How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians

How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians
Filipinos try Palestinian food at Halal Bazar in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on April 10, 2024. (Quezon City Government)
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Updated 13 April 2024
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How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians

How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians
  • Iftar and Eid initiatives with Palestinian evacuees from Gaza attracted hundreds of Filipino Muslims and non-Muslims
  • 170 Filipino Palestinians and their closest family members were evacuated from Gaza by the Philippine government

MANILA: For Carmelita Jalova, this year’s Ramadan was the first in decades observed away from Palestine.

After marrying a Palestinian man, Jalova moved from the Philippines to her new family’s home in Gaza and had been living there ever since — until Israel’s deadly invasion forced her to leave.

Jalova was among 170 Filipino Palestinians evacuated from Gaza by the Philippine government in November.

For most of them, Eid celebrations this week were the first time they had spent the main Muslim holiday away from extended families and friends.

“Our first Ramadan here in the Philippines after almost 30 years is so different than what it was in Palestine,” Jalova said, as she remembered the scent of authentic traditional pastry that filled her neighborhood as everyone prepared for Eid, the busy streets of Gaza as people would gather for evening prayers, and “the smiles and happy faces, full of hope that their prayers and fasting will be answered by Allah.”

Following some initial help from the Philippine government, most of the evacuees after their arrival were left to their own devices until civil society groups stepped in.

One such group was the Moro-Palestinian Cooperation Team, which has been helping them with accommodation and finding means of subsistence in the Philippines. Among the initiatives were a pop-up kitchen that introduced Filipinos to traditional Palestinian cuisine during Ramadan, and participation in a halal food bazaar in the Quezon City Memorial Circle on Eid.

For Jalova and her children, it was their first time selling home-cooked food.

“They were so amazed during the bazaar, maybe because we ran out of food in such a very short time,” she said. “It gives them the confidence to go on ... acceptance of what we are dealing (with) right now.”

The culinary initiatives drew hundreds of Filipinos curious to taste iconic dishes from Palestine and meet the refugees in person. Their presence and the support of volunteers was what made this year’s holy month unforgettable for Jalova and her family.

“So thankful that all of them became a part of our Ramadan,” she said. “(It’s) so meaningful and unforgettable.”

While many in Gaza have lost all their relatives as Israeli ground and air attacks have in the past six months killed at least 33,600 people, the evacuated Filipinos and their closest Palestinian family members were grateful they were together and alive.

Mariam Lacson, whose family lives in Little Gaza, sees this Ramadan as a blessing as those in the community can still spend time with their loved ones.

“Maybe Allah has a better plan for us, that’s why we are here in the Philippines,” said Lacson, whose closest Palestinian family found refuge in her native country.

“(We have a) place to stay, food on our table. We feel safe, especially since we have brothers and sisters around us, who are tirelessly there for us.”

One of the people she had in mind was Kamilah Dimaporo Manala-o, the co-founder of the Moro-Palestinian Cooperation Team.

Since the arrival of Gaza evacuees, Manala-o’s family has been involved in building and supporting their community, with interactions especially frequent and close during the holy fasting month.

“We spent our Ramadan with the Filipino Palestinian refugees that came from Gaza. It has been very eventful because of them and also very rewarding,” Manala-o told Arab News.

“During the last night of Ramadan, the Palestinian fathers gave us a heartwarming speech about how thankful they are, that we have become family to them and have made it easier for them. This Ramadan has been the most meaningful one for us. And their words made everything worth it.”

Like Manala-o and her team, other Filipinos, too, have stepped up to help the refugees settle in the Philippines and ensure they enjoy meaningful Eid celebrations.

Filipino Muslim doctor Naheeda Mustofa and her husband Mustofa Mardjuki, who serves as the imam of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, hosted 37 refugees at her clinical facility’s compound at the Islamic Studies, Call and Guidance of the Philippines in Cavite.

While most of the refugees have since moved on to other places, Mustofa remains in touch with them and has employed some at her clinic.

Her family would usually travel to Indonesia to observe Eid Al-Fitr, but this time they decided to stay and host special celebrations that were accompanied by rituals for three new babies that were born to the refugees.

“We were really happy to celebrate the three babies ... we used to go home to south Sumatra to celebrate Eid with my husband’s relatives, but we put this on hold,” she said.

“We are not rich at all, but Allah is making us feel rich with the tasks we are able to take up.”


