Pilgrims ascend Mount Arafat in high point of Hajj

News Network
July 19, 2021

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Makkah, July 19: Muslim pilgrims ascended Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat on Monday in the high point of this year's Hajj, being held in downsized form and under coronavirus restrictions for the second year running.

Just 60,000 people, all citizens or residents of Saudi Arabia, have been selected to take part in this year's Hajj, with foreign pilgrims again barred.

The mask-clad faithful, who had spent the night in camps in the Valley of Mina, converged on Mount Arafat where it is believed the Prophet Mohammed delivered his final sermon, for the most important of the Hajj rituals.

Worshippers will assemble on the 70-metre (230-foot) high hill and its surrounding plain for hours of prayers and Quran recitals to atone for their sins, staying there until the evening.

After sunset, they head to Muzdalifah, halfway between Arafat and Mina, where they will sleep under the stars before performing the symbolic "stoning of the devil".

The scene was dramatically different to past pilgrimages, which have drawn up to 2.5 million people, and this year the mountain was free of the huge crowds that descend on it in normal years.

Privileged few

Being one of the lucky few "gives you a feeling that our God is forgiving and has chosen us to be in this place," said Selma Mohamed Hegazi, a 45-year-old Egyptian. "God willing, our prayers will be accepted."

"My whole body is shivering," she said as she stood among the other emotional pilgrims, wearing the ihram, the traditional seamless white garment worn during the Haj.

Worshippers described a sense of tranquillity descending on the mountain, also known as the "Mount of Mercy".

"To be one of only 60,000 doing haj ....I feel like I am part of a (privileged) group that was able to reach this place," said Baref Siraj, a 58-year-old Saudi national.
The Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims with the means to travel at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

Participants were chosen from more than 558,000 applicants through an online vetting system, with the event confined to fully vaccinated adults aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses.

Safety first

Authorities are seeking to repeat last year's successful event, which took place on the smallest scale in modern history with just 10,000 participants, but which saw no virus outbreak.
Saudi health authorities said Sunday that not a single Covid case had been reported amongst the pilgrims this year.

The kingdom has so far recorded more than 509,000 coronavirus infections, including over 8,000 deaths. Some 20 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country of over 34 million people.

The Haj, which typically packs large crowds into congested religious sites, could have been a super-spreader event for the virus.

But Saudi Arabia has said it is deploying the "highest levels of health precautions" in light of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants.

Pilgrims are being divided into groups of just 20 to restrict potential exposure, and a "smart Haj card" has been introduced to allow contact-free access to camps, hotels and the buses to ferry pilgrims around religious sites.

Black-and-white robots have been deployed to dispense bottles of sacred water from the Zamzam spring in Makkah's Grand Mosque, built around the Kaaba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

Ibrahim Siam, a 64-year-old Egyptian pilgrim who comes from Dammam in the east of the country, said that high-tech procedures introduced to manage the Haj "have made things a lot easier."

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News Network
September 19,2021

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According to a report on a web platform, a case has been filed against 11 respondents, including Thalapathy Vijay's mother Shoba Chandrasekhar and father SA Chandrasekhar. 

A report further adds that Vijay has filed a complaint that seeks a ban on the meetings using his name or the name of his fan clubs in politics by his former executives, including his father and mother, and his VMI team executives.

It was reported that a political party has been registered in actor Vijay’s name by his father SA Chandrasekhar in 2020. The veteran director had registered his son’s fans club Vijay Makkal Iyakkam as a political party called All India Thalapathy Vijay Makkal Iyakkam with the Election Commission of India. 

Everyone thought that the Master actor had decided to foray into the politics by the news. However, Vijay made it clear that he has nothing to do with the All India Thalapathy Vijay Makkal Iyakkam, which was established by his father. He also urged his fans not to join in the party.

"I don't have any connection directly or indirectly with the political statements that my father has issued. I'm not bound to follow my father's political aspirations. I request my fans not to join the party that my father has started. If anyone tries to misuse my name, photo, or my fan clubs for their political aspirations, I will take necessary actions against them'', he said in an official statement. 

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News Network
September 12,2021

Kabul, Sept 12: The higher education minister in the new Taliban government says women will study in universities, including at post-graduate levels, but that classrooms will be gender-segregated and that Islamic dress is compulsory.

The minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, laid out the new policies at a news conference Sunday, several days after Afghanistan's new rulers formed a Taliban government.

Haqqani said female university students would be required to wear a hijab but did not elaborate on whether this only meant a compulsory headscarf or also mandatory face coverings. 

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News Network
September 20,2021

Bengaluru, Sept 20: The state’s Covid-19 numbers continued their descent - a trend which first set in eight weeks ago. In the last seven days, Karnataka registered 6,131 cases, which is 6.6% lower than the 6,571 cases recorded the week before.

The decline allayed fears that cases were on the rise again between September 15 to 17, when case numbers increased to beyond a thousand per day, after days of a decline.

Considering weekly averages, Karnataka’s Covid-19 numbers fell by 29% over the last 30 days, but of equal concern is that the statewide testing numbers, which despite getting a boost in the middle part of last week, have been steadily declining.

In the last seven days, the state government conducted 9.78 lakh tests, which was 9.84 lakh the week before. The average number of tests conducted has declined by 20.4% over the course of the last 30 days.

The state’s declining case numbers are due to abrupt drops in case registrations on some days. Sunday was one of these days with Karnataka recording 783 new cases. Out of these, Bengaluru Urban disclosed that it had identified 267 new cases, comprising 34% of the statewide total for the day.

The decline in the number of new cases in the city has been less steep. Over the last 30 days, the average number of cases have fallen by 8.6%, with testing rates having plummeted by 12.9%.

The next highest cases were recorded in Dakshina Kannada (97), Udupi district (82) and Mysuru district (69).

The new statewide cases, coupled with 1,139 discharges, leave Karnataka’s active caseload at 15,383. Health officials also announced 16 new fatalities. Barring two of the deaths which happened on Sunday, six were backlog deaths which had occurred in July and May.

Covid-19 among children

Between September 12 and 18, the state recorded 247 new cases of Covid-19 of children aged below 11. Among teens (11 to 19), it recorded 827 new cases. In contrast, 289 pre-teen and 888 teen cases were reported in the week before last (5-11 September). Over the last 14 days, pre-teen cases comprise 4.1% of daily Covid-19 cases.

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