More than 150 countries celebrate 12th annual World Hijab Day

More than 150 countries celebrate 12th annual World Hijab Day
American Muslims join Rep. Iman Jodeh, the majority whip in the Colorado House of Representatives, in celebrating World Hijab Day on Feb. 1, 2024. (X: @ImanforColorado)
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Updated 02 February 2024
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More than 150 countries celebrate 12th annual World Hijab Day

More than 150 countries celebrate 12th annual World Hijab Day
  • The headline event was the organization’s online conference, which featured speakers from 12 countries who presented their diverse perspectives on the issue
  • World Hijab Day was founded in New York by Bangladeshi American Nazma Khan in 2013 in recognition of the millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the head covering

LONDON: People in more than 150 countries celebrated World Hijab Day on Thursday with events designed to counter hijabophobia through raised awareness and improved education about the traditional Muslim head covering.

The headline event hosted by the World Hijab Day organization, which is based in New York, was its annual online conference, which featured speakers from 12 countries — Egypt, the US, the UK, Syria, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Canada and Mexico — who presented their diverse perspectives on the issue.

“This year, we’ve collaborated with impactful partners like the New York Police Department to raise awareness about the significance of the hijab,” organizers told Arab News.

“The topics vary, reflecting the evolving discussions aligned with the changing world. Additionally, we’re enhancing transparency by teaming up with Launchgood (a crowdfunding platform with a particular focus on the global Muslim community) to raise funds, ensuring organizational growth for more impactful initiatives and events compared to previous years.

“This year’s edition of World Hijab Day aims to empower and inspire individuals through the theme #VeiledInStrength. By fostering a sense of resilience and confidence, we aim to challenge stereotypes and promote a deeper understanding of the strength inherent in those who choose to wear the hijab.”

World Hijab Day, which is celebrated on Feb. 1 each year, was founded in New York by Bangladeshi American Nazma Khan in 2013 with the aim of recognizing the millions of Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab and live a life of modesty.

The organization said common myths and ill-informed attitudes about the hijab include “misconceptions about Muslim women’s agency, intelligence or perceived oppression.”

It added: “Challenges arise in various spheres, such as the workplace or educational institutions, where bias may impact opportunities.

“This year, a noticeable trend is the increased interest from workplaces, particularly in Europe, in celebrating World Hijab Day, (and) the growing participation from this region indicates a shift toward greater inclusivity and acknowledgment of the significance of cultural diversity in professional settings.”

As perceptions and views about Muslim women have started to change in recent years and Islamic countries are increasingly opening up to the world, increased awareness and education provided by initiatives such as World Hijab Day, contribute to “dispelling stereotypes (and) fostering greater understanding,” the organization said.

“Organizations, including those advocating for Muslim women’s rights, are adapting to changing times by leveraging social media, organizing inclusive events, and collaborating with diverse communities to further raise awareness and promote a positive narrative.”

For this year’s event, World Hijab Day said it was placing a particular focus on hosting workshops on Muslim culture at educational institutions and workplaces, with the aim of addressing Islamophobia and helping to foster “an environment of safety within schools and workplaces for both Muslim students and professionals.”

The organization added: “Muslim hijabi women contribute significantly to various aspects of life, including the educational sector, political sector, medical sector, law enforcement and many other sectors.

“In many countries, efforts are made to promote their integration. For instance, in the United States, Muslim women wearing the hijab actively participate in schools, politics, sports and other workplaces, breaking barriers and fostering inclusivity.

“Similarly, countries like the United Kingdom and Canada … showcase examples of successful integration, emphasizing the importance of diversity and understanding in creating inclusive environments.”

One example the organization gave of this was when, in 2018, politician Salma Zahid became the first MP to wear a hijab in the Canadian parliament. On Thursday, she said she was proud to have broken new ground in this way.

“It was a personal choice I made following a health crisis that brought me closer to my faith, and I will always stand with women and girls who make their own choice, whatever that choice is,” she said.

“In a time of rising Islamophobia, I hope World Hijab Day can be a day for conversation and dialogue about the choices we make and respecting the right of women to make their own choice today.”

