Arab News runs a good article about the different factors that are affecting Saudis’ ability to move into the workplace. The article is wide-ranging, covering issues including the skills mismatch and the expectations mismatch. It notes that Saudis are no longer ill-educated, but also that education doesn’t entirely make up for experience. Then there’s the fact that Saudis are simply more expensive to hire, place greater demands on the employer, and are much harder to get rid of if they’re not performing adequately. It points out that manual labor is still a problem, with social anxieties keeping Saudis out of certain lines of work. While the young men may fear that they’ll be mocked for doing manual labor — and their fathers don’t think much of that kind of work, either — the fact is that their grandfathers and great-grandfathers did that work because they needed to work in order to feed their families.
Attitudes are changing and becoming more realistic, but it’s going to be rough going for some years.
Employers make adjustments for a new kind of worker
RIYADH: ABDUL HANNAN TAGO
As Nitaqat takes hold and private companies scramble to fill the void left by expatriate workers with Saudis, the country will undergo a paradigm shift that forces employers to adjust to the new reality of a very different worker.
The primary consideration among employers is that the emerging Saudi workforce in the private sector will have fewer skills but demand higher salaries. Employers can no longer complain that Saudis are less educated than expatriates. During the 2010-2011 academic year alone, 130,000 Saudis were studying for various degrees in 22 countries.
Private companies now must adjust their hiring standards in how to deal with a new breed of worker not necessarily unqualified for jobs but requiring more training.
In a recent interview with Arab News, Labor Minister Adel Fakeih said the Nitaqat program has so far been able to help 400,000 Saudi citizens get jobs. The program aimed at imposing Saudization rate up to 30 percent and with the Labor Ministry’s new get-tough policy, employers have no choice but to shift their priorities on the type of worker they want.
Another sign of the slow, incremental change that’s happening in Saudi Arabia is that young women are taking up horseback riding as an athletic program. Saudi Gazette/Okaz reports that the popularity of the sport is growing, in part due to the popularity (among women, anyway) of Dalma Malhas, a Saudi equestrienne who made a bid to be included in the Saudi team for the 2012 London Olympics. While Malhas didn’t compete (her horse was unavailable), other Saudi women did. And Malhas has made a name for herself in other competitions. By showing that it’s possible, she’s opened the door — and the minds — of a new generation of women.
Of course, Saudi women historically rode horses, mules, and donkeys. It’s only relatively recently that they’ve been discouraged from doing so as the patriarchal society took a turn for the weird. And horses today are not something that just anyone can acquire: they’re expensive to own and maintain. But for those girls with fathers willing to foot the bill, they, too, get to play a role in pushing social progress.
Girls ignore social taboo, take up horseback riding
Adel Babkair | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Ignoring social taboos on horseback riding, an increasing number of Saudi girls are taking up the hobby despite many challenges and difficulties.
Okaz/Saudi Gazette met some of the girls who have been practicing this sport and spoke to them about their experiences.
Latifah Al-Yousif, 13, said she fell in love with horseback riding after watching Saudi equestrian Dalma Malhas perform.
Al-Yousif said she told her father she wanted to take up horse riding and he agreed and even encouraged her to excel and participate in competitions.
“My dad loves to come with me and watches me in action. I wish one day I will be like the great Dalma Malhas. She is my role model when it comes to horseback riding.”
Saudi Gazette runs a story in which Saudis lament the fact that the Arabic language — as every other language — is not static. Changes in how people use the language are seen as threats. Of course, it’s not only Saudis who lament and/or rage at the fact that language is what people speak and how they speak it determines the language. Language is ‘owned’ by its users, not some organization or group of guardians, whatever the language police of various governments believe.
Arabic does have a peculiar facet, however, in that the Quran, the word of God to believers, was delivered in inimitable Arabic. Messing around with the language has overtones of blasphemy. Yet language does perpetually change, until it is a dead language. There are words in the Quran whose meaning is opaque to later readers and commentators.
It is not strange that Arabic is being changed by the Internet and electronic media, either. This is happening in all languages that run into these media. Vocabulary, orthography, grammar… all of these are subject to modification.
Rather than worrying about ‘identity’ through language, it might be more fruitful to consider the full array of culture that serve to forge ‘identities’. None of these are static, either, of course, so perhaps it’s simply wiser to accept that the only constant in life is change.
‘Al-Arabeezi’ threatening Arabic language: Seminar
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — During a recent seminar in which women outperformed men, participants warned that the Arabic language is losing its identity.
They said the language is facing dangers from the rise of Al-Arabeezi, Arabic Internet slang in which users do not have to follow conventional grammar and spelling rules, and the percentage of foreign workers in Gulf countries who do speak Arabic.
Vernacular varieties of Arabic were not considered a threat during the seminar, which focused on the challenges the Arabic language is facing, Al-Watan daily reported Thursday.
The seminar, held within the cultural program of the National Festival for Heritage and Culture at Janadriyah, was titled “The Arabic Language and Challenges.”
Asharq Alawsat runs a story on a recent poll that shows young Arabs remain mostly optimistic about the future. Those in countries currently torn by political strife, clearly enough, are less sanguine. The ability to get a job and the rising cost of living are the two factors that most worry the poll participants.
London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Despite widespread economic problems and political instability, the youth of the Arab world are still optimistic about the future, according to the results of a new poll.
The annual Arab Youth Survey, conducted by the Dubai-based ASDA’A Burson–Marsteller public relations consulting firm, involved 3,000 interviews of Arabs aged 18-24 across 15 countries.
According to the firm, the survey revealed that most young Arabs still feel positively about their future prospects, although the events of the previous two years have brought the region’s many economic and political problems into sharp relief.
The survey said that on average, 74% of the respondents agreed with the statement that “our best days are ahead of us.”
However, the survey also revealed a split in attitudes between citizens of Gulf states and those of North Africa and the Levant, with the latter less happy about the direction their countries were going in.
Within the Gulf, the number of respondents who said they were satisfied with the direction of their country of residence ranged from 88% in the United Arab Emirates to 77% in Saudi Arabia.
However, the average for non-Gulf countries was below fifty percent. In Lebanon, the figure was 37%, with 42% in Tunisia and 43% in Libya.
Shariah law, as practiced in Saudi Arabia, operates on the principles of Lex Talionis — and eye-for-and-eye. It is moderated by the concept of qisas, which permits the offended or the family of the offended to excuse a perpetrator from punishment, either as an act of mercy or as the result of the payment of “blood money”, diyya.
To say that this is out of step with the 21st C. would be an understatement, with no better example than a current case now being condemned internationally. Here, the family of a man paralyzed in a criminal act (unspecified) is calling for the person responsible for the crime to be crippled, and so confined to a wheelchair, as their son was. That the culprit has spent ten years in prison is insufficient punishment. The family, according to reports, has rejected the offer of a cash payment of $270,000 and chooses to show no mercy.
In cases like this, it’s not uncommon for the Saudi Arabian government to lean on families insisting on exerting the full power of the religious rights. The damage done to Saudi Arabia’s reputation, dignity, and image is considerable; following the letter of the law to its conclusion is even more damaging.
It is going to be exceeding hard — if not impossible — to make a change in law that directly reinterprets a Quranic injunction and so to make the acceptance of blood money the only response. A law that made sense nearly 1,500 years ago no longer makes sense. The change can be accomplisehd, but it will take bravery on the part of the government and the clerics.
DUBAI (Reuters) – Amnesty International has condemned a reported Saudi Arabian court ruling that a young man should be paralyzed as punishment for a crime he committed 10 years ago which resulted in the victim being confined to a wheelchair.
The London-based human rights group said Ali al-Khawaher, 24, was reported to have spent 10 years in jail waiting to be paralyzed surgically unless his family pays one million Saudi riyals ($270,000) to the victim.
The Saudi Gazette newspaper reported last week that Khawaher had stabbed a childhood friend in the spine during a dispute a decade ago, paralyzing him from the waist down.
Saudi Arabia applies Islamic sharia law, which allows eye-for-an-eye punishment for crimes but allows victims to pardon convicts in exchange for so-called blood money.
The 1001 Night is a piece of literature with many fathers. Apparently coming from Sanskrit or Persian origins, the collection of stories told by Scheherazade to prolong her life has been a mutable thing. Stories from different times and places have been told and recast many times. In some versions, certain stories appear but are missing in others.
