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Islamic World News (20 May 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Ugly Reality: Forced Conversions 'Not Seen As A Crime' In Pakistan








Ugly Reality: Forced Conversions 'Not Seen As A Crime' In Pakistan

Vatican’s Ramadan Message Inspires Indian Muslims

Ramadan Work Ethic: British Muslim Police and Doctors Juggle Fasting and Emergencies

Education Ministry of Malaysia Wants Greater Cross-Cultural Exposure In Schools, Varsities

IRGC Raids Modelling Agencies for ‘Promoting Vulgarity’

Sudan Protesters Want Civilian as Head of New Ruling Body

Trump: If Iran Wants To Fight Then That Will Be Its Official End

In A Kerala Village, Where Virus Struck, Reason Fights Faith over Unknown Grave

ISIS Influence Growing In South India, Particularly Kerala: Social Media Monitoring Firms

 

Pakistan

Ugly Reality: Forced Conversions 'Not Seen As A Crime' In Pakistan

Saudi Envoy Opens New Mosque in Pakistan

Govt Asked To Officially Observe Al-Quds Day, Make Palestine Part of Curriculum

View from The Courtroom: Legal Issues Related To Detentions In Ex-Fata Continue To Surface

Pakistan’s trade with Sri Lanka comes to a halt

Anti-graft body not responsible for people’s misery: NAB chief

PTI govt to fall soon, claim opposition leaders

Pakistan needs diplomatic push to exit FATF grey list

Visa policy for Pakistanis to be revised: Kuwaiti emir

US to help Pakistan introduce genetically-engineered corn

Pakistani skilled workers to get jobs in Japan, says embassy

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Europe

Vatican’s Ramadan Message Inspires Indian Muslims

Ramadan Work Ethic: British Muslim Police and Doctors Juggle Fasting and Emergencies

Former Far-Right Politician Who Converted To Islam Says EU Must Be Realistic About Immigration

UK forces secretly join US troops in Persian Gulf on anti-Iran mission: Report

Germany: Muslim politician receives death threats

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Southeast Asia

Education Ministry of Malaysia Wants Greater Cross-Cultural Exposure In Schools, Varsities

Social Network Boasting Islamic Values Launched

‘Muslims Should Focus On Islam’: Yadim Objects to Proposal for Primary School Lessons on Other Religions

Beijing's big bucks snuff out religious solidarity

Understanding extremism among Malaysian Muslims

Don: Lessons on love for others can’t curb extremism

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Mideast

IRGC Raids Modelling Agencies for ‘Promoting Vulgarity’

Yemen’s Houthi militia says will target UAE, Saudi vital military facilities

Yemen’s government forces arrest key al-Qaeda leader

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief says they are not pursuing war

Iraq can mediate between Iran, US: Senior Shia cleric

Palestinians give cool reception to US peace conference

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Africa

Sudan Protesters Want Civilian as Head of New Ruling Body

Sudan Army Rulers Say Civil Talks to Resume As Islamists Protest

Cargo ship loaded with Turkish military vehicles arrives in Tripoli

Turkish arms in Libya before 'vast operation' to break siege

Libyan government boasts of new weapons despite arms embargo

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North America

Trump: If Iran Wants To Fight Then That Will Be Its Official End

Economic 'Workshop' In Manama Part Of Kushner Plan To Resolve Israel-Palestine Conflict

DOE slacking on Jewish, Muslim dietary options at schools: councilman

US sanctions force Hezbollah to cut spending on fighters: Washington Post report

US announces start of GCC’s ‘enhanced security patrols’ in Persian Gulf

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India

In A Kerala Village, Where Virus Struck, Reason Fights Faith over Unknown Grave

ISIS Influence Growing In South India, Particularly Kerala: Social Media Monitoring Firms

Mumbai Sees Surge In Zakat Fund Collectors In Month Of Ramzan

Surat: Police Allow Food Outlets To Serve Till Late During Ramzan

BSF officer injured as Pakistan violates ceasefire in J&K’s Poonch

Hurriyat Leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Hopes New Government At Centre Will Revisit Kashmir Policy

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South Asia

12 Taliban Militants Killed, Wounded In Army Operations In Khost, Helmand Provinces

Afghan Special Forces inflict casualties on Taliban militants in Wardak province

Police forces suffer casualties in militants attack on a security post in Kabul city

Artillery, airstrikes kill 18 Taliban militants including their 3 commanders in Ghazni

First session of Afghan parliament ends in brawl over new Speaker

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Arab World

US-Backed Kurdish Forces Prepare for Attacking Syrian Army in Deir Ezzur

Syrian Army's Air Defence Downs More Israeli Drones Near Damascus

Bomb blast hits tourist bus near Egypt pyramids, injures 17

US Attempting to Arm Iraqi Tribes

Katyusha rocket falls in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone

Explosion targets tourist bus near new Egyptian museum

Syria Foreign Ministry dismisses use of chemical weapons in Latakia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/ugly-reality--forced-conversions--not-seen-as-a-crime--in-pakistan/d/118652

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Ugly Reality: Forced Conversions 'Not Seen As A Crime' In Pakistan

May 20, 2019

Rehana Riasat, 47, was asleep at home with her children in Gujranwala city of Pakistan's Punjab province one night in February when she was awoken by the sound of someone knocking loudly on her door at around 2 a.m.

"Your guests have arrived, they shouted," the Christian mother told ucanews.com.

Assuming a friend or relative had dropped by to pass on their condolences for a recently deceased relative, she got up to let them in.

"Suddenly, five people rushed into my room, including two women. One of them was the teacher of my 15-year-old daughter, Shizam," Rehana recalled.

"They pulled my girl inside a white van that was waiting in the street. I screamed and tried to stop them, but they fled," she added.

Rehana said her daughter had previously been making house calls to the female teacher, who was a Muslim, which she assumed had been purely for the purpose of enhancing the teenager's academic studies.

However, it later appeared the teacher had more sinister motives for welcoming Shizam into her home.

"They tricked my innocent child," a distraught Rehana wailed.

That night, Feb. 11, turned her whole world upside down.

Up until that point, life had been hard enough for this mother of six as she struggled to take care of her low-income family in Gujranwala while her husband, Riasat Masih, worked as a laborer 70 kilometers away in Lahore.

The family filed a police report and reached out to local village elders in a desperate bid to find out where the abductors had taken their teenage daughter, and why, but to little avail.

Masih quit his job and returned home to pursue the case.

It wasn't until a Christian activist submitted a petition at the Lahore High Court in April to recover the missing ninth grader that any headway was made.

"We produced all the necessary documents to prove she was underage. We even paid the police a bribe of 40,000 rupees (US$570) to help us. However, the local medical board declared her legally mature based on some dental tests to calculate her age," Masih said, trying to stifle his tears.

"Eight days later we learned she had embraced Islam at a local madrasa and married her teacher's nephew," he sobbed.

"We saw some photos of her taken using a smartphone, and she looked almost unconscious sitting there amid all the praying clerics," he said.

"I saw her twice during the court hearings, but I was never allowed to talk to her — my own daughter." 

Masih and his wife were one of three Christian couples who shared similar stories of forced religious conversions and marriages involving their offspring on May 11 at a hotel in Lahore.

The People's Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) organized the program to raise awareness of this social scourge, in a bid to protect more young girls who belong to minority religions or ethnic groups from being manipulated and exploited by Muslims in the country.

Silence of the Lamb

A recent research report by the PCMR titled "Silence of the Lamb" shone a greater light on this issue. Prominent human rights activists, legal experts, journalists, and academics attended its launch event.

It reported that 79 women aged 13-35 were forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men between 2013 and 2019 in Pakistan — or 13 a year on average — mainly in Sindh and Punjab provinces.

That number includes 37 Christians, 31 Hindus, one Sikh, and several girls and women from ancient tribes in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province such as the Kalashiya.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), only five other countries see more children abducted and forcibly married than Pakistan. Once they have converted to Islam, the religion affords their spouse and relatives-in-law the legal protection to conduct this controversial practice.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) claims that in 2018 in Sindh province alone, around 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls got married under the legal age of 18.

Most of the minors are married against their will. Even those who fall in love with their Muslim spouses generally fail to win much respect from their in-laws. Despite converting to Islam, they are often referred to as "churha" (low caste) — a derogatory term in both Pakistan and India that is often hurled at Christians who do menial jobs like sweeping the streets.

"At present, forced conversions are too easily — and too often — disguised as voluntary conversions, leaving female minors especially vulnerable," the commission stated in a press release in March.

"The ugly reality of forced conversions is that they are not seen as a crime, much less as a problem, and that should concern ‘mainstream' [Muslim] Pakistan."

It was issued after two Hindu sisters in Ghotki city of Sindh province were allegedly abducted and converted forcibly to Islam. Both girls were minors.

The Islamabad High Court declared in April that it was within the law for girls to convert to Islam and stay with their husbands. It also ordered the interior minister to ensure the adopted families of the two girls were protected from any legal action issued by their Hindu parents.

While it is illegal to marry underage girls, the abductors often find a way around this by paying for forged medical reports to "prove" the girls are older. 

Several Pakistani judges have in the past prohibited girls who have converted to Islam from being returned to their "infidel" parents.

Badar Munir, a Muslim cleric from the Peace and Education Foundation (PEF), a nongovernmental organization based in Islamabad, described this as "a disease that has infected the whole of our society."

Trampling on the law

The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 mandates that girls cannot marry before the age of 16 and boys must be 18 or older. However in Sindh province, the local government raised the age to 18 for both sexes in 2014, with child marriage made a punishable offense.

On Nov. 22, 2016, that same province amended its laws again to make forced conversions to Islam a crime. Anyone found guilty of changing the religion of a minor could now face from five years to life behind bars, while anyone else who helped facilitate the crime could either be imprisoned or forced to pay compensation to the victim.

To circumvent this, Muslims who abduct minors for the purposes of child marriage often relocate to other provinces, where they file petitions with a local court seeking legal protection by claiming the girls accepted Islam of their own free will and were mature enough to decide for themselves.

In April, the Senate passed the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2018, which stipulates that no one under the age of 18 can legally get married anywhere in Pakistan.

Those who violate this law would be subject to up to three years in jail and/or a fine of at least 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US$706).

However, the bill failed to win approval from the National Assembly after a majority of ministers decided it was inconsistent with Shariah law, which declares people can wed whenever they feel ready, financially and emotionally, to do so.

Aoun Sahi, an investigative journalist who shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for covering a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, that claimed 14 lives and injured 24 people one year earlier, said poverty and religious discrimination are the driving forces behind most religious conversions to Islam in Pakistan.

"Islamic extremists who can't go to Kashmir to make jihad against India, or fight on behalf of Palestine against Israel, try to convert girls to Islam to earn their ticket to paradise," he said.

"But biased members of the media are reluctant to cover these stories. Despite there having been a number of judicial inquiries into such cases, the police tend to view [conversions] as a good deed, and don't press charges," he added.

Sahi said most of the girls who convert are illiterate and come from the bottom rungs of society.

Suddenly they are showered with attention and grand ceremonies, hailed as positive role models by their adopted families, and made to feel important.

"The festivities can last for months," he said. "They are taken on tours of different mosques and shown off like trophies. Meanwhile, clerics at the madrasas give the newlyweds enough money to cover a month's rent to help them get started."

HRCP council member Hina Jilani expressed concern at the systematic nature of what critics call religious-based exploitation of the underclass.

"The impunity and lack of accountability adds to the pressure on religious minorities, who are exploited because they are so vulnerable," she said.

"There is a natural inclination and collective will to increase the size of the Muslim population in Pakistan. But this doesn't serve Islam or our country."

https://www.ucanews.com/news/ugly-reality-forced-conversions-not-seen-as-a-crime-in-pakistan/85177

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Vatican’s Ramadan message inspires Indian Muslims

May 17, 2019

By Jose Kavi

Kochi, May 17, 2019: Several Muslim leaders in India have welcomed the Vatican’s Ramadan message as an inspiration to work for a world without violence, fear, hunger and ignorance.

The greetings from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue inspire “us to break our fast everyday with prayers entreating God to wipe out violence, fear, hunger and ignorance from the world so that people of all faiths develop their human potentialities to the utmost,” says Khurshid Khan, a scholar of Islamic mysticism who teaches in the Delhi University.

A Vatican letter, entitled “Christians and Muslims Promoting Universal Fraternity” and written by council secretary Bishop Miguel Ayuso, reminds Christians and Muslims that fasting, prayer and alms giving are spiritual practices that connect them both.

Father Victor Edwin, a Jesuit scholar of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, says the Vatican message “doesn’t appear as routine” since it was issued in the backdrop of “atrocious killings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Colombo, Sri Lanka.”

The Catholic priest, who heads the Islamic Studies Association, wants the Vatican message to reach “as many Muslims as possible” and urges Catholics to carry the letter to iftar, the breaking of Muslim fasting in the evening, when invited.

“The letter clearly points out that respect for diversity is the key to the culture of dialogue. It carries tremendous hope for future as it affirms the dignity of humans and their freedom to live a dignified life,” Father Edwin explains.

The Vatican letter, he adds, articulates “the dialogue of life” that Pope Francis promotes in his interaction with Muslims and gives theological underpinning.

Muslims who received the letter, lauded its positive message for the modern world.

Sultan Shahin, founder editor of NewAgeIslam.com, a multi-lingual progressive Islamic website, welcomed it as a “very positive development” and expressed the hope that Muslims too would respond in the same spirit of harmony and dialogue that the Vatican has displayed.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, founder of New Delhi-based Center for Peace and Spirituality, points out that Christians and Muslims are “Abrahamic brothers,” since they are part of the brotherhood that began from Abraham.

“The message from the Vatican in the month of Ramadan represents this very spirit of common brotherhood. I pray to God to help reinforce and deepen this spirit among members of the two communities,” he told Matters India.

Shahin says many Muslim organizations too show “a spirit of constructive dialogue,” although some remain “stuck in medieval theology that was evolved during a dark period of our history.”

According to him, theologians, historians, and writers are products of their times so they display prejudices and biases prevalent then.

But generations that come after them should treat such views only for their historical value, and not to hold them as guidelines to apply for ever in life, Shahin asserts.

Those theologies, he explains, had evolved at an era when occupying other lands through the use of the sword was legitimate and the concept of modern nation states with its inviolable borders did not exist.

“But today we live in a very different world — very complex and completely interconnected. Wars of conquest have become virtually obsolete. These medieval theologies do not matter anymore,” he explains.

Shahin also wants Muslims to urgently evolve a theology of peace, harmonious co-existence and gender justice if they wish to live honorably in the modern world.

The Vatican initiative, he told Matters India, should be welcomed by all and “we must participate in an honest dialogue for setting the terms of peaceful, harmonious coexistence. There is absolutely no other alternative.”

Basit Jamal, another religious scholar and founder of “Brotherhood of Humanity,” sees in the Vatican message the “ingredients” required for eradicating conflict and encouraging discussion and dialogue.

“Thus as a believer in a loving God, I am happy to read and share [the Vatican message] with many young Muslims I’m in touch with,” he told Matters India.

Jamal, who teaches young Muslims the values of peace, coexistence and harmony preached by Quran, says the current religious conflicts “are simply unauthentic expressions born of selfishness of people.’

According to him, religions bind people together despite their uniqueness and differences in beliefs and practices.

“The duty of the followers of different religions is to harness the differences to compete with one another serving God and common good,” asserted the scholar, who was featured in UNESCO’s manual on prevention of violent extremism.

According to him, interreligious dialogue happens between the spiritual persons of different faiths as they meet with “love” in one hand and “lets agree to disagree” in the other.

He says the Vatican message calls upon Christians and Muslims to recognise each other as brothers and sisters and demands them to defend “mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence” while firmly rooted in peace

The Vatican message also urges the two communities to tear down walls that divide and set people upon one another and build bridges for harmonious fraternity.

http://mattersindia.com/2019/05/vaticans-ramadan-message-inspires-indian-muslims/

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Ramadan work ethic: British Muslim police and doctors juggle fasting and emergencies

May 19, 2019

For Muslims in the world’s most northern countries the need to slow down during the month of Ramadan is a balancing act with the ongoing pressures of daily life.

Irfan Ishaq, a veteran of the Hertfordshire Police on the outskirts of London, recounts the daunting proposition of responding to emergency calls while observing the fast.

“Policing is an emotional roller-coaster ride. One job you’ll deal with suicide, then straight to an elderly woman who has lost her handbag in the centre of town, then two 14-year-olds who break your fence. In that emotion you can’t replenish yourself,” he told The National.

All new recruits start their careers responding to emergency calls and working long shifts, often up to 12 hours continuously on call. One accommodation for Muslim officers during Ramadan is more shifts at night, when food can be consumed.

