Flashes from the Muslim World

AFGHANISTAN

Pomegranate Growers Squeezed as Prices Drop

Pomegranate farmers in southern Afghanistan – where growing the juicy fruit is an important alternative to opium poppy production – say they are feeling the squeeze this year, with business blemished by chilly weather, pests and export woes. The prized crimson fruit, globally renowned for its reputed health benefits, is a point of pride for Afghan farmers, particularly in Kandahar province, where luscious pomegranates the size of small melons dangle from trees. Kandahar’s pomegranates are the world’s best for flavor, color, and several times Kandahar’s pomegranate came first in competitions abroad.

BANGLADESH

Needs UN Approval before Relocating

Despite all preparations being in place, Bangladesh’s government said that it was waiting for a green signal from UN agencies to begin relocating the Rohingya to Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh is currently hosting about 1,150,000 Rohingya refugees in squalid camps at Cox’s Bazaar. The government has planned to relocate about 100,000 Rohingyas to the island to ease pressure on 34 refugee camps in the Ukhia and Teknaf sub districts of Cox’s Bazar, which are running at full capacity. At a cost of nearly USD275 million, Bangladesh has built several hundred barracks, cyclone centers, community hospitals and mosques on the floating island where refugees will be able to earn a living by working in the agriculture, cattle breeding, and fishing sectors.

PHILIPPINES

Islamic Banking by Year-end

The Philippines is aiming to introduce new rules allowing for the expansion of the Islamic banking system in the country, by the end of the year, officials announced recently. Chuchi Fonacier, Deputy Governor of the country’s Central Bank, BangkoSentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) told Arab News that implementing the regulation and organization of Islamic banks was a priority in line with an act signed by President Rodrigo Dueterte in August. She said that the central bank envisioned a regulatory regime that accommodates Islamic finance within a flexible but secular unitary framework. Foreign Islamic banks would also be allowed to operate in the country under the terms of amendments to another act liberalizing their entry and scope, she added. The President Dueterte’s act is expected to widen access to banking services for Filipino Muslims, including those in the Bangsamoro region. Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines is currently the only Islamic bank operating in the country.

MALAYSIA

Seeks Identity in Calligraphy

The rice paddies of northern Malaysia are a rather unlikely setting where one can find a recreation of a Kiswa that was created on the orders of an Ottoman Sultan and decorated the Ka’aba in Makkah four centuries ago. The art work was created by Hafizan Halim, the son of a rice farmer. The original Kiswa was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I, the one who commissioned the construction of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, said the young artist as he displayed his copy of the 17th century design at his home and workshop in the countryside of Kedah. Halim’s 240 by 120 cm work, on a liner canvas took a year to complete. He enlisted 20 people to help him, mostly children from his village, teaching them the art techniques they needed. Haim says that art has given the young artist a taste of foreign lands and royal palaces, where calligraphy is still highly regarded as an art form.

To Produce Palm Oil based Bio-Jet Fuel

Malaysia aims to start producing palm oil based bio-jet fuel within five years and is in talks with several potential partners about setting up a plant, the head of the  industry’s marketing board said . Malaysia, the world’s second biggest producer of palm oil, is looking for new markets to boost demand for the vegetable oil, widely used in everything from soap to lipstick to snack foods. Last month, Malaysia allocated funds in its 2020 budget to study the use of palm oil based biojet-fuel. Indonesia, the top producer of palm oil, is also eyeing aviation as a new market for palm oil.

INDONESIA

165,000 Saudis Visited Indonesia

Indonesian’s Tourism Ministry has teamed up with its diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia to promote the Southeast Asian country as a top international holiday destination. In 2018, more than 165,000 Saudis visited the Southeast Asian country. Indonesia has launched a program to attract more Saudi tourists. It aims to increase the number of Saudis to 200,000 as part of a global visitor target of 20 million. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest archipelago, with more than 17,000 islands famed for their beaches, wildlife, and natural beauty.

JAPAN

Japan’s Role as Mediator

Japan could be an ideal mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as the country has been the occupier and the occupied at different points in time, said the Palestinian ambassador to Japan. “They (Japan) understand both sides. They know how it feels,” Waleed Siam, Dean of Arab ambassadors to Japan, told Arab News in an exclusive interview. “Arabs should trust Japan as an ideal mediator, because it would be very honest,” he added. Siam said the Japanese people do not discriminate against Arabs or Muslims. Japan has high respect for Islam because they are well-educated. They are not Islamophobic, he added. With the 2020 Olympics fast approaching, Japan is adapting in order to accommodate visitors. With the halal industry growing in Japan, Arabs will feel at home when they visit. He further added:“If you go to the airport or train stations, you can see that they have dedicated areas for prayer. Halal food is also available in many places.”

