Muslim candidate for US Congress says Americans want to see humanity in responses to Gaza war

Mahnoor Ahmad. (X: @ahmadforhouse)
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Updated 10 December 2023
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Muslim candidate for US Congress says Americans want to see humanity in responses to Gaza war

  • Mahnoor Ahmad accuses her opponent in the Democratic primary election, incumbent Sean Casten, of being ‘unresponsive’ to Arab and Muslim concerns
  • She says she wants to ensure all residents of her district in Illinois — Christians, Muslims and Jews — are equally represented and their concerns addressed

CHICAGO: Mahnoor Ahmad, a Muslim candidate for US Congress, said the need for “more humanity” in the response to Israel’s war on Gaza is a key issue in her campaign.

She told Arab News she is hearing more and more Americans say they want a ceasefire in Gaza, that this has nothing to do with their politics, and that innocent people are being victimized “by the worst of humanity.”

She is not afraid to say what needs to be said to help achieve peace and end the violence, she added, and accused her opponent in the Democratic Party primary election for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District, due to take place on March 19 next year, of being unwilling to do the same.

“We can’t just turn away,” Ahmad said. “It has become internationally embarrassing to do that. Every part of the world is rising up and turning against what Israel’s government is doing. We cannot go on like this. It is unsustainable to be with the status quo right now. Nothing good can come out of this.

“That is something we need to address as human beings. This is a human rights issue. This is nothing about Jewish or Muslim, or Palestine or Israel. This is nothing to do with that any more. It has gone far beyond that. This is an issue that needs to be addressed peacefully.

“And as America, a country of democracy, we should be the ones who initiate that. We should be the ones saying that we are the ones that represent peace. We are a true democratic state and we will not take part in the continuing bombardment of children or women.”

Describing the images of the violence against Palestinians and Israelis since the conflict began on Oct. 7 as “horrific” she said: “Is that the plan, to keep on bombarding these children, these women? More than half, two-thirds of these are children.”

Ahmad rejected any suggestion that she is anti-Israeli, pro-Hamas or opposes peace. The 6th Congressional District, which she hopes to serve in the House of Representatives, has one of the largest concentrations of Arabs and Muslims in the country, she said, and they deserve proper representation.

Ahmad’s family moved to the US when she was 7 years old, and she graduated with a masters degree in health from Purdue University. Her father is Pakistani and her late mother was an Arab.

Her opponent in the Democratic primary, incumbent Sean Casten, supported House Resolution 888, which affirms “Israel’s right to exist” and conflates criticism of the Israeli state with a form of antisemitism. The resolution excluded any reference to Palestinian, Arab or Muslim rights. He did support calls for a “pause” in Israel’s military campaign targeting Hamas in Gaza, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 16,000 people, including about 6,000 women and children, according to Palestinian authorities.

Ahmad said that by ignoring the suffering of “all of the civilians,” Israeli and Palestinian, Casten is out of touch with his district’s residents and with “humanity.”

She also accused him of being “unresponsive” to the concerns of his constituent on other issues closer to home, including high healthcare costs.

Ahmad said her goal is to ensure that “every person of every race, religion and ethnicity” can come to her office and is free to speak out about the need for more humanity when dealing with a range of issues.

“I am 100 percent generated by the people, especially by the people of the district, by refusing to take money from corporations and being completely dedicated to the people, who I have to listen to,” she said. “(The corporations are) not who you should have to listen to.

“When we are elected, we represent the people and when you represent the people it has to be through and through: everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or national origin. I will speak to and listen to everyone in the district.

"I grew up in this area. This is home for me. This is my district, these are my people. They are not just voters to me, these are actual people that I have connected deeply with.”

Ahmad said that while the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the killing of civilians there is currently a major concern, as a prospective member of Congress she is also very concerned about local and international issues including crime, healthcare, the economy, and the environment and climate change.

Healthcare in particular is a major issue that has yet to be fully addressed in the 6th District or nationwide, she added, and it must be more affordable for all residents, especially senior citizens, because currently the costs medicine and treatment are often out of the reach of many Americans.

“People can’t afford that,” she said. “Elderly people can’t afford dental care, which can cost thousands per month. There are elderly people who experience pain and can’t go to pain management and rely on pain-management medication … these are severe issues in our district and we need to be more aggressive in addressing and changing them.”

There is a “health crisis” in America, Ahmad said, adding: “Congress should be approving legislation, not blocking laws that could expand healthcare to citizens who are facing a healthcare crisis … we need to elect people whose hands are not tied to (health industry) corporations or anything like that, and are voting no against all the right legislation, so that we can do something about this health crisis.”

Casten has helped to block legislation that could expand access to affordable healthcare, she added.

Ahmad also supports changes to the law designed to prevent the “double taxation” of social security payments to the elderly, which she said Casten has not backed.

She said older people are “frustrated” by the failure of Congress to fully address their concerns and added: “We have to treasure our senior citizens. They are our parents. We have to keep them safe. They are a vulnerable community.”