Police Constable Uzma Amireddy, who has served in North Yorkshire for more than 10 years, remembers often working from 1pm to 1am. She found these night shifts easier, and even though her energy levels dipped amid the frenetic pace of emergency response , she learnt to “adapt in time”.

The Islamic lunar calendar means that the start date of Ramadan moves forward by just under two weeks every year versus the Gregorian calendar. In countries near or on the Equator, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Indonesia, Muslims see relatively little change to the daylight hours during which they must fast. But in countries further away like the UK, the fast can last for more than 18 hours when Ramadan enters June, as it does this year.

“It doesn't stop me because Ramadan teaches you to be tolerant and patient," says PC Amireddy. "It's only temporary, and the reason to fast is to gain reward from Allah. I keep that in my mind. It’s about educating others, because they’d ask ‘why are you starving?’."

Her colleague Arfan Rahouf works in the rural crimes unit, in which emergency calls can include agricultural and plant theft.

“During the first week I personally do not like to drive when responding to an emergency call, and after this I look at how I am feeling on a daily basis,” he says.

Although they work at opposite ends of the UK, PC Ishaq and PC Amireddy both say the support provided by their respective forces has been vital to ensuring they do the best they can while on duty.

Muslim officers are given flexibility to attend mosque, with ablution facilities and prayer rooms provided in the police station. By implementing small changes, police chiefs are reaping the benefits of retaining their Muslim staff, who in turn feel vindicated for a career choice that some continue to question.

“I feel like my organisation accepts me for who I am,” PC Amireddy says.

Both officers also stress the importance of communicating freely with superiors. PC Ishaq, who is responsible for recruitment and Ramadan guidance for the his force, ensures that “conversation is required with line managers regularly”.

Non-Muslim colleagues and senior officers have even offered to fast with them for a day in solidarity, albeit with the caveat that their Muslim colleagues make sure they go slow and drink water if needed.

“It’s been perceived really positively and we’re having an iftar together in a police station, inviting colleagues, people in town and from different mosques to join us. But it’s not about food, it’s about cleansing your soul,” says PC Amireddy.

“You’re making yourself a better person and you want to better your life in this world and the hereafter. And getting rid of habits you’ve developed in the past 11 months.”

For PC Rahouf, the letters from the word "fasting" signify seven aims: fasting, acceptance, self-control, truth, integrity, nourishment and grace.

Police forces in Britain, once viewed with deep mistrust by minority communities, have changed rapidly over the past two decades to better reflect British society – and not just in London.

While 37 per cent of British Muslims live and work in London, smaller communities can be found in port cities such as Cardiff and Liverpool, and former manufacturing hubs around Manchester and Birmingham.

But reflecting the presence of British Muslims in largely white British areas, where mosques are not always conveniently near, is all the more important.

In North Yorkshire, PC Amireddy serves a mainly middle-class population with a large farming community.

She says Muslim police officers can act as a bridge between communities.

“We discuss the importance of going to the mosque with our managers, even if it’s just for 45 minutes. And it’s not just prayer, but engaging with the [Muslim] community in that time to break barriers,” she says.

In Hertfordshire, PC Ishaq's goal is to use religious spaces as a sanctuary to report crimes.

“My vision is to make every mosque in Hertfordshire a third-party reporting centre, so those that attend that mosque can report hate crimes or hate incidents and not have to go to the police station. They can also take down a report in that person’s language to create that emotion and capture the emotion of the crime,” he says.

“We need to capture that because in our society it’s hard for a lot of people to go report crimes in a cold, dreary station.”

Ramadan also poses a challenge for Muslim doctors, but the constant pressure of working in hospitals has made them well practised in coping, says Dr Hina Shahid, a general practitioner and chair of Muslim Doctors Association.

“It’s so busy on normal days outside Ramadan, you don’t even get to eat or drink at work. So, in a sense there’s not much change. The lack of sleep is challenging but you get used to it,” she says.

“Doing night shifts is easier ... but it involves swaps with colleagues on the rota."

Dr Shahid says she tries to take annual leave during Ramadan, especially when sunset falls after 9pm.

Dentist Rebecca Musabbir sees up to 35 patients a day at her Essex-based surgery. She says the main challenge is maintaining concentration, whether treating emergencies or performing cosmetic procedures, and talking to patients throughout the day.

“The job is mentally challenging and this is more difficult during fasting,” she told The National.

Despite the challenges, Dr Shahid advocates fasting as a reset button that has health benefits.

“I do find myself actually concentrating better even though I’m tired. There’s evidence that concentration improves when you’re fasting. The rewarding aspect I find is that you’re in a constant state of being alert and aware of what you’re doing. I try and bring that to my work,” she says.

“You become a better person and a better doctor. That translates to the patients and in your personal relationships.”

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/ramadan-work-ethic-british-muslim-police-and-doctors-juggle-fasting-and-emergencies-1.863401

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Education Ministry of Malaysia Wants Greater Cross-Cultural Exposure in Schools, Varsities

20 May 2019

KLUANG, May 20 — The Education Ministry wants greater cross-cultural exposure among students in schools and varsities to forge better multiracial harmony.

Its minister Maszlee Malik said activities to the effect including through the curricula would result in greater understanding on living together.

“To me what is more important is appreciating each other. Through curricular activities, common activities, it will bring us closer.

“We do not want this to be just in theory but practised so that we understand the true meaning of living together,” he told reporters after officiating a plaque handing over ceremony for a special aid programme for Rumah Harapan in Kampung Parit Haji Hashim here yesterday.

The Simpang Renggam MP was commenting on statement by Malaysian Youth Council president Jufitri Joha on Friday that the Islamic education subject only focused on Islam.

Jufitri said exposure on other religions was also necessary for better multiracial harmony. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/05/20/education-ministry-wants-greater-cross-cultural-exposure-in-schools-varsiti/1754556

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IRGC raids modelling agencies for ‘promoting vulgarity’

19 May 2019

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) force has raided three underground modelling agencies, accusing the companies and their aspiring models of flouting strict Islamic dress codes for women, Iranian news agencies reported on Saturday.

General Mohsen Karimi, a Guards commander in the central city of Arak, said staff at the agencies had been arrested for “promoting vulgarity”, partly through sharing portfolio pictures of models on social media, the semi-official news agency Fars reported.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly raided underground fashion events and targeted modelling agencies that post photographs online of models wearing Western-style clothes that do not adhere to Iran’s Islamic hijab rules.

“Those who disregard norms and think they can do whatever they want in cyberspace should know that, sooner or later, the hands of the law will catch up with them,” Karimi was quoted as saying, without saying how many people had been arrested.

Iranian officials have long warned that the influence of Western and particularly US culture through entertainment, social media and the Internet poses a threat to Islamic and revolutionary values.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/05/19/Elite-Iranian-force-raids-modelling-agencies-for-promoting-vulgarity-.html

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Sudan protesters want civilian as head of new ruling body

19 May 2019

Sudan’s protest movement said that it is determined to have a civilian as head of a new governing council ahead of negotiations on Sunday with army rulers to finalize its makeup.

Talks between the current ruling military council and the protest movement over the planned transfer of power are set to resume amid international pressure to return to the table after the generals suspended the negotiations earlier this week.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group that brought down autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir after months-long protests against his three-decade rule, said the talks were set to begin at 9:00 pm Sunday.

The military council had announced the previous night that the new round of talks would be held at the presidential palace in Khartoum.

“The talks will revolve around outstanding issues concerning the representation in the sovereign council and its chairmanship,” the alliance said in a statement.

The generals and protest leaders are at loggerheads over the final composition of the next ruling body, the thorniest issue so far in negotiations between the two sides.

The generals insist the new body be military-led but the protest leaders are determined to have a majority civilian body.

On Sunday, the protest movement said it is determined to have a “civilian sovereign council led by a civilian as its chairman and having a limited military representation”.

The current military council that took power after ousting Bashir on April 11 is headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the generals negotiating with protesters have previously said that Burhan would lead the new governing body too.

Before talks were suspended, the two sides had agreed on several key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two-thirds of lawmakers to come from the protesters’ umbrella group.

But Sunday’s negotiations come against the backdrop of rising tension after hundreds of supporters of several Islamic movements rallied outside the presidential palace to reject any civilian administration deal that excludes the Islamic law Sharia as its guiding principle.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change has so far remained silent on whether Sharia has a place in Sudan’s future, arguing that its main concern now is installing a civilian administration.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/19/Sudan-protesters-want-civilian-as-head-of-new-ruling-body-.html

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Trump: If Iran wants to fight then that will be its official end

20 May 2019

US President Donald Trump threatened Iran in a tweet on Sunday, raising concerns about a potential US-Iran conflict at a time when tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again,” Trump said in a tweet.

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If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!

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Trump has tightened economic sanctions against Iran, and his administration says it has built up the US military presence in the region.

It accuses Iran of threats to US troops and interests.

Tehran has described US moves as “psychological warfare” and a “political game.”

On Saturday, The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that his country is in a full intelligence war with the United States and “enemies of the Islamic Republic” which includes cyber and military operations.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/05/20/Trump-If-Iran-wants-to-fight-then-that-will-be-its-official-end.html

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In A Kerala Village, Where Virus Struck, Reason Fights Faith Over Unknown Grave

by Shaju Philip

May 20, 2019

A year after Kerala waged a successful battle to contain the Nipah virus that claimed 17 lives, an old grave at Ground Zero of the outbreak is slowly emerging as a “pilgrim centre”.

The grave, of an unknown person, is now being called a “dargah” by a section of residents at the Muslim-majority Sooppikkada village in Kozhikode district. They claim the virus targeted the village because the grave was “neglected over the years”. However, other residents have questioned “such superstition” and expressed concern that the grave, located on private land, could turn out to be a “money-making venture”.

A local mosque committee, meanwhile, has adopted a “neutral stand” and is waiting for the findings of a probe ordered by the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulema, an umbrella organisation that controls the majority of such panels in the state. An imam says the dargah came up with contributions from “outside the village”.

The outbreak was reported in May-June last year after the first suspected case, Muhammed Sabith from the Valachukettil family in Sooppikkada, died on May 10. Later, a study conducted by Dr G Arunkumar of Manipal Centre for Virus Research, and supported by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), found that the virus was transmitted from fruit bats seen in the village.

Sabith’s death, however, is not officially recognised as Nipah-linked as his samples were never tested and he was buried before the infection was diagnosed. Apart from 22-year-old Sabith, three others who succumbed to the virus hailed from the Valachukettil family: his father Moosa, elder brother Salih and aunt Mariyam.

The grave, which is located about 100 metres from Sabith’s house, was first referred to as a “dargah or makham” by a group of local residents about two months ago. Today, a roofed structure has come up over the grave, with a small hall at the entrance and a flag post outside. Residents say visitors from as far as Kozhikode city, nearly 50 km away, have started arriving to pay their respects.

Says Moitheen Kunhi, a relative of the Valachukettil family: “A group of people here believe that Nipah came to the village as the grave was left in an abandoned condition. But the belief that the virus claimed lives at the village because we neglected the grave is nothing but superstition. We haven’t contributed anything to develop the grave into a dargah. I had mingled with some of those who succumbed to the virus, but I was not affected,’’ says Kunhi, a trader.

“In my childhood, I had visited the grave two or three times. Nobody knows who has been buried at that spot. Some people want to make money. We don’t agree with that,’’ says Kunhi, 61.

Abdullah, of Nazeera Manzil in the village, at whose coconut farm the “dargah” stands, says he does not know whose grave it is. “All I know is that it’s several decades old. People are coming from various parts of the district,’’ he says.

Abdullah’s wife Nabeesa says there is a “strong belief that Nipah affected the village due to the neglect meted out to the grave”. “Around 20 persons visited the dargah yesterday (Friday). A section of our community says we have developed the grave into a dargah to collect money, which is not true,’’ she claims.

At the site Saturday afternoon, The Indian Express spoke to the lone visitor — Muhammed Musaliyar from Kozhikode city, who was reading the Quran near the grave. “I am coming here for the first time. I reached the Dargah after hearing about it from others. I arrived in the morning and will leave in the evening,” he says.

The local Muslim community, however, is divided over the structure. “A section of the community is against the Dargah after its construction was linked to the Nipah outbreak. The mahallu (local Masjid) committee has taken a neutral stand. We are neither encouraging visits to the dargah nor we are dissuading people from going there. One has the freedom to take a stand. But we don’t want to promote any superstitious belief. It was constructed using money from outside and those who visit the site are also from outside the village,’’ says Basheer Baqavi, the imam of Juma Masjid at Panthirikkara near Sooppikkada.

“The issue is being studied by a three-member committee. A final decision would be taken only after the supreme body of the Ulema takes a call on the committee’s report,” says Nazer Faisy Koodathai of the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulema.

In Kerala, around 3,000 people were placed in quarantine during the outbreak of Nipah. In all, there were 23 suspected cases although lab tests could confirm only 18. WHO has estimated the fatality range for Nipah cases at 40-75 per cent but the number for Kozhikode at the time was 91 per cent.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-a-kerala-village-where-virus-struck-reason-fights-faith-over-unknown-grave-5736469/

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ISIS influence growing in South India, particularly Kerala: Social media monitoring firms

20 May, 2019

New Delhi: The influence of ISIS propaganda has been growing across South India, particularly in Kerala, over the last four years, according to two private social media monitoring companies.

The numbers are the result of analysis carried out by the two firms — one a Delhi-based company and the other headquartered in Gurugram — that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to monitor social media.

The head of the Gurugram-based company told ThePrint that it analysed over 60 million social media posts, especially on Facebook and Twitter, in the last four years and found that there are growing pockets of ISIS-related Islamist extremism in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Kerala, he added, has shown the highest increase in this activity.

The firm, which claims to have worked with several government agencies including a central agency dealing with terrorism, monitors social media trends and accounts to scour for such messages.

“The content we are talking about is not generic Islamist fundamentalism but rather in the form of sophisticated propaganda built around themes that are typical to ISIS,” the head said.

He added that the social media analysis also shows increased attempts by pro-ISIS individuals to get themselves elected to management committees in masjids, madrasas and other Islamic teaching centres. “This is indicative of a deliberate and premeditated approach to increase the reach, influence and power of ISIS networks in these states,” he said.

The Gurugram firm shared a map that it said was indicative of ISIS influence spreading across southern India (see below). “This figure shows what parts of India have been most influenced by ISIS after a major national security incident, and how ISIS has exploited the incident to increase and reinforce its engagement with communities in different districts,” the firm’s head said.

The founder of the Delhi-based firm, who said it has worked with the Ministry of Home Affairs, paramilitary forces BSF and CRPF, and police in several states told ThePrint that intelligence agencies in the country are worried by the propaganda being spread on social media sites. “Since 2015 or so, law enforcement has been especially worried about Indian Muslim youths getting radicalised in different parts of the country,” he said.

He added that the numbers are based on data captured and analysed by a proprietary tool. The tool analyses social media posts, information shared on encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram, terrorism-related databases and news reports.

The Gurugram company founder said that the propaganda is being translated “efficiently” into local languages and this is a major worry.

“A lot of the propaganda is from the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia included. ISIS surprisingly seems to have a very sophisticated capability to translate the content it creates in the Middle East languages into local Indian languages,” he said. “The quality of the translations and the sophistication of the messages indicate they have dedicated PR teams with local language capabilities for India.”

Intelligence experts feel the concern about the growing ISIS influence is valid.

“Historically ISIS’ influence in India and even Pakistan has been relatively weak. This is most likely because a majority of Muslims in the South Asian region follow a moderate form of Islam deeply entrenched with Sufi rituals,” said Avinash Mohananey, a former IB officer who has served in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

“Going forward, however, we cannot write off the possibility of Indian Muslim youth possibly becoming radicalised by ISIS via social media given young people are perpetual consumers of the internet.”

ISIS influence rising in Kashmir

The two firms also claimed that there appears to be a possible link between Kashmiri militancy and ISIS.

The Gurugram company said ISIS-affiliated social media entities have been able to infiltrate, influence and gather support for Kashmir-based militants.

The Delhi firm too agrees. “In the 12 months between 2017 and 2018, our technology systems indicated that more than 200 people from Kashmir have joined militant groups,” its founder said. “Between 2014 and 2016 the number of people joining Kashmiri militancy had not even crossed 100.”

https://theprint.in/india/isis-influence-growing-in-south-india-particularly-kerala-social-media-monitoring-firms/234953/

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Pakistan

 

Saudi envoy opens new mosque in Pakistan

May 20, 2019

HARIPUR: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan on Saturday opened a new mosque in the city of Haripur as a mark of the strong relations between the two countries.

The Kingdom’s envoy, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, inaugurated the King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud Mosque, in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in the presence of local government officials.

