Flashes from the Muslim World

AFGHANISTAN

More Women to Join its Army

Afghanistan has announced fresh initiatives to bring more women into the army, weeks after the country’s first female pilot sparked a national debate on insecurity and women’s rights by seeking asylum in the United States. The Defense Ministry wants to boost the proportion of women in the army to 10%. At this stage, they have 1,575 Afghan women in the army ranks, which is a mere 3-4%. The Defense Ministry is aiming to raise this percentage to 10%.

BANGLADESH

To Relocate Rohingya to Remote Island

Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh are worried about a government proposal to relocate them to a low lying island deemed not ready for people to live there. It has been reported that the Rohingya Muslims are to be relocated to the island of Thengar Char in southeastern Bangladesh. Thengar Char is about 30 kilometers east of the more populated Hatiya island. Some 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have lived in Bangladesh for decades after fleeing there from neighbouring Myanmar in the face of persecution by its military and majority Buddhists.

MALAYSIA

Aid Departs for Myanmar

Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, dispatched a ship with thousands of tons of food and emergency supplies for Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims,but it was unclear where the bulk of the aid would be delivered. The ship, carrying 2,200 tons of supplies, was due to drop off 500 tons at Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. Plans to deliver the remainder to Rakhine State, where the Rohingya’s are located, and across the border in Bangladesh, appeared blocked. The aid shipment has been organized by Malaysian Muslim groups, as well as domestic and foreign aid groups. The Prime Minister has further stated that Muslim countries must act to end this humanitarian tragedy.

Thousands Back Islamic Penal Code

Ten of thousands of Malaysian rallied in the capital to support the adoption of an Islamic penal code. Prime Minister Najib Razak has thrown his weight behind the contentious bill, which seeks to incorporate parts of the Islamic penal code, or hudood, into Malaysia’s existing Islamic legal system. Parti Islam-se-Malaysia (PAS) presented the bill in Parliament last year, but later withdrew it in order to fine-tune the legislation.

Seizes Pig Hairbrushes

Malaysian authorities have seized thousands of paint brushes suspected of containing pig bristles after consumers in this Muslim majority nation demanded a crackdown, officials said recently. Pigs and dogs are considered unclean by many Muslims, who make up some 60% of Malaysia’s 30 million people. It is illegal in the country to sell products made from any part of a pig or a dog, unless the goods are labeled and kept separately. Zarif Anwar, an enforcement official said that he has warned traders, who flout the rule, face upto three years in jail, a fine of 100,000 Ringgit (USD22,522) or both.

SAUDI ARABIA

Madinah Airport Ranked Second Best in the Middle East

Airports Council International (ACI) has ranked Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah the second best airport in the Middle East for the second quarter of 2016. The airport ranked second among ten airports in the region and earned a score of 4.65 points out of five points in total passenger satisfaction with the quality of services provided by the international airports. The airport ranked 38th place among the top 267 airports worldwide.

Madinah – Capital of Islamic Tourism

Work is in full swing to complete the construction of a grand theater to host functions to be held in the holy city, which was selected to be the capital of Islamic Tourism 2017. The theater at King Fahd Central Park is considered as one of the biggest theaters ever built in the Kingdom, according to Wafi al-Qahtani, head of the organizing company. It is 80 meters wide and circular in shape.

Expat Remittance of 2016

Estimating more than SR 150 billion of remittances sent from the Kingdom in 2016, a top Saudi banker has ranked the country as one of the top remittance sending nations in the world. The bulk of the remittances have been sent to different countries by about 10.5 million foreign workers amid predictions that the money transfers will be slightly lower in 2017 compared to last year. It is reported that India, Pakistan and Yemen are the top recipients of remittances sent from Saudi Arabia.

Islamic Finance Sees Growth

In today’s connected world of business, Islamic finance is a concept that people working in the banking and finance industries are likely to come across in their careers. Islamic finance, despite its label, is not limited to Muslim countries, it has shown growth globally, including in Europe. Today, Islamic finance assets worldwide are projected to grow to USD3.5 trillion by 2021, from USD2 trillion. There are 622 institutions providing Islamic finance courses worldwide, and 201 provide Islamic finance degrees according the report.

Abusing Right of Divorce

The Imam of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah warned men against blackmailing their wives and of abusing their right to divorce, according to the Al Riyadh daily newspaper. Speaking at his Friday sermon, Imam Saleh Al-Badeir criticized men over using the threat of divorce and deemed such behavior impermissible in Islam. He labeled it a bad habit that Muslims should avoid. The marriage contract obliges couples to treat each other decently, the Imam said. He said Muslims must be patient, as few find a flawless spouse. The trick is in overlooking the bad traits in each other in order for life to go on. He also advised wives to control their behavior, obey their husbands and avoid constant debates.

