TIME Nigeria

Suicide Bombs Kill 64 People in Nigeria on Muslim Holiday

Muhammadu Buhari Nigeria
Mujahid Safodien—AFP/Getty Images Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari gives an interview to Agence France-presse at his hotel during the 25th African Summit in Johannesburg on June 14, 2015.

The blasts are blamed on Nigeria's homegrown Boko Haram Islamic extremist group

(DAMATURU, Nigeria) — Suicide bombs have killed at least 64 people in multiple blasts in the northeastern towns of Gombe and Damaturu, officials said Friday, scaring people into staying home during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr celebration.

Police say two women suicide bombers killed 12 people at two prayer grounds in Damaturu on Friday morning as people were preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

Hours earlier two bombs killed 50 people buying goods for the holiday at the market in Gombe, according to National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Sani Datti. Another 75 wounded are being treated in two hospitals there, he said.

The blasts are blamed on Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram Islamic extremist group which has launched a string of attacks that have killed hundreds during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended Friday.

The upsurge in attacks followed a directive to create more mayhem during Ramadan from the Islamic State group, to which Boko Haram has sworn allegiance. It also followed the May 29 inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has sworn to defeat the insurgents.

Nigeria’s new army chief, Maj. Gen. Tukur Buratai, was in Damaturu on a visit to boost troops’ morale Friday and prayed at the town’s Central Mosque. He was appointed last week when Buhari fired the entire top echelon of the military that he has accused of corruption that prevents what was once Africa’s mightiest armed force from curbing the insurgency centered in Nigeria’s northeast.

Recent attacks also have included the central city of Jos and the northern cities of Kano and Zaria.

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Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria.

TIME indonesia

Thousands Are Left Stranded Over Eid as Indonesia Closes Three Airports

The closures come as millions of people travel home to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their families

Eruptions from two volcanoes in Indonesia forced authorities to close three more airports Thursday, including the international terminal in the country’s second largest city Surabaya.

In total, five airports have closed because of ash spewing from Mount Raung on the main Java island and Mount Gamalama in eastern Indonesia, which erupted Thursday morning, reports the BBC.

The closures come as millions of people in the world’s most populous Muslim nation journey home for Eid al-Fitr celebrations, which mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Thousands of people traveling to spend the holiday with their families are now left stranded at the airports.

On Thursday evening, officials closed the airports serving Surabaya and Malang in East Java province, and Ternate in North Maluku province. Two other airports — Banyuwangi and Jember — have remained closed since last week.

Over the past two weeks, an ash cloud spewing from Mount Raung caused serious travel disruption on the holiday island of Bali, forcing multiple airports to close and leaving thousands of tourists and locals stranded. Those airports have since reopened.

[BBC]

TIME Nigeria

Twin Blasts In Northern Nigeria Have Killed At Least 49 People

Another 71 were injured in the attack

Twin blasts struck a marketplace in the northeast Nigerian city of Gombe Thursday, killing at least 49 people and injuring dozens more.

The market was crowded with people doing last minute shopping on the eve of the Eid festival that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, reports Agence France-Presse.

The first bomb went off outside a busy footwear shop at 5:20p.m. local time (12:20p.m. ET) and was followed by a second explosion minutes later.

“I and many other people rushed to assist the victims. While we were trying to attend to the wounded, another blast happened outside a china shop just opposite the footwear shop,” local trader Badamasi Amin told AFP.

Ali Nasiru, another trader at the market said he saw “people lying lifeless on the ground.”

A senior rescue worker said 49 people had been killed and 71 injured in the attack but warned the death toll could climb as some of the wounded were in a “critical condition.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but in recent months Gombe city has been the target of bombs and suicide attacks by militant Islamist group Boko Haram

More then 15,000 people have been killed in the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.

[AFP]

TIME apps

Muslims Everywhere Applaud Snapchat’s Live Stream of Ramadan Prayers in Mecca

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Issam Madkouk—Getty Images/arabianEye

"Mecca Live" was a hit with Muslims across the globe

Video messaging app Snapchat’s decision to live-stream Ramadan prayers in Mecca was an instant hit with over a million people tweeting about the #Mecca_live event as coverage went viral.

Every year, around 100 million Muslims make the pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, also known as Makkah, and Snapchat marked Tuesday’s observance for the holy month of Ramadan with a 300-second “live” story documenting prayers in the sacred city.

Snapchat Live curated snaps about Mecca from around the network and placed them in one feed, Al-Jazeera reports. It was the first time the firm had covered the event, and many Muslims are thrilled with the response.

Mecca Live featured worshippers breaking their fasts over iftar meals, panoramic views of Mecca, prayers and even haircuts.

According to Al-Jazeera, the feed has been lauded by some for bringing positive attention to the annual pilgrimage made by Muslims around the world and changing the negative global narrative surrounding Islam.

Some tweeters even went so far as to say that they would consider converting to Islam after watching the video.

Others Muslims were unimpressed with the effusive support for the religion.

And it wouldn’t be a true viral phenomenon without a few cats popping up as well.

[Al-Jazeera]

TIME Bangladesh

Stampede Kills at Least 23 in Bangladesh

Another 30 people have been injured

(DHAKA, Bangladesh) — At least 23 people were killed in a stampede in central Bangladesh early Friday when hundreds of people stormed the home of a businessman for a charity handout during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, police said.

Another 30 were injured and rushed to a hospital in Mymensingh, a town 115 kilometers (70 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka, said police officer Kamrul Islam.

The crowd gathered outside the tobacco businessman’s home around 4 a.m. and stormed in when the gates were opened to collect free clothing, Islam said. Twenty-two women and one child were killed in the stampede, he said.

Ambia Begum, 45, came along with seven female relatives at dawn. One of them died in the stampede.

“Oh Allah, why I came here? Why?” she wailed as the body of her 60-year-old relative was retrieved.

Survivors said about 1,000 people, mostly elderly women, gathered in front of the home of the businessman who distributes clothes every year ahead of Eid festival like many others in largely Muslim Bangladesh.

Authorities detained six people, including the businessman, who did not request police presence at his house on the occasion.

Stampedes are common at religious places and during charity handouts in South Asian countries.

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling Had the Best Response to a Harry Potter Fan Who Is Fasting for Ramadan

Rowling tells a fan which book has the least amount of eating

J.K. Rowling is known for interacting with fans (and foes) on Twitter, but this Thursday the author sent a particularly sweet message to a fan who was fasting for Ramadan.

Mujtaba Alvi, a 21-year-old from Toronto on break from school, was rereading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when he tweeted at Rowling, telling her that the descriptions of food in the fifth Harry Potter book were hard to take while fasting. During Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, those who follow the faith abstain from all beverages and food from dawn until sunset.

To his surprise, Rowling tweeted him back with a helpful tip, suggesting that he read the seventh book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, next.

In that book, young wizards Harry, Ron and Hermione are often forced to go without food.

Alvi, who calls himself a “true Potterhead,” told TIME that seeing Rowling’s response was “surreal.” Plus, Thursday was his birthday—Rowling’s tweet, he said, was the “greatest gift ever.”

Alvi told TIME he probably will take Rowling up on her suggestion to read Deathly Hollows next. “JK Rowling told me to,” he said via Twitter direct message.

That should be an easy assignment for the Potter fan, who said he’s read the books “multiple times.”

H/t BuzzFeed.

 

TIME Religion

See How Ramadan Was Observed in the 1940s

As many Muslims prepare to observe Ramadan, a look back at the holiday during a time of great violence in India

Wednesday evening marks the beginning of Ramadan, the month-long observance during which many Muslims fast daily to inspire deep reflection and commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. That sense of reflection was captured in 1946 by LIFE photographer Margaret Bourke-White. For Bourke-White, who spent considerable time in India recording the violence surrounding the partition of India and Pakistan, it was the rare chance to document peace, as she photographed prayers on the last day of Ramadan.

Bourke-White had the unique opportunity to take photographs inside Delhi’s Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. In the captions, LIFE explained the basics of Muslim prayer, with which many of its readers would have been unfamiliar. These included facing in the direction of Mecca, prostrating oneself and praying five times each day.

That year’s September observance of Eid al-Fitr, the final day of Ramadan, fell one month after the event that came to be known as Direct Action Day, a bloody clash between Muslims and Hindus in Kolkata. (The city was then called Calcutta; many of LIFE’s 1946 spellings differ from today’s, as can be seen in the captions above.) While Delhi’s Muslims prayed in mosques, many of Kolkata’s took to the streets in an unusual demonstration, “probably staged,” LIFE conjectured, “for political reasons to impress Hindus of Moslem strength.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

TIME faith

London Private School Bans Muslim Kids From Fasting

Empty classroom
Getty Images

Muslim pre-teens in four private secondary schools in London won’t be allowed to fast during Ramadan without special permission.

The Lion Academy Trust schools sent a letter home to parents announcing that Muslim students would not be allowed to fast during the school day for the upcoming holy month, which begins this week.

In the June 10 letter, school officials said that it is unhealthy for students to fast in “excess of 18 hours” during hot summer days. “Previously, we have had a number of children who became ill and children who have fainted or been unable to fully access the school curriculum in their attempts to fast,” they wrote.

Observing Ramadan, which comes at a different time each year, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and considered one of Islam’s central tenets. Pregnant women, the elderly and chronically ill people are not expected to fast, though parents differ on pre-teens, with some fasting for only part of the day and others not fasting at all.

School officials said they studied Islamic law before making their decision. “We have sought guidance and are reliably informed that in Islamic law, children are not required to fast during Ramadan,” the letter notes.

Some Muslims think that the private school trust overstepped its bounds and should leave the decision up to parents.

“We believe that the school should have adopted an advisory role, in that they recommend to the parents their point of view, and not act in an authoritarian manner,” Dr. Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of Britain, tells TIME. “The process of fasting is spiritually uplifting for children, and serves a wider narrative to allow them to think about other poor children who are forced to fast due to the absence of food.”

After hearing complaints, the schools struck a deal to allow parents who object to the policy to meet with their school’s headmaster to make accommodations. But for some, this compromise isn’t enough.

“We believe, in general, parents are better placed to look after their children,” El-Hamdoon says, “and would not put their offspring in harm’s way.”

Read the letter below:

TIME On Our Radar

Hidden Islam: Nicolo Degiorgis Charts the Challenges of Being Muslim in Italy

In Italy, Islam remains hidden. Despite being home to more than a million Muslims, Italy has put stringent limits on the number of government-approved mosques available to worshippers: in fact, there are just seven in the entire country, in Rome, Florence, Palermo, Turin, Ravenna, Milan and Genoa.

In lieu of mosques, Italy’s Muslims have been forced to transform warehouses, parking lots, stadiums and supermarkets into places of prayer. In Hidden Islam, a self-published monograph featuring pictures he made between 2009 to 2013, photographer Nicoló Degiorgis, 29, documents these improvised houses of worship.

“[Hidden Islam] draws a frightening picture of contemporary Italy — a country [with a limited] colonial background that finds it hard to absorb a quickly rising wave of immigration,” Degiorgis recently told LightBox. “The book is an attempt at showing a sense of Islamophobia spreading across many Western countries.”

nicolo-degiorgis-italian-muslims-13

Finding the hidden mosques was one of the “exciting things that helped counterbalance the more frustrating moments,” noted the Italian photographer, who faced months of negotiations in order to gain access to some of the makeshift places of worship. “Certain communities accepted me over time, some didn’t. I followed them over the years, living with them and exploring their activities.”

The resulting, self-financed book has received support from British photographer and photobook collector Martin Parr, virtually guaranteeing its success in the art world.

“[Parr] was essential in making me understand the importance of doing this project,” says Degiorgis. “He helped me out throughout the years whenever I was stuck, pushing and advising me and meeting up once or twice a year to edit it.” And after receiving the Author Book Award 2014 from the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival, Degiorgis is grateful. “[This award] truly is of great help.”

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Nicoló Degiorgis is an Italian photographer and co-founder of the Rorhof studio in northern Italy.

Hidden Islam, a photobook published by Rorhof, will be on display at TJ Boulting in London from July 31 as part of the gallery’s Publish/Curate exhibition.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent


TIME

China: Dozens Dead or Injured in Xinjiang ‘Terror,’ but Facts Are Few and Far Between

A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi
Stringer China—Reuters A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an antiterrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi, China's Xinjiang region, on May 23, 2014

Two vastly different accounts have emerged about the incident, which occurred on the first day of the ‘Id al-Fitr festival

Some time on Monday, in a small town near China’s northwest frontier, dozens of people were injured or lost their lives. Two days later, we do not know who died, how they were killed or what sparked the violence. And with the area effectively sealed off by Chinese security forces, and the Internet up and down across the area, it is possible we never really will.

Two vastly different accounts have emerged about the incident, which occurred on the first day of the ‘Id al-Fitr festival, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Chinese state media reported that dozens of civilians were killed or injured in a premeditated terrorist attack in Shache county (or Yarkand in the Uighur language). The news, which was not released until more than 24 hours after the incident, was cast as evidence of organized terrorism by ethnic Uighur extremists. Their account suggests that knife-wielding mobs went on a rampage after officials discovered some explosives and foiled a terrorist plot that may or may not have been timed to coincide with a commodity fair.

An account by the nonprofit Radio Free Asia (RFA) paints an altogether different picture. Reporters for the outlet’s Uighur-language news service say dozens of “knife- and ax-wielding” ethnic Uighurs were shot by police in a riot sparked by restrictions during Ramadan. “There has been a lot of pent-up frustration over house-to-house searches and checking on headscarves [worn by Uighur women] during this Ramadan,” Alim Adurshit, a local official, told RFA. The report also mentioned the extrajudicial killing of a Uighur family — an incident that has not been reported by Chinese state press and that TIME has not independently confirmed.

The dueling narratives point to the challenge of figuring out what, exactly, is happening in China’s vast and restless northwest. The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where the incident took place, is contested space. It is both claimed as the homeland of the mostly Muslim, Turkic Uighur people, and also as Chinese territory. In recent years, the area has seethed with unrest attributed, depending on whom you ask, to Islamic terrorism, separatism or heavy-handed repression by the state. For years now, a small minority has fought against the government, usually by targeting symbols of state power, including police stations and transport hubs.

The past year has been particularly bloody. In October, an SUV plowed through crowds of tourists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five — including three inside the vehicle — and injuring dozens. Chinese authorities said the vehicle was driven by ethnic Uighurs, but revealed little else. In March, a group of knife-wielding attackers slashed and stabbed their way through a train station in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, killing 29. The government blamed that incident, and two subsequent attacks in the regional capital, Urumqi, on separatists from Xinjiang.

Beijing has responded by doubling down on already aggressive security measures and their campaign of forced cultural integration. Across the region, town squares are now patrolled by armed security personnel in riot gear, and villages are sealed off by police checkpoints. Ethnic Uighurs are stopped and searched. Meanwhile, the government has stepped up limits on religious practice by, for instance, putting age restrictions on mosque visits and banning students and government workers from fasting during Ramadan.

In the context of this division and distrust, it makes sense that there are competing claims. The trouble is, China prevents outsiders from gathering information on their own. The foreign press corps is, by virtue of China’s rules, based far from Xinjiang, primarily in the Han-majority cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Travel to Xinjiang, while not officially forbidden, is effectively restricted. When I visited Urumqi and Hotan in late May, security personnel harassed my Chinese colleague, questioned me, followed our movements and stopped us from traveling to the city of Kashgar.

The ruling Communist Party’s powers of information control are also a factor. On a good day, China’s Great Firewall makes it difficult for citizens to share information that censors might consider politically sensitive; other days, it is impossible. Following the violent suppression of the 2009 riots in Urumqi, the government effectively turned off the region’s Internet for nine months. There are reports the web is off and on again now, which may help explain why so little has emerged in terms of firsthand accounts or photographic evidence.

Overseas-based Uighur groups say until there is transparency, the public should not trust the state’s account. “China does not want the world to know what occurred on Monday,” said Alim Seytoff, president of the Uyghur American Association, in a statement. “As little is known of the circumstances of their killing, due to tight restrictions on information, UAA seeks an open investigation into the incident and the loss of dozens of lives.”

With every instance of violence, that looks less likely to happen.

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