First Afghan pilgrims to depart for Hajj on Sunday

First Afghan pilgrims to depart for Hajj on Sunday
Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Aug. 13, 2019. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 11 June 2022

First Afghan pilgrims to depart for Hajj on Sunday

First Afghan pilgrims to depart for Hajj on Sunday
  • Afghanistan has been allocated a quota of 13,582 pilgrims this year
  • Saudi Embassy in Kabul began issuing visas this past week

KABUL: Afghan pilgrims will begin their trips to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to perform this year’s Hajj, with excitement high among participants of the holy pilgrimage that was previously restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saudi Arabia has allowed up to 1 million people — from both inside and outside the country — to join the Hajj pilgrimage this year, thus expanding the key event to worshippers from outside the Kingdom after two years of tight restrictions.
As Afghanistan has been allocated a quota of 13,582 pilgrims to perform the Hajj in 2022, the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Kabul began issuing visas this past week, Afghan officials said.
“This year, 13,582 Hajjis will go from Afghanistan together with a number of mentors. The first group of Hajjis will travel from Kabul tomorrow,” Mawlawi Israrulhaq Rahmani, an official from the Afghan Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, told Arab News on Saturday.
“We have been working on preparations and administrative tasks of Hajj for months now, but the Saudi Embassy confirmed issuing visas this past week.”
One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj must be undertaken by all Muslims who have the means at least once in their lives. When the Kingdom barred overseas pilgrims in order to curb COVID-19 transmissions, many Muslims, who typically save for years to take part, were deeply disappointed.
With those rules lifted this year, Afghan pilgrims said they are looking forward to the trip to Islam’s holiest city of Makkah.
Sixty-two-year-old Naser Khan, who is from Kabul’s Surobi district, had registered for the Hajj before the pandemic. This year, he finally gets to go.
“I registered for Hajj three years ago and will be going this year,” Khan told Arab News.
“I am so grateful for getting this chance to visit the most sacred place on earth. It’s my first time, and I feel so blessed.”
Abdul Qayum, who is from Afghanistan’s Logar province, also expressed gratitude for being able to perform the Hajj.
“We are thankful to God that we are finally able to go to Hajj after COVID-19 and a change of government,” Qayum told Arab News on Saturday.
“We come with our passports and our bags and will go on the first flight tomorrow, God willing.”


N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization
Updated 15 min 57 sec ago

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization
  • It demands the unilateral disarmament, and Secretary-General Guterres perhaps knows well that the DPRK has totally rejected it without any toleration, says Kim

SEOUL: North Korea’s foreign ministry on Sunday criticized the United Nations Secretary-General’s recent comment on his supports for the North’s complete denuclearization, calling the remarks lack impartiality and fairness.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA released a statement from the foreign ministry after UN chief Antonio Guterres on Friday said he fully supports efforts to completely denuclearise North Korea when he met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
“I cannot but express deep regret over the said remarks of the UN secretary-general that grossly lack impartiality and fairness and go against the obligations of his duty, specified in the UN Charter, as regards the issue of the Korean peninsula,” Kim Son Gyong, vice minister for international organizations of North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kim added that the UN secretary-general should not request or accept orders from the government of a specific country but refrain from doing any act that may impair his or her position as an international official who is liable only to the UN.
Kim said the North’s “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) was “an infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK,” referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“It demands the unilateral disarmament, and Secretary-General Guterres perhaps knows well that the DPRK has totally rejected it without any toleration,” said Kim, adding that Guterres should be careful when uttering “dangerous words” amid the extremely acute situation on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has test fired a record number of missiles this year, and officials in Seoul and Washington say that it appears to be preparing to test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017, amid stalled denuclearization talks.


Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘preplanned’, says prosecutor

Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘preplanned’, says prosecutor
Updated 20 min 58 sec ago

Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘preplanned’, says prosecutor

Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘preplanned’, says prosecutor
  • Suspect Matar joined a fitness boxing club for beginners on April 11 and cancelled his membership days before the attack, club manager says

MAYVILLE, New York: The man accused in the stabbing attack on Salman Rushdie pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime, as the renowned author of “The Satanic Verses” remained hospitalized with serious injuries.
An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him.
A judge ordered him held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Rushdie, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID.
“This was a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Schmidt said.
Public defender Nathaniel Barone complained that authorities had taken too long to get Matar in front of a judge while leaving him “hooked up to a bench at the state police barracks.”
“He has that constitutional right of presumed innocence,” Barone added.
Matar, 24, is accused of attacking Rushdie on Friday as the author was being introduced at a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute, a nonprofit education and retreat center.
Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. Rushdie was likely to lose the injured eye.


