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Lebanon to allow Jummah salaah at mosques as of May 8

Lebanon will allow masaajid and churches to hold Jummah salaah and Sunday rituals, which were previously suspended as part of efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak, according to the country’s Interior Ministry, Anadolu reports.

In a statement, the ministry called on the Lebanese people to continue pursuing health measures in worship places to help in the fight against the pandemic.

According to a statement by Lebanon’s Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni Muslim authority in the country, the Friday prayers will be held in mosques as of May 8.

It, however, said Muslims will not be able to perform their daily five salaah in mosques.

Tarawih will also remain suspended, the statement said.

Lebanon suspended all congregational prayers and other religious gatherings at mosques on March 15 due to the virus outbreak.

On Tuesday, the Lebanese government decided to extend COVID-19 restrictions until May 24.

Coronavirus was first detected in Lebanon on Feb. 21 and then spread throughout the country.

Lebanese health authorities have so far confirmed 750 cases and 25 deaths from the disease.

Since first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 187 countries and regions, with the US and Europe the hardest-hit areas.

Over 3.68 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll surpassing 258,000 and more than 1.2 million recoveries, according to data compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University

Source : MEMO
Image: Photo by Ramy Kabalan

Another KZN hospital closes its doors after two babies, 14 others test positive for Covid-19

News24: Following confirmation that nine mothers, two babies, four doctors and one nurse had tested positive for Covid-19, KwaZulu-Natal health officials have decided to close the doors of the General Justice Gizenga Mpanzi Memorial Hospital (formerly Stanger Hospital).

The KwaZulu-Natal health department said in a statement on Tuesday it’s believed that the first case resulted from a mother who was housed at the boarder mothers’ lodge at the hospital.

She reportedly did not disclose that her husband was one of the positive cases linked to a supermarket chain store in Ballito. Other mothers at the lodge soon tested positive.

“As a Department, we are extremely concerned by these developments, and have urgently exercised our Constitutional obligation to prevent a further outbreak of the virus,” the department said.

“What is of particular concern to us is the fact that these infections have taken place in spite of the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures, as well as the requisite Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that has been made available to staff.”

It said that an urgent investigation has been instituted by the province’s Communicable Diseases Control and IPC experts to establish how the virus was able to spread at such a rapid rate within the hospital.

All 16 affected people have been isolated.

“The hospital, with 219 patients, has effectively been turned into a quarantine site. All staff and patients in the surgical ward and ICU have been tested.

“The remaining staff and patients will be tested this evening and tomorrow,” the department said.

Low-risk patients are being diverted to district hospitals in the area, while serious cases are being sent to King Edward VIII Hospital.

The department said the interim plan will be reassessed in the next 24 hours.  

Source : News24

A unique experience of observing Ramadan fast in space

First Arab astronaut Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman said that he had observed Ramadan fast and offered prayers in space, while onboard the American Space Shuttle Discovery as a payload specialist.

He spent seven days in space as one of the seven-member international crew, that included American and French astronauts.

Recording his experience in a book 35-years later, Prince Sultan said the shuttle was launched on June 17, 1985, which was also the 29th day of Ramadan. Though the late Mufti of the Kingdom Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Baz in a fatwa had exempted him from fasting during his space journey, he went ahead to experience the fast in an unchartered territory.

Regarding the fasting on the first day on the Discovery trip, which was swimming in space at an altitude of 387 kilometers (241 miles) above the surface of the earth, Prince Sultan said he felt tired, just because of lack of sleep. Under zero-gravity conditions, it is difficult to get a normal full sleep.

Observing the Florida calendar, he said that, though he felt drought and loss of fluid, he completed the day and broke fast with Chinese sweet and sour chicken.

Like other astronauts, he was supposed to have three meals a day taking steamed sweet corn, cauliflower with cheese, tuna, shrimp, salmon, meat, pasta, fruit salad, orange and pineapple juice, tea and decaffeinated coffee.

But the actual challenge was to offer prayers in the shuttle. “You had to fix your feet inside a special fastener to stand firm inside the shuttle, because of zero gravity,” he wrote in his book titled Seven Days in Space.

In zero gravity conditions, a person floats in the space, and it is difficult to put feet on the ground.

“The prostration (sujood) was impossible, only a partial one was possible. Also, at this ambiance, prostration causes dizziness,” he added.

