International Muslim History Month participation increases tenfold, organizers say

International Muslim History Month participation increases tenfold, organizers say
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Updated 10 May 2024
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International Muslim History Month participation increases tenfold, organizers say

International Muslim History Month participation increases tenfold, organizers say
  • A key objective of the annual event, founded in 2021, is to counter Islamophobia and shatter stereotypes by highlighting contributions to society by Muslims throughout history
  • The theme this year is #MuslimLegacies ‘in various fields such as science, art, literature, philosophy and architecture, as well as their influence on social and political development’

LONDON: Global participation in the fourth annual International Muslim History Month, which began on May 1, has increased tenfold compared with last year, organizers said, and more countries are taking part.

The aim of the annual global event, which was founded in 2021 by the World Hijab Day Organization in the US state of New Jersey, is to highlight the achievements and contributions of Muslim men and women throughout the ages.

The month-long celebration therefore “serves as a testament to the rich tapestry of Muslim heritage and the indelible mark Muslims have left on history,” the organization said, adding: “IMHM is an inclusive commemoration, welcoming participation from people of all ethnicities and religious affiliations.”

The organization told Arab News: “IMHM is fairly a new initiative and change is slow. However, looking at our social media platforms, we can see that our reach and engagement are 10 times more than that of last year.

“We are very happy to see actual events taking place in countries like Scotland to commemorate IMHM. Additionally, we had prominent scholars such as (Zimbabwean) Mufti Ismail ibn Musa Menk retweeting our post to bring awareness of IMHM.

“From pioneering scientists to visionary artists, from compassionate leaders to groundbreaking scholars, Muslim history is filled with stories of resilience, innovation, and compassion.”

One of the key objectives of the event is to actively counter Islamophobia on a global scale by encouraging students, educational institutions, workplaces, businesses and organizations to recognize, appreciate and celebrate the valuable contributions to society made by Muslims.

The theme this year is #MuslimLegacies, which the organization said “refers to the lasting impact, contributions, achievements and cultural heritage left behind by Muslims throughout history.” This “includes their advancements in various fields such as science, art, literature, philosophy and architecture, as well as their influence on social and political development in different regions of the world.”

The event is using social media platforms to draw attention to the stories of Muslim change-makers in the modern era, the specific inventions, innovations or developments they brought about, and their lasting effects on the world.

The Muslim figures in the spotlight this year include: Saudi biotechnologist Dr. Hayat Sindi; Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan; Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza; Saudi medical student Renad Al-Hussein, who developed technology to make driving safer for hearing-impaired people; Afghan tech entrepreneur Roya Mahboob; and the late African American civil rights activist Malcolm X.

“Additionally, we are conducting a month-long International Muslim History Month Virtual Conference every Friday in May, live on (all the World Hijab Day social media platforms), with lineups featuring esteemed speakers from diverse backgrounds, including technology, medicine, politics, humanitarianism and fashion, offering invaluable insights into their respective fields,” the organization said.

“Through IMHM, our objective is to unite the world in learning about, acknowledging and celebrating the significant contributions of Muslim men and women, both historical and contemporary, who have profoundly influenced humanity.

“With Islamophobia at its peak amid the current situation, our aim is to foster connections between communities by embracing and honoring IMHM.”

It continued: “In the last 25 years, especially after 9/11, people seem to have forgotten about all the good things Muslims have done. Instead, they unfairly stereotype Muslims as terrorists. That’s why we’re using this hashtag (#MuslimLegacies), to gently remind everyone of the positive impact Muslims have had.

“It’s a way to highlight the many great things Muslims have accomplished throughout history and still do today. We want to challenge those stereotypes and show the world the true diversity and richness of Muslim culture and contributions.”

World Hijab Day is collaborating with Islamophobia Awareness Month, which was founded in 2012 by several British organizations and takes place in November each year, to help promote International Muslim History Month.

