Dome of Rock replica turns remote Sri Lankan town into tourist site

Dome of Rock replica turns remote Sri Lankan town into tourist site
A Dome of the Rock replica is seen in Kattankudy, Sri Lanka, on May 20, 2024. (AN Photo)
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Updated 30 May 2024
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Dome of Rock replica turns remote Sri Lankan town into tourist site

Dome of Rock replica turns remote Sri Lankan town into tourist site
  • It was inaugurated in Kattankudy, Eastern Province, in 2022
  • The site has since boosted local halal tourism businesses

KATTANKUDY: A bright gold dome mounted on an octagonal blue arcade looks like the Dome of the Rock, but the background is a modern tropical neighborhood in a coastal Sri Lankan town.

The building is a mosque modeled on the seventh-century shrine in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem — the third holiest site in Islam, after the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

Built in Kattankudy, a township near the city of Batticaloa in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, the three-story replica was inaugurated in December 2022.

Muslims constitute about 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population, which is predominantly Buddhist, but in Kattankudy and neighboring areas they are a majority.

“For Friday prayers, around 2,000 to 3,000 people would pray here, on the three stories, and outside also ... In Ramadan, (there is) also a big crowd,” Mahamood Lebbe Alim Mohamed Hizbullah, the mosque’s caretaker and former governor of the Eastern Province, told Arab News.

But the biggest crowds flock to the coastal town during weekends, he said, as the mosque has boosted local businesses offering halal food and accommodation.

Financed from donations, it is becoming a main tourism attraction for the region’s Muslims, most of whom may never be able to visit the original site in Palestine.

“The Muslim community, after the Easter attack, is finding it really difficult to travel,” Hizbullah said, referring to the deadly 2019 bombings on churches in Colombo.

While the attacks were claimed by Daesh militants, they prompted the Sri Lankan government to ramp up restrictions on the Muslim community.

No such restrictions are present in Kattankudy, where most of the establishments and properties are Muslim-run.

“This has become a tourist destination in the Eastern Province ... (Praying here) you feel so comfortable, and you feel you are in a different place,” said Abdul Rahman Mansoor, former deputy mayor of nearby Kalmunai city.

“People like me, we are not going to Palestine, we will not get the chance, but coming here ... gives us confidence and gives us hope.”


Clip resurfaces of Vance criticizing Harris for being ‘childless,’ testing Trump’s new running mate

Clip resurfaces of Vance criticizing Harris for being ‘childless,’ testing Trump’s new running mate
Updated 6 sec ago
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Clip resurfaces of Vance criticizing Harris for being ‘childless,’ testing Trump’s new running mate

Clip resurfaces of Vance criticizing Harris for being ‘childless,’ testing Trump’s new running mate
  • The Harris campaign contested Vance’s stance, saying “every single American has a stake in this country’s future”

WASHINGTON: Comments JD Vance made in 2021 questioning Vice President Kamala Harris’ leadership because she did not have biological children have resurfaced, testing the young conservative senator in his early days campaigning as part of the Republicans’ presidential ticket.
During Vance’s bid for the Senate in Ohio, he said in a Fox News interview that “we are effectively run in this country via the Democrats,” and referred to them as “a bunch of childless cat ladies who are miserable at their own lives and the choices that they’ve made and so they want to make the rest of the country miserable, too.” He said that included Harris, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat.
“How does it make any sense that we’ve turned our country over to people who don’t really have a direct stake in it?” asked Vance, who is now Donald Trump’s running mate. Harris became stepmother to two teenagers when she married entertainment lawyer Douglas Emhoff in 2014. And Buttigieg announced he and his husband adopted infant twins in September 2021, more than a month before Vance made those comments.
The clip has started to spread online, with Hillary Clinton sharing it in a Tuesday post on X and adding sarcastically “what a normal, relatable guy who certainly doesn’t hate women having freedoms.”
The recirculated comment may be a sign of the GOP ticket’s troubles appealing to women voters, and on the issue of reproductive rights. It follows the explosive entrance in the race of Harris, who secured the support of enough delegates to become the official nominee in less than 32 hours after President Joe Biden ended his reelection bid.
It also lays out some of the fears expressed by strategists that Trump took a political risk in picking a running mate who has been in Congress less than two years and is largely untested on a bigger stage. Trump liked Vance’s telegenic qualities and said he reminded him of “a young Abraham Lincoln.”
The Harris campaign contested Vance’s stance, saying “every single American has a stake in this country’s future.”
“Ugly, personal attacks from JD Vance and Donald Trump are in line with their dangerous Project 2025 agenda to ban abortion, decimate our democracy, and gut Social Security,” said James Singer, a Harris campaign spokesman, referring to a policy and personnel plan for a second Trump term that was crafted by a host of former administration officials. Trump has been trying to distance himself from it. Project 2025 says the Department of Health and Human Services should “pursue a robust agenda” to protect “the fundamental right to life.” However, the document contains no proposals to cut Social Security, though the Heritage Foundation that oversaw it has long pushed for changes to the entitlement. The plan outlines a dramatic expansion of presidential power and a plan to fire as many as 50,000 government workers.
Vance’s spokesperson said the Harris campaign is lying about Vance’s views, noting her record is “littered with countless failures and disasters.
“It’s well known that Senator Vance found success in life due in large part to the influence of strong female role models like his grandmother,” spokesperson Taylor Van Kirk said.
Vance, 39, is a former Marine and businessman who was first elected to public office in 2022. He wrote the 2016 bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy,” and developed a strong rapport with Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and leading MAGA figures with his personal story of growing up in Appalachia in poverty with a mother battling drug addiction could resonate with voters.
One of the major questions Vance is facing is on his abortion stance. Vance previously said he would support a federal bill to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but believes in certain exceptions.
In 2021, Vance floated an idea to allow parents to cast ballots on behalf of their children, saying during a speech at the conservative nonprofit Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Virginia that people who don’t have children “don’t have as much of an investment in the future of the country.”
“When you go to the polls in this country as a parent, you should have more power, you should have more of an availability to speak your voice in our democratic republic than people who don’t have kids,” he said.
“Doesn’t this mean that non parents don’t have as much of a voice as parents?” he said critics would then ask. “Doesn’t this mean that parents get a bigger say in how a democracy functions? Yes, absolutely.”

 


Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading

Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading
Updated 24 July 2024
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Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading

Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading

MANILA: Typhoon Gaemi and a southwest monsoon brought heavy rain on Wednesday to the Philippine capital region and northern provinces, prompting authorities to halt work and classes, while stock and foreign exchange trading were suspended.

The presidential office suspended classes at all academic levels and work in most government offices in the capital region, which is composed of 16 cities and home to at least 13 million people, because of the tropical storm.

Gaemi, with maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometers per hour (96.3 mph) and gustiness of up to 190 kph, was heading toward Taiwan, the Philippines’ state weather agency said in a 5 a.m. bulletin.

It did not make landfall but it is enhancing a southwest monsoon, resulting in heavy to intense rain in northern Philippines, the agency said. “Flooding and rain-induced landslides are likely.”

Gaemi and another tropical storm, Prapiroon, hit southern Philippines and caused floods last week, resulting in seven deaths.

The Philippine coast guard said 354 passengers and 31 vessels were stranded in ports while airlines canceled 13 flights on Wednesday, Manila’s airport authority said.

The Philippines sees an average of 20 tropical storms annually, causing floods and deadly landslides. 


Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit
Updated 24 July 2024
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Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed Washington’s unwavering support for Ukraine in a call with Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov, the Pentagon said late on Tuesday

It was the first call between the defense heads since US President Joe Biden’s announcement that he was ending his reelection bid and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican former President Donald Trump.

“During the call, the secretary reaffirmed the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” the Pentagon’s press secretary, Major General Pat Ryder, told journalists at a briefing, according to a transcript on the US Department of Defense website.

Umerov said he and Austin also discussed the recent developments on the frontline and Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs.

“I once again highlighted the importance and urgency of lifting the bans on long-range fires,” Umerov said in a statement on X.

Washington, under the helm of Biden, has been Ukraine’s biggest supporter in the war that Russia has been waging against its smaller neighbor. The US has provided more than $50 billion in military aid since 2022.

After a call between Harris’ national security adviser and his chief of staff on Tuesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was important that “the dynamics of our joint work for a just peace do not diminish.” 


US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’
Updated 24 July 2024
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US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

PANAMA CITY: Deportation flights from Panama for undocumented US-bound migrants who have crossed the lawless Darien jungle from South America are expected to start imminently, a US official said Tuesday.

Washington this month pledged $6 million in funding for migrant repatriations from the Central American nation in the hope of reducing irregular crossings at its own southern border.

The program was expected to use “large numbers” of charter and commercial flights to send back migrants who cross the Darien Gap, said Marlen Pineiro, an official at the US Department of Homeland Security.

“We’re still negotiating (with Panama), but the focus of this program is deportations and expulsions,” she said at a news conference in Panama City.

“I don’t want to give a date yet, but I think we’re going to start imminently,” Pineiro added.

The Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama has become a key corridor for migrants traveling overland from South America through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

Despite the dangers posed by treacherous terrain and violent criminal gangs, more than half a million undocumented migrants — mostly Venezuelans — crossed the Darien last year.

Transit countries such as Panama and Mexico have come under increased pressure from Washington to tackle the highly contentious migration issue in a US election year.

Jose Raul Mulino, Panama’s new president, vowed during his election campaign to deport migrants and close the key route.

After he was sworn in on July 1, the conservative lawyer said his country would no longer be a “transit” point for undocumented migrants.

However, he appeared to soften his tone last week, saying, “We cannot forcibly repatriate” migrants.


Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American
Updated 24 July 2024
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Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American
  • CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago

WASHINGTON: A Kentucky man was arrested and charged with a federal hate crime for threatening a Palestinian American man with a loaded gun, the US Justice Department said on Monday, in a step welcomed by advocates documenting rising Islamophobia.
The Justice Department said the incident occurred at the end of March, without giving further details. It identified the suspect as Melvin P. Litteral III and the victim only by his initials, O.S.
The indictment also included a weapons charge. Litteral could not immediately be contacted.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Human rights advocates have noted a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis.
The Council on American Islamic Relations advocacy group welcomed the indictment. CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago.

KEY QUOTE
“Melvin P. Litteral III used force or the threat of force to intimidate and interfere with the victim – a Palestinian American man and practicing Muslim identified in the indictment by the initials O.S. – because of O.S.’s race, color, religion and/or national origin, and because O.S. was enjoying the goods, services and facilities of a local restaurant,” the Justice Department said.

CONTEXT
Other recent alarming US incidents include the fatal October stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American child in Illinois, the February stabbing of a Palestinian-American man in Texas, the November shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont and the attempted drowning of a 3-year-old Palestinian-American girl in May.
A former Cornell University student pleaded guilty in April to posting online threats, including of death and violence, against Jewish students on campus. There have been allegations of alarming antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric in some protests and counterprotests over the war and the dire situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the fate of Israeli hostages held there.