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AFGHANISTAN: UN Chief condemns ‘horrific’ attack at Kunduz mosque

UN Chief condemns ‘Horrific’ attack at Kunduz mosque

By UN News


Eurasia Review (09.10.2021) – https://bit.ly/3mM7aZe – At least 100 worshippers have been killed or injured after a suicide bomber targeted a Shia mosque, in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, according to news reports, during Friday prayers.

The UN chief condemned the “horrific” attack “in the strongest terms”, noting that it represents the third assault on a religious institution, in less than a week.


“Attacks that deliberately target civilians exercising the right to freely practice their religion are violations of fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, in a statement released by his Spokesperson. “The perpetrators must be brought to justice.”


The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the bereaved families and wishes those injured, a speedy recovery.


IKSP claim attack


According to news reports, the attack was claimed by the local Islamic State terrorist group affiliate, known as Islamic State Khorasan Province (IKSP).


IKSP has previously targeted the Shia Muslim community in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, and is an extremist Islamist faction opposed to the de facto rulers of the country, the Taliban, who seized power in mid-August.


Militants from IKSP, carried out the deadly attack at Kabul airport last month, which killed 13 United States military personnel, and 169 Afghan civilians.


‘Disturbing pattern’


The UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, tweeted that it was deeply concerned over the recent spate of attacks, which apart from the bombing of Sayyidabad mosque on Friday, included an incident claimed by IKSP on Sunday near a mosque in Kabul, and Wednesday’s attack on a school in Khost, which is so far, unclaimed.


“Today’s incident is part of a disturbing pattern of violence”, said UNAMA.


In a tweet, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said that the bombings and targetting of houses of worship, “highlights the vulnerability of ordinary Afghans, especially religious minorities. Our hearts are with the victims and we hope for justice.”


Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency

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AFGHANISTAN: Dozens killed in suicide bombing at Kunduz mosque

Dozens killed in suicide bombing at Kunduz mosque

ISIL affiliate claims responsibility for the blast at Shia mosque in Kunduz that has killed dozens.


Aljazeera (08.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3v4V9lf – Dozens of people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a Shia mosque in Afghanistan’s northeastern city of Kunduz during Friday prayers, the country’s worst attack since the Taliban took over control in August.


The Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility for the attack through its Telegram channels on Friday.


In a statement released on Telegram, the group said an ISIS-K suicide bomber “detonated an explosive vest amid a crowd” of Shia worshippers who had gathered inside the mosque.


Video footage showed bodies surrounded by debris inside the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque that is used by people from the minority Shia Muslim community.


There have been conflicting reports about the number of casualties. The United Nations mission to Afghanistan said in a tweet the blast killed and wounded more than 100 people.


Dost Mohammad Obaida, the deputy police chief for Kunduz province, also said at least 100 people were killed or wounded in the attack, adding that the “majority of them have been killed”.


“I assure our Shia brothers that the Taliban are prepared to ensure their safety,” Obaida said, adding that an investigation was under way.

Meanwhile, the state-run Bakhtar News Agency said at least 46 people were killed, while more than 140 were wounded inside the mosque in the Khan Abad area of Kunduz city.


A deputy director for the province’s health department said there were “around 50 dead and at least 50 wounded”, the DPA news agency reported.


Suicide attack


Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra reporting from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif said people in Kunduz have described “horrifying” scenes.


“They were struggling to deal with the human remains scattered throughout the back yard of the mosque,” Ahelbarra said.

“They expect the death toll to further climb in further hours because they say many people who were injured are in critical condition.”


The blast blew out windows, charred the ceiling and scattered debris and twisted metal across the floor. Rescuers carried one body out on a stretcher and another in a blanket. Blood stains covered the front steps.


In its claim of responsibility, the region’s ISIL affiliate identified the bomber as a Uighur Muslim, saying the attack targeted both Shias and the Taliban for their purported willingness to expel Uighurs to meet demands from China.


The statement was carried by the ISIL-linked Aamaq news agency.


The worshippers targeted in Friday’s attack were Hazaras, who have long suffered from double discrimination as an ethnic minority and as followers of Shia Islam in a majority Sunni country.


Groups affiliated to the ISIL (ISIS) group have a long history of attacking Afghanistan’s Shia Muslims.


There have been several attacks, including one at a mosque in Kabul, in recent weeks, some of which have been claimed by ISIS-K.


Ahelbarra said this explains why the Taliban has in the past few days “launched a major crackdown and said they arrested many ISIL operatives in Kabul and in Jalalabad”.


“This [attack] is going to put more pressure on the Taliban; people will now be angry. When the Taliban took power in August, they prided themselves on providing a safe environment for the Afghan people. Now, this isn’t the case any more because you’re seeing the pattern of those attacks.


