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French Open: Dan Evans opens for Britain; Petra Kvitova makes comeback

BBC News - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 10:50am
Dan Evans carries British hopes on day one of the French Open and Petra Kvitova returns to action following a knife attack.

Two killed on Portland train after 'defending Muslims'

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 10:49am
Two men stabbed to death as they tried to stop suspect bullying Muslim women on light-rail train, Oregon police say.

Rejected from Germany: One Afghan's story

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 10:38am
One Afghan refugee describes how his 'life was destroyed in just 12 hours' as he was returned to the country he'd fled.

We ‘must speak out’: Yale psychiatrist sounds the alarm on Trump’s ‘grave mental disabilities’

The Raw Story - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 10:37am
Yale psychiatrist Dr. Brandy Lee recently hosted a conference on the mental health community’s response to the apparent psychological disorders of President Donald Trump — and in a recent interview with Salon, she explained why she and some of her colleagues are willing to risk censure o...

Pakistan reopens major Afghanistan border crossing

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 10:20am
The Chaman border crossing was closed last month after troops from both sides traded fire, leaving 15 dead.

Monaco GP: Lewis Hamilton struggles to understand poor qualifying

BBC News - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 10:15am
Lewis Hamilton says he is mystified by his lack of pace after qualifying 14th on the grid for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Russian banker Kushner met with in December is Putin crony and graduate of ‘finishing school’ for spies: report

The Raw Story - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 10:14am
A Russian banker who met with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is a graduate of what is described as Russia’s top “finishing schools” for spies, NBC is reporting. According to the report, Sergey Gorkov, 48, is a graduate of the FSB Academy, chartered in 1994 ...

G7 summit ends deadlocked on climate change

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 9:43am
US at odds with other six members as President Donald Trump refuses to endorse the Paris climate change accord.

Morocco police hunt Rif region protest leader

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 9:36am
Authorities order arrest of Nasser Zefzafi for interrupting an imam's sermon.

Killing of Militant by Indian Forces Sets Off Protests in Kashmir

World News (NY Times) - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 9:23am
Several hundred villagers charged Indian troops who had surrounded a house where the militant was hiding, and broader protests erupted in the region.

NewsGrid - Al Jazeera's interactive news hour

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 9:22am
Live every day at 15:00 GMT, our interactive news bulletin gives you the opportunity to engage with our team directly.

IRA bombing campaign 'wrong' - Jeremy Corbyn

BBC News - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 8:49am
Jeremy Corbyn seeks to distance himself from IRA's actions in the Troubles, as Tories step up criticism.

Iraq must invest in education to secure its future

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 8:30am
The cost of investing in Iraq's education will be high, but the return of this investment will be immense.

Trumpism: White Terrorist Murders 2 after harassing Muslim-American

Informed Comment - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 8:12am

TeleSur | – –

According to one witness, the suspect was heard saying “get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don’t pay taxes here.”

Amidst rising rates of violence directed toward Muslims and those percieved to be Muslim in the United States, two men on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon were fatally stabbed and a third injured on Friday after they confronted a man who was allegedly yelling racial slurs at two other passengers, one of whom was wearing a hijab, local media reported.

Ibrahim Hooper: “Video: CAIR Rep Ibrahim Hooper Interviewed on CNN About Killing of Men Who Defended Muslim Women”

According to a Portland police spokesperson, the stabbing suspect who is currently in police custody, was allegedly “yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs” at two other passengers.

According to one witness, the suspect was heard saying “get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don’t pay taxes here.”

When three men confronted the suspect and tried to calm him down, he allegedly stabbed them in the neck, killing two and injuring the other.

“Preliminary information indicates that the suspect was on the MAX train yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech… At least two of the victims attempted to intervene with the suspect and calm him down. The suspect attacked the men, stabbing three, before leaving the train,” the Portland Police Bureau’s official statement read.

It continued to say that witnesses saw “two young women, possibly Muslim, who were on the train at the time of the disturbance and attack, but left prior to police arrival… one was described as wearing a hijab.”

