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Islamic World News (06 Jan 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



New Chinese Decree Seeks To 'Guide Islam', As Crackdown against Muslims and Islamic Symbols Continues















Practicing Islam is forbidden in parts of China, with individuals caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab facing arrest [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

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New Chinese Decree Seeks To 'Guide Islam', As Crackdown against Muslims and Islamic Symbols Continues

Belgium Bans Muslim and Jewish Religious Slaughtering Practices, Drawing Praise and Protest

Karnataka: Decline In Muslim Birth Rate, Rise in Hindu; ISEC Cites These Reasons

Iraqi FM in Hot Water after Remarks on Two-State Solution

Release of 9/11 Documents Will Have Devastating Consequences for US Deep State: Hackers

Palestinian Fatah Closes All Its Offices in Gaza ‘In Anticipation Of Attack’

Pakistan, KSA Promoting Peace, Unity, Tolerance in Muslim Ummah

 

Southeast Asia

New Chinese Decree Seeks To 'Guide Islam', As Crackdown against Muslims And Islamic Symbols Continues

Siti Kasim: Religious and race-based parties one step away from Nazism

Rafizi: Hadi gamed by Umno, now defending Tabung Haji scandal to save face

Malaysian minister Mat Sabu says his son, nabbed in a drug raid, must face the law

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Europe

Belgium Bans Muslim and Jewish Religious Slaughtering Practices, Drawing Praise and Protest

30 Years after the Rushdie Fatwa, Europe Is Moving Backward

Meet the Muslims on the Queen’s New Year Honours list

France Debates Where to Teach Arabic: Public School or Local Mosque?

UK Mosque Cancels Event Honouring Muslims Who Saved Jews amid Backlash

With 120,000 attending, here are the details of Pope Francis’s mass in UAE

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India

Karnataka: Decline In Muslim Birth Rate, Rise in Hindu; ISEC Cites These Reasons

PM Modi’s Muslim PR Man Holds Hush-Hush Meet with Nadwa Rector

Soft stand on mob lynching unfortunate; NIA terrorizing Muslims: Mufti Mukarram

New IS module case: NIA arrests 21-year-old for supplying arms

Kartarpur corridor: Farmland needed for new road, minister urges NHAI to quicken up

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Arab World

Iraqi FM in Hot Water after Remarks on Two-State Solution

January 7 Set To Be Public Holiday In Egypt Marking Coptic Christmas

US Military Equipment Still Deployed in Northern Syria

Syrian Army Reinvigorates Positions in Aleppo

Tahrir Al-Sham Takes Control of West Aleppo in Clashes with Rival Terrorist Group

Bolton warns Syria against use of chemical weapons

Syrian Kurds seek deal with government regardless of US pullout

US State Department says Saudi version of Khashoggi murder 'not credible'

Two British soldiers injured in Syria Daesh missile attack

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North America

Release of 9/11 Documents Will Have Devastating Consequences for US Deep State: Hackers

US Syria pointman to also serve as anti-ISIS envoy

China, Russia, Iran cited by US govt as biggest 'national security threats'

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Mideast

Palestinian Fatah Closes All Its Offices in Gaza ‘In Anticipation Of Attack’

Turkey says ready to give all documents to US probe team on Gulen

Israel sentences Palestinian teen to 11 years in prison over alleged stabbing attack

Houthi attacks target warehouses storing Yemen food aid

Four days after abduction, Uzbek doctor dies in Houthi prison

UN’s Griffiths arrives in Yemen Sanaa to push Hodeidah truce

Iranian MP says corruption convicts ‘must be executed in public squares’

Ahead of elections, Turkish opposition angered at new electoral body amendment

Iran supports peace process, democracy in Afghanistan: Deputy FM

Brazil's president confirms Jerusalem al-Quds embassy move

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Pakistan

Pakistan, KSA Promoting Peace, Unity, Tolerance in Muslim Ummah

Islamabad Seeks Ex-Envoy Hussain Haqqani’s Extradition from US

Moot Underscores Need To Promote Muslim Unity

Six injured in Peshawar IED blast

Pak-China joint military exercise ‘Warrior-VI’ concludes in Kharian: ISPR

UAE crown prince arrives in Islamabad on day-long visit

Haqqani says he never received a warrant

Indian leaders’ provocative remarks under political compulsions threat to regional peace: Qureshi

Zardari calls on Fazl, discusses political situation

Blast termed bid to disrupt peace in Peshawar

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South Asia

NDS Special Forces Rescue 12 People from a Taliban Prison in Helmand

Afghan forces kill 17 Taliban in Uruzgan, destroy tunnels and IED factory

7 border police soldiers, 16 Taliban killed in Kandahar clash

Taliban’s deputy shadow district chief killed in Faryab airstrike

3 security personnel wounded in Kabul magnetic bomb explosion

Two alleged Rohingya drug dealers found dead in Bangladesh

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Africa

Sudanese authorities release Al Arabiya correspondent after questioning

Sudan protesters plan March as Bashir sacks health minister

Bashir laments Israeli ties advice as unrest continues

Libyan authorities seeking 37 suspects over attacks on oil, military facilities

UN to appoint a new envoy to Somalia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/new-chinese-decree-seeks-to--guide-islam-,-as-crackdown-against-muslims-and-islamic-symbols-continues/d/117377

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New Chinese Decree Seeks To 'Guide Islam', As Crackdown against Muslims And Islamic Symbols Continues

Jan 6, 2019

China has passed a new law that seeks to "Sinicize" Islam within the next five years, the latest move by Beijing to rewrite how the religion is practised.

China's main English newspaper, Global Times, reported on Saturday that after a meeting with representatives from eight Islamic associations, government officials "agreed to guide Islam to be compatible with socialism and implement measures to Sinicize the religion."

The newspaper did not provide further details or the names of the associations that agreed to the decree.

China has embarked on an aggressive "Sinification" campaign in recent years with faith groups that were largely tolerated in the past seeing their freedoms shrink under Chinese President Xi Jinping, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

Practising Islam has been made forbidden in parts of China, with individuals caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion, facing the threat of arrest.

According to the UN, more than one million Uighur Muslims are estimated to be held in internment camps where they are forced to denounce the religion and pledge allegiance to the officially atheist ruling Communist Party.

Rights groups have accused China of engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. In August, a Washington Post editorial said the world "can't ignore" the campaign against Muslims.

Islamic crescents and domes have been stripped from mosques, and according to the Associated Press news agency, religious schools and Arabic classes have been banned and children barred from participating in Muslim activities.

China has rejected the criticism, saying it protects the religion and culture of its minorities.

However, in the past week alone, authorities in China's Yunnan province, which borders Mynamar, have closed three mosques established by the marginalised Hui Muslim ethnic minority, the South China Morning Post has reported.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/china-passes-law-islam-compatible-socialism-190105185031063.html

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Belgium Bans Muslim and Jewish Religious Slaughtering Practices, Drawing Praise and Protest

By Milan Schreuer

Jan. 5, 2019

BRUSSELS — A Belgian ban on the Muslim and Jewish ways of ritually slaughtering animals went into effect on New Year’s Day, part of a clash across Europe over the balance between animal welfare and religious freedom.

With both animal rights advocates and right-wing nationalists pushing to ban ritual slaughter, religious minorities in Belgium and other countries fear that they are the targets of bigotry under the guise of animal protection.

“It is impossible to know the true intentions of people,” said Yaakov David Schmahl, a senior rabbi in Antwerp. “Unless people state clearly what they have in mind, but most anti-Semites don’t do that.”

Laws across Europe and European Union regulations require that animals be rendered insensible to pain before slaughter, to make the process more humane. For larger animals, stunning before slaughter usually means using a “captive bolt” device that fires a metal rod into the brain; for poultry it usually means an electric shock. Animals can also be knocked out with gas.

But slaughter by Muslim halal and Jewish kosher rules requires that an animal be in perfect health — which religious authorities say rules out stunning it first — and be killed with a single cut to the neck that severs critical blood vessels. The animal loses consciousness in seconds, and advocates say it may cause less suffering than other methods, not more.

Most countries and the European Union allow religious exceptions to the stunning requirement, though in some places — like the Netherlands, where a new law took effect last year, and Germany — the exceptions are very narrow. Belgium is joining Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia among the nations that do not provide for any exceptions.

Ann De Greef, director of Global Action in the Interest of Animals, a Belgian animal rights group, insisted that stunning does not conflict with kosher and halal doctrine, and “they could still consider it ritual slaughtering,” but the religious authorities refuse to accept that.

“They want to keep living in the Middle Ages and continue to slaughter without stunning — as the technique didn’t yet exist back then — without having to answer to the law,” she said. “Well, I’m sorry, in Belgium the law is above religion and that will stay like that.”

Belgium, with a population of about 11 million, is home to roughly 500,000 Muslims and over 30,000 Jews. Those who adhere to their religious rules will soon be forced to order their meat from abroad, which community members say will mean paying more, and could even lead to food shortages.

Leaders of both groups say they hope that lawsuits they have filed in Belgium’s Constitutional Court might still lift the ban on slaughtering without stunning later this year.

“The government asked for our advice on the ban, we responded negatively, but the advice wasn’t taken,” said Saatci Bayram, a leader of the Muslim community. “This ban is presented as a revelation by animal rights activists, but the debate on animal welfare in Islam has been going on for 1,500 years. Our way of ritual slaughtering is painless.”

Joos Roets, a lawyer representing an umbrella organization of Islamic institutions, said that the ban was motivated more by stigmatizing certain groups than concerns over animal welfare. The government could take other steps to reduce animal suffering, he said, “without violating the Belgian freedom of religion and the European regulation regarding this matter.”

The law that took effect on Tuesday applies in the northern Belgian region of Flanders; a similar one will take effect later this year in the southern region of Wallonia.

The idea for the ban was first proposed by Ben Weyts, a right-wing Flemish nationalist and the minister in the Flanders government who is responsible for animal welfare. Mr. Weyts was heavily criticized in 2014 for attending the 90th birthday of Bob Maes, who had collaborated with the Nazi occupation of Belgium in World War II and later became a far-right politician.

Animal rights groups applauded the legislation. When it was approved by the Flemish Parliament in June 2017, Mr. Weyts hailed the vote on Twitter, writing: “Proud animal minister. Proud to be Flemish.”

Right-wing politicians in several countries, particularly those opposed to the presence of growing Muslim populations, have seized on the issue of religious slaughter as an example of Western societies bending over backward to accommodate minority communities.

“The truth is that this measure was an easy win, which had the backing of large parts of the population concerned with animal rights,” said Mr. Bayram, aligning them, at least momentarily, with the far right.

Rabbi Schmahl cited another Belgian law that was recently enacted, to regulate home schooling — a common practice in his community — as an example of a pattern of laws in Europe making it increasingly difficult for observant Jews to live according to their traditions.

“It definitely brings to mind similar situations before the Second World War, when these laws were introduced in Germany,” he said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/world/europe/belgium-ban-jewish-muslim-animal-slaughter.html

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Karnataka: Decline in Muslim birth rate, rise in Hindu; ISEC cites these reasons

by Rasia Hashmi

Jan 05, 2019

Bengaluru: Data released by the Registrar General of India stated that 9.3 lakh births were registered in families of Hindus, 1.6 lakh in Muslims and 6,431 in Christians in Karnataka in 2017.

The report, reveals an increase of 0.2 per cent in Hindu child took birth in 2017, compared to 2016 report. On the other hand, there has been a decrease of 5 per cent in Muslim birth and 13 per cent in Christians in comparison to the registered deliveries in 2016. In 2016, 9.3 lakh Hindu, 1.7 lakh Muslim and 7,369 Christian newborns were registered.

Registrar General of India compiled the data based on information submitted by the Karnataka government.

As reported by ToI, Prof CM Lakshmana, head of the Population Research Centre at the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), has attributed the dip in Muslim and Christian families to changing trends in education levels, acceptance and family planning. He, however, said no particular reason could be stated without an in-depth study.

https://www.siasat.com/news/karnataka-decline-muslim-birth-rate-rise-hindu-isec-cites-these-reasons-1453284/

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Iraqi FM in hot water after remarks on two-state solution

6 January 2019

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim angered his cabinet peers this week after expressing support for the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“Iraq believes in a two-state solution to end the Palestinian crisis with Israel,” Hakim said, prompting some members of the Iraqi parliament to demand that he not to take such sensitive stances without consulting the cabinet and the parliament.

MP Hassan Shaker of the Construction Alliance said that it was not the minister’s place to make the statement.

“This does not represent Iraq officially, but represents his individual viewpoint,” Shaker said.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary bloc named “the coalition of state law,” led by former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, called on the House of Representatives to take strict measures against the foreign minister.

Following the uproar, the ministry released another statement reiterating Iraq’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The Iraqi ministry “confirms Iraq’s historic and fundamental stance on the Palestinian cause and supporting the rights of the Palestinian people to liberate their land and their people and to establish an independent state with al-Quds as its capital,” the media office of the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also said that “Iraq supports Arab and international peace initiatives, including the Arab Peace Initiative, which was presented at the Beirut summit in 2002 and has become a permanent item on the agenda of subsequent Arab summits,” it added. https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/06/Iraqi-FM-in-hot-water-after-remarks-on-two-state-solution-.html

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Release of 9/11 documents will have devastating consequences for US deep state: Hackers

Jan 5, 2019

The Dark Overlord hacker group has threatened with leaking thousands of secret documents that it says will have devastating consequences for the US "deep state," that collection of members of permanent employees of the intelligence, security and diplomatic services who operate independently of changes in the administration as, in essence, a permanent government.

The group has already released decryption keys for 650 documents it says are related to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but it is   just a fraction of the 18,000 secret 9/11 documents probably stolen from insurers, law firms, and government agencies, RT website reported on Friday.

The hackers at the Dark Overlord have described the secret the September 11 documents as "the 9/11 Papers."

The September 11 attacks were a series of strikes in the US which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.

US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists but many experts have raised questions about the official account.

They believe that rogue elements within the US government, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, orchestrated or at least encouraged the 9/11 attacks in order to accelerate the US war machine and advance the Zionist agenda.

The Dark Overlord announced on Wednesday a "tiered compensation plan" in which the people could make payments in bitcoins to unlock the troves of documents related to 9/11.

