Friday, 31 July 2020
Thursday, 30 July 2020
Wednesday, 29 July 2020
Muslim prayers have been held in the iconic Hagia Sophia for the first time in 86 years after the reconversion of the Istanbul landmark into a mosque earlier this month.
The Friday prayers took place two weeks after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan controversially declared the nearly 1,500-year-old monument open to Muslim worship after a top court ruled the building's conversion to a museum by modern Turkey's founding statesman in the mid-1930s was illegal.
Erdogan, accompanied by cabinet minister and other top officials, joined hundreds of worshippers inside Hagia Sophia as large crowds gathered outside.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site was built as a cathedral during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 537 but converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
It was designated a museum in a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Erdogan said last year it had been a "very big mistake" to convert it into a museum.
Critics however accuse Erdogan, who has been in power for 17 years, of playing to his nationalistic base, with support eroding amid a global economic downtown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Towering over Istanbul's skyline, its breathtaking domes seemingly afloat, it is also one of Turkey's most popular tourist attractions, with 3.7 million visitors in 2019.
Al Jazeera's Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said Friday was "a very big day" in the city of some 18 million.
"The heart of the city, the historical peninsula, is under total lockdown since last night," she said.
In the sprawling square outside Hagia Sophia, authorities set up separate areas for men and women to worship on Friday, while more than 700 health personnel, 101 ambulances and a helicopter ambulance were available.
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya asked that people to bring four items - "masks, prayer mats, patience and understanding".
Turkey pledged to keep Hagia Sophia, whose floor has been covered with a turqoise carpet, open to tourists and welcome those of all faiths. Entry will now be free, while intricate mosaics of the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus and other Christian symbols will be veiled by curtains at prayer time.
Recitation of the holy Quran will go on for the next 24 hours and the revered landmark will stay open overnight, according to state media reports.
All five prayers will henceforth also be held daily at the mosque.
"We are ending our 86 years of longing today," said one man, Sait Colak, referring to the nearly nine decades since Hagia Sophia was declared a museum and ceased to be a place of worship.
"Thanks to our president and the court decision, today we are going to have our Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia."
Aynur Saatci, another worshipper, said she was on holidays in the eastern city of Erzurum but decided to cut her holiday short in order to attend the service.
"I immediately cut my holidays short and returned to Istanbul as soon as I knew we could pray in Hagia Sophia," Saatci said. "I'm deeply moved."
The United States, the European Union, Russia and various church leaders expressed concern at the change in status, while neighbouring Greece branded the move an "open provocation to the civilised world".
The UN's cultural agency, UNESCO, said it deeply regretted Turkey's decision, which was "taken without prior dialogue".
Erdogan insisted, however, it was Turkey's "historical and sovereign right".
Koseoglu said Erdogan was expected to deliver a short speech after the prayer.
"This is a very historical moment for Turkey, especially the conservatives pro-Islamist electorate who have [long wanted] to pray inside."
Tuesday, 28 July 2020
Monday, 27 July 2020
On a Thursday morning in May, three days after Foroozan was freed from prison, she left her mother’s house to go to the market. It was the first time in six years that she had set foot on the streets of Herat, the capital city of a province of the same name in western Afghanistan. As she made her way through crowds of men wearing masks, she became lightheaded, as if “the world was revolving around her head.” It was nothing like how she had imagined it. “When I was in prison, I thought the outside world is heaven and those who are released, they’re on their way to heaven,” she said. But now, finally experiencing it for herself, she found it alienating and even frightening. “I thought everyone was staring at me,” she said. “Pointing their fingers toward me while whispering, as if they knew I was a prisoner, but of course it was all in my head.”
Foroozan was in the 10th grade when her family arranged for her to marry a man who was 25 years older. He was prone to violence, and for 15 years, she endured his physical and verbal abuse. One early morning, though, he directed his aggression at one of their two daughters. Foroozan grabbed a shovel and hit her husband repeatedly with the blade until he died. When she turned herself in to the police, her 12-year-old son, Maqsood, stepped forward, saying that he had helped his mother with the killing. Foroozan was charged and found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Maqsood was sent to a juvenile rehabilitation center for two and a half years, and his sisters, Mozhdah and Mahtab, 9 and 7 at the time, were sent to a safe house.
Foroozan was one of as many as 20 women incarcerated in Herat Women’s Prison for killing their husbands. Many of them had been in abusive relationships, until the instinct to survive or to protect their children drove them to kill their abusers — and they ended up in prison with lengthy sentences with little chance of an early release. I first visited the facility in 2019, and most of the women told me they felt safer and more free in prison than they had at home with their families.
