Flashes from the Muslim World

AFGHANISTAN

OIC Calls to Help Drought-hit Afghanistan

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on member states and all relief organizations in the world to extend humanitarian support to Afghanistan on an urgent basis. Afghanistan has been facing severe drought for the last several months. The drought has left a large population in dire need for food, shelter, and other emergency assistance. The OIC has urged all member states to show solidarity with the Afghan people.  In December 2018, the OIC approved aid for four education projects in Uganda, Gambia, and Mauritius. The organization also approved six humanitarian assistance projects in Palestine.

Sending 2,500 Laborers to UAE

Afghanistan aims to send 2,500 laborers to the UAE as part of a drive to create more jobs for its citizens abroad. Workers, especially selected for their skills, will start being flown out to the UAE over the coming weeks in an employment program expected to take about three months to complete. The Afghanistan labor ministry hinted that skilled Afghan workers could also be sent to Saudi Arabia, but it did not make clear when this might take place or how many individuals would be involved. According to recent estimates, the unemployment rate in Afghanistan currently stands at more than 40%.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Best Place for Religious Tourism: Sikh Leader

The United Arab Emirates is the best place for religious tourism given the diversity and beauty of its places of worship, said the Chairman of the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai, the largest Sikh temple in the Gulf. Be it mosques, churches, or Sikh or Hindu temples, all these places of worship showcase the beauty of peace and tolerance in the UAE. The United Arab Emirates has declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance. It is the only country where more than 180 different nationalities live together in harmony. This is, perhaps, the only country where followers of every faith will find their places of worship.

Sets Islamic Economy Target

Dubai has set a target to expand its Islamic economy sector so that by 2021 it forms 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Islamic economy is currently worth 8.3% of GDP, while the halaal industry makes up 5.8% of the Emirate’s total trade volume, according to statistics quoted by the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center (DIEDC). The Center said that there are plans to boost the Islamic economy, which includes business in areas such as Shariah-compliant finance, halaal food, family-friendly holidays.

OMAN

Lauds Efforts to Serve Pilgrims

Sheikh Sultan bin Saidal-Hinai, head of the Preaching and Guidance Department of Oman, praised Saudi Arabia for providing best services to pilgrims. The officials discussed services to be provided to Omani pilgrims in the upcoming Hajj season. Officials from Saudi Arabian Airlines signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Hajj Ministry to increase tourist packages for pilgrims across the globe.

BRUNEI

Asian Capital of Islamic Culture

As this year’s Asian capital of Islamic culture, Brunei is considered the longest standing Malay state since its acceptance of Islam more than six centuries ago. The small nation has played a central role in reinforcing the Islamic faith in the region. Activities celebrating the declaration of Bandar Seri Begawan as a culture capital were started recently. Islamic teachings are rooted in the country’s political culture and history as well as in daily practices, said Maj. Gen. Dato Paduka Abidin, Brunei’s culture minister.

SAUDI ARABIA

A Path of Peace on Road to Makkah

Caravans of pilgrims from around the world can take many different routes to Makkah – but all paths lead to a single destination. Muslim caliphs and sultans devoted special attention to Hajj routes. The most famous of the Hajj routes are the Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian, Yemeni, and Omani paths. The routes were not only used by Hajj pilgrimage but throughout the year by travelers seeking to reach different destinations. Historical sources have recorded seven main routes to Makkah and Madinah. The Kufah-Makkah was the most important path for both Hajj and trade. This route was also known as Darb Zubaidah and was named after Caliph Harun al-Rashid’s wife. Studies showed that the route was well-planned and engineered with stops and rest areas. Utilities such as wells, ponds and dams, helped make the journey easier for pilgrims.

MWL Chief Receives Japanese Scholars

The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, received a delegation of senior oriental studies scholars from Japan. The delegation, led by Prof. Hiroshi Nawata, discussed a number of issues related to cooperation among cultures and civilizations with the MWL Chief. The two sides stressed the need for a meaningful dialogue to build a peaceful world for the good of the entire humanity. It would be pertinent to mention that the Conference on Peace in Revealed Religions held at Oxford University in the United Kingdom in May, adopted an MWL initiative on positive national integration of religious and cultural minorities.

Services to Muslim World Lauded

Scholars at an international summit on Islamic unity have been urged to unify their ranks to strengthen the values of moderation. Scholars at the two-day Forum reiterated that Saudi Arabia is the ‘Heart of Islam,’ in the modern era, and praised the Kingdom’s leadership for its services to Muslims. “Amid these times of hardship in the Muslim world, scholars and preachers must unify their ranks to help strengthen the values of moderation and promote cohesion and fraternity between all Muslims” – as said by one of the speaker at the Forum.

2019: A Golden Year for Islamic Culture

Three cities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are chosen every year as capitals of Islamic culture by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) for enriching the culture of their regions.  This year, Jerusalem, Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, and Guinea-Bissau’s capital, Bissau, have been recognized for their historical significance in the areas of culture, art, social sciences and architecture. As an exception for 2019, Tunis was included as a fourth capital since it hosted an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in December. Tunis was once the capital of the Muslim caliphate in North Africa. The city is home to a blend of Arab Islamic culture dating back to the seventh century. Fifty capitals of Islamic culture have been chosen since the inauguration of the Capitals of Islamic Culture programs. ISESCO have 57 member-states.

King Faisal Prize 2019 Winners Announced

The winners of the 2019 King Faisal Prize (KFP) were announced recently in Riyadh. The KFP, which recognizes individuals and institutions for significant contributions to their field, were revealed by Prince Khaled al-Faisal at the Al-Faisaliah Hotel. The prestigious prize, now in its 41st year, honor exceptional achievements in five categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic language and literature, medicine and sciences. The winner for Service to Islam went to the International University of Africa, Khartoum, and for Arabic language and literature went to Prof.Abdelali Mohamed Oudrhiri from Morocco and Prof. Mahmoud Fahmy Hegazi from Egypt. The prize for Islamic Studies was withheld as the candidates’ work did not meet the criteria for winning it.

Messages of Peace and Hope

The two-day Saudi Salam (Peace) Forum concluded recently with a reminder of the importance of peaceful coexistence and communication between people of all nations and faiths. The event, which was organized by the Salam Centre for Cultural Communication project, and took place at the conference center of the Saudi Press Agency in Riyadh, aimed to encourage stronger ties between the Kingdom and the global community. The General Supervisor of the Forum said that Peace is a great Islamic value that promotes security, love, serenity and tranquility and ensures that security prevails, he added.

To Upgrade Technical and Digital Services at the Holy Mosques

The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque signed a cooperation agreement with the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to upgrade technical and digital services at the mosques. The agreement aims to create a strong partnership with a view to developing the digital infrastructure, creating a business environment and boosting emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and Internet of Things and augmented reality. It is the most important agreement signed by the Presidency, and is a turning point for visitors of the Two Holy Mosques, as reported by the Presidency.

Al-Rahma Mosque

Al-Rahma Mosque was built in 1985 on the edge of Jeddah’s Corniche in Saudi Arabia. It is also called Fatima Al-Zahra Mosque, and is one of the most visited mosques in Jeddah, especially by Muslims from East Asia. Covering an area of 2,400 square meters, it receives Hajj and Umrah pilgrims from around the world. The mosque is a combination of modern and old architecture and Islamic art. It is built with state-of-the-art technology, equipment and sound and lighting systems. It consists of 52 outer domes in addition to the main dome – the largest with eight supporting pillars. There are 23 external umbrellas, beaded on the outside and inside with verses of the Qur’an. There are 56 windows designed in Islamic style, a high hanging wooden prayer area for women, washrooms and comfortable worship rooms. Worshippers and tourists prefer to visit the mosque at dawn or sunset to enjoy the view of the Red Sea. It is also known as the Floating Mosque because it is surrounded by the sea – during high tide it appears as if it is floating.

