By Anna SchaefferRabat – The Union of Tunisian Imams have implored their Grand Mufti to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, to discourage Muslims from participating in the Hajj this year in response to violence perpetrated by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The ever-rising cost of the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site contributes to the massive riches of the Saudi government, whose usage of that money to fund wars, even massacres, in other Muslim nations goes directly against what numerous outspoken Muslim leaders consider ethical. General-Secretary of the Union of Tunisian Imams Fadhel Ashour said it would be better “to spend this money to improve the conditions of the Tunisian people.” Instead, he said, “It is used to kill and displace people, as is the case currently in Yemen.”The three-year Saudi military campaign “to restore legitimacy in Yemen” has killed more than 14,000 men, women, and children. Millions on the verge of starvation and thousands dead from record-high cholera outbreaks pushed the UN to call the “Yemeni genocide” the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Rather than use Hajj profits to benefit poorer surrounding nations, Saudi Arabia continues to fund the war in Yemen as well as the deadly crisis in Syria. How much profit does Hajj yield?The Qur’an states that practicing Muslims who are able should observe Hajj pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam, at least once during their life; because of the steep costs resulting from both travel and imposed taxes, the trip requires extensive saving for a great number of the millions of believers who travel to the holy site.Al Arabiya reported in 2014 that the average cost for a worshiper from an outside country is approximately USD 5,000. The cost for Tunisians, whose imams have called for abstaining from the 2018 Hajj, is over USD 4,500.According to figures by Al Jazeera, it costs the average person from Malaysia half a year’s salary to complete the Hajj. For someone from Bangladesh, the Hajj costs more than three years’ earnings.Regardless of what nation a pilgrim hails from, their minimum Hajj cost begins at USD 2,000; often, the pricetag soars higher than USD 14,000 for one person. Recently increased taxes add to the head-reeling sum of money—estimated to exceed USD 150 billion per year by 2022—swallowed directly from Hajj profits by Saudi Arabia.Should believers boycott the pilgrimage?Because a considerable share of the fortune contributes to Saudi conflict or weapon acquisition, Muslims worldwide question whether boycotting the Hajj is the best course of action. A developing perception in Muslim nations considers Saudi Arabia’s actions as exploitative, utilizing the holy site to punish its opponents or advance its political ends. One Twitter user encouraged other Muslim countries to follow in the footsteps of the Tunisian imams. He cited “increase of Hajj costs, paying Hajj revenues to the US, using revenues to kill Muslims as in Yemen, [and] Al Saud [House of Saud] role in helping the Israeli occupation” as reasons to take “a strict position and boycott Hajj for this year.”Journalist Kamel Abderrahmani said the pilgrimage has evolved into “one of Saudi Arabia’s commercial pillars.” “In other words, the Saudi God is a business and worship at the same time,” he wrote.Abderrahmani urged all Muslim nations to boycott the Hajj and use the money instead to “build hospitals, schools and universities to protect our children from ignorance and an archaic conception of life and religion.”In contrast to the cries for an anti-Hajj edict in Tunisia, the Tunisian political party Ennahda Movement warned of the potential for a strained Tunisia-Saudi Arabia relationship. “These are isolated and ideological calls that only serve personal purposes,” said an Ennahda statement. Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs Ahmed Adhoum announced 236,000 Hajj applications for 2018 alone. The number of pilgrims whose applications will be accepted by lottery has risen from 10,374 in 2017 to a current count of 10,892. If the Grand Mufti of the Republic in Tunisia issues a fatwa against the pilgrimage, profits made by Saudi Arabia could decrease by more than USD 50 million.
TORONTO — The Toronto stock market turned lower late-morning Monday amid a muted response to a weekend deal for Cyprus that aims to prevent the country from sliding into bankruptcy and ditching the euro currency.The S&P/TSX composite index edged 30.01 points lower to 12,727.34 with smartphone maker BlackBerry a major weight ahead of its earnings release later in the week.Indexes had been higher earlier in the session after Cyprus clinched a (euro)10-billion bailout after lengthy negotiations with the so-called troika of creditors — the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the ECB.But in order to get the money, Cyprus had to come up with (euro)5.8 billion on its own. The bulk of that money is now being raised by forcing losses on holders of large bank deposits, with the remainder coming from tax increases and privatizations.The European Central Bank had threatened to cut off crucial emergency assistance to the country’s banks by Tuesday if no agreement was reached.The country’s second-largest bank, Laiki, will be restructured, with all bondholders and people with more than (euro)100,000 in their bank accounts facing significant losses.