“[Friday’s attack by ISIS-K] could be a clear indication that they are sending a message to the international community that they are far from defeated, that they are willing to further expand their footprint across Afghanistan and we are likely to see major confrontation in the future between [ISIS-K] and the Taliban,” Ahelbarra said.


Photo credits: Reuters

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TAJIKISTAN: To prevent violent extremism in Tajikistan, promote religious freedom

To prevent violent extremism in Tajikistan, promote religious freedom

Washington should promote and directly incorporate religious freedom training as a requirement for Tajikistan to receive aid.

By Tony Perkins and Nury Turkel


The Diplomat (11.06.2021) – https://bit.ly/3h2mMWA- Tajikistan is located in a dangerous neighborhood, sharing a long border with Afghanistan that is a growing concern amid the imminent U.S. withdrawal. While the United States engages with Tajikistan on such security issues, the government of Tajikistan continues to operate under the fallacy that security requires strict control of religion, justifying gross violations of religious freedom and facilitating a deeply counterproductive strategy for preventing and countering violent extremism.

Given these circumstances, U.S. assistance to Tajikistan should come with conditions, and should not ignore or condone domestic policies that generate the kinds of grievances that contribute to radicalization. Instead, the U.S. should promote and directly incorporate religious freedom training as a requirement to receive aid. Research has found such training to be an effective antidote to violent extremism, and international bodies like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations have recommended it as best practice.

President Emomali Rahmon, who last year won a fraudulent reelection with a staggering 91 percent of the vote, promotes a monolithic, state-controlled version of Islam that punishes non-conformity. The government has closed more than 2,000 mosques since 2017, converting many into cafes, movie theaters, or factories — even as it ironically prepares to open the largest mosque in Central Asia, able to accommodate more than 150,000 worshippers. Such large central mosques are staffed by imams appointed and paid by the state. The government dictates or approves the content of sermons, often with the inclusion of explicit praise for the Rahmon regime.

The intended message is clear: The only acceptable form of Islam is official, highly centralized, and nationalistic.

Tajikistan’s extremism laws are also vague and expansive, enabling the government to criminalize most speech or behavior it opposes. Security forces round up young men with beards and forcibly shave them, while women who wear hijabs are publicly shamed or even denied basic services like medicine and education. The government has also targeted political opponents, critical journalists and media outlets, and even naïve social media users who “like” content deemed to be extremist. These individuals are funneled into a decrepit and overcrowded prison system, cramming violent Islamists together with many who are falsely imprisoned.

The Rahmon regime regularly identifies political opposition with extremism and terrorism. This calculus, which sets a monolithic state-approved religion against an exaggerated host of frightening radicals, has been counterproductive. Studies show that increased religious freedom actually diminishes the relative influence of radical groups by exposing individuals to a variety of messages and perspectives. Violent Islamist fighters, for example, consistently demonstrate low levels of knowledge about actual Islamic thought and doctrine.

Indeed, a significant percentage of respondents in recent studies on radicalization in Tajikistan claim that religious illiteracy makes individuals more vulnerable to extremist recruiting. The country’s overcrowded prisons have become a major vector for the spread of violent extremism, as many imprisoned on bogus or frivolous extremism charges are subjected to inhumane conditions alongside actual violent extremists. Those conditioned to perceive all religious non-conformity as opposition, or even rebellion, are more likely to become radical.

Consider the case of Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, the commander of an elite police unit in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who in May 2015 released a video swearing allegiance to the Islamic State. As a highly trained officer with intimate knowledge of Tajikistan’s security infrastructure, Khalimov’s defection was a devastating blow to the country and a boon to terrorists. By 2016, the Islamic State allegedly appointed him minister of war. Khalimov claimed to have been radicalized through observing and participating in the government’s campaign against Islam. He equated these anti-Islamic policies with “democracy” and called on Tajikistani citizens to combat it by joining the Islamic State. By leading Khalimov to conflate “democracy” with anti-religious authoritarianism, the government’s policies contributed to a dynamic in which opposition was more readily equated with violent extremism.


In contrast to these failed approaches, effective U.S. government engagement with Tajikistan should emphasize the importance of religious freedom to achieving sustainable security. For example, USAID opened its first full development mission in Tajikistan in October 2020. This program should include support for religious freedom as part of its educational outreach. The State Department should also include religious freedom training for Tajikistani officials as part of U.S. security assistance, laying out the benefits of religious freedom in countering violent extremism. Such programs would be far more effective in meeting the challenges that actual violent groups like the Islamic State pose, by promoting the social benefits of religious tolerance and pluralism while ending the self-defeating cycle of grievances that current Tajikistani policy generates.


