Preventing Violent Extremism, Promoting Human Rights Go Hand-In-Hand: Ban Ki Moon
February 20, 2015
In Washington D.C. for a summit hosted by the United States on countering violent extremism, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on Thursday warned leaders against "discarding our moral compass."
He also spoke against giving into fear, as he called for "cool heads and common sense" to deal with what may very well be "the greatest test our human family faces in the 21st century."
"Let there be no doubt," Ban proclaimed to a room full of high-level delegates including US secretary of state John Kerry.
He added, "The emergence of a new generation of transnational terrorist groups including Da'esh (or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and Boko Haram is a grave threat to international peace and security."
Among those joining Ban on the panel of the White House Summit on 'Countering Violent Extremism' were US deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, deputy director of the US National Counter-terrorism Center and Nicholas Rasmussen.
French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Judeh, Professor at London's King's College, Peter Neumann, and commissioner for peace and security at the African Union, Smail Chergui were also present.
In his address, the Secretary-General said no cause or grievance can justify the "unspeakable horrors" that terrorist groups are carrying out against innocent people, the majority of whom are Muslim. Women and girls, he added, are particularly subject to systemic abuses, rape, kidnapping, forced marriage and sexual slavery.
"These extremists are pursuing a deliberate strategy of shock and awe, beheadings, burnings, and snuff films designed to polarize and terrorize, and provoke and divide us," the UN chief added, commending UN Member States for their political will to defeat terrorist groups and at the same time, urging them to stay "mindful of the pitfalls."
"Many years of our experience have proven that short-sighted policies, failed leadership and an utter disregard for human dignity and human rights have causes tremendous frustration and anger on the part of people who we serve," the UN chief said.
He outlined what he called four imperatives to deal with violent extremism. First, the world must look for motivations behind such ideologies and conflict. While this has proven over and over again to be a "notoriously difficult exercise," it is vital to realize that poisonous ideologies do not emerge from thin air, oppression, corruption and injustice fuels extremism and violence.
"Extremist leaders cultivate the alienation that festers. They themselves are pretenders, criminals, gangsters, thugs on the farthest fringes of the faiths they claim to represent. Yet they prey on disaffected young people without jobs or even a sense of belonging where they were born. And they exploit social media to boost their ranks and make fear go viral," Ban said.
Second on the list of essentials to combat extremism is promoting human rights. The Secretary-General warned against "sweeping definitions" of terrorism that too often criminalize the legitimate actions of opposition groups, civil society organizations and human rights defenders.
"Governments should not use the fight against terrorism and extremism as a pretext to attack one's critics. Extremists deliberately seek to incite such over-reactions. And we must not fall into those traps," he said.
Third, preventing violent extremism requires a multi-pronged approach. While military operations are crucial, they are not the entire solution. "Bullets are not the silver bullet," Ban said, emphasizing that while missiles may kill terrorists, good governance kills terrorism.
"Human rights, accountable institutions, the equitable delivery of services, and political participation, these are among our most powerful weapons," the Secretary-General stressed.
Combating extremism must start in the classroom, he added.
According to him, education must play a decisive role and children must be taught compassion, diversity and empathy.
Finally, the fourth priority is recognizing that violent extremism is a global challenge. It transcends borders. No single country can defeat terrorism. Rather all country must come together, 'join hands', to win the battle against violent extremism.
The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006, provides such a comprehensive framework. And last September, in a meeting chaired by US President Barack Obama, the Security Council adopted a resolution further strengthening collective efforts.
Ban also expressed concern over the connection between anti-immigration forces and extremists who feed off each other in a 'death spiral of intolerance.'
The UN will present a plan of action to prevent violent extremism to its General Assembly later this year, the Secretary-General said. A special event will be held in the coming months to bring together faith leaders to send a message of tolerance and solidarity.
"I take heart when I read of a Muslim clerk spiriting Jewish patrons to safety in a Paris grocery store...or when Christians open a cathedral to Muslims fleeing carnage in the Central African Republic...or when thousands counter terrible bloodshed with marches of solidarity from Copenhagen to Chapel Hill," Ban concluded.
Among his activities on the margins of the Summit, the Secretary-General discussed the situation in Libya with secretary of state Kerry; the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini; and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim.
They expressed deep concern over the situation in the North African country and stressed the importance of political dialogue as the only way out of the current crisis. They fully supported the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Bernardino Leon, to facilitate dialogue. They emphasized the importance for all parties to participate in the next round of talks.
The UN chief also met with Nabil El-Araby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States; as well as with Moussa Faki Mahamat, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chad; with Iyad Ameen Madanim, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; and with Abdul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.
Faulted for Avoiding ‘Islamic’ Labels to Describe Terrorism, White House Cites a Strategic Logic
February 20, 2015
WASHINGTON — President Obama chooses his words with particular care when he addresses the volatile connections between religion and terrorism. He and his aides have avoided labeling acts of brutal violence by Al Qaeda, the so-called Islamic State and their allies as “Muslim” terrorism or describing their ideology as “Islamic” or “jihadist.”
With remarkable consistency — including at a high-profile White House meeting this week, “Countering Violent Extremism” — they have favored bland, generic terms over anything that explicitly connects attacks or plots to Islam.
Obama aides say there is a strategic logic to his vocabulary: Labeling noxious beliefs and mass murder as “Islamic” would play right into the hands of terrorists who claim that the United States is at war with Islam itself. The last thing the president should do, they say, is imply that the United States lumps the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims with vicious terrorist groups.
But Mr. Obama’s verbal tactics have become a target for a growing chorus of critics who believe the evasive language is a sign that he is failing to look squarely at the threat from militant Islam. The vague phrasing, they say, projects uncertainty and weakness at a time when extremists claiming to fight for Islam threaten America and its interests around the world.
“Part of this is a semantic battle, but it’s a semantic battle that goes to deeper issues,” said Peter Wehner, a veteran of the past three Republican administrations and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Self-deception is not a good idea in politics or international affairs. We’re lying to ourselves, and the world knows it.”
While the most vehement criticism has come from Mr. Obama’s political opponents on the right, a few liberals and former security officials have begun to echo the criticism.
“You cannot defeat an enemy that you do not admit exists,” Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, told a House hearing last week. “I really, really strongly believe that the American public needs and wants moral, intellectual and really strategic clarity and courage on this threat.”
Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University and author of a book on Islam in America, said he supported the Obama administration’s care in avoiding a counterproductive smear of all Muslims. But he said the president sometimes seemed to bring an academic approach to a visceral, highly politicized discussion.
“Obama’s reaching a point where he may have to ditch this almost scholastic position,” Mr. Ahmed said. “He sounds like a distinguished professor in the ivory tower, and he may have to come down into the hurly-burly of politics.”
Addressing the extremism conference on Wednesday, Mr. Obama acknowledged the complaints and took pains to try to explain his approach.
“Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge, so I want to be very clear about how I see it,” the president said. “Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam.”
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But Mr. Obama said that “we must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.” The operatives of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, “are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists,” he said.
The president’s comments suggest that the criticism has disturbed him. “You know your talking points are no longer working when you have to talk about your talking points,” said Peter D. Feaver, a political scientist at Duke who was deeply involved in shaping President George W. Bush’s language while he worked at the White House from 2005 to 2007.
Choosing what to say about the enemy during the long campaign against Al Qaeda, and now the Islamic State, was a challenge for Mr. Bush as well as for Mr. Obama, Mr. Feaver said. The nation’s terrorist enemies define themselves as fighters for Islam, lace their propaganda with quotes from the Quran and claim to speak for all Muslims. But an overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide reject the Qaeda ideology and condemn terrorist attacks.
Mr. Bush, too, struggled at times to find the right terms for the fight against Al Qaeda. He used and then quickly dropped the word “crusade” for the American campaign against terrorism, concerned that he was playing into the terrorists’ view of a centuries-long clash of civilizations.
He favored the formula “war on terror,” but was battered by critics inside and outside the government who said that it was impossible to wage war against a tactic, Mr. Feaver recalled. For months before a major speech by the president in 2005, different agencies fought over what, exactly, Mr. Bush should call the enemy.
In the end, he effectively threw up his hands. “Some call this evil Islamic radicalism,” he said in the speech. “Others, militant jihadism. Still, others Islamo-fascism. Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam.” But he went on to regularly use the term “Islamic radicalism,” which Mr. Obama has shunned.
Many advocates for Muslims appreciate Mr. Obama’s care in keeping their religion separate from the terrorist groups whose claims they reject. “We support the Obama administration and the administration before them for not falling into the Al Qaeda-ISIS trap of saying this is a religious war,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national group.
But even Ms. Khera complained that the name of the White House conference on the topic was too vague. While the label was “violent extremism,” the vast majority of speakers spoke only about Islamic extremism, ignoring all other kinds, she said. “If the summit were called ‘Countering ISIS,’ that would be fine,” she said. “But it’s not.”
Daniel Benjamin, who served as the State Department’s top counterterrorism official from 2009 to 2012, said he believed that the dispute was a “pseudocontroversy” driven largely by domestic politics, even if it has produced some clumsy moments in the White House press room. What the debate has missed, he said, is that any American president has to think about how his words are received overseas.
“Our allies against ISIS in the region are out there every day saying, ‘This is not Islam,’ ” said Mr. Benjamin, now at Dartmouth. “We don’t want to undermine them. Any good it would do to trumpet ‘Islamic radicalism’ would be overwhelmed by the damage it would do to those relationships.”
President Obama's Countering Violent Extremism Summit Divides American Muslim Activists
19 February 2015
Sahar Habib Ghazi
The White House is convening a massive 3-day international summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) this week, with community leaders and government officials from 60 countries. CVE is a US government policy that calls for local community and religious leaders to work with law enforcement and government agencies to fight violent extremism.
The government policy is accused of heavily targeting Muslims in America and largely ignoring domestic right-wing extremism and other violent hate groups, while fueling Islamophobia in the country. Muslim American activists taking part in the summit have faced criticism for participating.
Canada-based Twitter user Maher Arar tweeted to his 11K followers:
Maher's bio says, “I have been called torture victim, al-Qaeda pawn, FBI agent, activist. Call me whatever you wish but let us together make the world a better place to live in.”
The summit comes days after the Center of American Progress (CAP) released an interactive document “Fear, Inc. 2.0, The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America.” The report shows that since 9/11, a $57 million network of “misinformation” Islamophopic experts have helped marginalize the country's 2.6 million Muslims by advocating for discriminatory policies.
The central tenet of the Islamophobia network is that American Muslims want sharia law to supplant the US constitution. Even though the American Civil Liberties Union has labeled it a “mythical” threat that “clearly seeks to ride the recent wave of anti-Muslim bias in this country”, more than 32 states have introduced “anti-sharia” legislation, with language “cut and paste” from members of the network, according to the Center of American Progress.
The CAP investigation explains how anti-Muslim hysteria has impacted ordinary American Muslims through surveillance and profiling by law enforcement agencies, and documents the rise of hate crimes, following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, and attacks similar to the recent Chapel Hill murders of 3 Muslim students.
Before the summit commenced, civil rights group Muslim Advocates said:
By primarily focusing on Muslims, this summit and government CVE programs undermine the safety of all Americans, including American Muslims, who are living with the very real, well-founded fear that their neighbors may do them harm. Muslim Advocates has urged the administration to broaden the focus of the summit and is extraordinarily disappointed that it has refused to do so.
Muslim-Canadian journalist Sana Saeed, who works in the San Francisco based AJ+, critiqued the summit:
For Muslim-America community leaders attending the summit, the outpouring of distrust on social media was counter-productive. Wajahat Ali, a Muslim-American journalist, and Haroon Moghul, a Muslim-American writer, were live tweeting from the conference:
Wajahat, also quoted American Muslim lawmaker Keith Ellison referring to the three victims of the Chapel Hill shooting:
While the summit was going on, articles like “What The Atlantic Gets Dangerously Wrong About ISIS And Islam” and “Enough about Islam: Why religion is not the most useful way to understand ISIS” and were being shared by activists.
The latter article concludes: ”To understand and counter ISIS’s threat and appeal, frame it properly. Identity-based extremism and millenarian apocalyptic cults provide a far more useful framework for understanding ISIS than Islam does.”
At the end of the first day of the summit, Wajahat Ali wrote this on his public Facebook page:
I welcome critiques of today's CVE summit and the government's foreign policy, counter terrorism efforts and national security endeavors that have created a tremendous trust deficit with Muslim communities, both here and abroad. Law enforcement “engagement” has been often abused as surveillance in the post 9-11 climate by some local, state and federal law enforcement agencies: NYPD spying, mosque crawlers, community rakers, shady GPS devices attached to cars, and on and on. [..]
To all who observe this for the past two decades, this reeks of hypocrisy; it betrays the best of our America values, erodes our civil liberties and gives credence to extremist messaging that indeed “The West is at War with Islam.” The feeling of “security” gained by depriving liberties of those who are often the most marginalized is illusory and self-defeating.
But, violent extremists – especially abroad – do exist, and their victims are mostly Muslims. The ones who die at the hands of ISIS and pick up guns to fight the scourge of ISIS are Muslims.
There are numerous problems that exist. Whether we like it or not, the government is going to move forward with CVE and CT measures. Does it suck? Yes, it sucks. That doesn't mean you accept it wholesale, but you have to accept that this is the current and forseeable [sic] reality. [...]
You don't have to agree, and it's perfectly legitimate to be frustrated by the polarizing rhetoric, self-defeating policies, myopic strategies and some troubling actors. But know it'd be a lot worse if people didn't participate and act in their respective capacities.
KANDAHAR/ISLAMABAD - The US and the Taliban central spokesman Thursday denied plans to hold peace talks in Qatar, contradicting earlier claims by militant leaders that contacts would resume in the Gulf state within weeks.
The denials came after multiple commanders said five former members of the Taliban supreme council would soon restart contacts with US officials in Qatar to try to get peace talks on track after more than 13 years of war in Afghanistan.
"The United States currently has no meetings with the Taliban scheduled in Doha," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.
The Taliban's central command also sought to distance itself from the announcement, saying its conditions for full-blown talks were a long way from being met.
"We do not have any plans for negotiations with anyone in Qatar. Regarding the negotiations, there is no new changes in the policy of Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
Presidents Obama, Bush Sound a Lot Alike on Countering Islamic Extremism
By ROBIN WRIGHT
February 20, 2015
Despite the partisan squabbles in Washington, President Barack Obama’s recent speeches on countering extremism could have been given by a Democrat or a Republican. The neo-cons of the Bush era called for the same five-point strategy: confronting extremism, promoting democracy, addressing public grievances, creating opportunities for disillusioned youth, and dignity for all.
Indeed, the two presidents have given speeches with almost identical language on the subject—and the various components of U.S. policy.
Six days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, President George W. Bush spoke at the Islamic Center of Washington.
“These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that,” he said. “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. . . . Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
President Barack Obama has argued the U.S. has one thing going for it that Europe doesn't: a tradition of warmly embracing its immigrants, including Muslims. Muslims living across the U.S. respond to his comments:
"Muslims have been here maybe since the inception of this country. The Muslim-American history is rooted even in the forefathers. President Jefferson had a copy of the Holy Quran." — Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who believes "American Muslims here feel maybe more integrated" than in Europe.
"American Muslims have been fortunate to live well in the U.S. based on our constitutional freedoms. In European countries, Muslims are made to feel as the other or the outsider. ... Still, American Muslims have not been spared from prejudice and discrimination in the last 15 years." — Teacher Debbie Almontaser, founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arab-themed public school in New York.
Washington- Frustrated over al-Qaida's recognition as a global terror outfit, its chief Osama bin Laden wanted to change the name of the group to identify it more closely with Islam, before he was killed by US Special Forces in Pakistan, the White House has said.
" Bin Laden even contemplated, in those writings, changing the name of al-Qaida to try to more closely identify it with Islam," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, referring to the treasure trove of information recovered from the Abbottabad hide out of the al-Qaida leader.
"He felt like that would be helpful to their flagging recruiting efforts. That is an indication that our efforts to be crystal-clear about what it is that we're fighting and what we're not has not just been successful, but actually frustrated the efforts of our enemies," Earnest said.
In the operation to recover and bring to justice Laden, US commandos also recovered a treasure trove of material from his residence where they were able to evaluate some of his ongoing communications and even some of his thinking about the state of al-Qaida, he said yesterday.
More Muslim Groups Voice Willingness To Combat Extremism In Their Faith
FEBRUARY 20, 2015
The reluctance of President Obama and others to link Middle East terrorism explicitly to Islam at this week's "Countering Violent Extremism" summit exposed them to withering criticism, and not entirely from conservatives. Some Muslim reformers who have been struggling to combat radicalism in their mosques and communities have been willing to talk about the extremist ideologies they encounter.
"I think it's very important to be clear about this message, and to name it," says Zainab Al-Suwaij, the executive director of the American Islamic Congress. "When we talk about radical Islam, it does exist, and I don't need to be diplomatic [about it]. I think the message should be loud and clear, and this is not going to harm anyone.
"We are Muslims, we're feeling it — we're the first victims of it. I want the whole world to hear about it."
Many other Muslim leaders, however, push back against any portrayal of the terrorism problem that suggests any ties to Islam.
Even though the Obama administration chose words carefully in describing the White House summit, several Muslim American organizations declined to attend, saying they objected to its nearly exclusive focus on Muslim communities; such an approach, they said in a joint statement, "sets American Muslim communities apart as inherently suspect."
A tweet during the conference by Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, even stirred some controversy.
"One of the most important challenges we face is from within," Madani said. "The [Islamic] faith is being hijacked by extremists."