World Hijab Day organizers said funds raised during this year’s event will be used to develop educational materials for use during future World Hijab Day celebrations worldwide and online; boost the organization’s social media presence; host educational conferences and events in workplaces and communities to help dispel misconceptions about the hijab; and to maintain the organization’s website.

UK-based international humanitarian charity Penny Appeal was one of the organizations participating in the World Hijab Day celebrations.

“This day serves as a reminder of the personal freedom of religious expression and cultural understanding” by “inviting women from all walks of life to experience wearing the hijab for one day annually,” it said.

“On this World Hijab Day, Penny Appeal reaffirms its commitment to empowering women and promoting understanding and inclusion across cultures and religions.”

In particular, it highlighted the achievements of its own CEO, Ridwana Wallace-Laher, “who is one of the first Muslim hijabi women to lead an international humanitarian charity.”

She was appointed to the position less than a year ago and “has since become a beacon of empowerment and inspiration for Muslim women around the world,” the charity added.

“Many people think the hijab is oppressive to women but I am proof that it is an empowering piece of clothing that demands respect and admiration. It is a sign of strength and identity,” Wallace-Laher said.

It is important to challenge the stereotypes and stigmas associated with the hijab, she added. She encouraged women who have never worn one to take the opportunity to try it, saying: “You don’t really understand somebody until you put yourself in their shoes.

“It might be an opportunity to try it and see how you feel, and quite often it’s actually quite liberating.”


Chinese lunar probe returns to Earth with world’s first samples from far side of moon

Chinese lunar probe returns to Earth with world’s first samples from far side of moon
Updated 25 June 2024
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Chinese lunar probe returns to Earth with world’s first samples from far side of moon

Chinese lunar probe returns to Earth with world’s first samples from far side of moon
  • Chinese scientists anticipate returned samples will include 2.5-million-year-old volcanic rock, other material
  • Moon program is part of growing rivalry with US, still leader in space exploration, and others including Japan, India

BEIJING: China’s Chang’e 6 probe returned on Earth on Tuesday with rock and soil samples from the little-explored far side of the moon in a global first.

The probe landed in northern China on Tuesday afternoon in the Inner Mongolian region.

“I now declare that the Chang’e 6 Lunar Exploration Mission achieved complete success,” Zhang Kejian, Director of the China National Space Administration said shortly in a televised news conference after the landing.

Chinese scientists anticipate the returned samples will include 2.5 million-year-old volcanic rock and other material that scientists hope will answer questions about geographic differences on the moon’s two sides.

The near side is what is seen from Earth, and the far side faces outer space. The far side is also known to have mountains and impact craters, contrasting with the relatively flat expanses visible on the near side.

While past US and Soviet missions have collected samples from the moon’s near side, the Chinese mission was the first that has collected samples from the far side.

The moon program is part of a growing rivalry with the US — still the leader in space exploration — and others, including Japan and India. China has put its own space station in orbit and regularly sends crews there.

China’s leader Xi Jinping sent a message of congratulations to the Chang’e team, saying that it was a “landmark achievement in our country’s efforts at becoming a space and technological power.”

The probe left earth on May 3, and its journey lasted 53 days. The probe has drilled into the core and scooped rocks from the surface.

The samples “are expected to answer one of the most fundamental scientific questions in lunar science research: what geologic activity is responsible for the differences between the two sides?” said Zongyu Yue, a geologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a statement issued in the Innovation Monday, a journal published in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

China in recent years has launched multiple successful missions to the moon, collecting samples from the moon’s near side with the Chang’e 5 probe previously.

They are also hoping that the probe will return with material that bear traces of meteorite strikes from the moon’s past. With the successful reentry of the probe, scientists will begin studying the samples.


