Pro-Palestinian protests sweep US college campuses following mass arrests at Columbia

Pro-Palestinian protests sweep US college campuses following mass arrests at Columbia
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Pro-Palestinian supporters rally on the campus of Columbia University on April 22, 2024 in New York City. (AFP)
Pro-Palestinian protests sweep US college campuses following mass arrests at Columbia
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Two student protesters converse at the Pro-Palestine protest encampment at the Columbia University campus in New York on Monday April 22, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Pro-Palestinian protests sweep US college campuses following mass arrests at Columbia

Pro-Palestinian protests sweep US college campuses following mass arrests at Columbia
  • Columbia University canceled in-person classes and police arrested dozens of students at New York University and Yale
  • Pro-Palestinian demonstrators set up encampments on other campuses around the country

NEW YORK: Columbia canceled in-person classes, dozens of protesters were arrested at Yale and the gates to Harvard Yard were closed to the public on Monday as some of the most prestigious US universities sought to diffuse campus tensions over Israel’s war with Hamas.
The various actions followed the arrest last week of more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia’s green, as schools struggle with where to draw the line between allowing free expression while maintaining a safe and inclusive campus.
In addition to the demonstrations at the Ivy League schools, pro-Palestinian encampments have sprouted up on other campuses, including the University of Michigan, New York University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The protests have pitted students against one another, with pro-Palestinian students demanding that their schools condemn Israel’s assault on Gaza and divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel. Some Jewish students, meanwhile, say much of the criticism of Israel has veered into antisemitism and made them feel unsafe, and point out that Hamas is still holding hostages taken during the group’s Oct. 7 invasion.
Tensions remained high Monday at Columbia in New York City, where the campus gates were locked to anyone without a school ID and where protests broke out both on campus and outside.
US Rep. Kathy Manning, a Democrat from North Carolina who was visiting Columbia with three other Jewish members of Congress to view the encampment, told reporters after meeting with students from the Jewish Law Students Association that there was “an enormous encampment of people” who had taken up about a third of the green.
“We saw signs indicating that Israel should be destroyed,” she said after leaving the Morningside Heights campus.
A woman inside the campus gates led about two-dozen protesters on the street outside in a chant of, ” From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! ” — a charged phrase that can mean vastly different things to different groups. Meanwhile, a small group of pro-Israel counter demonstrators protested nearby.
University President Minouche Shafik said in a message to the school community Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by what was happening on campus.
“To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday,” Shafik wrote, noting that faculty and staff should work remotely when possible and that students who don’t live on campus should stay away.
Protests have roiled many college campuses since Hamas’ deadly attack on southern Israel, when militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. In response, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and non-combatants but says at least two-thirds of the dead are children and women.
Prahlad Iyengar, an MIT graduate student studying electrical engineering, was among about two dozen students who set up a tent encampment on the school’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus Sunday evening. They are calling for a ceasefire and are protesting what they describe as MIT’s “complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” he said.
“MIT has not even called for a ceasefire, and that’s a demand we have for sure,” Iyengar said.
He also said MIT has been sending out confusing rules about protests.
“We’re out here to demonstrate that we reserve the right to protest. It’s an essential part of living on a college campus,” Iyengar said.
On Sunday, Elie Buechler, a rabbi for the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative at Columbia, sent a WhatsApp message to nearly 300 Jewish students recommending they go home until it’s more safe for them on campus.
The latest developments came ahead of the Monday evening start of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Nicholas Baum, a 19-year-old Jewish freshman who lives in a Jewish theological seminary building two blocks from Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, said protesters over the weekend were “calling for Hamas to blow away Tel Aviv and Israel.” He said some of the protesters shouting antisemitic slurs were not students.
“Jews are scared at Columbia. It’s as simple as that. There’s been so much vilification of Zionism, and it has spilled over into the vilification of Judaism,” he said.
The protest encampment sprung up at Columbia on Wednesday, the same day that Shafik faced bruising criticism at a congressional hearing from Republicans who said she hadn’t done enough to fight antisemitism. Two other Ivy League presidents resigned months ago following widely criticized testimony they gave to the same committee.
In her statement Monday, Shafik said the Middle East conflict is terrible and that she understands that many are experiencing deep moral distress.
“But we cannot have one group dictate terms and attempt to disrupt important milestones like graduation to advance their point of view,” Shafik wrote.
Over the coming days, a working group of deans, school administrators and faculty will try to find a resolution to the university crisis, noted Shafik, who didn’t say when in-person classes would resume.
Several students at Columbia and its sister school, Barnard College, said they were suspended for taking part in last week’s protests, including Barnard student Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Democratic US Rep. Ilhan Omar.
At Yale, police officers arrested about 45 protesters and charged them with misdemeanor trespassing, said Officer Christian Bruckhart, a New Haven police spokesperson. All were being released on promises to appear in court later, he said.
Protesters set up tents on Beinecke Plaza on Friday and demonstrated over the weekend, calling on Yale to end any investments in defense companies that do business with Israel.
Nadine Cubeisy, a Yale student and one of the protest’s organizers, said it was disturbing that “this university that I’m going to, that I contribute to and that my friends give money to is using that money to fund violence.”
In a statement to the campus community on Sunday, Yale President Peter Salovey said university officials had spoken to the student protesters multiple times about the school’s policies and guidelines, including those regarding speech and allowing access to campus spaces.
School officials said they spoke with protesters over several hours and gave them until the end of the weekend to leave Beinecke Plaza. The said they again warned protesters Monday morning and told them that they could face arrest and discipline, including suspension, before police moved in.
A large group of demonstrators regathered after Monday’s arrests at Yale and blocked a street near campus, said Bruckhart. There were no reports of any violence or injuries.
Last week, the University of Southern California took the unusual step of canceling a planned commencement speech by its 2024 valedictorian, who had publicly supported Palestinians. The university cited security concerns in a decision that was praised by some pro-Israel groups but criticized by free-speech advocates.


Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians

Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians
Updated 5 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 49 min 20 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.


UK’s Sunak proposes tax cuts for pensioners in new election pledge

UK’s Sunak proposes tax cuts for pensioners in new election pledge
Updated 28 May 2024
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UK’s Sunak proposes tax cuts for pensioners in new election pledge

UK’s Sunak proposes tax cuts for pensioners in new election pledge
  • The number of pensioners in Britain rose by 140,000 to 12.6 million in the year to February 2023
  • The new proposal, which the party termed “triple lock plus,” will cost 2.4 billion pounds a year by 2029/30

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday proposed tax cuts for millions of pensioners in his latest campaign pledge, highlighting the importance of older voters in the upcoming July election.
Sunak’s Conservative Party said it would introduce a new age-related allowance and deliver a tax cut of around 100 pounds ($128) for each of 8 million pensioners in 2025, rising to almost 300 pounds a year by the end of the next parliament.
“This bold action demonstrates we are on the side of pensioners. The alternative is Labour dragging everyone in receipt of the full state pension into income tax for the first time in history,” Sunak, who last week called a general election for July 4, said in the statement.
The number of pensioners in Britain rose by 140,000 to 12.6 million in the year to February 2023. Close to 50 million Britons will be eligible to vote in the election, which opinion polls predict is likely to end 14 years of Conservative rule in the country.
The Conservative Party said the proposal comes alongside the its commitment to the so-called triple lock, which guarantees increases to publicly funded pensions by the level of earnings, inflation or 2.5 percent, whichever is highest.
Labour has also committed to retain the policy, which was introduced by a Conservative government in 2011 to prevent pensioners from falling into poverty.
However, costs associated with it have come under increased scrutiny in recent years after British inflation soared, pushing up the government bill for state pensions by an additional 11 billion pounds last year.
The new proposal, which the party termed “triple lock plus,” will cost 2.4 billion pounds a year by 2029/30 and be funded through the government’s previously announced plan to raise an extra 6 billion pounds a year by clamping down on tax avoidance and evasion, the party said.
“This is just another desperate move from a chaotic Tory party torching any remaining facade of its claims to economic credibility,” Labour shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said in a statement on the plans.
The paymaster general falls under the Treasury and acts as a banker for most government departments.


Thousands protest as Taiwan’s parliament passes contested reforms

Thousands protest as Taiwan’s parliament passes contested reforms
Updated 28 May 2024
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Thousands protest as Taiwan’s parliament passes contested reforms

Thousands protest as Taiwan’s parliament passes contested reforms
  • Parliament reforms give lawmakers the power to ask the military, private companies or individuals to disclose information deemed relevant by parliamentarians

TAIPEI: Thousands of people protested outside Taiwan’s parliament on Tuesday after it passed a reform package to increase oversight of the government pushed by the opposition but opposed by the ruling party, which did not have the numbers to block it.
The peaceful protests, and sometimes violent confrontations in parliament over the reforms, have been taking place against a backdrop of broader concern about efforts by China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, to influence the island’s politics.
The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Lai Ching-te won the presidency in January elections, but the party lost its majority in parliament. Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), along with the small Taiwan People’s Party, together have the most seats.
The parliament reforms give lawmakers the power to ask the military, private companies or individuals to disclose information deemed relevant by parliamentarians.
They also criminalize contempt of parliament by government officials, and require the president to give regular reports to parliament and answer lawmakers’ questions, which would be a first for Taiwan.
The DPP says the reforms were forced through without proper consultation and their content either vague or an over-reach of power, and on Tuesday its lawmakers threw garbage bags and paper planes at their opposition counterparts.
“You can seize parliament but you cannot seize public opinion,” DPP parliament leader Ker Chien-ming said in an address to the chamber, adding that Beijing had influenced Taiwanese politics.
Opposition lawmakers, holding sun-shaped balloons, shouted “let sunlight into parliament.” Both parties covered the chamber with banners.
The KMT has denounced the DPP for trying to “paint them red,” the color of China’s Communist Party, and says the DPP is trying to stymie efforts to investigate corruption cases and sow unfounded fears about the reforms.
Outside parliament, protesters showed their anger at the reforms being passed, and also shouted “refuse Chinese political interference,” among other slogans.
“This is the people’s voice,” said Zheng Hung-gun, 33, who works in the food industry. “Taiwanese are not afraid of enemies from outside but we are worried about our internal enemies.”
On Friday night, tens of thousands thronged the roads around parliament protesting the reforms.
Several senior KMT leaders have visited China this year, in what the party says is an effort to keep lines of communication open. It denies being pro-Beijing.
China refuses to speak to Lai or the DPP, saying they are “separatists.” Lai says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future and has repeatedly offered talks with China, but been rebuffed.