Islamic university to be created in Latin America

Islamic university to be created in Latin America
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Even non-Muslim students will be able to enroll in classes, said Sheikh Abdelhamid Metwally, who will be the university’s president and academic director. (Ziad Saifi/CDIAL for Arab News))
Islamic university to be created in Latin America
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Even non-Muslim students will be able to enroll in classes, said Sheikh Abdelhamid Metwally, who will be the university’s president and academic director. (Ziad Saifi/CDIAL for Arab News)
Islamic university to be created in Latin America
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Even non-Muslim students will be able to enroll in classes, said Sheikh Abdelhamid Metwally, who will be the university’s president and academic director. (Ziad Saifi/CDIAL for Arab News)
Islamic university to be created in Latin America
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Even non-Muslim students will be able to enroll in classes, said Sheikh Abdelhamid Metwally, who will be the university’s president and academic director. (Ziad Saifi/CDIAL for Arab News)
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Updated 25 January 2022

Islamic university to be created in Latin America

Islamic university to be created in Latin America
  • Initially based in Brazil and Mexico, plan is to have branches in other countries
  • Goal to educate ‘any person who wants to deepen knowledge of Islam,’ vice president tells Arab News

SAO PAULO: Latin American Islamic associations gathered in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo recently to sign an agreement to create the Latin American and Caribbean Islamic University.

The academic institution will allow future Muslim leaders to study in their own region, without the need to move to Middle Eastern countries and other Muslim nations.

Imams in Latin America had been discussing the idea for years. Now, Brazil’s Islamic Dissemination Center for Latin America, known by the Portuguese acronym CDIAL, and the Supreme Council of Imams and Islamic Affairs in Latin America and the Caribbean have finally made it possible.

CDIAL and the council established a deal with the Islamic University of Minnesota, which will provide academic courses and materials for the new institution.

Initially, it will have headquarters in Sao Paulo, with classes in Portuguese, and Mexico City, with classes in Spanish.

“We’re beginning with the cities with a higher number of potential students. But our idea is that other countries create their own branches in the future,” CDIAL’s Vice President Ziad Saifi told Arab News.

He said the program was inspired by traditional Islamic courses such as those offered by the Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia and Al-Azhar University in Egypt.

“The university’s goal is not only to educate future sheikhs, but any person who wants to deepen his or her knowledge of Islam,” he added.

Even non-Muslim students will be able to enroll in classes, said Egyptian-born Sheikh Abdelhamid Metwally, who will be the university’s president and academic director.

“We want to educate people in Islamic culture and tradition. We certainly will be able to work on the formation of sheikhs. Students who desire to pursue such a path will be able to continue their studies,” he added.

“But we also want to simply educate people on Islam. Both Muslims and non-Muslims need to have a better understanding of our religion.”

Living in Brazil for 15 years, Metwally believes it is desirable to train in Latin America religious leaders who will work in the region.  

That is also the opinion of Sheikh Mohamed Mansour, who will coordinate the Spanish-language courses in Mexico City.

“We need to educate people here so they can think from here. Many times, people go to the Middle East to study and when they come back, they want to impose the Middle Eastern culture in Latin America. That’s not possible,” he told Arab News.

Islam has been growing throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, “but we aren’t growing well if we don’t have true knowledge,” Mansour said. “We need an academic foundation, something that goes beyond the mosques’ teaching.”

In Mexico, he explained, only Spanish can be spoken in class except for Arabic-language courses — if a professor or instructor can only speak Arabic, a translator will be present. “God willing, soon we will have masters and PhD courses too,” he added.

Saifi said many sheikhs and the Muslim community as a whole have been supporting the creation of the university.

“Thankfully, people have been giving their time to this project and working on the translation of educational materials and other tasks,” he added, expressing hope that courses will begin in August.

The coordinating group is working on the university’s official accreditation in each of the region’s countries.

At first the university will operate with distance learning, given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in most Latin American countries. But a physical location is being selected in Sao Paulo, Saifi said.

