Flashes from the Muslim World

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Joins Travel Expo

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center (SZGMC) participated in the Arabian Travel Market 2021 exhibition, which was held in Dubai and concluded recently. The participation is part of the Center’s strategy to play a religious, cultural and civilizational role in society. The exhibition also enabled the Center to shed light on Islamic heritage and noble values and the mosque’s richness in arts and aesthetics of Islamic architecture. The Grand Mosque stand welcomed many visitors from different cultures, who learned how the mosque is one of the most important examples of Islamic architecture.

OIC Chief Urges Focus on Education

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) oversaw the second Islamic Summit on Science and Technology virtually hosted by the UAE, under the theme, Scientific Technology and Innovation: Opening New Horizons. During a speech at the summit, OIC’s Secretary-General, Dr. Yousef al-Othaimeen said, “The OIC member-states have made positive progress in the recent period, as the number of scientific publications increased by 34%, and the value of technology exports from OIC countries increased by 32%. Al-Othaimeen also drew attention to a space probe that the UAE developed which is successfully orbiting Mars.

OMAN

Visa-free Ten-day Entry

Oman will exempt nationals of 103 countries from needing an entry visa for a stay of up to ten days, in a move to support tourism and shore up its struggling economy. Visitors must have a confirmed hotel reservation, health insurance and a return ticket, Royal Oman Police said on its Twitter account. Oman, rated sub-investment grade by all major credit rating agencies, faces a widening deficit and large debt maturities in the coming few years. It has recently embarked on a new fiscal plan to wean itself off its dependence on oil revenues.

SAUDI ARABIA

Three Million Liters of Zamzam Distributed

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has distributed more than three million liters of Zamzam water among visitors since the resumption of the Umrah pilgrimage. The authorities are taking strict measures to check the spread of the Coronavirus disease, COVID–19, by ensuring use of disposable cups. Nearly two million bottles of Zamzam water have been distributed among pilgrims since the beginning of Umrah.

Religious Leaders Denounce Extremism in Europe

The King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), in collaboration with the European Council of Religious Leaders, organized a virtual dialogue seminar under the theme ‘The Contributions of Religious Leaders in Tackling Violent Extremism and Promoting Social Cohesion in Europe: Fight and Response.’ The seminar was part of a series of initiatives by KAICIID to promote social cohesion in Europe following recent terrorist attacks in France and Austria. The abuse of religion on one hand and the targeting of societal components, religion, race, and culture, on the other hand, have become an exciting feature of some societies.

OIC Reaffirms Support for Palestinian Rights

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has reiterated its political support for Palestine and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. These statements were made during the OIC’s participation in a ceremony organized at the UN headquarters in New York to observe a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. The conference seeks to end the occupation, and establish the freedom and independence of Palestinian people in the sovereign state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, established on the 1967 borders.

Arabic Calligraphy in the Spotlight

Arabic calligraphy took a starring role in the King’s Cup final. The players had their names written in Arabic on their shirts for the first time in the history of the tournament’s final. The presence of Arabic calligraphy in the final was an extension of a campaign led by the Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sports, to Arabicize the shirts of local club members in the tournament.

US Officials Laud Etidal’s Strategies

Melissa Clegg-Trip, Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia, recently visited the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (ETIDAL) in Riyadh. During the visit, the US delegation was briefed about the Center’s role and the strategies to combat extremism in all its forms. The US officials took a tour of the Command and Control Center, during which they learned about the monitoring and analysis mechanism, the techniques used and the models built and developed within the Center. The Center was established on three basic pillars:confronting extremism by the latest intellectual, media and numerical methods and means.

Four Historic Mosques Restored in Qassim

Qassim Governor, Prince Faisal bin Mishaal, thanked Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for restoring four historical mosques in the region, as part of the Mohammed bin Salman Project for Historical Mosques  Renovation. Prince Faisal said, “This generous donation to restore more than 130 historical mosques in various regions of the Kingdom, with a total cost of SR50 million (USD13 million), including four mosques in Qassim, will enable these mosques to play their role and restore their past heritage and their status which they enjoyed in the past.

Growth of Arabic Calligraphy

With the Kingdom’s declaration of 2020 as the Year of Arabic Calligraphy, the art-form is seeing a revival. Several Saudi cities are offering sessions for both men and women, allowing participants to reconnect with the heritage of Arabic calligraphy, which continues to gain popularity among art enthusiasts. Other platforms to receive and support ideas and submissions have also been launched. Aesthetically, Arabic calligraphy develops the student’s artistic taste. The art of Arabic calligraphy developed from two major styles: Naskh and Kufic. Originating in the Iraqi city of Kufa in, or around, the seventh century (CE), Kufic is the earliest example of a universal calligraphic style.

Translation Service for Grand Mosque Visitors

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has recruited a group of distinguished translators speaking 21 languages to serve visitors in the Grand Mosque hallways. The Presidency translates the Friday sermon from the Grand Mosque, with the number of beneficiaries exceeding 5,000 inside the mosque and 20,000 on the Manaratal-Haramian platform. The Arafat Day sermon has been also translated for the past three years, benefitting more than two million worshippers.

EGYPT

Population Rise a ‘National Problem,’Says Minister

Egypt’s fourteen-fold population increase between 1982 and 2017 has created a ‘national problem’ that required urgent attention, a government minister has said. Deputy Minister of Health and Population, Tarek Tawfik, revealed that over the 35-year period, the number of people living in the country had shot up from 6.7 million to 84.8 million. He pointed out the Egyptian National Population Council was currently drafting public policy documentation in collaboration with the American University in Cairo (AUC), aimed at resolving some of the country’s population-related issues.

Tourism Records 21.6% Decline

Egyptian tourism revenues have declined by 21.6% during the last fiscal year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s Central Bank has said. About 2.3 million Egyptian citizens also lost their jobs amid the pandemic during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. A report by the Central Bank of Egypt said that tourism and travel receipts recorded USD9.85 billion in sales during the last fiscal year, compared to about USD12.57 billion during the previous fiscal year, which was an all-time high. The unemployment rate reached its highest level in two years at 9.6% in the second quarter of 2020, compared to 7.7% in the first quarter. The number of unemployed Egyptians during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year totaled 2.574 million compared to 2.236 million in the third quarter. Egypt’s retail sector incurred the largest number of job losses during the pandemic reporting 624,000. It was followed by the manufacturing sector with 569,000 jobs.

MOROCCO

Schools to Teach History and Culture

Jewish history and culture in Morocco will soon be part of the school curriculum – a first in the region and in the North African country, where Islam is the state religion. The decision has the impact of a tsunami, said Serge Berdugo, Secretary-General of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco. It is a first in the Arab world, he told AFP from Casablanca. For years, although the Kingdom has no official relationship with Israel, thousand of Jews of Moroccan origin visited the land of their ancestors, to celebrate religious holidays or to make pilgrimages, including from Israel. Morocco recently became the fourth Arab nation, since August, to announce a US-brokered deal to normalize relations with Israel, following the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.

ETHIOPIA

Food has Run Out

The United Nations says food has now run out for the nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea who have been sheltering in camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, which has been cut off from the world for nearly a month amid fighting. “Concerns are growing by the hour,” UN Refugees Spokesman, Babar Baloch, told reporters in Geneva. “The camps will have now run out of food supplies – making hunger and malnutrition a real danger, a warning we have been issuing since the conflict began nearly a month ago. We are also alarmed at unconfirmed reports of attacks, abductions and forced recruitment at the refugee camps. Communications and transport links to the Tigray region of six million people have been severed, and the UN and others have pleaded for access to deliver badly needed food, medicines and other supplies.”

NIGER

Project Launched to Support Women, Youth

The Islamic World Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) and the National Commission for Education, Science and Culture of Niger launched a project to support the country’s women and youth in innovation and entrepreneurship. The Director-General of ICESCO, Dr. Salim bin Mohammed al-Malik, said the organization will continue to work with African countries to advance education, science and culture.

SOMALIA

300 Tons of Dates

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has launched a project to distribute 300 tons of dates to the people in Somalia. As many as 122,500 Somalis in the country’s southeastern Bennadir region are expected to benefit from the Saudi aid program. The program was launched in cooperation with the regional mission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Somalia.

CHAD

Welcomes New OIC Chief

Saudi Arabia welcomed the election of Hussein BrahimTaha as Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Taha, a Chadian diplomat who was appointed Foreign Minister in 2017, began his career at the Ministry in 1979, when he served as an adviser. Taha’s tenure will start in November 2021. Prince Faisal thanked current Secretary-General, Dr. Yousef al-Othaimeen, for his great efforts as Head of the OIC.  Established in 1969, the OIC is the second largest organization after UN, with a membership of 57 states. It serves as the collective voice of the Muslim world and endeavors to safeguard and protect their interests in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony.

FRANCE

Is Islam Viewed Negatively in France?

In the tense environment of the terrorist assassinations which have affected France in the last few weeks, the question of the integration of French people of Arab origin – more specifically, Muslims – and their conformity with the values of the republic is back to the fore of political discourse. Among the representative sample of 958 French Arabs surveyed, a significant proportion had a good level of education. In this climate of tension around Islam, more than two thirds (67%) of Muslims polled in the YouGov poll believe that other French people have a negative perception of their religion. A survey carried out by Institute Montaigne in 2015 showed that, in France, Mohammed is four times less likely to be recruited than Michel.

Better Understanding of Islam can Heal Divisions

Tareq Oubrou is a theologian and the Imam of Bordeaux. He is known for his openness and the flexibility of his approach to the problems surrounding Islam in France. He is also the author of many books including ‘Call for Reconciliation.’ Oubrou is keenly aware of a growing schism in French society, which, he believes, is the product of ignorance rather than any intrinsic fault. “With learning and a willingness to understand one another, conflict need not be inevitable. We must educate Muslims who often ignore their own religion, and we must also explain to [other communities] that Islamism is a very complex phenomenon and that not every Muslim is a terrorist.”

UNITED KINGDOM

Top Executive Hails KSA’s Admirable Hajj and G-20

Saudi Arabia has set a precedent in its handling of both events, says Founder of Unitas Communications, Muddassar Ahmed. Ahmed, one of the UK’s top 1,000 most influential people, also praised the Kingdom’s handling of the G-20 summit last month after deciding to go fully virtual, calling it “absolutely the correct course of action.” Ahmed is not only known for his role as a communications expert, but also a leading figure in the Muslim community in the United Kingdom, countering hate speech and the rise of extremism as an adviser to the British government on anti-Muslim hatred. Before founding Unitas, he was an activist campaigning against the Iraq War and founder/ host of East London’s Radio Ramadan shows.

1.7 billion Unbanked Adults are Muslims

Women make up the majority of the 800 million global Muslim population who are unbanked (people without a bank account), according to a digital banking firm, leaving them without basic financial services, and putting their social rights at risk. Zeiad Idris, the CEO of UK-based Digital Banking platform, Algbre, told Arab News that it is common in Muslim communities for men to take charge of the household finances. According to Algbre, 29% more women are unbanked in Bangladesh compared to men, while, in Egypt, the difference is 11% points. The World Bank claims that the Middle East and North Africa – which has Muslim majority population has the widest gender gap in bank account of ownership with only 35% of women having bank accounts compared with 52% of men.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]