Flashes from the Muslim World

INDIA

UPSC Civil Service Exam

The final result of Civil Service Examination 2017 has been declared by UPSC. A total of 48 Muslim candidates have secured a post out of 990 vacancies accounting to 4.7%. Sheikh Salman Patel, son of a farmer in a small town in Maharashtra, broke down after getting to know that he cleared the tough civil services exams. Two civil services aspirants from Phulambri town in Aurangabad district cleared the UPSC examination. “We met our expenses by doing farming on two acres of land that we have. I will serve people to the best of my abilities,” Sheikh Salman Patel said. Over 9.5 lakh candidates applied for the first round of examination, out of which 4.5 lakh candidates appeared. UPSC recommended a total of 990 candidates for appointment to various services including IAS, IFS and IPS.

BANGLADESH

OIC Appoints New Officials

The Council of Foreign Ministers of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) decided to appoint Yousif Mohammed Al-Dhubaeyi as the Assistant Secretary-General of political affairs. He is a senior official of the Saudi Foreign Ministry. The OIC at its 45 session held in Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, appointed Ambassador Samir Bakr Diab, a Palestinian official, as the Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine and Al-Quds affairs.

OIC Forms Committee to Handle Rohingya

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) decided to form a ministerial committee to handle and monitor the Rohingya issue internationally. The decision came on the last day of its Council of Foreign Ministers meeting. The committee will collect information and evidence for accountability purposes, and will support UN Organizations, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other NGOs working with Rohingya to sustain international political pressure on Myanmar. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister, A. H. Mahmood Ali, said, “We will come up with a proper formula for the establishment of this committee and this will be circulated by the OIC secretariat later on.”

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Six Best Apps for Learning Arabic

For expatriates in the Gulf – and in other countries where Arabic is the lingua franca – learning to speak and read the language is one way to really connect with the place where you work and live. Learning to speak Arabic seems daunting, but here are some apps that make it easier – and faster – for you to strike up a conversation with your neighbor from Jordan or workmate from Lebanon: (a) Arabic Alphabet by TenbuLogi (b) Learn Arabic – Language Learning App (c) Learn Arabic by 50 Languages (d) Learn Arabic Pharasebook by Codegent (e) English-Arabic Dictionary by Leapile (f) Learn Arabic Language Free by KidsTube.

Receives International Award

The Two Holy Mosques program to care for the Kingdom’s cultural heritage has received the Sharjah International Cultural Heritage award for its achievements. It was described as an unprecedented national program sponsoring projects and efforts related to all aspects of national heritage.

SAUDIA ARABIA

Imam of Makkah Mosque: Abdulrahman Al-Sudais

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais has been Chief of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques since May 8, 2012, and is also the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah. Al-Sudais is a renowned reciter of the Holy Qur’an, a member of the Arabic Language Academy in Makkah and was named ninth annual ‘Islamic Personality of the Year,’ by the Dubai International Holy Qur’an Awards (DIHQA) Organizing Committee in 2005. Al Sudais has a PhD in Islamic Sharia from Umm Al Qura University in 1995 while working there as an Assistant Professor. Earlier, Al-Sudais said Islam has never been, and never will be, a religion of terror or violence because it preserves the individual’s human rights and dignity.

OIC, EU Hold Talks

A delegation from the executive committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held talks in Brussels with EU foreign policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, on the United States decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. OIC Secretary-General, Yousef al-Othaimeen, said the talks come within the framework of mobilizing global support for efforts to launch a political process to end Israel’s occupation, based on UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. He urged countries that do not recognize the state of Palestine to do so with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to support Palestine’s accession to international organizations.

Leads Region in Philanthropy

Saudi Arabia is home to three-quarters of the region’s philanthropic foundations, according to a new report. The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard Kennedy School’s Hauser Institute, with funding from Swiss bank UBS, also found that resources were highly concentrated in certain areas with education the most popular area for investment globally. In recent years, philanthropy has witnessed a major shift. Wealthy individuals, families, and corporations are looking to give more and to give more strategically and to increase the impact of their social investments.

Makkah and Madinah Train by September

The first high speed electric trains between Makkah and Madinah will be running by September. Saudi Transport Minister, Nabil bin Mohammed Al-Amoudi, said recently. The 300kph Harmain Railway will be able to carry 60 million passengers a year by the time it is fully operational at the beginning of 2019. Transport is a main pillar of the national economy and a key driver of the economic renaissance that will take place under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy. Aside from the Makkah-Madinah railway, the other major transport project is the new airport in Jeddah.

Miswak – the Teeth Cleaning Twig

Sales of Miswak – the teeth cleaning twig popular around the Muslim world – will treble in Saudi Arabia as people turn to the traditional hygiene method during Ramadan. Worshippers fasting during the holy month use Miswak several times a day to ensure mouth freshness and protect dental health. According to a study by the Wrigley Company, mints laced with Miswak extract were 20 times more effective in killing bacteria than ordinary mints. Another study that compared tooth brushing and using Miswak found that the twigs were more effective in reducing plague and gingivitis. Miswak’s effectiveness has been attributed to its strong anti-bacterial properties.

Dates: A Middle Eastern Delicacy

Dates are a stable food in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East, both in their own right and as a common ingredient in local dishes. In particular, they form an important part of the diet of Muslims during Ramadan, when they are traditionally eaten every evening to break the fast. The Kingdom is the second largest producer of dates in the world. The UN World Food Program (WFP) and 30 countries around the world will this year receive 7,000 tons of dates donated by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in Riyadh. In the Islamic tradition, dates are the food Prophet Muhammad (saws) ate when he broke his fast. The date palm called ‘Nakhl’ in Arabic and the fruit called ‘Tamr’ are mentioned more than any other fruit-bearing plant in the Qur’an and are symbols closely associated with Islam and Muslims. There are many health benefits associated with eating dates, especially during Ramadan. They are rich in natural sugars and so raise blood sugar levels almost immediately after fasting, helping to rebalance the body’s systems. Date palms are now grown extensively around the world. Around 300 varieties of dates are found in Saudi Arabia. Of the total production of dates, only about 6.8% is exported. The Ajwah variety, however, has particularly religious and medical significance. The Prophet is reported to have said, “Ajwah dates are from Paradise.”

OIC Steps Up Fight

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has stepped up efforts to curb terrorism and violent extremism in a bid to boost development and economic growth in member states. “Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, and its causes are deep rooted in marginalization, alienation and false and malicious ideas. The Sawt Al Hikma Center (Voice of Wisdom) has started to launch messages of moderation to deconstruct the extremist narratives and promote positive alternatives.

Al-Jouf Agricultural Company

Al Jouf Agricultural Development Company has received a certificate of merit from The Guinness Book of World Records as the largest modern olive plantation in the world. The company owns an area of 7,730 hectares planted with 5,000,000 olive trees. The company has the largest plant producing olive oil in the Middle East.

Daily Figure: 107K and 300 Tons

The approximate number of people who circumambulate the Holy Ka’aba in an hour after the recent expansion of the Mataf area in Makkah’s Grand Mosque is 107,000. 300 tons of Zamzam water is the total supply to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah per day by the United Zamzam Office through 15,000 coolers of cold water, 40 tanks and 385 drinking fountains distributed to 20 sites around the mosque. The Grand Mosque in Makkah has about 25,000 containers to provide Zamzam water.700,000 liters is the estimated daily consumption of Zamzam water in Makkah’s Grand Mosque. The consumption reaches two million liters per day during Hajj and Umrah seasons. The daily supply of Zamzam water to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah is 300 tons.

Historic Hanafi Mosque

The historic Hanafi Mosque, which is being renovated at the expense of King Salman, will open next year. Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has announced.  Prince Sultan revealed that Almia’mar Mosque is the third historic mosque that has been restored at the expense of King Abdul Aziz after the historic Tabab Mosque. He said that more than 3,000 historic mosques were located and 200 are being restored throughout the Kingdom, ten of them in Jeddah.

