwest Russia, on Thursday.

The decision to hold the 2023 edition of the Russia-Islamic World forum in Kazan is symbolic: the capital of Tatarstan, located some 800km east of Moscow, is seen by the Russian state as a successful example of multiculturalism and peaceful religious coexistence.

Russia is home to some 15 million Muslim citizens “in the sense that they belong to ethnic groups with cultural foundations linked to Islam. Not all are believers or practicing Muslims,” according to a report from the French Institute for International Relations, AFP reported.

As a whole, Muslims make up 10% of the Russian population, with most living in the Caucasas – the area of land that separates the Caspian and Black Seas – and the Volga-Ural region.

Muslims have lived in Tatarstan, in the Volga district, for centuries and the Tatar population (descended from largely Muslim Turkic ethnic groups) is Russia’s largest ethnic minority group.

The forum in Kazan aims to strengthen economic, cultural and intellectual ties between Russia and the 57 member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).


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Karnataka HC grants bail to cow vigilante accused of killing a Muslim man


The Karnataka High Court has granted bail to cow vigilante Puneeth Kerehalli and four others who were arrested last month in connection with the murder of a Muslim man, reported PTI on Wednesday.

Kerehalli and his aides were arrested on April 5 a week after they allegedly killed the Muslim man on suspicion of cow theft.

The murder took place in Karnataka’s Ramanagara district on March 31 when Idrees Pasha and his two associates – Syed Zaheer and Irfan – were coming from Mandya, which is located about 50 kilometres away. Kerehalli and his aides intercepted their vehicle and accused them of trafficking cattle to an abattoir in the neighbouring state of Goa.

The vigilantes had allegedly assaulted and abused the Muslim men even as they showed documents to prove that they had bought the cattle at a local market. Kerehalli and his aides had allegedly demanded Rs 2 lakh to let them go.

When Pasha and Irfan objected, they were chased and beaten up, while Zaheer and Kerehalli were brought to a police station after a constable intervened. Pasha was later found dead by the police.

Kerehalli and his aides were booked on charges of murder, assault, criminal intimidation, wrongful restraint and intentional insult to provoke breach of peace.

All the accused persons are said to be associated with an organisation called the “Rashtra Rakshana Pade” (Nation Protection Army), run by Kerehalli. In the past, Kerehalli has organised campaigns against halal meat and for banning Muslim traders from Hindu temple fairs.

A trial court had denied them bail, following which they moved the High Court.


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SC to hear on Friday appeal against Gyanvapi Mosque’s scientific survey

May 18, 2023

The Supreme Court will hear on Friday an appeal by the Gyanvapi Mosque Management Committee against Allahabad high court’s order last week for a scientific survey to determine the age of a structure inside the mosque complex that Hindus say is a Shivling, and Muslims insist is part of a fountain.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud agreed to urgently list the matter after senior counsel Huzefa Ahmedi, appearing for the committee, mentioned the appeal.

“The high court has passed an order last week, pending the final judgment. An application was made for carbon dating and that has been allowed,” Ahmedi said.

When the CJI responded that it could be listed on May 22, Ahmedi pointed out that the scientific study by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is scheduled to begin on that day. The CJI then agreed to list the matter for a hearing on Friday.

On May 12, the high court set aside a Varanasi district court order rejecting a demand for carbon dating of the structure found inside the Gyanvapi Masjid complex. The high court asked the district judge to proceed in accordance with law on the application by Hindu worshippers for conducting a scientific probe of the structure found during a survey last year.

It allowed the revision petition filed by Laxmi Devi and three others challenging the Varanasi court order that rejected the demand for carbon dating in October 2022.

Carbon dating is a method of calculating the age of very old objects by measuring the amount of different forms of carbon in them.

The Gyanvapi dispute dates back decades. In August 2021, five women filed a petition in a local court demanding the right of unhindered worship at the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal located inside the complex that houses idols of Hindu gods.

In April 2022, the local court ordered a controversial survey of the complex, which triggered protests. The survey was finally completed in May, but not before the Hindu side claimed that a Shivling was found in the final hours of the exercise. The court clamped security on the entire complex even as the Muslim side argued that the structure found was a ceremonial ablution fountain.

The case reached the Supreme Court, which on May 20, 2022, transferred the suit from the Varanasi civil judge to the district judge and protected the site. In September, the district court ruled that the pleas by the Hindu women were maintainable.

Four of the five women filed a plea seeking carbon dating or scientific investigation of the structure, the complex walls and the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal. The plea was opposed not only by the mosque committee but also one of the Hindu petitioners, Rakhi Singh, who called the plea a publicity stunt and said that carbon dating of the ‘shivling’ would be an act of sacrilege.

On October 14, the district court rejected the plea, citing Supreme Court directives to keep the premises sealed.


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Zafaryab Jilani, Who Represented Muslims in Babri Case, Dies At 73

18th May 2023

By Namita Bajpai

LUCKNOW:  Zafaryab Jilani (73), one of the most prominent faces of the battle of vexed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, passed away at a hospital after a protracted illness, in Lucknow on Wednesday. Jilani, convenor of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) and executive committee (EC) member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter.

He had suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2021 after he slipped in his residence. Ever since, he was not keeping well even after major surgeries. A strong votary of secularism, Jilani represented the Muslim side in Ayodhya title suit case in various courts relentlessly for 45 years till the SC delivered the order to settle the centuries old dispute on November 9, 2020.

An authority on Shariat laws, Jilani was not in favour of Sunni Central Waqf Board’s decision to accept the five acre alternative land provided by the UP government in compliance of SC order for constructing a mosque some 25 km away from Ram Janmabhoomi premises where the Babri mosque stood before December 6, 1992.


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Ayodhya Mosque Project Hangs In Balance over Lack of Funds and Other Hurdles

Committee formed for managing the construction of the mosque requests the U.P. Government to waive off development taxes

May 18, 2023

Ishita Mishra

Members of the Indo-Islamic Culture Foundation (IICF) — the committee formed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board to manage the construction of the mosque in Ayodhya — are planning to request the Uttar Pradesh Government for a full waiver of the development charges they have to submit to the Ayodhya Development Authority (ADA) in order to secure approval for the mosque’s map.

The IICF has to reportedly submit approximately ₹10-12 Crore as labour cess and development tax to secure final approval for the map, while the total funding the foundation has received for the mosque so far via crowd funding is around ₹50 lakh.

An official of the IICF told The Hindu that fund-raising for the mosque had been stopped as continuous hurdles were being posed in the way of its construction.

Athar Husain Siddiqui, secretary, IICF, said that the committee was grateful to the State government, which has changed the land rules of the area in which the mosque is planned, easing the process for them.

“We were all set to apply for final approval of the map last month but when we approached the ADA for it, we were told that we had to submit some money as development and labour cess. When we enquired, it turned out to be a sum in many crores. At present, we are not in a position to deposit it, so we have decided to request to the State government to waive off the development charges. A letter for this will be sent to the State authorities by our president,” Mr. Siddiqui added.

A senior ADA official confirmed to The Hindu, “As soon as the IICF submits the map of the mosque for approval with the authority, our software would generate a form providing details of depositing development taxes (2-3% of the total cost of the project) and labour cess (1% of the project cost).”

According to the IIFC, the total cost of the three-phase mosque project is about ₹300 crore. The complex is spread across 4,500 square metres, and includes a hospital, community kitchen and library, and a research centre dedicated to Maulvi Ahmadullah Shah, a freedom fighter who took part in the 1857 War of Independence against the British. The blueprint of the mosque is designed by Professor S.M. Akhtar, Founding Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Ekistics at Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi.  

ADA Secretary Satyendra Singh declined to comment on the matter when contacted. Mr. Singh reportedly maintains that the authority was ready to approve the map of the mosque within 24 hours if the IICF applied for it.

In November 2019, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court permitted the construction of a temple in Ayodhya, at the site where the 16th century Babri Masjid once stood, after it was brought down by Hindu fundamentalist groups. In the same order of over 1,000 pages, the top court had asked the government — either the Centre or the State — to allot a “prominent and suitable” five-acre plot in Ayodhya to the Sunni Central Wakf Board to construct a mosque. The apex court had particularly asked the government, both at the Centre and the State, to facilitate the construction of the mosque simultaneously with the temple.

At present, over 50% of the work for the Ram temple in Ayodhya has been completed. The authorities have also announced that ‘Pran Pratistha’ (installation of the deity) in the sanctum will take place on January 14, 2024. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Ayodhya temple trust have collected over ₹3,500 crore for the new temple.

But the mosque, which will now be constructed 25 km away from Ayodhya city, in an area known as Dhannipur, is still struggling with administrative hurdles.

“We know that there is no comparison of the mosque and the temple in this country but we were not aware that things would be so difficult for us,” an IIFC member said on condition of anonymity. He maintained that nothing had moved for the mosque in past three-and-a-half years, with delays over forms for land rules and taxes, and No Objection Certificates from different departments

“At present, the morale of the community is so disturbed that some suggestions received via letters and mails even ask us to shelve the project,” he added.  


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Ahead of LS polls, RSS-linked Muslim body to launch nationwide campaign to woo minority community

MAY 17 2023

New Delhi, May 17 (PTI) RSS-linked Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) will launch a nationwide campaign to reach out to the minority community with the theme of “one nation, one flag, one national anthem”, ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the organisation said on Wednesday.

MRM volunteers will spread the message of “true Muslim, good citizen” among members of the community under the campaign, it said in a statement.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) linked body said a three-day training programme will be organised for MRM volunteers and workers in Bhopal from June 8 to June 11.

RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar, who is also the MRM’s chief patron, will be present at the training programme, it said.

The last training programme was organised in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district in 2021 and it was attended by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, joint general secretary Krishna Gopal and senior functionary Ram Lal, the MRM said .

MRM spokesperson Shahid Saeed said that “ahead of the 2024 general elections, the Muslim Rashtriya Manch of the RSS will start a campaign to take the idea of ‘one nation, one flag, one national anthem and one law’ to the Muslim community across the country”.

“Carrying the message of ‘true Muslim, good citizen’, MRM volunteers and workers will reach out to the minority community in every nook and corner of the country,” he said in the statement.

Saeed said the MRM has chosen Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal for organising the training programme in view of “a sizable population” of Muslims in the state.

“Muslim votes are moving away from the BJP’s vote bank (in Madhya Pradesh). In the last election, Congress won the north and central assembly seats. The Muslim population is high in these two constituencies. North Bhopal has become a Congress stronghold,” the MRM spokesperson said.

Assembly elections are due in Madhya Pradesh later this year. PTI PK PK ANB ANB ANB


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The Kerala Story is a 'great service to Islam', says Sudipto Sen

May 17, 2023

Ever since the film The Kerala Story released, the film has been mired in controversies. Despite all this, the film has managed to earn about Rs 150 crore at the box office and will soon be releasing in the United Kingdom. The film revolves around Adah Sharma’s character, a Hindu woman from Kerala who is converted to Islam and made to join ISIS.

