Saudi Arabia makes its condemnation of the Islamic State complete with a statement from Grand Mufti Sheikh Abudulaziz Aal-Alsheikh. The government has already placed the group on its list of terrorist organizations and has promised to punish those found supporting it. It has followed through on that promise by firing imams and jailing Saudis who return to the country after fighting alongside the group in Syria and Iraq. The country has also warned those who offer support — financial or other — to the extremist group.

Grand Mufti: IS is Islam’s ‘enemy No. 1’
Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh on Tuesday blasted Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants as “enemy number one” of Islam.

“The ideas of extremism, radicalism and terrorism… have nothing to do with Islam and (their proponents) are the enemy number one of Islam,” the Kingdom’s top scholar said in a statement issued here on Tuesday.

He cited militants from the Islamic State, which has declared a “caliphate” straddling large parts of Iraq and Syria, and the international Al-Qaeda terror network.

“Muslims are the main victims of this extremism, as shown by crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and groups linked to them,” the grand mufti said, quoting a verse from the Holy Qur’an urging the “killing” of people who do deeds harmful to Islam, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

Alsheikh’s stance reflects the growing international hostility toward Islamic State militants, known for their brutality.


August:20:2014 - 07:30 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

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

Asharq Alawsat reports that Saudi Arabia is fully backing a UN resolution that attacks the funding of ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front. The resolution names six individuals to be blacklisted, including two Saudi nationals. Both already appear on Saudi Arabia’s list of “most-wanted” criminals.

Saudi Arabia committed to UN resolution against ISIS, Al-Nusra

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia committed to implementing a UN Security Resolution targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front on Friday, after the measure blacklisted two Saudi nationals.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Al-Maulamy, told Asharq Al-Awsat the Kingdom was always in agreement with the “international legitimacy” of the Council and its decrees, and that the latest resolution was being studied closely so that “decisions could be made in light of them.”

The Security Council unanimously adopted a UK-drafted resolution on Friday designed to attack the sources of funding for both groups, blacklisting six individuals believed to be associated with the groups and freezing their assets.

Two of the six individuals, Abdul-Mohsen Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Sharekh and Abdulrahman Mohamed Zafir Al-Dabidi Al-Jahani—both accused of links to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front group currently active in Syria—were Saudi nationals.


August:18:2014 - 08:13 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Who represents the greatest threat to Muslims today? It’s not the US. It’s not Israel. It’s other Muslims, argues Azeem Ibrahim, of the US Army War College, at Al Arabiya TV.

Killing Muslims in the name of Islam is perverse. Religion is being used as a cloak for what is actually “ethnic, social, sectarian and/or tribal cleansing,” he says. Again, an article worth reading in full.

What is the greatest global threat to Muslims?
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

Who is responsible for the greatest numbers of deaths against Muslims today? Who commits the worst atrocities against Muslims? It is not the West that claims the highest headcount nor is it Israel. The sad truth is that today Muslims kill the most Muslims around the world.

Since the beginning of the Arab Spring in late 2010, more than 100,000 have been killed. Many of these deaths were in Syria, where thousands more languish in prisons expecting similarly grim fates. And with the rise of ISIS and the threat that it poses to regional stability, many more are expected to die.

Most of the fighters are killing “infidels”. Most of the those dying are allegedly “infidels”. Almost always, that means that they are the wrong kind of Muslim to the other Muslim holding the gun. Whether they are fighters or civilians, the sin of those dying is in many cases simply being Sunni rather than Shiite, or Shiite rather than Sunni. And woe betides any smaller minorities caught in the middle.


August:16:2014 - 09:09 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | 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

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

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

There has been an unfortunate gap between Saudi policies and what some imams have been preaching over the years. Now, Arab News reports, the Saudi Ministry of Interior, in cooperation with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, will be vetting imams and muezzins, both in order to retain their jobs and for new hires as government employees. Through carelessness, the lack of oversight, and trust that has sometimes been misapplied, some imams have served as sources and vectors of extremism. This is going to stop.

Preachers to undergo security screening

Preachers and muezzins (those who call the faithful to prayer) will not be allowed to work until they undergo security screening, according to directives issued by the Interior Ministry.

Many government bodies will also participate in the new screening amid efforts to boost standards and quality among preachers at large mosques, where Friday prayers are held.

The Interior Ministry has notified the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Guidance and Call of the new decision, urging branch managers to abide by the new regulation.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs put forth several requirements when employing preachers.


August:04:2014 - 08:38 | Comments Off | Permalink

Religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, when millions visit the country to perform religious rites, is fraught with dangers to public health. This year is a particularly complicated one.

The MERS virus, which is percolating in Saudi Arabia and has a 40% mortality rate, has been an area of concern for the past several years. Reuters, in a story carried by Al Arabiya TV, reports that ten new MERS cases were identified during Ramadan and its succeeding Eit al Fitr. Two of the cases were diagnosed in Mecca; two in Jeddah. So far, it seems that there have been no major outbreaks.

It can take up to two weeks for the MERS virus to trigger symptoms in those infected, however. We’ll need to wait a bit longer to be able to safely say that the bullet has been dodged.

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and Saudi authorities do not — at present — see any reason to issue travel warnings for Haj, coming up in October. The Saudis, though, are continuing to issue cautions for the ill and elderly to avoid Haj if they can. The number of Haj visas is also restricted due to construction projects in Mecca. Intentionally or not, this should also reduce the risk.

Ramadan pilgrimage season in Saudi Arabia mostly free from MERS

Reuters | Riyadh — Saudi Arabia reported 10 confirmed new cases of a deadly respiratory disease during Islam’s fasting month of Ramadan, and subsequent Eid Al-Fitr holiday, after fears that an influx of pilgrims over the period might spread the infection more widely.

Notices of any new confirmed cases are published at the end of every day by the Health Ministry. Ramadan ended a week ago and the Eid Al-Fitr holiday ran until late last week.

Hundreds of people were infected by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Kingdom in April and May, raising concerns about the pilgrimage in Ramadan and during October’s Haj, when millions of people will travel to Makkah and Madinah.

MERS, which is thought to originate in camels, causes coughing, fever and pneumonia in some and has killed around 40 percent of people it has infected in the Kingdom.

The Ebola virus, which has broken out in western Africa, however, is a different matter. According to this report from Saudi Gazette/Okaz, the Saudi government is denying visas to applicants from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, places where the outbreak has occurred. The last thing the Saudis — or anyone else — wants is to have Haj serve as the point from which a global epidemic breaks out.

No Haj and Umrah visas for 3 African nations
Muhammad Dawood Muhammad Dawood | Okaz/ Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has banned the issuance of Haj and Umrah visas for Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia because of concerns about the spread of the Ebola virus in these countries, according to Dr. Khalid Marghalani, MOH spokesman.

The ministry constantly coordinates with the ministries of Haj and Foreign Affairs to take all necessary measures at borders and airports. “We have communicated the instructions to the officials of all ports of entry. We have trained our personnel on how to identify and deal with Ebola cases and control virus infection, should it happen,” he added.
Okaz/ Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has banned the issuance of Haj and Umrah visas for Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia because of concerns about the spread of the Ebola virus in these countries, according to Dr. Khalid Marghalani, MOH spokesman.

The ministry constantly coordinates with the ministries of Haj and Foreign Affairs to take all necessary measures at borders and airports. “We have communicated the instructions to the officials of all ports of entry. We have trained our personnel on how to identify and deal with Ebola cases and control virus infection, should it happen,” he added.


August:04:2014 - 08:10 | Comments Off | Permalink
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