Pro-Palestinian protesters leave after Drexel University decides to have police clear encampment

Pro-Palestinian protesters leave after Drexel University decides to have police clear encampment
Updated 28 sec ago
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Pro-Palestinian protesters leave after Drexel University decides to have police clear encampment

Pro-Palestinian protesters leave after Drexel University decides to have police clear encampment
News outlets reported that police gave protesters a warning to clear the encampment and protesters left
“An unauthorized encampment that involves large numbers of people unaffiliated with Drexel trespassing on our campus is illegal,” Fry said

PHILADELPHIA: Protesters packed up their belongings and left a pro-Palestinian encampment at Drexel University on Thursday after the school announced a decision to have police clear the encampment.
University President John Fry said in a statement that he decided to have campus police and public safety officers join Philadelphia police in clearing the encampment as peacefully as possible.
News outlets reported that police gave protesters a warning to clear the encampment and protesters left. Protesters didn’t immediately comment.
Fry said the university is committed to protecting the community members’ right to assemble peacefully and express their views, but he has the responsibility and authority to regulate campus gatherings to ensure safety and fulfill the mission to educate students.
“An unauthorized encampment that involves large numbers of people unaffiliated with Drexel trespassing on our campus is illegal,” Fry said. “The language and chants coming from this demonstration, underscored by protesters’ repugnant ‘demands,’ must now come to an end.”
Protesters gathered their belongings as dozens of officers on bicycles arrived around 5:20 a.m., but in less than a half hour only a few items remained on the Korman Family Quad where the 35-tent encampment had been, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“The campers picked up their belongings for the most part and left by their own free will,” Philadelphia Police Sgt. Eric Gripp said.
The encampment had persisted despite Fry’s threat earlier this week to have the encampment cleared. Fry said Tuesday that classes would be held virtually for a third day on Wednesday after administrators tried to open a line of communication to the protesters but were rebuffed. News outlets reported that the university announced Wednesday night that the campus would return to normal operations Thursday.
In his statement early Thursday, Fry said previous requests for protesters to disperse had been ignored, but he was asking Drexel affiliates to leave the encampment so police could “escort any remaining trespassers off our campus.”
A wave of pro-Palestinian tent encampments on campuses has led to over 3,000 arrests nationwide.
On Thursday, the leaders of Northwestern University and Rutgers University are expected to testify at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing about concessions they gave to pro-Palestinian protesters to end demonstrations on their campus. The chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, also was scheduled to appear at the latest in a series of hearings looking into how colleges have responded to the protests and allegations of antisemitism.

Bangladeshi architect’s community-centric work builds resilience to climate change

Bangladeshi architect’s community-centric work builds resilience to climate change
Updated 34 min 26 sec ago
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Bangladeshi architect’s community-centric work builds resilience to climate change

Bangladeshi architect’s community-centric work builds resilience to climate change
  • Marina Tabassum is among Time’s most influential people of 2024
  • Her mosque in Dhaka received the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture

DHAKA: With structures that “breathe” and are designed in tune with Bangladesh’s history and environment, Marina Tabassum’s work focuses on the local community and resilience in the country where every year millions of people lose their homes and livelihoods to climate change.

The award-winning founder of Marina Tabassum Architects came to the international spotlight after winning the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque in Dhaka, which she designed, built and fundraised.

An architect and educator, she is also the recipient of the prestigious 2021 Soane Medal for Architecture, the 2021 Gold Medal by the French Academy of Architecture, the 2021 Arnold W. Bruner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2021, and the Lisbon Millennium Lifetime Achievement Award, which she received in 2022.

In 2024, she was featured on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list for developing a “practice and a way of being that prioritizes local cultures and values, as well as the perils faced by our shared planet.”

One of the drivers of Tabassum’s work is a sense of responsibility.

“There is enormous disparity in our human condition in Bangladesh and I feel like it’s not just my responsibility, (but) it’s for everybody to take that, their own share of the responsibility, and to do something about it,” she told Arab News at her practice in Dhaka.

“And I am of a breed who has the knowledge, has the capacity, all the different things that are required to take the responsibility to reduce these differences.”

Throughout her nearly three-decade career, she has designed some of Bangladesh’s most famous structures, which, besides the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, are the Museum of Independence in Dhaka — a project with Kashef Chowdhury — as well as housing adapted to the environment, including a modular mobile house for climate victims in the country’s south and north.

The Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, which is personally very close to Tabassum, was built on land donated by her grandmother and with a modest budget raised through community contributions.

“I was not just designing it, but also constructing it, fundraising it, so that became a very intensely involved project. I would say it is an important milestone for me and also it gave me a lot of international acclaim, which definitely helps in many ways,” she said.

The prayer hall of Marina Tabassum's Bait Ur Rouf Mosque in Dhaka. (Aga Khan Trust for Culture)

The building’s porous brick walls keep it ventilated and cool while natural light enters it through a skylight. For Tabassum, one of the most important features in her work is that it “has to be able to breathe without artificial aids,” especially in her own subtropical country.

