Arab News reports that Saudis are spending over SR6 billion (US $1.6 billion) on energy drinks. Due to their high sugar and caffeine content — as well as other stimulants like guarana and yerba mate — the government has worked to restrict their distribution and advertising. In the US, the market in 2012 was approximately US $12.5 billion.
Over SR6 billion spent on energy drinks a year in KSA
JEDDAH: Fadia Jiffry
The Kingdom spends more than SR6 billion a year on energy drinks, investors and businessmen at the Council of Saudi Chambers have said.
The Council of Ministers banned last Monday the sale of energy drinks at government, educational and health facilities. They also prohibited companies advertising these products and sponsoring social, cultural and sports events.
Council members have described the decision as sound and correct considering the fact that teens record the highest consumption of such drinks.
Such drinks, they warn, pose a threat to cardiac patients, athletes and people who are allergic to the components of these beverages.
Saudi courts have sentenced a young man for drifting his car, including an episode in which a passenger in one of his cars was killed in an accident. He compounded his error by putting videos of his stunts on YouTube, in addition to having false ID and license plates.
He’s very lucky he wasn’t sentenced to death, something he escaped by a 2-1 vote of the judges.
Car drifter gets 10 years, 1,000 lashes
RIYADH — The General Court here has sentenced a young man to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a lifetime driving ban for a series of car drifting offenses.
The 23-year-old man, known as ‘The King of Nazeem Neighborhood”, appeared many times on YouTube videos drifting with his car and sometimes driving into oncoming traffic.
In one of the videos, he and two of his friends were holding machine guns and shooting in the air in broad daylight. He also caused the death of one of the young men riding with him while he was drifting.
Many residents in Riyadh expressed concern and fear about the man’s reckless behavior and disregard for public safety. The three-judge panel did not uphold the demand of the prosecutor general to sentence the man to death, striking down his motion with a two to one majority.
Saudi Gazette reports that women are taking up maintenance jobs at Princess Noura University in Riyadh.
The situation is complicated by social mores that do not permit men to work in female institutions while the women are present. But the men who do the jobs are, for the most part, foreign workers as Saudi men look upon manual labor with great disdain. The women, on the other hand, see jobs that need to be done and salaries that are worth having.
Saudi women proud of blue-collar jobs
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — A number of Saudi women have taken maintenance jobs at Princess Noura University in Riyadh. They are working as electricians, plumbers and others and they are happy about what they are doing, Makkah daily reported on Sunday.
“We are working with love, passion and pride,” one of them told the newspaper.
Male workers are not allowed on the university campus during the day time and this gave Saudi women an opportunity to do these jobs.
“The maintenance work cannot wait for the men to come in the evening so we will be doing their work during the day hours,” said a Saudi female electrician.
She said they have become used to the strange look from some students and are taking this positively. “We are working in a good environment with good salaries and are providing a service to our society,” she said.
Also in Saudi Gazette:
Al Arabiya TV reports that the new law regarding support for extremist groups is fully in action. An unnamed Saudi has been sentenced to eight years in prison for inciting protests, mocking the king, and criticizing security services. The criminalization of lèse-majesté is trouble, as is that of going to jail for criticizing a government institution. ‘Incitement to protest’ doesn’t sound like a very serious ‘crime’, unlike inciting to violence. And all over Twitter.
Yes, control over extremism needs to be done, but it needs to be done fairly and proportionately, not by overriding basic human rights.
A Saudi court on Sunday jailed an Islamist for eight years on charges of inciting protests, mocking the king and criticizing the country’s security services on Twitter, official news agency SPA reported.
The unidentified defendant was been convicted of inciting “families of those arrested for security reasons to protest by publishing Tweets and videos on YouTube,” justice ministry spokesman Fahd al-Bakran was quoted by SPA as saying.
Prosecutors also found the defendant guilty of “mocking” King Abdullah in addition to criticizing security services for arresting “promoters of extremists ideology.”
The court also banned the sentenced Saudi citizen from posting on social media or traveling for eight years.
While security forces have previously arrested the accused on similar charges, they were freed after pledging to refrain from such rhetoric again.
An interesting book review in the Times Literary Supplment (TLS) of the book Reading Darwin in Arabic.
The book reports how Darwin’s theories of evolution and human descent made their way to and were received by Arabs in the late 19th and 20th C. There are some surprises, particularly in the favorable reception of not Darwin, but the derivative and erroneous “social Darwinism” as promulgated by Herbert Spencer. Lamarkism was favorably received as well, though it, too, is largely wrong, modified only by current understandings of epigenetics.
It’s interesting, too, that the theory of evolution was generally accepted without rancor, but has now become a hot-button issue in the region, much like among Christian fundamentalists who prefer to follow a theory of ‘Creationism’.