“As often happens, you get a bit of a knee jerk response and then a little sober second thought afterwards,” said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.He said wasn’t a huge surprise that there was a deal “and now we move on.”The Canadian dollar was also down from the highs of the session and late in the morning the currency was up 0.16 of a cent to 97.88 cents US.U.S. indexes also lost early traction as the Dow Jones industrials lost 54.02 points to 14,458.01, the Nasdaq was down 8.59 points at 3,236.41 and the S&P 500 index dipped 3.01 points to 1,553.88.The focus will likely remain on developments surrounding Cyprus for awhile yet. In particular, investors will be interested to see the level of withdrawals from the country’s banks when they reopen. That’s scheduled for Tuesday.A longer-lasting concern though is how the Cyprus deal plays out in other countries, notably those at the forefront of Europe’s debt crisis. Analysts warned there is still a risk of contagion spreading to other weak eurozone countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece.Early strong gains on European bourses also evaporated as London’s FTSE 100 index edged up 0.1 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was up 0.03 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 index declined 0.6 per cent.The base metals sector led decliners, down 1.4 per cent with May copper off a penny at US$3.46 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) dropped 47 cents to C$19.65.The tech sector dropped 0.84 per cent as shares in smartphone maker BlackBerry (TSX:BB) fell for a second session in a row ahead of the release of its quarterly earnings on Thursday. Its stock was off session lows but still down 64 cents, or 4.2 per cent, to $14.55 on top of an eight per cent slide Friday as the smartphone maker’s new Z10 product officially went on sale in the U.S.The company’s fourth-quarter earnings give a glimpse into how well the smartphones are selling in Canada, the U.K. and India, though details on its U.S. launch and other markets won’t be part of the financial report until the next earnings period.“On balance, I think the numbers will be pretty decent — it’s going to be a loss, which is not unexpected but the sales numbers are going to be the story here,” added Gorman.“We have had mixed sentiment with respect to very very early responses. I don’t think you’re going to see anything conclusive there until the keyboard equipped device comes out a little later on.”The gold sector dropped one per cent as April bullion fell $9.70 to US$1,596.40 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) lost 29 cents to C$34.04.The May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up $1.70 to US$95.41 a barrel. The energy sector was down 0.26 per cent as Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) dropped 26 cents to C$31.676.In other corporate news, Dell plans to negotiate with Blackstone Group and investor Carl Icahn over new acquisition bids for the computer maker that rival an offer of more than US$24 billion from investors led by founder Michael Dell. Dell and Silver Lake Partners have offered to buy the company for $13.65 per share. Buyout specialist Blackstone is proposing to buy the company for $14.25 per share. Icahn wants to buy up to 58 per cent of Dell’s shares for $15 each. Icahn and other investors have criticized Michael Dell’s bid as too low.AltaGas Ltd. (TSX:ALA) has agreed to pay US$515 million to purchase Blythe Energy LLC, which owns a 507-megawatt electricity generation plant and associated transmission line in Southern California. Its shares fell $1.19 to $34.85.
“We will always do our best to accommodate smaller musical instruments in the cabin.“In order to ensure there is enough space for all customers to store their belongings, larger musical instruments can be carried in the hold in a hard case. Alternatively customers can choose to buy an extra seat to carry them in the cabin at a discounted rate.” British Airways has been branded a “greedy disgrace” by one of the world’s leading classical musicians after the airline apparently announced it was charging for smaller instruments brought on board.Alison Balsom, the renowned trumpeter, led a revolt against the airline that prompted a loud and stirring chorus of disapproval. Ms Balsom wrote: The outcry forced BA to issue a statement apologising for any misunderstanding and an insistence that the policy on carrying small instruments had not changed.Musicians are reluctant to allow precious instruments, often worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, out of their sight and into the hold where atmospheric conditions can also cause damage.On Tuesday, BA’s customer services posted a message to the classical music website, Slipped Disc which stated that from now on instruments carried on flights would be charged. That’s it, I’m done @British_Airways – we’ve all been so patient with the lowering standards but not to let professional musicians bring on their (small) instruments as hand baggage? We take hundreds of thousands of flights -it’s our living. A greedy disgrace.— Alison Balsom (@alisonbalsom) December 19, 2017 “It’s true that we’ve changed our policy and we’re unable to allow musical instruments to be carried in cabin as hand baggage without charge. We ask all passengers travelling with musical instruments to contact us for assistance prior to their journey,” said BA.Hours later the airline said that advice had been wrong. Larger instruments such as cellos, guitars and double basses would continue to require an extra seat that must be paid for while violins and trumpets and the like, carried in hard cases, could be taken in the hold free provided there is space. A spokesman said: “We are sorry for the misunderstanding. We appreciate how precious instruments are to musicians and offer special arrangements for transporting them, which are detailed on ba.com . Meanwhile Escala, a prominent electric string quartet, said they refused to be bullied by BA into paying for their violins and violas on a trip back to London from Amsterdam two weeks ago.The quartet said in a statement: “There seem to be different rules in different countries. It is so unclear. It makes us nervous every time we approach the BA desk.” The complaint trumpeted by Miss Balsom is hard to ignore. She is one of the classical music industry’s most bankable stars, having twice been named female artist of the year at the Classic Brits.Last week, she was unveiled as the new artistic director of the Cheltenham Music Festival and has been dubbed the ‘crumpet with the trumpet’. Her husband is the Oscar-winning film director Sam Mendes.Ms Balsom’s anger was accompanied by stirrings of discontent from the strings section. Rita Manning, a professional violinist, had complained of being charged £240 for a separate seat for her instrument on a recent flight to Jersey. Her fellow travelling musicians were also been charged. Alison Balsom Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.