Pope Francis presser on return from Poland: “It isn’t right to call Islam a terrorist faith”

Pope Francis gestures to journalists during a press conference on July 13, 2015, onboard a plane on his way back to Rome from Paraguay, the final stop of his South America tour. Pope Francis departed Paraguay , bringing to a close a weeklong visit where he drew attention to the poor and marginalized in some of the region's poorest nations.      AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO / AFP / VINCENZO PINTO

Pope Francis gestures to journalists during a press conference on July 13, 2015, onboard a plane on his way back to Rome from Paraguay, the final stop of his South America tour. Pope Francis departed Paraguay , bringing to a close a weeklong visit where he drew attention to the poor and marginalized in some of the region’s poorest nations.
AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO / AFP / VINCENZO PINTO

“It isn’t right to say that Islam is a terrorist faith. I don’t like talking about Islamic violence.” Speaking to journalists on the return flight from Krakow to Rome, Francis said this in response to a question about the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel, the elderly French priest who was slain while he was celebrating mass.

Catholics are in shock following the barbaric murder of Fr. Hamel. You told us that all religions seek peace, yet he was killed in the name of Islam. Why do you never mention the word Islam when you speak about terrorism?

“I don’t like speaking of Islamic violence because I come across violence every day when I leaf through the newspapers here in Italy: you read about someone who’s killed his girlfriend or his mother-in-law and these are violent baptized Catholics. If I talk about Islamic violence should I speak about Catholic violence too? Not all Muslims are violent. It’s like a fruit salad, you do find some violent people in religions. One thing is certain: there is always a small group of extremists in practically every religion. We have them too. And when extremism goes as far as to kill  – you can kill with your tongue, the apostle James says so, not me, and you can kill with a sword – it is not right to identify Islam with violence. I had a long conversation with the grand imam of Al Azhar: they seek peace and understanding.

The nuncio of an African country was telling me that in his country’s capital there are always people queuing up to pass through the holy door and some approach the confessionals. But most go straight to the altar to pray to the Madonna and there are Muslims who want to celebrate the Jubilee. When I was in the Central African Republic I visited them and the Imam boarded the Popemobile. Peaceful co-existence is possible. Extremist groups do exist. I wonder how many young people have we as Europeans robbed of their ideals so that they turn to drugs, alcohol or they go there and enroll. Yes, we can say that so-called ISIS is an Islamic state that presents itself as violent because the ID card it shows us is how it killed Egyptians. But this is just a small group, you cannot and it is not true and not right to call Islam a terrorist faith.”

Aside from prayer and dialogue, what other concrete initiative is there to counter Islamic violence?
“Terrorism is everywhere, just think of the tribal terrorism that exists in some African countries. Terrorism grows when there is no other option. Now I’m going to say something that may be risky. When you make the money god the center of the world economy instead of man and woman, then this is a first form of terrorism. You have erased the magnificence of creation and placed money at the center. This is a first basic form of terrorism. Let’s just think about that.”

In your first speech at Wawel straight after your arrival in Poland, you said that this country was your starting point for getting to know central-eastern Europe. What were your impressions?
“Poland was special because it was invaded once again, this time by young people! I thought Krakow was beautiful, there was so much enthusiasm among the Poles. This evening, there were so many people in the streets, despite the pouring rain. Not just young people but old ladies too. I have been familiar with Polish people since my childhood days. Some Polish women came to work at the place where my father used to work. They were kind people and I encountered this same kindness again.”

Our young sons and daughters were moved by your words because you spoke their language. How did you prepare, using examples that were so pertinent to their lives?
“I like talking to young people and I like listening to them. They always make me sweat because they tell me things I had not thought of or that I had only half thought about. Restless, creative young people, and this is where I get this language from. I very often have to ask the meaning of some expressions. They are our future and there needs to be a dialogue between past and future. This is why I place so much emphasis on dialogue between young people and grandparents because have our own experience to offer too: They should feel the past, history, grasp it and take it forward with the courage of the present. This is important. I don’t like it when I hear people say: these youngsters are full of nonsense! We say many stupid things too. They say stupid things and they say good things, just like us, just like everyone else. We need to learn from them and vice versa. That way we grow, avoiding closed-mindedness and censorship.”

Your Holiness, repression in Turkey following the coup is perhaps worse than the coup itself: members of the military, judges, diplomats, journalists. There have been more than 13,000 arrests and over 50,000 people have been sacked. It’s a purge. The day before yesterday, President Erdogan told his critics to mind their own business! We would like to ask you why you haven’t spoken about this yet. Do you fear this may have repercussions on the Catholic minority?
“When I had to say something Turkey didn’t like but which I was certain of, I said it, and you are all aware of what the consequences were [this being an obvious reference to his words on the Armenian genocide] but I was certain. So far I have not spoken because I am still not certain, based on the information I have been given, about what is going on there. I listen to the information I am given by the Secretariat of State and by an important political analyst or two. I am examining the situation, with the Secretariat of State and the whole affair is not yet clear. It is true that Catholics should always be protected from harm. But not at the cost of the truth. There’s the virtue of prudence but in my case, you are witnesses to the fact that when I have needed to say something regarding Turkey, I have said it.”