What does Ramadan mean?

The word Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root Ramad, which means blazing heat. The name dates from before Prophet Muhammad’s time, the Jahillyyah (Ignorance) Age. At that time, Ramadan as at the beginning of the summer season, which clearly explains the relationship between the world and its meaning. After years of summer heat, Ramadan is moving into the spring, which means cooler temperatures and stormier weather. The hot Ramadan seasons were from September 2007 to June 2015. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The Islamic calendar 354 or 355 days, made up of twelve lunar months of 29-30 days. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. World’s shortest fast, 8 hours and 21 minutes, happens in Ushuaia, Argentina and world’s longest fast, 22 hours, 8 minutes is Tromso, Norway. Fasting period in Makkah is 13 hours, 11 minutes.

Arab News Partners with Facebook

Arab News, the Riyad-based regional English language newspaper, has partnered with Facebook to broadcast prayers from Saudi Arabia during Ramadan. The newspaper will carry the Taraweeh prayers – the additional evening prayers performed during the Islamic holy month – live from the Holy Mosque in Makkah. Other Ramadan related coverage will include human stories from the Middle East and beyond, as Muslims across the world together celebrate this important month of fasting, prayer and reflection.

Extremist Ideologies Must be Countered

Terrorists, extremist, and those with political agendas should not be allowed to exploit religion and distort religious texts to serve their own narrow self-interests.  So said the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, in a speech at a gala organized by the Washington Institute. Al-Issa said that it is important to acknowledge that there are extremist Muslims who have distorted the moderate and tolerant essence of true Islam. He added that all extremist ideologies must be countered, including Islamophobia. Daesh is the biggest beneficiary of Islamophobia because it allows it to recruit more followers, he added.

Firing or Ramadan Cannon

One of the most popular Ramadan traditions has been the firing of a cannon at the start of Maghreb prayers. It is a tradition that is still carried out in several Muslim countries including Egypt, the UAE, Bangladesh, Kuwait, and, most famously in the mountainous regions of Makkah. The cannon has a very special place in the hearts of many in Makkah. The cannon was fired to notify Muslim worshippers that the time to break their fast had arrived. The first city to fire a Ramadan cannon is said to be Cairo in the era of the Mamluks in the 15th century (859 Hijri). The Ramadan cannons in Saudi Arabia are fired from Abu Al-Madafie Mountain in Makkah and Salaa Mountain in Madinah (not firing this year).

8,700 Electric Cars Arranged

About 8,700 electric cars and wheelchairs are provided for the elderly, sick and pilgrims with special needs to use free of charge in the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has announced. It has also allocated 209 persons who will work round the clock in shifts to monitor the pushers and assistant to ensure they are abiding by the rules as set by the authorities and are not overcharging pilgrims.

EGYPT

Youth Unemployment Alert for Arab Countries

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged non–oil producing countries in the Middle East to introduce deeper reforms to provide employment for tens of millions of young people entering the labor market. Economic growth in countries such as Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia is insufficient to stem the growth of unemployment, the fund warned. At an average of 4.9% over 2018-2022, rates of growth remain too soft to effectively reduce employment, particularly for young people who make up a large percentage of the region’s population.

Sounds of Ramadan

We look at two of Ramadan’s oldest traditions: The Mesaharati who wakes people up for Sahoor, and the cannon that signals the end of fast. The Mesaharati, or public awakener, is one of the oldest and most deeply rooted of Ramadan customs. The title is given to a person who voluntarily takes it on himself to wake up Muslims during the holy month to eat the Suhoor meal before they start their fasting at the Fajr prayer call at dawn. The Mesaharati would stand under each house window, calling everyone by name until he heard a response before moving to the next house. Mesaharati, the term comes from the word Sahoor, which is pre-dawn meal, the second main meal Muslims have during Ramadan.

SYRIA

To Fast or Not to Fast? Relaxed Ramadan

To fast or not to fast? For the first time in years, Syrians in Raqqa can choose to observe a relaxed Ramadan, without the rigid regulations imposed by Daesh and their religious police. “We are free to fast or not,” says Ahmad Al-Hussein, a resident of the northern Syrian city that was the inner sanctum of Daesh’s self-styled caliphate. For more than three years, residents of Raqqa were subjected to Daesh’s ultra-strict interpretation of Islamic law – particularly stringent during the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk.

JORDAN

Woos Back Nervous Tourist

With its rock-hewn ancient city of Petra, lunar-like landscape of Wadi Rum and a medical tourism drive, Jordan is luring back foreign visitors scared off by regional upheaval and militant attacks. Abundant natural wonders and ancient treasures have long attracted tourists to the kingdom, traditionally seen as a haven of peace in a war-ravaged region. Lacking in natural resources, the country of nearly ten million depends on tourism for around 12% of gross domestic product (GDP). Jordan welcomed seven million tourists in 2010, but arrivals plunged to around three million in each of the following two years. In an attempt to diversify, the Kingdom of Jordan has sought to become a regional hub of medical tourism.

PALESTINE

The Nakba – 70 Years On

On May 14, 1948, the creation of the state of Israel was declared, formed out of Palestine, and the next day became known as the day of the Nakba or ‘Catastrophe.’ More than 700,000 Palestinians ended up as refugees, as they fled or were driven off their land, and the first Arab-Israeli War began. This year, on the eve of the 70th anniversary, the US opened its relocated embassy in Jerusalem and at least 55 Palestinians were shot by Israeli forces when they were protesting along the Gaza Strips border, a grim reminder that the Nakba is not over.

Jerusalem: City of Diversity or a Monopoly?

Seventy years of dispossession only made Palestinians more attached to Jerusalem. They may not feel so differently 1,000 years from now. Seventy years after the events known as the Nakba, the current US administration’s attempts to unilaterally enforce the status of Jerusalem are a reminder that the legacy of this catastrophe is still with us. Jerusalem’s contentious history arises from the fact that Arabs and Hebrews are Semitic peoples, sharing closely related languages and enjoying millennia of coexistence. Arab doesn’t denote a homogeneous gene-pool, but rather encompasses a range of ancient peoples that were absorbed within an inherently diverse Arabic speaking civilization. Someday in the future, there will be a time when Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs can live alongside each other once more, but only when there is mutual recognition of each other’s heritage and rights.

EAST TIMOR

Muslims Welcome Ramadan

Muslims in Dili, the capital of predominantly Catholic East Timor, have welcomed Ramadan with great joy. Julio Muslim Antonio da Costa, the Imam of Dili’s largest mosque An-Nur, said as the holy month approached, the mosque council set up a committee to organize Ramadan related activities, such as preparing meals for Iftar and collecting alms. Every Sunday afternoon, Nurul Habibah, organizes a daily Qur’an recital with fellow Muslim women. Muslims make up about 0.3% of East Timor’s population of 1.2 million. Most of the Muslims are concentrated in Dili. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are public holidays in the country. Despite its Catholic majority population and the church having great influence, East Timor is secular, and Muslims live in peace and harmony with the rest of the society.

COMORO

Distributes Aid Packets

Comoros’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hamid Karhila, has commended the development efforts carried out by the Muslim World League (MWL) in his country. He also expressed his government’s gratitude to the MWL for its initiative launched by Secretary-General Muhammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa. The Muslim World League will continue to provide assistance and stand with the needy in all countries around the world. The MWL is also building a mosque at a cost of SR 200,000 and working on the construction of an artesian well that cost SR 130,000, as well as two surface wells at a cost of SR 20,000.

