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Islamic World News (31 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Taj Mahal Is Muslim Tomb Not Hindu Temple, Indian Court Told

Claims that the Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple have been made since a 1989 book insisted it was built before Muslim invaders came to India.



Taj Mahal Is Muslim Tomb Not Hindu Temple, Indian Court Told

Mosques Provide Shelter; Biggest Church Closes Doors In Texas During Hurricane Harvey

Confessions of TTP’s Mufti Shakir Reveal Dark Underbelly of Militancy in Karachi

Iraqi Air Force Jets Kill Nearly 100 Daesh Terrorist in Anbar Province

NSC Rejects Contacts between Atmar and Taliban Leaders in Pakistan and Qatar



Taj Mahal Is Muslim Tomb Not Hindu Temple, Indian Court Told

RSS Backed Outfit’s Demand Angers Clerics In UP

Muslim Rashtriya Manch Yatra to Ayodhya: To Request Muslims for Settlement of Ram Temple Dispute

Burial In Residential Area Leads To Verbal Tussle Between Two Groups

Pakistani troops resort to mortar shelling in Rajouri district

Alert sounded in Kashmir as Intel suggests more suicide attacks

Linking Terror with Religion Dangerous, Says Vice-President Naidu



Mosques Provide Shelter; Biggest Church Closes Doors In Texas During Hurricane Harvey

Tajikistan to Start School during Muslim Religious Observance

Acid attack threats sent to Muslim homes in UK's Bradford

Europe remains silent on Myanmar atrocities

Spain's Muslims see hatred spike since Barcelona attacks



Confessions of TTP’s Mufti Shakir Reveal Dark Underbelly of Militancy in Karachi

12 Baloch Republican Army Militants Surrender to Security Forces

JIT Head’s Statement Sufficient to Proceed with Cases against Sharifs, Dar: NAB

National Security Committee working group to finalise policy on ties with US

NA resolution slams Trump over hurling threats at Pakistan

Pakistan flays US-imposed UN peacekeeping budget cuts


Arab World

Iraqi Air Force Jets Kill Nearly 100 Daesh Terrorist in Anbar Province

64 Dead in Clashes between Syria Regime, IS

Tens of Civilians Killed, Injured Fleeing ISIL-Held Regions in Northeastern Syria

Call for enquiry into Syria war missing and mass graves

ISIL Calls for Deal to Evacuate Al-Huweija without Clashes with Iraqi Army

Over two million Muslims from around the world begin Hajj

Syria: Soldiers Continue to Tighten Noose on Terrorists in Eastern Hama

More Civilians Killed in US Air Raids in Northeastern Syria

De Mistura commends Saudi efforts to unify Syrian opposition

Muslim worshippers seek green inspiration at annual Hajj pilgrimage

Nasrallah dismisses Iraq's criticism on militant evacuations


South Asia

NSC Rejects Contacts between Atmar and Taliban Leaders in Pakistan and Qatar

Haqqani Network Commander Leading A Group of 50 Insurgents Killed In Logar

Gen. Raziq Calls for Nationwide Campaign against Taliban

At least 18,500 Rohingya flee to Bangladesh as Rakhine unrest rages

ISIS claims attack on house of Afghan lawmaker

Pakistan fears Afghanistan may block transit route to Central Asia

Karzai strongly reacts at civilians deaths in Taliban, ISIS attacks, and US airstrike

NATO rejects Taliban’s claim of downing helicopter confirms precautionary landing

Ghani chairs meeting amid persistent tense situation along the Durand Line


Southeast Asia

Duterte Says IS Battle in 'Final Stages'

Indonesia Targets Chinese Visitors with Halal Tourism Promotion

After 100 Days, Philippine Army Says 'Last Stand' Near For Marawi Fighters

Hundreds protest in Malaysia against Myanmar violence

Pakatan’s Indian leaders seek better representation, but deny mimicking BN

Dozens of Rohingyas arrested after protest against Myanmar embassy

Malaysians stage protest against Rohingya violence



Muslims Must Reclaim Islam from Extremists - Former VP Atiku

Somalia: U.S. Indicts Radical Cleric over Links with Al Shabaab

Britain pledges £200 million to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram

Somalia: Somalis Refuse to Bury Dead Until Govt Admits Killing Them in U.S.-Backed Raid



Zarif Says Bolton's Plan for Abrogating N. Deal with Iran Sends US to Isolation

Iran Warns Kirkuk Officials against Decision to Join Kurdistan Referendum

Iran pilgrims make return to hajj with bitter memories

Iran arrests dozens of Ahwazi Arabs ahead of Eid al-Adha celebrations

UN chief calls for lifting of Gaza blockade in face of humanitarian crisis

Syria’s Assad says terrorists' plot has failed, vows resistance until final victory

Iran’s Zarif calls for global action to end Rohingya sufferings


North America

'What's Happening In Quebec City?': Car Belonging To Head Of Mosque Torched

US has 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, more than previous count: Pentagon

Trump urges Salman to find solution to standoff with Qatar

US Secretary of State Tillerson to eliminate climate, Muslim and Syria envoys

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/taj-mahal-is-muslim-tomb-not-hindu-temple,-indian-court-told/d/112399



Taj Mahal Is Muslim Tomb Not Hindu Temple, Indian Court Told

Amrit Dhillon

30 August 2017

A court in India has heard testimony from government archaeologists that the Taj Mahal is a Muslim mausoleum built by a Mughal emperor to honour his dead wife – delivering an official riposte to claims it is a Hindu temple.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which protects monuments of national importance, had been ordered to give its view in response to a petition filed by six lawyers stating that the UNESCO world heritage site in the city of Agra had originally been a temple called Tejo Mahalaya dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva.

The petition also demanded that Hindus be allowed to worship in it. Only Muslims are permitted to offer prayers at the 17th-century monument.

Dr Bhuvan Vikrama, the ASI’s superintending archaeologist in Agra, said he rejected the claims: “Our written statement called the claims concocted and we asked the court to dismiss the petition. It’s up to the judge to decide what happens.”

Claims that the Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple have surfaced periodically, either from lone Hindu mavericks, revisionists, or extremist Hindu groups ever since PN Oak, an Indian writer, published his 1989 book Taj Mahal: the True Story, in which he claimed it was built before Muslim invaders came to India. Proponents of this theory resent that its glory belongs to India’s Muslim heritage and argue that since some of the Mughal invaders destroyed Hindu temples or converted them into mosques, it follows that the Taj Mahal must have originally been a Hindu structure.

“History shows conquerors all over the world converting existing monuments to suit their own ideas,” said Parsa Venkateshwar Rao, an author and columnist. “But this claim about the Taj is absurd because features such as the dome and minaret cannot be found in earlier periods and it is silly for the judge to have even allowed the petition.”

Oak, who died in 2007, took his claim as far as the Supreme Court in 2000 where it was thrown out as no more than a “bee in his bonnet”.

Hari Shankar Jain, one of the lawyers who took the case to the Agra court, had said he was looking forward to winning the case and performing Hindu prayers at the Taj Mahal. Asked if he would disinter the body of Mumtaz Mahal, the Mughal empress buried inside, he replied: “Of course not because there is no body inside. It’s built on a Hindu temple so there is no question of anyone being buried in it.”




Mosques Provide Shelter; Biggest Church Closes Doors In Texas During Hurricane Harvey

Aug 31 2017

A megachurch in Houston closed its doors in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which has caused catastrophic flooding and forced thousands to leave their homes, reports The Independent.

An announcement on Facebook said Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church had shut due to the storm and asked people to pray for those affected.

“Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding! We want to help make sure you are safe,” the post read.

It included a list of resources for those affected by the storm, including the addresses for temporary shelters.

But some responded sceptically to the Facebook post, questioning why one of the largest churches in the US - including a 16,000-seat arena - was not able to take in victims of Harvey.

Emily Timbol, an author who has written critically about homophobic views among conservative Christians, tweeted: “It doesn't make sense why you're not opening up your mega church to house Houston citizens, help me understand that. Jesus.”

Others criticised televangelist Mr Osteen for not opening up his $10 million home in the upscale area of River Oaks to those desperately seeking shelter.

“Shame on Joel Osteen,” one person tweeted. “Jesus would open the doors and care for the needy.”

Mr Osteen responded to the criticism in a statement quoted by ABC and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need. We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm.”

Others pointed out that mosques in the region are still open and offering people shelter, including the Islamic Society of Greater Houston’s 21 centres.

“If you went to @JoelOsteen's church for shelter & found it closed, don't worry, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston's 21 mosques are open,” the @altNOAA account posted on Twitter.

More than 3,000 people have been rescued in Houston and the surrounding area since the storm hit, with many still waiting to be picked up.

At least nine people are reported to have died as a result of Hurricane Harvey, the worst storm to strike the US in 12 years.




Confessions of TTP’s Mufti Shakir reveal dark underbelly of militancy in Karachi

Imtiaz Ali

August 31, 2017

KARACHI: Mohammad Shakir­ullah alias Mufti Shakir, who was arrested over charges of killing policemen and carrying out the suicide attack on CID SP Chaudhry Aslam in 2014, was released on bail and subsequently fled to Afghanistan and is now running an active training camp for militants, it emerged on Wednesday.

During interrogation by a joint investigation team (JIT) inside the Karachi Central Prison in March 2014, he had confessed to having killed, along with his accomplices, 10 policemen and an army soldier.

The JIT report reviewed by Dawn revealed that he (Mufti Shakir) had once presented himself for the suicide attack on SP Chaudhry Aslam but was prevented from doing so.

The report further said that Shakir had submitted fake documents in order to get bail.

It said Shakir was born in 1981 in the SITE area and was raised among six brothers and nine sisters. He received primary education from the KMC school there but later studied at three famous seminaries of Karachi where he memorised Quran by heart and completed a course for religious scholars in 2009. In the same year, he established a seminary in SITE and became its principal. The seminary was sealed recently.

Road to militancy

The JIT report disclosed that Shakir joined a militant outfit, Harkatul Mujahideen, when he was studying in a famous seminary in 1996. When differences erupted in the group and Jaish-i-Mohammad emerged in 2000, he abandoned it.

However, in 2012, he joined outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (Khyber Agency) on persuasion of the outfit’s then Karachi chief.

He received militancy training in Mansehra in 1999 and bomb making in Khyber Agency in 2012 and carried out three bomb blasts on an experimental basis there.

Criminal history

Shakir told the JIT members that in July 2012 he had received a ‘chit’ amounting to Rs10,000 as fine imposed by the TTP (KA) on him. The TTP (KA) in its chit had said they were imposing the fine on him because two of his brothers had links with CID personnel and advised him to stay away from them.

He further told the JIT members that subsequently he along with his mother and two brothers visited the Khyber Agency where he met TTP (KA) chief and rejected the charges.

After staying there for 40 days, he returned to Karachi where he started working for TTP (KA) and formed a cell which comprised 10 persons, four of whom were killed later.

He had also ‘confessed’ to having killed, along with his accomplices, 10 policemen and an army soldier from 2013 till his arrest in early 2014. During this period, he along with his accomplices carried out around 20-25 attacks, including grenade attacks, on police vans.

The victims were identified as army soldier Imran, CID head moharir, police constables namely Mohammed Anwar, Mohammed Sher, Pervez Akhtar, Shahzad Raza, Rajab Ali, Rashid, Amir, Shabbir, Waqar and Fazl Amin. All law enforcers were gunned down in the SITE area in 2013.

In the same year, he had also attacked a police van outside a factory along with his accomplices Fazl Rehman and Abdullah alias Mukhtar (both killed later on).

Suicide attack on Chaudhry Aslam

Shakir radicalised a seminary student, Naeemullah, 25, who carried out the suicide attack on SP Aslam on January 9, 2014. The alleged suicide bomber was a son of a religious scholar who ran a seminary in the Pirabad area.

The report revealed that Shakir had developed ties with one militant linked with banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) who in December 2013 asked him to provide a suicide bomber for carrying out the attack on SP Aslam.

Initially, Shakir indicated his desire to carry out the attack but the LJ militant told him that he was a “religious scholar” and his preaching skills “were needed more.”

Therefore, another person was prepared for the attack.

Shakir mentally prepared Naeemullah and motivated him at his home for seven to eight days continuously.

During this period, Naeemullah told Shakir that he belonged to TTP (Swat) and without approval of his group’s chief, he could not carry out the terror act. However, Mufti Shakir motivated him that SP Aslam was such an “important target” that the consent of the emir (chief) was not needed, according to the JIT report.




Iraqi Air Force jets kill nearly 100 Daesh terrorist in Anbar province

Aug 30, 2017

The Iraqi Air Force has killed at least 94 Daesh terrorists during extensive operations carried out in the western Anbar province.

According the Iraqi army’s War Media Cell the airstrikes targeted six Takfiri-held positions in the town of Qa'im.

A high-ranking Takfiri commander with close ties to Daesh’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was also killed in the Wednesday operations.

Two other senior Daesh militants identified as Zafer al-Rawi and Millat Hashem Farahat were also killed in the strikes that were reportedly conducted with precise information supplied by intelligence services. Farahat was a former commander in Tal Afar and a close aide to Baghdadi.

The small towns of Qa'im, Rawa and Anna have been held by Daesh since 2014.

Elsewhere in the country, Iraqi government forces regained full control over half of the last remaining redoubt of Daesh Takfiri militants in Tal Afar with the aid of volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units.

On August 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also the commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, declared the start of the operation to retake control of Tal Afar and nearby areas from Daesh terrorists.

Tal Afar is the last Daesh stronghold in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh.




