Southern Philippines prepares to open first Islamic institution of higher learning

This photo posted by the parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Aug. 7, 2023 shows Muslim students in Buluan, the capital of the Maguindanao Del Sur province in the southern Philippines. (Bangsamoro Parliament)
This photo posted by the parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Aug. 7, 2023 shows Muslim students in Buluan, the capital of the Maguindanao Del Sur province in the southern Philippines. (Bangsamoro Parliament)
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Updated 18 August 2023
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Southern Philippines prepares to open first Islamic institution of higher learning

Southern Philippines prepares to open first Islamic institution of higher learning
  • Kulliyyah Institution to be established in Buluan, Maguindanao Del Sur province
  • Education minister expects relevant legislation to be passed in the coming weeks

MANILA: The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is preparing to open the first Islamic institution of higher learning in the Philippines, its education minister told Arab News, with the relevant legislation expected to be passed next month.
Muslims constitute roughly 6 percent of the 110 million predominantly Catholic population of the Southeast Asian nation. Most live on the southern islands of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.
Their biggest concentration is in the Bangsamoro region, central Mindanao, where local communities have been professing Islam since the 14th century.
The region was until 2014 at the heart of a four-decade-long separatist struggle. It has never had institutions of Islamic education at tertiary level, but a bill to establish the first one — Kulliyyah Institution in Buluan, the capital of the Maguindanao Del Sur province — was presented to the local parliament in September 2022.
The institution, which will teach courses from undergraduate to postgraduate level, will also be the first of its kind in the whole country.
“I think the longest waiting period for the passage of the bill, which has been certified as urgent, will be until September. But I am very hopeful that we might be able to pass it within August,” Mohagher Iqbal, Bangsamoro’s minister of basic, higher, and technical education, told Arab News.
“Once the bill is passed within the power granted to the BARMM government, it’s deemed approved … for implementation.”
Kulliyyah Institution will be supervised directly by the Bangsamoro Education Ministry, which has held public consultations with experts and representatives from various national government agencies and educational and civil society organizations regarding the graduate school’s programs.
For Iqbal, establishing the school was not only a matter of strengthening the community’s educational foundations, but also the identity of Muslim Filipinos.
“What we want to address is the needs of our people,” he said. “For us, during the Spanish (colonial) period, that was the most important thing we fought for: Islam. Islam is our life.”
Bangsamoro is the only Muslim-majority territory in the Philippines.
The BARMM was formed in 2019. Legal and educational reforms are part of its transition to autonomy, which will culminate in 2025, when it will elect its legislature and executive.
It is hoped that Kulliyyah Institution will become the region’s hub of knowledge and study of Islamic law, history, culture and Arabic language.
“Muslim students will no longer need to go to other countries to pursue Islamic studies,” the region’s parliament said in a statement last week.
“The establishment of the institution in Buluan, Maguindanao del Sur aims to promote lifelong learning and continuous education for the Bangsamoro people, empowering them with knowledge, values, and competencies.”

 

 


UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate

UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate
Updated 23 June 2024
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UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate

UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate
  • Political bets are allowed in the UK, including on the date of elections, but using insider knowledge to do so is against the law

