British-Muslim entrepreneur ‘felt so privileged’ after performing call to prayer in London’s Canary Wharf

British-Muslim entrepreneur ‘felt so privileged’ after performing call to prayer in London’s Canary Wharf
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Kazi Shafiqur Rahman performs the adhan in Canary Wharf. (Supplied)
British-Muslim entrepreneur ‘felt so privileged’ after performing call to prayer in London’s Canary Wharf
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Kazi Shafiqur Rahman performs the adhan in Canary Wharf. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 May 2020

British-Muslim entrepreneur ‘felt so privileged’ after performing call to prayer in London’s Canary Wharf

British-Muslim entrepreneur ‘felt so privileged’ after performing call to prayer in London’s Canary Wharf
  • Rahman is no stranger to performing the adhan in public
  • He has spent years perfecting the delivery of it in the style of the Grand Mosque’s head muezzin

LONDON: When Kazi Shafiqur Rahman performed a call to prayer in the heart of London’s financial district, he had little idea of the scale of reaction his performance would draw.
Within hours of delivering the adhan at sunset in Canary Wharf, the video had gone viral and Rahman was flooded with messages of goodwill from people of all faiths worldwide.
Rahman, 34, told Arab News that he thought nothing of performing the adhan, which he does in the style associated with the Grand Mosque in Makkah, when he was first asked.
But he said once he was in position outside the One Canada Square Skyscraper with sunset approaching, he started to feel the pressure.
“When I did the sound test, I could see passers-by and drivers stopping to have a look, and by the end of the test there were quite a few people watching me, waiting to see what was happening,” the British-Bangladeshi entrepreneur said. “This is when I started feeling nervous and could feel the pressure.”

Rahman is no stranger to performing the adhan in public, and has spent years perfecting the delivery of it in the style of the Grand Mosque’s head muezzin Sheikh Ali Ahmad Mulla.
Mulla has been a muezzin at the Grand Mosque since 1975 and his voice is recognized by Muslims worldwide regardless of whether they have visited the holy city.
His voice, which featured on cassette tape recordings of the Qur’an in the 1980s and 1990s, is broadcast on Arab TV channels, and more recently has been used by prayer apps.
Mulla has also been labeled the Bilal of the Grand Mosque, an honorific reference to the Prophet Muhammad’s companion Bilal who was chosen by the prophet to be Islam’s first muezzin because of his beautiful voice.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Sheikh Ali Ahmad Mulla since I was a child,” Rahman said. “I have a talent for mimicking people, and as a child I’d accompany my father to Islamic talks and events.
“For the sunset prayer, my father would always put me forward to perform the adhan. He would even talk to the organizers and ask them to allow me to do the adhan.
“This put me under a lot of pressure to perfect the Makkah style adhan, and I’d listen to cassette recordings of it repeatedly every day.
“When I went to Makkah in 2008, I heard Sheikh Mulla perform the adhan live for the first time and I was blown away. It was then that I fine-tuned the version I’d learnt, and I perfected it when I came back.”
Rahman said there is much more room for improvement as Sheikh Mulla’s adhan is “absolutely amazing.”


The London-based entrepreneur was asked to perform the adhan in public in Canary Wharf as part of an event organized by Tower Hamlets London Borough Council, Tower Hamlets Homes and Canary Wharf Group.
“The organizers wanted to show appreciation to the Muslim community and engage with it. Many Asian Muslims live in this area, and this was a goodwill gesture to them during lockdown Ramadan,” Rahman said, adding that he agreed to the request without hesitation.
“The most important thing is that the comments were so positive. Even non-Muslims were commenting on how beautiful the adhan was. It’s amazing. I feel so privileged when I look back at the event.”
Wearing a Saudi thobe and ghutra added a finishing touch to Rahman’s performance. “I performed the adhan in the style of Makkah’s head muezzin, so the way I dressed completed the whole performance,” he said.
“People from all over the world have reached out to me saying how inspired they’ve been by me performing the adhan in Canary Wharf.
“My brother posted the video of me performing the adhan on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. It went viral and spread like wildfire. I didn’t imagine the event to become so big.
“Mohamed Hadid, the father of Gigi and Bella Hadid, also shared the video of me performing the adhan on Instagram.”
The event has motivated Rahman to learn how to perform in styles associated with different regions of the Muslim world.
“After performing the adhan in Canary Wharf, I’ve been inspired to practice performing the adhan in different styles, including the Madinah one,” he said.
“My dream is to be able to perform the adhan at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, even if it’s just a one-off.”

