Indonesian Muslims mark grim Eid amid devastating virus wave

Coronavirus prevention protocols appear to be forgotten as worshippers attend prayers at the Islamic Centre Mosque to mark Eid al-Adha in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, on July 20, 2021. (AFP)k
1 / 2
Coronavirus prevention protocols appear to be forgotten as worshippers attend prayers at the Islamic Centre Mosque to mark Eid al-Adha in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, on July 20, 2021. (AFP)k
 Worshippers appear to dispense with social distancing measures as they attend prayers at the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on July 20, 2021. (AFP)
2 / 2
Worshippers appear to dispense with social distancing measures as they attend prayers at the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on July 20, 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 20 July 2021

Indonesian Muslims mark grim Eid amid devastating virus wave

Indonesian Muslims mark grim Eid amid devastating virus wave
  • Most of Indonesia’s cases are on the densely populated island of Java, where more than half of the country’s 270 million people live

JAKARTA: Muslims across Indonesia marked a grim Eid Al-Adha festival for a second year Tuesday as the country struggles to cope with a devastating new wave of coronavirus cases and the government has banned large gatherings and toughened travel restrictions.
Indonesia is now Asia’s COVID-19 hot spot with the most confirmed daily cases, as infections and deaths have surged over the past three weeks and India’s massive outbreak has waned.
Most of Indonesia’s cases are on the densely populated island of Java, where more than half of the country’s 270 million people live. Authorities in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation have banned many of the crowd-attracting activities that are usually part of Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice that marks the end of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah.
Authorities allowed prayers at local mosques in low-risk areas, but elsewhere houses of worship had no congregations, including Jakarta’s Istiqlal Grand Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia.
Officials also banned the huge crowds that usually fill the yards of mosques to participate in ritual animal slaughter for the festival. Religious leaders urged the faithful to pray inside their homes and children were told to not go out to meet friends.
Indonesia’s health ministry reported 34,257 new coronavirus cases and 1,338 deaths on Monday, making it the country’s deadliest day since the start of the pandemic.
COVID-19 infections in Indonesia are at their peak last week with the highest daily average reported at more than 50,000 new infections each day. Until mid-June, daily cases had been running at about 8,000.
Overall, Indonesia has reported more than 2.9 million cases and 74,920 fatalities. Those figures are widely believed to be a vast undercount due to low testing and poor tracing measures.
The government put emergency restrictions in place on July 3 across Java island and the tourist island of Bali, limiting all nonessential travel and gatherings and shutting malls, places of worship and entertainment centers. They were set to end on Tuesday in time for the country to celebrate Eid Al-Adha.
But with the wave of infections still expanding, the government’s COVID-19task force issued a special directive for the holiday week that bans all public travel, communal prayers, family visits and gatherings across Java and Bali, and expanded the lockdown measures to 15 cities and districts outside the two islands that have recorded sharp increases in COVID-19 cases.
President Joko Widodo appealed to Muslims to perform Eid prayers and recitation of God is great at home with their families.
“In the midst of the current pandemic, we need to be willing to sacrifice even more,” Widodo told televised remarks on the eve of Eid. “Sacrificing personal interests and putting the interests of the community and others first,” he said.
Police set up highway checkpoints and blocked main roads for non-essential vehicles. Domestic flights and other modes of transportation were suspended, blocking people from making traditional family visits.
“This is unfair ... but we should follow for the sake of people’s safety,” said Eka Cahya Pratama, a civil servant in the capital, Jakarta. He said he has lost many relatives because of COVID-19, including his aunt and two uncles.
“I feel really sad, I really miss them on the day of Eid,” he said.
Indonesia’s current wave was fueled by travel during the Eid Al-Fitr festival in May and by the rapid spread of the more contagious delta variant that emerged in India. Hospitals are swamped and oxygen supplies are running out, with growing numbers of the ill dying in isolation at home or while waiting to receive emergency care.
With the health care system struggling to cope, even patients fortunate enough to get a hospital bed are not guaranteed oxygen.
Other Asian countries are also struggling to contain rapidly rising infections amid sluggish vaccination campaigns and the spread of the delta variant. Among them are Muslim-majority places like Malaysia, Bangladesh and the southernmost four provinces of Thailand.
Unlike Indonesia’s restrictions, Bangladesh controversially paused its coronavirus lockdown for eight days to mark Eid Al-Adha, and its millions of people are shopping and traveling this week, raising fears the holiday will cause a virus surge that will collapse its already-struggling health care system.
Malaysia also has struggled to control its outbreak, which has worsened despite being under a lockdown since June 1. Total cases have soared by 62 percent since June 1 to above 927,000. Hospitals, especially in the state of Selangor, have been overwhelmed, with some patients reportedly being treated on the floor due to a lack of beds, and corpses piling up in mortuaries. Vaccinations, however, have picked up, with nearly 15 percent of the population now fully inoculated.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urged Muslims to stay home and celebrate the holiday modestly. “I appeal to you all to be patient and abide by the rules because your sacrifice is a great jihad in Allah’s sight and in our effort to save lives,” he said in a televised speech on the eve of the festival.
Indonesia began vaccinating aggressively earlier than many countries in Southeast Asia. About 14 percent of its population have had at least one dose, primarily China’s Sinovac. But that may leave them susceptible, since Sinovac may be less effective against the delta variant. Both Indonesia and Thailand are planning booster shots of other vaccines for their Sinovac-immunized health workers.
In Indonesia, land continues to be cleared for the dead as daily burials at dedicated graveyards for COVID-19 victims have increased 10-fold since May in Jakarta alone, according to government data.
Families wait turns to bury their loved ones as gravediggers work late shifts. Last year, Indonesia’s highest Islamic clerical body issued a decree that mass graves — normally forbidden in Islam — would be permitted during the pandemic.
 


