2019: A golden year for Islamic culture

Serving as symbols of the Islamic faith, mosques serve communities, provide marginalized populations with opportunities to gain sufficient knowledge about Islam, and can constitute religious institutions. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 January 2019
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2019: A golden year for Islamic culture

  • Four cities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East will be celebrated for their historical significance

JEDDAH: Three cities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are chosen every year as capitals of Islamic culture by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) for enriching the culture of their regions. 

This year, Jerusalem, Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan, and Guinea-Bissau’s capital Bissau have been recognized for their historical significance in the areas of culture, art, social sciences and architecture. 

As an exception for 2019, Tunis was included as a fourth capital since it hosted an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in December. 

Comprised of 54 member states, along with three observer states, ISESCO’s charter stipulates that every OIC member state is officially a member of ISESCO upon signing the charter. 

The Capitals of Islamic Culture program was born through an OIC resolution in 2002. 

The main criteria for selection is outstanding contribution to both Islamic and universal culture, confirmed through the scientific, cultural, literary and artistic works of scholars.  

ISESCO inaugurated the program in 2005, with Makkah named the first capital. 

The program aims to foster cultural enrichment, encourage dialogue between states and build global bridges.

Preparations for celebrations in the four capitals are under way. 

Jerusalem, or Al-Quds in Arabic, is one of the oldest cities in the world, and bears many scars from ancient times. 

It is the cradle of Christianity, and Muslims first turned toward Jerusalem for prayer before then turning toward Makkah. 

Jerusalem’s name is derived from the word “maqdis,” Arabic for sacred.

It was declared a permanent capital of culture upon the proposition of ISESCO Director General Abdulaziz Al-Twaijri during a conference in Bahrain last November.

“Jerusalem faces a systematic policy of Judaization and alteration of its Islamic cultural and civilizational landmarks, which necessitates that OIC members and the international community unite efforts to protect the rights of the Palestinian people and safeguard the city’s identity,” said Al-Twaijri.

Tunis was once the capital of the Muslim caliphate in North Africa. 

It was renowned for its unrivalled prosperity and economic, cultural and social growth. 

The city is home to a blend of Arab-Islamic culture dating back to the 7th century. 

Built around an ancient quarter with towering minarets overlooking the Mediterranean, the city’s numerous Islamic architectural structures, some in ruins but others well-preserved, are a testament to its ancient significance. 

Tunisian Culture Minister Mohamed Zine El-Abidine asserted the importance of reinforcing culture as the “driving force for development and a bulwark against extremism and terrorism.”  

As this year’s Asian capital of Islamic culture, Brunei is considered the longest-standing Malay state since its embrace of Islam more than six centuries ago. 

The small nation has played a central role in reinforcing the Islamic faith in the region. 

Activities celebrating the declaration of Bandar Seri Begawan as a culture capital will kick off on Jan. 17.  

“Islamic teachings are rooted in the country’s political culture and history, as well as in daily practices,” said Maj. Gen. Dato Paduka Abidin, Brunei’s culture minister.

Representing the African continent, the capital of Guinea-Bissau is a rich mix of Islamic and Christian cultures enriched by traditional African beliefs. 

Islam arrived in Guinea-Bissau before the 12th century, and expanded considerably in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Every year, Bissau hosts a cultural and artistic event, and several neighborhoods showcase their vibrant cultural heritage. 

ISESCO proclaimed 2019 the year of heritage in the Islamic world. 

In a statement released on the occasion, ISESCO invited member states to plan celebrations, and underscored the importance of cultural heritage in preserving memory and identity.


Official count shows Widodo reelected as Indonesian leader

Updated 21 May 2019
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Official count shows Widodo reelected as Indonesian leader

  • Widodo’s challenger for a second time, former general Prabowo Subianto, has refused to accept defeat and declared himself the winner last month
  • Police this month have arrested 31 Islamic militants they say planned to set off bombs during expected street protests against the election result
JAKARTA, Indonesia: The official count from last month’s Indonesian presidential election shows President Joko Widodo won 55.5% of the vote, the Election Commission said Tuesday, securing him a second term.
The formal result from the April 17 election was almost the same as the preliminary “quick count” results drawn from a sample of polling stations on election day.
Widodo’s challenger for a second time, former general Prabowo Subianto, has refused to accept defeat and declared himself the winner last month.
Thousands of police and soldiers are on high alert in the capital Jakarta, anticipating protests from Subianto’s supporters.
Subianto has alleged massive election fraud in the world’s third-largest democracy but hasn’t provided any credible evidence. Votes are counted publicly and the commission posts the tabulation form from each polling station on its website, allowing for independent verification.
Counting was completed just before midnight and the Election Commission announced the results early Tuesday before official witnesses from both campaigns.
“We reject the results of the presidential election,” said Azis Subekti, one of the witnesses for Subianto. “This refusal is a moral responsibility for us to not give up the fight against injustice, fraud, arbitrariness, lies, and any actions that will harm democracy.”
Under Indonesia’s election law, Subianto can dispute the results at the Constitutional Court.
He and members of his campaign team have said they will mobilize “people power” for days of street protests rather than appeal to the court because they don’t believe it will provide justice.
In a video released after results were announced, Subianto again refused to concede defeat but called on supporters to refrain from violence.
Police this month have arrested 31 Islamic militants they say planned to set off bombs during expected street protests against the election result.