‘Speechless’ Hasina lambastes Myanmar for atrocities

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, center, meets with a Rohingya Muslim child at Kutupalong refugee camp, near the border town of Ukhia, Bangladesh, Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 12 September 2017

‘Speechless’ Hasina lambastes Myanmar for atrocities

UKHIYA: The Bangladeshi prime minister demanded Tuesday that Myanmar allow the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled recent violence in Buddhist-majority nation — a crisis she said left her speechless.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh would offer the refugees temporary shelter and aid, but that Myanmar should soon “take their nationals back.”
“We will not tolerate injustice,” she said at a rally at the Kutupalong refugee camp, near the border town of Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar district.
On Monday night, she lambasted Buddhist-majority Myanmar for “atrocities” that she said had reached a level beyond description, telling lawmakers she had “no words to condemn Myanmar.”
The crisis has drawn sharp criticism from around the world.
The UN human rights chief said Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya minority was facing what “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” UN rights investigators have been barred from entering the country.
“The Myanmar government should stop pretending that the Rohingya are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages,” Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said Monday in Geneva, calling it a “complete denial of reality.”
Meanwhile, a Rohingya villager in Myanmar said security forces had arrived Monday in the village of Pa Din village, firing guns, setting new fires to homes and driving hundreds of Rohingya to flee.
“People were scared and running out of the village,” the villager said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
Myanmar police disputed that, saying the houses were burned by terrorists they called Bengalis. That term is used derisively by many in Myanmar to describe the Rohingya, who they say migrated illegally from neighboring Bangladesh, though many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations.
Bangladesh has said it would free 2,000 acres of land for a new camp in Cox’s Bazar district, to help shelter newly arrived Rohingya. The government was also fingerprinting and registering new arrivals.
Kutupalong and another pre-existing Rohingya camps were already beyond capacity. Other new arrivals were staying in schools, or huddling in makeshift settlements with no toilets along roadsides and in open fields.
Basic resources were scarce, including food, clean water and medical aid.
Aid agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of Rohingya, many of whom are arriving hungry and traumatized after walking days through jungles or being packed into rickety wooden boats in search of safety in Bangladesh.
Many tell similar stories — of Myanmar soldiers firing indiscriminately on their villages, burning their homes and warning them to leave or to die. Some say they were attacked by Buddhist mobs.
In the last two weeks, the government hospital in Cox’s Bazar has been overwhelmed by Rohingya patients, with 80 arriving in the last two weeks suffering gunshot wounds as well as bad infections.
At least three Rohingya have been wounded in land mine blasts, and dozens have drowned when boats capsized during sea crossings.
Myanmar’s authorities said more than a week ago that some 400 Rohingya — mostly insurgents — had died in clashes with troops, but it has offered no updated death toll since.
Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and persecution in Myanmar and are denied citizenship despite centuries-olds roots in the Rakhine region.
Before Aug. 25, Bangladesh had already been housing some 500,000 Rohingya who arrived after bloody anti-Muslim rioting in 2012 or amid earlier persecution drives in Myanmar.

Italy’s Muslims help needy on Eid

Updated 28 May 2020

Italy’s Muslims help needy on Eid

  • ‘We give for the sake of solidarity,’ says Islamic center president

ROME: Muslim communities around Italy marked the end of Ramadan with displays of unity and generosity.

During the holy month, most communities have been involved in fundraising and food distribution for families struggling amid the two-month national lockdown to halt the coronavirus pandemic. 

With many mosques following stringent social distancing rules, Eid Al-Fitr celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan were mostly held outdoors, in parks or squares, to avoid the risk of infection.

In Vigevano, near Milan, more than €5,600 ($6,000) collected during Eid Al-Fitr prayers and celebrations was given to 190 local people in need.

“We celebrated the end of the holy month as well as the end of the fast in accordance with the new security measures required by the government,” Koutir El-Mostafa, president of the Islamic El Medina cultural center, told a local newspaper.

“Everyone made some contribution when they arrived for the communal prayer. They gave what they could, even two or three euros each, for the sake of solidarity and to help those in need during this difficult time.

“In the community, we have a list of families who live in hardship. Of course, their situation became worse with the coronavirus pandemic. We will help them all and do our best,” El-Mostafa said.

The cultural center reopened after national lockdown measures were eased in mid-May.

“We could have reopened from May 18, but in order to guarantee a safe and healthy environment we decided to wait. The center is now open, but I cannot bring in all the people who come to pray,” El-Mostafa said.

Sunday prayers were held in a large parking lot with social distancing measures in place. However, children, many mothers and those aged over 70 were encouraged to stay home.

The Mosque of Mercy in Marghera, an area that includes Venice’s industrial harbor, reopened, but Eid Al-Fitr celebrations were not held inside, with the local Islamic community praying at home.

However, worshippers plan to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr in coming weeks in the park of San Giuliano, the site of last year’s gathering.

“People called us from all over northern Italy asking to come and pray at the mosque in Marghera, but we preferred to be responsible and avoid situations that could result in gatherings and put us in difficult situations,” Sadmir Aliovsky, president of the Islamic Community of Venice, said.

Now the mosque is finally open, a temperature scanner has been installed at the entrance and shifts have been organized for prayers to limit the number of people congregating at the same time.

A video in Italian has been prepared for first-generation Muslims and converts to explain the rules and protocols.

Worshippers will be required to bring personal mats, children will not be allowed entry, and people showing signs of a fever will be sent home.

Venice’s Bengali community celebrated Eid in the Kolbe center, a large hall in a city hotel rented for the occasion.