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Infamous Pakistani cleric keeps martyr Bin Laden library, vows worldwide Sharia

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Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz is considered one of the most dangerous, yet influential, men in Pakistan.

And while his movements in the country are restricted by the government, the 57-year-old former head cleric of Islamabad’s oldest mosque – Lal Masjid, better known as the Red Mosque – is still allowed to inspire new generations with his radical rhetoric.

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Students at Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz’s seminary

 (Fox News/Mohsin Saleem Ullah)

“We don’t see Pakistan anymore our destination, we will come out as a force to establish Islamic rule over the entire world,” Aziz told Fox News last week in a telephone interiew, from his Islamabad compound known as Jamia Hafsa, a seminary school that boasts around 1500 girls and 2000 boys. “You will see the change within 10 years – if you stay alive.”

In the government’s endeavor to root out terrorism, Aziz is banned from the mosque – which technically belongs to the state. But he and his wife continue to oversee teachings just a few miles away.

“We want Sharia within our country and I, along with my pupils, will go to any extent to implement Sharia – even at the cost of waging a war against the country coerced government,” he declared.

Aziz has long been known for his inflammatory sermons, anti-American ideology, for sparking global jihadist movements and supporting designated terrorist groups. In 2014, he even named his school’s library the “Martyr Usama Bin Laden Library” in honor of the former Al Qaeda leader and 911 financier.

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Outside Maulana Aziz’s compound in Islamabad, Pakistan

 (Fox News/Mohsin Saleem Ullah)

“Usama had good relations with my late father, thus we don’t support the American narrative, declaring him a terrorist,” Aziz said. “He did jihad, to implement Sharia around the world. So, for us he is an Islamist warrior. We title our library after his name with audacity.”

That chilling discourse may have hit close to the U.S. homeland more than once.

Soon after the 2015 San Bernardino massacre, in which female assailant and ISIS supporter Tashfeen Malik and her American husband, Syed Rizwan Farouk, slaughtered 14 of his co-workers, reports emerged that the Pakistani-born, Saudi Arabia-raised woman had been a Red Mosque student under Aziz.

“I never met with her,” Aziz claimed, before eventually acknowledging that they may have had an encounter as he has “many female followers.” But if so, she would have been fully veiled, he said. “The United States is failing attempts to establish my link with that shooting.”

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Inside Aziz’s seminary

 (Fox News/Mohsin Saleem Ullah)

But his links with violent movements are well documented.

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Controversial cleric Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz

 (Fox News/Mohsin Saleem Ullah)

Under Aziz’s guidance at the Red Mosque in July 2007, scores of his baton-brandishing male and female students took to the streets outside. Video stores considered immoral were shuttered. Chinese women were abducted from a massage parlor they deemed to be a “brothel,” threats were made to throw acid in the face of female university students nearby, and a government ministry building was torched.

Tensions escalated between the militant mosque devotees and Pakistani Army into a bloody 10-day standoff that left over 100 people dead, including Aziz’s brother, mother and son. Aziz attempted to evade arrest by fleeing the chaotic scene disguised in a burka.

”I taught my students to stand against the corrupt system immobilizing the country.

Pakistan has inherited the British system, solely non-believers,” Aziz said of the incident. “I attempted to escape in a long veil with the consent of my martyred brother Abdul during the operation, and secondly, Islam supports this act to conceal oneself in a state of emergency.”

After several months in custody following the siege, Aziz was released, but deposed as cleric and barred from the Red Mosque, which his nephew, Amir Siddique, now leads instead. But the firebrand cleric promptly set about building a new facility, Jamia Hafsa, close by.

TRAPPED IN SYRIA’S BESIEGED GHOUTA: “LIFE HAS CEASED, THE CHILDREN ARE WAITING TO DIE”

Islamic religious students protest in Multan against an assault by Pakistani forces on the Lal Masjid or Red Mosque in Islamabad July 10, 2007. Pakistani forces stormed a mosque compound on Tuesday, killing about 50 militants, as they fought their way through an Islamic school where they believed a rebel cleric was hiding with women and children hostages. REUTERS/Asim Tanveer   (PAKISTAN) - GM1DVRCUOFAA

The Red Mosque in Islamabad was thre sitr of a bloody ten-day siege

 (REUTERS)

SHIFTING ALLIANCES AS PAKISTAN MANAGES RELATIONSHIP WITH US

The Pakistani government has – particularly in the wake of the 2014 Peshawar school slaughter – purported to squash terror-inspiring voices like Aziz. And many Pakistanis have expressed their staunch opposition to the extremist preacher.

