Muslim Brits gear up for first post-pandemic Hajj open to foreign pilgrims

Muslim Brits gear up for first post-pandemic Hajj open to foreign pilgrims
Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, presents part of the Hajj seminar at the London Muslim Center. (Mohammed Rashid)
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Updated 13 June 2022

Muslim Brits gear up for first post-pandemic Hajj open to foreign pilgrims

Muslim Brits gear up for first post-pandemic Hajj open to foreign pilgrims
  • Attendees learned how to perform Hajj correctly and were given practical tips to ensure a smooth journey
  • Saudi government “modernizing the way people go for Hajj and Umrah,” Council of British Hajjis tells Arab News

LONDON: Over 130 British Muslims attended a Hajj seminar at the London Muslim Center on Sunday, in preparation for the first pilgrimage after the COVID-19 pandemic that will be open to foreigners.
Attendees learned how to perform the fifth pillar of Islam correctly, were given practical tips to ensure a smooth journey, and were able to ask a religious scholar questions about the journey that Muslims must undertake at least once in their lifetime if they are able to.




Attendees read Hajj-related literature at the CBHUK seminar at the London Muslim Center. (Mohammed Rashid)


They were also given health and safety advice, and were able to purchase essential items for their Hajj journey such as the ihram, the two pieces of white cloth worn by male pilgrims.
The event, organized by the Council of British Hajjis, was the final in a series of seminars held across England by the organization, and was watched online by dozens of people.
Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, said the seminars aimed to enrich and enhance pilgrim experiences through sharing relevant information, advice and guidance.
“We want to make it easy for pilgrims to have a spiritual and uplifting journey,” Mogradia told Arab News. “We’ve been running Hajj seminars since our inception in 2006. It was very important for us to reconnect with Hajj pilgrims face-to-face this year after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said it was important that would-be pilgrims attend the seminars this year not only to learn about the rites of Hajj, but also “the latest developments in Saudi Arabia, and health and safety requirements in the Kingdom.”
He added: “Such events allow us to connect directly with the pilgrims themselves, and address the needs and concerns they may have at an early stage so that we can relieve any anxiety and stress pre-departure.”




Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, addresses British Muslims who intend to perform Hajj at the London Muslim Center. (Mohammed Rashid)


Imam Yunus Dudhwala, a Muslim scholar and the head of chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, presented the seminar and has held similar events annually for the last 10 years.
“I think it’s important for people who are traveling for Hajj to be prepared mentally, physically and spiritually. And in terms of Islamic jurisprudence, they need to understand how to perform Hajj correctly. That’s why we do the seminar,” he told Arab News.




Imam Yunus Dudhwala presents the Hajj seminar at the London Muslim Center on Sunday. (AN photo)


Dudhwala accompanied 250-300 British pilgrims on Hajj annually as their spiritual and religious guide for over 10 years before the pandemic struck.
For over three decades preceding the pandemic, British pilgrims would book a package with a licensed Hajj operator in the UK that included flights, accommodation, meals, visas, and other essential services such as easy access to a religious scholar to help with their queries.




A CBHUK volunteer advises attendees on Hajj-related products. (Mohammed Rashid)


This year, the way pilgrims book Hajj has changed. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced last week that pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia are required to register for this year’s Hajj electronically at www.motawif.com.sa.
Applicants will be entered into a draw system, and pilgrims will then be selected from the pool.
The new portal is part of the ministry’s efforts to facilitate Hajj procedures and provide competitive prices for European, American and Australian pilgrims.
“We understand that the government of Saudi Arabia is modernizing the way people go for Hajj and Umrah as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. We also understand that they’re doing this to increase pilgrim numbers and enhance the facilities and services provided to pilgrims,” Mogradia said.
“Just as Umrah has gone through a rigorous change since 2019 with the implementation of the e-visa making it easier for people to travel to Saudi Arabia, Hajj too will need to go through that phase.”


