‘We thought Taliban had changed’: Afghan girls banned from school

‘We thought Taliban had changed’: Afghan girls banned from school
There has been no clear explanation for the Taliban’s last-minute reversal on girls going back to secondary schools in Afghanistan. (AFP)
Updated 25 March 2022

‘We thought Taliban had changed’: Afghan girls banned from school

‘We thought Taliban had changed’: Afghan girls banned from school
  • When the Taliban returned to power, they promised a softer rule compared with their first regime from 1996 to 2001

KABUL: Days after the Taliban staged a cruel U-turn on allowing Afghan girls back to school, Adeeba Haidari feels as if she is in prison.
The 13-year-old was one of thousands of jubilant girls who flocked back to secondary schools reopening across the country on Wednesday, for the first time since the Taliban seized power in August.
But just hours into classes, the education ministry announced a shock policy reversal that left schoolgirls feeling betrayed and the international community outraged.
“Not only me but everyone you asked believed that the Taliban had changed,” said Adeeba, who briefly returned to Al-Fatah Girls School in the capital, Kabul.
“When they sent everyone back home from school, we understood that the Taliban were the same Taliban of 25 years ago,” her 11-year-old sister Malahat added.
“We are being treated like criminals just because we are girls. Afghanistan has turned into a jail for us.”
When the Taliban returned to power, they promised a softer rule compared with their first regime from 1996 to 2001, which became notorious for human rights abuses.
They claimed to respect women’s rights, in line with their interpretation of Islamic sharia law, and said girls would be allowed to study through to university.
But the Taliban have imposed a slew of restrictions on women, effectively banning them from many government jobs, policing what they wear and preventing them from traveling outside of their cities alone.
They have also detained several women’s rights activists.
“We miss our freedom. We miss our classmates and teachers,” said Adeeba.
There has been no clear explanation for the last-minute reversal on secondary schools, but reports leaked from a secretive leadership meeting this week suggested motives ranging from problems with uniforms to an outright rejection of the need for education for teenage girls.
The education ministry still insists schools will restart, but only when new guidelines are issued.
Across town, Nargis Jafri, from the minority Shiite Hazara community, said the Taliban feel threatened by educated women.
“They believe that if we study, we will gain knowledge and we will fight against them,” the 14-year-old said, sitting with her books spread out on her study table at home.
It is agonizing for her to watch boys her age walking past her house on their way to school each morning.
“It is really hard and painful for me,” she said.
Like many families, history is repeating itself from one generation to the next.
Nargis’s mother, Hamida, was forced to leave school during the Taliban’s first rule when she was about 10 years old.
The stories from what she thought was a distant past are flooding into her mind again.
“I used to feel strange when she told us how she wore a burqa or a chador, or how a woman was not allowed to go out without a male relative,” Nargis said.
Hamida now struggles to accept a similar fate for her daughter.
“My daughter will be held back from going to school,” she said. “The dreams she has in her heart will be shattered.”


Saudi and American Muslims embrace ‘giving nature’ of Islam during Eid Al-Adha

Saudi and American Muslims embrace ‘giving nature’ of Islam during Eid Al-Adha
Updated 07 July 2022

Saudi and American Muslims embrace ‘giving nature’ of Islam during Eid Al-Adha

Saudi and American Muslims embrace ‘giving nature’ of Islam during Eid Al-Adha
  • Global and local charity drives provide, food, shelter, education, disaster relief and health support
  • Community solidarity is the faith’s core tenet, say Arab News’ Rawan Radwan, PEW’s Besheer Mohamed and ICNA’s Atya Kazmi

CHICAGO: Muslims are very “giving” and that generosity is reflected in local and global charity drives, especially during the celebration of Islamic holidays such as Eid Al-Adha, which begins this week, American and Saudi Muslims said Wednesday.

Eid Al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice,” reflects the historical tradition embraced by Jews, Christians, and Muslims of the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faith in Allah (God), but who was instead directed by the Almighty to sacrifice a lamb.

Rawan Radwan, deputy sections head and regional correspondent for Arab News, said that “giving” is a core belief in Islam, especially during the Eid celebrations.

