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Islamic World News ( 3 May 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Supreme Court Refuses To Entertain Pleas Relating To Release Of Movie ‘The Kerala Story’, Requests The Kerala High Court To Take Up The Case Early If Such A Petition Is Filed Before It

New Age Islam News Bureau

03 May 2023

 

'The Kerala Story' poster

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India

‘Demeans the Entire Muslim Community’: Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Moves Supreme Court against ‘The Kerala Story’

Karnataka: BJP Government’s Law Prohibiting Cow Slaughter Hurts Both Hindus and Muslims

Karnataka Shocker: 18-Year-Old Muslim Youth Allegedly Attacked By Bajrang Dal

UP urban body polls: With 391 candidates, BJP tests waters on Muslim support base ahead of 2024

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Arab World

Saudi experts highlight importance of digital design to KSA’s future

Islamic counter-terrorism chief meets Iraqi military intelligence director in Riyadh

Saudi FM discusses situation in Sudan with African Union Commission chairperson

Saudi police arrest 11 suspects in drug bust

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Pakistan

Seven terrorists held in Miran Shah Operation

Saqib Nisar has committed ‘unforgivable crimes’: Nawaz

Balochistan: A minefield for journalists

Govt, PTI agree on same-day elections but fail to decide date

Evacuation operations out of Sudan ended: Foreign ministry

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Mideast

Erdoğan Election Poster Hung on Wall of Mosque in Western Turkey; Accused Of Exploiting Religious Symbols For Political Gain

Syrian refugees fearful as Lebanon steps up deportations

UAE sends humanitarian aid for Sudanese refugees in Chad

Iran president arrives in Syria for landmark visit: state media

'Islamic Jihad is playing with us!' Locals grow weary as Gaza rockets shower southern Israel

Palestinian terror groups: Israel will pay for 'assassinating' Jihad leader

Yeshiva University Spans Muslim/Jewish Divide in New UAE-Based Conference

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Europe

Chilling reason Osama Bin Laden's body was thrown in the ocean after he was killed

Ukraine keeping West in the dark about counteroffensive plans – Politico

Russia to resume yuan purchases – Bloomberg

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North America

Muslim Group Demands Biden Apologize to Mayor Blocked from White House’s Eid Al-Fitr Celebration

Muslim Mayor Furious After He's Blocked From Joe Biden's White House Event: 'Reeks of Islamophobia'

Muslim Prospect Park mayor questions White House watchlist after he’s barred from Eid event

Minnesota bail fund promoted by Kamala Harris previously freed suspected mosque arsonist

Supreme Court ‘Ethics’ Theatre: Democrats’ Ongoing Jihad against Conservative Jurists

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Southeast Asia

Shooter at Islamic Organization HQ Unrelated to Terrorist Group: Expert

Siti Bainun Found Guilty Of Neglecting, Abusing Bella

Malaysian King, Queen to Attend King Charles III Coronation Ceremony in London

Mother, stepfather plead guilty of abusing four-year-old boy in Johor

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South Asia

With Declining Funds, UN Will Stay in Afghanistan, Says Chief

World Press Freedom Index: India rank slides to 161, 11 spots behind Afghanistan

UN Summit in Qatar On Afghanistan Ends, Another Planned

BNP-Jamaat demonstrators quit scene as PM invites for talk

PM offers SEZ for US businessmen, seeks larger investment in Bangladesh

Traffic Accident Kills 6 in Afghanistan

Over 340 Afghan Refugees Return Back From Pakistan

Turkmenistan Exports Gas to Pakistan via Afghanistan

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Africa

Arab League, African Union and UN Intensify Efforts for Peace in Sudan

Kenya Deadly Cult: Mackenzie To Face Terrorism Charges; Odero Remains In Custody

Ugandan lawmakers pass new version of tough anti-gay bill

Kenyan police clash with anti-government protesters

Senegal: Sonko denounces an "assassination attempt with poison gas"

Sudan warring parties agree to 7-day truce from May 4

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/supreme-court-kerala-story-movie/d/129691

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 Supreme Court Refuses To Entertain Pleas Relating To Release Of Movie ‘The Kerala Story’, Requests The Kerala High Court To Take Up The Case Early If Such A Petition Is Filed Before It

 

'The Kerala Story' poster

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May 03, 2023

The Supreme Court on May 3 refused to entertain a petition by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind to direct the makers of the movie ‘The Kerala Story’ to carry a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction.

Responding to an urgent mention to list the case early, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud asked the Jamiat and other petitioners to instead move the jurisdictional High Court, possibly under Article 226 (writ petition) of the Constitution.

Also read: Supreme Court refuses to entertain plea seeking stay on release of movie ‘The Kerala Story’

“There are seasoned judges in High Courts… Why don’t you go there? Why should we become a super 226 court?” Chief Justice Chandrachud asked advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the Jamiat.

The Bench gave petitioners the liberty to move the High Court. It requested the jurisdictional High Court concerned to consider the case for early listing if a petition on the issue is filed.

The petitioners sought a copy of the apex court order to be made available so that they could approach the High Court by afternoon. The film is scheduled to be released on May 5.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, for the movie makers, submitted they were not ready to carry such a disclaimer. Presently, the movie claims it is “inspired by true events”.

During the brief minutes of the mentioning, the CJI noted this was a film and the petitioners were seeking to “excise” portions of it.

Ms. Grover said their request for a disclaimer was balanced. She noted that the movie tended to “demonise” the entire Muslim community.

The Jamiat petition said the movie peddled “malicious propaganda” that 32000 girls in Kerala were lured through ‘love jihad’ and trafficked to West Asia to join ISIS.

“The movie is clearly aimed at spreading hatred and enmity between different sections of society in India. The message the movie imparts is that non-Muslim young women are being lured into converting to Islam by their classmates and subsequently, trafficked to West Asia where they are forced to join terrorist organisations. The movie gives the impression that apart from extremist clerics who radicalise people, ordinary Muslim youngsters, their classmates, also play an instrumental role in luring non-Muslims and radicalising them by posing as friendly and good-natured, in accordance with instructions given by extremist scholars,” the petition said.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-refuses-to-entertain-pleas-relating-to-release-of-movie-the-kerala-story-asks-petitioners-to-approach-high-court/article66806831.ece

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‘Demeans the Entire Muslim Community’: Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Moves Supreme Courtagainst ‘The Kerala Story’

 

'The Kerala Story' poster

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May 3, 2023

The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has moved the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Centre and others not to allow the screening or release of the film ‘The Kerala Story’ in theatres, OTT platforms and other such avenues, besides seeking removal of the film’s trailer from the internet.

Earlier on Tuesday, the apex court had declined to immediately hear a plea seeking a stay on the release of the controversial movie direceted by Sudipto Sen and produced by Sunshine Pictures.

A bench comprising justices K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna observed that the censor board has already cleared the movie and the petitioners should rather challenge the film’s certification before an appropriate authority.

The bench said that the exhibition of films entails a different process, therefore the plea seeking a stay on the release of the movie cannot be clubbed with hate speech matters.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Nizam Pasha urged the bench to hear their plea saying that the movie will release on Friday.

The fresh plea filed by Jamiat said: “The movie is clearly aimed at spreading hatred and enmity between different sections of society in India. The message the movie imparts is that non-Muslim young women are being lured into converting to Islam by their classmates and subsequently, they are trafficked to West Asia where they are forced to join terrorist organisations.”

The plea said, “The movie demeans the entire Muslim community and it will result in endangering the lives and livelihoods of the petitioners and the entire Muslim community, and this is a direct infringement under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.”

“The movie gives the impression that apart from extremist clerics who radicalise people, ordinary Muslim youngsters, their classmates, also play an instrumental role in luring non-Muslims and radicalising them by posing as friendly and good-natured people, in accordance with instructions given by extremist scholars,” said the plea.

The plea, filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool, alternatively sought a direction to the Central Board of Film Certification to further identify incendiary scenes and dialogues for removal or show a disclaimer stating that it is a work of fiction and the characters in the movie bear no resemblance to any person living or dead.

The plea said, “The movie promotes the view that love-jihad is being used to lure non-Muslim women into converting to Islam and also joining the ISIS. However, an investigation by the state police carried out in 2009 revealed that there was no evidence of love-jihad in Kerala.”

As soon as the teaser of the film was released, the ruling CPI(M)-led Left and the opoosition UDF in Kerala had demanded that the film should not be screened.

The state committee of Muslim Youth League has even announced a reward of Rs 1 crore for the individual who proves the “allegations” levelled in the movie.

A right-wing activist and founder of the Hindu Seva Kendra PratheeshViswanath also offered Rs 10 crore to prove the opposite — that no one from Kerala has gone to Syria to join IS.

The film starring Adah Sharma, YogitaBihani, Sonia Balani and Siddhi Idnani in key roles traces the journey of four female college students in Kerala who become part of Islamic State.

Source: thestatesman.com

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

https://www.thestatesman.com/entertainment/demeans-the-entire-muslim-community-plea-in-sc-against-the-kerala-story-1503177728.html

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Grand Mufti Of Egypt, Dr. Shawki Ibrahim, Calls Upon Muslims To Become Ambassadors Of Peace, Recognize Differences As A Divine Gift

 

Prof Mohd Gulrez honouring Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel Karim Allam in Aligarh on Tuesday (HT Photo)

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May 02, 2023

Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, emphasized the need for Muslims to engage with people of all faiths and recognize differences as a divine gift. Speaking at the Aligarh Muslim University, he urged Muslims to reclaim Islam from those who interpret it wrongly, warning against a "crooked understanding of faith". The event was part of the Grand Mufti's state visit to India, hosted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

“There is a need to grasp and understand the true spirit of Islam that is engaging and dealing with people of all faiths, civilizations and philosophies by seeking common grounds and recognising the diversities and differences which are a divine gift and blessing from God”, said the Grand Mufti of Egypt Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam in his address to a large gathering of teachers, students and officials of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on Tuesday at the Kennedy Auditorium.

Delivering his speech on ‘Dialogue among Civilisations’, Dr Shawki said “building bridges and engaging with followers of different faiths has been the practice of Prophet Mohammad”.

Quoting from the Quran, the Grand Mufti of Egypt said that Prophet Mohammad was an epitome of mercy and compassion, and he is a role model particularly for Muslims in respect to their conduct and behaviour towards neighbours, friends, relatives and humanity at large.

Warning Muslims against the ‘crooked understanding of faith’ he said, “It is our shared responsibility to re-claim Islam from those who interpret it the wrong way and become ambassadors of peace and bridge-building in the world”.

Giving his presidential remarks, Prof Mohammad Gulrez, vice-chancellor, AMU, said that engaging with civilisations and people of various faiths is the only way forward for the peaceful existence and progress of humanity.

“The thesis of the ‘Clash of Civilization’ propounded by Hutington after the World War was a dangerous philosophy. Instead, building bridges between civilizations, cultures and religions and inter-faith dialogue is the only way to foster harmony among people”, he said.

He praised the Grand Mufti for spreading the message of peace at various global platforms including the World Sufi Summit at New Delhi (2016) and the World Economic Forum at Davos (2016) etc.

Earlier, Mohammad Imran IPS, AMU Registrar introduced the esteemed guest and also described the shared bonds between India and Egypt.

The Vice Chancellor presented a memento, a coffee-table book Jahan-e-Syed and another book ‘A History of Aligarh Muslim University 1920-2020’ to the Grand Mufti, who also presented a gift to the Vice Chancellor.

The day-long AMU visit of the Grand Mufti was a part of his state visit to India hosted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), ministry of external affairs, government of India.

There were voices of opposition too on AMU campus as a group of students showed placards to oppose the visit of the Grand Mufti, blaming him of violation of human rights and a few even managed to enter the hall where the event was being organised.

Source: hindustantimes.com

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

https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/grand-mufti-of-egypt-advocates-for-interfaith-dialogue-and-understanding-at-amu-warns-against-crooked-interpretation-of-islam-101683032776554.html

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Musarat Bibi, a Christian Woman and Sarmand,a Muslim Man Arrested For Alleged Blasphemy

 

Photo: agenzia fides

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Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Musarat Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman, employed at the "Girls Higher Secondary School" in the city of Arif-Wala, in the Pakistani province of Punjab, was arrested together with a Muslim man, also an employee in the school, with the accusation of having desecrated the Quran. The two were cleaning out the school warehouse cupboards, burning rubbish, old files, unusable papers taken from the warehouse cupboards.

Sarmand recognized among the burned papers some pages of the Quran, in Arabic, and warned the school authorities. When news spread that pages of the Quran had been burned, some students and teachers began to protest. Thanks to a call from a man who identified himself as Kashif Nadeem, the police were alerted and rushed to the scene to investigate. The school administration recounted the incident, thanked the two workers for doing their best to remove the identified pages, and called the incident "completely unintentional". The police, however, arrested Musarat Bibi and Mohammad Sarmand for blasphemy, under article 295-b of the penal code, which punishes contempt of the Quran.

The woman, a widow, has three daughters, two of whom are married while the youngest is 14 years old. The youngest was brought to safety by other family members. Musarat worked at the school after the death of her husband, who was a teacher. Christians living in the Arif-Wala area now fear for the safety of Musarat and the other few Christian families living there, as in the past people simply accused of blasphemy were lynched by mobs of religious fanatics.

According to Javed Sohatara, a lawyer assisting the family, the accuser, Kashif Nadeem, brought charges of blasphemy against the Christian widow, because he is steeped in "extremist religious ideology" and harbors personal hatred personal against the Christian widow.

According to the lawyer, Kashif Nadeem - harbors a grudge against the Christian employee because the school administration gave her the task of managing the school canteen which was previously managed by a relative of Kashif, who lost the contract. "In Pakistan, the accusation of blasphemy is a life-threatening accusation. With this accusation, the man wanted to permanently remove Musarat Bibi from the school canteen and and from work, and he succeeded", he added.

According to Fides sources, the school administration and the civil leaders of the city are well aware of the reality and support the Christian woman and the Muslim man unjustly accused. "Community support is an important factor for the victim's family: this could hopefully lead to a successful outcome of the case", notes the lawyer.

Commenting on the incident, Joseph Jansen, head of the NGO "Voice for Justice" in Pakistan, points out that "human rights violations in Pakistan are increasing on a large scale and that, in many cases, the laws on blasphemy serve as a pretext". It notes in particular that "violence is committed against women belonging to minority religious communities, namely Hindu and Christian women, and this violence remains unpunished". "Due to the increase in false accusations, immense fear has taken hold in the community in the Arif-Wala region, especially among Christian women workers. Women are discouraged from looking for work and this increases financial hardships in their families, increases poverty and vulnerability, and further lowers their social status", he explains.

Mr. Jansen continues: "In blasphemy cases, complainants and witnesses who have made false accusations, when proven, do not suffer the consequences and are not prosecuted for perjury. This provision, if it is implemented, could help change the climate of impunity and hold those involved accountable for accusations made to harm others. An action plan to end the misuse of this law, used against most vulnerable, has been urgently needed for many years. In several cases, fanatical individuals have used this law to take justice into their own hands and lynch the accused," he recalls.

Zara Amoon Gill, spokesperson for "Minorities Rights Watch Pakistan", underlines another element: "High-ranking police officers, not mere agents, should record complaints and accusations of blasphemy", agreeing of the need to "prosecute false witnesses". And he notes, "we urge the government to ensure the safety of the accused until the verdict of the court in order to protect them from extremist violence". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 2/5/2023)

Source: fides.org

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

http://www.fides.org/en/news/73710-ASIA_PAKISTAN_A_Christian_woman_and_a_Muslim_man_arrested_for_alleged_blasphemy

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Iran Resorts To Security Cameras To Deter Unveiled Women

 

An Iranian woman walks in a street in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

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May 02, 2023

DUBAI: Wary of re-igniting Iran’s worst political turmoil in years, the country’s rulers are resorting to new, less obtrusive tactics to punish women who refuse to wear the obligatory hijab.

The methods, introduced following nationwide anti-government protests last year, combine use of security cameras with denial of state services to violators, replacing the morality police whose actions were the flashpoint for the months of unrest.

The measures have yet to make much headway against opposition to the hijab, and could worsen economic pressures if they result in the closure of businesses, Iranian activists say.

“Walking unveiled in the streets is now my way of keeping our revolution alive,” said Roya, 31, a private tutor in the northern city of Rasht, who was arrested during protests in November and detained for three months.

