Flashes from the Muslim World
Walks Over 8,000 Km to Perform Hajj
An Indian man has fulfilled a life-long dream to walk all the way from his hometown in Kerala to Makkah for Hajj –a distance of 8,640kilometers. Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi, also known as Shihab Chottur, crossed five countries – India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait – to reach Makkah in one year and seventeen days. He left Kerala on 2ndJune 2, 2022, and reached Makkah on 7thJune, 2023.
“It was a Ramadan day when I made it to the Kuwait-Saudi borders at 5.17 AM. I bent the knee and I touched the sands of Saudi Arabia,” Alawi told Arab News in an exclusive interview. In reaching Makkah, he prayed for hours, for those who offered him support and who had asked for prayers in front of the Ka’aba.
“I have prayed for the entire Muslim Ummah,” said Alawi, who would often share snippets of his journey on social media, where he has more than 4.9 million followers on Instagram, 1.5 million on YouTube, and a verified Facebook page.
Kerala Launches Passenger Ship Service to Gulf
India’s coastal state of Kerala is planning to launch a passenger ship service to provide affordable travel to Gulf States, local authorities said, amid soaring costs of air travel. Spread along the Malabar Coast of India, Kerala is the main place of origin of Indian expatriates in the Middle East, with about 3.5 million of them living and working in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
P.T. Joy, Private Secretary of Kerala Ports Minister, Ahamad Devarkovil, told Arab News that the state government is developing an alternative, cheaper route through the Arabian Sea. Local government allocates USD1.8m this year to solve workers travel problems. The Kerala Maritime Board predicts that the lower fare and larger luggage allowance will make the ship service popular.
UAE Opens New Consulate in Hyderabad
United Arab Emirates (UAE) opened a new Consulate office in Hyderabad, its fourth mission in India.
The UAE already has its embassy in the capital Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, India’s financial center and the most populous city – and Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the state of Kerala. The new Consulate in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana state, is the second such office in Southern India.
Rohingyas Remain Top Priority for OIC
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which has said that the Rohingya remain a top priority for the body, had its chief official visit the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar as part of a five-day trip to the country. OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha arrived in Bangladesh and met with the country’s top officials, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“These Rohingya people are suffering. They deserve peace, security and a better life,” Taha told reporters after meeting Bangladesh’s Foreign Affairs Minister, A. K. Abdul Momen.
Agency promotes Halal industry
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority has announced it is promoting the domestic halal industry in the country to tap into the rapidly growing regional and global markets.
With the world’s Muslim population accounting for about 1.8 billion people, the global halal market is estimated to be worth more than USD7 trillion. A third of it is contributed by the halal food and beverage industry, but the market also covers recreation, travel, financial services, fashion, and many other sectors.
While the Philippines has been looking to expand the market presence of its halal certified food, especially in Gulf countries, it has also set the development of halal tourism among its priority goals for 2023 to boost arrivals from the Middle East and its own Muslim majority neighbors such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
Gains Halal Cred at Muslim-Friendly Travel
The Philippines is focused on positioning itself as a Muslim-friendly destination, its tourism authorities said recently, after winning an award at this year’s Halal in Travel Global Summit. Muslim travelers are one of the fastest growing tourist groups and attracting them is crucial for the Philippines as following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aims to become Regional Creative Economy
Indonesia is setting its sights on pilgrims in Saudi Arabia for its creative economy products, a Minister told Arab News, as Jakarta sought to make the sector its main source of exports. Indonesia’s creative economy, led by fashion, crafts, and culinary products, contributed around 7.8% of the country’s gross domestic products in 2022, when its export value for the first time exceeded USD25 billion.
The world’s largest Muslim majority nation, Indonesia will send 229,000 Hajj pilgrims to the Kingdom this year, while another three million are expected to travel for Umrah. All the important goods and services including handicrafts, textiles, furniture, food and beverages, and creative products have potential to attract customers.
Bilateral Trade Deal
The UAE and Malaysia have agreed to negotiate a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, the two countries said recently. It is a type of bilateral trade deal the UAE has been pursuing with various countries since 2021. The agreement will cover trade in goods and services, investments, economic cooperation, Malaysia’s Trade Minister said in a statement.
The UAE is Malaysia’s seventeenth trade partner globally and the second in the Middle East, accounting for 32% of Malaysia’s trade with Arab countries. The UAE is also the first destination for Malaysian merchandise exports to Arab countries.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Most Young Arabs would want to Live in UAE
For the twelfth consecutive year, the UAE has been voted the country where most young Arabs would want to live, Emirates News Agency reported recently. The Arabs Youth Survey found Arabs aged 18-24, also named the UAE as the country they would most want their own nations to emulate.
A number of factors contribute to the UAE’s preferred nation status. According to Arab youth in the eighteen states polled this year, the country’s top five attributes are its safety and security, growing economy, effective and visionary leadership, clean environment and ease of starting a business.
Non-Oil Sector Growing Fast
Qatar, along with other Gulf countries, is seeing significant growth in non-oil activities as the region diversifies and seeks independence from oil, as shown by figures highlighted by the country’s Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani stated that his country’s non-oil sector grew by 9.9% in the fourth quarter of 2022, and oil activities also saw a 4.8% rise. The country’s non-oil growth was boosted by hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022 in November and December.
Signs USD367m Deal to get Turkish Drones
Kuwait reached an agreement worth USD367 million with Turkish drone giant,Baykar, to purchase its increasingly sought-after TB2 combat drones, the Kuwaiti Army said.
The drone, Bayraktar TB2, boasts unmanned aerial vehicles that can carry light weight, laser-guided bombs, and fly for up to 27 hours at a time, which, according to the company was a record it had set while testing the drone in Kuwait in 2019.
The announcement would set Kuwait to become the 28th country to procure the TB2 drones. Demand for the drone surged due to their successful deployment in conflict zones such as Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
Steelmaker to Invest USD4bn in Ras Al Khair
Saudi Arabia’s manufacturing capacity is expected to get a boost with China’s Baoshan Iron and Steel company announcing its plans to invest SR15 billion (USD4 billion) on a project in Ras Al-Khair’s economic zone.
The Shanghai-based company, one of the world’s largest steel makers, will manufacture metal plates in the zone, it announced at an event in Riyadh. The investment is part of the Kingdom’s industrial outreach initiative to incentivize businesses to operate in its special economic zones.
Harf Arabic Language Competition
The King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language concluded the HarfArabic Language competition with twelve winners in four categories from various non-Arabic speaking states.
The competition is aimed at non-Arabic learners to give them the opportunity to highlight their skills in various fields, to honor the distinguished among them, and to encourage learners to practice the language and promote its use.
The Academy awarded prizes to the first three winners in each category with a total value of SR 100,000 (USD26,666) and honored other finalists with financial prizes totaling SR 22,000.
Platform Records 1,000 Historic Poems
The King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language has launched the Khawalid initiative, an audio platform that aims to record 1,000 selected poems from the pre-Islamic era, in line with the Ministry of Culture’s year of Arabic Poetry.
One of its goals is to highlight the scientific, cultural and civilizational status of the Arabic language. It aims to create a platform that helps preserve Arabic on content in the field of poetry. It has been reported that Poetry in the pre-Islamic era constitutes an important literary material that can be invested in building linguistic knowledge, enriching the artistic and aesthetic experience, and contributing to linking the contemporary generation with its authentic literary heritage.
Exhibition on Hajj and the Two Holy Mosques
The King Abdulaziz Public Library in Riyadh is hosting an exhibition of historical documents and artifacts related to Hajj and the Two Holy Mosques.
The exhibition also explores the significance of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and the most important sites of the Hajj pilgrimage, including the Ka’aba to Mina and Mount Arafat. Manuscripts, rare books, pictures, coins and miniatures from the library’s holdings area, are also on display.
Meets Heads of Hajj Mission
Prince Faisal bin Salman, the governor of Madinah, welcomed the heads of officials Hajj missions from several Arab and Muslim countries. During the reception, Prince Faisal, who is also the Chairman of the Hajj and Visit Committee in the region, said that Saudi Arabia has been honored to be the Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques, since the time of the founder King Abdulaziz and now under the auspices of King Salman. He said that every effort has been made to ensure that the pilgrims complete their rituals safely, and would offer prayers for Allah (swt) to accept their Hajj and return them without incident to their homes.
The Beloved Birds of the Grand Mosque
Flocks of pigeons at Makkah’s Grand Mosque roam the courtyards, flapping their wings as they receive Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. The birds are known by many names, including sanctuary pigeons, fever pigeons and quiet pigeons.
The distinctive features of sanctuary pigeons differ from the other types of pigeons and other birds in the world. These features include their beautiful shape, unique colors, drawn eyes and long necks. The pigeons do not fear visitors, no matter how packed the area becomes.
Sanctuary pigeons do not defecate on the Ka’aba or its surroundings which earns them further appreciation from both pilgrims and the caretakers. The sanctuary pigeons hold a special place in Islam, and it is not permissible for either pilgrims or non-pilgrims to kill them.
Population Reaches 105 Million
Egypt’s population reached 105 million, according to the population-clock linked to the government’s birth and death registration database. The level of population growth presents a formidable challenge and a hindrance for the Egyptian state as it disrupts the path to development.
Fatima Mahmoud, a specialist at the Demographic Center in Cairo told Arab News.The number of Egyptians has almost quadrupled since 1960 and, if unchecked, could nearly double again by 2050, data shows. Dr. Alia Al-Mahdi, a Professor at the faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo university, said that population increase is not necessarily a barrier to economic development. She said:
“A large population can become a positive factor for achieving growth and economic development if the state effectively utilizes the human resources as demonstrated in countries like India and China, each with a population exceeding one billion.”
Residents Reach Compromise
Muslim residents of a town in Jerusalem have come to a compromise solution over pressure from Israeli settler groups and organizations to demolish a prominent mosque’s golden dome. A few days earlier, the municipality came to the place to inquire about the matter, which prompted the town mayors to meet, follow up, and reach a decision to proceed with the legal path to avoid any process of demolishing mosque.
Beit Safafa is a Palestinian town located four kilometers south west of Jerusalem and north of Bethlehem with a population of 18,000. It is surrounded by Israeli settlements and Israeli authorities have taken land for building projects.
Commercial Project in Baghdad
Saudi Arabia has signed a contract with Iraq to establish a commercial project worth USD1 billion in Baghdad, bolstering the economic ties between the two nations, reported the Iraqi News Agency. Abdulaziz Al-Shammari, the Saudi ambassador to Iraq, revealed that the Kingdom inked a contract with Iraq to develop a massive commercial project near Baghdad International Airport, according to the INA.
Dubbed Baghdad Avenue, the project is expected to become the largest shopping mall in Iraq, encompassing coffee shops, restaurants and commercial offices. Additionally, it will house 4,000 apartments and 2,500 villas.
Works Begin on 240,000 Homes
Turkey has begun building 240,000 homes to resettle refugees in opposition held northern Syria as the repatriation issue taken center-stage.
Syrian refugees living in Turkey will settle in the houses, as part of a dignified, voluntary, safe return, Turkish Interior Minister, Suleyman Soylu, said at the launch of the project on a disused airstrip on the outskirts of Al-Ghandura, a town in the Jarabulus area near the Turkish border. Turkey has offered refugee to more than three million people fleeing violence in Syria since war broke out there in 2011.
Magical Export to the World
The conflict in Sudan has claimed the lives, limbs, and homes of growing numbers of people since it began on April 15. While the world hopes for a peaceful end to the bloodshed, many leaders of Sudanese industries warn that the economic toll of the violence could have a devastating impact on Sudan and internationally.
The once flourishing gum Arabic industry in Sudan has become a casually of the conflict, leaving producers and the local market in dire straits. Now, those who supply soft drink – giants such as Coco-Cola and Pepsi – have warned that their stockpiles could run out in three to six months if the fighting continues at its current pace.
Gum Arabic has dozens of uses. It serves multiple purposes in soft drinks, acting as a stabilizer to prevent flavors, coloring agents and essential oils from separating. Icings, soft candy, chewing gum and other sweets also use it as an ingredient. Sudan exports USD111 million, making it world’s second largest exporter. 80% of Sudan’s share of global Gum Arabic trade between 1950s and early 1990s.
Donors Pledge USD1.5 billion in Aid
International donors have pledged close to USD1.5 billion in humanitarian aid to Sudan and the broader region, responding to a call by the United Nations to boost aid amid a conflict that has forced some 2.2 million people from their homes.
The UN said that USD 3 billion was needed this year for humanitarian relief inside Sudan and for refugees fleeing the country, only a fraction of which has been funded, UN Aid Chief, Martin Griffiths, told a fund-raising conference hosted by Germany, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and the UN.
MWL Offers Help to Buy Buildings
The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League has offered “economic support to the Islamic community in Florence, in accordance with the city authorities plan to buy a building to host the new Florence Islamic Center.”
He met Mayor Dario Nardella and local Imam, Imam Izzedd in Elzir. Some 30,000 Muslims live in Florence. The Islamic community has to leave the building where the city mosque is currently hosted due to the property owner’s wish to terminate the contract.
The Center will cost approximately USD1.29 million. More money will be needed to renovate the building. Al-Issa said more Islamic places of worship in Florence could be financed by Saudi Arabia, as happened with the Great Mosque in Rome. Italy’s largest Islamic place of worship, the Great Mosque was built thanks to a donation from the late King Faisal.
Hold Talks with Pope Francis
Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul karim Al-Issa, recently held talks with Pope Francis at his office in Saint Martha House in the Vatican, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Topics discussed related to shared values, promoting communication among cultures, and renouncing any form of hatred and racism. Following the meeting, Al-Issa tweeted that he was delighted with the sincere brotherly and deep dialogue with Pope Francis at his residence.
[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]