Saudi Gazette reports that women are taking up maintenance jobs at Princess Noura University in Riyadh.
The situation is complicated by social mores that do not permit men to work in female institutions while the women are present. But the men who do the jobs are, for the most part, foreign workers as Saudi men look upon manual labor with great disdain. The women, on the other hand, see jobs that need to be done and salaries that are worth having.
Saudi women proud of blue-collar jobs
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — A number of Saudi women have taken maintenance jobs at Princess Noura University in Riyadh. They are working as electricians, plumbers and others and they are happy about what they are doing, Makkah daily reported on Sunday.
“We are working with love, passion and pride,” one of them told the newspaper.
Male workers are not allowed on the university campus during the day time and this gave Saudi women an opportunity to do these jobs.
“The maintenance work cannot wait for the men to come in the evening so we will be doing their work during the day hours,” said a Saudi female electrician.
She said they have become used to the strange look from some students and are taking this positively. “We are working in a good environment with good salaries and are providing a service to our society,” she said.
Also in Saudi Gazette:
Al Arabiya TV reports that the new law regarding support for extremist groups is fully in action. An unnamed Saudi has been sentenced to eight years in prison for inciting protests, mocking the king, and criticizing security services. The criminalization of lèse-majesté is trouble, as is that of going to jail for criticizing a government institution. ‘Incitement to protest’ doesn’t sound like a very serious ‘crime’, unlike inciting to violence. And all over Twitter.
Yes, control over extremism needs to be done, but it needs to be done fairly and proportionately, not by overriding basic human rights.
A Saudi court on Sunday jailed an Islamist for eight years on charges of inciting protests, mocking the king and criticizing the country’s security services on Twitter, official news agency SPA reported.
The unidentified defendant was been convicted of inciting “families of those arrested for security reasons to protest by publishing Tweets and videos on YouTube,” justice ministry spokesman Fahd al-Bakran was quoted by SPA as saying.
Prosecutors also found the defendant guilty of “mocking” King Abdullah in addition to criticizing security services for arresting “promoters of extremists ideology.”
The court also banned the sentenced Saudi citizen from posting on social media or traveling for eight years.
While security forces have previously arrested the accused on similar charges, they were freed after pledging to refrain from such rhetoric again.
An interesting book review in the Times Literary Supplment (TLS) of the book Reading Darwin in Arabic.
The book reports how Darwin’s theories of evolution and human descent made their way to and were received by Arabs in the late 19th and 20th C. There are some surprises, particularly in the favorable reception of not Darwin, but the derivative and erroneous “social Darwinism” as promulgated by Herbert Spencer. Lamarkism was favorably received as well, though it, too, is largely wrong, modified only by current understandings of epigenetics.
It’s interesting, too, that the theory of evolution was generally accepted without rancor, but has now become a hot-button issue in the region, much like among Christian fundamentalists who prefer to follow a theory of ‘Creationism’.
Darwin in Arabia
READING DARWIN IN ARABIC, 1860–1950
448pp. University of Chicago Press.
The title Reading Darwin in Arabic notwithstanding, most of the men discussed in this book did not read Charles Darwin in Arabic. Instead they read Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Ernst Haeckel, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Huxley, Gustave Le Bon, Henri Bergson and George Bernard Shaw in European or Arabic versions. They also read popularizing accounts of various aspects of Darwinism in the scientific and literary journal al-Muqtataf (“The Digest”, 1876–1952). The notion of evolution that Arab readers took away from their reading was often heavily infected by Lamarckism and by the social Darwinism of Spencer. Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859, but Isma‘il Mazhar’s translation of the first five chapters of Darwin’s book into Arabic only appeared in 1918.
For a long time, the reception of Darwinism was bedevilled by the need to find either neologisms or new twists to old words. As Marwa Elshakry points out, there was at first no specific word in Arabic for “species”, distinct from “variety” or “kind”. “Natural selection” might appear in Arabic with the sense “nature’s elect”. When Hasan Husayn published a translation of Haeckel, he found no word for evolution and so he invented one. Tawra means to advance or develop further. Extrapolating from this verbal root, he created altatawwur, to mean “evolution”. Darwiniya entered the Arabic language. Even ‘ilm, the word for “knowledge” acquired the new meaning, “science”. With the rise of scientific materialism came agnosticism, al-la’adriya, a compound word, literally “the-not-knowing”.
