Saudi ambassador to Indonesia meets with 40 pilgrims invited by King Salman

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In this file photo, Indonesian Muslim pilgrims sit in a tent at Mount Arafat in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Saudi King Salman is hosting this Hajj 40 pilgrims from Indonesia, some of them women. (AFP file)
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Updated 12 August 2018

Saudi ambassador to Indonesia meets with 40 pilgrims invited by King Salman

  • Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Osama bin Mohammed Al-Shuaibi met with the pilgrims before his departure on Sunday

JAKARTA: Forty Indonesians, including an orphaned teenager and the secretary general of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, have been personally invited by King Salman to perform Hajj this year.

Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Osama bin Mohammed Al-Shuaibi invited the party of pilgrims — which includes six women and two journalists — to his official residence in central Jakarta on Sunday morning prior to their departure for the Kingdom in the afternoon.

“The invitations were sent out to those who have contributed positively to the Muslim community,” Al Shuaibi said through a translator.

Muhammad Izhar Assahmy, a 17-year-old student from Al Irsyad Islamic boarding school in East Java, and Husaini Muhtadi Azri, a 16-year-old who is a student at Al Aziziyah Islamic boarding school in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara were among this year’s privileged pilgrims.

Azri, an orphan, said he will pray for his parents when he performs the Hajj rituals in the holy sites.

“I hope I can perform the Hajj well in accordance to the manasik I have been practicing,” Assahmy told Arab News.

Five Islamic course lecturers and the rector of the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS) in Surabaya, East Java, were also among the pilgrims.

“I was told that the campus received some invitations from King Salman to perform the hajj and that I was invited. This is really a blessing for me,” one of the lecturers, Choirul Mafhud, told Arab News. 

Al-Shuaibi said this is the first time that journalists have been included in the roster of pilgrims invited by the king.

“About 80 percent of (the party) have never gone on Hajj before. The remaining 20 percent have performed Hajj, but they have been invited (by the king) to show his appreciation of their role for Islam in Indonesia,” the ambassador said.

Muhammad Zaitun Rasmin, the deputy secretary general of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) is one of those who has previously performed Hajj. He went to university in Madinah.

“I have now been invited in my capacity as the chairman of the Southeast Asian ulema association and this is the first time I have been invited by the king,” Rasmin said.

The group will go spend a fortnight in Jeddah before going to Makkah and Madinah, he said.

“We hope we return as Hajj mabrur and this invitation from the king will strengthen Saudi Arabia’s relations with Indonesia,” Rasmin said.

Helmy Faishal Zaini, secretary general of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization said he was invited along with NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj, but that the latter had to decline due to family matters.

“I think the spirit of the king’s invitation is to maintain cooperation and understanding between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia as well as to develop a closer bond between Muslims in both countries,” he told Arab News. 

As Hajj season commences, 182,547 of Indonesia’s allotted 221,000 quota of pilgrims have reportedly arrived in Madinah and Jeddah as of Sunday .


Beijing says holding UK’s Hong Kong consulate employee

Updated 14 min 59 sec ago

Beijing says holding UK’s Hong Kong consulate employee

  • Simon Cheng went missing on Aug. 8 after sending his girlfriend a text message
  • Cheng is accused of violating the Public Security Administration Punishments Law

BEIJING: An employee of Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong who went missing earlier this month is being held in China, Beijing confirmed Wednesday.
The incident comes as relations between Britain and China have become strained over what Beijing calls London’s “interference” in pro-democracy protests that have wracked Hong Kong for three months.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing the detained man had been “placed in administrative detention for 15 days as punishment” by Shenzhen police for breaking a public security law.
Geng said the employee was from Hong Kong and therefore the issue was an internal matter.
“Let me clarify, this employee is a Hong Kong citizen, he’s not a UK citizen, which is also saying he’s a Chinese person,” Geng said.
The man, named by his family as Simon Cheng, traveled to Shenzhen, a megacity on the China-Hong Kong border, for a one-day business meeting on August 8.
That night, Cheng returned via high-speed train and sent messages to his girlfriend as he was about to go through customs.
“We lost contact with him since then,” the family said in a Facebook post.
Geng said the employee had violated the Public Security Administration Punishments Law — a law with broad scope aimed at “maintaining public order in society” and “safeguarding public security,” as well as making sure police and security forces act within the law.
The ongoing protests have raised fears of a Chinese crackdown in some form.
The unrest was initially triggered by a controversial law that would allow extradition to the mainland, but has since broadened into a call for wider democratic reforms.
Beijing has repeatedly warned Britain — the former colonial ruler of Hong Kong — against any “interference” in the protests, which erupted 11 weeks ago and have seen millions of people hit the streets calling for democratic reforms.
“Recently the UK has made many erroneous remarks about Hong Kong,” Geng said at the press briefing Wednesday.
“We once again urge the British side to stop gesticulating and fanning flames on the Hong Kong issue.”
With Beijing attempting to shape the narrative of the unrest in Hong Kong, Chinese authorities have increased their inspections at the Shenzhen border, including checking the phones and devices of some passengers for photos of the protests.
The mainland metropolis of Shenzhen sits behind China’s “Great Firewall” --which restricts access to news and information — while Hong Kong enjoys liberties unseen on the mainland.
China promised to respect the freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory after its handover from Britain in 1997, including freedom of speech, unfettered access to the Internet and an independent judiciary.
Beijing also faced criticism in the past for detaining foreign nationals amid ongoing diplomatic spats.
Ottawa has urged Beijing to release two Canadian citizens detained in December amid escalating diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained amid a diplomatic crisis sparked by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer for Chinese tech giant Huawei, in Vancouver on a US extradition bid.
Former diplomat Kovrig and consultant Spavor were picked up in China on suspicion of espionage days after her arrest, in a move widely seen as retaliation.
Friends of the missing employee staged a protest outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon to pressure the UK government to “save Simon.”
“Hong Kong people are still fighting to oppose the extradition bill, yet something like this happened without such a bill,” organizer Max Chung told AFP.
“If the Beijing government doesn’t explain to the public why this happened, then it is playing with fire. This is a warning to Hongkongers and to whoever wants to come to Hong Kong.”
Chung told the rally that “to our best understanding” his detained friend had not been involved with the ongoing protests that have engulfed the financial hub.
“Simon is a very good guy, and smart guy... I don’t think he would do anything stupid,” he added.