RIYADH: Muslim worshippers at about 200 old mosques in Mecca have been praying in the wrong direction for decades because the mosques were not built correctly, a Saudi newspaper said on Sunday.
The mosques were not built precisely based on the qibla, the official alignment with the holy Kaaba shrine at the centre of Mecca’s Al-Haram mosque, according to the report in the Saudi Gazette.Hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world are bound to orient their daily prayers toward the ancient Kaaba, and mosques everywhere are built to face the black-shrouded cubic building, or have indicators of its direction.
The discrepancy was only realised after looking at the old mosques, some built more than 50 years ago, from atop the new skyscrapers being constructed in Islam’s holiest city in western Saudi Arabia, the report said.
According to the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, Islamic affairs ministry deputy secretary Tawfik al-Sudairy downplayed the problem.
‘There are no major errors, but corrections have been made for some old mosques, thanks to modern techniques. In any case, it does not affect the prayers,’ the newspaper quoted Sudairy as saying in its Saturday edition.
Mecca residents and experts have suggested that the errant mosques install inside a correct indicator of the qibla, or orient their prayer rugs more exactly in the direction of the Kaaba, the Saudi Gazette said.
Another suggestion is that laser beams be installed in the tall minarets of the Al-Haram mosque built around the Kaaba to help mosques and worshippers establish the correct qibla direction.
French firm SNCF to redesign Mumbai CST
New Delhi: Indian Railways has chosen a French firm to redesign the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of the targets of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes, as a world class station.
AREP, a subsidiary of the French Railway (SNCF), will conduct the architectural and feasibility study for redesign and redevelopment of the terminus as a world class station on Public-Private-Partnership mode, a senior Railway Ministry official said.
The French engineering and architectural agency will be paid about Rs 10 crore by the Railways for carrying out the study and to suggest a new design for the station, which is a World Heritage Site, by the end of 2009.
According to the proposed redevelopment plan, the station, popularly known as Victoria Terminus, will undergo a massive transformation with facilities like underground parking, better passenger amenities, food plazas and separate terminal for arrival and departure among others.
The Railways has identified 26 stations across the country, which will developed as per international standard.
Besides the Mumbai CST station, New Delhi, Howrah, Agra, Chennai Central, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Lucknow,
Mathura, Patna, Secunderabad and Thiruvananthapuram railway stations will also be developed as world class stations.
Taliban in every Pakistan city: NWFP top cop
NEW DELHI: In what will deepen fears about Pakistan’s capacity to tackle al-Qaida-Taliban, a top police official from North-West Frontier Province –
where the jihadi groups have an entrenched presence – said the Taliban was present in every city and town and hoped to launch more 9/11-type strikes against the West.
NWFP police chief Malik Navid told the Pakistan National Assembly’s standing committee that the extremist organisations were spreading rapidly through the country and were no longer confined to the mountains of NWFP or Waziristan. He said the terrorists’ aims included destabilisation of current regimes in the Middle East – a long-term objective of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.
Pointing to the unchecked progress of jihadi groups, Navid said Taliban were moving towards major cities like Lahore and Karachi. “Their people are present in every city and town. In some places they are active, in others they are dormant. Taliban’s philosophy is to create pockets everywhere,” he said, adding that jihadi groups were moving through southern Punjab and eventually aimed to reach the financial hub of Karachi.
Top Tiger in hiding, last LTTE town falls
Colombo: The LTTE on Sunday lost its last little patch of land as advancing Sri Lankan troops captured the last Tiger town of Puthukkudiyiruppu in northeast Sri Lanka. The military claimed it had recovered over 420 bodies of rebels killed in the last three days of intense fighting.
The fleeing Tigers, including their chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, his son Charles Antony and intelligence chief Pottu Amman, have managed to get into the so-called “safe zone” and are mingling with the civilian population to escape sniper fire, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said here.
“They have taken cover among civilians in the 20 sq. km. safety zone (no-fire area designated by the government for civilian safety), and that makes it difficult to get at them… But we are evolving a suitable strategy and will get them all in a few days,” the brigadier told this newspaper.
He said Prabhakaran and his son Charles Antony had been sighted among civilians in the safety zone north of Mullaitivu. Charles Antony had been injured in a recent battle and was said to be undergoing treatment.
The war against the Tigers was “in its very final stages, just a little bit of work of getting the leaders remaining,” he said. He added that “huge” quantities of arms and ammunition, including anti-aircraft guns, had been picked up from the LTTE territory.
Brig. Nanayakkara said radio intercepts confirmed that senior Tiger leaders had been killed, including Prabhakaran’s former guard Gadaphi, Theepan, Ruben, Nagesh, besides Ms Vidusha and Ms Durga, the heads of the two women’s wings.
Recession worse than we thought, says British finance minister
LONDON: Britain’s recession is worse than the government expected, and the country is unlikely to return to economic growth until the end of the year, finance minister Alistair Darling said in an interview on Sunday.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, chancellor of the exchequer Darling said he would be forced to revise his economic forecasts lower when he presents Britain’s annual budget on April 22.
“It’s worse than we thought,” he told the weekly newspaper, adding that though figures on how the economy did in the first three months of the year were not yet available, “we think they will be bad, because if you look around the world there’s nothing that tells you otherwise.”
He refused to specify how much he thought the economy would shrink in 2009.
“I thought we would see growth in the second part of the year,” he said.
“I think it will be the back end, turn of the year time, before we start seeing growth here.”
Darling said that while last week’s agreement by the G20 grouping of countries would help revive the global economy, “we have to be realistic about this.”
“You cannot, you must not, build up false hope.”
Asked by the Sunday Times whether the worst was over for Britain’s economy, Darling replied: “I think there is some way to go yet. A lot really depends on how much other countries do.”
Britain’s economy has been hammered by the international financial crisis and resulting global downturn, with unemployment soaring to a 12-year high as the country endures its first recession in 18 years.