Bangladesh opens 50 new mosques to celebrate 50 years of independence

Bangladesh opens 50 new mosques to celebrate 50 years of independence
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday opened 50 new mosques across the country to celebrate 50 years of independence. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 10 June 2021

Bangladesh opens 50 new mosques to celebrate 50 years of independence

Bangladesh opens 50 new mosques to celebrate 50 years of independence
  • PM hopes they will restore “tarnished” image of Islam
  • Hasina opened the 50 mosques virtually from her official residence, Ganabhaban in Dhaka

DHAKA: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday opened 50 new mosques across the country to celebrate 50 years of independence.
They are part of a major $1 billion construction program that started in 2017, with 560 “model” mosques featuring community and educational facilities being built to serve as local religious and learning centers.
Hasina opened the 50 mosques virtually from her official residence, Ganabhaban in Dhaka, and expressed hope they would help restore the good image of Islam and root out extremism.
“We’ve seen how some people turn to terrorism in the name of religion. Killing people and spreading hate have tarnished the image of Islam,” Hasina said. “Everyone, including politicians, civil societies and teachers, need to work together to root out terrorism. People need to understand that no one will go to heaven by killing others.”
Another 50 mosques will be opened in the coming months to reach the 100 mark in remembrance of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s first president and Hasina’s father, as Bangladesh is also observing his birthday centenary this year.
Rahman spearheaded a freedom struggle in Bangladesh to separate the country from Pakistan. The war began in March 1971 and, after a bloody nine-month campaign, culminated in the nation’s independence.
Shafique Talukder, the mosque building project’s deputy director, told Arab News that the mosque complexes would all have facilities for Islamic research, pre-primary school education, libraries, housing and accommodation for local and foreign tourists. They would also run enrolment and training programs for Hajj pilgrims, he added, and serve men and women.
Three types of mosques are being constructed under the project.
There will be mosques with a floor space of 2,400 square meters in 64 regions. In 475 other areas they will have a floor space of 1,700 square meters. In 16 coastal regions the floor space will be 2,000 square meters, designed specifically to meet terrain requirements.
The aim of the project is for all districts, subdistricts, and city corporation areas to have one model mosque equipped with a grand prayer hall for 900 to 1,200 people.
“This is the largest mosque building project being implemented by any country in the world,” Talukder said.
There are more than 300,000 mosques in Bangladesh.


Ex-Daesh wife Shamima Begum pleads to return to UK

Ex-Daesh wife Shamima Begum pleads to return to UK
Updated 11 min 26 sec ago

Ex-Daesh wife Shamima Begum pleads to return to UK

Ex-Daesh wife Shamima Begum pleads to return to UK
  • Shamima Begum: ‘I don’t think I was a terrorist. I think I was just a dumb kid who made one mistake’
  • Intelligence expert tells Arab News: ‘She says she has changed, but she would, wouldn’t she?’

LONDON: Shamima Begum, the London teenager who traveled to Syria to join Daesh, has told a documentary about her hopes of returning to Britain, saying she would “love” to help rehabilitate extremists.

Begum, 21, said she was “just a dumb kid” and not a terrorist when she left London to join the terror outfit when she was 15.

She has been at the Al-Roj prison camp in Syria since being stripped of her British citizenship.

“I don’t think I was a terrorist. I think I was just a dumb kid who made one mistake,” Begum said. “I personally don’t think that I need to be rehabilitated, but I would want to help other people be rehabilitated. I would love to help.”

The former Daesh wife gave her comments to a British filmmaker for a documentary called “Danger Zone.”

She said: “Anything in this camp that makes me happy is like a lifesaver.” Dressed in Western clothes — having shed her traditional Islamic dress for interviews with British media outlets — Begum added that she listens to rapper Kanye West’s music.

Portraying herself as an ordinary Briton, she said she was following updates on West’s divorce from reality TV star Kim Kardashian, and watched reruns of US sitcom “Friends.”

Asked what she would say to those in Britain who think she should not be permitted to return, Begum said: “Can I come home please, pretty please?”

But her chances look slim, especially after the Supreme Court in February refused her permission to return to Britain to fight the government’s decision to remove her citizenship.

Andrew Drury, the filmmaker, said he had changed his mind about Begum after interviewing her, arguing that she should be permitted to return to the UK and be punished for her crimes.

Philip Ingram, a former senior British military intelligence officer, told Arab News: “There will be no evidence that could hope to meet the standards of beyond reasonable doubt in a British court, so it’s unlikely she could ever be brought to trial. She says she has changed, but she would, wouldn’t she?”

He added: “If she were allowed to return to Britain, she’d have to be monitored 24/7, costing millions and taking vital resources. She made her bed and should lie in it, and that’s the only way to continue to send a deterrent message to others who in the future may consider following in her footsteps.”