Many of these inmates have since been freed, after President Ashraf Ghani ordered the release of thousands of prisoners — mostly women, juveniles and sick people — to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Eligible inmates were notified to pack their belongings and wait in the courtyard. Foroozan joined them, listening as a few names were called out. Those lucky prisoners were released, but after hours of waiting, Aalia Azizi, the prison manager, told the remaining women the bad news: “No one else is going home today, there has been a mistake.” Azizi didn’t know what the mistake was, only that she had clear instructions not to release anyone else.
The next day, the prison erupted into chaos. A group of angry inmates tried to smash through the bulletproof entrance gate and shatter the prison’s windows. The children’s playground was burned down, and a dozen inmates were hospitalized, some with serious injuries after swallowing broken glass as an act of protest. They had been promised freedom, and they were refusing to give it up. The violent demonstrations continued, and the prison, which was previously a relatively safe and peaceful sanctuary compared with the homes many inmates came from, fell into discord. Some prisoners went on hunger strikes, and others attempted suicide, all demanding their release.
Eventually the government offered a solution: If the women wanted to leave, they could buy off the remainder of their sentence with approval from the prosecutor’s office. Foroozan, desperate to reunite with her children, borrowed a little more than $1,000 from her relatives and paid her way out. She was released on May 11.
“Thanks to coronavirus, I am given a second chance to live,” Foroozan said. “To get out of the prison early and start a new life with my daughters at my side.” Mozhdah and Mahtab, who are now 15 and 13, described the last two months as the toughest period in all the years they were apart from their mother. “During the quarantine we were allowed only one phone call per month,” Mahtab said. “We couldn’t go to school, we couldn’t come home to our grandma and we couldn’t visit our mom. They had imprisoned us as well.” She cried as she spoke.
Foroozan and her daughters are together again, but the grim realities of being a woman in male-dominated Afghanistan hang over their daily lives. Inside the prison, Foroozan was able to earn a small income as a tailor, sewing dresses and repairing clothes for the guards and inmates, but in Herat she won’t be able to find a job anytime soon. The pandemic has disrupted the Afghan economy and left millions of people out of work.
The last of Foroozan’s savings went to pay a smuggler to get Maqsood out of the country after he was released from detention three years ago. He is currently in Germany, where he traveled by foot at just 14 years old after being released. In January, his asylum request was rejected by German authorities. His lawyer has appealed the case, but he could be deported back to Afghanistan when he turns 18 this year.
At her mother’s house, in between joyful moments and loud laughter with the girls, Foroozan is often dazed, lost in her thoughts, a dark world of uncertainty. Her husband’s family members have repeatedly threatened her and her children’s lives, promising revenge for his death.
One afternoon, Mahtab asked if she could go out to buy ice cream. Foroozan raised her eyebrow but bit her tongue and said yes. As Mahtab was going down the stairs, Foroozan ran after her, handing her a surgical mask: “Don’t touch your face and make it quick!” Once again, she is single-handedly protecting her children: protecting them from the virus, her merciless in-laws, a raging war and a patriarchal society that doesn’t welcome her or her daughters.
As she watched Mahtab disappear in the corridor, she whispered: “Inside the prison I had one problem. Now out here, I have a thousand.”
Friday, 24 July 2020
Thursday, 23 July 2020
Wednesday, 22 July 2020
Abdul Gaffar, a 40-year-old criminal lawyer, is defending close to 50 cases related to the Delhi riots in February, almost half of them for free, but there is another communal riot from seven years ago that he cannot forget.
In 2013, Gaffar’s elderly uncle was killed by a mob in Muzaffarnagar riots that swept through western Uttar Pradesh.
“The village sarpanch, who is Hindu, rushed over and moved my family to his house before the mob arrived. But my uncle said, ‘I’m 75-years-old, who will beat me? I have raised all these boys.’ He said, ‘You go and I will stay here.’ The mob entered the house, and hacked him into four or five pieces,” said Gaffar, his voice low and matter-of-fact.
His uncle’s grandson, Gaffar said, is a soldier in the Indian army.
“When you are in the legal field, people expect you to get things done,” Gaffar said. “I called everyone I could think of to inform them of the murder and ask his body be removed, but no one responded. I cannot explain to you how helpless I felt that day.”
