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Islamic Lifestyle
The evolving sophistication and elegance of modest clothing

Diversity of interpretation and trends as influencers offer alternatives adding another dimension to modest clothing fashion.

 

Selangor, Malaysia; Dhaka; Tunis; Dubai and Lagos: There was a time when modest Muslim fashion was about being unseen – practising piety without giving as much as a nod to style or fashion – but today, Muslim women globally are increasingly combining their desire to proclaim modesty and religious identity without discarding elegance and sophistication in their clothing choices.

 

Malaysian fashion model and social media influencer Ike Diana argued there is no real conflict between mixing modest clothing choices and attractiveness and she willingly mixes modern pieces with traditional wear.

“Modesty is about finding the right balance of guarding your skin and wearing clothes that cover, yet are comfortable and fashionable. It is all about proportion because you can pair straight-cut jeans with a looser top or a fitted top with a flowy skirt,” she said, explaining that in southeast Asia, modest fashion was about dressing comfortably, not showing too much and clothes that fit the climate.

She said successful brands paid attention to Malaysia’s tropical climate with consumers increasingly conscious of the fabrics they choose, targeting breathability and comfort.

“We can’t wear anything leather or wool or at least wear them for long periods because it doesn’t suit the weather,” she explained.

Noting current modesty trends as being minimal yet trendy, Ike said there has been increasing interest in streetwear or basic pieces with an elevated look. This season vibrant colours, such as hot pink, have made a comeback. With more media influencers playing their roles through social media, consumer inspiration was being drawn from a variety of sources.

For Malaysian mother of one Amirah Najla Saidin, 29, choosing her modest wear demands comfort first. She observed that Malaysians lean towards more experimental choices when picking modest wear.

“Some say modest wear is loose clothes and some interpret it as long as your skin is covered, even with sheer or tight clothes,” she noted.

There certainly is plenty of choice. In Malaysia, brands such as UMMA, Imaan and Petit Moi sell an array of fashionable modest wear.

 

Malaysia’s influencer and model Ike Diana says modesty was about finding the right balance (Ike Diana).

 

Bangladeshi style

In Bangladesh the rise of ecommerce and related social media sites, including influencer webpages, has generated more creativity and choice in modest fashion ranges. Previously total coverage through burqas was common for women, but especially since 2014/15 as ecommerce took hold, retailers have been selling more abayas, khimar (traditional skirts and tops) and jilbab (another skirt and tops combination).

With ecommerce and social media opening Bangladesh to international fashion influences, these styles have been promoted by consumers seeing how women dress in Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and other diverse Muslim countries, said Tasnuva Rahman, co-owner of Reflections of Haya, an online modest clothing retailer

These influences are driving change in Bangladesh’s modest clothing market.

“One reason is women can try different fashions and trends. The burqa fully covers one and has mostly loose fittings, but the abaya, khimar, jilbab or a simple shrug can be fitted and worn in style,” noted Rahman.

 

Bangladeshi Muslim women wearing khimar (Reflections of Haya).

 

She added that teens and young girls preferred bat-wing abaya or shrugs over long tops, while middle-aged women prefer khimar and jilbab. Khimars are now also produced on a large scale by Bangladesh’s strong clothing industry:

“One can easily get a khimar for $5 when custom-tailor-made items cost $45 to $50. So, women buy khimar from any market,” said Rahman.

Fabric choices have also diversified. One e-retailer noted where previously women for burqas, women preferred BMW fabric, a variant of georgette from China, for their burqas, they now choose lightweight cherry georgette, silk, polyester cotton and pure synthetic fabric.

Old women like free-shaped, batwing cut, light-weighted fabric to carry with any dress, especially during summer and for winter, when temperatures fall to 11-14°C, they wear a coat or shrug over long tops.

Rural women still prefer heavy-work long burqas, while urban women prefer abaya shrugs to wear over any dress, noted Rahman.

 

 

Colour blocking is one of Gulf influencer Nada Nader’s favourite styles that she often promotes on her social media (Nada Nader).

 

The Gulf gets colourful

In the wealthier Gulf region, modest fashion is becoming increasingly inclusive and diverse with streetwear, activewear and fast fashion now trending among Muslim women.

“Modest fashion is no longer about wearing long-flowing gowns and loose-fitting black abayas. We now see colourful outfits and abayas, as well as modest streetwear, innovative hijabs and turbans with patterns,” Sarah Bradshaw, a modest fashion designer and founder of United Arab Emirates-based (UAE) Sarah Bradshaw Couture, told Salaam Gateway.

She said as the region’s often-fierce summer heat kicks in, women are opting for eye-catching colours such as light green, orange, mustard, beige and light pink – and for fabrics like silk and linen that are appreciated for their softness, elegance and comfort.

Born in Paris and based in Dubai, the 31-year-old social media influencer who has more than 22,000 followers on Instagram, said while high-end brands are becoming aware of the market’s potential and launching modest-wear collections, so are fast-fashion brands.

 

Colours such as orange, mustard, and beige are trending this summer in the Gulf (Sarah Bradshaw).

 

Mainstream retailers eye up modest fashion

For instance, PrettyLittleThing, a UK-based fast-fashion retailer, has gained popularity since launching a Middle East-dedicated ecommerce platform in 2020. The brand, known for its affordable prices, offers a collection of modest outfits.

Bradshaw said many modest-fashion influencers are also promoting low-cost outfits from Shein, the Chinese online fast fashion retailer, and Modanisa, a Turkish modest fashion ecommerce platform.

“Although I think the modest-fashion industry is becoming more sustainable thanks to educated and conscious consumers,” she said.

One example is The Giving Movement, a Dubai-based sustainable athleisure label that offers modest activewear, streetwear and loungewear. With its emphasis on ethical manufacturing and recyclable fabrics and its promise to donate $4 to charities for every item sold, the brand has gained numerous fans since its 2020 launch and recently raised $15 million from investors.

Bradshaw has also observed modest fashion becoming more inclusive, embracing different age groups, styles and body shapes.

“We have to keep in mind that the success of the market lies in understanding everyone defines modest fashion in their own way,” she said.

However, one challenge for all modest fashion brands in the region is the summer heat and humidity that does not encourage people to dress up.


Tunisia’s Sabrine Sbei, an influencer and retailer, wearing a modest fashion design (Sabrine Sbei).

 

Keeping it cool

“During the UAE’s summer, some people find it difficult to stay stylish and fresh outside. They might think it’s a waste of money and time to wear nice clothes as they won’t be able to enjoy them outdoors. This can negatively impact the modest fashion market,” said Bradshaw.

Modest fashion also reflects the diversity of consumers in a society. Tunisia, with its strong secular and religious traditions, has a mosaic of tastes when it comes to fashion and style. This has fed into modest fashion that is often more stylish in North Africa than in some more conservative Muslim cultures.

Sabrine Sbei, an Instagrammer, stylist and model and owner of ecommerce line Spity Shop told Salaam Gateway modest fashion trends incorporate both loose and tight outfits. For more modest consumers, a tight dress will be worn with an upper robe, such as an abaya, but for more secular women, these dresses could be worn alone.