Producer Vipul Shah and director Sudipto Sen on Wednesday categorically dismissed the claims that their film is spreading hatred against the Muslim community. Explaining his stance Vipul Shah gave the example of Gabbar Singh from Sholay. He claimed that when the villain was named Gabbar Singh, director Ramesh Sippy was not against the Singh community. So why this biased judgement against us? We have only spoken about the perpetrators.

When asked why there was not a single redeeming Muslim character in the film, he said that he was not there to do a balancing act. Sen further said that when one talks about terror, one cannot assume they are targeting the religion, and with the film they have done a great service to Islam. He also claimed that there are 2 Keralas, one that is beautiful, the backwaters, the Kalaripayattu, the dance etc, but on the other part is a terror-network hub.


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Hindu man assaulted after locals spot him with Muslim woman on bike in Patna

May 17, 2023

By India Today News Desk: A Hindu man in Bihar's Patna was thrashed by a group of locals after he was spotted on a bike with a Muslim woman. The incident was reported from a local market in the city, under the Pirbahore Police Station limits, where the man and the woman, both classmates, were stopped and questioned by locals, while they were on their way to somewhere.

According to the details, Muslim locals asked the woman to return home.

They then thrashed the man, identified as Sagar Kumar Mishra, and questioned him for being around the woman despite being a Hindu.

The entire incident was captured on camera and soon became viral on social media.Meanwhile, the Patna Police said they have yet not received a complaint from either the man or the woman.

The police further said acting upon the viral video, they have begun an investigation into the case.

In a similar incident earlier in Kanpur, a man was thrashed and his head was shaved after he was spotted talking to a woman near a school in the city. The man was accused of harassing girls by changing his name.

During investigations, the man had revealed himself as 'Raja', however, his Aadhaar card stated his name as 'Arif'.


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400 Israeli Settlers Invade Al-Aqsa Mosque Ahead of Flag March

18 May, 2023

Hundreds of Israeli settlers, protected by Israeli occupation forces IOF, raided the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem on Thursday morning, May 18, 2023.

Palestinian media sources reported that 400 Israeli settlers, led by extremist rabbi Yehuda Glick, invaded Al-Aqsa’s courtyards and performed provocative rituals.

These incursions came a few hours before the Flag March, scheduled for Thursday evening when thousands of Israeli settlers will invade Jerusalem’s Old City.

Such escalating incursions aim to impose the temporal and spatial division in Al-Aqsa Mosque. Recently, IOF has frequently evacuated Muslims from the mosque to pave the way for settlers’ incursions.

Israeli settlers carry out semi-daily incursions into the blessed Mosque in Jerusalem and provocatively perform Talmudic rituals under the protection of Israeli occupation forces.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem continue their calls to mobilize at Al-Aqsa to confront the Israeli settlers’ calls for mass raids in Al-Aqsa.

In April 2023, nearly 5054 Israeli settlers invaded the courtyards of Al-Aqsa mosque and performed provocative Talmudic rituals at its yards.


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Tensions ahead of contentious Flag March through Jerusalem Old City’s Muslim Quarter


Security forces were gearing up for a potential renewal of violence Thursday, with a controversial march through Jerusalem’s Old City Muslim Quarter slated to go ahead amid sky-high tensions, threats from Palestinian terror groups and pressure from foreign allies to reroute the march.

Tens of thousands of Jewish Israelis were expected to march throughout the capital waving Israeli flags, including through the Muslim Quarter. The event comes less than a week after Israel and Gazan terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad finalized a ceasefire agreement following five days of deadly conflict.

Over 3,000 police officers are expected to be deployed across the city for the Jerusalem Day Flag March, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of largely Orthodox Jewish nationalists.

The annual parade to the Western Wall marks Israel’s reunification of East and West Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War but has gained notoriety over the years, as it is often marred by hate speech and sometimes violence by Jewish participants toward Palestinians.

Several members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Negev and Galilee Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf and ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem Minister Meir Porush were slated to take part in the march.

Adding to the fraught atmosphere, this year’s march comes on the heels of last week’s protracted fight between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza, which saw nearly 1,500 rockets shot into Israel and hundreds of airstrikes on targets in the Strip.

On Wednesday, a senior official with the Hamas terror group ruling the Strip threatened an unspecified response should the march go ahead.

“The Zionist Flag March will not pass, and the response will inevitably come,” said senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil in a statement.

In 2021, Hamas fired several rockets at Jerusalem just as the march was beginning, sparking over a week of intense fighting between Israel and Gazan terror groups.

Officials believe the chances of rocket fire this time around to be slim, Channel 13 news reported, but Iron Dome anti-missile batteries will still be at the ready.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Israel has warned Hamas that it will respond to any rocket fire.

The report said that while security officials believe the march itself will not lead to rockets, video documentation of violence against Palestinians or other provocations could lead to the firing of projectiles from Gaza.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s so-called balloon unit — responsible for launching balloons ferrying incendiary and explosive devices into Israel in the past, and thought to be tied to Hamas — has said it would resume activities Thursday.

Setting the tone for the tense day, visits atop the Temple Mount started Thursday morning. Hundreds of Jews entered the holy site, including Wasserlauf — a minister for Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party — and Ben Gvir’s wife Ayala.

According to Haaretz, some right-wing activists were planning to attempt to access the flashpoint site with Israeli flags, though police have said they would not allow those marching to access the area. The site is the holiest for Jews, as the location of two biblical temples, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Mount is the third holiest shrine in Islam, turning the area into a major source of tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Security officials have been working to try to separate the public perception of visits to the flashpoint site from the Flag March later in the day, Hebrew-language media reported, particularly if Itamar Ben Gvir ends up visiting.

According to reports, Ben Gvir has been excluded from many of the high-level security discussions ahead of the march, despite holding the portfolio in charge of policing.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said in an interview broadcast Wednesday that there has been a “breakdown of trust” in his relationship with the Otzma Yehudit leader.

Last year, security services kept then-MK Ben Gvir away from the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, a site of frequent conflict between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Muslim Quarter.

Participants in the Flag March will begin to gather around 1 p.m. and the event will conclude at 5 p.m. at the Western Wall. A number of streets in the capital will be closed throughout the day.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has urged Israel to change the route of the march to go through the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, instead of Damascus Gate, thereby avoiding the Muslim Quarter, which is largely populated by Palestinians.

However, Netanyahu has vowed that the procession will not change route.

Channel 12 news reported Wednesday that Hamas has been waging a concerted campaign of incitement ahead of the contentious march.

The campaign calls on Palestinians to carry out terror attacks and confront Israeli security forces, the report said.

Police chief Shabtai warned against terror group incitement.

“For several days, terrorist elements motivated by Iran — through Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad — have been spreading false information on social media about the route of the flag parade…. in the capital of Israel, Jerusalem,” Shabtai said Wednesday.

“The goal of those terrorist elements is clear —  it is to create wild incitement to terrorism against the thousands of Israelis who will come to celebrate Jerusalem Day at a number of events,” he said.

There are also concerns that any potential violence could spill over into the so-called “mixed cities” that have significant Jewish and Arab populations. A number of these communities were rocked by rioting and inter-ethnic clashes in May 2021 when fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas.

According to Channel 13 news, 35 individuals have been removed from Jerusalem ahead of the march. There was no further clarification on how many of them were Jewish Israelis and how many were Palestinians, what they were accused of, or which legal mechanism was utilized.

The annual Flag March has long become associated with religious Zionism, a movement that sees it as a religious imperative to hold the land of Israel under Jewish sovereignty. The march is leveraged by some extremist nationalists to antagonize Arab residents, and Arab East Jerusalemites view the parade as a provocation.

The timing of the march this year is especially delicate in light of the fresh ceasefire between Israel and Iran-backed Islamic Jihad since Saturday evening, despite a single cross-border exchange on Sunday. The ceasefire ended days of fighting, and the terror group had reportedly threatened to drag out the conflict to disrupt the Jerusalem Day march.

In May 2021, Netanyahu agreed to reroute the Flag March, though he waited until hours before the rally to make the decision, allowing threats against Israel from Hamas and other terror groups to pile up in the meantime.

Despite the decision, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem as the rerouted march was taking place. Shortly thereafter, the IDF launched Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza, which lasted 11 days.

The next year, then-PM Naftali Bennett came under similar pressure from the US but ultimately decided to allow the march to go forward on the original route in what led to the globally criticized scenes of participants singing “May your village burn” as they danced outside Damascus Gate.

However, terror groups in Gaza largely avoided responding in the way they had a year earlier.

Jacob Magid, Jeremy Sharon and Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.


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Prime Minister Shtayyeh: Christian and Muslim holy places are targets of settler attacks


RAMALLAH, Wednesday, May 17, 2023 (WAFA) – Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh today stated that Christian and Muslim holy places are targets of Israeli settler attacks.

Speaking during a meeting with a delegation of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Hungary (ECCH) with the attendance of the head of the Representative Office of Hungary in Ramallah Csaba Rada at his office in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, Prime Minister Shtayyeh said that Israeli attacks, committed by the occupation forces and settlers, target Christian and Muslim holy places alike throughout the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.

The Israeli occupation measures, he added, continue to target and efface Christian and Muslim presence in the Holy Land.

Premier Shtayyeh briefed the delegation on the latest developments of the Palestinian Question and the Israeli occupation and settler-colonialist measures, notably colonial settlement construction, that are systematically destroying the two-state solution, while affirming that the solution to the “conflict” lies in ending the Israeli occupation and establishing the independent Palestinian state.

He concluded by considering that it was particularly important to strengthen bilateral Palestinian-Hungarian relations, build bridges between the two peoples and the promotion of religious tourism.

The ECCH delegation’s visit was arranged and coordinated by the Higher Presidential Committee of Church Affairs.


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Iran leader says Hajj aims to unify Muslims against Israel, arrogance

May 17, 2023

Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks during a meeting with a group of Hajj officials at Imam Khomeini Hussainia in southern Tehran on Wednesday morning before they begin dispatching pilgrims from the country to Saudi Arabia for the annual rituals of Hajj.

“The purpose of Hajj is to unify the Islamic Ummah against disbelief, oppression, arrogance, and human and non-human idols,” he noted.

He also added that “culture-building” should be done in introducing the fundamental concepts of Hajj to people.

“I insist that the respected Hajj officials build up the culture in these fields,” he said. “Make sure that whenever the Hajj is mentioned, concepts such as civilization-building, global unity, cross-border and international perspective, and elimination of discrimination occur to today’s young person,” the Leader stressed.

Ayatollah Khamenei added that culture-building should be done by the clerics who are in the Hajj caravans and also Hajj officials.

