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Monday, 30 November 2009 07:59
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1. The total number of Haj pilgrims this year topped 2.521 million

2. Swiss ban mosque minarets ]

Dubai debacle likely to hit workers and remittances

[The news of Dubai World's inability to repay the $59 billion debt has triggered similar fears among the relatives of immigrants back home.

According to Norka, 10 lakh Malayalees live and work in Dubai, along with 4 lakh people from Andhra Pradesh and 4.5 lakh Tamils. ]

Despite the brave front put up by Indian government, the debt crisis that has enveloped Dubai World threatens to hit the struggling Indian overseas

labour market that is largely dependent on short-term Middle East job contracts. The latest crisis comes at a time when official estimates have admitted that unemployment rates have spiralled to 30% in the Middle East in the last one year.

Industry sources say unemployment figures could be higher than the official estimates and that remittances to India - $43.5 billion in 2007-2008 - are certain to be much lower this year in the wake of the continuing recession in the region. The Dubai World's debt just adds to the bad news.

UAE is the favourite destination for a maximum number of overseas Indian workers - 3.4 lakh people went to the country in 2008 - but the number has been fast declining as Indian workers are unable to get new contracts or extensions in the country that's in the grip of recession. 
Over 5 lakh Indians have returned from Dubai since September 2008, of which two lakh are Malayalees. Almost 60% of these people are technical or non-technical skills professionals. ``Over 50 lakh Indians work in the Middle East of which 20 lakh are from Kerala. We do not expect large number of returnees now,'' K V Mohankumar, CEO of Kerala NRI group, Non Resident Keralites' Affairs (Norka).

According to Norka, 10 lakh Malayalees live and work in Dubai, along with 4 lakh people from Andhra Pradesh and 4.5 lakh Tamils.

During the last 10 months a number of Indian professionals have moved from Dubai to the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi not just in search of high-paying jobs but also job stability.

''We knew things were shaky in Dubai. Its diminishing spending power brought projects to a standstill. The only option was to move to Abu Dhabi and luckily we found employment here,'' said Biju Haridas, a management professional in Abu Dhabi.

''The emirate of Abu Dhabi will bail out Dubai with conditions, but those conditions will never be made public,'' said an Indian diplomat in UAE.

 

Swiss ban mosque minarets

[ Swiss ban in minarets, sponsored by the country's largest political party, was one of the most extreme reactions ]

Geneva: Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on minarets on Sunday, barring construction of the iconic mosque towers in a surprise vote that put Switzerland at the forefront of a European backlash against a growing Muslim population.

The extremist Swiss Peoples Party (SVP) instigated the vote, though polls suggest that their motion is likely to fail by a narrow margin.

Some 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, making them the nation's second largest religious group. There are currently four minarets in the country, but the SVP wants to ensure that a fifth is never built, arguing that the turrets or towers attached to mosques represent a "political and religious claim to power."

Muslim groups in Switzerland and abroad condemned the vote as biased and anti-Islamic. Business groups said the decision hurt Switzerland's international standing and could damage relations with Muslim nations and wealthy investors who bank, travel and shop there.

The referendum by the nationalist Swiss People's Party labelled minarets as symbols of rising Muslim political power that could one day transform Switzerland into an Islamic nation. The initiative was approved 57.5 to 42.5 percent by some 2.67 million voters. Only four of the 26 cantons or states opposed the initiative, granting the double approval that makes it part of the Swiss constitution.

Muslims comprise about 6 percent of Switzerland's 7.5 million people. Many are refugees from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and about one in 10 actively practices their religion, the government says.

Anxieties about growing Muslim minorities have rippled across Europe in recent years, leading to legal changes in some countries. There have been French moves to ban the full-length body covering known as the burqa. Some German states have introduced bans on head scarves for Muslim women teaching in public schools. Mosques and minaret construction projects in Sweden, France, Italy, Austria, Greece, Germany and Slovenia have been met by protests.

But the Swiss ban in minarets, sponsored by the country's largest political party, was one of the most extreme reactions.

"The most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community," said Farhad Afshar, who heads the Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland.

The Christian community also expressed dismay, saying it was "inadmissible that the religious minority now have to subject to unequal treatment."

For Amnesty International, the minaret ban is a "violation of religious freedom, incompatible with the conventions signed by Switzerland." and would probably be overturned by the Swiss supreme court or the European Court of Human Rights.

 

The total number of Haj pilgrims this year topped 2.521 million

MAKKAH/MADINA – Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah and Chairman of the Central Haj Committee, announced Sunday the success of this year’s Haj, thanking all government departments that have taken part in the Haj safety and security operations.

It would have been even a much easier Haj for pilgrims had
753,000 illegal pilgrims with no permits stayed home, Prince Khaled told reporters Sunday at a press conference in Mina.

The total number of pilgrims this year topped 2.521 million, including 1.613 million pilgrims from abroad and 154,000 from the Kingdom all legal, Prince Khaled said.

The media coverage of this year’s Haj was good, he said, calling for more professional reporting to show the true image of the Haj and feelings of pilgrims. Over 350,000 pilgrims are expected to leave from King Muhammad Bin Abdul Aziz Airport in Madina, said Yousef Huwalah, head of a national transport company.

Flash floods did not damage roads linking Makkah and Madina. The Ministry of Transport said traffic would be directed to alternative roads if the historic Hijra road is affected by new floods, said Zuhair Kateb, head of the Transport and Road Department in Madina. Pilgrims traveling to Madina can take different routes: Yanbu Road, Rabegh Road, or the Jeddah-Madina Highway, he said.

At least 90,000 pilgrims aboard 2,000 pilgrim buses will arrive in Madina by Tuesday by way of the historic Hijra Road, said Huwalah, Pilgrims in Madina will be housed in ten different areas close to the Prophet’s Mosque.