Annual UK mosque open day event goes online due to coronavirus pandemic

Annual UK mosque open day event goes online due to coronavirus pandemic
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A view of a prayer hall at the Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Center (MCHC) based in West London. (Supplied)
Annual UK mosque open day event goes online due to coronavirus pandemic
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Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Center (MCHC) recently commemorated the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire by decorating the premises with green hearts and fairy lights. (Supplied)
Annual UK mosque open day event goes online due to coronavirus pandemic
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Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Center (MCHC) is based in West London. (Supplied)
Annual UK mosque open day event goes online due to coronavirus pandemic
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Al-Manaar mosque runs a homeless shelter for people of all faiths every Tuesday during winter and meals are served in the canteen pictured above. (Supplied)
Annual UK mosque open day event goes online due to coronavirus pandemic
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Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Center (MCHC) recently commemorated the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire by decorating the premises with green hearts and fairy lights. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 June 2020

Annual UK mosque open day event goes online due to coronavirus pandemic

Annual UK mosque open day event goes online due to coronavirus pandemic
  • Participating mosques will give people virtual tours of their premises
  • Campaign aims to foster further budding friendships between Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors

LONDON: An annual event that sees hundreds of mosques across the UK open their doors to the wider community is going virtual due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 
Under normal circumstances, Visit My Mosque day is a campaign that supports over 250 mosques across the UK to hold open days for tens of thousands of visitors, and is facilitated by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
But this year, people of all faiths and none will be able to enjoy a virtual tour of a dozen mosques on June 19-21 from the comfort of their homes due to the lockdown in the UK. 
Although places of worship reopened for individual prayer on June 15 in England, mosques have decided to remain closed due to the congregational nature of prayers held in them.
Most are busy preparing prayer spaces to ensure that social distancing guidelines are adhered to when they do reopen to worshippers.


Participating mosques will give people virtual tours of their premises and present some of the activities they have been involved in during the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Mosques up and down the country have been involved in various initiatives to help Muslims and non-Muslims alike cope with lockdown restrictions and make people’s lives easier during unprecedented times.
These include delivering free personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers when there was a shortage of such equipment and dire need for it, and cooking hot meals for people who are self-isolating or classified as vulnerable.
“This year’s Visit My Mosque campaign will welcome visitors digitally through virtual mosque tours across the weekend of June 19-21,” Hassan Joudi, the MCB’s mosque affairs coordinator, told Arab News.
“It will showcase the work of mosques during lockdown, share their role in daily Muslim life and look ahead to a post-lockdown future.”
The aim of the campaign is to “foster further budding friendships and conversations between Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors which will continue in the months and years to come,” Joudi added.
Mosques in London, the Midlands, northern England and as far afield as the Scottish Highlands are participating in the virtual weekend.
Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Center (MCHC) is based in West London, and will be opening its doors to virtual visitors on June 21.
It was heavily involved in the response effort following the Grenfell Tower fire that devastated its local community in June 2017, and recently commemorated the third anniversary of the tragic incident by decorating the premises with green hearts and fairy lights.


Asma Maguz, 52, is the mosque’s liaison officer and will be delivering the virtual tour with her colleagues. She told Arab News that the center has “never been busier” than during the pandemic.   
“We’ve been running a food bank and have a partnership with charities including Age UK and Penny Appeal,” Maguz said, adding that the mosque has been buying essential food items and distributing them to about 160 households in the community during the pandemic.
“We’ve been getting calls from single mums who can’t go out, vulnerable people who are shielding from COVID-19, and women over 65 who’ve had accidents or are ill and can’t go out. So we registered all of these people who can’t be registered under Age UK due to their age,” Maguz said.
“On Sunday, we’ll be giving a tour of the mosque itself and highlighting our services, events and activities” she added. 
“We provide a free legal service every Friday for those who need it. It’s provided by a practicing lawyer who is part of the community, and this has continued online during the lockdown.
“We also provide a counseling service that was launched after the Grenfell Tower fire as many survivors were understandably traumatized by the incident. We’ve continued this service online and over the phone during the pandemic as people need counseling now more than ever.
“All of our services and activities are free because we aim to serve the community. We’re also providing antibody testing in partnership with private doctors at the center. We started by testing our staff and their families, and we’ve now started testing members of the community. We’ll show people where this testing takes place at the mosque during the tour.”
Al-Manaar mosque also runs a homeless shelter for people of all faiths every Tuesday during winter.


An average of 15 homeless people seek shelter at the mosque. They are provided with a comfortable place to stay, access to hot meals, breakfast the following day, and packed meals for lunch and dinner.
“We’re given a list of homeless people by the West London Day Centre in coordination with Westminster City Council,” Maguz said.
“These people stay at the mosque and are provided with hot meals, a new sleeping bag and hygiene kits with all the essentials they need.”


