Flashes from the Muslim World

BANGLADESH

Rohingya Still Fleeing Myanmar

Rohingya are still fleeing into Bangladesh even after an agreement was signed with Myanmar to repatriate hundreds of thousands of the Muslim minorities displaced along the border, officials said. “The number of arrivals has declined, but it has not stopped,” Bangladesh Border Guard Commander, Lt.Col. S. M. Ariful Islam, told AFP. An estimated 624,000 Rohingya have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar since August, described by UN and US authorities as ethnic cleansing. Rohingya leaders have said they will not return to Myanmar unless they are  recognized as citizens with full rights and ensured protection form violence. Myanmar does not recognize the  Rohingya, denying them citizenship and restricting their movement.

Ten Minute School

The 10 Minute School and its founder, Ayman Sadiq, won the best e-learning award from the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance (APICTA). The competition is organized annually in a bid to boost regional cooperation in information and communication technologies. The school teaches more than 150,000 students online throughout Bangladesh for free. Sadiq, recently won the Queen’s Young Leaders Award 2018, which recognizes exceptional young people from across the Commonwealth of Nations. Since its launch on May 17, 2015, the school has already served more than five million Bangladesh students. The school is supported and sponsored by the government’s information and technology division, and private mobile phone operator Robi Axiata.

To Set Up Solar Plant

Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement in Dhaka to set up a SR 188 million solar plant in Bangladesh. The agreement was signed between the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and the Riyadh based Alfanar Energy, which is 100% subsidiary of the Alfanar company. The plant which will be located in the port city of Chittagong, is expected to produce 40MW to 100MW of power in Bangladesh. The project will be completed in six months time.

MALAYSIA

Efforts Hailed in Preserving Moderate Islam

Attendees of the  First Conference of ASEAN (Association of South Eastern Nations) Muslims hailed King Salman’s directives to cooperate with these countries and organize an annual conference under the slogan, “A  Moderate Nation.” They also hailed the efforts of Saudi Arabia and Malaysia in preserving moderate Islam, promoting moderation, fighting extremism, spreading religious teachings based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and activating the role of Fiqh and Fatwa councils in achieving a conscious moderate understanding of Islam. They stressed that extremism, terrorism, and violence are a global phenomenon that should not be associated with a certain religion or country. The conference was attended by more than 1,200 academic and religious figures from ASEAN and other countries. Saleh bin Mohammed Al-Talib, Imam of Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, and a number of Saudi scholars and researchers were also present in the conference.

INDONESIA

Biggest Rally against Jerusalem

Indonesians marched through Jakarta, gathering at the National Monument in support of the Palestinians following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Some 80,000 protesters participated in the biggest rally so far since Trump’s announcement. Protesters, many of whom came from other cities, wore the checkered black and white Palestinian scarf. Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, said that it is a constitutional mandate for the government to consistently assist the Palestinians in their struggle for independence. Muslim preacher, Bachtiar Nasir, said the Palestinian cause “goes beyond religion; this is more a humanitarian justice and international political issue.” Indonesian Ulema  Council Chairman, Ma’fur Amin, told Arab News: “We support the struggle to make Palestine an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Islamic Insurance Merger

Takaful Emarat has agreed to acquire Al Hilal Takaful from Al Hilal Bank in an all-cash transaction that will create the largest Islamic insurer in the UAE, based on 2016 gross written contribution. The move is viewed as part of a consolidation drive in the Gulf’s Takaful sector and the wider regional insurance market as local players look at mergers and acquisitions to offset weak profitability. The two companies wrote more than 900 million dirhams (USD245 million) in combined gross written contributions in 2016, said the announcement.

BAHRAIN

Digital Revolution in Islamic banking

Experts gathered at the 24th World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain to discuss the need for banking and financial institutions to keep pace with changes in the sector as the industry undergoes a digital revolution. Islamic banking have typically been behind their conventional banking counterparts when it comes to implementing the latest technological innovations, but many in the Gulf and Middle East are taking a more agile approach and re-engineering their business models to retain a competitive edge. It has been reported that the Islamic finance industry has a lot of catching up to do in terms of placing an emphasis on customer and  market revolutions and process change requirements.

SAUDI ARABIA

Leading the Fight for True Islam

Saudi Arabia is playing a key role in supporting  developing countries, promoting peace, and stability in the world, and leading the fight for the true Islam that is far from extremism, said Shoura Council Speaker, Abdullah Al-Sheikh, during the tenth plenary session of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) in Istanbul. He also pointed out that Saudi Arabia calls for peace, and is a source of Islam that is based on peace. Burhan Kiaturk, leader of the Turkish delegation, welcomed the participating delegate from member countries and highlighted the importance of  the meeting which was organized under the title, “Sustaining Peace and Development in Asia.”

