Flashes from the Muslim World

INDIA

Indian Forum for Interest-Free Banking (IFIB)

Islamic microfinance, which is based on profit sharing and does not charge interest, can play a significant role in alleviating poverty and transforming the poor into successful entrepreneurs. V. K. Abdul Aziz, Secretary General of Indian Forum for Interest-Free Banking (IFIB), gave a presentation on the participatory microfinance scheme. It offers financial services to people who are denied access to the financial market and empowers people who can pursue projects with their own resources. Speaking about IFIB’s goat-farming project in Kerala, S. Mammu, a barrister and social worker, said it would not only solve the financial problems of poor farmers, but also help investors make profit. Under the pilot project, five goats each have been given to 50 families regardless of their religion, and worth a total investment of Rs 1.2 million. The beneficiaries will return three goats and their kids to the facilitator, who will sell them at local market price and distribute 33% of the profit to the financier, 33% to the farmer, 23% to the management and 11% to the monitoring committee.

Allocate More Time to Learn Qur’an

Muslims must allocate more time to learn the Holy Qur’an in order to understand the teachings of God and lead their lives accordingly, said Acode Abdul Qader, coordinator of the Qur’an Study Center (QSC) in Kerala. Addressing a ceremony organized by Thanima Cultural Society to honor rank-holders of exams conducted by QSC in Jeddah, he said, learning the Qur’an is the greatest asset we can amass in this worldly life. He highlighted QSC’s achievements in Kerala, saying many educated people, including doctors and engineers, have shown interest in learning the Qur’an systematically and spreading its message among others.

SRI LANKA

Muslims Demand UN Probe

The main Muslim party in Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition demanded a UN probe into one of the country’s worst ever religious riots as President Mahinda Rajapakse toured the violence-hit resort region. “I will get the military to help you, rebuild your homes and shops,” Rajapakse informed the affected Muslim people, adding that he will hold an impartial inquiry. The 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) urged authorities to investigate and take action against those responsible. The attacks are the latest in a series of religious clashes to hit Sri Lanka following unrest in January and last year, when Buddhist mobs attacked a mosque in the capital, Colombo.

MALAYSIA

Halaal Tourism Attracts Muslims

Malaysia attracted over 170,000 visitors from the Gulf countries in 2013, and has been rated the world’s top Muslim-friendly holiday destination in a survey released last year. According to figures, Malaysia received 102,365 tourists from Saudi Arabia in 2012. The total number of tourists from the UAE was 18,233 during this period. This Asian country with a 60% Muslim population mostly attracts Muslim tourists worldwide and has been a frontrunner with regards to anything halaal. Geographically, Malaysia is almost as diverse as its culture: it has eleven states and two federal territories. Malaysia’s policy for the tourism sector is to ensure a comfortable environment to all Muslim family tourists in line with its Islamic lifestyle. Kuala Lumpur is the biggest city of Malaysia and one of the top ten most visited cities.

INDONESIA

Minister Quits Over Hajj Fraud

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs minister resigned after being accused of misusing funds that were supposed to help Muslim pilgrims. The anti-corruption agency recently named Suryadharma Ali a suspect in its investigation into alleged graft in the organization of Hajj in 2012-13. The agency previously said it had detected suspicious transactions of around US$ 20 million in a special Hajj fund, which is a combination of government money and cash from people who plan to make the pilgrimage. The allegations have caused outrage in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, where millions have paid in to the fund and must wait years as the annual quota of Hajj pilgrimage is strictly controlled.

SAUDI ARABIA

Jeddah to have 20 More Mosques

Twenty new mosques will open in Jeddah just before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, an official said here recently. Talal al-Aqil, General Manager for endowments and mosques in Jeddah, said that local business-people had donated SR18 million to build the mosques. He said that the authorities are prepared for Ramadan and going to renovate many of the old mosques in the days ahead. He said that Jeddah has more than 2,000 mosques.

Be Prepared for 500C Heat during Ramadan

Muslims should expect scorching temperatures of over 500C and more than fifteen hours a day of fasting in Ramadan this year. However, the hours will decrease slightly to fourteen hours and 40 minutes towards the end of the holy month. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle. The holy month occurs around eleven days earlier every year in the Gregorian calendar. The cycle for each season takes nine years. Ramadan will occur in spring again in 2017.

Hands off Islamic Law

Justice Minister, Mohammed al-Eissa, has denounced international rights groups for attacking the Kingdom’s judiciary, saying laws in this country are based on divine precepts contained in the Holy Qur’an. Speaking to American lawyers, legal consultants and academics in Washington, al-Eissa said many people have misunderstood Islamic laws because they follow biased information and ignore cultural differences. This is the reason for rights organizations making big mistakes in their reports, he said. He said the application of Islamic laws has reduced crime in the Kingdom. Islam is a religion of wisdom that calls for dialogue with other religious faiths and peaceful coexistence with other communities, the minister said. If it was not a good religion, it would not have lasted for more than 1,400 years and won millions of followers around the world.

Wool Done: SR 1M paid for Rare Sheep

A true connoisseur doesn’t care about the price if the item he is buying is unique. So is true of this Saudi in Taif who has brought a rare two-year-old sheep for a whopping SR 1 Million. The buyer, Saud al-Tajel, also paid SR 250,000 each for two younger sheep of the same breed, according to a local newspaper. The other two sheep are six months old, he said. Al Tajel said the breed, known as al-Hari, is guaranteed to make him good profits. They are eighteen centimeter taller than normal sheep, he said. He struck the deal because he plans to set up a sheep-farming business. The two smaller sheep feed on seasame, corn husk and other natural products rich in vitamins. The sheep needs two meals a day, he said.

Trade Sanctions bite Dutch Companies

Sanctions imposed on Dutch companies by Saudi Arabia following the distribution of anti-Islamic stickers by populist politician, Geert Wilders, are now biting and could further hurt business interests of the Netherlands, said  Dutch Foreign Minister. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has already stopped all exchange visits between businessmen of the two countries. The Netherlands has been traditionally a commercial partner of the Kingdom. Dutch exports to Saudi Arabia amounted to USD3.2 billion last year. The Dutch government has distanced itself from the action of Wilders that has strained bilateral ties.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]