US school shooter’s parents charged with manslaughter, wanted by police

James, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are shown during the video arraignment of their son, Ethan Crumbley in Rochester Hills, Mich., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP)
James, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are shown during the video arraignment of their son, Ethan Crumbley in Rochester Hills, Mich., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP)
Updated 35 sec ago

US school shooter’s parents charged with manslaughter, wanted by police

James, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are shown during the video arraignment of their son, Ethan Crumbley in Rochester Hills, Mich., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP)
  • “These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send the message that gun owners have a responsibility,” McDonald said at a press conference

WASHINGTON: The parents of a 15-year-old who shot dead four students at a US high school with a gun bought by his father were preparing Friday to turn themselves in to authorities after being charged with involuntary manslaughter, their lawyers said.
The whereabouts of James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley, remained unknown Friday, prompting authorities in Oakland County, Michigan to consider them fugitives.
But the Crumbley’s lawyers Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman told AFP that after leaving town on the night of the shooting “for their own safety,” the parents “are returning to the area to be arraigned.”
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald, in a rare move by law enforcement, had announced that each of the parents face four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
“These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send the message that gun owners have a responsibility,” McDonald said at a press conference.
“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on November 30 and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well,” she said.
A law enforcement official told CNN that the parents withdrew $4,000 from a money machine near Oxford on Friday, heightening the mystery over their disappearance.
But County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said he expected them in custody soon. “They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”
Four students, aged 14 to 17, were killed in the shooting at Oxford High School north of Detroit and six more were wounded, along with a teacher.
Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with state murder and terror charges.
While school shootings carried out by teens occur frequently in the United States, it is unusual for parents to face charges.
Four days before the shooting, James Crumbley bought the 9mm Sig Sauer semi-automatic handgun used by his son.
Ethan was with his father at the time of the purchase at a local firearms store and the teen posted a picture of the gun on his Instagram account, writing “just got my new beauty today” along with a heart emoji.
According to police, Ethan Crumbley recorded a video on his cell phone the night before the attack saying he was planning a shooting at the school the next day, but it was not posted online.
That same day, a teacher at the school had observed Ethan Crumbley searching for ammunition on his cell phone during class and reported it to school officials.
His mother was contacted by the school but did not respond to voicemail or email messages.
McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley did exchange a text message about the incident with her son that day, writing: “lol I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

