Muslim woman sues Missouri gun shop over hijab removal rule

A firearms store and gun range in suburban Kansas City refused to let a Muslim woman use the range unless she removed her hijab. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 January 2022

Muslim woman sues Missouri gun shop over hijab removal rule

  • Rania Barakat and her husband went to Frontier Justice on Jan. 1, 2020, to shoot at its gun range
  • The woman was told she would not be allowed to use the range unless she removed her hijab

KANSAS: A firearms store and gun range in suburban Kansas City refused to let a Muslim woman use the range unless she removed her hijab, a Muslim civil rights organization alleged in a federal lawsuit.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the law firm of Baldwin & Vernon in Independence alleges that the gun range at Frontier Justice in Lee’s Summit enforces its dress code in a discriminatory way that disproportionately affects Muslim women.
Rania Barakat and her husband went to Frontier Justice on Jan. 1, 2020, to shoot at its gun range. According to the lawsuit, Barakat was told she would not be allowed to use the range unless she removed her hijab, a religious head covering worn by some Muslim women.
Frontier Justice officials said in a statement posted on Facebook that the dress code rules, which have been in place since the store opened in 2015, are designed to protect people from being burned by expended brass and are not discriminatory.
The gun range requires shooters to remove all head coverings except baseball caps facing forward. A store manager explained that shrapnel could cause the hijab and skin to burn.
The couple told the manager they had used several other shooting ranges with no problems caused by the hijab, and that people wear long sleeves and shirts that cover their necks to protect them from shrapnel, according to the lawsuit.
The manager said the gun range had different rules, according to the lawsuit. The couple left the store after the manager became “aggressive and loud,” the suit alleged.
The lawsuit contends that it is Frontier Justice’s policy to turn away Muslims wearing hijabs, citing several social media posts from other Muslims about being refused use of the shooting range. It also claims that Instagram posts from Frontier Justice show customers wearing baseball caps turned backward, and hats and scarves.
“It is completely unacceptable for a business establishment to deny service to customers based on their religious beliefs — and that is exactly what Frontier Justice has done,” Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of the board of CAIR-Kansas, said in a statement. “The claim that a hijab somehow presents a safety issue is merely a bad excuse in an attempt to justify a pattern of discriminatory treatment of Muslim women.”
The statement from Frontier Justice said it has had no complaints about its policies except from Barakat. It also offers Muslims who want to wear the hijab a chance to use a shot simulator or to wear a swim hijab.
“It saddens us that anyone would say we are not inclusive, given that we serve all races and religions every single day in all of our stores. We pride ourselves on this fact, and we strongly believe in America and the Second Amendment that is for every single American. Period,” Bren Brown, president of Frontier Justice, said in the statement.
CAIR asked the US Department of Justice in July to investigate civil rights practices at Frontier Justice.
At the time, Brown said Barakat was not discriminated against and was asked to follow a dress code that is applied to all patrons equally, The Kansas City Star reported.
The lawsuit asks the federal court to find that Frontier Justice’s policies regarding the wearing of hijabs violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act and prohibit the gun range and its employees from acting in ways that discriminate against anyone based on their religion.


Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars

Updated 25 November 2022

Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars

  • The unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is fast becoming the incessant chanting of street marshals
  • They point visitors in the right direction on their search for public

DOHA: The World Cup 2010 in South Africa had Shakira. The 1998 tournament in France had Ricky Martin.
For many fans, the unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is fast becoming the incessant chanting of street marshals, better known as Last Mile Marshals.
Seated all over Doha on high chairs more commonly used by lifeguards at swimming pools, these migrant workers have become a staple of the Middle East’s first World Cup.
They point visitors flooding into this Arabian Peninsula nation in the right direction on their search for public transportation. It’s an important crowd control measure as some 1.2 million fans are expected to inundate Qatar, a country home to 3 million people.
The vast majority of the marshals come from Kenya and Ghana. They say they responded to job ads in August and September, ahead of the World Cup.
After a monotonous start, some marshals now sing or chant their instructions to fans. Bullhorns they carry blast out the recorded message again, and again, and again.


The instructions spark laughter among fans who often join in with the chants.
“Which way?” the fans chant.
“This way,” ushers respond, pointing a giant foam finger toward a station on Doha’s new massive underground metro built for the tournament.
The exchange then finds its rhythm and turns into almost a song: “Metro, metro, metro, this way, this way, this way.”
Abubakar Abbas of Kenya says it all started as a way of easing boredom during his first days of work.
“The fans were just passing by without any engagement,” Abbas said from his high chair outside the Souq Waqif metro station, “So I decided to come up with an idea where I can engage the fans and be interesting at the same time. That’s how I came up with the idea and thank God it is trending now.”
Qatar’s World Cup has already produced memorable moments on the pitch, including Argentina’s surprise defeat to Saudi Arabia and Germany’s loss to Japan.
Outside the stadiums, the marshals trance-like chant is stuck in people’s head.
“Even when I sleep at night, I hear ‘metro, metro, metro’ ringing in my head,” he said.


