Wednesday, 14 December 2016

US Elections 2016 - Trump's Triumph

US Elections 2016
Trump’s Triumph: ‘Political Earthquake
In the US and the World’

Dr. Mozammel Haque

During the last two months – in October and November 2016, the world was in crisis; everywhere, whether in Europe, or in the Middle East or in the United States of America, there were lots of problems and calamities. In Europe, there was problem of Burkini issue vis-à-vis secularism and the future of Islam in France; in the Middle East, there is Battle for Mosul and the Aleppo onslaught, humanitarian crisis and the Syrian’s war and lastly, the US Elections of 2016 and the Donald Trump’s surprise victory as the 45th President-elect of the most powerful state of the world.

In this issue, instead of dealing with the Burkini ban, Islamophobia and Secularism in France, or the Battle for Mosul and the Aleppo onslaught and humanitarian crisis in Syrian war , I will mainly talk about, discuss and analyse the most ugly, nasty and divisive US elections of 2016; because the results of this election will bring major changes not only inside the United States of America but it will have far deeper, far reaching radical changes in the foreign policy of the Trump era which might affect the US relationship with Russia, Europe, Iran and the Middle East.

US Elections of 2016
In the Electoral history of America, this is one of the most nasty and controversial elections in so many respects: candidates, campaigns and controversies. So far as the candidates are concerned, neither the Democrat candidate nor the Republican candidate was most suitable for the White House. The Democrat candidate – Hillary Clinton, though she has  long experience of public office, such as Secretary of State and the political office, the Republican candidate – Donald Trump, property developer, billionaire businessman and TV Reality star, – on the other hand, has no experience of elected office of the country nor hold any public office. He has never been in political office of the country.

Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are two of the most hated and distrusted presidential candidates ever. Jeremy Paxman met political insider and voters on both sides of the gaping politics. Jeremy Paxman in his Panorama programme on Trump and Clinton: Divided America on BBC, said, Abraham Lincoln was the greatest President America had. He earned respect of the world. He asked where are the heroes now? Whatever happened on the 8th of November, the winner will be one of the two least popular candidates of all times. He again asked what has happened to the true democracy that the choice is so awful. “The supporters of Hilary and Donald have agreed on one thing – how despicable the other candidate is? The one is alleged to have risked the national security and the other is accused of multiple sexual assaults.” (Jeremy Paxman, Paxman on Trump and Clinton: Divided America, on Panorama Programme, BBC.)

The US Presidential election was the contest for the biggest job in the world. The winner will be the most powerful human being on earth. “On the 8th of November, 2016 American people has to decide who will be hired or fired for the White House,” said Paxman.

Election Campaign
As far as the election campaign is concerned, Paxman said, it is the most unusual campaign in America – it is unprecedented, most unbelievable campaign. This is the first time war of words – personal attack on the other candidate was made. Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton ‘nasty lady’, she should be inside jail and questioned the candidacy of the presidency of the birth rights of Obama and many senior members including President Obama said Trump is not fit for the Presidency. Hilary Clinton has been ‘mistrusted for several years’.

As far as the election campaign trail is concerned, “Trump political campaign characterized by an unprecedented level of venom and vitriol,” said Gwenda Blair (What makes the Donald Special by Gwenda Blair in The New Review, The Observer, Sunday, 13 November, 2016, page 4) Donald Trump has used incendiary, provocative pronouncements and inflammatory rhetoric. He made plenty of outrageous pronouncements:  jailing Clinton, building Mexican wall, he repeatedly contradicted himself. Most importantly, he campaigned not on policy but on a feeling.

Donald Trump frequently spoke in derogatory terms about Mexicans and Muslims. Toby Harnden from Washington wrote, “Trump’s crass vulgarity and inflammatory rhetoric and mockery of Mexican immigrants. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he thundered.” (Stepping into Donald’s America by Toby Harnden in The Sunday Times, 13 November, 2016, Special Issue, page III)

Donald Trump also said against women. He said he wanted to establish good relationship with Russian President Putin to solve the Syrian Middle East crisis. He said in his election campaign trail about NATO and attacked those members who do not contribute to the NATO budget. He also said against the climate change, the Paris agreement.

The Observer editorially summed up Donald Trump’s message of fear of the foreigner in America’s midst in his election campaign trail thus: “When he (Trump) spoke about curbing immigration and building a Mexican wall, when he demonised Muslims, minorities and people from foreign countries he does not know or trust, when he vowed to scrap international trade deals that he claims are destroying jobs in the Midwest, when he railed against selfish allies who do not pay their way, the subliminal message was always always the same: fear of the foreigners in America’s midst.. No wonder African Americans, Latinos and other dark-skinned minorities are frightened. No wonder US relations around the globe are in turmoil.” (.The Observer, Editorial, 13 November, 2016, page 36) “

Pollsters and Pundits
From the very beginning till 6th of November, 2016 pollsters, pundits and election experts were predicting the victory of the Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton. All the pollsters forecasted Clinton ahead of Trump. NDTV and BBC have also shown graphically how the Democratic candidate Clinton was going ahead of Republican candidate Trump since September to 8th of November before the Election Day. According to BBC Channel 4, the chance of winning the election was as follows on 6th of November 2016.

Clinton Democrat    60%
Trump Republican    34%
Source: FiveThirtyEight

Clinton Democrat    84%
Trump Republican    16%
Source: New York Times

So even according to the New York Times poll Clinton chance to enter the White House was even higher.

But as the Election Day was coming nearer, the gap between the two candidates was coming closer. Still Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton was ahead of her rival Republican candidate Donald Trump on 8th of November, 2016, according to BBC.

BBC Poll of Polls on the 8th of November 2016
Paths to the White House
Democrat     47%
Republican    43%

Democrat    44%
Republican   40%
Source: NBC/WSJ Poll

Democrat     48%
Republican   44%
Source: Fox News Poll

It is even said that mathematically it was still easier for Clinton to enter the White House. “The liberal establishment was so sure its candidate would win. As the election neared, the Daily Kos website put Hilary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency at 92%. The New York Times’s Upshot blog said 86%. The book-maker Betfair said 70%. Nate Silver, of the website FiveThirtyEight, went for 66.9%.” Niall Ferguson mentioned in his article in The Sunday Times.

Intelligentsia and Intellectuals
Not only that, intelligentsia and intellectuals mentioned how the pollsters were predicting the victory of the Democrat candidate Clinton.

The Sunday Times wrote editorially: “Pollsters, some using highly sophisticated methods, expected a clear win for Hilary Clinton. The most optimistic electoral model, from the president-elect’s perspective, gave him the 29% chance. Others saw his prospects in low single figures,” The Sunday Times editorial (Our mission to bridge the Atlantic gap, Sunday, 13 November 2016)

Dominic Lawson wrote in his article, “He (Trump) would defy the pollsters in the same way. That is what he (Trump) must have meant when telling crowds of his supporters on the final day’s campaigning: ‘This is Brexit Plus Plus Plus’ Well, Trump was dead right about that: his clear victory was a bigger shock to the pollsters and other so-called experts than even Brexit had been. On Thursday Newsweek had to withdraw an edition with a cover of a beaming Mrs. Clinton under the headline “Madan President.” (“Until the left gets beyond wooing ‘communities’, it will remain in the cold” by Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times, Sunday, 13 November, 2016)

Roger Altman wrote two months ago in the Financial Times column, reassuring its readers: “The biggest American political question today is not the outcome of the November election. For all practical purposes, that is over and Hillary Clinton will be the next president..Yes, an asteroid could collide with the earth before then.” (“Until the left gets beyond wooing ‘communities’, it will remain in the cold by Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times, Sunday, 13 November, 2016)

Election Results
President-elect Donald Trump
In the end, it is the clear win of Donald Trump. He swept in the industrial areas in America’s North-east. He secured 279 votes of the Electoral College guaranteeing him in the presidency.

Electoral College Votes

Mrs. Clinton                                                           Trump
218                                       270                           279

Donald Trump had a surprise and stunning victory after a long, bitter, ugly and divisive election campaign. Trump secured victory over Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, 9th of November 2016 to become the 45th US president-elect after winning more than 270 Electoral College votes needed to win. Al-Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from New York, described the result as “a political bombshell” the like of which had not been seen in modern US history.

According to American election system, Electoral College votes are vital to get to the White House. Trump gained a significant proportion of the votes of the blue-collar workers in north-eastern states, the so-called Rust Belt. Niall Ferguson observed, “The months-long ordeal that culminated on Wednesday will go down in history as one of the nastiest election campaigns of modern times.” He also said, “From the moment of his inauguration on January 20, 2017 the property developer turned reality TV star turned politician will be the most powerful human being on earth. The Donald will become the Potus.” (This was no whitelash, it was a vote to get America working by Niall Ferguson, The Sunday Times, Special Issue, Sunday, 13 November, 2016, page IV)

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton got the popular vote. A large majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton one million more votes went to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than to her Republican rival Donald Trump; yet Trump won the Electoral College votes and was elected president. Electoral College votes is vital to get to the White House.

Among the key wins of Donald Trump was in Florida that brought him 29 votes; in Ohio he comfortably beaten Mrs. Clinton. Both Ohio and Michigan have got support for Obama four years ago.

Florida  29 votes                Ohio – 18 votes                      Michigan 16 votes
Trump 49.1%                        Trump 52.1%                        Trump 47.7%
Clinton 47.7%                        Clinton 43.5%                       Clinton 47.2%

Same story repeated in the Congress. Republicans retained control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Democrats   47
Republicans 51

House of Representatives
Democrats  - 191
Republicans 236

In the Senate, Republicans retained its narrow majority but Democrats did make its small gains. The same story was in the House of Representatives: Republicans now controlled both the executive and legislative arms of the government.

It is interesting to note and point out that one political party has not held all three branches of US Government since the 1920s.

How did the polls get it wrong?
The natural question is why were the pundits so wrong? How did a victory that almost no one had predicted had come about? What does it say about the United States election system?

Battleground – Swing votes
This election is unpredictable. One day before the Election Day Hillary and Donald were campaigning in the Michigan and Washington, though those were the Democrat states. There were five battleground states; they were the key swing states whose votes would decide. The winner of the votes in the swing states will reach the White House.