UK Supreme Court rejects Daesh bride Shamima Begum’s legal bid to return

UK Supreme Court rejects Daesh bride Shamima Begum’s legal bid to return
Updated 23 min 18 sec ago

UK Supreme Court rejects Daesh bride Shamima Begum’s legal bid to return

UK Supreme Court rejects Daesh bride Shamima Begum’s legal bid to return
  • ‘The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation appeal to be stayed’
  • Britain revoked Shamima Begum’s citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds

LONDON: Britain’s highest court on Friday rejected a bid by a woman who was stripped of her UK citizenship for joining the Daesh group to return to challenge the decision.
Five judges at the Supreme Court gave a unanimous decision in the case of Shamima Begum, whose legal battles have come to be seen as a test of how countries treat nationals who joined the extremists.
“Ms Begum’s appeal against the leave to enter decision is dismissed,” the head of the Supreme Court, judge Robert Reed, said in a written judgment.
The judges said the right to a fair hearing did not override other considerations such as the safety of the public.
“The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation appeal to be stayed until Ms Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised,” they added.
“That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.”
Now 21, Begum left her home in east London at the age of 15 to travel to Syria with two school friends, and married a Daesh fighter.
In 2019 she told The Times newspaper that she did not regret traveling to Syria and had not been “fazed” by seeing a severed head dumped in a bin.
Britain revoked her citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds amid an outcry led by right-wing newspapers.
Begum is being held in a camp in poor conditions, while her husband is reportedly in jail in Syria, and her three children have died.
She appealed to be allowed back into the UK so that she can legally challenge her loss of citizenship.
She argued that the decision was unlawful as it has made her stateless and exposed her to the risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.
Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage but the country’s foreign minister has said he will not consider granting her citizenship.
The Court of Appeal ruled in July last year that Begum needed to come back to mount a fair and effective appeal.
But the interior ministry in turn appealed against this decision, insisting she remained “aligned” with the proscribed terrorist organization.
A government lawyer told the Supreme Court in November her return would create “an increased risk of terrorism.”
Her legal team argued that this did not override the need for a fair hearing.
Rights groups have argued human rights principles are at stake and Begum should answer for any crimes in her home country.
The tabloid newspaper The Sun has called her a “vile fanatic” who has “no place on our soil.”
Begum claims she married a Dutch convert soon after arriving in Daesh-held territory. She was discovered, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.
Her newborn baby died soon after she gave birth. Her two other children also died in infancy under Daesh rule.


Russian diplomats return from North Korea on rail trolley

Russian diplomats return from North Korea on rail trolley
Updated 31 min 35 sec ago

Russian diplomats return from North Korea on rail trolley

Russian diplomats return from North Korea on rail trolley
  • The group of eight people took a 32-hour train ride, followed by two hours on a bus
  • Interfax news agency reported on Friday morning that the group later took a flight to Moscow from the far-eastern city of Vladivostok
MOSCOW: A group of Russian diplomats and their family members returned to Russia from North Korea on a hand-pushed rail trolley on Thursday because of COVID-19 restrictions in the country, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a Facebook post.
“Since the borders have been closed for over a year and passenger traffic has been halted,” staff members of the Russian embassy in North Korea and their family members embarked on “a long and difficult journey to get home,” the ministry said.
The group of eight people took a 32-hour train ride, followed by two hours on a bus. They then boarded a rail trolley and pushed themselves for about a kilometer (half a mile) across the border into Russia.
A video posted by the ministry showed embassy staff with their children and suitcases on a trolley, cheering as two people pushed it across a railway bridge. The Interfax news agency reported on Friday morning that the group later took a flight to Moscow from the far-eastern city of Vladivostok.
North Korea has claimed to be coronavirus-free, but has sealed its borders and halted passenger traffic with other countries. Outside experts are highly skeptical of the North’s zero-virus case claim.

Kidnappers abduct schoolchildren in northwest Nigeria: State governor spokesman

Kidnappers abduct schoolchildren in northwest Nigeria: State governor spokesman
Updated 26 February 2021

Kidnappers abduct schoolchildren in northwest Nigeria: State governor spokesman

Kidnappers abduct schoolchildren in northwest Nigeria: State governor spokesman
  • Police have not yet confirmed the incident

ABUJA: Kidnappers have abducted schoolchildren in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, the state governor’s spokesman said on Friday, the second such kidnapping in little over a week.

It was not clear how many children had been seized.

