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Islamic World News ( 30 Jul 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistani Muslim Who Claimed He Was A Prophet Is Killed in Court in Peshawar

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 Jul 2020

• Pakistani Muslim Who Claimed He Was A Prophet Is Killed in Court in Peshawar

• Muslim Police Officer Saves the Life of Hindu Woman by Donating Blood When Her Relatives Had Lost Hope

• UP Sunni Central Waqf Board Forms Trust, Named 'Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation’ for Construction of Mosque in Ayodhya

• Hajj 2020: There Is Much More to Pilgrimage Than the Journey to Mecca

• US Envoy Visits Iconic Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

• The Ruling All Progressives Congress of Nigeria Greets Muslims on Eid ul-Adha

• Guardian Downplays Antisemitism Of British Muslim Charity Official



• Pakistani Muslim Who Claimed He Was A Prophet Is Killed in Court in Peshawar

• SBP allows Islamic Banking Windows to offer all types of financing products

• Medical report declares Nawaz ‘high-risk patient’

• Pakistan: 100-Year Old Ancient Mosque Damaged In Flood, Rebuilt



• Muslim Police Officer Saves the Life of Hindu Woman by Donating Blood When Her Relatives Had Lost Hope

• UP Sunni Central Waqf Board Forms Trust, Named 'Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation’ for Construction of Mosque in Ayodhya

• Muslims To Offer Rakhi To Ram Lalla In Uttar Pradesh


 Arab World

• Hajj 2020: There Is Much More to Pilgrimage Than the Journey to Mecca

• Yemenis Optimistic as Sides Accept Saudi Plan to Implement Riyadh Agreement

• Dedicated paths for each group of pilgrims at Grand Mosque

• Egypt: Islamic State militants ‘occupy’ Sinai villages in wake of foiled attack


 North America

• US Envoy Visits Iconic Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

• CAIR Welcomes Anti-Muslim Hate Group Leader’s Removal from Intro for Virginia Police Chief

• UN Expresses ‘Dismay’ At Anti-Semitic Statements by Islamic Relief Leader



• The Ruling All Progressives Congress of Nigeria Greets Muslims on Eid ul-Adha

• 14 killed in attack on village in central Nigeria

• Appeal Court clears way for extradition of Muslim cleric el-Faisal

• Lawmakers Uncover Fresh Plot To Attack Southern Kaduna After Muslim Festival



• Guardian Downplays Antisemitism Of British Muslim Charity Official

• IHRC Calls for Release of Sheikh Zakzaky, Wife

• ‘I’m appalled’ - Bishop’s message of solidarity to mosque after arson attack

• Upgrades to Maidstone Mosque on hold as new planning application submitted



• List of Israeli Targets Leaked: Tel Aviv Fears the Worst in ICC Investigation of War Crimes

• Iran: UNSC, ICAO must break silence on US aerial terrorism

• Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi: Muharram mourning ceremonies should be held in accordance with health protocols

• Iran welcomes Taliban's ceasefire announcement over Eid ul-Adha, hopes for mutually acceptable peace agreement


 Southeast Asia

• Indonesian Muslims Go Online for Hari Raya Rituals

• Almost 4,000 Mosques in Jakarta Plan to Hold Eid al-Adha Prayers

• Malaysia’s Air Asia mulling hajj and umrah, other Muslim-friendly travel services

• High Court judge says found Najib had every intention to use SRC International for his own benefit

• Musa Aman claims has enough support to topple Sabah government


 South Asia

• Herd Immunity Can’t Save Afghanistan From COVID -19

• Eau Claire-based soldiers return from Afghanistan

• 200 Wisconsin soldiers return from year-long Afghanistan deployment

• Flood Engulfs Over A Third of Bangladesh

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Pakistani Muslim Who Claimed He Was A Prophet Is Killed in Court in Peshawar

July 29, 2020


 Tahir Shamim Ahmad, had claimed he was Islam's prophet


A young Pakistani Muslim walked into a courtroom in the northern city of Peshawar on Wednesday and shot and killed a fellow Muslim who was on trial for blasphemy, a police officer said.

It was not clear how the assailant, identified as Khalid Khan, entered the court amid tight security. The attacker was arrested.

Assailant Khalid Khan


The man on trial, Tahir Shamim Ahmad, claimed he was Islam’s prophet and was arrested two years ago on blasphemy charges, according to Azmat Khan, the police officer. Ahmad died at the scene.

Blasphemy is a controversial issue in Pakistan, where people convicted of the crime can be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. But people in Pakistan often take the law into their own hands.

While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, even the mere accusation can cause riots. Domestic and international human rights groups said blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

A Punjab governor was killed by his guard in 2011 after he defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row in a case that drew international media attention. Faced with death threats from extremists upon her release, she flew to Canada to join her daughters last year.


Muslim Police Officer Saves the Life of Hindu Woman by Donating Blood When Her Relatives Had Lost Hope

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 July 2020

A Muslim police officer in Bengal saved the life of a Hindu woman by donating his blood during lockdown when her relatives had lost hope.

A woman named Miti Dev Sharma of Kaliaganj in North 24 Parganas was hospitalised as she was bleeding profusely. Doctors advised blood transfusion but her blood group was O group and during the lockdown it was very difficult to find any donor. During Covid-19 situation people don't want to donate blood. The relatives of the woman were running from pillar to post to find any donor. When the police patrolling team of the area came to know that a woman was in need of blood, the OC Sumit Kumar asked if any one of the team members had O group blood and appealed to them to help the woman. Fortunately, a sub inspector named Shah Alam Murtuza came forward and said he had O group and volunteered to donate his blood. When all the hopes of the relatives of the woman had seemed to have lost, Shah Alam Murtuza came forward to save her. The woman got the blood and was saved. The SP of Dinajpur praised Shah Alam for his selfless service. The woman said, "If my Muslim brother had not given me his blood, my life would have been in danger.". Shah Alam said, "My religion has taught me to help people in need."



UP Sunni Central Waqf Board Forms Trust, Named 'Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation’ for Construction of Mosque in Ayodhya

July 30, 2020

Nelanshu Shukla


The mosque will come up at a vacant 5-acre plot next to a dargah in Dhannipur village in Ayodhya, around 40 minutes away from Ram Janmabhoomi | Photo courtesy: Shivendra Srivastava


Ahead of the 'bhoomi poojan' on August 5 for the construction of grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board has announced a 15-member trust for the construction of a mosque on the land allotted by the government following the Supreme Court's verdict in Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.

The trust has been named 'Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation' and names of nine members have been announced.

Zufar Faruqi, the chairman of the Sunni Central Waqf Board, has been named the chief trustee while secretary of the board, Athar Husain, will be its official spokesperson.

The land allotted for the construction of the mosque is in Dhannipur village, around 25 kilometers from the Ram Janmabhoomi.

There is also a dargah adjoining the land allotted for mosque construction.

While accepting the land in February this year, chairman of the Sunni board Zufar Faruqi said that apart from the mosque, an Indo-Islamic research centre, a library and a charitable hospital will also be constructed on the 5-acre land.

Since then, the board was completely silent and on Wednesday, ahead of the historic 'bhoomi poojan', it announced the trust for the mosque construction.

Reacting on the trust announcement, former Babri Masjid litigant Iqbal Ansari said, "I have nothing to do with the trust formed for the mosque construction and will continue to offer namaz near my home. We all should welcome PM Modi who is coming for the 'bhoomi poojan'."

The chief priest of the makeshift Ram temple, Mahant Satyendra Das said, "The land has been allotted following the SC order and the trust has the right to use it. However, the Sunni board must ensure that the mosque shouldn't be named 'Babri', otherwise we will lodge a strong protest."

People living at the Dhannipur village said that the construction of the mosque should begin at the earliest and appealed to the government to undertake development work in the area.


Hajj 2020: There Is Much More to Pilgrimage Than The Journey To Mecca

By Dr. Sophia Rose Arjana

July 29, 2020


Virtual pilgrimage often takes place when a pilgrim cannot undergo a physical pilgrimage (Photo: AFP/Getty)


Covid-19 has impacted religious communities around the world, affecting the ways individuals worship, conduct their rituals, and formulate tradition.

