The decision was made on the back of last year’s visit by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Saudi Arabia, where she met King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Saudi Arabia to Pay Big Money for Mosques in Bangladesh
How an ‘Islamic’ Bar Became a French Election Scandal
Over 100 Saudi-Backed Sudanese Militias Killed in Ta'iz Province
`Pakistan Conveniently Silent On Brutal Killing of Muslims in China's Xinjiang`
Religion, Power and Politics in Indonesia
US Troops Still Battling IS Near Site of Afghan Bomb Strike
Afghanistan rejects Taliban claims of killing over 155 thousand soldiers
Hefazat leader sues slain student’s father over ‘religious sentiment’
Russia has the right to have relations with Taliban: Karzai
Moroccan Students’ Questions Leave Islamic Scholar Speechless
French candidates boost security ahead of tense vote
Islamophobia and national strife in Russia: Big problem growing bigger
Shiite Exiled Cleric Points to Iran’s Strong Interference in Bahrain
Syria evacuations resume after deadly bombing
Tens of Terrorist-Held Towns Liberated by Syrian Army since January
Syrian Army Wins back More Key Heights from Terrorists in Northern Aleppo
Syrian Army Training More Special Forces for Street-Battle against Terrorists
ISIL Leader's Top Aide Killed in Mosul
Syrian Army Wards off Terrorists' Offensive in Southern Hama
Iraqi forces working to neutralize ISIS booby traps inside old Mosul
Egyptian security forces eliminate Sinai monastery shooter
COAS Signs Black Warrants for 30 Terrorists
JUI-F, JI to oppose changes in blasphemy law
8 militants killed as security personnel bust TTP cell in Sheikhupura: CTD
Pakistan Archbishop: We're 'Moving toward a Better Society
Muslim Candidate Wins Jakarta Election
Zakir Naik has a right to be an ‘idiot’, says Bebas
Pence to tour Indonesia's largest mosque in outreach to Muslims
With ‘charity house’, Islamic banking eyes welfare and image overhaul
What is ‘Islamic development’ Mr Prime Minister?
Turkey Arrests Leftist Activists Over Anti-Referendum Protests
Palestinians Slam Israel for Refusing Talks with Hunger Strikers
Tillerson: Iran supports Houthis and threatens naval navigation in the Gulf
Senior Politician: S. Arabia Relocating ISIL from Syria to Yemen
Erdogan death penalty vow likely to be tough sell in divided Turkey
Turkish opposition vows to use all means to rerun referendum
Black Muslims Aim for Unity in Challenging Time for Islam
An Island of Jewish-Muslim Friendship in New York
This Islamic School Teaches How to Be Muslim, And American
White House confirms Iran deal review
Father of Fallen Muslim-American Soldier Decries Travel Ban
Ohio ISIS supporter pleads guilty to calling for murder of U.S. service members
Bengali Muslim Intellectuals on Last Minute Signature Collection Drive against Triple Talaq
PM Modi Meets Senior Ministers Hours After SC Order on Babri Masjid Case
Crime Branch gets Yasin Bhatkal’s custody
Nigeria's Army Launches Month-Long Operation to Stem Deadly Ethnic Violence
Africa: US Calls Human Rights Debate in UN Security Council
Kenya: US Doctor Accused of Cutting Girls' Genitals Has Ties to Kenya
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
April 20, 2017
Syed Zainul Abedin
Saudi Arabia has agreed to donate Tk974.17 crore for the establishment of 560 model mosques across Bangladesh, sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.
The decision was made on the back of last year’s visit by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Saudi Arabia, where she met King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
According to a foreign ministry official, the model mosques project, which will be launched soon, has already been approved in Ecnec and will be a collaborative effort between the Planning Ministry and the Economic Relations Division under the Ministry of Finance.
He added that the Bangladesh government has already mapped out 20 acres of land to be acquired for the project.
The project proposal has been sent to the ERD, the foreign ministry and the Saudi government.
In theory, the proposed mosques will be established in every district, City Corporation and upazila.
The Islamic Foundation states that the mosques will be categorised under three categories: A, B and C.
In category A, 68 four-storey buildings with elevator facilities will each be established on 281,000 square metre plots in 64 districts and four city corporations.
In category B, 476 three-storey mosques will be built, covering 164,000 square metres each. And in category C, 16 three-storey mosques will be built along the coastal areas, each covering 61,000 square metres.
The mosques will be able to accommodate at least 450,000 men and over 30,000 women for daily prayers, and will have lodging space for more than 2,000 foreign guests and libraries with room for more than 34,000 people.
The model mosques project also aims to provide primary education to more than 150,000 children and conduct digital registrations for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The mosques will also be outfitted with cultural centres and cyclone centres.
The Saudi government has also agreed to donate money towards the establishment of a permanent campus for Islami Arabic University in Keraniganj, according to the foreign ministry source.
AFP | April 19, 2017
SEVRAN: Amar Salhi is still amazed at how his scruffy bar north of Paris sparked an election scandal after it featured on national television in December during a report about Islam and women.
In footage shot with hidden cameras and broadcast during prime-time by state media giant France 2, two women activists were seen facing a hostile welcome as they tried to go for a drink in the Jockey Club.
“There’s no mixing in this bar,” one client was heard saying.
“You’re not in Paris here… it’s a different mentality, it’s like the village back home (in north Africa),” said another.
One of the women left disgusted, comparing the situation in the multi-ethnic suburb of Sevran to Saudi Arabia.
In a matter of hours of the report airing, social media lit up with comments, from members of the far-right National Front but also others across the political spectrum appalled by the sight of women’s rights being trampled.
In the minds of some, the report appeared to crystallise widespread fears about the impact of immigration or Islamists imposing their rules in a country traumatised by a series of deadly terror attacks since 2015.
“Here’s the result of decades of submission,” wrote National Front vice-president Florian Philippot.
Salhi’s business became a punching bag as the Socialist party selected its presidential candidate in January, and has been a feature in speeches and debates ever since.
Even left-leaning centrist Emmanuel Macron, who talks admiringly of France’s ethnic diversity, was still referring to the need to ensure “women can sit down on a cafe terrace” until recently.
His wife, a former school teacher, is said to have been shocked by the report.
“Everyone has been attacking me, everyone,” sighs Salhi, a welcoming 59-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, his voice hoarse and his face lined by lack of sleep.
Things started changing at the beginning of last month when the French media began casting doubt on the original investigation.
“It (the report) doesn’t represent me at all!” the father-of-two added as several women mingled among his mostly male clientele who come to drink and bet on horse racing.
He is still appalled at how his business — and not unemployment, poverty or housing problems — had drawn so much attention ahead of the two-stage election this Sunday and on May 7.
Minority within a minority
France has Europe’s biggest Muslim community, estimated at around five million, a legacy of its colonial history in Africa and its desire for cheap labour in the booming post-war years.
Hakim El Karoui, the author of a major study on Muslims in France last September, believes the footage from the Jockey Club misrepresented the bar — but it was so explosive because it rang true.
“There are segregated areas in France, segregated because there are only immigrants there… where the cultural norms are of Africa, not of France in the 21st century,” he told AFP.
He believes successive governments have looked the other way as ghettoes built up and an aggressive strain of political Islam took hold, particularly among disaffected young people.
According to a survey that formed part of Karoui’s controversial study for the respected Montaigne Institute last year, 28 percent of Muslims in France reject the values of the French republic.
“They are in favour of polygamy, they are against secularism, around 70 percent (of this minority) are in favour of women wearing the burka,” he says, reeling off the problems.
The study called “A French Islam is possible” also showed about half of Muslims in France (46 percent) were integrated fully, while another 25 percent were judged as conservatives somewhere between those two groups.
Following three major Islamist-inspired attacks since 2015, most election candidates broadly agree on the need to continue cracking down on radical mosques and being stricter on foreign funding of the religion.
But there is much wider, politically charged debate about French national identity and whether to go further with the country’s strict secularism, which led to bans on veils and religious symbols in schools as well as the burqa in public spaces.
A separate survey in March by Ipsos showed that only 39 percent of respondents believed “the way Islam is practised in France is compatible with the values of French society.”
Yasser Louati, a campaigner against Islamophobia in France, sees the Jockey Club footage as more yet more damaging stereotyping and warns about deepening the stigmatisation experienced by moderate Muslims.
“French Muslims feel like they are in a besieged fortress, they are constantly put in the spotlight,” he said.
Smail Khalid, a 47-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan origin who works at the Charles de Gaulle airport near Sevran, echoes this as he sits drinking coffee and smoking outside the Jockey Club.
“We’re French here. I’m a republican, I love my country. But they’re doing everything to screw things up so that we don’t love it anymore,” he said.
Apr 19, 2017
"The Yemeni army and popular forces managed to clean up the strategic Mount al-Nar region in Eastern al-Mukha region in Ta'iz province, killing tens of Saudi-backed militias, including 100 Riyadh-hired Sudanese mercenaries," the Arabic-language Yemeni news agency quoted a military source as saying on Wednesday.
The Yemeni forces also pounded the gathering centers of the Saudi-backed militants in al-Jahmalieh and al-Salou regions.
Meantime, the Arabic-language al-Masirah television reported that four Saudi-hired mercenaries were killed in fierce clashes with the Yemeni forces in Behesh al-Matoun region in al-Jawf province.
Also, the Yemeni army and popular forces fired three home-made Zalzal-2 missiles and several Katyusha rockets at the gathering centers of the Saudi-led troops in Najran province in Southern Saudi Arabia.
The Yemeni snipers also killed a Saudi military man in Najran province while a military vehicle was also destroyed on the same scene.
The Yemeni army's artillery and missile units also pounded the Saudi army's military positions in Najran province on Wednesday, and inflicted several casualties on the army of the kingdom.
In a relevant development on Tuesday, the Yemeni army and popular committees managed to liberate all the Saudi-led forces’ positions in Mount Al-Nar vicinity in Mukha.
The operation launched by the Yemeni army and popular committees claimed scores of Saudi-led mercenaries and imposed exodus on the rest of the invaders.
Yemen has been since March 26, 2015 under brutal aggression by Saudi-led coalition.
Thousands have been killed and injured in the attack, with the vast majority of them are civilians.
Riyadh launched the attack on Yemen in a bid to restore power to fugitive ex-president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi who is a close ally to Saudi Arabia.
`Pakistan conveniently silent on brutal killing of Muslims in China's Xinjiang`
Srinagar: Pakistan turning a deaf ear and going cold turkey in dealing with China`s repression unleashed on its Muslim community is nothing short of alarming, as even the state media besides the Nawaz Sharif-led government is looking at this development the other way, according to an analysis in the Kashmir Images.
Jihadis like Hafiz Saeed, who preach extensively on protecting the interests of Muslims, are equally confounded with this development, even though deep down they know that Islamabad will not take any step against China, its corporate ally, says the hard-hitting report in the Kashmir Images.
The Muslim community in China was already facing a tough time under the iron fist of the Communist regime for decades, but their woes have soared after some Uighur Muslims decided to take on Beijing`s diktats on their religious beliefs and traditions.
It all began with the Chinese changing the demography of Xinjiang by settling non-Muslim Chinese from the mainland and then began brutally repressing slivers of protests from the local Muslim communities, all in the name of anti-terrorism.
Pakistan, which has deemed itself as the self-acclaimed torch-bearer of Islam, has throughout this ordeal not only looked the other way but also embraced China`s crimes.
China, an expert in spinning yards about granting religious freedom to the minorities in the country, has been brutally suppressing the traditional beliefs, practices, and traditions of the Muslims.
Despite Beijing justifying its barbarism as necessary for countering terrorism, various human rights groups have blamed China for creating an atmosphere of fear and betrayal, often resulting in eruptions of violence in Xinjiang.The crackdowns on the peaceful Muslim communities in China, an expert in spinning yards about granting religious freedom to the minorities in the country, has been brutally suppressing the traditional beliefs, practices, and traditions of the Muslims.
Despite Beijing justifying its barbarism as necessary for countering terrorism, various human rights groups have blamed China for creating an atmosphere of fear and betrayal, often resulting in eruptions of violence in Xinjiang.
The crackdowns on the peaceful Muslim communities in Xinjiang have invited the wrath of several countries and international organisations including the human rights groups, who have condemned Beijing`s actions.
However, Pakistan has conveniently been silent on the brutal killing of Muslims in Xinjiang.
Meanwhile, Beijing has come out with a list of new diktats for Muslims in Xinjiang, which includes keep smaller beards, not wearing veils in public places and refusal to watch state television.
The new rules, which came into effect from April 1 this year, have given powers to the government employees to stop anyone wearing a veil or sporting a long beard from entering any public space, including railway stations, bus depots and airports.
Police have been given the authority to either force these "offenders" to take off their veils or trim their beards or lock them up. Similar cruel punishments await those who "reject or refuse radio, television and other public facilities and services".
The shockers don`t end there.
The Muslims also cannot marry as per their religious traditions and customs and will have to submit themselves to the Chinese courts and marriage registrars.
The Muslim parents have to follow another set of rules for themselves and their children which state: "Parents should use good moral conduct to influence their children, educate them to revere science, pursue culture, uphold ethnic unity and refuse and oppose extremism".