There is one question that has been on everybody’s lips in recent days: the Australian police are investigating the fresh accusations made against Cardinal George Pell. This time he is being accused of abusing children. What, in your opinion, would be the right thing for the cardinal to do?
“The first news reports that came out were confused. It was news dating back 40 years ago and even the police didn’t think much of it at first. Then complaints were filed and these are now in the hands of the justice system. No judgement should be made before justice speaks. If I spoke either in favor or against, it would not be right because because I would be judging first. It is true, there is doubt. And the law has a very clear principle on this: in dubbio pro reo. We have to wait for justice to take its course and desist from making a media judgement, a judgement based on gossip. We need to be attentive to the ruling that will be presented by justice. Once justice has spoken, then I will speak.”

How are you after your fall in Czestochowa?
“I was busy gazing at the Madonna and I forgot about the little step! I was holding the thurible and when I felt I was falling I let myself go and this is what saved me. Had I resisted the fall, there would have been consequences. But everything was OK.”

Last week there was talk of the Vatican acting as one of the negotiating parties in the Venezuelan crisis. Is this a real possibility?
“Two year ago I had a positive meeting with President Maduro. Then he asked for an audience with me last year but cancelled because he had otitis. I let some time go by and then I wrote him a letter. We talked about a potential meeting. Yes, with the conditions that are presented in such cases: at the moment – though I am not sure – the possibility of a representative of the Holy See joining the mediation group is being deliberated.”

Before starting the press conference, Francis spared a thought for a RAI correspondent who died in Krakow: “As you are her colleagues, I wish to express my condolences for the death of Anna Maria Jacobini. I met her sister and other members of the family. This was a sad part of the trip.” The Pope also celebrated the director of the Vatican press office Fr. Federico Lombardi’s last day on the job, along with Mauro, a member of staff who handled baggage on papal flights. It was his last day on the job too. “I would like to thank Fr. Lombardi and Mauro as this is the last time they will be travelling with us. Fr. Lombardi has been with Vatican Radio for more than 25 years and has been on papal flights for ten years. Mauro has been in charge of baggage for 37 years. I thank both of them very much.” After the press conference, Rome Reports journalist Javier Martinez Brocal introduced WYD 2019, which is to be celebrated in Panama, by presenting Pope Francis with a Panama hat, which he wore straight away.

(Vatican Insider)

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Afghanistan: 80 Hazara Shia Muslims killed in suicide bombing in Kabul

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[Afghan protesters from Hazara minority stand at the blast side after suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 23, 2016. A suicide bomber hit a large demonstration by members of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority in Kabul on Saturday. Photographer: Haroon Sabawoon/AA]

Afghanistan is in mourning Sunday in the aftermath of killing of 80 Hazara Shia Muslims Saturday. Thousands of mainly young Hazaras were demonstrating peacefully in Kabul. More than 231 people were injured.

Daesh has claimed responsibility for the killing of innocent Muslims. “Two fighters from Islamic State detonated explosive belts at a gathering of Shi’as in the city of Kabul in Afghanistan,” according to the statement by Daesh’s Amaq news agency.

The Taliban has denied its involvement.

National Directorate for Security said three bombers were involved in the terrorist attack..

President Ashraf Ghani vowed to punish those responsible for the terrorist attack.”I will take revenge against the culprits,” he said.

Hazaras were demistrating against Government plans for a major electicity line from Turkmenistan to Kabul, but bypassing Bamiyan, which is a predominantly Hazara province. It is part of the TUTAP project backed by the Asia Development Bank, linking energy-rich states of Central Asia with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This attack was the deadliest in Kabul since 2011 when twin blasts in Kabul and Mazar-i Sharif killed 60 people, most of them Hazaras who had gathered to commemorate Ashura.

Hazaras suffer discrimination and persecution. (muslimnews.co.uk)

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[Afghan protesters from Hazara minority just before suicide bombing, during a protest against rerouting of the TUTAP power line, in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 23, 2016. (Photographer: Haroon Sabawoon/ Anadolu Agency)]

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Philippines: 33 breakaway rebels killed in Muslim south

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[Photo: Philippines soldiers stage counter terrorism operationn ealier in March. Photographer: Lito Boras/AA]

By Roy Ramos

ZAMBOANGA CITY, (AA): The Philippines’ military announced Sunday that 33 members of breakaway rebel group were killed in four days of fighting in a troubled majority Muslim southern province.

Col. Lito Sobejana, 601st Brigade commander, said government forces regained control from Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) gunmen of communities in the neighboring Maguindanao towns of Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak.

GMA News quoted him as saying the clashes also injured 10 BIFF members and five soldiers — one of them in a critical condition — with security forces recovering four explosives during the clearing operations.

“About the clearing operation, before the BIFF withdrew they left many IEDs [improvised explosive devices] as reported by the civilians,” he said.

Referring to the country’s one-time largest Muslim rebel group, he added, “we requested the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] to clear the area because they are familiar with the terrain, so that civilians can go back to their communities.”