Al Arabiya TV reports on the publication (in German) of a new collection of 101 stories, written in N. Africa and Andalusia in the 13th C, but set in an India of a mysterious time (as is much of the 1001 Nights). Only a few of the stories in the new collection are to be found in other versions of the larger work.
Almost everyone is in some way familiar with the epic “1,001 Nights,” we all know the tale of Sultan Shahryar who, heartbroken by his wife’s infidelity, remarries every night only to kill his new bride at sunrise.
This carried on until he married his vizier’s daughter Scheherazade who, gifted with an extraordinary ability to weave exciting stories, manages to save her own life by promising to tell the king a new story every night.
Throughout the 100,1 nights readers remain enthralled and entangled in the stories narrated by Scheherazade.
The Egypt Independent reported on Thursday that a new collection of stories had come to light and been translated, the 101 nights.
In his column for Asharq Alawsat, Hussein Shabokshi says that ‘Islamic politics’ is a misnomer. There’s little ‘Islamic’ about it, at least at manifest in countries roiled by Arab Spring. Instead of following the political course followed by the Prophet Mohammed, the leaders who have ascended to power through elections are simply replicating the power politics of the regimes they had overthrown.
Opponents are not welcomed into the body politic. Instead, they are cursed, accused of treason, publicly excoriated, demeaned, and jailed. Instead of taking part in the dynamics of politics, they’re being forced underground. Worse, those in power are showing themselves incapable of governing. By silencing other voices, they are losing possible solutions to problems they are themselves unable to solve.
These new leaders rode into power waving the flag of Islam and promising to fix the social ills that preceded them. Perhaps, Shabokshi suggest, they might actually try behaving in an Islamic manner now that they hold the reins.
Political Islam in Name Only
Several politicians and analysts are trying to look closely and accurately into the state of confusion, tension, and failure that has characterized the experience of the ruling political groups and parties in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, ever since the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions. Perhaps the most important and dangerous trait that all these political groups share is their “exclusionary” nature. They have failed to accommodate different segments of society and represent them all, particularly at a highly sensitive time following on from the violent and impassioned uprisings. These groups were once part of the opposition category themselves; practicing their activities in secret under the severe oppression of the previous regimes. As a result, once in power they took on a retaliatory form, further intensifying the state of fragmentation and fuelling mistrust within society.
Islam’s discourse on politics in general is somewhat shallow. While we can find dozens of volumes and books on purity, worship, and other issues, there are very few books on “political fiqh”, and a clear lack of scholarly consensus. This means that we must use much discretion when talking about political Islam; no one alone can claim a full understanding, and no one should be able to impose this understanding upon others.
The “political Islam” groups that have come to power in the Arab Spring states have not followed in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammed himself—peace be upon him—when he conquered Mecca. After the conquest, and while the prophet’s opponents were dreading his reaction, Mohammed announced a “day of mercy” and uttered his famous saying “Even he who enters the house of Abu Sufyan will be safe “, in reference to his prominent opponent at the time. The prophet added “Go your way, for you are free “, without punishing or taking revenge against anyone. This principle was later applied by two of the most renowned politicians of the twentieth century: Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi and the peerless South African Nelson Mandela. They both offered a full pardon to their former opponents and enemies, and even incorporated them into their new regimes to become part of the solution, rather than the problem. This is the difference between wisdom and political maturity on the one hand, and political adolescence on the other.
Saudi Gazette runs a piece from Asharq Alawsat that argues the same point. What’s changed in the practical politics? The only thing that seem to have been changed is the rhetoric.
Saudi academic Khalid Al-Seghayer takes a whack at Saudi lifestyles in his column for Saudi Gazette. He starts out with punctuality and how the concept does not seem to have taken firm hold on society. I know that foreign diplomats from many countries used to joke about “IBM time”: Insha’Allah, Bukra, Maalesh — God willing, Tomorrow, It didn’t matter anyway”. This wasn’t seen as particularly Saudi, but pretty much pan-Arab. Clocks just worked differently and none too efficiently.