The Muslim children cannot go to a madrasa but a regular school and cannot be allowed "abnormal growing of beards."
But what stands as the most bizarre order is that thrice a day in Kashgar, the capital city of Xinjiang, every Muslim trader must rush out into the street with a government-issued wooden club on hearing a hooter to fight terrorism.
The Muslim traders then fight off imaginary terrorists in the streets with the clubs, which is monitored by the Chinese policemen in armoured vehicles.
The Chinese Police is literally everywhere, as Beijing has set up thousands of police stations across the province.
The Muslims are also compelled to attend a weekly flag-raising ceremony where they are required to pledge loyalty to the Chinese flag and denounce religious extremism.
The example for the above diktat was witnessed by the scribes in Hotan, where more than 1,000 people filed into an open-air basketball court where the Communist Party officials checked their names against an attendance list and inspected their dress and appearance.
It is a matter of shame and concern that the international community has not chosen to at least condemn the Chinese authorities for these blatant human rights violations.
It is nothing short of incredulous that China has dodged the world`s eyes over their regressive rules for the Muslims.
While the international community is yet to wake up and condemn Beijing for these blatant human rights violations, Pakistan`s silence in ton matter echoes across the world.
Religion, power and politics in Indonesia
A former minister has won the race for Jakarta governor after a divisive campaign that has tested Indonesia's multi-faith society. As BBC Indonesian's Rebecca Henschke in Jakarta reports, it's being viewed as a win for sectarian politics.
Although official results are not out until May, early counts were enough for Anies Baswedan, a Muslim, to give a victory speech as Jakarta's governor-elect.
He then headed to the largest mosque in Indonesia to pray alongside the leader of the controversial vigilante group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
His opponent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known widely as Ahok, and a Christian of Chinese descent, is back in court today to face trial for blasphemy.
During the campaign Anies Baswedan met a number of times with FPI - the group leading the mass protest movement calling for Mr Purnama to be jailed for allegedly insulting Islam. The group's leader Rizieq Shihab, has been jailed twice before for inciting violence.
He told his followers to vote only for a Muslim and mosques connected to his group threatened to refuse funerals to families who didn't obey.
Until now the group's main activities have been raids on those it believes are committing "sin and vice" - prostitutes, alcohol sellers and people selling food during fasting hours in the holy month of Ramadan - but in leading the calls for Mr Purnama to be jailed, the group has raised its political profile and increased its support base.
"The main reason people voted for Anies is because he was from the same faith as them, he was viewed as fighting for Islam," says political scientist Dr Hamdi Muluk from the University of Indonesia.
"People voted for Ahok because of his track record, his image as a clean politician who was not corrupt and that he was a firm leader."
Despite having the world's largest Muslim majority, Indonesia respects six official religions. And its national motto: "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" means unity in diversity.
Anies Baswedan is a respected academic and a former university rector, who studied in the US under a Fulbright scholarship, and before the campaign he was widely known to be a moderate Muslim.
In his victory speech, he insisted that he is committed to diversity and unity.
"We aim to make Jakarta the most religiously harmonious province in Indonesia," he said. But many analysts believe that could be difficult given the groups that he has aligned himself with during this campaign.
"It was a dirty campaign, it's a campaign based on religion," says Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.
"It has hurt many people particularly the minority groups. It's bad news for religious tolerance in Indonesia. He has made many promises to these hardline groups about enforcing so-called Islamic codes of social behaviour in Jakarta."
During the campaign Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno talked about creating Islamic-friendly nightlife, inspired by Dubai, to replace the current scene that they say involves too many drugs and prostitution.
But allaying fears that had been voiced during the bitter campaign Sandiaga Uno told the BBC that they will not enforce elements of Sharia law across Jakarta.
"I believe in the Islamic economic system but we will not enforce Islamic law across Jakarta. That is not something we can do."
While a divided Jakarta tries to come to terms with the results, Mr Purnama is back in court on Thursday fighting to stay out of jail.
He is on trial for insulting Islam when he questioned a Koranic verse that has been used by some conservative clerics in this election to mean Muslims shouldn't vote for a Christian.
Over the last 12 years in Indonesia no one charged with blasphemy has been acquitted and Mr Harsono thinks Mr Purnama will also be jailed.
"This will be a very bad message that the blasphemy law can be easily politicised and easily manipulated in order to send your enemies, anyone you don't like, to prison."
Mr Purnama was widely accepted, even by his critics, to be one of the most effective administrators this sprawling mega-city has ever had.
And before the blasphemy charges he was predicted to win the election by a landslide.
When asked what he has learnt from the campaign he laughed and said: "Watch what you say and don't get angry in public."
He also told his supporters not to worry too much and referred also to God.
"Power is something that God gives and takes away," he said.
"No one can achieve it without God's will. So no one should dwell too much on it. Don't be sad. God always knows best."
But his supporters took to social media to express their disappointment.
"The lessons of popularism are stark: too much power in the hands of ignorance." Another said: "We have fallen in love with a governor we can't have."
One Twitter user, @fuadhn, said Indonesians "can feel what US and British citizens feel now. Welcome populism..."
US troops still battling IS near site of Afghan bomb strike
Apr 20, 2017
KABUL - US troops are still battling suspected Islamic State fighters near the site where a massive bomb was dropped in eastern Afghanistan last week, a US military official said on Wednesday.
Nicknamed “the mother of all bombs”, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb was dropped last Thursday from an American MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, bordering Pakistan.
Since then questions have surrounded the decision to use the weapon, which is one of the largest conventional bombs ever used in combat by the US military.
Afghan estimates of heavy militant losses and no civilian casualties have been impossible to verify in the remote region, with access to the area where the bomb fell still blocked.
The strike drew condemnation from some prominent figures, including former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan.
After arriving at the site the day after the strike, US troops fighting alongside Afghan forces have since left, but continue to conduct operations in the broader area, said US military spokesman Captain William Salvin.
“Access has been restricted but that’s because it’s a combat zone,” he told Reuters. “We are in contact with the enemy.”
Echoing initial estimates, Salvin said the US military has “high confidence” that no civilians were harmed.
Some Afghan officials have complained of a lack of information about the effects of the bomb.
“We were and we are kept in the dark and still we haven’t been able to go to the site,” said one senior Afghan security official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“We are confused ourselves and we wonder what MOAB could have caused.”
In meetings of the Afghan security council, some ministers told President Ashraf Ghani they feared the lack of information from the US side could be exploited by Islamic State, which has continued radio broadcasts claiming none of its fighters were killed.
“We haven’t suffered any casualties from this bomb,” said one recent Islamic State broadcast. “We are fighting for the sake of God, who is much stronger than this bomb.” Salvin would not comment on claims by Afghan defence officials that nearly 100 Islamic State fighters died in the strike. The attack was aimed at destroying an “extensive” complex of fortified tunnels and mines and not any particularly large concentration of fighters, he said.
“Our assessments are ongoing,” Salvin said, noting that the strike appeared to have collapsed many tunnels, destroyed mines, and “reduced” several nearby structures.
US troops have continued to use explosives to collapse other tunnel entrances not destroyed by the bomb, he said. For at least a month before the strike, the US military had broadcast radio messages warning of coming operations by American and Afghan troops in southern Nangarhar, and leaflets were dropped on areas affected by the operation, Salvin said.
One leaflet seen by Reuters in a village near the strike shows a picture of a drone with an Afghan army emblem and reads: “We ask residents to leave as soon as possible to save their lives.”
Several villages near the blast site have been largely abandoned for months as fighting increased between Islamic State and the US-backed Afghan forces, locals said.
“There were daily bombings and fighting,” said Khan Afzal, a local policeman on a recent patrol in the village of Abdul Khil, less than a mile from the strike.
“Afghan forces used to fire artillery, bombs were dropped by foreign aircraft, and even Daesh fired rockets at us and at the villagers,” he added, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.
Residents in Achin district say that they knew of no civilians still living voluntarily in the areas near the Islamic State stronghold, but it is still not clear if other non-combatants may have been involved.
“The people who’d normally be talking have fled, and there have been very few reports from inside Islamic State territory,” said Kate Clark, a senior researcher for the Afghan Analysts Network. “The jury’s still out on many things with this strike.”
Some local residents suggested there may have been prisoners held in the tunnel complex, she added, but the area has been something of an information black hole since Islamic State militants were first confirmed there in 2015.
The Afghan offshoot of the Middle East-based, extremist militant movement is small - presumed to number a few hundred fighters - and is battling foreign and government troops as well as rival insurgent groups, most notably the dominant Taliban.
Apr 19 2017
The Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan rejected the claims by the Taliban of killing more than 155 thousand soldiers in the past ten years.
Dismissing the reports as baseless, the Ministry of Defense said the people of Afghanistan and everyone else accepts that the Taliban group and similarly other terrosit groups have have committed countless atrocities in the history of humanity and Islam.
Pointing towards the Taliban claims regarding the incident 103,927 operations the group claims to have conducted, MoD asked whether suicide bombings in the cities and major civilian gatherings as well as murders, roadside bombings on highways used by civilians, kidnappings, killing of elders, women, children, setting mosques, school, seminries, and several other crimes are Jihad or holy as described by the leaders to whom they are serving.
Full report at:
April 19, 2017
The court of Narayanganj Chief Judicial Magistrate Ashok Kumar Dutta ordered Detective Branch to submit a report after conducting a probe.
Rafiur Rabbi, a cultural personality in Narayanganj, has been sued by a leader of radical Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam for allegedly hurting religious sentiment.
Mawlana Ferdousur Rahman, coordinator of Hefazat’s Narayanganj unit, filed the case against with the court of Narayanganj Chief Judicial Magistrate Ashok Kumar Dutta on Wednesday.
“After hearing and accepting the case, the court ordered Detective Branch to submit a report following a probe,” said Public Prosecutor Wazed Ali Khokon.
On April 7, during the 25th anniversary of local cultural organisation “Shrutee,” Rabbi, the father of slain schoolboy Tanvir Mohammad Toki, delivered a speech “offending” religious beliefs of the Muslims, the plaintiff’s lawyer Sultan Ul Arefin said in the case statement.
He said: “In his statement Rabbi said freedom fighters would have not taken part in the 1971 Liberation War had they known that the country’s constitution would start with Bismillah.”
Apr 20 2017
The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that Russia has the right to have relations with the Taliban group as he has adopted a hard stance against the United States, specifically after the MOAB bombing o ISIS hideouts in Achin district of Nangarhar.
During an exclusive interview with the Voice of America’s Afghanistan service, Karzai insisted that the Taliban group has influence in almost 50 per cent of the Afghan soil.
Karzai further added that the world powers have no choice but to have relations with the Taliban group.
This comes as the former President vowed to step up efforts in a bid to oust the US military from the country following the massive airstrike in Achin Nangarhar against ISIS terrorists involving the non-nuclear GBU-43 bomb.
He slammed the government for allowing the US forces to carry out the strike and insisted that the move would be a national treason if the government had approved the use of the massive bomb.
In the meantime, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has said the criticism by the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai goes too far and will not serve the interests of Afghanistan.
By Chaima Lahsini
Al-Naggar, a founding member of the World Commission of Scientific Miracles in the Qur’an and Sunnah, has become well known for expounding theories of scientific bases for Islam and the Qur’an.
Many Moroccan intellectuals refused to attend Al-Naggar’s conferences, such as Mohamed Abdel Wahab Rafiki, the head of the Al Mezan Center for Center for Mediation, Research and Media, who criticized the legitimacy given to Al-Naggar.
“When the Faculty of Science and Technology Sheikh pretends that camel urine treat cancer, and this is a miracle of Islam and evidence of its authenticity, we can kiss our country’s universities and scientific research and awareness and culture goodbye.” said Rafiki.
Participants, including students of the Faculty of Sharia in Fez, asked Al-Naggar questions attempting to debunk his “scientific theories,” to which he could provide no scientific answers.
Following the lecture delivered in Fez three days ago, heated discussion and controversy is still ongoing on social networking sites. Al-Naggar has been heavily criticized for his inadequate answers to many of the students’ questions, who claimed that his answers were those of “a fanatic sheikh” more than a science professor.
Many of the questions that left Al-Naggar speechless were from a young Moroccan scientific expert and podcaster named Najib Mokhtari, whose criticisms spread widely on Facebook:
“You have quoted in one of your narrations about the Prophet saying the sun ‘goes away from people and look at people, and vise versa, some say it has set, and others say it has risen’, and you said that this is evidence of the spherical ground in the Holy Hadith. Unfortunately, all the available research done by specialists and field experts in religious texts, did not find any trace of this Hadith only in your tape.”
Mokhtari added, “Do you know how serious and dangerous it is to word new hadiths that did not come from the Prophet? Is it possible to review all the other religious texts that you have sent to reassure your readers and viewers that you do not make up the hadiths?”
In another question, Mokhtar asked the Egyptian scholar: “You claimed in a full episode on Al Jazeera Channel that Mecca is located at the center of earth, while in modern science the earth is spherical and therefore all land is earth’s centers, meaning not only the Kaaba can be considered the world’s center but also the Vatican and the city of Bombay in India and your honorable home in Jordan and this university where you are attending, are all centers of earth since planet earth is actually round.”