No distinction will be made between Sunni and Shiite students, and men and women alike will be able to enroll.

Saifi expressed hope that in the future, the Brazilian branch will welcome students coming from other Portuguese-language countries such as Angola and Mozambique.

“We still have a low number of mosques in Brazil, but their number is growing. We’ll certainly need more sheikhs and people educated on Islam,” he said.

Metwally agreed, saying: “In my own community in Sao Paulo, we have members who are already interested in enrolling. We’ll educate good Muslims.”


Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz
Updated 6 sec ago

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz
DAVOS: Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday, vowing to continue backing Kyiv to push the Russian president to negotiate seriously to end his invasion.
“It is a matter of making it clear to Putin that there will be no dictated peace,” said Scholz. “Ukraine will not accept that and neither will we.”

Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port

Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port
Updated 29 min 19 sec ago

Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port

Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port
  • The fire, which raged for hours, broke out in the cargo drop off area of the port

Khartoum: Firefighters have contained a large blaze that erupted in a cargo area of the Sudanese Red Sea port of Suakin, the port’s director said Thursday.
The fire, which raged for hours, broke out in the cargo drop off area of the port on Wednesday sending plumes of acrid smoke into the sky.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze.
“The fire has been brought under control following the intervention of civil defense forces and port workers,” port director Taha Ahmed Mokhtar said.
He said an investigation had been launched to determine the cause of the fire, and a commission set up to assess the scale of the losses.
A port official, who spoke on condition of annonymity, had earlier described the damage as “catastrophic.”
The blaze at the port came as Sudan is gripped by a chronic economic crisis which deepened after last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
The military takeover triggered punitive measures, including aid cuts by Western governments, who demanded the restoration of the transitional administration installed after the 2019 ouster of longtime president Omar Al-Bashir.
The historic port town of Suakin is no longer Sudan’s main foreign trade hub, a role which has been taken by Port Sudan, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) away along the Red Sea coast.
But there have been moves to redevelop the port.
Bashir’s government signed a deal with Turkey in 2017 to restore the historic buildings of Suakin island and expand its docks, but the agreement has been suspended since his overthrow.


8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk, Donetsk: Separatists’ official

8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk, Donetsk: Separatists’ official
Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics number about 8,000. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 May 2022

8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk, Donetsk: Separatists’ official

8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk, Donetsk: Separatists’ official
  • Ukrainian prisoners of war held in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics number about 8,000

Ukrainian prisoners of war held in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics number about 8,000, Luhansk official Rodion Miroshnik was quoted by TASS news agency as saying on Thursday.
“There are a lot of prisoners. Of course, there are more of them on the territory of Donetsk People’s Republic, but we also have enough, and now the total number is somewhere in the region of 8,000. That’s a lot, and literally hundreds are being added every day,” Miroshnik said.
Reuters was not able to verify the report.


11 babies killed in Senegal hospital fire

11 babies killed in Senegal hospital fire
Updated 26 May 2022

11 babies killed in Senegal hospital fire

11 babies killed in Senegal hospital fire
  • The tragedy in Tivaouane comes after several other incidents at public health facilities in Senegal
  • In the northern town of Linguere in late April, a fire broke out at a hospital and four newborn babies were killed

