Flashes from the Muslim World

AFGHANISTAN

Saudi Support for Afghan Peace

Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, has hailed the great interest paid by King Salman to the affairs of the Islamic world and Muslims. Saudi Arabia has said that it will continue to support peace and political reconciliation in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia’s leading role in the Muslim world is crucial for achieving peace and stability in the region and the world, which is vital to succeed in efforts to combat terrorism, extremism and violence.

BANGLADESH

Eid Brings No Joy to Rohingya Refugees

More than one million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, observed Eid recently. They performed Eid prayers in more than 500 small mosques in squalid camps, offering a special prayer for an end to their plight. “It’s a very sunny Eid day in Cox’s Bazar, but we can’t enjoy this moment,” said Iman Ali, a refugee in Kutupulang camp. “This year my life is fully dependent on relief and aid. I don’t want the next Eid in a camp; I wish to go back home with my full rights and dignity,” said a refugee in the camp.

PHILIPPINES

Edict: Self-Rule for Muslims

Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, has given an “urgent” certification to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will give wider autonomy to the country’s Muslim minority. The President’s decision came one day after he held separate meetings with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  (MILF), led by its Chairman, Murad Ibrahim, and leaders of the congress. The certification will allow both houses of congress to pass the bill before they go on recess this week. The President is expected to sign the proposed bill into law in time for his State of the Nation Address on July 23.

INDONESIA

Dishonest Umrah Operators

Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has revamped its supervision of Umrah tour operators and imposed a moratorium on issuing licenses to new ones as of last month. The recent case of Anniesa Hasibuan and her husband, who were sentenced to jail over tour packages that never materialized, has caused the country to revamp its system.   The moratorium imposed as a major Umrah scam case, which cost 58,682 aspiring Umrah pilgrims a combined loss of 848.70 billion Rupiah (USD60 million), was being heard at a court near Jakarta. There are 906 Umrah tour operators listed with Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs. Four licenses have been revoked so far. New rules stipulate how much aspiring pilgrims should pay and when they should go.

CAMBODIA

A Nation that Respects Diversity

Cambodia’s promotion of peaceful coexistence has won praise from OIC Secretary-General, Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, who cited the country as an example for other countries to emulate. Al Othaimeen said the celebration highlighted Cambodia’s longstanding respect for diversity, multiculturalism and tolerance and the high regard the government grants to the Muslim community. In Cambodia, where Buddhism is the state religion and Muslims make up less than five percent of the population – there is longstanding respect for diversity, multiculturalism, tolerance, and high regard for its indigenous Muslim community. Islam is also an officially recognized religion in the country. There are Muslim prayer rooms at airports and the country has a designated minister for Islamic affairs as well as a Grand Mufti of Cambodia.

OMAN

3,000 Expats Embrace Islam

Nearly 3,000 expats have embraced Islam in the first five months of this year, according to the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs. An official at the Ministry told the The Times of Oman that, “Since the beginning of January until today, approximately 3,000 people have converted to Islam.” Many of the new converts are Europeans, followed by Indians. Recently, 26 women in Oman converted to Islam at an event organized by the Ministry, where non-Muslims were given the chance to learn about the religion and clarify their doubts about certain aspects of the religion. After a person converts, the Ministry provides him/ her with books to learn more about the religion to make him, or her, a better Muslim and for him/ her to understand the religion.

SAUDIA ARABIA

Makkah: Vibrant City

Makkah is famous for being a vibrant city throughout the year. Its long Umrah season, followed by the Hajj season, makes it rich place visited by all nationalities from around the world. Makkah conforms to its culture, identity and profound heritage, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. If you want to experience the aesthetics of Ramadan, Makkah is a Saudi city that’s wonderfully diverse. Citizens of different races were brought together by their love for Makkah, which they have chosen as a residence. This area has characterized its identity and satisfied its customs and social patterns, making it unique among Saudi areas and cities. The Grand Mosque in Makkah where more than 900,000 worshippers occupy the mosque each day, with the number rising to four million during the Haj season. In 2007, the late King Abdullah began a major extension project to raise the mosque’s capacity to two million. Near the Ka’aba is the Well of Zamzam, which Muslims have used since Prophet Ibrahim’s era. Today, the well still supplies many Muslims and pilgrims with Zamzam water.

Madinah: Keeping Traditions Alive

The people of Madinah find, in Ramadan, an opportunity to come together and strengthen interpersonal communication. They also think of it as an important occasion to welcome the visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque by providing them with Iftar meals to break their fasts. The gathering for Iftar has become a famous Ramadan tradition in Madinah with its citizens eagerly looking forward to it every year. Zamzam water is continuously supplied to replenish more than 15,000 cold water containers inside the Prophet’s Mosque. More than 436 running spray fans cool the hot environment.

Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah

Hundreds of thousands of worshippers performed the Friday prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque during this holy month of Ramadan. Visitors to Madinah are pleasantly surprised by the minarets of the Prophet’s Mosque, which are considered an Islamic architectural landmark and are visible throughout the city. During the time of Prophet Muhammad (saws), 1400 years ago, the call to prayer was performed from the roof of the house closest to the mosque. But Umayyad Caliph bin Abd Al-Malik ordered the construction of four minarets, one on each corner of the mosque, from where prayers would be called. Since the establishment of Saudi Arabia, the mosque has undergone massive expansions to cater for the growing number of worshippers. The end of 2013 saw the largest expansion in the mosque’s history, its capacity increasing to two million worshippers.

16,000 Praying Carpets

The Department of Cleansing and Carpeting of the Prophet’s Mosque is currently working on the production of 16,000 praying carpets for the mosque and its outer courtyards. Recently, the department installed 5,000 carpets on the upper floor praying area of the mosque to enable worshippers to perform Taraweeh prayers.

Nineteen Million Performed Umrah/ Haj

Nineteen million pilgrims have performed Umrah in 2017, according to a report by Saudi Arabia’s General Statistics Authority. Among these were 6,532,074 pilgrims who came from abroad, according to the Ministry of Haj and Umrah records. This was while the number of those who performed Umrah from within Saudi Arabia was 12,547,232, based on the authority’s survey. According to the Zamzam Water Department at the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs, the consumption of water during the first 20 days of Ramadan reached 30,000 tons. This includes 250,016 bottles distributed inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah, 2060 laboratory samples taken to ensure the safety of the Zamzam water network, and 5570 tons of water sent to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

Muezzin at the Grand Mosque in Makkah

Sheikh Ali Ahmad Mulla has been the Muezzin (the Caller for Prayers) of the Grand Mosque in Makkah since 1975.  He is considered one of the most famous Muezzins at the Grand Mosque for the past 40 years and his voice is recognized by most guests that visit the mosque. Mulla was born in June 1945 in Makkah, and grew up in a family where working as a Muezzin is a family tradition. He began practicing performing Adhan (Prayer Call) when he was thirteen and practiced the call to prayer from the minaret of Bab Al Zeyada in the Grand Mosque. He moved to the minaret at Bab Al-Makhma and then became the Muezzin for the entire Mosque.

Mosque of Bones: Evidence of Prophet Muhammad’s Era

Masjid Al-Izam (Mosque of the Bone) is a historic mosque in Al-Ula governorate. In the ninth year after Hijrah (the emigration of the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah), as the Prophet Muhammad (saws) was on his way to battle, he marked the Qibla (the direction in which Muslims should pray) using bones because he could not find rocks or blocks. To mark the occasion, the area’s residents built a mosque on the spot and named it Masjid al-Izam. It was made of stone, and mud was used to cover its walls, but it has undergone several restorations. Abdullah Kabeer, a researcher at Madinah’s development authority, said: “The mosque has attracted the attention of King Salman, who is focused on restoring a number of historic mosques across the Kingdom.”

Old Jeddah – Special for Ramadan

Old Jeddah (Al-Balad) is one of the most popular historic landmarks of the city. Locals and non-locals enjoy walking down the old alleys and admiring the remnants of old Hejaz, making it a favorite tourist attraction in the city. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has listed Old Jeddah as a World Heritage Site. Some of the buildings in Old Jeddah date back 400 years. A number of festivals are held in Old Jeddah during Ramadan. The area is also home to historic mosques such as Othman bin Affan Mosque, Akkash mosque, Al-Mi’maar Mosque and Al-Hanafi Mosque.

Rules for Construction of Mosques

Prince Sultan bin Salman patronized the signing of an agreement establishing the Mosque construction Code between the Ministry of Islamic Affairs Call and Guidance and the Abdullatif Al-Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture. The code is important for the design, lifespan and operating costs of the monument. The code aims to increase the lifespan of mosques while lowering the construction costs. It also aims to rationalize power consumption, lower operating and maintenance costs, approve social and security requirements and the necessities of people with special needs.

Interfaith Harmony – Saudi Arabia, Vatican Playing Major Role

Last month, Vatican officials, led by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, visited Saudi Arabia for the first time and the delegation met with King Salman and high level Saudi officials in Riyadh. The way for the meeting was paved by Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, the Head of the Muslim World League (MWL), said Sultan al-Mousa, a member of the Vatican interfaith committee. Al-Mousa said that two major world religions were working together to raise awareness campaigns for the oppressed around the world. Mutual visits from these two religions powerhouses will lead the way for others, he said.

