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Islam in Asia

Islam in Asia latest: Long-delayed Greece mosque opens for prayers

Austria laments intelligence missteps before Vienna attack

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to police officers on strengthening the border controls at the crossing between Spain and France, at Le Perthus, France on Nov. 5.   © Reuters

Tensions in France between Muslims offended by caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and President Emmanuel Macron's government, which defends freedom of expression, have spilled over into Indonesia, one of Asia's large Muslim populations.



Saturday, Nov. 6 (Tokyo time)

2:00 a.m. Greece's first state-sponsored mosque in nearly 200 years has held its first Friday prayers, according to media reports.

The Muslim community in Athens -- which includes immigrants from Pakistan, Syria, Bangladesh and other countries -- now has an official place to pray.

The opening of the mosque in the predominately Christian Orthodox country was delayed for years over factors including budget cutbacks.


12:00 a.m. Austrian authorities say "intolerable mistakes" were made in the handling of intelligence on the jihadist who killed four people in Vienna on Monday, saying the suspected should have been under closer watch.

Austria, a country of 8.9 million people, has roughly 600,000 Muslim inhabitants, most of whom are Turkish or have families of Turkish origin, according to Reuters.

Thursday, Nov. 5

9:30 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron says the country will bolster border controls by doubling police numbers to 4,800.

Macron, speaking during a visit to France's border with Spain, said the increased controls would target illegal immigration amid "a growing terrorism threat."

8:49 a.m. Large quantities of mobile phone footage have confirmed that the jihadist who killed four people in a rampage in Vienna on Monday was the only gunman, but Austria fumbled intelligence on him, says Interior Minister Karl Nehammer.

Supporters of All Bengal Minority Youth Federation burn an effigy depicting French President Emmanuel Macron during a protest against the publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in France and Macron's comments, in Kolkata, India on Nov. 4.   © Reuters

Austria has arrested 14 people aged 18 to 28 in connection with the attack and is investigating them on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization, he says. But it would also have to investigate its own actions, he adds.

In July, neighboring Slovakia's intelligence service had handed over information suggesting the attacker had tried and failed to buy ammunition there, says Nehammer.

Wednesday, Nov.4

6:10 a.m. Swiss police arrest two men in an investigation of possible links to the main suspect in the Vienna shooting attack, authorities said.

The two Swiss citizens, arrested in a city near Zurich, are 18 years old and 24 years old.

A man, identified by Islamic State as "Abu Dagnah Al-Albany," is seen in an undisclosed location, in this still image from a video obtained on Nov. 3.   © Reuters

Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the men were "obviously friends" with Kujtim Fejzulai, the 20-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual national suspected of the Vienna attack.

"The two men were arrested on Tuesday afternoon in coordination with the Austrian authorities," Zurich cantonal police said.

4:00 a.m. Islamic State claims responsibility for the deadly attack in Vienna, in a statement issued through its Amaq News Agency. The group posts a picture and video of a bearded man they call "Abu Dagnah Al-Albany," and describe as a "soldier of the Caliphate."

In the photo, Albany carries a pistol, a machine gun and a machete and is wearing a ring saying "Mohammed is the messenger of Allah".

Amaq posted a video of Albany minutes later in which he pled allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi. He was speaking Arabic in the video.

Roses lay besides a candle in Vienna, Austria on Nov. 3, the morning after shots were fired in a lively street in the city center.    © AP

Tuesday, Nov. 3

11:00 p.m. Austrian police raided 18 locations and arrested 14 people Tuesday, after a gunman killed four people in a rampage in the center of Vienna overnight, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.

The gunman, who was killed by police minutes after he opened fire on crowded bars, was identified as a 20-year-old convicted jihadist released from jail less than a year ago, who had managed to convince authorities that he was no longer a threat.

Video that appeared to be from the scene showed a gunman, dressed in white coveralls, firing off bursts seemingly at random as he ran down the Austrian capital's dark cobblestone streets.

The attacker, an Austrian-born son of immigrants from North Macedonia, was wearing an explosive belt that turned out to be fake.

He was identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, a dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia, who had been sentenced to 22 months in jail in April last year for attempting to travel to Syria to join Islamic State. He had been released early because of his young age, in December.

7:00 a.m. Multiple gunmen opened fire at six locations in central Vienna near the city's main synagogue on Monday, leaving at least two dead -- including one of the assailants -- and 15 wounded.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described what had happened as "a repulsive terrorist attack."

Authorities gave no indication of the identity of the assailants or reason for the attack. President Emmanuel Macron of France, which has seen two deadly knife attacks in Paris and Nice in recent weeks, issued a statement expressing shock and sorrow.

"This is our Europe," he said. "Our enemies must know with whom they are dealing. We will not retreat."

