Joy and gratitude as Indonesian pilgrims embark on this year’s Hajj

Joy and gratitude as Indonesian pilgrims embark on this year’s Hajj
Indonesian Hajj pilgrims attend an information session in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on June 9, 2024. (ANTARA)
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Updated 11 June 2024
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Joy and gratitude as Indonesian pilgrims embark on this year’s Hajj

Joy and gratitude as Indonesian pilgrims embark on this year’s Hajj
  • Indonesia is sending 241,000 pilgrims in this pilgrimage season
  • Pilgrims praise Saudi hospitality extended throughout their journey

JAKARTA: Fulfilling a lifelong dream to perform the Hajj, M. Andra Rachmanda was overcome with emotion the moment he arrived in Madinah at the beginning of June.

Rachmanda is one of 241,000 Indonesians this year performing the pilgrimage that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

“The first time I arrived in Saudi Arabia, I felt a mix of happiness, wonder and humility. The air here feels different, the atmosphere carries a deep spiritual aura,” Rachmanda told Arab News.

“When I finally visited holy sites like Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi in Madinah, I was so emotional and grateful. When I saw the Kaaba in person for the first time, I was moved, it felt like a dream come true.”

Although the Hajj is expected to start on June 14, pilgrims from Indonesia started to arrive in Saudi Arabia in mid-May, departing earlier to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill their religious duty.

“I feel very grateful and honored to get this chance to perform Hajj pilgrimage this year. This is a lifelong dream I have been waiting for, and to be able to go on this trip is a tremendous blessing,” Rachmanda said.

He was also grateful for the services and hospitality he has received in the Kingdom.

“The officers in Saudi Arabia are friendly and ready to help. All the facilities are also very good, ensuring our comfort as Hajj pilgrims. This allows me to focus on a peaceful and solemn worship,” he added.

Through his journey, Rachmanda is hoping to deepen his understanding of Islam and strengthen his relations with fellow Muslims from around the world.

“I hope that this spiritual journey will bring a positive change in my life. I want to strengthen my faith and piety in God, and to become a better person when I return home,” he said. “I am praying that this journey will also bring many blessings for my family and closest ones.”

The spiritual journey has so far been deep and reflective for Paramita Mentari Kesuma, who arrived in Makkah on June 3.

She felt very welcome and met many other foreign pilgrims when visiting the mosques, where they exchanged knowledge, food and stories.

“I can meet with like-minded people when I go for i’tikaf or prayers at the mosque, which allows me to truly enjoy a solemn worshiping experience,” Kesuma told Arab News, referring to the practice of spiritual retreat in a mosque.

“One of the many blessings I experienced during this Hajj season is to receive many snacks from the Saudis, such as dates, bread, juices, for the people doing i’tikaf in Masjid Al-Haram … I hope God will return their kindness.”

Like many pilgrims, Kesuma has been documenting her reflections and experiences on social media to share with friends and loved ones, and also for her own keepsake.

She is filled with gratitude, especially after a long wait that was further delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m full of happy emotions for sure … May Allah grant us smoothness and ease in our intention to worship to fulfill His call,” Kesuma said.

“I feel truly grateful and happy to have gotten this opportunity, which we believe is a calling and invitation from God. Everything is thanks to God’s will.


What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work

What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work
Updated 14 sec ago
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What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work

