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Seven more Indian Haj pilgrims dead, toll 29

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Photo credit: indianexpress.com

New Delhi: Seven more Indian Haj pilgrims died in the stampede at Makkah in Saudi Arabia, taking the toll to 29, the Indian mission in Jeddah revealed.

photo credit: www.emirates247.com
photo credit: www.emirates247.com

The Haj Mission in Jeddah put up a list of seven Indian dead pilgrims, which included five from Kerala and one each from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

The seven from Kerala were: Faaiz Abdul Muneer Veettil, Amina Beevi Mohammed Shafi Musaliar, Abdul Rahiman Asarithodi, Puthu Veettil Kunhimon and Moinuddin Abdul Kader. The dead from Uttar Pradesh was identified as Anvar Janha, and the one from Jharkhand as Mansurul Haque.

On Saturday, the government announced eight more deaths, and said that with more bodies being identified from among the 769 deaths reported in Thursday’s stampede, the toll could go up.

On Saturday, two Haj pilgrims from Kerala, and two each from Jharkhand and Gujarat, one each from Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh were reported.

Of the list of 14 dead announced on Friday, nine victims were from Gujarat, while two each belonged to Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu and one was from Maharashtra.

(IANS)

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Will India See an end to Haj Subsidy? A Government Panel Recommends Phasing it out in the new Haj Policy

Haj subsidy is given to those who go through the Haj Committee of India and not through private operators. The subsidy amount has in the recent years been between Rs 650-700 crore

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Haj policy
The proposed Haj Policy 2018-22 has been submitted to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. (IANS)

Mumbai, October 8, 2017 : A government-appointed panel for revising India’s Haj policy has recommended abolishing subsidy for the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mekkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia besides allowing women devotees aged over 45 to travel in a group of at least four without a male relative.

The proposed Haj Policy 2018-22, submitted to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, has been drafted in light of a 2012 Supreme Court direction to gradually reduce and completely remove the subsidy by 2022.

“It is advisable that the existing reduction plan (phasing out of subsidy) be followed,” according to the recommendations.

In a major reform, the draft Haj policy proposes to partially quash an earlier rule that barred women Haj aspirants to travel without ‘mehram’, a close family member like husband, father or brother.

“Ladies above 45 years of age be allowed in a group of four or more to go for Haj without a mehram,” the panel recommended.

Women below 45, however, will have to be accompanied by a male family member, according to the draft Haj policy that proposes to increase the quota for mehrams from 200 to 500.

Among other recommendations, made by the panel headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah, are bringing down the number of embarkation points from which pilgrims can take flights to Saudi Arabia from the present 21 to nine.

The embarkation points for Haj pilgrims from next year would be New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kochi and Ahmedabad.

The distribution of quota between Haj Committee of India and private tour operators will be in the ratio of 70:30 — almost a five percent hike for the private players.

This year, the Haj quota for India — home to the world’s third largest Muslim population — was increased to 170,025, of which 125,025 was allocated to the Haj committee and 45,000 to the privater tour operators.

ALSO READ After 22 years, India mulling resuming use of Arabian Sea route to ferry Haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia

On the long-pending proposal to revive Haj pilgrimage by ship, Naqvi said the Saudi government would be consulted and then it would float an expression of interest to guage the market for such travel.

Independent tour operators say travel by ship would drastically reduce the cost per pilgrim to around Rs 60,000, making it affordable to a larger section of the population.

Regarding the distribution of Haj quota among states and union territories, the panel has recommended that it should be in the ratio of the Muslim population and in proportion to the number of applications received from each state or union territory.

Special quota for Haj pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir will be increased from existing 1,500 to 2,000.

The reserved category of applicants in the 70-plus age group and fourth-timers has been abolished and they would go through the normal lottery. (IANS)

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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women drivers; 7 more bans yet to be addressed for Saudi women

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saudi women
A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia, Oct. 22, 2013. VOA

Oct 2, 2017: The Sharia-ruled monarchy of the Middle-East, Saudi Arabia decided to lift the ban on women drivers on September 26, much to the elation of Women’s Rights Activists throughout the world. King Salman issued a royal decree on Tuesday granting Saudi women the right to drive thereby ending the kingdom’s notorious reputation of being the only country that prohibits women from driving. The law will come into effect on June 24, 2018.

While the pronouncement signifies a “positive step” towards women-empowerment, the conclusion of whether such laws can be turned into practice in a patriarchal society like Saudi Arabia can be drawn only with the unfolding of time.

Apart from relaxing the ban on women drivers, the Gulf Kingdom also terminated a series of interdicts forced upon the women. A handful of loosened bans included that women will no longer require approval from their guardian to work.

Another significant statute blessed upon women the freedom to enter the sports stadiums albeit exclusively for the Saudi National Day besides the compulsory edict of being seated only in a family section far away from single men.

