Flashes from the Muslim World

MALAYSIA

West–Muslim Partnership

A new strategic partnership between the US and Arab and Muslim countries emerged following US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the Arab-Islamic American Summit held in Riyadh and was attended by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak also. “True Islam must be made known to the world,” Malaysian PM, Razak, told Arab News. He said that “a credible narrative needs to be told in which Islam and modernity are compatible.” He also added that “material progress and religious devotion go hand-in-hand, and religious knowledge and scientific inquiry reinforce one another.”

QATAR

Key Facts about Qatar

Qatar is one of the smallest Arab states with a population of 2.4 million, 90% of whom are foreigners, and a total area of 11,437 square kilometers. The country was a British protectorate for 55 years until 1971, when it refused to join the UAE and emerged as an independent kingdom. Qatar’s constitution has been in place since 2005. The constitution does not authorize political parties. Gas-rich Qatar has an annual per capita income of USD138,480 – one of the highest in the world, according to the World Bank. The Kingdom, since last year, has posted a budget deficit, as the state adapts to lower hydrocarbon prices. Qatar’s economy is now projected to grow at a slower pace and it posted 2.7% growth in 2016, down from 4.4% three years ago. Qatar is the top producer and exporter of liquefied natural gas and holds the world’s third largest reserves. Qatar has invested nearly USD51 billion in the United Kingdom in recent years. Qatar is to host the 2022 World Cup and has invested in massive infrastructure construction estimated to top USD200 billion in costs.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

AFMC Hosted Reciters

The Al-Farooq Omar bin al–Khattab Mosque and Center (AFMC) received distinguished reciters from different parts of the Middle East during the just concluded holy month of Ramadan. The reciters from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Lebanon led the Taraweeh prayers. AFMC served 1,200 meals daily for people to break their fast in specialized air-conditioned tents located in AFMC. The AFMC welcomed non-Muslims in Ramadan where visitors got a chance to experience the essence of the holy month of Ramadan by taking part in the Iftar meal alongside Muslims. Islam is a religion of peace which encourages co-existence. It is important that we show non-Muslims the true teachings of our religion.

Abu Dhabi Mosque Renamed

A mosque in the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi has been renamed the ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus,’ Mosque in a bid to consolidate bonds of humanity between followers of different religions. The mosque – Mariam, Umm Eisa, in Arabic – was renamed following orders of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Abu Dhabi crown prince and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who called for consolidating bonds between followers of different faiths. Earlier this week, a church in the area of Al-Ain opened its doors to Muslims for Maghrib prayers. The event saw more than 200 Asian Muslim workers perform prayers in the church.

SAUDI ARABIA

Miswak – A Natural Toothbrush

Using Miswak, the twig used by a majority of people in Muslim countries to brush their teeth, is alien to most people in the West. Although it might sound outdated to use twigs from different trees to clean one’s mouth and teeth, studies conducted on Miswak have proved otherwise, inferring that the Miswak is better than toothpaste for preventing mouth and dental disease. The Miswak, referred to all times as a chewing stick, is also an alternative form of medicine, according to some research findings. The twigs usage has been highly recommended in Islam, and Muslims across the world practice it. In Saudi Arabia, the use of sticks or twigs from the Salvadora Persica trees, known as Arak in Arabic, are common. According to a research conducted by the Riyadh-based King Saud University (KSU), a total of nineteen natural substances were found in Miswak that benefit dental health. The KSU’s research has been supported and substantiated by other research conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture. The two studies have proven that Miswak release a substance that soothes toothaches. Its use also improves appetite and regulates peristaltic movements of the gastrointestinal tract.

Dates – Healthy to Eat

Fasting in the just concluded holy month of Ramadan can be exhausting accompanied by headaches, low blood sugar levels, lethargy, hypertension and fatigue. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to break his fast by eating one to three dates at sunset. It has been scientifically proven that the best way to break a fast is with dates as they are rich in carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, magnesium and potassium. Dates raise blood sugar levels almost immediately. Dates have the much-needed minerals and energy to help you stay fit and healthy. Date palms are now grown extensively for their edible fruits under warmer climates across most continents. Dates also offer protection against age–related macular degeneration especially in elderly population. Dates are an excellent source of iron. The fruit has a moderate level of B-complex group of vitamins as well as vitamin K. It contains very good amounts of pyridoxine, Viamin B-16. Date palm is the most important fruit in Saudi Arabian culture, being a staple food with historical and religious significance.

Calls for Islamic Solidarity

The Islamic Ummah is going through a critical stage where solidarity is needed for the preservation of its rights, said Yousef al-Othaimeen, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), at the 46th session of the OIC General Secretariat which took place in Jeddah recently. “There is no doubt the Islamic Ummah is going through a critical stage with a number of states in the grip of political changes and others battered by other storms of economic crisis and thrust against security challenges,” Al-Othaimeen said, according to the OIC website. He said that the OIC represents the voice of moderation in the face of extremist ideologies.

OIC Urges Islamic Ummah to Help Refugees

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Yousef al-Othaimeen drew the Muslim world’s attention to the moral imperative of standing side-by-side with fellow Muslims in the grip of humanitarian crisis. He also urged everyone to offer assistance to the refugees and the displaced who have fled the horrors of war and conflict in their land. He also expressed the hope that the leaders of the Islamic world will succeed in boosting Islamic solidarity and establishing peace and anchoring security.

World’s Most Expensive Footballer Performs Umrah

French player, Paul Pogba, Manchester United’s star footballer visited Saudi Arabia during the just concluded Ramadan to perform Umrah. The 24-year-old Muslim was praising Allah in Makkah in a video that went viral on his Facebook page and Instagram account. He had previously performed Haj. Haj is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah. He made his debut for the senior French National team in 2013 in a 3-1 win against Georgia, and scored his first World Cup goal on June 30, 2014 against Nigeria.

OIC’s Islamic Solidarity Fund

The Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has announced that 2,695 projects have been approved and executed since its establishment in 1974. OIC Secretary General Yousef al-Othaimeen lauded the ongoing generous voluntary contributions of the Kingdom, the UAE and Turkey to the ISF. He thanked member states that has previously donated, and appealed to others to support the ISF. Palestine has been prioritized receiving direct support in the areas of health, social, cultural and educational amenities.

Huawei Offers Ramadan App ‘Muslim Daily’

Huawei has announced the launch of ‘Muslim Daily’ app, its Ramadan application designed especially for fasting users. It has programs and features that help users perform their daily rituals on time including prayers, reciting the Holy Qur’an, identifying the Qiblah direction and finding the nearest mosques to the user’s location.

Al-Faisal Museum for Arab-Islamic Art

Riyadh Governor Prince Faisal bin Bandar inaugurated Al Faisal Museum for Arab–Islamic Art in the presence of Prince Turki al-Faisal, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. The museum is affiliated with the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, and showcases art collections owned by the Center in two halls. The first includes rare heritage pieces of Arab-Islamic art, while the other comprises unique manuscripts and printed versions of the Holy Qur’an including al-Amsar versions. It features more than 200 rare heritage pieces and unique manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an.

King Salman Named Islamic Personality of the Year

King Salman has been named the ‘Islamic Personality of the Year 2017,’ by the organizing committee of the high-profile Dubai International Holy Qur’an Award (DIHQA). The honor was announced at a crowded press conference in Dubai. It was conferred in recognition of King Salman’s service to Islam and Muslim causes in particular, as well as for his efforts to restore peace and security across the world. The DIHQA also commended King Salman’s interest in Islamic causes and direct supervision of a number of charities to help the needy.

Symposium on Islamic Economics Concludes

Al-Baraka 38th Symposium for Islamic Economics concluded in Jeddah. Different sessions of the symposium dealt with issues of Islamic economics concepts. Experts discussed the challenges of its legal framework and explored the impact of civil laws on the growth of Islamic banking services in different countries. Adnan Yosuf, Chief Executive of Al-Baraka Banking Group, said the Islamic banking system has become immensely popular around the world.  He said that Islamic banking system has attracted attention of international financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which recently declared it a priority for its operations in countries with Islamic banking.

