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Hajj drastically scaled down as COVID-19 reshapes pilgrimage

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2022)

Small groups of Hajj pilgrims, wearing face masks, who had spent days in isolation, began arriving Wednesday from across Saudi Arabia at Islam’s holiest site in Mecca for this year’s scaled-down Hajj. 

Earlier this year Saudi officials announced that only a very limited number of people, who live in Saudi Arabia, will be allowed to attend Hajj due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Most years Hajj draws over two million pilgrims. This year the numbers will only be between 1,000 and 10,000 people and instead of standing and praying shoulder-to-shoulder, pilgrims will now adhere to social distancing regulations and move in small groups of 20. 

The Saudi government has not however released the exact numbers of pilgrims this year but for those who arrived on Wednesday, strict measures had to be followed before the start of Hajj. 

They were all tested for COVID-19, given wristbands that connect to their phones and track their movements and for days leading up to Wednesday, they were quarantined in their hotel rooms in Mecca. 

For this group, Hajj will end on Sunday and they will then be required to spend another week in quarantine. 

For months Mecca has been sealed off and no international media will be permitted to cover this year’s Hajj. Instead, the Saudi government broadcast live from the Grand Mosque on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, pilgrims will not be allowed to touch the Kaaba this year and other health measures have been introduced. 

Speaking to CNN, Assistant Deputy Minister for Preventative Health at the Saudi Ministry of Health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri said: “We are trying to apply the concept of safety bubbles, where every pilgrim will have an environment around him or her that are free and safe as much as possible from any kind of hazards, so all that is needed by the Hajjis is their personal protective equipment their hygiene products are provided free of charge.” 

But for millions of Muslims around the world, last month’s announcement by the Saudi government came as a heavy blow. 

For the government however it was a difficult decision but one it made as it battles a surge in Coronavirus cases. 

Saudi Arabia has recorded over 250,000 cases so far including 2,523 deaths – the highest toll among the Arab Gulf states.

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Elon Musk begins Twitter poll on reinstating Trump’s account

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(Last Updated On: November 19, 2022)

Twitter owner Elon Musk launched a poll Friday on the social media platform asking if former US President Donald Trump should be allowed back on the platform.

“Reinstate former President Trump,” Musk wrote in a post which garnered more than 4.4 million impressions at the time of publication, Anadolu Agency reported.

More than 55% of users voted “yes,” while 44% said “no.”

Hours earlier, the American billionaire implied that he was mulling whether to reinstate Trump’s Twitter account.

“Trump decision has not yet been made,” tweeted Musk, as he announced three high-profile reinstatements of accounts that were banned by the social media giant.

“Kathie Griffin, Jorden Peterson & Babylon Bee have been reinstated,” said Musk.

Trump had about 88.8 million followers when Twitter permanently suspended the former US president’s account in January 2021, citing his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol and the potential for more violence.

Musk had forecast a Trump return in May when he called the expulsion “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”

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IEA says it has eradicated war and corruption in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: November 17, 2022)

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, said at a meeting on Wednesday with officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war and administrative corruption in the country and pave the ground for progress and development.

He said that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has created an aid fund for Afghanistan and they will help Afghanistan in health, education, and other fields in addition to humanitarian aid.

An OIC official meanwhile said it will stand by Afghanistan and we will continue its cooperation with Afghanistan in the areas of prosperity, stability, and development.

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund, meanwhile welcomed the delegation of the OIC, and said, “You will see the real facts and the efforts of the Islamic Emirate in various sectors.”

He said that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war, insecurity, murder, destruction, and corruption in the country.

In conclusion, the IEA will not allow anyone to use Afghanistan soil against other countries, he said. 

 

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Explosion in busy Istanbul street leaves at least 4 dead

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(Last Updated On: November 13, 2022)

An explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue on Sunday afternoon has left at least four people dead and a number of people injured, a senior official told Associated Press.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya tweeted that the explosion occurred at about 4:20 p.m. Istanbul time and that there were deaths and injuries, but he did not say how many. The cause of the explosion was not clear.

Al Jazeera also reported at least four people were killed and 38 others injured.

However, according to the Associated Press, Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary media ban on reporting of the explosion, which means broadcasters cannot show videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath. 

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks, accidents and some political issues.

Footage on social media showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.

Broadcaster CNN Turk meanwhile reported 11 people were injured. 

The avenue is a crowded thoroughfare popular with tourists and locals, lined by shops and restaurants.

Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by ISIS (Daesh) and outlawed Kurdish groups.

 

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