I’ll admit that I tend to cover Dengue Fever a bit disproportionately. I caught it in Egypt and didn’t like it much. The Saudi government doesn’t care for it either, according to this Saudi Gazette piece, and is planning new measures to confront it in the Jeddah region.

New plan to curb dengue fever

JEDDAH – The Jeddah Mayoralty and General Directorate of Health in Makkah have devised a new plan to combat dengue fever in Jeddah and its surrounding areas. The plan will heavily draw on Malaysia’s experience in this regard.

The plan envisages that the moment a case is reported a team formed by the joint committee will rush to the scene to isolate and quarantine the affected person, Al-Madina reported on Friday.

This measure virtually prevents healthy people from developing the acute viral disease, which is characterized by fever, rashes and caused by flu virus and transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.

Most people who develop dengue fever recover completely within two weeks. Some, however, go through several weeks of feeling tiredness and/or depression.

The committee has adopted the plan due to the recent rise in number of patients.

About 390 cases were recorded till this week, according to the paper.

May:31:2008 - 08:52 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette has two articles today—both translated from sister-paper Okaz—focusing on dialogue. The more interesting, to my mind, is the front-page piece pointing out the difference, in Arabic, between ‘dialogue’ and ‘debate’. The second, from the Egyptian Minister of Endowments (waqf), focuses on the need for mutual respect on the part of those taking part in a dialogue and the need to avoid point-scoring. Both are worth reading.

Qur’an and Sunnah encourage dialogue

JEDDAH – Islam discourages people staying in isolation. The religion encourages great openness among the peoples of the world and their religions and cultures, said Dr. Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al-Qadhi, member of the teaching staff in Al-Qassim University.
Dr. Al-Qadhi will present his paper titled “Dialogue in the Qur’an and Sunnah – the concept and goals,” at the interfaith dialogue.

Dr. Al-Qadhi stressed that there was room in our religion for the clerics to deliver a strong message to the world reiterating Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) call to worship Allah alone by observing monotheism (Tawheed). “It is He Who sent His Messenger (Muhammad, peace be upon him) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikoon (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).” (Verse 33 of Surah At-Taubah)

He said that there were several reasons for boosting the culture of dialogue in the light of guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah. They include great openness among the peoples of the world and their religions and cultures; the large-scale campaign being waged against Islam and its preachers and institutions. Dr. Al-Qadhi said more often than not unqualified people take the lead in representing Islam in world forums.

Due to their limited knowledge, they fail to convince others about the truth of their religion and its call for peace. Thus a truce message of Islam does not reach others, he said.

Mutual respect essential ingredient of a dialogue
Mahmood Hamdi Zagzoog

JEDDAH – Mutual respect and shunning of personal egos of the participants are essential for any dialogue to bear fruits. As such dialogue in its true sense does not lead to the aspired goal unless the participating sides respect viewpoints of others. Dialogue means tolerance and respecting others’ freedom and opinion.

The objective of holding a constructive dialogue is not merely to discuss different opinions or for each party trying to neutralize the other. Its greatest goal is to enrich thought, instill the value of tolerance among people and prepare the way for fruitful cooperation that results in good for all concerned. This can be achieved by looking for the common factors that form a strong foundation for constructive cooperation among nations and peoples. With this sense in mind, dialogue becomes a cultural value that must be attained, abided by and spread at all levels.

Awareness on all these is necessary and must be taught to new generations, especially through presenting a role model and not merely through instructions. The painful reality is that violent arguments take place and quite often they go beyond the sphere of objectivity and the matter might develop into a fistfight among the parties having different opinions because each side wants to impose its views by all means.

This is not restricted to low strata of the society but applies to a considerable segment of those concerned with thought and culture in general. On many occasions, they digress from meaningful and productive discussion and come to abuses and personal insults which have nothing to do with an objective debate.

This indicates the shallowness of thought and deficiency in power to convince and lack of logic.

May:31:2008 - 08:46 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News carries this story, but I can’t find attribution for the source.

If true, this could mean a lot for Iraq as it tries to reconstruct itself. It would certainly take a heavy burden off its shoulders.

[Sorry about the light posting today. There's just not much news on/about the KSA out there today. I'll keep checking during the day, but in the meantime you might want to read the various comment threads.]

Saudi Arabia ‘is willing to write off Iraq debt’

STOCKHOLM: Saudi Arabia is willing to consider writing off debts owed to it by Iraq, a senior official said at meeting in Sweden yesterday. Iraq and the United Nations are co-chairing a review of a strategy adopted for Iraq in Egypt a year ago.