More than a joke, though, being on time does matter in many circumstances. It’s fine to be ‘fashionable late’ for social engagements, 15-30 minutes after the appointed time, though the acceptability of that waxes and wanes. It’s not fine to show up for work or for business meetings even a few minutes late.
Al-Seghayer also takes note of the low levels of productivity once people have shown up. He points to a lack of priorities, motivation, and focus as among the problems. While it’s certainly important to keep up social (and political) associations, perhaps the office is not the right place to be doing so.
The problems of punctuality and productivity in Saudi Arabia
Dr. Khalid Al-Seghayer
Punctuality is not a traditional virtue of Saudis, which adversely affects their level of productivity. The constant and all-pervasive presence of the poor punctuality and reduced productivity of Saudis is mainly due to poor time management skills and the lack of importance given to time in general and to achievements on an individual level, in particular. Other factors include an inadequate educational system along with some counterproductive traditional practices.
Punctuality is not of great importance in Saudi Arabia, as Saudis often show a relaxed attitude to time. This can be seen in many situations, from the punctuality of a driver to the start of an official event, both of which clearly show that Saudi culture neither encourages tight schedules nor gives timeliness a high priority.
One can cite a number of social practices that show this relaxed attitude to punctuality. Deadlines are not absolute, and there is no great sense of urgency surrounding due dates. Frequent and unscheduled visits to friends and relatives are not considered a waste of time but rather time well spent. It is considered discourteous to be caught looking at one’s watch during any sort of social gathering.
In an opinion piece for Saudi Gazette, Khalid Al-Seghayer writes about the differences in the way an official resigning from his position is viewed in the West and in the Arab world. While he misses the politically expedient resignation — usually couched in terms like “desire to spend more time with one’s family — he is correct that a resignation is rarely an admission of personal failure in the West.
Arab culture, however, sees a resignation as potentially traitorous toward the person who nominated the officeholder. Worse, it can be seen as a sign of personal weakness or ‘lacking impulse control’. Resignation lives on afterwards, too, coloring the way others will view the resignee and their future interactions with him.
Resigning in the Arab and Western worlds
Dr. Khalid Al-Seghayer
When disharmony emerges among members of an administration, it often becomes clear that someone must step down. Similarly, when individuals even in the highest positions find that the atmosphere is no longer conducive to fully performing their assigned role, resignation becomes an option. However, the decision to resign is viewed differently in the Arab and the Western worlds.
In Western culture, resignation could suggest several notions including accepting full responsibility for what seems to be wrongdoing, tacit admission of negligence in the performance of tasks or the inability to achieve the organization’s desired goal, or recognition of assigning the wrong person to the job. The public in Western culture actually admires and respects such a resignation decision because, apparently, the public interest comes first at the expense of one’s personal interest. Resignation could further denote a way to amend a wrong operational approach; hold the person in charge accountable; firmly indicate that no place for equivocating exists; allow leading positions to be rotated; exercise self-supervision; and openly and directly express dissatisfaction with the current situation.
Yahoo.com’s Arabic portal Maktoob reports that there are more than 45 foreign maids on death row in Saudi Arabia. The issue has become a hot one following the execution of a Sri Lankan maid who was found guilty of killing a child in her care when she was only 17 years old. Crimes committed by children are generally treated more leniently than those by adults, in Saudi Arabia as well as the rest of the world. The problem is that in Saudi Arabia, a 17-year-old is considered adult for many purposes… crime and punishment included.
There is no question, though, that the relationship in Saudi society between employers and employees is a difficult one. It’s not likely to be solved until either the country finds it impossible to import their labor or sweeping protective laws are issued.
More than 45 foreign maids are on death row in Saudi Arabia, amid growing global outrage over the treatment of migrant workers, UK’s The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.
The startling figure, based on estimates from human rights agencies, was revealed after the kingdom beheaded a 24-year-old Sri Lankan maid, Rizana Nafeek, for killing a child left in her care in 2005.
Indonesians are believed to account for the majority of those facing a death sentence. Human rights groups said 45 Indonesian women are on death row, and five have exhausted the legal process, The Observer reported.
There are also Sri Lankan, Filipina, Indian, and Ethiopian maids facing the death penalty, The Observer reported, citing rights groups.