Grand Mosque Library Building

Makkah Governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal inaugurated the new building of the Grand Mosque Library in the BathaQuraish District in a ceremony attended by Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman al-Sudais, President of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques. The new building consists of thirteen floors with a floor area of 2,066 square meters. It has three front entrances for men, one separate entrance for women, five reading halls for men and two for women. In addition, the library houses a manuscripts section containing 6,842 official items. There are more than 200,000 books and over 7,000 rare books. The library has newspapers, volumes of the Qur’an and Braille books for the visually impaired.

Receives Delegation from Abroad

Dr. Abdul Fattah bin Suleiman Mashat, Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, received two foreign delegations at his office in Jeddah. One was led by the Deputy Mufti of Turkmenistan, Rahmonov Gouli, and the other by the representative of the Secretary-General of the Committee on the Promotion of Hajj Affairs in Thailand, Sak Shai Ting Hu. Several topics of common interest in the field of Hajj regarding the services and facilities provided for the pilgrims and supervised by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah were discussed in the two meetings. The Vision 2030 reform plan aims to attract more than 30 million Umrah pilgrims, and provide them with excellent services and an outstanding experience.

Artists Draw Inspiration from Islam

The work of Saudi sculptor, Wafa Alqunibit, is on display in a Jeddah art gallery. A small glass box holds objects that have the appearance, shape and texture of dates. Only they are wrought from metal and glint silver and gold. Algunibit concedes that art can sometimes be a taboo subject in Saudi society, but says that her work has its place. She uses her work to communicate with people, especially those who misunderstand Islam, and recalled living in the United States at a difficult time for Muslims.

Preserving National Identity a Challenge

Saudi Arabia faces great challenges in preserving its national identity, as it keeps up with modern society, the Minister of Islamic Affairs said recently. Dr. Abdul Latif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh told delegates at a conference in Cairo that it was a shared duty to preserve religious constants and national identity. He was speaking at the 29th International Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, which was organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf under the patronage of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. More than 150 people including ministers, scientists, intellectuals, and professors took part in the conference.

More than Three Million Umrah Visas Issued So Far

The number of Umrah visas issued this year has reached 3,024,272 of which 2,561,541 pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom, according to data provided by the Hajj and Umrah Ministry. The largest number of pilgrims are from Pakistan, followed by Indonesia, India, Yemen, Malaysia, Algeria, Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates. Developing Hajj and Umrah organizations and services in the Kingdom is among the top priorities of the Saudi government.

Raft of Pilgrimage Initiatives

Makkah Governor, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, recently opened the Makkah Cultural Forum, where he addressed growing demands to improve pilgrimage experiences for Muslims visiting holy sites and cities in Saudi Arabia. The Forum was the first on the subject for over twelve years. Prince Khaled, who chaired the Forum, announced the launch of four new initiatives as part of a drive to modernize Hajj and Umrah. The initiatives include, establishing a training center, and ratifying a code of ethics and conduct for government employees, refining and improving the YusrApp for Hajj and Umrah visitors and supporting the Sadiqal-Moatamir program.

EGYPT

Al Azhar Chief Backs Kingdom

The Chief of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, expressed support for the Kingdom against the United States Senate’s resolution. He said Al-Azhar, Egypt, the Arab and Islamic nations support the Kingdom against such moves. The scholar said nothing could affect the strong relationship between the Kingdom and Egypt at any level. He expressed these views in a press statement which was also attended by the Kingdom’s grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh and other senior scholars and top officials.

Grand Mufti lauds Kingdom’s services to Muslims

Dr. Shawki Allam, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, received the Saudi minister of Islamic affairs, Dr. Abdul Latif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh. He praised the Kingdom, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for serving the Muslims around the world. He said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia would continue to work together to maintain stability in the Middle East. Further, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s first festival started in February in Cairo and would allow Muslims around the world to become closer, the body’s Secretary-General said recently.

Dr. Shawki Allam

Dr. Shawki Allam is the nineteenth and the current Grand Mufti of Egypt through Dar al-Iftaal-Misiriyyah. Since its inception in 1895, it has been Egypt’s educational institution and government body founded to represent Islam and a Center for Islamic legal research. Dr. Allam received his PhD in jurisprudence and Shariah law from the Al Azhar University in 1996. Known as a moderate who renounces fanaticism, Allam gained support by not having any political affiliations. In February 2013, he was elected Grand Mufti by Al Azhar’s Council of Senior scholars.

IRAQ

Visits MWL Office

A delegation of Islamic scholars from Iraq headed by the President of Iraqi Jurisprudence Council, Sheikh Ahmed Hassan al-Taha, called on Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa in Makkah. The Iraqi scholar lauded the MWL for organizing the Islamic Unity Conference in Makkah. They highlighted the importance of the conference and the role it played in discussing ways of tackling extremist tendencies, dangers of exclusion and promotion of national unity. The Iraqi delegation stressed the need to forge unity among the ranks of Muslims and to respect differences of opinion and cooperate to achieve common goals. They also said they would not allow any force to drive a wedge between Muslims or to harm the sovereignty of any nation-state.

SYRIA

The Abandoned Catastrophe

With the media’s attention diverted toward turmoil and conflicts in other parts of the Middle East, it may seem as if the war in Syria has ended, but it certainly has not. It has been almost eight years since the war erupted, and even though 2018 has seen major events unfold on the military and security levels, much has remained unchanged for Syrians. The death toll reached 36,135 between January and November of which 5,773 were civilians. 13.1 million people are in need in Syria, 6.6 million internally displaced persons and 2.98 million people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.

PALESTINE

Deal or No Deal?

For many Palestinians living under occupation, 2018 was a terrible year. The United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. Violent Israeli repression included the killing of more than 200 unarmed Palestinian protestors in Gaza. Former Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, described 2018 as a ‘bad year’ for his people and their national cause. Fayyad, now a Professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, told Arab News, “There is nothing on the horizon to suggest that next year will be any better. He called for a national empowerment agenda anchored on the unification of the Palestinian polity. Some of the figures in numbers are 5.9 million Palestinian refugees worldwide, 58 camps host Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, 43% of Palestinians in Palestine are displaced refugees, one-third of refugees in the world are Palestinians, and there are 131 settlements in the West Bank, illegally housing 3,85,000 Israeli-Jewish settlers.

LIBYA

Green Gold Olive Industry Hit by Export Ban

The industry of extracting olive oil, often dubbed ‘green gold’ is now under threat after Libyan authorities halted exports in a bid to protect local produce. Exports of Libya’s most emblematic products – namely dates, honey and olive oil – have been halted since 2017. Libya, the eleventh largest olive producer in the world, grows around 150,000 tons of the crop annually. But only 20% is turned into oil, well behind neighbors, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

MALI

OIC Chief Slams Terrorist Attack

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has condemned attacks that caused the deaths of at least 37 people in inter-communal clashes in Central Mali. Dr. Yousef al-Othaimeen also condemned an attack by a heavily armed unidentified group on the Niger-Nigeria border that killed at least ten Nigerian and Niger soldiers. He reiterated the OIC’s solidarity with both countries’ authorities in their struggle against terrorism on their shared borders.

IVORY COAST

Praises Support for Pilgrims

Ivory Coast Minister of Interior and Security, Sidiki Diakite, has praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts to serve pilgrims during a visit to Makkah. Diakite was part of an Ivory Coast delegation welcomed by Hajj and Umrah Minister, Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin TaherBentin. During the meeting, the Ministers reviewed relations between the two countries, and discussed issues relating to pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors.