Beginning next week, 89,000 pilgrims from 21 Iranian provinces will be dispatched from Iran to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj this year.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Supreme Leader said one of the worldly benefits of Hajj is that Muslims in this huge gathering declare their presence and power against the Zionist regime and the influence of arrogant powers, and stand up to the oppressors of the world.

“The days of Hajj are a great opportunity to get to know the nations and global issues so that the false news of the media and lying news agencies do not lead people away from the realities of the world and deceive them,” he continued.

“If we are aware of global issues, we can understand the enemy’s real objective and the reason for its insistence on some issues. As in many issues, the officials have been careful and have acted correctly, and Iran’s very good advancements in regional and global issues, which have angered America, have been the result of this attentiveness,” Ayatollah Khamenei noted.


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Israeli Mk to Invade Aqsa Mosque Thursday morning

17 May, 2023

According to Hebrew media, several members of the Israeli Knesset on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, have been officially granted permission to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Thousands of young Orthodox Jewish men are also expected to provocatively parade through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

The march organizers expect a record number of participants – as many as 100,000 – to take part in the parade commemorating the 1967 capture of East Jerusalem and its subsequent occupation, or the “reunification” of Jerusalem, as the Israeli government refers to it.

An impending conflagration is expected to be sparked by settlers’ invasion of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This development comes in the wake of the 2021 Sword of Jerusalem Battle, which erupted as a response to the Flag March and Israeli violations in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem. The tensions that ensued during that period underscored the delicate nature of the situation surrounding the mosque.

Between the evening of 10 May and dawn of May 2021, the Israeli occupation launched a military aggression against the Gaza Strip, killing 240 Palestinians including 151 civilians and 59 children.

The Jerusalem flag march “is one of the strongest examples of racist nationalistic and state-sponsored celebrations”, according to Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at the human rights organization Ir Amin.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in Jerusalem, is considered the third holiest site in Islam, making it a focal point for Muslim worship and a symbol of their deep-rooted heritage.


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Palestinian Islamic Jihad calls the shots in Gaza from Lebanon


BEIRUT — In last week’s escalation between Gaza and Israel, the shots were called by leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group based in Lebanon — now a strategic center of operations for multiple Palestinian armed groups.

The big picture: As the Arab world normalizes relations with Israel, the leaders of the PIJ and Gaza’s largest militant group, Hamas, have found support from Iran and its militant proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah.

In recent years, coordination between Hezbollah and the Palestinian groups has increased, particularly since the Gaza war in 2021, Souhayb Jawar, a Lebanese researcher of Islamist political movements, told Axios.

Behind the scenes: Any action carried out by the PIJ, including the recent orders to fire over 1,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel, must pass through Esmail Qaani, the commander of the Quds Force, one of the five branches of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the Hezbollah operative in charge of coordination with the Quds Force, Jawar said.

The PIJ maintains close links with Iran, which supplies them with training, expertise and money.

The PIJ’s secretary-general, Ziad al-Nakhaleh, lives in Beirut, in addition to the group’s political leader, Ihsan Ataya, and the leader in charge of Lebanon’s politics, Shakib al-Ayna, according to Jawar.

“Living on the same ground, it makes sense to see this kind of cooperation,” Azmi Keshawi, a Gaza analyst from the International Crisis Group, told Axios.

What they're saying: A day before the Egypt-brokered cease-fire, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah affirmed the party’s support for the PIJ and said, “Hezbollah is in constant contact with the leadership of the resistance in Gaza and we won’t hesitate to offer help at any time needed."

Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abdel-Hadi, announced during the conflict that there would be two responses to the "Zionist aggression on Gaza." Hamas frequently refers to Lebanon as the "battleground" in the event of a widespread conflict with Israel, Jawar said.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry condemned the “Israeli aggression on the Gaza strip” and called for an immediate cease-fire.

State of play: The majority of Lebanon’s lawmakers kept quiet regarding the Israeli strikes in Gaza. “The current government adopts the principle of dissociation,” Jawhar said.

Lebanon’s parliament is largely split into two camps, one opposed to and one allied with Hezbollah. The opposition camp is keen to sustain relations with the United States and is often silent on matters that might provoke division with the West, he noted.

But Hezbollah’s key Christian allies, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Marada Movement — the party of Hezbollah’s presidential pick, Suleiman Frangieh — did not comment on the Israeli operation in Gaza.

These parties are rejecting the presence and activity of Palestinian militant groups in Lebanon, Jawar said, and they're dissatisfied with any activity that might provoke a war with their southern nemesis.

The bottom line: The unification of fronts between Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance groups is a way to project deterrence, rather than an intention of war against Israel, Keshawi said.

“If Hezbollah goes to war, he better have Hamas at his side. It’s mutually beneficial for all of them to act as one,” he added.


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Iran's Ebadi in Vienna on a Mission against "Oppressive" Islamic Republic

MAY 17, 2023

Iranian Nobel Peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi says she is participating in an international digital festival in Vienna to "amplify the Iranian people's voice," address the "challenges" faced by women in Iran and expose the Islamic Republic's "destabilizing" role in the Middle East.

Ebadi made the comments on May 17 as she met with Iranian human rights activists who have been protesting outside the UN headquarters in Vienna for months in support of Iran's women-led protest movement sparked by the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody.

In response to a question by IranWire, she urged the Iranian opposition to unite against the "incompetent and oppressive" Islamic Republic.

"As long as I am alive and this government continues to cast its dark shadow over my country and its people, I'll follow only one path, one road, and one direction, one-way road that leads to the fight against the Islamic Republic," she also said.

Ebadi, who now lives in London, is a lawyer, university teacher, writer, former judge and co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center and the Association for Support of Children's Rights in Iran.

She is in Vienna to attend the three-day 4GAMECHANGERS festival, which ends on May 17.

In her address before the protesting activists, Ebadi highlighted the importance of providing information to the UN fact-finding mission set up last year to investigate human rights abuses in Iran.

"We must all remember one thing: no one can achieve anything alone. We need to work together for these people. Send any relevant documents you have to the UN fact-finding committee. They have already begun their work, and we should inform them about [human rights abuses] by submitting evidence," she said.

"This committee won't take immediate action. Don't expect them to issue a statement against the Islamic Republic right away. We are gathering these documents for the day when the government of the Islamic Republic is overthrown and these criminals are brought to justice," the human rights activist added.

Ebadi also said that the victims of the Islamic Republic's brutality should be provided with financial support.

"Our next step should be to find a solution to assist in their treatment. Some of these individuals require financial support to continue their medical care. Those who are documenting these cases should inform the public about the specific needs of these people."

Pointing out to the destabilizing role of the Islamic republic in Syria and Iraq, she said that establishing a democratic government in Iran could bring peace to the Iranian people but also to the entire Middle East and the rest of the world.


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North America


"We simply cannot normalize these incidents": Suspected arson damages St. Paul Islamic center

MAY 17, 2023

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Paul Fire Department is investigating a suspected case of arson at an Islamic center early Wednesday.

Few details were initially available, but the fire is said to have happened at Tawhid Islamic Center of Minnesota, which is on the 400 block of Dale Street. Crews responded at about 8:45 a.m. on a report of flames coming from the building.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter called out this latest attack on a place of worship.

"I'm disgusted," Carter said.

An afternoon call for prayers came with a reminder that some sanctuaries sit inside buildings, but there is always room for the almighty in your heart.

"When you attack a place of worship in America, it comes back stronger, it comes back bigger, and you create more friends," mosque member Daud Mohammed said.

He added his mosque also serves as a community hub. The building had been undergoing renovations, so no one was inside, and no one was hurt. Still, the suspected arson attack left many with emotional wounds.

"My worst fear is that my 4-year-old son, who lives here, my beautiful wife, who lives and works here and is a product of Minnesota, will get attacked tomorrow, and that being OK," he said.

This is the sixth suspected attack on a mosque this year in Minnesota, and the second in two weeks in St. Paul, after security cameras captured vandals throwing rocks at the Masjid al-Sunnah Mosque on Pederson Street.

Police officials saying they will increase patrols at mosques across the city, and Carter promised he'll lobby to raise funds for more security cameras.

"If you come anywhere near a mosque in St. Paul, be prepared to say cheese, because you will be on camera, and we will be able to see you," Carter said.

WCCO's Jonah Kaplan spoke one-on-one with the deputy chief, who said there were no specific threats against this mosque or any others. Investigators will be looking at whether any of these suspected attacks are related.

Rep. Samakab Hussein, whose district houses the center, issued the following statement:

"I am frustrated that sacred spaces Minnesotans use to practice religion are being violently attacked. We simply cannot normalize these incidents of hate. I urge all Minnesotans to come together in solidarity to combat these atrocious actions and uplift our Muslim community. The freedom of religion is essential to a free and democratic society. It allows people to practice their faith without fear of persecution or discrimination. It also allows people to explore different faiths and to learn about different cultures.

"I call on all Americans to join us in condemning these attacks and in defending the freedom of religion. We also call on law enforcement to do everything in their power to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice."


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US State Department Grants Access to Classified Cable on Chaotic Afghanistan Withdrawal

MAY 18, 2023

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday said two top members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee can view a redacted version of a classified cable about the chaotic August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan sought by the committee’s Republican chairperson.

The chairperson, Representative Michael McCaul, scheduled a committee meeting next week to consider a contempt of Congress charge against Secretary of State Antony Blinken over his refusal to release the cable, sent by U.S. diplomats via the department’s “dissent channel".

The channel allows State Department officials to air concerns to supervisors.

The State Department will let McCaul and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Gregory Meeks, view a redacted version to protect the identity of those using the dissent channel, Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

In an interview on CNN, McCaul said the State Department’s offer to make the cables available was “a really significant step forward”. He said if the department agreed to allow the entire committee to see the cables ”then I think we’ve resolved a litigation fight in the courts”.

In a letter to McCaul, the department said it would make the material available as soon as possible.

“The Department has engaged extensively with the Committee to respond to your requests. We have provided numerous briefings, thousands of pages of documents, and public testimony from the Department’s senior leaders,” the letter said, adding that it was important to protect the dissent channel.

“The accommodations that the Department has provided to date are extraordinary and, as stated in our prior correspondence, already create a serious risk of chilling both future use of, and future candor in, Dissent Channel cables,” the letter said.

McCaul has launched an investigation into the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Republicans – and some Democrats – say there has never been a full accounting of the chaotic operation, in which 13 U.S. service members were killed at Kabul’s airport.

McCaul has for months been seeking a “dissent channel" cable sent in July 2021 that a Wall Street Journal article in August 2021 said warned top officials of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - Reuters)


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Leaders condemn sixth incident of vandalism against Twin Cities mosques, suspect remains at large

May 17, 2023

by Katelyn Vue and Alfonzo Galvan

Authorities are investigating a fire at a St. Paul mosque Wednesday as “suspected arson,” marking the fourth time in four weeks that a mosque in the Twin Cities has been vandalized.