TATARSTAN

Want to Improve Halal Industry

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Yousef al-Othaimeen, has underlined the OIC’s keenness to cooperate with Russia to boost the halal industry. Addressing the launch ceremony of the 10th International Economic Summit, titled ‘Russia–Islamic World: Kazan Summit 2018,’ hosted by the  Republic of Tatarstan, Al-Othaimeen noted that the volume of trade between Russia and OIC member states rose from USD34.6 billion in 2014 to USD42.5 billion in 2016. Both sides agreed to strengthen existing cooperation in the fields of trade, finance, halal products and capacity building.

DENMARK

‘My Ramadan’ – Safi Enayat

Safi Enayat came to Copenhagen  as a refugee from Afghanistan in 2001 and found a job washing dishes in a restaurant kitchen before working his way up to become head chef and restaurant owner in his own right. His cooking is a reflection of the diverse cultural influences that have characterized his life, from the traditional Afghan dishes with a modern twist that he cooks for friends to the Indian-inspired cuisine served in his restaurant chain.dhaba.dk., as well as the international fare he has encountered in Europe. This Ramadan, he is hosting a pop-up Iftar with chefs from Baker and Spice, Dubai, which aims to attract a mixed crowd of Muslims and non-Muslims to break bread over delicious Arabic food.

UNITED KINGDOM

Corrects Distorted Coverage

The Times Newspaper has been ordered to correct a front page story titled ‘Christian Child Forced into Muslim Foster Care,’ after a ruling from the UK’s independent press regulator. The Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) said that The Times coverage was distorted after an investigation found out the allegations to be unsubstantiated. The investigation was carried out by Tower Hamlets, the local council that had taken the child into care. Harun Khan, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said: “The Times should be forced to apologize for promoting what was widely known to be an inaccurate misleading and bigoted narrative about Muslims. The Times has shown anti Muslim bigotry in its coverage and commentary.”

Ali Imdad – The British Baker

Ali Imdad is drizzling almond oil into a delicious smelling dessert ready for the after-work crowd that will pile into Milk Café later to enjoy a slice of cake infused with flavors from across the Muslim world. Imdad, 30, who was a runner-up on the popular Great British Bake Off TV show, said he wants to encourage a more wholesome perception of Islam in the United Kingdom through his pop up café, which is entering the final phase of a successful four week run. Muslims historically haven’t just focused on religion, says Imdad, citing the impact of Islamic culture on the arts, sciences and literature as well as cuisine. Food has been integral to Muslims since the dawn of Islam, but people are surprised to hear that it was Muslims who brought orange juice here. Imdad was selected from more than 10,000 applicants and finished nine out of thirteen in the series, gaining a significant social media following in the process.

Oxford Conference – Cultural Integration

The Conference on Peace in Revealed Religions, held at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, adopted a Muslim World League (MWL) initiative on a positive national integration of religious and cultural minorities. In his opening speech, MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa said two problems arise when hatred, confrontation and material interests replace the principles of justice and peace: A moral set-back regarding human harmony, and the attribution of this set-back to religion. Religion has nothing to do with errors, abuses or crimes committed in its name, and history shows that many crimes have been falsely committed in the name of religion, he added. The Conference at Oxford University was attended by a large number of religious, political and intellectual leaders.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]

Fast Fact

Anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United Kingdom increased by 40% between January 2017 and January 2018, with 1678 incidents reported in the capital, up from 1205 the previous year, according to figures released by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

AUSTRALIA

Leads in Halal Meat Production

With a Muslim population of about half a million, Australia has become a world leader in the processing and production of halal meat and meat products. The continent is a long time, trusted supplier of halal beef and lamb to more than 100 countries including the Middle East. Australia has one of the strictest halal programs in the world. The country has invested millions of dollars in research and development of meat science. All processing facilities in Australia employ only registered and trained Muslim slaughtermen. The global halal food market is worth an estimated USD667 million, representing close to 20% of the entire global food industry. It is expected to reach USD2.55 trillion by 2024. The GCC’s halal sector is worth USD50 billion. According to economists, the halal food industry will become a major market force in the near future based on prevalent trends.