Islamic New Year 2014 | The Prophet and Kaaba

dubai 2014 new years eve fireworks, photo by robin appleby

dubai 2014 new years eve fireworks, photo by robin appleby

DUBAI, This year, the new Islamic New Year fell on October 24. The date will mark the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad's journey from Mecca to Medina in year 622. He led his followers over 200 miles across barren desert to escape persecution. At the time, Mecca was a polytheistic city which was viewed by many different religions as a holy center.

The frequent migrations of these many religious practitioners was to visit the Kaaba, which is a sacred stone structure that was once used to house effigies of gods and goddesses and its presence subsequently changed the city into a prosperous trade center.

When the Prophet insisted that there was only one God people were quite resistant to this credence. At that time theKaaba wasfilled with false idols and, furthermore, in the terms of all the Abrahamic religions it is required that a percentage of one's income (if possible) be given to charity. People worried that this new religious edict would harm the economy as well as their pockets.

As the Prophet Muhammad started his life as a merchant and didn't turn to religion until he was in his 30s -- people questioned both his authority to preach and his sincerity in proselytizing these new values. Consequently, he was threatened and began to fear for his life. The Prophet had heard that the city of Medina would be a sanctuary for the new followers of Islam and thus moved to there.  The first groundswell of converts to Islam were rapidly growing, and thus he found Mecca to be more welcoming.

The year of this journey, called the Hijra marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar. While the Prophet's birth and the founding of the Islamic religion are important, it was decided that the show of devotion in the face of adversary that a more powerful symbol representative of Islamic value should be adopted as the first of the calendar year.

Eventually it became safe for the Prophet Muhammad to return to Mecca. This pilgrimage, called the hajj, became required for all Muslims to make at least once in their lifetime during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.  However, exceptions are made for those unable to travel. As well as being a personal journey, it is also a way to encourage solidarity amongst Muslims and people from all over the world from all backgrounds came and continue to gather together to give allegiance to Allah.

The Muslim calendar is on a lunar cycle versus the Gregorian calendar used by much of the West. Thus, the start of a month is marked by the first sighting of a crescent moon, and each new day begins at sundown on the previous, versus a new day starting at sun up in the West. Because the 12-months of the calendar differ in length from the more widely used Gregorian calendar, Islamic dates and holidays vary in comparison from year-to-year.

The New Year is recognized in relatively quiet way, with prayers and reflections, but as with the other major religions and in honor of their holidays, we wish our Muslim readers Sana sa'eedah!

Immigration Policies: Two Countries Address the Global Expat Dilemma

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Vinita Tiwari, Middle East CorrespondentLast Modified: 02:23 a.m. DST, 25 July 2014

Dubai - UAE, Visa, Medical, Registration, Photo by Emon Dinglasan

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists”. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

This phrase by one of the most iconic figures in the history of the American presidency affirms the fact that the process of immigration which has been a part of the human experience since time immemorial, and which continues today, is a crucial part of nation building.

Yet, even with the historical proof that immigration is valuable and necessary, the process of moving to another country to achieve upward mobility is more challenging than it has ever been.  This post does not seek to address the issue of 'legal' versus 'illegal' immigration, but the simple fact that in all of the contention people have forgotten their own origins as they lay claim to lands in which they were once strangers.

Society, economies, and global relations are an integral component of a robust immigrant population, and for the world to continue walking on the right path or precisely on a path of continued success owing in large part to the efforts of immigrants and their descendants; countries need to refocus their immigration policies to streamline and provide greater avenues for legalizing migrants, versus an approach that borders on xenophobia.

Some of the most vociferous complaints lodge against immigrants is that they will become a drain on society because they are poorly educated and lack skills required in this technological era. What has been forgotten is that the lack of education or skill does not constitute a high-probability of failure.  Many titans of industry arrived on foreign shores with little more than the clothes on their backs, and a primary school education to boot.