What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work
ATLANTA: With President Joe Biden ending his reelection bid and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats now must navigate a shift that is unprecedented this late in an election year.
Democrats are set to hold their convention in Chicago on Aug. 19-22. What was supposed to be a coronation for Biden now becomes an open contest in which nearly 4,700 delegates will be responsible for picking a new standard-bearer to challenge Republican Donald Trump in the fall.
The path ahead is neither easy nor obvious, even with Biden endorsing Harris. There are unanswered questions about logistics, money and political fallout.
Can Biden redirect his delegates?
Biden won every state primary and caucus earlier this year and only lost the territory of American Samoa. At least 3,896 delegates had been pledged to support him.
Current party rules do not permit Biden to pass them to another candidate. Politically, though, his endorsement is likely to be influential.
What could happen at the convention?
With Biden stepping aside, Democrats technically start with an open convention. But realistically, his endorsement pushes Democrats into murky territory.
The immediate burden is on Harris to solidify support across almost 4,000 delegates from the states, territories and District of Columbia, plus more than 700 so-called superdelegates that include party leaders, certain elected officials and former presidents and vice presidents.
Will anyone challenge Harris?
Even before Biden announced his decision, Democrats floated California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as potential contenders in addition to Harris. Yet some Democrats argued publicly, and many privately, that it would be a no-brainer to elevate the first woman, first Black woman and first person of south Asian descent to hold national office.
Given how important Black voters -– and Black women especially -– were to Biden’s nomination and his choice of Harris as running mate, it would be risky, to say the least, for Democrats to pass her over for a white nominee. Democrats already faced historical headwinds before Biden’s withdrawal. Newsom and Whitmer, both of whom are white, and any other Democrat would also have to weigh the short-term and long-term benefits of challenging Harris now versus preserving goodwill for a future presidential primary.
Yet, fair or not, Harris also has not been viewed as an especially beloved or empowered vice president. The best scenario for her and Democrats is to quickly shore up support and project a united front. Democrats could even go forward with their plans for an early virtual vote – a move they’d planned to make sure Biden was selected ahead of Ohio’s general election ballot deadline.
What happens to Biden’s campaign money?
Biden’s campaign recently reported $91 million cash on hand. Allied Democratic campaign committees brought the total at his disposal to more than $240 million. Campaign finance experts agree generally that Harris could control all those funds since the campaign was set up in her name as well as Biden’s. If Democrats do nominate someone other than Harris, party accounts could still benefit the nominee, but the Biden-Harris account would have more restrictions. For example, legal experts say it could become an independent expenditure political action committee but not simply transfer its balance to a different nominee.
How will a vice presidential nomination work?
The vice presidential nomination is always a separate convention vote. In routine years, the convention ratifies the choice of the nominee. If Harris closes ranks quickly, she could name her choice and have the delegates ratify it. In an extended fight, though, the vice presidency could become part of horse-trading — again, a return to conventions of an earlier era.
Can Republicans keep Harris off state ballots?
Any curveball during a US presidential campaign is certain to produce a flurry of state and federal lawsuits in this hyper-partisan era, and some conservatives have threatened just that.
State laws, though, typically do not prescribe how parties choose their nominees for president. And some GOP figures – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey – have worked already this year to ensure their party did not deny Democrats’ routine ballot access.

Biden, 81, pulls out of US presidential race, will serve out term

Biden, 81, pulls out of US presidential race, will serve out term
Updated 21 July 2024
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Biden, 81, pulls out of US presidential race, will serve out term

Biden, 81, pulls out of US presidential race, will serve out term
  • By dropping his reelection bid, Biden clears the way for Vice President Kamala Harris to run at the top of the ticket
  • It was unclear whether other senior Democrats would challenge Harris, seen as pick for many, for party’s nomination

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden ended his reelection campaign on Sunday after fellow Democrats lost faith in his mental acuity and ability to beat Donald Trump, leaving the presidential race in uncharted territory.
Biden, in a post on X, said he will remain in his role as president and commander-in-chief until his term ends in January 2025 and will address the nation this week.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your President. And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term,” Biden wrote.
By dropping his reelection bid, he clears the way for Vice President Kamala Harris to run at the top of the ticket, the first Black woman to do so in the country’s history.
Biden, 81, did not mention her when he announced his move.
It was unclear whether other senior Democrats would challenge Harris for the party’s nomination, who was widely seen as the pick for many party officials — or whether the party itself would choose to open the field for nominations.
Biden’s announcement follows a wave of public and private pressure from Democratic lawmakers and party officials to quit the race after his shockingly poor performance in a televised debate last month against Republican rival Donald Trump.


Biden ends faltering reelection campaign, backs Harris as replacement

Biden ends faltering reelection campaign, backs Harris as replacement
Updated 4 min 58 sec ago
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Biden ends faltering reelection campaign, backs Harris as replacement

Biden ends faltering reelection campaign, backs Harris as replacement
  • President endorses Harris to replace him
  • Clears way for Vice President Kamala Harris to run atop Democrat ticket

WASHINGTON DC: US President Joe Biden dropped his faltering reelection bid on Sunday, amid intensifying opposition within his own Democratic Party, and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him as the party’s candidate against Republican Donald Trump.
Biden, 81, in a post on X, said he will remain in his role as president and commander-in-chief until his term ends in January 2025 and will address the nation this week.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your President. And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term,” Biden wrote.