As for colours, trending hues for modest and regular clothing are the same.

“Fashion focuses on bright colours, such as pistachio, bright orange, bright pink and similar funky colours,” said Sbei.

 

Modest fashion influencers are promoting soft, cool fabrics like silk and linen this summer (Sarah Bradshaw).

 

Arabic calligraphy

Tunisian fashion manufacturers can make variants of the same style to suit consumers’ modesty.

“The same clothing style is made for both women with and without hijab; the only difference is the length of the outfit, and what it covers,” she added.

When it comes to fabric, she said trendy fabrics like crumpled crepe fabric that achieve the perfect shape for loose trousers are common. The increase in local digital textile printing and its ability to deliver elaborate designs was also having an impact.

“Arabic writing is trendy on modest clothing this year, along with flowery vests and robes that are elegant and beautiful,” said Sbei.

Ultimately, in Tunisia, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, modest fashion is about wearing long clothes, made to cover the whole body, except for the hands and face.

Sbei said: “I love modest religious outfits myself, but it depends on everyone’s tastes and beliefs. There are Muslim women who would prefer a turban; others who cover their chest with an extra layer of their hijab and others just throw the hijab extra layer on their shoulders. It remains a personal choice based on how they apply their religious beliefs.”

 

Tunisian influencer and retailer Sabrine Sbei wearing her own ‘Spity’ modest design (Sabrine Sbei).

 

The Nigerian khimar

If more evidence was needed to reflect modest dressing is becoming a matter of style, consider Nigeria where the khimar, the long hijab-style robe that can be worn from head-to-toe, is becoming a symbol of trending modesty fashion.

“For Muslims it’s a good sign of faith, but it’s becoming more fashionable and people are really interested in wearing it, making it and selling it,” Amuda Faridah, a Lagos-based retailer of modesty fashion wears, told Salaam Gateway.

Faridah, a Muslim with an online store on Instagram, said social media has been instrumental in making the khimar popular across Nigeria.

“It’s becoming more stylish because it’s coming out in different colours with modesty fashion influencers portraying different styles on social media.”

For less formal modesty wear, two-piece outfits are also popular.

 

Nigerian Muslim modest fashion has real flair (Amuda Faridah).

 

“It’s either a shirt and a palazzo (trousers) or a shirt and skirt, but it’s a two piece. Most times it can be same the fabric with the same or different colours … it can be plain or patterned,” Faridah noted.

She added that Nigerian Muslim women sometimes paired these two piece outfits with a kimono for a three-piece look. These combination outfits are popular with Nigerian designers who often sell them online as ready-to-wear packages.

However, Faridah said dresses and abayas bought in Nigeria were often imported from the UAE, Malaysia and Turkey. The one currently trending was embroidery abayas with theses dresses fitting into what modesty fashion means for Faridah and countless other Muslim Nigerian women.

“They cover 80% of your body. Your arms are covered, your sleeves are covered and the pants are long. That’s what I understand as modesty. For instance, abayas are fashionable. They carry embroidery, are colourful and make modesty look fashionable,” she said.

When it comes to how these clothes fit, Faridah said consumers should have a choice. However, modesty wear should not tight fitting.

Not all modesty consumers would agree, rather stressing the need for skin coverage – and it is this diversity of views that is feeding energy and choice into the global Muslim fashion world.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
The architectural evolution of mosques

The whole earth is a mosque, but the physical mosque itself has played an important spiritual and educational role throughout Islamic history.

 

Beirut: With every step you walk you purify yourself of earthly sins. With every breath you take you purify your soul. You are walking towards the “house of Allah”, the mosque. In the mosque your body and sole are unified to be between the hands of God.

Mosques give the feeling of being safe and secure. Worshiping God in the mosque opens the multi-dimensions of the world so in it you worship God and the wonders of the world.

Ahmad Hajj, a Lebanese interior designer, sees mosques as “the best schools for education. They teach Muslims brotherhood and equality, so they gather in one place and stand in one row and pray behind the imam. Mosques teach people to live in solidarity”.

Reading the history of Islamic civilisation will tell you that most of the great Islamic scientists had their places in mosques to teach people not only the science of religion (theology), but also the natural sciences and all other branches of science. Today mosques have added another dimension to their functions, the dimension of being touristic sites.

History of mosques

The Prophet Mohammad said “the earth is a mosque for you, so pray wherever you happen to be when prayer time comes”. This great saying makes the whole earth one large mosque (or masjid), but building a special place to practice the worshiping of God, to socialise with others and produce science makes the mosque a microcosm of the world.

With the spread of Islam all over the world mosques spread too. It is not possible to cover the history of mosques and their present role in one or even three articles. To cover it we are in need of countless volumes of books because every mosque has its own history and present day reality. Even the modern iconic mosques in the world have their own contemporary history. So the selection of mosques in this article is taken randomly just to give an insight about the greatness of the mosques and their role in all fields of life.

For example, the most three important symbolic mosques for Muslims are Al Medina mosque, and the Grand Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and Al Aqsa mosque in Al Quds (Jerusalem), Occupied Palestine. Every one of them has its own spiritual symbolic meaning. It is said every Muslim that visits Al Medina mosque will win the Prophet’s intercession on the Day of Judgment, a visit to the Grand Mosque of Mecca is a visit to the earthly representation of God’s throne in heaven, and Al-Aqsa mosque represents the site of the Prophet’s famous Night Journey.

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

The Prophet built the first mosque in the courtyard of his house in Medina in 622 BCE. It was the first materialistic sign of establishing Islam and Muslims as a community.

Adding to this is that when the Prophet made his hijra from Mecca to Medina in 622 BCE, he stayed at Quba from Monday to Thursday. He prayed at the site of the mosque of Quba which thus takes the honor of being the first site at which the Prophet prayed after his hijra from Mecca.

At that time Al Medina mosque served as a place of public worship, a seat of government, a place for education and a refuge for any destitute emigre.

Design

Islam has made a unique contribution to architecture and the architectural arts: calligraphy, geometry and garden designs. In its early days, like any other civilisation before it, it borrowed features from buildings associated with local religious and cultures before establishing its own specific architectural identity.

The Prophet’s mosque at Medina was originally a simple orthogonal walled space with an open courtyard having two or three doors and a shaded prayer enclosure (mousalla) with one end facing Mecca. The mousalla was supported by columns, which were spaced at regular intervals to hold up the roof structure. Now it is one of the biggest mosques in the world.

At the beginning, through the Ummayad period, the architecture of the mosque was based on the Prophet’s mosque, in Medina, but with time reforms took place. Throughout history certain elements of mosques were developed such as the minarat, the mihrab, the courtyard, al mousalla, all now became common to the aesthetic vocabulary of the mosque.

Only one aspect has remained constant which is the sign to show al qibla direction (towards Mecca) symbolised by a prayer mihrab.

