Flashes from the Muslim World

BANGLADESH

Aid Efforts Up by KS Relief

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has stepped up humanitarian efforts in Yemen and Bangladesh. A team from KSRelief inspected projects implemented in Rohingya’s refugee camps in the town of Cox Bazar in Bangladesh. They distributed food rations consisting of rice, cereals, and vegetable oil, helping more than 27,000 people and more than 5,000 families. The initiative, taken in conjunction with the UN World Food Programme, aims to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition within these camps.

INDONESIA

Exhibition Launched in Jeddah

The first edition of an Indonesian products exhibition was inaugurated by Indonesian Consul General, Dr. Mohammed HerySaripudin and Vice Chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Zaid bin Bassam Al-Bassam. Around 70 Indonesian exhibitors are aiming to increase non-oil and gas exports to Saudi Arabia. The Consul General, at the least, said that there are two large market segments here, Indonesian residents and Saudi citizens. He added that there were more than 221,000 Hajj pilgrims and 1.2 million Umrah pilgrims from Indonesia each year visiting the holy land, not including the more than 350,000 Indonesian living in the Kingdom. They are all loyalists of Indonesian products, said the Consul General, adding that the influx of Indonesian pilgrims opened opportunities for local catering and accommodation services that need Indonesian products.

PHILIPPINES

To Deploy Hijab Troopers

Hijab-clad female soldiers are to be deployed throughout the Philippines as part of a major counter-terrorism initiative. The so-called ‘hijab troopers’ will provide vital support to communities traumatized by the war. Their placement in key areas across the country follows the success of their deployment during the Marawi regime last year. The deployment of the female soldiers wearing hijabs was concentrated in areas where the majority of the population practices Islam.

MALAYSIA

Youngest Minister Favors Strong Ties with Arabs

As Malaysia’s youngest minister, Syed Saddiq was recently listed as one of the most influential young people in the world for 2018 by the London-based Global Policy platform, Apolitical. He was among the Top 100 young leaders who were making an impact early in their government careers, a list that included Pakistani politician Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Tunisia’s Member of Parliament, SayidaOunisia. The 26-year-old Saddiq gained prominence when he was appointed by the 93-year-old Malaysian leader, Mahathir Mohammed, to head the Sports and Youth Ministry. Raised by working class parents, the world class debater turned down a scholarship offer to study in Oxford and opted to go into politics instead. The young politician told Arab News that “we must strengthen ties with Arab communities, not just because they are global superpowers.” There are a lot of areas of common interest we can work together, he said.

Arabic Gaining Popularity in Malaysia

More Malaysians are mastering Arabic amid government efforts to encourage students in the Muslim majority country to learn a foreign language. In addition to Arabic, the government is working with other organizations to ensure English and Malay are given top priority. Most Malays who study Arabic are in it for Islamic Studies since they want to master the Quranic text in the original language in which it was revealed. In Egypt alone, there are an estimated 14,000 Malaysian students, half of whom are taken Arabic studies.There are many others learning the language in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and beyond.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

UAE Passport Ranked Most Powerful in the World

In a notable achievement, the UAE passport has become the world’s strongest passport and is now ranked first globally. The UAE passport was ranked first by the Passport Index, an interactive online tool issued by Arton Capital that provides users with insights on passports, with the ability to compare and rank the world’s passports. The UAE passport holder can travel to 167 countries without the need for pre-visa requirements, which is 84% of the number of countries listed in the index. The UAE passport was on 27th position in December 2016, and now attained first place in December 2018. The Passport Index is a global benchmark for classifying international passports and reflects the world’s view on the power and impact of passport.

Lost and Found, Rehber Helps Pilgrims

“Everyone has a story about a relative getting lost during Hajj,” says designer Hamza Oza, “Even in my family, my grandmother got lost during Umrah.”Oza is explaining the inspiration behind his invention, Rehber – a system and device that helps families find each other during Hajj – which he exhibited at the Global Grad Show during Dubai Design Week, which concluded recently in Dubai. The device, a plain wristband (in keeping with the aesthetic ethos of the pilgrimage), has a range of up to five kilometers and works independently of a mobile network, phone or SIM card. With two million pilgrims attending Hajj this year – and with Vision 2030’s aim of increasing that number to eight million – there’s clearly a market for Rehber. “As far as I know, a lot of the Hajj missions are concerned with this, ”Oza says. “I wanted to make Rehber as easy and affordable as possible.”