The fire occurred at the Oromo American Tawhid Islamic Center, 430 Dale Street N. The St. Paul Fire Department tweeted that the building, which was being remodeled, was unoccupied at the time and that no injuries were reported.

Firefighters arrived at the scene of the “intentionally set fire” about 8:45 a.m. and extinguished it in about 10 minutes, said St. Paul Deputy Fire Chief Roy Mokosso. St. Paul police said at a 2 p.m. news conference that no arrests have been made in the case.

Abdulrahim Doyo, an Imam at the Oromo American Tawhid Islamic Center, said as of 3 p.m. that he and other members of the mosque had not been allowed in the building. He didn’t know where the fire started.

“We have another place to worship,” Abdulrahim said, “but we need this place back.”

The parking lot around the mosque remained taped off late Wednesday afternoon as St. Paul police and agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated the scene.

“It is a mosque that has been part of this community for sometime,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Minnesota). “And unfortunately today—this morning—this mosque has been completely burnt. This is one of the most serious burning or attacks against the mosque that we know of today in the state of Minnesota. We still do not know the extent of the damage.”

Mokosso said the state fire marshal is also working on the investigation.

“You will be caught and absolutely held accountable for your actions,” Mayor Melvin Carter said of the arson suspect.

CAIR-Minnesota issued a news release saying that the mosque was “heavily damaged” in the fire, and that the cause has not been determined.

“This unfortunate event occurred while the building was being remodeled,” Mokosso said at one of two news conferences held Wednesday about the fire.

Mokosso told Sahan Journal that because the building was “somewhat vacant” during the remodeling, there have been “numerous” break-ins and reports of previous vandalism, including graffiti, at the mosque. It’s unclear whether those incidents were motivated by religious bias or the building’s vacancy, he added.

It’s also unknown whether Wednesday’s fire is related to a mosque vandalism in St. Paul last week or fires at two south Minneapolis mosques last month, Mokosso said.

“We take this very seriously,” said St. Paul Deputy Police Chief Joshua Lego.

Lego said it was too early to say how many people could have been responsible for the fire.

“The impression is, and I won’t argue with it, our mosques do feel under attack,” Lego said. “This is the second incident of damage to a mosque in our city in less than a week, and the sixth that’s been recounted here.”

Carter said he was “disgusted” by the fire and other mosque vandalism. St. Paul police are “upping patrols” and “upping our readiness” to prevent future vandalism and to respond quickly when necessary, he added.

“We’ve said it before and I hate that we have to say it again, but we will say it again and again and again—we do not tolerate attacks against our communities of faith,” Carter said. “This was a mosque that was attacked today, but make no mistakes about it—our communities of faith were attacked today.”

About 18 men knelt in prayer outside the mosque next to yellow police tape about 1:30 p.m. More arrived minutes before a 2 p.m. press conference to show solidarity. Some were members of the Twin Cities mosques that had been previously targeted.

Other non-Muslim faith leaders in St. Paul, including Reverend Frenchye Magee from Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, also visited the mosque in a show of support. Magee’s church is next door to the mosque.

“We will not stand for this type of act, it is not only shameful, it is cowardly,” Magee said. “If you are intending to attack one house of faith you are attacking all of us.”

“This is a hate crime,” State Representative Samakab Hussein, DFL-St. Paul, said at the scene. “And this is Islamophobia. And this is—I mean, if one Muslim person does something similar to this, we call them terrorist. But this should be a terrorist.”

The fire Wednesday is the sixth incident targeting Minnesota mosques in 2023, said CAIR-Minnesota.

There have been four widely publicized incidents of vandalism against local mosques:

Wednesday’s fire at the Oromo American Tawhid Islamic Center.

A masked suspect threw a chunk of concrete at Masjid As Sunnah in St. Paul on Friday, May 12. St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Mike Ernster said Wednesday that no one has been arrested in the case.

Jackie Rahm Little of Plymouth allegedly set a fire in the bathroom at Masjid Omar Islamic Center, which is located in 24 Somali Mall, in Minneapolis on the evening of Sunday, April 23.

Jackie Rahm Little of Plymouth allegedly set a fire in the third floor hallway of Mercy Islamic Center, which houses Masjid Al Rahma, in Minneapolis on Monday, April 24. Little was indicted with one count of arson and one count of damage to religious property for the Minneapolis fires. He remains in custody at the Sherburne County jail.

Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan took to Twitter to speak out against the mosque vandalism.

“In the last several months, Minnesota’s Muslim community has experienced several attacks motivated by hate,” Walz wrote. “In Minnesota, we have a zero tolerance policy toward violence. We continue to stand with our Muslim friends and neighbors.”

“The attacks we’ve seen on our Muslim neighbors are unacceptable,” Flanagan wrote. “We will continue working to ensure everyone can practice their faith without fear. Hate has no home in Minnesota.”

The Legislature’s People of Color and Indigenous Caucus (POCI) issued a statement condemning the vandalism.

“The POCI Caucus stands in solidarity against the recent attacks on mosques,” said the group’s statement. “We are appalled and saddened by these hate-motivated acts towards our Muslim communities. Minnesotans deserve to practice their faith without fear of persecution or discrimination. The Muslim community in Minnesota is a vibrant and diverse part of our state. They are our neighbors, our friends, and our family.

“We stand with you in condemning these attacks and defending your right to practice religion freely and without fear. It has become clear that the underlying cause of these attacks is Islamophobia. Hate crimes are a serious threat to our community, and we must all work together to combat them.”

CAIR-Minnesota urged the local Muslim community and Islamic institutions across the country to take extra security precautions, and shared a link to CAIR’s booklet, “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.”

“We will rebuild and we will continue… to practice our faith without fear,” Jaylani said.

St. Paul police asked for the public’s help solving the case.

“I encourage anyone who has knowledge of or knows of what happened here today to please call the police department,” Lego said, adding that there will be increased security at mosques.


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Islamic extremist who killed 8 in NYC terrorist attack gets 10 life sentences plus 260 years

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

NEW YORK — An unrepentant and defiant Islamic extremist received 10 life sentences and another 260 years in prison on Wednesday for killing eight people with a truck on a bike path in Manhattan on Halloween in 2017, as a judge decried his “callous and cowardly” crimes.

“The conduct in this case is among the worst, if not the worst I’ve ever seen,” said U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick, as he announced a sentence designed to underscore the severity of the terrorist attack Sayfullo Saipov claimed he carried out on behalf of the Islamic State group.

A life sentence was mandatory after a jury rejected the death penalty in March, but prosecutors had asked Broderick to impose eight consecutive life sentences and two concurrent life sentences. They also wanted an extra 260 years to send a stern message to other like-minded terrorists. And that’s what the judge did.

Broderick cited the defiance of Saipov, who, given a chance to speak, said the tears of victims and family members in the courtroom over a six-month period would fill a single tissue while the tears and blood of the Islamic population worldwide would fill the courtroom.

In a rambling rant delivered through a translator, Saipov spent most of an hour talking about the creation of religions and how the devil was instrumental in the creation of the human population.

When he finished, a relative of one of his victims stood up and shouted: “The only act of the devil here is the act you did!” Then she immediately sat down and Broderick announced the sentence.

“You did not and you do not care about their pain and their suffering,” the judge said of Saipov’s victims. He labeled Saipov’s attack as “callous and cowardly actions” and noted that even Saipov’s relatives, including his father, were ashamed of his crimes and “traumatized and forever changed.”

Saipov, 35, an Uzbekistan citizen and onetime New Jersey resident, was expected to serve his sentence at the maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, for his Oct. 31, 2017 slaughter of tourists and New Yorkers.

Relatives of eight people killed in the terror attack spoke sometimes through tears during the sentencing, describing their lingering pain and sometimes directly addressing the man convicted in the deaths.

Frank Decadt, father of victim Ann-Laure Decadt, told Saipov that he hoped that “one day you will understand the extent of horror you have inflicted on so many people.”

Marion Van Reeth, who lost her legs in the attack, sat before Saipov in her wheelchair, telling him: “I will never be able to walk like you can.”

As Saipov kept his head drooped and eyes lowered, listening to a translation of the proceedings through earphones, she said: “I have a question for you. After all this time in prison, are you still convinced that your criminal acts against innocent people was the right thing?”

Like others, she expressed hope that someday Saipov would see that his terrorist act was wrong.

Gabriela Pabla Pereya, the wife of Ariel Erlij, who was among five men from Argentina killed during a bike ride as they celebrated the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, delivered the shortest statement during the sentencing hearing. She called Saipov a coward and said if he truly wanted God “to accept and love you, go kill yourself.”

Monica Missio, whose son, Nicholas Cleves was killed, told Saipov his death “has completely destroyed my life.”

Five tourists from Argentina, two Americans and a Belgian woman were killed, and 18 others were seriously injured.


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Man charged after car driven at worshippers at 2 Toronto mosques: police

May 17, 2023

A 28-year-old man has been arrested in connection with what police are calling an “anti-Islamic hate-motivated investigation.”

Toronto police said on April 6 between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., officers received calls for service at two Scarborough mosques — one in the Lawrence Avenue East and Markham Road area, the other in the Lawrence Avenue East and Midland Avenue area.

Police said the suspect was allegedly driving a vehicle, attended the mosques, entered the parking lot and attempted to hit worshippers and other vehicles.

Officers said the suspect then allegedly went to the Scarborough Town Centre.

Police said once inside the mall, the man allegedly harassed and threatened “several customers,” shouting anti-Islamic and derogatory comments at them.

Police said on May 3, 28-year-old Sharan Karunakaran was arrested.

He has been charged with two counts of dangerous operation of a conveyance, two counts of assault with a weapon, five counts of criminal harassment, uttering threats of bodily harm, assault, indecent exhibition in a public place and committing an indecent act with the intent to insult or offend another.

Police said the accused was also charged by York Regional Police on April 7 “in relation to a separate incident that occurred at a mosque in Markham.”

Officers said Karunakaran is being held in custody pending a bail hearing.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.


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Muslim groups ask court to quash Quebec's 'discriminatory' school prayer ban

May 17, 2023

Six Muslim groups are asking a Quebec court to declare unconstitutional a provincial edict that bans religious activity in the province’s public schools.

In a lawsuit filed this week, the groups asked Quebec Superior Court to “declare constitutionally invalid, inapplicable, inoperative or to annul … (the) governmental order to prohibit all forms of prayer” in schools.

The groups also asked the court to rule that the principles of state secularism and religious neutrality cannot “be used to order bans on prayers or other religious practices in public places.”

Two national groups are seeking the judgment — the Muslim Association of Canada and the Canadian Muslim Forum.