“We are not scared of the regime’s threats. We want freedom ... This path will continue until we regain our country from the clerics,” Maryam, a high school girl in Iran’s western Kermanshah city, said.

For decades women who refused to wear the hijab were accosted by morality police operating from vans that patrolled busy public spaces. The vehicles’ mixed male and female crew would watch for “un-Islamic dress and behavior.”

But those vans have mostly vanished from streets of cities they used to patrol, residents said, after the protests confronted Iran’s clerical rulers with their worst legitimacy crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iranian officials have also said morality police patrols would no longer spearhead the campaign against those flouting the dress codes.

In place of the vans, authorities are installing cameras on streets to identify unveiled women, providing a more discreet method of detecting breaches of Iran’s conservative dress code.

Another novel tactic is a government order to both  private and public sectors not to provide services to “violators.” Warnings of heavy fines and even imprisonment have been issued.

Yet growing numbers of women have defied authorities by discarding their veils in the wake of the protests, which erupted after the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was arrested for allegedly violating hijab rules.

Security forces violently put down the revolt, and the street demonstrations largely fizzled in February.

Source: arabnews.com

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

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2296591/middle-east

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Prince Charles Fancies Himself A ‘Defender Of Faith’ As He Invites Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim And Sikh Leaders To His Coronation

 

Britain's King Charles III, right, speaks with Professor Gurch Randhawa, a member of the Sikh Congregation, as they sit on the floor in the Prayer Hall during the king's visit to the newly built Guru Nanak Gurdwara, in Luton, England, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.

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By Danica Kirka And The Associated Press

May 2, 2023

Rabbi Nicky Liss won’t be watching King Charles III’s coronation. He’ll be doing something he considers more important: praying for the monarch on the Jewish sabbath.

On Saturday, he will join rabbis across Britain in reading a prayer in English and Hebrew that gives thanks for the new king in the name of the “one God who created us all.”

Liss, the rabbi of Highgate Synagogue in north London, said British Jews appreciated Charles’ pledge to promote the co-existence of all faiths and his record of supporting a multifaith society during his long apprenticeship as heir to the throne.

“When he says he wants to be a defender of faiths, that means the world because our history hasn’t always been so simple and we haven’t always lived freely; we haven’t been able to practice our religion,” Liss told The Associated Press. “But knowing that King Charles acts this way and speaks this way is tremendously comforting.”

At a time when religion is fueling tensions around the world — from Hindu nationalists in India to Jewish settlers in the West Bank and fundamentalist Christians in the United States — Charles is trying to bridge the differences between the faith groups that make up Britain’s increasingly diverse society.

Achieving that goal is critical to the new king’s efforts to show that the monarchy, a 1,000-year-old institution with Christian roots, can still represent the people of modern, multicultural Britain.

But Charles, the supreme governor of the Church of England, faces a very different country than the one that adoringly celebrated his mother’s coronation in 1953.

Seventy years ago, more than 80% of the people of England were Christian, and the mass migration that would change the face of the nation was just beginning. That figure has now dropped below half, with 37% saying they have no religion, 6.5% calling themselves Muslim and 1.7% Hindu, according to the latest census figures. The change is even more pronounced in London, where more than a quarter of the population have a non-Christian faith.

Charles recognized that change long before he became king last September.

As far back as the 1990s, Charles suggested that he would like to be known as “the defender of faith,” a small but hugely symbolic change from the monarch’s traditional title of “defender of the faith,” meaning Christianity. It’s an important distinction for a man who believes in the healing power of yoga and once called Islam “one of the greatest treasuries of accumulated wisdom and spiritual knowledge available to humanity.”

The king’s commitment to diversity will be on display at his coronation, when religious leaders representing the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh traditions will for the first time play an active role in the ceremonies.

“I have always thought of Britain as a ‘community of communities,’’’ Charles told faith leaders in September.

“That has led me to understand that the Sovereign has an additional duty — less formally recognized but to be no less diligently discharged. It is the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals.”

That’s not an easy task in a country where religious and cultural differences sometimes boil over.

Just last summer, Muslim and Hindu youths clashed in the city of Leicester. The main opposition Labour Party has struggled to rid itself of antisemitism, and the government’s counterterrorism strategy has been criticized for focusing on Muslims. Then there are the sectarian differences that still separate Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Such tensions underscore the crucial need for Britain to have a head of state who personally works to promote inclusivity, said Farhan Nizami, director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

Charles has been the center’s patron for 30 years, lending his stature to Nizami’s effort to build an academic hub for studying all facets of the Islamic world, including history, science and literature, as well as religion. During those years, the center moved from a nondescript wooden structure to a complex that has its own library, conference facilities and a mosque complete with dome and minaret.

“It is very important that we have a king who has been consistently committed to (inclusivity),” Nizami said. “It is so relevant in the modern age, with all the mobility, with the difference and diversity that exists, that the head of this state should bring people together, both by example and action.”

Those actions are sometimes small. But they resonate with people like BalwinderShukra, who saw the king a few months ago when he officially opened the Guru Nanak Gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship, in Luton, an ethnically diverse city of almost 300,000 north of London.

Shukra, 65, paused from patting out flatbreads known as chapatis for the communal meal the gurdwara serves to all comers, adjusted her floral shawl, and expressed her admiration for Charles’ decision to sit on the floor with other members of the congregation.

Referring to the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, Shukra said that “all the people (are) equal.’’ It “doesn’t matter” if you are king, she added.

Some British newspapers have suggested that Charles’ desire to include other faiths in the coronation faced resistance from the Church of England, and one conservative religious commentator recently warned that a multifaith ceremony could weaken the “kingly roots” of the monarchy.

But George Gross, who studies the link between religion and monarchy, dismissed these concerns.

The crowning of monarchs is a tradition that stretches back to the ancient Egyptians and Romans, so there is nothing intrinsically Christian about it, said Gross, a visiting research fellow at King’s College London. In addition, all of the central religious elements of the service will be conducted by Church of England clergy.

Representatives of other faiths have already been present at other major public events in Britain, such as the Remembrance Day services.

“These things are not unusual in more contemporary settings,” he said “So I think of it the other way: Were there not to be other representatives, it would seem very odd.”

Charles’ commitment to a multifaith society is also a symbol of the progress that’s been made in ending a rift in the Christian tradition that began in 1534, when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church and declared himself head of the Church of England.

That split ushered in hundreds of years of tensions between Catholics and Anglicans that finally faded during the queen’s reign, said Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the most senior Catholic clergyman in England. Nichols will be in the Abbey when Charles is crowned on Saturday.

“I get lots of privileges,” he said cheerfully. “But this will be one of the greatest, I think, to play a part in the coronation of the monarch.”

Source: fortune.com

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

https://fortune.com/2023/05/02/prince-charles-multi-faith-coronation-jewish-buddhist-hindu-muslm-sikh/

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India

 

Karnataka: BJP Government’s Law Prohibiting Cow Slaughter Hurts Both Hindus and Muslims

S.N. Sahu

03-05-23

The collapse of cattle trade in Karnataka has added to the economic woes of farmers in the state after the BJP government enacted the Karnataka Prevention and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020. It has spelt economic ruin to Hindus and Muslims alike. Hindus fear that their old and unproductive cows and oxen could never be bought by anyone. The Muslims who used to purchase such cattle are scared not just of the law, which prescribes stringent punishment to those engaged in cattle trade, but also of the cow vigilantes who – actuated by the Hindutva ideology – attack and even kill them.

It may be recalled that in Uttar Pradesh, the ban on cow slaughter was followed by the menace of stray cattle, which devastated crops. It became a huge electoral issue during the 2022 assembly elections but the BJP nevertheless won.

In Karnataka too, farmers and those engaged in cattle trade are helplessly confronting the collapse of their economies after the law banning cow slaughter came into force. People of diverse faiths engaged in farming and those earning their livelihood by engaging in cattle trade are very bitter against the BJP regime and its chief minister BasavarajBommai for their mounting economic woes.

Author Johnson T.A. observed in a recent article, “Across the cattle market, there is a consensus that the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020, introduced by the BJP government, has delivered a crippling blow to farmers by virtually criminalising the trade of cattle and creating an environment of fear.” Similar observations were made as early as February 2022.

In fact, even Karnataka’s finance department had earlier cautioned that there would be ‘huge financial implications’ for the State on account of that law.

In the aforementioned article by Johnson, he quotes a farmer, Somme Gowda, who said, “The entire cattle trade market has collapsed after the government introduced the law banning cattle slaughter in the state.” Gowda further added by saying, “There are no takers for cattle that used to go to slaughter houses. The Muslim traders have almost disappeared,”

Johnson quotes one Yunus, whose brother Pasha was killed by cow vigilantes. According to Yunus, “the Act had broken a social contract that existed between farmers of all communities and cattle traders. Do the people who allow all this not understand the reality on the ground? In the name of protection of Gau Mata, they are killing people and ruining the lives of farmers. The maximum sellers are from the majority community (Hindus). They want to sell cattle when they stop producing milk or fall ill. They bring the cattle to the market themselves or call middlemen. Now all that has collapsed.”

SwamyGowda, a middleman in the cattle trade stated that in Karnataka, “many traditional cattle markets are shutting down. There are few merchants to buy cattle” and declared his preference to vote either Congress or JD(S) in the election scheduled to take place on May 10, 2023.

He refers to the Rs 6,000 paid to the accounts of farmers under the Pradhan Mantri KisanSammanNidhi Yojana and criticises it by saying that the cost of feed, and fertilisers is too high and they spend a minimum of Rs 60,000. He described Narendra Modi as a prime minister indulging in publicity and pushing polarising agenda. He then sharply observed, “There was only one [A.B.] Vajpayee. The present government is all about publicity. What is the cost of fuel, the cost of LPG under this government?… And, even Muslims are citizens of this country. Do they not eat the food of this earth? In this region, they are a part of our lives.”

The economic devastation suffered by the people of Karnataka, regardless of their faith, and their criticism of the law framed by the BJP regime to ban cow slaughter without consulting them is in equal measure a clear indication that the majoritarian agenda of the BJP is failing to mobilise people in its favour.

Gandhi’s letter of 1927 to the Cow Protection Committee of Mysore

In the context of such developments taking place in Karnataka, one is reminded of a letter written by none other than Mahatma Gandhi to the Cow Protection Committee of Mysore on January 11, 1927. Almost a hundred years ago, what Gandhiji wrote assumes significance for the people of Karnataka. He stated, “In matters of religion I am against any State interference, and the cow question is in India a mixed matter of religion and economy.”

“I have no doubt that it is the concern of every State, whether Hindu or Mussalman, to conserve the cattle supply,” he asked, “…whether the State would be justified in interposing itself between Hindus and Mussalmans and regulating cow slaughter…”

Gandhi in spite of being a devout Hindu even went to the extent of saying, “In India which I consider to be as much the land of Hindus born in it as of Mussalmans, Christians and others born in it, even a Hindu State may not prohibit cow slaughter for purposes considered to be religious by any of its subjects without the consent of the intelligent majority of such subjects so long as such slaughter is conducted in private and without any intention of provoking or giving offence to Hindus.”

Was there the consent of – or even consultation with – the “intelligent majority” before the BJP government of Karnataka enacted the Prevention and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020? Clearly, the aforementioned statements of Somme Gowda, Yunus and SwamyGowda show that none was consulted and the law was imposed without following the lawmaking process of deliberation and consultation.

Gandhi very sensitively observed in his letter, “But in my opinion the economic side of the cow question, if it is properly handled, automatically provides for the delicate religious side.” The stark reality is that the economic part of the cow question has not been handled properly by political regimes, specifically BJP regimes. We are confronting a situation where people, be they Hindus or Muslims, are now facing severe economic consequences and their household economics is getting devastated.

Role of the state in dealing with cattle

Gandhi suggested measures which make eminent sense for 21st-century India in the context of farmers who are facing a bleak future owing to dwindling income from agriculture :

(1) The State should in the open market buy out every [head of] cattle offered for sale by outbidding every other buyer.

(2)The State should run dairies in all principal towns ensuring a cheap supply of milk.

(3) The State should run tanneries where the hides, bones, etc., of all dead cattle in its possession, should be utilised and should offer to buy again in the open market all privately-owned dead cattle.

(4) The State should keep model cattle farms and instruct the people in the art of breeding and keeping cattle

What we are witnessing now is state policy which causes misery to the farmers and those involved in the cattle trade. No wonder that they are up in arms against the BJP government in Karnataka. One has to wait and see how it would impact the electoral outcome.

Source: thewire.in

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https://thewire.in/government/karnataka-bjp-cow-slaughter-ban-criticism

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Karnataka shocker: 18-year-old Muslim youth allegedly attacked by Bajrang Dal

May 03, 2023

A disturbing incident has emerged from Karnataka's southern state, where an 18-year-old Muslim youth was allegedly attacked by the Bajrang Dal. The victim has informed the police that the accused have warned him not to file a complaint. Karnataka police have lodged an FIR and further investigation is underway.

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/city/bengaluru/karnataka-shocker-18-year-old-muslim-youth-allegedly-attacked-by-bajrang-dal/videoshow/99950137.cms

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UP urban body polls: With 391 candidates, BJP tests waters on Muslim support base ahead of 2024

The 391 Muslim candidates are in the fray for the posts of chairpersons and members of nagarpalikaparishads and nagarpanchayats and corporators in the municipal corporations.

Written by Lalmani Verma

May 3, 2023

UP urban body polls, Muslim candidates in local body polls, BJP's test on Muslims, Muslim support base, Lok Sabha 2024, Yogi Adityanath, indian express, indian express newsThe two-phase urban local body elections will be held on May 4 and 11 to elect representatives for 14,864 posts across 760 civic bodies in the state. (Express Photo)

In the Uttar Pradesh urban local body elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded 391 Muslim candidates, its highest-ever, with majority of them having filed nominations from seats that have a sizeable presence of the community.

With this, the ruling party in the state has thrown its hat in the ring — test its support base among members of the community ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The two-phase urban local body elections will be held on May 4 and 11 to elect representatives for 14,864 posts across 760 civic bodies in the state.

The 391 Muslim candidates are in the fray for the posts of chairpersons and members of nagarpalikaparishads and nagarpanchayats and corporators in the municipal corporations.

Mayors for 17 municipal corporations, 199 chairpersons for nagarpalikaparishads and 544 nagarpanchayats along with 1,420 corporators, 5,327 members of nagarpanchayats and 7,177 members of nagarpalikaparishads will be elected in the polls.

Many of the nominees are Muslim women, it is learnt.

Of the total 391 Muslim candidates of the BJP, 351 are contesting from muncipal wards for the posts of coroprators and members, 35 for chairpersons of nagarpanchayats and five for chairpersons of nagarpalikaparishads.

The party, however, has not fielded any Muslim candidate for mayoral seats. A party leader said more than 90 per of these candidates are from the Pasmanda Muslim community — both Shia and Sunni.

In the 2017 civic body polls, Muslim candidates were given tickets by the saffron party from only a few seats of corporators and members and there were several seats where the party could not find even a single candidate to contest, said a party leader.

Of the 17 municipal corporations in the state, Ayodhya is the only civic body where the party has not given ticket to any Muslim candidate.

The party has fielded the maximum number of Muslim candidates for corporators’ posts — 21 in Meerut, 17 in Aligarh, 13 in Saharanpur, 11 in Kanpur, five in Bareilly, eight in Moradabad, four in Ghaziabad, three each in Prayagraj and Varanasi, two in Lucknow and one each in Gorakhpur, Jhansi, Agra, Firozabad, Mathura-Vrindavan and Shahjhanpur.

For chairpersons of nagarpalikaparishads of Tanda and Rampur, the party has fielded two women candidates. Also, from the Suar seat in the district, the party’s ally Apna Dal (S) has fielded a woman candidate.

Likewise, the party has fielded Muslim candidates from the nagarpalikaparishads of Kakrala in Badaun district, Mubarakpur in Azamgarh district and Afzalgarh in Bijnor district.

Most of the Muslim candidates for nagarpanchayat chairpersons’ posts are from Meerut, Baghpat, Amroha, Moradabad, Badaun, Rampur and Bareilly districts. All these districts have a significant number of Muslim voters.

BJP’s minority morcha state president Kunwar Basit Ali said, “In the past, there was no such demand from the community for tickets. This change shows that trust of Muslims in the BJP has increased in the past few years.”

Ali said the trust of Muslims in the BJP has increased because the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre and the Yogi Adityanath-led dispensation in UP provided them benefits of welfare schemes without discrimination.

Another party leader said, “Muslim candidates have been given tickets on the seats dominated by the community only. The response we will receive on the polling day will test the efficacy of the efforts the party made to reach out to the community.”

The party gave benefits of welfare schemes to members of all castes and communities and gave them representation in the UP Legislative Council.

Last month only, the party nominated then Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) vice-chancellor Tariq Mansoor to the state Legislative Council.

The party now has four Muslim members in the Legislative Council, the highest-ever representation to the community in the upper House of the Assembly from the party.

Source: indianexpress.com

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https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/up-urban-body-polls-with-391-candidates-bjp-tests-waters-on-muslim-support-base-ahead-of-2024-8588337/

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Arab World

 

Saudi experts highlight importance of digital design to KSA’s future

02 May 2023

Rahaf Jambi

RIYADH: The growth of the digital industry in Saudi Arabia has led to an increased focus on user experience and interface design.

User experience is considered a crucial component when designing an app or highly interactive website for any company that offers a physical or digital product, as it aims to offer consumers a seamless experience from their first contact to the last.

User interface is used for digital products only, with a focus on visual touchpoint that allows users to interact with a product.

More firms are recognizing the importance of providing a streamlined digital user experience for their customers.

Hanan Al-Otaibi, a user experience researcher, said that user experience was the cornerstone of every online platform before designing its user interface screens, as changes could be made earlier, quicker, and easier than after a product was launched.

Legal blindness, color blindness, and visual impairment are three different sorts of vision issues, and each of them has a solution for those who design and create any program from the ground up that aids users with special needs, so they do not need some one to help them buy or pay bills online.

“By analyzing user behavior, Amazon discovered that many people abandon their shopping carts because they are too lazy to register and create an account.

“Using this knowledge, Amazon developed a button that allows users to make any purchases as a guest without having to register, and the tactic was a huge success,” Al-Otaibi added.

A user interface design can make or break a website or app, as it is the first thing that users see when they interact with a product, and the user experience can ease access to a site for those with special needs.

Al-Otaibi, who gained a master’s degree in human computer interaction from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said: “Legal blindness, color blindness, and visual impairment are three different sorts of vision issues, and each of them has a solution, or those who design and create any program from the ground up that aids users with special needs, so they do not need someone to help them buy or pay bills online.”

User experience design involves understanding the needs and behaviors of users and designing products that meet their expectations.

Designer, Ashraf Agili, pointed out that it was important for Saudi Arabia to implement user experience and interface design as a full major in universities.

Currently, the Misk Foundation offers an immersive 11-week user experience design course that equips students with skills to begin working as a designer or researcher.

Hemma UX/UI Development Camp, an intensive technical camp with a focus on user interface and experience development, is offered by the Saudi Digital Academy.

Agili said: “We need more designers in the field because everything is moving toward technology. We buy everything online, and the user numbers are frightening given that 70 percent of global users use the internet before visiting a mall.

“In Saudi Arabia, technology is also booming in terms of governmental or shopping apps.”

He noted that good user experience design led to increased customer satisfaction, improved brand loyalty, and higher conversion rates.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2296641/saudi-arabia

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Islamic counter-terrorism chief meets Iraqi military intelligence director in Riyadh

May 02, 2023

 RIYADH: Secretary-General of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Moghedi on Tuesday received the Director of Iraqi Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Zaid Hoshi KhalafWadi and his accompanying delegation in Riyadh.

During their meeting, they discussed issues of concern to Iraq and the coalition, and the latter’s role in coordinating and stepping up member nations’ efforts to combat terrorism, including in the fields of ideology, communications, counter-terrorist financing, and military.

Wadi and his delegation toured the coalition’s headquarters and were briefed on the latest developments in relation to the activities of global terror groups, and the Iraqi official praised the coalition’s working in fighting terrorism.

Al-Moghedi said that the coalition was an integrated system that aimed to strengthen cooperation among member states based on legitimacy, engagement, coordination, and autonomy, in line with international rules and regulations.

He added that terrorism was a scourge that must be combated by all countries and global organizations, aided by the latest methods.

He noted that the first step toward eradicating extremist violence was by confronting terrorists’ ideology while also cutting off their sources of funding.

Al-Moghedi pointed out that Iraq had suffered heavily at the hands of terrorist and extremist groups, but he lauded its ongoing efforts to combat terrorism and hoped the Iraqi government would join the coalition in helping to defeat terrorism.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2296461/saudi-arabia

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Saudi FM discusses situation in Sudan with African Union Commission chairperson

May 02, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister discussed efforts to stop the military escalation in Sudan during a phone call with the chairperson of the African Union Commission on Tuesday.

During the phone call, Prince Faisal bin Farhan and MoussaFakiMahamat also discussed attempts to end the violence in the war-torn country and provide the necessary protection for Sudanese civilians and residents.

The officials discussed the latest developments and the current situation in Africa. They also discussed issues of common interest.

Sudanese army chief general Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and paramilitary Rapid Support forces leader General Mohamed HamdanDagalo have agreed in principle on a seven-day truce from May 4, a statement released by South Sudan’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2296451/saudi-arabia

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Saudi police arrest 11 suspects in drug bust

May 02, 2023

RIYADH: Security patrols in Al-Jawf governorate have arrested 11 suspects over an attempt to sell narcotics, the Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday.

The suspects, 10 Pakistani residents and a Saudi citizen, the house they were using as their hideout in the area of Sakaka, was equipped with surveillance cameras, SPA said.

During the bust, the security seized hashish and a methamphetamine drug known as Shabu.

As part of the Kingdom’s drug safety campaign, the General Directorate for Narcotics Control has created anti-drug programs, while the Ministry of Health has a platform dedicated to health awareness and educational content regarding drug addiction.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2296291/saudi-arabia

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Pakistan

 

Seven terrorists held in Miran Shah operation

May 01, 2023

As many as seven terrorists including their commander were apprehended during an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s North Waziristan district, the military’s media wing said on Monday.

In a statement, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the operation was conducted on the reported presence of terrorists in the Miran Shah area of the district.

“Resultantly, 7 terrorists, including terrorist commander Mehtab alias Lala belonging to Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, were successfully apprehended by security forces,” it added.

The detained militants have been involved in numerous terrorist activities, especially targeted killings against security forces as well as innocent citizens, and were highly wanted by the security agencies, the military’s media wing said.

“Locals of the area appreciated security forces’ operation and assured of their support in eliminating the menace of terrorism,” the statement added.

Last week, two Pakistan Army soldiers embraced martyrdom during a fire exchange with the terrorists in the general area of Tirah, Khyber District, the ISPR said.

In a statement issued by the military's media wing, the soldiers effectively engaged the terrorists’ location which resulted in the killing of two terrorists while four others got injured.

As Pakistan remains gripped by the spate of terror attacks for the last few months, the country's civil and military leadership has resolved to stand united against terrorists.

The National Apex Committee — comprising the country's top military and political leadership — sought national consensus to root out militancy.

The recent attacks by terrorists in the country's rural and urban centres, claiming the lives of innocent Pakistanis and law enforcers, have prompted the security forces to accelerate action against them.

Source: thenews.com.pk

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https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/1066022-seven-terrorists-held-in-miran-shah-operation

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Saqib Nisar has committed ‘unforgivable crimes’: Nawaz

May 3, 2023

LONDON: In continuation of his demand to hold the judiciary accountable for alleged transgressions, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday called for action against former chief justice Saqib Nisar.

In response to a question posed by a reporter outside Stanhope House, Mr Sharif said, “Action should be taken against Saqib Nisar. He violated the law and the Constitution. Others who do the same go to jail.”

He also said that some things about the former judge cannot be said on microphone.

Mr Sharif criticised the decisions the former chief justice took during his tenure. He referred to an interview of retired justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who claimed Nisar was part of a group of judiciary acting against the spirit of democracy.

PML-N supremo calls for action against former CJP

“Shaukat Siddiqui, who came on TV yesterday, took Saqib Nisar’s name. How much more can he [Nisar] defend? He has committed crimes against the nation which are unforgivable.”

In the last few months, the former prime minister has made repeated demands to hold the judiciary, as well as former generals accountable, and criticised the judiciary’s historic role in alleged political engineering.

Most recently, Mr Sharif advocated for a reference to be filed in the Supreme Judicial Council against the bench that delivered the verdict for the Punjab elections schedule. Mr Sharif has also taken on serving CJP Umar Ata Bandial, and framed the actions of the serving CJP and past ones as efforts to bring Imran Khan to power.

Mr Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, has already made several scathing allegations against the former chief justice, accusing him of facilitating the rise to power of her arch-rival, Imran Khan.

Last month, PM Shehbaz Sharif had also accused ex-CJP Nisar of sabotaging development projects initiated by the previous PML-N regime.

Source: dawn.com

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1750611/saqib-nisar-has-committed-unforgivable-crimes-nawaz

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Balochistan: A minefield for journalists

May 3, 2023

Naziha Syed Ali

KHUZDAR: Outside the Khuzdar Press Club stands a column topped with the likeness of a hand cast in iron and holding a pen. The imposing structure seems to celebrate the notion of a free press. The reality could not be more different.

In 2014, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Khuzdar, the capital of Khuzdar district in central Balochistan, among the world’s 10 most dangerous cities for journalists.

The same year, Amnesty International described the area as a “graveyard for journalists”, after at least six media persons were murdered here in the preceding few years. Among them were two of the press club’s presidents and its general secretary. It was a chilling message to the journalist community as a whole.

The threats were unrelenting.

“Some of my colleagues in Khuzdar stopped answering their phones,” recalled a journalist in Quetta. Several reporters moved to other towns for safety; some gave up journalism altogether.

Twice, the press club was shut down: the second time for a year. Khuzdar Press Club President Mufti Siddique Mengal told Dawn: “We closed it out of fear because we realised we couldn’t do journalism any longer. When [the state was] faced with recrimination from the outside world, they forced us to open.”

Khuzdar district, indeed Balochistan as a whole, still remains a graveyard for journalism.

Today is World Press Freedom Day, an occasion to recognise the importance of the media in strengthening democracy. To hold the authorities accountable, the media must be independent and free to report on abuses of power, corruption, anti-people policies, etc.

But in Pakistan, an increasingly securitised state led to a weakening of civil institutions; and that, coupled with the corporatisation of the news business, began eroding hard-won media independence. Journalists that refused to toe the line were silenced, sometimes with deadly force.

In 2022, Pakistan ranked 157 out of 180 countries on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, a drop of 12 places since the previous year. According to a report by Freedom Network, an independent national media watchdog, at least 53 journalists were murdered in the country from 2012 to 2022. Only in two cases have convictions been obtained.

But if journalism is a dangerous profession in Pakistan, nowhere do journalists have to navigate the kind of multi-dimensional threat landscape as they do in Balochistan. Unsurprisingly, most media persons Dawn spoke to in Quetta and Khuzdar for this report did not want to talk on the record.

“There are so many actors now that it’s easy to kill anyone and put it on someone else. Security forces, separatist outfits, tribal sardars, anyone can take offence at what we say or report,” said a reporter in Quetta. Most conceded that they were reduced to paper-pushers: “We write what the authorities want us to write. We can’t present the real facts.”

Enforced disappearance is among the burning issues many journalists say they cannot cover.

“When [Supreme Court Chief Justice] Iftikhar Chaudhry was holding hearings into missing people’s cases until 1:30am in Quetta, we’d take shelter of the court to report the statements that victims’ families gave before the bench. Sometimes their words would even move the judges to tears,” a senior correspondent recalled. “We can’t even do that now. In fact, on electronic media we’re not allowed to do so at all.”

Another reporter in digital and broadcast media said that when missing people’s bodies are found, CTD Balochistan often claims they were killed in police encounters. “But journalists here will report it as though they saw the encounter with their own eyes; they won’t even bother to say this is the CTD’s version.”

What underscores the glaring gap in the coverage of enforced disappearances in Balochistan is that the protest camp for missing persons is right next to the Quetta Press Club.

One journalist said: “When Mama Qadeer [founder of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons] comes here to hold a press conference in the hall, even the journalists on the premises don’t attend it because they know the news won’t be carried.”

He added with a sardonic laugh, “Though a few journalists will turn up, those whose job it is to report to the intelligence agencies.”

Their poor working conditions rub salt into the wounds of Balochistan’s journalists. “Many media persons are not even getting minimum wage,” says a senior correspondent. “Sub-editors are getting Rs8,000 to Rs12,000. Even reporters for bigger papers get no more than Rs25,000 at most.”

That is if they get paid at all. Very seldom are district correspondents paid by their news organisations. These reporters have no choice but to moonlight as journalists while holding paying jobs.

Many are public-sector employees; quite a few are contractors; some are even members of political parties. There is an obvious conflict of interest in such a situation. That is why the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) has only 145 members, including four women.

“Only full-time journalists with an appointment letter from their employer can be members,” explained BUJ President Irfan Saeed. “Nevertheless, we always take a stand if something happens to any journalist, whether he’s a member or not.”

BUJ General Secretary Manzoor Ahmed believes press clubs in Pakistan should be strengthened by treating journalism as a profession, much like medicine, law or engineering.

“There should be a service structure for journalists to be promoted from junior reporter [all the way up] to bureau chief, shift in-charge and director news,” he told Dawn.

“Similarly, there should be experience criteria to qualify them to become [current affairs] analysts. That way journalists from Balochistan will have more of a presence in important positions in mainstream media.”

In recent years, media houses have reduced their outlay and, in a province that gets short shrift in so many respects, the fallout has been brutal. At a gathering of journalists at the Quetta Press Club, they can barely contain their resentment.

“Before I had an office, a DSNG, a SIM and a mobile. Now I get only a SIM with data,” said one reporter.

“Today I was asked to do the filming with my mobile, because our camera is out of order and the one they sent as a replacement is in even worse condition,” claimed another.

Bureaus are being run with two individuals, sometimes even one. Considering there is no ‘beat’ system in Balochistan, which means a reporter must cover everything — from bomb blasts to sports and prices of vegetables — it makes for an exhausting and demoralising existence.

The lack of basic knowledge about the province among assignment editors at head offices elsewhere in the country also rankles.

“When Chinese engineers were attacked in Gwadar, an assignment editor called their reporter in Quetta to ask how much time would it take him to get there. I told him, it takes 12 hours. Put up a map in your office.”

Then there is the one-dimensional view through which news about Balochistan is filtered.

“The province’s coverage is limited to bomb blasts,” said a correspondent bitterly. “Media house owners say ‘What business do we get from Balochistan that we should give it more space’? It reflects their attitude to Balochistan in general.”

Some days earlier Irfan Saeed, the BUJ president who is the Quetta bureau chief for a TV channel, had painstakingly put together an informative and entertaining package, complete with dinosaur graphics, about the fossil collection in Quetta’s Geological Survey of Pakistan Museum.

The report ran only once, at 6:50am.

While Balochistan has never had a vibrant media, the profession was not quite as sterile and restrictive as it has now become.

A bureau chief in Quetta recalled that during the trial for Justice Nawaz Marri’s murder, which was carried out in 2000 allegedly on the orders of Khair BuxMarri by his sons, journalists would freely report Mr Marri’s views. Things changed when the Baloch insurgency broke out. As the security footprint in the province expanded, the right to free speech was slowly but surely throttled.

The state did not only respond militarily to the insurgency. Violent extremist groups and pro-establishment tribal militias were given carte blanche to hunt down Baloch militants, a strategy that pitched the province into years of hellish violence.

The extremists began targeting Balochistan’s Shia Hazara community in horrific acts of sectarian violence while the militias evolved into ‘death squads’ that killed people for political as well as non-political reasons.

Among the most notorious of these outfits was the Baloch MusallaDifa Tanzeem (BMDT) led by a native of Khuzdar named ShafiqMengal. Along with his brother, Attaullah, Shafiq unleashed a reign of terror in the district, looting coaches travelling between Quetta and Karachi, kidnapping people for ransom, etc. Journalists, teachers, doctors and intellectuals died in target killings.

“It was a way to spread fear in society, and to prevent anything from being reported,” said a journalist in Khuzdar.

Mohammed Khan Sasoli was president of the Khuzdar Press Club when he was shot dead on Dec 14, 2010, by two gunmen outside his front gate around 7pm.

“He was returning from the press club,” his nephew Hidayatullah Sasoli told Dawn. “I picked up his body myself. The sight will forever be etched in my mind.”