Hong Kong watching Chinese nuclear plant after leak reported

Hong Kong watching Chinese nuclear plant after leak reported
Updated 15 June 2021

Hong Kong watching Chinese nuclear plant after leak reported

Hong Kong watching Chinese nuclear plant after leak reported
  • Experts say that gas might be leaking from fuel rods inside a reactor in Taishan, 135 kilometers west of Hong Kong
  • In Hong Kong, radiation levels Tuesday were normal, according to the Hong Kong Observatory

HONG KONG: China’s government said Tuesday no abnormal radiation was detected outside a nuclear power plant near Hong Kong following a news report of a leak, while Hong Kong’s leader said her administration was closely watching the facility.
The operators released few details, but nuclear experts say based on their brief statement, gas might be leaking from fuel rods inside a reactor in Taishan, 135 kilometers (85 miles) west of Hong Kong.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, gave no confirmation of a leak or other details. He responded to reporters’ questions by saying, “there is nothing abnormal detected in the radiation level surrounding the plant.”
In Hong Kong, radiation levels Tuesday were normal, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
Framatome, a French company that helps manage the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province, said Monday it was dealing with a “performance issue.” It said the facility was operating within safe limits.
That followed a report by CNN that Framatome told US authorities about a possible leak.
“With regards to foreign media reports about a nuclear plant in Taishan, Guangzhou, the Hong Kong government attaches a high degree of importance to this,” said Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Lam said her government would ask authorities in Guangdong for information and tell the public about any developments.
China is one of the biggest users of nuclear power and is building more reactors at a time when few other governments have plans for new facilities because the cost of solar, wind and other alternatives is plunging.
Chinese leaders see nuclear as a way to reduce air pollution and demand for imports of oil and gas, which they deem a security risk. Government plans call for Hong Kong to use more mainland nuclear power to allow the closure of coal-fired power plants.
The Taishan plant, which began commercial operation in December 2018, is owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and Electricite de France, the majority owner of Framatome. A second reactor began operating in September 2019.
They are the first of a new type called European Pressurized Reactors. Two more are being built in Finland and France.
CNN reported Framatome wrote to the US Department of Energy warning of an “imminent radiological threat” and accusing Chinese authorities of raising acceptable limits for radiation outside the plant to avoid having to shut it down.
US officials believed there was no severe safety threat, CNN said.
The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN body, told The Associated Press it was aware of the issue and awaiting information from China.
Electricite de France said Monday it was informed of the increase in concentration of “certain rare gases” in Taishan reactor No. 1.
That suggests fuel rods are leaking noble gases, a byproduct of nuclear fission, according to Luk Bing-lam, an expert on nuclear engineering at the City University of Hong Kong.
“If the leakage is more severe, then you will start seeing more radioactive material like cesium, rather than gas,” said Luk, who is chairman of the Hong Kong Nuclear Society.
Such leaks “happen every so often” in China and plants “usually can handle it themselves,” Luk said. But he said this incident might be complicated if the Taishan plant uses US technology that is covered by export restrictions.
China’s state-owned nuclear power companies are on Washington’s “entity list” that bars them from obtaining US technology without government approval.
The French partner might ask for permission because Framatome previously licensed technology from Westinghouse, Luk said.
“With the situation now, that becomes difficult,” he said. “For even a small problem, they need US government approval.”
China has 50 operable reactors and is building 18 more, according to the World Nuclear Association, an industry group. It is largely self-sufficient in reactor design and construction but is “making full use of Western technology while adapting and improving it,” the association says on its website.
China has constructed reactors based on French, US, Russian and Canadian technology and has developed its own Hualong One reactor, based on Westinghouse technology, marketing it abroad since 2015.
Hong Kong gets as much as one-third of its power from the Daya Bay nuclear power plant east of the territory in Guangdong.
Luk, who has worked with Chinese nuclear power plant operators, said he asked the company for information about the leak but managers won’t talk about it.
“I suspect the leakage is far more widespread than just a single assembly,” he said. “Because of that, they probably need some special technology to resolve this leakage problem.”
Previously, the Taishan facility leaked a “small amount” of radioactive gas on April 9, the National Nuclear Safety Administration said on its website. It said the event was “Level 0,” or “without safety significance.”
Zhao, the foreign ministry spokesman, defended China’s nuclear safety record and said the nuclear agency works with regulators in other countries and the IAEA.
“China’s nuclear power plants have maintained a good record in operation and no incidents affecting the environment or public health have occurred,” Zhao said.


At least 15 dead in suicide bombing at Somalia army camp

At least 15 dead in suicide bombing at Somalia army camp
Updated 15 June 2021

At least 15 dead in suicide bombing at Somalia army camp

At least 15 dead in suicide bombing at Somalia army camp
  • The officer said the bomber was disguised among recruits queueing up outside the General Dhegobadan Military Camp
MOGADISHU: At least 15 army recruits died Tuesday when a suicide bomber attacked a military training camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, an officer said.
“I have counted about 15 new recruits who have been killed in the blast,” said army officer Mohamed Adan, adding the toll could be higher.
Adan said the bomber was disguised among recruits queueing up outside the General Dhegobadan Military Camp when the explosion occurred.