In another question: “You claimed that there were ‘studies’ (without mentioning any reference) that proved that harmful UV rays affect women more than men, so God imposed the veil to protect women against ultraviolet radiation. Because this is contrary to what we know about the sun … Is it possible to retract this claim?”
Rafiki says that Al-Naggar’s strained attempts to paint Islam as science may prove counterproductive.
“The Shaikh tries to triumph for his religion and believes through the achievements of others,” says Rafiki.
“Not only does he fabricates texts out of his own imagination, he takes them out of context to prove that the Qur’an is a book of physics, chemistry, mathematics and natural sciences. And the most dangerous of all, is that science may prove the invalidity of that theory, destroy new realities, and make the Qur’an bear the consequences of the ignorance of this Sheikh and his trade in the name of miracles in Islam,” Rafiki added.
Science has acquired a new meaning in certain Muslim circles. When classical Muslim scholars declared that whosoever does not know astronomy or anatomy is deficient in the knowledge of God, they were emphasizing the importance of the scientific spirit in Islam and encouraging the pursuit of empirical science. But today, to a significant number of Muslims, science includes the discovery of “scientific miracles” in the Qur’an.
A feel-good Paris concert, a meeting with Muslim leaders and a blowout rally in Marseille –France’s presidential candidates are blanketing the country today with campaign events to try to inspire undecided voters just four days before a nail-biting election.
Crowds danced on a Paris plaza as Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon held what is seen as a last-chance rally and concert. Hamon is polling a distant fifth place ahead of Sunday’s first-round election and has little chance of reaching the decisive May 7 runoff — a failure that could crush his party.
French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who has dominated the campaign with her anti-immigration, anti-EU proposals, is appealing to her electoral base in hopes of maintaining a shot at the runoff.
She assailed recent governments for failing to stop extremist attacks in recent years and warned on BFM television that “we are all targets. All the French.”
The candidates have increased security in recent days. Authorities announced yesterday that they had arrested two Islamic radicals suspected of plotting a possible attack around the vote.
Independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron reached out to the French Muslim community today, saying it’s fighting on a “common front” alongside the state against Islamic extremism.
Macron met with the head of leading French Muslim group CFCM, Anouar Kbibech. In a statement afterward, Macron insisted on the importance of respecting France’s secular traditions but said they shouldn’t be used to target Muslims.
Some Muslims feel unfairly targeted by French laws banning headscarves in schools and full-face veils in public.
Also today, the Grand Mosque of Lyon issued an appeal urging Muslims to cast ballots instead of isolating themselves, “so that all the children of France, regardless of their skin color, their origins or their religion, are fully involved in the future of their country.”
Le Pen also defended her decision to force national news network TF1 to take down the European flag during an interview last night.
She said today that “I am a candidate in the election for the French republic” and that Europe is acting like France’s “enemy.”
How to stop Islamophobia in Russia? How to put an end to numerous attempts to separate people of different religions for the goal of destroying Russia? Inna Novikova, General Director of Pravda.Ru media holding talked about it in an interview with Maxim Shevchenko, human rights activist, journalist, member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.
"After the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg, you said that the level of Islamophobia in the Russian society has increased very much. To which extent does it relate to the fear of people and the policy of the state?"
"I did not say that it was the bombings of the St. Petersburg metro that raised the level of Islamophobia in Russia. I believe that terrorist attacks are manifestations of war declared against Russia. For me, terrorists are not people who share an integral worldview, Islamic or communist, etc. Modern-day terrorists are simply zombies, psychopaths stuffed with ideas and psychotropic drugs at times. They are manipulated by the people who stay very far away from those ideological concepts, for which terrorists go to kill people.
"I believe that the level of Islamophobia in Russia is already too high. This level does not meet the interests and goals of the Russian state and the Russian society. Muslims, the overwhelming majority of Muslims, are not just visitors in Russia - they are indigenous people. Muslims have been living in Moscow from the moment when the city was founded.
"We are a union of two great religions, a brotherhood of different peoples. Those who try to sow seeds of hatred towards Islam or Christianity, as well as Judaism, because the Khazars also stood at the base of this space of civilization, they try to disunite the Russian people and destroy Russia.
"The union of monotheistic religions that has developed on the territory of Russia has to deal with never-ending attacks and challenges. The forces that propagate Islamophobia in the Christian environment propagate Christianophobia in the Islamic environment. There is anti-Islamic propaganda even in official media outlets. We do not have Muslim experts on Russian television, even though there are nearly 30 million Muslims living here. They do not show Muslims on TV even though we have such territories as Tatarstan, Bashkiria, the Caucasus - this is a huge diaspora."
"There are Muslim experts, but not too many."
"They simply block them. I very much respect the Armenian people, but when we discuss the Islamic issue in a studio, and we have three Armenians and not a single Muslim present, a strange feeling arises. I know many people in Dagestan or Ingushetia - they are modern, very intelligent, highly educated experts and scholars, who understand many aspects about the Islamic world, and not only Islamic. Alisher Usmanov, for example, is Muslim, he owns the Kommersant and other holdings."
"But he does not give comments on political events."
Shiite exiled cleric points to Iran’s strong interference in Bahrain
At a wake in Iran's holy city of Qom in February, a small group of Bahraini emigres and clerics mourned a young man killed in a gun battle with Bahrain's security forces.
The eulogy was delivered by an exiled Bahraini cleric who has called for the island's Shi'ite Muslim community to uproot the monarchy in a holy war.
The cleric, Murtada al-Sanadi has been named by the United States as a "specially designated global terrorist" backed by Iran.
The dead 29-year-old militant, Reda al-Ghasra, was shot after he had just a few weeks earlier escaped from a prison where he was serving a life sentence for terrorism.
Ghasra's two brothers, both wanted on militant charges, also appeared at his wake in Qom. They played a recorded phone call of Reda saying his boat was on its way. The Bahraini government has asserted he was fleeing to Iran.
A confidential assessment by Bahrain security officials, reviewed by Reuters, names Sanadi as the leader of the Ashtar Brigades, a militant group that has carried out bombings and shootings directed at the kingdom's police. In a statement online, the group hailed Ghasra as a "martyr commander" on his death.
According to the security assessment, Sanadi tasked Ghasra with forming militant cells with Iranian help.
Iran's foreign ministry called Bahraini government accusations that Iran had any role in supporting Sanadi or the Ashtar Brigades in violent acts "baseless and fabricated." Sanadi did not respond to requests for comment.
Bahrain says 24 of its officers have been killed. Most clashes involve youths throwing rocks and molotov cocktails, but there has been a series of bombings in recent years.
An analysis of years of statements by Bahrain's public prosecutor on Ashtar Brigades suspects suggests that the group operates in cells of fewer than 10 young men overseen by emigre militants like Sanadi based in Iran.
Recruited on religious pilgrimages or study trips to Iran, Bahrain's prosecutor has said, the suspects were given weapons and explosives training in Iran or neighboring Iraq. Iran denies the accusation.
Sanadi has powerful allies in Iran, where he has lived since he went into exile in 2012.
The official website of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei published an editorial by Sanadi in December criticizing the US.
The US State Department put Sanadi on its proscribed "terrorist" list on March 17. His name appears alongside leaders in al Qaeda and ISIS. The US cited Sanadi's links to the Ashtar Brigades which, it said, "receives funding and support from the Government of Iran."
Bahrain accuses Sanadi of having organized deadly attacks on police and smuggling arms from Iran.
According to Bahraini security dossiers on Ghasra and Sanadi reviewed by Reuters, Bahraini authorities consider the Ashtar Brigades to be the armed wing of Sanadi's Islamic Wafa Movement, a political party that is banned in Bahrain.
Wafa and the Ashtar Brigades did not respond to requests for comment about their relationship. A Wafa party representative contacted by Reuters agreed to relay questions to Sanadi but did not ultimately reply.
Sanadi, the security documents say, receives funding from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and commissioned Ghasra to organize the military training of Bahraini militants in Iran by the IRGC and in Iraq by the Hezbollah Brigades militia.
The Ashtar Brigades announced an alliance with the Iran-backed Hezbollah Brigades via an online statement in February.
Sanadi spoke of his relationship with Ghasra in a communication to his followers on messaging app Telegram, dated in March and seen by Reuters. "I found him a lover of (Shi'ites), ready for the highest sacrifice and dedicated to the choice of resistance.” Ghasra's brother Yasser, speaking to Reuters from Iran, acknowledged that his brother Reda was a fighter but denied he received Iranian help. He declined to comment on links between his brother and Sanadi.
Proud to be an enemy
Speaking to Iranian state TV channel al-Alam in March Sanadi said: "I'm proud that America considers me an enemy."
While not commenting directly on the state department accusations, he said the US was using "so-called terrorism and ... an imaginary danger they claim is coming from the Islamic Republic of Iran" to sell arms to Gulf allies and maintain influence.
Sanadi is the only official of his party to have eluded a long-term jail sentence, though he spent six months behind bars amid 2011 protests on rioting charges.
Six months later he departed legally for Iran.
In January, Sanadi called on Bahrain's opposition to abandon mostly peaceful protests in public squares and to take up arms. "From today and hereafter, the period has changed. We in the Islamic Wafa Movement announce that we have begun a new phase as a tribute to the martyrs: one grip on the squares and one grip on the trigger!" he said in a speech in Qom.
Iran's promotion of Sanadi appears to point to an endorsement of his agenda. Next to an Iranian flag, Sanadi delivered a sermon at Friday prayers in the country's most prestigious mosque in Qom in September - an exceptional honor.
Sanadi also took to the main stage at a 2013 conference of Ahl al-Bayt, a Qom-based global fraternity of scholars founded by Khamenei in 1990. "We are truly thankful to the Iranians, especially the leader of all Muslims, Ayatollah Khamenei," Sanadi declared.
For his part, Iran’s Supreme Leader in a speech last summer called Bahraini “youth to fight against the ruling system.”
RASHIDIN - The evacuation of four besieged Syrian towns resumed Wednesday, with tight security in place for those leaving government-held areas after a weekend bombing against evacuees killed dozens including nearly 70 children.
A large convoy of buses set out from the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya in Syria's Idlib province, carrying 3,000 people to the rebel-held transit point of Rashidin near Aleppo city, an AFP correspondent at the point said.
At the same time, 11 buses carrying around 300 people left rebel-held Zabadani, Serghaya and Jabal Sharqi in Damascus province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. In Rashidin, security was tight after a devastating bomb attack on evacuees at the site on Saturday that according to the Observatory killed 126 people, including 68 children.
Most of the dead were evacuees from the two Shiite-majority towns, with a handful of aid workers and rebels guarding the convoy also among the dead.
Dozens of wounded were taken to hospitals in nearby rebel-held territory, while others were taken to Aleppo, which government forces regained full control of late last year.
Armed rebels were standing guard at Rashidin on Wednesday and carefully inspecting vehicles arriving in the area.
Buses were parked in a semi-circle, forming a makeshift barrier around an area in the centre of a lot where evacuees including dozens of children milled.
Pro-government militiamen among those being evacuated from Fuaa and Kafraya squatted next to one bus, smoking cigarettes. Standing nearby, 55-year-old Um Joud from Fuaa said it was difficult to describe how she felt.
"I'm not afraid, because everything is in God's hands," she told AFP. "Of course I would have preferred to stay in my home, but I left for the sake of my children and their lives and futures."
The evacuations are taking place under a deal between government and opposition representatives that is also seeing residents and rebels transported out from several areas under regime siege near Damascus, primarily Madaya and Zabadani.
It was brokered late last month by Qatar, a longtime opposition supporter, and Iran, a key regime ally, but its implementation had been repeatedly delayed.
When Wednesday's evacuations are complete, a total of 8,000 people should have left Fuaa and Kafraya, including pro-government fighters and civilians.
In exchange, 2,500 civilians and rebel fighters should have left rebel areas including Zabadani and Madaya.
Zabadani and Madaya "are now empty of any rebel presence," said Mayyada al-Aswad, a member of the coordinating committee for the operation on the government side.
Wednesday's evacuations mark the end of the first stage of the deal, with a second phase due to begin in June.
Fuaa and Kafraya will be emptied entirely, with residents and fighters heading to Aleppo and then on to government-held Latakia or the capital Damascus.
All opposition fighters are expected to leave Madaya and Zabadani, as well as several other rebel-held areas nearby, but civilians who want to remain will be allowed to.
Those leaving rebel-held areas will head to Idlib province, which is held by an opposition alliance.
In all, up to 30,000 people are expected to evacuate under the deal, which is the latest in a string of such agreements between the government and rebels.
The agreement is the latest in a string of such deals, which the government of President Bashar al-Assad says are the best way to end the violence after more than six years of civil war.
"The total number of liberated towns by the army men since the start of 2017 stands now at 227," the Russian center said in statement published in the Russian Defense Ministry's website.
The Russian center further added that 3,950 sq/km of land has been captured by the army soldiers from terrorists since January 1.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced earlier today that the number of armed battalions claiming to be observing truce in Syria has risen to 143.
"The number of armed formations, which have claimed to observe the ceasefire regime in accordance with the Reconciliation Agreement of February 27, 2016, has reached 143," the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation said in a daily bulletin.
The bulletin added that the total number of signed reconciliation agreements remaining 1,464, while the negotiations on joining the ceasefire regime continued among field commanders from detachments of armed opposition in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Quneitra provinces.