The BIFF broke with the MILF in 2008 because of disagreements with the MILF central committee’s acceptance of autonomy rather than full independence for the country’s Muslim south.

The BIFF is opposed to an ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF.

GMA reported Sunday that residents and village officials of the Maguindanao towns — where the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government said 696 families were affected by the clashes — were hesitant to return, fearing the BIFF might attack the soldiers remaining in their communities.

Members of an international team monitoring the peace process, the government and MILF’s cease-fire mechanism the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, and the ARMM’s relief operation body took part in the ground and clearing operations.

The ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Teams have started distributing relief supplies at evacuation centers.

“We are here after we learned there are many evacuees. We will visit our brothers and sisters to know what their real situation [is],” Myrna Jo Henry, its information official, was quoted as saying.

The BIFF, however, refuted the military’s fatality figures.

Its spokesman, Abu Misry Mama, said only three members were killed in this week’s clashes, and insisted the group retained control of several areas. (muslimnews.co.uk)

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Philippines: Muslims voice backing for Duterte peace policy

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[Photo: Newly elected President Rodrigo Rodrigo Duterteafter taking his oath of office as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines in Manila, Philippines on June 30, 2016. Photographer: J Romero/Hand-out photo/AA]

By Hader Glang

ZAMBOANGA CITY, (AA): Muslim human rights groups and peace advocates have reiterated their support Thursday for President Rodrigo Duterte’s peace policy, while warning of security forces’ past rights violations in the Muslim south.

The leader of the Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Bangsamoro) group told a public discussion in the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga that they support Duterte’s decision to formally open peace negotiations with the country’s communist insurgency and to resume the peace process with Muslim rebels.

“Peace talks [with leftist groups] will formally start July 22 to 24, 2016, which will also be part of the report of newly-installed President Duterte for the State of the Nation Address on July 25,” Amirah Lidasan told those gathered at a women’s center.

“This inclusive peace policy of the Duterte administration has provided hope if not encouraged people to participate in the peace process as well as in bringing reforms in the government.”

After his landslide May 9 election win, Duterte granted two cabinet posts to candidates backed by the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

He has also ordered his government to continue efforts to implement signed peace agreements between the past administration and rebel groups — which includes a 2014 peace deal signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to grant greater autonomy to majority Muslim provinces.

Lidasan underlined Thursday that the prioritization of peace, unity, reconciliation and development have garnered trust and hope among the Filipino people in the sincerity of Duterte’s administration, including the promise to recognize and release political prisoners through the peace process and general amnesty.

She urged Duterte — the country’s first president from southern Mindanao island — to include more than 90 Moro suspects who were “wrongfully accused” of being “terrorists” in 2001.

“We are referring to more than 90 Moro civilians, some were simple farmers, fisherfolks and vendors, who were accused of [being] Abu Sayyaf men and arrested and detained,” she said.

Lidasan highlighted that Thursday marked the 16th year of the declaration of “state of lawlessness” in Basilan island, an intensive military crackdown — led by then 103rd Brigade Commander and now National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon — that led to massive human rights violations against the indigenous Moro people.

“A review was made by the Department of Justice in 2012-2013 that resulted in a recommendation for an immediate release of those who were identified as innocent and unjustly detained for 16 years,” she said.

“We are hoping that this would provide a basis for President Duterte to decide for their release.”

The advocacy group also cautioned Duterte in his campaign against the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf, reminding him of the previous trail of alleged human rights violations committed by authorities accused of competing for bounties offered by the United States’ Rewards for Justice Program.

“Due to military actions, most of the communities were affected, but the real Abu Sayyaf remain scoot free,” Lidasan stressed.

“It is common knowledge in Zambasulta [Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi] that the Abu Sayyaf is deeply rooted in the collusion of local government units and military in their areas,” she said.

Referring to recent claims by the mayor of Jolo in Sulu province that some officers gained from some ransoms paid to the Abu Sayyaf and used its members as informants, she expressed hope that “if President Duterte explores this, it will help resolve the Abu Sayyaf problem.” (muslimnews.co.uk)

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Philippines: Muslim ex-rebels agree on common roadmap

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[Photo:Moro Islamic LIberation Front emblem. By Jaume Ollé/Creative Commons]

By Roy Ramos

ZAMBOANGA CITY (AA): Leaders of two former Muslim rebel groups agreed Wednesday to promote a common roadmap for peace in the conflict-ridden southern Philippines ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

The chairman of the largest of three factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the chairman of its breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a joint communique aimed at “harmonizing” their separate peace overtures with the government.

The Philippine Star quoted the MILF’s Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim as saying that both sides are open to working together on a single peace agenda during the signing at the main MILF stronghold in Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao province.

He rejected the argument that it would be difficult to achieve peace in southern Mindanao island due to factional divides between the indigenous Moro communities.

The MNLF’s Muslimin Sema expressed hope that Duterte, who is set to become the country’s first president from the south upon his inauguration Thursday, would focus on peacefully resolving the Moro issue.