Recently, it was announced that this year’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca, due to start this week — the hajj — would be restricted to Saudi citizens and foreign nationals residing in the Kingdom. These changes brought up questions about alternative ways that Muslims could participate, including virtual pilgrimages.

A picture taken on July 29, 2020 shows pilgrims leaving after circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. - Mask-clad Muslim pilgrims began the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage. The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Pilgrimage is often thought of as a physical journey, an embodied act that involves a climb up a mountaintop, travel to a tomb, or visit to the location of a miraculous event. Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka is one such example. Visited by Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians, it is believed to be the site of a sacred footprint and is what scholars describe as a shared pilgrimage site. Physical journeys like the ones to Adam’s Peak and Mecca are just a small part of the story of pilgrimage.

Hajj is a physically arduous pilgrimage that is one of the five pillars of Islam. The pilgrimage is considered a duty for Muslims who can afford it and are in good health. Its required rituals are physical and include entering a state of purity (ihram), circumambulating the ka’abah (tawaf), running between the hills of Safa and Marwa (sa’y/sa’ee), standing on the Plain of Arafat (wuquf), stoning the pillars representing Shaytan (jamarat), and the sacrifice of animals to commemorate Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son (qurbani/kurban). The climate, stress of the journey, and large numbers of pilgrims, which in recent years have reached over two million, are all reflections of the physical nature of the hajj.

Hajj is also a spiritual journey that, for some Muslims, is the culmination of years of dedication to their religion and community. Many scholars of religion have identified the hajj to communitas – the sense of belonging and community that marks the experience for many pilgrims. In addition to this, the hajj is a spiritual journey, one that reminds Muslims not just of Abraham’s story, but of Prophet Muhammad’s farewell hajj near the end of his life. Particular rituals of the hajj involve deep contemplation, such as wuquf, where pilgrims ask for forgiveness for their sins and for mercy from Allah.

In 2017, I wrote a book on religious pilgrimages among Muslims. Published by the British publisher Oneworld and titled Pilgrimage in Islam: Traditional and Modern Practices, this monograph discusses hajj and umrah (also called the “lesser hajj”), Shi’i pilgrimage traditions, Sufi and shared pilgrimages, and pilgrimages, which include non-physical journeys involving a wide range of objects and technology.

These range from models of Husain’s shrine in Karbala constructed in people’s basements and community centers, called Husainiyya, to the use of computer simulations, or what scholars call cyber-pilgrimage. I call these “substitution hajjs” and cite examples such as the Shi’i example of Arbaeen and in Indonesia, visiting the graves of the founding saints of Java may be substituted for the pilgrimage to Mecca.

(COMBO) This combination of pictures shows Muslim pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia at the start of the hajj pilgrimage on July 29, 2020 (top) and (below) pilgrims gather around the Kaaba during last year's pilgrimage on August 13, 2019. - Mask-clad Muslim pilgrims began the annual hajj on July 29, 2020, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage. The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Virtual pilgrimage often takes place when a pilgrim cannot undergo a physical pilgrimage. This type of pilgrimage allows a pilgrim to connect to a site or ritual from a distance. In Islam, Muslims may make a connection to Mecca or another sacred place through an object. In some cases, the object is purchased by a pilgrim and gifted or used later in life. As one example, a shroud worn on pilgrimage may be used to bury the pilgrim when he or she dies. Shi’i Muslims include small replicas of tombs, called rowza or ta’ziyeh (in the case of Husain’s tomb) in some of their ceremonies. Indian Shi’i communities construct miniature shrines called tabut for Muharram processions that commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.

Virtual pilgrimages are distinct from cyber-pilgrimages, in which a computer or other electronic device is used. The use of technology in Islamic pilgrimage includes online Muslim communities, smartphone apps that serve as electronic guidebooks for pilgrims, and Islamic emoticons.

Cyber-pilgrimages, which are gaining popularity among many religious communities, include what scholars call “electronic architecture,” computer-generated structures that include churches, shrines, graveyards, and other religious spaces.

As Muslims continue to grapple with the changes caused by pandemics and the growing numbers of hajj pilgrims predicted in coming years, these tools represent some of the possibilities brought about by technology in the religious marketplace.


US Envoy Visits Iconic Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

JUL 29, 2020


U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield (C) visits the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, Istanbul, July 29, 2020.


U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield and his family visited the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque on Wednesday. He was also accompanied by the U.S. Consul General Daria Darnell and the embassy staff.

The imam of the mosque, Mehmet Boynukalın, and Istanbul Provincial Director of Culture and Tourism Coşkun Yılmaz were also present during the visit.

The U.S. delegation entered the mosque through the gate reserved for tourists and left after a 45-minute visit.

On July 24, numerous Muslims attended the first Friday prayers inside Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in 86 years. They expressed excitement over its reversion from a museum and said it as a major step for the entire Islamic world.

In the new era for Hagia Sophia, Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) will oversee religious services at the mosque, while the Culture and Tourism Ministry will supervise restoration and conservation works. The architectural treasure in the mosque will be open for local and international tourists to visit free of charge.



The Ruling All Progressives Congress of Nigeria Greets Muslims on Eid ul-Adha

July 29, 2020

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has celebrated with Muslim Ummah on the commemoration of Eid ul-Adha, the important Islamic festival which remembers the total submission of Prophet Ibrahim to Almighty Allah.

The party, in a statement by its deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, urged Muslims to adhere to the teachings of the Islamic festival, which places value on sacrifice and selflessness to one another.

The statement reads: “The important Islamic festival teaches us the value of sacrifice and selflessness to one another irrespective of our perceived differences – religious, tribal, ethnic, political, cultural among others.

“In the end, we are all human beings and its humane to look out for ourselves, particularly the disadvantaged and less-privileged around us.

“We must therefore resist and reject divisive elements who try to spread hate and intolerance instead of harmony and peaceful coexistence. Their intentions are myopic, self-serving, unprogressive and evil.”

The party assured Nigerians President Muhammadu Buhari was unrelenting in the fight against corruption despite skewed narratives from opposition parties.

“The fight against corruption is total and unsparing as recent inquests and prosecutions undertaken by the current government have shown.

“Doubters and naysayers are welcome to test the administration’s resolve to fight corruption. The full weight of the law awaits them.”

As the Muslim Ummah mark the festival, the party urged all to stay safe and observe public health protocols, including safe distancing because the coronavirus (COVID-19) remains a deadly global pandemic.



July 29, 2020

by Adam Levick

On July 24th, the Guardian published an article based on an exclusive by The Times that revealed antisemitic Facebook posts by a trustee of Britain’s largest Muslim charity, Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW).  Though the Guardian piece, by their Jerusalem correspondent Oliver Holmes, was largely unproblematic, the wording in the second paragraph caught our eye:

In Facebook posts published in 2014 and 2015, the trustee, Heshmat Khalifa, called Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a “pimp son of the Jews” and labelled Israeli authorities as “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs”.

The Guardian claim that the Arabic Facebook post by Khalifa – who resigned from IRW after The Times’ revelations – merely referred to “Israeli authorities” as “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs” differs from the translation by The Times, and nearly every media outlet which covered the story.  These outlets reported that the IRW trustee labelled “Jews” as “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs”, not merely “Israeli authorities”.

The only outlet other than the Guardian to translate it as “Israeli authorities” that we found was 5 Pillars – the Islamist news site whose editors have repeatedly legitimised extremism and engaged in antisemitism.

“for the first time in modern history, prayer in the al-Aqsa mosque banned, as the descendants of monkeys and pigs close it with the blessing of the pimp in Egypt”.

“Descendants of monkeys and pigs” is a phrase based on a Quranic tradition widely understood as a derogatory way to refer to Jews.  As Palestinian Media Watch has explained, there are three instances where the Quran tells of Allah turning Jews into apes and/or pigs.

