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  • Saudi Finance Ministry says no to fees on foreign workers' remittances

    RIYADH: The Saudi finance ministry said on Sunday there would be no fees applied on remittances out of the country, days after the kingdom's advisory Shoura Council said it was looking at a proposal to impose a 6 percent levy on expatriate remittances. 
    Saudi Arabia is "committed to the principle of free movement of capital in and out of the kingdom, in line with international standards," the ministry said on its official Twitter account.
    Around a third of Saudi Arabia's 30 million inhabitants are foreigners, many of them attracted by the absence of tax and higher pay than they can get at home.
    But the country has been facing a budget squeeze from low oil prices and announced reform plans last year, which included a proposal to impose income tax on foreign workers.
    Proposals endorsed by the Shoura Council are not always adopted and the kingdom's central bank governor and finance minister said in the autumn that there were no plans to tax remittances or income.
    The country has already introduced a range of new fees to help close a budget gap created by low oil prices.
    For example, the government has raised the cost of visas and introduced gradually rising monthly fees on expatriate workers and their dependents. 


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  • Morocco 'bans the sale and production of the burka'

    Afghan women wait to cast their ballot at a polling station dressed in blue and white burkasTwo women wearing the niqab walk on the beach in CasablancaImage copyrightAFPImage captionMorocco has not made any official announcement on the policy

    Morocco has banned the sale, production and import of the burka, according to local reports.

    Letters announcing the ban were sent out on Monday, giving businesses 48 hours to get rid of their stock, the reports stated.

    There was no official announcement from the government, but unnamed officials told outlets the decision was made due to "security concerns".

    It is unclear if Morocco is now intending to ban the garment outright.

    A high-ranking interior ministry official confirmed the ban to the Le360 news site, adding that "bandits have repeatedly used this garment to perpetrate their crimes".

    The burka, which covers the entire face and body, is not widely worn in Morocco, with most women favouring the hijab, which does not shroud the face.

    Women in Salafist circles, and in more conservative regions in the north, are more likely to wear the niqab, which leaves the area around the eyes uncovered.

    The decision has split opinion in the North African kingdom, led by King Mohammed VI, who favours a moderate version of Islam.

    Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionThe burka is not popular in Morocco. Pictured: Women in Afghanistan wearing burkas

    Hammad Kabbaj, a preacher barred from standing in parliamentary elections in October over his alleged ties to "extremism", denounced the ban as "unacceptable", mocking the "Morocco of freedom and human rights" which "considers the wearing of the Western swimsuit on the beaches an untouchable right".

    Meanwhile, the Northern Moroccan National Observatory for Human Development said it considered the measure an "arbitrary decision that is an indirect violation of women's freedom of expression and wearing what reflects their identities or their religious, political or social beliefs".

    But Nouzha Skalli, a former family and social development minister, welcomed the ban as "an important step in the fight against religious extremism".

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  • Swiss Muslim girls must learn to swim with boys, court rules

    Swiss Muslim girls must learn to swim with boys, court rules

    File photo: Students swim across the pool during a training session, Singapore, 2006Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionThe court ruled Switzerland was justified in enforcing the "full school curriculum"

    Switzerland has won a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) obliging Muslim parents to send their children to mixed swimming lessons.

    It said authorities were justified in giving precedence to enforcing "the full school curriculum" and the children's "successful integration" into society.

    The ECHR acknowledged that religious freedom was being interfered with.

    But judges said it did not amount to a violation.

    The case was brought by two Swiss nationals, of Turkish origin, who refused to send their teenage daughters to the compulsory mixed lessons in the city of Basel.

    Education officials, however, said that exemptions were available only for girls who had reached the age of puberty - which the girls had not reached at the time.

    In 2010, after a long-running dispute, the parents were ordered to pay a combined fine of 1,400 Swiss Francs ($1,380, £1,136) "for acting in breach of their parental duty".

    They argued that such treatment was a violation of article nine of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

    The chamber of the ECHR is seen in this file photo, with the European flag on the floor and seat for the panel in a circle around itImage copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionThe controversial case was decided on at the European Court of Human Rights

    In a statement, the ECHR said the refusal to exempt the girls had interfered with the right to freedom of religion.

    But it also said the law involved was designed to "protect foreign pupils from any form of social exclusion" and Switzerland was free to design its education system according to its own needs and traditions.

    Schools, it said, played an important role in social integration, and exemptions from some lessons are "justified only in very exceptional circumstances".

    Swimming, burkinis, and integration

    • In 2016, officials in Basel suspended the citizenship process for the family of two teenage Muslim brothers who refused to shake hands with female teachers.
    • Switzerland has also applied the law to other cases - a man of Bosnian origin was fined last year for refusing to allow his daughter to take part in swimming lessons during school hours, among other activities.
    • Germany also battled with the issue of mixed swimming lessons in 2013, when a judge ruled that a 13-year-old girl must attend - but allowed the wearing of a burkini.
    • In France, in 2009, a woman was banned from swimming in a public pool in her burkini. That would be followed in 2016 by a controversial official ban on the garment in public spaces - which was eventually overturned by French courts.
    • France, Belgium, and the Netherlands all have bans on Muslim veils in public, to varying degrees.
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  • Sudan Scholars - 'Tobacco Not Allowed in Islam'


    Khartoum — Last week, the head of the Sudan Scholars Corporation issued a religious decree banning tobacco.

    Sheikh Mohamed Osman Saleh, head of the Sudanese Scholars Corporation told the state-owned Sudan News Agency (SUNA) last week that tobacco is forbidden in Islam.

    The use of tobacco is no less dangerous and evil than the use of drugs, Saleh said.

    He demanded the Sudanese security apparatus to combat the cultivation, sale, and use of tobacco in all parts of the country.


    Asked about the donation of the North Darfur government of 10,000 tons of tobacco in support of the ruling National Congress Party, the sheikh said that the gift consisted of various in-kind materials. He accused the Sudanese media of highlighting the tobacco item, "for the purpose of creating sensation and chaos".

    In response, former North Darfur government adviser on economic affairs Rashid Ismail told reporters in Khartoum that "the fierce attack against tobacco trade in the country has led to the idea that it is something abnormal".

    According to Ismail, "the recent campaign against tobacco is probably intended to hit the Darfur economy. It will put the livelihoods of 900,000 Darfuris at stake".

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  • Nigerian Pastor beaten into a coma after condoms fell from his bible while preaching

    Mayhem broke out at Toyota Bus stop, in front of the popular Ladipo Spare parts market, this morning, when a Nigerian Bus Preacher was dragged out of a bus and beaten to a coma after Condoms allegedly fell out of his bible as he preached the 'Word of God'.

    The Pastor had embarked on his journey at Apapa and proceeded to preach to the people on the bus, using very strong words like "If you wear trouser you'll go to hell! The Devil invented Make up! Weave on is from Marine Kingdom! If you have pre-marital sex you will burn in hell and your skin will peel!"

    The people in the bus were so moved; some started falling under the anointing. Our eye witness, Mr. John Mbakogu, who was on his way to his shop at Ladipo told us:

    "People were just falling as he was laying hands. One man even fell out of the bus under the influence of the Spirit. It was amazing – until he raised his hands to cast demons out of one girl, and 2 Durex condoms fell out"

    The angry men on the bus who had been having pangs of guilt due to the pastor's preaching about sex suddenly got really angry and pounced on the pastor, who all of a sudden started shouting "I also preach safe sex! Safe sex is good!"

    Police in Nigeria had to be called to the scene to save the pastors life. So far 2 arrests have been made, and the Condoms have been kept as evidence.


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  • City Hall goes dark in support of trapped civilians in Aleppo


    Toronto City Hall is going dark Wednesday night as a show of support for civilians still trapped in heavily besieged eastern Aleppo.

    According to a media representative at City Hall, the Toronto Sign at Nathan Phillips Square will be dimmed at 7 p.m. in solidarity with Aleppo.

    The message was also Tweeted out by Cllr. Norm Kelly Wednesday afternoon.

    Aleppo, once the largest city in Syria, has been decimated by the ongoing civil war, and in recent weeks has seen scores of civilians killed in airstrikes and gunfights as government forces retake the eastern part of the city that served as an enclave for opposition rebel fighters.

    In late November, the UN estimated 275,000 residents were trapped in the area that’s been under siege since July.

    Civilians have been posting goodbye messages on social media in recent days as government troops advanced further into the streets of the former rebel stronghold, and although a ceasefire deal was reached Tuesday, it effectively collapsed by Wednesday morning as shelling resumed.

    With files from Associated Press

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  • Muslims and Hindus more likely to help someone being attacked than Christians, survey finds


    In a world that seems to be getting angrier and more hectic, lots of people have witnessed violent or aggressive incidents and wondered whether or not they should intervene.

    A thousand questions race through the mind: do you risk your own safety, are you actually witnessing what you think you are witnessing, and could getting involved even make things worse?


    new survey questioned 2,000 people about their willingness to intervene in an “extreme situation” and came up with some interesting findings. One was that greater percentage of people who identify as Muslims and Hindus said they would spring into action than Christians.


    Just 24 per cent of people said they would get out their phone and start videoing if they saw a police officer harassing an African American man for no reason, while 21 per cent said they would get out of it. Meanwhile - both typically and depressingly -  nearly twice as many people say would step in if they witnessed violence against a dog, rather than a person.

    The survey, entitled Bystander Backlash and which makes no claims to being entirely scientific, was conducted on behalf of Bay Alarm Medical, a California-based medical services company. 


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