India’s Muslims ‘living in fear’ amid temple funding drive

India’s Muslims ‘living in fear’ amid temple funding drive
A general view of Ayodhya. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 21 January 2021

India’s Muslims ‘living in fear’ amid temple funding drive

India’s Muslims ‘living in fear’ amid temple funding drive
  • The destruction of the mosque sparked nationwide violence that claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims

NEW DELHI: Muslims in India fear a new wave of sectarian tension amid a controversial fundraising campaign to build a Hindu temple in place of a centuries-old mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

The 16th-century Babri Mosque was claimed by both Hindus and Muslims. After decades of conflict, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hindus in 2019, allowing them to build a temple on the site where the mosque had stood.

The mosque was torn down by mobs mobilized by the now-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1992, which claimed that it was built at the birthplace of Ram, a major Hindu deity.

The destruction of the mosque sparked nationwide violence that claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, and set the tone for sectarian tensions that continue today.

Last week, the World Hindu Organization, known locally as Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) — an affiliate of the BJP — launched a 45-day nationwide campaign to collect donations for the Hindu temple, including the Muslim community in its efforts.

“There is a palpable sense of anxiety among Muslims in the region,” social activist Abrar ul Haq, from the Basti area of Uttar Pradesh, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“Experience tells us that Hindu activists rally in a Muslim locality in the name of a campaign and shout provocative slogans to incite people. This leads to tension and violence,” he said.

“Muslims want to forget the temple debate, but the divisive campaign by Hindu groups makes them anxious.”

Before the VHP’s official fundraising campaign, smaller efforts to collect donations for the temple led to clashes in the Indore district of neighboring Madhya Pradesh in late December.

Saddam Patel, a resident of the mainly Muslim Chandan Kheri village in Indore, was injured in the violence along with his four brothers.

“We were inside our house, but the mob torched our other house. When we went there to save a sleeping child, they attacked us,” he told Arab News.

“They were armed with firearms and swords.”

Indore-based social activist Zaidi Pathan said that Muslim-dominated villages in the region are living in fear.

“Muslims have moved beyond the temple controversy, but the BJP cannot survive without religious polarization and tension. This is a deliberate strategy to keep communal tensions alive,” Pathan said.

However, the VHP blames Muslims for the violence.

“It is unfortunate that Muslims attacked the people who went inside the village to collect funds,” Surendra Kumar Jain, VHP general secretary, told Arab News on Sunday.

“Why are Muslims opposing the construction of a temple being built after the apex court’s order?” he asked. “It is the responsibility of the Muslim community to ensure that no such incident takes place anywhere in the country.”

Political analysts said that the BJP is using the temple issue for electoral purposes.

“There is a conscious attempt to politicize the issue and make sure that the Ram temple remains a relevant electoral issue,” Hilal Ahmed, of the New Delhi-based Center for the Study of Developing Societies, said.

Prof. Afroz Alam, of the Hyderabad-based Maulana Azad National Urdu University, believes that political mobilization regarding the temple would have happened regardless of the court’s ruling.

“I have always maintained that the temple campaign is more a political project than a spiritual one,” he said. “Whatever may have been the court’s judgment, political mobilization was bound to happen.”

New Delhi-based political analyst and writer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay said that the fundraising campaign “demonstrates the BJP’s over-reliance on majoritarian campaigns to retain support.”

“At a time when pandemic-induced uncertainty is raging, the economy is virtually stagnant, and millions of Indians have little idea what future the future holds, what sense does it make to launch such a drive?” he asked.

“In 1989, the temple agitation got a new push and the BJP’s parliamentary tally went up from two to 85,” Mukhopadhyay said. “The temple controversy has played a major role in the rise of the BJP.”


Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack: police

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack: police
Updated 8 sec ago

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack: police

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack: police
  • The attackers shot dead some victims and stabbed others with knives
BALUKHALI, Bangladesh: Attackers killed at least seven people in an assault Friday on an Islamic seminary in a Rohingya refugee camp on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, police said.
The attackers shot dead some victims and stabbed others with knives, a regional police chief told AFP. The killings came amid mounting tensions after a Rohingya community leader was shot dead outside his office in the camps three weeks ago.