Organizers invite people to participate by posting messages of support and joining in the conversations on social media platforms using the #MuslimLegacies hashtag. They are also encouraged to contact government officials around the world to request a UN resolution officially recognizing May as International Muslim History Month, call for support of Muslim businesses, and encourage them to donate to Muslim organizations such as World Hijab Day to help them tackle discrimination against Muslim women and girls who choose to wear the hijab head covering.

Supporters of the event are also urged to read a biography of an influential Muslim figure, share the story, and call out any discrimination or prejudice against Muslims when it is identified in their communities.

The organization in particular called on educational institutions to raise awareness of International Muslim History Month in schools and universities and provide support by, for example, adding Muslim-related literature to curricula, making an effort to accommodate fasting students, providing halal meal options, offering areas designated for prayer, and inviting Muslim professionals, such as police officers and firefighters, to share with students details of the ways in which Islam plays a part in their working lives.


French feminists march against far right with days before vote

French feminists march against far right with days before vote
Updated 27 sec ago
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French feminists march against far right with days before vote

French feminists march against far right with days before vote
  • Macron’s alliance would open up to “all who want to come, from the conservative right to the social-democratic left,” Macron’s former prime minister Edouard Philippe told broadcaster France 3

PARIS: Thousands of people turned out in France on Sunday for feminist demonstrations against the far right, which is expected to come out on top in June 30 snap elections, as parties sought to shore up support with days to go.
With the far-right National Rally (RN) polling at around 35 percent, “we have to remind people that they’re the ones who talked about ‘comfort abortions’, who are always attacking family planning services,” said Morgane Legras, a nuclear engineer and feminist activist taking part in the Paris march.
There were between 13,000 (police estimate) and 75,000 (organizers’ estimate) people at Sunday’s demonstration.
Protesters, many wearing violet, marched from the Place de la Republique square in central Paris to Place de la Nation in the east, bearing signs with messages such as “Push back the far right, not our rights.”
Police sources said 53 rallies took place across the country, and said 33,800 people had taken part.
France’s two-round election system makes it difficult to predict which party could ultimately claim a majority in the lower house of parliament, handing them the prime minister’s post which is second in power only to President Emmanuel Macron.
Since Macron dissolved parliament after a European Parliament election battering, his centrists are badly lagging the RN as well as a reforged left-wing alliance called the New Popular Front (NFP) in surveys of voting intentions.
The RN has garnered unprecedented levels of support after a decades-long “de-demonization” push to distance its image from its roots, including a co-founder who was a member of the Nazi Waffen-SS paramilitary.
But the core of its message remains hostility to immigration, Islam and the European Union.
Senior RN lawmaker Sebastien Chenu gestured toward Muslim and Jewish voters Sunday by vowing not to ban the ritual slaughter of livestock to produce halal or kosher meat.
“Everyone will be able to keep eating kosher meat if they want,” Chenu told Jewish broadcaster Radio J.
He added that a historic far-right policy of barring the kippa in public spaces — in the footsteps of an existing law forbidding the full-body burka worn by some Muslim women — was not top of the RN’s agenda, saying its priority was to fight “the Islamist threat.”
In Macron’s camp, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal acknowledged that the European Parliament result — where they scored just 14 percent — was “a message to us that we have to do better with our methods, with our governance” of the country.
If his party defies the odds to come top in the legislative polls, he vowed “change,” including a turn to “seeking out coalitions with the French public, with civil society” in an interview with broadcaster RTL.
Macron’s alliance would open up to “all who want to come, from the conservative right to the social-democratic left,” Macron’s former prime minister Edouard Philippe told broadcaster France 3.
Attal also hammered the centrists’ mantra about the threats from “extremes” on the left and right, saying both promised a “tax bludgeoning... a shredder for the middle classes.”
The RN especially is “not ready to govern... it’s a party of opposition, not a party of government,” Attal said.
In a sign of the disquiet abroad over Macron’s snap poll gamble, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ARD on Sunday he was “concerned about the elections in France,” though “it’s up to the French people to decide.”
The left-wing NFP alliance continued to show strains Sunday, after parties hastily re-knitted ties sundered over differing responses to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the ongoing retaliation by Israeli forces in Gaza.
Divisions are particularly stark over whether their candidate for prime minister should be Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of France Unbowed (LFI) — the largest party in the grouping, some of whose members have been accused of anti-Semitism.
Melenchon should “shut up,” former Socialist president Francois Hollande said Sunday, as “people reject him more strongly” than the RN’s leaders Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella.
“Do we want the left to win, or do we want to be stoking conflict?” he said.
Melenchon said on Saturday that he aimed “to govern the country.”