The comment brought a retort from Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the organizations that declined to participate in the summit.
"I don't think the faith is hijacked," Awad said. "The grievances have been hijacked, but not the faith itself. No one can hijack my faith — people can misinterpret it, but they cannot hijack it."
STERLING, Va. — Imam Mohamed Magid tries to stay in regular contact with the teenager who came to him a few months ago, at his family’s urging, to discuss how he was being wooed by online recruiters working for the Islamic State, the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.
But the imam, a scholar bursting with charm and authority, has struggled to compete. Though he has successfully intervened in the cases of five other young men, persuading them to abandon plans to fight overseas, the Islamic State’s recruiting efforts have become even more disturbing, he said, and nonstop.
“The recruiters wouldn’t leave him alone,” Imam Magid said of the young man he met with recently. “They were on social media with him at all hours, they tweet him at night, first thing in the morning. If I talk to him for an hour, they undo him in two hours.”
Turkish prime minister calls upon Muslim Ummah to get ready to face challenges
February 20, 2015
Prime Minister of Republic of Turkey Professor Dr. Ahmet Davutoglu has said that great challenge for Muslim Ummah today is transformation of minds according to our values as no civilisation flourishes on the basis of military ascendancy or economic superiority, says a press release.
He was delivering a lecture organised by Riphah International University in Islamabad. He said the civilisations emerge on the basis of moral values and we need to integrate political ethics, social justice and economic progress only then we can set examples for others.
He paid great tribute to Allama Iqbal and said he was man of vision and a great thinker. “We need to have people like him to face the challenges of the modern era,” he added. He said that terrorist organizations like Daish and some religious groups were misrepresenting Islam by resorting to violence and terrorism while Islam is a religion of peace and freedom. The true image of Islam can emerge only when we transform and train our younger generation in our university and educational institutions. He particularly appreciated Riphah International University for playing an important role in this regard.
Islamic State militants in Turkey, plotting attacks
February 20, 2015
ISTANBUL - Islamic State militants have entered Turkey and are plotting to attack diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkish media on Thursday quoted the national intelligence agency (MIT) as saying.
Around 3,000 militants from the ultra-radical group in Syria and Iraq are looking to enter Turkey through its southern border after failing to take the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, the Hurriyet newspaper reported the internal MIT note as saying.
Some militants, including senior commanders who are planning the attacks, are thought to have already entered Turkey and are in safe houses, the note said, without saying how many entered.
"Militants expert in suicide and bomb attacks are preparing attacks on the Istanbul and Ankara missions of coalition forces which intervened in Syria," it said.
Terrorism has no place in Syria’s future: Iran official
Feb 20, 2015
An top Iranian diplomat has hailed Syria's recent gains against militants, saying terrorism has no place in the Arab country’s future.
Only a political approach can settle the Syria crisis and the Syrian government pays attention to opposition groups which favor a political solution, said Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs.
“However, armed opposition [groups] linked to terrorism have no place in Syria’s future,” he added.
The Iranian diplomat pointed to Syria’s capturing of some towns and districts in the city of Aleppo and said “this victory heralds full and quick liberation of Aleppo from the clutches terrorists and irresponsible armed groups.”
Islamic Jihad leader: Situation in Gaza is 'tough'
February 20, 2015
Senior Islamic Jihad leader Khader Habib yesterday described the situation in the Gaza Strip as "tough" and said it is causing worries and concerns, Qudsnet said.
Speaking exclusively to Qudsnet, Habib said: "Gaza lives in a real crisis from the economic and political sides. No one is happy about this situation. The incompletion of the reconciliation deal and the continuous Israeli siege make the situation more complicated."
Regarding the latest series of explosions in Gaza, Habib said: "The security situation in the Strip is not reassuring. In addition to the siege, there are certain people pushing ahead for a confrontation with the Israeli occupation."
He suggested the "real" implementation of internal Palestinian reconciliation and the unity government has to carry out its missions in Gaza.
Habib said that the Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip are unable to bear more internal conflicts; therefore, he called for Hamas and Fatah to end their political rivalries.
At least 3,000 IS fighters may have infiltrated Turkey post being pushed out of Syria's Kobani
February 20, 2015
At least 3,000 Islamic State (IS) militants have reportedly infiltrated Turkey post being driven out of the border town of Kobani.
According to The Daily Express, the news was broken by a Turkish newspaper that published an internal memo from MIT, Turkey's National Intelligence Organization. It said that IS militants, including senior commanders plotting terror attacks in Turkey, are believed to have infiltrated the nation and hidden in safe houses.
The memo warned that militants with great expertise in carrying out suicide and bomb attacks were preparing to attack Istanbul and Ankara missions of coalition forces who intervened in Syria.
1,150 policemen stand guard at Turkey's presidential palace
February 20th, 2015
A total of 1,150 policemen stand guard at Turkey’s newly built 1,150-room presidential palace, which has caused debates with its humongous size and cost.
Some 50 million Turkish Liras were spent on the high-tech security system of the palace, which is frequently praised by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to sources.
The policemen, who more than double the 450 guards at former presidential palace Çankaya in number, are on duty 24 hours, both inside the palace and outside the courtyard, as it is located inside a forested area in the capital city of Ankara and has a fence surrounding about five kilometers. Some 3,000 surveillance cameras help oversee this area, demanding a huge investment in equipment and the infrastructure to control it.
Iran to never back down from nuclear rights: Speaker
Feb 20, 2015
Iran's Parliament (Majlis) speaker says the Iranian government and nation will never retreat from their rights as the Islamic Republic continues its talks with the P5+1 group of countries in a bid to seal a comprehensive and final deal over its nuclear program.
Ali Larijani said Thursday that superpowers seek to hamper Iran’s progress in the nuclear science "by creating challenges on the international stage," but the country will "not back down an iota from its rights."
He reiterated that the country will not abandon its drive on the nuclear front.
"Pressure and sanctions by hegemonic powers will have no bearing on Iran's peaceful nuclear know-how, and our country will maintain its position in this [nuclear] science under any circumstances," said the top legislator, who served as the country’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2005 and 2007.
Christians, Jews, Muslims hold peace march in London
February 20th, 2015
LONDON: Christians, Jews and Muslims from all walks of British life made a pilgrimage through central London on Thursday, in a show of unity against the hatred that drove recent attacks in France and Denmark.
More than 100 people, including faith leaders, children and pensioners, walked in the rain from London’s main mosque at Regent’s Park to the Central Synagogue and then through the bustling crowds of Soho to Westminster Abbey.
At each venue they gathered for a moment of reflection, led variously by the local imam, rabbi and priest, to emphasise their shared values and hopes for peace.
“The terrorists hope to divide us but these atrocities are uniting us,” Sheikh Khalifa Ezzat, chief imam at London Central Mosque, said.
The march was called in response to last month’s Islamist attacks in Paris, by a group of religious leaders brought together under the inter-faith Coexist programme.
Since then Europe has been rocked by the shootings in Copenhagen, which once again targeted free speech and the Jewish community.
COPENHAGEN — Arrested for stabbing a 19-year-old passenger on a commuter train in November 2013, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein blamed the effects of hashish for his brutal, random and nearly fatal attack, telling a court last December that he had been gripped by wild fear and thought his victim wanted to hurt him.
Last weekend, just two weeks after his release from prison for the knife attack, Mr. Hussein went on another violent rampage, killing two strangers and wounding five police officers. But this time he was gripped not by drugs, but by a fanatical strand of Islam whose mission, according to a message he posted on Facebook shortly before the attacks, “is to destroy you.”
Mr. Hussein’s journey from drug-addled street thug to self-proclaimed jihadist declaring loyalty to the Islamic State has stirred soul-searching in liberal-minded Denmark over whether Islam, in fact, was really a prime motivator for his violence, or merely served as a justifying cover for violent criminality.
CAIRO – A series of anti-Muslim notes threatening to kill all Muslims in America and Europe have rattled the Muslim community in Revere, Boston, as police announced investigation into the disturbing messages.
“The matter is under investigation and we take it seriously,” Lieutenant Amy O’Hara, a Revere police spokeswoman, said in an e-mail to Boston Globe.
The notes were found near the Revere Beach MBTA station Tuesday morning.
Other messages were found in a snowbank close to the corner of Beach Street and North Shore Road in Revere.
Locals posted photos of the messages which were handwritten in a scrawl mixing capital and lowercase letters.
One read, “We must kill all Muslims in America Destroy + burn all Koran [Qur'an] books.” “All Muslims will be killed in America + Europe,” read part of another.
In a diverse city like Revere, the incident was described as “disturbing”.
“It’s very troubling when you know there’s a person out there that wants to spew that type of hate and to destroy something that the city has worked really hard for,” Mayor Daniel Rizzo said Wednesday.
1,700 Russians fighting for Takfiri groups in Iraq: Moscow
Feb 20, 2015
Moscow says around 1,700 Russian citizens are fighting alongside Takfiri terrorist groups in Iraq.
Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov said on Friday that the number of Russian nationals who have joined the terrorist groups in Iraq has doubled over the past year.
The Russian chief voiced concern over the rising number of militant recruits in the European country, saying the terrorists’ possible return to their homeland poses a great danger to Russia’s security and stability.
Bortnikov made the remarks during an official visit to the United States.
The Russian National Antiterrorism Committee had earlier warned that there are “at least 10,000 resources” on the Internet that propagate terrorist ideology.
Islam in Italy: Muslim with traditional clothes and Koran insulted and shouted at in Milan
February 20, 2015
A student in Italy dressed in traditional Islamic clothing appears to have been the subject of a string of derogatory comments as the public’s reaction to his appearance was caught on camera.
Hamdy Mahisen, who is of Egyptian origin, attracted stares and insults as he walked around Milan for five hours, while holding a Koran in one hand and prayer beads in the other for a social experiment.
Groups of teenage girls and boys do not hide their astonishment at the sight of his appearance and openly stare, laugh and turn round to look at him in the footage as he walks past.
Italy is currently on high-alert after a warning that Libyan militants inspired by Isis could make their way into Europe through the country.
This has fuelled Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment towards refugees who have fled Africa before setting off on treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean to Italy in unsafe and overcrowded boats.
Belgian town has become a ‘laboratory’ for countering ISIS recruitment, mayor tells anti-extremism summit
February 20, 2015
WASHINGTON — Vilvoorde is a sleepy, little Flemish town not far from Brussels, but over the last few years it has become a hotbed for radicalization and recruitment by the Islamic State of Iraq & Al-Sham terrorist organization.
For Hans Bonte, who has been mayor since 2013, ISIS’s inroads have made his town a “laboratory” for examining how to stop young people from joining violent extremist groups.
“We have seen young people leaving [to join ISIS] from virtually every secondary school in my city or from every neighbourhood,” he told the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism Wednesday.
In all, 28 young people, mostly boys but also some girls, have left to fight with ISIS since 2012. Of those, five are dead and eight have returned. Two are in prison.
Equally important is the fact some of the original recruits are now senior members of ISIS’s “foreign ministry,” said Mr. Bonte, who was among community leaders speaking at the summit.
Muslims to form a human shield around Norway synagogue
20 February 2015
OSLO: The headlines have been grim. Europe’s Jews face “rising anti-Semitism“; in some countries, many are leaving in “record numbers.” In separate incidents in recent months, gunmen have targeted Jews and Jewish institutions in Paris and Copenhagen. Even the Jewish dead have not been left in peace, with reports of graves being desecrated.
But the future of tolerance and multiculturalism in Europe is far from bleak. Some communities are trying to build solidarity in their hometowns and cities.
One group of Muslims in Norway plans to form a “ring of peace” around a synagogue in Oslo on Saturday. On a Facebook page promoting the event, the group explained its motivations. Here’s a translated version of the invite: “Islam is about protecting our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to. Islam is about rising above hate and never sinking to the same level as the haters. Islam is about defending each other. Muslims want to show that we deeply deplore all types of hatred of Jews, and that we are there to support them. We will therefore create a human ring around the synagogue on Saturday 21 February. Encourage everyone to come!”
Full report at:
Muslim man disputes White’s account of ‘slap’ conversation
February 20, 2015
BELTON — An Austin-area Muslim claims state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, mischaracterized a conversation she had with him to members of the Central Texas Tea Party when she claimed members of the Texas Muslim community wanted to “come and slap” her for a recent Facebook post.
White made an unannounced appearance at the group’s monthly meeting Tuesday and talked about the criticism she received for a Jan. 29 Facebook post detailing instructions she left her staff on how to receive visitors during Texas Muslim Capitol Day. She also described a meeting she had with a resident from Austin who is Muslim.
The post instructed staff members to ask “representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”
White told the group she posted the message to Facebook because the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ past involvement in Texas Muslim Capitol Day was brought to her attention. White repeated assertions the council was one of 82 organizations designated as a terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates in November and that Mustafaa Carroll, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Houston branch, allegedly said practicing Muslims are “above the law of the land.”
British teen who said he wanted to behead a soldier convicted of terrorism
February 20, 2015
LONDON (AP) — A British teenager who rapidly became radicalized after converting to Islam was convicted Thursday of planning to behead a soldier.
A jury at London's Central Criminal Court found 19-year-old Brusthom Ziamani guilty of preparing an act of terrorism.
The London-born teenager was raised by Jehovah's Witness parents but converted to Islam early in 2014 and became influenced by the radical group al-Muhajiroun.
Prosecutors said Ziamani was inspired by the two Islamic extremists who murdered soldier Lee Rigby in a London street in 2013.
They said he researched the location of army cadet bases in London and told his girlfriend he planned to "kill soldiers" before he was arrested in August with a 12-inch (30-centimeter) knife and a hammer in his backpack.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo outlines €10bn housing plan to tackle Islamic extremism
February 20, 2015
The Mayor of Paris has announced a €10bn (£7.3bn) plan to fight against the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism by outlining a series of measures promoting social inclusion and better housing in the French capital.
Anne Hidalgo said the plan was to improve social housing, prisons and schools to tackle the sort of anti-social climate where radicalism can breed.
"I recall that both Kouachi brothers Charlie Hebdo bombers were, for example, homeless in Paris, in the 19th district," Hidalgo said.
The Kouachi brothers were raised and radicalised in an area of rundown estates on the outskirts of Paris. The younger brother, Chérif Kouachi, became marginalised at the age of 18 after having been moved between care homes during his childhood. He lived like a homeless person in Paris, from one mattress to the next.
UNITED NATIONS — Libya’s foreign minister demanded that the U.N. Security Council lift an arms embargo so his country can fight the Islamic State group as it establishes a presence in north Africa and moves closer to Europe.
Foreign Minister Mohammed al Dairi spoke to an emergency session of the council amid regional alarm after the Islamic State group over the weekend posted a video of the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
Al Dairi stressed that Libya is not asking for international intervention. But he said the international community has a “legal and moral responsibility to lend urgent support” and that the region, including the Mediterranean, is in danger.
“If we fail to have arms provided to us, this can only play into the hands of extremists,” he said. He told reporters he wanted to see the same attention paid the danger in Libya as has been paid to Iraq and Syria, where a U.S.-led coalition is battling the Islamic State group.
The foreign minister of neighboring Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, called for a naval blockade on arms heading to areas of Libya outside the control of “legitimate authorities.” He did not rule out troops on the ground in Libya and said his country was seeking international support “by all means.”
Nigeria's air force has bombed Boko Haram strongholds in northeast Borno state, killing "a large number of terrorists", as a four-nation offensive against the group presses on, a military statement said.
The targets of the bombardment on Thursday included the town of Gwoza, where Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau first proclaimed the existence of a caliphate inside in Nigeria in August, and the notorious Sambisa Forest area, where the rebels have had camps for years.
"The air strikes which today targeted... Sambisa forests and parts of Gwoza have been highly successful," defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said in a statement.
"The death of a large number of terrorists has been recorded." Nigerian military claims of successes against Boko Haram have in the past not been consistent with witness accounts and it was not immediately possible to verify the details of the latest operation.
The Islamic State (IS) has wreaked havoc in the Middle East, seizing vast areas of Iraq and Syria and now it is taking advantage of Libya's collapse into anarchy.
It has gained a foothold in key towns and cities in the mostly lawless North African state, prompting Egypt - seeing itself as the bulwark against Islamists in region - to launch air strikes against the group.
After the two war-ravaged Middle Eastern states, IS has launched its most high-profile attacks in Libya, bombing an upmarket hotel in the capital, Tripoli, in January, and releasing a video earlier this month showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians it had kidnapped.
For UK-based Libyan academic, Mohamed Ahdash, the emergence of IS affiliates in Libya is not surprising.
Full report at:
Morocco arrests 3 seeking to join ISIS in Libya
February 20, 2015
RABAT, Morocco: Morocco has announced the arrest of three men suspected of seeking to join the extremist ISIS' Libyan branch.
The statement Thursday by the Interior Ministry said the men were arrested in the coastal city of Casablanca and Oujda, which is on the Algerian border. All three came from the town of Sidi Bennour.
The statement described Libya as a "magnet" for extremists in the region. A number of extremist groups in Libya have recently pledged allegiance to the Syria-based ISIS and are battling local militias.
More than a thousand Moroccans have left to join extremist groups, usually fighting in Syria.
The Moroccan statement said those arrested had links with three others arrested on Dec. 31, also from Sidi Bennour and seeking to go fight in Libya.
Tunisia unity government stirs crisis in leading party
20 Feb 2015
Tunis - The announcement this month by Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid of a national unity government including the moderate Islamist party Ennahda has touched off a crisis inside Nidaa Tounes, the leading political party in the country's parliament.