These migrants who shuffled from place-to-place in the earlier centuries were not afraid to wager on the future with their hard work, dreams, and determination to rise above their humble origins, thus laying a strong foundation for future generations to build upon.  This is not to say that there aren't many people who seek to gain illegal entry to a country for nefarious intent, but the majority of immigrant expats are law abiding citizens.

Immigration: Historical Significance

If one were to turn the pages of history, it can be seen that immigration activity started in the United States during the colonial era, and for the first part of the 19th century the country experienced unprecedented rates of immigration during the period between the 1880s to the 1920s.  According to the History Channel in an article about U.S. Immigration Before 1965, immigrants were divided into two lots on the basis of their motive behind their desire to immigrate; the first group entered America to look for better economic opportunities, while the other group which mainly constituted pilgrims, moved to America in search of religious freedom.

Only in 1965 did America formulate immigration laws which subsequently paved the way for Asia and Latin American laborers to immigrate.  Prior to the codification of immigration legislation a Quota System was used, but it clearly favored laborers of European descent.  This inherent inequity in the system has led to persistent accusations of racism, while the other side claims justification for this imbalance with specious diatribe and fear mongering.

Immigration: Different Nation, Different Facets

Since time immemorial, the activity of moving from one place to another for work, money or religious purposes has been prevalent. These globe trotters have been called many names in different nations; ‘Nomads’, ‘Wetbacks’, ‘Banjaras, Pikey, or Gypsies, but these derogatory labels sought to diminish migrants as human beings and malign their true intent, which has always been to search for better life in a better place. Soon, social concerns, religious constraints, and a clash of cultures served to ignite anti-migration activity.

In response to the demands made by the citizens already inhabiting various countries legally or by birth, their elected representatives institute tougher immigration laws to level the playing field, and reduce the appearance of bias and negativity.  But, how many succeeded and how many failed?  What were the hurdles?

The Current Story of ‘Sweet & Sour’ Experiences

Migration activity has become a trend nowadays as individuals are feeling the need to work and settle down in countries with good economic conditions and standard of living. There are favorable nations for them and then on the other side there are nations that have risen from the ashes and have achieved an enviable stature, yet reject immigrants because they do not want the country to experience a reduction in standards of living because too many migrants "may" require social services support at the tax payers' expense.

The positive gains made in immigration policy by many nations, has suffered blows in recent years.  In 2012, the Global Post published an article that listed the top 5 nations (Latvia, Japan, Thailand, UAE, and Australia) with the world's worst immigration policies.  Additional research and rankings of countries with similar labor abuses was done by the Human Rights Watch and Foreign Policy groups, and these studies confirmed and expounded upon the dangers faced by migrants seeking a better life in other countries.

Several of these countries on the lists are faring well both economically and socially, and their resistance to immigration supports the assertion that they view immigrants as a nuisance and a drain.  The report also revealed that each of these countries had severe shortcomings in their employment laws, practiced unfair and punitive behavior toward immigrants, especially in preventing immigrants from joining or forming labor unions which may have providing them with basic workers' rights and additional protections.

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Published: 25 July 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

‘The Wounds Washed & Bandaged’

The fact cannot be ignored that there are several nations, predominantly Asia and Arab, that are thriving because of the high rate of immigration, lax or none -existent worker's rights, and the subsequent benefit derived from these laborers that encourages foreign investments due to low wages.

Though this is still the prevailing model, many countries with stable economies that are flourishing, have begun to roll-out initiatives that seek to align the disparity between the benefits realized from these migrant workers versus their treatment and status..

Though identified in the Global Post, these 5 countries are definitely guilty of harsh anti-immigration policies, but there are many more socially restrictive nations that refuse to even let expatriates reach their shores, as has been reported these past few weeks in several tragedies where immigrants were wounded, drowned, or killed in open waters.