Strict Islamic states ban the projection of films that portray the Biblical prophets. Thus, the film “Noah”, scheduled to be released in the US later this month, is already being banned in Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE. Bans are expected to follow in Jordan, Kuwait, and likely Egypt. In Saudi Arabia, where nearly all public film presentations are banned, the question won’t even arise.
The Al Arabiya TV article noting the bans reports that this is nothing new and nothing in particular against the latest film. Films portraying prophets just aren’t going to make it past the censors. It reports that the similar “Son of God”, which has been released in the US already, will face the same challenge as did the earlier “Passion of Christ” as Jesus is also considered a prophet in Islam.
Upcoming Hollywood movie “Noah” has been banned in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on religious grounds, a representative of Paramount Pictures told Reuters on Saturday.
Sending shockwaves across the Arab world, the $125 million film – starring Oscar-winners Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins – was officially banned by censors in the three Gulf countries this week.
Meanwhile over in Malaysia, Ultraman is facing his own ban…
Another small step for woman…
The first all-female law firm has opened in Jeddah. What’s more, it includes the first female attorney to have presented a case before a Saud court.
First female law firm opened in Jeddah
Jeddah: FOUZIA KHAN
In what is being seen as a major boost for Saudi women seeking legal advice and help, Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran, the first Saudi woman lawyer who was issued license to practice law in the Kingdom, launched the first female law firm for the benefit of Saudi women on Wednesday.
Bayan Al-Zahran became the first Saudi woman lawyer when she appeared at the General Court in Jeddah for the first time in November last year to defend a client. She had been working for years as a legal consultant and had represented dozens of people in criminal and civil cases besides family disputes.
Al-Zahran told Arab News that the objective of her law firm is to fight for the rights of Saudi women and bring their problems before the court, since male lawyers in many cases couldn’t understand the problems and situations of a female plaintiff.
Writing in Asharq Alawsat, Amir Taheri reviews Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Scott Anderson. The book demythologizes Lawrence of Arabia, noting what he actually did and did not do. There’s far less to the story than the myth (and David Lean’s 1962 film) lead one to believe.
The book also addresses, Taheri tells us, the facts behind two other famous myths, the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration.
The Deconstruction of a Hero
Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making
of the Modern Middle East
By Scott Anderson
The narrative goes something like this: The British sent one of their spies, T.E. Lawrence, to incite the Arabs to revolt against the Ottomans. Thus the British seized control of the Middle East, which they then carved into pieces in a deal with the French known as the Sykes–Picot Agreement. On the margins of the main events, the British also issued the Balfour Declaration, which gave Palestine to the Jews who created Israel.
The crucial point in that narrative is to obtain a proper understanding of its central personage: Lawrence.
If you thought you knew all you needed to know about “Lawrence of Arabia,” if only thanks to David Lean’s epic film, think again. Scott Anderson’s magisterial new book retells the story in a way that challenges some aspects of the Lawrence myth.
Saudi Gazette front-pages a piece on a petition to the Shoura Council to end male guardianship in Saudi Arabia. A group of women have asked the Council to reevaluate the way in which Saudi women are constrained by having to seek male approval and authorization for actions that in any other country would be at the women’s own behest.
Women demand end to male guardianship
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The system of male guardianship should end and the citizenship code amended so that Saudi women can grant citizenship to non-Saudi husbands and children, said a recent petition sent by 25 women activists to the Shoura Council on International Women’s Day (Mar. 8), Al-Hayat daily reported on Saturday.
In their letter, the activists, some of whom are university professors, called on the Council to take necessary measures to protect women’s rights and stop domestic violence against them.
Azizah Al-Yousif, one of the activists who signed the petition, said: “This petition renews our demands as women. We want our issues to be put on the top of the Council’s priority list.”
Thuraya Obaid and Lubna Al-Ansari, both Shoura Council members, promised to tackle most of the points raised in the petition, said Al-Yousif.
Arab News also covers the petition:
Arab News reports that Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health is counseling diabetics to avoid camels in order to avoid the MERS-CoV flu virus. Camels have recently been identified as one of the primary vectors of the disease, which has now killed 91 people in the Kingdom. Diabetes has been identified as a pre-existing condition that seems to heighten the negative effects of the virus.
The Ministry of Health warned more than three million people with diabetes in Saudis from contact with camels. The warning applies to those receiving immunity-decreasing medicine such as cortisone, those undergoing cancer treatment or organ implants surgeries.