In a conversation with HuffPost India at the Karkardooma court, Gaffar, a father to three children, who studied law at DAV College in Muzaffarnagar, said that if the death of his maternal uncle stays with him till today, so do the actions of the Hindu village chief who saved his family from the mob. If most of his clients are Muslim, half the junior lawyers working with him are Hindu.
As a criminal lawyer, he said, he is happy to take on Hindu clients, but a communal riot erodes trust. The families of two Hindu men accused in the riots who had approached him in March, and whose vakalatnama (power of attorney) he obtained, later dispensed of his services.
“I was interested in their case but I did not get the right response from them. I felt they did not trust me,” said Gaffar.
For Gaffar, the Delhi Police’s investigation into the February riots marks a line in the sand.
“The role of the investigating agency is limited to collecting and producing evidence before the court,” Gaffar said. “For the first time, I’m seeing the investigating agency giving its own hypothesis, giving a personal opinion, making assumptions, and trying to set a narrative.”
The chargesheets, Gaffar said, suggest the police was leading with an anti-Muslim narrative that linked the February riots to the preceding months of largely peaceful protests by those opposed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. The CAA, its critics say, alters the secular nature of the Indian constitution by making religion the basis for granting citizenship to asylum seekers.
The police have arrested several activists and students who opposed the CAA, while representatives of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who incited crowds and policemen filmed assaulting protestors and destroying property on camera are yet to be brought to account – lending credence to the impression that the police is using the riots as a pretext to target those opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s authoritarian government.
The Delhi Police, which reports to Modi’s right hand man, Home Minister Amit Shah, has maintained that it is conducting an “impartial” investigation.”
Tuesday, 21 July 2020
Monday, 20 July 2020
Friday, 17 July 2020
Thursday, 16 July 2020
In the West, the BJP’s brand of Islamophobia has found an eager partner among the far-right, as recent developments in famously multicultural Canada demonstrateIn the West, the BJP’s brand of Islamophobia has found an eager partner among the far-right, as recent developments in famously multicultural Canada demonstrate. In April, city councils across Canada voted to allow the Islamic call to prayer, the azan, to be broadcasted for a few minutes a day during the holy month of Ramadan. The government hoped to foster a sense of inclusion as mosques and other places of worship were closed for the COVID-19 lockdown. The decision elicited a major backlash, including mass petitions and online hate, with the far-right suggesting “Islamism” had infiltrated Canadian society and politics.
Some members of Canada’s Indian diaspora echoed such sentiments, tweeting comments about how the prayer call broadcasts are part of an Islamist “strategical campaign through out the world” or that “blaring loudspeakers” can never be “peaceful.” Several of the tweeters have quietly lost their jobs since then, amid pressure from anti-hate groups.
But few cases have garnered much attention. The exception is that of Ravi Hooda, who sat on a regional school board in the Toronto area and tweeted that allowing the prayer calls to be broadcast opens the door for “Separate lanes for camel & goat riders” or laws “requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents.” When Hooda’s tweet was called out by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a Twitter war ensued. Dozens of pro-Indian accounts, often with usernames containing an eight-digit string of numbers—a common indicator of a bot account—came to Hooda’s defense. A local controversy instantly took on an international character.
Hooda, for his part, is a volunteer for the local branch of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, which represents the overseas interests of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization that promotes the Hindutva (literally, “Hindu-ness”) ideology that India is a purely Hindu nation at its core. Modi himself is a lifelong RSS member, and a majority of his ministers have a background in the organization. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh opened its first chapter in 1947, in Kenya, and today has more than 500 branches in 39 countries. The group’s chapters are called shakhas (branches) and, in addition to offering community services, help organize the diaspora through lectures, camps, and other organizational sessions that are aligned with the RSS’s ideological outlook.
The spread of right-wing Hindu nationalism in Canada has allegedly dovetailed with efforts by Indian intelligence agencies to “covertly influence” Canadian politicians to support Indian government positions through disinformation and money, according to documents obtained by Global News. There’s no proof of how successful this lobbying has been, but it’s clear that New Delhi is stretching its global reach at the same time that the BJP’s rhetoric and actions have politicized a new generation of Indian expats.
A glimpse of this global reach was provided by the EU DisinfoLab last fall in a report detailing a network of over 260 pro-India “fake local media outlets” spanning 65 countries, including throughout the West. The media organizations bear the names of local towns and cities, but none of them has any real connection with the localities they purport to represent, and all feature pro-India and anti-Pakistan content. Every news site was registered by the Srivastava Group, an Indian corporation that last year took right-wing European politicians on a trip to Kashmir, where they met with Modi.