 


Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino dies at 61

Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino dies at 61
Updated 24 June 2021

Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino dies at 61

Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino dies at 61

MANILA: Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino, the son of two of the Southeast Asian country’s democracy icons, died on Thursday after being hospitalized in Manila.
The 61-year-old was president of the Philippines from 2010 to 2016.
“It is with profound sadness that I learned this morning of the passing of former Pres. Benigno Aquino,” Supreme Court justice Marvic Leonen, who was appointed by Aquino in 2012, said in a statement.
“It was an honor to have served with him. He will be missed,” the statement said.
Known popularly as Noynoy, he rode a wave of public support to the presidency after the 2009 death of his mother, the revered “People Power” leader Corazon Aquino, who was herself president from 1986 until 1992.
His namesake father, a senator who staunchly opposed the rule of strongman Ferdinand Marcos, was assassinated when he returned home from political exile in 1983.
The killing shocked the nation and helped propel Marcos out of office in the 1986 People Power revolution and ushered in his mother’s presidency.
Aquino was an only son and worked in the family sugar business before launching his political career in 1998.
He was a three-term member of the House of Representatives between 1998 and 2007, representing the sugar-growing Tarlac province north of Manila.
He still carried a bullet wound from a 1987 attempted military coup against his mother’s administration, during which he was shot five times and three of his bodyguards were killed.
Aquino’s six-year term as president was not free from crisis, including in his fifth year in office when 44 commandos were killed in a botched operation to capture a wanted Malaysian militant.
In November 2013, Aquino was also forced to deal with the devastation left by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded. The super typhoon that ravaged towns and villages in the central Philippines, killed more than 6,000 people.
Despite some gains in tackling corruption, his Mr.Clean image was tainted by scandals over the lawmakers’ misuse of public funds that same year. 


Canada’s Trudeau survives vote of no confidence

Canada’s Trudeau survives vote of no confidence
Updated 24 June 2021

Canada’s Trudeau survives vote of no confidence

Canada’s Trudeau survives vote of no confidence
  • The conservative opposition voted together against Trudeau, but he was able to hang with the support of three other smaller blocs in the lower chamber

OTTAWA, Canada: The minority government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence Wednesday in a face-off over the proposed budget, eliminating the possibility of early elections this summer.
The House of Commons voted 211 to 121 in favor of approving the budget, which was proposed in April and contains a plan to spend CAN$101.4 billion (69 billion euros) over three years.
The conservative opposition voted together against Trudeau, who was able to hang on thanks to the support of three other smaller blocs in the lower chamber.
The 2021-2022 budget, which began April 1, must still be approved by the Senate — a formality expected Friday, ahead of the summer recess.
After clearing this hurdle — and with Canada’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign progressing rapidly — Trudeau, who enjoys a high approval rating, could be tempted to call for snap elections at the end of the summer in an effort to regain a parliamentary majority, which his Liberal party lost after October 2019’s general election.
The budget’s flagship provision is a CAN$30 billion investment over five years to establish a network of low-cost, high-quality public daycares to encourage the participation of women in the labor market.
Some CAN$17.6 billion are earmarked for green initiatives, including helping companies reduce their carbon footprints and supporting public transport projects in large cities.

 


Antivirus pioneer John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison

Antivirus pioneer John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison
In this Dec. 12, 2012, file photo, anti-virus software founder John McAfee answers questions to reporters as he walks on Ocean Drive, in the South Beach area of Miami Beach, Fla. (AP)
Updated 24 June 2021

Antivirus pioneer John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison

Antivirus pioneer John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison
  • McAfee twice made long-shot runs for the U.S. presidency and was a participant in Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016
  • According to the US extradition request filed in November and quoted in the ruling, McAfee earned more than 10 million euros ($12 million) in 2014-18, but never filed a tax return

MADRID: John McAfee, the creator of McAfee antivirus software, was found dead in his jail cell near Barcelona in an apparent suicide Wednesday, hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the United States to face tax charges punishable by decades in prison, authorities said.
The eccentric cryptocurrency promoter and tax opponent whose history of legal troubles spanned from Tennessee to Central America to the Caribbean was discovered at the Brians 2 penitentiary in northeastern Spain. Security personnel tried to revive him, but the jail’s medical team finally certified his death, a statement from the regional Catalan government said.
“A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the causes of death,” it said, adding that “everything points to death by suicide.”
The statement didn’t identify McAfee by name but said the dead man was a 75-year-old US citizen awaiting extradition to his country. A Catalan government official familiar with the case who was not authorized to be named in media reports confirmed to The Associated Press that it was McAfee.
Spain’s National Court on Monday ruled in favor of extraditing McAfee, 75, who had argued in a hearing earlier this month that the charges against him by prosecutors in Tennessee were politically motivated and that he would spend the rest of his life in prison if returned to the US
The court’s ruling was made public on Wednesday and was open for appeal, with any final extradition order also needing to get approval from the Spanish Cabinet.
McAfee was arrested last October at Barcelona’s international airport and had been in jail since then awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings. The arrest followed charges the same month in Tennessee for evading taxes after failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consulting work, made speaking engagements and sold the rights to his life story for a documentary. The criminal charges carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Nishay Sanan, the Chicago-based attorney defending him on those cases, said by phone that McAfee “will always be remembered as a fighter.”
“He tried to love this country but the US government made his existence impossible,” Sanan said. “They tried to erase him, but they failed.”
The lawyer said Spanish authorities have not given his legal team a cause of death, and he wants to know if there were video cameras in McAfee’s cell or in the prison.
The US Attorney’s Office in Memphis declined to comment.
Tennessee prosecutors had argued that McAfee owed the US government $4,214,105 in taxes before fines or interests for undeclared income in the five fiscal years from 2014 to 2018, according to a Spanish court document seen by AP. But in this week’s ruling, the National Court judge agreed to extradite him only to face charges from 2016 to 2018.
Born in England’s Gloucestershire in 1945 as John David McAfee, he started McAfee Associates in 1987 and led an eccentric life after selling his stake in the antivirus software company named after him in the early 1990s.
McAfee twice made long-shot runs for the US presidency and was a participant in Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016. He dabbled in yoga, ultralight aircraft and producing herbal medications.
In 2012 he was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of Gregory Viant Faull, who was shot to death in early November 2012 on the Belize island where the men lived.
McAfee told AP at the time that he was being persecuted by the Belizean government. Belizean police denied that, saying they were simply investigating a crime about which McAfee may have had information. Then-Prime Minister Dean Barrow expressed doubts about McAfee’s mental state, saying, “I don’t want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers.”
A Florida court ordered McAfee in 2019 to pay $25 million to Faull’s estate in a wrongful death claim.
In July of that year he was released from detention in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style gear.
McAfee told Wired Magazine in 2012 that his father, a heavy drinker and “very unhappy man,” shot himself when McAfee was 15. “Every day I wake up with him,” he told Wired.
He lived for a time in Lexington, Tennessee, a rural town of about 7,800 some 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Memphis. In a 2015 interview with WBBJ-TV, McAfee said he only felt comfortable when armed. The TV station reported that he chose to be interviewed with a loaded gun in each hand.
“Very little gives me a feeling of being safe and more secure other than being armed in my bedroom with the door locked,” McAfee told the station.
In one of his last known media interviews, with British newspaper The Independent last November, McAfee said his prison experience in Spain was a “fascinating adventure” and he planned never to return to the US
“I am constantly amused and sometimes moved,” he was quoted as saying. “The graffiti alone could fill a thousand-page thriller.”
He also told The Independent that prisoners and guards had recognized him and some asked for his autograph.
McAfee said his main point of contact outside the prison was his wife, Janice McAfee. The last post from his Twitter account was a retweet of a Father’s Day message from her.
“These eight months John has spent in prison in Spain have been especially hard on his overall health both mentally and physically, as well as financially, but he is undeterred from continuing to speak truth to power,” it said.
California chipmaker Intel, which bought McAfee’s company in 2011 for $7.68 billion, for a time sought to dissociate the brand from its controversial founder by folding it into its larger cybersecurity division. But the rebranding was short-lived, and Intel in 2016 spun out the cybersecurity unit into a new company called McAfee.
Jaime Le, a McAfee company spokesperson, said in a statement: “Although John McAfee founded the company, he has not been associated with our company in any capacity for over 25 years. That said, our thoughts go to his family and those close to him.”
A spokesperson with the US Embassy in Madrid said it was aware of the reports about McAfee’s death but would not comment for privacy reasons.


