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Furore over ex-Waqf chief’s redacted Quran

Waseem Rizvi, the former chairman of Shia Central Waqf Board in Uttar Pradesh, has kicked up a major controversy.

He claims to have created a ‘new Quran’ by removing 26 verses that allegedly promote violence and arranged the remaining verses in proper sequence, reports IANS.

Rizvi has also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to authorize the use of his ‘new Quran’ in all madrasas and Muslim institutes: “I appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to include this new Quran in the education curriculum of various madrasas and Muslim education institutes across the country. This redacted version of the Quran is the right Quran and it will soon be available in the market for people to buy.”

Earlier this year, Waseem Rizvi had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court to remove 26 verses of the Quran saying that they promote terrorism and jihad. In his PIL, Rizvi had stated that these verses are allegedly used by Islamist Terrorist Groups as justification for attacks on non-believers and civilians.

However, the court termed the petition to be “absolutely frivolous” and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Rizvi for filing the PIL.

According to his PIL, he said that Islam is based on the concept of equality, forgiveness, equity and tolerance. However, people have been drifting away from these basics.

He added, due to the extreme interpretations of the 26 verses of the Holy book, Islam is getting identified with militancy, fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism.

Shortly after his PIL, several FIRs were filed against Rizvi. Both Shia and Sunni communities, have alleged that Waseem Rizvi had been ‘deliberately’ trying to drive a wedge between the two communities.

Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad said that Rizvi was ‘an enemy of Islam’ and had nothing to do with the Quran.

Maulana Yasoob Abbas said that the All-India Shia Personal Law Board has strongly condemned Rizvi’s move. “Claiming to even edit or rewrite the Holy Quran is nothing short of blasphemy. It is an attempt to divide the nation. Muslims can never accept any change in the Holy Quran,” he said.

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Terrorism gravest threat to mankind: India to UN rights panel

New Delhi:  India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in his address to the UN Human Rights Council Tuesday warned that the threat of terrorism remains potent. “Terrorism continues to be one of the gravest threats to humankind. It is a crime against humanity and violates the most fundamental human right – namely, the right to life. As a long-standing victim, India has been in the forefront of the global action against terrorism,” he said.

This is the first time that an Indian foreign minister has addressed the Council. Calling for a coordinated global response to the challenges confronting human rights, Jaishankar said the situation was complicated by the pandemic and the need of the hour was for countries to come together against the challenges.

“This is possible only when there is a clear realization, including in bodies dealing with human rights, that terrorism can never be justified, nor its perpetrators ever equated with its victims.”

India, he said, was committed to protecting human rights and it was reflected in the handling of the pandemic both at home and abroad.

The minister also highlighted India’s help to more than 150 countries through the supply of vaccines, saying New Delhi has pledged to use its manufacturing capacity to make vaccines affordable and accessible to all.

“From Bangladesh to Brazil and from Morocco to Fiji, the pharmacy of the world is today supplying millions of vaccine doses to more than 70 countries.”

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International Latest News

India slams China and Pakistan on terrorism at UNSC

New York: Calling out Pakistan for its support for terrorism and China for providing terrorists cover against sanctions, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has unveiled an eight-point plan against the global scourge.

In a speech to a UNSC session — convened to mark two decades since the 1373 anti-terror resolution was passed after the 9/11 attacks in the US — Jaishankar called for “zero tolerance to terrorism”.

The international community must collectively expose and hold accountable those countries that are “clearly guilty of aiding and supporting terrorism, and willfully provide financial assistance and safe havens” for terrorists, he said speaking through a videolink.

Jaishankar did not name Pakistan or China, but he made the references to the countries contextually clear.

“We, in India, have seen the crime syndicate responsible for the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts not just given state protection but enjoying 5-star hospitality,” he said in one such reference that pointed to Pakistan hosting Dawood Ibrahim, the crime boss behind the attack that killed 257 people.

In his eight-point plan, he criticized the double standards advocated by Pakistan and some others and said: “Terrorists are terrorists; there are no good and bad ones. Those who propagate this distinction have an agenda. And those who cover up for them are just as culpable.”

