Female Saudi presenter ‘flees country’ after investigation launched into ‘indecent’ on-air outfit

Shireen al-Rifaie denies any wrongdoing after the wind blew open her abaya during a news report

Shireen al-Rifaie is being investigated for violating regulations and instructions related to clothing.
Shireen al-Rifaie is being investigated for violating regulations and instructions related to clothing. ( )

A female television presenter under investigation for wearing “indecent” clothes during a report on the lifting of Saudi Arabia’s driving ban for women has fled the country, according to local media.

Shireen al-Rifaie, a Saudi national working for Dubai-based Al Aan TV, filmed a piece to camera last week explaining what the end of the rule would mean for women’s freedom in the conservative country.

During the segment, the wind blew open her abaya, the long robe which women in Saudi Arabia must wear by law. A video of Ms Rifaie posted was shared thousands of times with the hashtag “naked women driving in Saudi Arabia”.

The furore that followed eventually led the country’s General Commission for Audiovisual Media to announce on Tuesday that Ms Rifaie is being investigated for violating regulations and instructions related to clothing.

The presenter has denied any wrongdoing in an interview with Saudi news website Ajel.

According to Ajel, on Thursday Ms Rifaie posted a photo of her passport to SnapChat with the caption “I will entrust you to God” and has not been heard from since, leading many to speculate she has left the country. Ajel said they believed she had gone to the UAE.

Women in Saudi Arabia cannot travel without the permission of their male guardian.

The Saudi guardianship system heavily restricts women’s abilities to make basic decisions such as travel, healthcare and education, which are instead made on her behalf by a father, husband or son.

Rights groups say the rules effectively make Saudi women “second class citizens”.

Saudi woman Aseel Al Hamad drives F1 car as ban is lifted

Until Sunday, the kingdom was also the only place in the world which did not allow women to drive.

Since the new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed as heir to the throne by his father King Salman last year, social and economic reforms have been ushered into the country, many of which are aimed at getting Saudi women into the workforce.

In an interview earlier this year Prince Mohammed said that he did not think women in the country should have to wear an abaya or headscarf, as long as they wore “decent, respectful attire”. It is unclear whether the remarks will be officially endorsed by either the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment or a royal decree from the king.




Syrian refugee girl with legs made out of tin cans told she will walk again after surgery for prosthetic limbs

Specialist doctor dismisses offers of donations towards life-changing surgery for child whose plight touched people worldwide


Family Separation Policy: Taking an Egg from a Small Bird

Family Separation Policy: Taking an Egg from a Small Bird

Imagine being a young Latino child traveling with your mother who is seeking asylum in a foreign land. Your journey has been long and gruesome. You don’t sleep well and are constantly being startled awake by the blare or a car horn, a woman wailing, or a baby crying out of hunger. Your mother hardly eats or drinks anything at all, but she never fails to give you, your baby sister and older brother the small rations of food that are available.

You’re constantly afraid too. You’ve seen people traveling with your group die from hunger & dehydration or even worse – acts of violence. But you try to block it out. You try to block out seeing gang members rob, stab and shoot the people traveling in your group for mere pesos (Mexican coins).

You try to forget the face of the man who almost succeeded in sexually assaulting and raping your mother on this trip from hell. The trip that your mother promised would reap the benefits of freedom, monetary prosperity and reunification with an aunt you have never met, who lives on the other side of the wall. She is now an Americana, a citizen of the greatest country on earth and according to mamá, she can help your family achieve the American dream. Of course, you have your doubts.

Freedom is so close, yet so far away. You don’t understand why you aren’t all running towards the wall, this is what you were traveling for after all, isn’t it? You tug on your mother’s blouse and ask if the journey is over yet. Mamá hushes you quiet; ‘¡Callate!’ she snaps. She is busy securing a plan with the other adults on how the group will all cross over the wall without getting caught.

At night, you are frantically shaken awake by your mother who seems anxious. Maybe even a little afraid? And mamá is never afraid. This is when you know it’s serious. She gives you and your older brother strict instructions to remain as quiet as possible until you’re told otherwise.