4 killed in Washington state shooting

4 killed in Washington state shooting
Updated 22 October 2021

4 killed in Washington state shooting

4 killed in Washington state shooting

TACOMA, Washington: Four people were killed in a shooting in Tacoma on Thursday afternoon, police said.
The Tacoma Police Department said on Twitter at about 5:30 p.m. that two females and one male had died at the scene and that a male was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.
At about 6:30 p.m., police said on Twitter that the person taken to a hospital had died from his injuries. The victims appeared to be adults, police told The News Tribune.
Police said the shooting happened on the 4200 block of Everett Street, near the city’s Eastside neighborhood.
Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow told the newspaper that the shootings happened in an alley behind a residence and that at least one victim was found in the street in front of the residence.
Police called it an active scene and asked people to stay away from the area. Detectives and crime scene technicians were at the scene.
No further information was immediately available.


Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins
Updated 22 October 2021

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins
  • At least 30 health workers were treated for gunshot injuries, the nurses’ union said
  • At least 30 people have died since June in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country’s history

MANZINI, Eswatini: Africa’s last absolute monarchy Eswatini on Thursday banned protests as regional mediators landed in the kingdom amid rumbling pro-democracy demonstrations.
A demonstrator died in hospital on Thursday from gunshot wounds suffered the day before when security forces opened fire on a protest, according to unions.
At least 30 health workers were treated for gunshot injuries, the nurses’ union said.
Railways workers led new protests on Thursday in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland.
“Due to the spate of violent cases during protests, I have stopped all city and town municipals from issuing permits to hold protests,” Public Works Minister Prince Simelane told a news conference.
Internet access was limited, with Facebook completely shut off for a second day.
“Images that are coming from Eswatini are very disturbing indeed, and we can see that the political temperature is very hot,” Jeff Radebe, head of the mediators sent to the country by the 16-nation Southern African Development Community, told South Africa’s public broadcaster.
The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union said in a statement that nurses and other workers who had converged on a public park in Mbabane, “were met with unprecedented show of force by the police and the army.”
“They were brutally dispersed and scattered all over the capital. As they were running, they were shot with live ammunition.”
The 30 injured were among more than 80 reported hurt on Wednesday in pro-democracy protests that have flared nationwide.
Radebe said the kingdom’s “issues are very complex,” and the team was “going there with an open mind, ensuring that we hear all views, so that at the end of the day the people of Eswatini... come up with a lasting solution.”
The latest flare-up in demonstrations has run for more than two weeks, spearheaded by students, civil servants and transport workers.
King Mswati III is Africa’s last absolute monarch, who enjoys flaunting his wealth and showering his 15 wives with lavish gifts.
Yet he rules over one of the poorest countries in the world, where nearly two-thirds of the population lives in poverty and a quarter of adults have HIV.

In a statement, the Communist Party of Swaziland said the situation at the largest government hospital in Mbabane on Wednesday resembled a “war zone.”
Hospital floors were “drenched in blood,” said the party, adding that police “invaded the hospital, shooting even nurses as they attended to the injured, worsening the situation.”
The nurse’s union said security forces kept shooting at nurses into the evening, even as they were traveling to work night shifts at hospitals.
“Clearly these blood-thirsty imbeciles, brood of vipers are hell-bent to kill nurses and the nation in defense of an ailing government,” the union said, calling on members not to treat any injured soldiers or police.
Five high-school students arrested during protests were arraigned on terrorism charges on Thursday for their role in the democracy push. Prosecutors accused them of burning down a police post.
At least 30 people have died since June in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country’s history.
 


Biden says US would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked

Biden says US would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked
Updated 22 October 2021

Biden says US would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked

Biden says US would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked

BALTIMORE, Maryland: US President Joe Biden said on Thursday the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense and had a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own territory.
“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense.
Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world,“
“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.
Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory, which should be taken by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.