1:00 a.m. In an interview with the German daily Die Welt, Anwar Gargash, the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, agrees with French President Emmanuel Macron on integrating Muslims into society.

Anwar Gargash, the minister of state for foreign affairs for the United Arab Emirates, speaks at an event at Chatham House in London.    © Reuters

"You should listen to what Macron really said in his speech: He doesn't want the ghettoization of Muslims in the West, and he is absolutely right," Gargash said.

The minister blames Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for fanning the flames of religious discord.

Monday, Nov. 2

11:00 p.m. As tens of thousands of Muslims protest in Bangladesh against France's support for cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the South Asian country's biggest Islamic group wants the French Embassy in Dhaka shut down.

Thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims protesting the French president’s support of secular laws allowing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad march to the French Embassy in Dhaka on Nov. 2.    © AP

Hefazat-e-Islam has called for the diplomatic outpost to be closed in 24 hours.

Bangladesh is the world's third-biggest Muslim country with more than 160 million people.

Junaid Babunagari, the group's secretary-general, says French President Emmanuel Macron "should beg for forgiveness," the Dhaka Tribune reported.

He calls on other Muslim-majority nations to cut diplomatic ties with France, and urges a boycott of French goods.

An Indonesian Muslim protester kicks a defaced poster of French President Emmanuel Macron during an anti-France rally outside the French Embassy in Jakarta on Nov. 2.   © AP

In Indonesia -- the world's most populous Muslim-majority country -- Muslims shout similar demands in a march to the French Embassy in Jakarta.

This follows remarks by Indonesian President Joko Widodo over the weekend in which he condemned the terrorist attacks in France while blasting comments seen as insensitive toward Muslims.

"Associating religion with terrorist acts is a big mistake," the president, known as Jokowi, says in a tweet. "Terrorism is terrorism, terrorists are terrorists, terrorism has nothing to do with any religion."

9:30 p.m. Schools across France held a minute's silence on Monday in memory of Samuel Paty, the teacher beheaded by a Chechen teenager who wanted to avenge his use of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad during a class on freedom of expression.

"The idea of terrorism is to create hatred," President Emmanuel Macron wrote in a message to schoolchildren on social media. "We will pull through this together."

Pupils stood in silence at 11 a.m. and teachers reminded them of their rights and duties in a "free democracy".

5:00 a.m. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan condemned the recent terrorist attacks in France during a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, state news agency WAM reports.

The prince "stressed that these violent atrocities are inconsistent with the teachings and principles of all monotheistic religions that call for peace, tolerance and love," WAM reports.

While denouncing "hate speech," the prince "categorically rejected any justification employed to excuse these criminal acts of violence and terrorism," according to the report.

Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan attends a news conference in Berlin in June 2019.   © Reuters

Sunday, Nov. 1

6:00 a.m. French President Emmanuel Macron gives an interview to Arabic television network Al Jazeera in which he says he understands the shock Muslims felt at caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad, but that he will "never accept that someone can justify the use of physical violence because of these cartoons."

The interview sets off a storm on social media, where many argue the Qatari station erred by giving space to the French President, whom they said failed to apologize for offending Muslims. Others hailed Macron's appearance on Al-Jazeera as a success of the protest and boycott campaigns.

Saturday, Oct. 31

6:30 a.m. France's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor says the 21-year-old suspect of the Nice attack was a Tunisian who arrived in Europe on Sept. 20 in Lampedusa, the Italian island off Tunisia that is a main landing point for migrants from Africa.

He arrived in Nice by train on Thursday morning and made his way to the church, where he stabbed and killed the 55-year-old sexton and beheaded a 60-year-old woman.

Candles, flowers and messages are seen Oct. 30 in front of the Notre Dame church in tribute to the victims of a deadly knife attack in Nice, France.   © Reuters

He also stabbed a 44-year-old woman, who fled to a nearby cafe where she raised the alarm before dying, Jean-Francois Ricard said. Police then arrived, shooting and wounding him.

4:20 a.m. The leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, calls the French cartoons an aggression and likens the Macron administration's stance to "declaring a sort of war."

In a televised speech, Nasrallah says French authorities worsened the standoff over the caricatures by being stubborn. Freedom of expression should not include "violating the dignity of 2 billion Muslims," he says. "No Muslim in this world can accept insulting his prophet," Nasrallah says.

But he also denounces Thursday's stabbing attack in Nice, saying it is rejected by Islam.

2:02 a.m. France steps up security nationwide to guard against Islamist attacks after the fatal stabbings at a church in Nice, while protests flare in parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. French President Emmanuel Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect sites including places of worship and schools, and the nation has been at its highest level of security alert after the second deadly knife attack in its cities in two weeks.

