Saturday, May 06, 2017

Rouhani slams nuclear deal saboteurs in debate

Tehran, May 5 - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani criticised conservative opponents for trying to sabotage the nuclear deal with world powers and vowed more civil rights during today's second presidential election debate.

    In rare criticism of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Rouhani slammed the decision to write anti-Israel messages on ballistic missiles before testing them.

    "We saw how they wrote slogans on missiles and showed underground (missile) cities to disrupt the JCPOA (nuclear deal)," he said during the debate, which comes ahead of the May 19 election.
    "Our nation got through these issues because the majority of society chose morality and Islam from day one," he added.

    Iran argues that the missile tests are not banned under the 2015 deal, which curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of certain sanctions, but they have heightened tensions with the US and Israel.
    Rouhani said his conservative opponents in the election were linked to those trying to scupper the deal and broader outreach to the West.

    "When our diplomats were negotiating the deal, what were you doing behind the scenes? Some people acted like the opponents of the Iranian people," he said.
    One of his main challengers, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, said he would not tear up the nuclear accord but slammed what he called the government's weak stance and empty promises.

    "We should not show any weakness in the face of the enemy," said Raisi, who had a more lively debate after a lacklustre showing in the first round last week.

    "This agreement was like a cheque that the government has been unable to cash. Mr Rouhani promised that after the signing of the deal all the sanctions would be lifted and people's lives would improve, but they have not," he said.

    Rouhani hit back with a spirited defence of the nuclear deal, saying it had allowed a massive increase in oil sales and opened the way for Iran to take a central position in regional diplomacy.
    "It is unprecedented that Iran has such an important role," he said, referring to this week's talks on Syria alongside Russia and Turkey.

    Rouhani also vowed to improve civil rights -- a crucial plank of his 2013 presidential campaign which has been stymied by the conservative judiciary and security forces.
    "Civil rights are not just on paper, they will turn into practice. We will hold different sectors responsible," he said.

    The other main hardline challenger, Tehran mayor Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf, sought to score points on the stagnant economy, seen as Rouhani's main weakness.
    Ghalibaf returned frequently to his favourite theme -- attacking the elite "four-percenters", a nod to the global "We are the 99-per cent" campaign.

    "Who has benefited (from the nuclear deal)? The four- percenters. Who has been hurt? The people," he said.
    Six candidates were selected last month by the conservative-controlled Guardian Council, which rejected more than 1,600 applicants.

    Split evenly between three conservatives and three moderate-reformists, the debates have the flavour of a team event.

    Many expect the other moderate candidates -- vice- president Eshaq Jahangiri and Mostafa Hashemitaba -- to withdraw at the last minute to boost Rouhani's chances.

Syria safe zones closed to US-coalition jets

     Moscow, May 5 - Jets from the US-led coalition are barred from proposed safe zones in Syria set to be created under a deal inked by Russia, Iran and Turkey, Moscow's envoy said today.

    "In terms of their actions in the de-escalation zones then from this moment these zones are closed for their flights," the Kremlin's envoy to peace talks in Kazakhstan Alexander Lavrentiev was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

    "Aviation operations, especially by the international coalition forces, are absolutely not envisioned," he said.

    Regime backers Russia and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey on Thursday signed a deal at talks in Kazakhstan to set up four safe zones in the war-torn country.

    The agreement did not explicitly mention the US-led coalition, which has been targeting jihadists from the Islamic State group, but Lavrentiev insisted that "flights cease over these territories."
    "We as guarantors will closely monitor all operations," he said.

    Moscow's envoy said this means coalition air power can now only focus on "Islamic State targets that are located in the area of Raqa, some populated areas in the region of the Euphrates, Deir Ezzor and further on to the territory of Iraq."

    The exact boundaries of the proposed safe zones in Syria are yet to be defined but they are meant to focus on rebel- held territory.

    The United States gave an extremely cautious welcome to the deal, citing concerns over Iran's role as a guarantor, even as it expressed hope that the agreement could set the stage for a settlement.

    The limitations could throw up obstacles for any potential US operations in Syria in the future after President Donald Trump carried out Washington's first direct strike on the forces of Russian ally Bashar al-Assad last month over an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Friday, May 05, 2017

It's All Halal in Kenya

Halal shops and restaurants as well as beauty and cosmetic shops are finding plenty of Catholic and Christian customers who are looking for products they know are safe. 
In a country where 82 percent are Christian, halal, the dietary standard in Islamic law, is finding greater acceptance.

Kenya is now home to a modest 100 halal-compliant food industry businesses, offering Muslims a choice of offerings and convenience, but that market may be growing.

In addition to the country’s estimated 4 million Muslims (out of 42 million), halal is finding favor among Christians as well.

"When I eat here, I also promote religious tolerance,” said Lynn Wambui, a 22-year-old Christian, who ate at Pronto, a restaurant specializing in halal foods. "The food is also tasty.”

Halal, which means "lawful” or "permitted” in Arabic, requires that meat such as beef, lamb, goat and poultry be raised and killed humanely and that a blessing be said at the time of slaughter. Non halal foods include carnivorous animals and birds of prey, as well as pork and products derived from pork such as gelatin. Fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains are permitted.

In April, Nairobi hosted the East Africa Islamic Economic Summit to allow business and government leaders opportunities to explore how to boost the halal market economy.

"What is happening in Kenya reflects developments in the rest of the world,” said Abdullah Kheir, a religious scholar at Umma University in the coastal city of Mombasa. "Halal generally is becoming more acceptable.”

According to Kheir, most people find the food less risky since there are strict guidelines governing its slaughter.

"They are sure that the meat is not from forbidden animals such as dogs or donkeys or even pork,” said the scholar, who teaches Shariah and Islamic studies.

Father Wilybard Lagho, a Roman Catholic priest in the Mombasa Archdiocese, said care needed to be taken such that they are used in an inclusive way.

"At a time when there is Islamophobia, such symbols can be easily misinterpreted,” said Lagho.

Halal also applies to other sectors such as cosmetics and beauty. Globally, the sector is believed to be worth $2.3 trillion. Kenya has developed a certification and regulatory frame to meet the standards.

Cosmetics shops applying the principles, for example, refuse to sell human hair.

Mohammed Hagi, the director of Kushitic, a beauty and cosmetic outlet in Nairobi, said that although most of his customers are Christians, he cannot sell the hair often used for braiding or as weaves or wigs.

"It’s forbidden by the law,” said Hagi. "We do not stock them. We sell what is permissible, including perfumes, makeup, oils.” (ABNA)