Bangladesh eyes halal exports boost to Gulf countries with new policy 

Special Bangladesh eyes halal exports boost to Gulf countries with new policy 
Shopkeepers wait for customers at a wholesale market in Dhaka, Bangladesh, June 13, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 05 December 2023
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Bangladesh eyes halal exports boost to Gulf countries with new policy 

Bangladesh eyes halal exports boost to Gulf countries with new policy 
  • Government launched inaugural policy on halal certification in November  
  • New policy serves as formal guideline for companies to align with international halal standards  

DHAKA: Bangladesh is working on tapping into the global halal market and increasing exports to Gulf countries, the Bangladesh Islamic Foundation said on Tuesday following the government’s inaugural policy on halal certification.  

Bangladesh’s Ministry of Religious Affairs approved last month a halal certification policy, which serves as a formal guideline and incentive for companies to align with international halal standards, paving the way for the South Asian nation to harness the potential of the global halal market, which is worth over $2 trillion.  

“This halal certification is very important for us since we are a Muslim country and 92 percent of our consumers are Muslim … Now, we will be able to explore the export potential of our halal goods,” Abu Saleh Patwary, deputy director of the halal certification department at the Bangladesh Islamic Foundation, told Arab News on Tuesday.  

The BIF is a body under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which has worked on halal certification matters since 2007 and is now in charge of issuing halal certificates in Bangladesh.  

“Saudi Arabia and the UAE can be the major destination for our halal goods … We will be aiming to increase exports to Muslim countries, especially in the Gulf region,” he said.  

“If we can grab 2 to 3 percent of global halal markets, it will boost our economy a lot … Now, a new horizon of halal goods has opened up for our local entrepreneurs.” 

The policy comes at a time when Bangladeshi businesses are also exploring new opportunities with Gulf nations, such as Saudi Arabia, which a delegation comprising the country’s top business leaders visited earlier in October.  

Jahangir Alam, director at the Dhaka School of Economics, said halal certification was imperative to enter the Middle Eastern market.  

“Most Muslim countries want halal certification to import consumer goods. It’s particularly hard to sell goods in Middle Eastern countries without halal certification. For this reason, we need the halal certification very much,” Alam told Arab News, adding that it will help boost the presence of Bangladeshi products internationally.  

The process to obtain those certifications should be “easy and hassle-free,” Alam added, to ensure that Bangladeshis can reap the benefits of such a policy.  

“The introduction of halal certification will boost sales of goods both locally and globally. Eventually, it will increase the earnings of our foreign currency. It’s a great initiative.”  


Anti-Muslim hate speech soars in India, research group says

Anti-Muslim hate speech soars in India, research group says
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Anti-Muslim hate speech soars in India, research group says

Anti-Muslim hate speech soars in India, research group says
  • Research group ‘India Hate Lab’ documents 668 hate speech incidents targeting Muslims in 2023
  • Rights groups have alleged mistreatment of Muslims under Modi, India’s prime minister since 2014

Anti-Muslim hate speech in India rose by 62 percent in the second half of 2023 compared to the first six months of the year, a Washington-based research group said on Monday, adding the Israel-Gaza war played a key role in the last three months.

India Hate Lab documented 668 hate speech incidents targeting Muslims in 2023, 255 of which occurred in the first half of the year while 413 took place in the last six months of 2023, the research group said in a report released Monday.

About 75 percent, or 498, of those incidents took place in states governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the report. The states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh accounted for the most hate speech.

Between Oct. 7 — when Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel, sparking the conflict in the Gaza Strip as Israel retaliated — and Dec. 31, there were 41 incidents of hate speech against Indian Muslims that mentioned the war, the report added. It accounted for about 20 percent of hate speech in the last three months of 2023.

The research group said it used the United Nations’ definition of hate speech — prejudiced or discriminatory language toward an individual or group based on attributes including religion, ethnicity, nationality, race or gender.

Rights groups have alleged mistreatment of Muslims under Modi, who became prime minister in 2014 and is widely expected to retain power after the 2024 elections.