NSC rejects contacts between Atmar and Taliban leaders in Pakistan and Qatar

Aug 30 2017

The Office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan rejected reports regarding the contacts between the national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar and the Taliban leaders based in Pakistan and Qatar.

A statement by the Office of the National Security Adviser said the reports are baseless suggesting that contacts have been made with the Taliban leaders.

The statement further added that the Afghanistan High Peace Council is the main institution tasked with the affairs of holding talks with the anti-government armed militant groups.

The statement also added that the National Security Council supports peace talks under the leadership of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the Afghanistan High Peace Council.

The Associated Press earlier reported regarding the regular contacts between the top Afghan security officials and the Taliban leadership, citing the credible documents the agency has seen.

Sources informed of the development have told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that the Taliban group has show willingness to accept the constitution of Afghanistan.

According to the report, the group’s leaders have also agreed with the education of both the boys and girls but want segregation by gender.

Taliban has also agreed that the women can serve in all sectors including government apart from the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, the source informed of the development has told The Associated Press.






RSS Backed Outfit’s Demand Angers Clerics In UP

Aug 30, 2017

Three days ahead of Bakrid, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate flagged controversy by declaring that ‘Qurbani’ or sacrifice of animals was ‘haram’ (prohibited) during the festival.

The RSS affiliate Muslim Rashtriya Manch’s (MRM) stand evoked angry reactions from both Shia and Sunni clerics who cited verses from the holy Quran to maintain that ‘Qurbani’ had religious sanction since the days of the Prophet.

“Political history can be rewritten but none can rewrite religious history. Qurbani of animals has religious sanction dating back to the days of the Prophet and the holy Quran clearly mentions it,” a visibly upset Sunni cleric Khalid Rasheed Firangimahal, the naib-imam of Lucknow Eidgah, told HT.

Firangimahal also met UP DGP Sulkhan Singh with a delegation of clerics to state what he called “community’s concern” on sacrifice during Bakrid, the first under Yogi Adityanath government that had launched a crackdown against illegal slaughter houses and cow slaughter.

The Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) was set up in 2002 by the RSS to reach out to the Muslims on various issues, including the vexed Ayodhya dispute. Interestingly, even Muslims owing allegiance to the BJP too refused to buy the MRM claim.

“Animal sacrifice most certainly isn’t banned during Bakrid and whosoever is saying is not putting the correct picture,” said Rumana Siddiqui the former president of BJP’s minority cell.

A few days back, the Lucknow district administration had announced a ban on camel sacrifice during Bakrid and the clerics had supported the ban.

“We assured the DGP that animals banned by the government won’t be sacrificed and those who violate the order won’t have our support as well. But to say that qurbani of all animals was banned and justify it by citing religion is plain mischief,” the Sunni cleric said.

On their part, the MRM officials, who had celebrated Bakrid last year by cutting a goat shaped cake and then followed up by getting Muslims to break their roza (dawn to dusk fasting) with cow milk in Ayodhya during Eid, stuck to their stand against animal sacrifice. “God loves all living beings. There is nothing to justify animal sacrifice. We are Muslims too and believe animal sacrifice doesn’t have religious sanction,” said Raees Khan, an MRM office bearer.

MRM’s point didn’t cut much ice with Syed Saif Abbas Naqvi, president of Shia Chand Committee, either who slammed MRM for trying to divide the community.

“It’s sad and highly condemnable,” he said.




Muslim Rashtriya Manch Yatra to Ayodhya: To Request Muslims for Settlement of Ram Temple Dispute

by Lalmani Verma

August 31, 2017

Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an RSS-backed outfit, has decided to take out a march from Lucknow to Ayodhya on September 11 to appeal to Muslims for an amicable settlement of Ram temple-Babri Masjid dispute.

Nearly 100 leaders of MRM from across the state are likely to participate in the march on Lucknow-Faizabad National Highway. During the march, MRM workers will interact with local Muslims on the route to appeal to them to allow Hindus build the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. They will also distribute pamphlets.

MRM UP-Uttarakhand convener Khursheed Agha said, “We will try to convince Muslims that Hindus could tell better about birth place of Ram just like we, the Muslims, could give better information about ‘Mecca Madina’.”

Agha further said that MRM would also tell Muslims about Supreme Court’s recent opinion regarding settlement of the issue and they will appeal to them to build a mosque in some other locality with Muslim population. He also said that MRM will inform the people of the community that idols had been found by ASI at the disputed site which proves there was a temple.

“Hindu bhai agar Ayodhya mein Ram mandir nahin banayega to kya Pakistan me banayega? (If a Hindu doesn’t build a temple in Ayodhya, will he build it in Pakistan?),” Agha said while speaking to The Indian Express.

Full report at:




Burial In Residential Area Leads To Verbal Tussle Between Two Groups

AUGUST 30, 2017

After tripartite talks, officials promise to find a site for Qabristan

A verbal tussle ensued between two groups of Hindus and Muslims when the latter buried a dead youth from their community in a residential locality on the outskirts of Kumbakonam on Wednesday.

After tripartite talks, the officials promised to find a suitable site for the Muslims to establish their Qabristan, where they could bury their dead.

The Muslims had buried the body of S. Mohammed Riyaz (18) of Alima Nagar on Tuesday night at a plot in Bismillah Nagar. That was opposed by those living nearby, mostly being Hindus who opposed burying the dead in a populated residential locality.

Police reinforcements were posted in the area and talks were held involving the two groups and the officials. During the talks, the Muslims claimed that they had purchased the piece of land in 1977 itself but had started using that as a Qabristan only later after securing permission from the Block Development Officer in March this year.

Based on it, they buried the dead and now Hindus were opposing that, they contended.

But Hindus pointed out that the Muslim group had purchased the piece of land in the locality that was once called Teresa Nagar and then renamed it as Bismillah Nagar. They had told the neighbours that they were purchasing the land for constructing a marriage hall to which everyone around had happily agreed. But when they tried to get the area marked as Qabristan, we opposed the move in 2015 itself, the Hindus and others said.

The residents also demanded removal of the remains of the buried from the site.

Full report at:




Pakistani troops resort to mortar shelling in Rajouri district

August 31, 2017

Pakistani troops Wednesday resorted to mortar shelling at various places along the border in Nowshera sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district.

An Army spokesperson here said, “Pakistani troops initiated small arms, automatics and mortar fire from 10.35 am along the LoC in Nowshera sector.” He added that the Army was retaliating “strongly and effectively’’. Sources said Pakistani troops resorted to firing mortal shells and automatics along the entire stretch of LoC in Kalsian, Bhawani and Baba Khori for more than three hours.

The latest incident of ceasefire violation comes three days after four civilians, including a woman, were injured at Bandi Chechian and Qasba areas of Poonch in mortar shelling from across the border. Last week, at a flag meeting with their Indian counterparts at Chakkan Da Bagh in Poonch, Pakistani troops agreed to maintain peace and tranquility on the border.

Full report at:




Alert sounded in Kashmir as intel suggests more suicide attacks

by Mir Ehsan

August 31, 2017

Authorities have sounded a high alert across Kashmir, especially in Srinagar and around prominent security force installations, following intelligence inputs that two fidayeen (suicide) squads were waiting to launch attacks. Police said the two groups belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and were either holed up on Srinagar outskirts or somewhere in South Kashmir.

Officials said security installations in Srinagar could be the main targets. They added the intercepts were picked up during the fidayeen attack on Pulwama’s district police lines that left eight security personnel dead last week. Three foreign militants killed in the attack had scribbled on walls at the attack scene saying JeM’s Afzal Guru Squad had carried out the attack.

Full report at:




Linking terror with religion dangerous, says vice-president Naidu

Aug 30, 2017

Terrorism has no religion, but a “dangerous game” is afoot to link it with one faith or the other, vice-president Venkaiah Naidu said on Wednesday.

Naidu said people will have to guard against such attempts. He also stressed that no language should be attached with any religion, saying many Hindus speak better Urdu than Muslims.

Naidu, who had earlier courted controversies emphasising on the need to learn Hindi, said no language should be imposed on anyone and that the primary focus should be on learning mother tongue.

“Terror has no religion, let us be clear in our minds. Unfortunately, some people are connecting terror to this religion or that religion. It is a menace to the society.

“Some friends want to mix terror with religion so as to confuse the people. It is a very dangerous game being played by some people outside. We have to be extra careful. No religion preaches terror,” the Vice-President said.

He was delivering the second Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Memorial Lecture at the India Islamic Cultural Centre here.

Naidu, who will steer Rajya Sabha proceedings in capacity as its chairman, also warned legislators against wasting precious time and focus on making good laws.

“We have to be constructive, not destructive or obstructive. Parliament, legislatures and other bodies should function effectively to get the best out of every individual. We should not waste our precious time,” he said.

Disrupting Parliament or any other legislature may make headline for a day, but the country loses out in the end, he said.

Full report at:






Tajikistan to Start School During Muslim Religious Observance

August 30, 2017

Officials in Tajikistan have decided to begin the new school year this Friday, even if Friday is one of the holiest days for the country’s Muslims.

The Education Ministry confirmed to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Monday that classes will be held in schools and universities across Tajikistan on September 1. This is the same day as the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of the Sacrifice,” which takes place over several days.

Eid al-Adha is one of two major religious observances named as public holidays in Tajikistan’s 1994 constitution. The other is Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The country also observes September 1 as the Day of Knowledge, which marks the beginning of the school year. Tajik officials said they decided to start the new school year on this date. But they also chose to give students a public holiday on Saturday, September 2, to celebrate Eid al-Adha.

Students in Tajikistan attend school six days a week, including Saturday.

“Eid al-Adha is celebrated for three days, so our students will still have an opportunity to celebrate it on Saturday and Sunday,” the ministry spokesman said.

The decision was supported by imams across Tajikistan, where about nine out of 10 people are Muslim. The religious leaders urged parents to honor the government’s decision and send their children to school on September 1.

Imams in Tajikistan largely support the country’s secular system of government. In recent years, Tajik leaders took steps to tighten control over some Islamic customs as officials warned of the possibility of growing extremism.

The hijab head covering and other forms of Islamic clothing are not permitted in Tajik schools and government offices. Children are mostly barred from praying in mosques. Other Central Asian states that declared independence from the Soviet Union have made their own decisions on how to handle Eid al-Adha and the start of school.

Kyrgyzstan will mark both the religious festival and the first day of school on September 1, but has canceled classes. Instead, schools will hold gatherings to mark Education Day.

Kazakhstan moved the first day of school to September 2 to enable Eid al-Adha celebrations.

Uzbekistan did not need to make changes because September 1 is already a public holiday held to mark Independence Day.

Turkmenistan’s state media reported that Eid al-Adha would be celebrated with a three-day public holiday starting on September 2. The country announced an additional “day off” September 5, to make up for the Sunday that happens during the Eid al-Adha festival.




Acid attack threats sent to Muslim homes in UK's Bradford

Aug 31 2017

U.K. police launched a hate crime investigation after anonymous letters threatening acid attacks were sent to Muslim homes in Bradford.

The threatening messages contained images of a sword and St. George's flag, and read: "Kill scum Muslim [sic]."

The letter questioned why Muslim women wore burkas, then vowed to "do acid attacks on anyone who wears the funny black masks around your square & Bradford & other places."

The letter also said that three supposedly Muslim men, who it called "three of ur [sic] male pigs," had made advances on four white girls, continuing, "We know who the three male pigs are they are walking dead pigs."

West Yorkshire police said they were taking the threats "extremely seriously" and had increased patrols in Hanover Square, which is a predominantly Muslim area in the inner-city.

The police added that they were working with the local community to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.

"We understand the impact hate crimes and hate incidents can have on our communities and on individuals, and crimes of this nature will not be tolerated," the police said.

Meanwhile, local Muslims said they were shocked and frightened by the letters.

"I was shocked. My mom wears a burqa and she goes to town regularly so I was concerned for her. When I explained it to her she realized the severity of it and was afraid. You start wondering whether it's safe to go out on their own," one of the recipients was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

Another recipient assumed that Muslims could be targeted during the English Defense League march Saturday, which coincides with the holy Muslim feast of Qurban Bayram (Feast of Sacrifice), also known as Eid al-Fitr.

"Eid could be Friday or Saturday – a lot of times we'll all be out to families, people go out to restaurants in the town center. There's always that chance something could happen," he said.

Retaliatory anti-Muslim attacks in the U.K. have increased following deadly terror attacks in Manchester and London, according to official figures.

Acid attacks have also spiked in the country in recent years. London police say the number of reported attacks with corrosive liquids rose from 261 in 2015 to 454 in 2016, however such attacks are typically perpetrated on Muslims by other Muslims.

Full report at:




Europe remains silent on Myanmar atrocities

Ozan Ceyhun

Aug 31 2017

Tomorrow could have been a beautiful day for the entire Islamic world, but it won't be, instead, Muslims around the globe will be grieving this Eid al-Adha for their fellow Muslims in Myanmar being massacred by the country's military.

The Myanmar military has renewed its attacks on Rohingya Muslims over the last weeks, having killed thousands of innocent civilians so far. But the bitter truth is the world and the European Union in particular is yet to sit up and take notice of this appalling atrocity.

The EU strongly condemns when Daesh attacks a Christian village in Syria and rightfully so, since killing innocent people, let alone because of their religious belief, are an outright crime against humanity. So, we must unite and take a stand against such acts. However, the problem arises when the EU does not show the same level of sensitivity when thousands of people are killed in another part of the world, only because they are Muslims.

If the Myanmar army killed thousands of Christians, the entire Europe, including the European Commission, would promptly respond to it, European Parliament deputies would cut short their vacations, and many of them would issue statements condemning the massacre. Meanwhile, some would even criticize the Commission and the EU governments for not taking a proper stance.

