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”.

2 to be tried for ‘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.


July:03:2015 - 06:43 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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.

Sectarianism is bad… until it is your side that is inciting it
H.A. Hellyer

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?


June:29:2015 - 10:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette carries an Agence France Presse article reporting that Kuwait officials have identified a Saudi national as responsible for the bombing of a Shi’a mosque in Kuwait. The attack seems to have been well-planned, with the bomber entering Kuwait only on the morning of the attack. Others involved has been arrested, including the owner of the house from which the plan developed, as well as the driver and the owner of the vehicle used to transport the bomber to the mosque.

Kuwait mosque bomber a Saudi national, say probers
Omar Hasan | AFP

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait on Sunday identified the suicide bomber behind an attack on a Shiite mosque as a Saudi national, after a series of arrests in connection with the blast that left 26 dead.

Friday’s attack also wounded 227 worshippers in the first bombing of a mosque in the tiny Gulf state, and Kuwait’s security services have vowed to catch and punish those responsible.

The Daesh (Arabic acronym for the group calling itself Islamic State) group’s Saudi affiliate, the so-called Najd Province, claimed the bombing and identified the assailant as Abu Suleiman Al-Muwahhid.


June:28:2015 - 12:35 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that over 1,300 Saudis have been arrested for involvement with ISIS/Daesh over the past eight months. The article suggests that these are predominantly youths, only some of whom took part in attacks. The others were captured “before they were able to do so,” officials say.

1,351 Daesh terrorists arrested in 8 months
Saud Al-Shaibani

RIYADH — A total of 1,351 terrorists belonging to Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) have been arrested in various parts of the Kingdom over the past eight months.

A source reported the terrorists make up 29 different nationalities, but most of them are Saudis.

“There were 1,058 Saudi terrorists and most of them were very young. They contacted Daesh through numerous websites and some of them have committed deadly terrorism attacks and others were arrested before they were able to do so,” said the source.

The source also said the total number of non-Saudis who were arrested for being involved in terrorism stands at 293.


June:28:2015 - 12:27 | Comments Off | Permalink

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.

Saudi Arabia rubbishes calls for gay rights

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.


June:25:2015 - 07:25 | Comments Off | Permalink

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
Jeffrey Ball

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.


June:24:2015 - 10:08 | Comments Off | Permalink

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.

Diabetes: KSA is 7th in the world, 1st in Gulf

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.


June:24:2015 - 07:30 | Comments Off | Permalink

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
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

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.

Saudi artist pooh-poohs Daesh death threats


June:22:2015 - 07:33 | Comments Off | Permalink

Khaled Almaeena, Editor-at-Large for Saudi Gazette, comments on how the Ministry of Islamic Affairs seems incapable of enforcing its own decrees on its own employees. He criticizes the way firebrand preachers (who do draw salaries from the government) ignore Ministry directives, large and small. If they cannot be called into line over little things like the banned use of loudspeakers to broadcast sermons, he asks, what chance is there to haul them up short when they’re preaching divisive sectarianism and misusing religion to attack those that annoy them?

A rant too far by an Imam
Khaled Almaeena

THE Minister of Islamic Affairs has issued directives for an investigation into the rantings of an Imam of a mosque in Asir, who condemned the Saudi actor Nasser Algassabi and accused him of heresy.

Algassabi, well known for his satire in previous shows like “Tash Ma Tash”, has been the object of vilification and scorn by many hard-liners before. But he is again the target of incoherent attacks for his irreverent double entendres on television.

However, this time Saeed Bin Farwa, the mosque Imam, has gone too far with his ravings, outgunning his own ilk in his accusations. Other preachers also appeared on social media some invoking God’s wrath on Algassabi.

These people apparently have acted for many reasons, known only to them. Personally I think it gets them attention and followers, and that’s why they are quick to shoot from their lip.


June:22:2015 - 07:21 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

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.


June:20:2015 - 08:08 | Comments Off | Permalink

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:

Soldiers in war front can terminate fast: Mufti

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.


June:19:2015 - 07:18 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette carries an Agence France Presse report on more deaths from MERS in South Korea. There are now a reported 23 deaths in that country, making it second, after Saudi Arabia, in terms of mortality.

The spread in S. Korea is happening in a person-to-person manner, something not really seen in Saudi Arabia outside the healthcare worker context.

S. Korea’s MERS toll rises to 23 with three more deaths

Seoul (AFP) — South Korea reported three more deaths from the MERS virus Thursday, bringing the number of fatalities to 23 and amplifying fears that authorities do not have the outbreak under control after the WHO criticised their response.

Three more cases of the virus were also confirmed Thursday, despite authorities saying earlier in the week that South Korea had weathered the worst of the crisis.

The number of infections now stands at 165, in what is the largest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outside Saudi Arabia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday the South Korean outbreak was a “wake-up call” and that a lack of awareness about the virus among health workers and the public was a major contributing factor to its rapid spread.


June:18:2015 - 07:55 | Comments Off | Permalink
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