The most famous mosques of the Ummayad period unfortunately do not exist anymore, with one built in Basra, Iraq in 670 BCE, and one at Kufa. They were rebuilt by Ziad Ibn Abihi. It is said that at that time the mosque of Kufa which was was the greatest mosque in the world. In 673 BCE the Ummayad governor of Egypt, Maslama, enlarged the mosque of Amr at Fustat and added to its design minarets. That was the first appearance of minarets in mosques.

The Great Mosque of Damascus, according to al-Fakih, cost seven years of khiraj (tax) to build, taking place under Caliph Al Walid, who also enlarged the mosque of Al Medina in 707 – 709 BCE.


The minaret of the Ummayad mosque in Damascus, Syria (Paul Cochrane).


During the Abassid period under Al Masour the circular city of Baghdad, with its palace and Great Mosque at the center, was built and was symbolic of the idea of world domination. Next to Al Mansour’s Qasr Al Dahab, crowned by a green dome, stood the Great Mosque. Unfortunately, nothing has survived of this architectural jewel. The mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo and the great Mosque of Qairawan represent the two most prestigious monuments of the 9th century.

Taking into consideration the development of sciences at every period, as long as we talk about buildings, it is related directly to geometry. Because “any architectural design is inherently an exercise in geometry,” according to Martin Frishman, author of ‘The Mosque: History, Architectural Development & Regional Diversity’. That is why we can notice some radical changes in the design of mosques from the Umayyad to the Abassid period, and from the Ottoman period to the present.

From an architectural perspective mosques have fixed structural elements whatever the size or place or time of building the mosque. These fixed structural elements are:

  1. A demarcated space – partly roofed and partly open to the sky – to provide accommodation: Haram is the covered area; sahn is the opened one, and the pray hall is usually rectangular or square in plan.

  2. The qibla wall and the mihrab: The prayer hall must have one wall facing Mecca. At the mid-point of this wall, known as the qibla wall, is placed the mihrab which is the central and most decorated spot of any mosque.

  3. The minbar (pulpit) is always positioned to the right of the mihrab and consists of a staircase of varying height, with or without handrails leading to a small platform which is often crowned by a cupola-type of roof, usually in some attractive shape.

  4. The dikka: a wooden platform or tribune of single-story height and positioned in line with the mihrab. The dekka can be reached by its own stairs.

  5. The kursi: this is usually a well decorated wooden piece on which the Qu’ran is placed and kusri usually placed next to the dikka.

  6. The maqsura: the place set apart to safeguard the life of imam.

  7. The pool: this element may be with or without a fountain and may be intended for ablutions, or may be purely decorative.

  8. The minaret: the original purpose of this tower-like element, apart from serving as a local landmark, was to ensure that the muezzin could be heard far and wide.

  9. The portal: the mosque is nearly surrounded by walls.

These are the main elements of the mosque but also there is a major part which exists in every mosque, the decoration that goes with the functions of the mosque and its spiritual role. Here comes in Arabic calligraphy as a main element for decorative purposes and religious ones too.

According to Ahmad Hajj, “Arabic calligraphy has its importance because it expresses the Arabic and Islamic identity. It is used in decorating mosques, museums, tombs, shrines, and archaeological sites. We also see that each style of calligraphy has its own character, features and identity, and this is what the designer chooses in the decoration or internal and external adornment of the mosque to reflect the identity of the architectural and aesthetic design.”

From the earliest times the written word was used as the major and sometimes the sole type of mosque ornamentation. In general, Qur’anic texts are selected for inscriptions in mosques but quotations from the hadith can also be found in some mosques.

The treatment of writing as decoration have varied from as simple as possible to extraordinarily complex. The simplicity can be seen in the great mosque at Sousse, Tunisia (850 BCE) which has a single unornamented band of Qu’ran in kufic script. The high level of calligraphy as ornament can be seen on the interior walls of the Ulu Cami in Bursa, Turkey (completed in 1400 BCE).

 

Read - Music through the tunnel of time

Islamic art museums: opportunities to tour the past, understand the present and build the future

Arabic Calligraphy: Art of a nation and its historical development

 

Functions of the mosque

With the spread of Islam two types of mosques appeared, in the early period, big city mosques and small ones. The mosques in the cities were usually one of two types. Large state buildings were used for Friday prayers and assemblies. Caliphs and their appointed governors often established their residences close to these mosques, while the small ones were built in neighbourhoods.

Mosques serve a variety of functions. In addition to praying, they hold great social, political and educational importance. Mosques are places for spiritual and public affairs. Some are built to satisfy both functions, the spiritual and the public, like Suleymaniye Kulliye of Istanbul, built in the 1500s, which consists of a congregational mosque, two schools, a hospital, a public bath, a public kitchen, fountains, housing, and shops, while others are built just for worshiping.

 

 

The mosque of Saladin at the Cairo Citadel, Egypt (Paul Cochrane).

 

Education

From the early days of the mosques, they have functioned as a centre of religious and non-religious education. At an early age, children learned to memorise passages from the Qur’an and Hadith. There was also higher educational learning, according to Hajj: “Senior scholars and leaders who carried the banner of Islam graduated from mosques. Also there were seminars and lessons in mosques in all Islamic countries. Scholars chose a place in the mosque and taught lessons, and the history of the mosques of Baghdad, Cairo, Basra, Cordoba, Damascus and Mosul”.

Mosques represent an educational place which attracted students from a wide range of economic backgrounds. Also their education provided an opportunity for upward mobility, and sometimes they provided a way for students to achieve high governmental positions.

In cities it was common to have a university-mosque complex. For example, Al Azhar in Cairo, established in 971 BCE, is widely acknowledged as the world’s oldest university, and still serves as an educational institution. Another example, in West Africa, is the Sankore University mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, which was built in 989 BCE on the orders of the city’s judge Qadi Aqib.

Today in America and Europe most mosques have part-time or full-time schools to provide an Islamic education.

Between 1850 and 1950, mosque education underwent radical changes. The Arab countries started to emerge and gain their independence, and started to build schools and universities in their modern meaning. As a result, mosque education started to vanish.

 

The Qatar Foundation mosque in Doha, Qatar (Shutterstock).

 

Touristic sites

With the advent of modern travel, moving from one place to another became relatively easy regardless of the distance. That pushed the tourism sector to improve and be a main part of the country’s economy. Also religious tourism became increasingly important.

With these developments mosques have opened a new dimension to their existence, as an economic contributor. For example, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul represents a major touristic site in Turkey. Hajj sees the Education City Mosque in Qatar as “an architectural masterpiece. The design idea is based on the concept of science and enlightenment, and through the architect’s idea the use of blocks in the form of two interconnected strips, at the end of them are two minarets that rise to the sky in the direction of the qiblah at a height of 90 metres, and the heart of the building was decorated with Arabic calligraphy.”

The other mosque which represent an attractive religious and touristic site, according to Hajj, is the “Great Mosque of Algiers, the largest mosque in Africa.”

“It was opened in 2020 at a cost of $1.5 billion, and it can accommodate about 120,000 people. The height of the minaret is 267 metres, the dome is 70 meters high and 50 metres in diameter with decorations inside from Islamic architecture. The style of the mosque is architecturally Andalusian Islamic with a mixture of modern architecture. It includes 12 separate buildings, and the interior of the mosque is decorated with the Andalusian character.”

With Saudi Arabia opening its doors to tourism, it is promoting some of the most spiritual mosques in the world, for Muslims, and the most historical.

The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Project for the Development of Historical Mosques was announced in 2018 and has been tasked with preserving and restoring 130 mosques situated throughout the kingdom. The first phase restored 30 mosques in 10 regions.

The oldest mosque dates to 1432 BCE. It was restored during the first phase at a cost of more than 50 million Saudi Riyal ($13.3 million). The second phase of the historic mosques development project includes 30 historical mosques distributed across the 13 regions of the kingdom.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
Indian Kashmir sees record influx of tourists

Northern state surpasses tourist arrival records despite unrest and spurt in militancy in the valley.

 

India's only Muslim majority state Jammu and Kashmir this year surpassed the 10-year tourist arrival record, signaling that the tourism industry was finally on the way to recover.

There is no space in hotels, houseboats and lodges. People are seen queuing for rides on houseboats on the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar.

“All 60,000 rooms of the hotels in Kashmir are booked. The favourite tourist destinations are Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonmarg. Most of the hotels in the valley are fully booked. There will be a rush of tourists till October,” said Farooq Quthoo, president of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), told Salaam Gateway.

Many other stakeholders believe the inflow of tourists will continue and events like snow carnivals, Christmas and New Year will draw more visitors to the valley.

“The J&K administration is paying special attention to the tourism sector, and the region is witnessing significant growth in terms of increasing number of tourists and creation of tourism-related infrastructure”, said Anwar Hasan, who runs a restaurant in Kashmir.

Dr. Ahsan Chisti, Deputy Director of Tourism Kashmir, told Salaam Gateway that they took some measures which helped the tourism industry to bounce back in the state.

“First of all we did capacity building and tried to find what should be the post COVID-19 response. Along with this, those working in this field were vaccinated against COVID so that the people could be sure that where they were going was safe.”

"Along with this, we conducted aggressive marketing campaigns all over the country after COVID restrictions were relaxed and we studied some patterns about the tourist preferences. Then we came to know that tourists like adventure tourism. Tourism authorities in the state also identified some 75 additional destinations which were over and above the present destinations," said Chisti.

These were some of the measures which helped the tourists to flock to this state, he added.

Data from the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Tourism Department and the Union Ministry of Tourism revealed that the number of tourists between January and 15 May this year soared to 700,000, a fivefold increase compared to 125,000 people visiting the valley during the corresponding period in 2021.

According to the Union Ministry of Tourism, around 142,000 tourists visited Kashmir during February 2022 alone, bringing the hotel industry back to life after it remained shut in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism industry of Kashmir suffered a lot due to the pandemic.

The withdrawal of Article 370 that granted special status to the J&K led to unrest in the valley and curfew-like restrictions remained in place for months. But Kashmir's tourism industry has recovered and the picturesque valley has been teeming with tourists.

According to the state tourism department, the tourist footfall for 2020 was a meager 41,000, but the number of visitors increased to 660,000 in 2021. There has been a record increase in the number of tourists this year.

Notably, on 4 April this year, the Srinagar International Airport recorded its busiest day in its history, with 15,014 people traveling in and out of Kashmir via 90 flights.

Tourist Village Network Scheme

To promote adventure tourism in the valley, J&K Governor Manoj Sinha launched the Jammu and Kashmir Tourist Village Network Scheme under Mission Youth. The initiative aims to convert 75 villages of the valley, known for their historical and cultural significance and picturesque charm, into tourist villages. The tourism department has taken new initiatives to draw more and more tourists.

Highlighting the objectives behind the initiative, Sinha in a statement had said that the government of J&K appreciates the distinctiveness of each village and wants to showcase their natural beauty, indigenous knowledge system, cultural diversity and heritage, local values and traditions. He said the administration would also provide financial incentives and ensure a digital platform to the villages.

The government and the administration say that the credit for the record number of tourist arrivals goes to the collective efforts of all the stakeholders related to tourism. The government is trying to restore the old glory of the valley's famous Dal Lake.

Sinha has recently said that the beauty of the 60,000 square metre area in the western region of the lake will initially be restored. Thousands of shikaras (a type of wooden houseboats) on Dal Lake are ready to take tourists on a dreamy ride. The government is ensuring that the cleaning of the lake takes place on a fast-track basis. The Dal Lake is central to the landscape of Srinagar and many places of touristic interest are situated close to it.

Foreign tourists have also started arriving in the valley. According to the J&K tourism department, the state government is also focusing on bringing unexplored religious places of Jammu on the religious tourist map to lure more visitors.

Srinagar-Sharjah flight

For the first time, India's Ministry of Civil Aviation approved five flights per week between Srinagar and Sharjah, UAE.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurated the Go First Airline's flight between Srinagar and Sharjah last October, connecting Jammu and Kashmir with the UAE.

Many tourists who visited Kashmir last month said that they were charmed by the beauty of the valley and overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people.

Rashmi Saxena, who belongs to the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, was in Kashmir last month along with her husband and two teenage daughters.

“I had heard a lot about the terrorism in the valley but I and my family did not feel insecure upon reaching here. The people of the valley are very honest, helpful and straightforward. My husband and daughters were delighted upon reaching here and they are enjoying it a lot,” she told Salaam Gateway.

Tourists from different parts of the country expressed similar views. A record 375,000 tourists visited Kashmir in May this year despite a spurt in terrorist activities and the target killing of seven civilians by terrorists in May.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
UAE top OIC destination to travel to with your phone

The USA and the Netherlands top index, followed by the UK, the UAE and Denmark. The UAE comes third in Instagram posts, at 68 million.

 

A new ranking compiled from analysis of 11 metrics highlights the best destinations to travel with a smart phone.

British mobile phone retailer Currys measured 17 top travel destinations against 11 metrics such as 4G availability and 5G speeds, cost of data, average mobile internet speed, number of Wi-Fi hotspots, local SIM card availability for tourists, number of Instagram posts, cybersecurity and censorship.

In the ‘Best Holiday Destinations for Your Phone’, the USA was the best place to take your phone on vacation this summer, followed by the Netherlands and Italy. The United Kingdom, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) collectively held the fourth ranking.

Turkey, the only other OIC country in the ranking, took eleventh place, ahead of Thailand, Croatia, Hong Kong, Mexico and Greece.

Italy had the highest number of posts on Instagram across all countries measured at 152 million, followed by the USA at 126 million, the UAE at 68 million posts, Hong Kong at 41.3 million and the Netherlands at 17.4 million posts.

The USA scored a total of 87 out of 110 in the index. It scored highly for 4G availability – the highest amongst all 17 countries – SIM card availability, cybersecurity and number of free public Wi-Fi spots. The Netherlands trails considerably behind with a total score of 75. Its top scores include higher 5G speeds than any other country, great 4G availability and internet penetration rate, and promising online censorship scores, the Index notes. Italy is in third place with a score of 67, due to its low data costs and being the most popular country based on Instagram posts.

Hungary, Mexico and Greece do worst for travelling with your phone from the UK. Hungary gets 44 out of 110 mostly due to low popularity on social media, low number of free Wi-Fi spots and a poor rate of contactless payments. Mexico scores 46 due to low 4G availability, few contactless payments, low cybersecurity measures. Greece also scores 46, with its low number of free Wi-F spots and a poor contactless payments rate.

 

Source: Currys.

 

Turkey is where it is cheapest to use your phone when considering the number of free Wi-Fi spots (278,376), costs of mobile data ($0.72 per 1GB of data) and 82% internet penetration.

The UAE has incredibly high internet penetration rate (99%), comparatively high data costs ($3.78 per 1GB of data), low number of free Wi-Fi spots (68,930), 91.70% 4G coverage, high 5G speed (32 MBPS), and an average mobile internet speed of 134.41 Mbps.

Islamic Lifestyle
My journey and yours: The growth of halal travel

Reem El Shafaki reflects on the growth of Muslim-friendly tourism over the past decade.

Reem is a Partner at DinarStandard (parent company of Salaam Gateway), a growth strategy and execution management firm, empowering organizations for profitable and responsible global impact. Reem leads DinarStandard’s Travel and Tourism sector practice as well as the firm’s market strategy projects. She has worked with clients such as Thomson Reuters, MasterCard, the Marriott, and the Office of the Prime Minister of Dubai.

 

Early beginnings

In 2009, when I joined DinarStandard, I was introduced to the halal tourism concept. Our work focused on raising awareness among industry stakeholders about the Muslim marketplace and the basic needs of Muslim travellers.

In partnership with CrescentRating, we produced a global Muslim travel report and held workshops to educate stakeholders. The conversation centred on the market size; minimum requirements to address and how the industry could focus on Muslims while keeping mainstream travellers engaged and happy.

Although these topics remain ongoing, the conversation has expanded to include how Muslim travellers can address sustainability issues and acknowledging the tayeb (pure and ethical) aspect of Muslim-friendly travel in terms of doing no harm and benefitting the host community.

A few years later I met the Holiday Bosnia founder and discovered their trips embodied these principles. Beyond addressing the basic needs of Muslim travellers and revealing the country’s natural beauty, food and attractions, the company nurtured a meaningful experience.

Addressing the spiritual and philanthropic inclinations of Muslin travellers, Holiday Bosnia helped Muslim travellers develop deep connections to the communities they visited through financial support of projects like rebuilding villages, supporting orphans, sponsoring students, empowering peace-building initiatives and cultivating interfaith exchanges.

Around that time I also met the founder of UK-based Andalucian Routes, a travel company that immerses UK Muslim youth in the Islamic heritage of southern Spain. As part of these leadership retreats, the youth enjoy sightseeing and adventures and gain pride in their Muslim heritage.

 

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Consequently, they return home more confident about their Muslim identity and Islamic roots.

Those early years were a whirlwind of conferences and FAM (familiarisation) trips to Spain, Jordan, Turkey and other destinations. Conference topics ranged from defining halal tourism and debating the terminology to identifying the needs of Muslim travellers; marketing the segment and considering future trends.

In 2013, I was asked to address the topic at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest global travel convention, and had expected my talk to be designated to a small break-out room, leaving the larger settings for the uber-interesting and well-established speakers.

Imagine my surprise when I learnt I would be addressing a 300-strong audience.

While I felt unprepared to host such a large group, I was thrilled by the interest level. Unfortunately, I was not surprised by the lack of awareness exhibited by the conference logistics staff, who, five minutes before I was going on stage, asked me to “just please take off the scarf on my head” so the male sound technician could fix my hands-free microphone.

As you might have surmised, I used a hand-held mic.

Halal consumer sentiment

As part of DinarStandard’s Muslim-friendly travel consulting practice, we researched consumer sentiment and preferences. In a 2016 social media listening project, we found 78% of the interactions on halal travel were positive; 6% negative and the balance neutral. Hajj and Umrah-related keywords represented 61% of the interactions, indicating most Muslims define halal tourism in terms of religious pilgrimage.

I believe this still pertains.

In a recent consumer survey, 84% of respondents researched whether destinations fulfilled their religious needs. In the same study, 39% believed tourism destinations and brands were neglecting their religious needs.

These findings indicate lost opportunities for destinations and travel companies.

Amid a focus group conducted with Generation Z and Millennial Muslim micro-influencers as part of the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2022 Report, one respondent perfectly summed up Muslim travel.

“Muslim-friendly travel is when the traveller can experience and enjoy activities in a country while still meeting their Islamic obligations.”

One suggestion gleaned from the focus group was that travel organisations provide a more accurate image of the country to counteract the negativity often highlighted in the news (like Islamophobic reporting and negative comments about the safety of the various destinations).

 

See - Infographic SGIE 2022: Muslim-friendly travel

Read -  Major boost for Umrah travel as market joins hands with tourism

Saudi Arabia’s Neom to promote religious heritage for global tourists

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Botswana eyes high-spending Middle East tourists as it gears up for peak season

Maldives push for halal tourism may boost halal food imports

Foz do Iguaçu to become first halal certified city in Brazil

 

Mainstream tourism issues go hand-in-hand with Muslim-friendly tourism

When we initially advocated for Muslim travel in 2010, the conversation was basic.

“What are the main requirements of Muslim travellers and how do we fulfil them?”

In some parts of the world and for some brands, this conversation has shifted to more interesting topics such as halal wellness retreats, adventure travel and volunteer tourism for Muslim travellers. Businesses and organisations targeting Muslim travellers now have nuanced messaging that, instead of emphasising the halalness of the trip, highlights the exciting features.

Today, influencers are brand ambassadors helping industry stakeholders enhance their content marketing.

Originally, our expertise was tapped for purely halal tourism-related projects including a pilgrim real estate project and a hajj and umrah portal (because of the deregulation of umrah). Over time, we were called on to provide strategy advisory on sustainable tourism in Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, destination development and tourism corridors.

We also provided this training to a newly established destination management office in Al Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

Recent industry shocks and silver linings

Despite the growth in halal travel, there are still speed bumps. I witnessed the economic shock triggered by COVID-19, but also the sooner-than-expected changes driven by necessity. Trends projected for the next decade became a reality – touchless travel, robots, artificial intelligence (AI) interface and autonomous vehicles – were fast-tracked.

In the past year, I have experienced both a workation and medical tourism; the first in Turkey and the second in Mexico. Both gave me a chance to fully experience each country instead of just passing through them.

Despite the progress made in halal travel, there is still a long way to go for full maturity. Earlier flagged issues still exist: no unified standards or terminology, limited awareness even among OIC countries, underdeveloped branding and fragmentation.

They need addressing while the industry contends with technological innovations like driverless transportation, blockchain, AI and robots as tourism workers.

