Row erupts in France over state funding for Turkish mosque

The Strasbourg mosque is the latest scene of confrontation between France's secular ideals and significant Muslim minority. (AFP)
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Updated 26 March 2021
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Row erupts in France over state funding for Turkish mosque

  • Local authorities have been accused of using public finances to fund “foreign meddling” on French soil
  • Macron seeks to combat radical Islam, which he sees as a threat to the country’s secular system

PARIS: A row has erupted in France over plans to build a mosque in Strasbourg, with the interior ministry on Wednesday accusing the municipal authorities there of using public money to fund “foreign meddling” on French soil.
While President Emmanuel Macron wants to crack down on Islamic extremism, which he blames for a series of deadly terror attacks in France since 2015, the planned mosque in the eastern French city has found itself in the government’s crosshairs because it is backed by a leading Turkish Muslim group.
On Monday, municipal officials in Strasbourg, run by a Green mayor, approved a grant of 2.5 million euros (nearly $3 million) to the Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation (CMIG), a pan-European movement for the Turkish diaspora.
But the CMIG is one of three Muslim confederations in France that have refused to sign a new anti-extremism charter championed by Macron.
Macron wants the groups to commit in writing to renouncing “political Islam” and to respecting French law, as he seeks to combat radical Islam which he sees as a threat to the country’s secular system.
The government has also drafted legislation which would force Muslim groups to declare major foreign funding and would give the state increased powers to shut down speech judged to spread hate or violence.
“We believe that this association is no longer able to be among the representatives of Islam in France,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said of the Milli Gorus group on BFM television.
“We believe that this municipal authority should not be financing foreign meddling on our soil,” he added.
Macron warned against Turkish meddling in France’s presidential elections next year, in an interview broadcast Tuesday.
Relations between France and Turkey have been battered by disputes over the conflicts on Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, and Turkish accusations of Islamophobia in France.
Darmanin said he had asked the government’s top regional representative to file an administrative court complaint to stop the subsidy.
Strasbourg Mayor Jeanne Barseghian has said the mosque project has been in the works since 2017, before she was elected, and that the funds are contingent on Milli Gorus presenting both a solid financing plan and “a reaffirmation of the values of the Republic.”
A CMIG official, Eyup Sahin, told AFP that his association was refusing to sign the charter because it had not been allowed to fully participate in its elaboration.
“It was done by two or three people,” Sahin said. “If we sign a charter, it will be one that we have all worked on together.”
Darmanin is set to meet again in the coming days with the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), an umbrella group of Muslim organizations, to try to hammer out an accord.


Hundreds of Sikh Canadians protest against India

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Hundreds of Sikh Canadians protest against India

  • Canada has said New Delhi was possibly involved in June assassination of Sikh separatist leader near Vancouver
  • Several hundred people gathered in Toronto but also in Ottawa and Vancouver to denounce PM Modi’s government

TORONTO, Canada: Hundreds of Sikh protesters rallied outside Indian diplomatic missions in Canada on Monday, trampling pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and burning flags a week after Ottawa said New Delhi had played a role in the killing of a prominent Sikh activist.
“We are not safe back home in Punjab, we are not safe in Canada,” said Joe Hotha, a member of the Sikh community in Toronto, referring to the murder in June of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver.
Last Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told parliament that New Delhi was possibly involved in the assassination of the Sikh leader, triggering a major diplomatic crisis between the two nations.
“Now our prime minister tells everything in the parliament, so there is no excuse,” said another Sikh protester, Harpar Gosal of Toronto.
Like other protesters, he carried the yellow flag of Khalistan — an independent state that some Sikhs hope to create in the Indian region of Punjab.
Several hundred people gathered in Toronto but also in Ottawa and Vancouver to denounce Modi’s government.
Canada is home to the largest Sikh community in the world outside of India, with 770,000 Canadians professing Sikhism in 2021, or two percent of the country’s population.
The Indian government called the Canadian accusations “absurd” and vehemently denied them.
It also advised its nationals not to travel to certain Canadian regions “given the increase in anti-Indian activities” and temporarily stopped processing visa applications in Canada.
Since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been at their lowest point, marked by reciprocal expulsions of diplomats while Trudeau has repeatedly called on the Indian authorities to cooperate in the investigation.


Biden, US officials warn of hunger for millions in a government shutdown

Visitors tour the Capitol grounds in Washington, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023. (AP)
Updated 26 September 2023
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Biden, US officials warn of hunger for millions in a government shutdown

  • More than 40 million Americans relied on SNAP to make ends meet in 2022; inflation has put new pressure on household budgets, with prices higher since the COVID-19 pandemic for goods from bread to fresh vegetables and baby formula