 

 

“After prayers, Muslims traditionally honor the Prophet Abraham’s … devotion by sacrificing sheep, goats, cows. Every person has to contribute a portion, of course depending on the animal, to those who are in need. We give to our families, our friends. But, of course, the biggest chunk goes to those who are most in need, the poor,” Radwan explained during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Show.

“Every year during Eid Al-Adha there are different charities that are giving aid and food or produce or even sacrificial animals. That is from one side. And of course here (Saudi Arabia) charities. (A) lot of these charities are funded by the government, and funded also by the people who contribute very much. They are given food, and produce and clothes.”

“That is just the power of giving here. You are surrounded by this so it is a part of nature. It is just second nature to a lot of the people here as a community. For Saudis, and I am sure a lot of different and other communities, the power of giving is something that is very much felt here.”

The spirit of community solidarity and inclusivity during the Eid holidays is reflected in the conduct of Muslims who immigrated to America, said both PEW Senior Researcher Besheer Mohamed and Atya Kazmi, the Chicago area manager for the Islamic Circle of North America Relief.

Kazmi described how the ICNA, which has chapters throughout the US, supervises up to 70 food pantries for the poor, manages 20 transitional houses for homeless families, and even organizes events to coincide with holidays such as Eid Al-Adha to bring cheer to everyone.

ICNA Relief, Kazmi said, is hosting a 1,000 Toy Drive so children can celebrate the Eid Al-Adha holiday this week.

 

 

“Not just toys we also try to give clothing to them, we also (ensure) food distribution. As we all know, it is an obligation on Muslims to help the needy people no matter where they are and whichever religion or ethnicity or culture that they belong to, so our services are for everyone,” Kazmi said.

“Those who are in need step into our offices and we do proper case management for them to provide much-needed services.”

Kazmi emphasized that while the toy drive is focused on the Muslim children of refugees who have recently fled Afghanistan to America, ICNA Relief’s efforts also helps all families in need.

“We are open to everyone,” Kazmi said. “(W)e are a faith-based organization and support the Muslim community, but no one is left out, regardless of their religion.”

ICNA Relief Chicago is a chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America Relief, operating across the nation with programs including transitional shelter for homeless women, food pantries, back-to-school giveaways, Muslim family services, refugee empowerment, women’s hygiene kits, winter clothing drives, disaster relief, and free health screenings.

Mohamed said PEW research suggests most Americans do not understand Islam because they have never met a Muslim.

 

 

“One of the things we see on our data of Muslims and that applies to everyone, is that people who say they personally know a member of a group tend to have more positive views. So people who say they personally know someone who is Muslim tend to have more positive views towards Muslims, tend to have more positive views of Islam. 

“And this may be a surprise to some of your (radio) listeners … given where you are broadcasting (Detroit, Washington DC and Chicago), about how half the American public say they don’t personally know a Muslim,” Mohamed said of the PEW research.

We “So there are lots of folks who say I don’t know anybody who is Muslim except for the people I see on TV. A lot of people say they don’t know very much about something. Only about one in 10 Americans say they think they know a lot about the religion of Islam.”

“Only about six in 10 Americans can correctly identify in a multiple-choice survey, that the Hajj is to Makkah, and not to Madinah and not to Jerusalem. So four in 10 Americans say I don’t know.”

The data shows that when Muslims directly engage the American public, it has “a serious impact and can result in a more positive views” of Muslims.

He said that because Muslim communities are concentrated in certain areas like Dearborn or Chicago, misunderstandings and stereotypes are reinforced in areas where Muslims do not live.

The majority of Americans, Mohamed said, are unfamiliar with Muslim traditions and religious holidays like Eid Al-Adha. That results in both sympathy and fear.

Eight in 10 Americans, the data shows, believe Muslims face greater discrimination than Jews and Evangelical Christians. It’s more distinct when it comes to American politics, he added.

“The data shows that there is a large divide between Republican and Democratic perceptions of Muslims,” he said. 

According to PEW’s research data, Mohamed said, 72 percent of Republicans say that Muslims are more likely to encourage violence (than other religious groups) while only 32 percent of Democrats believe Muslims are more likely to encourage violence.

The first Iftar was hosted by former president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and Eid celebrations were recognized by presidents ever since including by former president George W. Bush, a Republican. Former president Donald Trump, a Republican, suspended the formal White House Eid Iftars, but they were restored by President Joseph Biden, a Democrat.