Four local organizations are also involved: the Centre communautaire musulman de Montréal, the Centre culturel musulman de Montréal, the Association musulmane de l’Amérique du Nord à Laval and the Centre communautaire islamique de Brossard.

In April, Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville issued a directive formally prohibiting any practice of religious activity in schools, vocational training centres and adult education centres.

Under the directive, all establishments governed by the Education Act must ensure “that no place is used, in fact or in appearance, for the purpose of religious practices such as open prayers or other similar practices.”

“Schools are places of learning, not places of worship,” Drainville said at the time.

The move followed the unanimous adoption of a motion in the National Assembly declaring that “the establishment of places of prayer, regardless of denomination, in the premises of a public school will be against the principle of secularism.”

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They were reacting to reports that some public high schools set up areas where students could pray.

Drainville has said that Quebec isn’t prohibiting prayer altogether, saying that students who want to pray should do so “discreetly” and “silently.”

Drainville’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

In a 22-page document submitted to the court, the Muslim groups argue the decree violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

“This is about violating the fundamental rights of minors and adults in terms of their freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, but also individuals’ right of association.”

Since “this is a complete ban on all forms of prayer and prayer is an essential component of Muslim religious practice, this prohibition discriminates against a group of individuals to the detriment of other groups,” the organizations argue.

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In 2019, Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government brought forward Bill 21, which bars people from some government jobs who wear religious symbols such as the Muslim hijab, Jewish kippah and Sikh turban

Many Bill 21 critics argue the law disproportionately affects Muslim women who wear head coverings.


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Refuting Mahmoud Abbas’ UN Lies, Nearly 4 Million Muslims Visited the Temple Mount During Ramadan

Since June 7, 1967, when Israel liberated the Temple Mount from the illegal Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), Israel’s governments have guaranteed that the site remain accessible to both Israel’s Muslim population and — subject to security precautions — to many Muslims who live in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). This guarantee was once again demonstrated during this year’s month of Ramadan, when nearly four million people visited the site.

Jerusalem resident Fadi Mattour: “Praise Allah Master of the Universe, this month [of Ramadan] was very special. It was a wonderful month. The estimates of the [Jordanian] Waqf are that nearly 4 million visitors visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque this month, and this is a very large number.”

ecord 4,000,000 visitors was made up of both Palestinians, who were given broad permission to enter Israel to visit the site, and Israeli Muslims.

Despite the record numbers of visitors, in his speech this week to the United Nations to mark the “Nakba” — the term that means “catastrophe,” which is used by the Palestinians to describe Israel’s creation – PA leader Mahmoud Abbas baselessly charged:

Israel, ladies and gentlemen, beyond all its crimes against our people since the Nakba … it desecrates the holy Islamic and Christian religious places in Palestine … just as it denies the Palestinians their right to freedom of worship in the Al-Aqsa Mosque — the holy compound of Jerusalem which is the exclusive right of Muslims alone.

[Mahmoud Abbas, Speech in the UN, May 15, 2023]

As Palestinian Media Watch has already noted, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque — built in 693 and marked in red in the picture below — is just one small part of the entire Temple Mount — marked in green in the picture below —  in recent years, for political purposes, the Palestinians refer to the entire site, including the expansive courtyards and the golden topped Dome of the Rock (built in 691), as the “Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

While the entire site is indeed holy to Judaism and Islam, a 1924 guide to the Temple Mount, published by the Supreme Muslim Council, clearly states that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is just one entity on the wider Temple Mount — referred to as “Al-Harm Al-Sharif” or “The August Sanctuary” — whose “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” [emphasis added]

While permitting Muslim prayer on the site, as a rule, and despite the fact that no positive decision was taken by the authorized ministerial committee, Jewish prayer on the site has been mostly prohibited.

Since 1967, Israel has made no substantial structural changes on the site. On the other hand, the Waqf — the Jordanian organization that controls and manages the current Islamic edifices on the site — illegally dug out a large area (some 600 square yards (500 square meters)) known as “Solomon’s Stables” and turned it, in 1996, into another covered prayer area which they named the El-Marwani Mosque.

Despite the fact that Israel has done nothing to change the nature of the Temple Mount — and while the visits of Jews on the Mount are considerably restricted — the PA constantly uses the battle call that “Al-Aqsa is in danger” to invoke religious tension and to spark violence. The calls often intensify during the month of Ramadan.

This year was no different.

A month before Ramadan started, Advisor to the PA Presidential Office on Jerusalem Affairs, Ahmed Al-Ruweidi, was already busy denying Jews all their rights to freedom of religion on the Temple Mount, claiming that “coming days are dangerous for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque” due to Israel’s alleged  intent to “reduce the Palestinian presence”:

Advisor to the [PA] Presidential Office on Jerusalem Affairs Ahmed Al-Ruweidi emphasized that the coming days are dangerous for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque … and that the goal of the initiatives that are being published [by Israel] one after the other is to establish the occupation’s sovereignty and determine new facts on the ground, in order to reduce the Palestinian presence.

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 28, 2023]

Al-Ruweidi continued his baseless conspiracy theory, falsely claiming that Israel’s goal is to “declare ‘the national Holy Basin,’ … as a purely Jewish area, and to establish in its heart the alleged Temple in place of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque…”:

In a statement yesterday [Feb. 27, 2023], he explained that the final goal of all these initiatives is to declare ‘the national Holy Basin,’ which includes the Old City [of Jerusalem] and its surroundings, as a purely Jewish area, and to establish in its heart the alleged Temple in place of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque…”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 28, 2023]

Leaving no room for misunderstanding, Al-Ruweidi then reiterated the PA ideology denying Jews any rights to the Temple Mount, claiming that the entire area — all 144 dunams — are the “exclusive right of the Muslims.” This “exclusive right,” according to Al-Ruweidi, even extends outside of the Temple Mount wall, and includes the Western Wall, which Al-Ruweidi claims as “part of the Mosque” and which is “purely Islamic waqf” — i.e., an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law that Palestinian leaders have claimed Muslims are commanded to free from non-Muslims:

On the day Ramadan started, the PA Supreme Fatwa Council called on Palestinians to visit the site in light of the “fierce attack” it is under and its “desecration.” As PMW has repeatedly shown the PA uses the term “desecrate/desecration” as a euphemism for the visits of Jews to the site:

The [Palestinian] Supreme Fatwa Council called on the citizens to go during the [Muslim fasting] month of Ramadan to Jerusalem and its blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is desperately in need of this in light of the fierce attack that is being waged against its existence, its sanctity, and its unity through desecration and aggression.” [emphasis added]

[WAFA, official PA news agency, March 23, 2023]

In the eyes of the PA, any Jewish visit on the Temple Mount is an “invasion”:

Official PA TV host: “We will begin with the settlers’ latest invasion yesterday [March 30, 2023] — more than 70 settlers invaded the Al-Aqsa Mosque plazas and held Talmudic [i.e., Jewish] rituals near the gates, in the plazas, and next to the Gate of Mercy.”

[Official PA TV, “Good Morning Jerusalem,” March 31, 2023]

A group of Arab rioters barricaded themselves inside the actual mosque with rocks and fireworks, and threw and fired at Israeli forces, who were then forced to intervene. This elementary act of law enforcement on the holy site sparked the anger of PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, prompting him to invoke the “desecration” trope, claiming that Israel refuses to learn that the “Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to the Palestinians and all the Arabs and Muslims”:

[PA] Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said that Israel, with its desecration of the sanctity of the holy sites and the places of worship, and in the attacks that we saw against the worshippers in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, is disregarding all the international norms and conventions and international and humanitarian law in Palestine…

He emphasized that Israel does not want to learn from history that the Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to the Palestinians and all the Arabs and Muslims and that invading it is a spark of revolution against the occupation.

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 6, 2023]

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash similarly distorted the acts of law enforcement calling them “aggression against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque” and then exaggerated their effect claiming they would “spark of religious war … whose price will be paid by the entire world…”

Supreme [PA] Shari’ah Judge of Palestine and [PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas’] Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations Mahmoud Al-Habbash said that the occupation forces’ ongoing aggression against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and persecuting the worshippers and those carrying out Ribat [i.e., religious conflict over land claimed to be Islamic], arresting them, and attacking them, including women, children, and the elderly [refers to Israeli forces removing Arab rioters who had barricaded inside the mosque with rocks and fireworks, which they threw and fired at the forces], is a spark of religious war that the occupation state is striving to ignite in a variety of ways and whose price will be paid by the entire world…

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 6, 2023]

The Supreme PA Presidential Committee for Church Affairs distorted the events even more, curiously claiming that rioters barricading themselves inside the mosque with rocks and fireworks, which they threw and fired at the security forces, should be considered one of the “religious ceremonies in the Al-Aqsa Mosque”:

The Supreme [PA] Presidential Committee for Church Affairs in Palestine condemned the barbaric attack that the Israeli occupation forces committed against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and against the worshipers inside it … and emphasized that only the Muslims have a right to hold all their religious ceremonies in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 6, 2023]

Abbas’ Fatah Movement also used the law enforcement operation as an opportunity to call on all the Fatah frameworks and members to “defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and resist the “invasions,” stressing that the Temple Mount is “holy only to the Palestinians”:

The Fatah Movement called for general preparedness from our people and the Fatah frameworks and members in order to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque, carry out Ribat there, and be there and resist the invasions and calls for the so-called “offering of sacrifices.” …Fatah emphasized the great pride in our residents in our eternal capital, Jerusalem, and in all those carrying out Ribat and staying there who are adhering to their Jerusalem and their right, and they are standing against the ongoing invasions in spite of the intensity of the violence and the aggression and emphasizing that this place is holy only to the Palestinians.

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 7, 2023]

Fatah’s Jerusalem branch added: “The historical and legal status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque goes back hundreds of years, and that only the Muslims and no one else have a right to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 7, 2023]

The PA’s rejection of Jews’ rights to pray or even access the Temple Mount continues unabated also after Ramadan has ended. The PA’s Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Hussein recently reiterated that Al-Aqsa “belongs to the Muslims” and that no one else can “participate with them there”:

As he proved in his speech at the UN, Abbas has no problem whatsoever not only denying the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, but also denying Jews their right to freedom of worship on the site.

Try as they may, no part of Palestinian propaganda will ever be able to detach the connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount.


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St. Paul mosque fire believed to be arson, community leaders 'disgusted'

May 17, 2023

ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Authorities believe arson is the cause of a fire at the Oromo American Twhid Islamic Center in St. Paul.

According to authorities, the building at 430 Dale St. N, was not occupied at the time of the fire, which started around 8:45 a.m. No injuries were reported.

Investigators are currently working with the St. Paul Police Department to determine a suspect. State Fire Marshal and ATF officials are also part of the investigation.