You are not to speak or ask questions. She makes it clear that crying isn’t an option either. Mamásays it will bring too much attention to the group and will only bring about getting caught by theAmericanos and being sent back to the economically poor, war-torn, and dangerous country you left behind.

When asked if you understood her instructions, you and your brother nod your heads in the affirmative, but you don’t understand the severity of her words – not yet.

The next thing you know, the Americanos in uniforms that blend into the desert terrain, wearing shiny badges, big boots and night-goggles point their big guns at your family, yelling at you in English. Although you don’t speak the language, the message is clear – get down on the ground.

German-Shepard dogs surround you, barking fiercely, snarling, baring their pointy teeth and salivating in rage. As if they were eagerly waiting for the command from their master to go ahead and attack.

The Americanos are multiplying and more and more begin swooping in and waving their flashlights in your faces in order to confuse, scare and intimidate the group – it works.

You and your family are all placed in handcuffs. All of you. Even the children. The next thing you know, you’re thrown in the back of a truck and the door slams shut. You begin to cry even thoughMamá told you not to. Her eyes swell with tears and she looks at you so tenderly in an attempt to comfort you because her hands are restrained in shiny metal handcuffs and she cannot wrap her arms around you.

The sight of your mother begins to be blurred and her image begins to shake as your eyes swell with tears. You blink them away, only to have your vision blurred once again by the tears yourMamá told you not to cry.  



Family Separation Policy: Taking an Egg from a Small Bird

Islam in the Hub of FIFA 2018 World Cup


Islam in the Hub of FIFA 2018 World Cup
Russia began to know Islam by the mid of the 10th century when Muslim Bulgars and Tatars introduced Islam to Slavic princes.

MOSCOW – It was in 2010 when Russia got the nod from  the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)  to host the current 21st World Cup, the globe’s most prestigious football tournament

The competition is slated to run between June 14 and July 15, and it  features seven Muslim nations out of the 32 contestants; they are: Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, there are   Muslim players in the squads of other non-Muslim countries also in action in the ongoing tournament, like France, Russia, Australia, Serbia, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.

These players originally hail from Muslim countries, namely, Mali, Guinea, Algeria, Mauritania, Tatarstan, Turkey, Bosnia, Tanzania, and Albania This means there is an immense gathering of Muslim athletes in this major football festivity.

So, let’s shed some light on the relation between Islam and Russia.

See-saw Relation

Russia began to know Islam by the mid of the 10th century when Muslim Bulgars and Tatars from the Muslim states of Volga Bulgaria in far easternmost Europe and the Umayyad Caliphate introduced Islam to Slavic princes.

The Slavic rulers rejected the notion of giving up their pagan traditions which contradict with Islam like drinking wine which the Slavic literature describe as the “very joy of their lives”. Remarkably in 988 AD, Slavs including Russians began to adopt Christianity.

The 15th century marked the beginning of countless military invasions between Russia and the neighboring Muslim emirates and khanates which ended up by occupying the Muslim populations of a sum of 17 Muslim countries.

Fortunately, the 20th century brought at its end the independence of six of these 17 Muslim countries which are: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The remaining eleven Muslim countries which are still searching for the same fate are: Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Sibir, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Crimea, and Circassia (Adygea, Karachay Cherkessia and Kabardino Balkaria).

The Russian law officially recognizes Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and paganism. In fact, the Russian Orthodox Church acts as the de facto if not de jure privileged religion of the state; claiming the right to decide which other religions are eligible for registration.


Societal Weights

Moscow Cathedral Mosque

Moscow Cathedral Mosque

Surveys conducted between 2010 and 2016 estimate Christians between 47.1% and 79.4%. This makes Christianity the largest religion in Russia.

The surveys also found that 36 million people, making 25%, declared to “believe in God but without professing any religion”.

Furthermore, about 18,600,000 people, representing between 7% to 13%, were atheists, while 7,900,000 or 5.5% didn’t state any religion. These findings make atheism the second largest group after Christianity in Russia.

The surveys reported the existence of minority religious group like 4% Muslims (excluding the populations of the above-mentioned  eleven Muslim countries).

Moreover, there are 1.2% Pagans numbering 1,700,000 individuals, in addition to 700,000 Buddhists constituting 0.5%, 140,000 (0.1%) Hindus, and 140,000 Jews.

