Israel, Mecca … no difference to British BMI

Passengers headed to Israel on a British BMI flight were alarmed to find their destination was Mecca, according to the in-flight map. The airline, it seems, isn’t terribly aware that the Middle East is know for a tiny amount of tension that’s lasted for decades (the most recent iteration, at least).

Pick your joke about “wiping Israel off the map” – the Sydney Morning Herald did.

BMI, of course, denies an anti-Israel bias and cites a technical screw-up. The carrier, which has operated low-cost flights to Israel for more than a year, says it bought two plans from a bankrupt charter company that focused on Muslim destinations. The in-filght systems were programmed to highlight Islamic holy places.

It’s not discrimination. Instead, it’s a careful blend, of laziness, stupidity and poor planning – all of which are excusable in the airline industry, right?

Praying bus driver kicks passengers off bus

This must have been an entertaining scene.

A London bus driver told his passengers to get off his bus because he has to pray. He rolled out his prayer mat in the aisle and knelt on the floor facing Mecca, The Sun reports. Passengers watched in amazement as he held out his palms towards the sky, bowed his head and began to chant. Some passengers took out their phones and starting taking pictures and video.

After a few minutes the driver calmly got up, opened the doors and asked everyone back on board. But passengers saw a backpack lying on the floor of the red single-decker and feared he might be a fanatic. So they all refused.
The driver apparently looked “English” but it turned out he was a Muslim convert. Is there such a thing as “looking English” anymore?

When in Space, Which Way Is Mecca?

Think being a Muslim on this planet is not easy? Try being a Muslim in orbit. For starters, which way do you face while praying? (And how do you lay down your prayer rug?)

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor of Malaysia, a crew member on the 16th mission for the International Space Station, is lifting off to space today in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, Wired reports. The ten day trip will take place during the holy month of Ramadan.

Being a devout Muslim, the astronaut is planning to do what he has to do. To start with, he will fast. Where will he face while praying, you ask?

Malaysia’s space agency, Angkasa, convened a conference of 150 Islamic scientists and scholars last year to wrestle with this and other burning questions and published “A Guideline of Performing Ibadah (worship) at the International Space Station (ISS)”. According to the report, determining the qibla (a direction a Muslim should pray toward Mecca) should be “based on what is possible” for the astronaut, and can be prioritized this way: 1) the Ka’aba, 2) the projection of Ka’aba, 3) the Earth, 4) wherever.

Wherever? Is that just north of Orlando?

Holy Ethiopian City Harar Hopes to Become Tourist Hub

I’ve never heard of Harar, Ethiopia, but maybe I should have because it’s the fourth holiest city in Islam, behind Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. More importantly, it’s possibly the birthplace of coffee.

Last year, the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the regional government is hoping to attract hordes of tourists soon. But the town has some work to do; currently, Harar has only a few hotels and suffers chronically from water shortages. To encourage growth, 10-year tax breaks have been offered to anyone who wants to build a tourist facility.

The move into the future is an ambitious one, but it sounds as if there’s plenty to delight tourists. Besides a 13-foot wall surrounding serpentine alleys and ancient mosques, the Associated Press lists as an attraction an old man who hand-feeds 50 hyenas every night, (check it out!) “treating them like obedient kittens.”

All the more enjoyable with a cup of fine coffee in my hands, of course.

[via Msnbc]