LONDON: A senior British minister compared the latest scandal involving Tory candidates accused of betting on the election date to Partygate, a series of Covid-era parties that brought down Boris Johnson.
Housing minister Michael Gove compared the betting allegations to the Partygate scandal in an interview with the Times newspaper on Saturday.
“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us... That’s the most potentially damaging thing,” said Gove, who is standing down this election after 14 years as an MP.
“That was damaging at the time of Partygate and is damaging here,” he added.
Prime minister Johnson was forced from office in 2022 following public anger at the revelations of parties held in Downing Street when the rest of the country was under lockdown during the pandemic.
Now another senior Conservative Party figure has been caught up in the latest scandal.
The party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, has taken a leave of absence, following claims he placed bets on the timing of the election, the PA news agency reported Saturday.
Mason is being investigated by betting regulators, accused of placing dozens of bets on the election date according to the Times. He is the fourth Tory figure to be implicated in the affair.
The party’s campaign director stepped aside following reports on Thursday that he and his wife, a Tory candidate in the July 4 election, were under investigation by the Gambling Commission.
The scandal broke a week earlier, when Tory candidate and Sunak’s ministerial aide Craig Williams said he was being probed for staking a bet on the snap election date before it was called.
On Wednesday, London police said one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s security detail had been arrested for allegedly placing a bet on the date.
Sunak has said he is “incredibly angry” over the revelations.
“If anyone is found to have broken the rules, not only should they face the full consequences of the law, I will make sure that they are booted out of the Conservative Party,” he said earlier this week.
Political bets are allowed in the UK, including on the date of elections, but using insider knowledge to do so is against the law.
The inquiries heap further misery on Sunak, whose party has trailed Labour by about 20 points in the polls for nearly two years, making it odds-on to be dumped out of office after 14 years.
Gove said that those involved in the betting scandal were “sucking the oxygen out of the campaign.”
Comparing it to Partygate again, he added: “A few individuals end up creating an incredibly damaging atmosphere for the party.
“So it’s both bad in itself, but also destructive to the efforts of all of those good people who are currently fighting hard for the Conservative vote.”


France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris
Updated 23 June 2024
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France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris
  • A source close to the case said the two Moldovans claimed to have been paid around 100 euros to paint the graffiti

PARIS: French prosecutors on Saturday charged two Moldovans suspected of painting coffins and a slogan urging an end to Ukraine war on the facade of a prominent Paris newspaper, a judicial source said.
It was just the latest in a series of such acts in the capital in recent weeks.
French officials have repeatedly warned of the risks of disinformation and other attacks by Russia over France’s support for Kyiv.
Tension between Paris and Moscow has increased since President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this year he had not ruled out sending troops to Ukraine.
The two men, who carried Moldovan passports, were arrested overnight Thursday-Friday after six red coffins and the phrase “Stop the Death, Mriya, Ukraine” were painted on the building of right-wing daily Le Figaro.
Mriya means “dream” in Ukrainian.
They are being held on charges of destruction of property and participating in “an effort to demoralize the army to harm national defense in peacetime,” the source said.
Six similar coffins were found early Thursday on the facade of the Agence France-Presse headquarters in central Paris, not far from the Figaro offices.
A source close to the case said the two Moldovans claimed to have been paid around 100 euros to paint the graffiti.
A separate investigations has been opened after graffiti showing French Mirage fighter jets in the form of coffins were found last Tuesday in three districts of Paris. They included the phrase “Mirages for Ukraine.”
Similar graffiti was discovered on the walls of the AFP building Monday.
Macron announced in early June that France would send Mirage-2000 fighter jets to Ukraine and train their Ukrainian pilots as part of a new military cooperation with Kyiv.
On June 8, French police said they were holding three young Moldovans suspected of being behind inscriptions of coffins in Paris with the slogan “French soldiers in Ukraine.”
They were later charged with property damage and released.
Moldova’s Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi posted on X, formerly Twitter: “We regret and firmly condemn the incident.”
He said the “vandalism” was “part of hybrid tactics to harm our international image.”
Popsoi reiterated his comment on Saturday, denouncing an “instigation to hate.”
“We call on Moldovan citizens to be vigilant and not to allow themselves to be manipulated to the detriment of our country.”


Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election

Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election
Updated 23 June 2024
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Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election

Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election
  • The election commission also barred Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, saying she had failed to provide a criminal record statement as required and had not met the threshold of acquiring 600 supporting signatures from citizens

