The UK’s Daily Mail reports on Hissa Hilal’s progress on the UAE competitive poetry-reading TV program, ‘The Million’s Poet’. Her castigation of clerics who issue fatwas to intimidate and frighten people won praise from the judges and moved her into the final round of the competition.

Brave Saudi housewife set to win Arabic X Factor
after blistering attack on hardline Muslim clerics on live TV

A brave Saudi housewife has reached the final of the Arabic version of the X Factor after lashing out at hardline Muslim clerics on live TV.

Wearing a black burkha, mother-of-four Hissa Hilal delivered a blistering poem against Muslim preachers ‘who sit in the position of power’ but are ‘frightening’ people with their fatwas, or religious edicts, and ‘preying like a wolf’ on those seeking peace.

Her poem got loud cheers from the audience last week and won her a place in the competition’s final on April 7.

It also brought her death threats, posted on several Islamic militant websites.


March:31:2010 - 12:58 | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia has been trying, for years, to come to terms with the fact that in medical situations, you often have a conflict of social values. There are not equal numbers of male and female doctors, nor does a doctor have total control over the gender of which patients will become ill on a given day. (Obviously, OB/GYN specialization is different.)

This is a big deal for the Saudis, though, as they have strong cultural and religious taboos about unrelated men and women being in the same room at the same time. Arab News reports that the Ministry of Health has set out a directive to address the issue definitively. Male doctors cannot be alone in the same room as a female patient. Also, a male relative has the right to be in the room, if he so demands.

That should take care of the problem. And it’s not all bad for male doctors (or medicine as a whole), as it works to prevent false allegations against doctors and medical facilities.

As a commenter notes at the Arab News site, however, it does rather destroy the notion of ‘patient confidentiality’. Does a female patient have to have a male relative privy to her medical condition? Sometimes, health issues are embarrassing and very intimately private. Should an uncle, brother, or husband (we won’t even get into ‘son’ as a male relative category!) know every last detail of a woman’s health? Shouldn’t that decision be up to the patient to make?

Doctors can’t be alone with women patients
LAURA BASHRAHEEL ARAB NEWS

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Health has released a circular banning doctors from being alone with their female patients.

The circular, which has been sent to health institutes across the Kingdom, also says that doctors and nurses should not be alone, and that male relatives are permitted to accompany their womenfolk during visits.

It also calls on doctors and hospital staff to avoid suspicious situations and to ensure women patients have someone with them in their rooms other than the doctor.


March:31:2010 - 08:58 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Arab News reports that Saudi Arabia has opened its first center for research into and treatment of autism.

Center for autism opened

RIYADH: The first research and treatment center for autism in the Middle East was opened at King Khaled University Hospital of King Saud University (KSU) here on Tuesday.

Abdullah Al-Othman, president of the university, emphasized KSU’s plans to carry out more similar projects for the welfare of society.


March:31:2010 - 08:45 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Here’s another messy situation in Saudi Arabia. And again, here’s another media report that tantalizes but doesn’t give enough information to figure out who did what, except that there’s now a mess. This time around, according to Arab News, it involves expat teachers, their contracts, and the performance/non-performance of their employers. To add to the excitement, there’s also a psychological breakdown, a missing person, and a mad scramble to get things sorted out. Reform is a good thing, but it does require a functional system beneath it. Trying to reorganize jelly is difficult.

‘E’ for exploitation: Teachers brought on false promises,
left to fend for themselves
WALAA HAWARI | ARAB NEWS

RIYADH: A number of expatriate women teachers in Riyadh, many of them from Western countries, are complaining the company that employed them has violated their employment contracts, not kept promises and has been burdening them with extra work.

“Since arriving last October, we’ve been forwarding our complaints to the company that recruited us. Our contracts state that our families would be joining us, and six months on they’re still not here,” said one of the teachers, who requested anonymity.

She added that what has been particularly worrying is the well-being of a Western colleague who, suffering from psychological problems, disappeared from Riyadh’s airport after being taken there to be returned home.


March:31:2010 - 08:42 | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink

A chronic irritation in the US-Saudi relationship concerns terrorist funding. Many Americans, including some in government, believe that the Saudi government is not doing enough to halt the illicit transfer of funds, often to nefarious organizations. Arab News reports that Saudi judges will be given new training on money laundering, including the new methods being used to send money through various illegal channels. The training will note the terrorism link as well as to better explain the regulations on the solicitation of funds for ostensibly religious purposes.

Judges to be trained to deal with money laundering cases
GALAL FAKKAR | ARAB NEWS

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with the Riyadh-based Prince Naif Arab University for Security Studies, will organize a training session on money laundering, terror funding and other related subjects for judges and notaries.


