The blithe manner in which some Saudi employers treat their workers’ wages is a scandal and shame on the country. The Arabic language daily Okaz (here translated by Arab News), reports that the Ministry of Labor, with the encouragement and Saudi human rights NGOs, is getting tough in its enforcement of laws—and religious duty—that command prompt payment.

Delayed wages
Abdullah Abou Al-Samh | Okaz

Delaying the payment of foreign workers is totally against Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Give the worker his wage before his sweat dries.” This came as an order for people to pay their workers their financial rights as soon as they are due.

Timely payment of laborers is a legal duty across the world. However, it is regrettable that some private companies and establishments in our country often delay paying salaries for months, forcing laborers to either stop work or complain to the labor offices. Our newspapers are replete with such stories.

Thankfully, human rights organizations intervene to help workers obtain their rights at least in some cases.

Companies and establishments that delay paying workers come up with lame excuses, claiming that they often do not receive payments from parties that they have contracted with on schedule. This may be true, but is that the fault of employees? Under these circumstances, some foreign laborers resort to begging or take up odd jobs to earn a living. Some of them may even resort to criminal activities to support themselves.

At last the Ministry of Labor has taken action by issuing a decision to punish establishments that delay paying their workers for two conse-cutive months by preventing them from recruiting from abroad for a year. If the delay exceeds three months, then the foreign workers will also have the right to transfer their sponsorship without the consent of their original employers, who will also be forced to settle all payments plus the cost of transferring work papers.

December:31:2008 - 12:26 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Congratulations to Dar Al-Hekma College for obtaining institutional accreditation from the ACICS! Universities are judged on a variety of measures, from the adequacy of libraries and labs to the educational level of professors and class sizes. Accreditation from this US educational body means that the credits earned in courses at the Saudi women’s college are considered equivalent to those earned in an American college/university. That means that they can be fully transferred to an American degree course and can be used as the basis for earning higher degrees in US institutions. Dar Al-Hekma is the first private educational institution in the region to achieve accreditation, putting it in the same league as AUC and AUB. Perhaps it will encourage some American students to take a year abroad to study in Jeddah.

Dar Al-Hekma gets ACICS accreditation
Sabahat F. Siddiqi

JEDDAH – Dar Al-Hekma College in Jeddah announced that it has received institutional accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), Washington, D.C. It makes the college the first private institution of higher education in the region to achieve full institutional accreditation from a US accrediting body. A press conference was held at the college on Monday afternoon at which Dr. Suhair Hassan Al-Qurashi, President of the College, announced receiving formal notification from ACICS on Dec. 17.

“Dar Al-Hekma extends its thanks to the entire college community – students, faculty, and staff as well as alumni, trustees, and friends – for their confidence and contribution, and for their vital role in making this achievement possible,” Al-Qurashi said.

It is commendable that the ACICS accrediting team from the United States, after a very tough and challenging assessment certified the college’s high standards, efficiency, and effectiveness. “It ensures the continued advancement and excellence of the college in the years to come,” added Al-Qurashi.

December:31:2008 - 12:18 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that people like their religious police… says the local representative of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Al-Baha province. He says that the Commission plays a necessary role, that it does not humiliate women intentionally, and that their goal is to ‘reform’ not ‘terrorize’. Good to remember that, though it’s easy to see it as a localized version of ‘We’re from the government. We’re here to help you.’

We treat women kindly, says senior Commission official
Abdul Khaliq Nasser Al-Ghamdi

AL-BAHA – The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice says it treats women arrested for minor social violations kindly.

Sheikh Ali Bin Saleh Musslih Al-Shamrani, Director General of the General Presidency for the Commission in Al-Baha Region, denied that the agency adopts a method of terrorizing others when providing them with advice. He stressed that the Commission carries out a reform role and is kind to those who are seen to have moral shortcomings.

