Italian president extends ‘warmest wishes’ for Eid Al-Fitr

Special Italian president extends ‘warmest wishes’ for Eid Al-Fitr
Sergio Mattarella expressed his ‘warmest wishes to all the people who profess the Islamic faith in Italy for a happy and peaceful Eid Al-Fitr.’ (Reuters)
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Updated 03 May 2022

Italian president extends ‘warmest wishes’ for Eid Al-Fitr

Italian president extends ‘warmest wishes’ for Eid Al-Fitr
  • ‘Mutual respect’ a ‘moral obligation especially toward youngest generations’
  • ‘We must build together a resilient society able to reject any form of intolerance, discrimination’

ROME: President Sergio Mattarella expressed his “warmest wishes to all the people who profess the Islamic faith in Italy for a happy and peaceful Eid Al-Fitr.”

He urged all political and religious institutions in the country, including schools and families, to “commit to educate people on mutual respect and against incitement to hatred and violence, as the principles of the Italian constitution prescribe.”

This, he said, “is a moral obligation that we all have especially toward the youngest generations. With them and for them, we must build together a strong and resilient society that is able to reject and condemn any form of intolerance and discrimination.”

Mattarella added that the celebrations marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan “invite us to reflect on the decisive role that religions can play as vehicles of peace, of encounter and sharing between individuals and peoples.”

This is important for the international community, “especially as we witness every day scenes of inhumanity and desolation coming to us from war fronts and humanitarian crises.”


Filipino engineers help fellow expats climb career ladder in Saudi Arabia

Filipino engineers help fellow expats climb career ladder in Saudi Arabia
Updated 10 sec ago

Filipino engineers help fellow expats climb career ladder in Saudi Arabia

Filipino engineers help fellow expats climb career ladder in Saudi Arabia
  • Philippine Council of Engineers and Architects has helped 40k Pinoy professionals

MANILA: Mario Balboa had initially planned to return to the Philippines after a year, but his stay in Saudi Arabia has now spanned almost two decades, motivated by his successes and a desire to help other Filipino expats on their career paths.

An electronics and communications engineer, Balboa left his hometown in San Fernando, La Union province and moved to Riyadh in 2004 to work as a business consultant and analyst at Saudi Telecom Co.

Now a senior manager for product development, he enjoyed steady career progression over the years but at some point, saw that many Filipino engineers living and working in the Kingdom lagged behind.

Although they had all the necessary skills, many lacked the proper licenses, certifications, and credentials.

“In any development project here, you will always find a Filipino ... The only problem is that some lack the necessary papers to show that they are certified,” Balboa told Arab News. “If there’s a position where you are capable but not qualified because you don’t have the certification, it’s a lost opportunity.”

The situation prompted him to establish the Philippine Council of Engineers and Architects in the Kingdom in October 2013.

In January 2014, the PCEA signed a cooperation agreement with the Saudi Council of Engineers to exchange expertise and help qualify Philippine professionals in engineering and architectural practice.

A few months later, Balboa also took on board the Philippine government agencies — the Professional Regulation Commission and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority — which inked deals with the SCE for the professional development of Filipino engineers, architects, and technicians.

“The PCEA’s main goal is inclusive progression of Filipino professionals, especially engineers, architects, and technicians, upgrading their respective credentials and qualifications,” Balboa said.

HIGHLIGHT

Council’s role becoming increasingly valuable as Kingdom undertakes Vision 2030 megaprojects.

“It helped in making Filipinos, especially the engineers and architects, recognized in terms of professionalism and qualification level.”

Over the past decade, nearly 40,000 Filipino professionals working in Saudi Arabia have, thanks to the PCEA, received training, improved their skills, and obtained official certificates to validate their qualifications.

The efforts have been recognized both in Saudi Arabia and in the Philippines, where last year Balboa received the Presidential Banaag Award, which recognizes individuals advancing the cause of Filipinos overseas.

The PCEA helps connect Filipinos directly with Saudi authorities to evaluate their qualifications.