The army men engaged in fierce clashes with Al-Nusra in Northern Aleppo and managed to take back control of al-Mo'askar hill that overlooks directly the town of Anadan.
The Al-Nusra suffered heavy casualties in the army attack.
A military source reported last week that the Syrian soldiers launched heavy attacks on terrorists' positions in the Northwestern parts of Aleppo city near al-Yarmoun industrial halls, the Western parts of al-Zahra district and near the Family House region and Shuwaiheneh hills.
He underlined that if the Syrian army could retake control of Tal Shuwaiheneh hills, the Western parts of Aleppo province would be separated from its North and the terrorists' supply routes from the towns in Northern Aleppo would be cut off. The army was busy to get ready for launching an assault to capture the town of Anadan in the same region.
The source said that the Syrian army officers have embarked on training a large group of soldiers, called Attack Groups or Special Forces, that are equipped with advanced weapons and surveillance equipment.
"Equipment with advanced weapons and arms system for street battles, learning new methods and skills to surprise enemy, learning how to ambush, how to take part in street battle and how to create defense loops are among the merits enjoyed by the Special Forces that are also vital for decreasing the army's casualties," he said.
He further pointed out that practice of new warring methods has resulted in the army's advances in vast regions, including Jobar and al-Qaboun in Damascus, Aleppo neighborhoods and Dara'a.
Reports said in December that the Syrian Army formed a new volunteer force known as the Fifth Combat Corps to reinvigorate the country's defense capabilities.
The Syrian government announced formation of a new popular force named the Fifth Combat Corps as the Iraqi parliament approved a bill to annex the country's volunteer forces, Hashd al-Shaabi, to the Iraqi Armed Forces, FNA dispatches said.
The Saudi paper, al-Arab compared the Fifth Combat Corps with its Iraqi counterpart, saying the Fifth Combat Corps consist of volunteer troops who want to defend Syria and are considered as the Syrian President's Hashd al-Shaabi.
The Saudi paper claimed that Russia and Iran assisted the Syrian army with the formation of the Fifth Combat Corps, adding that senior military experts were assigned to train the members of this corps.
The Fifth Combat Corps would start its mission after four months of coordination and training, while opposition groups were on the verge on complete collapse due to internal conflicts and clashes with Syria's resistance forces.
The Fifth Combat Corps was most likely to take part in battles against the terrorists in Northern Homs, Idlib and Raqqa.
Federal Police Forces Commander Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat said Abu Abdulrahman, identified as the second-in-command of Daesh (ISIL) and a very close aide to its purported leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed on Wednesday after Iraqi troops lobbed a barrage of missiles at a militant position in the Zanjili neighborhood of Western Mosul, the Arabic-language Shafaaq news agency reported.
Jawdat added that his forces also launched a number of rockets at predetermined targets near Omar al-Aswad Mosque in the al-Farouq district of the Old City of Mosul, killing a high-ranking Daesh militant figure and four other Takfiri terrorists. The commander was later identified as Abu Walid al-Tunisi.
The Iraqi army soldiers continued their military operations in Western part of Mosul, hitting hard the positions of the ISIL terrorist group near the historic Great Mosque of al-Nuri.
Commander of the Federal Police Forces Lt. Gen. Raed Shaker Jawdat said Iraqi troops killed over 60 ISIL militants near the historic Great Mosque of al-Nuri.
He added that the Iraqi government forces also destroyed ISIL military hardware and prevented several suicide bombing attacks in the region.
Iraqi government forces have recaptured more lands in the new round of military operation against ISIL militants in Mosul's Old City in recent days, trying to fully liberate the terrorist group's last bastion.
"Iraqi forces advanced at least 200 meters deeper into the Old City after they launched their operation on Sunday morning from Qadheeb al-Ban area in Western Mosul," Jawdat said on Monday.
"Federal police snipers stationed on the roofs of buildings and seized control of the perimeter around the al-Hadba minaret [of the historical Great Mosque of al-Nuri] and targeted the suspicious vehicles and armed persons," the commander of the federal police added.
Mosul's al-Nuri mosque is highly symbolic because it was there that leader of the ISIL Takfiri terrorist group, Ibrahim al-Samarrai, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared himself the so-called caliphate of the terror group, shortly after the flashpoint city fell to terrorists in June 2014 and became their de facto capital in the Arab country.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced in October 2016, the start of a military operation to recapture Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq which fell to the ISIL since 2014.
The Iraqi defense ministry announced earlier in January that the ISIL terrorist group has lost over 50 percent of its militants in the city of Mosul in Nineveh province as Iraqi troops have managed to recapture the Eastern part of the de facto Capital of the ISIL.
"The intelligence obtained by us indicates that there have been over 6,000 ISIL terrorists in Mosul and around 3,400 of them have been killed in battles with Iraq's joint military forces in the major city of Nineveh province," Iraqi Defense Ministry Spokesman Colonel Laith al-Naimi said.
He added that over 250 bomb-laden vehicles and the entire bomb-making workshops of the terrorists have been destroyed in Mosul which means that the ISIL has been paralyzed by the Iraqi forces.
The Iraqi Army started a new phase of its military operation in Nineveh province late February to drive the ISIL terrorists out of their bastion in the Western part of the city of Mosul.
The army soldiers engaged in a tough battle against the Al-Nusra after the terrorists raided the housings of al-Omaliyeh and several military positions of pro-government forces near al-Zareh power plant from the Eastern direction of the village of Hirbnafsa and South of the power plant.
The army soldiers repelled the Al-Nusra attack, killing a number of terrorists and destroying their military equipment.
Local sources said that the remaining pockets of Al-Nusra Front fled towards Hirbnafsa.
In the meantime, the army's artillery units opened fire at ISIL's movements in Wadi al-Azib region Northeast of the town of al-Salamiyah, destroying a bomb-laden vehicle packed with a large volume of explosives and a military vehicles before they could reach and hit one of the army positions in the region.
Well-informed sources said on Tuesday that the Army troops were getting ready to kick off a fresh round of operation in Northern Hama to drive the Al-Nusra out of one of its main strongholds in Northern Hama.
The sources reported that a massive operation was to be launched by the army soldiers with the back up of the country's Air Force to push back al-Nusra from the strategic town of Taybat al-Imam.
20 April 2017
Iraqi forces continue to battle ISIS and advance in old neighborhoods in Mosul while engineering teams are working to neutralize booby-trapped cars set up by ISIS.
The battles are ongoing inside the old city and in the north and west. ISIS has obstructed the Iraqi forces’ advancement through using explosives and civilians as human shields. Extremists stationed in Al-Nouri Mosque and surrounding areas have held families hostages and hinted at killing them.
Federal Police chief Raed Jawdat said his forces are now stationed in Al-Farouq neighborhood and have set sand barricades in front of the neighborhood so booby-trapped cars and suicide bombers do not infiltrate it.
They’ve also begun to use smart missiles to target ISIS members and commanders. Meanwhile, outside Mosul, counter-terrorism forces continue to fight ISIS in the neighborhoods of Al-Thawra near the northern entrance and Al-Tank in the west.
Egyptian security forces killed a gunman suspected of shooting dead a policeman near St. Catherine's monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, the interior ministry said on Wednesday. Three other officers were wounded in Tuesday's attack in South Sinai province at a checkpoint near the ancient site, the ministry said.
The shooting carried out by “a number of gunmen”, was claimed by ISIS. “Security forces in South Sinai, in cooperation with Bedouin elements tracked the perpetrators' escape route and closed roads that would be used to escape,” the scene of the shooting, the ministry said in a statement.
It said the suspect began firing after he was found by security forces, “which required the forces to quickly deal with him, which lead to his death.”
Security staff found an automatic weapon and ammunition, adding that “investigations are ongoing to identify the terrorist.” St. Catherine's monastery, a Christian site 500 kilometres (300 miles) southeast of Cairo in the south of the Sinai, attracts thousands of visitors a year.
Also read: ISIS claims deadly attack near Egypt’s St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai
This attack comes nine days after Palm Sunday services at Coptic Christian churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria killing 45 people by twin bomb attacks, also claimed by ISIS.
ISIS has threatened to carry out more attacks on Copts, which makes up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of more than 90 million people.
Egypt has battled a militias, in North Sinai province, that killed hundreds of policemen and troops since the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
COAS signs black warrants for 30 terrorists
ISLAMABAD - As military operation Raddul Fasaad is in full swing, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday signed black warrants of another thirty hardcore terrorists.
The Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) said these terrorists, some of them linked to attacks on the Army Public School (APS) Peshawar in 20014, were awarded death sentences by the military courts.
APS Peshawar attack had claimed lives of more than hundred innocent people, including teachers and students, which led to launching of major operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Consequently, Pakistan armed forces successfully re-established writ of the state especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan and the port city of Karachi.
ISPR said these terrorists were involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism including attack on APS Peshawar, kidnapping and slaughtering soldiers of Frontier Constabulary, attack on Saidu Sharif airport, Swat killing of innocent civilians, attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan and Law Enforcement Agencies.
It further said that the process expedited during Operation Raddul-Fasaad which was launched in last February this year after series of terrorist attacks in Pakistan leaving more than one hundred people dead and almost its double number were injured.
Earlier this month, military courts were reinstated for two more years after a tug of war between the government and opposition parties over the way of their functioning.
Government and opposition parties had expressed reservations regarding mystery surrounding military court trials: no one knows who the convicts are, what charges have been brought against them, or what their defence is against the allegations levelled.
However, last month, the parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of the revival of the courts.
ISPR Director General Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor told a press briefing on Monday that 274 terrorists had been convicted by the military courts established by the government in 2015.
Out of 274, 161 have been awarded death sentences while others were sentenced to imprisonment. “Of 161, eleven have been executed since launch of Raddul Fassad” Ghafoor added.
The DG ISPR said that one hundred and eight terrorists have been killed since February 22 during Raddul Fasaad which is largely aimed at stabilising the gains of the previous military operations launched to eliminate terrorism.
He said that fifteen major operations, 4535 Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) and 723 joint check posts operations have been conducted by the security forces so far.
DG ISPR said that 4,510 suspects have been arrested while 558 surrendered to the security forces. In addition, 1849 unregistered Afghans were also detained. Likewise, he informed that 4,083 weapons as well as 6,22,195 of ammunition have been recovered by the security forces during these operations.
ISLAMABAD - The religio-political parties (JUI-F and Jamaat Islami) in Wednesday’s National Assembly proceedings strongly opposed the idea to make any amendment in the blasphemy law.
Both religious parties expressed their resolve not to support any government’s move for introducing any changes in the blasphemy law.
The house other day (Tuesday) condemning the cold-blooded murder and lynching of a university student in Mardan passed a resolution seeking strong safeguards against misuse of the blasphemy law by angry mobs.
“The house, through the resolution, resolves to ensure that strong safeguards may be inserted into the blasphemy law to prevent its abuse through such atrocities in the future including by mobs involved in such crimes,” says the resolution while condemning the killing and lynching of Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of Mass Communication Department at Abdul Wali Khan University, who was shot and beaten to death on premises of the university campus by a mob on April 13, accusing him of committing blasphemy.
Sahibzada Tariq Ullah from Jamaat Islami , on point of order, said there was a need of investigation into the incident of Mashal Khan’s murder. “We condemn it but not ready for amendment in the blasphemy law,” he said.
Naeema Kishwar from JUI-F said blasphemy law is a complete law. “They (JUI-F) will not favour any attempt to bring changes in the law,” she remarked. Naeema Kishwar, other day (in Tuesday’s Na session) had also said passing resolutions might not change the situation, practical measures were needed to be taken to stop it.
Earlier, PPP for the fifth consecutive day boycotted the proceedings of the house for not presenting PPP’s disappeared members before a Magistrate. “It is violation of constitutional amendment passed last month,” said Shah before staging walkout from the proceedings of the house.
A PPP’s lawmaker Shagufta Jumani also tried to disrupt proceedings of the house by pointing out quorum. Unlike previous four days, the required strength was present in the house.
The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab police claimed to have busted a 'big' cell of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Sheikhupura on Wednesday.
Eight suspected TTP militants were killed in the intelligence-based operation (IBO) carried out by CTD in Narang area of Sheikhupura. Two CTD officials were injured in the shootout, a handout issued by the department's spokesman said.
The killed militants had planned to carry out a major terrorist plan in Lahore in the near future, the CTD said.
Acting on a lead, the CTD personnel detected the hideout at about 11:30pm on Wednesday and challenged the militants to surrender. In response the miliants opened "indiscriminate fire" at the security personnel, injuring two CTD men.
A shootout ensued when the CTD personnel retaliated in self-defence, the CTD said.
"When the firing stopped, eight terrorists were found dead killed by firing of their own accomplices."
Three to four suspected militants managed to escape "due to darkness" and efforts are being made to nab them, the handout said. An investigation has been started and the dead militants are being identified.
Pakistan Archbishop: We're 'Moving Toward a Better Society
19 Apr 2017
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lahore, Pakistan, said Christians and Muslims working together to "slowly, slowly" make the troubled Islamic republic a "more harmonious society."