They point to a 2019 citizenship law that the UN human rights office called “fundamentally discriminatory;” an anti-conversion legislation that challenges the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief; and the 2019 revoking of Muslim majority Kashmir’s special status.

There has also been demolition of Muslim properties in the name of removing illegal construction and a ban on wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka when the BJP was in power in that state.

Modi’s government denies the presence of minority abuse and says its policies aim to benefit all Indians. The Indian embassy in Washington and India’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

India Hate Lab said it tracked online activity of Hindu nationalist groups, verified videos of hate speech posted on social media and compiled data of isolated incidents reported by Indian media.


Off to Michigan, Nikki Haley is staying in the race despite Trump’s easy primary win in South Carolina

Off to Michigan, Nikki Haley is staying in the race despite Trump’s easy primary win in South Carolina
Updated 26 February 2024
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Off to Michigan, Nikki Haley is staying in the race despite Trump’s easy primary win in South Carolina

Off to Michigan, Nikki Haley is staying in the race despite Trump’s easy primary win in South Carolina
  • Haley insists she is sticking around even with the growing pressure to abandon her candidacy and let Trump focus on Democratic President Joe Biden
  • With his win Saturday in the first-in-the South contest, Trump has now swept every primary or caucus on the GOP early-season calendar that awards delegates

TROY, Michigan: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley says it’s not “the end of our story” despite Donald Trump’s easy primary victory in South Carolina, her home state where the onetime governor had long suggested her competitiveness with the former president would show.
Defying calls from South Carolina Republicans to exit the race, Haley traveled Sunday to Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday. In the less than 24 hours following her Saturday night loss to Trump, Haley’s campaign said that she had raised $1 million “from grassroots supporters alone,” a bump they argued “demonstrates Haley’s staying power and her appeal to broad swaths of the American public.”
But with Sunday also came the end of support for Haley’s campaign from Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the powerful Koch network.
In a memo first reported by Politico and obtained by The Associated Press, AFP Action senior adviser Emily Seidel wrote that, while the group “stands firm behind our endorsement” of Haley, it would “focus our resources where we can make the difference,” redirecting spending toward US Senate and House campaigns and away from Haley’s presidential bid.
“Given the challenges in the primary states ahead, we don’t believe any outside group can make a material difference to widen her path to victory,” Seidel wrote.
AFP Action had endorsed Haley’s campaign in November, promising to commit its nationwide coalition of activists — and virtually unlimited funds — to helping her defeat Trump, with door knockers fanning out across early-voting states and sending out dozens of mailers on her behalf.
With his win Saturday in the first-in-the South contest, Trump has now swept every primary or caucus on the GOP early-season calendar that awards delegates. His performances have left little maneuvering room for Haley, his former UN ambassador.
“I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now,” Trump said in a victory night celebration in Columbia.
Haley insists she is sticking around even with the growing pressure to abandon her candidacy and let Trump focus entirely on Democratic President Joe Biden, in a 2020 rematch.
In addition to the rally in vote-rich Oakland County, Michigan, northwest of Detroit on Sunday evening, she scheduled a Monday event in Grand Rapids, a western Michigan Republican hub. Ahead of the first event on Sunday evening, dozens of supporters filed into a Troy hotel ballroom, festooned with campaign signs and featuring a guitar-playing duo to entertain the crowd, rather than Haley’s typical classic rock rally playlist.
“I’m grateful that today is not the end of our story,” Haley told supporters Saturday. “We’ll keep fighting for America and we won’t rest until America wins.”
Asa Hutchinson, a Trump critic and former Arkansas governor who dropped out of the GOP presidential race after Iowa’s leadoff caucuses in January, said he thought Haley should stay in. “The challenge is that she did everything she could in South Carolina,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Haley has pledged to keep going through at least the batch of primaries on March 5, known as Super Tuesday. “But it’s got to accelerate because you run into the delegate wall. And the delegate wall is March 5,” Hutchinson said. “So she’s got to prove herself.”
South Carolina’s most prominent Republicans stood with Trump, including US Rep. Nancy Mace, who endorsed him this past week.
To US Rep. Russell Fry, “this has always been a primary in name only” and that Trump was never in jeopardy of losing to Haley. Fry said Trump would be the GOP nominee and the latest election results were “just further validation of that.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Trump ally, said Trump was on “a pathway” to being able to clinch the nomination by mid-March. “I would say the wind is strongly” at his back, Abbott told CNN.
Not all voters in South Carolina want Haley to end her campaign.
Irene Sulkowski of Daniel Island said she hoped Haley would soldier on, suggesting the former governor would be a more appealing general election candidate than Trump despite his popularity among the GOP base that powers the primary season.
“They’re not thinking, ‘Who do you want to represent us in the general election?’” said Sulkowski, an accountant. “And they need to have a longer-term view.”
 