Sri Lanka mulls changes to controversial anti-terror law as EU, UN step up pressure

Sri Lanka mulls changes to controversial anti-terror law as EU, UN step up pressure
Sri Lankan police commandos patrol on the streets of Pallekele, a suburb of Kandy, on March 6, 2018, following anti-Muslim riots that has prompted the government to declare a state of emergency. (AFP)
Updated 24 June 2021

Sri Lanka mulls changes to controversial anti-terror law as EU, UN step up pressure

Sri Lanka mulls changes to controversial anti-terror law as EU, UN step up pressure
  • Sri Lanka has been marred by a protracted 37-year-long civil war that ended in 2009 with the defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers
  • Modifications to the PTA on March 9 allow for two years of detention without trial for anyone “who surrenders or is taken into custody on suspicion” of causing or intending to cause “religious, racial or communal disharmony”

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka could “either repeal or revise” a controversial anti-terror law based on a detailed review amid pressure from the EU and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over concerns it violates human rights, a top official said on Wednesday.
Enacted in 1979, the powerful Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which a previous government promised to scrap but did not, allows authorities to make warrantless arrests and searches if a person is suspected of involvement in a “terrorist activity.”
Under the law, suspects have the right to trial but not by a jury, while the country’s defense minister can order detentions of up to three months at a time for a maximum of 18 months.
“The PTA will be either revised or repealed depending on a report by two committees appointed by the Cabinet,” Justice Minister Ali Sabry told Arab News on Wednesday.
“The first will be a ministerial committee, while the second will be a technical group of experts. We will give them three months to submit their findings, and action will be taken based on that,” he added.
Modifications to the PTA on March 9 allow for two years of detention without trial for anyone “who surrenders or is taken into custody on suspicion” of causing or intending to cause “religious, racial or communal disharmony.”
On June 8, the European Parliament passed a motion for a resolution demanding that the PTA be scrapped as it “breaches human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
“The impunity and lack of accountability for past human rights violations by various agents and the excessive application of the PTA (do) not adhere to international practices and human rights principles,” it said.
The EU urged Sri Lanka to “amend the PTA … immediately” and threatened to withdraw its Generalized System of Preferences — a preferential tariff system that provides tariff reduction on various products — plus tax concessions amounting to $2 billion if the act was not amended.
On Tuesday, Sri Lanka’s government told parliament that the PTA would be revised “without compromising the country’s security.”
On what prompted the government to initiate the move now, Sabry said that the PTA “needed to be adjusted with changing times and factor in internet crimes, a high incidence of money laundering and an increasing need to ensure human rights.”

HIGHLIGHT

Government could amend Prevention of Terrorism Act to keep up with ‘changing times,’ official says.

“We want a balanced act now to meet human rights requirements in keeping with local interests and international obligations,” he added.
However, lawmaker and former Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, told Arab News that the government “stands exposed” for its “abuse of the PTA for political gains” in recent years.
Sri Lanka has been marred by a protracted 37-year-long civil war that ended in 2009 with the defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers.
The UN believes 80,000-100,000 people died in the conflict when the rebels sought to carve out a separate state for the Tamil minority and accused both sides of war crimes. In March, the UNHRC passed a resolution in Geneva censuring Colombo over its treatment of minorities and alleged failure to investigate atrocities during the civil war.
Hakeem said several people had been arrested under the PTA since 2009, in addition to “some 200 people who had been taken into custody” after the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, which killed 269 people and injured more than 500 in separate locations in Sri Lanka.
Human rights groups, for their part, say the PTA is a “draconian” weapon targeting dissidents and minorities in the country: Muslims make up nearly 10 percent of its total population of 22 million, while Buddhists account for 70 percent of the census.
“The recent EU resolution clearly states that the PTA must be repealed, not revised,” Shreen Saroor, a women’s rights activist and co-founder of the Women’s Action Network, told Arab News.
“It is a draconian piece of legislation that has been aggressively used against Muslims and to curb any form of dissent. It must be repealed fully, not revised,” Saroor added.
International lobbyist and human rights activist Muheed Jeeran agrees, adding that international pressure had “brought this government down to its knees to end this act.”  “The PTA is a monster that blatantly and grossly violates the universal declaration of human rights,” he told Arab News.
“It was introduced in 1979 as a temporary measure when the government did not have tools such as mobile phones and investigators had to work at a snail’s speed. But, today, we are in a technological era, and these investigators still detain a suspect for 540 days without any charges. The PTA must be repealed rather than reformed,” he added.


