Egypt’s International Conference for Fatwa Warns Against Circulating Misleading Fatwas

MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa attends the International Conference for Fatwa in Cairo

Cairo- The International Conference for Fatwa continued its second day of activities early on Wednesday.

Participants used the platform to send out an important message on prohibiting and stopping self-styled and unauthorized Fatwas from being circulated among the public, especially in light of surging Islamophobia.

The three-day conference, held by General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide, was attended by delegations from 80 countries to face misleading fatwas and their impacts on societies.

Attending Islamic scholars valued the speech given by MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa.

“Issa’s speech has a great impact and is very important in shedding light on the most important issues facing the Islamic world,” Secretary-General of the Islamic European Council Dr. Mohammed Al Bashari told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Issa’s demand to unify fatwas and establish regulations is a request made in the right place and time to eliminate fatwas issued occasionally by extremist organizations,” he added.

Fatwas in the Islamic faith are a nonbinding but authoritative legal opinion or learned interpretation that scholars, such as a qualified jurist or mufti, can give on issues pertaining to the Islamic law.

Grand Imam of Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Egypt’s Mufti Shawky Allam, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) Muhammad bin Abdul Karim, and the chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (GAIAE) in the UAE Mohammed Matar al-Kaabi Issa inaugurated the conference on Oct 17.

Addressing the conference, Egypt’s Mufti Shawky Allam said that the challenges Egypt and the world are facing are due to “misleading fatwas” that threaten security and peace.

“Since the world rises up against terrorism, religious intellectuals too should confront extremist thoughts and spread the teachings of our tolerant religion instead,” Allam added.

He further noted that the conference is considered an “opportunity to achieve this goal, as the conference’s importance is not limited to discussing the issues of terrorism and extremism, but it expands to include misleading fatwas that confuse our society.”

OIC Pledges $750,000 to Assist Development Projects in Member States

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had approved $ 750,000 worth of financial aid in September 2017 for implementing social, economic, educational, cultural and health projects in a number of OIC member countries, reported the Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday.

The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen clarified that this aid is part of the implementation of the decisions of Islamic Solidarity Fund Permanent Council at its 60th and 61st sessions which expresses the need to meet the needs of beneficiaries in Member countries.

According SPA, Al-Othaimeen pointed out that this aid comes in the context of the organization’s interest, to achieve the human development and raise up the level of Muslims abilities in the world.

The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world. It endeavors to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.

Member States of the OIC face many challenges in the 21st century and to address those challenges, the Third Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit held in Makkah in December 2005, laid down the blue print called the Ten-Year Program of Action. It successfully concluded with the close of 2015. A successor program for the next decade (2016-2025) has since then been adopted.

Algeria: Laws to Prevent ‘Alteration’ of Citizens’ Religious Convictions

Algiers – Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments Mohammed Eisa warned of sectarian efforts to break the religious principles of Algerian society, pointing out that the government is planning to issue new laws posing penalties on those who try to change Algerians’ religious convictions.

Speaking at a conference for religious Imams and religious guides, eastern Algeria, the minister said that the country was exposed to foreign ideas that created terrorism and provoked hatred among the people. Eissa was referring to the war during the 1990s where 150,000 people were killed inducing: extremists, security men, and civilians.

The minister reiterated that Algerian youths do not need to cross the border looking for new forms of religiosity other than the ones they inherited from their ancestors. He didn’t elaborate as to what he meant, but it is understood that he was referring to hundreds of young people who had been involved in extremist groups abroad and then returned to the country to perform their practices in society.

Through a scientific and pedagogic method, Algeria succeeded in overcoming this flux and discourse of hatred, especially against various sectarian movements aiming to divide the country, added the minister, in reference to Shi’ite sects chased by security services.

Since his appointment as Minister of Religious Affairs in 2014, Minister Eissa had repeatedly spoken of the authorities’ efforts to “protect local religious authority”.

He called upon Imams and teachers of Koranic education to adopt the approach of relying on local religious authority to immunize the country against all dangers.

Eissa stressed that the state is determined to legislate laws that “protect the doctrine, fight sectarianism, and punish those who seek to change the convictions of religious Algerians.”

The minister announced a new law will soon be issued to regulate mosques’ affairs.

Since 2008, according to the minister, all Imams finished their religious education programs and memorized the Qur’an because these measures are important to ensure moderate speech that could serve the country.

Eissa himself is in a war against al-Ahmadiyya sect and Shiaism in the country.

Recently, he told state radio that Algeria was “a target for Islamic trends that are different from our culture and religious values that we inherited from the predecessors” in reference to several new sects that are spreading in many mosques in the country.

The minister confirmed that Islam in Algeria is that of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and a moderate one that promotes coexistence with other sects and religions. He added that Islam in the country is not affected by ideologies or political exploitation.

Hollywood Stars to Partake in Turkish Film ‘Islamophobia’

Ankara – In the city of Antalya, southern Turkey, shooting the film “Islamophobia” has kicked off with the participation of many actors, including stars from Hollywood.

The film aims to shed light on the tolerant reality of Islam and to counter Islamophobia that has spread in the West. The filmmaker and cinematographer, Omer Sarikaya, oversees the filming in the historical and tourist sites of Antalya, with the participation of artists and stars from 48 countries.

The final part of the movie will be filmed in the Netherlands, after finishing the scenes in Turkey. American actor Adam Dormi will play the role of “Omar”, the hero of the film while Armenian actress Hripsime Sargsyan plays the role of “Nina”.

Hollywood stars including Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Jackie Chan and Mel Gibson are also taking part as honorary guests in the film, which highlights the values ​​of peace and security advocated by Islam.

Turkish filmmaker Omer Sarikaya told the Anadolu news agency that the film crew has come a long way in terms of the project, which focuses on “Peace and Forgiveness,” noting that 85 percent of the film will be shot in Antalya and the rest in the Netherlands.

He added: “In this movie, we are keen to define the tolerance and mercy of Islam for the whole world, and we will prove that terrorism is not linked to Islam,” noting that all the film’s revenues will be allocated to relief work and humanitarian aid around the world.

Sarikaya continued: “Representatives from more than 18 countries are now working with us, and actors from more than 48 countries will join us to work on proving the reality of Islam to the world, and that it is the religion of security, mercy, compassion and peace.”

He also said that the film will be screened for the first time in 2018, and will be preceded by concerts and events, in Antalya, and later in the United States.

For his part the star of the film, Dormi said that the movie contains very important messages, as it seeks to refute the prior and faulty judgments about Islam. Dormi pointed out that among the film’s goals is defining the tolerance of religions, and breaking prejudices and false allegations that raise people’s fears around the world.

Sargsyan also said the film sends important messages to humanity, and that she will be honored to partake in any film that contributes to the dissemination of the values ​​of beauty and peace.

Confronting ‘Lone Wolves’

terrorism

Cairo – The recent shooting in the US city of Las Vegas demonstrated that the terrorism of “lone wolf” attackers is a major and terrifying danger. The massacre, the worst in the US’ modern history, left an unprecedented number of people dead and injured and officials are still confounded as to what prompted Stephen Paddock to go on his horrific rampage.

Europe was not spared the danger of lone wolves with Marseille witnessing one that left two people dead. What we need to ask now is: What is the best way to confront this inhumane and very complicated phenomenon, especially since no one has so far been able to find out what pushes someone to commit such atrocities?

We should at first distinguish between the American and European lone wolves. The former have easy access to weapons, while the latter obtain weapons only for the intention of committing such terrorist crimes.

With the Las Vegas shooting, the US Congress will once again be faced with the debate over the freedom to purchase and own weapons. Any change to this reality would require an amendment of the country’s constitution, which no one at Congress has yet dared to demand.

In confronting lone wolves in the United States, we must distinguish between those who commit their crime out of national extremist and racist beliefs and radicalized others, who use the excuse of Islamic extremism.

Even though lone wolf attacks in the US are less common than those in Europe, they often claim the lives of more victims because the shooter has access to a more lethal arsenal. This therefore demands that the confrontation be waged against the legal regulations that permit the possession of arms. It also demands logistic, security and intelligence operations to counter these crimes. This second form of confrontation is similar to the one being wage against the phenomenon in Europe.

In previous articles, we had stated that lone wolf attacks were originally adopted by al-Qaeda and later ISIS. It was first born from the womb of the Islamic resistance of the Soviet occupation of Muslim territories in Afghanistan and later, with the emergence of ISIS, it was born out of the US military invasion of Iraq.

At this point, we can assert that major unjust policies around the globe and in the Islamic world are a factor that can produce more lone wolves, who believe that a life without dignity or independence is meaningless and not worth living. American and European policies in the Middle East, in recent years in particular, have had disastrous results in this regard.

These powers did not foresee the unexpected repercussions of and reaction to their destruction of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and their random dismantling of systems that have been around for decades. This opened the door wide for lone wolves to run rampant and commit their crimes.

We are now faced with the equation: As long as injustices remain, lone wolves will continue to threaten the world and its security.

Tackling open humanitarian wounds and achieving international justice could be the main solution confronting this phenomenon.

Over the years, it became obvious that many of the lone wolves in Europe often are second generation Europeans, who were born there or who arrived there at a young age. They grew up and were educated in Europe. They all however have one thing in common, which was their major failure to integrate into the new societies that had adopted them. The massive degree of their failure was reflected in the extent of their criminality in their attacks.

Why did this failure to integrate take place and who is responsible for it? Are the migrant youths to blame or did Europe fail in providing the necessary cultural, social, political and economic environments to achieve this integration?

The emergence of lone wolves in Europe is enough indication that there is a flaw in the integration mechanism. There is no doubt that the host country should be blamed. The first step to addressing this flaw lies in bridging the mental divide that separates the lone wolves from their host societies. In return, respect and appreciation should be shown for Islamic and Muslim beliefs. This respect should be reciprocated by the new migrants and refugees.

Furthermore, European countries should exert greater positive efforts to support integration through free courses that are linked to obtaining residency permits and local nationalities. This means that the migrants should be helped to learn the local language. Authorities should also prepare camps where the new arrivals could mingle with the locals. The locals in turn should be encouraged to interact on a human level with the migrants and stand with them against extremists, who are seeking division between the two sides.

It goes without saying that this type of individual terrorism has nothing to do with the right form of Islam. The severity of the situation however demands a united stand and approach. There are several major Muslim authorities that can all take such a stand and unite against forces that are deliberately trying to distort the correct image of the religion.

These authorities should project the image of the tolerant Islam that believes in coexistence and the respect of human rights regardless of their faith, race or gender.

In this regard, European governments should open the door wide for these enlightenment efforts through providing all possible means for Islamic centers to achieve this purpose and allow the voice of moderation to be heard throughout the continent. This will help achieve coexistence and rapprochement against those seeking division.

One of the most important mechanisms to confront the lone wolves phenomenon is deepening dialogue. There should be a dialogue between different generations, between locals and naturalized citizens, and between different religions. This is undoubtedly one of the most important forms of dialogue that will help eliminate the misconceptions clouding people’s hearts and minds.

Arab Muslim and Christian authorities have a role in this regard. As roots of the Arab world, they have played a part in forming this civilization. Their voice is therefore invaluable on the European scene where they will likely be welcomed by moderate Christians, who honestly seek the integration of the migrants in their new societies.

In order to close the door against the preachers of hate, we recommend that these dialogues be based on the common characteristics shared between the followers of the monotheistic religions. Going into the theological details of the religions will not help anyone because the whole purpose of the dialogue is to find common factors, not differences.

Have we forgotten or overlooked something in our search for the best means to confront lone wolves?

The lone wolf himself remains at the heart of the problem. It is a stretch to say that this phenomenon can be eliminated permanently because no one can really know what lurks in the human psyche and what their real intentions towards others are. This is a complicated case for the sociologists and psychologists.

There are however several mechanisms that can isolate the lone wolf, meaning his chances of getting together with terrorist elements can be narrowed down. The less likely the chances of the would-be lone wolf meeting these elements, the weaker his threat becomes.

How can such an isolation take place in the world of social media, the internet and modern technology?

This places a major responsibility on the shoulders of those in charge of those sites. The first step lies in shutting down websites and social media accounts that are suspected to be terrorist, especially those that seek to recruit members and others that promote murder.

Another factor to look into when addressing lone wolves is the time they spent in prison. Jails have become a hatching plant for would-be attackers due to their negative interaction with radicals, who preach their hate speech. Prisons have become beacons for terrorist thought. Very dangerous inmates should be isolated and prevented from contacting others in order to halt the spread of their terrorist propaganda.

Pope Francis Receives MWL Chief

London- Pope Francis on Wednesday met with the Muslim World League’s Chief Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, the Vatican said in a statement, without elaborating on the content of the meeting.

The Muslim world appreciates Pope Francis’ stance on false claims linking Islam to extremism and violence, Al-Issa told the pope.

The two men exchanged views on a number of topics of mutual concern, notably cooperation between the Vatican and the Islamic world on issues concerning peace and coexistence.

Pope Francis had formerly said that violence is not directly related to Islam, and that no religion is free from having extremist followers.

After their meeting, the pope and Al-Issa exchanged gifts.

The MWL chief gave the pope a religious symbol representing Islamic civilization and its communication with other civilizations.

Pope Francis gave Al-Issa a memorial pen marking the 500th anniversary of St. Peter’s Basilica in 2006, and a medal commemorating his fifth year as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

During his visit, the MWL chief will meet senior figures from the Vatican administration and leading Italian officials, and will attend a number of religious and cultural functions in Rome.

The Saudi Arabian government-supported NGO, MWL, was founded in 1962 to propagate Islam and to improve worldwide understanding of the religion.

Headquartered in the Saudi city of Mecca, the MWL in its mission statement says it rejects violence and fosters “dialogue with people of other cultures.”

A Brand New Mecca City

Muslims make up about 24 percent of the world population. With one and a half billion Muslims worldwide, should one billion of them decide on performing Hajj– which is pillar of Islam–  at least once in a lifetime, it will take up to 500 years for the task to be achieved.

The annual capacity of Muslims performing Hajj stands at an average 2 million– limited by Mecca’s ability to host gathered pilgrims.

Since Hajj has a specific time and place, there are no available solutions. Even if this number is considerably raised, as a result of improvements and future expansion, it will not exceed five million pilgrims in any Hajj pilgrimage. In a hundred years, only one-third of Muslims will be able to visit Mecca.

In order for a majority of Muslims to fulfill their aspirations of visiting Mecca, one alternative emerges: increase the number of Umrah pilgrims, and not the Hajj pilgrims.

Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims and can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Ḥajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

Currently, the number of pilgrims stands at 7 million, but the Saudi transformational Vision 2030 aims to boost numbers to 30 million per year.

It is an ambitious plan and will require a comprehensive development of services, related facilities, and a major fine-tuning of top supervising government agencies.

The planning strategy needs to be given some tweaks, moving crowds to Mecca’s outskirts.

But will 30 million international visitors make the trip to Mecca each year? Most certainly, but there are concerns associated with Hajj and Umrah, most notably security and safety.

Such a project would naturally place Mecca in a permanent state of alert, and would double the number of local pilgrims.

Kingdom authorities have managed to complete most expansions at holy sites, the largest engineering and construction project in the world– built to accommodate millions of pilgrims, and also host tens of millions of Muslims around the year, the development plan demands that a new city with vast service facilities for housing and service of pilgrims be constructed as well.

Given that the government changed its approach, allowing for the private sector to partake in project, matters improved substantially. The role of the government now is dedicated to planning, regulating, monitoring and holding to account responsible bodies.

This calls for building of a new city in Mecca, to double the size of the Holy City, presenting the private sector with even a greater opportunity.

Such a project promises to ease up the congestion inside Mecca, which has become a concrete jungle surrounded by mountains. Making some distance from the area Great Mosque of Mecca, toward Jeddah, is the solution to such a huge project.

Giving up construction at the center of the holy city will reduce congestion, facilitate transportation of visitors and enable various safety services to operate with high efficiency.

A distance of 20 kilometers between the entrance gate and the city center can accommodate hundreds of hotels, facilities and markets and host most of the 30 million pilgrims, instead of increasing pressure on the inner city territory.

The new train service will facilitate public transport. Such facilities, services and hotels will operate throughout the year, making them economically attractive for the private sector to invest.

Forevermore, the key challenge facing development planners is them meeting the wishes of the world’s Muslim population. The number of people who would perform Umrah will increase threefold.

In good thought, may the government speed up the project’s deadline, prioritizing it for many religious, political and social considerations.

Saudi Arabia Claims Success over Hajj Proactive Plan, with No Incidents Registered so far

Mina- Saudi Arabia declared on Friday Hajj plans for 2017 a grand success, as they guarded the environment for pilgrims performing Islamic rites on 8, 9 and 10 of Dhu al-Hijjah.

Authorities also announced preparations to manage crowds for the first days of Al-Tashreeq, devil stoning days, which prohibits pilgrims from leaving camps in Mina between 2 pm to 6 pm.

The pilgrims from across the globe were gathered in Saudi desert valley of Mina, a tent city located around 7 kilometers northeast of Makkah, on Friday for the final major ritual of the annual hajj pilgrimage at the Jamarat Bridge.

A Saudi official said that 1.9 million had so far successfully finished the stone-throwing ritual and headed to the Grand Mosque in Makkah for the main circumambulation, before coming back to Mina for two to three days, Al-Tashreeq designated days.

Regulations and action plans were placed and enacted to ensure pilgrims’ safety and to facilitate the performance of rites by the total of 2.35 million people carrying out the hajj pilgrimage this year.

The security spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, said the throwing of stones in Mina valley and the walk round the Kaaba remained for most of the pilgrims before they left Makkah.

Another Saudi official said over 750,000 pilgrims ascended from Mina to Arafat and back to Mina through Muzdalifa using customary transport and about 350,000 used the train.

Gadhi said the plan required that pilgrims to stay in their camps on the second day of tashreeq from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. to reduce the traffic on roads leading to Jamrat bridge.

He advised pilgrims not to carry their personal effects while practicing the stone-throwing ritual.

Gadhi said representatives of more than 80 foreign and domestic Hajj missions took part in the workshops held by the authorities to advise pilgrims on the culture of pilgrimage.

Updating Hajj security information, security spokesman Col. Sami Al-Shwairekh, said the number of unlicensed Hajj offices now amounted to 121, unlicensed pilgrims who were ordered back numbered 575,227, there were 251,372 vehicles forced to make U-turns, and 17,362 illegals who will be prosecuted later after their fingerprints were taken.

Civil Defense spokesman Col. Abdullah Al-Harthi highlighted the preventive role of Civil Defense, resulting in a major accident-free Hajj so far.

Civil Defense had successfully carried out trials of their response to major incidents such as floods and fire, he said. They also controlled the holy sites’ train shuttles.

Al-Harthi said 95 percent of Arafat tents this year had been converted to be fireproof.

He said three kinds of tunnels linked the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa with downtown Makkah: some for pedestrians, others for vehicles and a third for water drainage, including potential floods caused by heavy rain.

King Salman Says Serving Hajj Pilgrims is a Pride Upheld by Saudi Arabia for all Time

Makkah- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz reaffirmed on Friday that serving Hajj pilgrims is a national tradition the Kingdom will uphold years on end.

“I hope God will accept the pilgrim’s pilgrimage. May every year find you in good health,” he added.

Speaking from Mina, King Salman said that Saudi Arabia will save no effort in bolstering its security, defending its stability, and preserving its interests. He also said that the Kingdom takes pride in having Islam’s two holy mosques resting on Saudi land, and that the title ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ is held by Kingdom rulers since founder monarch King Abdulaziz.

King Salman had Thursday evening to oversee services that have been put in place for pilgrims during Hajj.

Around two million pilgrims gathered in Mina to follow in the footsteps of noble Prophet Mohamed to perform one of the key pillars of the Hajj.

The pilgrims stood at Mount Arafat until sunset on the ninth day of the Hijri month Dhu’l-Hijjah.

Mount Arafat is the place where the prophet Muhammad gave one of his last famous sermons on Islam and Allah.

After the Day of Arafat comes the beginning of Eid al-Adha.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz, also the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, received at Mina Palace’s Royal Court on Friday princes, the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom, scholars, sheikhs, senior officials of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States, ministers and commanders of military sectors participating in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.

Kingdom Scouts Leaders participating in Hajj attended the hosting and had went to greet and congratulate the King on Eid al-Adha.

“I congratulate you and the pilgrims of the Grand Holy Mosque on the blessed Eid al-Adha, praying to Allah to accept the good deeds and return the Eid to the Islamic nation with goodness and blessings,” said King Salman at the reception.

Saudi Arabia Working to Make Hajj an Annual Journey of Faith Done at Ease

Saudi Arabia’s Governor of Makkah Region and Chairman of the Central Hajj Committee Prince Khalid Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz affirmed the keenness of the Kingdom’s government to serve Hajj pilgrims, provide them with all possible services, ensure their comfort and make this journey to the Holy Land an easy and comfortable one, until they return, safely, to their homeland.

“This year witnessed a great effort and there was a thorough study of all previous experiences to facilitate this important journey of faith for all Muslims to this Holy Land,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) cited Prince Khaled as saying.

The pilgrims moved from Makkah to Mina on Wednesday, I went to Arafat this day very easily and all government agencies entrusted with the task of serving these holy lands did everything within their capacities, honesty and loyalty.

The results were impressive, stated the governor, and all roads witnessed great progress.

He pointed out that many groups and experts are working on solving some simple observations and that all comments received from them will be checked to identify the problems and work on solving them, in hopes of contributing to the development of Hajj and services provided.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz commended cooperation and coordination among various agencies.

The King also praised that there are hundreds of millions of projects implemented in the fields of water, electricity, municipalities, transportation and other government services, in this field, in Makkah.

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal concluded that the Kingdom is striving to make the pilgrimage, eventually, a comfortable journey of faith, for all Muslims performing the holy rites.