Overworked and unheard, South Korean doctors on mass walkout say

Overworked and unheard, South Korean doctors on mass walkout say
Updated 26 February 2024
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Overworked and unheard, South Korean doctors on mass walkout say

Overworked and unheard, South Korean doctors on mass walkout say
  • The young doctors say their pay and working conditions should be the priority, rather than the government’s plan to boost the number of physicians
  • Intern and resident doctors in South Korea work 36-hour shifts, compared to shifts of less than 24 hours in the US

SEOUL: Ryu Ok Hada always wanted to help people, but now the South Korean trainee doctor has walked off the job and stands outside the hospital where he worked, holding his medical gown in his hand.
Park Dan, who recently realized his childhood dream of being an emergency physician, is also one of over 7,800 interns and residents who have resigned in a confrontation with the government, which threatens to arrest them.
Ryu and Park say the junior doctors, a crucial cog in South Korea’s highly regarded medical system, are overworked, underpaid and unheard.
Hospitals have turned away patients and canceled surgeries after about two-thirds of the country’s young doctors walked off the job this month in protest.
The young doctors say their pay and working conditions should be the priority, rather than the government’s plan to boost the number of physicians. The authorities say more staff are needed to increase health care services in remote areas and meet the growing demands of one of the world’s most rapidly aging societies.
“The current medical system in South Korea, which is a great one, is run by making cheap trainee doctors keep grinding,” Ryu, 25, told Reuters.
Senior doctors and private practitioners have not walked out but have held rallies urging the government to scrap its plan, with 400 gathering in Seoul on Sunday.
But the government’s plan to boost medical school admissions is popular, with about 76 percent of respondents in favor, regardless of political affiliation, a recent Gallup Korea poll found.

Torn between policy, patients
Intern and resident doctors in South Korea work 36-hour shifts, compared to shifts of less than 24 hours in the US, according to the Korean Intern Resident Association. It says half the young US physicians work 60 hours a week or less, while Korean doctors often work more than 100 hours.
Ryu said he worked more than 100 hours a week at one of the country’s most prestigious university hospitals, for 2 million won to 4 million won ($1,500-$3,000) a month including overtime pay. A first-year US resident averages about $5,000 a month, according to American Medical Association data.
Hospitals have not processed the resignations of the protesting doctors, who say they are not on strike. The government has ordered them back to work, threatening to arrest them or revoke their licenses, saying their collective action cannot be justified and people’s lives must come first.
Park and other doctors say the order is unconstitutional, forcing them to work against their will.
The doctors on walkout represent just a fraction of South Korea’s 100,000 doctors, but they can make up more than 40 percent of staff at large teaching hospitals, performing crucial tasks in emergency rooms, intensive care units and operating rooms.
Emergency rooms at South Korea’s five biggest hospitals were on “red alert” on Sunday, meaning they were running out of beds. Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said on Friday that public hospitals would stay open longer and on weekends and holidays to meet demand.
Park, 33, who heads the Korean Intern Resident Association, wants the authorities to bring doctors into essential disciplines such as pediatrics and emergency departments at large hospitals.
Doctors want better legal protection from malpractice suits and changes to a system where many hospitals rely on a low-paid workforce and off-insurance services to stay afloat in a country often praised for providing universal quality medical coverage affordably, Park said.
He said he was torn between his patients and a government enforcing policy without listening to the doctors, but that he had little choice.
“With pride to save patients, I came this far. As many doctors say, it was heartbreaking and difficult to leave patients behind,” Park said. “But the current system is distorted, so we need better than that.”
 


