Google bans app that features introduction from Muslim Brotherhood’s Al-Qaradawi

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi regarded as the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2019
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Google bans app that features introduction from Muslim Brotherhood’s Al-Qaradawi

  • The Euro Fatwa app was developed by the European Council for Fatwa and Research
  • The app was launched last month ahead of Ramadan

DUBAI: Google has banned from its online store a free-to-download app that featured an introduction written by Qatar-based Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, regarded as the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Euro Fatwa App, developed by the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), offers users a simple and concise guide “to enable the European Muslims to adhere to the regulations and manners of Islam and to fulfill their duties as Muslim citizens, while taking care of the legal, customary and cultural specificities of European societies.”

The ECFR, based in Dublin, launched the app last month ahead of Ramadan. The app is, however, still available on Apple’s App Store when Arab News accessed the site.

In the introduction to the app, the Egyptian-born cleric makes anti-Semitic references while discussing previous fatwas, or rulings regarding Islamic law. Al-Qaradawi, who has been residing in Qatar since 1961, was banned from the UK and France for extolling extremist views.

“While we can’t comment on individual apps, we’ll take swift action against any apps that break our policies once we’ve been made aware of them, including those that contain hate speech,” a Google spokesperson told Arab News.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have placed Al-Qaradawi in the terror list for his support of the Muslim Brotherhood and espousal of violence across the Middle East. The US is considering the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, a move that would impose economic and travel sanctions against the Islamist political group.

Al-Qaradawi has justified suicide bombings, especially in Palestine – even describing martyrdom as a higher form of jihad in his website; was openly hostile against Jews as a community and has issued religious edicts that demean women.

In one of his declarations against the Jews, Al-Qaradawi said on Al-Jazeera Arabic in January 2009: “Oh God, take Your enemies, the enemies of Islam … Oh God, take the treacherous Jewish aggressors … Oh God, count their numbers, slay them one by one and spare none.”


Afghans fear end of golden age of press freedom

Updated 21 May 2019
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Afghans fear end of golden age of press freedom

  • A recent televised news debate highlights how far media freedom has come in Afghanistan
  • Journalists alike worry a potential peace deal between the Taliban and the US could sound the death knell for a golden age of press freedom

KABUL: Beneath the gaze of the TV cameras a woman begins speaking, at first softly but with growing passion as she faces the "Butcher of Kabul" across a crowded auditorium and asks if he wants to apologise for alleged war crimes.
Without missing a beat, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the ruthless former warlord blamed for rocket attacks which reduced much of the Afghan capital to rubble in the 1990s, declined to do so.
The dramatic moment during a recent televised news debate highlights how far media freedom has come in Afghanistan, where -- for now -- traumatised civilians can stand and at least try to hold powerful men to account, live on camera.
"Years ago, these kind of questions could get you killed, but now people can challenge the most dangerous people in mainstream and social media," Mustafa Rahimi, a university student, said after watching the debate.
But today, even as hundreds of media outlets proliferate across Afghanistan, consumers and journalists alike worry a potential peace deal between the Taliban and the US could sound the death knell for a golden age of press freedom.
"We are concerned about a total or a partial ban on media," Sediqullah Khaliq, the director of Hewad TV and radio in Kandahar -- the birthplace of Taliban -- told AFP.
"There is fear that we may go back to a media blackout or having a state-controlled press."
While in power, the Taliban raged against traditional forms of mass communication and entertainment, banning television, movies and allowing only Islamist programming or propaganda to be broadcast on the only radio station, Voice of Sharia.
Anyone caught watching TV faced punishment and risked having their television set smashed and then displayed from a lamppost.
Almost all electronic products were outlawed as un-Islamic. For a while, trees in Kabul fluttered with the magnetic ribbon tape from destroyed cassettes.
Photographs of living things were illegal, and ownership of a video player could lead to a public lashing.
Afghanistan is the world's deadliest place for journalists, who face many risks covering the conflict and who have sometimes been targeted for doing their job.
Nine journalists, including AFP Kabul's chief photographer Shah Marai, were killed in an Islamic State attack in April 2018.
Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that 2018 was the deadliest year on record for journalists in Afghanistan, with at least 15 media workers killed while working.
Despite the risks, hundreds of media organisations have blossomed since 2001, and today there are more than 100 television channels, 284 radio stations and just over 400 newspapers and magazines, according to a government report.
With one of the world's lowest literacy rates, television and radio play a huge role in Afghan culture, and Afghans have grown accustomed to outlets holding their politicians to account.
Warlords, politicians, Taliban sympathisers and government officials are openly challenged in televised debates, radio programmes and on social media.
"We now play live music, women call in and share their problems on the radio. But even if the Taliban allow radios, I don't think they would like our programmes," said Mera Hamdam, a presenter at Zama private radio in Kandahar.
"There is huge concern that we will lose all our achievements," he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said if they return to power, the insurgents would follow an Islamic interpretation of freedom of expression.
"We won't allow propaganda, insults and humiliation to people in society and religious values. We will allow those who work for the betterment of the society," he told AFP.
A sixth round of talks between the US and the Taliban wrapped up last week in Doha, with apparently little progress being made on several key issues.
The two foes have for months been trying to hammer out a deal that could see foreign forces leave Afghanistan in return for a ceasefire, talks between Kabul and the Taliban, and a guarantee the country will not be used as a safe haven for terror groups.
But observers worry that in a rush to quit Afghanistan after nearly 18 gruelling years of war, America might not push for safeguards of protections many Afghans now take for granted, including media freedoms and improved rights for women and other marginalised people.
"Freedom of expression as a protective value should be incorporated into any document resulting from peace talks," NAI, a leading media support agency, said in a statement.
Rahimi, the university student, said he worried about Afghanistan going back to "the dark era".