On the other hand, the EU public and the media, churches, human rights associations and political parties, despite the ongoing summer break, would hold meetings, rallies and pray for the lost ones.

In Germany, the political parties running election campaigns would not remain silent. Martin Schulz and Sigmar Gabriel would issue harsh statements while Cem Özdemir and others would criticize the Merkel government for not taking a firm stand against the massacre.

But none of that is happening at the moment since the ones being massacred this time are Muslims. The prime ministers of many European countries will sure issue statements for the Muslims living in their countries. But, these messages, which are generally full of positive and bright expressions, do not mean anything to the Muslims living in Europe anymore.

The EU's domestic and foreign policies regarding Muslims have failed. In all the recent election campaigns held in the EU countries, Muslims, Turks, and Turkey were the victims of a smear campaign while more than 100 mosques have been vandalized across Europe in recent years.

I guess the foreign ministers of the EU countries do not even know the geographical location of Myanmar. They have not taken a single step regarding Palestine even though they know its location very well. When Muslims are in question, both inside and out of Europe, the EU acts like as if it has forgotten its own values.

Under this grim and depressing reality, Muslims around the world will spend Eid al-Adha with a heavy heart. Our only consolation can be the presence of Turkey, whose solo efforts brought the Myanmar massacre to the United Nations' notice yesterday.

Full report at:




Spain's Muslims see hatred spike since Barcelona attacks

Aug 31 2017

On the afternoon of the terrorist attack in Barcelona, Fatima El Himer, 17, and her sister Haffssa, 20, had gone shopping in the center of their hometown Granada. They were about to catch the bus back home when Fatima noticed a group of Spanish ladies talking about them.

"We overheard them say that it was a disgrace that we were out here shopping while in Barcelona people had died because of people like us," she says. "I was shocked. I had never heard anyone say anything like it before."

The sisters were small children when they moved with their parents from Morocco to Granada. Fatima says she has always felt very welcome. "No one in Spain ever treated me differently because I wear a hijab. The attacks that happened in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom over the past few years did not change that. On the contrary, a lot of people said that they knew these attacks had nothing to do with me."

But something has changed since the August 17 attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils that left 16 people dead.

"For the first time in my life I feel uncomfortable when I am out in town. People look at me in a suspicious way because of the hijab I wear. The other day a passerby shouted that I should stop hiding things under it," she says.

Fatima is not alone. Muslims across Spain have reported an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment and hate crimes since the Barcelona attacks. Graffiti has appeared on mosques in Granada, Madrid, Seville and Tarragona that read: "You are going to die" and "Murderers you will pay for this!"

Read more: Catalonia's Islamic extremism problem

Four days after the attacks, 2,500 Muslims took to the streets of Barcelona to denounce terrorism. Many of them held banners reading: "Not in my name" or "Terrorism has no religion." Madrid's Muslim community held a similar demonstration in a central city square on Friday.

Hate on the rise

But their message is not being heard by everyone.

"The xenophobic storm that has been unleashed on social media is incredible," says Mounir Benjelloun, president of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities. "Of course many Spaniards are afraid after what happened in Barcelona. But right-wing extremist groups have taken advantage of this fear to disseminate hatred against all Muslims."

SOS Barcelona, which works to eradicate xenophobia in the city, has received a significantly higher than usual number of reports from Muslims who have been insulted or threatened on Facebook, according to spokesperson Monica Lopez. "It's still too early to say what this means for the long term," she says.

Unlike in much of the rest of Europe, far-right parties have not gained a foothold in Spain. But xenophobic and Islamophobic incidents have increased since the deadly attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015.

Read more: Spain proves sterile ground for far-right parties

"Every time a terrorist attack has been committed somewhere in Europe, the number of hate incidents against Muslims in Spain has risen immediately," Benjelloun says. A recent study by Spain's Citizens Platform against Islamophobia found that the number of Islamophobic incidents had shot up from 49 in 2014 to 567 last year.

'Islamophobia is contagious'

It's striking how different Spanish society reacted after the Madrid attacks in March 2004, when 192 people died, Benjelloun says.

"Back then people knew that the terrorists who committed the attacks had nothing to do with the Muslim population in Spain itself. Now more and more people seem to find it difficult to make that differentiation."

Chafik El Boudali, 35, the owner of a fruit and vegetable shop in the Madrid neighborhood of Tetuan, says some of his usual customers have stayed away since the Barcelona attack. "I don't know what they think," he says. "That we are all terrorists? But what has happened in Barcelona has nothing to do with Islam as I know it."

A few blocks away, Mohamed Tazet, 47, a Moroccan who owns a butcher shop right in front of the local mosque spoke of a Moroccan woman who had been attacked in the subway last week. "Many Moroccan women now fear that something similar may happen to them."

Despite the rise in Islamophobic incidents, Benjelloun believes most Spaniards are tolerant people who are aware that the majority of Muslims condemn terror just as they do: "Look at what happened in Barcelona: The day after the attacks, a right-wing extremist group demonstrated against Islam in the Ramblas area, where the attack took place. Local residents blocked the streets to prevent them from entering the area and chased them away by confronting them."

Full report at:






12 Baloch Republican Army militants surrender to security forces

August 30, 2017

Twelve members of the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) surrendered to security forces in Balochistan on Wednesday, a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

According to the statement, the militants relinquished their weapons and ammunition to security forces in Balochistan's Noshki area after "an intelligence effort", the army said.

The statement added that among the militants who surrendered were two "mid-tier" militants identified as Wali Khan, a resident of District Kohlu and Karghani, a resident of Sui.

Separately, 39 suspects, including eight Afghans, were apprehended in intelligence-based operations (IBO) conducted jointly by the Pakistan Rangers, Punjab Police and intelligence agencies in Lahore, Faisalabad and Islamabad, the ISPR statement said.

Illegal weapons and ammunition were seized from the suburbs of Faisalabad, the statement added. The IBOs lasted 48 hours.

The developments were attributed to the ongoing Opearation Raddul Fasaad.

The army had launched Operation Raddul Fasaad in February following a spate of terror attacks in the country, which claimed more than a hundred lives and left hundreds injured.

The operation seeks to eliminate the "residual/latent threat of terrorism", consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring the security of Pakistan's borders.




JIT head’s statement sufficient to proceed with cases against Sharifs, Dar: NAB

Zulqernain Tahir

August 31, 2017

LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau is unlikely to summon all five members of the Joint Investigation Team constituted by the Supreme Court to probe the Sharif family’s offshore holdings after Wajid Zia, who led the JIT, recorded on Wednesday his statement on the remaining cases being investigated by the NAB Lahore office.

The bureau is reported to have also dropped the idea of issuing a third and final summons to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his children and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar after the ousted premier left for London on Wednesday to see his ailing wife.

“NAB is now set to file four references against the Sharif family and Mr Dar after Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia recorded his statement in the cases pending against them in the Lahore chapter of NAB on Wednesday,” a NAB official told Dawn.

He said the other JIT members — Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Executive Director Bilal Rasool, NAB Director Irfan Naeem Mangi, Brig Muhammad Nauman Sae­ed of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Brig Kamran Khurshid of the Military Intelligence — will not be asked to appear before NAB to record their statements.

“Mr Zia stayed at the Lahore bureau for more than three hours and recorded his statement...he also submitted a reply to the questionnaire given to him regarding the London properties of the Sharif family,” a source told Dawn.

He said the Volume 10 of the JIT report that dealt with the mutual legal business agreements bet­ween the Sharif family and different governments also came under discussion.

The JIT was required to give NAB its input in preparation of the references against the Sharif family.

According to the source, NAB will not summon other five members of the JIT since its head had provided sufficient details of its investigation into the Sharif family’s offshore holdings.

“After recording the statement of the JIT head, NAB is almost ready to file references against Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hasan and Husain, daughter Maryam and her husband Moham­mad Safdar and Mr Dar,” he said, adding that since Mr Sharif had gone to London, NAB had dropped the idea of issuing a final summons to him.

Last week, the Supreme Court’s monitoring judge (Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan) had allowed NAB to quiz the JIT members to meet all legal requirements.

Justice Ahsan was nominated the supervisory judge in line with the directives of the July 28 Panama Papers judgement to monitor and supervise the working of NAB as well as to oversee the proceedings in the accountability court.

The SBP and the SECP had earlier handed over records of the Sharif family’s bank accounts and companies to NAB. The Federal Board of Revenue has also reportedly submitted tax returns data of Mr Sharif, his family and Mr Dar.

The ousted prime minister’s family and the finance minister have filed review pleas against the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict, stating that they would only appear before NAB once the petitions are decided.

Full report at:




National Security Committee working group to finalise policy on ties with US

Baqir Sajjad Syed

August 31, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee on Wednesday constituted a working group for finalising policy recommendations on ties with the United States in the aftermath of the newly announced US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia.

“Trump policy on South Asia was also discussed. The committee decided to set up an interagency sub-committee to make specific proposals for consideration in the next meeting of the NSC,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said after the meeting which discussed “internal and external security situation and threats and challenges to national security in the evolving regional and global context”.

A quiet review of relations with the US has commenced with the establishment of the new committee.

The National Security Committee (NSC) met for the third consecutive time in as many weeks and for the second time since President Donald Trump announced his policy.

The NSC serves as the principal civil-military coordination forum on foreign policy and security related matters and met infrequently when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister.

The committee had at its last meeting given the state’s ‘comprehensive response’ to the new policy. Reactions have been given by different quarters as well, but a strategy for dealing with the US is yet to be crafted.

The new US policy has asked Pakistan to end alleged terrorist sanctuaries on its soil and has linked further cooperation to the progress in that direction. Another point of concern for Pakistan is the greater role being given to India in Afghanistan and the region at large. Trump’s assertion that Pakistan took billions of dollars, but was providing safe havens to terrorists was taken in Islamabad as humiliating and negation of its sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

The inter-agency committee set up by the NSC would include representatives of various stakeholders. It would consider the recommendations made by forthcoming Envoys’ Conference, which has been specially convened for discussing the new policy; those given by the Senate and the National Assembly, while proposing the strategy on engagement with the US; and the directions given by the NSC.

The Envoys’ Conference, which would be attended by ambassadors from select missions, is being held from Sept 5 to 7.

Full report at:




NA resolution slams Trump over hurling threats at Pakistan


by By Muhammad Asad Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution against the remarks of United States President Donald Trump about Pakistan, calling the statement “hostile and threatening”.

The House also rejected the claim of NATO Commander in Afghanistan General Nicholson regarding presence of Taliban Shura in Quetta and Peshawar. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif read out the resolution during the NA session, which was earlier passed unanimously by the Lower House.

The House considered Trump’s policy to increase the role of India in Afghanistan, besides its known support to terrorism and destabilising policies in the region, as a move highly detrimental for ‘regional stability’. “The move is a complete failure to understand the ground realities and emerging challenges in the region,” the resolution maintained.

The resolution reiterated Pakistan’s support for India-held Kashmir’s (IHK) struggle for self-determination. The Lower House condemned the oppression of the people of IHK by the Indian state.

While mentioning the figure of more than $123 billion loss suffered, the National Assembly rejected the US claim to give billions of dollars to Pakistan in aid. Condemning the complete US ignorance and lack of respect for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism, the resolution recalled those 70,000 Pakistani people who became victims of terrorism in the last four decades.

The National Assembly members fully acknowledged the sacrifices rendered by the security forces in counter-terrorism operations and expressed their full support to the Pakistan Army, Rangers and other law enforcement agencies in the ongoing operations against terrorists. Rebutting the impression regarding threats to the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the resolution declared that Pakistan had a credible and internationally recognised command and control system in this regard.

The House also urged the government to ‘consider’ postponing diplomatic visits between Washington and Islamabad, besides suspending cooperation with the US, specifically the provision of ground and air routes of communication through Pakistan. The members also urged the government to draw and inform the US of a blueprint for the dignified return of all Afghan refugees, as well as formulate economic policies to deal with any situation arising out of the absence of US assistance.

Full report at:




Pakistan flays US-imposed UN peacekeeping budget cuts

August 31, 2017

UNITED NATIONS - Pakistan has called for ensuring effective deployment of UN peacekeeping missions, their operations relevant to the realities on ground and well-resourced in order to carry out their tasks of maintaining peace and security in the world's troubled regions.

"When lives are at risk of peacekeepers as well as those they are responsible to protect actual requirements should drive peacekeeping, not narrow cost considerations," Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's permanent representative to the UN, told the Security Council on Tuesday. "Lack of adequate resources results inevitably in non-implementation of the very mandates that we fashion for our Blue Helmets," she said in the course of an open debate on 'peacekeeping operations and sustaining peace'. "We should be talking about enhancing capabilities, not across the board cuts in peacekeeping budgets," the Pakistani envoy said in an obvious reference to the United States' push for reductions in the resources earmarked for UN missions deployed around the world.

Peacekeeping, she said, was the pivot on which the dividends of preventive diplomacy were built on and post-conflict peace and nation building promoted.

"As one of the world's top troop contributors to UN Peacekeeping over the past six decades, we can say from our experience and the expertise that we have acquired the realization of this objective requires mandates with realistic tasks, flexibility to adapt to changes on the ground and a clear exit strategy," Ambassador Lodhi told delegates from around the world.

There was a need for a better interface between peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities, through early engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission as part of exit and transition strategies, the Pakistani envoy said.