Built to accommodate up to 500 worshippers, the mosque has been constructed as part of charitable projects carried out by the Muslim World League (MWL) through the International Association for Relief, Care and Development (IARCD) in Pakistan.

Al-Malki said the mosque represented a milestone in the friendship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and was a continuation of similar charity work carried out by the Kingdom.

In praising the MWL and its affiliated bodies for their contributions, the ambassador also thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their special attention to humanitarian work and the service of Islam and Muslims.

University of Haripur president, Anwar Gilani, thanked Saudi Arabia for its leadership on the landmark mosque project which he said highlighted the friendship between the two countries.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1499386/saudi-arabia

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Govt Asked To Officially Observe Al-Quds Day, Make Palestine Part of Curriculum

Hasan Mansoor

May 20, 2019

KARACHI: Leaders of various political and religious parties on Sunday passed a consensus resolution calling upon the government to observe Al-Quds Day at an official level and revise the existing curricula by making the Palestine issue a part of textbooks.

The resolution was passed after representatives and leaders of parties spoke at length at the Al-Quds conference organised by the Palestine Foundation Pakistan here.

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq said supporting the struggle of Palestinians was a part of faith of Pakistani Muslims. He added that many nations across the world were backing the Palestinians for the sake of humanity.

He said Palestinians were the only nation that fought with stones against tanks and “today, children of Palestine dream to be martyred instead of getting education in schools”.

He said Islam is Pakistan’s foundation, which was why “we have always supported the Palestinians”.

He said a US fleet was present in the Arabian Sea as the United States “is making plans to attack Iran, which will be gravely harmful for the Ummah”.

He said Israel was taking advantage with tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia as “the Zionist state wants to dominate the world by making Muslim states fighting against each other”.

He made it clear that no attempt to recognise the state of Israel by Pakistan would succeed.

“Israel will give no importance even Pakistan recognises it because Israel values India much more. India, Israel and America are all part of a troika,” said the JI chief.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Muhammad Zubair, a former governor of Sindh, said a number of Arab and other Muslim countries had diplomatic relations with Israel as all those nations had done that to keep Iran at bay.

He said Pakistan could raise the Kashmir issue in a better manner if it raised the issue of Palestine. “Pakistan’s Foreign Office should raise the Palestine issue internationally.”

Disgruntled Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan leader Dr Farooq Sattar said the atrocities continuing in Palestine should widely be debated upon.

He said Al-Qads Day should be observed across the country at an official level.

He said US President Donald Trump had taken a task upon himself to turn the occupied territory into a property of Israel.

He asked the Pakistani government to keep supporting the Palestinians with explicit and solid stance.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Israr Abbasi claimed that his party’s government was “pressurised to recognise the state of Israel, but Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to succumb to such pressures”.

He said the government would raise voice for the rights of the Palestinians at all levels.

Allama Baqir Zaidi, general secretary of the Majlis Wehdat-i-Muslimeen Sindh, MQM-P’s Mehfooz Yar Khan, Aliya Imam, Qazi Ahmed Noorani, Azhar Hamdani and others said despite use of all might and committing atrocities it was Israel which itself was confined and surrounded.

They claimed that Israel had manufactured Daesh, the militant Islamic State group, to occupy Syria, but it failed in such tactics. They added that Israel’s days were numbered.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483385/govt-asked-to-officialy-observe-al-quds-day-make-palestine-part-of-curriculum

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View from the courtroom: Legal issues related to detentions in ex-Fata continue to surface

Waseem Ahmad Shah

May 20, 2019

With the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last year, the legal issues related to detentions in those tribal areas have now been in focus. These issues include the continuous detention of hundreds of internees in different notified internment centres in former Fata and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) as well as the cases of those suspects who had remained in custody of security forces for many years and were subsequently handed over to the administration in respective tribal districts.

A bench of the Peshawar High Court on May 15 disposed of 14 writ petitions challenging continuous detentions of different suspects in internment centres. These petitions were disposed of with the direction to provide visitation rights to the relatives of these detainees.

The decision was made by a bench of PHC Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor in the light of a recent enactment of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly through which protection was given to a law under which internment centres were set up in different tribal districts.

However, the bench observed that these petitioners could separately file petitions challenging the recent enactment as well as the Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation, 2011, for Fata, under which the internment centres were set up.

When the Constitution (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Act, 2018, was enacted in May last year and erstwhile Fata and Pata were merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one major lapse on part of government was that no “saving clause” was included in the said Act for providing protection to existing laws in Fata and Pata.

Due to same reason the KP government had to enact two laws for giving legal protection to the laws in vogue in former Fata and Pata as objections were raised on the continuation of said laws in those areas after the merger.

The provincial assembly on Dec 28, 2018, passed the KP Continuation of Laws in the Erstwhile Provincially Administered Tribal Areas Act, 2018, which was given assent by the governor on Jan 4. The said law provides protection to laws in Pata specially Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation, 2011, for Pata.

Recently, the provincial assembly passed the KP Continuation of Laws in Erstwhile Fata Areas, 2019, through which the laws introduced in former Fata under Article 247 of the Constitution were given protection including the Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation, 2011, for Fata.

Despite the passage of these two laws, experts are skeptical about the fate of those laws in vogue in the merged tribal districts and ex-Pata, which are apparently in conflict with provisions of Constitution of Pakistan guaranteeing fundamental rights.

Any legal justification of the two regulations under which the internment centres have been set up is specially difficult in present circumstances when Article 247 of the Constitution has already been omitted through the Constitution (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Act.

Through Article 247 different status was given to Fata and Pata and no law of Parliament or the provincial assembly was applicable to those areas unless the President of Pakistan issues separate notification for extension of a particular law to Fata and governor of the province issues notification with prior approval of the President for Pata.

Moreover, the President was empowered to issue special regulation for those areas. Under the same powers then President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari had on June 23, 2011, promulgated the two regulations – Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation, 2011, for Fata and Pata.

As hundreds of suspected militants were arrested in different military operations, especially in Swat, and they were in a legal limbo, therefore, to legalise those detentions these regulations were given retrospective effect from Feb 1, 2008.

Keeping in view different judgments of the superior courts, the government is barred from introducing different laws for different areas in the same province.

The Supreme Court on Jan 16 dismissed a civil petition filed by the KP government and had declared the Fata Interim Governance Regulation, 2018, in conflict with several provisions of the Constitution.

The petition was filed by the provincial government against a judgment of Peshawar High Court delivered on Oct 30. The high court bench, while allowing a petition filed by Advocate Ali Azim Afridi, had declared some of the provisions of the Fata Interim Governance Regulation (FIGR) in conflict with the Constitution and had given a month time to the government to set up regular courts in the erstwhile Fata.

About similar applicability of laws in tribal districts and other parts of the province the apex court had ruled: “Whether they be residents of Fata on one hand or of Peshawar or Mardan, etc. on the other, they cannot be discriminated against and any classification between them despite being residents of the same province, with no obvious or reasonably deducible distinction between them, will be arbitrary and against the recognised principles of natural justice and the rule of law,” the apex court ruled.

The bench in its conclusion pronounced: “After the 25th Amendment, all the residents of the province of KP are similarly placed, there is no rational basis on which the people of Fata can be distinguished from the people of the rest of the province of KP and thus the application of the Fata Interim Regulation to one part of KP while the rest of the province enjoys the protection of the provincial laws is absolutely unjustified.”

Another important issue is that of the imprisoned suspected militants who had remained in custody of security forces and were later on handed over to the administration. These suspects are in different prisons on almost same charges of raising arms and staging war against the state.

Recently, the Khyber district and sessions judge granted bail to a petitioner named Gul Deenar who had remained in detention without trial for 10 years. He was taken into custody in 2009 by the security forces in Khyber Agency (now Khyber district) and had been kept incommunicado for many years. Last year, he was handed over to the administration and sent to Peshawar Central Prison.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483330/view-from-the-courtroom-legal-issues-related-to-detentions-in-ex-fata-continue-to-surface

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Pakistan’s trade with Sri Lanka comes to a halt

By Kashif Hussain

May 20, 2019

KARACHI: Trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka has come to a screeching halt. The reason behind the stoppage is said to be the rising violence against the Muslim community in Sri Lanka in the wake of recent terrorism and suicide attacks over there, which resulted in heavy casualties.

“Rice and textile exports to Sri Lanka from Pakistan have stopped. Potato export has also reduced drastically,” said Pakistan-Sri Lanka Business Forum Chairman Aslam Pakhali.

“It is the Muslim community in Sri Lanka that imports Pakistani products and sells them there. They are partners of Pakistani exporters,” said Pakhali, adding that the properties of Muslims were damaged during the recent wave of violence over there.

“Their shops, super stores and godowns are being targeted. The goods exported from Pakistan have been unloaded at the Sri Lankan port, but the importers are not getting them cleared because of the deteriorating law and order situation there,” he added.

“The goods, especially fruits and vegetables, in godowns are perishing.

Sri Lanka is a major importer of Pakistani rice and textile products, but the exports have come to a halt,” he added.

Pakhali said a delegation of the forum held a meeting with the Sri Lankan ambassador in Pakistan and emphasised that the Muslim community over there be protected.

The delegation condemned the terrorist activities in Sri Lanka and condoled the loss of precious lives over there.

They demanded of the Sri Lankan government to compensate for the losses inflicted upon the Muslim community and provide them with protection.

Pakhali said, “The loss to the Muslim community by now is estimated at $500 million and payments to the Pakistani exporters amounting of $30 million have been withheld.”

He said the exports would not resume till the law and order situation in Sri Lanka improved. “Pakistan will face difficulties in achieving the export target in the final months of this fiscal year,” he added.

A Sri Lankan businessman Zainul Abideen told The Express through WhatsApp that the Muslim community in Sri Lanka was facing a ton of problems and was under siege.

“The law enforcement agencies are searching properties of Muslims. They are being attacked by mobs,” said Abideen. “Most of the losses to Muslims occurred in Negombo, Kurunegala and Puttalam districts. Violent mobs are attacking Muslims in the presence of security personnel.”

Full report at:

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1976410/1-pakistans-trade-sri-lanka-comes-halt/

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Anti-graft body not responsible for people’s misery: NAB chief

May 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal said on Sunday the anti-graft watchdog was not responsible for the misery caused by prevailing economic crisis, inflation and rupee depreciation.

“NAB is not responsible for the economic crisis, devaluation of rupee, price hike, increased gas and electricity tariffs,” he said while addressing his first-ever presser since assuming charge as NAB’s chief in October 2017.

The NAB chairman criticised between the lines the opposition and ruling party leaders alike while asserting that accountability would be conducted across the board irrespective of the status of a suspect. “NAB will do whatever will be in the country’s interest and the government cannot dictate it,” he remarked.

Prominent personalities from the ruling and opposition parties facing NAB cases include Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Zardari, Special Assistant to the PM Firdous Ashiq Awan, Adviser to the PM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar, and PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique.

Justice Iqbal asked the government and the relevant authorities not to appoint such individuals as were on NAB’s radar on key positions. He said NAB arrested a suspect only on the basis of credible evidence.

However, he said, no businessman would be summoned to any NAB office in future. Bureaucrats involved in white-collar crimes would receive a questionnaire prior to their summoning, he added.

The chairman said neither the business community nor bureaucracy was afraid of NAB as the bureau had not received even a single complaint from the two sectors against alleged harassment.

At the end of the presser, the NAB chairman refused to take questions. However, before he left the rostrum, one of the reporters managed to ask a lengthy question regarding the alleged double standards of the Bureau in dealing cases of politicians like Aleem Khan and bureaucrats from Balochistan and some other influential persons, including real estate tycoon Malik Riaz against whom five cases were pending. The reporter also wanted the NAB chairman to respond to the allegation that he had held meetings with Malik Riaz and former president Asif Zardari prior to his appointment as the NAB chairman.

“If I had strong relation with the people you have named, references would have never been filed against them in the first place,” the chairman replied.

The chairman said he never responded to criticism against himself but a series of allegations being levelled against NAB for the past three days had compelled him to come forward to defend the bureau. He said the business community was being frightened by blaming NAB for the prevailing economic crisis. He said businessmen were being told that NAB and economy could not go together. “Today I admit that neither I am an economist nor a politician. But it is a wrong perception that NAB and economy cannot go together. In fact, NAB and corruption cannot go side by side,” he added.

Justice Iqbal said recently US dollar touched all-time high mark against Pakistani rupee and people were aware of its repercussions. Similarly, the government recently inked an agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF). “Tell me is NAB responsible for dollar’s high value against rupee, agreement with the IMF and its effects? Where does NAB come into all this? Why is it being propagated that business activities have slowed down due to NAB?” he added.

He said business and economic activities were generated when someone had effective economic policies, sincere and dedicated manpower to implement them and ample money. “If you have money you can implement your policies,” he added.

Highlighting some other problems confronting the people, the NAB chairman said the bureau had no role in the recent increase in gas and electricity tariff, water scarcity and law and order situation. “NAB has not taken any step against the country’s interest,” he explained, regretting that NAB was being depicted as it was responsible for all the ills.

To address complaints of the business community, Justice Iqbal said a complaint cell headed by a director had been established in the bureau’s headquarters and all regional heads of NAB had been directed to address complaints of business community within 48 hours.

“Governments come and go, they keep changing. If NAB has any affiliation, it is with the country, not with any government. NAB is an independent organisation and no one can dictate it,” he declared.

Justice Iqbal claimed that NAB had never harassed any big businessmen and two of the biggest industrialists in the country, Arif Habib and Mian Mansha, had written to the regional office of NAB in Lahore appreciating the bureau’s work. Interestingly, Mr Mansha is also facing a NAB case for allegedly obtaining “undue” monetary benefits in the last PML-N regime.

He said the country’s total debts were $90 billion but due to recent devaluation of rupee they swelled further to $100 billion. “If we question people who had spent lavishly and committed corruption, does that come under the definition of uncivilised and harassment?” he asked.

On Friday, PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan strongly criticised the anti-graft watchdog and its procedure after coming out from NAB’s detention on bail. He said the bureau should not arrest or detain anyone before completion of its investigation and without having any evidence to prove the guilt.

On this, the NAB chairman without mentioning the PTI leader’s name said he was astonished to see people showering rose petals on the corruption accused. He reiterated NAB arrested people on the basis of credible evidence.

Justice Iqbal said Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had put Pakistan on grey list and NAB was making efforts to remove this stigma by taking action against money laundering. “We cannot spare those who have deposited billions of rupees in the bank accounts of Falooday wala,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483398/anti-graft-body-not-responsible-for-peoples-misery-nab-chief

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PTI govt to fall soon, claim opposition leaders

Habib Khan Ghori

May 20, 2019

KARACHI: Leaders of opposition parties on Sunday labelled the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government as puppet and claimed it is going to fall soon. They expressed the fear that technocrats would be imposed on the country after the rulers ran away.

Speaking at an Iftar-dinner hosted by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Sindh president Shah Mohammad Shah at a hotel here on Sunday, they said that time had come to stop ‘undemocratic’ forces from taking important decisions for the country.

They termed the PTI government a torture for the people of the country and claimed that it had no policy for solving problems being faced by the general public. They called for a joint struggle by all political parties to get rid of the PTI government.

The Iftar-dinner was attended by PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal, former president Mamnoon Hussain, former governor of Sindh Mohammad Zubair, former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, PPP Sindh president Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, general secretary Syed Waqar Mehdi, National Party leader Abdul Malik Baloch, former chief minister of Balochistan Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, former federal minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, Awami National Party leader Shahi Syed, Sajjad Ahmad of Awami Tehreek and Ghulam Shah of Sindh United Party, PML-N leader Miftah Ismail, Mirza Ishtiaq Baig, Asad Usmani and large number of PML-N workers.

Mr Iqbal in his speech said that he had brought a message of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from Kot Lakhpat jail for party workers that it was time for them to save Pakistan. He said Mr Sharif came back to Pakistan by leaving his wife on the deathbed and went to jail along with his daughter. He added that Mr Sharif had proved that he was a real leader who instead of compromising on principles preferred to face jail.

He criticised the performance of the government and termed it a threat to the country. There was sharp decline in the value of Pakistani currency against US dollar with the indication that it would go down further in coming days.

Recalling a statement of Imran Khan that he would commit suicide instead of going to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package, the PML-N leader said that the prime minister had created such circumstances that the poor people of the country were compelled to commit suicide.

He said the price-hike in the country had made the life of poor people miserable.

PPP leader Nisar Khuhro criticised the performance of the PTI government, saying that it could not solve the problems of people.

He said that in this “Naya Pakistan” people had already suffered a lot. “We don’t want new Pakistan, but a better Pakistan.”