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden and one of his top aides warned on Monday that a federal government shutdown could cause widespread suffering, including a rapid loss of food benefits for nearly 7 million low-income women and children.
Biden told a meeting on Historically Black Colleges and Universities that failure by Congress to fund the federal government would have dire consequences for the Black community, including by reducing nutritional benefits, inspections of hazardous waste sites and enforcement of fair housing laws.
He said he and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had agreed a few months ago on spending levels for the government.
“We made a deal, we shook hands,” he said. “Now a small group of extreme House Republicans .. don’t want to live up to that deal, and everyone in America could be faced with paying the price for it.”
Asked if he had spoken with McCarthy, Biden said, “I haven’t.” He shook his head when asked when they would speak.
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters earlier that the “vast majority” of the 7 million participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program would see an immediate reduction in benefits in the days and weeks after a shutdown starts.
Nearly half of US newborns rely on WIC, the USDA says.
A separate benefits program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will continue as normal for the month of October but could be affected afterward, he said.
More than 40 million Americans relied on SNAP to make ends meet in 2022; inflation has put new pressure on household budgets, with prices higher since the COVID-19 pandemic for goods from bread to fresh vegetables and baby formula.
During a shutdown, farm service agencies will also stop making loans to farmers during harvest time, and new homebuyers will not be able to get loans in rural areas, Vilsack said. More than 50,000 Department of Agriculture workers will be furloughed, meaning they will not receive a paycheck.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives may move to advance steep spending cuts this week that would almost certainly be rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate. While the cuts would not become law, a failure by both chambers to agree could force a partial shutdown of the US government by next Sunday.
House lawmakers on Tuesday were set to take up four spending bills for the coming fiscal year that would also impose new restrictions on abortion access, undo an $11 billion Biden administration climate initiative, and resume construction of the Mexico-US border wall, a signature initiative of former President Donald Trump. Biden has vowed to veto at least two of the bills.
Vilsack called Republican fiscal plans “punitive” and “petty.” 

 


US condemns reported attack on Cuba’s embassy in Washington

Updated 26 September 2023
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US condemns reported attack on Cuba’s embassy in Washington

  • An assailant attacked the embassy with two Molotov cocktails on Sunday night, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said earlier on X, adding that nobody was hurt

WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday condemned a reported attack on Cuba’s embassy in Washington and said it was in contact with law enforcement to ensure a timely investigation took place, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
An assailant attacked the embassy with two Molotov cocktails on Sunday night, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said earlier on X, adding that nobody was hurt.

 

 


Anti-Muslim hate speech in India concentrated around elections, report finds

Updated 26 September 2023
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Anti-Muslim hate speech in India concentrated around elections, report finds

  • About 80 percent of those events took place in areas governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is widely expected to win the general elections in 2024

WASHINGTON: Anti-Muslim hate speech incidents in India averaged more than one a day in the first half of 2023 and were seen most in states with upcoming elections, according to a report by Hindutva Watch, a Washington-based group monitoring attacks on minorities.
There were 255 documented incidents of hate speech gatherings targeting Muslims in the first half of 2023, the report found. There was no comparative data for prior years.
It used the United Nations’ definition of hate speech as “any form of communication... that employs prejudiced or discriminatory language toward an individual or group based on attributes such as religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, or other identity factors.”
About 70 percent of the incidents took place in states scheduled to hold elections in 2023 and 2024, according to the report.

A pro-Hindu supporter brandishes a gun during a protest against a new citizenship law outside the Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi, India, January 30, 2020. (REUTERS)

Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat witnessed the highest number of hate speech gatherings, with Maharashtra accounting for 29 percent of such incidents, the report found. The majority of the hate speech events mentioned conspiracy theories and calls for violence and socio-economic boycotts against Muslims.
About 80 percent of those events took place in areas governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is widely expected to win the general elections in 2024.
Hindutva Watch said it tracked online activity of Hindu nationalist groups, verified videos of hate speeches posted on social media and compiled data of isolated incidents reported by media.
Modi’s government denies the presence of minority abuse. The Indian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
Rights groups allege mistreatment of Muslims under Modi, who became prime minister in 2014.
They point to a 2019 citizenship law described as “fundamentally discriminatory” by the United Nations human rights office for excluding Muslim migrants; an anti-conversion legislation challenging the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief, and the 2019 revoking of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status.
There has also been demolition of Muslim properties in the name of removing illegal construction and a ban on wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka when the BJP was in power in that state.

 


Missing for 4 months, prominent Pakistani TV anchor returns home

Updated 26 September 2023
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Missing for 4 months, prominent Pakistani TV anchor returns home

  • Imran Riaz Khan, widely perceived to be sympathetic to ex-PM Imran Khan, was arrested two days after the May 9 protests

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani anchorperson and YouTuber Imran Riaz Khan has been “safely recovered,” Sialkot Police confirmed on Monday, four months after the journalist was arrested and his whereabouts remained unknown following a nationwide crackdown against supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan. 

The TV anchor, widely perceived to be sympathetic to ex-PM Imran Khan, was arrested from Sialkot airport on May 11, according to his lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq, after the violent protests of May 9 which saw angry Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporters torch government buildings and attack military installations across the country. His lawyer told media Khan was arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order ordinance, under which authorities can arrest a person to maintain public order and extend the period of such detention for a time period not exceeding six months at a time.

According to Ashfaq, Khan was taken to Cantt police station after his arrest and later to the Sialkot prison. On May 15, a law officer told a court that Khan was released from jail after an undertaking in writing was taken from him.

Following that, his whereabouts remained unknown for four months. 

Khan’s father Muhammad Riaz lodged a case of alleged abduction of his son at the Sialkot Civil Lines police against “unidentified persons” and police officials and subsequently filed a petition at the Lahore High Court for his son’s recovery. During a hearing of the petition, the LHC gave the Punjab police chief one “last opportunity” to recover the missing anchor. 

“Journalist/Anchor Mr.Imran Riaz Khan has been safely recovered,” Sialkot Police wrote on Twitter. “He is now with his family.”