According to Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s laws prohibiting criticism of public figures is still going strong. The paper reports that two Saudis are to face trial for allegedly “insulting the late King Abdullah”.
RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has ordered that two men face trial for allegedly insulting the late King Abdullah.
Quoting reliable sources, a local online publication said that King Salman has also barred Mohsin Al-Awaji and Abdullah Al-Mudaifir from appearing in the media.
The website said the program ‘Fis Sameem’ (At Heart) broadcast on Rotana television, would be taken off air. The show hosts public figures and interviews them on various issues.
During the television talk show hosted by Saudi presenter Al-Mudaifir, Al-Awaji reportedly uttered negative remarks about the former king who ruled the country from August 2005 to 2015.
The publication reported that King Salman took the decision because the government would not allow anyone to besmirch the name of any of the country’s previous rulers, who all helped to build the Kingdom.
Asharq Alawsat reports that the government of Kuwait is looking into the possibility that the Saudi responsible for the suicide attack on a Shi’ite mosque may have ties with an Al-Qaeda affiliate, “Peninsula Lions.” The government believed it had crippled the group back in 2005, but documents found in the house from which the recent attack was staged show some relationship to the group. On the other hand, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. It is, however, conceivable that the group has migrated toward ISIS, away from Al-Qaeda.
Kuwait City, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kuwait is investigating whether the perpetrator of last week’s deadly attack on a Shi’ite mosque had links to the “Peninsula Lions,” an Al-Qaeda-linked group that staged a series of attacks in the oil-rich country in 2005.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a Kuwaiti security source said there were reports that jailed Peninsula Lions members shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) upon receiving the news of Friday’s deadly attack on the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in the neighborhood of Sawabir in Kuwait City.
The incident has prompted the authorities to investigate whether the perpetrator of the attack had any links to the Peninsula Lions group whose members have been killed, imprisoned or fled Kuwait.
Kuwait dismantled the group in 2005 and jailed 37 of its members on charge of belonging to Al-Qaeda.
Nine members were killed during clashes with Kuwaiti police in early 2005 and six were given death sentences.
Kuwait has identified the suicide bomber as Fahd Suleiman Abdul Mohsen Al-Qaba’a, a 23-year-old Saudi citizen who crossed into the neighboring country on the same day he carried out the attack.
H.A. Hellyer, writing at Al Arabiya TV, notes that there’s something wrong with the (partial) condemnations of sectarianism popping up in the regional media. Whether is obliviousness, disengenuity, or out-and-out machinations, what is condemned is only that which comes from the other guy. “Our guy” gets a pass, if not actual support.
The short-sightedness (to put it at its most gentle) is appalling. There seems to be utterly no conception of the possibility that today’s majority might not remain so tomorrow. And when that happens, all the methods, tricks, interpretations, and the like that are used to justify violence in the name of today’s majorities will be used to justify similar actions against them when they’re in the minority. Even the most cursory reading of history should inform one that things do not stay the same forever.
It’s Ramadan. Against the backdrop of Muslims observing the obligatory performance of the fast, sheikhs and religious authorities will remind the faithful of the saying of the Prophet: “There has come to you Ramadan, a blessed month which God has enjoined you to fast, during which the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained up.” Sages in the past would comment – and warn believers that if there were sins they persisted in the month, they had to take them seriously. For in this month, the whispers and murmurs, beckoning souls to wretchedness – well, that’s all on them. Because the devils, as the adage goes, are locked up.
One would hope, then, that in this month, there would be an absence of truly horrendous actions – if from no one else, than from Muslims themselves, particularly those that claim to raise high the banner of Islam. Alas, the last few days show that while some human beings don’t require the murmurs and whispers of baser beings at all – they can do rather evil things all on their own.
… Is the principle really ‘sectarianism is bad’ – or is the principle ‘sectarianism is bad… until it is my side doing it?’
Is there anyone who will take seriously within the region that be it Sunni on Shiite sectarianism; or Shiite on Sunni sectarianism; or Sunni on Sunni sectarianism; or Muslim on Christian sectarianism; that these are all just bad ideas? That differences of views can, and should, be expressed – but that the incitement that finds itself in words will, far too often, be eventually conveyed in acts of violence and terrible consequences? Or have too few not reached the point of realizing that rotten discourse does not have rotten consequences?
Are there leaders in these communities who know they must rise, in order to be clear once and for all, not simply in rhetoric but in action, to avert further catastrophe by declaring – if you will seek to promote hate and incitement, you will not be tolerated? Are there leaders who will pursue that path, not as a way to crackdown on legitimate dissent and varying opinions that do not win favor with the palace – but as a way to ensure and develop the health of their communities and societies?
Saudi Arabia is making its position on Gay Rights clear: There are none.
Arab News reports that the country’s Ministry of Interior says that in the conflict between gay rights and religion, religion wins. It’s not just delivering a message to Saudis, but vociferously made its point in a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
JEDDAH: There would be no rights granted to gay people in the Kingdom, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.