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Announces Major New Oil

The United Arab Emirates, a leading OPEC producer, announced ‘significant’ oil and gas discoveries and launched a new pricing mechanism for Abu Dhabi flagship, Murban Crude. The Gulf state’s highest energy decision-making body, the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC)said the new discoveries included seven billion barrels of crude oil and 58 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That raised UAE crude oil reserves to 105 billion barrels overtaking neighbor, Kuwait, for the world’s sixth largest oil deposits. UAE pumps about three million barrels of oil per day and produces some 10.5 billion cubic feet of raw natural gas.

Tolerance Summit in Dubai

King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue (KACND) took part in the second edition of the World Tolerance Summit, organized by the International Institute for Tolerance (IIT), under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Makthoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai. The summit was under the theme “Tolerance in Multiculturalism: Achieving Social, Economic and Humanitarian Benefits of a Tolerant World.” Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Fazwan, the Secretary-General of KACND, said that the summit had become an important platform for convergence and discussion on the importance of tolerance, peace and diversity. He also pointed out that the gathering of this large number of decision-makers and stakeholders was an opportunity to bring about a positive change.

To Boost High-Tech Military Industry

The UAE is seeking a push to develop high-tech military hardware that would give it control over critical defense capabilities and lessen reliance on imports. Wary of threats from rival Iran and concerned over moves by some allies to hold up arms sales, the UAE is reshaping a military industry already seen as the most sophisticated in the region. State defense companies have been brought together to form EDGE, a USD 5 billion conglomerate to spearhead development of advanced weapons for the country’s military.

SAUDI ARABIA

Prayers for Rain Performed Across KSA

Muslims across Saudi Arabia performed the Istisqa, the rain-seeking prayer, in accordance with the Prophetic Sunnah during drought, praying to Allah Almighty for rainfall. In Makkah, the prayer was performed in the Grand Mosque and attended by Prince Khaled al-Faisal, governor of Makkah. In Madinah, the prayer was performed at the Prophet’s Mosque and was attended by Prince Saud bin Khalid al-Faisal, Deputy Governor of Madinah. The prayer was also performed in other regions and attended by senior officials. In their sermons, the preachers urged Muslims to pray to Allah Almighty for repentance and forgiveness, doing good and charitable deeds and beseeched for rainfall.

Signing of an Agreement to Allocate the Site

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarimal-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) and Chairman of the International Organization of Muslim Scholars, has signed an agreement to allocate the site of the museum of the Prophet’s life and Islamic civilization. The historic building is planned to occupy an area of 20,000 square meters in the Knowledge Economic City in Madinah. Al Issa said that the museum with its headquarters reflects its importance and merit, highlighting that Saudi Arabia is the land where Islamic civilization began. MWL has received requests from 24 countries, including Indonesia and the UAE, to establish branches of the museum. MWL will feature a replica of the museums at Expo 2020 in Dubai, he added. The project will be one of the important landmarks in the Kingdom to serve the history of the Prophet and Islamic civilization while employing the latest techniques and technologies.

Saudi Scientists Win Major Award

A passion for science and years of hard work has put two Saudi women researchers in the spot light following their ground-breaking studies on organ transplant alternatives and stem-cell treatments. Wafa Audehal-Talhi and Asmaal-Amoodi were among the six female scientists honored at the sixth edition of the L’ Oreal – UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Fellowship awards in Dubai. Each of the researchers was awarded a grant in recognition of their outstanding achievements. Al-Talhi received USD22,000 in the post-doctoral researchers category, while al-Amoodi received about approximately USD8,000 in the PhD students category.

Exchange of Islamic Research

Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, Sheikh Abdul Latif al-Asheikh and the Chairman of Russia Muftis Council, Sheikh RavilGaynetdin, signed a memorandum of understanding it the field of Islamic Affairs in Riyadh. The memorandum aims for cooperation in Islamic fields, including the dissemination of Islam and its tolerant values, cooperation in the field of serving the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah and the exchange of research books and scholarly publications in various languages.