Abdul Malik Baloch said all political parties would have to make a joint strategy to take the country out of present political and economic crises.

Shahi Syed said that the present situation in the country did not augur well for its people.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483391/pti-govt-to-fall-soon-claim-opposition-leaders

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Pakistan needs diplomatic push to exit FATF grey list

Khaleeq Kiani

May 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Apart from technical compliance, Pakistan needs to launch an aggressive diplomatic effort over the next four weeks to secure enough support and votes to exit the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — the global watchdog on anti-money laundering (AML) and combating financing terror (CFT).

A senior government official told Dawn that the coming FATF Plenary and Working Group meetings in Orlando, Florida, scheduled for June 16-21, would be crucial for Pakistan to get rid of the grey list or fall into the black list having serious economic reper­cussions. The Orlando plenary will actually set the stage for Pakistan’s future even though a formal announcement would come out at the next FATF plenary due in Paris on October 18-23, he said.

Pakistan was now fully compliant with the related United Nations resolutions, said the official who was part of the Pakistani delegation to ‘Face-to-Face meeting’ of the Asia-Pacific Group, a regional affiliate of the FATF, in Guangzhou, China last week.

Pakistan has taken aggressive steps over the last two months in terms of regulatory and monitoring mechanism to meet the FATF requirements and its legal system is generally up to the mark, except some amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) 2010 pending before the National Assembly’s standing committee on finance and revenue.

“We believe we have generally delivered on the technical side i.e. legal and administrative action, regulations, monitoring, enforcement and inter-agency and stakeholder coordination and now require more of the diplomatic push to counter the adversaries,” said the official.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was expected be given a briefing on the Guangzhou meeting and on the way forward on Monday. He said it was expected Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi would now coordinate with stakeholders on a strategy to reach out to the world capitals in difficult diplomatic environment where the US-India grouping has greater influence and non-aligned members of the FATF prefer to abstain than siding with Pakistan.

Sources said Pakistan required about 15-16 votes to move out of the grey list and a minimum of three votes to avoid falling into the blacklist. The FATF currently comprises 36 members with voting powers and two regional organisations, representing most of the major financial centres in all parts of the globe.

The FATF plenary had formally placed Pakistan in the grey list in June 2018 due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its AML/CFT regime after the country could not secure a minimum of three votes as its friends had their own political targets to secure in the global watchdog.

China is set to secure FATF presidency next year while Saudi Arabia representing the Gulf Cooperation Council is to become a full FATF member. Turkey was the only member that stood by Pakistan despite a strong adverse campaign launched by the US, UK, India and Europe.

The official said the Pakistani delegation led by the finance secretary presented a robust case before the APG panel on the country’s progress on the 10-point action plan committed with the global watchdog despite tough questioning from some participants. The APG appeared generally appreciative of the progress made by Islamabad, he said, adding that it was not the session to draw conclusions or expect judgments from.

The official said Pakistan submitted a progress report at the Guangzhou meeting and had to respond to questions from the APG members to clarify certain things. The APG would now submit its findings, based on Pakistan’s report and question-answer session, to the FATF in its June 16-21 Plenary and Working Group meetings in the United States.

Pakistan briefed the APG in China about its recent actions against currency smuggling and proscribed organisations, tightening of financial and corporate sector systems and operational effectiveness. This included arrests of key operatives of proscribed organisations, treating the outfits as high risk entities, putting more such organisations and their affiliates on the list of banned outfits, blocking their accounts and financial flows and taking control of their assets. The delegation reported that Pakistan had either complied with or was very close to accomplishing the milestones under the FATF action plan.

The government has recently revised its national risk assessment of the corporate sector, strengthened customs procedures on borders and inland movement of funds and assets and put nine more entities on the list of proscribed organisations. Internal control of the banking and non-banking financial institutions, insurance companies and stock exchanges has been strengthened to curb the possibility of money laundering and terror financing. The account opening is now subject to additional checks and scrutiny and existing accounts are being biometrically verified.

Pakistan has recently created a specialised directorate of Cross Border Currency Movement (CBCM) to maintain a database of currency seizures and suspicious transactions. All the model customs formations are required to report each currency seizure on a fortnightly basis. These reports are then shared with the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) and the Federal Board of Revenue on a monthly basis or when called for. The CBCM has to maintain and update database of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and share information with law enforcement agencies, the FMU and FBR on a real time basis.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483405/pakistan-needs-diplomatic-push-to-exit-fatf-grey-list

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Visa policy for Pakistanis to be revised: Kuwaiti emir

May 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has assured Pakistan that he will make personal efforts to resolve visa restriction issues being faced by the Pakistani community.

The Kuwaiti emir gave this assurance to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who called on him in Kuwait City on Sunday.

The foreign minister app­rised the emir of Kuwait about reservations and difficulties being faced by the Pakistani community in Kuwait due to visa restrictions. He also presented special letters from Presi­dent Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Min­i­ster Imran Khan to him.

Mr Qureshi thanked the emir for raising voice against human rights violations in India-held Kashmir by New Delhi. He also thanked the emir for supporting Islamabad’s stance during the recent tension with India.

He said over 100,000 workforce and experts of Pakistan origin are playing an important role in the development and progress of Kuwait. He said Pakistan attached high importance to its bilateral and economic relations with Kuwait.

While talking to his Kuwaiti counterpart Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, Mr Qureshi said Kuwait had supported Pakistan in every critical situation. He said that Pakistan and its people had great respect for the people and government of Kuwait.

According to Foreign Office, the Kuwaiti foreign minister said services of Pakistani diaspora in Kuwait were appreciable as they were brave and hard working.

Mr Qureshi said more than 100,000 overseas Pakistanis were playing a dynamic role in Kuwait’s development and that Pakistan wanted to boost the existing economic relations with Kuwait.

The Pakistani diaspora in Gulf countries wanted to get access to Kuwait’s markets, he added. However, visa restriction was a hurdle in getting access to the markets, he added.

Mr Qureshi said Pakistan had taken effective measures to curb the use of illegal documents for travel and requested the Kuwait government to review its visa restriction policy.

The Kuwaiti foreign minister assured Mr Qureshi that the visa policy would be reviewed and all possible cooperation would be extended to Pakistan in this regard.

Mr Qureshi thanked the Kuwaiti minister for supporting Pakistan’s stance during the recent Pak-India crisis and on the issue of human rights violations in India-held Kashmir.

Later, talking to a delegation of Abu Shaibah Group of Companies led by its chairman Sayyah Abu Shaibah in Kuwait, Mr Qureshi reaffirmed the PTI government’s determination to increase foreign investment in the country and provide all-out assistance to investors.

The FM said there were vast investment opportunities for foreign investors in Pakistan’s education, energy, agriculture, health, and construction sectors. He said investment of Kuwaiti companies in Pakistan would be welcomed.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483400/visa-policy-for-pakistanis-to-be-revised-kuwaiti-emir

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US to help Pakistan introduce genetically-engineered corn

Amin Ahmed

May 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Agricultural Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said that future collaborative projects between the US and Pakistan include using American soybean feed in poultry, fish farming and dairy industries, introducing genetically-engineered maize and working with various government departments to develop uniform food safety standards.

“Soybean from the United States will serve as raw material for poultry, fish farming and dairy industries in Pakistan. We are working collaboratively with the government and the industry not only in poultry but also in the new and exciting area of fish farming which is in the pipeline,” Casey E. Bean, USDA official based in US Embassy in Islamabad, told Dawn.

“Approval of genetically-engineered maize is currently being considered in Pakistan. It would offer farmers a tool to increase their production and reduce use of agricultural chemicals,” he claimed.

Talking about the complicated relationship between the two countries, Mr Bean told Dawn, “While political highs and lows in the relations between the two countries occurs, US-Pakistan cooperation in the agricultural sector has always been an important part in our bilateral relationship of seventy years.

“The deep relationship between the agricultural scientists of the two countries is evident in the collaboration on developing seeds for wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton. Agriculture sector is an incredibly important sector in Pakistan and is a priority for the US. For these reasons the USDA mission has an office in Islamabad,” he said.

Allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the US have a knotty relationship, especially over Afghanistan. In the past the Washington has accused Islamabad of playing a double game but in February this year US President Donald Trump said that the United States had developed a “much better relationship” with Pakistan.

Uniform food safety standards and food security are two other areas where the USDA is working with local government departments, Mr Bean said. USDA is working with the Department of Commerce, the Ministry of National Food Security and agribusiness sector to implement food safety standards such as food labels illustrating ingredients contained in food products.

The federal government’s food security authority would be able to provide oversight to provinces to adhere to international standards consistently ultimately benefiting consumers, Mr Bean said.

USDA will assist the ministry of national food security and research for the national food system project, as after devolution, it has become important for Pakistan to have a central food security authority. In this area, USDA is working with Pakistan Agriculture Research Council scientists for reducing aflatoxin (toxic fungus) in food crops.

USDA and USAID launched a programme sometime last year to introduce aflatoxin control in Pakistan currently at field trial stage. Aflatoxin is produced by molds, and it often grows on food crops such as corn, peanuts, chillies, ground nuts but even cotton seeds are susceptible. US scientists were working with a private sector maize company in Pakistan to develop a technology to combat aflatoxin, said the US official.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483389/us-to-help-pakistan-introduce-genetically-engineered-corn

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Pakistani skilled workers to get jobs in Japan, says embassy

May 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Japan are exploring ways to expand cooperation for employment of Pakistani skilled workers in Japan.

Japan is facing serious labour shortage, and the government has decided to accept foreign human resources, with specific expertise and skills.

A new ‘Status of Residence’ for specific skilled workers has been created that became effective on April 1.

For this purpose, the Japanese government has amended the ‘Immigration Control Act’ and took comprehensive measures for the acceptance of foreign workers residing in Japan.

Within the next five years, Japan expects to hire services of 340,000 skilled workers.

“Stakeholders show interest in opportunities for Pakistani people to work in Japan and I have talked to find ways for these opportunities with the ministry of foreign affairs and economic affairs division besides stakeholders like ministry of education and National Vocational and Technical Education Commission,” said Yuji Tokita, head of the Economic and Development Section at the Embassy of Japan in Islamabad.

The Japanese government has already signed a memorandum for cooperation with the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Nepal. Agreement with Vietnam has been reached substantially, according to the official.

Besides, Pakistan and Japan in February signed a memorandum of cooperation in Tokyo on technical intern training programme. This is the first institutional arrangement between the two governments which will open up Japanese market for Pakistani workers.

The memorandum will play a vital role in contributing to the human resource and economic development of Pakistan as well as in promoting bilateral cooperation.

Mr Tokita said that the intern training programme was different from the skilled worker programme, and it would establish a direct link between the Pakistani and Japanese companies in the private sector. The two sides would liaise to connect the Pakistani interns with the Japanese companies.

For Pakistan, skilled workers living in Japan and in Pakistan were under consideration.

About the IT sector, the Japanese official stated that Pakistani skills in IT sector were much appreciated by the Japanese companies and business people.

All foreign skilled workers entering Japan for employment would have to pass the skills examination and the Japanese language test before signing the employment contract with the accepting organisation.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483392/pakistani-skilled-workers-to-get-jobs-in-japan-says-embassy

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Europe

 

Ramadan work ethic: British Muslim police and doctors juggle fasting and emergencies

Shafi Musaddique

May 19, 2019

For Muslims in the world’s most northern countries the need to slow down during the month of Ramadan is a balancing act with the ongoing pressures of daily life.

Irfan Ishaq, a veteran of the Hertfordshire Police on the outskirts of London, recounts the daunting proposition of responding to emergency calls while observing the fast.

“Policing is an emotional roller-coaster ride. One job you’ll deal with suicide, then straight to an elderly woman who has lost her handbag in the centre of town, then two 14-year-olds who break your fence. In that emotion you can’t replenish yourself,” he told The National.

All new recruits start their careers responding to emergency calls and working long shifts, often up to 12 hours continuously on call. One accommodation for Muslim officers during Ramadan is more shifts at night, when food can be consumed.

Police Constable Uzma Amireddy, who has served in North Yorkshire for more than 10 years, remembers often working from 1pm to 1am. She found these night shifts easier, and even though her energy levels dipped amid the frenetic pace of emergency response , she learnt to “adapt in time”.

The Islamic lunar calendar means that the start date of Ramadan moves forward by just under two weeks every year versus the Gregorian calendar. In countries near or on the Equator, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Indonesia, Muslims see relatively little change to the daylight hours during which they must fast. But in countries further away like the UK, the fast can last for more than 18 hours when Ramadan enters June, as it does this year.

“It doesn't stop me because Ramadan teaches you to be tolerant and patient," says PC Amireddy. "It's only temporary, and the reason to fast is to gain reward from Allah. I keep that in my mind. It’s about educating others, because they’d ask ‘why are you starving?’."

Her colleague Arfan Rahouf works in the rural crimes unit, in which emergency calls can include agricultural and plant theft.

“During the first week I personally do not like to drive when responding to an emergency call, and after this I look at how I am feeling on a daily basis,” he says.

Although they work at opposite ends of the UK, PC Ishaq and PC Amireddy both say the support provided by their respective forces has been vital to ensuring they do the best they can while on duty.

Muslim officers are given flexibility to attend mosque, with ablution facilities and prayer rooms provided in the police station. By implementing small changes, police chiefs are reaping the benefits of retaining their Muslim staff, who in turn feel vindicated for a career choice that some continue to question.

“I feel like my organisation accepts me for who I am,” PC Amireddy says.

Both officers also stress the importance of communicating freely with superiors. PC Ishaq, who is responsible for recruitment and Ramadan guidance for the his force, ensures that “conversation is required with line managers regularly”.

Non-Muslim colleagues and senior officers have even offered to fast with them for a day in solidarity, albeit with the caveat that their Muslim colleagues make sure they go slow and drink water if needed.

“It’s been perceived really positively and we’re having an iftar together in a police station, inviting colleagues, people in town and from different mosques to join us. But it’s not about food, it’s about cleansing your soul,” says PC Amireddy.

“You’re making yourself a better person and you want to better your life in this world and the hereafter. And getting rid of habits you’ve developed in the past 11 months.”

For PC Rahouf, the letters from the word "fasting" signify seven aims: fasting, acceptance, self-control, truth, integrity, nourishment and grace.

Police forces in Britain, once viewed with deep mistrust by minority communities, have changed rapidly over the past two decades to better reflect British society – and not just in London.

While 37 per cent of British Muslims live and work in London, smaller communities can be found in port cities such as Cardiff and Liverpool, and former manufacturing hubs around Manchester and Birmingham.

But reflecting the presence of British Muslims in largely white British areas, where mosques are not always conveniently near, is all the more important.

In North Yorkshire, PC Amireddy serves a mainly middle-class population with a large farming community.

She says Muslim police officers can act as a bridge between communities.

“We discuss the importance of going to the mosque with our managers, even if it’s just for 45 minutes. And it’s not just prayer, but engaging with the [Muslim] community in that time to break barriers,” she says.

In Hertfordshire, PC Ishaq's goal is to use religious spaces as a sanctuary to report crimes.

“My vision is to make every mosque in Hertfordshire a third-party reporting centre, so those that attend that mosque can report hate crimes or hate incidents and not have to go to the police station. They can also take down a report in that person’s language to create that emotion and capture the emotion of the crime,” he says.

“We need to capture that because in our society it’s hard for a lot of people to go report crimes in a cold, dreary station.”

Ramadan also poses a challenge for Muslim doctors, but the constant pressure of working in hospitals has made them well practised in coping, says Dr Hina Shahid, a general practitioner and chair of Muslim Doctors Association.

“It’s so busy on normal days outside Ramadan, you don’t even get to eat or drink at work. So, in a sense there’s not much change. The lack of sleep is challenging but you get used to it,” she says.

“Doing night shifts is easier ... but it involves swaps with colleagues on the rota."

Dr Shahid says she tries to take annual leave during Ramadan, especially when sunset falls after 9pm.

Dentist Rebecca Musabbir sees up to 35 patients a day at her Essex-based surgery. She says the main challenge is maintaining concentration, whether treating emergencies or performing cosmetic procedures, and talking to patients throughout the day.

“The job is mentally challenging and this is more difficult during fasting,” she told The National.

Despite the challenges, Dr Shahid advocates fasting as a reset button that has health benefits.

“I do find myself actually concentrating better even though I’m tired. There’s evidence that concentration improves when you’re fasting. The rewarding aspect I find is that you’re in a constant state of being alert and aware of what you’re doing. I try and bring that to my work,” she says.

“You become a better person and a better doctor. That translates to the patients and in your personal relationships.”

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/ramadan-work-ethic-british-muslim-police-and-doctors-juggle-fasting-and-emergencies-1.863401

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Former far-right politician who converted to Islam says EU must be realistic about immigration

Federica Marsi

May 19, 2019

With Europeans approaching the next parliamentary vote split down the middle on the benefits of immigration, few can claim to have the perspective possessed by Joram van Klaveren.

