Friday February 23, 2018

Hindus happy as East Meadow adopts Diwali as Official Holiday in all 728 New York School Districts

Diwali was declared as an official holiday by the Nearby Syosset Central School District also

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Diwali
Diwali does not mean you will have to compromise on your health, Wikimedia
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New York, Dec 17, 2016: Hindus have happily welcomed reports of East Meadow School District in Westbury of New York, adopting Diwali, the most popular and pompously celebrated of their festivals, as an official holiday on the calendar for the 2017-2018 school year.

Reportedly, Diwali was declared as an official holiday by the Nearby Syosset Central School District also very recently.

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Rajan Zed, a Hindu Activist urged all other private schools and public school districts in New York State to do the same, in a statement in Nevada today; describing it as a step in the right direction.

It would be a positive thing to do due to the presence of a substantial number of Hindu pupils at schools around the state, as it was extremely important to meet the spiritual and religious needs of these students.

Zed further stated that schools must make attempts to accommodate the religious requirements of the Hindu students and show proper respect to their faith by not conducting scheduling classes and regular business on Diwali. “We did not want our students to be put at an unnecessary disadvantage for missing assignments, examinations/papers, class work, and etcetera for taking a day-off to celebrate Diwali. If schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali,” Zed asked. He also added, “Holidays of all major religions should be honoured and no one should be penalised for practicing their religion.”

Rajan Zed urged all New York State schools, both private and public, to seriously look into the issue and declare Diwali as an official holiday, realising the intersection of education and spirituality. Zed indicated that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make New York State students well balanced, well nurtured, and enlightened citizens of the future.

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Zed urged New York State Education Department Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and New York State Commissioner of Education Mary Ellen Elia- to work towards making Diwali an official holiday in all the 728 school-districts, and simultaneously persuading the private schools to follow the same.

Hinduism is rich in culture and festivals and religious festivals are very sacred and dear to Hindus. The festival of lights, Diwali, aims to dispel the darkness by ending evils and illuminate the world and stands for a symbol of the victory of good over evil. Apart from Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists also observe Diwali, which falls on October 19 in 2017.

Zed thanked Marcee Rubinstein, the President of EMSD Board of Education and other Board members for supporting Diwali as a holiday. Over 7400 students in nine schools of East Meadow and Westbury communities of Long Island are served by EMSD. Mission Statement of EMSD, established in 1814, states “Understand our cultural heritage”. Leon J. Campo is Superintendent of Schools.

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Hinduism is the oldest and the third largest religion in the world with about one billion adherents and “Moksha” or liberation is its supreme goal and there are about three million Hindus in USA at present.

–  prepared by Antara Kumar of NewsGram with Merinews inputs. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)