Al-Shamrani said women who commit violations are treated with all kindness and the Commission’s men try their utmost not to expose them when arresting them at a public place. If the home of any arrested woman is nearby, she is given appropriate advice and released. If her home is far away and there are fears she might be harassed, she is handed over to the closest relative after asking him to be responsible for her safety. No women are referred to other authorities unless they have committed a serious crime.

Contrary to the belief of some, society appreciates the role being carried out by the Commission, he said.

December:31:2008 - 11:41 | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz reports a terrific way to start up the new year in Saudi Arabia: a new legal system!

I’ve long argued—and in 2007 the Saudi government acknowledged—that massive reform of the Saudi legal system was required to enable the country and its citizens to enter the modern world. While Shariah law might well provide a solid basis for a legal system, its implementation in Saudi Arabia has been seriously wanting. Too many cases have been left to the idiosyncratic decisions of individual judges who, while no doubt trying their best, fail to achieve basic fairness and justice for victims and perpetrators alike.

Now, those changes are starting to be made, though the article notes that it may well take 20 years before they are complete. The first steps involve the creation of a new Supreme Court, replacing the Higher Judicial Council. Further, there will be new courts created to implement laws concerning labor, commercial practice, and personal status law, i.e. family law.

It’s often been said that a long journey begins with the first step. This is indeed a first step on a long, but necessary journey. I do hope that it doesn’t take 20 years to complete, however.

Judicial reforms to start Jan. 1
Muhammad Odiab and Adnan Shabrawi

DAMMAM/JEDDAH – Saudi judicial reforms will start Jan. 1 and the process to bring about structural and procedural changes will take 20 years, said Minister of Justice Sheikh Abdullah Aal Al-Shiekh. “This is only the beginning of the overhaul plan and there will be more future reform plans,” he said. A budget of nearly SR7 billion has been allocated for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Project for Developing the Judicial System.

The project entails developing new court systems, building new courts and training judges. A new Supreme Court – to replace the existing Higher Judicial Council – will be tasked with execution of Islamic Shariah laws and monitoring compliance, and reviewing death penalties handed down by Appeals Courts.

The King will appoint the head of the Supreme Court. Judges’ salaries, appointments and other administrative matters will come under the purview of the Judicial Council. Also, there will be specialized courts for commercial, labor, and personal status cases. – Okaz/SG

December:31:2008 - 11:29 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Here’s an interesting essay from the German website The writer wonders just what there is in ‘Arabism’ that needs so much protection that it rejects so many aspects of modernity. He suggests that before getting hot and bothered about a ‘clash of civilizations’, it might be useful to resolve the ‘clash within civilizations’ to understand what might be worth keeping. Do read the whole thing.

Eyes Firmly on the Past

The well-known writer and media expert Khaled Hroub is critical of those who champion “cultural particularism” in the Arab world. He sees this way of thinking as being nothing more than a method of defending Arab despotism and the backwardness of the region

“Globalisation threatens our cultural particularism: the danger that our culture, language and religion will be wiped out must be firmly confronted!” One often hears such statements in discussions on the relationship between Muslim Arab societies and globalisation. The confrontation is spoken about as if it were a kind of “traditional obligation.”

Two issues require analysis: firstly, what does one understand by cultural particularism, and secondly, what effects does globalisation have on the cultures of the world.

Cultural particularism can mean a variety of things: tradition and religion, conscious and unconscious social conventions, values which regulate behaviour, attitudes towards beauty and ugliness together with the forms of political domination and social conformity which result from them.

What is cultural particularism?

Usually, “cultural particularism” is brought into play from a defensive position, but in fact cultural particularism is a facet of identity – and vice versa. The essence of both cultural particularism and identity can only be grasped when one draws comparisons with the cultural particularism and the identity of others.

Those among the Arab elites who champion the concept of cultural particularism are inclined to assume an inner unity within this particularism. But, in practice, this unity is lacking within any existing cultural system.

December:30:2008 - 11:09 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Italian news agency AKI carries this report originating with the Saudi Arabic daily Al-Watan. It appears that a doctor, acting on his authority to enforce a law requiring pre-marital blood tests, stopped (at least temporarily) a the marriage of a five- and an 11-year old. The article notes that the doctor cannot override the traditional law permitting such marriages, but he can delay it by following regulations. It’ll be up to higher authorities to step in and change the law. Something for the legal reformers now working to codify Saudi law to look into, I think…

Doctor stops wedding with five year-old

Riyadh, 30 Dec. (AKI) – A doctor in Saudi Arabia was able to stop the wedding of a five and 11 year-old whose family wanted to marry them to protect financial assets. “Thanks to the law that compels spouses to carry out blood analyses before marriage, we were able to stop a wedding with underage girls, among them a five year-old,” said Hani Harsani, the doctor in charge of laboratory analysis in an interview with Saudi daily al-Watan.

“Two sisters came to us accompanied by their parents to undergo pre-marital blood analyses. The first one was five, and the other 11 years-old. When we asked the mother why they wanted to do the tests, she told us that she wanted to marry the girls to cousins to preserve the family’s property rights.”

During the interview, Harsani remembers an episode when a 10-year-old orphan was brought to do pre-marital blood tests by her brother, who wanted to marry the sister to a 40-year-old friend who already had two other wives.

December:30:2008 - 10:54 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Arab News reports on a disquieting issue it calls ‘widespread’: robbing the dead and injured in accidents of their worldly goods. When families come to visit the injured or to claim bodies of those killed, they find that money, jewelry, and things like cell phones have disappeared. Why wait to rob graves when the still warm bodies are so much more convenient?!

Who is robbing the dead?
Omar Muhammad | Arab News

JEDDAH: Amer Ahmad did not think that the first thing he would do after recovering from a serious car accident would be to look for the SR10,000 and other personal belongings that were in the car with him.

“I was on the way to the bank when I was involved in a car accident. I remember people trying to help me before I became unconscious. I then woke up in hospital,” said Ahmad.

“It seems some people take advantage of car crashes and take the belongings of the dead and injured. Some come immediately when the accident happens. Others come to search the cars after the victims are removed from the scene,” he added.

The problem is widespread. Relatives who come to claim the bodies of their dead relatives or come to see their loved ones in hospital often find cash and valuables they were carrying missing.

December:29:2008 - 15:52 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

US immigration law requires foreign students, studying in the US, to renew their visas if they break their studies with a trip back home. Given the lengthy process involved in getting a visa in the first place, this policy has the potential of leaving students stranded back in Saudi Arabia as a new semester begins, leading to interrupted, if not aborted work on degrees.

A group of Saudi students in the US is working to inform other Saudi students of the hazards and to offer advice on how to deal with the problems before they arise. Nevertheless, given the family-oriented lifestyle of Saudis, it often happens that important family events, from deaths to marriages, happen without the student’s being able to attend. The group, according to this Arab News report, would like to see regulations for renewing visas relaxed.

US visa delays ruining education of many
Ibtisam Sheqdar | Arab News

MAKKAH: A group of Saudi students in the US has launched a campaign to monitor problems faced by them when they return to the Kingdom on short breaks. These students are forced to reapply for visas at the US Embassy in Riyadh, a process that often takes several months if successful.

Organizers of the campaign, entitled “My Visa Threatens My Future,” say they wish to also create awareness about the problems faced by Saudi students in the US who, fearing the lengthy visa process in Saudi Arabia, remain in the US continuously for years to complete their education.

“The campaign does not intend to challenge the standards according to which visas are issued,” said Basil Al-Sadhan, one of the organizers.

“Acquiring visas is a nightmare for many students. The campaign intends to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by students and the negative effect that these difficulties have on their studies,” he said.

He added that the campaign would complement the efforts of the Saudi Embassy as well as the Saudi Cultural Mission in communicating the problems faced by Saudi students to US officials.

December:29:2008 - 15:42 | Comments & Trackbacks (20) | Permalink

It’s not just fake foreign goods appearing in the Saudi markets. According to Saudi Gazette, counterfeit banknotes are appearing as well. Luckily, the counterfeit bills seem to be of poor quality and can be detected by any reasonably cautious person.

Ministry calls alert for fake riyal bills
Joe Avancena and Faisal Aboobacker Ponnani

DAMMAM – Check your wallet – any SR200 (US $53) or SR500 (US $133.33) note you have in there may be fake, the Ministry of Interior warns.

Fake notes are in wide circulation, according to Col. Yusuf Al-Qahtani, spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior in the Eastern Province, where he said such notes have resurfaced.

“This year police teams have investigated over 200 reported cases of fake 200 and 500 Saudi riyal bills, and we believe that with the New Year coming, currency counterfeiting activities will rise, which is why the public is urged to be vigilant,” Qahtani said.

December:29:2008 - 15:34 | Comments Off | Permalink

Land ownership is often a contentious issue in Saudi Arabia, particularly in and around the major cities. Sometimes, outright fraud happens; other times, those with power or connections simply claim properties and challenge the true owner to do something about it.

In Jeddah, reports Saudi Gazette, the government is trying to straighten out the mess. True ownership of land which the government sold or granted is being ascertained. Malfeasors are being kicked off the property and the structures they’ve built are being demolished.

Govt-granted plots reclaimed from land thieves
Muhammad Hadad

JEDDAH – Authorities have freed 20 million sq.m. of government land grants from the grip of land thieves in Jeddah.

As a result, at least 3,000 rightful owners will get their government-granted lands back within the next few days, said Sameer Ba-Sabrin, director of the Land Violations Office at Jeddah Mayoralty. Illegal buildings or farms found on such lands in the south and north of Jeddah are being demolished, he said.

The action followed complaints from the rightful owners. Consequently, a committee of members from Jeddah Mayoralty, Police and Governorate conducted a survey of government land grants in the city’s outskirts four months ago.

The operation started with Developed Land 707 which had been given away to citizens along with ownership titles. The committee found that land grabbers had changed the original 707 layout, divided the plots among themselves and moved in as the original owners had not occupied their properties.

December:27:2008 - 13:04 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudis consider themselves to be shrewd bargainers. Sometimes, reports Saudi Gazette, finding the best deal doesn’t always work out the best for consumers as it’s the merchants who was more shrewd. A staggering percentage of goods in the Saudi suqs is reported to be substandard when not out-and-out fake. As they say, caveat emptor, but merchants might take the more honorable route and not sell inferior and sometimes dangerous goods to naive customers.

Official reveals 80% electronic goods, 50% tires sold here are fake
Hamid Omar Attas

JEDDAH – Over 80 percent of electric appliances and 50 percent of imported tires available in the Kingdom are fake and not in conformity with Saudi specifications and standards, a quality control official said.

The Saudi market has become a dumping ground for inferior “time-bomb” products sold in broad daylight with the knowledge of the authorities concerned, said Abdul Rahman Al-Harbi, member of the anti-commercial fraud committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), who also holds a key post in the regional quality control laboratory.

He said the Saudi economy loses more than SR16 billion yearly, since more than 80 percent of electric appliances, 65 percent of textile products and 50 percent of tires – that are mostly rejected by other markets but imported by dealers in the Kingdom – are fake.

December:27:2008 - 12:57 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Arab News reports that as part of Saudi Human Rights Day, Dec. 30, schools in Riyadh will be passing out copies of a booklet on children’s rights. Rights are also to be part of classroom discussion and will be supplemented by radio programs, school assemblies, and the all-important teacher training.

Human rights education for children

RIYADH: The education department in Riyadh province plans to distribute free copies of a booklet on human rights in schools across the province, Al-Jazirah daily reported yesterday.

“More than 30,000 copies of the publication entitled salient features of the treaty on children’s rights, will be distributed in 1,600 schools in the province,” said Humaidan Al-Bugami, member of the human rights committee and director of legal affairs at the education department in Riyadh.

The book will help make the students aware of their rights and duties in terms of human rights, Al-Bugami added.

December:27:2008 - 12:51 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink
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