Saudi Arabia has formally declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization. Belonging to, supporting, or offering public sympathy toward the group is now against the law, Al Arabiya TV reports.
At the same time, the government has criminalized membership in or support of Hezbollah, as well as the al-Nusra Front and ISIS organizations now active in Syria.
Saudi Arabia blacklisted on Friday the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group among three other militant groups in the Middle East, Al Arabiya News Channel reported, citing a royal decree.
The Saudi terrorism list also includes the kingdom’s branch of the Shiite Hezbollah movement and the Syria-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front.
Hundreds of Saudi fighters are believed to have joined ISIS and al-Nusra in Syria. The Saudi authorities have extended a deadline for those fighters to return home.
The royal decree also criminalized taking membership in, supporting and sympathizing with any of those groups.
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.”
It’s not just YouTube videos that contain vile speech, of course. Writing in Asharq Alawsat — though the link goes to Al Arabiya TV — Abdulrahman al-Rashed points out that the copyright to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf expires next year under German law. The book is already banned in Germany, Austria, Poland, Russia and China. Germany wants to keep it that way and is discussing a new law to keep the book from being republished. That’s going to be hard to do, at least with any effect.
As al-Rashed points out, the book is not banned in France, nor is it banned in the US. Nor is it — nor could it be — banned on the global Internet. Anyone who really wants to read it can find a way to do so.
I think al-Rashed gives too much credit to the book. It’s turgid, wandering, and requires a certain amount of dedication to read it. I’ve read the first volume and consider it interesting from the point of view of trying to understand what was going through Hitler’s mind. But it’s hardly coherent. The book, though a ‘best seller’ because it was thought a good thing to have during the Nazi reign, was not widely read. It only mattered that you had a copy of it on your bookshelf in Germany during the 1930s and early 40s. It wasn’t widely read because it was too damn hard to read.
Mein Kampf has been available in the US as long as I’ve been alive. And while there is an American neo-Nazi movement, it is on the fringe of the fringe. Most people coming across it do not start goose-stepping and shouting Seig Heil!. At best, it’s a curiosity.
The problem of neo-Nazis is not Mein Kampf. It is a combination of social and educational failures. Rather than worrying about the effect of a ludicrous book (or obnoxious video), states should be concerned about how they can change the situation so that every one of their citizens can appreciate how awful some materials available to them are and why they should be avoided. They could also take a useful step in not themselves promoting hatred in the way too many Arab states do in republishing and distributing pap like “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a late-19th C. fraud.
Mein Kampf and other books of hatred
There is one year until the rights to the book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler expire. Afterwards, the rights to the book become available to whoever wishes to publish it. According to German copyright law, a book enters the public domain 70 years after the author’s death. The book’s copyright was registered again in Germany in 1945 was written by Hitler 20 years before that. Hitler ensured that the book was very popular among Germans, so much so that a quarter of a million copies were sold in 1933. Part of that wealth, no doubt, allowed him to buy his new Mercedes. When his party won and he took over as chancellor, he ordered that his book be distributed for free to soldiers and newly-weds. Germany, which owns the rights to the book until the end of next year, plans to ban selling and distributing the book under its anti-terror law.
The ban is planned for Germany, Holland and Poland, but the book is still available in France. The law allows for publishing it and selling it in the U.S. as well. Racists and fascists, including Nazis, are in general allowed to distribute their publications and books. Two rare copies of Mein Kampf were sold in Los Angeles in an auction a week 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.
Not only are Saudis Electricty Gluttons, they’re profligate in their use of water. They consume water at twice the global rate, according to a Canadian professor at King Saud University, as reported in Arab News.
This is bad news for the country and society. Most of Saudi Arabia’s drinking water comes from desalination plants. Those plants burn fuel — primarily petroleum products — and what’s being burnt to power the plants cannot be sold on the market. It’s a double-whammy.
What’s amazing, the professor says, is that until the oil boom, Saudis were very, very careful to conserve water. When it had to be found in springs or shallow, hand-dug wells, people knew how to conserve it and did so. Now, when it appears to be free, running from the taps, and is nearly free because of government subsidies, there seems to be no shame at all in wasting it.
KSA water consumption rate twice the world average
RIYADH: ABDUL HANNAN TAGO
A professor at King Saud University (KSU) says that water consumption in Saudi Arabia is higher than in countries blessed with rechargeable aquifers and replenishable resources.
Mirza Barjees Baig, a Canadian professor at KSU’s department of agricultural extension and rural society, told Arab News that the average water consumption in the Kingdom is double the world average.
“Demand for water by households is growing at the rate 7.5 percent annually. This increasing demand seems roughly three times the population growth rate in the Kingdom,” Baig said, adding that the situation is alarming.
According to him, water consumption (by households) exceeds eight million cubic meters per day, and it is an unprecedented record ever for Saudi Arabia. On average, the daily per capita consumption of water in the Kingdom is about 265 liters, he noted.
