Once again, the Islamic world tries to rationalize, through the strict guidelines of sharia, modern-day phenomena that the rest of the world regularly implements and takes for granted — this time, tourism.”Panel discussion defines Islamic tourism,” by Putri Zanina and Sager ahmad, for the New Straits Times, August 18:
WHAT is Islamic tourism? Is it confined to beautiful mosques, ornate Islamic architecture, gender segregation in the use of facilities and halal food? While many regard this as symbolic of Islam, there are other aspects that make up Islamic tourism. The subject was dwelt at length by participants of the inaugural Global Islamic Tourism Conference and Exhibition held from July 30 to Aug 1 at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.
Themed “Hidden Islamic Wonders”, the conference also discussed and addressed issues surrounding the misconception of Islam and the Muslim community worldwide due to negative publicity often given by the Western media.[…]
The conference organisers described it in economic, cultural and religious terms. As an economic concept, it aims at the expansion of tourism within the Muslim world and non-Muslim world, developing new tourist destinations and strengthening institutional and governmental cooperation.
As a cultural concept, it focuses on Islamic topics in the organisation of tourist programmes and presents Islamic heritage sites which Muslim and non-Muslim tourists can visit.
As a conservative concept [i.e., religious concept, see above for three categories], it aims at the adjustment of the tourist industries to the fundamental interpretations of Islam, including gender-segregated and alcohol-free venues as well as “Islamically” financed and organised tourism.[…]
Malaysia has to look for new horizon of global tourism and play a leading role in promoting Islamic tourism. Muslims are travelling extensively so their needs must be addressed. We must coordinate Islamic efforts and form relevant committee in this respect.
A key proposal made at this conference is to form a World Islamic Tourism Secretariat to serve as the platform to coordinate Islamic tourism efforts and form a link between countries. It is an idea that cannot be implemented without the support and participation of like-minded bodies, associations and NGOs involved in the tourism business in the country and other parts of the world, and they need not come from Islamic countries alone. Let’s take baby steps and work towards a body that can truly represent the industry as we look towards breaking the so-called new frontiers.
Thailand’s Travel Impact Newswire executive editor Imtiaz Muqbil
Islam is a religion of peace and tourism is an activity of peace. It is part of the process of peace building and developing relations between people. The building of peace – whether involving people or the environment – is very much part of Islam.
In three short sentences, the words “Islam” and “peace” are conflated three times. Of course, Islam’s prophet, who said “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity,” might have had different notions as to what constitutes “peace.”
This fact about Islam and Muslims being peace loving and kind to others of different faiths is often overlooked.[…]
There are 1.6 million Muslims in the United Kingdom and 16 million Muslims in Europe and it is an enormous market to tap into. It is also a vast market for halal consumer goods. We should be able to reach out to the world and give the correct view that Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and beauty.[…]
We can also tap the lucrative tourism market via food in line with Malaysia aiming to become a halal hub. Muslim tourists can come here without “was was” (any doubt).[…]
Work is in progress to put together a tourism marketing plan for the Organisation of Islamic Countries until 2010 which is Visit OIC Year.[…]
A total of 1.5 billion or 20 per cent of the world population are Muslims. If we were to target just 1 per cent of the Muslim population, it will be an enormous market (to tap), even for us to visit each other’s country. There’s much that we could do among Islamic countries. Setting up the Islamic Secretariat is timely. Set it up first so that a lot of things can take off.