Peace Forum Draws Hundreds of Delegates

Islamic values preserve the legal rights and freedoms of everyone and these values do not accept any form of division or discrimination, the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League said in Abu Dhabi. The Muslim World League (MWL) aims to promote Islam’s tolerant principles. “Islam has been always open to the existence of other religions,” said MWL Secretary-General, Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa. He told an audience that the responsibility of absurd words and deeds along with acts of hatred, violence and terrorism fell solely on individuals and not their religion. Al-Issa said that safeguarding minority rights was one of Islam’s values.

BAHRAIN

OIC Attends Islamic Conference

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, chaired the OIC delegation to the extraordinary Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers which was just concluded under the patronage of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. Participants celebrated the Bahrain city of Muharraq as the capital of Islamic culture. The conference discussed the most important challenges facing the Arab and Islamic cultural identity, calling for the humanitarian message of Islam to be conveyed to the whole world with special attention to thought and culture.

OMAN

Expat Population Falls

Unemployment among Oman’s local population has dropped since the introduction of the expat visa ban and its subsequent extensions, national daily Times of Oman reported. There has been a 3.4% reduction in the expat labor force between October 2017 and 2018, with the biggest drop in the manufacturing, engineering, industrial, financial, mining and construction sectors. Recent data showed a consistent decline in four of the country’s biggest expat communities – Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Tanazanians. Most of the expats who left Oman held white collar jobs, according to the report.

SAUDI ARABIA

Two Million Copies

The King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah distributed 2,060,612 copies of the Holy Qur’an during the last month of Safar 1440 H. The Complex can print up to thirteen million publications each year and, to date, has produced 313,943,291 copies of Islamic works.

500,000 Headphones

The General Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques has provided 500,000 headphones for translating the Friday sermon to worshippers who do not understand Arabic at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. This project aims to deliver the guiding and awareness raising message to the pilgrims in their languages in order to reflect the true moderate image of Islam and draw attention to its tolerant and noble values.

Hajj, Umrah Services Highlighted

The role of entrepreneurs and emerging companies in regional economies and in the Hajj and Umrah sector was discussed during the opening day of Saudi Forum for Emerging Companies. Dr. Mohammed SalihBentin, Minister of Hajj and Umrah, said in his opening remarks that he hopes that the modern facilities being developed for pilgrims will enable them to complete their Hajj and Umrah rituals more easily using smart devices, and that the quality of the services on offer will be exemplary. He noted that there will be no complacency in ensuring the highest standards of hygiene or in other related services. Makkah Mayor, Mohammed Al-Quwahees, said that the aim is to fully embrace technology and convert Makkah into a smart city, and that it is important to think outside the box when planning and hosting the pilgrimage season.

First Edition of Darb Zubaida

The first edition of the Darb Zubaida festival has been launched recently. The festival aims to revive the historic Darb Zubaida as a pathway for pilgrims and commercial convoys departing from Kufa in Iraq to Makkah. Zubaida Trail, or Al-Kulfi pilgrimage route, runs from Kufa in Iraq to Makkah, passing through the north of the Kingdom and its center. It stretches more than 1,400 km in the Kingdom and passes through the following five areas: Northern Borders Region, Hail, Al-Qassim, Madinah and Makkah. Zubaida Trail was a trade route in the pre-Islamic era, but its importance increased with the dawn of Islam and it flourished during the time of the early caliphate.

Meets Coptic Bishop

The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, received, in Riyadh, Egypt’s Coptic Bishop Morcos. During the meeting, the two sides discussed a number of issues of common interest. Earlier, the MWL has condemned all attempts to target Saudi Arabia’s international and Islamic leading position through suggesting economic sanctions, political pressures, and false accusations.  The Supreme Council of the MWL also said that the Kingdom’s stability and security are a red line for the Muslim world. Al-Issa stressed that the MWL focuses on fostering understanding and a culture of cooperation, tolerance and civilized communication.

