Flashes from the Muslim World

INDIA

300,000 Hajj Applicants Turned Down

An estimated 300,000 Indian Muslims did not have their applications approved for the Hajj this year, according to reports. About 136,000 have performed Hajj this year, according to the Indian Consulate. There are fewer Indians in the Kingdom because of the 20% quota reduction stemming from the expansion of the Grand Mosque. India has 150 million Muslims in a population of over a billion people. For many, it is a dream come true to be on Hajj.

All India Muslim Scholars Association

A. P. Abu Backer Musliyar, Secretary-General of the All India Muslim Scholars Association, said that Islamic schools or Madrassas across India have been playing an important role in preventing extremism among Muslims. “Our Madrassas, mosques and Islamic lectures have played a big role in enlightening the Muslim community and preventing them from terrorism,” he pointed out. “About 90% Muslims follow the country’s law because of Islamic teachings they have acquired from Madrassas and mosques. Our Madrassas are centers of knowledge and culture that contribute to eliminating extremism and terrorism.”

BANGLADESH

Centennial Fund Award

Bangladeshi Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunus, was picked up for the Second Global Entrepreneurship Award (GEA 2014) under the umbrella of the Centennial Fund (CF) chaired by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. This was announced by the Secretary-General of the Award. The names of other winners were not disclosed. Last year, there were eighteen winners from four countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. Yunus won the Award for the Best Leading Figure.

INDONESIA

Seeks Higher Hajj Quota

Indonesia has urged Saudi Arabia to transfer the unused quota of Hajj pilgrims by other countries to Indonesia to cut short its long waiting list. Many Indonesian citizens are waiting for nearly 27 years to perform Hajj. Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, said his countrymen have been waiting of over 25 years to take their turn for Hajj. This is obviously adding to their problems related to age, illness and physical exhaustion.  He said that 168,000 Indonesian pilgrims performed Hajj this year. As many as 126 Indonesians died during this year’s Hajj season. Most of them were aged over 70 years with health problems.

EGYPT

Remittance up 30%

Remittances to Egypt have increased by 30% for the first time since 2011, according to currency exchange offices. Political turmoil in Egypt and ongoing labor inspections had drastically reduced the amount of money Egyptian expats had sent back home during this period. Expat remittance stood at an estimated SR1 billion in 2013, a steep decline from the SR6 billion in 2010.

PALESTINE

Settlements Threat to Al-Aqsa

Jewish settlements around Al-Aqsa Mosque are growing rapidly leading to the eviction of Palestinians from their native land, said Yousuf Juma Salama, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque, while talking to Malayalam News, a sister publication of Arab News. Salama, who was in Makkah to perform Hajj as a guest of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, said Israel is trying to impose more restrictions on Palestinians visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque.  They want to ban women from entering the mosque, the imam said. Palestinian miseries are mounting every day.  Israeli settlers are grabbing their land while the world watches in silence.

JAPAN

More Japanese Varsities to Serve Halāl Food

More Japanese universities would soon provide halāl food on their campuses to cater for the growing number of Muslim students, the Japanese embassy announced recently. The ambassador stated that his country would also serve halāl food for Muslims at the airport and in the commercial area. Currently, there are 12,000 Japanese Muslims and, at least, one mosque in every province of the country’s 47 regions and provinces. Yamanashi University has added new items with halāl stickers to its menu according to a report. There are about 180 foreign students at the school; half of them are Muslims from various countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. The meals are prepared and served in accordance with Islamic law, which stipulates the correct method of draining blood from the animals. According to a report, the University of Tokyo was the first to incorporate halāl meat into its meal options in 2012 using meat ordered through the Association and four universities in the region have followed suit.

SAUDI ARABIA

Record Number of Syrians Performed Hajj

The number of Arab pilgrims this Hajj season stands at 265,217, according to figures released by National Tawafa Establishment for the Pilgrims of the Arab countries. Egypt topped the list of the number of Arab pilgrims with 68,749, followed by Algeria at 28,543, Morocco at 26,790 and Iraq at 26,529. From Sudan came 25,719 pilgrims, while the number of Yemeni pilgrims, despite the crisis in the country, stood at 19,360 pilgrims. The number of Jordanian pilgrims was put at more than 10,000 pilgrims. For the first time in three years, Syrian pilgrims came in record numbers this year: 9,185 with the Syrian National Coalition taking on the task of organizing the sending of pilgrims from the capitals of the countries surrounding Syria, namely Beirut, Amman, Cairo and Ankara. The quota of pilgrims coming from Arab countries was also reduced by 20% because of the ongoing Matāf expansion.

Largest Stamp Collection Record

A Saudi has sent, to the Guinness World Records, what is believed to be the world’s largest stamps collection. Reda Shaib, a philatelist, started the project two years ago in Al-Ahsa. Shaib’s collection contains 1.1 million different Saudi stamps. The collection includes stamps issued since the Kingdom was founded. Shaib took every opportunity to ask people he met to support the project, adding that it would be a matter of great pride for the Kingdom to enter into the Guinness World Records.

1,200 New Muslims Perform Pilgrimage

An estimated 1,200 converts to Islam across the Kingdom performed Hajj this year, according to reports. They were sponsored by various Cooperative Offices for Call and Guidance, including one based in Batha that sponsored 400 new converts, according to a source from COCG. Renee, a Filipino convert returned to Riyadh from his first Hajj pilgrimage, an experience that he said made him feel like he was reborn. “It really indicates that we are in a place where there is no differentiation between race, leaders and ordinary people,” he added. He expressed his deep gratitude for the highly organized and professional manner in which this year’s Hajj was conducted.

AUSTRALIA

Islamic Propagation Pavilion

An Australian woman surprised participants of the Saudi National Day celebrations in Melbourne by declaring her decision to embrace Islam. She announced her decision after visiting a pavilion on Islamic propagation at an exhibition organized by the Saudi Students’ Club. Islam is the second fastest growing religion in Australia, which has a population of more than 20 million. Muslims constitute about 2.5% of the population. Melbourne, with a Muslim population of 180,000, is the main center of Islamic activities. Lebanese and Turkish nationals constitute the largest number of Muslim migrants.

Parliament Lifts Ban

Australia’s Parliament House lifted a short lived ban on facial coverings including burqas and niqabs after the Prime Minister intervened. The Department of Parliamentary Services (or DPS) said people wearing face coverings would be allowed in all public areas of Parliament House. The ban had been widely condemned as a segregation of Muslim women and a potential breach of anti-discrimination laws.

1,200 New Muslims Perform Pilgrimage

An estimated 1,200 converts to Islam across the Kingdom performed Hajj this year, according to reports. They were sponsored by various Cooperative Offices for Call and Guidance, including one based in Batha that sponsored 400 new converts, according to a source from COCG. Renee, a Filipino convert returned to Riyadh from his first Hajj pilgrimage, an experience that he said made him feel like he was reborn. “It really indicates that we are in a place where there is no differentiation between race, leaders and ordinary people,” he added. He expressed his deep gratitude for the highly organized and professional manner in which this year’s Hajj was conducted.

FRANCE

Gather in Paris to Denounce IS

Hundreds of people gathered in Paris answering a call by Muslim leaders to denounce the ‘barbarism’ of IS militants as flags across France flew at half mast after the beheading of a French national. Imams and ordinary Muslims have rallied to condemn the execution of 55-year-old mountaineer, Herve Gourdel, by militants in Algeria with ties to the IS Jihadists, as the country mourns the brutal murder. “This gathering is the strong and vibrant expression of our desire for national unity and of our unwavering will to live together,” Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, an official representative for the country’s five million Muslims, told the gathering outside Paris’ main mosque. Islam is a religion of peace, he said, adding it orders respect for life.

Parliament Lifts Ban

Australia’s Parliament House lifted a short lived ban on facial coverings including burqas and niqabs after the Prime Minister intervened. The Department of Parliamentary Services (or DPS) said people wearing face coverings would be allowed in all public areas of Parliament House. The ban had been widely condemned as a segregation of Muslim women and a potential breach of anti-discrimination laws.

1,200 New Muslims Perform Pilgrimage

An estimated 1,200 converts to Islam across the Kingdom performed Hajj this year, according to reports. They were sponsored by various Cooperative Offices for Call and Guidance, including one based in Batha that sponsored 400 new converts, according to a source from COCG. Renee, a Filipino convert returned to Riyadh from his first Hajj pilgrimage, an experience that he said made him feel like he was reborn. “It really indicates that we are in a place where there is no differentiation between race, leaders and ordinary people,” he added. He expressed his deep gratitude for the highly organized and professional manner in which this year’s Hajj was conducted.

BELGIUM

Tarnishing Image of Islam

A Belgian convert to Islam who performed Hajj this year for the first time as a guest of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) said that it was the prohibition of alcohol that encouraged him to embrace the Islamic faith. “When I saw the Holy Ka’bah for the first time, it gave me an inexplicable happy feeling. My heart was beating fast, giving me a new spiritual enthusiasm and awakening,” said Mario Cools, who is President of 4 New Muslims, an organization based in Wommelgem. Cools said his organization promotes the true message of Islam of peace and tolerance. “If you learn about Islam, it is not about killing and violence. Rather, it is all about caring for and helping people.” He said terrorists groups like IS and Al-Qaeda were tarnishing the image of Islam. An estimated 650,000 Muslims live in Belgium, mainly from Morocco and Turkey. The country has a population of about 11 million. There are over 300 mosques and Muslim places of worship in the country.

RUSSIA

Hotel goes Halāl

No bacon for breakfast, a room for prayers and a Qur’an on your bedside table. A hotel in Moscow has launched a special ‘halāl’ service as Russia tries to attract visitors from the Muslim world. “Around 70% of our guests are from overseas and 13% of these of some 5,000 people come from Muslim countries, especially from Iran,” said Lyubov Shiyan, Marketing Director at the Aesostar Hotel. To make the hotel halāl, the hotel had to go through a rigorous procedure before it could finally be certified halāl by Muslim officials in Russia and launch the services this month. Despite being home to some 20 million Muslims, Russia today has only two hotels – both in the traditionally Muslim region of Tatarstan – that are officially recognized as halāl.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]