Thursday, 19 November 2015

Paris Terror Attacks are Against Humanity

Paris Terror Attacks are against Humanity
 and Violation of All Religions

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Before the Daesh or the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), as it is known, had even claimed responsibility for the shootings and explosions that killed more than 120 in Paris on Friday night, Muslims around the world took to social media to condemn the perpetrators and defend Islam as a faith of nonviolence, as it is reported by TIME magazine on 14 November 2015. Not much is known about the terrorists at this point, except for the fact that the ones directly involved are all dead. But early reports that the terrorists were speaking about France’s presence in Syria, that one yelled “Allahu Akbar” before opening fire in a crowded concert hall led many to conclude the attackers were Muslim. The attacks have started a new round of condemnation of Islam itself from long-time right-wing critics, Heather Timmons mentioned in Quartz, on 14 November 2015.

Muslims all over the world, from political leaders to ordinary common people, from religious leaders to Muslim organisations, from scholars to social media, openly and publicly came out to speak against the horrific terror attacks in Paris.

Muslims took to social media, Twitter and Facebook, to show support for Parisians affected in the attacks and to demonstrate that they want no part in the extremism and violence that terrorists commit in the name of Islam. Many referred to the hashtag£TerrorismHasNoReligion, £NotInMyName and £IAmAMuslim.

Reaction from Muslims Worldwide

Political Leaders
Leaders of several Muslim-majority countries spoke out. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, leader of the world's most populous Muslim nation, condemned the “violence that took place in Paris,” and called for more international cooperation to fight terrorism,” reported in QUARTZ, mentioned earlier.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia sent a message of condolence to French President Hollande, saying, “We learned about the pain and the sadness of the terrorist attacks in Paris. … We express our condemnation for this repugnant terrorist act and offer our condolences to your Excellency, the French people and the families of the victims,” reported in Al-Arabiya.

Leaders of Arab countries called the attacks immoral and inhumane. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister declared they were “in violation and contravention of all ethics, morals and religions.” The Saudi Foreign Ministry called for global cooperation to “root out this dangerous and destructive plague.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir described the Paris attacks as a violation of all religions and a brutal assault that underlines the need to further up the ante against terrorism by intensifying efforts to put the evil practice in check forever. “I express our deep condolences to the government and the people of France for the heinous terrorist attacks which are in violation and contravention of all ethics, morals and religions,” Al-Jubeir told reporters in Vienna as he arrived there for talks on ending the Syrian civil war, as reported in Jeddah-based English daily, Arab News on 15 November 2015.

It is also reported, the Ministry spokesman pointed out that Saudi Arabia always underscored the importance of collective international efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and the need to root out this dangerous plague which targets global security and stability.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah denounced the "heinous attacks" adding "these acts, which target stability and security in France are against all human and moral values". Kuwaiti leader Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah called the attacks "criminal acts of terrorism which run counter to all teachings of holy faith and humanitarian values" while the Saudi Foreign Ministry called for global cooperation to "root out this dangerous and destructive plague". Reported in International Business Times.

Religious leaders
Muslim religious leaders and Imams of Mosques also condemned the horrific terror attacks in Paris. Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body spoke out, saying “terrorists are not sanctioned by Islam and these acts are contrary to values of mercy it brought to the world.” Reported in QUARTZ .

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, the thousand-year-old, highly influential centre for Sunni Muslim scholarship, called the attacks “odious” and called on the world to “unite to face this monster,” according to French magazine Jeunea Frique. There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith. (Jack Jenkins Tweet 501 on November 14, 2015)

"Humanity has witnessed tonight the horror, violence that we witness in this geography almost each day. I would like to express that such attacks have not been carried against a single country, region or continent, but the whole humanity, which accepts peace as a value and dignifies humanitarian values on Earth", said Mehmet Görmez, head of Turkey's Presidency of Religious Affairs – the highest ranking Islamic cleric in the country.

In the United Kingdom, the Imams of the following Mosques issued the following Press Release from the Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque on Saturday, 14 November 2015 under the caption Paris Attack – An attack against the whole of humanity

“Today all of us woke up to the horrific news of the barbaric attacks which have taken place in Paris.

“We are deeply saddened by this news and sincerely send our condolences to the families of the deceased. We pray to God to safeguard us all from such shocking terrorist attacks committed by these criminals wherever and whoever they might be.

“The perpetrators of this heinous act go against the fundamental teachings of Islam, which encourages the safe guarding of all human life.

“Allah says in the Quran: "Whoever saves a life it is as if he has saved the life of the whole humanity." (Qur’an 5:32) This also means, whoever kills a life it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity.

“We, the Islamic Centres in the United Kingdom (signed below) strongly condemn the killing of innocent lives and strongly oppose the usage of Islam as the reason behind such un-Islamic acts.