The location and identity of the two women is unknown, although police are currently looking to find and speak with them.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization promoting American Muslim civil liberties based in Washington, D.C., released a statement asking U.S. President Donald Trump to “speak our personally against rising bigotry and acts of racial violence in America targeting Muslims and other minority groups.”

According to CAIR, the past three years have seen a nearly 600% rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims, and those who are perceived to be Muslim.

More milk, less sugar for new Milkybar recipe

BBC News - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 8:02am
For the first time, milk will be the chocolate bar's main ingredient.

Iraq Parliament Mulls ending Freedom of Assembly

Informed Comment - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 7:54am

By Afef Abrougui | ( Globalvoices.org) | – –

When armed men in civilian clothes kidnapped journalist Afrah Shawqi from her home on 26 December 2016, journalists and activists quickly took to the street to demand that the government take action to ensure her safety and her immediate release.

Iraq's parliament is currently reviewing a draft law that, if enacted, could make this kind of response impossible. Local civil society groups and activists are criticizing the parliament for attempting to pass a bill that would restrict freedom of expression and rights to protest and assembly.

The law on “freedom of expression, opinion, assembly and peaceful demonstration” aims at “guaranteeing and regulating freedom of expression and opinion through any means, freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, and the right to knowledge, without prejudice to public order and public morals, and determining the parties responsible for regulating them,” states Article 2 of the bill.

The bill would require Iraqis to seek the prior authorization from local authorities before protesting or assembling. Requiring protesters to ask for an authorization five days before a protest is a “cause for concern, due to the nature of the Iraqi street and its ongoing crises” says Mustafa Naser, the president of the Association for Defending Press Freedom in Iraq. Iraqis “have recently realized the street's impact on parliamentary decisions and legislation,” he told Global Voices in an e-mail interview.

Iraqi protestors outside the Parliament in April 2016, where they staged a sit-in before storming the building. Photo credit: @AlFayth (Twitter)

Before assembling, Iraqis would also need to submit a request for prior authorization at least five days before a meeting takes place. The request should include the subject matter, purpose, time and place of the meeting, and names of the organizers.

In addition to restricting the right to protest and assembly, the bill also limits freedom of expression by mainly preventing criticism of religion and religious symbols. Article 13 prescribes a jail sentence of up to ten years for those convicted of “intentionally broadcasting propaganda for war, terrorist acts, and hatred based on national origin, race, religion and sect.” A second paragraph of the same article prescribes a one year prison sentence and a fine for attacks and the degradation of the beliefs of any religious sect. This includes any public insults to “a rite, symbol or a person subject of reverence, glorification or respect for a religious sect.”

On 13 May, the Iraqi parliament once again decided to postpone a vote on the controversial draft law, amid opposition from civil society groups and activists. MP Sarwa AbdelWahed told local media that the vote was delayed until a “national consensus” around the bill is reached.

The bill was first introduced in 2011. After confronting objections from civil society, its authors amended and submitted it to the parliament again in August 2015, only to encounter another wave of protests. The Iraqi parliament attempted to vote on the bill again in July 2016, without success.

Attempts by the parliament to pass the law again this month have been met with criticism by Iraqi civil society groups. Protesters gathered outside the parliament on 14 May to express their rejection of the bill.

Mustafa Saadoon, director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights tweeted on 15 May:

البرلمان العراقي يُرِيد ان يُقيد حريتنا بقانون عنوانه رائع وبنوده بائسة لا تنتجها الا الأنظمة الديكتاتورية.

— mustafa saadoon (@SaadoonMustafa) May 15, 2017

The Iraqi parliament wants to restrict our freedoms with a law that has a wonderful headline and miserable clauses produced only by dictatorial regimes

On the same day, the Observatory issued a statement accusing the different political alliances in the parliament of “restricting freedoms and paving the way for new dictatorships”:

يطالب المرصد العراقي لحقوق الإنسان البرلمان العراقي بضرورة إجراء تعديل على مسودة مشروع القانون وفق إلتزامات العراق الدولية وعدم التعامل بإنتقائة مع مبادئ حقوق الإنسان ومحاولة تقييد الحريات في قوانين عناوينها تنظيمية وبنودها تقييدية

The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights calls on the Iraqi parliament to amend the bill in accordance with Iraq's international obligations and not to be selective when it comes to human rights principles, and not to attempt to restrict freedoms with laws that have regulatory titles and restrictive clauses

Freedom of expression is already under threat in Iraq, with journalists and media at risk of violations by armed militias that do not tolerate criticism, and abuses by security officers. This is in addition to the targeting of journalists by ISIS, which since taking over parts of Iraq in 2014, has been responsible for murdering several reporters. But instead of working to ensure stronger protections for these freedoms, the Iraqi parliament is seeking to pass a repressive law.