Ahead of that conference in May last year, Saudi Arabia said it was willing to waive 80 per cent of the funds owed to it by Iraq. So far nothing has come of that pledge, but Saudi State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Nizar Madani told the diplomats in Stockholm that the Saudi government might be prepared to rescind the entire debt owed to it by Iraq.

Iraq has called on the international community, and particularly Arab states, to provide debt relief to enable it to focus resources on reconstruction.

“We are conscious that debt represents a burden on the economies of countries and in view of the circumstances facing Iraq we are ready to consider alleviating the Iraqi debts,” Madani said.

“In this regard we have submitted all the available information to the Iraqi counterpart and we would expect the responsible Iraqi authorities to find an appropriate solution to this matter.”

Iraq pressed its creditors to cancel about $60 billion in debts at the international conference yesterday.

May:30:2008 - 10:41 | Comments Off | Permalink

This Gulf News report is about Bahrain’s problem with veiled female drivers and how to identify them. It pertains to Saudi Arabia because the arguments and solutions being raised here will certainly also be raised when it comes time to permit women to drive in the Kingdom.

One thing is clear: if there’s a will to change things, there will also be a will to thwart that change!

Steering into controversy over veiled women drivers
Habib Toumi

Manama: Traffic authorities and an Islamist society have steered into controversy over the identification procedures of women drivers who have their faces covered.

Al Asala, the Salafi society with seven MPs in the 40-member lower house, has vehemently rejected an article in the proposed traffic law that allows male police officers to ask women drivers to uncover their faces to allow them to check their identity. According to the society, female officers must be present when a car driven by a fully-veiled woman is stopped by the police for a traffic violation or identity verification.

“Male officers cannot look at the faces of fully-covered women drivers, and the presence of women to carry out the verification procedures is a necessity,” Al Asala representatives on the parliamentary security committee said during the discussion of the traffic law draft.

May:29:2008 - 10:31 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

The Boston Globe reports that in seeking solutions to its ever-increasing electricity demands, Saudi Arabia has contracted for more than a half-billion dollars’ worth of generators from General Electric.

As a side note, GE also manufactures and services nuclear reactors. As anyone who’s worked in the KSA knows, having a good reputation in one area serves well for getting future contracts in other areas. Looks like a smart move by GE to both set the stage for business later and to solve a Saudi problem now.

GE Energy signs $500 million contracts in Saudi Arabia

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—GE Energy, a General Electric Co. business, has signed contracts of more than $500 million to build and install gas turbines and generators at Saudi Arabian power plants, the company announced Wednesday.
more stories like this

GE Energy has won a contract to supply gas turbine generators for a 960-megawatt expansion of the Rabigh Power Plant in Rabigh City. The contract with Saudi Electricity Co. includes technical advice during installation and spare parts.

GE Energy also has won a contract to build and install gas turbines used by four power plants owned by Saudi Electricity Company.

Demand for power in Saudi Arabia is rising by about 8 percent a year, GE Energy said.

“These projects are part of Saudi Electricity Co.’s ongoing efforts to meet the region’s soaring power demand,” said Joseph Anis, GE Energy’s region executive for the Middle East.

May:29:2008 - 10:19 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Italian news agency AKI reports that the pan-Muslim Association of Muslim Intellectuals has ruled that veils are not obligatory for Muslim women in Italy. They express concern that veiling might actually become a uniform to identify Muslims as a separate group, sort of like requiring Jews to wear yellow stars during the Fascist regimes of the 1930s-40s. They think it should be a personal decision, but also that the state should not ban the wearing of hijab and niqba in state schools.

That’s a rather more enlightened attitude than the one, also reported by AKI, coming out of Iran: Cleric ‘calls all feminists whores and foreign spies’

Italy: Veils not mandatory for Muslim women, says Islamic leader

Rome, 26 May (AKI) – Muslim women in Italy should not be forced to wear the veil, said the president of the Association of Muslim Intellectuals.

“Women should be free to choose if they want to wear the veil or not, considering that it is not a religious duty to do so,” said Ahmad Vincenzo in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

He was responding a statement made by Ezzedin el-Zir, the spokesperson of Italy’s largest Muslim group, the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy (UCOII).

In an interview with the website KlausCondicio, el-Zir called on the Italian government not to prevent Muslim girls from wearing a veil to school, in the way that France has already done. There is a ban on wearing veils in French schools.

“In Italy, there is no prohibition to wearing the veil provided it does not cover the face and prevent the identification of the person,” Vincenzo told AKI.

“As for schools, since it is not absolutely obligatory to wear the veil in Islam, the choice must be left to the women to decide if they want to wear one or not.

“We are worried that the exploitation of the veil could lead to the creation of an Islamist uniform for female Muslims,” he said.