KIGALI: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame defended his country’s democratic credentials as campaigning opened on Saturday for the July 15 presidential election, with the incumbent widely expected to extend his 24-year iron-fisted rule over the Great Lakes nation.
Nine million Rwandans are registered to vote in the poll concurrently with legislative elections.
Kagame has been Rwanda’s de facto ruler since the end of the 1994 genocide.
President since 2000, the 66-year-old will face the same rivals as he did in 2017: the leader of the opposition Democratic Green Party, Frank Habineza, and former journalist Philippe Mpayimana, who is running as an independent.
Rwandan courts rejected appeals from top opposition figures Bernard Ntaganda and Victoire Ingabire to remove previous convictions that effectively barred them from contesting.
The election commission also barred Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, saying she had failed to provide a criminal record statement as required and had not met the threshold of acquiring 600 supporting signatures from citizens.
The daughter of industrialist Assinapol Rwigara, a former major donor to Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front party who fell out with its leaders, the 42-year-old was arrested and disqualified from running in 2017 over allegations of forgery before being acquitted.
Speaking at a rally attended by thousands of supporters, many of whom were ferried by bus to the venue, Kagame defended Rwanda’s record on democracy in an apparent swipe at allegations of stifling opposition.
“People usually disagree on democracy or understand it differently. But for us, we have our understanding of it. Democracy means choice, choosing what is good for you and what you want,” he told a cheering crowd in the northern town of Musanze.
“Nothing is better than being Rwandan, but even better, nothing is better than being your leader ... I came here to thank you, not to ask for your votes.”
Elected by parliament in 2000 after the resignation of former president Pasteur Bizimungu, Kagame won three elections, with more than 90 percent of the ballot in 2003, 2010, and 2017, taking home nearly 99 percent of votes in the most recent poll.
He has been praised for Rwanda’s economic recovery after the genocide but faces criticism over rights abuses and political repression.
In a statement published last week, Human Rights Watch accused the government of a long-running crackdown on the opposition, media, and civil society.
“The threat of physical harm, arbitrary judicial proceedings, and long prison sentences, which can often lead to torture, have effectively deterred many Rwandans from engaging in opposition activities and demanding accountability from their political leaders,” said Clementine de Montjoye, senior Africa researcher at HRW.
In 2015, Kagame presided over controversial constitutional amendments, potentially allowing him to rule until 2034.
These shortened presidential terms from seven to five years and reset the clock for Kagame, allowing him to rule in a transitional capacity from 2017 to 2024 and then for two five-year terms until 2034.
The legislative elections will feature more than 500 candidates, with voters electing 53 out of 80 lawmakers.
The 27 remaining seats in the parliament are reserved for independent candidates, including 24 women, two young representatives, and one disabled person.
Currently, Kagame’s party and its allies hold 49 of the 53 seats in the lower house.
Opposition challenger Habineza’s Democratic Green Party has two seats, as does the Social Party Imberakuri.
The women lawmakers are elected by municipal and regional councilors, the youth representatives by the National Youth Council and the disabled candidate chosen by the Federation of Associations of the Disabled.

 


How Arab innovators like ‘pictogram’ creator Rajie Suleiman have contributed to American life

How Arab innovators like ‘pictogram’ creator Rajie Suleiman have contributed to American life
Updated 23 June 2024
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How Arab innovators like ‘pictogram’ creator Rajie Suleiman have contributed to American life

How Arab innovators like ‘pictogram’ creator Rajie Suleiman have contributed to American life
  • The Palestinian-American graphic designer, professionally known as Roger Cook, left a profound legacy with his ubiquitous icons
  • Arab-American inventions in everything from food and drink to medicine and technology have dramatically improved the American lifestyle

CHICAGO: Despite an apparent surge in anti-Arab and Islamophobic sentiments in the US driven by the war in Gaza, Americans live in an environment heavily influenced by the innovations of Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians.

Indeed, Arab-American inventions in everything from food and drink to medicine and technology have dramatically improved the American lifestyle. And yet the community seldom gets the recognition it is due.

One striking example involves the work of Palestinian-American graphic designer Rajie Suleiman, professionally known as Roger Cook, who died in February 2021 at the age of 90 having left a profound legacy.

Rajie Suleiman, also known as Roger Cook. (Supplied)

Cook was a graphic designer who created the ubiquitous “pictograms” that ease the everyday lives of Americans across industries, professions, transport, amenities, and public safety.

Among them are the icons of a man and a woman used to identify public restrooms, symbols for non-smoking areas, public telephones, emergency medical services, parking, no entry signs, and for public transportation including airports and transit stops.