Joe Biden becomes first sitting US president to reach 80 years old

Updated 21 November 2022

Joe Biden becomes first sitting US president to reach 80 years old

  • His latest medical checkup showed he was fit to serve as president, but the rigors of his office also have made their mark on Biden, who walks now with a stiffer gait and suffers moments of confusion

WASHINGTON: For the first time in history, a sitting president turned 80 years old in the White House on Sunday but did not celebrate in any public way.
It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that First Lady Jill Biden posted an affectionate message, with two photos of the couple dancing in tuxedos and gala attire.
“There’s no one else I’d rather dance with than you. Happy Birthday Joe! I love you,” Jill Biden tweeted.
It was the sole mention from the White House of the birthday, and with no public event scheduled no indication emerged of how, or even if, the president would celebrate his birthday.
Just a day earlier, the Biden family hosted a large-scale fete at the White House — the wedding of Biden’s granddaughter Naomi, which was closed to the press.

 

Biden does have an important matter to discuss with his family in the coming days — whether he will seek re-election in 2024.
He said at a press conference November 9 that he “intends” to run, and said he and his wife will “sneak away” for a week at some point between Thanksgiving and Christmas to decide with his family.
He promised to make his decision public in early 2023.
Various recent polls say a majority of Americans do not want Biden to run again.
While influential figures who are over 70 or even 75 years old are ample in the American political landscape, the midterm elections have brought some initial generational change in the Democratic Party.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, 82, announced her decision Thursday not to run for a new term as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Biden underwent a thorough medical checkup about a year ago, and the results concluded that he was “a healthy, vigorous” man who is fit to serve as president.
But the rigors of the Oval Office also have made their mark on Biden, who walks now with a stiffer gait and suffers moments of confusion.
 


Children in Syria’s Idlib hold their own World Cup

Updated 19 November 2022

Children in Syria’s Idlib hold their own World Cup

  • The excited children took part in the opening ceremony at the municipal stadium in Idlib
  • Children aged 10 to 14 have been training for months to take part in the "camps World Cup"

IDLIB, Syria: More than 300 children in rebel-held northwest Syria kicked off their own football World Cup on Saturday, with organizers hoping to shine a light on communities battered by 11 years of war.
The excited children took part in the opening ceremony at the municipal stadium in Idlib, some wearing the jerseys of this year’s World Cup teams, an AFP photographer said.
Their 32 squads correspond to the nations that have qualified for the World Cup, which starts Sunday in Qatar, and their competition opened with a match between the host country and Ecuador, reflecting the official schedule.
“I represent Spain and I hope we win the cup,” gushed 12-year-old Bassel Sheikho, who works in a garage.
While children from camps for displaced people in Idlib and surrounding areas make up 25 of the teams, the other seven are composed of children who work in industrial zones in the region.
Syria’s war has killed around half a million people and displaced millions more since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced.
Children aged 10 to 14 have been training for months to take part in the “camps World Cup,” said Ibrahim Sarmini from the NGO Violet, which organized the tournament.
He said the event aims to encourage children to participate in sports, and to “focus international attention on displaced youth and those who work,” who are among those most exposed to sometimes deadly risks.
The last pocket of armed opposition to President Bashar Assad’s regime includes large swathes of Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.
The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) militant group, led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, is dominant in the area but other rebel groups are also active.
The “camps World Cup” matches will continue throughout the official tournament period, and the final will be organized in a camp in Idlib.
Sarmini noted that winter was set to begin in full force, with rains expected to once again bring misery to the ramshackle, poverty-stricken camps.
“I hope the whole world will turn their attention to the displaced and will support them so they can return to their homes as soon as possible,” he said.


India successfully launches first privately made rocket

Updated 18 November 2022

India successfully launches first privately made rocket

  • The Skyroot rockets are named after Vikram Sarabhai, an Indian physicist and astronomer

BENGALURU: India successfully launched its first privately developed rocket, the Vikram-S, on Friday, a milestone in the country’s effort to create a commercial space industry and to compete on cost.
The 545-kg rocket, developed by space startup Skyroot, took off from the Indian space agency’s launch site near Chennai and hit a peak altitude of 89.5 kilometers (km).
The rocket has the capability of reaching Mach 5 — five times the speed of sound — and carrying a payload of 83 kg to an altitude of 100 kilometers, the company said.
The Skyroot team had set a target of 80 km for its first launch, a benchmark some agencies define as the frontier of space. The Karman line — set by an international aeronautics body as defining the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space — is at 100 km altitude.
Video footage showed the rocket taking off from the space center, leaving a plume of smoke and fire in its trail. It splashed down in the Bay of Bengal about 5 minutes after launch, officials said.
“I’m happy to announce the successful completion of Mission Prarambh, the beginning,” said Pawan Goenka, who chairs the Indian government agency that coordinates private-sector space activities.
Skyroot, which was started by Pawan Chandana and Bharath Daka, has set a target of cutting development costs by up to 90 percent versus existing platforms to launch small satellites.
It expects to achieve that cost savings by using a rocket architecture that can be assembled in less than 72 hours with composite materials. It plans launches capable of delivering satellites starting next year.
“Innovation and cost efficiency should be the two drivers for the industry. Cost efficiency has already been achieved, and now we should look at cutting edge technology,” Chandana said.
The Indian government has been pushing to develop a private space industry to complement its state-run space program known for its affordable launches and missions.
India’s unmanned Mars mission in 2014 cost only $74 million, and made headlines for costing less than the Academy Award winnning film “Gravity.”
Until now, the state-run ISRO has had a monopoly on launching rockets in India.
The Skyroot rockets are named after Vikram Sarabhai, the Indian physicist and astronomer considered the father of India’s space program.
Hyderabad-based Skyroot, founded in 2018 and backed by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, was the first space startup to sign an agreement to use Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launch and test facilities after the government opened the door to private companies in 2020.
It has raised 5.26 billion rupees ($64.42 million) so far and employs about 200 people. Close to 100 people have been involved in its maiden launch project, the company said. ($1 = 81.6550 Indian rupees)


NASA launches new mega rocket on maiden flight to Moon

Updated 16 November 2022

NASA launches new mega rocket on maiden flight to Moon

  • The 32-story Space Launch System (SLS) rocket surged off the launch pad from the Kennedy Space Center
  • Liftoff came on the third attempt at launching the long-delayed, multibillion-dollar rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: NASA’s towering next-generation moon rocket blasted off from Florida early on Wednesday on its debut flight, a crewless voyage inaugurating the US space agency’s Artemis exploration program 50 years after the final Apollo moon mission.
The 32-story Space Launch System (SLS) rocket surged off the launch pad from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral to send its Orion capsule on a three-week test journey around the moon and back without astronauts aboard.
Liftoff came on the third attempt at launching the long-delayed, multibillion-dollar rocket, after 10 weeks beset by numerous technical mishaps, back-to-back hurricanes and two excursions trundling the spacecraft out of its hangar to the launch pad.
Dubbed Artemis I, the mission marks the first flight of the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule together, built by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp, respectively, under contract with NASA.
It also signals a major change in direction for NASA’s post-Apollo human spaceflight program after decades focused on low-Earth orbit with space shuttles and the International Space Station. (See graphic)
Named for the ancient Greek goddess of the hunt — and Apollo’s twin sister — Artemis aims to return astronauts to the moon’s surface as early as 2025.
Twelve astronauts walked on the moon during six Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972, the only spaceflights yet to place humans on the lunar surface. But Apollo, born of the Cold War-era US-Soviet space race, was less science-driven than Artemis.
The new moon program has enlisted commercial partners such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the space agencies of Europe, Canada and Japan to eventually establish a long-term lunar base as a stepping stone to even more ambitious human voyages to Mars.
The Artemis I countdown climaxed with the rocket’s four main R-25 engines and its twin solid-rocket boosters roaring to life, sending the spacecraft streaking skyward and lighting up the night sky over Florida’s central Atlantic coast.
About 90 minutes after launch, the rocket’s upper stage is designed to loft Orion out of Earth orbit on course for a 25-day flight that will bring it to within 60 miles (97 km) of the lunar surface before sailing 40,000 miles (64,374 km) beyond the moon and back to Earth.
The capsule is expected to splash down on Dec. 11.
SPACEFLIGHT STRESS TEST
Getting the SLS-Orion spacecraft off the ground was a key hurdle for the ambitious Artemis program. Its first voyage is intended to put the vehicle through its paces in a rigorous test flight, pushing its design limits to prove the spacecraft is suitable to fly astronauts.
If the mission succeeds, a crewed Artemis II flight around the moon and back could come as early as 2024, followed within a few more years by the program’s first lunar landing of astronauts, one of them a woman, with Artemis III.
Billed as the most powerful, complex rocket in the world, the SLS represents the biggest new vertical launch system NASA has built since the Saturn V of the Apollo era.
Although no people were aboard, Orion carried a simulated crew of three — one male and two female mannequins — fitted with sensors to measure radiation levels and other stresses that astronauts would experience.
A top objective is to test the durability of Orion’s heat shield during re-entry as it hits Earth’s atmosphere at 24,500 miles (39,429 km) per hour, or 32 times the speed of sound, on its return from lunar orbit — much faster than re-entries from the space station.
The heat shield is designed to withstand re-entry friction expected to raise temperatures outside the capsule to nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).
The spacecraft also is set to release a payload of 10 miniaturized science satellites, called CubeSats, including one designed to map the abundance of ice deposits on the moon’s south pole, where Artemis seeks to eventually land astronauts.
Sending astronauts to Mars, an order of magnitude more challenging than lunar landings, is expected to take at least another decade and a half to achieve.
More than a decade in development with years of delays and budget overruns, the SLS-Orion spacecraft has so far cost NASA least $37 billion, including design, construction, testing and ground facilities. NASA’s Office of Inspector General has projected total Artemis costs at $93 billion by 2025.
NASA calls the program a boon to space exploration that has generated tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in commerce.

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