The slaughter of animals, primarily sheep but also camels, is a part of Eid Al-Adha which marks the end of Haj. This year, due to the presences of MERS in Saudi Arabia, the sacrifice of camels will be banned. While the exact route of transmission of the disease is still not perfectly known, it is known that camels play some role. So, in the interest of safety, they’re not going to be available this year. The ban will have economic consequences for Egypt, Sudan, and Somalia, traditional sources of camels brought into Saudi Arabia. Antibodies to the MERS virus have been found in at least some camels across the Middle East though the disease is more prevalent in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States.

No camel slaughter during this Haj
MOHAMMED RASOOLDEEN

RIYADH: In a major step toward preventing the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) among pilgrims, the Kingdom will impose a ban on sacrificing camels as part of the Haj rituals this year.

As part of the pilgrimage, each person must sacrifice or pay for part of the sacrifice of a sheep, goat, cow or camel. The cooked meat is then shared with the poor.

Camels are thought to harbor the virus, and health officials suspect that sporadic zoonotic transmission plays a role in fueling MERS-CoV transmission in the Middle East, especially in the Kingdom, the hardest-hit country.

During the past 48 hours, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has reported three deaths and 15 new MERS cases.


August:22:2015 - 07:38 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that the Saudi government is going to be strictly enforcing its permitting process during Haj. The government announced stiff fines and jail sentences for those caught “people-smuggling” individuals lacking Haj permits into Mecca. Expat smugglers will be deported upon release from jail.

Pilgrim smugglers sternly warned

RIYADH — The Ministry of Interior has issued a stern warning to motorists transporting people who intend perform Haj without permit to Makkah and the holy sites.

It said any driver found transporting illegal pilgrims would be arrested, imprisoned for 15 days and his vehicle seized.

The illegal pilgrim, whether he is a Saudi or an expatriate, faces a fine of SR10,000. If the driver repeats the offense, he will be jailed for two months and will have to pay a fine of SR25,000 for every pilgrim he transported.

If the driver repeats the violation again after he was punished for a second time, the prison term will be raised to six months and the amount of fine to SR50,000.

Expatriate violators will be deported upon release from prison and will be barred from entering the Kingdom for a specified period. The ministry said the decision would be enforced during this Haj season.


August:15:2015 - 06:55 | Comments Off | Permalink

Wow! Just wow!

For some reason, Saudi Gazette saw fit to translate one of the more sweeping pieces of idiocy I’ve seen in the Saudi press for quite some time. The article, appearing in the Arabic daily Al-Riyadh falls in the pits of conspiracy theory in a rather breathtaking way. ISIS is the creation of foreign enemies, Zionists, and Free-Masons! Zionists are being embedded in Saudi society to destroy it from within! There’s nothing wrong with Saudi schools or their curriculum and all criticism is foreign-inspired!

Are we the ones exporting terror?
Abdullah Al-Nasser | Al-Riyadh

Are we the ones exporting terrorism to the world? I raise this serious question because the Kingdom’s enemies no longer cause any uproar over this. Neither the Zionists, the American ultra right, the hate groups in the West, nor the Magian Iran does raise this issue any more. However, we discern this when some people in Zionist garbs in our country talk or make their presentations.

Earlier, the fingers were pointed at us from afar. Then they showed their ugly face in the press and on television. Frankly, I am sure there are Zionists who have been planted among us. These are agents who had been given exhaustive training. They were selected with utmost care after studying their psyche, mentality, inclinations, deviations and moral upbringing. Then they were placed among us in suitable jobs so they would gradually rise to key positions in the Arab media, as loyal and efficient agents serving the Zionist scheme and defending it with ferocity and zeal.

I wrote many times about such people and warned against their machinations and the danger they pose to the Muslim nation. I said that they are a disgraceful lot and an evil. When we take them in our fold and trust them, we are keeping evil, treachery and meanness with us. Exposing them is a duty to the nation and the Ummah. There is no more time for civility or shutting our eyes before their mean practices.


August:13:2015 - 07:11 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

In his column for Al Arabiya TV, Abdulrahman al-Rashed notes that arguments that the lack of “moderates” in the political sphere is what leads to extremism are sorely lacking in evidential support. Empowering moderates does not lead to inclusive governments. Instead, it leads to moderates seizing power and attempting to impose their political views — which aren’t very moderate after all — on the population and to do away with their opponents.

He looks at Iran, Sudan, Gaza, and Egypt where once religious parties gained control, they did their utmost to ensure that there was only one orthodoxy: theirs. Worse, their assumption of power led to no decrease in actual extremism in the name of religion. A failed experiment that relied on unrealistic views of human behavior.

The theory of terrorism and restraining moderates
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

hose affiliated with religious groups have for long reiterated that the emergence of extremist Islamic groups is due to the restraining of “moderate” Islamic ones. Western governments were convinced of this for a while and thus began to urge Arab governments to allow religious groups in politics and include them in governance, either democratically or through partnership and quotas.