DAKAR: Eleven newborn babies died in a hospital fire in the western Senegalese city of Tivaouane, the president of the country said late Wednesday.
Just before midnight in Senegal, Macky Sall announced on Twitter that 11 infants had died in the blaze.
“I have just learned with pain and dismay about the deaths of 11 newborn babies in the fire at the neonatal department of the public hospital,” he tweeted.
“To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy,” Sall added.
The tragedy occurred at Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in the transport hub of Tivaouane, and was caused by “a short circuit,” according to Senegalese politician Diop Sy.
“The fire spread very quickly,” he said.
The city’s mayor Demba Diop said “three babies were saved.”
According to local media, the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital was newly inaugurated.
Health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who was in Geneva attending a meeting with the World Health Organization, said he would return to Senegal immediately.
“This situation is very unfortunate and extremely painful,” he said on radio. “An investigation is under way to see what happened.”
The tragedy in Tivaouane comes after several other incidents at public health facilities in Senegal, where there is great disparity between urban and rural areas in health care services.
In the northern town of Linguere in late April, a fire broke out at a hospital and four newborn babies were killed. The mayor of that town had cited an electrical malfunction in an air conditioning unit in the maternity ward.
Wednesday’s accident also comes over a month after the nation mourned the death of a pregnant woman who waited in vain for a Caesarean section.
The woman, named Astou Sokhna, had arrived at a hospital in the northern city of Louga in pain. The staff had refused to accommodate her request for a C-section, saying that it was not scheduled.
She died April 1, 20 hours after she arrived.
Sokhna’s death caused a wave of outrage across the country on the dire state of Senegal’s public health system, and health minister Sarr acknowledged two weeks later that the death could have been avoided.
Three midwives — on duty the night Sokhna died — were sentenced on May 11 by the High Court of Louga to six months of suspended imprisonment for “failure to assist a person in danger” in connection to her case.
Amnesty International’s Senegal director Seydi Gassama said his organization had called for an inspection and upgrade for neonatology services in hospitals across Senegal after the “atrocious” death of the four babies in Linguere.
With Wednesday’s fresh tragedy, Amnesty “urges the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to determine responsibility and punish the culprits, no matter the level they are at in the state apparatus,” he tweeted.
Opposition lawmaker Mamadou Lamine Diallo also responded with outrage to the Tivaouane blaze that killed the babies.
“More babies burned in a public hospital... this is unacceptable @MackySall,” he said.
“We suffer with the families to whom we offer our condolences. Enough is enough.”


Texas school massacre: Onlookers say more lives could have been saved had police moved in quickly

Texas school massacre: Onlookers say more lives could have been saved had police moved in quickly
Updated 26 May 2022

Texas school massacre: Onlookers say more lives could have been saved had police moved in quickly

Texas school massacre: Onlookers say more lives could have been saved had police moved in quickly
  • Onlookers begged police gathered outside the school building to rush in urgently
  • Authorities say about 40 minutes elapsed from when Ramos opened fire to when he was shot dead

