Flashes from the Muslim World

INDIA

Islamic Calligraphy Exhibition

An exhibition showcasing more than 100 pieces of Islamic calligraphy was recently concluded at the Indian Consulate in Jeddah. The Siasat Indian Islamic Calligraphy and contemporary Islamic Art Exhibition “Visual Dhikr” by Younus M. Hafiz was organized by the Consulate General of India in association with Saudi Indian Business Network (SIBN). The event aims to cultivate an interest in learning more about the Indo Islamic calligraphy tradition and that Islamic calligraphy and related art work is in great demand in the international market. The idea was to bring calligraphy back to life and simultaneously generate employment. Calligraphy is an art which involves the coordination of the brain, eyes and hands. It combines knowledge with skill.

CHINA

Cracks Down on Practices

China has announced bans on beards and burkas in its remote violence wrecked Xinjiang region as part of tighter anti extremism regulations that also prohibit refusing to watch government propaganda. Xinjiang is the homeland of the Uighurs – a traditionally Muslim group, many of whom complain of cultural and religious repression and discrimination. The area has been hit by a wave of deadly unrest, while authorities have stepped up already strict controls and organized mass rallies of thousands of military police to indicate Chinese crushing security threats.

Demoted for not Smoking

A Chinese official who allegedly declined to smoke in front of Muslims in Xinjiang has been demoted for taking an unstable political stance, a state-run newspaper reported. Xinjiang, home to China’s Muslim Uighur ethnic minority restricts religious practices – such as growing beards, wearing headscarves, and fasting during Ramadan – that are seen as symbols of Islamic extremism. A notice from the Hotan district government over the weekend accused Jelil Matniyaz, a village-level secretary for the ruling Communist party in the far western region of being afraid to smoke before religious figures.

MALAYSIA

Gets Top Honor in Malaysia

The Secretary-General of the Makkah-based Muslim World League has been awarded Malaysia’s highest royal Medal of Honour as an appreciation for his efforts in promoting moderation. Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League was presented with the medal as a reflection of Malaysia’s appreciation for his work to promote harmony. Al-Issa, who is considered by the Malaysians as one of the most important scholars of Islamic nation, was invited to give a speech on moderation at the Institute of Mediation of the Malaysian Council of Ministers to promote the tolerance among all sects of the society. The University of Science also hosted Al-Issa to give the opening speech on Islamic values of coexistence.

INDONESIA

Visits Istiqlal Mosque

United States Vice President, Mike Pence, toured the biggest mosque in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim majority country, during a visit seen as a bid by his administration to heal divisions with the Islamic world.  The Vice President praised the country’s moderate Islam as an inspiration and visited the Istiqlal Mosque, which can accommodate 200,000 worshippers and whose vast, white dome towers over downtown Jakarta. His visit represents the most high profile outreach to Muslim by the Donald Trump administration since the brash billionaire came to office and echoes a similar trip by Barack and Michelle Obama in 2010. Mike Pence’s Muslim outreach in Indonesia, where 90% of 255 million inhabitants are followers of Islam, has been welcomed locally but it is unlikely to be enough to assuage fears that the Trump administration is anti-Islam.

PHILIPPINES

Signs USD200M Contracts

Qatar and the Philippines have signed trade agreements worth USD200 million during the final leg of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Gulf tour. Manila’s trade and Industry Secretary, Ramon Lopez, said that 6,000 jobs would be created in the Philippines as a result of the thirteen agreements signed, which covered areas such as health, defense and tourism. Some 240,000 Filipinos live in Qatar, and a large majority voted for the president in last year’s election.

QATAR

To Invest USD6.3BN in UK

Qatar will invest USD6.3 billion in Britain over the next few years, the country’s minister of Finance said during a visit to London. Earlier, the head of the Gulf Arab State’s sovereign wealth fund said he still saw opportunities to invest in Britain after it leaves the EU. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), one of the most active of its kind, has stakes in everything from real estate to luxury goods. The QIA has about USD334 billion of assets according to industry tracker Sovereign Wealth Center.

SAUDI ARABIA

Meeting on Cancer Programs

The General Secretariat of the Jeddah based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) recently convened a meeting concerning cancer programs. The meeting, held in Khartoum, Sudan was attended by OIC member states. The meeting reviewed the gaps in funding and mobilized resources for the implementation of priority interventions in the national cancer control programs of OIC member states. The OIC adopted its Strategic Health Program of Action 2014-2023 at the fourth session of the Islamic Conference of Health Ministers, held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in October 2013.

