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Islamic Lifestyle
Egypt bans niqab in schools

Egypt has issued a decree, preventing female students across schools from wearing a face veil, also known as the niqab.

The country’s ministry of education issued the regulation on a unified school uniform, emphasizing that the students must wear the same clothes. Colours of the uniform, however, will vary by school district.

Female students are not permitted to wear the niqab but are allowed to don the loosely-fitted garment, the hijab. 

France also banned abayas across state-run schools, in the form of a directive, issued ahead of the new academic year. Niqabs across public spaces have been prohibited in public space across the country for more than a decade now. 

Aside from the ban on niqab, the Egyptian education ministry has also prohibited the use of smartphones for students and teachers, both of whom will be permitted to carry basic mobile phones without cameras or apps while at schools. Furthermore, basic phones will also only be permitted for usage outside of instructional hours.


Islamic Lifestyle
Sept news wrap: Saudi's flynas inaugurates new ops base; French schools act upon abaya ban; and others

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic lifestyle ecosystem during the first two weeks of September

Editor's note: France and fashion are buddies. Best of mates They have a kinship that dates decades, with the French capital revered as a harbinger of new trends and cuts, sartorial choices and much of the world's fashion influence.

In recent weeks, the country has again garnered attention - but of an unsavoury type - for sartorial rules. French schools refused entry to female students who wore abayas on the first day of the new academic year. This move was in adherence to the injunction passed last month, barring students from wearing the loose-fitted Islamic garment to schools on secular grounds. 

As expected, the directive received backlash, but to what end? Will it prompt a rethink at a later stage? Time only, will tell. 


Company News

Amari Johor Bahru bags best halal destination award 
The five-star Amari Johor Bahru, located centrally in Johor Bahru, clinched the Best Halal Destination Award at the annual Majestic Johor Tourism Awards held at Puteri Harbour in August.

Ms. Pauline Chua, the hotel's general manager, expressed gratitude, underscoring the hotel's dedication to inclusivity, from halal food services to special prayer rooms. She emphasized Amari Johor Bahru's commitment to simplifying halal tourism and its integral role in the region's tourism industry. (Zawya)

Islamic inspired art exhibit to open at NadiaNA Art Gallery in September 
Artist Nadia Alkhun, showcasing her Muslim pride in a self-portrait at her NAdiaNa Art Gallery, is set to open the 'Islamic Inspired' exhibit.

Beyond her faith, Alkhun's identity intertwines with science and art. A graduate in biotechnology from Jordan before moving to the US in 2009, Alkhun believes her scientific background enriches her artwork. (TMJ 4)

United Kingdom / France
Nike designer tells French schoolgirls to defy Islamic dress ban
British Nike designer and fashion influencer, Saeedah Haque, has stirred debate by urging French schoolgirls to defy a new law prohibiting the wearing of 

The London-based, British-Bengali designer, known for her modern taks on the robe-like attire, criticised the French state's decision as an effort to maintain secularism.

Despite partnering with Nike, the 25-year-old contemplates offering the garment for free to school attendees. (The Telegraph)

Saudi Arabia
Flynas launches operations base at Madinah airport
Saudi Arabian low-cost airline, Flynas, has inaugurated its fourth operations base at the Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International airport in Madinah, following an agreement with Tibah Airports Operation Company.

This move makes Flynas the sole carrier to have four bases throughout Saudi Arabia.

The airline's CEO emphasized that this development, in line with their growth strategy, showcases their confidence in the Saudi market and aligns with the nation's aspirations for the aviation sector. (Gulf Business)


Trade Developments

Middle East
Seychelles Tourism partners with Dnata Travel for destination promotion
In a move to boost its brand prominence in the GCC region, the Tourism Seychelles office in the Middle East collaborated with Emirati travel group, Dnata Travel Consultants.

The joint campaign targets Dnata's branches across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, and Iraq.

A session saw 35 consultants from Dnata Travel's diverse brands briefed on Seychelles' latest entry procedures, forthcoming hotel developments, and halal stipulations, among other insights. (Travel Daily News)



French schools refuse scores of female students wearing abaya
On the first day of the new academic year, French schools sent 67 girls home, for refusing to remove their abayas and complying with a recent ban.

While nearly 300 girls arrived wearing the attire, most complied when asked to change.

The government instituted the abaya ban last month, emphasizing its stand on secularism in education, a policy which previously led to the banning of Muslim headscarves. (Arab News)

Saudi Arabia
Saudi bans carrying luggage inside Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that small bags will be prohibited inside the prayer areas of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

Visitors are, however, allowed to store these bags in lockers located outside the mosque. Larger items are neither permitted inside the mosque and its courtyards nor can they be stored in the external lockers. (The Kashmir Monitor)

Islamic Lifestyle
Saudia allocated 1.2 million seats for 2023 Hajj season

SAUDIA Group has revealed its operational performance, during the peak of the summer travel season, starting from May 21 until August 2, this year. This was inclusive of the 2023 Hajj season.

During the time period, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier allocated more than 1.2 million seats for Hajj pilgrims, operating 79,000 flights.

The airline’s fleet flew an average of half a million hours, helmed by 1,768 pilots and assistant pilots.

The Hajj season also saw the mobilization of the Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries (SAEI), which dedicated a specialized team to support during Hajj season. This included the allocation of 112 maintenance stations operated by 1,154 technicians. In addition, SAEI supplied the airline with 3,896 different types of aircraft parts while the time spent on maintenance amounted to 50,700 hours.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Airlines Catering Company (SACC) delivered 5.4 million meals on planes, 83,400 meals on the Haramain High Speed Railway, and 357,000 meals as part of its catering services in the holy sites, during the Hajj season.

The Saudi Ground Services Company (SGS) provided handling services for more than 25,000 flights at the arrival and departure stages, which carried more than 2.18 million pilgrims. 

"The end of the Hajj season marks the beginning of our preparation for the next one, as all stages will be reviewed and evaluated in order to further improve the level of services and enhance our performance in time for the upcoming Hajj season," said Amer Alkhushail, chief Hajj and Umrah officer at SAUDIA Group.

Islamic Lifestyle
Is inflation affecting millennial Muslim travelers in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia?

Rising travel costs owed to inflation are a concern for millenium Muslim travelers across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, a new report has revealed.

While, 84% Singaporean Muslims are likely to travel internationally in the next 12 months, corresponding to 68.2% Malaysian Muslims and 48.1% Indonesian ones, they would opt for off-peak travel and plan trips around a discount, The Next Phase of Muslim Travel Report, by travel platform, Have Halal, Will Travel (HHWT), states.

Only 9.9%, 11.9% and 26.7% of Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian millennial Muslims respectively, would trim their travel budget. 

The report, which was launched earlier this month, delves into the impact of three trends - inflation, sustainability, and generative artificial intelligence (AI), on the millennial Muslim traveler across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Inflation has also influenced the choice of international destinations for the three markets, with more travelers visiting the region. 

Malaysia leads as the top destination for Singaporean millennial Muslim travelers, followed by Japan, Australia, Indonesia and Thailand. This contrasts with Japan leading as a top destination in the platform's 2022 study, followed by Malaysia, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand.

With regards to emerging technologies, only 15% of Singaporeans expressed confidence in AI's ability to cater to Muslim-specific travel requirements, just shy of 17% Malaysians, against a whopping 73% Indonesians.

Muslim are a formidable consumer force and are expected to spend $189 billion on tourism by 2025, according to the State of Global Islamic Economy Report 2022.

Islamic Lifestyle
Aug news wrap: Spain unveils travel guide; Saudi rolls out visa waiver for British nationals; & others

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic lifestyle ecosystem during the month of August

Editor's note: Saudi Arabia once again, dominates this month's Islamic lifestyle news wrap, with the kingdom looking to uplift the experience of pilgrims visiting the Two Holy Mosques, rolling out a visa waiver for British nationals, and as well as beckoning applicants to work in its cities of Mecca and Medina. 

In the European neck of the woods, Spain has rolled out its new tourist travel guide, rostering halal-friendly spots in its southern region. Much to look forward to. 

Company News

Singapore's Qalbox to offer Muslim-focused content in Malaysia
Singapore-based entertainment streaming service, Qalbox by Muslim Pro, has teamed up with Malaysia's pay-TV giant, Astro, to exclusively offer Muslim-centric content in Malaysia.

As part of Muslim Pro's ambition to be the digital hub for Muslim-oriented content, this partnership heralds a significant shift in Malaysia's entertainment sector

Moreover, Qalbox will be accessible as an add-on for all Astro Ultra and Ulti Box users, further broadening content choices for the Muslim audience(Technode Global)

South Africa
TMACC and Halaal Hopper driving inclusive tourism for a thriving economy
Recognising its pivotal role in local tourism, TMACC has launched a development programme to bolster the tourism industry, aiming for regional economic upliftment.

Cape Town's Halaal Hopper, a venture by tourism veteran Fayrouz Holliday-October, stands as a testament to this initiative. Despite her 27 years in the industry, Holliday-October's firm is just five years old, reflecting her enduring passion for promoting South Africa's allure to visitors worldwide. (IOL)

Trade Developments

DTI, BARMM sign agreement on tourism promotion in Lanao Sur
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has partnered with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to further promote Lanao del Sur's halal industry and tourism.

The 26 million peso initiative, signed on August 10, is geared towards the rehabilitation of Marawi City. (Minda News)

Spain unveils new tourism travel guide for Muslim travellers
Catering to the needs of Muslim tourists, Spain has unveiled 'Andalusia for Muslim Travelers' - a comprehensive guide highlighting halal-friendly spots in its southern region.

The guide, spotlighting the area's deep Islamic history, covers accommodation, dining, and must-visit locations. The initiative aims to increase awareness in Southeast Asia, where the region's halal offerings remain relatively unknown.(TTG Asia)

Saudi Arabia / Pakistan
Saudi official embarks on Pakistan, Bangladesh visit
Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Hajj and Umrah, is on an official visit to Pakistan and Bangladesh, seeking to improve Umrah systems and enhance the experience for pilgrims visiting the Two Holy Mosques.

The visit aims to streamline procedures for South Asian pilgrims and aligns with the kingdom’s Vision 2030 objectives. This initiative underscores Saudi Arabia's commitment to serving Muslims globally(Middle East Monitor)

Operational Developments

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia announces job vacancies for Hajj and Umrah services
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is offering contractual employment opportunities in Mecca and Medina, spanning roles across cyber security, IT, engineering, and research.

Applications are to be submitted via the Jadarat portal. The wide array of roles and the significance of the sacred cities are likely to attract numerous domestic and international applicants. (Samaa English)


Saudi Arabia / UK
British nationals can now perform Umrah without a visa
Saudi Arabia has rolled out an electronic visa waiver (EVW) for British nationals, eliminating the need for advance visit visas.

Now, UK citizens can stay for up to six months on a single entry, with the liberty to visit for business, tourism, study, or treatment.

The waiver also permits visits to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for Umrah(British Muslim Magazine)


Read more: 
OIC news wrap for August: Bahrain signs deal for largest solar power project; Pakistan eyes $5bn trade with Iran; & others

Islamic Finance
Malaysia's MDEC to focus on three domains under Islamic digital economy ambit

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, a government agency tasked with leading the country's digital economy, will emphasize on three key domains within its Islamic Digital Economy (IDE) focus. 

The three domains include Islamic finance, halal and lifestyle. 

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, the agency's chairman said that it has been strategically designed to pave the way for a thriving ecosystem, Bernama reported.

The country's Islamic economy has been pivotal in its economy development, with MDEC identifying the Islamic digital economy as a promoted sector under its national Malaysia digital initiative.

Malaysia's Islamic finance assets stood at $3.6 trillion in 2021, and are forecast to reach to $4.9 trillion by 2025, a recent MDEC report revealed. Meanwhile, spending on halal food was recorded at $1.27 trillion in 2021, and is expected to grow to $1.67 trillion in 2025. Consumer spend on lifestyle sectors, such as travel, cosmetics and modest fashion, also totaled $467 billion, and is set to soar to $657 billion by 2025. 

MDEC is committed to nurturing IDE companies by offering a comprehensive ecosystem of mentorship, funding, business matching and market access, Noh added. 

"We are weaving a tapestry that fosters collaboration and effective partnerships between supply, demand, and enablers," he said, at the IDE Industry Conference 2023, earlier this week. 

"MDEC also serves as a bridge between traditional Islamic industries and the digital realm, by working close with halal certification bodies, Islamic financial institutions, and other stakeholders to integrate technology into their processes, thereby enhancing efficiency, transparency and compliance," Noh added. 

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