I don’t know whether there’s been a new rash of objectionable materials or that the volume of existing materials has reached a peak, but Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is asking for the Ministry of Interior to make more arrests for blasphemy.

Saudi Gazette reports that the Commission is seeking to have more websites blocked and more action taken against those on social media who are “distorting” Islam in various ways. Pornography, of course, remains a big issue as the government, with its filters operated by the Communication & Information Technology Commission (CITC) can only do so much. A blocked site can change its address almost as quickly as the CITC can block them. Those Saudis with a modicum of computer savvy can find their way around the filters and blocks with ease.

Haia asks ministry to arrest blasphemers
Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) has asked the Ministry of Interior to arrest those who insult Almighty Allah or the Prophet (peace be upon him), Makkah daily reported.

The Haia said it is coordinating with the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) to block pornographic websites and others that insult the Muslim faith.

The commission said this coordination resulted in a large number of websites being blocked.

The commission said it is preparing reports on a number of programs, applications and copies of the Holy Qur’an whose verses have been distorted. It is coordinating with the authorities to prevent the circulation of such material, the Haia said.

August:19:2014 - 07:31 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Writing at Al Arabiya TV, Hisham Melhem finds the origin of extremist groups like ISIS to be in the Arab penchant for “conspiracy theories, delusions, self-deception, paranoia and xenophobia.” Undemocratic societies, where government seek to control the flow of information, leave vacuums which people will seek to fill. They end up filling them with nonsense, with anger, with paranoia.

It’s worth reading his column in full. He does a good job of pointing out the various zany theories that are rippling across not only the Arab world, but the world at large. And it’s scary.

Enough lies, the Arab body politic created the ISIS cancer
Hisham Melhem

Most people are averse to introspection, and rarely engage in self-criticism. Arabs are no different. However, the political culture that developed in the Arab World in the last 60 years, particularly in countries ruled by autocratic regimes, shifted blame from their catastrophic failures in governance to other external, sinister forces. For these countries, self-criticism has become next to impossible.

Over time, this legacy has created fertile terrain for conspiracy theories, delusions, self-deception, paranoia and xenophobia. If you read an Arab newspaper or many a website in the region, you will invariably encounter some of these symptoms. Admittedly, sometimes they can be entertaining, but in most cases they are downright ugly, reflecting deep pathologies of fear.

August:16:2014 - 08:55 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

According to a report in Arab News, Saudi Arabia is now the Arab world’s leading producer of honey. Five thousand beekeepers are producing 9,000 tons of honey per year.

Due to the popularity of locally-produced foodstuffs, some Saudi honeys sell for as much as SR1,000 (US $300) per kilo.

Kingdom top producer of honey in Arab world
Jeddah: Irfan Mohammmed

The Kingdom is the leading producer of honey in the Arab World, producing over 9,000 tons annually and is home to 5,000 beekeepers and 1 million bee nests, said Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, organizing committee chairman of Al-Baha’s seventh International Honey Festival. The festival concludes Saturday in the presence of international experts and regional visitors.

The sale of honey went soaring at the festival, organized by the Beekeepers Cooperative Association (BCA) under the auspices of Baha Gov. Prince Mishari bin Saud in collaboration with Abdullah Bugshan, chairman of the bee research unit at King Saud University (KSU).

“Beekeepers have sold over SR2 million worth of honey in a single week,” Al-Ghamdi told Arab News.

August:15:2014 - 09:21 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

A Saudi imam has received an 8-year jail sentence, a travel ban of 10 years following his jail term, and is banned for life from preaching sermons, Saudi Gazette reports. The unnamed imam was convicted of spreading sedition and sowing sectarian dissent.

Mosque imam gets eight years in jail

RIYADH — The Summary Court in Riyadh has sentenced a 52-year-old Saudi mosque imam to eight years and banned him from traveling outside for 10 years after serving his jail term. He was also prevented from delivering sermons for life. The court said in its verdict that the accused had shown disobedience to the country’s ruler, tried to seed sectarian dissension undermining the national unity and attacking renowned Muslim scholars. Both the defendant and the General Attorney objected to the ruling and have been asked to appeal within 30 days. He said the prison term would be counted from the day hewas arrested in 2011.

August:15:2014 - 09:03 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that the death of a Saudi national upon his return from Sierra Leone was not due to the Ebola virus. Tests in Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the US show that it was more likely that he died of meningitis.

The Saudi ban on Haj visas for people coming from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea remains in effect.

Saudi Ebola suspect dies of infection

RIYADH — The lab tests on samples taken from the Saudi man who was suspected to have died of Ebola virus showed that Ebola was not responsible for his death. Local Arabic daily Al-Watan quoted informed sources on Wednesday as saying that the tests conducted in the US and Germany gave negative results. The sources said Ibrahim Al-Zahrani had possibility died of meningitis, a disease that he might have contracted in Sierra Leone where he was on a visit. Acting health minister Adel Fakeih told the GCC health ministers in Riyadh on Wednesday that the Kingdom was free of the Ebola virus. The ministers asked the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars to issue an official fatwa (religious edict) on how the people who die of highly infectious diseases should be buried.

August:15:2014 - 08:59 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

The passage of time changes things. Rather than a vast, undelimited region across which migrating tribes traveled, there are now national borders that delineate the countries of Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Oman. With the drawing of borders came nationalities; with nationalities, there came regulation, registration, and documentation.

Some of the members of the migrating tribes missed out on becoming anchored to a nationality. They, known as the Bidoon, or “stateless” suffer in various ways through their lack of anchoring. As they cannot demonstrate that they belong to any one state, they do not qualify for state-offered programs and support like education, health care, and various subsidies, as well as access to jobs. The various countries in which the Bidoon are found have offered a variety of ways in which to ‘regularize’ them, with some programs being better than others.

Saudi Gazette reports on a new Saudi initiative that will offer government-provided ID cards to the Bidoon to grant them access to at least some social programs. This will not make them Saudi citizens — they won’t be eligible for Saudi passports, for instance — but it will not leave them completely out in the cold, either.

Jawazat issues special IDs to Bidoon

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) has issued special ID cards for the members of migrant tribes currently living at the outskirts of the Kingdom’s regions. The people of such tribes are commonly known as the Bidoon (people without identities).

Director General of the Jawazat Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yahya told Al-Hayat newspaper in a statement published Tuesday that the new ID cards would facilitate all the official procedures for these people.

“The cards look similar to the iqamas (residence permits) of the expatriates but they have many privileges over them. Their holders will be treated on equal footing with the Saudi citizen,” he said.

Al-Yahya said the data on the Bidoon are currently being collected prior to the issuance of these cards.

August:13:2014 - 08:41 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health is saying that the death of a Saudi national who sickened in Sierra Leone and died in the Kingdom was not due to the Ebola virus, based on preliminary studies. Further studies are being conducted in labs in the US and Germany to verify the test results.

MOH: First test of Ebola suspect negative

RIYADH — The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced Saturday that the initial test results of a Saudi national who died showing symptoms similar to Ebola was not infected with the virus. It had announced on Wednesday that the man had died of a heart attack.

The ministry said it received “preliminary laboratory result” from Atlanta showing that the man had tested negative for Ebola. The preliminary lab results were carried out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, US.

The “same US laboratories will carry out further precise and developed tests to ensure the absence of other viruses that could cause hemorrhagic fever,” the symptoms the man had upon his return from Sierra Leone, the ministry said.

The ministry also said that it is awaiting the results of tests on the second sample for the same case sent to one of the laboratories in Germany, within a few days.

August:10:2014 - 08:01 | Comments Off | Permalink

In a statement that may indicate that he is getting too old for the job, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh blames the spate of murders and destruction in the region on “foreign intelligence agencies.” No Muslim, he says in a widely reported Friday sermon, would kill other Muslims.

Assuming that the sheikh wasn’t napping for the past 30 years, his memory may be failing him. Muslim-on-Muslim violence has been violent, brutal, and widespread. While the current regime of terror may be put at the feet of extremist groups, state governments have engaged as well, and well beyond the prosecution of crimes.

Perhaps we should take the sheikh’s comments as aspirational rather than as a reflection on the facts. Muslims oughtn’t be killing other Muslims willy-nilly. Nor should they be killing non-Muslims. They do not now and have not in the past needed assistance or motivation from “foreign intelligence agencies”.

Grand Mufti: Killing of Muslims the work of foreign agencies
Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh said the killings of innocent Muslims in some countries is the work of foreign intelligence agencies that seek to damage Islam.

He added that those who kill other Muslims do not represent Islam, because Islam is a religion of mercy and justice that embraces Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Al-Hayat daily reported.

During the Friday sermon at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh, Al-Asheikh said it is forbidden for a Muslim to kill another Muslim as Islam emphasized the importance of respecting and preserving lives.

“Such teachings are the basis for a settled society, and if Muslims follow these teachings, they will live in complete harmony,” he said while referencing daily reports of gruesome criminal activities being committed by what he described as “evil persons and factions that are enemies of Islam.”

Al-Asheikh went on to say that Islam is innocent of such crimes, and every Muslim should denounce crimes that are committed against Muslims who pray and fast.

August:10:2014 - 07:57 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Following the death of a Saudi who had traveled to Sierra Leone and is said to have died as a result of the Ebola virus, Saudi authorities are denying that a second case has presented itself.

The country has cancelled Haj visas for visitors from the African states currently suffering from the Ebola outbreak: Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. It stands ready to expand the ban if the virus spreads. The risk of an Ebola outbreak during Haj, which starts next month, is a nightmare.