Darwin in Arabia
READING DARWIN IN ARABIC, 1860–1950
448pp. University of Chicago Press.
The title Reading Darwin in Arabic notwithstanding, most of the men discussed in this book did not read Charles Darwin in Arabic. Instead they read Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Ernst Haeckel, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Huxley, Gustave Le Bon, Henri Bergson and George Bernard Shaw in European or Arabic versions. They also read popularizing accounts of various aspects of Darwinism in the scientific and literary journal al-Muqtataf (“The Digest”, 1876–1952). The notion of evolution that Arab readers took away from their reading was often heavily infected by Lamarckism and by the social Darwinism of Spencer. Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859, but Isma‘il Mazhar’s translation of the first five chapters of Darwin’s book into Arabic only appeared in 1918.
For a long time, the reception of Darwinism was bedevilled by the need to find either neologisms or new twists to old words. As Marwa Elshakry points out, there was at first no specific word in Arabic for “species”, distinct from “variety” or “kind”. “Natural selection” might appear in Arabic with the sense “nature’s elect”. When Hasan Husayn published a translation of Haeckel, he found no word for evolution and so he invented one. Tawra means to advance or develop further. Extrapolating from this verbal root, he created altatawwur, to mean “evolution”. Darwiniya entered the Arabic language. Even ‘ilm, the word for “knowledge” acquired the new meaning, “science”. With the rise of scientific materialism came agnosticism, al-la’adriya, a compound word, literally “the-not-knowing”.
Strict Islamic states ban the projection of films that portray the Biblical prophets. Thus, the film “Noah”, scheduled to be released in the US later this month, is already being banned in Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE. Bans are expected to follow in Jordan, Kuwait, and likely Egypt. In Saudi Arabia, where nearly all public film presentations are banned, the question won’t even arise.
The Al Arabiya TV article noting the bans reports that this is nothing new and nothing in particular against the latest film. Films portraying prophets just aren’t going to make it past the censors. It reports that the similar “Son of God”, which has been released in the US already, will face the same challenge as did the earlier “Passion of Christ” as Jesus is also considered a prophet in Islam.
Upcoming Hollywood movie “Noah” has been banned in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on religious grounds, a representative of Paramount Pictures told Reuters on Saturday.
Sending shockwaves across the Arab world, the $125 million film – starring Oscar-winners Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins – was officially banned by censors in the three Gulf countries this week.
Meanwhile over in Malaysia, Ultraman is facing his own ban…
Another small step for woman…
The first all-female law firm has opened in Jeddah. What’s more, it includes the first female attorney to have presented a case before a Saud court.
First female law firm opened in Jeddah
Jeddah: FOUZIA KHAN
In what is being seen as a major boost for Saudi women seeking legal advice and help, Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran, the first Saudi woman lawyer who was issued license to practice law in the Kingdom, launched the first female law firm for the benefit of Saudi women on Wednesday.
Bayan Al-Zahran became the first Saudi woman lawyer when she appeared at the General Court in Jeddah for the first time in November last year to defend a client. She had been working for years as a legal consultant and had represented dozens of people in criminal and civil cases besides family disputes.
Al-Zahran told Arab News that the objective of her law firm is to fight for the rights of Saudi women and bring their problems before the court, since male lawyers in many cases couldn’t understand the problems and situations of a female plaintiff.
Saudi Arabia is moving forward in a full-court press to limit, restrain, and punish those promoting extremist forms of Islam, Asharq Alawsat reports. After the expiration of a two-week grace period, the government is acting on a broad front to enforce its decision to stop a number of groups it has identified as “terrorist organizations”. Among the groups are Al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saudi Hezbollah. Notably, the Houthi movement in Yemen is also declared a terrorist group. While only a handful of groups are currently listed (see below), the government says more groups will be named.
In the article, numerous Saudi officials charged with overseeing security and religious affairs are all stating their support and eagerness to get on board. The article also notes that several preachers have been arrested for violating the new law.
Riyadh and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Following Saudi Arabia’s official decision to designate a number of local and regional organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorist groups, domestic and regional figures and analysts have moved to respond. Many local and regional figures have praised the decision, while also warning against potential future challenges.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi Justice Minister Mohamed Issa affirmed the government’s duty to take all necessary legal measures to ensure domestic security and stability.
Issa praised the royal decree, which he said is based on protecting national security, adding that the recent escalation in the ideologies of such groups has been extremely harmful to public tranquility and the state has no choice but to seek to confront this.
The Saudi Justice Minister confirmed that the spread of these terrorist groups and their ideologies has harmed social cohesion in Saudi Arabia.
In another piece, Asharq Alawsat provides the text of the government’s statement, including a list of offenses and groups currently banned.
While designation of terrorist groups is useful, there are several elements of the statement that are troubling. The very first item on the list of offenses, for example, condemns those who promote “atheistic ideologies”. I’m not aware of any atheistic terrorist groups that are threatening Saudi Arabia at present.