Following the announcement, the Dark Overlord said that people paid them $12,000 in bitcoin which are enough to unlock "layer 1" and several "checkpoints.”

But, according to the group, there are four more layers that are still encrypted and "each layer contains more secrets, more damaging materials… and generally just more truth."

Following the initial document dump, Twitter suspended the account of the Dark Overlord.

The hackers have demanded $2 million in bitcoin for the public release of "the 9/11 Papers."

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/05/584939/Hackers-threaten-to-release-the-911-Papers

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Palestinian Fatah closes all its offices in Gaza ‘in anticipation of attack’

5 January 2019

The spokesperson of Palestinian Fatah faction in Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Atef Abu Saif said that Fatah decided to close all its offices in Gaza “In anticipation of any attacks on them until further notice.”

On Friday evening, armed men raided the headquarters of Palestinian Authority media , causing damage to equipment.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack on the media offices, but Palestinian officials blamed Hamas for what happened.

“Hamas is deeply involved in this conspiracy,” said Ahmed Assaf, chairman of the Palestininan Broadcast Corporation (PBC), speaking to the channel in the West Bank city of Ramallah, according to Reuters.

The PBC issued a statement saying the attack was a “clear reflection of the mentality of the Hamas movement and criminal gangs who believe only in their voice, and who seek to suppress freedoms”.

Neither Assaf nor the PBC offered any evidence for their accusations, and Hamas officials swiftly condemned the incident.

“What happened is rejected, and we condemn it,” Eyad Al-Bozom said in a statement issued by the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza. He urged the station’s officials to cooperate with investigators.

It is noteworthy that PBC stopped working completely in the Gaza Strip following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in the summer of 2007, but resumed work partially in 2011. Around 500 radio and television employees work in Gaza Strip.

There has long been antipathy between Hamas, which won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and is opposed to any peace negotiations with Israel, and with Abbas’s more moderate and secular Fatah faction.

The two Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas have failed to end the divisions since 2007.

Egypt has brokered a Palestinian reconciliation pact that provides for Hamas to cede control of Gaza to Abbas, but a dispute over power-sharing has hindered implementation of the deal.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/05/Palestinian-Fatah-closes-all-its-offices-in-Gaza-in-anticipation-of-attack-.html

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Pakistan, KSA promoting peace, unity, tolerance in Muslim Ummah

January 6, 2019

Promoting Muslim Unity through endorsing true message of humanity and coexistence given by Islam direly needed to establish peace and stability in the society and counter violence, extremism and terrorism. This was underscored by speakers of the seminar titled ‘Role of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Promotion of Muslim Unity and Social Peace’ organized by Jamia Salfia Faisalabad in collaboration with the Islamic Research Institute (IRI) Islamabad on Saturday.

President Islamic International University (IIUI) Dr Ahmad Yousuf Al Darwesh, who is originally from Saudi Arabia, Islamic Research Institute Director General Prof Dr Zia ul Haq, Prof Dr Humayun Abbas Shams from GC University Faisalabad and Wafaq ul Madaris Salfia Faisalabad Secretary General Maulana Yasin Zafar spoke on the occasion. A large number of ulema, academicians, intellectuals, representatives of civil society and seminaries students attended the event.

Addressing on the occasion, the speakers highlighted the role being played by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in promotion of peace, unity, tolerance, coexistence and diversity in the Muslim Ummah and discussed ways to support constructive dialogue among different cultures and religions while emphasizing the importance of respecting and upholding the basic principles of justice and human rights as preached by Islam.

They said Paigham-e-Pakistan initiative of the government of Pakistan was the best tool to deal with growing extremism and intolerance in the society and to encourage the people belonging to different walks of life towards positive and constructive activities in order to realize the dream of building a peaceful society. Saudi Arabia is also focused on peaceful solutions to several conflicts and is undertaking various mediation efforts, they said, adding that an assembly of institutions has already been established by Saudi Arabia to strengthen the fight against violent extremism and terrorism.

At a separate event titled ‘Role of Ulema for Peace in Society in the Light of Paigham-e-Pakistan’ held at the Deputy Commissioner Office Toba Tek Singh in collaboration with Islamic Research Institute and the Government of Punjab, the speakers said that Muslim unity was the need of the hour. They urged ulema to play their role for the progress, prosperity and stability of the country by forging unity and harmony.

Speaking on the occasion, IRI Director General Dr Zia ul Haq stressed that the people should be educated according to the teachings of Islam, saying Islam preaches peace, religious tolerance and equality. He stressed the need for strengthening religious seminaries in the country with a view to promote peace and humanity. The event also sensitized the religious scholars, seminaries students and civil society about the horrific dangers and risks associated with the wave of terrorism and extremism and briefed them vis-à-vis ways and methods to safeguard the community from these threats.—INP

https://pakobserver.net/pakistan-ksa-promoting-peace-unity-tolerance-in-muslim-ummah/

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Southeast Asia

 

Siti Kasim: Religious and race-based parties one step away from Nazism

06 January 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — Prominent human rights lawyer Siti Kasim today called for the removal of political parties in the country based on religion and race, which she described as being “one step away from Nazism”.

The outspoken proponent of equality said religious and race-based parties in the country have chalked up a record of being divisive rather than inclusive and reminded Malaysians to be critical and call politicians to be accountable.

“When political parties exist solely based on two of the most divisive premise in human history, their contribution to society at large will be net negative. This is because their objectives and implementation of their vision is predicated on the bigotry of ‘my kind is the kind that matters’ premise.

“Instead of looking at what is best for society at large and then seeing how to accommodate the special interests that need assistance for the overall good, race and religious-based parties look at what is best for their kind first, at the expense of society at large. Additionally, such racial and religious parties not only heighten divisiveness but also easily hijacked by demagogues.

“I dare say all religious and race-based parties are just one step away from Nazism,” she wrote in her column in The Sunday Star today under the title “Governance and the maturity of Malaysian politics”.

She noted that the concept of a herrenvolk or “master race” had been adopted by Adolf Hitler's Nationalist Socialist Workers’ Party in Nazi Germany to exploit and eventually eliminate those they deemed to be of an “inferior” race.

“Naturally the Nazis thought they were the Herrenvolk — Master Race — and they considered themselves to be pure Aryans, every other race was inferior, with some like Slavs, Romany and Jews at the bottom of the ladder, and while the Aryans had to be kept pure, the bottom could be exploited, hated and eventually liquidated.

“The Volksgemeinschaft was thus inherently racist and contributed greatly to the Nazis’ attempts at mass extermination,” she said, referring to the systematic mass murder of some six million Jews in Europe during World War Two.

Siti also said religious-based parties are an “anachronism of time” and should have no role in politics today.

“I will take one step further with respect to religious-based parties; they are an anachronism of a time when societies were run by shamans, witch doctors and spiritual advisers to despots and kings, rather than civilised logical societies,” she said.

Forestalling criticism against her as being anti-religion, Siti said she is calling for an objective and “inclusive” civil discussion on the role of religion in politics as she acknowledged it is “impossible” to separate the two in majority-Muslim Malaysia.

“I am not anti-religion, but religion shouldn’t have a place in political decisions. This isn’t a slam on religion; it’s a call for inclusive political debate. In a society where most people (politicians in particular) have some sort of faith that guides their decisions, it’s impossible to have a true separation of faith and state.

“What I am suggesting is we create and support a system where political decisions are made based on arguments that stand on their own merits without a religious crutch or, to put it another way, 'my holy book tells me so' is off limits as an argument,” she said.

She said critical Malaysians should base their arguments on logic rather than taking the word of those purported to be learned in religion as is.

She said Malaysians also still have a stereotyped perception of politicians.

“Our society still looks at politicians as potential Municipal Councillors rather than Legislators — unless they become Ministers. then they take an oversized God-like persona.

“We need a complete revamp in our societal-mindset. Our education system and the media need to play a role in educating the public in this respect,” she said.

Siti urged the public to be more critical of their elected representatives and remind them of the power of their vote by demanding accountability.

“We need to demand from politicians and officials answers to tough questions. We need to make them uncomfortable with the questions and the follow up to such questions. Grilling politicians for truth and facts, instead of lobbing softballs and backing off for fear of being disrespectful must be a Malaysian culture.

“Politicians are aspiring job seekers for public service. Elected and appointed politicians, Councillors, State Assemblymen, Members of Parliaments, Ministers, and even the Prime Minister, are all civil servants. They came to us for a job and now we have to be respectful of them? No! They must be respectful to us. We are the bosses,” she said.

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1709546/siti-kasim-religious-and-race-based-parties-one-step-away-from-nazism

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Rafizi: Hadi gamed by Umno, now defending Tabung Haji scandal to save face

05 January 2019

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had only wanted to avert humiliation and save his own face by framing the Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) financial scandal as the work of anti-Islam elements, Rafizi Ramli alleged today.

The PKR vice-president said Hadi is employing racial tactics to divert attention from a backfired political strategy that intended to make then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak beholden to PAS.

Rafizi claimed it was Najib that manipulated PAS instead by using the Islamists to shield his administration from Malay backlash after details of the alleged corruption at the pilgrimage fund began to surface, a mistake that Hadi is trying to cover up now.

“The PAS entourage visited Tabung Haji, attended a briefing and the following moment declared it was satisfied with the financial management,” the PKR leader said in a statement.

“This indirectly made them the ‘kingmaker’ in the Tabung Haji issue, and they implied that I had made the allegations [about the financial problems] up.

“But when evidence slowly emerged, PAS was entrapped. If they backpedalled and agreed [to my exposés] it would have tainted the president’s image because prior to that they became the panel that cleansed off the corruption,” he added.

Rafizi was responding to a speech Hadi made before students in the United Kingdom last week, where he claimed the LTH scandal detractors were only targeting the fund as part of an attack on the Islamic faith.

Rafizi said he had first exposed the fund’s dubious finances in 2013, and more had come later.

Just last month, audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said in its report that LTH failed to recognise a total of RM549 million in impairment losses of investments in several associate companies and subsidiaries.

The fund had also failed to report its fair value losses in investment properties and impairment of investment in available-for-sale debt security totalling RM77 million.

Rafizi said LTH had intentionally excluded the impairment losses from its financial submissions so it could prop up revenue in order to pay out dividends to depositors. The dividends instead came from deposits by new depositors.

The PKR leader then said Hadi may have been “confused” by the explanation given by LTH officials loyal to the previous administration. He also chided the PAS president as lacking the necessary knowledge to understand basic accounting.

But Rafizi said Hadi was ultimately irresponsible for deflecting the scandal. The PKR leader said the PAS as an Islamic party should have been the most vocal in voicing their protest when the allegations surfaced since they affected Muslim depositors.

Rafizi added Hadi instead opted to do defend what he called the indefensible.

“When there is no profit and losses are concealed, where did the money for dividend came from? It came from new deposits,” he said.

“This kind of investment is no other than a get-rich-easy or pyramid scheme, which gives the impression of huge profits to lure new money in and use that money to pay the initial depositors. In time the pyramid will collapse.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1709389/rafizi-hadi-gamed-by-umno-now-defending-tabung-haji-scandal-to-save-face

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Malaysian minister Mat Sabu says his son, nabbed in a drug raid, must face the law

JAN 5, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said on Saturday (Jan 5) that his son was picked up by the police after testing positive for drugs.

And he wants the 31-year old man to be dealt with by the law.

Mr Mohamad, know widely in Malaysia as Mat Sabu, confirmed local media reports that his son Ahmad Saiful Islam Mohamad was arrested in an anti-vice raid by police early on Saturday.

"Following this arrest, my family and I leave the matter entirely up to the authorities to act in accordance with the process of the law," he said.

"My son, like the children of others, is also subject to the country's legal processes," Mr Mohamad, 64, said in a Facebook post on Saturday evening.

It was learnt that Ahmad Saiful was picked up by a combined team involving the Dang Wangi Narcotics Crime Investigation Department and its Secret Society, Gaming and Vice Division, The Star newspaper reported on its website.

The raid was conducted early on Saturday along the Jalan Ampang area, one of Kuala Lumpur's major thoroughfares that has many nightspots and restaurants.

Sources close to the investigation confirmed that Ahmad Saiful tested positive for marijuana.

He was among the 101 people that were inspected during the anti-vice raid, The Star said.

It was known that he was among two persons who were detained for testing positive for the drug.

Meanwhile, Sinar Harian newspaper reported that Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Deputy Commissioner Zainuddin Yaacob had confirmed the incident.

The case is being investigated under the penal code for drug abuse. Not much is known about Ahmad Saiful.

His father, on the other hand, is a popular politician in Malaysia.

Mr Mohamad is president of Parti Amanah Negara, one of the four factions that made up the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

Amanah is a moderate Islamic party, formed in 2015 after a group of leaders broke away from conservative Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). Mr Mohamad was deputy president of PAS.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysian-minister-mat-sabu-says-his-son-nabbed-in-a-drug-raid-must-face-the-law

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Europe

 

30 Years After the Rushdie Fatwa, Europe Is Moving Backward

JANUARY 3, 2019

The opening of 2019 marks two dark events in the recent history of free speech: the fourth anniversary of the attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the 30th anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa calling for the killing of the British-Indian author Salman Rushdie. Both of these events were immediately recognized as attacks against foundational European values. Neither event, however, occasioned any concerted defense of the values in question. Instead, Europe’s highest institutions are now as likely to affirm laws against blasphemy and religious offense as they are to overturn them.

The Charlie Hebdo murders on Jan. 7, 2015, were an especially instructive case in point. On that day, the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi burst into the magazine’s offices and executed 12 people, including cartoonists and journalists. Before fleeing, the brothers shouted, “We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed!” whom Charlie Hebdo had lampooned in several disrespectful cartoons. These executions might not have been too shocking to 18th-century Europeans. (In 1766, Jean-François de la Barre was decapitated and then burned along with a copy of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary for his “monstrous, execrable blasphemies against God … and the Church.”)

Today’s European leaders, by contrast, were quick to condemn the attack and reassert their commitment to free speech. European Council President Donald Tusk expressed his shock at the “brutal attack against our fundamental values, against freedom of expression which is a pillar of our democracy.”