An "ominous gap" in peacebuilding strategies was the failure to comprehend and address the root causes of conflicts, she said. Poverty eradication, unemployment and socioeconomic development, as well as the resolution of political disputes, all required more focused attention.  "If we are serious about making UN peacekeeping a catalyst for peace, to empower it to respond effectively to the conflicts of today and contribute to the overarching goal of sustaining peace, ground realities rather than political expediency should guide the Council's decisions," Ambassador Lodhi added. Opening the debate, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has said that the nature of today's challenges requires seamless work across peace and security, human rights and sustainable development.

"Peacekeeping operations need clear, realistic and up-to-date mandates, with well-identified priorities, adequate sequencing and flexibility to evolve over time," Ms Mohammed said.

Full report at:




Arab World


64 dead in clashes between Syria regime, IS

Aug 31 2017

BEIRUT - Fierce fighting between Syrian government forces and the Islamic State group has killed 64 combatants in Raqa province over a 24-hour period, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

The clashes come with the army pressing an advance through Raqa, in northern Syria, towards neighbouring Deir Ezzor, the only remaining province of the war-ravaged country still in the hands of IS jihadists. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the fighting had claimed the lives of 38 jihadists and 26 pro-regime combatants since Tuesday morning.

It takes to 145 the overall death toll in six days of fighting in villages on the banks of the Euphrates River in the east of Raqa province, near Deir Ezzor.

IS said in a statement on Tuesday that its members had killed dozens of regime combatants in “intense fighting lasting hours”.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that the regime was fighting to secure a foothold in Raqa province “in order to advance in Deir Ezzor”.

The jihadists have laid seige to government forces and civilians in the provincial capital of Deir Ezzor since 2015.

Earlier this month, government troops and allied fighters arrived at the outskirts of Madan, the last IS-held town in the countryside of eastern Raqa province before Deir Ezzor.

But IS launched a counterattack last week that pushed the regime forces back, and fighting has since continued.

The Syria army operation in the area, backed by air support from ally Russia, is separate from the battle for provincial capital Raqa city.

The effort to oust IS from the city is being led by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.




Tens of Civilians Killed, Injured Fleeing ISIL-Held Regions in Northeastern Syria

Aug 30, 2017

The sources said that a number of civilians that had fled ISIL-held terrorists in Deir Ezzur were trapped in a vast landmine field planted by the ISIL in Abu Khashab region in the Southern territories of Hasaka province.

They added that 10 civilians were killed and 28 more were wounded in the blasts.

In relevant developments in the province a number of civilians were killed in the US-led fighter jets' attacks on regions in the Southern parts of Hasaka.

The US warplanes pounded the village of Kashkash in the Southern parts of al-Shadadi city in Southern Hasaka, killing 6 civilians, including 2 women.




Call for enquiry into Syria war missing and mass graves

30 August 2017

Human Rights Watch called Wednesday for an independent enquiry to probe the fate of thousands of people who have disappeared in Syria's war and to identify mass graves.

The Syrian war began in March 2011 when waves of peaceful demonstrations were repressed by the security forces, eventually leading to an all-out conflict involving many sides.

More than 330,000 people have been killed and millions displaced, but HRW says the exact number of those missing could not be determined as most detention facilities were off-limits to outsiders.

"An independent institution in charge of investigating the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared, as well as unidentified human remains and mass graves in Syria, should be created immediately," said HRW.

The New York-based rights watchdog issued the appeal in a statement coinciding with the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

Last year, a team of UN experts raised the alarm over enforced disappearances and called for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

"Syria will not be able to move forward if negotiations fail to adequately address the horrors of detention and disappearance," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

"This should not be ignored. Without progress, each day that passes will likely see more of the disappeared tortured or executed," she said.

The watchdog said the enquiry "should have a broad mandate to investigate, including by reviewing all official records and interviewing any official".

Thousands of peace activists were arrested during the first years of the Syrian conflict, and some are still languishing in prisons, according to non-governmental organizations.

Earlier this month, the death of prominent computer scientist Bassel Khartabil Safadi was confirmed two years after his execution by the regime.

Full report at:




ISIL Calls for Deal to Evacuate Al-Huweija without Clashes with Iraqi Army

Aug 30, 2017

The Arabic-language al-Sumeriyeh news quoted a local well-informed source in Kirkuk province as saying that ISIL's emir in al-Huweija has asked for talks with the Iraqi government over militants' safe exit from the town in Central Iraq.

The source further told al-Sumeriyeh that the emir's request has fueled fresh waves of riot and unrest among the ISIL terrorists, adding that some of the terrorists in al-Huweija have laid down arms and left their positions.

The demand came after the Iraqi army captured Mosul and the nearby town of Tal Afar near the border with Syria.

Mosul’s collapse effectively marked the end of ISIL’s “caliphate”, but the group remains in control of territory on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, and of Hawija, a city between Mosul and Baghdad that Iraqi officials say is the next target. The group is also retreating in Syria, where it is facing separate offensives by the allied forces of Iran, Syria, Russia and Hezbollah.




Over two million Muslims from around the world begin Hajj


MAKKAH: More than two million Muslims from around the world began the Hajj pilgrimage at Islam’s holiest sites Wednesday, a religious duty and an epic multi-stage journey.

This year sees pilgrims from Iran return to Makkah in Saudi Arabia after a hiatus following a diplomatic spat between the regional rivals and a deadly stampede in 2015.

It also comes with the Gulf mired in a major political crisis that has seen thousands of faithful who would usually make the journey from neighbouring Qatar stay away.

On the esplanade of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, the excitement was palpable as crowds from all four corners of the world gathered for a pilgrimage that all able Muslims are required to perform at least once in their lives.

Tidjani Traore, a public service consultant from Benin, said he was on his 22nd pilgrimage at the age of 53.

“Every time, there are new emotions,” he said. “There are new innovations for organising and hosting the pilgrims. Now, for example, the tents are air-conditioned.”

Wearing the simple garb of the pilgrim, the faithful waited at dawn with their suitcases for buses to take them to Mina five kilometres to the east. There, hundreds of thousands gathered before setting off on Thursday at dawn to climb Mount Arafat, the pinnacle of the Hajj.

First, however, they must perform a ritual walk known as the tawaf seven times around the Kaaba.

“I still have to finish the tawaf!” said a breathless Nour, 30, from Saudi Arabia as she rushed past without stopping. Sitting on a folding chair in the middle of the esplanade, Risvana cradled her six-month-old baby who is accompanying her on the pilgrimage.

“I’ve planned everything for him,” said the young mother, pointing to a bottle of water in her bag.

Saudi authorities have mobilised vast resources including more than 100,000 security personnel to avoid a repeat of the stampede in 2015 in which nearly 2,300 people were killed. Iran alone reported 464 deaths – the highest toll among foreigners.

Riyadh and Tehran cut ties months later, after the execution of a Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia sparked attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

Iranian pilgrims were absent from last year’s Hajj for the first time in decades after the regional rivals failed to agree on security and logistics. On the esplanade of the Grand Mosque, Saudi authorities had placed misting fans to take the edge off the intense heat. On the eve of the first rites of the pilgrimage, the walkways thronged with people and the smell of musk wafted through the air.

Sitting in the shade of trees or reinforced concrete bridges, the faithful waited patiently for the next call to prayer.

Others continued their march, protected by a prayer mat or a small umbrella fixed on the head with an elastic band. Several times throughout the day, well-run teams of employees, mostly Asian, cleaned the esplanade with jets of water.

As the hour for prayer arrived, a young woman sat at a table in an ice cream shop and prayed, her hands crossed on her knees.

A few paces from the Kaaba, Egyptian pilgrim Fatiya Taha could not hide her joy.

Full report at:




Syria: Soldiers Continue to Tighten Noose on Terrorists in Eastern Hama

Aug 30, 2017

The army men managed to take back the village of Jubb al-Abyadh and the town of Tayebeh Dakij East of the town of al-Salamiyah after they pushed terrorists back from the town of al-Tayebeh.

Also, the Russian and Syrian fighter jets pounded ISIL's movements and positions in the regions of Akash, Um Meil, Abu Jabilat, Aqayrabat, Northern al-Qastal, Southern al-Qastal and Central al-Qastal om Eastern Hama, inflicting heavy casualties on the terrorists.

Field sources, meantime, reported that ISIL has transferred a number of its militants to Northern and Southern al-Qastal regions to kill any chances for defection or surrender to the army by militants.

Relevant reports said on Tuesday that the army men clashed with ISIL and drove them out of the town of al-Tayebeh and several positions overlooking Abu Hakfah hill, East of Tal (hill) al-Albawi in Eastern Hama.

Full report at:




More Civilians Killed in US Air Raids in Northeastern Syria

Aug 30, 2017

The sources said that eights civilians were killed and several more were wounded in the US warplanes' raids on Raqqa neighborhoods.

The sources further said that death toll is likely to increase due to the critical conditions of some of those injured in the air assault.

It came only a day after 10 civilians, including six men and four women, lost their lives in US-led air attacks against residential neighborhoods of Raqqa.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the victims were all members of an internally displaced family from the ancient city of Palmyra.

Relevant reports said earlier this month that residential areas in the neighborhoods of Ferdows, al-Badou, al-Thakan, al-Rashid and al-Hana came under heavy attack by the US fighter jets and SDF's artillery units, leaving 8 civilians, including children and women, dead and 12 more wounded.

The coalitions air and artillery attacks also hit the streets of al-Basel, al-Kanisah and Tal Abyadh in Raqqa and part of the train station near the city, leaving 16 civilians dead and 7 more wounded.

Full report at:




De Mistura commends Saudi efforts to unify Syrian opposition

31 August 2017

Staffan de Mistura Special Envoy for Syria, praised Saudi efforts to unify the Syrian opposition, on Wednesday.

The UN envoy said, although the violence continues in Syria, efforts are also made to reduce it, pointing out to a significant decline in the level of violence in many areas.

De Mistura said a meeting for the parties involved in the Syrian conflict is set to be held in Geneva next October.

He stressed that the Syrian regime must be aware that it needs to engage in serious and genuine negotiations, as opposed to the tendency of the Syrian regime to pursue a military solution.

Stephen O'Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, urged the conflicting parties in Syria to protect civilians and the infrastructure.

O'Brien added that although the aerial bombardment is less since the signing of the truce agreement in Idlib, the situation is still worrying.

Full report at:




Muslim worshippers seek green inspiration at annual Hajj pilgrimage

30 August 2017

Some 2 million people are expected to travel across the globe to eat, sleep and pray in unison from Wednesday, as the annual Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj gets underway in Mecca.

For billions of Muslims who are physically and financially able, Hajj is a mandatory act of worship. But the religious celebration also has a substantial impact on the environment.

Environmentally aware worshippers say that should be reduced, while inspiring Muslims to adopt a greener lifestyle.

“Hajj is all about living lightly and centring yourself around God,” 28-year-old pilgrim Shanza Ali told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Mecca in Saudi Arabia. “We make many journeys in our life, and we go to many places, but this is the only journey that’s physical, mental and spiritual,” said Ali, who is chair of UK-based group Muslim Climate Action.

She has found many similarities between Hajj’s message of simplicity and being environmentally conscious, and has tried to minimize her own carbon footprint and waste during the pilgrimage, which lasts for at least six days and takes worshippers to a series of holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

Hajj, which predates Islam and is traced by Muslims to the monotheistic figure Abraham, is now the world’s largest annual gathering of Muslims. Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of the faith’s holiest sites.

For Husna Ahmad, author of “The Green Guide for Hajjj”, Muslims are doctrinally required to be stewards of the Earth.

Tackling climate change is no longer about preserving the planet for future generations as its effects are evident now, she said.

The majority of Muslims live outside Saudi Arabia and could collectively influence the greening of the sacred rituals, she added.

“Consumer power is something that people need to think about in terms of flights, what they take, what they wear, the rubbish they throw, plastic bottles and all those sorts of things. We have to be conscious of that,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Muslims need to move away from a fast, disposable society, she added, with Hajj being the potential start of that journey.

Green city audit

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has taken steps to green the Hajj, such as setting quotas for pilgrim numbers and developing the Mecca metro system to limit pollution.

The Saudi Green Building Forum, a Riyadh-based non-governmental group recognized by the United Nations, has recently been tasked with auditing green efforts in Medina, the country’s second holy city where the Prophet Mohammad is buried and a site visited by millions of pilgrims.

Forum secretary-general Faisal Alfadl said his team will measure the green credentials of the holy cities of Mecca, Medina and others against international guidelines on energy use, waste, water, transport and human well-being.

People now realise it is politically and culturally incorrect not to respect the environment, said Alfadl.

“We have moved forward,” he said, noting a shift in the public mood from desert Bedouins to city dwellers on the importance of protecting the environment, with the focus now on action rather than simply raising awareness.

Reviving traditional practices could help - for example, sharing water among pilgrims from a communal source, which was common before plastic bottles became ubiquitous.

And the white marble stones surrounding the central cube-shaped Kaaba building in Mecca naturally prevent the heat-island effect found in other urban areas, Alfadl said.

Recycling may not be at the top of pilgrims’ minds, but Muslims have a duty to recognise the creator of the environment and reflect on Islamic teachings not to harm animals, waste water or cut down trees unnecessarily, said Fatima Ragie of Green Deen South Africa, a Muslim environmental network.

Ragie, who completed Hajj in 2009, urged greater efforts once the pilgrimage ends - for instance, ensuring food is not wasted when millions of animals are slaughtered, marking Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son and the start of the Eid holiday.

More mosques and Muslim leaders should also speak up about climate change and the environment, she said.

Taking the message home

From Bangladesh to North Africa, climate change is a reality for many Muslims, as floods and droughts fuel instability and conflict, said Nana Firman, who participated in the U.N. climate talks in Morocco last year for the Global Muslim Climate Network.