Deputy Health Minister Dr. Ziad Mishmish said the precaution aims to avoid infection with coronavirus; however, the way the virus transfers to humans is unclear yet. The numbers and types of the virus carries are unidentified yet.
“One of the main problems facing researchers is the low number of the virus carriers,” said Mishmish adding, “180 patients were examined since the discovery of the disease a year and a half ago.”
According to Al Arabiya TV, a top Saudi cleric has reached the conclusion that Google — the owner of YouTube — should be sued because it permits offensive videos to be broadcast over the Internet. We’ll forget that hundreds have already called to this or for YouTube and/or Google to be shut down.
It was not enough that YouTube, in compliance with a court order, took the offending video down last week due to a copyright claim. That, as it proves, was ineffective because the video, with the scenes that had the copyright complainant now excised, is back up.
This, I think, demonstrates that attempts to remove offending materials through brute force tend to be futile. It is far better to just avoid looking at it. Unlike TV, one is not accidentally exposed to materials on YouTube. One has to make an affirmative action — clicking a link or a ‘Play’ button — in order to see it. Clerics might more fruitfully explain to their followers why they should avoid doing those things that will only lead to offense.
Khaled al-Shaya, a top Saudi cleric, recently called on Islamic countries to ban and legislate against Google, after the internet search giant’s apparent “disrespect of Islamic beliefs” in continuing to display an inflammatory video against Islam, news website CNN Arabic reported on Saturday.
Google – the parent company of video sharing site Youtube, which hosted the controversial video entitled “The Innocence of Muslims” – had “insulted the Prophet” by not removing the video, said Shaya, who serves as the assistant secretary-general of the Global Commission for Introducing the Messenger, a Riyadh-based Islamic organization.
The video “insulted the Prophet through distorting facts and spreading falsehoods, which was condemned by Muslims as well as all those who support rightness and justice,” said Shaya, adding that the Islamic world needed to “look into” freedom of expression.
Al Arabiya TV reports that three Arab films are competing for the Oscar, symbol of the Academy Awards this year. Interestingly, they’re competing in three different categories.
Three Arab films to compete for Oscars
Shounaz Meky | Al Arabiya News
Arab cinephiles will have three regional films to cheer for when the 86th Academy Awards, the film industry’s highest honors, opens Sunday at a ceremony in Hollywood.
Palestinian film “Omar,” directed by Hany Abu Assad, will compete against “The Hunt,” Italy’s “The Great Beauty,” Belgium’s “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” and Cambodia’s
“The Missing Picture” for the best foreign-language Oscar on March 2 in Los Angeles.
An interesting piece from Al Arabiya TV. Professor and media analyst Joe Khalil writes that the ubiquitous ‘man on the street’ interviews in the Arab world — the vox populi, may not quite be as ‘populi’ as one might expect.
He writes that increasingly, Arab media are being deft in finding the voices they want to hear from, the voices whose message they can assume. Rather than collecting the opinions of Arabs-at-large, they are focusing more on their own nationals — not necessarily a bad thing — but also picking them out in places where people of certain tendencies are likely to be found. You can be sure of getting a particular, narrow range of opinions if you’re pulling your interviewees out of a crowd of university students, just as you can be sure of getting different ones if you conduct your interviews as a country club or outside a religious establishment.
This practice — while hardly limited to Arab media — distorts the information we receive. Not only to media consumers tend to go to the media that will confirm or reconfirm their own preferences, Khalil notes, but by using only selected voices to stand for the ‘voice of the people’, the range of opinions narrows.
Since the 1990s, there has been a constant flurry of interest in investigating what Arabs think about, and how and what their likely collective actions might be. This trend of pulsing “Arab public opinion”- if it can be measured empirically – was strongly embedded in Western constructs of polling, understanding the public, the impact of media on audiences and some assumed shared principles of human behavior. Such trends have accelerated as an immediate policy response to the events of 9/11 and as a way of estimating Arab popular reactions about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the United States’ repeated case for “war on terror” and “democratization.” Similarly, a second major wave of interest in Arab public opinion emerged with a particular focus on discovering how and why young people, or Islamists, were mobilized in popular uprisings during the so-called “Arab Spring.”
The injunction issued by the 9th Circuit Court requiring YouTube to take down the offensive “Innocence of Muslims” video based on copyright law is being challenged. Google — which own YouTube — has filed an emergency motion to stay the enforcement. Eugene Volokh has more…