Writing in the Arabic daily Al-Riyadh, Haya Al-Manee states it bluntly: Saudi women are treated as children. Under constant watch by their male relatives, they are hampered every way they turn. They’re not trusted with keys to the car. They can’t leave the country without some male’s approving the travel. They can’t file legal documents without a male’s identification of her.
This flies in the face of the way Saudis do respect the maturity of female doctors or businesswomen, but even they fall into the category of ‘the supervised’ when they leave their workplaces.
The most galling part of this, Al-Manee says, is that when something goes wrong, the woman will be punished, to the full extent of the law. Her guardian, however, skates.
Saudi woman is a minor!
Haya Al-Manee | Al-Riyadh
As far as a Saudi woman is concerned, she is considered a minor. Under the Kingdom’s law, a man is considered a minor only until the age of 18. But in a woman’s case, she always treated as a minor in the legal point of view, irrespective of her age. A minor boy can become the guardian of a woman when he passes the age of 18!
Is there any logic in treating women as minors throughout their entire lives? Is this acceptable in the Islamic Shariah? It is never acceptable as Allah honored women by ensuring their rights and commanded them to perform their obligations. But in our society, a woman is treated a minor in every aspect, when she wants to get things done in the Civil Status Department or when she approaches the Passport Department to have a passport-related service. I don’t know when a Saudi woman would pass the phase of being a minor.
It is shameful to treat women as minors in most of our rules and regulations, and this is a clear violation of the principles of the Islamic Shariah. Perhaps, this could have been acceptable in the past, but now there is no logic in this. At present, there is a Saudi woman who runs a university in the Kingdom. There is a woman who plays a leading role in framing policies of higher education in her capacity as deputy minister. There are 30 women members in the Shoura Council and they have a great role in enacting laws and proposing amendments in the laws. Even then, our laws treat a woman as a minor!
There’s a certain amount of amusement — not the most elevated perhaps — to be found in mis-translations that are found on commercial advertising. One form, found widely across the Internet, is “Chinglish”, the mangling of English, vocabulary or syntax, in the translation of Chinese words and phrases into English. As the linked piece from France 24 news site makes clear, it’s not only Chinese that gets wrung through the language wringer, nor only native English-speakers who see the humor.
Saudi advertising can make a hash of it, too. The fault likely lies in relying on computer translations. They, like the Cupertino Effect that comes from over-reliance on computer spell-checking, provide laughs. At least for certain (admittedly low) levels of humor. And thanks to Susie of Arabia for keeping a record.
L’Arabie Saoudite, avec ses nombreux gisements de pétrole, attire beaucoup d’entreprises étrangères, et, avec elles, un fort contingent de travailleurs expatriés. Comme peu d’entre eux parlent ou lisent l’arabe, beaucoup d’inscriptions, panneaux publicitaires, informatifs et autres étiquettes de magasins, sont traduites en anglais. Ce qui donne lieu parfois à de savoureuses erreurs de traduction.
La blogueuse Susie of Arabia, une Américaine qui vit à Jeddah depuis 2007, a répertorié, photos à l’appui, quelques traductions loupées et plutôt drôles.
Saudi Gazette runs a brief article on an address the country’s Cultural Attaché in the US, Dr Mohammad Al-Eisa, gave to Saudi scholarship students in Boston. In his remarks, Al-Eisa noted that the educational mission was somewhat lenient with students in not cancelling their scholarships the first time a student gets crosswise with the regulations. He said that he is encouraging the government to increase student allowances, at least for those in the highest-ranked universities, but not necessarily those in the cities with the highest costs of living.
There are currently, 110,000 Saudi students in the US, in both universities and preliminary English language study programs.
Half of Saudi students abroad would return if rules were enforced
Saudi Gazette report
BOSTON — The Saudi cultural attache in the USA said that if regulations are strictly implemented, half of the students abroad would be sent back home, Al-Watan daily reported.
Dr. Mohammad Al-Eisa stated that the attache is lenient with some students, and cautioned victims of family abuse to notify the police, without first contacting the attache.
During a meeting with students in Boston, Dr. Al-Eisa stressed that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques views all citizens as equal, regardless of their area, tribe, gender, or faith. “The attache doors are open for any student, and the attache is here to serve and facilitate any difficulties for students,” he said.
He noted that he personally has broken regulations many times to allow some students a second chance to complete their education.
Meanwhile, Arab News cartoonist Abdullah Sayel offers his (accurate, though exaggerated) view of how Saudi students in the US have changed over the decades. Well, their perceived economic status, anyway…
“Al Majalla” magazine runs an interview with Abdullah Anas, a former mujahideen in Afghanistan and companion of Usama bin Laden during the fight against Soviet occupation. Anas is unabashedly proud of the effort and the way in which it was conducted. He finds that the so-called jihad now being promoted in Syria can only be described as barbaric and hugely unlawful. Interesting reading.