Despite the government receiving a vote of confidence from more than 75 percent of the parliament's members on February 5, Nidaa is still managing the fallout from the decision.
The tensions within Nidaa revolve around the ideological opposition of some members to partnering with Ennahda, along with a lack of internal democratic structures, leading many in the party's ranks to feel unrepresented in the leadership's decisions.
In response to the crisis, Nidaa has developed plans for the establishment of a representative political steering committee and the election of new leadership at a party congress tentatively scheduled for September.
UK sets conditions to lift arms bans against Libya
Feb 20, 2015
Britain says the arms sanctions on Libya will be removed if a united government is established in the North African country and the international community supports it.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond made the remarks on Thursday, a day after Libya called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to remove the arms sanctions on the North African country to help its military fight the Takfiri militants operating there.
“The problem is that there isn’t a government in Libya that is effective and in control of its territory. There isn’t a Libyan military which the international community can effectively support,” Hammond said.
He further laid down conditions on the lifting of the sanction on Tripoli, saying, “The first condition has to be the creation of a government of national unity... then the international community needs to rally very quickly around that government of national unity and ensure that it has the means to deal with” terrorism.
In an address to the 15-member UNSC on Wednesday, Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi called on the international community to help Libya build its national army, adding, “This would come through a lifting of the embargo on weapons, so that our army can receive material and weapons, so as to deal with this rampant terrorism.”
Muslim unity need of hour for making prosperous Pakistan: Sardar Yousaf
19 February 2015
ISLAMABAD: The unity of Muslim community was need of the hour as people could better play their role for progress, prosperity and stability of the country through unity and harmony, Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yusuf Khan said Thursday.
Chairing a preparatory meeting of 700 years celebrations of Hazrat Rukan-e-Alam, the minister said Pakistan is an outcome of the benefaction of Sufi saints and we can protect the solidarity of the country by following their teachings.
The celebrations of Hazrat Rukan-e-Alam are being arranged by Anjaman-e-Historical and Archaeological Pakistan headed by Dr Ghzanfer Mehdi. The conference will be held on March 10, 2015 and about 500 delegates will participate in the celebrations.
The minister said Sufi saints had rendered valuable services for the humanity and unity of the Muslim Ummah in Indo-Pak subcontinent, so guidance would be sought from their teachings.
Today the country was facing the menace of terrorism, which could be countered following the teachings of the saints. The conference on Sufism would convey the message of unity and peace to the world, the minister added.
LAHORE - Scholars of all schools of thought have expressed their solidarity and cooperation with government and administration against any type of terrorist activity and terrorism in the name of religion or sect.
Commissioner Lahore Division Abdullah Khan Sumbal presided over a meeting on Thursday regarding Divisional Peace Committee and ulemas of all schools of thoughts, CCPO Lahore, DCO Lahore, MNAs and MPAs participated in the meeting.
The scholars have unanimously said that for the efforts of establishment of peace and to curb the terrorists, ulema were already making their sincere efforts, and must put their energies in the favour of government and administration. They said that they would leave no stone unturned to make government strategy a success against the enemies of Islam and Pakistan.
The Commissioner said that role of ulemas is pivotal and vital to combat against terrorism. He said without the cooperation of ulemas, no strategy and plan could be succeeded fully. He said that ulemas were playing their peaceful role to uproot the enemies of our religion and state.
234 madrassas in Balochistan receive foreign cash: official
February 20, 2015
ISLAMABAD: At least 234 madrassas in Balochistan are being funded by ‘brotherly’ Muslim countries, home department officials tasked with investigating religious seminaries in the province said on Thursday.
“We have collected enough evidence against 234 madrassas accused of receiving financial assistance from foreign countries,” a senior official told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
“The list [of these seminaries] has been shared with relevant agencies and departments [the Federal Investigation Agency and State Bank of Pakistan] so that their accounts can be scrutinised and the sources of their funding traced,” he said.
“But the list will go on,” the official added.
The revelation comes barely days after authorities in Punjab admitted that around a thousand madrassas in the province were receiving funds from overseas.
When contacted, Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Khan Durrani confirmed that various cases have been forwarded to agencies concerned for further investigation, but did not specify the number of madrassas against whom evidence of foreign funding had been collected.
However, he revealed that more than 3,000 of the province’s 5,441 madrassas are not registered. “Some 5,330 of the 129,997 students that study in seminaries in Balochistan are foreigners, mostly of Afghan descent,” Durrani said.
The home secretary added that the surveillance of madrassas suspected of being funded by other countries was still an ongoing process.
I brought 'real' democracy to Pakistan: Pervez Musharraf
February 20, 2015
Former president general (retd) Pervez Musharraf blatantly stated that he was the man who brought real democracy to Pakistan.
“People assume that just because there are elections, there is a democratic set-up in place,” the former dictator said in an exclusive interview with Indian media channel Zee News.
“Elections are just the beginning of democracy,” he said.
The former president said that India should start treating Pakistan as a sovereign state. “India should not ask us to submit to them, only then will it clear tensions between the two countries. And we will move forward through bilateral relations.”
Musharraf said that he would not attend incumbent Indian president Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony – unlike Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did.
Faisalabad: for the past year, dozens of Christian families have been homeless, threatened by Muslims
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - "We have lived here for 25 years, since the then (martyred) Bishop John Joseph gave us this land, from a government tender. Then, one day, the Samundari municipal government suddenly demolished our houses, without warning us," said Fazal Masih, a local Christian elder who had his own home torn down. The town is located in Faisalabad District, Punjab province.
Speaking to AsiaNews, he said, "For months, we have been forced to live in some makeshift shelters on land "owned by local Muslims" and "their relatives". During this period, "Part of our group has been forced to live in tents, and our relatives have received threats from Muslim neighbours."
For dozens of Christian families in Samundari, this is a desperate situation. For years, they lived in the town, in 72 houses. In recent years, 13 additional houses were built near a local government hospital that was never used, except as a barn and an animal shelter.
Asghar Ali Jutt, a local Muslim landowner, has always held a deep hatred towards Christians because of their faith.
MANSEHRA: A Jamaat Ahle Sunnat leader was gunned down in Oghi here on Wednesday night.
The local residents said gunmen killed JAS tehsil president Maulana Mehmood Shah when he was on the way home after leading Isha prayer at Masjid Rizwia.
They said the killers later fled.
The residents said the body was autopsied at the Civil Hospital before being given to the family for burial.
The funeral prayer of the deceased was offered in Oghi on Thursday, where the people from different walks of life were in attendance.
The police lodged an FIR and began investigation into the killing.
However, no arrests were made by Thursday night.
Addressing a news conference in the day, JAS leaders Maulana Habibul Malik, Maulana Qudratullah Qadri and Maulana Umar Farooq Saeedi demanded early arrest of the killers and warned the party’s activists would take to the streets throughout Hazara division if the demand was not met within 24 hours.
Khyber Agency IDPs: Caught between militants and camp misery
February 20th, 2015
Rehman Shah, 42, of Shalobar tribe of Bara has little faith in the government’s assurances about restoring peace in Bara, or the peaceful return of thousands of displaced families to their homes in the near future.
Living with his family of six in a patchy tent in Phase four of the Jalozai camp, Shah said security forces were still conducting search operations in most parts of Bara. Meanwhile, the proscribed organisation Lashkar-i-Islam once again issued a warning to avenge those who dared to come back.
“Everybody knew living in a tent in extreme weather conditions was not going to be easy. The displaced families are more than willing to go back to their homes, but cannot do so in the face of threats from militant groups and continuous military operations,” he said.
The Bara IDPs were expected to return home in mid February, as announced by Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan in December last year. He claimed that most of the area, except a few pockets in the remote Tirah valley, were cleared of militants after a successful military operation.
Military courts to hear Shikarpur imambargah blast case: Sharjeel Memon
February 20th, 2015
KARACHI: Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon announced Thursday that the Shikarpur imambargah blast case would be tried in military courts, prompting Shuhada Committee to call off its protests after drawn out negotiations.
Addressing a joint press conference with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Shikarpur Shuhada Committee leader Allama Maqsood Ali Domki, the provincial information minister said that a joint interrogation team (JIT) will be formed to probe the attack on the imambargah which had claimed the lives of more than 60 people.
Spirit to beat terror should stay firm in heart of ‘a PM and a soldier’
February 20, 2015
QUETTA - Assuring the nation of making all-out efforts for complete elimination of terrorism from the country, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Thursday that immense sacrifices rendered by the nation’s martyrs would serve as a beacon for the jawans of Counter-Terrorism Force.
“This is our determination and I believe that this spirit should remain firm in the heart of a prime minister, a soldier and every Pakistani,” he said.
Addressing the passing-out parade of first Special Combat Unit here at the provincial capital, the prime minister said the fight against terrorism was deeply integrated with country’s social and economic life and there was no choice but to succeed.