May:29:2008 - 10:01 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Dr. Aaidh al-Qarni, a Muslim preacher and scholar, has an interesting piece in today’s Asharq Alawsat. He says that the various groups of Muslims are so certain that they are right in their interpretation of Islam that they willfully go out an kill other Muslims. They are incapable of considering that they might be wrong.

Stubbornness does appear to be a long-lasting human trait. Oliver Cromwell, quasi-religious dictator of the English Commonwealth understood the tendency as well when he said, My brethren, by the bowels of Christ I beseech you, bethink you that you may be mistaken.

It’s a very good point: far too many people act as though they have perfect knowledge and are incapable of making a mistake. That needs to be remedied with a little humility, a little putting of oneself in the other’s shoes, or sandals as the case may be.

But al-Qarni does not earn points for suggesting that the inter-Islamic violence would be better channeled into anti-Israeli violence. Nor does he earn points for his not-so-subtle suggesting of “I’m right and you’re not.” A little hint that he considers himself fallible would have been welcomed.

Sectarianism is Destroying the Islamic Nation
Dr. Aaidh al-Qarni

Internecine conflicts and sectarian fighting have paralyzed Muslims, broken their ranks, and caused their enemies to gloat over their misfortune. This is because each sect claims that it is the only sect that is right and everyone else is wrong. I know for certain that not all sects are right and that God does not allow all his servants to deviate from what is right. Rather, he guides them toward what is right, manifest in following the Koran and the Sunnah, and understanding them as Arabic speakers would and as they were understood by the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, and his companions.

Someone might say: Each sect claims to be all that. We respond by saying that knowledgeable scholars know what correct beliefs have been conveyed properly as they were adopted by the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, and his companions, and everything else is false. This does not need pondering, nor does it require consulting a friend. In any event, I do not intend to determine who is right and who is wrong. I am only trying to warn against this danger, which has taken us by surprise, and against the looming deluge that is devastating the nation, namely, the danger of sectarianism, which has stormed several Muslim states.

In Afghanistan, and after the mujahidin defeated the Soviet Union, the seven leaders of Afghanistan engaged in internecine fighting. Each leader and his followers believed that they were right; that they were performing jihad for the sake of God; that their dead were martyrs; and that the other leaders, or their brothers, were perverse, aggressors, and followers of the devil. They destroyed one another and Muslims slew their Muslim brothers in cold blood and became a joke for the world. Then the Taliban came, fought them, and took over Afghanistan. The Taliban’s reckless and stupid actions led to their fall and to the destruction of Afghanistan.

May:29:2008 - 09:53 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Gulf News carries this story on the Grand Mufti’s condemnation of extremism in Islam. The piece also notes his comments that jihad isn’t something necessarily conducted with a weapon. Unfortunately, the Saudi Press Agency doesn’t provide a text of his comments, nor does the Saudi Embassy in Washington. This is the kind of material that needs publicity to counter assertions that ‘Muslims aren’t speaking up against terrorism’. They certainly are, but they’re not being heard, or much reported on.

Top cleric lambasts extremists who ‘sow seeds of trouble’
Mariam Al Hakeem

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Alu Al Shaikh underscored the need to intensify awareness campaigns among youth to prevent them from being lured into extremist and deviant ideologies.

Attending a crowded open dialogue held at a mosque in Riyadh on Tuesday, the mufti lambasted the extremists, saying, “They would neither learn any lesson nor use their wisdom. They are such people who have been subjected to brainwashing and are living in a world of hallucinations away from realities.”

Shaikh Alu Al Shaikh vehemently criticised extremists, saying that they are mere followers of evil and treachery. They are luring weak-minded people into false ideologies and exploiting them to sow seeds of trouble.

May:28:2008 - 10:00 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

A plan to bridge the Red Sea in the north of Saudi Arabia may have come a cropper, but there’s now a plan to bridge it at the Bab Al-Mandeb, between Yemen and X, The Washington Post reports. The bridge, stretching from Yemen to Djibouti, would be among the world’s largest, at over 13km in length and would be the longest suspension bridge.

But major construction projects are what the Bin Laden Construction company does. As if the bridge weren’t quite enough, Tarek Bin-Laden, the project designer/imaginer, also sees two free-trade zones—in which guns and qat would be banned—as part of the project. Work, the paper reports, could begin as early as next year. Interesting article.

A Bin Laden Brother’s Ambitious Bridge Project
Craig Whitlock

ADEN, Yemen — Nobody has walked across the Red Sea since Moses parted the waters. But it could happen again under an audacious plan to build the world’s longest suspension bridge between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

If built, the bridge would cross the Red Sea at an 18-mile-wide strait known as the Bab al-Mandeb, or Gate of Tears, connecting the southern tip of Yemen with the tiny East African country of Djibouti. Estimated price tag: $10 billion to $20 billion.

The proposal is turning heads in the Middle East, and not just because it would make engineering history. The developer of the project is a Dubai-based firm headed by Tarek bin Laden, an elder brother of the world’s most famous terrorist.

The bin Laden family, from Saudi Arabia, has operated a construction empire for decades. In the mid-1990s, the clan cut its financial ties with Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, around the time he declared war on the United States and called for the overthrow of the Saudi ruling family.

May:28:2008 - 09:42 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Arab News reports that women police will be used to help women and children victims of domestic abuse. While it’s certainly a useful step, care needs to be taken that the right women are selected for the job. It’s a simple fact that those who tend toward police work have a clear view of how they think society and law should work. That sometimes results in blaming the victims. Saudi women can be as unyielding in their views as men.

Understand the victims, not assuming that they must have deserved it, will be part of the solution. This is a hard job, not for every cop, male or female, but having female police available is a good measure to take.

Women Cops to Protect Victims of Domestic Abuse
Wael Abdullah & Lulwa Shalhoub, Arab News

JEDDAH, 28 May 2008 — Women police will play a greater role in protecting women and children suffering from family violence in cooperation with the Society for the Protection of Family in Jeddah, said Maj. Gen. Ali Al-Ghamdi, director of police in Makkah province.

He said the society would also be provided with police protection.

“We’ll strengthen our cooperation with the association,” Al-Ghamdi said, adding that a two-member panel would prepare the cooperation charter. He was speaking to reporters after visiting the society’s headquarters in Jeddah with Dr. Ali Al-Hanaki, director general of social affairs and chairman of the family protection committee in Makkah province.

Yesterday, the society held a seminar for health workers in Jeddah on ways to deal with different abuse cases.

More than 650 family violence cases have been reported in Jeddah, Al-Hanaki told Arab News, adding that Riyadh and Jeddah had the largest cases of family violence in the country.

“Most of these cases were reported during Eid holidays and school examinations,” Al-Hanaki pointed out.

May:28:2008 - 09:28 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Dubai’s Gulf News reports that Saudi authorities are taking a major step in stopping the mistreatment of foreign workers in planning to hold bad employers to account. That’s a perfectly rational policy to take, but just what punishments these employers might face is left unstated. A slap on the wrist is not going to fix the problem of employers who delay paying salaries, ‘losing’ exit visas, and generally not living up to the terms of the contracts they signed with their employees. Serious fines, withholding of future contracts, and jail terms might do it.

Landmark Saudi move to protect abused workers
Miriam Al-Hakeem

Riyadh: In a major move to curb the mistreatment of foreign workers by their sponsors, the Saudi authorities have taken a landmark decision to take punitive measures against errant employers.

The National Recruitment Committee at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry decided on Sunday to furnish the Ministry of Labour with a detailed list of Saudi sponsors who have mistreated their workers.

Sa’ad Al Badah, chairman of the committee, told reporters that the initiative was the result of a lack of cooperation on the part of some employers regarding furnishing recruitment offices with clarifications sought by the committees.

May:27:2008 - 10:05 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

One of the excuses frequently offered to explain why Saudi women don’t belong in the workforce is that they would be ‘unprotected’ and their honor and dignity would be offended. To address that concern, reports Khaleej Times, the Saudi Shoura Council is writing a law that spells out exactly what constitutes sexual harassment and how it will be punished. The law seems to go further, however, in taking on non-sexual harassment as well. I assume this means things like mocking tribal origins or perhaps religious sect. It will be interesting to see just what it says in the end.

BTW, ‘Eve-teasing’ is a term used in the Indian subcontinent to describe harassing women.

Saudi looks to put an end to harassment of women at workplace
Habib Shaikh

JEDDAH — Eve teasing and harassment of women at work is a problem everywhere. In Saudi Arabia, with the number of women in the workforce rising, the possibilities have also increased. To deal with the problem, Dr Saleh bin Humaid, president of the 150-member Shoura Council, has urged the committee for social, family and youth affairs to prepare the law as quickly as possible.

Faisal Ahmed Yamani, a member of the team involved in drafting the law, said the law would be presented to the Shoura soon for its approval. The committee of experts that includes Shoura Council members is preparing a draft to prevent the sexual harassment and molestation of women in the workplace.

Dr Saleh stressed the need for women to wear modest dress in the workplace in order to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment.

The new law defines sexual harassment and explains its various types and conditions. It defines the responsibility of the employer and his role in preventing improper behaviour in the workplace.

“The law also includes punishments as well as administrative and judicial measures to be taken against workers involved in sexual harassment,” Yamani explained.

May:27:2008 - 09:59 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink
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