Strength of Faith in Africa

The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, Sheikh Saleh bin Abdul Aziz al Asheikh, praised the care and attention King Salman and the crown prince are providing to Islamic Da’wah. He pointed out that the Ministry, based on the directives of King Salman and crown prince, is paying great attention to the Islamic Da’wah in Africa. It has become one of the main parties concerned with the people of knowledge and advocacy in Africa.

Scholars Calls for Unity

Noted Islamic scholars and representatives of various religious and political organizations called on the Muslim world to foil all attacks and conspiracies against the Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The scholars lauded Saudi efforts to secure and defend the Two Holy Mosques and to support the Palestinian cause. Proactive and practical steps are needed to thwart attempts to divide the Muslim world along sectarian lines, they said. A catastrophe is being carried out in Muslim countries by fanning sectarian differences.

Ramadan Decorations

The holy month of Ramadan is no longer just about fasting, Iftar and Suhoor meals, and night prayers. With the passage of time, Muslims across the world have found ways to express their love for this holy month in different manners. Using special decorations is one of the ways to celebrate the holy month. Ramadan decorations are increasingly becoming an integral part of Ramadan preparations in many families in Saudi Arabia. There are two main elements of these Ramadan decorations. Lanterns and colorful fabric with red patterns used in various types of decorations.

Condemn Israeli Atrocities

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has condemned Israel’s continued settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem. Israeli authorities have reportedly approved the construction of 2,070 residential units inside Palestinian territory. The OIC said the continuation of illegal settlements is a flagrant violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. The Arab Red Crescent and Red Cross Organization (ARCO) also condemned the international silence over the Israeli brutalities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

To Target Students and Startups

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is rebranding itself as a uniting force in the Muslim world, looking to support students, scientists and entrepreneurs anywhere from Egypt to Malaysia. The Jeddah-based bank revealed its new green-blue logo, the first rebranding the institution has gone through in its 44 year history – as it looks to modernize its international image and fulfil its goals. The semi-circular logo, said to be inspired by a Qubba Dome, symbolizes a new dawn for the bank. The Islamic Development Bank has been a symbol of trust, credibility, strength, and stability, for over 44 years, with a proud heritage of providing resources, fighting poverty and restoring dignity in the member countries. Investment in science, technology and education will play a central part. The bank works across 57 member countries in four continents. It has operating assets of approximately USD16 billion.

Holy Ka’aba Grand Mosque: How it is Cooled

The Mosque is cooled by two cooling stations with a combined capacity of 159,000 tons, equal to 15,000 medium sized apartments. Chiller variable speed technology contributes to reducing the annual energy consumption costs by 30% and reduces noise. The mosque dates back to 1570 and, thanks to continued modernization, some 1.5 million pilgrims can be kept cool in the summer heat. There are two stations, Ajyad Station with a cooling capacity of 39,000 tons and the second is Al-Shamiyah Station with a cooling capacity of 120,000 tons.

JORDAN

IMF Praises Support for Jordan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), described as a “positive step,” the decision by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait to provide an economic aid package worth USD 2.5 billion to crisis-hit Jordan over the next five years. The IMF expressed its hope that the package would enable Jordan to implement bold reforms to tackle high unemployment and stimulate economic growth while protecting the poor and the middle class. The fund urged the international community and regional donors to help shoulder the burden arising from Jordan hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, which has put exceptional pressure on the country’s resources.

YEMEN

MWL Second Relief Camp

The Muslim World League (MWL) has launched its second urgent relief campaign to help Yemeni refugees in the governorates of Marib, Al Jawf, Shabwah, Abyan and Hajjah, as part of the UN’s 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, which seeks USD2.96 billion to provide life-saving assistance to 13.1 million people this year. The campaign also seeks to distribute 3,000 food baskets in the three remaining governorates whereas 1,200 baskets will be distributed in Al-Jawf.

CHECHNYA

Deal to Combat Extremism, Islamophobia

The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, and the Grand Mufti of Chechnya, Sheikh Salah Majayev, signed a memorandum of cooperation at MWL headquarters in Makkah.  The agreement included mutual cooperation in spreading moderation, combating extremism and Islamophobia, and expressing the position of Islam on extremist movements and deviant trends. The cooperation agreement included a number of items that enhance the provision of scholarships for students, the service of the Holy Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as well as paying attention to the Arabic language among non-Arab Muslims.