According to the 2010 Russian census, Moscow officially has less than 300,000 Muslims. Some estimates suggest that they number around one million Muslim residents and up to 1.5 million Muslim migrant workers.

Marks of Community

Moscow, the capital city, has four mosques, the largest of which is Moscow Cathedral Mosque with a capacity of ten thousand worshippers.

It was first built in 1904 and then rebuilt after demolition in 2015. It’s sometimes called “Tatar Mosque” because its congregation consisted mainly of Tatars who constitute the majority of Muslims in Moscow.

The Old Mosque of Moscow was built in 1823 to replace an earlier private mosque that had been destroyed by the 1812 fire. It lies at Bolshaya Tatarskaya Street in Zamoskvorechye, a neighborhood formerly settled by Tatars.

The land’s owner was a Tatar merchant, Nasarbai Hashalov. The Tsarist authorities permitted the construction of a “Muslim house of prayer” on condition that it wouldn’t be called a mosque and that its facade wouldn’t differ significantly from neighboring houses.

However, the dedicated efforts of Tatars concluded fruitfully by adding the cupola and minaret in 1880. Afterwards in 1915, the Muslims added a madrasa to the mosque’s building.

Even though, the Soviets shut down the mosque in 1939 and they demolished its minaret, and purged its last imam. Worship in the mosque didn’t resume until 1993 and the minaret was rebuilt.

In 1991, the Muslim community built the Islamic Cultural Center of Russia in Moscow where it contains a madrassa (religious school).

Significance  of Second Capital

Saint Petersburg Mosque

Saint Petersburg Mosque

Another notable Russian mosque is Saint Petersburg Mosque. It was the largest mosque in Europe outside Istanbul, Turkey at the time of its inauguration in 1913.

Nevertheless, the Russian closed the mosque several times. In 1956, at the request of Sukarno, the first Indonesian President, the mosque was returned to the Muslim community.

Its minarets are 49 meters tall while the dome is 39 meters high. It can accommodate up to five thousand worshippers. By that time, the Muslim community of the Russian then-capital exceeded 8,000 people.

Currently, Saint Petersburg has a total population of five million people, 2.2% of whom are Muslims according to the 2012 survey. The majority of the city’s Muslim community are immigrants from Tatarstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.


Islam in the Hub of FIFA 2018 World Cup

New York Schools Start Offering Halal Meals

New York City schools to provide kosher food as part of new pilot program

Congresswoman Grace Meng has long called for kosher and halal meals to be made available to students who attend the largest public-school system in the world.
P.S. 132, the Juan Pablo Duarte School, located at 185 Wadsworth Avenue between West 182nd and 183rd Streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

P.S. 132, the Juan Pablo Duarte School, located at 185 Wadsworth Avenue between West 182nd and 183rd Streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

A $1 million pilot program has been included in New York City’s new budget to provide kosher and halal lunches in public schools for the upcoming academic year.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens, N.Y.) hailed the decision, saying, “I have long called for halal and kosher meals to be made available in New York City schools, and I’ve made similar calls on the federal level as well. … I’m pleased that Jewish and Muslim students will finally have lunch options that adhere to their dietary restrictions.”

The New York City public-school system is the largest in the world. More than 1.1 million students are taught in more than 1,700 public schools with a budget of nearly $25 billion. The public-school system is managed by the New York City Department of Education.

A significant number of Jewish children in New York’s five boroughs, however, attend day schools or yeshivahs. According to data by the New York State Department of Education, in 2016, the number of students attending kindergarten through 12th grade in Jewish day schools andyeshivahs exceeded 100,000 enrollees for the first time.

Still, the new program will benefit families whose children attend public schools and observe kashrut.

Earlier this month, Meng sent a letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, asking him to provide these dietary-specific meals to students as part of the city’s school-lunch program.

Thanks to his efforts, she said, students will finally have access to these meals.

“This pilot program is the right step forward in creating a more inclusive approach to school lunches in our city,” said Meng. “Students should feel welcomed at their schools, and including different dietary options is a critical element to ensuring that no one goes hungry.”



Libya: Over 650 migrants rescued off Libya coast in 2 days

Libya: Over 650 migrants rescued off Libya coast in 2 days

TRIPOLI, Libya, (AA): A total of 657 undocumented migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coasts in two days, the Libyan navy affiliated to the National Reconciliation government agency said on Sunday.

The navy in a statement said that on Monday they had rescued 167 migrants including four children and 24 women.

On Sunday, 490 were rescued after their boat was submerged because of a heavy storm, the statement added.

However, another report from Libya said they had rescued 948 migrants in three separate operations on Sunday according to Navy spokesman Ayoub Kacem.

In all a total of 2,000 migrants were either intercepted or assisted by the Libyan navy in the Mediterranean since Wednesday.

Meanwhile,  a Danish container ship was still stranded off the coast of Pozzallo, Italy, on June 25, after it picked up 113 migrants from a boat June 22.

In addition, Spanish authorities on June 23 said that they had rescued 569 migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Spain by boat.

Last month, the UN migration agency said that so far 655 migrants and refugees, who were trying to reach Europe, had died in the Mediterranean this year.


Libya: Over 650 migrants rescued off Libya coast in 2 days

Muslim fasting month of Ramadan to start Thursday

Members of the Malaysian Islamic authority perform “Rukyah Hilal Ramadan,” the sighting of the new moon to determine the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Muslims around the world will start observing Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar this week

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Millions of Muslims around the world will begin the fasting month of Ramadan on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations, like Indonesia, declared Ramadan would not begin Wednesday based on a moon-sighting methodology. That means the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting will most likely begin Thursday.

The Ramadan fast, in which food and even water is prohibited, falls on especially long summer days this year for Muslims in the Northern Hemisphere. For Muslims who live in regions where Islam is not the dominant religion, challenging fasts are believed to come with greater blessings.

Fasting is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and remind them of those less fortunate. It is also a chance to kick addictions like caffeine and cigarettes.

During the day, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, sex, gossip and cursing, and are encouraged to focus on meditative acts like prayer, reading the Quran and charity. There are exceptions to fasting for children, the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and people travelling.

Muslims follow a lunar calendar, and a moon-sighting methodology can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart. Religious authorities in Egypt and Syria both declared the fast would begin Thursday.

The first White House iftar, the breaking of the fast, was held in December 1805 under Thomas Jefferson.

Traditionally, countries announce if their moon-sighting council spots the Ramadan crescent the evening before fasting begins. The kingdom’s announcement was made on Saudi state TV and by other state-run media.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five obligatory pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, annual charity and performing the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. Many donate their annual charity, known as “zakat,” during Ramadan.

In many Middle Eastern countries, the wealthy help distribute free meals for the poor, with mosques and volunteers passing out juice and food to pedestrians and anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, in need of the aid or simply breaking their fast.

Muslims typically break their fast as the Prophet Muhammad did some 1,400 years ago, by eating sweet dates and drinking water, followed by a sunset prayer.

Ramadan is also a time of feasting with family and friends. In the Middle East, worshippers pack mosques for nightly prayers before heading home to watch Ramadan television specials.

It’s common practice across many Muslim-majority nations for liquor stores and hotels to curb the sale of alcohol during Ramadan. Often, restaurants shutter their doors during the day.

In the United Arab Emirates, where foreigners outnumber locals, restaurants put up curtains out of respect to those who are fasting, and expats are encouraged not to eat in public view of those fasting.

Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Samy Magdy in Cairo and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed.



Gaza violence: Israel defends actions as 55 Palestinians killed

In the deadliest day of violence in Gaza since the 2014 war, Palestinian officials say Israeli troops have killed 55 people and wounded 2,700.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said his military was acting in self-defence against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, who he said wanted to destroy Israel.

The Palestinian Authority’s leader condemned a “massacre”. The UN spoke of “outrageous human rights violations”.

The violence came as the US opened a controversial embassy in Jerusalem.

The move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv has incensed Palestinians, who claim eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

They see the US move as backing Israeli control over the whole of the city, which Israel regards as its indivisible capital.

What happened at the Gaza border?

Palestinians were demonstrating on Monday as they have been for six weeks as part of a protest, orchestrated by Hamas, called the “Great March of Return”.

However, Monday’s protests – and more planned for Tuesday – are the culmination, as they mark the anniversary of Israel’s creation in 1948 and what Palestinians term theNakba or Catastrophe, referring to the hundreds of thousands of their people who subsequently fled their homes or were displaced in the war that followed.

Palestinian protester in GazaImage copyrightEPA
Image captionAbout 2,700 people were injured, Palestinian officials said

Monday also coincided with the dedication ceremony for the US embassy.

Israel said some 40,000 Palestinians had taken part in “violent riots” at 13 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence.

Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices, while the Israeli military used tear gas and live fire from snipers.

Mr Netanyahu defended his military, saying: “Every country has an obligation to defend its borders.

“The Hamas terrorist organisation declares its intention to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal. We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and our citizens.”


An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said soldiers fired on those engaged in “terrorist activity and not on demonstrators, who were dispersed by usual means such as tear gas and according to the rules of engagement”.

Announcing three days of mourning, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said: “Today once again, the massacres against our people continue.”

What has the international reaction been?

There has been a sometimes fiercely conflicting response:

  • White House spokesman Raj Shah said: “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas… Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response”
  • Kuwait drafted a UN Security Council statement calling for an independent inquiry into the violence – and expressing “outrage and sorrow” – but this was blocked by the US
  • EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the UK called for restraint
  • Germany said Israel had the right to defend itself but should do so proportionately
  • France’s President Emmanuel Macron condemned violence by the Israeli military against the protesters
  • Turkey said the US shared responsibility with Israel for a “vile massacre” and that it was recalling its ambassadors from both the US and Israel
  • One of the strongest statements came from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who condemned the “shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire”
  • South Africa also recalled its ambassador to Israel, condemning “the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack”

Was the violence linked to the opening of the embassy?

There were clashes between Israeli police and protesters who raised Palestinian flags outside the new embassy in Jerusalem and several protesters were detained.

Hamas had said the border protests were being stepped up for Monday and Tuesday anyway, but Mr Abbas’s response to the US embassy move showed the anger among Palestinians.

Media captionDonald Trump addresses the ceremony via videolink

He said: “We hear that they opened an embassy today. It is a settlement, not an embassy. A US settlement in East Jerusalem.”

The atmosphere at the dedication ceremony was certainly in stark contrast to that at the Gaza border.

President Donald Trump sent a video message to the event, saying Israel had the “right to determine its own capital”.

US Jerusalem embassy map

His daughter, Ivanka, unveiled the seal of the embassy, and her husband, Jared Kushner, said in his address: “When President Trump makes a promise he keeps it.”

Mr Netanyahu said: “President Trump, by recognising history, you have made history.”

Why is the embassy move so controversial?

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is not recognised internationally and, according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war. It effectively annexed the sector, though this was not recognised by any countries until Mr Trump’s declaration in December 2017.

Media captionWhy the ancient city of Jerusalem is so important

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Various countries once had embassies based in Jerusalem but many moved after Israel passed a law in 1980 formally making Jerusalem its capital.



Ivanka Trump in Jerusalem for embassy opening as Gaza braces for bloodshed

Israeli army deploys extra combat battalions and snipers at Gaza frontier

Ivanka Trump is seen during a reception held at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on Sunday ahead of the opening of the new US embassy
Ivanka Trump is seen during a reception held at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on Sunday ahead of the opening of the new US embassy. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Ivanka Trump has landed in Israel for the inauguration of the US Jerusalem embassy on Monday, as protesters in Gaza prepare for a day of rallies along the frontier that are expected to be met with gunfire.

The US president’s daughter said she was returning “with great joy” to Jerusalem, which Donald Trump has recognised as Israel’s capital to the dismay of Palestinians, who claim part of the holy city as the capital of a future state.

“We look forward to celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary and the bright future ahead,” Ivanka wrote on Instagram ahead of the opening, which will take place on Monday, exactly seven decades since the country declared independence. “We will pray for the boundless potential of the future of the US-Israel alliance, and we will pray for peace.”

Ivanka, a presidential adviser, and her husband, Jared Kushner, were expected to attend a gala dinner on Sunday evening ahead of the event on Monday which is due to start at 4pm local time.

In Gaza, a strip of land Israel has blockaded for a decade, tens of thousands of people are anticipated to gather for protests along the perimeter fence.

An Israeli man draped in the stars and stripes at Damascus gate in Jerusalem on Sunday
An Israeli man draped in the stars and stripes at Damascus gate in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

Frustration and desperation at Trump’s December declaration helped ignite a six-week movement in which residents of the enclave have gathered near the frontier, with groups throwing stones and burning tyres. They have demanded an end to severe restrictions on movement and called for a “right to return” to their ancestral homes.

Israeli snipers have killed dozens and wounded more than 1,700 when firing on demonstrators in past rallies, according to Gazan health officials.

Organisers hope Monday’s will be the largest demonstration to date, on the eve of the 70th anniversary commemorating the Palestinian “Nakba”, or catastrophe, referring to their mass uprooting in the war surrounding Israel’s 1948 creation.

Israel has portrayed the movement as a “terrorist” ploy by Hamas and as a security threat to its civilians, pointing out attempts to damage and breach the fence. No Israeli has been wounded since protests began on 30 March.

Hamas, which rules Gaza and has supported the protests, said it would not stop people from attempting to break through the fence.

The Israeli army said on Sunday that it held Hamas accountable for anything in the Gaza Strip “and its consequences”. It added it had increased the deployment of “combat battalions, special units, field intelligence forces and snipers”.

In Jerusalem, dozens of foreign diplomats are expected to the attend the opening of the new mission, set on the site of the US consulate, although many ambassadors who oppose the move will skip it.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed the hilltop city in a move not recognised internationally. Most countries have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv.

An Israeli man confronts a Palestinian woman at Damascus gate in Jerusalem on Sunday as Israeli settlers celebrate Jerusalem Day in the Old City
An Israeli man confronts a Palestinian woman at Damascus gate in Jerusalem on Sunday as Israeli settlers celebrate Jerusalem Day in the Old City. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

The fate of the ancient city has been a critical and unresolved issue in past US-brokered peace talks. The Palestinian leadership rejected Washington’s traditional role as a mediator following Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

More than 1,000 Israeli police, including special patrol units and undercover officers, will be working near the event on Monday. Security preparations have taken three months.



What are the Five Pillars of Islam ?

They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.


There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illa Llah – ‘there is no god except God’; ilaha (god) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God – wealth, power, and the like. Then comes illa Llah: ‘except God’, the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadun rasulu’Llah: ‘Muhammad is the messenger of God.’ A message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.

The Shahada inscribed over entrance to Ottoman Topkapi Palace (the museum contains a mantle worn by the Prophet, among other treasures), Istanbul.


Salat is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Quran, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Quran, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one’s own language.

Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.

A translation of the Call to Prayer is:

God is most great. God is most great.
God is most great. God is most great.
I testify that there is no god except God.
I testify that there is no god except God.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Come to prayer! Come to prayer!
Come to success (in this life and the Hereafter)!
Come to success!
God is most great. God is most great.
There is no god except God.

Courtyard of Great Mosque, Herat, Afghanistan.


One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakat means both ‘purification’ and ‘growth’. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.

Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one’s capital.

Zakat keeps the money flowing within a society, Cairo.

A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as ‘voluntary charity’ it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said ‘even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.’

The Prophet said: ‘Charity is a necessity for every Muslim. ‘ He was asked: ‘What if a person has nothing?’ The Prophet replied: ‘He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.’ The Companions asked: ‘What if he is not able to work?’ The Prophet said: ‘He should help poor and needy persons.’ The Companions further asked ‘What if he cannot do even that?’ The Prophet said ‘He should urge others to do good.’ The Companions said ‘What if he lacks that also?’ The Prophet said ‘He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.’


Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.

Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one’s spiritual life.


The annual pilgrimage to Makkah – the Hajj – is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.

Pilgrims praying at the mosque in Makkah.

The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Ka’ba seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafa and join in prayers for God’s forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment.

In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities.

Pilgrim tents during Hajj.

The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslim calendar.