London Mayor Sadiq Khan receives death threats from Islamic extremists, gets round-the-clock police protection, says source

Updated 8 sec ago
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London Mayor Sadiq Khan receives death threats from Islamic extremists, gets round-the-clock police protection, says source

  • Khan, who is the first Muslim mayor of the British capital, is reportedly protected around the clock by 15 police officers

LONDON: The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has received death threats from Islamic extremists and has been under police protection since 2017, it was reported on Tuesday.

A source with knowledge of the mayor’s security arrangements told The Guardian newspaper that the threat from Islamic fundamentalists was as high as it was from right-wing extremists.

Khan, who is the first Muslim mayor of the British capital, is protected around the clock by 15 police officers, the source added.

The Labour mayor, who has voted for same-sex marriage and backed gay rights in the UK, is seen as a target for Islamists because of his liberal views and his denouncement of terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic extremists, such as the twin attacks in London in 2017 and the Manchester Arena bombing in the same year.

The news comes in the same week that Khan was accused by former senior Conservative politician Lee Anderson of being “under the control of Islamists.”

A man pleaded guilty on Monday to two charges of sending communication threatening death or serious harm, reportedly to Khan, on Saturday following Anderson’s comments.

The charges against the man said that he called police to “convey a threat of death or serious harm to another, intending or being reckless as to whether an individual encountering the message would fear that the threat would be carried out.”


3 men snared in right-wing extremism probe charged in London court with prepping for terrorism

Updated 27 February 2024
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3 men snared in right-wing extremism probe charged in London court with prepping for terrorism

  • Men had manufactured an FGC-9 semi-automatic gun, had instructions on assembling a 3D-printed firearm and identified an Islamic education center in Leeds as a possible target
  • Christopher Ringrose, 33, and Brogan Stewart and Marco Pitzettu, both 24, were held in custody after their appearances by video at Westminster Magistrates’ Court

LONDON: Three men arrested in an investigation into right-wing extremism were charged Tuesday in a London court with preparing to commit a terrorist act, authorities said.
They were arrested on Feb. 21, Counter Terrorism Policing North East said.
Prosecutors said the men had joined extreme right-wing online chat forums, had right-wing text messages and distributed information on guns and ammunition.
The men had manufactured an FGC-9 semi-automatic gun, had instructions on assembling a 3D-printed firearm and identified an Islamic education center in Leeds as a possible target.
Christopher Ringrose, 33, and Brogan Stewart and Marco Pitzettu, both 24, were held in custody after their appearances by video at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and ordered to return to the Central Criminal Court on March 15. They did not enter pleas.


Poland mulls wider ban on Ukrainian food imports as farmers warn of more protests

Updated 27 February 2024
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Poland mulls wider ban on Ukrainian food imports as farmers warn of more protests

  • Tusk made the remarks during a visit to Prague as thousands of Polish farmers took to the streets of Warsaw, escalating a protest against food imports from Ukraine and EU green rules
  • Poland last year extended a ban on Ukrainian grain imports

WARSAW: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday he could not rule out widening a national ban on imports of Ukrainian grains to other products if the European Union does not act to protect the bloc’s markets.
Tusk made the remarks during a visit to Prague as thousands of Polish farmers took to the streets of Warsaw, carrying the national flag and blowing handheld horns, escalating a protest against food imports from Ukraine and EU green rules.
Farmers across Europe have been protesting for weeks against constraints placed on them by the EU’s “Green Deal” regulations meant to tackle climate change, as well as rising costs and what they say is unfair competition from outside the EU, particularly Ukraine.
The EU in 2022 waived duties on Ukrainian food imports following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Poland last year extended a ban on Ukrainian grain imports.
“We are talking about it with the Ukrainian side — that it will be necessary to expand the embargo to other products if the European Union does not find more effective ways to protect the European and Polish markets,” Tusk said on Tuesday.
Polish Agriculture Minister Czeslaw Siekierski said in a Tuesday evening interview on Polsat News TV that further talks with Ukraine on solutions were planned for Wednesday and various possibilities were being considered.
“Tomorrow we will also talk about it with Ukraine’s minister of economy, who will be a guest at the Ministry of Development and New Technologies,” he said, adding that he would be participating.
He said Polish farmers were invited to the agriculture ministry for talks on Thursday.
Speaking after Siekierski on Polsat News, protest organizer Szczepan Wojcik said the invitation was welcome, but warned of more protests if no progress was made during the next few days.
“Further protests in Warsaw have already been announced for March 6. Farmers are already organizing on the roads, and border crossings will continue to be blocked,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of further escalation, Wojcik said, “The farmers are desperate. ... The ball is in the government’s court.”
Earlier in the day, Tusk said the EU had to solve the problems created by its decision to open its borders to imports of Ukrainian food products.
He added that Poland was ready to co-finance purchases of Polish, European and Ukrainian food and agricultural products to be sent as humanitarian aid to famine-stricken countries, and that “Europe should certainly find funds for this.”
Back home, farmers rallied in central Warsaw before marching toward parliament and then Tusk’s office. A city hall official cited by PAP state news agency put the number of protesters around 10,000.
“We are protesting because we want the ‘green deal’ to be lifted, as it will lead our farms to bankruptcy with its costs...that are not comparable to what we harvest and to what we are paid,” said Kamil Wojciechowski, 31, a farmer from Izbica Kujawska in central Poland.
“What we’re paid for our work, it has decreased because of the influx of grain from Ukraine and this is our second demand — to block the influx of grain from Ukraine,” he said.
The farmers began a series of protests throughout the country earlier this month, which included a near-total blockade of all Ukrainian border crossings, as well as disruptions at ports and on roads nationwide.
“We won’t give up. We have no choice. Our farms will go bankrupt, we will lose our livelihoods,” Pawel Walkowiak, 47, a corn and wheat producer from Konarzewo in western Poland, said.
The city hall official said Tuesday’s protest in Warsaw took place without major incidents.