But despite the unanimous rhetorical support for free speech after Charlie Hebdo, blasphemy bans have become more firmly anchored in some parts of the continent in recent years. In a recent case, the European Court of Human Rights even reaffirmed that European human rights law recognizes a right not to have one’s religious feelings hurt. The court based its decision on the deeply flawed assumption that religious peace and tolerance may require the policing rather than the protection of “gratuitously offensive” speech. Accordingly, it found that Austria had not violated freedom of expression by convicting a woman for having called the Prophet Mohammed a “pedophile.”

Some have argued that the court’s decision was a necessary defense of an embattled Muslim minority vulnerable to bigotry and religious hatred. But laws against religious insult and blasphemy are generally different from hate speech laws—which are problematic in themselves—that purportedly protect people rather than abstract religious ideas and dogmas.

Moreover, laws against blasphemy and religious insult frequently protect the majority against minorities and dissenters. In Spain, the actor and activist Willy Toledo was arrested and now faces prosecution for “offending religious feelings” after being reported to the police by an association of Catholic lawyers. Toledo had written a particularly salty Facebook post: “I shit on God and have enough shit left over to shit on the dogma of the holiness and virginity of the Virgin Mary.” Toledo’s Facebook rant was provoked by the criminal investigation of three Spanish women’s rights activists who paraded a giant effigy of a vagina through the streets of Seville, imitating popular Catholic processions.

Soon the court will have to consider the case of the Polish pop star Doda, convicted of “religious insult” after giving an interview in which she was less than respectful of Christianity: “[I]t is hard to believe in something that was written by someone [the authors of the Bible] wasted from drinking wine and smoking some weed.” In Russia—also subject to the jurisdiction of the court—a 2013 blasphemy law has been used to target social media users as well as political protests, and those convicted may end up on a government list of “extremists and terrorists.”

These cases stand in stark contrast to how European democracies have approached the question of blasphemy and free speech at the United Nations. For more than a decade, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) attempted to introduce a global blasphemy ban by passing annual resolutions against “defamation of religions.” But in 2012, the OIC’s then-secretary-general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, had to admit defeat under pressure from democracies, human rights organizations, and activists, with the United States and European democracies taking the lead. “We could not convince them,” Ihsanoglu said. “The European countries don’t vote with us, the United States doesn’t vote with us.” This crucial victory for free speech was followed by statements from U.N., European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and Council of Europe bodies and experts, all stressing the incompatibility of blasphemy bans with free speech under international human rights law.

By breaking with this consensus and failing to crystalize the protection of blasphemy and religious insult into legally binding human rights norms, the court has failed to offer an expansive protection of free speech for Europeans affected by such laws. But the court’s reasoning and the continuous enforcement of blasphemy bans in European democracies also help lend legitimacy to laws punishing blasphemy and religious offense in states where blasphemy is a matter of life and death.

In 2010, the OIC proposed a resolution based on the wording of Ireland’s blasphemy ban (since repealed). Then U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief encouraged European democracies to abolish blasphemy bans since they provide cover for illiberal countries where such bans are used to persecute minorities and stifle religious dissent. The consequences for those targeted are often extreme.

On Oct. 31, 2018, Pakistan’s Supreme Court surprisingly acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row due to a blasphemy conviction. Then in December, just weeks after Bibi’s acquittal, two brothers were sentenced to death in Pakistan for posting “derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet.” Saudi Arabia sentenced Ahmad al-Shamri to the death penalty for blasphemy and atheism in 2017 after he had tweeted irreverently about the Prophet Mohammed and Islam. And in 2018, Mauritania adopted a law making the death penalty mandatory for “blasphemous speech.” In countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt, dozens of people convicted of blasphemy languish in prison, many simply for belonging to religious minorities, professing unorthodox religious opinions, or advocating secularism. But running afoul of the law may not always be the worst consequence of violating blasphemy norms. Several of the countries that punish blasphemy also experience vehement mob violence aimed at religious dissenters.

The acquittal of Bibi caused mass demonstrations in Pakistani cities, with protesters demanding not only the killing of Bibi but also the deaths of Supreme Court justices who applied secular principles of due process rather than religious dogma. Bibi’s lawyer fled Pakistan out of fear that he might be killed, as became the fate of the politician Salman Taseer, who criticized his own country’s blasphemy laws after Bibi’s initial conviction. Bibi is currently in hiding so as not to suffer the same fate as the Afghan woman Farkhunda Malikzada, who was beaten, dragged behind a car, stoned, burned, and left as human garbage by a mob after being accused of burning the Quran.

The intolerant mob violence makes a mockery out of the court’s argument that it may be necessary for democracies to punish religious offenses. The oppressive history and practice of blasphemy laws cannot be washed away by insisting that the protection of religious feelings pursues the interest of tolerance and religious peace. Having your innermost convictions questioned, criticized, or mocked does not threaten these crucial values—indeed, a tolerant society is one that allows this questioning. The main threat to social peace comes not from those who challenge religious dogma but from those willing to kill for it, whether on the streets of Islamabad or Paris.

In the past decade, a growing number of European countries have recognized that laws against blasphemy and religious insult are neither compatible with their commitment to freedom of expression nor defensible in a world where religious minorities and dissidents face the death penalty, floggings, or lengthy prison sentences for following their conscience. The United Kingdom, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Malta, and Ireland have all abolished blasphemy bans. Still, around 20 percent of European countries formally criminalize either blasphemy or religious insult.

Rushdie no longer lives in hiding, but the fatwa still formally remains in force 30 years after it was issued. And while Charlie Hebdo continues to outrage right, left, and center, its continued freedom to do so comes at the price of an annual $1.7 million in security costs. Against this backdrop, there could be no better occasion for European democracies to lay the crime of blasphemy to rest for good.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/03/30-years-after-the-rushdie-fatwa-europe-is-moving-backward/

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Meet the Muslims on the Queen’s New Year Honors list

January 05, 2019

LONDON: A record number of Muslims have been named in the Queen’s New Year Honors list for achievements ranging across technology, the arts, business and community work.

Among the 1,148 recipients recognized in the list are Aamer Naeem, CEO of the charity Penny Appeal; Nasar Mahmood, chairman of the British Muslim Heritage Center; and Supt. Umer Khan of Greater Manchester Police, who all received an Officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE) for community work.

Dr. Malik Ramadhan, head of the accident and emergency unit at the Royal London Hospital, who operated through the night on 12 victims of the London Bridge terror attack in June 2017, also received an OBE.

Abul Kalam Azad Choudhury, who founded the Azad Choudhury Academy and Welfare Trust, received a Master of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to education in Bangladesh, and immigration officer Jahaid Ahmad received the same award for services to law and order.

Faeeza Vaid, 34, executive director of the Muslim Women’s Network, who four years ago helped to set up the charity’s helpline to assist women fleeing forced marriages or at risk of so-called “honor” violence, was also appointed an MBE.

“I call myself a Muslim feminist,” said Vaid. “My faith tells me I need to stand for equality and justice.”

Tech entrepreneur Mustafa Suleyman, who co-founded the artificial intelligence lab DeepMind, was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for services to the UK technology industry.

Many people in their early 20s are still trying to decide what to do with their lives. Not Saeed Atcha.

At age 22, he is already CEO of his own magazine publishing venture, a trustee of several charities, a trainer, mentor and motivational speaker. The British government has also spotted his talent and, in November, he was appointed social mobility commissioner.

Now Atcha has become the youngest person named in the Queen’s New Year Honours list, receiving an MBE for services to young people in the Manchester region, where he has lived all

his life.

As is the custom, he was told about the award several weeks ago but was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement. “I am the worst person at keeping a secret, so I told my closest family and a couple of close friends — four people in all — and then put it to the back of my mind,” Atcha told Arab News.

“When I got the letter asking me if I would accept it, I thought it might be a joke. I didn’t realize you could refuse it. So I checked and realized this was real. You really don’t expect an honor like this, especially at my age. I was quite emotional about it.”

Atcha said that his faith had helped him through difficult times. The grandson of Indians who emigrated from India in the 1950s and settled near Manchester in northwest England, Atcha spent much of his childhood in foster care. His mother has a neurological condition that meant she was not always able to look after him.

He was only 2 when he first went into care. He was reunited with his mother when he was 5, but six years later went back into foster care with relatives.

By his own admission he was “a tearaway” as a teenager. “I didn’t have a criminal record, but I was not the easiest child,” he said.

His rebellious streak led him to start Xplode, a magazine for young people, after a teacher reprimanded him for focusing too much on the school magazine instead of studying for his GCSE exams.

“Instead of a school magazine, I decided I would produce a borough-wide magazine.”

He approached the assistant director of the local council to ask for office space and within a week was installed in an office in Bolton town center with support to source funding. He was 15.

“I’ve never been afraid to go to the top,” he said. Next he acquired funding and a business mentor from O2, the mobile network company.

Xplode is produced entirely by teenagers and young people for their own peer group. More than 7,500 copies are distributed to schools, colleges, supermarkets and coffee shops.

Atcha has since set up Employ, which has helped more than 5,000 young people improve their chances of finding employment.

He is also a trustee for three charitable organizations and is on the board of governors for his old school. Somehow he fits it all around studying for a master’s degree in public relations at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Atcha believes he carries a triple responsibility. “I’m young, I’m a Muslim and I come from a disadvantaged background. Muslims sometimes marginalize themselves. The idea that in one of the most advanced countries in the world, a young person can’t escape the path of disadvantage because of their postcode or their parents’ income or because they’ve been in care, offends me.”

Recently, Atcha attended the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh. “I’ve never been to a conference attended by 6,000 young people. If only I could return to Saudi Arabia more often. The government is really investing in young people there, which is essential for our future, as my personal journey shows.”

And those GCSE exams that his teacher was so worried about? Atcha passed them all. With flying colors.

Chaudhry was 21 when he fell in love with dance, which is on the late side if you want to make a career out of it.  But he soon made up for lost time. At 58, he can look back on a career as a performer and manager that has taken him all over the world and culminated in an OBE for services to dance and dance production.

Muslims are not generally seen to have a strong tradition of dance, unlike poetry and literature. But Chaudhry said that his OBE is recognition of the wealth of talent in the Muslim world.

“It’s wonderful. It is a testament to how, despite all the paranoia and the negativity about the Muslim world and what it brings, it is such an important source of talent and it is making a difference to how we live our lives. It’s a big message because it shows that all the work on integration and celebrating diversity is bearing fruit.”

Chaudhry was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and was 3 when he came to Britain with his parents. His father had been a professor of mathematics in Pakistan, but had to take a job as a security guard, while his mother, who was from a wealthy family, worked on the assembly line at a bakery.

He was 17 when he was first captivated by a contemporary dance performance at the famous Sadler’s Wells theater in London. He had embarked on an English degree at the University of Sussex, but abandoned his studies in favor of a career in dancing.

Chaudhry enrolled at the London Contemporary Dance School, graduating in 1986, “which was quite late.” But he has worked consistently in opera and theater in Germany and Belgium as well as the UK.

After retiring from dancing in 1999, he completed a master’s degree in arts management. Eighteen years ago, he sold his apartment to raise cash to found the Akram Khan Company with dancer Akram Khan, a specialist in kathak,  a north Indian dance style.

Alongside running the company, Chaudhry was also a creative producer for Chinese dancer Yang Liping and for the English National Ballet for four years.

He is delighted that so many Muslims have been honored. “It thrills me, actually. Every single person I’ve seen on that list has earned it. There hasn’t been any political correctness about wanting to ensure they get enough black and brown and Muslim faces. It’s a testament to the breadth and scope of the awards, and how they see value in a society.”

Malik is one of a rare, but growing, breed — a Muslim woman who is also a qualified fitness instructor.

The 51-year-old was the first, certainly in her locality if not the whole UK, when she qualified in 1995. Since then she has inspired other Muslim women to improve their health and reduce social isolation through exercise.

Malik also fundraises for a children’s hospice in her home city, Leeds, and four years ago established a charity, Give a Gift, to get British Asians involved in charitable work. Her efforts have been recognized with an MBE.

Malik, who was born to Pakistani immigrants, had an inkling that something was afoot when a letter arrived marked “Cabinet Office.” Her husband, Hanif, had received a similar one in 2016, telling him that he had been nominated for an OBE. Nevertheless, it still left her “shocked and overjoyed.”

The honoring of so many British Muslims was gratifying, she said. “When something appears in the media, it’s always related to extremism and we get linked with that. It’s fantastic for Muslims to be recognized for the good work they are doing.

“My faith is my first and foremost reason for what we’re doing. We do what we do to help anybody and everybody.”

As soon as she qualified as  a fitness instructor in October 1995, Malik was approached to start fitness classes for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in Leeds. Research showed they were at risk of developing chronic health problems, but social isolation, poor language skills and cultural tradition prevented them from taking exercise.

“I was given my first class within a week,” said Malik, who speaks Urdu and Punjabi. The classes took off and she has now helped more than 40 women from ethnic minorities go on to qualify as instructors.

Her charity work includes the Ramadan Toys Appeal. She has also raised more £100,000 for Martin House Children’s Hospice, which is used by more than a third of Muslims living in the West Yorkshire region of England.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1431011/world

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France Debates Where to Teach Arabic: Public School or Local Mosque?

By Emma Bubola

Jan. 5, 2019

ROMAINVILLE, France — Early on Sunday mornings, Habiba Hatem, 9, prepares her own breakfast, grabs her flashy pink school bag and jumps into her father’s car — bound for Arabic lessons at her local mosque in a suburb north of Paris.

Colorful sketches of how to perform ritual washings decorate the walls of the classroom, along with drawings of butterflies, cars and carrots, with their Arabic names underneath.

“Today we are going to do a dialogue about ‘duyuf’ coming for dinner,” the teacher tells Habiba and a dozen other boys and girls ages 9 to 17, all born in France. “Duyuf means guests,” she says, writing the word on the blackboard.

Habiba’s grandparents came from Tunisia in the 1960s, and her father believes it is important that his child stays connected to her roots.

But the public school she attends does not offer Arabic classes, so she makes the weekly trip to the mosque in Romainville, a part of the Seine-Saint-Denis department north of Paris, which is home to a large immigrant community.

The Hatem family’s situation is a common one in France.

About three million people use Arabic on a daily basis in France, making it the country’s most spoken foreign language, according to the Culture Ministry. But Arabic is barely taught in public schools, so mosques and private associations have stepped in to address this educational gap.

Now, the government is growing worried about an increasing number of students learning Arabic outside the state’s oversight.

