US plan to move embassy to occupied Jerusalem ‘danger’ to peace

By Qays Abu Samra, Mahmut Geldi and Afra Aksoy

RAMALLAH/GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA): Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Sunday warned against U.S. plans to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying that such a move would jeopardize the future of the political process in the region.

His remarks came amid recent media reports that U.S. President Donald Trump was preparing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

According to Palestine’s official news agency WAFA, Abbas met with a delegation from the Democracy Front for Equality and Peace (Hadash) in Ramallah.

“Any step that the U.S. takes to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would endanger the future of the political process, Abbas said during the meeting.

The president added that Arab countries including Palestine, and the international community would not recognize such a move by the U.S. administration.

Meanwhile, President Abbas and Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh spoke on the phone about the U.S. plan to move the embassy to Jerusalem, according to the latter’s office on late Sunday.

Heniyeh described the U.S. move as “very risky” and called for unity among the Palestinian groups.

The Palestinian leader has also spoken to many world leaders to prevent the US plan to relocate its embassy in Israel, according to Palestine’s official news agency WAFA on Sunday.

He sent statements to the African Union, the Arab Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation as well Quartet on the Middle East namely “the U.N, the U.S., Russia, and the E.U.

The Arab League will have an extraordinary meeting to discuss the U.S. plan to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The league’s assistant secretary-general, Hossam Zaki, told reporters in Cairo early Monday that the representatives of the Arab League will convene urgently over Jerusalem on Tuesday after a request from Palestine.

Abbas wrote in the statement that such a decision would “ax the peace process,” and lead more instability in the region.
Earlier on Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki called on the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to convene to discuss the situation in Jerusalem.

The top Palestinian diplomat called for the emergency meetings during phone calls with Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and OIC Secretary-General Yousef al-Othaimeen, according to a statement by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.

Al-Maliki warned that such a U.S. move “would have grave consequences” and would “blow up the situation in the Palestinian territories and the region”.
Jerusalem remains at the core of the perennial Israel-Palestine conflict, as Palestinians want Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

During his election, Trump promised to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

[Photo: Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo by US Department of State/Wikimedia]

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Nigeria: Twin suicide bombings kill 13 in northeast Nigeria

By Olarewaju Kola



MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AA): At least 13 people were killed and 30 wounded on Saturday in two suspected suicide bombings in Nigeria’s northeast, police said.

Two female suicide bombers entered a marketplace in Biu, the third largest city in Borno State at 11.40 a.m. local time (1240GMT), police added.

Victor Isuku, police spokesman for Borno State, said the first bomb explosion occurred inside the market, while the second one happened outside the marketplace.

“A total of 13 persons excluding the two suicide bombers have been confirmed dead in the two explosions, while 53 others sustained various degrees of injuries,” Isuku said in a statement.

The incident was the first in nearly a year and half of relative peace in the area. The last explosion occurred in May 2016.

In August 2015, a suicide bomber killed at least 50 people at a market in a nearby village.

Biu is about 187 kilometers (116.2 miles) south of Maiduguri, the provincial capital of Borno State.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Archive Photo: Suicide bombing in Nigeria in July 2015/AA]

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UK: McDonald’s asks Muslim woman to remove headscarf

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal


LONDON (AA): Fast-food chain McDonald’s apologized after a video surfaced Friday on Twitter of a 19-year-old Muslim student being refused entry because of her headscarf.

The video, posted by a friend of the woman who preferred to remain anonymous, shows a security guard asking her to remove her hijab.

She refused and used her phone to film the incident, which took place at a north London branch of the restaurant on Seven Sisters Road in Holloway district.

The short clip shows the security guard repeatedly asking her to remove the headscarf after blocking her from entering the restaurant.

She asks the guard why she cannot enter the McDonald’s, but he says “it’s just a matter of taking it off.”

The video continues with her response.

“It’s not just a matter of taking it off. I wear this for religious reasons and I’m not ashamed of it, and I will stand in line and I will get the food I want because this isn’t OK,â she says.

‘It’s finally happening to me, like it has to so many hijabis,” she told The Guardian newspaper.

“It didn’t feel real because I had seen so many videos like this, and it was finally happening to me in real life. I was in so much disbelief.

â€The friend I was with was shocked and scared and said it was a risky situation. When it was over, I finally realized how these situations can become dangerous. This is not a one-off thing,” she said.

“I will never walk into a McDonald’s again.”

McDonald’s “does not have a policy in place which restricts or prevents anyone wearing a hijab, or any other religious dress, from entering one of its restaurants,” a spokeswoman for the chain said.

We welcome customers of all faiths and would like to apologize to the customer, as this situation should not have taken place,” she said.

“We are taking this matter extremely seriously and are addressing this with the individuals involved.”

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Canadian judge strikes down ban on face coverings

By Barry Ellsworth


TRENTON, Canada (AA): A Canadian judge granted a temporary stay, Friday, to a law that banned face coverings on those who provided or received public services in the province of Quebec.

Justice Babak Barin ruled that the province cannot order people to remove their face coverings until a provision is put into the law that allows for citizens to apply for religious accommodations.

The law, called Bill 62, was seen by many as targeting Muslims because some Muslim women wear niqabs or hijabs. The province said the law was only to provide clear separation between state and religion, known as a state religious neutrality law.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association launched a court challenge to the law, arguing that it violates the freedom of religion and equality. They asked that the law be set aside until the court could rule whether it is unconstitutional.

But the justice did not go that far and granted a temporary stay, until the provincial government provides a section to allow those who object to the law on religious grounds to file for exemption. Bill 62 does have a clause giving people the right to file for religious accommodations, but that part of the legislation has yet to be put into force. As such, the justice ruled the law is incomplete.

“It is not unreasonable to expect that a state religious neutrality law enacted by the government should apply in a well-thought-out and comprehensive manner, especially when the law in question has been in preparation for some time,” he said in his ruling. “In the interim, noble as the ideology of state religious neutrality may be, the government must ensure that the law it is adopting for the public good is coherent and complete.”

The government said the religious accommodation clause would not be ready to be put into effect until summer.

Catherine McKenzie, the lawyer representing the NCCM and the civil liberties union, said she would have preferred that the law be scrapped completely, but a temporary ban was acceptable and her clients were “happy.”

“I understand the position of the court,” MacKenzie told Canadian media.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the government was not surprised by the ruling.

“I’m not unsatisfied with the judgment because there’s no mention of a violation of the charters (of rights) or any major constitutional problem,” he told reporters.

[Archive Photo: Canada Prime Minister Trudeau at the funeral prayers for Muslims killed in shooting at Quebec mosque on 29 January 2017. Photograph AA]

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EU lawmakers call for arms embargo against Saudi Arabia

By Ilker Girit


(AA): The European Parliament on Thursday called for an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia amid the “world’s largest famine” in Yemen.

In a non-binding voting, a resolution urging EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to impose an arms embargo against the kingdom was adopted by 539 votes to 13, with 81 abstentions.

“Mogherini should urgently propose an integrated EU strategy for Yemen and push again for a Yemeni peace initiative,” the resolution read.

The resolution also called on “all actors to act to de-escalate the conflict and to engage in a new round of UN-led peace negotiations”.

The MEPs said there were “serious allegations of Saudi Arabia breaching international humanitarian law in Yemen”.

Yemen has remained dogged by chaos and violence since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

[Photo: European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Photographer: Ahmed J Versi/The Muslim News]

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Pakistan: Eleven killed as gunmen attack University hostel in Peshawar

By Aamir Latif


KARACHI, Pakistan (AA): At least eleven students were killed and 37 people, including soldiers, injured as five terrorists stormed a university hostel in Peshawar,  the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province

Provincial police chief Salauddin Khattak said heavily-armed terrorists stormed the hostel of Agriculture University Peshawar early Friday morning, opening fire followed by a bomb blast.

Army and police backed by armored personnel carriers soon after rushed to the scene, and launched an operation.

Khattak told reporters that more than a dozen students had been rescued.

Abdullah Khan, an eyewitness, said: “I was inside in my room when heard some gunfire. I came out from hostel and saw two armed young men running towards the residential area.

œI immediately ran back to my room and locked the door. Later, police commandos rescued us from the hostel.â€

Khan said around 20 to 25 students were in the hostel at the time of attack.

Footage aired on Geo TV showed an army helicopter hovering over the hostel as militants resisted for nearly one-and-a-half hour. The television channel quoting hospital sources also said that out of the 17 injured, three were critical.

Ambulances were seen shifting the injured, including a journalist to hospitals.

The military in a statement said “all three terrorists” involved in the attack had been killed.

The Pakistani Taliban group — Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — claimed responsibility for the attack.

In 2014, more than 140 people, mostly students, were killed in a gun-and-bomb attack at an army-run school in Peshawar.

*Islamuddin Sajid contributed to this story from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Map of Pakistan from the CIA fact book/Public Domain]

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US denies allegations of civilian killings in Somalia

By Safvan Allahverdi


WASHINGTON (AA): The U.S. Africa Command (Africom) on Wednesday denied allegations that an operation carried out in August by American troops in Somalia resulted in civilian deaths.

“After a thorough assessment of the Somali National army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia, on Aug. 25, 2017 and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) has concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants,” Africom said in a statement.

Africom’s statement came after the American news website The Daily Beast reported earlier in the day that there was strong evidence the U.S.-led operation resulted in the deaths of 10 civilians, including at least one child.

Citing unnamed sources, The Daily Beast said U.S. Navy Seals fired on unarmed farmers in the village and then took pictures of those shot with weapons falsely planted beside their bodies to appear as though they were armed.

In addition, the news website reported that after opening an investigation into the incident, Somalian federal government officials told The Daily Beast the inquiry confirmed that those shot were civilians and its information was buried after the U.S. government put pressure on Somali officials.

However, Africom denied the claim without addressing The Daily Beast story, saying SOCAF conducts detailed planning and coordination to reduce civilian casualties and to ensure compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict before the U.S. carries out an operation with partner forces.

“U.S. Africa Command and the Department of Defense take allegations of civilian casualties very seriously,” Africom added.

The U.S. has about 500 troops in Somalia, with two new military headquarters in Mogadishu.

U.S. forces have been working with the Somali government to fight the al-Shabaab terror group, which has publicly boasted of its alliance with al-Qaeda and has been fighting Somalia’s internationally recognized government for control of the country since the militant group was ousted from Mogadishu in 2011 by African Union-led forces.

[Political Map of Somalia by  BobaFett85 at English Wikipedia. Free to use]

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Canadian students offering hijab kits to victims of Islamophobic attacks

By Barry Ellsworth


TRENTON, Canada (AA): A Canadian university has launched a program to provide replacement hijab kits to women who are attacked and have their head coverings ripped off, the groups told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

The program is a joint effort by the student union of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group.

In an email to Anadolu Agency, the two groups said the idea sprang from discussions concerning the attack on a mosque in Quebec City in January, when six Muslims at prayer were shot to death by a student from Laval University.

The Dalhousie student union and the research group said many students expressed concern for their safety after the attack.

The hope is the kits will raise awareness of the violence against Muslims and encourage victims to feel more comfortable and report the crimes.

“In recognizing the increased incidents of violence towards women of colour on campuses across the country, we’ve created these kits so that anyone who has their headdresses targeted can quickly get access to a replacement,” according to a joint statement on the groups’ website. “Kits include fabric and pins, along with bystander tips and important numbers for reporting such crimes.”

Dalhousie Student Union President Amina Abawajy said various people have told her of incidents in which hijabs were targeted but victims have been reticent to tell officials of the attacks.

“I don’t believe those have been reported to security (and) we were hearing of a lot of concerns, specifically from Muslim women wearing the hijab, so we responded by creating this emergency kit,” she told Canadian media.

The groups said U.S. President Donald Trump is helping to stoke the violence.

Trump has tried to invoke travel bans against Muslim countries and has been critical of Islam and immigration.

“Rhetoric like that coming from the White House is proving to incite violence and bigotry in physical ways, so we need to address it by having a physical and purposeful response,â the statement said.

While the school union has not heard of any kits yet being used, as of Tuesday, 20 kits have been requested and distributed on campus and to community groups.

[Archive Photo: In discussions concerning the attack on mosque in Quebec City in January, when six Muslims at prayer were shot to death by a student from Laval University prompted group of students to begin providing victims of hijab attack hijab replacements. Photo shows Muslim women at the funeral prayer for Quebec attack victims taken in.January 2017. Photograph by AA]

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Netherlands: Attacks on mosques on the rise in Netherlands

By Lale Bildirici


ISTANBUL (AA): There has been an increase in the number of attacks targeting mosques in the Netherlands, according to a report released by a Turkish university on Monday.

Issued by Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, the 2016 Netherlands Human Rights Report said that in 2016, there were 72 attacks on mosques in the Netherlands compared to 28 attacks the year before.

Racism and Islamophobia continue to be an important human rights issue in the country, it said.

It also highlighted another report released in 2017, which said that migrants in the country felt less safe compared with the Dutch, and the group which felt least safe was the Surinamese, followed by the Turks.

According to the report, there are 475 mosques in the Netherlands.

[Map of the Netherlands. By Alphathon/Creative Commons]

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Pakistan’s law minister resigns to end capital’s siege

By Aamir Latif


KARACHI, Pakistan (AA): Pakistan’s federal law minister resigned from office early Monday bringing an end to a three-week long siege of the capital Islamabad, state-run Pakistan Television reporter.

The resignation comes after protests on allegation of removing “finality” of Prophet Muhammad from the election nomination form. The nomination form required the consent of the person, his political affiliation, his belief in the finality of Prophethood, and faithful declaration to follow the vision of Quaid-e-Azam which is followed by other questions.”

The much awaited development came after the government and protest leaders reached a six-point agreement early Monday morning.

The law minister, Zahid Hamid, was under immense pressure after the religious and polical parties held him responsible for an election clause related to the finality of the Prophet Mohammad — which was restored earlier this month amid nationwide protests.

“I have resigned voluntarily to pull the country out of crisis,” he was quoted as saying by local media.

Footage aired on local Geo TV showed protesters packing up and preparing to leave the venue after the three-week sit-in. However, the protest leaders are expected to formally announce the end of the siege at a press conference soon.

According to the agreement, Geo TV reported, the government will make a report to a Senate committee in a month to expose and act against the controversial amendment. Also, an investigation committee will be formed to look into the circumstances that led to violence, loss of lives and property.

Hundreds of protesters arrested from Islamabad and rest of the country, will also be released.

The protest leaders, according to the agreement, will not issue any religious decree against the law minister.

Last month, a “clerical error” in an unrelated bill modified the voter’s clause.

Under the restored clause, voters registering for general elections have to declare that they believe Mohammad was the final prophet, or their names will be put on a separate list for Ahmedis/Qadianis — a minority sect parliament declared non-Muslim in 1974

But, the infuriated protesters who have been occupying a main entrance to Islamabad since early November, rejected the government’s clarification, and refused to end their sit-in until the law minister resigned.

Following Saturday’s police action, which killed seven people and injured hundreds, Khadim Hussein Rizvi, a protest leader, demanded the resignation of the whole cabinet.

The development came after the embattled Pakistan government Sunday assigned paramilitary rangers to œhandle” the protesters after the country’s powerful army chief advised the government not to deploy the army against the protesters, according to the Interior Ministry.

The ministry, through a notification, appointed Maj. Gen. Azhar Naveed Hayat, head of the rangers in the northeastern Punjab province on Sunday night to lead the operation to “handle” and “clear” the sit-in, which had virtually cut off the capital from the rest of the country since early November.

Quoting unnamed government officials, local Dunya TV reported that the rangers head was assigned the task to “negotiate” with the protesters, and clear the sit-in organized by Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah (Movement to serve Prophet of Allah) — a newly formed group which represents the Sunni-Barelvi school of thought.

[Photo:  Protesters during the protests against election law amendment removing the word finality [of Prophet Muhammad], in Islamabad, Pakistan on November 26, 2017. Photographer: Muhammed Semih Uğurlu/AA]

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