There are about 1.5 million foreign maids in Saudi Arabia, including about 375,000 Sri Lankans.
“Some domestic workers find kind employers who treat them well, but others face intense exploitation and abuse, ranging from months of hard work without pay to physical violence to slavery-like conditions,” The Observer quoted Nisha Varia from Human Rights Watch as saying.
According to Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry, Nafeek was sentenced to death in 2007 after her Saudi employer accused her of killing his infant daughter while she was bottle-feeding.
American broadcaster ABC TV carries a report saying that the execution was conducted according to strict protocols of Shariah law:
Writing at Saudi Gazette, Khalid Al-Maeena is wondering just what it is about celebutantes and the Arab Gulf States. Why, he wonders, have those young women who are famous for being famous attracted audiences for their appearances and/or customers for their products?
He’s ashamed by it, but I think he knows why… the ‘sleaze appeal.’ Having seen their notorious behavior on video clips on line, they want to have something to do with them in reality. Whether it’s getting a chance to lay eyeballs on Kim Kardashian or just buying a Paris Hilton-labeled item of apparel, the appeal is there.
Not exactly the image you have in mind for Mecca, the holiest place in Islam? Not really in line with the behavior codes of Bedouin-derived cultures? Clearly, someone believes that these concerns must take second-place to earning a Riyal or Dirham or Dinar.
The all-time lows of human decency
Tariq A. Al-Maeena
I have always believed that there was a level beyond which human decency could not possibly sink. But merchants in three GCC countries have proved me wrong. In the quest for publicity and profit, they have resorted to a degree of sleaze that I would never have imagined.
In the first instance, Kim Kardashian, an American socialite known for getting into the news by dabbling in sordid situations, was in Kuwait to promote her business ventures just days after she had tweeted her prayers for the people of Israel during Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
In a provocatively revealing dress in a conservative nation, she was busily pandering her goods to the hundreds who thronged the mall where she appeared.
She followed that trip with a visit to Bahrain to promote her line of milkshakes. But her visit there was not without controversy.
While many paid up to $1400 for a chance to see her, many others demonstrated against her visit. Many banded together protesting her stay in the island nation.
Now, I’m not about to get on the moral high horse with Mr Al-Maeena. I’m old enough (or jaded enough) to realize that people do like to exercise their baser instincts, even if at second or third hand. My complaint is more on the level of good taste. Are these the best that the Gulf Arabs could do? Couldn’t they find someone who had some claim to accomplishment, even a tiny bit? I suppose, though, that if the goal is to objectivize women, the marketeers succeeded.
Let the guessing games continue!
Saudi Gazette reports — weakly — that the Administrative Court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a number of officials and businessmen for the role they played in the 2009 flooding of Jeddah which killed over 100 people. As is typical, the newspaper names no names, but provides a certain amount of identifying information to aid the reader in guessing who it is that is going to jail.
The paper refrains from even mentioning the job titles held by the sentenced individuals. This is a great disservice to readers, Saudi and foreign alike. It also flies in the face of pledges of greater transparency in government.
I realize that Saudi Arabia seeks to protect the innocence and names of those only related to the guilty, but they cannot do so while hiding important information. It does matter if the malfeasance and criminal activity is conducted by a janitor or the head of an office. Readers should be able to learn that information as it speaks to the level and extent of corruption, a target for government action.
17 years in jail, SR2m fine for Jeddah Mayoralty official,
Abdulrahman Al-Ali | Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH – The head of the Penal Circuit in the Administrative Court has sentenced a leading official in the Jeddah Mayoralty and several businessmen, one of whom is a former chairman of a sports club, to a collective 17 years imprisonment and total fines of SR2 million.
They were accused of bribery and abuse of power.
The Jeddah Mayoralty official, who was suspended from work facing the accusation of accepting bribery and engaging in trade violating a government contract that bars employees from engaging in trade, was fined SR1 million and imprisoned for seven years to be counted from the day he was taken into custody.
A well-known businessman, who was also a former chairman of a sports club, was accused of several counts of offering bribes. He was fined SR200,000 and sentenced to three years in prison to be counted from the date he was taken into custody.