Flashes from the Muslim World

INDIA

Indian Ambassador in Talks with Saudi Space Commission

India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, has held talks with Prince Sultan bin Salman, Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, on extending bilateral cooperationin space technology. During the discussion, the envoy said that the historic relationship between India and Saudi Arabia has been strengthened. Sayeed highlighted ISRO’s cost-effective indigenous technologies and achievements since its inception in 1969, including the Indians space station, and the commercial launch of satellites for foreign countries.

AFGHANISTAN

To Impose Fine on Second Time Hajj

Faced with a huge backlog of applicants, with some waiting for years to perform hajj, the Afghan government has introduced a USD500 fine for those visiting Saudi Arabia for the second time, officials said recently.  Pilgrims have been encouraged to avoid frequent visits and, instead, help poor countrymen as the humanitarian crisis grinds on. Afghanistan’s annual quota for visitors to Islam’s holiest site, Makkah, stands at 30,000 people. The cost of one visit stands at USD2750, while tens of thousands perform Umrah during other times of the year. After the visit, some pilgrims, as part of tradition, throw lavish food parties and give expensive gifts back home.

BANGLADESH

127,000 to Perform Hajj

A total of 127,000 pilgrims from Bangladesh are set to fly to Saudi Arabia for Hajj this year. This year, each of Bangladeshi pilgrims has paid a maximum of USD5000 to perform Hajj while the government has fixed the minimum cost at USD4100. Bangladesh’s national carrier will also offer eleven flights from Dhaka to Madinah for the first time this year. Saudi Arabia introduces pre-immigration facility at Dhaka airport.

To Boost Tourism from OIC States

To attract tourists from these countries, Dhaka has proposed to build a special tourist zone at the world’s longest sea beach in Cox’s Bazar. Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, announced the proposal during the inaugural session of a two-day festival called ‘Dhaka, the OIC City of Tourism, 2019.’ Bangladesh has many historic Islamic sites, such as ancient mosques, holy shrines of different preachers of Islam, and great architectural structures of the Mughals. The country boasts special natural spots including the beach at Cox’s Bazar, the world’s only mangrove forest – the Sundarbans – and the serene beauty of Chattogram Hill Tracts. The value of Islamic tourism market will increase to USD243 billion by 2021,with an annual 8.3% growth. “We will have to take a great effort and prepare a road map aimed at promoting Islamic tourism as a global business brand, which will attract tourists further,” Hasina said.

SINGAPORE

Conference on Cohesive Society

Attacks on interfaith harmony, mutual respect and trust are the world’s single most important threat, King Abdullah of Jordan warned. Speaking at the international Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) in Singapore, Jordan’s monarch condemned both outlaws of Islam and extremist Islamophobes. Perpetrators of hate-filled messages are distorting our religion’s great heritage and teachings, he said. The Jordanian ruler urged 700 delegates from 40 countries to apply the golden rule: “Loving one’s neighbor is not just an ideal. It is the golden rule that enables all of us to live side by side, to look beyond ourselves, and to achieve what we can only achieve in common.” The conference was organized by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), with the support of Singapore’s Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

INDONESIA

Meets Deputy Foreign Minister

The Saudi ambassador to Indonesia, Issam Abed al-Thaqafi, met Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister Abdulrahman Fakhir in Jakarta. During the meeting, they discussed relation between the two countries and the latest developments in the Middle East. They also discussed the Makkah Route Initiative, which was launched in Jakarta recently. The Makkah Route Initiative is expected to serve more than 225,000 pilgrims passing through airports in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tunisia. The initiative enables them to bypass the procedures upon arrival in the Kingdom and to head directly to buses waiting to transport them to accommodations in Makkah and Madinah.