One incident occurred off of the coast of Italy where 60 people were killed trying to escape suffocation in a poorly ventilated and over crowded below deck area of the ship. Another ongoing concern is how Australia is currently handling immigrants seeking asylum.  Instead of allowing them to plead their case on shore, immigrants are stopped at sea and sent back without any regard to potential persecution they may face as a result.  Amongst the 5 countries listed above, one Asian and one Middle East country have begun to re-addressed their immigration laws to make them more equitable and as a result have begun to frame new laws and regulations.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Recently, UAE has emerged as one of the favorite destinations for immigrants. Expatriates from different nations who are seeking to expand their professional horizons are seeking career opportunities in the UAE.  Job seekers with technical skills can anticipate high per capita income, easy home loans and a vibrant lifestyle.  But, this is a relatively new but positive turn of events, especially since the UAE made the 2012 list of countries with the worst immigration policies.

Now, 2-years later, many Emirate-level governments have taken steps to strengthen the rights and protection of migrant workers.  With new strategic direction the federation has begun to focus on labor issues and legislating governmental bodies to arbitrate between the workers and employers, a mutually beneficial resolution of any immigration issues.  The country has reviewed and revised some laws, as well as its bilateral agreements with the countries from which many of the migrant laborers have originated for the past several years.

One such noteworthy amendment legislating greater protection in the interests of workers who were not covered under Wage Protection System (WPS). For this, the UAE government did following:

  • In 2012, the UAE Federal National Council called for legislation for addressing the protection of domestic workers' rights.
  • Later in 2013, the UAE government revised a federal law to safeguard victims of human trafficking.
  • There were initiatives and training programs developed to help custom and immigration officers to identify and targeted those who may be guilty of tafficking.

This may not seem like much, but these changes are substantial when one considers that the UAE based upon the 2012 report, gave the appearance of such a lack of interests in the rights of migrant workers, that laws and regulations did not even exists.

Japan

It is said that Tokyo’s government intended to pay the immigrants to leave the country as soon as possible. Sounds weird and disheartening, but it’s true.  Similar anti-immigrant action is being taken in both the United States and Australia where  asylum seekers and immigrants are being treated inhumanely and with little compassion or any consideration of extenuating circumstances.

However, as with UAE, Japan has realized some positive reversals in its heretofore inhospitable immigration policies.

  • The Japanese government has introduced a point system that makes migration protocols easier for workers conducting one of three activities: academic research, specialized technical work or business management.
  • New Preferential Treatment System that allows a foreign professional to work in a number of fields as long as they possess the requisite education or business acumen and/or capital.  Similar to the US H1B visa which is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine.
  • Clauses that will allow families of professionals to enjoy many of the same benefits of citizens.

Similar amendments are in progress in the 3 remaining countries on the list, but immigration reform in these countries has not progressed enough to demonstrate outward manifestation, nor is the process transparent enough for us to gain additional insight.

The Final Verdict

The countries that have been facing issues pertaining to harsh anti-immigration laws now recognize that their heinous treatment of foreign workers will no longer go unnoticed and in fact is being classified as a human rights violation.  It is easy to malign countries with record of various human rights abuses; however, it is more reprehensible for countries with robust economies and strong human rights protections to deny the benefits that have been received from immigraant or 'undocumented' laborers. To adopt such a hypocritical and uncompromising stance on immigration will only hurt the economic ecosystem in the long-term.

One could be kind and say that the stance they have adopted is because they haven't realized the true worth of these migrants and the advantages they bring.  But, more likely the exact opposite and that these governments are keenly aware of the benefits derived, but because this population of migrant workers is vulnerable and have the most to lose, many laborers find themselves in the untenable position of being regularly abused and taken advantaged.

This is a highly charged issue clearly demands greater awareness and compassion, as well as a desire to accept people from different backgrounds and religious beliefs into their midst. Once this has been accomplished, immigration laws will hopefully become merely written words on a piece of paper, because policy will then be driven less by the letter of the law, but the fulfillment of the original framework that provided avenues for people to improve their lot in life while bring great benefit to their adopted country.