Leandro Conti, chairman of the PRC’s board of mechanical engineering, told Arab News: “Then they will give you a certificate on the equivalency based on their (Saudi) standards ... which is good for Filipinos so they can be at par with the locals based on their qualifications.”

The certification is becoming increasingly valuable as Saudi Arabia continues to undertake megaprojects as part of its Vision 2030 reform plan.

“Once the projects will be in full swing ... definitely they’ll need Filipinos,” Conti said. “Some of my friends from Dubai and Abu Dhabi came back to Saudi Arabia because of the opportunities.”

Leo Argoso, an engineer who for the past five years has been working for a Saudi company specializing in medical equipment and instruments, was one of those who obtained a good job thanks to the PCEA.

“It was them (the PCEA) who bridged my qualification in order for me to become an SCE member so that I will be able to work my craft here in Saudi Arabia, to be able to take on a position that is equivalent to my level of qualification,” Argoso said.

He knows many other Filipino professionals whose chances on the career ladder got similarly boosted.

“With the help of the PCEA, they were able to fill up what is lacking in their credentials and after some time get recognized by the SCE,” he added.

“Once you are recognized by the SCE, you will be given an ID, proof that you are a legitimate professional and qualified to take on perhaps a higher position than you are currently holding.”


Indian Parliament disqualifies Rahul Gandhi after conviction in defamation case

India's Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, second left, arrives at the district court in Surat on March 23, 2023. (AFP)
India's Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, second left, arrives at the district court in Surat on March 23, 2023. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2023

Indian Parliament disqualifies Rahul Gandhi after conviction in defamation case

India's Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, second left, arrives at the district court in Surat on March 23, 2023. (AFP)
  • Gandhi says is willing to pay any price in his fight for ‘the voice of India’
  • He was sentenced to two years in jail in a defamation case linked to PM Modi’s surname

NEW DELHI: India’s Parliament disqualified main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday, a day after he was convicted in a defamation case and sentenced to two years of imprisonment. The former president of India’s Congress party and a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has given the country four prime ministers, was found guilty of defamation by a lower court in Gujarat — the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The court convicted Gandhi for comments made in a speech ahead of the 2019 general election, in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi.

“Rahul Gandhi, a member of Lok Sabha (lower house) representing the Wayanad Parliamentary Constituency of Kerala, stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction, i.e. 23 March, 2023,” the lower house of Parliament said in a notification on Friday.

If a higher court does not overturn the conviction, Gandhi would be barred from contesting next year’s polls, in which he has been seen as a main opponent to the rule of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

According to Indian law, a convicted legislator cannot contest elections for six years after the end of their jail sentence.

Gandhi took to Twitter after his disqualification to say that he is “fighting for the voice of India” and is “willing to pay any price for that.”

Gandhi is on bail for 30 days and his party said would it appeal the Gujarat court’s verdict. The party led a protest march outside the parliament building on Friday, with opposition leaders carrying a large banner reading “democracy in danger.”

“They (BJP) tried all ways to disqualify him. They don’t want to keep those who are speaking the truth, but we will continue to speak the truth,” Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters.

“If needed, we’ll go to jail to save democracy.”

Gandhi, 52, is the son of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. His grandmother Indira Gandhi was India’s first female leader, and his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the country’s founding prime minister.

Opposition parties, cutting across their political differences, condemned his disqualification from parliament.

“In PM Modi’s New India opposition leaders have become the prime target of BJP,” tweeted Mamata Bannerjee, chief minister of the eastern state of West Bengal and a strong regional leader.

“Today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy.”

But experts say the conviction and disqualification may offer the opposition a new card to play.

“However the Congress does it, it’s going to be a big challenge for them. There is a potential they can convert this disqualification into a qualification for a much bigger thing,” Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst, told Arab News. But to stay the conviction or have Gandhi acquitted means a long legal battle for him and the Congress, which is preparing for local polls this year and general elections in 2024.