China sanctions seven Taiwanese ‘independence diehard’ officials

China sanctions seven Taiwanese ‘independence diehard’ officials
Updated 5 sec ago

China sanctions seven Taiwanese ‘independence diehard’ officials

China sanctions seven Taiwanese ‘independence diehard’ officials
BEIJING: China imposed sanctions on Tuesday on seven Taiwanese officials and lawmakers it accused of being “independence diehards,” including banning them from entering, in its latest angry reproach of the democratically governed island.
The sanctions come after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan this month, a trip that China said had sent a wrong signal to what it views as pro-independence forces.
China considers Taiwan its own territory and not a separate country. Taiwan’s government disputes China’s claim.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said among those sanctioned were Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, Secretary-General of Taiwan’s National Security Council Wellington Koo, and politicians from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
A Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson said that those sanctioned would not be able to visit China, Hong Kong and Macau. Firms and investors related to them will also not be allowed to profit in China.
“For some time, a few diehard separatist elements, out of their own interests, have gone to lengths to collude with external forces in provocations advocating Taiwan independence,” state news agency Xinhua cited the spokesperson as saying.
“They have deliberately instigated confrontations across the Taiwan Strait, and recklessly undermined peace and stability in the region.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in response that the island was a democracy that “could not be interfered with by China.”
“Even more, we cannot accept threats and menace from authoritarian and totalitarian systems,” ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told reporters in Taipei.
The sanctions will have little practical impact as senior Taiwanese officials do not visit China.
The seven are in addition to Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and parliament Speaker You Si-kun who were previously sanctioned https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-says-it-will-hold-supporters-taiwans-independence-criminally-responsible-2021-11-05 by China.
Taiwan’s government says only the island’s 23 million people have the right to decide their own future.

First ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine port: Ministry

First ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine port: Ministry
Updated 4 min 11 sec ago

First ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine port: Ministry

First ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine port: Ministry
  • Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because of the closure of its Black Sea ports, a crucial conduit for shipments, which drove up global food prices and sparked fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East

ISTANBUL/KYIV: The ship Brave Commander has left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday.
Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because of the closure of its Black Sea ports, a crucial conduit for shipments, which drove up global food prices and sparked fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.
But three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, that made it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain to buyers.
The Brave Commander, with 23,000 tons of wheat aboard, left for the African port of Djibouti with supplies destined for consumers in Ethiopia, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said.
“The ministry and the United Nations are working on ways to increase food supplies for the socially vulnerable sections of the African population,” it said in a statement.
Seventeen ships have already left Ukrainian ports with more than 475,000 tons of agricultural products on board, it added.
Earlier, a joint co-ordination center set up by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations, said it had approved the departure of the Brave Commander. Moscow calls its action in Ukraine a “special military operation.”


UN envoy travels to strife-torn Myanmar for the first time

UN envoy travels to strife-torn Myanmar for the first time
Updated 38 min 22 sec ago

UN envoy travels to strife-torn Myanmar for the first time

UN envoy travels to strife-torn Myanmar for the first time
  • Noeleen Heyzer’s trip follows the UN’s latest call for an immediate end to all forms of violence and unimpeded humanitarian access in the country
  • No indication whether UN special envoy would meet with military rulers or the country’s imprisoned former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi

UNITED NATIONS: The UN special envoy for Myanmar traveled to the Southeast Asian nation Monday for the first time since she was appointed to the post last October.
The trip by Noeleen Heyzer followed the UN Security Council’s latest call for an immediate end to all forms of violence and unimpeded humanitarian access in the strife-torn country.
Heyzer “will focus on addressing the deteriorating situation and immediate concerns as well as other priority areas of her mandate,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
He gave no details on whether Heyzer would meet with Myanmar’s military rulers or the country’s imprisoned former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a longtime UN demand. Suu Kyi was convicted earlier Monday on more corruption charges, adding six years to her earlier 11-year prison sentence.
Heyzer’s visit “follows her extensive consultations with actors from across the political spectrum, civil society as well as communities affected by the ongoing conflict,” Dujarric said.
Earlier this month, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, special envoy to Myanmar for the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said efforts by Myanmar’s neighbors to help restore peace and normalcy to the strife-torn nation were hindered by the country’s recent execution of four political activists.
He warned that further executions would force the regional group to reconsider how it engages with fellow member Myanmar.
In February 2021, Myanmar’s army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government and then violently cracked down on widespread protests against its actions. After security forces unleashed lethal force on peaceful demonstrators, some opponents of military rule took up arms.
Myanmar’s military rulers agreed to a five-point ASEAN plan in April 2021 to restore peace and stability to the country, which includes an immediate halt to violence and a dialogue among all parties. But the country’s military has made little effort to implement the plan, and Myanmar has slipped into a situation that some UN experts have characterized as a civil war.
Heyzer, a women’s rights activist from Singapore, headed UNIFEM, a UN development organization that focuses on promoting women’s economic advancement, in 1994-2007. She was the first woman to serve as executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, in 2007-2014.