“A lot of people feel like they don’t know what to do, so it’s really important that we engage (them),” she said.

Indonesia - which has the world’s largest Muslim population, according to the Pew Research Center - has launched initiatives, from a phone app showing pilgrims how to enjoy a green Hajj, to offsetting carbon emissions from flights by planting trees, and limiting the number of times each person canundertake the pilgrimage, said Firman.

She urged Hajj pilgrims to “reflect and make a change in their lives when they go back, and care more for the environment”.

As Ali prepares herself to undertake the challenging pilgrimage in the Gulf heat with her husband and mother, the natural environment offers a way for her to draw closer to God.

Full report at:




Nasrallah dismisses Iraq's criticism on militant evacuations

Aug 30, 2017

The secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, has dismissed claims that Hezbollah and the Lebanese government were exposing Iraq to greater security risks by evacuating hundreds of terrorists from the Lebanon-Syria border to areas near the Iraqi border in Syria.

The Lebanese media released a statement by Nasrallah on Wednesday where the Hezbollah chief sought to assuage concerns in the Iraqi government about a deal earlier this week between the Lebanese army and Daesh, saying the evacuation of Daesh members and their families to Syria’s Dair al-Zawr province, which came in exchange for the bodies of nine Lebanese soldiers, could not pose threats to security in western Iraqi territories.

Nasrallah said in the statement that the Daesh members who had been evacuated from Lebanon to Syria’s east were “defeated elements” and had no further thrust to fight, adding that some 310 terrorists could not “change the equation” in an area that is believed to be home to tens of thousands of Daesh operatives.

The Lebanese army launched a long-anticipated battle on August 8 to clear its border regions from Daesh. Hezbollah and the Syrian army also contributed to the battle on the other side of the border in Syria. The fight ended when the terrorists were encircled in a small strip of land and accepted to locate bodies of nine abducted Lebanese soldier in return for the evacuation of members to a Daesh stronghold in eastern Syria.

For nearly six years now, Hezbollah has been assisting Syria’s government in the fight against terrorists in a bid to prevent a spillover of violence into Lebanon. The group launched an operation last month to recapture areas from other terror groups in Lebanese regions near the Syrian border.

Nasrallah said in his Wednesday statement that Iraqi officials were wrong by claiming that the Lebanese had spread the Lebanon-based militancy to areas near Iraq’s border in Syria, adding that the Daesh operatives originally from Syria and Lebanon in fact returned them to the areas that they had belonged to.

Full report at:




South Asia


Haqqani Network Commander Leading A Group of 50 Insurgents Killed In Logar

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Aug 31 2017

A prominent commander of the Haqqani terrorist network who was leading a group of at last fifty insurgents was killed during an operation in central Logar province of Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Interior of Afghanistan in a statement confirmed that the commander of the terror network was killed late on Tuesday night.

The statement further added that the slain Haqqani network commander has been identified as Mawlavi Abdul Rahman who was also famous as Mullah Qand.

According to MoI, the operation that led to the killing of Mullah Qand was conducted in the vicinity of Kharwar district by the Special Unit of the Afghan national police forces.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban and Haqqani network have not commented regarding the report so far.

The Afghan and US officials saying that the leadership councils of the notorious Haqqani terrorist network having links with the Taliban are based in Peshawar, Quetta, and other parts of Pakistan and the terror network is involved in some of the largest attacks in the country, including the ones on US forces.

The Afghan officials earlier said that the deadly explosion near the embassy of Germany in Kabul was plotted by the Haqqani network in Pakistan, although the leaders of the network and the Taliban have rejected their role in the devastating attack that killed over one hundred and fifty people.

Source: http://www.khaama.com/haqqani-network-commander-leading-a-group-of-50-insurgents-killed-in-logar-03382



Gen. Raziq Calls For Nationwide Campaign Against Taliban

Kandahar Police Chief Gen. Abdul Raziq has called for a nationwide campaign against the Taliban who he believes are the puppets of other countries.

Talking to TOLOnews, Raziq said that there should be a difference between those who are educated at schools or madrasas, religious schools, and the Taliban group which “kill the people and destroy public infrastructures”.

“They are terrorists,” he said, referring to the Taliban.

“These terrorists are the slaves of Pakistan; they are also the slaves to Russians and Iran, the slave of China and other countries. They are only the killers of the people of Afghanistan. We cannot give them the name of Taliban ( which means learners) on them (Taliban group),” the police chief said. “Again, I repeat that they (Taliban) are the killers of Afghans and they are terrorists; therefore, all Afghans should fight a Jihad (holy war) against the Taliban.”

Raziq said Taliban is trying to tarnish the image of Islam by attacking mosques, schools and other public places.

“Where Islam orders to kill children? But the Taliban are doing this. Who allows them to come to mosques and carry out explosions? But they conduct explosions at mosques, at schools, at cemeteries and at shrines. Even copies of the Holy Quran were burnt by them. These acts have nothing to do with Islam. These acts are conducted to tarnish the image of Islam,” he said.

According to him, the Taliban is not fighting for Islam and instead pursue their political objectives.

“What kind of service is this? Mullah Omar’s son asks Russia for ammunitions to kill the Afghans. Does Islam allows this,” he asked.

“(Taliban’s leader Mullah) Hebatullah also gets weapons from Russia and Iran to kill his own people; therefore, we need to declare Jihad against them and it is our obligation,” he added.

On the rift in the political front and government, Gen. Abdul Raziq said government is in a critical situation, adding that the heads of the administration should fix their issues and stabilize Afghanistan.

“About 20 or 30 percent of problems are from within government… Both the leaders (President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah) have about 20 or 30 percent problems, but they resolve their issues by discussions, because vacuum within government only benefits the enemy,” he said.

He rejected accusations around violation of human rights by him and the soldiers under his command.

“Those killers who massacre our people, those who are the slaves of Pakistan and Russians and kill our people, bearing mercy on them is an act of oppression against the country,” said Abdul Raziq.

“When they kill our people and soldiers, don’t they have human rights, aren’t they human, don’t they belong to this country,” he asked, referring to Taliban’s attacks against Afghans.

He also criticized the US and NATO for not taking solid action against terrorists’ safe havens and training camps outside Afghanistan.

Raziq casted doubts over the leadership of the war over the past fifteen years by the Afghan government.

Full report at:




At least 18,500 Rohingya flee to Bangladesh as Rakhine unrest rages

August 31, 2017

At least 18,500 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since fighting erupted in Myanmar's neighbouring Rakhine state six days ago, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday.

Plumes of smoke billowed from several burning villages in the worst-hit section of the state, according to an AFP reporter on a government-led trip to the area, as the violence showed little sign of abating despite security sweeps by Myanmar's police and troops.

The streets of Maungdaw -- northern Rakhine's largest town -- were virtually deserted as fires flickered among charred remains of houses and the occasional burst of gunfire echoed in the distance.

The clashes began on Friday after militants from Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority community staged deadly surprise raids on police posts.

At least 110 people, including 11 state officials, have been confirmed dead and thousands of Rohingya have poured across the border to Bangladesh despite Dhaka's attempts to stop them.

"As of last night, 18,500 people have come across," Chris Lom, the IOM's Asia-Pacific spokesman, told AFP, adding an unknown number were still stuck on the Myanmar side of the border.

An estimated 6,000 Rohingya on Tuesday massed at the "zero line" border with Bangladesh, days after the area came under mortar and machine gun fire by Myanmar security forces.

The Rohingya, the world's largest stateless minority and subject to severe restrictions on their movements, are barred from officially crossing.

Bangladeshi authorities on Wednesday toughened patrols in a bid to prevent more arrivals in a country that already hosts an estimated 400,000 Rohingya, albeit in abject conditions.

Rohingya have sneaked across the land border in large number or swum the Naf River which marks part of the frontier.

But tragedy befell some of them. The bodies of two Rohingya women and two children washed up on Bangladeshi soil on Wednesday, an official there told AFP, drowned after their rickety boat capsized.

- Fight and flight -

Among the dead and displaced are also ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and other tribal groups, who say they are being targeted by Rohingya militants.

Five ethnic Buddhist men were found stabbed to death early Wednesday in Maungdaw, which is under curfew, Ye Htut, the town's district chief told AFP.

With information trickling out, a picture has emerged of a cat-and-mouse game between militants and security forces played out in remote hamlets, fields and forest hideouts.

The office of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said militants have repeatedly detonated homemade explosives and attempted to firebomb police posts and ambush patrols.

Myanmar classes the militants as "Bengali terrorists" and blames them for setting fire to both their own and other community's houses.

Rohingya arriving in Bangladesh have told a different story, saying their homes had been set on fire by security forces and Buddhist mobs.

"Villagers are running away... where do we have to live now?" one Rohingya from a village near Maungdaw told AFP by phone, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately possible to verify his account.

- Maximum restraint? -

Rakhine has been beset by religious violence since 2012.

Analysts say the emergence of organised militancy is a game-changer in an already volatile situation.

Displaced Rohingya reaching Bangladesh have told AFP some men are heeding a call to arms by the militants and staying behind to fight in their villages.

The Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA) claims its men launched Friday's surprise attacks on police posts, killing 11 state officials, with knives, homemade explosives and a few guns.

After years in which the Rohingya largely avoided violence, the group emerged last October to carry out deadly attacks on police posts.

That prompted a months-long security crackdown by Myanmar's army which left scores dead and forced 87,000 people to flee to Bangladesh.

The UN believes those operations may have amounted to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya -- allegations denied by the army.

On Sunday Pope Francis led mounting international calls for the protection of "our Rohingya brothers".

The UN has also urged Myanmar to protect civilians during its operations and called on Bangladesh to allow the displaced into its territory.

With pressure mounting, a Myanmar government official on Tuesday said security forces would use "maximum restraint" in coming days but insisted on the country's right to defend itself from "terrorists".

Rights groups say the reports of Rohingya villages being torched fit the counter-insurgency playbook of Myanmar's army.

Full report at:




ISIS claims attack on house of Afghan lawmaker

August 31, 2017

JALALABAD: Militant group ISIS on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on the home of a powerful member of parliament in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad that killed two security guards and both attackers.

The assault targeted the house of Zahir Qadir, deputy speaker of parliament and a member of a prominent political family long opposed to both the Taliban and Islamic State, which is based largely in eastern Nangarhar province.

Officials said the guards were killed when one attacker detonated a suicide vest. The other attacker was shot dead immediately.

In a statement on its Amaq news agency, Islamic State said two of its fighters had attacked the house.

Full report at:




Pakistan fears Afghanistan may block transit route to Central Asia

Aug 31 2017

Officials in Islamabad are concerned regarding the possible blocking of the transit route to Central Asia and Europe by the Afghan government, it has been reported.

The concerns have been shared by the authorities in Islamabad amid deteriorating diplomatic ties between the two neighbors.

Sources within the Pakistani government have said the step could be taken due to the Convention on the Contract for International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR) not accepted by the two countries so far.

The sources quoted by the local media have further added that Pakistan is  a signatory of the ECO Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA) and even by accepting the CMR convention in the absence of Afghanistan would prevent the country to use the Afghan route to to member states of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) and European countries.

According to the reports, China has already intervened so that an agreement is signed to resolve the issue but the sources are saying that Afghanistan was hesitant and demanded inclusion of India in the agreement.

In the meantime, the sources saying that the authorities in Pakistan are demanding immediate steps to resolve the issue amid a steady drop in the exports of the country.

Full report at:




Karzai strongly reacts at civilians deaths in Taliban, ISIS attacks, and US airstrike

Aug 30 2017

The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly reacted at the recent civilian deaths in the hands of the Taliban and ISIS insurgents as well as the alleged US airstrike.

The Office of the former President in a statement said Tuesday that once again the ordinary civilians including children lost their lives or were wounded in US airstrike in Bakhtabad area of Shindand district on Monday.

The statement further added that some ordinary civilians were killed in a similar airstrike in Chahardara district of northern Kunduz province.

Two days ago in Kabul’s Imam Zaman mosque inflicted casualties to the civilians including women and children, Karzai said, adding that on Tuesday a suicide attack once again inflicted casualties to the civilians in Kabul.

Karzai further added that the civilians are one day killed in the cities from the address of ISIS and Taliban while the other day they are killed in the villages under the pretext of the fight against Taliban and ISIS and the killing of the Afghans continue.

According to Karzai, the latest killings of the civilians prove that the Afghans are being killed by the foreigners and a foreign cause.

Full report at:




NATO rejects Taliban’s claim of downing helicopter confirms precautionary landing

Aug 30 2017

The NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan rejected the claims by the Taliban insurgents regarding the downing of a coalition helicopter in central Logar province of Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the alliance Bob Purtiman said “The Taliban’s claim to have shot down a U.S. helicopter in Logar province is false.”

He said “A helicopter did make a precautionary landing for maintenance issue. The aircraft has been successfully recovered.”

Logar is among the relatively volatile provinces in central Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in some its districts and often carryout insurgency activities.

This is not the first time the group has made a claim regarding the downing of an aircraft belonging to the coalition but in the past the group has made several such claims which have been rejected by the alliance.

In the meantime, reports regarding the precautionary landing of the helicopter in Logar province come as the US forces are mulling to increase their operations in Afghanistan.

Full report at:




Ghani chairs meeting amid persistent tense situation along the Durand Line

Aug 30 2017

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday chaired a high level meeting in ARG Palace amid persistent tense situation along the Durand Line.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said the meeting was also attended by the special representative of the UN secretary general to Afghanistan.