Students Showcase Pioneering Inventions

Student innovators have been showcasing their pioneering projects at a Saudi university inaugural designweek. More than 20 original products and creative ideas by female students at Jeddah’s Effat University went on display to the public and industry professionals during the event. The initiative was aimed at promoting community awareness of the role of design in improving quality of life, while also offering a platform for students to present their inventions. Effat University is one of the Kingdom’s leading design education institutions.

JORDAN

Reclaimed its Land

Few Jordanians had expected it to happen; so when the Royal Jordanian Army raised the national flag over the twin enclaves of Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamr, the mood across the country was a mix of delight and satisfaction.  The events mark the end of a controversial 25-year-old lease agreement that came as a part of the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty. Al-Baqoura is 6,000 dunams of fertile, aquifer-rich land east of Jordan River. Al-Ghamr is a four kilometer wide, aquifer-rich area of land along Jordanian border within Aqaba governorate. Israel occupied Al-Baqoura in 1950 and 4,000 additional dunams of land in Al-Ghamr, south of the Dead Sea in 1967. Jordan and Israel signed Wadi Araba Peace Treaty in 1994. Jordan announced in October 2018 it would not renew the 25-year lease. The lease officially expired on November 10, 2019. Jordan news agency reported that this is very important, not only to Jordan, but to the Arab and Islamic worlds. It shows that the peace treaty,with all its problems, produced results with the return of land.

PALESTINE

Future of West Bank Farming

Israeli curbs on Palestine have hit all types of economic activity but especially agriculture, with water restrictions severely affecting farmers. Seeing the poor state of many Palestinian farms,MaroofRabba, a Nablus-based accountant, began to teach himself aquaponics, a technique that combines hydroponics – the cultivation of plants in water – and fish farming. His company, Petrichor Aquaponics, today operates an 80 square meter greenhouse, and has drawn a strong response locally and internationally especially from farmers and potential investors. Greenhouses are transformed into huge fishponds where fish and plants exist symbiotically. Unable to import machinery for this system due to Israeli restrictions, Rabba learned to design and make the equipment himself.

GAMBIA

Law Suit at Top UN Court

Gambia has filed a case at the UN’s highest court, accusing Myanmar of genocide in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority, and asking the International Court of Justice to urgently order measures to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately. Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Gambia’s Justice Minister and Attorney General, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, said he wanted to send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. The head of a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.

RUSSIA

OIC, Russia Discuss Broadening Ties

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef al-Othaimeen, met Sheikh RawiEineddine, Head of the Russian Council of Muftis in Jeddah, to discuss their continuing cooperation. Al-Othaimeen noted the importance of promoting Russian ties with the Muslim world,with more than 25 million Muslims living in Russia, a multi-societal, religious and cultural environment, known for diversity and tolerance. The meeting discussed topics related to broadening cooperation between Russia and OIC in intellectual,cultural and media-related fields through the implementation of a joint program that includes events and activities that bring Russia and the Muslim world closer and show the real image of moderate Islam.

KAZAKHASTAN

To Host Syria Talks

Kazakhstan will host a fresh round of Syria peace talks sponsored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, Kazakh Foreign Minister, Mukhtar Tleuberdi said. The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011. Seven civilians were killed and 30 more were wounded by a recent rocket attack carried out by terrorist groups, the regime broadcaster said, referring to opposition factions in the west of Aleppo province.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

MWL Chief Meets President’s Adviser in White House

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League (MWL), held talks with presidential adviser, Jason Greenblatt, at the White House, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Al-Issa and Grenblatt discussed a number of issues related to extremism and terrorism as well as initiatives to promote human and national fraternity among people of different faiths, ethnicities and cultures. As part of the MWL’s programs in the US, Al-Issa held meetings in New York, and Washington with the heads and members of global research centers. He also held open dialogues with US research institutions to address a number of ideas and initiatives, discuss topics of mutual interest and shed light om MWL’s international initiatives to promote peace.

Media Outlets Urged to Stick to Impartiality

The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, recently was in Utah,US, where he was received by Utah Governor, Gary Herbert. Al-Issa also visited the Mormon Church in Utah, where he met the leader of the group and discussed ways to promote harmony among followers of different religions and cultures. Al-Issa took part in a Desert News editorial board meeting in Utah and spoke about the  need to promote moral values such as justice, tolerance, and  humanitarian work and support the efforts to achieve peace and harmony, especially in multi-religious cultural and ethnic  countries as well as promoting awareness about tolerance and acceptance of diversity and differences. Al-Issa urged media outlets to stick to the truth and impartiality to avoid losing credibility and compromising their mission.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]