Muslim prayer hall set on fire in France

HEIGHT OF HATE: Police officers inspect a damaged Muslim prayer room set on fire early in the morning, in Ajaccio, French Mediterranean island of Corsica, on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 30 April 2016
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Muslim prayer hall set on fire in France

AJACCIO: A Muslim prayer hall was ravaged by fire overnight in the capital of the French island of Corsica, local authorities said, four months after a separate Muslim prayer hall there was ransacked.

Prosecutors said was probably a criminal attack. The blaze occurred just months after the island, popular with tourists for its turquoise waters and picturesque mountains, was rocked by anti-Arab riots over Christmas.
No one was injured in the fire in Ajaccio, which police are investigating as criminal after finding two separate sources of fire inside the hall.
“This is unacceptable,” Ajaccio Mayor Laurent Marcangeli told iTELE news channel. “Those sites are not sufficiently protected.”
In late December, the island was rocked by days of racial tension after firemen in Ajaccio were attacked on a housing estate with a large immigrant population and a Muslim prayer hall was attacked in anti-immigrant protests that followed.
The building, one of the largest prayer halls in the capital Ajaccio, suffered major damage in the fire, said Abdallah Zekri, the head of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia. He called on the authorities “to do everything to shed light on this incident in order to avoid an escalation of violence.”
“It has been calm since the end of the year, but unfortunately certain ill-intentioned people want to inflame the situation,” he told AFP.
Protests erupted on the Mediterranean island over Christmas after firefighters and police called to a low-income immigrant neighborhood were ambushed and attacked.
Demonstrators shouting slogans such as “This is our home!” and “Arabs get out,” vandalized a prayer hall and set fire to books including copies of the Qur’an.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve issued a statement on Saturday expressing “solidarity with the Muslims of Corsica.”
He also voiced the “commitment of the government to protect all places of worship, and to ensure freedom of worship throughout the territory.”
Nationalists won regional elections in Corsica for the first time in December.
The island has the second largest proportion of foreigners in France, at between eight and 10 percent of the total population, after the Paris region.


UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in London on November 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

  • Jeremy Hunt: “The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive”

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will visit Iran for the first time on Monday for talks with the Iranian government on issues including the future of the 2015 nuclear deal, his office said in a statement.
In May, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, negotiated with five other world powers during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, and earlier this month the United States restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transportation sectors.
Hunt’s office said he would meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and would stress that the UK is committed to the nuclear deal as long as Iran sticks to its terms. He will also discuss European efforts to maintain nuclear-related sanctions relief.
“The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive,” Hunt said in a statement ahead of the visit.
“We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does. But we also need to see an end to destabilising activity by Iran in the rest of the region if we are going to tackle the root causes of the challenges the region faces.”
Hunt will also discuss Iran’s role in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, his office said, and press Iran on its human rights record, calling for the immediate release of detained British-Iranian dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.
“I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage,” he said.