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Faced with criticism, Le Pen allies tone down rhetoric on planned ban on hijab

A planned hijab ban if French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is elected would come “little by little” and would be determined by lawmakers, her allies said on Monday of a move critics and allies alike said would be hard to implement.
The remarks, on one of the main issues of dispute in French politics in recent years, marked a shift in tone as the far-right core of Le Pen’s program comes under closer scrutiny less than a week ahead of the final presidential vote.

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Louis Aliot, the far-right mayor of Perpignan and former life companion of Le Pen, said in an interview with France Inter radio that the hijab ban was one of several political tools tofight “Islamism,” but that its implementation needed to come “progressively.”
The ban should target state-run services first, he said, before being widened “little by little”. “There will be a debate in parliament and then, the choice will be made,” he said.
Another Le Pen ally, David Rachline, the mayor of the Mediterranean town of Frejus, also on Monday appeared to soften his stance. “We don’t want to attack people… all those women wearing a hijab are not Islamists,” he said.
Le Pen has previously said that the hijab could not be viewed as the sign of a person’s religious belief, but was an “Islamist uniform” that needed to be banned from French public space.
She has in recent years moved to soften her image, shifting her focus away from identity issues towards purchasing power,
the number one priority for French voters, but she has not shed far-right policies from her election program.
Issues linked to France’s Muslim population, one of the largest in Europe, have become a hot-button issue in a country that has seen a series of deadly extremist attacks in recent years.
Lawyers in France have said banning the hijab would be targeted discrimination against Muslim women and violate the French constitution.
Le Pen’s rival President Emmanuel Macron last week met a woman on the campaign trail who told him she wore the headscarf by her own choice and viewed herself as a “feminist,” to which Macron replied: “This is the best answer to all the nonsense.”
In contrast, Le Pen on Friday looked sheepish when she was approached by a woman wearing a hijab before cameras, who told her to “leave the Muslims alone,” adding: “We are French, we love this country.”
A day after the incident, Le Pen said she acknowledged that the issue was “complex”, adding that parliament would have its
say on the decision and that, thanks to her suggested citizens’ referendum, any unwanted law could be revoked.

Read more: Macron or Le Pen: Why it matters for France, the EU and the West

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Dr. Mona Khashwani becomes UAE’s first Emirati physician to perform robotic surgery

Dr. Mona Abdulaziz Khashwani from Sharjah’s Al Qassimi Women and Children’s Hospital in the United Arab Emirates has become the country’s first Emirati physician to perform robotic surgery.

Khashwani, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, performed the robotic surgery using the advanced Da Vinci system, Emirates Health Services said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“I sincerely thank the wise leadership, who gave me the opportunity to be one of the few citizens who carry out this type of high-precision operations for patients using a robot,” she said.

Khashwani is one of the UAE’s most experienced doctors in the robotic surgery field. She graduated from London’s Queen Mary University in 2005 and was then nominated by the hospital’s Director of Laparoscopic Operations and Robotic Surgery Program, Dr. Zaki al-Mazki al-Shamsi, to join the women robotics surgeons’ program.

The Emirati doctor performs total hysterectomy, supra-cervical hysterectomy and the operations to remove of fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts, and adhesions, among others.

“I have spent countless hours after my shift using the surgical simulator for training and studying how the robotic system operates,” she said.

“This qualified me to receive a license to perform gynaecologic robotic surgery using the advanced Da Vinci surgical robot from the IRCAD Training Center in Strasbourg, France,” Khashwani added.

Launched in 1999, Da Vinci is an automated surgical system that performs minimally invasive procedures and is considered to be one of the most accurate systems of its kind in the world. It is the first FDA recognized safe and effective surgical tool that performs complex surgeries, often involving small incisions, which shortens patients’ hospital stays, ensures faster recovery, and reduces the need for pain killers after operation.

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Taiwan rejects Philippines complaint about South China Sea live fire drills

Taiwan on Wednesday rebuffed a complaint from the Philippines about live fire drills around a Taiwan-controlled island deep in the South China Sea, saying it had the right to do so and always gives issues a warning of its exercises.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, in a message on Twitter late on Tuesday, lodged a “strong objection over the unlawful live fire drills” to be carried out by Taiwan this week around the island, known internationally as Itu Aba.
Taiwan calls the island Taiping, and the Philippines calls it Ligaw Island.
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The department said the island belonged to the Philippines.
“This illegal activity raises tensions and complicates the situation in the South China Sea,” it said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement the island was part of the territory of the Republic of China – Taiwan’s formal name – and that it enjoyed all relevant rights accorded by international law.
“Our country has the right to conduct routine exercises on Taiping Island and related maritime areas. In order to ensure the safety of maritime traffic and fishing boats operating in adjacent maritime areas, we notify the relevant regional countries in advance before each live-fire drill,” it said.
Itu Aba is the biggest feature in the Spratly Islands, a grouping of islets and other features also claimed, entirely or in part, by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Philippines normally complains most vociferously about China’s activities in the South China Sea, including what Manila says is illegal fishing.
The Philippines, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but there are close cultural and economic links and Taiwan is home to about 160,000 Filipinos, most of them migrant workers.
The maps China bases its South China Sea claims on date to when Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China government ruled China before it fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists.
Taiwan also controls the Pratas Islands at the very northern end of the South China Sea.
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Turkey to seek extradition of ‘terror’ suspects from Finland, Sweden

Turkey said Wednesday it would seek the extradition of 33 “terror” suspects from Sweden and Finland under a deal that paved the way for Ankara to back the Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO after crunch talks ahead of Wednesday’s NATO summit, in return for written security guarantees.
Ankara immediately put the new agreement to the test, with the justice minister announcing that Turkey would seek the extradition of alleged Kurdish militants and members of a group that Erdogan blames for a failed 2016 coup attempt.
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“We will seek the extradition of terrorists from the relevant countries within the framework of the new agreement,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was quoted as saying by NTV television.
Bozdag said Ankara would now ask for the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden who were either members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or alleged members of a group led by the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The PKK, which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, is blacklisted by Turkey, the EU and the United States.
Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan, denies charges of plotting the 2016 coup attempt.
The three-way memorandum signed on Tuesday says that Finland and Sweden pledge to “address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly.”
The two countries also agreed to lift their embargoes on weapons deliveries to Turkey, which were imposed in response to Ankara’s 2019 military incursion into Syria.
Erdogan’s office hailed the agreement, saying Ankara had “got what it wanted.”
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