But the more government officials acknowledge events like Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr, the more Americans are willing to understand Muslims, Mohamed said. The public celebration of these festivals by American governments impacts not only American understanding but also encourages more Muslims to partake in the festivities.

 

 

“One of the things that we see is that engagement with the Eid holiday, this Eid holiday and the other Eid holiday that happens after Ramadan, both of those things is actually quite high, even among Muslims who say they don’t attend religious services very often or who don’t pray five times a day which is normatively prescribed,” Mohamed said.

“You see large numbers saying that they do attend religious services around the Eid a couple times of the year. They think that the Hajj to Makkah is very important and they hope to do that at some point.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here: www.arabnews.com/RayRadioShow


Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence

Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence
Updated 52 min 43 sec ago

Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence

Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence
  • Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in NATO in May
  • As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences

HELSINKI: Finnish parliament passed legislation Thursday to build stronger fences on its border with Russia, as the country seeks to join NATO following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the military alliance in May, formally starting the process to join this week.
Fearing that Moscow could use migrants to exert political pressure, the new amendments to Border Guard Act facilitate the construction of sturdier fences on the Nordic country’s 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia.
The aim of the law is to “improve the operational capacity of the border guard in responding to the hybrid threats,” Anne Ihanus, a senior adviser at the interior ministry, said.
“The war in Ukraine has contributed to the urgency of the matter,” she added.
As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences, mainly designed to stop livestock from wandering to the wrong side.
“What we are aiming to build now is a sturdy fence with a real barrier effect,” Sanna Palo, director of the Finnish border guards’ legal division, said.
“In all likelihood, the fence will not cover the entire eastern border, but will be targeted at locations considered to be the most important,” Palo said.
The new law makes it also possible to close border crossings and concentrate asylum seekers at specific points, in the event of large-scale crossover attempt.
Helsinki also passed amendments to Emergency Powers Act to make the definition of “emergency” better take account of various hybrid threats.


Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing

Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing
Updated 07 July 2022

Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing

Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing
  • Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal civil rights charges in December

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is due to be sentenced in federal court on Thursday for violating the civil rights of George Floyd, a year after a state court sent him to prison for more than two decades for murdering Floyd in an arrest.
Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal civil rights charges in December in the US District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, a decision that averted a second trial but almost certainly extended his time behind bars.
Chauvin, who is white, admitted he violated Floyd’s right not to face “unreasonable seizure” by kneeling on the handcuffed Black man’s neck for more than 9 minutes in a murder captured on cellphone video that horrified people around the world.
A state court has already sentenced Chauvin to 22-1/2 years in prison for intentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. People sentenced to prison for felonies in Minnesota are usually released on parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence.
Chauvin’s guilty plea to the federal charges came as part of an agreement with prosecutors that said he would face between 20 and 25 years in federal prison.
In that agreement he admitted for the first time that he was to blame for Floyd’s death.
Floyd could be seen in videos pleading for his life before falling still on the road beneath Chauvin’s knee. A medical examiner ruled the police restraint stopped Floyd from being able to breathe.
Federal prosecutors have asked Judge Paul Magnuson to sentence Chauvin to 25 years, a sentence that would run concurrently with the state one.
Floyd’s murder sparked one of the biggest protest movements seen in the United States, with daily marches to decry racism and brutality in US policing. Chauvin was helping three colleagues to arrest Floyd in May 2020 on suspicion Floyd had used a fake $20 bill when buying cigarettes.
The three other former police officers who worked to arrest Floyd — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane — were found guilty in the same federal court in February of violating Floyd’s rights. They are yet to receive a sentencing date.


Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island

Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island
Updated 07 July 2022

Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island

Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island
  • Russian forces withdrew from Snake Island in the Black Sea on June 30

Russia’s defense ministry said on Thursday that a Russian warplane struck Ukraine’s Snake Island in the Black Sea overnight, shortly after Ukrainian troops claimed to have raised their flag over the island.
Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian President’s chief of staff, posted a video on Telegram on Thursday of three soldiers raising a large Ukrainian flag on the island, from which Russian forces withdrew on June 30.


