Only five years after Farouk Al-Zuman became the first Saudi Arab to climb Mount Everest, a Saudi woman has done the same. Al-Jazeera TV reports on 25-year-old Raha Mharrak’s accomplishment.
A 25-year-old graphic design graduate has become the first ever Saudi woman to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
Raha Moharrak is the only female in a group of four Arabs who announced two months ago that they would be reaching the summit in 2013.
“The first ever Saudi woman to attempt Everest has reached the top!! Bravo Raha Moharrak. We salute you,” said a tweet from the group.
If Saudi women were permitted to do what their male counterparts are allowed to do, with only a five-year lag…
Saudi Arabs in the US operate under the cloud of 9/11, when 15 Saudi nationals were involved in the attacks. Eleven years is not sufficient to erase memories, nor, sadly, to raise the shadow of suspicion.
Early reports following the bombing of the Boston Marathon finish line were intensely focused on a Saudi student, Abdul Rahman Al-Harbi, who was under police protection at a local hospital. There were reports that he had been tackled by a bystander for ‘behaving suspiciously’ by running away, but running away from a bomb scene strikes me as not only pretty normal behavior, but pretty wise behavior as well.
Authorities in Boston stated yesterday that Al-Harbi was not a perpetrator of the bombing, but was just one of the nearly 180 victims. A student in the Boston area, he did what many tens of thousands people did: take advantage of the local Patriots’ Day holiday and attend the famous Boston Marathon. He got caught in the explosion and the chaos that ensued.
The Washington Post runs an article — mining deeply in Saudi blogger Ahmed Al-Omran’s writings — that tells of other Saudis caught in the mess, including a young woman who nearly lost a leg to injuries.
You’ve probably already heard about the 20-something Saudi study-abroad student who, though he’s not a suspect, was interviewed by police after being injured in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing and who volunteered to let police search his apartment.
But you may not know about the second Saudi citizen hurt in the blast, a young woman who was also studying in Boston and who, according to Al Arabiya, almost lost her leg. The report, citing a friend of the young woman, says her wounds were so severe that surgeons considered amputating the leg but ultimately were able to save it. A Saudi embassy official, speaking to CNN’s Mohammed Jamjoon, confirmed the woman had been injured, adding that she had been at the race with her husband and child.
There are about 1,000 Saudi citizens studying in Boston, according to a Saudi cultural attache in the United States. Others were also caught in the chaos of the attack, just as terrified as anyone else. A Saudi student named Omar Moathen, headed to meet a friend at mile 26 of the marathon route when the bomb went off, later recounted being corralled into a crowded hotel to wait as police swept for other explosives. His account, translated into English by Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran, was like so many others that day. He was confused and feared for his nearby friends, for the children no one could seem to comfort and for himself. He tried to call a friend, waited anxiously and prayed.
Arab News runs an interview with Shatha Jameel Lutfi, another student who found herself in the wrong place:
The UAE’s Gulf News has an interview with Ali Eissa Al-Harbi, Abdul Rahman’s father. He is not well-pleased with the way in which some portions of the US media leaped to conclusions about his son.
Presently, there are no suspects for the bombing in Boston. That makes people uncomfortable as human beings don’t like voids in their mental pictures of the world. If something happens, the effects are apparent, but they want to know the cause. Without a clear cause, they will use their imaginations — perhaps rooted to the slightest bit of information — to fill in the blanks. Because a stem of terrorism in the name of Islam was allowed to grow in Saudi Arabia (Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 attackers, the perpetrators of the various bombings and attacks within Saudi Arabia and across the region) the mention of “Saudi” in any crime report leads to the conclusion, erroneous as it may be, that the event must be laid at the feet of Saudis and Saudi Arabia.
Most Americans don’t have any idea of the battle the Kingdom has been conducting since 2003. That’s not a failure of public relations or inactivity on the part of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, it’s that ideas that play against stereotypes are not really perceived. It’s far easier to believe the narrative that has been formed by history and further fanned by anti-Muslim and anti-Saudi sources.