“They are getting ready for a bunch of state elections and parliament polls and would like to package Rahul’s disqualification as an attack on democracy and how voices are being smothered that are opposed to BJP or Modi, but they would have to rely a lot on how determined Rahul is to fight,” said Sanjay Kapoor, chief editor of the political magazine Hard News and former secretary-general of the Editors Guild of India.

“A fall in his morale could see Congress slipping badly in state elections as well as 2024 polls. It’s a big challenge for the Congress and Rahul.”

 

 


Muslim man asked not to pray inside Ottawa train station

Muslim man asked not to pray inside Ottawa train station
Updated 24 March 2023

Muslim man asked not to pray inside Ottawa train station

Muslim man asked not to pray inside Ottawa train station
  • Viral video of incident showed guard in security vest telling man prayers were disturbing other people
  • Via Rail issued unreserved apology to Muslim community, promised full investigation

DUBAI: A security guard subcontracted to work for Canada’s Via Rail has been suspended pending investigation after asking a Muslim man not to pray at an Ottawa train station.
CTV News Ottawa on Thursday reported that the worshipper, who identified himself only as Ahmad, had just finished praying in an empty hallway when the guard approached him and said, “don’t pray in here … Pray outside next time.”
Ahmad told the news channel that the incident happened on Monday at the station in the Canadian capital.
According to Ottawa Citizen news website, a video of the incident that went viral showed the guard in his security vest telling the man that his prayers were disturbing other station users.
Via Rail issued an unreserved apology to the man and the entire Muslim community and promised a full investigating and “appropriate actions” based on its findings.
Following a meeting to discuss what was described as a “regrettable and saddening incident,” Via Rail and the National Council of Canadian Muslims, a civil rights and advocacy group, issued a joint statement that said the two parties had held constructive talks and that the operator was working to improve its diversity and inclusion policies.
“The conversation focused on common objectives, namely, to ensure that Via Rail provides an inclusive environment where passengers and employees feel safe practicing freedom of religion, including the ability to worship,” the statement added.
The guard also reportedly told Ahmad, “we don’t want you praying here. You’re bothering our other customers, OK?”
Ahmad told CTV News that he was left feeling shocked, hurt, and disrespected.
He said: “He made me feel embarrassed. I was just disgusted. Like, this is Canada? This is the nation’s capital? This is Ottawa?”
Via Rail officials noted that the firm would be sharing its diversity and inclusion policies with the NCCM and would work with the group on “any improvements that could be brought to help prevent these incidents in the future.”
The railway company also pointed out that it strongly condemned Islamophobia and any discriminatory behavior.
The security guard was not an employee of Via Rail, but a spokesperson said the firm had asked its subcontractor to remove him from all Via Rail contracts pending the outcome of the investigation.
The NCCM has since been in contact with Ahmad.
 


More than two-thirds of Muslims in England, Wales live in high unemployment areas

More than two-thirds of Muslims in England, Wales live in high unemployment areas
Updated 24 March 2023

More than two-thirds of Muslims in England, Wales live in high unemployment areas

More than two-thirds of Muslims in England, Wales live in high unemployment areas
  • Muslim Council of Britain: ‘Level playing field for young Muslims’ will prove a ‘national asset’
  • A study published last year in the Ethnic and Racial Studies journal found that discrimination had contributed to the creation of a “Muslim penalty” in Britain