Zailani Bappa, a spokesman for Zamfara’s state governor, said he saw reports of the attack on social media and checked with a police official who told him there had been abductions at a school in the state. He was unable to provide further details.

A police spokesman for the state did not respond to calls and messages seeking comment.

A surge in armed militancy in the northwest has led to a breakdown of security in the north of Africa’s most populous country.

Last week, unidentified gunmen killed a student in an overnight attack on a boarding school in the north-central state of Niger and kidnapped 42 people, including 27 students. The hostages are yet to be released.

Hundreds of people have been killed in northern Nigeria by criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings. The country is also struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast and communal violence over grazing rights in central states.

President Muhammadu Buhari replaced his long-standing military chiefs earlier this month amid worsening violence, with the armed forces fighting to reclaim northeastern towns overrun by insurgents.


Boeing 777 aircraft with engine trouble makes emergency landing in Moscow

Boeing 777 aircraft with engine trouble makes emergency landing in Moscow
Updated 26 February 2021

Boeing 777 aircraft with engine trouble makes emergency landing in Moscow

Boeing 777 aircraft with engine trouble makes emergency landing in Moscow
  • Incident came just days after Boeing confirmed that dozens of its 777 aircraft were grounded globally.

MOSCOW: A Boeing 777 airliner on Friday made an emergency landing in Moscow with engine problems, the operating airline said, days after another model rained down engine debris over the United States.
State-owned Rossiya airline said the crew had registered the “incorrect operation of the engine control sensor” on a cargo flight from Hong Kong to Madrid and that they “decided to make an emergency landing in Moscow.”
Online flight trackers confirmed the flight was carried out with a Boeing 777.
The airline said the unscheduled landing went ahead without incident and that no one was injured.
The aircraft will continue its onward journey to Madrid after a delay of several hours, it added.
The incident came just days after Boeing confirmed that dozens of its 777 aircraft were grounded globally resulting from the engine of a United Airlines plane catching fire and scattering debris over a suburb of Denver, Colorado.
It was not immediately clear whether the Boeing 777 that made the emergency landing in Moscow on Friday was equipped with the same engine that shed parts over Colorado last week.
The United Flight engine failure was a fresh blow for the beleaguered US aviation giant that was forced to ground another fleet of planes after a series of deadly crashes.


Hong Kong kicks off COVID-19 vaccinations with Sinovac jab

Hong Kong kicks off COVID-19 vaccinations with Sinovac jab
Updated 26 February 2021

Hong Kong kicks off COVID-19 vaccinations with Sinovac jab

Hong Kong kicks off COVID-19 vaccinations with Sinovac jab
  • People age 60 and older and health care workers are among currently prioritized to receive vaccines
  • The government has so far approved the Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines

HONG KONG: Hong Kong began administering its first COVID-19 vaccines to the public Friday, kicking off its program that will eventually offer free vaccinations to all 7.5 million residents.
People age 60 and older and health care workers are among the some 2.4 million people currently prioritized to receive vaccines at community centers and outpatient clinics across Hong Kong. The government said registrations for the first two weeks of the program are full.
Participants so far will be receiving the vaccine by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac. A million doses arrived in the city last week, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and other top government officials were vaccinated first in a bid to bolster confidence in the program.
A poll published in January by the University of Hong Kong found that a majority of respondents in the city concerned about the Chinese vaccine’s efficacy.
“I don’t think I’ll get the vaccine for the time being. I’ll take a wait-and-see approach,” said Ken Cheung, a Hong Kong resident.
“I would like to see if others experience any side-effects after the injection. I’ll only consider the vaccine only when I’m sure that it has a high efficacy rate and no side-effect.”
Billy Au, a resident in his 60s, had no such concerns and was inoculated on Friday
“I’m never hesitant to receive the vaccination because I believe that there are many people in China who have received Chinese vaccines. I don’t see why I shouldn’t take it,” he said.
A panel of Hong Kong experts said the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine after two doses, 21 days apart, was 62.3 percent. In contrast, a study in Israel found that the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has 92 percent effectiveness.
Hong Kong has since struck deals to buy a total of 22.5 million doses of vaccines, with 7.5 million shots each from Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Fosun Pharma, which will deliver the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to the city.
The government has so far approved the Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The first million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been slated to arrive Thursday but was delayed by export procedures, the government said in a statement.
“The latest scheduled arrival date is tomorrow, so we hope that the vaccines will arrive in Hong Kong as scheduled,” Patrick Nip, Hong Kong’s civil service minister, said at a news briefing Friday.
He said such a short delay was unlikely to impact the vaccination rollout.
Another 200,000 vaccination slots will be open for booking Monday next week, Nip said.