He accused previous administrations of having failed to comply with their obligations under peace deals with the Moro.

Sema’s MNLF faction has backed the MILF’s ongoing peace process with the government, despite a faction under founding chairman Nur Misuari considering the MILF’s 2014 peace deal with the government a betrayal of an 1996 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)-brokered agreement.

Misuari is currently a fugitive, eluding charges filed against him and his men for a siege on the predominantly catholic city of Zamboanga in September 2013, in which around 300 people were killed and thousands of houses razed.

The 2014 deal would have been sealed by a proposed autonomy legislation, but the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) stalled in Congress earlier this year, as it adjourned for campaigning for the May 9 election.

“There was no implementation `in letter and spirit’ of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the Jeddah Accord and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF,” Sema said Wednesday.

He underlined that some MNLF members are anxious about the fate of the BBL negotiated by the MILF, since the outgoing government had assured that all 42 consensus points reached in a tripartite review of the MNLF’s 1996 agreement had been integrated into the proposed legislation.

“Now we have to join ranks for the sake of `harmonizing’ our separate peace tracts for us to achieve a durable kind of peace that is for all people in Mindanao, for all people in the Bangsamoro,” the Star quoted him saying. “The Bangsamoro is never indivisible geographically and demographically.”

Meanwhile, Murad underlined that Duterte “is from Mindanao and has Maranaw blood” from one of the region’s Moro tribes.

“He surely understands the Moro problem. We are grateful to have a president from Mindanao for the first time ever,” he said.

During his campaign, the tough talking Duterte, who served 2 years as mayor of Davao City, had vowed to “correct the historical injustice committed against the Moro.” (muslimnews.co.uk)

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Libya: 28 killed in rocket attack

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By Seyfeddin Trablusi

 

TRIPOLI, (AA): At least 28 people were killed and dozens injured Tuesday when a rocket hit an armory in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, local sources said.

Armed militia intended to loot shops in the Garabulli district but faced resistance from locals, according to witnesses and hospital personnel who spoke to Anadolu Agency.

Militants saw young people from the local population blocking the roads and moving toward an armory to protect themselves, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to security reasons.

One of the militants then launched a rocket-propelled grenade targeted at the armory, which belonged to Libya’s National Forces Alliance (NFA), a political bloc that supports the country’s UN-backed unity government.

The attack comes hours after five troops loyal to the UN-backed government were killed in clashes with Daesh in the northern city of Sirte neighboring Tripoli, while dozens of Daesh militants were killed.

Sixteen troops loyal to the NFA were reportedly injured in clashes with Daesh, according to hospital sources in Libya’s northwestern city of Misurata.

Since 2015, Sirte has been held by Daesh, which took advantage of the conflict between Libya’s rival political camps to seize 250 kilometers (155 miles) of coastline near the Mediterranean city, which lies between Libya’s eastern and western power bases.

In April, forces loyal to the UN-backed unity government launched an offensive aimed at recapturing the coastal city from the notorious terrorist group.

Libya has been locked in a state of violence and turmoil since 2011 when a bloody uprising ended with the ouster and death of longtime strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

Since then, the country’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of government — one in Tobruk and another in capital Tripoli — each boasting its own military capacity and legislative assembly.

The unity government came about late last year after Libya’s rival governments signed a UN-backed agreement in an effort to resolve the country’s six-year political standoff.

*Anadolu Agency correspondent Ahmet Sait Akcay contributed to this report from Ankara

Author Ahmet Sait Akçay

 

[Photo: Military vehicles of Libyan Govenment of National Accord forces conducting operation against Daesh in Sirtei on June 2, 2016. Photogrpaher: Hazem Turkia/AA]

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UK: Brexit board member resigns over Islamophobic tweets

UK-Arbella-Arkwright-board-member-of-Vote-Leave-campaign-Eu-referendum-resigned-anti-musilm-tweets-retweets-Guardian-report-21-6-16-pho-Busra-Akin-Dincer-AA-513x239

LONDON (AA) – A board member of the Leave campaign resigned Monday over a series of anti-Muslim tweets, just two days before a referendum decides whether the U.K. should stay in the EU, according to British media reports.

The Guardian noted that Arabella Arkwright, who is also a businesswoman, reposted on her Twitter feed an image of a white woman surrounded by black-colored burqas along with the caption: “Britain 2050: Why didn’t you stop them Granddad?”

She also reposted another message saying: “Yazidi women fleeing Isis [Daesh]” with a “Stop Islam” logo, according to the paper.

Arkwright reportedly deleted her Twitter account after she got negative reactions to her posts.

Vote Leave campaign in a statement to the paper said that Arabella’s tweets did not reflect the views of the group.

“As soon as we were made aware of these tweets we asked Arabella to hand in her resignation, which she has done with immediate effect. These tweets do not reflect the views of the Vote Leave campaign,” it said.

Also, Arkwright defended her position in a statement to the paper.

“I would like to make it absolutely clear that my RTs [re-tweets] and forwarding do not mean that I endorse in any way the content of them,” she said.