It may seem reasonable that including moderates leads to the expelling of extremists, but this theory is not supported with evidence – at least in our Arab arena. These concept of participation for these groups means a monopolizing of authority. They are not like Turkey and Indonesia’s Islamic groups who work and govern under a secular system and whose “Islamic liberalism” looks nothing like the extremism of Islamist Arabs. The aim of politicized religious groups is to attain power regardless of the rhetoric adopted and the means used in order to later create a dominating regime and eliminate others!

Based on experience, it’s been proven that most Arab religious parties are exclusionary despite all their talk about moderation and co-existence. There are many examples on the case from our modern history and I will resort to four of them to elaborate my point. The first experience was Iran. The masses who protested in the streets of Tehran and called for toppling the Shah and received Ayatollah Khomeini at the airport were a mixture of political parties who agreed on establishing a regime that allows pluralism.


August:12:2015 - 08:17 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Just in time for Haj, a new virus is being identified as a potential threat in Saudi Arabia, Arab News reports. Zika virus, related to Dengue Fever and Yellow Fever, is another mosquito-borne disease. It is milder in its effects than some of its cousins, but is no joy. The article notes that the Ministry of Health will be doing their normal three-phase screening to prevent outbreaks of disease, including pre-departure, arrival, and during Haj.

Ministry takes precautionary measures against new virus

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Health has put in place its precautionary plan and procedures aimed at preventing the entry of the Zika virus during the Haj season this year.

This involves examining those arriving from countries affected by the virus, isolating infected individuals and providing treatment at ministry hospitals when necessary.

According to Dr. Khaled Marghalani, spokesman at the Health Ministry, symptoms fever, skin rashes, redness of the eyes and pain in the joints, all of which may disappear within days or weeks. Cases that need to be admitted to hospitals are rare and the illness is transmitted by mosquitoes, said public health experts at the ministry.

Marghalani said the public health program applied by the ministry annually during the pilgrimage season is an integrated program that covers three phases: pre-arrival of the pilgrims, upon their arrival at ports of entry, and finally during their presence at the Haj sites.


August:09:2015 - 07:29 | Comments Off | Permalink

Amid public denunciation of the suicide bombing of a mosque in the Asir Province, Saudi authorities have identified the bomber as a Saudi national. Fifteen were killed and another 33 injured, Saudi Gazette reports:

Asir bomber was a Saudi

JEDDAH – The terrorist act last Thursday at the special emergency forces mosque in Asir region was carried out by 21-year-old Saudi suicide bomber Yusuf Bin Sulaiman Bin Abdullah Al-Sulaiman, security spokesman of the Ministry of Interior stated to SPA.

The blast took place on Thursday while the personnel of the special emergency forces in Asir region were performing Dhuhr (mid-day) prayer in congregation in the mosque at the forces’ headquarters.

The bombing martyred 15 people and injured 33 others. Shreds and human body parts were found at the scene of the incident believed to be the result of a blast using an explosive vest.

The authorities, following investigations of the heinous crime, said the bombing was carried out by the suicide bomber using an explosive vest.

The security authorities are still following up on the terrorist incident.


August:09:2015 - 07:16 | Comments Off | Permalink

There’s been a recent media splash over portions of an ancient Quran discovered in a collection at Birmingham University in the UK. Some of the claims about it have been a bit extravagant, such as claiming it as “the world’s oldest.”

Saudi scholars think the reports are mistaken, according to this story from Saudi Gazette. The scholars point out that there are certain historical discrepancies such as the use of red ink (not appropriate for the period) and believe the Birmingham researchers should have carbon-dated the ink, not the parchments.

Experts doubt oldest Qur’an claim
Saudi Gazette report

MAKKAH — Historians and manuscript experts have cast doubt on the credibility of the recent Birmingham University claim that it had discovered the oldest copy of the Qur’an.

The university recently showed two leaves of parchment with Qur’anic verses from chapter 18-20 in legible Hijazi script. It said the verses could have be scribbled somewhere between 568 AD and 645 AD.

The university’s claims mean that the verses were written close to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was widely believed to have lived between 570 AD and 632 AD.

Quoting the experts, Makkah daily said on Sunday that the manuscript might have possibly been written after the time of the Prophet (pbuh) due to several factors.

Experts contend that during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) there was no separation between the Surahs (chapters) in red colors, no red ink was used in writing “Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem” with which a Surah begins and that the holy book itself was not put in its today’s order.


July:27:2015 - 07:54 | Comments Off | Permalink

Once again, the government of Saudi Arabia is calling for all nations to enforce laws prohibiting blasphemy. Saudi Gazette carries a story from the official Saudi Press Agency reporting on a call made at a European symposium. The story does not report on what Iceland, which earlier this month repealed its laws against blasphemy, had to say.

Criminalize vilification of religious symbols, says Saudi official

SPA: LILLE, France — Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any act vilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.

Addressing an international symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, which started in this French city on Saturday, a senior Saudi official said the Kingdom emphasized years ago that the international community must act urgently to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, which has become widespread in all communities and peoples of the world.

“We have made it clear that freedom of expression without limits or restrictions would lead to violation and abuse of religious and ideological rights,” said Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, director for external relations at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.