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stops in Bangkok on his way to a US court and later freedom

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stops in Bangkok on his way to a US court and later freedom
Updated 25 June 2024
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stops in Bangkok on his way to a US court and later freedom

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stops in Bangkok on his way to a US court and later freedom

BANGKOK: A plane believed to be carrying Julian Assange landed Tuesday in Bangkok, as the WikiLeak founder was on his way to enter a plea deal with the US government that will free him and resolve the legal case that spanned years and continents over the publication of a trove of classified documents.
Chartered flight VJT199 landed after noon at Don Mueang International Airport, north of the Thai capital. It was unclear if the plane was only refueling or how Assange will continue traveling to Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Western Pacific, where he will appear in court Wednesday morning local time.
He’s expected to plead guilty to an Espionage Act charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information, according to the US Justice Department in a letter filed in court.
Assange is expected to return to his home country of Australia after his plea and sentencing. The hearing is taking place in Saipan because of Assange’s opposition to traveling to the continental US and the court’s proximity to Australia, prosecutors said.
The guilty plea, which must be approved by a judge, brings an abrupt conclusion to a criminal case of international intrigue and to the US government’s years-long pursuit of a publisher whose hugely popular secret-sharing website made him a cause célèbre among many press freedom advocates who said he acted as a journalist to expose US military wrongdoing. Investigators, by contrast, have repeatedly asserted that his actions broke laws meant to protect sensitive information and put the country’s national security at risk.
Attorneys for Assange haven’t responded to requests for comment.
In a statement posted on X, WikiLeaks said Assange boarded a plane and departed Monday after leaving the British prison where he has spent the last five years. WikiLeaks applauded the announcement of the deal, saying it was grateful for “all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom.”
“WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions. As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know,” WikiLeaks said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has been lobbying for the United States to end its prosecution of Assange, told Parliament that an Australian envoy had flown with Assange from London.
“Regardless of the views that people have about Mr. Assange’s activities, the case has dragged on for too long. There’s nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration and we want him brought home to Australia,” Albanese added.
The deal ensures Assange will admit guilt while also sparing him from additional prison time. He had spent years hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after Swedish authorities sought his arrest on rape allegations before being locked up in the United Kingdom.
Assange is expected to be sentenced to the five years he has already spent in the British prison while fighting extradition to the US to face charges, a process that has played out in a series of hearings in London. Last month, he won the right to appeal an extradition order after his lawyers argued that the US government provided “blatantly inadequate” assurances that he would have the same free speech protections as an American citizen if extradited from Britain.
Assange has been heralded by many around the world as a hero who brought to light military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the files published by WikiLeaks was a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.
But his reputation was also tarnished by rape allegations, which he has denied.
The Justice Department’s indictment unsealed in 2019 accused Assange of encouraging and helping US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published in 2010. Prosecutors had accused Assange of damaging national security by publishing documents that harmed the US and its allies and aided its adversaries.
Prosecutors said in a charging document filed in connection with the plea agreement that Assange conspired with Manning to receive and obtain documents, notes and other writings related to the national defense and to “willfully communicate” those records. The document takes care to note that Assange was “not a United States citizen, did not possess a US security clearance, and did not have authorization to possess, access, or control documents, writings, or notes relating to the national defense of the United States, including classified information.”
The case was lambasted by press advocates and Assange supporters. Federal prosecutors defended it as targeting conduct that went way beyond that of a journalist gathering information, amounting to an attempt to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified government documents.
The plea agreement comes months after President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the US push to prosecute Assange. The White House was not involved in the decision to resolve Assange’s case, according to a White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Assange made headlines in 2016 after his website published Democratic emails that prosecutors say were stolen by Russian intelligence operatives. He was never charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but the inquiry laid bare in stark detail the role that the hacking operation played in interfering in that year’s election on behalf of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.
During the Obama administration, Justice Department officials mulled charges for Assange but were unsure a case would hold up in court and were concerned it could be hard to justify prosecuting him for acts similar to those of a conventional journalist.
The posture changed in the Trump administration, however, with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 calling Assange’s arrest a priority.
Assange’s family and supporters have said his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 and was granted political asylum after courts in England ruled he should be extradited to Sweden as part of a rape investigation in the Scandinavian country. He was arrested by British police after Ecuador’s government withdrew his asylum status in 2019 and then jailed for skipping bail when he first took shelter inside the embassy.
Although Sweden eventually dropped its sex crimes investigation because so much time had elapsed, Assange had remained in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison during the extradition battle with the US


Ukraine drone attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region kill one, injure four, governor says

Ukraine drone attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region kill one, injure four, governor says
Updated 25 June 2024
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Ukraine drone attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region kill one, injure four, governor says

Ukraine drone attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region kill one, injure four, governor says
  • At least six of the drones were destroyed over the Yakovlevsky district in the Belgorod region
  • An elderly woman died in a village near the Belgorod city

An elderly woman was killed, four people injured and scores of buildings damaged in multiple air attacks by Ukraine on the Belgorod region, the governor of the southern Russian region that borders Ukraine said on Tuesday.
The Russian defense ministry said that its air defense systems destroyed a total of 29 Ukraine-launched drones over the region’s territory.
An elderly woman died in a village near the Belgorod city, which is the administrative center of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the region said on the Telegram messaging app.
At least six of the drones were destroyed over the Yakovlevsky district in the Belgorod region, Glakdov said. Two people were injured there with shrapnel wounds, he added.
Another person was injured after a drone was downed over the city of Belgorod, and another woman was injured in one of the region’s villages, Gladkov said.
He said that scores of buildings and cars across the region were damaged.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine. Both sides deny targeting civilians in the war, which Russia started with a full-scale invasion on its smaller neighbor in 2022.
Ukraine says that its attacks on Russia’s military, transport and energy infrastructure undermine Moscow’s overall war efforts and are in response to Russia’s relentless attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure.


‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain — WikiLeaks

‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain — WikiLeaks
Updated 25 June 2024
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‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain — WikiLeaks

‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain — WikiLeaks
  • Assange, accused of divulging US military secrets, was due in London court next month after winning appeal against extradition
  • Was initially detained for skipping bail and held in custody while the US extradition request wound its way through court

LONDON: Julian Assange’s wife Stella on Tuesday thanked campaigners for their support as the WikiLeaks founder was released after five years in British custody.
“Julian is free!!!!” she wrote on the social media platform X following confirmation that he had left Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London.
“Words cannot express our immense gratitude” to everyone who had backed the global push for his release, she added.
Stella Assange met the Australian publisher while he was holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges that were later dropped.

A filing from the U.S. Department of Justice to the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands describes a plea deal regarding Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in this image obtained by Reuters on June 24, 2024. (REUTERS)

Assange, accused of divulging US military secrets related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had been due back in court in London next month after winning an appeal against extradition.
But WikiLeaks said in a statement: “Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after having spent 1,901 days there.
“He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”
The media freedom group said sustained campaigning, from grassroots supporters to political leaders and the United Nations, “created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice,” leading to a deal.
The organization said the deal “has not yet been formally finalized.”
Assange was initially detained for skipping bail in relation to the Swedish case and held in custody while the US extradition request wound its way through court.
He will now be reunited with his wife, whom he married at a ceremony in the prison, and their two young children, it added.
“WikiLeaks published ground-breaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions,” the statement read.
“As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know.
“As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom. Julian’s freedom is our freedom.”


‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks

‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks
Updated 25 June 2024
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‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks

‘Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks
  • The plea agreement comes months after President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the US push to prosecute Assange

LONDON: Julian Assange’s wife Stella on Tuesday thanked campaigners for their support as the WikiLeaks founder was released after five years in British custody.
“Julian is free!!!!” she wrote on the social media platform X following confirmation that he had left Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London.
“Words cannot express our immense gratitude” to everyone who had backed the global push for his release, she added.
Stella Assange met the Australian publisher while he was holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges that were later dropped.

A filing from the U.S. Department of Justice to the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands describes a plea deal regarding Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in this image obtained by Reuters on June 24, 2024. (REUTERS)

Assange, accused of divulging US military secrets related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had been due back in court in London next month after winning an appeal against extradition.
But WikiLeaks said in a statement: “Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after having spent 1,901 days there.
“He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”
The media freedom group said sustained campaigning, from grassroots supporters to political leaders and the United Nations, “created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice,” leading to a deal.
The organization said the deal “has not yet been formally finalized.”
Assange was initially detained for skipping bail in relation to the Swedish case and held in custody while the US extradition request wound its way through court.
He will now be reunited with his wife, whom he married at a ceremony in the prison, and their two young children, it added.
“WikiLeaks published ground-breaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions,” the statement read.
“As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know.
“As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom. Julian’s freedom is our freedom.”