He felicitated the men and women personnel who underwent training successfully. He expressed confidence that these “sons and daughters of the nation” would not hesitate from any sacrifice.
Kerry lauds Pakistan’s efforts for regional peace, holds talks with Nisar
February 20, 2015
WASHINGTON - Secretary of State John Kerry expressed United States’ appreciation for Pakistan’s “critical” efforts towards peace and security in the region as he hosted talks with Minister for Interior Affairs Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, underscoring wide-ranging cooperative ties between the two countries.
“Pakistan obviously is playing a critical role right now in a number of respects,” Kerry said, while welcoming the minister for a meeting at the State Department. Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani accompanied the minister, who is representing Pakistan at the Summit on countering violent extremism. On the US side, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman assisted Secretary Kerry during the meeting. “First of all, in the transition taking place in Afghanistan, we are witnessing an unprecedented level of effort to try to produce cooperation. And thus far, there are some signs of real results with respect to that. And we’re grateful for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s commitment to this, for Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif’s efforts. They’ve been real”, Kerry said, standing alongside the minister before the meeting.
Pakistan has no option but to win war on terror: Nawaz
February 20, 2015
QUETTA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday said the entire nation was united against terrorism and will definitely win this war as it was a matter of survival for Pakistan’s future generations.
Addressing the passing-out parade of first Special Combat Unit here at the provincial capital, the Prime Minister said Pakistan was currently facing serious challenge of terrorism that need to be countered with patience, tolerance, courage and a high state of vigilance. “The war initiated across the country against terrorism will continue till its logical end,” the prime minister said. He said it was in this regard that a Counter-Terrorism force has been established, equipped with modern weapons and equipment, and were being trained for special intelligence operations and investigation.
Hizb ut-Tahrir insists it rejects violence following Abbott's 'desperate' accusation
20 February 2015
Hizb ut-Tahrir has made clear its opposition to violent political change and distanced itself from the militia group Islamic State in a public meeting ahead of an anticipated crackdown by the Abbott government.
A spokesman for the Sydney-based Islamic organisation, Wassim Doureihi, accused Tony Abbott of using Hizb ut-Tahrir to distract from his domestic political problems and a “desperate act by a desperate man that reeks of insecurity”.
The prime minister has shadowed the announcement of new legislation on Monday that would target “Hizb ut-Tahrir and others who nurture extremism in our suburbs”, accusing the group of justifying terrorism and inspiring young people to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq.
In response, nearly 100 Muslim activists, clerics, performers, scholars and organisations released a public petition on Thursday in protest against the government’s latest push for wider security powers.
At a media event in Lakemba on Thursday evening, Doureihi said Abbott’s claims “would be laughable if they were not so serious”.
He read out a number of official statements the organisation has issued in the past year rejecting the caliphate declared by Isis, arguing that whoever went to fight in Syria did so in opposition to the group’s ideology.
“If Hizb ut-Tahrir was the cause of radicalisation, as the government suggests, then surely the expectation would be that the ones we inspire should be like us,” he said.
Doureihi said the group considered the idea of establishing an Islamic government in Australia to be “absurd”. “Campaigning for Islamic change in a non-Islamic country is laughable.”
But when asked whether he “condemned” Isis, Doureihi stopped short, arguing he was not interested in “the superficial politics of condemnation”.
Doureihi highlighted that members of Hizb ut-Tahrir had been criticised and killed by Isis militants, saying the group appeared to be “too extreme for the moderates and too moderate for the extremists”.
He said Hizb ut-Tahrir had a “divine” belief against violence, “where we consider it a crime against God”.
Australia's response to 9/11 was more damaging to freedom than any other country's
19 February 2015
On Sunday, Tony Abbott signalled a shift in the political focus back to national security issues ahead of a major speech on the subject next Monday. That followed his graphic detailing under parliamentary privilege of the allegations against two men recently arrested for terrorism crimes. And the government’s data retention bill is still the subject of negotiation with Labor and the Senate crossbenchers.
There is a lot to be said for taking a step back from the flurry of law-making, raids and arrests, as well as the tragic siege in Sydney’s Martin Place, which marked the last months of 2014 and thinking about Australia’s terrorism response more holistically. What have we done in the years since September 11? What has worked and what needs revisiting? Have we ensured that security has strengthened rather than fractured our diverse community?
Australia's most senior Muslim says it was a mistake to vote for Tony Abbott
20 February 2015
Australia’s most senior Muslim leader has said he won’t “repeat the mistake” of voting for Tony Abbott, and publicly advised the prime minister to “work in any field other than politics”.
The strong comments by the Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed come amid other signs of a serious breakdown in relations between the Abbott government and large elements of Australia’s Muslim communities, ahead of the expected announcement of new security legislation on Monday.
Abbott criticised the grand mufti on the Bolt Report last Sunday for suggesting it would be a political mistake to ban the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, saying his comments were “wrong-headed” and unhelpful.
Islamic Museum of Australia founder Moustafa Fahour launches book on his ‘journey’
February 20th, 2015
MOUSTAFA Fahour was a banker with no background in museums, curation or building design but he wasn’t going to let that get in the way of his dream.
The former Preston resident, now living in Dubai, founded Australia’s first Islamic museum, which opened a year ago in Thornbury and has written a book titled The Journey, to be launched today, about bringing the ambitious project to fruition.
He said the museum had become a blueprint for others, which could soon be rolled out interstate with offers of land to build one in Sydney and other approaches from around Australia.
Asaduddin Owaisi takes to 'Gandhigiri' to protest ban in Bengaluru
Feb 20, 201
HYDERABAD: Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi on Thursday resorted to "Gandhigiri" to protest denial of permission to address a public meeting in Bangaluru.
Owaisi insisted additional police commissioner Noorullah Shareef to accept flowers much to the amusement of onlookers as he came to his office to serve the notice barring his entry into Bangaluru from February 19-25.
The notice cited court cases against Owaisi and the content of his speeches to bar his entry in the run up to the Bengaluru civic polls for which the MIM plans to field its candidates.
The officer seemed baffled at the unusual gesture and repeatedly said he cannot accept the flowers as a government servant.
NEW DELHI: Months after a blast in Burdwan blew the lid off a thriving network of Bangladeshi terror outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh in India, home secretary L C Goyal has proposed an anti-terror pact with the eastern neighbour, envisaging a structured mechanism for exchange of terror information and updates.
During the Indo-Bangla home secretary-level talks here on February 16 and 17, Goyal also handed to his Bangladeshi counterpart Md Mozammel Haque Khan a list of 39 camps of Indian insurgent groups still operating out of Bangladeshi territory. Seeking a crackdown on the camps of Ulfa, NDFB, National Liberation Front of Tripura and United National Liberation Front (Manipur) etc, concentrated in the Chittagong region, the Indian side is believed to have provided Dhaka with their detailed coordinates.
Ishrat Jahan case: CBI sticks to guns on IB man's role
Feb 20, 201
NEW DELHI: Seeking sanction to prosecute the then joint director of Intelligence Bureau Rajinder Kumar in Ishrat Jahan encounter case, CBI has sent clarification to the home ministry reiterating that there was ample evidence to prosecute the officer.
The agency has recently dispatched its clarification countering 12 apparent holes that the home ministry has picked in CBI plea seeking sanction to prosecute Kumar.
The ministry had asked some pointed questions related to agency's theory of planting weapons on the victims, testimony of witnesses, identity of those involved among others.
The home ministry had also asked explanation of the agency on its position regarding the chief of Ahmedabad Police in the case.
Israel offers top-notch military technologies for 'Make in India' endeavour
TNN | Feb 20, 2015
NEW DELHI: Israel has offered India all help with top-notch military technologies like the Iron Dome interceptor in tune with PM Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' policy, which includes indigenous defence production as a key thrust area.
Visiting Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya'alon on Thursday said he had discussed with Modi the "best way" to implement the 'Make in India' policy as well as further bolster the already robust bilateral defence ties. "The sky is the limit," said Ya'alon, the first-ever Israeli defence minister to visit India since bilateral diplomatic relations were established in 1992.
A tiny country which had kept its "hostile" neighbours at bay by developing new warfare technologies to intercept enemy missiles and rockets like the Iron Dome interceptor, Israel can cooperate closely in the defence-security arena with flexible technology transfer, he said.
Muslim bodies have lost relevance: Urdu varsity chancellor Sareshwala
February 20, 2015
Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) Zafar Sareshwala, who is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after meeting Islamic seminary Nadwatul Uloom rector Maulana Rabey Hasan Nadwi in Lucknow on Thursday claimed that several Muslim bodies including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) have lost their relevance and, with the exception of Rabey Hasan, all are fools.
“In AIMPLB, except its president Maulana Rabey Hasan Nadwi, rest all are fools. I feel that Muslim bodies like AIMPLB have no vision. They have failed to prioritise their issues,” Sareshwala told The Indian Express on Thursday.
He added: “There are other bodies like the Muslim Majlis Mushawarrat which became defunct in 1964, but still its dead body is being carried on by some Muslim leaders. It is stinking now. Another is Milli Council. These are all redundant.”
Sareshwala also lashed out at Muslim leaders stating that most of them clamour for posts in various Muslim bodies at the cost of the community’s development.
Scrap talks, sever all ties with Pakistan, says Saamna
TNN | Feb 20, 2015
MUMBAI: India should cut off all ties with Pakistan in view of Islamabad's "rabid anti-India" campaign as evidenced during the recent India-Pakistan cricket match, Saamna said in an editorial on Thursday.
Pointing out that unprecedented ire swept through Pakistan after it was defeated by India at the World Cup match last Sunday, Saamna said 'hate India' was the neighbouring country's single-point agenda.
It was said that the World Cup match would help improve bilateral ties. However, the manner in which television sets were publicly smashed on the streets of Lahore and Karachi following India's victory is ample proof that mutual dialogue will in no way lead to cementing better New Delhi-Islamabad relations, the Sena daily added.
"Neither Modi nor Sharif can do much to end the India-Pakistan impasse...India should have no truck with Pakistan. Islamabad is beyond repair," said the newspaper. Saamna complimented Mohammad Tauseef, the father of Indian bowler Mohammed Shami, for saying that his son played like a brave soldier against Pakistan.
Talks could begin between Taliban and Afghan government after 13 years of war
19 February 2015
After more than a decade of war, formal talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban will begin in the coming weeks, the country’s president has told key aides.
According to a senior government official, the president, Ashraf Ghani, believes meetings could begin in early March after Pakistan signalled its support for the move.
Previous western-sponsored attempts to get Afghan government and Taliban representatives around the same table failed under Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai.
Although the Afghan Taliban’s spokesman denied there were any plans for talks, hopes are rising following Pakistan’s decision to pressurise the insurgent leadership.
On Tuesday, Gen Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s powerful military chief, travelled to Kabul to tell Ghani the Taliban were increasingly amenable to discussions.
Pakistan has considerable influence over the Taliban, a movement that was supported by Islamabad in the 1990s and which since 2001 has been free to use Pakistani territory to launch attacks against the western-backed government in Kabul.
Since becoming president last year, Ghani has worked assiduously to secure Pakistan’s help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table by addressing Pakistani fears that Afghanistan is a base for its enemies.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned the targeting of innocent civilians in the ongoing political violence in Bangladesh and called for an immediate end to such attacks.
Kerry, following his meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in Washington Thursday, stated that there could be "no tolerance" for tactics that target innocent citizens or "inhibit political expression" in a democratic Bangladesh, according to a bdnews24.com report.
Shahbaz Taseer and Ali Haider Gillani are in Afghanistan: Minister
February 20, 2015
Lahore- Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada said today that Shahbaz Taseer, son of the late Salman Taseer and Ali Haider Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, are held captive in Afghanistan.
While replying a question in Punjab Assembly, the provincial home minister said that COAS General Raheel Sharif has raised the issue with the Afghan government for their release.
He said that the government was trying its best to secure release of both Shahbaz and Ali Haider. Khanzada said that suspects from KPK are involved in almost 95 percent of the cases of kidnapping for ransom in the province, adding security has been beefed up on roads linking KPK with Punjab. He said that in the last two years 324 cases of kidnapping for ransom were registered while 19 captives were killed in the same period. Shahbaz Taseer was abducted from Lahore in August 2011 while Ali Haider was kidnapped from Multan in May 2013. Since their abduction it was widely believed that both of them were held in North Waziristan, where Pakistan Army launched operation Zarb-e-Azb in June last year.
Religious Freedom Protection Bill Close to Completion
Feb 20, 2015
Jakarta. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has almost completed drafting a bill on protecting freedom of religion in Indonesia, saying a new law is necessary to keep the peace in society by, for instance, clarifying what exactly constitutes blasphemy.
“We have prepared the legislation draft and are still perfecting it,” Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin told newsportal Tempo.co on Thursday.
Under the proposed law, the ministry will be better able to deal with, for example, expressions of support for groups like the Islamic State movement, the minister said.
The law draft will be open in April for public comment, especially from religious leaders and human rights activists.
Lukman said late last year that the bill on religious tolerance that would guarantee one’s right to freedom of religion, including protection of minority religious groups.
Earlier, in July, Lukman won praise from rights activists and minority groups as he said he recognized Baha’i as a faith, although he later clarified that it was his personal opinion, not a policy of the government.
MCA has retaliated against PAS for insisting that non-Muslim traders shut their businesses during Friday prayers, saying the directive was impinging on their rights and completely unfair.
In a statement today, Koo Chin Nam, the deputy chairman of the MCA Syariah Law and Policy Implementation Special Task Force said, “Building up a new culture and imposing the cultural values onto others whilst compelling the others of a different racial and religious affiliation to accept such values are not proper and correct.”
He said the PAS-led state government continued to ignore non-Muslim traders despite some warning they would relocate their businesses if the Kota Bharu Municipal Council (MPKB) was unflinching about the directive.
ALOR SETAR: Embracing Islam does not prevent ethnic Chinese, Lijah Ariffin, 79, from celebrating the Chinese New Year yearly with her family and close relatives.
Lijah, from Sungai Lalang in Bedong, Kedah was adopted by a Muslim family from Simpang Empat here before she was one.
“I was adopted by a Muslim family when I was less than a year-old. Since then, I was educated and brought up, in accordance with Islamic teachings,” she told Bernama when met at her home in Kota Sarang Semut recently.
Lijah is the oldest of seven children, six of whom did not embrace Islam.
Nevertheless, that did not become a barrier for the them as the family bond is ever so strong in that the seven celebrate the Chinese New Year together, year in and out.
“Every Chinese New Year, my siblings will come to visit me at my son’s house and they send oranges…that is sufficient for me.
Islamic varsity ‘advises’ duo to quit student activist group
20 February 2015
Two students from Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim) have allegedly been “advised” by the varsity’s authorities to resign from an undergraduates’ movement for purportedly flouting the institution’s rules and regulations.
Gabungan Mahasiswa Islam se-Malaysia (Gamis) president Mohd Imran Md Ishak and deputy Ahmad Fahmi Mokhtar received a letter from the varsity on Wednesday on the matter, said committee member Saiful Mujahid Mohd Fadzil.
"In the letter, Usim vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Musa Ahmad insisted that Imran and Fahmi resign from Gamis.
"And if they resist, the university said it will proceed with disciplinary action against the two," Saiful told The Malaysian Insider.
Saiful, who is the head of Gamis national political council, said the group condemned Usim's actions and that its excuses did not make sense.
Indonesia says 'nothing whatsoever' will stop execution of two Australians
20 February 2015
Indonesia’s attorney general declared on that Friday “nothing whatsoever” could stop the execution of two Australians from going ahead, promising the drug smugglers would face the firing squad as soon as possible.
The reaffirmation comes as tension builds between Indonesia and Australia over the fate of the two prisoners, with Tony Abbott again accused by Jakarta of making threats in his bid to save the pair.
But Australian diplomatic efforts continued, with the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, confirming she had contacted the Indonesian vice-president by telephone on Thursday.
Indonesian authorities have confirmed that Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine heroin trafficking group, will be among the next group of prisoners on death row to be executed.
Abraham Samad Refuses to Answer S. Sulawesi Police Summons
Feb 20, 2015
Jakarta. Citing a presumed procedural mistake, suspended Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Abraham Samad on Friday refused to show up for questioning as demanded by the South Sulawesi Police, who have named him a suspect for allegedly falsifying state documents.
“He [Abraham] won’t be coming, this morning we sent a notification letter to the South Sulawesi Police through our legal team there,” said Abraham’s lawyer, Dadang Trisasongko.
The lawyer explained that Abraham decided to skip the questioning session because the summons letter he received did not mention the number of a sprindik, a document marking the start of an official investigation, and that there were several other events he had to attend.
Dadang said that as long as the sprindik number was not mentioned in the summons, Abraham’s legal team would assume that police had not officially started investigating Abraham.
Jakarta. President Joko Widodo on Friday morning inaugurated three new temporary leaders of the nation’s under-fire antigraft agency.
Taufiqurahman Ruki and Johan Budi were inaugurated to replace Abraham Samad and Bambang Widjojanto, respectively as chairman and deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Abraham and Bambang were suspended after having been named suspects in old criminal cases in what observers say is an attempt to weaken the KPK as part of a conflict with elements within the National Police.
The third new leader, Indriyanto Seno Aji, replaces Busyro Muqoddas, whose term as KPK deputy chairman ended last year.
WASHINGTON - The fight against violent extremism is a ‘third world war’ that knows no borders, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Thursday, in urging greater international efforts to counter the threat.
Violent extremists groups count foreign fighters from about 90 different countries, ‘all potential terrorists in their own country when they return,’ Judeh said during a three-day conference on combating extremism hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington.