West and East Rail Project

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation ( OIC) announced that it plans for the Dakar-Port Sudan network projects, which will link West and East Africa. Ambassador Hameed Opeloyeru, OIC Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, announced an alliance with the African Union as the sponsor of the Dakar-Djibouti transport projects, which is similar to the OIC scheme. The rail-road will pass through seven African countries, Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. It will also connect Gambia, West Guinea and Libya in the north. Cameroon in the center, and Uganda in the south to improve trade exchange and the transport network linking East and West Africa. The project will help to achieve development goals including the OIC’s Program of Action for the next decade (2016-2025) and the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Human Rights Debated

A debate on the importance of cultural diversity in the promotion and protection of human rights was just concluded  at Jeddah. It was attended by the Islamic Organization (OIC), Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC). An outcome document on the subject was also adopted by the Commission. Topics discussed included Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in OIC member-states as well as specific mandates given to it by the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers.

MWL Chief on Mission

Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, Head of the Muslim World League (MWL), told Reuters during a European tour that his organization will no longer sit by and let Islam be taken hostage by extremists. “We must wipe out… extremist thinking through the work we do,” Al-Issa said, adding, “We need to annihilate religious severity and extremism which is the entry point to terrorism. This is the  mission of the  Muslim World League.” “We want to offer the real interpretation of the sacred texts that have been taken hostage and interpreted in a wrong way,” Al- Isss said. “We have a common objective to end hatred. The Muslim World League really believes that we can accomplish that, and religions are very influential in doing that.”

OIC Member-States to Address Violence against Women

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ,has taken up the cause for women on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women. Plans are afoot for the Kingdom to empower women scholars to play a greater role in the Islamic ruling process, with the Shoura Council planning to authorize them to issue Fatwas and pave the way for them to contribute to Islamic research rulings. In a statement,OIC Secretary-General, Yusuf A. Al-Othaimeen, said that OIC focuses on efforts toward the elimination of all forms of violence against women. He added that member-states should adhere to relevant international conventions. He said the OIC’s efforts aim at the advancement and empowerment of women, especially those living under occupation and in situations of armed conflicts.

E-System Aims to Make Hajj, Umrah Simple

Pilgrims can now finalize Hajj e-system booking procedures through the Hajj offices approved in their respective countries, an official source at the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah told Arab News. He said the Ministry is seeking to achieve the required transparency for pilgrims at all levels and types, and that the electronic path shows the costs of the Hajj services. The source said the integrated electronic system comes through the linkage of Hajj visas with services such as housing, transport, and food which are clearly shown to the potential pilgrims while they are still in their countries.

Eleven Million Foreign Workers

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest labor markets in the world  with eleven million foreign workers from more than 100 countries represented in many sectors and fields of work, according to a senior officials. Adnan bin Abdullah Al-Naim, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development was addressing Saudi recruiting agents and 32 member delegation from Colombo at the Council of Saudi Chambers. Under Saudi Vision 2030, Al-Naim said that efforts were being aimed at making the labor market more attractive to foreign workers.

New Gallery in Madinah

A new gallery showcasing rare photos of the holy sites in Makkah and Madinah was recently launched with support from the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives. The gallery is located near the Prophet’s Mosque. People are visiting the venue in large numbers not only to refresh their knowledge but also to gain further insight into the history of these two cities. For the first time ever, paintings from Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace Museum are showcased.

Establishment of Doctor’s Network

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Yousef Al-Othaimeen, has proposed the establishment of a voluntary network of Muslim doctors affiliated to the OIC to help alleviate the sufferings of those  in need of medical assistance in member states. He also called on all OIC member-states to increase cooperation in the fields of drugs and vaccines to eradicate diseases. Turkey has reported that in the area of health-care delivery, “we jointly build and operate hospitals in our sister countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Gaza, and Kyrgyzstan.” Turkey Minister of Health stressed the readiness of Turkey to exchange its expertise and knowledge in various fields of health and pharmacy with member-states.

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

OIC Concerned by Worsening Human Rights

The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed grave concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the IPHRC underlined the urgency of ending Israel’s occupation. While the world observes this important day, Gaza is still under blockade, and 61% of the West Bank is under total occupation and marred by Israeli illegal settlements, it said. It stressed the identity of Al-Aqsa Mosque as a uniquely Islamic holy site, and recalled  all UNESCO decisions denying any Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Old City.