At the time, Mohammed Khan’s sons were three and two years old; the youngest was four months. Hidayatullah is a teacher at a private school; his income supports his own family, as well as that of his slain uncle. Educating his young nephews is his biggest worry, he said.

According to him, Mohammed Khan’s widow received no compensation from either the provincial government or the journalist community. (Mohammed Khan was not a member of the BUJ and his family was hence not eligible to receive anything from the journalists’ welfare fund.)

Hidayatullah claimed his uncle hadn’t received any threats. But according to a source, Mohammed Khan had been very active in demanding action against the BMDT, especially when members of the group had allegedly abducted another journalist, Riaz Mengal. (Riaz obtained asylum in Europe some years later.)

Nadeem Gurgnari, also a Khuzdar-based reporter, paid the ultimate price for his journalism: the murder of his two sons, young men who had been married only a year. The older one, Siraj Ahmed, was working in an NGO and the other, Manzoor Ahmed, was a physics teacher at a local college. On Oct 25, 2012, the brothers were on their way to do some Eid shopping when they were targeted by two armed men on a motorbike. Siraj died on the spot while Manzoor was mortally wounded.

“My wife and I found ourselves alone at the Civil Hospital. It was such a lawless time that even doctors weren’t coming to work,” recalls Mr Gurgnari who was the Khuzdar Press Club president at the time. “I told her to take Siraj’s body home while I rushed Manzoor to [another] hospital — but he also died later.”

No one has been held accountable.

Siraj and Manzoor Ahmed, sons of Nadeem Gurgnari who were attacked and killed in October 2012.

At one point, a group of senior journalists met with Lt Gen Nasser Janjua, then Commander, Southern Command. They told him that ShafiqMengal’s criminality — including his alleged culpability in the Tookak mass graves episode — and his ties with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were bringing the security establishment into disrepute.

According to one of the journalists present at the meeting, “We said that if he does 10 things for you, he does 90 for himself, and all under the flag of Pakistan. Revisit this policy.”

Shafiq was subsequently reined to some extent. (However, in 2018 he stood for election as an independent candidate for Khuzdar’s only National Assembly seat, and later for a by-election on a provincial assembly seat.)

Even within Balochistan’s complex dynamics, Khuzdar district is a particularly difficult place to report from also because of its entrenched tribal culture. Some of the most powerful Baloch sardars are based here. As one enters the district when travelling by road, posters of Sanaullah Zehri, IsrarullahZehri, Akhtar Mengal, etc can be seen intermittently along the highway.

As a reporter put it: “Even politics here is the preserve of the sardars … If you write against them or the sardarinizam, they’re not going to do a case of defamation against you. They’ll settle things the tribal way.”

Stories about the impunity of the sardars are legion. One allegedly had several women working in his family home killed after he found they had stolen some gold. Another story goes that one time the police tried to apprehend a number of non-duty paid cars on the highway but had to watch helplessly as the convoy disappeared into the residence of a tribal chief.

Some of the younger generation is also accused of a gamut of crimes, including rape, abduction and murder. None of this has ever made it into the news.

“Those who could write about it are all like us, with no power or money. If we wrote about these things, our bodies would be found the next day,” said a reporter. Incidentally, the land for the Khuzdar Press Club was given by Sardar Akhtar Mengal, and its new building was constructed with Rs10 million donated by Sardar Sanaullah Zehri.

Back in Quetta, the Online International News Network‘s office seems to wear its bloody past with defiance. The walls in the bureau chief’s office are painted red, and the bullet holes in the wall behind his desk have not been plastered over. This was where Irshad Mastoi, when he was the bureau chief, used to sit and where he was shot dead on Aug 28, 2014. Ghulam Rasool Khajjak, a trainee reporter working in the same room was also gunned down in the attack, as was their accountant, Mohammed Younus.

A little over a year later, then interior minister SarfarazBugti called a press conference to announce the arrest of two suspected BLA militants for the crime. Their video confession was played on the occasion. Some of Irshad’s colleagues asked the minister to arrange a meeting with the accused so they could gauge the veracity of the claim. But a few weeks later, the men were killed in what was claimed as a police encounter, leaving Irshad’s family and friends with deep misgivings as to whether the real killers had been caught at all.

They wondered whether Irshad’s conversations with separatist commanders were a factor in his murder. Baloch militant groups would almost invariably contact Online News when they wanted to claim an attack, possibly because giving a statement to a news agency meant wider dissemination. In November 2015, Afzal Mughal, the current bureau chief was also picked up in the middle of the night by the agencies. He was released after over 12 hours of detention.

“They call everyone from time to time to tell us about national interest,” another journalist told Dawn. “Once a [Balochistan Liberation Front] commander contacted me via satellite phone to issue a statement. … Soon a [Military Intelligence] colonel called me from an unknown number to ask for that commander’s number. I stalled him by saying I’d have to speak with my editor first. I was worried that if I gave the number, [the security forces] would trace and kill him, and then I’d be in trouble with the militants. Luckily, he didn’t ring back.”

This is the kind of minefield that journalists in Balochistan have had to walk for years.

In one way, however, the situation has improved. Whether insurgents or violent extremists, lawless elements no longer need to threaten journalists to disseminate their message; they can do that themselves on social media.

But even the fact that the threat to life has somewhat reduced in recent years means little in an environment where journalism remains devoid of vitality. Everyone in the province knows where the many red lines are, and they are careful not to cross them.

Header illustration by Radia Durrani

Source: dawn.com

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Govt, PTI agree on same-day elections but fail to decide date

By Asim Yasin

May 03, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The third round of negotiations between the ruling alliance and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ended on Tuesday night without a major breakthrough on the date for the same-day election.

Despite reaching a consensus on the same-day election across the country under a caretaker government, the meeting failed to determine the date of elections and dissolution of assemblies.

The third round of the talks was held at the Committee Room of the Parliament House. The government team comprised former prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Minister for Commerce Naveed Qamar, Minister for National Food Security and Research Tariq Bashir Cheema, Sanaullah Baloch from the BNP (Mengal) and Kishwar Zahra from the MQM, while Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Senator Ali Zafar and Fawad Chaudhry formed the PTI delegation.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced that both the sides agreed that elections would be held on the same day under a caretaker government but they could not determine the date.

PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi also said though both sides agreed on the same-day election yet failed to decide the date.

But, at the same time, Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that the PTI would approach the Supreme Court and submit a written report of negotiations to implement the court’s decision on May 14 polls in Punjab.

However, at the conclusion of the third round of talks, they did not give any fresh dates for further negotiations.

Talking to the media, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that in the third round of talks, all the issues were discussed in detail in a positive manner, and the overall result was positive.

He said that there was an agreement that all the elections should be held on the same day under a caretaker setup. “The purpose of the elections at the same time is that no questions be raised on the fairness and transparency of them.”

Dar said that an important matter is the determination of the date on which the elections should be held.

“We have to go and talk to the leadership again; we also have to consult with our coalition parties and hope for positive progress in the coming days, as I think the agreement on elections and formation of a caretaker setup is great progress, which is in accordance with the Constitution and Elections Act 2017,” he said.

The finance minister said that one of the important things is the determination of the date of the elections. There are many things in front of us -- the country needs a budget, trade policy and an ongoing review of the IMF, so the date for these things is a bit complicated.

“There is a process, we have shown as much flexibility as we can; they are also showing it, and we hope that both parties will proceed in the same way with same sincerity,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, former prime minister and Senator Yusuf Raza Gilani said that during the negotiations, it was also agreed that whichever party wins the elections will accept the results, so that there is no chaos in the country.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to the media, said: “We thought that we had shown enough flexibility to reach a national consensus. We accepted the proposal of one day, and the role of the caretaking government setup, but neither side reached a consensus on the date of general elections. We and the PDM could not agree on the dates of dissolution of assemblies and elections.” He said on the 19th, the Supreme Court had suggested that if the political parties can sit down and find a way out through negotiation, it will not have any objection.

He said that keeping this thought in mind, the PTI also expressed its willingness, and Imran Khan had formed a three-member committee for negotiations.

Qureshi said that we had three meetings, the first meeting was held on the 27th, and the second meeting was held on the 28th of April, and we tried to move towards a consensus. He said that the things we agreed on were that the political parties should agree on something that is in the interest of the country and the people and is consistent with the Constitution. He said that the second thing that was agreed upon was that the negotiation process should not be used as a delaying tactic and that efforts should be made to carry forward the decision of the Supreme Court on elections.

Qureshi said: “We also decided that if we agree on something, we have to make a mechanism for its implementation to make sure we can move forward.”

He said that both sides came to the conclusion that the National Assembly, Sindh Assembly and Balochistan Assembly should be dissolved on or before May 14 because there was a logic behind it that elections should be held within 60 days, and for this 60-day election, constitutional protection has to be given, for which the PTI is ready to go to the National Assembly and they are ready to amend it once but not to make it a tradition.”

He said: “To get out of the situation we are stuck in, we put forth this proposal there, we want the agreement between us to be in writing, and we should submit it to the Supreme Court for its approval as it can ensure its implementation.”

He said the PTI also demanded that the elections should be free, fair, and transparent. In the meantime, according to sources, the government and PTI have prepared their own written proposals and shared them with each other.

Sources said the PTI handed over the draft of eight-point proposals to the government alliance. The PTI has proposed elections between Eidul Adha and Muharram and suggested that they may be held in the second or third week of August.

Sources said the PTI has decided to send the draft of its proposals to the Supreme Court. They said during the negotiations, both sides held detailed consultations with their leaders.

Earlier, talking to the media after the dinner hosted by him for the negotiating teams of the government and PTI, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani was optimistic about the negotiation process. “I hope the negotiations will be successful,” he said. To a question, he responded that he was acting as a facilitator.

Source: thenews.com.pk

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https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/1066475-govt-pti-agree-on-same-day-elections-but-fail-to-decide-date

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Evacuation operations out of Sudan ended: Foreign ministry

May 02, 2023

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tuesday announced that its evacuation operations out of Sudan have ended after over 1,000 Pakistanis have been safely evacuated from the conflict-hit country.

In a brief statement issued by the Foreign Office, the spokesperson shared that while its operations in Sudan had ended, evacuations through Jeddah would continue until all Pakistanis are brought back safely.

In the statement, the ministry thanked China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their assistance in the evacuation process.

Taking to Twitter, the spokesperson wrote: "By Allah’s grace and tireless efforts of our embassy in Khartoum led by AmbRegi, supported by Saudi Arab and China and our teams in Jeddah and Islamabad, we have successfully [and] safely evacuated over 1,000 Pakistanis out of Sudan. With this, our evacuation operations out of Sudan have ended."

Yesterday, the ministry shared that nearly all 1,000 Pakistanis would be evacuated from the conflict-hit country within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The FO has been working to repatriate Pakistanis stranded in the war zone ever since the conflict began earlier this month.

The Pakistanis in Sudan are first evacuated to Port Sudan and then transferred to Jeddah where the PAF is bringing them back home.

Yesterday, the foreign ministry also took to Twitter to thank Saudi Arabia for their support and assistance to distressed Pakistanis in a difficult time.

What’s happening in Sudan?

Fighting broke out in Sudan on April 15 between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy-turned-rival Mohamed HamdanDaglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

More than 500 people have been killed in the clashes so far.

Daglo’s RSF emerged from the Janjaweed fighters whom former strongman Omar al-Bashir unleashed in the Darfur region, where they were accused of war crimes including genocide.

The military toppled Bashir in April 2019 following mass citizen protests.

The two generals seized power in a 2021 coup, but later fell out in a bitter power struggle, most recently centred on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army.

Source: thenews.com.pk

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https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/1066228-evacuation-operations-out-of-sudan-ended-foreign-ministry

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Mideast

 

Erdoğan Election Poster Hung on Wall of Mosque in Western Turkey; Accused Of Exploiting Religious Symbols For Political Gain

May 2, 2023

An election poster of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been hung on the wall of a mosque in the western province of Bursa, bringing more criticism to the president and his Islamic-rooted party, both of which are accused of exploiting religious symbols for political gain.

Turkey is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, and Erdoğan, who was elected president in 2014 and 2018, is seeking reelection.

Erdoğan’s election poster on the wall of the Ahmet Dai Mosque in Bursa’s Osmangazi district was brought to public attention by an opposition politician from the İYİ (Good) Party.

İYİ Party Bursa provincial chairman Mehmet Hasanoğlu tweeted a photo of the poster on the wall of the mosque on Monday, mentioning Bursa Governor YakupCanbolat and the Bursa Mufti’s Office and asking if they can explain the “scandalous” situation.

“Mosques are our holy places, and this evil you’ve done to these places is enough to make you leave power,” said the politician.

The İYİ Party is part of an opposition alliance that supports Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

This is not the first time Erdoğan has sparked criticism for using religious symbols during his election campaigns.

He delivered a speech in the courtyard of the Blue Mosque in İstanbul on the first day of Eid al-Fitr on April 21 following Friday prayers during which he attacked the opposition and promised to make them “politically dead” on May 14.

He allowed the crowd to boo the opposition during the gathering.

In yet another controversial move, an imam in Turkey’s central province of Yozgat used the minaret of a local mosque last month to urge people to attend an AKP election rally at which President Erdoğan was expected to make an appearance.

According to a video shared by journalist İsmail Saymaz, the imam asked people to attend Erdoğan’s address planned for April 26 as part of his campaign for the presidential election.

“Our president will come Yozgat [today] at 3 p.m. for the opening ceremony of a high-speed train line and the [election] campaign rally. You are all invited,” the imam said from the minaret.

The AKP has frequently been accused of incorporating political issues into mosques and using the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) as an instrument to serve its political Islamist aims.

The directorate, the budget of which outstripped seven out of 17 Turkish ministries last year, is frequently criticized for being politicized under the AKP government, to the extent that President Erdoğan compared the staff and imams of the directorate to “members of an army” in 2018.

Source: turkishminute.com

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https://www.turkishminute.com/2023/05/02/erdogan-election-poster-wall-of-mosque-in-western-turkey/

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Syrian refugees fearful as Lebanon steps up deportations

May 03, 2023

 QAB ELIAS, Lebanon: Lebanese officials are cracking down on Syrian refugees against the backdrop of a worsening economic crisis and political stalemate, an escalation that has caused a panic among Syrians in the country.

In recent weeks, the army has raided refugee camps and set up checkpoints to review the documentation of non-Lebanese citizens, arresting and in many cases deporting Syrians found not to have legal residency, according to refugees and humanitarian organizations.

“People aren’t sleeping in their houses … and are afraid even to go to work,” said a woman originally from the Syrian province of Idlib who is living in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley. Her husband was deported on April 10, along with 28 other men, after a raid on an apartment building in the Beirut suburb of Jounieh, she said, and she hasn’t heard from him since.

Like other Syrians interviewed for this story, the woman spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals.

Her 4-year-old son asks where his father is every day, she said. She fears her husband has been put in one of Syria’s detention centers because — like many men who fled to Lebanon — he was wanted for dodging mandatory army service.

Pressure has increased in other ways. Municipalities have put in place restrictive measures such as curfews for Syrians. The Interior Ministry announced Tuesday that it ordered municipalities to survey and register their Syrian populations and make sure they are documented before permitting them to rent property.

It also asked the UN refugee agency to revoke refugee status from Syrians who go back and forth between Lebanon and their war-torn country. Last week, a committee of government ministers demanded that UNHCR hand over detailed personal information on refugees in its database.

Lebanon hosts some 805,000 registered Syrian refugees, whose official status in theory protects them — although those who fail to keep their residency papers up to date can face deportation. The actual number of Syrians living in Lebanon after fleeing their country’s 12-year-old civil war is believed to be much higher as Lebanon’s government ordered the United Nations to halt new registrations in 2015.

Government officials have given varying estimates of the number of Syrians in the country, ranging from 1.5 million to more than 2 million. Lebanon is believed to have a population of around 5 million to 5.5 million citizens, but no census has been held for nearly a century.

Since Lebanon’s economic meltdown began in 2019, officials have increasingly called for a mass return of Syrians, saying they are a burden on the country’s scarce resources and that much of Syria is now safe. The rhetoric has grown increasingly heated; a federation of trade unions recently declared a “National Campaign to Liberate Lebanon from the Syrian Demographic Occupation.”

In recent interviews with local media, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar claimed that refugees make up 40 percent of Lebanon’s population, which “no country in the world would accept.”