US Justice Dept opposes revealing evidence supporting search of Trump’s home

The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seen outside of its headquarters in Washington, DC on August 15, 2022. (AFP)
The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seen outside of its headquarters in Washington, DC on August 15, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2022

US Justice Dept opposes revealing evidence supporting search of Trump’s home

The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seen outside of its headquarters in Washington, DC on August 15, 2022. (AFP)
  • Some of the records seized were labeled as “top secret” — the highest level of classification reserved for the most closely held US national security information

WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department on Monday said it opposes unsealing the affidavit that prosecutors used to obtain a federal judge’s approval to search former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, where they seized classified documents.
“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” prosecutors wrote in their filing.
Trump’s Republican allies in recent days have ramped up their calls for Attorney General Merrick Garland to unseal the document, which would reveal the evidence that prosecutors showed to demonstrate they had probable cause to believe crimes were committed at Trump’s home — the standard they had to meet to secure the search warrant.
On Friday, at the Justice Department’s request, a federal court in south Florida unsealed the search warrant and several accompanying legal documents that showed that FBI agents carted away 11 sets of classified records from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Some of the records seized were labeled as “top secret” — the highest level of classification reserved for the most closely held US national security information.
Such documents usually are typically kept in special government facilities because disclosure could damage national security
The Justice Department on Monday cited this as another reason to keep the affidavit sealed, saying the probe involves “highly classified materials.”
The agency said it would not oppose the release of other sealed documents tied to the raid, such as cover sheets and the government’s motion to seal.
The warrant released on Friday showed that the Justice Department is investigating violations of three laws, including a provision in the Espionage Act that prohibits the possession of national defense information and another statute that makes it a crime to knowingly destroy, conceal or falsify records with the intent to obstruct an investigation.
Trump has since claimed, without evidence, that he had a standing order to declassify all of the materials recovered at his home.
The decision by Garland to unseal the warrant was highly unusual, given the Justice Department’s policy not to comment on pending investigations.
On the same day Garland announced his decision to seek to unseal the warrant, an armed man with right-wing views tried to breach an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was later shot dead by police following a car chase.
Prosecutors on Monday cited the recent violence and increasing threats against the FBI as another reason not to release the affidavit.
“Information about witnesses is particularly sensitive given the high-profile nature of this matter and the risk that the revelation of witness identities would impact their willingness to cooperate with the investigation,” they wrote.
Also on Monday the Justice Department said a Pennsylvania man was arrested on charges of making threats on the social media service Gab against FBI agents. Adam Bies, 46, was taken into custody on Friday in connection with the social media posts, the DOJ said.

 


Rudy Giuliani targeted in criminal probe of 2020 US election

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference on June 7, 2022, in New York. (AP)
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference on June 7, 2022, in New York. (AP)
Updated 16 August 2022

Rudy Giuliani targeted in criminal probe of 2020 US election

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference on June 7, 2022, in New York. (AP)
  • Giuliani, who spread false claims of election fraud in Atlanta's Fulton County as he led election-challenging efforts in Georgia, is to testify Wednesday before a special grand jury that was impaneled at Willis' request

ATLANTA: Rudy Giuliani is a target of the criminal investigation into possible illegal attempts by then-President Donald Trump and others to interfere in the 2020 general election in Georgia, prosecutors informed attorneys for the former New York mayor on Monday.
The revelation that Giuliani, an outspoken Trump defender, could face criminal charges from the investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis edges the probe closer to the former president. Willis has said she is considering calling Trump himself to testify before the special grand jury, and the former president has hired a criminal defense attorney in Atlanta.
Law enforcement scrutiny of Trump has escalated dramatically. Last week, the FBI searched his Florida home as part of its investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. He is also facing a civil investigation in New York over allegations that his company, the Trump Organization, misled banks and tax authorities about the value of his assets. And the Justice Department is investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters as well as efforts by him and his allies to overturn the election he falsely claimed was stolen.
Giuliani, who spread false claims of election fraud in Atlanta's Fulton County as he led election-challenging efforts in Georgia, is to testify Wednesday before a special grand jury that was impaneled at Willis' request. Giuliani's lawyer declined to say whether he would answer questions or decline.
Special prosecutor Nathan Wade alerted Giuliani’s team in Atlanta that he was an investigation target, Giuliani attorney Robert Costello said Monday. News of the disclosure was first reported by The New York Times.
Speaking on a New York radio show Monday, Giuliani said he had been serving as Trump's attorney in Georgia.
“You do this to a lawyer, we don't have America anymore,” he said.
Earlier Monday, a federal judge said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham must testify before the special grand jury. Prosecutors have said they want to ask Graham about phone calls they say he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff in the weeks following the election.
Willis’s investigation was spurred by a phone call between Trump and Raffensperger. During that January 2021 conversation, Trump suggested that Raffensperger “find” the votes needed to reverse his narrow loss in the state.
Willis last month filed petitions seeking to compel testimony from seven Trump associates and advisers.
In seeking Giuliani’s testimony, Willis identified him as both a personal attorney for Trump and a lead attorney for his campaign. She wrote that he and others appeared at a state Senate committee meeting and presented a video that Giuliani said showed election workers producing “suitcases” of unlawful ballots from unknown sources, outside the view of election poll watchers.
Within 24 hours of that Dec. 3, 2020, hearing, Raffensperger’s office had debunked the video. But Giuliani continued to make statements to the public and in subsequent legislative hearings claiming widespread voter fraud using the debunked video, Willis wrote.
Evidence shows that Giuliani’s hearing appearance and testimony were "part of a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere,” her petition says.
Two of the election workers seen in the video, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, said they faced relentless harassment online and in person after it was shown at a Dec. 3 Georgia legislative hearing where Giuliani appeared. At another hearing a week later, Giuliani said the footage showed the women “surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine.” They actually were passing a piece of candy.
Willis also wrote in a petition seeking the testimony of attorney Kenneth Chesebro that he worked with Giuliani to coordinate and carry out a plan to have Georgia Republicans serve as fake electors. Those 16 people signed a certificate declaring falsely that Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors even though Joe Biden had won the state and a slate of Democratic electors was certified.
All 16 of those fake electors have received letters saying they are targets of the investigation, Willis said in a court filing last month.
As for Graham, attorneys for the South Carolina Republican have argued that his position as a U.S. senator provides him immunity from having to appear before the investigative panel. But U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in an order Monday that immunities related to his role as a senator do not protect him from having to testify. Graham's subpoena instructs him to appear before the special grand jury on Aug. 23, but his office said Monday he plans to appeal.
May last month rejected a similar attempt by U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., to avoid testifying before the special grand jury.
Graham's office said in a statement Monday that the senator disagrees with the judge's interpretation of the provision of the Constitution he believes protects him from being questioned by a state official. His lawyers have said he was making inquiries that were part of his legislative duties, related to certification of the vote and to a proposal of election-related legislation.
But the judge wrote that that ignores "the fact that individuals on the calls have publicly suggested that Senator Graham was not simply engaged in legislative factfinding but was instead suggesting or implying that Georgia election officials change their processes or otherwise potentially alter the state’s results.”
In calls made shortly after the 2020 general election, Graham “questioned Raffensperger and his staff about reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,” Willis wrote in a petition.
Graham also “made reference to allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known affiliates of the Trump Campaign,” she wrote.
Republican and Democratic state election officials across the country, courts and even Trump's attorney general have found there was no evidence of voter fraud sufficient to affect the outcome of his 2020 presidential election loss.
Trump-allied lawmakers were planning to challenge the tallies from several battleground states when Congress convened on Jan. 6, 2021, to certify the results under the Electoral Count Act, but after the Capitol attack that day Georgia’s tally was never contested.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has described his call to Raffensperger as “perfect.”