As part of France’s fight against extremism, the Education Ministry announced in September a plan to take back control of Arabic teaching “in order to provide a secular curriculum rather than the one offered by associations, which can drift toward radicalization,” the ministry’s spokeswoman said.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, says he wants to give Arabic “prestige,” as it is “a great literary language.”

While the ministry wants to promote the study of Arabic and make classes more readily available, it has not provided many details about the plan, other than to say that Arabic teaching will be strengthened alongside that of Russian and Chinese.

And most French schools will have to start their Arabic programs from scratch.

Only 0.2 percent of students in public middle and high schools in France took Arabic classes in the 2017-2018 school year, putting the language far behind the widely taught English, Spanish and German.

In addition to the pedagogical challenges of jump-starting Arabic programs in public schools, there are social and political obstacles, as well.

Rime Abdel Nabi, who teaches Arabic at two public high schools, as well as at Sorbonne University in Paris, said public school principals were reluctant to open classes, saying, “‘No, we don’t have enough Arabs here,” or “‘No, we don’t want to attract Arabs.’”

The ministry’s plans is causing particular alarm on the political right. Luc Ferry, a former education minister, suggested that the measure was tantamount to allowing Islamism in public schools.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a right-wing lawmaker who endorsed Marine Le Pen in the second round of the 2017 presidential election, said, “With the pretext of fighting against fundamentalism, Blanquer is paving the way to the Islamization of France.”

But many leaders in the Arabic community support the Education Ministry’s plan.

Azzedine Benjemaa, the president of the Muslim association at the mosque where Habiba attends classes, said the public school classes would be of higher quality than religious ones. The Quran-based courses at the mosque, he said, can rely too heavily on memorization rather than allowing students to express themselves.

“Our professors have a lot of passion and good will, but they are not trained teachers,” Mr. Benjemaa said. “They didn’t pass national exams.”

Habiba’s class at the mosque starts with a prayer. That is not how lessons begin at the Claude Monet high school in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, one of the few French public schools offering Arabic.

Here, the teacher opens the lesson by using LinkedIn to show students how many jobs are open to them if they speak Arabic. One student, Imène, 13, used to learn Arabic at the Grand Mosque of Paris, but stopped going once she started taking classes in her public middle school.

Marianne Cossé, the school’s principal, said that offering Arabic prevented families with Arab origins from sending their children into the hands of people who could “radicalize” them.

“Offering secular Arabic classes in public school prevents the language from becoming the hostage of religion or extremism,” she said.

That position is supported by a report on the spread of political Islam in France by the Institut Montaigne, a policy research think tank. “Arabic classes have become the best means for Islamists to attract young people into their mosques and schools,” the report states.

But many argue that the government’s rhetoric around the new policy sometimes dangerously conflates the Arabic language, Islam, political Islam and religious fundamentalism.

“While the education minister underlines that learning Arabic at school celebrates Arabic culture and civilization, this decision is mainly taken in the name of the fight against Islamist radicalization,” said Sarah Mazouz, a researcher at the state-run National Center for Scientific Research.

Ms. Mazouz, who studies discrimination and naturalization, said that such an approach confirmed an “anchored stereotype that Arabic is the language of fanatics and obscurantists.”

Arabic has long been a popular and uncontroversial subject at public universities in France, where the language is viewed as a valuable asset for careers in business and diplomacy. At Sciences Po, an elite university in Paris, there are 37 teachers of Arabic, compared with 180 such teachers across all of France’s public schools.

But at the primary- and secondary-school levels, the Education Ministry’s plan has spurred resistance because of the role French schools are expected to play in shaping a shared national identity, Ms. Mazouz said.

“In France there is a strong belief that it is the public school that forms the French, that produces French citizens no matter their origin or their parents’ history,” Ms. Mazouz said.

While university students who have been through the process of “becoming French” are encouraged to learn Arabic, any attempt to teach it in public schools, she added, has been perceived by some as a deviation from that path, one that will promote a hyphenated identity of French-Arabs.

What does Habiba, who speaks French at school, with her friends and at home think of her own efforts to learn Arabic?

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/world/europe/france-arabic-public-schools-mosques.html

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UK Mosque Cancels Event Honouring Muslims Who Saved Jews Amid Backlash

19:30 05.01

A key point of contention was the collaboration between the mosque and Yad Vashem, a Jewish organisation that focuses on preserving the memory of the holocaust.

The exhibition at the London mosque, which was devoted to Muslims who helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust, has been cancelled without an official explanation, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported. The cancellation of the event, held by the Centre for Islamic Understanding in Golders Green, was preceded by Muslim protests that were largely fuelled by statements of Roshan Salih, the editor of a Muslim media outlet called "5 Pillars".

The man slammed the organisers of the exhibition for preparing it "in conjunction with Israeli oppressors ", suggesting that the Centre shouldn't have done it in collaboration with Yad Vashem, a Jewish holocaust memorial organisation. Salih praised the mosque for "responding to community concerns" and cancelling the event.

A Jewish activist who helped the Centre for Islamic Understanding organise the exhibition, Rabbi Natan Levy, stressed the importance of remembering how "Jewish and Muslim communities have historically always supported each other". Levy hopes that by spending time together and better understanding their "commonalities and differences", Jews and Muslims will learn to stand as "united front against hatred".

Full report at:

https://sputniknews.com/europe/201901051071245011-uk-mosque-exhibition/

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With 120,000 attending, here are the details of Pope Francis’s mass in UAE

5 January 2019

The UAE is set to host the first mass held by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi next month, which will be attended by some 120,000 people, including some of the region’s Muslim leaders.

The mass will take place on February 5 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

“The distribution of invitation cards to attend the mass will take place across churches in the Arabian peninsula,” The National quoted Paul Hinder, the Catholic bishop of the southern Arabian Peninsula, as saying.

The newspaper added, although 120,000 people will attend the mass, many others will not be able to attend because of the difficulty of obtaining invitation cards as they are limited, Hinder said, but he stressed that those unable to attend will be able to see the mass through live broadcasts to be sent to all churches .

Pope Francis’s visit to the UAE is part of a campaign to promote tolerance among people of different faiths, under the banner of “human brotherhood.”

Earlier, the Vatican announced that the Pope’s visit comes at the invitation of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Catholic Church in the UAE.

The Vatican said the theme of the visit is “make me a channel of your peace,” words taken from the prayer of St. Francis Assisi, whom the Pope chose as his namesake when he was elected as the head of the Catholic Church.

The Pope’s visit logo will be a dove shaped in the colors of the Emirates and the Vatican with an olive branch, in reference to the Pope’s visit to the UAE as a messenger of peace.

Before visiting the UAE directly, Pope Francis will visit Panama, where he will participate in the International Youth Days from 22 to 28 January.

After his visit to the UAE, the pope will visit Morocco from March 30 to March 31.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/01/05/With-120-000-attending-here-are-the-details-of-Pope-Francis-s-mass-in-UAE.html

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India

 

PM Modi’s Muslim PR man holds hush-hush meet with Nadwa rector

Jan 6, 2019

LUCKNOW: Zafar Sareshwala, former chancellor of Maulana Azad Urdu University, and better known as PM Modi’s public relations man in Muslim circles, held a closed-door meeting with the president of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board Maulana Rabe Hasan Nadvi in Lucknow late Friday.

The two prominent Muslim scholars have learnt to have discussed the emerging political scenario involving the community, including Ayodhya, triple talaq and role of Muslims in 2019 elections.

During the meeting, the two Muslims leaders expressed concern over lynching and selective targeting of the community by the right-wing fringe.

Sareshwala’s meeting with Nadvi, rector of Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulema, assumes significance in the run-up to the 2019 elections.

Talking to TOI, Sareshwala, who is also viewed as Modi’s emissary by Muslims, said, he told Nadvi that Muslims should not be provoked by rogue elements, but display their prowess “at the time of casting their vote”.

Sareshwala, once a bitter Modi critic during the 2002 riots in Gujarat, but later mended fences with him, said Maulana Nadvi was satisfied with the way PM Modi supported the Muslim demand of abiding by SC verdict on Ayodhya before bringing an ordinance. “This is what the community sought,” he said, adding the PM also supported minority community.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/pm-modis-muslim-pr-man-holds-hush-hush-meet-with-nadwa-rector/articleshow/67402118.cms

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Soft stand on mob lynching unfortunate; NIA terrorizing Muslims: Mufti Mukarram

by Rasia Hashmi

Jan 05, 2019

New Delhi: Shahi Imam Masjid Fatehpuri Mufti Mohammed Mukarram Ahmed appealed Muslims to pay attention towards education and training of children. He told this during Friday sermon. He asked to engage children in some or other activity so that their life is not ruined.

Shahi Imam said strict action is needed against mob lynching and mere condemnation is not enough. He lamented that NIA is terrorizing Muslims by conducting raids in Delhi and Amroha. It should not arrest innocent Muslims on the basis of mere suspension and should not seize domestic items. He expressed hope that no one could produce evidence against the Muslim youth in the court and they will be soon acquitted.

https://www.siasat.com/news/soft-stand-mob-lynching-unfortunate-nia-terrorizing-muslims-mufti-mukarram-1453304/

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New IS module case: NIA arrests 21-year-old for supplying arms

Jan 05, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday said it has arrested an arms supplier in connection with its ongoing probe into the new Islamic State (IS) module ‘Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam’.

A senior NIA official in New Delhi said the agency has arrested 21-year-old Naeem in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut on Thursday night.

The official said that Naeem has been involved in the supply of weapons to the accused persons in the case, who were allegedly planning to attack some political personalities and security establishments as well as crowded places in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

On December 26, the NIA arrested 10 persons, including group leader Mufti Mohammad Suhail, after the counter-terror probe agency carried out searches at 17 places — six in east Delhi’s Jafarabad area, six in Amroha, two each in Lucknow and Hapur and one in Meerut.

The agency also seized a country-made rocket launcher, 12 pistols, 112 alarm clocks, 100 mobile phones, 135 SIM cards, several laptops and various electronic gadgets, besides 150 rounds of ammunition.

After the arrest of the 10 persons, the NIA also carried out follow-up searches in several cities of Uttar Pradesh to identify more suspects of the new IS module.

It also rounded up many people for questioning.

The NIA also seized 25 kg of explosive material, such as potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, sulphur, sugar material paste, mobile phone circuits, batteries, 51 pipes, remote control car triggering switch, wireless digital doorbell for remote switch, steel containers, electric wires, knife, sword, IS-related literature and Rs 7.5 lakh in cash.

All the arrested members of ‘Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam’ are in NIA custody.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/new-module-case-nia-arrests-21-year-old-supplying-arms-1453139/

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Kartarpur corridor: Farmland needed for new road, minister urges NHAI to quicken up

by Kamaldeep Singh Brar

January 6, 2019

A NEW road will be constructed to link the Dera Baba Nanak-Kalanaur road with the International border as part of Kartarpur Sahib corridor into Indian territory. India and Pakistan had held ground-breaking ceremonies for Kartarpur corridor in the last week of November. This corridor is to provide visa-free access to Sikh devotees in India to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib around 4 kilometres inside Pakistan.

The construction work on corridor has started in Pakistan but the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is yet to start the work on the construction of corridor in its area.

Talking to The Sunday Express, Punjab Cabinet Minister and Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “Now it has been decided in principle that a new road will originate from the Dera Baba Nanak-Kalanaur road from a point near Mann village. This road will directly touch with the only existing link road between Dera Baba Nanak and zero line. We would need to acquire farming land for this purpose.”

The existing 1.5 km link road between Dera Baba Nanak and zero line ends at the point exactly where a binocular has been installed for Sikh devotees to see Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

A NEW road will be constructed to link the Dera Baba Nanak-Kalanaur road with the International border as part of Kartarpur Sahib corridor into Indian territory. India and Pakistan had held ground-breaking ceremonies for Kartarpur corridor in the last week of November. This corridor is to provide visa-free access to Sikh devotees in India to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib around 4 kilometres inside Pakistan.

The construction work on corridor has started in Pakistan but the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is yet to start the work on the construction of corridor in its area.

Talking to The Sunday Express, Punjab Cabinet Minister and Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “Now it has been decided in principle that a new road will originate from the Dera Baba Nanak-Kalanaur road from a point near Mann village. This road will directly touch with the only existing link road between Dera Baba Nanak and zero line. We would need to acquire farming land for this purpose.”

The existing 1.5 km link road between Dera Baba Nanak and zero line ends at the point exactly where a binocular has been installed for Sikh devotees to see Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

The distance of BSF post on existing link road to zero line is 700 metres.

Randhawa said, “We would need to acquire the land for the new road to link Dera Baba Nanak-Kalanaur road with link road to zero line. Length of this new road could be between 2.5 km to 3 km. The exact length of the road will come out only after NHAI will do demarcation for this purpose. Some time will be consumed in issuing notification for the acquisition of land and invite objections from the farmers whose land would be required for the purpose. I have asked NHAI to start the demarcation of the land as soon as possible. We are already late.”

He said, “I also wrote a letter to the PM to develop Batala-Dera Baba Nanak road as National Highway as it would be best available option for devotees to reach Dera Baba Nanak from Amritsar. There already exists a highway between Amritsar and Batala. Existing road between Batala and Dera Baba Nanak is not sufficient for this purpose.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/kartarpur-corridor-farmland-needed-for-new-road-minister-urges-nhai-to-quicken-up-5525075/

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Arab World

 

January 7 set to be public holiday in Egypt marking Coptic Christmas

5 January 2019

Monday will be a public holiday in Egypt to mark Coptic Orthodox Christmas, state news agency MENA reported on Thursday.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said 7 January will be a paid holiday for employees of the country’s private and public sectors.

Coptic Orthodox Christians, who make up a substantial majority of all Christians in the country, celebrate Christmas on 7 January, following the Julian calendar.

Christians make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

Meanwhile, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi extended on Friday his wishes to Egyptian expatriates on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year.

Via a Facebook post, the Egyptian President said: “I am wishing you success and happiness, and that the New Year will bring our beloved Egypt more security, stability, progress and prosperity.”

Meanwhile, Egypt’s security forces upped security measures around churches on the eve of the Coptic Orthodox Christmas, according to Asharq al-Awsat.