EGYPT

Worshippers Pack Mosque after Massacre

Dozens of Muslims, including religious and army leaders, packed an Egyptian mosque a week after gunmen massacred more than 300 people in the house of worship. The mosque in Rawda village in North Sinai had been cleaned and renovated following the massacre by suspected Daesh gunmen in time for the weekly Friday prayers.  The cleric who gave the prayer sermon tried to console the relatives of the victims, saying the dead were now in  Paradise, while condemning the attackers as the “brothers of devils.” He recounted a saying by the Prophet Muhammad (saws) who, when asked whom God tests the most, responded, “The Prophets, followed by the most exemplary.”

TUNISIA

Surge in Olive Oil Production

Trucks loaded with boxes full of olives were queing at a press plant in the small Tunisian town of Bani Hassen as the North African country sees a surge in olive oil production in a badly needed boost to its ailing economy. Tunisia, one of the the world’s top three olive oil producers, expects olive production to jump by 160% to between 1.5 million tons and 1.6 million tons in 2017 season. “It will be an exceptional olive season thanks to much better rainfall than last year,” said Hamdi Khalifa,owner of an olive oil press in Bani Hassen, one of the main production areas located a two hour drive south of the capital Tunis. Top producer, Spain, which has been hit by a severe drought this year, is expected to post a 15% drop in output.

UNITED KINGDOM

British Muslim Archives

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, inaugurated a new strong room at the East London Mosque which will house Britain’s first Muslim archives. Addressing a crowd of hundreds at the London Muslim Center, Khan said, “At a  time when there are people trying to divide us, our shared history can be a source of  hope, because by looking back we can also look forward to a brighter future.” He also reminded the audience that the study of archives has recently highlighted the valuable contribution that Muslims made to Britain and Europe’s freedom. “We now know 2.5 million Muslims fought for us – the Allies – during World War I,” he said. “At a time when Islamophobia is on the rise, it is important to recall that Muslims were among those who sacrificed their lives for a free Europe.” The East London Mosque is Britain’s largest, and one of the most influential in Europe. It was the first mosque in the United Kingdom to develop a professional archiving system, and it now holds 250,000 documents dating back to 1911.

Crunch Time: Britain’s Relation with Arab World

Forced with a complex legacy of successes and failures in the Middle East, Britain has reached “crunch time,” in its relations with the region, said Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). Speaking to Arab News at the anniversary event to mark 50 years since CAABU’s launch in 1967. Doyle reflected on Britain’s relationships in the Middle East at a time when old conflicts remain unresolved and new challenges continue to emerge. Britain’s role in the world is in flux and nowhere more so than in the Arab world, he said, emphasizing the need for “an informed and dynamic policy providing real leadership to help solve the region’s crisis. Doyle added, “When we look across the Arab world and Britain’s role in it, it’s not a pretty sight. We see numerous  very serious conflicts, some of which Britain is directly very involved in.”  CAABU, which is committed to enhance Arab-British understanding and improving relations with the region, pushes for a British government response based on resolving conflict from the roots.

Global Halal Food Sector Grows

The global halal food and beverage (F&B) market is set to boom in the next five years, driven by new entrants to the market. The sector is expected to grow from USD1.24 trillion in 2016 to reach USD1.93 trillion by 2022, according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy report. “Halal food is the largest and most diverse sector of the Islamic economy. New entrants have come into the market, and product offerings have firmly moved beyond being meat-focused to include candy, ready-made meals, snacks, and children’s food,” said the report, published  by the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center (DIEDC) in conjunction with Thomson Reuters. It revealed that Muslim spending on food and beverages is growing at nearly double that of global growth – creating significant opportunities for investment and the creation of global Halal food brands.

Arabic being Taught in Belfast

Belfast is not typically known as a seat of Arabic learning, but one school is taking a trail-blazing approach to languages on the curriculum. Young people in a Northern Irish grammar school are busy perfecting their Arabic calligraphy skills. For the past year, the Belfast Royal Academy has been trailing Arabic lessons in an effort to encourage students to see the potential benefits of speaking non-European languages for their future careers. All pupils in year I (11-12 years old) are required to study Arabic alongside their other subjects. Government organizations such as InvestNI have also given talks to the students to explain how Arabic can be a useful business tool.

Guard Suspended Over Hijab Remark

A security guard who told a Muslim woman to remove her Hijab at a McDonald’s restaurant in London has been suspended. The fast-food chain confirmed to Arab News that the man, who is employed by a third party, was suspended pending an internal investigation into his behavior. The Muslim woman told the security guard, “It’s not just a matter of  taking it off. I wear it for religious reasons and I’m not ashamed of it. And I will stand in line and I will get the food that I want because this isn’t OK.” In a statement to Arab News, Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s UK said: “I am deeply sorry that this happened, and am taking the matter very seriously, addressing the situation with both the restaurant and security firm involved.”

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]