Flashes from the Muslim World

BANGLADESH

Fastest growing refugee crisis

More than half a million Rohingya who have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh in recent weeks represent the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Noor Hussain Arkani, President of the Burmese Muslim Welfare Organization in Pakistan represents the 300,000 strong Rohingya community – one of the oldest refugee population in the country – having arrived more than 50 years ago. “Just because we are immigrants who took refugees in Pakistan, doesn’t mean we are a liability to the country,” he said. Rohingya Muslims are mainly a fishing community in Karachi, they also work in textile factories, they sell vegetables and the women folk weave beautiful carpets at home.

SINGAPORE

MWL Chiefs Call for More Awareness

Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General, Mohammad al-Issa, and Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister, K. Shanmugam, concluded the second Forum of the Heads of Islamic Cultural Centers and Associations outside the Islamic world in Singapore. The Forum was organized by Jamiyah Singapore – also known as the Muslim Missionary Society Singapore – and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO). MWL Secretary-General said, “It is my pleasure to be here in Singapore, whose people are an outstanding example of coexistence, tolerance and social harmony. They have actually set an example for the whole world.” He stressed that the MWL focuses on fostering understanding and a culture of cooperation, tolerance and civilized communication. He also called for greater awareness of the dangers threatening our world today, particularly terrorism – which he described as a plague that has reached all countries through social media.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Palestinian Girl Wins USD150,000 Arab Reading Prize

A Palestinian high school student won USD150,000  in an Arabic language reading competition organized by the Dubai government. Seventeen year old Afaf Raed Shariff, from Ramallah beat sixteen finalists from across the Arab world to land the top prize in the second annual Arab Reading Challenge. Participants had to read at least 50 books to qualify. “This is a victory over all the challenges that we face. We refuse to be any less than any other people in the world,” Sharif told AFP. The all-girl Al Imam School in Bahrain, won a USD1 million prize for the best reading initiatives for students.

Emirati Woman Donates USD5.4M

Awqaf  and Minors Affaris Foundation (AMAF) has announced the establishment of its first ever educational endowment, jointly set up under the names of Dawlat Mahmood al-Mahmood and her late husband, Abdul Gafoor Ali Gargash, with a donation of 20 million dirhams. Annual revenues from the endowment will finance the university education of minors and orphans under AMAF’s care. The education endowment is the largest of its kind received by AMAF to date, and reflects a mature understanding of the Emirati culture of endowment that supports government efforts in meeting basic human needs and aids long term sustainable development.

SAUDI ARABIA

To Set Up Permanent Liaison Body

Following the meeting with Pope Francis in Vatican City, Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General, Mohammed al-Issa, met with the head of the Pontifical Council of the Vatican, Cardinal Jean-Laurent Tauran. The meeting established a permanent liaison committee between the Vatican represented by the Pontifical Council, and the MWL, to discuss various initiatives. The MWL Chief lauded the historic meeting with the Pope, and his rejection of claims that Islam is linked to extremism and terrorism. Al Issa said no religion espouses extremism, but none is free from extremist elements.

Massive Push to Drive Pilgrim Tourism

Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund is establishing two new companies to increase the number of pilgrims that the Kingdom can host in Makkah and Madinah, the Fund said in a statement. The investment at the holy sites is aimed at boosting revenues from tourism and offsetting the impact of lower oil prices. The Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), said the companies – Rou’a al Haram and Rou’a al Madinah – will develop residential and commercial areas around the Grand Mosque in Makkah and Madinah. The first phase of the project is anticipated to launch in 2023. The Fund said that the new companies would help the Kingdom accommodate between 25 million to 30 million pilgrims a year. The companies will develop 150,000 hotel rooms in both cities near the holy sites.

Makkah–Madinah Train Service to Start

The Makkah Region Development Authority has announced the completion of field work on the Haramain Express Train. It expects the project to be fully completed in late 2017 and operational in the first quarter of 2018, Al Hayat newspaper reported. The 450 KM electric railway project serves as a qualitative addition to the transportation system in the Kingdom. It will provide a fast, convenient, reliable and safe mode of transport between Makkah and Madinah, as well as the cities of Jeddah and Rabigh. The project is in its final stages after 35 trains with a capacity of 417 seats per train were equipped with all amenities.

Has Fired Thousands of Extremist Imams

Saudi Arabia has dismissed several thousand Imams from mosques for spreading extremism, Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, told Russian journalists in Moscow. “We will not let anyone spread the ideology of hatred, to finance that kind of ideology or terrorism,” he said. “Our approach to this problem has been very strict. We modernize our educational system in order to rule out the possibility of misinterpretation of texts. We are convinced that there are certain principles that all countries must stick to. Say ‘No’ to terrorism, the financing of terrorism, extremism and propaganda of hatred, and attempts to interfere in the domestic affairs of other states,” he said.

MWL Rejects UN Report

The Muslim World League (MWL) criticized the methodology and findings of a UN report on children in armed conflict. The report commended the Saudi–led coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen, for its actions to improve child protection, and for its cooperation with the UN. The MWL said that, on behalf of the Muslim world and the many organizations, Islamic and non-Islamic, with which it was affiliated, it rejected the findings of the report. The MWL said that the documentation in the UN report failed to reach international standards, and the report had failed to determine liability with a proper investigation.

OIC, ISESCO to Hold Forum

In a major move to fight hostilities and prejudices toward Muslims and Islam globally, the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has joined forces with three other organizations for a regional forum in Dakar. The two-day Forum on Islamophobia mapped out a comprehensive strategy to address intense spikes in anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes. A large number of Muslims, not only in the Western countries, but also in other parts of the world, are experiencing discrimination… Muslims in the US and the West continue to be the most negatively rated religious group. Hence, there is need to set up more and more advocacy groups to fight Islamophobia.

Nine Saudis Win 21 Medals

Nine Saudis won 21 medals for ten inventions registered at King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), which they presented at the International Warsaw Invention Show in Poland. Six of the inventions were presented for the first time at the international level. The Saudi Press Agency said that the Saudi inventions were among 400 other inventions presented by inventors from Asia, Africa, Europe and US. The International Warsaw Invention Show is an accredited exhibition from the International Federation of Inventors Associations, of which Saudi Arabia is an active member.

Prophet’s Saying to Counter Extremism

Saudi Arabia, the birth-place of Islam, is to monitor interpretations of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings to prevent them being used to justify violence or terrorism, the Culture and Information Ministry has said. In a decree, King Salman ordered the establishment of an authority to scrutinize uses of the hadith accounts of the sayings, actions or habits of the Prophet (saws) that are used by preachers and jurists to support teachings and edicts on all aspects of life. The Ministry said that the body’s aim would be to eliminate fake and extremists texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorists acts. The body will be based in Madinah and be overseen by a Council of Senior Scholars from around the world.

IDB Pledges USD800m to Boost Economies

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has signed agreements worth USD804 million with seven countries in Africa and Latin America in order to help boost their economies. The agreements, which came on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, cover several infrastructure projects in the areas of energy, housing, agriculture and water supply. The agreements were signed by Bandar Hajjar, the Chairman of the IDB group, and the finance ministers of Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Tunisia and Suriname during a ceremony. The Chairman of the IDB group stressed that the IDB believes that any citizen of the member states must have decent living conditions and that the bank looks forward to further constructive partnership with member states in order to build a prosperous future for the peoples of these countries.

Need to Differentiate Fatwas to Maintain Stability

During the opening session of “The Role of Fatwa in Maintaining Social Stability,” conference which concluded in Cairo recently, the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Mohammad al-Issa, called on Muftis and religious men to consider the consequences of Fatwas before issuing them, the differences between Islamic communities and immigrant minorities, and the difference between Fatwas for individual and international issues.  Held under the auspices of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, more than 1,000 Muftis and Islamic organization heads from around the world, gathered for the conference.

JORDAN

Has Cost USD10 Billion

Authorities in Jordan estimated at more than USD10 billion the cost of hosting thousands of refugees displaced from Syria since the civil war broke out there in 2011. The UN says that some 650,000 Syrian refugees are currently being housed in Jordan, but the government puts the figure far higher at around 1.3 million people. The Foreign Ministry said that more than USD10.3 billion had been spent on putting up the refugees. Jordan, which shares a 370 kilometer border with Syria, estimates that almost USD1.7 billion will be needed to cover the refugees this year.  Fighting in Syria has claimed more than 330,000 lives since a brutal crackdown by the army on protesters in 2011 spiraled into all out conflict.

MOROCCO

Prepares to Test Fastest Train in Africa

Engineers in Morocco are preparing to test Africa’s first high-speed railway with trains reaching 320 kilometers per hour (Kph), the country’s rail official said recently. One train reached 275 Kph along a stretch of track between the northern cities of Kenitra and Tangiers. This is already the fastest train on the African continent. The railways are targeting six million travelers a year after three years of operations. Moroccan leaders have heralded the project as a key step in modernizing the country’s infrastructure. But opponents have criticized it, saying the money could have been better spent in a country where many live in poverty. They also argue that if unfairly favored French companies.

OIC Seminar on Media Role

The OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) concluded its 4th international seminar on “The Role of Media in Combating Hate Speech,” at the Hotel La Tour Hassan Palace, Rabat, Morocco. The IPHRC is mandated to address issues concerning Islamophobia and hate speech which are serious violations of human rights and an affront to human dignity, Maha Akheel, the Director of the OIC Information Department told Arab News. Akeel added that, at present, we are witnessing an increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric and violent acts in Europe and the United States. The seminar was attended by OIC members and observer states.

EGYPT

Al Azhar Imam Suspended

An Imam at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University has publicly apologized after being suspended from his job and subjected to massive criticism for singing on TV while wearing his religious uniform. The Imam was on an Egyptian talk show when the presenter asked him to sing a song in tribute to the legendary Arab singer, Umm Kulthum. The case was investigated by the Ministry of Awqaf and it was reported that he was singing while wearing his Azhari uniform, a turban and long thobe. The Ministry said that Imam Ehab Younes has been suspended from his work as an Imam and preacher at Ali bin Abi Talib Mosque, which falls under the Ministry’s authority.

Population Stands at Nearly 105 Million

Egypt said that its population stands at nearly 95 million, in addition to an estimated 9.4 million who live abroad, according to the latest census figures. There is an increase of 22 million since 2006, when the latest census was held.  Abu Bakr El Gindy, Head of the State’s Statistics Bureau, said Egyptians aged between 15 and 34 accounted for 34.8% of the population. Egypt’s capital Cairo and its twin province of Giza have a combined population of 18.1 million. Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, has been struggling to check its population growth – about two million a year – to allow its ambitious economic reforms to make a difference to the country’s poor majority.

ZIMBABWE

Prevention Programs in Africa

The Muslim World League (MWL), represented by the International Islamic Relief Organization, Saudi Arabia (IIROSA) in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, concluded a medial camp for eye-cataract surgeries in collaboration with the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health and in coordination with the Central Government Hospital. The Secretary-General of  the Muslim World League, Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa, requested the continuation of these medical camps which are part of a huge project in Africa – organized and fully funded by the MWL to prevent blindness.

TURKEY

Erdogan Accuses Myanmar

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has accused the security forces in Myanmar of waging “Buddhist Terror” against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled to Bangladesh. Erdogan, who has repeatedly highlighted the plight of the Rohingya again accused the Yangon government for carrying out a genocide against the people in Rakhine state. In a speech in Istanbul, Erdogan lamented the failure of the international community to lay sanctions against the Myanmar government over it campaign. He added “Buddhists always get represented as envoys of good will. At the moment, there is clear Buddhist terror in Myanmar.”

RUSSIA

Morale Booster for Russia’s 20 Million Muslims

For Russia’s 20 million Muslims, the visit by King Salman is an unprecedented and morale-boosting opportunity to welcome the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. This year 23,500 Muslims came from Russia to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah for Hajj, an increase of 7,500 on last year, when numbers were depleted by construction works and the Syrian crisis. Muslims comprise about 15% of the population and play a key role in Russian society. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, ten Russian Muslims won gold medals out of the 23 gold medalists from the Russian Federation. They mostly live in the Volga-Ural region and the Northern Caucasus, and major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg.

SWEDEN

Arrests Man Over Attack on Mosque

Swedish police arrested a man suspected of an arson attack that damaged a mosque overnight in the city of Orebro, the latest in a string of such incidents in recent years. “We currently see no political or religious motives to this crime of speculation, and we refrain from all kinds of speculation,” Bo Anderson, the police chief of Orebro, about 200 Km west of Stockholm, said at a news conference. The mosque can host up to 250 people inside, and has thousands of visitors every month. Several mosques in Sweden have been the target of arson attacks and vandalism in recent years but few of the perpetrators have been caught. No one has died in the attacks.

UNITED KINGDOM

Mosque Confusion Upstages Labour

For the UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, it was a case of being upstaged by his own stage. The backdrop to the party’s annual conference in the seaside town of Brighton sparked a wave of outrage on social media as people mistook it for an image of a mosque. But the anger turned out to mirth when it became clear that the image was in fact a representation of the famous Brighton Pavilion.

SEDCO Capital Participated in Islamic Finance Forum

SEDCO Capital, one of the largest asset managers in Saudi Arabia, had participated in the Islamic Finance Forum as an associate sponsor to discuss the benefits of combining Shariah finance principles with ethical investment. The Forum, which took place at Mansion House in London, included several panels and workshops focusing on trends in Islamic finance and European markets. Panel topics included the role of European stock exchanges in facilitating Islamic capital-raising, Islamic co-operate financing activity in Europe and the impact of Brexit. SEDCO Capital  was the first Saudi asset manager and the first fully Shariah-compliant asset manager to become a signatory of the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investing (UNPRI), an initiative started by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Campaign against Anti-Muslim Hate Crime Launched

A campaign against anti-Muslim hate crime was launched across London buses and tubes. Transport for London (TFL) and police are working together on 200 events across in support of the broader National Hate Crime Awareness Week. Spikes in anti-Muslim hate crime were recorded in both London and Manchester following terror attacks in the cities this summer. Police officers visited communities in East London and urged people to report hate crimes and stressed that London’s public transport system is safe and welcoming to all. “London represents one of the most diverse capital cities in the world, and we will never tolerate those that seek to divide us through hatred and bigotry; we will always stand united,” said Detective Superintendent Adnan Qureshi from the Mets Roads and Transport Policing Command.

 

[Compiled by: Syed Nehal Zaheer]