ALSO READ: Background of Rushdie attacker sheds light on Khomeini sympathizers in US


The attack was met with shock and outrage from much of the world, along with tributes and praise for the award-winning author who for more than 30 years has faced death threats for “The Satanic Verses.”
Authors, activists and government officials cited Rushdie’s courage and longtime advocacy of free speech despite the risks to his own safety. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan called Rushdie “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” and actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora toward whom he’s shown incredible warmth.”
President Joe Biden said Saturday in a statement that he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the attack.
“Salman Rushdie — with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced — stands for essential, universal ideals,” the statement read. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”
Rushdie, a native of India who has since lived in Britain and the US, is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” in which he sharply criticized India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims regarding as blasphemy a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.
Khomeini died that same year, but the fatwa remains in effect. Iran’s current supreme leader, Khamenei, never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn’t focused on the writer.
Investigators were working to determine whether the assailant, born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” was published, acted alone.
District Attorney Schmidt alluded to the fatwa as a potential motive in arguing against bail.
“Even if this court were to set a million dollars bail, we stand a risk that bail could be met,” Schmidt said.
“His resources don’t matter to me. We understand that the agenda that was carried out yesterday is something that was adopted and it’s sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond the jurisdictional borders of Chautauqua County,” the prosecutor said.
Barone, the public defender, said after the hearing that Matar has been communicating openly with him and that he would spend the coming weeks trying to learn about his client, including whether he has psychological or addiction issues.
Matar is from Fairview, New Jersey. Rosaria Calabrese, manager of the State of Fitness Boxing Club, a small, tightly knit gym in nearby North Bergen, said Matar joined April 11 and participated in about 27 group sessions for beginners looking to improve their fitness before emailing her several days ago to say he wanted to cancel his membership because “he wouldn’t be coming back for a while.”
Gym owner Desmond Boyle said he saw “nothing violent” about Matar, describing him as polite and quiet, yet someone who always looked “tremendously sad.” He said Matar resisted attempts by him and others to welcome and engage him.
“He had this look every time he came in. It looked like it was the worst day of his life,” Boyle said.
Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, the mayor of the village, Ali Tehfe, told The Associated Press.
Flags are visible across the village of Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah and portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Khamenei, Khomeini and slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Journalists visiting Yaroun on Saturday were asked to leave. Hezbollah spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.
Iran’s theocratic government and its state-run media assigned no motive for the attack. In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP praised the attack on an author they believe tarnished the Islamic faith, while others worried it would further isolate their country.
An AP reporter witnessed the attacker stab or punch Rushdie about 10 or 15 times. Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”
Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.
A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and state police said the trooper made the arrest. But afterward some longtime visitors to the center questioned why there wasn’t tighter security given the threats against Rushdie and a bounty of more than $3 million on his head.
News about the stabbing has led to renewed interest in “The Satanic Verses,” which topped best seller lists after the fatwa was issued in 1989. As of Saturday afternoon, the novel ranked No. 13 on Amazon.com.
The book’s publication in 1988 sparked often-violent protests around the Muslim world against Rushdie, who was born to a Muslim family and has long identified as a nonbeliever, once calling himself “a hard-line atheist.”
At least 45 people were killed in riots, including 12 in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot three times and survived.
The death threats and bounty led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection program, which included an around-the-clock armed guard. After nine years of seclusion, Rushdie cautiously resumed more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism overall.
In 2012 he published a memoir about the fatwa titled “Joseph Anton,” the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding.
He said during a New York talk that year that terrorism was really the art of fear: “The only way you can defeat it is by deciding not to be afraid.”
 