The Government has also passed laws allowing girls in public schools to play sports and have access to physical education.

saudi women
UN Women political cartoon. Wikimedia

While everyone is busy celebrating women drivers in Saudi Arabia, there is still a myriad of bans inflicted on women. These are:

1. Following the divorce, Saudi women are permitted to keep their children with them only till they reach the age limit of 7years (for girls) and 9years (for boys).

2. Saudi women cannot marry and divorce without the due consent of their male guardian. The male head dominates everything in a Saudi family.

3. The women of Saudi Arabia do not have the permission to get a passport without the prior assent of their male guardian.

Also Read: A step forward: Saudi Women take up active roles in an All female Emergency Call Centre 

4. The approval of the male guardian is also required during any medical emergency. Women cannot take a voluntary decision regarding issues that concern the question of their life and death!

5. Women do not possess the right to socialize with men except for immediate family members. Consequently, all the restaurants and places of public entertainment in Saudi Arabia maintain two sections, one for the men where women cannot enter and the other for families.

6. Under Sharia laws, daughters can inherit property but only half of what is received by their male counterparts.

7. Saudi women cannot even start a work unless two male members testify about her character in a law court before she can be granted a loan or a license.

Prepared by Mohima Haque of Newsgram. Twitter @mohimahaque26

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10 Facts You Should Know About Raif Badawi, Victim Of Religious Persecution

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Raif Badawi
Facts You Should Know About Raif Badawi – A Victim Of Religious Persecution Source: Wikimedia Common

Saudi Arabia, September 22, 2017: A Saudi writer, atheist, activist and the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website Raif Badawi, who has been a prey to brutal punishment of Saudi Arabia law, reveals his agony in a book “1000 Lashes, Because I Say What I Think”.

Badawi, through his book expressed one’s life in the autocratic Islamic state under ‘Sharia’, insights about freedom of expression, separation of religion and state, human and civil rights and tolerance.

Raif Badawi
People from Oslo protesting to Free Raif Badawi – A Victim Of Religious Persecution Source: Wikimedia Common

It was in 2012 when Badawi was taken into imprisonment in Saudi Arabia and was sentenced to 10 years torture with 1000 lashes. The reason stated for his imprisonment was his act of showing disrespect towards Islam and produced before the court charges including apostasy.

His punishment was partly enforced due to ‘parental disobedience’ when the debate over freedom of speech and Islam continued to rage. The punishment was in context to the disobedience shown towards one’s father, as follows in Saudi Arabia. Reportedly, Badawi’s father also renounced his son on television.

There are facts that left Raif Badawi to live a life of torture and trauma and you should know these.

  1. Raif Badawi had to face 50 lashes in his first session in front of the crowd gathering near the mosque in Jeddah on January 9, 2015.
  2. After his first session, the medical committee advised not to flog Raid Badawi as his wound had not healed sufficiently, because of high blood pressure. Whereas, another prison doctor objected to that and said that he is fine to take more lashes.
  3. Nevertheless, the flogs were not carried out due to some unknown reason.
  4. He was sentenced with seven years’ imprisonment and 600 lashes, but was extended to 10 years and 1000 lashes later.
  5. He was arrested against his rights to freedom of speech, expression, association and assembly. He was being suppressed with his rights to be democratic.
  6. The case was being dropped twice. The district court passed on the case to high court, saying “could not give a verdict in a case of apostasy.” Also, the higher court refused to hear the case and referred it to the lower court.
  7. His family said that they have learned of judicial attempts to have Badawi retried for apostasy and that it may end up beheading his head for renouncing his religion. Though the human rights are not sure of the claim.
  8. Raif’s wife, Ensaf Haidar was forced to leave Saudi Arabia and move to Canada along with her children after she received anonymous threats.
  9. Badawi expressed his sentiment towards living in a democratic society through his website Free Saudi Liberals until it was shut down by the Saudi authorities. He writes in one of his posts, “You have the right to express and think whatever you want as you have the right to declare what you think about it, it is your right to believe or think, have the right to love and to hate, from your right to be a liberal or Islamist.”
  10. There have been several international awards accorded to Badawi. He was a nominee for 2015 Nobel Peace Prize and for Human Rights and Democracy he was also awarded the Courage award in 2015 in Geneva Summit.

Many people around the world are showing their support to Raif Badawi through different campaigns and protest. The Canadian government also expressed him gratitude with their concern towards his wife and children.

ALSO READ: 2,384 Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Jailed for Minor and Major Offenses

It was not just Badawi, who was victimized for raising his voice. His lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, in July 2014 was also sentenced 15 years in prison for denouncing the human rights abuses of Saudi during his media interviews and in social media. Khair also had an organization that monitored the human rights in Saudi Arabia.

– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_Desire