Quran Focus Academy Blog

Students from Lowfield Primary School visit Sheffield Islamic Centre Madina Masjid Trust

Students from Lowfield Primary School visited a local Mosque, to learn more about Muslims living in the city.

The youngsters visited Sheffield Islamic Centre Madina Masjid Trust, where they were given a tour of the Mosque’s wash rooms, prayer areas and library and learned more about the contents of the Quran and how children start to study the religious text of Islam from a young age.

Mosque visit - Quran Focus Academy

The children and staff were joined by students from their partner school, Hartington C of E Primary School, as part of studies into city and countryside cultures and differences.

Lowfield Teaching Assistant, Judith Flower, said: “The Mosque tour was such a great experience, for both the children and the staff. We removed our shoes and our guide explained the importance and relevance of why Muslim people cleanse before they go to pray.

“We learnt so much about the religious views of Muslim people, as well as how and where they pray.

“It was fantastic to see all the children asking questions to develop their learning. As Hartington is a Church School with a strong Christian ethos, it is fantastic that pupils are able to learn about other great world faiths.”

This event came after Sheffield youngsters visited the Derbyshire Dales school in July last year, where they investigated life within a rural community.

Hartington pupil Jacob Blackwell, 9, said: “It was interesting to see the Mosque and stunning to learn more about what Muslim people do when they pray and how they worship Allah.”

Lowfield School Council Co-ordinator and Year 3 Teacher, Richard Green said: “The trip to the Mosque gave the Hartington children an understanding of the social and cultural activities that our children undertake and really bonded the two communities.”

The growing influence of Muslim tourists around the world

(ON) – In cold, wintry London, Ahmed and his wife have recently returned from their honeymoon in the Maldives. In their late twenties, this British Muslim couple had dreamed about an archetypal paradise island escape, but they were also looking for some extras: halal food, and a place that would be accommodating of their Muslim sensibilities.

“We didn’t want the headache of worrying about what to eat and looking for halal restaurants”, says Ahmed. He also wanted to ensure that his wife could enjoy swimming while observing her modest dress. “This was a place where private pools are available with the rooms.” And, he adds, referring to the all over swimsuit that Muslim women are rapidly adopting around the world: “Even if she did want to swim in public, she wouldn’t have got stared at in her burqini.”

Ahmed and his wife are part of a growing global trend of Muslim travellers seeking out destinations and services that fit with their Islamic aspirations. It’s part of the upsurge of the Muslim consumer market, worth an estimated $2.1tn. Over 90 per cent of Muslims say their faith affects their consumption.

In 2011, Muslims spent an estimated $126bn on travel and tourism, an amount predicted to rise to $192bn by 2020 – and that is without counting the religious pilgrimages of hajj and umrah. This expenditure accounted for more than 12 per cent of total global outbound tourism expenditure in 2011, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

Global revenue from Muslim tourists is expected to rise 4.8 per cent a year over the next eight years, compared with a global average of 3.8 per cent. Both Muslim majority and Muslim minority countries are exploring what kind of brand positioning they want to establish to attract this growing business. As yet, there are no clear leaders, so it’s a space that is wide open for destination and service branding.

Some Muslim travellers’ aspirations are relatively straightforward. Most commonly asked for is easy-to-access and plentiful halal food. Mosques and other places to pray are also important. Hotels that offer facilities segregated by gender such as spas, pools and even access to beaches are well received.

Muslim travelers are looking for the “halal” label on hotels, restaurants and even airlines when they travel. Fifty per cent of Muslim travellers would use halal-friendly facilities if they existed and 30 per cent would seek strict Sharia-compliant services. For some Muslim travellers, hotels that do not serve alcohol are also important. Qatar’s Retaj Marketing & Project Management will invest $500m in Turkey to build Islamic Shariah-compliant hotels. Also important are small touches like in-room indicators of the direction of prayer, Qurans and prayer mats, and bathroom hygiene facilities.

Some Muslim travellers are looking to connect with Muslim populations in other countries to learn more about the ‘ummah’, the global Muslim nation and its heritage and, for some, visiting sites from Muslim history is important. Tour operators in Japan are finding a seam of Muslim visitors from nearby Malaysia willing to pay above average prices in the knowledge that their Muslim requirements will be safeguarded. Japan is turning to Asian Muslims from Indonesia and Malaysia to make up for a fall in Chinese visitors.

