SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is one of the five pillars of Islam and required of all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, but it is not an easy task.
An association in France, the ‘SOS Pilgrims,’ has created the ‘Hajj Academy’ in Paris which offers classes to hopeful pilgrims wishing to prepare for the trip.
Started in 2007, the Hajj Academy offers counsel and instructions about the difficulties of the pilgrimage and helps worshipers gather funds for the trip.
“The Hajj Academy is a training center whose objective is to prepare pilgrims to understand the environment of the Hajj pilgrimage or of the Umrah pilgrimage. There are certain teaching units, some very technical on health and security aspects and other aspects of rituals and steps and particularly one element which we think is important for the Hajj Academy: it’s to prepare French and European pilgrims for the diverse and multicultural context of meeting, that one experiences when one is in Mecca,” said Zacaria Nana, President of ‘SOS Pilgrims’.
Doctors, academics and religious leaders are invited to speak about their experiences and offer advice.
For Ghaleb Bencheickh, Islam specialist and guest speaker at a Hajj Academy class, the pilgrimage is a trip of a lifetime for those of the Muslim faith.
“It is very important for a Muslim to accomplish this pilgrimage which is one of five pillars of Islam. It's an intense, spiritual and religious moment for men and women of the Muslim faith. It's the trip of a lifetime; it’s the place where one meets God. It’s also a place of brotherly gathering where Muslims express sentiments of fraternity, of liking. They exploit the gentleness and clemency of God. It's really a very strong moment in the life of a Muslim,” he said.
The Hajj Academy offers information on travel agencies authorized by French and Saudi Arabian authorities to organize the trip. The travel agencies usually offer a “package” deal which includes a return air ticket, hotel reservations and transport to the holy sites.
The course also offers pilgrims practical advice on matters such as getting the necessary medical tests and vaccinations before entering Saudi Arabia.
“I came today to the Hajj Academy to meet other pilgrims and the members of ‘SOS Pilgrims’. I got information off the internet about the trip to Mecca before coming here. The Hajj Academy helped me to choose an authorized travel agency and to get information on Saudi Arabia. In any case, for a trip like this, one doesn’t leave stress-free. I don’t know what is going to happen over there. Once we're there, there will no doubt be surprises. Even after preparing well for one’s trip, one is always surprised. But thankfully the Hajj Academy exists, one is a little more at peace,” said one pilgrim Rafik Saouli who is going to make the trip along with his parents.
His father Amar said everything on his checklist had been ticked off, and that all that was left now was to leave.
“We have sorted all the details for our trip, we haven’t forgotten anything. The tickets are ready, the reservation also, everything is paid. We can leave,” he said.
“Obviously we are happy to go, we’re looking forward to it.”
Every year some 35,000 Muslims from France make the Hajj pilgrimage.
The numbers taking part world-wide have risen sharply over the last 80 years from around 20,000 in 1932 to around three million in 2010.
This year, Hajj is expected to fall between October 24-29.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Arabiya
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —The 16th Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit
taking place from 26-31 August 2012 in Tehran, Iran. NAM is a group of states considering themselves not
aligned formally with or against any major power bloc. As of 2012[update], the movement has 120 members and
17 observer countries.(1) At the summit, Iran is taking over from Egypt as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement
for the period 2012 to 2015. The NAM movement is based on the following principles.
•Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the UN.
•Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
•Recognition of the movements for national independence.
•Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations, large and small.
•Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
•Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter
of the United Nations.
•Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or
political independence of any country.
•Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, in conformity with the Charter of the United
•Promotion of mutual interests and co-operation.
•Respect for justice and international obligations.(2)
Efforts by the United States and Israel to isolate Iran and to stop high ranking delegations to attend the summit
suffered a huge blow as high ranking officials from 120 member countries, plus 17 observer countries and the
general secretary of the United Nations all actively took part in the historical summit meeting.
Well before the summit and to the last minute, the US and Israel used all available tactics to stop world leaders
to participate in one of the biggest events in the universe. The negative efforts and reactions by the US, Israel
and other pressure groups regarding the decisions by the general secretary of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki Moon and
Egypt’s President Mr. Morsi are really worrying for the world community.
The American Jewish Committee, among a number of pro-Israel voices in the United States that had exhorted
Mr. Ban not to visit Iran, called the decision “a grave mistake” in a statement posted on its Web site. “Tehran
is not the place for the U.N. secretary general to visit, not at this time, not to meet with this Iranian regime,”
David Harris, the group’s executive director, said in the statement. “We are stunned that Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon would honor a regime that consistently ignores both him and the world body he heads in ways that
threaten regional and global security.” (the New York Times 22 August 2012)
Mr. Ban’s decision to attend the meeting of the NAM, announced by his spokesman, Martin Nesirky, came
despite objections from both the Americans and Israelis, including a phone call from Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu of Israel. It was announced a few days after the new president of Egypt, a country that has long been
estranged from Iran (before Egypt’s revolution), said he would attend the summit meeting as well, a decision
that had already unsettled the Israelis. (the New York Times 22 August 2012)
Mr. Nesirky told reporters at the United Nations “The secretary general is fully aware of the sensitivities of
this visit”. “He’s heard the views of some of those who said he should not go. At the same time, the secretary
general has responsibilities that he is determined to carry out.” Mr. Nesirky also said “It is certainly the
secretary general’s expectation that he will have meaningful and fruitful discussions with the supreme leader.”
To boycott the invitation from Iran, Mr. Nesirky said, “Would be a missed opportunity.”
For the leaders and high ranking officials who took part in the NAM summit and the fair minded people around
the world who follow the important events as important as gathering of 120 countries in one place, it is very
difficult to follow the views of a handful of countries and pressure groups who tried their best to portray a
negative image of the host country and the summit itself. Many questions come to the mind of those who think
logically about the whole situation and may ask.
1. A country like Iran, with population of nearly 75 million with magnificent history and background,
which has given so much in the way of culture and civilization to the entire world, should be under so
much attack from US and its allies.
2. Iran has not attacked or started any war against any other country in the past 300 years. So why US and
its allies trying to portray an image for aggressive Iran which is not representative of that country?
3. According to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and US intelligence agencies, Iran has no
nuclear weapons. On the other hand US have used twice the atomic bombs against other countries
(Second World War, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Japan) and Israel possesses nearly 200 atomic bombs. The
question here is that the world community should be afraid of Iran or US and Israel?
4. The United Nations and its secretary general are responsible for the peace and security of the world. So
why should US and its handful of allies try to stop him from attending the biggest gathering of nations
after the UN?
5. Bullying, pressurizing others, suffering from super power syndrome are not logical or democratic tactics
anymore and they do not belong to the modern world. They belong to the cold war times and the modern
world neither has the time nor willing to pay attention to these harmful tactics as has been proved by the
action of 120 countries who took part in the NAM summit. So why these tactics still being pursued by
the US and its handful of allies.
6. The US and its handful of allies are not the world community but as the NAM summit in Tehran showed
they are a part of the world community and they should play their constructive part in respecting the will
of other nations and cooperate for the peace and security of mankind. Isn’t this a logical way forward?
(1) “NAM Members & Observers”. 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, Tehran, 26–31 August 2012.
(2) Meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Methodology of the Movement of the Non-Aligned Countries, Caratagena de
Indias, May 14–16, 1996".—www.shafaqna.com/English
By Abbas Hamrang
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Two Iranian authors Amir-Hassan Cheheltan and Farideh Khalatbari will be attending the 12th Berlin International Literary Festival.
The authors are invited to the event, which will take place from September 4 to 16.
Cheheltan, 56, wrote his first novel “The Mourning for Qassem” in 1983.
Cheheltan was editor-in-chief of the online literature magazine “Sokhan” until 2004 and a member of the jury for the Sadegh Hedayat Literary Awards for Short Stories until 2005.
Khalatbari, 64, is managing director of Shabaviz, a leading publisher of children’s books in Iran, which was established in 1984.
She has written more than 50 books including “The Jackal in the Lion’s Court” and “Bus Journey into the Unknown”, which have been translated into German.
Her works have also been acclaimed in several international events. She won the New Horizons Award at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2004 for her lifetime achievements.
Writers from South Korea, the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Russia will attend the 12th Berlin International Literary Festival.
Thousands of poets and writers will read from their works during the festival, and there will be readings, concerts and film screenings in addition.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi will attend a summit in Iran later this month, a presidential official said on Saturday, the first such trip for an Egyptian leader since relations with Tehran deteriorated decades ago.
The visit could mark a thaw between the two countries after years of enmity, especially since Egypt signed its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and Iran underwent its Islamic revolution. Under Morsi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak, Egypt, predominantly Sunni Muslim, sided with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-dominated Arab states in trying to isolate Shiite-led Iran.
The official said that Morsi will visit Tehran on Aug. 30 on his way back from China to attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, where Egypt will transfer the movement’s rotating leadership to Iran. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not yet authorized to make the announcement.
The trip is no surprise — it came days after Morsi included Iran in a proposal for a contact group to mediate an end to Syria’s escalating civil war. The proposal for the group, which includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, was made at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca.
The idea was welcomed by Iran’s state-run Press TV, and a leading member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said that Tehran’s acceptance of the proposal was a sign Egypt was beginning to regain some of the diplomatic and strategic clout it once held in the region.
After the fall of Egypt’s longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising last year, officials have expressed no desire to maintain Mubarak’s staunch anti-Iranian stance.
Last July, former Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Elaraby, who also heads the Arab League, delivered a conciliatory message to the Islamic Republic, saying “Iran is not an enemy,” and noted that post-Mubarak Egypt would seek to open a new page with every country in the world, including Iran.
Any normalization, however, would have to be based on careful calculations.
Majority Sunni Egypt has its own suspicions of Iran on both religious and political grounds. The country’s ultraconservative Salafis consider Shiites heretics and enemies, and for more than three decades under Mubarak, state-run media fed the public stories of Iranian plots to weaken the Egyptian state.
However, many Egyptians sympathize with Iran’s Islamic revolution and consider Tehran’s defiance of the United States a model to follow, while others seek a foreign policy at the very least more independent of Washington.
A new understanding with Iran would be a big shake-up for the region, which has been sharply split between Tehran’s camp — which includes Syria and Islamic militias Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and a U.S.-backed group led by Saudi Arabia and rich Gulf nations.
But of the two camps, so far it’s clear Morsi has focused on courting Saudi Arabia. He visited it twice, once just after he won the presidency, and a second time during the Islamic summit. In an attempt to assuage fears of the Arab uprisings by oil monarchs, he vowed that Egypt does not want to “export its revolution”. He has also asserted commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies, a thinly veiled reference to the tension between them and Iran.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: The Washington Post
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Representatives of 45 countries are expected to take part in the 9th edition of Algeria’s International Quran Competition, An-Nahar Al-Jadid daily reported.
The contest will be organized by the country’s Awqaf and Religious Affairs Organization beginning from August 8.
Education deputy of the ministry Muhnad Eydir Mashnan said the competition used to be held at the regional level previously but is organized internationally from this year on.
He said countries from all the 5 continents of the world will participate in the Quranic event.
Mashnan added that the jury panel of the competition is made up of Quran experts from Algeria, Jordan and Senegal. —www.shafaqna.com/english