In the Shobra district north of Cairo, where many Copts reside, armed forces blocked a main street near a large church and placed metal barricades to prevent vehicles from parking in the area.

This year, Copts will celebrate their Christmas mass on January 6 amid the opening of the “The Nativity of the Christ Cathedral” in Egypt's New Administrative Capital, which lies 60 kilometers east of Cairo.

The mass will be attended by Sisi and Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II, the Church said in a statement.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/05/January-7-set-to-be-public-holiday-in-Egypt-marking-Coptic-Christmas.html

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US Military Equipment Still Deployed in Northern Syria

Jan 05, 2019

The Arabic-language Xeber 24 news website affiliated to the Kurds reported on Saturday that a large military convoy, consisting of 120 trucks carrying weapons and military equipment have arrived at al-Shadadi base in Hasaka province.

It added that despite US President Donald Trump's claims of withdrawing troops from Syria, the American military men are still in their bases and no soldier has left the region.

Meantime, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that withdrawal of the US heavy military vehicles from Eastern Euphrates towards Iraq has not yet been monitored officially.

The SOHR reported that the Turkish media reports sating that the US has withdrawn its forces from a base at the Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish border were related to the US forces' traffic between Syria and Iraq.

The SOHR had also reported on Sunday that a long convoy of almost 200 US army trucks, carrying weapons, munitions and logistical equipment, left the US bases in Iraq on Saturday and arrived in coalition bases in Raqqa, Manbij and Ein Issa in Northeastern Syria.

In the meantime, the Kurdish militia reported that the trucks arrived in the town of Amouda and left then for the US-run bases in Northeastern Syria, adding that the arms and ammunition cargo is to be delivered to the SDF.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971015000965

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Syrian Army Reinvigorates Positions in Aleppo

Jan 05, 2019

Field sources reported on Saturday that the army has sent a convoy, consisting of hundreds of forces and tens of vehicles and military equipment, to the contact lines with the terrorists stationed in Western Aleppo.

They added that the convoy has been dispatched to several regions, including al-Rashedeen, adding that the army will soon start military operations to cleanse the terrorists.

The militants in Aleppo have increased attacks against the Syrian army positions and residential areas alongside their internal tensions and infightings in the region.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971015000810

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Tahrir Al-Sham Takes Control of West Aleppo in Clashes with Rival Terrorist Group

Jan 05, 2019

Tahrir al-Sham terrorists imposed full control over Qbtan al-Jabal, Hour, Basartoun, al-Mansoureh, Qalioun, Babis, Ma'aret al-Artiq, Arab Fatoum and al-Houteh, Anjareh and Kafar Natin regions in Western Aleppo which were previously controlled by al-Zinki terrorists, the sources said.

They noted that after the Nouraldeen al-Zinki terrorists' retreat to Afrin region, Tahrir al-Sham took full control of all their military positions in Western Aleppo.

This is while Tahrir al-Sham has dispatched tens of military vehicles and militants to Saman castle in Western Aleppo to prevent any possible attack on the region.

Meantime, Tahrir al-Sham also won control of Talman village in Southern Idlib.

The battlefield sources said that many terrorists from both sides were killed or wounded in recent clashes.

Field sources in Northern Syria reported on Thursday that Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group in clashes with NLF-affiliated Nouralddeen al-Zinki took control of the strategic town of Dar al-Izzah in Western Aleppo and Kafar Basin and Fadreh villages in Northwestern Aleppo.

They said that the infighting among terrorists spread to Idlib and Hama provinces, reiterating that they NFL militants took control of Masaran, Babila and al-Jaradeh villages to the North of Idlib, Ma'arat al-Numan and Ma'ar Shourin to the South of Idlib and Tarmala to the Southwest.

Meantime, Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at also took control of al-Faqi, Karsa'a, Arinbeh, Sharnaz, Meydan Qazal, Shoulin, Shir Maqar, Qara Jarn, al-Deyrouneh, al-Jasem Farm and Jab Soleyman to the South of Idlib and Western Hama.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971015000665

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Bolton warns Syria against use of chemical weapons

5 January 2019

US National Security Advisor John Bolton warned the Syrian government that it should not see the impending US military withdrawal from the country as an invitation to use chemical weapons.

“There is absolutely no change in the US position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we’ve done twice before,” Bolton told reporters on his plane shortly before landing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“So the regime, the Assad regime should be under no illusions on that question.”

Bolton added: “As we elaborate how the withdrawal is going to occur and the circumstances, we don’t want the Assad regime to see what we do as representing any diminution in our opposition to the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/05/Bolton-warns-Syria-against-use-of-chemical-weapons.html

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Syrian Kurds seek deal with government regardless of US pullout

Jan 5, 2019

Syrian Kurdish leaders seek a Russian-mediated deal with President Bashar al-Assad's government regardless of US plans to withdraw from their region, a senior official has said.

The deal would mark perhaps the most important milestone because the two biggest chunks of Syria splintered by seven years of war would be rejoined, leaving only a corner in the northwest in the hands of militants.

Senior Kurdish official Badran Jia Kurd told Reuters the Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northern Syria presented a roadmap for an agreement with Assad during recent meetings in Russia.

"The final decision is to reach an agreement with Damascus, we will work in this direction regardless of the cost, even if the Americans object," Reuters quoted Jia Kurd as saying in the northern Syrian city of Qamishli.

The main aims of the roadmap, the report said, are to protect the Syrian border with Turkey, to integrate the governing structures of northern Syria into the constitution, and to ensure a fair distribution of resources.

Last week, residents in Manbij asked the Syrian government to retake the northern city on the Turkish border after a US pledge to withdraw troops from the Arab country.

Jia Kurd said the local Kurdish-led administration was ready to cooperate with the government on ending Turkey's occupation of Syrian territories and defeating the remaining terrorists in the north.

The region is controlled by the US-backed YPG militia which Turkey views a terrorist group but the fighters have mostly avoided confrontation with the Syrian government during the war.

Jia Kurd said the ball was in the court of Russia and Damascus, but much depends on reconciling the regional demands with Syria's sovereignty.

Kurdish leaders convened political talks in Damascus last year, but they broke down without progress. The government has said it is determined to reunite Syria, with Foreign Minister recently making it clear that a federal Syria is unacceptable.

Last month, US President Donald Trump ordered a quick withdrawal of all 2,000 American forces from Syria but then said troops would get out slowly “over a period of time.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quoted as saying Friday that Washington wanted to prevent Turkey from “slaughtering” Kurds.

His remarks in an interview with Newsmax media outlet angered Turkey, with a Foreign Ministry statement accusing Pompeo of displaying “a worrying lack of information” for equating the YPG  with Syria’s Kurdish population.

Turkey, initially a staunch supporter of a Western campaign to topple President Assad, has moderated its stance over time and is currently working with Russia and Iran to return stability to the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that once the "terrorist organizations" leave Manbij and other areas near its border in northern Syria, "we will have nothing left to do there.”

Turkey is supporting several militant groups based in Idlib, but they are under pressure from the Syrian army.

Turkish-backed NFL militants are currently engaged in a fierce battle with al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which broke out on Tuesday.

HTS reportedly initiated the fighting after NFL-affiliated Nour al-Din al-Zenki militants killed five of members of the Takfiri group.

On Friday, HTS terrorists reportedly captured more than 20 villages in the northern Aleppo Province after four days of clashes with rival militants.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the fresh fighting had killed 114 militants on both sides as well as eight civilians.

"HTS was able to take control of areas previously held by Nour al-Din al-Zenki in the west of the Aleppo countryside," the UK-based monitoring group added.

Unconfirmed reports also said the Turkish-backed militant outfit had announced its dissolution after recent defeats.

US-made missiles uncovered in Homs

In another development on Friday, Syrian government forces discovered a sizable cache of weapons and munitions, including US-built anti-tank missiles, during a clean-up operation in the country’s central Homs Province.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/05/584890/Syria-Kurd-deal

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US State Department says Saudi version of Khashoggi murder 'not credible'

Jan 5, 2019

The United States says Saudi Arabia’s version of the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi is not credible and Riyadh must identify and punish the perpetrators and planners of the killing.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will emphasize the need for accountability and credibility in the investigation of Khashoggi’s death during a visit next week to the Middle East, including to Riyadh, a senior US State Department official said on Friday.

“The Secretary has been very consistent in engagements with Saudis ...to really push the two points of accountability and credibility, which is that the Saudis should have a credible narrative for what happened,” said the official, who briefed reporters on Pompeo’s trip.

“I don’t think from our point of view that the narrative emerging from the Saudis or the legal process has yet hit that threshold of credibility and accountability,” the official said.

Pompeo wants both the perpetrators and the planners of the killing to be identified by the Saudis and appropriate punishments are meted out, the official added.

Khashoggi, a US-based Washington Post journalist from Saudi Arabia who had become a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2.

US intelligence agencies believe the crown prince ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi, whose body was dismembered and removed from the building to a location still publicly unknown.

Top Turkish officials have also tied his death to the highest levels of Saudi leadership. Riyadh has denied accusations that the prince ordered the murder.

US President Donald Trump has cultivated a close relationship with the crown prince and says he stands by the kingdom’s de facto ruler despite the CIA assessment and pleas from US senators for Trump to condemn and punish the prince.

A Saudi court on Thursday held its first hearing on Khashoggi’s case in which Saudi Arabian prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects in the case.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/05/584917/US-Pompeo-Saudi-Jamal-Khashoggi-credibility

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Two British soldiers injured in Syria Daesh missile attack

January 06, 2019

BEIRUT: Two British soldiers were wounded Saturday in eastern Syria by a missile fired by the Daesh group, an NGO said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the pair were part of the the international anti-jihadist coalition, led by the United States.

“The two British soldiers were transported by helicopter to receive medical care,” the observatory’s director Rami Abdel told AFP.

A Kurdish fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) died in the attack in the village of Al-Shaafa in Deir Ezzor province, one of the last pockets of territory still controlled by Daesh in the Euphrates River valley.

The SDF, a coalition dominated by Kurdish fighters, has spearheaded the fight against Daesh, supported by several Western countries including the United Kingdom.

The international alliance seized the key Daesh holdout of Hajjin in December after months of fighting that has seen the jihadists launch vicious counter-attacks.

Daesh, which once controlled swathes of Syria and Iraq, has been pounded by multiple offensives.

Since September, more than 1,000 jihadists have been killed in the fighting compared with just under 600 SDF members while 15,000 people have fled Hajjin, according to the Observatory.

Last month US president Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of around 2,000 soldiers from Syria, deployed to support the SDF, claiming Daesh had been defeated.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1431046/middle-east

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North America

 

US Syria pointman to also serve as anti-ISIS envoy

5 January 2019

America’s Syria pointman James Jeffrey will also serve as the United States envoy to the international coalition against ISIS extremist group, the State Department said on Friday.

“With this additional responsibility, Ambassador Jeffrey will lead and coordinate US Department of State relations with the Global Coalition to defeat (ISIS) and Department efforts to implement President Trump’s announcement of a responsible US troop withdrawal from Syria,” spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Iraq and Turkey, will replace Brett McGurk as anti-ISIS envoy, a post from which he resigned following US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in December to withdraw American forces from Syria.

Critics say the move puts US-allied Kurdish forces at risk of attack by Turkish troops. The US-allied Kurds have played a major role in the war against ISIS, the extremist group that seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria but has since suffered major defeats.

The December 21 announcement of McGurk’s departure followed that of Jim Mattis, who quit as defense chief over fundamental disagreements with Trump, including over Syria.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/05/US-Syria-pointman-to-also-serve-as-anti-ISIS-envoy.html

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China, Russia, Iran cited by US govt as biggest 'national security threats'

Jan 6, 2019

China, Russia and Iran have been identified as the biggest three “national security threats” to the United States in an official US government report listing its top 26 perceived security threats.

Titled "Long-range emerging threats facing the United States," the report was compiled by the Washington-based Government Accountability Office.

It polled four US federal agencies to come up with the 26 worst threats as identified by the US Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), The National Interest news outlet reported.

Pointing to “Chinese global expansion,” the report alleged: "China is marshalling its diplomatic, economic, and military resources to facilitate its rise as a regional and global power."

"This may challenge US access to air, space, cyberspace, and maritime domains,” it further added, emphasizing: “China's use of cyberspace and electronic warfare could impact various US systems and operations."

Describing “Russian global expansion,” it then accused Moscow of “increasing its capability to challenge the United States across multiple warfare domains, including attempting to launch computer-based directed energy attacks against US military assets.”

“Russia is also increasing its military and political presence in key locations across the world," it further underlined, without noting that many of Russian military moves come in response to similar measures by the US-led NATO military alliance near its borders and elsewhere.

The report then points to Iran as the third biggest threat to American interests, accusing the Islamic Republic of “expanding the size and capabilities of its military and intelligence forces, as well as developing technology that could be used to build ICBMs and cyber warfare.”

This is while Washington and its European allies have repeatedly resorted to hostile political and economic measures to force Iran to give up its advanced, home-grown missile technology developed as a purely defensive force following the destructive Iraqi-imposed war on the country in the 1980s in which the country faced an international weapons ban led by major powers such as the US, Western Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The report further named North Korea as the fourth major threat, citing its development of ICBMs that can strike North America.

It also identified unstable governments, terrorism, extremism and political instability in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as the fifth biggest threat against American interests, claiming that they “could tax US resources needed for counter-terrorism and humanitarian relief.”

Terrorism was listed as the sixth major threat to the United states in the report, saying: "Terrorists could advance their tactics, including building nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, or increase their use of online communications to reach new recruits and disseminate propaganda."

The next 20 biggest threats to America were identified as follows:

New adversaries and private corporations. New states could arise that threaten the US Interestingly, the GAO report worries about "private corporations obtaining resources that could grant them more influence than states."

Information operations. Adversaries such as Russia, China and Iran will take advantage of social media, artificial intelligence and data crunching to wage information warfare.

Artificial intelligence. AI will allow adversaries to design better weapons.

Quantum communications. Quantum technology could result in communications that can't be intercepted or decoded by US intelligence, while also making US communications more vulnerable to interception.

Internet of Things. Networks that control critical infrastructure, such as the power grid, are vulnerable.

Drones. "Adversaries are developing autonomous capabilities that could recognize faces, understand gestures, and match voices of US personnel, which could compromise US operations," GAO said. "Unmanned ground, underwater, air, and space vehicles may be used for combat and surveillance."