As a spokesman for right-wing Geert Wilders’s anti-immigration Party for Freedom (PVV) a decade ago, the Dutch politician fought tooth and nail to ban burqas and minarets in the Netherlands, making the headlines for his anti-Islam statements.

Now a Muslim convert and author of the book “Apostate: From Christianity to Islam in Times of Secular Terror”, he calls out populist parties fuelling Islamophobia in an attempt to win votes in the next European elections.

“The PVV policy was: everything that did not work had to be linked to Islam in one way or another,” Mr Van Klaveren told The National. “Nationalist parties don’t want to listen – they use the fear of Islam to gain political power.”

The Netherlands is one of the European countries that looks set to send a strong Eurosceptic contingent to the European parliament. The Forum for Democracy (FvD), led by founder Thierry Baudet, has run a series of successful campaigns by presenting a more respectable version of Mr Wilders’ anti-immigration rhetoric.

In March, it did well in provincial voting and it is now leading opinion polls, ahead of the governing Liberal Party.

Mr Van Klaveren’s own political career is intertwined with the rise of the far-right in the Netherlands. In 2004, he was part of a splinter group led by Mr Wilders that left the conservative-liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy in 2006 over Turkey’s possible accession to the European Union.

“I was still very anti-Islamic then and Turkey is a Muslim country [that would have] become the second biggest in the European Union,” Mr Van Klaveren said.

The PVV started off as a conservative party but soon drifted towards more extreme views on migration and religion.

The party filed a motion in 2007 calling for a stop to immigration from Muslim countries. The group also launched a website to collect complaints about Central and East European immigrants and fought to ban burqas and minarets in the Netherlands.

As a Protestant who grew up in a family that looked down on Islam, Mr Van Klaveren was at first comfortable with the PVV’s views. That was until its figurehead, Mr Wielders, asked a crowd of supporters whether they wanted more or less Moroccan migrants and the crowd chanted back: “less, less, less!”

“I thought it was going too far. It was no longer about an ideology but about a people,” he said.

Mr Van Klaveren left the PVV as hatred of immigrants flared up and attacks on mosques became more frequent. After a brief attempt to form his own party, he set out to write a book that would give his anti-Islam views a theoretical base.

“I wanted to prove that [Muslims] ... promote terrorism... but I found that there were no Islamic sources to prove this, only orientalist sources.”

He converted to Islam halfway through writing the book, in October 2018.

His former ally, Mr Wilders, compared him to a vegetarian who found a job in a slaughterhouse. Death threats and hateful emails now come from what was once his side of the political spectrum.

Mr Van Klaveren has taken back his statements on Islam, saying his views were “simply wrong”. But if Europe wants to rid itself of Islamophobia, he says it must face the “big problem” that is immigration and address the legitimate concerns of its population.

“Terrorism is a real threat, it is not something that people have invented, it is real. And it is also true that there are ISIS cells among refugees,” he said. “Mainstream parties are afraid to talk about immigration, but they will have to take the topic back because right now the [discourse is controlled] by the populist parties,” he said.

Projections show anti-immigration parties winning a third of seats at the European Parliament. Mr Van Klaveren worries the populist ideas he contributed to could “now become policies”.

“I think it is very important that we reach a common ground,” he said. The book born out of his initial resentment for Islam calls instead for coexistence and mutual understanding.

In it, Mr Van Klaveren cites a folk tale where a man asks another how to get to the other side of the river. “Why do you ask me, as you are already on the other side,” the other man replied.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/former-far-right-politician-who-converted-to-islam-says-eu-must-be-realistic-about-immigration-1.863397

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UK forces secretly join US troops in Persian Gulf on anti-Iran mission: Report

May 19, 2019

An unconfirmed report shows Britain has secretly sent troops to the Persian Gulf to help US forces in the region to counter an alleged threat from Iran.

The Sunday Express said that British special forces had joined US strike group in the Persian Gulf as part of a top secret mission to allegedly protect merchant ships against possible threats that the Washington and its allies insist are coming from Iran. The report said special boat service (SBS) forces were now with the UK registered oil tankers transiting through the Strait of Hormuz to the south of the Persian Gulf waters.

It said the SBS has been tasked to monitor Iranian military activity around the island of Qeshm, where Iran normally stations its naval gunboats.

The report added that Royal Navy Merlin helicopters which are not allowed to fly above the Strait of Hormuz will airlift the SBS forces once they enter the Gulf of Oman.

The report comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf region, where Washington has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 long-range bombers in a show of force against Iran.

The tensions intensified after Iran announced earlier this month that it will suspend parts of its commitments under an international nuclear agreement which has suffered as a result of US withdrawal last year.

Britain has publicly refrained from taking side in the conflict although authorities in London have on several occasions endorsed Washington’s anti-Iran rhetoric.

British foreign minister Jeremy hunt said earlier this week that his country “shared the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran.”

The deployment of US special forces to the Persian Gulf comes following a series of attacks on oil tankers off the coast of United Arab Emirates.

Iran has warned that such sabotage operation may be part of a general ploy to target Iran amid the increasing regional tensions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/19/596366/UK-special-forces-Iran-Persian-Gulf

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Germany: Muslim politician receives death threats

19.05.2019

A leading German-Turkish politician said on Sunday he has received numerous Islamophobic letters and death threats in recent weeks, ahead of European Parliament (EP) elections on May 26.

Haluk Yildiz, the leader of the pro-immigration Alliance for Innovation and Justice (BIG), said the letters were sent by some unknown persons and included xeonophobic insults and threats.

“In one of the letters they were saying that we have crossed the line. They were claiming that it is only Germans who have a say in this country,” he said, adding that they take these threats very seriously, due to increased neo-Nazi violence in recent years.

“But such threats will not deter us, we will continue our political struggle here,” he said.

Yildiz is the leading candidate of BIG, a small party founded in 2010 by a group of migrants in Germany.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-muslim-politician-receives-death-threats/1482084

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Southeast Asia

 

Social network boasting Islamic values launched

May 20, 2019

A new social media platform that says it is based on “the moral values of Islam” and describes itself as a respectful and safe online environment has been launched.

Named Labayk, which means "at your service", the platform highlights Islamic values and encourages users to donate to charitable causes.

Developed by investment banker Tanweer Khan, Labayk is said to cater to both Muslim and non-Muslim users, though it expects all users to “abide by the moral values of Islam”.

Like other social networks, it allows users to create a profile, update their status, make connections and send private messages.

“Over time, I was becoming increasingly frustrated at the way social media networks have become vehicles for abuse, trolling and bullying. Social media platforms are constantly being called out over their response to this, and it’s becoming harder and harder to control," said Khan in a statement.

"Social media networks have the power to do good and make the world a better place for everyone, both online and offline. However, the culture on most of these networks is driven by profits, allowing bots to shape people’s decisions and opinions. I wanted to create a platform where people can connect and effectively communicate with others, with similar values, in a safe and nonthreatening environment," he added.

Users who upload content deemed inappropriate or fake news can be immediately removed from the platform.

“This isn’t a Muslim-only platform, it is open for everyone. However, Labayk shares and is built on true Islamic values of peace, respect, kindness, truth and sincerity. And this is what I wanted the platform to be. Hatred and aggressive advertising has been replaced with giving, charitable causes, great communication and safety. And it’s free, and always will be," said Khan.

The mobile app is currently only available for download on iPhone devices. (kes)

https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2019/05/19/social-network-boasting-islamic-values-to-launch-on-lebaran.html

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‘Muslims should focus on Islam’: Yadim objects to proposal for primary school lessons on other religions

20 May 2019

KOTA BARU, May 20 — Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim) has described the Malaysian Youth Council’s (MBM) proposal for a new subject be introduced at primary school to enable pupils to learn about other religions as unsuitable.

However, its president, Nik Omar Nik Aziz said he personally felt that such a proposal should be scrutinised and studied from all angles if it were to be implemented.

“For young pupils, especially Muslims, we should focus on providing Islamic education and strengthening their faith... by exposing them with the basic of Fardhu Ain.

“The proposal is more suitable for those in secondary school or institution or higher education as they will be able understand Islam more, but it is really unsuitable for those in primary school,” he told reporters here last night.

Earlier, the Education Ministry also rejected the proposal. In fact, Minister Maszlee Malik said that he was consistent with the ministry’s previous suggestion that every school and university should organise more cross-cultural programmes.

On Saturday, MBM president Jufitri Joha was reported as saying that the Islamic studies subject currently being taught in schools was good, but it only focused on one religion.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/05/20/muslims-should-focus-on-islam-yadim-objects-to-proposal-for-lessons-on-othe/1754584

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Beijing's big bucks snuff out religious solidarity

May 20, 2019

A year ago the United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking protests in Muslim-majority countries and drawing official condemnation at the United Nations.

An estimated 30,000 people demonstrated in Jakarta as President Joko Widodo said his country “rejects” the American move as it "may disrupt the peace process in Israel and Palestine.”

In late 2017, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would live up to his campaign promise to move the embassy, the Malaysian government endorsed a huge protest at the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, while Asia’s Muslim U.N. representatives lined up in New York to excoriate the U.S.

In contrast, the detention in mass camps of an estimated one million or more Muslims in Xinjiang in western China — described in late April by China’s foreign ministry as "preventive anti-terrorism and de-radicalization measures" that "respect and protect human rights and have won extensive support from people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang” — has prompted barely a murmur of complaint from Muslim-majority countries in Asia.

Likewise, China’s long-standing restrictions on Catholics and other Christians rarely incur any protest from the Philippines, the continent's biggest Christian-majority country.

"It is disappointing that Southeast Asian countries have been silent about the more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang that the Chinese government has kept in detention under political indoctrination,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker and board member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations Parliamentarians for Human Rights.

The association is a non-governmental entity made up mostly of opposition lawmakers from the region — though Santiago is from Malaysia’s governing Democratic Action Party.

Indonesia and Malaysia are home to minorities of Chinese descent that have been influential in business but have suffered not only discrimination and suspicion, but have suffered bouts of deadly political violence.

But since signing a free tree agreement with ASEAN a decade ago, China has surged ahead as the region’s biggest trade partner, though still lags somewhat when it comes to investment.

The 2018 ASEAN Investment Report showed that 8.2 percent of all FDI [foreign direct investment] into the region in 2017 came from Chinese businesses, less than Japan’s share.

Investment is only likely to grow, however, under Beijing’s mammoth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ongoing series of transport infrastructure projects aiming to link China to countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Most Southeast Asian countries need massive investment in infrastructure — Indonesia and the Philippines in particular, as both are scattered archipelagos lumbered with high transport costs.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Indonesia’s newly re-elected President Widodo have both met China’s president-for-life, Xi Jinping, over the last year to discuss trade and investment as Chinese projects ran into cost- and planning-related difficulties in both countries.

But despite the haggling, there has been no criticism of Beijing over the razing of mosques in Xinjiang and the mass incarcerations — though that has been the case for almost all Muslim-majority countries.

"To speak up for the Uyghurs is to go against your economic national interests. This is particularly glaring in the case of Saudi Arabia, the source of much of the funding for the revival of Islam in Xinjiang in the 1990s. Many of the mosques now being torn down were built with Saudi money,” said Graeme Smith of the Department of Pacific Affairs at Australian National University.

Responding to criticism by some of the country’s leading Islamic clerics over the issue, Indonesia’s outgoing vice-president Jusuf Kalla said in December his country would not interfere in the internal affairs of another country, echoing ASEAN’s long-standing “non-interference” mantra.

"Quite aside from the BRI, China is the major trading partner for most [Southeast Asian] nations, and Beijing has demonstrated a willingness to use economic coercion on smaller powers,” said Smith, who co-hosts “The Little Red Podcast,” a monthly discussion of Chinese politics and society.

China’s turn to undergo the U.N.’s human rights-focused Universal Periodic Review (UPR) last November saw European and North American country representatives raise the issue of freedom of religion, specifically mentioning Xinjiang, which China brushed off as “politicized."

Asian representatives were less abrasive, however, with Indonesia asking China to “continue to strengthen the development of laws and systems for protecting freedom of religion and beliefs,” while Bangladesh sought that Beijing "continue to promote participation, integration and sharing of development benefits with the people in vulnerable situations.”

Pakistan, however, backed Beijing’s claims about counter-terrorism, while Malaysia’s interventions were restricted to issues such as gender and mental health.

Before the UPR, however, Kuala Lumpur refused to extradite 11 Chinese Muslims who had escaped from China to Malaysia via Thailand, while in December 2018 a small protest at the Chinese embassy in Jakarta railed against the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang.

That protest was led by some of the same Islamist groups that demonstrated in 2016 against the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

The Protestant politician of Chinese descent was later jailed for two years for blasphemy against Islam.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/beijings-big-bucks-snuff-out-religious-solidarity/85190

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Understanding extremism among Malaysian Muslims

Sharifah Munirah Alatas

May 20, 2019"

Remember the Thirty Years’ War? From 1618 to 1648, Catholic and Protestant states under the Holy Roman Empire were embroiled in one of the most destructive conflicts in human history.

As it evolved, though, the war became less about religion and more about which group would ultimately govern Europe. It changed the geopolitical face of Europe, and ended with the Peace of Westphalia.

The treaty allowed the minority religion to be practised freely. It also established important political precedents for state sovereignty, interstate diplomacy, and the balance of power in Europe.

Essentially, the nation state was born with the Treaty of Westphalia.

Fast forward to the 21st century. The Muslim world is experiencing more intrastate wars rather than interstate ones.

But the debate on the backwardness of Muslims should not be approached in a lopsided manner. It is counterproductive to focus only on the “evil” West, “supremacist” whites and “ruthless” Israelis. These are not the only reasons Muslims feel persecuted.

It is time Malaysians knew the reality about intra-Muslim conflicts around the world. In the process, it should dawn on us how these conflicts have affected other Muslims under relatively peaceful conditions.

The Islamic State (IS) is the main religious extremist group. Other extreme and backward ideologies are Salafism and Wahabbism.

IS is said to have emerged around 2003, with a vision to establish a universal Sunni caliphate. Shias, to them, are deviant and must be annihilated. It is an extremist, destructive, sectarian movement.

It is no secret that big power interests have interfered and fuelled the Sunni-Shia conflicts in a classic divide-and-conquer strategy. The entire religious and geopolitical development has done a massive disservice to Islam and Muslims in other parts of the world where a majority of Muslims live in relative peace.

Extremist, fanatical ideology has seeped into the psyche of pockets of Malay society. As a result, we are now living in a post-GE14 era of sublime conflict.

By this, I mean a more invasive form of conflict “among” the Malays has surfaced. It is conflict resulting from the suppression of rationality, directed more at each other rather than at fellow non-Muslim and non-Malay Malaysians.

I see this as the main reason why Malaysia is stuck in an unproductive, backward narrative of race and religion. ICERD, the Rome Statute, the Red Shirts movement, burning Bibles, the Seafield temple fracas and the “cross on building” episodes seem to be protests against insulting Islam, Muslims and Malays.

But the verbal attacks can be seen as directed against secular-minded, reform-oriented, progressive Malaysian Muslims. The fear is that these rational and practising Muslims have found a way out of backwardness, and are able to join the ranks of an inclusive socio-economic existence.

The fear of being “left behind” is really not directed at the Chinese or Indians, or “others”.

Most demonstrations in Malaysia are led by a small fraction of the Malay population who actually know the cause for which they are demonstrating.

The majority do not have a clue what they are doing in the blazing sun or torrential rain. They are there for gotong-royong, pocket money, a T-shirt and some tidbits to satisfy their gastronomical urges.

They listen to ceramah on make-shift stages and boisterously cheer. When the press interviews a few of them, they grin, shrug shyly and stumble to explain the reasons they are there.

The handful who do know the cause have latched onto a fanatical and irrational narrative – the same narrative espoused by our fellow Muslims of IS fame.

For instance, cliches such as Islam has to be defended or protected are rampant in daily discourse. Protection is synonymous with defence, shielding, shelter, preservation, conservation, safe keeping, security and immunity.

What in Malaysian Islam needs protection or shielding? The way I see it, a majority of Muslims in Malaysia feel they have to shield Islam from progressive Muslim ideas, rather than from the Buddhists, Christians or Hindus.

Moral and religious policing during Ramadan, humiliating men and women for the way they dress and a warped understanding of rape, are serious transgressions in Islam. The irony is that these transgressions have pitted fanatics against progressives within the Malay community. The other races are spectators in this tragic (or comedic?) theatrical play.