Boris Johnson quits as UK prime minister

Boris Johnson quits as UK prime minister
Updated 31 min 20 sec ago

Boris Johnson quits as UK prime minister

Boris Johnson quits as UK prime minister
  • ‘The process of choosing that new leader should begin now. And today I have appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will until a new leader is in place’

LONDON: Scandal-ridden Boris Johnson announced on Thursday he would quit as British prime minister after he was abandoned by ministers and most of his Conservative lawmakers.

Bowing to the inevitable as more than 50 ministers quit and lawmakers said he must go, an isolated and powerless Johnson spoke outside his Downing Street to confirm he would resign.

“The process of choosing that new leader should begin now. And today I have appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will until a new leader is in place,” Johnson said.

After days of battling for his job, the scandal-plagued Johnson had been deserted by all but a handful of allies after the latest in a series of scandals broke their willingness to support him.

“His resignation was inevitable,” Justin Tomlinson, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said on Twitter. “As a party we must quickly unite and focus on what matters. These are serious times on many fronts.”

The Conservatives will now have to elect a new leader, a process which could take weeks or months.

A snap YouGov poll found that defense minister Ben Wallace was the favorite among Conservative Party members to replace Johnson, followed by junior trade minister Penny Mordaunt and former finance minister Rishi Sunak.

Many said he should leave immediately and hand over to his deputy, Dominic Raab, saying he had lost the trust of his party.

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he would call a parliamentary confidence vote if the Conservatives did not remove Johnson at once.

“If they don’t get rid of him, then Labour will step up in the national interest and bring a vote of no confidence because we can’t go on with this prime minister clinging on for months and months to come,” he said.

The crisis comes as Britons are facing the tightest squeeze on their finances in decades, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with soaring inflation, and the economy forecast to be the weakest among major nations in 2023 apart from Russia.

It also follows years of internal division sparked by the narrow 2016 vote to leave the European Union, and threats to the make-up of the United Kingdom itself with demands for another Scottish independence referendum, the second in a decade.

Support for Johnson had evaporated during one of the most turbulent 24 hours in recent British political history, epitomised by finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed to his post on Tuesday, calling on his boss to resign.

Zahawi and other cabinet ministers had gone to Downing Street on Wednesday evening, along with a senior representative of those lawmakers not in government, to tell Johnson the game was up.

Initially, Johnson refused to go and seemed set to dig in, sacking Michael Gove — a member of his top ministerial team who was one of the first to tell him he needed to resign — in a bid to reassert his authority.

One ally had told the Sun newspaper that party rebels would “have to dip their hands in blood” to get rid of Johnson.

But by Thursday morning as a slew of resignations poured in, it became clear his position was untenable.

“This is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country,” Zahawi said on Twitter. “You must do the right thing and go now.”

Some of those that remained in post, including defense minister Ben Wallace, said they were only doing so because they had an obligation to keep the country safe.

There had been so many ministerial resignations that the government had been facing paralysis. Despite his impending departure, Johnson began appointing ministers to vacant posts.

“It is our duty now to make sure the people of this country have a functioning government,” Michael Ellis, a minister in the Cabinet Office department which oversees the running of government, told parliament.

The ebullient Johnson came to power nearly three years ago, promising to deliver Brexit and rescue it from the bitter wrangling that followed the 2016 referendum.

Since then, some Conservatives had enthusiastically backed the former journalist and London mayor while others, despite reservations, supported him because he was able to appeal to parts of the electorate that usually rejected their party.

That was borne out in the December 2019 election. But his administration’s combative and often chaotic approach to governing and a series of scandals exhausted the goodwill of many of his lawmakers while opinion polls show he is no longer popular with the public at large.

The recent crisis erupted after lawmaker Chris Pincher, who held a government role involved in pastoral care, was forced to quit over accusations he groped men in a private member’s club.

Johnson had to apologize after it emerged that he was briefed that Pincher had been the subject of previous sexual misconduct complaints before he appointed him. The prime minister said he had forgotten.

This followed months of scandals and missteps, including a damning report into boozy parties at his Downing Street residence and office that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules and saw him fined by police over a gathering for his 56th birthday.

There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defense of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism that he has not done enough to tackle inflation, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.

“It should have happened long ago,” Labour’s Starmer said. “He was always unfit for office. He has been responsible for lies, scandal and fraud on an industrial scale.”