The statement further added that President Ghani that relentless shelling along the Durand Line has sparked a human crisis in the area>

President Ghani further added that the government of Afghanistan has serious steps to be taken in this regard and urged the United Nations immediate and serious attention regarding the issue.

The meeting also focused on the issues of the residents of the areas affected by the relentless shelling and said immediate humanitarian aid and support are needed.

The meeting concluded with the recommendations to jointly form a team consisting of representatives of the United Nations and the Afghan government to further discuss the issue.

The eastern provinces of Afghanistan lying along the Durand Line, specifically the eastern Kunar, Nuristan, and Nangarhar provinces regularly come under artillery shelling which started more than three years ago.

Full report at:




Southeast Asia


Duterte says IS battle in 'final stages'

August 30, 2017

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday a three-month battle against Islamic State group supporters occupying parts of a southern city was in its "final stages".

Duterte gave his assessment shortly after government troops secured a vital bridge in Marawi city, allowing them easier access into areas being held by the militants.

"We are in the final stages. So let us send immediately, even air-lift, the police," to Marawi, Duterte said in the capital Manila, about 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the north of the battle zone.

Pro-IS gunmen occupied parts of Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines on May 23, triggering a battle that the military says has left almost 800 people dead.

The fighting, which has included a US-backed air campaign against the militants, has destroyed large parts of Marawi.

Duterte and security analysts have said the militants carried out the assault in an effort to establish a Southeast Asian base for IS.

Duterte on Wednesday warned that, even with the Marawi battle over, the militants could still launch attacks elsewhere in the Philippines, particularly in the strife-torn south where the country's Muslim minority is based.

The southern regions of the Philippines have long been troubled by armed Muslim bands including separatist guerrillas and outlaws, some of whom have gravitated towards IS.

Duterte said other southern cities with large Muslim populations, including his hometown of Davao, were vulnerable. He said Manila might also be a target.

Duterte imposed martial law across the southern third of the Philippines immediately after the militants occupied parts of Marawi to combat the security threat.

Hours before Duterte spoke, soldiers in Marawi secured the Mapandi bridge, a vital supply route which had once been menaced by militant snipers and rocket-propelled grenades.




Indonesia Targets Chinese Visitors With Halal Tourism Promotion

Aug 31 2017

Jakarta. The Ministry of Tourism will hold halal sales mission events in Beijing, Yinchuan and Xi'an on Sept. 4-7, it said in a statement on Saturday (26/08).

I Gde Pitana, deputy for foreign tourism marketing development at the ministry, said the three cities were chosen because the Muslim populations of Beijing and Yinchuan are quite large, while Xi'an was the first city in China where Islam was introduced.

Indonesia's halal tourism industry is growing, as witnessed by several awards from the World Halal Travel Awards bestowed on several regions in the archipelago, such as Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara, West Sumatra and Aceh.

Lombok won awards for the World's Best Halal Destination and the World's Best Halal Honeymoon Destination in 2015. Last year, West Sumatra won the World's Best Halal Destination and World's Best Halal Culinary awards, while Aceh took home the World's Best Cultural Halal Destination award.

"These are what we will offer in the sales mission, as well as other destinations, such as Jakarta, Bali and Batam," Pitana said.

Data compiled by the ministry shows that halal tourism increased 15.5 percent in the 2013-2016 period, while last year, the number of tourists from China also rose by 27 percent to 1,452,971.

Full report at:




After 100 Days, Philippine Army Says 'Last Stand' Near for Marawi Fighters

Aug 31 2017

Manila. One hundred days after militants loyal to Islamic State took over parts of a southern Philippine city, the military is confident the end is in sight for what has been its biggest security crisis in years.

After a lightning strike on May 23 on Marawi City, the Dawla Islamiya rebel alliance has held out against daily artillery bombardment and air strikes by jets and bombers, and its snipers remain placed in the rubble of the city's business district.

But now, says Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the military's Marawi task force, rebel-held areas are shrinking, and there are signs the fighters are low on food and ammunition, and starting to flag.

"Hopefully, the Marawi siege is going to be over within the next few weeks," he told reporters.

"Their strength continues to decline. We are inflicting casualties on them almost every day."

The military has, however, missed repeated targets and deadlines to crush the rebels, whose strength and resolve it accepts it has under-estimated. The conflict in the southern region of Mindano has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and killed nearly 800 by government count - 133 soldiers and police, 45 civilians and an estimated 617 militants.

Residents say they fear the bodies of many more civilians could be in the rubble of the lakeside city. Estimates of civilians trapped in the fighting at one point were over 2,000, although authorities say 1,728 have been rescued.

The Red Cross says it is investigating the whereabouts of 179 missing people.

The protracted occupation has heightened concerns that Islamic State's radical ideology may have gained a deeper foothold in the southern Philippines than was previously imagined, and raised questions about whether the military can contain a wider rebellion.

The presence of foreigners among the fighters is fanning fears that Mindanao could become a draw for extremists from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and those being pushed out of Syria and Iraq.

Armed forces chief Eduardo Ano said strategic gains had been made against the Islamist militants in the past week, including retaking the police headquarters and the city's central mosque.

All routes in and out of Marawi had been sealed off, he said on Tuesday, and the hard core of about 50 rebels were preparing for their "last stand" and would have to decide whether to surrender, or be martyred.

No Way Out

"That's our main goal: No way out, no way in," Ano said.

"If they want to go to heaven as they declared, we will give them the chance."

The Marawi fighting has been the biggest security crisis of the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, who declared martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year, and has urged lawmakers to approve funds to beef up the army by 20,000 troops.

On Wednesday (30/08), he said the conflict was by no means "the beginning and the end" of an extremism problem that stemmed from decades of separatist unrest.

Experts say the ability of two hardline groups from different parts of Mindanao - the relatively new Maute group, and the more established Abu Sayyaf - to carefully plan each step of the takeover of a city illustrates the ease in which extremists could organize and rally around Islamic State's agenda.

The military says key to countering that will be whether it can kill or capture the main leaders, who it believes are still inside a conflict zone of about half a square kilometer in size.

One challenge will be securing what are believed to be dozens of hostages. Failure to do that could be a disaster for a military already criticized for the massive destruction caused by air strikes that have had mixed results. In two instances, the bombs have hit ground troops.

Duterte said the reason why the battle had gone on so long was because of the government's desire to keep hostages safe and to avoid bombing a mosque where rebel leaders were believed to be taking shelter.

"It would have just created more animosity and outright hostility against the government," he said.

Rodolfo Biazon, a former lawmaker and military chief, said that after Marawi is retaken, the government should seek more than a military solution and try to stop rebels from regrouping, by targeting recruitment and tackling radical ideology at the grassroots level.

"Remove the community support, and it will not last long. This should be the primary effort," Biazon said.

Full report at:




Hundreds protest in Malaysia against Myanmar violence

AUG 30, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in Malaysia on Wednesday (Aug 30) in support of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority after renewed violence forced thousands to flee the country.

Fresh fighting broke out in Rakhine state last week between security forces and Rohingya militants after the militants staged raids on police posts.

The violence is still raging, and at least 110 people are so far confirmed dead while at least 18,500 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Fighting in Rakhine often prompts anger in Muslim-majority Malaysia. On Wednesday about 1,000 protesters - most of whom were believed to be Rohingya - gathered near a major road in Kuala Lumpur calling for an end to violence against the minority.

Some of the demonstrators wept and claimed that their families were being killed, while others waved banners that read "Stop Rohingya genocide" and "Save Rohingya".

The demonstration was peaceful but about 20 protesters were arrested for alleged immigration offences.

A smaller protest was also held outside the Myanmar embassy.

"We are demanding (Myanmar) stops this violence against the Rohingya," said Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, leading the embassy group.

There are almost 60,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, according to the United Nations, where they form part of a large workforce of immigrants doing low-skilled jobs spurned by locals in the relatively affluent country.

Full report at:




Pakatan’s Indian leaders seek better representation, but deny mimicking BN


August 31, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 ― Several ethnic Indian leaders have called for more representatives from their community on Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) presidential council, but insisted this would not mirror Barisan Nasional’s (BN) racial structure.

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Prof P. Ramasamy, who is from DAP, suggested talks with Indian leaders from PH rather than approaching Indian rights group Hindraf, who reportedly met Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to talk about joining PH and contesting the 14th general election.

“PH is not BN, but it is important to recognise groups and communities that have been left out. Recognition of differences does not render PH racial,” Ramasamy told Malay Mail Online.

He noted that PPBM and Parti Amanah Negara “are not exactly multiracial parties”, and non-Malays are only represented in PKR and DAP.

The PH presidential council’s top three posts of chairman, president and de facto leader are filled by Malays ― Dr Mahathir, and PKR couple Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, respectively.

Meanwhile, the seven deputies and vice-presidents are also mostly Malays, with two Chinese representatives from the Chinese-dominant DAP. DAP’s M. Kulasegaran, as PH treasurer, is the sole Indian representative on the council.

Membership with full voting rights in the Malay-dominant PPBM is limited to the Bumiputera; non-Bumiputera may join as associate members who are not allowed to vote or to run for office within the party although they may be appointed to certain party positions.

Although membership in Amanah is not limited to Muslims, the party states in its vision that it aims to be the main Muslim party in Malaysia and its constitution requires both its president and deputy president to profess a “profound understanding of and commitment towards Islam”.

PKR vice-president Dr Xavier Jayakumar told Malay Mail Online the PH presidential council has said it will look into increasing Indian representation in its line-up.

“We have been given assurances that they see the need to have more Indians in terms of representation,” he said.

When asked if the PH presidential council should also add representatives from the Orang Asli community as well as from Sabah and Sarawak ethnic groups, Dr Xavier said the focus should be on resolving problems of minority groups and not necessarily appointing representatives as a “showpiece”.

“I would prefer that I have a Malay leader or a leader of Pakatan Harapan that recognises problems faced by the minority, like Indians, Orang Asli, Kadazans and Ibans and all that, and whether there will be some concerted effort to approach this problem,” said the Seri Andalas assemblyman.

He said that he and Charles Santiago from the DAP are currently organising a roadshow in a few states to look at issues facing the Indian community, with the first held in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.

“We had a whole list of things that Indian grassroots think should be done. The leadership should take it up and say this is what we want to address in the manifesto,” said Dr Xavier.

DAP’s Santiago admitted there was public perception that PH was not addressing the Indian community.

“When you see pictures, you see Mahathir, DAP's face. Where is the Indian face?” he told Malay Mail Online.

The Klang MP warned PH that the Indian electorate would hold the deciding vote in three-cornered fights in the general election, pointing out that current polls showed the community bordering slightly more than half in support for the federal Opposition coalition.

“But when the elections are called, the numbers can go down,” Santiago said.

However, he also cautioned the PH leadership not to go by former prime minister Dr Mahathir’s “model”.

“Don't jump into another BN, where you have Indians representing Indians, Chinese representing Chinese and Malays representing Malays.”

Santiago added that Hindraf was no longer relevant to Indians due to “major compromises” taken by the movement’s leaders over the years.

PKR central leadership council member Latheefa Koya said the current PH leadership structure was not satisfactory in relation to Indians.

“Kula’s position is perceived as tokenism. We have other Indian leaders who are prominent in taking up issues that particularly affect Indians.

“It’s strange when none of this talent, which is well-known to the Indian voters, has [a] place in the structure. Why this limited structure?” she told Malay Mail Online.

Full report at:




Dozens of Rohingyas arrested after protest against Myanmar embassy

August 30, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — Forty-four ethnic Rohingya were detained by police today for holding an illegal protest gathering in front of the Tabung Haji (TH) building in Jalan Tun Razak, here.

Kuala Lumpur police chief, Datuk Amar Singh Ishar Singh said they were detained for trying to create provocation when police ordered them to disperse.

He said over 1,000 ethnic Rohingya had gathered here since 8am to march to the Myanmar embassy in Jalan Ampang Hilir to hand over a memorandum protesting against the atrocities and killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The group is believed to have come from all over Malaysia by bus, with the travel arrangement made by the Rohingya themselves, to hand over the memorandum.

“However, after handing over the memorandum, they still gathered around and some acted aggressively, forcing the Federal Reserve Unit to detain them,” said Amar Singh when met at the TH grounds.

“The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 does not allow foreigners to hold any protest demonstration or gathering in this country,” he added.

Full report at:




Malaysians stage protest against Rohingya violence

August 30, 2017

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in Malaysia on Wednesday in support of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority after renewed violence forced thousands to flee the country.

Fresh fighting broke out in Rakhine state last week between security forces and Rohingya militants after the militants staged raids on police posts.

The violence is still raging, and at least 110 people are so far confirmed dead while at least 18,500 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Fighting in Rakhine often prompts anger in Muslim-majority Malaysia. On Wednesday about 1,000 protesters -- most of whom were believed to be Rohingya -- gathered near a major road in Kuala Lumpur calling for an end to violence against the minority.

Some of the demonstrators wept and claimed that their families were being killed, while others waved banners that read "Stop Rohingya genocide" and "Save Rohingya".

The demonstration was peaceful but about 20 protesters were arrested for alleged immigration offences.

A smaller protest was also held outside the Myanmar embassy.

"We are demanding (Myanmar) stops this violence against the Rohingya," said Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, leading the embassy group.

There are almost 60,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, according to the United Nations, where they form part of a large workforce of immigrants doing low-skilled jobs spurned by locals in the relatively affluent country.

Full report at:






Muslims Must Reclaim Islam from Extremists - Former VP Atiku

Aug 30 2017

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has advised Muslims to reclaim the religion which is being hijacked by violent extremists whose atrocities portray Islam in bad light.

The chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) gave the advice on Wednesday in his Sallah message to Muslims on the occasion of the Eid el Kabir celebration.