JAPAN

Muslim in Japan

Furat Bantan is a Saudi translator who has been working in Japan for the past thirteen years. He says his life’s goal is simply: To become one of the best Arab translators of the Japanese language and eventually to become a bridge between the Arab world and Japan. Islam is one of the most practiced religions in the world, with the Pew Research Center putting the number of Muslims at about 1.6 billion. Islam also has one of the highest growth rates of all the world’s faiths, with the Pew survey projecting that the number will rise to 2.8 billion in 2050. The Japanese Muslim community is very small compared to the Muslim population of many other East Asian countries. Muslims make up less than 0.1% of Japan’s population. There are about 185,000 Muslims which has a population of 126.8 million. A number of organizations are dedicated to preserving Islamic traditions and providing religious services. Among the most prominent ones are the Japan Islamic Trust and the Islamic Trust of Japan, and the Nippon Asia Halal Association. There are more than 200 mosques scattered across the country. The main mosques are: Kobe Mosque, Kobe. Tokyo Camil, Tokyo, Okachimachi Mosque, Tokyo, Nagoya Masjid, Nogoya and Dar al-Arqam Masjid, Tokyo. Modern Japan has extensive business relations with the Islamic world. The volume of annual trade between Japan and Saudi Arabia alone is currently worth USD26.67 billion.

SOUTH KOREA

Challenges of Arabic language

The Saudi Center for Research and Intercommunication Knowledge (CRIK) has participated in the 5th international conference on the ‘Challenges of Arabic language and Literature in the Digital Age’ in Seoul, South Korea. The event was organized by the Korean Association of Arabic Language and Literature at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. CRIK highlighted its support for these conferences, which contribute to deepening communication between Korean and Arab societies. The Center said that it welcomed cooperation with the Korean association in joint scientific research, translation, training and other knowledge related projects that serve knowledge and cultural communication and strengthen relations between Saudi and Korean researchers.

BAHRAIN

Plan Met with Guarded Enthusiasm

Business leaders from the United States and the Middle East reacted with guarded enthusiasm to the Peace to Prosperity plan presented by White House special adviser, Jared Kushner, to an audience of global decision makers in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO of the big investment business Blackstone group, said the plan could happen in the right circumstances. “We all have to have a dream, and this is a very sensible dream,” he said. The audience of business leaders and policy makers from around the world listened attentively as Kushner unveiled details of the USD50 billion plan to revive the Palestinian and regional economy.

OMAN

To Open Embassy in Palestine

Oman said that it has decided to open an embassy in the Palestinian territories in support of the Palestinian people, in a first for a Gulf Arab state. A delegation from the Foreign Ministry will travel to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority to take the necessary measures to open the embassy. Oman has long been to the Middle East what neutral Switzerland is to global diplomacy. A US-ally bordering Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Oman has frequently served as a mediator in the Arab world. It has been offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians come together, although it is not acting as a direct mediator.

SAUDI ARABIA

Aid Worth USD 170 Million

Saudi Arabia has so far provided aid worth USD 170 million to Syrian refugees living in different parts of the world. The aid has been provided for the continuation of different projects to ensure health care, shelter and humanitarian and emergency relief coordination. Saudi Arabia has so far contributed to 129 foreign aid projects in different countries including Turkey, Greece, Jordan and Lebanon, according to statistics available on the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center’s official Twitter account.

Drive to Promote Cultural Monuments

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) has launched an initiative to register 100 tangible and intangible heritage cultural monuments of OIC member states on the Islamic World Heritage List. The initiative was launched as many historical buildings and landmarks in Islamic countries have been damaged due to wars and conflicts in addition to the theft, smuggling or illicit trade of masterpieces. The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is currently working on activating the Islamic Heritage Committee that was set up following the Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers in Libya in 2007, to enlarge its powers and provide it with new working methods to carry out its functions more effectively.

Held meeting at the OIC Headquarters

The expanded extraordinary meeting of the executive committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was concluded at the headquarters of OIC in Jeddah, to discuss the Israeli violations in Al–Quds Al Sharif, under the chairmanship of Minister of Foreign affairs. In its statement, the committee expressed its concern at the continued attempts to change the historical and legal status of the occupied city of Al-Quds and the transfer of the diplomatic missions of some states to it, condemning any positions, actions, and decisions being aimed at changing the status of the occupied city of the holy city.