Sura 2:65 “And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the sabbath, and We said to them, ‘Be apes, despised.’”

Sura 7:166 “So when they were insolent about that which they had been forbidden, We said to them, ‘Be apes, despised.’”

Sura 5:60 “Say, ‘Shall I inform you of [what is] worse than that as penalty from Allah? [It is that of] those (i.e., the Jews) whom Allah has cursed and with whom He became angry and made of them apes and pigs and slaves of Taghut. Those are worse in position and further astray from the sound way.’”

Khalifa wasn’t expressing hate towards Israelis due to their nationality, but due to their religion.  The Guardian’s misleading translation softens Khalifa’s words, rendering them far less offensive.




SBP allows Islamic Banking Windows to offer all types of financing products

Ali Ahmed

29 Jul 2020

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has given the green signal for Islamic Banking Windows (IBWs) to offer all types of financing products to their customers.

SBP on Wednesday issued revised instructions for banks to expand the scope of operations of IBWs. Under the revised instructions, IBWs can now offer all types of financing products to their customers including Corporates, SMEs, Agriculture, Housing, and Consumers.

State Bank said that conventional banks can open IBWs, which are dedicated counters in conventional branches, after getting permission from SBP; however, these were not allowed to offer any financing products.

However, this facility is subject to the condition that the respective IBW branch shall be converted into a full-fledged Islamic banking branch within a period of three years.

In this context, all conventional banks already having IBWs shall submit their duly approved ‘IBWs Policy’ to the Islamic Banking Department, State Bank of Pakistan as per instructions within three months of issuance of this circular.

IBBs operating or desiring to operate IBWs shall develop a Policy (or revise existing one, if any) containing details on functioning of IBWs duly approved by their Shariah Board (SB) and BoD before approaching SBP for permission.

At present, Islamic banking products and services are being offered by full-fledged Islamic banks, Islamic banking subsidiaries and Islamic banking branches of conventional banks after getting approval/license from SBP.

The central bank was of the view that with 1,400 IBWs of 11 banks currently operational in the country, their potential to improve access to finance will increase significantly. “Further, it will contribute towards increase in financial inclusion through provision of Shariah compliant financing facilities to vast majority of population.”

The revised instructions also incorporate different amendments or additions to existing regulations and include policy formulation on IBWs, submission of annual IBWs expansion plan, physical setup & display requirements for IBWs, opening & closure of IBWs, their fee structure, and revisions in reporting requirements.

“It is expected that this new policy measure will contribute towards achieving the targets set under National Financial Inclusion Strategy for Islamic banking, which envisages attaining a share of 25 percent in total assets and deposits of the banking industry and 30pc share in total branch network of the industry by the end of 2023,” said SBP.


Medical report declares Nawaz ‘high-risk patient’

29 Jul 2020

LAHORE: Fresh medical report of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif filed with the Lahore High Court’s registrar office shows that he must undergo coronary catheterisation as a significant part of his heart is at risk.

The report signed by Dr David Lawrence, a London-based consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, states the medical investigations and opinions are indicative of significantly reduced blood supply to Mr Sharif’s heart and its impaired functionality.

It says the treatment of Mr Sharif has been carried out conservatively as is merited by the prognosis of various diseases he suffers from.

“A multidisciplinary approach was warranted for his safety while undergoing an invasive procedure due to underlying ITP (unstable platelet counts) and co-morbidities (hypertension, diabetes & kidney disease) which carry a significant risk of bleeding and possibility of a procedural or peri-procedural adverse cardiac event,” the report adds.

It explains that Mr Sharif will be scheduled for an invasive cardiac procedure once the hospitals starts planning elective procedures amidst Covid-19 pandemic and given that he, being in the high-risk category, is stable enough to go through the intervention.

Mr Sharif, given his age and significant disease burden, falls in the category of patients who, if exposed to the Covid-19 infection, may be at a much greater risk than a normal person, the consultant cautions in his report.

He advises that the former premier must take extra precautions and should not expose himself unnecessarily.

He also advises Mr Sharif to stay in close proximity of health facilities in London given the numerous risk factors he is exposed to.

The medical report filed by the legal team of Mr Sharif is duly attested by a notary public of London.

The LHC had in 2019 allowed Mr Sharif to travel abroad, initially for a period of four weeks, granting bail to him on medical grounds. His lawyers were directed by the court to keep filing his periodical medical reports.


Pakistan: 100-Year Old Ancient Mosque Damaged In Flood, Rebuilt

July 30, 2020

Qatar Charity, a foreign NGO, rebuilt an about 100-year old ancient mosque being damaged by 2010 flood with millions of rupees funds, led the locals thronged to streets to express gratitude for fulfilling their long-held desire here Tuesday.

Located at suburban part of the district called Basti Rodin Walli, the mosque had crashed down due to heavy flood approached across the district ten-year ago. It was declared among some of iconic heritage sites in old quarters of the city.

Directors Qatar Charity Numan Gilani said in this regard over two million were spent for re-construction of mosque. He said about 100 people could offer prayer at a time into the venue. He regarded re-construction and furnishing of mosque as a gift for people of the entire area




Muslims to offer rakhi to Ram Lalla in Uttar Pradesh

Jul 30, 2020

AYODHYA: A group of Muslim women are making 'rakhis' which they plan to offer to Ram Lalla on Raksha Bandhan festival on August 3.

Talking to TOI, Anil Singh, an office-bearer of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-run Muslim Rashtriya Manch, said: "Muslim women are making rakhis for Ram Lalla. Seema Khan, Shabana Sheikh, Khushbu Khan, Rehana and Gulnaaz will visit the Ram Janambhoomi on Raksha Bandhan and will tie the sacred thread to Ram Lalla."



Arab World


Yemenis optimistic as sides accept Saudi plan to implement Riyadh Agreement


July 29, 2020

AL-MUKALLA: Yemenis on Wednesday expressed cautious optimism after the government and separatists accepted a Saudi-brokered proposal to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.

Leading figures also praised the Kingdom for its pivotal role in sponsoring and mediating tough talks between the two sides that had led to the formation of a new government and the ending of hostilities in southern Yemen.

In a tweet, Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi, Yemen’s former deputy prime minister and an adviser to the country’s president, described the news as representing the start of a “new phase” in bringing peace to the war-torn nation.

Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued presidential decrees mandating incumbent Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed to form a new government and for the appointment of a new governor and security director for Aden province.

The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) reciprocated by abandoning its controversial self-rule declaration and pledging its adherence to the terms of the new proposal, including allowing the new government to resume duties from Aden.

The Yemeni government said it would comply with the Riyadh Agreement and its related implementation mechanism, including halting military operations in Abyan.

“The government appreciates the efforts of brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their support for the implementation of the agreement that aims at establishing security and stability, preserving the unity of Yemen, and pushing the wheel of development,” said government spokesperson Rajeh Badi in a brief statement carried by the official Saba news agency.

Ali Al-Katheri, a senior STC member who took part in the discussions in Riyadh, told Arab News that the Kingdom’s diplomatic efforts over recent months had paved the way for the success of talks. He said the agreement would help unify military efforts against the Iranian-backed Houthis and return stability to Aden and other southern provinces.

“We look forward to more efforts by brothers in the Kingdom and the UAE to move toward achieving the urgent implementation of the provisions of the Riyadh Agreement and uniting the efforts of all parties in confronting the Houthi militia and terrorist groups,” Al-Katheri added.

Since early 2018, Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, has been the scene of sporadic battles between the two sides that have damaged the city’s infrastructure and paralyzed government bodies.

Aden residents were hopeful that implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would lead to a revival of government institutions, the paying of salaries, and the restoration of public services such as electricity.

“People have been greatly affected, first by the war with the Houthis, and later by the war between the government and the STC,” Fatehi Ben Lazerq, editor of popular Yemeni news site Aden Al-Ghad, told Arab News.

“There is no option other than a political settlement that would bring back the situation to normal. The situation was not that great before the beginning of hostilities between the government and STC, but things got worse after the war between them,” Ben Lazerq said.