July:26:2015 - 08:54 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV carries an Asharq Alawsat column by Abdulrahman al-Rashed exploring how the group variously known as ISIS or Daesh is very wittingly playing word games to its benefit. By insisting on the use of the name “Islamic State,” the group attempts to give itself unearned legitimacy, wrapping itself in the honor of Islam. This, al-Rashed says, is doubly pernicious. Not only does it delude young Muslims into thinking the group righteous, but it provide an easy example for Islamophobes to point out and say, “See what Muslims really are?!”

ISIS: Why should we care about the acronym?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Many governments have begun urging the media to not use the “ISIS” acronym. The terrorist organization started using this acronym two years ago, when its leader declared himself a caliphate and changed the name of his group from ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) to ISIS in order to expand from Iraq to include Syria.

When the group’s formation was announced in April 2013 under the appellation of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”, the media and specifically Al Arabiya News Channel decided to call it as “Daesh” (the Arabic abbreviation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). We are all aware that ISIS wants to use us, as media platforms around the world, to build a picture that serves its purposes. A lot of people objected to the appellation and the coverage because it is insulting the true defenders of Islam against the Western occupiers or the oppressed Sunni community. It offended the defenders of the people of al-Anbar or the rebels against al-Assad regime in Syria. In fact, ISIS activities confused people initially, but most of them discovered later on that ISIS is nothing but the same al-Qaeda evil group, despite adopting rightful issues.

ISIS (Daesh in Arabic) is not a cynical label as said and written in the Western media. It is just the acronym of the appellation. The group is certainly against this acronym because it intentionally wants to be known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to rally around it Muslims from all over the world.


July:25:2015 - 09:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Saudi authorities have arrested 431 people for their alleged involvement in terrorist attacks in the Kingdom, Al Arabiya TV reports. Those arrested come from ten countries, including Saudi Arabia. They are accused of playing a role in the attacks on Shi’a mosques and other Shi’ite areas in the Eastern Province, including attacks in 2014.

Saudi arrests 431 ISIS-linked suspects

Saudi Arabia arrested 431 people as part of a crackdown on a cluster of cells linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, the kingdom’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) said.

Authorities also thwarted seven mosque attacks that had been planned by the suspects in the capital Riyadh as well as the Eastern Province, MOI Spokesman Gen. Mansour Al Turki said in a press conference carried by Al Arabiya News Channel.

Among the arrested were Saudi nationals and suspects from nine other nationalities, he said adding that the cluster of cells was divided by tasks and target, he told reporters.

In one cell, made of five members, their task was to prep suicide bombers while another five-member cell had the mission to manufacture explosive belts.

Of the 431 arrested, 190 made up the four cells suspected to behind the Al-Qadeeh and Al-Unoud mosques’ bombings which claimed the lives of dozens of worshippers in May.


July:18:2015 - 10:02 | Comments Off | Permalink

I wish a joyous Eid al-Fitr to all those celebrating the end of Ramadan

Eid Mubarak


July:17:2015 - 07:15 | Comments Off | Permalink

In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed says that trying to shut down social media (typified by Twitter) won’t do much to address the real problems caused by ISIS or other extremist groups. Social media are just that: media. They’re the channels through which information is flowing. Blocking the channels won’t alter the information; won’t make the groups or their ideologies any less dangerous. Block one channel, and another one will appear.

Blocking social media will, however, annoy and inconvenience multitudes of people who aren’t involved in extremism for no good purpose. It’ll be just another ham-handed government effort that burdens citizens, including those who use social media to fight against extremism.

Blocking Twitter is not the solution
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Many counterterror experts believe they have pinpointed the source of the problem when it comes to terrorism and extremism. They believe social media networks are to blame because they play a hand in inciting extremism and help with the recruitment of militants. Some experts have even called for blocking these sites in order to starve the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its ilk of their primary means of communicating with sympathizers and potential recruits.

Despite the rush of calls to shut down Twitter and other social media sites, this is not an ideal solution, because these groups will just end up using alternative platforms. It’s also not fair to punish millions of ordinary users in order to get rid of the thousands of militants or militant supporters online. It is a known fact that the world is battling against extremist ideologies, and therefore it is understandable that this sometimes requires giving up our privacy and freedom. However, even the necessities of war aren’t enough of a reason to restrain millions of people just because the problem was not dealt with from another angle. Reform education, reform da’wah (the preaching of Islam), and spread Islam’s real and beautiful values, then you’d realize that extremist concepts are an exception and are actually rejected. If such steps are implemented, moderation would become a real ideological movement that everyone adopts.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other websites are a means of communication that can either eliminate extremism or help spread it. What distinguishes extremists is that they are an active and determined party with a cause which they believe is righteous. They are capable of adapting to technological changes. They exploit religious communities, which they don’t belong to, and try to lure people into their extremist ideologies. There are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of militants who spend hours surfing these websites in search of lost, angry, or curious youths, attempting to “guide them” to jihadist solutions and then recruit them as soldiers who await orders.


July:13:2015 - 06:00 | Comments Off | Permalink
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