2nd Ebola case denied

The Health Ministry denied Thursday the appearance of another Ebola virus fever case in Jeddah and urged the media not to publish such reports without confirmation.

“We will inform the public about the development of the new killer virus in full transparency and have taken measures to protect citizens and residents from such infectious diseases,” the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Abdul Aziz Al-Zahrani, the brother of the man who died of Ebola on Wednesday, blamed the negligence of medical staff at a private hospital in the city for the death.

August:09:2014 - 06:41 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s decision to not issue Haj visas to would-be pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia seems to have been a wise one. Al Arabiya TV reports that a Saudi who had traveled to Sierra Leone has died in a Jeddah hospital of what is suspected to be Ebola. I’m sure Saudi authorities are working like mad to see if there is any possibility that he might have infected others. The last thing the Saudis want is an outbreak of Ebola following Haj, either in the Kingdom or in the countries from which pilgrims come and to which they return.

Saudi man dies of suspected Ebola virus

A Saudi man, who was hospitalized for suspected Ebola infection, died on Wednesday.

The man, in his 40s, had returned recently to Jeddah from a business trip to Sierra Leone, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday. He was admitted to hospital on Monday and showed symptoms of Ebola virus infection.

His death marks the first reported casualty of the Ebola epidemic in the Arab world and comes as an emergency World Health Organization summit was being held in Geneva to discuss measures to tackle the epidemic.

August:07:2014 - 08:41 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Arab News reports that the oldest text written in Arabic (actually, in a Nabatean-Arabic script) has been discovered in the far southwest of the country. The Arabic script appears to have been developed from several sources, including that of the Nabatean civilization that ruled to the north of current Saudi Arabia, but was known to have reached into northern Saudi Arabia at least as far as the area in which the ruins of Medain Saleh are found. The newly discovered inscription demonstrated the antiquity of trade routes to Yemen and is an important indicator of both the development of Arabic script and the history of the region.

Nabatean-Arabic missing link: ‘Oldest’ inscription found in Najran

A Saudi-French archaeological team has unearthed in Najran what might be considered the oldest inscription in the Arabic alphabet, said a spokesman from the French Foreign Ministry.

“The epigrapher Frédéric Imbert, a professor at the University of Aix-Marseille, found the Nabatean Arabic inscription about 100 km north of Najran near the Yemeni border,” said the spokesman. “The first thing that makes this find significant is that it is a mixed text, known as Nabatean Arabic, the first stage of Arabic writing,” he said.

This script had previously only ever been seen north of Hejaz, in the Sinai and in the Levant. The second is the fact that these inscriptions are dated. The period indicated corresponds to the years 469-470 AD. This is the oldest form of Arabic writing known to date, the “missing link” between Nabatean and Arabic writing, he added.

August:04:2014 - 08:32 | Comments Off | Permalink

In Saudi Arabia, the issue of women’s working is a fraught one. People argue about whether women should be working outside the home at all. And then they argue about which kinds of jobs are “appropriate” for Saudi women.

There was huge social outcry when some Saudi women said that they were willing and able to take jobs as maids. This was “beneath their dignity,” many declared. Starving with dignity, I guess, is preferred.

But nursing as a profession is also a societal flashpoint. Nurses have to deal with patients and their bodies. They might even have to deal with patients of the opposite sex — and their bodies. And there’s the problem. Saudi society has developed an unnecessary linkage between bodies and sex and sex is a highly regulated (in principle) subject. Until recently, only Saudi orphans could work as nurses because — as they had no families to be ashamed — they were viewed as shameless.

That attitude hasn’t changed much, according to this story in Saudi Gazette. Saudi women still have to deal with stereotypes (from God-knows-where) that nursing is somehow comparable to immoral behavior. Hospitals, to the dismay of some, means the mixing of the sexes in the workplace. Worst of all, it includes bodies. sometimes, naked bodies that have to be touched. This might be acceptable for expat nurses (God knows their morals are already questionable), but it is not acceptable for good Saudi women.

Saudi nurses still tackling stereotypes
Saudi Gazette report

MAKKAH — A number of young Saudi women nurses are facing problems and obstacles in their work environment that hinder them from performing their duties properly.

Nurse Abeer Al-Sa’edi told Makkah Daily that some people reject the idea of women working as it allows for both genders to mingle, going against Saudi traditions.

She said: “There is no doubt that some television dramas give the wrong image of working nurses and instilled incorrect stereotypes in the minds of many who are against women working in this sector.”

Iman, another nurse, stressed the need to develop nursing by providing nurses with the necessary knowledge and professional development in addition to improving the image of the profession in the community by highlighting the role of employees.

August:04:2014 - 08:23 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink
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