March:30:2010 - 10:29 | Comments Off | Permalink

When Saudis run into problems with marriage and the resulting children, the mess created can be awesome! Here’s Arab News‘s report on the case of a Saudi man who believes he is being conned by a woman claiming to be the daughter he sired on his wife/housemaid. The court, in an earlier decision, decided in favor of the woman. Perhaps Saudi men should learn a little more discipline when it comes to matters of marriage?

Saudi seeks DNA test to prove girl is not his child
BADEA ABU AL-NAJA | ARAB NEWS

MAKKAH: A Saudi man, who was forced by a Makkah court to recognize an 18-year-old girl as his daughter from a secret marriage with a Nigerian woman without undergoing a DNA test, has called on the authorities to rescue him from the “unfair” ruling, which he says has ruined his life.

“I am now paying monthly money to my alleged daughter. This is a downright case of blackmail. I appeal to the authorities to relieve me of this unjust verdict and to stop this blackmail,” said Saeed Jameel.

Jameel said he secretly married a Nigerian woman who worked as a maid for his mother over 23 years ago when he was in his early 20s. “We fell in love; this was before my second marriage. The woman was illegally living in the Kingdom. I married her at a local mosque and there were two Nigerians who witnessed the marriage,” he said.

Three months later, Jameel’s family discovered the marriage and forced him to divorce the woman. “She went away and I didn’t hear anything from her after that. Fours years ago, I received a telephone call from a Nigerian person living in Makkah who told me that my 18-year-old daughter had come from Nigeria and wanted to see me,” he said.


March:30:2010 - 09:50 | Comments & Trackbacks (8) | Permalink

The interface between Saudi law (such as it is) and Saudi tribal culture has not been generally edifying. We’ve seen forced divorces based on ‘tribal incompatibility’ and child marriages arranged to resolve tribal conflicts. When the government has asserted itself, ridiculous results issued by compromised judges have been rectified. Again, according to this Saudi Gazette/Okaz piece, government officials are stating that the law will decide issues, not tribal politics. The issue revolves around the case of a child who died while under medical care. A tribal resolution of the claim against the doctors was reached. The Ministry of Health, however, says that Saudi law concerning malpractice will be the rule under which culpability will be resolved.

This is indeed a move in the right direction. Many more need to be taken.

Legal action to trump tribal settlement over boy’s death
Qayed Aal Ja’ra and Mohsen Al-Rabi’an

NAJRAN – Najran Health Affairs denied Saturday any knowledge of a “tribal reconciliation” between doctors and the father of a child who died while in their care, and said that such a resolution to the issue “means nothing”.

“This would not absolve them of responsibility should they be found guilty of malpractice in the child’s case,” said the regional Health Affairs chief, Yahya Aal Shuwail of a tribal settlement. “Public prosecution is still in effect and the case is being looked at by the Shariah Medical Commission in Asir.”

Saudi Gazette reported last Thursday that Hasan Rashed Aal Hashwan, the father of the deceased child, had pardoned the doctor allegedly responsible after medical officials and senior tribal figures requested his forgiveness and legal pardon “in exchange for any wish”, as per tribal custom.


March:29:2010 - 10:15 | Comments & Trackbacks (9) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that over 1,200 cases of official corruption are being investigated by Saudi authorities. As is the norm for the Saudis, no names or specifics are given, and of course allegations are not proof of wrongdoing. Still, it seems that the Saudi government is making serious attempts to deal with the problem.

1,278 criminal cases at govt offices probed
Salem Al-Sabi

AHSA – Over the past six months, the Control and Investigation Board (CIB) has investigated 1,287 criminal cases, which includes 878 cases of bribery and forgery committed at various government agencies.

The CIB revealed Saturday that the cases vary from bribery, forgery, misuse of office and the abuse of power. All the cases have been referred to the administrative court to punish those involved, said Abdul Aziz Bin Misfer Al-Gouaib, the director of media and public relations at the CIB.


March:29:2010 - 10:09 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

When Sheikh Yousuf Al-Ahmad issued a fatwa calling for the Grand Mosque in Mecca to be torn down and re-built in order to better segregate women, he had no idea of the buzz saw he was walking into. His concept, based on who knows what, has been blasted as having ‘no basis in Shariah’ law; as being an ‘innovation’ (a very bad word in Salafist views of Islam); as a direct contradiction of the words and deeds of the Prophet.

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report on the mass of repudiation being heaped upon Al-Ahmad’s head. Not only has he lost his job at Al-Bedaya TV, he’s lost the respect of his peers and the public.

Edict on Grand Mosque restructuring slammed
Abdullah Al-Dani

JEDDAH – Scholars and researchers have criticized the fatwa (edict) of a scholar calling for the demolition and restructuring of the Grand Mosque in Makkah to prevent men and women mixing during the rites of Tawaf, Sa’i and prayers.

The edict was recently issued by Dr. Yousuf Al-Ahmad, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.

Al-Ahmad has denied that he wants the entire Grand Mosque to be demolished, but has stuck to his belief that men and women should be separated while performing the rituals of Haj and Umrah.

Tawaf is the circumambulation of the Ka’ba; while the Sa’i is the hastening of pilgrims between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa.

Scholars and researchers have argued that mixing of sexes is permissible and rejected the edict and said it can cause divisions among Muslims and create sedition.

Some scholars also denounced the edict as having no basis in the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah and said it could be considered an innovation in Islam.

Al-Ahmad had previously aired the same views during a talk show on the Al-Bedayia television channel.


March:29:2010 - 10:05 | Comments Off | Permalink

The idea of unionization is not a happy one in Saudi Arabia. Early attempts at unionization were compromised by being aligned with what the government considered destabilizing politics, Nasser’s pan-Arabism. Those attempts, in the oil fields of the Eastern Province, were quashed quickly, with organizers being jailed and, if non-Saudi, deported.

Here, though, is an article from Okaz, translated by Arab News, that calls for a fresh look at labor organizations. The writers notes that newspaper articles can go only so far—and not very far at that.

In favor of unions
SALIH AL-TURIGEE | OKAZ

I receive many letters from employees with problems related to their careers.

One of them said he has been working for a private company since 1998 without receiving any increase to his salary despite his excellent performance, certificates of merit and letters of appreciation.

Another employee said he did not know his company’s policy regarding annual pay reviews. He doubted that nepotism played a part in salary raises.

Many of them expressed frustration and said the companies were sucking their blood in pursuit of huge profits and giving them nothing in return, except their monthly pay.

Despite my sympathy with these employees, I do not believe that writing about an individual case in the newspapers can solve the issue.

Many others have the same problem and are feeling frustrated. No single columnist can write about all cases of injustice to employees in various sectors.


March:29:2010 - 09:55 | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink

Arab News reports that the Arabic daily Al-Jazirah is the first Saudi paper to bring women into all levels of journalism. Up until now, women had tended to be relegated to the job of ‘reporter’ or ‘columnist’, with a few at some papers taking on editorial duties. At Al-Jaziriah, though, they will be working in all positions.

According to the story, ‘separate but equal’ will be the rule. The women will have full facilities, but in a discrete location, in contact with their male counterparts, but not physically co-located. I honestly don’t recall the office set up at Al-Jazirah, but other papers have tended to have an informal flow of contact among the male and female workers. That is, while the women may have been working in a more or less separate area, they interacted with males freely, as required.

All-women journalism center at Al-Jazirah
WALAA HAWARI | ARAB NEWS

RIYADH: For the first time in the Kingdom women handle editing, sub-editing, layout and design at a women’s journalism center at Al-Jazirah newspaper.

“If the step is exclusive for Al-Jazirah, it is worthless,” says Al-Jazirah Editor in Chief Khaled Al-Malik, adding that the real value of such a step is to open the door for women to work in journalism, enable them to take control and pave the way for other newspapers to open more job opportunities for women journalists.

Al-Malik agrees that other newspapers have women as editors, sub-editors, journalists and reporters, but he believes that it is not enough.

“Women should work in all journalist-related jobs, and there are not many women who are specialized in areas such as sub-editing and photography,” he added.


March:28:2010 - 08:53 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

In this Asharq Alawsat op-ed, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid takes a look at the history of Al-Azhar University. Following the death of Grand Sheikh Mohammed Tantawi and the naming of Ahmed al-Tayeb as his replacement, political arguments arose. This, says Al-Rashid, is nothing new for Al-Azhar. Since its foundation, the university has been the focal point of political disagreement. Al-Rashid find al-Tayeb to be the right choice for this time, a moderate who will promote moderation in Islam.

The Al-Azhar Conflict
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid

Just days after the death of al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb was appointed as his successor, however some people have criticized his appointment because he is a member of the ruling National Democratic Party [NDP]. They claim that no NDP member should be appointed guardian of the most important religious institution in Egypt, and one of the most important religious institutions in the world, regardless of his religious and scholarly expertise.

Things have not changed much, and the al-Azhar religious institution, with its mosque and university, its scholars and endowments, has always been a place of conflict for rulers and religious figures and competing ideology. There is a major conflict taking place within Islam today between moderate, conservative, and extremist groups. This is a power struggle in which religious figures are being used as proxies; a struggle of religious figures competing for power. Therefore it is not odd that the state would choose a member of the ruling party to trust with the most important pulpit in Egypt. The experience of former al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Tantawi was not easy, and despite his knowledge, wisdom, and the fine way that he dealt with people, Tantawi was not spared criticism from opposing religious figures who targeted him with abuse and insults and showed no mercy in their campaign against him and al-Azhar.


March:27:2010 - 08:08 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink
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