Reciting Quran in space

“Allah gave me the blessing to recite the whole Quran in five days. After performing my daily tasks including scientific experimentation, photography, and follow-up of the launch of Arabsat, I dedicated a considerable part of my free time to recitation,” said the Prince Sultan, son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Expressing happiness for being the first Muslim and Arab astronaut, the Saudi prince said the crew who should have been sleeping, decided to stay with him at the time of breaking the fast.

“I invoked Allah to bestow success on us all in this challenging mission so that we honor the confidence of everyone who trusted us. The dawn prayer made me comfortable and optimistic,” he said. 

His mission helped to deploy a satellite for the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat).

Ramadan features fasting from dawn to dusk throughout the month and it is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Source: Anadolu Agency
Image: NASA

Germany’s Top Court Rules Against Virus Ban On Religious Services.

Germany’s highest legal authority, the constitutional court, on Wednesday  overturned a blanket ban on religious services during the coronavirus crisis, saying that exceptions could be granted if sufficient precautions were taken to avoid infection.

The ruling came after an appeal against the ban from a Muslim association in the northern state of Lower Saxony, which “intends to carry out Friday prayers… in the remaining weeks of the fasting month Ramadan”, the court said in a statement.

Given the “serious infringement of religious freedom” caused by the ban, it was “hardly tenable” that there was no possibility to apply for an exception, it added.

The court ruled that an exception should be granted if “an increase in the risk of infection could be reliably denied”.

It listed possible ways that the mosque had suggested of  lowering the risk of infection, including masks for the congregation and marking areas reserved for prayer.

It added that the infringement of religious rights was “particularly large with respect to the Friday prayers during Ramadan”, though the ruling also applies to “churches, synagogues and other religious communities”.

Germany introduced a ban on religious assembly as part of its first package of measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus back in mid-March.

Though the federal system means there are some exceptions, most states have upheld the blanket ban, and the constitutional court’s ruling in the Lower Saxony case will set a national precedent.

The ruling comes as Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional state premiers prepare to meet to discuss the current coronavirus measures on Thursday, with religious services high on the agenda.

Germany began to lift some lockdown measures from last week, allowing shops under 800 square metres to re-open.

The easing of restrictions prompted calls for further relaxations, including from religious groups.

Yet the constitutional court said that shops and religious services “should be judged differently”, as there was much greater scope for differences in the size and structure of religious services.

Any exceptions should be granted according to how effectively protective measures could be enforced, the size and structure of the religious community and the current risk level in the local region, it said.

Source: AFP
Image: Bratannica

Masjid Al Haram and Masjid An Nabawi soon to be opened for worshipers

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that keeping commitment to relevant procedures, Masjid Al Haram and Masjid Al Nabawi will soon be opened for believers.

It was also announced by Haramain Info on Facebook as well as on twitter that Masjid al Haram and Masjid an Nabawi will be soon open for worship.

The Ministry if hajj is issuing an automated response to inquiries regarding the opening. The response says “InshaAllah, under the wise leadership of our government, and in line with our commitment to abide by the procedures and instructions issued by the competent authorities, there will be a return to Makkah, with reopening of the Haram and return to visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah for the faithful from all corners of the globe… the feelings of Muslims are with us and we have support from everywhere”.

Saudi Arabia had closed both Masjid al Haram and Masjid an Nabawi after the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in the region, banning all Umrahs, Prayers, Iftar, I’tikaaf and all the things that are linked to the social gatherings.

There is no confirmation if Taraweeh or Eid Salaah will be available to the general public.

Cele sorry for blasphemous remarks by cops arresting worshippers

Police minister Bheki Cele has apologised to the Muslim community for blasphemous remarks made by officers during the arrest of Muslim worshippers for breaking lockdown regulations.

Cele had “taken note of a video clip circulating on social media” which had subsequently been confirmed by the SAPS as depicting the arrest of about 24 worshippers on Saturday at Masibekela in the Mbuzini area in Mpumalanga.

“The group was arrested for contravening the Covid-19 Disaster Management Lockdown Regulations in relation to the prohibition of gatherings,” said police spokesperson Brig  Mathapelo Peters.

“Minister Cele has issued an apology to the Muslim community for the blasphemous remarks during the arrest, a matter that is currently under an urgent investigation by the SAPS to establish the identity of the person behind such sacrilege.”

Cele said police had a constitutional obligation to enforce the laws of the country, “a duty to be executed within the confines of the same laws, applied with no prejudice against any gender, race or creed”.

Since the start of the long weekend, police have arrested 41 congregants at two separate religious gatherings.

The tactical response team arrested 17 men who had converged in a building in Pretoria West in what appeared to be a religious gathering.

Source : Timeslive
Image: Biznews

Turkey to send medical, financial aid to Palestine

Turkey has accepted Palestine’s call for medical and financial assistance in the fight against the novel coronavirus, according to an official statement Thursday, Anadolu reports.

Turkey announced an aid package for Palestine during an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement.

COVID-19 test kits, masks, special clothing and other basic equipment will be provided to the Health Ministry of Palestine, the statement said.

Al-Maliki thanked his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and the Turkish government for the assistance, it added.

On Wednesday, the OIC held an extraordinary meeting to discuss measures in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Founded in 1969, the OIC is a 57-member bloc of Muslim countries. It is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony.”

Since first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 185 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.

More than 2.62 million cases have been confirmed worldwide and at least 183,000 deaths with over 710,000 recoveries.

Source: MEMO
Image: Ed Woodhouse/Al-Monitor.

Israel’s COVID-19 death toll hits 187


Jerusalem – The death toll in Israel from coronavirus has risen to 187 after three more people died, the country’s Health Ministry said Wednesday.

The ministry said 384 new cases were reported in the country, bringing the tally to 14,326.

At least 148 of them are in critical condition, while 4,961 people have recovered.

The government has taken some measures to stem the spread of the virus, including closure of all educational institutes and banning gatherings of more than two people.

All businesses with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and banks have been closed since March 15.

Moreover, Tel Aviv banned the entry of foreign citizens except those with Israeli residency.

After originating in China last December, COVID-19 has spread to at least 185 countries and regions. Europe and the U.S. are currently the worst-hit regions.

The pandemic has killed nearly 175,000 people, with total infections exceeding 2.5 million, while more than 690,000 have recovered, according to figures compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Source : Anadolu Agency

Trump may block Saudi oil imports to save US market

US President Donald Trump has acknowledged that his administration is considering stopping all imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia in an effort to save the American oil industry.

When asked by reporters at his daily press conference about requests from Republican lawmakers to block Saudi oil shipments, Trump replied, “Well, I’ll look at it.” He said that he had heard of the proposal before the media session. “We certainly have plenty of oil, so I’ll take a look at it,” he added.

The possible move comes in response to the price of US crude oil having dropped to a negative on markets yesterday. That’s the first time in history that the US oil and drilling industry has taken such a hit.

With production and supply increasing exponentially and demand falling due to the coronavirus pandemic, the price of US crude fell to $37.63 per barrel. This was a result of desperate market traders paying to get rid of the oil as storage space was almost running out. This staggering collapse in prices, prompted by the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia last month, threatens to bankrupt the US oil industry.

Trump has downplayed the crisis, though, describing the sharp drop as a short-tern phenomenon and the result of a “financial squeeze”. He said that the domestic oil industry is suffering primarily from a lack of demand due to the lockdowns enforced in many states, where residents have been ordered to stay at home in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

The slump was inevitable, explained the US President. “The problem is no one is driving a car anywhere in the world, essentially… Factories are closed, businesses are closed. We had really a lot of energy to start off with, oil in particular, and then all of a sudden they lost 40 per cent, 50 per cent of their market.”

The Republican lawmakers’ calls to prevent Saudi oil imports is the latest move that could strain bilateral relations between Washington and Riyadh, amid already-tense relations due to the oil price war. Last month, the lawmakers also called for Saudi Arabia to leave the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel, and even threatened to withdraw US military forces stationed in the Kingdom.

Source: MEMO
Image: Photo by Zbynek Burival

Pakistan to allow salaah with jamaat in the musjid in Ramadhan

The government in Pakistan decided to conditionally allow congregational prayers in mosques during the holy month of Ramadan, official media said Saturday.

The decision was made during a meeting that involved religious scholars and top government officials chaired by President Arif Alvi in Islamabad, according to state-run Radio Pakistan.

An agreement was reached to conditionally allow prayers in congregation, and Taraweeh — special night prayers performed during the holy month.

No carpet will laid on the floors of mosques and worshipers will keep a distance of 6 feet apart while praying.

Those coming to the mosque will be required to make ablution at home and wash hands for 20 seconds before going to the facility wearing faces masks.

Children and those older than 50 year of age, including those with conditions like flu, fever and a cough would not be allowed in the mosques for prayers, said Alvi.

The government will have the option to review the decision if precautionary measures are not followed or if there is a sharp increase of coronavirus cases.

Last month, provincial governments banned congregational prayers and other religious gatherings at mosques for an indefinite period in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus.

Pakistan recorded 7,638 cases with 144 deaths, while 1,832 patients have successfully recovered and discharged from hospitals, according to health officials.

Source: Anadolu Agency
Image: Photo by Nouman Younas

Bangladesh coast guard rescues 396 Rohingya in drifting boat; 24 dead

At least two dozen ethnic Rohingya died on a ship that drifted for weeks after failing to reach Malaysia, Bangladesh coastguard officials said on Thursday, following the rescue of 396 starving survivors.

For years, Rohingya from Myanmar have boarded boats organised by smugglers in the hope of finding refuge in Southeast Asia, usually making voyages during the dry season from November to March, when the waters are calm.

A human rights group said it believed more boats carrying Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, were adrift at sea, with coronavirus lockdowns in Malaysia and Thailand making it harder for them to find refuge.

“They were at sea for about two months and were starving,” a Bangladesh coastguard official told Reuters in a message, adding that the ship was brought to shore late on Wednesday.

The 396 survivors aboard would be sent to Myanmar, said the official, who revised the number upwards from an initial count of 382.

Video images showed a crowd comprised mostly of women and children, some stick-thin and unable to stand, being helped to shore. One emaciated man lay on the sand.

One refugee told a reporter the group had been turned back from Malaysia three times and a fight had broken out onboard between passengers and crew at one point.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognise Rohingya as citizens, and the face severe curbs on freedom of movement as well as access to healthcare and education.

Myanmar denies persecuting Rohingya and says they are not an indigenous ethnic group but immigrated from South Asia, despite many being able to trace their ancestry back centuries.

More than a million live in refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, the majority having been driven from homes in Myanmar after a 2017 military crackdown the army said was a response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

Rights groups fear virus curbs across southeast Asia could trigger a repeat of a 2015 crisis, when a crackdown by Thailand prompted smugglers to abandon their human cargo at sea on crowded, rickety boats.

Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, said she believed several more boats were stranded.

“Rohingya may encounter closed borders supported by a xenophobic public narrative,” she said in a message.

“COVID-19 cannot be used to deny access to territory to desperate refugees in distress. Another maritime crisis in the Andaman Sea, as in 2015, is unacceptable.”

Several boats were trying to reach Malaysian shores and monitoring had been stepped up, a police official in the northwestern state of Kedah told Reuters.

A police official in southern Thailand said five boats carrying Rohingya had been spotted off the coast of Satun province late on Monday. It was not possible to independently confirm the remarks.

People were smuggled out by boat and over land, said Kyaw Hla, a Rohingya from Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where tens of thousands of Rohingya have been confined in camps since a bout of violence in 2012.

“Within these eight years, there has been no progress, only degradation,” he said by telephone. “People can’t stand it. Since we are locked up and suffocated, people try to leave, of course.”

He added, “If the coronavirus breaks out here, we’ll be as good as dead.”


Government to clamp down on ‘fake’ posts

ENCA – Government announced new measures to crack down on false information about coronavirus making the rounds of various social media platforms.

A “high-tech monitoring and evaluation process” is being rolled out to intercept misinformation about the virus and government responses to the outbreak, said a statement by the communications department.

Several misleading posts have been circulating since South Africa detected its first coronavirus case last month, including fake presidential announcements.

“We are stepping up our campaign against digital misinformation, particularly in relation to COVID-19 and related actions such as the national lockdown,” said Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.

“We also need to remind South Africans that spreading fake news or disinformation about COVID-19 is a punishable offence,” Mthembu added.

“Arrests have already been made, and they will continue if people persist in spreading fake news.”

Under emergency laws enacted last month aimed at curbing growing infections, peddling misinformation on the deadly coronavirus in South Africa will attract up to six months in jail or a fine.

The media and members of the public will now be able to report any disinformation to a special task team composed of government, private sector and civil society representatives.

The new team can order platform owners to take down false posts and submit certain cases to the police.

A WhatsApp number (067 966 4015) and a website (www.real411.org) have been set up for people to report any misinformation they may come across.

Source : ENCA

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