Biotechnology. States, terrorists and criminals could use DNA modification to create super-soldiers.

Emerging technologies. New technologies such as 3-D printing, which could allow terrorists to manufacture weapons.

Weapons of mass destruction. More actors are developing them.

Electronic warfare. Other nations are developing technology that can disrupt US communications, computers and satellite networks.

Hypersonic weapons. Russia and China are developing Mach-5-plus weapons that can penetrate U.S. anti-missile defenses. Significantly, the report notes that "there are no existing countermeasures" to these weapons.

Counterspace weapons. In addition to Russian effort, "China is developing capabilities to conduct large-scale anti-satellite strikes using novel physical, cyber, and electronic warfare means."

Missiles. Not just land- and sea-based missiles, but also "space-based missiles that could orbit the earth."

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms. Future advances in AI, sensors, data analytics, and space-based platforms could create an environment of "ubiquitous ISR," where people and equipment could be tracked throughout the world in near-real time.

Aircraft. China and Russia are developing faster and longer-ranged aircraft, including stealth aircraft.

Undersea weapons. "Russia has made significant advancements in submarine technology and tactics to escape detection by US forces. China is developing underwater acoustic systems that could coordinate swarm attacks—the use of large quantities of simple and expendable assets to overwhelm opponents—among vehicles and provide greater undersea awareness."

Cyber weapons. In addition to Russia and China, Iran and North Korea are developing cyber attack capabilities that could target a variety of systems, such as air traffic control or health care.

Infectious diseases. Climate change, and increased global travel, could spread drug-resistant pandemics.

Climate change. More extreme weather, such as more frequent hurricanes and droughts, and rising sea levels could disrupt food and energy supplies. Melting Arctic ice is opening new sea routes in the north, "potentially increasing Russian and Chinese access to the region and challenging the freedom of navigation that the United States currently has."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/06/584988/US-government-national-security-threats-Government-Accounting-Office-Iran-China-Russia

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Mideast

 

Turkey says ready to give all documents to US probe team on Gulen

Jan 5, 2019

Turkey's justice minister says Ankara is ready to give all the necessary documents to an American judiciary delegation currently in the country for its ongoing investigation into the activities of the outlawed Fethullah Gulen movement, which is branded by the Turkish government as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

The delegation, comprising judiciary and law enforcement officials, arrived in Turkey on January 3 as part of the probe.

An opposition cleric based in Philadelphia, Fethullah Gulen is accused by the Turkish government of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking to reports on Saturday, Abdulhamit Gul, the Turkish justice minister, said US officials in Ankara had requested to see some digital data on FETO's link to the deadly coup attempt, adding that Turkey had provided them with necessary evidence in this regard.

“Through evidence we presented to the US, we have seen that they were on-point demands. We will try to give all documents and information," the Turkish minister said.

Gul said the visit by the US judicial authorities was “important.” He added that the result of the investigation might affect the current extradition proceedings of Gulen.

"So, I think after what the US delegation witnessed, the US investigation [into FETO] will give way to different developments," Gul said.

The minister said that “political approaches are also effective in extradition issues. But our approach is judicial."

Gul also said the number of convicts and arrested suspects in trials and investigations directed at the FETO movement is currently at 31,088, adding that 241 out of 289 lawsuits had been concluded.

The Turkish minister said Ankara had requested the extradition of 432 suspects from 83 countries, adding that some 97 suspects had been extradited to Turkey from 22 countries.

During the 2016 coup attempt, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Gulen is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and judiciary.

The US-based cleric has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

The dissident cleric, now 77, has also called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he says is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”

Ankara has long been pressing on its NATO ally for the extradition of Gulen and has already sent multiple extradition requests to Washington, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

In November, NBC News reported that the administration of US President Donald Trump was looking for ways to extradite Gulen, as part of efforts to placate Turkey and ease its pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was gruesomely murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October.

However, Trump denied the report and stressed that he was not considering extraditing the preacher.

The premeditated murder of Khashoggi has escalated tensions in Ankara-Riyadh relations, with President Erdogan accusing the highest-ranking Saudi officials of ordering the assassination.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/05/584943/Turkey-Gulen-probe

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Israel sentences Palestinian teen to 11 years in prison over alleged stabbing attack

Jan 5, 2019

An Israeli court has sentenced a Palestinian teenage boy to eleven years in prison on the allegation of carrying out a stabbing attack in the southern sector of the occupied West Bank.

The Commission for Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs said in a statement that the Ofer military court passed the verdict on 19-year-old Daoud Manasra on Friday, and demanded that he pay a compensation of 270,000 shekels ($73,000) or serve three additional years of imprisonment in lieu of it.

Moreover, the court ordered the Palestinian teenage boy to pay a fine of 10,000 shekels ($3,000).

The committee condemned the sentence and the exorbitant financial compensation imposed on Manasra and other political prisoners in Israeli detention centers.

“This proves the barbarity of the fake Israeli judiciary, which goes hand in hand with the policies of the Israeli intelligence service, aiming to inflict the greatest damage and sanctions on Palestinians,” it pointed out.

Israeli forces detained Manasra in mid-2015 after he had purportedly attacked and injured an Israeli soldier at the Beit Einun crossroads in eastern al-Khalil, located 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Jerusalem al-Quds.

On December 16, 2018, the same Israeli court sentenced 18-year-old Ayham Bassem Sabbah, a resident of the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem al-Quds, to 35 years in prison, and also ordered him to pay a fine of one million Israeli shekels ($264,700).

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/05/584936/Israel-sentences-Palestinian-teen-to-11-years-in-prison-over-alleged-stabbing-attack

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Houthi attacks target warehouses storing Yemen food aid

6 January 2019

Houthi militiamen on Saturday launched an attack on the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) warehouses in the Kilo 7 area in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah.

Local residents confirmed that a huge fire broke out in the warehouses as a result of Houthi artillery shelling from positions stationed east of the city.

The residents said that the Houthi militias have continued to violate a previously agreed upon ceasefire; attacking Yemeni army forces near the University of Hodeidah and a number of neighborhoods east of the city in conjunction with the arrival of UN envoy Martin Griffiths to Sanaa.

Meanwhile, five civilians, including two children, were injured and three houses were destroyed on Saturday following a Houthi artillery bombardment on a village in the district of Hays in Hodeidah.

The militias forced dozens of families to flee from the village towards the center of Hays.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/01/06/Houthi-attacks-target-warehouses-storing-Yemen-food-aid.html

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Four days after abduction, Uzbek doctor dies in Houthi prison

5 January 2019

An Uzbek orthopedic doctor died in a Houthi-run prison in Ibb governorate, south of Yemen, according to a medical source.

The source revealed that doctor Azzam (55 years) died in a prison in Yarim district, while the circumstances of his death are still unclear.

Last Tuesday, the pro-Iranian Houthi militias kidnapped Dr. Azzam with another doctor from Tajikistan and a Yemeni man, after their house was stormed by the militias, during New Year Eve.

The source suggested that the Uzbek doctor was subjected to physical and psychological torture by the Houthis while in detention.

Last Thursday, Houthi media reported that its militants kidnapped the doctor and his companions on charges of working in a liquor factory.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/01/05/Four-days-after-abduction-Uzbek-doctor-dies-in-Houthis-prison.html

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UN’s Griffiths arrives in Yemen Sanaa to push Hodeidah truce

5 January 2019

The UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in the capital Sanaa, on Saturday, for talks to shore up a ceasefire in the country's lifeline port city of Hodeidah, an AFP photographer said.

Earlier, the UN announced that Griffiths, will head to the capital Sanaa  and later on will travel to Saudi Arabia where he will be holding talks with President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

In the meantime, obstacles hindering the implementation of the Sweden agreement regarding the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah prompted the UN head of the truce monitoring committee, retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert, to travel to Sanaa ahead of Griffiths’ arrival there in preparation for talks with the pro-Iranian Houthi leaders.

These meetings come ahead of the upcoming third meeting of the Joint Tripartite Coordinating Committee for the redeployment in Hodeidah expected next Tuesday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/01/05/UN-s-Griffiths-Cammaert-in-Yemen-s-Sanaa-for-talks-with-Houthis.html

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Iranian MP says corruption convicts ‘must be executed in public squares’

6 January 2019

The head of an Iranian parliament committee to combat economic corruption, Amir Khojasteh, has called for the public execution of those found guilty of corruption.

“Thirty one people have been identified as behind Iran’s economic corruption and must be executed in public squares,” Khojasteh said, according to local news sites.

“The death penalty has been handed out to four of them and the rest must also receive the same punishment,” Khojasteh said, not naming those who have been accused or convicted of corruption.

In recent months, Iran has executed three people found guilty of economic corruption.

One of the executed men was Vahid Mazloumin, dubbed the “sultan of coins” by media, a trader accused of manipulating the currency market, according to Mizan, the news site of the Iranian judiciary.

Mazloumin was allegedly caught with two tons of gold coins, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).

The second man was part of Mazloumin’s network and had been involved in the sale of gold coins, Mizan reported.

Both of them were convicted of “spreading corruption on earth”, a capital offence under Iran’s Islamic laws.

Legal analysts have pointed out that the Islamic Republic of Iran's penal code does not include the death penalty for those convicted of economic corruption, but that Iranian authorities are using it to control the diving currency market in Iran.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/01/06/Iranian-MP-says-corruption-convicts-must-be-executed-in-public-squares-.html

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Ahead of elections, Turkish opposition angered at new electoral body amendment

5 January 2019

Turkey's decision to extend the term in office of Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) officials ahead of local elections caused an outcry by the opposition, Deutsche Welle reported.

According to a  translation by Ahvalnews, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) approved a legislative proposal offering an extension on task duration of the YSK officials who were supposed to be retired in January 2019. By a new amendment, the officials would be able to serve for one more year. The decision was focused on by critics, legal experts and opposition parties.

Speaking to DW, Erdinc Sagkan, the head of Ankara Bar Association, criticized the legislative proposal and said it was inconvenient for the parliament to approve such decision.

During 2017's constitutional referendum, the YSK controversially announced that it would accept unsealed ballot papers in the voting. Until then, citizens voted ballots sealed by the YSK. The unsealed ballot papers were supposed to be considered invalid.

However, the YSK said that unless there was no proof that ballot papers and envelopes were brought from outside, they would be accepted as valid.

The YSK’s decision received harsh criticism from the opposition. The elections faced a severe legitimacy problem because the YSK changed the rules after voting began.

According to the Turkish constitution, legal amendments cannot be conducted to the following year's elections. Thus, the recent legislative proposal is violating the Turkish law, according to lawyer Sagkan.

Opposition parties also described the extension of duty terms of the YSK officials as "violation of the constitution" ahead of the local elections, DW said. The upcoming elections may not be "transparent" and "legal", the opposition said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/01/05/Ahead-of-elections-Turkish-opposition-angered-at-new-electoral-body-amendment-.html

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Iran supports peace process, democracy in Afghanistan: Deputy FM

Jan 5, 2019

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi says the Islamic Republic will continue to support the peace process and the promotion of democracy in Afghanistan.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran supports the Afghan government and the peace talks under the leadership of the Afghans," Araqchi said in a meeting with Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul on Saturday.

He also pointed to last month's negotiations between Iranian authorities and a delegation from the Taliban in Tehran and said the meeting took place in coordination with the Afghan government.

Speaking to reporters late in December, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Iran had hosted a delegation from the Taliban to discuss possible ways to end hostilities in Afghanistan.

“Since the Taliban are in control of more than 50 percent of Afghanistan, and given the insecurity, instability and other issues that the country is dealing with, they [the Taliban] were interested in talks with Iran,” Qassemi said.

More than 17 years of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan at the top of a military coalition have brought nothing but chaos and insecurity to the country as a result of which all forms of organized crimes, especially production of illicit drugs, have been skyrocketing. The country has also turned into a hotbed of violent acts by major terror outfits, especially Daesh.

Following its defeat in Iraq and Syria, Daesh terrorists have been shifting attention to Afghanistan during past months, making the country a new center of their atrocious acts of terrorism in a bid to sow more insecurity across the whole region.

Araqchi further stressed the importance of boosting trade and economic cooperation between Tehran and Kabul and said talks were underway to finalize a comprehensive document for joint cooperation.

Abdullah, for his part, said Iran and Afghanistan enjoyed cordial and strong relations and added that his country supported efforts to finalize the document for joint cooperation.

He commended Iran's efforts to observe the principles of negotiations with terrorist groups and to inform the Afghan government of Tehran's talks with the Taliban.

He said the Afghan government supported peace but stressed the establishment of peace should not undermine the achievements made during recent years.

Representatives from the Taliban, the US, and regional countries met for the fourth time earlier this month in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi for talks to end the war in Afghanistan, but the militant group’s representatives refused to talk to the Afghan negotiating team.

Abdullah's office said Kabul was aware of the whole process of peace talks and that Washington sought to provide the condition for direct talks between the government and the militant group.

The United Arab Emirates reported tangible and positive results from the talks.

The "US-Taliban reconciliation talks" produced "tangible results that are positive for all parties concerned," UAE state news agency WAM said.

Also on Saturday, Araqchi held talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his counterpart Idrees Zaman.

The senior Iranian official arrived in Kabul on Saturday at the head of a delegation for a day-long visit.

His trip came after Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani also paid a one-day visit to Afghanistan at the head of a delegation comprised of a number of high-ranking security, military and political officials in December.

During a meeting with Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan president’s national security adviser, Shamkhani said Tehran had been holding a series of talks with the Taliban group “with the knowledge of the Afghan government” and would continue to do so in the future.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/05/584963/Araqchi-Abdullah-Taliban-Kabul-peace

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Brazil's president confirms Jerusalem al-Quds embassy move

Jan 5, 2019

Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro has reaffirmed his plan of relocating the country’s embassy in the Israeli capital to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

“The decision is taken, it’s only a matter of when it will be implemented,” said the ultra-right-wing leader late Thursday during an interview with Brazil’s SBT Television, confirming a reported statement by the Israeli regime’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended Bolsonaro’s inauguration ceremonies on January 1.

“A large part of the Arab world is aligned or aligning itself with the United States,” claimed the Brazilian president, who has widely been referred to as “Trump of the Tropics” due to his radical approaches similar to US President Donald Trump. “The Palestinian issue is already overloading people in the Arab world for the most part.”

