(TMU) – In an incredible sign of the times in which we live, an IKEA in Germany gave the local Muslim community permission to use its massive parking lot to hold a huge socially-distanced prayer that involved hundreds of worshippers celebrating “Eid”, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
In stunning drone footage from the Sunday, May 24 gathering in the city of Wetzlar, near Frankfurt, masses of Muslims can be seen praying together while maintaining a safe distance, using the lanes and parking spaces of the lot to ensure that each person had their own dedicated area.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues its spread across the world, religious communities have been placed in the often-uncomfortable dilemma of honoring their faith while also respecting the strict quarantine measures, countrywide lockdowns, and physical distancing orders given by governments.
VIDEO: Hundreds of Muslims gather at an IKEA parking lot in the 🇩🇪 German city of Wetzlar for socially distanced Eid al-Fitr prayers, to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan pic.twitter.com/qG7hmibd0F
— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 26, 2020
Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important Islamic holidays and a joyful occasion marked by gift-giving, charity (zakat), and enjoying good food with friends, family, and neighbors.
However, for millions of Muslims all over the world hoping to celebrate the holiday, the need to practice social distancing has prevented large groups from congregating in their mosques or in other areas whether they could gather and pray.
This all forced the Muslim community in Wetzlar to think outside of the box.
After a bit of brainstorming, the Islamic Community Milli Goruş (IGMG) decided to simply approach their local Ikea to request that they use the parking lot, which wasn’t seeing much action due to the lockdown.
Speaking to the BBC, mosque leader Kadir Terzi explained that he had his doubts before approaching the store to make the request. He explained:
“But the store manager didn’t hesitate for a second and said ‘yes, you can pray’. I was surprised and happy at the same time.”
The event was especially poignant due to the isolation his community have been plunged in for this Ramadan, which prevented the community and families from gathering to break their fast and organize charitable work. He added:
“It was a completely different Ramadan month, without contacts, without visits and without breaking the fast together.”
As a result of the event, the group has been hailed across the globe for conducting an exemplary prayer session – and the group is thanking the local community for ensuring its success.
In a statement, the mosque thanked various members of the public. They said:
“We would like to thank the Wetzlar police, the Wetzlar public order office, Ikea Wetzlar management, brothers, and all who contributed to making this extraordinary holiday prayer possible.”
In a separate statement, the mosque added:
“We congratulate all the Islamic world and the Muslims living in the world with our sincere wishes and wish our Lord to bring you many more holidays.
“We have done holiday prayer as a nation in the open air with 700 people. May my Lord always keep our unity and solidarity.”
Social media users both Muslim and non-Muslim alike have praised the event.
One person on Facebook wrote:
“What a beautiful view and what a beautiful alternative.”
While another user said:
“This makes me happy. I know some of my religious friends struggled with the lack of close physical connections during ramadan, so it’s beautiful to see a community come together in a safe way.”
For some religious leaders such as Pope Francis, weekly services were moved online to give practicing Catholics an option to tune while also observing social distances. Other faith community leaders have offered drive-in Sunday services, where congregants can remain in their vehicles and tune into services via radio. And most recently, a priest in the Detroit area used a squirt gun to shoot holy water at passing cars during a drive-thru Easter blessing.
Muslims across the world have also honored measures meant to curb the pandemic – due in no small part to the fact that centuries ago, no less a figure than the revered prophet and founder of Islam was cited as speaking on the topic of how to conduct oneself when dealing with a plague.
“If you hear of an outbreak or a plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place,” the Prophet Muhammad advises Muslims according to Sahih Al-Bukhari in the Hadith — a record of sayings attributed to the prophet that is considered of high scriptural importance in addition to the Quran.
After Strong Backlash, NYPD Kicks Robotic Dog “Spot” to the Curb
The New York City Police Department decided this week to stop leasing a robotic dog from Boston Dynamics following a sustained outcry from residents and lawmakers, who denounced the use of the high-tech, four-legged device in low-income neighborhoods as a misallocation of public resources and violation of civil liberties.
When the NYPD acquired the K-9 machine last August, officials portrayed “Digidog”—the department’s name for the camera-equipped, 70-pound robot—as “a futuristic tool that could go places that were too dangerous to send officers,” the New York Times reported earlier this week.
Inspector Frank Digiacomo of the department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit said in a television interview in December: “This dog is going to save lives. It’s going to protect people. It’s going to protect officers.”
Instead—thanks to strong backlash from critics, including people who live in the Bronx apartment complex and the Manhattan public housing building where the robotic dog was deployed in recent weeks—the department is returning “Spot,” as Boston Dynamics calls the device, months earlier than expected.
According to the Times:
In response to a subpoena from City Councilman Ben Kallos and Council Speaker Corey Johnson requesting records related to the device, police officials said that a contract worth roughly $94,000 to lease the robotic dog from its maker, Boston Dynamics, had been terminated on April 22.
John Miller, the police department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, confirmed on Wednesday that the contract had been canceled and that the dog had been returned to Boston Dynamics or would be soon.
Miller told the Times that the police had initially planned to continue testing the K-9 machine’s capabilities until August, when the lease had been scheduled to end.
“Robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response. “Please ask yourself: when was the last time you saw next-generation, world class technology for education, healthcare, housing, etc. consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?”
And earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, footage of the robotic dog walking through a Manhattan public housing building went viral, sparking additional outrage and prompting a city council investigation.
“Why the hell do we need robot police dogs?” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) asked at the time.
While there are “people living in poverty, struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head, take care of their kids, afford child care—all this going on, and now we got damn robot police dogs walking down the street,” Bowman lamented.
Bill Neidhardt, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who urged the police department to reconsider its use of the robot following objections from residents and lawmakers, said he was “glad the Digidog was put down.”
“It’s creepy, alienating, and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers,” Neidhardt said.
Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons
Cliffhanger: Mountain Biker Saved From “Imminent Death” After Falling Into Canyon
A Southern California mountain biker is likely counting his blessings after he was rescued from what authorities describe as “imminent death”” after falling from the side of a cliff in the Angeles National Forest.
The mountain biker, described as an older man, fell into the canyon at Mt. Wilson on Thursday morning and was dangling hundreds of feet above the ground before his fellow bikers, and eventually a special team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, rescued him.
For some time the man dangled by a thin cord around his ankle that was tied to his bicycle while hanging on for dear life “like a cat,” Capt. Tom Giandomenico of the LASD special enforcement bureau told the Los Angeles Times.
“He knew he was in such a precarious situation. He was just scared to even rotate his head to look at us. He just didn’t want to move a muscle,” LASD Deputy Richard Thomsen told CBSLA.
Additionally, when the helicopter team arrived it wasn’t just a matter of simply hoisting the man to safety, as the air generated by the helicopter’s rotor would have sent the man plummeting to “imminent death,” Giandomenico added.
“Because he was head-down on the rock face there, that dropped probably a good 40 feet before it hit some soft dirt and a boulder,” Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Helbring said. “And beyond that was hundreds of feet down to the bottom of the canyon.”
Instead, one of the members of the special enforcement team composed of former SWAT officers devised a plan to rappel down to the man and move him to a ledge below, from which the two could be airlifted to safety.
However, due to a lack of boulders or trees, there was nothing to tie a rope to – and thus no way to rappel down to anything.
So instead, the special enforcement team used the man’s brother and another friend to be their anchor, a plan that ultimately succeeded.
Giandomenico called the rescue “one of the more significant, courageous maneuvers I’ve seen.”
“Heroic, in my opinion,” he added.
Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever
Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.
Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.
In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.
At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.
“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.
“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”
The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.
Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.