Flashes from the Muslim World
New Hajj Policy Promotes Women’s Pilgrimage
Indian authorities have abolished the VIP quota for pilgrims and allowed single women to apply as well, in a step they said was aimed at making the country’s pilgrimage policy more inclusive. With more than 200 million Indians professing Islam, the Hindu-majority southasian nation has the world’s largest Muslim minority population.
Every year,more than 150,000 Indian Muslims embark on Hajj – a spiritual journey, and one of the five pillars of Islam. A total of 175,000 pilgrims from India will embark on Hajj this year, with the journey of 80% of them being handled by the Hajj Committee, and the remaining 20% by private operators.
Seeks Support from OIC Countries
Sri Lanka’s foreign minister met recently with the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as the island-nation seeks support and investment to steer out of its worst economic crisis in history. Foreign Minister, Ali Sabry, was on a state visit to Saudi Arabia and met with top officials and leaders of international organizations based in the Kingdom.
In his meeting with OIC Secretary-General, Hissein Brahim Taha, in Jeddah, Sabry appealed for humanitarian and economic support from member countries of the bloc. OIC founded in 1969, has 57 member-states with a collective population of more than two billion people.
Targets UAE, KSA, in Tea Promotion
Sri Lankan tea industry is planning a global promotional campaign targeting its main export destinations, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, as the crisis-hit country looks to attract foreign exchange. The industry is famous for Ceylon tea – which refers to the island’s colonial name – and it is one of the country’s biggest exports.
Revenue from tea exports stood at around USD1.26 billion last year. This year, the target is USD1.4 billion. The foreign exchange the industry generates is badly needed by the island nation of 22 million people, which has been gripped by a deep financial crisis since early 2022.
Expansion of Halal Food
A special trade mission to Gulf Cooperation Council countries is looking to expand the market presence for Philippineshalal-certified food, Manila’s envoy to Abu Dhabi said, as delegates started the last leg of the tour.
A total of 26 Philippines exporters of halal-certified food, personal care, and cosmetic products joined the mission to Gulf states to tap into the USD3 Trillion global industry. GCC countries host the largest number of Philippines expats, among whom 800,000 live in Saudi Arabia and 650,000 in the UAE – the country’s two largest trading partners in the Gulf region.
Sending Skilled Workers to Saudi Arabia
Bangladesh is preparing to send skilled workers to Saudi Arabia for the first time under the newly-launched Skill Verification Program. Under the Workers’ Recruitment and Skill Verification Program, which aims to improve the professional competence of employees in the Saudi labor market,the Kingdom will recruit skilled workers form the South Asian country.
In its initial phase, the program will focus on five professions: plumbers, electricians, welders, automotive electricians, and air-conditioning technicians. One thousand migrant workers will be hired under a pilot program.
To Open Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque before Ramadan
The public opening of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Indonesia will take place before this year’s Ramadan, a Religious Ministry official said, as the government pins hopes on the new mosque to attract tourists and become a center for moderate Islam.
The mosque in Solo, Central Java, is a smaller replica of the popular landmark in Abu Dhabi named after the UAE’s late President, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan. It is a gift from UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who inaugurated it alongside Indonesian President Joko Widodo in November.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Solo has the potential to be a learning center for a moderate generation of Islam. The mosque – which can accommodate up to 14,000 people – has design elements unique to the region.
The Art of Islam takes Center-stage in Jeddah
Hundreds of works of art from around the world, ranging from historical artifacts to newly commissioned pieces, have gone on show at a new exhibition in Jeddah. The inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale is taking place under the iconic canopies of the Hajj Terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport.
The three-month biennale celebrates the legacy of Islamic art through contemporary artworks by 60 established and emerging artists from Saudi Arabia and around the world, with over 60 new commissions and 280 historical pieces. The choice of Jeddah to host the exhibition was no accident: Jeddah is the gate of the Haramain and has deep history. The biennale continues until 23rdApril2023.
Tops Arab Nations for Visitors
Saudi Arabia ranked first among Arab nations for inbound visitors as more than eighteen million travelers visited the Kingdom in the first nine months of 2022,according to the UN World Tourism Organization data. The UAE was the second-highest Arab nation with inbound visits reaching 14.8 million, followed by Morocco with eleven million tourists in the first three quarters of 2022.
Receives Guinea Minister
Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Hissein Brahim Taha, received Diaka Sidibe, Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, of Guinea, and her accompanying delegation, in Jeddah.
Taha paid tribute to Guinea, a member and founding country of the OIC, for its constant commitment to the organization and support for joint Islamic action, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Taha stressed the importance of giving youth access to higher education, which is a driving force for change in the OIC member states.
Souq from Prophet’s Era Located in Makkah
A Saudi scientific team has located the site of an ancient Souq in the Makkah region that served as one of the most important Arab markets during the pre-Islamic and early Islamic eras. Dubbed Souq Habasha, the site was discovered in cooperation between the King Abdul aziz Foundation for Research and Archives.
Souq Habasha was an ancient seasonal Arab market and one of the largest in the Tihamah region west of the Arabian Peninsula.
50,000 Contestants Compete
The ‘Otr Elkalam’ contest for the second international Qur’an recitation and Adhan (Call to Prayer) has reached its second stage, following the end of registration. Competitors for the second round, which is the biggest of its kind in the world, will be sorted into various categories following the end of the registration period, which began on 4thJanuary 2023, and saw more than 50,000 contestants sign up from 165 countries.
The prize totals for the contest come to over SR12 Million (USD 3.2 Million) for the winners. The final rounds will be broadcast during the month of Ramadan on the ‘Otr Elkalam’ TV show on the MBC Channel and the Shahid digital platform.
Discrimination against Hijab Wearing Muslim Women
Hijabophobia, is at an all-time high due to the current political climate, and as a result of which, hijab-wearing Muslim women face increasing discrimination in everyday life, the organizers of World Hijab Day said.
“Muslim women are being pressured to remove their hijab to show solidarity and make political statements, while parts of the world enact legislation that prevents hijabi women from participating in society. Due to the current climate, Muslim women wearing the hijab are portrayed as oppressed, submissive and backward, and the hijab is used to justify discrimination and abuse against them.”
Islamophobia Reached Alarming Levels
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) convened an open-ended extraordinary meeting of its Executive Committee at its Headquarters in Jeddah. The meeting was held to express the OIC’s common stance against the recent desecration of the Holy Qur’an in Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark, as well as to discuss possible actions that the OIC might take against the perpetrators of the Islamophobic attacks.
The report said that Saudi Arabia rejects all extremism and hatred and, instead, calls for the dissemination of Islamic values based on dialogue and coexistence.
Signs USD 1.5bn Agreement
Egypt has signed a USD1.5 billion financing agreement with the International Islamic Trade Financing Corporation, to fund its trading, including imports of energy products and essential commodities, CNBC Arabia wrote on Twitter, citing the head of the corporation.
Last year, Egypt signed a similar agreement also worth USD1.5 billion with the ITFC, which is headquartered in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and often funds Egypt’s commodities imports, including grains and petroleum. The World Bank and other multilateral institutions have continued to be strong supporters of Egypt’s reform program.
Economic Crisis Dims Joy of Ramadan Lanterns
With about a month left until the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the Egyptian lantern-making business is in full swing at workshops in the That Al-Raba area near Cairo’s Al-Azhar district.
The most popular national item in the festive season is the metallic lantern that features different shapes printed on glass. Other lanterns are made using fabric and wood.
Their production begins at least two months before Ramadan, with each workshop known for making lanterns in a specific shape.
Malls, hotels and office are decorated at night with the colorful lanterns, known as Fanous in Arabic. The Fanous has become a world-wide symbol that represents the holy month.
Islamic Ministry Pavilion Receives 500,000 Visitors
A Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and Guidance pavilion at the 54th Cairo International Book Fair has recorded a huge turnout of visitors from around the world. According to statistics, the pavilion received more than 500,000 visitors and handed over 50,000 copies of the Holy Qur’an as gifts.
The Fair, which was held at the Egypt International Exhibition Center, brought together more than 1,000 publishers and people from 50 countries.
UNESCO World Heritage Listing
War-weary Yemenis enjoyed a rare moment of celebrations after UNESCO added seven landmarks of the ancient kingdom of Saba, in the central province of Marib, to its list of endangered World Heritage Sites.
The UN body said the seven sites bear witness to the rich kingdom of Saba and its architectural aesthetic and technological achievements from the first millennium BC to the arrival of Islam about 1,400 years ago.
Nusuk Platform to Facilitate Pilgrims
A Saudi delegation met officials and representatives of travel and Umrah companies in Algeria to highlight the services and incentives the Kingdom provides for pilgrims through its new online Nusuk platform.
Nusuk offers a variety of options, including help applying for a visa to visit Makkah and Madinah and information about travel packages designed to enrich the experience of pilgrims and those performing Umrah, officials said.
Lebanon at Boiling Point
Anger in Lebanon reached boiling point as the value of the country’s currency plunged to a new low and protesters burned almost worthless banknotes outside the Central bank in Beirut.
The Lebanese pound, which had already lost more than 95% of its value since 2019, was trading at nearly 56,000 to the US dollar despite an official exchange rate pegged at 1,507. The falling pound sent the price of goods soaring, with 20 liters of petrol costing about USD19 – more than a million pounds.
World Interfaith Harmony Day
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to France, Fahad bin Maayufal-Ruwaily, held a reception to celebrate the World Interfaith Harmony Week and International Day of Human Fraternity.
In his speech, Al-Ruwaily emphasized the significance of these two occasions, which are designated by the UN as official international days, celebrated yearly to promote the values of coexistence. Al-Ruwaily pointed out the Kingdom’s efforts to spread the principles of interfaith harmony and educate people on the values of the Islamic faith, which calls for moderation, fraternity and cooperation among peoples.
Islamophobia Every Bit as Big an Issue as Racism
Islamophobia is “every bit as big an issue as racism.” UK screenwriter, Jemima Khan, has told Sky News ahead of the release of her new film, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’
The ex-wife of former Pakistani cricketer and Prime Minister, Iman Khan, spoke to the Channel about the rom-com – inspired by her own life – which explores Islamphobia as well as the pros and cons of both styles ‘of dating and arranged marriage – whether it’s too much choice with apps’ or too little choice with arranged marriage. She saw “very successful and happy” arranged marriages, but noticed that they failed to be represented in mass media.
Linked to Extremism Face Funding Cuts
Muslim groups in the United Kingdom linked to the promotion of extremism are set to face funding cuts and greater monitoring under plans presented by UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, The Times newspaper has reported.
The plans to overhaul Britain’s anti-extremism program – Prevent – comes ahead of the expected release next week of the long-awaited results of the Shaw cross review of the program. Sources told The Times that the review will criticize Prevent for failing to clamp down on and, in some cases, for financially supporting, Muslim groups linked to extremism.
Raises Over British Pound 33 Million
An appeal in the United Kingdom to raise money for victims of the series of earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria has received about British pounds 33 million (USD39.9 million) in less than 24 hours. The appeal, launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee, was broadcast across all major TV channels in the United Kingdom, and received significant donations and support from the government.
Development Minister, Andrew Mitchell, called the response from the public to the disaster ‘extraordinary.’ Further British tabloid newspaper, The Sun, announced that it had raised more than British Pound500,000 in aid for areas in, and around, Turkey and Syria, which were hit by the deadly earthquakes. All money from The Sun’s aid-plea is being given to the British Red Cross Organization.
Faces Islamophobia Allegation
United Kingdom actor, and broadcaster, Stephen Fry, has been accused of making an Islamophobic remark at an event at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, The Times reported recently.
The 65-year-old, who is President of Ground Owners Marylebone Cricket Club, was said to have linked Muslims with terrorism in a joke at a cricketing dinner. One member, Chris Waterman, described the comment as ‘egregious,’ and deserving of disciplinary action.
Reaffirms US Support of Al-Aqsa Mosque
US President, Joe Biden, has underlined his support for the legal status quo of Jersusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in a meeting at the White House with Jordanian King Abdullah. Referring to growing tensions around the Al Aqsa Mosque, Biden reaffirmed the critical need to preserve the historic status quo.
Joe Biden also recognized Jordan’s crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, the White House said in a statement.
Islamic Art Professors become Students
Two distinguished US Professors thought they knew all there was to know about Islamic Art – until they came to Saudi Arabia. Jennifer Pruitt and Dr. Stephennie Mulder are visiting Jeddah for the Islamic Arts Biennale at Western Hajj Terminal, a 118,000 square meter space housing five galleries, two pavilions and one grand canopy, 280 historical artifacts and more than 50 newly commissioned artworks from around the Muslim world.
“It’s been a really exciting and overwhelming experience,” Pruitt, AssistantProfessor of Islamic Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Arab News.The two academics spent eight hours in Madinah before coming to Jeddah.
“It was really powerful to see people, kind of streaming to this sacred spot. It was incredibly moving,” said Mulder, Professor of Islamic Art at the University of Austin, Texas. Both professors said the enriching experience had encouraged them to change the way they teach upon their return to the United States.
[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]