Flashes from the Muslim World

INDIA

Welcome Abolition of Hajj Subsidy

The Muslim community in India has welcomed the Indian government’s decision to end the three-decades-old Hajj subsidy, but says the Modi regime is indulging in anti-minority politics by politicizing the decision. Muslim bodies called it the fulfillment of the long-standing demand. The Hajj subsidy would have lapsed by 2022, according to a Supreme Court ruling in 2012. The Hajj subsidy has never been beneficial for Muslims, it was meant to save the ailing National Carrier.

BANGLADESH

To Export Cloth Made in Jails

“I had never thought of such an initiative. We can now earn, even in jail,” said Sharif Hossain, an inmate at Narayanganj District Jail, Bangladesh. Naryangunj Jail recently launched Bangladesh’s first integrated Ready-Made Garment (RMG) factory to be completely run by prisoners. The facility comprising 53 machines will allow authorities to export the goods internationally, bearing the tag ‘Made by Prisoners.’ Subhas Kumar Ghosh, Superintendent at the jail, told Arab News, that the plan is “to share 50% of the net profit with the employed prisoners.” Wages are credited to the inmates’ bank accounts and can either be sent to their family members or withdrawn once their prison-terms ends. The authorities will also employ twelve prisoners to operate six looms installed in the  jail to produce Jamdani, a traditional Bangladeshi fabric.

INDONESIA

Date Importers Welcome Zero Tariff

Indonesia’s date importers and distributors have welcomed their government’s decision to apply zero tariffs for Palestinian dates and olive oil entering the Indonesian market. “This is a very good move to support the Palestinian economy,” said Zaharuddin Ahmad, the owner of Aceh based Humairah Trading, which imports dates from the Middle East. “But to make it successful here, it will also depend on the quality of the product and whether it is in line with our marketing plan. It has been difficult to find Palestinian dates,” he told Arab News, “So this is a good move and comes at the right moment, given the current consumer emotions on the Palestine solidarity issue and that we would be supporting the Palestinian economy.” Indonesia has been a staunch supporter of Palestinian independence and was one of the co-sponsors of the UN General Assembly emergency meeting to reject America’s recent unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

MALAYSIA

To Eliminate Ideologies and Fight Terrorists Militarily

The King Salman Center for International Peace in Malaysia aims to correct international misconceptions about Islam and combat the malicious rhetoric spread by Daesh and other terrorist organizations, Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammed Najib Tun Abdul Razzaq has said. Addressing the just concluded Putrajaya International Security Dialogue 2018, themed Wisdom and Moderation in Countering Terrorism, the Malaysian PM added, “The role of religious institutions does not include just the disseminaton of beliefs, but also combating terrorism and extremism.” He called upon the leaders of the Islamic world to develop a plan for spreading the teachings of Islam and promoting moderation globally in laws and practices. The event was attended by more than 1,000 representatives from 20 countries. The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Mohammad Al-Issa, said that MWL’s latest statistics show that 1.8 billion Muslims in the Islamic world are moderate Muslims which only one person out of every 200,000 is an extremist,and this is a rather small number, yet troubling and  controversial.

CAMBODIA

Angkor Wat’s Muslim – the Key to Halal Tourism

If you close your eyes and listen carefully at sunset in Siem Reap’s old town, between the  rhythmic chants and tinkling bells emanating from the local Buddhist temples, you will hear the faint, melodious sound of the Muslim call to prayer. The Muezzin issues his call from the Masjid Al-Neakma in the heart of Siem Reap’s Muslim village.  The gateway to Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage temple city, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is also home to a sizeable Muslim community. It is exactly a year since Cambodia first turned to neighboring Thailand and Malaysia for help in developing its own halal industries, not to satisfy the nation’s Muslims, but to take its first step in to the lucrative halal food and travel industry. Tourism numbers for Cambodia show that between 2015 and 2016, travelers from Muslim majority countries increased by 4.4%, a figure that is expected to continue rising.

