Flashes from the Muslim World

BANGLADESH

WHO Highlights Rohingya Mental Health Issues

More than 20% of Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugees are struggling with mental health issues, a grim result of the abuse and trauma suffered in Myanmar, an official from the World Health Organization (WHO) said. The statistics were shared on World Health Day, and seeks to highlight the plight of nearly a million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp. The psycho social and social impacts of emergencies may be acute in the short term, but they can also undermine the long term mental health and psycho-social well-being of the affected population.

Economy Shows Signs of Recovery

A rebound in garment orders after demand crashed during spring shutdowns is helping to revive the Bangladesh economy. Apparel makers, the country’s main export industry, say they are looking ahead to Christmas orders from the US and other major markets. Remittances from Bangladeshi workers employed overseas have also recovered, helping to relieve pressures from a pandemic-induced quasi-shutdown during the spring. Bangladesh’s exports rose to 0.6% to USD3.9 billion in July, after plummeting 83% to USD520 million in April.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

To Launch Spacecraft

The United Arab Emirates plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2024, a top Emirati official said: the latest gamble in the stars by the oil-rich nation that could see it become only the fourth nation on Earth to accomplish that goal. The announcement by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makthoum, who also serves as the Vice President and Prime minister of the hereditarily-ruled UAE, shows the rapid expansion of the space program that bears his name. It will be an Emirati-made lunar rover that will land on the surface of the moon in 2024 in areas that have not been explored. If successful in 2024, the UAE could become the fourth nation on Earth to land a spacecraft on the moon after the United States, the Soviet Union and China.

Sharjah’s Economic Recovery

The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) has shared the new developments being witnessed across its portfolio of latest large scale real-estate, tourism, commercial and hospitality projects in line with the gradual reopening of businesses across the UAE. Amongst the list of projects scheduled for completion this year and some of the signature projects that will be completed within the next two years are:

  1. House of Wisdom
  2. Sharjah Sustainable City
  3. Kalba Waterfront
  4. Maryam Island
  5. Palace Al Khan.

It is reported that as businesses are gradually returning, Shurooq is responding to the crisis and helping drive recovery to preserve the resilience and stability of the economy as well as ensure that the growth in all sectors is balanced.

SAUDI ARABIA

Visits Global Center

The British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Neil Crompton, recently visited the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, known as Etidal. During the visit, the British envoy and his accompanying delegation were briefed on the Center’s strategies to counter extremist ideology and the techniques used in the process.  The Center was established on three basic pillars, confronting extremism by the latest intellectual, media and numerical methods and means. The Center works to refute hate and extremist speech and promote concepts of moderation through the production of media content that confronts radical thoughts.

Number of Sanitizing Robots to Increase

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has announced that it will increase the number of robots used to sanitize the Grand Mosque. More than 4,500 litres of sterilization material are being used each day to disinfect the Grand Mosque to achieve a safe and healthy environment. The Presidency is working to the highest standards to intensify sterilization operations in the Grand Mosque and its external squares, to provide the highest levels of readiness and to apply precautionary and preventive measures. The smart robot, which is used in sterilization and environmental protection in enclosed spaces works with an automatic control system programmed on a pre-map, and it holds a SLAM patent, with a high performance atomization unit. The device can accommodate 23.8 litres. The volume of spraying is estimated at two litres per hour, and it eliminates bacteria in an area of 600 square meters at a time. The size of dry mist particles used in the disinfection process is from 5-15 micrometers.

Makkah Hotels Slash Prices

Hotels in Makkah are slashing prices to unprecedented levels for the resumption of Umrah pilgrimages. With rooms available for as little as SR 38, USD 10 a night. Even five star hotels with a full view of the Grand Mosque are preparing to resume their activity and restore normality to the hospitality industry, with rooms on offer for between SR 250 and SR 700. There are over 1,400 hotels in Makkah, providing more than two-thirds of the Kingdom’s entire hotel accommodation.

Taken Firm Steps to Tackle the Global Health Crisis

Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Abdullatif al-Asheikh, lauded the Kingdom’s humanitarian and global response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during its G20 Presidency year. He was speaking at an interfaith forum, organized by the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue and its international partners, to discuss international efforts to fight the virus outbreak and other issues threatening communities. The minister told conference delegates that the Kingdom had taken firm and decisive steps to tackle the global health crisis, actions that had been inspired by the principles of Islam.

Al Ahsa Residents Celebrate

People who live in and around Al Ahsa Oasis reacted with joy and pride when it was revealed that Guinness World Records has recognized it as the largest self-contained oasis in the world. The achievement was described as testament to the loving care and hard work that goes into maintaining the millions of palm trees that grow there. They cover an area of 32.9 square miles and are watered by a network of 280 artesian springs.  With more than 2.5 million date palms, it is officially the largest self-contained oasis in the world. The dates produced in the region are renowned throughout the Kingdom and the world for their quality, and the lush greenery and cool weather have helped to make Al Ahsa one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The oasis of Al Ahsa is more than 6,000 years old, and for all those years, it has remained as vibrant and rich as ever. Some of the trees are a thousand years old.

Remains Unchanged

Saudi Arabia’s position on the Palestinian cause will not change after the Kingdom gave permission for all flights between the UAE and other countries to travel through Saudi air space, the foreign minister said. The Kingdom appreciates all efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative. The United Arab Emirates and Israel normalized ties in an agreement last month. A joint Israeli-US delegation traveled from Tel Aviv to Abdu Dhabi and returned the next day.