Such reach can also be seen in the efforts of Indian expats and Indian Americans in the United States who organized last fall’s “Howdy, Modi!” event in Houston attended by 50,000 people, including U.S. President Donald Trump and other Republican and Democratic politicians. Indian American volunteers did the heavy lifting and funded the event, which turned a meeting between heads of state into a public spectacle. The event was meant to cement Trump-Modi relations as well as to rally the U.S.-based diaspora around the BJP, thus bolstering the prime minister’s popularity back home.
An organized, RSS-minded, pro-BJP diaspora in the West and beyond would obviously be a great asset for Modi’s government.An organized, RSS-minded, pro-BJP diaspora in the West and beyond would obviously be a great asset for Modi’s government. Elected officials would think twice before criticizing India, already a rising and influential power, for fear of angering their constituents. There are already hints that such calculations are being made by leaders. After an anti-Muslim pogrom broke out in Delhi in February, resulting in more than 50 deaths—the worst sectarian violence India has seen in years—Canada kept almost silent. While speaking to his Indian counterpart after the riots, the Canadian foreign minister offered a note of vague concern, roundly criticized in Canadian media. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made no statement, and the four Indian Canadian members of Trudeau’s Liberal caucus showed a similar reluctance to comment, drawing criticism from community organizations.
Similarly, foreign governments remained largely silent last summer when Modi stripped Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and placed it under a brutal military lockdown. This had observers wondering whether “Hindutva-inspired lobbies in the West,” as the researcher Fareeha Shamim labeled them, succeeded in their goals of building global influence from the ground up. Liberal politicians now hold an uncomfortable position, reluctant to criticize Modi lest they be attacked by his supporters in the diaspora.
Wednesday, 15 July 2020
Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Monday, 13 July 2020
At 11:44 pm on February 26, a message sent on a WhatsApp group boasted of the murders of two men. It read: “Tumhare Bhai ne abhi 9 bje k krib b.vihar m 2 mulla mare hai (Your buddy has just killed two mullahs [derogatory word used for Muslims] in Bhagrirathi Vihar at around 9 pm).”
On the morning of February 27, the lifeless bodies of two brothers – Mohammad Aamir and Hashim Ali, aged 30 and 16 – were found in a drain in Bhagirathi Vihar, covered with gory wounds.
The night before, Asghari, their mother, had received a phone call from Aamir. “Paanch minute mein ghar pahunch jayengey (We will be home in five minutes),” he had told her. But he never came home. Neither did his brother. There were communal riots in Delhi at the time. Aamir and Hashim were two among the more than 50 victims of the violence.
Aamir’s eight months pregnant wife and two daughters are now alone. She is still observing her iddat (Islamic period of waiting after being widowed or divorced) and prays all day, every day for justice for Aamir.
Friday, 10 July 2020
Thursday, 9 July 2020
Wednesday, 8 July 2020
Tuesday, 7 July 2020
Monday, 6 July 2020
The hundreds of millions of dollars the government pours into birth control has transformed Xinjiang from one of China’s fastest-growing regions to among its slowest in just a few years, according to new research obtained by The Associated Press in advance of publication by China scholar Adrian Zenz.
“This kind of drop is unprecedented....there’s a ruthlessness to it,” said Zenz, a leading expert in the policing of China’s minority regions. “This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs.”
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo denounced the policies in a statement Monday.
“We call on the Chinese Communist Party to immediately end these horrific practices,” he said.
China’s foreign minister derided the story as “fabricated” and “fake news,” saying the government treats all ethnicities equally and protects the legal rights of minorities.
“Everyone, regardless of whether they’re an ethnic minority or Han Chinese, must follow and act in accordance with the law,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday when asked about the AP story.
Chinese officials have said in the past that the new measures are merely meant to be fair, allowing both Han Chinese and ethnic minorities the same number of children.
For decades, China had one of the most extensive systems of minority entitlements in the world, with Uighurs and others getting more points on college entrance exams, hiring quotas for government posts and laxer birth control restrictions. Under China’s now-abandoned ‘one child’ policy, the authorities had long encouraged, often forced, contraceptives, sterilization and abortion on Han Chinese. But minorities were allowed two children — three if they came from the countryside.
Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most authoritarian leader in decades, those benefits are now being rolled back. In 2014, soon after Xi visited Xinjiang, the region’s top official said it was time to implement “equal family planning policies” for all ethnicities and “reduce and stabilize birth rates.” In the following years, the government declared that instead of just one child, Han Chinese could now have two, and three in Xinjiang’s rural areas, just like minorities.
But while equal on paper, in practice Han Chinese are largely spared the abortions, sterilizations, IUD insertions and detentions for having too many children that are forced on Xinjiang’s other ethnicities, interviews and data show. Some rural Muslims, like Omirzakh, are punished even for having the three children allowed by the law.
State-backed scholars have warned for years that large rural religious families were at the root of bombings, knifings and other attacks the Xinjiang government blamed on Islamic terrorists. The growing Muslim population was a breeding ground for poverty and extremism which could “heighten political risk,” according to a 2017 paper by the head of the Institute of Sociology at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. Another cited as a key obstacle the religious belief that “the fetus is a gift from God.”
Outside experts say the birth control campaign is part of a state-orchestrated assault on the Uighurs to purge them of their faith and identity and forcibly assimilate them. They’re subjected to political and religious re-education in camps and forced labor in factories, while their children are indoctrinated in orphanages. Uighurs, who are often but not always Muslim, are also tracked by a vast digital surveillance apparatus.
“The intention may not be to fully eliminate the Uighur population, but it will sharply diminish their vitality,” said Darren Byler, an expert on Uighurs at the University of Colorado. “It will make them easier to assimilate into the mainstream Chinese population.”
Some go a step further.
“It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide,” said Joanne Smith Finley, who works at Newcastle University in the U.K. “These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uighur population.”
Friday, 3 July 2020
Thursday, 2 July 2020
Relations between different ethnic and religious groups are deteriorating at a rapid pace. Muslims are pitted against non-Muslims and black and brown people are pitted against white.
What is needed now more than ever is a role model whose teachings counter bigotry and whose acts serve as a model for coexistence. I believe that role model is none other than Prophet Muhammad.
Approximately 1,400 years before the Civil Rights movement in the US and the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa, the Prophet Muhammad dealt with the issues of xenophobia and prejudice in Arabia. In this short piece, I highlight how the Prophet fought against the idea of judging individuals and groups based solely on their skin color and ancestry.
Prophet Muhammad’s anti-racist views are seen in his friendship with Bilal ibn Rabah, a black slave who rose to a leading position within the Muslim community of 7th century Arabia. One story relates how Muhammad defended Bilal after Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari, one of the Prophet’s companions, called Bilal “the son of a black woman.” Annoyed with this emphasis of identifying people by skin color, Muhammad criticized Abu Dharr by stating “you are the man who still has the traits of ignorance in him.”
The Prophet’s reference to Abu Dharr’s ignorance refers to the “pre-Islamic” state of jahiliyyah, an Arabic term meaning “the state of ignorance of Divine guidance.” This period of Arab history before Muhammad’s arrival was marked by “barbarism” and “lawlessness,” as described in the Quran. The Prophet’s anti-racist mentality helped lead Arabs out of this darkness and into the light by guiding them onto the path of justice and equality.
Bilal, who other Muslims referred to as “master” because of his knowledge and grace, became the muezzin of the Prophet, meaning that he was responsible for calling Muslims to the five daily prayers. In choosing Bilal for this honorable role, Muhammad demonstrated that social exclusion and subordination based upon skin color was not to be permitted in an Islamic society.
Before Muhammad revealed his message, Arabs were overly proud of their tribal and ethnic identities, so much so that tribes and ethnic groups became the social standard of society. The Prophet’s teachings changed all of that. He emphasized the importance of piety as the hallmark of respect. In challenging Abu Dharr, Muhammad showed that he was willing to rebuke even his closest companions if that person denigrated someone because of his or her ethnicity. The Prophet believed that this form of “tribalism,” or al-asabiyyah in Arabic, was cancerous because it drove people to ethnic loyalties even if that meant they supported oppression and injustice.
The Prophet’s Last Sermon at Mount Arafat in 632 AD is perhaps his most noteworthy manifestation of anti-racism.
In his speech, Muhammad stated that “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab ... a white person has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”
The Last Sermon is the culminating point of Muhammad’s life. He challenged a disunited population that was constantly engaged in warfare by calling on people to unite under a banner of humanity. By distancing himself from the tendency to categorize others based upon ethnicity, the Prophet preceded the words of Martin Luther King Jr., whose “I Have a Dream” speech called for African Americans to be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Muhammad’s message of anti-racism is especially important now in the US. Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, the African American civil rights leader who is more commonly called Malcolm X, reflected Muhammad’s insistence on harmony. After he performed Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage, El-Shabazz wrote home to his friends that all Muslim pilgrims in Mecca accepted the “Oneness of God.” He added that white people in the US should echo the Muslim pilgrims and “cease to measure and hinder and harm others in terms of their differences in color.” El-Shabazz’s anti-racism perspective mirrors Muhammad’s spirit of friendship and inclusivity. Like the Prophet, El-Shabazz is a role model for the anti-racism movement.
I consider Muhammad to be a quintessential anti-racist figure because he promoted peace and equality. Without a doubt, he advanced human rights in an area of the world that had no previous experience with this practice. Non-Muslims who belittle the Prophet have certainly not considered the examples highlighted above.
To further promote better relations between Muslims and non-Muslims as well as people of different skin colors, it is imperative that media outlets highlight Muhammad’s anti-racist ethos. Rather than being a divisive figure, Muhammad is an inspiration for those working to rid the world of the evil of racism.
Dr. Craig Considine is a scholar, global speaker, media contributor, and public intellectual based at the Department of Sociology at Rice University. He holds a PhD from Trinity College – University of Dublin, an MSc from Royal Holloway – University of London, and a BA from American University in Washington, DC. Dr. Considine is a U.S. Catholic of Irish and Italian descent.
Wednesday, 1 July 2020
Palestinian activists are mourning the loss of Saiful Azam, 79, a Bangladesh fighter pilot who died of natural causes in the capital, Dhaka, on Sunday.
Azam, also a former legislator from Bangladesh's mid-northern Pabna-3 constituency, was regarded as a legendary figure for Bangladeshi people, thanks to his record as an ace fighter pilot.
How the US and Israel exchange tactics in violence and control
A unique figure in the history of Bangladesh, Azam fought in wars as a fighter pilot in three different countries - Jordan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
During the 1967 Six-Day War, he was the only pilot to have downed four Israeli aircraft.
Mourning him on Facebook, Palestinian historian Osama al-Ashqar hailed Azam as a great airman.
"Our brothers in Bangladesh and Pakistan were our partners in resistance and defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque," the holy site in Jerusalem, he added.
The Palestinian professor Naji Shoukri posted on his Twitter prayers mourning Azam.
"Saiful Azam loved Palestine and fought for the sake of Jerusalem," said Shoukri, saluting him and wishing him God's grace.
Renowned Palestinian journalist Tamer al-Mishal lauded Azam, calling him "the Eagle of the Air".
Downing four Israeli warplanes
On June 5, 1967, four Israeli jets were descending on Jordan's Mafraq airbase to smash the country's tiny air force, shortly after the entire Egyptian air force had been destroyed.
Jordanian air force commanders deployed Azam to thwart the attack, shooting down two aircraft. He was shifted to Iraq two days later to defend air bases, where he shot down two more Israeli planes.
In recognition of Azam's contributions, he was conferred with military awards by Jordan and Iraq. The United States also gave him the Living Eagles title in 2001 for his outstanding skills.
After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the veteran pilot joined the Bangladesh Air Force to serve his homeland. In 1980, he retired and joined the civil service and later took up a political career.
Describing Azam as the pride of Bangladesh, former chief of Border Guards Bangladesh, Major General Fazlur Rahman, said his name will remain a part of Bangladesh's history.
"He is a source of inspiration for every soldier in the battleground on how to defeat the big enemy with limited weapons. He set a milestone in optimum use of skills and courage during war," Rahman said.
Born in a remote area in Bangladesh’s central district of Pabna in 1941, he spent his childhood in the Indian city of Kolkata with his father. After the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, his family migrated to Bangladesh (then East Pakistan).
According to the South Asia-based analytical website Roar Media, Azam left home at the age of 14 for higher secondary education in then West Pakistan (now Pakistan). In 1958 he was admitted to Pakistan Air Force Cadet College, where he completed his education as a pilot officer.
Popular defence blog Fighter Jets World also recorded that after learning the fundamentals of aviation in Pakistan, Azam was sent for advanced air combat training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
During the 1965 India-Pakistan war he also downed an Indian warplane, encouraging Pakistani forces to stand against India with limited warfare tools.
The act was widely applauded in Pakistan, which awarded Azam Pakistani's Star of Courage (Sitara-e-Jurat) medal, the third-most prestigious award of its military.