LONDON: More than two-thirds of Muslims in England and Wales live in local authorities that report the highest levels of unemployment, The Guardian reported on Friday.
Census data shows that about 2.6 million Muslims live in areas where the recorded unemployment level was as high as one in 20 people aged 16-64.
The data has led to campaigners urging the government to focus on Muslim youth as part of its plan to “level up” Britain’s economy.
New figures from the Office of National Statistics also revealed that Muslims in England and Wales reported the highest unemployment rates among religious groups, at 6.7 percent.
Only 26 percent of Christians, as well as 25 percent of atheists, live in areas with the highest unemployment levels, but for Muslim communities in England and Wales, the figure stood at 68 percent.
In the three local authorities that reported the highest unemployment rates in the country — Birmingham, London’s Newham and Wolverhampton — 7 percent of people of working age are looking for jobs.
However, the ONS said that the age trends among Muslims, as compared to other groups, may be a contributing factor to the statistics, with younger Muslims more likely to be studying than youth in the general population.
Of those who identified as Muslim in the census, the percentage of students in the group was almost twice the rate seen in the overall population in England and Wales.
In response to the census findings, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said: “The inter-generational cycles of poverty impacting British Muslim communities can result in young people being forced to leave education in pursuit of work so they can help support their families.
“Those that are able to break into the job market, pursuing chosen careers, can face Islamophobic prejudice and discrimination in the workplace.”
A study published last year in the Ethnic and Racial Studies journal found that discrimination had contributed to the creation of a “Muslim penalty” in Britain, with Islam being deemed a “significant barrier” to entering the workforce.
The MCB spokesperson added: “The post COVID-19 economic reality is that ‘leveling up’ is not just a priority for our rural communities. Targeted support is needed in the heart of inner cities where minority ethnic and Muslim populations may reside.
“Given a level playing field, the dynamism and sheer potential of young British Muslims will prove itself to be a strategic national asset.”


Albanian PM says UK has shown ‘regret’ over home secretary’s remarks

Albanian PM says UK has shown ‘regret’ over home secretary’s remarks
Updated 24 March 2023

Albanian PM says UK has shown ‘regret’ over home secretary’s remarks

Albanian PM says UK has shown ‘regret’ over home secretary’s remarks
  • Edi Rama praises government for ‘words, but also deeds’ in bid to reset relations
  • Rama in UK for talks about small boat Channel crossings, described by Suella Braverman as an ‘invasion’

LONDON: Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania, said there were “important signs of regret and embarrassment” during talks with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the language used by a senior British minister to describe Albanian migrants.
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman drew criticism last year when she described illegal small boat crossings in the English Channel as an “invasion,” adding that they were being fueled by “Albanian criminals” owing to many of those running the boat routes being Albanian, and the number of people from the Balkan country making the journey and claiming asylum in the UK.
Government figures suggest that up to a third of all people crossing the English Channel in small boats in 2022 were from Albania.
In December, Sunak announced a five-point plan to reduce the number of crossings, which included striking a deal with Albania to station UK Border Force personnel in the country’s capital, Tirana.
Following his meeting with Sunak on Thursday, Rama told Sky News: “British/Albanian relations touched the lowest point in history since we have come out of communism because of (Braverman’s) rhetoric that has put the Albanian community in Britain under very, very heavy pressure.
“I must say that, finally, on the side of Downing Street, we have been heard and there are not only words, but also deeds in putting in place a joint task force to crack down on the criminal networks, which is, of course, something Albania has always wanted.
“While we are (seeing) very important signs of regret and of embarrassment, that is, let’s say, enough at this point. I hope very much that this will not be repeated and that the Albanian community here will be really honored.”
Rama added that it is not unusual for people from former communist countries to seek new lives in the West, and that the UK is, despite the rhetoric, still a very appealing place for many.
“I’m not here to question the sovereignty and the mandate of the British government to have a policy on the borders … but this is what it is all about — economic reasons for coming, getting a job and building a future in a place that has always been the shining city on a hill,” he told Sky News.
He added that part of the solution to the small boat crossings would be an easier visa system for aspiring Albanian workers.
“They claim asylum because there is no other way. They are not part of the free labor market. So it’s all about dreaming and hoping to get what they imagine best for their life now and without waiting for many more years (for this to) happen in Albania.
“Never forget that the Albanians here are doing great and they are helping and contributing for Britain to be a better place,” he continued. “Albanians here are working for construction companies, Albanians are nursing elderly people, Albanians are doing your cooking — so improving the British kitchens, I must say — and they are even singing too, let alone the academics and the students. And it has been so unfair to them to put them under such pressure.”