Clinton won popular vote but loss
electoral college vote? Why and How?
Hillary Clinton won a majority of the popular vote, probably by more than a million. It has to be remembered that she was the candidate of choice for most voters. But she was handsomely beaten in the race for Electoral College votes. You may be wondering why Hillary Clinton lost the election. Many explanations have been offered for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the election. These are: i) the complacency of the Democratic party and America’s liberal left; ii) Democrats took the ‘white working class’ support granted; iii)Mrs. Clinton ignored Bill Clinton’s advice: “Despite urgings from Bill Clinton, whose populist touch won these areas over in 1992, Hillary hardly campaigned in the area, focusing more on getting the black and Hispanic vote elsewhere.” (Niall Fergusan, The Sunday Times, Special Issue, 13 November 2016, Page V) Pennsylvania has been a Democratic blue since Bill Clinton won in 1992. Obama won there by 12,000 when he was re-elected for his second term in 2012. iv) FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails. And lastly v) the peculiarities and eccentricities of the American Electoral System.

How Donald Trump won?
On the other hand, Donald Trump strategy was: i) tap on the white working class, ii) his campaign won the support of the white supremacists; iii) tap on disillusionment and alienation; iv) play game of fear and rage and v) lastly, exploited feeling of whites.

Looking at how did Donald Trump win, Peter Trubowitz wrote: “Many things obviously: a politically vulnerable opponent, lower voter turnout, FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails, among other things. But at the end of the day, the single biggest factor was Trump’s ability to recognize and tap into a well of anger and resentment in the American body politic that others missed.” (How Did Trump Win and What Happens Next? By Peter Trubowitz, Chatham House website, originally published by the LSE US Centre).

That is what allowed Donald Trump to capture pivotal Democratic states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and possibly, Michigan and thus won the Electoral College votes while losing the popular vote.

Election Results:
Reactions and Responses
The surprise and stunning victory of Donald Trump has immediate reactions among the intelligentsia, intellectuals and other media analysts. Even the American common people came out on the streets protesting for four days against Donald Trump: ‘He is not our President’. In the following pages, I am going to quote the reactions and responses of intelligentsia, intellectuals and commentators. .

The Observer editorially described the results as disaster. It said, “It is no use pretending. Donald Trump’s presidential election victory is a disaster for the United States and the world. It is, at least in part, a victory for prejudice and fear, for ignorance and spite. It represents the triumph of economic nationalism and introspection over internationalism and global good. It is a victory built on fabrications. Because of this, Trumpism will ultimately fail, confounded by its contradictions and its immorality. It will be defeated. But correcting this deformation will not be easy. It will take time and the damage will be considerable.” (A victory for rage and fear. Trump will let down his supporters and the world, Editorial, The Observer, 13 November, 2016, page 36.)

The Guardian View On The Election Results
The Guardian editorially commented, “So it is with the global political earthquake that is the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. If he is true to his campaign pledges, which were many and reckless, Mr Trump’s win will herald America’s most stunning reversal of political and economic orthodoxy since the New Deal in the 1930s, but with the opposite intention and effect. It halts the ailing progressive narrative about modern America and the 21st-century world in its tracks. It signals a seismic rupture in the American-dominated global liberal economic and political order that had seemed to command the 21st century after communism collapsed and China’s economy soared.”

Commentators and analysts have seen the election results in the similar way. Andrew Rawnsley, writing on the election results in The Observer commented it’s a “great danger”

Andrew Rawnsley – Great Danger
Terrifying Trump will turn into Tamed Trump? It/s an illusion: His election presents great dangers for both the global economy and the international security system.

Rawnsley observed under the above caption, “A man with no experience of elected office will preside over a government machine with 2.8 million civilian employees and 1.5 million military personnel. A man who will be pursued into the White House by a pack of lawsuits will be in charge of FBI. A man repeatedly described as unfit for the office by senior members of his own party will be the commander-in-chief with his finger the trigger of more than 4,000 nuclear war- heads.” (Terrifying Trump will turn into Tamed Trump? It’s an illusion by Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer, Sunday, 13 November, 2016, page 37)

Andrew Bowen
Writing in Jeddah-based English daily Arab News, Andrew Bowen, Ph.D. visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, observed, “President-elect Donald Trump fundamentally is a departure from any of his Republican predecessors in both his outlook and tone. He’s neither the pure globally orientated real politick Richard Nixon nor the conservative internationalist Ronald Reagan. Trump is Trump and his views of global affairs have been shaped by his own vantage point and experiences. Trump may meet with Kissinger, but it by no means is a sign that Washington is going back to the days of George H.W. Bush and James Baker.,” (Trump’s trump: neither a hawk nor a dove by Andrew J Bowen, Arab News, )

Xenia Wickett, Head, US and the American Programme; Dean, The Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership international Affairs, observed, “The world today is a more dangerous place. Trump’s enthusiasm for unpredictability will make it worse. But the steps required to mitigate the worst are clear (albeit difficult): Europe will need to step forward, to take more leadership, and to bear more burdens.” (.(Time for Europe to Take the Reins by Xenia Wickett, Chatham House website, 11 November 2016, originally published by Berlin Policy Journal)

Professor Gilbert Achcar Professor at SOAS
Donald Trump most unpredictable man
Gilbert Achcar Professor at SOAS, University of London commenting on foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular, said, “Donald Trump, as the new president of the United States, would stand out as the most unpredictable man to have occupied this position ever since his country started deploying an overseas imperial policy in the late 19th century.”

Economist Paul Krugman: Shock Horror
The economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times that “People like me…. Truly did not understand the country we live in …We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law. It turns out that we were wrong. There turn out to be a huge number of people – white people, living mainly in rural areas – who don’t share at all our idea of what America is all about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy.” (Quoted by Niall Ferguson in his article in The Sunday Times, 13 November, 2016)

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Hajj Awareness Seminars 2016 Launch in London

Hajj Awareness Seminars 2016 Launch in London

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Hajj is an obligatory duty in a lifetime for every capable, both physically and financially to perform Hajj in a lifetime. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. As it is an obligatory duty, it is essential that every Muslim who is planning to go for Hajj is to make himself abreast about different aspects of Hajj. It is necessary to know about the social, economical, moral, educational and religious aspects of Hajj.

A pilgrim should be aware of the greatness of the rites of the pilgrimage in the sight of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala and should therefore make a solemn intention, in his heart or verbally, to the effect that he is carrying out Divine injunctions for the pleasure of Allah the Almighty only. The ultimate goal, the summon bonum of life is to respond to the Call of Allah the Almighty.

This year around 19,000 British Hajjis are going for Hajj to Makkah al-Mukarramah. I wish them success and Hajje Mabrouk and acceptance of their Hajj by Allah the Almighty.

Previously 25,000 British Muslims used to go for Hajj every year and many thousands do Umrah and there was a need for British Muslims facilities not only consular advice but more important health advice and other kind of advice. Thus British Hajj Delegation was started in 1999 and Lord Ahmed led the first British Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and from next year, 2001 to 2009, Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn led the British Hajj Delegation.

The British Hajj Delegation used to launch every year its delegation before the Hajj. .The British Hajj Delegation used to go to Saudi Arabia every year; hold medical clinics, free medical treatment and offer consular advice in Makkah. There was a partnership among the British Government, the Saudi Government and the British Muslim Community. United Kingdom was the first country which had organised the British Hajj Delegation, the first Hajj delegation not only in Europe but also in the Western world.

This British Hajj Delegation continued from 2000 to 2011 and Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn was the leader of the Delegation from 2001 to 2010. Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan and myself too gratefully acknowledge his selfless dedication and devotion for the service of the Hujjaj and for the pleasure of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala.

As usual like every year Hajj Awareness Seminars were launched by the two Hajj & Umrah related organisations in the United Kingdom. One was organised by the Association of British Hujjaj (ABH) at the House of Lords on 20th July, 2016 and another was organised by the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) held at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on 6th of August, 2016.

Hajj Seminar 2016 at The
Islamic Cultural Centre, London
The Hajj Seminar 2016 organised by the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) in partnership with the London Central Mosque & Islamic Cultural Centre, was held at the Conference Hall of the Centre on Saturday, the 6th of August 2016.

Dr. Ahmad Dubayan Inaugurates
The Hajj Seminar 2016
While inaugurating the Hajj Seminar 2016, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London welcomes the police of the City of London and other dignitaries, guests and audiences. He expressed his happiness to see all these people to be at the Centre in this nice summer day. He also thankfully acknowledged the self-sacrificing dedication of Lord Adam Patel, the leader of the British Hajj Delegation at the service of Hujjaj and for the pleasure of Allah the Almighty for more than a decade.

Hajj Fifth Pillar of Islam
While speaking about Hajj, Dr. al-Dubayan said, “As we all know, Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. Hajj is one of the main worship in Islam but it is, of course, as we all know, it is a duty for every person only once in one’s life; when he is able physically of course financially and security-wise.  If someone is not able to do it, for example, he is sick or poor person then Hajj is not a duty.”

“We are too close to Hajj, InshaAllah, and let me start by congratulating those who are going to perform their Hajj this year. And welcome you to Islamic Cultural Centre; and wish you Insha Allah happy journey. Insha Allah you will go safely and InshaAllah you will come back home safely also,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Hajj is a Spiritual trip
Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre mentioned, “Hajj is a spiritual trip; it is not only normal travelling like you go on a holiday. Hajj is a spiritual trip going to the holy places, holy sites in Makkah and then after that to Madinah  as a Ziarah, which is not of course part of the Hajj but people sometimes when they are in Makkah they could go to Madinah because they are too close to it.”

Hajj an international conference of all Muslims
Dr. Al-Dubayan also mentioned, “Hajj is really like an international conference of all Muslims coming from all corners of the world, all different nations, different languages, different races, different colours coming to this holy site for one thing only: this is to perform the worship of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala following the steps of Prophet Abraham, following the steps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all).”

How did we know the Hajj?
Dr. Al-Dubayan then narrated how did we know about Hajj. He said, “We knew the Hajj from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he started to perform his Hajj which he did only once in his life time, not of course 20 times like some people try to do today. Once only in his life and then he says see how I do after performing Hajj and take it from me. He himself (peace be upon him) followed the steps of Prophet Abraham. When Prophet Abraham completed the building of the Kaaba with his son Ismael as it is told in the Qur’an; the story described and then he performed Hajj in certain ways; when to start; certain places, certain timing, certain areas that he has to go in certain time. If we don’t do it that way, then Hajj is not correct or not complete, not perfect.”

Hajj in different literature
Speaking about the history of Hajj written in different literature, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “Throughout the history of Islam Hajj has played the main role in many people minds, in many nations. We can read the literature of the Hajj that has been written in all languages; in Arabic, in Urdu, in Turkish, in Persian, in African languages, in European languages also, in India everywhere. There is a very big heritage and literature written because of the Hajj. Many of it or most of it were written by Muslims who did perform the Hajj. They described what they have seen during their trip as a travellers going to Makkah; what they have seen on the way and back home. And they also described all those changes in the societies, in the cities, in the roads that they followed going to Makkah. These are part of the history and part of the literature itself.”

Hajj is also subject of study
Of many Orientalists
“At the same time, Hajj was also a subject of many works of Orientalists in Europe, in the UK, in France, in Germany, in Austria and many other countries. They are not Muslims. But they actually took the Hajj pilgrim as a subject of many studies about the sites themselves, about the roads , about the influence of Hajj itself on the Muslim nations,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Malcolm X in Makkah
Those who have performed Hajj more than once or different pilgrim at different time have different feeling of Hajj. Speaking about this different feeling of Hajj, Dr. al-Dubayan said, “Hajj surprised many travellers when they came to Makkah. If you read 1000 books about Hajj, it will never never be like one time you do yourself. It is something different. The feeling is different, everything different. I remember the words of Malcolm X when he came from America, that was I think in 1962, I am not mistaken. When he came to Makkah he almost saw everybody is there. Black Americans in the beginning thought Islam is the religion only for the Africans. Of course there was a reason why they listened here and there their history.”

“Anyway, when Malcolm X came to Makkah and when he stood in Arafat, then in Mina, he wrote in his memoirs that I am here and the whole world is around me; everybody is here; I see on the right Arabs, I see on the left people coming from Europe; I see here Africans, there are people from Tatars; behind me I see also other people from India, from Malaysia, from everywhere; religion is really for everywhere. That’s why Allah Subhanahu wa Taala says in the Qur’an: ‘We have sent you to be a Mercy for all Mankind, and for all the worlds’”, mentioned Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Hajj brings changes in one’s heart
Speaking about the changes in one’s heart after performing Hajj, the ICC Chief said, “Hajj is very important because it does changes in people’s hearts.” Then Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned one scholar from India who said, “You have to check your heart after Hajj. If you find your heart is the same as it was before; then your Hajj is not perfect, then you have not done the Hajj the right way. If you see you are better after Hajj then the Hajj is really accepted; you have done the real Hajj because it has really affected and touch the bottom of your heart. This is the Hajj.”

Sheikh al-Sudais welcome everybody to
Masjid al-Haram in Makkah
Referring to Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, the Imam of the Masjid al-Haram of Makkah al-Mukarramah, Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “Luckily we had here ten days ago Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, the Imam of Haram in Makkah who welcome everybody to Makkah and in the holy sites; Madinah too of course. He is actually welcoming Hujjaj, in Arabic, Hujjaj the Guest of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala when they come to His House, the Kaaba and when they come to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.”

During Hajj, it is quite natural that you will face some difficulties, some uneasiness. But I like the way Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned this in his inaugural address. He said, “I want to tell those who want to go for Hajj. I hope they realise the spiritual meaning of it. They realise the meaning of going there. And whatever you do for Hajj; Hajj would be a little bit some difficulties; sometime the arrangements, sometime the long delay in the airports waiting, sometimes delay in checking sometimes facilities of transport; crowd, traffic and whatever; this happened everywhere.”

“But we have to mention also gratefully the arrangement at the airports and the projects that the government of Saudi Arabia have undertaken for the Holy sites; the projects for the Kaaba; they have completed big part of the expansion of the Haram, the Holy Mosque in Makkah; the capacity is about I think; three to five million and the work of the expansion of Haram, the Mosque in Makkah is continuing.  It will not be stopped,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Press release issued by CBHUK
On this occasion, Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) issued a press release which mentioned the following:

“Aspiring British Muslims embarking on the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage were given training on how to perform the rituals for the Journey of a lifetime hosted by the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) in partnership with the London Central Mosque & Islamic Cultural Centre. The training was delivered by qualified scholars over a series of events hosted in towns and cities across the United Kingdom.  Hundreds attended eagerly to learn about Hajj with Doctors and travel industry experts delivering health & safety advice too.”

The press release also mentioned, “Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan, Director General of the London Central Mosque urged pilgrims to learn the rituals of Hajj so that they can gain maximum benefit from this act of worship as Hajj touches peoples hearts and changes them for the better. He thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz for hosting the pilgrims and services provided to them and the commitment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the development of the two Holy cities of Makkah & Madinah and Masjid Al Haram to accommodate the faithful.  He lauded efforts by Lord Adam Patel in leading the British Hajj Delegations and welcomed a new era of support for British pilgrims in partnership with CBHUK.”

It also said, “Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) offered travel advice and how to stay safe during Hajj.   With millions performing various rituals of Hajj at the same time at the same place, he stressed the importance of following instructions from the Tour Operators and  Saudi Officials on the ground for a smooth journey.  The Council also offered health and safety advice preparing pilgrims for the Journey of a Lifetime.  Mogradia thanked the Saudi Embassy in London for their continued help and support to British pilgrims and the Islamic Cultural Centre for a fruitful partnership in educating pilgrims.”

The City of London Police offered Hajj Fraud prevention advice to pilgrims to book with reputable and licensed tour operators and asked the community to report unscrupulous tour operators & fraudsters to Action Fraud and Trading Standards so that the authorities could take action against them. 

Hajj Awareness Campaign launched at House of Lords
Earlier, on 20 July, 2016, Hajj Health & Safety Awareness Campaign was launched at the House of Lords by the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) a National organisation working for the welfare and wellbeing of Hajj/Umrah pilgrims. The Association of British Hujjaj issued a press release on this occasion.

The press release said, “The purpose of this launch was to raise awareness of the health and safety issues amongst the 25,000 prospective British pilgrims who will start travelling next month to join over 2 million other pilgrims from around the world in Makkah. Members of the House of Lords, Members of Parliament, government officials and community dignitaries were present to support this prestigious event.”

“In his welcoming remarks, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham went on to highlight the importance of this event saying, “By launching this awareness campaign it will enhance Hajj related health & safety awareness amongst prospective British pilgrims. It is important that pilgrims must be aware of all aspects of Hajj to enable them to perform Hajj in the safest and best possible manner,” the press release mentioned.

“Steve McCabe, Member of Parliament praised the hard work and continuous efforts made by the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK to help and protect the British Hajj pilgrims from hardship, difficulties and he assured his full support to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of pilgrims,” it added.

Khalid Pervez, General Secretary of ABH UK expresses the need of health and safety precautionary measures to be taken to perform a safe Hajj in comfort.”

“Dr Syed Raza Hussain strongly urges the prospective pilgrims to safeguard against infectious diseases such as meningitis and Coronavirus,” the press release mentioned and added, “Trading Standards and London City Police officials also assured the British Muslim community of their help and support towards combating the malpractice, corruptions and exploitation by the unscrupulous and rogue tour and travel operators. They said that the law enforcement authorities will do their utmost to help and protect innocent and vulnerable Hajj/Umrah pilgrims and to ensure the rule of law amongst the Hajj service providers from the UK.”

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Revolutionary Changes in Holy Sites & Hajj Facilities

Based on Interviews
Revolutionary Changes in Holy Sites & Hajj Facilities
Since 1976 for Pilgrims’ Safety and Security

Dr. Mozammel Haque

I got the opportunity to perform Hajj last year in 2015 on behalf of my wife. I am grateful to Mr. Abdul Rahman Aneezi, the then head of the Islamic Affairs of the Saudi Embassy in the United Kingdom, London; to Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London and His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, Secretary General of the Cairo-based International Islamic Council for Dawah and Relief (IICDR), and also the President of the Karachi-based World Muslim Congress. Each one of them wrote letter of recommendation for arranging for me to perform Hajj on behalf of my wife who passed away in 2014. I want to thank all of them.

At the 2015 Hajj I have got some new knowledge about Hajjis perception of the Holy sites and Hajj facilities. I noticed those who have performed Hajj previously twice or more times appreciate the Hajj facilities than those who came for the first time obviously ignorant of the earlier situation and the latest development. Lot of development and improvements has been made in the Holy sites and Hajj facilities for the last forty years for the safety, security and welfare of the pilgrims. But unfortunately those who are coming these days have no knowledge and experience of that improvement.

I had the opportunity to meet and discuss about this situation with some of the pilgrims who had performed Hajj previously. They are from Sudan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Nigeria. Following are the interviews conducted by me at the Muslim World League Building in Mina during Hajj.

Dr. Omar Ahmed Fadhlullah
Dr. Omar Ahmed Fadhlullah came from Abu Dhabi. He worked there as Advisor for the Electronic Government System and Project in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Fadhlullahuh was working in Saudi Arabia before 1980 and during that period he had performed so many Hajj. Then after that he performed Hajj in 1980 and after a decade in 1990, second time and then this is the third time in 2015.

Dr. Fadhlullahuh said, “I started coming for Hajj in 1976 for consequent four years up to 1980, then I went to the United States and stayed there till 1987 when I came back and started coming to Hajj in 1990. I never came back until this year in 2015.”

He said, “Hajj is different every time compared to previous years in 1976 where, for instance, in Mina there was no such organisations and locations for Hajj, whoever comes first, stood up and reserved the place for themselves. Most of the public facilities – men’s toilets, women’s toilets – these type of public facilities were not available in Arafat, Muzdalifah or Mina. Most of the locations in Mina were not there; there was dust everywhere. Pilgrimage was staffed with coughing. For many Hajjis no locations to stay there; they were staying under the flyover, under the bridges. People died when they came rushing to or stoning in the Jamarat and lot of things.”

Dr. Fadhlullahuh continued, “But immediately after that lot of things changed. Starting from 1976 until 1980, many changes have been taken place, but before that time, lots of cars inside Mina; inside Muzdalifah; every pilgrim with his car – one person on his own car – cars were crowded started from Arafat towards Mina and they don’t move hours and hours and hours. In this situation some old people who cannot moce except by car, it was very hard for them during this time.”

Talking about the difference, changes and improvement since 1990, Dr. Fadhlullahuh said, “When I came this year it was amazing because actually Hajj is so organised, lot of facilities is there, everywhere. Wherever you go there is public services, toilets for men and women and all the areas are paved, organised and clean and you got the stone throwing  or stoning in Jamarat on one way going and coming back on different way or paths. It is very organised. Actually I wonder how come this is so organised, because actually millions of people came in in this very small area and many millions and they are organised actually and this is amazing and the development.”

In 1980, King Fahd had taken the development of the Haramain and the extension of the Haram and Madina Munawwarrah.

About the development in Makkah, Dr. Fadhlullahuh said, “In 1990, movement between Makkah and Mina became so easy even the pilgrim, some of them, can walk because it was organised. Policemen and all these scouts were everywhere showing people where to go and how to go. Things became easy. Places in Mina were reserved and marked for certain pilgrims coming from different countries. You can easily find that; you can easily find hospitals everywhere; ambulances were everywhere wherever you go. Everything was so easy – so organised – even the weather has changed now. There is huge fans, air-conditioned in so many hot hilly areas. This is amazing actually.”

“Before that time, some pilgrims because of hot felled down with sunstroke, heat actually. Now it is different. No one is felling down with sunstroke. Many differences happened actually, getting things better everywhere every year,” said Dr. Fadhlullah.

Dr. Assadiq Bakheet Al-Fakeeh Abdullah
I interviewed the Ambassador of Sudan to Jordan, Dr. Assadiq Bakheet Al-Fakeeh Abdullah about his experience of Hajj. This is his second Hajj. He first performed Hajj in 2010 and now going to perform this year in 2015. He made a comparison of Hajj facilities this year with that of previous five years before, in Makkah, Mina, Muzdallifah and Arafat.

The Ambassador said, "He frequently came to holy places; but whenever you come you find more facilities being constructed and more expansions of Mosque areas itself and the facilities that will be made the stay of the pilgrims and the stay of those who came for Umrah more comfortable. You find more and more development being  done to the Holy places."

Dr. Assadiq also said, "Saudi authorities are doing a lot of development of the Holy places for the benefits of the Muslims, for the comfort of the pilgrims. And definitely this year is better than the last year and far better than the five years before. Muslims will be witnessing this. You see that the development of the projects taken by former King Abdullah has not been finished yet; see it would be better than this year. And also the new expansion has not finished yet, so we will be witnessing more and more safety and security of the pilgrims."

Ambassador Dr. Assadiq was born in Sudan. He is a diplomat and also a media person. This is his specialty. Sometimes he goes out of his diplomatic duty. He held many posts: media, politics, diplomatic service. Just before being made Ambassador to Jordan, he was Secretary General of the Amman-based Arab Thought Forum, a Pan-Arab Research Organization headed by His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal. This organization is 35 years old and its headquarter is in Amman, Jordan. This research organization has members all over the Arab world and beyond.

In the diplomatic service, immediately before joining the diplomatic service, Dr. Assadiq was political expert with the Qatari government as an advisor.

He was diplomat since 1992. In 1992 he was in Washington as Press Advisor to the President of Sudan.

Professor Dr. Mohamad Akram Laldin
I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Professor Dr. Mohamad Akram Laldin, Executive Director of International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance(ISRA), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who performed Hajj in 1986 and then in 1989 and then in 2008 and then this year in 2015. For convenience sake, I asked him to compare and contrast his experience of his first Hajj in 1986 with his experience of second Hajj in 2008 and then his present experience of Hajj in 2015.It’s a gap of nearly eight years each. Within these eight years, “What changes did you notice in the Holy sites,” I enquired.

Professor Mohamad Akram said, “During 1986/1989 Makkah and Madina were at that time very much basic. Basic in the sense not find high-riser building around them. Old houses were at the maximum ¾ storied. Even I think in term of services, I remember at that time when the Hujjaj came they were assigned to what they called it as Muwassassah; Saudi establishment. Those very early days the Sheikhs/Muallem was responsible for the Hujjaj.”

Professor Akram talked about the houses/accommodation. Now while describing the situation of Haramain, the Tawaf and Masaa and also in Mina and Muzdalifah in 2010, Professor Mohamad Akram in terms of Haram, the Tawaf – the old building/the original building which now more or less demolished.”

The King Fahd extension was started in 1985and completed in 1995.Professor Mohamad Akram said, “In 2000 when I came here at that time I still remember you can go and see Zam Zam well. There were steps going down near the Mataf – the steps going down, even then that was the only place where you can find the air-conditioned. So I remember people used to go down after Umrah, drunk water and somebody slept there. You can find especially after prayers only place to sleep there.” That was what he was saying about in 2000.

Professor Mohamad Akram said, “In 2005, King Fahd did the air-conditioned extension of the Haramain. Even the Masaa, at that time, there was, of course, floors, but not very wide. It was half wide that it is now. At that time, it was half of what it is now. One portion which was at that time was doubled now. Even the Safa-Marwah hills were still there. – you can climb the hills.”

How were Mina and Jamarat? In replying to my questions, Professor Mohamad Akram said, “The Jamarat was two floors – one was down and another was up. It was circling and except for Aqaba, I think half circle. Mina problem was not: one way going and another way coming. Everybody was coming from all directions; so there was sometimes stampede, especially during the peak hours.”

At that point I narrated my experience of stoning in Jamarat in 1985. I still remember in 1985 I had to jump from the upper floor to the ground floor and my throat was gone completely dry and tongue was stuck to the upper portion of my mouth and I was requesting one person who had a bottle of water and was making ablution with that. I begged him with sign language to give me that bottle of water. That was in 1985.