"We take this very seriously and will determine who’s responsible for this, and hold them responsible," said St. Paul Police Department Deputy Chief Josh Lego during a press conference Wednesday morning.

The building was currently undergoing a four-month renovation, which was almost complete at the time of the fire.

"We’ve said it before, and I hate to say it again – we do not tolerate attacks against our community. Communities of faith were attacked today," said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter during the press conference. "We all stand together. An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us."

Carter said increased patrols around St. Paul mosques will occur as a result of this, and other recent mosque fires.

"This feels like a different version of America that should be taking place at a different chapter in history. And yet here we are once again … Whoever committed this crime, you will be caught," Carter said.

Carter and community leaders say they will increase the state of readiness to prevent attacks from occurring again.

"This is one of the most serious attacks against a mosque to date in the state of Minnesota. We’re going to make sure our mosques and law enforcement work together, so there are not repeated attacks," said Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). Hussein noted this is the sixth mosque attack in Minnesota since 2023. "We will rebuild and continue to practice our faith without fear."

"We can not allow anyone to be terrorized for exercising their right to worship. We will stand by our neighbors," said Frenchye Magee, associate pastor at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church. "We are one St. Paul, and we stand together."

There have been several mosque fires either suspected as arson, or having been charged as such throughout the Twin Cities in recent months. In April, a man was suspected of setting fire to two mosques in South Minneapolis while there were people worshiping inside. He has since been taken into federal custody.


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State and local leaders condemn arson at St. Paul mosque, latest in series of incidents


May 17, 2023

State and local leaders are condemning a suspected arson at a mosque in St. Paul that was being renovated.

No one was injured in the Wednesday fire at Tawhid Islamic Center of Minnesota at Dale Street and University Avenue.

“Hate-motivated attacks can create a climate of fear and intimidation, and they can make it difficult for Muslim communities to feel safe and welcome in their community,” the Minnesota House of Representatives St. Paul delegation said in a statement. “All Minnesotans deserve the right to practice religion freely and without fear.”

Firefighters received a report about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday of flames seen at the back of the building, and crews extinguished the fire.

A fire investigator “immediately identified” that arson was suspected, said Deputy Fire Chief Roy Mokosso. Police, fire and the ATF are investigating, including looking for video surveillance from the area.

Wednesday’s blaze extensively damaged the inside of the building, which was under construction and being remodeled, according to Mokosso. There had been recent reports of vandalism to the building, he said.

No one was immediately under arrest in the fire, and investigators are looking for who was responsible.

“We’re glad no one was physically hurt, however, we know the importance of this center and we will be investigating this incident to the fullest extent,” said St. Paul police Sgt. Mike Ernster, a department spokesman.

A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives certified fire investigator is working with local authorities on the investigation, according to the ATF’s St. Paul field division. The ATF responds to almost any type of fire at a house of worship, not only overt acts of arson.

The mosque has been there for about 12 years and, because the community outgrew the space, it was being renovated, said Jaylani Hussein,  executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Minnesota chapter. The goal is to rebuild.

The fire “is another attack in a growing and disturbing trend of violence against our Muslim neighbors,” Mayor Melvin Carter wrote on Twitter. “An affront to one of our houses of worship is an affront to us all. Religious intolerance and bigotry have no place in St. Paul.”

Gov. Tim Walz wrote that Minnesota has “a zero tolerance policy toward violence. We continue to stand with our Muslim friends and neighbors.”

CAIR-MN said it was the sixth attack on a mosque in the state this year; Hussein said they don’t all appear coordinated. There were nine incidents in Minnesota last year, which was the most on record.

In St. Paul on the East Side, a person with a large rock threw it several times at As-Sunnah Islamic Center on Friday and caused significant damage. The case remains under investigation.

In Minneapolis, there were arsons at two mosques within two days last month and a man was federally charged.


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64 Islamic Scholars Killed By Boko Haram and ISWP, Since the Inception of the Terrorists’ Activities in Nigeria


No fewer than 64 Islamic scholars have been killed by Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) since the inception of the terrorists’ activities in Nigeria, an Islamic Scholar, Dr. Nurudeen Lemu, has said.

Lemu who is the Director Research and Training, Islamic Education Trust (Da’wah Institute of Nigeria) said the scholars were killed because they opposed and preached against the terrorists ideologies.

He told The Nation in an interview that today many scholars are afraid to counter the terrorists’ ideologies because of fear of assassination by the extremist groups.

Lemu said: “We have some very knowledgeable ulamas and scholars, but the problem is that many knowledgeable scholars who counter the arguments of Boko Haram/ISWAP have been killed by them. When you know by talking against them they will kill you, why will you talk?  When the security personnel, politicians and soldiers are being killed by Boko Haram, why should you risk your life?

“On record, we have been able to tally up to 64, at least, scholars that have been killed by Boko Haram, from inception to date. They were killed because they spoke against Boko Haram. Many ulamas are naturally afraid to speak. Many have gone into hiding. Many were threatened, and some had to leave the country.”

He urged security agencies to provide adequate protection to those that are threatened, because they are doing the service for common good.

On what the incoming administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu should do to fight violent-extremism in the country, Lemu said the incoming administration should support organizations that are involved in countering extremist ideologies and also revised the university curriculum of religious studies.

He said: “Presently in our university curriculum for Islamic studies, there is no recognition for deliberate engagement with people of other religions. When you look at extremism in the university curriculum, it contains things about various extremist groups that existed in the past, but they don’t study the modification and evolution of modern day extremist groups.

“I have been on a board of a particular university to review the curriculum, and we also got the curriculum of about five universities and they are the same. Boko Haram has been with us for the past 13 years, isn’t it enough to study its ideology? It is like people who are busy studying medicine but don’t want to study the current diseases and the current cure for the diseases.

“So when it comes to tackling religious extremism, I think both Islamic and Christian curriculum should be revised. We need to emphasize building resilience against extremism and better inter-faith engagements. This is to prepare the students when they become teachers of Islamic or Christian studies on strategies to counter violent-extremism.

“We have some best practices that are already working well. We have many organisations that have been countering extremist recruitment, but have to do it very quietly. The incoming administration should support them to train more scholars and imams on how to counter extremist ideologies.

“Governments also need to engage in more peace building, and support more organisations involved in bridge building, both at the national and local levels, especially the National Inter-religious Council (NIREC), which comprises Muslim and Christian scholars. It should identify areas where there have been problems in the past between the major religions in the country because those are the areas problems are most likely to reoccur, and look at what kind of peace and reconciliation that is needed in those areas.”


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Islamic Groups Organise Training On Combating Extremism

Thu, 18 May 2023

In a bid to combat violent extremism and promote peace in Nigeria, the Development Initiative of West Africa (DIWA) has partnered with the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria (DIN) to train more than 500 Islamic religious leaders, women, and youth.

The initiative said it aims to equip participants with the necessary skills to identify, deconstruct, and prevent the spread of extremist ideologies and narratives.

The training, which took place from May 9th to 14th, covered a range of subjects over the course of six days.

Participants delved into faith-based doctrines, grievances, drivers of violent extremism, interreligious relations, personal development, ethical reforms, and more. By addressing key misconceptions that have contributed to radicalization, the initiative aims to provide soft, logical, and credibly referenced alternative narratives that dispel extremist arguments and ideologies.

Danlad Ayuba Sambo, a participant, expressed his gratitude for the training, stating that it had a profound impact on his life.

“The first training has changed my life,” Sambo said. “Islam is a religion that teaches us to be peaceful with one another, but some who have gone to extremes are giving the religion a violent image.”

Musa El-thani Muhammad, the Programme Manager at DIWA, emphasized the organization’s commitment to driving the initiative’s objectives down to the grassroots level and creating a sustainable impact. “We hope to achieve strengthened social cohesion, as well as an increased predisposition to preserving human dignity and the sanctity of life,” Muhammad stated.

The collaboration between DIWA and DIN in training over 500 Islamic religious leaders, women, and youth are part of efforts to address the challenges of violent extremism in Nigeria. The initiative aims to build resilience, promote peace, and foster a more harmonious society by equipping individuals with the necessary tools to counter extremist ideologies and narratives.


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Crisis hits Niger Imam Forum as three sects break out

May 17, 2023

At least three different Islamic sects have withdrawn their membership from the Niger State Iman Forum over alleged recent activities of the forum contrary to the aims of its establishment.

The three sects include; Fitiyanun Islam, Izalatil Bidi:ah, Woikamatil Sunnah, Kaduna and that of the Jos respectively.

This was contained in letters separately addressed to the Niger State Governor Alh. Abubakar Sani Bello and copied to other relevant bodies and security agencies, which were made available to newsmen in Minna.

In their letters titled ‘Letter of Withdrawal of Jumuat Imam’ and signed by chairmen and secretaries, respectively, the sects distanced themselves from being used politically, especially as allegedly experienced during the time of the past Director-General Religious Affairs in the state.

This action, they said, contravened the purpose of its creation for unity, preserving peace and harmonizing their followers.

According to them, “Some Imams have abandoned their primary duties. Some have turned their mosques and preachings into attacks to gain political recognition and appointments. We are warning the general public and politicians to be wary of such Imams.”


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Using Islam to subjugate women senseless; North’s backwardness self-imposed: Adamu

MAY 17, 2023

Education minister Adamu Adamu has slammed Muslim elites in northern Nigeria for using Islam to “keep women at home,” describing their action as senseless.

“The first two universities in the world were established by Muslim women, and here people are using Islam to keep women at home. I think it does not make sense,” the minister noted.

Mr Adamu also blamed northerners for their “self-imposed” educational backwardness.

The minister stated this at Tuesday’s public presentation of Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) Book 1 series for Nigerian universities and a book in his honour in Abuja.

“The North is in self-imposed educational backwardness because the interest of the North is Islam, and Islam is the greatest promulgator of knowledge. In 859 AD, one Fatima Al-Fihri (sic), a Muslim woman, established the first university in the world,” explained Mr Adamu. “At the time, the Italian universities, Oxford, Cambridge universities had not started. The first university is still existing there. It is now in Morocco.”

The education minister added, “And about 100 years after that one, another university was established, the second university in the world before the universities of Europe, in Cairo and just like the first one, this university was established by a Muslim woman, Fatimatu Zahara.”

Mr Adamu, however, expressed delight that many of the 37 new private universities approved by the Federal Executive Council on Monday are situated in the North.

He called for establishing a federal teachers’ service commission, saying such a move would ensure reforms in the profession yield desired results.

“I want to leave one legacy in your hands (heads of education agencies and others), we wrote a letter, and the president approved everything,” the minister said. “But there is one yet to come to fruition that will make education totally different.”

Mr Adamu admitted that it was recently “I realised that we need a Federal Teachers Service Commission.”


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Arab World


World Must Ensure Chemical Weapons Do Not Re-Emerge and Spread, Says Saudi Envoyto the Netherlands

May 18, 2023

RIYADH: The Chemical Weapons Convention is undoubtedly the most successful international disarmament agreement in history and it is important that the world ensures such weapons of mass destruction do not re-emerge and spread.

This was the view of Ziad Al-Atiyah, the Kingdom’s ambassador to the Netherlands, who was speaking at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Fifth Review Conference in the Hague on Wednesday.

The envoy, who led the Saudi delegation at the event, said it was taking place at an important time in the history of the OPCW, as the destruction of all declared stockpiles of chemical weapons has been completed as planned, thus achieving an important objective of the convention.

Al-Atiyah, who is also the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the chemical weapons watchdog, said his country looks forward to the success of the Review Conference as it offers a chance to reflect on the progress that has been made and consider what can be done in the coming years to ensure the convention’s continuing role in maintaining international peace and security.

He called on states that have signed up to the convention to heed the lessons learned from the practical experience and practices of the OPCW, and develop a road map so that the organization can continue to achieve the objectives of the convention as effectively and efficiently as possible.

He said development of the organization’s verification system is an essential element in efforts to prevent the reemergence of chemical weapons and any possible threat they might be used.

Al-Atiyah said the Kingdom appreciates the initiatives that have been developed to help the most needy countries meet the challenges they face in fulfilling their obligations under the convention.

He stressed the importance of the economic and technological development of states that are party to the convention, and of international cooperation in the use of chemicals for purposes not prohibited under the convention, in ways that can promote development and boost the global economy.

He also welcomed the inauguration of the OPCW’s Center for Chemistry and Technology last Friday, which is considered one of the advanced facilities of its kind. Al-Atiyah said the Kingdom donated €50,000 euros ($54,207) to help establish the center and support international cooperation to ban chemical weapons and prevent their proliferation, in keeping Chemical Weapons Convention and its role in promoting international peace and security.

The Review Conference began on Monday and continues until Thursday.


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US-Saudi Business Council invites American delegation on business-development mission to Kingdom

May 18, 2023

RIYADH: The US-Saudi Business Council has invited an American delegation to visit the Kingdom as part of a business-development mission designed to enhance investment and trade partnerships.

The delegates will attend the fifth annual Future Projects Forum, which will take place on May 22 and 23 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh, and meet members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

They will also meet members of the business council and representatives of US companies already doing business in Saudi Arabia, to help build relationships and facilitate dialogue between business communities in the two countries.

Susanne Lendman, executive director and interim president and CEO of the US-Saudi Business Council, said the delegation includes representatives of seven American companies, some of which are newcomers to the Saudi market interested in providing products and services that meet the needs of the growing construction sector in the Kingdom. These needs include building materials, architectural services, maritime security solutions, food- and beverage-processing equipment, artificial intelligence, and engineering and consulting services for the construction and energy sectors, she added.

“Organized by the Saudi Contractors Authority, the Future Projects Forum gathers contractors, public- and private-sector owners to learn about future projects presented in detail by Saudi government and private entities. Previous (forums) showcased 9,450 projects valued at $704 billion,” the business council said, as it described the Kingdom as one of the world’s largest construction markets.

“Saudi Arabia, the fastest-growing G20 economy in 2022 and the world’s sixth-most competitive nation, has project opportunities estimated at over $1 trillion in sectors such as infrastructure, real estate, tourism, leisure, transportation, health care, energy and utilities,” it added.

“Saudi Arabia’s newly launched Circular Carbon Economy National Program and the Saudi Green Initiative to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060 will provide opportunities for renewable technologies and products to improve energy efficiency.”


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Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah readies itself to welcome Arab League summit delegates

May 17, 2023

JEDDAH: They have been applying the finishing touches in Jeddah to ensure the high-level delegations invited to the upcoming Arab League summit on Friday receive the warmest of welcomes.

The flags of all countries attending can be seen across the city and even more tress have been planted as part of Saudi Arabia’s green drive.

One of the most notable views at this year’s summit is that of the Syrian national flag fluttering among the flags of other countries.

Abdulrahman Rammal, a Saudi journalist, said: “It’s so amazing to see the Syrian flag on the streets of Jeddah as it represents a good change and, hopefully, the summit re-establishes the relationship between the Kingdom and Syria.”

Although Rammal does not support the Syrian regime, he said he believed that the country’s public, through renewed ties, might improve their living conditions and be reunited with relatives.

Rima Ibrahim, a Syrian living in Jeddah, said: “Witnessing the Syrian flag and its participation in the summit is great. As a Syrian living in Saudi Arabia, re-establishing the relationships between both countries means that we can visit the Syrian Embassy and renew our passports easily, which was not the case during the crisis. Besides, now I can visit my family in Syria and go to my country through direct flights.”

Jordanian citizens are also excited to see their country’s presence at the summit and its work to end the crisis in Syria and bring Damascus back into the Arab fold.

Jeddah is under high security alert, ensuring the safety of high-level delegations and the smooth conduct of traffic from highways to the summit.

Hotels and roundabouts have also been decorated with Arab flags for Friday’s event. The Ritz Carlton has taken special measures as part of its preparations. With the hotel fully booked out for the summit, guests can expect a luxury experience.

Through the summit, Saudi Arabia hopes to reinvigorate Arab ties and improve communication between countries. Important foreign policy topics are set to be at the center of discussion on Friday.


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Saudi men ‘more open’ to having cosmetic procedures

May 17, 2023

RIYADH: More Saudi men are now having cosmetic procedures, driven by changing societal norms and attitudes toward male grooming, according to a local doctor.

Traditionally, grooming and personal care were considered the domain of females. Today, attitudes have shifted, with many men now viewing these activities as essential, said Fatimah Al-Satouf, a cosmetic doctor at Panthera clinic in Riyadh.

Al-Satouf’s view is borne out by a study published by the National Library of Medicine in 2019 that found 47.6 percent of respondents willing to undergo minor cosmetic procedures, while 60.9 percent agreed that cosmetic surgery was good because it could help people feel better about themselves.

In an interview with Arab News recently, Al-Satouf said she believes demand has risen because of the proliferation of information online.

“The influence of social media and celebrity culture is a significant factor driving men’s demand for cosmetic procedures in Saudi Arabia. Social media platforms have made it easier for individuals to access information about cosmetic procedures, and they are increasingly using these platforms to research and share information about their experiences with cosmetic procedures,” Al-Satouf said.

She said social media influencers and celebrities have a significant impact on the popularity of cosmetic procedures. The desire to emulate their favorite celebrities and influencers has led many men to seek cosmetic procedures to enhance their appearance, but they do have some reservations.

“Other than social media, men usually fear looking so fake, so they hate to do (just) any cosmetic procedure. They see that girls look alike, and this is a thing that men don’t like. They don’t want to look like someone else usually, but then they discover through the publicity of social media that there is something that they can do that won’t make them look so fake, but it will only enhance a particular area and will keep their (facial) features the same,” Al-Satouf explained.

Al-Satouf said most of her patients are couples and that the pressure is usually from the wife for the husband to visit. In addition, procedures are now cheaper and more widely available.

“The majority of men don’t like losing their hair, so there is a cosmetic procedure we frequently perform.

“Some men who regularly work out at the gym also enjoy getting armpit Botox to prevent sweating, and some men want to look or have more manly features, so they get Texas fillers, which is filler injection in the jawline to achieve this.

“Most men experience acne and scarring, so they request facial treatments that lighten their skin and remove these marks,” Al-Satouf explained.

Faisal Sulaiman, who underwent some treatments, said: “Gynecomastia, which is an increase in the amount of breast gland tissue, caused me to feel anxious about my chest, so I went to a plastic surgeon who helped me with this issue. I also had Botox for my forehead and a carbon laser to eliminate my acne scars,” he said.


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Pakistani cyclist, traveling through Saudi Arabia, falls in love with Kingdom’s natural beauty, hospitality

May 17, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Similar to most Pakistanis who have not traveled frequently to Saudi Arabia, Kamran Ali only knew the Middle East country as the home of Islam’s holiest sites in Makkah and Madinah.

But when he pedaled his way into the Kingdom in February this year, Ali, 45, was blown away by Saudi Arabia’s cultural richness and its historical castles, fiery volcanoes, and ancient rock formations and art.

In 2019, the country threw open its doors to foreign tourists, launching a new visa regime and appealing to foreign companies to invest in a sector it hopes will contribute 10 percent of gross domestic product by 2030.

The move was part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious plans to develop new industries to wean the world’s top oil exporter off crude. Many of his reforms have received international praise.

“I came to Saudi Arabia without much knowledge because the books we studied only provided information about religious places,” Ali, who in the last eight years has cycled through 46 countries across four continents and covered a remarkable 56,000 kilometers, told Arab News by phone from Makkah.

“However, when I saw the rock formations in the deserts, the intricate inscriptions, and Islamic rock art and historical castles and volcanoes, it was a mind-blowing and unforgettable experience.”

Among major restoration projects that have taken place in Saudi Arabia in recent years and attracted foreign tourists is Diriyah, the ancestral home of the Al-Saud family and the capital of the First Saudi State. Other projects include the ancient sites of Fau, Hegra, Tayma, Duma, and along the Darb Zubaydah, the pilgrimage road to Makkah. There is also the flagship $20 billion tourism project of AlUla, the site of an ancient civilization in a remote northwestern corner of the country.

Ali is well on his way to cycling through them all.

Born in Layyah, a small city in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, Ali gained a Ph.D. in computer science and made the life-changing decision in 2015 to quit his job in Germany and follow his passion for cycling. He has since biked through cities in Europe, Asia, South America, Central America, and North America.

His latest excursion, which began in December 2022, will end in South Africa, and includes an over three-month-long detour in Saudi Arabia, which Ali is currently exploring.

Due to visa issues from Iranian authorities, Ali had to begin his tour of the Middle East from Muscat, Oman, and onwards to the UAE, from where he entered Saudi Arabia on Feb. 9 through the Al-Batha land border.

In the last three months, he has explored the Rub’ al Khali, Al-Kharj, Hail, AlUla, and Madinah cities of Saudi Arabia before arriving in Makkah 12 days ago, having cycled some 3,500 km since he left Muscat.

The Pakistani adventurer lavished praise on Madinah, describing the province and its regional capital city as “remarkable” for its historical inscriptions, Islamic rock art, castles, and volcanoes.

“The (Madinah) province is a treasure trove of Islamic and pre-Islamic history, boasting breath-taking landscapes,” he said, adding that the Kingdom’s Hail region was also captivating for both its landscape and history.

The Ikmah mountain in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla city, with more than 500 inscriptions from the Dadan and Lihyan civilizations, have also captured the cyclist’s imagination.

“Notably, the Lihyanite inscriptions, which are 4,000 to 5,000 years old, narrate the history of ancient Arabia,” Ali said.

He also highlighted the extensive stone structures that stretch for miles in Saudi Arabia’s Khaybar city, located around 150 km to the north of Madinah, and are replete with Islamic rock art and calligraphic inscriptions that date back 1,300 years.

Impressed by the country’s rock art, Ali has vowed to raise awareness about them.

“I will write about the rock art in Saudi Arabia to promote the country’s tourist destinations beyond the Two Holy Mosques,” Ali added.

But more than the majestic mountains, old rock formations, and centuries-old castles, the traveler said Saudi Arabia’s “incredible” hospitality, generosity, and kindness was what would remain most memorable for him.

He recalled one incident when he was traveling under the harsh sun through the Rub’ al Khali desert, which includes parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, and Yemen, and was unable to carry much food or water, with no facilities or shade in sight for several kilometers.

“However, the local people checked on me, provided me with food and water, and even invited me to their homes if they were nearby,” Ali said.

And he recounted another example of Saudi generosity in the central Saudi city of Al-Kharj where he tried to help a disabled boy while eating at a roadside restaurant. But a local intervened and not only paid for the boy’s food but also for Ali’s meal.

Despite traveling through 46 countries, Ali said he had never seen “such examples of generosity” anywhere else in the world.

“I was astonished because such acts of kindness are often only read about in books, but this actually happened in Saudi Arabia,” he added.


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Southeast Asia


Home minister: ‘Allah’ appeal withdrawn to give govt time to study schism in 1986 directives

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

Thursday, 18 May 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — Putrajaya withdrew the appeal against a High Court ruling that directed Jill Ireland Lawrence’s seized compact discs to be returned was meant to give the government time to “study” a 1986 directive that banned Christians from using the term “Allah” alongside three other words, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution said today.

The Anwar administration has come under intense attack following the withdrawal ahead of six state elections slated for July, with the opposition ramping up its communal rhetoric to paint the so-called unity government as “anti-Islam”.

Saifuddin suggested in a statement posted on his Twitter that the entire legal dispute was never about who gets the exclusive right to use the word “Allah”, an Arabic term for “god” used widely by Christians in other countries including the Middle East.

Instead, the legal battle was centred on what he described as the contradictory directive issued by the Cabinet and Home Ministry respectively in May and December 1986.

“The lingering administrative issue regarding the seizure of Video CDs belonging to Jill Ireland was not an issue about the term ‘Allah’,” the minister said in a tweet posted at 9.15am today.

“As a responsible government, because there was a contradiction in the administrative directive issued in 1986... the government plans to conduct a more comprehensive study on the administrative directive with regards to the use of Allah,” Saifuddin added.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said in a statement yesterday that his government would seek an audience with the Conference of Rulers soon to “present its proposals to strengthen enforcement on the use of the word ‘Allah’”.

Anwar did not provide details about the proposals but suggested that it would not rattle “interracial and inter-religious unity and harmony”.

On Monday, Anwar’s government confirmed it had withdrawn its appeal against the 2021 High Court ruling in favour of the Sarawakian native, Jill Ireland.

The move put an end to the 15-year-long legal saga that began when the government seized the Sarawak Bumiputera’s eight educational CDs containing the word “Allah”, the Arabic word for God, which were for her own use.

Saifuddin said today the Home Ministry under his watch had studied the High Court ruling that instructed the authorities to return her CDs as early as January this year.

He claimed the Attorney General’s Chambers’ appeal filed in 2021, directed by the government of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, was meant to give the government time to “study new facts, analyse the (High Court) judgment and consult various parties”.


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Right to use ‘Allah’ a good thing to come from unity govt, says Sarawak’s Telang Usan rep


KUCHING, May 18 ― The Home Ministry’s withdrawal of an appeal of a High Court ruling on Sarawakian Christian Jill Ireland’s right to use the term “Allah” is one of good things to come from the unity government, said Dennis Ngau (GPS Telang Usan).

The assemblyman thanked the ministry and the federal government for coming up with the decision.

“This is good. It means they understand us. This is a blessing,” he said when met yesterday.

However, Dennis admitted that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s statement on the court’s decision to give Christians the right to use the word ‘Allah’ along with three other Arabic words in their religious publication apply only for Sarawak, was somewhat confusing.

“I hope the decision (to use the word ‘Allah’ in Christians’ religious publication) is meant for all Malaysians.

“We do understand there are many states in the country having Sultans as heads of Islam and I am sure it is their right to protect their religion. This, we respect.

“Perhaps because these people come from Malaya, so they probably follow the sentiment over there. We, in Sarawak, are fortunate that we are on our own and such matter they cannot be disturbed. This is the main thing that Sarawakians must understand and we must wake up to this reality.

“Of course, the very ideal situation in our country is to have complete religious freedom. This is where we, as Christians, must remember that such matter is between you and God, you are the one who are reaching to God and that is what is important,” he added.

The court case stemmed from the Home Ministry’s seizure on May 11, 2008 of Christian religious CDs and books containing the word ‘Allah’ under Section 9 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 when Jill disembarked at the then Low-Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang.

The CDs, containing titles including ‘Cara Menggunakan Kunci Kerajaan Allah’, ‘Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah’, and ‘Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah’, were brought from Indonesia.

Jill had sought a declaration that her constitutional rights had been violated.

In 2017, her lawyers had highlighted views from local and international experts that the Arabic word ‘Allah’ for God is not used exclusively by Islam, as the word has been adopted into Malaysia’s national language and has long been used by the local Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians as shown by Malay translations of Christian publications dating back a few centuries. ― Borneo Post


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‘Allah’ issue: Proposal for conference of rulers shows gov’t protects sanctity of Islam

18-05- 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet’s decision to submit its proposal to improve the enforcement of policies relating to the use of the word ‘Allah’ to the Conference of Rulers proves the Unity Government’s commitment to protect the sanctity of Islam, said Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (YADIM).

Its president Datuk Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus said the move also showed that the government was determined to strengthen unity and harmony among the various races and religions in Malaysia.

Mohd Yunus said it also provided an opportunity to further streamline existing policies on the use of the word ‘Allah’, in line with the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

“The government’s effort (presenting the proposal) is proof that the Cabinet will not compromise in defending the sanctity of Islam and the sovereignty of laws or enactments relating to Islam in the states.

“This will provide for enforcement on the use of certain words which can be used only by Muslims to be streamlined and enforced in the best way possible,” he told Bernama.

He is confident that after the government has presented the documents on its proposal, the enforcement would be clearer and firmer without undermining the right and freedom of non-Muslims to practise their own religions.

“We cannot deny that there may be weaknesses in enforcement by the authorities, so through this proposal the Cabinet will give its comment and advice to them (authorities).

“The government is on the right track to clear the confusion, and it shows that while non-Muslims are free to practise their own religions, they are cautioned against spreading their religions to people they are not supposed to,” he added.

Earlier today, the Cabinet had obtained the consent of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah to submit its proposal to improve the enforcement of policies relating to the use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims to the Conference of Rulers.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pix), in a statement, said the government will always uphold the Federal Constitution, especially Article 3 relating to Islam being the religion of the Federation and that other religions may be practised in peace and harmony.

The issue was discussed at the Cabinet meeting today following the Attorney-General’s decision to withdraw the appeal against the High Court’s ruling on the case involving a Christian woman from Sarawak, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, and her publication material containing the word of ‘Allah’.-Bernama


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Timing of ‘Allah’ appeal withdrawal throws neutral Malay vote up in the air, analysts say

By Keertan Ayamany

Thursday, 18 May 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — Ending the appeal of a court ruling over the use of “Allah,” the Arabic word for God, in Christian publications so near to six state elections will disadvantage parties in the national unity government with Malay-Muslim voters.

Despite the consequences, however, Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said the government likely had little choice in the matter as case management had already been set for May 19.

“The government had to withdraw, else it would have created another turmoil seeing as the government right now is composed of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah, Gabungan Parti Sarawak of the Borneo states.

“This is a sensitive issue not just here in the peninsula, but also in the Borneo states,” he told Malay Mail.

In March 2021, the High Court deemed that a 1986 government ban on using the word “Allah” in Christian publications was unlawful and unconstitutional.

The government under Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at the time had decided to appeal the court decision.

However, it was discovered on Monday that the national unity government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has withdrawn the appeal, effectively concluding the legal battle that began after authorities seized eight CDs containing the word “Allah” from a Christian Sarawakian 15 years ago.

According to International Islamic University political science associate professor Syaza Shukri, the development would let PN in the federal Opposition depict Pakatan Harapan (PH), Barisan Nasional, and others in the national unity government at “anti-Islam.”

This would also play to the strengths of PN, a coalition consisting entirely of Malay-Muslim lawmakers, which already deployed communal politics in the 15th general election that saw it nearly forming the government on a wave of support for its religious conservatism.

Syaza said that while there was no “good time” for such a religiously sensitive decision in Malaysia, its emergence so close to six crucial state elections was strategically poor.

“Most Muslims in Malaysia still believe strongly that the word Allah is Islamic in nature, regardless of what historians and linguists say.

“Those Malays who are more on the fence with how they feel towards the government may choose to stay out of the election, if not outright vote for PN,” she said.

Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Selangor and Terengganu are all expected to dissolve their state assemblies in the latter half of June to pave way for state elections that were needed now because they were not held during the 15th general election last November.

Azmi said that one possible solution for the unity government was for Umno to be publicly disagree with the decision to drop the appeal, in a bid to reinforce its position as champions of Malay and Muslim interests.

He said this would be needed to counter PN’s ongoing narrative that it was the true defender of Malay-Muslim interests.

“A strong Umno would make a strong PH and unity government,” said Azmi.

Yesterday, Anwar said his government will seek an audience with the Conference of Rulers over the use of “Allah” in a non-Muslim context “to resolve this issue holistically and cohesively.”

However, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia professor Kartini Aboo Talib disagreed with the notion that the unity government or the political coalitions within it have suffered significant damage from the appeal being ended.

“The unity government is clearly focused on business. Their approach to convince voters will be strategic.

“Upon forming the government, political parties gain many more advantages, including access to opportunities in areas such as land development, vendor selection, GLC appointments and securing contracts for transportation improvements, among others.

“People may call it nepotism, but others may call it network,” she said.

This week, the federal government confirmed withdrawing the appeal against the 2021 High Court ruling in favour of the Sarawakian native, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill.

The move put an end to the 15-year-long legal saga that began when the government seized the Sarawak Bumiputera’s eight educational compact discs (CDs) containing the word “Allah”, the Arabic word for God, which were for her own use.

Read here for Malay Mail’s summary of the High Court’s 96-page judgment to understand why the government’s 1986 ban was found to be unlawful and unconstitutional.


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