Commemorate Orphans’ Day

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called on its member states and humanitarian organizations to commemorate Orphans day. The OIC said orphans in disaster and crisis struck zones continue to be in need of assistance, making an appeal to member states. “We all know that the right of a child is one of the most sacred rights established by Islam and all other religions,” the Jeddah-based organization said in a statement. It urged member states and other humanitarian organizations to raise awareness about orphans issues and needs.

Propagate Islam to Create Better Society

Madinah Governor Prince Faisal bin Salman urged graduates of a Qur’an memorization school to follow and propagate the teachings of Islam so that they can help create a better society. The prince was speaking at the graduation ceremony of the Charitable Society for the Memorization of the Holy Qur’an at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. A total of 104 young men and women received their certificates of merit from the governor at the ceremony. Prince Faisal urged them to strictly adhere to the principles of the religion and set an example for others to live peacefully in society. He also appealed to Muslims to take the approach of moderation and to move away from extremism.

Muslim Leaders Call to Stop Support of Extremist Groups

Muslim leaders have called on governments to stop supporting extremist groups and join Saudi-led efforts to confront terrorism. They made the call in a statement issued during an international seminar entitled “Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries: Rights and Duties,” hosted by the Muslim World League (MWL). The seminar was held at the MWL’s main headquarters in Makkah. The final statement called for non-interference in Muslim communities and their relationship with their countries. It also urged the MWL to establish a global communications center for Muslim minorities to strengthen their relationships with the Islamic world.

EGYPT

Ramadan Cannon has Roots in Cairo

One of the famous traditions of the holy month of Ramadan is the firing of the cannon at Maghreb prayers to notify worshippers that it is time to break their fast. Just before Sahoor, it is fired again to announce that it is time for Fajr prayers. The first city to fire a Ramadan cannon was Cairo in the era of the Mamluks, specifically during the reign of Sultan Khasukdume 865-872 Hijri. As the story goes, he wanted to try one of his new cannons and the experiment coincided with the time of Maghreb prayers during Ramadan. Madinah followed the Egyptian tradition in firing the Ramadan cannon. There are two cannons in the city, with the first on Salaa Mountain and the second on the hill outside Quba Castle.

GAMBIA

ITFC Signs USD210m Deal

The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, has signed a framework agreement worth USD210 million with Gambia. The agreement aims at financing the imports of energy products such as petroleum products and key agricultural commodities such as fertilizers and the pre-export financing of groundnuts and cashew nuts. ITFC will mobilize financial resources from banks and other institutions to finance these imports.

SERBIA

Demolish Illegal Mosque

Local authorities demolished an illegal mosque on the outskirts of Belgrade after Serbian police secured the area in the pre-dawn action. The construction of the two-storied mosque without a minaret in the Zemun Polje neighbourhood started in 2014 even though the authorities had refused to grant it a construction permit. Belgrade’s top Muslim cleric, Mufti Mustafa Jusufspahic, said the Islamic community would protest to the Serbian President.  In the Serbian capital of around 1.6 million, there are about 20,000 practicing Muslims and only one mosque, which was built in 1575 when the  Balkans were ruled by Ottoman Turks. Serbia is home to around 230,000 Muslims or 3.1% of the total population, almost concentrated in the southwestern Sandzak region that borders Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro. A majority of the country’s population is Orthodox Christian.

NORWAY

Ban Full Face Veil

The Norwegian government has proposed a bill to ban the full face Muslim veil in all schools from nurseries to universities, saying it hinders communication between students and teachers. “These clothes prevent good communication, which is important for students to receive a good education,” the Education Minister said. The Islamic Council, an umbrella organization representing Muslims, hired a communication manager wearing a Niqab, which sparked a heated discussion earlier this year.

CANADA

Quebec City Mosque

Said el-Amari does not usually go to the mosque on Sundays, but he made an exception on 29 January, to attend evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec. That was the day a gunman opened fire inside, killing six people and leaving Canada’s Muslim community reeling. “The images still haunt me,” says El-Amari, who was wounded in the shooting. “Our fellow citizens have been very generous, and their goodness has done us good,” he added. Security at the mosque has been increased. During each prayer, a man sits close to the entrance and keeps an eye on video from a dozen newly installed security cameras. Members now need an electronic key to enter the premises and other security measures are also in the works. “The extra security helps a little,” El-Amari says. “But there is always this fear.”

ITALY

Muslims Disown London Attacker

Italy’s Muslims fear a backlash from the London attacks could undermine their already fragile position in the country after one of the attackers was identified as half-Italian. The number of Muslims living in Italy has been recently estimated at around 1.4 million, or nearly 2.5% of the population. It is considered the second most followed faith in the mostly Roman Catholic country but it has struggled to overcome a legacy of suspicion. A recent survey by the Pew Institute found that 69% of Italians had negative views of Islam. Islam is the only major religion not to be officially recognized by the state.

AUSTRALIA

Halal Beef and Lamb

A recent report published by the World Halal Forum states that global trade in halal food is currently estimated to be worth around USD700 billion annually. There is an ever-growing demand for halal food products given the steady growth in the Muslim population across the world. The halal market is currently worth 16% of the entire global food industry and is predicted to rise to 20% in the near future. Australia has been sending their best meat products to the GCC countries for decades. Australia, with a local Muslim population of about half a million, has become a world leader in the processing and preparation of halal meat and meat products. It is a long trusted supplier of halal beef and lamb to over 100 countries in the world, including Saudi Arabia and most countries in the Middle East.

UNITED KINGDOM

Muslim Leaders Warn of Spike

Following an interfaith show of unity in Manchester after the recent terror attack there, Muslim groups in the United Kingdom have warned of an increase in Islamophobic hate crimes. The attack on Oldham’s Jamia Qasmia Zahida   Islamic Center was followed by other reported incidents of Islamophobia in Manchester and beyond. They ranged from reports of verbal abuse, spitting and even headscarves being pulled from the heads of Muslim women. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) – the largest Muslim umbrella body in the UK with over 500 affiliated national regional and local organizations, mosques and schools – said that it had also noticed a rise in Islamophobic instances following the Manchester attack.

Muslims Observing Ramadan Fast ‘Saved Lives’

Muslim residents who were awake and eating Ramadan Suhoor meals ahead of the daylight fast were among the first to raise the alarm as a fire swept through a UK residential tower, eyewitnesses told Arab News. Muslims were among the hero residents who saved lives, banging on doors as they exited the building, according to press reports. One Somali man told Arab News that many lives had been saved due to the hours many Muslims keep during Ramadan.

Security Boost for UK Muslims

Muslims will see an increased police presence at mosques and community centers across the UK, according to the Chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque. Speaking to Arab News following the recent attack in north London, Mohammed Kozbar said that UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, had promised him there would be additional measures and actions. The assurances came at a meeting in Finsbury Park Mosque between Kozbar, May and multi-faith leaders that lasted around 45 minutes.

UNITED STATES

Portland Mayor Praises Men

The mayor of Portland, Oregon, hailed as ‘heroes,’ two men who were stabbed to death trying to protect two women police say were the target of an anti–Muslim rant by a man on a light rail train – a crime that shocked this city that prides itself on its tolerances. Police said they will examine what appears to be the extremist ideology of Jeremy Joseph, 35, who is accused of killing the men.

Muslims Protest Outside New York’s Trump Tower

A crowd of Muslims kneeled to pray before breaking their just concluded Ramadan fast outside the Trump Tower in a protest against what they say is the US President’s Islamophobic rhetoric. About 100 Muslims showed up for the Iftar event organized by immigrant defense groups. A similar number of non-Muslim supporters also attended.  Trump Tower in Manhattan is home to the Trump Organization, the heart of President Donald Trump’s business empire. Event organizer Linda Sarsour told AFP she was satisfied with the turnout.

[Compiled by: Syed Nehal Zaheer]