Playing it forward: Pakistani woman makes it to Forbes list for ‘purposeful’ video games

Playing it forward: Pakistani woman makes it to Forbes list for ‘purposeful’ video games
Mariam Nusrat Adil, right, shares the stage with former US President Bill Clinton, third from right, at a 2015 University of Miami conference. (Supplied)
Updated 24 June 2021

Playing it forward: Pakistani woman makes it to Forbes list for ‘purposeful’ video games

Playing it forward: Pakistani woman makes it to Forbes list for ‘purposeful’ video games
  • Nusrat Adil’s GRID aims to educate on reproductive health, climate change

RAWALPINDI: A Pakistani education specialist and entrepreneur, Mariam Nusrat Adil, joined the ranks of Pakistani Forbes honorees last week, making it to the Forbes Next 1000 List for using the “power of video games to educate, engage and empower people.”

The list celebrates small startups that have under $10 million in revenue or funding, like Adil’s Gaming Revolution for International Development (GRID).
“I feel immensely grateful and humbled to be on the Forbes list,” Adil told Arab News in a phone interview.
“Moments like these are a testament to the passion, purpose, and perseverance that my team and I have poured into GRID, but they are also the perfect refueling stations along the entrepreneurial journey,” the founder said.
“It’s a time to pause, celebrate the win, and then return to our mission with renewed commitment and conviction. This is just the beginning, and we are thrilled about the potential of our journey.”
GRID, run primarily by a team of Pakistan-based game developers and designers, creates low-cost mobile games that inspire positive behavior change. The company raised $75,000 in pre-seed funding from 11 Tribes Ventures and is backed by Ocean Accelerator.
In nearly seven years, the company has created games to educate people on reproductive health, climate change, pandemics, animal welfare, and STEM learning.
It has several new games in the pipeline that seek to enhance awareness about child abuse, financial literacy, and skills for the future. Under its not-for-profit arm, the organization has developed eight portfolio games in four languages.
“Having grown up playing games such as SimCity, I knew that games leave an impression on our brains that transcend the boundaries of the virtual world,” Adil said.
“I wondered to myself that if games on building cities can teach urban planning, can games focusing on environmental awareness promote climate action, those about women’s rights promote equality, or those building humane education improve animal welfare?”
Adil said she aspired to develop video games that were “purposeful.”
“These are video games that have a purpose beyond entertainment,” she said. “They have immense potential to influence industries like education, marketing, and training, though we do not see them being mainstreamed in these industries.”
GRID also plans to release a program called Breshna, which will allow people to create games without any coding experience at “lightning speeds.” The word “breshna” means lightning in Pashto, Adil’s mother tongue.
“Breshna empowers anyone, even with no coding or design experience, to create their own video games for educational, marketing, and training purposes,” she said. “Whether it’s a teacher making a history quiz, a not-for-profit leader making a brochure on animal compassion or a founder making a pitch deck, they can all leverage Breshna to create fun and interactive video games to engage their audience.”
In addition to GRID, Adil has also worked at the World Bank since 2010, focusing on education. Her job has taken her across South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. She has master’s degrees in economics from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan and George Washington University in the US.
Adil is originally from Islamabad and currently lives in the US, though she aspires to return to her home country.
“Paying it forward is something that is deeply embedded in our organization’s DNA, and I owe a significant portion of my journey and success to my home country,” Adil said.
“I want GRID to demonstrate that Pakistan is rich in development and design talent. Global tech companies have an opportunity to tap into this high-quality talent and develop innovative solutions in a capital-efficient manner.”

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