The former Vice President, who wished his fellow Muslims a happy and hitch free celebration, said protecting the image of Islam is the greatest challenge facing the Muslim faithful today in the light of the activities of extremists who are bent on destroying every humane virtue of the religion.

He voiced sadness that the activities of the violent extremists have economically destroyed the North in particular, the Northeast and disrupted its social life.

 “As a citizen of the Northeast, I have a firsthand experience of the impact of terrorism on our people's daily lives,” he said.

The Waziri Adamawa called for rigorous scrutiny and vigilance to guard against the influence of extremism, including exposing innocent students and followers to their virulent ideas.

He also advised parents to be wary of letting their children follow any preacher and thereby, falling victims of indoctrination, warning that poisonous ideas are as destructive as a bomb.

He also called on Muslims to show increased commitment to peaceful coexistence and tolerance in line with the demands of the Muslim faith and Nigeria's complex diversity.

According to him, love and peace should not only be preached, but must also be put into practice for the sake of sustaining the peace in our land.

The former Vice President advised Nigerians to eschew religious bigotry, and condemned politicians who use ethnic and religious sentiments to gain power.

According to him, identity politics founded on religious loyalties rather than competence and commitment to unity is a threat to our democracy and progress.




Somalia: U.S. Indicts Radical Cleric Over Links With Al Shabaab

27 AUGUST 2017

A radical Muslim cleric who was convicted of stirring up racial hatred in Britain was indicted Friday in New York on charges of recruiting potential terrorists.

Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal was arrested in Jamaica, where he had been deported a decade ago.

Jamaica's Ministry of National Security said el-Faisal was arrested in the capital of Kingston and taken to his house in the nearby parish of St. Catherine, where police executed a search warrant.

Authorities in Jamaica said el-Faisal is scheduled to appear later in court, although they did not provide a date. He is expected to be extradited to New York after his court appearance in Jamaica.

El-Faisal was arrested after a monthslong sting carried out by an undercover New York Police Department officer who communicated with him by email, text and video chat.

According to the Manhattan district attorney, el-Faisal offered to help the undercover officer travel to the Middle East and join fighters with the Islamic State extremist group.

It's not clear if el-Faisal has an attorney.

The 53-year-old el-Faisal was born Trevor William Forrest in Jamaica.

U.S. authorities had long been concerned about him, fearing that he would emerge as a recruiter of marginalized, disaffected youth in Jamaica.

Born to Christian parents, he converted to Islam as a teenager and later left Jamaica for religious study. He preached in London mosques, delivering sermons that advocated war with Jews, Hindus and other groups and the use of chemical weapons to exterminate nonbelievers.

"The way forward is the bullet," he said in one recorded message.

Those talks got renewed attention after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. In 2003, he was convicted under of a seldom-used British law for inciting murder. After his release from prison in 2007, he was deported to Jamaica.

The Islamic Council of Jamaica, which had banned el-Faisal from preaching in the country's mosques because of his inflammatory sermons, said it was not affiliated with el-Faisal and had no information regarding his arrest.

El-Faisal was subsequently ejected from Kenya after a trip there in 2009 because of suspicions of encouraging young men to join an Islamic extremist group in Somalia. He was then deported to Jamaica again in early 2010.

In diplomatic cables, first obtained and released by WikiLeaks, U.S. officials said he or his associates had been linked with several suspected terror plots.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said el-Faisal "has dedicated his life to terror recruitment."

Full report at:




Britain pledges £200 million to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram

August 31, 2017

Britain will give Nigeria aid worth £200 million over five years to help it cope with the brutal insurgency being waged by Boko Haram jihadists, the foreign ministry in London has said. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson visited Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northeast Borno State and epicentre of the Boko Haram organisation, to meet some of those involved in the fight.

The Islamist militant group has increasingly used child suicide bombers and targeted civilians in its eight-year insurgency which has left at least 20,000 dead and displaced more than 2.6 million. “In Maiduguri I met casualties of Boko Haram violence, including bomb and gunshot victims, and saw for myself the displacement of people that brutality and poverty have created,” Johnson said in a statement yesterday.

The £200 million ($260 million, 220 million euros) will help supply food to 1.5 million people facing famine as a result of the bloody insurgency, while providing treatment for 120,000 children at risk of malnutrition and assisting 100,000 children with education needs.

British military teams will also continue to help prepare Abuja’s security forces for counter-insurgency operations, having already helped to train 28,500 Nigerian personnel. The uprising by Boko Haram, which is seeking to impose hardline Islamic law in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, has included a campaign of civilian kidnappings.

Full report at:




Somalia: Somalis Refuse to Bury Dead Until Govt Admits Killing Them in U.S.-Backed Raid

27 AUGUST 2017

Somali families are refusing to bury the bodies of 10 loved ones, including three children, until the government takes responsibility for killing them in a U.S.-backed military raid, officials said on Sunday.

The ten were shot dead when Somalia's army, supported by U.S. troops, carried out an operation in Bariire village, about 50 km (30 miles) from the capital on Friday.

Ali Nur, the deputy governor of the surrounding Lower Shabelle region, told Reuters the bodies would be stored until the government pays compensation - a particularly jarring action in a Muslim culture that buries its dead quickly.

"We refused to bury them because the government has denied and it still has not directly admitted it killed the civilians," Nur told Reuters.

"The government should admit it killed the civilians and then compensate."

Authorities had converted a refrigerated lobster truck into a mortuary to hold the bodies, he said.

The U.S. Africa Command said on Friday U.S. forces were involved in the Bariire operation in a supporting role and it was investigating reports of civilian casualties. It gave no immediate fresh comment on Sunday.

Somalia's army initially said all the dead were members of the Islamist al Shabaab militia that it is fighting with help from U.S. and African Union forces - but later acknowledged some civilians had died.


Local elders told Reuters the U.S. troops had been unwittingly drawn into clan fighting in the area, particularly around Bariire village, the center of a feud between two powerful and well-armed groups.

Lawmaker Dahir Amin Jesow said those killed were farmers who had armed themselves to defend themselves against a rival group.

"How would you feel if your own government kills your brothers and labels them as militants?" asked Hassan Mohamed, a cousin of one of the deceased.

"We want them to admit, apologize and compensate. Otherwise there will be no peace," he said.

Local elders and ambulance drivers who ferried the bodies confirmed that the dead were stored in the truck.

"The government wants the bodies buried prior to investigation but we will not. We shall have the bodies inside the truck even for a month," elder Mohamed Hussein told Reuters. The government says it had formed a team to investigate the incident.

The Bariire operation is likely to provoke questions in Washington about the growing U.S. footprint in the Horn of Africa nation, which has been torn apart by civil war since 1991. A U.S. Navy Seal was killed in Somalia in May, the first U.S. combat death there since 1993.

Full report at:






Zarif Says Bolton's Plan for Abrogating N. Deal with Iran Sends US to Isolation

Aug 30, 2017

"I have read Mr. Bolton's plan which was released after he apparently failed to send it to the White House directly. Certainly this plan will be a major failure for the US and will further isolate the US on the international scene," Zarif said on Wednesday.

Reminding Bolton's record in proposing plans to discard international agreements, he said, "The Americans saw the result of pursuing Mr. Bolton's policies in early 2000s."

Zarif called on Bolton to remember that the US was forced to sit to the negotiating table with Iran over the nuclear dispute when his proposed policies against Tehran failed after 10 years.

Bolton says that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon asked him to draw up a plan for how to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in July. But after the White House ejected Bannon in August, Bolton lost access to the administration and his plan never made it to Trump's desk.

Now he's decided to publish his plan publicly.

The five-page memo is basically a strategic public relations campaign to convince the world that the US has a case for pulling out of the deal. That case hinges on one central claim: that Iran is clearly violating the deal and has thus rendered it a meaningless agreement.

But experts say that this claim isn’t grounded in evidence, and that Iran is meeting international standards in complying with the deal’s requirements for inspections and monitoring.

Bolton’s argument, they say, simply assumes that Iran has nefarious intentions to build nuclear weapons despite the absence of any proof. And some analysts warn that his argument suffers from the same kind of war-hungry reasoning that led the US to invade Iraq on questionable evidence in 2003.




Iran Warns Kirkuk Officials against Decision to Join Kurdistan Referendum

Aug 30, 2017

"The approval of Kirkuk's provincial council to take part in the referendum for the separation of the Iraqi Kurdistan from the Central government in Iraq which has been rejected by the UN and many regional and trans-regional states is a dangerous and provocative move which wont be helpful to the recent talks in Baghdad to resolve the mutual issues and will have an impact on Iraq's potentials and national power on the path of establishing the country's victories against terrorism," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran warns against this wrong decision which clearly violates Iraq's national sovereignty and territorial integrity and reiterates that commitment of all parties to the Constitution and resolving the differences in the country through talks and legal solutions is the best option for the Iraqi nation and any action leading to fresh crises in the region and at Iraq's borders with its neighbors is not tolerated," he added.

The Kirkuk Provincial Council voted on Tuesday morning in favor of holding the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence in Kirkuk province, while the head of the Turkmen Front is urging a Turkmen boycott of the September 25 vote.

Hassan Toran, an Iraqi MP and a leader of the Turkmen Front, described the decision by the provincial as “dangerous".

Also, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi denounced as “wrong” the decision of the Kirkuk Provincial Council to participate in the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum.

Full report at:




Iran pilgrims make return to hajj with bitter memories

Aug 31, 2017

Reza from Iran is torn between the joy of taking part in this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites and bitter memories of the 2015 stampede that killed hundreds of his compatriots.

Iranian pilgrims stayed away from the 2016 hajj after regional rivals Saudi Arabia, custodian of the sites in the west of the kingdom, and Iran failed to agree on arrangements and logistics.

Arrangements for the hajj, a religious duty which devout Muslims must accomplish at least once in their lifetime, are thorny and security paramount for the two million pilgrims who throng Islam’s holiest sites in western Saudi Arabia.

In 2015, a human river of pilgrims was performing the final major rite of the hajj, the “Stoning of the Devil”, near Mecca when a stampede killed hundreds of Muslims from across the world.

Riyadh issued a death toll of 769, while figures compiled from foreign officials in more than 30 countries gave a tally of around 2,300 dead.

Tehran reported the largest number of stampede victims, with 464 Iranians among the dead.

“They were murdered, they (Saudi authorities) didn’t help them,” said Reza, a 63-year-old former oil company official, seated in the lobby of a Mecca hotel.

But Reza said that new security measures now left him feeling safer. “Everything is clear this year,” he said, speaking in English.

“They’ve taken more security measures otherwise we would not have come,” he said. And “the hajj leaders of Iran have given us instructions and times” for the rituals, to avoid any repeat of the 2015 disaster.

Iranian authorities say more than 86,000 Iranian pilgrims are taking part in this year’s hajj, each equipped with an identity bracelet in case of any accident.

The “made-in-Tehran” bracelets can be connected to smartphones, allowing access to information on the hajj.

Iran lambasted Saudi Arabia in the months following the stampede, condemning its organisation of the hajj and questioning the kingdom’s very right to serve as custodian of Islam’s holiest places.

- ‘Holy sites for all’ -

In January 2016, Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran broke off diplomatic ties after angry Iranian protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic missions over the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Tehran and Riyadh stand on opposing sides in several regional disputes, including the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, as well as this year’s Gulf diplomatic crisis between Qatar and a Saudi-led Arab bloc.

But a breakthrough accord on Iranian pilgrims taking part in this year’s hajj was struck in March after several months of negotiations during which the two Gulf states traded bitter recriminations.

“It was a conflict between two countries, Iranians wanted to come here,” said Mohammed, a 38-year-old engineer from the city of Arak, southwest of Tehran.

Mohammad was at the doomed 2015 hajj and said some of his acquaintances had died in the stampede, while he himself had lost consciousness but survived.

According to Fariba Adelkhah from the research and study centre of France’s Sciences Po University, Iran could not have stopped its citizens from making the pilgrimage to Mecca for much longer.

“The travel ban could not last long. Could politics call into question a religious duty? That question was at the centre of a debate in Tehran,” said Adelkhah.

“The Iranian government did not want to take responsibility for preventing their citizens again from going to Mecca,” she said.

At Reza’s hotel filled with Iranian pilgrims in Mecca’s bustling Al-Aziziya neighbourhood, the consensus was that lifting the ban on travel for the hajj was the right thing to do.

Dressed in a black chador, Mariam, an English-language teacher from Babol in northern Iran, said holy shrines should be open to all Muslims “and Saudi Arabia cannot ban any country”.

“I wish that one day all Muslim countries will be able control the holy shrines, not just Saudi Arabia,” she said.

Full report at:




Iran arrests dozens of Ahwazi Arabs ahead of Eid al-Adha celebrations

31 August 2017

Iranian security forces arrested dozens of Arab activists and citizens in Ahwaz to prevent marches and celebrations during Eid al-Adha, the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO) said in a statement which Al-Arabiya.net received a copy of.

AHRO, which published the names of 35 detainees, said Iran must commit to the International Human Rights Council resolutions and respect freedoms and people’s right to peacefully gather and march.

The organization also condemned the arrests which it described as arbitrary and said these security measures during Eid are a flagrant violation of Arab citizens’ rights in Ahwaz and a violation of international laws and treaties.

AHRO called for putting an end to these detentions and for protecting the detainees from possible ill treatment and torture.

Iranian security forces carried out similar raids and arrests during Eid al-Fitr in Ahwaz and detained dozens of Arabs who participated in popular gatherings that called for national rights and chanted against persecution.