Blaming Iran as the major vocal opposition against the embassy move, Bolsonaro further added that “the only weighty voice speaking out against me is Iran.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Iran has not been the only country firmly opposing the US-led embassy move to the occupied al-Quds as many Muslim and non-Muslim countries have officially or informally expressed opposition to the move amid many protest rallies in different countries against Washington’s anti-Palestinian measure.

Bolsonaro further underlined that he did not think that most Arab countries would take retaliatory measures against Brasilia, noting, however, that “more radical” Arab nations “might adopt some sort of sanction — I hope only economic ones — against us.”

He did not elaborate in his pointed remarks which Arab countries he was referring to as “more radical.”

Bolsonaro had backtracked on the embassy move soon after declaring in early November that he intended to go through with it.

In an apparent response to fears of the farming businesses in the agriculturally-rich country that an embassy move may threaten their $1 billion in meat exports to Arab markets, the newly-elected leader rowed back his pledge within days, insisting: “it is not yet decided.”

Bolsonaro’s decision on the embassy move is highly controversial since the Israeli regime claims all of occupied al-Quds as its capital while Palestinians view the eastern part of the holy city as the capital of a future state.

Most countries across the globe hold that the status of al-Quds should only be determined through negotiations, which have long stalled by Tel Aviv’s continued violations of UN Security Council resolutions against further expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

So far, only the US and its client Central American state of Guatemala have opened embassies in occupied al-Quds. While Paraguay has backtracked on a similar decision, Washington and Tel Aviv are reportedly pressuring US-backed government of Honduras to move its Israeli embassy to al-Quds as well.

In yet another controversial move, Bolsonaro also announced his readiness to discuss the possibility of hosting a US military base in Brazil, pointing to a major shift in the foreign policy of Latin America’s largest and most populous country.

The 63-year-old former Army captain represents a sharp break with Brazil’s recent record of left of center policies, veering his nation sharply to the right and towards the Trump administration in the US.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/05/584906/Brazil-President-Jair-Bolsonaro-Israeli-embassy-move-Jerusalem-alQuds-US-Iran-Palestine

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Pakistan

 

Islamabad seeks ex-envoy Hussain Haqqani’s extradition from US

Jan 6, 2019

Pakistan’s government has initiated a process of seeking extradition of its former ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani on allegations of embezzlement following its failure to get him through Interpol. Haqqani, who served as ambassador from 2008 to 2011 in US, was removed from office for his alleged role in the “Memogate” issue.

The controversy revolved around a memo seeking help from the Obama administration in the wake of the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden to avert a military takeover in Pakistan. The FIA registered a case for embezzlement of $2 million against Haqqani in March 2018 relating to his tenure as ambassador, expecting that a criminal charge would result in Interpol acting against Haqqani. Interpol turned down the FIA request to issue arrest warrants for Haqqani, who is now based in Washington.

The case is now being made the basis for seeking his extradition.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/islamabad-seeks-ex-envoy-hussain-haqqanis-extradition-from-us/articleshow/67402717.cms

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Moot underscores need to promote Muslim unity

JANUARY 6, 2019

Speakers at a seminar on Saturday underscored the need to forge Muslim unity through promotion of the true message of humanity and coexistence given by Islam in order to establish peace and stability in the society and counter violence, extremism and terrorism.

The event titled ‘Role of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Promotion of Muslim Unity and Social Peace’ was organized by Jamia Salfia Faisalabad in collaboration with the Islamic Research Institute (IRI) Islamabad. Islamic International University (IIUI) President Dr Ahmad Yousuf Al Darwesh, who is originally from Saudi Arabia, Islamic Research Institute Director General Prof Dr Zia ul Haq, Prof Dr Humayun Abbas Shams from GC University Faisalabad and Wafaq ul Madaris Salfia Faisalabad Secretary General Maulana Yasin Zafar spoke on the occasion. A large number of ulema, academicians, intellectuals, representatives of civil society and madrassah students attended the event.

Addressing on the occasion, the speakers highlighted the role being played by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in promotion of peace, unity, tolerance, coexistence and diversity in the Muslim Ummah and discussed ways to support constructive dialogue among different cultures and religions while emphasizing the importance of respecting and upholding the basic principles of justice and human rights as preached by Islam.

They said Paigham-e-Pakistan initiative of the government of Pakistan was the best tool to deal with growing extremism and intolerance in the society and to encourage the people belonging to different walks of life towards positive and constructive activities in order to realise the dream of building a peaceful society. Saudi Arabia is also focused on peaceful solutions to several conflicts and is undertaking various mediation efforts, they said, adding that an assembly of institutions has already been established by Saudi Arabia to strengthen the fight against violent extremism and terrorism.

At a separate event titled ‘Role of Ulema for Peace in Society in the Light of Paigham-e-Pakistan’ held at the Deputy Commissioner Office Toba Tek Singh in collaboration with Islamic Research Institute and the Government of Punjab, the speakers said that Muslim unity was the need of the hour. They urged ulema to play their role for the progress, prosperity and stability of the country by forging unity and harmony.

Speaking on the occasion, IRI Director General Dr Zia ul Haq stressed that the people should be educated according to the teachings of Islam, saying Islam preaches peace, religious tolerance and equality. He stressed the need for strengthening religious seminaries in the country with a view to promote peace and humanity.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/341143/moot-underscores-need-to-promote-muslim-unity/

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Six injured in Peshawar IED blast

JANUARY 6, 2019

Six people, including two women, were injured on Saturday in a blast in Kala Bari market located in the Saddar area of Peshawar, according to sources at the Lady Reading Hospital, where the wounded were shifted.

All six injured were in a stable condition, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Peshawar Qazi Jamil said.

At least three stores were damaged by the bomb’s impact. The area was cordoned off by security forces after the explosion.

Jamil said that about eight to 10 kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the blast. The material was planted in a car, he added.

“It was an IED (improvised explosive device) explosion and the explosive material was fitted inside the vehicle,” he said. Bomb Disposal Unit chief Shafqat Malik agreed that it was an IED explosion. “All of the vehicle had blown up and only (its) engine part remained intact,” he added.

The CCTV footage of the blast shows an unidentified man parking and exiting the said vehicle before wrapping himself in a shawl. The explosion takes place as he walks out of the frame.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/341169/six-injured-in-peshawar-ied-blast/

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Pak-China joint military exercise ‘Warrior-VI’ concludes in Kharian: ISPR

JANUARY 6, 2019

pakistan-china-vow-to-strengthen-bilateral-ties-in-multiple-spheres-1534490697-3374The Pak-China joint military exercise ‘Warrior -VI’ concluded near Kharian on Saturday, said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). The troops of special services groups from Pakistan Army and People Liberation Army China participated in the four-week long military exercise. According to military’s media wing, the both armies learnt from the expertise of each other during the joint military exercise. The war games concluded with an august culmination ceremony in Kharian, where IG Training Lieutenant General Sher Afgun was the chief guest, said the ISPR. Defence Attaché from Embassy of Peoples Republic of China Major General Chen Wenrong represented Chinese forces on the ceremony. Earlier, a two-week long joint International Air Drill of Pakistan and China ‘Shaheen-VII’ concluded at an Operational Air Base of Pakistan Air Force on December 21.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/341137/pak-china-joint-military-exercise-warrior-vi-concludes-in-kharian-ispr/

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UAE crown prince arrives in Islamabad on day-long visit

January 06, 2019

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan arrived in Islamabad on Sunday for a day-long visit during which he will hold a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, followed by delegation level talks.

Prime Minister Khan received the crown prince personally upon his arrival. The premier was driving the car that the crown prince travelled in.

The crown prince is visiting Pakistan after nearly 12 years.

The visit is aimed at building on the fresh momentum in ties injected by recent contacts at the leadership level, the Foreign Office earlier said.

Prime Minister Khan has visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) twice after assuming office in August to seek economic assistance to ward off the country's foreign exchange crisis.

Pakistan and the UAE last week finalised the terms and conditions of a $6.2bn support package for Islamabad, which the crown prince is expected to announce during his visit today.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1455852/uae-crown-prince-arrives-in-islamabad-on-day-long-visit

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Haqqani says he never received a warrant

January 06, 2019

WASHINGTON: Husain Haqqani, a former ambassador to the United States, said on Saturday he had not received any warrants about inquiries from Pakistani authorities over the past seven years.

“It seems to be another gimmick aimed to gullible Pakistani media. New allegations filed more than seven years after my forced resignation are obviously manufactured,” Mr Haqqani said in a press statement. “I doubt that Pakistan government will initiate extradition proceedings that are certain to fail and, in the process, open up examination of their secret expenditures in the US.”

Pakistan has initiated a process of seeking the extradition of Mr Haqqani through the Foreign Office on embezzlement charges after it failed to get him through Interpol. The Supreme Court had issued warrants to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to produce Mr Haqqani in the court in January last year, but the Interpol did not issue a warrant for him. Mr Haqqani, 62, was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US from May 27, 2008 to Nov 22, 2011, one of the most tumultuous periods of US-Pakistan relations.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1455798/haqqani-says-he-never-received-a-warrant

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Indian leaders’ provocative remarks under political compulsions threat to regional peace: Qureshi

January 05, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday criticised the Indian leadership and warned that their “provocative and negative statements, given under domestic political compulsions, can jeopardise regional peace”, Radio Pakistan reported.

Talking to media in Islamabad, Qureshi said Pakistan is a peace-loving country having no aggressive designs against anyone. We want “resolution of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir through peaceful means”, the minister said.

The foreign minister said that any “misadventure against Pakistan will be responded in a befitting manner” and that “[our] desire for peace should not be taken as [our] weakness”.

Qureshi urged the international community to ask the Indian leadership to refrain from spewing negative propaganda. “Pakistan wants peace, stability, and progress of the region, which is not possible in a hostile environment,” he added.

“Pakistan is focusing on peace efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan as per the desire of the international community. Indian propaganda machine may force Pakistan to divert its attention from Afghanistan, which can be disastrous for peace in the region,” Qureshi maintained.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1455665/indian-leaders-provocative-remarks-under-political-compulsions-threat-to-regional-peace-qureshi

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Zardari calls on Fazl, discusses political situation

January 06, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari called on Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman at his residence on Saturday before leaving for Karachi.

This was the second meeting between the two leaders in as many days as earlier they had met at a wedding ceremony in Islamabad on Friday.

Aamir Fida Piracha, a spokesman for former president Zardari, said that the two leaders “discussed the prevailing political situation” in the country.

He rejected reports aired by some private TV channels that during the meeting Maulana Fazl urged the PPP leader to have a meeting with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif presently serving a sentence in the Kot Lakhpat jail.

The spokesman claimed that the issue of a “meeting with Nawaz Sharif” did not come under discussion in the meeting. He provided no further details of the meeting.

PPP leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah had last month said that a meeting between Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif in near future could not be ruled out. However, before any such meeting, an accountability court convicted Mr Sharif in Al-Azizia case on Dec 24.

A banking court has extended interim bail of Mr Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur till Monday (tomorrow) in a case pertaining to alleged laundering of Rs4.14 billion through 29 ‘fake’ bank accounts.

Later, talking to reporters, the JUI-F chief claimed that his meeting with Mr Zardari was not pre-decided and that he had been informed about Mr Zardari’s visit to his residence just an hour ago.

“There was no agenda for the meeting. I have nothing to tell you or give you any news,” the Maulana said. “Neither any plan of convening another multi-party conference of the opposition came under discussion nor we discussed any programme to hold joint public meetings,” he said, adding that they simply had a “chit-chat”.

Though both the PPP and the JUI-F leaders are trying to downplay the meeting, political experts are giving importance to it in the wake of the ongoing trial of Mr Zardari and other opposition leaders.

“There is no option other than (the formation of) a grand opposition alliance,” the Maulana said, hinting that he was still making efforts to form an alliance of the opposition parties.

“Will we all meet when we all are in jails?” he said while criticising both the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for not being able to forget the past and failing his efforts to forge unity in the opposition’s ranks.

Responding to a question, the JUI-F leader said he had conveyed his concerns to Mr Zardari over the failure of the opposition parties to come out with a joint strategy. He said that opposition parties needed courage to make a decision.

He said the PML-N people were bearing the brunt whereas pressure was being exerted on the PPP as well through different means.

He said he had personally requested Leader of Oppo­sition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif to consult all opposition parties and convene an MPC, but there had been no progress in this regard. He said if PML-N and PPP continued with the same attitude, it would be more damaging for the opposition and then there would be talks about “deals”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1455788/zardari-calls-on-fazl-discusses-political-situation

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Blast termed bid to disrupt peace in Peshawar

January 06, 2019

PESHAWAR: Leaders of various political parties on Saturday condemned the car bomb blast in a busy commercial-cum-residential area of Peshawar cantonment and described it conspiracy to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere of the provincial metropolis.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman visited Lady Reading Hospital and inquired after the health of the wounded people. He directed the health department to ensure provision of quality medical treatment to the injured. He condemned the blast and said the anti-state elements had no religion, nationality.

Pakistan Muslim League-N provincial joint secretary Israrullah Khan Advocate condemned the bomb explosion and expressed the hope that security agencies would take appropriate measures to foil the evil designs of terrorists.

In a statement, he said it was duty of the government to protect lives and properties of citizens. He prayed for early recovery of the injured.

Awami National Party central general secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain and provincial president Amir Haider Khan Hoti, in separate statements condemned the car bomb blast and claimed it had been carried out to create uncertainty and panic among the citizens.

The blast, they said proved terrorists’ presence in parts of the country but the rules were unable to pay attention towards the ANP’s demand for hitting hard the terrorists.

The ANP, they said had time and again raised the demand to implement the national action plan in real sense to get rid of anti-state elements, but to no avail.

Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao and the party’s provincial chairman Sikandar Hayat Sherpao also condemned the terror incident and expressed sympathies with the wounded people.

Provincial minister for information Shaukat Yousufzai said the terrorists by targeting the people wanted to create panic among the citizens but they won’t be allowed to achieve their nefarious designs through such cowardly acts.