When the separatists announced self-rule in April and expelled the government from Aden and other southern provinces, the government mounted a military offensive in Abyan aimed at recapturing Aden. Dozens of people were killed in heavy fighting that blocked the main road linking Abyan with other provinces and damaged power and water lines.

Shouqra and neighboring Sheikh Salem became the main battlegrounds, and residents there on Wednesday expressed delight over the Saudi-brokered peace proposal.

“The first thing they should do is withdraw military forces from Shouqra and fix electricity and water supplies,” said Hassan Salem, a resident of Shouqra. He added that some areas had been without electricity and water since the beginning of the government’s military offensive in May. “I was very happy when I heard the news about the agreement.”

Under the proposal, Yemeni government forces and separatists will pull out of contested areas in Abyan and move military units and equipment from Aden.


Dedicated paths for each group of pilgrims at Grand Mosque

July 29, 2020

MAKKAH — The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has completed the installation and equipping of dedicated paths at the Grand Mosque, especially in mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) and mas’a (area for the ritual of sai between Safa and Marwah), for each group of pilgrims in a way maintaining all the regulations stipulated in the coronavirus preventive protocols for the annual pilgrimage of Hajj.

The presidency has put the finishing touches to all its preparations to receive the guests of God, adopting precautionary and preventive measures to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims as well as to enable them to perform their rituals in ease and comfort.

The presidency also worked, in coordination and cooperation with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the security authorities to install and equip paths dedicated to the groups of pilgrims in order to ensure social distancing between pilgrims, in addition to allocating specific doors for each group for their entry and exit from the mosque so as ensure the smooth flow of pilgrims and avoid any crowding.

The presidency raised the production capacity of Zamzam water bottles that are being distributed among the Hajj pilgrims. All the pilgrims will be supplied with sealed and sterilized bottles of the holy water for single use and the refrigerated containers and coolers of Zamzam at the mosque will not be allowed to use by them.

All the concerned authorities and agencies are well equipped and mobilized to make available of all the services for the pilgrims in order to ensure their health and safety following all the preventive and precautionary measures.


Egypt: Islamic State militants ‘occupy’ Sinai villages in wake of foiled attack

29 July 2020

Residents of a number of villages in northeastern Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsulahave reportedly fled their homes in recent days after militants affiliated with the Islamic State group (IS) occupied the area.

According to a report by the Egyptian news website Mada Masr, militants from Sinai Province - an IS offshoot in the area - had occupied the villages of Qatiya, Iqtiya, Ganayen and Merih in North Sinai in the aftermath of a foiled attack on an Egyptian army camp in the nearby town of Bir al-Abd last week.

The Egyptian army said in a statement on Sunday that it had killed 18 suspected militants after the attempted attack, which took place in the village of Rabea on 21 July.

Bir al-Abd, situated about 80km west of North Sinai's capital al-Arish, had been the site of several attacks claimed by IS, including the deadliest attack in modern Egyptian history in which more than 300 worshippers were gunned down in a mosque in 2017.

According to Mada Masr, IS militants entered the four villages during the attack, planted explosive devices at all entrances and replaced the Egyptian flag with the group’s black flag in all central squares.

Security forces have been battling a hardened insurgency in Egypt's northeast Sinai Peninsula, spearheaded by a local IS affiliate.

Since then, around 990 suspected militants have been killed in the region, along with scores of security personnel, according to official figures.

The Egyptian military has struggled to defeat the militants, who have launched attacks on tourists, security forces and houses of worship, and have also been accused of committing war crimes against civilians in the area.

Last month, Egypt’s Council for Media Regulation announced a ban on media reporting on the fighting in Sinai.



North America

CAIR Welcomes Anti-Muslim Hate Group Leader’s Removal from Intro for Virginia Police Chief

July 29, 2020

(WASHINGTON, DC, 7/29/20) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed the removal of anti-Muslim hate group leader Brigitte Gabriel from her scheduled role of introducing Virginia Beach, Va., Interim Chief Anthony F. Zucaro, Jr. at an August 1 Tea Party of Virginia event.

Earlier this week, CAIR called on Chief Zucaro to withdraw from the event because Gabriel was a featured speaker. Today, Chief Zucaro told CAIR that he was unaware of Gabriel’s participation in the event and that she has since been dropped as the person who will introduce him.

“We thank Chief Zucaro for taking the concerns of the community seriously and working to ensure that any event in which he is a participant is free of association with hate groups,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

Gabriel (a.k.a Hanah Kahwagi Tudor), head of the hate group ACT for America, believes that “America is at stage two Islamic Cancer,” that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim,” that a Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States,” and that Arabs “have no soul.”

ACT for America has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC has named Brigitte Gabriel as a member of the nation’s “Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.”

Her group has ties to white supremacist, neo-Nazi hate organizations that exhibit the same bigoted themes as seen at the 2017 Charlottesville, Va., neo-Nazi rally.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.


UN expresses ‘dismay’ at anti-Semitic statements by Islamic Relief leader

July 30, 2020

The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Miguel Moratinos, expressed his “dismay” on Tuesday over anti-Semitic views espoused on Facebook by Heshmat Khalifa, the head of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), which is Britain’s biggest Muslim charity.

Khalifa resigned from IRW after The Times approached him last week and reported about his past remarks, including labeling Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi a “pimp son of the Jews” and calling Israeli authorities as “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs.”

Additionally, Khalifa has called U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas “the purest resistance movement in modern history,” and that designating it as such is “shameful disgrace to all Muslims.”

In a statement confirming his resignation, IRW issued a “strong condemnation” of Khalifa’s anti-Semitic posts and announced a review of its “processes for screening trustees and senior executives’ social-media posts to ensure that this will not happen again.”

“We reject and condemn terrorism and believe that all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism, are unacceptable,” said IRW. “These values are fundamental to our organization, our donors and the people we serve.”

In his statement, while Moratinos acknowledged IRW’s statement, he reiterated that “it is imperative for civil society organizations and faith-based actors to exhibit a zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination online and offline by putting in place effective measures.”

An example Moratinos gave was to “review the existing vetting standards and enforce a strict code of conduct applicable to all its personnel to ensure that an accountability process is in place to avoid the recurrence of such toxic, racist pronouncements that are an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the United Nations Charter.”





14 killed in attack on village in central Nigeria


At least 14 villagers have been killed by gunmen in central Nigeria's Kogi state, police said, terming the attack communal violence.

The night-time attack on Agbudu village in Koton-Karfe area also left six people seriously injured, said state police commissioner Ede Ayuba in a statement on Wednesday.

"I was there and I was part of those who picked up some of the dead bodies we are talking about," said Ayuba.

He said 13 of the dead were members of the same family.

"In that family, only one person survived. His uncle, his mother, his uncle's wife, his younger brother, his senior brother's wife, his wife and all his children were killed," he said.

Ayuba said an investigation had been launched into the incident, adding that a long-standing row over land rights was a possible motive.



Appeal Court clears way for extradition of Muslim cleric el-Faisal

July 30, 2020

CONTROVERSIAL Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal is to be extradited to the United States to face terrorism-related charges in a matter of days.

Government sources yesterday told the Jamaica Observer that Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang is to sign the “extradition warrant” after el-Faisal exhausted his legal battle to avoid extradition on Monday.

The legal process came to an end in the Court of Appeal after the court struck dismissed a move by lawyers representing el-Faisal on the basis that they had failed to comply with the mandatory requirements of the court in the specified time, and that there was no arguable grounds of appeal.

“Extradition proceedings stop at the Court of Appeal so this completes the legal process and puts the matter back into the hands of the political directorate,” noted an Jamaica Observer legal source.

Following a request from American authorities, el-Faisal was arrested locally in 2018 and taken before the courts where Parish Court Judge Broderick Smith signed an extradition warrant ordering that he be handed over to US authorities.

Lawyers representing the Muslim cleric took the matter to the Supreme Court and filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus to have him released.

