Flashes from the Muslim World

AFGHANISTAN

First Women’s Police Town

To encourage more women to join the police force in this deeply conservative and male-dominated society, Afghanistan has launched a housing project for female officers. Women’s Police Town was inaugurated in Kabul and is funded by international donors with Canada providing USD26 million for its first place. This is the first such project for female police in the history of Afghanistan.

BANGLADESH

Rohingya List Finalized for Repatriation

Bangladesh’s government is finalizing a list of 10,000 Rohingya refugees whom it wants repatriated to Myanmar. The list will be given to Myanmar for verification during the next meeting in Dhaka. Myanmar is building new camps with small rooms to keep the Rohingya families who will be repatriated. These camps are surrounded by a strong fence guarded round the clock by the military. They have kept more than 100,000 Rohingya this way since 2016. So the refugees won’t be interested to go back to Myanmar to live a confined life in camps.

Re-Sanctioning of Myanmar

The International community should re-impose sanctions on Myanmar for its mass-killing, genocide, and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s foreign affairs adviser, Gowher Rizvy, said in Dhaka recently. He was speaking at the just concluded international conference in Dhaka University. Foreign policy experts and diplomats from eleven countries – including India, Thailand, the US, the UK, Sweden, Singapore, Malaysia and Bangladesh – participated in the conference. Munshi Faej Ahmed, Chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies told Arab News that it is the international community’s responsibility to bring to justice those who have committed grave human rights violations. Bangladesh’s priority is repatriation of the Rohingya with dignity.

Reject Myanmar Offer

Repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar will begin as soon as possible, the country’s Minister for Relief and Resettlement, Win Myat Aye, said during a tour of refugee camps in Bangladesh. “We can overcome all difficulties,” the Minister said as he concluded a two-day visit to the country. The Minister promised Rohingya refugees they would be provided with national verification cards (NVC) on their return to Myanmar. However, refugees rejected the NVC idea and reiterated their demands for Myanmar citizenship. The Myanmar government has verified only 700 people from a first list of 8,000 Rohingyas provided by Bangladesh for verification. A second list of 10,000 Rohingyas will be handed over to Myanmar this month.

MALAYSIA

Finalizes Refinery Deal

Saudi Aramco finalized a deal with Malaysian state energy company, Petroliam National Berhad (Petronas), to invest in a refinery project off Malaysia. The Saudi oil giant agreed in February last year to buy a USD 7 billion stake in Petronas Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project, but the issue was then delayed by ‘technical issues.’  RAPID is USD27 billion project located between the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea, a conduit for Middle East oil and gas bound for China, Japan and South Korea. Refinery operations are set to begin in 2019, with petrochemical operations to follows 6-12 months afterward.

PHILIPPINES

War is Not an Option

The leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has promised the rebel group will not return to violence in its struggle to win self-determination for the Bangsamoro people. MILF Chair, Al Hajj Ebrahim Murad told Arab News, “War is not an option. The real solution to the problem in Mindanao is political.” Murad met the President and he promised that he will do his best in order to push forward the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).The BBL came out of a 2014 agreement between the government and the MILF that recognizes the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people. Despite the delay, the MILF leadership remains hopeful that the Bill, will be passed by Congress in May or before President Duterte’s next address to the nation in July.

Forces in Southern Area

The leader of a Muslim separatist organization in the southern Philippines said it welcomes the continued presence of US forces in Mindanao to help the government in its campaign against violence extremist groups. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman, Al Haj Ebrahim Murad, acknowledged the help being extended by the Americans to communities in the region. “As long as they don’t do anything that creates a problem for our people, we don’t mind them,” he told Arab News. US forces are quite visible in the island provinces of Mindanao and we don’t oppose their presence, but they cannot intervene in government policy, Murad said.

Willing to Take Rohingya Refugees

Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, said he is willing to accept Rohingya refugees, but “we should split it with Europe.” He said he believes genocide is taking place in Myanmar, and criticized the international community for its inability to solve the problem. “We the Philippines don’t share Myanmar’s policies or views on Rohingya,” the political analyst told Arab News. Due to the humanitarian situation that has evolved, the Philippine government has to pitch in.

BAHRAIN

Discovers Biggest Oilfield

Bahrain has discovered the country’s biggest oil field in decades, located off the west coast of the country. The light shade oil and gas resource represents the largest discovery in the country since 1932, the BNA state news agency reported. Further details on the find are expected to emerge at a press conference in Manama. Bahrain relies on the Abu Safa oilfield, which it shares with Saudi Arabia, for most of its oil. The new resource is forecast to contain highly significant quantities of tight oil and deep gas, understood to dwarf Bahrain’s current reserves. Bahrain has been among the most exposed of the Gulf states to a sustained decline in global oil prices since mid 2014.

SAUDI ARABIA

Combat Extremist Ideologies

Saudi Arabia is revamping its education curriculum to eradicate any trace of Muslim Brotherhood influence and will dismiss anyone working in the sector who sympathizes with the banned group, the education minister said. Promoting a more moderate form of Islam is one of the promises made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Earlier this month, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS, in an interview, that Saudi schools have been ‘invaded’ by elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated by Saudi Arabia as a terrorist organization along with other militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh. The crown prince has already taken some steps to loosen social restrictions, scaling back the role of religious morality police, permitting public concerts and announcing plans to allow women to drive.

Winners of 2018 King Faisal Prize

King Salman honored five winners of the King Faisal Prize during a ceremony in Riyadh. The prize launched by the King Faisal Foundation in 1979, recognizes outstanding work by individuals and institutions in five categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic language and literature, Medicine and Science. The Foundation aims to benefit Muslims now, and in future, by inspiring them to participate in all aspects of civilization, and to enrich human knowledge and development. Professor Irwandi Jaswir from Indonesia, is the winner of the prize for service to Islam. Professor Bashar Awad Marouf received the award for Islamic studies.

Bigger in Scale, Bigger in Efficiency

King Abdul Aziz International Airport, which will open in May 2018, has some important features to help overcome several problems faced by passengers. The new airport will be the largest in the world and the busiest of all airports during the Hajj. The new airport will have a complex of travel halls, with an area of 810,000 square meters, allowing all the air carriers to operate under one roof. The new airport features a 136 meters high observation tower – one of the highest in the world. The airport is known for its Hajj terminal, which is specially built for Islamic pilgrims going annually to Makkah and can handle 80,000 passengers at a time. The airport contains a mosque that can accommodate 3,000 worshippers with an outside courtyard for prayer at an area of 2,450 square meters, in addition to an upper floor as women’s prayer area that will accommodate about 700.

Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum

This museum in Jeddah, which includes a mosque and the façade of the castle, is the home of Saudi Arabian Islamic and world heritage. The museum not only presents the rich Islamic cultural heritage of the city but also its pre-Islamic history which goes back 2,500 years, it traces the various civilizations that inhabited the region. Located in the downtown district, the museum boasts a large collection of items and artifacts belonging to the Ottoman Turks and the fisherman tribes who were the first inhabitants of the region.

Rejection of all Forms of Extremism

The Muslim World League (MWL) is using all of its academic and ideological resources to confront the evil forces that threaten the global safety of humanity, according to Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the organization’s Secretary-General. He was speaking at the just-concluded conference on communal safety, organized by the MWL, in collaboration with the Jordan-based Global Forum for Moderation. The attendees included dozens of political figures, researchers and scholars from 35 countries. Al Issa criticized the two extremes the world is witnessing: “the extremism wrongly labelled as Islam, and the opposite extremism known as Islamophobia.” He added that extremisms feed off each other, and benefit from each other’s recklessness.

Slams Israel for Gaza Aggression

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) has condemned Israel’s ongoing aggression against peaceful Palestinian protesters, as well as media and medical personnel, along the Israeli-Gaza border. Israeli forces have killed at least 32 Palestinians and injured more than 1,000 over the past week. For the second Friday in a row, Israel used live ammunition against unarmed protesters. The IPHRC said it holds Israel solely responsible for the criminal use of force.

Investment Top USD21.3BN

Saudi Arabia has emerged as one of the top destinations for French investment, estimated at more than SR80 billion (USD21.3 billion), according to a new report. Saudi Aramco is set to sign eight deals worth USD10 billion, Al Arabiya reported. There are 179 French licensed projects in Saudi Arabia, covering a range of sectors. France has been keen and investing in Saudi Arabia, a move which will bring technology and wealth, and create jobs for the country’s youth.

Friday Sermon of Makkah

During his Friday sermon, the Head of the Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, decried those who encourage sedition in Islamic societies and distort the image of Islam as a religion of bloodshed and violence. He urged worshippers to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) and his way of life. God created mankind primarily so it may know its Creator, and the Prophet is the best of His creations, Al-Sudais said.

Urged to Protect Young People’s Future

The Muslim world must provide a framework for its young people to realize their ambitions and serve their homelands, the Saudi Olympic Committee’s Assistant Director of International Relations, told an OIC forum in the Azerbaijan capital, Baku. He urged member states to develop national policies, action plans and programs to protect the rights of young people, and improve their economic and social life, their education and their ability to take part in the decision-making process.

Boost Religious Ties

Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), and Cardinal Jean Lious Tauran, President of the Pontificial Council for Interfaith Dialogue at the Vatican, have signed a cooperation agreement on achieving common objectives. Tauran praised the efforts of the MWL in leading initiatives to strengthen relationships and build bridges between religions. The agreement emphasized the need for promoting dialogue in a world that has become more versatile in terms of race, religions and cultures.

YEMEN

Half a Million Students Drop Out

Close to half a million Yemeni children have dropped out of school since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the country’s civil war, UNICEF said recently. That brings the number of children without access to education to two million, as minors are increasingly recruited in the fighting, according to the UN children’s agency. An entire generation of children in Yemen faces a bleak future because of limited or no access to education. Teachers have not been paid in more than a year amid a crisis that has seen Yemen – long the Arab world’s poorest country – reach the brink of official famine.

SUDAN

IDB Grants Aid

A grant agreement worth USD63.3 million for the establishment of facilities and services in South Darfur, Western Sudan, was signed by the Islamic Development Bank, IDB. Fluctuations on the foreign currency black market forced the Sudanese central bank to twice devalue the pound since January. Founded in 1973, the IDB is a Jeddah-based multilateral development financing institution. It began its activities in 1975. The present membership of the bank consists of 57 countries. The IDB is engaged in a wide range of specialized and integrated activities such as projects financing in the public and private sectors, and boosting economic and trade cooperation among member countries.

 

NIGERIA

Supporting Rural Health

Bill Gates acknowledged how much help the experience of the Muslim World League (MWL) in developmental health would be for his foundation’s future projects in Nigeria. He also expressed his admiration for the work of the MWL’s health center in N’Djamena, capital of Chad. During his visit to the Center, the founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation highlighted the medical efforts, the family care and childcare programs the Center provides for the poor and the sick in the city, and praised the MWL for establishing the International Islamic Relief Organization, one of the best international organizations working on developmental and rural health.

OIC Condemns Heinous Attacks

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has condemned, in the strongest terms, the suicide attacks around Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, by suspected members of Boko Haram which led to the deaths of at least 29 people. OIC Secretary-General, Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, described the attacks a heinous criminal act and reaffirmed the OIC’s support for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, its leadership, its people, in their war against terrorism and violent extremism.

TURKEY

To Absorb Quarter of Top Students

Nearly a quarter of top-performing students entering Turkish upper schools are expected to be placed in religious Imam Hatip schools, the education  minister said, a level which secular critics say unfairly prioritizes Islamic education. The top 10% students currently in their final year of middle school are set to win places in selected schools under a new entrance exam system in June. President of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, has said one of his goals is to forge a pious generation in largely-Muslim Turkey and the number of pupils at Imam Hatip schools rose to 1.3 million in the last six years.

AZERBAIJAN

OIC – Sports Conference in Baku

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) concluded the fourth session of the Islamic Conference of Youth and Sports Ministers (ICYSM) in Baku, Azerbaijan. The theme was ‘Solidarity in Action for Youth Development.’ The ICYSM will review the draft OIC Youth Strategy for adoption. It urges OIC member states to develop national policies and action plans that guarantee the protection of youth rights, improve their lives economically, socially and educationally.

CANADA

Muslim Rap Duo Create ‘Halal’ Remix of Havana

Canada based Muslim hip-hop duo Dean Squad released their latest track last week – a Muslim remix of Camila Cabello’s hit song ‘Havana,’ that they have repurposed in praise of Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Madinah. “My only role model is the Prophet/ Better recognize his name is Muhammad,” the lyrics read, “I would be lost if I didn’t find him/ I would be lost and so misguided.” Since the duo shared the video for the track on Facebook [recently], it has been viewed over two million times.

FRANCE

Demand to Get Tough on Security

Most French people want Muslims suspected of harboring extremist views detained if they appear on spy agency watchlists and would back a ban on radical Islam, two polls showed after latest deadly attack in France.  Right wing opponents of President Macron have demanded the President to get tough on security and suggest there would be widespread public support for steps targeting mosques and Imams preaching hate, as well as foreigners deemed a threat. An Odoxa poll published showed 87% wanted people suspected of religious radicalization to be put in detention and 88% favored banning Salafist Islam. France, a traditionally Catholic nation, formally separated church and state a century ago and strict secularism is the official rule. The country has Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities.

UNITED KINGDOM

Europe’s First Eco-Mosque

Green is the color of Islam and also the color that symbolizes eco-friendly sustainable living. A building in construction in Cambridge seeks to marry both in what will be Europe’s first eco-mosque. The mosque is ten years in the making and has tested the ingenuity of architects and engineers. But it is on track to open in early 2019 not only as a place of prayer but also a space for teaching and welcoming people of all faiths. “It is a place for the whole community, not just Muslims,” said Tim Winter, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Cambridge University. According to the last census in 2011, Cambridge is home to 8,000 Muslims. At last count, there were 100,000 Muslim converts in Britain. Cambridge has five mosques, but none is purpose-built and all are too small. This eco-friendly mosque will have a prayer hall holding 1,000 worshippers, the Complex will have a restaurant, teaching spaces, a room for weddings, an exhibition area for local artists (of any faith) and two four bedroomed apartments for a resident Imam and the Center’s Director. At the rear of the building, will be a fully fitted mortuary for those taking their last journey, and another garden with play area for children.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]