Pledges US$ 50 Million to UN

Saudi Arabia has pledged USD50 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees. The pledge was made in response to the withdrawal of all US funding, an official said. More than five million registered Palestinian refugees are eligible to receive support from the UN agency. King Salman highlighted the constant Saudi support for Palestinians until they attain their rights and establish their own independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

OIC Rejects Disputed Nation Bill

A committee at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) denounced and rejected a controversial Israeli law declaring the country a predominantly Jewish state in a meeting which concluded recently. Dubbed the ‘Basic Law’ or the ‘Nation State Bill,’ the legislation is designed to ensure Jewish rights over those of minorities, a move that was widely denounced within the international community and even among members of the Jewish diaspora. The Committee of Permanent Representatives at the OIC which convened the meeting expressed strong condemnation of Israel’s latest form of sanctioned racial discrimination. The OIC celebrated the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people.

OIC Plan and Ponder

Institutions affiliated with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met at its Jeddah headquarters to discuss the Muslim world’s most pressing issues. Officials from the Islamic Development Bank, the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development, the Social Research and Training Center for Islamic Countries (SESRIC) in Ankara, Turkey and the Islamic Committee of the International Crescent in Benghazi, Libya, were present at the meeting. The 4th Annual Coordination Meeting of the OIC Institutions kicked off with discussions on a report submitted by the Organization’s humanitarian affairs committee. Members evaluated progress on action plans devised last year to tackle political, economic, social, and human rights issues. The OIC Secretary-General will oversee a meeting to be held in March 2019 evaluating the implementation of recommendations put forth by the World Humanitarian Summit.

Relief Campaign Targets 40,000

The Muslim World League (MWL), represented by the International Association for Relief Care and Development (IARCD) has implemented an urgent relief campaign distributing food baskets to more than 40,000 refugees from Central Africa who are residing in the refugee camps on Chad’s borders. MWL has been providing relief since the beginning of the armed conflict in Central Africa and the displacement of its residents to neighboring countries, including Chad. MWL has pledged to continue aiding the displaced Central Africans, no matter how dangerous the conditions get, as it strongly believes in the greatness of its humanitarian mission and the cause of the Islamic religion that is tolerant toward all religions and races.

Partnership to Fight Islamophobia

Rejecting all forms of hatred and extremism, Muslim scholars from 127 countries have proposed to initiate an intercultural partnership to effectively fight Islamophobia. More than 1,299 religious scholars and intellectuals took part in the just concluded conference titled “ International Conference on Islamic Unity” – the perils of labelling  and exclusion held in Makkah. The conference was organized by the Muslim World League (MWL).  Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz AlAsh-Sheikh, who is also head of the MWL Supreme Council, highlighted the teachings of Islam that categorically reject all forms of discrimination. The Grand Mufti urged the Muslims to forge unity among their ranks and do away with rivalries, petty differences and say no to divisions and factionalism.

MWL, UNHCR Join Hands on Refugee Management

The Muslim World League (MWL) conducted a workshop to provide training to its staff in accordance with the best international professional standards. The workshop was organized in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and covers several areas of MWL’s operation such as international refugee assistance and protection, camp management and community awareness. Around 45 trainees from various departments and programs took part in the program. The workshop also aimed at improving the performance and work environment at the MWL.

Sign Language and Braille Qur’ans

Sign language, Braille Qur’ans and electric wheelchairs are some of the new features in Makkah and Madinah to help pilgrims with disabilities to execute the religious rites of Hajj and Umrah. Ahmed al-Burqati, who is tasked with helping people at the Presidency, told Arab News that there are designated entrances to ease access to prayer areas, including the ones on the ground and first floors of the King Fahd expansion at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. Other special services at the holy mosques include wheelchairs transported in golf carts to prayer areas, designated entrances, sign-language interpreters for those with hearing or speech impairments, canes for the blind and visually impaired, and electric wheelchairs to perform key religious rites such as Tawaf.

Speaking Up for the Mother Tongue

Arabic – one of the world’s oldest languages – is under threat. Far from being in decline, the Arabic language could surge in popularity if government brings teaching techniques into the 21st century, experts believe.  Saudi Arabia is thinking about reform when it comes to teaching Arabic. The country is home to 34 million people, so its reforms could be hugely influential in the wider Arab world. Learning Arabic and being able to learn the language the right way – that is the problem worldwide. Some of the fast facts of Arabic are:

  1. An estimated 422 million people worldwide speak Arabic, with the languages used daily by more than 290 million people.
  2. Arabic is the world’s fifth most popular language, after Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindustani and Spanish.
  3. Almost 30 dialects of Arabic are used worldwide.
  4. Arabic is officially recognized by the governments of 26 nations, with most people using it as their first language in eighteen countries.
  5. Arabic Language Day is held every year on 18thDecember.

