Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians

Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians
Indian pilgrims pray before leaving for the holy city of Makkah, in Guwahati. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2024
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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.


At least eight die in inferno near Moscow, TASS says

Smoke billows from a burning administrative building in Fryazino in the Moscow Region, Russia June 24, 2024. (Reuters)
Smoke billows from a burning administrative building in Fryazino in the Moscow Region, Russia June 24, 2024. (Reuters)
Updated 24 June 2024
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At least eight die in inferno near Moscow, TASS says

Smoke billows from a burning administrative building in Fryazino in the Moscow Region, Russia June 24, 2024. (Reuters)
  • Black smoke billowed from the building outside Moscow and flames roared up its walls
  • Some people were trapped on the top floors but were unable to escape

MOSCOW: Two people jumped to their death from the top floors of a burning eight-story former Russian electronics research institute on Monday and at least six others died in the fire, state-run TASS news agency reported.
Black smoke billowed from the building outside Moscow and flames roared up its walls. Some people were trapped on the top floors but were unable to escape.
One man was shown jumping from the upper floor of the building by the Baza Telegram channel. Another, with serious burns, fell from the upper floors, footage published by Shot Telegram channel showed.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.


Malaysia arrests eight over alleged Daesh links: minister

Malaysia’s home minister on Monday said police detained eight people with suspected links to Daesh. (File/AFP)
Malaysia’s home minister on Monday said police detained eight people with suspected links to Daesh. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 June 2024
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Malaysia arrests eight over alleged Daesh links: minister

Malaysia’s home minister on Monday said police detained eight people with suspected links to Daesh. (File/AFP)
  • The suspects were rounded up over the weekend in various parts of the Muslim-majority country
  • The six men and two women were from diverse backgrounds, including unemployed and educated professionals

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s home minister on Monday said police detained eight people with suspected links to the Daesh group who were purportedly planning attacks against the king and the premier.
The suspects were rounded up over the weekend in various parts of the Muslim-majority country, minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said in a statement.
He said an initial investigation by the police “has also found that there are threats against His Majesty the (king), the prime minister, prominent figures and top leadership of the Malaysian police force.”
The six men and two women were from diverse backgrounds, including unemployed and educated professionals, added the minister.
In March, a machete-wielding attacker suspected of ties to an Al-Qaeda linked group stormed a police station in the state of Johor and killed two officers.
The attacker, who police said had links to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), had slashed one officer before grabbing a gun and shooting another.
JI has been blamed for a series of deadly bomb attacks in the region including the 2002 bombings in the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Police inspector-general Razarudin Husain in March said that Malaysia would be scaling up security.


Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win

Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win
Updated 24 June 2024
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Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win

Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win
  • Afghanistan seized on a poor Australian field performance to post 148-6 in their innings before bowling 2021 champions out for 127 
  • Cricket Australia has withdrawn from bilateral series because of “deterioration in human rights” for women in Afghanistan

KABUL: Beleaguered Afghans were riding high Monday after a historic weekend T20 World Cup victory over Australia spread a rare mood of euphoria across the country.
“With every ball, every run, every boundary, every wicket, I wasn’t able to hold my emotions,” said university student Zamir Afghan in the capital Kabul.
“It was very early morning, but I was jumping, screaming, I was not able to contain myself,” the 20-year-old told AFP. “I couldn’t stop my tears.”
Afghanistan seized on a poor Australian field performance to post 148-6 in their innings before bowling the 2021 champions out for 127 — their first ever win over Australia.
“Afghanistan as a nation has suffered a lot, such moments are rare for us,” said Afghan.
Whilst cricket is hugely popular in Afghanistan, the match over 11,000 kilometers (7,000 miles) away in Arnos Vale on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, took place around dawn local time.
Though the last ball was bowled around 8:30 am (0400 GMT) on Sunday, many diehard fans had been awake to witness the win.
In eastern Khost city, around 1,000 raucous cricket fans gathered to bask in the glow of fireworks early on Sunday morning in half an hour of revelry swiftly broken up by Taliban security forces.
An uncowed smaller crowd came together again at night, clapping as they lit off more pyrotechnics.
Since the Taliban took over in August 2021 and introduced an austere vision of Islam, scenes of public jubilation have been rare.
“Such moments are special for everyone,” said 18-year-old fruit shop worker Saddam Saleh. “Beating the mighty Australia is not something small.”
The result bolsters Afghanistan’s chances of reaching the semifinals in the competition co-hosted by the USA and West Indies, though they must first face Bangladesh on Tuesday.
“In sports there are always ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, but there is a very good chance for Afghanistan to qualify,” said 28-year-old Usman Ahmadzai.
“They even have the potential to be in the final and be champions — we couldn’t wish for more.”
Afghanistan has been isolated since the withdrawal of foreign forces and the collapse of the US-backed government, with diplomats wary of engaging with Taliban rulers.
The isolation has spilled into the world of sport. Cricket Australia has withdrawn from bilateral series because of the “deterioration in human rights” for women and girls in Afghanistan.
“The Afghanistan national team responded to their disrespect on the pitch,” said 32-year-old Shahid, who goes by only one name.
“No one should ever underestimate the greatness of Afghanistan.”


Delhi minister stages hunger strike for more water to city amid extreme heat

Delhi minister stages hunger strike for more water to city amid extreme heat
Updated 24 June 2024
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Delhi minister stages hunger strike for more water to city amid extreme heat

Delhi minister stages hunger strike for more water to city amid extreme heat
  • Millions of Indians face water shortages every summer when water demand rises in farms, offices and homes against a limited supply
  • A prolonged heatwave this year has worsened the shortfall, including in Delhi and the southern tech hub of Bengaluru

NEW DELHI: A Delhi city minister has started an indefinite hunger strike to demand more drinking water for India’s capital, where taps in some of its poorest neighborhoods are running nearly dry in the middle of searing heat.
“There are 2.8 million people in the city who are aching for just a drop of water,” Delhi Water Minister Atishi said on Monday, the fourth day of her fast.
Millions of Indians face water shortages every summer when water demand rises in farms, offices and homes against a limited supply, but a prolonged heatwave this year has worsened the shortfall, including in Delhi and the southern tech hub of Bengaluru.
Delhi relies on the Yamuna River that runs through the capital for most of its water needs but the river slows down during dry summer months, causing shortages that lead to protests and calls for better water conservation.
Atishi blamed the neighboring farming state of Haryana for guzzling up a large share of river water.
Haryana’s government responded that it was Delhi’s mismanagement that was causing water shortages. Experts said a federal-level review of decades-old water sharing pacts was needed to accommodate population growth.
Delhi, a city of 20 million people, is one of the world’s most densely populated capitals, where upscale neighborhoods and manicured lawns are just a few miles away from unplanned working-class areas and slums.
But, in contrast to growing unplanned development over the years, the city’s water allocation from rivers has remained unchanged since 1994, said Depinder Kapur, the director of water program at think tank Center for Science and Environment.
“What was true 10-15 years ago is not true anymore. So, there is a situation of crisis and it’s a distribution issue,” he said.
The Delhi government is working on plans to improve the groundwater table by reviving lakes and storing water overflow from the Yamuna during the seasonal monsoon rains, but officials say the summer shortfall is difficult to tackle by these measures alone.
“Water crisis in Delhi is a year-long crisis because extreme temperatures are not going anywhere,” said environmentalist Vimlendu Jha. “Delhi needs a comprehensive water management plan in which Yamuna can’t be the only major source of water.”


UK PM Sunak says he will act on gambling investigation findings

Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party, Rishi Sunak speaks during general election campaign event.
Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party, Rishi Sunak speaks during general election campaign event.
Updated 24 June 2024
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UK PM Sunak says he will act on gambling investigation findings

Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party, Rishi Sunak speaks during general election campaign event.
  • Sunak’s campaign has failed to take off amid a series of mis-steps, including his decision to leave D-Day commemorations early

EDINBURGH: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday he would act on any findings of wrongdoing from an internal investigation into a damaging betting scandal that could punish him further at a July 4 election he is expected to lose.
His Conservative Party trails the opposition Labour Party by around 20 points in UK polls and Sunak’s campaign has failed to take off amid a series of mis-steps, including his decision to leave D-Day commemorations early.
The campaign has been further damaged by revelations that several party officials and candidates are being investigated for allegedly betting on the date of the election before it was announced.
Sunak has said he was “incredibly angry” to hear of the allegations, which are being investigated by the Gambling Commission, and told reporters he was not aware of any other candidates being investigated.
“We have been in parallel conducting our own internal inquiries, and will of course act on any relevant findings or information,” Sunak told broadcasters after a campaign event in Edinburgh.
Labour leader Keir Starmer criticized Sunak’s handling of events, saying it showed weakness.
“Rishi Sunak needs to show some leadership,” he told reporters. “If these were my candidates... they’d be gone.”
Independence on the backburner
In Scotland, Labour hope to capitalize on the struggles of both the Conservatives and the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), who are on their third leader in little over a year.
The SNP have dominated the Westminster parliament’s Scottish seats since 2015, garnering support of pro-independence voters in the wake of a 2014 referendum where Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom by 55 percent to 45 percent.
But a police probe into the SNP’s finances, Nicola Sturgeon’s sudden resignation as leader last year and the implosion of her successor Humza Yousaf’s administration in the devolved Scottish government this year have put that dominance in question.
Labour has also regained momentum in its former Scottish heartlands and polls show it level with or even ahead of the SNP for the first time in a decade.
The SNP manifesto says that if it wins a majority of Scottish seats, it will begin negotiations on independence, though both Sunak and Starmer have ruled out such talks.
At the launch of the Scottish Conservative manifesto, Sunak aimed his speech almost entirely at the SNP and their attempts to pursue a second independence vote.
The Conservatives are trying to hang on to their six Scottish seats, where the SNP are their main rivals.
“The fourth of July is Scotland’s chance... to put independence on the backburner for a generation,” Sunak said.
“But that can only happen if the SNP are routed. If they do not just lose some seats, but the SNP lose big.”
He also criticized the SNP and Labour’s approach to the energy sector, saying the Conservatives were the only way to protect North Sea oil.
The Conservatives lag behind in third place in Scotland, and could be on course for a historic defeat across the UK as a whole. Research by Ipsos Scotland found Sunak has a net negative approval rating of -64 points.
“We see Westminster politicians take campaign trips north of the border to dismiss the very idea that Scotland can have real, genuine influence at Westminster,” SNP leader John Swinney said in extracts of a speech he is due to give on Monday.
“Scotland’s voice is still ignored and our democratic choices are still disrespected.”