In a post on its Twitter account, the ministry stated that it supports human rights principles proposed by international bodies as long as they are in line with Islamic law. It also slammed those questioning the Kingdom’s rights record.
It said that freedom of expression does not mean demeaning the beliefs of Muslims; and condemned those who continue to ridicule the Prophet, peace be upon him.
The ministry said it rejected terrorism and urged united international action to tackle all forms of extremism because these ideas violate the teachings of the world’s religions.
Writing at Al Arabiya TV, Joyce Kalam argues that the growth of ISIS has meant the death of the map drawn up by the Sykes-Picot Agreement concluded in 1916. That agreement drew lines on the map of the Middle East that might have made sense for certain European powers — France, the UK, Russia — but made little sense to the people on the ground.
Syria and Iraq, main beneficiaries/victims of the Agreement, have now abandoned their joint border. Intent on the survival of their regimes, they have been forced to pull in toward their centers, Baghdad and Damascus, leaving a vacuum that is now being filled by the disaffected. New borders are going to result, though not any time soon.
When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi , the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flaunted a year ago from the Great Mosque in Mosul the birth of his new “Caliphate,” it was both a statement of the organization’s brutal ambition and the unraveling of the Sykes-Picot map in both Iraq and Syria.
One year later, ISIS as a non-state actor and a terrorist organization is the loudest but not the only symptom of the de facto crumbling of the central nation state structures in Baghdad and Damascus. Understanding its threat and prospects cannot occur absent of this context of rising militias and autonomous groups in what was once “the beating heart of Arab nationalism.”
American magazine “The Atlantic” takes a look at Saudi Arabia’s solar power aspirations. It notes some of the problems it faces in trying to replace petroleum-based energy with solar energy, including such simple things as dust storms that can drop the energy production of solar cells precipitously.
Worth reading in its entirety.
Why the Saudis Are Going Solar
The fate of one of the biggest fossil-fuel producers may now depend on its investment in renewable energy
Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud belongs to the family that rules Saudi Arabia. He wears a white thawb and ghutra, the traditional robe and headdress of Arab men, and he has a cavernous office hung with portraits of three Saudi royals. When I visited him in Riyadh this spring, a waiter poured tea and subordinates took notes as Turki spoke. Everything about the man seemed to suggest Western notions of a complacent functionary in a complacent, oil-rich kingdom.
But Turki doesn’t fit the stereotype, and neither does his country. Quietly, the prince is helping Saudi Arabia—the quintessential petrostate—prepare to make what could be one of the world’s biggest investments in solar power.
Near Riyadh, the government is preparing to build a commercial-scale solar-panel factory. On the Persian Gulf coast, another factory is about to begin producing large quantities of polysilicon, a material used to make solar cells. And next year, the two state-owned companies that control the energy sector—Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, and the Saudi Electricity Company, the kingdom’s main power producer—plan to jointly break ground on about 10 solar projects around the country.
Arab News reports that Type II Diabetes is a serious problem in Saudi Arabia and that it’s going to get worse. Already, the Kingdom ranks 7th in the world and 1st in the GCC in incidence. The article states that Arab genetics produce a higher susceptibility toward developing the disease. Lifestyle, too, plays a role. Arab (and particularly Saudi) diets have undergone massive changes over the past few generations, apparently not for the better when it comes to diabetes, though perhaps positively in terms of overall nutrition.
RIYADH: Despite significant improvement internationally in the study and treatment of diabetes over the past five years due to the development of new drugs that control blood sugar levels, endocrinologists have revealed that the Kingdom ranks seventh worldwide and the first in the Gulf in terms of diabetes rates.
Director of the diabetes program at the National Guard, Dr. Saleh Al-Jasser, said the American Diabetes Association stressed that new medicines must be studied to prove their effectiveness and to confirm their degree of safety, following a review of the results of a scientific study conducted over four years about the side effects of some diabetes treatments.
He said that diabetes rates have exceed 23 percent among 60 to 73-year-olds, while Arabs are more susceptible to diabetes due to the existence of particular genes not present in other races.
Consultant physician and head of the Diabetes and Endocrine Unit at King Saudi Medical City in Riyadh, Dr. Morad Al-Morad, said that Type II diabetes affects 400 million people around the world, or 9 percent of the total population, and is expected to increase to 600 million people over the next 20 years.
Nasser Al-Qassabi, who made a name for himself with the notorious TV satire program “Tash Ma Tash,” is back this Ramadan with a new, one-man show, “Selfie.” He’s not only drawing heat from Saudi imams, as reported below, but he’s put himself in the crosshairs of ISIS/Daesh and its supporters.
Writing at Arab News, Abdulateef Al-Mulhim says that if nothing else, he’s drawing Daesh-supporters out of the woodwork as they take to Twitter and other social media to lambast him… and threaten his life.
Nasser Al-Qassabi Exposing Daesh in his own way
During the holy month of Ramadan, the time for breaking the fast (Iftar) is not only considered a meal but it is the time when all members of a family sit together to enjoy these special moments.