EGYPT

On Track to Achieve Financial Targets

Egypt’s state revenues grew up by 35.5% in the first quarter of this fiscal year, putting the government on track to achieve its targeted primary budget surplus of 2%. The positive results for the first quarter of the current fiscal year affirm Egypt’s ability to achieve its financial targets for the budget for the current fiscal year, the Minister said. Egypt is pushing ahead with the economic reforms that it sees as essential in attracting foreign investments.

IRAQ

To Rebuild Iconic Mosul Mosque

Iraqis laid the cornerstone in rebuilding Mosul’s Al-Nuri Mosque and leaning minaret, national emblems, which were destroyed last year in the ferocious battle against Daesh. The famed twelfth-century mosque and minaret dubbed Al-Hadba or the Hunchback, hosted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s only public appearance as Daesh Chief, when he declared a self-styled ‘Caliphate’ after the militants swept into Mosul in 2014. Dozens of government officials, religious figures, UN representatives, and European ambassadors gathered in the large square in front of the battered mosque to see the foundation laid. The mosque takes its name from Nureddin Al-Zinki, who ordered it built in 1172CE after unifying Syria and parts of northern Iraq.

NIGER

OIC Condemns Terror Attack

The Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, condemned the deadly attack on a refugee camp in Toumour in the east of the Republic of Niger. Boko Haram has claimed the responsibility of the dastardly attack that killed seven people and left many wounded. The OIC Chief offered condolences to the families of the deceased. He prayed for the speedy recovery of those injured in the attack.

SUDAN

Agencies Attend Umrah Forum

The Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a delegation of 70 companies from the Kingdom took part in the Saudi-Sudanese Forum for the Development of Umrah Services. Dr. Abu Bakr Osman, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Endowments and Guidance said:“It’s a chance for us to meet, cooperate, and strengthen our friendship and exchange benefits and ideas. The Kingdom’s leadership and people will not spare any effort to serve the pilgrims and ensure their comfort.”

MAURITANIA

Sign MoU to Promote Moderate Values

The Saudi Islamic Affairs Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mauritania’s Islamic Affairs Ministry to increase cooperation in different fields and to promote the concepts of moderation in Islam.  The MoU included nine main articles. It envisages cooperation in introducing Islam and its position on contemporary issues, serving the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, and cooperation in mosque affairs, their construction and maintenance. The MoU also stated that the two sides shall encourage the exchange of visits at various levels, participate in Islamic seminars and conferences held in both countries, and form a joint committee for the implementation of the MoU’s content.

African Umrah Guests Perform Prayers

The thirteenth batch of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Program for Umrah and visiting guests performed recently the Friday prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. The guests – comprising 203 figures from eight African countries – thanked King Salman and the Crown Prince for the generous hospitality, services and facilities provided for them since they left their countries until their arrival in the Kingdom. They are from Ethiopia, Senegal, Comoros, Djibouti, Mali, South Africa, Nigeria and Uganda. With the arrival of the thirteenth batch of guests, the total number has reached 2,803 from various countries since the start of the program.

ALGERIA

Reforms are Working

Despite being heavily dependent on its massive oil and gas reserves, Algeria’s government seems to be handling rather well the broader economic effects of extremely volatile crude oil prices. 2.38m is the size in square kilometers of Algeria, the largest country in Africa and the Arab world. Algeria is ranked tenth on the list of world’s proven reserves of natural gas. 60% is the government revenue from hydrocarbons. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) praisedgovernment efforts to diversify the economy, but called for sustained fiscal consolidation and wide ranging structural reforms to facilitate a more diversified growth model and support private sector development.

TURKEY

Prioritize Trade: OIC Chief

Economic restructuring and diversification were key words during a meeting held by a committee at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul. OIC Secretary-General, Yousef Al-Othaimeen, called for reforms within member states suffering from recession and urged a more holistic development agenda. He emphasized prioritizing trade and investment projects, which he said may reduce growing unemployment and quell the effects that mass migration is having on national economies. Infrastructure and regional integration are key to OIC policy-making, which are, in turn, being given top priority by member states.