In Australia, Queensland tourism is positioning itself as Muslim-friendly in a bid to attract a growing number of Muslim tourists from nearby Indonesia. The state of Victoria has launched a major tourism campaign in the Middle East, including Arabic/English visitor guides. Not to be outdone, New Zealand businesses are being offered workshops on reaching out to the halal tourism industry. Countries with minority Muslim populations are starting to see them as assets when it comes to attracting Muslim tourists, either through food availability or as an incentive to visit the extended ‘ummah’. China’s Muslim Ningxia province is being positioned in this way, vying for Muslim tourists especially from the Middle East and southeast Asia. Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau hopes to increase its number of halal certified eateries to attract more visitors from Muslim nations. Thailand, too, is developing its halal eating capabilities and reaching out to the nearby Indonesian market, and promoting the fact that “a few thousand spas already have their unique herbal treatments in halal form.” With Ramadan now falling during the hotter summer months for Muslims in the northern hemisphere, at least one Thai hotel chain is offering Ramadan hotel packages: inclusive meals are served after dark and right through the night rather than in the day time.

In Europe, the European Commission has called for greater promotion of inward Muslim tourism, thinking specifically about Islamic historical sites as a draw for travellers. Monaco is seeking to woo Saudi tourists. A Bosnian halal authority feels that its cultural heritage as well as its location could make it a major halal tourist destination. Albania is intensifying its efforts to boost tourism and economic co-operation with Saudi Arabia. And World Halal Development is training the European hospitality industry on halal practices.

Of course, Muslim nations like Turkey, Malaysia and Egypt are proving to be among the fastest in tapping into this segment. And they also offer good insights into some of the tentative brand positionings being laid out. Turkey’s efforts are often described as halal holidays. The phrase sharia tourism is bandied about for Indonesia. Indonesia’s ministry of tourism has recently spoken about its strategy of reaching out to Muslim travellers through an Islamic experience. Egypt has been treading cautiously on using words like halal, sharia or Islamic due to the importance of tourism to their economy from a range of countries around the world, as well as the sensitive domestic political situation. Authorities seem to have settled on calling their efforts ‘family tourism’, which is enough to hint to Muslim travellers about the kind of facilities they can expect. These nations are all offering their services as part of Muslim-friendly tourism. But there is a specific trend drawing on the pride among Muslims as Muslims: the growth of the Islamic travel experience.

The small nation state of Brunei has launched the Brunei Islamic experience, in efforts to establish the country as an Islamic destination for Muslims around the world. It’s part of a wider effort that includes establishing the Brunei Halal brand, which again is being positioned as a service to the wider Muslim ummah. Malaysia is marketing a Malaysia Islamic experience. For example, it recently promoted religious tourism packages around an international Quran festival to attract tourists from Asean countries. In Saudi Arabia pilgrimage visas were once extremely restrictive in duration as well as location – being available only for Mecca and Medina. These are being increasingly lengthened to offer pilgrims the chance for some tourism. And Saudi Arabia’s inherent conservatism is marketed as an asset for families in particular. Saudi Arabia wants to build its tourism business by promoting the Kingdom as the land of Islam and a cultural hub.

The Muslim travel segment is undoubtedly extremely attractive for countries and service providers. But they need to think carefully about how they brand themselves to appeal to Muslim sensibilities. And these branding claims need to be meticulously and substantively supported by the services and experiences available once the tourists arrive. From luxury to roughing it, historical sites to mosques to spas, the branding opportunities are vast. And at $126bn, the rewards are vast, too.

Shelina Janmohamed is Vice President of Ogilvy Noor, the world’s first bespoke consultancy for building brands with Muslim consumers. Ogilvy Noor is part of Ogilvy & Mather.

Non-Halal food for Pakistan Muslim kids in UK schools ignites agony

LONDON - Thousands of Pakistani Muslim students in Great Britain were being provided non-Halal food in their schools, which became a matter of concern for their parents who took steps to bring the issue to notice.
According to an Urdu daily, Muslim kids in some schools are not being provided food that falls under the ‘Halal’ description.
This fact, horrific for Muslims, was revealed at a Birmingham school following which parents raised the issue with teachers and the school administration.
Muslims have two categories of food; one is considered as Halal, which includes food items that could be eaten and the second one is Haram, including food items which are forbidden.
A school, which was not named in the report, houses over 1500 students, a majority of which are of Pakistani origin. Parents, besides raising this issue with the school administration also approached former Lord Mayor Councillor from the area, Muhammad Afzal. It has been decided that unless the matter is not investigated, Muslims kids would not be provided any meat items to avoid further disturbance.



Halal food industry to hit $8.4 billion by 2020, says minister

Sharjah: The selection of the UAE to chair two major technical committees for Halal standards has reiterated the global significance of the country as an important market and its ascendancy as a Halal hub in the region.

“In recognition of our leading role and expansive experience, the UAE, represented by Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology, has been chosen to chair the Halal Food Technical committee by Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries, a subsidiary of the Organization of Islamic Countries,” said Dr Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, UAE Minister of Environment and Water.