Last month, a religious teacher delivered a lecture as part of a marriage course conducted by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department. He said that women who do not cover up deserve to be sexually violated. The man did not realise that he had insulted his fellow Muslim Malay women by saying that rape is their fault.

How is he protecting Islam and Muslims, or even Malays in this manner?

Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan, a well-known American feminist of the 1960s, wrote of depression, frustration, emptiness, guilt and dishonesty. She was analysing the way psychiatrists, women’s magazines, marketers, educators and social scientists routinely lied to women about their need for feminine glamour.

It seems the Jawi man needed to impose his idea of modesty on women. His patriarchal concept of demure and good behaviour is grossly deviant. Even in Islam.

He lied to them to make them feel guilty and responsible should they be sexually violated. In Islam (or any religion), lying is a grave sin.

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner and feminist, Shirin Ebadi, says in Iran, sexual abuse against women goes largely unreported and officially, it is unrecognised.

The situation is similar in Malaysia. A majority of Muslim women who are are physically or sexually abused in marriages suffer in silence. This is due to our false sense of shame. It is also the result of religious conditioning by the likes of the Jawi ustaz who fail to understand the concept of social justice in Islam.

Many women experience ridicule by law enforcers (mainly men) when they do make a police report. Many are also told to go back and “think about it, be patient, try to work it out because the sanctity of marriage in Islam is worth the patience”.

The extremist ideology espoused by militant Muslim groups has infiltrated the Malay mind. I am not implying that a majority of Malays/Muslims in Malaysia have become imbued with militant views to blow themselves up.

Rather, there is a more sublime and invasive ideology of prejudice that is holding back reform.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/05/20/understanding-extremism-among-malaysian-muslims/

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Don: Lessons on love for others can’t curb extremism

Ainaa Aiman

May 20, 2019

PETALING JAYA: An academic has dismissed Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s suggestion to teach more love and empathy in schools in the fight against religious extremism, arguing that these values must be put into practice and made a habit.

Azmil Tayeb of Universiti Sains Malaysia said pupils and teachers should mix across ethnic and religious lines.

More needs to be done to ensure that school enrolments and teacher intakes reflect the ethnic and religious demography in the community at large.

“Create spaces where students can sit together without segregating themselves,” he said.

He further suggested that schools organise trips to visit various places of worships and ethnic enclaves so as to increase religious and ethnic tolerance.

Schools could also invite leaders of various communities to give talks, and hold exchange programmes with vernacular and religious schools, he said.

The Education Ministry could also revamp Islamic education to be more inclusive of other religions and different teachings within Islam.

Azmil argued that training and certification of teachers should also incorporate these changes, as teachers are the ones who will transmit these ideas in the classroom.

Maszlee recently said that the spread of extremist ideologies can be only be countered through education that is underpinned by love and empathy in the long run.

“When someone is devoid of love and happiness, they will be more easily influenced by extremism and radicalism. They do not love themselves. They feel, if they die, it is okay, so long as their ideology is spread far and wide,” he was reported as saying.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/05/20/don-lessons-on-love-for-others-cant-curb-extremism/

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Mideast

 

Yemen’s Houthi militia says will target UAE, Saudi vital military facilities

20 May 2019

Yemen’s Houthi militia said targeting Saudi Aramco’s installations last week was the beginning of military operations against 300 vital military targets, Houthi-controlled SABA news agency said on Sunday, citing a source in the Houthi militia.

Targets included vital military headquarters and facilities in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, as well as their bases in Yemen, SABA quoted the source as saying.

Saudi Arabia said armed drones struck two oil pumping stations last Tuesday, after Houthi-run Masirah TV earlier said the group had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations.

On Wednesday, the Houthi’s leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said that the militia is developing more military capabilities, which have “proven their effectiveness,” but what’s to come is “bigger and greater.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/05/20/Yemen-s-Houthi-militia-says-will-target-UAE-Saudi-vital-military-facilities.html

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Yemen’s government forces arrest key al-Qaeda leader

20 May 2019

Forces loyal to the Yemeni legitimate government backed by the Arab coalition say they have captured a key al-Qaeda leader in the southwestern province of Taiz.

The military said in a statement that special forces had arrested Bilal Muhammed Ali al-Wafi on Saturday in the mountain area of Habashi.

Al-Wafi, in his 30s, is a key member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and has helped to carry out several deadly attacks including the 2012 bombing of a Yemeni military parade that killed dozens of troops.

The US designated al-Wafi as a terrorist in 2017.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/05/20/Yemen-s-government-forces-arrest-key-al-Qaeda-leader.html

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief says they are not pursuing war

19 May 2019

Iran is not pursuing war, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Sunday, according to the Fars news agency.

“The difference between us and them is that they are afraid of war and don't have the will for it,” Major General Hossein Salami said.

Salami had said on Saturday that his country is in a full intelligence war with the United States and “enemies of the Islamic Republic” which includes cyber and military operations.

“We are in a full intelligence war with the United States and the enemies of the Islamic Republic. This war is a combination of psychological warfare, cyber operations, military operations, diplomacy, fear, and intimidation,” Major General Hossein Salami, who was named head of the force last month, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/05/19/Iran-s-Revolutionary-Guards-chief-says-they-are-not-pursuing-war.html

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Iraq can mediate between Iran, US: Senior Shia cleric

May 20, 2019

A senior Iraqi Shia cleric has warned about the negative consequences of tension between Tehran and Washington for the region, saying that Iraq can play a positive role in controlling the situation.

Ammar al-Hakim, the Leader of the National Wisdom Movement, made the remarks in a Sunday meeting with Joey Hood, the Chargé d'affaires of the US Mission in Iraq, amid heightened tension between Tehran and Washington.

During the meeting, al-Hakim described the escalation of tension as "worrying", saying that such tensions endanger the security and stability of all countries in the region.

He also hailed the positive signals recently sent by the US for bilateral talks with Iran, and said, "These comments must serve as an introduction to achieving appropriate solutions and keeping the regional nations distant from war and blockade."

The senior cleric referred to his warms ties with both Iran and the US, and said he can play the role of a mediator to get the two sides' stances closer to each other and end the current crisis.

Also on Sunday, Iraqi lawmaker Hassan Fadas said in an interview with Baghdad Today that “Iraq played the role of mediation, and is still communicating with US and Iranian, to bring the views closer, and it is necessary to communicate with neighbors on this side.”

“Iraq is capable of influencing the American decision, and being an element of calm and embracing any possible meeting to prevent war, which could have catastrophic consequences for Iraq and the region in general,” he said.

Earlier this month, al-Hakim had urged the Iraqi government to adopt what he described as a responsible position to prevent a “tragedy” and act as mediator between Tehran and Washington.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi will pay his first official visit to Qatar on Monday, where he is going to discuss the Iran-US tension and ways to ease the conflict.

“Abdul-Mahdi will discuss with Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani ... the developments currently taking place in the region and the need to unify positions and move to create ways to ease the conflict and to find a ground that would endanger the danger of all," a source said Sunday.

The visit comes shortly after a Katyusha rocket that crashed inside Baghdad's Green Zone where many foreign embassies are located.

All US bases in Iraq have been put on standby amid reports that the rocket has hit an area close to the US embassy.

"A low-grade rocket did land within the International Zone near the US Embassy and the JOC (Joint Operation Center). There were no casualties or significant damage; no US-inhabited facility was impacted," the US State Department said in reaction to the incident.

”We are in close and continuing contact with senior Iraqi officials regarding this incident and investigating the circumstances. At present there are no claims of responsibility," it added.

"As noted, there have been no claims of responsibility and no US-inhabited facility was struck. But, we take this incident very seriously. We have made clear over the past two weeks and again underscore that attacks on US personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and will be responded to in a decisive manner," the State Department said.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/20/596383/Iran-US-Iraq-mediation-conflict-crisis-escalation

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Palestinians give cool reception to US peace conference

May 20, 2019

JERUSALEM: The Palestinians are giving a cool reception to an American plan to hold a conference next month to unveil the first phase of its Mideast peace plan.

The White House announced Sunday that it will hold the gathering in Bahrain to discuss large-scale investment in the Palestinian territories. It said the conference will not address the contentious political aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as final borders, and the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, says “any plan without a political horizon will not lead to peace.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1499501/middle-east

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Africa

 

Sudan army rulers say civil talks to resume as Islamists protest

20.05.2019

Talks between Sudan's military council and protesters are set to resume, army rulers said on Saturday, as hundreds of supporters of Islamic movements rallied for the inclusion of Sharia in the country's political roadmap.

The ruling military council announced that "negotiations with the Alliance for Freedom and Change" over the planned transfer of power to a new governing body would resume on Sunday.

The announcement follows pressure from key world powers for the military and the protesters' umbrella group to get back to the table, after talks on the composition of the new governing body failed to take place as planned last Wednesday.

Talks have stalled repeatedly, as the protesters have pressed the military council hard to hand over power to civilian rule since autocratic president Omar al-Bashir was deposed on 11 April.

Representatives from the United States, the United Nations, African Union and European powers called for "an agreement ASAP on an interim government that is truly civilian-led and reflects the will of the Sudanese people," Tibor Nagy, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, tweeted on Friday.

Protesters have met a key demand of military council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in the last couple of days, dismantling roadblocks that had paralysed parts of the capital.

The generals have allowed protesters to maintain their sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters, where thousands remain camped out to demand a rapid transition to democracy.

Before suspending talks this week the two sides agreed on several key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two thirds of lawmakers to come from the protesters' umbrella group.

But Sudanese Islamist movements – fearing the incipient transition plans exclude them – held their own demonstration Saturday outside the presidential palace in downtown Khartoum. Hundreds took part in the demonstration, the first organised mobilisation by Islamist groups since Bashir's ousting.

"The main reason for the mobilisation is that the alliance (the main protesters' umbrella group) is ignoring the application of Sharia in its deal," said Al-Tayieb Mustafa, who heads a coalition of about 20 Islamic groups. "This is irresponsible and if that deal is done, it is going to open the door of hell for Sudan," he told journalists ahead of the rally.

At the rally, men and women chanted slogans in support of Sharia in front of the presidential palace garden, an agency correspondent said. "The solution lies in the religion!" chanted some as others shouted "No to Communism, No to atheism!".

"We are here to support the Islamic sharia law and say no to secular rule," said Younus Ali, dressed in a traditional Sudanese robe. The demonstrators offered evening prayers at the venue and later broke their dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast, before resuming their chants.

Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and Sudanese legislation has since been underpinned by Islamic law. But activists say Sharia was applied inconsistently during his rule.

Thousands of women were flogged for "indecent behaviour", women's rights activists have said.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change has so far remained silent on whether Sharia has a place in Sudan's future, arguing that its main concern now is installing a civilian administration.

The main protest movement brings together a wide range of political, social and rebel groups.

The military council's deputy head Mohamed Hamadan Dagalo said on Saturday "people have been arrested" in connection with shooting protesters this week near the ongoing sit-in outside military headquarters.

Protesters have accused Dagalo's paramilitary group the Rapid Support Forces – long close to Bashir – for the shootings, which killed five protesters and an army major. But Dagalo did not specify whether RSF personnel had been arrested.

Some worry that the protesters' umbrella group is pushing for a secular Sudan.

"Islam is part and parcel of the identity of the majority of the people of Sudan," Sadeq al-Mahdi – long Sudan's main opposition figurehead and an ex-premier – told journalists in a recent interview. He said it was a "great mistake" for some members of the opposition to "talk about secularism".

Scores of worshippers on Friday staged spontaneous demonstrations in Khartoum after weekly prayers and criticised the protest movement.

"The Alliance for Freedom and Change wants... to build what they call a new Sudan, a Sudan without religion, a secular Sudan," said hard-line cleric Abdelhai Yusef in his Friday sermon, according to a video posted on his Facebook page. "That's why we say no, a thousand times no to this deal. We want a Sudan that is for everyone."

And at Saturday's rally another hard-line cleric, Mohamed Ali Jazuli, had a warning for the military council.

"If you consider handing over power to a certain faction, then we will consider it a coup", he vowed.    (AFP)

https://en.qantara.de/content/sudan-army-rulers-say-civil-talks-to-resume-as-islamists-protest

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Cargo ship loaded with Turkish military vehicles arrives in Tripoli

19 May 2019

A coalition of forces allied with Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), some of which face UN sanctions, received a shipment of Turkish armored vehicles and arms on Saturday. The shipment arrived amid the GNA’s efforts to stop the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, from advancing toward the capital, Tripoli.

Pictures and videos posted by the coalition on its Facebook pages showed what appeared to be dozens of Turkish-made BMC Kirpi armored vehicles in Tripoli port.

“The GNA is fostering its forces defending Tripoli with armored vehicles, ammunition, and quality weapons,” the pro-GNA coalition said on one of its Facebook pages, without giving further details about the origin of the military equipment.

The cargo ship “Amazon,” flying a Moldovan flag, publicly unloaded its cargo midday on Saturday at one of the wharfs of the Tripoli seaport. The vessel had sailed from the northern Black Sea port of Samsun, Turkey.

Its cargo included a shipment of around 40 armored vehicles of Turkish origin that came from northern Turkey. These were met at the port by forces loyal to Salah Badi, leader of the powerful al-Samoud militia, which has in the past opposed the GNA and any political solution in Libya. Badi was added to a UN sanctions blacklist last November.

Later on Saturday, there were also reports and pictures posted on the Facebook page of another radical Tripoli militia – the Marsa Brigade – of machine guns, sniper rifles, and anti-tank and aircraft missiles, freshly wrapped in crates, with the suggestion that these had also formed part of the Turkish cargo and had been distributed to frontline militia fighters defending Tripoli.

Meanwhile, a Turkish drone was reportedly shot down by the LNA last week, leading to warnings from the national army’s leadership that Turkey was sending weapons to Libya.

The UN has been monitoring for an uptick in Turkish military support for Tripoli militias ever since the GNA’s Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, who founded the Marsa Brigade, made a lengthy visit to Ankara earlier this month.

Bashagha, who is increasingly being seen by GNA insiders as the real power in Tripoli rather than Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, is from Misrata – a Libyan city with strong historical links to Turkey.

Earlier this month, a Tripoli government spokesman said his administration was talking to its ally Turkey to obtain “anything that is needed to stop the assault,” including military and civilian help.

“If correct, this is extremely concerning as it could lead to an escalation of violence and more civilian casualties,” one UN source said.

However, a Libyan media activist based in Turkey who posted pictures of the cargo arriving explained that the move was justified in order for the GNA to “defend themselves against the attack.”

Asked if Bashagha had arranged for the shipment of military equipment, he replied, “Fathi Bashagha has responsibility, but there are other people unknown to the world who are also on the ground.”

The armored vehicles – which are according to experts the BMC Kirpi vehicles or “Hedgehogs” used by the Turkish army – were publicly offloaded in a show of defiance by forces loyal to Badi and displayed on the Facebook page of al-Samoud.

Experts said that defensive military equipment like the armored vehicles could theoretically be allowed into Libya without breaching UN sanctions, but that this would be unlikely given hostilities.

Badi himself was hit by the UN with a travel ban and asset freeze for his role in stirring up violence in Tripoli. The capital was gripped by violence throughout last summer as extremist militias challenged the GNA’s authority.

A statement posted by the British Foreign Office detailing the reasons for his sanctioning said, “Salah Badi… has worked consistently to undermine a political solution in Libya. In August and September 2018, Badi played a leading role in heavy clashes in Tripoli in which at least 120 people were killed, most of whom were civilians.”

Instability in Tripoli and the role of militias backed by Turkey and other countries is one of the reasons put forward by Haftar for trying to take over Tripoli, according to the LNA spokesman.

Links between the militias in Tripoli to more extremist Islamic groups, such as the outlawed terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia as well as al-Qaeda and ISIS, have also become increasingly apparent in recent weeks.

This week saw the fourth attack by ISIS against the rear guard of LNA forces in the south of Libya, in what US intelligence assessments have suggested might be a coordinated military tactic to hamper the LNA’s bid to take Tripoli, and therefore the whole country.

There have also been numerous reports of extremist fighters joining the effort in Tripoli against Haftar, with some returning from Syria as battle-hardened extremists as a result of the bloody conflict, in which Turkey has been closely involved.

Yesterday, there were also rumors that Zeyad Balaem, one of the leaders of Ansar al-Sharia and the Benghazi Shura Council, which Haftar has battled for the past three years, was injured in fighting for the GNA, or at least against Haftar.

Diplomatic sources briefed on the talks with Ankara had previously said that Turkey was being “sensitive” to NATO and US-leadership opinion against sending weapons to Libya, which remains under a UN arms embargo, and was using the opportunity to seek economic concessions.