The eighth item, “The pursuit of unsettling the social and national fabric, or the call for, participation in, or promotion of sit-ins, demonstrations, gatherings, collective statements, or any actions that touch the unity and stability of the Kingdom under any reason and in any form,” is also fraught with the potential for abuse. “The unity and stability of the Kingdom” is overbroad and open to interpretations that meet political ends at the expense of freedom of thought and expression. If it chose to do so, the government could make this to mean any criticism of the government, its members, or its actions. Calling for women to be given the right to drive could well fall under this rubric as, clearly, there are many in Saudi society who do not like the idea at all.
Given its past record of behavior toward Shi’ite groups, the government will have to be very careful that its designation of Shi’ite groups is not just another measure of abuse.
Writing in Asharq Alawsat, Amir Taheri reviews Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Scott Anderson. The book demythologizes Lawrence of Arabia, noting what he actually did and did not do. There’s far less to the story than the myth (and David Lean’s 1962 film) lead one to believe.
The book also addresses, Taheri tells us, the facts behind two other famous myths, the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration.
The Deconstruction of a Hero
Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making
of the Modern Middle East
By Scott Anderson
The narrative goes something like this: The British sent one of their spies, T.E. Lawrence, to incite the Arabs to revolt against the Ottomans. Thus the British seized control of the Middle East, which they then carved into pieces in a deal with the French known as the Sykes–Picot Agreement. On the margins of the main events, the British also issued the Balfour Declaration, which gave Palestine to the Jews who created Israel.
The crucial point in that narrative is to obtain a proper understanding of its central personage: Lawrence.
If you thought you knew all you needed to know about “Lawrence of Arabia,” if only thanks to David Lean’s epic film, think again. Scott Anderson’s magisterial new book retells the story in a way that challenges some aspects of the Lawrence myth.
Saudi Arabia has formally declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization. Belonging to, supporting, or offering public sympathy toward the group is now against the law, Al Arabiya TV reports.
At the same time, the government has criminalized membership in or support of Hezbollah, as well as the al-Nusra Front and ISIS organizations now active in Syria.
Saudi Arabia blacklisted on Friday the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group among three other militant groups in the Middle East, Al Arabiya News Channel reported, citing a royal decree.
The Saudi terrorism list also includes the kingdom’s branch of the Shiite Hezbollah movement and the Syria-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front.
Hundreds of Saudi fighters are believed to have joined ISIS and al-Nusra in Syria. The Saudi authorities have extended a deadline for those fighters to return home.
The royal decree also criminalized taking membership in, supporting and sympathizing with any of those groups.
Dr. Theodore Karasik, Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE, provides some analysis of why Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE decided to pull their ambassadors from Qatar yesterday. Among the reasons he cites are Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, its inability to rein in the firebrand cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Qatar’s machinations with Turkey to support the Brotherhood, and allegations that Qatar and Turkey are establishing spy networks in the GCC to report on anti-Brotherhood actions.
Gulf trio pull Qatar ambassadors – why now?
Dr. Theodore Karasik
Today, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. The statement from SPA stated that Qatar had not lived up to its agreements with the rest of the GCC states (from November 2013) regarding “among them and committing to principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other GCC countries and not supporting anyone who threatens the security and stability of GCC countries including organizations and individuals and not supporting the antagonistic media.” There are several significant reasons for this abrupt and sudden action.
First, Doha continues to support the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan). Ever since the ascension of Emir Tamim, and much to the chagrin of the rest of the GCC, the Qatari government is continuing to support all vestiges of the Ikhwan. Ikhwan institutions continue to function in Doha including associations and commercial entities.
Over at Asharq Alawsat, Abdulrahman al-Rashed offers his take on the issue. While less wide-ranging, he offers somewhat more depth.
In a surprise move and somewhat against the interest of Gulf Cooperation Council unity, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar. The reasons stated, according to this piece in Arab News based on news agency reports, is that Qatar is not getting with the program of toning down Islamic extremism in places like Syria. In particular, Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood runs counter to the policies of many of the GCC states. Also, by allowing people like the cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, resident in Qatar, to criticize the workings of individual state governments, Qatar is violating the rule about interfering in member states’ internal affairs.
While not stated, I suspect the chronic irritation of Qatar-backed Al-Jazeera TV is also a factor.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain said on Wednesday they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar because Doha had not implemented an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others’ internal affairs.
The three Gulf Arab states followed what the local press described as a “stormy” late Tuesday meeting of foreign ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh.
In a joint statement, the three states said GCC members had signed an agreement on Nov. 23 not to back “anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals — via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media.”
Qatar had been a backer of the Muslim Brotherhood movement that is banned in most Gulf states.