Biden is summoning congressional leaders to the White House to talk Ukraine and government funding

Biden is summoning congressional leaders to the White House to talk Ukraine and government funding
Updated 26 February 2024
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Biden is summoning congressional leaders to the White House to talk Ukraine and government funding

Biden is summoning congressional leaders to the White House to talk Ukraine and government funding
  • The Republican-led House is under pressure to pass the $95 billion national security package that bolsters aid for Ukraine, Israel as well as the Indo-Pacific
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan stressed that Ukrainians need weapons and ammunition to fend off Russian attacks

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden will convene the top four congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday to press lawmakers on passing an emergency aid package for Ukraine and Israel, as well as averting a looming government shutdown next month, according to a White House official.
The top four leaders include House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
During the meeting, the president will discuss the “urgency” of passing the aid package, which has bipartisan support, as well as legislation to keep the federal government operating through the end of September, said the White House official, who was granted anonymity to discuss a meeting not yet publicly confirmed.
The Republican-led House is under pressure to pass the $95 billion national security package that bolsters aid for Ukraine, Israel as well as the Indo-Pacific. That legislation cleared the Senate on a 70-29 vote earlier this month, but Johnson has been resistant to putting up the aid bill for a vote in the House.
“This is one of those instances where one person can bend the course of history. Speaker Johnson, if he put this bill on the floor, would produce a strong, bipartisan majority vote in favor of the aid to Ukraine,” Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Sullivan stressed that Ukrainians need weapons and ammunition to fend off Russian forces, and that in his conversations with the speaker, he “has indicated that he would like to get the funding for Ukraine.”
Separate from the national security package, the first tranche of government funding is due to expire Friday. The rest of the federal government, including agencies such as the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, expires on March 8.
In a letter to his colleagues sent Sunday, Schumer said there was not yet an agreement to avoid a partial shutdown of the agencies whose funding expires this week. That includes the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs.
“While we had hoped to have legislation ready this weekend that would give ample time for members to review the text, it is clear now that House Republicans need more time to sort themselves out,” Schumer wrote in the letter. The Senate majority leader called on Johnson to “step up to once again buck the extremists in his caucus and do the right thing” by greenlighting funding to keep the government open.


Belarusians vote in a tightly controlled election as the opposition calls for its boycott

Belarusians vote in a tightly controlled election as the opposition calls for its boycott
Updated 26 February 2024
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Belarusians vote in a tightly controlled election as the opposition calls for its boycott

Belarusians vote in a tightly controlled election as the opposition calls for its boycott
  • Sunday’s balloting is the first in Belarus since the contentious 2020 vote that handed Lukashenko his sixth term in office
  • Belarus' opposition has called for a boycott of the election, which took place amid a relentless crackdown on dissent

TALLINN, Estonia: Sunday’s tightly controlled parliamentary and local elections in Belarus are set to cement the hard-line rule of the country’s authoritarian leader, despite a prominent opposition leader’s call for a boycott.

President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron hand for nearly three decades and on Sunday announced that he will run for the presidency again next year. He accuses the West of trying to use the vote to undermine his government and “destabilize” the nation of 9.5 million people.

Most candidates belong to the four officially registered parties: Belaya Rus, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Party of Labor and Justice. Those parties all support Lukashenko’s policies. About a dozen other parties were denied registration last year.
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is in exile in neighboring Lithuania after challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election, urged voters to boycott the elections.
“There are no people on the ballot who would offer real changes because the regime only has allowed puppets convenient for it to take part,” Tsikhanouskaya said in a video statement. “We are calling to boycott this senseless farce, to ignore this election without choice.” Tikhanovskaya’s video address was broadcast in public places throughout Belarus on Saturday after opposition activists were able to gain access to some 2,000 screens used for advertising. Viasna Human Rights Center reported Sunday that a number of employees at the company that owned the screens have been arrested in Minsk.
Sunday’s balloting is the first in Belarus since the contentious 2020 vote that handed Lukashenko his sixth term in office and triggered an unprecedented wave of mass demonstrations.
Protests swept the country for months, bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets. More than 35,000 people were arrested. Thousands were beaten in police custody, and hundreds of independent media outlets and nongovernmental organizations were shut down and outlawed.
Lukashenko has relied on subsidies and political support from his main ally, Russia, to survive the protests. He allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022.
The election takes place amid a relentless crackdown on dissent. Over 1,400 political prisoners remain behind bars, including leaders of opposition parties and renowned human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.
The opposition says the early balloting that began Tuesday offers fertile ground for the vote to be manipulated, with ballot boxes unprotected for five days.
Election officials said Sunday that over 40 percent of the voters had cast ballots during early voting from Tuesday to Saturday. As of 9 p.m. local time, turnout was 72.98 percent, meeting the 50 percent threshold needed under Belarusian law in order for the vote to stand, according to the Belarusian Central Election Commission. Turnout in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, was notably lower than in other Belarusian regions, only reaching 61.54 percent. By comparison, the area with the next lowest turnout, the wider Minsk region, recorded 74.20 percent.
The Viasna Human Rights Center said students, soldiers, teachers and other civil servants were forced to participate in early voting.
“Authorities are using all available means to ensure the result they need — from airing TV propaganda to forcing voters to cast ballots early,” said Viasna representative Pavel Sapelka. “Detentions, arrests and searches are taking place during the vote.”
Speaking during Tuesday’s meeting with top Belarusian law enforcement officials, Lukashenko alleged without offering evidence that Western countries were pondering plans to stage a coup in the country or to try to seize power by force. He ordered police to beef up armed patrols across Belarus, declaring that “it’s the most important element of ensuring law and order.”
After the vote, Belarus is set to form a new state body — the 1,200-seat All-Belarus Popular Assembly that will include top officials, local legislators, union members, pro-government activists and others. It will have broad powers, including the authority to consider constitutional amendments and to appoint election officials and judges.
Lukashenko was believed a few years ago to be considering whether to lead the new body after stepping down, but his calculus has apparently changed, and he announced on Sunday that he will run in next year’s presidential election.
“Tell (the opposition) that I will run. And the more difficult the situation, the more actively they will disturb our society ... the more strain they put on you, myself and society, the sooner I will run in these elections,” the strongman leader told reporters as he cast his ballot in the Belarusian capital, according to state media.
For the first time, curtains were removed from voting booths at polling stations, and voters were banned from taking pictures of their ballots. During the 2020 election, activists encouraged voters to photograph their ballots in a bid to prevent authorities from manipulating the vote in Lukashenko’s favor.
Belarusian state TV aired footage of Interior Ministry drills in which police detained a purported offender who was photographing his ballot and others who created an artificial queue outside a polling station.
Belarus for the first time also refused to invite observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the election. Belarus is a member of the OSCE, a top trans-Atlantic security and rights group, and its monitors have been the only international observers at Belarusian elections for decades.
Since 1995, not a single election in Belarus has been recognized as free and fair by the OSCE.
The OSCE said the decision not to allow the agency’s monitors deprived the country of a “comprehensive assessment by an international body.”
“The human rights situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate as those who voice dissent or stand up for the human rights of others are subject to investigation, persecution and frequently prosecution,” it said in a statement.
Observers noted that authorities have not even tried to pretend that the vote is democratic.
The election offers the government an opportunity to run a “systems test after massive protests and a serious shock of the last presidential election and see whether it works,” said Artyom Shraibman, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. “The parliament will be sterile after the opposition and all alternative voices were barred from campaigning. It’s important for authorities to erase any memory of the protests.” In a statement, a US State Department official described the elections as a “sham.”
“The United States condemns the Lukashenko regime’s sham parliamentary and local elections that concluded today in Belarus. The elections were held in a climate of fear under which no electoral processes could be called democratic,” said spokesman Matthew Miller.
“The United States again calls on the Lukashenko regime to end its crackdown, release all political prisoners, and open dialogue with its political opponents. The Belarusian people deserve better.”