Also, police are holding a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant, identified by a French police source and Tunisian officials as Brahim al-Aouissaoui, over the attack in which a man shouting "Allahu akbar!" -- meaning "God is the greatest!" -- decapitated a woman and killed two other people in Notre Dame Basilica in Nice on Thursday.

12:10 a.m. Tens of thousands of Muslims protest in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Palestinian territories. French Interior Minister Gerald Damarnin says that France -- home to Europe's largest Muslim community and hit by a string of militant attacks in recent years -- is engaged in a war against Islamist ideology and that more attacks are likely.

Afghans chant slogans during a protest against the French president Emmanuel Macron comments on the Prophet Mohammad, on the outskirts of Jalalabad in Nangerhar province, Afghanistan on Oct.  30.   © Reuters

In Pakistan, police fire tear gas at protesters who have broken through security blockades in Islamabad in a failed attempt to demonstrate at the French Embassy over images depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Protests and gatherings marking the occasion are also held in the Pakistani cities of Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. In Bangladesh, tens of thousands march through Dhaka, the capital, chanting "Boycott French products!" and carrying banners calling Macron "the world's biggest terrorist."

A police officer fires tear gas shells to disperse protesters marching to the French Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan on Oct. 30.   © AP

In Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinians trample on a large French flag and burn other French flags.

In Gaza, ruled by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, hundreds of Palestinians take part in anti-France rallies, chanting: "With our souls and blood we will redeem the prophet!"

Friday, Oct. 30

11:00 p.m. In a poll by French research company Ifop, 79% of respondents say radical Islam has declared war on the country, and 87% say secularism is now in danger there. (Link in French)

In a 2019 poll, around 60% of French citizens said that the values of Islam and the French society do not fit well together. In a separate poll, around 60% of Muslims said they felt discrimination in France when searching for jobs.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia in February.   © Reuters

10:00 p.m. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad writes on his blog that he is "disgusted" with attempts to misrepresent and take out of context his Thursday comments about freedom of speech.

Mahathir also criticized Facebook and Twitter over the removal of his posts "despite attempts to explain the context of the posting."

"There is nothing I can do with FB and Twitter's decision to remove my posting. To my mind, since they are the purveyor of freedom of speech, they must at least allow me to explain and defend my position," he writes in his blog entry, titled "MISREPRESENTED CONTEXT."

4:08 p.m. India, home to one of the world's largest Muslim populations, sees mass protests across many cities. Here, a crowd chants "Slogan of faith: God is the greatest!" in the central city of Bhopal:

3:00 a.m. "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules." A short notice from the U.S. social media giant announces the removal of a tweet by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had earlier written that "Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past."

Under Twitter's policy, "When we determine that a Tweet violated the Twitter Rules, we require the violator to remove it before they can Tweet again. We send an email notification to the violator identifying the Tweet(s) in violation and which policies have been violated."

Thursday, Oct. 29

11:00 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron says: "Once again our country has been hit by an attack, an Islamic terrorist attack," as he visits the scene of the church killings in Nice. "All of us would like to support the Catholics in France and elsewhere," Macron says. "Once again it's the Catholics that are being attacked," he says.

10:45 p.m. A Saudi man is arrested in the Red Sea city of Jiddah after attacking and wounding a security guard with a "sharp tool" at the French Consulate, local police say. A statement from the Mecca region's police says that the guard suffered "minor injuries" and that "legal action" is being taken against the perpetrator.

The French Embassy says that the consulate has been subject to an "attack by knife which targeted a guard," that the guard has been hospitalized and that his life is not in danger. "The French Embassy strongly condemns this attack against a diplomatic outpost which nothing could justify," it says.

10:34 p.m. Saudi Arabia "strongly condemns" the attack in Nice, its foreign ministry says. "The kingdom categorically rejects such extremist acts, which contravene all religions ... while stressing the importance of avoiding all practices which generate hatred, violence and extremism," says the statement published by the state news agency SPA.

8:54 p.m. France raises the security alert for French territory to the highest level after the knife attack in the city of Nice. Prime Minister Jean Castex announces that the government's response to the attack will be firm and implacable.

6:00 p.m. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urges Indonesians to focus on the treatment of Muslim Uighurs in China, describing it as the "gravest threat" to the future of religious freedom in a speech to an Islamic group.

In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, President Joko Widodo, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wave from a balcony at the Bogor Presidential Palace in West Java, Indonesia, on Oct. 29.   © AP

"There is no counterterrorism justification for forcing Uighur Muslims to eat pork during Ramadan or destroying a Muslim cemetery," Pompeo says. "There is no poverty alleviation justification for forced sterilizations or taking children away from their parents to be reeducated in state-run boarding schools."

