East Timor’s Muslim minority welcomes Ramadan

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Updated 20 May 2018
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East Timor’s Muslim minority welcomes Ramadan

  • Outgoing Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, whose Fretilin party lost in parliamentary elections on May 12, is a Muslim of Yemeni descent.
  • Despite its Catholic-majority population and the church having great influence, East Timor is secular, and Muslims live in peace and harmony with the rest of society.

DILI: Muslims in Dili, the capital of predominantly Catholic East Timor, have welcomed Ramadan with great joy. 

Julio Muslim Antonio da Costa, the imam of Dili’s largest mosque An Nur, said as the holy month approached, the mosque council set up a committee to organize Ramadan-related activities, such as preparing meals for iftar (the breaking of the fast at sunset) and collecting alms. 

“We had up to 400 people for iftar on the first and second day of Ramadan, and we prepare the food every day throughout the month,” da Costa told Arab News. 

Some congregation members stay in the mosque for the rest of the evening to perform the Taraweeh prayer and listen to sermons delivered by clerics from neighboring countries. 

The clerics also “deliver sermons in other parts of the country, where there are smaller Muslim communities,” da Costa said. 

Every Sunday afternoon, Nurul Habibah, 28, organizes a daily Qur’an recital with fellow Muslim women.

“We have sermons and recital after the Asr prayer, and we involve children from the adjoining orphanage,” said Habibah, who hails from Lombok island in Indonesia. 

Muslims make up about 0.3 percent of East Timor’s population of 1.2 million, most of them concentrated in Dili. 

Outgoing Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, whose Fretilin party lost in parliamentary elections on May 12, is a Muslim of Yemeni descent. 

“There’s no problem with religion in my country,” he told Arab News. “The problem is only when you mix religion with politics, but it’s a problem at the high level. There’s no problem at the people’s level.”

Despite its Catholic-majority population and the church having great influence, East Timor is secular, and Muslims live in peace and harmony with the rest of society. 

“Every Eid Al-Fitr, the president comes to An Nur after Eid prayer to celebrate the day with the Muslim community,” said da Costa. “It’s a symbol of religious tolerance in East Timor.”

The offices of the president and prime minister, as well as other government offices, send livestock for sacrifice to the mosque for Eid Al-Adha festivities, said Arif Abdullah Sagran, president of the Center of East Timor Islamic Community. But finding halal food is still a problem in the country, Sagran told Arab News.

Da Costa said: “The lingering misperception now is that food is halal as long as it doesn’t contain pork. We don’t yet have a special body to regulate halal food, but for the time being, we can get halal food from Indonesian traders here.”   

An Nur was built in the 1950s during the Portuguese colonization of East Timor and was developed during Indonesia’s occupation. 

“After our independence (in 2002), the government built two towers in the mosque,” said da Costa. “Now it can accommodate up to 3,000 people.”


Indian cancellation of defense equipment orders hurts investor sentiment: Experts

A tender was withdrawn for short-range surface-to-air missiles, with Israel’s SPYDER system having been the front-runner. Supplied
Updated 18 June 2018
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Indian cancellation of defense equipment orders hurts investor sentiment: Experts

  • New Delhi scrapped a $500 million deal for Israel’s Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile. Israel had agreed to transfer the technology to India, and had set up a factory in a venture with an Indian company
  • Modi wants the country to decrease its reliance on foreign firms, reduce its import bill and manufacture equipment in-house

NEW DELHI: The Indian government’s penchant for canceling or withdrawing tenders for defense equipment at the last minute is likely to hurt investor confidence in the country, experts said on Sunday.
New Delhi called off a $9 billion deal to co-develop with Russia a next-generation fighter aircraft, after the state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said it would do the job in-house, Indian media reported this week.
Under the deal, a significant amount of the research would have been carried out in India. Russia had agreed to tailor the aircraft to Indian needs, and was to hand over all the technology, the Economic Times reported.
India is the world’s largest importer of defense equipment, and imports at least 90 percent of its equipment, including parts for assembly.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the country to decrease its reliance on foreign firms, reduce its import bill and manufacture equipment in-house.
But India lacks much of the high-end technology needed for such equipment, which is why deals where foreign partners agree to share technology are useful for its long-term plans, experts say.
When such deals are canceled, “it greatly reduces confidence in India,” said Saurabh Joshi, editor of StratPost Media Pvt Ltd., a defense news website.
“We can’t willy-nilly… accept arguments that a particular equipment can be developed and produced indigenously before such tenders are withdrawn,” he added.
“There should be an adequate test to develop and produce indigenously. Otherwise, we’re simply postponing an acquisition process by 10 to 15 years, and it’s the armed forces that have to go without critical equipment until then.”
Experts say one reason for the government canceling orders could be a lack of funds. The Russian deal is not the only one to be jettisoned recently.
New Delhi scrapped a $500 million deal for Israel’s Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile. Israel had agreed to transfer the technology to India, and had set up a factory in a venture with an Indian company. The reason given for the cancellation was the same: To develop the missiles indigenously.
A tender was also withdrawn for short-range surface-to-air missiles, with Israel’s SPYDER system having been the front-runner, experts said.
On average, it takes a tender at least six years to go through the various steps before the final purchase order can be placed.
Any company that loses a bid has to account for that time and investment to its head office and its board, Joshi said.