Saudis have developed a new habit during the past two decades i.e. watching television together at Iftar time. This has become a prime time during which various television channels, mostly Arabic of course in this part of the world, compete to attract as many viewers as they could. The time of the last prayer of the day i.e. Isha starts two hours after the Maghrib prayer. These two hours are filled with tens of programs catering to the needs of different segments of society. One man who creates waves and makes millions smile needs a special mention. His program Tash Ma Tash is widely watched in the Arab world.
This show in Ramadan has become Saudi Arabia’s televised stand-up comedy show. The show had featured many actors but the two main characters were Nasser Al-Qassabi and Alsadhan. This year, a new show called Selfie, has been launched featuring only actor and comedian Nasser Al-Qassabi.
In another Arab News piece, Al-Qassabi is reported to be taking the threats on his life with a certain equanimity, putting his fate in the hands of God. He is also receiving words of support, from Saudis and others, for showing that those who preach religion can be and often must be distinguished from religion itself.
Hacking government computer systems is going on around the world and Saudi Arabia isn’t immune. Al Arabiya TV reports on Saudi government reaction to the release of tens of thousands of internal documents into the wild late last week, noting that the hack itself probably took place last month.
The government is engaged — as governments are wont to do — in various efforts at backing and filling: “Security is at a high standard.” “Investigation is proceeding.” And the admonitory, “Beware of false documents posing as real ones,” with absolutely no hints given on how to distinguish the two.
The government avows that whatever was released was only expected government policy: “nothing to see here, move along.”
As with any hacks like this, what’s out there might be interesting, but it’s largely lacking context.
The Saudi foreign ministry on Sunday described content of Wikileaks’ publications of more than 60,000 documents as showing no contradiction to its declared policies and warned against circulation of these documents as many were “fabricated,” Al Arabiya News Channel reported.
Head of Information Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ousama Al Naqli confirmed to Al Arabiya News Channel in an interview that the organized electronic attack that targeted the ministry was not able to hack most classified documents which are in millions.
He also said “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses a system with very high standards. It also uses one of the best protection systems in the world.”
Ambassador Naqli said the current information is related to an earlier attack, and refers to the well-known policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Working within the limits Saudi society puts on them, some Saudi women are finding ways to couple their home skills with social media in order to turn a profit. Saudi Gazette reports that women are turning to various social media like Instagram and Twitter to market their home cooking to customers to busy to cook for themselves. While there seems to be considerable room to grow the industry, there is some concern that some hygienic standards be set and enforced. That seems reasonable.
Saudi women use social media to market cooking skills
Saudi Gazette report
MANY Saudi women use the popular micro-blogging site Twitter and photo-sharing site Instagram as an easy and inexpensive way to market their homemade dishes to potential clients.
These social media “cooks” have discovered a way to give people access to healthier, homemade food at a fraction of the cost they would pay in a restaurant.
Al-Riyadh daily reports on the increasing number of home-based businesses that rely on social media to market their products.
Although the food is prepared at home and customers do not know whether or not hygiene standards were followed, many people are still willing to take the risk and buy the food they just liked on Instagram.
Ramadan, the holy month that calls for dawn-to-dusk fasting, has some exceptions. Pregnant women and the ill can postpone their fasts, for instance. But soldiers involved in fighting can also break their fasts if they think it necessary, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti reminds. Arab News has the details:
JEDDAH: Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has announced that soldiers fighting on the country’s borders can break their fast in the middle if they find fasting too difficult.
“You are fighting for God’s sake and in God’s name, and we are proud that you are bravely defending your country. If you have the ability to fast, then do so.
“But for those who cannot, there is a legal excuse to end your fast before time. May God grant you a great victory and support you,” he said, according to a report in a local publication on Thursday.
Al-Asheikh, who is also president of the Council of Senior Scholars, wished the soldiers well for the holy month.
The iqama was one of the most critical pieces of identification a foreigner resident in Saudi Arabia could hold. It showed that s/he was authorized to reside and was one of the most frequently demanded documents a foreign could hold.
Now, in an effort to abate fraud, the iqama is being replaced by the machine-readable muqeem (“resident”) card, according to an Arab News report. It will not specify the period of validity on its face, but will be linked to central databases that provide that information which is subject to the individual’s terms of entry and residence.
Defeating fraud: ‘Muqeem’ card to replace iqama
RIYADH: The government will provide new machine-readable identity cards to expatriates from the first day of the Islamic year, or Oct. 14 this year, in a bid to fight fraud and improve the efficiency of its systems.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, launched the “Muqeem” (Resident) card, which will replace the current one, in Riyadh on Thursday. The name “iqama” would no longer be used by the department.
The new card can last for five years or more, depending on how the user looks after it. All expatriates will have this identity document in place of the current one, Col. Khalid Al-Saykhan, director of information technology, told Arab News.
However, Al-Saykhan warned that the new document does not mean residency laws have changed. This was only a move to improve the efficiency of the department’s e-system, he said.
“The residency periods for expatriates will stay the same. The period of stay must be recorded through the Abshir system, to register an identity card automatically,” he said.