Leave campaigners have repeatedly used xenophobic and Islamophobic content to instill fear among voters that such a move would supposedly invite millions of migrants into the bloc, especially to the U.K.

On Monday, Sayeeda Warsi, a senior Muslim politician in Britain’s governing Conservative Party, also abandoned her support for Brexit.

The former Foreign Office minister had accused the Leave campaign of telling “complete lies” about Turkey’s EU membership and announced she now supported a vote for Britain to remain in the European Union.
Author Büşra Akın Dinçer

 

[Photo: Arabella Arkwright, one of the board members of the ‘Vote Leave’ Campaign has resigned on Monday over a series of anti-muslim tweets and retweets, the British paper Guardian has reported 21 June 2016. Photographer: Büşra Akın Dinçer/AA]

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Palestine: Palestinian teen ‘mistakenly’ shot dead in West Bank

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By Kaamil Ahmed

 

JERUSALEM (AA): A Palestinian teen was shot dead and four others were injured, the Palestinian health ministry confirmed in a statement on Tuesday, after Israeli forces “mistakenly” shot at them during clashes in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli army said they fired after Palestinians allegedly threw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli vehicles.

The army, however, confirmed that all of those shot, including 15-year-old Mahmoud Badran, were bystanders during the incident despite earlier reports that they had been involved.

Three Israelis were lightly injured in the incident near the Beit Ur al-Tahta village, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Palestinian news agencies Ma’an nad Imemc said that Badran and other injured Palestinians were returning back home, along with his friends, after swimming in a pool in Beit Sira nearby village.in a car nearby when Israeli soldiers fired at their vehicle.

On Tuesday at dawn, the soldiers invaded various Palestinian communities in several districts in the occupied West Bank, stormed and searched dozens of homes, and detained eleven Palestinians, the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said. One Palestinian was detained on Monday evening, according Imemc.

Additional news from The Muslim News

[Photo: Palestine teen Mahmoud Rafat Badran shot dead by Israeli soldiers “by mistake” on 21June 2016.Photgraph by Imemc.org]

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Myanmar: Suu Kyi, UN human rights envoy discuss Rakhine Muslims

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By Kyaw Ye Lynn

 

YANGON, (AA): Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and a United Nations human rights envoy, Yanghee Lee, have discussed how to address the situation in the country’s troubled Rakhine State, state media reported Tuesday.

During a meeting in political capital Nay Pyi Taw on Monday, Lee and Suu Kyi exchanged views on efforts to address the situation in the western state — home to around one million Rohingya Muslims — according to state-run newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar.

Aung Lin, permanent secretary at the ministry of foreign affairs, told reporters after the meeting that “foreign minister [Suu Kyi] explained to her [Lee] why we should avoid using such controversial terms”.

He said the government of Myanmar would not use the terms “Rohingya and Bengali”, but rather “Muslim community in Rakhine state”.

Since mid-2012, communal violence between ethnic Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine has left around 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists dead, some 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses burned — most of which belonged to Rohingya.

Most in Myanmar see Rohingya — described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted ethnic minority group — as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and refer to them as “Bengalis”.

Since her party’s victory in the Nov. 8, 2015 elections, Suu Kyi has been placed under tremendous international pressure to solve problems faced by Rohingya but has had to play a careful balancing act for fear of upsetting the country’s nationalists, many of whom have accused Muslims of trying to eradicate the country’s Buddhist traditions.

Suu Kyi has, however, enforced the notion that the root of many of the impoverished region’s problems are economic, and is encouraging investment in the area, which in turn the National League for Democracy (NLD) hopes will lead to reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.

On Monday, Suu Kyi and Lee also exchanged views on the ongoing peace process with armed ethic rebels, human rights laws, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, economic and social rights, providing humanitarian aid, and developments on joining remaining international core human rights treaties, according to official media.

Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, arrived in Yangon on Sunday as part of her mission to compile a report to submit to the 71st UN General Assembly in September.

The 12-day trip will be her fourth visit to country and the first under the new government led by the NLD, which took power in late.

Lee will visit commercial capital Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, Rakhine state’s capital Sittwe, Myitkyina in northern Kachin state and Lashio in eastern Shan state, said an announcement by the UN Information Center.

The UN’s national information officer Aye Win, however, has declined to comment on and provide the schedule of her Rakhine trip.

In her last visit to Myanmar in 2015, Lee’s access to Rakhine had been denied after the previous government was angered by her criticism of restrictions on political freedom and her demands for citizenship rights for Rohingya Muslims.

 

[Photo: Rohingya Muslim woman walks amongst remains of houses burnt by fire in Baw Du Pha near Sittwe capital of Rakhine State. Photographer: Sitt Thway Naing/AA]

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US: $206M funds anti-Islamic American groups

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By Kasim Ileri

 

WASHINGTON (AA): Nearly $206 million poured into organizations promoting hate against Muslim in the U.S. in 2008-2013, a report released Monday revealed.

Released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Center for Race and Gender at University of California Berkeley, the report lists 33 Islamophobic organizations as the inner-core groups funded with at least $205,838,077 in total revenue as they “promote prejudice against and hatred of Islam and Muslims.”