"I know that the Chinese Communist Party has tried to convince Indonesians to look away, to look away from the torments your fellow Muslims are suffering," he says. "I know that these same CCP officials have spun fantastic tales of happy Uighurs eager to discard their ethnic, religious and cultural identities to become more 'modern' and enjoy the benefits of CCP-led development. When you hear these arguments, I'd just ask you to do this: search your hearts. Look at the facts. Listen to the tales of the survivors and of their families."

"My holy book teaches me that faith without works is dead," Pompeo says.

"I'm sure you know the ways that the Islamic tradition -- and the Indonesian tradition -- demand that we speak out and work for justice," he says.

Police stand near the church where a knife attack took place in Nice, France, on Oct. 29.   © Reuters

5:00 p.m. A knife-wielding attacker shouting "Allahu Akbar!" -- meaning "God is the greatest!" -- beheads a woman and kills two other people at a church in the French city of Nice. The assailant is believed to be a 21-year-old Tunisian national who had recently entered the country from Italy.

3:12 a.m. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Western countries mocking Islam want to "relaunch the Crusades," heightening a confrontation with France over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have stirred anger in Muslim-majority countries. In a speech to lawmakers of his AK Party in the parliament, Erdogan calls standing against attacks on the prophet "an issue of honor for us," suggesting that Ankara may be digging in for a prolonged standoff.

Wednesday, Oct. 28

11:05 p.m. Malaysia "strongly condemns any inflammatory rhetoric and provocative acts that seek to defame the religion of Islam as the world has recently witnessed in the forms of populist speeches and publication of blasphemous caricatures depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad," its foreign ministry says as the French envoy is summoned to the ministry.

6:26 p.m. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi says freedom of expression should stop at offending more than 1.5 billion people, following the display of images in France of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims see as blasphemous. Sisi also says he firmly rejects any form of violence or terrorism from anyone in the name of defending religion, religious symbols or icons.

An Iranian woman carries a sign during a protest against the publications of a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in France and French President Emmanuel Macron's comments, outside the French embassy in Tehran, Iran on Oct. 28.   © Reuters

Tuesday, Oct. 27

9:51 p.m. Thousands of Muslims take to the streets of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka to protest against remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron in a row about cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Protesters in Dhaka unfurl placards with caricatures of Macron and shout slogans, demanding an unconditional apology and the ouster of the French ambassador.

"Muslims will not let this go in vain," says Atiqur Rahman, a spokesman for the right-wing Islami Andolan Bangladesh.

"He [Macron] needs mental treatment," says the spokesman, who calls for a boycott of French products. "He has not only made himself the enemy of Islam, but of all peace-loving people too."

Protesters chant slogans as they burn France's flag in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Oct. 28.   © Reuters

3:06 a.m. Pakistan's parliament passes a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris over the republication of images of the Prophet Muhammad in France, accusing President Emmanuel Macron of "hatemongering" against Muslims. The nonbinding National Assembly resolution comes hours after the French ambassador in Islamabad is summoned to the foreign office for Pakistan to register its protest. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also takes aim at Macron, saying he has attacked Islam by encouraging the display of cartoons depicting the prophet.

The coffin of slain teacher Samuel Paty is carried in the Sorbonne University courtyard during a national memorial event in Paris on Oct. 21.   © Reuters

Monday, Oct. 26

9:49 p.m. As the French government's crackdown on Muslim organizations gains momentum, the Collective Against Islamophobia in France tweets that "we no longer feel safe" in the country and that the organization is going international.

Wednesday, Oct. 21

At a national memorial for murdered schoolteacher Samuel Paty, French President Emmanuel Macron says Paty "was the victim of a conspiracy of stupidity, hate, lies ... hate of the other ... hate of what we profoundly are."

Friday, Oct. 16

U.S. national security adviser Robert O'Brien says that China is perpetrating "something close to" a genocide with its treatment of Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

"If not a genocide, something close to it [is] going on in Xinjiang," he tells an online event hosted by the Aspen Institute. The United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang.

O'Brien says U.S. Customs had seized "massive numbers" of hair products made with human hair from Xinjiang. "The Chinese are literally shaving the heads of Uighur women and making hair products and sending them to the United States," he says.


Schoolteacher Samuel Paty is beheaded in a Paris suburb. Paty had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression, angering some Muslim parents. Muslims believe that any depiction of the prophet is blasphemous. Police shot dead the 18-year-old attacker of Chechen origin.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers an anti-separatism speech Oct. 2 in Les Mureaux, near Paris.   © Reuters

Friday, Oct. 2

French President Emmanuel Macron gives a speech titled "Fight Against Separatism" in which he says that "Islam is a religion that is currently experiencing a crisis all over the world."

Noting a need to free "Islam in France from foreign influences," Macron announces that he will end a program to train imams sent from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria.

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