"We always tell that God has given us this planet to live," Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw told Newsmax TV's ""America Talks Live" with host Bill Tucker on Wednesday.
"And if we live in a peaceful way, and work for the rights of one another and also for the progress of the country, then I think, ultimately, all people living in Pakistan will live in peace and harmony — and use the talents of one another for the betterment of society.
"We are moving towards for a better society."
Watch Bill Tucker on Newsmax TV beginning at 12 PM ET to see "America Talks Live" — on FiOS 615, YouTube Livestream, Newsmax TV App from any smartphone, NewsmaxTV.com, Roku, Amazon Fire — More Systems Here
Shaw — appointed to his position by Pope Francis in 2013, after having been auxiliary bishop there since 2009 — explained Pakistan began as a republic inclusive of all.
"The founder of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, believed that Pakistan would be, or is, a country for all people," Shaw said.
"He said in his address to the assembly that the Christians will go to their churches and Muslims will go to their mosques . . .
"The state will have no business with the personal faith of people, so all will work for the progress and the fortification of Pakistan."
But decades after Pakistan was created in 1947, it began drifting toward religious intolerance.
"During the time of General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, the country started moving toward more Islamic-like laws that were introduced," Shaw told Tucker.
"Witnessing law, blasphemy law, and some laws like that, and then society was more divided in compartments based on religion."
In blasphemy law, anyone making statements against the Prophet Muhammad can be charged with a crime.
"Actually people live in Pakistan, [have lived] for centuries together, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. So, normal day-to-day life we have a good relation with everybody," Shaw said.
"We understand that we should respect the leader and especially the prophets of all religion like Christianity and Muslims. We respect one another. But some people are victims of blasphemy law.
"Through interfaith dialogue we are trying to come together to help one another to understand and give more respect to the beliefs and dogma of people of other faith."
Through this dialogue, Shaw said, "slowly, slowly society is once again moving toward making more efforts for a more harmonious society.
"It is a very slow process, but I hope that through interreligious faith people will understand and will respect."
Part of Shaw's efforts were the result of two Vatican documents written in the 1990s that urged parishes "to have a better relationship with all people of different faith."
"We were not really sure where we were heading, but we started after 9/11, we had a problem in Pakistan . . . Many churches were attacked right after 9/11," he said.
"We really worked very hard. Many Muslim scholars and imams joined us. Then, we also invited Hindu leaders and Sikh leaders [for] a dialogue.
"For example, when I explain to our Muslim brothers — and also Hindu and Sikh — that we are given a mandate from Christ: 'Love one another.'"
That love, he said, is not only for Christians, but everybody.
"We explained the parable of the Good Samaritan," Shaw said. "All human beings are our neighbors so we have to work for progress.
Muslim candidate wins Jakarta election
JAKARTA - A former Indonesian education minister won the race for Jakarta governor on Wednesday after a polarising campaign.
Anies Baswedan won with 58 percent of the votes versus 42 percent for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his Chinese nickname as "Ahok", based on 100 percent of the votes in an unofficial "quick count" by Indikator Politik. Other pollsters showed similar results.
The national elections commission will announce official results in early May. The turbulent campaign featured mass rallies led by a hardline movement, which has strengthened in recent years in a country long dominated by a moderate religion. More than 80 percent of Indonesia's population professes Islam.
"Going forward, the politics of religion is going to be a potent force," said Keith Loveard, an analyst at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting and an author of books about Indonesian politics.
Baswedan's huge margin of victory was surprising since opinion polls in the run-up to the election had pointed to a dead-heat. Purnama won the first round of voting for governor in February in a three-way race.
Indonesian social media users likened the election outcome to the shock results of the US presidential vote and the Brexit vote of last year.
The election came on the eve of a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence, as the Trump administration seeks to engage the world's fourth-largest nation and largest Muslim-majority country as an emerging regional power.
Pence is scheduled on Thursday to visit the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia, Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque.
The Jakarta election will be seen as a barometer for the 2019 presidential election, given the city's outsized importance as both the nation's capital and commercial centre.
Purnama is backed by President Joko Widodo's ruling party. Baswedan is supported by a retired general, Prabowo Subianto, who narrowly lost to Widodo in a 2014 presidential vote and is expected to challenge him again.
Police said 15 people were detained following reports of disturbances at several polling stations in the city of 10 million people, after what the Jakarta Post this week dubbed "the dirtiest, most polarising and most divisive" election campaign the nation had ever seen.
Security appeared light at several polling stations, though police said 66,000 personnel were deployed across the city.
Religious tensions have been an undercurrent in the campaign, with Purnama on trial for blasphemy over comments he made last year that many took to be insulting to Islam.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims took to the streets late last year to call for his sacking and to urge voters not to elect a non-Muslim leader. One person died and more than 100 were injured after one protest turned violent.
Some voters may have been reluctant to vote for Purnama because of worries about “five more years of protests on the streets by Muslim hardliners,” Loveard said in a telephone interview.
Ismail Yusanto, spokesman for one of the groups, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, said the election showed that Jakarta voters didn't want a non-Muslim leader. "It is forbidden under Islamic law, to have an infidel leader," he told Reuters.
Members of hardline groups, including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), celebrated the election result at Istiqlal mosque in central Jakarta on Wednesday evening, praying and cheering for the governor-elect.
Baswedan and Prabowo were also expected at grand mosque to join the prayers, according to media reports.
Baswedan, a respected scholar who many viewed as moderate, drew widespread criticism during the campaign when he aggressively courted the conservative Islamic vote, appearing publicly with hardline Islamic leaders during anti-Purnama rallies.
Baswedan, surrounded by his political patrons including Prabowo, struck a conciliatory tone at a news conference after unofficial results came in, pledging to "safeguard diversity and unity".
His platform has focused on improving public education, providing no-deposit home loans for low income groups and opposing a giant seawall in Jakarta Bay that Purnama has advocated. Baswedan has denied he plans to implement Islamic sharia law in Jakarta if elected.
Baswedan will officially take over as governor in October.
Purnama congratulated his rival in a news conference. “We still have six months (in office) until the new governor is inaugurated and we will finish up our homework," Purnama said. "We hope that in the future everyone can forget the campaign period.”
Purnama's blasphemy trial resumes on Thursday and he faces up to five years in jail if convicted.
Investors in Indonesian markets are likely to return to fundamentals such as corporate earnings, now that the political uncertainties surrounding the divisive Jakarta election have diminished, analysts said.
"As long as there are no security issues, the election outcome should not significantly stall the reform programme of the national government, in our view," Citigroup said in a note.
It maintained its year-end target of 6,150 points for the Jakarta stock exchange, which represents an 8 percent upside.
PETALING JAYA: Despite the controversies surrounding fugitive Indian preacher Zakir Naik, there is still a huge segment of Muslims who support his teachings and look up to him for guidance.
This is evident even in Malaysia, where Malay right-wing group Perkasa honoured Naik with an award for his contributions to Islam.
According to Azrul Mohd Khalib of rights group Bebas, there was always an appeal for the version of religion promoted by individuals like Naik.
“(The version is) one that is self-victimising, disempowering and xenophobic. One that looks at blaming others for its trials and sufferings, rather than looking inwardly,” he said to FMT.
“And one that believes in conspiracies such as the United States deliberately inflicting 9/11 on itself – which Naik has publicly stated – to explain certain events.”
Azrul was referring to the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the US by terror group al-Qaeda.
“Most alarmingly, the version of religion that uses messages of hate, bigotry and prejudice to mobilise others to commit acts which they themselves would not do, and later deny responsibility for inspiring,” he added.
Naik is no different from Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the militant Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiah, said Azrul.
“He (Naik) just wears suits, speaks English and has YouTube videos.”
But Azrul added that Naik had the right to speak his mind and share his opinions with the masses.
“And he has a right to be an idiot, and for us to treat him like one who belongs in the fringe groups.”
The Times of India (TOI) on April 15 reported that India’s National Investigation Agency would seek an Interpol notice against Naik to curb his movements if he fails to turn up for a probe on his activities, after defying repeated summonses.
And in November last year, India banned Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years, citing his “objectionable and subversive” speeches. This action was part of investigations into IRF by the country’s authorities.
The government also awarded Naik the “Tokoh Maal Hijrah” award in 2013.
20 Apr 2017
Jakarta - US Vice President Mike Pence will visit the largest mosque in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation - Indonesia - on Thursday (Apr 20), a symbolic gesture for the deputy in an administration accused of stoking Islamophobia.
Pence will tour the Istiqlal Mosque and hold a multi-faith dialogue during the first day of a visit to Jakarta, the White House said.
Pence's visit represents the Trump administration's most high-profile outreach to Muslims since coming to office and echoes a similar trip by Barack and Michelle Obama in 2010.
About 90 per cent of Indonesia's 255 million inhabitants are Muslim.
Since becoming president almost 100 days ago, Donald Trump has hosted leaders from majority-Muslim Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
But his administration has also tried to ban travellers from several Muslim-majority nations, citing concerns about terrorism - an effort currently being challenged in US courts.
As a presidential candidate, Trump often appeared to flirt with the far right as he railed against "radical Islamic terrorism".
Pence's visit has been welcomed by his hosts, who said they hoped it reflected a shift in US attitudes to Islam.
Maruf Amin, the head of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country's top Muslim clerical body, told AFP: "The US is a big country, with major influence, so it should present itself as a country which is friendly to everyone."
"Hopefully Pence's visit indicates a change in attitude, at least that they are moving away from the stance that they don't like Islam much."
Adam Mulawarman, the Indonesian foreign ministry's director of American affairs, said he believed "the visit to Istiqlal reflects the desire of the US to open itself to Islam, to engage in interfaith dialogue."
Although Indonesia has long been held up as an example of inter-faith tolerance, religious intolerance has been rising in recent years, with a surge of attacks by Islamic hardliners on minorities.
Critics say the case of Jakarta's Christian governor, who has been put on trial for blasphemy for allegedly insulting the Koran, has highlighted how religious freedoms are under threat.
On Wednesday, a Muslim challenger appeared to have bested the Christian incumbent in a religiously charged Jakarta gubernatorial election. The presumptive winner Anies Baswedan was accused of pandering to hardliners to win votes.
SMOOTHING ROUGH EDGES
Pence is currently on a tour of South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia that is aimed at smoothing some of the rougher edges of Trump's rhetoric.
In South Korea and Japan, Pence played down protectionist declarations of "America first" and reaffirmed US treaty commitments to the security of the two countries as tensions rise over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
But analysts say Pence's Muslim outreach in Indonesia, while welcomed, will likely not be enough to assuage fears that the Trump administration is anti-Islam.
"President Trump's hostile pronouncements on Islam and Muslims have done considerable damage to his reputation in the Islamic world. It would take more than a visit to repair the damage," said Fawaz Gerges, an expert on the Middle East and Islam from the London School of Economics.
BY ZURAIRI AR
KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 ― Nearly three decades old here, Islamic banking is still grappling with perception problems. On one hand, critics claim the industry is little more than traditional banking repackaged in a Shariah-friendly veneer.
On the other hand, the industry is also inaccurately seen by Muslims to be charitable bodies rather than the profit-driven entities that they are, according to former Islamic banking and finance academic Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki yesterday.
Now, the Islamic banking industry is considering a step that will address both problems together.
“When an institution carries the name Islam, sometimes there is misperception or misunderstanding on what the institution should be. One of the common misleading views is to relate Islamic banking only to focus on social welfare.
“Islamic banking is just as any other commercial entities, they are expected to make money and profit. They’re not operating on their own money, just like ordinary banking institutions,” said Asyraf, now a senator and deputy minister, in a seminar on Islamic charities.
Asyraf made his remarks while launching a report on “Sadaqah House” (SH), a concept through which Islamic banking hopes to contribute more to the society, possibly tackle poverty and inequality, and subsequently play a wider role than regular commercial entities.
Addressing inequality, poverty through private sector
The SH idea was first mooted in 2014 by Datuk Dr Abdul Halim Ismail, the former Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd’s (BIMB) managing director widely considered the “Father of Islamic Banking” here.
In a keynote address at the Global Islamic Finance Forum that year, Abdul Halim proposed the SH as a way for the private sector to be involved in voluntary charities, and complement the government’s involvement in obligatory charities such as the zakat, or Muslim alms.
The proposal was then picked up by the International Research Centre of Islamic Economics and Finance of the International Islamic University College Selangor (KUIS) together with BIMB, resulting in a workshop, steering committee, and finally a report on SH’s viability.
In the report, several models were considered, but the mechanisms are roughly the same: funds from donor would be invested by the SH, and the profit after tax would be distributed as donations to specific charities.
Its authors believed that one of the factors driving the idea is Malaysia’s rising inequality, as indicated by the Gini coefficient’s consistent decline here for the past 20 years, with the lowest recorded in 2014.
Proponents believe that the move would not only move Islamic financial institutions to deal more directly with social welfare beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, but also to further differentiate it from conventional banking.
“For conventional banking, their philosophy is profit maximisation without any barriers. [Meanwhile] we have that Shariah parameters,” Asyraf told the media, referring to Islamic banking.
Coaxing banks to adopt Sadaqah House
In May 2016, a special task force was formed to propose SH’s establishment in the country, involving KUIS, the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia, Islamic College of Johor, and BIMB, whose Shariah division head Mohd Nazri Chik serves as adviser.
As a strategic partner in the study, BIMB may have first dibs on the concept, but its chief strategy officer Hizamuddin Jamalluddin was cautiously optimistic when asked by Malay Mail Online over the prospect of implementing the idea.
“We hope to cooperate between BIMB and Islamic banking as a whole to develop this concept of Sadaqah House,” Hizamuddin said.
“We have to see the best model, to not just involve BIMB but we also ask other friends in Islamic banking to cooperate in developing this concept. It is a strategic work together with other Islamic banking institutions.”
Evidently, among the biggest challenges for SH is to get banks to adopt the concept, especially when there may be little profit to be made.
In one of the three models, where SH is offered as a banking product, the bank does not make any profit at all from the money deposited, despite operational costs such as for fund management, advertisement, and promotion.
“This is in the area of social welfare. It’s part and parcel of responsibility of the citizens of this country, be it individual or organisations,” Abdul Halim replied when asked about this.
“I would have thought that at this particular area, banks should be aiming to cover the cost, not to make profit. They can try to make some profit to prepare for rainy days, but it should not be aiming at making reasonable profit.
“The profit should come from the commercial area,” he explained.
Clash between federal and state jurisdictions
The concept is not without any potential problems, with the research showing that the federal Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM); the Wakaf, Zakat and Haj Department; and state Islamic religious councils were concerned over the use of the Arabic term “sadaqah” for the name. The word roughly translates as “charity”.
“They opined that such term would trigger jurisdictional issue between the State and Federal Government. This is due to the fact that the term ‘sadaqah’ implies the Islamic donation, hence falling within the ambit of the state jurisdiction,” said the report.
Instead, the concerned religious bodies suggested that in order for the SH concept to be implemented within the banking environment, it can be called “i-donation” or “i-charity”, denoting an Islamic financial concept.
The research also found that the concept may be less attractive to both Muslims and non-Muslims due to their confusion and misconception, with the latter possibly perceiving that it is confined only to the former.
By Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad
I almost fell off my chair when I read a news report about Prime Minister Najib Razak urging the rakyat not to vote “those who don’t want Islam developed”. He didn’t quite elaborate on how to develop Islam though.
On the back of a litany of “sins of omissions and commissions”, namely the scandal of an unprecedented nature in relation to 1MDB and SRC International Sdn Bhd, involving billions of ringgit in public funds and taxpayer money, Najib’s words sound hollow.
Najib has also conveniently forgotten or selectively chosen to be amnesic about the abuse of funds and mismanagement by some of his lieutenants in certain government agencies and GLCs.
Najib must be made to understand that he cannot hoodwink the rakyat by posturing that he was helping PAS or Islam by getting the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU355 tabled, for the third time, but then instructing the speaker of the Dewan Rakyat to not allow debate on it.
If he thinks that is “developing Islam” then he is unmistakably under an illusion. It is wishful thinking of the highest order. The rakyat, especially the Muslim constituencies, are no longer as gullible or naive as before. Perhaps he and Umno are still oblivious to this changing reality. Perhaps Najib is in need of a little preaching since he has started to be a preacher himself now.
Let me remind Najib and his new ally PAS that the utmost objective of shariah, insofar as government is concerned, is to manage the resources of the nation responsibly, sustainably and prudently, so as to achieve “prosperity and distributive justice for all”. That is categorically stated in Surah Hud:61, calling for “Al-Isti’mar” or, in the widest sense, “prosperity and well-being” for all.
Allah has outrightly denounced and cursed those steeped in the practise of fraud and injustices, driven essentially by greed and dishonesty. Allah says; “Woe unto those that deal in fraud” in the Surah (Chapter) Al-Mutaffifeen and reminds them of the final reckoning on the day of judgement, when everyone will stand before the lord of the worlds.
The Malay-Muslim community particularly, must be made to understand in very clear terms that striving for “Islamic development” is about “achieving justice and attaining prosperity for all” and getting rid of corrupt and dishonest Malay-Muslim leaders, who are responsible for the rising cost of living and withdrawal of subsidies and imposing the burdensome and regressive GST or consumption tax on the rakyat.
The Malays especially must be told that these are the leaders who actually perpetuate gross income and wealth disparities by amassing huge wealth through nepotism and crony capitalism. Hence, denying the right and development of the poor and marginalised sections of the rakyat.
Islamic development is surely not about merely increasing the limit of punishment, especially if the “offenders” are from the lower income group, while the political elites and their super-rich friends are free to plunder the wealth of the nation – wealth that is meant to develop the rakyat, particularly the poor, who then have to rob or steal to survive or be driven to social vices out of desperation and poverty.
I challenge Najib to honestly disclose and declassify the findings of the report of the Auditor- General on the 1MDB investigation. Najib has committed a grave “sin of omission” in Islam by classifying the controversial 1MDB report – on the unaccounted for or missing RM14 billion in 1MDB funds – under the Official Secrets Act. That is a grave sin indeed! I challenge any mufti, worth their salt, to denounce me as going against the “Maslahah Ammah” or “public interest”.
In no way has Saudi Arabian ruler King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud’s visit to Malaysia exonerated Najib from the infamous RM2.6 billion found in his personal AmBank Islamic accounts. The SRC International issue – where money was borrowed from the pension fund KWAP – also needs immediate reckoning.
On the back of this and a litany of other wrongdoings on his part, it becomes a huge mockery for Najib to slander his political opposition as being ‘unislamic’. In fact, his opponents have better and more substantive ways of strengthening the Shariah Court, rather than merely upping the limit of punishments.
Turkey arrests leftist activists over anti-referendum protests
Turkish police have detained 16 leftist activists involved in protests against the result of a recent referendum on the expansion of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers, a lawyer says.
The Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) said police detained its Istanbul chairman, Mesut Gecgel, on Wednesday on the accusation of "agitating the public" by claiming that the win for the 'Yes' campaign was illegitimate.
The head of the left-wing ODP movement, which is not represented in the Turkish parliament, had himself said in a message on Twitter that he was being detained for demonstrating against the 'Yes' victory.
Deniz Demirdogen, Gecgel's lawyer, said anti-terror police raided the houses of suspects in Istanbul in the early hours of Wednesday, adding that 16 people had been detained so far but arrest warrants had been issued for a total of 38 people.
Demirdogen said the accusation was "strange", adding, "They are accused of provoking people to question the legitimacy of the 'Yes' in the referendum."
"But there's no such crime definition in the penal code," the lawyer said.
Demirdogen said the 16 detainees were being questioned by police and were awaiting a decision by prosecutors on the case.
Police have not confirmed the detentions.
In Sunday’s referendum, the ‘Yes’ campaign won over 51 percent of the votes, while the 'No' campaign gained nearly 49 percent.
Since Erdogan declared victory in the referendum, protests have been held in the country.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s two main opposition parties officially submitted an appeal against the referendum result.
Representatives of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) presented their applications to the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) in Ankara on Tuesday.
Electoral board rejects referendum appeals
Turkey’s highest electoral authority on Wednesday rejected the appeals to annul the referendum after complaints of vote-rigging.
"HDP, CHP and Vatan Party appeals regarding the April 16 referendum were discussed separately and as a result of evaluations, the appeals were rejected with 10 votes against and 1 vote in favor," the YSK said.
Palestinians slam Israel for refusing talks with hunger strikers
RAMALLAH - Palestinian leaders on Wednesday denounced Israel's refusal to negotiate with Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli jails, warning of a "new intifada" if any of them die.
Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have joined the hunger strike that began Monday, according to Issa Qaraqe, head of detainees' affairs for the Palestinian Authority.
Contacted by AFP, Israel's prison service declined to comment on the number.
The hunger strike has been led by prominent prisoner and popular Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. The prisoners have made a range of demands, from better medical care to access to telephones.
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes. Around 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge. Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale.
Qaraqe said the strike followed months of attempts at negotiations with Israeli authorities. "If their demands are not met, more prisoners will join the strike," he said. "We have asked the international community and the UN to intervene immediately." He added that if prisoners die, "that could lead to a new intifada." Israeli officials have vowed not to negotiate with the hunger strikers, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday calling them "terrorists and incarcerated murderers." Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that authorities "would not hesitate to implement the law which authorises the force-feeding of detainees".
The controversial law passed in 2015 concerns hunger strikers whose life is deemed in danger.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he wanted to take the approach of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who publicly refused to accede to the demands of IRA hunger strikers in 1981, 10 of whom died.
Qaraqe accused Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of "incitement" against the prisoners.
Shawan Jabarin of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq said invoking the force-feeding law would be "tantamount to torture." Barghouti is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.
While many Palestinians view him as a hero, Israelis point to the bloody suicide attacks of the second intifada of 2000-2005 and his role in the uprising.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a press conference in Washington on Wednesday that Iran continues to support the Houthi militia in Yemen and threatens naval navigation in the Arabian Gulf.
Tillerson also noted that Iran funds insurgents in Syria as well as sends troops to fight in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
"Saudi Arabia, itself, is the supporter of al-Qaeda and ISIL and it is now transferring members of the two terrorist groups to Yemen," Leader of Yemen's Popular Congress Mohammad Mon'am told the Arabic website of Sputnik news agency on Wednesday.
"Last week, 400 ISIL members were transferred to Yemen from Syria on three ships; Saudi Arabia and the US obviously want the terrorists to take control of Bab al-Mandab Strait," he added.
In relevant remarks in December, Chairman of Yemen’s public organization Alliance for Progress and Development said Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen contributed to the development of such terrorist organizations as al-Qaeda and ISIL.
During the crisis in Yemen, the terrorist organizations managed to receive aid of several foreign banks, Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh said.
"Saudi aggression against Yemen served as a breeding ground for the development of extremist forces, such as al-Qaeda and ISIL and, in the situation when central authorities are weakened, when the country is in the state of war, these militant forces have an opportunity for spreading their influence, expanding the field of their actions," Saleh added.
Immediately after winning Sunday's referendum, President Tayyip Erdogan promised to reinstate the death penalty, a reform put in place 15 years ago that was seen as fundamental to Turkey's efforts to join the European Union.
The move would be sure to delight his fans, who called for it repeatedly at campaign rallies. But by effectively ending Ankara's decades-long EU accession bid, it could be a tough sell to the millions of Turks in bustling port cities, trade and tourist hubs who voted 'No' in Sunday's vote.
Preliminary results show a slim majority of 51.4 percent of Turkish voters voted "Yes" to granting the presidency sweeping powers, the biggest overhaul of the country's politics since the founding of the modern republic.
"Our concern is not what George, Hans or Helga says," Erdogan told flag-waving supporters on the steps of his presidential palace on Monday.
"Our concern is what Hatice, Ayse, Fatma, Ahmet, Mehmet, Huseyin, Hasan says, what God says," he said. He has promised a debate in parliament on the issue or, failing that, another referendum.
But Europe would not be the only source of resistance to Erdogan's plans.
Turkey's biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir - voted "No" on Sunday, along with industrial heartlands, tourist hotspots and ports in 33 provinces, outward-looking regions that have thrived on strong relations with Europe and are increasingly fearful of the future.
More than 320 of Turkey's 500 largest industrial companies are based in cities that voted against the constitutional changes, 181 of them in Istanbul.
"For years, we have worked on getting ourselves integrated with the world," Serafettin Asut, head of the chamber of commerce and industry in the Mediterranean city of Mersin, home to one of Turkey's largest international ports.
"We have made progress in foreign trade. We constantly think about how to improve ourselves. When you look at it from this perspective, bringing up the death penalty again would not really be received well," Asut said.
More than 64 percent of Mersin's electorate voted "No" in the referendum, a surprise outcome in a city which had voted largely for the ruling AK Party, which was founded by Erdogan, in a November 2015 general election.
"People (in Mersin) turn their face towards the outside world but at home they see a different story," Asut said.
Tourist centers such as the Mediterranean city of Antalya, through which some 6 million foreign visitors entered the country last year, also overwhelmingly voted "No".
The main secularist opposition CHP party and the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP are seeking to annul the referendum, while the bar association and international observers have said the vote was marred by irregularities.
Erdogan has said the vote on Sunday ended all debate, however, telling European observers who criticized it: "Talk to the hand".
There have been sporadic protests against the outcome in cities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
"The AK Party is increasingly failing to attract the voters of big cities," said Murat Gezici, head of pollster Gezici, which correctly predicted the outcome of the referendum.
"They tried to convince the masses through patriotic and conservative values and the voters have perceived this as an indication of AKP’s future policies – turning its face away from the West," Gezici said.
If Erdogan presses ahead with reinstating the death penalty, the AKP will need to either pass a bill through parliament, for which it does not have the votes alone, or hold another referendum, which he could swing with the backing of the nationalist MHP party, which has supported the idea in the past.
In the latest referendum, however, Erdogan was only able to get the support of 35 percent of MHP voters, according to Gezici, indicating that the backing he bet among the nationalists may not be there.
JUST A PRECAUTION
A hero for many in Turkey's pious working class, Erdogan has over the years also won support from liberal businessmen. His reform-oriented early years in power as prime minister from 2003 brought stability and attracted foreign investment.