The groups include Abstraction Fund, Clarion Projects, David Horowitz Freedom Center, Middle East Forum, American Freedom Law Center and Center for Security Policy, according to the report titled Confronting Fear.

The report also documents anti-Islam bills signed into law in 10 states while 81 bills and amendments were introduced between 2013-2015 and nearly all of them were introduced solely by Republicans.

In 2015, the report found 78 recorded incidents targeting Muslims, compared to 22 in 2013 and 20 in 2014.

“In both November and December of 2015, there were 17 mosque incidents reported during each of these months, numbers almost equivalent to an entire year’s worth of reports from the previous two years,” the report read, referring to the two months in which terror attacks occurred in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

The report also found to new anti-Muslim phenomena in the U.S. which it identified as “Muslim-free businesses” and “armed anti-Islam demonstrations.”

The report lists several anti-Islam demonstrations where many protesters attended with their guns, particularly orchestrated in the wake of a failed attempt by two extremists who last January tried to attack an event in Garland, Texas.

The report also said that since 2014, some businesses in Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire have publicly declared themselves “Muslim-Free” despite federal law that prohibits such discriminative actions.

It notes that progress has been observed “in the reduced frequency and acceptability of anti-Islam law-enforcement trainings.

“The 2016 presidential election has mainstreamed Islamophobia and resulted in a number of un-constitutional proposals targeting Muslims,” said Corey Saylor, director of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia and an author of the report.

A co-author of the report, Dr. Hatem Bazian, director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley, said in a statement that the report will “provide the needed grounding for communities across the country to use for effective engagement with policy” makers, educators, civil society leaders and media outlets.

“Education and applied research is the best avenue to uplift and bring about a social justice transformation in society and this report is a step in that direction,” Bazian said.

 

[Photo: Hidayah Martinez Jaka wearing US Flag hijab. Photographer: Samuel Corum/AA]

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Bahrain revokes citizenship of prominent Shia Muslim scholar

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By Ahmad al-Masri

 

DOHA, Qatar (AA): Bahraini authorities on Monday revoked the citizenship of Ayatullah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, the country’s leading Shia Muslim scholar and the spiritual leader of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest opposition movement. Ayatullah Qassim’s ancestors are from Bahrain.

According to Bahrain’s Interior Ministry, the step was taken because Qassim “damaged the country’s supreme interests and failed to comply with his obligation to show loyalty to Bahrain.”

In a statement posted on its official website, the ministry cited the country’s citizenship law, which it said, “calls for the revocation of Bahraini citizenship… if anyone harms the interests of the kingdom or shows disloyalty to Bahrain”.

“Therefore,” the ministry added, “based on recommendations by Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the Cabinet has issued a decree approving the revocation of citizenship from Isa Ahmed Qassim.”

The ministry went on to accuse the scholar of establishing “religious and political organizations with foreign links” — a veiled reference to Iran — and “promoting an environment of extremism and sectarianism.”

The ministry further accused Qassim of “manipulating religious issues and political affairs in order to serve foreign interests,” of “inciting sectarianism and violence.” and of “communicating with foreign organizations considered hostile to the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

Notably, the move comes less than one week after a Bahraini court ruled to indefinitely suspend all activities of Bahrain’s Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society.

In Washington, the State Department voiced alarm over the decision, saying it is “deeply troubled” by Bahrain’s “practice of withdrawing the nationality of its citizens arbitrarily, the overall precedent that this case could establish, and the risk that individuals may be rendered stateless.

“We worry that this case, as well as other recent actions by the Government, will further divert Bahrainis from the path of reform and reconciliation,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “That path–which Bahrain’s leadership had wisely pursued–remains the best means for enhancing the security of Bahrain and meeting the aspirations of all Bahrain’s citizens.”

The  Al-Wefaq, of which Qassim is considered the spiritual leader, represents Bahrain’s largest opposition movement.

The court accused Al-Wefaq of disrespecting citizens’ rights; undermining tolerance and coexistence; creating an environment conducive to terror and extremism; and supporting the notion of foreign intervention — another reference to Iran — in Bahrain’s domestic affairs.

On June 4, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa issued a decree ostensibly aimed at banning the “mixing of politics with religion”, effectively prohibiting members of political groups from engaging in religious preaching.

Only days earlier, Al-Wefaq Secretary-General Ali Salman was slapped with nine years behind bars on charges of “incitement” and “insulting the Interior Ministry”.

Al-Wefaq rejected the charges against Salman, asserting that there was “no legal or moral justification” for his arrest and subsequent incarceration.

Bahrain has been rocked by revolt since 2011, when pro-democracy protests erupted in the tiny Gulf state as part of the “Arab Spring” uprisings.

The Sunni-led government blames Al-Wefaq for the upheaval, accusing the Shia Muslim party of pursuing an “Iranian agenda”.

Al-Wefaq, for its part, denies the allegations, saying it wants to see a “constitutional government” set up in the kingdom.

*Ali Abo Rezig contributed to this report from Ankara, and Michael Hernandez contributed from Washington.

Additional Editing by The Muslim News

[Photo: Ayatullah Sheikh Isa Qassim]

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UK: British MP murder accused to be tried under terror protocol

UK-PM-Cameron-Labour-leader-Jeremy-Corbyn-to-rememberence-service-for-Jo-Cox-Mp-at-St-Margarets-church-in-westminster-ABbey-20-june-16-pho-Kate-Green-AA-513x239

By Michael Sercan Daventry and Busra Akin Dincer

 

LONDON (AA) – The suspected killer of British Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox is to face trial under terrorism rules, judges decided on Monday.

Thomas Mair, 52, appeared in court via video link from the top-security Belmarsh prison as MPs gathered in the House of Commons to pay tribute to Cox, who was shot and stabbed in her electoral district last week.

Mair faces a number of charges including the murder of Cox and the possession of a firearm.

Although he was not charged with a terrorism offense, Mair will be tried at the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, under the ‘terrorism protocol’, meaning his case will be managed by some of the most senior judges in the country.

During the brief hearing Mair spoke only to confirm his name. In his first court appearance he had declared his name was “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.

Meanwhile, in a show of unity, lawmakers in the House of Commons sat among one another wearing white roses in memory of Cox as they delivered tributes on Monday.

A single white rose was laid on an empty seat in the chamber to represent Cox’s vacant place during the special session called in her memory.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, who opened the tribute, said parliament had come together in “heartfelt solidarity”.

He said: “An attack like this strikes not only at an individual, but at our freedom. That is why we assemble here – both to honor Jo and to redouble our dedication to democracy.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called Cox’s killing “an attack on democracy” and urged lawmakers for “kinder and gentler politics”.

“In her tragic death, we can come together to change our politics, to tolerate a little more and condemn a little less,” he said, adding: “We all have a responsibility not to whip up hatred and division.”

Corbyn praised her contrubutions in Parliament where “she spoke out for refugees”, “on Islamophobia” and “Palestine”.

Prime Minister David Cameron praised Cox for her humanitarian work.

“Quite simply there are people around the world who are only alive because of Jo,” he said. Cameron said she was “voice of compassion”, “lit up lives of all who knew her”, and “epitomised best of humanity”.

The lawmakers ended the powerful and moving tribute with standing ovation.

Parliament had been suspended ahead of Britain’s EU membership referendum, which will be held on Thursday. The special session on Monday was followed by a service at a nearby church.

 

Additional reporting by The Muslim News

 

[Photo: British Prime Minister David Cameron (C-L) and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn (C-R) attend the remembrance service for Jo Cox at St Margaret’s church in Westminster Abbey on June 20, 2016 in London, England. Photographer: Kate Green/AA]

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Palestine: Palestinians decry Rabbi call to poison West Bank water

Palestine-Israeli-security-forces-intervne-against-palesitinians-protesting-agains-wall-Settlement-at-Kafr-Kaddum-village-of-Nablus-10-6-16-pho-Nedal-Eshtayah-AA-513x239

By Anees Bargouthi

 

RAMALLAH, (AA):The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has denounced a Jewish rabbi’s permission for settlers to poison water sources in Palestinian areas in the occupied West Bank as “an order to kill”.

Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements, has issued an advisory opinion in which he allowed Jewish settlers to poison water in Palestinian villages and cities in the West Bank.

According to Israeli anti-occupation organization “Breaking the Silence”, the call for poisoning Palestinian water aim to push the Palestinians to leave their villages and pave the way for settlers to take over their lands.

“This is an incitement and a call for killing the Palestinians,” Wasil Abu Youssef, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.

He said such opinions by Jewish rabbis “prove that Israel is not a real peace partner”.

“Dozens of similar orders were made by rabbis that called for killing Palestinians, robbing their lands and farmlands and destroying their property,” he said.

The PLO said in a statement that the rabbi’s order encourages settlers to stage assaults against Palestinians.

“Hundreds of incidents were documented against Palestinian residents because of such racist advisories,” said the statement issued by the PLO’s national office for the defense of land.

International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement building on the land to be illegal.

About 500,000 Jewish settlers currently live on more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.

The Palestinians want these areas, along with the Gaza Strip, for a future state of Palestine.

Palestinian negotiators, however, insist that Israeli settlement building on Arab land must stop before a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached.

Author Aness Suheil Barghoti

 

[Photo: Israeli security forces intervene to Palestinians during a protest against the separation wall and Jewish settlement at Kafr Kaddum village of Nablus, West Bank on June 10, 2016. Photographer: Nedal Eshtayah/AA]

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Palestine: Only 100,000 Muslims allowed for 1st Friday of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa

Palestine-Muslims-arrive-to-perform-1st-Friday-prayer-in-ramadan-Al-Aqsa-Mosque-courtyard-Jerusalem-10-6-16-pho-Mahfouz-ABu-Turk-AA-513x239

By Anees Bargouthi

 

JERUSALEM (AA) – Thousands of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem marched to the Al-Aqsa Mosque today to perform the first Friday prayer of the Ramadan holy month.

Men over 45, children under 12 and women of all ages were allowed by the Israeli army to enter occupied East Jerusalem without entry permits.

“Due to Israeli security measures, I spent three hours at an army checkpoint to enter Jerusalem,” Ahmed Barakat, 55, from the West Bank city of Hebron (Al-Khalil) told Anadolu Agency.

“It’s the first time I’ve been in the city since last Ramadan,” he said.

“I will perform Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but I also hope to perform Taraweeh [Ramadan evening] prayers here,” he added.

The Israeli authorities have stepped up security around the flashpoint religious site, deploying some 3,500 policemen and erecting roadblocks at the entrances of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Sheikh Omar al-Qiswani, the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Palestinian director, told Anadolu Agency that only about 100,000 worshipers had prayed at Al-Aqsa on the first Friday of Ramadan, compared to some 250,000 last year.

“The [Jordan-run] Religious Endowments Authority has distributed hundreds of umbrellas for worshipers who will stay and have Iftar [i.e., break the Ramadan sunrise-to-sunset fast] inside the mosque compound,” he said.

“We were expecting about 300,000 visitors for the first Friday of Ramadan, but Israeli security measures have prevented that,” he added.

– Restrictions

On Thursday, the Israeli authorities suspended entry permits into Jerusalem for around 85,000 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip following a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv one day earlier in which four Israelis were killed.

The Israeli army also announced that a general closure would be imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories until midnight Sunday.

“I have a permit to enter Jerusalem for Ramadan, but the Israeli army stopped me at the Qalandia checkpoint,” Sameer Malki, 37, from the West Bank city of Ramallah, told Anadolu Agency.

“This month [Ramadan] is our only chance to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and see the Old City of Jerusalem,” he said.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, and for the latter represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state — a move never recognized by the international community.

International law continues to view the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Jewish settlement building on the land to be illegal.

[Photo: Muslims arrive to perform the first Friday Prayer during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard in Jerusalem on June 10, 2016. Photographer: Mahfouz Abu Turk/AA}

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Pakistan: Muslims build church for Christian neighbours

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By Aamir Latif

 

KARACHI, (AA): In Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab province, Muslim villagers are raising funds to help their poor Christian neighbors build a church.

The initiative was begun shortly before Easter by a group of Muslims from a village in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s textile-manufacturing hub.

“There is a tiny Christian population in the village — only 20 families — who have no place to worship,” Fr. Aftab James, the local priest, told Anadolu Agency.

“Only days before Easter, the initiative was taken up by our Muslim brothers,” he said.

According to Fr. James, Christians of the village had to use someone’s home — or some other site — to perform prayers on holy days.

“Muslim residents of the town, however, offered to build us a chapel as a gift,” he said.

“We are thankful to our Muslim brothers for this wonderful gesture. It makes us feel proud,” the priest said.

The local Christian community is now very excited that they will soon have a church in the village.

“Before we had to rent or borrow a house in which to hold Christmas, Easter and other festivities,” Faryad Masih, a Christian laborer, told Anadolu Agency.

“But now we will soon have our own chapel,” he said.

“At first I didn’t believe it when Muslim community leaders said they would build us a chapel,” he recalled.

“But to my surprise, construction work began within one month of the initial announcement,” a visibly excited Faryad said.

“Our community’s longtime dream is now coming true,” he said.

Christians, Pakistan’s largest religious minority, account for roughly 3 percent of the country’s total population of some 180 million.

Most of them reside in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, where they are mainly involved in the sanitation, nursing and teaching sectors.

Almost 60 percent of Pakistan’s Christian community is Protestant, while the rest are Catholic. The country’s Christians are represented in Pakistan’s government and Senate, and in national and provincial assemblies.

– Country of tolerance

The local community has already raised 150,000 Pakistani rupees (roughly $1,500) towards the total cost of the church’s construction, estimated at some 700,000 rupees ($7,000).

Mian Ejaz, one of the Muslim fundraisers, told Anadolu Agency that additional funds would eventually be raised to finish the chapel, which would include a medium-size prayer hall and another room.

“We had four mosques in the village but no place of worship for Christians, as most of them are poor and lack the funds to build a church on their own,” Ejaz, who also provides funds for the village’s four mosques, said.

Therefore, Ejaz said, Muslim community leaders had decided to give an Easter gift to their Christian counterparts in the form of a chapel.

The day construction work began on the church in March, a massive bombing tore through a public park in provincial capital Lahore killing dozens of people, including a number of Christians celebrating Easter.

“We want to tell the world that Pakistan isn’t a country of extremists — who are only a small minority — but a country of people who believe in religious tolerance and harmony,” Ejaz said.

“Moreover, the Christian world is doing a lot for Muslim refugees, so we should pay them [Christians] back in the same coin,” he said, referring to the flocks of Muslim refugees now trying to reach Europe from Turkey.

 

[Photo: One of many churches in Pakistan. St. Anthony’s Cathedral, Lahore. Photo by Kasim. Us for public domain]

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