Le Havre hostage-taker consumed by plight of Palestinians, say police

Police officers secure the area near the bank where an armed man held hostages, in Le Havre, France, August 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 August 2020

Le Havre hostage-taker consumed by plight of Palestinians, say police

  • The 34-year-old suspect had a history of mental health illness and spent time in a psychiatric hospital after taking several hostages in another bank in 2013
  • French police: He constantly asked for Palestinian children to be freed from Israeli jails, and Palestinians under 40 to pray in Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem

PARIS: The armed man who seized six hostages in a French bank on Thursday spoke to negotiators of hardships facing Palestinians but made no reference to extremist groups.
The 34-year-old suspect had a history of mental health illness and spent time in a psychiatric hospital after taking several hostages in another bank in 2013.
On that occasion, he demanded social housing for himself and a handicapped son.
During the six hour-long negotiations with police, in Le Havre on Thursday, the suspect never expressed support for Daesh or other extremist groups.
“He constantly asked for Palestinian children to be freed from Israeli jails, and Palestinians under 40 to pray in Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem,” a French police source said.
The man was known to law enforcement agencies. He was on a “Fiche S” security agency watch list that includes individuals the authorities consider susceptible to religious radicalization.
Investigators say there has been a trend of mental illness and religious radicalization in some attacks that have shaken France in recent years, making predicting behavior difficult.
“These are hazardous profiles, you never know what to expect from them,” the police source said.
The suspect lived in Paris at the time of the 2013 incident and later moved to the northern Seine-Maritime department.
He told the police trying to coax him out of the bank in Le Havre that he was carrying a bomb and threatened to use it if police came closer.
“But he never physically or verbally abused his hostages and negotiations never broke down,” the source said, adding that no explosives were found.
The man walked out shortly after 22:45 (2045 GMT) with the green flag of Palestinian militant group Hamas wrapped around his shoulders.
All six hostages were freed unharmed.


Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

Updated 49 min 12 sec ago

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

  • Service attracts more than 10,000 subscribers since July

KUALA LUMPUR: Netflix could soon have competition from a homegrown entertainment platform in Malaysia which, its makers say, will cater to Muslims’ “halal TV” needs based on Islamic values.

Dubbed “Nurflix,” the platform is Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant streaming service and has attracted more than 10,000 subscribers since July.

Nurflix is the creation of Syah Rizal Mohamed, who wants to produce and release original content for the platform before its official launch in January.

“We spent $9.7 million for the startup, but the company will produce 1,000 (items of) original content in multiple categories like mainstream, educational, spiritual and motivational and kids, with about 12,000 episodes in the first five years of operating,” the 43-year-old CEO told Arab News.

He also plans for Nurflix to acquire content from local and international producers, as long as they align with the service’s production guidelines, with a focus on markets in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore before setting up internationally.

“We see ourselves covering the Southeast Asian region in the next five years with our readiness to establish hubs in the Middle East and Europe to gain traction in the international market.”

He said the decision to tap into the streaming service market was driven by the rapid growth of video-on-demand media and consumers choosing this, as well as over-the-top subscription services, as their main form of entertainment. 

Consumers agreed that there was a market for a halal content platform.

“The Islamic streaming service just enriches the Islamic entertainment ecosystem because there is a niche for it,” 25-year-old public relations executive Puteri N. Balqis told Arab News.

Media consultant Amir Hadi Azmi said a Shariah-compliant streaming service was an interesting niche, particularly for more conservative users, but that the concept was not unique to Islam or Muslims.

“In America, for example, there is a service called Pure Flix which caters to more conservative Christian viewers,” he told Arab News.

Amir Muhammad, managing director of Kuman Pictures, said that as a producer, the more outlets that were made available to content producers and filmmakers, the better. Kuman Pictures, which is known for releasing horror and thriller content, could create appropriate content if need be.

“I have not seen their actual guidelines, but if they want halal horror, we will give them halal horror,” he told Arab News.

The Nurflix CEO said there would be a Content Advisory Council and that it would be headed and supervised by Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid and the Honorable Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis.

“Productions, including third-party content providers, will be monitored by the council to ensure the end product abides by the set guidelines. Nurflix is unique in the market because it is not just offering Islamic-guided content. The production will be monitored by the council to ensure all aspects of work are conducted in a Shariah-compliant manner.”

Although there is no formal collaboration with the Islamic Affairs Department, he said that Nurflix’s ideas and concepts had already been shared with Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

When contacted by Arab News, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development Paimuzi Yahya said his department was still working on “collaborating with the streaming service” and declined to comment further.