EGYPT

Relief Development Projects

The Muslim World League (MWL) has launched a series of relief and development projects in Egypt under the supervision of the country’s government. The projects include the establishment of six water purification plants, financial allocations for orphans, the distribution of Ramadan hampers and the provision of student accommodation. The League also seeks to promote charitable campaigns by expanding development projects that achieve the objectives of sustainable development.

Volume of Trade

The Central Bank of Egypt has revealed that the volume of trade exchange between Saudi Arabia and Egypt reached USD2.3 billion during the first half of the current fiscal year 2017-2018. Saudi Arabia’s investment in Egypt reaches USD20 billion – that is 11% of the total foreign investments and 27% of investments in Arab countries.

MALI

Unrest in Mali

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed its concern over the latest political developments in Mali following the violent events in the capital Bamako, which resulted in the injury of dozens of citizens. The Secretary-General of the OIC, Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, called on the Malian government and all political components to show restraint. He called on all the stakeholders to take measures to calm the situation. The OIC chief said peaceful dialogue is the only way to achieve social harmony. Mali is one of the so called G5 Sahel states – along with Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger – which have launched joint operations against militant groups.

RUSSIA

Muslim-Friendly World Cup, Muslim nations are based

There are six cities where seven Muslim majority nations in this month’s FIFA World Cup will be based:

  1. Voronezh: Morocco are based in picturesque Voronezh.
  2. Kaluga: Senegal will be based here.
  3. Saint Petersburg: Saudi Arabia’s team will be based in this bastion of Russian imperialism.
  4. Moscow: Both Tunisia and Iran are based in the vibrant Russian capital.
  5. Grozny: Egypt’s “Pharaohs” should feel right at home in the Chechen capital.
  6. Essentuki: Nigeria is based here for the FIFA World Cup .

DENMARK

Ban on Face Veil Unnecessary

Danish parliamentarians voted 75 to 30 to ban garments that cover the face, and although the government denied the law was aimed at any religion, it was perceived to be directed chiefly at Muslim women. Justice Minister, Soren Pape Poulsen, said police would have to use common sense when it comes to taking action against people breaking the law, which comes into effect on 1st August. Offenders risk a fine of 1,000 Kroner (SR588) or up to six months jail. Human rights groups said the law was neither necessary nor proportionate. Austria, Belgium and France have similar laws.

UNITED KINGDOM

London Mosque Accepts Bitcoin

Looking for a new way to give money to charity as part of Ramadan? A mosque in Britain’s capital is willing to receive your donation – in bitcoin. The Shacklewell Lane Mosque in Dalston, East London, has decided to accept bitcoin and other crypto currencies in an effort to widen its donor base and cut down on currency conversion fees, mosque leaders said. For the donor, it’s just the click of a button to transfer to an account provided by the charity. From the mosque’s perspective, it opens a new stream of donations coming from all over the world. Muslims with the means are religiously obliged to give alms, often calculated based on Islamic texts as being 2.5% of their wealth, and many do so during the holy month, a time when Muslim charities are most active.

Urges Islamophobia Inquiry

The largest Muslim organization in Britain has called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the governing Conservative party. Harun Khan, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), sent an open letter to the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, strongly criticizing the Conservative for failing to tackle the “simmering underbelly of Islamophobia,” in their ranks. The MCB is an umbrella body representing 500 Muslim groups and schools in the United Kingdom. The letter, which was published recently, highlighted nine alleged incidents of Islamophobia by Conservatives during the past two months alone. The Conservative Muslim Forum, which is made up of party members, has joined the call for a full independent inquiry into anti-Muslim attitudes among its fellow Conservatives.

The Muslim Convert

It has been reported that there are 100,000 number of Muslim converts in the United Kingdom. With the UK’s Muslim population rising rapidly – the United States Pew Forum think-tank suggested that it would treble from 4.1 million to 13 million by 2050 – the group is outgrowing its minority status. “We are no longer looking at a minority… But, rather, a very significant central part of what Britain is,” said Timothy Winter, who is founder of Cambridge Muslim College, adding that the UK’s Muslim communities represent a cross-section of the entire Islamic world. One mosque in Cambridge calculates that there are about 60 national groups among its congregation, including those of Chinese, Venezuelan and Kazakh heritage.

UNITED STATES

GCC Chief Calls for Principles of Islam

Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), took part in a global forum organized by the UN in New York. He expressed his appreciation that the UN had organized the forum to reflect on the challenges facing international peace and security. He stressed that Islamic communities want to take the initiative to protect the tolerant principles of Islam, in addition to dealing with the information revolution and the threat it can pose to infrastructure and Muslim youth.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]