Kenya’s president Ruto ready for ‘conversation’ with ‘peaceful’ young protesters

Kenya’s president Ruto ready for ‘conversation’ with ‘peaceful’ young protesters
Updated 20 min 14 sec ago
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Kenya’s president Ruto ready for ‘conversation’ with ‘peaceful’ young protesters

Kenya’s president Ruto ready for ‘conversation’ with ‘peaceful’ young protesters
  • Organized on social media and led largely by Gen-Z Kenyans, the protests have caught Ruto’s government off-guard as discontent mounts over his economic policies

NAIROBI: Kenya’s President William Ruto said Sunday that he was ready for “a conversation” with thousands of “peaceful” young protesters who held nationwide demonstrations this week to oppose proposed tax increases.

Organized on social media and led largely by Gen-Z Kenyans who have live-streamed the demonstrations, the protests have caught Ruto’s government off-guard as discontent mounts over his economic policies.

“I am very proud of our young people ... they have stepped forward peacefully and I want to tell them we are going to engage them,” Ruto said in his first public comments on the protests. “We are going to have a conversation so that together we can build a greater nation,” Ruto said during a church service in the Rift Valley town of Nyahururu.

His characterization of the protests as “peaceful” came after rights campaigners reported two deaths following Thursday’s demonstrations in Nairobi.

There was no immediate response from the protesters, who have called for a national strike on June 25. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, but officers fired tear gas and water cannon throughout the day to disperse protesters near parliament.

According to a Kenya Human Rights Commission official, 21-year-old Evans Kiratu was “hit by a tear gas canister” during the protests and died in hospital.

On Friday, a police watchdog said it was investigating allegations that a 29-year-old man was shot by officers in Nairobi after the demonstrations. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority said it had “documented the death ... allegedly as a result of police shooting” on Thursday. Several organizations, including Amnesty International Kenya, said that at least 200 people were injured in the protests in Nairobi, as thousands of people took to the streets across the country.

Ruto’s administration has defended the proposed levies as necessary for filling its coffers and cutting reliance on external borrowing. Following smaller-scale demonstrations on Tuesday, the cash-strapped government agreed to roll back several tax hikes laid out in a new bill.

However, Ruto’s administration still intends to increase some taxes, defending the proposed levies necessary to raise money.

Kenya has a debt mountain, and servicing costs have ballooned due to a fall in the value of the local currency over the last two years, leaving Ruto with few options.

The tax hikes will pile further pressure on Kenyans, with many already struggling as the cost of living surges and well-paid jobs remain out of reach for young people. “Tuesday 25th June: #OccupyParliament and Total Shutdown Kenya. A national strike,” read a poster shared widely online, adding that “Gen Z is granting all hard-working Kenyans a day off. Parents, keep your children at home in solidarity.”

After the government agreed to scrap levies on bread purchases, car ownership, and financial and mobile services, the treasury warned of a 200-billion-shilling ($1.5-billion) shortfall.

The government has now targeted an increase in fuel prices and export taxes to fill the void left by the changes — a move critics say will make life more expensive in a country already saddled with high inflation.