Professor Mohamad Akram said, “That was still there. In Mina at that time there was no fixed tent. At that time, I remember, each and every Hajj organizer built their own tent and I think it was just a basic tent for the Hujjaj. It was not built-up tent; it was just put-up the tent for the time being. So it was very basic at that time.” Those were what Professor Mohamad Akram noticed in 2000.

Speaking about the King Fahd extension of the Haramain, Professor Mohamad Akram said, “But in 2000, there was King Fahd extension. There was no Zam Zam. Zam Zam well; its construction was going on and it was temporarily closed; but there was Zam Zam water available through tap. I think, that time, Hilton Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel (Dar al-Tawheed) were there. I think those were the two 5-Star Hotels at that time in 2000. And here in, I think, Misfalah was there at that time. Here, in Mina, in 2000, there was I think built-in tent. I remember, built-in tent in 2000. People used to stay there in the tent. And other facilities such as public services, bath rooms, toilets etc. were provided. I mean situations were much better; much improved. There were temporary toilets, very basic. So many toilets, even in Mina, facilities of toilets and other services were started in 2000.”

Professor Mohamad Akram also mentioned, “In 2008, it is a total change. You have seen how Haramain expanded; only the Masaa is expanded. The rest is still the same. In 2005, King Abdullah came and the first thing he did was the expanding and the extension of Masaa – Sai’ee and then the other projects were undertaken.”

“In 2008, Jamarat was already around but the storied and all the roads leading - not fully completed. Two roads leading to the two levels – now it is five levels. At that time not fully completed yet. That time Metro was not there,” mentioned Professor Mohamad Akram.
Professor Mohamad Akram again said, “In 2008, Government has taken over; services were much better. And now, even though under expansion, I feel Haram is much wider. You feel there is much space for you to go now.”

Education Secretary of Pakistan
Mr. Talwar
The Education Secretary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan came to perform Hajj on the invitation of the Rabita al-Alam al-Islami (Muslim World League). I have learnt that he had performed Hajj before, in the year 2000 and this is his second Hajj in the year 2015.

I had the opportunity to meet him and discuss with him his experience of Hajj in 2000 and I requested him to describe the facilities in the Holy sites, the Mataf area, the Safa-Marwah areas, Zam Zam areas and at that time the situation in Mina and Muzdalifah Arafat and Jamarat.

The Education Secretary of Pakistan said, “It was a matter of great pride and privilege to be in this; always a great moment of prestige for every Muslim of performing Hajj and Umrah. I came and performed my first Hajj in the year 2000 and now Alhamdo lillah due to the exigencies of Rabita Muslim World League I am performing the key Hajj.

While comparing his experience of Hajj in the year 2000 with that of the year 2015, Mr. Talwar said, “Differences between the two is that earlier year, there was good number of populations, good number of pilgrimage, not up to this level what we have been seeing now. Although, to begin with, while one was coming to Saudi Arabia coming to the airport, earlier the immigration process was quite delayed; but this year I had seen that this is fast, taking almost a minute on Hajjis on a pilgrimage. So this is things they have improved.

“The second improvement is coming to Kaaba Sharif, the section where work is going on but again I will give credit that despite this construction work, they are providing opportunity in such regulated way that every body perform; so this is one thing further better,” mentioned Mr. Talwar.

Pakistan Education secretary also mentioned about the development of the Safa-Marwah areas and Mataf. He said, “Safa-Marwah has improved a lot; it was not like this 15 years ago. It is a tremendous big change. Mataf area has been expanded. I hope and wish that once the mass construction is over it will be camping a quite large, a big number of pilgrim housing within the Mataf area.”

“Then the third one, particularly, this is a blessing the place we are now in the Muslim World League building in Mina; it’s a blessing. Because you are right in the Mina and you are quite close to the Jamarat. And you are just passing by to the Masjid al-Khaif,” mentioned Mr. Talwar.

Pakistan Education secretary also mentioned about the improvement of Jamarat. He said, “Another one that is earlier, there was only one single pillar symbolising the Satarn, Jamarat. While you are throwing stones on them certain throwing stones were going on the other side and other side’s stones were coming to your side. But this time; now they have expanded that area and that Satarn wall has been enlarged providing the opportunity for everyone and I envision and hope Insha Allah it will continue and there will be more facilities but there is this remarkable big change between the earlier and now.”

Commenting on the development of the Haramain and some remarks by some media people in the media comparing Makkah with Las Vegas, Pakistan’s education secretary said, “La Hawl Wala Quwutta Illah Billah, meaning There is no power no strength but from Allah” and observed, “There is no comparison; earlier Masjid al-Haram was covering a number of Muslim population; now the Muslim population has increased day by day , year after year and keeping in view the year 2020 I think they have to go for another expansion for 2050; and when you are doing an expansion; the developments are almost taking place but in a better way and for a better purpose. The purpose is to serve the welfare and the safety and security of the pilgrims. So there is no comparison. I will only say La Hawl Wala Quwutta Illah Billah, meaning There is no power no strength but from Allah.”

“The one thing they must add that while in the exterior portion of the Masjid al-Haram there may be more fans, there may be more air-conditioned. That will serve the purpose for everyone, otherwise they are doing an excellent work,” Pakistan’s education secretary concluded his observation.