COMOROS ISLANDS

MWL Chief Inaugurates Comoros Projects

The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) inaugurated a number of MWL-run health centers during his visit to the Comoros Islands. He visited and inspected the new MWL-run Saad bin Moad Institute, and met African scholars who will be teaching there. The scholars commended the MWL’s Islamic and humanitarian role and efforts. They also reiterated that Saudi Arabia will continue to be the spiritual and religious leader of all Muslims. He handed over the keys of new homes, built by the MWL, to widows and orphans, and supervised the distribution of food baskets to the needy.

BURUNDI

Calls for Positive Existence

The first Vice President of Burundi, Gaston Sindimwo, has praised his country for overcoming its turbulent past, citing how religious organizations have promoted peace and tolerance, at the Muslim World League (MWL) Forum in the Burundian city of Bujumbura. Sindimwo stressed the importance of peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths, praising the MWL for helping to strengthen ties between groups both in Burundi and the rest of the world. Muslims in Burundi, along with Islamic Foundation, have worked for peace and security following the civil war. The MWL’s Secretary-General, Mohammed al-Issa underscored his eagerness to build bridges with all countries, so as to achieve better global cooperation and communication. “We disagree, but we talk and understand each other, love one another, and respect each other. When we disagree, then, we must compromise, cooperate, and coexist,” he said. Burundi’s Mufti, Sheikh Abdallah Kajandi Sadiki, also addressed the Forum, saying that Islam should bring people together irrespective of color or faith.

UNITED KINGDOM

From Tearway to Triumph

A record number of Muslims have been named in the Queen’s New Year Honors list for achievements ranging across technology, the arts, business and community work. Among the 1,148 recipients recognized of the charity Penny Appeal, Nasar Mahmood, Chairman of the British Muslim Heritage Center, and Supt. Umer Khan of Greater Manchester Police, who all received an Officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE) for community work. Some of the other prominent personalities who were honored are: AbulKalam Azad Choudary, who founded the Azad Choudary Academy and Welfare Trust. Dr. Malik Ramadhan, Head of the Accident and Emergency Unit at the Royal London Hospital. FaeezaVaid, Executive Director of the Muslim Women’s Network. Saeed Atcha, CEO of his own magazine publishing venture, a trustee of several charities, a trainer, mentor and motivational speaker.

Gift to Mesut Ozil

German footballer, Mesut Ozil, was trending in the region after tweeting that he had received a piece of the Holy Ka’aba’s Kiswa as a gift. The footballer tweeted: “Honored and privileged to have this special piece of the Kiswah that covers the Ka’aba in Makkah at my home in London. Incredibly blessed to have received this priceless gift. Alhamdulillah.” The gift – and the footballer’s heartfelt response to it – attracted plaudits on Twitter.

London’s War on Hate Crime

Dozens of Islamophobic attacks are being recorded in London every week as the city faces a rising wave of hate crime, figures released exclusively to Arab News show. Police in the United Kingdom’s capital are stepping up measures to halt anti-Muslim attacks, and warn that a vast number of incidents is still going unreported. A total of 1,003 incidents of Islamophobia were reported in London between January and September last year – about 26 a week – compared with 1,662 incidents in 2017 and 1,224 in 2016, the figures show. In 2011, fewer than 320 incidents were reported. Reports of Islamophobic hate-crime are continuing to rise in London, Det. Sgt. Tony Forsyth of the Metropolitan Police, told Arab News.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Muhammad Ali – Naming of the Airport

United States boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, was trending on Twitter following a decision to rename the airport in his hometown after him. Ali died in June 2016, at the age of 74. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for decades but the cause of his death said family spokesman, Bob Gunnell, was “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes.” The triple world-heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist had 51 wins from 61 fights, including 37 knockouts. His activism, skills, and showmanship won him fans around the world. The latest decision to rename Louisville International Airport to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport sparked joy and praise on social media.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]