UVALDE, US: Frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the Texas elementary school where a gunman’s rampage killed 19 children and two teachers, witnesses said Wednesday, as investigators worked to track the massacre that lasted upwards of 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old shooter was killed by a Border Patrol team.
“Go in there! Go in there!” nearby women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who saw the scene from outside his house, across the street from Robb Elementary School in the close-knit town of Uvalde. Carranza said the officers did not go in.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside the building.
Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.
“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”
“They were unprepared,” he added.
Minutes earlier, Carranza had watched as Salvador Ramos crashed his truck into a ditch outside the school, grabbed his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and shot at two people outside a nearby funeral home who ran away uninjured.
Officials say he “encountered” a school district security officer outside the school, though there were conflicting reports from authorities on whether the men exchanged gunfire. After running inside, he fired on two arriving Uvalde police officers who were outside the building, said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Travis Considine. The police officers were injured.
After entering the school, Ramos charged into one classroom and began to kill.
He “barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting children and teachers that were inside that classroom,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Department of Public Safety told CNN. “It just shows you the complete evil of the shooter.”
All those killed were in the same classroom, he said.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told reporters that 40 minutes to an hour elapsed from when Ramos opened fire on the school security officer to when the tactical team shot him, though a department spokesman said later that they could not give a solid estimate of how long the gunman was in the school or when he was killed.
“The bottom line is law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “They did engage immediately. They did contain (Ramos) in the classroom.”
Meanwhile, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the Border Patrol agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.
Carranza said the officers should have entered the school sooner.
“There were more of them. There was just one of him,” he said.
Uvalde is a largely Latino town of some 16,000 people about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary, which has nearly 600 students in second, third and fourth grades, is a single-story brick structure in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes.
Before attacking the school, Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother at the home they shared, authorities said.
Neighbor Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street and has known the family for decades, said he was puttering in his yard when he heard the shots.
Ramos ran out the front door and across the small yard to the truck parked in front of the house. He seemed panicked, Gallegos said, and had trouble getting the truck out of park.
Then he raced away: “He spun out, I mean fast,” spraying gravel in the air.
His grandmother emerged covered in blood: “She says, ‘Berto, this is what he did. He shot me.’” She was hospitalized.
Gallegos, whose wife called 911, said he had heard no arguments before or after the shots, and knew of no history of bullying or abuse of Ramos, who he rarely saw.
Investigators also shed no light on Ramos’ motive for the attack, which also left at least 17 people wounded. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the small town about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.
“We don’t see a motive or catalyst right now,” said McCraw of the Department of Public Safety.
Ramos legally bought the rifle and a second one like it last week, just after his birthday, authorities said.
About a half-hour before the mass shooting, Ramos sent the first of three online messages warning about his plans, Abbott said.
Ramos wrote that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then that he had shot the woman. In the last note, sent about 15 minutes before he reached Robb Elementary, he said he was going to shoot up an elementary school, according to Abbott. Investigators said Ramos did not specify which school.
Ramos sent the private, one-to-one text messages via Facebook, said company spokesman Andy Stone.
Grief engulfed Uvalde as the details emerged.
The dead included Eliahna Garcia, an outgoing 10-year-old who loved to sing, dance and play basketball; a fellow fourth-grader, Xavier Javier Lopez, who had been eagerly awaiting a summer of swimming; and a teacher, Eva Mireles, whose husband is an officer with the school district’s police department.
“You can just tell by their angelic smiles that they were loved,” Uvalde Schools Superintendent Hal Harrell said, fighting back tears as he recalled the children and teachers killed.
The tragedy was the latest in a seemingly unending wave of mass shootings across the US in recent years. Just 10 days earlier, 10 Black people were shot to death in a racist attack at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket.
The attack was the deadliest school shooting in the US since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
Amid calls for tighter restrictions on firearms, the Republican governor repeatedly talked about mental health struggles among Texas young people and argued that tougher gun laws in Chicago, New York and California are ineffective.
Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott for governor, interrupted Wednesday’s news conference, calling the tragedy “predictable.” Pointing his finger at Abbott, he said: “This is on you until you choose to do something different. This will continue to happen.” O’Rourke was escorted out as some in the room yelled at him. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin yelled that O’Rourke was a “sick son of a bitch.”
Texas has some of the most gun-friendly laws in the nation and has been the site of some of the deadliest shootings in the US over the past five years.
“I just don’t know how people can sell that type of a gun to a kid 18 years old,” Siria Arizmendi, the aunt of victim Eliahna Garcia, said angrily through tears. “What is he going to use it for but for that purpose?”
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that “the Second Amendment is not absolute” as he called for new limitations on guns in the wake of the massacre.
But the prospects for reform of the nation’s gun regulations appeared dim. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other curbs have run into Republican opposition in Congress.
The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association annual convention was set to begin in Houston, with the Texas governor and both of the state’s Republican US senators scheduled to speak.
Dillon Silva, whose nephew was in a classroom, said students were watching the Disney movie “Moana” when they heard several loud pops and a bullet shattered a window. Moments later, their teacher saw the attacker stride past.
“Oh, my God, he has a gun!” the teacher shouted twice, according to Silva. “The teacher didn’t even have time to lock the door,” he said.
The close-knit community, built around a shaded central square, includes many families who have lived there for generations.
Lorena Auguste was substitute teaching at Uvalde High School when she heard about the shooting and began frantically texting her niece, a fourth grader at Robb Elementary. Eventually she found out the girl was OK.
But that night, her niece had a question.
“Why did they do this to us?” the girl asked. “We’re good kids. We didn’t do anything wrong.”