As for China, he referred to “the practice of placing blocks and holds on listing requests without any rhyme or reasons which, he said, “must end because this only erodes our collective credibility.”

Beijing blocked for a decade the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist by a Council sanctions committee. He was behind several terrorist attacks on India.

Jaishankar suggested that the UN increase cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which should continue to identify and fix weaknesses in anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing mechanisms, he said.

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India Latest News

Modi, Hasina reiterate commitment to eliminating terrorism

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Thursday acknowledged the threat of terrorism to both the countries and reiterated their commitment to eliminate it.

In a virtual summit between Prime Minister Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Thursday, the two countries held comprehensive discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations, and exchanged views on regional and international issues.

Recognizing that terrorism remains a threat to global peace and security, both Modi and Hasina reiterated their “strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” an official statement of the ministry of external affairs said.

Both sides agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol and the Hariabhanga Rivers from Main Pillar 1 to Land Boundary terminus, with a view to finalizing the delineation of the boundaries as fixed. It was agreed to carry out necessary work to convert the International Boundary along Kuhsiyara river into a fixed boundary.

The two leaders also agreed to facilitate completion of border fencing at all pending sectors at the international border between both the countries at the earliest beginning from the Tripura (India)- Bangladesh sector. Both sides stressed on full implementation of the ongoing Coordinated Border Management Plan.

At the summit, Prime Minister Modi also announced that under his ‘neighborhood first policy’, the government will provide Covid-19 vaccines to Bangladesh as soon as they are produced in India. While noting the ongoing bilateral collaboration over the vaccine-development in the private sector, PM Modi also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production.

Recognizing the immense potential of bilateral economic and commercial ties, both Prime Ministers directed the officials to expeditiously conclude the ongoing joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

The two leaders noted that India-Bangladesh bilateral relations are based on shared bonds of history, culture, language, and on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership.

Both the leaders paid solemn tribute to the martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the Muktijoddhas and the Indian soldiers, for their great sacrifices in 1971.

The two Prime Ministers jointly unveiled a commemorative postal stamp issued by the Government of India on the occasion of birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangladesh had issued a stamp in honor of Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary celebrations in September this year.

An introductory video on the digital exhibition to commemorate the two great leaders of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi and Bangabandhu, was also screened on Thursday. The filming of the biopic on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, under the direction of celebrated Indian film director Shyam Benegal will commence in January 2021.

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India Latest News

Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed gets 10-year term

New Delhi/Islamabad: Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed was on Thursday sentenced to 10 years in jail by an anti-terrorism court in Lahore in two terror-financing cases. 

Saeed is already in jail as in February this year, he was sentenced to 11 years in jail in two other terror-financing cases. At present, he is lodged at Lahore’s high-security Kot Lakhpat jail.

“The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Lahore on Thursday sentenced four leaders of Jamat-ud-Dawa, including its chief Hafiz Saeed, in two more cases,” a court official told PTI. Saeed and his two close aides – Zafar Iqbal and Yahya Mujahid – have been sentenced to 10 and a half years each, while JuD chief’s brother-in-law Abdul Rehman Makki was sentenced to six months imprisonment.

“Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta of ATC Court No. 1 heard the case No. 16/19 and 25/19 filed by Counter Terrorism Department in which the verdict has been announced after the statements of witnesses were cross-examined by Naseeruddin Nayyar and Mohammad Imran Fazal Gul Advocate,” the official said.

A total of 41 cases have been registered by the CTD against the JuD leaders, out of which 24 have been decided while the rest are pending in the ATC courts. Four cases have been decided against Saeed so far. 

Saeed-led JuD is the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. He was listed under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.

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Latest News USA

Pragmatic Biden admin to press Pak on terrorism: ex-diplomat

Washington: The Biden administration is likely to be pragmatic in its dealings with Pakistan, pressing Islamabad to act on terrorism related issues and support America’s endeavors for peace in Afghanistan, according to a former top Pakistani diplomat.