The parents were summoned to the school on the day of the shooting itself after a teacher was “alarmed” by a note she found on Ethan Crumbley’s desk, McDonald said.
It featured a drawing of a gun and the words “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
It also had a picture of a bullet, a person who had been shot and the words “my life is useless” and “the world is dead,” she said.
The parents were shown the drawing at a meeting with school officials and advised that they needed to get the boy into counselling within 48 hours.
McDonald said they resisted taking their son home and he returned to class. He later entered a bathroom, emerged with the gun, which he had concealed in his backpack, and opened fire.
“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable and I think it’s criminal,” McDonald said.
“I am angry,” she said. “I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as the prosecutor. I’m angry as a person that lives in this county.
“We need to do better in this country,” she said. “We need to say enough is enough for our kids, our teachers, parents, for all of us in this community and the communities across this nation.”
Ethan Crumbley fired off at least 30 rounds, reloading as fellow students fled.
Students and teachers barricaded themselves in classrooms, as they had been taught to do in drills, and some escaped through windows.
McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley, when she heard about the shooting, had texted her son, saying, “Ethan don’t do it.”
James Crumbley drove home and called the emergency line 911 to report that a gun was missing from his house and that he believed his son may be the shooter, McDonald said.


US intelligence finds Russia planning Ukraine offensive

Attache of the Land Forces at the US Embassy in Ukraine Colonel Brandon Presley looks at the map during the visit by a delegation of the US Embassy in Ukraine. (AP file photo)
Attache of the Land Forces at the US Embassy in Ukraine Colonel Brandon Presley looks at the map during the visit by a delegation of the US Embassy in Ukraine. (AP file photo)
Updated 21 min 40 sec ago

US intelligence finds Russia planning Ukraine offensive

Attache of the Land Forces at the US Embassy in Ukraine Colonel Brandon Presley looks at the map during the visit by a delegation of the US Embassy in Ukraine. (AP file photo)
  • The president offered the measured warning to Putin in response to growing concern about a Russian buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the Kremlin