Opening of Mosque Chamlija

Turkish endowments are preparing to open the mosque ‘Chamlija,’ which is the largest mosque in Turkey. The mosque can accommodate 50,000 worshippers. The mosque has six minarets, four of which are 107.1 meters long and two are 90 meters long. The height of the dome is 72 meters and its diameter is 34 meters, and this will be the largest dome in terms of the history of mosques. The project was initiated by architect Haji Mohamed Gouner. The project was designed by two architects: Mezraq Sea and Charitable Ghoul Toto. The mosque can be seen from anywhere in Istanbul. Work is underway on a three kilometer long tunnel to facilitate the arrival of the worshippers to the mosque.

GERMANY

Hope, Disappointment, for Refugees

The untold story of migration in 2018 is the positive and proactive treatment by countries that host the largest refugee population in the world.  More than 65 million forcibly displaced people have been recorded worldwide. Germany is the most generous host with 669,500 displaced people. But it might surprise many that 85% of refugees are hosted by developing countries, with Pakistan, Uganda and Turkey topping the list.  Pakistan is home to more than 2.7 million Afghan refugees. Uganda hosts more than 1.5 million refugees. 1.4 million is the number of refugees and asylum-seekers hosted by Germany. 1.5 million is the number of displaced Syrians hosted by Lebanon. 85% of refugees are hosted by developing countries.

BRAZIL

Conference Highlights Tolerance, Coexistence

Participants at the 31st session of the International Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Muslims called for rejecting extremism and terrorism and upholding universal Islamic principles in order to preserve the spirit of Islamic tradition and correct misconceptions. The conference was held in Sao Paulo and was attended by more than 400 scholars and religious figures from 50 countries.Brazalian government said the conference sheds light on Islam as a religion of tolerance, compassion and peace.

UNITED KINGDOM

British Delegation Praises Help for Hajj Pilgrims

British Consul General,Seif Usher, hosted a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah at the British Consulate in Jeddah. At a reception to welcome the group, Usher said that the British government was committed to providing the best possible consular service to pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia each year. The British Consular team works year round to ensure that British pilgrims have a peaceful and trouble-free pilgrimage, he said. Recent annual Hajj awards held at the Intercontinental Park Lane, London, had brought a positive outlook to the Hajj and Umrah sector, reported Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis.

ARGENTINA

Introduces Islamic History, Civilization

The Saudi Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance inaugurated the permanent exhibition at the King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, in the presence of Latin American Muslim religious leaders.Tawfiq Abdul Aziz Al-Sudairy toured the exhibition, which includes sections on the Vision 2030Reform Plan, Prophets and Messengers, Arabic calligraphy and Islamic manuscripts and Saudi heritage. The exhibition aims to introduce visitors of the Cultural Center to Islamic history and civilization. Al-Sudairy also toured the King Fahd Mosque, which is a landmark in Buenos Aires. The Director of the Cultural Center, Ali bin Awadahal-Shamrani, briefed him about the mosque, its most important needs, and how it serves Muslim communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Promoting Culture of Peace and Harmony

The Argentinian capital city, Buenos Aires, is home to one of the biggest cultural centers in the world built by Saudi Arabia. The establishment of King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center in 2000 added a new dimension to the already cordial ties between the two countries. The Center is an architectural marvel which the Argentinian local authorities have included on the tourist map of the capital city. The Center not only represents a great Islamic monument, but it also illuminates the path for all who are seeking to educate themselves about the Arab-Islamic civilization and religion. It helps clarify confusions about the teachings of Islam, which are the result of ignorance and a lack of communication. The Center includes a 2,000 square meter double-storied mosque with a capacity of around 5,000 worshippers. The public library contains more than 10,000 books.  The Islamic and Cultural Center also imparts Qur’an and Arabic language lessons to children. It also provides research sources and books to researchers and students without exception.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

New York’s Halal Street Vendors

If you are on the streets of New York City, you will probably notice the long lines in front of small outdoor food carts. If the aroma does not catch your attention, then the blasting of bombastic Arabic language music might. The New York Times has estimated that there are 10,000 halal food-carts in the city, mostly run by immigrants, many of whom came from Egypt. Halal is a religious term referring to the way the meat is prepared. And for this reason, the halal food carts of New York City are 100% Muslim-run.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]