Strike by Athens taxi drivers coincides with nationwide public sector stoppage

Updated 27 February 2024
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Strike by Athens taxi drivers coincides with nationwide public sector stoppage

ATHENS: Taxi drivers in the Greek capital began a 48-hour strike Tuesday, with the second day timed to coincide with a nationwide strike by public and some private sector workers that is expected to disrupt public transport, ground some flights and leave ferries tied up in port.

More than 200 taxis drove through the center of Athens as part of a demonstration on the first day of the walkout, called by the capital’s main taxi union over a series of demands, including a reduction in taxes, access to bus lanes and stricter regulation on ride-sharing apps.

New taxes imposed on the self-employed in Greece have hammered the taxi industry, said Georgios Voilis, a taxi driver and union member. The tax burden “is a financial debasement, a tombstone,” for taxis, he said.

The second day of the taxi strike coincides with a nationwide strike called by Greece’s main public sector umbrella union to mark the first anniversary of the country’s deadliest rail disaster. Nearly 60 people were killed and dozens injured just before midnight on Feb. 28, 2023, when a passenger train collided head-on with a freight train after the two had mistakenly been put on the same track heading in opposite directions.

“One year (has passed) and those responsible for the tragedy have still not answered for their criminal actions that led 57 of our compatriots …. to their deaths,” the union, known by its Greek acronym ADEDY, said in its announcement of the strike.

ADEDY is also calling for a 10 percent increase in public sector salaries to tackle the rising cost of living and inflation, collective wage agreements and a series of tax breaks.

Wednesday’s strike is expected to disrupt all public transport in the Greek capital and leave ferries to and from the islands tied up in ports. The country’s air traffic controllers’ union has also announced its participation, which is expected to lead to the grounding of numerous flights.

Medical staff in public hospitals and teachers in public schools have said they will participate in the walkout, while staff at banks are also to strike for the day.


US names new special envoy to Sudan in push to end war

Updated 27 February 2024
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US names new special envoy to Sudan in push to end war

WASHINGTON: The US will appoint a new special envoy for Sudan as Washington seeks to bring an end to a war that has wrecked parts of the country and killed tens of thousands.

Former diplomat and US member of Congress Tom Perriello will assume the special envoy role, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement as the US seeks to bring increased focus to the conflict after the failure of talks so far.

Perriello said he will build on efforts of partners across Africa and the Middle East to bring an end to the war, a humanitarian crisis and atrocities.

“This appointment reflects the urgency and importance President Biden and Secretary Blinken have placed on ending this war, putting a stop to rampant atrocities against civilians, and preventing an already horrific humanitarian situation from becoming a catastrophic famine,” Perriello said.

The US Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey has left his role, Blinken said in the statement.

Daniel Rubinstein will serve as interim charge d’affaires as director of the Office of Sudan Affairs, Blinken said. He will be based in Ethiopia.

War broke out in Sudan last April over disputes about the powers of the army and the Rapid Support Forces under an internationally-backed plan for a political transition toward civilian rule and elections.

The army and the RSF had shared power with civilians after the fall of former leader Omar Bashir in a popular uprising in 2019, before staging a coup two years later.

The fighting has wrecked parts of Sudan including the capital Khartoum, killed more than 13,000 people according to UN estimates, drawn warnings of famine, and created an internal displacement crisis.

The Rapid Support Forces are accused by the US of participating in an ethnic cleansing campaign in West Darfur, along with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The army, which has carried out a widespread airstrike campaign, is also accused of war crimes by the US.

Perriello previously served as special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as a US representative from Virginia.

Rubinstein recently led the US delegation at talks on Sudan in the Saudi city of Jeddah. Neither side maintained commitments made in the talks. The US military evacuated American government personnel from Khartoum in April last year and suspended operations at its embassy there after fighting between Sudan’s rival commanders broke out.