Because they are so ubiquitous, the pictograms Cook designed are often overlooked, yet they serve as efficient identifiers in nearly every aspect of American life — concise graphic depictions that convey meaning across languages, cultures and levels of literacy.

Cook and his business partner Don Shanosky won a government contract in 1974 to design a series of pictograms of small, easily identifiable images that could efficiently inform and direct the public to the services they require.

Roger Cook's works are memorialized in a display at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. (Supplied)

The Manhattan-based graphic designers created 34 pictograms that conveyed meaning through their resemblance to physical objects, according to Cook’s obituary in the New York Times.

These images are especially helpful in airports and other environments where people may not be familiar with the local language. Indeed, they have become known as a “universal language of wayfinding.”

Beyond municipal spaces, pictograms have been adopted by IBM, Container Corporation of America, Montgomery Ward, Bristol Myers Squibb, Volvo, Subaru, AT&T, the New York Times, Bell Atlantic and BASF, among other major companies. 

For their “outstanding achievement in design for the government of the United States,” Cook and Shanosky received an award from then President Ronald Reagan.

Roger Cook (right) accepts an award from President Ronald Reagan on Jan. 30, 1985, as Elizabeth Dole, the Secretary of Transportation, looks on. (Courtesy of the family)

“We held firm to the principle that design communicates to its maximum efficacy without frills, contrivances and other extraneous material that if the core idea is a good one, it will shout loudest when it is not overshadowed by ornamentation,” Cook wrote in his 2017 book, “A vision for my father.”

Somewhat ironically, the designer himself underwent a process of cross-cultural simplification when his name was changed from Rajie Suleiman to the anglicized moniker Roger Cook.

Cook’s paternal grandfather’s surname was Suleiman. However, according to Cook’s obituary, his grandfather “was given the nickname Kucuk, the Turkish word for small, by Turkish occupiers because of his small stature.

“Later, when the British occupied Palestine, they turned that into Cook.”

Many years later, his grandson also had a new name foisted upon him. Rajie’s elementary school teachers found his name too difficult to pronounce, and so chose to Americanize it to Roger. Thus, Rajie Suleiman became Roger Cook.

Roger Cook's sculptures featured items he had collected at flea markets and elsewhere.
(Courtesy of the family)

Despite this imposed identity, Cook and his family never lost sight of their Arab-Palestinian heritage. Cook told the New York Times in a 2004 interview that his own father had died at the age of 94 while listening to the radio in the hope of hearing news of peace in Palestine.

His father’s passion for Palestine and the many family trips they made to the region during Cook’s childhood later inspired him to expand his graphic representations, creating images that reflected the tragedy of the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948. 

Many of his photos, paintings, and graphics are publicly displayed at the Palestine Museum in Woodbridge, Connecticut, and are currently memorialized in a display at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

“His Symbol Signs’ graphic design work was created in collaboration with his business partner Don Shanosky for the Department of Transportation to standardize way-finding symbols used in public spaces,” Elizabeth Barrett Sullivan, the museum’s collections curator, told Arab News.

“While they didn’t invent pictographs as a mechanism, they were the firm chosen to create this system that has been widely used and replicated.

“As graphic designers, they understood the need for signs that could be recognized without the need for text. The majority of the symbols created in the ‘70s are still in use today, which is a testament to their universality.”

All Flights Cancelled, sculptural assemblage, 2006 by Rajie Cook. (Supplied)

Sullivan said the items in the museum display were donated by Cook’s family two years ago. The display will be a “semi-temporary” exhibit, with plans for it to travel to other institutions in the years ahead.

“We are excited to have his work in our collections and be able to share his story with our visitors,” said Sullivan.

“He was a prolific artist, especially in the last 20 years of his life, with a significant focus on Palestine. He used his art to bring more awareness to the cruelty of the occupation, as well as honoring his own heritage.”

Of course, Arab-Americans have contributed far more than mere signage. Many iconic brands were started as small businesses run by Arab-Americans, among them Haggar, Philz Coffee, Kinko’s, BioSilk hair products, and Joy Ice Cream Cones, to name but a few.