It’d be great if it were otherwise, but unfortunately it is not. Saudis will have to bear the burden put upon them by certain of those who came before them. At least for a while.
Following the execution of a Sri Lankan domestic worker in Saudi Arabia, the government of Sri Lanka has announced that it will more strictly control the hiring of its citizens for employment in the Kingdom. Its goal is to stop the flow of Sri Lankan women to Saudi Arabia, where over 600K are currently working. Al-Jazeera reports…
Sri Lanka will gradually stop allowing women to work as housemaids in Saudi Arabia after a Sri Lankan was executed in the country over the death of an infant in her care, the Colombo government said.
The government said it would raise the minimum age for female domestic workers to be eligible to seek employment in Saudi Arabia to 25 years from the present 21 with an eye on eventually stopping such employment altogether.
“Gradual phase-out is the idea,” government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said. “We can’t stop it overnight. It’s a gradual process and increasing the age limit is part of that.”
Colombo recalled its envoy to Saudi Arabia in response to the beheading on January 9 of Rizana Nafeek, who was sentenced to death in 2007 accused of killing her employer’s daughter while she was bottle-feeding.
A third of the two million Sri Lankan maids working abroad are in Saudi Arabia, according to the country’s foreign employment bureau.
Many households in the Middle East are highly dependent on housemaids from African and South Asian countries.
In some cases of reported domestic abuse, maids have attacked the children of their employers after they were mistreated themselves.
In the case of Nafeek, the Saudi interior ministry said, the infant was strangled after a dispute between her and the baby’s mother.
Asharq Alawsat, the world’s largest, pan-Arab newspaper announces that Adel Al Toraifi has been named to succeed Tariq Alhomayed as Editor-in-Chief. Alhomayed took over the reins in 2004. Where he’s going now is not stated beyond that he’ll continue writing columns for the paper. This does seem to be past practice as Abdul Rahman Al Rashed continues to write in addition to his role at Al Arabiya TV, another Saudi media giant.
I’ve generally liked Al Toraifi’s writing. He’s concise and avoids the vague vocabulary and circumlocutions that seem a hallmark of Arab journalism.
London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Adel Al Toraifi has been appointed Editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper. He replaces Tariq Alhomayed, who will continue as a columnist for the paper.
The new appointment was announced by Prince Faisal bin Salman, chairman of Saudi Research & Marketing Group. The appointment has been approved by SRMG’s board of directors and the Saudi Research & Publishing Company’s board of trustees.
Al Toraifi will take charge as new editor in chief on Jan. 1, 2013.
Prince Salman chaired a meeting of Asharq Al-Awsat’s editorial staff at its headquarters in London and commended the progress achieved by the daily. Asharq Al-Awsat is distinguished for its professionalism, credibility and moderation, the chairman said.
He thanked Alhomayed and previous editors for their contributions to the paper’s success. “I am happy to say that Asharq Al-Awsat has become the newspaper of all Arabs.” He welcomed Alhomayed as a daily columnist of the paper and adviser to the board chairman.
Al Toraifi has obtained a doctorate degree in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences in 2012. He got his master’s degree in political science in 2007 and another master’s degree in economy and international politics from the University of London. He has received British Chevening Scholarship and the best research award on international conflicts from the University of London in 2008.
Al Toraifi has over 10 years experience in journalism.
UPDATE: Here’s Tariq Alhomayed’s farewell to readers:
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.
A blogger in Saudi Arabia has set off a firestorm by equating waitresses to prostitutes, Gulf News reports. For some Saudis, it is a self-evident truth that if men and women are in the same physical location, and not married, then sex must be going on. This, of course, say more about the individual making such observations than actual fact, but exemplifies the hill Saudi women will have to climb in order to earn a living and make their own ways in life. Government efforts to put women into jobs isn’t going to succeed until the government finds a way to change opinions about women and their place in the world.