His lawyers argued that el-Faisal constitutional right to due process and to a fair hearing had been breached primarily because the original source material from which the evidence was derived had not been disclosed. They also claimed that the extradition order was in contravention of Jamaica's Constitution.

But the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the parish court and declared that a writ of habeas corpus would not be ordered for el-Faisal's discharge from custody.

The lawyers gave notice of appeal and weeks after the Supreme Court's ruling initiated the appeal. But the Registrar of the Appeal Court indicated to the lawyers that they had failed to comply with some mandatory rules. They lawyers reportedly agreed to comply but almost one year later this was not done.

Last month the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) asked the court to dismiss the appeal and filed an affidavit supporting its position.

According to the Observer sources, lawyers representing el-Faisal also filed an affidavit accepting the position of the DPP's Office and admitting that the cleric had no viable grounds of appeal.

Christened Trevor William Forrest, el-Faisal was arrested on August 25, 2017 on an extradition warrant from the United States of America in relation to charges of conspiracy as a crime of terrorism, two counts of soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism, and two counts of attempted soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism.

He was taken into custody after a month-long operation carried out by an undercover New York Police Department officer, who allegedly communicated with him via e-mail, text and video chat.

According to local prosecutors, the allegations against el-Faisal indicated that he had an established online presence and was not only a strong supporter of the Islamic faith, but that he acted as a marriage broker for females who wanted to migrate and marry Islamic State members, and also had connections with people interested in joining the terrorist network.

The prosecutor also stated that, based on the allegations, the accused had multiple conversations with an overseas undercover female officer on different social media platforms, to whom he allegedly provided names and contacts to help her join the IS network after she told him she had medical skills

He was deported from Britain in 2007 after serving a jail term for inciting racial hatred and allegedly urging his followers to murder Jews, Hindus, Christians, and Americans.

El-Faisal was deported to Jamaica from Kenya in January 2010 after being arrested on New Year's Day for preaching at a mosque in Nairobi, breaching stipulations of his work permit.


Lawmakers Uncover Fresh Plot To Attack Southern Kaduna After Muslim Festival

JUL 29, 2020

The Southern Kaduna Caucus in the House of Representatives have raised the alarm over a fresh plot by bandits to launch another attack on people of the region after the Eid-il-Kabir break.

The caucus comprising five lawmakers from the area, revealed this on Wednesday in Abuja while reacting to the recent killings in the region.

Leader of the group and House Minority Whip, Gideon Gwani, called on people of the area to remain vigilant to avoid massive loss of lives and properties.

He said, "It is important to note that we also have information that they are going to attack massively in Southern Kaduna after the Sallah break. We are calling on our people to be vigilant and we are asking them to do all they can to keep themselves alive.

"The bandits usually give information before launching attacks such as they did last weekend in Southern Kaduna, leaving about 20 people dead and security agents were notified.

"Even before these attacks that happened recently in Southern Kaduna and the one in Jama/Sanga that happened about five days ago, we have heard the information. These people when they are coming, they even give us information.

"We have informed the security agents. I have told my DPO to extend that information to his superiors and he has taken that information seriously as he has told me but these attacks are still going on.”

The lawmakers condemned the killings and kidnappings of people of Southern Kaduna, describing the development as unconstitutional, criminal and inhuman.

They identified forceful land grabbing by non-natives of Southern Kaduna as some of the major causes of the hostilities in the area.

Gwani added, "These problems can only be solved if the rule of law is allowed to take its full course. Rule of law entails adherence to the principles of supremacy of the law over all citizens and subjects in Nigeria, equality of all citizens and subjects before the law.

"As representatives of the people of Southern Kaduna, we hereby state unequivocally that the life of every citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria regardless of ethnic religious or ideological differences must be protected as required under Section 14(2)(b) CFRN 1999(as amended).”




IHRC calls for release of Sheikh Zakzaky, wife

July 29, 2020

The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission called on the Nigerian government to release the country’s top Shia cleric and his wife, who have been in jail since 2015 on baseless charges.

The IHRC wrote to the President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari urging him to free the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife Mallima Zeenah and end their near five-year ordeal.

The couple remain in custody in Kaduna state prison in defiance of a court ruling ordering their release. Despite previous correspondence with Buhari and other Nigerian and international officials there seems to be no end in sight to their continuing confinement.

The letter comes as the Zakzakys prepare to be hauled to court this Thursday to stand trial for their alleged involvement in violence that resulted in the death of a member of the security forces during a massacre by armed forces of supporters of the IMN in Zaria in December 2015.

Despite the fact that over 1000 innocent supporters of the IMN were butchered in the attack, not a single official has been charged or brought to trial over the killings. Yet we are faced with the spectacle of a politically driven criminal justice system persisting in the prosecution of a couple in defiance of a court order demanding their release, the IHRC’s website wrote.

In 2016 the federal high court ruled that the pair’s detention was unlawful and unconstitutional and ordered the Nigerian government to release them by January 16, 2017 and pay compensation. However, that ruling has never been enforced. Instead, perversely, state authorities in Kaduna decided to prosecute the pair in 2018.

The detention of the Zakzakys simply confirms the view that Nigerian authorities are conducting a witch-hunt against the couple and abusing the judicial system to keep them in prison in the hope that they will die quietly in custody. The case is also making a mockery of rule of law and due process. It raises serious questions over how ordinary Nigerians can be expected to have trust in their laws, institutions and processes when their government is allowed to publicly violate fundamental human rights with impunity.

The letter reminds Buhari that the Zaria massacre is already the subject of a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court, bringing unwelcome international attention to the country.


‘I’m appalled’ - Bishop’s message of solidarity to mosque after arson attack

30 July 2020

Police launched an arson investigation after a blaze at a building on Aylsham Road in Norwich in the early hours of Monday morning.

The site, which was the former King Edward VII pub, is currently undergoing a £1m revamp by the East Anglian Bangladeshi Islamic Trust.

A spokesman for the police said the fire damaged the outbuilding only, where a man was seen starting a fire before leaving the area.

Bishop of Norwich Rt Rev Graham Usher said he was “deeply saddened” by the attack and expressed interfaith solidarity.

Bishop Graham said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the fire at Aylsham Road Mosque and I’m appalled that it was potentially started by arson. Norwich is known as a city of welcome.

“If such a crime has been committed then we are all diminished. I stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters at this sad time and commit to building the common good alongside them”.

Reverend Martin Hartley and Rach Hartley, from St Catherine’s Church in Mile Cross, and vicar of St Luke’s, Reverend Sarah Quantrill, also on the Aylsham Road, said they were shocked an attack of this nature happened in Norwich.

They added: “We stand alongside our Muslim friends and neighbours at this time. This attack does not represent who we are as a people in Norwich. We pray that the mosque is quickly repaired and look forward to welcoming the Islamic community into the Aylsham Road area when renovations are complete”.



Upgrades to Maidstone Mosque on hold as new planning application submitted

29 July 2020

Building work to upgrade Maidstone Mosque has temporarily stopped as a new planning application tweaking already approved plans has been submitted.

Before three shops were planned for the front of the structure but the new application wants to remove them while adding a mortuary.

Imam, Dr. Muhammad Shabbir Usmani, explains: "From outside nothing has changed, it's only minor changes internally but we still needed to submit a new application.

"We have shortened the prayer hall to add in a mortuary and we want to remove the shops because we have no need for them. If there is a little space left there, that will be a meeting room.

"The new application will only see structural changes to the front and we haven't done any work on that yet so it won't impact what has already been done."

Foundations were laid at the mosque, where Muslims in the town have been going to worship since the 90s, in June last year.

Dr Usmani added this could push things back another eight months but feels it will be 'worth the wait'.

The old building was demolished in November 2018 with a three-storey site set to take its place.

There has been opposition from Britain First and other anti-Islamic groups who protested the proposals, describing the three-storey structure as a "mega mosque".

When planning was first approved in December 2016, Maidstone Borough Council had received 20 objection letters, compared to 150 letters of support.




List of Israeli Targets Leaked: Tel Aviv Fears the Worst in ICC Investigation of War Crimes

Ramzy Baroud

29 Jul 2020

When International Court of Justice (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, confirmed last December that the Court has ample evidence to pursue a war crimes investigation in occupied Palestine, the Israeli government responded with the usual rhetoric, accusing the international community of bias and insisting on Israel’s ‘right to defend itself.’

Beneath the platitudes and typical Israeli discourse, the Israeli government knew too well that an ICC investigation into war crimes in Palestine could be quite costly. An investigation, in itself, represents an indictment of sorts. If Israeli individuals were to be indicted for war crimes, that is a different story, as it becomes a legal obligation of ICC members to apprehend the criminals and hand them over to the Court.

Israel remained publicly composed, even after Bensouda, last April, elaborated on her December decision with a 60-page legal report, titled: “Situation in the State of Palestine: Prosecution Response to the Observations of Amici Curiae, Legal Representatives of Victims, and States.”

In the report, the ICC addressed many of the questions, doubts and reports submitted or raised in the four months that followed her earlier decision. Countries such as Germany and Austria, among others, had used their position as amici curiae - ‘friends of the court’ - to question the ICC jurisdiction and the status of Palestine as a country.

Bensouda insisted that “the Prosecutor is satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in Palestine under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, and that the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza (“Occupied Palestinian Territory”).”

However, Bensouda did not provide definitive timelines to the investigation; instead, she requested that the ICC’S Pre-Trial Chamber “confirm the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine,” an additional step that is hardly required since the State of Palestine, a signatory of the Rome Statute, is the one that actually referred the case directly to the Prosecutor’s office.

The April report, in particular, was the wake-up call for Tel Aviv. Between the initial decision in December till the release of the latter report, Israel lobbied on many fronts, enlisting the help of ICC members and recruiting its greatest benefactor, Washington - which is not an ICC member - to bully the Court so it may reverse its decision.

On May 15, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, warned the ICC against pursuing the investigation, targeting Bensouda, in particular, for her decision to hold war criminals in Palestine accountable.

The US slapped unprecedented sanctions against the ICC on June 11, with President Donald Trump issuing an ‘executive order’ that authorizes the freezing of assets and a travel ban against ICC officials and their families. The order also allows for the punishing of other individuals or entities that assist the ICC in its investigation.

Washington’s decision to carry out punitive measures against the very Court that was established for the sole purpose of holding war criminals accountable is both outrageous and abhorrent. It also exposes Washington’s hypocrisy - the country that claims to defend human rights is attempting to prevent legal accountability by those who have violated human rights.

Upon its failure to halt the ICC legal procedures regarding its investigation of war crimes, Israel began to prepare for the worst. On July 15, Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz, reported about a ‘secret list’ that was drawn up by the Israeli government. The list includes “between 200 and 300 officials”, ranging from politicians to military and intelligence officials, who are subject to arrest abroad, should the ICC officially open the war crimes investigation.

Names begin at the top of the Israeli political pyramid, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his current coalition partner, Benny Gantz.

The sheer number of Israeli officials on the list is indicative of the scope of the ICC’s investigation, and, somehow, is a self-indictment, as the names include former Israeli Defense Ministers - Moshe Ya’alon, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett; current and former army chiefs of staffs - Aviv Kochavi, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot and current and former heads of internal intelligence, the Shin Bet - Nadav Argaman and Yoram Cohen.

Respected international human rights organizations have already, repeatedly, accused all these individuals of serious human rights abuses during Israel’s lethal wars on the besieged Gaza Strip, starting with the so-called ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in 2008-9.

But the list is far more extensive, as it covers “people in much more junior positions, including lower-ranking military officers and, perhaps, even officials involved in issuing various types of permits to settlements and settlement outposts.”

Israel, thus, fully appreciates the fact that the international community still insists that the construction of illegal colonies in occupied Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the transfer of Israeli citizens to occupied land are all inadmissible under international law and tantamount to war crimes. Netanyahu must be disappointed to learn that all of Washington’s concessions to Israel under Trump's presidency have failed to alter the position of the international community and the applicability of international law in any way.

Furthermore, it would not be an exaggeration to argue that Tel Aviv’s postponement of its plan to illegally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is directly linked to the ICC’s investigation, for the annexation would have completely thwarted Israel’s friends’ efforts aimed at preventing the investigation from ever taking place.

While the whole world, especially Palestinians, Arabs and their allies, still anxiously await the final decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber, Israel will continue its overt and covert campaign to intimidate the ICC and any other entity that aims to expose Israeli war crimes and to try Israeli war criminals.

Washington, too, will continue to strive to ensure Netanyahu, Gantz, and the “200 to 300” other Israeli officials never see their day in court.

However, the fact that a “secret list” exists is an indication that Tel Aviv understands that this era is different and that international law, which has failed Palestinians for over 70 years, may, for once, deliver, however a small measure of justice.



Iran: UNSC, ICAO must break silence on US aerial terrorism

29 July 2020

President Hassan Rouhani has denounced the US harassment of an Iranian civilian flight over Syria as an act of “aerial terrorism,” calling on the UN Security Council, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and regional states to break their silence on Washington’s “dangerous mischiefs.”

Speaking during a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, Rouhani said the enemies of Iran are growing more and more frustrated as all their pressure tactics against the nation have failed to produce their desired results.

“Where are the ICAO, the Security Council, the United Nations and the countries of the region? The state where the violation took place and the one that was the destination of the flight should all speak out,” he added.

On Thursday, two US F-15 warplanes conducted a dangerous maneuvering close to Mahan Air’s Flight 1152 that had taken off from Tehran and was heading to Beirut.

Iran’s Judiciary urges the Foreign Ministry and international institutions to diplomatically and legally pursue the US harassment of a Lebanon-bound Iranian passenger jet.

The US harassment led the pilot of Iranian passenger plane to swiftly lower the altitude to avoid a collision with the American jets, leaving several passengers injured.

“How is it possible for a fighter jet to fly close to a passenger jet through a free international route and on a specific aviation route and terrorize people?” asked Rouhani. “This is undoubtedly [an instance of] aerial terrorism.”

“The individual who sends a fighter jet next to a passenger plane has committed an act of aerial terrorism and should be treated as a terrorist. The ICAO, the Security Council and countries must confront [that party],” Rouhani said.

He further referred to the US downing of Iran Air Airbus A300B2 over the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988, which killed 290 people, saying the Americans have a history of such acts, but for them to do this in a third country is outrageous.

Iran commemorates the 32nd anniversary of the downing of its passenger aircraft by a US Navy guided-missile cruiser over the Persian Gulf.

The president also slammed the US’s attempt to exert “maximum pressure” on the Iranian nation, saying the Americans have been “begging” the East and the West to deprive the Iranians from their rights under the 2015 nuclear deal and UNSC Resolution 2231 that entail the lifting of the UN arms embargo on Iran.

“Day and night, the White House brokers go from one country to another and make a phone call after another,” and all to no avail, he said.

Rouhani made the remarks in reference to recent visits by US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook to a range of countries, where he discussed extending a UN arms ban against Iran, which is set to expire on October 18.

“We tell the White House statesmen that you have only one option left in the face of Iran, and that is observing rights, law, agreements and regulations and compensating for the damages you caused to the Iranian people. That means you have no second option,” he said.


Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi: Muharram mourning ceremonies should be held in accordance with health protocols

July 30, 202

In a meeting with Sheikh Mohammad Qommi, the head of the Islamic Development Organization, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi referred to the report submitted by him and said, “There is no doubt that we have principles that we can never abandon. Among these principles is the issue of mourning during the months of Muharram and Safar.”

The revered source of emulation emphasized the need for appropriate measures in this regard and said, “If we abandon these matters, it will lead to trouble, if we want to act, it must be in such a manner where health protocols are observed and that spiritual and religious aspects aren’t neglected, just as the case with Friday prayers.”

He stated, “If we don’t have a standard and criterion in this regard, there will be problems. Therefore, those in charge should definitely pay enough and necessary attention in this regard in order to consider the religious and denominational concerns of the people and to maintain their health and safety protocols.”

Emphasizing that the Ashura ceremony can’t be stopped at any cost, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi added, “What did they do with Ashura during the era of the Shah, Reza Khan ‎‎[Pahlavi]? But everyone saw that they didn’t do anything.”

His Eminence noted the problems in the country, including economic issues and said, “As we express cultural problems, we also address the economic and livelihood problems of the people. In this regard, we issued a statement so that people know that the religious authorities also criticize the high prices and give the necessary warnings.”

He praised the entry of the clergy into social issues, including their assistance to health defenders and emphasized, “In the sensitive and serious situation in which many patients with Coronavirus find themselves, the entry of the clergy and seminarians into this field and their assistance to patients and their performance of funeral ablutions and burials of the deceased had a great impact on society and this is one of the most effective types of propagation.”

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi stressed the need to better and further utilize these capacities and said, “These kinds of activities and the help of the clergy is propagation on the one hand and on the other hand it shows that the clergy and the seminaries are with the people and their sympathizers.”


Iran welcomes Taliban's ceasefire announcement over Eid ul-Adha, hopes for mutually acceptable peace agreement

29 July 2020

Iran has welcomed the announcement of a ceasefire by the Taliban militant group over Eid ul-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice), one of the most important Muslim-calendar events, hoping for a mutually acceptable peace agreement in the war-ravaged country. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Wednesday that the ceasefire announcement was "a positive step towards peace and stability" in Afghanistan.

He also expressed hope that "the move by the Taliban will help provide the necessary condition for an agreement in Afghanistan."

"We hope that we will soon see the beginning of intra-Afghan dialogue centered on the Afghan government and with the participation of all political groups, including the Taliban, with the aim of finding a peaceful solution and reaching a mutually acceptable agreement for peace based on the constitution and democratic structures in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan," Mousavi noted.

He also reiterated the Islamic Republic of Iran's readiness to contribute to promotion of the Afghan-Afghan dialogue at the request of the parties involved.

The Taliban on Tuesday announced a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha starting on Friday.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid ordered the group's militants "to refrain from carrying out any operation" during the Eid al-Adha celebrations but warned any attack "by the enemy" would be met with force.

The Afghan president's spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said the government welcomed the ceasefire announcement but added that Afghans wanted "a lasting ceasefire and the start of direct talks between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan.”

The move, which was announced after President Ashraf Ghani described progress in a contentious prisoner exchange, could signal the start of the long-delayed peace talks.

"To demonstrate the government's commitment to peace, the Islamic Republic will soon complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners," Ghani told officials, pointing to the number of inmates the government originally pledged to free under a US-Taliban deal in February.

Iran dismisses the “fallacious” remark by a US official that it does not support peace in Afghanistan, stressing that it backs dialog that is led by Afghans and takes place among Afghans.

Ghani said that since a US-Taliban agreement signed in February, 3,560 Afghan security forces personnel have been killed in attacks by militants.

Separately, a Monday report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said more than 1,280 Afghan civilians had been killed in the first six months of the year, mainly as a result of fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban.



South Asia

Herd Immunity Can’t Save Afghanistan From COVID -19

By Ezzatullah Mehrdad

July 29, 2020

Liyaqat Layeeq started to cough one Saturday morning in late June after several days of living with a mild fever. As a healthy young person, Layeeq did not expect to struggle, experiencing breathing difficulties, sore throat, high fever, and severe body aches. With little chance of receiving any help from Afghan hospitals, his only hope for survival was his body’s own immune system.

Afghanistan was four months into the pandemic, and the health system was on the edge of collapse. People had broken the quarantine in Afghan cities, including Kabul, without following public health advice such as social distancing and wearing face masks. As people swiftly went back to normal, COVID-19 spread within families and infections skyrocketed.

“I was worried that my body might be weak in the face of COVID-19,” Layeeq, a 26-year-old resident of Kabul, said. “The lack of standard hospital and health services doubled my fear. Almost everyone relied on home-caring, rather than hospitals.”

With catastrophic institutional failure stymieing the national lockdown, Afghanistan defaulted its way into a new strategy for fighting COVID-19: herd immunity. In essence, the government gave up. As things stand, the virus will infect everyone – even if COVID-19 is a death sentence for patients with pre-existing conditions and weak immune systems. As more and more people fell ill and patients died of the virus, the public became numb to the sufferings and deaths caused by the pandemic.

“Unfortunately in Afghanistan and Kabul, the situation went in a way that major [numbers of] fellow citizens got infected by the virus,” Khushhal Nabizada, the director of Kabul Health Directorate, said. “Those who are safe will get infected by COVID-19. We hope people develop herd immunity. Otherwise, we are going to have another tragedy.”

Emerging evidence suggests that recovered COVID-19 patients do develop immunity to the disease, but the antibodies reduce within two to three months. Baz Mohammad Shirzad, a former adviser to the Afghan Health Ministry, said that herd immunity is still a “fantasy and theory.”

The pandemic once frightened Afghans to the point that some, in despair, took to screaming “Allah Akbar” from their rooftops in Kabul and Herat cities. In the face of a crisis that had overwhelmed wealthy nations, Afghans were on their own to battle COVID-19 amid a raging war and widespread poverty. But over the ensuing months, people accepted the pandemic as an unavoidable source of suffering and death.

“There is a public indifference toward the disease,” Layeeq, the patient with symptoms of COVID-19, said. “There is less sympathy and mourning for a COVID-19 death, unless a close family member has fallen victim to the virus. The public does not have the usual sympathy for a COVID-19 victim.”

The pandemic caused unseen rates of infection after a failed attempt to close public places and isolate COVID-19 patients. When COVID-19 spread into Afghanistan in February 2020, the Afghan government seemed ready to devote all possible resources to saving lives from the virus. The government enforced a lockdown in all provinces of the country and set up testing centers.

However, the measures — marred with widespread mismanagement and corruption — failed Afghans in the face of the pandemic. People had to choose between dying of starvation and dying of COVID-19; they made the second choice, as there was still a chance to survive the new virus. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has said that as many as 90 percent of Afghans live under the poverty line — less than $2 a day.

Within four months, the lockdown was a memory and Afghanistan was back to normal. The virus was free to infect people. But experts believe that most of the Afghans infected by the pandemic were never counted and added to the country’s official total. Afghanistan has tested just 83,000 patients for COVID-19 and 35,000 of them were positive, according to Shirzad, the former adviser for the Health Ministry.

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“Many other countries test 83,000 people every day,” Shirzad said. “These positive cases are passive, because patients visited public hospitals. If you ask any family in a city and in a village, there is no family that did not have a COVID-19 patient.”

Instead of official records, social media pages and graveyards witnessed the rise in COVID-19 patients and deaths. Afghan social media pages were filled with death announcements. Asif Asil, an Afghan Facebook user, scrolled by an average of 20 posts a day in which his friends shared symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

Reza, who goes by one name and sells groceries in a western graveyard in Kabul, said that as many as 40 people were buried every day in the graveyard from May through July. He said that before the pandemic, there would usually be around 10 burials a day. “Initially, I did not believe in the existence of COVID-19,” Reza said. But then he saw evidence of the death toll: “People began burying their dead even during nights.”

COVID-19 is believed to be behind the high rate of deaths. For elderly people, people with pre-existing diseases such high blood pressure and diabetes, and people with weak immune systems, COVID-19 can be a death sentence. In Afghanistan, people largely rely on home care and herbal medicines, which have not proven effective in the fight against the virus. Shirzad, the former Health Ministry adviser, noted that the people have “turned their homes into hospitals.”

“There was not a hope that a patient could visit a public hospital and recover from the disease,” Layeeq, the young patient, said. He added that COVID-19 patients were treated in private hospitals as if they had any other disease, without isolation. Initially, private hospitals were not allowed to treat COVID-19 patients and they treated symptomatic COVID-19 patients under the name of common cold and typhoid fever, according to Shirzad, the former adviser.

Afghans come to the Afghan-Japan Hospital, in Kabul, the Afghan capital, seeking COVID-19 tests in March 2020. Photo by Ezzatullah Mehrdad.

The relationship between the designated public hospitals for COVID-19 — the Afghan hospitals best equipped for COVID-19 patients — and the public was largely toxic. Unlike other countries, where people have cheered for their doctors and hailed them as heroes, in Afghanistan mistrust was prevalent. Rumors circulated that COVID-19 was not real, but only an excuse for the Afghan government to receive international aid. When COVID-19 began killing people, another rumor spread that doctors were killing patients and selling their bodies.

“For whatever reason, we did not have strategic communication with the public,” Nabizada, the director of the Kabul Health Directorate, said. “Battling rumors consumed the most of our energy and time. There was not enough trust between the public and the government. We need to know how we can convince the public of a danger.”

The rumors spread fast partly because few severe COVID-19 patients in Afghan hospitals survived. The Medical Union of Afghanistan said in news conference that a lack of medical oxygen and ventilators led to the deaths of most severe COVID-19 patients in the hospitals. But when ventilators were donated to hospitals amid the pandemic, 32 ventilators were smuggled to Pakistan to be sold.

“We did not have enough professional health care workers to handle ventilators,” Nabizada, the director of Kabul Health Directorate, said. At the time, there were fewer than 500 ventilators for Afghanistan’s population of over 35 million. “We need to review our system and evaluate our capacities for an emergency situation. We almost lost the control of the situation.”

“We need to invest in the commitment of public service workers,” Nabizada added. “In some cases, when patients visited hospitals, health care workers were afraid. We hired health care workers and two days later they would have gone.”

Despite the shortcomings, the health care system did not completely collapse — but neither was it effective at saving people from the pandemic. The reasons Afghanistan’s hospitals held on vary. For one thing, the country did not face skyrocketing cases across the board at the same time, as 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas and 46 percent of the population are under 15. Another reason could be an already used vaccine: the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, commonly used against tuberculosis.

“One reason that COVID-19 did not lead to a catastrophe was the BCG vaccine,” Shirzad, the former adviser, said. He added that almost every Afghan had received a BCG vaccine that could boost the body’s immune system as high as six times. Scientific research hasn’t proven BCG to be completely effective against COVID-19 and many research projects are under way to study its effeteness. Afghans, however, are pinning their hope that the BCG vaccine will be enough to help the country reach herd immunity after mass infections by the new coronavirus.

According to scientists, herd immunity is achieved when around 70 percent of the population have been infected and developed antibodies to the virus. As there is no data even about the exact population of Afghanistan, it is hard to speculate how many people have been infected and developed immunity to COVID-19. In addition, there is no solid evidence that recovered COVID-19 patients develop immunity for a long enough time for it to matter.

Shirzad said that the virus is inside of Afghanistan and argues people can be infected after losing their immunity to the virus. “There is a difference between natural immunity and vaccine immunity,” he said. “The vaccine immunity last longer.”

Experts and the public alike now fear a new wave of infection. The long-struggling Afghanistan might go through a new surge of COVID-19 cases that could trigger a full-scale crisis — unlike the first wave. “I think it is less likely for second or third wave of infection,” Nabizada, the director of Kabul Health Department, said. “If it comes, we are ready.”

“I am concerned with a new infection,” Layeeq, the young Kabul resident, who survived after two weeks of struggling with the virus. “I am afraid the virus will come every month or three months and hurt us. It can make life harder for us in a country like Afghanistan.”



Eau Claire-based soldiers return from Afghanistan

July 29, 2020

A couple hundred area soldiers are back in the United States after being deployed to Afghanistan a year ago.

They were providing security for coalition forces in the area.

The 128th Infantry is based in Eau Claire and includes companies in Menomonie, Rice Lake, New Richmond, River Falls, Arcadia and Abbotsford.

The roughly 200 Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers landed in Texas on Sunday. After a few weeks of demobilization they will return home.

Another 200 soldiers from the battalion returned home earlier this year.



200 Wisconsin soldiers return from year-long Afghanistan deployment

Jul 29, 2020

FORT HOOD, Tex. (CBS 58) -- Nearly 200 Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers landed safely in Fort Hood, Texas Sunday, July 26 after a year-long deployment in Afghanistan, according to a news release.

The soldiers are from the 32nd Red Arrow Infantry Brigade Combat Team's 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, mobilized in July 2019 for deployment to Afghanistan where the unit served as "guardian angels" supporting the Army's 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade, according to officials.

The troops will spend several weeks completing demobilization requirements in Fort Hood before returning home to Wisconsin. Officials say about 400 soldiers originally deployed with the battalion, but half returned in multiple waves during the spring, while the remaining 200 continued their mission in Afghanistan.


Flood engulfs over a third of Bangladesh

July 30, 2020

Around 37 percent of the country's total area has been flooded, said Prof AKM Saiful Islam, of Buet's Institute of Water and Flood Management, after analysing satellite images.

People of low-lying areas are the worst affected victims of this natural disaster. Some of them have been waterlogged for over a month, he told The Daily Star yesterday.

In 1998, around 68 percent of the country was inundated, 61 percent in 1988, 42 percent in 2007 and 2017, and 38 percent in 2004, Prof Saiful mentioned.

Over 50 lakh people of 150 upazilas in 31 districts have been affected by the flood, said the latest report of National Disaster Response Coordination Centre.

Meanwhile, the flood situation may deteriorate further in the northern region as well as in the low-lying areas around the capital.

The state of some low-lying areas around the capital may slightly deteriorate today, said yesterday's bulletin of Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC).

Water level of the rivers around the capital may rise today, while that of the Teesta and Dharala in the northern region may increase till tomorrow.

Seventeen rivers were flowing up to the danger marks yesterday, said the bulletin.

Our district correspondents report on the flood situation.

In Tangail, fresh areas have been flooded after a 30-metre portion of a flood protection dam collapsed at Naogaon in Sadar upazila yesterday.

"The embankment was in a bad state. We tried to protect it by dumping geobags for the last couple of days. But it finally collapsed, said Sirajul Islam, executive engineer of Water Development Board (WDB) in Tangail.

Although water has started receding from some areas, the flood situation still remains unchanged.

Premises of Kumudini Hospital in Mirzapur, founded by philanthropist Ranada Prasad Saha, have gone under knee-deep water, causing hardship for patients.

Around 5.41 lakh people were affected in 11 out of the district's 12 upazilas. Some 750 villages, 89 unions, and six municipalities were hit by the flood.

Three flash floods ravaged houses, farmland, and roads of low-lying areas of all upazilas and four municipalities in Sunamganj.

The Surma and Jadukata rivers have been flowing below the danger level for the last couple of days. But the river water started increasing from early yesterday.

Such triple strikes by flash floods in a month is a new experience for many people of the district -- even the elderly could not recall such a situation.

Torjud Ali, 80, of Jogairgaon village in Sunamganj Sadar upazila, said, "We saw prolonged floods several times, but never saw flash floods hit three times in a month."

Wahid Miah, another elderly man of Sonapur village of the upazila, echoed similar views and said when the water would recede completely, it could be realised how destructive the floods were.

Meanwhile, road communications remain suspended between Chhatak and Dowarabazar upazilas, Jamalganj and Tahirpur with Bishwambarpur upazilas, and Nabinagar and Dharargaon with Sadar upazila for around a month.

Over 900km of roads were washed away in the district.

In Sirajganj, water level of the Jamuna is slowly coming down. But many people are still waterlogged as the river was flowing above the danger mark.

About 3.38 lakh people have been affected in the district, according to the district relief and rehabilitation office.

The Brahmaputra was yesterday flowing above 30cm of the danger level and the Dharla above 5cm over the danger level in Kurigram.

The flood victims, who took shelter elsewhere, have started returning home since Tuesday afternoon as water is receding, said Ariful Islam, executive engineer of WDB in Kurigram.




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