The selection also accentuates the importance of the upcoming global Halal trade events Halal Food Middle East and Halal Congress Middle East that will be held at Expo Centre Sharjah from December 10 to 12, 2012.

“Holding Halal Middle East Congress 2012 in the UAE has special significance due to UAE’s well-established economic position and its standing as a regional key market and a logistic hub in the field of Halal food and products’ trade and re-export. Halal food and products trade are expected to grow rapidly from $3.6 billion in 2010 to $8.4 billion in 2020,” said Dr Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad.

“Featuring renowned experts and scientists from all relevant fields, this congress is certain to be a key contribution to the enhancement of Muslim countries’ abilities to develop the industry of Halal food and products and to improve the tools and mechanisms required to verify compliance with the Islamic Shariah and quality standards so that the growing needs of tens of millions of Muslims around the world for Halal food and products would be properly met,” the minister added.

“This is great news for the UAE, the regional Halal industry as well as the inaugural Halal exhibition and congress. While the selection itself is an international recognition for the UAE, it also underscores the need to raise the standards and certification processes of products and services provided to consumers and facilitate trade between the UAE and other Halal consuming and producing countries,” said Mr Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, Director-General, Expo Centre Sharjah.

The UAE was granted a three-year chairmanship of the first technical committee for Halal food standards set up by Organisation of Islamic Cooperation at a recent meeting in Turkey. The country was also selected as Chairman of the Halal cosmetics committee.

“The recognition also assumes significance since the population here is mainly Muslim and the region is close to several countries with large Muslim population such as those in the Indian sub-continent and the CIS. Besides, it has come at a time when GCC countries are considering asking importers to put a ‘Halal’ stamp on all meats to ensure quality and Shariah-compliance,” said Mr Midfa.

Now, the global Halal food industry will be looking more eagerly at the Halal exhibition and congress at expo centre to drive up trade and draw up a common global standard for Halal certification. Reflecting the huge prospects for the global Halal food industry, total food import to the Gulf region is set to double over the decade from US$25.8 billion in 2010 to US$53.1 billion in 2020, according to estimates by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

According to another forecast, consumption of food in the region could reach 51 million tonnes in 2020, with average annual growth of 4.6 per cent.

The patronage of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and the support of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry to the Halal events also underscore the UAE’s move to become a key player in the regional and global Halal market.

The events also have acquired the support of several key international bodies to promote as well as co-organize them, such as Halal Development Council of Pakistan and OIC’s Islamic Centre for Development of Trade, among several others.

About Halal Food Middle East 2012:
The Halal Food ME will be organized by Expo Centre Sharjah in association with the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Expo Centre Sharjah from December 10 to 12, 2012. The show is positioned as the largest and the most comprehensive show of its kind in the region.

About Halal Congress Middle East 2012:
The Halal Congress Middle East is jointly organized by Expo Centre Sharjah and the Halal Development Council of Pakistan and will be held at Expo Centre Sharjah on December 11 and 12, 2012. It will enable professionals and decision-makers to identify investment, joint venture and trading opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa region, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, Afghanistan and OIC countries.

Muslim group helping reserves – Shipping needed food to First Nations

Needy families in two remote First Nations communities in Manitoba will be dining on steaks and chops thanks to observant Muslims in Winnipeg sharing their feast.

“In Islam when you give to charity you have to give the equivalent of what you provide your own children,” said Hussain Guisti with the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation. “And we feed our children steaks and lamb chops.”

The charitable foundation is shipping beef, lamb, goat and chicken to Shamattawa and Garden Hill, as well as potatoes, bread, carrots, milk, tea and sugar.

Guisti rounded up the donations from members of Winnipeg’s Muslim community to mark Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, to show gratitude to God and to provide for the poor and needy.

“It’s one of the most important holidays for Muslims around the world,” said Guisti.

Eid-al-Adha marks the conclusion of the Hajj, or pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Many Muslims who are not performing the Hajj celebrate by making charitable donations, visiting friends and family, and enjoying festive meals.

“Every able Muslim who can afford to is encouraged to sacrifice an animal and give a third to the poor and needy, a third to friends and relatives and a third to themselves and their families,” said Guisti.

This is the fourth year the foundation is delivering food to the needy up north. Perimeter Aviation is helping with the shipping, said Guisti. For the first time this year, they’re delivering to two First Nations. The groceries will be distributed to 200 of the most needy families in each community, said Guisti.

It means a lot to folks in Garden Hill, said band manager Arnold Flett.

“It means somebody took the effort to notice the needs of a remote community where prices are high and flying in groceries to the community is very expensive,” said Flett. “For somebody to do that — thinking of the children who will benefit from this — people will appreciate that.”