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Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

Punjab Immigrants Stuck in Iraq | How to Avoid Fraudulent Job Offers

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Vinita Tiwari, Middle East CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:50 p.m. DST, 24 June 2014

Self portrait – All about the Sandy’s, Photo by: MattysFlicksPUNJAB, India & Dubai -- When dreams get wings, they fly high. But when dreams are met with deceit, often disappointment and broken aspirations are the residue left behind.

The metaphor is evident in a recent tragedy that has stirred the whole world and has discredited the developing economies involved in Dubai.

Let us unfold the chapters of this very dark story......

A Shameless Tale of Innocent Job Seekers & Fraud Predators

More than 40 young job aspirants from Punjab were lured west by proposals offered by travel agents who promised them high-paying job opportunities in Dubai. The worst part here was that these travel agents were in direct connections with illegal recruitment organizations operating from the Gulf countries.

The travel agents (as per their promise) sent these youth to Dubai, but there the job seekers were told to wait for many weeks. Later, they were informed that Dubai has dearth of ideal jobs, and currently Iraq would be a better fit for them.

In need of money and a better career, the aspirants agreed and moved on, not knowing that Iraq has been the epicenter of political and social unrests for the past decade.

Subsequent to the arrival, several of the hopeful employees disappeared and are still unaccounted for, and the families of these individuals are heartbroken. They are imploring Dubai to deliver justice and proper punishment for the fraudsters. Those immigrants who have been located in Iraq are trying to return home, but the cost of travel has been a barrier for many of these individuals. Other reports claim that ISIS terror group are holding the Indian workers.

Be Aware

While this seems like an extraordinary occurrence, many similar cases have been reported in recent years. The best antidote is to be aware and cautious when applying to jobs in Dubai or elsewhere. Whether you are promised a job in a large metropolis or rural area, the same risks apply.

Here is a plan to avoid becoming the next victim of such fraud:

  1. “Deposit Money & Get Your Dream Job In-Hand”

This is the first red flag that the there is something suspicious about the job offer. As the saying goes, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Well, if the opportunity is genuine, potential employees will never ask for money, but rather they will ask you your expected salary range. In these cases, the best advice is to avoid such opportunities and not fall prey to fraudulent career-furthering options. The statement is generally mentioned in the ‘terms & conditions’ part of the intent letter.

  1. Remuneration Amount Beyond Experience & Expectations

This is another technique used by the conmen to raise hopeful employee's hopes and encourage a flood of applicants. It is understandable that if you get an opportunity to go for a high-paying job in Dubai or EU, as these are some of the flourishing economies of late, you might have a hard time saying 'no.' However, it is advisable to study the current global market salary trends in advance, so you can find work that pays well, and avoid fraudulent job offers.

  1. Use the Power of Internet

Make use of the power of the internet by searching buzzwords and hashtags related to your job. There are cyber cafes that offer access to the world wide web in small towns and big cities of every globalized country. To know the authenticity of the job offer, enter the company’s name, the agency’s name, and even the address of the company. You can find this information in prior corporate mailings and brochures.

  1. Job Search Sites

If you are eyeing opportunities in Dubai or other flourishing economies, you should access famous Dubai job portals like Naukrigulf.com. You just have to create a profile, and then you can access several legitimate job options at your convenience.

  1. No Personal Information Please!

There have been incidents of hacking and identity theft; therefore save yourself from this trap. There are mailers containing job opportunities that may ask you for your birth date, social security number or your mother’s maiden name. It is safe to assume that the intention of these mailings is to steal your identity or access your financial accounts.

Last Word of Advice

Be aware as you conduct your international job search. However if you find yourself a victim of a fake job offer, immediately report it to the job board, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. The commission or the establishment will vary from country to country, but by reporting the offense, you can actively end the fraudulent and exploitative practices perpetrated by these recruiters.

Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

Dubai: A Tale of Economic Upsurge

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Vinita Tiwari, Middle East CorrespondentLast Modified: 05:09 p.m. DST, 29 May 2014

"BURJ AL ARAB" Photo by: Nitin Badhwar

A recent survey done by one of the globally recognized auditors, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) revealed that Dubai has been honorably named as the ‘City of Opportunity’. The emirate has left behind a lot of economically strong countries in the race; emerging as one of the flourishing employment producing cities.

Sweeping off the accolades and awards on a global platform was never easy for an Arab federation that was strangling in the ropes of tradition and orthodox perspectives; a couple of years ago. Let us explore and know the history and what led to the huge success of Dubai from different aspects.

History of Dubai: A Time-Line Reflecting the Rise & Fall of the City

Dubai dons the image of an economically powerful Arab federation and an employment powerhouse that encapsulates opportunities not only for nationals but for millions of expats as well. But the situation was never this favorable and Dubai has risen from the ashes, in a true sense. Let us analyze the Dubai’s history, year-wise:

  1. 1930-1940 (The ‘Dark’ Decade):

Long before, when the wealth-generating oil & gas fields were not explored; it was the Pearling industry that flourished in the corners of the UAE, especially Dubai. During this tenure itself, recession destroyed everything and the booming Pearl industry dipped in no time. The sudden fall created a lot of social pressures and there were scenarios of disputes amongst the royals.

  1. 1958-1968 (The ‘Bounce-Back’ Decade)

It was in the year 1958 that Sheikh Rashid officially became the ruler of Dubai and started building relations and directing initiatives towards revamping the economy of Dubai. The initiatives were for re-branding the image of the city and making it a major trading hub. After a couple of years, the city discovered its own oil field. This attracted a lot of traders and thereby after a long time, Dubai saw economic growth. As the decade ended, Dubai was already exporting crude oil and generating revenues.

  1. 1990-2006 (The ‘Fortunate’ Decade)

Dubai was now fast emerging as a wealth and job generating machine sort of country. By the end of 1990, there were political upturns as Sheik Maktoum, the new ruler of Dubai paved way for organizing Dubai shopping festival and the Dubai World Cup. Moreover, in this time period only, Burj Al Arab came into existence. By 2003, Dubai got recognition from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as a financial hub. All these major political happenings led to the economic success of Dubai.

  1. 2006-Till Date (The Never-Ending Success)

Dubai has now become one of the top tourist destinations and placed itself ahead of all the powerful job markets and economies.

Other than economy and revenues, Dubai has come a long way in shedding its conservative image and rolling out as a country that welcomes people from different cultures and backgrounds. This is no less than a sign of a powerful country. Let us explore this aspect as well.

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Published: 29 May 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

History of Dubai: Ruling Out the Social & Cultural Barriers

Times have changed and so is the thought process. Owing to a strong economy and a high per capita income, Dubai manages to attract a good number of migrating job seekers every quarter. So, it can be clearly said that the flourishing city of the UAE has a mixed populace in terms of religion, caste and creed. The expats have reported a healthy lifestyle and this proves that the federation has left behind the age-old cultural stigmas that marred the success earlier.

The above discussion shares some of the facts that reveal the arduous journey that Dubai has covered from being a small city to what it is today. If people are regarding the city as fortunate, then there are reasons behind it. Let us unfold the current fiscal and job market scenarios of Dubai.

Dubai: A City of Booming Economy & a Ripple-Creating Job Market

Dubai has come a long way in creating the stature that it maintains today. The economic evolution and extermination of tightening cultural yardsticks has resulted into a city that is flourishing and raining jobs in almost all the sectors. There are certain government initiatives that have been taken to bring in revenues and make Dubai’s economy stronger. Here are some of them:

  • Government initiatives directed towards bringing in economic diversification
  • Foreign trade has proved to be a major contributor in boosting the economy
  • Initiatives to promote jobs in service industry-Finance & Trade sectors in the city of Dubai
  • There are initiatives strategized by government bodies in Dubai that aim to offer employees a better and secured workplace. This has actually attracted a lot of countries to partner with Dubai and create jobs for people.