Sri Lanka says China survey ship can dock in its port

A container ship arrives at a port in Colombo on July 16, 2022. (AFP)
A container ship arrives at a port in Colombo on July 16, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2022

Sri Lanka says China survey ship can dock in its port

A container ship arrives at a port in Colombo on July 16, 2022. (AFP)

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka said on Saturday it has agreed that the Chinese survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 can dock at its southernmost port, the Chinese-run Hambantota on August 16, despite security concerns raised by neighboring India and the United States.
Foreign security analysts describe the Yuan Wang 5 as one of China’s latest generation space-tracking ships, used to monitor satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
Both China and India have tried to expand their influence in Sri Lanka, which is facing its worst economic crisis in its post-independence history.
India has provided more help to Sri Lanka this year than any other nation. But it fears its bigger and more powerful rival China will use the Hambantota port near the main Asia-Europe shipping route as a military base.
Sri Lanka formally handed over commercial activities at the port to a Chinese company in 2017 on a 99-year lease after struggling to repay its debt.
The Pentagon says Yuan Wang ships are operated by the Strategic Support Force of the People’s Liberation Army.
On Friday, India rejected claims that it has put pressure on Sri Lanka to turn the vessel away.
“We reject categorically the ‘insinuation’ and such statement about India. Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own independent decisions,” Arindam Bagchi, a foreign ministry spokesman, said.

 

 


Cost of color: In Bangladesh’s ‘dyeing villages,’ a neglected problem of hazards to health

Dye mill workers in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)
Dye mill workers in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)
Updated 13 August 2022

Cost of color: In Bangladesh’s ‘dyeing villages,’ a neglected problem of hazards to health

Dye mill workers in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)
  • Village factories unrecognized by authorities, avoid industry regulators
  • Textile sector is country’s number one industry, accounting for 80% of exports

DHAKA: When he starts work at 5 a.m., Mohammed Hasan will for the next 12 to 14 hours keep his hands immersed in water mixed with different dyes — from earthy to vivid hues, depending on the season’s latest fashion trends.

Sometimes Hasan’s skin will hurt, burnt by a cocktail of chemicals used to obtain a particular color. But he is used to it, like hundreds of others in Purinda, one of the villages in Narayanganj district which have gained fame — and notoriety — as Bangladesh’s “dyeing villages.”

Threads of all shades of the rainbow are hung to dry across Purinda, just 20 kilometers from the capital, Dhaka. Behind them, Hasan and his co-workers at dyeing mills are mixing and boiling salts, acids and emulsifiers to create these colors.

“To color the thread into red, we make a mixture of three to four colors. Then we rub the thread in that mixture. Later on, we soak the bundle of thread in another mixture of colors which makes the thread red,” Hasan told Arab News.

He earns about 22,000 Bangladeshi taka ($240) per month.

“This work is painful. But I need to do this to make ends meet. I have no other options in hand. Since I learned this work, I will have to do this,” he said.

“I couldn’t shape my life properly when I was young. So, now I don’t dream of making life colorful anymore.”

Dye mill workers coloring threads in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)

Mohammed Shafikul Islam, who began to work at a dye house in Purinda when he was a teenager more than 50 years ago, also admits that he has been experiencing skin lesions as his bare hands make contact with harsh chemicals every day.

“This work is very painful,” he said. “I might have been able to do other work. But I do this work because I learned this work.”

Skin problems are not the only hazards faced by workers.

Dr. ASM Mushiur Rahman, chief government health official of Narayanganj, told Arab News that dyeing factories in villages of Araihazar subdistrict do not follow any health protocols, do not have adequate protective clothing, and use chemicals that are not only harmful to the skin, but also to the lungs.

Dye mill worker in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)

“Starting from infections with the lungs it may end up with lung cancer,” he said.

“They suffer from bronchitis, cough, etc. We noticed that the number of tuberculosis patients is also high among the people who work in these industries.”

There is little awareness among workers and factory owners about the problem.

Mohammad Shahjalal Pradhan, who owns one of the dyeing plants in Purinda, admits that the business “has some limitations.”

He said: “The chemicals we use, they create bad smells. Some of our workers get affected with allergies.”

Dye mill worker coloring threads in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)

The textile sector, which includes dyeing factories, is the number one industry in Bangladesh, employing more than 4 million people, contributing to over 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and accounting for 80 percent of exports.

But there is a lack of comprehensive regulation, as dye houses are not officially recognized businesses, allowing owners to evade monitoring by industry regulators, even though the sites have existed for generations.

“These workers are treated as non-institutional laborers,” Selim Mahmud, president of the workers’ rights group Garments Sromik Front in Narayanganj, said.

“They don’t have any safety at their workplaces.”

Local authorities say that they are not even aware of the situation.

Rafiqul Islam, chief administrative officer of Araihazar subdistrict, told Arab News that the administration “didn’t know of these type of business entities earlier.”

He added: “Generally, we don’t inspect these sort of factories, but if we find any complaints against any business, we inspect it. So far, nobody told us anything about this.”

 


Pakistan, and the man who pioneered commercial manufacturing of its national flag, turn 75

Sheikh Nisar Ahmed Perchamwala. (AN photo)
Sheikh Nisar Ahmed Perchamwala. (AN photo)
Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan, and the man who pioneered commercial manufacturing of its national flag, turn 75

Sheikh Nisar Ahmed Perchamwala. (AN photo)
  • Sheikh Nisar Ahmed Perchamwala made Guinness World Records for creating world’s largest flag in 2004.
  • Perchamwala also made the largest flag for Saudi Arabia, measuring 6,000 sq. f.t, in 2006.

KARACHI: It was in 1985 that Sheikh Nisar Ahmed Perchamwala decided to go into the business of commercially producing Pakistan’s national flag, feeling personally offended that the patriotic symbol was being “desecrated” by manufacturers who paid little attention to government specifications about the flag’s correct size and color.

Perchamwala launched VIP Flags Pakistan with the aim of using modern machines that would get the colors and proportions of the national flag just right.

Today, the company has many accolades to its name, including a Guinness World Records award in 2004 for making the world’s largest flag, after which the company’s CEO formally added to his name the honorific Perchamwala, which translates as flag-maker.

And this August is particularly special for Perchamwala: As Pakistan celebrates 75 years of existence, so will he.

We were honored to make the Kingdom’s flag, though it was also quite difficult due to the inscription and the sword.

Sheikh Nisar Ahmed Perchamwala

“I will also turn 75 on August 30,” Perchamwala told Arab News at the company’s manufacturing unit in Karachi.

“August is not just the month of our freedom but also the month of my birth. It is the month of my Pakistan’s birth.”

Perchamwala was born in New Delhi on Aug. 30, 1947, two weeks after the end of British colonial rule and the creation of Pakistan.

His family had been in the clothing business for generations when in the early 1980s, Perchamwala became increasingly concerned about Pakistani flag manufacturers who did not care “about the proportion of the crescent and the star.”

“These flags also came in different shades (of green); it was almost like people didn’t know how to make the Pakistani flag,” he said.

The casual approach to such details made him wonder: “What kind of a nation are we?”

“Then I did some research and started manufacturing the flag along modern lines for the first time,” the businessman said. “Now, handmade flag manufacturing has stopped and only printed and standard flags are produced with the right proportions.”

Perchamwala said that he started off by making small flags, following government specifications, but went on to increase the size and finally made the world’s largest flag, at 173,400 sq. ft, in 2004, for which he was recognized by Guinness World Records.

“When my name appeared in the record book, I felt I had accomplished something significant and started writing ‘Perchamwala’ with my name,” he said.

Since then, Perchamwala has used the cloth from his record-breaking flag to make quilt covers for the victims of a devastating earthquake that hit Kashmir in October 2005.

He has also received orders for large flags from other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

In 2006, Perchamwala made the biggest Saudi flag to date, measuring 6,000 sq. ft, which was also the tallest, installed on a 100-meter pole in Diriyah, near Riyadh.

“They (the Saudis) approached us after we made the (2004) record. We were honored to make the Kingdom’s flag, though it was also quite difficult due to the inscription and the sword,” he said.

In 2008, Perchamwala created another large flag, which measured 250,000 sq. ft, for Afghanistan.

He also receives regular orders for flags from embassies, consulates and hotels in Pakistan.

Now, during the diamond jubilee of Pakistan, Perchamwala’s business is managed by the family’s third generation, for whom he has an important message: “The new generation should not forget the importance of freedom, which was earned through struggle. They must take care of Pakistan’s pride and greatness.”

 

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