But confidence has been dented by the worsening ties with Europe, mounting concerns about political freedom and civil rights after last year's failed coup, a resurgent conflict with Kurdish militants, and the threat from Islamic State in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
One businessman in Turkey, who runs a medium-sized textile company with around 150 clients based in Europe, said he had recently set up a company in Germany because of the deteriorating environment.
"It is a precaution in case relations between Turkey and the EU sour further and affect trade," he said, asking not to be identified because he feared retribution from customers who are loyal Erdogan supporters.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has underlined its resolve to use all the existing democratic channels to ensure a rerun of the controversial referendum on the country’s constitutional reform.
“This referendum should be repeated. We will not act as if there is a constitution that is not existent. We will not buckle under a fait accompli. There should be no doubt that we will use every democratic right that we have to ensure it,” CHP spokesperson Selin Sayek Boke said on Wednesday.
Boke described the April 16 referendum on the expansion of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers as “null and void,” arguing that the polling process was “fraudulent” and the results were “manipulated.”
In Sunday’s referendum, the ‘Yes’ campaign won over 51 percent of the votes, while the ‘No’ campaign gained nearly 49 percent.
Boke accused Turkey’s election authority, the Supreme Board of Elections, of resorting to “dozens of tricks” to ensure that the ‘Yes’ result was achieved.
The pro-Kurdish opposition HDP, which has also appealed for the referendum to be annulled, said the electoral board’s decision to allow the counting of unstamped ballots has made it impossible to determine how many invalid or fake votes may have been counted.
HDP deputy chairman Mithat Sancar said the ‘Yes’ campaign had benefited from state resources under emergency rules, while and the HDP’s co-leaders were under arrest and its candidates for polling station monitors had been rejected.
“This referendum will forever remain controversial. You cannot build a change in the political system on such a controversial and unfair referendum,” he said.
According to the head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations Metin Feyzioglu, the decision to count unstamped ballots, without keeping any record of them, removed the main safeguard against voting fraud.
“What makes any country a democracy is the security of the ballot boxes... If your ballots are unsafe, that means that regime is not a democracy,” Feyzioglu told reporters.
Reports by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe also rejected the referendum as “an uneven contest,” arguing that a decision to count unstamped votes was in violation of Turkey’s electoral law.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu rejected the European observers report, saying it contains several mistakes.
“The OSCE’s report has no reliability as their observations lack objectivity and are extremely partial,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara.
Turkey’s High Electoral Board said it had assessed appeals from the CHP and two other parties at a seven-hour meeting and rejected them by 10 to one votes.
In response, CHP Deputy Chairman Bulent Tezcan said his party was considering taking its appeal to Turkey's Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights.
Separately, Istanbul police detained 19 activists on Wednesday on charges of attempted provocation for organizing protests against the referendum.
The Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) said police detained its Istanbul chairman, Mesut Gecgel, on Wednesday on the accusation of “agitating the public” by claiming that the win for the ‘Yes’ campaign was illegitimate.
Black Muslims aim for unity in challenging time for Islam
APRIL 19, 2017
In her job as a refugee case manager, Fatimah Farooq would come to work in a hijab and speak with her clients in Arabic. Nonetheless, she found herself being asked whether she was Muslim.
It's not easy, Farooq says, navigating her dual identities as black and Muslim.
"I'm constantly trying to prove that I belong," said Farooq, who now works in public health. "It's really hard not to be an outsider in a community — especially today, in the current times."
Many Muslims are reeling from a U.S. presidential administration that's cracked down on immigrants, including through the introduction of a travel ban that suspends new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and is now tied up in court. But black American-born Muslims say they have been pushed to the edges of the conversations — even by those who share the same religion.
They say they often feel discrimination on multiple fronts: for being black, for being Muslim and for being black and Muslim among a population of immigrant Muslims. Farooq, whose Sudanese parents came to the U.S. before she was born, said her own family used to attend a largely African-American mosque but then moved to a predominantly Arab one — yet in both cases still felt like "outsiders."
The identity issues have rippled into social media with Twitter's #BeingBlackAndMuslim and @BlkMuslimWisdom formed in recent weeks to amplify stories of black Muslims, whether it's to praise Mahershala Ali, who is black and became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, or to express concern over the lack of black speakers at a recent Islamic conference. Tensions are also being aired at community town halls, with panelists questioning why there hasn't been more involvement from Arab and South Asian Muslims in Black Lives Matter events.
In response, activists say they're seizing the opportunity to unite Muslims of all backgrounds.
Kashif Syed, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area, grew up in a family of South Asian Muslim immigrants around Detroit that was insulated from black Muslims. Now that he's part of a young professional Muslim community, he's trying to honor the experiences of others.
"We're seeing increasingly visible threats to Muslims across the country now — it's an important reminder of what black communities have endured for generations in this country," said Syed, who volunteers at Townhall Dialogue, a nonprofit fostering discussions about U.S. Muslim identity. "I can't really think of a better time for non-black Muslims to start examining how we got here, and what lessons we can learn from the hard-won victories of black communities from the civil rights movement."
Organizer Shamar Hemphill, a black Chicago native who works for the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, said Republican President Donald Trump's executive orders such as the travel ban have made organizers "quadruple" efforts to form alliances, including recent calls for Muslim groups to attend and organize around Martin Luther King Jr. Day events.
"We're not going to allow any policy or federal piece of legislation to separate us and isolate us. We're going to come together and protect each other," he said. "It's also a great opportunity because it brings us out of our silos."
Other attempts at unity have been made over the years. Imam Zaid Shakir at the California-based Zaytuna College, a liberal arts Muslim college, has delivered lectures about similarities between the Prophet Muhammad's farewell sermon and King's "I Have a Dream Speech." The Council on American-Islamic Relations holds events around the birthday of Malcolm X, a Nation of Islam member who came into mainstream Islam. And IMAN in Chicago has celebrated hip hop, featuring Muslim rappers like Grammy-winner Rhymefest.
Asha Noor, whose family fled Somalia's civil war when she was a baby, helped organize a town hall after Trump announced his first travel ban in February, which blocked travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries and put the U.S. refugee program on hold. That ban has since been replaced with a newer version.
Noor said she feels there's less attention paid to the plight of refugees from her native Somalia and Sudan, the two African countries in Trump's executive order. She sees it as part of a "continuous erasure of the black Muslim experience."
"Black Muslims often face a two-front challenge, both within the community and the larger American society," said Noor, who worked for Take on Hate, a campaign challenging discrimination against Arabs and Muslims. "You can never be too sure if assaults or micro-aggressions are coming because you're black, Muslim, or both."
Central to the issue, experts say, is that Islam is largely portrayed as something foreign. That's a misconception University of San Francisco professor Aysha Hidayatullah encounters when teaching an "Islam in America" class where she looks at Islam's presence in America from the slave trade to civil rights — something that is a surprise to many of her students.
"It's a class that is focused mainly on recovering the black memory of Islam in this country," she said. "That's the element that's forgotten."
Compared with the general population, U.S. Muslims are more racially diverse with a larger percentage born abroad. There's disagreement on how many millions reside in the U.S., but it's commonly accepted that American blacks represent about one-third of Muslims in this country.
Many came to the religion through the Nation of Islam, which veers from mainstream Islam on several core teachings, leading many immigrant Muslims to consider it too divergent from their faith. But Imam W. Deen Mohammed transformed the movement after taking it over in the 1970s and gradually moved his thousands of followers toward mainstream Islam, while Louis Farrakhan took leadership of the black separatist Nation of Islam.
Despite the history of blacks in the Muslim faith, Tariq Touré, a Maryland writer and activist, says South Asian and Arab narratives still dominate the conversation.
"It's disheartening, because black Muslims can't even get a word in as to how they're navigating all of this," said Touré, who's black. "We really struggle with it all — the bridges that have been burned and the barriers that have been built within the Muslim communities when it comes to race."
Abdul Rahim Habib, an American-born college student, said even his close friends assumed he converted to Islam because they didn't associate being black with being Muslim. That's even though the 21-year-old's Nigerian father and grandparents are Muslim. While growing up in Chicago, he could remember moments when Arab Muslims refused to greet him with "As-Salaam-Alaikum," a wish of peace customary among all Muslims.
"A lot of our Arab brothers and sisters didn't really care about being brothers and sisters until this point when they started having problems," he said.
April 19, 2017
By Danielle Knafo
New York – Where can one see Muslims and Jews enjoying a meal together and socializing as friends these days? I know it sounds like a riddle, and perhaps it is. The answer is in New York City, where there exists a group of Moroccan Jews and Muslims who meet regularly to socialize, enjoy good food, and get to know one another. Most of them have Moroccan roots, which is significant, because Morocco is known for its diversity and tolerance—two traits that seem to be in short order these days.
Simo Elaissaoul, a native of Sale, Morocco, arrived in the United States in 2007. Longing for a sense of community, he used social media to contact other Moroccans in the area. What began as small get togethers with other Moroccan Muslims, to celebrate holidays and have Bar-B-Q’s, grew into a movement.
Collaboration with Jason Guberman, director of the American Sephardi Federation (ASF), and his wife, Irina Tsukerman, turned the idea into a social club that would include Jews. To date, there have been sixteen dinners.
I wish to write about a very special dinner that took place on March 29th. It was the evening before the opening of the annual Sephardi Film Festival, hosted by the ASF. Guests included the honorable Andre Azoulay and Enrico Macias.
These two men signify a lot to the Moroccan community and they each represent a unification of Jewish and Muslim spirit. Azoulay, a Jew, is currently senior advisor to Morocco’s King Mohammed the VI and was the advisor to his father, King Hassan II.
The fact that a Jew works so closely with the King of a Muslim country demonstrates the uniqueness of Morocco in the Muslim world. No Moroccan Jew forgets what Mohammed V did for the Jews of Morocco during WWII. He protected the Jews from the Nazis and Vichy government during the Holocaust, declaring famously, “We have no Jews in Morocco; Only Moroccan citizens.”
This Islamic School Teaches How To Be Muslim, And American
Like any good fifth-grade teacher, Mike Matthews wants to make his social studies unit on the American West as exciting as possible. So he's planning a special "Wild West" evening at the school with his students.
"We're going to have good ol' cowboy-fashion hot dogs and beans, Texas Toast and beef jerky," he says. Matthews will tell stories around a mock campfire, and for added authenticity, the fifth-graders will set up a saloon.
Of course, the saloon scene will be free of any references to alcohol, since the school — Al Fatih Academy in Reston, Va. — is an Islamic institution.
"We had the discussion already about what is appropriate, according to our mission," Matthews says. "The students are going to create an indoor saloon, but we're going to make it kid-friendly."
The academy, which serves elementary and middle school grades, was established in 1999, "to cultivate and nurture a thriving American Muslim identity that balances religious, academic and cultural knowledge and imparts the importance of civic involvement and charitable work."
The school combines traditional classes with Islamic instruction. All students take Arabic, recite from the Quran, and are taught how to pray. Shad Imam, who has a daughter and a son enrolled here, says he and his wife were drawn to this school because of the way Islamic ideas are woven into the curriculum.
"When you're learning about the stars and the planets, when you're learning about science," he says, "you're doing it through the rubric of, 'This is how God created the world. This is how we, as Muslims, understand the world to exist.' I find that very powerful, because often, I think, religion is relegated to a compartmentalized part of society."
With Islam estimated to be the fastest growing religion in the country, private Islamic institutions are gaining the same acceptance in American education that other religious schools have long enjoyed. There are now nearly 300 elementary and secondary Islamic schools across the country, according to the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), where many of them are represented.
Joe McTighe, CAPE's executive director, says the Islamic schools share with other private religious schools a vision of their education mission that goes beyond the purely academic orientation of public secular schools.
"Religious schools see education as much more than that," McTighe says. "They look at the aesthetic dimension, the spiritual dimension, the ethical and moral. They look at the whole child, in body and soul."
The curriculum at Al Fatih Academy nevertheless closely follows state guidelines. Eighth graders at the school, like eighth graders across Virginia, take civics and learn the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. Teacher Ann Raheem has her students write letters to their representatives about government issues that concern them.
Ayra Aslam's burning issue was road congestion. "I wrote to my state elected officials about the traffic on Route 7, and how maybe they could, like, fix it by adding an extra lane," she says. "Because it's really bad in the morning." If they added an extra lane, Aslam explains, " I could get to school on time."
Like most of the older girls and female teachers, Ayra wears a headscarf to school, though it's not required except at prayer time. The school directors aim to bring the students' Muslim and American identities into a single whole, a goal that responds in part to the frustrations they themselves felt as young immigrant Muslims.
"Growing up, we thought it was hard," says Pervin Divleli, a co-founder of the school. "You created different identities for yourself, depending on where you were. If you were with your family, there was a certain expectation for how you behaved. They were first-generation immigrants, with a very strong culture that they brought with them. You were a different way when you were in school. You were a different way when you went to the mosque, because there were so many different people there. Part of what attracted me here was the opportunity to create an environment where my kids can really understand their identity and shape it and become an American Muslim."
The Al Fatih program includes a special emphasis on social justice issues.
Ann Raheem opened her eighth-grade civics class on a recent day by reading a story about children in Birmingham, Ala., leading a civil rights demonstration in the 1960s.
"It's so amazing what they were able to do as such young kids," she says, looking up from the text. "They made the decision that they were going to risk going to jail, they were going to risk personal violence against themselves, to make that change."
As the students deepen their connection to their faith and their Muslim identity, however, they also need to grapple with the reality that Islam has become associated in some minds with terrorism and hate. The young Muslims at Al Fatih have struggled with the actions of violent extremists who share their religion, like the Pakistani American and his wife who carried out the massacre at San Bernardino.
"They would say, 'This was a Muslim guy! This was a Muslim woman!' " recalls Afeefa Syeed, the co-director at Al Fatih. "And as they're talking, they're saying, 'But that's not what a Muslim does. How could they even think to do that?' And they're clearly thinking through this, without us just spooning them the answers, because we've created a climate here where we have them think through what it means to be a person of faith and specifically what it means to be Muslim."
19 April 2017
The White House has ordered a review of the Iran nuclear deal, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
Asked at a news briefing if Trump had decided to pull out of the 2015 deal, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the 90-day inter-agency review, announced on Tuesday, would make recommendations on the path forward.
The agreement between Iran and six world powers, negotiated during Barack Obama’s presidency, placed limitations on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran.
During his presidential campaign, Trump called the agreement “the worst deal ever negotiated.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei warned in November that Tehran would retaliate if the United States breached the nuclear agreement.
When Spicer was questioned whether Trump was concerned Iran was cheating on the deal, he said “That’s why he’'s asking for this review. If he didn’t, if he thought everything was fine he would’ve allowed this to move forward.”
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The father of a Muslim-American soldier who died in combat in Iraq filed an amicus brief on Wednesday supporting a federal judge's decision to block President Donald Trump's revised travel ban.
Attorneys for Gold Star father Khizr Khan filed his brief in San Francisco where the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering an appeal to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson.
Khan's son, Humayun Khan, was a Muslim U.S. Army captain who was killed in 2004 by a suicide bomber in Iraq. Humayun was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
During last year's Democratic National Convention, Khan drew national attention when he criticized the anti-Muslim rhetoric of then-Republican nominee Trump.
Trump took to Twitter to criticize Khan, saying the fallen soldier's father had "viciously attacked" him.
Days after his inauguration, Trump issued an executive order restricting travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A federal judge blocked the order in February.
In March, Trump issued a revised travel ban order that blocks new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily halts the U.S. refugee program.
Watson issued a temporary restraining order against the revised ban after the state of Hawaii filed a lawsuit challenging it.
Hawaii says the policy discriminates against Muslims and hurts the state's tourist-dependent economy.
By Ellen Nakashima
An Ohio man who expressed support for the Islamic State has pleaded guilty to soliciting the murder of members of the U.S. military, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Terrence J. McNeil, 24, of Akron, Ohio, pleaded guilty Tuesday to five counts of solicitation to commit a crime of violence and five counts of making threatening interstate communications involving his call to kill military personnel.
McNeil “disseminated ISIL’s violent rhetoric, circulated U.S. military personnel information, and explicitly called for the killing of American service members in their homes and communities,” acting assistant attorney general Mary B. McCord said in a statement, using an acronym for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. “Now he will be held accountable.”
McNeil, a U.S. citizen, was arrested on Nov. 12, 2015. He professed his support on numerous occasions on social media for the Islamic State, according to documents filed in the case. In September 2015, using a Tumblr account, he reposted a file with the banner “Islamic State Hacking Division,” followed by “Target: United States Military” and “Leak: Addresses of 100 U.S. Military Personnel.”
[The Islamic State’s suspected inroads into America]
According to the documents, one file that apparently sought to rally Islamic State followers to violence stated: “O Brothers in America, know that the jihad against the crusaders is not limited to the lands of the [caliphate], it is a world-wide jihad and their war is not just a war against the Islamic State, it is a war against Islam.”
McNeil went on to say it was necessary to kill the “kuffar” or disbelievers: “Now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step.”
According to case documents, the file said, “Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe.”
The file then displays several dozen photographs, purportedly of military personnel, along with their names, addresses and military branch, according to the government. The final image is a picture of a handgun and a knife with text that reads, “and kill them wherever you find them.”
McNeil’s case is an example of what FBI Director James B. Comey has repeatedly warned about in recent years — Islamic State supporters taking to social media to call on supporters in the United States to kill people in the country.
McNeil posted other kill lists in late 2015, all of which repeated the call to commit murder, the Justice Department said.
Bengali Muslim intellectuals on last minute signature collection drive against triple talaq
A group of Bengali Muslim intellectuals has launched a last minute drive to collect one lakh signatures from Muslim women and men demanding abolition of triple talaq and polygamy with the objective of submitting them before the President and Prime Minister before the country’s apex court starts hearing on the legality of triple talaq, halala marriage and polygamy on May 11.
“We have already collected about 55,000 signatures, most of them from Muslim women. We’ll submit the signatures by May 9 and on May 10 we’ll sit on a day-long dharna at Jantar Mantar. We want the centre to strongly advocate abolition of these practices during the hearing in the court,” said Osman Mallick, headmaster of a government-run high school in West Bengal. He had also filed a petition in Supreme Court last November.
Read: Muslim law board shows the door to woman member who opposed triple talaq
Incidentally, late last year a signature collection war broke out between All India Muslim Personal Law Board that launched a nationwide drive to collect signatures of people “to save and protect Shariat Laws” --- related to marriage, divorce and inheritance, while women’s rights groups unleashed a counter-campaign.
During a recent visit to West Bengal, union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said West Bengal accounted for the second highest number of triple talaq victims. Last year, with tacit support from ruling Trinamool Congress leaders, Kolkata also hosted the first major rally in the country by Muslim religious leaders in support of continuing with the practices.
The signatures are being collected from various districts on behalf of a Joint Movement Committee formed by several secular Muslim organisations that have been campaigning for the rights of the Muslim women and opposing religious fundamentalism. The organisations include Progressive Muslim Society, Reformist Muslim Society and Secular Mission.
“Our signature campaign is aimed at making the union government aware of what the Muslim women want. In a meeting recently held by the orthodox religio-social leadership from the community announced that Muslim women campaigners like us are enemy of the Community. I would better be branded like that than being a dumb witness to the injustices against Muslim women,” said Syed Tanveer Nasreen, a professor of women’’s studies at Burdwan University and a prominent campaigner against patriarchy in Muslim society.
A five-judge Constitution bench is scheduled to finish the hearing on the legality of orally pronounced triple talaq, halala marriage and polygamy among Muslims between May 11 and 19. The case originated from petitions filed by some Muslim women who sought abolition of these practices and argued they contradicted the fundamental rights ensured by the Constitution.
While All India Muslim Personal Law Board has opposed the idea, arguing that the practices have the sanction of the Quran, the Centre of have so far backed abolition of the practices.
According to Kazi Masum Akhtar, headmaster of a government-run school in Kolkata who had to be transferred from a government-run madrasa in the face of life threats from some Muslim religious groups, the signature campaign has drawn more support that initially expected.
“Previously, Muslim women dared not speaking against these social evils but now, largely due to escalated campaign from the secular Muslims who want reforms in the community, more and more women are speaking out,” Akhtar said.
PM Modi meets senior ministers hours after SC order on Babri Masjid case
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held a meeting with senior ministers in the capital, hours after the Supreme Court announced the order restoring criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu, and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari were reportedly present in the meeting, PTI quoted sources as saying.
According to PTI, the political situation in the country was discussed in the meeting, but details of the issues were not made public.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court ruled that LK Advani, Uma Bharti and MM Joshi will face criminal conspiracy charges in the Babri Masjid demolition case. The bench comprised Justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman. The SC directed the sessions judge in Lucknow to conduct the trial in the Babri demolition case on a daily basis, and has said that the judge would not be transferred. It also ruled out a fresh trial in the case. The apex court ordered the CBI to ensure that witnesses are produced in court everyday so that there is no delay in the trial, which will have to be completed in two years.
After the ruling, the opposition demanded Uma Bharti’s resignation from her current post in the Cabinet as Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, later ruled out her resignation from the Union Cabinet. “This case is going on since 1993. Somehow it is going on and no new situation has arisen. So the situation which was prevailing will continue,” Jaitley said. When asked whether the leaders should resign after the chargesheet is filed, he added, “There have been ministers, there have been deputy prime ministers… If charge sheet is the rule (to resign), then just calculate, how many Congress chief ministers will (have to go).”
Alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Mohammed Ahmed Siddibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal on Wednesday was remanded in the custody of the Surat crime branch for eight days in connection with planting of 29 bombs at different places in the city in 2008. The bombs were detected in time and none of them exploded.
The Surat police took custody of Bhatkal from the Ahmedabad police and produced him before a special court, seeking a 14-day custody. But, the court granted Bhatkal’s remand to the Surat crime branch till April 27. The first live bomb was recovered from a traffic island in City Light area on July 28, 2008. It was spotted by an SMC staffer, who was cleaning the traffic island. In the following two days, police had found as many as 28 bombs.
Nigeria's army launches month-long operation to stem deadly ethnic violence
ABUJA: The Nigerian army on Wednesday launched a month-long operation to reduce violence in the centre of the country, as ethnically charged fighting pressures a government already tackling Boko Haram in the northeast and militants in the oil-rich south.
Hundreds are thought to have died in clashes that often carry religious overtones in deeply divided Nigeria, with Muslim herders facing off against Christian farmers in a country almost evenly split between the two faiths.
Precise figures for deaths are hard to come by, but the incidents threaten a political backlash for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Muslim.
"The operation is aimed at addressing the issue of insecurity in southern Kaduna state and parts of Kano, Plateau and Bauchi states," said the military in a statement.
The army will also offer humanitarian aid to the region including medical support, it said.
Buhari, a former military ruler, had vowed to restore order in Africa's most populous nation when he came to power in May 2015.
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
20 APRIL 2017
By Margaret Besheer
The United States called a special U.N. Security Council session Tuesday on the importance of protecting human rights and that issue's role in preventing conflict and fostering international security, but dropped an expected move to make human rights reviews a formal part of all council meetings.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley singled out North Korea and Syria as countries where human rights violations are frequent and systematic, and she warned the next international crisis could well arise in a nation where rights are disregarded, such as Cuba or Iran.
"It is no surprise that the world's most brutal regimes are also the most ruthless violators of human rights," Haley said. She also criticized the governments in Burundi and Myanmar, but she did not refer to rights violations in U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, or to non-state groups such as the Islamic State, which has been accused of many atrocities and abuses.
"To be honest, there is hardly an issue on our agenda today that does not involve concerns about human rights, and future threats will continue to challenge us," Haley said of the Security Council's work. "But if this council fails to take human rights violations and abuses seriously, they can escalate into real threats to international peace and security."
U.S. decides not to press vote
Diplomats had expected the U.S. to try to win the council's approval to add human rights considerations to all its meetings, but that was dropped after at least six member states — Russia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Bolivia — made clear they opposed such a move.
Opposition also was expected from Senegal, and the United States eventually decided not to risk defeat on a procedural vote to press the issue, diplomats said.
The deputy U.N. director for the group Human Rights Watch, Akshaya Kumar, said, "Unless the U.S. is prepared to seriously address human rights abuses committed by its allies — like Saudi Arabia and Iraq — a theoretical debate about human rights issues at the Security Council won't improve the council's work."
"If the Trump administration wants to burnish its reputation on rights," she added, "it should address problems at home, such as its discriminatory travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries."
Theme is human rights
The United States called Tuesday's meeting in its role as president of the Security Council this month. It was the first time the council has devoted a meeting to the general theme of human rights, although it has discussed specific human rights situations — such as in North Korea — on several occasions. But the topic was controversial among some members, who saw the change as overstepping the Security Council's mandate and infringing on the work of other U.N. bodies such as the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
By Kevin J. Kelley
A link to Kenya emerged on Tuesday in the case of a US doctor charged with violating a law prohibiting the practice of female genital cutting.
Federal prosecutors argued in a Detroit courtroom that Dr Jumana Nagarwala, 44, should be denied bail due to risk of flight stemming from her ties to Kenya and India.
Dr Nagarwala, a US citizen who practices medicine in a Detroit hospital, was arrested last week while boarding a flight to Kenya.
The doctor was going to visit two of her children who are enrolled in a boarding school in Nairobi, according to court papers.
Documents in the case do not specify which school the two children attend, nor are their names provided.
Both children are described as older than Dr Nagarwala's two other children, ages six and eleven, who live in her marital home in the US.
The defendant's attorney, Shannon Smith, is reported to have said in court on Thursday that her client was not attempting to flee the US at the time of her arrest.
Dr Nagarwala was unaware that she was under FBI investigation and was intending to make a long-planned visit to her children in Nairobi, Ms Smith said, according to press accounts of the court session.
US Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub denied bail to Dr Nagarwala whose husband, prosecutors had said, owns two homes in India, one of which is for rent.
Ms Smith maintained that Dr Nagarwala did not actually cut the genitals of two seven-year-old girls in February, as prosecutors allege.
The doctor instead removed membrane from the girls' genitals, the attorney said. Dr Nagarwala wrapped the membrane in gauze and gave it to the girls' parents for burial in keeping with a religious custom of an Indian Muslim community know as the Dawoodi Bohra, Ms Smith recounted.