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Mecca reopens for limited ‘umrah’ pilgrimage

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download 16 Mecca reopens for limited ‘umrah’ pilgrimage

Mask – clad Muslims circled Islam ’s holiest site along socially distanced paths on Sunday , as Saudi authorities partially resumed the year – round umrah pilgrimage with extensive health precautions adopted after a seven -month coronavirus hiatus.
Thousands of worshippers entered the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in batches to perform the ritual of circling the sacred Kaaba, a cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray .
The umrah , the pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time , usually attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year but it was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic .
It will be revived in three phases , with Saudi Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten saying last week that 6, 000 pilgrims per day will be allowed in the first stage to perform the umrah “ meticulously and within a specified period of time” .
A raft of precautions has been adopted to ward off any outbreaks , according to state media.
The revered Black Stone in the eastern corner of the Kaaba — which it is customary but not mandatory to touch during the pilgrimage — will be out of reach , and the Grand Mosque is to be sterilized before and after each group of worshippers.
Each group of 20 or 25 pilgrims are to be accompanied by a health worker and medical teams will be on the ground in case of an emergency , Benten said .
“ In an atmosphere of faith and with assured hearts… the first batch of pilgrims begin the pilgrimage in accordance with the precautionary measures laid out , ” the hajj ministry said on Twitter.
– ‘Aspirations of Muslims ’ –
Under the second stage from October 18 , the number of umrah pilgrims will be increased to 15 ,000 per day.
Visitors from abroad will be permitted in the third stage from November 1 , when capacity will be raised to 20, 000 .
A maximum of 40, 000 people, including other worshippers, will be allowed to perform prayers at the mosque in the second stage and 60 , 000 in the third, according to the interior ministry .
The decision to resume the pilgrimage was taken in response to the “ aspirations of Muslims home and abroad ” to perform the ritual and visit the holy sites , the ministry said last month .
It said the umrah will be allowed to return to full capacity once the threat of the pandemic has abated .
Until then , the health ministry will vet countries from which pilgrims are allowed to enter based on the health risks.
Saudi Arabia suspended the umrah in March and scaled back the annual hajj pilgrimage over fears the coronavirus could spread to Islam ’s holiest cities and back to pilgrims ’ home countries .
The hajj went ahead in late July , on the smallest scale in modern history, with only up to 10, 000 Muslim residents of the country allowed to take part — a far cry from the 2 . 5 million who participated last year .
Health authorities said no coronavirus cases were reported at the holy sites during the hajj , one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able – bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime .
The pilgrimages are a massive logistical challenge , with colossal crowds cramming into relatively small holy sites , making them vulnerable to contagion .
Saudi Arabia ’s custodianship of Mecca and Medina — Islam ’ s two holiest sites — is seen as its most powerful source of political legitimacy .
The holy sites are also a key revenue earner for the kingdom , whose economy has been badly hit by a coronavirus – driven collapse in the global demand for oil .
Saudi Arabia has had more than 335, 000 confirmed cases of the virus and 4 , 850 deaths.
( AFP )

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Muslim World Protests , Condemns Macron’s Support For Offensive Cartoons

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67506 scaled Muslim World Protests , Condemns Macron's Support For Offensive Cartoons