With the progress behind and possibilities ahead, I dream of a future in which Muslim-friendly travel fully embodies the teachings of Islam regarding responsible and sustainable tourism. I also anticipate the day Muslim-friendly/halal travel is clearly defined and the offerings standardised. I envision a future where numerous strong brands offer top-notch products and services, while deserving start-ups effortlessly raise the required funding to thrive.

Reem El Shafaki is a partner at DinarStandard, heading up the research and advisory team.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
What are Qatar’s tourism opportunities after the FIFA World Cup 2022?

The country invested $300 billion into infrastructure development ahead of the global tournament.

 

Following in the footsteps of 17 countries, Qatar becomes the first Arab state to host a FIFA World Cup when the three-week soccer tournament kicks off on 21 November and catches the region’s winter-based high tourism season.

While Qatar’s hospitality sector’s performance edged down to 62.5% in the first quarter of 2022 (2021: 77.4%), current flight bookings demonstrate an encouraging sentiment and experts say, supported by a robust gross domestic product (GDP) outlook, Qatar’s focus will shift from infrastructure development to tourism.

The aim is to ride the World Cup Soccer wave to its maximum as the country hopes to mimic the post-tournament highs the $14 billion added to the Russian economy in 2018.

“As of 1 July 2022, flight bookings for Qatar during the FIFA World Cup are already 2% ahead of where they were in 2019, pre-pandemic; and bookings for the first nine days are 98% ahead,” Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, at travel data and analytics company ForwardKeys, told Salaam Gateway.

He expects surges in flight bookings and, to a lesser extent cancellations, after the qualifying games’ results are known and fans support their teams in the latter rounds.

The tournament held in Russia in 2018 attracted almost three million foreign visitors. For Qatar, besides fans travelling internationally, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report published in June suggests the end of the diplomatic falling-out between Qatar, other Gulf countries, and Egypt, which lasted from June 2017 to January 2021, will boost intra-regional travel.

Transnational travel itineraries during the World Cup period will also spur tourism demand in the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) countries with visitors’ spending increasing excise tax and VAT revenues in the applicable countries.

Oman and the UAE will likely benefit the most as fans may choose to stay there, given limited accommodation options in the host country. Qatar Airway’s same-day flight shuttle service from Muscat and Dubai, advertised for $258 in economy and $998 in business class, will bring soccer enthusiasts to the games in Doha.

 

 

Beyond the FIFA World Cup

Qatar’s GDP recorded an average 4.5% growth between 2010, the year the country was awarded the right to host the World Cup, and 2020, according to the IMF. In 2022, Qatar’s real GDP growth is forecast at 4.1%, fuelled by higher hydrocarbon prices.

This makes Qatar the second-fastest growing GCC nation after Saudi Arabia with 5.1%, according to data analytics and consulting company GlobalData.

Most of the $300 billion investments in preparation for the World Cup covered general infrastructure projects such as building an integrated railway and metro system, road development, airport expansion and building Lusail city where foreigners can buy properties. Qatar spent between $6.5 billion and $10 billion building the eight stadiums; an amount the IMF reports is in line with the spending of previous hosting countries. These infrastructure projects realise Qatar’s ambitious tourism strategy, including spreading tourism offerings across the country rather than just Doha.

While a Qatar Tourism spokesperson told Salaam Gateway the plans don’t contain a specific Muslim-friendly tourism focus, the strategy anchors upholding Qatar’s Arab and Islamic identity. These include encouraging family values as one of its four guiding principles.

Speaking at an industry event earlier this year, Berthold Trenkel, chief operating officer at Qatar Tourism, said Qatar targets six to seven million visitors by 2030, about three times more than the 2.1 million visitors recorded the year before the pandemic outbreak.

“We’re also talking about nearly doubling the GDP share to 12%,” Trenkel said.

As a way to grow inbound tourism, Trenkel names cruise ship tourism which accounted for 190,000 visitors in 2019, spurred by the inauguration of Doha port’s new Grand Terminal before the start of the World Cup.

According to Qatar Tourism’s website, the 24,000m2 terminal can handle 12,000 passengers daily, offering them the same level of service and facilities as Hamad International Airport. This includes seamless immigration, customs and foreign exchange facilities, along with other tourist services.

 

 

Future tourism markets

While Qatar Tourism expects to grow visitor numbers from GCC countries – for example through a recent partnership with Emerald Cruises that introduces new superyacht luxury cruises and offers eight-day itineraries with stops around the Gulf region – the country’s future tourism market is going to be a mixed bag.

According to Fitch Solutions, Qatar expanded its source markets as the Saudi-led blockade, which ran from mid 2017 to early 2021, encouraged the country to find non-GCC markets and develop new tourism ties with mainland China, Europe and the USA.

For 2022, Indian arrivals are forecast at 303,000, followed by primarily GCC markets in the top 10 including Saudi Arabia (291,000), UAE (65,300), Oman (64,000) and Kuwait (46,000). The UK (111,260), US (77,000) and France (34,900) make up the three long-haul destinations in the top 10 ranking.
Fitch Solutions sees Middle East and North African (MENA) arrivals growing from 711,100 in 2022 to over 1.1 million by 2026, driven by Saudi and UAE visitors. Over the same period, European arrivals will grow from 308,100 in 2022 to 620,600 by 2026, while Asia-Pacific visitors, driven mainly by Indian and Chinese tourists, will grow to 905,800 by 2026, up from just under 534,900 in 2022.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
Music through the tunnel of time

Arab-Islamic music added the philosophers’ instruments.

 

Beirut: Fly without wings to the boundaries of the limitless universe – an improbable dream made possible by the seven musical notations Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La and Ti. Now they are ready to send you flying any time you want and to destinations only limited by your imagination.

Those seven simple sounds work like a time machine – set the time and travel to the past or future and go through worm hole in quantum physics.

Humans have known music since the dawn of existence. What is astonishing is wherever cave sounds are more interesting, we are also likely to find the greatest concentration of prehistoric art. The first person who mapped in detail this great link between sounds and cave paintings was musicologist Iegor Reznikoff.

Hence, the sounds of nature are the first music teacher and there is no wonder in describing the earth as the “macrocosmic musical instrument” and the creatures on its surface as the orchestra.

That means music is not limited to one society or civilisation with British ethnomusicologist and social anthropologist John Blacking, in his book How Musical Is Man? stating “humans are basically musical”.

Given its complexity, it has not been easy to define music or determine its date of birth. However, Wajdi Abou Diab, Lebanese composer and pianist, says “the concept of music has changed through the ages due to the change in the opinions of authors and musicologists”.

This complexity is obvious in the multi-approaches that try to answer these questions. As a term, music first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in the 13th century, but even specialised encyclopaedias disagree about its definition.

Consequently, German musicologist Heinrich Hüschen says “to the present time no complete and definitive definition of music (exists) and thus no absolute solution to the question of what music is”.

Abou Diab adds it is possible to say “the meaning of music has transformed into any singing or playing of a musical instrument that produces sounds with a specific pitch, height and intensity.” It has a specific time period and is often associated with what a person likes to hear and accept.