The development of television transmission and liquid-crystal display screens was spearheaded by Lebanese-American Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbagh for General Electric.

Other Arab Americans who have dramatically improved global lifestyle include pop-top tab designer Nick Khoury; coronary bypass surgery pioneer Dr. Michael DeBakey; TV technology developer Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbagh; and iPod and iPhone design leader Tony Fadell. (Getty Images/ Supplied)

In medicine, surgical techniques in heart surgery were pioneered by Dr. Michael DeBakey, the son of Lebanese immigrants, who developed coronary bypass surgery in 1963 that has saved millions of lives.

The popular waffle ice cream cone is claimed by no fewer than four Arab-Americans — Ernest Hamwi, Nick Kabbaz, Abe Doumar and Leon B. Holwey.

Working at Apple Computers under Steve Jobs, himself an Arab-American orphan adopted as a baby, fellow Arab-American Tony Fadell oversaw the 2001 design of the iPod and the iPhone.

And Nick Khoury, a Palestinian-American born in Jifna, led the team at the Continental Can Company in the 1950s that designed and developed the pop top tab that allowed Americans to shift from glass bottled drinks to easy-open aluminum cans.

At a time when conflict is raging in the Middle East, stoking fear, anger and mistrust among communities across the globe, it is easy to forget the many positive contributions made by those who trace their origins to the region.

By acknowledging the many ways in which Arab-Americans like Rajie Suleiman have bettered public life, perhaps a recognition of common humanity will prevail, offering a potential way-finder to peace.
 

 


Ukrainian drones strike town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Russia-installed official says

Ukrainian drones strike town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Russia-installed official says
Updated 22 June 2024
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Ukrainian drones strike town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Russia-installed official says

Ukrainian drones strike town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Russia-installed official says
  • Two drones exploded on Saturday in a residential area and a resident was hurt
  • An official at the occupied Zaporizhzhia station had initially reported that it was unaffected by those military actions

MOSCOW: A Russian-installed official said on Saturday that Ukrainian attack drones again struck Enerhodar, a town near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, after drones earlier in the week hit two of the town’s electric substations.
Eduard Senovoz, the top official in Enerhodar, said on Telegram that two drones exploded on Saturday in a residential area and a resident was hurt. Another drone was downed.
In attacks on Wednesday and Friday on Enerhodar, a few km (miles) from the nuclear plant, he previously said one of Enerhodar’s substations was destroyed, while the other was damaged. Power was cut to most residents.
An official at the occupied Zaporizhzhia station, Europe’s largest nuclear plant with six reactors, had initially reported that it was unaffected by those military actions.
But the Russian management of the station said on Telegram on Saturday, before the latest drone strikes, that some “infrastructure facilities” including the transport department and print shop experienced disruptions following the attacks earlier in the week.
Nuclear safety measures remained fully operational, it said.
Ukrainian officials have made no comment on the incidents and Reuters could not independently confirm the reports.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the attacks exposed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s disregard for nuclear safety.
“In view of the Zelensky regime’s total inability to negotiate anything, our country will take all necessary measures to deny the Kyiv regime all means of carrying out such strikes,” Zakharova said on the ministry’s website.
Russian troops seized the Zaporizhzhia plant in the early days of the February 2022 invasion, and Moscow and Kyiv have since routinely accused each other of endangering safety around it. It produces no electricity at the moment.
Russian news agencies quoted Yevgeny Yashin, director of communications at the Zaporizhzhia station, as saying the damaged substation in Enerhodar could be repaired.
Russia launched mass attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure in the first winter of the conflict and resumed a long series of attacks in March.
Kyiv says the renewed attacks have knocked out half of Ukraine’s energy-generating capacity and forced blackouts.
Russian missiles and drones damaged energy facilities in southeastern and western Ukraine on Saturday, wounding at least two energy workers and forcing record electricity imports, officials said.
Ukraine has stepped up its use of drones this year to attack Russian oil facilities.