UK: Ahmadiyya Muslim Ladies from Carshalton visit Saint Hill Church of Scientology to improve Interfaith relations

Scientology might be well known in the US and in East Grinstead but in the Ahmadiyya Muslim community very few people know about it. So when my friend Amelia Cavanagh invited me to visit her Church I arranged a group tour for Muslim ladies to see what they have to say. I was baffled before I even got out of my car as I beheld a giant mansion with beautiful paths lined with wide flower borders, surrounded by a feeling of calm and bliss.

We were welcomed with warm hugs and offered a place in the chapel to say our afternoon prayers before the welcome tea was served. A lot of attention was paid to ensure Islamic customs were respected. The drinks and the sandwiches were all halal and a female tour guide was arranged so we would feel more comfortable. Though the question answer session was supposed to be the last thing on the agenda the friendliness of the hosts encouraged even the shiest of our ladies to speak up and enquire about the views of scientology on different topics.

The tour started at the mansion which was the residence of the founder of Scientology, Mr L. Ron Hubbard. Each room was filled with history and antiquities and had beautiful views onto the 60 acre site that was kept in immaculate condition. We visited the winter garden, the library and the monkey room (why it’s called that you will have to find out for yourself). Every room was beautifully arranged and kept true to its original design. Even all items on the desk in the office of Mr Hubbard were kept exactly as he had left them, including a 1966 magazine. We continued the tour to the castle which houses several study facilities and counselling rooms. Walking through the long galleries made me notice that every person I came across had a very calm expression on his face. Not only was everyone very polite and welcoming but it seemed like they were all in tune with themselves and had an aura of serenity. My friend Jilly also noticed this, saying “the whole atmosphere around the estate was peaceful. There was so much I learned and facts which opened my mind to a different thought dimension. The hospitality was outstanding and I felt very welcomed, something I have not experienced at a place of worship before (apart from our own Mosques). I have understood the mysticism of Scientology more”.

To conclude our tour we were offered a second tea and creamed cakes in the pavilion where we spoke about the philosophy of Scientology in more depth. Soon everyone realised how many things Islam and Scientology have in common. The role of religion is to help make us better people. I met good people on this tour who are good because they follow the teachings of their founder. I do not understand it when Scientologists are spoken ill about by followers of main stream religions only because their faith has a different structure. It is unacceptable in 21st century Britain to be judgemental about matters of faith. As my colleague Madiha commented “it was a great opportunity to build an interfaith relationship. We were pleased that they allowed us to pray in their chapel. And we were pleased to hear that we were the first group from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community who ever visited them”.

I organised this trip to a church of Scientology because we know so little about it. My religion teaches peace – and dialogue is a key component for the establishment of peace. We welcome people to visit the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden for that same reason – so they can ask questions and understand our beliefs and hopefully draw the same conclusion that we drew today: we’re really not that different after all.

USA: Bill to toughen hate crime laws spurred in part by Meriden Ahmadiyya mosque incident

HARTFORD — Democrats are pushing a bill to toughen the state’s hate crime law and expand the number of groups protected, saying a series of high-profile incidents shows the changes are needed.

The bill would make the commission of a hate crime a felony, increasing potential penalties that could come with a conviction. Currently, hate crimes are classified as a misdemeanor by the state.

It would also make violence and threats based on gender prosecutable as a hate crime and make threats against houses of worship or other religious facilities a more serious felony charge.

Democrats have pointed to several recent high-profile events, including threats against Jewish community centers around the state, but Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said during an appearance Tuesday on WNPR’s “Where we Live” that incidents as far back as gunshots fired at a South Meriden mosque in 2015 highlight the need for the bill.

Zahir Mannan, outreach director for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Connecticut at the Baitul Aman mosque in South Meriden, said the community supports efforts to toughen hate crime laws.

“It just shows more solidarity,” he said Tuesday, adding support from public officials, religious leaders of other faiths, and community leaders has helped the Ahmadiyya community broaden its reach to share its message of peace. “It certainly propels our peace-loving message into demographics that we cannot reach.”

Tong and other Democrats said during a press conference last week that a number of recent incidents show why the bill, which is before the Judiciary Committee, is needed.

Along with the threats to the Jewish Community Centers, they also referenced a swastika that was painted on a Danbury home in November and a racial slur painted onto the Stamford home of an interracial couple last month.

In the Stamford incident, the family refused to clean the word from their garage in protest of the police department’s inability to catch a suspect, saying it was not the first time their home was vandalized.

