Muslim Brits gear up for first post-pandemic Hajj open to foreign pilgrims

Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, presents part of the Hajj seminar at the London Muslim Center. (Mohammed Rashid)
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Updated 13 June 2022

Muslim Brits gear up for first post-pandemic Hajj open to foreign pilgrims

  • Attendees learned how to perform Hajj correctly and were given practical tips to ensure a smooth journey
  • Saudi government “modernizing the way people go for Hajj and Umrah,” Council of British Hajjis tells Arab News

LONDON: Over 130 British Muslims attended a Hajj seminar at the London Muslim Center on Sunday, in preparation for the first pilgrimage after the COVID-19 pandemic that will be open to foreigners.
Attendees learned how to perform the fifth pillar of Islam correctly, were given practical tips to ensure a smooth journey, and were able to ask a religious scholar questions about the journey that Muslims must undertake at least once in their lifetime if they are able to.




Attendees read Hajj-related literature at the CBHUK seminar at the London Muslim Center. (Mohammed Rashid)


They were also given health and safety advice, and were able to purchase essential items for their Hajj journey such as the ihram, the two pieces of white cloth worn by male pilgrims.
The event, organized by the Council of British Hajjis, was the final in a series of seminars held across England by the organization, and was watched online by dozens of people.
Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, said the seminars aimed to enrich and enhance pilgrim experiences through sharing relevant information, advice and guidance.
“We want to make it easy for pilgrims to have a spiritual and uplifting journey,” Mogradia told Arab News. “We’ve been running Hajj seminars since our inception in 2006. It was very important for us to reconnect with Hajj pilgrims face-to-face this year after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said it was important that would-be pilgrims attend the seminars this year not only to learn about the rites of Hajj, but also “the latest developments in Saudi Arabia, and health and safety requirements in the Kingdom.”
He added: “Such events allow us to connect directly with the pilgrims themselves, and address the needs and concerns they may have at an early stage so that we can relieve any anxiety and stress pre-departure.”




Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, addresses British Muslims who intend to perform Hajj at the London Muslim Center. (Mohammed Rashid)


Imam Yunus Dudhwala, a Muslim scholar and the head of chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, presented the seminar and has held similar events annually for the last 10 years.
“I think it’s important for people who are traveling for Hajj to be prepared mentally, physically and spiritually. And in terms of Islamic jurisprudence, they need to understand how to perform Hajj correctly. That’s why we do the seminar,” he told Arab News.




Imam Yunus Dudhwala presents the Hajj seminar at the London Muslim Center on Sunday. (AN photo)


Dudhwala accompanied 250-300 British pilgrims on Hajj annually as their spiritual and religious guide for over 10 years before the pandemic struck.
For over three decades preceding the pandemic, British pilgrims would book a package with a licensed Hajj operator in the UK that included flights, accommodation, meals, visas, and other essential services such as easy access to a religious scholar to help with their queries.




A CBHUK volunteer advises attendees on Hajj-related products. (Mohammed Rashid)


This year, the way pilgrims book Hajj has changed. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced last week that pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia are required to register for this year’s Hajj electronically at www.motawif.com.sa.
Applicants will be entered into a draw system, and pilgrims will then be selected from the pool.
The new portal is part of the ministry’s efforts to facilitate Hajj procedures and provide competitive prices for European, American and Australian pilgrims.
“We understand that the government of Saudi Arabia is modernizing the way people go for Hajj and Umrah as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. We also understand that they’re doing this to increase pilgrim numbers and enhance the facilities and services provided to pilgrims,” Mogradia said.
“Just as Umrah has gone through a rigorous change since 2019 with the implementation of the e-visa making it easier for people to travel to Saudi Arabia, Hajj too will need to go through that phase.”

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Ukraine conflict intrudes on UN biodiversity summit

Updated 14 sec ago

Ukraine conflict intrudes on UN biodiversity summit

MONTREAL: The Ukraine conflict cast a shadow over a high-stakes UN summit on biodiversity in Montreal on Wednesday, as Western nations slammed the environmental destruction brought about by Russia’s invasion.
The broadsides by the European Union and New Zealand — which spoke on behalf of other countries, including the United States — came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of “ecocide” and of devastating his country’s dolphin population.
Russia fired back that the meeting was an inappropriate forum and accused its critics of attempting to sabotage a new global deal for nature.
“The war brings about pollution and long-term environmental degradation, destroying protected areas and natural habitats,” Hugo Schally, an EU representative at the meeting, known as COP15, said.
“While the war rages on, it blocks much needed action on nature conservation and restoration,” he added.
New Zealand’s Rosemary Paterson, speaking for the JUSCANZ group that includes Japan, Australia and the United States, added: “The widespread environmental destruction and transboundary harm caused by Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine cannot go unnoticed in this forum.”
Invoking a right-of-reply, Russian delegate Denis Rebrikov said: “We resolutely refute allegations against us as being outside the scope of this COP on biodiversity.”
He added that conflicts of the recent past — such as those in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria — were not brought up at environmental summits, despite the harms done to ecosystems.
“It’s hard to avoid the impression that these countries are deliberately trying to sabotage the adoption of a global framework” on biodiversity, added Rebrikov.
Earlier in the day, President Zelensky of Ukraine said tens of thousands of dead dolphins had washed up on the Black Sea and accused Russia of “ecocide.” Ukrainian scientists have blamed military sonar used by Russian warships for the disaster.
Delegates from across the world have gathered from December 7 to 19 in Canada to try to hammer out a new deal for nature: a 10-year framework aimed at saving the planet’s forests, oceans and species before it’s too late.
Draft targets include a cornerstone pledge to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and seas by 2030, eliminating harmful fishing and agriculture subsidies and tackling invasive species and reducing pesticides.

Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’

Updated 07 December 2022

Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’

  • Time says Zelensky inspired Ukrainians, won global accolades for courage in resisting Russia
  • Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk was named Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2021

Time magazine named Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 2022’s “Person of the Year” on Wednesday, saying he inspired Ukrainians and won global accolades for his courage in resisting Russia’s devastating invasion.

Refusing to leave Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv at the outbreak of the war as Russian bombs rained down, the former comedian rallied his compatriots in broadcasts from the capital and traveled across his war-torn nation, the publication noted in bestowing its annual title.

On Tuesday, Zelensky visited Ukrainian troops near the front lines in eastern Ukraine.

“Zelensky’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious. It spread through Ukraine’s political leadership in the first days of the invasion, as everyone realized the president had stuck around,” Time wrote in acknowledging the 44-year-old leader.

This image courtesy of TIME/TIME Person of the Year shows the cover of Time magazine announcing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as the 2022 Person of the Year. (AFP/NEIL JAMIESON/TIME/TIME PERSON OF THE YEAR)

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk was named Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2021, a year that saw his electric car company become the most valuable carmaker in the world. Time began this tradition in 1927. 


In push to implement ‘Islamic law,’ Afghan Taliban carry out first public execution

Updated 07 December 2022

In push to implement ‘Islamic law,’ Afghan Taliban carry out first public execution

  • This was the first confirmation of such a sentence since the hard-line group returned to power
  • Statement named the executed man as Tajmir, a resident of Anjil district in Herat province

KABUL: An Afghan man convicted of murder was executed in public on Wednesday, the Taliban said, the first confirmation of such a sentence since the hard-line Islamists returned to power.

“The supreme court was instructed to implement this order of qisas in a public gathering of compatriots,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, referring to the “eye for an eye” justice in Islamic law.

Last month Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada ordered judges to fully enforce aspects of Islamic law that include public executions, stonings and floggings, and the amputation of limbs for thieves.

The Taliban have carried out several public floggings since then, but Wednesday’s execution in Farah, the capital of the province of the same name, is the first the Taliban have acknowledged.

The statement named the executed man as Tajmir, son of Ghulam Sarwar, and said he was a resident of Anjil district in Herat province.


155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

Updated 07 December 2022

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

MADRID: More than 150 people were lightly injured Wednesday when a train ran into the back of another at a station near Barcelona, the emergency services and Spain’s Renfe rail operator said Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the SEM regional emergency services said the vast majority of those hurt in the collision which occurred just before 8:00 am (0700 GMT) sustained light injuries, while five were in moderate condition.
“There was a collision between two trains at 7:50 am at the Montcada i Reixac-Manresa station, on the line heading to Barcelona, that’s to say one train ran into the back of another,” a spokesman for the state rail operator told AFP.
Rail traffic along the line was suspended in both directions and Renfe had opened an investigation into what happened, he said.
“There were 155 people affected of which 150 were lightly injured and five who were moderately hurt,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
She said 18 medical units had been deployed to the area, which lies some 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Barcelona.

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Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Updated 07 December 2022

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

  • Raids targeted alleged members of “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement
  • Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad

FRANKFURT: German police staged nationwide raids on Wednesday and arrested 25 people suspected of belonging to a far-right “terror cell” plotting to overthrow the government and attack parliament.
Around 3,000 officers including elite anti-terror units took part in the early morning raids and searched more than 130 properties, in what German media described as one of the country’s largest police actions ever against extremists.
The raids targeted alleged members of the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement suspected of “having made concrete preparations to violently force their way into the German parliament with a small armed group,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Those arrested are accused of having formed “a terrorist group by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which had set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own kind of state,” they said.
Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad, in Austria and Italy.
The prosecutors in Karlsruhe said they had identified a further 27 people as suspected members or supporters of the terror network.
The Reichsbuerger movement includes neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.
Long dismissed as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbuerger have become increasingly radicalized in recent years and are seen as a growing security threat.
Former soldiers are believed to be among the members of the recently established terror group, federal prosecutors said.
“The accused are united by a deep rejection of state institutions and the free, democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany,” they said.
The suspects were aware that their plan “could only be realized by using military means and violence against state representatives,” they added.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann praised the dismantling of the “suspected terror cell” on Twitter, saying it showed that Germany was able to defend its democracy.
Reichsbuerger followers generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-war German Reich, or empire, as it stood under the Nazis, and several groups have declared their own states.
They typically deny the authority of police and other state institutions.
According to prosecutors, the terror cell suspects believe in Reichsbuerger and QAnon conspiracy theories and are “strongly convinced” that Germany is run by a “deep state” that needs to be toppled.
They allegedly planned to appoint one of the arrested suspects, Heinrich XIII P.R., as Germany’s new leader after the coup.
He had already sought to make contact with Russian officials to discuss Germany’s “new state order” after the coup, prosecutors said.
There was however “no indication that the contact persons responded positively to his request.”
A Russian woman named as Vitalia B., who was among those arrested on Wednesday, is suspected of having facilitated those contacts, prosecutors added.
As part of the preparations for the coup, members of the alleged terror cell acquired weapons, organized shooting practice and tried to recruit new followers, particularly among the military and police, according to prosecutors.
Germany’s domestic intelligence service estimates that the Reichsbuerger scene consists of around 20,000 people.
Of those, more than 2,000 are deemed potentially violent.
Germany considers far-right terrorism the biggest threat to its security following a spate of attacks in recent years.
In April, police foiled a plot by a far-right group to kidnap the health minister.
The group was affiliated with the Reichsbuerger movement and the so-called “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) group that opposed the government’s coronavirus-related shutdowns.