All these factors and ventures have helped in developing Dubai in becoming one of the economically strong cities and a job market to ‘die-for’. Well, Dubai has acquired the status of being a land of opportunity, then there are ought to be some more reasons that supports the fact. Well, there are certain upcoming events that will even elevate the success rates. Here is a snapshot of the foreseen fortunate events:

Dubai: Upcoming Fiscal-Boosting Happenings

  1. World Expo Bid Win 2020

Dubai will be hosting the next World Expo Bid that will witness countries from different parts of the world participating and displaying job opportunities in different sectors. Some of the mobility and Oil & Gas related issues will also be addressed in the exposition. The event is expected to create millions of jobs across sectors. The economy is expected to be boosted by a whopping $24.2bn.

  1. Launch of World Free Zones Organization

Dated May 19, 2014, the World Free Zones Organization (World FZO) unveils in the city of Dubai. The organization is a non-profit entity that will operate for all free zones around the world and is set to transform the way in which world economy operates.

Not only fortunate for working lot, Dubai has also proved its worth for the business group as well. Dubai is a favorable place for all the working people owing to booming fiscal situation, high per capita income and a tax-free working zone.

A ‘City of Opportunity’ in True Sense

Dubai has come a long way to reach a place where it is now and has also shed its image of being a culturally narrow federation. The fierce combination of low corporate tax rates, affordable cost of living and quality of life are some of the defining factors of Dubai. The city is not only a favorable land for emiratis but also an excellent employment destination for expats as well. With all these factors combined together, Dubai has emerged as a winner in true sense.

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Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

Norwegian Woman Jailed in Dubai for Reporting Rape

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 00:32 a.m. DST, 17 August 2013

Dubai Police, Photo by Willi GrillmaierDUBAI, UAE - A Norwegian woman was slapped with jail after reporting to the police in Dubai that she had been raped. Her sentence is longer than her convicted rapist’s.

During her business trip to Dubai, the woman found herself jailed for the consumption of alcohol and for having sex outside of marriage. The exact circumstances remain unclear, however. The Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that she had her passport taken away, and that she was unable to use a phone for three days.

After finally contacting her family, her family mobilized the Foreign Ministry and Norway’s consulate in Dubai. Both organizations were able to get her out of jail and housed at the local Norwegian Seamans Church, where she remained until she received her sentence: one year and four months. Anniken Meling of the Seamans Church told NRK that her attacker was only sentenced for one year and one month.

Alicia Gali was also faced with a similar situation earlier this year, when she was targeted and raped by three of her colleagues.

Gali had signed a managerial contract with an American-owned company named Starwood Hotels, who offered to pay for her ticket and accommodations. Shortly after Gali reached her hotel in Dubai, her colleagues purposely sabotaged her sink so that it would flood, forcing Gali to leave her room, where she entered the hotel’s bar. The colleagues then added additional ice to her drink, where she blacked out and woke up naked in her room.

According to the Blaze, when she wanted to go home, she was told by a senior manager that she owed a “debt” to them since they had paid for her flight and accommodations. The hotel was also holding her passport, which prevented Gali from leaving the country as advised by the Australian consulate.

Gali was sentenced for 11 months for sex outside of marriage, and 1 month for drinking alcohol. Two of the accused rapists received the same sentence, while the third got an extra month.

After eight months, Gali was pardoned and allowed to go home, along with her rapists.

Local laws in Dubai include laws against extramarital sex and drinking alcohol in public places. Additionally according to the Qur’an (2:282), a woman’s testimony is only worth of half that of a man’s in court. Without four witnesses, according to the Qur’an (24:13), the accuser is considered the liar in the eyes of Allah. Though rape is considered piracy of the body or hirabah, without witnesses, women in this situation are considered to actually be confessing to having sex.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki