Muslim World League head urges faith leaders to travel to Jerusalem seeking peace

The crisis cannot be tackled except by great influential men powered with logical wisdom and justice, said Mohammed Al-Issa Secretary-general, MWL.
Updated 06 October 2018
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Muslim World League head urges faith leaders to travel to Jerusalem seeking peace

  • The call was made at the opening of the second Conference on Cultural Rapprochement between the US and the Muslim World in New York on Oct. 4
  • The peace initiative by the head of the Makkah-based MWL followed calls for peace by Jewish and Christian American religious leaders

NEW YORK: In an unprecedented move, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), has called on faith leaders to travel to Jerusalem by launching a “peace caravan” made up of religious messengers who are independent of any political affiliation. 

The call was made at the opening of the second Conference on Cultural Rapprochement between the US and the Muslim World in New York on Oct. 4. 

“This convoy should represent the three religions to visit all the holy places in Jerusalem. The crisis cannot be tackled except by great influential men powered with logical wisdom and justice,” Al-Issa said to some 400 US, Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders and thinkers.

The peace initiative by the head of the Makkah-based MWL followed calls for peace by Jewish and Christian American religious leaders. 

Charles Small, president of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, said the greatest victim of antisemitism in America today are Muslims. Quoting the Jewish writer and Holocaust survival the late Elie Wiesel, Small said that “while antisemitism begins with Jews it doesn’t end with Jews.”

Shawki Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, focused on the need for a positive intervention, saying that he hopes to make a “positive contribution in the effort to place the foundation of a holistic approach to dialogue.”

The president of the Emirates Fatwa Council, Abdallah bin Bayyah, spoke about religion’s approach to tolerating the other. “We want all religions, and their adherents, to move from simple acknowledgment of the other to the Qur’anic calling of coming to know one another.”

It is noteworthy that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has regularly called on Muslims and Arabs who can visit Jerusalem to do so saying that visiting a prisoner is not legitimizing the jailers, a reference to the suggestion that such a visit represents normalization with Israel.

Al-Issa tackled the label of extremism in his closing speech on the conference’s first day. “Great religions are not extreme by nature; and at the same time, there is no religion that is free of extremists who believe that they solely are privileged with the absolute truth.”


‘Sand mafias’ threaten Morocco’s coastline

Updated 18 min 33 sec ago
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‘Sand mafias’ threaten Morocco’s coastline

  • Unscrupulous construction contractors illegally stripping beaches of sand
  • Beaches and rivers are heavily exploited across the planet, legally and illegally, according to UNEP

MOHAMMEDIA: Beneath an apartment block that looms over Monica beach in the western coastal city of Mohammedia, a sole sand dune has escaped the clutches of Morocco’s insatiable construction contractors.

Here, like elsewhere across the North African tourist magnet, sand has been stolen to help feed an industry that is growing at full tilt.

A report last month by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the global over-exploitation of this resource accuses “sand mafias” of destroying Morocco’s beaches and over-urbanizing its coastline.

“The dunes have disappeared along the entire city’s coastline,” lamented environmental activist Jawad, referring to Mohammedia, on the Atlantic between Rabat and Casablanca.

The 33-year-old environmental activist leads Anpel, a local NGO dedicated to coastal protection.

“At this rate, we’ll soon only have rocks” left, chipped in Adnane, a member of the same group.

More than half the sand consumed each year by Morocco’s construction industry — some 10 million cubic meters (350 million cubic feet) — is extracted illegally, according to UNEP.

“The looters come in the middle of the night, mainly in the low season,” said a local resident in front of his grand home on the Monica seafront.

“But they do it less often now because the area is full of people. In any case, there is nothing more to take,” added the affable forty-something.

Sand accounts for four-fifths of the makeup of concrete and — after water — is the world’s second most consumed resource.

Exploitation

Beaches and rivers are heavily exploited across the planet, legally and illegally, according to UNEP.

In Morocco, “sand is often removed from beaches to build hotels, roads and other tourism-related infrastructure,” according to UNEP. Beaches are therefore shrinking, resulting in coastal erosion.

“Continued construction is likely to lead to... destruction of the main natural attraction for visitors — beaches themselves,” the report warned.

Theft of sand from beaches or coastal dunes in Morocco is punishable by five years in prison.

Siphoned away by donkey, delivery bike and large trucks, the beaches are being stripped from north to south, along a coastline that runs from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic.

FASTFACT

Siphoned away by donkey, delivery bike and large trucks, the beaches are being stripped from north to south, along a coastline that runs from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic.

“On some beaches, the sand has nearly disappeared” in parts of the north, said an ecological activist in Tangiers. “There has been enormous pressure on the beaches of Tangiers because of real estate projects,” he said.

To the south, the UNEP report noted, “sand smugglers have transformed a large beach into a rocky landscape” between Safi and Essaouira. Activist Jawad points to “small scale looting, like here in Mohammedia.”

But “then there is the intensive and structured trafficking by organized networks, operating with the complicity of some officials.”

While the sand mafias operate as smugglers, “key personalities — lawmakers or retired soldiers — hand out permits allowing them to over-exploit deposits, without respect for quotas,” he added.

A licensed sand dredger spoke of “a very organized mafia that pays no taxes” selling sand that is “neither washed nor desalinated,” and falls short of basic building regulations.

These mafia outfits have “protection at all levels... they pay nothing at all because they do everything in cash,” this operator added, on condition of anonymity.

“A lot of money is laundered through this trade.”

A simple smartphone helps visualize the extent of the disaster.

Via a Google Earth map, activist Adnane showed a razed coastal forest, where dunes have given way to a lunar landscape, some 200 km south of Casablanca.

Eyes fixed on the screen, he carefully scrutinized each parcel of land.

“Here, near Safi, they have taken the sand over (a stretch of) seven kilometers. It was an area exploited by a retired general, but there is nothing left to take,” he alleged.

Adnane pointed to another area — exploited, he said, by a politician who had a permit for “an area of two hectares.”

But instead, he “took kilometers” of sand.

Environmental protection was earmarked as a priority by Morocco, in a grandiose statement after the country hosted the 2016 COP22 international climate conference.

Asked by AFP about measures to fight uncontrolled sand extraction, secretary of state for energy Nezha El Ouafi pointed to “a national coastal protection plan (that) is in the process of being validated.”

The plan promises “evaluation mechanisms, with protection programs and (a) high status,” she said.

Meanwhile, environmental activists are pleading against the “head in the sand approach” over the scale of coastal devastation.