In the wake of brutal attacks in Europe and the Middle East, Obama said earlier that more must be done to prevent groups like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda from recruiting and radicalising.
Up to 25,000 Iraqi troops preparing for attack on Islamic State in Mosul
20 February 2015
The operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city from Islamic State militants will likely begin in April or May and will involve about 12 Iraqi brigades, or between 20,000 and 25,000 troops, a senior US military official has said.
Laying out details of the expected Mosul operation for the first time, the official from US Central Command said five Iraqi Army brigades will soon go through coalition training in Iraq to prepare for the mission.
Those five would make up the core fighting force that would launch the attack, but they would be supplemented by three smaller brigades serving as reserve forces, along with three Peshmerga brigades who would contain the Islamic State fighters from the north and west.The Peshmerga are Kurdish forces from northern Iraq.
The official said there also would be a Mosul fighting force, largely made up of former Mosul police and tribal forces, who would have to be ready to go back into the city once the army units clear out the Islamic State fighters.
Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, a member of King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue (KACND) and a member of the Council of Senior Ulema, recently coined religious extremism as a disease that afflicts a number of Saudi youths. According to the Saudi scholar, this disease is turning young men from good, benefiting citizens to people who are willing to inflict harm and damage on the society.
Al-Mutlaq was speaking during a dialogue session held in the presence of a number of young men in Jeddah, where he also stressed that extremist youths do not fully understand their national and religious role in building the country.
Full report at:
Islamic State lays claim to North African outpost
February 20, 2015
(Reuters) - The images match the worst of Islamic State's atrocities: black-clad fighters and an English-speaking jihadist taunt the West before slaughtering their victims in orange jumpsuits on a Libyan beach.
Their masked leader turns to the Mediterranean and points a bloodied knife towards Europe, declaring, "We will conquer Rome, God willing."
The execution of 21 Egyptian Christians by militants in Libya proclaiming allegiance to Islamic State was an announcement that the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has spread from Syria and Iraq to Libya. Militants have profited from chaos to claim a North African outpost a boat ride away from Italy's coast.
International reaction came swiftly. Egyptian jets pounded suspected militant sites in Libya, and Paris joined Cairo in calling for U.N. action to halt the militants' spread.
Libya appears to be Islamic State's most successful move yet beyond its Middle East heartland, likely attracting more recruits and increasing Western fears of a new North African base for jihadist fighters.
Suspected ISIL Takfiris seize university in Sirte: Report
Feb 19, 2015
The university in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte has reportedly been captured by militants claiming to be members of the Takfiri ISIL terrorist group.
According to a professor of the university, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the militants suspended the classes and postponed the exams following the seizure on Thursday.
The move came a day after dozens of gunmen, who brandished the ISIL’s flag, paraded through the streets of the city. The militants were heavily armed, the reports said.
Earlier in the month, the alleged ISIL militants seized a state-run radio station in Sirte. A former local official said the militants also established a headquarters in the city center.
ISIL terror gains momentum in Libya
On February 15, the Takfiri ISIL group released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. The Egyptians, whose photos were published in the latest online edition of the ISIL magazine, Dabiq, had reportedly been abducted in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte in two attacks in December and January last year.
Also in January, alleged ISIL gunmen stormed Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, killing nine people, including a Frenchman and a US security consultant.
Last month, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni warned that Libya may turn into a safe haven for the Takfiri ISIL terrorists, who currently control swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, thus posing a significant challenge to the security and stability of the world.
Source of conflict
Libya’s government and elected parliament moved to Tobruk after an armed group from Misrata seized Tripoli and most government institutions in August.
The new Tripoli rulers have set up a rival parliament and government not recognized by the international community.
Libya plunged into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. The ouster of Gaddafi gave rise to a patchwork of heavily-armed militias and deep political divisions.
The country has been witnessing numerous clashes between government forces and rival militia groups that refuse to lay down arms. The groups are now turning their guns on each other in an attempt to dominate politics and the country’s vast oil resources.
untless memories haunt me after a decade of service in Iraq. Gripping the hands of an assassin-felled member of the provisional government as the life slipped out of her body in 2003; watching al Qaeda’s beheadings of American hostages in 2004; seeing photos of young Sunni prisoners raped and tortured by Iran-backed Shiite militias serving within the Iraqi police in 2005; and sitting helplessly at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as news came in of al Qaeda’s 2006 bombing of al-Askari Mosque, one of the holiest sites for Shiite Islam, ushering in the civil war.
But after countless visits to Arlington National Cemetery and Walter Reed Medical Center, nothing upsets me more than the fact that thousands of American soldiers, diplomats, intelligence officers, and contractors are now enabling and emboldening a government in Baghdad that is simply beyond redemption.
Surrounded by Conflict, an Ancient Synagogue Crumbles in Iraq
FEBRUARY 19, 2015
ALQOSH, Iraq—The 800-year-old synagogue believed to house the tomb of the biblical prophet Nahum could become the next victim of Iraq's ancient and modern conflicts.
The crumbling stone walls, weakened by weeds sprouting from cracks, tilt precariously over a sidewalk; the decorative buttresses that prop up the pockmarked roof appear ready to cave in.
To keep the historic structure from collapsing, authorities have erected a makeshift metal awning to shield it from the fierce winds that whip across the storied Nineveh Plains. They have strung rusty coils of barbed wire around its perimeter to discourage worship in the synagogue for fear of falling masonry, and they have tried to plug some holes with gravel and sand. But with no active preservation effort, the tomb seems condemned to a slow, weather-induced death.
It's an unexceptional plight in Iraq, where more than 12 years of near-unbroken violence have inflicted irreparable damage on many cultural sites and compromised the government's limited attempts to safeguard the country's heritage.
RIYADH - Military chiefs gathered in the Saudi capital on Thursday sought to bolster the Iraqi army against the militant Islamic State group, a Western diplomatic source said.
United States General Lloyd Austin, who heads the US-led war against IS, is among the senior officers attending the two-day talks that opened Wednesday in Riyadh behind closed doors. "I'm confident that they are looking at a firm plan, a co-ordinated plan, to empower the Iraqi army" against IS, the source said, asking for anonymity.
With "nobody" interested in putting ground troops into the country, strengthening Iraq's 200,000-strong army against about 30,000 IS fighters remains the best option, he said.
Many Iraqi soldiers abandoned their weapons and uniforms when IS advanced last June, seizing large areas of the country. The extremists also hold parts of Syria. They have claimed atrocities including the burning alive of Jordanian fighter pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh and the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians.
DOHA - Qatar recalled its ambassador to Egypt Thursday following a row over Cairo's air strikes on militant targets in Libya, threatening fresh divisions among Western-allied Arab states.
A foreign ministry official said Doha was recalling its envoy for consultation after Egypt's delegate to the Arab League accused Qatar of supporting "terrorism", during discussions on Libya. Egypt's latest spat with Qatar, which was backed by its Gulf neighbours, came as Libyan officials urged the UN Security Council to lift an arms embargo to allow the country's military to fight militants.
Qatar and most other Gulf Arab nations have joined the US-led coalition which is waging air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria.
Cairo is also an ally of Washington, and a regional rift would complicate efforts to forge a united front against IS in Egypt's neighbour Libya, where militants are trying to establish another stronghold.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has instructed authorities to open the newly expanded areas of the Grand Mosque in Makkah for use by the growing number of Umrah pilgrims and worshippers.
“King Salman has approved the opening of the completed areas of King Abdullah Haram Expansion Project for worshippers,” said Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques.
The royal gesture will create additional space for at least 500,000 worshippers. The move is significant as it would help accommodate the thousands of pilgrims who come from different parts of the world for Umrah.
King Salman’s order also comes at a time when the ongoing third phase of the mataf (circumambulation area around the Kaaba) expansion has denied access to some parts of the existing mosque for worshippers.
Full report at:
Iraqi Kurdish PM in Ankara amid oil row and jihadist threat
February 20th, 2015
Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was in Ankara on Feb. 19 to meet with Turkish leaders, amid an ongoing oil exports dispute with Baghdad and the escalating security threat from jihadists in Iraq.
The training of Peshmerga forces, contributions to the peace process in Turkey and the financial crisis in Iraq were the topics of talks with Barzani, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Barzani first held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before meeting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın also attended Barzani’s meeting with Erdoğan.
Militants rocket fire hits market in Syria's Aleppo
Feb 20, 2015
A rocket attack by foreign-backed militants on a busy market in Syria’s largest city of Aleppo has resulted in casualties and damage.
A number of Syrians were injured following the rocket attack on the al-Abbara market. The assault also caused great material damage.
The incident comes as Syrian army forces and the Takfiri militants are currently struggling for the control of the northwestern city of Aleppo. The former controls the western part and the latter has captured the eastern part the city.
yrian army, backed by fighters of the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah, has reportedly closed in on two Shia-inhabited towns of al-Zahra and Nubl on the outskirts of Aleppo.