‘Prostitute’ tweet sparks anger
Habib Toumi Bureau Chief | Gulf News
Manama: A Saudi legal consultant has advised a group of local women working in a fast-food restaurant to sue a blogger for calling them “prostitutes.”
“Those who felt insulted by the tweet targeting their honour and dignity should go to the court and demand the application of the law dealing with IT crimes in Saudi Arabia,” Ahmad Al Muhaimid said. “The law is also intended to protect public interests, ethics and morals, as well as the national economy. The law thus criminalises assaulting or defaming people or targeting their private lives,” he said, quoted by local news site Sabq.
Action against violators includes a maximum of one year in prison and fines of up to 500,000 riyals (Dh489,711), he said.
Anger swelled in the Saudi blogosphere after a blogger posted a tweet addressed to the labour minister.
“You should stop corrupting the society. We will be your enemies on Resurrection Day. Our women are now waitresses at Hardee’s in Jeddah,” the blogger posted.
However, a woman blogger blasted him for the remark.
“Being a waitress and doing an honest is better than begging or prostitution,” she wrote.
However, the blogger insisted on his view.
“A waitress at the beginning of the work shift, and a prostitute at the end. The frequent mixing of women with men leads them to sitting together easily and to dating.”
Saudi columnist Tariq Al Maeena writes a piece for Gulf News in which he decries the ordinary, everyday extremism — the quotidian terrorism — that is seeping into Islam around the world. He cites examples out of Mali, where an extremist group has taken power, as well as Egypt, no governed by the Muslim Brotherhood. He might have added Pakistan and Afghanistan, both of which have seen extremist attacks on little girls.
These events are not the big ones, the ones that capture international attention as does the current fighting between Israel and Hamas. But they are the indicia of serious problems that eat away at the core of societies. If Muslims of good will do not want to raise their heads (or voices) about the big issues, they need to be saying something about the little ones. These events happen in their towns and villages, but as they gain notoriety through their enormity, they need to be condemned, condemned promptly and loudly. These are the events that color the world’s view of Islam, and the colors are getting darker by the day.
Let’s expose the thugs for what they are
Tariq A. Al Maeena | Special to Gulf News
The majority who practice Islam peacefully must raise their voice against those who continue to defame our religion through their acts of forcing their version of the faith down people’s throats
In recent years, the western media has been constantly churning out stories on the anomalies and forced imposition of Islam on other cultures and suggesting an impending war of civilisations. It is unfortunate that a few bands of power-hungry thugs operating under the cloak of an Islamic facade have helped promote this perception very rapidly. They do nothing more than defile Islam, a religion that does not beckon by force.
In the current scenario, thugs from two armed groups in Timbuktu are calling themselves Islamists — Ansar Dine and Mujao have begun imposing their own brand of religion on the hapless populace. These radical criminals who took control of the city a few months back through violent means are now requiring that the people follow their version of Sharia, which to their control-driven psyche means an attack on women’s rights. They have begun by demanding that all women be clothed in loose-fitting clothes and covered in black veils. The failure to comply with their demands would mean that a woman risks being whipped, disfigured or sent to jail on the trumped-up charge that she was not following Sharia. And they have been brutal in ensuring the application of their new laws.
According to an observer: “The Islamists announced that any woman who disobeys their rules will have her ears cut off and be sent to a new, all-female prison. Though they haven’t gone that far yet, they are still quite strict. On Thursday afternoon, as I was visiting a friend at the hospital, I saw a very pregnant woman arrive. She was wearing a white veil, so the Islamists asked her to go home and change. She explained that she was going into labour and that she lived two kilometres away, so she couldn’t go back. She ended up giving birth outside, on the sidewalk.”
Their rule is governed by the threat of corporal punishment for acts they deem to be a violation of their brand of Sharia. Punishments include whipping, amputations and in extreme cases the stoning to death of those in violation of Sharia. Just last month, one Timbuktu resident had his hand chopped off as he was charged with theft, while earlier, a couple was publicly whipped for indulging in extra-marital relationship. It is unfortunate for the residents of Timbuktu that such will be their plight until they get rid of this menace within their midst.
The issue of national ID cards is one that sets American conservatives’ and libertarians’ teeth on edge. For Saudi women, though, it can be a liberation. The Lebanese website “NOW Lebanon” runs an interesting piece on how progressive Saudi women are welcoming the introduction of compulsory ID cards, complete with photos.
My face is my existence
Saudi women and IDs
“My face is my human identity, the proof of my very existence. Wake up, women of the Arab Peninsula, rebel against being non-existent,” Tweeted activist Lama al-Zahrani in support for the recent decision in Saudi Arabia making it compulsory for women to carry state IDs on them. “Unfortunately,” she told NOW, “when the Shura Council issued the ruling, some judges and other sheikhs who are well-known in media circles were opposed to it.” This is because an official ID would bear an actual photo of its female holder. However, Zahrani believes that the sheikhs’ objection to the photo IDs is merely a pretext, the main problem being fear that women will break free of their male dominance.
Nawwara, another Saudi activist, agreed, saying, “There are concerns regarding the autonomy of women, as they fear we will have more demands. Others, still, want to exploit women [who don’t have state picture IDs]. For instance, a father may take a loan or buy and sell stocks in his daughter’s name using the family [identification] card, and leave her to handle the repayment. In other cases, a brother may seize his sister’s inheritance by bringing in a woman wearing a niqab, claiming that she is his sister and having her sell her share of inheritance.”
[Thanks for reader Solomon2 for the pointer.]
The Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star notes that the Roman Catholic Church is moving its operations center in the Gulf from Kuwait to Bahrain. The office, the apostolic vicariate as the article informs us, is moving to take advantage of Bahrain’s more central position in the Gulf.
The article also notes that the vast majority of Catholics in the Gulf reside in Saudi Arabia. This isn’t really surprising because Saudi Arabia employs the highest number of expatriate workers. Still, stated bluntly, it catches the eye. It also helps explain why the Catholic Church has worked to improve its relations with the Kingdom and to cooperate with it on many interfaith efforts.
VATICAN CITY: The Vatican is to move its representation in the Gulf from Kuwait to Bahrain to facilitate the organisation of regional meetings of Christians, its regional head announced Friday.
“Bahrain is more central, since it is between Kuwait and Qatar and facing Saudi Arabia,” Bishop Camillo Ballin said in an interview with Radio Vatican.
It is also easier to get visas for the Bahrain archipelago than for Kuwait, said Ballin, which “facilitates organising meetings between priests and Catholics from other countries.”
The Gulf seat is known as an apostolic vicariate, a base for the Holy See in countries where there is no diocese.
According to Vatican estimates, around two million Catholics live in the Gulf, the vast majority in strictly Muslim Saudi Arabia. Most are immigrant workers from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Gulf News reports from Dubai that Saudi Arabia’s new director of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice will be issuing new rules for the religious police in the wake of a fatal car chase. While rules already exist that call for the end of car chases, they are not being uniformly observed. Getting the religious police to toe the line is difficult as many of the members believe they are acting righteously, in the name of religion. As with the case of, say, the Westboro Baptist Church, once one becomes religiously convinced that he’s doing the work of God on earth, it’s hard to convince him otherwise, no matter how many enemies it makes.
Exactly what new procedures might prove effective remains to be seen. Saudi media report that the religious police involved in the car chase have been arrested. If that’s not enough to dissuade them, then what is? Having a few religious police executed for exceeding their remit?
Dubai: Saudi Arabia will make amendments to rules governing religious police after the ‘horrific’ death of a Saudi man and injuries to his family members after their car was chased by religious police (mutawa) earlier this month, Saudi media reports said.