Radical Muslim female students surrender themselves to soldiers near Lal Masjid or Red Mosque in Islamabad July 4, 2007. The head of a radical Pakistani mosque at the centre of a stand-off with security forces was arrested on Wednesday while trying to escape clad in a woman's burqa, officials said.  REUTERS/Mian Khursheed  (PAKISTAN) - GM1DVQAGXTAA

Baton-wielding female students took to the streets outside the Red Mosque in Islamabad in July, 2007

 (REUTERS)

Those actions against him come at a cost.

“Last time there was action against Mullah Aziz and his supporters at the Red Mosque, terrorism erupted in the northern parts of the country and eventually spread to other parts. So there remains a blowback in case of any severe action taken against him,” explained Farrukh Khan Pitafi, an Islamabad-based columnist and television journalist. “The past few years there has been a cultural shift in the country and Aziz has struggled to find space on the national media. But it remains a work in progress. It is safe to assume that he is down but not out.”

Jeff Smith, South Asia policy expert at the Heritage Foundation,  pointed out further actions likely have not been taken against Aziz over concerns of retaliation. 

“Aziz is highly critical of the Pakistani government but Islamabad knows he commands a sizable following and claim they have no legal grounds to arrest or convict him. Ultimately, they’ve decided it’s best to avoid stirring the hornet’s nest, even if means quietly allowing the swarm to proliferate,” he said.

“Ideally, Pakistan would pass legislation or criminal justice reforms outlawing the type of hate speech espoused by Aziz and his ilk, and then deal with them through the appropriate legal mechanisms.”

The Red Mosque did not respond for further comment regarding their current relationship with Aziz. But he asserted his ban comes as a result of “American and Indian influence” on Pakistan’s leadership.

“As a prayer leader in the Red Mosque, people are in support of me,” he insisted. “In the past, I have tried to enter but our frightened government called upon the Rangers to prevent me.”

Nonetheless, Aziz’s influence remains a cause for concern on an international scale. He denied being acquainted with any specific militant groups in war-ravaged Iraq and Syria, but said he “teaches a lot about jihad” to his many students who likely have gone “to join the noble in those countries.”

But in his view, Afghanistan is the most noble of all.

“At present, there is no Muslim country left in the world which has a Sharia ruler – neither Saudi Arabia nor Pakistan,” Aziz said. “I have found Afghanistan the only country in accordance with Sharia when the Taliban established its control over the land and I support those Taliban’s to-date.”

And according to Smith, Aziz still has significant influence. 

“It is helpful to separate the ‘bad guys’ into two categories. There are those like the Haqqani Network that are actively and operationally involved in conducting terrorist targeting Afghanistan and U.S. personnel and interests there; and then there are those espousing violent extremist ideologies, sowing the seeds of hatred and religious fundamentalism across Pakistani society,” Smith added.

“Aziz very much falls into the latter camp and within the spectrum of radical Pakistani preachers remains a very prominent figure. While the first group poses the most immediate threat to the U.S. and Afghanistan, it’s arguably the latter group that’s doing the most long-term damage in the all-important war of ideas.”

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay



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New Zealand is best placed to survive a global collapse of society, study suggests | World News

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New Zealand is the country most likely to survive a collapse of global civilisation, researchers have said.

A study has suggested a combination of ecological destruction, limited resources and population growth could trigger a worldwide breakdown “within few decades”, with climate change making things worse.

A “very likely” collapse would be characterised by the disintegration of supply chains, international agreements and global financial structures, according to researchers at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.

Wind turbines at Whitelee Windfarm in East Renfrewshire
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Researchers said the UK could increase its use of wind turbines to secure its future

They said problems could spread quickly because of how connected and economically dependant countries are on one another.

Five countries were identified as best placed to maintain civilisation within their own borders: New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.

All of them are islands or island continents which have fewer extremes in temperatures and varied amounts of rainfall due to their proximity to oceans.

Researchers said this makes them most likely to have relatively stable conditions in the future, despite the effects of climate change – which is expected to hit subtropics and tropics the hardest.

New Zealand’s ability to produce geothermal and hydroelectric energy, its abundant agricultural land and its low population would allow it to survive relatively unscathed.

Although the UK has generally fertile soils and varied agricultural output, it does not have as much agricultural land available because of its population density, raising questions about future self-sufficiency.

Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy was considered to be a risk as power sources could be “rendered at least partly inoperable” if global supply chains collapse.

:: Subscribe to ClimateCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Spreaker.

Researchers said this could be mitigated by the nation’s manufacturing capabilities.

Meeting the large population’s energy demands through renewables alone would require very extensive infrastructure, they said, but the UK could increase its resilience by harnessing more energy from wind and water bodies like lagoons or barrages in the Severn Estuary.

Professor Aled Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, said “significant changes are possible in the coming years and decades”.

He said: “The impact of climate change, including increased frequency and intensity of drought and flooding, extreme temperatures, and greater population movement, could dictate the severity of these changes.”

Researchers identified pandemics as another risk to societal stability, citing the United Nations’ warning that future pandemics could be even more severe than COVID-19.

Twenty countries were analysed in the report.

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Boris Johnson urges world leaders to dig deep to boost children’s education across globe | Politics News

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Boris Johnson is urging world leaders to dip into their pockets to boost children’s education across the globe and help avoid a “legacy of wasted talent” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The prime minister will host a summit in London on Thursday with the aim of fundraising among governments, business and charities for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

The GPE aims to raise $5bn (£3.6bn) over the next five years in order to get 175 million more children into education around the world.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta at Chequers, the country house of the serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Wednesday July 28, 2021.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will close Thursday’s summit

Ahead of the Summit, Mr Johnson said: “We have a fight on our hands to ensure COVID-19 does not scupper the life chances of millions of children, leaving a lasting legacy of wasted talent.

“Too many children around the world – girls in particular – were already out of school before the pandemic.

“Enabling them to learn and reach their full potential is the single greatest thing we can do to recover from this crisis and build better, greener and fairer societies.

“Today I am urging governments, businesses and philanthropists to invest in the future by fully funding the transformative work of the Global Partnership for Education.”

Girls are feared to be particularly at risk of never returning to school once they have left, with 132 million girls around the world already estimated to be out of school even before the impact of the COVID pandemic.

Thursday’s summit is being jointly hosted with Kenya and will be opened by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo.

The prime minister and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who held bilateral talks at Chequers on Wednesday, will close the summit, along with Australia’s former prime minister Julia Gillard, who is the GPE’s chair.

World leaders, businesses, UN agencies, charities and youth leaders will join the summit both virtually and in person.

The UK last month pledged £430m to the GPE at the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

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Pedro Castillo: Left-wing rural teacher becomes Peru’s president, promising a new constitution | World News

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A man who was until recently a teacher in a rural part of Peru has been sworn in as the country’s new president.

Pedro Castillo, representing a left-wing party, stunned voters and political observers by emerging from a group of 18 candidates and advancing to the run-off, finishing in first place.

His slogan, “no more poor in a rich country”, attracted support from the impoverished and those living in rural areas.

Pedro Castillo
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Pedro Castillo has never held political office before

Mr Castillo, 51, has never held political office before, defeating right-wing career politician Keiko Fujimori by just 44,000 votes.

He is promising a new constitution, and to rule for “my peasant sisters and brothers”.

The son of illiterate peasants, he led a teachers’ strike in 2017. He is his country’s first president of peasant origin.

Mr Castillo is married with two children. Video of his wife, filmed at the weekend, shows her sweeping the floor at their house in the Andes and tending to some animals. Their home is in the country’s third-poorest district.

Peru is the second largest copper exporter in the world, but its economy has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic. Economic gains made over the last decade have been eliminated.

Private companies are fearful that Mr Castillo will hike taxes on mining to fund health and education reforms.

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Pedro Castillo’s family leave behind rural life

But on the day of his inauguration, he said there was “not the remotest” plan to nationalise industry.

He will be seeking a “new pact” with private investors, however.

In a speech shortly after being sworn in, he said he wanted the state-owned bank to compete with private lenders but that he would maintain economic “order and predictability”.

He faces a divided Congress, meaning his political abilities will be tested from the start.

Pedro Castillo receives the presidential sash from the president of the Congress, Maria del Carmen Alva
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Mr Castillo receives the presidential sash

Claudia Navas, an analyst with the global firm Control Risks, said his government begins amid “considerable uncertainty”.

She added: “We still do not have clear his main lines of policy. However, we foresee that possibly, due to the characteristics of the Peruvian political system and the current general political and economic situation of the country, that Castillo will maintain a more pragmatic position than he announced during the campaign.

“The key is to build those consensuses and add strength to the proposals on how he is going to achieve them.”

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