Tong said the U.S. has a “tragic experience with hate,” and referenced both slavery and the Japanese internment camps during World War II, but Democrats also said the bill is a response to actions and rhetoric nationally.

“In the current climate nationally, it’s unacceptable,” Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, said.

The change to a felony means a conviction can carry up to five years in prison, up from the one-year maximum allowed under state statute for misdemeanors. For offenses that are raised to a Class C felony, the maximum prison sentence is 10 years.

The bill would make the November 2015 incident in which a neighbor fired gunshots at the Baitul Aman mosque in response to the Paris terrorist attack a Class C felony. Ted Hakey, who fired the shots, was prosecuted by federal authorities, not at the state level.

The hate crime legislation quickly became the subject of partisan bickering after Democrats took several shots at President Donald Trump and didn’t reach out to Republicans prior to their press conference last week.

“The best way to combat hate is to show unity,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven said in a statement last week. “That’s why it’s so disappointing that Connecticut Democrats from the beginning chose to turn a certainly bipartisan issue into a completely partisan press conference today. Instead of working with Republicans to show a united front against hate crimes in our state, Democrats chose political theater. Instead of making today about standing together, Democrats made it about standing apart. Divisiveness cannot fight hate.”

Adam Joseph, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, responded by questioning Republicans’ desire to address hate crimes. He pointed to Republican proposals to cut education funding to sanctuary cities, require women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds, among others, as indicators of his stance.

“Protecting people from hate crimes does not appear to be a priority for the Senate Republicans,” he said. “They should stop complaining and start working.”

Google’s self-driving car company escalates battle with Uber

A self-driving car company founded by Google is presenting new evidence to support allegations that a former manager stole technology sold to Uber to help the ride-hailing service build its own robot-powered vehicles.

Waymo, a project hatched by Google eight years ago, wove its tale of deceit in sworn statements filed Friday in a San Francisco federal court.

The documents try to make a case that former Waymo manager Anthony Levandowski conceived a scheme to heist key trade secrets before leaving the company early last year to launch an autonomous vehicle startup that he had been discussing with Uber.

It’s the latest salvo in a battle that started last month when Waymo sued Levandowski and Uber for alleged theft of the technology for “LiDAR,” an array of sensors that enable self-driving cars to see what’s around them so they can safely navigate roads. Experts say an effective LiDAR system typically takes years to develop.

After leaving Waymo, Levandowski started a self-driving truck company called Otto that Uber bought for $680 million to accelerate an expansion into autonomous vehicles.

Uber brushed off Waymo’s claims as “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.”

Waymo is mounting its attack with the help of one of Levandowski’s former colleagues, Pierre-Yves Droz, the leader of Waymo’s LiDAR project.

In a sworn statement, Droz said Levandowski confided in January 2016 that he planned to “replicate” Waymo’s technology at Otto. A Google forensics expert said he determined that Levandowski began downloading thousands of files containing Waymo’s trade secrets in December 2015, according to another sworn statement.

Levandowski had previously acknowledged to Droz that he began discussing self-driving cars with Uber in 2015, according to the documents. Levandowski, “told me that it would be nice to create a new self-driving car startup and that Uber would be interested in buying the team responsible for the LiDAR we were developing at Google,” Droz said in his declaration.

Then, again in January 2016, Levandowski said that he had been at Uber’s San Francisco headquarters seeking an investment in his startup, Droz said.

Waymo also filed papers seeking a court order to block Uber from using any of the technology that it believes Levandowski stole.

If a judge grants that request, it could force Uber to halt its current tests of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and Phoenix. It’s unclear how much of the technology targeted in Waymo’s lawsuit is being used in the Uber self-driving cars that are currently picking up passengers in those cities.

Levandowski wasn’t alone in his alleged betrayal, according to Waymo.

Other sworn statements filed Friday identified two other former Waymo employees accused of stealing technology in July 2016 shortly before they joined Uber. They are: Sameer Kshirsagar, Waymo’s former global supply manager, and Radu Radutu, an engineer in Waymo’s LiDAR department.

The dispute between Waymo and Uber highlights the high stakes in the race to build self-driving cars that promise not only to revolutionise the way people get around but also the automobile industry. Waymo and Uber are two of the early leaders, while long-established car companies such as Ford, Toyota and General Motors are scrambling to catch up.

Waymo now operates as a subsidiary of Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet Inc.

Facebook says its data can’t be used for ‘surveillance’

Facebook is prohibiting developers from using the massive amount of data it collects on users for surveillance. This includes using such data to monitor activists and protesters.