Governments turn tables on ransomware gang REvil by pushing it offline

Governments turn tables on ransomware gang REvil by pushing it offline
Updated 22 October 2021

Governments turn tables on ransomware gang REvil by pushing it offline

Governments turn tables on ransomware gang REvil by pushing it offline
  • Law enforcement and intelligence cyber specialists were able to hack REvil's computer network infrastructure, obtaining control of at least some of their servers
  • One person familiar with the events said that a foreign partner of the US government carried out the hacking operation that penetrated REvil's computer architecture

The ransomware group REvil was itself hacked and forced offline this week by a multi-country operation, according to three private sector cyber experts working with the United States and one former official.
Former partners and associates of the Russian-led criminal gang were responsible for a May cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline that led to widespread gas shortages on the US East Coast. REvil's direct victims include top meatpacker JBS. The crime group's "Happy Blog” website, which had been used to leak victim data and extort companies, is no longer available.
Officials said the Colonial attack used encryption software called DarkSide, which was developed by REvil associates.
VMWare head of cybersecurity strategy Tom Kellermann said law enforcement and intelligence personnel stopped the group from victimizing additional companies.
"The FBI, in conjunction with Cyber Command, the Secret Service and like-minded countries, have truly engaged in significant disruptive actions against these groups,” said Kellermann, an adviser to the US Secret Service on cybercrime investigations. “REvil was top of the list.”
A leadership figure known as "0_neday," who had helped restart the group's operations after an earlier shutdown, said REvil's servers had been hacked by an unnamed party.
"The server was compromised, and they were looking for me," 0_neday wrote on a cybercrime forum last weekend and first spotted by security firm Recorded Future. "Good luck, everyone; I'm off."
US government attempts to stop REvil, one of the worst of dozens of ransomware gangs that work with hackers to penetrate and paralyze companies around the world, accelerated after the group compromised US software management company Kaseya in July. 
That breach opened access to hundreds of Kaseya's customers all at once, leading to numerous emergency cyber incident response calls.

Decryption key
Following the attack on Kaseya, the FBI obtained a universal decryption key that allowed those infected via Kaseya to recover their files without paying a ransom.
But law enforcement officials initially withheld the key for weeks as it quietly pursued REvil's staff, the FBI later acknowledged. 
According to three people familiar with the matter, law enforcement and intelligence cyber specialists were able to hack REvil's computer network infrastructure, obtaining control of at least some of their servers.
After websites that the hacker group used to conduct business went offline in July, the main spokesman for the group, who calls himself "Unknown," vanished from the internet.
When gang member 0_neday and others restored those websites from a backup last month, he unknowingly restarted some internal systems that were already controlled by law enforcement.
“The REvil ransomware gang restored the infrastructure from the backups under the assumption that they had not been compromised,” said Oleg Skulkin, deputy head of the forensics lab at the Russian-led security company Group-IB. “Ironically, the gang's own favorite tactic of compromising the backups was turned against them.”
Reliable backups are one of the most important defenses against ransomware attacks, but they must be kept unconnected from the main networks or they too can be encrypted by extortionists such as REvil.
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council declined to comment on the operation specifically.
"Broadly speaking, we are undertaking a whole of government ransomware effort, including disruption of ransomware infrastructure and actors, working with the private sector to modernize our defenses, and building an international coalition to hold countries who harbor ransom actors accountable," the person said.
The FBI declined to comment.
One person familiar with the events said that a foreign partner of the US government carried out the hacking operation that penetrated REvil's computer architecture. A former US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the operation is still active.
The success stems from a determination by US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco that ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure should be treated as a national security issue akin to terrorism, Kellermann said.
In June, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General John Carlin told Reuters the Justice Department was elevating investigations of ransomware attacks to a similar priority.
Such actions gave the Justice Department and other agencies a legal basis to get help from US intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense, Kellermann said.
"Before, you couldn't hack into these forums, and the military didn't want to have anything to do with it. Since then, the gloves have come off."