Hajjar told The Associated Press that Lebanon’s government can ensure that Syrians who qualify as refugees would not be deported, by exchanging data with the UN refugee agency.

He referred questions about deportations to General Security, the agency in charge of enforcing immigration laws. Spokespeople for the agency and the Lebanese military did not respond to requests for comment and neither has made public statement on the deportations.

The UN refugee agency said it has observed an increase in raids taking placing in Syrian communities and has received reports of Syrians being deported, including registered refugees. It said it “takes reports of deportations of Syrian refugees very seriously.”

UN officials did not give a number of confirmed deportations. The Access Center for Human Rights, a group tracking conditions of Syrian refugees, said it documented at least 200 deportations in April.

The anti-refugee campaign comes against the backdrop of stalled negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and a six-month deadlock in electing the country’s next president.

MohanadHage Ali, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said refugees are serving as a scapegoat for Lebanese politicians at a time of heightened public anger over their failure to deal with the country’s economic and political crises.

Refugees are “sort of the punching bag that shows up when everyone needs one,” he said. He suggested the crackdown could also be linked to Lebanon’s ongoing presidential deadlock.

A leading presidential candidate, SleimanFrangieh, is close to Damascus and has promised to use his connections to broker a deal for refugee returns. His likely rival, army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun, may be “trying to showcase his ability to forcibly return the refugees,” Hage Ali said.

Lebanese authorities have periodically deported Syrians over the past few years, citing a regulation that allows for Syrians who entered without legal authorization after April 2019 to be forcibly removed.

However, past deportations mostly involved small numbers and were carried out under formal procedures, giving the UN and human rights groups a chance to intervene and, in some cases, halt them.

In contrast, recent months have seen increasing reports of the Lebanese Army summarily deporting those believed to be in the country illegally. Human rights organizations have cited cases of returning refugees being detained and tortured in Syria, allegations Lebanese authorities deny.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2296781/middle-east

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UAE sends humanitarian aid for Sudanese refugees in Chad

May 02, 2023

DUBAI: A plane filled with food took off from the UAE on Tuesday bound for Abeche Airport in Chad, as part of an effort to provide urgently needed humanitarian aid for refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan, the Emirates News Agency reported.

The aim of the Emirati initiative, carried out through the Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Foundation and the Emirates Red Crescent, is to provide food to alleviate the suffering of refugees who arrive at the border with Chad.

The aid effort is in keeping with directives from the leadership of the UAE to provide assistance to the people of Sudan and reflects the country’s desire to help and support communities worldwide in times of need, the agency said.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2296661/middle-east

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Iran president arrives in Syria for landmark visit: state media

May 03, 2023

 DAMASCUS: Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi arrived in Damascus on Wednesday for the first visit by an Iranian president since Syria’s civil war broke out, state media reported.

Raisi, joined by a large ministerial delegation for his two-day visit, will hold “extensive political and economic discussions with Syrian President Bashar Assad followed by the signing of a number of agreements,” Syria’s state news agency SANA said.

Source: arabnews.com

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'Islamic Jihad is playing with us!' Locals grow weary as Gaza rockets shower southern Israel

02-05-23

Residents of Sderot and communities in the Gaza envelope once again found themselves rushing to bomb shelters within minutes, following the death of Khader Adnan, a senior Islamic Jihad operative in the West Bank who died in Israeli prison after an 86-day hunger strike.

The massive barrage from Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon coincided with the end of the school day while many parents were still at work. Meanwhile, after about 4.5 hours of relative calm, six mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip toward a small border community. No casualties or damage were reported.

Suddenly, the order came down from Homefront Command to stay near bomb shelters as the Israeli military responded to the morning’s rocket fire. This was followed by a barrage of 26 rockets.

A homeowner in Sderot told Ynet that his daughter, who was alone at home when she heard the siren, a rocket crashed in their backyard. "She was panicked, there was a big blast. I was at work when they called me, and my wife had just left for work. It’s a huge miracle that the rocket fell in the yard. A big miracle. She ran to the shelter."

Other locals couldn’t help but feel helpless as their daily routine was once again disrupted by rocket fire.

"We are not a puppet on a string that can be moved like this from routine to an emergency footing within seconds. Islamic Jihad is playing with us. Suddenly in the middle of the day, they throw us off balance," RonitKadosh from Sderot told Ynet, having arrived at a shopping center in the southern city after an hour after the rocket fire.

"What kind of reality is this? It's unbearable. All because some terrorist decided to starve himself to death. People are not aware of this situation, they have no idea what it does to children.”

The city of Sderot bore most of the brunt of the latest barrage, and some even crashed in residential areas within the city. However, an hour later they were already instructed to go back to normal. Shops reopened and the people, who are already grown accustomed to projectiles falling from the sky in broad daylight, crept out of the bomb shelters.

Sderot Mayor AlonDavidi, who participated just a week and a half ago in a special Cabinet meeting in his city, called on the political echelon to act and restore peace to the Gaza border region.

"It is time to stop mincing words. If there are clear and known goals, we must act and take care of them," he said.

"Twenty-two rockets were fired toward Sderot and the surrounding communities with the goal of murdering Israeli citizens, we cannot continue acting with restraint.

I once again call on the prime minister, the defense minister, and the Cabinet to eliminate the heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. We operate in places much farther afield, but a kilometer from here we do not do enough to prevent the rocket launches toward Sderot and the surrounding area."

Barzilai Medical Center in neighboring Ashkelon received seven casualties after Tuesday afternoon's attack. One was a Chinese foreign worker who was severely wounded from shrapnel when a rocket crashed at a construction site where he was working. His condition later improved and was considered moderate. Two other colleagues of his also suffered light injuries from shrapnel.

Several parking vehicles were damaged by shrapnel. Magen David Adom ambulance service reported that several people suffered from shock, and a 49-year-old woman was lightly injured when she slipped and fell on the way to the bomb shelter.

A collective of Gaza terrorist factions claimed responsibility for the attack and added that "this is a first response" for the death of Adnan.

"We will remain committed to our fallen and our prisoners, and this issue will always remain a top priority," the group said in a statement. "We warn the enemy that any foolish actions they may take will not go unanswered, the resistance is fully prepared."

Defense Minister Yaov Gallant after the attack warned that "whoever tries to harm Israeli citizens will be sorry."

Source: ynetnews.com

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Palestinian terror groups: Israel will pay for 'assassinating' Jihad leader

MAY 2, 2023

Palestinian Islamic Jihad said in a statement on Tuesday that Israel bears full responsibility for the "heinous crime" of the death of Khader Adnan and "will pay the price."

The statement described Adnan as a “martyr” and “brave leader” and said that PIJ “won’t abandon the path of Jihad [holy war] and resistance as long as Palestine remains under occupation.”

Hamas also vowed to avenge Adnan’s death, dubbing it an “assassination.”

“We hold the criminal occupation and its fascist extremist government fully responsible for this premeditated crime,” Hamas said in a separate statement. “The criminal occupation will pay the price for this crime.”

Hamas said that the Palestinian factions will step up the “resistance” against Israel by all means and tools.”

What did the Palestinian Authority say?

The Palestinian Authority also held the Israeli government “fully responsible for the execution of Khader Adnan," and The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death.

The Ministry added that it would bring the case of Adnan before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused Israeli authorities of “assassinating” Adnan by refusing to release him and keeping him in a cell despite his critical condition.

A general strike was announced in several areas of the West Bank in protest of the death of Adnan.

Source: jpost.com

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https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/article-741895

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Yeshiva University spans Muslim/Jewish divide in new UAE-based conference

May 2, 2023

(RNS) — In April 2021, around Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Muslim founder of a museum in the Persian Gulf nation of United Arab Emirates welcomed a small contingent from a flagship U.S. Jewish Orthodox university. The school’s president would be giving a keynote address at the first Holocaust commemoration in an Arab country, and before the event the group of Jewish scholars was invited to view a letter from Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism. On the museum’s doorpost, the visitors noted, was a mezuzah.

“When I was recounting the story to my parents,” said Rabbi Stuart Halpern, “they said, ‘Was the Messiah right behind you? Who can imagine that we would live to see such a day?'”

Source: religionnews.com

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https://religionnews.com/2023/05/02/yeshiva-university-spans-muslim-jewish-divide-in-new-uae-based-conference/

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Europe

 

Chilling reason Osama Bin Laden's body was thrown in the ocean after he was killed

Callum Jones

02 May 2023

The death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011 will remain a monumental day in world history, as the man responsible for the 'bloodiest terror attack on US soil' was finally made to pay for his dreadful crimes.

On 2 May, 2011, Bin Laden was killed by a team of US Navy SEALS at his compound near Islamabad, Pakistan, after more than a decade on the FBI's most wanted list.

The tracking down and eventful killing of the terrorist was a long time coming, but on that spring day, then-president, Barack Obama, announced the news of Bin Laden's death.

Former US Navy SEAL Team 6 member, Robert O'Neill, recalled the moment the leader of al Qaeda was killed in a conversation held in the 9/11 Memorial Museum, saying: "A foot and a half in front of me was Osama Bin Laden. And I shot him twice, and then once more...

"I turned around, other SEALs were coming in the room, and I kind of stopped there and looked at them. … [One of the SEALs] was looking at me, and said, ‘Are you OK?’ I said, ‘What do we do now?’

"And he laughed and put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, ‘Now we go find the computers.’”

After Bin Laden was killed, US forces circled back to Afghanistan, where his body was identified with DNA tests.

But while the killing of Bin Laden was the main objective, the US still had to decide where Bin Laden would be buried.

Cremation was immediately ruled out, as it is banned in Islam, while burying him on land was never really an option either.

His home country of Saudi Arabia reportedly wouldn't accept the body and burying him on land elsewhere was ruled out over concerns his grave would become a 'terrorist shrine'.

So, it was decided that Bin Laden would be buried at sea, with every precaution taken to ensure nobody found his body.

It is Islamic tradition that a body should be buried within 24 hours of death, with the US transferring Bin Laden's to the USS Carl Vinson ship.

In the Arabian Sea, Bin Laden's body was placed in a weighted bag, before loading him on to a wooden board and pushing him into the ocean, just 12 hours after he was killed.

That came after his body underwent Islamic burial rights, which included washing his body, wrapping him in white cloth and bringing in an Arabic translator to provide religious rites.

Source: unilad.com

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https://www.unilad.com/news/osama-bin-laden-united-states-20221111

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Ukraine keeping West in the dark about counteroffensive plans – Politico

3 May, 2023

Ukraine is reluctant to share details of its planned spring counteroffensive against Russia with its Western backers due to fears that they could be leaked, Politico reported on Tuesday.

According to European officials interviewed by the outlet, Kiev’s concerns are underpinned by a recent alleged leak of classified Pentagon documents by Massachusetts National Guard soldier Jack Teixeira.

The trove of Pentagon files, the authenticity of which has not been officially confirmed, evaluated Russian and Ukrainian battle readiness and casualties, and weaknesses in the weapons used by Kiev, as well as containing other sensitive information.

The reported leak of documents put officials in Kiev “on high alert,” the report says. Politico sources say that, while Ukraine is still likely sharing some intelligence with its Western allies, Kiev officials are doing their best to keep details about the upcoming battlefield push a secret. One unnamed Ukrainian lawmaker backed up this claim, telling the outlet that “there are only a few people in the country that know the plan.”

However, a US defense official told Politico there had been no indications that Kiev is withholding details from Washington, noting that the level of information sharing remained basically the same. He added that Ukraine had been “stingy with information from the very beginning” when it came to its battleplans.

Commenting on Kiev’s apparent reluctance to share information, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby tried to downplay the report, saying silence ahead of the offensive would not be surprising, and Ukraine had no “obligation to notify us or tell us in advance.”

In early April, days after the Pentagon leak made the headlines, CNN reported that the development had forced Ukraine to change some of its military plans. Publicly, Kiev officials attempted to dismiss it as “Photoshop and virtual fake leaks.”

With rumors of Kiev’s potential counteroffensive swirling around for several months now, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov said earlier this week that the nation’s military is on the “home stretch” when it comes to preparations for the push. While Western officials have argued that Kiev has all it needs for a successful operation, behind closed doors the American military has reportedly expressed doubts about Ukraine’s ability to break through Russian defensive lines.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/russia/575686-ukraine-counteroffensive-secret-west/

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Russia to resume yuan purchases – Bloomberg

3 May, 2023

Russia could restart purchases of foreign currency for its reserves in May as growing energy revenues “stabilize” public finances despite Western efforts to damage the country’s economy, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.  

The Finance Ministry is due to announce the resumption of foreign exchange purchases later this week, the outlet said. Initial volumes are expected to be equivalent to about $200 million in yuan per month. The Chinese currency is viewed as the main asset Russia can use for transactions to refill its $154 billion national wealth fund. 

“It will be important for the market that the state is starting to accumulate reserves again instead of spending them,” said Natalia Milchakova, an analyst at Freedom Holding Corp. “This may even positively affect the ruble,” she added.  

Russia halted foreign exchange purchases in late January 2022 and further suspended the program following the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. At the beginning of this year, the Bank of Russia resumed operations with foreign currency amid soaring oil and gas revenues. The move was part of a revamped budgetary mechanism designed to shield the economy from the volatility of commodity markets, and transactions are now carried out in yuan.  

Moscow has slashed yuan sales over the past two months to cover the budget deficit, with sales halving in April compared to February. 

The volumes of foreign exchange purchases will initially be small but will still be “highly symbolic” as they will show that Russia is building reserves rather than “eating through” them, according to Bloomberg’s Russia economist, Alexander Isakov. 

The shift from selling to buying would highlight “Russia’s ability to keep up the flow of petrodollars in the face of sanctions and the price cap” imposed by the EU, G7, and their allies, the outlet claimed.  

Despite an “unprecedented deficit” which amounted to 2.4 trillion rubles ($29.8 billion) by the end of the first quarter, the Russian federal budget “is on the mend” partly due to changes in the calculations of some oil taxes, Bloomberg reported.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/business/575646-russia-foreign-currency-reserves-yuan/

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North America

 

Muslim group demands Biden apologize to mayor blocked from White House’s Eid al-Fitr celebration

By Jeff Mordock

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Muslim community leaders on Tuesday demanded President Biden publicly apologize to a longtime Muslim mayor from New Jersey who was abruptly blocked from attending the White House’s Eid al-Fitr celebration.

The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) joined with Muslim community leaders to condemn the White House rescinding its invitation to Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, who represents Prospect Park, New Jersey.

During a press conference, the Muslim leaders called for Mr. Biden to invite Mr. Khairullah, a Democrat and a mayor since 2001, back to the White House for a public apology. They also urged Mr. Biden to suspend the FBI’s dissemination of the Federal Terrorist Screening Dataset, a watchlist they say contains about 1.5 million names.

“Accountability is the first step in many to rectify this degrading and humiliating experience,” said Madina Ouedraogo, government affairs manager for CAIR’s New Jersey chapter.

Mr. Khairullah said moments before he was set to arrive at the White House on Monday night for the Eid-al-Fitr celebration to mark the end of Ramadan, he received a call from a White House aide telling him he could not attend the event. The official said Mr. Khairullah had not been cleared for entry by the Secret Service, but offered no explanation why the agency blocked his entry.

“I have no reason to believe that I am an unsafe person to any elected official,” Mr. Khairullah said at the press conference. “I have been around with a lot of elected officials from the national level all the way to the school board level, and I have supported many of them.”

Mr. Khairullah says he has not heard from Mr. Biden or anyone at the White House since the incident.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeatedly deferred to the Secret Service when asked Tuesday about the incident.

“Let me just first say this is under the purview of the Secret Service,” she said. “I can say this: I was in the room. The president was very proud to welcome nearly 400 Muslim Americans to the White House to celebrate Eid yesterday.”

When asked if Mr. Khairullah deserved a more detailed explanation, Ms. Jean-Pierre repeated the incident was “in the purview of the Secret Service.”

spokesperson for the Secret Service said in a statement late Monday that the agency regrets the inconvenience but couldn’t comment further “on the specific protective means and methods used to conduct our security operations at the White House.”

Mr. Khairullah was born in Syria and has been a U.S. citizen since 2000. He is now in his fifth term as mayor of Prospect Park. He said he was a victim of Islamophobia and profiling by federal agencies.

“Incidents like this — being flagged on a watch list and denied the honor that every leader should be given — make me question our progress,” he said.

