Flashes from the Muslim World

BANGLADESH

Pledge to Fight Terror

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Bangladesh pledged to fight terrorism and extremism during a meeting of key officials from both sides held in Jeddah recently. The Grand Imam of Sholakia Eidgah, Allama Farid Uddin Masoud, and Secretary-General of the OIC, Yousef Al-Othaimeen, agreed to refute the false claims of extremists in the name of Islam. Farid Uddin Masoud handed the Secretary-General a 30-volume anti-militancy Fatwa in light of authentic texts of Islam and signed by 110,000 religious scholars form Bangladesh.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Islamic Banking Assets

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) 522 billion-dirham Islamic banking assets will help fuel the growth of the country’s halaal sector, according to research conducted by Orange Fairs and Events, organizers of the Halal Expo Dubai 2017. Seven Islamic banks out of the 23 registered commercial banks in the UAE represent nearly a fifth of the country’s banking assets. Islamic banks’ assets grew more than three times of the conventional banks assets during the first quarter of 2017, according to the UAE Central Bank’s latest quarterly report. Higher assets and gross credit growth rates empower the Islamic banks to fund the halaal industries and help fuel the growth of halaal or Islamic economic activities. By nature, Islamic banks engage in ethical finance and asset-based lending.

Dubai Ruler Comes to the Help of UK Community Centre in Need of Funds

A community center in southwest England has found an unlikely source of funds after reaching out to the ruler of Dubai. The Godolphin Cross Community Association announced recently that a donation from Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Makhtoum was enough to secure the purchase of a former Methodist chapel for the town’s new community center building. The amount of the donation was not disclosed.

KSU Professor Wins Highest Award

Binu Antony, Assistant Professor of date-palm research at the King Saud University (KSU), won the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation worth AED 1 million (USD272,257). He received the award in recognition of his research work, on the Red Palm Weevil, a global palm and date-palm tree pest. During his tenure at KSU, Antony acquired two major research grants worth SR4 million for the study on insect pheromones and olfacation. Antony has also published more than 25 papers in scientific publications and regularly takes part in international seminars.

QATAR

To Boost Gas Production

Qatar says it plans to increase natural gas production by 30% over the next several years, as it faces pressure from its neighbours in a diplomatic crisis. Qatar is already the world’s biggest producer of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). The timing of the latest announcement is likely to be seen as much political as economic as Qatar is locked in the Gulf’s worst diplomatic crisis in years. Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world. Qatar’s vast wealth has largely been built on gas production. In 1997, when its first shipment of LNG sailed to Japan, Qatar’s export were valued at around USD5 billion. This figure has reached USD125 billion by 2014, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, a trade data site.

Will Keep Aiding Hamas-ruled Gaza

A Qatari envoy said the energy-rich nation will continue development projects in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, despite a rift with its Gulf neighbors stemming in part from its ties with the militant group. Mohammed El-Amadi spoke as he signed a new agreement with a Palestinian contractor to build eight residential buildings. Qatar has been the largest single donor to Gaza over the past five years, disbursing about half a billion dollars for housing, reconstruction, infrastructure development and health projects.

All Pilgrims from Qatar are Welcome

Despite the ongoing Gulf crisis, the Kingdom welcomes all those from Qatar who wish to perform Haj and Umrah, the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah said. The ministry added that they can perform pilgrimages at any time. Qataris and expatriates with Qatari residency visas who have Haj permits from the Saudi ministry and from relevant bodies in Qatar can enter the Kingdom via air carriers chosen by Saudi Arabia’s General authority for Civil Aviation. The total number of visas for Umrah pilgrimage this year reached a record 6.75 million, the ministry added.

SAUDI ARABIA

Over 30 Million Iftar Meals Distributed

More than 30 million Iftar meals were given to worshippers in and around the Grand Mosque in Makkah during the just-concluded holy month of Ramadan, according to a report presented to local Governor Prince Khaled Al Faisal. Prince Khaled received the detailed report form Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al-Faleh, Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Haj. It said that a total of 21 government agencies were actively involved in serving the worshippers. Some 25.1 million Iftar packs were distributed to worshippers inside the mosque and another 5.11 million meals were given out outside the main mosque in public places such as bus stops. Some three million worshippers including more than two million local and foreign pilgrims had visited the grand mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

Islamophobia Continues to Increase

The Islamophobia Observatory Report of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) described the growing fear against Islam and Muslims in certain parts of the world. OIC Secretary-General, Yousef Al-Othaimeen, said: “The growing trend of Islamophobia has not subsided in any tangible way. Muslims have been terrorized and discriminated against. Islamic sacred symbols have been insulted. People with Islamic attire are targeted with hatred. Women with hijabs were abused on streets and in public spaces. Certain governments outlawed Islamic attire or restricted Muslims from having prayer facilities. Right wing politicians and media spread evil images of Islam.   Acts of radical and extreme groups in the name of Islam have provided xenophobes with excuses to further their agendas.” Al-Othaimeen stressed that the OIC has been active in combating Islamophobia at the political, diplomatic and operational levels.