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden pledged on Friday to make it “very, very difficult” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin to take military action in Ukraine as US intelligence officials determined that Russian planning is underway for a possible military offensive that could begin as soon as early 2022.
The new intelligence finding estimates that the Russians are planning to deploy an estimated 175,000 troops and almost half of them are already deployed along various points near Ukraine’s border, according to a Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the finding.
It comes as Russia has picked up its demands on Biden to guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the NATO alliance.
The official added that the plans call for the movement of 100 battalion tactical groups along with armor, artillery and equipment.
Intelligence officials also have seen an uptick in Russian propaganda efforts through the use of proxies and media outlets to denigrate Ukraine and NATO ahead of a potential invasion, the official said.
Asked about the intelligence finding as he set out for the presidential retreat at Camp David on Friday evening, Biden reiterated his concerns about Russian provocations.
“We’ve been aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re gonna have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden said.
The risks of such a gambit for Putin, if he actually went through with an invasion, would be enormous.
US officials and former US diplomats say while Putin clearly is laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared today than in past years, and the sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to Russia’s economy. It remains unclear if Putin intends to go through with what would be a risky offensive, they say.
Earlier Friday, Biden pledged to make it “very, very difficult” for Putin to take military action in Ukraine and said new initiatives coming from his administration are intended to deter Russian aggression.
“What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” Biden told reporters.
The Kremlin said Friday that Putin would seek binding guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine during the call with Biden. But Biden sought to head off the demand.
“I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials also warned that Russia could invade next month. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told lawmakers Friday that the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea is estimated at 94,300, warning that a “large-scale escalation” is possible in January. US intelligence officials estimate closer to 70,000 troops are deployed near the border, according to an unclassified intelligence document obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
The intelligence findings were first reported by The Washington Post.
There are signs that the White House and Kremlin are close to arranging a conversation next week between Biden and Putin. Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters Friday that arrangements have been made for a Putin-Biden call in the coming days, adding that the date will be announced after Moscow and Washington finalize details. The Russians say a date has been agreed upon, but declined to say when.
Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have also tentatively agreed to have a call next week, according to a person close to the Ukrainian president who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said administration officials have “engaged in the possibility” of a Biden-Putin call. White House officials did not respond to a request for comment on the expected Zelenskyy call.
“It certainly would be an opportunity to discuss our serious concerns about the bellicose rhetoric, about the military buildup that we’re seeing on the border of Ukraine,” Psaki said of a potential Biden-Putin call.
Biden did not detail what actions he was weighing. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met Thursday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Sweden, said the US has threatened new sanctions. He did not detail the potential sanctions but suggested the effort would not be effective.
“If the new ‘sanctions from hell’ come, we will respond,” Lavrov said. “We can’t fail to respond.”
Psaki said the administration would look to coordinate with European allies if it moved forward with sanctions. She noted that bitter memories of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that had been under Ukraine’s control since 1954, are front of mind as the White House considers the way forward.
“We know what President Putin has done in the past,” Psaki said. “We see that he is putting in place the capacity to take action in short order.”
Deep differences were on display during the Blinken-Lavrov meeting, with the Russia official charging the West was “playing with fire” by denying Russia a say in any further NATO expansion into countries of the former Soviet Union. Zelenskyy has pushed for Ukraine to join the alliance, which holds out the promise of membership but hasn’t set a a timeline.
Blinken this week said the US has “made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past.”
He did not detail what sanctions were being weighed, but one potentially could be to cut off Russia from the SWIFT system of international payments. The European Union’s Parliament approved a nonbinding resolution in April to cut off Russia from SWIFT if its troops entered Ukraine.
Such a move would go far toward blocking Russian businesses from the global financial system. Western allies reportedly considered such a step in 2014 and 2015, during earlier Russian-led escalations of tensions over Ukraine.
Then-Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it would be tantamount to “a declaration of war.”
But some US government officials say Putin also could be seeking attention and concessions from Biden and other Western leaders, using the military escalation to force Russia back into a central role in world affairs as it had in the days of the Soviet Union.
“They are seriously envious for superpower status and ... the parity to the United States that existed during the Cold War. That’s what this is all about,” said John Herbst, a former US ambassador to Ukraine.
An invasion is possible, but more likely, “they provoke a crisis, they get concessions from us, and then they reduce the crisis. Right? And that, I think, is probably their objective,” Herbst said Friday.
 


WHO says no omicron deaths yet, as variant spreads worldwide

Rebecca Gonzales embraces her mother Nimia before saying goodbye at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on December 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images/AFP)
Rebecca Gonzales embraces her mother Nimia before saying goodbye at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on December 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 04 December 2021

WHO says no omicron deaths yet, as variant spreads worldwide

Rebecca Gonzales embraces her mother Nimia before saying goodbye at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on December 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images/AFP)
  • The emergence of Omicron was the “ultimate evidence” of the danger of unequal global vaccination rates, Red Cross head Francesca Rocca said

GENEVA: The omicron variant has been detected in 38 countries but no deaths have yet been reported, the WHO said on Friday, as authorities worldwide rushed to stem the heavily mutated Covid-19 strain’s spread amid warnings that it could damage the global economic recovery.
The United States and Australia became the latest countries to confirm locally transmitted cases of the variant, as omicron infections pushed South Africa’s total cases past three million.
The World Health Organization has warned it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.
“We’re going to get the answers that everybody out there needs,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.
The WHO said on Friday it had still not seen any reports of deaths related to omicron, but the new variant’s spread has led to warnings that it could cause more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.
The new variant could also slow global economic recovery, just as the Delta strain did, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday.
“Even before the arrival of this new variant, we were concerned that the recovery, while it continues, is losing somewhat momentum,” she said.
“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence.”
A preliminary study by researchers in South Africa, where the variant was first reported on November 24, suggests it is three times more likely to cause reinfections compared to the Delta or Beta strains.
The emergence of omicron was the “ultimate evidence” of the danger of unequal global vaccination rates, Red Cross head Francesca Rocca said.
South African doctors said there had been a spike in children under five admitted to hospital since omicron emerged, but stressed it was too early to know if young children were particularly susceptible.
“The incidence in those under-fives is now second-highest, and second only to the incidence in those over 60,” said Wassila Jassat from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
In the US, two cases involved residents with no recent international travel history — showing omicron is already circulating inside the country.
“This is a case of community spread,” the Hawaii Health Department said.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled his plans to battle Covid-19 during the winter, with new testing requirements for travelers and a surge in vaccination efforts.

All incoming travelers will need to test negative within a day of their flights, and rapid tests that cost $25 will be covered by insurance and distributed free to the uninsured.
Australia on Friday reported three students in Sydney had tested positive for the variant, despite a ban on non-citizens entering the country and restrictions on flights from southern Africa, with multiple countries rushing to limit travel from the region in the past week.
“It’s quite a kick in the nuts,” said Sabine Stam, who runs a South African tour company and whose customers are demanding refunds. “Everyone is too scared to set a new travel date,” she said.
In Norway, officials said at least 13 people who contracted Covid-19 after an office Christmas party in Oslo last week had the omicron variant — though so far they have only had mild symptoms, city health official Tine Ravlo told AFP.
But the government ushered in restrictions in greater Oslo after fears of the cluster surfaced.
On Friday, Malaysia also reported a first omicron infection in a foreign student arriving from South Africa on November 19. Sri Lanka also announced its first case, a citizen returning from South Africa.
Russia’s federal statistics agency Rosstat, meanwhile, said that nearly 75,000 people died of coronavirus in the country in October, making it the deadliest month of the pandemic.

The new variant poses a major challenge to ending the pandemic.
Rising Delta cases had already forced European governments to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, curfews or lockdowns, leaving businesses fearing another grim Christmas.
Belgian authorities said on Friday that primary schools would close a week early for the Christmas holidays.
Germany’s regional leaders agreed new measures including a ban on fireworks at new year parties to discourage large gatherings.
Ireland said it will close nightclubs and reintroduce social distancing in some settings over Christmas and the New Year.
In the UK, ministers have been expressing divergent opinions, not only on the idea of hosting parties, but also on the kind of conduct deemed acceptable.


Mob kills Sri Lankan over alleged blasphemy: Pakistan police

A damaged vehicle is seen near the premises of a factory in Sialkot on December 3, 2021 after a Sri Lankan man was killed for blasphemy. (AFP)
A damaged vehicle is seen near the premises of a factory in Sialkot on December 3, 2021 after a Sri Lankan man was killed for blasphemy. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2021

Mob kills Sri Lankan over alleged blasphemy: Pakistan police

A damaged vehicle is seen near the premises of a factory in Sialkot on December 3, 2021 after a Sri Lankan man was killed for blasphemy. (AFP)
  • Charges of blasphemy carry the death penalty under Pakistani law
  • Amnesty International said in a statement it was “deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching and killing of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot

LAHORE, Pakistan: A Muslim mob descended on a sports equipment factory in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province on Friday, killing a Sri Lankan man and burning his body publicly over allegations of blasphemy, police said.
Armagan Gondal, a police chief in the district of Sialkot, where the killing occurred, said factory workers had accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Police said initial information shows the Sri Lankan, later identified as Priyantha Kumara, a manager at the facility, was lynched inside the factory. Videos circulating on social media showed the mob dragging his heavily bruised body outside, where they burned it, surrounded by hundreds of others who cheered on the killers.
Senior police officer Omar Saeed Malik said police were still trying to determine what exactly prompted the mob to attack Kumara, whose body was sent to hospital for an autopsy. A thorough investigation was underway, he said.
In Colombo, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sugeeswara Gunaratne said their embassy in Islamabad was verifying details of the incident with Pakistani authorities.
“Sri Lanka expects that the Pakistan authorities will take required action to investigate and ensure justice,” he said.
Hours after the attack, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter that the “horrific vigilante attack on factory & the burning alive of Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan.” He promised a thorough investigation and said those responsible will be severely punished according to the law.
In a statement, Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa denounced the killing, saying the “cold-blooded murder” by a mob in Sialkot was “extremely condemnable and shameful.”
“Such extra-judicial vigilantism cannot be condoned at any cost,” Bajwa added.
According to police, more than 100 suspects were arrested over involvement in the attack, widely condemned by many Pakistanis. They included at least two suspects who according to police openly said they took part in the attack to kill the Sri Lankan.
Amnesty International said in a statement it was “deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching and killing of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot, allegedly due to a blasphemy accusation.” The watchdog also demanded an investigation and punishment for the attackers.
In the videos, some in the mob are heard chanting a popular slogan of a radical Islamist party, Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan, which last month held a violent rally over the publications of caricatures of Islam’s prophet in France. The party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on the single issue of defending the blasphemy law.
Mob attacks on people accused of blasphemy are common in this Islamic nation, although such attacks on foreign nationals are rare. Charges of blasphemy carry the death penalty under Pakistani law. International and Pakistani rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
Punjab’s chief minister Usman Buzdar tweeted that he ordered a probe into the attack. Khan’s special adviser on religious affairs, Tahir Ashrafi, condemned the killing and promised stern punishment for those involved.
Friday’s attack comes less than a week after a Muslim mob burned a police station and four police posts in northwestern Pakistan, after officers refused to hand over a mentally unstable man accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an. No officers were hurt in the attacks in Charsadda, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistan’s government has long been under pressure to change the country’s blasphemy laws, something the Islamists strongly resist.
A Punjab governor was shot and killed by his own guard in 2011, after he defended a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row and, following threats, left Pakistan for Canada to join her family.

 

Related


White House says it isn’t trying to weaken bill on China’s Uyghurs

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 December 2021

White House says it isn’t trying to weaken bill on China’s Uyghurs

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s administration is not lobbying against a US bill that would ban some Chinese imports over concern about forced labor among Uyghurs, which Republicans have accused Democrats of stalling, the White House said on Friday.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region, is set to be considered by the House of Representatives as soon as next week, the bill’s sponsor, congressman Jim McGovern, told reporters on Thursday.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded to a Washington Post report https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/02/congress-needs-act-xi-jinpings-genocide-now that suggested the Biden administration was telling lawmakers to slow the bill down while the White House pursues a more targeted approach, rather than a blanket ban on goods from the region, and support from other countries.
The Post article said Biden administration sources had confirmed that in an October call between Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, a co-sponsor of the bill, Sherman made it clear the administration preferred such an approach.
It said she told Merkley that getting buy-in of allies was critical and more effective than unilateral action.
Sherman was asked at a Brookings Institution event with the chief of the European Union’s diplomatic service on Friday whether the administration supported a bill banning goods from Xinjiang on the assumption they were tainted by forced labor.
“Secretary Blinken, very early on, and I have as well, have called what has occurred in Xinjiang genocide,” she replied, referring to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We are quite concerned, and remain concerned, about the horrific human rights abuses that have taken place. And the particular amendment that you’re discussing, the administration does not oppose this amendment,” she said.
“We need to stand in solidarity with the Uyghurs, with religious minorities all over the world, to make sure that they can live in security and dignity.”
Merkley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Washington Post report and Sherman’s remarks.
Republicans have accused Biden’s Democrats of stalling the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda, which requires Chinese cooperation. The Democrats deny this.
If the Uyghur measure becomes law, the sponsors have said it would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslims, were made with forced labor.
China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been demanding that the measure be included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, delaying the Senate’s consideration of the massive annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon.