Flashes from the Muslim World


With Nine Million in Gulf Countries

Nearly nine million Indian expats live and work in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, new data show, making the region their top destinations and the India Gulf migration corridor one of the busiest in the world.

The Ministry of External Affairs said that an estimated 10.34 million NRIs live in 210 countries, including 3.41 million in the UAE, 2.59 million in Saudi Arabia, 1.02 million in Kuwait, 740,000 in Qatar, 700,000 in Oman and 320,000 in Bahrain. Outside the Gulf region, the biggest concentration of NRIs was in the US with 1.28 million and in the UK with 350,000.

How Serious is the Rice Shortage?

India’s decision to ban the export of several varieties of rice in order to ensure sufficient supplies at home is pushing up prices on the global market, a development whose impact on food-insecure countries is being viewed with concern by experts. This is although the ban does not include the popular basmati variety, which is staple food at Gulf dinner tables.

According to Reuters data, the UAE was among the top ten importers of non-basmati rice from India in 2020, buying almost 346,000 tons. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UK, and the US also feature among the top ten importers. Arab countries that are likely to suffer the most from India’s export ban are Egypt, Algeria and Sudan.


Ancient Nine-Domed Mosque

A small baked-brick structure in northwestern Afghanistan has, for decades, perplexed archaeologists, with some dating its origins to the ninth century and others even a hundred years earlier – making it one of the oldest monuments of Islam.

Known as Noh Gombad, after nine domes that used to cover it, the structure is located three kilometers from the modern city of Balkh. A mihrab found at the site – a niche indicating the direction of the Ka’aba–is evidence that it had served as a mosque. Its style is reminiscent of early decades of the Abbasid Caliphate.

Named after the nine domes that existed at the time of its glory, it is also known as the Hajj Piyada Mosque. The word ‘piyada’ means ‘on foot.’


Opens Doors to Professionals, Investors

Saudi Arabia is looking forward to having more Bangladeshis, both in its skilled workforce and investment ecosystem, Riyadh’s envoy to Dhaka told Arab News ahead of an upcoming visit of Bangladesh business leaders in the Kingdom.

Bangladeshis are the biggest expat worker community in Saudi Arabia. Ambassador Essa Al-Duhailan estimated that 2.8 million of them were currently employed in the Kingdom and were recognized for being efficient and hardworking.

Expects Growth in Halal Industry

Bangladesh is poised for growth in its halal food industry, the country’s apex trade body said, as it joined the International Islamic Food Processing Association (IFPA). Headquartered in the UAE, the IFPA works under the Islamic Organization for Food Security, to promote trade and investment between agriculture and food sector businesses across the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states.

Nowadays the halal food concept is earning popularity among consumers worldwide. Food that is halal is food that is safe and permissible under Islamic law, but the halal food market worldwide, especially in meat, is still dominated by non-OIC countries.


Eyes Saudi Investment in Agriculture

Indonesia sees an opportunity for agricultural cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Trade said recently, after talks with a Saudi investment company interested in the country’s edible oil products. Indonesia is the world’s top producer and exporter of palm oil. Its exports of the commodity are worth about USD27 billion a year.

Food security is one of the key objectives of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s diversification and transformation plan. In 2022, the Southeast Asian country exported nearly 226 million metric tons of cooking oil to Saudi Arabia, making it the Kingdom’s main source of the commodity.


Saudi Arabia Top Choice for Workers

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that nearly 70,000 Filipino migrant workers have chosen Saudi Arabia as their destination this year, making the Kingdom the top destination for new overseas Filipino workers. The Philippines is witnessing a rise in overseas deployment with an increase of around 62%.

The migrant workers contributed about USD32.5 billion to the country’s economy. Saudi Arabia kept its years-long spot as the most popular destination for overseas Filipino workers. There is great demand for skilled and domestic workers and professionals because of the Vision 2030 project.

It is reported that with the recent developments, Saudi Arabia is a very friendly country to the Philippines. Filipino nurses, many of whom are well-trained and fluent in English, have long been in high demand abroad and especially during theCOVID-19 pandemic. About 130,000 Filipino nurses are currently working in Saudi Arabia.

Philippine Oldest Mosque Built in 1380

Legend has it that the pillars of Sheikh Karimul Makhdum Mosque in Tawi–Tawiare unbreakable. They survived many attempts at destruction over the past six centuries and, till today, remain standing.

The first mosque to be established in the Philippines, it was, according to local folklore, built by Arab trader and  missionary Makhdum Karim in 1380, which makes it also one of the oldest in Southeast Asia.

The establishment of the Sheikh Makhdum Mosque in the fourteenth century ushered in the beginning of Islamization in the Philippines, said Prof. JulkipliWadi, dean of the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines.

The Tawi-Tawi mosque is a source of pride, not just for the little province, but the whole region of the Muslim south. Its existence implies that Islam has been deeply rooted in the province, Prof. Nasser Kadil from the Mindanao State University said. Muslims constitute roughly 6%of the country’s 110 million predominantly Catholic population. Most live on the southern islands of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.


Tourism Back on Track

Dubai’s tourism sector achieved a significant milestone in the first half of 2023 by welcoming 8.55 million international overnight visitors, surpassing pre-pandemic levels of 8.36 million recorded in the first half of 2019. This represents the city’s strongest first half performance in its history, the Emirates News Agency, also known as WAM, reported citing data from Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism.

The remarkable surge in international visitors witnessed by Dubai in the first half of 2023 further demonstrates its emergence as one of the brightest spots, not only in the worldwide tourism sector, but also the broader global economic landscape.


Plans Largest Solar Project

Bahrain is gearing up for significant leap in its renewable energy efforts with the signing of its largest solar power project, the state news agency reported.

Situated in the southern city of Sakhir, the project is set to generate 72 megawatts, contributing 28% to the nation’s target of achieving 250MW from renewable sources by 2025, Bahrain News Agency said.

The initiative encompasses an array of solar systems, including rooftop installations, ground mounted arrays, and solar panels integrated into car parks.


Banking Sector Records Profits

Oman’s banking sector surged in the first half of 2023 due to increased revenue growth, government spending and exports,Oman News Agency reported. Local banks in the Sultanate witnessed a 17.5% growth in their net profit, hitting a record high of 235.3 million Omani riyals (USD103 million) in the first half of 2023.

Oman also continues to be one of the best performing economies in the Gulf region. Oman is projected to become the fastest growing economy in 2023 among the GCC countries, according to a report by the World Bank published in April.


Trade Surplus Touches USD4.77bn

Qatar’s trade surplus remained broadly stable in June, reaching 17.4 billion Qatari riyals (USD4.77 billion), reflecting a slight dip of 4.4% from the previous month. The trade surplus decreased by 42.3% compared to June last year, according to data released by the country’s Planning and Statistics authority.

Qatar’s imports reflected a 1.1% increase on year-on-year basis, hitting 9.4 billion riyals. Total exports decreased mainly due to a 29.7% fall in petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons.


Welcomes UN Resolution

The Muslim World League (MWL) welcomed the UN announcement to adopt a resolution related to dialogue between followers of religions and cultures and tolerance in the face of hate speech.

Secretary General Sheikh Mohammad Al-Issa, who also chairs the Organization of Muslim Scholars, expressed the MWL’s praise for the international consensus that the draft resolution exhibits.

It strongly condemns all acts of violence against people based on their religion or belief, as well as any such acts against their religious symbols, holy books, homes or businesses, their property, schools, cultural centers or places of worship and all attacks on religious places, sites, and shrines, which violate international law.

Ajwa Dates Reach New Heights

The decision by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to establish a company dedicated to Ajwa dates, a premium variety grown mainly in and around Madinah, is expected to significantly improve the production and quality of the traditional crop, industry experts said.

Al-Madinah Heritage Co, the new business being set up by the Public Investment Fund, will help to further develop the Saudi food and agricultural industry. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most prominent producers and exporters of dates, and its products have always been of the highest quality, catering to wide consumer demand.

The dates-industry is a key component of Saudi Arabia’s food and agricultural sector and has an important role in the realization of Vision 2030. Ajwa dates are famous and need no introduction, with Muslims around the world knowing their quality and positive effects on human health. There are only 800,000 Ajwa palm trees in the Kingdom, and the average price per kilogram of the fruit is SR 40 (USD11).

Renew Condemnation of Qur’an-Burning

The Saudi cabinet renewed the Kingdom’s condemnation of the desecration of the Qur’an in Sweden and Denmark. A small group of anti-Islam activists set fire to copies of the Qur’an in front of the Egyptian and Turkish embassies in Copenhagen after similar protests in Denmark and Sweden drew widespread condemnation.

Denmark and Sweden have said they deplore the burning of the holy book, but cannot prevent it because of rules protecting freedom of expression. Muslim authorities in the predominantly Catholic Philippines condemned Qur’an-burnings in Scandinavia and urged respect and unity in the global community.

36,000 Iftar Meals

In collaboration with non-profit organizations, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques distributed 36,000 iftar meals to worshippers in the Grand Mosque of Makkah on Ashura day, which fell on 10th of Muharram.

According to the Saudi Press Agency report, 150 employees, both men and women, assisted in distributing the meals at designated locations within the mosque.

Holy Qur’an International Museum

A Holy Qur’an International Museum project has been launched in Makkah by the Muslim World League’s Secretary-General, Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Issa, who is also the Chairman of the Organization of Muslim Scholars, said the initiative is aimed at disseminating the message of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. He added that the museum will highlight miracles of the holy Qur’an, supported by scientific facts.

Al-Issa said the museum project was set up the MWL’s international council of scholars overseeing the proper recitation of the Qur’an. It would have an advisory board consisting of several senior scholars from across the Muslim world. The museum’s staff will be tasked with organizing conferences, forums and lectures worldwide.

Launches Program for its Global Halal Market

In a bid to boost Saudi Arabia’s efforts to become a global hub for halal food products, a new program has been launched to accelerate the growth of the sector in the Kingdom.

The Halal Products Development Co. has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Saudi Exports Development Authority to launch Halal Products Manufacturing Accelerator Program, according to a press statement. The new initiative will see HPDC and SEDA enhancing their cooperation as Saudi companies increase their presence in the global halal market.

Buraidah Date Festival

The activities of the annual Buraidah Date Festival continue amid anticipation from local farmers and date traders to market the production of more than eleven million palm trees. The carnival aims to introduce date farmers to modern agricultural practices and facilitate the exchange of expertise on innovative ways to produce the best quality dates.

The festival has provided more than 4,000 seasonal job opportunities, reflecting one of the most important objectives pursued by the Kingdom’s promotional and tourist carnivals, which is to localize and create jobs for Saudis. The annual output of dates in the Kingdom in 2022 exceeded 1.6 million tons with more than 300 varieties on offer.

New Company of Camel Industry

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has set up a company to promote the growth of camel milk products and contribute to the development of a sustainable local production system.

The company, Sawani, is the latest step in the Kingdom’s effort to support the agriculture and food sector, and diversify the local economy in line with Saudi Vision 2030. Camels have long been an important food and natural resource in the region, providing milk, meat, and hides, while camel products play a central role in many customs. There are estimated 1.6 million camels in the Kingdom, with more than half this number in the Riyadh, Eastern and Makkah provinces.

Guidance robot assists pilgrims

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque has deployed artificial intelligence to provide answers to inquiries from visitors seeking fatwas at the Grand Mosque.

A ‘guidance robot,’ has been developed to assist pilgrims and Umrah performers in understanding the rituals and fatwas.  The guidance robot is equipped with support for eleven languages, including Arabic, English, French, Russian, Persian, Turkish, Malay, Urdu, Chinese, Bengali, and Hausa.

Number of Millionaires

Saudi Arabia has emerged as the country with the highest number of dollar millionaires in the Middle East and North Africa region and is ranked 23rd globally in 2022, according to a report by Credit Suisse.

The Global Wealth Report indicated that the number of dollar millionaires in the Kingdom grew by 8%, reaching 354,000 in 2022, up from 325,000 millionaires from the previous year. The development shows Saudi Arabia’s growing economic strength and its emergence as a significant player in the global wealth landscape.

Meet Grand Mufti of Bosnia

Saudi Islamic Minister, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, met HuseinKavazovic, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and his delegation in Makkah. The holy city recently concluded an international Islamic conference that was attended by about 150 leading Islamic scholars, muftis, religious leaders and thinkers from 85 countries.

Al-Asheikh welcomed Kavazovic and his delegation, and said that the conference aims to strengthen communication and integration links between the department of religious affairs, fatwas, and sheikhdoms across the world. Al-Asheikh said that it also aims to serve Islam and Muslims, promote Islamic unity among Muslims, combat extremism and protect societies from atheism.


Promotion of Trade Ties

Saudi Arabia and Jordan’s bilateral economic relations have been rapidly growing,with the latter aiming to boost cross-border investments in the Kingdom. According to the Saudi Press Agency, the trade between the two countries amounted to roughly USD4.4 billion in 2021, up from around USD3.1 billion in 2020.

The bilateral trade is dominated by Saudi Arabia as it exported SR11.6 billion worth of volume in 2021 against   Jordanian imports of SR 5 billion. Saudi Arabia has been among the major investors in Jordan as it pumped in USD14 billion worth of investment spread over 900 projects.


Sayyida Nafisa Mosque Inaugurated

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi, inaugurated Al-SayyidaNafisa Mosque, following the completion of a major restoration project. The President said the renovations were carried out as part of the country’s ongoing works to restore the historic shrines of Ahl al-Bayt (the Prophet Muhammad’s family).

Work is underway to inaugurate development works at Al Sayyida Zainab Mosque, within the framework of the state’s plan to develop Historic Cairo. Al-SayyidaNafisa Mosque is located in El-Khalifa district and is one of the oldest in the Cairo governorate.


Enhance Water Security

Morocco’s water security is set to be strengthened after the World Bank agreed to finance a USD350 million irrigation program. The fund will support a subset of activities in the North African country, which aims to conserve 25 million cubic meters of drinkable water in supply distribution networks.

Climate change is likely to have cumulative and cascading effects on Morocco’s water security. The report further noted that the program intends to enhance the conditions that make desalination and the use of treated waste-water possible.

Nouhaila Benzina – Created History

Nouhaila Benzina, a Moroccan defender, created history at the ongoing Women’s World Cup in Australia by proudly wearing a hijab during her team’s 1-0 victory over South Korea, igniting widespread recognition and admiration.

In2014, FAFA authorized players to wear head coverings for religious reasons. Morocco is one of the eight teams making their debut at this summer’s Women’s World Cup and has made history by becoming the first Arab or North African nation to participate on the global stage.


Meets Grand Mufti

Saudi Islamic Minister, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, met the GrandMufti of Maurtania, Ahmed Murabit, in Makkah. Al-Asheikh also held a separate meeting with the Imam of the Islamic Center in Argentina, Hani Bakir.

During the meetings, the Saudi Minister discussed issues of common interest and ways to enhance cooperation and communication in a way that helps convey the true message of Islam.


Farmers Weeping Because of Dumping

Lebanese farmers have been reduced to tears after huge quantities of smuggled Syrian onions were dumped on the Lebanese market at prices lower than local offerings. The farmers are demanding that Lebanese customs authorities pursue the smugglers.

The regions of Tripoli and Akkar in northern Lebanon live on vegetables and fruits smuggled from Syria.  Lebanon’s agricultural sector is under severe strain and farmers are struggling to survive amid an economic crisis exacerbated by the collapse of the national currency. Farmers are also suffering the effects of a ban on exports to Arab markets, that was enacted following a diplomatic crisis with Gulf states.


Between Conflict and Hunger

As Sudan’s conflict heads toward its fifth month, a dire humanitarian crisis looms with thousands of people, many of them residents of the capital Khartoum, facing the prospect of death by starvation and malnutrition.

The UN says 25 million people – more than half of Sudan’s population – need food and 13.6 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. More than 19 million people, which accounts for 40 percent of the population – need food and 13.6 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.


Risking its Ties with Muslim Countries

If the Swedish government does not change its laws regarding the spread of hate, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) will act, Saudi geopolitical analyst, Al-Ansari, told the Arab News weekly show,‘Frankly Speaking.

Al-Ansari’s comments came as the OIC issued a statement condemning, in the strongest terms, the burning of a copy of the Qur’an by a far-right extremist group called Danske Patrioter, or Danish Patriots, outside the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen.

In a statement, Hissein Brahim Taha, the OIC’s Secretary-General, expressed his deep dissatisfaction with the repeated incidents of “transgression against Islamic sanctities,” adding that such acts constitute incitement to religious hatred, intolerance and discrimination that would have dangerous consequences.


Coffee Exports to Arab States

Arab nations imported 56.2% more coffee from Brazil in the first half of this year than during the same period in 2022, according to the latest data by the Brazilian Council of Coffee Exporters, known as Cecafe.

Brazil – the world’s leading exporter, despite coffee’s origins in what are known today as Ethiopia and Yemen – exported 592,887 60 kg bags of coffee to Arab countries between January and June this year. Lebanon was the largest recipient with 144,344 bags – accounting for almost a quarter of the total exported to Arab countries – followed by Jordan with 94,609 bags.


Islamophobic Incidents Double

Anti-Muslim hate cases in the United Kingdom have more than doubled in ten years, according to anew study by Tell Mama, which supports victims of Islamophobia, the Independent reported recently.

The organization, which also monitors anti-Muslim sentiment across the UK, said reported Islamophobic incidents had grown annually from 584 in 2012 to 1,212 in 2021. Tell Mama has provided support to people involved in more than 16,000 cases of anti-Muslim hate since 2012, with more than 20,000 people filing reports in that period.

Between 2016 and 2019, the highest frequency of offline Islamophobic incidents took place, corresponding to a cluster of terrorist attacks in the UK, the Christchurch terrorist attacks in New Zealand and to the Brexit referendum result.




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