He said the government was committed to safeguarding the lives and properties of people.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1455774/blast-termed-bid-to-disrupt-peace-in-peshawar

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South Asia

 

NDS Special Forces rescue 12 people from a Taliban prison in Helmand

05 Jan 2019

The Afghan Special Forces have rescued at least twelve people from a Taliban prison in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

According to the local authorities, the operations were conducted by the Special Forces of the Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), on Thursday night.

The provincial government media office confirmed in a statement that the NDS Special Forces stormed the hideouts of top Taliban leaders in Nahr-e-Saraj district and rescued 12 people kept as hostages.

The statement further added that the operations were conducted in the hideouts of Taliban’s shadow mayor, Mullah Jabar, and Shuja prison.

The Afghan forces have also confiscated some weapons, equipment, and propaganda letters belonging to Taliban group, the statement added.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the operations and release of prisoners so far.

Helmand is among the relatively volatile provinces in South of Afghanistan where Taliban militants are actively operating in some of its districts and often attempt to carry out attacks against the government and security forces.

https://www.khaama.com/nds-special-forces-rescue-12-people-from-a-taliban-prison-in-helmand-03058/

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Afghan forces kill 17 Taliban in Uruzgan, destroy tunnels and IED factory

05 Jan 2019

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have killed at least 17 Taliban militants during the operations in Tarinkot district, the provincial capital of southern Uruzgan province.

Military sources privy of the development have said the militants were killed during the operations which were conducted in the past 24 hours.

The sources further added that the Afghan forces also destroyed six fighting positions, 3 tunnels, 15 improvised explosive devices, and a bomb making factory.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the operations so far.

Uruzgan is among the relatively volatile provinces in South of Afghanistan where Taliban militants are actively operating in its various districts.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-forces-kill-17-taliban-in-uruzgan-destroy-tunnels-and-ied-factory-03057/

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7 border police soldiers, 16 Taliban killed in Kandahar clash

05 Jan 2019

At least sixteen Taliban militants and seven soldiers of the Afghan border police forces were killed during a clash with the Taliban militants in southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, the local authorities said Saturday.

According to a statement released by the provincial government media office, at least seven border police soldiers lost their lives during a clash with the Taliban militants in Spin Boldak district.

The statement further added that four border police soldiers also sustained injuries during the clash.

In the meantime, the provincial government claims that 16 Taliban militants were also killed during the clash and at least 11 others sustained injuries.

However, reports indicate that 18 police soldiers have lost their lives during the latest clash with Taliban in Spin Boldak district.

The Taliban militants have not commented regarding the incident so far.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/border-police-forces-suffer-heavy-casualties-in-kandahar-clash-03056/

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Taliban’s deputy shadow district chief killed in Faryab airstrike

06 Jan 2019

The shadow district chief of Taliban has been killed in an airstrike conducted in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan, the military sources said Saturday.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North, said Mullah Hayatullah, the shadow district chief of Taliban for Pashtunkot district was killed in an airstrike which was conducted on Saturday afternoon.

According to a statement released by 209th Shaheen Corps, the airstrike was carried out at around 3:30pm local time in Pashtun Kot district, targeting two motorcycles of the militants.

Another companion of Mullah Hayatullah who was believed to be his security guard was killed in the airstrike, the statement by 209th Shaheen Corps added.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the killing of Mullah Hayatullah so far.

This comes as the security situation in northern Faryab province has deteriorated during the recent months.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/talibans-deputy-shadow-district-chief-killed-in-faryab-airstrike-03061/

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3 security personnel wounded in Kabul magnetic bomb explosion

06 Jan 2019

At least three people were wounded in an explosion triggered by a magnetic bomb in Kabul city earlier today, the security officials said.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said the incident took place at around 7:30am in the vicinity of 16th police district of the city.

Danish further added that the blast ripped through a Ford Ranger vehicle, leaving at least three security personnel wounded.

He said the wounded individuals have been shifted to hospital and are in a stable condition.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/3-security-personnel-wounded-in-kabul-magnetic-bomb-explosion-03060/

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Two alleged Rohingya drug dealers found dead in Bangladesh

Jan 5, 2019

DHAKA: Bangladesh police on Saturday found the bullet-ridden bodies of two alleged Rohingya drug dealers in a southeastern coastal town notorious for its connection with the Myanmar meth trade.

Teknaf town police chief Prodip Kumar Das said the bodies were found lying next to a highway beside the sea and some 10,000 meth pills were recovered from their possession.

"Both of these refugees were... notorious drug dealers in the region. We're suspecting they were killed in a gang fight over sharing profits," he said.

The police said they were investigating the deaths but did not provide further information on the two men.

Over 720,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state since August 2017 and joined some 300,000 refugees already living in squalid camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district.

Bangladeshi authorities say local kingpins use the refugees -- trapped in poverty and unlikely to return home any time soon -- to transport "yaba" pills which are made in Myanmar meth labs.

Yaba is a methamphetamine-based, caffeine-cut stimulant that translates as "crazy medicine".

The coastal town on the Naf river that divides the two neighbours is a key entry point through which yaba enters the South Asian nation's multi-million dollar drug market.

In May Bangladesh launched a violent anti-drug crackdown which saw the deaths of at least 250 drug dealers, including 26 in Teknaf in the last three months.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/two-alleged-rohingya-drug-dealers-found-dead-in-bangladesh/articleshow/67396856.cms

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Africa

 

Sudanese authorities release Al Arabiya correspondent after questioning

5 January 2019

Sudan’s authorities released Al Arabiya and Al Hadath correspondent Saad el-Din Hassan after he was summoned for questioning following his reporting of the recent protests in the country.

After his release, Hassan said on his Twitter account that his personal phone was confiscated as well as his press license. He added that security officials ordered him to come back the following morning to complete the investigation.

Hassan also said that he was forced to wait about eight hours, without a charge or going through a proper legal process, only to be questioned for about five minutes where he was asked about his coverage of the protests.

Sudanese police had fired tear gas on Friday to break up protests in the capital Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, witnesses said, after Protests swept over many Sudanese cities including the capital Khartoum following Friday’s prayers, under the motto: “Freedom and Change”.

On Thursday night, Sudanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters who were trying to deliver an anti-government petition to the local headquarters of President Omar al-Bashir’s ruling party in Port Sudan, a witness said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/05/Sudanese-authorities-release-detained-Al-Arabiya-correspondent.html

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Sudan protesters plan march as Bashir sacks health minister

6 January 2019

A Sudanese group organizing anti-government protests has called for a march on the presidential palace as President Omar al-Bashir sacked the health minister Saturday over rising costs of medicines.

Deadly anti-government rallies have rocked cities including Khartoum since December 19, when protests first broke out over a government decision to raise the price of bread.

Authorities say at least 19 people including two security personnel have been killed in clashes during the demonstrations so far, but rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

“We call on our supporters to gather at four different places in Khartoum and then begin a march on the palace” of the president on Sunday, the Sudanese Professionals' Association said Saturday in a statement.

The association, which includes teachers, doctors and engineers, has held similar rallies in recent weeks but they have been swifty broken up by riot police.

Security forces were deployed in key squares across the capital on Saturday night.

Late on Saturday, Bashir sacked minister of health Mohamed Abuzaid Mustafa, the official SUNA news agency reported.

He has been replaced by Al-Khier Al-Nour, SUNA said without giving details.

Rising drug prices and shortages have added to the anger of protestors already furious over the cost of other key products.

Sudanese pharmaceutical companies have been unable to import some medicines after a years-long foreign currency shortage worsened last year.

But even as protesters called for a new march on Sunday, Sudan's education ministry ordered the reopening of schools in Khartoum from Tuesday.

Schools and classes had been suspended “indefinitely” across the capital since December 23, when violence erupted during initial protests.

Schools were also closed in other cities where protests have been held, but it was still unclear whether they would reopen next week.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered Sudan his country's support during a meeting in Cairo with a top aide of his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.

“Egypt fully supports the security and stability of Sudan, which is integral to Egypt's national security,” it quoted Sisi as saying.

Sudanese authorities have launched a crackdown on opposition leaders, activists and journalists since protests erupted last month.

The country has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year.

The cost of some commodities including medicines has more than doubled and inflation has hit 70 percent.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/01/06/Sudan-protesters-plan-march-as-Bashir-sacks-health-minister.html

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Bashir laments Israeli ties advice as unrest continues

Jan 5, 2019

Fresh anti-government protests have hit Sudan, with President Omar al-Bashir lamenting that he had been advised to normalize ties with Israel in order to ensure stability in his country.

Protests have rocked cities across Sudan since December 19 when demonstrators took to the streets against a government decision to raise the price of bread.

On Friday, Sudanese police fired tear gas at protesters as they took to the streets after midday prayers to chant anti-government slogans in the capital's twin city of Omdurman.

The protests came after Bashir was quoted talking of improved ties with Israel and the pledge that a normalization would help stabilize growing unrest sweeping Sudan.

The embattled president declined to specify who gave him the advice but said in a meeting with the religious leaders in the capital Khartoum that he believed “sustenance is in the hands of God.”

Sudan has forged close relations with Saudi Arabia in recent years, reportedly sending troops to Yemen to help the kingdom's invasion of the impoverished nation. 

Bashir's remarks come amid growing calls for his resignation in the wake of deadly demonstrations against rising prices and food and fuel shortages in the country over the past months.

Amnesty International has said Sudan's security forces have shot dead at least 37 protesters during the anti-government rallies.       

Sudan is also mired in economic woes, including an acute foreign currency shortage and soaring inflation, which is running at close to 70 percent. Authorities have declared curfews and a state of emergency in several states.

Israeli media reported in November that the Tel Aviv regime was actively working to establish diplomatic ties with Sudan, as part of wider efforts to upgrade relations with central African countries.

The reports said Israeli and Sudanese representatives had held a secret meeting to discuss diplomatic relations in exchange for financial Israeli aid to the African country.

The parties discussed “the warming of relations between the countries and possible Israeli aid to Sudan in the fields of medicine, agriculture and the economy,” The Times of Israel reported.

The daily Haaretz reported that Israel had urged the US and other countries to improve their relationship with Sudan in response.

In 2016, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said Khartoum was open to the idea of normalizing ties with Israel in exchange for lifting 20-year-old US trade sanctions.

Israel is said to be seeking to take advantage of the Takfiri militancy gripping parts of Africa to sell advanced military equipment to conflict-ridden states in the continent.

The Israeli push came almost two years after Sudan joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting relations with Iran.

Also, the New York Times reported last month that child soldiers from Sudan's Darfur have been fighting on behalf of Saudi Arabia in the frontline of the war on Yemen, with money being their only motive.

Citing several Sudanese mercenaries and lawmakers, the report said that as many as 14,000 Sudanese militants have been fighting in Yemen alongside Saudi-backed forces while at least hundreds of them have been killed so far.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/05/584921/Sudan-Omar-alBashir-Israel-normalizing-relations-economic-condition

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Libyan authorities seeking 37 suspects over attacks on oil, military facilities

January 04, 2019

TRIPOLI: Libyan authorities issued arrest warrants for 37 suspects over attacks on key oil ports in the east of the country and a military base in the south, a source in the attorney general’s office said on Friday.

The source, who asked not to be named, confirmed the authenticity of the arrest warrants, which were dated January 2 and were leaked on Facebook on Thursday.

The warrants showed that 31 members of the Chadian and Sudanese opposition based in Libya, along with six Libyan nationals, are wanted for attacks on the oil ‘crescent’ in the east of the country and on the Tamanhint military base as well as for their participation in fighting between Libyan rivals.

After the toppling of veteran Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, fighters from neighboring Chad and Sudan joined the ensuing turmoil. Competing Libyan armed factions frequently accuse each other of deploying mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa.

The Libyan suspects include Abdul Hakim Belhadj, a rebel leader who helped to topple Qaddafi in 2011 and is now an Islamist political leader.

Last year Britain apologized to Belhadj and his wife over the role of British intelligence officers in their 2004 rendition from Thailand to Libya.

Ibrahim Jadhran, who is accused of launching an attack last June on the oil crescent, is also among those sought by the Libyan authorities.

Jadhran’s forces controlled the oil crescent for years until it was taken over in 2016 by the Libyan National Army, which is loyal to Commander Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya.

The closure of the oil crescent, where key oil ports are located, has led to production losses of up to 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) from a total national output of little over one million bpd.

Last September, the UN Security Council added Jadhran to the list of individuals subject to an assets freeze and a travel ban.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1430766/middle-east

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UN to appoint a new envoy to Somalia

January 05, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday agreed to appoint a new UN envoy to Somalia after its president refused to reverse a decision to expel a representative for raising human rights concerns.

Guterres spoke by phone with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Friday — his second call to the Somali leader in three days — to once again urge him to change his mind, according to diplomats.

But the president dug in his heels and said UN envoy Nicholas Haysom would remain persona non grata and would not be allowed to return to Somalia, diplomats told AFP.

Guterres “deeply regrets” Somalia’s decision, said UN spokesman Farhan Haq, adding that the UN chief nevertheless intends to appoint a new UN envoy.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors to agree on a response to Somalia’s decision.

But during that meeting, China asked for more time to consider a draft statement put forward by Britain that expressed regret at the decision, diplomats said. The council reconsiders its response on Saturday.

In the British-drafted text, the council would express its support for the UN mission in Somalia and say it expects Somalia to fully cooperate with the UN.

Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was told to leave Somalia on Tuesday after he questioned the government’s decision to arrest an Al-Shabab defector who was running in elections.

Muktar Robow, who defected from Al-Shabab in 2017, was arrested last month and flown to the capital Mogadishu after announcing his bid for the state presidency in South West State.

Seeking probe

The arrest sparked protests in the southwestern town of Baidoa on Dec. 13-15 that were violently suppressed by Somalia’s security forces, leaving at least 15 dead.

In a letter sent to the government, Haysom requested an investigation of the protest violence and information on the legal basis for arresting Robow.

Haysom, who took up the post of UN envoy in October, warned the council during a meeting on Thursday of a risk of conflict during elections in Somalia’s federal states due to tensions with the central authorities.

The arrest of Robow could discourage other Al-Shabab militants “who may be considering exchanging violence for a political path,” said Haysom.

Somalia’s Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman told the council that the UN should not interfere in his country’s national affairs.

Former Al-Shabab militants “cannot assume leadership positions without going through stringent established rehabilitation programs,” he said, adding that a terrorist should not be allowed to rebrand himself as an “ice cream salesperson.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1430941/world

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