The company said Monday that it is making an existing policy “explicit.” Facebook says it has already taken action against developers who created or marketed tools meant to be used for surveillance.

It says it wants to “be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

Last fall, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained records that Facebook and its Instagram service provided user data access to Geofeedia, which develops a monitoring product marketed to law enforcement.

The ACLU said at the time that while both Instagram and Facebook cut off access after finding out about this, Facebook did not have a “public policy specifically prohibiting developers” from taking user data for surveillance.

The new prohibition states that developers — who get access to user data from Facebook to create apps — should protect “the information you receive from us against unauthorised access, use, or disclosure. For example, don’t use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

The ACLU report says the data the companies provided to Geofeedia included only public posts, not those that users restricted to just friends or in some other way.

But such access to Facebook data is still valuable to third parties because it would be very difficult to collect and comb through all the stuff on their own.

According to the ACLU, Facebook had provided Geofeedia with access to a data feed called the “Topic Feed API,” which is supposed to be a tool for advertisers.

But Geofeedia could use it to obtain a feed of public Facebook posts that mentioned a specific topic, place or event — for example, “monitor hashtags used by activists and allies, or target activist groups as ‘overt threats,'” Matt Cagle, attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, wrote last October.

Facebook terminated this access nearly a month earlier after being notified about it by the ACLU.

Kamran backs Sarfraz, willing to play as batsman

LAHORE: Ruling out any rivalry with ODI and T20 captain Sarfraz Ahmed, wicket-keeper/batsman Kam­ran Akmal who has made probables camp said on Tuesday that if selected he could even play as a batsman.

Talking to reporters here before the start of the training camp set up at the Gaddafi Stadium ahead of the West Indies tour, the long discarded Kamran said he had been focusing on his batting while stating that ODI skipper in Sarfraz was throwing up fine performances as a captain and as a player due to which no one could replace him.

“I will play as per the role given to me. You people might have observed that not only I have been focusing on my batting abilities but my batting has also improved over the last few years,” maintained the top-order batsman.

When asked there used to be a fierce rivalry between former wicket-keepers in Moin Khan and Rashid Latif, Kamran dispelled the impression stating that young wicket-keeper/batsman in Mohammad Rizwan also played along with Sarfraz before him.

“The performance I gave as a batsman both in the domestic circuit as well as in the PSL makes me a strong contender for a place in the national team,” he further said.

On the other hand, there are reports the team management is aware of the fact that induction of Kamran, who was declared PSL’s best batsman, best player and best wicket-keeper in presence of Quetta Gladiators’ wicket-keeper Sarfraz, into the national side will put the T20 and ODI skipper under pressure.

Asked there were reports that he had not passed the fitness test, Kamran while rejecting those reports stated: “I appeared in the fitness test on Tuesday and succeeded in meeting all fitness standards. Also, I think trainer Grant Luden is the best man to answer your question.

“Fitness has never been my problem as I hardly miss training,” Kamran claimed before stating that if selected his target would be to cement his place in the team by giving match-winning performance.

The top-order batsman said if he remained fit he could play for four to five years. “It is your fitness which prolongs your career. So if I remain fit I could play for four to five years,” he commented while stating that he was giving extra time to his fielding and batting in the training camp.

Meanwhile, left-arm fast bowler Rumman Raees Khan said he had his own style of celebration after claiming wicket, adding that it was good that some bowlers were copying him.

Rumman said he was happy that he had been invited to the probables camp after performing well in the domestic cricket and the PSL.

“The coaching staff laid more emphasis on fitness level which would help Pakistan cricket in the long run,” remarked the fast bowler who said he enjoyed his second stint with the Islamabad United.

“I learnt a lot from the experience of former fast bowler Wasim Akram and ex-Australian batsman Dean Jones during the PSL,” the pacer further said.

Meanwhile, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq is likely to announce the Pakistan squad on Wednesday for the upcoming T20 and ODI series against the West Indies.

Dawn learnt that Inzamam is considering the option of naming the squad soon after or during the 50-over practice match at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2017

Pakistan: Minister proposes to make hijab mandatory in Punjab colleges

A senior Punjab government official proposed on Tuesday to make hijab mandatory for female students enrolled in the province’s colleges.

“We are leaving our religion behind, we are forgetting our culture and ethics. Hence, I have made the hijab compulsory for our women and sisters in colleges,” said Punjab Higher Education Minister Syed Raza Ali Gilani.