Last night, however, a senior Western diplomatic source said it does not appear as if Turkey is at all concerned with “upping the ante and their position with the Americans.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/05/19/Cargo-ship-loaded-with-Turkish-military-vehicles-arrives-in-Tripoli.html

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Turkish arms in Libya before 'vast operation' to break siege

May 19, 2019

Libyan forces loyal to the government based in Tripoli say they have received new weapons and armored vehicles to fight off an offensive backed by the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to seize the capital.

Forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) published pictures on their official Facebook page of what appeared to be Turkish-made Kirpi combat vehicles.  

They are currently battling military strongman Khalifa Haftar's fighters who launched an offensive on April 4 to take the Libyan capital and topple the GNA government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Haftar's forces have been held back from the city center, with fighting continuing on the outskirts of Tripoli and particularly in the southern suburbs.

In a statement, the GNA said the new weaponry had been supplied “in preparation for a vast operation to annihilate the rebels of the war criminal, the rebel Haftar.”

Haftar is supported by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. His forces have deployed precision-guided Blue Arrow 7 missiles known to have been provided to the UAE.

In turn, the renegade general has accused Turkey and Qatar of supplying weapons to his rivals.

A GNA spokesman had told reporters earlier in May that Turkey and other countries would be delivering military and humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations has warned that Haftar's offensive risks thrusting Libya into a full-blown civil war as foreign backers of the warring sides send arms shipments despite a UN arms embargo on the North African state.

At least 400 people have been killed in the offensive which Haftar had predicted to lead to a quick victory in the capital.

With the offensive ground to a halt on the outskirts of Tripoli, the UN has called for a ceasefire but officials say neither side is prepared for a truce.

Sources close to Haftar have said his so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) would be willing to accept a ceasefire without withdrawing its forces from the outskirts of Tripoli, something PM Sarraj has rejected.

The United Nations has characterized Haftar’s push to seize Tripoli as an attempted coup. 

Sarraj has denounced Haftar as an “aspiring military dictator”, saying his US-allied backers were turning Libya into a proxy battleground, risking a war with global implications and further mass migration to Europe.

US President Donald Trump, in a phone call with the renegade general last month, "recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources."

The disclosure of the call prompted thousands of people in Tripoli to hold a protest against the United States and its meddling in their country.

Some European countries, such as France and Italy, have also supported Haftar. Earlier this month, the general met Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and was expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron.

The LNA has almost two-thirds of the country and all of its oilfields under control, and some observers see the West's urge to court Haftar driven by their thirst for Libya's oil. 

Libya has been the scene of fighting between rival groups since the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 after a popular revolt and a Western military intervention.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/19/596314/North-Africa-Libya-GNA-LNA-Weapons-Saudi-Arabia-UAE-Egypt

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Libyan government boasts of new weapons despite arms embargo

May 19, 2019

CAIRO/BENGHAZI, Libya: Fighters allied with the Tripoli government in Libya say they have received armored vehicles and “quality weapons” despite a UN arms embargo on the country.

A Facebook page linked to the Government of National Accord (GNA) posted photos appearing to show more than a dozen armored vehicles arriving at a port, without saying who supplied them.

The Facebook page is run by the media office for the GNA’s counter-offensive against Khalifa Haftar’s Libya National Army (LNA).

Supporters of the various militias allied with the government say the vehicles, which resemble Turkish-made Kirpi armored vehicles, were supplied by Turkey.

Spokesmen for Turkey’s military and Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month his government would stand by Tripoli authorities as they repel an offensive launched by the LNA

The battle for the Libyan capital has threatened to ignite a civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. The UN Security Council imposed an open-ended arms embargo on Libya in February of the same year.

Fathi Bashagha, the interior minister for the Tripoli-based government, also visited Turkey late in April to activate “security and defense agreements” between the two governments.

The offensive on Tripoli was launched April 4 by the LNA, which controls the country’s eastern half.

Haftar, who in recent years has been battling extremists and other militias across eastern Libya, says he is determined to restore stability to the North African country. He has received support from several countries in the region including the UAE and Egypt.

“The GNA supplies armor, ammunition and ... weapons, to its forces who are defending Tripoli,” read a statement published on Facebook.

The weapons embargo has been regularly violated by different groups in Libya, according to the UN. Haftar has accused Turkey and Qatar of supplying weapons to his rivals.

In a September report, the UN’s group of experts on the country noted an increase in the number of armored vehicles supplied to LNA.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month his government would stand by Tripoli authorities.

Initially controlling swathes of Libya’s east, Haftar launched an offensive in the south of the country in January before attacking the coastal capital last month.

His forces have been held back from the city center by pro-government forces, with fighting continuing on the outskirts of Tripoli and particularly in the southern suburbs.

Daesh attack

Two guards and a soldier were killed and four other people were kidnapped on Saturday in a suspected Daesh attack targeting Libya’s Zella oilfield, a security source said.

The death toll was confirmed by the National Oil Company (NOC) which condemned the attack in a statement on Saturday evening.

The attackers struck at an entrance gate to the field, which lies near the town of Zella about 760 km southwest of the capital, Tripoli, before fleeing, according to the source and local residents who asked not to be named.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Aamaq news agency later on Saturday.

The Zella field belongs to Zueitina Oil Company, which pumped 19,000 barrels per day on average in the last quarter of 2018 across all its fields.

An engineer told Reuters workers at the field were safe and facilities had not been damaged.

Libya’s NOC chief said on Saturday continued instability in the country could cause it to lose 95 percent of oil production.

Speaking in Saudi Arabia ahead of a ministerial panel gathering on Sunday of top OPEC and non-OPEC producers, Mustafa Sanalla also confirmed the Zella attack.

Islamic State has been active in Libya in the turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The militant group took control of the coastal city of Sirte in 2015 but lost it late in 2016 to local forces backed by US airstrikes.

In the last two years, the group has targeted three state institutions in Tripoli, home of the UN-backed government of national accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1499311/middle-east

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North America

 

Economic 'workshop' in Manama part of Kushner plan to resolve Israel-Palestine conflict

May 19, 2019

The White House is set to unveil the first part of efforts to resolve Israel-Palestine conflict, spearheaded by US President Donald Trump’s Jewish son-in-law.

Jared Kushner is supposedly starting an economic "workshop" to encourage investing capital in the West Bank, and Gaza Strip CNN reported Sunday, citing a statement by the senior White House adviser.

The event is scheduled to take place in the Bahraini capital Manama on June 25 and 26.

"People are letting their grandfathers' conflict destroy their children's futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist," read the statement by Ivanka Trump’s husband.

The event will bring together finance ministers with global and regional business leaders "to make the area as investible as possible."

The major components discussed during the workshop will be infrastructure, industry, empowering and investing in people, and governance reforms.

The US plans to unveil the so-called “Deal of Century” aimed at ending conflict between Israelis and Palestinians after the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, formation of a new Israeli administration and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, known as the Feast of Weeks in English.

Trump’s “peace plan” has been dismissed by Palestinian authorities even before being unveiled.

Speaking in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on April 16, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh lashed out at Trump’s initiative, asserting that it was “born dead.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/19/596380/Kushner-efforts-for-peace-coming-to-Bahrain

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DOE slacking on Jewish, Muslim dietary options at schools: councilman

By Rich Calder

May 19, 2019

A free-lunch pilot program for Jewish and Muslim city school kids with religious dietary restrictions has been plagued by delays, two politicians charge.

The chairman of the City Council’s education committee says he plans to grill Department of Education officials at a budget hearing Monday on why the taxpayer-funded program to provide free kosher and halal lunches at 10 schools this academic year seems to be half-baked.

Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) said he’s anxious to learn why the DOE couldn’t get the $1 million program off the ground until last month, considering it was slated to begin in September.

He said the delays are especially troubling considering the pilot’s goal is gauging interest in making these meals available universally at all city schools. Since many Muslim students are now fasting because of Ramadan, which began May 6 and runs through June 4, an accurate accounting might not be possible.

“I insist on finding out how much [funding] has been spent, where the money went, and how many meals have been served,” Treyger said. “The lack of transparency is deeply troubling and unacceptable.”

“All New York City students should feel comfortable and included at school, and that means making sure that kosher and halal lunch choices are available,” added Treyger.

Brooklyn Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who secured the $1 million pot of legislative funds for the program, said he inquired about the delays and that DOE attributed some of it to trying to first figure out “how best to avoid bullying” of Muslim and Jewish students over their food choices.

But he and Treyger said DOE has repeatedly blown off their questions about how the money has been spent.

The program began in April, rather than September 2018 as planned, so it’s unclear how much of the $1 million will be used before the school year ends.

DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot declined to discuss the program’s spending, what the department plans to do with leftover funds and whether it plans to give the free lunches a real shot at succeeding next school year.

“After careful planning, community engagement, and extensive work to ensure food and kitchens meet standards set by these communities, we’re excited this pilot is underway in ten schools,” she said in a statement. “We look forward to evaluating the program.”

Full report at:

https://nypost.com/2019/05/19/doe-slacking-on-jewish-muslim-dietary-options-at-schools-councilman/

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US sanctions force Hezbollah to cut spending on fighters: Washington Post report

19 May 2019

Re-imposed US sanctions have affected Iran’s ability to finance Hezbollah, its proxy in Lebanon, forcing the militia group to cut expenditure by recalling fighters in Syria and laying off employees at its television channel Al-Manar, according to a report published by The Washington Post.

The United States has denied the Iranian regime over $10 billion in revenue and expects that number to increase dramatically, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told Al Arabiya English last month after Washington declared it would start ending waivers to Tehran’s oil customers.

“What we are doing is making it harder for Hezbollah to meet payroll, because 70% of Hezbollah’s revenue comes from the Iranian regime. Historically Iran gives Hezbollah $700 million a year, that’s 70% of their budget,” Hook said at the time.

According to The Washington Post’s report, the brunt of Hezbollah’s spending cuts has affected its fighters and their families, who will now be denied from receiving free medicines and even groceries.

The US sanctions have also forced Hezbollah to either furlough its fighters or reassign them to its reserve units, one official said, where they would receive lower salaries or no pay at all.

In March, the leader of Hezbollah called on his supporters to donate funds.

“The resistance needs your support ... because we are in the heart of the struggle,” Hassan Nasrallah said at the time. He added that the group will face the US sanctions with “patience and steadfastness.”

One senior Hezbollah official who spoke to The Washington Post admitted that the group’s income from Iran has fallen recently.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/19/US-sanctions-force-Hezbollah-to-cut-spending-on-fighters-Washington-Post-report.html

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US announces start of GCC’s ‘enhanced security patrols’ in Persian Gulf

May 19, 2019

The United States says countries of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council have started patrolling in the region amid the US escalation of tensions with Tehran.

The "enhanced security patrols" began on Saturday, said the Bahrain-based 5th fleet of the US naval forces central command in a statement on Facebook Sunday.

It added that the operations were aimed at “specifically increasing communication and coordination with each other in support of regional naval cooperation and maritime security operations.”

“As agreed to last week in a meeting at US 5th Fleet headquarters in Manama, Bahrain, ships of the GCC - both navies and coast guards - are working in tight coordination with each other and the United States Navy.”

Trump and his hawkish foreign policy advisers such as John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been stepping up pressure against Iranians in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump has also tightened economic sanctions against Tehran and blacklisted the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

In a post earlier in the day, the 5th fleet released the latest updates on the US military presence in the Persian Gulf in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s anti-Iran policies.

“The USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group and the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, with the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted joint operations May 17-18,” read the statement. “The operations highlight the ability of the US Navy to quickly mobilize assets and aggregate different platforms with a variety of operational capabilities.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/19/596379/US-announces-start-of-GCCs-enhanced-security-patrols-in-Persian-Gulf-Iran

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India

 

Mumbai sees surge in zakat fund collectors in month of Ramzan

May 19, 2019

Maulana Obaidullah Qasmi is an imam at a city mosque. Six years ago, he established a madrasa for girls at his native Sitamarhi in Bihar and every Ramzan he approaches the community for donations, including zakat, the 2.5% of annual savings Muslims must give in charity. He is seeking this charity for his madrasa this Ramzan too.

While Qasmi has appealed to the community to donate to his madrasa, there are hundreds ofother maulvis, safeers (representatives) from madrasas and other community-run institutions who are pounding the streets of Mumbai braving the scorching sun and in the relative coolness of the night, seeking zakat. There is no better time than the holy month of Ramzan to seek it as most Muslims give out zakat. One of the five pillars of Islam-the other four are kalima or the declaration that God is one and Muhammad is His Prophet, namaz, roza and haj-zakat is mandatory on those who can afford it. It is considered to be a tool to uplift the community's impoverished as the zakat fund cannot be spent on the financially strong. Keeping this in mind, Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) conducted an online National Zakat Survey last month. There were 4589 responses from 191 cities in India and abroad. "Our survey found that 60% of the people give zakat to same set of individuals and organisations every year," says AMP's president Aamir Idrisi. Other notable findings, adds Idrisi, are that 40% of people give zakat in Ramzan while 55% don't care to find whether zakat has betterred the lives of those who received it. The community gives around Rs 10,000 crore annually in zakat in India, estimates Idrisi.

Who must give zakat? Anyone who is not indebted and has annual savings of 7.5 tolas gold or 52.5 tola silver or its equivalent in rupees which comes around Rs 25000 today has to give zakat. Who can receive zakat funds? The Quran, says senior cleric Maulana Rizwan Khan, prescribes eight kind of people who can receive zakat money. These are: the poor (al-fuqara') or lowincome or indigent, the needy (al-masakin) or someone who is in difficulty, zakat administrators,those whose hearts are to be reconciled or new Muslims and friends of the Muslim community, those in bondage (slaves and captives), the debt-ridden, in the cause of God, the wayfarer or those who are stranded or traveling with few resources.

Maulana Khan adds that many people give zakat in Ramzan because every good deed done in this month gets blessings 70% more than in any other other month. "Ramzan is a blessed month when the Quran was also revealed and therefore most Muslims give zakat in this month though they can give it through the year," explains Maulana Khan.

Many are disappointed that a chunk of zakat is not reachingthe targeted beneficiaries and some unscrupulous elements pocket the money they collect. Former MLA Sohail Lokhandwala recounts an incident a couple of years ago. He says that he visited a north Indian town where he met a person who would collect zakat fund in Mumbai. "I was shocked to see the kind of opulence this man lived in. I knew he had no other source of income and he had prospered because of the zakat funds and other donations he had collected," said Lokhandwala.

To better organise the zakat fund, noted philanthropist and educationist Dr M A Patankar set up a zakat fund through which he reaches out to the needy. "If we create baitul mal and centralise collection of zakat, we can create massive universities ," says Dr Patankar.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/mumbai-sees-surge-in-zakat-fund-collectors-in-month-of-ramzan/articleshow/69395306.cms

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Surat: Police allow food outlets to serve till late during Ramzan

May 20, 2019

Surat (Gujarat): People across the religious spectrum thronged the streets late in the night here, as the city police allowed food outlets to operate till late for the whole month of Ramzan.

In the spirit of the holy month, city Police Commissioner Satish Sharma in a recent notification has allowed food joints to operate late till night in the areas including Chowk Bazaar, Rander, Mahidharpura, Salabatpura, Navsari Bazaar, Sagrampura, etc.

Markets of the diamond city gleamed as people hit the streets late in the night to savour various delicacies such as rangooni paratha, chicken, biryani, and khowsey.

“The markets are full of people enjoying the mouth-watering food. The holy month of Ramzan is being celebrated and enjoyed by people from all communities. People flocking the streets at night to enjoy food reflect the cordial relationship between different communities here,” a shopkeeper Abbas Hans told ANI.

A food-enthusiast Sana Lajporiya echoed similar sentiments, adding, “The food served in these streets, especially non-vegetarian food, is amazing.”

The police have also installed CCTV cameras to keep a close watch on any untoward movements.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/surat-police-allow-food-outlets-serve-till-late-during-ramzan-1498413/

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BSF officer injured as Pakistan violates ceasefire in J&K’s Poonch

May 19, 2019

JAMMU: A BSF assistant sub-inspector was injured as Pakistan violated ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and

Kashmir's Poonch district on Friday night.

According to official sources, Pakistan opened unprovoked fire and shelled mortars targeting forward posts along the LoC in

Krishna Ghati sector, to which the Indian Army retaliated effectively.

During the fire exchange, one of the shells landed at a forward post in Baloni. "A BSF ASI, Satyapal Singh, sustained splinter

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/bsf-officer-injured-as-pakistan-violates-ceasefire-in-jks-poonch/articleshow/69403257.cms

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Hurriyat Leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Hopes New Government At Centre Will Revisit Kashmir Policy

May 20, 2019

Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Sunday expressed hope the new government at the Centre would revisit the Kashmir policy and said his organisation was ready to support all efforts by India and Pakistan aimed at ending hostility in the restive state. A statement by Hurriyat said that Mirwaiz made the comments during a seminar titled ‘The Importance of Dialogue in the Backdrop of Strained Indo-Pak Relations’ in connection with the ongoing “martyr’s week”.