EGYPT

Islamic Architecture

Cairo, known as the ‘Mother of the World,’ has one of the largest concentrations of Islamic architectural treasures. And Islamic art is one of the best means of understanding the heart of Islam. Islamic art is essentially derived from Tawhid, or divine unity. Arabic calligraphy, where it pertains to the writing of the Word of God, and Qur’anic psalmody – the chanting of it – stand at the top of the hierarchy of arts and architecture, with mosques coming immediately after. The American University in Cairo Press has recently published “The Mosques of Egypt,” a magnificent celebration of Egypt’s rich Islamic architectural heritage. The reader is given a guided tour of the country’s most historic mosques, mausoleums, Madrasas(religious schools), Mihrabs (niches in the wall of a mosque indicating the direction of the prayer toward Makkah) and minarets. This overview, spanning 1,200 years, highlights the rich sequence of Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, Ottoman, and modern styles. The Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo was begun in 876CE and finished in 879CE. When you catch the first glimpse of the Ibn Tulum Mosque, you are struck by its solemn majesty, with its massive crenellated brick walls emerging from the bedrock and interspersed with huge doorways. The oldest mosque in Cairo is the Mosque of Amr b. al-Aas, built in less than ten years after the passing away of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), when the new religion of Islam came to Egypt in 639CE with the army of Amr b. al-Aas. The Mosque of Amr is, thus, a memorial to early Islam, the Arab conquest, and the beginning of a new era in the history of Egypt. It is unique among the early mosques of Cairo, because it is still very popular, and people pray there in large numbers on Fridays.

TURKEY

Yusuf Islam thanks Turkish President for UK Mosque

British musician, Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, met Turkey’s leader and thanked the country for its support for a mosque being built in Britain’s university town of Cambridge. Islam, 68, recorded several major hits as Cat Stevens in the late 1960s and 1970s. He embraced Islam at the height of his fame in 1977. The Abu Bakr Jamia Mosque in Cambridge will have room for up to 1,000 worshippers and is due to open in 2018. Islam previously met with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,who was then Prime Minister, in August 2013 in a bid to get financial support for the Cambridge mosque. Islam also praised Turkey’s ‘incredible’ handling of the refugee crisis. Ankara says it is home to over 2.7 million Syrian refugees and 300,000 Iraqi refugees.

GAMBIA

Commitment to Support

Mansour Mukhtar, Vice President for sector operations for the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB),said the Bank has several capacity-building and technical assistance programs, including through its Reserve Linkage Project,in which Gambia can benefit to complement its financing activities. IDB officials said they are committed to supporting development in Gambia. President of Gambia, Adama Barrow, has lauded efforts exerted by the Islamic Development Bank for supporting his country in the field of development projects.

CAMEROON

Delegation Visits Kingdom

A Cameroon delegation visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to hold talks with Saudi authorities and make arrangements for this year’s Haj pilgrimage. The spokesperson said that the delegation, which discussed with Saudi authorities, the country’s quota for this year, signed for 4,500 pilgrims although its regular quota is 10,000. The delegation also signed agreements on housing in Makkah and Madinah, transportation, as well as food catering with local firms.

MOROCCO

Blast Wilders for Anti-Morocco Remarks

Muslim organizations in the Netherlands criticized disparaging comments about Moroccans made by anti-Islam law-maker, Geert Wilders, but say they are just the latest in a long string of insults. Wilders criticized Moroccan youth for making the Netherlands unsafe,although he qualified the comments by saying they did not apply to all Moroccans. Wilders has a long history of criticizing Islam and Moroccans who, he says, are responsible for a disproportionate amount of street crime in the Netherlands.

GERMANY

Battle Against all Muslims

German Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, warned recently against turning the fight against Daesh into a battle against all Muslims. We should take care not to turn this fight into a front against Islam and Muslims, in general, according to the text of her speech, in a thinly-veiled warning to the United States. US President, Donald Trump, said that he would issue a new executive order to replace his controversial directive suspending travel to the United States by citizens of seven mostly-Muslim countries.

Islam Not Source of Terror

Islam itself is not the source of terrorism, said German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, during a speech at the Munich Security Conference where US Vice President, Mike Pence, was in the audience. She added that it was crucial to include Muslim countries in the fight against terrorism. “The joint fight against Islamic terrorism is one area where we have the same interests and we can work together,” Merkel said. She renewed a call for Islamic religious authorities to speak clear words on the demarcation of peaceful Islam and terrorism in the name of Islam.