The minister added that it was his duty to take the step as it is “the duty of every Muslim”.

“I have also made a policy for it, if your attendance falls below 60pc then we will give 5pc attendance to those girls who wear a hijab,” added the higher education minister.

However, the policy is yet to implemented in the educational institutions of the province and has not been signed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Govt Of The Punjab ✔@GovtOfPunjab

5% marks for Hijab students is absolutely WRONG news… Academic excellence only based on MERIT.. It’s clear policy of the Govt of Punjab.
6:54 AM – 14 Mar 2017

Media outlets had earlier reported the policy change will award extra marks to hijab wearing students.

However, the provincial government in a tweet earlier denied the change in policy and clarified academic excellence will only be based on merit and no other factor would be considered.

Civil society activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir also criticised the move in a series of tweets. He later said he was glad that the provincial government “believes in judging men and women on merit and not apparel”.

UK: Ahmadi women of Barking send ‘message of peace’ to domestic abuse survivors

Siemah Ahmad, fourth from left, says Barking Ahmadi Muslims see it as their duty to donate to women’s refuges

A minority Muslim group donated more than 100 food hampers to nine women’s refuges.

The women’s Barking branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslims Association sent the food to secret locations across east London throughout last week.

Volunteer Siemah Ahmad, 38, said it was vital to reach out to domestic abuse victims as International Women’s Day fell on Wednesday.

“We’re helping women who are vulnerable in society,” she said. “The women in our community want to share a message of peace and show we care about everyone in our community.

“Islam means peace and looking after all members of the community.”

She said this year’s donations amounted to a hamper for each woman recovering at east London’s refuges, following on from last year’s donation of 57.

USA: Area Muslim group decries hate crimes

Hate crimes in the United States have increased in the months following the 2016 election. A hate crime is defined as abuse against a group or an individual based on religious views or racial ethnic background. This increase includes heinous acts against people belonging to Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as people with Middle Eastern backgrounds.

On Feb. 26, a Jewish cemetery in Frankford, Pa., reportedly had more than 100 headstones damaged. Just hearing this news sends a chill down my spine. How could someone have the audacity to topple headstones and vandalize a cemetery?

As always, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the religion of Islam condemn all such attacks that target and disturb the peace of society.

I urge everyone to try and maintain the peace in our atmosphere so we all can live together in a hospitable environment.

Arsalan Ahmad Khan Woodbridge

UK: Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Peace Conference coincided with International Women’s Day

To coincide with International Women’s Day, the Carshalton branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association (AMWA) held a Peace Conference, inviting women from local churches, synagogues, temples and other places of worship to discuss how interfaith harmony could be spread in the Borough.

Delegates from the Carshalton Beeches Baptist Free Church, Wallington United Reformed Church, Saint Hill Church of Scientology and London Church of Scientology participated. The women exchanged ideas on how barriers between people of different faiths could be eliminated through dialogue and joint projects.

An annual plan of action was drafted which includes:

• an interfaith dialogue event at the Baitul Futuh Mosque on 23rd September on the topic ‘Life after Death’
• offering interfaith dialogue sessions to the girls high schools in Sutton during Interfaith Week (12-19 November 2017)
• interfaith coffee mornings to be held 3 times a year

The evening included a report on the activities of the AMWA Carshalton branch, a short tour of the newly inaugurated Baitul Ehsan Mosque in Mitcham and discussions over tea, snacks and cakes about how the interfaith events being planned could be promoted.

To get involved contact Aisha Mirza at VoiceOfMuslima@Gmail.com

Bangladesh: New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen ‘spiritual leader’ Kashem on fresh remand

Police’s counter-terrorism unit has been granted five days to interrogate New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)’s alleged “spiritual leader” Maulana Abul Kashem in a case filed over the busting of the militant group’s den at Kallyanpur.

The group eyes establishing Shariah Law in the country, and spreading its jihad to Myanmar’s Rakhine State and parts of India. It has claimed responsibilities for 26 attacks – on a Gulshan restaurant, Shia and Ahmadiyya mosques, and non-Muslims preachers – since 2015 that killed around 45 people.

Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Waez Kuruni Khan gave the remand order after CTTC Inspector Jahangir Alam produced him before the court Saturday.

He was arrested from Senpara Parbata of Mirpur on March 2 and produced before a court the following day.

New JMB’s military and operations commander Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury was killed in a raid on August 27 last year. Tamim used to visit the Kallyanpur flat where nine of its members were killed and another arrested during a raid on July 26 last year.