Flashes from the Muslim World

AFGHANISTAN

OIC Reaffirms Support for Peace

Ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali, the Permanent Representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Kabul, met with Afghan leaders regarding the peace process, inter-Afghan dialogue and negotiations with the Taliban. Botsali met with Afghan’s foreign ministry officials and the Presidential advisers to reiterate the OIC’s firm commitment to lasting peace, stability and development in Afghanistan.

BANGLADESH

Aspirations, Challenges and Milestones

Bangladesh has undergone a remarkable transformation in the 48 years since gaining independence and disproved many predictions. People dismissed the newborn country as an economic basket-case, unable to survive on its own. Now, almost half a century later, Bangladesh has not just survived, it has made remarkable progress in ways that have eluded other nations. It is forecast that Bangladesh will be the world’s 28th largest economy by 2030 and the 23rd largest by 2050. The government has undertaken a number of mega projects to be implemented in the next ten years to overcome infrastructure challenges, including a nuclear power plant, an elevated expressway, a deep sea port, and a metro railway in the capital.

Plans to Relocate Rohingyas

The United Nations is making plans to help Bangladesh relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote island off its coast, documents seen by Reuters show, a move opposed by many refugees and that some human rights experts fear could spark a new crisis. At present the camp at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, is home to more than one million Rohingya – members of a Muslim minority who have fled neighboring Myanmar. Humanitarian and human rights groups have criticized the relocation proposal, saying that the island is flood-prone, vulnerable to frequent cyclones and could be completely submerged during a high tide.

MALAYSIA

Will Buy Chinese Planes if Europe Bans Palm Oil

Malaysia will buy planes from China if the European Union (EU) goes ahead with a ban on palm oil, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed said at the launch of a charm offensive to persuade people to back the controversial crop. He said the block had been unfair on Malaysia and other palm oil producing countries because of its preferential treatment of soy based and vegetable based oils made by EU countries. Mahathir said 600,000 people stood to lose their livelihoods if palm oil estates were to shut. Malaysia is the second largest palm oil producer after Indonesia.

SRI LANKA

Condemns Bomb Carnage

Saudi Arabia joined in global revulsion and condemnation after eight devastating bomb blasts in Sri Lanka.  Saudi Arabia condemned attacks in Sri Lanka and offered condolences and sympathy to the victims’ families.  It is essential that the international community cooperate against terrorism, which threatened peace and stability, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

SAUDI ARABIA

Rewarding Services to all of Humanity

Prince Turki al-Faisal’s father, the late King Faisal, was a beacon of aspiration and hope. During his reign, the first girls’ schools were introduced, and he focused on educating the Saudi population, as a whole, to promote peace. The King Faisal Foundation was founded by King Faisal’s sons and daughters to commemorate his memory and vision. The versatility of Islam is celebrating knowledge for all nationalities. As of today, the Foundation has awarded prizes to 265 King Faisal Prize laureates and 21 laureates (who have also won a Nobel Prize) from 43 nationalities and four prize categories.

Muslim Women’s Day

The hashtag #MuslimWomenDay was trending on Twitter as the date marks the third annual Muslim Women’s Day campaign. This year’s campaign is under the theme: “Muslim Women Talk Back to Immigrant Life.” It aims to center the voices of Muslim women impacted by Trump’s wall and immigration policies, DACA, the refugee crisis and beyond. This annual campaign began three years ago by MuslimGirl.com as a call to action to media partners, organizational friends and allies to empower Muslim women by pledging to center their voices for the day.

Cut Off Funds to Fight Terror

Cutting of funds to extremists is the most important aspect of tackling them, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN has told the Security Council. Abdallah al-Mouallimi highlighted the Kingdom’s own experiences in fighting Al-Qaeda and Houthi militias in Yemen where, he said, the drying-up of sources and funding had proved highly effective in stifling various groups, as opposed to relying solely on military engagements.

Arab Nations Facing Serious Challenges over Food Security

Arab countries must pay serious attention to improving the management of water and land resources to reduce the food gap in the region, a senior agriculture official has warned. Food security was one of the major challenges facing the region’s agricultural sector, said the Director-General of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD), Ibrahim al-Dekhairi. Speaking recently at the 49th meeting of the AOAD’s executive council, which was concluded in Jeddah, he stressed that despite making significant strides more work needed to be done to address the issue.

To Donate 6,500 tons of Dates Worldwide

Saudi Arabia has gifted thousands of dates to countries around the world in the run up to Ramadan. A total of 6,500 tons of dates, well-known for their nutritional value, will be sent out to 43 different countries to support food requirements as the month of fasting approaches. The Kingdom will be distributing 6,500 tons of dates to 43 states, including 4,000 tons that will be distributed through the World Food Program to fourteen states, and 2,500 tons that will be distributed to 29 governments. Saudi Arabia has provided USD86 billion worth of aid to 80 different nations.

Visits Historical Sites in Madinah

Group 14 of the Two Holy Mosques Guests Program, organized by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, toured the historical sites of Madinah. 225 pilgrims from 27 countries visited the Quba Mosque, the Cemetery of the Uhud Martyrs, Rumah Mountain, and the King Fahd Glorious Qur’an Printing Complex, where they were introduced to the various stages of printing and received copies of the Mushaf as souvenirs.

Energy Conservation at the Mosque

Sultan Batterjee Holding Company participated in the Earth Hour this year by launching an initiative of its own – ‘Green Mosque’ – to spread awareness about energy conservation and sustainability. The program is in line with the company’s corporate social responsibility strategy, company staff visited the Omar bin Abdul Aziz Mosque in Jeddah’s al-Salamah District, where they heard an awareness talk about Earth Hour. Participants then replaced the existing interior and exterior lighting in the mosque with LED lighting to save energy. The internal air quality of the mosque was improved by installing a cupboard for shoes at the gate of the mosque.

Makkah’s Grand Mosque Bridges to Study Groundwater

The Director of the Zamzam Studies and Research Center (ZSRC) said its geologists are studying the geological structure of the pedestrian bridges connected to Makkah’s Grand Mosque to ensure they do not affect the flow of groundwater. Samer Schuman said work is being carried out to reduce the height of Jabal al-Kaabah and Umm al-Qura roads, which lead to the Grand Mosques, to ensure they do not affect the Ibrahim Valley Basin, which feeds the Zamzam well. The ZSRC employs advanced digital modelling technology to obtain an interactive 3D image that helps understand the interrelationship between the foundations of these projects and the movement of groundwater at the site.

Eager to Tap Market for Halal Products

Saudi Arabia is aiming to tap into a multi trillion dollar global market for halal food and related products. The Kingdom, along with other Middle Eastern countries, is looking to develop business links with Malaysia which has become one of the world leaders in the halal industry. World halal industry chiefs concluded the conference served up their ambitious plans for a global expansion of the USD2.1 trillion food-market. The rise of the halal industry globally has seen Malaysia build a strong and inter-connected halal eco-system, with government agencies handling certification and the country hosting major halal businesses and international exhibitions.

Spreading Moderate Islam Stressed

Saudi Arabia’s mission is the message of peace, security, and stability to all the peoples of the world, Sheikh Abdullah bin Awad al-Juhani, the Imam of the Grand Mosque said. Al-Juhani stressed the importance of the media in spreading the Islamic call, and highlighting the true image of moderate Islam, which fights extremism and terrorism.

Sheikh Abdullah Awad al-Juhani

Sheikh Abdullah Awad al-Juhani has been an Imam at the Grand Mosque in Makkah since 2007. Al-Juhani was born in Madinah, and completed memorizing the Qur’an under the supervision of Sheikh Mohammed Ayub, former Imam of the Prophet’s Mosque. At the age of sixteen, he participated in a competition for the memorization and recitation of the Qur’an and came first in his category. Al-Juhani holds a bachelor’s degree in Qur’anic studies from the Islamic University of Madinah, and a master’s and doctorate in Shariah and Qur’anic recitations from Umm al-Qura University in Makkah. He has led the Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan in Makkah since 2008.

Al-Sudais Highlights Importance of Education in Islam

Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Sudais, the General President for the affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, has reminded students about the importance of education in Islam and the challenges faced by the youth. His lecture at the Northern Borders University was broadcast to students in Rafha, Turaif, and al-Uwayqilah provinces. Al-Sudais stressed the importance of getting information from trusted and truthful sources, and of not believing rumors and falsehoods that seek to distort the image of Islam and the Kingdom. He urged students to shield themselves against extremism and misleading thoughts, thus protecting the religion, the homeland, its security and its achievements from extremism.

Efforts to Improve Pilgrim Experience Highlighted

Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin, the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, told guests during a cultural evening at Al-Ahsa Literary Club about the efforts to expand and improve the services the Kingdom provides to pilgrims.  Bentin said his Ministry is the first point of contact and communication between Muslims and the organizations that provide Hajj and Umrah services around the world, and that new projects are continuously being implemented to provide pilgrims with the best possible services.

Third Mosque Discovered during Excavations

A third mosque has been discovered during excavations at the site of ancient mining colonies at Al-Abla in Bisha, in the Asir region of Saudi Arabia. The discovery was made by a team from the Department of Archeology and Museums at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH). “The excavation kicked off at the façade of the mosque, which has an area of 2,616 square meters, where we discovered walls of stone covered with white plaster,” said Abdullah al-Aklabi, the head of the excavation team. The site bears witness to the economic activity of the ancient southern kingdoms of Arabia, a role that thrived during the peak of trade by the Quraish, a tribe of merchants in Makkah.

Promote Culture of Reading

Muslim countries must do more to promote books and reading, the Saudi Press Agency reported one of the world’s largest Islamic organizations as saying. The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), which was founded by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation 40 years ago, called on Muslim countries to improve the publishing industry, provide copyright protection, and preserve manuscripts by digitizing them so that current and future generations could benefit from them. ISESCO said that knowledge and science in Muslim communities soared when printing was discovered, adding that proper books would remain a pillar of culture and a driver for development because civilization was founded on the discovery of writing.

Elected as President of LIU

The League of Islamic Universities (LIU) elected Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) as President at its 11th General Conference. LIU was established in 1969 and includes the largest universities from around the world. LIU is working to overcome the challenges facing the Muslim world particularly extremist ideology.

EGYPT

UN Chief Denounces Hate Speech

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, denounced hate speech and racism in a landmark address at Al-Azhar in Cairo. Guterres was welcomed to Al-Azhar by the Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb. The Imam said Al-Azhar carried a universal message of peace and played a significant role in fighting terrorism. Hate speech is entering the mainstream, spreading like wild fire through social media and radio, the UN chief said at the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution. “In this time of difficulties and division, we must stand together and protect each other. Nothing justifies terrorism and it becomes particularly hideous when religion is invoked. We must uphold and promote human dignity and universal human rights.”

SYRIA

Yellow Man Eyeing Entry into Guinness Book of Records

Dressed in yellow from head to toe, Abu Zakkour is hailed as part of the ‘heritage’ of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, along with its medieval citadel and its ancient covered markets. For nearly 36 years, the 70-year-old has strictly abided by a full monochrome look, sporting only yellow apparel and accessories. Now, Aleppo’s so called ‘Yellow Man’ says he is eyeing entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. Abu Zakkour says he has grown accustomed to the fanfare. The widower and father of three lives alone in a small apartment in the city. Here, too, the eye-catching splash of yellow is everywhere.

MOROCCO

Counts Small Christian Community

Islam is the state religion in Morocco, but the country has a small Christian community dating back to Roman times, and kept alive mainly by devotees arriving from sub-Saharan Africa. There are about 3,000 Protestants, while several thousand believers follow other Christian movements according to one expert. More than 90% of the Christians hail from sub-Saharan Africa, and many of them are students drawn by grants for Morocco’s universities. There are also growing numbers of immigrants, who come to Morocco hoping to make their way to Europe across the Mediterranean. Today there are 44 churches, with some 57 priests of about 15 nationalities, led by two bishops in Rabat and Tangiers. Morocco touts its policy of religious tolerance.

14th IDB Global Forum on Islamic Finance

The 14th edition of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Gobal Forum on Islamic Finance discussed unleashing the potential of Islamic finance to develop smart economies for the realization of sustainable developmental goals. The Islamic Forum concluded recently in Marrakesh, Morocco. It was organized by the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) in conjunction with the 44th IsDB Group Annual Meeting. The Forum is a yearly event that discusses ways of harnessing the potential of Islamic finance to address contemporary development issues.

Pope Francis Calls for Greater Interactions

Pope Francis sought to encourage greater interactions between Christians and Muslims in Morocco, telling his flock that showing the country’s Muslim majority they are part of the same human family will help stamp out extremism. He told Catholic priests and nuns that they should engage in dialogue and charity. Pope Francis has stressed a message of Christian-Muslim fraternity during his first visit trip to Morocco, a majority-Muslim nation of 36 million. Catholics represent less than one percent of Morocco’s population and most are foreign born migrants.

TUNISIA

New Drive for Unity and Cohesion

Maintaining unity, cohesion and solidarity in the face of multiple challenges was the focus on Arab League’s summit in Tunis. The Arab–Israeli conflict was at the top of the summit agenda. The agenda also included the war in Syria, developments in Libya and Yemen, a unified Arab stance on the violation of Iraqi sovereignty by Turkish forces and support for peace and development in Sudan.

ALGERIA

Protesters Force Out Another of the Old Guard

Yet another of Algeria’s ‘old guard’ stepped down as protesters again took to the streets demanding wholesale political change. Tayeb Belaiz, 70, quit as head of the constitutional council. He is one of the ‘3B’ leaders targeted by demonstrators in mass rallies that prompted the departure, this month, of long-serving President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Algerians want broader overhaul of the political system. President election is scheduled for July 4, 2019.

TUNIS

Gifts Qur’an to Thousands at Tunis Book Fair

Thousands of copies of the Holy Qur’an have been handed out to visitors flocking to the Kingdom’s pavilion at the 35th Tunis International Book Fair. The children’s corner of the pavilion has also proved a popular attraction, offering story-telling sessions and initiatives aimed at encouraging youngsters to express themselves through drawing and painting. Information was also provided on a range of scholarships offered by the Kingdom to Saudi and foreign students, particularly in the area of science.

TURKEY

Measures against Islamophobia

Muslim nations called for tough international action to combat Islamophobia following the terror attack on two New Zealand mosques. The executive committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), concluded a meeting in Istanbul, expressed its outrage at the recent Christchurch massacre, and deep concern over the resurgence of racist movements and terrorist activities around the world. Foreign ministers attending the emergency session, issued a draft of demands aimed at tackling the scourge of hate-related violence toward Muslims and other minority groups. Ridwaan Jadwat, Australia’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said that this is the time for unity and inclusion. “We must all work together against extremism and take care to ensure our public debates about this horrific incident do not encourage the very divisions between faiths and cultures that extremists seek to create.”

GERMANY

Homegrown Islam Project

Germany has reportedly initiated a campaign to push German Muslims to develop a new interpretation of Islam, the Financial Times reported. “What we need now is an Islam for German Muslims that belongs to Germany,” Markus Kerber, the government representative responsible for relations with the Muslim community under the German Interior Ministry told the Financial Times. The largest Islamic Organization in Germany is the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, which is affiliated to Turkey’s state directorate for religious affairs. Turkey is sending Imams to Germany who are paid by the Turkish government and who are preaching in Turkish in 900 mosques funded by Ankara. Germany has a community of about 4.5 million Muslims worshipping at about 2,400 mosques, and the number is expected to rise with the refugee influx from Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Syria. Germany’s new plan aims to counter foreign influence on the Muslim community and provide homegrown training to all Imams preaching in Germany. Germany’s move intends to further integrate Muslims daily routines into German society, to boost the loyalty of the three million members of the German-Turkish community.

RUSSIA

Sign Deal to Tackle Extremism

Moscow and the Muslim World League (MWL) are to develop closer ties following a meeting between the body’s Secretary-General and the Speaker of the Russian Parliament. Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim al-Issa met Vyacheslav Volodin to discuss dialogue and cultural exchange, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Al-Issa signed a cooperation agreement between the MWL and Moscow’s Fund for Islamic Culture, Science and Education. The agreement focused on tackling extremism and promoting tolerance. It also addressed the interaction between Muslims and Islamic organizations in Russia and Muslim majority countries. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, had earlier said that Islamic world could fully count on Russia’s help and support.

Calls for Enlightened Vision to Tackle Global Issues

Cooperation between nations and peoples depends on civilized leadership and adherence to common values, according to Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL). In a lecture at St. Petersburg State University, al-Issa called on political leaders to show enlightened vision as they seek solutions to national and global issues. The MWL Chief was speaking before Prof. Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of the University, along with teaching staff, academics, researchers and students. St. Petersburg State University, founded in 1724 by Peter the Great, is Russia’s oldest University. Today, the University holds up to 7,000 reference volumes, has more than 6,000 teachers, and teaches 30,000 students in 24 colleges and three pioneering research centers.

Praises MWL Chief’s Humanitarian Role

Valentina Matviyenko, Chairwoman of Russia’s Federation Council, received Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) in Moscow. They discussed the importance of Islam in Russia, and the examples of coexistence and harmony set by the country’s Muslims.  They also discussed positive national integration in societies, and the characteristics that Russia possesses in this regard. Matviyenko described the conference on Islam being organized by the Muslim World League in Russia as historic, and the first of its kind among international conferences hosted by the country. She added that Islam is an important element of Russian culture, as Muslims have contributed throughout history to the country’s growth and rise. Russia was chosen a site of the summit because it has been a model of religious and ethnic harmony in recent years, according to the Muslim World League.

CHECHNYA

Muslims Urged to Address Religious Misconceptions

The Islamic nation has endured the negative and dangerous impact of classification and exclusion, including takfir, said Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, during the Friday sermon at the Grand Mosque in Grozny, Chechnya. The sermon delivered by the Muslim World League Chief was attended by the President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, senior Muftis and scholars, and a large gathering of worshippers. Al-Issa stressed in his sermon that good behavior and common decency are instinctively well-received by all people. The fifth session, held in Grozny, discussed the foundations of religious and ethnic relations in Russia and the country’s relationship with the Islamic world.

TATARSTAN

Met to Sign an Agreement

The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) and the Grand Mufti of Tatarstan signed an agreement to cooperate in the dissemination of moderate Islam and its principles of tolerance and coexistence. They agreed to exchange expertise to achieve common objectives in moderate religious and intellectual issues. The two parties will promote Islamic principles and moderation, and combat extremism and Islamophobia. The two parties will also coordinate teaching and academic research and organize competition to memorize and recite the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah.

Ten Percent of Similarities Enough for World Peace

People need to cooperate on the ten percent of things they have in common to achieve world peace, the Saudi Press Agency quoted the head of the Muslim World League (MWL) as saying. The body’s Secretary-General, Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim al-Issa, was giving a lecture in the southwestern Russia city of Kazan. He said cultural communication was important and so were conversations about religious and national diversity, especially in countries where there were different faiths and ethnicities. He was at Kazan Federal University, in the Republic of Tatarstan, and his audience included faculty members and students. The University employs 11,000 people, 4,000 of whom are academics. It has 47,000 students and one-third of them are from Muslim countries. The University has a Center for Islamic Studies, which seeks to promote Islamic culture and train scholars.

NEW ZEALAND

Leaders Condemns Virus of Hate

Thousands stood in silence in a Christchurch park as the names of 50 people shot dead in two mosques were read out at a national memorial service. Dozens of representatives of governments from around the world attended the remembrance service in Hagley Park, near Al-Noor Mosque. “Our challenge now is to make the very best of us a daily reality. Because we are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. We never have been,” said the Prime Minister of New Zealand, M. Andern, whose handling of the tragedy has won global praise.

UNITED KINGDOM

Mosques Vandalized in Central England

Counter–terrorism officers in central England are investigating attacks on five mosques in which windows were apparently shattered by a sledge hammer. The attacks in Birmingham are being treated as linked. No motive has been established. The incidents in Birmingham come just days after an attacker killed 50 worshippers in two mosques in New Zealand. The attacks prompted many leaders in the UK to reach out to Muslims and offer support and reassurances. British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, says that the Birmingham attacks are deeply concerning. In a tweet, Javid stressed that “hateful behavior has absolutely no place in our society and will never be accepted.”

Exhibition Explores the Heritage and History

A treasure trove of historical photographs and postcards reflecting the rich social and cultural diversity of the Islamic world is currently on show in London in an exhibition organized by the Barakat Trust and Asia House.  The amazing images in ‘Departures: A Photographic Journey through the Islamic World’ range from the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth and were collected over 40 years by Jeddah-based historian, Tarik al-Reze. They capture scenes that are unlikely ever to be encountered again, so rapidly has the world they represent changed over the past century.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

US Move on Occupied Golan Heights

United States President signed the declaration recognizing the Golan as Israeli in a ceremony at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister. The decision overturns decades of US policy, previously aligned with the UN that acknowledged the Golan Heights as Syrian territory. Saudi Arabia, other Arab states and much of the world condemned the US decision to recognize the illegally occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. The US move was also challenged by the European Union, the UK, France, Germany, Austria and Canada. Israel seized the area from Syria in 1967 and annexed it in 1981, in a move not recognized internationally. UNSC resolution 242 stresses the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]