للحد من حرية التعبير في العراق، أما أن تختطفك مليشيات وعصابات السلطة أو يشرع #قانون_حرية_التعبير من قبل ممثليهم في برلمان الفساد والإرهاب.

— حكيم الشرع (@Hakeemalshara2) May 11, 2017

To restrict freedom of expression in Iraq, either you get abducted by militias and the authority's gangs, or their representatives in the parliament of corruption and terrorism enacts a freedom of expression law

“There is a political will from the big alliances in the parliament which have been dominating the Iraqi state for more that a decade, to push for the enactment of a law that withholds the right to demonstrate, and criminalizes any unlicensed protest,” Naser stated. He added:

المفارقة انهم يدعون مقارعة النظام الدكتاتوري السابق، لنيل حرياتهم وحريات الشعب العراقي، لكنهم في ذات الوقت يستخدمون قوانين صدام حسين المشرعة في ستينيات القرن الماضي ضد خصومهم…بل انهم يسعون لتمرير المزيد من القوانين المقيدة للحريات، والتي لا تنسجم مع ادعاءاتهم النضالية

The paradox is, they claim that they are fighting the former dictatorial regime to win their freedoms and those of the Iraqi people, but at the same time they use the laws of Saddam Hussein enacted in the sixties against their opponents…while also seeking to pass more laws restrictive of freedoms, which are not in harmony with their claims of struggle.

It remains unclear when the Iraqi parliament will attempt to revive this six-year old bill again. In the meantime, civil society groups and activists will continue to exercise pressure so that another repressive law does not add up to the list of restrictive laws that already exist in Iraq, including the 1968 Publications Law which bans criticism of the government and the 1969 Penal Code which criminalizes defamation and insult.

By Afef Abrougui


Creative Commons Attribution 3.0


Related video added by Juan Cole:

BYU Kennedy Center: Documenting Human Rights Violations in Iraq

Nick Clegg: Tory school meal plans 'hit children's health'

BBC News - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 7:47am
Nick Clegg says children will not get free fruit and vegetables under Tory plans for English schools.

Who are Egypt’s Coptic Christians, ISIL’s latest Victims?

Informed Comment - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 7:36am

By Paul Rowe | (The Conversation) | – –

Coptic Christians in Egypt have been attacked while traveling on pilgrimages and bombed while praying on Palm Sunday, amid an accelerating series of attacks over the last decade. The interrelated challenges of violence, economics and discrimination have led to the increasing departure of Christians from the Middle East. For centuries they have been part of the rich religious diversity of the region.

So who are these people that National Geographic has called “The Forgotten Faithful”?

Coptic history

Among the Christians of the Middle East, the largest number – some eight million or so – is made up of Egypt’s Copts. Since I first visited Egypt in the 1990s, I have been interested in this community and its contribution to pluralism.

Copts are the indigenous Christian population of Egypt, who date back to the first decades following the life of Jesus Christ. The biblical Book of Acts tells how Jews from Egypt came to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, a Jewish harvest festival that marked the birth of the Christian church merely weeks after Christ’s crucifixion. Many of these Egyptians took the message of Christianity back to their own country. Christian tradition holds that St. Mark, one of the early disciples of Jesus, became the first bishop of Egypt.

By the fourth century, the majority of Egyptians had embraced the Christian faith. Even after the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, the majority of Egyptians were still Christians. It was only during the Middle Ages that greater and greater numbers embraced Islam, and the Christian population dwindled.

Today, Egyptian Christians make up approximately 5 to 10 percent of the Egyptian population. The word “Copt” is used for all Egyptian Christians. It is derived from an ancient Greek word that simply means “Egyptian.”

