Church criticizes Austrian government’s ‘Islam Map’

Church criticizes Austrian government’s ‘Islam Map’
The head of the Austrian Catholic church Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2021

Church criticizes Austrian government’s ‘Islam Map’

Church criticizes Austrian government’s ‘Islam Map’
  • Several Muslims have already been attacked and a mosque has been defaced since that map went online
  • Cardinal Schoenborn has asked why one of the country’s many religious communities was singled out

VIENNA: The Austrian Catholic church on Friday became the latest religious group to criticize a government-backed, online map of hundreds of Muslim organization which sparked violence against the Muslim minority.
The highly controversial map shows details of more than 600 Muslim associations — from youth groups to mosques — including details on their location and photos of members.
The map was first presented by a government-funded group monitoring Muslim extremism and by Austria’s Integration Minister Susanne Raab, a member of conservative, anti-migration Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), who called it a tool to “fight political Islam as a breeding ground for extremism.”
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the head of the Austrian Catholic church, wrote in an op-ed Friday that it was “dangerous to give the impression that one of the religious community is under general suspicion,” and asked why one of the country’s many religious communities was singled out.
Umit Vural, head of the Islamic Religious Community of Austria, described the map as a “massive security threat” to Muslims, while the Muslim Youth Austria organization said several Muslims had already been attacked and a mosque has been defaced since that map went online in late May.
About a quarter of Austria’s majority Catholic population vote for the Islamophobic far-right party, and far-right extremists in the past week have put up signs reading “Be careful! Political Islam is near you” on streets where the map showed Muslim organization, calling on “fellow patriots” to join them.
EU Special Representative on Antisemitic and Anti-Muslim Hatred and Hate Crimes Daniel Hoeltgen urged the government to take down the map, while a range of representatives of other religious communities, including the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt, also rebuked it.
Verbal and physical attacks against Muslims have already been on the rise since an Austrian-born extremist killed four in Vienna in early November, according to a group documenting Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism.


Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president
Updated 24 June 2021

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president
  • Foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11
  • First troops would return to Poland on Thursday night

WARSAW: Poland will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan at the end of June, President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday, bringing its two-decade presence in the country to an end.
NATO allies agreed in April that foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with a US pull-out by Sept. 11.
“At the end of June, after 20 years, we are ending our military involvement in the largest NATO operation in history,” Duda wrote on Twitter, adding that the first troops would return to Poland on Thursday night.
After withdrawing, the United States and NATO aim to rely on Afghan military and police forces, which they have developed with billions of dollars in funding, to maintain security.


UK Muslim convert reunited with ex-far-right father

A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 24 June 2021

UK Muslim convert reunited with ex-far-right father

A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Faith Abbey was shunned by her dad for 5 years when he developed anti-Islam views, joined English Defence League
  • ‘It’s from my religion to be forgiving and caring and loving’

LONDON: A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL).

Faith Abbey, 28, had been close with her father until he developed what she described as “narrow-minded and rigid views on Muslims and their presence in the UK.”

He went on to join the EDL, established in 2009 and known for its Islamophobic and anti-immigrant stances.

Its members have regularly faced criminal proceedings for violence and hate crimes against Britain’s ethnic and religious minorities.

“He was in trouble with the police for various incidents related to the EDL, and realized he’d fallen in with the wrong kind of people,” Abbey said.

“He realized that the people in life who’ve been most kind to him and generous and forgiving are actually Muslims, and they’re kind people who are full of love, not hate. He also realized a lot of what the EDL believe about Muslims isn’t actually true.”

Abbey grew up in the UK, and told Metro newspaper that she was originally a Christian before converting to Islam nine years ago.

She said reuniting with her father over lunch in London was “one of the best days of (her) life.”

She added: “It was amazing. I’ve always loved my father and wanted him to be happy. It’s from my religion to be forgiving and caring and loving … I always loved him and wished the best for him.”


Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer
Updated 24 June 2021

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer
  • Judge: Michael Nugent had ‘knowingly encouraged right-wing terrorism’
  • He created video celebrating Christchurch mosque massacre

LONDON: A British man who was jailed after encouraging terror attacks from his parents’ house praised Brenton Tarrant, who committed mass shootings in two mosques in Christchurch in 2019.

White supremacist Michael Nugent, 38, admitted five counts of disseminating terrorist publications, and 11 of possessing information useful to a terrorist.

He organized several messaging groups on Telegram, an app popular with extremists, where people shared terrorist manifestos and explosives manuals.

The court heard how he “honored” right-wing terrorists in his messaging groups, including Tarrant and Norwegian Anders Breivik.

Michael Nugent (London Metropolitan Police)

Nugent described Tarrant’s mass murder of 51 Muslims as a “game-changer,” and created a celebration video on the one-year anniversary.

Nugent disseminated Tarrant’s manifesto, published after the massacre, which encouraged others to launch similar attacks. “I understand why Tarrant did what he did,” he wrote on Telegram.

As he was sentenced on Wednesday, Judge Peter Lodder QC told Nugent he had “knowingly encouraged right-wing terrorism.”

Jailing him for three-and-a-half years, Lodder added: “You did not work but spent all of your time at home in your parents’ house, where from your bedroom you developed your online extremist persona.

“You posted toxic, offensive material to websites and administered groups which were dedicated to violent racist, antisemitic and neo-Nazi ideology.