Muslim historian Al-Masudi in his book Mouruj al Dhahab wa Maadin al-Jawhar (English translation: The Meadows of Gold) wrote “the geographer and musicologist Ibn Khurradadhbih says ‘there are many opinions concerning the origin of music’.”

Muhammad ibn Jarir ibn Yazid, also knoswn as Al-Tabari, says the origin of music dates to Adam and Eve when “Cain is credited with the first song, which was an elegy on the death of Abel.”

Pre-Islamic period

In his book This is your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, Daniel Levitin, a McGill University neuroscientist, said “no known human culture now or anytime in the recorded past lacked music”. “Arabs knew music and developed it and this is obvious in the Arabic language which has many terms related to music and its instruments. Even in Arabic there is a term which cannot be translated to any other language; this term is ‘tarab’.”

Ibn Manzur, Arab lexicographer, in his work Lisan Al-Arab, defines it as “happiness, sadness and passion”, so it relates mixed emotions and indicates a merger between music and emotions.

Oud, Lamak, an instrument developed by Arabs, has a long evolutionary history. According Al-Mufaddal Ibn Salama “the first who made and played the oud was a man of the sons of Qabil the son of Adam, called Lamak”.

 

The oud was allegedly invented by Lamak, a descendant of Adam (Shutterstock).

 

Reverting to nature as being the first music teacher, one of the main sources for Arabic music was huda (huda el ibil, camel walking). Abou Diab says “Arabic music is rooted in lyrical music and (its) basis is the human voice”.

“It had a strong connection with Arabic poetry and the life of Arabs in the desert. It is said the first to sing was a camel shepherd who yelled to motivate the camels to walk quickly; to call them at the time of eating and drinking.”

The most famous types of this style was nasb; later divided into two types of ghina (singing) known as “heavy” and “light” and performed by qayan. Two famous qayan were Jaradatan with legends saying, after a lengthy drought, the ancient people of Ad sent a Jaradatan group to Mecca to pray for rain.

The group was so charmed by their singing that they forgot their religious duties, causing destruction on their people. Various references quote the poet Shair as a musician who played an instrument or had beautiful voice or both. He was mostly accompanied with an instrument player or vocalist like Alqama Ibn Abda (one of the Muallaqat poets) to sing his poem.

Early days of Islam

Music in Arab-Islamic civilisation covers at least 15 centuries and includes diverse regions given the religion’s geographical spread. Consequently, the music was affected by the previous and the new civilisations.

It brought to the fore significant names like Tuwais, the first professional male singer and accompanied with duff, while the female singer Azza Al-Maila was accompanied by mizafa or mizhar or oud.

These developments flourished due to the cultural conditions Islam had created and its music-supporting people like Aisha, wife of the Prophet Mohammad, Al-Hasan, grandson of Khalifa Ali and Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas.

Umayyad period

More singers, male and female, emerged and became professional. New ideas were introduced as Islam spread beyond the Arab peninsula and mixed with different civilisations, effectively pushing advances in music.

These advancements also appeared in different writings. Surayi wrote about vocal control and other things related to music, saying “the best musician is he who enriches the melodies and who quickness souls; who gives proportion to awzan and emphasises the pronunciation, who knows what is correct and establishes the irab”.

The Umayyad Khalifas also encouraged these developments. Muawiya I supported Said Khathir, a famous musician at that time; Yazid I was a poet and music lover and the first to introduce musical instruments and singers into his majlis (salon or court).

 

The colonnades of the 8th century BCE Umayyad palace at Anjar, Lebanon. The Umayyad Khalifas were supportive of musicians (Paul Cochrane ©).

 

Abbassid period and after

During these periods, music and sciences reached their peaks given the Khalifas support for translations and sciences. There also appeared the philosopher-musician who wrote about every musical field and the arena with professionalism

Abou Diab says the Arab-Islamic civilisation added more knowledge to the world of music, especially the Abbasid era.

“The generosity of the Abbasid Khalifas over the musicians is one of the most important reasons for the flourishing of Arabic music.”

Theoretically, most books dealing with musical theories or teaching, used the ud to show the dimensions, basic degrees and nuances to explain the maqams and methods of playing. Abou Diab added that, for example, Al-Munajjim discussed the eight modes in terms of the diatonic fretting to which their names related on the ud’s upper strings.

Philosopher-musician Al-Kindi wrote about ordered chordophones according to the number of their strings and was the first philosopher-musician to explain iqaat, naming the ud as the “instrument of the philosophers”. Ibn Sina, known in the west as Avicenna, introduced rast as a new musical terminology.

Music therapy

The Abbassid period knew and developed music therapy. In his book Tibb Al-Mufus, Ibn Aqnin says, “In the case of melancholy... the (patient) can cure it by listening to the performance of instrumentalists and to sing of poems”.

Al-Kindi says the musician should “develop diagnostic skills parallel to those of the physician” to prescribe suitable treatment.

Present time

Establishing the musical history of the Arab-Islamic civilization is not easy, but necessary to understand the modern era. As Arab-Islamic music grew regionally, two major branches emerged – the eastern branch (Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon) and the western branch (Morocco and Tunisia).

According to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, both may derive ultimately from the court music from the Umayyad and early Abbassi periods. One of the most famous conferences tackling early Arab-Islamic music was held in Cairo in 1932 and renewed attention to many theoretical issues.

The result was a six-volume publication on music theory by Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger called La Musique Arabe.

Abou Diab credits the maqam system for providing Arabic music with its characters. The maqam contains a wider range of dimensions including the ton, half and three-quarters and various modifications according to the maqam.

By its nature, Arabic music is monophonic, placing importance on the horizontal melodic path. The musician adds the difference in instruments and playing methods, improvisation and language.

Again, the Gulf states refreshed the historical music and spread it globally. It evolved in Saudi Arabia, and now the country is encouraging musical development and pushing it to the highest level.

Support comes from the government with new music schools being opened and concerts and the Madrasati platform, the online education platform, boosting interest. The aim is to provide students with a clear idea of ​​music; the skills of writing musical notes and learning international artists’ techniques.

It will also enable students to understand and differentiate popular musical styles in the Kingdom and identify musical instruments. This will introduce students to various traditional musical styles from the Kingdom’s different regions.

The seven notes have returned to Saudi Arabia and their new modern shape is ready to again fly you to the boundaries of the limitless universe.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
Muslim women in India face huge job market discrimination

Study finds members of the community significantly underrepresented in workforce.

 

Mumbai: India has seen a marked decline in women’s participation in the labour force over the past two decades. However, Muslim women, who are significantly underrepresented in the working environment, are at a further disadvantage as they are singled out on the basis of religion. This is despite job market discrimination being unlawful and often against the belief systems companies espouse.

A study conducted over 10 months by the Indian-based Led By Foundation, in association with the Maulana Azad National Urdu University’s Centre for Development of Policy & Practice and the Centre for Development of Policy and Practice, has found huge bias against Muslim women across industries in entry-level jobs, even when they are similarly capable for the work.

The report Hiring Bias: Employment for Muslim women at entry-level roles pointed out the low work participation of Muslim women was an important reason why Muslims lag in employment figures relative to their population, with the proportion of Muslim women working within the home being 70% compared to the 51% national average for other communities.

Established in 2019 by Ruha Shadab, the Led By Foundation is a professional leadership incubator for Muslim women and aims to raise the representation of the country’s most disadvantaged women in the workforce. The report was authored by Shadab alongside Vanshika Sharan and Deepanjali Lahiri.

 

Read the Q&A with Led By Foundation's Ruha Shadab -
Helping Indian Muslim women fulfil their dreams

 

For the study, two equally qualified profiles were created matching the market standards for entry-level roles. The only variable was the names; Habiba Ali for the Muslim profile and Priyanka Sharma for the Hindu.

Over the research period 2,000 job applications were sent through 1,000 job postings on leading job search sites and the replies assembled to determine a net discrimination rate.

Recruiters were more cordial to Hindu candidate

The study found the Muslim candidate received only 103 positive responses, while the Hindu woman’s profile received 208, nearly double the number the similarly qualified Muslim woman received. The net discrimination rate stood at 47.1% across industries, based on the responses received.

Recruiters were also more cordial to the Hindu candidate as 41.3% of them connected with Priyanka over phone calls, while only 12.6% spoke with Habiba over a call, according to the report.

“The study pointed out that Muslim women, and women in general, are poorly represented in the labour force. Such a disparity demonstrates there is a direct bias against Indian Muslim women in the hiring process,” Shadab told Salaam Gateway.

She said Muslim women, by virtue of a lack of representation and historical marginalisation, were rarely seen as providers and competent workers. In their case, a general notion of women being incapable of working outside the home propounds with the negative stereotypes attached to being Muslim in India, said the report.

The study concludes a significant hiring bias exists against Muslim women even in instances where they are equally qualified and, according to Census 2011, Muslim women have the lowest work participation rate. Only 21.6% of Muslim women occupy regular jobs in urban areas compared to 40.4% and 60.7% for Hindu and Christian women respectively.

 

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Read - Modest clothing witnessing a revolution in India

 

No level playing field for Muslims

In its report, a high-level committee also indicated the Muslim community as a whole lagged the mainstream in social, economic and educational sectors and the presence of the community in government jobs was minimal.

The seven-member committee was appointed in March 2005 by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar. The report, submitted by the committee in 2006, highlighted the issue of Muslim Indian inequality, sparking an ongoing debate.

According to the report, the overall participation of Muslims in union government departments and agencies was “abysmally low at all levels”. There is not one state in which Muslim representation in government departments matched their population share.

The report noted Muslim employment in universities, banks and public sector undertakings was also low.

The Led By report says equal access to opportunities for Muslim women was vital to their social and financial equality in society and tackling biases in the hiring process was a key mechanism by which to level the playing field.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
New Hajj booking system shatters dreams for thousands of UK Muslims

Saudi Arabia wipes out $182 million niche UK market; outrage on social media.

 

Saudi Arabia’s increasingly centralised form of governance, now dictating Hajj pilgrims register and book their packages via Motawif, has wiped out a niche UK economic sector worth ₤150 million ($182 million) and sent outraged pilgrims to social media to vent their displeasure at the new system’s flaws.

Motawif is the exclusive online platform authorised by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to offer Hajj services to Europe, North America and Australia. On 6 June the ministry informed pilgrims to register and book Hajj 2022 packages digitally following an April announcement that globally 1 million Muslims could perform Hajj this year.

The platform promises tailor-made packages that “perfectly fit individual preferences, needs and budgets”, in addition to visa application, support services and a 24/7 call centre in multiple languages.

However, in distressed pleas from British, Australian, American and Canadian Muslims across social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, countless pilgrims state the organisation has not delivered on its promises.

 

 

Approved applicants, selected through a draw, grumble about failed package bookings despite their accounts already debited for the amounts owed. According to aggrieved parties, Motawif eventually offered alternatives – by phone calls – at up to 35% higher prices than the original package price without relevant details available like the hotel’s location.

 

 

“The only telephone number that seems to work is the French number, but I got cut off after waiting for 40 minutes,” Tahir Ahmed, a British diplomat who wished to clarify inaccuracies in the packages offered, wrote on Twitter.

While the packages offered included flights, accommodation, transportation and visa, the British Civil Aviation Authority warned pilgrims these were not part of Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing (ATOL), a UK financial protection scheme for air package holidays sold by travel businesses.

The Licensed Hajj Organisers UK (LHO), a non-profit trade association founded in 2016, is tagged in many of these social media posts, but their hands are tied.

“We have to respect Saudi Arabia is a sovereign country and has its own rules and regulations to support its vision of empowering its citizens,” LHO told Salaam Gateway via Twitter.

On 13 June, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj & Umrah held an emergency meeting at the UK Parliament to discuss Hajj 2022 arrangements with industry stakeholders and pilgrims. All attending members of the public had booked to go on Hajj with a UK Hajj tour operator since 2020.

“Hearing their impact statements was heart breaking,” said a Parliamentary Group’s tweet.

LHO members spoke about the negative impact on British businesses who had been servicing British pilgrims for over 40 years and raised concerns that some companies may go bankrupt, as they were counting on Hajj 2022 as a lifeline following two years of lost business due to COVID-19.

Money stuck in Saudi Arabia, as the ministry holds company bonds, also affects liquidity. This potentially leaves pilgrims, who had booked years ahead and were now forced to cancel with the British travel agent, without a refund.

Other highlighted issues include pilgrims’ welfare, access to Hajj guides and imams and pre-departure preparation and support.

 

 

According to the 2019 University of Leeds report Mapping the UK’s Hajj Sector, the number of British Muslim pilgrims had risen from 573 in 1969 to between 25,000 and 27,000 before the pandemic halted religious tourism.

Speaking on a BBC radio show, the report’s author, Seán McLoughlin, the university’s professor of Anthropology of Islam, said this year 12,000 British Muslims were supposed to travel.

However, the number had been slashed to 3,500 as the quota was wrongly allocated.

“This new system has really unsettled people because it’s been introduced so late in the day. Many pilgrims are feeling as though they’ve been like guinea pigs in a system that hasn’t been piloted properly,” he said.

The Motawif platform divulges Dubai-headquartered Traveeazy as technology partner. The Traveazy Group, to which UmrahMe and HolidayMe also belong, claims to have sales of more than $200 million and boasts to have assisted more than 4 million travellers, using relationships with more than 10,000 business-to-business agents. McLoughlin said people were demanding a return to the previous system that allowed them to buy packages from local, licensed Hajj organisers (munazzams).

Since Saudi Arabia published its Vision 2030 in 2016, calling for Hajj numbers to more than double to 6 million, the number of UK munazzams grew 20% to 117 providers, the largest number in the West, according to the report.

McLoughlin pointed out the modern development of the Hajj must be understood in terms of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing challenge of diversifying its non-oil based economy.

“It’s fair to say they also want to centralise the margins agents across the world have been making. This is part of a bigger bid to develop religious tourism as an alternative income source,” McLoughlin said.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved


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