Full report at:




UN chief calls for lifting of Gaza blockade in face of humanitarian crisis

30 August 2017

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for the blockade of the Gaza Strip to be lifted on Wednesday as he visited the Palestinian enclave enduring “one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises” he had seen.

“I am deeply moved to be in Gaza today, unfortunately to witness one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I’ve seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations,” Guterres said.

He later said it was “important to open the closures,” in a reference to Israel’s decade-long blockade of Gaza and its border with Egypt that has remained largely closed in recent years. 

First visit

Guterres was on his first visit to Gaza since taking office, as international concern grows over electricity shortages and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, welcomed the trip, calling it an “important visit,” but small demonstrations also occurred.

At one protest, around 25 people held a fake coffin with a sign that said “Welcome to the largest prison in the world”.

Dozens of people also demonstrated as Guterres's convoy crossed the border with Israel into Gaza, calling for action in support of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Guterres, who held talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday, was to visit a school in the strip run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Hamas called on Guterres to make “all efforts to lift the siege on the strip and end the suffering for two million Palestinians living in the largest prison in the world.”

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade, while its sole crossing with Egypt has also been largely closed in recent years.

At least 70 percent of Gazans are dependent upon international aid. UNRWA plays a major role in the strip, with the same percentage of the population classified as refugees.

Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008, and Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used to make them.

The blockade also serves to isolate the Islamist movement.

UN officials have, however, called for the blockade to be lifted, saying the enclave is fast becoming unliveable, with sparse electricity and a lack of clean water.

Before crossing into the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials gave Guterres a tour of the Gaza border area and he was shown a tunnel crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Such tunnels, used by Hamas for attacks in the past, are a major concern for Israel.

Full report at:




Syria’s Assad says terrorists' plot has failed, vows resistance until final victory

Aug 30, 2017

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says the terrorists’ plot in Syria has failed, stressing that the country will not rest until the full restoration of security to the entire Syrian territory.

The Syrian president made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari in Damascus on Wednesday.

Assad said victories made by the Syrian forces and their allies have changed the global attitude towards the Syrian crisis and forced those countries that supported terrorists to change their policies.

He highlighted efforts made by Iran and other friendly countries to support the Syrian people in their resistance and fight against terrorism.

The Syrian president also praised the support of the Iranian leadership and nation for Syria in its fight against terrorism and underlined the need for Tehran and Damascus to remain vigilant and improve coordination at the current juncture.

During the meeting, the Iranian diplomat, who arrived in Damascus on Wednesday, briefed Assad on the diplomatic efforts made by Tehran and its negotiations with various regional and international sides with respect to the developments in Syria.

The two sides also exchanged views on the process of the Astana talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the Arab country.

Jaberi Ansari, who heads Iran’s delegation to the Astana talks, also emphasized the need for close consultations between Iran and Syria.

Astana has hosted five rounds of peace talks on Syria since January. Russia, Iran, and Turkey serve as guarantor states in the peace process. The negotiations are aimed at bringing an end to the foreign-backed militancy in Syria, which began in March 2011.

In a Tuesday Facebook post, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said the next round of the Syria talks in the Kazakh capital may be held in mid-September.

Earlier this month, United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura also hoped for a “serious negotiation” between the Damascus government and the opposition in October or November.

The UN has previously organized seven rounds of almost unsuccessful talks between the Syrian government and foreign-backed opposition since a devastating war began in the Arab country.

Separately on Wednesday, Jaberi Ansari also held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem.

During the meeting, the Iranian diplomat praised the purging of the terrorist groups of Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham from Syria’s mountainous region of Qalamoun as a great achievement by the Syrian army and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement. 

Jaberi Ansari expressed satisfaction with the restoration of relative stability in Damascus and other parts of the country.

For his part, Muallem praised Iran’s support for the Syrian government and nation.

He said the developments on the battlefield have forced all the countries that were supporting the terrorists to change their calculations.

On August 19, the Lebanese military launched an anti-terror operation on the Syrian border. Hezbollah and the Syrian army also started a simultaneous offensive against Daesh in Qalamoun region.

Daesh had lost much of their mountainous enclave straddling the border between Syria and Lebanon since the two offensives began on opposite sides of the frontier.

Full report at:




Iran’s Zarif calls for global action to end Rohingya sufferings

Aug 30, 2017

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has criticized the global community for remaining silent on the persisting violence against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims, calling for "crucial" action to end the acts of aggression against the minority group. 

“Global silence on continuing violence against #Rohingya Muslims. Int’l action crucial to prevent further ethnic cleansing—UN must rally,” Zarif wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.

Iran has called on the government in Myanmar to halt the continued violations of the rights of Rohingya Muslims and end the present violent situation in the country.

Myanmar has been under fire by the international community and rights groups for its atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar denies full citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The Rohingya have been subjected to summary executions, rapes, and arson attacks by security forces since October 2016, when the government used a deadly militant attack on border guards as a pretext to enforce a military siege in Rakhine state, the poorest region in Myanmar which is home to some 1.1 Rohingya Muslims.

More than 18,000 Rohingya Muslims, mostly women and children, have been forced to flee their homes in Rakhine in less than one week due to violent clashes, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“As of last night, 18,500 people have come across” from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where they mainly reside,” said Chris Lom, the IOM’s Asia-Pacific spokesman, on Wednesday.

Lom suggested that the number could be significantly higher as many of the displaced people might not have registered with Bangladeshi authorities.

While thousands of Rohingya refugees have made it across the border with Bangladesh, many are thought to be trapped in an unoccupied zone between the country and Myanmar.

Full report at:




North America


'What's happening in Quebec City?': Car belonging to head of mosque torched

Aug 30, 2017

A car belonging to the head of the Quebec City mosque where six men were shot to death in January was set on fire in early August.

Police have yet to arrest anyone in connection with the arson, which happened around 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 6 outside Mohamed Labidi's home.

The car was a total loss.

The vehicle was torched about 36 hours after Labidi appeared alongside Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume to celebrate the sale of city-owned land to the Muslim community for the creation of a cemetery.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Quebec City police spokesperson Lieut. Jean-François Vézina said the fire is a concern and noted the "accumulation" of incidents targeting the city's Muslim community.

"We're taking this seriously," he said. "We want to find the reasons that led to this criminal act."

Still, Vézina said it was too soon to say whether the arson amounts to a hate crime. He said there was no message left at the scene to indicate a motive.

As to why police kept the incident from the public until now, Vézina said it was done in the interests of both the Labidi family and the police investigation.

He added that it was vital that the public assist police in their investigation of the crime, and others like it.

"[Police] can't work alone in this city, citizens have to share information and contact us when they see anything," he said.

Excrement thrown at mosque shortly after car was torched

In a statement posted to its Facebook page, the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, which Labidi heads, said excrement was also thrown at the mosque's front door a few days after Labidi's car was torched.

"These are no longer simple gestures of extremists opposed to immigration. Extremists acts are now affecting our lives, the lives of Quebec citizens and Canadian Muslims, as well as on our property and our religion," the statement said.

The centre has been the target of xenophobic messaging and vandalism in the past.

Last year, a gift-wrapped pig's head was left at the doorstep of the mosque, and a defaced Qur'an and a hateful note were mailed to the mosque in July.

On Jan. 29, six men were killed and five others injured in a shooting rampage that happened right after evening prayers at the mosque. Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, faces six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder while using a restricted firearm in the attack.

The centre said the people and governments of Quebec and Canada have to start taking far right groups in Quebec City more seriously and dedicate the resources necessary to fight hateful acts.

"These acts are only growing in number against Muslim citizens," the centre's statement said. "They are multiplying and becoming more serious."

Worshippers shaken

Mohamed Oudghiri, a member of the Quebec City mosque, said the incident has left its worshippers shaken.

"We're asking ourselves 'what's happening in Quebec City?" he said. "Quebec City used to be peaceful, there were no problems here."

'Open your eyes' to far-right threat, Quebec City mayor says

Oudghiri has lived in Quebec City for 49 years, he said, and no longer considers himself an immigrant, but a Québécois.

Nonetheless, he said the discourse around immigrants in Quebec is creating a situation that he described as "really hard, really dark" and it's making Muslims fear for their safety as they go about their daily lives.

"The mosque is supervised [by police], but the people are not when they go to the market," he said.

To opponents of the Muslim community among far right groups in Quebec City, Oudghiri encouraged those in far right groups to get to know their Muslim neighbours.

"We're in the same country, and this country is for everybody," he said. "[They] have to consider us as one of them, and we love them."

'A hateful act,' says Labeaume

Quebec City's mayor expressed concern Wednesday over the increase in incidents targeting the mosque and the city's Muslim community.

"They're adding up, and they can't become a pattern," Regis Labeaume said. "It's very worrisome."

He called the torching of Labidi's car "a hateful act" that has left him feeling "profoundly disappointed" and shocked.

Labeaume said such an act is not representative of the city he leads.

"Quebec is an open city, where everyone has the right to live together in safety and respect," Labeaume said, adding that the arson went against the values of respect for individual rights and diversity.

"These are our neighbours, and we love them, and we'll do everything that is possible and useful to ensure they can live in peace in their city."

Benjamin Ducol, of Quebec City's anti-radicalization centre, said the various incidents targeting the city's Muslims have left the community feeling isolated and vulnerable.

"The community has good reason to feel threatened because these events are repeating themselves — they're not isolated events," he said.




US has 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, more than previous count: Pentagon


WASHINGTON: The Pentagon sharply raised its estimate of the number of US troops currently in Afghanistan Wednesday, ahead of a decision on adding thousands more under President Donald Trump's new strategy for the war-ridden country.

Pentagon Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said a comprehensive review showed there were approximately 11,000 uniformed US servicemen and women in Afghanistan, compared to the 8,400 number used since last year. The new count, which includes temporary and covert units as well as regular forces, was made to establish the basis for an increase in troops -- possibly by around 4,000 -- under Trump's revised strategy to better support Afghan troops in the fight against the Taliban.

But McKenzie declined to say how many more troops would be added.

Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis "still hasn't made that decision," he said, adding: "No troops have started to flow... no deployment orders have been issued."

McKenzie said that after president Barack Obama set a ceiling of 8,400 troops for the country last July, military commanders had been hampered in their ability to deploy full units, leading to "unintended consequences".

Meanwhile, short-term and clandestine units were not included in the count.

The new estimate came nearly two weeks after Trump and his top cabinet and military officials decided to increase US soldiers and airmen in Afghanistan to put more pressure on the Taliban and other extremist groups.

Few details were provided on the new strategy, however, as Mattis said he wanted a clearer view of the actual number of US forces there.

US generals have for months been calling the situation in Afghanistan a "stalemate," despite years of support for Afghan partners and an overall cost to the United States of about $1 trillion.

A US troop increase would allow the US-led coalition in the country to provide more advisers and tactical support to strengthen the Afghan army's efforts against the Taliban.

McKenzie said the new count was an effort to be more transparent, but he said the Defence Department would not be providing much information on the breakdown of the US forces, so as to maintain operational security and avoid "telegraphing" US intentions to the Taliban.

Full report at:




Trump urges Salman to find solution to standoff with Qatar

Aug 31, 2017

US President Donald Trump has called on Saudi King Salman and “all the parties in the Qatar dispute” to find a diplomatic solution to the regional standoff, according to the White House.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing the region.

The Saudi-led bloc has also imposed sanctions against the tiny Persian Gulf country, including restrictions on Qatari aircraft using their airspace. Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia has only been blocked as a result.

In a phone conversation on Wednesday, Trump told the Saudi monarch that a diplomatic resolution was necessary in order to fulfill a commitment Washington and its regional allies had made to stay united while fighting terror, the White House said in statement.

Meanwhile, experts have touted the Qatar crisis as the fallout of Trump’s visit to Riyadh in early June. Even Trump himself pointed this out in a tweet during the conflict’s early days.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” Trump wrote on June 6. “Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said before the visit that it was aimed at getting Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations in the region to stand in “unity” with Israel and confront Iran.

This might explain the sudden push to isolate Doha, under the pretext that it has close ties with Iran as well as the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

Trump’s siding with Saudis became more apparent on June 8, when the White House said he had talked to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, asking him to help “prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology.”

Now, however, it seems that the White House is running out of patience with Saudi Arabia over its refusal to resolve the crisis.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Wednesday that Riyadh and its regional allies had ignored "on at least 12 different occasions" calls by Qatar for talks on resolving the impasse.

Full report at:




US Secretary of State Tillerson to eliminate climate, Muslim and Syria envoys

August 30, 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined a major haul of the state department, suggesting the elimination of key advisory roles on climate change and Syria, The Foreign Policy reported.

In a letter to Bob Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Tillerson stated concerns about the proliferation of 70 special envoy posts created to “reach out to Muslim communities, support anti-government fighters in Syria, and curb the environmental devastation wrought by global warming, according to the newspaper.

“I believe the department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative office within the regional and functional bureaus, and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose,” Tillerson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by FP.

“I have determined that the changes proposed will advance US national security interests, and will help counter the influence of US adversaries and competitors.

About 36 of the 66 current envoys will be eliminated or integrated within bureaus within the State Department. These include special representatives to Muslim Communities and the US Special Envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation [OIC]. Envoys who champion rights for the disabled, promote peace in Africa, seek the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility will be removed.

Tillerson’s plans reflect priorities of Trump administration – which has stressed on reducing funding and resources for American diplomacy and focus on increasing military funding.

Trump’s ‘been clear to me’ to try to rebuild Russia ties: Tillerson

However, posts of the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, the Special Representative for North Korea Policy, the presidential envoy responsible for building the anti-Islamic State military coalition, and the Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs will remain intact.

Full report at:



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