US university pulls student speech after Jewish groups object

A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP file photo)
A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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US university pulls student speech after Jewish groups object

A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
  • Israel has killed at least 33,843 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory

LOS ANGELES: A top US university has canceled its plans for a graduation speech by a Muslim student over what it says are safety concerns, after pro-Israel groups criticized her selection.
The decision by the University of Southern California is the latest controversy to roil American higher education since the conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted in October.
Asna Tabassum, who has been attacked online for “antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric,” had been selected as class valedictorian — an honorary role whose holder traditionally gives an address in front of up to 65,000 people.




Asna Tabassum. (Photo/ social media)

But on Monday the university’s provost, Andrew Guzman, announced the May 10 ceremony would go ahead without the speech.
“Unfortunately, over the past several days, discussion relating to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor,” Guzman said in a statement.
“The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security.”
Guzman’s statement gave no specifics, but the Los Angeles Times quoted Erroll Southers, the university’s associate senior vice president for safety and risk assurance, as saying the institution had received threats by email, phone and letter.
Individuals “say they will come to the campus,” he said.
Tabassum criticized the decision, which she said was the result of the university “succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice.”
“Although this should have been a time of celebration for my family, friends, professors, and classmates, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all,” she said in a statement.
The Hamas attack that started the war on October 7 resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,843 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
The fallout from the conflict has been felt around the world, and is particularly intense on US college campuses, where both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups say they are being victimized and silenced.
On Wednesday the president of the prestigious Columbia University in New York will become the latest campus leader to face questions from US lawmakers about whether her institution is doing enough to combat anti-Semitism in the student body.

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US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report

US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report
Updated 8 sec ago
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US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report

US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report
  • Britain, France expected to condemn Tehran in resolution at IAEA meeting
  • Washington seeking to avoid Mideast escalation amid simmering tensions

LONDON: The US has warned the UK against condemning Iran’s nuclear program at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency next week, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Amid simmering tensions in the Middle East and a US presidential election in November, Washington is reportedly seeking to avoid a regional escalation.

At an IAEA board of governors’ meeting next week, the UK and France are expected to deliver a censuring resolution against Iran over its nuclear program.

But the US is said to have warned other countries to abstain from the resolution, which was drafted over growing frustration with Tehran’s defiance of the IAEA.

Officials in the US have denied lobbying against the British and French move.

As well as electoral concerns, the White House also fears that Iran may be prone to instability following last month’s exchange of strikes with Israel, and the death of the country’s president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash.

UK officials believe that Iran’s nuclear program is as advanced as ever and are “deeply concerned” about escalation, the Daily Telegraph reported.

From June 3-7, the 35-member IAEA board of governors will gather for a quarterly meeting.

Iran is believed to have been enriching uranium to 60 percent purity for three years, following Washington’s axing of the nuclear deal under former President Donald Trump.

Tehran has maintained that it seeks to use the uranium for a civil nuclear program. But the IAEA has warned that no country has enriched to 60 percent purity without later developing nuclear weapons.

Last week, a senior European diplomat described Iranian nuclear violations as “unprecedented” in comments to Reuters.

“There is no slowing down of its programme and there is no real goodwill by Iran to cooperate with the IAEA,” the diplomat said. “All our indicators are flashing red.”


Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state

Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state
Updated 18 min 13 sec ago
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Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state

Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state
  • The Danish bill was first proposed in late February by four left-wing parties
  • “We cannot recognize an independent Palestinian state, for the sole reason that the preconditions are not really there,” Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said

COPENHAGEN: Denmark’s parliament on Tuesday voted down a bill to recognize a Palestinian state, after the Danish foreign minister previously said the necessary preconditions for an independent country were lacking.
Ireland, Spain and Norway on Tuesday formally recognized a Palestinian state, after their announcement last week that they would do so angered Israel which called the move a “reward for terrorism” and recalled its ambassadors.
The Danish bill was first proposed in late February by four left-wing parties.
“We cannot recognize an independent Palestinian state, for the sole reason that the preconditions are not really there,” Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said when the bill was first debated in parliament in April.
“We cannot support this resolution, but we wish that there will come a day where we can,” Rasmussen, who was not present at the vote on Tuesday, added.
Denmark has, following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, said that Israel has a right to defend itself, but has more recently urged the country to show restraint and maintained it must respect international law.
Dublin, Madrid and Oslo have painted their decision as a move aimed at accelerating efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, and have urged other countries to follow suit.


Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians

Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians
Updated 38 min 47 sec ago
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Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians

Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians
  • More than 4,600 pilgrims registered in the ‘without mahram’ category
  • Most of them are from the southern state of Kerala

NEW DELHI: The number of Indian women going on Hajj without a male guardian has increased by nearly 20 percent since last year, the Haj Committee of India said on Tuesday.

With more than 200 million Indians following Islam, the Hindu-majority country has the world’s largest Muslim-minority population. Under the 2023 Hajj quota, 175,000 of them are traveling to Saudi Arabia this year for the spiritual journey that constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam.

The pilgrim breakdown is 51 percent male and 49 percent female, according to Haj Committee of India data, which also shows that the number of female pilgrims is on the rise, especially those traveling on their own.

Saudi Arabia last year lifted a rule that required female pilgrims to be accompanied by a mahram, or male guardian. India tweaked its Hajj policy accordingly in February 2023, and sent 4,000 pilgrims registered in the category for women traveling without a guardian.

“This time 4,665 women are going without mahram, and it was around 4,000 last year,” Haj Committee of India chairman A.P. Abdullakkutty told Arab News.

“It is heartening to see the growing number of female pilgrims every year. This signifies growing female empowerment among Muslim women and their growing confidence. Women are asserting their independence more than before.”

Most of the women traveling alone come from the southern state of Kerala, where Muslims constitute about 27 percent of the population, and Islam is the second-largest religion after Hinduism.

“Out of the 4,665 women going without mahram this time 3,000 are from Kerala,” Abdullakkutty said.

“The reason more women are going from Kerala is because the imams are more encouraging.”

This year, Hajj is expected to begin on June 14 and end on June 19. While the pilgrimage can be performed over five or six days, many pilgrims choose to arrive early for what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill their religious duty.

Hajj flights for Indian pilgrims started on May 9.

At least two of the flights will be run only by women and carry only female pilgrims. Both are Jeddah-bound and scheduled to depart from Kerala’s Kochi International Airport.


Trump ‘misunderstood’ by community, Arab-American relative tells Arab News

Trump ‘misunderstood’ by community, Arab-American relative tells Arab News
Updated 15 min 56 sec ago
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Trump ‘misunderstood’ by community, Arab-American relative tells Arab News

Trump ‘misunderstood’ by community, Arab-American relative tells Arab News
  • Massad F. Boulos' son Michael is married to ex-US president's daughter Tiffany
  • Boulos says he and other Arab Americans are organizing meetings with community leaders in several states

CHICAGO: Donald Trump is “misunderstood” by many Arab Americans due to “biased media” and false claims made by his Democratic foes, according to the Arab-American father-in-law of the former US president’s daughter, in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Dr. Massad F. Boulos, whose son Michael married Trump’s fourth child Tiffany in 2022, said he is working with other Arab Americans to “clear up misunderstandings” that would help Trump win the Nov. 5 presidential election. Tiffany is Trump’s only child with his second wife Marla Maples.

Boulos said he and other Arab Americans are organizing meetings with community leaders in several states, including Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., New York, and Minnesota.

“Trump was a president who was absolutely misunderstood by many, not just because of the distortion of the biased media, but also by regular people. He was misunderstood. As we all know, he came into this as a businessman,” Boulos said.

“Unfortunately, some of the community in the past, four years ago, voted for (US President Joe) Biden and now they’re absolutely dissatisfied. Some of them have shifted to support President Trump.

“Some of them are undecided. We’re here to show them the truth, the actual facts, and show them the right choice, which is President Trump.”

Boulos and his son attended a meeting in Troy, Michigan, on May 21, to “clear up misunderstandings” and reinforce Trump’s commitment to Middle East peace and the Arab-American community. Boulos said Trump would be more effective than Biden, who is a “traditional politician.”

“Trump wasn’t a politician and he never has been, and probably never will be a politician in that sense, although I think he’s doing great. He’s a straight shooter. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. That’s who he is,” Boulos said.

“Biden is the absolute mainstream politician versus the successful businessman Trump, who is extremely smart, who is extremely sharp, who is extremely results-oriented. He’s a man of his word.

“He delivered on every single promise. We all know that had it not been for COVID, Trump would easily have been reelected in a landslide. He’s someone who’s greatly misunderstood.”

Boulos added: “For those who are undecided, we strongly believe in the coming three or four months they’ll turn in the right direction, which is the right. They’ve seen what’s going on.”

He said it is not true that Trump “banned Muslims” when he imposed a travel ban on seven countries, all afflicted by conflict: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iran.

“This has been taken way out of proportion… This was never intended to be a Muslim ban. The media started using that expression and mobilized against him on it. It’s absolutely not the case,” Boulos said, adding that Trump was concerned about security issues in the seven countries and wanted to prevent bad actors from entering the US.

“It’s a high level of vetting, like any government ought to do and many governments around the world actually do, including Third World countries and developing countries.”

Boulos, an Orthodox Christian from Lebanon, said Trump is the “better choice” for Arab-American voters and has “always been close” to the community as a businessman.

“I think Trump is saying the right things. The Arab-American community shares the same values that he does,” said Boulos.

“The No. 1 issue today is the issue of war and peace. He’s a man of peace. He’s the only president who didn’t start any war.

“He’s the only president who has ended war and withdrew troops in a proper manner, not like we saw two years ago in Afghanistan.

“He was able to achieve four peace accords, and he was on his way to achieving more of those (Middle East) peace accords.”

Trump wants to see an economically prosperous Middle East, said Boulos, adding that he would have prevented the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

“Had President Trump been in the White House for a second term, all of these wars wouldn’t have taken place, whether it was the Ukraine war or the war in the Middle East… His doctrine is peace through strength, and it would continue to work, and all of these conflicts will come to an end.”

He said Trump is committed to a peaceful Middle East. “The Palestine-Israeli conflict was a top priority for him. He worked very hard and he was very close to it,” said Boulos.

“He got four peace accords to be signed, and he was working very hard to achieve more and the ultimate one, achieving a Palestinian-Israeli peace… Yes, this is a priority.”

Boulos said most Arabs embrace conservative values and identify with Trump and the Republicans.

He added that they support Trump’s goals of lowering taxes for families, reducing government bureaucracy, improving the economy, and creating more jobs.

“I don’t think there’s any member of the Arab-American community who’d disagree with those policies,” Boulos said.

“There’s a huge base of support within the Arab-American community that hasn’t shifted. There’s a solid base that has always been there. Many of them are Republican.

“Of course there have been some misunderstandings. There are some issues caused by the mainstream media and by the vicious opposition. His message needs to be heard in a much clearer way in our communities.

“So we’ll make sure his message is heard loud and clear. There are many ways to do that… to reach directly to the grassroots.

“For those who are hesitant or who are undecided, the message will be very clear and will help them make the right decision.”

Boulos said his family’s ties to Trump reflect the former president’s respect for Arab Americans and Muslims.

He emphasized that Trump has two sons-in-law from different backgrounds, “one who is Jewish and one who is Arab American. This shows you the type and kind of person that Donald Trump is, and that the Trump family is.

“The way they’ve embraced Michael, my son, and us as a family is really amazing, something I can’t easily describe. It’s extremely warm and just a family. To sum it up in one word, I’d say it’s a true family.”

Boulos said the meetings he is having with Arab-American leaders have not been organized by Trump’s political campaigners.

Boulos’ family owns a multibillion-dollar conglomerate in Nigeria that encompasses retail, construction, and vehicles.


Number of new German citizens hits another high last year, with many Syrians naturalized

Number of new German citizens hits another high last year, with many Syrians naturalized
Updated 28 May 2024
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Number of new German citizens hits another high last year, with many Syrians naturalized

Number of new German citizens hits another high last year, with many Syrians naturalized
  • Last year, 75,500 people from Syria were naturalized — the biggest single group, accounting for 38 percent of the total

BERLIN: Germany saw another big increase in the number of people gaining citizenship last year as large numbers of people from Syria helped push naturalizations up to their highest level since at least 2000, according to official data released Tuesday.
About 200,100 people were granted German citizenship in 2023, the Federal Statistical Office said. That was an increase of about 31,000, or 19 percent, compared with the previous year.
The increase followed a 28 percent rise in 2022, which also was fueled by large numbers of Syrians being naturalized as increasing numbers of people who migrated to Germany between 2014 and 2016 fulfilled the requirements for citizenship.
Last year, 75,500 people from Syria were naturalized — the biggest single group, accounting for 38 percent of the total — the statistics office said. That number was up 56 percent compared with 2022. They had spent an average 6.8 years in Germany before becoming citizens.
About 10,700 citizens each of Turkiye and Iraq became German citizens last year, putting those groups in second place.
The overall number of new citizens was the highest since current records started in 2000 following a change in the law under which people of German ancestry from the former Soviet Union, who arrived in large numbers in the 1990s, were automatically granted citizenship rather than having to apply for it.
Requirements for being granted citizenship include a working knowledge of German and proof of being able to support oneself financially.
Under the law as it was last year, people were in principle required to have lived in Germany for at least eight years, though that didn’t apply to spouses and children. The period could be reduced to six years for people who show “special integration accomplishments” such as very good knowledge of the language, professional achievements or civic engagement.
Those rules are being eased under new legislation that will take effect on June 27. People will be eligible for citizenship after five years in Germany, or three in case of “special integration accomplishments.” German-born children will automatically become citizens if one parent has been a legal resident for five years, down from eight years now.
Restrictions on holding dual citizenship will also be dropped. In principle, most people from countries other than European Union members and Switzerland have had to give up their previous nationality when they gained German citizenship, though there were some exemptions.
Germany has about 84 million inhabitants.