Flashes from the Muslim World

BURMA

Burmese in big demand to lead Taraweeh

More than 500 Burmese expatriates who have memorized the Holy Qur’an and can recite it beautifully had  been employed to lead Taraweeh and Qiyam al-Layl prayers in various cities, towns and villages in Saudi Arabia. A few weeks before the advent of Ramadan, residents of remote areas visited Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah looking for Burmese reciters to lead Taraweehprayers. Students of Qur’an memorization schools in Makkah told Arab News that about 70 of their teachers were Burmese. Many Burmese migrated to Saudi Arabia for various reasons, including religious repression in their home country. There are about 300,000 of them living in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah.

BAHRAIN

To spend USD1bn more on wages

Bahrain has approved an additional budget spending of 388.5 million dinars (USD1.03billion) over two years  years to cover wage increases for government employees, the state news agency BNA said recently, following social unrest earlier this year. Upheaval that has spread across the Middle East, toppling long time autocratic leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya has prompted governments to hand out billions in an effort to create  jobs and offset rising living costs. The amount will be used to  improve  the wages and living standards of state employees and retirees as well as providing more funds to government bodies and bolstering reserves.

QATAR

Raises in salaries and pensions

Qatar will hand out significant salary, pension and benefits increase for its state and military employees costing  as much as 30 billion riyals (USD8.24 billion), a move seen as an attempt to help preserve stability in the state.  The decree will boost basic salaries and social benefits for state civilian employees by 60%. The total salary increases will amount to 10 billion Riyals (USD2.75 billion) per year, the statement said. Qataris constitute about 20% of the population of 1.7 million, and only about 6% of the workforce.

To reach food sustainability

Many Gulf countries have been investing in foreign farmland, mainly in fertile Africa, to serve as their bread-basket.  But Qatar has recently announced that it was going to boost its own food security and start investing in a master plan to turn 45,000 hectares of its own land into farms. The government’s Qatar National Food Security Program says its plan is to achieve self-sufficiency using the most modern technological advances to feed its booming  population. At the moment, Qatar, an arid country of some 1.7 million inhabitants jutting off Saudi Arabia into the Gulf, can only produce about 10% of its food needs and is desperately reliant on imports. Green houses are a rarity at the moment and they exist only on about 1% of cultivated land.

SAUDI ARABIA

Largest book on Prophet planned

Plans are under way to publish literally the largest book on the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),  which is expected to weigh 1,600 kg and contains 420 pages, each page with dimensions of four by five meters. The book, according to Shams Arabic Daily, is authored by Abdullah al-Mosleh, Secretay General of the Organization for Scientific Miracles in the Holy Qur’an. It will be translated into four international languages and registered in the Guinness Book of Records. The main objective of the book is to promote the message of the Prophet and give a correct picture of his life and teachings. The work is important at a time when enemies of Islam have launched a strident campaign against the Prophet to tarnish his image.

Among 20 top competitive economies of world

Saudi Arabia has broken into the top 20 most competitive economies of the world for the first time, which also saw other Gulf countries continue their upward trend of recent years. The Global Competitiveness Report 2011-12, released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), puts Saudi Arabia at number 17 from number 21 in 2010-11. Qatar at 14th solidifies its place in the top 20, followed by the United Arab Emirates at 27th, Kuwait at 34th and Bahrain 37th. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are consolidating their positions as attractive places to do business.

Strong media can change stereotypes

A senior official of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) has called for the establishment of strong media organizations by Muslims in order to challenge stereotypes of Islam and Muslims that link them to terrorism and extremism. “Our efforts in this respect are still meager compared to the strident smear campaigns we are facing around the world, especially in the West,” said the Director General for media and public relations at the MWL. We have to hold seminars and conferences in various parts of the world inviting non-Muslims to correct this perception. We should also have a strong media, including satellite channels and news agencies that can influence public opinion and take our viewpoints to people across the world. He called   for joint efforts by all Muslim countries to confront the stereotypes against Islam.

OIC remembers victims of 9/11

On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) joins joins the international community in remembering the horrendous and cowardly act of terrorism and the tragic loss of thousands of innocent human lives. The OIC was among the first in expressing shock and horror at the dastardly terrorist attack and in condemning it in strongest terms. The OIC seizes this opportunity to reiterate its firm position of condemning terrorism in all its forms.

FRANCE

Court fines veil-wearing women

A French court fined two Muslim women for wearing full face veils in public, the first time a judge has imposed punishment under a ‘burqa ban,’  law that has become a legal and cultural battleground across Europe. One of the women pledged immediately to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ban. Only a tiny percentage of French women wear theNiqab (full face veil). But the law, which took effect in April, has become a focus of debate in Europe, where right wing parties hostile to Muslim immigration are gaining support.

NETHERLANDS

Campaign against extremism

On the eve of 9/11, a Dutch Muslim politician has launched a campaign calling on Muslims around the world  to stop blindly following decrees issued by a handful of extremists and to start thinking for themselves.  Popular debates about Islam have spokespeople who are either extremists or anti-Islam, with the result that  the  perspective of the reasonable Muslim is over shadowed. The Netherlands is home to about 800,000 Muslims, or about 5% of the population, mainly of Moroccan or Turkish origin. As in many other European countries, much of the debate over immigration and Islam centers on concerns about integration.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Most US Muslims feel targeted

More than half of Muslim-Americans in a new poll say government anti-terrorism policies single them out for  increased surveillance and monitoring, and many report increased cases of name calling, threats and harassment by air port security law enforcements officer sand others. The vast majority of Muslim Americans –  79% – rate their communities as either excellent or good places to live in, even among many who reported an act of vandalism against a mosque or a controversy over the  building of an Islamic center in their neighborhoods. When asked to choose, nearly half of Muslims in the US say they think of themselves first as Muslim, rather than as American. Roughly 60% say that most Muslims come to the US to adopt the American way of life and see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.