The Saudi regime does not represent Islam

efaa3c4b81cf475fb1326562d52c9bc1_18The Khashoggi affair is yet another reason for the world to abandon the assumption that the kingdom represents Islam.

The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has the world’s fingers pointed in the direction of the Saudi government, specifically at its de-facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen living in exile in the United States because of his criticism of the Saudi regime, earned the esteem of audiences that read his political commentary in both Arabic and English. He was last seen alive entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, when he visited to procure documents he needed to wed his Turkish fiancee.

Speculation about bin Salman ordering his kidnapping, or state-sponsored murder, rose to the fore, dominating mainstream and social media discussions about the missing journalist’s likely fate. On October 19, Saudi authorities finally admitted Khashoggi was killed inside the country’s Istanbul consulate. This admission merely confirmed a conclusion most had already drawn given the regime’s dismal human rights record and fierce intolerance to any criticism: The Saudi government was directly responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance and death.

And where Saudi Arabia is the subject of wrongdoing, Islam stands alongside it. Collaterally implicated and indicted as the source of the vile actions taken by a government that, since its inception as a sovereign state, has been popularly anointed as the living embodiment of the religion.


Khashoggi case: A timeline

This, again, was the case with the Khashoggi affair. The unknown whereabouts of the journalist, widely regarded to be among the most courageous indigenous critics of the Saudi regime, implicated Islam in the minds of many. The “redeployment of Orientalist tropes,” as articulated by law scholar Leti Volpp, surged to the surface and steered the popular discourse, driving immediate conclusions that Islam itself is “intolerant to criticism,” “resistant to independent media voices,” and “suppressive of dissidence.”


Scouts: A colonial-age movement formed by Christians, cherished by millions of Muslims worldwide

  • 1325731-1311725638It is 57 years since the first 100 volunteers from the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association took up their posts at Makkah
  • There are more than 50 million Scouts in the world and 28 million of them are Muslim

LONDON: Among the thousands of helpers assisting pilgrims at Hajj this year, it was hard to miss one particular group.

In their distinctive neckerchiefs, shirts and caps, they were always on hand, guiding pilgrims back to their tents, reuniting lost children with their parents, giving first aid when people felt ill and generally providing a reassuring presence.
There were 4,500 Scouts on duty in Makkah this year, and another 1,500 in Madinah, all of them volunteers. In fact, the boys and girls of the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association have been a welcome fixture during Hajj since 1961.

Though that was the year the Saudi Arabian Boy Scouts Association was officially founded, Scouts had already been active in the country for many years. But the history of scouting in the Arab world goes back more than a century to the formation of Scout groups in Syria and Lebanon in 1912 — only five years after the birth of scouting in Britain.

In 1914, the Scout Movement came to Egypt, at the behest of Prince Omar Toussoun. Known as a scholar and philanthropist, the prince became set on introducing scouting to his native country after taking part in activities with Scouts during a visit to London. Iraq also joined in 1914.
Much of the Middle East was still under colonial rule in the early part of the 20th century, which undoubtedly was a factor in the rapid spread of the Scout Movement. But it does not explain why the popularity of scouting has not only endured but continues to grow.


Will Saudi Arabia Cease to Be the Center of Islam?

07devji-jumboSaudi Arabia, or the Arabian Peninsula before the formation of the modern kingdom, has been and remains a place both central and marginal to Muslims around the world.

An Urdu novel published in 1869 by Nazir Ahmad, a writer in Delhi, portrays two young Muslim girls at their geography lesson. As they identify various countries on a map, the girls come across the Arabian Peninsula. Their teacher describes it as an empty space infested by marauding Bedouin, one whose only significance lay in its historical role as the site of Islam’s birth.

The monuments and institutions of Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam, had always been minor in architectural quality and financial endowment compared with the splendid mosques, tombs and seminaries found at the centers of Muslim power in Baghdad and Cairo, Istanbul and Isfahan, Delhi and Samarkand.

Muslim kings rarely visited Mecca and Medina. Instead, those cities served as places of exile for their enemies.

Saudi Arabia, or the Arabian Peninsula before the formation of the modern kingdom, has been and remains a place both central and marginal to Muslims around the world. Even as Mecca and Medina represent the most important sites of Muslim pilgrimage, the vision of the holy cities as remote and perilous is still reinforced by the occasional stampede of pilgrims during the Hajj.


A journey to Hajj that changed Islam in America

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  • “I don’t believe that motion picture cameras ever have filmed a human spectacle more colorful than my eyes took in”
  • “During the past 11 days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug — while praying to the same God — with fellow Muslims”

MAKKAH: Malcolm X was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. But his detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence.

He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. Malcolm was a member of the Nation of Islam, an African American politico-religious movement founded by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in the 1930s.Their goals were to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in the US. Critics have described the organization as black supremacist.


Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha as pilgrims conduct Hajj

bd2239803ac1432dbbf6afe3d690989c_18Muslims across the world are celebrating the festival of Eid al-Adha, which coincides with the final rites of the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

While many will celebrate on Tuesday, millions of others, including in South Asia, will celebrate the start of the religious holiday the day after.

Eid al-Adha, which in Arabic literally means the “festival of the sacrifice”, commemorates the story of the Muslim Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith.

Muslims believe Ibrahim was commanded by God him to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Tradition holds that God stayed his hand, sparing the boy, and placing a ram in his place.

The day is marked with the sacrifice of an animal, usually a goat, sheep, or cow, and the distribution of the meat among neighbours, family members, and the poor.



Hajj 2018 in pictures: Hajj begins in Mecca – how many people will travel for Hajj?


Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with Shahadah (belief in the oneness of God and acceptance of Muhammad as prophet), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity) and Sawm (fasting).

It is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which all Muslims who are physically and financially undertake at least once in their lifetime.

This year, it has been estimated that more than two million people will make the journey.

2017 saw almost 2.5 million attendees, with 2012 holding the record with more than three million flocking to the holy city.

Hajj begins on the eighth day of the 12th Islamic month, called Dhu al-Hijjah, and lasts for five days.

On the tenth day of the Islamic calendar (the second of Hajj), the holy festival of Eid al-Adha is celebrated.

This year Hajj will run from Sunday, August 19 till Friday, August 24.

What do you do at Hajj?

Hajj begins at a place just outside Mecca called the Miqat, or entry station to the Hajj.

Hajj 2018 in pictures

Hajj 2018 in pictures: Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca (Image: EPA)

Hajj 2018 in pictures

Hajj 2018 in pictures: Muslim Hajj pilgrims touch Kaaba’s wall and pray (Image: EPA)


I went to Hajj last year and it had a profound impact on me. This is what it was like

hajj-2As millions travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj, one Muslim pilgrim reflects on what it meant to her a year on.

I just remember the sheer excitement. A combination of nerves and heightened euphoria. I wasn’t sure how I would feel when I stood before the Ka’bah. Holding my husband’s arm tightly as waves of people overtook us; I was in complete amazement. Considering all the history in this same spot, the footsteps of so many that had travelled before by camel, foot and now, many air miles, I was filled with joy and a surreal sense of peace.

This was the centre of Islam, and the Ka’bah signified a place of unity for Muslims irrespective of background or race. I felt incredibly blessed to be among a fraction of the 1.5 billion Muslims who actually get to be here in person.

This was my first time in the Middle East and so the 44-degree heat was a new sensation to me. I was startled by the Muslim world before me. The incredible diversity of people journeying far and wide was a sight to behold. Many came with little other than unyielding determination and what clothes they had on. They walked for hours in the burning heat, some without shoes. The majority them were also much older than ourselves; our plane journey from Beirut was the first time some of them had ever been on a flight! I loved seeing the bright colours of the Malaysian ladies as they interlocked arms to stay together.

Our Hajj journey began at Mina – a neighbourhood in Mecca – where we stayed in huge white tents with massive Persian-style rugs on the floor. Each encampment was divided by country. I was sharing a space with 70 other ladies, a bit like a really massive sleepover, whilst camping in intense heat. There was a really nice atmosphere inside with everyone sharing stories and snacks, the worries from home felt so far away.