There may be a resumption of the strategic dialogue process with Pakistan, but it will not be of the same level or scale as during the Obama administration, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, told PTI.

It is unlikely that a Biden administration will resume payments of security assistance or Coalition Support Funds, Haqqani said. These funds are drawn from a presidentially designed and congressionally authorized fund of money to reimburse counterterrorism allies for incremental costs associated with supporting US combat operations.

In 2018, the Trump administration suspended security aid to Pakistan after it failed to rein in terrorist groups. During his first official visit to Pakistan in 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said he hoped to “reset the relationship” with the Imran Khan-led Pakistan government after a period of sharp disagreements between the longtime security allies over Pakistan’s harboring of anti-Afghan militants.

Pakistan’s close ties with China and its lack of democracy and disregard for human rights will not be overlooked, said Haqqani, who currently is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute think-tank in Washington.

Observing that US President-elect Joe Biden and his advisors understand the importance of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, Haqqani said they may prefer to stretch out the US troops withdrawal, making it truly conditional to end of Taliban violence, and use the extra time to apply more pressure on the Taliban and Pakistan to ensure an agreement that is a peace deal not just a withdrawal deal.

The Trump administration signed a major peace deal with the Taliban in February, laying out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months as it seeks an exit from its longest-ever war.

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Latest News USA

Modi govt set to deal with incoming Biden administration

By Shishir Gupta

The White House will have a new occupant shortly. What does this mean for India? The Modi government’s connection with President elect Joe Biden goes back to the days when External Affairs S. Jaishankar was Indian Ambassador to US during the Obama administration and present Ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu was his deputy. The two have kept in touch with close advisors of President elect Biden ensuring that US maintains its bipartisan consensus towards India.

As far as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is concerned, he runs foreign policy on a personal touch with Indian interests as a top priority. He only gives up on a country or an institution after the latter shows duplicity in bilateral relations.

No marks for guessing the countries in that category.

While the Indian foreign policy will indeed have to recalibrate its approach towards the incoming Biden administration, New Delhi knows that president-elect is a collegial guy, who was more approachable to Republican adversaries as a vice president than the president during the Obama years. A quintessential politician who stayed more than half his life in Washington and knows the wrangling at Capitol Hill.

Unlike President Trump who hid his strategy behind a brash style, the incoming President will be more predictable in dealing with the world. He is expected to be tough yet not confrontational with China, will mend fences with Europe and be slightly rough with Russia.

Even though the Chinese experts are gloating over President Trump’s defeat, the US system now firmly believes that Beijing is not only an adversary but also a threat to the future. So one should not expect bombastic statements against the Communist Party of China during Biden-era but US policy on China has turned full circle and there should be a build-up on the Asia pivot that was promised but not delivered in the Obama administration. Trump, on his part, may be down but not out and will campaign for the Senate run-offs in Georgia to remain politically relevant in Republican party.

China’s all weather ally Pakistan also heaving a sigh of relief at the exit of President Trump but New Delhi believes that incoming administration will be tough on terrorism, particularly after the recent Islamist attacks in Europe by migrants.

The president-elect will continue with past policy of exiting Afghanistan but that won’t be easy as the US intelligence agencies and Pentagon (Trump dismissed their advice) have been reporting the escalation of Taliban violence with the backing of Haqqani network and Quetta based Shura with direct involvement of Pakistan deep state.

As president-elect is expected to work with expert advice on Afghanistan, then the role of British, who are tied up with Pakistan, may diminish in the near future. Islamabad’s double play in Afghanistan is now known to its former friends like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia with proof. Pakistan’s problem in fact may multiply with president-elect Biden having a very poor opinion about Islamabad’s newfound ally Turkey.

While New Delhi will wait till January 2021 for formal engagement with the new administration, it appears most confident in dealing with the new occupant of the White House.