The Mirwaiz said he hoped once the new dispensation in New Delhi takes charge, it would also analyse whether the existing one on the restive state had gone in its favour or instead worsened things on all fronts.

He said Hurriyat was hopeful whosoever takes charge in New Delhi would admit the reality of the Kashmiri dispute and engage with the leadership to end the hostility so that a dignified solution is found to the vexed dispute of Kashmir.

Mirwaiz said he feels the pain whenever any youth is killed in action by security or in encounters. “It was beyond doubt that the gun-wielding local boys were the products of the ongoing oppression and they are getting consumed in the ongoing unresolved conflict,” he said.

The Hurriyat is observing a week-long programme in memory of Mirwaiz’s father Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Farooq and another Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone, who were assassinated on May 21 in 1990 and 2002 respectively.

Mirwaiz said the Hurriyat had participated in the dialogue process with the former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh and also the then Pakistani president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

“It was Vajpayee who had realised the need for resolving the Kashmir issue as he advocated that Kashmir needs to be dealt with in the ambit of humanity,” he said.

Hurriyat, he said, was ready to support all efforts by India and Pakistan aimed at ending hostility and seeking a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue.

He termed the present prevailing situation in Kashmir as sensitive and painful stating that there is no letup in the “policies of repression and intimidations as killings, harassment and CASOs (cordon-and-search-operations) continue unabated even in this holy month of Ramadhan”.

Mirwaiz demanded the release of all political prisoners, repeal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) and taking back all “anti-Kashmiri” measures so that an atmosphere of trust is created in Kashmir.

Another senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Bhat said India and Pakistan must realise the need for resolving the Kashmir issue for the larger interests of the people of South Asia and for that the two nations must take some bold steps.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/lok-sabha-elections/lok-sabha-elections-2019-hurriyat-leader-mirwaiz-umar-farooq-hopes-new-government-at-centre-will-revisit-kashmir-policy/story-BbvdIPvEB6kDX3hg13lbqK.html

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South Asia

 

12 Taliban militants killed, wounded in army operations in Khost, Helmand provinces

20 May 2019

The Afghan army soldiers conducted separate operations against Taliban militants in South-eastern Khost and southern Helmand provinces killing at least 9 militants and wounding 3 others.

“The 203rd Corps conducted an operation in Musa Khel district of Khost province wounding 3 Taliban fighters,” informed military sources said late on Sunday.

The sources further added that “The 215th Corps conducted an operation in Baghran district of Helmand province killing 9 Taliban fighters and detaining 1 other. The 215th Corps also destroyed 3 weapon caches and 38 IEDs.”

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

Helmand and Khost provinces are among the relatively volatile provinces in southern and south-eastern parts of Afghanistan.

Taliban militants are active in some of the restive districts of the two provinces where they often attempt to carry out terrorist related activities against the government and security institutions.

https://www.khaama.com/12-taliban-militants-killed-wounded-in-army-operations-in-khost-helmand-provinces-03422/

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Afghan Special Forces inflict casualties on Taliban militants in Wardak province

20 May 2019

The Afghan Special Forces conducted operations in central Maidan Wardak province killing one Taliban fighter and wounding three others, the informed military sources said Sunday.

The sources further added that the Special Forces also arrested four Taliban fighters during the multi-day operations.

“Afghan Special Forces conducted a multi-day operation in Jaghatu district killing 1 Taliban fighter, wounding 3 and arresting 4,” the sources said.

According to military officials, the Special Forces also confiscated 12 Taliban motorcycles destroyed a weapons cache.

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

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-special-forces-inflict-casualties-on-taliban-militants-in-wardak-province-03421/

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Police forces suffer casualties in militants attack on a security post in Kabul city

20 May 2019

A group of armed militants attacked a security post in the vicinity of 7th police district of Kabul city late on Sunday evening inflicting casualties on six policemen.

Officials in Kabul Police Headquarters are saying that the incident took place in Doghabad area of the city on Sunday evening.

According to police officials, the attack has claimed the lives of three policemen while three others have sustained injuries.

The assailant militants fled the area after storming the security post, the officials added.

The Taliban group has claimed responsibility for the attack claiming that eight policemen were killed in the attack.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claims that the attack was carried out on a security post in Doghabad area located in 11th police district of the city.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/police-forces-suffer-casualties-in-militants-attack-on-a-security-post-in-kabul-city-03420/

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Artillery, airstrikes kill 18 Taliban militants including their 3 commanders in Ghazni

20 May 2019

At least 18 Taliban militants including their three commanders were killed in a series of artillery and airstrikes in south-eastern Ghazni province.

The 203rd Thunder Corps in a statement said Sunday that the Afghan Air Force targeted a group of Taliban militants in Pailoch area of Dehyak district at around 11:00am on Saturday.

The statement further added that the airstrike kill 4 Taliban militants and second airstrike was carried out at 4:00pm local time in Zakir area of the district as Taliban militants were transporting the dead bodies of their comrades.

The two airstrikes killed a total of eight Taliban militants including three of their local commanders who have been identified as Hakim, Rehan and Tahi.

Another airstrike targeted a Taliban vehicle in Kohan Village of Dehyak district on Saturday night killing 6 Taliban militants, the 203rd Thunder Corps said, adding that artillery strikes were also carried out on Taliban positions in Golai Nazar Khan of Andar district killing 4 Taliban fighters.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/artillery-airstrikes-kill-18-taliban-militants-including-their-3-commanders-in-ghazni-03419/

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First session of Afghan parliament ends in brawl over new Speaker

19 May 2019

Afghanistan’s parliament descended into chaos on Sunday when lawmakers brawled over the appointment of a new Speaker, an inauspicious start to the assembly which was sitting for the first time since chaotic elections last year.

Results of last October’s parliamentary election were only finalized earlier this month after repeated technical and organizational problems and widespread accusations of fraud.

Sunday’s incident underscored the turmoil in Afghan politics ahead of presidential elections that are taking place in the shadow of talks between US diplomats and the Taliban about a possible settlement of an 18-year conflict.

On Saturday, Mir Rahman Rahmani, a top businessman, ran for the speakership of the 247-seat house but fell short of a majority by a single vote, triggering a clash between supporters, who declared him the winner, and opponents, who said he had not secured the necessary 124 votes.

“We will never accept the new Speaker and there must be a re-election with new candidates,” said Mariam Sama, a lawmaker from Kabul.

Video footage widely shared on social media showed a brawl among lawmakers, with members of parliament seen blocking the Speaker’s seat and calling for a re-run of the vote.

Rahmani is the father of Ajmal Rahmani, a rich businessman popularly known as “Armored Ajmal” after his business selling bulletproof vehicles to the Kabul elite.

“He has secured a majority of the votes and one vote is not an issue, so he is our new chairman,” said Nahid Farid, a lawmaker from Herat who supports Rahmani.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/05/19/First-session-of-Afghan-parliament-ends-in-brawl-over-new-speaker.html

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Arab World

 

US-Backed Kurdish Forces Prepare for Attacking Syrian Army in Deir Ezzur

May 19, 2019

The Turkish-language Anatoly news agency quoted local sources as saying that After taking control of Eastern Euphrates region, the Kurdish fighters are preparing to launch an attack on Damascus-backed forces in Eastern Euphrates in Deir Ezzur.

It noted that the US-led coalition forces are training the Kurdish fighters Ain Issa bases in Raqqa province and al-Amr oil region in Eastern Deir Ezzur, adding that the trainings include passing through mobile bridges and rivers.

The US-led coalition forces and Kurdish fighters are looking for winning the support of regional tribes for launching the attack after residents of the region called for holding massive protests in Eastern Euphrates and called for expulsion of US-backed Kurdish fighters.

Meantime, the US-led Kurdish militants have held meetings with tribal leasers in al-Amr oil zone.

In a relevant development last week, a large number of people and tribesmen of the Eastern Euphrates region called for the Syrian Army’s return to the areas held by the US and the Syrian Democratic Forces to drive the occupying troops out of the region as popular protests against SDF have heightened.

Media activists in Eastern Syria reported that the residents of the town of al-Shahil in Southeastern Deir Ezzur in communiques released on Saturday called for the return of the Damascus Army troops to the region and expulsion of the occupying forces.

The civilians blasted the US and SDF occupying forces for plundering the oil revenues of al-Jazireh region, and called for return of governmental schools and institutes to the regions.

Meantime, a large number of residents of the town of al-Tayaneh in Southeastern Deir Ezzur held protest rallies against the SDF's measures and called for exit of the occupying forces and setting the captured civilians free.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980229000489

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Syrian Army's Air Defence Downs More Israeli Drones Near Damascus

May 19, 2019

Israel's Army's drones continued attacks for the second consecutive day on Quneitra province, the Arab-language media outlets reported.

The SANA news agency reported that the Syrian Army's air defense systems targeted aerial vehicles coming from Occupied Golan that had violated Qunietra province's airspace.

The Arabic-language version of Sputnik news agency, meantime, pointed to the possibility that the drones have been spy aircraft and the Syrian Army's air defense had confronted two of them that had violated the Syrian airspace in Jabal al-Sheikh in Western Occupied Golan and Khan Arnabeh in Quneitra.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the Syrian Army's air defense systems targeted and shot down an Israeli drone after detecting it coming from Quneitra towards Damascus.

The Syrian Army's air defense systems downed an Israeli regime’s drone near Damascus, SANA news agency quoted a military source as saying.

The source noted that the Syrian air defense detected hostile targets coming from the direction of Quneitra and intercepted them.

In a relevant development earlier, SANA reported that aerial defenses targeted luminous objects coming from the occupied territories, shooting down a number of them.

Meantime, the Arabic-language version of Russian Sputnik News Agency quoted a Syrian security source as saying that the Syrian Army's air defense systems downed an Israeli drone that had entered Syria from Southwestern Damascus.

The source pointed to firing surface-to-air missiles at offending targets in Southwestern Damascus near Syria-Lebanon-Golan triangle, and said that the Syrian Army's air defense systems had confronted six targets and downed a number of them.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980229000325

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Bomb blast hits tourist bus near Egypt pyramids, injures 17

May 20, 2019

GIZA: A bomb blast hit a tourist bus near Egypt’s famed Giza pyramids on Sunday, wounding at least 17 people, including South Africans, in the latest blow to the country’s tourism industry.

The roadside bomb went off as the bus was being driven in Giza, also causing injuries to Egyptians in a nearby car, medical and security sources said. There were no deaths reported.

“A device exploded and smashed the windows of a bus carrying 25 people from South Africa and a private car carrying four Egyptians,” the security source said.

Video footage captured by this news agency showed the bus and car with broken windows on the side of the road.

According to the security source, the wounded were being treated for scratches caused by the broken glass.

Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesman for South Africa’s department of international relations, said that “there might be South Africans involved” but declined to give any figures.

Sunday’s incident comes after three Vietnamese holidaymakers and their Egyptian guide were killed when a roadside bomb hit their bus as it travelled near the Giza pyramids outside Cairo in December.

It also comes just little more than a month before the African Cup of Nations hosted by Egypt is to kick off.

Egypt has been battling an insurgency that surged especially in the turbulent North Sinai region following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was replaced by former army general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide operation against militants, focusing mainly on the North Sinai region.

Some 650 militants and around 45 soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to separate statements by the armed forces.

Since first being elected in 2014, Sisi has presented himself as a bulwark against terrorism, promising stability and increased security.

Recently, the country’s vital tourism industry has started to slowly rebound after suffering strong blows due to deadly attacks targeting tourists following the turmoil of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Figures by the official statistics agency showed that tourist arrivals reached 8.3 million in 2017, compared with 5.3 million the previous year.

Authorities have gone at great lengths to lure tourists back, touting a series of archaeological finds and a new museum next to the pyramids, as well as enhanced security at airports and around ancient sites.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1483418/bomb-blast-hits-tourist-bus-near-egypt-pyramids-injures-17

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US Attempting to Arm Iraqi Tribes

May 19, 2019

The tribal leaders told the Arabic-language al-Arabi al-Jadid news website on Sunday that recently a meeting was held between the US commanders and tribal leaders in Ein al-Assad airbase in al-Anbar in which the Americans vowed to arm the Iraqi tribes.

Meantime, Sa'ad al-Matlabi, a member of Baghdad's governor office council said that arming the tribes in provinces adjacent to Baghdad, including al-Anbar, will force Iraq back to the era of "tribal militants".

He added that if the tribes want to fight terrorism, they can join the official Iraqi Armed Forces.

Relevant reports last month said that US Chargé d'affaires in Baghdad Joey Hood had been attempting to coax the tribal leaders in Western Iraq into supporting the American forces' deployment in the region.

"Hood is trying to change the opinion of a number of tribal leaders in Ameriyeh district of al-Fallujah in his visits to the region and is bribing them to guarantee an agreement with the US forces' continued deployment in the region," Mahdi Taqi, a senior member of the Iraqi parliament's Security and Defense Committee, was quoted by the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website as saying.

He urged the Iraqi foreign ministry to take a strict position against the move, and warned that the US embassy in Baghdad is supporting and sponsoring certain groups in pursuit of destructive goals in Iraq.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980229000724

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Katyusha rocket falls in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone

19 May 2019

A Katyusha rocket has landed in the vicinity of the US embassy in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, according to Al Arabiya’s correspondent.

“A Katyusha rocket fell in the middle of the Green Zone without causing any losses, details to come later,” the Iraqi military said in a statement.

The statement added that the rocket was fired from the al-Ghadeer area in Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces have closed the area leading to the Green Zone, while a combing operation is underway.

US military confirms rocket near embassy in Iraq

Meanwhile, the US military command that oversees the Mideast has confirmed an explosion outside the US Embassy compound in Baghdad and says there are no US or coalition casualties.

A spokesman for US Central Command, Bill Urban, says in a statement that Iraqi Security Forces are investigating Sunday’s incident.

A State Department spokesman says that “a low-grade rocket” landed within the International Zone near the US Embassy and that there was no significant damage or impact on any US-inhabited facility.

The spokesman says that such attacks will not be tolerated and will be responded to “in a decisive manner” and that the US will hold Iran responsible “if any such attacks are conducted by its proxy militia forces or elements of such forces.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/19/Katyusha-rocket-falls-in-Baghdad-s-fortified-Green-Zone.html

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Explosion targets tourist bus near new Egyptian museum

19 May 2019

At least 14 people have been injured in an explosion which targeted a tourist bus in front of the Grand Egyptian Museum close to the Giza Pyramids, according to Al Arabiya sources.

Most of those injured were foreign tourists, two sources told Reuters. One security source said they included South African nationals.

There were no reports of deaths. A witness, Mohamed el-Mandouh, said he heard a “very loud explosion” while sitting in traffic near the site of the blast.

Pictures posted on social media showed a bus with some of its windows blown out or shattered, and debris in the road next to a low wall with a hole in it.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/19/Explosion-targets-a-tourist-bus-near-new-Egyptian-museum-at-the-pyramids.html

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Syria Foreign Ministry dismisses use of chemical weapons in Latakia

May 19, 2019

Syria has dismissed fabricated news issued by terrorist groups and some media outlets affiliated to them about Syrian armed forces' use of chemical weapons in the town of Kobani in the western coastal province of Latakia.

An official source at Syria's Foreign and Expatriates Ministry on Sunday reaffirmed a statement by the general command of the armed forces who has denied such claims as completely baseless, the official news agency SANA reported.

The statement added that Syria had fully cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which declared Syria free of any chemical weapons.

The source emphasized that Syria has never used chemical weapons in the past and would never use them in the future because the Arab country does not possess such arms in the first place while it also considers the use of toxic weapons against its moral and international obligations.

These recurring, hollow and barefaced media fabrication will never dissuade Syria from fighting terrorism until the full restoration of security and safety across the country, the source said.

Earlier in the day, a military source quoted the general command of the armed forces as saying that Syria is going ahead in fighting terror until the last grain of the Syrian soil is cleared from the scourge.

In the past several years, militants have launched dozens of chemical attacks in Syria. Damascus has called on the United Nations to take action in this regard.

Syria surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the United States and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. It has also consistently denied using chemical weapons.

The OPCW, a global watchdog, has documented systematic use of nerve agent sarin and chlorine during Syria's eight-year conflict.

On April 7, 2018, an alleged chemical weapons attack hit the Damascus suburb town of Douma,  just as the Syrian army was about to win the battle against the militants there.

Western states blamed the Syrian government for the incident, but Damascus firmly rejected the accusation.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/19/596375/Latakia-Kobani-Syria-chemical-weapons

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