King Faisal International Prize

King Salman presented awards to the winners of the King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) for 2017 at a ceremony attended by princes, senior government officials, academics and scientists. Prince Khaled Al Faisal, Chairman of the KFIP board, presented King Salman with an award for his service to Islam. The monarch then presented prizes to the winners in other categories. The aim is to inspire Muslims to participate in all aspects of  human civilization, as well as enrich human knowledge and develop mankind. Each category prize consists of a certificate, a commemorative 24 carat gold medal and SR750,000.

Women Own a Third of Established Businesses

There has been a significant increase in the proportion of women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia in recent years, according to the 2016/17 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). Women entrepreneurs are catching up really quickly in Saudi Arabia – almost 33% of the owners of established businesses are women, said the director of Babson Global Center for Entrepreneurship Leadership (BGCEL). The GEM study is the largest study of entrepreneurship in the world, with over 1,000 indicators.

IDB Announces Prize Winners

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) said three institutions have won this year’s prizes for science and technology and each will receive USD100,000 and a trophy. The institutions are from Indonesia, Malaysia and Sudan, the Jeddah-based institution said. This is the fifteenth year the prizes have been awarded. This year’s prizes will be awarded at the 42nd annual meeting of the IDB board of governors in Jeddah on May 17-18. Since 2002, the cash prizes have been awarded to institutions in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Senegal, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkey. The Prize was established to promote science and technology excellence and capacity-building in IDB member countries.

Approves USD243M to Combat Poverty

The Lives and Livelihoods Fund (LLF) board of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has approved USD242.6 million to finance several development projects to fight poverty in eight member countries. The projects are in the areas of health, agriculture, and rural infrastructure in Tajikistan, Sudan, Djibouti, Niger, Mauritania, Cameroon, Uganda and Guinea. The board meeting was held to identify projects with the greatest impact in the fight against poverty and disease in Muslim countries and thus contribute to better living standards for beneficiary communities.

SYRIA

Over Five Million Refugees

More than five million Syrians are now refugees, the United Nations said recently, as aid groups urged the international community to end the country’s six year war and provide more assistance. The new figures means around a quarter of Syria’s population has fled since the March 2011 start of a conflict that has killed over 320,000 refugees. The UN refugee agency UNHCR urged more international assistance, with spokeswoman, Cecile Pouilly, calling the figure an ‘important milestone.’ As the number of men, women and children fleeing six years of war in Syria passes the five million marks, the international community needs to do more to help them, UNHCR said in a statement. It is clear that the international community has completely failed to end the conflict in Syria, said Alun McDonald, regional spokesman for Save the Children.

IRAN

Bad Driving a Sin as 700 Die Over New Year

Some 700 people were killed over the Persian New Year on roads in Iran, which are among the deadliest in the world despite religious leaders declaring bad driving a sin. But the horrific loss of life – with more than half a million killed over the past two decades – has led religious leaders to step in. Violating traffic laws is a sin and following these rules is a religious duty, said Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi. He was repeating a declaration he made in 2014, when he said driving while tired and sleepy, illegally passing other cars and running red lights are haraam (forbidden).  Iran is almost alone among middle income countries when it comes to the scale of its road deaths.

DJIBOUTI

IDB to Finance Hospital

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Djibouti recently signed an agreement worth USD77.8 million to finance the construction of a 220-bed general hospital in the African nation’s capital city. The project aims to support to combat disease, promote health and achieve economic and social well-being in Djibouti, the IDB said on its website. The total financing approved by the IDB for Djibouti has reached USD256 million for 56 operations in various sectors of economic and social development.

NIGERIA

Potential Collaboration in Three Areas

The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Nigeria recently discussed potential collaboration in three key areas covering science and technology, innovation and food security. The IDB is scaling up in the area of science and technology. The IDB Vice President added Nigeria has a lot of potential and we want our member countries to make their mark in science and technology. It has been reported that IDB is open to collaboration at both regional and sub-regional levels because if Nigeria gets it right other countries will benefit.

TURKEY

OIC Holds Meeting

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held a workshop and meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, recently to discuss the OIC Islamophobia Observatory’s work in dealing with the rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in the West.  Participants reviewed the OIC Islamophobia Observatory and came up with rules and actions to be undertaken by the observatory in light of the recent rise in Islamophobia, the OIC said in its website. The meeting was successfully organized with the active participation and contribution of 26 OIC member countries, five institutions, six panelists, 33 experts (scholars, journalists and civil societies and three moderators.