Photo : Depositphotos

Further reading about Security & Religion on HRWF website

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NETHERLANDS: Wiretapping equipment in Salafist mosques?

NL Times (15.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/2Kw683U – Forum for Democracy, a conservative political party, wants to install wiretapping equipment in Salafist mosques if there is a suspicion of criminal offenses. That is what FvD Member of Parliament, Theo Hiddema, said in the television program WNL on Sunday.


He argues that there are “a lot of coercive measures” in criminal law to deal with criminal organizations, which he says Salafist schools and mosques are. “They are sowing hatred and division against unbelievers and apostates, and that is a crime.”


According to the FvD, insufficient work has been done to detect Salafism in the Netherlands. “There are hundreds of hate schools. You can bet that things are not right there. It has never been said to an imam: now it’s enough, you sow hatred, and then we close our doors. If you say that, all hell breaks loose,” proclaims Hiddema.


The former head of the Supreme Court, Geert Corstens, who was also present during the WNL broadcast, emphasized that evidence would be needed before implementing any measures. He also advocates silencing these organizations through civil law processes.


A report released by the National Coordination for counter-terrorism found that there are various factions of Salafism present in the Netherlands: the apolitical faction, the political faction, and the jihadist (violent) faction.


According to the former boss of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), Dick Schoof, Salafism does not pose an acute threat to Dutch society. In the long term, however, the ideas could spread in the Netherlands.

Photo: Mosque in the Netherlands Ale_Mi DepositPhoto Deposit Photos.

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From Afghanistan to France: Islamism attacks schools and kills teachers

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers


The European Times (26.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/34rXBqn – On 17 October, a teacher at a middle school in a town northwest of Paris was beheaded on the street outside of his school. He was assassinated for facilitating a discussion with his students about caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad during his civic education class, which is in conformity with the National Education curriculum. Police shot his killer to death sometime later that same day. French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the killing an “Islamist terrorist attack”, as it appears that the killer was carrying out a sort of fatwa launched against this teacher on social media.


On Saturday 24 October, a suicide bomber attacked the Kawsar-e Danish centre in Kabul. The death toll was estimated at 24 and the number of wounded at 54, According to officials, many of the victims were teenage students between 15 and 26 years old.


In 2019, UNICEF declared that “attacks on schools in Afghanistan tripled between 2017 and 2018, surging from 68 to 192”. The UN agency added that “an estimated 3.7 million children between the ages of 7 and 17 – nearly half of all school-aged children in the country – are out of school in Afghanistan”, with 60% of them being girls. Schools and girls’ education are clearly priority targets on the agenda of Islamist terrorists.


Teachers are increasingly vulnerable to death, injuries and abduction, not only in Afghanistan but also in other Muslim majority countries torn by conflicts with Islamist extremist groups.


Afghanistan, France and others: different countries, same battle


School education is targeted, including in democratic countries, by extremist Islamist ideology regardless of whether it is done in non-violent or violent ways.


Their objective in democracies is to intimidate teachers so that they self-censure and keep silent about numerous points of their political ideology and governance, including: extra-judicial killing, homophobia, gender-based segregation and discrimination, an inferior status of women and non-Muslim people, discrimination, and so on.


Their objective concerning educational programmes is to obstruct their implementation on a number of issues such as: teaching about the holocaust and anti-Semitism, the theory of evolution, the study of the human body, swimming lessons, and the like.


Their objective is to reach Muslim school children with their extremist Islamist teachings through various channels and mould them into active opponents to points of the curriculum that they disagree with.


Finally, the ‘ideologisation’ and takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood of associations addressing anti-Muslim sentiments and hate speech in democratic countries is an essential component of this strategy.


Islamism is a political ideology, not a new Muslim movement


Islamism is a political ideology and must be treated as such. Radical Islamists are not teaching an alternative theology, like the Tabligh Jamaat followers or the Sufis. They aspire to take power in Muslim-majority countries where populations are peacefully practicing and teaching Sunni, Shia and other forms of Islam. In other countries, they try to undermine and manipulate their political, educational and cultural institutions, their societal weaknesses, vulnerable groups within their societies and their generous freedoms. Their objective is to divide and fracture societies with the intent of inciting community-based violence. Chaos is the fertile ground on which they can prosper.


The battle against Islamism in France and other democratic countries must not be against Islam as a religion or against Muslims as their co-religionists in Muslim majority countries are the main victims of this ideology. An increasing number of Muslim leaders and institutions oppose Islamism in France individually and collectively, such as the Conference of the Imams in France and the Union of the Mosques in France. The French state must provide them with full assistance and must combat Islamism as a political movement on every battlefield with the appropriate weapons and partners.

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