Copts are fiercely proud of their Egyptian heritage that dates back to the age of the pyramids as early as 3000 B.C. The vast majority of Copts are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church, an independent church that arose in A.D. 451, long before the divide that created the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in 1054.

The language of the Coptic Orthodox church service (or liturgy) used in daily worship is also known as Coptic. It is the original Egyptian language written in Greek script.

Copts live throughout every corner of Egypt and at every socioeconomic level. One of Egypt’s richest men, Naguib Sawiris, is a Copt, and so are most of Cairo’s garbage collectors, the zabellin. Though Copts are largely indistinguishable from the Muslim majority, many are given tattoos of a cross on their wrists as children, signifying their permanent commitment to the community. In addition, Coptic women are unlikely to veil, making them stand out from Muslim women.

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and the most significant Christian leader in Egypt, is the bishop of the See of St. Mark, known among Egyptians as the Coptic pope or patriarch. Today the Church is led by Pope Tawadros II, who studied pharmacy before deciding to pursue a religious career in the 1980s.

Religious practice

Copts practice a form of Christianity that hearkens back to the earliest traditions of the church.

Pope Tawadros and all of the bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Church begin their vocation as monks – celibate men living in seclusion in monasteries. The Coptic Orthodox Church is unique in its preference for placing monks in the highest positions of authority.

In fact, the world’s first Christian monks, St. Anthony and St. Paul, established their monasteries in the eastern desert of Egypt in the early fourth century. Both of these monasteries, and numerous others, continue to operate.

In his book “Desert Father,” Australian author James Cowan describes how the monastic tradition became an important support for Egyptian Christians under persecution and helped to preserve culture throughout the Christian world.

Modern-day Copts often visit the monasteries for spiritual guidance, community retreats and to rediscover their heritage.

But while Copts may go to the deserts of Egypt for their religious practice, most live in the cities among their Muslim compatriots. Their churches and community service organizations – and even Coptic news sites and media – contribute to the vibrancy of Egyptian social and intellectual life.

Peter Makari, a church leader with extensive experience working with Coptic organizations, writes about the ways in which Copts have organized community initiatives, development projects and solidarity movements with fellow Egyptians to promote national unity and peace. Copts regularly celebrate feasts with Muslim leaders and host public dialogues with Muslim intellectuals and leaders.

In particular, Copts participated alongside their Muslim compatriots in the proteststhat brought down the authoritarian rule of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The condition of Copts today

Nonetheless, Copts have faced systemic discrimination in employment and limitations on their ability to access public services and education ever since the establishment of the modern republic of Egypt in 1952.

Governing authorities made it very difficult for them to build or refurbish their churches. After the 2011 revolution, Copts initially enjoyed newfound freedoms to organize and voice their concerns about these practices.

However, their aspirations were dashed when the Egyptian Armed Forces clashed with Coptic protesters in a deadly confrontation in October 2011. When subsequently the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in 2012, there was an attempt to push through a constitution that gave special powers to Islamic authorities. These developments seemed to undermine Copts’ ability to participate as equal citizens.

Most Copts were therefore content to see the restoration of authoritarian rule under Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who in 2014 introduced a new constitution that limits the role of Islam in Egyptian government.

Unfortunately, the Coptic community has now become an easy target in the fight between al-Sisi and his Islamist enemies. Violent attacks on Copts have led them to flee certain areas of Egypt, such as Sinai, and there is a steady stream of Coptic emigration from Egypt.

This must concern all Egyptians, since the presence of Copts is essential to the health of intellectual, cultural and political life in the Middle East.

Paul Rowe, Professor and Coordinator of Political and International Studies, Trinity Western University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

PBS NewsHour: “Coptic Christians en route to monastery targeted in a deadly assault”

Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage on Trump's America

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 7:13am
The playwright discusses her Broadway plays and what it says about society in the United States today.

Egypt launches strikes in Libya after Minya attack

Al Jazeera - Sat, 27 May 2017 - 7:00am
Air raids target camps near Derna where armed men responsible for deadly Minya attack are alleged to have trained.
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