King Salman International Complex for Arabic Language

The Saudi Cabinet approved plans to establish the King Salman International Complex for the Arabic Language. It is part of the Kingdom’s wide-ranging initiatives to promote the Arabic language. It will target Arabic-speaking academics specialized in the arts, politics, technology, education and content creators. With an estimated 422 million speakers, Arabic is the fifth most-widely spoken language in the world. There are 26 countries where Arabic is recognized by the government as an official language, with 18 having it as their first language. The Complex will also work to enhance Arab cultural identity. The project aims to highlight the position of the Semitic language, and activate its role regionally and globally. People from all segments of society have welcomed the decision and praised the Kingdom for taking the step.

Right to Education

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on all member-states to intensify their efforts to uphold the right to education as a key strategy to mitigate and recover from the damaging effects of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and to achieve sustainable development goals. In a statement issued to mark “International Literacy Day,” the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission said the ongoing pandemic has significantly affected the school systems around the world. According to the latest UNESCO statistics, during 2020, schools were closed, disrupting the education of 62.3% of the world’s student population.

Buraidah Date Festival

Qassim Governor, Prince Faisal bin Mishaal, inspected the buy and sell operations and auctions at the Buraidah Date Festival. He was accompanied by Majid Al-Hogail, acting Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs. The region’s mayor, Mohammed Al-Majli, said, “A total of eight million palm trees are now found in the region, with around 3,000 young men and women working in the dates market.” The number of cars coming into Buraidah reached 2,400 a day, which carried 20,486 tons of dates to the festival from the day it started. The dates arriving to the auctions make up 40% of the region’s production, while the remaining 60% are sold on the farms. Prince Faisal said, “I am also proud of Qassim region, where you can find such a significant economic movement, which is considered a sign of national and international food security.” Al Hogail said, “Today the production of dates is at the regional level and it will hopefully become global.”

Umrah Pilgrimage to be Restored in Phases

Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten, said the suspension of the Umrah pilgrimage would be lifted in phases. He said public health remains Saudi Arabia’s top priority. The Minister of Hajj and Umrah is studying a three-stage plan for the gradual restoration of Umrah, which was suspended due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Kingdom. In the first phase, citizens and expatriates living in the Kingdom will be allowed to perform the minor pilgrimage. The second phase will see an expansion to 75% while, in the third phase, pilgrims from outside the Kingdom will also be allowed to perform Umrah and the operations will resume at full capacity.

MWL, OIC to Work Together

The Muslim World League (MWL) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop a mechanism to increase coordination and complement efforts in different areas, particularly on ways to counter Islamophobia and extremism. The two sides also seek to raise issues concerning the Muslim world at international forums. The MoU also includes cooperation in the field of translation, publications, and research on contemporary Islamic issues. The MWL and OIC agreed to work jointly to organize conferences, seminars, forums and lectures on various challenges facing the Muslim world. They vowed to promote the true values of Islam based on moderation, tolerance, and respect for other cultures.

MOROCCO

Taps and Reservoirs Run Dry

Two years of drought have drained reservoirs in southern Morocco, threatening crops the region relies on and leading to nightly cuts in tap-water for an area that is home to a million people. In a country that relies on farming for two jobs in five and 14% of its gross domestic product (GDP), the problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of ground water are growing every year. Morocco’s harvest of cereals this year was less than half that of 2019, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars of extra import costs. Despite lower production, Moroccan exports of fresh produce have risen this year by 8%. One USD480 million plant, with a daily capacity of 400,000 cubic meters, is expected to start pumping in March, with the water divided between residential areas and farms.

EGYPT

Al Azhar Slams Charlie Hebdo

Al Azhar has strongly condemned Charlie Hebdo for republishing offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) in the French magazine. Al Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism urged the international community to take a firm stance on the encroachment on Muslims sanctities and symbols. It said the insistence on republishing the cartoons reinforces hate-speech, is a provocation against the world’s nearly two billion Muslims, and undermines interfaith dialogue and coexistence between people of different religions and beliefs.

SPAIN

Showcase of Islamic Art

The strong bond that the Spanish city of Cordoba enjoys with Arab and Muslim culture is epitomized by a museum that showcases an art-form popular during the 10th century Arab Caliphate. Just a few minutes away from the mosque cathedral of the Andalusian city, the Museum of the Omeyan Guademeci travels back in time to an artistic technique used to adorn palaces and craft luxurious gifts. Cordoba, the largest city in Spain’s Cordoba province, became the capital of the Umayyad dynasty’s Abdal Rahman I in 756CE. Umayyad rule saw the construction of palaces and mosques. By 1000 CE, Cordoba was Europe’s most cultured city. Its narrow streets and the Great Mosque reflect Moorish heritage.

INDONESIA

Running Out of Space

A cemetery in Indonesia’s Coronavirus-stricken capital could soon run out of land allocated for Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victims’ graves due to a rise in the number of burials taking place in recent weeks.  Grave-diggers are currently working on the fifth plot of land for COVID-19 victims since they began burying bodies in line with health protocols in early March. “We could run out of graves in the last plot within a month,”Imang Maulana told Arab News. “The current plot can accommodate up to 700 graves, but we buried almost 400 bodies in past two weeks.” Recently Indonesia reported 3,444 new cases, adding to the national caseload of 194,109 with 8,025 deaths in a population of 267 million people.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]