“A set of procedures to govern the country’s Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice Commission’s chasing of people will soon be released,” the head of the commission, Abdul Latif Al Shaikh, was quoted as saying in Saudi media, including Al Watan newspaper and Al Arabiyah.net.
The statement came days after the incident “shocked the Saudi public”.
Earlier, Saudi media had reported that four members of the religious police had been arrested for allegedly causing the situation that led to the death of Abdul Rahman Al Gamdi and left his wife and two children with injuries in Al Baha region in the south-western part of the kingdom.
The Nation newspaper out of Dubai carries this Associated Press story. Saudi Arabia has announced that non-Muslim expats found breaking the Ramadan fast in public will have their contracts voided and will be tossed out of the country.
RIYADH // Saudi authorities are warning non-Muslim expatriates against eating, drinking or smoking in public during Ramadan, the monthlong sunrise-to-sunset fast – or face expulsion.
The Interior Ministry of the oil-rich kingdom is calling on non-Muslims to “show consideration for feelings of Muslims” and “preserve the sacred Islamic rituals.”
Otherwise, a statement says, Saudi authorities will cancel violators’ work contracts and expel them.
The annual game of “When Does Ramadan Begin?” is underway. According to astronomers in Saudi Arabia, it will be impossible for most of the world to see a crescent moon tonight and Ramadan should begin Saturday. But astronomers do not have the definitive say in many places. For the countries that rely on human sighting of the moon, it’s likely that Ramadan will begin tomorrow, Friday, July 20.
Saudi Gazette reports on the issue:
Moon-sighting on Thursday unlikely, says ICOP report
Laura Bashraheel | Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Jeddah Astronomy Society has stopped releasing statements regarding sighting of the new moon for Ramadan and denied that last year’s incident has anything to do with the decision.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Crescents’ Observation Project (ICOP), based in Abu Dhabi, released a report which stated that a new moon will not be sighted on Thursday. ICOP based the report on astronomical calculations.
Last year, a number of astronomers said the sighting of Shawwal’s new moon was impossible. Despite the declaration, the Supreme Court announced Eid based on reports by traditional moon-sighting observers.
ICOP stated that the sighting of Ramadan’s new moon on the 29th of Shaaban, would be impossible from all northern locations and some central locations in the world.
Regardless of exactly when Ramadan starts, this year’s fasting will be coming at the most difficult time of the year for the northern hemisphere: deep summer. As a result, the Saudi government is announcing that workers will have curtailed hours. Arab News reports that government workers will have five-hour workdays, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM; private sector workers will have six-hour workdays or 36-hour workweeks, depending on how they are paid.
Fewer working hours
RIYADH: ARAB NEWS
The ministries of civil service and labor have set the working hours for public and private sector employees during Ramadan.
According to a Civil Service Ministry statement, government offices will work five hours from 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.
Hatab Al-Anzi, spokesman of the Labor Ministry, said the private sector would work six hours a day during Ramadan if employers fix working hours on a daily basis.
If employers fix working hours on a weekly basis, then employees will work 36 hours.
He said there is a provision in the Labor Law that Muslim employees need to work only six hours instead of eight during Ramadan.
Eid Al-Fitr holidays for the government sector will last 12 days, from Aug. 13 to 24. The first working day after Eid will be on Saturday, Aug. 25.
Ramadan may well affect Muslim athletes taking part in the Olympic Games in London. The New York Times reports on the conflict facing some athletes when they must balance religious duty with their will to win.
But some countries, such as Morocco, have issued edicts exempting Muslim athletes from fasting during their competitions. For others, there is always the possibility of personally postponing fasting, choosing to fast at another, more convenient time, as is the case with some Malaysian athletes.
For all, though, Ramadan entertainment is a big issue. According to Al-Arabiya TV, Yahoo’s Arabic portal Maktoob will be streaming “The 99″, the animated series with Islamic superheroes: