Faithful begin Hajj pilgrimage under strict Covid-19 measures

Agencies
July 29, 2020

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Dubai, Jul 29: Muslim pilgrims on Wednesday begin the annual Haj, downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage.

The Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

But this year only up to 10,000 people already residing in the Kingdom will participate in the ritual, a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world that attended last year.

"There are no security-related concerns in this pilgrimage, but (downsizing) is to protect pilgrims from the danger of the pandemic," said Khalid bin Qarar Al Harbi, Saudi Arabia's director of public security.

Pilgrims will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing during a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in the holy city of Makkah and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.

Those selected to take part in the Haj were subject to temperature checks and placed in quarantine as they began trickling into Makkah at the weekend.

State media showed health workers sanitising their luggage, and some pilgrims reported being given electronic wristbands to allow authorities to monitor their whereabouts.

Workers, clutching brooms and disinfectant, were seen cleaning the area around the Kaaba, the structure at the centre of the Grand Mosque draped in gold-embroidered cloth towards which Muslims around the world pray.

Haj authorities have cordoned off the Holy Kaaba this year, saying pilgrims will not be allowed to touch it, to limit the chances of infection.

They also reported setting up multiple health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances to cater to the pilgrims.

Saudi authorities said only around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the Kingdom would be permitted for the Haj. Some 70 per cent of the pilgrims are foreigners residing in the Kingdom, while the rest will be Saudi citizens, authorities said.

All worshippers were required to be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Makkah and will also have to quarantine after the pilgrimage as the number of cases in the Kingdom nears 270,000.

They were given elaborate amenity kits that include sterilised pebbles for a stoning ritual, disinfectants, masks, a prayer rug and the Ihram, a seamless white garment worn by pilgrims, according to a Haj ministry programme document.

"I did not expect, among millions of Muslims, to be blessed with approval," Emirati pilgrim Abdullah Al Kathiri said in a video released by the Saudi media ministry.

"It is an indescribable feeling... especially since it is my first pilgrimage."

The Haj ministry said non-Saudi residents of the Kingdom from around 160 countries competed in the online selection process but it did not say how many people applied.

Despite the pandemic, many pilgrims consider it safer to participate in this year's ritual without the usual colossal crowds cramming into tiny religious sites, which make it a logistical nightmare and a health hazard.

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News Network
September 26,2020

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Kannur, Sept 26: A P Abdullakutty, a BJP leader from Kerala, has been appointed the party's national vice president.

Abdullakutty, who was a two-term MP of the CPM and later a two-time MLA of Congress, had joined the BJP in June last year. Earlier this year, he was appointed as state vice president.

The leader from Kannur is known in state political circles as ‘albhuthakutty’ (wonder kid) because of his feats of political survival against all odds.

"This is not only a recognition for the party in Kerala but a recognition for the minority communities as well. This is also a reply to detractors who portray the BJP as an anti-Muslim outfit. Bestowing such a huge responsibility on a newcomer like me, by a party recognised as the biggest political outfit in the world, is indeed an honour," Abdullakutty said.

Abdullakutty, who was the state president of SFI, emerged as a firebrand leader of the CPM from Kannur district. He was expelled from the CPM after he praised Narendra Modi and his development initiatives in Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister of that state.

He joined the Congress and became the party MLA from Kannur assembly constituency for two terms but had to taste defeat during the 2016 assembly election from Thalassery.

Abdullakutty was expelled from the Congress for again praising Narendra Modi as a 'Gandhian'. He joined the BJP, receiving the membership from the party's national working president JP Nadda in June 2019.

Tom Vadakkan

Abdullakutty and Tom Vadakkan, who was appointed national spokesperson, are the two leaders from Kerala who have made it to the list of BJP's national office bearers which was announced today.

Vadakkan had switched to the BJP from the Congress a month before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Once a close aide of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Vadakkan had left the Congress accusing the party of questioning the integrity of the armed forces after the Balakot air strikes. Though a Keralite, Vadakkan has been based in New Delhi for a long time.

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Bengaluru, Sep 16: Over a dozen Muslim clergymen met Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Tuesday and demanded that the state government order an independent judicial inquiry commission to probe into the D.J. Halli violence that took place last month.

The clergymen, led by Ameer-E-Shariat Karnataka, Moulana Sageer Ahmed, submitted a memorandum to the CM and strongly appealed that the state government should also act resiliently on those tried to spread communal hate by posting indecent messages on social media sites.

Speaking to IANS, Maulana Maqsood Imran Rashadi, Imam, Jama Masjid, appealed the state government to take steps to releases innocent Muslim accused, who have been booked in this case.

“The police have picked more than 300 people till date for their alleged role in the D.J. Hall violence, but in reality, there are many innocents too who have been picked up. At least they must be let off is our primary demand,” he expaliend.

The memorandum stated that the main idea of seeking an independent judicial commission is to know the real truth as to who instigated P. Naveen, nephew of Congress MLA Srinivasamurthy, to post such posts on social media.

According to the memorandum, the community strongly suspects this entire episode is orchestrated by someone who is hiding behind Naveen, who wanted to disturb the communal peace in the state.

The memorandum further added that the state government’s decision to invoke draconian Unlawful Activates (Prevention) Act (UAPA). “Invocation of such draconian law would ruin the entire life of innocents, hence the state should not invoke this act in a hurried manner,” it read.

The note also added that the state government should take stringent action against all those spreading religious hate using social media platforms.

It may be recalled that the violence began after religious sentiments were offended following an objectionable post on Facebook, by P. Naveen.

Earlier, he had hailed the Bhumi Pujan in Ayodhya as a victory for Hindus. He is the nephew of Congress MLA from Pulakeshinagar, Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy. Murthy, a Dalit leader, had defected from the JD(S) to Congress before the last poll and won it too at the chagrin of the Congress bigwigs who had been eying the seat.

In this incident, the legislator’s house was torched by rioters and in a bid to quell the rioters, the police opened fire in which three people lost their lives.A The police then swooped down and arrested more than 300 persons so far in this connection.

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News Network
September 18,2020

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Bengaluru, Sept 18: Google pulled down payment app PayTM from its app store on Friday for allegedly violating the company's gambling policy.

Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy at Google said on a blogpost on Friday said that Google doesn't allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting. She added that this policy includes apps that lead consumers to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes.

The blogpost doesn't mention Paytm specifically or Paytm games. Google spokesperson confirmed to ET has Paytm was one of the many apps taken down for the violating the gambling policy.

Google said it has these policies to protect users from potential harm, and when an app violates these policies, we notify the developer of the violation and remove the app from Google Play until the developer brings the app into compliance.

"And in the case where there are repeated policy violations, we may take more serious action which may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts. Our policies are applied and enforced on all developers consistently," she said.

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