HOLLAND

Dutch Vote Launch

Geert Wilders launched his election campaign promising to crack down on ‘Moroccan scum,’who, he said, were  making the streets unsafe and with his urging the Dutch to ‘regain’ their country with a vote for his anti-Muslim , anti-EU Freedom Party. His campaign includes a ban on Muslim immigration, shuttering down of all mosques and of Muslims leaving the EU. But social policies were more important to many of his supporters waiting to see him in Spijkenisse’s market.

SPAIN

Curious About Islamic Finance

Spain is one of the countries curious about Islamic finance. One of its top business schools, IE Business School, based in Madrid, has a center that teaches and researches Islamic Finance. “There is a lack of knowledge in Islamic Finance. Everybody is looking, but no one is pushing yet,”says the General Coordinator at the Saudi-Spanish Center for Islamic Economics and Finance (SCIEF). He also told Arab News that, “We are trying to spread knowledge of Islamic Finance in Spain, and to reach out to all players to explain to them what Islamic Finance is, its potential in Spain.” Spain is yet to start adopting Islamic finance and banking due to the small number of Muslims in the country and the lack of knowledge about it. Being a country with a small Muslim minority – 4% of the population, as of 2015 – having a religious label can be a barrier.

AUSTRIA

Ban on Face Veil

Austria plans to ban the Muslim face-veil in public places, the centrist coalition government said, as it announced a package of policies aimed at countering the growing appeal of the far-right Freedom Party. “We believe in an open society that is also based on open communication. Full body veils in public places stand against that and will, therefore, be prohibited,” said the text of the coalition agreement. The term used would apply to the burka and niqab, which cover all, or most, of the face. The party has called for a ban on ‘fascistic Islam,’ and Muslim symbols comparable to an existing law that forbids Nazi symbols. Mainly Catholic, Austria is home to around 600,000 Muslims in a total population of about 8.7 million.

BOSNIA – HERZEGOVINA

Green Hills and Minarets

The Balkan nation has plenty of ancient Muslim heritage and is attracting more and more Arab visitors. The centuries of Ottoman rule have left behind a huge Islamic heritage for Muslim travellers to explore. In Sarajevo, there is the Gazi Husrev Beg complex, which contains the city’s grandest mosque – one of the finest examples of Ottoman mosque architecture in the century. Gazi Husrev Beg is just one of many figures that make up Bosnia’s proud Muslim heritage.What makes traveling to such places so easy for a Muslim tourist in Bosnia and Herzegovina is that almost everywhere you go, you find Muslims halaal food, prayer facilities and increasingly someone who speaks Arabic. At the same time, Bosnia is also experiencing a revival in Islamic education. More and more young people are graduating in Islamic studies here now and more people are giving their children an Islamic education.

UNITED KINGDOM

Leading Hub for Islamic Finance

Being home to three million Muslims, according to the Office of National Statistics in 2016, the UK is a leading hub for the Islamic finance industry in Europe. It also has a fully Shariah-compliant retail bank, Al-Rayan Bank (formerly Islamic Bank of Britain). Britain is today the leading center for Islamic finance in the West, including British higher education institutions leading the non-Muslim world in the teaching of Islamic finance. The UK’s Islamic finance industry is well positioned. As the country looks beyond the EU, there’s an opportunity to align the UK with investors and partners from other Islamic hubs, namely the Gulf and Malaysia, which is already happening. Europe’s tallest building – the 95-storied Shard skyscraper marking London’s landscape – was financed through Shariah-complaint instruments. Muslims and non-Muslims are looking for an alternative that promises and delivers on ethical values.

UNITED STATES

Active in Politics

A Massachusetts-based non-profit organization is launching a nation-wide campaign to get more Muslim Americans involved in local politics. Jetpac.Inc, is focused on training Muslim Americans to leverage social media,data analysis and other critical tools to build winning political campaigns for city council, school committee and other down ballot races. A separate, non-profit political action committee is also looking to raise money for Muslim candidates. Shaun Kennedy, Jetpac Inc’s Executive Director, said the Muslim American community is far behind other minority groups in political organization.

Feels Calmness When Reading Qur’an

Hollywood actress, Lindsay Lohan, has revealed in detail her relationship with Islam on an Arabic TV show. Lohan has been reported as saying that she was going through a lot and the Qur’an has been “a solace and safe thing for me to have.” She informed the TV host that she has prayed the Islamic way and has fasted during the holy month of Ramadan. The 30-year-old actress said she has read fifteen pages from the Holy Qur’an in English, and that she practices writing some of the verses in Arabic as well. She said that she listens to the Qur’an on her mobile phone, using an app, and she“feels calmness,”while listening.

[Compiled By: Syed Nehal Zaheer]