(The article appeared in The Hindustan Times)

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Latest News USA

The challenge ahead for terror-hit France

By Rakesh Sood

France has faced its own share of terrorist attacks, including from among its own radicalized Muslims. The latest cycle, which has left the country in shock, began with the beheading of Samuel Paty, a school teacher on October 16, killed by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee who was enraged because Paty had shown caricatures of Prophet Mohammed during his lecture on “free speech” to students, after advising them that those offended could leave.

This was followed by a fatal stabbing of three, in a church in Nice by a 21-year-old recently-arrived Tunisian migrant on October 29.

President Emmanuel Macron’s statement at Paty’s memorial service describing him as a symbol of “freedom and reason” and vowing that French freedom of expression means that “we will not give up our cartoons” has provoked angry reactions from Muslims in other countries, fuelled by incendiary responses from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Pakistani Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan and Malaysian leader Mahathir bin Mohamed.

Erdogan said that “Macron needs a mental health check” and called for a boycott of French goods, leading France to recall its ambassador in protest. Behind his animus are growing differences on Turkish military interventions in Libya, in eastern Mediterranean against Greece and in supporting Azerbaijan against Armenia.

If France sees itself as the torchbearer for democratic, liberal and secular values, Turkey under Erdogan (who has been in power since 2003 and ensured his continuation till 2028 through constitutional manipulations) has reversed the Ataturk reforms of the 1930s to reclaim its Islamic identity and role in a neo-Ottoman avatar.

Imran Khan, facing domestic political unrest, issued a series of tweets blaming Macron for “hurting the sentiments and provoking millions of Muslims”. Parliament passed resolutions seeking the recall of its ambassador from Paris before realising that the new appointee hadn’t even joined. Mahathir Mohamed’s tweet that Muslims have the right “to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past” was taken down by Twitter for being offensive. Ironically, none of them has uttered a word about the incarceration of a million Uighur Muslims by China.

PM Narendra Modi condemned the terrorist act conveying solidarity with France, even as foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla was in Paris for talks where the radicalization of Muslim communities would have been discussed.

France is home to six million Muslims, the largest concentration in Europe. It has been aware of growing radicalization in certain sections of the community.

The challenge for France is not easy. The idea that education, hard work and following French laws and customs led to upward mobility has been challenged in recent years and Covid-19 has only highlighted it.

A recent opinion poll among Muslims in France revealed that while an encouraging 60% believed that freedom of expression should include satire, the same poll also indicated that over 75% were unwilling to include caricatures of Prophet Muhammed as acceptable satire.

This is the gap that Marine Le Pen, Macron’s most likely opponent in the 2022 election, will exploit with her populist, nationalist and anti-European Union platform. This is also the gap that Macron needs to bridge with his proposed legislative initiative.

(The article appeared in The Hindustan Times)

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Hizbul chief Salahuddin attacked in Pakistan: Report

New Delhi: Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin was allegedly left grievously injured after he was attacked by unknown assailants in Islamabad on May 25, according to Zee News which quoted reliable sources from Pakistan.

According to sources, the attack on the Hizbul chief was planned by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). While further update on his health is awaited, speculations are rife that the attack on the Hizbul chief is linked to the recent tiff between ISI and Salauddin.

Sources further revealed that the aim behind the attack was not to claim his life but send a message to the Hizbul chief. Meanwhile, Salahuddin was immediately shifted to a safer place following the attack. 

For the last few months, Salauddin, who also heads the United Jihad Council (UJC), a Pakistan-based conglomeration of various terror groups sponsored by ISI, was unhappy with the agency over the lack of support to Hizbul. Recent reports stated that Hizbul cadres were not provided adequate training, weapons and ammunition, thus allowing major fallout between Salahuddin and the ISI.

Moreover, after the elimination of Hizbul top commander Riyaz Naikoo in an encounter at south Kashmir by Indian Army, Salahuddin openly criticized the ISI during an interaction with the Hizbul cadres in PoJK.

Senior Hizbul sources in PoJK too believe that ISI may have planned to attack Salahuddin in a bid to send a strong signal to other outfit cadres to toe their line.

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