“Whatever your mental health at the time, no-one concludes that you weren’t aware of what you were doing.” The court was told that Nugent suffered from psychosis.

He wrote in a diary, seized by police, that he wanted to see ethnic minorities “sent home” and “sterilized.”

One section said: “We are being genocided in our own homes and our own country … Terrorism is the only way out of it.”

Nugent’s lawyer Liam Walker said the defendant “does not recognize the person he was at the time or the views he held.”

Walker said Nugent’s family had described him as a “withdrawn man, agoraphobic in his habits.”

Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “This is another case which shows how harmful online extremism is. That is why it is important that anyone who believes that they have a friend or loved one who they think has been radicalized, or is vulnerable, seeks help.”


Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic
Updated 24 June 2021

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic
  • About 1.12 percent people have been fully vaccinated on a continent that has recorded 5.2 million infections

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Africa is not winning its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as a third virus wave sweeps the continent and countries struggle to access enough vaccines for their populations, Africa CDC director John Nkenkasong said on Thursday.
The COVAX program co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fair distribution of vaccines is now planning a shake-up as it has been shunned by rich countries and failing to meet the needs of the poorest, internal documents seen by Reuters show.
Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) director Nkenkasong said he was more worried about getting vaccines in time regardless of where the doses came from.
“The third wave has come with severity that most countries were not prepared for. So the third wave is extremely brutal,” Nenkasong said during a weekly online briefing.
“Let me put it bluntly, we are not winning in Africa this battle against the virus so it does not really matter to me whether the vaccines are from COVAX or anywhere. All we need is rapid access to vaccines.”
Nkenkasong said at least 20 countries were in the middle of the third wave, with Zambia, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo among those whose health facilities were being overwhelmed.
The COVAX program’s initial lofty ambitions to act as a clearing house for the world’s vaccines, collecting from the manufacturers in the most developed countries and quickly distributing to those in the most urgent need, have fallen flat.
About 1.12 percent people have been fully vaccinated on a continent that has recorded 5.2 million infections, Nkenkasong said.
More than half of poorer countries receiving doses via COVAX do not have enough supplies to continue, an official from the WHO said on Monday.


Thai pro-democracy activists march against government

Thai pro-democracy activists march against government
Updated 24 June 2021

Thai pro-democracy activists march against government

Thai pro-democracy activists march against government
  • The protesters defied a ban on large gatherings instituted to fight a coronavirus surge that shows little sign of abating
  • Several hundred marched to Parliament, which is due to vote on several amendments to the constitution

BANGKOK: Pro-democracy protesters took to the streets of Thailand’s capital on Thursday, marking the anniversary of the overthrow of the country’s absolute monarchy by renewing their demands that the government step down, the constitution be amended and the monarchy become more accountable.
The protesters defied a ban on large gatherings instituted to fight a coronavirus surge that shows little sign of abating. It was their first large protest after a hiatus of about three months caused by the pandemic and the jailing of protest leaders, who have since been released on bail.
The government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is facing widespread criticism that it botched pandemic recovery plans by failing to secure adequate vaccine supplies.
On June 24, 1932, a group of progressive army officers and civil servants proclaimed constitutional rule and the transition to parliamentary democracy, ending Thailand’s absolute monarchy. The anniversary in recent years has become an occasion for pro-democracy rallies.
Protesters gathered early Thursday by Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, a traditional demonstration venue, to light candles and read out the 1932 proclamation of the end of the absolute monarchy.
Several hundred then marched to Parliament, which is due to vote on several amendments to the constitution. The proposed changes, however, fall far short of those sought by the protesters, which include restoring more power to political parties and elected office holders.
“We come out today to insist on the principle that the constitution must come from the people,” said Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a protest leader also known as Pai Dao Din.
The student-led pro-democracy movement sprung up last year, largely in reaction to the continuing influence of the military in government and hyper-royalist sentiment. The army in 2014 overthrew an elected government, and Prayuth, the coup leader, was named prime minister after a 2019 general election put in power a military-backed political party. Critics say the constitution enacted during military rule skewed election rules to favor the army’s proxy party.
The movement was able to attract crowds of as many as 20,000-30,000 people in Bangkok in 2020 and had followings in major cities and universities. However, a coronavirus surge late last year caused it to temporarily suspend activities and lose momentum.
The movement became controversial as its leaders focused on the monarchy in their speeches and activities. They charged that the king holds power and influence beyond that allowed under the constitution.
Since becoming king in 2016, Maha Vajiralongkorn has gained more direct control over the vast fortune of the royal palace — estimated to exceed $30 billion — as well as command of some key military units in the capital.
During the same time, memorials, statues and other symbols associated with the 1932 revolution have been removed.
The monarchy is widely considered to be an untouchable bedrock element of Thai nationalism. Defaming key royals is punishable under a lese majeste law by up to 15 years in prison per count. Many people still revere the monarchy, and the military, a major power in Thai society, considers its defense a key priority.
The government responded to the protesters’ criticism of the monarchy by charging leaders under the lese majeste law.
Parit Chiwarak, among those jailed, said Thursday the protesters are standing by their original demands but perhaps shifting their focus.
“We still demand the monarchy’s reform. But this year Prayuth must be ousted,” said Parit, who is better known by the nickname Penguin.