In places where jobs are few and poverty is high, many families struggle to make ends meet, Flett said. “The amount they get from social assistance for one month only covers not even half the month for groceries,” the band manager said. “They have to buy something that’s not very nutritional and it becomes a problem,” he said. “It leads to illness… and kids who are growing and not eating, they have problems,” he said. “They miss school,” and if they go, they have a hard time learning.

“Young families rely on the child tax credit — they wait for that. When it comes they have to pay bills,” said Flett.

A box of nutritious food and milk will be a very welcome gift to many families, said Flett.

“They’re thankful this is taking place — somebody out there understands and wants to give to the needy. Often the general public don’t realize the costs of things,” he said.

In the remote communities, a four-litre jug of milk costs around $13 and a loaf of bread costs $4, said Guisti.

“People don’t realize how much poverty there is,” he said. He’s met some families barely getting by. “One woman said ‘I have to ration the number of carrots I cook and potatoes I cook.’ ”

That should not be acceptable in a prosperous country like Canada, he said.

“Where are we living? Come on.”

By: Carol Sanders      carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press

Faith, football and fasting

by Naazish YarKhan
31 July 2012

Chicago, Illinois – At the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London on Friday, the world celebrated the Olympic athletes joining together for a truly global event. Amongst them were a number of Muslim athletes, who are facing the intersection of physically intense athletic competition and the month of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from eating and drinking – even water. This inter-mingling between religious commitment and sports has been evocatively captured in the documentary Fordson: Faith, Football, Fasting and the American Dream. As entertaining as it is thought-provoking, the film provides a new angle on what it means to be a Muslim American through the all-American lens of football.

Director Rashid Ghazi’s award-winning documentary is about a varsity football team, the Tractors, at Fordson High School, a public school attended by many Arab Muslims in a working class suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, which has one of the highest Arab populations in the United States. Shot over the last 10 days of Ramadan, the documentary provides fresh insights into what it means to be Muslim and American.

In the 10 years since 9/11, many Muslim Americans have been challenged about their “Americanness”. The documentary, which elicited standing ovations, successfully portrayed the dual identity of Muslim-Americans and the intersection of the players’ Muslim faith with their undeniable “Americanness”.

The documentary, released in several mainstream theatres in 2011 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, is a study of post 9-11 America. It reflects the current attitudes of many Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States – including mutual suspicion.
One of Fordson’s most important games was on 11 September. They played against Dearborn High School, a more affluent school. The two teams had long had a football rivalry, but as the film shows, in the post-9/11 environment, the rivalry was about more than football. For the Fordson Tractors it was a way to reaffirm their American identity.

In 11 days, the filmmakers shot enough footage of the students, their community and the daily schedule of training and games in a way that audiences cared about these teens and their football rivalry. During the filming, the film crew, as well as the students and coaches, were also observing Ramadan. This combination of fasting and competing was challenging but the Tractor’s motto, “No Excuses”, prevailed.

A visually stunning documentary, Fordson won accolades at international film festivals and kudos from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And an educational DVD for high school and university students has been created so that young people globally can engage with its messages.

Muslim and non-Muslim reviewers and audiences have emphasised how necessary and significant the film is. “It opens your eyes a little so you see another side”, said one review, referring to the Muslim perspectives on post-9/11 America that are rarely covered in media.

It was the kind of reaction that Ghazi had hoped for. He had first read of the Fordson Tractors in a 2003 newspaper article and was fascinated by the story of its players who competed even while fasting through Ramadan. It took six years to get the high school to agree to film its students and to secure rights to the story. The last time that football season coincided with Ramadan was in 2009, when the school finally agreed to the filming.

“This was a project we did to tell a story, to shift perceptions about Muslims”, says Ghazi. “We knew we had a great story which is why I pursued it for so many years.” The documentary has been a labour of love for the producers, husband-wife team Basma Babara-Quraishi and Ash-Har Quraishi. Rashid presented the idea to the Quraishis, both of whom are television journalists, and the couple agreed that the story had to be told in its entirety.

The movie has changed producer Ash-har Quraishi’s own outlook on Muslim Americans. “You look at this community and see how well they’ve been able to meld culture and patriotism. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they were even more resilient. They didn’t want to be presented in a pitiful light. They [see] themselves as Muslims and Arabs and American”, says Quraishi.

For Quraishi, the Fordson film is an ice-breaker. When viewed by Americans and global audiences alike, the film makes clear the extent to which Muslims are part and parcel of the American fabric. Films like this, according to Quraishi, are integral to initiating dialogue and furthering conversations about American Muslims, especially in post 9/11 America.


* Naazish YarKhan is a Content and PR Strategist in the Chicago area. You can view a trailer of the film at www.fordsonthemovie.com and can follow YarKhan on Twitter @yarkhan. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 31 July 2012, www.commongroundnews.org