His initial statement had not included an endorsement of Harris, but he followed up a few minutes later with an expression of support.
Biden’s campaign had been on the ropes since a disastrous June 27 debate against former President Trump, 78, in which the incumbent at times struggled to finish his thoughts.
Opposition from within Biden’s party gained steam over the past week with 36 congressional Democrats — more than one in eight members of the caucus — publicly calling on him to end his campaign.
Lawmakers said they feared he could cost them not only the White House but also the chance to control either chamber of Congress in the Nov. 5 election, leaving Democrats with no meaningful grasp on power.
That stood in sharp contrast to what played out in the Republican Party last week, when members united around Trump and his running mate US Senator J.D. Vance, 39.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Harris, 59, would become the first Black woman to run at the top of a major-party ticket in the country’s history.
Trump told CNN on Sunday that he believed Harris would be easier to defeat.
Biden had a last-minute change of heart, said a source familiar with the matter. The president told allies that as of Saturday night he planned to stay in the race before changing his mind on Sunday afternoon.
“Last night the message was proceed with everything, full speed ahead,” the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “At around 1:45 p.m. today: the president told his senior team that he had changed his mind.”
Biden announced his decision on social media within minutes.
It was unclear whether other senior Democrats would challenge Harris for the party’s nomination — she was widely seen as the pick for many party officials — or whether the party itself would choose to open the field for nominations.
Congressional Republicans argued that Biden should resign the office immediately, which would turn the White House over to Harris and put House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, next in line in succession.
“If he’s incapable of running for president, how is he capable of governing right now? I mean, there is five months left in this administration. It’s a real concern, and it’s a danger to the country,” Johnson told CNN on Sunday before Biden’s announcement.

GAVE IT MY ALL
Biden’s announcement follows a wave of public and private pressure from Democratic lawmakers and party officials to quit the race after his shockingly poor debate.
His troubles took the public spotlight away from Trump’s performance, in which he made a string of false statements, and trained it instead on questions surrounding Biden’s fitness for another 4-year term.
Days later he raised fresh concerns in an interview, shrugging off Democrats’ worries and a widening gap in opinion polls, and saying he would be fine losing to Trump if he knew he’d “gave it my all.”
His gaffes at a NATO summit — invoking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s name when he meant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and calling Harris “Vice President Trump” -further stoked anxieties.
Only four days before Sunday’s announcement, Biden was diagnosed with COVID-19, forcing him to cut short a campaign trip to Las Vegas. More than one in 10 congressional Democrats had called publicly for him to quit the race.
Biden’s historic move — the first sitting president to give up his party’s nomination for reelection since President Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War in March 1968 — leaves his replacement with less than four months to wage a campaign.
If Harris emerges as the nominee, the move would represent an unprecedented gamble by the Democratic Party: its first Black and Asian American woman to run for the White House in a country that has elected one Black president and never a woman president in more than two centuries.
Biden was the oldest US president ever elected when he beat Trump in 2020. During that campaign, Biden described himself as a bridge to the next generation of Democratic leaders. Some interpreted that to mean he would serve one term, a transitional figure who beat Trump and brought his party back to power.
But he set his sights on a second term in the belief that he was the only Democrat who could beat Trump again amid questions about Harris’s experience and popularity. In recent times, though, his advanced age began to show through more. His gait became stilted and his childhood stutter occasionally returned.
His team had hoped a strong performance at the June 27 debate would ease concerns over his age. It did the opposite: a Reuters/Ipsos poll after the debate showed that about 40 percent of Democrats thought he should quit the race.
Donors began to revolt and supporters of Harris began to coalesce around her. Top Democrats, including former House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime ally, told Biden he cannot win the election.
Biden initially resisted pressure to step aside. He held damage-control calls and meetings with lawmakers and state governors, and sat for rare television interviews. But it was not enough. Polls showed Trump’s lead in key battleground states widening, and Democrats began to fear a wipeout in the House and Senate. On July 17, California’s Rep. Adam Schiff called on him to exit the race.
Biden’s departure sets up a stark new contrast, between the Democrats’ presumptive new nominee, Harris, a former prosecutor, and Trump who is two decades her senior and faces two outstanding criminal prosecutions related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election result. He is due to be sentenced in New York in September on a conviction for trying to cover up a hush-money payment to a porn star.

BIDEN STRUGGLED BEFORE DEBATE
Earlier this year, facing little opposition, Biden easily won the Democratic primary race to pick its presidential candidate, despite voter concerns about his age and health.
His staunch support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza eroded support among some in his own party, particularly young, progressive Democrats and voters of color, who make up an essential part of the Democratic base.
Many Black voters say Biden has not done enough for them, and enthusiasm among Democrats overall for a second Biden term had been low. Even before the debate with Trump, Biden was trailing the Republican in some national polls and in the battleground states he would have needed to win to prevail on Nov. 5.
Harris was tasked with reaching out to those voters in recent months.
During the primary race, Biden accumulated more than 3,600 delegates to the Democratic National Convention to be held in Chicago in August. That was almost double the 1,976 needed to win the party’s nomination.
Unless the Democratic Party changes the rules, delegates pledged to Biden would enter the convention “uncommitted,” leaving them to vote on his successor.
Democrats also have a system of “superdelegates,” unpledged senior party officials and elected leaders whose support is limited on the first ballot but who could play a decisive role in subsequent rounds.
Biden beat Trump in 2020 by winning in the key battleground states, including tight races in Pennsylvania and Georgia. At a national level, he bested Trump by more than 7 million votes, capturing 51.3 percent of the popular vote to Trump’s 46.8 percent.


Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests

Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests
Updated 21 July 2024
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Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests

Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests
  • More than 100 people killed, thousands injured in clashes between police and students
  • Police on ‘highest alert’ as curfew remains in place after hearing

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Sunday scrapped most of the quotas on government jobs that had sparked nationwide unrest in the country and resulted in deadly clashes between police and student protesters that killed more than 100 people in the past week.

University students have been demonstrating on campuses since the beginning of July to demand a reformation of the quota system that reserved 30 percent of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

The government abolished the quotas after student protests in 2018, but it was reinstated by Bangladesh’s High Court last month, setting off a new round of demonstrations that was met with a harsh crackdown, including a curfew and a communications blackout that left the country of 170 million people cut off from the world.

Ruling on an appeal, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said the Supreme Court had ordered for the quota reserved for veterans to be cut to 5 percent and for 93 percent of jobs to be allocated on merit. The remaining 2 percent will be reserved for members of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

“In the future, the government may change the ratio if needed,” Uddin told Arab News.

“Now, I will send a copy of the verdict to the law minister for the next steps. (I) hope a gazette will be published in this regard within the next couple of days.”

The verdict came after demonstrations spiraled into deadly clashes, prompting authorities to impose a curfew ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, which Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Agence France-Presse news agency will continue “until the situation improves.”

The military was on patrol in the streets of Dhaka, along with riot police and thousands of Border Guard personnel as all gatherings were banned amid an increasing number of casualties.

At least 148 people have been killed in the past week and thousands injured, according to a count based on reports in the local media.

Inamul Haq Sagar, spokesman for the police, told Arab News: “We are on the highest alert across the country to maintain law and order.”

He added that at least three policemen had been killed and about 1,000 police officers injured during clashes in the past few days.

He said: “Since the curfew is underway, I urge all to be respectful to the law of the country and refrain from any destructive activities.”

It was not immediately clear how protesters would react to the decision by the Supreme Court.

Students had taken to the streets as the government quotas, which reserve hundreds of thousands of well-paid government jobs, affect young people directly.

The country’s unemployment rate is highest among people aged between 15 and 29 — more than a quarter of Bangladesh’s population — which constitutes 83 percent of the total without jobs.


Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’

Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’
Updated 21 July 2024
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Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’

Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’
  • Initially peaceful rallies that started last month against planned tax rises descended into violence
  • Ruto shelved his tax reform and proposed a national dialogue

NAIROBI: Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga Sunday insisted “justice” was a prerequisite for any talks with the government after deadly clashes, as President William Ruto warned unrest could “destroy” the country.
Initially peaceful rallies that started last month against planned tax rises descended into violence with dozens killed after some marchers stormed parliament.
Ruto shelved his tax reform and proposed a national dialogue.
“Justice must come first before any talks,” said Odinga on Sunday, however.
He demanded “compensation for every victim of police brutality” during the rallies.
Despite Ruto’s concessions, rallies have continued across the country. The opposition has called for fresh demonstrations next week.
“I want to promise it is going to stop. Enough is enough,” Ruto said on Sunday.
A court on Thursday suspended a police move to ban protests in the center of the capital Nairobi.
Ruto vowed to stop “looters” and “killers” who he said “risk destroying our country.”
“We want a peaceful, stable nation. And our issues are resolved using democratic means.”
Odinga, 79, who lost out to Ruto in the 2022 presidential election, said there had to be a “national conversation” between different sectors of society.
Such discussions, he said in a post on X, “should come from various sectors including youth, government, religious leaders, health care professionals, lawyers and teachers.”
Ruto on Friday unveiled a new partial cabinet to lead a “broad-based” government in a bid to ease the worst crisis of his nearly two years in office.
But the main opposition coalition swiftly branded the cabinet moves “cosmetic” and insisted it would not join a government of national unity led by Ruto.