– Charlie Hebdo published the cartoon amid tensions between France and Turkey
– French school teacher was beheaded for showing Mohammed cartoons to his class
– France President – Emmanuel Macron has drawn anger in the Islamic world by defending offensive cartoons
– Erdogan called the cartoonists ‘scoundrels’ and accused the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the crusades’ with attacks on Islam
– Bangladeshis joined calls to boycott French products, which is already underway in Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar
– Iranian newspaper depicted Macron as the Devil, as ambassador in Tehran was summoned in protest
The Islamic world’s anger at France deepened today as Turkey condemned a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifting a woman’s burka to look at her naked backside.
Erdogan called the cartoonists ‘scoundrels’ and accused the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the Crusades’ by attacking Islam after the image appeared on the front of this week’s magazine.
‘I don’t need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,’ Erdogan said, calling it a ‘disgusting attack’.
Showing Erdogan in a T-shirt and underpants, the caricature has Erdogan saying ‘Ooh, the Prophet’ as he looks at the woman’s backside, and comes with the caption: ‘Erdogan – in private he’s very funny’.
A Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing the naked Prophet’s backside was the image which French school teacher Samuel Paty showed to his class in the lesson which led to his murder and beheading earlier this month.
French president Emmanuel Macron has staunchly defended free expression and the right to mock religion in the wake of the terror attack, but has become a target of anger in the Islamic world.
Turkey has vowed to take ‘legal, diplomatic actions’ in response to the cartoon while Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani also took aim at France today by warning that insulting the Prophet would encourage ‘violence and bloodshed’.
Rouhani said that ‘the West should understand that… insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims, all prophets, all human values, and trampling ethics’.
‘Insulting the prophet is no achievement. It’s immoral. It’s encouraging violence,’ Rouhani said in a televised speech during the weekly cabinet meeting.
‘It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed,’ he added.
Rouhani also called on the West to ‘stop interfering in Muslims’ internal affairs’ if it ‘truly seeks to achieve peace, equality, calm and security in today’s societies’.
European leaders have come to Macron’s defence in his row with Erdogan, with Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab today calling on NATO allies to stand together in defence of tolerance and free speech.
‘The UK stands in solidarity with France and the French people in the wake of the appalling murder of Samuel Paty,’ Raab said in a veiled rebuke to Turkey.
Erdogan has accused the French leader of an ‘anti-Islam agenda’ and tangled with him on other issues including Syria and the Mediterranean.
The Ankara prosecutor’s office said it was launching an investigation into the publication of the cartoon.
‘French president Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit,’ Erdogan’s top press aide Fahrettin Altun said today.
Altun said the image was a ‘most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred’.
‘Charlie Hebdo just published a series of so-called cartoons full of despicable images purportedly of our President,’ he said.
Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay also condemned the ‘immoral publication’ by what he called an ‘incorrigible French rag’.
‘I call on the moral and conscientious international community to speak out against this disgrace,’ the vice president said.
Macron has vowed that France will stick to its secular traditions and laws guaranteeing freedom of speech which allow publications such as Charlie Hebdo to produce inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
The French government has also shut down a Paris mosque and raided other Islamic associations in the wake of Paty’s killing in the Paris suburbs earlier this month.
Paty showed his students some of the cartoons in a lesson on free speech, leading to an online campaign against him which ended in his grisly murder.
An attack on Charlie Hebdo by jihadists in 2015 left 12 people dead, including some of its most famed cartoonists.Macron’s defence of Charlie Hebdo, and his recent comment that Islam worldwide is ‘in crisis’, have prompted Erdogan to urge Turks to boycott French products.
Macron’s stance has also sparked anti-France protests in Turkey and in other Muslim countries including Bangladesh.
Tehran summoned a senior French envoy, the charge d’affaires, and the Saudi foreign ministry posted on Twitter to denounce ‘the offensive cartoons of the Prophet’.
Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim slammed Macron’s comments on Islam being in crisis as ‘offensive’ and ‘unreasonable’, adding in a statement: ‘With freedom comes responsibility.’
Macron has also drawn fire in Pakistan and Morocco, while the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah have also spoken out against France.
Previously, European leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel had defended Macron after Erdogan suggested he needed ‘mental checks’.
‘They are defamatory comments that are completely unacceptable, particularly against the backdrop of the horrific murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist fanatic,’ Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
On Tuesday, Dutch PM Mark Rutte came to the defence of his country’s far-right politician Geert Wilders after Erdogan brought legal action against him.
Wilders had shared a cartoon of the Turkish president wearing an Ottoman hat shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse on Twitter.
‘I have a message for President Erdogan and that message is simple: In the Netherlands, freedom of expression is one of our highest values,’ Rutte said.

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Goodluck Jonathan Observing Tanzanian Election

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images 2020 10 28T153931.702 Goodluck Jonathan Observing Tanzanian Election

ELECTION DAY IN TANZANIA:
The African Union (AU) Expert Election Observer Team which I lead visited some polling stations in Dar es Salaam this morning as voting got underway in Tanzania’s general elections.
The African Union sees today’s polls as yet another opportunity for the good people of the United Republic of Tanzania to deepen democracy and peace in the country.
-GEJ

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#WTO – DG : France , Germany , 104 Other Countries Back Okonjo – Iweala

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images 2020 10 28T094609.198 #WTO - DG : France , Germany , 104 Other Countries Back Okonjo - Iweala

The 27 European Union member states have backed Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her bid to become the first African and first female director-general of the World Trade Organisation.
The EU member states are France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
The latest support for Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy brings the number of countries officially endorsing her to 106 out of the 164 states that comprise the WTO.
The 55-member African Union had earlier officially supported the former World Bank director over her sole remaining opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.
Okonjo-Iweala had also won the goodwill of a group of Caribbean and Pacific States as well as others from Asia.
The European Parliament endorsed Okonjo-Iweala to head the WTO, saying she is well-equipped. The Parliament had subsequently written the EU to support the Nigerian candidate.
When EU member states convened on Monday, they failed to find a consensus around the choice but the EU representatives reconvened and agreed to back Okonjo-Iweala, according to AFP news agency.
The WTO’s consultation process ends today and the new leader is expected to be named in November but an EU official said the EU will publicly announce its support for the 66-year-old economist today, according to AFP.
The final winner between the two women will replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo and former director-general of the 25-year-old trade organisation.
The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO’s top post, which has been whittled down over two rounds of consultations, had included three Africans – Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya.
The third and final round of consultations seeking to establish consensus around one candidate is due to end today, with the announcement due in early November.
If Okonjo-Iweala is confirmed, she will join the WTO at a difficult time, with the world facing a deep post-coronavirus recession and a crisis of confidence in free trade and globalisation.
A trade war is brewing between the world’s anchor economies -the United States and China – and the European Union will see G7 member Britain leave its single market at the end of the year.
US President Donald Trump faces a tough battle for re-election early next month, but under his leadership, Washington’s relationship with the WTO has suffered.
His administration has appealed a WTO ruling that faulted US duties imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods.
Usually, the WTO Appellate Body would have three months to rule on any appeals filed.
But that process has been complicated since the WTO Appellate Body – also known as the supreme court of world trade – stopped functioning last December as the US blocked the appointment of new judges to the panel.

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