Five Afghan polio vaccinators shot dead

Five Afghan polio vaccinators shot dead
Updated 12 min 22 sec ago

Five Afghan polio vaccinators shot dead

Five Afghan polio vaccinators shot dead
  • ‘This is the work of the Taliban, targeting health workers to deprive people of polio vaccines’

JALALABAD, Afghanistan: At least five polio workers were shot dead in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said, in the area’s second attacks on vaccinators in less than three months.

The workers were gunned down in three separate locations within hours in a “coordinated attack,” Nangarhar provincial police spokesman Farid Khan said.

“This is the work of the Taliban, targeting health workers to deprive people of polio vaccines,” he said.

Health ministry spokesman Osman Taheri confirmed the attacks. The Taliban denied responsibility.

Polio has been eradicated across the world apart from Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, where distrust of vaccines and eradication campaigns is rife.

The Taliban and religious leaders often tell communities that vaccines are a Western conspiracy aimed at sterilizing Muslim children, and they also suspect immunization drives are used to spy on militant activities.

Officials say the Taliban do not allow door-to-door vaccination campaigns in areas they control.

Tuesday saw five vaccine workers killed and one wounded in a spate of attacks across Nangarhar, the local government said. Three were also wounded in the provincial capital, Jalalabad.

The inoculation drive in the province had now been halted, a health official said.

“These were all targeted attacks against polio vaccinators, and for now we have stopped all polio vaccination drives in Nangarhar province,” the official said, asking not to be named.

A top United Nations official, Ramiz Alakbarov, condemned Tuesday’s attacks.

“Depriving children from an assurance of a healthy life is inhumane,” Alakbarov, the UN Secretary General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, said on Twitter.

“Senseless violence must stop now, those responsible must be investigated and brought to justice.”

The country has faced a devastating wave of targeted attacks on politicians, activists and journalists which the Afghan government and United States have blamed on the Taliban, who routinely deny responsibility.

“We have reached a situation where systematically employees of demining, doctor, nurse, vaccinator, human rights defenders and anyone seeking to save our lives and our children are killed,” said Shaharzad Akbar, the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.

“There is neither an effective prevention mechanism nor a punishment for the perpetrators.”

Last week 10 people working for the HALO Trust mine-clearing organization were shot dead in northern Afghanistan.

The government said the Taliban were behind the attack, but the UK-based charity said the local militants actually stepped in to help.

The Taliban have made huge gains across Afghanistan as the United States prepares to pull out the last of its troops from the country by September after 20 years of war — even as peace talks between the Afghan government and the Islamist group have stalled.


Japan to ship 1 million COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam on Wednesday

Japan to ship 1 million COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam on Wednesday
Updated 15 June 2021

Japan to ship 1 million COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam on Wednesday

Japan to ship 1 million COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam on Wednesday
  • Vietnam’s tally of infections stands at 10,241, and only 58 deaths since the pandemic began
  • Japan has pledged $1 billion and 30 million doses to the COVAX facility that provides vaccines to needy countries

TOKYO: Japan will send a million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday, as the southeast Asian nation steps up vaccine procurement to fight a more stubborn wave of infections.

With a population of about 98 million, Vietnam’s tally of infections stands at 10,241, and only 58 deaths, since the pandemic began.

The shipment of AstraZeneca PLC vaccines produced in Japan is due to arrive in Vietnam on Wednesday, Motegi told reporters.

Japan is considering additional vaccine donations to Vietnam and Taiwan, and plans similar shipments to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand from early July, Motegi added.

Taiwan received 1.24 million AstraZeneca doses from Japan this month to counter a domestic resurgence of cases. Its government thanked Japan on Tuesday for considering additional aid.

“We will continue to maintain close communication with the Japanese side and look forward to the smooth arrival of the vaccines in Taiwan as soon as possible,” the island’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Japan has pledged $1 billion and 30 million doses to the COVAX facility that provides vaccines to needy countries. But the shipments to Vietnam, Taiwan and other Asian neighbors are being made outside of COVAX to speed up delivery, Motegi said.

“If we go through an international organization, the procedures in getting approval may take time,” he said.

Japan has contracted to buy 120 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which it approved last month. But there are no immediate plans to use it at home, as concerns linger over international reports of blood clots.

Taiwan has millions of doses on order worldwide but supply shortages have led to delays in receiving them, with just about 4 percent of a population of 23.5 million having received at least one shot as it battles the spike.

With just 132 new cases reported on Tuesday, the island is gradually bringing the domestic outbreak under control.

“The overall trend seems to be heading in a better direction, but we still can’t relax,” Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said in Taipei, the capital.