Gunmen kill police, a priest, in Russia’s Dagestan

A view shows emergency service vehicles on the street of Makhachkala in southern Russia, June 23, 2024, in this still image.
A view shows emergency service vehicles on the street of Makhachkala in southern Russia, June 23, 2024, in this still image.
Updated 26 min 6 sec ago
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Gunmen kill police, a priest, in Russia’s Dagestan

A view shows emergency service vehicles on the street of Makhachkala in southern Russia, June 23, 2024, in this still image.
  • The attacks took place in Dagestan’s largest city of Makhachkala and in the coastal city of Derbent, where gunfights were ongoing
  • Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had opened criminal probes over “acts of terror,” while the hunt for the gunmen was ongoing

MOSCOW: Gunmen on Sunday attacked synagogues and churches in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan, killing a priest, six police officers, and a member of the national guard, security officials said.
The attacks took place in Dagestan’s largest city of Makhachkala and in the coastal city of Derbent, where gunfights were ongoing.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had opened criminal probes over “acts of terror,” while the hunt for the gunmen was ongoing.
Witnesses could hear shooting near a church in Makhachkala while shootouts were continuing in Derbent, the TASS state news agency reported. Dagestan’s interior ministry said it had killed two of the gunmen in Makhachkala.
Sunday is a religious holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church called Pentecost Sunday. Dagestan is a largely Muslim region of Russia, neighboring Chechnya.
“This evening in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala armed attacks were carried out on two Orthodox churches, a synagogue and a police check-point,” said the National Antiterrorism Committee in a statement to RIA Novosti news agency.
“As a result of the terrorist attacks, according to preliminary information, a priest from the Russian Orthodox Church and police officers were killed.”
In all, six police officers had been killed and another 12 wounded in the attacks, the spokeswoman for Dagestan’s interior ministry, Gayana Gariyeva, told RIA Novosti.
Russia’s National Guard said one of its officers had been killed in Derbent and several others wounded.
A 66-year-old priest was killed in Derbent, the press secretary of Dagestan’s interior ministry, Gariyeva told the agency.
Dagestan’s RGVK broadcaster named the priest as Nikolai Kotelnikov,saying he had served more than 40 years in Derbent.
“The synagogue in Derbent is on fire,” the chairman of the public council of Russia’s Federation of Jewish Communities, Boruch Gorin wrote on Telegram.
“It has not been possible to extinguish the fire. Two are killed: a policeman and a security guard.”
He added: “The synagogue in Makhachkala has also been set on fire and burnt down.”
Gorin wrote that in Derbent, firefighters had been told to leave the burning synagogue because of the risk that “terrorists remained inside.”
He added: “There is shooting in the streets around the synagogue.”
The leader of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, wrote on Telegram: “This evening in Derbent and Makhachkala unknown (attackers) made attempts to destabilize the situation in society.
“They were confronted by Dagestani police officers.”
Russia’s FSB security service in April said it had arrested four people in Dagestan on suspicion of plotting a deadly attack on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall concert venue in March, which was claimed by Daesh.
Militants from Dagestan are known to have traveled to join the Daesh group in Syria.
In 2015, the group declared it had established a “franchise” in the North Caucasus.
Dagestan lies east of Chechnya where Russian authorities battled separatists in two brutal wars, first in 1994-1996 and then in 1999-2000.
After the defeat of Chechen insurgents, Russian authorities have been locked in a simmering conflict with militants from across the North Caucasus that has killed scores of civilians and police.


UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated
Updated 23 June 2024
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UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated
  • The Times alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds

LONDON: The chief data officer of Britain’s Conservative Party has taken a leave of absence, British media reported Sunday, following growing allegations that the governing party’s members used inside information to bet on the date of Britain’s July 4 national election before it was announced.
The Sunday Times and others reported that Nick Mason is the fourth Conservative official to be investigated by the UK’s Gambling Commission for allegedly betting on the timing of the election.
The Times alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds.
The reports came after revelations in recent days that two Conservative election candidates, Laura Saunders and Craig Williams, are under investigation by the gambling watchdog. Saunders’ husband Tony Lee, the Conservative director of campaigning, has also taken a leave of absence following allegations he was also investigated over alleged betting.
Police said one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ‘s police bodyguards was arrested Monday on suspicion of misconduct in public office. The arrest came after the gambling regulator confirmed it was investigating “the possibility of offenses concerning the date of the election.”
The growing scandal, just two weeks ahead of the national election, has dealt a fresh blow to Sunak’s Conservative Party, which is widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power.
Sunak said this week that he was “incredibly angry” to learn of the allegations and said that anyone found to have broken the law should be expelled from his party.
Sunak announced on May 22 that parliamentary elections would be held on July 4. The date had been a closely guarded secret and many were taken by surprise because a vote had been expected in the fall.
Saunders, a candidate standing in Bristol, southwest England, has said she will cooperate fully with the investigation.
Williams was Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary as well as a member of Parliament running for reelection on July 4. He has acknowledged that he was being investigated by the Gambling Commission for placing a 100-pound ($128) bet on a July election before the date had been announced.
Senior Conservative minister Michael Gove condemned the alleged betting and likened it to ” Partygate,” the ethics scandal that contributed to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ouster in 2022.
That controversy saw public trust in the Conservatives plummet after revelations that politicians and officials held lockdown-flouting parties and gatherings in government buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us,” Gove told the Sunday Times. “That’s the most potentially damaging thing.”
Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said “people are sick and tired of this sleaze” and that Sunak must intervene and order an official inquiry.
The Conservative Party said it cannot comment because investigations are ongoing.


Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement

Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement
Updated 23 June 2024
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Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement

Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement
  • Chetan Singh Solanki wants to inspire energy independence across the world
  • He takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement

NEW DELHI: Four years ago, at the height of his restlessness over the growing threat of climate change on the planet, Chetan Singh Solanki decided to embark on a journey to spark a change for the environment.

Solanki launched the energy swaraj journey in 2020 to inspire energy independence across the world, campaigning with the motto “Energy by Locals for Locals.”

He told Arab News: “I want to restore the environmental balance that we are already losing, and I want to do it at a global level because it is not a problem of one state or one country — it is a problem of the entire world.”

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay’s department of energy science and engineering, Solanki takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement who used nonviolent resistance as a tool for mass action.

Solanki believes in replicating a similar strategy to boost energy literacy among the people and inspire them to use cleaner energy as an alternative power source.

“It is the wrong energy that has created the problem (and) it is the right energy that will solve the problem. Clean energy and solar energy and to bring everybody on board is why I started this journey,” Solanki said. “My vision is aligned with Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of gram swaraj (village self-rule). I emphasize responsible energy consumption and localized production.”

The campaign was designed to be impactful and adopted by the masses.

“This is designed to trigger the mind that we all can be part of the climate solution. It is not rocket science — rich and poor, young and old, everybody can be part of it,” he added.

Chetan Singh Solanki talks to students as part of his nationwide journey to spur climate movement in this photo shared on June 8, 2024. (Energy Swaraj)

Through his journey, Solanki has earned the nickname “Solar Gandhi,” having covered 56,000 km on his solar-powered bus, which is equipped with essential amenities including an air-conditioned bedroom, office space, refrigerator and a working kitchen.

The vehicle is an “innovative mobile abode” that symbolizes his aspiration “for a forthcoming world driven by sustainable energy sources,” he said, adding that he plans to continue the nationwide journey until December 2030.

To him, it was clear that world governments “have not done enough,” despite annual climate conferences that are purported to address critical environmental issues.

“The business-as-usual approaches are not working nationally and internationally, and therefore the solution lies in becoming sensitive to planet Earth and its capacity to generate or regenerate,” he said.

Since his journey started in late 2020, Solanki said the campaign has been well received.

“I think there are good things happening and response has been good,” he said. “Energy literacy is the first step towards climate correction.”