Mr. Khairullah believes his trouble comes from his name matching one that appeared on the Federal Terrorist Screening Dataset, which is essentially a terrorist watchlist. He said he’s faced incidents of discrimination when flying, which can be embarrassing for his family.

CAIR attorneys obtained the dataset, which was leaked earlier this year, and say it includes roughly 1.5 million largely Arabic and Muslim names.

Muslim leaders called the list discriminatory and demanded the Biden administration stop disseminating it to federal agencies. Dina Sayedahmed of CAIR-NJ said the list has caused Muslims to be harassed and discriminated against at airports, as well as damaged the reputations of people unfairly placed on it.

Source: washingtontimes.com

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https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/may/2/muslim-group-demands-joe-biden-apologize-mayor-moh/

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Muslim Mayor Furious After He's Blocked From Joe Biden's White House Event: 'Reeks of Islamophobia'

By Jack Davis, Western Journal

May 2, 2023

Accusations of Islamophobia connected to a White House event are flying, but this time they are not aimed at former President Donald Trump.

The storm around President Joe Biden’s White House involves Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah of Prospect Park, New Jersey, and the official White House commemoration of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the month of Ramadan.

Khairullah said that he had been invited to Monday’s White House event, but as he was nearing the White House, he was told that the Secret Service could not grant him a security clearance and that he could not attend, according to Axios.

This action “reeks of #Islamophobia by certain federal agencies,” Khairullah posted on his Facebook page.

“The SECRET WATCHLIST strikes again,” he wrote.

Khairullah told Axios that he believes he is a victim of racial profiling, saying that someone with the same name appeared on a terror watch list.

“I have been experiencing travel difficulties since 2019, which I thought were resolved two years ago, only to find out today that I’m still on some type of government list,” Khairullah said.

“To be denied entry in such a way … and two days prior, I was with the governor of my state, in the governor’s mansion. It just baffles me,” he said, adding that he has heard nothing from the White House since the incident.

Secret Service  representative Anthony Guglielmi said while “we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, the mayor was not allowed to enter the White House complex this evening.”

The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations lashed out at the incident, according to a release on CAIR’s website.

“That a well-respected Muslim leader would effectively be disinvited from the White House Eid celebration, just hours ahead of time, is wholly unacceptable and insulting,” CAIR-NJ Executive Director SelaedinMaksut said.

Maksut blamed a secret list for the incident.

“Today, in an affront to the Muslim community and the American public at large, and in what could be perceived as a continued use of the secret watchlist, the Secret Service denied Mayor Khairullah entry, on the basis that he was not cleared by security,” he said.

“This incident lacks transparency and reeks of government overreach. We call on the White House to override the Secret Service and reinstate the mayor’s invitation, disband the secret watchlist, and issue an apology to the Mayor.”

Maksut said the incident is bigger than one person.

“If these such incidents are happening to high-profile and well-respected American-Muslim figures like Mayor Khairullah, this then begs the question: What is happening to Muslims who do not have the access and visibility that the mayor has?”

Source: ijr.com

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https://ijr.com/muslim-mayor-furious-blocked-joe-bidens-white-house-event-reeks-islamophobia/

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Muslim Prospect Park mayor questions White House watchlist after he’s barred from Eid event

May 03, 2023

The mayor of Prospect Park publicly commented for the first time about being barred from a White House ceremony. Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, who is a practicing Muslim, says that he was kept away from an event celebrating Eid al-Fitr with fellow members of the Muslim community.

Activists said that the situation was degrading and humiliating at a news conference held Tuesday. The mayor and the activists drew renewed attention to what they are calling a “selectee watch list.” They say that the mayor and 1.5 million people nationwide – mostly Muslim – are on it.

“I'm not upset for not being at the White House. I think the point here is, outside of me who has a platform, who I have friends who can bring you all together, there are 1.5 million entries that could be suffering similarly. I am about human rights. I am not about me,” Khairullah says.

Khairullah was driving to Washington D.C. on Monday and was about 30 minutes away from the White House when he received a call from White House officials telling him that the United States Secret Service could not clear him for the event with President Joe Biden.

A spokesperson for the Secret Service stated that the agency regrets the inconvenience but couldn't comment on why the mayor was denied.

Khairullah is Syrian American. He said he noticed an increased level of scrutiny following a 2015 trip to Syria that culminated in his being detained at JFK Airport for three hours in 2019. The mayor is now demanding answers and an apology.

Gov. Phil Murphy said on Tuesday that he is trying to get those answers. He declined to criticize the White House decision but pointed out that Khairullah was at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday for a state celebration of Eid.

“What does it say to our Muslim community? God willing, I hope this is a misunderstanding. I hope it says nothing to our Muslim community. I assume that the White House was full of Muslim leaders from throughout the country. But [Mohamed Khairullah] is a great mayor, he’s a very close personal friend of mine,” Murphy said.

White House Press Secretary Karina Jean Pierre declined to elaborate on the situation and deferred questions to the Secret Service. She pointed out that there were 400 Muslim attendees with the president for Monday’s event.

Source: newjersey.news12.com

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Minnesota bail fund promoted by Kamala Harris previously freed suspected mosque arsonist

May 2, 2023

A Minnesota man accused of setting fires at two mosques and vandalizing Rep. Ilhan Omar's congressional district office had previously been arrested and sprung from jail by a bail fund once promoted by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Jackie Rahm Little, 36, was arrested Sunday and charged with arson following fires at two Minneapolis mosques. He is also accused of spray-painting the text "500" on the front door of Omar's Minneapolis office.

Court documents show that Little has a history of violent behavior due to untreated mental illness, and that he has a prior arrest for burning a former neighbor's car in 2021. Records reported by the Minnesota Star Tribune show Little was released from jail twice in that case on cash bail paid for by the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a far-left nonprofit organization that pays bail for people who cannot do it on their own. The group's mission is "to end discriminatory, coercive, and oppressive jailing." The organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In statements to the Star Tribune, the fund condemned harm against "all people in our community, especially harm that is based on identity," and defended its work against critics who say bailing out accused criminals is irresponsible.

"Our evaluation process is holistic and prioritizes support for people who lack other avenues to vindicate their legal rights – including people experiencing mental health challenges, for whom pre-trial release is often the only way to access needed treatment," the group said.

Harris promoted the far-left Minnesota Freedom Fund amid the George Floyd-related riots in 2020 that saw parts of Minneapolis burn.

She encouraged Twitter users to donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund to bail out the protesters who were arrested as the unrest grew.

"If you’re able to, chip in now to the [Minnesota Freedom Fund] to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota," Harris tweeted in June 2020.

The group has since faced criticism after several individuals bailed out on their dime have gone on to commit crimes, including murder.

Little faces charges of second-degree arson in connection to the April 23 fire started in the bathroom of the Masjid Omar Islamic Center and the April 24 fire that broke out on the third floor of the Masjid Al Rahma Mosque.

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara called the arsons "incredibly inhumane" in a statement announcing Little's arrest on Sunday.

President Biden on Monday issued a statement standing in solidarity with the Muslim community and condemning "anti-Muslim hate."

"Muslim culture has been woven throughout American culture from the very start. We must always stand against anti-Muslim hate. And stand up for the rights and dignity of all people," Biden tweeted. 

"It's essential to who we are: a nation founded on the idea of freedom and justice for all," the president said.

Source: foxnews.com

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https://www.foxnews.com/politics/minnesota-bail-fund-promoted-kamala-harris-previously-freed-suspected-mosque-arsonist

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Supreme Court ‘Ethics’ Theater: Democrats’ Ongoing Jihad against Conservative Jurists

By ANDREW C. MCCARTHY

May 2, 2023

Democrats are waging a multifront jihad to delegitimize the judiciary because the Supreme Court has a conservative majority that believes the Constitution means what it says. The campaign would make the Muslim Brotherhood proud, leveraging, as it does, lawlessness and intimidation ops (e.g., the leak of the Dobbs draft opinion and protests at the conservative justices’ homes — all ignored by the Biden Justice Department) with public-relations campaigns (e.g., the ongoing smears of Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch over trumped-up financial-disclosure violations, the sideswipe at Scalia Law School) and legislative gambits.

That last includes a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning. This is the theater for which committee chairman and No. 2 Dem in the chamber, Dick Durbin (Ill.) pressured Chief Justice John Roberts to testify, cavalierly ignoring principles of the separation of powers (to say nothing of the fact that, with the calendar having turned to May, the Court is entering its crunch time for cranking out this term’s many remaining opinions). The chief justice rightly declined to attend this partisan Democrat circus — an attempt to extort the Court into adopting a Democrat-dictated “ethics code” — which Congress has no constitutional authority to require the Court to do, much less power to impose such a code by legislation.

The justices presumably know that if they were to engage in futile appeasement of the  media-Democrat complex by adopting some ostensibly benign ethics code in these circumstances, Durbin et al. would instantly brand that gesture as a concession that the justices have behaved unethically, fueling Democrat calls for further “reform” — the code for Court-packing schemes (which probably won’t come to fruition), and for continuing the political harassment and intimidation until a conservative justice or two “evolve” into part-time progressives à la Anthony Kennedy (just as FDR’s Court-packing blitz, though it failed legislatively, overcame the philosophical-judicial resistance to the New Deal administrative state).

One must hope that Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) was correct, during the Dems’ 2020 Court-packing demagogy, when he observed that their tactic of making manifestly false assertions about the Court and the justices won’t work because “the American people are not morons.”

In a related salvo, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is suddenly on the warpath against single-judge divisions in federal judicial districts. In large states, the federal districts are split into divisions. Otherwise, litigants and jurors might have to travel hundreds of miles to attend court proceedings. Thus, for example, the vast Northern District of Texas (covering 96,000 square miles) is headquartered in Dallas, but it also has divisions in Abilene, Amarillo, Fort Worth, Lubbock, San Angelo, and Wichita Falls. There are only twelve active judges in the Northern District (active meaning full-time, as opposed to senior judges with reduced caseloads — of which the district has four). As a result, some of the divisions are assigned a single judge to ensure that the division is covered. Civil lawsuits filed in those divisions are thus presided over by that judge.

Obviously, this can lend itself to forum-shopping, but there is no way around that because every state’s geography and residential layout is different, and the alternative would be to have cases assigned in a way that would force litigants and jurors to travel for hours to get to court — exactly what the division system avoids. The possibility of forum shopping is best dealt with by appellate review and its sobering effects: We presume judges, regardless of their personal predispositions, will follow the law (including the rules calling for recusal when there is a real bias issue). If they don’t, they will get reversed by the appellate court, and if the judge’s actions are clearly lawless, they can be subject to mandamus orders (i.e., the appellate court can direct them to knock it off). Judges don’t like to be reversed, and it is humiliating for a judge — whose job is to uphold the law — to be mandamused.

The Democrats’ sudden concern about forum-shopping was not in evidence when challenges to President Trump’s policies on southwest border security somehow managed to be filed thousands of miles away in Hawaii’s federal district court, the court of Judge Derrick Kahala Watson — who was appointed to that sparsely staffed tribunal by President Obama, a chum from law-school days. In any event, the current target of progressive venom is Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, the conservative and pro-life Trump appointee who mans the Northern District of Texas’s Amarillo division.

That, of course, is where pro-life physicians filed their well-grounded objections to the manner in which the FDA first approved the abortion pill (mifepristone) and later removed safeguards for its use. As Rich and I discussed in a recent podcast episode, for all his critics’ hysteria about Judge Kacsmaryk’s audacity, for example, in referring to an unborn child as, you know, an “unborn child” (rather, one supposes, than a “clump of cells”), his opinion in the case is workmanlike. No one could claim that he violated the law or produced an irrational ruling. Rather than impose it imperiously, he stayed it so the Biden administration would have recourse to the Fifth Circuit U.S. appellate court and, finally, the Supreme Court.

The case is thus working its way up the chain in regular order. Moreover, Kacsmaryk did not say the FDA lacked authority to approve mifepristone for use (which may not even be a live issue because the statute of limitations for challenging the 2000 approval may have lapsed) or to remove the safeguards originally placed on its use. He ruled, instead, that an administrative agency has to follow the law in promulgating and amending rules. What a concept!

All that aside, what’s remarkable is Senator Schumer’s chutzpah. In a threatening letter — which he sent, not on behalf of the Senate, but as a Luca Brasi–like political tough guy — he warned the Northern District of Texas’s chief judge, David C. Godbey, that he’d better take some action against single-judge divisions or the Congress would. Of course, Schumer has no legitimate authority in that regard. Yes, the Constitution gives Congress significant authority over inferior federal courts, though not the Supreme Court; but Schumer is not Congress. As a single senator, even a senior one at the head of one party’s caucus, he has no prospect of enacting legislation that would make good on his threat.

So it was just that, a threat: reminiscent of the Democrats’ similarly thug-like brief that Durbin and four other Judiciary Committee hacks (Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, MazieHirono, Richard Blumenthal, and Kirsten Gillibrand), submitted to the Supreme Court in 2019 to warn the justices that they’d better not cross progressives in a major Second Amendment case; and reminiscent also of Schumer’s own incitements against Justices Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh (“You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price”) on the grounds of the Supreme Court at an abortion-rights rally. (Mind you, the most impeachable misconduct by President Trump on January 6 was, as chief executive, to urge a mob to demonstrate on another branch’s turf and in a manner that could corruptly influence its operations. What Schumer did was no different in principle, just in effect — or lack thereof.)

This was not just outrageous on its face, it smacks of hypocrisy. (This being Schumer, that’s baked in the cake.) For years, Schumer pushed for the creation of a federal courthouse in Middletown, N.Y., in Orange County: That far corner of the Southern District of New York lies about 75 miles from the SDNY’s Manhattan headquarters and 60 miles from the SDNY’s judicial district in White Plains (which handles Orange County). Schumer’s monument to patronage never came to fruition because there was inadequate justification for it — it was opposed by judges and the executive branch because Middletown did not generate enough litigation for a stand-alone courthouse. But if established and assigned just the right judge, it would have been an awfully enticing forum for progressives, no?

If Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are really worried about ethics rather than about the Supreme Court (over which they lack authority), maybe they could turn their attention to their own glass house. Despite its unseemliness, securities trading by members of Congress — who uniquely affect market prices and are positioned to gain access to corporate insider information — plows merrily along. Who could forget the insider-trading investigation of now-retired senator Richard Burr, who enriched himself based on information about the coming Covid crisis? As our former colleague Kevin Williamson memorably put it, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker.” When it comes to lawmakers’ ethics, or lack of same, nothing really changes. CNN recently reported that holdings by senators and representatives outperformed the S&P 500 by about 17.5 percent in 2022 — funny how that happens. And according to Business Insider, 78 members of Congress have violated even the minimal standards enacted to discourage insider trading and conflicts of interest.

No reason for the Senate Judiciary Committee to concern itself with such things, apparently.

Source: nationalreview.com

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https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/supreme-court-ethics-theater-democrats-ongoing-jihad-against-conservative-jurists/

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Southeast Asia

 

Shooter at Islamic Organization HQ Unrelated to Terrorist Group: Expert

2 May 2023

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Terrorism expert from the Community of Ideological Islamic Analyst Harits Abu Ulya believes the lone gunman behind the shooting at the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) headquarters is not linked to the country’s terrorist groups.

“My initial suspicion is that this [incident] has nothing to do with any terrorist groups that exist in Indonesia,” said Harits in a statement on May 2.

Prior to the incident, the perpetrator apparently had visited the MUI headquarters in Jakarta twice in 2022 apart from sending six consecutive letters to MUI management.

"He physically came to the MUI office wanting to meet the organization’s leaders, but he was not accepted and his motivation was to convey a message. He [proclaimed to be] sent by the Prophet Muhammad to deliver a message to MUI leaders," Harits said.

According to him, the suspect Mustofa (60) had already planned his attack once his request got rejected again, “It shows as he was armed with a gun," he said.

Police initially reported that the suspect died at the scene as law enforcers stopped him from further carrying out the shooting.

Source: tempo.co

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https://en.tempo.co/read/1721147/shooter-at-islamic-organization-hq-unrelated-to-terrorist-group-expert

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Siti BainunFound Guilty Of Neglecting, Abusing Bella

03-05- 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: The Sessions Court here today found RumahBonda founder Siti Bainun Ahd Razali guilty on charges of neglecting and abusing a teenage girl with Down syndrome known as Bella.

Judge IzralizamSanusi, when handing down the decision, said the prosecution had succeeded in establishing the case beyond a reasonable doubt at the end of the defense case.

Siti Bainun was charged with neglecting and abusing the 13-year-old Down syndrome girl causing the victim to suffer physical and emotional injuries in a condominium unit in WangsaMaju between February and June 2021.

The charge, framed under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2001, provides imprisonment for up to 20 years or a fine of RM50,000 or both, upon conviction.

The prosecution and defence are currently making their mitigation on the decision.

Deputy public prosecutors Nor Azizah Mohamad, Zilfinaz Abbas, Zahida Zakaria and Shakira Aliana Alias prosecuted, while Siti Bainun, 31, was represented by lawyer Mohammad Farhan Maaruf.-Bernama

Source: thesundaily.my

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https://www.thesundaily.my/home/siti-bainun-found-guilty-of-neglecting-abusing-bella-AK10927263

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Malaysian King, Queen to Attend King Charles III Coronation Ceremony in London

03-05- 2023

PUTRAJAYA: Yang di-PertuanAgong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja PermaisuriAgongTunku Azizah Aminah MaimunahIskandariah will undertake a special visit to London, United Kingdom from today until May 14.

According to the Foreign Ministry (Wisma Putra), their Majesties were invited by King Charles III to attend the Coronation Ceremony at Westminster Abbey on May 6.

“Their Majesties have also consented to attend the reception ceremony, which will be hosted by His Majesty King Charles III at Buckingham Palace on May 5,” Wisma Putra said in a statement today.

Wisma Putra notes that the special visit is significant in the context of consolidating the existing and close relations shared between Malaysia and the United Kingdom, especially between the two countries’ royal institutions and the bond of the Commonwealth.

The special visit also marks the importance of close ties between the two countries collaborating in various field which is supported at the highest level of the country’s leadership, it said.- Bernama

Source: thesundaily.my/

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https://www.thesundaily.my/home/king-queen-to-attend-king-charles-iii-coronation-ceremony-in-london-BK10926667

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Mother, stepfather plead guilty of abusing four-year-old boy in Johor

Wednesday, 03 May 2023

JOHOR BARU, May 3 — A man and his wife pleaded guilty at the Sessions Court here today to a charge of abusing their four-year-old son to the extent of causing him physical injury, last Friday.

The boy’s stepfather, S. Nagendran, 23, and his mother A. Sangeetha, 23, committed the offence at Skudai Villa Apartment, Jalan Aman, TamanSkudaiBaru here around midnight on April 28.

They were charged under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2011, read together with Section 34 of the Penal Code, which provides a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or a maximum jail term of 20 years, or both, if convicted.

Judge Datuk Ahmad Kamal Ariffin Ismail set June 7 to hear the facts of the case before passing the sentence.

It was reported that a four-year-old boy died last Saturday, believed to have been physically abused by his mother and stepfather.

IskandarPuteri Police chief ACP Rahmat Ariffin was quoted as saying that the child was rushed to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital that morning, but was pronounced dead upon arrival at the emergency department at 8.20am. — Bernama

Source: malaymail.com

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South Asia

 

With Declining Funds, UN Will Stay in Afghanistan, Says Chief

By

Nizamuddin Rezahi

May 3, 2023

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said that the United Nations will stay in Afghanistan to deliver life-saving aid to millions of desperate Afghans despite the Taliban’s restrictions on female employees, and the limited funding the organization is faced with.

After the two-day meeting of the envoys in Doha to discuss a common international approach to Afghanistan, Guterres, spoke to the media and said concerns over the country’s stability were growing.

Speaking at a press conference after the summit that brought special envoys together from more than 20 countries, Guterres said collectively all participants were worried about the stability of Afghanistan – which relates to the persistent presence of terrorist organizations.

“To achieve our objectives, we cannot disengage with the Taliban regime, and it is difficult to overestimate the gravity of the situation in the country,” he said.

The ban on female Afghan UN employees by the Taliban authorities was a clear violation of human rights, the UN Chief said. The current ban on local female staff working for the UN in Afghanistan is unacceptable and puts millions of lives in jeopardy.

He noted that 97% of the population lives in poverty and that donor funding is drying up, which will further complicate the living conditions of ordinary people. Currently, a large majority of the Afghan population relies on humanitarian aid to survive.

The Taliban authorities were invited to the Doha meeting hosted by the United Nations, which prompted immediate reactions from the Taliban group.

Suhail Shaheen, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said the Taliban dismissed the talks – describing them as one-sided and ineffective.

“One-sided decisions could not deliver any promising results. Afghanistan is an independent country. It has its own voice; we want them to listen to our voice,” Shaheen said.

Source: khaama.com

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https://www.khaama.com/with-declining-funds-un-will-stay-in-afghanistan-says-chief/

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World Press Freedom Index: India rank slides to 161, 11 spots behind Afghanistan

03 May, 2023

From the 150th spot in 2022, India’s rank has further dipped to 161 in the 2023 edition of the Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders. This is several spots behind Pakistan and Afghanistan, which have improved their rankings this year to be at positions 150 and 152, respectively.

Countries ranked lower than India include Bangladesh (163), Turkey (165), Saudi Arabia (170) and Iran (177). China and North Korea occupy the last spots at 179 and 180, respectively.

The index was published today, May 3, which is also World Press Freedom Day.

The ranking is based on a country’s performance in five broad categories: political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context and safety of journalists. Of the five, India’s ranking was lowest in the safety of journalists category (172) and best in the social indicator category (143).

While India has ranked consistently low over the past few years, its rank has plunged to the lowest this year. In February last year, the union government said it does not agree with the views and country rankings listed in the World Press Freedom Index since it’s published by a “foreign” NGO.

“The violence against journalists, the politically partisan media and the concentration of media ownership all demonstrate that press freedom is in crisis in ‘the world’s largest democracy’, ruled since 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the embodiment of the Hindu nationalist right,” the report said.

“Originally a product of the anti-colonial movement, the Indian press used to be seen as fairly progressive but things changed radically in the mid-2010s, when Narendra Modi became prime minister and engineered a spectacular rapprochement between his party, the BJP, and the big families dominating the media. The prime example is undoubtedly the Reliance Industries group led by Mukesh Ambani, now a personal friend of Modi’s, who owns more than 70 media outlets that are followed by at least 800 million Indians. Similarly, the takeover of the NDTV channel at the end of 2022 by tycoon Gautam Adani, who is also very close to Narendra Modi, signalled the end of pluralism in the mainstream media. Very early on, Modi took a critical stance vis-à-vis journalists, seeing them as “intermediaries” polluting the direct relationship between himself and his supporters. Indian journalists who are too critical of the government are subjected to all-out harassment and attack campaigns by Modi devotees known as bhakts.”

Source: newslaundry.com

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https://www.newslaundry.com/2023/05/03/world-press-freedom-index-india-rank-slides-to-161-11-spots-behind-afghanistan

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UN Summit In Qatar On Afghanistan Ends, Another Planned

2nd May, 2023

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attended the summit, which the world body described as nations and organizations trying to reach unified stances on human rights, governance, counterterrorism and anti-drug efforts. No recognition had been anticipated to come out of the meeting, though activists in recent days criticized the possibility.

“To achieve our objectives, we cannot disengage,” Guterres said. “And many called for engagement to be more effective and based on lessons we have learned from the past.”

He did not elaborate, though the Taliban previously controlled Afghanistan from 1994 to 2001.

Asked by a journalist if there would be any circumstance under which he'd be wiling to directly meet with the Taliban, Guterres said: “When it is the right moment to do so, I will obviously not refuse that possibility — but today is not the right moment to do so.”

Absent from the meeting were the Taliban themselves, who took over Afghanistan in August 2021.

Suhail Shaheen, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, told The Associated Press that the new Afghan government dismissed the talks.

“If they are not ready to hear us and know our position regarding the issues, how can they reach a convincing and palatable solution?" Shaheen said. "One-sided decisions couldn’t deliver. Afghanistan is an independent country. It has its own voice; we want them to listen to our voice.”

Shaheen on Sunday met Andrew McCoubrey, director of Afghanistan and Pakistan at the United Kingdom's Foreign Office, and YueXiaoyong, China’s special envoy for Afghanistan, in Doha. In the time since the Taliban seizing power, Afghanistan has become the most repressive in the world for women and girls , deprived of virtually all their basic rights, according to the U.N.

Girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade and women are barred from working, studying, traveling without a male companion, and even going to parks or bath houses. Women must also cover themselves from head to toe and are barred from working at national and international non-governmental organizations, disrupting the delivery of humanitarian aid. Afghanistan remains wracked by poverty and hunger , squeezed like other nations by Russia's war on Ukraine.

Meanwhile, concerns remain over Afghanistan again becoming a haven for Islamic extremists wanting to strike out abroad. The U.S.-led 2001 invasion came on the back of al-Qaida's Sept. 11 attack on New York and Washington . Since the takeover, the U.S. has carried out drone strikes targeting suspected militants.

Those concerns have complicated how nations, particularly the West, deal with Afghanistan today.

Activists had worried the Qatar summit could see the international community reach a recognition deal with the Taliban even as women remain largely barred from society.

The Taliban are “a terrorist group whose deeply repressive regime has systematically sought to erase more than half of the population from society,” an open letter from the activists read. “Having denied women and girls almost all of their fundamental human rights, the Taliban has become the only regime in the world upholding a system of gender apartheid.”

The countries that took part in the Doha summit included China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uzbekistan.

Qatar, an energy-rich nation on the Arabian Peninsula which long hosted a political office for the Taliban, hosted the talks.

Source: republicworld.com

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BNP-Jamaat demonstrators quit scene as PM invites for talk

03 May 2023

WASHINGTON DC, May 2, 2023 (BSS) - A group of BNP-Jamaat supporters, who were demonstrating outside The Ritz Carlton hotel here where Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina joined a civic reception on Tuesday (local time), quit the scene as she called them for an interaction.

"PM's such good gesture went in vain as BNP-Jamaat demonstrators left position outside the hotel after the premier desired to talk with them about their problems," PM's Speechwriter M Nazrul Islam told a news briefing.

Sheikh Hasina arrived here on April 28 to attend a World Bank (WB) programme marking the 50 years of Bangladesh-WB partnership.

azrul Islam said the prime minister expressed her desire to talk with the representatives of the BNP-Jamaat as she saw them demonstrating outside the hotel amid cold and rain while coming to attend the civic reception.

"What do they want to say? Let them do that coming in, here," he quoted the premier as saying.

PM's PS-II and one official from the local Bangladesh mission went to the demonstrators to invite them to the hotel after getting permission from the prime minister.

Source: bssnews.net

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PM offers SEZ for US businessmen, seeks larger investment in Bangladesh

02 May 2023

WASHINGTON DC, May 2, 2023 (BSS) - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today called upon the US business community to invest largely in Bangladesh's renewable energy, shipbuilding, automobile and pharmaceuticals sectors, reiterating her offer of a dedicated 'special economic zone' (SEZ) solely for them.

"I invite you to invest in our many vibrant and high-potential sectors, such as renewable energy, shipbuilding, automobile, pharmaceuticals, light and heavy machineries, chemical fertilizers, ICT, marine resources, and medical equipment, among others," she said.

The Prime Minister also called upon the US business leaders to explore opportunities and invest in Bangladesh.

She made this call while presenting a keynote speech at a high-level executive business roundtable on "US-Bangladesh Economic Partnership: Shared Vision for Smart Growth."

The Bangladesh Prime Minister also inaugurated the US Bangladesh IT Connect portal (us.itconnect.gov.bd) at the event.

The US-Bangladesh Business Council organised the event at the Great Hall of the US Chamber of Commerce Washington, DC.

The Prime Minister hoped that the US-Bangladesh Business Council will play a significant role in advancing trade and investment cooperation between the two friendly countries.

"I also call on you here today to remain and be with us as partners in our journey to a developed, prosperous, and Smart Bangladesh by 2041," she said.

She said Bangladesh is currently setting up 100 'Special Economic Zones' (SEZs), and 29 Hi-tech Parks in the different parts of the country.

The premier reminded again about Bangladesh's most liberal investment policy status in the region. It includes foreign investment protection by law, tax holiday, remittances of royalty, unrestricted exit policy, full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit, she said.

"I assure you that we are giving topmost priority to improving our investment environment," she added.

She mentioned that Bangladesh Investment Development Authority is implementing the "Bangladesh Investment Climate Improvement Programme".

"The United States can be Bangladesh's most robust partner. It is currently the largest single country destination of our exports, largest source of foreign direct investment, a long-standing development partner, and an important source of training and technology," she said.

Sheikh Hasina said she is optimistic that the United States would become Bangladesh's long-term productive partner in this challenging venture through trade, investment, technology transfer, and by creating a smooth and predictable supply chain for mutual benefits.

Describing the United States as a major economic and development partner of Bangladesh, she said booth countries have intensive engagements in many areas, including trade and investment.

"Our shared aim is to achieve mutual benefit and prosperity for our peoples. This is evident in our growing bilateral trade, and people-to-people interaction. In 2021-2022," she said, adding Bangladesh exported commodities worth US$ 10.42 billion to the United States, and imported goods worth US$ 2.8 billion.

Referring to an example of Japan's proposal to develop an industrial hub in Bangladesh along the coastal belt, she said, "Our focus, therefore, now is to promote economic and commercial relations with regional and global partners, including the United States."

The premier said their efforts have led to Bangladesh making remarkable socio-economic growth over the last 14 years.

"It is now universally acknowledged as a "Role Model of Socio-Economic development", she continued.

This has also been possible due to the continuity of good governance, rule of law, and stability, investment in rural economy, empowerment of women, and ICT that led to "Digital Bangladesh", she said.

This is why lately the brand value of Bangladesh has been growing fast, she said, adding that in Brand Finance UK estimate, Bangladesh's brand value recorded 37 percent growth last year, that is, the highest in the world, placing it next to India, among South Asian countries in Global Soft Power Index 2023.

"Our vision is to build a "Smart Bangladesh" by 2041. This vision is beyond becoming a high income developed country by 2041, she said.

She added: "Smart Bangladesh is about being inclusive and founded on its smart citizens, smart economy, smart government, and smart society."

PM's ICT Affairs Advisor SajeebWazed and State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid spoke on the occasion.

Chairman of Board of Directors of U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council Board and also president of Excelerate Energy Steven Kobos, Global Chair Emeritus of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Hans-Paul B?rkner, Senior Vice-President of Global Public Policy and Indo-Pacific Policy Operations at Mastercard Ravi Aurora, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of bKash Kamal Quadir, President and Managing Director of Chevron Bangladesh Eric Walker and Global Head of Exploration and New Venture at ExxonMobil Dr John Ardill spoke at the high-level roundtable meeting.

President of U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council and Senior Vice President-South Asia at U.S. Chamber of Commerce Ambassador AtulKeshap delivered the welcome remarks.

Besides, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, Planning Minister MA Mannan, and PM's Private Industry and Investment Affairs Adviser Salman Fazlur Rahman, President of Boeing India and South Asia Saill Gupta, Head of South Asia at U.S. Soybean Export Council Kevin Roepke, Head of Public Policy and Government Affairs-Asia Pacific of UBER Mike Orgill, Vice President of South Asia at U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Ryan Miller, Executive Director of U.S. Chamber of Commerce Sandeep Maini and Director of U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council SidhantaMehra were present.

The Prime Minister earlier attended separate meetings with USBBC senior executives, the US Chamber and Commerce President and CEOs at the Briefing Centre at the US Chamber of Commerce here.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence in 2021 as a proud lower middle-income country.

"It is today the fastest growing economy in South Asia, and the 35th largest economy of the world. Projections are this economy will become the 25th largest economy by 2030," she said.

She said that Bangladesh is already a trillion-dollar economy in terms of purchasing power. It is on course to be in a few years a trillion-dollar economy in nominal terms, she added.

"Our socio-economic development policies have taken Bangladesh ahead of our South Asian neighbours in many areas," she said.

Bangladesh's per capita income is higher than its larger neighbours, she said.

She continued that the World Economic Forum has rated Bangladesh as the top South Asian country in women empowerment, and globally among top ten countries in political empowerment of women.

The Prime Minister said that Bangladesh is a market of 170 million and its geographical location puts it in the heart of a market of 3 billion.

"Bangladesh has now emerged as an ideal place for trade and investment in the region, and beyond. Meanwhile, our physical, legal, and financial infrastructures are being improved," she said.

The premier noted that their efforts to sustain overall growth through investments in infrastructure are visible across the country.

"Last year, over the large Padma River, we built with own fund, our longest bridge, now an important feature in regional development," she said.

The Prime Minister said her government had also built metro rail, and improved port infrastructure, including deep seaport. These have heightened domestic and regional connectivity.

"Our climate responsible growth policy, labour reforms, and improvement in labour safety standards deserve appreciation," she opined.

Bangladesh proudly hosts 53 of the world's top 100 green garments factories certified by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), she said, adding that Bangladesh will be graduating from "least developed" to "developing" country in 2026.

"For this, we shall need support to increase our global competitiveness, and expand the export base," said the premier.

Source: bssnews.net

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Traffic Accident Kills 6 in Afghanistan

May 3, 2023

In a traffic accident on Tuesday in Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan province, six commuters were killed, and one was injured, according to a statement from the local police office.

The statement said that a truck and a car collided on Tuesday morning in the Khwaja Alwan neighbourhood outside of the province capital Pul-e-Khumri, resulting in six deaths, including a mother and a kid and injuring another person.

Recently, several road incidents have been reported in the country, resulting in many deaths and injuring several others.

On Friday, a road accident occurred in the northern Takhar province injuring nine people. In contrast, 13 passengers were injured due to a bus collision with a car in the Paktia province of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is one of the countries with the highest number of road accidents due to several factors, including congested roads, lack of safety measures, reckless driving, and lack of rules of laws.

Source: khaama.com

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Over 340 Afghan Refugees Return Back From Pakistan

By

Fidel Rahmati

May 3, 2023

343 Afghan refugees returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan on Tuesday, according to a statement from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation.

The Afghan migrants came via the Spin Boldak Crossing in Southern Kandahar province. They were referred to the International Organization for Migration (OIM).

A further 211 Afghan refugees entered the country from Pakistan on Monday at the Spin Boldak crossing, while another 120 did so a few days earlier.

According to the UNHCR’s recent report, most Afghan migrants return from neighbouring countries due to the high cost of living and lack of job opportunities in the host countries.

Additionally, it has been reported that thousands of Afghan migrants have recently returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran. Some refugees returned home voluntarily, while others were compelled to leave their host country.

Since the return of the Taliban to power, most migrants have fled the country due to prosecution, lack of job opportunities, and security threats.

On the other hand, the vast majority of the population in the country faces several challenges, including extreme poverty, hunger, unemployment, and security challenges.

Source: khaama.com

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Turkmenistan Exports Gas to Pakistan Via Afghanistan

By

Nizamuddin Rezahi

May 3, 2023

Mohammad Yunus Mohmand, the head of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment in an official ceremony that took place in Kandahar province earlier in the week said, that it was an important step towards economic development of the country.

Truckloads of liquefied gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan is a new initiative facilitated by the Taliban authorities, a major step towards economic development and trade connectivity in the region.

Mr. Mohmand further explained that previously gas was transferred to Pakistan via Iran, however, now Afghanistan under the Taliban regime has become a safe transit option, allowing for large-scale exports in this direction.

Yasser Basir, an international firm, has started exporting natural gas to Pakistan through the Spin Boldak land port. Some 50 tankers of gas – each carrying 30 tonnes of liquefied gas that arrived in Kandahar were sent to Pakistan.

According to Kandahar Customs officials, Afghanistan has seen a significant increase in cargo shipments to Central Asia in the past year. In 2021, a total of 22,891 cargo containers were sent to Central Asian countries through Afghanistan. This number rose to 53,679 consignments in the following year, 2022.

The mega Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project remains stalled due to the late regime change and security concerns in Afghanistan. However, the successful export of Turkmen gas from Afghanistan to Pakistan via truck is a promising step toward the country’s economic development.

The stalled TAPI pipeline was aimed to connect Turkmenistan, Pakistan, India via Afghanistan. the project was initiated in 2018 in Afghanistan while the Taliban was fighting the Western-backed government in Kabul. However, the Taliban administration has pledged its support for the project, considering it a vital component of the nation’s future economic infrastructure, and the vital role it can play towards the economic development of the country.

It is believed that Kabul could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in transit fees through this arrangement once the project is completed.

Source: khaama.com

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Africa

 

Arab League, African Union and UN intensify efforts for peace in Sudan

02-05-23

The head of the Arab League held talks n Tuesday with a representative of Sudanese military leader General Abdel Fattah Burhan at the organisation's headquarters in Cairo.

Speaking after the meeting, Dafa’alla Al-Haj Ali said that the crisis in his homeland was an "internal matter" and warned against any external interference.

“I am talking to you now, and there are contacts regarding the completion of this truce, but we want this truce to be with the participation of the political institutions to which we belong, the first of which is the Arab League and also the African Union, but that it takes place with their approval and in all its details, and we do not accept anything imposed on us by whichever direction“, said Dafa’alla Al-Haj Ali, special envoy of General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, president of Sudan's Sovereignty Council.

On Tuesday, the African Union, in collaboration with the United Nations and IGAD, announced a new concerted effort to de-escalate the ongoing conflict in Sudan

During news briefing at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, African Union Commission's Chairperson spokesperson Mohamed El HacenLebatt announced that Union had "agreed on the necessity to intensify, collectively and individually, all our effort to reach, as soon as possible, a complete and conditional, efficient, inclusive ceasefire all over Sudan”.

Mohamed El HacenLebatt, African Union Commission Chairperson and Sudan process Spokesperson:

“We have agreed on the necessity to intensify, collectively and individually, all our effort to reach, as soon as possible, a complete and conditional, efficient, inclusive ceasefire all over Sudan. They (AU, IGAD, Ed.) agreed to intensify, by all means, the effort to bring as soon as possible the humanitarian support for the population inside Sudanese cities and all the borders of all neighbouring countries where thousands of Sudanese have fled”, said Mohamed El HacenLebatt, African Union Commission Chairperson and Sudan process Spokesperson.

Thousands of people have fled fierce fighting in central Khartoum for Sudan’s borders. Some have been waiting for days in the open air to cross the Ashkit land crossing into Egypt.

At least 447 civilians have been killed and more than 2,255 injured since the fighting began, according to figures released on Monday by the Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties.

Source: africanews.com

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Kenya deadly cult: Mackenzie to face terrorism charges; Odero remains in custody

02-05-23

Two pastors based in coastal Kenya have appeared in court over the deaths at least 110 of their congregants, many of whom are believed to have starved to death.

Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, who set up the Good News International Church in 2003 and is accused of inciting followers to starve to death "to meet Jesus", appeared in the dock in Malindi.

He will face terrorism charges over the deaths of more than 100 people found buried in what has been dubbed the "Shakahola forest massacre," prosecutors said.

The small courtroom was packed with relatives of victims as Mackenzie, dressed in a pink and black jacket and brown trousers, was brought in by about half a dozen police officers along with eight other defendants.

After a brief hearing, the case was moved to the high court in Kenya's second-largest city of Mombasa, where the suspects will face terrorism charges, prosecutor Vivian Kambaga told AFP.

"There is a court (in Mombasa) that is gazetted to handle cases under the prevention of terrorism act," Kambaga told a magistrate during the hearing in Malindi, asking for the case to be moved to the high court.

More than 100 bodies have been exhumed from dozens of mass graves on his property within Kilifi County. Children are believed to be among the dead, but it is unclear how many, as some of the bodies are in poor condition.

Autopsies on 40 of the bodies found on Mackenzie’s property revealed that the causes of death ranged from starvation to strangulation and suffocation.

The higher court has authorized Mackenzie’s detention until Friday, when an application to hold him for a further 30 days pending terrorism investigations will be heard.

His wife, Rhoda Maweu, was arrested on Monday night from a hideout in the coastal town of Mtwapa after weeks on the run.

Mackenzie past with the police

Mackenzie had been charged in 2017 over the deaths of children at his church. In 2019, he closed the church and moved to a ranch in a forested area of Kilificounty, where hundreds of families built houses.

One of his followers told The Associated Press that it was at this time that a plan to starve till death in order to meet Jesus was hatched and his followers started dying.

Human rights groups had been sounding the alarm for months until April, when police began investigating and mass graves were discovered at the ranch.

Currently, police are conducting search and rescue missions on the 800-acre (325 hectares) property and at an even bigger ranch nearby. So far, 48 people have been rescued alive and 24 arrests made, according to Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha.

The operation to dig for more bodies has stalled even as the government announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the area and redeployed all senior police commanders to pave the way for a thorough probe.

Ezekiel Odero at the dock

Pastor Ezekiel Odero, whose church is in the same county as Mackenzie’s, has also appeared in court. He will remain in custody for a further two days as investigations continue.

Odero was arrested last week in connection to the deaths of dozens of his congregants at his megachurch, which draws thousands of people from across the country.

He is also being investigated for his links to Mackenzie.

Prosecutors have linked Odero and Mackenzie, saying in court documents that they share a "history of business investments" including a television station used to pass "radicalised messages" to followers.

After Mackenzie closed his church in 2019, Odero bought a television channel from him.

In his filing to the court, Odero said he wanted to "strongly disassociate" himself from Mackenzie and disagreed with his teachings.

His followers trouped in large numbers outside the court Tuesday, praying for his release.

Source: africanews.com

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Ugandan lawmakers pass new version of tough anti-gay bill

02-05-23

Uganda's parliament on Tuesday passed an amended version of an anti-LGBT+ law that had sparked outrage from many NGOs and Western governments in which it maintained harsh penalties for same-sex relationships and the "promotion" of homosexuality.

Faced with the international outcry, President YoweriMuseveni asked parliamentarians on April 26 to "re-examine" the text, urging them to clarify that "being homosexual" was not a crime but that only sexual relations were.

The elected officials heard him on this provision. The new version of the text, consulted by AFP, stipulates that "a person who is presumed or suspected to be homosexual, who has not committed a sexual act with another person of the same sex, does not commit the crime of homosexuality.

In this country where homosexuality is illegal, "acts of homosexuality" are still punishable by life imprisonment. This penalty has existed since a law dating back to British colonization.

Parliamentarians also maintained, against the advice of the head of state, a provision making "aggravated homosexuality" a capital offence, which means that repeat offenders can be sentenced to death. The death penalty has not been used in Uganda for years.

A provision on the "promotion" of homosexuality also worries gay rights organizations.

According to the law, anyone - individual or organization - who "knowingly promotes homosexuality" can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. If it is an organization, it risks a ten-year ban.

- "Culture to be protected" - Parliamentarians also amended a provision on "the duty to report acts of homosexuality" which, according to YoweriMuseveni, presented "constitutional challenges and could be a source of conflict in society.

The reporting requirement, which carries a penalty of five years in prison, is now limited to suspected sexual offences against children and vulnerable persons.

"We have a culture to protect. The western world will not come and rule Uganda," said the Speaker of Parliament, Annet Anita Among, after the vote on the text, which was approved unanimously minus one vote.

The bill must now go back to the president, who may or may not sign it into law. If he were to send it back to parliament again, a "super-majority" of two-thirds would allow legislators to validate the text definitively.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a gay rights organization whose activities were suspended by the authorities last year, is not reassured by this amended version.

"There is a contradiction because the legislation says you can be gay but you should not say anything about it," he told AFP.

The unanimous vote of the text "shows how extreme and homophobic the deputies are and puts LGBTQ people in even more danger," he stressed.

The law enjoys broad popular support and opposition reactions have been rare in this country ruled with an iron fist since 1986 by YoweriMuseveni, where repression against civil society, lawyers and activists has increased in recent years, according to many human rights organizations.

- Economic "consequences" -Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, as it is across East Africa.

While there have been no prosecutions for homosexual acts in recent years, harassment and intimidation are a daily occurrence for homosexuals in Uganda, where an evangelical Christianity has developed that is particularly vehement against the LGBT+ movement.

After the vote of the first version of this law on March 21, the UN, Amnesty International, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the EU had urged Museveni not to promulgate this text.

The White House warned Uganda of potential economic "consequences.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, denounced the text as "discriminatory - probably the worst of its kind in the world.

In a resolution on April 20, MEPs deplored "President Museveni's contribution to the rhetoric of hatred towards LGBT+ people", adding that "relations between the EU and Uganda will be threatened if the President enacts the bill".

Source: africanews.com

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Kenyan police clash with anti-government protesters

02-05-23

The Kenyan police on Tuesday used tear gas to disperse a delegation of opposition politicians who wanted to visit the president's office in the capital Nairobi, in a day of anti-government protests without major incident.

Elected officials from the opposition Azimio coalition wanted to petition about the "unacceptably high" cost of food, fuel, and electricity.

After being denied access to the presidential building, they were dispersed with tear gas, according to a video shot by local media.

After a one-month break, the historic opponent RailaOdinga called for a resumption on Tuesday of the "maandamano" (demonstrations) against President William Ruto, whom he accuses of "stealing" the August 2022 presidential election and of being unable to curb the current price hike.

A previous series of protests in late March led to clashes, looting, and vandalism. Three people, including a policeman, were killed during these rallies banned by the authorities.

Tuesday morning was generally calm in the country, with some isolated clashes and incidents.

In some slums on the outskirts of Nairobi, scuffles broke out between police and youths who blocked streets with burning tires.

An empty bus and a goods truck were also set on fire in the south of the capital.

In Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold in the west, roads were blocked with burning tires and rocks.

On Sunday, Nairobi regional police commander Adamson Bungei announced a ban on the protests, as previous ones had been "marred by violence".

The days of action had been suspended to allow for discussions between the two sides, but the process has stalled, notably over the composition of the various delegations.

Despite the rejection of his appeal by the Supreme Court, RailaOdinga, who was running for the fifth time, is still contesting the results of last year's presidential election, one of the closest in the country's history.

Elected as the champion of the "resourceful" poor, William Ruto has since faced criticism, especially after removing costly subsidies on fuel and maize meal, the prices of which have risen in the wake of the election.

Kenya, the economic powerhouse of East Africa, is facing skyrocketing inflation, which reached 9.2 per cent year-on-year in February. Food prices alone rose by 13.3%.

The country is also battling a depreciating Kenyan shilling and an unprecedented drought in parts of the country.

Source: africanews.com

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Senegal: Sonko denounces an "assassination attempt with poison gas"

02-05-23

Speaking to the press Monday Sonko said a foreign laboratory analysed the substance sprayed in on him last March and concluded it was "toxic and lethal."

"There was an assassination attempt," he started. "I did not say murder, because legally the difference between murder and assassination is preparation, premeditation even. I consider what happened to have been premeditated."

"We were sprayed with this product in a confined space as stated in the document, that is, in a closed car, the objective that was sought was to assassinate us. And those who did it were all wearing masks, we were not. That is why we will handle this case as it should be. The lawyers have practically completed the necessary steps today and we will file them at the beginning of this week."

The PASTEF party leader said mid-March that he felt unwell after being tear gased by the police during a forced transfer to the Dakar court where he was to appear.

The opposition leader had said after the incident that he spent five days in a private clinic in Dakar for treatment, and that samples had been taken from his clothes and sent abroad "for toxicological expertise."

Last month Senegalese government spokesman, Trade Minister Abdou Karim Fofana, denied Sonko's accusation that police had been involved.

Sonko insisted Monday (May 1st) that a judge could write to the facilities for the findings.

He also called for national civil disobedience against the judiciary that he considers partial and further rejected any dialogue against President MackySall.

Sonko who came third in Senegal's presidential election in 2019 is vying for next year's election.

However, the journey to get there hasn't been smooth, he has had several brushes with the law and was accused of rape by an employee of salon where he went for a massage. That trial is due to begin on May 16.

Source: africanews.com

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Sudan warring parties agree to 7-day truce from May 4

02-05-23

The warring parties in Sudan have agreed to a seven-day truce starting May 4, in a phone conversation with South Sudan's President SalvaKiir, the foreign ministry in Juba said Tuesday, raising hopes of an end to weeks of bloodshed.

Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy turned rival, Mohamed HamdanDaglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, "have agreed in principle for a seven-day truce from May 4th to 11th," the ministry said in a statement.

Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands wounded in the fighting as air strikes and artillery exchanges have pounded swathes of greater Khartoum, sparking the exodus of thousands of Sudanese to neighbouring countries.

The two sides have also agreed "to name their representatives to peace talks to be held at any venue of their choice", the statement from Juba said.

Kiir was speaking to Burhan and Daglo as part of an initiative by the East African regional bloc IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development), which has been pushing for an end to the fighting, echoing calls by the African Union and the international community.

Source: africanews.com

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