IDB Approves Over USD1bn

The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has approved over USD1 billion in support development projects in member countries and in Muslim communities in non-member countries, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. The projects cover electricity, water, sewage, industry, housing, telecommunications, agriculture, education and health. The IDB, in the context of its support to Muslim communities in non-member countries, approved grants worth USD1.2 million for rehabilitation, training, school, health, and accommodation projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fiji, Kenya, Malawi, Somalia, and South Africa.

Fourteen Mosques in Makkah Being Built

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has begun implementing the designs of fourteen out of 50 mosques in the Makkah style to increase the Islamic identity of the surrounding Makkah environs. The project will identify the technical features and measurements to build mosques and provide the architectural structures with artistic poise that reflects the past, but in a modern framework.

28.5% of World’s Youth in OIC Countries

More than a quarter of the world’s 1.75 billion people aged 15-29 live in member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Secretary-General, Yousef Al-Othaimeen, said at the 44th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Abidjan. Al-Othaimeen, who was speaking on “Youth, Peace, and Development in a World of Solidarity,” reiterated that youth issues are a priority for the OIC. Nearly 500 million 15-29 olds, 28.5% of the global total in that age group, live in OIC member states, he added. If the capabilities of youth are properly harnessed, they can prove to be a huge asset for their countries and the world at large.

Award Winner Urges Review of Islamic Political Thought

The winner of the King Faisal International Prize 2017 for Islamic Studies, Prof Ridwan Al-Sayyid, has underscored the importance of revisiting Islamic political thought and heritage in Islamic sources. Al-Sayyid won the prize, which, this year, was for Islamic political thought, for his contribution and thorough knowledge of Arabic-Islamic jurisprudence and political heritage based on modern research methodology. He pondered why the Muslim world has failed to establish a global scientific reference institution for Islamic studies and humanities.

IDB Chief Calls for Fight against Poverty

Dr. Bandar Hajjar, President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, has called for fighting poverty and unemployment among youths in member countries. Of the 1.75 billion young people in the world, 500 million of nearly 28.5% live in OIC member countries. The IDB Chief said that there are 73 million unemployed youths in OIC member countries and that the IDB organized a youth summit during the 42nd session of the IDB Board of Directors in Jeddah last May.

Students Wins Four Medals

Four Saudi students won a total of two silver and two bronze medals at the International Chemistry Olympiad 2017 held in Thailand with the participation of students from 74 countries. Separately, the Saudi first athletics team won two medals of gold and silver at the start of the 20th Arab Athletics Championship in Tunisia.

Ka’aba Kiswa Exhibit

An exhibition of the Ka’aba Kiswa factory at Souq Okaz in Taif, is experiencing great attention from visitors.  Preparing the Kiswa takes several months and needs large amounts of precious metals and pure silk. Around 170 craftsmen are involved in the process which passes through various stages until the Kiswa is ready. The Kiswa is usually placed on the Ka’aba on the day of Arafat. The wing also describes the process of making the Kiswa which uses 47 layers of natural black silk, or around 760 kilograms of raw silk which is dyed inside the factory, the textile is 37.1 mm thick and lined with white cotton.

JORDAN

Urges to Re-open Al-Aqsa Mosque

Jordan urged Israel to “immediately open” the al-Aqsa Mosque after the recent incident there. Jordan is the custodian of the compound in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, and has repeatedly denounced what it says are violations of rules at the holy site. Further, Bahrain and Egypt strongly condemned Israel’s ban on Friday prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister said the move is part of ongoing Israeli attempts to change the status quo in Jerusalem and the mosque.

COTE D’IVOIRE

Combating terror on OIC agenda

The capital of Cote d’Ivoire, Abidjan, will host the 44th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Tariq Ali Bakhit, OIC spokesman, indicated that the two-day conference will be concluded with the adoption of the Abidjan Declaration. The foreign ministers will discuss several issues, the most salient of which relate to the Palestinian cause, the situation in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic as well as issues of Muslim communities in non-member countries especially Myanmar. Bakhit said the conference will discuss resolutions on combating terrorism.

ITALY

Uses Imams in Prisons to Deter Extremism

Italy’s plan to reduce the risk of an extremist-inspired attack is pinned in small part on El-Hacmi Mimoun, an Imam who bikes to the prison here every week and exhorts Muslim inmates not to stray from life’s “right path” or hate people who are not Muslim. “If I am praying, I am not cooking ideas to harm others on the outside,” a 35-year-old Tunisian inmate said, sitting cross-legged in the small, beige tiled room that was converted into the prison’s Mosque of Peace. Italy has relied mostly on arresting and deporting suspected extremists to try to keep the country safe. Inviting in Imams who have been vetted to make sure they espouse “moderate views” is a tactic now being employed in Italian prisons to counter radicalization among inmates. More than a third of all inmates in Italian penitentiaries are foreigners, and 42% of those come from the majority Muslim countries of Morocco, Albania and Tunisia, according to a 2017 report by inmate advocacy group Antigone.

FRANCE

Muslim Leaders begin European Tour to Protest against Terror

Dozens of religious leaders boarded a bus on the Champs Elysees in Paris to kick-off a European tour of the sites of recent terror attacks to remember the victims and condemn violence. Imams from countries including France, Belgium, Britain, and Tunisia were joined by representatives of other religious communities at the spot where French policeman, Xavier Jugele, was shot dead in April. The Imam of Drancy and French writer, Marek Halter, were behind the initiative of the current tour. “We are here to say that our religion and the values of Islam are opposed to those assassins,” Hassan Chalghoumi, the Imam of Drancy, told France Inter Radio.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION

St. Petersburg Mosque

With more than 30 million Muslims in Russia, the signs of Muslim population are visible throughout the city, but nowhere more so than at St. Petersburg Mosque, which was the largest in Europe when it opened in 1921. Located on Kronverkskiy Prospekt, the mosque has a capacity of 5,000 worshipers, and during Ramadan last month, welcomed 1,500 to 2,000 Muslims for Iftar every night. Given that on the city’s longest day, the sun rose at 1: 26 AM, and did not set until 10.26 PM, if there are any St. Petersburg residents who you might expect to not eagerly anticipate the White Nights, it would be the sizeable Muslim population during Ramadan. Yet, as Shagimardanov Idar, President of the Association of Muslim Businessmen in Russia, said: “For us, fasting is never a problem, no matter how many hours per day are required, even when it’s 21 hours such as this year.”

BELGIUM

Europe Court Upholds Ban on Veil

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld a Belgian ban on wearing the full-face Niqab veil in public. The court ruled that “the restriction sought to guarantee social cohesion, the protection of the rights and freedoms of others and that it was necessary in a democratic society,” a statement said. Belgian banned the wearing of the full face-veil under a June 2011 law. It prohibits appearing in public, with a face masked or hidden in whole or in part, in such a way as to be unidentifiable. Violations can result in fines and up to seven days in jail. France was the first European country to ban the Niqab in April 2011.

AUSTRALIA

Islam is About Unity

A Muslim woman, who fled the Bosnian refugee camp she spent time in as a baby, has been named Miss World Australia 2017. She said that she hopes to use the title to challenge stereotypes associated with Islam. “The Islam that I know, that is in the Qur’an. I don’t associate that with any acts that are occurring around the world.” She told the crowd that a lot of things have been misconstrued about Islam. “I feel that a category has been created that is not really what the Qur’an actually promotes. I believe Islam is about peace, unity, prosperity and inclusion.”

UNITED KINGDOM

Haj Fraud: Risk to UK Pilgrims

Major Haj associations in the United Kingdom and the City of London Police have warned British Pilgrims about fraudulent tour operators offering packages to Saudi Arabia, despite an 86% drop in year-on-year reporting of cases. “Haj fraud” typically involves the sale of non-existent packages, while there have been many reports of dodgy travel agents delivering sub-standard accommodation, as well as other infringements. The problem has gained significant attention in the UK, but it is not specific to one country, with reports of cases from Nigeria, Indonesia and beyond. With this year’s Haj season starting in late August, the Council of British Hajis told Arab News that the scale of fraudulent Haj tour operators in the UK is not reflected in the numbers showing a steep decline in people reporting mis-sold trips.

UNITED STATES

Muslims Decry Trump Travel-Ban

American Muslim leaders decried US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric towards their community and predicted the President’s travel-ban would eventually be proven unlawful. The Trump administration says the ban is necessary to keep terrorists out of the country, but immigrant advocates charge that it illegally singles out Muslims – in line with campaign pledges by Trump to bar all Muslims from the country. Leaders of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which claims to be the largest Muslim advocacy group on the continent, slammed the ban as they gathered for a convention in Chicago.

[Compiled by: Syed Nehal Zaheer]