“It’s important for us to have our buildings as open as possible so that we can have natural ventilation, air can come and pass through the buildings. That’s what I call the breathing of a building,” she said.

“That’s an absolutely crucially important phenomenon that we should integrate in our architecture.”

Another crucial factor is having her architecture rooted, as much as possible, in the local context, including by sourcing material locally and working with local craftsmen.

Working with local communities and “trying to make ourselves available to their service,” is the main focus of her projects now — inspired also by her parents and teachers.

“Till date, my father, who is 87 years of age, is still working as a doctor, giving treatment to people who cannot afford cancer therapy. I think that’s embedded in us, to some extent, to have that value of giving,” she said.

As an architect, she has been inspired by many different people — her professors at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Muzharul Islam, an architect and urban planner who is considered the grand master of modernism in South Asia.

“There’s a lot that I learned from him,” Tabassum said. “He always talked about how we have a small country and a huge population, how the entire country needs to be planned in a proper manner in terms of land use, in terms of housing, food production, and all the other things that a country requires, and every single space should be properly planned and designed — which we are still yet to do.”

In 2020, she established a new non-profit branch of her practice — the Foundation for Architecture Community Equity — dedicated to providing a home and humane living environment to Bangladesh’s low-income, landless, or climate-affected communities.

One of its flagship initiatives is Khudi Bari, which translates to “little house” in Bengali. Under the project, over 50 such bamboo-frame houses have already been built for the coastal communities where seawater regularly claims the land, and for flood-prone communities in the north, where swelling rivers cause catastrophic flooding during the monsoon season.

Marina Tabassum, center, and her colleagues from the Foundation for Architecture and Community Equity stand next to the frame of a house for low-income Bangladeshi communities affected by climate change. (FACE)

The cheap and light houses are made from materials that are widely available in the regions and are designed to be easily dismantled and moved when needed.

“Architecture is not a product, architecture has expanded and has always had that expanded idea of creating a proper environment, a good environment. And in order to create a good environment, you cannot just focus on a building, but you have to create, starting from planning to landscape to building (according) to people’s living conditions, economics,” Tabassum said.

“It’s about changing the mindset in many ways … The changes I would like to see (are) more about rootedness, more about sourcing locally, building responsibly, including people.”


Sunak and Starmer hit UK campaign trail after shock election call

Sunak and Starmer hit UK campaign trail after shock election call
Updated 23 May 2024
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Sunak and Starmer hit UK campaign trail after shock election call

Sunak and Starmer hit UK campaign trail after shock election call
  • Sunak’s Conservatives have trailed Labour by around 20 percentage points in opinion polls since he became PM in Oct. 2022
  • Sunak has shocked and angered many in his party when he gambled by calling a July 4 election, months earlier than expected

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Labour Party rival Keir Starmer kicked off their election campaigns on Thursday, each arguing that only they can snap the country out of its economic and political malaise.
Sunak, whose Conservatives have trailed Labour by around 20 percentage points in opinion polls since he became prime minister in October 2022, shocked and angered many in his party when he gambled by calling a July 4 election, months earlier than expected.
He argued on Thursday that the economy was turning a corner and he had a plan to tackle illegal immigration. But with prices in the shops up 21 percent in the last three years and the national health service buckling under record waiting times, it may be hard to persuade voters that Britain is on the right track.
“Even though there’s more work to do and I know it will take time for you to see the benefits, the plan is working,” Sunak told voters at an event with workers in central England.
The former investment banker announced his decision in the pouring rain in Downing Street on Wednesday, having to shout over protesters blaring the song “Things Can Only Get Better” — an anthem associated with Labour’s crushing 1997 election victory under Tony Blair that ended the last long period of Conservative rule.
Sunak also admitted on Thursday that the first flights sending illegal migrants to Rwanda, a flagship policy that is tangled in legal challenges, would not start before the vote.
He did receive one boost, however, when Nigel Farage, a former Brexit campaigner, said he would not seek election for Reform, likely blunting the appeal of the right-wing party and reducing its ability eat into the Conservatives voter base.
At stake is control of the world’s sixth largest economy which has endured years of low growth and high inflation, is still battling to make a success of its 2016 decision to leave the European Union, and is slowly recovering from twin shocks of COVID-19 and an energy price spike caused by the war in Ukraine.
That backdrop makes the economy one of the most important electoral battlegrounds. The two parties are also likely to focus on migration, defense, health and security.
POLITICAL TURMOIL
Polls show voters want change, even if they are not hugely enthused by Starmer and his Labour Party, after 14 years of Conservative government marked by unprecedented levels of political turmoil and so-called culture war issues.
Coffee shop worker Kitty McMurray, on her way to work, said the country needed an election because it felt like everything was falling apart. “Bring it on,” the 29-year-old said.
Starmer told voters at an event in Gillingham, southeast England, that he wanted to renew, rebuild and reinvigorate Britain. He focused on deprivation and the invisible barriers that prevent many from improving their lot.
Referencing children who live in inner-city areas where big corporations such as Google have a presence, he said: “they cannot imagine themselves ever making that journey from their school to those jobs. It’s a few hundred yards.”
Starmer is the country’s former chief prosecutor who has pulled Labour’s politics back to the center ground after it lurched to the left under his predecessor.
Were Labour to win, Starmer would become Britain’s sixth prime minister in eight years, the highest turnover since the 1830s, underscoring the level of turmoil that has gripped a country once known for its political stability and pragmatism.
While the electioneering gets underway, activity in parliament is expected to pick up too as the government works out which of the pieces of legislation currently in process will be rushed through, and which will fall by the wayside.
Laws currently under discussion include Sunak’s plan to impose some of the world’s strictest anti-smoking rules by banning anyone aged 15 and under from ever buying cigarettes.
With Sunak calling the election earlier than the October or November that most had expected, all parties were also racing to line up enough candidates to contest every seat.


Doctors treat hundreds of victims of heatstroke in Pakistan after heatwave hits the country

Doctors treat hundreds of victims of heatstroke in Pakistan after heatwave hits the country
Updated 23 May 2024
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Doctors treat hundreds of victims of heatstroke in Pakistan after heatwave hits the country

Doctors treat hundreds of victims of heatstroke in Pakistan after heatwave hits the country
  • People started arriving at hospitals on Wednesday after a heatwave began
  • Authorities on Thursday urged people to stay indoors, stay hydrated and avoid travel

ISLAMABAD: Doctors treated hundreds of victims of heatstroke at hospitals across Pakistan on Thursday after an intense heatwave sent temperatures above normal levels due to climate change, officials said.
Temperatures soared as high as 49 degrees Celsius the previous day in Mohenjo Daro. The city, known for its archaeological sites, is in southern Sindh province, which was badly hit by climate-induced monsoon rains and devastating floods in 2022. The heatwave is forecast to continue for at least a week.
Authorities have urged people to stay indoors, hydrate and avoid unnecessary travel. But laborers say they don’t have a choice because they need to work to feed their families.
“Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country to the impact of climate change. We have witnessed above normal rains, floods,” Rubina Khursheed Alam, the prime minister’s coordinator on climate, said at a news conference in the capital, Islamabad.
Doctors say they treated hundreds of patients in the eastern city of Lahore, while scores of people were brought to hospitals in Hyderabad, Larkana and Jacobabad districts in the southern Sindh province.
“The situation has been getting worse since yesterday, when people affected by heat started coming to hospitals in the Punjab province,” said Ghulam Farid, a senior health official. Pakistan has set up emergency response centers at hospitals to treat patients affected by the heat.
The state-run ambulance service is now carrying bottled water and ice to provide emergency treatment to victims of the heat, health officials said.
Heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises too quickly, potentially causing some to fall unconscious. Severe heatstroke can cause disability or death.
This year, Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall. Last month’s heavy rains killed scores of people while destroyed property and farmland.
Daytime temperatures are soaring 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit) above May’s temperatures, raising fears of flooding in the northwest because of glacial melting.
The 2022 floods caused extensive damage in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, as 1,739 people were killed across the country.
Currently, Pakistan’s southwest and northwestern areas are also experiencing the heatwave.
Authorities have shut schools for a week in Punjab. In the city of Lahore people were seen swimming in the roadside canals. Pakistan says despite contributing less than 1 percent to carbon emissions, it is bearing the brunt of global climate disasters.
Alam said recent erratic changes in weather patterns were the result of man-made climate change.


France arrests person planning ‘violent action’ during Olympic torch relay

France arrests person planning ‘violent action’ during Olympic torch relay
Updated 23 May 2024
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France arrests person planning ‘violent action’ during Olympic torch relay

France arrests person planning ‘violent action’ during Olympic torch relay

PARIS: French law enforcement officers arrested someone who was planning a violent action during the Paris 2024 Olympic torch relay in Bordeaux, the Interior ministry said on Thursday.
“Thanks to the police officers and, more broadly, to all the Ministry’s agents who are providing security for this popular celebration with remarkable professionalism and commitment,” Interior minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on X.
The torch relay started in the morning and is scheduled to end around 1930 local time (1730GMT). The Olympics will be held from July 26-Aug 11.