“We are British and we will protect our society from the malicious misuse of Islam to hurt any citizens from our communities.

“In this time of difficulty, we urge people to stay calm and not play into the hands of terrorists who seek to divide our society.

“It is important to remember that these attackers show no bias between Muslim and Non-Muslims alike in their crimes and that we all stand together in solidarity against terrorism.
• The Islamic Cultural Centre & London Central Mosque Trust
• East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre
• Al Manaar – Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre
• Muslim Welfare House
• Mayfair Mosque
• Finsbury Park Mosque
• Al Muntada Al Islamic
• West London Islamic Cultural Centre “

Muslim Scholars
Professor Dr.  Tariq Ramadan
Tariq Ramadan, an academic renowned for his Islamic studies, a Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University in England and President of the European Muslim Network think tank said in a statement: “Absolute and immediate condemnation. They shouted, we are told, ‘Allahu akbar” (God [is] the greatest) to support and justify their inhuman actions. “With this they told a lie and a truth. Their lie is related to Islam and its message as not even one of its teachings, ever, can justify their actions. These acts are the result of minds inhabited by the worst, or minds without minds, manipulated or manipulators.” reported in USA TODAY.

Professor Tariq Ramadan said in a statement, Paris, the attacks.
While facing this horror, this blind violence, the killings and massacres in the streets of the French capital, our first thought goes to the victims, the injured, their families and friends. To them and to everyone, our condolences and the testimony of our sympathy.

“Absolute and immediate condemnation.
Professor Tariq Ramadan said, “They shouted, we are told, "Allahu akbar" (God [is] the greatest) to support and justify their inhuman actions. With this they told a lie and a truth. Their lie is related to Islam and its message as not even one of its teachings, ever, can justify their actions. These acts are the result of the minds inhabited by the worst, or minds without minds, manipulated or manipulators. The truth is that God, yes, in His grace, His love and His compassion is greater than their killing madness and that Islam will never end up being equated or amalgamated with their extremist violence.”

“The right reaction in France would be to join forces, to set a united front. A true united front with the government and all the institutions eventually understanding that the French Muslim citizens are trully part of it : they are not those alien "objects of analysis." Finally the problem of the fractured national unity is deep and it is upstream of the attacks that, together, we need more work and education. To build together the future and not to react to tragedies. A united front also means the refusal, in the short and long term, of the political instrumentalization of these heinous attacks. This would be a victory, but alas, we already hear the whispers of predatory voices proving that, on this front, the defeat is consumed,” Professor Ramadan said.

b) Yahya Adel Ibrahim
Yahya Adel Ibrahim, an Islamic teacher and imam in Perth, Australia, said in a Facebook post: “This criminal barbarity is Godlessness. Terrorism has no faith & cannot be condoned by any means, rationale or ideology. We must commit to each other to defeat it. Godless cowards attack unarmed, randomly selected, innocent people. Terrorists are Sinful, immoral, barbaric criminals. My thoughts & prayers are with the innocent victims, their families and communities." (USA TODAY)

Muslim Organisations
a) In the United Kingdom – MCB
Muslims have come out in united condemnation to stand apart from this evil. Many Muslim organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the United States have condemned the bloodshed in the strongest possible terms, describing the actions of the perpetrators as “outside the bounds of our faith.”

Muslim Council of Britain
Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) in the United Kingdom, an umbrella body that represents more than 500 organizations including mosques, schools and charities, described the killings as "horrific and abhorrent." "My thoughts and prayers for the families of those killed and injured and for the people of France, our neighbours," he said in a statement.

Muslim Council of Britain has issued the following press release under the caption Horrific Attacks in Paris: Muslim Council of Britain Responds:

Muslim Council of Britain's Secretary General Dr Shuja Shafi issued the following statement:

"The attacks once again in Paris are horrific and abhorrent, and we condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms. My thoughts and prayers for the families of those killed and injured and for the people of France, our neighbours.

“This attack is being claimed by the group calling themselves ‘Islamic State’. There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith.”

“This week we have once again witnessed outrageous attacks be that in Beirut earlier in the week or Paris today - there is no justification for such carnage whatsoever.  We hope those responsible are brought to justice and face the full force of the law."

b) In the United States – CAIR
In the United States, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim social justice group, quickly issued a press release rejecting.

“These savage and despicable attacks on civilians, whether they occur in Paris, Beirut or any other city, are outrageous and without justification,” CAIR’s statement read. “We condemn these horrific crimes in the strongest terms possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured and with all of France. The perpetrators of these heinous attacks must be apprehended and brought to justice.”

CAIR is also part of a broad coalition of Muslim groups scheduled to hold a press conference noon Saturday to collectively condemn the attacks. The group is said to include representatives from CAIR, American Muslims for Palestine, Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim Alliance in North America, Muslim American Society, Muslim Legal Fund of America, Muslim Ummah of North America, and the Mosque Cares, reported USA Today, 14 November 2015.
c) Ireland
In Ireland, the Imam of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre and Chair of the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council, offered prayers for the victims and dismissed terrorist’s claims to Islam. “My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris and every other place on earth plagued by sick men with weapons and bombs,” Imam Umar Al-Qadri said. “Terrorists have no religion whatsoever. Their religion is intolerance, hatred for Peace.”

A Silent Vigil
Beyond words Muslim communities showed their solidarity through action. “It is remarkable to see the scale and speed of reaction from Muslim communities across the country. By this morning, Saturday, 14 November, 2015 – less than one day after the attack – a silent vigil had been organised by the Christian-Muslim Forum with support from the MCB and numerous other groups across the country. At 6:30pm, tea lights and blue, white and red flowers will adorn Trafalgar Square for the vigil,” reported by Miqdaad Versi in The daily, Independent, 14 November, 2015.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Post-Hajj Debrief Meeting 2015 at UK Parliament

Post-Hajj Debrief Meeting 2015

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Hajj is a spiritual act; it is an act of worship. It is a relation between the pilgrim and his Creator, Allah the Almighty. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. So, besides other factors and aspects of Hajj, the most important aspect is that it is worship; it is an act of worship. Once the pilgrim puts Ihram and leaves for the Hajj, it is, religiously speaking, he started his spiritual journey and as soon as he reaches Makkah, the Masjid al-Haram, he declares and announces Labbaika Allahuma Labbaik which means; I am here, I am here and I am declaring that You are One and You have no partner. So Hajj is basically an act of worship wherein there is no country, no politics is involved; it is a relationship between pilgrim and his Creator, Allah the Almighty.

Even Allah the Almighty said in the Holy Qur’an the basic rules of Hajj. Allah says, “The pilgrimage is in the appointed months. Whoever intends to perform it during them must abstain from indecent speech, from all wicked conduct, and from quarrelling while on the pilgrimage. Whatever good you may do, God is aware of it.” (Al-Qur’an, 2:197). Allah also says, “Help one another in goodness and in piety. Do not help one another in sin and transgression. Fear God! God is severe in punishment” (Al-Qur’an, 5:2)

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia every year before the Hajj called on the pilgrims to keep away from partisan and politics. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz Alsheikh called on pilgrims to perform Hajj in a proper way, observe tranquillity and calm and avoid chaos and obscenity. Al-Asheikh also urged Hajjis to keep away from partisan and sectarian slogans.

As I mentioned Hajj is a religious act, politics should not be brought into it. Whatever happened in Mina, the Saudi authorities have already set up an enquiry commission to investigate the causes and find out the real issue behind the incident. Meanwhile, spreading rumours, speculate all sorts of wrong or misinformation will create more problems rather than help to resolve issues.

Please think positively and intelligently and ponder upon the positive aspects: improvement of the Holy sites and the Hajj facilities since 1976. I had the opportunity this year, 2015, to meet and talk to those celebrities who performed Hajj in the 70s, 80s and this year in 2015 and according to them revolutionary changes took place in the Holy sites, such as in Mataf, Masaa, Mina, Arafat and Jamarat. (please see; and )

Haramain expanded; increasing the capacity of pilgrims; Masaa is doubled and wider; Mataf is expanded. Permanent fire-proof tent in Mina; toilet facilities and other public services. Jamarat is made the safest place by making it fifth floor linked with roads to each floor.

Hajj Debrief Meeting 2015
Recently, there are two meetings took place on the Hajj issue after the Hajj. One was Hajj Debriefing 2015, organised by the Council of British Hajjis (CBH) UK in partnership with the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), London, was held at the Committee Room no. 12 of the House of Commons, on Wednesday, 28 October, 2015. It was sponsored by the Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, Member of Parliament from Bolton. It was attended by pilgrims, Hajj & Umrah tour operators, academics, MPs and Peers from both the Houses of Parliament. Besides Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP, the sponsor of the meeting, there were Baroness Uddin, Ms. Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP from Birmingham Ladywood among others.

Yasmin Qureshi, MP
While introducing the meeting, Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi said, “I think everyone here knows the importance of Hajj for the Muslims. All Muslims want to make it in their lifetime at least once. I am sure everybody in this room must be struck by the sadness of what happened recently not only those who died or injured therefore this meeting is really becomes in a very crucial time. We know there are many people going to Hajj from this country. I think about thousands British people travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage.”

Speaking about the facilities during Hajj, Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi said, “Whenever you are going around Masjid al-Haram there was always plenty of cold water to drink. They never run out. It is a matter of how many hundreds and thousands people go to the Masjid al-Haram, the water never run out. If you think about the water, the water is not run out. And secondly, recently because of what happened in Mina few constituents was worried.”

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi who sponsored the event thanked the Ambassador of the Saudi Embassy in the United Kingdom for their hard work in swiftly processing pilgrim visas especially during the tragic incidents which took place at Hajj this year. She also thanked Saudi Arabia to set up and facilitate inquiry quickly and immediately.

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi also mentioned about her experience of Hajj which she performed in 1994.

Besides, Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP, the meeting was addressed by Lord Adam Patel, the leader of the British Hajj Delegation, Ms. Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP from Birmingham Ladywood, Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London and Rashid Mogradia, the Chief Executive of the Council of British Hujjaj (CBH) UK.  

Lord Adam Patel
Lord Adam Patel has been involved in Hajj pilgrimage in some way or the other for over forty years now; his first Hajj was in 1971. Lord Patel said, “In those days there was very little help and advice available. We relied entirely on the person arranging the Hajj with very few details available in advance.”

British Hajj Delegation (BHD), of which Lord Adam Patel is the chairman. Speaking about the work of the BHD, Lord Patel mentioned, “The core official work of the British Hajj Delegation is in the provision of medical support to British and other Hujjaj in Makkah and Mina whilst they have travelled out there to perform their Hajj. In addition to the nine doctors, including female doctors with their Mahrams, who give their services for free as well.”

Lord Patel said, “British Hajj Delegation is a unique project. There are many countries with much larger Muslim populations, such as the United States, France and Germany, yet they do not provide their citizens with this same level of free support.”

Speaking about the Holy sites and Hajj facilities, Lord Patel mentioned, “About two/three million people come to perform Hajj and Saudi government is doing the excellent job providing the medical care. In Mina with so many people around now the Saudi Ministry of Hajj gave the British Hajj Delegation four tents to look after the patients.”

Lord Patel also said, “Looking after the estimated 20,000 Pilgrims from the UK and the estimated 3 million from around the world is no easy task. No other country in the world has to do anything similar on an annual basis. If you cast your mind back to a few years ago our Great City of London proudly hosted the Olympic and Paralympics games. So much planning went into that and the disruption to daily routine that was caused for laying on such an event.”

Lord Patel also mentioned, “I was always impressed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in how it constantly meets challenges that the Hajj presents. Not only that, but how eager it is to serve the Guests of Almighty Allah, by continuously improving the infrastructure for Hajjis. To name a few examples recently; there is the work to expand the Haramain area, the work to increase capacity at both Jeddah and Madinah Airports and the building of a new train line serving Mina and also soon Makkah to Madinah.”

Lord Patel paid tributes and praised personally His Excellency His Royal Highness  Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Ambassador and his officials in the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in London for their unrelenting support to the British Hujjaj over the years. He requested the representative of the Royal Saudi Embassy to please convey his message to His Excellency the Saudi Ambassador.

Commanding the works and activities of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Lord Patel said, “The outstanding organisations I have met like the Council of British Hujjaj and the Islamic Cultural Centre all share one key characteristic: an absolute passion to raise standards for those performing Hajj. They have been restless for improvements, and they are always looking for the next challenge. They rarely accept the status quo and they have taken on entrenched attitudes in areas such as Hajj fraud, where it was deemed too complex to take on, and given it a good seeing to.”

Dr. Ahmed Al-Dubayan
Speaking about the meeting on Hajj and the gathering, Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre and the Regents Park London Central Mosque, said, “I think it is very important here to get together to talk about Hajj. Hajj is very important; it reminds you something about; it is not only a matter of industry or business; it is, first of all, it is worship. As we all know it is the fifth pillar of Islam. It’s very important and it is a duty for every Muslim once in his lifetime. At the same time, of course, tour operators have their right of business sending people and facilitating this chance for Muslims to do this worship. At the same time, there is also a social factor of Hajj; there is a social side of it for the Muslim community.”

Dr. Al-Dubayan also said, “We watch this from the Islamic Cultural Centre and Regents Park London Central Mosque.  It is enough to say that all these years we have 95,000 who went for Hajj and we have 65,000 who went for Umrah from the United Kingdom and also many families linked together; they go together or they celebrate before or after. Of course; it is not only a worship; it is also more social occasion where people come together and really they celebrate and there are, of course, lots of traditions based on which community they belong to.”

“In the beginning, I would like to express my thanks to right honourable Lord Patel really who served all these years, took the Hajj delegation. We are really so proud about the services they have done for more than 10 years and the Islamic Cultural Centre was, for sometime, secretary of the British Hajj Delegation;  till of course, 2010 it was  stopped from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and then Lord Patel of course insisted on continuing this service because Muslim community really needs it. And needed and it is working till today. Alhamdo lillah. I am really, on behalf of myself and I am sure everybody here, would like to say thank you to him, to the Hajj Delegation and to the doctors who always accompanied him in this journey,” mentioned Dr. al-Dubayan.

Then Dr. Al-Dubayan addressed the issue of tour operators, agencies and firms. He said, “Let me take advantage of this occasion to talk to the tour operators and to the agencies: we are here, I believe today, I really to be united and really to address the problems together and not to be scattered. We, at the Islamic Cultural Centre, Centre, Muslims and Mosques; we are not actually going to take the place of the tour operators or something but really we are helping you to make this journey safe, and to make it even better in your performance.”

Speaking about the role of the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) vis-à-vis the Muslim Community and the Hajj related matters, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “One thing which is very important, i.e.  Islamic Cultural Centre is for the whole community as a place where people come to it. We are too much linked to Hajj in many ways. First of all, we are making awareness programme about the Hajj itself; secondly that is all those problems sometimes with agencies, with tour operators; come to us, to the ICC and even some complications come from the Hajj itself; they come also to the mosque, to us to solve them. So we are here all the time behind the scene but we are having our role.  Why; because Saudi Arabian embassy itself is a member, one of the trustees of the Islamic Cultural Centre Board of Trustees. We have direct link with the authorities so we use it always to facilitate this business for everybody. We ourselves also sent some guests sometimes.”

Addressing directly to the tour operators, Dr. al-Dubayan said, “I really urge the tour operators, the agencies and the firms; please remember always above all the commitment that you have to show in this business. The commander just talked about the fraud and he said 138,000 this year. Commitment is really the success of this business. The problem he just said not fraud in the business but it is also related to the worship, to Islam.  It is also related to Islam, worship; someone really tricked it something like this something it is really painful; not painful, it is very very painful; not because of the money but because of psychological effect, his heart, because it is a worship itself; imagining you are going to a mosque and someone is going to prevent you; stopping you on the way and try to stop. So it is really important.”

Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned, “We know also one of the thing we are really doing you know unfortunately the Muslim community always with every season there are always a season for rumours and wrong information for really spreading all these sometimes by the community, by the individuals by some individuals by some even companies wrong information; they come to us we investigated and found it is wrong information, these things are really very very dangerous, commitment to your clients, meeting their expectations actually. When you promise something, dear tour operators really committed to it. First of all, this is our ethics as Muslims; this is actually real thing of the business itself, Muslims or not Muslims. It is very important.”

While concluding his speech at the meeting, Dr. al-Dubayan said, “In this context, I have to pay my sympathy and condolence, of course, for the families of the victims who fell in the last season and we admire so much the role that the Saudi authorities are doing by expansion and doing really the services and all the services they are paying. I hope, from this point, from today, we can; we can have a new start for a new service, and better performance from the agencies, from the Islamic centres who are involved  in this kind of worship. It is really very important to remember the spiritual side of it, not the business side of it. That’s very important.”

Commander Chris Greany
Commander Chris Greany from the City of London Police reaffirmed his forces commitment in tackling Hajj Fraud.

Shabana Mahmood, MP
Ms. Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP from Birmingham Ladywood, said, her father was a civil engineer in Saudi Arabia and she performed Hajj along with her father when she was just three years old. She mentioned, “I have a very personal emotional connection with all Hajjis.  Hajj is central tenet of Islam.”

Rashid Mogradia
Rashid Mogradia, Chief Executive of the Council of British Hajjis said, “the Council will work tirelessly this season to ensure contingencies are in place for British Pilgrims by lobbying our Government to support British nationals during Hajj as in previous years and just as other nationalities do the same for their citizens.”

“Whilst the Saudi Authorities are doing an excellent job, we must ensure British pilgrims and tour operators alike play their part and be aware of their own responsibilities, this is why the Council of British Hajjis will focus further in educating pilgrims prior to departure,” he said.

Mogradia also thanked HRH Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf, the Consul Mr. Bandar Al-Zaid at the Saudi Embassy in London and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz for services offered to the thousands of British pilgrims.

Mogradia mentioned, “We have witnessed first hand the dedication and services provided to pilgrims and these have improved year on year and we look forward to seeing further improvements namely the grand expansion of Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid Al-Nabawi in Madina, all of which looks to increase pilgrim numbers.”

Post-Hajj Meeting 2015
There was another meeting entitled Post-Hajj event, organised by the Association of British Hujjaj (ABH), a national charity organisation, was held at the Committee Room no. 3A of the House of Lords on Monday, the 26th of October 2015. It was sponsored by Lord Ahmed of Rotherham.

Lord Ahmed
While introducing the event, Lord Ahmed said, “Normally the ABH has always organised meetings of Hujjaj before they leave for Hajj and also when they come back. On this particular occasion because of the accident in Mina it is important to look back, have report and also to see how we can improve and also do something about that.”  Besides Lord Ahmed, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, OBE; Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden and Khaled Parvez, Secretary of the Association of British Hujjaj (ABH) also spoke on this occasion. 

The Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK [ABH], a national charity working for welfare and wellbeing of British Hajj Umrah pilgrims expresses its deepest sorrow and sadness for the incident which took place in Mina during this year’s Hajj.

Lawyer Farhan Khaled, on behalf of ABH, said, The incident occurred “despite of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spending millions of dollars on improving infrastructure to facilitate Hajj arrangements and to ensure the safety and comfort of millions of pilgrims from around the World.”

He mentioned, one of the major contributory factors which emerged out of this incident “was ignorance and lack of awareness of health and safety risks amongst pilgrims. Pilgrims did not have the understanding of precautionary measures that should have been taken to avoid creating this type of accident.”

Q & A Session
Immediately after the presentation of the Report, there was a Q&A session. In the Q&A session, this writer, Dr. Mozammel Haque, took the floor and mentioned his experience of Hajj this year. He said, Hajj is a spiritual act; it is a spiritual journey. Hajj is a relationship between the pilgrim and his Creator, Allah the Almighty. Hajj is a worship; it is the fifth pillar of Islam. As Hajj is a religious matter, a spiritual one; it should not be mixed up with politics, partisan and sectarian things.

He also mentioned, Hajj is a unique world assemblage, world congress of people believed in one religion, Islam and the pilgrims are gathered together with the same dress only for the pleasure of their Creator and with no other purpose and objective. There is no comparison in the world of this nature of gathering. It should be looked at from that perspective and not from the worldly perspective, from the political motive or political angle.

Dr. Haque also pointed out that it is too early to say anything about the incident or make any suggestions or speculations about the causes. He said, I was present there in Mina, near the Masjid al-Khaif, near the Mina Emergency Hospital. People should not speculate; should not belief in wrong information or spread rumours. He pointed out that the government of Saudi Arabia has set up an inquiry commission to investigate the whole thing and they should wait till the report is published.

Maulana Sher Khan Jamil from Birmingham who recited the Qur’an at the beginning of the event pointed out that nothing happened for the last ten years because of the development and improvement of the facilities in the Holy sites.

After the Q&A session, the main discussion on other topics took place.

UK Legislation and Pilgrims Plight
Farhan Khaled mentioned about the violation of UK Legislation and British Hajj/Umrah Pilgrims Plight. He said, “Hajj/ Umrah pilgrimage is very close to the heart of nearly 3 million people in the UK and travelling to perform pilgrimage holds extremely high significance - it is considered as a journey of a lifetime for Pilgrims. However corruption and malpractice by travel operators has caused extreme devastation; mental anguish and trauma, not only to the pilgrims themselves but to their extended and close family network.”

Farhan Khaled said, “According to report issued by the Chairman of National Trading Standards Board, Lord Toby Harris, last year 182 business premises were inspected by Trading Standards and Police Officials nationally, out of which 147 of Hajj/Umrah package tour operators were found to be non-compliant with relevant legislation (Over 80%). This report has shocked a large number of people in the community but not ABH. We were fully aware of the deteriorating situation of the violation of the UK legislation in the Hajj and Umrah Tour industry and have been campaigning tirelessly to persuade the authorities to address the issue of widespread violation by unscrupulous tour and travel operators.”

Danger to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque

Danger to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Jerusalem is one of the most holiest places in the world. It has remained as one of the national cornerstones of the Palestinian struggle since the early 20th century when it seen as a hub of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation forces. Jerusalem, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, is at the heart of the Palestinian cause. The Mosque, revered by Muslims, was the first Qibla (direction of prayer) to which Muslims turned to pray five times a day before the Qibla was switched to Makkah. It is also considered the third holiest place in Islam (the first is Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah followed by the Prophet’s Mosque in Al-Madina). Muslims also believe that the Prophet ascended to heaven from Jerusalem on his Night Journey.

Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque comprises the whole area inside the walls of the Old City. The rectangular shaped compound has a total area of 0.144m2 and includes 200 historical monuments such as domes, shrines, wells, etc. The most important site is Al-Aqsa Mosque (with its silver-coloured dome), the Dome of the Rock (the golden dome), El-Marwani Mosque which was turned to horse stables by the Crusaders, in addition to  Buraq Mosque, Al-Ashrafiya  School and many other sites. It is therefore wrong to assume that Al-Aqsa Mosque is only the silver or the golden dome mosques, the reality is that it comprises the entire area inside the walls.

Al-Aqsa Mosque has seven aisles of hypostyle naves (a middle aisle, three aisles on the eastern side and another three on the western side). The aisles are supported by 53 marble columns and 49 stone pillars. The Mosque has 11 gates, seven in the north, one in the east, two in the west, and one the south. The compound has 25 wells, 8 of them in the yard of the holy dome and 17 in Al-Aqsa yard. There are also a number of fountains including the stone-domed Qaitabay fountain, and Qasem Pashah and Al-Budairi fountains. This is reported by a recent publication, Jerusalem’s Wounds.

Al-Aqsa boasts four minarets and a number of domes and benches used by Sufis, scholars and visitors from outside the city. The most famous domes are Al-Silsila, Al-Miraj and Al-Nabi.

Seminar on Human Rights
Situations in East Jerusalem
The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK organised a Seminar on Human Rights Situation in East Jerusalem held at the House of Commons, Committee Room B, London on 29 June 2015 where, besides distributing their report entitled Jerusalem’s Wounds published in June 2015, discussed and debated on different aspects of the issue of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Mr. M. Jamil spoke on the Status of Human Rights in East Jerusalem. He mentioned the total area of Jerusalem. In 1946 the total area of Jerusalem was estimated to have been around 20.19 kilometres. On the eve of the 1967 war, the total area of the city was estimated to have been around 44.5 kilometres. Following the Oslo Accords between the  Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Israeli government in 1994, the total area of Jerusalem  (both the eastern and western parts) was estimated to have been around 123 kilometres.(70.4 km eastern part plus 52.6 kilometres square western parts).

He also mentioned about settlements. He said there are 29 settlements in Jerusalem, 14 of which are in the Eastern part of Jerusalem. The settlements are spread throughout the city and around it, and are home to more than 200,000 Israeli settlements.

Stripping Jerusalemites from residency
Mr. Ahmad Atton, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, gave an account of the stripping Jerusalemites from residency. He said two main points; firstly by forced deportation

1) Forced deportation –Jerusalem is declared by international law as an occupation territories protected by the International community, the United Nations and Palestinians cannot be forced out from the city of Jerusalem.

Mr. Atton also said that Israeli changed the landmarks of the City. They are trying to break and demolish the human rights of the Palestinians. Jerusalem is in danger – Israeli is dividing Jerusalem.

Mr. Atton also mentioned Israel is violating the International law; the world body knows what Israeli is doing.

He also spoke about the demographical changes in Jerusalem. 70% of the population is Jews; list is more and more and 13% of them are Palestinians.  He mentioned 450,000 ID cards has been withdrawn and sent them to West Bank

Professor Kevin Jon Heller spoke on the Jurisdictional questions relevant to the ICC consideration of settlements
1) International Criminal Law on the Israeli settlement
2) Three War Crimes Israeli committed – i) Transfer of population; Settlements in East Jerusalem; 200,000 today, transfer to East Jerusalem;
3) ICC Prosecution – Two aspects – i) Temporal scope; ii) Temple scope – 3rd June 2013; iii) Ad hoc – Territorial Jerusalem – occupied territories – East Jerusalem
- No clear cut Jurisdictions – Palestinian territories – pre-1967 green line

Jerusalem is an occupied territory. There is no question in international law; it is an occupied territory.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK distributed its published Report entitled Jerusalem’s Wounds (published in June 2015).

Jerusalem’s Wounds
According to the Report, “Jerusalem’s Wounds” published in June 2015, Jerusalem is one of the most holiest places in the world. It has remained one of the national cornerstones of the Palestinian struggle since the early 20th century when it seen as a hub of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation forces.

According to the Report, “The issues particular to Jerusalem are also seen as the catalyst that sparked the two intifadas during the past two decades. The Palestinian position is clear, in that no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is acceptable without the eastern part of Jerusalem being recognised as the capital of an independent Palestinian state. Any discussion concerning Jerusalem is obliged to include a number of historical political, military and religious elements. With the exception of the Crusader period, the city has remained a haven of peace, and one of religious and intellectual tolerance, receiving with open arms all those who flocked to visit its holy places or settle there. The city had never imposed any restrictions on freedoms of worship until the western part of the city fell under Israeli occupation in 1948 followed by the eastern part in 1967. The latter had been under Jordanian administration between 1948 and 1967.”

The Report also mentioned, “On 30 June 1967, Israeli unified the eastern and western parts of Jerusalem and declared the holy city the capital of Israel. From that point, Israel has sought to change the character of the city in general and Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.”

The Report maintained, “The population of East Jerusalem in 1967 was approximately 266,300 Arabs while the western part was home to 260,900 Jews. The total population of the city in 1967 (both the eastern and western parts) was around 564,300 (413,700 Jews (73.3%) and 150,600 Palestinians (23.7%). According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the residents of Esst Jerusalem (approximately 295,700Arabs) made up more than one-third of the total number of the city’s residents (804,400).”

Dangers to Al-Aqsa Mosque
After describing the religious importance of Al-Aqsa Mosque and its particularities, The Report mentioned the dangers to Al-Aqsa Mosque: “In August 1969, a Jewish man set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque destroying a 1000-year old pulpit. The act of arson was followed by many Israeli excavations under the Mosque. The underground tunnels, restrictions placed on attempts to restore parts of the Mosque, the loss of many of its relics to theft, the Hebrewisation of its name (Israelis refer to it as Temple Mount), the construction of scores of synagogues in adjacent areas, prohibiting prayer announcements and closing the mosque during Muslim religious festivals are some of the violations against the Mosque which currently faces two grave dangers:”

Continuous raids by Israeli settlers
While describing the dangers to Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Report mentioned about the continuous raids by Israeli settlers. It said, “Over recent years, Israeli settlers, protected by the police with the blessing of the Israeli government, intensified their daily incursions into the Mosques compound. Settlers would raid the Mosque and start performing religious rituals provoking the anger of worshippers and Muslims around the world.  The raids are often accompanied by attacks on Muslim worshippers to prevent them from praying there. There have been a number of incidents during which settlers desecrated copies of the Holy Qur’an.”

The Report continued, “According to Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage, more than 14950 Jews (12569 settlers, 1102 intelligence officers, 1084 soldiers, 17 political figures and other party leaders) have raided the Mosque’s compound. The Foundation reported an average of 1246 Israelis - 1047 of them settlers - raiding the mosque every month, an increase of 12.7% compared with 2013. The Foundation stressed that the support of political leaders for these raids was one of the factors - behind the increase in their numbers. This political support is coupled with the words of Jewish Rabbis who have issued a number of religious dictates encouraging Jews to raid the Mosque.”

The Report also added: “The Second Intifada in 2000 prompted Israeli authorities to also ban Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque except during Ramadan. Those under 50 are not allowed to enter Jerusalem and scores of military checkpoints make it very difficult to navigate the roads to the Mosque. Authorities have prevented hundreds of Palestinians living inside Israel who hold the blue ID cards from visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque and issued restraining orders to that effect. Anyone held in breach of these orders has to pay a hefty fine.”

The Report also quoted the Al-Aqsa Foundation’s statistics. “The Al-Aqsa Foundation described 2014 as the worst in the history of Jerusalem since the occupation of the city in 1967. More than 100,000 worshippers have been prevented from praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2014 compared with 2013 when more than one and a half million Palestinians were allowed to pray there.”

Dividing Al-Aqsa between Jews and Arabs
The Report Jerusalem’s Wounds also mentioned about the Israeli secret plans of dividing Al-Aqsa between Jews and Arabs. It said, “Israel has made no secret of its plans to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque between Arabs and Jews to allocate time slots and specific locations for Jews to pray in the Mosque’s compound. Similar measures were imposed on Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in 1994. These efforts have been spearheaded by deputy minister for religious affairs Eli Ben-Dahan who has lobbied to have a bill passed by the Knesset so as to guarantee Jews the right to pray inside Al-Aqsa Mosque and prevent non-Jews from being there during those times.”

While mentioning Israeli plan of dividing Al-Aqsa, the Report quoted Dr. Jamal Amr. It said, “According to Jerusalem expert Dr. Jamal Amr, the proposed bill has become a reality without being officially adopted. The Knesset Committee entrusted with debating the matter has been suspended to avoid embarrassing the Arab Countries who manage the Mosque’s affairs and to avoid an Arab, Palestinian and Muslim backlash. Amr confirmed that Israel allows Israeli figures and delegations to roam Al-Aqsa Mosque between 7 and 11 am and 2 and 3:30pm. In terms of locations, the Israeli government has seized control of several kilometres of the area adjacent to the Mosque and allocated passages for Jewish settlers separate from that of the Arabs. The passages are protected with bullet-proof glass to enable them to view Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The Report continued, “Al-Aqsa Foundation also revealed that Israeli sources had informed it of the existence of a division map and plans for establishing a Jewish synagogue on one-fifth of the total area of Al-Aqsa Mosque on the eastern side. According to the plans the area would extend from Al-Marawin Mosque in the south-eastern part to Bab Al-Asbat (the Gate of the Tribes) on the north eastern part.”

It maintained, “UNESCO has issued a number of resolutions condemning Israeli violations of the Mosque’s compound. The most recent resolution, adopted during the 195th session held in Paris, reaffirmed the description of Israel as an occupation power which renders any changes made to the 1967 territories illegal. The resolution denounced Israel’s attacks on Jerusalem’s history and heritage, the continuous settler raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque, the attacks on worshippers and Waqf employees, the underground tunnels, the excavations and the bans imposed on restrictions and repairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”