UK Muslim leaders urge mosques to remain closed until congregational prayers can resume 

UK Muslim leaders urge mosques to remain closed until congregational prayers can resume 
Mosques and other places of worship in England will reopen for private prayer from June 15. (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 June 2020

UK Muslim leaders urge mosques to remain closed until congregational prayers can resume 

UK Muslim leaders urge mosques to remain closed until congregational prayers can resume 
  • Muslim leaders have urged the government to release clear guidelines to protect the safety of their congregations

LONDON: Muslim leaders in England have called for mosques to remain closed despite the government saying places of worship could open for “individual prayer.”
The plans to reopen churches, mosques and synagogues have been criticised by imams, who say they fail to take into account that prayers at mosques almost always take place in groups.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Tuesday the easing of restrictions for places of worship. Private prayer can take place from June 15, but weddings and other group activities will be restricted until at least July 4.

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Imam Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), warned that taking this approach could “cause more challenges” due to the congregational nature of worship in mosques.
Imam Asim called on mosques not to reopen until it is safe to do so and they are able to hold congregational prayers.
“The fundamental difference between mosques and some other places of worship is that mosques are first and foremost used for congregational prayers,” he said.
“Individual prayers can be performed anywhere, primarily at homes. Accordingly, opening the mosques on 15 June will cause more challenges for mosques and imams as the expectation from the community will be to resume collective worship.”
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) also expressed concern over the viability and safety of the government’s plan.
“Mosques are provisioned primarily for congregational worship, so there is currently significant uncertainty and concern from mosque leaders on how the new regulations can actually be implemented,” Harun Khan, secretary general of the MCB, said.
A statement released by the MCB warned of “significant uncertainty” surrounding the latest plans and urged the government to “give clear and unambiguous guidance to plan effectively to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone.”
The British government has prioritised the reopening of places of worship. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Their contribution to the common good of our country is clear, as places of solace, comfort, stability and dignity. And the need for them is all the greater as we weather the uncertainties of the pandemic.”
Mosques and other places of worship across the UK closed in March as coronavirus infections and fatalities in the country surged.
People of all faiths were forced to drastically change the way they celebrated religious holidays, with British Muslims embracing technology and coming up with creative ways to capture the spirit of Ramadan while under a strict lockdown.


Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison
Updated 17 sec ago

Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison
  • Akayed Ullah, 31, claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh
  • Ullah will serve a minimum of 35 years behind bars

NEW YORK: A Bangladeshi man convicted of setting off a pipe bomb during rush hour in New York City’s busiest subway station, Times Square, was sentenced on Thursday to life plus 30 years in prison.
Akayed Ullah, 31, of Brooklyn, had claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh when he detonated his homemade bomb on Dec. 11, 2017.
No one died and four people were injured in the explosion, which led to the temporary closure of the station and the adjacent Port Authority Bus Terminal during the morning rush. Ullah was burned in what prosecutors called a “lone wolf” attack.
US Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan, who imposed the sentence, told Ullah he had committed a “truly barbaric and heinous crime” without regard for the humanity of those in his way.
“They were just people on the way to work, or school,” Sullivan said. “People who maybe had finished the night shift. ... To you, these people were expendable.”
Ullah, who is married and has a 3-year-old son, had faced a mandatory minimum 35-year term.
He told Sullivan he did not condone violence, and apologized to New York City, law enforcement and the United States.
“What I did on December 11, it was wrong,” Ullah said. “I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m deeply sorry.”
Prosecutors said Ullah was angry with then-President Donald Trump and with US foreign policy in the Middle East, and that Daesh propaganda inspired him to kill, maim and terrorize as many commuters as possible.
“Akayed Ullah’s message of hatred clearly backfired,” US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
At the time of the attack, Ullah had a green card, allowing him to live in the United States.
He lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn, while his wife and then-infant son lived in Bangladesh.
Ullah’s lawyer Amy Gallicchio, a federal public defender, called him a “deeply troubled soul” who had been attracted on the Internet to the “distorted and radical messages” of extremism.
“He is not an evil man,” Gallicchio said, a sentiment the judge also expressed. “He is not a monster.”
But federal prosecutor Rebekah Donaleski questioned why Ullah chose Times Square to set off the bomb if suicide was his goal.
The bomb materials had come from a nearby construction site where Ullah worked as an electrician.
“It is important to send a message that when you attack New York City, there will be no leniency,” Donaleski said.
Ullah was convicted in November 2018. Sullivan presided over Ullah’s case when he was a federal district judge.


Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
Updated 56 min 4 sec ago

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
  • French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral
  • Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors

N’DJAMENA: Thousands of people gathered at the main square in Chad’s capital N’Djamena on Friday to pay their respects to the late President Idriss Deby, who was killed while leading his troops against a rebel offensive on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral, despite rebel warnings they should not attend for security reasons.
Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors, holding on to power despite rebellions that reached as far as his palace gates.
Although criticized by human rights groups for his repressive rule, he established himself as a key military ally of Western powers in the international fight against Islamist militants.
“He liberated our country from dictatorship and gave us the opportunity to participate fully in democracy,” said Emmanuel Gaba, a young resident of the capital.
His death was announced by the army on Tuesday, a day after election officials said he had won a sixth term in office. Most of the opposition boycotted the vote.
“He protected us for so long that today we have come to wish him eternal rest. A deserved rest,” said Hassan Adoum, who attended the ceremony.
On Thursday a car with mounted speakers drove around N’Djamena telling residents not to panic if they hear cannon fire as Deby would receive a 21-gun salute.


German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high
Updated 23 April 2021

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high
  • The number of new infections was rising in particular among those aged between 30 and 59
BERLIN: The number of new coronavirus cases does not appear to be rising as rapidly, the vice president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Friday, but warned that case numbers remained too high.
Lars Schaade told a weekly news conference that the number of new infections was rising in particular among those aged between 30 and 59 and said the virus was “not harmless” even for younger and healthier people.

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust
Updated 23 April 2021

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust
  • Greece’s financial crimes squad said in a statement the drugs were found in a shipping container in the country’s main port of Piraeus
  • Greek authorities said they received assistance in the case from the drug enforcement agency of Saudi Arabia

ATHENS, Greece: Greek authorities say they have seized more than four tons of cannabis hidden in a shipment of industrial cupcake-making machines heading from Lebanon to Slovakia.
Greece’s financial crimes squad said in a statement late Thursday that the drugs were found in a shipping container in the country’s main port of Piraeus, following information received from the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The container, whose registered contents were three industrial cupcake-making machines, arrived by sea in Piraeus on April 14 and had been scheduled to be transported by rail on April 20 to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, through North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.
Following the information from the DEA, Greek authorities raided the container on April 16. A total of more than 4.3 tons of processed cannabis were found in a hidden compartment built into a metal tank that was among the machinery, the financial crimes squad said. The street value of the drugs is estimated at around $4 million.
Greek authorities said they received assistance in the case from the drug enforcement agency of Saudi Arabia. An investigation into the shipment is continuing.


Russia reports 8,840 new COVID-19 cases, 398 deaths

Russia reports 8,840 new COVID-19 cases, 398 deaths
Updated 23 April 2021

Russia reports 8,840 new COVID-19 cases, 398 deaths

Russia reports 8,840 new COVID-19 cases, 398 deaths
  • The government coronavirus taskfore said that 398 people had died in the last 24 hours

MOSCOW: Russia reported 8,840 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 2,502 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,744,961 since the pandemic began.
The government coronavirus taskfore said that 398 people had died in the last 24 hours, taking its death toll to 107,501. The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and reported a toll of more than 225,000 from April 2020 to February.