GERMANY

Call for Islam Law

The German government says there is no need for new legislation to regulate Islamic organizations in the country.  Members of Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party have called for a ban on foreign funding of Islamic organizations, and for Muslims to get statutory rights to pastoral care from an Imam in prison and hospitals. A government spokesman said that religious freedom is guaranteed by the German constitution. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants in Germany in recent years has rekindled public debates about the country’s relationship with Islam. A recent report by public broadcaster, ARD, found that the Islam preached in some mosques is more conservative than in many Muslim countries.

SPAIN

Cultural Icons Complement

Many of the traits on which modern Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free-trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, various types of medicine, hospitals – all came from this great city of cities: Cordoba. That was a year a Muslim General called Tariq bin Ziyad, at the bequest of the Umayyad Caliph al Walid I, landed on the rock that would thereafter be known as his rock, “Jebel Al-Tariq,” from which derived the modern name Gibraltar. To fully appreciate what was Europe’s one and only Caliphate would probably take a lifetime as the Muslim presence in Iberia lasted more than 700 years.

AUSTRIA

Islamic Kindergartens Irk Far Rights

A debate is raging in Austria after a study suggested that Islamic kindergartens in Vienna were helping to create “parallel societies” or even produce the dangerous homegrown radicals of the future. According to its author, Ednan Aslan, a Turkish-born Austrian professor at Vienna University, some 10,000 children – aged two to six – attend around 150 Muslim pre-schools. Parents are sending their kids to establishments that ensure they are in a Muslim setting. Aslan, a respected researcher into Islamic education, told AFP. But they are unaware that they are shutting them off from a multicultural society, he said. Vienna is home to 1.8 million people, half of whom have a parent born abroad or who were born abroad themselves. Austria, a nation of 8.7 million people has received more than 130,000 asylum applications since 2015 following the onset of the EU’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.

HUNGARY

Court Repeals Village’s Ban on Mosques and Burkas

Hungary’s constitutional Court repealed a ban by a village led by a far-right mayor on the construction of mosques and headscarves like burkas and chadors worn by Muslim women. The village also outlawed the activity of muezzins, and it prohibited any propaganda or activities promoting marriage not exclusively between a man and a woman or which failed to recognize marriage and the parent-child relationship as the bases for family ties. The measures had been in place since November in the village of Asotthalom, on the Serbian border, led by Mayor Laslo Toroczkai of the far-right Jobbik party.

UNITED STATES

To Join California Lieutenant-Governor Race

A Pakistani-born doctor announced that he is joining the 2018 race for Lieutenant-Governor on a platform of saving the Affordable Care Act, providing free community college education and fighting what he termed “Donald Trump’s hate.” “I am a proud Muslim and I love America,” Dr. Asif Mahmood said at a news conference in front of the downtown federal building that houses a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office. The pulmonologist said he came to the United States because he wanted his family to live in a place that celebrates diversity and tolerance. As a first-time candidate, his challenge is to build a statewide coalition, potentially anchored to civil rights. He starts as a virtual unknown and Muslims make up a tiny percentage of people living in California. Mahmood, a Democrat, said he did not think his religion would be an obstacle in a state known for diversity. He supports protecting Obamacare and expanding Medicare to cover everyone. Mahmood said he wants to provide a free community college education and does not support fee hikes, such as the recent California State University tuition increase. “I believe that education is the main asset that any nation can have, any society can have,” he said.

More Births Expected

In recent years, Christians have had more babies than any other religious group worldwide. But by 2035, Muslims are projected to experience the higher birth rate, putting the world’s two largest religions on track to have a near equal share of the global population by 2060, according to a demographic analysis. Muslims have 1.8 billion followers. But a Muslim baby-boom is expected to narrow that gap. By 2060, Muslims are expected to comprise 31% of the world’s population, with nearly three billion people, while Christians will make up about 32% or 3.1 billion people. The new report builds on a Pew study two years ago that found Islam is the world’s fastest growing major faith and, if current demographic trends continue, Muslims could outnumber Christians by the end of the century.

Black Muslims Aim for Unity

Black Muslims often face a two-front challenge, both within the community and the larger American society, said Noor, who worked for Take on Hate, a campaign challenging discrimination against Arabs and Muslims. “You can never be too sure if assaults or micro-aggressions are coming because you’re black, Muslims, or both.” Central to the issue, experts say, is that Islam is largely portrayed as something foreign. That’s a misconception University of San Francisco Professor, Aysha Hidayatullah, encounters when teaching an “Islam in America” class where she looks at Islam’s presence in America from the slave trade to civil rights – something that is a surprise to many of her students. Compared with the general population, US Muslims are more racially diverse with a larger percentage born abroad. There’s a disagreement on how many millions reside in the United States, but it’s commonly accepted that American blacks represent about one third of Muslims in this country.