Jihad, Then and Now
The Majalla speaks to Abdullah Anas
As the situation in Syria grows worse and simultaneously more complicated day by day, the fears of observers of the conflict have become more focused on the foreign jihadists who have travelled to the war-torn country to take part in the fighting. With the chaos unleashed by some of the “Arab Afghans” who joined the struggle against the former Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan in the 1980s still fresh in the minds of the world’s intelligence and security services, it is worth looking back once more at the experiences of the members of this group. Few are more familiar with the Arab Afghans and their struggle than Abdullah Anas.
The son-in-law of Abdullah Yusuf Azzam—who became Osama Bin Laden’s mentor when he arrived in Afghanistan—Anas was second-in-command at the Bureau of Services office in Peshawar that supported the Arab Afghans and Afghan Mujahideen. Today, Anas remains proud of the decade he spent involved in the Afghan struggle, and counts Ahmad Shah Massoud and Osama Bin Laden as former comrades in arms.
Before meeting Azzam, Anas was already a founder of the Islamic movement in southern Algeria and worked with Algeria’s leading Islamists Mahfoudh Nahnah and Abbas Madani. He remains a part-time imam and a teacher of the Qur’an, having studied in Saudi Arabia and Algeria. Following his religious studies he took a degree in international politics in the UK. His journey to Afghanistan began when he came across a legal opinion written by Azzam, who argued that it was obligatory for Muslims to fight in Afghanistan. By chance he later met Azzam in Mecca and was invited to travel to Afghanistan with him.
After the departure of the Soviets from the country and the assassination of Azzam in 1992, Anas grew disillusioned by the takfirist ideas that had become increasingly prominent thanks to new arrivals such as Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al-Qaeda. Anas’s role had been to focus on the logistical needs of the Afghan Mujahideen, while the organization that came to be known as Al-Qaeda had a larger agenda, which would become infamous in the years that followed. As infighting broke out among the Afghan Mujahideen, Anas left for Algeria, though his affiliation to the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and the subsequent military crackdown that followed its election success in 1992 forced him into exile in France and then the UK.
Today, Anas says he is in the process of writing his memoirs, running a TV channel and working with young people.
Writing in Asharq Alawsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed takes a look at the popularity of conspiracy theories across the Middle East. Conspiracy theories, he says, are a comfort because they reduce complex situations about which many things may be unknown into something that is easily understood. It doesn’t matter whether they are true or not because they serve a separate purpose.
Most of the current conspiracy theories, he writes, actually have the cart before the horse. Situations develop for their own reasons: Saddam Hussein had his own political reasons to invade Kuwait; he did not need the US to tell him to go ahead in safety. He did not need anyone to push him into attacking Iran.
What other states do, though, is to act in response to events and try to shade the events or their consequences into directions to their benefit.
In Syria, no outside force created the opposition to the Al-Assad regime. That was spontaneous action on the part of Syrians. Outside forces — including Russia, China, the US, the EU — will try to find ways that whatever results is, if not to their benefit, at least not to their detriment.
Opinion: Conspiracy theories that will not die
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
According to some people, Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein only invaded Iran during Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini’s rule because he was entangled with foreign parties and only invaded Kuwait after receiving his cue from the US envoy in Baghdad.
Some argue that Libya’s revolution against Muammar Gaddafi was a foreign act and the toppling of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak was also a conspiracy. Some think the Muslim Brotherhood made it to power because of US planning. The Brotherhood thinks Egypt’s General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi turned against them because of Western interference.
And for three years now, the Syrian regime has been saying that the West is behind the revolution against it, while the rebels insist there’s a conspiracy to besiege their revolution for the sake of keeping Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in power.
A few days ago, my colleague Eyad Abu Shakra wrote an article saying it’s time to acknowledge there are conspiracies being planned outside our region. My colleague, Eyad, is not the only one who sees a conspirator behind every crisis. For decades now, this has been the common belief among intellectuals. This belief was strengthened by books that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s such The Game of Nations by Miles Copeland.
I don’t want to completely deny conspiracy theories because secret apparatuses from each country are involved in activities that are meant to influence situations in a direction that best benefits their country. But there is a proliferation of conspiracy theories in modern history books.
The search for the initial vector of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) a coronavirus disease, is narrowing in on camels. Arab News runs a report from Agence France Presse stating that camels in Saudi Arabia are carrying antibodies to the exact strains of the virus that are found in human victims. Up to 74% of young camels examined had the antibodies.
WASHINGTON: A respiratory virus that has killed dozens of people, mainly in the Middle East, is widespread in camels and may be jumping directly from camels to humans, said a study Tuesday.
Called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, it has killed 79 of the 182 people infected since September 2012, according to the World Health Organization.
Until now, little was known about its source or how it could be infecting people.
But senior study author Ian Lipkin of Columbia University said research now shows the virus is “extraordinarily common” in camels and has been for at least 20 years.
“In some parts of Saudi Arabia, two-thirds of young animals have infectious virus in their respiratory tracts,” he told AFP.
“It is plausible that camels could be a major source of infection for humans.”