Qur’an, Adhan Competitions

More than 21,000 people from 162 countries have, so far, applied to take part in two prestigious Saudi organized religious competitions. The Qur’an and Adhan recital contests will offer a winner’s prize pot of SR 7 million (USD1.9 million). The initiative’s aim is to highlight the diversity of the Muslim world’s cultures and enhance the image of Islam internationally. The competitions are spilt into several phases.On stage live performances will be held from August 24 to September 24, with the winners being announced and awarded throughout the final stage from September 25th until October 25.

To Distribute Eight Million Qur’ans

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and Guidance has started preparations for its Hajj season book distribution program. It is reported that around 52 books in more than 30 languages, for this year’s Hajj season, has been approved. More than eight million copies of the Holy Qur’an, ritual books and manuals will be distributed. Further, Saudi Arabia’s Project for the Utilization of Hady and Adahi has established a joint operations room to follow the progress of sacrifices and monitor all aspects of the scheme through the use of 500 digital and electronic cameras.

Discuss Ways to Promote Dialogue

The Saudi minister of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and guidance, Sheikh Abdul Latif Al-Asheikh, met Miguel Moratinos, the UN High Commissioner for the Affairs of Civilizations in Jeddah. Moratinos, who is currently visiting the Kingdom, thanked Al-Asheikh for his warm reception and expressed the UN Alliance of Civilization’s appreciation of the Ministry’s projects, programs and initiatives to promote dialogue and the values of coexistence, cohesion, tolerance, moderation and the rejection of violence and extremism. Al-Asheikh highlighted the Ministry’s keenness to build bridges of understanding and communication with different cultures.

Training Courses for Hajj workers

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah organized a training session for its seasonal workers titled ‘How to Set an Example and Make a Change,’ in preparation for this year’s Hajj season, which takes place in August. The session focused on the Ministry’s role in serving pilgrims and work ethics, and stressed the importance of recognizing the immense significance of the pilgrimage for pilgrims. The training course also explored the rights of pilgrims, the sectors working in the field of Hajj and Umrah, volunteering opportunities this year, and the skills necessary to become seasonal worker.

Makkah Road to Serve 225,000 Pilgrims

The steering committee of the Makkah Road Initiative held a workshop in Jeddah to review its operations. The workshop, which is under the chairmanship of the Director General of Passports, tested the initiative’s implementation for the coming pilgrimage season. The Makkah Road Initiative expects to serve over 225,000 pilgrims at airports in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tunisia. The workshop also assessed the complementary procedures at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah.

Global Guide on Tolerance

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will launch the first global encyclopedia on tolerance to highlight the true noble Islam to the world, and fight Islamophobia and extremism. This project is the first of its kind. It originated from the OIC’s belief in the promotion of true and pure Islam, Dr. Youssef bin Ahmed al-Othaimeen, OIC Secretary-General, told the first meeting of the encyclopedia’s advisory committee held at the secretariat headquarters in Jeddah. The encyclopedia will include verses from the Qur’an and the Prophet’s biography, in addition to publications and digital materials.

Hi-Tech Smart Cards for Hajjis

Up to 25,000 Hajj pilgrims in Mina, this year, will be issued with wearable hi-tech smart cards in a pilot program being launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. The cards will store the pilgrims’ personal information, health status,residences and Hajj tour details. They will also be fitted with a location tracker to follow individual pilgrims’ movements, managed by a control room in Mina. “It is the experimental stage of a smart Hajj initiative we are working on, and we will study in what extent it might be advantageous to the pilgrims,” Dr.Amr al-Maddah, the Chief Planning and Strategy Officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah told Arab News. The numbers will increase in the coming years to include more pilgrims in the other areas.

Organizes Forum on Moderation

A religious forum on moderation, organized by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and Guidance, represented by the Director-General of Intellectual and Scientific Outreach, concluded in Madinah recently. The Forum, which attracted more than 2,000 attendees, with talks in four languages – Arabic, English, Urdu and Malay – on numerous topics related to moderation, were presented by female academics. The Forum was part of the advocacy programs implemented by the Ministry in various parts of the kingdom to teach people more about Islam and raise awareness of sound religious teachings that reject extremism and terrorism.

340 Million for New Development

The 331st meeting of the board of executive directors of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) approved USD340 million for new development projects in member states. The new finances approved by IDB’s President, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, included initiatives in Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan and Mozambique. The bank will also provide a grant to Suriname, an endowment from of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Benjn and a project for polio eradication in Pakistan.

EGYPT

Museum of Islamic Art

With more than 100,000 antiquities from India, China, Iran, Arabia, Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Andalusia, the museum of Islamic Art in Egypt is the largest institution of its kind in world. The museum, located in the Bab Al Khalk area in the heart of Cairo, is also the largest educational institute in the world in the fields of Islamic Archaeology and Islamic Art. It is renowned for its diverse collection, which includes works in metals, wood and textiles, among other mediums. The idea of a Museum in Egypt dedicated to Islamic art and archaeology began during the rule of Ismail Pasha. The museum has a library that contains collections of rare books and manuscripts in ancient and modern languages as well as a collection of books about Islamic and historical monuments. There are halls containing coins, and weapons, and another section devoted to items used by Egyptians in their daily lives throughout history. The museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest museums of Islamic archaeology in the world, thanks to its rare archaeological artifacts related to Egypt’s Islamic heritage.

Conference on Water Security

Saudi Arabia took part in a high level Arab conference to discuss a water security action plan for the region. The conference was held at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.The meeting was presided over by the Palestinian Water Authority Head, with the participation of Arab Ministers of water resources, environment and irrigation as well as heads of the delegations from Arab states. The key aim of the session was to follow up on developments in supporting Iraq’s rights to preserve its water resources in the Tigris–Euphrates basin. Delegates also reviewed theimplementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in relation to water.

New Courses at Al-Azhar

A new training course has started at Al-Azhar Foundation to rehabilitate British and Ethiopian Muslim Imams to spread the moderate concept of Islam, enhance the presence of Al-Azhar in Islamic territories around the world and counter extreme ideologies. Al-Azhar is known for its enlightened moderate heritage. The training course for British Imams and scholars began recently in Cairo. Several young Imams and female teachers are attending. They have been briefed on intensive scientific and jurisprudence material summarizing the history of Al-Azhar and the main pillars of its moderate ideology.

ALGERIA

36,800 to Perform Hajj

Up to 36,800 Algerians have registered their names to perform Hajj this year Saudi Ambassador to Algeria Abdul Aziz bin Ibrahim al-Omarini said, adding that the Kingdom was sparing no effort to best serve pilgrims. At a press conference in Algiers, the ambassador said the embassy had already issued 2,885 entry visas for various purposes with 7,000 e visas earmarked for Hajj. He said that Hajj related flights from Algiers to the holy sites are set to start on 15thJuly and continue until 6thAugust.

TUNISIA

Grand Mufti in Jeddah

The Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and Guidance, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, received Othman Battikh, the Grand Mufti of Tunisia. Al-Asheikh praised the good relations that bind Saudi Arabia to Tunisia, and their sharing of common interest with regards to matters of great import for Muslims. Battikh pointed out that the meeting with Al-Asheikh is part of the continuous joint efforts to benefit from the Kingdom’s experience in fighting terrorism and promoting moderation and intellectual security. The Tunisian Mufti concluded by praising the efforts of the Saudi Ministry in serving Islamic action around the globe, and in spreading the values of tolerance, and compassion that form an integral  part of the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah.

LEBANON

Bans Muslims from Buying and Renting Property

Municipality officials in Hadat (a small town in Lebanon) issued orders years ago that only Christians beallowed to buy and rent property from the town’s Christian residents. Hadat is a small example to Lebanon’s deeply-rooted sectarian divisions that once led to a fifteen-year civil war that left more than 1,00,000 people dead. Christian communities feel under siege as Muslims, who tend to have higher birth rates, leave overcrowded areas for once predominantly Christian neighborhoods. Three decades ago Hadat was almost entirely Christian, but today it has a Muslim majority because the Muslim population expanded greatly between 1990, when the war ended. Since then, the Muslim population has hovered between 60% and 65%. The ban only applied to Christian property – a Muslim resident or landowner of Hadat is allowed to sell or rent his property to Muslims from outside the town or to whomever he wants. Hadat is the only area where such a ban is publicly announced. Lebanon, a country of about five million, has a very delicate sectarian balance between its eighteen religious sects. Today, Christians make up nearly a third of the population, while the two other thirds are almost equally split between Shi’tes and Sunnis.

GHANA

Meets Ghanian Ashanti king

The Ghanian Ashtani King, Asantehene Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, received the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, in Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti region. The king welcomed the visit of the MWL delegation and praised the League’s humanitarian efforts in Africa, benefiting people from different religions and backgrounds without discrimination. Al-Issa visited several educational facilities in Kumasi, and established a food aid campaign launched by the MWL to help residents in Ashanti. He arrived in Ghana on an official visit, where he was received at Accra airport by the country’s Chief Imam, Sheikh Othman Sharubutu, and senior government officials, religious leaders and academics.

Launches Humanitarian Projects

Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General, Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, has launched development and pastoral projects in Ghana with the support of government and religious figures. He participated in the MWL’s international Festival of Orphans. The MWL gives special importance to orphans, considered one of the most vulnerable categories and subject to various problems, particularly in poor societies due to the absence of one of both parents.

SENEGAL

Honors MWL Chief

Senegalese President Macky Sall honored the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, with Senegal’s topmedal of honor for his international efforts to spread moderation and boost religious and international cooperation. During their meeting in the capital Dakar, the President expressed his appreciation for Al-Issa’s visit, which included the holding of the MWL’s international conference in the city, and that his government valued the MWL’s efforts and programs in Africa. Al-Issa thanked the President for the warm welcome and for honoring him, expressing his happiness visiting Senegal and holding talks with its political and religious leaders.

MAURITIUS

Maintaining Security and Stability of Arab Region

A leading African politician has hailed Saudi Arabia for its vital unifying role in the Muslim world toward maintaining the security and stability of the Arab region. ShowkutallySoodhun, President of Mauritius ruling MSM (Militant Socialist Movement) party and the island nation’s former Vice President, also praised the Kingdom for taking the lead in the global fight against terrorism. “Extremism and terrorism are among the most serious issues the world is currently facing. The kingdom is making great efforts to combat that and we in Mauritius will always stand in support.” He thanked Saudi Arabia for its USD10 million support to Mauritius after the island was recently hit by a cyclone that destroyed 3,000 homes.

AZERBAIJAN

Meets Saudi Justice Minister

Saudi Justice Minister, Dr.Walid al-Samaani, who is also President of Supreme Judicial Council, met Azerbaijan Prime Minister, Novruz Mammadov, in Riyadh. They discussed ways to enhance bilateral ties in the field of judiciary. The Prime Minister said that the Saudi Justice Ministry has developed a special strategy to strengthen international partnership with friendly countries. He said his Ministry wants to share experiences, technology and training procedures with its counterparts in other countries.

MOSCOW

Meets Foreign Minister

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef al-Othaimeen, stressed the importance of consolidating the relationship between the organization and Russia during a meeting in Moscow. Al-Othaimeen praised Saudi Arabia for supporting the organization and the issues of the Islamic world, noting that the Moscow discussions addressed issues of common interest. He said that the two sides were ready to promote and deepen these relations. Fighting terrorism was an international responsibility and Islam was innocent of the extremism it was being accused of, Al-Othaimeen said. Terrorism and chaos were threatening stability and peace in many Islamic countries, he added.

NEW ZEALAND

Terror Victims ’Families for Hajj

Relatives of victims of the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack in New Zealand will take part in the Hajj pilgrimage as guests of King Salman of Saudi Arabia. The invitation to the 200 pilgrims was announced by Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh. Hosting the families during the Hajj season is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to confront and defeat terrorism, in all its forms, the Minister said. “New Zealand has been humbled by the support we have received from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia following the Christchurch terror attacks,”he added.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]