BAHRAIN

Tops Regional Islamic Finance Table

Bahrain has topped the regional ranking of a key finance league table. It also came second globally in the fifth edition of the Islamic Finance Development Report and Indicator. The report was prepared by Thomson Reuters and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) – the private sector development arm of the Islamic Development Bank. It followed Malaysia in the top slot. “Islamic finance is a core pillar of our region’s offering,” said Khalid Hamad, Executive Director of banking supervision at the Central Bank of Bahrain. Islamic finance assets are projected to reach USD3.8 trillion by 2022 from USD2.2 trillion in 2016, ICD said. Bahrain is making great strides through the promotion of Islamic finance education and literacy.

OMAN

Ramps Up Gas Production

Oman will be among the countries in the Gulf region expressing the most relief about recovering oil and gas prices. The sultanate is more vulnerable to price shocks than others in the GCC as it holds less in the way of foreign exchange reserves. It does not have the balance sheet strength of a country such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. But Oman has something else up its sleeve that should act as a cushion in the years ahead – rising gas production. The key to the Omani gas story is the giant Khazzan gas-field. Khazzan will bring a much needed ten billion cubic meters per year equal to one-third of the country’s current production.

SAUDI ARABIA

Rare Qur’an Editions in Madinah Exhibition

The Qur’an exhibition in Madinah, in cooperation with Samaya Holding, aims to introduce the content of the Qur’an accurately according to a system of techniques that follows a museum exhibition style. The exhibition goal includes the call for learning and teaching the Qur’an, highlighting the greatness of the Qur’an, understanding the history of the Qur’an, displaying the special technologies of the Qur’an, and demonstrating the efforts of the Kingdom in caring for the Qur’an. Hamzah Abdul Karim, the supervisor of the exhibition, told Arab News that the Qur’an exhibition contains many manuscripts and modern technologies that suit the needs of society, including manuscripts written on gazelle skin and others written by Hafez Osman, who wrote 106 manuscripts of the Qur’an and died while writing the 107th. Another unique manuscript was written by Ghulam Mohiuddin about 200 years ago, and  carried on four camels from Afghanistan to Madinah due to its heavy weight. The manuscript is one and half meters long and one meter wide and weighs 154 kilograms. There is a translation in Persian at the bottom of each page.

Makkah Museum Enlightens Visitors

More than 100 Muslim pilgrims and visitors from Germany, Turkey, and Europe stood in the Makkah Museum for  Antiquities and Heritage to learn the story of this museum. They were just a small portion of the millions of pilgrims and visitors from all over the world eager to discover the rich heritage of the Kingdom and learn the story of Makkah, Islam’s holiest city. Visitors learned that the museum was built under directions from the late king, Abdul Aziz, to serve as a palace for the king’s guests, how it was later turned into a museum that preserves Makkah’s  heritage, how the message of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came into life in Makkah and united its people through the word of Allah (swt) and how the Islamic states in the past, and Saudi state until the present, have devoted themselves to serve the Two Holy Mosques and their visitors.

Taif Mosque with a Story to Tell

Flocks of Haj and Umrah performers travel to Taif, 70 km from Makkah, to visit the city’s historic places. One of the main attractions in Taif is the Al-Qu’a and Al-Qantara Mosque, located in Al-Mathnah neighborhood. The Qantara Mosque, also known as Al-Madhoun Mosque was built some 162 years ago. The farm where Prophet Muhammad rested after being expelled from Taif and was offered fruit by Addas, the grape farmer, is on the opposite side of the mosque. Al Mathnah valley is the place where our Prophet (peace be upon him) rested for a while and this area was known for its fruits. A Christian Iraqi farmer, Addas, who was serving a rich family originating from Makkah, approached the sad Prophet and offered him a bowl of grapes. The Prophet took the grapes and before starting to eat the fruit said: “In the name of Allah.” The story ended with the man embracing Islam. Another mosque that many tourists are keen to visit in Taif is the Al-Qu’a Mosque, which was built some 800 years after the death of the Prophet. Many tourists believe that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came to this place and with his elbow leaned on a stone, leaving a mark.

Retract Ban on Unveiled Women

The General Court in Riyadh has amended its decision to limit entry to courts to veiled women. Women can know enter without covering their faces, as long as they dress modestly and adhere to dress regulations. Dr. Eqbal Darandari, Shoura-member and Associate Professor at King Saud University, told Arab News. “Any applicant frequenting a government department is expected to uphold and adhere by its dress code. Courts of law, specifically, are governed by religious sanctions, which calls for women to dress accordingly in modest attire.”

Hit for Wishing Man

Two  Muslim postgraduate students of Arab origin were viciously attacked on Christmas Eve after wishing a man a ‘Merry Christmas,’ according to a UK media. Ihsan Abualrob was punched in the face and his body kicked whilst he lay on the ground by a group of men in Durham. Police confirmed that two men have been arrested on suspicion of racially, or religiously, aggravated assault in connection with the attack, reports said. Abualrob said that the men started insulting his religion and that he wished them a ‘Merry Christmas’ in response to their insults. Abualrob described the attack as like ‘living my worst nightmare’ and he said that Christmas should be a time of love and hope and not violence.

From Halal Meat Boxes to Modest Men’s Wear

Gone are the days where ‘Halal’ shopping referred only to a trip to the local butchers to ask for a special cut. Muslims across the world are increasingly product savvy, seeking out the latest consumer products that also fit their religious beliefs, spelling a boom in the so-called ‘Islamic economy.’ As the international Muslim population grows, the Islamic economy is expected to grow from USD1.24 trillion in 2016 to reach USD1.93 trillion by 2022, according to the Thomson Reuters’ State of the Global Islamic Economy report. In the United Kingdom, in particular, which is home to around three million Muslims – with one million in London alone – the Islamic community is fueling some innovative consumer trends. The UK capital is proving to be an engine of  growth for the Islamic economy in the West, with fresh startups emerging every month to tap into growing demands.

Private Museums Open in Madinah

Since the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) began issuing licenses to private museums, several have opened in Madinah. In Dar al Madinah Museum, visitors and researchers can learn about the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Islamic civilization and Madinah’s urban culture. The museum which has four main halls, publishes specialized periodicals on Madinah’s history and landmarks, and holds seminars and forums in this field. The museum is located on King Abdul Aziz Road in Madinah Knowledge Economic City.

Vows to Wipe Out Terrorists from Face of the Earth

Leaders of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) hope their alliance will be the best global terror-fighting organization. During their first meeting in Riyadh, they revealed that they had institutional plans and strategies aimed at drying up the sources of terrorism and cutting off its financing. The IMCTC also pledged to correct perceptions and discredit radical narratives as terrorist organizations had falsified the meaning of Jihad in Islam.

MWL to Launch Global UN Conference

The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Mohammed al-Issa signed a cooperation agreement with the World Council of Religious Leaders (WCRL). Bawa Jain, the Secretary-General of the WCRL, signed for the organization. Both parties agreed to organize an international conference at the UN, to be attended by religious, intellectual and political leaders. The Muslim World League is an international Islamic Organization based in Makkah. Its goal is to clarify the true message of Islam. It is engaged in propagating the religion, elucidating its principles and tenet and refuting suspicious and false allegations made against Islam. The World Council of Religious Leaders (WCRL) is an independent body which works to bring religious resources to support the work of the UN for peace. It aims to serve as a model and guide for the creation of a community of world religions. It seeks to inspire women and men of all faiths in the pursuit of peace and mutual understanding.

Asham, Ancient City of Gold

The village of Asham tells the story of the early times of Islam, and is considered an extension of Makkah’s civilization and historical events. Convoys entering, or leaving, Makkah used to pass through Asham. This village’s name has become associated with Makkah in history books, and it it today considered a historical and archaeological landmark. Asham is located on the banks of Wadi Qarma. Despite its importance, Asham is one of the least mentioned Islamic sites in Arab books and sources. Some Muslim geographers wrote about it with a few details.

IRAN

Bans English in Primary Schools

Iran has banned the teaching of English in primary schools, a senior education official said, after Islamic leaders warned that early learning of the language opened the way to a Western ‘cultural invasion.’ “Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Mehdi Navid Adham, head of the State-run High Education Council told state television. The teaching of English usually starts in middle school in Iran, around the ages of twelve to fourteen, but some primary schools below that age also have English classes.

SOUTH AFRICA

Holds Global Peace Forum

The Muslim World League (MWL) held an international forum in Durban, South Africa. The event, entitled “For a Safer World: Followers of Religion Unite Against Hatred, Extremism and Terrosim,” was just concluded. It was inaugurated by Mayor of Durban, Zandile Gumede, in the presence of MWL Secretary-General, Mohammed Al-Issa, a number of South African government ministers and representatives from many different religions. Al-Issa stressed the need to promote the values of love and cooperation, and the League’s desire to fight all kinds of abuse of people of all religions, races, cultures and countries. He concluded that the MWL does not discriminate religiously, or ethnically, and aims to serve everyone as Islam is a religion that serves God without expecting anything in return. The Mayor of Durban, Gumede, thanked the MWL for letting Durban be a part of its program on its African tour, organized in cooperation with the Kwini Municipality.

DENMARK

MP’s Call for Muslims to Worship in Warehouses

The Danish People’s Party (DPP) call for Muslims to move their worship to unmarked buildings has been widely condemned. Martin Henriksen, the right wing party’s spokesperson, told Arab News that Muslim worship is fine if the praying ritual takes place in normal buildings without minarets, such as offices or warehouses. “We take a stand against the divisive symbolism of traditional mosques,” Herriksen said. Henriksen added that he was not against Muslims or Islam, and that individuals should be free to practice their faith as long as they abide by the rules of the Danish constitution. Henriksen confirmed that the DPP which is the second largest party in the Danish parliament, aims to ban the construction of mosques in cities where there are social problems.

UNITED KINGDOM

Criticized by MPs for Lack of Action

MPs have criticized the UK government’s stance toward Myanmar, accusing the country of ‘ignoring’ the oppression of the Rohingya people in their homeland. More than 650,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August after Myanmar’s military launched a crackdown in areas populated by the minority. “The UK government should reflect on why so much evidence of discrimination, marginalization, and abuse of the Rohingya people within Rakhine State in Burma (Myanmar) was seemingly ignored for so long, rather than translated into effective action by the international community,” read an extract from the report.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Growing up Muslims in America

The book, Keeping It Halal: the Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys, by author John O’Brien offers a fresh and insightful look into the lives of young American Muslims. Whenever an act of terror occurs anywhere in the world, mainly Muslims follow the news hoping that the perpetrator is not a co-religionist. According to the FBI statistics cited in this book, however, 94% of the attacks that have taken place in the US from 1988 to 2005 have been carried out by non-Muslims. However, author John O’Brien shows that a recent nationally representative survey shows that almost half of the American public still believe that violence is inherent to Islam. O’Brien focuses his attention on an ordinary social group of Muslim Americans who have become invisible, so as to speak, because they do not conform to the expected stereotypes.

Businesses Prepare for Halal Boom

Muslims are expected to replace Jews as the second largest religious group in the US after Christians by 2040, according to a new study. There were 3.45 million Muslims living in the US in 2017, and Muslims made up about 1.1% of the total US population, said the report from US think-tank Pew Research Center (PRC). The Muslim population has continued to grow at a rate of roughly 100,000 per year, driven both by higher fertility rates among Muslim Americans as well as the continued migration of Muslims to the US. The Muslim community is thriving particularly in major cities such as New York, Minneapolis and Detroit. Haroon Latif, Director of Insights at New York based research firm, Dinar Standard, told Arab News, the  rapid growth of the US Muslim population has substantial implications for business. Muslims are a lucrative consumer segment with an aggregate disposable income of USD107 billion in 2015. Muslims are tied together by common values and companies are beginning to respond, from halal food to lifestyle products and services, spanning fashion, travel and financial services.

[Compiled by: Syed Nehal Zaheer]